Monday, March 4, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Baird

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.

The year was 1300. A time when people believed in me, indeed feared me for meddling in their pathetic lives. It was a time before the priests had claimed them for their own brand of lies. A time where superstition and religion held hands like those faced with dying clutched at the living. An uneasy truce.

I watched over all, but my eyes fell upon the children in an isolated village of a northern English countryside. It is for these children that I had designed the quest that all undertook before assuming their place in the village as adults. And of the children, the twins interested me most, because they were the children whose parents conspired to deceive and cheat me. But I am Moira, and I will not be cheated.

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month in that centennial year, a young woman gave birth to twins. The girl child arrived first, welcomed with happy tears. When the midwife said, “There is another,” her joy transformed into terror, and a few minutes later the boy child arrived. Her husband watched as she turned from the babies, wrapped her arms to her chest, and wept. For never in the history of their village had more than one twin survived the quest. One always sacrificed for the other.

The rules of the quest were simple. On the first day of the first month all the twelve-year-old children began a time of magic. When they performed a good deed a token appeared. Bad deeds and dark thoughts received omens. In the tenth month they entered the forest alone. For five days the omens became challenges, and if the child had received enough tokens to defend themselves they survived. Not all did.

The quest began as a test for the children before they entered adulthood. Those who survived chose an apprenticeship at the end of the quest. Those who didn’t were a reminder to the younger children to consider their behavior in the hopes that their outcome would be better. In the many years since I’d created the quest it had served that purpose. But now the quest simply amused me.

After the births the parents devised a plan. The midwife, bound by the oath of her profession and strengthened by her friendship with the mother, would not report the second birth.

I allowed their foolishness for it delighted me that they would think to dupe me.

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

But I knew their destiny, and I alone would see that it came to pass, for all things happened exactly as I intended.


Adanna woke to the yeasty smell of baking bread. For most, that scent would comfort, but for the girl who woke to that odor every day of her life, it symbolized everything Adanna hated. 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. 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 which her mother would tell her nothing.

A familiar sense of loss flooded through her, and she sighed. Would her mother even remember it was her birthday? Having the bad luck of a birthday on the Feast of St. Martin meant that every year her mother spent long hours the week before baking the special breads demanded by the villagers before the forty day fast began the next day.


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 sprinkled over 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. We'll have rabbit stew. And 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. Two noblemen’s sons would also enter their time of magic. Adanna intended one of them to fall in love with her.

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


  1. I am so in love with your first two sentences! An amazing start. The concept is great as well. Here are some opportunities for thought:
    1) I got lost in the prologue after "The year was 1300." It made me wonder what year the story then takes place in and I couldn't really figure that out.
    2) As much as it hurts me to say it the part about them being excited a girl was coming into the world seems a bit odd as well. I'm not sure that feels like the Middle Ages to me, sadly, I'm not even sure it feels like today in some parts of the world. . .
    3) I had to read the part about the quest a few times, which makes me wonder if this prologue setup is working for you or against you. It would be interesting to know what it would look like if it just started up and Mordred chimed in here and there in the great, bitter omniscient tone from the beginning.
    (Ignore the website in my google login below, I can't figure out how to get rid of it!)

  2. Jeri,

    Hmmnn. I am hooked. I am a twin with a boy, and well, for the world you've set up and the consequences, the possibilities are endless. I had to read the first chapter three times, and that took a while, and then I read through the rest so quickly, looking for more!

    Three things I love: 1) The fraternal twins thing. 2) The time period and MAGIC! 3) This line:
    " Adanna intended one of them to fall in love with her." That line sets up the theme, the stakes, and your plot in one neat little package and wallops a grand punch!

    Is there a way that you can weave the criteria for Moria's quest in the second chapter or create a first chapter that can show us what they are without having them laid out so? Based on what I've already read, you have the skills, so why did you choose to do it this way?

    The basis or the story is very cool, and I truly wanted to read more, based on the second chapter. Could that be Chapter one instead? Pretty please? Or are you going to do alternating POVS? Moira, Adanna, Moria, Adanna? Inquiring minds want to know!

  3. Thanks for your comments. I'm getting that the first chapter (which should probably be a prologue) might have info not yet needed. Interesting, Janis, that you're twins with a brother! The POV will alternate between Adanna, her twin Zander, and a fortune teller. Moira's voice is an omniscient voice who comments occasionally at the end of the chapters. (good call Heather!)

  4. Hi Jeri,

    So much I like about this story. I definitely want to read more!

    What stood out to me most:
    -Love that the disobedience and tempting of Fate/Moira seems to be an inherited trait. Makes me want to know how the brother will feel about accepting whatever he's given- will he have his own ideas like his parents and sister? Or will he be willing to just go along with whatever Moira doles out?
    -Engaging the senses at the beginning of Ch 2. Made me feel very much a part of Adanna's world. And... I totally want some bread now.
    -Adanna's headstrong nature. Can definitely identify with that.
    -Am dying to hear what the brother's and father's life is like.
    -Hoping the midwife makes another appearance. Is she still friends with the mom? Does she play any role in any of the characters' lives? How has she been affected by the secret she's had to keep all these years?

    I was wondering about beginning the story right at Ch 2, dish out bite-sized info and details for the reader along the way. I think the more mystery you can keep about the whole quest process and the birth would keep the reader guessing and turning those pages. Maybe the reader could be surprised that the siblings have each other right along with the two characters in the story. I do love the intro to Moira- maybe keep it short and just about Moira? More of a short prologue? (Just skimzied previous comments and see we are on the same wavelength).

    Excited to see your next post!

  5. Thanks Kindra - to answer your question about the midwife - she does make another appearance in a scene with the mom where Adanna asks about twins. (before she knows about her brother)

    If I cut out some of the first chapter as is being suggested, you may get to see a little of Zander's life.

    Funny - I didn't even connect Adanna's views on Fate as being inherited! Thanks for seeing that.

    Thanks for all the comments!


  6. IF you keep the prologue, which I suggest you strongly consider losing despite the cool idea, I suggest you tighten it up and cut it down so it's not so long. We don't need Moira's history exactly, just a few hints here and there. Start with the twins intriguing her and just explain why the parents are afraid. The rest can be unveiled as we read. Or maybe all of it can.:D Because it's the part from Adanna's POV that feels more relatable - especially if you are going for MG. Love isn't usually a topic in MG though, so I wonder about that. Loved Adanna and how you've made her modern in an ancient world.

  7. Hi Jeri,

    Sorry, I'm so late Pneumonia has kept me down all week.

    Wow! What a great concept :) I really like it. I am also a sucker for a prologue, so my vote is to keep it. But what if you tweak it. First of all, she's fate, right? So she's totally omnipresent. What if you 1) put the prologue in present tense and 2) trim it down a bit so that it has only the mysterious, intriguing parts in it. Setting the time here may not be necessary when you can just pop the date up with the next chapter heading. Fate is long and all-seeing. Does she really pay attention to years? Or is it just the story that gets her? I would spend some time really thinking if you were that kind of omnipowerful being, what would you remember from this one human life among so very many? Start with that.

    Also, I'm a huge believer in getting the story question out there early, but I think you're getting the wrong question out. When you tell us her whole plan right there like that, the question becomes not-- will she escape the fate of being baker it becomes will she get one of these boys to fall in love with her-- and which one? Not the right question for a middle grade that is about her quest.

    I love the details in your pages-- the yellow blanket, the embroidery, etc. You paint a really vivid, intriguing picture. Nice job.

    I too love the idea of Zander. I would love to see him in this first interaction with her. If one of them is to sacrifice for the other, it's nice to give the reader an idea of how that's going to play out.

    Contrarily, what if you don't set all the rules out up front like that. It doesn't work so well from Fate's point of view. What if you reveal them from Adanna's and Zander's POV-- which part of the quest is most distateful to each of them? Why? This is one of the basic ideas of character. Michael Hague says that you should find out what a character wants more than anything then find the one thing they won't do to achieve it. Then, of course, make them do that one thing (which deals with their inner conflict. A quest like this, with the rules you've set up, is a brilliant time to utilize it.

    This is a great start to an interesting story. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Lisa and Tracy - thanks - you've given me much to think about! Although Adanna's plan to get one of the boys to fall in love with her is important to the story, it is NOT the main thing I want the reader to take away from the first chapter. I hadn't realized I was sending the readers in the wrong direction! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

    And Tracy - hope you're feeling better!

  9. Hi Jeri,

    I LOVE the concept, and I'm finding it hilarious that we have pieces on this workshop with both Moira and Cronus -- I have them both together in a WIP. :) That predisposes me to love this, but I am going to reluctantly agree that I wonder if you are doing yourself a diservice by starting in Moira's POV instead of showing us the quest from the persepective of the village and the twins? The possibility of reluctant competition between the twins nd the nature of the quest itself is wonderful and intriguing. There's something about it that reminds me of the start of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, and I'm hoping that you may be setting up an MG version of the kind of tension that Maggie Stiefvator used in The Scorpio Races or Suzanne Collins used in the Hunger Games, pitting two characters with equally compelling stories and needs against each other so that even if they win, they lose. A fraternal love can work just as compellingly as a romantic love to set this up.

    But let me set my geeky speculation aside and get back to your pages. As much as I love the writing in Moira's POV, the piece sprang to life and popped off the page when we went into Chapter 2 and hit Adanna's voice. You have an eye for detail and your use of dialogue tags is fantastic. Chapter 2 is so grounded and real and visual that I would either like you to shorten Moira's piece and make it feel as real as Chapter 2 (let us visualize it by putting Moira someplace concrete) or cut it all together. Let Moira watch the action unfolding and have her narrate the action in the present tense. Pick a scene that will give us only the information we need to know before we meet Adanna. Is that the moment of the twins birth? Is it a conversation the night before? Is it the moment the villagers found out about the quest? The opportunities are limitless, but consider using Moira as a bridge between the greater "purpose" of your story and the real people we will be meeting shortly.

    I'm truly looking forward to reading your revision and seeing what you choose to do! :)

  10. Martina - LOL that you're writing about Moira and Cronus! Lots to consider. Thanks for your thoughts. Already I can see how my story will be stronger.

  11. Jeri,
    First, I love the idea of twins separated at birth. This will allow you to have parallel stories, which works very well in YA, and also establishes a tension, because the reader assumes that at some point in the story, the twins will be reunited, either to overcome something together or to be in conflict.
    The prologue sets up this interesting story, but I might suggest either making it much shorter, or taking it out altogether and finding a different way to weave in the backstory.
    Your names are great (Marigold and Adonna). Moira makes me think there is a mythological basis, especially given the nature of that character (fate). However, I had to re-read the name several times before deciding how to pronounce it in my head. Just something to think about.
    Great dialogue and action within the dialogue-use more. I'm compelled to read more and want to know what happens. Good work.