Sunday, October 9, 2016

1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Bynum Rev 1

Name: Karen Y. Bynum
Genre: MG Fantasy
Title: THE LUCK EXCHANGE

Chapter 1

When elves die by sword or sorrow,
Owls make certain they see tomorrow.
Their souls are planted and reborn.
With pasts erased, they do not mourn.
But compassion fades and hearts harden
As rumors take root and poison the Garden.


Earthworms of anxiety knotted in Madelece’s belly. She’d barely slept. If only she could, then her Luck would replenish itself. Somehow, she had to find a way to ask her mother permission to visit the Healing Place.

After taking a deep breath, she got out of her canoe and pulled it onto the sand. She scanned the plain oak canoes anchored to the shore by Luck, until she spotted her mother’s, smooth and tan with the faint black stripes of orca wood.

She turned back to her canoe. “Madelece says, Stay.” Her voice was strong and sure. She reached down and gave the boat a small test push, and it scooted back into the water. Jinx! Thank the Owls no one was around to see her failure. She quickly grabbed the edge before it floated away. Her maple tea was in there—and she would need every drop of sugary goodness to get her through this—along with the cloak her papa had made for her.

Father, she reminded herself. Not Papa. Mother liked her to call him Father.

Once she found the in-case-of-no-Luck rope she kept hidden under the seat, she tied it to a nearby tree, securing her canoe. She shivered and let down her thick, copper-colored hair so it fell over her shoulders—it was cooler in the Valley than where her papa lived at the Beach, but she wouldn’t wear her cloak. Not now. Not around her mother.

Madelece gathered her satchel and took a long drink of her maple tea. If the Healers could cure her sleeplessness, she’d be fixed. And if her Luck worked properly, she could make her mother proud of her… But, it would mean staying with her papa during the Rite of Names ceremony, and Mother wouldn’t like that.

With effort, she forced the thought aside. Okay. She could do this. At least, she had to try. She pushed a low branch out of her way, and it swatted her bare legs as she passed.

The path snaked through the woods. Early morning sunlight dusted the forest floor. Familiar raven ca-caws echoed around her, and rabbits scurried into their burrows as she walked by. Despite this, and the closeness of hundreds of trees, the woods felt empty.

Eventually, the trees began to thin out when she neared the clearing. At the edge of the open field were three giant pine trees. The one in the middle was perfect for climbing because of its evenly spaced branches, but the one on the end was perfect for hiding things.

After a quick glance around, she ducked under the foliage. She pulled open the drawstrings of her satchel, got out the cloak, and hung it over the highest branch she could reach.

When she stepped out of the forest, she practically walked into a wall of flowery perfume. The too-sweet smell of roses stuck to the inside of her nose, like snot she couldn’t sneeze out.

To her right was the pumpkin patch full of orange, Luckfull pumpkins. From here, she couldn’t tell if there were any silver ones, but there were almost always Luckless hatchlings. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be many this Harvest. The afterlife wasn’t exactly easy on the Luckless, and even harder on the Forgotten. But, they wouldn’t know if there were any Forgotten until the hatchlings were ready for Delivery. Then, the Storks would either deliver them, or not.

On the other hand, she’d find out how many Luckless pumpkins there were either later today or tomorrow when the Harvest began. She’d taken part in the Harvest since she was five, so this would be her sixth year.

Directly in front of her stood Mother’s small stone cottage, surrounded by blue rose bushes. One of the few frivolous things Delora had used her Luck to splurge on.

The anxiety in her belly tightened as she gripped her satchel and walked around the side of the cottage to the front door. In the distance, golden rays peeked over the mountain top. The dirt road in front of the cottage was busy with villagers going into town, and gardeners heading to the Garden.

Madelece wanted to slip inside unnoticed and have another cup of maple tea before beginning the day. It’d been an early start this morning, leaving Father’s house and then fighting the can-never-make-up-its-mind-which-way-to-flow river without Luck.

She raced up the stairs and reached for the door, just as it swung open. Jinx. Mother’s booming voice made her jump, and the last sip of her maple tea sloshed out of her travel mug.

“Ma-da-lease!” she called. “Sweet girl. You’ve returned!” The tall woman pulled Madelece into her bony embrace. “How are you, my love? Did you have a smooth journey? From your last pigeon, I expected you home later this evening.” She continued without actually pausing long enough for a reply.

Madelece’s cheeks grew warmer as she caught glimpses of villagers gawking at the reunion. Just what she wanted.

Mother finally loosened her hold and took in the sight of her daughter. Madelece fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. It wasn’t quite as loose as it had been a month ago. “My goodness, dear girl, your father certainly fed you well.” Delora released Madelece completely and smiled sweetly to someone on the road. She waved. “Good morning, Otto.”

“Good morning, Mistress Gardener,” he replied.

“My daughter has returned! I’ve missed her so. I may be in late this morning.”

Her mother always made it sound like Madelece had run away from home. She started to say she was fine and for Mother to go to work whenever she needed, but Otto replied with, “Take your time. Offspring are a blessing from the Owls.”

“That they are.” Her mother turned back to Madelece and herded her toward the door. “I’m sure you’re starving, Maddy.” Once inside, she gestured toward the kitchen. “Delora says, Prepare a breakfast feast,” she announced as they walked into the den.

It was a cozy room with a fireplace, a bookcase built into the back wall between two windows, a small couch, and two fluffy chairs. Everything neatly in its spot. Immaculate. Just like her mother. They passed through an archway into the kitchen and sunroom where pots and pans clanked out of the cupboards and eggs floated from the icebox, along with boar slices.

“That’s all right, Mother. We can just go to the Gar—”

“Nonsense, dear girl. You need to eat. I wouldn’t want your father telling people I don’t feed you.” She smiled and smoothed an invisible wrinkle from her apron before taking Madelece’s satchel and unloading each item onto the oversized dining table. It barely fit in the sunroom, but after Madelece’s parents parted ways, Delora had insisted on keeping it. Didn’t make sense to Madelece—the table had been in Crale’s family for centuries—but she liked having something of her papa’s close by.

“I’ll wash and press your clothes later. I don’t have the time right now.”

Madelece had hoped her mother would notice how wrinkle-free and orderly they were—arranged by color and thickness—because she’d used Luck. And it had worked so beautifully she’d just known her mother would be proud.

Madelece’s shoulders dropped. “Thank you, Mother.”

7 comments:

  1. Hi, Karen,

    Wow! This is so much better - so much clearer to the reader.

    I love this - Madelece gathered her satchel and took a long drink of her maple tea. If the Healers could cure her sleeplessness, she’d be fixed. And if her Luck worked properly, she could make her mother proud of her… But, it would mean staying with her papa during the Rite of Names ceremony, and Mother wouldn’t like that.

    Now I know what her goal is!

    I still need some clarity on this (but it might just be me!)
    To her right was the pumpkin patch full of orange, Luckfull pumpkins. From here, she couldn’t tell if there were any silver ones, but there were almost always Luckless hatchlings. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be many this Harvest. The afterlife wasn’t exactly easy on the Luckless, and even harder on the Forgotten. But, they wouldn’t know if there were any Forgotten until the hatchlings were ready for Delivery. Then, the Storks would either deliver them, or not.
    Luck comes from pumpkins? What are hatchlings? Are you introducing too many terms? Forgotten, Delivery, Storks? (I'm not an expert on fantasy at all!)

    I still love this: From your last pigeon, I expected you home later this evening.” She continued without actually pausing long enough for a reply.

    And this tells us so much about their relationship: Madelece had hoped her mother would notice how wrinkle-free and orderly they were—arranged by color and thickness—because she’d used Luck. And it had worked so beautifully she’d just known her mother would be proud.
    Madelece’s shoulders dropped. “Thank you, Mother.”

    I like how you changed to MG with since your character is MG age. :)

    Nice job!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Karen!

    As I was rereading the poem at the start of your sample, I think it could benefit from a little revision. Seeing as this poem is the first thing the readers encounter in the book, you can totally justify spending more time on it to find the right words/rhyme scheme!

    I noticed that the meter is off in the last two lines. I suggest keeping the rhythm consistent because it’s such a small poem, and otherwise it throws the reader off (try reading it out loud- you’ll see what I mean)! Your rhyme scheme at the moment is aabbcc (sorrow/tomorrow, reborn/mourn, harden/Garden), which currently sounds a bit Dr. Seuss-y. Dr. Seuss rhymes are not necessarily bad, and a lot of good can happen from a simpler rhyme scheme, it just depends on the feeling you want to establish/the age of your audience. Tolkien based all his songs/poems from medieval literature, which has a totally different structure from modern day poems. If you’re sticking with the aabbcc rhyme scheme, consider changing the rhyme of reborn/mourn. The poem is far too short in my opinion to be making the eye rhyme/near rhyme you have going.

    I noticed that there are a lot of capital letter places/concepts introduced in a very small amount of time (Luck, the Valley, the Beach, Rite of Names, Owls, Healers, the Healing Place, Luckfull pumpkins, Luckless hatchlings, the Forgotten, Delivery, Storks, the Harvest, the Garden). This is a lot to process for readers. I feel like I was at a loss especially during the paragraph “To her right was the pumpkin patch full of orange, Luckfull pumpkins” to “Then, the Storks would either deliver them, or not.”. I’d like to challenge you to limiting your first 5 pages to 3 ‘foreign’ words or concepts. In my opinion, the most important elements of this story involve Luck, so perhaps clearly defining “Luck, Luckfull [pumpkins?], Luckless [pumpkins?]” in appearance/feeling/definition/cultural significance would be good.

    In terms of your place names (the Valley, the Beach, the Healing Place, the Garden)- the capitalization on these is wonky. I think the way you have them now only works with brands, and not places eg- “pass me the Scotch-tape” and not “I’m going to the Chicago”. Use small name if the specific name of a person, place or thing is not given or named as such.

    Last thing about these names- I feel like there’s a lot of superfluous capitalization. This tends to be quite a trope among YA novels, where a simple concept like ‘test’ becomes ‘The Test’. Specific, yet very vague. If they’re a group of healers, perhaps just call them ‘healers’ sans capital letters. UNLESS they are part of an organization called ‘The Healers’.

    I like the fact that you mention that Luck replenishes with sleep- knowing more about the mechanics of this power is good! I really wish I knew a bit more- and how does it differentiate from chance/happenstance/coincidence.

    I can see you added quite a bit to your newest revision!

    It feels like there’s a lot more going on, though I think there is more room for growth!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi again, Karen!

    You've addressed my main concerns by changing the audience from YA to MG and by putting the "sleep study" into more magical terms, as befits the genre. Only small stuff is left -- my suggestions below:

    "She'd barely slept." To let us know insomnia's more a chronic problem with Madelece, maybe something like: "She'd barely slept the night before, as on so many nights lately."

    "She shivered and let down her thick, copper-colored hair." Given the close focus of your 3rd person POV, I'm not sure Madelece should self-note the color of her hair. A vain character might, with additional preening, but Madelece comes across as anything but vain. She might instead disparage the color, or associate it with either Papa or Mother's hair color. Some emotional reaction to justify her noticing what she sees every day. Maybe "She shivered and shook down her hair over her shoulders. A lance of sunlight turned copper waves to neon orange; she shoved them back, out of sight." Or more positive, "A lance of sunlight turned copper waves to a neon orange more like Papa's. Madelece smiled."

    "If the Healers could cure her sleeplessness, she'd be fixed. And if her Luck worked properly, she could make her mother proud of her." To clarify the connection between cure and improved Luck, maybe something like "...And if afterwards, at last, her Luck worked properly, she could make her mother proud of her."

    "Eventually, the trees began to thin out when she neared the clearing." I feel "Eventually" is unneeded, covered by the gradual nature of the verb "began." Maybe just delete: "The trees began to thin out when she neared the clearing."

    "...she ducked under the foliage." "Foliage" sound vaguely off to me, more underbrushy than giant pine tree-y. "Boughs" might be better.

    "...blue rose bushes." We rose fanciers will know that blue roses are the Holy Grail of breeders, since there are no truly pure blue roses. The less rose-obsessed might need a hint about why these roses would be such a magical (Lucky) luxury. Something like "...surrounded by a hedge of roses as blue as forget-me-nots. Only powerful Luck could grow them in that color -- the roses were one of Delora's few splurges."

    "...and then fighting the can-never-make-up-its-mind-which-way-to-flow river without Luck." That's a great description of the river but it separates "fighting" from "without Luck" by too many words for clarity. Maybe "...and then fighting without Luck the can-never-make-up-its-mind-which-way-to-flow river."

    Put "She continued without actually pausing long enough for a reply" in a position where Delora actually does continue afterwards: " 'How are you, my love? Did you have a smooth journey?' She continued without waiting for a reply. 'From your last pigeon, I expected you home later this evening.' "

    " 'Good morning, Mistress Gardener,' he replied." Maybe some brief description of Otto? Whatever would strike Madelece about him at the moment.

    (continued below)

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Once inside, she gestured toward the kitchen. 'Delora says, Prepare a breakfast feast,' she announced as they walked into the den." A bit wordy, and "announced" sounds vaguely off to me. Maybe something like: "Once inside, she gestured toward the kitchen. 'Delora says, Prepare a breakfast feast.' They walked on to the den."

    "...but she liked having something of her papa's close by." For emphasis, maybe "...but she did like having something of her papa's close by."

    "...because she'd used Luck." For clarity, maybe "...because Madelece had used Luck packing the clothes."

    "Madelece's shoulders dropped." "Dropped" sounds vaguely off to me, implying Madelece had hunched them up previously. Maybe "drooped" or "slumped"?

    This is another opening approaching top polish. Excellent work!

    Yours,
    Anne

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Karen,

    “Earthworms of anxiety knotted in Madelece’s belly. She’d barely slept. If only she could, then her Luck would replenish itself. Somehow, she had to find a way to ask her mother permission to visit the Healing Place.” Love this new part of the first paragraph. It gives us more info on Luck and restlessness, which definitely seems like it will play a big role through the story.

    “But, it would mean staying with her papa during the Rite of Names ceremony, and Mother wouldn’t like that.” This was another great addition. It plays off the Father/Mother tension that the MC finds herself navigating through. I’m intrigue to see how that plays out.

    Although I agree with DLE, there’s a lot of terms thrown at the reader than can be a bit disorienting.

    Nice job on the revision overall! It definitely clarified a few things.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can definitly see where you tweaked some things in the revision, and it flows better and seems to be clearer, good job!

    There were a few small points of confusion for me still, I'm afraid. I still think it would be useful to move the pumpkin patch a little earlier, and I'm still not completely clear on if Madelece and her mother are elves or human. Also the Valley and the Beach are throwing me off, and I'm not sure why, except that it makes them sound like unique places which makes me wonder what kind of world we're in that has only one Valley and only one Beach.

    I hesitate to suggest this, but I'm kind of wondering what would happen if you temporarily took out the poem at the beginning and tried to communicate that information (especially the first three lines) in the story itself. As much as I enjoy the poem, it feels like it's doing the bulk of the work in communicating how your world works, and I'm wondering if that's what's causing my disconnect.

    That being said, you have a good internal conflict, really nice sensory details and I enjoy your main character and her clearly complex relationship to her mother. I think there's some really good stuff here, and I look forward to reading the next revision.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete