Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MSFV Blog Critique Tour

Last week, Authoress, from the ever-fabulous Miss Snarks First Victim website, ran a fun little logline contest on Twitter. (For my non-writer friends, a logline is a one sentence summary of a book or film.) Winners would get the chance to participate in a Blog Critique Tour. The tour itself promised to bring an onslaught of visitors voicing their honest opinions. And as we writer-types know, any feedback, even the brutal truth which brings tears to our eyes, is worth listening to. Critiquers are entered in a drawing of their own, for a 15 page line edit by Authoress herself (that's her to your right). Each critique equals 1 entry into the drawing. 

Talk about a win-win situation! I figured, what the heck? Couldn't hurt, ya know? Before my nerves could get the better of me, I hit the Tweet button. 

And then I started reading all the other submissions. 

Oh, my gosh, guys. Talk about talent! In case you missed the logline frenzy that hit Twitter, there are some amazing books waiting to hit your bookshelves. Take my word for it, start saving your pennies now, because you'll be spending a ton very soon. 

As luck would have it, Authoress plucked my logline, along with 9 others, from Twitter-sphere obscurity. What in the world did I get myself into?!  

So I humbly present to you my logline, and first 250 words of Assassin, P.I. - my noir-inspired Romantic Suspense novel. 


The vigilante justice business gets mighty complicated 
when the killer you’re tracking . . . 
might turn out to be you.

Intrigued? Want more? 

Here are the first 250 words of Assassin, P.I.

When Jack awoke that morning, he had no idea that by the end of the day he’d sign his own death warrant and seal it with a kiss. Just another unfortunate schmuck about to get played. By a dame, no less. A pretty dame with pretty legs and an even prettier mouth.

“Mark my words, Jack, you’ll be back on the streets tracking a killer by the end of the week.”
And Frankie was always right.

“I need your help, Mr. Gaines.”

Jack stifled a groan, refusing to look at the woman who graced his doorway. It always started like that. Some broad would waltz into the office begging for help. Well, not this time. He was through being a sucker with muscles for every pretty dame who had a sad sob story to tell.

“We’re closed. Go away.” He tugged the fedora lower and kicked his feet up on the desk. Pretending to read, he peered over the paperback to watch the woman move for the coatrack, her stride restricted by the pencil skirt she wore. She shrugged the coat from her shoulders, revealing an hourglass figure draped in expensive clothes. The cream blouse scarcely concealed the lacy bra and the ample breasts beneath. His type of woman.

“Sign says otherwise,” the woman replied, undeterred. Her voice tickled a memory in the dark recesses of his brain.

“Pretty legs, pretty legs,” Jack’s parrot squawked.

“Shut up, Shamus,” Jack and the woman commanded simultaneously.

That voice.

Those legs.


That's all I'm allowed to share with you today, folks. Sorry! Now it's your turn to give me your feedback. Each critique you leave equals 1 entry in a drawing for a 15 page line edit. Good, bad, or brutal, I'm all ears. 

When you're done, click here to return to MSFV to check out the other winners and their blogs.

J.J. Devine
Now available on Amazon
Come back tomorrow when I help fellow Soul Mate author and Romance Weekly Blog Hop peep, J.J. Devine celebrate the release of her new paranormal romance, Into the Darkness, which is available right now on Consider this your official invitation to J.J.'s release party, where she'll be giving away fun prizes. Click here to join the party. See y'all tomorrow! 


  1. I favorite the pitch for this on twitter and I love the excerpt. I want more. Good luck.

  2. I think you could delete the short opener before the section break. It seems kind of trite (forgive me!) and I get the same information by the next section. Otherwise, I think you've got the voice down pat for the genre.

    1. Thank you, Laura. Someone once suggested I show Jack just prior to when Angie walks in. The short opener you're referring to is a piece of that initial attempt, but I'm with you. I still prefer starting the book with Angie walking in. Thanks for your comments!

    2. I agree that the short opener seemed a bit cliché and sort of spoils the suspense about the warrant.

  3. Don't you hate it when you get differing opinions. I love the opener. It's all very 1940s Film Noir and I am hooked. Keep going! There's a little tightening you can do so there's less "the woman", but it's great.

  4. Ha on the conflicting opinions! I can't break your tie. I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. It does make me think film noir--or Who Framed Roger Rabbit--in a good way!

    I love the pitch. I can see why Authoress picked it!

    So, yes, the voice is spot on. The one thing I was wondering as I read, though, was why he was resistant to the work from the beginning. If he's a PI, why would he want to turn down any work? If it's specifically because she's a woman, I'd draw that out more. Because right now it seems odd to me that he's turning away work for no apparent reason before he even takes a good enough look at her to realize that she's someone he knows. Maybe he has another reason? Like he's too busy? If so, mention that upfront.

    That being said, though, I really like the scene and the way it plays out from the point where she comments on the sign going forward. Great hook at the end of the page.

    Good luck with this!

  5. I like the noir voice. The difficulty for me with the opening is that I know exactly what's going to happen: he's going to fall in love with this dame and be tricked into agreeing to kill himself. That's an interesting problem. However, I also know he doesn't do that (because he's telling the story). The real reason to keep reading is to find out how he gets out of it. Since this is romantic suspense, I'm assuming it's set in a realistic world, meaning he doesn't have to actually kill himself like he may if there was some sort of magical contract. I also didn't know right away that Angie was talking to him (that he was Mr. Gaines), so that confused me, especially since she knows him well enough to tell his parrot to shut up (great moment). Mr. Gaines feels very formal.

    In the logline, I love that it's the vigilante justice business. That's the detail that makes this noir fresh. I would love to see some of that right away. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Very nice! The noir voice is well done and I've got a good feeling for your MC already :)
    Not sure about that first section though - I think I'd prefer to have you start right in with Angie walking into the office. If you don't want to start right in with dialogue, a small bit with something about the door creaking open & him wishing he'd locked it might work
    Love the parrot :)
    Hope that helps you out a bit - good luck with it!

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! Just might have to use it.

  7. I'm conflicted about your opener. I think it sets the noir tone, but you can probably cut it and not lose any vital information. So, I'm no help! The parrot is great!

  8. I agree with those voting for a shorter opener. I hate anything that delays me immersing myself in a good story. I like the tone. Your characters have a distinct voice. I like that Angie seems like a "take no crap" kinda gal, and I love Shamus.

  9. I'm on the pro opener side, though I'm not crazy about the first sentence. It feels a little too detached from Jack (kind of reminds me of Emma Thompson's character narrating Harold Crick's life in Stranger than Fiction. It's a little too "Little did he know"). But I really liked the rest--especially, "A pretty dame with pretty legs and an even prettier mouth." After just a couple of sentences I definitely get a noir vibe, so I think the voice/tone are working. Also, I'm very curious about Angie and wondering how she and Jack know each other.

  10. The first two paragraphs have a great voice, but I think they're a mistake. They feel like cheating--building tension by referring to future, exciting event. Plus, I don't understand how the quote from Frankie fits in. Does Jack not want to track killers and he'll get played by a dame into tracking one in spite of that? (And also, who the heck is Frankie, anyway?) All of that to say that you could drop them without losing anything you need.

    The real beginning, after the asterisks, is stronger. It still has that terrific voice, and I appreciate the deft reveal that this woman isn't the stranger he first assumes she is. The one thing that threw me off was that I didn't understand why he'd be a "sucker" if he talked to this woman and helped her. Isn't that his business? Why not take on a new client? If he's trying to get out of this business, I'd like some clarification of that fact sooner so I'm not confused.

    Overall, this seems terrific. Good luck with it.

  11. I'll come out in favor of having a short intro, to establish the noir feel. It should either be the sentence beginning with "Mark my words," or something equally terse.

    This may sound a little odd, but "ample breasts" is not cynical enough. If it were her ankles, it would be "ankles that would make a Puritan drop his prayer book." Or if it were her perfume, it would be "perfume that arrived a couple seconds before she did, like roses shot from a gun." You get the idea.

  12. It took me a long time to leave a comment here. I've been seriously mulling over the question of "prologue or no prologue," and I finally decided that, while it's very film noir, it's unnecessary here and a tad confusing (particularly the Frankie bit). The story can easily begin with "I need your help, Mr. Gaines." - no need to give away the ending.

    Otherwise, I don't really have any criticisms. I love Jack's voice - and I adore the "shut up, Shamus" moment - terrific reveal! Honestly, I don't typically read romantic books, but you've definitely got me hooked. Course, it helps that I love suspense and film noir, so thanks for that!

    Anyway, congrats on being one of MSFV's selected writers - and thanks for sharing your story with us!

  13. Thanks, everyone for all your fabulous feedback. When I initially began writing Assassin, P.I., this was the opening scene. Later, based on feedback from an author I met, I added a scene just prior to this one, where Jack meets his friends at a poker game. The scene really does nothing more than introduce the friends, and let Jack announce that he wants to retire before he gets killed on the job. When Authoress invited me to join the Blog Critique Tour, I had to decide where the true story began. Should I show Jack in his normal daily life prior to the inciting event? Or begin when Angie walks in?

    Your critiques have been invaluable. I preach to my students all the time about needing to trust their initial gut instincts. I need to do the same. I'll move the poker scene to the next chapter and tweak it. No prologue for this story!

  14. You have the genre nailed down quickly with the setting, the character descriptions, and the idioms (dame, schmuck, broad). I'm a little confused about the relationship between these characters and who Frankie is, but I'm sure that will be revealed soon. Does Jack recognize Angie right away? There's a strange delay in his checking her out and saying her name.

    I like how they both tell the parrot to shut up at the same time. Nice details...

  15. Love the logline and the noir voice. Not such a fan of the opening before the real opening. It sets the voice, but so does the first paragraph so if I were you, I'd lose it. It feels like that unnecessary voice over in movies that tells you what's going on while you watch it happening.

  16. I like the opener - it goes with the classic noir feel and works. I might tighten it up and bit but keep it!

    The only thing that stood out to me were your dialog tags. He said/she said disappear to the reader but things like replied, exclaimed, and shouted will stand out. You've got "the woman replied" " Jack’s parrot squawked" and "Jack and the woman commanded" right on top of each other. The parrot squawking makes perfect sense but with the other two so descriptive it just gets cluttered. Your reader will pick up on the tone by what's being said. I would have assumed right away that Jack and the woman telling the parrot to hush it was done in a firm tone without being told they commanded it.

    And I'm just wondering here, maybe I missed it, but how does this woman know the parrot's name? Has she been here before? It seems like this is the first time he's meeting her. Does the cage have a name tag? Or does the door say detective so and so and his parrot?

    I enjoyed it. You've got a clear voice and the character is strong.

  17. I vote for no prologue. Think the opening line being, "I need your help," is much stronger. Also, that way I'm not left wondering about Frankie.

    Not sure about the "sob story" line on top of words like "dame" and "broad." Might be a little overkill with conveying the vibe.

    Could probably lose "go away." I could see his character being very abrupt; man of a few words.

    If the woman knows the MC, would she have called him by his first name at the beginning? Or is she purposely trying to hide her identity at first? Or have they not seen each other in many years, so she's not surprised he doesn't recognize her? He's already eyed her pretty good by then to not recognize her.

    Not sure you need to say that her clothes are "expensive." Better to rely on your description to convey that.

    Good luck!

  18. I like the vibe and writing. I am assuming it is in the past because of the outfits, pencil skirt, fedora but I don't know if it is in the past or if those fashions are in style again. I wasn't thrilled with the logline and probably not read the book from the log line because I can't wrap my head around the fact someone tracking a murderer wouldn't know it is them. But based on the writing I would read on.

  19. So, I just wrote a really long comment, clicked publish, and it deleted it. I don't want to write it all out again, so here's a summary:

    Of all the loglines published, yours had me most intrigued, and I was excited to read your first 250. They do not disappoint.

    I am in camp remove-the-beginning. The whole "CHARACTER NAME didn't know it, but by the end of the day TERRIBLE THING would have happened" is cliched, and *stereotypically* used by authors who have a conflict-free beginning, subconsciously know it, and are trying to keep the reader engaged by promising conflict by Page X (which occasionally works, but rarely). You, however, have a conflict introduced in the form of Angie (while we are not aware what type of conflict she presents yet, it is clear she and the MC have significant history). In other words, that opening is useless for you. Angie provides more than enough of a hook.

    I like Jemi's suggestion.

    Other than that, I absolutely love this piece. Great voice and you keep us firmly planted in Jack's head. I'd definitely read on.

  20. Not in love with the first line. Very much in love with the last line of the first paragraph, the image of the woman instantly started to take shape for me. Liked this 250 in general. Liked both characters and the bird. I’d be careful about saying Dame too much (that just might be me though). Really liked the pencil skirt restricting her movement line. When the fedora was mentioned I laughed to myself. It fits in perfect with the setting your creating but is also the official hat of the modern dbag. He could wear a trilby (which is very similar) but I don’t know if people would know what it is and be able to picture it. Not sure what type of hat you could replace it with and still have people instantly recognize what style of hat he’s wearing. If I am the only person who ever says this ignore me. If someone else has/ or does mention it, I would consider changing it.

  21. Also forgot to mention! Yours was my absolute favorite log line and I was ready to ask for a recount if you didn't win.

  22. Hi Elizabeth

    First of all that pitch is amazing! I'd want to read this book just from the pitch alone.

    As for the opening, i had a couple issues. First the very beginning is a different style than what follows. It "breaks the 4th wall" as they say. If you were going to keep that style I'd say it's fine, but in this case it doesn't add anything and might even give too much away too soon.

    The rest is straight out of a detective novel. I like it but you might want to add a little something to make it unique. Break the mold a little. Maybe one of your two characters doesn't fit the typical role of either hard-boiled detective or dame in distress. Focus on some other aspect of either or both characters that makes them unique and put that right in the opening paragraphs.

    That being said I'd love to read more. Good luck!