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First Page: Unpublished Manuscript

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The globe’s surface was irregular, as if it truly was a miniature world – Everest shrunk to the height of a fingernail, the waves of the oceans smoothed to an infinitesimal roughness. Its high gloss finish glared where the light from the floor lamp struck it. She bumped her fingertip gently down the tiny ridge of the Rockies.

“Abigail?” Martin approached quietly, stood at her right shoulder. “It’s time to go.”

She wasn’t ready. Would she ever be ready? She gripped the globe, whirled it. She couldn’t blame her dizziness on the blurring world before her. She’d been lightheaded, disconnected, out of touch, for days now. Not that anyone had noticed. She’d been careful to act her normal sedate, organized, earnest self.

But inside she was screaming. Screaming so hard she couldn’t hear herself think.

“The limousine is waiting.” Martin’s tone was soothing, patient, as if she were so fragile a loud noise might break her.

She gritted her teeth. Closing her eyes, she reached out and stopped the globe with a finger. Through her lashes she saw her finger resting well below the tip of Greenland, lost in the nothingness of the Atlantic. She spun the globe again. Harder.

“I can’t believe she’s gone.” She willed the tears from her eyes, focusing fiercely on the coloured
sphere revolving on its tilted axis, too fast for her eyes to follow.

Martin patted her back. “It will get better. You just have to give it time,” he said.

She slept with the man, and the best he could do was an awkward “there, there?” She wanted him to pull her into his arms and hold her, hold her until the icy splinters of pain in her chest melted away. But he wouldn’t. Maybe couldn’t.”I keep thinking that she’s all alone, now. She would hate that. She always wanted me or Tobias with her.” Abigail had never begrudged the time she’d spent with her mother if it meant Tobias could escape. It was enough that her mother’s insecurities had stunted her own life. She couldn’t allow them to stifle her younger brother’s as well.

“Your mother loved you both. It’s not unreasonable she wanted you near.”

The globe inched to a stop in Southeast Asia. She stared at it blindly. “I wanted to travel. Every time I mentioned it, though, she stressed out so much I couldn’t go through with it. I gave in, every time.”

Martin sighed and shifted his weight. He tugged on the cuffs on his dark grey suit. “Your father died in a plane crash. Of course she’d be nervous about you gallivanting about.”

Abigail’s head snapped up. “Gallivanting? You make it sound like I wanted to hitchhike around the world. All I wanted was a few weeks somewhere exotic.” She glared at him, noticing without surprise his boringly appropriate appearance–sober tie, well cut suit masking a desk-job belly, thinning blond hair brushed straight back from a high forehead. “And you know it was more than just flying. It was” –she flung out one hand restlessly– “everything.”

“I know you had problems with your mother. But now is not the time to discuss them.”

“I just wish…” Her chest tightened, squeezing the air from her lungs, and she pulled the asthma inhaler from the pocket of her black dress. “It must have been a horrible way to live, worrying all the time, certain that the worst was going to happen. And now I worry…” She sucked in a dose of medication, but it wasn’t shortness of breath that stopped her from finishing the sentence. It was fear. She was petrified to admit she’d become just like her mother. Scared to explore, scared to adventure, scared to live.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

6 Comments

  1. Kate Sherwood
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 07:19:12

    This is a hard one. I like it. But I think you have about one more paragraph of back story and introspection before I get tired of it. Well, I was already tired of it by the end of this, but I liked the set-up enough to be willing to read a little farther.

    Right now we have one weak character and one bland character. I assume the point of the weak character is that she’s going to get strong? But she hasn’t done it yet. She’s bitching about her mother on, I presume, the day of the mother’s funeral. Her big complaint is that she wasn’t allowed to spend two weeks “somewhere exotic”. I’ve got to agree with the man in the scene – this isn’t the time. It just makes her seem self-centred.

    And I’m not sure the frustrations of the woman’s past are serious enough to open the book with. I mean, in real life, that would be a sucky situation, no doubt. Being a caregiver for someone who’s mentally ill is tough. But by the standards of fiction? I think it’s probably enough for the characterization, I’m just not sure it’s enough to justify spending the first page on back story. Does that make sense? If you can start with the character stepping off the plane in Thailand, or better yet being at the airport and having a panic attack and being unable to get on the plane that will take her where she has always wanted to go… then we have some drama. Right now we have two people standing in a room, one of them being self-centred and grumpy, the other deliberately written as bland.

    I think the writing is good, but I’d like to see the story start where the story starts.

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  2. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 08:25:01

    You got me. I love this. It’s like the beginning of “Now Voyager,” one of my favourite films, where the heroine is trying to break away. I want more. There’s a journey here. Since you’ve made that so important, don’t skimp it. And get her to make her decision before too much longer. Okay, she’s going. She really is. That would strengthen the extract a bit. But let us know when this one comes out.

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  3. Jamie Beck
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 08:42:26

    There are several things I really like. I think the writing is smooth and descriptive. I like the basic premise that is presented (you didn’t identify the genre…is this women’s fiction/her journey?). I don’t mind the introspection or consider her self-centered at this point. I suspect a lot of people look back on their relationship with someone when that person dies, so I find the introspection and, in this case, regrets and fears, to be natural…especially since they had a difficult relationship. And she obviously endured more than her fair share of ‘abuse’ in order to protect her brother, so she doesn’t seem utterly weak to me.

    However, I agree with Kate that this opening is a little slow because of the narrative/introspection. One thing that caught my eye was an overuse of adjectives (3 in a row, a few times, like these sentences: “She’d been lightheaded, disconnected, out of touch, for days now. Not that anyone had noticed. She’d been careful to act her normal sedate, organized, earnest self.”). This would move at a better pace with fewer adjectives.

    I also agree that this might not be the best jumping off point. Perhaps at the funeral you could blend in her immediate reactions to her surroundings and the reason they are there with flashes of her past. Maybe use specific flashbacks to show us her relationship with her mom rather than telling/summarizing it. Or, if she is going to try to take a trip or leave her husband, start there and give us this back story later. Same goes for her and her husband/lover. Maybe there is a better way to show them interacting at this time that shows us the problems in their relationship rather than hearing it in her head?

    I’m not sure if I’ve been very helpful, but thanks for sharing. I think you have a lot going for you, so good luck!

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  4. Elizabeth
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 09:10:24

    I also agree with Kate’s assessment. I liked the well-written image of the globe and then my interest dropped off sharply. Boring Martin, trying to wrangle his slow/distracted/grieving/whiny spouse (lover?) to be on time for her own mother’s funeral, comes across as a more sympathetic character than self-pitying, dramatic Abigail.

    Of course my comments are colored by personal preference: I’ve never been a fan of long, introspective openings. I prefer to see some action first so that I have some context by the time I get to the introspection. I’d have a lot more sympathy for Abigail, for instance, if I’d watched her cope with the funeral with determination but gritted teeth, or better yet, greet a long line of relatives and internally critique them (since she seems to be a in a cast-off-your-shackles story). Let me like her or admire her before you tell me to pity her.

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  5. Tamara Hogan
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 10:33:33

    I loved this. Fabulous descriptions, loved the deep POV work, and appreciated how deftly the author established both internal and external conflicts. Nicely done!

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  6. Carol McKenzie
    Dec 08, 2013 @ 11:46:48

    I agree with the above comments. While I like this, I think your story starts somewhere else. I’m not sure I’m hooked by Abigail and Marten enough with this opening. Maybe in a page or two, and with a blurb, I’d really want to dive into this, if something else happened.

    The writing is lovely though and I do like the whole globe image/travel theme. A little heavy on back story, but overall smoothly written.

    ReplyReply

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