Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil Thursday

Click image for details on how YOU can be a Red Pencil Thursday Volunteer!

My RPT volunteer this week is my critique partner, Ashlyn Chase. I hope you’ve already discovered her brand of sexy, paranormal wackiness. If not, be sure to check out her website!

Because she’s my crit partner, I’ve been a little pickier with her than my usual volunteer. But Ash knows this is a smorgasbord. She’ll take what she likes and leave the rest.

My comments are in red. Hers are in blue. Please add yours at the end of the post! A critique group is only as strong as the eyes around the table. We hope you’ll add your voice to the discussion.

Flirting with Werewolves (Book One in the Flirting with Fangs Series)

Mia: Ashlyn is a master at putting together a winning premise. This quartet of stories is a “paranormal Cheers.” When she sends in her proposal, she’ll include short blurbs for the other stories in the series along with her first three chapters and synopsis for the first book.

“You’ll meet your true love soon. In fact, he could be the next man to walk through that door.” Psychic Sadie aimed a nod in the direction of the bar’s Charles Street entrance.

Mia: With your typical economy of words you’ve given us a sense of the setting and let us know that this story will have paranormal elements. However, since bars are often pungent and noisy places, I’d love to have more of my senses engaged. 

Aimed a nod is a little clunky. How about just nodded in the direction?

AC: Point taken…both points, actually.

Wanda Helgason gazed at the door expectantly. It swung open and a tall, blond, broad shouldered hunk of a man breezed in. Oh no. It couldn’t be.

Mia: Oh no. It couldn’t be. is Wanda’s direct thought so it should be italicized.

AC: It was…don’t know what happened.

Mia: Cut and paste gremlins strike again. I’ll leave the comment in though, because part of RPT is showing other writers glitches that may be present in their WIP too.

“One night Nick? Are you kidding me?” She burst out laughing.

Mia: I think I’d capitalize Night too to help indicate it’s all part of the guy’s nickname.

AC: You got it. One Night Nick it is.

Sadie shrugged a shoulder. “You never know…”

Mia: What else would she shrug? Before you smack your forehead a la “I-coulda-had-a-V8” over this, let me share that in a recent pass through one of my manuscripts I had my hero removing the blindfold from the heroine’s eyes. Well? Where the heck else would the blindfold have been?

AC: This isn’t a head-desk moment. She shrugged one shoulder instead of both shoulders. I’ll change the word a to one and it should work.

Wanda picked up her tray. Having delivered Sadie’s white Russian, she returned to work still chuckling and shaking her head.

Mia: Capitalize White. It’s part of the drink’s name.

AC: As you know, grammar is not my forte. One White Russian coming up!

“What put that smile on your face, beautiful? Besides seeing me, of course.” Nick grabbed a stool and sat on it backward. Even with the stool’s height, his big shoes hit the floor and she noticed his powerful thighs bulging under his blue jeans. That wasn’t the only bulge she thought she saw.

Mia: You don’t have to tell us she noticed. We’re in Wanda’s POV. What she sees, we see.

AC: Good reminder. Thanks.

Wanda knew her regulars and Nick was a good tipper. She’d play nice, even though the omen sat uncomfortably in the back of her mind. “Just something Sadie said. I think I’ve served her one too many.”

“Well you haven’t served me at all, girl. I’m parched.”

“What can I get you?”

“Whatever Sam Adams you have on tap.”

“Coming right up.”

Usually Angie would get Nick’s beer, but the bartender looked engrossed in a conversation. Wanda lifted the part of the bar that flipped up and strode in. “It must be your evening off. You’re not in uniform.”

Mia: I’m hoping the uniform means he’s a cop instead of a hamburger flipper at a fast food joint. But then a cop wouldn’t ever come in to drink in uniform…

AC: LOL. Yes, he’s a cop. (Or was…he just quit.) Cops do visit bars to see that all is well from time to time—he’d never order a beer on duty though. I can make it clearer by saying, “It must be your evening off since you’re not in uniform and you’re ordering a brew.”

Nick frowned. “Yeah, kind of.”

Something told her she shouldn’t pursue that subject. She simply grabbed a frosted mug and held it at an angle under the tap like Angie had shown her. It created less froth and made room for more beer.

Mia: These little details show us Wanda knows her business. However, I’d like something more specific than a nebulous something warning her off the subject of Nick not being at work. The set of his jaw. A tick of the muscle in his cheek. Something physical she can read as a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

AC: Another good suggestion. Will do.

When she set it in front of him, his cocky smile had returned. “Ah, you’re a good girl. I’d sing Brandy but you’d probably run the other way.”

Mia: Gotta love a guy with a cocky smile!

“Yeah, thanks for not doing that.” Wanda played the song in her head, Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be… She scurried away, mumbling, “Well, I gotta get back to work.”

Mia: This makes me wonder why you didn’t name her Brandy. I don’t get why he’d sing the song to her otherwise. You might show her irritation with getting that “earworm” stuck in her head. Maybe a joke about if she had a nickel for every time some drunk sang that song to her, she’d never have to hustle for tips again…

AC: ROFL! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. I’m changing her name to Brandee. (Spelled differently to avoid confusion with the spirits.) Now I have to change Brigit’s name. (Secondary character in this book and heroine in the next.) They’re too similar.

Mia: Important point! Names that are too similar are confusing to readers.

Wanda grabbed a clean rag and wiped down a table that didn’t need it. Nick watched her, unabashedly admiring her rear end. She quickly moved on to another empty table and made sure she was facing him. As soon as she bent over to reach the surface, her V-neck dipped. She caught him gazing at her cleavage like he might drool and she snapped up straight.

Mia: We have a little POV bobble here. We’re in Wanda’s POV for the first sentence, then in Nick’s head for the second. You can fix this by having her feel the sizzle of his gaze as he unabashedly admired her rear end. Of course, she’ll need to see him at it to make the fact that she sensed it ring true. Maybe she could notice his reflection in a well placed mirror. It would also give her reason to make sure she faced him for the next table.

AC: I disagree about the POV. Have you ever been unabashedly checked out? Believe me you don’t need to be in the other person’s POV to know exactly what they’re thinking. LOL

Mia: That’s true if she was facing him. He’s checking out her rear. Unless she has eyes in the back of her head so she can see him doing it, we’re definitely his POV. (As you all can see, Ashlyn and I go around about some things. But it’s ok. We respect each other’s writing and ultimately the author of the work makes the final decision.)

Good Lord. Why can’t he turn around?

Nick stood, left his beer on the bar and strolled over to her. He leaned down so he could whisper in her ear. “When, Wanda?”

Mia: Nick doesn’t strike me as a stroller. How does the guy move?

AC: Nah, he’s a stroller. A very laid-back beta wolf.

She tried to look casual. “When what?”

Mia: But her insides are jumping. Even though she’s rightly wary of him, this guy pings all her buttons. I’d like to see a little more of that.

AC: Good idea. I’ll make her jitter.

“When are you going to let me show you the time of your life?”

Mia: Not wild about that pick-up line. Is Nick our hero or should we look for someone else? If Nick’s the hero, I’d like a bit of genuineness in his attempt to pick her up. He’s a bit of a bum right now, but that’s ok. I know your heroine can rehabilitate him. However, I hope you’ll give us another reason to like him besides his obvious good looks fairly soon.

AC: Oh, you’re just giving me a hard time because I rag on your Alpha heroes. LOL. Here’s the next bit…maybe it’ll help.

“Look, I know your reputation. I’m not interested in one night, Nick.”

He crossed his arms. “At least I’m upfront about it. I won’t say, ‘I’ll call ya,’ and then leave you to wonder why I didn’t. Do you need a commitment for a night of fun?”

AC: Here’s what he’s really doing…He doesn’t want to hurt women by leading them on only to dump them if and when “the one” comes along. Remember, he’s a wolf and they mate for life.

Mia: Ok. He’s being honest. I can support that. Thanks for being my volunteer this week, my friend.

________________________

Now it’s your turn to weigh in. How can Ashlyn improve her opener?

While you’re thinking about it, think about ordering her latest book: THE VAMPIRE NEXT DOOR.

Apartment for Rent. Normal Need Not Apply. This old Boston brownstone is not known for quiet living…first the shapeshifter meets his nurse, then the werewolf falls for his curvy lawyer, but now the vampire is looking for love with a witch who’s afraid of the dark…and you though your neighbors had issues!

This story received a coveted 4 1/2 STARS and a Top Pick from RTBOOKReviews. Claim your copy today.


16 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. SiNn says:

    Hii ash first of all I love the brandi song and ims omeone in my 20s and honestly I love that its aparnormal cheers setting I do how ever agree that i was nocked for aloop when went from wandas pov to nicks i was a lil confused

  2. Serena Bell says:

    Sorry I’m weighing in so late here! I really like this opening, Ash! Both versions, in fact, but I actually liked the original beginning–just the opening lines–slightly better than the rewrite. Starting with the psychic right off the bat felt different from other things I’ve read, and it really focused our attention quickly on the relationship between the heroine and Nick. In the second version, a lot of things happened in rapid succession and I got a little lost. I think (if you want to) you can start with the original first line and then STILL find a way to get the bar atmosphere in quickly thereafter.

  3. Karri Lyn Halley says:

    I like ironic names, too and since your daughter knows the song, I think the song/name thing is good. It’s fun to get these tastes of different writing. I guess I’m going to read a paranormal now!

  4. Marcy W says:

    Fun to read your original beginning, and then your rewrite, Ashlyn … shows both what good critique Mia offers, and how well a smart author can take ideas and make their work better. The second definitely made the scene clearer in my head, and the characters, too. I agree with Barbara Britton with her two little changes — the “wail” stopped me, too; and the “whatever are you talking about?” seemed awfully affected, even when said in jest.
    You got the One-Night Nick right the second time, but go back to the start, and you still have it with a small ‘n’ on night.
    After reading all the text and comments, I realized it seems to me that you’re going to a lot of trouble to be able to include the song Brandy — changing her name, and wondering if everyone will know the song. I’m not thrilled with the name change and spelling, and I’m wondering if that one exchange about the song is worth it all. Does it really add that much to this introductory scene? I don’t think it tells me very much about Nick, apart from he’s being pretty banal (and there are lots of other ways to show that), and it hints that our heroine isn’t ready to be a wife — or is she? Maybe take a look at that whole bit, and see if you can use that space to make a point that advances our understanding of these characters a little better?? IMHO, of course!
    But, overall, a great beginning …hooked me nicely, and I want to read more; hope Sadie is a recurring character, ’cause she sounds like fun! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ashlyn Chase says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Marcy. To be honest, I never thought the one thing people would comment on most would be the song. I like ironic or especially fitting names. In this case it isn’t that important, but it’s kind of fun. So, why not? I never want to miss an opportunity to deliver a smile.

  5. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Ashlyn,

    I like the re-write. It makes Nick fun and likable, but still keeps his edge.

    Here are another two quick notes (totally painless)on the new opening.
    Wailing about getting dumped didn’t ring true to me. Could Brandee sigh about it near Sadie? The eccentric aunt would still want to help her.
    Nick’s line, “Whatever are you talking about?” sounds awkward. Can we change it to “What are you talking about?”
    I like this story and both openings would have me hooked.

    1. Ashlyn Chase says:

      Yup. I can totally change that, Bev…and I will. Thank you!

  6. R. A. Gates says:

    When Nick said he’d sing Brandy for her, I immediately thought of the pop star Brandy. It confused me until Brandee started singing the lyrics in her head, then I knew he was referencing a song and which song it was.

    I like how superficial their relationship is now and anticipate seeing how it will change during the course of the book.

    I’m hooked.

    1. Ashlyn Chase says:

      Thank you, R.A.!

      I needed that.

  7. Karri Lyn Halley says:

    Sorry-not quite in my thirties anymore, but Brandy does seem a little dated. I know it, but I’m betting twenty-somethings don’t. I like your Beta Hero, but it’s your comments that have helped me like him. I hope the bit about how he doesn’t want to lead anyone on and dump them when “the one” shows up makes it into the story soon. Intriguing beginning. I don’t read a lot of paranormal, but your writing makes me want to read yours.

    1. Ashlyn Chase says:

      I called my daughter and asked if she knew the song Brandy. She said yes and was able to sign the refrain I wrote. (Off key, but hey–she was unprepared.)

      1. Karri Lyn Halley says:

        That actually makes me feel better! It’s nice to know when there isn’t such a huge divide. I just read yesterday that this year’s new college freshmen think LBJ is LeBron James!

        1. Ashlyn Chase says:

          LOL! Yeah, I can believe it. But Lyndon Baines Johnson hasn’t been on the radio or TV lately.

  8. Ashlyn Chase says:

    Okay–since mia did such a thorough job, it seems as if it’s hard to top it. Bev, thanks for your thoughts too!

    But, just so more people can take a crack at me, I’m posting my rewrite. Okay people…jump in! (By the way–my italics disappeared again. *sigh*

    Over the din of clinking ice and lively conversation the entire bar heard Brandee Hanson wail, “Dumped in a text message? Really?”

    Suddenly the place quieted. Heat crept up her neck, and she dropped her blackberry into her apron pocket. She was about to slink off to the ladies room when Sadie Maven, the owner’s eccentric aunt, waved her over to the booth she regularly occupied.

    “Have a seat, dear. Let me do a quick reading for you—on the house.” Sadie was already shuffling her tarot cards.

    Brandee slumped onto the opposite bench and set her tray down.

    “I had a premonition about you just now,” Sadie said. “It might make you feel better.” She winked.

    Brandee sighed. “I’m all for feeling better.”

    Sadie spread the cards across the table. “Pick one.”

    Brandee pulled one card from the middle and turned it over. On it was a picture of a couple entwined in a passionate embrace and text beneath proclaimed The Lovers.

    “Ah. I was right. You’ll meet your true love soon. In fact, he could be the next man to walk through that door.” Psychic Sadie nodded in the direction of the bar’s Charles Street entrance.

    Brandee gazed at the door expectantly. It swung open and a tall, blond, broad shouldered hunk of a man breezed in. Oh no. It couldn’t be.

    “One night Nick? Are you kidding me?” She burst out laughing.

    Sadie shrugged one shoulder. “You never know…”

    Brandee picked up her tray and returned to work still chuckling and shaking her head.

    “What put that smile on your face, beautiful? Besides seeing me, of course.”
    Nick grabbed a stool and sat on it backward. Even with the stool’s height, his big shoes hit the floor. His powerful thighs bulged under his blue jeans. That wasn’t the only bulge she thought she saw.

    Brandee knew her regulars and Nick was a good tipper. She’d play nice, even though the omen sat uncomfortably in the back of her mind. “Just something Sadie said. I think I’ve served her one too many White Russians.”

    “Well you haven’t served me at all, girl. I’m parched.”

    “What can I get you?”

    “Whatever Sam Adams you have on tap.”

    “Coming right up.”

    Usually Angie would get Nick’s beer, but the bartender looked engrossed in a conversation. Brandee lifted the part of the bar that flipped up and strode in. “It must be your evening off. You’re not in uniform, and you’re ordering a brew.”

    Nick frowned. “Yeah, kind of.”

    His set jaw and the twitch in his cheek told her she shouldn’t pursue that subject. She simply grabbed a frosted mug and held it at an angle under the tap like Angie had shown her. It created less froth and made room for more beer.

    When she set it in front of him, his cocky smile had returned. “Ah, you’re a good girl. I’d sing Brandy but you’ve probably heard that a few thousand times.”

    “Yeah, thanks for not doing that.” Brandee played the song in her head, Brandy, you’re a fine girl, what a good wife you would be… She scurried away, mumbling, “Well, I gotta get back to work.”

    Brandee grabbed a clean rag and wiped down a table that didn’t need it. Over her shoulder she caught Nick unabashedly admiring her rear end. She quickly moved on to another empty table and made sure she was facing him. As soon as she bent over to reach the surface, her V-neck dipped. Now he was gazing at her cleavage like he might drool. She bolted upright.

    Good Lord. Why can’t he turn around?

    Nick stood, left his beer on the bar and strolled over to her. He leaned down so he could whisper in her ear. “When, Brandee?”

    She tried to look casual. “When what?”

    “When are you going to let me show you the time of your life?”

    She smiled, thinking what that might entail, but quickly schooled her expression. “I’m not that kind of girl.”

    He tried to look innocent, but she knew it was an act. “Whatever are you talking about?”

    She rested a hand on her hip. “I know your reputation. They don’t call you One Night Nick for nothing.”

    “At least I’m honest about it. I never lead a girl on, saying, ‘I’ll call you,’ then leaving them to wonder why I didn’t like some guys do. I treat a woman to an awesome night she’ll never forget. I’m just not interested in getting tied down right now.”

    She whispered, “Look, I’m not saying I want to get married either. But casual sex isn’t my style.”

    He feigned shock, then boomed in his baritone, “Who said anything about sex?”

    “Lower your voice, dammit.” She glanced around, but people seemed to have lost interest in her and continued their own conversations or watching the football game. Thank God.

    She faced Sadie, who she knew took an interest in all the waitresses’ love lives. Sadie shuffled her Tarot cards with a knowing smile on her face.

  9. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Ashlyn,

    I really liked this opening. I only have a few things to add as Mia did a great job of pointing things out (as she always does).
    I do agree with the POV switch–Wanda’s back was to Nick, so how would she know he checked her butt out. It threw me out of the story for a moment.
    The song Brandy, while I like it, is dated. I can sing all the lyrics, but I am forty-something. Would someone in their twenties know this song? Just a thought.
    I would also look at you last line. “Do you need a commitment for a night of fun?” I know I’m traditional, but my answer is “Yes”…this makes Nick seem trashy. Could we re-word it so it shows his need for female companionship and his not wanting to mislead anyone.
    This beginning pulled me in fast. Great job.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      The fact that the Brandy song was dated escaped me, but there are always oldies being played. Who doesn’t know Black Magic Woman or Wasting Away Again in Margueritaville?

      Guess we need a twenty or thirty-something to weigh in on this.

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