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First Page: Unpublished Manuscript Futuristic Sci/fi Romance

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2136 – New York City, New York

The water fountain’s chiming sounds soothed her heart as she walked into the elegant lobby. The edges of the fountain gleamed of gold with a marble statue of a mystical Queen in the middle.

Jessie looked around the lobby. She wondered how much that gold marble cost and how it was made. Did one person sit there and chisel out the silhouette of the imperious Queen looking down at the peasants gathering at her skirts? Can you even chisel gold? Maybe she is thinking of marble. Her thoughts kept tumbling one after another as she looked around.

“Can I help you, Miss?” a cultured voice speaks out to her left. Jessie looks over and notices an older gentleman standing behind the gold desk. The opulence of this hotel was a little overwhelming. She tried to smile, and forced her legs to walk over and greet him.

“Yes, I was looking to meet Dimitri Maletski. I have his business card here along with some paperwork that I need to speak to him about.” Jessie explained, holding up her manila folder as justification for her request.

The gentleman looked intrigued as he eyed her folder. Jessie hugged it close to her chest. After cleaning out her mother’s files, these papers were a mystery she needed to solve and she didn’t want to lose them. She was being silly. She smiled at him sweetly and forced her arms to lay down next to her sides with the folder clutched in her left hand.

“Ahh, and your name please?” He asked politely. His graying hair flopped over his eyes as he typed into his computer, presumably looking up an appointment calendar.

“My name is Jessamyn Lacross, however I don’t have an appointment. Is he available?” She asked, equally polite. Good manners never hurt when asking favors.

“Mr. Maletski is currently in meetings all day. I would be more than happy to help you, or leave your papers on his desk. I am Vasily Savin, the General Manager of the Golden Crown Hotel, and can help you with anything you need.” He smiled urbanely and held out his hand to shake mine.

Jessie left her folders clutched in her left hand next to her side, and held out her right hand to shake his hand. She thought about what the best course of action was. She had already debated all of her options endlessly during the time it took to travel to New York City to locate the Golden Crown Hotel and Mr. Maletski.

“Thank you so much, Mr Savin. However, I do need to speak with Mr. Maletski personally. His name is on these papers regarding the Golden Lottery Commission and if you could let me know the best time to come back and meet with him, that would be great. I can give you my contact information and return when he is available.” Jessie explained nicely.

His hand kept shaking hers while he looked Jessie up and down. He seemed surprised. Jessie wanted to remove her hand from his and gently tried to pull it back.

“The Golden Lottery Commission, you say?” He murmured. He slowly looked back up into her eyes. His eyes were a dark gray and they studied her intently. Her smile froze and she felt uncomfortable. Should she not have mentioned the lottery? She couldn’t find any information in Google about it which was why she felt compelled to travel into the city to find out more about why her mother had these papers hidden away in her lock box.

Mr. Savin glanced down to the folder Jessie held by her side. She finally tugged her hand out of his and reached down to put the folder away in her bag. She adjusted the strap on her shoulder and put a smile back on her face and looked back up at Mr. Savin.

He smiled at her again. “Miss Lacross, why don’t you have some lunch in our award winning restaurant here,” he gestured across the lobby, “and I’ll talk to Mr. Maletski’s secretary about getting you an appointment today.”

“Thank you.” Jessie replied. “I have someone joining me, so I’ll just go and wait for her.” She looked around and started to walk toward the restaurant.

“I recommend the prime rib.” Mr. Savin called behind her.

Jessie looked sharply behind her. Seriously? The fact that the restaurant had steak available was amazing. She wondered which area they were getting their beef from. The news reports had been relentless about the shortage of beef around the Eastern States, not to mention the rest of the world. Considering she could probably only afford water with lemon, she knew the steak would be out of her budget. Although if her Mother’s papers on this mysterious Golden Lottery were correct, she might have a change of fortune soon.

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. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 05:36:17

    Hi Author and thanks for sharing,

    I think there’s something interesting here, but there are issues with the writing that get in the way of the story. You slip into first person for a paragraph (…held out his hand to shake mine) and you switch from past tense to present (looked, looks). There are also issues with the format of pretty much all the dialog tags. This needs a thorough proofreading. It sounds like a first-person POV draft that was revised to third-person POV. And it still reads like a draft.

    With the dialog tags, in this scene, you could do away with almost all of them, along with all the adverbs attached. Adverbs in dialog tags tells us how someone speaks. In fact, take out all the adverbs on this page and show us instead of telling us. You’d take away the flat quality if you could do that one thing.

    For example: urbanely. What does that mean? What makes Mr. Savin urbane? Show us why Jessie (we’re in Jessie’s POV, so it’s through her view we’re looking at this world…not yours as writer) would characterize his speech as urbane.

    I’m at a loss with this to say if I’d read on. It’s missing Jessie’s emotions. Apparently before she got to the hotel, she was anxious. But you’ve managed to take that away in the first sentence of this page. You’re already working against yourself from the start. The rest of the page is flat.

    And in being flat, it reads like a transcription of events. She did this, he did that, she did something else, he did something else, and then she said, he said. There’s no life to the page.

    One last nit: you have this very detailed way of explaining where her arms and hands are. “Jessie left her folders clutched in her left hand next to her side, and held out her right hand to shake his hand.” You don’t need all those words to say she clutched her folder and reached out to shake his hand. You know (I think), and trust your reader to know the same–unless things change in the next century or so–that people shake hands with their right. By default, unless we’ve grown another hand, she’d be holding the folder (and it’s singular in all other instances except in this sentence) in the other hand. You don’t need to waste words explaining the obvious.

    Since I don’t know who she’s meeting I have no idea if your next scene moves the story forward, or if it’s going to be an “oh, by the way” scene of backstory with a new character about how she found her mother’s papers. I’m slightly interested in the mysterious Mr. M and I’d like just as much as Jessie to meet him.

    Pardon the disjointedness of these comments.

  2. Rosario
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 05:39:15

    Ok, for starters, sort out the tenses. Is it written in present tense or past tense? You keep flipping back and forth.

    “Jessie looked around the lobby. ”
    “Maybe she is thinking of marble.”
    “Her thoughts kept tumbling one after another…”
    “…a cultured voice speaks out to her left.”
    “…Jessie explained.”

    And that’s within 3 consecutive paragraphs. It comes across as careless and immediately makes me suspect you have put very little effort into editing this. And if you can’t be arsed to edit it, I can’t be arsed to read it.

  3. Rosario
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 05:50:07

    @Rosario: Sorry, I accidentally hit the post button and then the site kept going off-line. I was going to add, this sounds harsh, but it would honestly be my reaction if I picked up a book in a bookshop and had a look at the first page. I would not keep going.

  4. SAO
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 06:36:46

    You have a lot of good elements here, you just need to put them into more focus.

    For example, you need to set not only the scene, but Jessie’s emotions when she walks in. You say the fountain “soothed her heart” and she wondered if “you can even chisel gold.” Without knowing what’s going on, the “soothed her heart” means nothing and while you might have been trying to show Jessie’s nerves, the wondering if you can chisel gold was irrelevant and made her look kind of dumb and since we know nothing about her or your plot, this is one of the first things we learn about her.

    She’s travelled a long way to chase down a mystery that has her clutching important papers. Does she really stop to think about the fountain? What is she thinking as she walks in the door? What is she hoping the papers will tell her? If she’s hoping for a fortune, I’d think the lavish lobby would make her think about that.

    Next, you have a long list of unimportant and boring detail. Do you need to go into what she’s doing with her hand?

    Focus on your story and tell the story. As someone once put it, stories are life with the boring bits left out, so leave out the boring bits. Try starting with Jess staring at the clock, clutching her folder and then looking up as Maletski comes striding across the lobby.

  5. Jane Lovering
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 08:10:59

    What they said. Also, if it’s 2136, maybe think about adding a few more ‘futuristic’ touches (this is going to be a ‘futuristic’ novel, let us have a flavour of that). What’s different? I’m all up with Google, but I’m not really sure that it’s still going to be around in the same format nearly 150 years into the future. Think about what might change – admin won’t be done on computers, with typing, it’s more likely to be voice only, with operators linked to their machines through neural-networking.

    Experiment. Use what *you* think is going to change, futuristic novels are a great place to push the kind of tech you really hope is going to be operational. Invent things – telepathy helmets, holographic receptionists, all that kind of thing. People will still be people, they will still be driven by the same wants and needs and that will never change, so to really make your book stand out and be different – be imaginative!

  6. Lana
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 09:05:04

    Thank you for posting.

    I agree with all of the above comments so I’ll just mention new ones. First off, I love sci fi, but except for the mention of the lack off beef in the world (and the date reference at the beginning), I didn’t get a futuristic feel. For instance you mention terms such as: papers, Manila folder, and Google. These terms are too much of our current world and don’t allow me to be set in the future. At the beginning it is mentioned that it is 2136. That is 100+ years in the future. Are papers and Manila envelops still being used? I would think everything would be paperless. If it isn’t, if this is a special case where the mom left things in paper form then perhaps explain why. Also, will google still be around? Maybe, maybe not, but by mentioning it you are missing the opportunity to immerse the reader in a new world.

    Lastly, would she really be mentioning lottery to the Mr Savin? Is there a danger in doing so? If there is, perhaps she thinks it only and tells Mr Savin something different.

  7. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 10:08:55

    To reinforce Rosario’s comment, no editor or publisher would probably go past this first page. And if this were a self-pub, readers almost always get a preview of the first page, sometimes a first chapter, online, so again, you’re not doing yourself any favors by not proofreading and self-editing (or finding someone to do that for you).

    In thinking about this for a few hours, I’m really curious why Russians have apparently taken over either New York, or the US, and why the beef is scarce.

    As far as manila folders and Google, I do wish there were more futuristic elements. But maybe this is one of those retro-futuristic worlds, where there are dial telephones and Google is still the biggest search engine online.

    I’d also want to find out who the romantic interest is. i don’t need that on the first page (and I suspect it is Mr. M) but I’d like to meet the mystery man.

    Oddly though, with the over-opulent hotel lobby and the definite Russian flavor, I have some image of Russia of the past, Russian mafia controlling the food, and peasants eating rotten potatoes in the street. There could be a real class disparity here (I’m almost hoping there is) and that it plays a role in the story.

  8. Author
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 11:42:03

    Thank you so much for the comments. I submitted this 4 weeks ago when it said “The queue is empty!” and it was quite a whim. :) It is not edited (as pointed out) and my goal has been to just ‘keep writing’ and edit later. Some really good comments here to give me more push to keep going and do it better.

    A new galaxy was discovered and jump sites between Earth and the new planets were established in Moscow first, and then New York so we will meet new visitors to our world and discover there is a lot of tie in with some Russian families as well.

    Anyway. :) Thank you thank you for harsh criticism! I needed it.

  9. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 11:49:23

    Hi Author. Nice to see you.

    Do you have a blurb for the romance aspect of the story?

    As far as being unedited, I think the assumption, mine at least, is that pages submitted here are somewhat close to being agent/self-pub ready. Sending something that clearly needs editing, IMO, tends to garner you lots of critiques on bad editing. Or no comments at all, because readers find it hard to wade through the content.

    You lose out on all those comments about the context, or writing style, or character development, because you really haven’t done any of that. Again, like your first sentence in your page, you’re selling yourself and your story short before you even begin.

    Personally, whim or not, I wish you’d given this at least one more go over with a fine tooth pen before submission.

  10. cleo
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 13:17:45

    @Carol McKenzie – challenge accepted. I’m going to focus my comments on plot and character development, etc. (since everyone has covered the other issues).

    @Author – I think you have something interesting here, although it obviously needs work.

    I like the heroine’s dawning awareness (in the 11th and 12th paragraphs) that she may be in over her head. To me that’s the heart of the first page. I think her goal is very clear, as are the obstacles. Which is good. As others have mentioned, her emotions are less clear. I’m reading her as someone who’s been forced out of her comfort zone by finding her mother’s folder. Which could make her a really interesting character and give her a really compelling character arc.

  11. Author
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 14:09:20

    Carol – thank you! I’m on vacation this weekend but will post a blurb for the romance. I clearly need to work on it though.

    Cleo -thank you!

  12. hapax
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 14:35:58

    I agree with others that there is a germ of a good story and some intriguing characters here. It almost makes me wish that DA had some kind of gizmo that could notify interested readers when a “First Page” submission was released for publication — I say “almost” since each technical upgrade seems to break the site for me. :-) [Still, I remember how much I loved a certain First Page, and how thrilled I was to stumble across it on Amazon almost a year after release — that was Tamara Allen’s THE ONLY GOLD, and she has become one of my auto-buy authors]

    I don’t want to be too harsh on something that quite clearly isn’t ready for prime time, as it were, so I’ll leave off critique on stylistic matters. But I *do* want to urge you (and all aspiring writers!) to read your work out loud as part of the editing process: the singsong alliteration in the very second sentence would have stopped me cold had I been reading this as a sample for potential purchase.

  13. lisa
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 15:32:16

    I like SFR, but the heroine seems pretty naive and disorganized, which isn’t my cuppa. The Golden Lottery made me think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which could be a good association if you fix all of the other issues. In this era, it is New York, New York or you could just say New York City and leave off the state.

  14. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 30, 2014 @ 21:43:54

    Author: I’m looking forward to the blurb. And happy vacationing!

  15. SAO
    Aug 31, 2014 @ 00:45:40

    @Carol M

    Wow! Talk about being offensive:

    “over-opulent hotel lobby and the definite Russian flavor, I have some image of Russia of the past, Russian mafia controlling the food, and peasants eating rotten potatoes in the street.”

    There’s nothing like a wholesale condemnation of a country, people and culture, is there?

    And what “definite Russian flavor”? All I saw were two chars with ethnically Russian names, something that many Americans (like my husband and kids) have.

  16. Carol McKenzie
    Aug 31, 2014 @ 08:10:09

    @SAO: I apologize. No offense was intended at all, not to a country, nor any ethnic group.

    It wasn’t meant as a wholesale condemnation of a country or culture, and most certainly not its people.

    I did a poor job of trying to explain how this piece made me feel. Again, I apologize, specifically to you, SAO, and in general to whomever else is offended by my comments.

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