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First Page: Unpublished manuscript

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Parklane Medical Center was a hot bed for gossip and sucked as a place for exchanging confidences, especially those best left private. Too many big ears…and mouths. All of them looking for the next reputation to ruin.

Yes, the grapevine thrived and bore abundant fruit at PMC.

Allison Lackey, RN, CCM stopped at the door that opened onto the sixth floor patio and glanced over her shoulder. In the heat of the summer, it afforded absolutely no shade but was a great place to view the Fourth of July fireworks at night. It also guaranteed privacy as long as it was deserted, which at the moment, it was. Thank heaven.

Meryl’s text had said something fishy was going on and to meet her on the sixth floor patio at four-fifteen. Allison glanced at her watch. She was on time, but where was Meryl? It wasn’t like her friend to be late…for anything.

The heat of the late afternoon beat down unmercifully, even if the patio was on the east side of the hospital wing. Allison shrugged off her lab coat, walked over to the table, sat and set her Diet Coke on the wrought-iron table.

“Come on, Mer,” Allison said aloud, while she drummed her fingers against the table top. There was one more nursing home transfer to double-check. The ambulance hadn’t picked her patient up at four as scheduled. She’d already left them one message.

Friday afternoons were always the worst for getting patients transferred before the weekend, and now this weird text from Meryl—major interruption. Okay. Five more minutes, but then she’d have to get back to the floor and kick some ambulance company ass.

Five minutes passed slowly. Maybe Meryl, who was five months pregnant, had gone into premature labor. Maybe that’s what she meant?

No. She would’ve just said she was having contractions and to meet her on the FBU. As for the ‘something fishy’? Well, it was Friday.

Okay, poor old Ronald Ramsey was waiting for his nursing home bed. If she didn’t get back to the eighth floor nursing station, he’d be spending the weekend in the hospital and incur extra expenses. The nursing home wouldn’t take new patients on a weekend. So, Monday morning her supervisor would be on the warpath about wasted hospital days and ride Allison’s ass all day long.

Unable to wait any longer, she rose. Obviously, whatever Meryl wanted could wait. There were times like today, which always seemed to hit on a Friday afternoon, when she wondered why, oh why, had she become a nurse?

And the answer was always simple: she’d never wanted to be anything else.

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. Amanda
    May 25, 2013 @ 06:27:11

    This page seems to be a very short story in itself. She waited for a friend, who didn’t show, and is now off to see about a patient and ends with Allison being happy about her life choices. The heavy description of the patio, hospital, and politics of getting someone in a nursing home is very real and true to life. And we are left with a good feeling that Ronald will be ok in the short term.

    If you’re looking to build suspense by not having a friend show up for a meeting, the description of the setting doesn’t set that kind of stage. If this is going somewhere concerning Ronald, then that stage isn’t set either–I got my grandma in a nursing home on a Friday, and that seemed the most popular day to discharge people.

    The description of the patio was great, along with the challenges that Allison faced in her job. However, I would not continue to read this story because it just didn’t hook me in. Best wishes with your story.

  2. Lynne Connolly
    May 25, 2013 @ 06:55:28

    This is a competent piece of writing.
    Nothing happens. There’s a lot of backstory, but there’s no hook to keep me reading.
    You could either slice this down to the bone, make it a paragraph, cut it altogether, or move it to later in the book. Make something happen that will pull in the reader, especially if this is a first book or a single title.
    The descriptions were good, but sometimes a bit passive. Make Allison react with her environment, such as making her can of soda clank against the table instead of just describing it.
    “That’s” should be “that was,” otherwise you’re mixing tenses in a sentence.

  3. Lil
    May 25, 2013 @ 07:40:19

    This is good in many ways—the writing, the descriptions, a real sense of place—but I don’t know where it’s going. Is this going to be about the woes caused by indiscriminate gossip? Is it going to be a suspense story about the “something fishy”? Is it going to be about the difficulties of caring for the elderly?
    You don’t have to give the store away on the first page, but I need more sense of the kind of story this is going to be. And if all of those threads are going to be woven together, you might consider adding them one at a time. Say she’s responding to Marcy’s summons, she’s worried, and she’s antsy because she has a lot to do. After she moves on she can deal with Ronald and his problems. The gossip problem can be introduced when she overhears people as she’s walking along or some such.
    I should add that a very big plus for me here is that I suspect there is going to be a real plot in this story. (I really like a well-worked-out plot, and too many books don’t have one.) So despite my uncertainty, I would definitely keep reading.

  4. Kierney Scott
    May 25, 2013 @ 08:13:20

    This sounds like it is going to be a medical romance, so you might want to look at the Mills & Boon Medical pitch that is going on right now. Good luck.

  5. Ros
    May 25, 2013 @ 08:35:47

    Years and years ago I sat a French literature exam. One of the texts you could have studied (though not the one I studied) was Waiting for Godot. The question for that text was:

    This play has been described as utterly devoid of interest. Discuss.

    Waiting for Godot is not, in fact, utterly devoid of interest, so it is possible that your book will also have hidden depths. On the basis of this excerpt, however, there’s not much to make me think so. Someone waits for another person. They don’t turn up. Why would I care?

  6. Becky Black
    May 25, 2013 @ 08:40:07

    One quick thing – I don’t think you can have a patio on the sixth floor. defines patio as:
    1. an area, usually paved, adjoining a house and used as an area for outdoor lounging, dining, etc.
    2. a courtyard, especially of a house, enclosed by low buildings or walls.

    I think by definition it has to be on the ground floor.

    I was also a bit confused by references to 4th July fireworks. Is it 4th of July when this is happening? if not it seems like a random observation. And I don’t understand how it can not be shaded at all when it’s on the east side of the building so has to be shaded eventually as the sun goes down.

    I was just generally a bit underwhelmed by this. It’s a bit “so what?” I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop – like she was going to find Meryl’s dead body stuffed behind a planter, or on the ground below, but no, she just gave up on waiting and went away again. If the “call a mysterious meeting and then don’t show” thing happens in the middle of a book when I know everyone and care about why they didn’t show, then fine. But here, I’ve got no reason to assume anything interesting has happened to keep Meryl from showing up.

  7. theo
    May 25, 2013 @ 09:03:59

    Parklane Medical Center was a hot bed for gossip and sucked as a place for exchanging confidences, especially those best left private. Too many big ears…and mouths. All of them looking for the next reputation to ruin.

    This is where I stopped reading the first time. Confidences by their definition are secrets. Secrets are meant to be private, lone things, not told lightly and not given out indiscriminately. Why are you telling the reader about those ‘best left private’ if that’s what their intended to be? Though the writing is adequate here, this doesn’t give me confidence that the story won’t be full of extraneous things I don’t need to read because I already know them.

    Also, I worked in a hospital and granted, it was a step-down unit which wouldn’t transfer direct to a nursing home but to another medical floor, I never had time to think let alone take a break and have a Coke. If this is “transfer Friday,” she’s going to be way too busy with patients and paperwork to take a break like she has.

    From experience, she would meet the secret teller after work somewhere where they could both get a drink and she could sit and catch her breath. That coupled with the fact that she’s willing to listen to secrets at her workplace knowing it’s a hotbed of gossip and anyone can hear just makes me think your Hn is a bit TSTL. I need a much better reason for meeting at the hospital, but you don’t give one. There’s no sense of urgency in the meeting, no real alarm that her friend hasn’t shown up. She’s standing outside casually, like there’s nothing going on either in her life or in the arrangements made. We get a lot of descriptions with no real feel for any tension or even worry. She’s more aggravated than worried.

    This would be a definite pass for me.

    Kudos for putting it out there, it’s a hard thing to do and the criticism sometimes seems harsh, but it’s meant to help.

  8. Cara Ellison
    May 25, 2013 @ 09:08:53

    I would cut everything before her name.

    Though not much is happening other than her ruminating, I do like your tone; you’ve got a very pleasing voice.

  9. Susanna Kearsley
    May 25, 2013 @ 09:30:36

    I’ve always loved medical romances and think it’s great that you’re writing one.

    I agree with the others who’ve commented that this needs a bit of tightening to create more of a focused problem (the great Phyllis A. Whitney, in her book “Guide to Fiction Writing”, says the best way to start a story is with a character with a problem, doing something interesting. It’s good advice).

    But my own comments are about two small things:

    First, I’d encourage you to trust your own voice more. Phrases like “bore abundant fruit” and “afforded absolutely no shade” sort of leap out at me because they don’t match the sound of the rest of your writing. This is a really common thing most of us do when we’re starting out–we use big words when a simpler one will do. It’s worth trying to catch things like this if you can, and see how a sentence sounds if you replace “afforded” with “offered”, for example.

    And second, I think your first sentence isn’t actually your first sentence. This, too, is a common thing we do as writers, and not only when we’re beginners. Sometimes the best first sentence/starting place is buried halfway down the second page, or even in a later chapter.

    I think yours is here:

    “There were times like today, which always seemed to hit on a Friday afternoon, when [Allison Lackey] wondered why, oh why, had she become a nurse?”

    You might find one you like better than that, but it’s sometimes fun to play around and see how it changes a story or scene if you start in a different place.

    Best of luck.

  10. wikkidsexycool
    May 25, 2013 @ 10:43:30

    Hello Author,

    You’ve got writing talent, and I love these lines:

    “There were times like today, which always seemed to hit on a Friday afternoon, when she wondered why, oh why, had she become a nurse?

    And the answer was always simple: she’d never wanted to be anything else.”

    If it were me, I’d put these first and then start from there. It’s got to be hectic in the hospital, and maybe she enjoys gossip to help with the pressure. That way the reader is right in the thick (and think) of things, and getting to know your lead character. I have to agree with all that’s been said, especially about your voice. Trust it, and this could be a very good story, because your voice will be true.

    Thanks for submitting this, and I wish you all the best. I hope you come back and drop some info on your progress.

  11. Kate Sherwood
    May 25, 2013 @ 14:04:04

    I agree with the previous comments that this needs something more immediate happening. I’d also recommend that you read over it again with a really tight look at the details… I was thrown off by a few things in your opening lines – I think “hot bed” should be “hotbed”; as someone already stated, there’s quite a bit of redundancy in the idea of confidences best left private; I was a bit concerned that a place that deals with medical information would not be able to maintain privacy; I’m not sure whether I buy the figurative language of big ears and eyes looking for reputations to ruin (the ears and eyes want to do this?); I don’t know what CCM stands for; etc.

    One sentence that really threw me off was “In the heat of the summer, it afforded absolutely no shade but was a great place to view the Fourth of July fireworks at night.” There’s a lot of weird in that sentence. first, the antecedent for “it” is the MC’s shoulder, which probably isn’t what you meant. Second, I’m not sure when else you’d view the July 4th fireworks if not in the heat of the summer and at night. You know what I mean? It wouldn’t be a difficult rewrite – “The patio had no shade and was mercilessly baked by the summer sun, but it was a popular spot to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.” (assuming the July 4th thing is actually relevant).

    I’m also not sure why the MC is so concerned about privacy when she doesn’t have any idea what her friend is going to be telling her – surely that would be the friend’s concern? If the lack of privacy is a theme of the novel, I think you’ve done a good job of setting that up (maybe a bit TOO good of a job), but if it isn’t, you’re spending a lot of words worrying about something that seems like a pretty small detail.

    Good luck with this!

  12. Lori
    May 26, 2013 @ 02:13:13

    What is CCM and FBU? I’ve worked years in a hospital and never heard those before. I thought maybe it wwas British but then they wouldn’t have 4th of July fireworks.

    And transfers to nursing homes are not done by nurses, they’re taken care of by social work and/or co-ordinated care.

    I had the feeling this was going to be more of a suspense but there was no real sense of what the story is.

  13. Anonymous Author
    May 26, 2013 @ 09:35:26

    To all who commented,

    Thanks for all the constructive criticism, especially about what my first sentence should be. I’ll totally take that one, as well as the other comments.

    Note: CCM stands for Certified Case Manager (which I was), FBU = Family Birth Unit which is what our hospital called our birthing unit. I can omit the CCM, no big deal.

    Hospitals will each have different procedures. At the large city hospital where I worked as a nurse case manager, case managers arranged nursing home transfers and set up home health while social workers were backup on the most difficult transfers. And believe it or not, we had time for an occasional gossip or Coke break, but you’re right not on a Friday afternoon. LOL

    You are correct about the “patio” issue. I suppose our large outside area is more accurately a terrace, but we always called it the patio. That’s one of the things I was too close to the MS to see.

    As for Mills & Boon, the last time I checked, they didn’t allow for a suspense element in their medical romances. This isn’t a medical romance at all, but a romantic suspense novel.

    Again, thank you for taking time from your busy days to read my first page and offer your valuable critiques.

  14. SAO
    May 26, 2013 @ 13:08:38

    This is a pleasant read, but it’s a sit-n-think. Allison is musing about her life. You have the beginning of a story, but they you dismiss it: “Obviously whatever Meryl wanted could wait” as unimportant, ending the page with the mundane details of All’s everyday life.

    Why not have her try to reach Meryl on the phone, start to worry, have her pager go off/boss yell, demanding her attention, so she has to try and juggle Meryl’s problem with her work. That would show us what you’re telling us here” that Allison’s job is busy and Meryl’s no-show is a problem.

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