Sunday, November 15, 2015

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Christy Rev 2

Name: Christy C. 
Genre: YA science fiction

200 word pitch

The space Colonies were constructed to save an overpopulated Earth, but Dahlia Yang-Lee thinks growing up in an orbiting ship is as restrictive as living under an asteroid. As an engineering student, Lia appreciates 90th century wonders. But, unlike her ancestors who dreamed of colonizing space, Lia dreams of exploring Earth.

When a time travel accident sends Lia aboard Callum Davis’ legendary pirate shuttle, she is unsure if meeting the subject of childhood nightmares is a blessing or curse. Considering Cal died 5,000 years ago, Lia’s inclined to pick the latter. More surprising than her time jump is the discovery Cal isn’t the villain textbooks claim he is, but a heroic outlaw. Fighting unfair policies that prevent the underprivileged from moving to elite space communities isn’t Cal’s only skill. His ability to charm the spacesuit off anyone leaves Lia wondering if his loot may soon include her heart.

The bounty on Cal’s head is a warning his story doesn’t end happily, unless Lia defies history to save the man she’s falling for. Breaking away from the future and leaving her rigid Colony life is Lia’s shot at freedom, but remaining with Cal on a failing planet could kill them both. 

1st 5 pages:

The gun clicks and I smile.

So much for acting like a professional.

“It’s oddly exhilarating, isn’t it,” my mentor Chloe notes.

The charcoal black pistol fits perfectly in my palm. Sleek, classy, dangerous. If it weren’t for the museum inventory number attached to the trigger, I would have thought Chloe swiped the gun off the set of a period drama.

“I’m losing a battle with goosebumps.” My body has forgotten it’s always 23.5 degrees Celsius in lab. I suppose it’s still a comfortable step up from the -270 degree environment outside our space station windows. 

“All finished Lia?” Following museum protocol, Chloe takes the gun with gloved fingers. The lid to its velvet-lined casing closes with a quiet hiss, locking automatically. A barcode directs Male_A077’s possessions to the correct shelving unit. “That’s the last container belonging to our pirating friend.” 

“I’ll bet he never imagined the contents of his pockets would be so thoroughly analyzed,” I say, disposing used gloves in the neon orange burn box by my feet. I’m sure I’d leave a great impression on a future scientist studying the 90th century if they found the half eaten granola bar stashed in my purse.

“Everything that belonged to someone has potential significance. Even the castoffs.”

The lighting dims as our lab kicks into power saving mode. Is the workday already over? Chloe jogs up floating stairs to trick the motion detectors into believing our current team is larger than two. 

“Hey, is castoff the polite term you archaeologists have for trash?” I call. The acoustics in here are better than a symphony hall.  

Chloe waves for me to join her in the lofted office. “Well, his trash is my treasure trove!”

“Not to mention source of income.”  

From her desk, Chloe punches in the security code that provides access to the workspace downstairs. A row of sealed cases descends under lab floor tiles for storage. I lean against a metal railing, watching as the large panels below glide smoothly back into place.

“Don’t tell me you’ve got the entire pirate ship hidden under there too Chloe.” The lab’s endless annexes could house a substantial meteoroid collection without my knowledge.

“The archaeology team is still preparing shipments from the ongoing excavation, but I believe your fabled shuttle will be here next week.”

I laugh a bit at this. “My shuttle? I think Callum Davis would be turning in his grave if he heard me renaming his pride and joy the Dahlia.”

“The Dahlia? I like it, don’t you?”

“You don’t think it sounds too cute for a ship full of outlaws?” Naming a famous pirate shuttle after myself might be the most narcissistic thing I’ve done all year.

“Tell you what, if a mob of angry space pirates comes barging into lab, you can blame the rechristening on me.”

Although children in the Colonies grow up hearing tales of the dastardly Callum Davis and his wicked band of pirates, I was positive Captain Davis was about as real as the alien under my bed. That is, until news of his shuttle’s discovery began trending in museum newsfeeds. The first uncensored photos we received from the pirate’s forgotten world sent a solar storm of shivers down my fingertips, and a flood of tea across my desk.

If an award existed for youngest intern to suffer a heart attack, I would have won when Chloe revealed our lab would be overseeing restorations on the Callum Davis shuttle. Every museum department has been scrambling around for weeks, trying to get involved on this high profile project. I suppose piecing together the tale of an enigmatic space pirate sounds much more exciting than examining the stomach contents of a person who’s been dead for 10,000 years.

Chloe glances up from her glass tablet. “Have you heard back about your training grant application?”

I manage to smile despite the fluttering in my chest that appears whenever I picture the two possible outcomes. “Not yet. The museum directors met this morning to decide who they’ll be interviewing, but no announcements have been sent.”

“Why do you sound so nervous? I think you have an excellent shot! The spot is basically yours if you nail this upcoming restoration project. I already have a bottle of champagne with your name on it.” She raises her stylus in a toast. “To a future museum employee! Ms. Dahlia Yang-Lee!”

“Thanks, but let’s not start celebrations too early Chloe. Wouldn’t want to jinx anything. Besides, there are at least ninety other interns who are just as qualified.”

I’m beyond thrilled to be nominated for the career development training grant, but I’m also terrified I’ll be horribly disappointed when the results are revealed if I don’t see my name on the list. Unlike the other ninety-nine applicants, I’m not an archaeologist by training. I know how to debug lines of computer code, not how to analyze the bugs in human remains.

“I wouldn’t have nominated you if I didn’t think you would be a competitive candidate,” Chloe reminds me. Her tablet trills as it updates our inventory logs from this afternoon’s work. “I’ve mentored many interns in the past and you are at the top of my list.”

“Then I’m glad you made a wrong turn into that auditorium.”

“You should thank the architect who designed your private high school. They made it impossible to navigate from point A to B without ending up at point E first.”

Chloe’s unplanned appearance at my engineering seminar’s final presentation ended with an offer for a summer internship I hadn’t applied for, let alone knew existed. The museum was so far off my radar, even working as a professional asteroid wrangler came in higher on my list of career goals.

“I’ve already spent the entire afternoon refreshing my computer but I’ll let you know if I hear from the Board this weekend,” I say. The systems in lab are touchscreen to prevent dust accumulation, but there are plenty of buttons waiting at home for me to wear down. 

“Did you check your unsorted files?” Chloe suggests. “The security system has mislabeled my documents before, making them nearly impossible to find.”

“Yes, but the only unsorted recording was from a lonely Martian prince looking for companionship.”

“You are excited though, right?”

“About a rendezvous with a prince?” My armchair hovers towards me and I settle into the comfortable cushions. Better keep your researchers happy if you want them to spend hours holed up in the same room, right? 

“No, not that. I’m still talking about the grant,” Chloe clarifies. She steps over a humming bot as it completes its daily polish of the office’s mirror like floors. “Earth, remember? You’re only one yes away. Shall I put a lab camera on hold for you?”

The fluttering returns, accompanied by an uncontrollable shiver. But it’s not the prospect of a permanent museum job museum that disrupts my motor functions at the mere mention of the grant.  

“I don’t know if cameras are allowed at the Callum Davis excavation site,” I reply. It’s monitored more strictly than a museum lab, considering its location.

“I’ll write you a note and insist it’s for research purposes. I hope you’ll remember to be careful down there Lia,” Chloe says, suddenly serious. “I want my favorite intern to return in one piece.”

“Who said anything about returning?” The marbled planet rotates innocently on my idle workstation. How can a planet so beautiful be so deadly?


  1. I feel like I say this with every revision: I’m not a sci-fi person and I’m still hooked on this story!

    The small details that you’ve been adding have been appropriate and not a bunch of “purple prose”—which I think is really easy to do when people say, “tell me more!”

    And I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I love the banter between Chloe and Lia. I’m a sucker for dialogue!

    Just two things I saw this time:

    This line stood out to me and I struggled with what you were trying to show us: Chloe jogs up floating stairs to trick the motion detectors into believing our current team is larger than two. Is that so she can flip them out of power saving mode?

    This is nit-picky: “…at least ninety other candidates” vs. “the ninety-nine.” If she knows the exact count—why not call it out when talking to Chloe? Because when I read it, I said to myself, “wait. I thought it as 90?”

    Oh! By the way...I loved this line: They made it impossible to navigate from point A to B without ending up at point E first. HA!

    Thanks for sharing your work this month! It’s been awesome to read and I look forward to sharing pages after the workshop!

  2. Hey Christy!

    I’ve read through your changes already and I just have to say that you are a great writer! This idea is super unique, too! I’m going to read through a second time and jot down some notes for ya!

    Pitch: I really like the changes you’ve made. Everything’s a lot clearer! I don’t have any suggestions; it’s really good!

    First 5:

    Somewhere on the first page it would be nice for the reader to know exactly what kind of museum they work in. Is it a museum that’s solely dedicated to researching/exhibiting all things pirates? You talk about examining stomach contents, but I’m not sure if you’re referring to pirate stomachs or just random people from the past, or exclusively people from Earth. Maybe a one-liner about the exact purpose of the museum would be helpful.

    So she needs to get the grant in order to go down to earth and excavate Callum’s ship? I’m a little confused about if she’s going to research the ship no matter what, or if it depends on if she gets the grant. And is the grant the same thing as the job offer? Maybe just clear up those few things so we can follow along better.

    This story is so fun! And it’s a sci-fi idea that hasn’t really been tapped into since Ender’s Game and perhaps Cinder, in the YA market. Anyway, I think you have a bright future in writing! Thank you so much for letting me critique your work. It’s been a pleasure.

  3. Hi Christy!

    Your pitch: it's pretty clear from the get-go. You've established the character, a bit of emotion from her, the world, and conflict. And seriously, the rest of the pitch is just fabulous! I'm hooked. Want to read it now.

    Revision: I honestly don't have much more to say other than I still feel like (as a reader) I want to 'see' more of her and Chloe's physical surroundings while they talk. I think that's because I like the characters so much I want more. I want to see the color of the metal, feel the soft cloth covering the artifacts, and so forth. Even the smell that might contrast with one of their perfumes or body soap or toothpaste.

    Best of luck with this! I can't wait to see it on the shelves. :)

  4. Christy - that pitch! This is totally Enders Game meets Passenger and I am ALL ABOUT IT. Why is this book not on my nightstand already?? Gah!!!

    Great new setting details and tidbits about Dahlia's background. The context is fantastically woven in now. I do think there's wiggle room for even more sensory descriptions in this scene, especially if you tighten the dialogue a little. (Be brutal - take out every single word that isn't strictly necessary.)

    My exposition alarm went off only once, on "private high school." Maybe just "school"?

    "Unsorted" was a great change from "spam". The Martian prince line made me snort all over again! And that ending line was killer - it really makes me want to read on.

    Fantastic work! I seriously cannot wait to read this book. Thank you so much for sharing your pages and good luck with the rest of the story!

  5. I still love this concept so much! And you've done some great work on the revisions, good job!

    A couple last nitpicks.

    The beginning few sentences, awesome as they are, still feel a little choppy to me, and don't seem to go with the smoothness of the rest of the flow. I think it's the jolt from her to her mentor and then back that's nagging at me. Maybe it would help to move Chloe's first line further down?

    Also, and I remember thinking this before, I'm not sure I buy the 5,000 years between Callum and Lia, especially in the context of your pitch. Five thousand years ago for us was the Middle Bronze Age, and the jump in technology between here and there is HUGE. If Callum is from a time that already has spaceflight and Lia is five thousand years ahead of him, that's a lot of technological development and colonization and space travel to account for, and I'm just not seeing it. 500 years maybe, not 5,000. It's a small piece of information that's easy to sort of ignore in your pages, but since the pitch is smaller and more focused, that number really jumps out as implausible, at least to me.

    Other than that, I think this is awesome! You did a great job this month. Good luck!

  6. Christy. What can I even say? That pitch rocks.

    It already feels like it belongs on the back cover a book, one that I would absolutely love to read despite not being much for YA sci-fi. I specificially adore that line about Cal charming spacesuits off anyone.

    As for your pages, your last sentence made me smile so much. I mentioned before that I thought it was a beautiful line and I think it makes such a lasting impact at the end. Definitely something that could keep readers hooked. The rest of it flows so well and I like Lia's voice even better. I'd love to feel more grounded with the surroundings as Lia and Chloe chat in the middle to last parts but otherwise, you really nailed the dialogue and info you shared.

    It's been a huge pleasure working with you this month and I look forward to reading Seven Seas one day <3

  7. Hi Christy!
    If I haven't said it enough I say it again! Your story is sooooo cool. I. LOVE. IT.

    There wasn't much I can say so I had to get into the smallest details of almost things that really kind of didn't matter but I felt bad if I didn't write something. So here it is and please use or throw away as you see because your an amazing writer and I love what you accomplished to make your great writing even more fantastic! I hooooooope we can swap more pages. I would love to finally see this handsome pirate and his loot! Heh heh heh

    Your first paragraph is soooooo good at setting the entire core of your story. I loved it!!!
    -I loooooove what you did with his loot... Keekeekee. Your wording was so PERFECT! ;D
    -ending wraps up so delicious! I can feel the romance and danger that will ensue in your pages. Wonderful. Wonderful! Great job. I. Have. Nothing. To. Add.

    1st 5 PAGES:

    OKAY... Your pages are seriously sleek and smooth. Your so talented and I'm not sure what I can add... So I wrote anything that came to mind. All not a necessary but thoughts on veeeeery small details I thought you may like to know of what popped into my head ;D

    -maybe motion detectors would be more sophisticated by Lia's time.. More Intelligent computers that she would just tell it to stay on? Or intelligent body heat sensors that asks her that she hasn't moved in a while... are you done?

    -this may need another pass: But it’s not the prospect of a permanent museum job museum that disrupts my motor functions at the mere mention of the grant.
    (The double museum kind of made me confused reading it)
    -loooooove the last paragraph!!!!

    Happy writing! Devyn

  8. Hi Christy!

    This is such a cool idea, and I love the idea of using futuristic time travel so that the character can investigate an era that’s the distant past to her, but the distant future to the reader. Both of us will be strangers in a strange land, but for completely different reasons. I’m also fascinated by the idea of swashbuckling space pirates and uncredited Robin Hoods, and I’d love to see where this goes.

    Your pitch is pretty polished, and you’ve particularly succeeded at packing a lot of worldbuilding details into a short space. I particularly like the last two lines of the second paragraph. I think you should just use “Lia” instead of “Dahlia” throughout, since it’s not strictly important that I get her full name, but I end up stumbling when I first see “Lia” and wonder if it’s a new character. I’m also not sure what “living under an asteroid” means or how it’s restrictive – with the multidirectionality of space, aren’t we all “under” an asteroid in a sense? It’s also unclear how common time travel is in Lia’s world. Getting a sense of that would help establish the stakes and how difficult the accident will be to undo. I feel like I have a handle Lia’s dilemma over whether to defy history, but the new element of the failing planet, introduced just at the end of the pitch, kind of throws me, and I’d need more information to understand that development. I’m don’t think you need it as a hook though, so it might be better to simply end the pitch before that.

    Spec fic always presents a challenge in trying to introduce the setting in a way that doesn’t bog down the narrative or leave the reader confused. This opening scene has the potential to work well as an introduction, but I wasn’t confident that I’d know what was going on without the pitch preceding it. I’ll echo other commenters in saying that I’d like to have a stronger sense of the physicality of the scene. I had particular difficulty in picturing the paragraph that begins “From her desk.” There are also some missed opportunities for including more worldbuilding information throughout the scene. For example: “until news of his shuttle’s discovery began trending in museum newsfeeds” – discovery where? What kind of museum? What kind of newsfeeds? In the next paragraph, there’s “youngest intern to suffer a heart attack,” which would be a great moment to drop in Lia’s age. Weaving in those details will help you drop some of the more expository dialogue, which both feels just a tad clunky and still requires additional explanation. How did Chloe walking in on Lia’s presentation result in an internship offer? Did she simply luck into it somehow, or was there a spark that Chloe saw, something that would tell us something about Lia? What does the training grant have to do with Earth?

    (Blogger is forcing me to cut my comment in pieces; continued below!)

  9. (Continued from above)

    Something that struck me in both the pitch and the pages is that I’m not sure I believe the timeline. The technology in Lia’s time seems only slightly ahead of, or even on a par with, our present-day technology: touchscreens, motion sensor lighting, faulty spam filters, etc. Even taking off-planet travel and space stations into consideration, I don’t see this as 7,000 years in the future. For comparison’s sake, 7,000 years ago, leather tanning had just been developed. What’s more, technology has been improving at an exponential rate since the industrial age: the leap in progress between now and fifty years ago far outweighs the progress made over a similar period of time even a century before. It’s possible, of course, that there was some huge technological setback (possibly associated with the evacuation of Earth), but that’s still hard to reconcile with the idea that Callum’s time is at all recognizable and well-documented to Lia – she’s as distant from him as we are to the first dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. This may seem nitpicky, but details like this are what make a world convincing as a whole. Unless you already have mechanisms in place to justify this timeline (which you may well have!), I think you should consider compressing it to a nearer future.

    Thanks for the opportunity to read these pages and pitch. Hope these notes help!