Monday, July 22, 2013

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Ellie Rev 2

Name: Ellie
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Northern

Liko took a deep breath and slowly slithered her way over the ceiling beam she was lying on. The wood was silky under her fingertips, slippery enough to slide right off and fall two stories to the unforgiving marble floor below. Her fingers were twitching as if playing an invisible piano. She had to force them into fists to stop them as she peeked over the side of the beam. If she was going to steal a mission, she wouldn’t let a simple deadly drop stop her.

Papers and pots of ink were strewn over the surface of the oak desk that consumed the center of the room. An oversized porcelain cup filled with steaming coffee sat to the right of a half melted wax candle and stamp. The smell encompassed the room; a nutty, chocolaty aroma, with a hint of hazelnut. The Imperio lived off that stuff.

Liko scanned the doors in Imperio Catherine’s briefing room, making sure, for the umpteenth time that they were still clear. If she needed to make a quick break, she’d have to haul through the main door. The other two doors-one strictly for the Imperio's guards and a side exit only for the Imperio herself- would just be running straight into booby-trapped rune hallways she wouldn’t have time to deal with. The main entrance would be clear and she could lose any pursuers in the marble mansion. The only problem would be running into any heavy oak doors carved with locking runes. The briefing room was the one room not fitted with them. Only the moon goddesses knew why Imperio Catherine chose to have beads hanging in her doorways instead of rune locking oak. The beads clinked together; sending small tunes throughout the room that made Liko’s skin shiver.

Three figures stood below Liko; Catherine, and the two boys she was briefing.

Catherine stood in front of her desk. Liko could only see the back of her black short hair and her silk robes billowing around her. Nayeeshi stood stone straight in front of Catherine; the only thing that ruined his overachieving picture perfect ironed appearance was the mop of black hair he refused to let anyone touch. Tarin stood next to him, a striking contrast to Nayeeshi. He made looking like he rolled out of bed an attractive form of art. His orangey hair was mussed up, and his uniform jacket was unzipped, his low hanging shirt showing off his collarbones. He was way too handsome for his own good.

“Nayeeshi, you’ll be going alone on this mission.” Catherine said.

Liko’s eyes shot to Tarin as he stepped forward. “Alone? But we’re-“

Catherine waved him off with a delicate hand. “Tarin. I know you two are attached at the hip, but you need to cut the cord and train the new recruits.”

Liko held back a laugh at Nayeeshi and Tarin’s indignant look. Perfect. She thought. It would be much easier to steal a solo mission. Less danger and less chance of getting caught.

It wasn’t anything against the boys. She was grateful that Nayeeshi and Tarin took the time to train her on their own. But she wanted more than just a backyard training session. She wanted to be a part of the village’s training class, learning to fight and protect the village if the Regia and their Hunter dogs finally broke through their barriers. The only thing stopping her was Imperio Catherine; she thought Liko was better suited for scholarly scriptures and memorizing ledgers.

Catherine pushed some papers around her desk, almost knocking over a quill holder before pulling out a small parchment. She brushed it off with the back of her hand, revealing an inked map with a red marking. “You’re to retrieve a gem that’s been hidden in a cavern to the North.” Catherine’s voice was soft and low. Liko leaned farther over the beam to hear. “It’s in Hunter territory, but supposedly unguarded. The cavern isn’t very deep so it won’t be difficult to navigate.”

Liko squinted down at the map. After she was certain she got a good look, she closed her eyes and recalled the image. She looked back at the map to double check her memory and smiled when it was perfect.

“Why do we need this gem anyway?” Tarin asked, scrutinizing the map.

Catherine released a heavy sigh. “Honestly, Tarin, you have no patience.” She handed the map to Nayeeshi. “It’s one of a pair that is originally ours, but was taken. We’re just getting them back.”

“I’m guessing this information is from our ace informant?” Nayeeshi asked in his usual monotone voice. When Catherine nodded, both the boys instantly seemed more interesting.

Liko rolled her eyes. They acted like being a spy in the Hunter’s city was a gift from the moon goddesses or something. Spying wasn’t hard. She was doing it right now.

Seeing that the briefing was close to its end, Liko shimmied her way backwards on the beam. When she got to the end, she pulled herself up onto the beam above her and crawled through the open vent leading to the back of the building's second floor. She’d accidentally found this crevice when she was eleven and Catherine told her she wasn’t ready to be trained. Liko had snuck into her office to find out who she thought was ready. Then, when Catherine came in unexpectedly, Liko climbed up onto the ceiling beams and found the vent.

Holding her breath to listen for footsteps, Liko scanned the area, making sure no one was around before she dropped and rolled into the courtyard. Her stomach felt like river rapids breaking inside her. She was doing this; she was taking Nayeeshi’s mission. Her blood thrummed through her body as if it was so excited it would burst out of her skin. Her fingers started flicking out.

She doubled checked her pockets and pouches to make sure she was prepared, then felt her shirt for her whistle; the most important thing. Without her whistle-key, she’d never be able to get back into the city. It was engraved with runes that allowed her to go through the barrier that protected them. “This will be a good day.”

“And why is that?”

Liko squeaked and spun. “Tarin,” she breathed. “By the moons, you scared the life out of me!”

Tarin chuckled, his green eyes glimmering. He was leaning against the side of the building looking too handsome. “Guilty about something?”

Liko scrunched up her nose and stuffed her hands in her back pockets. “Shouldn’t you be off with Nayeeshi or something?” Wasn’t he just inside? If he’s out, that means Nayeeshi should be out as well. Liko shifted form one foot to the other.

His face fell slightly, losing the smugness that was there. He looked her over, stuffing his own hands in his jacket pockets. “He’s getting more information.” He moved off the wall with languid grace Liko couldn’t help but admire, his hair falling over his forehead.

“Got a mission without you?” The thought of Catherine needing to give Nayeeshi more information made Liko’s fingers itch. She stuffed them deeper in her pockets. What more could he need to know about retrieving a simple rock?

Tarin narrowed his eyes. “Sneaking around where you’re not supposed to be, huh?”

Liko stiffened. Caught. Dammit. She should have known better. Of course Tarin would notice. Heat curled up her neck and over her face. So much for being a master spy. Instead of admitting anything, Liko lifted her chin up and looked away, towards the market, where she needed to go. He could think whatever he wanted.

“You know sneaking around during briefings won’t take your mind off not being trained.” He placed a hand on her head and her stomach started doing acrobatic tricks. His hand was warm; his fingers long and elegant, and those eyes- By the goddess she needed to stop getting distracted.

Liko scrunched up her face and pushed his hand away. “I know that.” She was just about to make an excuse to leave, when she saw his face. He was looking at the Imperio’s building like it was a ship sailing off without him. “You worried about Nayeeshi?”

Tarin blinked, taken back. “’Course not. He can take care of himself.”

“I know.” Liko said, seeing Tarin’s shoulders relax a bit. “He’ll be back before dinner time.”

Tarin’s lip twitched up on one side, forming a dimple, he scratched at the beauty mark under his left eye. “How about I give you a training session later? We could work on your hand to hand combat first, and you still need to work on getting out of holds.”

“I’m glad I have so many things I need to work on.” Liko didn’t bother trying to hide the sarcasm in her tone. He was too distracting. She needed as much of a head start on Nayeeshi as possible, but that stupid dimple and that smile- Her fingers twitched again.

“If you were too good, I wouldn’t have an excuse to spend time with you.”

Liko turned her face away so he couldn’t see her blush. He knew exactly what to say to make her heart go on a rampage in her guts. But now was not the time for this.

“After I train the novices, we can meet up in the training hall. Sound good?”

Liko forced a smile. She had to get rid of him before Nayeeshi finished his briefing. She had to focus on the mission and not the way the sun hit Tarin’s eyes. “Sounds good.”

He smiled back. “Alright.” He mussed up her hair and winked before turning towards the training grounds. “See you later, ’princess.’” He gave a wave before shoving his hands in his pockets and walking away.

7 comments:

  1. OMG! This is so good!!! I am hooked!
    No further comments.
    KD

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  2. Ellie, you tied it all up in a nice, big bow! Can't wait to read the rest!
    Donna

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  3. Ellie,

    Great job.

    Two nitpicky things:
    “I’m guessing this information is from our ace informant?” Nayeeshi asked in his usual monotone voice. When Catherine nodded, both the boys instantly seemed more interesting. seemed more interested.

    And in this paragraph,

    Seeing that the briefing was close to its end, Liko shimmied her way backwards on the beam. When she got to the end, she pulled herself up onto the beam above her and crawled through the open vent leading to the back of the building's second floor. She’d accidentally found this crevice when she was eleven and Catherine told her she wasn’t ready to be trained. Liko had snuck into her office to find out who she thought was ready. Then, when Catherine came in unexpectedly, Liko climbed up onto the ceiling beams and found the vent.

    I'm totally wondering how she would climb up the beams. from the floor, maybe a bit more description or something to start it. But I love the added detail in the paragraph.

    You did a great job on these revisions. I think you've created a great start to an interesting story.

    Mim

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  4. I was drawn right in! Great job. :D

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  5. LOVE THIS! Such an improvement from the first posting!

    My only question is this: why would Catherine call both men into her presence, if she only meant to give this mission to Nayeeshi? If you could clarify that, these pages are golden. :D Great work!

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  6. EXCELLENT job.

    A few last things to think about.

    While your first paragraph is definitely clearer now, my attention perked up when I reached:

    Three figures stood below Liko; Catherine, and the two boys she was briefing.

    With a little tweaking to provide more context, and followed by your current first paragraph, I wonder if that wouldn't make the reader even more curious about what's going on, while immediately providing a context for why she is slinking across beam?

    A couple of writing habits to watch for also:

    Be careful of giving redundant and/or unnecessary info, especially if it potentially distracts or confuses the reader, For,example:

    Liko took a deep breath and slowly slithered her way over the ceiling beam she was lying on.

    Now that we know she is slithering along the beam, we don't need to be told she is lying on it.

    The wood was silky under her fingertips, slippery enough to slide right off and fall two stories to the unforgiving marble floor below.

    It's silky in general, right? Not just under her fingertips? Which means the rest of her is prone to fall off, too. By keeping our attention on her fingers, you minimize our appreciation of her danger.

    Her fingers were twitching as if playing an invisible piano. She had to force them into fists to stop them as she peeked over the side of the beam. If she was going to steal a mission, she wouldn’t let a simple deadly drop stop her.

    More fingers, and the action is distracting because it isn't believable. If she's afraid of falling, which seems to be the case, then isn't she going to be using her fingers to hang on? If this is a way to bring in a habit or foreshadow a hobby, it's better to keep that for a more appropriate scene.

    An oversized porcelain cup filled with steaming coffee sat to the right of a half melted wax candle and stamp. The smell encompassed the room; a nutty, chocolaty aroma, with a hint of hazelnut. The Imperio lived off that stuff.

    Be mindful of proximity when placing additional information. You want our focus on the coffee, but by including the candle and stamp between mention of the coffee and the scent, we want to I connect the scent to the stamp instead. Of course, we get it as we keep reading, but things like this add up at a subconscious level. :)

    You are using body tags well to,keep,us on track with the dialogue, and that's great. But I do think, especially in the opening, that you need to be mindful to make the actions original. Right now, they are mostly "basic" movements, and they don't furthermyourmcharacterization as much as they could.

    Finally, I am still bothered by the contradictions in your worldbuilding. The term "village" doesn't seem to mesh with the term Imperio, or things like porcelain cups and the reference to an "ironed appearance."

    These are all very small things on their own. I am bringing them up only to give you something to watch for as you move forward, because I think you have a strong start, with a great leading character with a strong goal living in a dangerous world fought with interpersonal conflict. You have set us up beautifully for a fast-paced, intriguing adventure.

    Well done, and best of luck with this!!!!!

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  7. Thanks everyone so much!!
    This workshop has truly inspired and advanced me in my writing and now I'm so pumped to get cracking on the rest of my MS, taking your comments and notes to heart for each chapter :)

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