Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

First Page: Bad Magic

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

When Regis was a child, his mother told him a fairytale about a man trapped in a tower, cursed by a sorceress and guarded by a dragon, waiting to be awoken by his true love. Regis, five years old and no fool, hadn’t believed a word.

Now, fifteen years later, he thought back to that tale.

He stood propped against a door, heart pounding. Outside the tower, the dragon shrieked, hopefully in triumph and not in fury — Regis was fairly sure the beast thought he was dead. He’d had managed to sneak past it into the tower, but only after being half-singed.

Regis wasn’t much for slaying things.

He took in his surroundings. Broken furniture and old blood decorated the floor. A single window lit the room; beneath it, bathed in light, was a bed. A man laid there, propped against the sill. One arm was extended, as if he were reaching for something outside. His legs were curled, as if he’d been about to jump and had instead collapsed.

Regis stepped forward, dust swirling beneath his boots. He knelt, then lay the sleeping man out on the bed.

He was younger than Regis had expected. He wore a pain leather tunic with a white shirt and belt, a sword and knife at his hip. He was handsome, in a rough kind of way, with the dark skin and fair hair of someone who spent too much time in the sun. Callused hands and hard muscle made it clear: this man was a warrior.

There was a scar across the side of his lips. Regis traced it with a curious fingertip. “Bet you had a pretty girl waiting for you somewhere,” Regis muttered. “Ah well. Here goes nothing…”

He clasped the amulet around his neck, then leaned down and pressed their lips together.

At first, nothing happened. Regis squeezed his eyes shut, then began to kiss for real, relaxing into it. The amulet grew hot in his grip. Regis inhaled through his nose, breathing in the scent of dust and old leather.

Then – the man’s lips parted, and he took a breath. Regis moved away. Beneath him, the man groaned, eyes fluttering.

‘Huh’, Regis thought. ‘It worked.’ He smiled.

The next moment, Regis found himself being slammed into the ground, a knife at his throat.

‘Well, shit,’ he thought.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Cara Ellison
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 06:49:54

    There are some grammar mistakes that were distracting, but over all it is well written. This isn’t my genre, but I think it is compelling enough to continue for a bit.

    Good luck with it.

  2. SAO
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 09:12:37

    There is a nice sense of conflict which shows up in the first para “Regis 5 yo and no fool, hadn’t believed a word.” This kind of thing kept me reading. And I like Regis.

    I was distracted by a number of minor writing issues, which had me re-reading for sense. When I read, “dark skin” I don’t think of an ethnicity that comes with fair hair. “He knelt, then lay the sleeping man. . .” made me think Regis knelt then lay (himself) on the bed. So the order of words was confusing and it should be ‘laid.’ You had a few other grammar issues, too.

    I would have liked a better sense of what Regis was doing and why he was risking death for this guy, whom he clearly knew little about.

    With a bit of clean-up on the writing, this would be a great start. I’m not into Dragons nor m/m, so it’s not for me, but other than that, I like it.

    Note, if this isn’t M/M, you need to make that clear on this page, which would mean letting us know why Regis was rescuing the guy.

  3. Loreen
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 10:02:37

    Good start. I am curious to read more world-building.
    Why wouldn’t the 5 year old believe a story about dragons and true love? 5 year olds are pretty gullible and this one lives in a world with dragons and magic amulets and mothers who tell M/M romance bedtime stories….
    I think you can slow this down just a little and build up suspense about the amulet. What does it look like? Where is it from? Give us some clues about why he is trying to wake this particular man. He must have some idea of who he is and why he should try to kiss him. I assume he doesn’t just go around kissing random unconscious people….

  4. pooks
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 10:52:05

    A couple of typos aside, this is a stellar start. I’m assuming it’s m/m which I don’t read, but you caught me up in the moment. Hook, line and sinker.

    Good job.

    PS Different strokes for different folks, but I wouldn’t slow this down at all. The entire situation is what hooked me. If you’d slowed it down with all kinds of background I probably wouldn’t have kept reading long enough to see what was going on. Start with character and action (which you did) and make us care enough to stick around for the background, when we’re dying to know more. Which you did.

  5. Lucy Woodhull
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 12:11:38

    Ha! Yes, this could use some polish. Get a good beta reader — one who understands subtle humor, though, so they don’t try and change you. But I love the voice and would absolutely read on, even though I don’t seek out M/M too often. Laid-back, funny Regis and the hot warrior he rescues are such a twist on the fairy tale that I can’t resist. When you sell this one, let us know where. Good luck!

    ETA: I agree with Pooks — your pace is good, and pace is everything, both for adventure stories and humor. It’s a standard fairy tale you’re playing on. We don’t need too much explanation.

  6. Marianne McA
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 12:26:00

    I liked it, and agree with pooks – I wouldn’t want it slowed down.

    Because we read the excerpt in isolation, I really didn’t like the last line: ‘Well, shit’ because, while it was funny, it dragged me right out of Fairy Land. Assuming that’s deliberate, I’d want to read a bit more, to know what the book is like after the fairy story start.
    However up to that point, I thought it was a fun idea, and something I’d be tempted to buy.

  7. The Romantic Scientist
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 15:14:04

    I like this twist on the classic fairytale–nicely done.

    A few grammar issues, which have already been pointed out.

    I don’t normally read in this genre, but your premise is intriguing and I would definitely pick this one up.

    Thanks for sharing, and best of luck!

  8. Pharmer
    Oct 13, 2012 @ 19:17:41

    Too much ‘Regis’. Use ‘he’ instead. (Read it aloud – it feels like being hit over the head with a Regis hammer.)
    Also – might be just me – but if someone is slammed to the ground with a knife at their throat, I would expect the wind to be knocked out of them. Pain? Surprise?
    “Well, shit.” seems unbelievable .

  9. Wahoo Suze
    Oct 14, 2012 @ 00:00:48

    Rock on! I really enjoyed it, and I’d keep reading. You do need a crit partner or editor (you will need an editor before publishing in any event) because grammar and you used laid when you should have used lay, and vice versa.

    But I totally want to keep reading.

  10. SM Johnson
    Oct 14, 2012 @ 11:27:04

    A couple grammar mistakes and a couple of awkward sentences, but otherwise a great start. This is right up my alley, and I definitely want to read more. I wouldn’t mind being a crit partner or beta reader for you!

  11. Nemo
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 00:19:05

    I would totally keep reading. Men kissing and dragons? I am THERE! I was there last Tuesday waiting with a cup of coffee for this to show up.

    I like the fast pace, but it’s not fleshed out enough in the beginning. I’m not sucked into the scene and it reads more like a set of events than a story. A bit too much outright telling. It doesn’t need backstory or explanations, just some flavor and grounding.

    For example, “He’d [had] managed to sneak past it into the tower, but only after being half-singed” is telling. It bogs down the narrative. It’s not in the voice/tone of the character like “He’d gotten past the dragon – only took him four tries, his best sword, and all the hair on the left side of his body.” (I have no idea how Regis would actually say this (I only met him a few paragraphs ago) so I’m just guessing). Nor is it show like “He stood up and gasped, a hand going to the burn on his shoulder.” Or you could leave it out entirely until Regis and his ‘damsel’ are safe and the pain hits him and he needs to wrap up a burn or the mysterious warrior could notice his burned clothing (or injuries) and ask about it, prompting Regis to tell the whole daring tale. It all depends on what fits your story.

    Also, I would start with: “Outside the tower, the dragon shrieked, hopefully in triumph and not in fury — Regis was fairly sure the beast thought he was dead,” instead of the fairy tale. It puts us in the most interesting part of the action (Dragons!) and it’ll draw the reader in better. I’d switch out the “fairly sure.” It’s one of my favorite phrases, but it also slows down the sentence and creates distance from the reader.

    I love the “Well shit” part, but it sounds funnier to me without the “he thought.” The whole scene was classic and lovely.

    I also like that he’s rescuing a warrior, not a boy princess. Nothing wrong with characters of all types, but if you’re going to break the mold, why not smash the hell out of it?

    Like SM Johnson, I wouldn’t mind beta reading if you’re looking for someone. Partially because I’m a kind, generous soul with nothing but altruistic motives. Partially because I really really want to know where this goes. If you get it published, come back and tell us so we know where to find it.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I hope you don’t mind my examples. When I’m trying to explain my thoughts they’re my default tool.

%d bloggers like this: