Monday, May 23, 2011

First Page Shooter #6

Original

If you want the truth, I started planning my wedding at my best friend's funeral.

But now I can hear Nic screaming, "Nobody wants the truth! It’s boring and takes too long. People have no attention span! More words and depth than a New Yorker cartoon equal zero readers. Kindle this, lady."

She’d probably be right. My love for the printed word is quaint at best; my attention to detail tedious. But I’m a proofreader. And Nicole, the hypocrite, was a copy editor. Plus, the funeral in question was hers, so maybe she would keep reading just out of personal interest. Just to find out what happened when Alec and I finally met.



.................

I was 27 when Nic died. I had to fly from New York to California for the funeral. Nic’s parents, the Hansens, were nice enough to let me stay with them. The service was very dark, literally and figuratively. It was held at the Alumni House at the University of Southern California, this place full of deep brown mahogany moldings and recessed lighting. From the outside it looked like the walls of the bottom floor were all French doors, but when you got inside, they had put these heavy velvet curtains along all four walls so the room was cave-like, closed in. It seemed like the entire first floor was a giant room swathed in red velvet, full of folding chairs and reeking of flowers.

****

With Suzie's Critique

If you want the truth, I started planning my wedding at my best friend's funeral.


I like this first line. There's voice here and it's intriguing. Not something I would expect.


But now I can hear Nic screaming, "Nobody wants the truth! It’s boring and takes too long. People have no attention span! More words and depth than a New Yorker cartoon equal zero readers. Kindle this, lady."


But whatever interest I had based on that first line has now already waned. Who's Nic, why is he/she screaming? And this dialogue block is much too long for someone we don't know or care anything about. Especially if this dialogue isn't happening in real time. If this is something the protagonist also thinks, I'd rather hear it in her voice.


She’d probably be right. My love for the printed word is quaint at best; my attention to detail tedious. But I’m a proofreader. And Nicole, the hypocrite, was a copy editor. Plus, the funeral in question was hers, so maybe she would keep reading just out of personal interest. Just to find out what happened when Alec and I finally met.


Here we get some more details. I'm interest that the funeral in question is Nic's--maybe knowing that before would help. But even with this paragraph I think the set up here is too long. It's telling, and what we really want after that first line is to see what exactly will get the protagonist to start planning a wedding during her best friend's funeral.

Also, and this might be me, but a huge pet peeve of mine is when the protagonist steps out of the narrative and tells us that we're reading. There are exceptions to everything and I've certainly read some great books that break down that fourth wall. Most of the time it just really pulls me out of the narrative--which is the opposite of what you want.

What if the first few lines read:

If you want the truth, I started planning my wedding at my best friend's funeral.

My best friend Nic--the one whose funeral it was--might say No one wants to hear the truth, but I'm a proofreader and my attention to detail is tedious.

So the truth it is.


.................

I was 27 when Nic died. I had to fly from New York to California for the funeral. Nic’s parents, the Hansens, were nice enough to let me stay with them. The service was very dark, literally and figuratively. It was held at the Alumni House at the University of Southern California, this place full of deep brown mahogany moldings and recessed lighting. From the outside it looked like the walls of the bottom floor were all French doors, but when you got inside, they had put these heavy velvet curtains along all four walls so the room was cave-like, closed in. It seemed like the entire first floor was a giant room swathed in red velvet, full of folding chairs and reeking of flowers.

While I find some of these details interesting, there's too much telling here. The first four sentences are short and structured similarly and just dispensing information. I do like the images of the last several lines in the paragraph, particularly the reeking flowers, but it's still telling description.  


The voice in the earlier lines seems different now or even gone. I want to get the protagonists thoughts and feelings  interspersed with the description--her best friend just died, where's the emotion?


I think I would read the next paragraph or two to see where this was going--I really did love that first line--but if the protagonist continued to lack emotion I'd stop.

Friday, May 20, 2011

First Page Shooter #5

Word count: 102,000 words
Genre: mystery/adventure

Original 250 Words


I was looking at beefcake, rear view. Dark hair, broad shoulders, and a perfect ass in a pair of camo-patterned pants. This had all the makings of a great fantasy.

Except for my headache.

He turned, showing off delicious pecs and fantasy-issue washboard abs. The camo pants didn’t camouflage much, and I felt a leer spread over my face.

Dark eyes met mine. He evidently liked what he saw, because he grinned and licked his lips. I pressed full-length against him and pulled him into a hard kiss, which he returned with enthusiasm. I love the way you can cut to the chase in fantasy-land.

If only my head didn’t hurt so damn much. I touched the sore spot, and my fingertips showed a smear of blood. I puzzled over that for less than a second before I returned my attention to the much more interesting subject at hand. Or hands.

I ran said hands down his back and locked onto those buns of steel. We were making a creditable attempt to lick each other’s tonsils when a furious voice erupted from inches behind me.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

I spun around, swearing violently as pain and adrenaline pumped through my brain.

Okay, that was weird. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a fantasy that included a short, pissed-off paramedic. The paramedic locked eyes with Beefcake. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he repeated.

Beefcake lifted a shoulder. “I’m not doing anything. She jumped me.”

*****

With Suzie's Critique


I was looking at beefcake, rear view. Dark hair, broad shoulders, and a perfect ass in a pair of camo-patterned pants. This had all the makings of a great fantasy.

It might just be me, but "beefcake" doesn't sound very sexy to me...is it supposed to? I do love the next two lines though! I was confused about whether this is a real fantasy, as in a dream or something, or if it's real...

Except for my headache.

Interesting...but headache makes me think Real Life not dream.

He turned, showing off delicious pecs and fantasy-issue washboard abs. The camo pants didn’t camouflage much, and I felt a leer spread over my face.

This might be nit-picky but I think it's more powerful without the "leering" because I swear I've read that in other books.

Dark eyes met mine. He evidently liked what he saw, because he grinned and licked his lips. I pressed full-length against him and pulled him into a hard kiss, which he returned with enthusiasm. I love the way you can cut to the chase in fantasy-land.

Cutting to the chase in fantasy-land makes me think dream. But even if it is, how far away from him was she? I was imagining her walking down the street behind him (I know there's no textual basis for that), but wherever they are, how does she go from looking him up and down to suddenly being pressed full length against him and pulling him into a kiss. Also, pulling him into a hard kiss, which he returned with enthusiasm feels cliched--that might be intentional, but it's a little bit of a turn off for the first page.


If only my head didn’t hurt so damn much. I touched the sore spot, and my fingertips showed a smear of blood. I puzzled over that for less than a second before I returned my attention to the much more interesting subject at hand. Or hands.

Again, the headache feels very Real Life to me, and I'm starting to feel unsure about what's going on. 

I ran said hands down his back and locked onto those buns of steel. We were making a creditable attempt to lick each other’s tonsils when a furious voice erupted from inches behind me.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

I spun around, swearing violently as pain and adrenaline pumped through my brain.

Is she spinning her whole body around or just tearing her lips away from Beefcake to see who said this? What does "swearing violently" mean? That doesn't really tell us about our character. And pain and adrenaline pumping through her brain again seems cliched--but more importantly is it from the headache (as in, is the headache getting worse) or is it from spinning around.

Okay, that was weird. I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a fantasy that included a short, pissed-off paramedic. The paramedic locked eyes with Beefcake. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he repeated.

If this is a dream/vision/fantasy and the twist is that we're going to notice it now, it should be a twist, so present it as real and then Aha! it's not what we thought.

Beefcake lifted a shoulder. “I’m not doing anything. She jumped me.”

"lifted a shoulder"--like he shrugged? Don't use three words when one fits better. I definitely like this as a closing line. And though I'm confused about what's happening, I am interested so I would keep reading, but if I didn't have something to grab onto soon, I would stop. On the plus side, I think the voice works. It does sound like this MC is telling me the story--she feels real. 


But I am wondering, how this is a mystery? Right now, if I didn't know the genre I'd think it was a romance. If Beefcake is a love interest or making out with random guys is going to be a problem or character trait or something reoccurring in the manuscript, this works, but if we're not going to see more of either thing...maybe it isn't the right starting point.



Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Page Shooter #4 REVISED

We have a revision! (See below for the first version)

Here's the edited 250 words.

I was throwing away happily ever after.

I’d been with the Ericsons almost two years. They were the latest foster parents in a long string of them. But this time I had friends, played on the softball team, worked a part-time job. I had a room to myself. For once I belonged somewhere. Their house wasn’t someplace I lived; it was home.

Derrick and Lisa kept hinting that the big surprise for my seventeenth birthday was them starting the adoption process. They wanted me, not just some foster kid they kept until they had their own. They wanted to make me a part of their family, forever. That didn’t happen to kids like me.

And I was running.

Because after I got my first period a month ago, I started turning into a cougar. Not the old lady who’s into twenty-something guys kind, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat.

My records were sealed, and try as I might, I couldn’t find out who’d given birth to me. Without someone to tell me how to stop myself from shifting every time my hormones got the best of me, my only option was to go somewhere I wouldn’t get shot at by police and hunted by animal control whenever I got a little furry. So far, that was not Chicago.

It made me hate my birth mother more than ever. I was finally within arm’s reach of having what she never gave me and she was ruining it. Figured.

****

And here they are with my thoughts:

I was throwing away happily ever after.

Love this first line!


I’d been with the Ericsons almost two years. They were the latest foster parents in a long string of them. But this time I had friends, played on the softball team, worked a part-time job. I had a room to myself. For once I belonged somewhere. Their house wasn’t someplace I lived; it was home.

Derrick and Lisa kept hinting that the big surprise for my seventeenth birthday was them starting the adoption process. They wanted me, not just some foster kid they kept until they had their own. They wanted to make me a part of their family, forever. That didn’t happen to kids like me.


While I like the details in these two paragraphs (and it certainly answers a few of my previous), they're backstory and telling. This information doesn't lose me because it's concise and to the point--I'd still keep going. But it also doesn't get me really excited to keep going either. (First because it's telling, second because I've read YA novels with similar family backstory--this isn't unique enough to stand out. I want to get to the part that says THIS IS WHY I HAVE TO KEEP READING THIS STORY!") . More on this in a minute...


And I was running.

This is implied in the next couple paragraphs. I'm not sure its needed.


Because after I got my first period a month ago, I started turning into a cougar. Not the old lady who’s into twenty-something guys kind, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat.

Awesome! 


My records were sealed, and try as I might, I couldn’t find out who’d given birth to me. Without someone to tell me how to stop myself from shifting every time my hormones got the best of me, my only option was to go somewhere I wouldn’t get shot at by police and hunted by animal control whenever I got a little furry. So far, that was not Chicago.

It made me hate my birth mother more than ever. I was finally within arm’s reach of having what she never gave me and she was ruining it. Figured.


Interesting. I like these details about her birth mother and it shows that she's tried something else other than just leaving.  I think I would put some of the foster parent info in with these two paragraphs. So maybe it would look like this:

I was throwing away happily ever after.

Because after I got my first period a month ago, I started turning into a cougar. Not the old lady who’s into twenty-something guys kind, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat.



Which was a problem. 


My birth records were sealed, so try as I might, I couldn’t find someone to tell me how to stop myself from shifting every time my hormones got the best of me. And, even though the Ericsons, my latest foster parents, were hinting that starting the adoption process was the big surprise they were planning for my seventeenth birthday, ...[add something here about why turning furry would sort of ruin this, yeah?].

It's not like I wanted to leave. I had friends, played on the softball team, worked a part-time job. But my only option was to go somewhere I wouldn’t get shot at by police and hunted by animal control whenever I got a little furry. So far, that was not Chicago.


It made me hate my birth mother more than ever. I was finally within arm’s reach of having what she never gave me and she was still managing to ruin. Figured.


As is, I also have a much stronger sense of the voice in this version.  I would keep reading to see where it goes.



Word Count: 85,000 words

Original 250 Words

I knew the first time I changed into a cougar that I had to run away from home. No, not the old lady who’s into 20-something guys kind of cougar, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat. Chicago is a terrible place to live for a girl who randomly turns into a giant cat. Which is why I was standing alone in a bus station on a Tuesday morning, about to leave behind everything I had known.

It was busier than I expected; hurried people rushed around me as I stood in the middle of the room feeling lost. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out the crowd. I struggled to concentrate on my breathing, hoping it would slow my heart, but I couldn't calm down.

What was I doing? I was sixteen years old. I had $928 to my name, saved up from the part-time job I’d been working at Harrock’s, the grocery store down the street from my house. Running away from home was ridiculous. I’d carefully planned everything out, but as the fear flooded my veins I started to see flaws in my escape. Still, I couldn’t stay in Chicago. I’d made a mess of my life there and couldn’t fix it, no matter how I tried.

*****

With Suzie's Critique


I knew the first time I changed into a cougar that I had to run away from home. No, not the old lady who’s into 20-something guys kind of cougar, the big furry kind with pointy teeth and a hankering for raw meat. Chicago is a terrible place to live for a girl who randomly turns into a giant cat. Which is why I was standing alone in a bus station on a Tuesday morning, about to leave behind everything I had known.

There's a really interesting voice here--and of course a concept that suggests a big conflict. But the wording here isn't used with as much power as it could be. For instance the first line could be tighter: The first time I changed into a cougar, I knew I had to leave home. Or condense the first two sentences: The first time I changed into a cougar--the big furry kind with pointy teeth, not the older woman looking for a younger guy--I knew I had to leave home.


But an added problem is the first line makes me question it. WHY. Why does she have to leave home? I can understand a big city isn't that great for a cougar, but how often is she changing shape? What was first experience like that she felt she had to get out of there? 


Additionally, the rest of the paragraph just brings up more questions. What does "randomly" mean exactly. Does she have no control over it, is it like *poof* she's a cougar? How long has passed from the "first time" to now "Tuesday"? Is Chicago a bad place just because it's a city or is there some other reason?


If she's leaving behind everything she's ever known--what does that mean? And am I supposed to feel sorry for her? Because I don't--not yet. I need to know more about what she's leaving behind  what the trauma of this first experience was...I'm just not connecting to her as much as I need to be.


It was busier than I expected; hurried people rushed around me as I stood in the middle of the room feeling lost. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out the crowd. I struggled to concentrate on my breathing, hoping it would slow my heart, but I couldn't calm down.

Again, some of the writing feels like it needs to be tightened or polished so it flows more easily. I'm more interested back in that first experience than in the bus station. Also, people rushing is a generic description for a bus station--I'd love to get a detail or two to let me picture it better.


And I'm getting conflicting images.  If she's "lost" and the crowd of people are rushing around her, that makes me picture her sort of aimless. If she's struggling to calm down, that makes her sound panicked.


And of course now I'm wondering where she's planning to go. If she has to leave, that's the next step, right? Logically she should decide where she's going before she leaves.


What was I doing? I was sixteen years old. I had $928 to my name, saved up from the part-time job I’d been working at Harrock’s, the grocery store down the street from my house. Running away from home was ridiculous. I’d carefully planned everything out, but as the fear flooded my veins I started to see flaws in my escape. Still, I couldn’t stay in Chicago. I’d made a mess of my life there and couldn’t fix it, no matter how I tried.

This is my first big pause. The first two paragraphs raised a lot of questions, but I was interested (and willing to keep reading) to see where this story went. For some reason, this voice doesn't sound 16 to me. I was picturing her in her early twenties. If she turned into a cougar at sixteen, where's the mention of her parents. (Was this hereditary or an injury or what?)


Also, the way the age is dropped into the story, it reads like the author wasn't sure how else to say that she was sixteen.


She says she carefully planned everything out yet I don't see any evidence of that in the earlier paragraphs--just the opposite, in fact. Is this an "escape"? I didn't get any sense of that until now, and if it is an escape, I want to know who she's escaping from. And what is the "mess" she made of her life?


I think this author has promise, but I wouldn't keep reading at this point. The main reason I'd stop is because I've read dozens (or more) of YA paranormals and specifically YA shapeshifting novels, and this just doesn't stand out to me.  I need more from this character.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm going to steal Joanna's thunder...

And post this video.

She showed it to me yesterday (thanks to the editor who mentioned it to her), and I've watched it a few times again since. I'm not sure why I find it so entrancing, but here it is...

MARCEL THE SHELL...
with shoes on

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Um, yay.

Image courtesy of Brooks Sherman
That is all.

For more info, read here.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Original Sin Winner!

Wow! These entires were fantastic--thank you everyone for entering. Congratulations to everyone who did--these were some of the best ones I've read.

Best Animal Character
brianbuckley.com @ 9:23 pm

Best Edgar Allan Poe Allusion
Sunlight Shadows @ 8:59 pm

Best Use of "A Devil's Own"
Katherine Tomlinson @ 9:46 pm

Best High School Scene
Taryn @ 10:45 pm

Best Zombie Entry
Holly Ann @ 11:05 pm

Most Interesting Rhetorical Manipulation 
Xander Pike @ 12:02 am

Best Swoonworthy Athlete
Kristi @ 3:20 pm

Best Description of a Setting
David @ 5:44 pm

Best Futuristic
Jennifer Rush @ 1:29 am

Best Short Entry
Em-Musing @ 7:30 am

Best Online Dating Site Name
Steve Forti @ 3:45 pm

Best First Line
Ms. Snip @ 1:14 pm

Best Craving for Revenge
Bruce Thole @ 1:00 pm

And the runners up...

Best Twist
Nicole Zoltack @ 7:56 pm

&

Best Voice
Katherine Hazen @ 12:26 am

And the winner is...

DD3123 @ 10:27 am

At age nine, standing just outside the garage door, I began a personal relationship with fire. A flick of my wrist sent a bottle flying. It was a lit Molotov, of sorts. But more refined. An original recipe, by yours truly. The bottle arced through the air and broke on the carport. Flames danced across the floor and up the walls like demons hellbent on consummation. Smiling, I cared not that this was a supposed sin. It was glorious. Beautiful.

And as Mother lay inside, bound and gagged, I could have sworn I heard her call me, “A Devil’s own.”



Congratulations to everyone. If the winner sends me an email with his/her address, I'll mail out a copy of Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Help Write Now

Make sure to check out HELP RIGHT NOW, the auction sponsored by several fabulous authors to support Southern Storm Relief.

You could even bid on a critique on your full manuscript (from me) and a 30 minute phone call to discuss, edits, the industry, or any other questions you have.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Original Sin Contest

Here's your chance to win a copy of an ARC of Original Sin which isn't out until July 5th!

Here's what you've have to do.

Write a story, one hundred words or fewer, using these words:

Personal 
Demons
Hellbent
Original
Sin

Bonus Points if you use the phrase "A Devil's Own"

Contest open internationally. It starts NOW, and runs through midnight Thursday May 5th. Post your entry in the comments section.

Enter as many times as you want.

PERSONAL DEMONS series, book 2
Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn't feeling as demonic as usual lately--thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never knew she had. But you can't desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Franie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc's allies.


Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept the protection of Heaven and one of its most powerful angels, Gabe. Unfortunately, Luc isn't the only one affected by Frannie, and it isn't long before Gabe realizes that being around her is too...tempting. Rather than risk his wings, he leaves Frannie and Luc under the protection of her recently aquired guardian angel.


Which would be fine, but Gabe is barely out the door before an assortment of demons appears--and they're not leaving without dragging Luc back to Hell with them. Hell won’t give up and Heaven won’t give in. Frannie's guardian exercises all the power he has to keep them away, but the demons are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell's grasp.


And not everyone will get out of it alive.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I am so excited for this!

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.

3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.

4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.

5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?