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  1. #1
    Henry Domke

    Does this grab your attention?

    I know if the first page fails to grab a reader's attention, they are likely to put it down and move on to something else. So here is the introduction to my first novel. Cut and paste directly from rich text format. (I would add spaces, but last time I tried, it not only didn't post, but logged me off, so sorry if it's not the way you would like it. And yes, I know it isn't perfect.)

    Kain's Story


    “Once upon a time, a long, long time ago…”
    “Come on dad, they all start like that. Think of something new.”
    Kain made a small chuffing sound, and smiled. Now, you can’t see the smile with it being covered with thick, bushy hair, but his eyes twinkled, so you knew he was laughing, with that sound; or maybe holding back a laugh.
    “I suppose you’re right. How about…” pausing for a moment to smooth his beard,
    “I remember a day, some years before you were born, when I was traveling through the Wilds of Ergomon. It was a fine day to be on the trail. The sky was clouded enough to keep the sun covered, but not enough to chill the air. The hyacinth was in full bloom, a mild breeze brought the smell of the pines to the west, and the river I was following murmured sweet nothings. I was in love with the area, almost enchanted, so when I found a copse of trees with a small clearing, I stopped for the rest of the day.
    After setting up a campsite, I tried my luck at fishing. With nothing more than a nibble after an hour or so, I figured it was time to quit. I dropped my pole, and heard a giant splash behind me. Startled, I instinctively pulled my short sword and thrust as I turned. Boy, was I surprised to see a shallac sliding off my blade. I nearly lost it to the river, with it flopping around, but after a few minutes, it was ready to be cooked. Leaving the shallac to smoke, I went to check my snares and found two rabbits and a righorrd. Since righorrds don’t taste good, I let it go and made my way back to camp, gathering herbs and vegetables as I found them. Smoking one rabbit and stewing the other took most of the day, leaving me a beautiful sunset to eat dinner by. With a full belly, I drifted off to sleep, counting stars.
    Next day, the sun was covered with more clouds, with a hint of rain. The weather was still warm though, and by afternoon it had turned muggy. Still, the miles slipped away quickly, and by evening, I was on the main road. Not more than half an hour later, I heard something coming. Moving to one side, I saw it was a buggy pulled by four horses, moving at a pretty good speed. They were slowing down to a trot, when I saw the most beautiful woman in the world. She had long black hair, a ruddy face, and a storm gray cloak billowing from her shoulders. Suddenly, she whipped up a crossbow and fired toward me. Dropping to the ground, I drew my blade as she rode by, pointing behind me. Quickly glancing back, I beheld a terrible sight.
    Marching in ordered columns, the army of Grom Throckthistle approached. I now knew why she was slowing down, and wasting no time, hustled me arse onto the back of the buggy. Off we went, as fast as we dared push the horses, and didn’t come to a full stop until the sun came back up. What a night it was, with the undead marching behind us. Still, we took advantage of the time to get to know each other.
    The driver was a human lad, about sixteen at the time. Delivering the shipment of healing herbs to the city of Alabast was all he cared about. I later learned his two older brothers were both wounded and likely to die within the week without the potions the herbs would be made into. Maltac, the driver, wasn’t going to stop for me, until June pointed her crossbow at him, and told him to stop. He didn’t stop, but did slow down enough for me to jump on.”
    “June, that’s mom’s name.”
    “Indeed, and lucky he is, I saw him when I did. We didn’t start off so well, but there’s something about your father.” Gwain’s mother finished with a soft smile, before going back into the kitchen to check the bread she was baking.
    “Didn’t start off so well…” I chuckled lightly, before continuing. “That’s putting it mildly. She was as much of a hard arse then, as you are hard headed now.”
    Then I paused for a moment before continuing, almost to myself at first.
    “She was beautiful, talented, and a skilled warrior; everything I wanted in a woman. Only two little problems stood between us getting together. I didn’t know how to ask her, and she wasn’t much interested in me. Not in that kind of way, at least. Patience, it seemed to me, was going to be the key factor in this situation. Anyway, I traveled with them to the town of Alabast, and when she decided to hire on as a guard for some rich humans, I followed, presenting myself by saying, “You have an excellent archer, but if they get too close, it wouldn’t hurt to have my axe guarding your skins.” They hired me on the spot. Lucky thing for them too.
    So, the next morning, we met at first light to leave the village. The air was crisp; yesterday’s hint of rain had arrived. The light fog was chilly; as the first cold day of the year had arrived. Frost decorated the branches, framed under a starlit sky. The dull light in the east shed no warmth yet, and it reflected on everyone’s face as they gathered at the stables. An ashen-faced stable boy met us, with news of the undead being spotted less than fifteen minutes ago. The guards had just killed three zombies and half a dozen skeletons. Shadows moved in the woods, half an arrow shot away.
    Eiloch, the new driver, led the horses to the wagon, and I helped hook them up. June loaded the cargo, as Gryss and Trina stowed their personal belongings. Nobody said a word until we were ready to leave.
    “Hell of a day, already. I’ll be glad to be moving,” Gryss grumbled. The human nobleman was obviously frightened, as was his extremely large breasted wife. June, being a dwarf, didn’t like the idea of a halfling driving them around the undead army, but at least I would be joining them, another dwarf.
    She wasn’t sure what to think of me, yet. I liked her, that much she knew; but I hadn’t tried anything yet. My equipment was well tended, yet wore the telltale signs of numerous battles. She decided more time was needed before she would decide. If dwarves are anything, it is patient, when they wanted to be. Of course, we’re also hot headed when we wish to be, and fearsome warriors, as you‘re well aware.
    Prepping her crossbow, she climbed inside as I tightened the last of the straps in place.
    Trina tightened her cloak a little tighter, as she slid in next to June. Sitting across from them, Gryss loaded a hand crossbow. Pulling the door closed, as we started moving, I loosened my short sword, then propped my axe against my knee as I sat.
    The steady pounding of hooves was a minor relief and conversation soon began.
    “So far, so good.”
    “Don’t relax too much,” I responded. Trina understood, but still smiled a little. It didn’t take long before the town was out of sight, as the woods closed around us. The fog thickened and the brush reduced visibility to about fifty feet. It would only be around for about an hour, before the sun burned it off. Still, it could prove to be a long hour.
    Within minutes of entering the woods, Eiloch spotted the first of the undead, yet kept the horses at a trot. The recent deadfalls made a full gallop suicidal, and there weren’t any straightaways for another mile. The halfling knew these woods well, having driven this road many times in the past six years.
    Keeping his eyes open for archers and other ranged enemies, he held control over the frightened horses. A skeleton here, some zombies there, they seemed to be everywhere, but the swirling mist made an accurate count impossible. Still, although some got close, none managed to board the wagon, or hit the horses.
    Rounding a tight corner, he opened up the team and tore down the trail. With four miles to the bridge, and another two past that to the next turn, it was time to put some distance between us and the town. A light drizzle kept the now visible sun from warming the morning, but our traveling companions barely noticed the chill of the air. All conversation had died, as the trees rushed by. The thunk of the occasional arrow hitting the wagon kept everyone on edge, yet the sporadic attacks quickly ended after crossing the Rull River.
    Slowing for a series of twists, Eiloch breathed a sigh of relief. The familiar sounds of the forest were returning. The next fifteen miles slipped away smoothly as the mist began to dissipate. Steam rose from the horses as we approached the edge of the forest. It was then I recognized the smell of death. A moment later, we cleared the last of the trees, forest giving way to the Great Open Expanse.
    The source of the smell quickly became apparent, as the remains of a platoon came into view.
    “This must be who scattered them,” June remarked. I agreed, as bodies of men and pieces of undead were scattered all over. The humans held their cloaks over their noses, while us two dwarves kept watch. Eiloch’s stomache rolled. He never could stand the sickly sweet smell of decomposing flesh. Seeing a vulture tear out an eyeball, he leaned over and emptied his guts.
    “I should have charged more for this,” he muttered to himself. The carnage was spread over a mile along the road.
    “Well trained for humans,” June dryly uttered.
    “Three or four each,” I answered. Trina paled slightly, and Gryss looked around nervously. “Let’s find someplace to stop for breakfast,” I suggested, opening the door to inform Eiloch. Stopping a few miles later at a small stand of trees, my smoked fish went well with Trina’s white wine. The sun finally broke through, and the frost and fog were forgotten about by the end of the meal. Spirits were lifted, and once the horses had grazed a bit, we set out once again. Since we were saving the horses while visibility was good, the afternoon slipped away quietly.
    The silence unnerved Eiloch, not that it wasn’t pleasant. He just wanted something to make some kind of sound, or something to move. Even the wind was still, as dusk crept slowly nearer. Not wanting to make camp in the open, he looked for any kind of shelter. The extensive grasslands, however, offered no cover, and stretched out for miles; roughly nine hundred fifty miles from city to city. It would take at least fifteen more days to cross them, so when we stopped for the night, I suggested we post a guard. June agreed, volunteering to take the first shift. Climbing on top of the wagon, she bid the others good night and made herself comfortable. She watched the party bed down, Gryss and Trina inside the coach, Eiloch curled under the driver’s seat, and I sat, leaning against the rear wheel. I laid my ax handle across my legs, and then looked upward. Hearing me mumbling something, June leaned over and asked if I was talking to her.
    “Just counting stars,” I replied. “It puts me to sleep.”
    “I see,” she said, then returned to the center of the roof.
    The oppressive silence of the twilight worked at June’s nerves, as she peered off at the horizon, ears straining to hear something, anything. Nothing, the un-natural silence was absolute. Fear crept into her heart, as the minutes seemed like hours. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, yet one’s perception of time is often different than the actual flow. Climbing down to stretch her legs, she nearly shot me when I stood up.
    “Watch where you point that; could hurt someone if you’re not careful.”
    “Sorry. Is it just me, or is it too quiet out here?”
    “It is quiet. I’ve been awake for almost half-an-hour, and the only thing I’ve heard is you.”
    “When you climbed down just now.”
    She nodded, stretching her legs. Picking up my battle-ax, I started to climb up on the wagon.
    “What are you doing?” June asked.
    “Starting my shift.” I replied, pointing toward the eastern horizon.
    The second moon was just coming out. She softly sighed, then found a spot to turn in for the night. Still, the silence disturbed her, making it difficult to fall asleep. Fatigue caught up with her eventually, though, and she slowly drifted into an uneasy slumber.
    About an hour before dawn, something changed. I couldn’t tell exactly what, but something was definitely different. Climbing down as quietly as possible, I looked all over. Nothing seemed unusual, but the hairs on the back of my neck rose. The silence still hadn’t changed, no sound of life at all. A few minutes later, Eiloch got up. He seemed to sense something was wrong, and looked at me. I just shook my head.
    Eiloch started getting the horses ready to go, as June woke. She sat up, looked around, and said, “We need to get out of here.”
    I was strapping everything into place, as Eiloch hitched the horses to the wagon. Five minutes later, June pulled the door open, and climbed inside, shoving Trina to one side. She woke up grumpy and started bitching, until I jumped in, and the wagon jerked into movement. Gryss woke up, frightened, and asked what was wrong. Nobody said anything, but weapons were at the ready. June was looking out one window; I had the other. Still, even with nothing in sight, the feeling of raw fear was steadily growing more and more powerful.
    Cold sweat running down his face, Gryss pissed himself as the horses screamed. The wagon pitched and tipped over, throwing everyone on top of Trina. I recovered first, opened the door, and scanned the sky, then the prairie. Whatever attacked was gone now, or found some way to hide in the open.
    I jumped down to look for Eiloch, as June clambered out. The first rays of sunlight broke over the horizon, revealing the full extent of the aftermath.
    The horses were a total loss, rolled and twisted in the rigging. The one mare that was still breathing was not long of this world. Three of her legs were shattered, splinters of bone protruding from over a dozen locations. Moving to deliver the mercy blow, I found only one other horse. There were no signs of the other four. With a powerful swing, my axe nearly decapitated the mortally wounded horse. Wiping the blade clean, I called to June.
    “Any sign of Eiloch?”
    “No,” she replied, gazing around. “Not…” she paused mid-sentence. Sticking out from under the wagon was a foot.
    She hurried over and yelled for Gryss and Trina to get out of the wagon, as I went to her side.
    The bruised and battered humans slowly climbed out and dropped to the ground. They surveyed the damage in a stupor, both obviously in shock.
    Working together, us dwarves heaved the wagon up and looked to see if Eiloch was alive. Dropping the wagon, I climbed into the coach and began tossing out supplies. Once everything salvageable was out, I climbed out and grabbed my backpack. Beginning with the most vital items, I started packing. Gryss watched in amazement as food, interlocking lengths of tent poles, healing herbs, sleeping bags, and flasks of lantern oil disappeared into my pack. June, cramming her pack to the brim, looked over at me with a weak smile. “Pack of holding?” she asked. I answered with an affirmative grunt, continuing to pack.
    It was then; Trina saw the foot sticking out from under the cart. Shaking visibly, she asked if it was the little driver.
    “Yeah, but I don’t think he felt a thing.” I replied. “Not the way he was crushed.”
    She paled even more and looked like she was going to be sick. Gryss, now angry as well as scared, kicked the foot with a curse. Seeing the dismembered foot tumble away, he fell to his knees and vomited. Trina, on the other hand, merely rolled her eyes back and fainted, dropping to the ground.
    Closing my pack, I stood and stretched. June slapped Trina back to conciousness and Gryss grabbed his pack. Once Trina was back on her feet, I handed her the bundled canvas that had covered the wagon. Under the current circumstances, she accepted the burden without complaint, as she only had a pair of canteens that had survived the wreck, and was carrying nothing else beside a dagger.
    “I’ll take point, humans in the middle, June’s got the rear. Any objections?” I muttered, shouldering the vast majority of the gear. Hearing none, we began the long walk to civilization.
    Things went fairly smoothly at first. Numb and frightened, our expedient dwarven duo found Gryss and Trina easy to control. The pace was set early, and if the nobles began to slow or complain, either June or I would mention that whatever had destroyed the wagon could come back at anytime. The first few times sent the human couple running, but we steady dwarves would soon catch up to the exhausted nobles.
    “A brisk steady stride will carry you further than a dead run.” I told them as we re-added them to the line late in the first afternoon. I marched them until an hour before sundown, when I halted and called out to set camp. June noted the militaristic manner in which I’d been leading them, and wondered if I had service time in my background.
    She’d asked me during dinner.
    “Not exactly,” I replied. “I grew up in Copper Coil. They don’t have a standing army, per se. Rather there are domestic areas and hazard areas. Anyone who leaves the domestic areas carries a small copper horn. Sounding the horn is usually a call for aid. As everyone carries weapons, and is trained how to use them from an early age, responders are prepared in case of battle. Ceilings collapse, slip down a shaft, run across a monster, whatever the problem is the horn says- need help. So, everyone is in the army, even though we really don’t have an army.”
    “That’s gotta be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Gryss chortled; but June realized it was quite an innovative and expedient method of communicating the need for assistance, although it did have some drawbacks.
    “Of course, we have other calls, as well; but speaking of stupid…”
    I looked at Gryss and asked, “How much water do you have?” Gryss stopped chuckling and suddenly turned serious.
    “About a gallon, maybe a little less, but I need it all.”
    “You’ll need a whole lot more than that before we’re halfway out of this. Trina, hand me the bundle you carried,” I responded. She did so, as Gryss snapped, “Yes, it’s about time they set a tent up for us. It’s nearly dark, and we must have walked a thousand miles today.” At that, I busted out laughing and June snorted with derision. Even Trina just shook her head; found a soft spot of tall grass, and lay down to sleep.
    Setting four poles in the ground to hold the canvas up, I tossed a small stone in the middle and set one of June’s pans directly under it. Gryss snorted, “What the hell kind of tent is that? I couldn’t possibly sleep under this.” I ignored him for the moment, walked over to Trina and asked if Gryss should get any of the water the still would provide. Her answer- “I don’t care, just let me sleep.”
    Grunting in agreement, I found a comfortable spot, slipped off my plate mail, and lay down to sleep. June followed suit, settling in near the water still, her chain mail draped over her pack. Gryss was furious and threw a temper tantrum, demanding a tent be erected. He was a noble and couldn’t sleep on the ground.
    “I paid you dwarves good gold to protect me, now do your job.” June stood, walked over to him, and knocked him out with a solid punch to the head. Trina was shocked, although she was thankful for the sudden silence, as she had developed a headache recently. June simply stated, “He did have a point. With all that screeching and whining, he would have brought any creatures within five miles right to us.” The blunt statement of fact ended conversation for the night, and our little camp was silent other than the soft murmuring of me counting stars.

  2. #2
    Laura M

    Re: Does this grab your attention?

    I don't really like stories that started as rpg campaigns, so I'm not your target audience and it's hard for me to answer your question. I did read the whole piece, even though it's long though, so I'd say it's a good start. I'll try and make sure my comments are to the point and don't reflect my bias

    I think you're weakening your opening by having the story told to the child. In this case, we know that the MC and his wife survive, get married and have a child. So there's no real sense of danger in the scenario. Also I think the set-up is a bit too long (did he really just catch a fish on a short sword?) I don't really care that much about how pretty the "wilds" are and why is he wondering around in the middle of nowhere anyway? How about starting in the middle, with the MC riding on back of the wagon being chased by skeletons, adding some dialogue with the child, but not mentioning that the dwarf and the father are the same, and leaving the mother out entirely?

    Also, skeletons, dwarves, halflings and bags of holding are part and parcel of the genre, and there is a market for it, but I suspect to really work well you need to make the world your own and that set-up needs to come before there's too much standard D&D fare. Show what is unique about your world, and then when you add the props that come with the genre it won't seem so cliche? (that might not be the right word... jarring, maybe?)

    This is too long for me to go through and add grammar nitpicks, but there are quite a few. The biggest thing I see is a major problem with point of view. This seems to be written from omniscient third, so we know what everyone is thinking, but I expect a close 3rd (from the MC's pov) or even a first person narrative (he's telling the story to his child). How does the MC know what June is thinking/feeling/seeing, but even more for the noble humans and the halfling. I basically jumped out of the story every time there was a point of view change. Maybe try describing the scene strictly from the POV character's view (one paragraph), and then his reaction to it (next paragraph) and so on?

    Although I haven't gotten very far along with it yet, I enjoyed this article on writing this way:

    Might be worth a shot

  3. #3
    Henry Domke

    Re: Does this grab your attention?

    I'm aware there's grammer problems. Just want some honest feedback. Today was the first time I looked at it in over a year, as I've been busy with the sequal and the accompanying RPG rulebooks, world notes, etc. This first book is intended to introduce readers to the world, mostly through flashbacks and stories told by those who lived through them, with occasional scenes taking place in the present. There are several different storytellers throughout the book, although most of the tale is told by Kain and June.
    Also, it was supposed to be just the first page, but rich text format took out all the page breaks, so I wasn't certain where exactly the first page ended and second page began. So I appologize about the length. This is only the introduction, and the POV does smooth out more as Chapter One picks up.

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