Author Topic: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter  (Read 246 times)

Offline nkilpatrick

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Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« on: October 10, 2019, 09:36:00 AM »
Dear all,

Would appreciate any feedback :) Thanks!!!

CHAPTER ONE

The room smelled of sweat, cigarette smoke, and a tad bit of spilled beer drying on hot concrete. The stench of inebriated desperation was palpable. Theirs hadn’t been the only poker game when Nick O’Leary first came to the gambling den, but now everyone had gathered around their table to watch. Everyone looked so strange to him all of a sudden. It was as if his frayed nerves had somehow made everything sharper and more focused. The lad in the pale blue suit, too handsome. The lady who smelled of lilacs, what was up with those ears? The whole lot of them seemed caricatures of their former selves, and in the center, staring at him with the greenest eyes he’d ever seen was Alistair.
“I don’t enjoy waiting, my friend.” He smirked as he theatrically drummed his fingers on the table.
Alistair wasn’t Nick’s friend at all, actually. He had just met the guy that day at a Las Vegas casino. He had cajoled him into a private poker game and Nick had been too much of a gambler to resist. There was something about him that was hard to say no to. He was expertly groomed, immaculately dressed and extremely good-looking, and yet for all these attributes, he somehow looked so out of place. He was like a Picasso in a sea of wallpaper. Nick found himself wanting to be in the man’s presence.
Next thing he knew, Nick was in a gambling den ten blocks off the strip, in what would appear to be an oddly high stakes game of poker, face to face with the mysterious Alistair.
“See, I’m not sure I understand,” Nick stammered.
“It’s quite simple really. We’ve, shall we say, upped the ante? Money is so passé nowadays, don’t you think? My preferred currency… is luck.” The last word drew a collective gasp from the now captivated crowd.
“Look, I really don’t know where you’re going with this…”
“Pretend that I may give you luck and pretend that I too may take it away. Upon this premise, my friend, we shall place our final bets. If you win, I am prepared to offer a lifetime of providence. If I win, you will surrender said providence to me commencing immediately until the day of your death.” 
Nick didn’t know what to think. The man was talking in riddles. The room started to spin. What did he have to lose?
 “Okay. I’m in.” Nick’s hands started to get clammy the instant he said the words. What was he so nervous about? It was obviously some kind of pissing contest, none of it was real. There’s no money at stake, Nick. Relax.
“Then it’s done,” Alistair said. “The ladies and gentlemen here gathered stand witness to this wager. Shall we continue?”
The room had gone deathly quiet. Nick could hear the buzz from the florescent light above, pestering and niggling. He wanted to swat something away but wasn’t sure what. He looked around at the eager faces around him and felt intense claustrophobia.
The dealer discarded the “burn card” and revealed the fifth and final card: A queen of diamonds. Nick looked up to see Alistair smiling at him, not quite the cat that swallowed the canary, but more perverse, sinister. He felt his skin start to prickle as the room suddenly turned cold. Nick felt empty, tired.
Alistair turned his cards over. A royal flush.
Nick’s chair made a loud grating screech as he abruptly pushed away from the table and got up. He caught the woman who smelled of lilacs staring at him, slowly shaking her head from side to side. Nick couldn’t get away from there quick enough. He just wanted to put the whole day behind him, go home to his lovely pregnant wife Meara and pretend that everything was as it should be.
“Not so fast, my friend,” Alistair said. “Before you make your leave, I want to make certain that you understand the significance of what transpired here today.”
“Sure. I lost my luck. Evidently, I didn’t really have much to begin with, so it’s really quite ironic.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Alistair asked, an ominous look on his face, “Then let me show you.”
The moment Alistair spoke, he was in Nick’s consciousness. Nick was pummeled with images of what his life was to be, like a morbid preview of coming attractions – Meara leaving him, his new-born child hungry, cold and close to dying, his own reflection in the mirror, gaunt, tired and beaten. Alistair’s being was in every crevice of his mind, raking through his loves, his passions and above all, his fears.
“How are you doing that? Get out of my head!” Nick shouted.
 “Poor, sad human. You are no match for me. The sooner you accept that fact, the better. I’m only showing you your future. Be glad for the warning.”
Alistair’s deluge continued.
“Stop! I beg you.” The force of the onslaught brought Nick to his knees. No, not my child, please not my daughter. Nick crumbled to the floor, his face a mask of pain. He hardly noticed the crowd disperse. He had no idea how long he crouched over in despair, his soul empty and desperate, knowing with every fiber of his being that his life now ceased to be his own, that it now belonged to this creature who called himself Alistair. 
 “Don’t think me a horrible man, my friend. A deal is a deal,” said Alistair.  “You entered it willingly and I have no further recourse than to see it through.”
“You are not my friend,” Nick snapped back with what little he had left.
“Now, now Nick. There’s no need for animosity. I’m quite a reasonable man. You’ve made your wager with me, you lost and that is done. I do however feel for your wife and your unborn child. I fear they may not deserve this that you’ve brought upon them.”
Nick was barely listening.
“There may be a way to spare your loved ones from your misfortune. Your lovely wife Meara...”
Nick’s head shot up, “How do you know my wife’s name?” he screamed. “Who are you? What are you?”
“Don’t interrupt. As I was saying, let us salvage your beautiful wife and your precious daughter. Your wife Meara will leave you after your daughter is born. Let her. She will have a better life. As for your daughter, I’m able to give the little angel a fighting chance in life – strike that, more than a fighting chance, I’m prepared to offer her a precious gift.”
“Go on...” said Nick.
“I will bestow luck upon your daughter, bountiful but limited. She will enjoy a charmed life, with riches and comfort and abundance – but only until her eighteenth year. After then, she’ll be immune to the power of the providence that only my kind can provide. After then, she’ll be on her own.”
“No. I don’t want anything to do with your kind. Leave us alone. If you go anywhere near my daughter, I swear to God...”
“My friend, be reasonable. Think of the life she’ll have without this gift. You’ve seen it.”
Nick felt bile rise up his throat as he recalled the visions, his life’s preview.
“I’m not a monster, Nick. I offer this because I can, but even my power has its limits. Eighteen years. Take it, my friend. In exchange, all I ask is a simple boon, an honor if you will.”
“What do you want now, my soul?” Tears welled up in Nick’s eyes, for as much as he despised this man before him, he knew without a doubt, having had him invade his very soul, that Alistair could deliver.
 “All I ask is a simple request, one that is considered to be a great honor in my parts of the world. I would like the privilege of naming your daughter,” said Alistair.
“That’s it?” Nick asked.
Alistair nodded.
“If I grant you this request, you promise that my daughter will have eighteen years of good fortune?” Nick would take anything he could get. To give the little angel a fighting chance in life. He could hear Alistair’s haunting words in his head.
“Yes, Nick. You have my word.”
“What about my wife Meara?”
Alistair shook his head.
“The name?” Nick asked in resignation.
“Clover,” Alistair said with a smile.
Nick nodded and lowered his face into his hands.
Alistair turned away, took a cell phone out, pressed “1” and waited.
“Finn? Alistair. I have a job for you. A big one.”


Offline Tigerbunny

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Re: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2019, 07:55:18 AM »
Hi nkilpatrick and Karma!

Okay. I love this. Aside from very, very few nitpicks(get rid of "tad bit" and "drying on hot concrete")... I couldn't wait to read on! It's so classic fairytale-ish! Haaaaa!

Keep going my friend and don't let anyone get in your way.  You can always go back and do small edits later.  :up:

Tigerbunny
« Last Edit: October 13, 2019, 07:58:56 AM by Tigerbunny »

Offline elparkerio

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Re: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2019, 08:19:48 PM »


CHAPTER ONE

The room smelled of sweat, cigarette smoke, and a tad bit of spilled beer drying on hot concrete I'd end with "and spilled beer when it starts to dry on hot concrete.". The stench of inebriated desperation was palpable. Theirs hadn’t been the only poker game when Nick O’Leary first came to the gambling den, but now everyone had gathered around their table to watch. Everyone looked so strange to him all of a sudden. It was as if his frayed nerves had somehow made everything sharper and more focused. The lad in the pale blue suit, too handsome. The lady who smelled of lilacs, what was up with those earslol? The whole lot of them seemed caricatures of their former selves, and in the center, staring at him with the greenest eyes he’d ever seen was Alistair.
“I don’t enjoy waiting, my friend.” He smirked as he theatrically drummed his fingers on the table.
Alistair wasn’t Nick’s friend at all, actually. He had just met the guy that day at a Las Vegas casino. He had cajoled him into a private poker game and Nick had been too much of a gambler to resist. There was something about him that was hard to say no to. He was expertly groomed, immaculately dressed and extremely good-looking, and yet for all these attributes, he somehow looked so out of place. He was like a Picasso in a sea of wallpaper. Nick found himself wanting to be in the man’s presence.
Next thing he knew, Nick was in a gambling den ten blocks off the strip, in what would appear to be an oddly high stakes game of poker, face to face with the mysterious Alistair.
“See, I’m not sure I understand,” Nick stammered *presently.
“It’s quite simple really. We’ve, shall we say, upped the ante? Money is so passé nowadays, don’t you think? My preferred currency… is luck.” The last word drew a collective gasp from the now captivated crowd. not sure why it would...let's see
“Look, I really don’t know where you’re going with this…”
“Pretend that I may give you luck and pretend that I too may take it away. Upon this premise, my friend, we shall place our final bets. If you win, I am prepared to offer a lifetime of providence. If I win, you will surrender said providence to me commencing immediately until the day of your death.”  stakes!
Nick didn’t know what to think. The man was talking in riddles. The room started to spin. What did he have to lose?
 “Okay. I’m in.” Nick’s hands started to get clammy the instant he said the words. What was he so nervous about? It was obviously some kind of pissing contest, none of it was real. There’s no money at stake, Nick. Relax.
“Then it’s done,” Alistair said. “The ladies and gentlemen here gathered stand witness to this wager. Shall we continue?”
The room had gone deathly quiet. Nick could hear the buzz from the florescent light above, pestering and niggling. He wanted to swat something away but wasn’t sure what. He looked around at the eager faces around him and felt intense claustrophobia.
The dealer discarded the “burn card” and revealed the fifth and final card: A queen of diamonds. Nick looked up to see Alistair smiling at him, not quite the cat that swallowed the canary, but more perverse, sinister. He felt his skin start to prickle as the room suddenly turned cold. Nick felt empty, tired.
Alistair turned his cards over. A royal flush.
Nick’s chair made a loud grating screech as he abruptly pushed away from the table and got up. He caught the woman who smelled of lilacs staring at him, slowly shaking her head from side to side. Nick couldn’t get away from there quick enough. for someone who doesn't believe this stuff, his reaction is a bit dramatic. Maybe just me, though...He just wanted to put the whole day behind him, go home to his lovely pregnant wife Meara <--- name seems a little irrelevant at the mo'and pretend that everything was as it should be.
“Not so fast, my friend,” Alistair said. “Before you make your leave, I want to make certain that you understand the significance of what transpired here today.”
“Sure. I lost my luck. Evidently, I didn’t really have much to begin with, so it’s really quite ironic.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Alistair asked, an ominous look on his face,. “Then let me show you.”
The moment Alistair spoke, he was in Nick’s consciousness. Nick was pummeled with images of what his life was to be, like a morbid preview of coming attractions – Meara leaving him, his new-born child hungry, cold and close to dying, his own reflection in the mirror, gaunt, tired and beaten. Alistair’s being was in every crevice of his mind, raking through his loves, his passions and above all, his fears. I feel like this is when Nick should jerk up
“How are you doing that? Get out of my head!” Nick shouted.
 “Poor, sad human. You are no match for me. The sooner you accept that fact, the better. I’m only showing you your future. Be glad for the warning.”
Alistair’s deluge continued.
“Stop! I beg you.” The force of the onslaught brought Nick to his knees. No, not my child, please not my daughter. Nick crumbled to the floor, his face a mask of pain. He hardly noticed the crowd disperse. He had no idea how long he crouched over in despair, his soul empty and desperate, knowing with every fiber of his being that his life now ceased to be his own, that it now belonged to this creature who called himself Alistair. 
 “Don’t think me a horrible man, my friend. A deal is a deal,” said Alistair.  “You entered it willingly and I have no further recourse than to see it through.”
“You are not my friend,” Nick snapped back with what little he had left.
“Now, now Nick. There’s no need for animosity. I’m quite a reasonable man. You’ve made your wager with me, you lost and that is done. I do however feel for your wife and your unborn child. I fear they may not deserve this that you’ve brought upon them.”
Nick was barely listening.
“There may be a way to spare your loved ones from your misfortune. Your lovely wife Meara...”
Nick’s head shot up,. “How do you know my wife’s name?” he screamed. “Who are you? What are you?”
“Don’t interrupt. As I was saying, let us salvage your beautiful wife and your precious daughter. Your wife Meara will leave you after your daughter is born. Let her. She will have a better life. As for your daughter, I’m able to give the little angel a fighting chance in life – strike that, more than a fighting chance, I’m prepared to offer her a precious gift.”
“Go on...” said Nick.
“I will bestow luck upon your daughter, bountiful but limited. She will enjoy a charmed life, with riches and comfort and abundance – but only until her eighteenth year. After then, she’ll be immune to the power of the providence that only my kind can provide. After then, she’ll be on her own.”this feels like a fairy-tale. That's a compliment, btw
“No. I don’t want anything to do with your kind. Leave us alone. If you go anywhere near my daughter, I swear to God...”
“My friend, be reasonable. Think of the life she’ll have without this gift. You’ve seen it.”
Nick felt bile rise up his throat as he recalled the visions, his life’s preview.
“I’m not a monster, Nick. I offer this because I can, but even my power has its limits. Eighteen years. Take it, my friend. In exchange, all I ask is a simple boon, an honor if you will.”
“What do you want now, my soul?” Tears welled up in Nick’s eyes, for as much as he despised this man before him, he knew without a doubt, having had him invade his very soul, that Alistair could deliver.
 “All I ask is a simple request, one that is considered to be a great honor in my parts not sure about this plural "parts" of the world. I would like the privilege of naming your daughter,” said Alistair.
“That’s it?” Nick asked.
Alistair nodded.
“If I grant you this request, you promise that my daughter will have eighteen years of good fortune?” Nick would take anything he could get. To give the little angel a fighting chance in life. He could hear Alistair’s haunting words in his head.
“Yes, Nick. You have my word.”
“What about my wife Meara?”
Alistair shook his head.
“The name?” Nick asked in resignation.
“Clover,” Alistair said with a smile.
Nick nodded and lowered his face into his hands.
Alistair turned away, took a cell phone out, pressed “1” and waited.
“Finn? Alistair. I have a job for you. A big one.”
[/quote]

I loved this. Really. Well done--your writing is on fire, your worldbuilding works really well, and it makes me want to read chapter two. My only issue is Nick. Maybe if we had a little more background on him I'd get his motives. Then again, he's a gambler, right? Sorry I'm not explaining this well, but he just felt a little off.
elparkerio

Offline nkilpatrick

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Re: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2019, 10:20:28 AM »
Thank you so much for the very useful comments and the encouragement!! :)

Offline Cobalt_Caster

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Re: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2019, 06:56:45 PM »
Something I think you should address is why someone would gamble against someone implying they have any control over luck itself. You could make Nick more skeptical and dismissive of Alistair's outrageous claims. Then it wouldn't feel like someone going all-in when they know the deck is stacked.

I'd like to see how Nick and Alistair met at that Las Vegas casino. It sounds interesting and an easy opportunity to build the world in natural ways. We could get Nick's thoughts behind why he's out gambling in the first place, like when he remembers the first time he entered the casino, for example. Or maybe he could be glad to escape the pressure of a pregnant wife for a few hours. Then we could get a longer look at Alistair, too, and see how he gets a reluctant man to come to a private game and press his luck. Plus you could gradually introduce the uncanny atmosphere by starting in the normal casino and moving to the odd private game.

Overall, good ideas, but it seemed to go by too fast. Especially because it's dialogue heavy, the chapter reads really fast.

Offline nkilpatrick

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Re: Clover - YA Fantasy - First Chapter
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2019, 01:11:27 PM »
Thank you all for the really great comments :) I've just signed with a publisher and am looking forward to incorporating your suggestions when we do the edits!!!