Here's the first 400 words of Courtesan, by D. A. Boulter.
"They are going through your files."
Interesting first line. I’ve heard it said by some that you shouldn’t open your novel with dialogue unless it’s intriguing, and I think you’re successful with this one.
Jaswinder Saroya stared at the blank screen of the tele-vid and attempted to put a face to the distorted voice. Even as she heard the sharp click of disconnection, she realized it didn't matter. She moved. Before the tele-vid reset she had taken three steps towards the bedroom.
Wow, that name is a mouthful. I’m not sure I’m in love with it. I really like names that are easy for me to pronounce in my head. This one has a hard time rolling off my mind’s tongue. Is it Ja-swine-der? Or Jaz-wind-er? Sa-roy-a? Or Sar-oh-ya? I’m not sure, and that does annoy me a little bit. But I know a lot of readers who love creative names, so it could just be me.
I like the distorted voice, and the tele-vid. This gives me a good idea of the setting and we jump right into it, instead of giving me long back story about where and when we are. Great job with that.
Harold Preston, no doubt.
Oh, so she knows who the voice belonged to? I thought it didn’t matter. If she knows the voice, I would mention this sooner, and cut the parts about not being able to put a face to the voice, and it not mattering. If she just realizes who this might be, then I would take out the “no doubt” part. Because if there’s no doubt, she would have known it before now.
He had warned her, and that warning had prompted her precautions. She pulled the ready-case from her closet, opened it for a quick last check, then reverently placed the disks containing her notes and research into a hidden compartment. She gave her portable computer a wistful glance. It belonged to Plender University and she couldn't justify taking it.
Tele-vid makes me think of the future, but the word ‘disks’ makes me think of the past. I’m probably off here, but I might call them Data Units or Data Sticks... or something more futuristic sounding. But that’s my only nit pick. The adverb isn’t horrible, so I’ll leave it alone.
"They are going through your files."
Is she hearing this again out loud? Or thinking about it? Because if she’s thinking it, I would put it in italics instead of quote marks.
She shuddered as she closed the case. Preston's impromptu lecture spelled out the possibilities: people from the university; government agents; colonists (either side), or the Interplanetary Corporations.
Fear pushed down the annoyance at the arrogance implied by the invasion of her privacy at Plender University, pushed down the anger at the realization that her home would be next. She wanted to meet these unknown intruders and give them a blast they'd never forget. Instead, Jaswinder grabbed her overcoat and ensured her long black tresses stayed inside. Looking around her bedroom, she sighed. The rooms had served as a warm and comfortable refuge, as opposed to the sterile officiousness of her university office. She caught her gaze in the mirror and it surprised her to find no trace of the fear she felt. She laughed harshly.
I’m interested to know who is looking through her files... but for me this lacks some sense of danger that I feel it should have. As of now, I don’t know what is in those files, and I don’t have a sense of why she would have to pack and leave. I’m sure there’s a good reason, and I’d love a little peek at it, just to whet my appetite.
The call had not come unexpected. And, expecting it, she had prepared as thoroughly as she had prepared any of her experiments. A few days earlier might have caught her unready, but today she just flowed from step to step.
To me, this is an unnecessary explanation. If she’s packing and leaving, and she already mentioned the warnings, I can assume she has planned for this. But I’m kind of a “skip the unnecessary parts and get to the good stuff” kind of person.
At the door, she turned and gave the room one last look. She would miss the neatly made bed with its perfect pillows, which had taken an eternity to find. Hopefully it wouldn't be for long. She would miss the stuffed tiger, sitting in its place on the night table, a gift from an old friend. She would miss it, but someone might remember and tell. When the fuss had blown over she would return, or send, for it.
This part doesn’t help build the tension, in my opinion. I’d rather learn a little more about the danger she is in. I don’t know her very well yet, so I’m not emotionally involved. The fact that she’s leaving her stuffed tiger doesn’t mean much to me right now.
As she hurried into the kitchen it came to her that rivals, recognizing the possibilities inherent in her research, might also break into her files.
Ah, I have a feeling we are now getting to some of what I wanted to know. I would read on and see if I get a peek at what it is she’s trying to protect. And what the danger is if the files get into the wrong hands. Nice start, and I would say that I am hooked for now. If I go on and read, and don’t get more danger, I might put the book down. But for now, you got me!
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