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First Page: Captain’s Privilege

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“We’ve found the source of the energy spikes.”

Andros retracted his fangs as the voice of his comrade, Ettore, echoed in his skull. His tongue followed the curve of his teeth, licking off the last of the captain’s blood. He let the body fall to the metal decking. “What is it?”

Ettore paused and for a moment, the last emotions of his victim flowed through Andros. The taste of fear and the hot hint of defiance mixed with the underlying flavour of his blood. The former captain had lived a well-provisioned life, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, water and fine wines had been thick in his diet. Andros frowned. His boot toed the still-warm body, meeting hard muscle. The hunt, the kill, the short, sweet hit of bliss had clouded his thoughts. The man wasn’t the usual freighter captain, all cheap and hurried rations, baked with stress. What had they captured?

“Ettore? What is it?”

“It’s a casket.”

“A casket?”

“A locked casket.”

Andros held down a curse. He was their ship commander because he was the strongest vampire amongst them. He’d killed the previous commander who’d brought him aboard the Kosmos as booty. Eaten Jirkar’s heart and taken his ship and his crew. But the three-man crew didn’t trust him. A hard smile pulled at Andros’ mouth and he strode down the long gangway that opened up to a gantry stretching across the wide hold. Of course, he didn’t trust them either.

“Is there anything else of value? Report.”

“Crew dead. Every secured hold is empty.”

Mikolas’ low mental rumble vibrated against the vampiric metal—known as leech—laced through Andros’ muscle and bone. He rolled his neck, his fingers digging into tight skin. The captain’s energy had already dispersed and the old pain of being a vampire leaked through. He ignored it. For him there was always pain. Always would be. “No other cargo, just this casket?”

“This locked casket,” Ettore broke in.

Andros’ boots clanked against the thick mesh of the gantry and he swore under his breath. Ettore was a constant needle under his skin. He flexed his fingers, feeling the strengthening technology in his blood respond. His first mate had been at the top of his kill list for a while. “I’ll open it.”

The buzz of closed communication fizzed through the metal in his flesh. Did they think he didn’t know they talked about him behind shields? Before the bastard who’d taken him as a child and injected leech into his body, he’d been Zohar. Bright, shining, destined to work in the heart of a great ship with the code and power to its technology. He’d been an experiment. A failed one. Being Zohar made him ultra sensitive to the tech within the metal living in his body. Andros pushed the old bitterness down. His sensitivity caused his pain. And leech could never be removed or sated. He’d tried.

He took the grav-lift down to the lower hold and found his three men lounging against empty crates. Their cold eyes watched him stride towards them and habit flexed his fingers, heightening the power in his body. They were anything but relaxed. Power burned in the air and the hunger it brought to all of them fired tension. There was always the danger they would attack and try to overpower him when they thought his energies were low. And three of them full and fed? That would make them very confident.

But he knew that and he could combat it. Andros’ gaze darted to the locking mechanism of the casket. It glowed and the thrum of its power sharpened his hunger. “I take captain’s privilege.”

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. Katie T.
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 04:59:35

    Iiiinteresting. I thought it was going to be a zombie story after Andros refers to eating the captain instead of drinking him though. I found the communication system between Ettore and Andros confusing. I’m not sure how they were communicating or whether or not Andros was overhearing things from a psychic standpoint. Might want to clarify that.

  2. Marianne McA
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 05:20:09

    If this is the first page of a romance, I’d pass. Asuming Andros is the hero, it’s just something that never works for me in any shape or form; a killer as hero or heroine.
    I do know that such books can be fantastically popular – ‘Cry No More’ by Howard, ‘Black Ice’ by Stuart – but I’m not your readership.

    And I’m leading with that because it means that my comment might be wrong, because it’s not a corner of the genre I read in. What I wanted to say is that what I take to be humanising touches, intended to make the reader have some sympathy with Andros – ‘for him there was always pain’ – he ‘pushed the old bitterness down’ make me feel the opposite. Given that his perception of his own suffering is bracketed by a complete lack of remorse at having just killed someone and his callous assumption that he will at some point kill his shipmate, it just makes me read him as a sociopath.

    (And maybe that’s what you intend: perhaps this isn’t romance, or perhaps Ettore drops Andros out of an airlock in the next scene, and marries Snow White himself.)

  3. SAO
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 05:55:10

    Although I don’t like paranormal or futuristics, I might be interested in a futuristic vampire thing. To me, who admittedly avoids those genres, it seems very original and lack of originality is part of my problem with them. So, I’m intrigued by your premise, perhaps enough to read a genre I tend to avoid.

    However, the first para is too confusing. I remember a quote from an editor or agent said they tossed in the trash anything that starts with unattributed dialogue. We assume the next named person is the speaker, but by the end of the sentence, it’s clear it’s not Andros, but Ettore. Add to this that the energy spikes aren’t mentioned again, obviously, this is unneeded dialogue. Next, “Ettore’s voice echoed and Andros licked off the last of the captain’s blood”, made me think Ettore was the captain. The body (this is the first time it is mentioned) drops to the deck. Ettore paused and the last of his victim’s emotions flows through Andros, which is consistent with Ettore being the victim. So, I spent a lot of this figuring out what was going on.

    By the end of the page, I’m coming to the conclusion that this is a traditional pirate sailing ship, but I’m not entirely positive. It might be the starship Enterprise, for all I know or a modern container ship. That’s a complete and utter lack of scenery. You don’t need many details, but you do need some!

    I didn’t notice that he’s a guy who kills blithely, as the second commenter noticed, but maybe if I wasn’t busy trying to figure out what was going on and where, I might have. You’ll have to make me like Andros pretty soon. I might be up for a ruthless guy in a kill-or-be-killed world, but he need to have an inner core. It doesn’t need to be on the first page, though.

    I’d recommend starting with Andros enjoying his feast. If you do it well, it will draw us in, set the scene, then cut quickly to Ettore’s voice. I’d do the distrust in actions, not backstory. Don’t tell us he doesn’t trust his men and killed the last captain. Show us. Have Andros consider it could be a trap, and act warily. That will add to the tension.

  4. Kristen
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 06:53:56

    This is definitely one of the better first pages I’ve read. I’m with the previous commenters that Andros enjoying his kill put me off him as a hero (although I liked the details you put in that he could sense about the captain), and that he needs to act in a way that identifies him as a potential hero soon, very soon.

    I didn’t think how they communicated was too confusing – I assumed it had something to do with the ‘leech’ – nor did I mind the lack of scenery. I did picture the ship looking something like the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey – so if that’s not what you wanted, perhaps fill in the blanks.

    I don’t usually read paranormal, and I positively loathe vampire stories, but I would read on – so you’ve definitely got something here!

  5. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 07:20:14

    I could pick nits, but it doesn’t matter. I want to know what’s in the locked casket.

    Many MANY readers won’t care about the nits because they just want to find out what’s in the locked casket. That’s good storytelling.

  6. CG
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 08:22:43

    Vampires in spaaaaaaace! I enjoy a dark anti-hero and would totally read this. It took me a minute to figure out the leech is some sort of futuristic metal wetware (I think). I’m hoping the heroine is some bad-ass locked in the casket for the safety of the crew.

  7. Irish Lass
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 08:29:57

    Whoa. This is professional grade writing. Wonderful. Immediately publishable. I read almost everything – from Stephen King, Laura Hillenbrand, Thomas Harris’s “Silence of the Lambs.” Gillian Flynn’s superb “Gone Girl” to romance heavy-hitters, Kresley Cole, Laura Kinsale, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard, many more. Francine Rivers is a Christian author who writes exquisitely.

    I enjoy dark heroes and find unlikable characters compelling, as long as the storytelling’s a knockout. This is flatout terrific. Let your editor help you with the nitpicks, I’m not qualified to do that. My one author friend (multiple award winner, she writes in three genres), said that editors look for voice and compelling, they can deal with the nitpicks, grammar and anything that’s confusing after you ink the deal. An excellent First Page, my friend. I wish you the best on your writing career.

  8. theo
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 09:40:07

    FWIW, I too am probably not your target audience for this. I had to read through it twice and I still don’t get the whole ‘leech’ thing. There were a couple awkward sentences for me:

    Mikolas’ low mental rumble vibrated against the vampiric metal—known as leech—laced through Andros’ muscle and bone.

    For some reason at least to me, it doesn’t read right and I found that with a couple others which may be why I was confused the first time I read through it. Is the vampiric metal laced through Andros’ or is it the low mental rumble that is lacing through? Probably just me, but I stumbled. There were also a couple places where I had to work out what was going on. I might still be half asleep, but when I have to read through a first page twice…doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book for me.

    I agree with SAO that much of this is telling and in this case, beyond the usual ‘show, don’t tell’ mantra, I think it would have been much clearer for me at least, and would have drawn me in quicker than it did.

    At this point, between eating his kills which kind of throws me as seeing him as a hero and waiting for something to really draw me in, it’s a no go for me. I don’t like him at this point. I cringed. That’s not good hero stuff for me. I’m not even sure I care what’s in the casket . Give me a reason to root for your hero. Soon. Or you’ve lost me.

  9. Patricia
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 10:10:22

    I am not a fan of the remorseless killer as romantic hero, so right off the bat there is a big obstacle for me as a reader. The cold lack of thought about the man he just killed reinforces that. I don’t feel any reaction at all from Andros about the attack, either positive or negative. You tell us that “the short, sweet hit of bliss had clouded his thoughts,” but we don’t get to see it in real time so the emotional impact is lost. He kills a man, feels sorry for himself because of his bad childhood and chronic pain, and then contemplates killing his crew too. There’s not much here to make me root for the guy, despite him being the protagonist. I kind of hoped Ettore would kill him next.

    Like SAO, I also thought this needed more scene setting. I eventually concluded they were probably on some sort of spaceship but I’m not 100% convinced of that. I have no idea what the ship looks like. Is this a spacious, top-of-the-line ship like the Enterprise or a rundown working ship like the Serenity? It could even be a living ship like Moya on Farscape. I love science fiction, so a fleshed out setting might keep me going a while longer despite the unsympathetic protagonist. A well developed ship can be a character in itself.

    Despite sounding like a negative nelly here, I think there is a lot of promise in this. I want to know more about the leech, and Zohar, and what these vampire pirates are doing out in space. The end of this passage was the strongest part, and if I had made it that far I would keep going a bit more. Good luck.

  10. Lynne Connolly
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 11:17:39

    I love this. There are a few bits here and there, but nothing an editor won’t tweak right. This is not my genre, not the kind of thing I usually go for, but please come back and tell us when this comes out, because I so want to read it!
    This is storytelling, real, unabashed and it grabbed me. This is how you do a hook.
    What’s in the casket?

  11. Lucy Woodhull
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 11:52:41

    I’m afraid this a bit confusing for me. Difficult to tell who is talking when. I almost feel like it’s too much showing vs. telling — for example, the entire thing is about metal in their body, and then you have the clanking of the metal floor, too. Sometimes I just want a dude to walk, you know? When there’s no real reason for clanking and whatnot. You must clean up who is talking when. The writing is good but for that.

    I also don’t love the constantly-in-pain hero. I have no doubt the heroine is in the casket and that her magic cooch will heal his leechings. And I feel like that cliche (if I’m right — if I’m not, sorry!) takes away from the interesting future vamps you’ve got going. I also agree with other commenters that I find it hard to pity the sociopath hero at this point. But then again, I just hate a hidden-pain storyline for alpha killer heroes, so I’m probably not your audience. Good luck!

  12. wikkidsexycool
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 12:26:03

    I liked it. He’s a bad ass, and this makes me think of a scifi space version of JR Ward’s alpha males. I would keep reading. I only hope the female (or male) locked in the casket isn’t like the one in the movie the Fifth Element, but more like Resident Evil. If she or he is the only thing that would make a “leech” scream (but in space, no one can hear your scream) I’d definitely buy this.

    Edited to add: I’m glad to see more of a Scifi vibe going on in writing. Just yesterday I posted a mock up of a metal enhanced teen called Iron Mike:
    So I like that your vampires have ventured into Outer Space.

  13. Ayla
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 12:35:11

    I really like this. Interesting premise and i really want to know what’s in the casket and why it’s throwing out weird energy spikes. I also like that the whole of the captains crew ate the other crew. Nice touch for an equal playing field since a lot of commenters don’t like that the hero is a killer. I actually enjoyed the remorseless attitude. It makes a nice change from the angsty vampires you get in paranormal romances who kill their enemies and drink people’s blood all the time but feel super bad about it.

    I do agree that the first line of dialogue needs a tag, but after the second line of dialogue i figured out who was speaking and though it was psychic communication between vamps. Then i realised it was tech once the leech was mentioned.

    I would keep reading this for sure.

  14. Carolyn
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 13:03:52

    I agree totally with what Lynn Connelly said. I was not confused and I definitely want to know what’s in the casket! I’m assuming that Andros will somehow be redeemed before the book ends. I should be quite the journey.

  15. JL
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 13:06:00

    I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I want to know what’s in the casket. I’m more of a UF reader than romance, so I’m not as concerned about the redeem-ability of the hero because I’m already hooked on the story. There are nitpicky things that should be addressed, some cloudiness in the writing, but that’s not important.
    I hope you come back to the open thread for authors to let us know when this gets published.

  16. LisaCharlotte
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 16:11:34

    Don’t care about the nitpicky stuff, I assume most of it will be fixed in editing. I was hooked by the story and really want to know what is in that casket.

  17. Avery Shy
    Feb 02, 2013 @ 20:37:04

    I’d definitely keep reading. I don’t see a problem with the hero killing someone on the first page. He’s a vampire. The fact that he actually DOES kill people and drink their blood is a rarity in this day and age, and I find it refreshing.

    I’m not a fan of backstory on the first page — it seems out of place, unless there’s a pressing reason for it to be revealed — but you kept it short and to-the-point. Good job.

    The casket hook is sheer brilliance. (Please let there be a hot guy inside. PLEASE.)

  18. Helena Fairfax
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 06:29:31

    I did find some parts a little confusing, as has already been touched on, with maybe too much backstory and telling, but I agree with @LisaCharlotte – the nitpicky stuff could easily be rewritten to make this smoother and clearer. Normally I find vampire stories deathly dull, but I liked this one precisely because the hero kills people without remorse – just a clinical dissection of their diet and emotions. Isn’t this what vampires are supposed to be like? I thought this was a good touch, as was the fact that he and his crew distrust each other. The author has painted a good picture of a throughly unpleasant and edgy environment. I would definitely read on. If this is a romance, I am intrigued to know if the author can successfully pull off a believable love story with this cold-blooded character. If he or she does succeed, it would be a really good read.

  19. Melissa
    Feb 03, 2013 @ 09:08:04

    What @Moriah Jovan said. I want to read more NOW.

  20. Cynnara
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 10:49:37

    I love UF and I’m a sci-fi addict. Which means for me– sometimes people are cut-throat because you have to be to survive. Sometimes it’s killed or be killed out there– whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi and it’s really refreshing to see that take in something that can be romance in nature. I think the tagging for psychic dialogue might help a bit for some, but for me, since I’m used to that type of thing with the books I read– it was easy. Otherwise– What is in that casket? I need to know. Now would be nice. LOL

  21. Belinda
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 19:28:56

    This is my genre and I love that it rocks right from the first sentence! A gritty sci fi laced with paranormal (and a unique take on vampires, at that!) is fine with a kill or be killed attitude. There’s a lot of space in the next hundred pages or so for character development. She showed up the cold-hearted killer, but we also know that at one time, he was a completely different person. She’s showing us, not telling us what the world is like. I hate speculative fiction that opens on a chapter of exposition: In the year 3426 a great plague wiped out all the ground hogs, leaving the Earth unable to predict the weather….

    …and what’s in the casket? Is it a coffin type casket or a box? Is it holding something sentient and powerful? Maybe a game changer for the hero?

    Yes, it opens on unattributed dialogue, but if an editor/agent automatically throws a manuscript out when it opens that way, a lot of JR Ward books wouldn’t have made the cut. I think properly formatted, the italicized conversation would be a bit easier to read. Tension, conflict and motivation are right there from the start.

    I want to know what this book is and when it comes out!

  22. Moriah Jovan
    Feb 04, 2013 @ 19:32:51

    Okay, so here I am, two days later, still thinking about this and, in my less lucid moments, reminding myself to buy it.

    As someone above said, I’m ECSTATIC when vampires actually act like vampires. They are the top of the food chain and humans are their food. What’s the problem?

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