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First Page: unpublished manuscript Science Fiction Romance

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I pull out Dad’s Colt automatic, insert the loaded magazine, cycle receiver. Bullet in chamber, and hammer cocked, the safety left on. Good to go. Check the gun case. The note is in it asking the finder to send the case, the ribbons and medals inside it and the Colt 1911 to my father. I set the ready to use Colt in the case. Glance at the vinyl shower curtain draped over the couch. No one can say Alexander James Monroe leaves a mess. Good to go, once I clean up and get dressed. I hear the Meadowlark sing outside the window.

Tonight I finish it. I should have died seventeen months ago, in that back alley in Tikrit when I failed those two boys. Instead, patched up and overmedicated, I have eked out an existence. A front must be coming in. The fragment lodged near L4 backbone is acting up again. One last look in the mirror, right side still droops, emphasizing the scar from the mouth to the eye. They never got those nerves connected. When I smile, I look like a bad makeup day in a Horror Flick.

Next, I lay out on the couch freshly shined shoes, laundered and starched shirt, suit and tie. I wish I hadn’t left my combat uniform with my parents. Starched and creased, it would make a strong statement. Toss my work clothes—maroon polo shirt, grey slacks, and name tag—from my hated job, into the corner for the final time. Finish my shower and dry myself with the towel. Final step, Shave. Cologne, and get dressed in my best. I bought some cologne at my hated job. Final employee discount. Still in the satchel. It’s time to get this show on the road.

I reach in, feel around. Not cologne — something cold, smooth and shifting like a snake. What the eff? Ouch, left hip bone throbs where I fell back on it A flesh colored thing stretches from my right ring finger, extending back to my he satchel. My muscles quiver at the hand and up to my shoulder. It’s not a snake. I wish it were. I killed plenty in Iraq.

I try to shake it off, but with a schlurbing sound, flesh-thing slides out of the bag. It envelopes my elbow and squesches toward the shoulder. I jump to my feet, “Stop it!”

Shouting doesn’t help. It keeps coming. Bite, pull, kick, squeeze, nothing works. Can’t reach the Colt. How do I stop it?

Fleshthing surrounds my arm up to the shoulder. At the shoulder, it forms a thick band, leaving behind an enveloped hand that forms into a — a hand? A thin feminine hand. I’m hallucinating again from the VA meds.

My arm forms into a thinner, hairless arm. I can’t move it. Fleshthing thins as it moves around my back, then down the left arm to the fingertips. My trembling halts as soon as it covers the muscle and up the arm encasing it, leaving another feminine looking hand and arm. I feel numb and energized at the same time. My arms can’t move. I can’t do anything to stop it.

Down my back, past my hips, and down both legs, numbing my skin as it moves. Fleshthing envelopes from the toes, up my legs, crotch, and starts on my hips. Toes look smaller, and legs look “real”, if oddly shaped. My legs and hips stiffen and I can’t move them either. No leg hair? From both sides of the back, it encloses the hips, abdomen, and chest, leaving a gap from groin to neck.

Please, stop now.

Damn. Fleshthing pulls my head back as it encloses the back of my neck over the top of my head, then forward into ears, mouth. The last I see in the mirror is the front gap close as it covers my eyes. NO! I fall backwards.


I never blacked out before. Damn, hip hurts. I lightly touch it and it feels already swollen. Good, nothing likely broke. I can finish my suicide. It would be ironic to have a broken hip and not be able to get to the Colt.

Get up, slowly. Staggering to my feet, hanging onto the sink. Dizzy. Mold. I smell mold. Never noticed that before. The meadowlark’s song floats through the crack in the window. Everything I see seems to be more vivid, with deeper hues. The pink tile looks almost puce. Now I get it; the pink and grey is intended to provide a feminine feel. The bathroom is somehow brighter. The sink wobbles as I pull up. Too fast, the blood rushes out of my head. I tip forward, and hit my chest on the edge of the sink.

Yahhh. That hurt!

“Who is that? Is someone here?” I jerk up, still dizzy. No witnesses. Got to get rid of them. I take a towel, knot it around my waist, and look into the efficiency. No one there. My chest hurts. I rub the pain. Soft, firm … Huh? I look down. Breasts? When did I get breasts? Vision narrowing — losing control.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and 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


  1. Kate Sherwood
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 06:13:40

    The premise is interesting, and I think you DEFINITELY started in the right place!

    You need to polish a bit (to catch things like the repeated “Good to go” in the first paragraph), and I’d definitely start a new paragraph for “A front must be coming in,” but overall I think the writing was solid.

    Maybe too solid? Somehow I never got a real sense of dread from this. I honestly can’t offer any concrete suggestions, but in terms of honest feedback, I’ll say I felt detached from it all. I didn’t really care if he killed himself, and then I didn’t care if the fleshthing ate him. Is there a way to get me more deeply involved, right from the start?

    Or maybe that’s an idiosyncratic reaction… it’ll be interesting to see how others feel about it!

  2. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 07:03:11

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. I like both premises, and as an avid scifi reader, I get where you’re going. But if someone isn’t generally scifi oriented, you may lose them because the reader has to work hard to figure out what’s going on. You’ve got a main character (male) who may or may not be hallucinating. He’s been in the military and now he’s about to commit suicide. Whether the world around him has been changed by some outside force or he’s brought that symbiotic entity with him from overseas remains to be seen. But its a changling of some sort, and it gives him the power to morph into other sexes (hence he changes to a female at the very end).

    An interesting duo premise, and I like that you’ve put the reader inside his head as it occurs. However, the way he methodically plans the clothes he will wear for his suicide clashes with the horror occurring when entity begins taking him over. And that’s where I have to agree with Kate Sherwood. I’m not feeling any connection to the terror he should be feeling during the moment the “flesh thing” takes control.

    It just may be that there’s too much going on to soon with this first page to really do justice to both premises, because as you pull the reader into his thoughts on committing suicide, then out of the blue this entity takes over, perhaps as self preservation, something’s missing.

    A few other quibbles. First, the voice of the character reads much younger than someone who’s been to war and killed a number of people, or as you state “I killed plenty in Iraq.” That’s another reason I’d think he was older, and that’s why his “voice” doesn’t quite match up. I’m not sure if this started out as a YA novel, but its reading more as YA scifi that straight scifi, at least in the beginning.

    If I suddenly woke up from a nightmare of an entity taking control (pain included) it would be more than just “where’s my breasts go?” so that’s part of the issue with your protag going from suicidal thoughts to having no control of his own form. There’s not enough emotion. I think you’re skilled enough as a writer to fix this, and I wish you all the best. Sometimes you can’t put everything on a first page, and this might be one of those times. I wish you all the best with this, and I hope you’ll post a short blurb on what its about. Please keep us posted.

  3. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 07:05:05

    Hello author, I wrote a reply but I think it got caught in the spam filter. Hopefully someone at DA will fish it out.

  4. Carol McKenzie
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 09:04:31

    I agree. There’s no real emotions in this piece. You’re missing the cues that would give me the depth of feeling of your MC. The only physical cue we get is pain; from his old injuries and from the new ones. Exclamation points don’t equate with emotion. “Please, stop now.” is a rather tepid response to something unknown flesh-consuming thing. “Please, stop now.” is as emotion packed as someone telling a waitress their coffee cup is full.

    I think this should be drawn out more, given more space to breath, to get the emotional contrast between his suicide and the Fleshthing. Maybe one page just isn’t enough room.

    There are a few things with the writing, some odd capitals…meadowlark and horror flick, and a few odd turns of phrase (feels already swollen). Ditto with the redundant “Good to go.”

    While I’m not a fan of this tense, or the short fragmentary writing, I might be interested in this to read further. I like the premise. I like the idea of something really bizarre happening to someone who’s on the verge of suicide. There’s tension already built in. It’s your job to show us that tension, give us a look at what’s inside this guy’s emotional center.

    Thanks for sharing, and good luck!

  5. Mary
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:11:31

    Just a note: when I started, I was thinking that he was a teenager because of all the references to his parents. It wasn’t until I got to the part about him being in Iraq that I got that he was older…maybe I just associate first person present with YA, or maybe something about the character just reads young. I don’t know.
    Interesting premise though.

  6. Daisy
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:20:24

    I think if you’re going to do the super-terse sentence thing you need to be more consistent. It works well in the first two paragraphs, and then from the third that style seems to drop out at odd points. You have two superfluous lists of clothes, two superfluous mentions of cologne, two mentions of the ‘hated job’, and the sentences go from normal length to ultra-short, from dropping the ‘I’ to using it, with no apparent reason for which is which. If you’re going to drop in the odd full sentence, it should be something that packs a punch, not just the character packing a bag.
    Also, there are some rogue capitals- ‘Horror Flick’, ‘Shave’.

  7. cleo
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:35:40

    This is a really interesting premise – I think you have something cool here. It needs work.

    I agree with the other comments – it’s not as emotionally compelling as I think it could be. I found myself skimming at one point. For me, the deadened, understated emotions during the initial suicide attempt worked. I was caught up in it, (until I got overwhelmed with some of the details and started skimming). But I wanted more something – horror, fear, surprise to discover he wants to live after all, some sort of stronger emotion – when the flesh thing appears. And I didn’t get why he couldn’t reach the gun. And the fight scene seemed odd – maybe too much telling and not enough showing?

    I also had to work to figure out what was going on – first the suicide attempt and then the fleshthing, and I kind of liked that. As a sf/f reader, as well as SFR, I’m used to, and I don’t mind, having to work to understand what’s going on at first. I don’t know what other SFR readers expect.

  8. hapax
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 10:45:23

    Fascinating, if super-creepy premise.

    I’m not bothered by the lack of emotion in the first section; one of the real danger signals of suicidal depression is lack of affect, and the methodical preparedness fits right in.

    However, in the second section, either it should continue (“Huh. I’m being eaten by a fleshthing. Now I can’t even kill myself right”) or you should punch up the panic (“Holy shit, it’s swallowed my ARM!”) depending on where you want the MC to go.

    I figured this was a very young vet — many are still in their early twenties — maybe discharged for physical or mental health reasons, so the references to parents, etc. worked for me.

    Clean up the grammar and the punctuation and the other style problems that others have mentioned and I think this could be a gripping start.

  9. Mary
    Jun 22, 2014 @ 14:14:51

    Just wanted to clarify that I was reading him young. Obviously he could be intended to be, I just wanted the author to know so they could be pleased/change something if necessary.

  10. SAO
    Jun 23, 2014 @ 10:39:35

    I get put off by present tense, first person, particularly when it is combined with too much explanation. Para two and three read like he’s narrating his actions, not like I’m in his head. I think this would work much better in 3rd person.

    He’s committing suicide and what are his last thoughts? His voice is too monotonous. We learn about his wardrobe choices, his planned suicide, and the flashthing without a change of tone.

  11. Terry Gene
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 11:17:37

    Nailed me, several times. And some conflicts among readers. All great stuff. Shows me the need to keep working. I’m 1/2 finished over at Critique Circle. Emotion is my damocles. I’m mostly missing in action when I come to emotion.

    I guess it’s time to look for SciFi and Romance beta readers.

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