I had some very encouraging feedback concerning Troubled_Waters. A friend, who's helped me with work in the past, spent two evenings on the phone with me going over his in depth notes. He read the most recent draft, though incompletely edited, so some of what he addressed I'd already dealt with. But you know what helped more than anything? The fact that he liked it and could point to his favorite scenes and say things like "this scene choked me up" and "this scene had me cheering". The action scenes worked, apart from some minor technicalities like the name of the weapons involved. Thank God for men who can throw phrases like "Berretta.580" around. The love scenes worked for him and--coming from that individual--that's a big compliment. I think he kind of considers himself an authority on love.
He did encourage me to make sure the reader knows how the MC feels about her male counterpart, even if the male doesn't. Also he felt that the male counterpart was too hesitant to act upon his reflexes. He's right about the MC. I'm already addressing that, but the male character's behavior is debatable. My husband is an excellent example of the kind of man who's willing to wait on the female in his life to figure out he's interested. And, yes, I prefer that approach.
The friend's most important comment was that the opening needed to be intensified. He feels that it starts too slowly and drags a bit while I'm setting up the plot. Once again, the opening scene haunts me. I've already reordered the second chapter and made sure the opening line zinged, but I've left the chat-log as the very first chapter (prologue is a dirty word) because it sets the tone for the entire book. Without it, there's no sense of direction. His advice was to write an actual murder scene as my first chapter. As I see it, the problem with that is that it gives away far too much and misdirects the reader. That by itself isn't bad as long as the first chapter is short, but it brings a third person omniscient pov into it that doesn't surface again and I have my doubts about that being a good idea. By the time I'd spoken with him, I'd tighten the chatlog, eliminating the opening small talk, and took the reader directly into what I hope is the chilling question, "What the hell happened?" Maybe that will be enough.
Now if Dennis Bryant's offer still holds, I'm sending it his way to share with a reading group he uses sometime this weekend.