I was also, to clarify, referring to the actual first page of a book or story, which to me is about 200-300 words for a book. Longer than a manuscript first page but about the length of a regular page and also about as far as I tend to read in my slush pile. I'd hope most novels would get more attention before rejection; my slush is short stories, obviously, and I have pretty high expectations for the first pages of stories.
I realize I'm opening myself up to comments, which I'm cool with. But I have two different critique groups who I trust to give me advice so it's not really needed. I'm also not posting these to prove I got all the elements in there, either. But, rest assured, the existing elements are all in there for a definite reason. In other words, these first pages are pretty meticulously planned...
Here's the start to Archive of Earth, as it stands now, subject to change, copyright protected, don't steal or repost please, etc.
Argonia, Kansas, USA
Kaelin Trevet paused midway between his car and the old barn as the ground trembled. Carcasses of dried wheat crunched under his boots and invisible fingers of unease crawled up his spine. Stiff from bumping along dirt roads and peering through the moonless night for deer, he tensed further as he listened for threat in the icy air. Nothing. Must be paranoia, thanks to his brother Aidan suggesting the enemy was causing earthquakes.
This drop was two hours south-east of Wichita, Kansas, of all places. No way Asmodai knew he was here. Couldn’t be too careful though.
His jacket strained over his shoulders as he loosened his pistol in its holster. He wished vaguely for his rifle. But he hadn’t triggered it at anything but a target in over a year. Instead it was all work for the corporate side of Sentinel, which basically amounted to business forensics: searching endless private records and accounts hacked by his cousin Marc, punctuated by the occasional tedious stakeout. Of course, such corporate missions funded Sentinel’s true purpose, warring against the demon king Asmodai. Someone had to do the grunt work. And even as a veteran of the battle that had throttled the war into overdrive, Kaelin only had a year in the field. He was still little better than a grunt.
On the surface, this mission seemed the same sort of boring job. As far as Kaelin’s handlers knew, he was just picking up a USB with proof that some executive was stealing technology from his company to sell to a competitor. But the handlers were mistaken. The barn, an iconic peeling red, also supposedly contained a message from the rogue ranger Saul Oman to Kaelin’s uncle, Julian. This was war business.
And here's the start for Battle Royal (above small print applies)
Crown Prince Aric Joachim ordered all power extraneous to landing requirements turned down in the cruiser for the approach to the nameless world. A map of the planet reared up in the viewport, a colorful spherical grid, deep blue at its equator to show warmth at its widest girth and pale grey to show cold at its poles. Jagged lines and splotches broke the grid, marking mountain ranges, great spans of flora, and bodies of water. Down there, somewhere, was the Salt cask his Uncle Haydn had left him. It supposedly contained some message integral to the Calixten Rebellion. It damn well better. It had been a long, perilous journey, leaving his people short on fuel, supplies, and tempers.
Aric let his crew have a good look before ordering the real-time view. It switched to a silver orb, gleaming with healthy atmosphere. He glanced at the scarred face of his best friend and Second-in-Command of the Calixten rebellion, Lord Mattias, and the reassuring, battle-hardened faces of the other bridge crew members to see what they made of it. Most of them were nodding in approval. If the planet really was unclaimed, it could eventually be a home.
But Aric’s gaze lingered longest on his unofficial second in command, Katriel. A ropy braid hanging down her back tamed her mass of brunette curls while she worked, her attention locked on the cruiser’s nav-processor rather than the planet. Her tattooed arms flexed as she tapped commands. She muttered quiet words to the pilot so he could adjust their approach. She glanced up and met Aric’s eyes as if by accident. Her distracted smile made his heart stutter.