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FEEDBACK REQUEST (1071 words)

Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
edited March 8 in Author Workshop
"Would you keep reading" is my big question, plus whatever you care to share about why you would or wouldn't. The excerpt quoted comes about a quarter of the way through the novel, Promise.

With many thanks.
Joe "Bondi" Beach

[CONTEXT: The narrator, Michael, is a youngish American diplomat posted to the embassy in an un-named country south of the U.S He's out on the town with the daughter of a political and industrial heavyweight and her tennis partner following a charity match.]

BEGIN TEXT

  Stephen's turned out to be an old-fashioned supper club. We'd had supper, but the girls were ready for a snack. The soft music from the orchestra in a pit at the front of the room and the low-key singer on stage left everyone kind of relaxed. There wouldn't be any hip-hop here tonight.
   
   The cutlery was heavy stainless steel, the table coverings linen, and the serving staff unobtrusive but very attentive. I wondered how far we were going tonight. After all, I'd met Aída today for the first time and this was only the second time I'd been out with Alejandra. Sharing in some fashion was on the agenda, but what form that might take wasn't really clear to me at all. Aída made the first move.
   
   "Dance with me, Michael?"
   
   I couldn't help but look at Alejandra. Her smile said it was OK.
   
   "I'd love to."
   
  Aída was as light on her feet as she was on the tennis court. I'm coordinated enough not to step on anyone's toes but I'll never get very far in any kind of dance contest. We moved easily and I didn't try to lead, I didn't have to because Aída was making me look good just by staying in my arms. After a few gentle rotations on the dance floor in the middle of enough people so that we didn't feel lonely, she moved close enough for me to detect the soap she'd used and her shampoo, as well as a perfume I couldn't identify.
   
   When the music stopped Aída didn't rush to let me go. She turned her face up for a kiss, and when I aimed for her cheek she turned and I kissed her on the mouth. It was a light kiss, a friendly kiss, but it was more than a peck and I think we both enjoyed it. I know I did.
   
   Alejandra was waiting when I escorted Aída back to the table. She rose and held out her hands and I said "Yes" with my eyes and led her onto the dance floor. I don't know how much she'd seen of me and Aída, although I discovered later it didn't matter since the two of them had discussed me and the evening and their plans before we'd gotten started.
   
   Once in my arms Alejandra whispered in my ear.
   
   "Did you kiss her?"
   
   I pulled back to look at her, the laughter in her eyes.
   
   "I did. Like this." I kissed her cheek.
   
   "Is that all?"
   
   "No."
   
   I pulled Alejandra closer to me, not caring at this point whether she noticed my erection or not. "Like this," and I kissed her on the mouth and didn't rush.
   
   "Good."
   
   With that Alejandra put her head on my shoulder and we moved easily to the music. She was as light on her feet as Aída was, and I had my strategy—stay out of her way and follow along.
   
   Toward the end of the number Alejandra lifted her head and looked at me.
   
   "I like you."
   
   I smiled. It didn't need a reply, at least I didn't think it did.
   
   "Aída does too," she added.
   
   "I like you, Alex, and Aída."
   
   "Good."
   
   With that she led me back to the table.
   
   It must have been closing in on two in the morning before we returned to Alejandra's compound. Aída was staying over, so the two girls left me there. But not without very affectionate good-bye hugs and kisses.
   
   Alejandra's body was warm and a little sweaty against me. I hoped we were out of sight of Carlos at least, and out of sight of the security cameras on the corners of the main house, although we probably weren't. With any luck at all they didn't pick up the slight but very deliberate movements Alejandra made against me as we kissed and she rutted slowly on me. 
   
  Aída wasn't quite as obvious or as deliberate in her rubbing, but her hug was warm and her kiss hot. When we broke our kiss she handed me back to Alejandra. I had a flash image of a tennis ball at the mercy of two very skilled players.
   
   "I had a good time tonight, Michael." Alejandra kissed me again.
   
   "Me, too, Alex. Thank you for inviting me."
   
   I started to pull my phone out to summon a taxi to take me back to the Lawn Tennis Club for my car when Carlos spoke. He'd been nearer to us than I'd thought.
   
   "Mlle Alejandra has asked me to drive you back to the club, don Miguel."
   
   "Thank you, don Carlos."
   
   It turned out Carlos had a message of his own to deliver. Or perhaps a message from Monsieur M.
   
   "I have known Mlle Alejandra since she was a baby, don Miguel."
   
   I nodded. It wasn't hard to guess what was coming.
   
   "She is very precious to me. Almost as precious to me as she is to her parents, you understand?"
   
   I nodded again. "I understand perfectly, don Carlos. Perfectly."
   
   I put on my most earnest face. I didn't want Carlos as an enemy at all. If I could get him on my side, so much the better.
   
   "I have had the honor of knowing her for only two weeks, don Carlos, and I will be forever grateful to Monsieur M for introducing me to her and to her mother." I wanted Carlos to remember I'd been invited into the family circle by the big guy himself. I thought it unlikely he would have an agenda different from that of his boss but this was one way of finding out.
   
   "I know, don Miguel, and I will be the first to acknowledge you have been a perfect gentleman."
   
   We had arrived at the club, and I stepped out of the vehicle. Carlos held the door open. I extended my hand. "Thank you, don Carlos. It has been a pleasure, and I am very grateful for your comments. I look forward to seeing you again."
   
   Carlos looked not entirely in agreement, but he took my hand.
   
   "Thank you, don Miguel. It has been my pleasure."
   
   There was no doubt in my mind he would report everything to Monsieur M. I could only hope his report was going to be a positive one.
   
   When I walked into my apartment the message light on my phone was flashing. The message was short and clear.
   
   "See me first thing Monday morning, Michael."
   
   The ambassador hung up.

END TEXT
   



«13

Comments

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    Ominous. Michael is about to get his hand slapped... if he's lucky.

    A good read, though with the direction it's heading, it could easily turn pornographic. Make sure that your brain is doing the typing and plotting, not other parts.

    One must also remember that public security in an unnamed country may be less than in a named country.

    In general, well-written, and well-plotted thus far.
  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Thank you for reading and for your comments. The novel does have explicit passages, but I hope written well enough to escape the porn label. That'll be for others to decide. Michael is indeed going to get his hand slapped, sort of, but not for the reasons one might think.

    I'm not sure what "public security in an unnamed country may be less than in a named country" means. Carlos is in fact a bodyguard (for dad or daughter, as needed) as well as a driver, but that's common in this un-named country for the elite, or for anyone with the means to be a target.

    Thanks again,
    JBB
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    The section you pasted in is not to my taste, so I would not read further, which would mean I would not buy it. Incidentally, no matter how well 'porn' is written, it is still porn.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Thanks for taking the time to look at it.

    "[N]o matter how well 'porn' is written, it is still porn."

    We all know it when we see it, as the saying goes. By definition porn is bad writing. Not all explicit writing about sex (or guns, for that matter; cf Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact) is porn, not if it's done well enough.

    It'll be up to the reader to judge. Thanks again for your comments.
    JBB
  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    And I don't know how the formatting here works very well, sorry. I was responding to Kevin's comments.
    JBB
  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    Depending on how the story goes it looks like it might qualify as erotic romance or possibly erotica, though since it does appear to have aesthetic value as well as some emotive quality it's not porn.

    No plot with a few random passages connecting all the sex with absolutely no aesthetic or emotive qualities would qualify it as porn.

    So far looks like a decent piece of work. Would I read further, that would depend on the day and my interest at the moment. I've had days I was so pressed for time I brushed my teeth with capsaicin cream, because I grabbed the wrong tube and didn't read the label.
  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Depending on how the story goes it looks like it might qualify as erotic romance or possibly erotica, though since it does appear to have aesthetic value as well as some emotive quality it's not porn.

    No plot with a few random passages connecting all the sex with absolutely no aesthetic or emotive qualities would qualify it as porn.

    So far looks like a decent piece of work. Would I read further, that would depend on the day and my interest at the moment. I've had days I was so pressed for time I brushed my teeth with capsaicin cream, because I grabbed the wrong tube and didn't read the label.
    Well, I'm guessing your teeth felt pretty good that day! Or, not, I suppose. The minty flavor was lacking.

    Thanks for taking a look at it and for your comments. I'm hoping the plot carries the day.
    JBB


  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher
    I didn't mean to discourage you by mentioning the fairly explicit nature of the sample. If this were exclusively about sexuality (even if it were interwoven into a plot) I would tend not to read it, even though it is very well written. If it were exclusively about romance, even if avoided the "Bodice-ripper" label of poor romance novels, I would tend to avoid it. If it is an adventure story, or a mystery, in which it just happens that some of the characters mix up their naughty bits a little, well, that happens. I'd probably read it.

    I don't mean to sound prudish. In my latest story, there is a very strong implication that several of my characters are less than chaste (and one or two of them, when "chaste," didn't run very fast).

    So long as you assured me that the main plot point is not the sexual aspect, I would probably read this book.

    Your writing style is excellent, and your character has a strong "voice" -- that is, we are able to visualize him and imagine him based on how he tells us his tale. There is nothing mechanically wrong with the writing, you seem to have a plot in mind, and you've given us interesting characters. It's very good thus far.

    The comment about "unnamed countries" was merely to bring up the tendency towards violent crime in that region, an unfortunate aspect of some otherwise lovely countries. But you seem to have already considered the question of security.
  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    edited March 9
    Skoob_ym said:
    I didn't mean to discourage you by mentioning the fairly explicit nature of the sample. If this were exclusively about sexuality (even if it were interwoven into a plot) I would tend not to read it, even though it is very well written. If it were exclusively about romance, even if avoided the "Bodice-ripper" label of poor romance novels, I would tend to avoid it. If it is an adventure story, or a mystery, in which it just happens that some of the characters mix up their naughty bits a little, well, that happens. I'd probably read it.

    I don't mean to sound prudish. In my latest story, there is a very strong implication that several of my characters are less than chaste (and one or two of them, when "chaste," didn't run very fast).

    So long as you assured me that the main plot point is not the sexual aspect, I would probably read this book.

    Your writing style is excellent, and your character has a strong "voice" -- that is, we are able to visualize him and imagine him based on how he tells us his tale. There is nothing mechanically wrong with the writing, you seem to have a plot in mind, and you've given us interesting characters. It's very good thus far.

    The comment about "unnamed countries" was merely to bring up the tendency towards violent crime in that region, an unfortunate aspect of some otherwise lovely countries. But you seem to have already considered the question of security.
    Thanks very much for your expanded comments and your kind words. I have the feeling many readers may find the thing as a whole too explicit, or too much sex for the plot, and will form their own ideas of the balance or lack of it. Some passages are perhaps too explicit for many. I don't share that view, but I understand it and I'm interested in hearing from those who hold it.

    The bodyguard thing is, in the context of this society, pretty routine. It's not the wild west, and there are no gunfights in the streets (in this story, at least), but rich folks take precautions, that's all. In other words, Carlos is practically part of the scenery, although he has some important parts to play later on. Overall, it's a pretty pleasant place and Michael is delighted to be posted there.

    For those who are gluttons for punishment, Promise is on Lulu (and elsewhere) and 50 or so pages, the first five chapters, are posted as a free preview. Be guided by the keywords. It's classified as Erotica and the sex is important, but there is in fact a non-sexual plot, albeit one that involves emotional commitment.

    I'm also re-reading it critically and revising, which is my main motive for posting this request for feedback. Oh, and don't be put off by the reclining nude on the cover. Titian wasn't, and we shouldn't be, either.

    Thanks again,
    JBB




  • I'll echo Skoob's sentiment that stories heavy on erotica are not exactly my taste. But your excerpt is very well crafted. It reminds me of Graham Greene in the sort of man-out-of-his-element setting and direct language.
    The erotic element aside, the tension here is near perfect. I personally like it when the sexual undertones are downplayed (leaving more to the reader's imagination) but I can also see ample plot reasons why this piece of the story might require being more overt.
    I think the most important thing is that we all feel like each and every character we meet (five in this short segment) has an agenda. That creates a sense of tension and imminent conflict that can drive the story forward.
    Thanks for sharing!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Thanks for taking the time to look at it.

    "[N]o matter how well 'porn' is written, it is still porn."

    We all know it when we see it, as the saying goes.

    Not exactly true. There are definitions of it, especially in law. And at times one man's porn is another man's art. Some see no harm in images of naked children for titillation, or even having sex with them. Both are illegal.

     By definition porn is bad writing.

    Sorry but that's at all true. Writing can be good or bad regardless of the subject.

     Not all explicit writing about sex (or guns, for that matter; cf Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact) is porn, not if it's done well enough.

    Porn is porn, hence the laws to do with it. And why have you brought up the subject of guns to do with porn? But I think you need to look up the definition of porn, and what is actually allowed by law in writing or images, regardless of the age of the reader/viewer.

    It'll be up to the reader to judge.

    It is often a good idea to forewarn potential buyers via the blurb etc.

     Thanks again for your comments.

    I do, however, wonder what you had in mind to cause you to ask what is allowed by Lulu, not to mention the 100s if not 1000s of other sites an ISBN may get you on to. BTW. If you do not have an ISBN and your Lulu storefront is set at Direct, then only people you give the link to can even see your book.

    JBB

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    One thing to ask yourself. Is the sexual detail that important to the actual story? If not then just allow people to use their imagination. In the same manner as Romance novels.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    Depending on how the story goes it looks like it might qualify as erotic romance or possibly erotica, though since it does appear to have aesthetic value as well as some emotive quality it's not porn.

    No plot with a few random passages connecting all the sex with absolutely no aesthetic or emotive qualities would qualify it as porn.

    So far looks like a decent piece of work. Would I read further, that would depend on the day and my interest at the moment. I've had days I was so pressed for time I brushed my teeth with capsaicin cream, because I grabbed the wrong tube and didn't read the label.
    Well, I'm guessing your teeth felt pretty good that day! Or, not, I suppose. The minty flavor was lacking.

    Thanks for taking a look at it and for your comments. I'm hoping the plot carries the day.
    JBB
    Grabbing the wrong tube kind of goes with a constant barrage of "Papi, papi, papi, papi..."

    One rule of thumb I've seen used is if the sexual activity comprises 10% or less of the work and the rest is well-plotted with characters that a reader can empathize with, you're likely good.

    My take is that if the sex comes across like the technical aspects of flying a P-40 Warhawk as found in an old 'Dash 1' manual, it quickly goes from humorous to monotonous. Might be why none of the guys I used to work with ever invited me over for 'movie' night a second time.
  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    Well, I just read till the word "Good" as I don't like to ruin the surprise. I would buy your book. Excellent writing style and don't remove the undertones or any explicit content coming up.

    I guess you gotta find the right audience.

    PS. Make an exceptional cover, not Harlequin style and not old school. Think sexy but sharp and cool.
     A citizen of the world.

  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Em_Press said:
    Well, I just read till the word "Good" as I don't like to ruin the surprise. I would buy your book. Excellent writing style and don't remove the undertones or any explicit content coming up.

    I guess you gotta find the right audience.

    PS. Make an exceptional cover, not Harlequin style and not old school. Think sexy but sharp and cool.
    Thanks very much for looking at it and for your comments. Does Titian's Venus d'Urbino qualify as a sexy but sharp and cool cover? I think so, but others might not. Right audience, for sure. Thank you.
    JBB
  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Paul_Lulu said:
    I'll echo Skoob's sentiment that stories heavy on erotica are not exactly my taste. But your excerpt is very well crafted. It reminds me of Graham Greene in the sort of man-out-of-his-element setting and direct language.
    The erotic element aside, the tension here is near perfect. I personally like it when the sexual undertones are downplayed (leaving more to the reader's imagination) but I can also see ample plot reasons why this piece of the story might require being more overt.
    I think the most important thing is that we all feel like each and every character we meet (five in this short segment) has an agenda. That creates a sense of tension and imminent conflict that can drive the story forward.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Thanks very much for your comments and for taking the time to look at it. There's a lot to be said for "less is more," for sure, and it's only fair to let the reader know what he or she is in for, at least in general terms.
    JBB
  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    edited March 9
    It wouldn't appeal to either men or women, unfortunately. And it would look like a Penguin book. Huge turnoff even though I've loved many of them. 

    You can take a public domain oil painting. Or picture and make it cool.
    See attached thumbnail covers I downloaded from Amazon.ca.
     A citizen of the world.

  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    edited March 9
    Ron did a great cover with a woman's face and sunglasses similar to the one below


    Other cool covers:

     A citizen of the world.

  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Em_Press said:
    It wouldn't appeal to either men or women, unfortunately. And it would look like a Penguin book. Huge turnoff even though I've loved many of them. 

    You can take a public domain oil painting. Or picture and make it cool.
    See attached thumbnail covers I downloaded from Amazon.ca.
    These (and the others) are great! Thanks. I like the Penguin-ish layout because it offers a clean setup for an image and is practically a classic, but the full-cover background, especially single image, is powerful.

    I admit I thought briefly about this one below, Frida Kahlo in "pistolera" costume, except that it (a) it is not in the public domain even if it's all over the internet, and (b) doesn't have much if anything to do with the story, and (c) is a total cliché (which was intentional, of course).

    Thanks for sending these covers along.
    JBB


  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    edited March 9
    That is a superb image. With large simple pure white big ( like above) font which is in nowadays. 

    Write one paragraph to make the image usable and relevant. Even if it's just a wish or stream of consciousness.... A dream. 

    And you can look for and buy the image. I once paid 100 for a cover image. It is now my bestselling book. So worth it. The cover is crucial.
     A citizen of the world.

  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    PS. I would remove her unibrow in Photoshop.
     A citizen of the world.

  • Papi_SoñolientoPapi_Soñoliento Southern Escarpment Hill Country Librarian
    If you find a comparable image to use as a cover I'd say leave the unibrow, there are people [like me] who have a spouse with a similar brow. And yes, Frida Kahlo was a beautiful person.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Does Titian's Venus d'Urbino qualify as a sexy but sharp and cool cover? I think so, but others might not.

    I would  not class it as sexy or cool, but it is classed as art so the nudity is accepted.

    Perhaps the above is a more modern rendition? Note that she's not fully naked at all, but is perhaps far sexier?   

     Right audience, for sure.

    Now you have me puzzled as to what you class as porn.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    I doubt the women in your story have a unibrow. I personally don't enjoy looking at it on men or women. And your goal is to sell. Most people think like me. A unibrow is not in these days.
     A citizen of the world.

  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor
    Hot art, Kevin . 😉
     A citizen of the world.

  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    Em_Press said:
    PS. I would remove her unibrow in Photoshop.
    No way! Frida without the unibrow? Wouldn't be Frida. Like Diego Rivera without a belly. Thanks for pointing out the one-paragraph possibility. We're still left with the total stereotype about the un-named country but I can work around that, maybe. I'll nose around. I think her estate or whatever foundation inherited her IP owns the image.

    Thanks for the tips.
    JBB
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I doubt the women in your story have a unibrow. I personally don't enjoy looking at it on men or women. And your goal is to sell. Most people think like me. A unibrow is not in these days.

    It is nonsense, but a unibrow is classed with low intelligence, and those who have one usually shave it off anyway.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Joe_Bondi_BeachJoe_Bondi_Beach San Francisco Bay Area Creator
    If you find a comparable image to use as a cover I'd say leave the unibrow, there are people [like me] who have a spouse with a similar brow. And yes, Frida Kahlo was a beautiful person.
    Exactly. I have one myself, although it's faded over the years. And I never looked as good as Frida, anyway. Especially considering the pain she was apparently in for the rest of her life after the accident, she was amazing.

    Gratuitous Frida image attached. She looks pretty cute.
    JBB


  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Hot art, Kevin . 😉

    Thank you Maggie. I do have many more on 'respectable' Print (art) On Demand sites, and no one has ever objected to them. I assume they too class them as art :)

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    No way! Frida without the unibrow? Wouldn't be Frida. Like Diego Rivera without a belly.

    Well unless your story is about her, then it's irrelevant how much she gets photoshopped, in fact if such an image is used it would be best to make sure she cannot be recognised.

     

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

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