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First Page: Unpublished manuscript – post apocalyptic romance

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The end of the world happened within hours.

They called it a rogue star. It wasn’t a planet like you learn about in science class – just as big as one. Scientists had only speculated as to their existence before. Now the whole world knew they really existed.

Or at least what was left of the world.

On a day like any other day, while the world slept, this rogue star entered the Milky Way on a collision course with the Moon. The world woke up when it hit.

A direct hit.

Those who were awake when it happened, those poor souls on the space station who’d had a bird’s eye view, they say the Moon simply split in two. One half disintegrated – the section that took the direct hit. The other half hung suspended in space.

Lopsided. Dead.

The Earth responded within hours of its partner being decimated. Oceans roared, tides came in and out with an almost violent frequency. The earth shook, volcanoes erupted, storms raged. Cities fell. That little white ball in the sky we all took for granted was now dead, and the Earth grieved.

Within a week, the deaths started to occur. At first no one tied the two together. Everyone was still living in shock of what had occurred. Families would be found dead in their beds. Children would take naps and never wake up.

Millions died.

When scientists publicly theorized the why behind it all, chaos reigned. Millions more died before a geeky med student in Iowa discovered a common trait among the survivors. By then the damage was done. Not that anything could have been done.
Mankind as we knew it was over.

March 24th

They called me Allie, back then.

It was a nickname of sorts, my full name sounding fanciful and foreign. For a young girl from a small town in Georgia, it fit better than the exotic name of my great-great-grandmother, for whom I was named. She’d met my great-great-grandfather overseas and became a war bride. They say I favor her, but no pictures exist anymore to see for myself.

Besides her name, I also inherited something else from her, and it saved my life.

My entire family, save myself and my sister, died in those first few weeks. Most of our neighbors died too. Folks banded together out of necessity, living and working together to survive. Danni, that’s my younger sister, she and I chose to live alone.

Not because we didn’t trust anyone.

You NEVER trusted anyone anymore.

It just wasn’t what either of us wanted. We’d grown up together, fought and argued together, lived through some of the best and worst times together. Danni knew me like the back of her hand, and I her. When the shit hit the fan, we became a team. We didn’t need anybody else mucking up the works, or worse, trying to take what wasn’t freely given. That’s not to say either of us was anti-social, just…cautious. More than once that caution had saved our hides.

We managed to stay in our little hideaway home for two years before the waves came lapping at the door. You see, when the moon was destroyed, the world changed. With nothing to regulate the tides, the oceans became a force of nature no one could tame. The poles started to melt at a faster rate. Coastal cities were destroyed almost immediately. The boundaries of the great bodies of water moved inland, and kept coming. Six months after the end of the world, island nations had disappeared and Florida was completely submerged.

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
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 04:56:43

    This is a great deal of tell and no show. I have no idea how Allie feels about any of this. It’s all back story/info-dump. It’s like you’re making sure we know everything we need to know, all at once, so you can then start the story.

    Also, I question the science behind this. Not that we have any first hand experience with the moon being hit by something that large, but I’m having a hard time suspending disbelief that no one saw this coming, or that half the moon was pulverized and the other half just hung there.

    We should have a ring after this happens…all the pieces of the moon should be pulled orbit around us, and then start randomly hitting us as some pieces fall out of that pull. That might have made a wonderful image for Allie to describe.

    As far as tides, without a moon, there just aren’t any tides. The moon isn’t keep the water from sloshing around on Earth; it’s the heavenly body that makes the tides. Without it, the Sun has some effect, but it’s not as strong. The oceans would rise, but not violently.

    We’d wobble in our orbit more, and that would have long term catastrophic implications.

    Aside from that, I think your story starts somewhere else, much later than this. Back story can be fed to us in little bits along the way. I’d like to start with Allie doing something, feeling something…and learn how she’s coping in this strange new world.

    I have no idea who this girl is, what she thinks, how she feels, what her goals or motivations are, what she stands to gain or lose…so it’s really hard for me to find a reason to like her, care about her or care what happens to her. Which would make me more likely to put the book down.

    Thanks for sharing your work.

  2. Kate Sherwood
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 06:39:21

    I agree that this is too much backstory. It’s solid backstory (I still love post-apocalyptic stuff) but there’s nothing happening RIGHT NOW in the story.

    I think this may be an even bigger problem with post-apocalyptic stuff than with other forms of backstory. The PA glut was mostly a YA phenomenon, but I think a bit of it has spilled over into other genres. So by opening with the apocalypse, you place your story really clearly into a crowded market, without giving us any reason to think your story is different.

    If you can open with a current situation, one of the many dangerous things this girl and her sister must encounter pretty frequently, and make us care about the girls, then THAT’s why we’d keep reading, even though it’s another PA novel.

  3. Nemo
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 07:43:35

    Having an interest in astronomy I would have to say I also question the science in this. There is a documentary by the History Channel called Universe and one of my favorite episodes is called “The Day the Moon was Gone.” And losing the moon would be very bad for us. Just not in the ways described here. As mentioned above the half that was gone would be crushed into bits and circle the earth. Depending on how unlucky the earth was different sized pieces would fall and cause massive devastation.

    Also, pretty sure that if a star came as close to us as the moon we’d have a lot bigger problems than losing our moon. Like the oceans boiling away and all live being destroyed by radiation and the atmosphere evaporating.

    The deaths would start right away, not a week later. I’m assuming this is some paranormal or invented science reason that we need the moon. My first thought is “I’m glad no one is noticing the massive starvation from the disruption of the ecosystems, the craters from meteorites, and everything, but is instead focusing on these seemingly peaceful deaths that didn’t start until a week later.” It screams “Lookit how special the main character is!” because she apparently has this special survival gene. For her maybe this is more important that all the other ways people died, but it sounds like the only effect of the moon was these strange deaths.

    Which, in the context of your world, wouldn’t have been the first deaths if the loss of the moon caused giant waves and volcanoes. Those would have been the first deaths. I’m just thinking that if all of those natural disasters are happening, giving special attention to something that is only killing millions, is strange. Why worry about something you can’t pinpoint when you know that you CAN save people if you figure out how to protect them from the disasters you can explain?

    I don’t like Apocalyptic stories in the first place, but I would be fascinated to read about one that came about because of the moon disappearing if the science was right or at least believable. Sadly the world building fell flat here and the character is as generic as a penny. I like the idea of a sister team, but not enough to ignore all the problems or take a chance on Alice being an unlikable character. Everything rubs me the wrong way in this page.

  4. Nemo
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 07:45:13

    And of course I spell your character’s name wrong. *Allie Feel free to ridicule me.

  5. Melisse Aires
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 08:42:45

    This is backstory and useful for the writer in developing the world, but you need to start the story at a point of change for the character. Action!

    Do you have a plausible explanation for the mysterious deaths? You’ll need that, or else that will have to change to more conventional reasons for the deaths.

    I would also caution you on the whole ‘live alone’ situation. In a huge catastrophe, communities that form to ensure safety and needs met have the advantage. Mountain men didn’t settle the Wild West…it was the families with their schools and churches–building cooperative community– that made life thrive in a new environment.

    But then my standard for Post Apocalyptic books is still ‘Alas Babylon.’ Still a diamond.

    I think this could be an exciting story, keep working on it!

  6. wikkidsexycool
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 08:55:50

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for sharing your work.

    You had me with your first sentence “The end of the world happened within hours.”
    But I have to agree with the previous posters. Even though I love dystopian/apocalyptic tales and would read on, the comments above give you an indication of what’s turning some readers off. You’ve got too much backstory/info dump, but I must say that I like your writing style and even with the long prologue I’m intrigued. I’d read on to find out if you’d put this much care into your dialogue, character development, and also to see how you advance the plot.

    The best advice I can give is to read as many books in the genre that your book is set in, so that you get some idea of what your targeted readers may expect. That’s not to say you can’t break rules, but you need to know what they are first.

    I’m thinking you’ve got a really good idea for a story but its the execution that may stunt its growth. If you take a look at how some of the top authors (both self published and those with major publishers) run with a great hook to weave a complex, interesting story with characters readers care about, then you’ll get a better idea of what to do with yours.

    I wish you all the best with your book. It takes courage to put it out to the public for critique. I also hope you’ll post a mini blurb to give a bit more info on the premise.

  7. QC
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 10:24:16

    I would have to stop reading because the science is so very wrong, but this would be easy to fix–simply consult anyone with a strong general science background and they could help you come up with a scenario to give you what you need. A science teacher would be a good start. I did like the line about the earth grieving. Good luck, author.

  8. Cowboy Junkie
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 10:32:08

    Author, thank you for putting yourself out there for people to – hopefully – give constructive criticism. I think many published authors forget that they too were once “newbies”.

    That being said, I’d read more. Yes, I see a few issues with the presentation, but overall you have me hooked. I love the idea of a sister team. To my knowledge, that hasn’t been done often. I also like your voice. I can see how some reviewers may see this as “backstory”, but what I’m reading is a young woman who is remembering and telling us what’s happened. I personally do NOT like books where it takes 5 or 6 chapters to get caught up to speed on past history.

    Remember that everyone is going to like different things. That is the great equalizer when it comes to reading. I have authors that I adore and I have authors that I abhor even seeing their names in print, let alone read. To quote one of the masters: “I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” (Stephen King)

    Don’t give up.

  9. Marianne McA
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 12:54:47

    I’m in agreement with everyone else: I’m an Arts grad, so I’ve no idea what the science of losing the moon would be, and in addition I appreciate that your imagined ‘rogue star’ might be exempt from our normal expectations, but my initial reaction was: ‘this can’t be right’ and that would stop me reading further. (Even the phrase ‘the world slept’ – I know it’s a widely understood idiom, but when you’re talking about an event that actually affects the whole world, the reader is left stranded: even if every scientist in America had switched off their telescope and gone to bed, wouldn’t some astronomer in India have been able to give the planet a heads up?)

    However, I liked the way you described it – as QC says the line about the world grieving is lovely, as is the image of the half moon hanging in the sky – I even like the idea of the world sleeping and waking with the catastrophe – it works really well on one level.

    Random suggestion of the day: you could move this to an imaginary planet – this may be just me, but I’d tend to accept any science you liked if you had situated the story in a made up universe.

    Good luck.

  10. Sunny
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 14:28:04

    This sounds very much like the YA series Life As We Knew It, which is about the moon being bumped closer to Earth’s orbit, with similar results. It also sounds like Werewolf: The Apocalypse’s apocalypse ending, right down to the “rogue star” and the moon taking the force of the hit (as well as severing spiritual ties to humanity). Both are chillingly written but manage to keep the human element to the fore, which is really the key to disaster writing — otherwise it’s just a science documentary.

    I had some science grumbles as well as the ones listed above. Rogue stars exist and we’ve known about them for almost 20 years — they’re just stars, so if you’re going to name your moon-buster something, it should probably not be something that already exists but is different from what you’re describing. An asteroid would do fine, and get around the rest of the science issues I had (Coming from outside the Milky Way? How many millions of years did that take? Why didn’t we see it — we can see stars, it’s stuff that reflects light we have a harder time catching. Why didn’t it chew up the Earth, when its gravitational pull is so much stronger? Etc etc etc).

    If you want a single book that would have most of the science of end-of-the-world-by-space-phenomena, Death From The Skies! by Phil Plait is pretty great and goes into a lot of detail.

    Honestly, I’d rather hear about the characters — so far we just know our heroine’s name, and that she has a younger sister. No ideas on how old she is to take her younger sister under her wing, what happened to their families, how they feel about that, what it’s like to have the world fall apart. So far this feels like a YA post-apocalypse, which is fine, but might not be the audience you’re targeting.

    If this seems down, it’s because you’re writing in a genre that’s been over-saturated for a while, so expectations are pretty high — but your writing shows a lot of promise, so I’d want to read more of this story for sure if some of the technical stuff was cleaned up and we got to the meat of your characters (and why we should be rooting for them, because we want to!).

  11. Maura
    Dec 29, 2013 @ 16:56:12

    I second the recommendation for “Death From the Skies!” If you’ve not read it yet, it’s a great place to start learning about just how cosmic forces can destroy the earth. …it’s a better read than that probably made it sound. And if you haven’t read it yet, with a premise like this, you need to, because your science just isn’t there. I have no problem with dystopias, but if you’re going to set them in a recognizable earth that’s been dystopianized by recognizable forces, you need to make it believable. If the moon went splat, the earth would be in a whole lot of bad, but not the kind you’re writing here.

    “People banded together” – how so? Because if you’re talking about millions of urbanized city/suburb dwellers who aren’t used to survival on their own, you need to deal with the sudden collapse of society in more than just a paragraph or two. How exactly is your small town girl surviving for two years? Also in the YA genre, I recommend Mike Mullin’s “Ashfall” for a solid, gritty version of what could happen when the Yellowstone caldera blows.

  12. Rachel
    Dec 31, 2013 @ 09:57:13

    I really liked this one. I thought the prologue works (and that’s rare!) and was fine with the backstory until the last two paragraphs or so, which started to retread the prologue.

    I don’t know anything about science, so that stuff didn’t trip me up at all. You hooked me with the people dying except for a select group – I need to know what makes that group special! :)

    And I liked that it’s sisters. But do give us a better idea of how old they are, since if they’re still teenagers, I’m not sure I can buy that they’re living by themselves.

    There’s a really good story in here. Keep going!

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