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First Page: Vampire Origins: Project Ichorous (YA)

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Alex spent a long time preparing for this moment.

Seven years working up the courage. Two weeks crafting the proposal. Four days agonizing over the perfect ring. An hour in the garden, cutting Kristiina’s favorite flowers.

Everything had to be perfect, because that’s what she was to him.

But now that he was down on one knee, holding the diamond ring to her delicate finger, the words he’d put so much thought into evaporated from his tongue.

The horrors trapped inside his brain operated to their own rhythm, popping up when they were least expected, triggered by the most banal of memories.

The red sun sinking below the mountains was the exact shade of the blood that seeped from his father’s head; the lavender stalks he’d cut for Kristiina triggered a scent memory of his mother’s perfume the last time she hugged him.

Even the ring held poignant memories; the diamond one of the jewels entrusted to Alex moments before his family was slaughtered.

A color, a scent, a family heirloom.

Alone they were harmless, but combined they were dragging him back to the cataclysmic violence.

Alex blurted out a hurried “Marry me.” He saw Kristiina’s mouth open in reply, but he could no longer hear her voice.

He was already back there.

“Package for you,” Anna said, handing Alex a small, rectangular parcel wrapped in brown paper. “And Mama, there’s a letter here for you, too. It’s from Rasputin.”

Alex cringed. His mother might think Rasputin the most talented physician in Russia, but to Alex, who had to endure the man’s vile hemophilia treatments that included leeches, tourniquets, nasty potions, transfusions and even, on occasion, the drinking of blood, Rasputin’s name was synonymous with pain.

They were supposed to cure Alex, to stop the pain of bleeding into muscles and joints. More often than not, it was the treatments themselves that confined Alex to bed for days on end.

“You’ll die if I don’t do this,” Rasputin would say as Alex’s parents held him down.

Some days, Alex would have preferred death.

“Is everything okay?” Anna asked, watching Mama’s eyes fly across the page, and her face blanch milk-white.

But Alex had already lost interest, caring only about the package clutched in his hands.

He tore the paper, his heart galloping when he spied the treasure within; gold lettering spelling out Peter and Wendy.

A smiling boy sat on top of a dragon playing the flute, while two mermaids climbed up the dragon’s side, reaching for Peter. Along the spine of the book was a nefarious pirate with a hook for a hand.

“Take Alexei and go play,” Mama said.

Alex let out a wild whoop; glad he could get started on the book right away.

However, Anna didn’t share his glee.

At seventeen, she thought herself too mature to entertain her little brother.

Later that afternoon, when Alex wandered down to the basement, he overheard his mother ordering the servants to knock holes in the walls. He didn’t give it much thought. She often devoted to renovation projects, especially since they’d been forced to move out of the palace into such an austere villa.

Yet, a few days later, when Alex reentered the basement to hide from Anna, he discovered his mother stashing food and water inside the walls – and most puzzling of all, great piles of jewels and family heirlooms.

“Mama, what are you doing?”

“Hush, Alexei. Go back upstairs. Promise me you won’t come back down here,” she said, “and don’t tell anyone what you saw.”

Alex thought it an odd thing to ask, but nodded his head. What did he know of adult affairs?

“I promise.”

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. SAO
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 08:23:00

    This was utterly bland and flavorless. If Alex and Anna (I presume Tsarevich and Grand Duchess) we the children of Canadian hockey players or English Oxford Dons, you wouldn’t have to change a word.

    Tsarevich Alexei was severely ill. He could be bedridden for days if he fell and bruised himself. Revolution literally overturned his world and he went from being the second in line to an Emperor who ruled over the largest country on earth to watching his parents shot like vermin. Alexandra Feodorovna was busy “decorating” the “villa” to which they were exiled? And he’s an exile. Lastly, he’s Russian. There’s no Russian flavor, no illness, no sense of the immense privilege to which he was born.

    If you want to make Alex and Anna (Russian nicknames would be Lyesha and Nastya) Romanovs, do you research and ground your story in Russia, Revolution and Romanovs. If you don’t want to do the research, ditch the hints of history.

    What you have here is like a cook who put a pumpernickel bun on their cheeseburger and called it Russian cuisine. (NB pumpernickel is German)

  2. wikkidsexycool
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 09:15:34

    Hello Author,

    Thanks for having the courage to submit this. Though I was a bit lost at first, I re-read your first page, and I’m thinking Alex was saved by Rasputin’s “treatments” which may have turned him into a vampire. Okay, I’ve used Rasputin in two of my own paranormal romance books, so I enjoyed the tiny bit of history you threw in, but I have to agree with much of what SAO wrote.

    For me the story started here:

    “They were supposed to cure Alex, to stop the pain of bleeding into muscles and joints.”

    I do enjoy a premise of the cure being much worse than the treatment, which is what I think you’re aiming for. You’ve got a number of decisions to make. Maybe your story is that Alex is going to be the tortured hero who’s the only one of his royal family that survived, and through the ages he’s loved and lost. Or he’s a fish out of water in a modern world since he’s an ageless wonder. I don’t know, but either way I think more of your hero’s personality has to come out in order to have a reader care about him.

    I also think jumping from the proposal to his back story needed a bit more exploring other than giving a reader the length of time it took for him to finally bend on one knee. He doesn’t have to be an Alpha male (at least for me) in order to be interesting, but in your first page he’s not coming across as a Beta either. He’s sort of getting lost in the storyline you’re trying to tell about his initial illness, especially with the addition of other characters who have to intrude, since the royal family’s history is bigger than his (at the moment). But you’ve got something here, and like I stated I’ve utilized Rasputin in my own works, so it will be interesting to read what you come up with. I wish you all the best with this. And please, if you have a chance could you post a follow up blurb on the progress or premise of your book?

  3. Maura
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 09:30:59

    My eyebrows went up when I realized this was supposed to be Tsarevich Alexei. This is… a potentially extremely fraught area, as pointed out above by those who know a lot more about Russian history than I do. Tread very carefully if you want to keep this aspect, and make sure you’re very grounded in your research. I’m guessing this is before the family has been arrested, and he’ll come back for the hidden treasure trove later.

    I couldn’t follow the excerpt as it jumped from the proposal to Kristiina (why the extra i? Is she Finnish or something?) back, or forwards, or… what happened there? If this is a flashback, it’s not immediately clear to me.

  4. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 09:50:07

    I agree with all of the above. Tread carefully in the past.

    This also reminds me of Delilah S. Dawson’s Wicked as She Wants….which nods its head at that chapter in history, but takes us to a totally different world.

    Dawson’s book plays with here/somewhere else…in this example, it’s present/past. Dawson’s book also has vampire-like creatures…depending upon which world you’re in.

    It’s a little too close to hers…I think wonder about originality of ideas. You may not have read her book….if you have, you may want to make sure you’re only inspired by her story and not being derivative.

    If you haven’t read her book, you may want to, to make sure you really are writing something original and fresh.

    Thanks for sharing your work. It’s a hard thing to do sometimes but it’s what gets us all on the path toward better writing.

  5. Carol McKenzie
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 10:46:08

    This is published, as of May of 2013, found on Amazon.

  6. hapax
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 11:10:06

    I know that I’m a minority on this one, but I truly loathe “clever” puns in book titles. (Also, mixing Greek and Latin roots strikes me like nails on a blackboard). I would have passed on this one based on the title alone.

    As for the rest, it’s smooth enough, but I can’t bring myself to care about a hero who goes into a long reverie about his childhood (which, as others have pointed out, feels oddly bland considering the real history) when he’s in the middle of a marriage proposal.

    Either ditch the proposal entirely or work the backstory in somewhere else.

  7. Lynne Connolly
    Nov 30, 2013 @ 11:35:43

    Agree with the others but not going to comment on anything else because the book is already out there.
    However, it does point something up. Sometimes a book just isn’t ready and after receiving a lot of rejections, the author decides to self-publish. This book has an interesting premise, similar to the Lynn Veihl series, but it needs work before it’s ready for prime time. It’s a shame, because with more attention to historical detail and a bit more work on the characters it could be really interesting. But as it stands – no.

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