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First Page: Warlock’s Code

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It had been many, many years since Christopher was afraid of the dark. He’d embraced it long ago, learned to make the dark a part of him, use it to cloak himself and hide. The dark was his friend, it kept him safe. Safe and sound. Everything was going to be all right. It was quiet in the dark, peaceful.

He stepped out of the darkness now, into the gentle light of a porch lamp. It fell upon the reddish stubble on his face, crept up to illuminate the dark rings under his pale blue eyes and swept across his tousled hair. He was home. Safe again.

An old woman sat in a rocking chair on his porch, rocking back and forth, back and forth. She was knitting as she rocked, spinning loose pink yarn into clumped pink yarn, humming happily to herself. Her eyes were closed and her expression was one of peaceful contentment. She didn’t see Christopher.

Christopher coughed, “Grandmoth-Granny. It’s me, I’m home.”

Granny looked up with a broad, innocent smile stretched across her toothless mouth, “Oh, well isn’t that nice, dear? There are cookies in the cupboard for you. Then, off to bed with you, ducky. I think it’s past someone’s bed time.”

“Yes, grandmamma,” Christopher replied obediently, bowing his head in submission with a bashful smile as he ducked inside. He hadn’t had a bedtime in years. Warlocks didn’t have bedtimes, no one told Warlocks what to do.

“Granny” lacked the necessary cognitive ability to understand such social niceties, however. Which was only natural, as she didn’t realize exist. Well, she had once, but she’d died long ago. This new Granny was made of clay and magic, a companion to satisfy one of Christopher’s many whims. It amused him for the moment, to play a child. She amused him. And when she didn’t? Well, that was what recycling was for.

There were freshly baked cookies in the cupboard, as promised. The Mickey Mouse shaped jar smiled eerily at Christopher as he took it clumsily into his arms, reaching straight for the largest of the cookies. No one made better cookies than Christopher’s grandmother, alive or dead.

As Christopher chewed mechanically, listening to the crunching and chewing with an odd sort of detachment born of too much magic in too little time, his body began to relax, lose the familiar edge of tension. It started with a shaking in his hands, weakness and fatigue crawling up his legs, a faint blurring of his eyes. He’d been under enhancement spells for so long that Christopher had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be human. He wasn’t sure if he was horrified or relieved by the reminder.

It had been a long mission this time. Three weeks in Florida, chasing a pixie around the Everglades, and then a weeklong trek up the coast, outrunning the elves all the while. She’d been delivered though, as he’d promised, to the grand Poohbah himself, Winston Pembroke, bear King, beast lord, Alpha, whatever he was calling himself now and Christopher had received his payment, as promised. Should tide him over for a few weeks, if he supplemented it with some party gigs. He could hold himself over with tricks for another month even, give his body some time to recover. The enhancement spells had saved his life more times than he could recall, but they took a toll.

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

10 Comments

  1. coco
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 06:20:05

    Hmm. I actually think this has a lot of promise but it needs some cleaning up.

    1. From this bit I am totally confused as to how old this person is. I was thinking YA at first but towards the end it’s so business-like, it’s almost creepy that he’s holding a cookie jar.

    2. Check some of your words: “as she didn’t realize exist.” (really) or ” Should tide him over for a few weeks,” (tie).

    3. Adverbs. I am not as bothered as some, but when you have three in a short paragraph it gets slightly tedious t0 read.

    4. The first two paragraphs are a bit too full of repetition and also, I don’t quite get the connection to the rest. It might be better to start with something else?

  2. cleo
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 07:15:05

    This is interesting, but I had trouble with some of it.

    I’m not sure if it’s your intention to make Christopher come across as cold and self-important, but if it was – good job with the characterization. The paragraph about his grandmother is particularly creepy – it amused him to “make” a fake grandmother, and when he’s tired of “her,” he’ll recycle? Umm, ick.

    Also – watch the passive voice – “she’d been delivered though, as he promised”. Why not just say that he delivered her?

  3. cead
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 08:28:42

    @coco: I second everything you say except for the point about “tide” — that’s a real construction. The OED seems to think it’s archaic and/or obsolete, but it’s definitely still alive and well in some dialects, including mine, and the author’s using it exactly how I would use it.

    The first paragraph here just doesn’t make sense to me in context. If the second paragraph were explaining that Christopher is now imprisoned in the darkness and has reverted back to his childhood fear of it, then it makes sense. Here, though, it turns out that he’s just stepping onto his porch, no danger in sight? It’s actually kind of annoying. Just cut that; it’s badly out of place here, and you can get that information across later. If you start with the second paragraph instead, then the sense of growing creepiness will be stronger because you’ll be starting with something relatively mundane that is swiftly revealed to be rather more sinister.

    That said, this definitely has promise. I agree with Cleo that if your intention is to make Christopher cold and creepy, you’ve succeeded in spades. The whole scene is unsettling in a really interesting way. I’d read more and this isn’t usually a genre I favour. Get rid of the first paragraph and alter the first sentence of your second accordingly, and you’ll have a pretty strong opening.

  4. coco
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 08:40:46

    @cead:
    Haha, that teaches me to make comments without a quick fact check. Indeed! You learn something new every day.

  5. Marianne McA
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 11:37:08

    The paragraph about the grandmother which starts: ‘”Granny” lacked…’ is the bit that leaps off the page at me – that’s a great hook. It’s disturbing, so I don’t know that it would sell me the book, but it’s entirely memorable.

    I agree with cead about your first line – it annoyed me for the reasons she suggests. Moreover, I think it weakens the page, because the reader starts by thinking Christopher is scared, or hunted. Whereas if the book began with the weary warlock coming back home to a Thomas Kinkade scene: ‘Christopher stepped out of the darkness, into the gentle light …’ granny could sucker punch the reader even more effectively.

    I thought the last paragraph read as a bit of an info dump.

    I can’t decide if I’d buy this or not, but I’d definitely read further. (I appreciate Christopher is exhausted at this point, and possibly not very nice, ever; but if he could be funny when he was recalling the last three weeks – even in a biting, sarcastic way – that would seal the deal for me.)

    Good luck.

  6. Lucy Woodhull
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 12:07:37

    This is weird, and I dig it. A couple of nitpicks:

    “…light of a porch lamp. It fell upon the reddish stubble on his face, crept up to illuminate the dark rings under his pale blue eyes and swept across his tousled hair.”

    In his POV, he is not looking at his own face, so he’s just thinking of his own features, which nobody does. I’m not sitting here typing thinking of my long, brown locks and sapphire blue eyes. This is narration direct to the reader to tell us what he looks like. Find another way.

    Watch your word repetitions — “As Christopher chewed mechanically, listening to the crunching and chewing” Chewing-chewing. You tend to repeat words on purpose, I think, and it works for me, but only when there aren’t additional accidental instances. When that happens, it makes them all seem like mistakes.

    You use words in an interesting way, and this is much more intriguing and unusual than the average bear. Good luck!

  7. Gayle63
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 14:21:40

    @coco: I’m pretty sure “tide over” is correct (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tide%20over), but I totally agree with you about the ambiguity of the age.

  8. wikkidsexycool
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 18:45:08

    I. Loved. it.

    Good job author! You’ve managed to make your hero both creepy and endearing, imho. the whole “warlock still in touch with his inner child/every boy needs a cookie baking granny” is not only the start of a intriguing premise, but a heck of a way to start a book. I even liked your opening line “It had been many, many years since Christopher was afraid of the dark”

    Oh, and the Granny recycle line was priceless. Keep it, and I hope your novel has many more such touches. I really like your “voice” author. I hope you will come back and keep this site updated on your book’s progress.

    Thanks for sharing. It took courage to submit this, and I wish you all the best.

    Oh, if you could very kindly come back and post a book blurb of some sort? Pretty please?

  9. Des Livres
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 21:43:48

    Happens all the time with these things – I read the first page quite happily, and enjoy it, and then get to the comments and find the feedback about sentence structures, use of words etc, absolutely right.

    FWIW I want to keep reading – I liked the contrast between boyhood stuff and chilly mature adult stuff, and the Granny.

  10. Viridian
    Oct 06, 2013 @ 22:10:38

    I liked this a lot. The comment about the Granny phantom being disposable creeped me out, but it was a nice touch, and it enticed me to keep reading. I don’t mind if this guy is a villain, hero, or a combination of the two, but I’m itching to find out.

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