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First Page: Urban Fantasy Romance

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Ruuk's favorite tavern,  The Crispy Knight, was a quiet place by rights, but when Gote, the Demon King's second-in-command, came cantering inside, all the quiet chatter of conversation and the clink of glasses ceased utterly.

Gote was a chubby satyr with short curving horns and curly dark brown fur on his goat-like legs. Ruuk leaned forward. The satyr clambered onto the bar-top, his cloven hooves clicking as he stood on its lacquered surface. Raising his arms for silence, Gote said, "All right, lads, any of you looking to impress the boss, here's your chance."

Ruuk straightened at his lonely table and strained his ears to catch every word. His quest for employment in the city was not going well. During his first week in the underground culture of Faerie, he'd discovered there wasn't much work going around, and even less for an overgrown "brute of a troll' like him-‘ as one shopkeeper so eloquently put it. Heh.

He'd heard the Demon King, a local philanthropist and politician of sorts, needed muscle. Ruuk had that in spades. All Ruuk needed now was an in with the Demon King.

And this might be just what he'd waited for.

Gote plucked someone else's shot from their hand and knocked it back. Ruuk had noticed the Demon King's men could pull off stunts like that without being squashed. "We're looking for a girl." Gote swallowed the alcohol with a loud  glug, smacked his lips happily and smiled at the crowd before he continued. "Maybe some of you have seen her around. A human girl with dark skin and black hair. Very beautiful. She was last seen wearing a golden gown with a long skirt, but she's probably ditched that by now. We suspect she's stolen some powerful magic to cover her escape, so she's probably wearing a strong glamour too. The King would take it as a special favor if any of you would help in the search for her. He will personally provide you temporary glamours to help you search among the humans. And if any of you happen to catch the little baggage and bring her back, the King will reward you handsomely." Gote's teeth flashed in a crooked, condescending grin, and he hopped off the bar.

Ruuk bolted from his table and elbowed through the now restive crowd clustering around Gote. Ruuk was a head taller than the tallest of the faeries, and twice as strong. He muscled his way face to face-‘ well, chest to face-‘ with the satyr.

Gote's eyes languidly trailed up Ruuk's chest to meet his eyes. "Well, troll?”

"I can help you find her."

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. Marianne McA
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 07:00:10

    I’d need to read more. The name of the tavern suggests it’s going to be a not-that-serious urban fantasy romance, which could be fun – I’d read on, and if it made me laugh within the next couple of pages, it’s the sort of thing I’d buy.

    Couple of minor quibbles – the phrase ‘Ruuk’s favourite tavern’ establishes him as a member of this community, then later in the passage he seems to have only been in town for a week – it is a really minor point, but the two bits of information slightly fight each other.
    And for whatever reason the ‘Very beautiful.’ seems awkward to me. A non-human using the phrase ‘dark skin and black hair’ to describe a human to other non-humans feels right: it’s an objective thing they can look for, a dark skinned girl in a golden dress – but the ‘Very beautiful’ seems unlikely, because that’s a subjective judgement, and you wouldn’t imagine that different species would share a common idea of beauty. That is, it feels like the phrase is shoehorned in there just to let the readers know that the heroine is beautiful.
    But that’s just my feeling from this passage: maybe in this world there is an agreed standard of beauty. Or maybe the satyr has a thing for her. So again, it’s a very minor point.

  2. DS
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 07:18:16

    Agreed with the quibbles and that I might keep going with this one. Assuming that the object of the search isn’t the only dark skinned, dark haired female human in the city, then there should be a little more description or even some leering– Gote (like the name) is a satyr after all.

  3. Shirin
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 09:18:10

    Nicely done. Especially in the descriptions and the reveal of Ruuk’s species. I’m definitely intrigued and would read on.

    Here are a few more thoughts: I’d try starting the first paragraph with “The Crispy Knight, was a quiet place by rights…” and then introduce Ruuk, at his table, in the second paragraph. I think it may flow even better that way.

    In the sixth paragraph Gote tells us about the Girl, describes her, then mentions she may have glamour. Since glamour hides her true appearance I wanted another way to recognize her, some attribute that isn’t physical. Maybe even something that tell us why she’s special (she uses unique magic) or gives us a hint to the coming plot.

    I hope you come back and share more about this project.

  4. Julia Sullivan
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:00:52

    This is fun and I like the humor.

    Here’s something that is really clunky, and you need to fix it:

    Gote was a chubby satyr with short curving horns and curly dark brown fur on his goat-like legs. Ruuk leaned forward. The satyr clambered onto the bar-top, his cloven hooves clicking as he stood on its lacquered surface.

    Do you see the problem? “Ruuk leaned forward” feels like a non sequitur. I had to read the paragraph three times before realizing that you were trying to signal Ruuk’s interest; the first two times I was all “Did he lean forward so the satyr could climb up him to the bar? Is this a typo? I don’t get it.”

    Agree that “Ruuk’s favorite tavern” and “his first week” are a bit contradictory.

    I also don’t get “by rights” here—how is it “just” or “equitable” for a tavern to be a quiet place? “By rights” doesn’t mean “usually.”

  5. Darlynne
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:08:16

    I agree with the previous comments and would also recommend removing “Ruuk's favorite tavern,” making a good first sentence stronger. “Very beautiful” seems awkward, but perhaps that’s just my bias because I’m really tired of everyone in a romance novel being beautiful.

    You definitely have my interest and I would very much like to read more. Thanks for posting and good luck.

  6. evie byrne
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:17:41

    I think this is charming. I’d keep reading.

    The only place where I got pulled out of the narrative was at “Heh.” That is such a…how you say?…Internetism? I’m not used to seeing used that way on the page, much less as internal dialog. And anyway, what does it mean in this context? That he thinks it’s funny that the shopkeeper insulted him? That’s an interesting idea, and if so, could be expressed better. All and all I think that bit would read better without the heh. Just my two cents, though. Good luck with it!!!

  7. hapax
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:41:11

    Well, the first thing that I thought was “How the heck do you canter on just two legs?” In keeping with the general humorous tone of the story, I’d use “trip-trapped”, or something like that.

    And ditto the quibbles that the others mentioned.

    That aside, this sounds like *exactly* my sort of story. I’m pretty sure I could predict the entire plot from the first page (though you might surprise me), but I wouldn’t mind at all going along for the ride.

  8. Terri
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:47:53

    Like this a lot. Not normally enamored of trolls, but hey, if Disney can pull off a little Shrek/Fiona-esque glamor for ogres, don’t see why Ruuk can’t get a little glamor to achieve hunkdom.

    Agree with most of the prior comments. The 1st graf does seem clunky. Realize you want to start with Ruuk, but maybe: “The Demon King’s second-in command cantered into Ruuk’s favorite tavern away from home and silence fell in The Crispy Knight. As the chubby satyr sauntered forward, idle conversations broke off; glasses ceased to clink.
    Ruuk leaned forward as the satyr clambered onto the bar with his goat-like legs, cloven hooves clicking across the lacquered surface. . .”
    We don’t need all of Gote’s description all at once, I don’t think. He’s not the hero, right?

    Love, love Ruuk’s quest for employment and his being turned away as a “brute of a troll.”

    Can’t wait to see why Ruuk’s stuck in the faerie underground culture. Handsome prince under a spell? Government agent working undercover?
    And can’t wait to hear what that pesky human girl did to piss off the Demon King!

    LOVE the last two paragraphs, especially, “Well, troll?” and “I can help you find her.”

    Great world-building and conflict set-up. Agree that we need more about that human annoyance than just her physical description, esp. if they think she’s changed her appearance already.

    Not usually my cuppa, but I’d definitely read more of this!

  9. Terri
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:50:46

    oops. Meant “ogre” re: Shrek, not troll. Sorry.

  10. vanessa jaye
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 12:38:31

    This looks like a fun read. I would absolutely love to see more of this. great choice of names, btw.

    Agree with the quibbles already mentoined. The ‘heh’ also pulled me out, but I kinda like it, it added a bit of personality.

    There was one other thing that I found a little awkward:

    “She was last seen wearing a golden gown with a long skirt,”

    I would assume a gown would have a long skirt. Anything shorter would be a dress. So the reference to the length of the skirt is unneeded. That’s it. Good luck with this one. Hope it sells.

  11. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 13:36:33

    Others have already pointed out minor quibbles that can easily be taken care of in another editing pass. I’m not a big fan of Urban Fantasy, but I’d read this. I really loved the engaging voice, charming humor, and the fact that he’s a troll. More please.

  12. Nicola
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 20:47:12

    Ah, this is ‘The Minion and the Mistress’, isn’t it? I remember seeing the query letter for this over on Evil Editor recently. I agree with the quibbles raised by others, particularly the satyr describing the girl as beautiful. That doesn’t ring true to me. And I also wondered how they were supposed to recognise the girl if the only thing they’ve been told about her is a vague physical description but that she’s probably disguising herself with a glamour anyway. And, yes, there’s no such thing as a gown with a short skirt. But those things are all super-easy fixes. The language is readable, the voice is fun and engaging and there are hints of an interesting and humorous story to come.

  13. Castiron
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 10:57:58

    Overall, very intriguing! There’s a few places where the wording is awkward — “Ruuk leaned forward” in the second paragraph seems out of place, for example; perhaps it should be the first sentence in the paragraph, if the purpose is to keep the narrative focused on Ruuk, or perhaps there’s another way to word the paragraph to describe Gote from Ruuk’s viewpoint.

    With the genre description “urban fantasy romance”, I’m puzzled as to where the urban fantasy part is coming in — this reads like just plain fantasy set in a city, rather than fantasy set in a real-world city — but I’m willing to wait another chapter to see how The Crispy Knight fits into this world.

    The description of Gote’s reaction to Ruuk — “eyes languidly trailed” — reads to me like Gote is physically attracted to Ruuk. If that’s what you meant, that’s fine; if you wanted more of a sense that Gote is acting unfazed by Ruuk’s size, the wording needs changing.

    Overall, I’d certainly keep reading.

  14. mythicagirl
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 11:03:00

    I liked this, and Imho I”d keep the “very beautiful” part, since I don’t see many paranormals that address human women with dark skin as beautiful (that’s why I started two paranormal webcomics featuring wormen of color), but I notice how many of my favorite PR authors state how beautiful their characters are upfront (faes, valkyries, vampires, etc). This kind of reminds me of Kresley Coles’ Immortals After Dark Series. I’d read more and probably buy the book, so I hope you’ll keep us up to date on your progress.

  15. Mina Kelly
    Feb 22, 2010 @ 07:27:26

    I’m going to have to be the voice of dissent here. I found the first few paragraphs painfully clunky, and with far too much telling over showing. We don’t really get into Ruuk’s head until the third paragraph – the rest is scene-setting. If Ruuk’s important, make him the most important thing in the first paragraph, not the tavern.

    Ruuk's favorite tavern, The Crispy Knight, was a quiet place by rights, but when Gote, the Demon King's second-in-command, came cantering inside, all the quiet chatter of conversation and the clink of glasses ceased utterly.

    This sentence is very long and choppy. It’d probably work better is separated out a bit. What’s Ruuk doing? This sentence doesn’t even indicate that he’s actually in the bar, just that he likes the bar. There’s too many clauses, giving detail where it isn’t needed. Which is more important – the fact that it’s Gote arriving or the fact that it’s the Demon King’s second-in-command? Which is more relevant to Ruuk?

    Gote was a chubby satyr with short curving horns and curly dark brown fur on his goat-like legs. Ruuk leaned forward.

    Get into Ruuk’s head. The description of Gote seems to be coming from you to the reader, not from Ruuk. How does he know recognise Gote? Have they met before? Assuming Ruuk has at least seen Gote before, you need to find a way to justify the description from his point of view. Does he look normal or unusual for a satyr? Has his appearance changed since Ruuk last saw him? Is there something about his appearance that makes Ruuk study it every time he sees Gote?

    I actually like “very beautiful” – it’s part of Gote’s voice. I imagine him sounding a bit pervy when he says it! Though I’m doubtful about his ability to knock back a shot, talk, and then swallow. Aside from the fact that knocking it back implies he’s swallowed it, if he hasn’t then “the first five rows will get wet”!

    I think there’s a lot of potential here, and I think it’s significant that your writing gets much better from the third paragraph onwards. Openings are always hard, and I think this one needs a bit more work because it’s ready to go, but in terms of set up and plot my interest is definitely piqued!

  16. Polly
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 14:31:41

    I’m actually curious why this counts as urban fantasy. To me, urban fantasy requires a setting that resembles the contemporary world I’m used to, or at least can recognize, with fantasy elements that exist alongside. With taverns, trolls, and satyrs, to me this says fantasy, yes, but not urban fantasy. Nothing wrong with light or humorous fantasy, but if something’s marked as urban fantasy, I expect that part of the story is how and why the story fits into a contemporary, recognizable setting. If it didn’t do those things, I might put it back because of the mixed expectations. I know this is only one page, so all this might be answered later, but just putting it out there.

    That said, I did enjoy the story so far, though agreeing with most of the other comments. I didn’t like the “favorite” in the first sentence, since that suggests more familiarity than one week gives (to me), and I didn’t like the “heh,” which seemed like blogspeak, rather than in the story. Otherwise, I’ve got a real softspot for light fantasy, so I’d probably read more.

  17. Joe G
    Mar 01, 2010 @ 02:24:39

    I think there’s a point of view problem with the story that made me have to go back to the beginning a couple of times to sort out who was who. If Ruuk is the POV character, get deeper into his head without moving into the first person (like you did with that “Heh”, that felt very out of place). I guess what I mean is sort out your narration from his narration, or try to let us know certain information in a more natural manner.

    Also, I think this is way too much story for a first page. I feel like you could stand to start a little earlier–introduce us to Ruuk before throwing us into the central conflict of the story. I’m already making assumptions about where the story is going to go (a beautiful human girl who has stolen a great magic for mysterious reasons, a mercenary who will find her and then inevitably be sucked into the grand conspiracy) so you would need to draw me into the story before introducing the central plot line. Otherwise Ruuk feels like a flat character who exists only to fulfill the parameters of your plot, and everything comes off as a little cliche–a little too much telling, as somebody else pointed out, when you could take us back a little and let the story unfold in a more natural manner. Also, taking your time a little bit will make things feel more alive.

    I do think the writing is strong–I can see the story. Just let it breathe a little.

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