Monday, March 18, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Baird Rev 2

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.

I oversee human destinies, and all things happen exactly as I intend. Some try to deceive me, but 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 wished 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 would complete the quest and leave the bakery.

A basket of embroidery lay on the woven coverlet from Adanna’s bed. The yellow thread sprawled over the covers. Like most nights, she’d fallen asleep stitching. As she settled the basket on her nightstand and threw the covers to the side, an errant needle jabbed into her thumb. She pressed against the spot of blood with a finger. It wasn’t the first time she’d pricked herself.


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 worked. She had her mother’s golden hair. 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 overwhelmed her, and she sighed.

“It’s your special day.” Her mother held 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. “You’re twelve now. Almost to your time of magic. Are you excited?”

Not wishing to reveal that she’d been counting the days until the first of the new year, Adanna shrugged.

Searching her face, her mother sighed. “Soon everything will be perfect again.”

What was her mother thinking? When had her life been perfect?

“There’s much you can’t understand until you’ve completed the quest. When you return…” her mother 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?

As her mother picked at the dough under her nails, Adanna suspected 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.”

Smiling, her mother 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.”

Turning to leave, her mother 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 the lie changed each time he answered.

No, the yeasty aroma of bread filled Zander’s dreams. A dream that compelled him to leave his home at the age of five in search of the source. After hunting the streets his father found Zander standing in front of a bakery in tears. He’d carried him home, tucked in strong arms that held 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 simple brown pants and pulled a matching tunic over his white undershirt. 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.

Zander startled to his father waking from the mat on the other side of the small room. Glassy eyed and stumbling, he stood in the sparse light from the single window.

“Twelve today. Almost a man. It won’t be long now until you begin your time of magic.”

Heart pounding, Zander stilled himself as he’d learned in hunting, so as not to give away his excitement. “I’ll be participating?”

When he’d first learned of the time of magic, hope had pushed the dark from the corners of his heart revealing a dream he had not dared to imagine. Everything depended on Fate knowing of his existence and demanding his participation in the quest, as she required of all the twelve year old children.

“There’s no cheating Fate, Son.” His father rubbed at his eyes. “She’s a foul mistress. You’ll be participating, no matter how hard I’ve tried to pretend otherwise these last ten years.”

His father referred often to the last ten years, yet would not speak of Zander’s first two years of life. He guessed that his mother had died. That would explain the ale his father consumed.

Zander wondered about many things. Why they lived far from the village in the two room cruck house, made of criss-crossed twigs, mud, and straw plaster when he knew they weren’t poor. Why his father forbade him to attend church or school or the festivals. Why he had his father’s dark hair, but blue eyes that looked nothing like him.

He accepted that he would not understand.

“You’re well prepared for five days in the forest. You’ll come back alive.” His father rubbed his forehead. “And then there’s a chance, a small chance, our life will be good again.”

Zander couldn’t remember a time he would call his life good, however when he returned from the quest he would have a chance at happiness. Knowing now that he would participate in the time of magic, he hoped that Fate would honor his dream.


  1. I like the shortened prologue! I hate to be picky, but that's my job, so if she doesn't have a heart why does she want it to sound like she does? ;D I really like this piece and think you've done a wonderful job making the characters relatable and the world alive.

    1. Thanks Lisa! At the end we find that Moira has a heart after all. She just likes to sound uncaring. :)

      I have learned so much with this. I never would have cut the dialogue I was in love with (!) without all the encouragement. And I do agree, it's better with only the few lines.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for offering this workshop!

    2. I'm so glad it was helpful! :D Keep us posted.

  2. Jeri,

    Me too - I agree the shortened prologue works wonderfully. I you need it at all? Or maybe a one-liner...
    "I oversee human destinies, and all things happen exactly as I intend. Some try to deceive me. I am called by many names, Destiny, Fate, Fortune but I am Moira, and I will not be cheated."

    I also love that we don't know they are twins yet, more intrigue, and WOW, when we find out, what a moment that will be.

    I enjoyed work-shopping with you. Your story intrigues me, and more so as a twin, so it will be interesting to see how you weave that connection in your story and how we and your characters dance with Moira. Good luck with this piece, I'll look out for it i full-form.

    1. Thanks Janis - I like the way you condensed the prologue even smaller.

  3. Hi Jeri-

    Great opening, love it short. I like Janis's idea, too. The words "I am Moira, and I will not be cheated" are so strong, I think they could stand on their own. They create a powerful and ominous mood.

    You've really created a vivid world here and a compelling story. Can't wait to see it in print. :)

    Thanks so much for all of your suggestions on my story- I know they've made it stronger. Best of luck to you!

  4. Hi Jeri,

    This is really great work you've done here. The few remaining comments I have - I think you could flavor the dialog a little bit to give more of a medieval tone - a sprinkle, maybe some of the expressions (instead of really, mother - something more shakespearean). Also, is mustn't spelled wrong? It looks strange.

    I'm reading Queen Emma and the Vikings right now. It takes place from 990-1100, but there might be some language or scenery in it that would add that medieval sprinkle. I found it on, and there were lots of copies. Best of luck! Heather

  5. Hi Jeri,

    So much better! I love the shortened prologue and I love the clearer parallel between the twins now. You've set things in motion and created stakes so much more clearly, too. Well done!!!

    Nitpicky suggestion, make sure its clear who is speaking in that first bit of dialogue and then, because it's her mother so technically it's a switch, use Adanna's proper name in place of the pronoun in the following paragraph. Focus on clarity in the small things so we get the big things.

    Good luck with this! I think you'll do very well with it!

  6. Thanks so much - this has been a great experience!