Monday, March 11, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Baird Rev 1

Name: Jeri Baird
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Fly True


I am called by many names. Destiny, Fate, Fortune; however I prefer Moira, for it sounds as if I have a heart.

I do not.

This is my story, although it may appear otherwise.

I am drawn to the twins whose parents conspire to deceive and cheat me. Unseen, I watch their births. The girl child arrives first. When the midwife whispers, “There is another,” joy transforms into terror, and a few minutes later the boy child arrives.

I watch as the mother turns from the babies, wraps her arms to her chest, and weeps. For never in the history of their village had more than one twin survived the quest that all twelve year olds must complete. One always sacrifices for the other.

Swaddled together the boy and girl gaze first into the other’s eyes. The familiar heartbeats soothe each from the other. Unaware of their parents’ sorrow or the knowledge that it will be but two years before they are torn apart, the twins know only the comfort of the moment. The boy will go with his father, the girl with her mother. They will be old enough to feel the pain of separation, yet young enough to forget.

I allow their foolishness for it delights me that they think to dupe me. But I know their destiny, and I alone will see that it comes to pass, for all things happen exactly as I intend.

I am Moira, and I will not be cheated.


Adanna woke to the yeasty smell of baking bread. For most, that scent would comfort, but for one who woke to that odor every day of her life, it symbolized everything Adanna wanted to flee. She hated her mother for working long hours and then falling into bed exhausted. She hated how the smell permeated her clothes and her hair, such that when walking in the street strangers would identify her as the baker’s daughter. And she hated that she had eleven months and four days before she could leave the bakery, never to return.

Adanna’s basket of embroidery thread lay on the woven coverlet from her bed. The yellow thread sprawled over the covers because like most nights, she’d fallen asleep stitching. She settled the basket on her nightstand and threw the covers to the side.

When she yanked off her nightcap the golden hair she’d inherited from her mother tumbled to her shoulders. Her dark eyes surely came from a father she knew nothing of, and of whom her mother would tell her nothing.

A familiar sense of loss flooded through her, and she sighed. Would her mother remember it was her birthday?


She jumped, surprised to see her mother standing at the door. Flour smudged her face, and her hair glistened from the hot ovens. Dark circles underlined her eyes reminding Adanna of the late nights she’d worked.

“I baked something for you.” She held out a bun with sugared icing. Cinnamon, a precious commodity in the bakery dusted the top.

It tickled Adanna’s nose and her mouth watered. She smiled. “Thank you, Mother.”

Her mother smoothed her apron. “Almost to your time of magic. Are you excited?”

Adanna shrugged, not wishing to reveal her true feelings.

The mother sighed. “Then you will choose, and everything will be perfect again.”

Adanna frowned. When had her life ever been perfect?

Her mother continued, “There’s much you can’t understand until you’ve completed the quest. When you return…” she paused, and Adanna noticed her slight shudder. “…and Fate has chosen the bakery as your apprenticeship, everything will be as it should.”

Adanna crossed her arms. “Mother! Are you worried I won’t return from the quest?” When her mother paled, she knew it to be true. “How could you think I would fail? Really, Mother! Do you think so little of me?”

“No, no, of course, I don’t doubt your return.” She twisted her hands. “You just need to be careful in this year to gain tokens. You mustn’t tempt Fate.”

“Fate? What does Fate care about me?” Adanna’s gut tightened. What would she do if Fate did choose the bakery for her apprenticeship?

Her mother picked at the dough under her nails, and Adanna suspected that she hid something. But then, she had her own secrets, and apprenticing anywhere except in the bakery was one of them. She took a deep breath to calm her thudding heart and nibbled at the bun. “It’s wonderful, Mother. Thank you.”

Her mother smiled and caressed Adanna’s hair. “I’ve invited Marigold to feast with us tonight. I’ve started a rabbit stew. We’ll have cake, as well.”

“Yes, Mother. Thank you.”

She turned to leave and then looked back. “Less than a year now, Adanna. I promise everything will be better.”

“Yes, Mother. It will be better.”

Adanna had her own plan that she shared with no one. Not her best friend Marigold, not her favored teacher, and not her mother, who would be shocked to know her daughter capable of such thoughts. With a small favor from the fortune teller and some magic, Adanna felt confident she could pull it off.

She would not be a baker, whatever Fate might say.


Zander woke on his birthday, restless as he often woke. He had dreamed of bread. Not eating it, as he always had plenty of bread to eat, although its source remained a mystery. Sometimes he woke to loaves on their table, as if they sprouted there in the night. That morning, a small round bun with white icing sprinkled with a golden brown powder appeared as if by magic. Zander had quit asking his father about the bread when he realized he was given a new lie each time he asked.

No, it was the yeasty aroma of bread that Zander dreamed. The dream came so often and so strong that when he was five, his father woke to find him missing. After searching the streets he’d found Zander standing in front of a bakery with tears streaming down his face. His father had carried him home, tucked in strong arms holding Zander’s head to his chest. It was the only tenderness Zander remembered from his father.

Uneasy and eager to hunt - anxious to retreat into the forest, away from his father’s unpredictable moods, Zander dressed in dark pants and a green tunic. He only knew it his birthday because the night before, in a rare mood of cheerfulness, his drunken father had given him a present of a new bow and a dozen arrows. Astonished, Zander had wanted to go then to hunt, but his father insisted he join him for the evening meal. They ate deer that Zander had poached from a Lord’s lands in the forest.

They ate meat most nights whether the church allowed it or not. After all, Zander hunted the forest illegally. They may as well eat illegally. On nights not allowed they ate it cold, so the smell of cooking wouldn't alert anyone passing who might inform the priest. They didn't attend church, and they sure didn't want to be hauled in for confession.
Not allowed to attend school or church, Zander’s father taught him what he thought important. He had learned his numbers with ease, and had been responsible for the task of bookkeeping. Because of this, Zander knew they were not poor.


  1. Jeri,
    I love this revision. Now that you've taken away Moira's explaining away of the back story and details about the quest, the story can breathe and move forward through your characters. Moira seems all the more foreboding, and this sets up a whale of a conflict. Great job!

    Also, these last lines of Adanna's chapter,"With a small favor from the fortune teller and some magic, Adanna felt confident she could pull it off. She would not be a baker, whatever Fate might say." Theses sentences really shine, and underscore the conflicts now. I actually thought you had added these this time around, and went back to read your original five pages to see if they had been there.

    I also loved that I got to meet Zander, and glimpsed into his life and struggle, and learned that he too will follow his own bliss. So we have a trio of conflict. Very nice job. I also love that bread ties the the two of them together, after all bread is life, isn't it?

    As far as the twins dreaming each other's experiences, my twin brother and I often encountered moments like that. Once I had a dream that he was in a terrible accident; I saw his car careening to the side of the road, and it happened almost while I had been dreaming it. Alternatively, when I was in labor with my first child, he had dreamed he had a terrible stomach ache. And so this rings true and makes for an interesting story.

    Thanks. Great job.

  2. Janis - thanks for your comments! The ties between twins are fascinating. I always wished I had one, and then I wished to have them. I guess Adanna and Zander will have to do.

  3. Hi Jeri,

    I really like the rewrite on the beginning and I definitely think it's better as a prologue if you end up keeping it. The last line, "I am Moira, and I will not be cheated" is great- short, to the point and chilling. Hmm... I wonder how it would be to start the story just with a strong line like that one instead of the whole prologue? Not much info at all, just enough to let us know something big is in store. And maybe really introduce who Moira is later on? Just an idea. Whichever way, fate makes for a great antagonist here.

    So glad to meet Zander! I thought the contrast in how the mother and the father are dealing emotionally with the separation and in their parenting styles is compelling. I wonder, could we have a look at the twin connection on Adanna's side? She feels a "familiar sense of loss," not sure if that's more about the father she doesn't know or about the twin she doesn't know exists, but could it be something maybe a bit more tangible? You have Zander dreaming about the smell of bread- maybe a mirror effect for Adanna?

    The line "tears streaming down his face," sounds a bit like a cliche to me. Sneaky little boogers, those cliches...

    Great rewrite- can't wait to see the next!

  4. Oooo, I like. It's a lot stronger without the quest, certainly. I know I sound really unimaginative, but I'm looking for a firm time and place here too. It could be as simple as Chapter One: The Twelfth Birthday - Adanna (Place, Date), then Chapter Two: The Twelfth Birthday - Zander (Place, Date). Birthdays are so important to kids I think the specificity might really resonate.

    I totally agree with the mirror dreams mentioned just above - that mysterious twin connection not to be denied. . .Also, we know what Adanna looks like, does Zander look like her? Are they identical enough to recognize each other? If you just hint at it (maybe they both have blonde hair, say) - but maybe you do and you've just run out real estate here - great progress!

  5. Thanks Kindra and Heather! More great ideas to ponder.

    Zander is opposite of Adanna. Dark hair, blue eyes and yeah, I ran out of real estate. LOL

  6. Really nice. I still am hesitant on the prologue. I wonder if you could cut it down even more. Do we need to know about the twins birth? Maybe we do, but just a thought. Can it be as simple as she watched the birth of the twins. The parents separate right away (do we have to know why yet other than to try to trick Moira?) and she will not be cheated. End of prologue. The shorter, I think, the more powerful.
    I love pretty much everything else. Something I'd look at though is that it's so cliche to start with waking up. I wonder if you could start somewhere else and mention or have the appearance of hte bread remind them that they had dreamed of it again. Or something like that?

    1. Lisa - I've thought about that cliche of starting with waking up. At least they're not looking in the mirror and describing themselves! More to consider...

  7. Hi Jeri,

    I think you've got a consensus going that the Prologue could get cut even a bit more. I agree. The rest of your world is so intriguing! I think that I recommend jumping into it even faster. As it is, the problem with the waking cliche isn't so much that it's cliche but rather that it creates a common pattern of inaction. The character wakes, thinks about something, tells us what's wrong -- what he/she hates or wishes -- describes a bit of appearance and all of that before we actually get to the character doing something significant.

    I would recommend gettign both your characters moving more. Put them into motion -- not car chases, obviously -- but show them doing something interesting from the get go show us the emotions rather than telling us about them.

    The change doesn't have to be big, but on the other hand, think creatively. If you're cutting down on the Moira prologue, what can you truly use to show the intrigue that's going on. We understand the mystery you are weaving into the Zander portion with the dreams of bread and the bread mysteriously appearing, but I'm not sure how much of that I am reading in because of what was in the last version. I think you could actually do more with both his POV and Adanna's by creating an interaction that's more dynamic than the waking scenario.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

  8. Jeri,
    I love the first paragraph of the First Chapter. Actually I think it should start your story. A girl that hates the smell of fresh-baked bread and can't wait to leave home and have adventure. That totally works for me. I think everything that needs to get explained up front is taken care of in that scene. Very good.
    What I'm seeing really effective in stories for this age is the parallel stories that come together, and half of the narrative tension comes from not knowing how the stories will intersect-that blow your mind moment when the reader figures out they are twins, followed, of course, by the characters. You've got great potential for twins who don't know they are twins coming into conflict, and then resolution (?). I wouldn't give it away up front, there's too much juicy story to be created out of it. And, yes, I do want to know what happens next.

  9. Oh where's Tracy when I need her at my back! No one else wants my prologue!

    I don't know how to introduce Moira/Fate without it. The MCs talk of Fate, but they can't know that she's pulling the strings behind the scenes.

    Jim - I do like your idea that the reader finds out along with Adanna and Zander that they're twins. Hmmm - what to do....