Act One Is A Little Long

In every book writing process, there comes a time when you absolutely cannot see where you’ve gone wrong. And, friends, we have reached that time with Nita’s book.

I’m still rewriting Acts Three and Four, but Act One is ready for beta reads.  And since I’ve posted earlier drafts on here before, I’m giving it to any of you who care to read 42,000 words of too long fictional first act that you probably have read too many times already. (For those of you new to this, a first act must introduce the protagonist and introduce or foreshadow the main conflict, preferably on the first page, introduce all the major characters, foreshadow the antagonist, introduce all the subplots, and end with a turning point that spins the plot in a new direction and makes the story new.  Backward and in high heels.)

So I need fresh eyes, aka beta readers that are not me, to look at this act.  I know some of you have read a thousand drafts of this already, so “fresh” is stretching it, but any help you can give is appreciated.  And if you can’t, that’s fine, I’ll just sit here in the dark alone.

I need to know:

1. What Needs To Be Cut:   This goes back to Elmore Leonard’s Rule: Try not to write the parts people skip.  I’m not talking about what’s not necessary to the story.  It’s ALL necessary to the story, every brilliant word of it.  I’m talking about the parts where you start to skim, the parts you’re bored by, the parts you hurry through to get to the good part you hope is coming up.  I don’t care if it’s crucial to the plot, if you’re skimming, that part gets cut because let’s face it, you’re not reading that part anyway.  I’ll get the info in some other way.  Tell me where you got bored, where things went on too long, where you started looking at the clock and thinking about something other than the story (food, sex, a different book, etc.).   The first act is about seven thousand words too long, so I know the dull parts are in there.  Be brutal.

2. What Must Be Kept:  I’m going to have to cut seven thousand words.  What parts of this act would you throw your body in front of to protect?  What stays no matter what?  Because otherwise, that bit may feel my vorpal blade.

3. Anything Else You Feel Compelled To Share: Those are the two things I most need from beta readers, but given my experience with betas in the past, you will feel constrained by limiting yourself to those two key criticisms.  So go ahead and put your two cents here.  However, avoid sharing suggestions as to how you’d fix a problem.  Instead, go write a blog post explaining in detail how you’d fix all the bad parts, developing a better cast and providing a better plot.  Then write that book.

At least that’s how I ended up spending three years writing this sucker.

Follow the links starting with this one:


and if you have time, put your critiques in the comments below.

Thank you very, very much.

105 thoughts on “Act One Is A Little Long

  1. Is that 7k word cut from an editor or from you?

    I want to know if it’s a real line or a guideline?


    1. That’s from me; Jen gets this for the first time January 4.

      The reason it needs to be cut is that 42,000 words is too long to go without a major turning point; it’s too long to read the same story without reader fatigue.

      Basic goal: Do not bore reader.

      1. I will keep that in mind. I just want to know how brutal to be.

        You keep in mind that I’ve been reading you for a long time and so far no boredom. Also I read fantasy & scifi for a very long time and there’s more world building than you usually need.

  2. Happy to give it a read, though I won’t be able to until this weekend since for some unfathomable reason curling up with a good book is frowned upon here at Ye Olde Day Job.

  3. The part with the Bad Ass socks pulls me out of the story every time I read it. I know, you love fun socks. We’ve had this discussion. 🙂

    1. I agree about the socks. Normally I’d be for them, but a. They don’t sound like Nita b. They slow down the story like a speed bump.

  4. I could not be more excited. Merry Christmas me. But since I also have Ye Olde Day Job, it’ll be later for me too.

  5. Plus: I have not been reading it after about a year ago so that it would all be new to me when it came out. Negative: I am not a particularly critical reader with authors that I like. That said, I would be willing to try a beta reading.

  6. Okay. I haven’t read many of the drafts so while I’m familiar I’m not saturated. And you know I’m not a great critic but here goes anyway. And I don’t know how to answer the questions correctly so I’m ignoring them. I’d like to be a good student and a helpful reader, but my brain doesn’t work that way. And It’s not helpful to say oh just keep everything.

    I think you could lose the Hotels. They confused me. (It took a while for me to figure out the Hotels was a last name. Then I couldn’t figure out why the cops hadn’t made everyone go home because there was a murder.)

    As you have to cut words you could lose the socks.

    I thought Jason drove away and then he got in the car. I suppose he couldn’t resist, but I felt like he was just delaying the action. At this point, I’m itching for what I consider the real action – Nina meeting Nick.

    Is Button going to annoy me less as the plot progresses? Because I’m at the place in my life where men go mushy when a woman smiles at them is irritating. If I were Nina I think I’d shoot her.

    Why isn’t Vinnie more freaked out that Nick was shot seventeen times and is still standing?

    The scene in the car seemed slow to me – but I’ve been writing the kind of shit where it’s all action, action, action. So take that into consideration. It’s probably corrupted my sense of pacing.

    If any of this is helpful, great, if not, toss it. Just sayin’.

    1. The Hotels were my first suggestion for cutting as well. They don’t seem necessary or as if they move the story forward. And I also was a little confused as I didn’t recognize Statler as a hotel so it threw me out of the story until I figured it out.

      1. I agree about the hotels. I also didn’t recognize Statler as a hotel. If you wanted to keep the group nickname, maybe just not the first time they are addressed as a group? Once we’ve met Astoria and Waldorf, I’d probably get the humour.

        I also agree that if you need to cut, the socks could go

  7. I would loooooove to read it. Will follow links once I’m not stuck at Ye Olde Day Job (maybe we should just abbreviate this to YODJ here at Argh since several of us seem to share the affliction).

  8. Part One Notes

    You describe Button as “new” four times in the first six paragraphs, and then again later on. Not sure if the repetition is necessary.

    You MUST keep the “off-ee,” “off-er,” “guy who killed him.”

    When Jason strides off at the very beginning, where does he go that he is still around when he gets in the car? I know you say Frank ratted them out, but it does sound like Jason leaves the scene entirely, so how does Frank find him so fast?

    The flashback to watching Aliens seems more info than we need at the time.

    Why does Button say “We should leave” after Nita smiles? She’s just
    asked Frank to bring Mort to the car.

    I love the Hotels, but Kate has a point when she wondered why the murder scene hadn’t been cleared of the general public. I get that Jason really doesn’t care, but the scene does work without the Hotels (although I have read the rest of the Act so maybe they are necessary for later?).

    Nita shakes her head to “clear the bourbon fog” and then five paragraphs later she “fought through her bourbon fog.” If she cleared it, why does she still need to fight through it?

    Why does Nick introduce Rab and Jeo to Vinnie? They know the Hotels, and if they’ve been there a week wouldn’t they have met Vinnie, too? Especially since Vinnie says (to someone, it doesn’t specify who, although Rab has the dialogue just before so I would assume Rab) “I rented you that apartment.”

    I LOVE how Nick shuts Rab up by looking at him. Three times. But then there’s a single beat of “shut up” when Nick looks at Jeo, not Rab, which feels off.

    Hopefully I’ll get a chance to read the other parts soon!

  9. Questionables:

    Bourbon in the blood makes you cold? I always thought it was the opposite with alcohol? Made me stop and think.

    She seemed loquacious explaining the drunk dialing. Does anyone explain that precisely to someone already aggravated with them?



    Rab’s chatter

    Because of the chatter, I skimmed the scupper conversation.

    Hope that helps! Hope it isn’t nitpicky!

    I liked just about everything Nita was saying, tone wise, I thought her voice was great. Button’s was as well. i like the phrases like ‘Buttons do such and such’.

  10. This is all great, thank you!

    Also, I can’t comment on any of this for a day or two. Those of you who have suffered through my classes know that you shut up for at least twenty-four hours after a critique because it takes that long to work through the knee-jerk reactions.

  11. I too am plagued by yodj but will hopefully be able to read and comment this week. Super looking forward to it! Thank you for sharing!

  12. I think I am repeating things i said about earlier versions, and sorry to be so long, but then again, you asked!

    Chloe and the multiple coffees

    Nita shutting people up in the car and Nick shutting people up in the bar with a look

    “and Nick realized the barkeep was more afraid of this cold woman than he was of two demons and the Devil’s fixer.”

    “Nita let go of his hand in surprise. “Mr. Lemmon’s back on the island?” “Find out what stuff?” Button said from behind her. “Could I have your shirt?” Mort said to the new guy.” this sequence is a delight of movement by words – I can FEEL the pace of the conversation.

    “He probably thought that was quelling. Amateur. ” great positioning of Nita’s attitude in comparison to everyone else’s response to Nick.

    agree with earlier comments about the socks.

    both references to mother before the dinner invite:
    getting a flashback to her mother saying, “Anger is the Devil in you, don’t let him out,” which was perplexing enough at four, made even more terrifying after she saw Alien at six. “I thought it was going to be like Alf,” her big sister Keres had told their mother when little Nita had finally stopped screaming. She shoved the memory away and said, ” and Her mother insisted peppermint was a natural evoker of calm and a preventer of anger, but maybe it worked on drunkenness, too.” I have to stop and think about these parts

    Could do without Hotels, except I seem to remember you needed them later.

    I find the phone conversation in with Belia confusing and unrelated to anything I know, so I feel the urge to skim.

    “He’d raised his voice. For emphasis, not from emotion, which he did not have because he was dead.” sounds like Nita, not Nick

    Then I am completely sucked in and forget to beta read until the historical society parts. Don’t know why, but I quit caring there. It’s better (and shorter) than in the previous version, and valuable info there, just not so engaged.

    Only got through 6 sections because it is almost midnight and I need to go to work tomorrow. ye old day job strikes again.

    Thanks for letting us play too.

  13. I love the words but it’s the amount of italicising that is throwing me out. They feel quite directive, as if they’re telling me how I should read, and I’d rather rely on your words to imagine that myself. And once you notice them, you can’t un-notice them. Hope this is useful.

    1. Clarification: Is it the italicizing of thoughts that’s throwing you off, the italicizing of dialogue?
      I’ll check all of it, of course.

      1. Italics for the thoughts is fine, it’s the dialogue that seems a bit frequent. I don’t remember it sticking out before, although I could just be losing my mind.

    2. I have to agree here that the heavy use italicization felt annoying and somewhat off putting. It’s meant for emphasis, but in a couple of passages it felt like every second sentence had italics. My reaction was sort of “enough already”.

  14. I am not a writer, and I feel almost guilty criticizing anything you write, but this is from a reader’s view

    The Hotels bother me also, but you have explained that there is more in the later chapters. They just don’t “flow” right now.

    There seems to be a lot of short, one sentence paragraphs. For me this is very distracting, almost irritating since it seems to happen a lot. It makes the flow very staccato until you go back to the longer paragraphs. It happens periodically throughout the pages. For example: –

    * The mustache spoke to Nick. “Heard you’re the Devil.”

    “No,” Nick said, staring at Vinnie, who looked away.

    “Shut up, Waldorf,” Vinnie said to the mustache.

    “He’s a good-looking devil,” the thin one said.

    “Shut up, Statler,” Vinnie said, “Have some respect. Jimmy just died.”

    Waldorf raised his glass and blew out his mustache. “To Jimmy. A damn fine bouncer. Never left a mark on anybody.”

    The three of them clinked glasses and drank.

    “Thank you, Waldorf,” Vinnie said, looking wobbly again.

    “I skinned my knee once,” the woman said.

    “You fell down after he helped you out the door,” Statler said, looking sternly at her. “Don’t you put that on Jimmy.”

    “That’s fair,” she said.

    Then, as if he couldn’t help it, Vinnie came back to Nick. “Don’t make me no trouble. I run a nice place here.”

    1. I felt the same way about the one sentence paragraphs. I haven’t read every iteration of the drafts but I do remember the first time we saw something and those annoyed me, but I knew it was a draft. The next iteration I read was more filled in and I thought, whew, it’s feeling more “finished”, more polished.

      As i typed in the above, it occurred to me why all along (every time I have read it) I have had trouble getting into part 1. It’s filled with one sentence paragraphs. Once I get to part 2, it reads better and I got sucked in, but part 1 I’ve kind of only staggered through because, well, Crusie, it’s going to get better.

      And now, in the “almost-final” draft part 1 is still thin. It’s almost like, on a certain level, that you haven’t really committed to it yourself (not enough to flesh it out more?). If you could meld the important info from part 1 into part 2…

  15. Like the others, Ye Olde Day Job has opinions about how I should spend my time. I’ll tackle this at the weekend. Looking forward to it!

  16. I just realized there are multiple parts.

    Question: Why does no one question a drunk Nita shooting someone? I get her taking blame, but drunk should raise red career flags.

  17. Despite all the funny bits, I’m still thrown by Nita’s drunkenness. It makes no sense to me that you would get drunk when you were sick from what seems to be food poisoning. It also makes me like Nita less. Also, when she’s making th toddy she says something that made me think she doesn’t normally get drunk. If so, then it makes no sense to me that practically the first thing she does is make herself another drink. It would make more sense to me if Rab just gave her one in accordance to his grand plan.

    The Hotels don’t do anything for me, but I suspect they are more important later.

    I’m about halfway thru part 2 so may have other reactions later

    1. Yes! I agree about the drunkenness. I also feel it makes Nita a tad less likable. It also put me off somewhat that she clearly drunk, is having some trouble focusing because she’s drunk, she KNOWS she’s drunk, but then she goes into the bar and starts making herself another drink.

      At that point, I thought, what is WRONG with this woman??? Has she no common sense?

      Re: Hotels. I actually have no problem with them, although why they are still in the bar right after the shooting is perhaps unrealistic.

      Re: bad-ass socks (mentioned by several others), and, for that matter, the poodle pajamas. I get that you’re trying to give Spooky Nita a sort of softer side, perhaps even show she has a bit of humor. But do you need both? Seems redundant. And if the goal is to give Nita another side, then lose the socks, because the bad ass socks are too close to her personality.

  18. I have some comments but it will be tomorrow morning before I can get to them. They are mostly along the lines of some things that feel like filler such as both Nick and Nita describing how red-faced Vinnie looks in the bar lights.

  19. Too much exposition. It felt like every character intro came with a full biography, and the action kept stopping to tell us about what they look like, who they’re related to, and what they wear.

    I didn’t like the continuing emphasis on how drunk Nita is. I don’t have a problem with her being drunk, but it felt like every other paragraph brings it up. OK, she’s drunk, I can remember that from page to page. Also, because the first day is spread out over several parts, it seems like she spends an awful lot of time drunk or hungover.

    I also find her wilful ignorance of supernatural goings-on eventually annoying, not charming. I like Nita best through other people’s eyes; I don’t actually find her that sympathetic when I’m reading her thoughts.

    Overall it feels like an emotional muddle. Usually your books (75% of which are on my ‘keeper’ shelf) have a clearer progression. I liked the emotional and romantic development arc of Agnes; I feel like Nita needs more of that.

  20. The whole section from ” ‘What are we doing here?’ the woman sitting in the driver’s seat said.” to ” ‘The big shouting guy is Detective Jason Witherspoon, who is not happy with me at the moment, so I will wait until he leaves.’ ” spelled things out to the point that I kept wondering why Nita was saying all this. I would have picked up most of the facts from all the action and dialogue that followed.

    Parts I’d really like to see kept: That Nita is in her pajamas, that Button would really like to save Nita from herself, Mort’s insistence on the existence of demons, and Rab’s enthusiasm for human studies.

  21. There were so many people in the bar and I got confused. I was esp. confused by people being called ‘Hotels’. And I’m not sure if it’s a typo, or if there were two characters, but people were called ‘Robbie’ and ‘Robby’. Is Statler one of Nick’s guys? I’m sorry, but I had a hard time figuring out who was who and how many people were in the bar.

  22. I agree with the note that there are a lot of italics in the conversations; it feels like you are helping us read the dialog with the emphasis you hear in your head. It is a little distracting.

    Things I love: Button – adorable but terrifying, in all her interactions with everyone. Smiling like a sun, and getting answers, fierce and getting answers, all good. I like Nita a lot, and I like seeing Nick’s humanization (for lack of a better word). A new plot twist! (That was exciting, the kid&van&etc.) Diversity of characters!! A black police chief (hello Carter!) and diner owner and Jeo and… all those small things feel important to me, and useful.

    Things I skipped or that made little sense: The hotels are such a lovely nod to the Muppets, and I have no idea what they are doing there. Joyce the cat is large and otherworldly, but she doesn’t do much? i know cats are basically supercilious hell beasts that keep our laps warm, but she seems extraneous.

    The last thing I noticed was the rhythm of the last piece, where Nita has to wrap her head around all the things that are really happening. It feels like (forgive me, I’ve been doing slapstick Santa stuff for the week and it is rubbing off) like two three-bits stuck awkwardly together. That same rhythm of three that you set up in the car with Button, you do again with Nita and her “give me a minute” (and I absolutely get it there, and I like it a lot) – but the perfectly legit stuff before that where Nick is large and looming but also just saved her life and also just smited someone out of existence, that feels like an attached three-bit of “don’t be scared” before we can really get to the “give me a minute”. And the “give me a minute” feels really really really important, while the “don’t be scared” feels temporary and less necessary?

  23. The writing is strong and powerful, as always. I love “human dandelion” and “cold night air hitting like a shovel.” You open both para 7 and 11 with Nita pointing her cup, but that’s just a niggling comment. Also, the formality of lots of sentences like “I will wait…” and “I did not realize…” threw me out a bit. Also niggling. But the thing that stuck out to me the most is the lack of poignancy. I don’t feel it in either POV character’s opening chapter. Great world building, lots of action and good dialogue, but nothing pulled on my emotions. No emotional zing. Could use it, I think.

  24. I am so grateful to be one of the readers getting an advance preview of this book early stages. First let me say I love your Writing. I love you work I love you characters.
    (Please excuse mistakes. I am in a trailer on the VEEP set, reading this while waiting to be called )
    I love all of your writing but it feels to me while I read that there might be too many characters in these first few scenes. I keep going back to “what do I as a reader need to know? And when do I need to know it?”

    I don’t think I need to know about Nita’s ex boyfriend. Yet.
    I don’t think I need to know that Nita’s boss doesn’t like her. Yet.
    I do need to know she is drunk. That she’s there because Mort called her. That there is a dead body and that it’s Jimmys. And that there is a guy who claims to be the devil.
    ( button is problematical. If Nita drunk dialed her, did Nita also drunk pick her up? Or should it be Buttonthat is doing the driving? I love Button, but the reason she is with Nita isn’t clear to me. Because it sounds like Button hadn’t yet met Nita officially.)
    Nick’s POV scene.
    So much wonderfulness. I like the Hotels. But they don’t seem Necessary to the story at this point.
    I felt I didn’t get enough setup of Nick not being human and then suddenly beginning to have human feelings.
    The Jeo/Daphne side story is a distraction. I as a reader am still trying to get a handle on the Nick/Nita and Nita/Button and the murder mystery and the fact that Mort knew the killer was a demon. That’s great. I am so willing to read on to find out about the answers to those questions.
    But the Jeo Daphne side story feels irrelevant to these questions. Then in the breakfast scene Daphne
    Is throwing grumpy glances at Nick. And her mom doesn’t seem to like Nick and I found myself puzzling why.
    Then Nick reminds us aboutJeo.
    Some of the breakfast scene I love

    This goes back to the gradual humanizing of Nick
    The “pings” of him beginning to feel hiuman. Some of it feels lost in the side story clutter. I love these side stories, but as a reader I would prefer not to get so many at a time.
    I just finish the breakfast scene. Back to the story. Thank you for letting us read it

  25. While I’ve read every Crusie novel multiple times, this is my first time reading a draft of this novel and being a beta reader for that matter. Not sure if you needed to know any of that, but just throwing it out there. Here we go:

    Part One felt a little stiff, particularly the way Nita communicated. Maybe in some cases it’s something as simple as needing to use more contractions??? Each successive part seemed to flow better and better.

    Please get rid of Button’s criticisms of Nita’s appearance. I get that she wants Nita not to be spooky, but since she’s a professional detective who’s supposedly so concerned with her career, it just makes me sad that she’s so focused on wanting her highly accomplished partner to get her eyebrows plucked, re-do her hair, and wear makeup.

    I’m fine with Hotels, although I still don’t get the Statler reference. I liked the characters.

    Button disappeared for a long while and I missed her. I also wanted to see more interaction/repartee between Nita and Nick. I’m guessing a lot of this will naturally be adjusted if you’re deleting several thousand words.

    I love fun socks, but Nita having to explain them was an issue. I enjoy others’ reactions to seeing them (like Cal and his nephew noticing Min’s shoes).

    Coffee scene is funny.

    New favorite expression: Get smote.

    Appreciate major and minor characters of diverse backgrounds, including humans.

    Not sure if any of this helps you cut and I hope you don’t mind that I threw in some references to your previous books since this a totally new one set in a brand new world. Can’t wait to read the rest!

  26. Oh and please keep the sumptuous breakfast description and reactions. (Still salivating over Agnes’ pecan-studded pancakes and ropes of syrup.)

  27. Before I get to my Part Two Comments (because I only have time to read a bit at a time…) can I just say my heart fell a little when I read you are reconsidering whether you need Part One at all? I LOVE so much about Part One, and have no idea how you could recreate that wonderful banter and world and conflict without it. You probably can – I’m just saying that so much of it is great it would be tragic to lose it.

    Part Two

    I think one of my comments on an early draft was about Cthulhu. I’d never heard of the creature before, and while I now know what it is, your single sentence of description would be more than enough even if I didn’t. So thanks for that!

    When Nita walks by Nick in Nick’s POV, he tries “to figure out what was so damn different about her. ” But in Part One he mentions she is familiar, and he thinks he’s seen her before, so that jarred me.

    As usual, I love your dialogue so much! And while I didn’t skim the Max/Belia scene (it was one I hadn’t read before) I did finish it feeling like I didn’t need to know them yet. I am still getting to know Nick and Nita, and they are way more fun, so Max and Belia felt extraneous in that place of the story.

    “Back at Hell Bar, Nita ignored Button as she leaned closer.” Which one leaned closer? Because the Max/Belia scene is in between I had to think a bit too hard to remember where Nita and Button were in relation to each other.

    On to Part Three!

  28. is “Get smote” one of your solutions for hell swearing? Really like it.

    Something still bugs me about the hillside scene, but I can’t put my finger on it. Then I start wondering how Button’s lunch with the plastic woman went. It must be over because Nita mentions having missed lunch. Sorry not more helpful on that section.

  29. Okay, this was classically fun Jenny Crusie, but I found myself skipping or dozing a bit over three things in general:

    — a lot of infodump about the setting and background
    — descriptions of the lighting and the clothing and the food
    — the upfront explanations of Demon world. I didn’t want to know it yet

    It somehow feels like you could chop this first part to the bone, leaving primarily the action but getting Nita out of the car. You’re introducing her, then having her just sit around for page after page, and I think that’s part of what tended to make me zone out a bit.

    Then, if you kept Nita’s group far enough out of the orbit of Jason et al., like around the corner of the bar on a park bench or something, you could put Button to better use as the Amy Pond figure (always having to ask “Doctor, what’s happening?”) and get some of the info dump handled as clueing in the New Girl, rather than explaining a whole lot of background. I didn’t really want to read about Nita’s dating history, town names (cute though they are) or bar history — either Nita or Mort could respond to the questions or puzzled looks from Button and many of the other introductory explanations could be handled in later sections.

    The one thing I could never stand to lose? The description of scupper as tasting like “sunshine and strawberries.” Loved that.

  30. I skimmed most of the stuff about pajamas, socks and Nita being drunk. It got very repetitive and I kept thinking “what about the dead guy?”
    And I couldn’t figure out the Hotels. And why wasn’t Vinnie more freaked out about Nick. He was shot 17 times and was still walking and talking.

  31. This was the first time I felt the first scene in the car didn’t feel right. Not organic? Too much going on? I don’t know how much you changed/added, so maybe it’s just reader fatigue. The socks seemed extraneous, and I still had trouble keeping the Hotels straight.

    I felt like there was too much italicized in the dialogue. Some conversations, it was almost every line, which felt teenagery (is that a word?) to me.

    I liked the Max/Belia scene, but maybe a little too much – if I remember correctly, Max and Button have a romantic subplot, but I’m kind of on team Melia now.

    But all that said…I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, and worldbuilding takes time. Maybe you could relax your word count rules for this one?

    1. Oh, and something that I feel must stay – in the last scene, when Nita says, “give me a minute,” and Nick *does*. Multiple times. That feels so important, showing how much he respects her.

  32. My one stopping point was when Jason said, ” Go hell to Nita Dodd”. Sounded awkward. Go to hell Nita, saves 1 word, but flows better.

  33. In both final sentences in these two examples, I did a little head-scratching, “what?” Easily figured out, but I think more emphasis is needed.

    “Ashtaroth!” Satan said, and the demons next to Ashtaroth drew away and left him and Mammon and Max alone in the middle of the marble floor. “Do you have proof of this lie?”

    “He’s human?” Ashtaroth said, now clearly regretting his momentary power surge.
    “Really? Not a lot of people come all the way out here just to see a baph . . .

    Richiel stopped, realizing his mistake

  34. I’m not your best reader. I feel so many of the comments are wrong-headed and ask you to remove the heart of what Crusie does that keeps me reading. I’m really pissy about this. I like that first car scene and all that follows. I like the pajamas, the Hotels, the cat, Button’s critique of Nita’s looks because in all instances there’s something going on that makes the characters’ interactions real and the book world cohere.

    Go read other, more sanitary authors, people.

    Guess I’m in protective mode.

    Be careful in rewrite, Jennifer Crusie, lest guided by comments here you win the battle, lose the war.

    1. Yes, but I want all those different comments.

      A lot of the time when you’re getting feedback, people don’t know why they have those reactions, they just know they have them (which is exactly what I want to hear).

      Then I can look at the places they tripped and think “Why did this throw them out? Why did it get slow here?”

      For example, it may be that I have to get rid of the socks. It may also be that the socks in that one place slow things down. It may also be that I haven’t made the socks important, that they’re surrounded by stuff that can be cut.

      The more people who put a finger on a section and say, “It was here that I skimmed,” the more I need to look at that place and think, “Why?” They’re not wrong, they really hesitated there. It’s not that I have to get rid of the Hotels, it’s that the Hotels are screwing up the second scene, and they clearly are because so many people are saying, “I had trouble with the Hotels.”

      It’s all good and useful, truly.

  35. I mean no disrespect. I know the comments call out precisely what was asked for. Nevertheless, I am so charged by my reading, the narrative’s energetic sweep forward – that propulsive last unit! – the crafted, layered characterizing details, that reading the comments on all I have loved left me disheartened.

    1. Don’t be disheartened. I’m not. This is part of the process.

      I look at it this way: This book has some problems, and this helps me solve some of them before it’s published, at which point I will find more problems that I missed and that will be in the book forever. Now THAT’s disheartening. Believe me, being critiqued by great readers who have the honesty to say, “This part isn’t working” is HUGE. Ask any writer here. I am forever grateful for people who are taking the time to wade through all of this for me. And forever grateful for you kind words, too. I’m still not sure this is a good book, so your praise helps a lot.

      1. No, no, it’s a great book! It’s a ‘I can’t put it down book’! Because I just stayed up til 4 am reading it and I’ve read all the previous drafts already. I know what’s going to happen and I still read it in a breathless rush.

  36. I love Nita and thoughts and comments in Part One (yes, that means please don’t get rid of it).
    When Nita describes the bar to Button, it seems a little like a “As you know, Bill..” and it doesn’t answer Button’s question.
    Nita’s thoughts about her mother seem important to the story, but her flashback to her mother’s comments to her when she was young were distracting from the action taking place in the now.
    I love the poodle pajamas, and the multiple coffees. I love ‘this car is only for people who want to solve the murder’.
    I love Button. I love everything about Button. I love the “Buttons do …” comments.
    The Hotels left me cold. I did not automatically make the connection between their names and famous hotels, so I found them confusing and distracting. You always do such vivid characters that I would have enjoyed them somewhere else, but here they just got in the way of the story I was invested in and the characters I cared about.
    I am a Joyce fan. She could do more.
    Rab makes me laugh and I like the way Nick shuts him up with a look.
    The Nita and scupper scene is fabulous.
    Love Nick discovering food in the breakfast scene and the Nick stabbing and Nita chasing part, but shouldn’t Mort be a little more concerned that Nita ate a poisoned doughnut that killed two people?
    I love the way Nita whacks Rich with her baton when he tries to take her hostage.
    This may be a personal bias, but it bothered me that Nita was frightened of Nick after he killed Rich. Freaked out by screaming heads and ‘the demons are real’, yes, but Nita doesn’t seem the sort to frighten easily. She seems more likely to whack him with her baton. I do love that she keeps telling him to give her a minute while she processes and he waits patiently for her to do so.

    And I cannot wait to read the rest of this!

  37. Overall this draft feels tighter to me. I really should read it again and then can make more pinpointed comments.

    Here are a couple first thoughts: poodle pajamas yes, bad ass socks no. Slow realization that Nick is having emotions was noticeably more developed and piqued my interest. Moloch saying he likes beer just made me think of Brett Kavanaugh and threw me from the story. Nita realizing demons, etc. were real felt more like reality crashing over her in a way she could no longer explain away than in previous versions. Nick and Nita’s sexual awareness of each other in little things makes me think that something is going to happen there which I don’t remember before.

    Also Joyce seems unnecessary and so does Binky. I think I would understand smiting when it comes up without having to off the teddy bear first to show me.

    So excited this will be a book I can hold in my hands.

  38. Wow, this is so much fun. Fun to read, fun to watch your creative process, fun to see how other readers react. So, thank you so much for all of it!

    I agree with much of what pulled others out of part one: the car scene going on so long, Jason interacting with Nita in the first scene when we could wait until later to see him when it will be obvious he’s a nemesis/out to get her/up to something, and the Hotels. Oh, how I want to love the Hotels, but when they’re on the page, I feel like they’re pulling me away from what I really want to watch – especially at this early stage – which is Nick and Nita.

    I love the scupper scene. I love it from both their POVs, and love stepping back a minute or two when you switch POV to get the other’s read on the same events (which you do in multiple places, and I like very much). There’s a bit much about how to make a toddy. She’s explaining it, then doing it, then explaining again, then doing some more. But the scupper interaction itself feels to me like the heart of the meet cute, and when Nick leans back to observe what will happen, I get his logical, unemotional, watching out of intellectually curiosity but not yet caring/emoting persona. And I love the contrast with the beat in the nature preserve when he really wants to rush forward and take care of Nita, but this time holds back and checks his emotions out of respect and concern for her. Great humanization, great romantic arc developing.

    I find the breakfast scene confusing. There are so many characters in the scene, and as someone else mentioned, so many subplots popping up, it’s hard to follow the narrative thread.

    Another place I was thrown out of the story was the interaction between the mayor and Nick. The mayor is so concerned about his daughter, he’s willing to threaten the soon-to-be Devil, but he’s never told her about arguably the most dangerous thing on the island – the demons. And then Nick, realizing the mayor knows a lot about demons and hell and what’s going on, doesn’t pursue it! He’s spending the entire day tracking down everyone who might know anything, and here’s a guy who obviously knows a lot, and Nick doesn’t to interrogate him. It seems out of character for who Nick is and what he needs, and too convenient for keeping information away from him at this point in the story.

    The mayor’s knowledge also crystallizes that there are groups of people with different levels of demon awareness. Those who know everything or at least a lot (the mayor), those who suspect/believe although they can’t prove it (Mort), and those who disbelieve (Nita). It’s a small island and these three are even in the same family. How has the knowledge remained so striated? I’m sure there’s a good reason later in the story, but in Act I, it seems weird, and maybe contributes to what someone mentioned (in comments on a different post, I think) about it being bothersome that Nita is such a skeptic and takes so long to believe the truth. It’s only one day in story time, but she’s 33 and has lived on the island her whole life and has missed stuff that others haven’t.

  39. I keep reading comments and having more thoughts, which is probably not helpful except a) I love Joyce, I want a Hellcat of my own, and b) the banter in Part 1 is excellent, I always love me some Crusie banter, BUT it sets up “hijinks ensue” and what actually ensues is violence and tragedy (I mean seriously poor Forcas) and possibly world-shaking destruction.

    Humor is what I want, obviously, in dealing with the unholy VTD trinity, but it would read more true to me if the humor was more “oh shit gotta make a joke so my head doesn’t explode about all this madness,” as it is later in the act, rather than “check out my socks.”


  40. I’ve been thinking about the Hotels. While I love them, I think the reason I stumble on them is that I can mentally edit their presence/dialogue out of the scenes and not lose the thread of the plot or character arc of Nick/Nita. They’re wonderful Crusie characters, but just not necessary in those scenes.

    Part Three

    I slowed down on the paragraphs with all the Witherspoons. Once I’d read it again, it was clear, but I got confused by Chief and Captain. I thought the Chief had retired.

    When Button sees Mort and Jason outside she thinks “The argument explained why Mort hadn’t come back to the bar.” But Mort had said he was going to go log in the shirt as evidence, so why would she expect him to be coming back?

    Nita states “There are no guns on this island.” But there clearly are, as Button has one and Jimmy was shot with one. I know they go on to discuss finding out how that happened, but the blanket statement threw me off because it’s wrong. Nita might wish it, but it’s not the reality.

    “Nick looked at Rab, surprised again. “I didn’t know you could think like that. No. I’ll have five thousand Earth years to figure out a successor if Jeo doesn’t change his mind.” He started to say something else and Rab shoved his laptop closer to Nick.” I’m confused by who started to say something else. It should be Nick as he’s the last one talking, but if Rab distracts Nick with the laptop is it Jeo that was going to talk?

    “Nobody wants to shoot me.” She sat back and bumped into the cat bed. “Or my cat. Joyce? ” I get that Nita is still trying to accept all the oddness on the island, but to deny that anyone is trying to shoot her after someone pointed a gun at her seems a bit too head-in-sand. And why would she mentioning shooting her cat?

    Couldn’t help noticing the extra x’s in “put them on the table nexxxt to” 🙂

  41. (I haven’t looked at what anyone else has written.) I’m afraid I thought it all worked. If I had to cut, perhaps Mr Praxis. I think that was where I started to feel there were too many characters to keep in my head. I’m pretty sure I would have felt that earlier or else more strongly if this were my first read. Although you do a great job of keeping them alive and memorable. Trying to think of other cuts, maybe the historical society ladies? They feel like a bit of a diversion.

    I really do think it works as is. If you’re insistent on cutting, then I’d prune some of the minor characters to make a smaller cast list; or possibly not name them all??

    At the very beginning I would have been also more challenged on a first read by the references I didn’t get. Is Alf a literal for Elf?? The others I could guess (unobtainium, the Hotels – which would work apart from the obscure Statler, Cthulu – which you now gloss). But I think I’m being too picky: I’m used to having to look things up when reading American novels.

    I always read for relationships, so I wouldn’t want any of the emotional stuff cut. I’m most pulled by Nick and Nita’s emotional development; their self-discovery and the prospect of Nick coming alive again. There’s an awful lot of other plot strands, but the mystery stuff isn’t so central for me, although I know it is to the story.

    It reads really well. I love how it keeps moving; and twisting. It’s a lot of fun.

  42. I love the technique in the last unit — propulsive movement to return head to body, Mort’s focus on administering medicine and assessing the phenomenon, race up the slope, slowdown of conversation, flurry of violence. All of that is just a rush. Then comes Nita’s earned prolonged processing the turnover in her world, beat by beat by beat, with Nick waiting as she comes to terms. Wow, some writing. Happy to be along for the ride.

  43. Part 4

    “…she was wearing her new birthday black cat over-the-knee socks from Keres—“Cat faces on the knees!” Keres had said when she’d handed her the package the day before.” Her sister gave her a birthday present the day before her birthday?

    LOVE!! “Did you send somebody to kill me last night, Nick? she thought, but looking at him now, it seemed improbable. He looked like the kind of guy who’d do it himself.”

    “What did Jimmy find out? Did you file a missing persons report?”
    “I don’t know, we got shot. No, I didn’t file a report. ” She already asked and he’s already answered this question.

    LOVE!! “Where can I get a copy of today’s Daily?” “It comes out on Fridays.” Nita bit into her eggs-and-toast. “The Demon Island Daily is a weekly.” HAH!!!

    I’m confused why the door is behind her. Couple of things – when she walks in, she seems to move into the diner, but if the door is behind her she would simply take a seat right away. Then, when Jeo and Rab come in, the bell rings, and while we can assume she looks over her shoulder to see, you don’t block that out, so it seems like she sees them without looking. Also, if she is always cold, wouldn’t she take a seat farther from the door? I hate a draft on my back when I’m cold.

    “Because you’ll print it,” Nita said, as the door behind her opened again. “Go away, Dom. You’re ruining breakfast.” You don’t have the person who comes in the door this time appear in the scene. Unless it’s her dad/the Mayor, but if it is why is there such a gap between the door opening and Nick seeing him? And wouldn’t he have come say hi to his daughter right away instead of going to the counter?

    “And then she thought, Damn it, he’d dead and I liked him.” Should be “he’s dead”

    “He drank some more orange juice and concentrated on filing in the wound.” Filling instead of filing

  44. I’ve eagerly read each new draft as it is published and honestly don’t think much needs to be cut (it is all wonderful) but there was one part that confused me a bit–when Nita thinks “Damn it, he’s dead and I liked him” in Chapter 4 she is thinking about Nick while looking at someone else. Since Mr. A. was not dead and I didn’t realize she was thinking about Nick until the action came back to her after the intervening scene, I was rather perplexed at that point…

  45. Overall, I like it. I definitely want to know what happens.


    Button surveyed her. “Well, you got that black helmet hair and those pointy eyebrows and you don’t smile. You’re not selling the cute thing.”
    “I smile.” Nita smiled.
    Button pulled back a little. “We should leave–”

    Nick describing his anger as emphasis.

    How Nita gets Button to admit to having shot so many people.

    Button in general.

    Mr Crome.

    The way Nita eventually realises she has to believe Nick. And that even then, she doesn’t give up control to him.


    The second paragraph, the one that starts “Okay, she told herself…”. It doesn’t add anything for me and if you got rid of it, the story would get to the dead body quicker.

    The Hotels. They didn’t confuse me this time round but there’s a lot of characters in the first 2 scenes and they were still the most distracting.

    Jeo and Daphne, or at least cut back the level of commitment. A week didn’t feel like long enough for him to decide to give up everything for her.

    Stumbled over:

    Nita being so drunk. I think it’d still work if she’d only had a couple of hot toddies and was less drunk.

    The reference to Rab and Jeo being his best team doesn’t work for me. Rab’s talkative naivity is fun, but it doesn’t read like “best team”, and I think you could cut it back a little. Rab sounds a lot more competent later.

    Two agents disappeared, and Jeo and Rab have been there a week without finding anything out. I think I needed a reminder there that a week of earth time is only 17 hours of Hell time. Otherwise I’m wondering why Nick left them there a whole week.

    It feels a bit odd to have Nick thinking about Mr Praxis being a demon without any emotional reaction. At that point, is he comfortable with the island being full of demons who were born there?

    Dead demons disappearing and everyone being surprised. Have no demons ever died on the island before?

    The stupidity of Ashtaroth and Mammon. Though I suppose they’re blinded by their prejudice against Nick.

    The pacing changes a lot. Some of the talk scenes have a lot of talk (which I love) and then there’s really fast-paced action scenes (which I also love). But the changes jarred me a bit

  46. Thank you for posting this – I love reading anything you write plus it’s a great lesson on the process of drafting a book.

    I think however you end up cutting it – the book is going to turn out great.

    Also, tried to skim through a lot of the comments, hope I’m not repeating same stuff.

    As great as it was, if you wanted to get to turning point quicker – I feel like scene 1 and 2 can either be shortened or pretty much go. In general, there is just so much exposition in the first act – it feels a bit forced. Because you use a lot of adjectives, it’s tricky to figure out which description to latch on to.

    Having read all your books, the first scene that stood out for me as having crunch was the breakfast scene – characters have chemistry, not just main but supporting.

    Small, and most likely unpopular, pet peeve – Nita as a character is all over the place – is she cutesie with her pjs, is she irresponsible by being an alcoholic, is she rash, does she sleep around a lot, is she smart, is she into weird or is she ignorant – like why does no one react as expected to demons and random man saying he’s the devil? What kind of police academy did she go to that it’s not in the training to consult a clinical psychiatrist?

    Also, I found your description of black characters and Jeo a little jarring. Don’t quite know why, it didn’t feel organic within the text to throw the identity markers.

    And this book reads so much like a screenplay. Kind of cool.

    Really great job though. I love how your take on mythology is so fresh. And the second part of Act 1 really picked up speed- can’t wait to read the whole thing!

    Thanks for indulging me in reading this. Please disregard 😁

  47. When I read it at first, I didn’t catch that the helmet hair/eyebrow thing was in there twice. In Part 1 when Button tells Nita she doesn’t pull off “cute”, that’s funny. But, in Part 3 when she’s just giving Nita a makeover in her mind to make herself more comfortable with Nita, it’s disturbing.

  48. To add to my prior comments:

    The only other thing that I want to mention is that I was confused as to whether mammon and max went with max when they left with Nita and nick for the head-in-box scene or not. Did you used to have wording about max staying with Jeo and Rab that is now gone? I don’t remember being confused before

    Overall act 1 doesn’t seem too long to me.

  49. I may do this in stages since I am reading this at the end of work while waiting for something to load.

    I feel like it is taking a really long time to dredge through Nina’s pajamas, bad doughnut drunk, whether or not she will get out of the car, etc. At about this point (“Jason and Mort began to argue, and Nita’s head began to pound. This is a bad place for me to be. I should leave.”) I’m thinking, GET OUT OF THE CAR AND MOVE ON WITH THE PLOT.

    1. After reading part 2: in all honesty, Nina’s drunk behavior is still making me drag through reading it. It feels way too long.

        1. Act 4: I’m not sure what to make of this. I did just finish a book where I was all “spit it out, we know vampires are involved” for seven chapters, but at the same time this goes immediately to “believe the impossible” and I dunno why that’s going so fast?

          1. Act 5 is trying to sell me on a romantic vibe between the two of them that everyone else is seeing but Nick and Nina don’t actually seem to feel–so where is this vibe coming from? The words “not yet” come to mind even though I know it’s a romance novel and has to be.

            I love this line: “At least he’d gotten the weird stuff out of the way early. ”

            I know the island is demon obsessed, but I’m not clear if that’s just marketing or if the general population is well aware that there are demons and are used to the idea or not.

  50. I found myself skimming in Part 1 and reading in Part 2. Part 2 felt like Authentic Crusie, Part 1 felt a bit… unfocused? unpolished? I’m not exactly sure why I was less taken with it. There were, to me, some odd turns of phase, or extra wordiness. For example, I was clear who was her brother and who was Jimmy without Nita describing Mort as the “non-yelling one” I liked Nita pointing with her coffee cup, but I didn’t need her to say that they were across the street from a bar called…

    I liked the poodles on the PJs and the Hoodie to hide them, but the socks took me out of the story. I like the coffee, but I felt like we were told too many times that Nita was drunk. I’m good with the reference to the movie Aliens, but the Alf bit seemed extraneous and I am of an age to get the nod. I wanted the plot to move a bit faster.

    I was having trouble figuring out the dyanmics of the Button/Nita partnership.

    The Hotels threw me. I think it clever, but maybe we need to hear the names Astoria and Waldorf first to “get it”. I didn’t recognize Stadler as a hotel.

    The dialog in Part 1 seemed forced, but not in Part 2.

    I was taken out of the story when Nick referred to Belia as Be because I read that as the word Be, and the sentence no longer made sense.

    I will be interested to see the next version.

    1. I agree we were told too many times that Nita was drunk. By the third time around it was, enough already, I get it: she’s drunk.

  51. Yay, I knew I was saving my fresh eyes for something. What a treat!


      Welcome to the island.”
    “Thank you,” Detective Button said, her voice flat. 
    “I thought it was going to be like Alf,” her big sister Keres had told their mother when little Nita had finally stopped screaming. She shoved the memory away and said,
     Talk amongst yourselves while I think about throwing up in the street.  Or maybe peeing.  I’ve had a lot of coffee.”  She looked at the cup in her hand and gave it back to Button.
    “So there’s a guy in the bar who Vinnie says is the Devil,
    I misread it as “there’s a guy in the bar who says Vinnie is the Devil.” Can you say “So Vinnie says there’s a guy in the bar who’s the Devil.”?
    “Thank you, Waldorf,” Vinnie said, looking wobbly again.  
    “I skinned my knee once,” the woman said.
    “You fell down after he helped you out the door,” Statler said, looking sternly at her.  “Don’t you put that on Jimmy.”
    “That’s fair,” she said.
    Button’s mental makeover of Nita’s appearance could probably go, as well as some of the Dodd/Nita self-correction. I like that she has a different POV from Nita, but it’s not absolutely necessary
    Call to Belia & her scene: amusing, but can you trim these?
    Why does she call Jeo Cho? I was excited to see some Asian guys, and up to three black people, but not as stoked that Jeo’s the only one where she can’t get his name right.
    Is it possible to get a book at a local bookstore instead of Amazon? Just asking. Another opportunity to name a business, if you haven’t already.
    “I’m going to throw up now,” she told Mort, put Joyce on the floor, and left him to explain everything to Frank and the others.
    Weak ending for this part.

    I will say that the opening scene seems the weakest, because it’s darn hard to put all the world-building information in, introduce all the characters, point out the murder, etc., but it’s still done well. And please keep the Bad Ass socks, with the comment about body shaming. Hilarious. I may also be jaded because I’ve read that one repeatedly.

    Basically, I would keep everything. I’m rooting for the good guys, there’s zing between Nita and Nick, the world-building is fun, I’m enjoying meeting all the people, and I believe entertaining the reader trumps rules about a certain number of words per part. Congrats!

  52. Part 1 Usually I have an immediate connection, which I was not getting until I reread it starting with “Detective Dodd, this is not our case,” Button said, with admirable focus.” From then on I was good and I did not need any of the information in the paragraphs prior to that for me to be in the flow. I also did not see the point of the Hotels. The dialogue was clever but pulled me away from the story.

    There seemed to be a lot of repetition is describing people. About the third time Nick tried to figure out who Nita looked like, it jumped out at me. It may have been more than three times – or less. For some reason it felt repetitive.

  53. I’m still making my way through the draft. Please leave it up for a few more days. One immediate problem I notice is that there are many places where a space is missing.

    1. How big is Demon Island that the police force has both captain(s) and a chief? I was getting more small town vibe.
      “Buttons had had exemplary careers in law enforcement for three centuries, but not because they played politics. They solved crimes. They arrested lawbreakers. ”
      Delete: “They shot the worst of humanity down like the rats they were. ” (I hate this line. It makes me hate Chloe. I have hard enough time with her violent record and her personality, but this is just so over the top. If I were reading this with no background, I would assume Chloe was one of the bad guys.) Then Chloe goes on to say that the people shot were guilty, but cops don’t find people guilty a judge does. She should say she was trying she caught them in the act of committing a crime. (Do we eventually find out more about this? I assume we do, but if her shootings back into the story, then I would flesh them out a bit more. They were all violent offenders, etc. I also assume her prior shootings are relevant to the story or I’d suggest eliminating them.)

      This paragraph:”The mildewed nightmare of a kitchen, the first room inside the door, was almost completely gone except for a battered table and a stool that was worse than the ones downstairs. He looked through the door to the right and saw the bedroom in back was gutted and empty, too, and a glance into the bathroom showed the walls were also down to the brick and the studs, although the sink, toilet and shower head were still there. He went back into the kitchen where, through the wide archway into the empty front room, he could see more bare brick and the large multi-paned bay window on the street, now washed so that the dim light from the streetlamps no longer filtered through decades of grime. It was all bare and spare and clean and quiet, smelling of vinegar and soap and wood smoke from the small fire in the old fireplace.
      It’s a lot of detail. I think a more pared down version saying the same things could be just as effective.

      If Button’s shot three people in 2 years and never killed anyone, shouldn’t she be a little more freaked out that the guy is dead? It’s suspicious. Also why didn’t she try to wing him, especially as he’s acting weird with the nothing personal comment? She may need to talk him. Instead she goes for the kill shot. Is she a villain? She could in league with the bad guys and shot the demon to keep him from talking?

      I’m a slow reader by nature. Maybe I’m not the person to be critiquing it.

      1. Actually the cops shooting to kill is pretty much standard modern police policy. They are taught if the guy is dead, he can’t shoot back. This is why the number of killings by police is up. And if the guy is unarmed or innocent, it is too bad. But Chloe is actually behaving like she was probably trained to react. I have a friend who was a metro counselor who related a conversation she had with a police chief where she thanked him, after a police shooting/wounding for his patrolman not killing anyone on her watch, and the police chief explained that the patrolman was supposed to shoot to kill.

        1. That explains her reaction to the shooting. I still think deleting the line about shooting people like rats is a good idea. Calling people rats may sound bigotted to certain people.

  54. I’ve been reading your books and laughing at the humor since forever. That said, you keep telling us about Nita and who she is without showing us. Get Rid of her socks, also and this is so weird, Whole I haves loved hearing what your other heroines think it’s not doing it for me with Nita. It slows the action. I feel terrible saying this. Sorry.

  55. • I’ve read six versions of scene one, so I’m not coming into this with an uncluttered mind. I remember that people said the last draft [?] was better than the one before, and I remember agreeing. But now, reading this draft comparing it only to memory, it seems softer, fuzzier, longer. Nita doesn’t feel like she has the hard edge she used to have, especially in the first scene or two. This may just be me and too much familiarity with the imaginary Nita in my head.
    • I agree with whoever said “drop the hotels.” And the socks. And to me it’s overkill when Nick shows his skull to Vinnie. Aren’t the green guys and the smitten bear enough? Actually I want to discover the skull when Nita does. Sorry, sorry, that’s way too specific, and you’re the author, not me!
    • Too much emphasis on Nita’s drunkenness. Was there that much in earlier versions? Was there so much peppermint before?
    • Too much blocky incluing. “Hell Bar, a once great … home of the world-semi-famous ….” “I’m here to fine an illegal hellgate … two agents … …” [Oh, I just noticed, that last one gets done later and better.] Can it be broken up and revealed in pieces? I know you have a huge amount of necessary information to give the reader.
    • I got bored with Belia’s phone call, and the Belia and Max scene.
    • I got bored with Button’s thinking in the car. I always get bored with descriptions of people, like Button’s evaluation of Nita. But please keep the “human air conditioner.” The Button/Nita discussion in the car and driving to Nita’s house seems long. But please keep Chloe’s history of gun violence.
    • The Nick/Jeo/Rab conversation in the apartment upstairs is good. Better incluing than the earlier stuff.
    • Keep the breakfast scene. It’s all good.
    • The Mayor needs to know what time it is in Hell now, to calculate when it will be midnight.
    • Nick/Mayor, Chloe/Captain, Nick/Vinnie, Nita/Captain conversations all seem slow, especially Nick/Vinnie.
    • Keep Lily’s italics.
    • The confrontation in Hell, finding the head, confrontation with Richiel, it’s all good. Keep it.

  56. The scene that’s stuck with me through all the drafts has been the food interaction between Nita and Nick at the diner. So it’s my keeper.

    Here’s a few words you could cut: “Eggs over easy. Bacon. Whole-wheat toast. French toast. Syrup. Ice water. Orange juice. Hot tea.”

    All the food is described during the meal. No need to list it as it’s put on the table, especially since it’s a standing order. And it just made me hungry again.

    1. I always want breakfast after reading that scene. Especially french toast with powdered sugar and lots of syrup sloshed on it.

  57. Also struggling a little with Part One, again possibly because I’ve read every draft. I’m not sure that the dialogue flows naturally, and there’s a lot of info breaking it up. I love moderately hostile, and that we get to meet Mort, and the PJs and that Nita doesn’t get angry. I don’t need Frank. I’m not sure why Button’s focus is admirable – and she’s they’re sitting in a car having been called to a crime scene, but Button is saying ‘not our case, let’s go home’ – that seems weird? But I know nothing of police procedure. It takes her a while to explain the drive away, you’re drink and wearing PJs, it’s a bad look. Also, Nita keeps referring to being drunk, but I can’t see her acting it.

    Once we get into the bar, I love it and every part there on. And Nita actually is acting tipsy, and it’s funny and light and fast and then just keeps moving.

    I like the hotels – they add character. And I like Joyce, but not as a MUST.

    Nick looking like the kind of guy who would do his own killing is great.

    Please don’t lose breakfast, it feels warm and cosy and lovely, a perfect foil for the conversation and the dark and cold of the night before. Although there are a lot of interruptions.

  58. Love the dialogue, love especially how Nita, Nick, Chloe, Jeo, even Rab and maybe Max(?) absorb and react to new realities unfolding in their formerly calm lives. Love the quirky less-changing characters too (the historical ladies, the mayor, Mort, etc.) Is that world-building? It’s pretty fun and rich.

    My only hitch was the stabbing of Nick in the diner. I’d’ve thought that the Demon Firsters would have known after the bar shooting that they couldn’t kill Nick. Overall, there’s an awful lot of attempted/actual killing going on in a pretty short period of time. But–#1 I’m willing to trust it maybe become important later on, and #2 I have to allow that maybe Demon Firsters may be as dumb as America Firsters.

    Subconsciously I guess I’m drawing parallels between Demon Island and the state of our own land. I sure wish Nancy Pelosi had the power to smite.

  59. Thanks for the opportunity to read this. I really enjoyed it.

    Things to keep: Just about everything, but my favorites are: (1) The world building. I really felt I was in the town as Nick was walking down Good Intentions Avenue in Part Six and describing the scenery and store names. (2) The scenes in Hell. They were active and in the moment and had great story. (3) The diversity. (4) The subtle changes in Nick as he becomes more human.

    Things that I skimmed: (1) The scene in Part 6 where Nita goes back to the bar and talks with Vinnie. (2) The scene in Part 6 where Nita goes to the diner and historical society and talks with Praxis and Chrome. (3) The scenes in Part 5 between Nita and her boss, and Chloe and her boss. (4) The breakfast scene in Part 4 starting where Dom arrives up to where Mort arrives.

    Things that threw me out of the story: (1) The scene in the bar in Part 7 where Mammon says everyone knows Nick won’t smite living beings, and again in Part 7 where Rich says the same thing. But in the prior scenes in Hell, I got the impression Max and Mammon thought Nick would kill them. Rab makes a big deal out of Nick’s smiting, too. The contradiction there threw me out of the story when it came to the showdown between Nick and Rich. And I got confused when Nick says he’ll end Rich when he becomes the Devil because of Forcas, but he won’t smite living things while he’s the Devil’s fixer. (2) The references in the Hell scenes to ‘very large brain’ and beer were funny, but took me out of the story.

    Other thoughts: (1) The actual smiting of Rich felt a little anticlimactic to me. I think it’s because I’d seen Nick smite the teddy bear, so I knew what to expect. I kind of wanted to see Nita’s description of the in-the-moment smiting, since it was new to her. (2) Regarding the first scene in Part 1, I enjoyed it, and it drew me into the story. Just a thought: is the first scene in the car the place where the trouble starts for Nita? (3) I love this story.

  60. To start with, thanks for sharing your drafts as you’ve been working through this book. It has been great fun seeing them evolve and getting to watch the process.


    – The opening scene in the car didn’t feel as sharp/engaging as previous versions. I still love the “didn’t I just drink this” bit with the three cups of coffee. The anger/mother bit felt skippable, or at least something that I didn’t need to know right then and I wondered if Jason really needed to join them in the car or if their interaction could wait.

    – The comment on the socks, was amusing and a good foil for Button and her insistence on focus, but maybe not critical.

    – In the bar scene the interactions with the Hotels, after establishing that they are there in the beginning (and I didn’t recognize Statler as a hotel), felt extraneous. I was actually surprised they were still there when Nita passed out. What is it that we need to know about them – at that point – other than that they exist?

    – I love the interactions with Rab and Jeo (and I also appreciate the name change so that I can more easily tell them apart).

    – Does the call between Nick and Belia need to happen right then? It kind of interrupted the flow as I was reading and felt like it was just imparting information, although I did love “Demon Firsters, the Haters of Hell. And then there was Beelzebub, the Crazy Racist Uncle of the Afterlife.”

    – The CGI/uncanny valley bit was a little distracting, what with Nita saying something and then Rab explaining/translating it to Nick.

    – I enjoyed the food bit in the diner scene and Sandy’s “Oh, thank god. It really hurt me giving you those egg white omelets” comment.

    – I really loved the scene when Nick gets sucked up through the hellgate to the Devil’s Gallery – the image of the beer-drinking Beelzebub cracked me up, as did Mammon and his “I have an idea. Hold my beer” look.

    – Mostly I was caught up in the story as I read. Nothing really jumped out as “well this bit can go,” which is great for me, but not so good for you and your word-cutting need.


    – Is it unusual for Nita to drink? I know she says the toddies in the beginning she were because of the bad doughnut, but she mentions wanting a drink when they’re up on the hill with the ranger, so I wondered if that was in character or just a response to all of the crazy that is going on.

    – There is a lot going on in the beginning scenes. Could the part about Jeo wanting to date happen later, as well as the interaction in the diner with Dom from the newspaper?

    – What’s the purpose of the scene between Chloe and the Captain other than the Captain making sure Chloe was taking notes as she had asked and as a counterpoint to the later scene between Nita and the Captain?

    – Nita keeps saying Nick is “not real” in the bar. Since she doesn’t believe he’s the devil yet, what is it that she thinks he is?

    Hope this is somewhat helpful.

  61. Part Five

    The first scene with Chloe feels like filler, I think because it is missing any JC dialogue which I love.

    “Nick left the diner carrying the large to-go cup of juice that Daphne had shoved at him as he’d paid for two breakfasts…” Did she give it to him as a gift or did he buy it? She doesn’t like him, so I don’t see gift as an option, but that’s kind of the way I read this line.

    The boys were hard at work cleaning up the mess from gutting the downstairs when Nick walked in, so “he kept going to the bar where Vinnie was pouring himself some breakfast.” Where exactly are the boys? Is downstairs where the bar is? Or are they in a basement we haven’t been in yet?

    “But in all fairness, if he hadn’t shown up, Jimmy wouldn’t have died, and Vinnie’s bar wouldn’t have been taken over by two energetic young demons who had just gutted it down to the brick.
    “It’ll be okay, Vinnie,” Nick said, and when that didn’t seem enough, he called Rab over from where he’d been opening Ikea boxes. “Do something good for Vinnie, will you?”” Again – where are Rab and Jeo? Are they in the same space as Nick and Vinnie?

    “Nita ran into the Municipal Building and waving her thanks for the heads-up to Sue at the station desk as she started up the stairs.” Admittedly I am reading these parts far apart, I had to scroll back to find what heads-up Sue had given Nita.

  62. Part Six

    When Nita is talking to Vinnie, are they completely alone in the bar? Maybe this is a good scene to intro the Hotels?

    Why do we need to know the name of the person who delivers the IKEA stuff? There’s a bit of wordage devoted to that scattered throughout this scene.

    Why would she call Mort to get a search warrant for Forcas’s room? Can Medical Examiners issue warrants? Also, does he have enough time to get a warrant and get to the Motel to find out anything in the time it took her to try and pick up Mort’s birthday present and talk to Mr. Crome?

    “Nick had gone back to Inn Fernal, a storybook cottage he was pretty sure had a story he needed to hear, where a petite but hostile Phronie Fernal stood in her back doorway next to the Free Clinic sign and refused to let him in.” Again, I am reading these parts quite far apart, but when was Nick at Inn Fernal if he goes back to it? Also – what does a Free Clinic sign have to do with a B&B?

    I am confused by the timeline. If Nita is following Nick it seems odd that there is a flashback in his scene to Inn Fernal and Motel Styx. Then, in his scene with Mr. Crome, it seems that Nita got there first, or Crome wouldn’t be getting ready to leave. So Nita can’t be following Nick – she’s going to places in whatever order seems right to her, but the overlap makes me a little dizzy. Also, wouldn’t at least one of the people that Nick talks to mention that Nita was looking for him?

  63. Parts Seven and Eight

    “Nita stepped forward, but a stranger cleared the rise, dressed in a ranger’s uniform.” We’re in Nick’s POV, so if he’s a stranger, how does Nick know his name?

    That’s my only specific comment on these parts. I love how Nick chooses Nita over knowledge, and how Nita accepts what’s been staring her in the face. “Give me a minute” kills me everytime. 🙂

  64. Just read Part One and haven’t checked other comments. My feeling is that more material is needed, not less. I didn’t skim because I was running to keep up. Everything mattered.

    Also, there is too little description of place for my taste. I knew where I was mostly because of which characters were present. For instance, the Hotels are Vinnie’s bar. The police station is where the cops meet.

    Finally, I didn’t feel the effects and the characters’ reactions to strange circumstances. The most extreme example of this is the head in the box. I didn’t get an image of it, especially when it smashes through the car.

    All that’s needed is more description. I think you are writing a new kind of book: a Crusie epic. You know how you started with Harlequin short romances? Then you developed a longer, fuller style with books like Faking It? I think your new style moves to a world. I can’t wait to read more!

  65. Continued….Act 6:
    * I love the business names so much.
    * Nita 100% buys into what Nick is, but not the other guys being demons?

    1. Act 7:

      * “She tried to kill me,” Satan said, gathering his thoughts as he sat down again.

      “So of course you had sex with her,”


      * I am interested in this whole demon colony plotline now.
      * So NOW Nita is convinced of demons?
      * “You’re Nick Giordano,” Richiel said, ignoring Nita now as he unsnapped his holster and took out his gun. “Heard about you.” Just got Welcome to Temptation deja vu there.

  66. I’ve not read most of the other responses here. Hopefully, this isn’t too late or redundant and will be helpful and you’ll see it.

    I have read most of the other versions with the exception of the first one with the Hotels. It was quite interesting to read this version and see the changes. I truly hope and pray you are able to finish this book and get it published. It is always a challenge to read just so far and then when I want to go and pick up the book to see what happens next, there is no next to continue with.

    General thoughts/observations:
    – the car scene in part 1 seemed 1 section too long. Could be due to familiarity, but I was like, “ugh, get on with it and move already” by the end of the scene.

    – part 1 – Nita felt the cold like a shovel. Huh?

    – When Jeo and Rab enter the bar I got confused by the descriptions. “the taller one said” You only mention the height of the Asian. The Nordic guy didn’t have a height mentioned, but I’m assuming Nordic is taller than Asian and thus the Nordic guy is the taller one. So, I thought the blond, Nordic guy was Jeo because Nick said thank you to the taller one. But then Nick turns to the blond which is when I got confused because he was just talking to the blond. So, I stop to puzzle out which guy is taller and which one is Jeo vs Rab. I think I figured it out that Jeo is the tall Asian and Rab is the shorter, stocky (which was probably meant to convey short not husky) Nordic dude.

    – I liked how you fit in the explanation of a cthulhu.

    – I’m still not appreciating the “no there there.” It did help to have Button do it too with Lily.

    – It seemed odd that after telling herself over and over in the car, “must sober up” that Nita fixes herself a drink, while working. However, I do get that when I’ve had a bit of alcohol, I will drink more of it even knowing I don’t need it because I like how I’m feeling and want to perpetuate that. People make bad choices when drunk. Doesn’t do much to inspire confidence in our protagonist.
    – Also, Vinnie is there when she makes the drink. I’m wondering why he doesn’t protest her going behind the bar and making herself a drink.
    – In the bar while making her drink, Nita “flip back her silky dark hair” – this threw me out because the description when she walked into the bar was that it was cut beneath her ears and with bangs. So, what hair is she flipping? For me, a flip of the hair is over the shoulder and so this seems impossible.
    – How much water can she fit into that tea cup/mug? The first pouring of water I thought she filled it. Then after adding honey, she poured more in adding a “scant cup”, and she added even more after the scupper. That’s too much water.

    – Nick seems less likeable/charming.

    – In part 3, Nick was telling people he’s the devil. Actually, I saw multiple references to people commenting/questioning why Nick is telling people he’s the devil. However, the scene was rewritten so that Nick protests that he’s the devil at least until midnight hell time. I think they are just spots that need cleaning up.

    – When Nick is looking at the gutted apartment for the first time, there’s a shower head but no mention of a tub or something to catch the water if the showerhead is turned on. Also, the kitchen/front room layout was a bit confusing.

    – Part 7 – top of the page, What is Diyuday? I’m guessing it’s like Tuesday but the name used in hell for that day.

    Upon reflection: this morning, reflecting on the text after reading it last night, I had two thoughts…

    – In part 5: When Nick talks to Vinnie about seeing a necromancer, Nick sighed over the Elysian Fields and then tells himself to stick to generic terms with Vinnie. I combined the two in my head and took it to mean that Nick thought Vinnie was stupid/slow and that was frustrating. Which isn’t what is actually written there and Nick isn’t supposed to be feeling things yet, like frustration, except, he kind of was. So, I started wondering if a reader didn’t know what a necromancer was, would the comment make them feel stupid.

    – A big part of the whole plot is that Nick doesn’t have feelings because he’s dead. However, in this version, it is pointed out that his soul is in his skeleton. For me, emotions would go with a person’s soul or spirit and not with my physical body. So, I’m left pondering, why wouldn’t Nick have feelings. I have a vague recollection that this was discussed more than a year ago on an older post.

    Typos/missing words: Not sure this is helpful, but here is actual text that was in Act 1 that should be fixed. I didn’t write all of them down.
    “find out them”
    “it’s to the rest of wrong stuff”
    “based on it anything”


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