Not sure why your manuscript isn’t quite working? Finished your draft, but unsure how to begin polishing for submission? Or maybe you’re almost ready to submit your manuscript to Carina Press but just can’t quite bring yourself to press send.
Here at Carina we’re always looking for ways to give feedback to new and aspiring authors, because personalized pass letters aren’t something we can do for every submission. In the past, we’ve offered feedback opportunities such as #carinapitch, kamikaze cold reads, contest judging and others. In early 2017, we launched this new opportunity for authors with unpublished work, and we’re continuing it now with a new call for first-page submissions.
Please review the Official Rules here. (Don’t be scared. Official language required by legal team. All other fun, interesting language authored by the editors, and we’re not at all scary!)
Everyone always tells you that the opening page of your manuscript is essential; a riveting opening truly immerses a reader in your story. A good first page can create tension, provide insight into your main characters, and make readers need to see where your story ends up. But no one will ever tell you how to get there, or tell you why you’re not quite getting there. We’re here for you!
This first-page critique sweepstakes is a chance for you to receive honest and constructive feedback from a Carina Press editor. Feedback that we promise won’t be mean—we’re not looking to be Simon Cowell here, or impress our friends with our wit, we’re just looking to give you insight into the editorial thought process while giving you what solid feedback we can at the same time. Send us your first page, and we’ll randomly select three submissions to critique on our blog. If you’ve never had your work critiqued before (or even if you have), don’t worry! Our goal is to help you by not only pointing out what might not be working, but by also letting you know what you’ve gotten right and how to bring that out and really make it shine. In other words, we’re friendly!
How it works:
Before you begin:
Good luck, and we look forward to reading your submissions!
The Carina Press Editors
CARINA PRESS FIRST-PAGE CRITIQUE SWEEPSTAKES (APRIL/MAY 2017)
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO PARTICIPATE OR RECEIVE PRIZES.
PURCHASE OR ACCEPTANCE OF A PRODUCT OFFER DOES NOT IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
How to enter: To participate in the Sweepstakes, visit http://carinapress.com/blog/2017/04/first-page-critiques-are-back-dont-miss-this-feedback-opportunity/ (the “Promotion Website”) and follow the onscreen instructions to complete the entry form and submit a maximum 600-word first-page of a story you would like to have critiqued by a Carina Press editor (“Submission”). No other method of entry will be accepted. The Sweepstakes begins at 9:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time (“EDT”) on April 24, 2017 and ends at 11:59 PM EDT on May 7, 2017 (the “Promotion Period”). Entries must be received by 11:59 PM EDT on May 7, 2017. The computer of the Sponsor (defined below) is the official time-keeping device for the Sweepstakes. Limit of one (1) entry per person. If more than one (1) entry is submitted by the same person, only the first eligible entry submitted will be considered. By entering the Sweepstakes, the entrant agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of Harlequin Enterprises Limited (the “Sponsor”) which are final and binding. A copy of these Official Rules is available online at the Promotion Website.
SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS: By participating in the Sweepstakes, entrants acknowledge and agree that in the event they are selected as a winner, their Submission and the accompanying editorial feedback and critique will be posted publicly online on the Carina Press blog. In order to be eligible, the Submission must meet the following requirements (collectively, the “Submission Requirements”):
and may be of any heat level and may contain same-sex/multiple pairings.
For greater certainty, Submissions targeting the young adult market or younger will not be eligible for critique and commentary;
By participating in the Sweepstakes, each entrant represents and warrants that: (i) the Submission is original to the entrant, and all right, title and interest (including but not limited to copyright) therein and thereto is exclusively owned and/or controlled by the entrant to the full extent necessary to enable the Sponsor to use the Submission as contemplated by these Official Rules; (ii) the Submission does not contain any material that is libelous, defamatory, profane or obscene, as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; (iii) the Submission does not contain any material that promotes bigotry, racism, hatred or harm against any group or individual or promotes discrimination based on race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; (iv) the Submission does not contain any material that is unlawful, in violation of or contrary to the laws or regulations in any jurisdiction where the Submission is created; (v) the Submission does not infringe upon the intellectual property or other statutory or common law rights of any third party (including but not limited to copyright, trademark, personality or privacy rights); (vi) the Sponsor’s use and re-use of the Submission in accordance with the terms set out herein will not infringe or violate the rights of any third party (including copyright), or require any payment to or consent/permission from any third party; (vii) the Submission has not been previously exploited or published (including having been self-published) in any form and no rights in or to the Submission have been granted, pledged, or assigned to any third party which would interfere with or derogate from the rights granted to the Sponsor hereunder; and (viii) the Submission adheres to the Submission Requirements.
The Sponsor reserves the right to immediately disqualify, without notice, any and all Submissions that do not adhere to the Submission Requirements, as determined in the Sponsor’s sole discretion.
Entrants acknowledge that entries and Submissions are not considered to be submissions to either Carina Press or Harlequin (imprints of the Sponsor) and will be deleted following the close of the Sweepstakes.
Eligibility: The Sweepstakes is open only to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence or older as of the time of entry. Void where prohibited. The following individuals are not eligible to participate in the Sweepstakes: (i) Professionals (as defined below); (ii) employees of the Sponsor or its parent company, affiliates, and/or subsidiaries; (iii) all agencies, entities and persons engaged in the marketing and/or administration of the Sweepstakes; and (iv) Immediate Family members (as defined below) of any of the foregoing. For the purpose of these Official Rules, the term “Immediate Family” shall mean husband, wife, spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, son and/or daughter, whether or not they reside in the same household. Furthermore, the term “Professional” shall mean any person who has had a literary work, in any format (i.e., print or digital), acquired or published by the Sponsor or any of its affiliates (e.g., Harlequin Books S.A., HarperCollins), regardless of whether such person has received any financial compensation in relation to such literary work. Entries shall be deemed to be submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address associated with the entry (i.e., the natural person who is assigned to an e-mail address by an Internet service provider, online service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the submitted e-mail address). Potential winners may be required to provide the Sponsor with proof that the potential winner is the authorized account holder of the e-mail address associated with the winning entry. No communication or correspondence will be exchanged with entrants except with the entrants selected for a Prize (as defined below).
Prize: Three (3) prizes will be awarded consisting of editorial feedback and critique from a Carina Press editor on the Submission to be posted online on the Carina Press blog (the “Prize”). One winning Submission will be posted on the Carina Press blog on each of the following dates: May 18, 2017, June 15, 2017 and July 20, 2017. While the Submission and editorial feedback and critique will be viewable by the public on the Carina Press blog, Sweepstakes winners will be given the choice to select whether the public comment section on the blog posting containing their critiqued Submission shall be open or closed. Sweepstakes winners will be responsible for all applicable taxes associated with the winner’s acceptance of the Prize and any other expense not explicitly included in the description of the Prize. The Prize (and any and all portions thereof) must be accepted as awarded and cannot be transferred, assigned, substituted or redeemed for cash, except at the sole discretion of the Sponsor. In the event that a specific prize item is discontinued or otherwise unavailable, a prize item or cash of equal or greater value may be awarded to the Sweepstakes winner in the Sponsor’s sole discretion. Odds of winning are dependent on the total number of eligible entries received.
Winner Selection and Notification: On or about May 8, 2017, three (3) potential winners will be selected by a random draw from among all eligible entries received. The potential winners will be notified by e-mail (the “Prize Notification”) and must respond within three (3) days of notification. The potential winners may be required at the Sponsor’s sole discretion to sign and return (within ten (10) business days of notification) an Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability/Publicity Release that confirms the potential winner’s: (i) eligibility for the Sweepstakes and compliance with these Official Rules; (ii) acceptance of the Prize as offered; (iii) release of the Releasees (as defined below) from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, cost or expense arising out of participation in this Sweepstakes, participation in any Sweepstakes-related activity or the acceptance, use, or misuse of the Prize, including but not limited to costs, injuries, losses related to personal injuries, death, damage to, loss or destruction of property, rights of publicity or privacy, defamation, or portrayal in a false light, or from any and all claims of third parties arising there from; and (iv) consent to Sponsor’s use of his/her name, photograph, likeness, and biographical material in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, for purposes of advertising and publicity relating to the Sweepstakes, without further compensation, unless prohibited by law. If a potential winner fails to respond within the stated timeline, or if a Prize Notification is returned as unclaimed or undeliverable, the potential winner will be disqualified and an alternate potential winner will be selected. To be declared a winner, Canadian resident(s) must correctly answer an arithmetical skill-testing question to be administered by mail, e-mail, or telephone.
Grant of Rights and Waiver of Moral Rights:
By participating in the Sweepstakes and submitting a Submission, the entrant hereby grants to the Sponsor and its parent company, subsidiaries, affiliates, licensees and assigns, a perpetual, royalty-free, irrevocable, world-wide, non-exclusive license, without compensation, to produce, reproduce, publish, copy, modify, excerpt, reformat, adapt, translate, display, exhibit, distribute, transmit, communicate by telecommunication and otherwise use and re-use the Submission or any portion thereof, by any means, in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, for advertising and promotional purposes relating to the Sweepstakes. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the entrant acknowledges that the Sponsor has no obligation to use the Submission in any way. All rights granted to the Sponsor are granted on a non-exclusive basis. The entrant reserves all rights and uses in and to the Submission not granted to the Sponsor hereunder.
The entrant hereby perpetually and irrevocably waives, in favor of the Sponsor and its affiliates, any so-called moral rights and similar non-assignable rights in and to the Submission, as such rights may presently or in the future exist at law, in equity, or pursuant to other legal systems or theories, anywhere in the world. Furthermore, the entrant agrees not to institute, support, maintain or authorize any action on the grounds that any exercise of the rights granted to the Sponsor hereunder constitute any infringement of any moral right or similar right.
Conditions: The Sponsor and its parent company, affiliates and/or subsidiaries, are not responsible for printing, clerical or typographical errors of any kind or nature relating to entries. In no event will the Sponsor be obligated to award more than the stated number of prizes. Each entrant agrees that the Sponsor and its parent company, subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and promotion agencies shall not be liable for damages, injuries or losses of any kind resulting in whole or in part from participation in the Sweepstakes, or from acceptance and/or use or misuse of the Prize. The Sponsor assumes no liability for lost, late, incomplete, inaccurate, undeliverable or misdirected entries, notifications and/or responses, or for any computer, online, software, hardware or technical malfunctions that may occur, including but not limited to malfunctions that may affect the transmission or non-transmission of an entry. The Sponsor is not responsible for damage to any participant’s computer system/software related to or resulting from participation or downloading any materials in connection with this Sweepstakes. The Sponsor assumes no responsibility or liability in the event that the Sweepstakes cannot be conducted as planned for any reason whatsoever, including but not limited to reasons beyond the control of the Sponsor, such as infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any other causes outside the control of the Sponsor which impair or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, or proper conduct of this Sweepstakes. The Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND/OR CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, THE SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK REMEDIES AND DAMAGES TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. The Sponsor assumes no responsibility for undeliverable e-mails resulting from any form of active or passive e-mail filtering by a participant’s Internet service provider and/or e-mail client or for insufficient space in participant’s e-mail account to receive e-mail. Sweepstakes is void, in whole or part, where prohibited by law and is subject to all applicable laws and regulations.
Release and Indemnity:
By participating in the Sweepstakes, the entrant hereby releases and discharges the Sponsor, its parent company, subsidiaries, and affiliated entities, and each of their respective employees, directors, officers, suppliers, agents and administrators (collectively, the “Releasees”), from and against any and all claims, actions, liabilities, judgments, damages, penalties, and expenses of any kind (including legal fees) in any way arising from or in relation to the entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or the Sponsor’s use of the Submission, including but not limited to causes of action relating to libel, defamation, invasion of privacy, or infringement of copyright or other intellectual property rights.
Furthermore, by participating in the Sweepstakes, the entrant hereby agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Sponsor, its parent company, subsidiaries, and affiliated entities, and each of their respective employees, directors, officers, suppliers, agents and administrators (collectively, the “Indemnitees”), from and against any and all claims, actions, liabilities, judgments, damages, penalties, and expenses of any kind (including legal fees) in any way arising from or in relation to the entrant’s participation in the Sweepstakes or the Sponsor’s use of the Submission, including but not limited to causes of action relating to libel, defamation, invasion of privacy, or infringement of copyright or other intellectual property rights.
Termination: Subject to any governmental approval which may be required, the Sponsors reserve the right to terminate or suspend the Sweepstakes, in whole or in part, and/or amend the Official Rules in any way, at any time, for any reason, without prior notice. In the event that the Sweepstakes is terminated or suspended, the Sponsors will select winners from all eligible, non-suspect entries received prior to such action. In the event that the Official Rules are amended, all entries received prior to such action which were eligible according to the original Official Rules will be deemed eligible.
Winner’s List: To receive the official name of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope, between June 1, 2017 and July 31, 2017, to: Carina Press First-Page Critique Sweepstakes Winner (May 2017), c/o Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Toronto, ON M3B 3K9.
Sponsor: Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Toronto, ON M3B 3K9.
In Relationship Status, Ethan and Wyatt find out that there’s a lot about life that isn’t taught in college. Ethan, in particular, faces some rude awakenings in his first taste of life as a grown-up, but I think those problems are pretty universal to all of us. Here are some of the things that make things interesting for Ethan and Wyatt in their first attempt at living together.
Roommates From Hell
The bacteria their roommates are growing in the sink have more advanced culture than the roommates.
I’d Almost Forgotten You Live Here
Even calculus can’t seem to get them conscious and home at the same time.
Ethan is learning what makes public transportation special.
Ethan now knows every place to buy beverages in a half-mile radius.
Summer in the City, No A/C
Not that it’s hot, but two hobbits came into their room to try to throw in a ring.
It’s true love if you can even think about touching each other in that kind of weather.
What springs to mind when you think of life as a poor college student?
Abby and Rufus’s relationship in LITTLE DANCER is a special sort of dom/sub dynamic that you may not have come across before, called Daddy Dom/Little Girl, or DD/lg. The dom assumes the role of a caregiver and protector, and the sub is his little. It’s a relationship that’s equal parts sweet and strict and is oh-so-sexy. Daddy is a term of respect like Master or Sir, and his sub is sweet, little and obedient—or, in some cases, not so obedient!
Sometimes there might be an age gap in the relationship, just like in any relationship between adults, but it’s usually more about age play—a little who imagines she’s little again and clings to her “daddy” for love and care.
Here are the five best things about these sorts of relationships—and there are so many good things that it’s hard to choose just five!
1. Stuffies & Toys
Do you miss your dolls and coloring books and stuffed animals? How nice would it be just to retreat from the adult world for an afternoon, draw pictures and watch cartoons! That’s exactly what littles do. Their little space is where they get to put aside their worries and stresses and act like kids again. Blanket fort optional.
Hang on. Rules are fun? I promise they are, and you’ll see why! Littles crave structure in their lives, especially around things they struggle with, like perhaps not getting enough sleep because they stay up too late, not eating regularly or not sassing their dom. The rules make a little feel loved and cared for, and a daddy like he’s needed and respected.
And when littles don’t follow the rules, that brings us to…
3. Bedroom Kinkiness
Oh, no, you’ve broken a rule! Littles who displease end up over knees. The discipline aspect of the relationship is a big, sexy part of it—so sexy that some littles might even break a rule on purpose just for attention and spankies. *evil grin*
After all the rule breaking, disciplining and kinky bedroom antics, what comes next is cuddles. Like any relationship, the after-sex cuddling is important, but even more so in a dom/sub relationship. It’s a time for bonding and reassurance, and a little is going to be extra clingy and in need of daddy’s lap after being disciplined!
Laughter and fun should be part of every relationship, and a DD/lg relationship is especially filled with giggles, teasing, tickling and playing. Sharing what you delight in with your partner is a key to happiness! Abby and Rufus’s relationship in LITTLE DANCER is filled will all these things, but especially play and giggles.
Brianna Hale couldn’t live without her notebook and an assortment of glitter pens, and when she’s not writing she can usually be found with a book, fighting video game monsters and aliens or attending the theatre. She believes that pink and empowerment aren’t mutually exclusive, and everyday adventures are possible. Brianna lives in London and you can find her online on Twitter and Instagram.
Meant to be a sneak peek into a Carina editor’s brain, and critiqued by a different editor each month, we’re going to post these first-page critiques monthly as long as authors are willing to let us use their work and people remain interested.
The idea here is to give you a quick insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because it’s only one page, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than one page!
It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically for the purpose of first-page critique on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions so no worries we’re going to pull your piece out of slush and critique it.
The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open in just a few days, on April 24, 2017, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for your chance to enter.
This month’s editor providing critique is Carina Press Assistant Editor Stephanie Doig.
The First Page
Author A described this manuscript as a romantic suspense featuring a hero and heroine who “have to work together to solve a murder involving shimmery body spray, while falling for each other.” Intriguing!
All Eden Sparks wanted was one night to be wild and forget everything. Well, maybe not everything but most of it. And maybe find a guy for one night so her friends would get off her case about needing to get some action. The Silver River Bar would help her with at least one of her missions, if not both. She frequented the dance bar, which got its name from the river flowing beside it, whenever she could. Sometimes, it was only to talk to the bartender or keep an eye on the patrons. But that night, that night was for her.
Eden wasn’t one to drink much, but being the lead CSI and DNA analyst at the Mosey County Crime Lab in Seven Springs, Alabama wasn’t the easiest job in the world. And it being her first weekend off in months called for one, two, or maybe even ten drinks. So, with two of her friends in tow, she set out for a night of fun.
* * *
Ashton Cruz was new in town and decided to have a few drinks. He put away most of his things from the move and wanted to have the night for whatever. He walked into the Silver River and found a table in the corner a few feet from the counter. His mind was full, and he wanted to chase it all away. He started a new job that Monday, a transfer from another state to this new place. And he wasn’t too thrilled.
Ashton glanced over all the faces in the bar, searching for a familiar one. They were all unknown. He felt like a kid on the first day at a new school, but he didn’t care. His eyes scanned the entire room, just looking, until they landed on her.
* * *
I like that this starts in a bar—a bar is a great setting, full of potential tension and chemistry. Beginning in a social setting like this indicates that your hero and heroine are probably going to meet in chapter one or two, which I like.
Right away, two things jumped out at me here: first, the point-of-view switch on the first page. This feels early and a bit jarring; I’m just starting to get to know Eden when we move away from her and meet someone new. I’d recommend sticking with Eden a little bit longer before you introduce Ashton. She seems interesting and I want to see more of her!
There’s a lot of advice out there saying that authors need to make things happen quickly—I even noted that I appreciate a h/h meeting in the first couple of chapters above—but be careful not to rush your pacing too much. Let your readers dig into your world a little bit before shifting gears. It might be helpful to think of the opening scene of a movie: how long does the camera stay on one character/scenario before switching to a new location/a new person? Long enough for viewers to get a sense of what’s happening, and to learn a little about the characters, before moving on to a new scene.
Second, there’s a lot of backstory on this first page, for both Eden and Ashton. Backstory is an integral part of characterization, and it’s important that we know your characters’ backgrounds as the novel progresses—it will lend weight to every interaction, and to the way their relationship develops. However, I’d caution against putting too much expository backstory (sometimes called infodumping) on the first page, or in the first chapter, and instead work on sprinkling bits of detail throughout the first quarter or so of the book. I’d suggest incorporating more of the present into this opening to balance the backstory. Is there a particular interaction that would show us key characteristics rather than telling? For example, maybe Eden approaches the bar and asks for her usual, bantering with the bartender, as a way of illustrating that she’s a regular there. Adding in some dialogue will help build the scene, so that when Eden meets Ashton, we’ll have gotten to know her and like her, making it easy to feel invested in the h/h meeting.
On a more positive note, I’m intrigued by the potential murder-mystery plotline, and Eden’s career is very interesting. I’d love to know more about her job—maybe there’s a specific case that has her eager to get some stress relief?—and how Ashton relates to it. I suspect you have an interesting suspense storyline building here, and some edits to your opening, slowing things down and adding more show vs tell, would really help it stand out as a submission and keep editors (and readers!) interested.
Would I keep reading? I’d definitely keep reading through chapter one to see how the one-night-stand scene plays out, but at this point I’m probably skimming, and would likely move to the synopsis to get more detail on the suspense elements.
Do you have questions about my feedback or the First-Page Critique program? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section! Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authors entering their work for critique can choose to have the blog post comments open or closed. Comments are open, so please utilize them to ask questions or to offer your own critique, but please remember to offer useful criticism. Comments will be moderated and deleted if not deemed to be useful or appropriate.