Oh, I've done this with my writer's group a time or two (when I am able to get into town to be with them) - and I've emailed chapters and the full manuscript to friends of mine that I know will be gentle... but sometimes I think it is easier to submit my queries to agents for a form rejection than to accept specific criticism and have to (gasp!) learn from it.
With that said, when someone brought up the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest, I entered. My heart was pounding in my throat about a bajillion miles an hour. Not only am I opening up my 'secret' to judges, but also hundreds of other aspiring writers (I sometimes think writers are harder on other writers than anyone else!) who will have something to say about it. Then I took it a step further - I shared the link to my entry (which can be found here) on my Facebook profile.
I had completely forgotten that it was a little steamy there in my first chapter, and also forgotten who was on my Facebook list. The best response was in email, from my mother, who has never read the novel (my sister, on the other hand, is a voracious reader of any and all romance and has read mine lots), saying it was a bit "steamy" for her taste. I just find it slightly amusing that my sister and I are such sponges when it comes to romance, reading pretty much any and all stories that have an alpha hero and a HEA (Happily Ever After - something else I learned from Romance Divas!), my mother prefers not to read that stuff. My father, on the other hand, one must be careful with - he will pick up anything - ANYTHING, from Nicholas Sparks to Sherrilyn Kenyon, to read, and you won't see it ever again because it will likely end up in the head of their bed or under it.
Anyways, now my brain is even filled with ideas about Facebook pages for my authorhood (spellcheck says that is not a word, I insist that it is!), and a Twitter account, and other ways to spread the word that "Hey! I want to publish a novel, and HEY! I want you to validate that by being my fan on a networking site!". It's completely scarifying (scary+terrifying) to sit down and consider the possibility of opening myself up to the opinions of hundreds... maybe even THOUSANDS of people.
Anyways, without further ado - an excerpt from my 1st chapter for the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest. Again, you can read the full chapter here: No One Else by Amity Lassiter
Unable to resist himself a moment longer, Luc reached over and tweaked one of the dark curls tumbling down her back, tugging playfully at it like a naughty boy in grade school. He realized too late that it was a mistake, because as soon as he got close enough, he inhaled. Her hair smelled of caramel and more brown sugar. His mouth watered, imagining the taste of her under his tongue.
You have to be more careful, he chided himself, you're getting impulsive. Luc was a man who was successful because of his absolute control and unwavering confidence. He was not the rash sort, but wasn't it only moments ago that he imagined the smell of her hair and now he was smelling it? If he imagined the taste of her, he wasn't convinced that he wouldn't find himself leaning to just brush his lips across the tantalizing line of her stubborn jaw. And if he went that far, who knew where he would stop?
A deep-seated, and long dormant hunger in the pit of his belly yawned open, demanding to be fed.
This is silly, Luc thought as his fingers twisted in her curls. He could satisfy whatever craving it was that this simple serving girl had awakened with any number of women at any time. This was just a desire to fulfill the basest of needs. This behaviour was because he had been occupied with business for so long and wasn't thinking straight, and clarity was the most important thing to him right now. Unfortunately, it seemed, his thoughts would have no respite, or at least they hadn't since he'd first laid eyes on her.
Tristyn looked into his eyes as he leaned over her, her gaze unwavering. That stubborn chin tipped up as he got close enough now that she could draw in the clean, ocean smell of him mingling with the absolute and unfaltering scent of masculinity. It was no surprise to smell the ocean, but the underlying scent of him was like a pheromone.
She swallowed heavily, her eyes flitting away from his only a second to flutter to his lips, the strong curve that begged for her to close her lips around it. All he had to do was drop a couple of inches closer and he would close the contact, and Tristyn would not say no. She couldn't say no; her pulse raced with a throbbing yes. Her body tensed as his fingers wound themselves into the silken fall of her mahogany locks, in anticipation of his next movement, aching for it to be to her lips.
It did not end up quite as she had hoped, but was devilishly pleasing and intimate nonetheless. Luc dropped his lips toward the curve of her throat, stopping just millimeters from flesh. She could feel the erotic heat of his breath against her skin, warming it. His breath swept across her throat, over the column of her neck and to the sensitive spot just behind her ear, tickling as he went. Goose flesh rose on her arms involuntarily as she sat nearly frozen in place under his attentions.
She let out one heated breath that she couldn't hold a second longer, causing him to draw in a sharp breath in return, clearly aroused by the minuscule reaction that was a mere fraction of the desire stirring inside of her. Only a true man could cause this kind of reaction without even touching her skin.