Sunday, April 19, 2015

First 5 Pages April Workshop - Harrington Rev 2

Name: Sarah Harrington
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Title: Of Time and Blood
Some Timekeepers saw the Schedules as a rigid set of rules never to be broken, but I figured a little creative interpretation never hurt anyone. 

The dust was thick in the air and heavy on my tongue as I inhaled. With every breath, history took root in my lungs. A flowery perfume tried to hide the musty scent, but the smell of years long gone still lived on in the antique store.

“Change of plans,” I said as my assignment partner rounded the corner of the aisle. He jumped out of the way to avoid sending a teetering pile of old books crashing to the floor.

Trent sighed. “Why do you always do this, Mik? What was wrong with the original plan?”

“Do you really think just prompting him to buy a book from her would be enough to create a spark between them? It's way too simple for a guy like that. We’ll need something a little more drastic to get through his thick skull.” My gaze drifted towards our target.

Thirty-year-old Joseph Bolland stood on the far side of the store with stiff shoulders and a straight back. The window behind him, dirtied with years of grime, let in very little light. Even with the dingy overhead lamps, the wine decanter in his hands was barely visible.

I ran through my mental checklist for matchmaking assignments. The briefing was on point with almost everything, but it had failed to mention that Joseph was a real jerk.

Trent’s voice sliced through my annoyance. “What’d he do to piss you off?”

“Elbowed me out of the way. He was muttering about how rowdy teenagers don’t deserve to be in a place like this. Apparently we ‘don’t appreciate the history behind the objects’.” I dropped my voice as low as I could to imitate Joseph’s grating tone.

We stood at the back of the antique store, surrounded by old figurines and pieces of secondhand kitchen equipment. Although most of my focus was on Joseph, I could just make out our secondary target in my periphery. Coraline stood behind the cash register with her lips pursed and fingers drumming on the counter. She trained her eyes on us and I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.

I ached to tell Coraline that nothing about me wanted to be in this dusty old store with uninteresting and poorly maintained items. We were only there to set her up with her future husband and we would certainly appreciate not having to operate under the shopkeeper’s piercing glare the entire time.

I turned to relay that thought to Trent, but stopped short at the sight of him cradling a clay Chinese teapot.

“My mom had one just like this.” He ran his free hand over the smooth surface, light sandy skin contrasting with the deep reddish brown of the clay. “She used to sneak tea in to me during all the hospital stays.” Sorrow laced his voice as he spoke of a time stolen from him.

A time stolen from all Timekeeper recruits.

At his words, my hand crept up to touch the silver anchor charm hanging around my neck. It was the only thing I had left from my time in the outside world but, unlike Trent, I didn’t miss my life before the Timekeepers. They’d given me the closest thing I’d ever had to a family.

“Careful!” The sharp sound of Coraline’s voice shot across the room. “These aren’t toys to be played with; they’re antiques.”

“They deserve each other,” Trent muttered as he set the teapot down. “We should hurry up. Can’t have you being late for your own Advancement Ceremony.”

The nerves that had been swimming lazily in my stomach all day burst into a frenzy at his words. The thought of this being my last time engaging with the outside world sickened me. Staying on as an Agent would be a dream, but it was such a rare occurrence, and it wasn’t likely for that dream to become my reality. But there wasn’t time to worry about that now.

I pushed my anxiety aside and moved to stand with Trent. Our eyes poured over the store, looking for all the possible ways to bring Joseph and Coraline together.

A burning sensation interrupted my thoughts. I pulled my pocket watch out of my jeans and ran my fingers over the rusted surface of the hunter case. The hot metal singed my skin; it was a warning, but I couldn’t initiate the interface here to read the message. The risk of the targets seeing the hologram coming out of the watch was too high. “They’re telling us to get a move on. We need to figure out a plan.”

“Well I thought the original plan in the Schedule was good enough, but we can’t do that anymore because someone decided we should change things up and made us miss the time slot.”

I ignored his sass and squinted in Joseph’s direction. “It wouldn’t take a lot of force to shatter the glass display case behind him.”

Trent followed my gaze, catching onto my plan. “But it would cause a ton of damage. It doesn’t really fit in with the whole ‘unnoticed’ part of our mantra, does it?”

He was right. Being yelled at by Coraline was one thing, but causing lasting damage to property in plain sight of the targets was something else altogether. The Councillors would probably ream us out as soon as we got back to Meridian, but time was ticking down. “Do you have any better ideas? The next customer will be here any minute. This needs to be done right now.”

Trent pressed his lips into a thin line but nodded. We broke away from where we stood, creeping down opposite sides of the store towards the target. Inching closer, I saw Joseph’s eyes dart towards Coraline. He didn’t know what the future held for himself and the shopkeeper.

But Trent and I did.

We always did.

And it was our job to make sure it happened.

I walked down the aisle, trying to look natural and innocuous for Coraline, while also making my footfalls as light as possible to keep Joseph from noticing me. My mind wandered back almost ten years to the last time I saw Joseph. One of my very first assignments had been to make him late for a law school interview. The world just hadn't been ready for Joseph the defense attorney; his current job as an accountant suited humankind's course far better. Maybe he remembered the seven-year-old girl who spilled her milk on his jacket. My lips twitched at the memory. Joseph hadn’t been as awful back then; he’d even bought me another milk carton to show he wasn’t upset. What happened to that man? I should’ve looked at the database to see his full Schedule. Another Timekeeper must have been responsible for the assignment that turned him so sour.

I stood close enough now to catch the spicy scent of Joseph’s cologne. He was so engaged in examining a vase for chips in the glasswork that he hadn’t noticed us sneaking up on either side of him. Trent’s brown eyes met mine.

Now.



9 comments:

  1. Hi Sarah,

    This is a very strong opening. A few thoughts:

    *Even with the dingy overhead lamps, the wine decanter in his hands was barely visible.* For some reason, I’m thrown every time our focus lands on the wine decanter. Is it important? Is it just showing how dim the light is? Is it supposed to tell us something about Joseph? Maybe add a little more, like “the wine decanter he was turning critically in his hands.”

    I think you did a great job integrating the nature of the assignment into the story rather than keeping it a mystery and then telling us directly that it’s matchmaking. This version flows much better, and while I don’t have the same level of curiosity about what the mission IS, I am curious about who would be assigned to matchmake and why.

    *I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.* “Screaming" here seems too strong. I don’t think I’ve ever mentally “screamed” except in an immediate emergency. An annoyance like teenagers in my space is likely to prompt a different kind of mental process than a scream. Maybe something like, “I could almost hear her thoughts as she searched for a reason to kick us out.” Or simply, “mentally urging us."

    Similarly, “ached” also seems to strong in the next paragraph. I’ve come across “ached” more often in contexts like a character wanting to tell a loved one something while having good reasons not too. I don’t think Mic is that emotionally invested here. Maybe just, “I wished I could tell her . . .”

    Nitpick, but “pored over,” not “poured over.”

    I like “Meridian” as a name for the Timekeeper’s base of operations.

    I really like the new details about her first encounter with Joseph, though I am wondering how she remembers it so well and links it with this encounter.

    I love the idea of Timekeepers having access to a person’s “full Schedule.”

    Overall, great, strong opening, and I’m eager to read on. I hope I get to, someday!

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  2. Hi Sarah. I really like what you’ve got going on here. You’ve done a great job laying the foundation for this story and for the main character. Well done!

    I’ve read this a couple of times, and I don’t see any more big issues to address. We’re getting down to the nit-picky stuff here; mostly what I’m noticing now is some wordiness. If you can tighten everything up, it will be pretty close to perfect, in my opinion.

    Here are a few examples of what I mean:

    * Coraline stood behind the cash register with her lips pursed and fingers drumming on the counter. She trained her eyes on us and I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.* The repeated ‘us’ jumped out at me. You can fix this by removing the part about her training her eyes on them, since this is implied. *“Coraline stood behind the cash register with her lips pursed and fingers drumming on the counter. I could almost hear her mentally screaming at us to get out of her precious shop.*

    * He jumped out of the way to avoid sending a teetering pile of old books crashing to the floor.* This messed with me a bit, because if the books are teetering, jumping out of the way won’t keep them from crashing to the floor. You also don’t need to emphasize that the books are old, since readers will infer this from the antique setting. I would tweak this line: * He steadied a teetering pile of books before they crashed to the floor.*

    * At his words, my hand crept up to touch the silver anchor charm hanging around my neck.* No need to include ‘at his words’; since her actions immediately follow his words, the reader will know what prompted her action.

    * The hot metal singed my skin; it was a warning, but I couldn’t initiate the interface here to read the message. The risk of the targets seeing the hologram coming out of the watch was too high.* Is that second sentence necessary? If readers don’t need to know about the hologram just yet, this paragraph might be stronger without that detail; it might be better to save that until later, when she actually opens it and the hologram appears. Also, no need to state that the burning watch is a warning; the fact that it’s burning hot, followed by her words to Trent, explain that well enough. My suggestion: * “The hot metal singed my skin, but I couldn’t initiate the interface here to read the message. “They’re telling us to get a move on…” *

    And finally, one last dialogue tweak: *“Do you really think just prompting him to buy a book from her would be enough to create a spark between them? It's way too simple for a guy like that. We’ll need something a little more drastic to get through his thick skull.” My gaze drifted towards our target.* It doesn’t sound quite right that she gets through this whole speech about the target before turning to look at him. I would allow her gaze to drift somewhere in the middle of this paragraph, since that’s naturally how it would happen as she’s speaking.

    Overall, I think you’ve got a strong opening. My one suggestion would be to read it out loud to catch all of the places where words have been repeated or a sentence or phrase just feels too long, since those become much more obvious when reading aloud.

    Thanks again for sharing. Best of luck!

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  3. Hi Sarah,

    You've really improved your pages over the passed weeks, and that's SO great.
    I think you can still cut out some wordyness with some of the details that Becca and Anthony pointed out to make it a bit more fast paced and interesting.

    I love all the hints and clues about how the timekeepers work, and how people become timekeepers. I find it really interesting that they age too.

    Mik's new plan seems kind of dramatic for a timekeeper whose rule is to keep themselves unnoticed. I wonder if they couldn't set it up so that Joseph 'trips' and drops something, like the vase, instead of shatter a big display case.
    I'm still curious if Mik and Joseph meeting when she was seven is important enough to bring up in the crucial first five pages.

    Besides those things, I think it's a strong opening an I wish you the best of luck! :)

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  4. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks so much sharing your opening pages to Of Time and Blood with me. I was extremely impressed with your strong, confident tone and am intrigued by the storyline. I know I’ve read very little of what promises to be an exciting project but my first instinct is to question your title. Might you consider a suggestion that matches the boldness with which you write? I know Mitch Albom has already used “The Time Keeper” and there was a play entitled “The Timekeepers” but these -- or something like them -- would be so perfectly suited to your work. Maybe you drop the “the” and make “Time Keeper” or “Timekeepers” or even “Keeping Time.” Somehow “Of Time and Blood” makes me think vampire story.

    On a substantive level, I would just note a lack of back-story. You hint at it with:
    “A time stolen from all Timekeeper recruits.” And, again, with: The nerves that had been swimming lazily in my stomach all day burst into a frenzy at his words. The thought of this being my last time engaging with the outside world sickened me. Staying on as an Agent would be a dream, but it was such a rare occurrence, and it wasn’t likely for that dream to become my reality. But there wasn’t time to worry about that now.” But your readers need to be let in – at least a little – or he will lose interest. At some point, you need to stand back from the scene and introduce us to the Timekeepers – who they are and how they came to be, etc.

    And just a couple of small line edits:
    “Trent pressed his lips into a thin line but nodded.” – “…and nodded.”

    “But Trent and I did.We always did.” – think it might be more emphatic to say “We always knew.”

    And it was our job to make sure it happened.

    I walked down the aisle, trying to look natural and innocuous for Coraline…” → I would drop “for Coraline.” – it’s superfluous.

    Best of luck with the rest of the project and please let me know if I can answer any questions regarding my comments.

    Amaryah

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  5. Wonderful! This is much clearer and you do a great job of seeding in just enough detail and backstory to keep everything interesting without being confusing. I don't have much to add that anyone else hasn't already said, but I would encourage you to read it out loud if you haven't already. This will help you catch any overly wordy bits.

    Good job! :)

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  6. Hi Sarah,

    I like the changes you've made. The opening is definitely clearer and sets me in the scene. Giving hints to the matchmaking and then explaining a bit more did wonders for the premise. It also gave more 'voice' to your characters. Creating their 'targets' with annoying personas added to the tension and gave your MCs a bit of depth. Good choice there.

    Including a bit of back story about her previous encounter with Joseph was good. It was just enough and feed me a few questions that I'm sure you'll answer later on. There are a few nit-picky line edits and/or typos, but most of those have already been mentioned.

    The part about the hot metal singing her skin ... For some reason, I felt like some element was missing there. Maybe add a line of back story or the importance of receiving a message in this way. I think what I'm missing is a little world building. Speaking of that, you could add just a snippet more world building in a few earlier places as well. Other than that, I think you have a strong opening. You've given me information to chew on and a want to know more.

    Best of luck with this and thank you for letting me read!

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  7. Hi Sarah,

    First let me apologize for getting Joseph name wrong last week. He deserves better...maybe :)

    I think out of all the participants in this months workshop, yours change the least and for good reason. It was pretty solid to begin with. The biggest improvements came from two key areas that you better explained and clarified:

    The Old Plan
    “Do you really think just prompting him to buy a book from her would be enough to create a spark between them?

    First Encounter With Joseph
    One of my very first assignments had been to make him late for a law school interview. The world just hadn't been ready for Joseph the defense attorney; his current job as an accountant suited humankind's course far better.

    The second one especially offered more than just an explanation about her first encounter with Joseph. It let me know as the reader that the time-travelers are more than just matchmakers.

    I agree with the above comment that: I think what I'm missing is a little world building. Speaking of that, you could add just a snippet more world building in a few earlier places as well.

    But this has more to with me being intrigued about the world she and the time travelers come from more than the antique shop. It's a good thing that I want to know what Meridian is like.

    You have a really cool premise here and I look forward to seeing it in B&N someday. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Sarah,

    First let me apologize for getting Joseph name wrong last week. He deserves better...maybe :)

    I think out of all the participants in this months workshop, yours change the least and for good reason. It was pretty solid to begin with. The biggest improvements came from two key areas that you better explained and clarified:

    The Old Plan
    “Do you really think just prompting him to buy a book from her would be enough to create a spark between them?

    First Encounter With Joseph
    One of my very first assignments had been to make him late for a law school interview. The world just hadn't been ready for Joseph the defense attorney; his current job as an accountant suited humankind's course far better.

    The second one especially offered more than just an explanation about her first encounter with Joseph. It let me know as the reader that the time-travelers are more than just matchmakers.

    I agree with the above comment that: I think what I'm missing is a little world building. Speaking of that, you could add just a snippet more world building in a few earlier places as well.

    But this has more to with me being intrigued about the world she and the time travelers come from more than the antique shop. It's a good thing that I want to know what Meridian is like.

    You have a really cool premise here and I look forward to seeing it in B&N someday. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's a strong opening. I could only see one thing to change. I can't see second-hand appliances in a snobby antique store. Maybe old fountain pens, estate jewelry or something, but not appliances. It doesn't fit the snotty-no-kids attitude. You've piqued my curiosity with the story line! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete