Friday, March 14, 2008

Contemporary Romance Honorable Mentions

Jessica and I each chose three honorable mentions to highlight this week. I’d like to reiterate that you shouldn’t be discouraged from submitting to us if you didn’t make our lists. We had a lot of great work to choose from, and it’s tough to judge on just 100 words.

Here are Jessica’s picks:
Amy Nathan—Every Other Weekend

I got dressed for my first date in 16 years at the same time that my ex-husband was across town passing a kidney stone. Divine justice.

For the first time I could remember, a pleasurable selfishness enveloped me. It wasn’t about Richard’s pain; it was about Richard’s pain not interfering with my plans. I wanted to go on this date, but I didn’t realize how much until the moment I thought the evening could be in jeopardy. What if Richard had to be taken to the hospital? Who then would watch the kids?

What’s interesting is that a lot of my picks had a definite women’s fiction feel to them. This one included. The first time I skimmed the entries, this one caught my attention. Who doesn’t love divine justice? The second paragraph didn’t grab me in the same way that first line did, but I had read enough to know that I wanted to read more.

Annette—Caught in the Middle

I was twelve the first time Jamie O'Rourke kissed me.

If I could rewrite history, I'd say that even back then he knew I was the girl for him. But the truth is, I know the real reason he did it. Why he chose to kiss me instead of his girlfriend, my sister Lauren.

Looking back, I realize this is the moment when everything began to go wrong between my sister and me. How all our problems have hinged on this one event, this one stolen kiss.

But even if I could, I still wouldn't change a thing.

Another entry that had potential for woman’s fiction (of course, what can you really tell from 100 words?), but I liked the complexity that this entry alluded to. The relationship between the heroine and Jamie O’Rourke and of course the relationship between two sisters. I definitely wanted to know more about all of it.

Anonymous 12:33 pm—For One Weekend Only

When your entire future rested on your ability to seduce a man into doing the unthinkable, you needed to look the part.

Maggie Richardson was pretty sure she didn’t.

She leaned against the bar, her clothes too casual, her posture too stiff, and her overall appearance looking far less “fun professional” than “crazed librarian.”

This would never work. She was supposed to show up in four days — four! — at a no-holds-barred Southern wedding... complete with full hoop skirt, parasol, and her long-term, much-discussed, forever-kind-of-love boyfriend, Dave Andrews.

Except, Dave didn’t exist.

Which was a bit of a problem.

There are so many great questions left unanswered with this submission. Why did she lie? Why is she wearing a hoop skirt? And what’s next. Obviously this leads into a story we’ve heard before (at least we assume), the story of finding someone to pose as the boyfriend, fiancĂ©, or husband, but the voice has me wanting to know more about how this particular tale is going to play out.

Kim’s picks:

katekquinn—Everything Nice

“Go fuck yourself.”

Louisa Buznewski did not believe in cursing… but exceptions must be made, and despite her lack of experience the word shot from her mouth with enough conviction to rival the saltiest of sailors. Over ten years ago she’d used this exact phrase, directing it at the same man… although he’d been more of a boy then. It was the last time she’d seen or heard from him - until today. Now repeating it all these years later, Louisa realized this crude phrase was a type of “aloha” - it could mean both hello and goodbye.

Honestly, the last sentence is what really sold me. I thought it was hilarious. I love how the author’s explaining how universal that particular expletive can be. Obviously, I’m also curious about who this guy is and why they parted on such bad terms. I’d definitely keep reading.

sl—If It's Not One Thing - It's Your Mother

“The Lodge called. Your Mom has taken all the “N” bingo balls hostage until her demands are met.” Daniel relayed the message almost gleefully I thought and instantly felt hurt. And pissed.

“I guess this seems funny to you now that it’s my Mom huh? Wanna bet your mother is sitting on the couch with a colander on her head as we speak? Why don’t you take her for lunch today, or are Wednesdays when she rendezvous’ with the mother ship?”

“Honey, are we really fighting about whose mother is craziest?” he asked gently.

“You started it.” I snapped.

Here again I was lured by the humor. In fact all of my honorable mentions demonstrate a sense of humor. In this particular instance, I was charmed by the image of an old lady hijacking a bunch of bingo balls. This book also sounds like women’s fiction to me (since a husband is mentioned), but more than anything I’m looking forward to meeting the feisty woman who’s holding up the bingo game!

Elyssa Papa—Lay All Your Love on Me

South Africa

It wasn’t every day that an heiress landed at his feet.

Especially one who wore Hello, Kitty underwear.

With her dress flopped over her head and her back to him, the only thing Noah Harper saw was her ass.

And if he did say so himself, it was a great ass.

Then, her dress righted and straightened. Noah took a step back, his camera banging hard against his chest.

He rubbed a hand over his jaw, not quite believing who he was seeing.

Because he’d long stopped believing in ghosts… until one came back from his past.


I’m immediately drawn to both of the characters introduced in this short excerpt. I sympathize with “Simone,” who’s found herself in a rather embarrassing position. I can relate. In 11th grade I fell and slid down the Math hall to the feet of my high school crush. Fortunately, I wasn’t wearing a dress (or Hello Kitty underwear). At any rate, the reader can find the situation humorous, but cringe for the poor woman at the same time. I also get an immediate “sexy” vibe from the narrator. I have a feeling this opening promises one hot novel.

Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations again to all of our top picks!


Kathleen MacIver said...

I want to read Annette's Caught in the Middle!!!!! I have to say that, for me, this one caught me far more than any others. I actually re-read it three times, hoping that there was more information that I missed, or that it might somehow lengthen itself and tell more of the story! :-)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations everyone! Great job on the entries, and good luck to the historical writers!

Annette Gallant said...

A big thank you to Jessica and Katie for your wonderful comments. I appreciate the great feedback. :-)

And congratulations to all the winners!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! What a surprise to click over and see my name. Will give some thought to your comment, Jessica.

Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Thanks for doing this and allowing us a glimpse into what works for you all. Congrats to the writers! Yay, Ely!

Tiffany Clare said...

Yay Ely...

Great job everyone! This is such a wonderful contest, and really gives us writers a glimpse into your prefered styles and such.

Elyssa Papa said...

Oh, thanks so much. This is incredibly awesome! Congrats to the winner and the other honorable mentions!

Anonymous said...

Of course, congrats to the chosen ones. I didn't have an entry for this contest, so this isn't sour grapes of any kind. Actually, I'm curious about the predominance of first person beginnings here. Does this mean that contemporary romance can now be told in first person? I was under the impression that FP was a huge no-no and automatic rejection. Or, can women's fiction be in FP? Fascinating, if so, as a lot of readers really prefer it.


Kate Douglas said...

Is it just me, or are the openings getting stronger? These are all great!

Shalanna said...

For what it's worth (and that may not be much), I am FAR more attracted to and impressed by all of these honorable mentions than I was by the winners! This just shows how weird I am, I suppose. These are original and charming openings that raise story questions and intrigue me, rather than placing me in the middle of a situation before I care about the characters enough. That said, however, I do not believe that you could sell a book with the opening line of "GFY!" I think that WalMart would not carry it, for one thing. I believe that you would have to change that opening line. I could, o'course, be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:49 --

Honestly, I think that contemporary romance is wide open these days. More than ever before, editors are looking for something that's unique and may even cross genres. So, no, I don't think there's a "rule" against first person POV. To me, those books usually read more like women's fiction, but a lot of contemporary romance is crossing the lines of women's fiction these days, so it's all blurring together.

Rachel Glass said...

Good choices! There were a lot of really good entries; I have to say this blog forum has really given me a lot to go on information-wise and in getting other writers' takes on topics.

Anonymous said...

From your comments and your picks it seems that you were looking more for woman's fiction and not so much contemporary romance.

Is this so or is this just my imagination. I also thought the "GFY" first line absurd. Funny to some maybe but universal?? No way.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shirley--

As I mentioned in my earlier comment, a lot of editors are looking for contemporary romance with more of a women's fiction feel. The line between these two categories has become a bit blurred.

Regarding the "GFY" line... What can I say? It caught my attention. If the writing had dropped off from there, it wouldn't have been my pick. But as I said, that last line was clever and kept my interest. Would that first line make it into a finished book? Maybe. Maybe not. I think the concept could be kept, but if necessary the language could be toned down for publication.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I think I was the one who made the comparison of some of the writing to women's fiction. I was looking for strong writing that grabbed me. While reading I wasn't trying to figure out who the market was. You can't do that from only 100 words of a 100,000 word book.

The reason I mentioned women's fiction is that many of my selections were very well written and had limitless possibilities of where the story could go. Some could be more traditional romance while others could cover a number of other issues. Annette's for example could easily be more about her relationship with her sister than her relationship with a man.

Ultimately though those possibilities are what makes a good contemporary romance multi-layered and interesting.

Our women's fiction contest will be coming up later.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Kim and Jessica for your response to my questions.

I want to make it clear I really liked most of your picks but was disappointed not to see the one about The plastic surgeon destroying the face she loved.

That one really intrigued me.

I too appreciate seeing what you think will capture the market at this time.

Anonymous said...

Hello! And wow! :)

Thank you for choosing For One Weekend Only as an honorable mention--I sincerely appreciate your comments, especially with so many outstanding entries.

Thank you again!


bob said...

I agree these were all amazing.

And yeah, many did have more of a women's fiction feel to me than a romance, not a bad thing, just something that jumped out at me to.

And I know many times titles don't always stay with a manuscript, they get changed, or tweaked but I thought the titles of these works were incredible.

This was an amazing group of works!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this contest. It is truly win, win for everybody.

A fabulous learning tool for all of us writers working at the craft. Way better to see what works and why. Such a positive way to go forward.
I loved every one of the choices. Talk about starting right in the story and giving us a delicious laugh or two.
congratulations to all of you for having the guts to try and specific cheers for the chosen ones.

Anonymous said...

Just one more question.

I just love it when a question gets answered and immediately raises another. Perhaps that's why I lke research!!

What is your definition at Bookends of the difference between

a) Women's fiction
b) Contemporary fiction.

Thanks. Your posts are invaluable and very enlightening.

Julie Weathers said...

These were great selections. Obviously, all very well done.

Congratulations to all.


Julie Weathers said...

You know, If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother has me so curious.

I've been taking my son and his girlfriend to play bingo and that is an interesting course in human behavior. I can absolutely see someone taking bingo balls captive.

I've read these openings over several times and sincerely hope they make it into print. I have to admit the mother one really has me intrigued, though.

Once again, all of them are great. It's interesting to see so many varied openings and the way they all draw people in.

Good job all.


Anonymous said...

I liked all these entries also, "the light touch" / humor.

Re: "What is your definition at Bookends of the difference between

a) Women's fiction
b) Contemporary fiction."

I hope it doesn't come down to, it's contemporary fiction if men will buy the books also - and women's fiction if they won't. Don't think that's it though. ??

Well, I have to work now. A short post from Wanda, and a warm(er) day in Michigan! Today is a day of miracles!