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First Page: Company Daughter – YA

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The ogre looked at his omelette and sniffed it, his nasal slits flaring. With a dubious series of clicks from his throat mike, he tried to hand it back. I don’t speak ogre, but I’d been around them all my life. I knew what he meant. Shoving the plate back at him through the hatch, I told him, “Yes, I cooked it. No, it doesn’t have a rat bar hidden in it.”

More clicks.

“I don’t care what it smells like. You can eat it or go hungry.”

He tried to look woebegone, which is hard to do when you’re an eight-foot, green-skinned, tusked monstrosity.

“Allie.”

That was my boss of only two hours, Jack Choi, manning the deep fryer. His wife, Eveline, was at the narrow shelf we used as a prep table, dicing onions and garlic and jalapenos for salsa. I looked at him questioningly.

“We don’t boss the customers around. If he thinks there’s something wrong with the omurisu, make him a fresh one.”

Jack was one of the few people willing to hire me. I had tried all the restaurants on Two- and Three Below, but each of them pointed to the door, too intimidated by my father to give me a chance. Even Mama DeFino, who had taught me to make panna cotta, told me to come back when I finished school. But Jack was a retired mech who feared nothing in the bridge universe, least of all his former commanding officer. And he thought anyone willing to support themselves had the right to be called an adult.

“He’s just giving me a hard time.”

Jack sighed, turning out a load of fried jalapenos–the nuclear version from Hirconia Five that the ogres loved–into a basket. “Just make it again, okay?”

I gritted my teeth. This was my first job. Likely to be my last if Dad had his way, but I wouldn’t be fired through any fault of mine. I reached through the hatch and tried to take the plate back from the ogre. He clutched it protectively to his chest.

Outsiders found the ogres—our mechanized soldiers–creepy, and the Gaians, those revolting primitives who thought we all should live in dirt huts and run our food down on foot, wanted them all exterminated. But they were men under all the biological and mechanical alterations, men who liked good food, men who …had really long memories. The rat bar incident had been years ago.

This particular ogre had known me since I was a child. In fact, he’d been there for the rat bar incident–which didn’t give him a right to harass me on my first real job. I glowered at him, and the eight-foot slab of muscle with radiation-proof skin pretended to cower.
“Just give me that–” I said, making a snatch for the plate. “I’ll make you a new omurisu, and you can watch what goes in it.”

He lifted it out of my reach. With his free hand, he gently tweaked my nose with sausage-sized fingers.

I’m usually better at knowing when I’m being teased, but wondering what Dad was up to had left me sensitive. I waved him off with a tense smile. He grabbed the basket of fried jalapenos along with his omurisu and took it over to his squad, who stood at the tall tables Jack kept for ogres. There was a moment of silent communication among them, and they all shook with the signs of ogre laughter. Great. Now they were all going to do it.

Nine more orders for omurisu popped up on the display above the grill, confirming my worst suspicions. With a sigh, I got another crate of eggs from the fridge and started cooking.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

36 Comments

  1. coco
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 04:24:12

    This is one of the first here that I really really wanted to keep reading. It’s absolutely awesome so far. I LOVE the woebegone, teasing ogre. And I like the subtle hint of word-building here. Fun, fun, fun!

  2. Marianne McA
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 04:38:53

    Yes, I agree. I’d buy it based on this page.

  3. Merry Hell
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 05:05:08

    You publish this, I’ll buy it. No questions asked.

  4. Jo
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 05:24:05

    *grabby hands* want more. I would definitely buy this

  5. peggy h
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 06:27:11

    I’ve been reading DA for years–this is the first time I’ve commented on a First Page posting. LOVE!

  6. Brie
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 06:27:16

    This is certainly an engaging first page, and you had me right until the part about the disgusting primitive hut dwellers who hunt their food and hate technology. I wonder if they also happen to be the natives of the land/planet; that would be the cherry on top. Careless comments like that make me DNF books on the spot and this would be no exception.

  7. Dee Carney
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 07:04:03

    Let me know when this one is published. Too cute.

  8. QC
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 07:18:58

    I love it, too. As to the “primitives” comment, that jumped out at me, too; however, it could well be that the character’s viewpoint on the first page is setting the stage for change later. That’s what character arcs are all about. Excellent job, author.

  9. Elyssa Patrick
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 07:38:03

    Love. Would buy this now. Want it now.

  10. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 08:06:18

    Sign me up as well :)

  11. Lil
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 08:09:37

    This is terrific. The characters really jump to life, including the ogres. I’m not your target audience, but I have nieces who are, and they’d love this.

  12. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 08:34:35

    And they why behind why I like this: It flows so well, the writing is smooth and the characters engaging.

    Your world building is subtle; I’m not hit over the head with it. I have no idea what Two- and Three Below are, or a bridge universe…but I want to find out. You’ve given me just enough to whet my appetite, to make me curious.

    Many times in a story where there’s world building, there’s this need by the writer to tell us everything we don’t know, right away. “…who feared nothing in the bridge universe, which is this, that and the other thing, plus A, B and C, and it’s history is thus and thus….” and we lose the whole momentum of the story.

    Your writing gives me enough world to know it’s not mine, and the confidence in your writing that eventually, when I need to know, you’ll show me the rest of that world.

  13. Brie
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 08:40:40

    @QC: It could also be setting them up as villains, which is how it read to me. I could be wrong, of course, but this feature is all about us offering feedback and judging the first page of a book, and that’s what I did.

  14. Lynnette
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 08:55:55

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented on a first page before, either. If I read this page in one of my library book talks, I’d have a year’s worth of reserves on the book on day one. Hope it’s published and I know when it is.

  15. Deljah
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 09:06:32

    I liked this page and would continue reading.

  16. Danielle West
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 09:19:48

    I would totally buy this after reading this page.

  17. Gin
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 09:25:56

    Another first-time commenter (or first in a long, long, long time): this is EXCELLENT.

  18. hapax
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 09:33:28

    Yes, yes, yes. Can’t find a single nit to pick, and I want to know more!

    As far as the “primitives” comment, I’m sure that this society (like all cultures) has biases and bigotries, and I would hate a heroine who magically floated above such flaws, instead of learning and becoming better over the course of the story.

    Besides, I get the distinct impression that the “primitives” aren’t, say, the indigenous people of the planet, but rather a philosophical tech-rejecting movement among the privileged class (sort of an extreme version of our organic vegan locavores); but that may be me reading more into the text than is actually present.

  19. Jamie Beck
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 10:15:49

    Congrats. Looks like you have something special here. I’m not at all your audience, but as Carol notes, the writing is smooth and clear. The pace is good. You leave just enough question marks to pique our interest without losing us. Great work. Best of luck to you!

  20. QC
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 10:24:42

    @Brie–I totally agree with you. I think it’s interesting how you and hapax and I had different impressions at the first mention of primitives.

  21. author
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 10:33:59

    Hi, everyone–thank you for your comments. I’ve been reading First Page Saturday for years, and it’s helped my writing enormously. Especially in weaning me away from info-dumps :)

    For those who are asking, I’m aiming for a December release.

  22. Lou
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 10:53:17

    Author, I loved this excerpt and I would definitely buy your book in December. :)

  23. Darlynne
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 10:57:11

    @author: Make sure you tell us when. I can’t remember the last time a first page in any published book grabbed and held my attention as yours has done this morning.

    [M]en who … had really long memories HAHAHAHA!

  24. DS
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 11:01:11

    I thought the ogres were interesting as well as the interaction between the viewpoint character and the ogres, but, just to throw this out– I would be far more interested in reading about a down on her luck character trying to make her way in this world than a poor little rich girl whose father is controlling her life by keeping her from getting a job.

  25. JL
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 11:38:52

    Loved this! For whatever reason, as soon as I tried to pictured an ogre looking woebegone, I was hooked. Too funny. Count me in amongst those who would really appreciate hearing when this gets published!

  26. Carolyne
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 12:41:26

    I liked it well enough too, but kept stopping at the phrase “rat bar.” I was too distracted to enjoy the page, wondering whether it might be referring to rat-poo, or perhaps a chocolate covered candy bar with chewy rat-nougat center. Should I know what a rat bar is?

    The phrasing about how the Gaians “thought we all should…” suggested to me that they’re a hippie-style movement. If that’s so, any risk of alienating readers could be cleared up by describing them as “neo-primitive” or “pseudo-primitive” or “back-to-nature primitives” or some such. If the narrator does have a prejudice against some sort of non-industrialised culture, I’d be willing to wait and see how that develops.

    ETA: I’d LOVE it if food and cookery remain a focus of the story, from the ordinary to the outlandish, and we learn about the cultures and foodstuffs and smells and tastes as part of the overall worldbuilding.

  27. Kira
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 12:51:25

    I would totally buy this. I want more!!

  28. Lucy Woodhull
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 13:10:37

    Awesome! That’s all. :)

  29. hapax
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 14:40:30

    Should I know what a rat bar is?

    Since this is clearly science fiction, I assume it’s slang for “rations bar”, as in military rations — and despised as such in the time-honored manner of troops everywhere.

    It does raise an interesting question about marketing this title, though. If it’s sold as sf, the term is likely to be understood. But if it’s sold as a romance, would the audience come in with the same background knowledge?

  30. Carolyne
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 15:45:49

    @hapax: fwiw, I’ve read way more sf than romance, and “rations bar” didn’t even occur to me–but probably because I wasn’t thinking in that mode. It’s likely that if I picked up the book seeing the cover trappings and blurb of a military sf theme, my brain would have clicked on that meaning.

    I suppose that does make more sense than “chewy rat nougat center”…

  31. cleo
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 16:26:25

    This really pulled me in. I enjoyed the humor and the way my expectations kept getting up-ended. I’d keep reading. A couple nit-picks – the passive voice bothered me. And I was a bit confused by the hatch she pushed the food through. I thought it meant there was a barrier between her and the customers, but then the ogre tweaked her nose. And i read sf and I didn’t get the rat bar reference either.

    I also read the Gaians as being a hippy type back to nature movement not an indiginous people, but now that Brie’s mentioned it, I can see the other reading too.

  32. Lil
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 20:28:23

    @hapax:
    Oh dear (feeling embarrassed). I thought “rat bar” was rat poison, and that was why the ogre made such a fuss. I think maybe there will need to be an explanation.

  33. Jane
    Nov 23, 2013 @ 20:39:52

    @Lil: Me too. had no clue rat bar stood for rations bar. Thought she’d baked a rat into some food once.

  34. SAO
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 02:56:29

    I had only one minor quibble. Don’t put a para break after speech and before attribution. It implies a separation between the speech and the next para.

    “Allie.” That was my boss of two hours. Or, “Allie,” said my boss of two hours. Or, “Allie.” {para break} I turned and saw my boss of two hours frowning at me.

    Other than that, this is great. The relationship between men and ogres is new and interesting, you’ve hinted at backstory very smoothly. Wonderful.

  35. Kaetrin
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 03:08:32

    I didn’t know what a rat bar was either. I’m not well versed in military jargon though, but I though it was something made out if rats and unpleasant therefor.

    I read the “primitives” section the same way Brie did but it isn’t as much if a hot button for me. If, for example, the Gaians turn out to be the heroes of the story and the MC had a big turnaround, that could work for me.

  36. Lesley L
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 20:32:51

    This is my first time reading a First Page and I must say I’m quite intrigued by this first page.

    Sadly there are not a lot of first pages that capture my attention but this one does. Can’t say I’ve read a lot about ogre’s so now I’m very interested.

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