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

First Page: Paranormal Romance — Guarding the Waters

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.

***

This felt like the end of the earth, but Duncan Sinclair had stopped being surprised by how many ends of the earth there were in the Realm. They were around every bend, just like the islands and just like this deadbeat West Arc pub.

It was the kind of place with the same four guys at the bar every night and one extremely drunk woman telling everyone's fortune, always grim. That kind of place.

He shifted on the hard stool beneath him and leaned toward the bartender, extending his glass. "I was asking after Greta MarKrieg."

"What archipelago are you from, buddy?" The man's hand shook as he poured another shot into Duncan's glass. Surely they had found the oldest guy in town and then asked his father to tend bar. "Because where I'm from…"

"The Edge Island."

"Figures," the old man spat, "a Mainlander."

"Yes, a Mainlander, and one who's on the Leader's business."  Reluctantly  on the Leader's business, he didn't add. Duncan had not volunteered for this duty. But he had let himself be talked into it. The Leader wanted his best warrior back with her squad, and Duncan had been dispatched to find her. Given his history with Greta MarKrieg, it was either the smartest or the dumbest thing he'd ever done.

"Word of the MarKrieg travels fast in the Four Arcs." The bartender’s spider-like brows framed eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Duncan inclined his head and raised the glass to his lips. He toasted himself silently, having finally determined the source of the pain in his ass.

It wasn't the barstool he was perched on, and it wasn't the poor treatment from the locals. He was the worst kind of fool in the Four Arcs. He knew what Greta MarKrieg could do to his defenses-’he'd watched her crush one opponent after another in battle-’but Luna help him, he still hoped to find her.

"You were asking after our Greta," a woman said, slipping onto the stool at his right. Her tunic  had seen better days.  "You'll know she was our First Moon queen," she told him, propping one cheek against a thin hand. "At the festival, ten years ago. Like a princess out of the old stories."

"It's an old story, all right," Duncan heard someone say behind him, and he turned toward her voice. He could spot a warrior in a market throng, and he could sure as hell spot one among this sparse crowd, especially since she was walking toward him with a bottle of clear whiskey in one hand, salt bowl and lime in the other, and a world of mischief in the lazy smile she cast his way.

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

33 Comments

  1. Shirin Dubbin
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 07:45:23

    Very well done. I hope they’ll be updates on this book. I’d like to read it.

  2. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 08:09:44

    Got me. ;-) Beautifully, beautifully done. Reading a single, solitary page, I already have a good feel for the main characters, their goals, the unique world they live in, and the conflict to come. The POV work is confident and strong.

    I’d love to read more, and I really hope you entered this in the Golden Heart! Best of luck to you.

  3. Gennita Low
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 08:27:09

    Oh, aye, I want more. Good voice. Interesting setting. Hopefully the warrior is really as kickass as she sounds.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Courtney Milan
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 09:32:10

    Do I want to read a book that knows all the epic fantasy tropes and mocks them?

    Yes. Yes, I do. Well done. I snickered through the whole page.

  5. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 09:40:06

    I normally would have clicked away because it’s outside my usual reading tastes, but I got sucked in and, when I got to the bottom, really wanted to turn the page. Intriguing, confident and well done!

  6. Shirin Dubbin
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 09:57:50

    @Shirin Dubbin: Of course I meant “I hope there will be updates” Typed too fast.

  7. whome
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:00:17

    There is a beautiful scene of place and atmosphere sphere in this page but the page itself doesn’t work for me.

    From the for what it’s worth department.

    The opening paragraph is clunky and overly dramatic. He’s only in a nowheresville bar and that’s not the end of the earth. If it is for this narrator, then this guy is rather privileged and the language used in his narration should reflect that as the story unfolds. Right now the narration has a world-weary noir feel to it. (which admittedly I enjoyed)

    I’d consider dividing that first sentence into two. Don’t overuse ‘just’ in order to create rhythm. You do the same thing with the ‘the kind of’ and ‘It wasn’t the.’

    The dialog could be tightened. Drop articles like ‘the’ and ‘a.’ Instead of ‘The Edge Island’ either Edge or Edge Island. Instead of ‘a Mainlander’ just Mainlander.

    I doubt that an oldtimer at the fringe of society would use a word like archipelago since it’s so formal. If they did use it, it would be with dropped syllables, otherwise the narrator would need to give us more info about the bartender than his age.

    Spotting a female warrior in the crowd or at a dead-end bar. Sure. Absolutely. But the first thing he should be doing is analyzing her destructive capabilities, not the bowl of salt or her seductive smile. If he’s noticing that first after what he’s just thought about Greta then he’s not very competent.

    Also he’s already ignoring the woman who just sat down next to him, evaluating her only based on her tunic. Would he do the same thing if a similarly dressed male sat down next to him?

    If he’s a stranger in a strange land asking about someone the locals might think of as a hero and where women are actually warriors his disregard for these women either means that the women are only faux warriors within the story or the guy is incompetent at his job and should soon pay dearly for his inattention to details.

    I’m also a little confused about the bartender’s reaction. Either he’s going to be immediately suspicious about Duncan’s questions and hostile since everyone in this town already knows who Duncan is, given that he’s so willing to drop ‘the Leader’ into the conversation. Or the bartender’s going to continue his jovial tone and lead Duncan along while others hone in for ‘the kill.’

    And I’m confused as to the whole point of the pain in the ass bit. The info is good but the way it was inserted didn’t work for me.

    There’a very nice authorial voice here so I do hope you keep working on your craft, author, because what doesn’t work for me, obviously works for others.

    Bummer, no preview button.

  8. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:21:36

    I’m going to have to speak up and disagree with whome because the bulk of that comment is not constructive criticism of anything wrong with the opening. It’s voice rewriting, or remaking the passage the way whome would have written it. For example:

    I doubt that an oldtimer at the fringe of society would use a word like archipelago since it's so formal. If they did use it, it would be with dropped syllables,…

    I thought the fact an old-timer at the fringe of society used the word archipelago added to the flavor and that, as we’re shown more of the world building, the archipelago significance would become clear. But claiming the character would say it with dropped syllables, or trying to fix dialogue that isn’t broken, clearly steps on the author’s voice and style.

  9. Bibliotrek
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:37:45

    @whome said: “He's only in a nowheresville bar and that's not the end of the earth. If it is for this narrator, then this guy is rather privileged and the language used in his narration should reflect that as the story unfolds.”

    I’m not sure what your objection is to “the end of the earth” or why it makes Duncan sound privileged. “The end of the earth” =/= “the end of the world.” Very different idioms. And, anyway, the paragraph makes it clear that Duncan is thinking geographically rather than apocalyptically: “They were around every bend.”

    I also don’t understand this: “I doubt that an oldtimer at the fringe of society would use a word like archipelago since it's so formal. If they did use it, it would be with dropped syllables, otherwise the narrator would need to give us more info about the bartender than his age.”

    Clearly we’re in a world of the author’s own making, which has a mainland and “Four Arcs.” They’re in the West Arc(hipelago, I assume). So why wouldn’t “archipelago” be a common word when someone lives in one?

    Also: “But the first thing he should be doing is analyzing her destructive capabilities, not the bowl of salt” — but the bowl of salt is precisely what means that she isn’t a threat. I think this paragraph excellently shows how Duncan assesses a warrior: he looks at her hands first, sees both are occupied with salt/lime and whiskey, then notes the smile.

    Anyway, Author, the reason why I point these out is because the things that apparently didn’t work for whome worked VERY well for me, and in fact I would probably buy this. Great voice, characters I like, an interesting world, a woman warrior, and strong writing? I really hope this gets published ASAP!

  10. jayhjay
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:40:06

    I really enjoyed this and it drew me in. Great job!

  11. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:41:07

    I think the voice is excellent as is, but agree with whome about the pain in the ass bit. I stumbled over that line. If he has a history with Greta, he wouldn’t realize she was the source of his troubles at this late stage. He’d have known before he walked into the bar.

    I have no idea what Courtney Milan is talking about. This is supposed to be tongue in cheek? Any satire went over my head but I still liked it very much.

    Great job, good luck!

  12. Kai
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 10:45:09

    @Courtney Milan: Did I miss something? What tropes are being mocked? I read this as straightforward, not tongue in cheek. (I also really liked it). Is this intended as a satire? I hope not, because then I’ll feel like the idiot who didn’t get the joke:).

  13. Sabrina
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:09:36

    What a great opening! It’s very enticing — it leaves me very curious to know more. I love Duncan’s surliness, and I really hope Greta lives up to her reputation. Plus, the Four Arcs setting seems really promising. I hope the rest of the book features the expanse of the islands.

  14. whome
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:29:38

    @Shannon Stacey:

    I’m sorry you don’t feel it’s constructive criticism but that dialogue for me is clearly broken. The flow is broken and will be repeated throughout the entire story by what I see is as a play to word count or formal language structure rather than stripping down to core.

    But if I were playing to my personal preferences, I’d strip the entire opening, not just the dialog, and rebuild it. It’s a very good opening but I think it could be great.

    As far as my old-timer comment, I also stated that if the word was used the narrator should notice more than the bartender’s age. So for me, it was an either or. Either make it more of a slang word and drop syllables or give me something more than the bartender’s age.

    The narrator is world-weary but accepts it as if it’s a word said everyday even in the boondocks. That word isn’t one that the average reader would come across very often (some may not know what it means) so the choice to use it is a deliberate one by the author.

    To me that’s not authorial voice, that’s worldbuilding, story layering and further insight into the mind of the narrator: what he notices or doesn’t notice.

  15. brooksse
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:45:57

    I don’t normally read paranormal romances, but this first page is compelling enough that I would be tempted. If I was still as interested after a longer sample, I would buy the book. Good luck!

  16. jennifer
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:51:14

    Love the characters! Love the dialog and want to read more a.s.a.p.! Does 4 arcs mean 4 books? Hope so!

  17. job
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:54:57

    It’s good.

    I kept reading along . . .
    Is she going to flub it? Is she going to screw it up?

    And then . . . you didn’t.

    Fine stuff.

  18. gwynnyd
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 12:56:01

    I like it overall, but I am not wildly thrilled with it. The voice is good. The writing more than competent, but it feels either sloppy or trying too hard.

    Using “archipelago” struck me as odd, too, though not on the wrong age level. Since the bartender later says “Four Arcs,” it seems to me as if he would say, “What Arc are you from?” Although I suppose it is a way to let the reader know that Arc is short for archipelago and works on that level, it feels to me as if “archipelago” should be in the narration and “Arc” in the dialogue.

    Another oddity was why is Greta sometimes “Greta MarKrieg” with MarKrieg as a surname and at other times “the MarKrieg” as a title?

    I also thought Duncan seemed… er, new at his job because he was asking for Greta in dead end bars – Does he know she likes them? Why choose there? – rather than asking the town authority about her whereabouts and still tossing around the “Leader” connection. If the Leader isn’t well thought of that might not be so smart. And “Leader” – seriously? Is he fearless?

    And I am totally clueless on the “pain in the ass” comment. I have no idea what it refers to.

    Well, whatever he has done seems to have worked, since that is clearly Greta herself showing up with the tequila.

  19. Marianne McA
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 13:10:47

    I liked it too. If I was in a bookshop the line “Surely they had found the oldest guy in town and then asked his father to tend bar.” would probably have sold me the book.
    (I took it the female warrior in the bar is Greta – that the author is playing with the reader a little there. And if that were so, then Duncan wouldn’t have to analyse her destructive capabilities – he might well focus on her smile.)

  20. Courtney Milan
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 16:17:04

    @Jill Sorenson& @Kai:

    Really? At first I wrote that it was “subtly” mocking fantasy tropes and then took out “subtly” because I decided it wasn’t even remotely subtle.

    It starts off by making fun of the Tad Williams/Terry Brooks/Robert Jordan “epic adventure starts in a bar in a tiny town” thing, where the bar is dark and atmospheric and in the middle of nowhere.

    The first lines make fun of the “end of the earth” starting point for ever fantasy novel that starts in a tiny village. The next sentence makes fun of grimness. A woman who was telling everyone’s fortune, always grim, coupled with the tongue-in-cheek dismissal of the description as this being “that kind of place”–that just sounds inherently tongue in cheek to me.

    And you have what looks like a Standard Issue Quest to find the Great Warrior–except instead of the Great Warrior being like Aragorn, high and mighty and full of wisdom, one of the Dunedain, who was raised by elves… she’s a girl, used to be a beauty queen of this place, and she wants to do shots.

    So, yeah. I thought this was hilarious. Bring it on. There’s more than a little snark here–smart, intelligent, modern snark, more along the lines of Scott Lynch/Joe Abercrombie.

    I don’t know if the snark would be visible at this point if you haven’t read a ton of epic fantasy, but I don’t think I’m imagining it.

    Good stuff.

  21. liz talley
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 17:46:30

    Very nicely done. Couldn’t really see anything that needed improving. Your tone is nice and the world building superb. I don’t usually read much paranomal, sci-fi or fantasy, but I’d turn the page on this one.

  22. Yasmin
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 17:50:56

    I loved this piece. It makes me want to know more about Duncan, Greta, the world they live in and exactly what kind of trouble they will be getting into soon. I love strong female characters and it seems like Greta won’t disappoint. It’s obvious the author put work into this piece because it flows effortlessly. Can’t wait to buy the book!

  23. jo
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 18:44:03

    I liked it just fine. I hardly ever read fantasy so it all just worked for me on my current not-thinking-too-hard level. I definitely wanted to read more.

  24. Berinn Rae
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 19:21:51

    I’m with @CourtneyMilan. I thought it was awesome and smiled throughout. I would love to read more.

  25. loreen
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 04:44:32

    I like it quite a lot and would read on, depending on the plot synopsis. Good luck!

  26. grace
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 13:00:22

    great voice and great story–definitely snarky and playing with the genre as courtney milan says above. i want to read more!!!

  27. Sharon
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 14:52:46

    I would love to hear from the author, because I honestly don’t know whether this was intended as satire or not. I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy, though obviously not as much as Courtney Milan, and although I thought that the backwater bar scene was a bit trite, I didn’t read it as tongue in cheek. Apparently, if it is meant to be satire, it’s too subtle for most of us. And if not, you may want to rework your opening to a more original setting.

    I was intrigued by the world building, and thought that the author did a great job of dropping in bits of information to let us know what kind of world we were in. When the bartender used the word “archipelago”, that not only told me about the geography, it also told me that it was such a basic part of their world that even an old bartender would use that term in basic conversation.

    I agree with what others have said about the “pain in the ass” comment. Presumably he would have known what a pain in the ass Greta would be for him, and it doesn’t make sense that he would “finally determine” it at this particular moment.

    It also might help if we had one sentence telling us why he thought this bar was a good place to ask about her, and what else he had done to search for her. If we know he has a good reason to think she might be here, his actions will make more sense, and it will be more believable when she turns up.

    I’ve also become a little leery of characters who are the most amazing, most bad-ass, most whatever. It can be fun to read, and it may be exactly what your story needs, but it can also be heavy handed and cliche, so if it’s not really necessary to the story and the character, consider toning it down.

    And finally, assuming that this is Greta with the bowl of salt, his reaction to her is just right given their history.

  28. Tasha
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 15:03:52

    I agreed with Courtney Milan, and I’d add the Earthsea Trilogy to her list because of the similarities in the worldbuilding.

  29. Bren
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 16:16:23

    I’ve also read (and written) tons of epic fantasy. None of the series specifically listed by Courtney actually start out in a bar. Pubs and inns are a part of the fantasy genre but I didn’t pick up from the voice of this piece any sort of satire or mockery. The narrator is world-weary and on a reluctant errand. This is the tone I get from this page.

    This piece reminded me more of the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark (the bar that Marion runs in Nepal), Indy coming to the bar at the ends of the earth to reluctantly make contact with someone from his past who turns out to be the chick in the room drinking everyone under the table. The typical fantasy tropes are usually built on a “bildungsroman” structure (at least the ones listed above, including Leguin, and many famous ones not named, Rowling, Eddings, etc.) Bars play an important part of almost every fantasy, even the grisly cantina in Mos Eisley in Star Wars. Starting an adventure in a bar, however, belongs more to the cliche (trope) of fantasy role-playing games than it does to the written version of the genre.

    In any case, I like the hook. I like the world building and the writing is good. My suggestion would be just to insert some sensory imagery (smells, textures, sounds, etc.) to help pull the reader more into the story. Show us what the smoky atmosphere smells like, what his drink tastes like, what the pitted wooden bar under his hand feels like, etc.

    Best of luck!

  30. JB Hunt
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 14:46:50

    Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and the critique. I’ve already gone back to the manuscript with your good suggestions in mind.

    Jane, I love this site!

    Tamara, I did enter this in the Golden Heart this year. My fingers are crossed for good news at the end of the month, but if that doesn’t come, I’ll try again in 2012 (and continue to reach out to agents and editors).

    The story does play a bit with fantasy conventions (thanks, Courtney!), but it isn’t a full-on satire. The characters are pretty good at “doing the sarcasm,” as Greta’s daughter explains. They are party stars and they’re warriors, but they’re also flawed and vulnerable, which hopefully keeps them from falling into too-good-to-be-true territory.

    The Indiana Jones bar scene (“I’m your goddamn partner!”) was definitely in the back of my mind as I wrote the opening, but so was one of my sister’s spring break tales of a scruffy bar on the Florida panhandle.

    Here's the complete first chapter for anyone interested in a further preview: http://www.jbhuntwrites.com/books.html

    Thanks again for the feedback!

  31. author
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 15:04:34

    Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and the critique. I’ve already gone back to the manuscript with your good suggestions in mind.

    Jane, I love this site!

    Tamara, I did enter this in the Golden Heart this year. My fingers are crossed for good news at the end of the month, but if that doesn’t come, I’ll try again in 2012 (and continue to reach out to agents and editors).

    The story does play a bit with fantasy conventions (thanks, Courtney!), but it isn’t a full-on satire. The characters are pretty good at “doing the sarcasm,” as Greta’s daughter explains. They are party stars and they’re warriors, but they’re also flawed and vulnerable, which hopefully keeps them from falling into too-good-to-be-true territory.

    The Indiana Jones bar scene (“I’m your goddamn partner!”) was definitely in the back of my mind as I wrote the opening, but so was one of my sister’s spring break tales of a scruffy bar on the Florida panhandle.

    Here's the complete first chapter for anyone interested in a further preview: http://www.jbhuntwrites.com/books.html

    Thanks again for the feedback!

  32. Maria
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 21:18:20

    Author,

    I’m a little sad-faced right now because the link to your first chapter brings up an error message.

    But other than that, I found it very interesting. Can’t wait to read more :)

    Thanks!

  33. JB Hunt
    Mar 21, 2011 @ 16:48:48

    @Maria — So sorry! I changed the name of the web page to “Excerpts.”

    Here’s the new link:
    http://www.jbhuntwrites.com/excerpts.html

    Thanks for reading!

%d bloggers like this: