Monday, April 17, 2017

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Lott Rev 2

Name: Courtney Lott
Genre: Young Adult: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Title: Guard of the Ungifted: The Flight of Connor Gray


As one of the Gifted, fifteen year old Connor Gray should only have one power, yet he has three, and according to his parents, he might develop more. For his family's safety and his own, he must hide his extra gifts from a power hungry politician who seeks him. Not an easy task when every bully tests his patience, and self control.

When the politician sends a possessed bounty hunter after him, Connor is forced to risk exposure to save his friends, family, and life itself. Facing blood-cursed beings, shady genetics projects, an ever-present A.I. system, and worst of all, puberty, Connor fights for what's left of his family. If he can't protect the world from a will-enslaving spell he's discovered, the gifts will be destroyed forever.


Drones buzzed over the glass roof of the Avon Counseling Center. Connor ducked his head as their blue lights scanned the area and hit the status button on the rim of his glasses: Full Power, incognito mode active trailed across the inside of the lenses in green text. As he waited for the hum overhead to fade, Connor squinted at the golden words on the squat sign near the front steps.

...No Gift shall be elevated above the rest…

When the drones passed, Connor flipped up his jacket collar against the cold and scanned the crowd of kids shuffling toward the entrance. A few feet ahead, a group from his school pushed their way down the sidewalk. Their leader, Max Anderson, Guardian and unapologetic jerk, shoved an Ungifted boy out of his way. The kid hit the ground with a loud oof.

“Watch where you’re going, junk-genes,” Max said.

Connor cringed at the hissed phrase. So much for Guardians protecting the Ungifted.
With a slow breath, Connor glared as Max jerked the Ungifted kid up by his sweater. The tips of his shoes swung inches from the concrete. Every muscle in Connor’s arms shook, vibrating the sidewalk. In California, he’d blown his cover by Telekinetically shoving someone across the soccer field. His mom would kill him if they had to move again this soon. Another breath and the Telekinetic tremors ebbed.

Leave it alone.

Connor clenched both hands in his jacket pockets and scanned the crowd near the front of the center. Traffic-bots stood close to the entrance, ushering kids and small handfuls of adults inside or directing air traffic. Counselors would all be inside by now.

Leave it alone. You’ve almost made it an entire month under the radar…This time he glanced down the sidewalk. Come on, somebody, anybody...Connor’s palms itched but he forced himself to walk around Max and his victim. Don’t do anything. It’s too risky. Too many people around.

Max shook the kid in his fist.

Connor threw one last glance at the entrance, then pivoted to face Max and his crew. “Leave him alone, man.”

Green eyes narrowed in his direction. Max sneered. “Excuse me?”

A group of other Gifted kids hovered around Max. Some wore aviator goggles over windswept hair; others tossed baseball-sized fireballs between their hands.

Hands still buried in his pockets, Connor flexed his fingers. “Back off.”

“What, you the Guardian police?”

“Good one, Max,” a scrawny Pyrotech said.

Connor rolled his eyes. Original. “Whatever. Let him go, man.”

Max smirked. “Us Guardians are the strongest and the fastest, but junk-genes are at the bottom, even lower than Animal Shifters.” Jerking the Ungifted boy along, Max took a step toward Connor. “Even lower than Guardian Police, here. Your parents gave you up to the system, right? That’s the only reason a Guardian would have to go see a counselor once a month. If he was a Mercy kid. How are those group meetings? Cry about how much your real parents didn’t want you? Are they both dead?”

“You’re going there?” The sidewalk vibrated and Connor forced out a breath. Keep it together. He’s not worth it.

Max laughed, but didn’t seem to notice the shake. “Gonna do something about it?” He shoved Connor with his free hand. “Mercy kid?”

Connor burst forward. The heel of one hand connected with Max’s jaw. A loud crack bounced off the walls of the Counseling Center and his victim dropped, scrambled to his feet, and fled. The Guardian stumbled backward and let out a grunt. Palms up, hands open Connor focused on Max.  

Regaining his balance, Max balled one hand into a fist and swung. Connor ducked and threw out a hand to block him. Max drove punches forward: right, left, right, left, duck, giving away every move with each rotation of his shoulders. Connor blocked his attacks with a simple defense. Sweat formed on Max’s red face and he charged.

At the last second, Connor twisted out of the way. Unable to stop his momentum, Max tumbled forward. His feet twisted together and he fell. When he landed, his arm wrenched at an odd angle and another crack snapped the air.

“My arm! My arm!” Max rolled to one side and clutched his misshapen wrist as color drained from his swollen face. “You broke it! You broke my arm!”

Hands itching, Connor dropped to his knees and touched the swelling limb. A warm golden, light extended from his fingertips to engulf the damaged limb, mending the shards of shattered bone, calming the swelling. Max's cries ebbed and color returned to his skin.

Connor swallowed and glanced up. No sign of drones. Well, that was a first. Couldn’t have happened at a better time. "Can you move it?" He asked, voice low. He couldn’t believe his own stupidity, shocked by his new gift. Four and counting.

Max nodded, flexed his wrist. "How...why?" His wide eyes moved to meet Connor’s.

The words tumbled out: "I had to," Connor said. Because it was broken.

A low hum sent a wave of hot terror up Connor’s back. “citizen, you are under arrest for suspicious gifting usage,” the drone said. “Please stand by for-”

Connor swung his backpack at the silver plated machine. It slammed into the concrete, a shattered, sparking mess. As it twitched, Connor turned and sprinted through the parking lot toward the woods.
Head ducked, Connor ran down the sidewalk, weaving between a small groups of Traffic-bots. Government Safety Monitors towered at various intervals along his path, like great eyes following him. A worker in a gray uniform wiped the black poles with a rag until they shone like the cylindrical video monitor at the top. He didn’t look up when Connor shot past.
Sun flashed between red and orange leaves so the patches of light on the ground glowed warm and bright. Overhead, birds chattered, the flick of rapid beating wings occasionally accompanying their conversation. Still no sound of drones. Maybe he’d gotten away from them, maybe he’d make it home before-

“Connor! What the hell, gringo? Wait up.”

Connor’s stomach clenched into a fist as Alex Kramer matched his pace. Impressive for a Telepath. Connor wheeled around in front of his friend to make him stop. “Don’t worry about it, man. It’s nothing...You’re late for school.”

Alex pulled off his TechSpecs and slid them into the front pocket of his coat. “Are you kidding, bro? How can I go back to school when my best friend, a freakin’ Guardian, just healed a broken arm? That’s not even possible, right?”

Mashing the heals of his hands into his eyes, Connor groaned. “I don’t have time to explain.”

He’d just turned to leave when a smell stung his nose. Acrid and sharp, the Werewolf’s scent warned Connor of attack only a second before it happened. Thick paws hammered into his shoulders and shoved him from the path into a tangle of bushes and vines. Thorns dug into Connor’s skin, his glasses went flying, and his head slammed against a tree root. Bursts of light exploded in Connor’s vision and the woods tumbled around him. Every thought switched to meaningless static, a blur of nonsense and nausea. Somewhere to his left, Alex shouted something, but it made no sense. Hopefully, he’d be smart enough to run. One scratch would turn Alex into one of The Turned, a mindless servant to this particular Werewolf.

As Connor rolled, claws dug into one of his forearms.


  1. Man alive! There's so much happening now! My head feels as though it's literally spinning!

    That opening few paragraphs are really tight now - so visceral. We really feel like we're in there with Connor. No confusion, only intrigue & excitement. The only constructive criticism I've got here is that you've got two 'scanned's in there. You just need to switch one for something else. Also not so keen on the duplication of 'leave it alone', but that might just be me. And I'm not sure about using the phrase 'handful of adults'. But other than that really tight. Great stuff.

    When Max turns up, I can see all the action really clearly. The dialogue still feels a little expositiony, but it's definitely heading in the right direction.

    Love the fight now. Very Karate Kid! And the new gift, & how he uses it, is very interesting. And the almost getting caught by the drone - awesome.

    The second scene - he has his head ducked at the beginning of the first scene too. Just need to change the wording a bit.

    And he's a werewolf too now? My head is blown. Wide open. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. For me, this felt a bit too much all in one go. Personally, I think if your story goes in this direction then you need to have some foreshadowing to give us a hint first. Up until that point, I felt as though I knew where the story was going, and suddenly now I don't have a clue. Sometimes that's a good thing. I'm not sure it is here. It may just be me though.

    But apart from that, this piece has come so far. It's a great world you've built, the MC is really relatable, there's plenty of action and I really want to know what happens next. Great job :)

    1. Ooo, good catch on the scanned and ducked! Grr, hate repeating words. Thanks for your comments!

      Point of clarification, are you saying you got the idea that Connor is a Werewolf? He's not so if that's how you read this I need to figure out how to clarify that he's being attacked by one. Just want to make sure I understand where you're confused so I can fix it.

      Thanks again!!

    2. Sorry, yes, I was unclear. I did totally get that he was being attacked by a werewolf, but I thought he'd just got scratched, & so was about to turn into one? Unless he heals himself?

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. That's a great catch. Didn't even realize I wrote that! Alex would have to be bitten, not scratched. I shall fix!


  3. The pitch starts strong, but the second paragraph becomes a bit overwhelming. I started to feel like I was just reading a list. It also feels like the stakes are stated a few times and then change toward the end. It's clear you have a complex story with a bunch of interest characters, but it feels like you are trying to cram a bit too much in on the pitch.

  4. Hi Courtney,

    First I want to comment on your pitch. You do a great job introducing Connor, but I feel as though you're also trying to cram too much information into a short pitch. This is something that is hard to balance within a short pitch, but it can be done. Personally, I think you could have got away with just using the first paragraph. I like that you work on introducing exactly what the reader will be seeing throughout the book in the second paragraph of the pitch, but you could have got away without it.

    In the pitch you could briefly mention that the bounty hunter is sent after Connor (but in this sense, I'd still try to keep it within that first paragraph). If you were writing a longer pitch it would be much easier to include some of the finer details (what Connor will be going up against) but being able to focus in on the main plot line and selling that in the first paragraph is what hooked me. If you just work on tightening that up, you will be set.

    Now for the pages -- You have A LOT going on in these opening pages. This isn't really a bad thing, I just found myself trying to figure out what is going on throughout most of it. I loved the opening scene, as starting off with a high level of action can be really enjoyable. I would have liked to have seen you slow things down a bit (possibly a flashback) to help explain what exactly is going on with the gifts, why he is being attacked, etc. We get an idea from the pitch what is going on, but the reader isn't going to have a lot of that information when they start reading. I am sure you start to go into it all past the first five pages, but I feel like it would be useful to throw in a little backstory in these first five pages. This will help to make everything a little more clear, and I feel like it would help the reader not feel as overwhelmed by everything that is going on due to there being so much action throughout these five pages.

    You're definitely on the right track, it's just important to remember that overwhelming the reader can often have a negative impact on their outlook on the rest of the story. It's fine to start with the early action, but you also want to start feeding the readers information early on to help them build a clear understanding of what led to these events. You don't have to go into an immense amount of detail. Just having a brief flashback from Connor about the events leading up to the opening scene of the book would be enough to start giving the reader a little information to start building an understanding of the world you've created, and what Connor is facing.

    In closing I will just like to note that I really enjoy the premise. You have a great idea, and I feel like you could definitely turn this into something great. You just have to work on tweaking things, especially when it comes to not overwhelming the reader. If you can figure out a way to include more background information within these first five pages, I feel like they will be really solid.

    - Justin Wells (connect with me on Twitter at @Justin_941)

    1. Thanks Justin. Been trying to figure out balance between world building and action. Back to work for me!

  5. From Heather who was having technical difficulties with the blog!


    Love the pitch. I think it's tight. I love the line about puberty. I also like the stakes. You have a lot in there. I'd maybe just simplify the second paragraph. But I think it brings about the upping of stakes and all he's about to face.

    In general, I think you're writing is great. I was hoping we would see Connor a little more in his normal everyday, even if that was giving in to a bully to protect an underdog. That seemed like his everyday. Or at least a recurring theme in his life. I do like that you bring in his friend. I like the premise and Connor. You've done well creating a character we can get behind.

    I think your fixes have been remarkable. It's tighter. It's interesting.

    After what Justin said, it's interesting that you had a little more backstory earlier in the first sample, and that didn't seem to work for most of us. So I hope you listen to the heart of the story and do whatever you know is best for you and your characters. Either way it goes.

    Best of luck with your publishing journey!\

    1. Thanks for your comments and encouragement, Heather!

  6. Hi Courtney!
    Your opening paragraph in your pitch was fantastic. It was so well done that I didn't need the second. It painted the stakes, the obstacles, and gave us an idea about the character.

    Similar to the pitch, the first half of your revision is compelling. The fight, the action, the discovery of a new power, the fear that leads to truancy. I can imagine all of that overwhelming a teenager.

    The second half almost feels like the next chapter - a new scene, new chapter, new obstacle. I think the action is engaging, but it - coupled with the first half - might be overwhelming.

    I'm really excited about Connor's story and finding out what's in store for him.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Kwame!

      I have actually gone back and changed the Werewolf attack to a conversation with Alex to slow things down and world build a little more. Originally this was another chapter, which is probably why it sounds like it :P