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First Page: Well of Souls, Site of the First Temple...

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Present Time

Beliel rocked back, the bare skin of his feet sinking into the burning sand, flesh recoiling from the stinging pain. He closed his eyes, letting the human’s discomfort wash over him. Ah, he so enjoyed the bitter taste of their pain.

Shoving downward, he wriggled his feet deeper until the scorching granules covered the toes. Indeed, he welcomed their discomfort. So much the better when he shared their agony even as he occupied their bodies. As he did now.

He snatched the wide-brimmed hat from his head and passed a neck cloth across his brow. The moisture saturating his hair and skin should have been cool after being exposed to the slight breeze wafting across the barren desert landscape. It was not. Still. More discomfort for the human. The high heat was nothing compared to the boiling temperatures of Hell. Home.

His grit-covered, sun-baked lips spread into a thin-lipped smile. While he embraced his host’s agony, he had another reason to feel pleasure. After centuries of searching, he finally found the Vessel. How many of these fragile human bodies had he possessed over the centuries? How many times had he come so close he could taste success yet be thwarted by human weakness? Human frailty. Human uselessness.

Not this time. By chance or fate he’d encountered, and acquired, the human whose body he now occupied. One experienced in finding lost objects. Ancient objects. Of the kind the workers labored to pull from the sand-scoured Well of Souls.

"Bring it to me!" he called. His voice rasped with excitement.

From under lowered eyelids, he watched the workers’ slow progress. The four men, their faces broiled dark brown by constant exposure to the desert’s harsh environment, struggled up the dune’s steep incline. Between them, on a tattered oak plank, they carried the Vessel. The bronze jar of King Solomon. A thing more precious than life.

Beliel moved closer to the edge, his unblinking gaze intent on the tableau below. If not for the magic associated with the Vessel, he’d have retrieved it himself. As it was, he had no choice but to rely on these contemptible humans. Their sandaled feet slipped on sand and pebbles, sending debris plunging back into the recently excavated hole. One of the men fell to his knee. The bronze jar tilted precariously, rocking on the oak plank.

"Careful, you idiots," Beliel hissed. He curled his fingers. Nails bit deep into his palms.

Recovering his balance, the human male righted and the four continued their mincing shuffle. At the top, within a few feet of where he stood, they stopped and set the Vessel before him. Panting breaths broke the early morning hush.

Beliel leaned toward the Vessel. His pulse quickened. The arcane prison rested on a fan-shaped base and sat about one meter in height. Mystical sigils and wedge-shaped patterns were etched into the still bright metal. Scriptures that sealed in the seventy-two spirits captured inside. Powerful writing and glyphs to prevent against exactly what he intended to do.

Free them.

Moisture deprived eyes drank in the sight. He reached out, his fingers hovering over the Vessel. The impulse to caress the sand polished exterior, to smooth fingers over the sharp-edged sigils, threatened to suck the strength from his legs.

Despite the several inches of space between his fingers and the metal, the burn of the protective sigils seared tender flesh as if the heat was desperate to burrow into the demon within. Skin sizzled, the tissue bubbling and splitting. Clear fluids splattered, hissing and evaporating as they hit the Vessel’s surface. While the human whose body he purloined would have jerked his hand back, Beliel dropped his arm closer. This time, the skin baked until it hardened, became leather-like in appearance. God’s protection, traveling from the hand up the soft flesh underside. He closed his eyes, letting the sweet misery of the aware human host wash over him.

***

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17 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 04:29:48

    Generally,this grabbed my interest pretty well. I’d keep reading, and possibly buy it.

    Specifically, I found it just a tad too overdescribed, and the abundance of short sentences became a little tiresome. If the whole novel was in that style, it would put me off. I’d advise to tail off some of the description after the first two or three paras, make it tighter. For instance:
    “His grit-covered, sun-baked lips spread into a thin-lipped smile. While he embraced his host's agony, he had another reason to feel pleasure. After centuries of searching, he finally found the Vessel.”
    Could omit the entire second sentence and not lose the effect.

    I don’t want to do a line by line, but that’s the kind of edit you could consider doing to up the pace just a wee bit. It’s more a case of fine-tuning some decent writing, than wholesale rewriting of sucky prose though. Good luck with it.

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  2. Leah
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 07:30:03

    I like it too (as a reader), and I’m not usually into paranormal. If I found it in a bookstore, I would be very curious to know where the story is going. I also found it to be just a tad wordy, but I expect you’ll find it an easy fix. Best of luck to you!

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  3. Maya Reynolds
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 08:34:02

    I agree with Ann and Leah. I’m interested and would read on. You’ve got a good beginning. You get right into the story without a lot of explanation. However, you’re way too repetitive. You mentioned the demon’s pleasure in his host’s agony five times in one page. That’s overkill. Twice, maybe three times, if you do it subtly. But five is too much.

    Best of luck with this.

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  4. Carrie Lofty
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 08:44:10

    Enjoyed this. Seems fairly original. You put foward a lot of intrigue straight away, and I love the evocative descriptions. I’d keep reading.

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  5. carolyn Jean
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 09:21:48

    I think this sounds really fun and I’d read on. I agree with others that it is a bit wordy and overdescribed. I agree also that you have a lot of redundancy, and that may be what people are responding to. Like, when I first read about Beliel’s enjoyment of his host’s pain, I found that amusing and interesting, but then I feel I’m being hit over the head with it. You could tighten the skin burning, too. All the extra description dilutes the power you have created. As an exercise, I’d suggest cutting this down by a third, choosing the best of the best, and then this opening would rock. But don’t lose the lowered eyelids. I loved that! Oh, I didn’t get the “God’s protection” thing. But a really nice job!

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  6. K. Z. Snow
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 09:54:15

    I’m intrigued by this, definitely. Also agree it could benefit from some tightening — descriptions get thick in places, making them a little annoying to wade through.

    As an editor, I’d have fun working on this piece; it’s very gratifying to put a polish on prose that has so much promise.

    Very nice. Best of luck!

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  7. Sarabeth
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 10:03:18

    This isn’t my type of book I usually enjoy, yet it captured my attention. I concur on tightening up the descriptions.

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  8. Jill Sorenson
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 10:51:06

    This reminds me of the “Unconventional Urban Fantasy” first page from a few months ago. Maybe because they both start from a villain’s POV? I’d be interested to know if the two entries are from the same author. If so, it takes guts to submit not just once but twice.

    The writing is good and I like the vivid descriptions. Best of luck with this.

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  9. Erastes
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 11:02:05

    One of the best snippets we’ve had yet. I’d definitely read on.

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  10. Libby
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 11:25:09

    Loved it! I see what people are saying about tightening the descriptions, but he obviously has a love/hate relationship with his new bodily functions, so I’d have to say that if it were me in his uh, sandals, I would take great notice of them as well. I also liked the voice quite a bit, so if it were me, I’d keep it as is. It’s perfect for the character.

    Let us know when this is on the shelves! I’d definitely buy it :)

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  11. Tori
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 12:06:08

    This is very good! I agree with what others said, that it’s a little repetative, especially about enjoying the pain he causes the host. I also agree with Ann that it might be a little too descriptive, but the descriptions you have are interesting enough that it didn’t bother me too much. Overall, this is probably the best first page I’ve read on this site. I could definitely see this as a book I’d pick up in a store.

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  12. Jessica Barksdale Inclan
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 12:40:16

    I liked this in many ways. It was creepy and scary, and the bad guy is a bad guy. Bad guys are hard to write, at least I find they are. They always come across as the devil (and with a name like Beliel, I would assume he’s a demon or some kind of fallen angel). But right now, in introduction mode, I’d read on to find his depth. And I want to know who will fall prey to his further badness.

    I stopped at this sentence as each noun got its one-two punch:

    His grit-covered, sun-baked lips spread into a thin-lipped smile.

    Someone mentioned it above, but my thought would be to describe without the adjective ladden line and maybe work in the second line.

    Good luck with this!

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  13. Bev Stephans
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 13:37:20

    I agree with Erastes. It definitely is one of the best so far.

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  14. katieM
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 22:09:37

    I really liked this one. The wordiness didn’t bother me. But, this was a short excerpt. Maybe after 50 or so pages, it would begin to be tedious. I want to know when this hits shelves!

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  15. SonomaLass
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 19:31:18

    I found this excerpt intriguing, and I would definitely read on. Yes, the descriptions need to be tightened up a little, and some repetitive/redundant language taken out, but I agree with K.Z. that this piece would be fun to edit. Cutting it down without losing the character’s unique voice would be an enjoyable challenge.

    Someday I hope we see this book reviewed here at DA, with the note that it was a Query Saturday feature and a link back to this discussion!

    Best of luck.

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  16. Gail Dayton
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 15:28:03

    His grit-covered, sun-baked lips spread into a thin-lipped smile.

    I know, I’m late, but I usually don’t make it here before Monday. Anyway, I kind of like this sentence. I like that smack-smack, whipcrack feel of the one-two punchy stuff. It fits the voice, IMO.

    I do agree with the multiple repetitions of the enjoying of the host’s pain–a bit too much. Easy to tone down. I wouldn’t smooth it out too much, because it fits the voice. I honestly got caught up in what was going on and didn’t notice the short sentences or much of anything else. And I don’t even LIKE reading bad guy POVs. This one caught me up.

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  17. Kim
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 16:50:19

    I love blog for so many reasons but you all have completely stoked me.

    I’m the author and the only other reading this received from you all was my query letter, which, thanks to you, has been revised. The revised letter has been pretty successful in getting me a full request with Kensington and several partial requests from agents. I wonder if I sent them this link with all your comments if it would help? :D

    No really, thank you all so much for the suggestions and especially the wonderful comments about how you liked it and would pick it up based on this first page.

    I always thought my sentences were too long! :D And, the redundancy – I’ll certainly work on that. Both suggestions were helpful.

    If you are interested in more, I will be posting some excerpts to my website – http://www.cassielknight.com

    Thanks again Dear Author readers! You’ve made my week!

    ReplyReply

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