Blog Hop – Sun vs Snow

Welcome to the Sun vs. Snow blog hop!

As part of the Sun vs. Snow contest, I am publishing a short pitch and first 250 words of my work in progress, True Horizon.

Side note- Check out my Paper Dreams book club post! Paper Dreams is a totally online book club. A new book each month. No getting out of your pajamas in order to participate!

Title- True Horizon

Genre- Contemporary Romance

Word Count- 73,000

Short Pitch-

Struggling with PTSD, a former soldier never thought he’d find something to live for. Until the woman he rescues from drowning makes it her mission to save him.

First 250 words-

Each loud firework explosion pushed Heath Carter’s cautious self-control closer to the edge. He blocked out the noise and focused on his surroundings. With every deep inhale and exhale, the rapid beat of his heart began to slow, warm air filled his lungs.  Looking down at his hands, he saw they were once again steady.  While he had attained the ability to control his rage, Heath knew it would never go away. It always kept company with the guilt and sorrow that would also rise up without warning.

He was safe, for now, in a cheap hotel room in Galveston….not in Afghanistan. In order to keep the panic from rising up again, Heath hit the volume button on his iPod and Highway to Hell blasted into his ears. “Fifty more,” he said, tucking his bare feet under the ugly floral chair, then laying his back down on a long towel set on the floor. Sweat dripped from his body as he flawlessly executed the sit-ups. “Duty…Honor…Country,” he repeated the chant, his body moving in rhythm with words from another life.

Finishing in an upright, seated position, Heath grabbed the towel thrown over the arm of the chair and wiped his face. The air conditioner unit that stuck precariously out of the wall started humming its death throes. His hotel room must be ninety degrees by now, but that discomfort was nothing compared to what awaited him if he opened the window to let in the cool night breeze.

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17 thoughts on “Blog Hop – Sun vs Snow

  1. Pitch: Combine into one sentence. As it stands you have a sentence and a fragment.
    250: What are the loud explosions? I thought they were really happening because he blocked out the noise, but now I think he was just remembering them. Clarify that. Next you speak of rage. How did he get to that? What was the trigger? That first paragraph is baffling. The last sentence of the last paragraph is missing a word after compared (to or with). Also that sentence is obviously there to pique the reader’s interest as to what the awaiting discomfort will be, but the cool night breeze just isn’t frightening enough (or at all). For a contemporary romance I’m disappointed that there’s no hint of that, but of course you can’t get everything in the first 250.
    Good luck to you.

  2. Pitch: The Pitch was good. I enjoyed it but I agree one complex sentence would flow better.

    first 250: Let me preface this by saying I’m a dude and I have never read a contemporary Romance novel before, so take my advice with a grain of salt. You write well, the sentence are easy to follow. It looks like you added the word fireworks to the 250 and that puts me in Heath’s head space. The part about 50 more confused me. Fifty more sit ups or fifty more fireworks and if it is the latter how does he know how many more fireworks are coming. Since you started out with Heath I’m assuming he is your MC. Like I said I haven’t read contemporary romance novels before so I don’t know, is it common for a romance novel to have the man as the MC since the primary audience is female? Overall, good job.

    Eric

  3. Re: the pitch, I had the same reaction as bigpinelodge. It’s not doing you any favors, grammatically, plus needs a hook. If I were an agent, I’d want to know what sets your story apart from every other about a returning soldier or person dealing with overcoming past trauma and starting over. A reason to live is a good starting point, but I’m guessing there are more specific obstacles to overcome or stakes that could be highlighted here. What makes Heath’s recovery different/special?

    Your prose in the 1st 250 words has a smooth flow, and your description is clear in setting up the scene, but there are a few concerns I had in reading.

    Though the rest of the 250 tones down, the opening sentence over-describes a bit. Fireworks + explosion + loud added to cautious + self-control feels a little heavy-handed compared to the better, more straighforward prose that follows. First impression counts, and the balance of your writing is much tighter than this implies.

    Mostly, I’m struggling to find the voice of your MC here. There’s a bit of a remove in the prose. Additions like looking at his hands (vs simply describing the action) pull from Heath’s POV to a more omniscient view, when I’d like to be deeper inside his perspective, simply noting reactions. To get into the character’s head, I’d like to feel the panic and relief along with him.

    Overall, I get a sense of the scene, but not Heath. It’s hard to want to get into the head of a character in crisis, but to get to the heart of Heath’s arc, it helps to know what he faces to appreciate how he overcomes his PTSD. In knowing he’s just had a flashback, I’m more curious about what’s happening in his head than the pattern of the chair. I want to know the why behind the actions, and what drives him forward.

    Your writing style is good, and the tension and scene-setting are definitely there, so nailing the emotive aspect will nail this opening and really sell your hero.

  4. Title: I like it!
    Pitch: I love that he saves her from drowning. Would like to know more about the woman.
    First 250:
    This guys is pretty hot!
    That’s my first impression.
    1st para: I’m getting a lot of rage, more so than fear at this first glimpse of his character. Maybe struggling or self-control over anger.
    2nd para: OK, I see he’s trying to cope.
    3rd para: Love.
    Overall: I really am a sucker for PTSD character. I would definitely read on to see him on the beach and the rescue.
    I haven’t read a romance with the male character opening the story before. I would be curious if he is he only POV. But I’m sure in the query it would come up.
    Great story with a great dynamic!

    • Thanks for your comments, Shanna!
      This is a duel POV story, so Grace, the female MC, will be introduced in a few more pages. I used Heath for the opening because he changes the most from beginning to end. Thank goodness, right? He had a pretty rough start!
      Thanks again and best wishes on your story.

  5. The writing is solid and I like your premise. I read the comments and now I know this is dual POV, which I think works for romance. Is there a way to introduce your female MC first? Guys don’t read ROM usually. Girls want to connect with girls. That aside, Heath sounds hot and intriguing.

    Your pitch sounds very general. What makes your story unique?

    • Thanks Diana! I’m glad you think Heath is hot. Ex-military with a beard and tattoos…yummy! 🙂
      I will work some more on making my pitch unique. This story is special to me and I would hate for my pitch not to convey that to a reader.
      Good luck to you with your story!

  6. Hi! My first thought on reading this is, what’s the age category? It’s pretty obvious after reading that it’s adult, but that should probably be specified next to genre.

    Short Pitch-

    Struggling with PTSD, a former soldier never thought he’d find something to live for. Until the woman he rescues from drowning makes it her mission to save him.

    This is very clear, and it’s great you’ve found the core of the story, but I feel it’s missing the details that would make it compelling. You need the MC’s name at least, to given it some personal value. And perhaps start with an active clause instead of an ‘-ing’ one. Something like,
    ‘Former soldier Heath’s mission is one he failed years ago. When he rescues [a beanie-knitting anthropologist] from drowning, [Suzie] makes it her mission to save him from his PTSD.’ (Sorry if that’s horribly inaccurate in terms of the disorder.)

    First 250 words-

    Each loud firework explosion pushed Heath Carter’s cautious[delete] self-control closer to the edge. He blocked out the noise and focused on his surroundings. With every deep[delete] inhale and exhale, the rapid beat of his heart [his heartbeat] began to slow [slowed], warm air filled his lungs. Looking down at his hands, he saw [filtering] they were once again steady. While he had attained the ability to control his rage, Heath knew [filtering] it would never go away. It always[delete] kept company with the guilt and sorrow that would also rise up without warning.

    [I echo what others have said: the fireworks are good, but then it immediately slows down. I think that’s partly the result of too many adjectives interrupting the action, and partly character filtering that distance the reader from the character (Michelle has a few great posts on filtering, I think).]

    He was safe, for now, in a cheap hotel room in Galveston….not in Afghanistan. In order to keep the panic from rising up again, Heath hit the volume button on his iPod and Highway to Hell [yeah!] blasted into his ears. “Fifty more,” he said, tucking his bare feet under the ugly floral chair, then laying his back down [This reads awkward. ‘lying down’ or ‘lying on his back’.] on a long towel set on the floor. Sweat dripped from his body as he flawlessly executed the sit-ups. “Duty…Honor…Country,” he repeated the chant [you’ve attributed two articles to ‘repeated’–the speech itself and ‘the chant’; either choose one, change the dialogue punctuation or make it ‘he chanted’], his body moving in rhythm with words from another life.

    Finishing in an upright, seated position, Heath grabbed the towel thrown over the arm of the chair and wiped his face. The air conditioner unit that stuck precariously out of the wall started humming its death throes. His hotel room must be ninety degrees by now, but that discomfort was nothing compared to what awaited him if he opened the window to let in the cool night breeze.

    [I get that the pace works for the book and it doesn’t bother me overmuch, but it might if I were an agent who has to read piles of submissions every day. It might be the scene or it might be that there isn’t enough detail about the flashback in the first paragraph to really submerge us in Heath’s world. But work on the filtering first; that might fix it. :-)]

    Hope something of that will be helpful. All the best,
    Lillian

  7. Your pitch could be one sentence just by switching the placement of ‘never.’ Otherwise, it’s great.

    Were the fireworks outside? Was it a holiday? I think you could add a bit more about the setting in this scene.

    But overall, it reads very well and you’re giving us a good picture of you MC. 🙂

  8. I’m a romance writer myself and ex-military heros are my favorite. I love this guy just based on your pitch. The picture of his work out, the monotony of the actions to keep his mind from drifting back in time is good. The fireworks as a trigger are great. I also have an adopted son from Sierra Leone who suffers from PTSD. Fireworks are bombs to him so I followed the line from trigger to trauma without flinching. To introduce peoplewho aren’t familiar with PTSD though, you need more details. cut the ‘caution self control’. His reactions after show it. Don’t tell me me what he is looking at, tell me what he sees, smells, hears, and what his body feels. Its far more important in your first 250 to connect me with Heath. I want to care about this man. He wants me distant, but you as the author must let me inside. I love the story. Hope to see it available for purchase soon. Good Luck!

  9. Sorry for coming into this so late, but here are my thoughts. I agree that you should combine the pitch to be one sentence. Just replace the period at the end of the first sentence with an em dash (two consecutive hyphens), make the ‘U” in until lower case and you’re good to go.

    My main concern in the 250 is too many adverbs and (to a lesser extent) adjectives. Every book on writing I’ve read advises to avoid them as much as possible, especially in the beginning pages. Your writing is already strong, you can make it even stronger.

    Good luck!

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