Monday, March 11, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Seminara Rev 1

Name: Janis Seminara
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction/ fantasy
Title: The Seedsower

Chapter 1: Discovery

The halo drooping over the summit hung darker than usual and felt heavy, like wet clothes. Logan had hoped the onset of spring might have lightened things up a bit; even the fires-stars, Magnus’ golden flowers hadn’t begun to shoot up from their earthy wombs. Creepy. He was close now; the familiar warning sign bobbed in and out of view. A few more steps and the threatening plea: ‘Danger - Do Not Enter the Halo’ set against a red slashed triangle with a gray circle on its tip; a sorry rendition of the glorious Mount Magnus and her ominous halo. Logan laughed out loud; how many times had he made it in and out, no problem? Of course he only went a few feet in, always inching his way a bit more every time, nonetheless, it did stand true. Many a hiker disappeared in that halo in hopes to reach the ever-elusive summit or to make a new scientific discovery. Corey Blane, one of Knowledge Gate’s most promising scholars disappeared ten years ago. Corey had been sure, much like Logan was sure, that the halo held scientific secrets. Logan had been practicing getting in an out for years, and he knew just how to do it; a well-planned lunch on Logan’s part of Uncle Hephaestus’ favorite meat-cakes, and sweeties – a special delicacy of sugar and fruit and Hephaestus would be out cold, slumped against a boulder, just long enough for Logan to do some exploring.

Logan rested his walking stick up against the backside of the sign. He wouldn't need it now; the trail fell flatter in the halo, and quite softer. Today the air had a strong chemical odor and taste to it. Logan knew all about chemicals, he had been top Chemistry student at the Knowledge Gate School three years in a row. Final projects were due in just under a month, and he still hadn't decided on what to do. In the name of Science, he just had to hike in the forbidden zone. Perhaps he would discover a new element. His secret goal was to discover what compounds made up the halo, then to break them down and eventually disintegrate the halo so the summit would be free. Logan wished for nothing more than to be Illium’s greatest scientist; the one and only who cracked the code of the halo so he could be the first to reach Magnus’ summit. His heart pounded with excitement.

The halo thickened the further he went, hanging like an iron door. He threw his pack down and took out a small shovel. The air seemed to almost choke him with the least bit of exertion. He had taken ten more steps in than the last time. Is this how Corey Blane felt before… Logan shrugged it off to having had very little sleep, and so he laid down, propping his pack under his head, mindlessly digging his hands into the soft reddish soil. Deeper and deeper he dug, his nails filling with the particles that made the mountain. He pictured these particles breaking down into molecules and the molecules into atoms, and then what?

“Ouch!” Logan sprung into a sitting position to examine his hand. He felt dizzy and a trickle of blood ran down his wrist. Stuck inside his index finger was a blue shard, about two inches wide by three inches long. Logan winced. He’d have to pull it out. It had gone in pretty deep – almost straight through. He braced himself; goose bumps traveled up his arm. “One, two…” gasp, “Three.” Logan clenched his teeth through the pain. With his free hand he fished around his pack for something to wrap around the wound and stop the bleeding. It hurt plenty and within seconds, blood soaked through the thin yellow cloth his mom had wrapped his meat-cake with. He wiped the shard across his shirt to examine it.

The stone had four sides, sort of free form, transparently blue in some places, deep cobalt blue in others. The edges were sharp and clear, except for the red stain where Logan’s blood deposited. Whatever this shard was, he’d soon find out. His fingers itched to start experimenting. A roll of thunder quaking through the halo made it even darker. The odor became much stronger now, and he could taste sulfur. He slipped the shard in his pocket and headed back out. He couldn't show his uncle, just in case there were any consequences from the Board, he didn't want Hephaestus to get in trouble. Soon the heavy veil dissolved into a soft mist. He went for his walking stick, but it wasn't there. Instead he found Uncle Hephaestus, leaning against the sign, smirking.

“So, you did it again?” Hephaestus’ shiny, bald head shimmered with a soft covering of mist in-line with the halo on the Warning sign. Logan couldn't help but laugh.

“You think it’s funny?” Logan pointed to the sign.

“C’mon Uncle Hepphy…” Even addressing his uncle affectionately didn't alter Hephaestus’ grin.

Hephaestus’ expression turned more serious. He held out Logan’s walking stick with his short, muscular arms. Oak chips showered Logan’s hand as he grabbed it with his right hand, placing his left hand quickly behind his back. Logan tried to avert Hephaestus’ round, steady eyes, but Hephaestus held steadfast onto the stick. “I notched it. This is our 26th hike.”

“Twenty-four, I don’t count the ones I actually didn't walk my own way.” He matched his uncle’s grin, angry now that the one person in all of Illium he thought would understand, suddenly didn't. Now he was sure he wouldn't show him the stone.

“Well, nevertheless, whether I held you or not, two hikes for every year.”

Logan barely recalled those earliest hikes, when Hephaestus would wrap him up like a package and tie him to his back. They didn't hike very far, but Logan remembered the way the mountain smelled sweet in the spring and bitter in the fall. As he grew older, the hikes became longer and longer, until Logan had reached the warning sign. Then came the day Logan had finally stepped into the halo; he had just turned ten. Uncle Hephaestus had fallen asleep after over- indulging in sweeties. Logan had been just inside the halo a few feet, and for only a few minutes, and yet he totally recalled how his body trembled with excitement from head to toe, how he felt like he belonged there. He had heard Uncle’s hysterical cries, and really had wanted to get out and assure Hephaestus that he was fine, but the feeling in the air, and the opaqueness of whatever the halo was made up of fascinated him. He wanted to dissect it, taste it, study it. Logan still felt that way. For some crazy reason, Logan had a knowing about this mountain; a knowing that the halo held secrets about the Before. Before Illium. Before this beautiful mountain ever existed. But the Before was forbidden in Illium. Perhaps that is why the Halo existed. Could the Board have created it? Logan would use science as a way to get some answers. Science was acceptable in Illium, and so Logan chuckled, “I’ll beat them at their own game!”

Hephaestus licked his lips, the softness returning to his eyes. “Those sweeties are irresistible kid. Gotta hand it to ya. Works every time.” He circled Logan, slowly checking every feature of his nephew. “So, what’s behind your back?”

Before Logan could swing his hand away, Hephaestus caught his cuff.

“Now, how am I going to explain that to your mother?” He grabbed Logan’s hand closer, gently touching the bloodied yellow wrap.

“Tell her that you’re teaching me how to carve walking sticks.”

“Now you know I can’t say that.” Hephaestus slowly opened the yellow cloth and heaved through his teeth. “She’d kill me if she thought I was teaching you contraband.”

“But you can carve walking sticks.” Logan grabbed his hand back and re-wrapped it.

“I’m not a scientist. My job is to make walking sticks so people will use their vouchers to buy ‘em. Your job is Science.” Hephaestus drew an imaginary circle with his hands. “The wheels of progress go round and round. We do what we do for Illium.” Suddenly, his eyes grew serious. “You’ll get the two of us rafted, and that would break Naira’s heart.” A chill shook Logan to the bone because he knew Uncle was right. Getting ‘rafted’ meant removal from family and friends, tied to a raft and set out to sea, alone. Who could survive? Nobody ever came back; in fact much like the haloed-summit, no one had ever seen the sea. If the halo doesn't kill you, the Board will. Logan threw back his shoulders, suddenly justified in his secret trips through the halo. He’d be careful. His mother would never find out. But he wouldn't stop. Not until he stood atop the summit.

“Beside, Naira would never forgive me.” Hephaestus’ doughy wrinkles drooped so heavily over his eyes, his bulbous nose, and pouting lips jutted. “She’d never forgive me.”

Logan shook the thought out of his head. The thought that occurred to him every time Hephaestus said his mother’s name like that. He knew they weren't related, but he also knew his mother had broken her pairing, and that under the rules…


  1. Janis – Now I understand the halo and why Logan wants to enter it! I enjoy the world you’re building and feel like I’m there with Logan.
    I still don’t get the having little sleep and laying down part, but I do like the blue stone he found. What hung me up was the Uncle smirking, but then you call it a grin and then Logan matches the grin, but he’s angry. It made me stop reading and try to figure out what was going on.

    You’ve done a great job giving the reader a few more details that help to understand this world. Great job revising!

  2. Thanks Jeri, I'll work on the smirks, and the laying down, I think that may very well be a case of me having the actions in my head and not on the page! Next revision, look for a change.

  3. Hi Janis,

    Love the rewrite! I thought the first paragraph was so much easier to follow and allows the reader to really delve into the story. You could maybe even break it into two paragraphs at "Many a hiker..." to allow for some processing time.

    Now we're also get a very clear sense of what's driving Logan into forbidden territory- awesome! I think you might have more info than you really need in the 2nd paragraph. To me, you could lose from "Logan knew all about the chemicals..." to " the summit would be free" and still get your point across very well. Maybe work in the stuff about the finals, Logan's student prowess and the details of his secret goal later on in the story. Just more hinting at his genius and his goals in general here.

    When you get to the part about the Before- that is what really hooked me more than anything else. Would it be somehow possible to put it earlier? It works on such an epic, grand scale- combine that with the personalization coming from your two likeable characters (esp Cronus- I just love that guy!), and I think you've got something really great here. And the hint that Logan's got some 6th sense/psychic connection to the past, that is very compelling as well. This paragraph here is what really sold me on Logan's story and makes me want to know more.

    The grin thing threw me off a little, too but I see you've got that covered already. :)

    That little description "doughy wrinkles"- killer!

    Excited for the next post!!!

    1. Sheesh- SMH! I just noticed you changed Cronus to Hephaestus. See, we were already best buds and on a first name basis from the first go-round. Sorry about that!

  4. Kindra, Thank YOU!

    Do you like Cronus's new name. Some other work-shoppers pointed out that Cronus had a negative connotation, and Hephaestaus, well he created Achille's shield! He was an artist!

  5. Kindra, Thank YOU!

    Do you like Cronus's new name. Some other work-shoppers pointed out that Cronus had a negative connotation, and Hephaestaus, well he created Achille's shield! He was an artist!

    1. I do like it! I had to sound it out in my mind (cannot shake that little voice inside when I read). I don't know if that would slow anyone else down- fantasy readers may be better acquainted with the name than I am. I don't know if the sounding it out is even a valid concern or not. I love the myth-history tidbit, tying the uncle into a sort of protector role. And artists are always okay by me. :)

  6. Nice job Janis - it's much clearer now why Logan's there. Personally I like the name change, the nickname goes a long way to help make this relationship more relatable - and bridge the gap between Logan (which sounds so modern) and his uncle's name (which sounds so ancient). I'm wondering if there's a way to nail down the place and time a little more - are we in a future earth and Illium's a country, some other planet, etc. Nice work though!

  7. I really liked it. I do get the motivation for sneaking in now and am curious about the hiker/scientist who disappeared. I find it interesting that you're mixing mythological names with science. I think that's cool. I like Uncle Hepphy. ;D I agree that the name is better. And I like that you provided good "reason" for him not to show the stone to him. Good job. Oh and "“You think it’s funny?” Logan pointed to the sign." I think you meant to say Heph...

  8. Much stronger, Janis! Love the changes. YAY! This is much clearer and at the same time, it's even more intriguing. At this point, I think it's really mostly doing a bit of trimming to make sure that you are turning the readers' eye to the details that you really want us to focus on.

    I feel like your opening sentences could be clearer and distilled a bit more, for example. You have such lovely imagery, but make sure that it is readily understandable so that we don't need to slow down to grasp it.

    The halo drooping over the summit hung darker

    For example, hung and darker, don't readily go together, so it makes me pause--it's not that I don't like it, but I do stop and think. Also, drooping and hanging are similar.

    felt heavy, like wet clothes. -- "felt" is vague -- does he actually feel it on his skin, is it a vibration in the air?

    Logan had hoped the onset of spring might have lightened things up a bit; even the fires-stars, Magnus’ golden flowers, hadn’t begun to shoot up from their earthy wombs. Creepy.

    Love this paragraph, but it isn't clear how the "lightness" relates to the flowers not appearing on time.

    He was close now ...

    We've had so many concepts since "the summit" that it takes work to figure out that you mean the summit.

    All of these are tiny tweaks, and there honestly isn't anything "wrong" about any of these things per se. Again, the imagery is lovely. But go through and make sure you aren't sacrificing clarity in favor of the figurative language so that you don't risk losing any readers along the way.

  9. Hey. You changed Cronus's name. I really liked Cronus. But names continually change don't they.
    Now about the line "Magnus' golden flowers hadn't begun to shoot up from their earthy womb," well, I'm not sure. It's a touch confusing, and maybe just a touch snicker-enducing, which isn't the greatest sin...but it is your second line.
    One note about Corey Blane: I think you mention Corey's name three times, which is a lot for a dead character. I think the reader will automatically assume Corey isn't really dead, or has laid a trail for the hero; he has to have an important role in the story or he wouldn't own such valuable real estate in the first few pages. If he is more functional, consider backing off of him a bit.
    "Rafted" is an awesome concept. Real stakes. Very visual. I would just say rafted and let the word carry the weight. It's a powerful idea that might have more impact with just the one word without an explanation. Very cool.
    Your hook is the blue stone, and I think you handled it really well. I do want to know what that stone is about, which is what you want from it in a first chapter. Show the stone, hide it in a pocket, and promise the reader they'll find out it's story if they just read on. The moment should be very tactile, and would probably be the paragraph I spent the most time on to make sure the reader feels the pain and is fascinated with the stone by how it looks and feels to Logan.
    Nice revision. Well done.