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First Page: UNPUBLISHED MS – New Adult

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“Ace, do you realize the amount of effort it takes to go from semi-slutty girl to conservative Christian?!” I wiped a sweaty palm against my dress and started rifling through my closet with the hand that wasn’t holding the phone. “How could you screw this up?”

In the email he’d sent earlier it clearly stated that I was to disgust and appall college boy’s conservative parents, not impress them. Those were two very different outfits.

“Calm down, Carson,” Ace said, not nearly as panicked as he deserved to be. “Pick a new outfit… long skirt… maybe a sweater up to your neck.”

I produced a string of swear words under my breath and yanked a long pink skirt off the hanger. He actually thinks this is funny. “You’re losing your commission on this one, buddy.”

“Fair enough,” he said. “Start changing and I’ll help with the role… you ready?”

“Yeah, on with it.” I unzipped my very tight dress and let it fall to the floor.

“Okay… you’re a student at UCLA. But your parents are alumni of Los Angeles Bible College and they met in their senior year in the dating parlor.”

I twisted my loose brown curls up into a bun, but not too tight. Don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard. “What the fuck is a dating parlor?”

Ace laughed his stupid snorty geek laugh. “Supervised dating for those who are too afraid they’ll let God down if they get a little alone time.”

“Oh God,” I groaned. “This should be completely miserable.”

“Its five grand, Carson. Who gives a shit if it’s miserable.”

I zipped up the back of my skirt, buttoned the top button of my sweater and slipped on a pair of brown sandals—like Jesus wore. “Alright, I’m changing my attitude. Keep talking while I drive.”

I grabbed my purse and keys and raced down the stairs and out to the parking lot of my almost LA apartment. Only about an hour away from the city.

“I’m texting you some scriptures, but I wouldn’t go over-board with that shit. It stinks of phony. Some topics to jump to…secular music and books… why are they still putting banned books in libraries? You should totally say how you adore Ellen Degenerous but wish she’d realize her gayness is actually the devil trapped in her libido storage place.”

I laughed so hard I nearly dropped the phone. “Okay, this might be easier than I thought.”

“You’re a master, trust me,” Ace said.

“What’s his girlfriend’s name? Please tell me it’s at least a little bit biblical sounding.”

“Sarah Ericson,” Ace said after a long pause. “And your date’s name is Jonathon Penbrook.”

Sarah…very biblical indeed.

By the time I hung up with Ace, my partner in crime, and jumped on the highway I was already feeling that rush of excitement a new job always brought. Who is Sarah Ericson? What are her goals in life… what did she see in a guy like Jonathon Penbrook?

There was nothing like slipping into the head of someone else, diving in and submerging yourself so completely, the real world has to take a back seat for a while. Honestly, I don’t think I ever would have survived the past four years without this gift of mine… that’s what my dad had always called it, anyway. A gift. But my favorite part wasn’t being Sarah Ericson, it was creating her, shaping her life, her flaws, the tiny pieces of humanity that make her unique and special. Sure, Ace did a lot of research and gave me guidelines or requests from the customer, but bringing Sarah to life was my job.

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

23 Comments

  1. SAO
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 06:53:14

    This is really intriguing and well-written. I like it.
    I only have a few quibbles:
    One moment of confusion, when she said, “keep talking while I drive,” which made me suddenly think she was in the car. Then she hangs up the phone before getting in her car.
    One moment of doubt that she can successfully become a character in an hour, knowing little about the subculture.

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  2. Lil
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 08:49:29

    I really, really hope this book is going to be about the narrator’s discovery that Jonathon and his parents are nothing like the bigoted stereotype she has pictured.

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  3. Maria M.
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 09:06:48

    I love it! When it comes out I want to read the whole book. What exactly is the job for which she’s paid five grand? Who hired her, Jonathan or Sarah or a third party? Why did the job change at such short notice? Good voice, too. I have no problem with her making fun of conservative, religious types, – these and their tedious prejudices are deferred too far too often anyway.

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  4. Kate Hewitt
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 11:33:48

    “I have no problem with her making fun of conservative, religious types, – these and their tedious prejudices are deferred too far too often anyway.”

    Really? I have a problem with making fun of anyone’s beliefs. And honestly I don’t see a lot of deferment in today’s culture. I *do* see a lot of mockery that is tedious to me.

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  5. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 13:11:21

    @Maria M.:

    “I have no problem with her making fun of conservative, religious types, – these and their tedious prejudices are deferred too far too often anyway.”

    Well see, change “conservative, religious types” to any other group and perhaps the potential problem becomes clearer. Things are often funny as long as the joke isn’t on something near and dear to oneself.

    To the author:

    I really enjoyed this, but I cringed at the Ellen joke, and thought that kind of specific may not be needed in such a well written piece, however I am aware you could get someone else saying the joke was just fine. The premise and execution of your first page are very good, but turning off some readers who could be your potential audience may be something to think about. It just depends on who your target audience is, and whether you’ve anticipated, or are ready for any backlash.

    Thank you for having the courage to submit this, and I wish you all the best. I hope you’ll keep DA updated on your progress, because this is certainly a New Adult that stands out from the rest.

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  6. Marianne McA
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 14:13:39

    I like it. The sandals quip sold it.

    Obviously we’re responding to a really limited portion of the work here, but there wasn’t anything in this excerpt that made me feel that the author was lambasting Christians – I thought it read ‘heroine at short notice having to pretend to be part of a subculture she has limited knowledge and stereotyped preconceptions of – hilarity will ensue.’

    Anyway, so far I thought it was properly funny, and I love funny, so I’m keen to read it. (In terms of judging what portion of your target market might be alienated by the jokes, I’m pretty churchy – a middle-aged Sunday School teacher.)

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  7. Lil
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 17:23:54

    Sigh.
    My problem is not that the narrator starts out with a bigoted stereotype of conservative Christians. It’s that she starts out with a bigoted stereotype. I have trouble with all bigoted stereotypes.
    The characters could be every bit as obnoxious as she assumes, but she should find that out after she meets them. She shouldn’t assume it sight unseen, any more than she should expect them to be drunk if they’re Irish or studious if their Chinese, etc.
    Unless she is going to have some sort of learning experience in the course of the story, why would you want to start out with a heroine given to bigotry?

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  8. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 17:35:39

    The XX protag and her broker have preconceived notions. They’re rude and, yes, bigoted.

    But I liked it and I’d keep reading even if it made me uncomfortable (it does) because it has a whiff of “Oh, she’s gonna get her ass handed to her.” (But I say a “whiff” because we don’t get a summary a paying reader would get.)

    Further, I like difficult characters as long as they’re interesting, and this one is. Now, in 3 pages she might not be, but for now I’m willing to go with it.

    @Maria M

    I have no problem with her making fun of conservative, religious types, – these and their tedious prejudices are deferred too far too often anyway.

    That was more offensive than the excerpt.

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  9. Willaful
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 18:22:21

    It’s interesting and different — I’m very curious about the rest of it.

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  10. Kaetrin
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 20:51:25

    I liked it. I thought it was funny and the premise is intriguing. I’d like to read more please.

    (Although, if you plan to keep the Ellen joke in, please correct the spelling of her surname.)

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  11. hapax
    Jun 23, 2013 @ 22:19:12

    So very much NOT the intended audience for this, but I’ll stick my two cents in anyhow.

    As near as I can tell, the protagonist pays for college by helping guys deceive their parents about whom they are dating? Who on earth would pay FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS for such a pointless scam? Surely there cannot be enough of them to make a career of this?

    On top of her bigoted assumptions and her arrogance in assuming that she can fake a subculture she (and her “handler”) quite obviously know nothing about, willingness to make money by deliberately deceiving and hurting apparently innocent people makes me dislike her intensely.

    Like I said, not my cuppa. But I wish you all success in finding the audience that quite clearly exists for this story.

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  12. Alison
    Jun 24, 2013 @ 02:07:12

    I liked it – I was intrigued by what she was doing and why – was she originally supposed to be the slutty girlfriend and it got changed at the last minute?

    Yes, she and her handler are making sweeping assumptions/generalisations about people they (she at least) haven’t met but don’t we all? Also as another person commented she may well find out that the parents/son are nothing like she has imagined.

    I thought the Ellen comment was a bit … “crude” isn’t the right word, “too strong” is more like it – that needs toning down into something more believable in my opinion.

    Also did anyone else get a vagues sense that she might really turn into the person she is pretending to be?

    Anyway a tempting and intriguing first page which makes me keen to read the rest of the book.

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  13. Author Of This Page
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 16:34:22

    Hey everyone! I’m the author of this work and I truly appreciate all the feedback! Thanks so much for taking the time to read. I waited a couple days to comment because I figured I’d post the blurb/summary of the book to answer any questions. The religion mentioned in the opening is just a tiny glimpse into one of many many subcultures/situations the character may become involved in. After the evening is over, she’s never Sarah Ericson again. And Carson…she’s basically a female version of Will Smith’s character in the movie HITCH. Yes, she is deceiving people but she truly believes she’s helping the good guys.

    ONE PAGE SUMMARY
    Seventeen year old Carson Carrington has been living on her own for years and to be honest, she’s pretty damn good at it. She’s also a master at hiding her solo status. On the brink of her senior year of high school, Carson has everything in her life perfectly in place. Her school is convinced she lives with her Aunt Ruth, who actually resides in an inpatient mental facility, and has for the last three years. Her friends believe she’s the product of a workaholic family. The business she started up a year ago is booming way beyond what she could have ever imagined, and Carson’s raking in the cash. More than enough money to fund her four years at Stanford. She’s come a long way in only three years.

    Carson’s proactive plan to control her own destiny began at age fifteen, when she met Ace in a juvenile detention center. They bonded from day one and became a formidable team. Ace, the reclusive socially awkward genius boy and Carson, the beautiful, intelligent girl who could charm her way out of almost anything. Both homeless. Both without a family. Neither willing to accept what fate had offered them. Their plan (the one Carson nicknamed “Stealing Happy”) to escape the walls that had been built around them the second they became wards of the state, was nearly flawless.

    Ace had the brains and the connections to create new identities for them and Carson had the charm and grace to convince the world she was someone else. Someone who hadn’t cleaned up her Aunt’s six suicide attempts or been the only witness to her parents brutal murder four years ago. In fact, Carson was so good at being someone else, her and Ace decided to make a business out of it. Carson can play almost any role for the right price—blushing Bible school girlfriend, sweet and well-cared for daughter of a negligent businessman. Ace, the only one who knows all her secrets, is behind the scenes, covering every track.

    Carson’s so busy faking life for other people, that she doesn’t have time for one of her own. When Ben Connors, the twenty two year-old hottie moves into the empty apartment next to Carson, suddenly sharing walls with someone seems so much more intimate than she ever realized. But Carson is always under-cover. At school, she’s the smart girl, Ivy League bound, Environmental Club president…To the other patrons of her small apartment complex, she’s the mysterious twenty something, surviving off her parent’s trust fund and spending her nights in LA, dating rich guys and living up her single status.

    So when Ben unpacks his boxes next door, Carson gives him nothing but a couple sideways glances on their shared balcony. But early one morning, while she’s lounging outside, she witnesses a huge shouting match between Ben and his now ex-girlfriend. The awkward intrusion of privacy leads to an instant friendship between the two neighbors. For the first time Carson is just being Carson…sort of. The wonderful thing about being with Ben is he’s just as mysterious and both come to an unspoken understanding that some things are better left unsaid.

    After a blissful final two weeks of summer with the guy who is turning out to be everything Carson never knew she wanted, the walls slam down around her again the second she walks into her third period Government Class. The boy next door is poised in the front of the room, seated behind the teacher’s desk. Not only does this create an incredibly awkward moment for both of them, it also means that Carson’s many worlds are beginning to merge and it’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.

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  14. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:40:07

    Hello author,

    Thanks for coming back to comment. Pardon me first, while I scream NOOOOOOO!!!!!

    Ah, that feels better. Listen, please, please don’t take anything I’m about to say as anything other than someone who recognizes your talent, who thinks you have a great premise (about her taking on other identities) and wants only the best for you.

    “Carson’s so busy faking life for other people, that she doesn’t have time for one of her own.”

    This is money. Golden. As pure a hook as I’ve ever read.

    “Carson’s many worlds are beginning to merge and it’s only a matter of time before everything falls apart.”

    YES! You’re on a roll now.

    But then you go and make her 17 (still jailbait imho, and way more than simply an awkward situation. The man could lose his job and face charges/scorn from school administration). When you have her hook up with a 22 year old (who, when he finds out, should run for the hills). It’s more than messy to compound it by making the guy her teacher. This is career ending stuff, not the start of a riveting love affair imho. It also takes you off your game, and what made your premise stand out (at least for me) because you’ve now thrown in a curve, and the latter half of you book sounds like her trying to make him understand why she deceived him.

    “After a blissful final two weeks of summer with the guy”

    And here’s where your book takes a major detour, and its no longer about HER but about him, when you had it, you had/have a killer premise with lots of mileage for your heroine (like sequels, because with her talent, she could become a counteragent/spy). Also, you state she’s 17, but the book is billed as a New Adult – I wonder if New Adult is being used as a catch all for putting a YA into a more adult situation? – Maybe I’ve got the NA thing all wrong, but most of the ones I’ve read deal with the college crowd. And honestly, I thought your heroine was in college because the set up made more sense to me.

    But, I need to stop. It’s your book and you can do with it as you will. It’s just that the whole “she then falls for the older neighbor who turns out to be her teacher” feels like a retread. And what you’ve got in your first page deserves better.

    After reading page one, I think you have it in you (cause you’ve got talent, believe that) to come up with something that ties all this together nicely.

    Again, thanks for coming back with more info on this, and please give updates. I wish you all the best with this.

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  15. theo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 17:49:51

    @wikkidsexycool: You know, I know we don’t always see eye to eye on these but in this instance, after reading a very, very long ‘blurb,’ I have to agree with you here. Seventeen and 22? Um…no. Please no. It’s just too squicky for me. And maybe it isn’t for anyone else, but…no.

    It was much more intriguing when I thought she was 22 or 23 since she’s talking about ‘college boy’ in the first paragraph or two and with her pretending she’s anyone else than who she is, I figured she might be able to pull off a broad age range.

    Would someone please give me some age range here for New Adult, by the way? I’m seeing that more and more and still trying to figure out just who the real target audience is.

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  16. Jane
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 18:11:32

    @Author Of This Page: This probably isn’t for me, but I know that the teacher/student seems to be very popular amongst readers. I guess it is the forbidden aspect? Let’s hope he keeps it in his pants until she is over 18.

    How old was Jennifer Echol’s characters with the young cop and the HS student?

    ReplyReply

  17. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 18:38:03

    @theo:

    Hi Theo,

    Yes, at 22, she could play a wide range of ages and characters. I’ve had lovely conversations with mature seventeen year olds who have lots of street smarts as well as brains, but still, it’s harder to play someone older when you’re the age of this protagonist. Somewhere along the way she’s bound to get tripped up. And with the switch in the premise, it changes the book (for me), and its impact, at least for me. I dunno. It’s just that once the second premise in this very promising tale was revealed, it seemed to pull all the excitement out of her real life talent as a changeling.

    But I see Jane’s point, and I get that there’s a big audience for hot teacher falls for student.

    Still … this could work as a series on The Disney Channel or ABC family, with Ace and Carson, and keeping Ben at arms length until she’s older :)

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  18. theo
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 18:51:35

    First, I meant to mention this before:

    In fact, Carson was so good at being someone else, her and Ace decided to make a business out of it.

    SHE and Ace. SHE… Her didn’t decide to make a business out of it. SHE did. Please fix that.

    @wikkidsexycool: And I’m with you on the 180 as well. It just takes the momentum away and frankly, I thought before the hot-guy-next-door was introduced that this was going to be a friend-to-lover thing with Ace which could work well since they know so many of the others secrets.

    And I too see Jane’s point and am another who hopes he keeps it in his pants till she’s 18, but it doesn’t sound like it. So, why can’t she be a college student and he’s the prof? Bumps the age up a bit but it’s not nearly as squicky as 17-jail-bait-sex…

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  19. Kaetrin
    Jun 25, 2013 @ 20:40:45

    I agree with wikkidsexycool – I’d be a lot more comfortable if she was 19 or 20 and in college and funding college this way. Also, the student/teacher thing is a bit ick for me. The rest of it sounds so great though. But with the heroine only 17 and Ben being her teacher, I don’t think I’d read it.

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  20. Author Of This Page
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 00:09:14

    @wikkidsexycool: Yeah…lol. It would be kind of an NA crossover. So maybe I cheated a little on that one.

    And that’s a way better opening line that what I had. Thanks!

    Oh! And you might this part. She turns 18 like right away in the book. And…he’s not 22. He’s 21. And he’s not really a teacher. He’s got a secret life of his own…

    I know the student/teacher thing makes some people squirm but I’ll be honest, I was trying to capitalize on the “Forbidden love” trope that has such a huge audience. But I’m just not the kind of writer who can do the stalker boyfriend who might kill her or something (though there is a point where the story sort of goes there but only because Carson is mislead about Ben after finding stalker-ish evidence. It takes a bit of a thriller feel to it for a while). Anyway, I took the trope and did it in a way that I was comfortable writing.

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  21. Author Of This Page
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:30:06

    @Jane: She turns 18 even before the first day of school.

    I believe the character in Going To Far was 17.

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  22. Author Of This Page
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 01:49:23

    @wikkidsexycool: and you weren’t far off base when you mentioned her becoming a spy/agent

    Also, I started this before college-aged was widely acceptable and I’m starting to think this could be way more fun if she was in college, paying for college as was suggested here.

    But then where’s my forbidden love? Hmm…Ben turns out to be an undercover cop posing as a teacher to investigate a drug dealer thing. Maybe he can just be a cop. She’s doing some illegal stuff so she can’t be with a cop, right? So maybe he’s just the guy in the apartment next door. Until she finds out his real job. And he can be an undercover detective, never wearing a uniform.

    Right now, that was the irony in the book. Both were essentially doing the same thing – being changlings, pretending…except Ben’s working with the law and she’s working against it. It stemmed from the whole theory about the detective mind needing to be very similar to the criminals mind…

    Okay, I think I have a new book to write! And I’m super excited about it. I had stopped writing this one at 20% and set it aside well over a year ago. Now I think it could be worth finishing. And she hasn’t even gone to school yet in the 20% so not much has to be fixed on the actual pages.

    Thanks again, everyone!

    ReplyReply

  23. wikkidsexycool
    Jun 26, 2013 @ 09:34:11

    Hello author,

    With the additional info you’ve posted, I’m thinking if you leave her in high school, then Jane’s suggestion may work the best. See, it’s that he’s in a position of trust as an educator (and officer). Plus I think having him being a detective at 21 years old may be a stretch, as there’s more involved in the process of going from an officer to a detective.

    But you can ratchet up the attraction tension. Nothing wrong with her having a crush on her teacher. But him acting on it? That could be a turn-off for some readers.

    Even at 18, she’s still vulnerable, because she’s still a teen. You may get more mileage out of this by having her torn between Ace and Ben, for different reasons. With Ace she can be herself. With Ben, is she willing to risk it all? because he may have to arrest her or perhaps even use her particular skill at some point. And that could be an emotional moral dilemma for him.

    Say for example, Ben happens to be on a stake out and sees her in one of her “disguises”. He might then feel its necessary, as both a police officer and as her “teacher” to warn her about the dangers of associating with the person she’s with. She’s flattered at his attempt, and sees him in a different light. Perhaps he came off as stuffy because he wanted to keep her at arms length so that he didn’t blow his cover as a teacher, and also as an undercover cop. And say, after she finds out the truth about him she feels betrayed, and realizes that while her changelings are fake, each identity she creates affects real people, for better or for worse.

    Anyway, I’m clearer now on what you’re trying to do. This could be a very good book!

    Thank you for sharing, and I wish you all the best.

    ReplyReply

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