Monday, December 3, 2012

1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Michael

Name: Connie Michael
Genre: Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Title: Entrusted

Eighteen Years Ago

The storm blew sheets of rain through the small entrance to the cave. Thunder boomed outside. The room was small, lit only by sconces attached low on the wall. Five men stood unmoving, clad in tribal brilliance, their long black hair swayed slightly with the cold breeze. A crumpled figure lay before them, his skin glistened with a sweat. The man shifted, strong black wings emerged from his back, pumping as he struggled to his knees. His hands were bound behind his back. Shrugging, he used his shoulder to wipe the blood from his mouth.

“Untie me.” His voice reverberated through the hollow cave.

“You have to take responsibility—” one of the men spoke.

“Untie me!” he yelled.

The men lifted their heads to the heavens. A voice echoed through the walls. “Your gifts will be taken for the duration of your punishment. You will live among the Earth dwellers until your trial. Take this time to redeem yourself.”

He pumped his wings again, a powerful current of air circled the cave. “I will not be judged by you. I will not live among them. I will not live as one of them.”

“The choice is no longer yours. It was not the intent of your gifts to use them for your own pleasure. You were sent to protect the tribes, not abuse them.” The voice grew stronger at the man’s defiance.

“My gifts will find me. They call to me. They cannot be hidden. What has been given to me will not be taken away.”

A bolt of lightning struck his chest. With a guttural growl he arched his back, his jaw clenched, he refused to show pain as his heart was removed and his powers stripped.

“They are no longer yours.” The voice echoed through the cave.

Present Day

Luke’s broad frame filled the doorway, blocking the way to my car. I was already late for cross country practice and really didn’t have the energy to rehash his need for me to quit for the millionth time, but the expression on his face made it clear we were in for another fight.

“Don’t go, Emma.” Luke wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close.

“I go every day.” I pushed lightly against his chest. He hated that I ran cross-country and was away from him for the two hour practice.

“Then why do I have to ask you every day?” His voice had an edge that confirmed it— he wasn’t going to let me go easily.

I stood on my tip toes and kissed his cheek in an attempt to lighten his mood. “I’ll be done at five and we’ll go eat.”

His arms held tight.

“I got to go,” I insisted.

“To see Greg.” His tone sharp.

His anger at my refusal began to grow. His arms tightened around me.

“You’re hurting me.”

“Tell me you aren’t going to see Greg. I won’t share you,” he insisted.

“Let me go.” I understood Luke’s need to control me. Everyone at the group home had issues and his seemed to be abandonment. There weren’t any words that would make him believe Greg was just my friend. I’d tried.

“Then go. Go see him.” Luke shoved me away. My foot caught on the edge of the grass. I reached out to him to steady myself. But he stepped back out of my reach and watched me go down. A small grin pulled at the side of his mouth as my knee skidded across the gravel driveway and my head hit the rockery along the driveway. Blood trickled down my forehead while I lay sprawled across the gravel. I rolled to my knees and looked up for help. He crossed his arms.

“Luke!” Sasha, a ten year old who stayed at the home, came out to the back porch. “Mrs. Farrar wants you.” Mrs. Farrar ran The Ridge, our group home, and you didn’t keep her waiting.

Luke’s gaze moved from my head to where the blood pooled on my leg. Without a word he turned and walked back into the house. I got up, brushed myself off, and drove to the high school.

I ran from the parking lot to the locker rooms and then out to the field. I threaded my fingers through my long blonde hair, lifting it off my neck to pull into a ponytail. I cringed when my fingers grazed the scrape and the greenish purple bruise emerging at my temple. I hurried to catch up with the pre-workout stretches.

“Holy crap Emma what happened to your head? And your leg is bleeding.” My best friend and running partner, Greg, looked over from where he sat on grass.

“Luke bumped me. I fell.” I settled in the cool grass next to him.

Greg let out a loud laugh. “What where you guys doing?”

“Not what you’re thinking. It was an accident.” Or at least that’s what I’d convinced myself over the last few months. Luke and I had a lot of accidents.

“So are you two…like dating?” Greg stood up and placed his hand on my shoulder for balance while he stretched his quads.

“I’m not sure we’re officially dating. The Ridge frowns on fraternizing.” I’d lived at the Ridge since the eighth grade, when my last foster home fell apart.

“Fraternizing? What are you? Like eighty?”

I shrugged. “That’s their term so it probably came from someone who was eighty.”

“Em, you’ve spent every waking moment with him this summer, and when you’re not with him he’s texting you to find out where you are. That is the definition of dating. Or at least stalking.” Greg’s words faded when he took off running, leaving me behind.

I jumped up and ran after him. I matched my short strides to his longer ones. Greg was tall and lanky, the perfect body for cross country. I was a good head shorter, making each of his strides equal to two of mine. My phone buzzed in my pocket, announcing a new text.

“Is that your phone?” Greg asked. “Why do you have your phone when you’re running?”

“Luke gets mad if he can’t reach me.” I pulled my phone out and texted while I ran.

“That’s stalkerish.” Greg’s voice held a tone of disapproval.

“Why don’t you like him?” We headed into the woods beside the school to begin a five mile run for the day.

“I don’t know him and he doesn’t want to know me. The way he looks at you is creepy. Like he knows something no one else does. Does it matter if I like him? I’m not dating him.”

The path evened out when we came out the other side of the trees.

“I want you to like him. You’re my best friend.” Greg had been my friend since I was placed in the group home almost four years ago. He was the first real friend I’d ever had.

Greg stopped short.

I ran a few paces then turned around and jogged back to him. “What?”

“Emma be careful.”

I jogged in place trying to keep my muscles loose. “Careful of what?”

“Just be careful. Sometimes people aren’t what they seem.”

“Like he’s a mass murderer disguised as a high school senior?”

“You never know. He does live…” Greg’s voice trailed off. “Just be careful, Em.”

“He does live where?! At The Ridge? That’s what you were going to say—wasn’t it?


  1. Interesting - quite the contrast as the healthy normalcy of Em's cross-country practice is juxtaposed with the primitive opening scene and the horrible relationship with Luke. I find myself wondering whom to trust - definitely don't like Luke, and not sure if the crumpled figure from 18 years ago is good or evil, or if Greg is warning Em about Luke or himself. He seems surprised when she says he's her best friend, which makes me wonder if he's hiding something from her. Also, if he is her best friend, I'm surprised he is just asking now whether she and Luke are dating.

    The beginning scene strikes me as more primeval than just 18 years ago. I would recommend varying or shortening your sentence structure in that first paragraph, and again when the heart is removed, so that dramatic act does not get lost.

  2. Hi Connie,
    I loved your opening, especially when the wings appeared. I actually wanted to follow his story. I agree it seems much more primitive than 18 years ago.

    So many agents say they don't want to see prologues, although many good books do have them, and they are great. So consider that, anyway. I read somewhere that the prologue is really you learning about your story. I wonder if you can work it in later as back story, since we obviously will see the angel again. But the juxtaposition of the two time periods is disorienting, especially as the ages of the MCs seem so different and I doubted the angel was any of the teens.

    I also think you need a better reason for Luke to want her to skip practice, or drop his "2-hour reason" and focus on Greg being on the track team. Also, more explanation of the group home: this is usually pretty serious, so I'm wondering what is going on. You mention later on the foster home, and after that an implication those living at The Ridge have other issues (Luke). I would like to know more.

    BTW, a couple questions. She is shoved, falls down, the counselor wants her but she goes off to school? And no cleaning up first? And I wonder how she got a car if living in a group home.

    Looking forward to more about Em and Luke/Greg. My above comments are easily fixed if you think they make sense, but take them with a grain of salt!

  3. Luke’s character is very well-drawn in just a few actions and details. I get an immediate sense of who he is and what he’s about, and I have a very strong, visceral reaction to him. I like the tension in the exchange between him and Emma; the reader has a very clear picture of how dysfunctional their relationship is.

    However, the prologue didn’t work for me. It created a sense of false anticipation; I was following along with one thread that was building tension nicely but then it abruptly switched gears into something mundane and the writing style changed dramatically. That transition was jarring and disrupting, and the lack of names of characters in the cave scene made me wonder what my investment in them should be.

    I had no real reason to care about the man being stripped of his powers, whereas I cared almost immediately about Emma because of how she was presented - trying hard for normalcy (cross-country practice), Luke treating her like crap, the group home.

    I’d consider removing the prologue and seeing how you can work those details in later. The story will be stronger if you invest the reader in one character right from the beginning.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Hi there, thanks for sharing your pages! It seems like we're all having the same comments...

    I agree about the prologue being disorienting. Great story in and of itself, but it is so different in tone, point-of-view, perspective, etc., that it's jarring to read it and then jump into a totally different story. I think your opening scene between Emma and Luke is strong enough to be trusted to do the hook work, and that your prologue scene could be weaved in later.

    I LOVED the characterization of Emma and Luke. I gotta admit, when I first started reading with them being all sappy, I was like oh great, we're going to have some sappy pansy relationship between two people with no identities of their own, and then smack! you hit me with Luke's chilling reaction to Emma falling and hurting herself. Brilliant! The only thing I'd say is be careful to express why Emma clings to him so that she doesn't seem like a character with no self-esteem (and hence not worth caring about). She'll need to have a good reason for overlooking his obvious dubiousness (which it seems like you're setting up with the foster care/group home hints) and a spark of hope for the future (which it seems like you're setting up with her relationship with Greg) in order for the reader to not see her as totally hopeless, and therefore not worth caring about.

    There were a few small grammar issues--a few comma issues, and one place where you put "where" but meant "were"), but that's very minor and easy to fix.

    Great job, can't wait to see what Luke's up to next!

  5. Hi! I think you should drop the prologue. If it's not needed, it shouldn't be there. You have to grab an editor/agent with the opening and they might not read on, you never know. I'm interested mostly in the group home aspect of this. Just make sure you've researched and really know how they work. The angel and girl thing is, forgive me, kind of done a lot though so I need to see something in these first pages that really sets this book apart. Dig deep and show me because I love black wings. ;D Can't wait for the revision!

  6. Hi Connie,

    You do characters really well! We've "got" all these characters very quickly, and yes, I hate Luke already. Your style is very readable. But I have to admit that I suspect Lisa is right on all counts. There has to be something really different here, and so far the concept seems very HUSH, HUSH, Personal Demons, or any number of the other books that have already been done. You write very well, so clearly, clearly, you have thought of something that is really unique. Is there a way that you can get it on the page more quickly, without using the prologue?

    Looking forward to the rewrite.



  7. Hi Connie,
    Thanks for sharing your pages. I really enjoyed reading your submission. You have great strength in developing conflict and characters. While I love your prologue, I agree with everyone else that you don't need it, especially since you grab the attention right away with how dysfunctional Luke is. I can't tell you how much I hate Luke. This makes me wonder about Emma and why she would deal with someone treating her like this, which I'm sure is answered later in your story.

    When Luke shoves Emma and she falls, I was wondering about her injuries and Sasha's reaction. I'm trying to envision the logistics and the way she falls. Was Luke blocking the doorway of the house, so Emma couldn't go out to her car OR was he blocking her car door? I was a bit disoriented about where they were since the way I read this, I thought they were inside the group home. When he shoved her, I figured she'd fall down on some type of flooring, not gravel and rockery. Shoves implies she'd fall backward, but she's reaching out to him, and then she goes forward. I'm not certain she'd fall so hard that she'd land on her knee and then hit her head, without her hands going out to break her fall. And if her head hits the rockery that hard, I'd think she'd be more disoriented. There seems to be a lot of blood that when a ten-year-old child comes out, she wouldn't yell out, "I'm telling on you," or something like that. This in itself could be what you intend, that the kids are afraid of Luke. If so, you have an opportunity to show that here.

    Nice job about having Greg voicing questions and warning Emma about Luke. However, it makes me think that Emma has no self-esteem, particularly as she acts as if her injuries are no big deal and tells Greg they're not officially dating. Then why at the beginning would she allow Luke to wrap his arms around her, and then kiss him on the cheek to placate him?

    I'm wondering whether it makes sense to show Luke doing something sweet before he goes psycho stalker. This might make it more "palatable" of why Emma justifies her friendship with Luke and doesn't run away.

    I'm looking forward to reading your rewrite!