Sunday, March 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Dunn Rev 2

Name: Loie Dunn
Genre: YA fantasy
Title: EVREN

Seventeen-year-old Evren isn’t afraid of the roiling waves and whipping storms of the high sea. With the power to navigate the ocean without a compass, she has nothing to fear out on the water—except for the Sea Queen. Only the Sea Queen with her army of water nymphs and sea serpents can disrupt Evren’s hidden magic and send her straight into the eye of a whirlpool. So, when Captain Sa’av, a handsome but secretive pirate, rows up to her dingy asking for her help to find the queen’s lair, Evren laughs in his face.

Until he offers her exactly what she’s always wanted: safe passage out of the kingdom and a chance to escape the cursed pirates hunting Evren to steal her eyes.

Evren agrees to Captain Sa’av’s request, but as soon as she’s on deck, the ship sails into darker waters and the Sea Queen begins whispering threats to Evren on the wind. After a side trip to the capital, the king reveals something to the two: the kingdom is dying. A rare disease is sweeping through the population, stealing the breath from the lungs of thousands. Captain Sa’av is convinced that Sea Queen holds the only cure. 

Faced with the Captain’s love for the kingdom—and her own changing heart towards him –Evren suddenly finds herself torn in two: She can face off with the Sea Queen, the only person she’s ever feared, and help the man she’s growing to love save the kingdom, or she can flee with his ship and claim the freedom she’s dreamed of her whole life.

Chapter One
Something wasn’t right with the sea.

Evren scrutinized the batch of red-eyed fish that hung from her long silver wire, their bellies abnormally bloated. That morning she had gone down to the edge of Ionoke Island’s best fishing nook, and found more fish washed ashore, limp and pallid.

She gazed out at the glittering water surrounding the island. The breeze flurried off the sea like invisible threads, tickling her face. Stepping into the water, white foam lapped at her boots and Evren leaned down to dip her fingers into the sea. Warm? Warmer than usual. Wrinkling her nose, she inhaled the tangy salty air. Everything looked fine from the outside.

The fish, however, told a different story: their home was in trouble.

Her neck prickled. Whirling on her heel, she turned to see if someone was there. The murderous pirates - the Naja - were looking for her. They wanted her eyes. Told her they were special. But she wasn’t going to meditate on that too long.


All I need is enough money to fly across the seas with the wyverns and leave this wretched place and the Naja behind.

Straightening her back, Evren gritted her teeth and peered down the main drag of Ionoke. It was busier than normal. She shot a glance up to the beaming orange sun. It was their sun goddess’ – Amataru – festival.

The shale cobblestone stretched forwards unevenly, rocks jutting out here and there. Evren shook her head, a sigh escaping her. She knew that in the capital, the inhabitants wouldn’t put up with the dismal surroundings. On Ionoke, poverty seemed to overshadow everything, like an invisible illness dragging down people’s spirits.

 Her eye caught the state of the local businesses. Little ochre and red brick shops dotted either side of the road, some roofs dilapidated, shingles peeling off in the blazing sun. Owners hollered across the street at each other, bargaining for better prices on dried fruits, leather, and spices. Some stalls were quickly whipped together with blue canvas to guard against the blazing sun.

She peered down the road and sighed in relief.

The old fisherman was all set up for the day. He would have that stall, hell or highwater, and that’s one thing she respected about him. It was a makeshift box, built together with scraps of driftwood and held together by ancient rusted nails.

“Olly!” She slammed down the string of fish on his table soaked with fish guts and blood, wincing as a silver scale dug into her palm.

“There ye are, the strange one with the sea-green eyes who always brings me fatter fish than the others.” The old man had crinkly black eyes and wild white hair that stood up in every direction. She noted one of his fingers was missing from his left hand. All that was left was a bandaged stump. That was new.

He peered closely at her find, the tip of his nose almost touching one of the bloated fish. “What the feck is wrong with them?”

“The wench brings you rotten fish, did she, old man?” someone snarled from behind her.
She swiveled on the heel of her leather boots, not removing the placid expression on her face.

Ugh. Parta. He was a real piece of work. Fellow navigator out of work. The supposed man of the town strutted around in his long velvet cape and boasted of great sea adventures he had been on.

“They aren’t exactly rotten,” she drawled, the wind pulling at the violet scarf tied tightly around her face, hiding everything but her eyes. “Rusalka wouldn’t let that happen.”

He frowned, eyes bulging out of a tanned face, copper curls wet with sweat and glued to his forehead.

“I overheard you saying you can get to Rusalka’s Lair.” Evren raised a dark eyebrow at him.

“No one can find her lair.”

 Evren turned to Olly and the old fisherman winked at her with a bushy gray eyebrow before busying himself with something below his stand.

“Well why were you telling Ms. Lemon the other day that you could?” Evren grinned as heat skittered across Parta’s cheeks. Ms. Lemon was the island’s lovely baker and supposedly, admired by him. Poor woman.

“Obviously that was a bit of an exaggeration. I can get to the Cove of Dreams and through to the Second Sea. But not Rusalka’s. No one can. She’s hidden.”

“I can.”

“No, you can’t.” Parta folded his tanned arms in front of his chest.

 The Sea Queen reigned over the ocean. Rusalka could call on her nymphs to lure men and women alike with their seductive ways to the cold watery depths of the sea. No one dared to go to Rusalka’s Lair nor would they ever be able to find it.

 Evren straightened and felt a small secret smile break across her lips as he continued to list the reasons why one couldn’t find Rusalka.

“She’s magicked her cove, so no one can find it. She has illusion spells hiding it from the most cunning pirate. I even heard she sends Deblonsk, the sea monster after anyone who gets close to her cove.” Parta finally folded his arms and scowled. “So, you see, what you heard was a lie. I cannot get to Rusalka’s Lair. You cannot either!”

Evren just shrugged. “Yes, I can.”

She could navigate to Rusalka’s Lair. Not without treachery and sea monsters and blood.

But she could, she was the best. That’s what the best did: they did the impossible. Evren wasn’t the type to go about boasting out loud of her great prowess in navigating. If only she had some of that expertise when it came to making friends, then maybe she wouldn’t be so lonely. Navigating was the one thing that brought her joy. Sadly, it seemed no one was hiring.

As if knowing she wouldn’t budge, he blurted, “Look at the fish you’ve brought.”

“Stuff it, Parta. These aren’t even fish, by any comparison. It’s all I could find. Oh - ”

Evren turned on Parta, his cavernous mouth opening to retort against what she had just said but paused.

One of Ionoke’s inhabitants dressed in all silver drifted past, hundreds of glistening candles floating behind her, bobbing up and down as if they knew they had a great mission to partake in.

Amataru’s Sun Festival.

“If I were a mage I would do more than play around with magic.” Shaking her head, she stared after the mage and the bobbing candles. “What a waste.”

“What do you mean? It’s for Amataru.”

“I think Amataru would be fine if we didn’t spend so much time and effort on decorating the island, and instead tried to help its inhabitants who are starving.”

Evren’s gaze followed the bobbing candles down the cobblestone road, children pausing from their game of catch to point and laugh at the mage in silver.

“That’s heresy!”

“Like the King is around to hear what I’m saying.”

“What’s heresy?” A cheerful tone interrupted their conversation.

 Evren whirled around, her hand instantly on her blade. “What the – “


 The young man behind the music bowed suddenly, a wild laugh escaping him. Dust particles and light lingered in the air around him. Dark brown fingers toyed with the silver flute decorated in tiny painted red roses. Evren checked him over, not sure what to think. He was adorned in a suit of shimmering sapphire silk.


  1. Hey Loie!

    Your pitch starts really well, but then you talk about the side trip to the capital, and that threw me off. Should the trip be before she’s taken by the pirate? It seems as though the pirate knew about the Sea Queen possibly having the cure beforehand because you write that he’s sure she would have it. As things are, I’m not getting a sense of why he wanted to find the Sea Queen in the first place. It seems random – hey, let’s go and find the Sea Queen. It’ll be fun – and then, almost as a convenience, the king throws in a reason for finding her. I could be misunderstanding, but this is the way the pitch comes across, and I wonder if the pirate should have already been contracted by the king to find the cure, and this leaves him in need to find the best navigator in the land?

    The final paragraph also seems strange. I understand that you’re introducing her conflict, but I was under the impression that her mind was already made up. She’s given the motivation to join him through the offer to have what she wants most, but then here, she’s doubting and thinking of fleeing. I think her doubt needs to be clarified earlier.

    In a couple of paragraphs near the beginning of the revision, I can see that you’ve cut things down to move the pace along more, and although this is great, it feels more telly now, like you’ve removed the showing.

    ‘the island’s lovely baker … supposedly admired by him. Poor woman.’ This made me laugh. Nice addition.

    Then, at the end of the pages, you write that she whirled around, her hand on her blade, and then there’s a Toodoleedo. That confused me. Was that the flute? I didn’t get that. The fact that she whirled before the sound also made me wonder if the order is wrong. Shouldn’t she hear the flute and then whirl? Or was the speech before her whirling this newcomer? I thought it was the children. That whole section made me stop, and although I reread it a few times, I’m still not sure what happened there. I think it just needs more clarification.

    Overall, I love the idea of the pirates and the Sea Queen. It’s all very intriguing.

    Any questions on my feedback, let me know.

    Great job on the revisions. It’s much stronger. And good luck with taking it further!

    1. Hey Sophie, thanks heaps for the comments and suggestions over the course of this workshop :)

      So there is an added mystery as to why Sa'av wants to go there in the first place, and it doesn't have to do with the illness. He is not just a Captain but someone else :D Haha.. hard to explain until you begin reading.

      I am going to take another look at the pitch and finesse it :)

      In this world, the Sea Queen and water nymphs are known for their ability to find medicinal plants and antidotes to illnesses. There are four races in this world and they all kind of offer a different gift, so to speak :)

      Thank you again!!! I love your first five pages and definitely want to read more :)

  2. Hi Loie,

    I like your pitch a lot. I love the second paragraph! I think it’s perfect.

    But I agree with Sophie. As soon as we get to the side trip, I got pulled out. I think if the captain already met with the king when he first approaches Evren it might have more impact. She’s worried about the dying fish in the opening pages and the captain knows why and who has the cure. So he seeks the best navigator to find the Sea Queen, unknowing of Evren’s weakness to her. Something like that? I don’t know, I’m just spit balling. This way you show the conflict/tension that she’s going to face. A chance at getting away but having to face her biggest fears.

    In your pages, again, I agree with Sophie. I think the new piece you added to this revision needs some clarification.
    The “Stuff it…” line to “Evren turned on Parta” confused me. I didn’t understand the transition.

    The Toodoleedo line really threw me. It’s not in quotes so why did it interrupt Evren’s speech? I didn’t know what it meant or who thought it. But it stopped me and I had to reread it several times but ultimately still didn’t get it. I’m guessing she was attracted to the flute player?

    I think you did a great job with everything else in these pages for this revision. Great job!

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification on my mumbled thoughts. Thanks for all of your critiques too. Good luck!


  3. Hello, Loie,

    I think you should write what her hidden magic is, in the query. A query is always about the specifics be as blunt as you can, don't give away the ending but you have to hook the agent so, present the best in your book, and I am sure her hidden powers are something good.

    The stakes are internal and external- makes for a good plot, but I was just wondering she can still have the freedom she dreamed of by battling the queen right? Maybe you can try to rephrase her wish. Just a suggestion.

    I always loved the 1st 5 pages of your book, love the story and plot. pirates, captions, love interest and the sea queen who would say no to that.

    It was great reading your 1st5pages, good luck with the book.
    Happy writing.

  4. Hi Loie,

    It was cool to read your pitch and get a big-picture sense of your story and the plot points your pages hint at. :) A few things...

    The opening two sentences have some overlap--"isn't afraid/nothing to fear"--and you could probably distill them into one more effective sentence.

    Love the telling detail of the captain rowing up in a dingy.

    Like others are saying, probably avoid mentioning the side trip and weave in the important details on the fly. Like a "boring life" in a query, a "side trip" sounds too a side trip.

    In your closing pitch paragraph, I think you should state Evren's plan of action after she's come to terms with loving the captain. We know the stakes, we know she's torn--how does she intend to navigate the dying seas and overcome the Sea Queen's army?

    The pages read well, nice work tightening up the points that took us out of the moment. I wonder if you could add a bit of interior explanation after Evren says to Parta, "I can." What motivates her to disclose her secret? Guessing she just wants to continue antagonizing him. "I can," she said, waiting to see if he'd turn beet red...something that would give us a glimpse at what she's thinking.

    The moment when she says "Oh" and turns on Parta is a little confusing--maybe you could smooth the transition from their back and forth to the topic of magic. Right now it's kind of bumpy.

    The closing moment doesn't quite flow either. Actually, it's probably just the unusual sound the flute makes, which is tough to decipher without reading ahead. Clarify that and the entrance of the silky new character won't pose a problem.

    I love all the color and sensory detail in your pages. It's been fun!

  5. Hi, Loie,
    This pitch starts of perfectly! In the first two paragraphs, we know Evren's greatest fear (Sea Queen); we know her internal motivation (to escape the city and those hunting her down for her eyes); and we know the ultimate goal of the book (to find the Sea Queen's lair). We also know that this mysterious pirate and Evren are destined for a romance (chills!!). All great stuff that makes me want to pick up this story and read it like crazy. However, when I get to the third paragraph, I start questioning why they are suddenly told about the disease and that the Sea Queen is the only one with the cure. I would assume that would be the pirate's motive for getting Evren to help him. If he didn't know this prior, why come to her and ask for her help? What was his other reason for wanting to get to the Sea Queen?

    Then you regroup in the end of the pitch with some serious steam and give us how torn she is internally and how she must make a choice between her heart or her freedom. Again, great stuff here!

    When it comes to the five pages, I still love the opening paragraphs. But then I get to her neck prickling and I'm not sure where this sense of the Naja comes from. It seems like you're forcing it to fit here in this draft. Maybe give us a clue why she feels the Naja nearby if you want to keep this segment here, then you can move into how they are a reason for her to want to get money and leave.

    Also, as she's staring down at Olly's stall, she's a distance away from him, and then suddenly, she's slamming fish on his table. In my head, as a reader, she is still a distance away. So that's jolting. Maybe have her hustling down -- and dodging around townsfolk since it's supposed to be busier than usual -- while she's thinking of Olly consistently being set up there.

    During this exchange -- “Stuff it, Parta. These aren’t even fish, by any comparison. It’s all I could find. Oh - ”
    Evren turned on Parta, his cavernous mouth opening to retort against what she had just said but paused." -- things seem out of order. Wouldn't she turn on him before she starts speaking? And then do they both stop, stunned, to look at the mage passed by? Or is his mouth hanging open because of what she's saying? It's a bit unclear.

    The last suggestion is about the "Toodoleedo." I noticed others weren't sure where that was coming from. I'm not either. Is that an exclamation of hers? And since you mention how the king isn't around to hear her, maybe liken this new character's appearance or mannerisms to a king to make that connection. He seems like he's much more finely dressed and confident enough to make this comparison.

    Hope this helps! Great work this workshop! You've really done some fabulous rewriting! Good luck!!

  6. Loie,

    Thank you for participating in the First Five Pages Writing Workshop. My thoughts are below.

    Pitch: The bit about the pirates wanting to steel her eyes caught my attention. Nice pitch! I know her goal, what’s at stake, and the conflict. Plus, it shows me how this story is different from others like it. One thing that threw me was the bit about the Sea Queen having the cure. If Captain Sa’av approached Evren for help because only she can get the cure from the Sea Queen, then it needs to be brought up earlier. If there’s another reason he needs her help, I don’t necessarily need to know what that is, but I would need to know that needing Evren to get the cure is on top of what he already needed.

    Pages: Great opening hook. I like that she hints her home is in trouble, but we don’t really know what that means yet. Interesting world, and you have a nice voice. Be careful of some grammar and telling issues. I’m guessing she wants to sell the fish to the fisherman. Knowing the fish aren’t in good condition, she should worry what will happen. What does she have to lose if he doesn’t buy the fish? What is she thinking at this moment? How does she feel? Dig deeper into her POV. How does she react when he asks her what’s wrong with the fish? Does she wince? Stand tall? Show us. What’s “TOODOLEEDO?” This bumped me out of the pages.

    Overall, I want to know what she’s thinking more often, and I want to understand why Evren isn’t afraid to go to Rusalka’s Lair. I love her confidence and spunk. She’d be a fun character to get to know!

    Lynnette Novak
    The Seymour Agency

  7. Hi Loie!

    I think you've done a great job on the revision of the pages. I don't have much to add to what others have said (especially about the TOODOLEEDO thing, which I also don't understand).

    I did love reading your pitch, which is pretty great! I think you could rework it a little to solidify why she follows the Captain to the kingdom in the first place. The way you have it now makes me wonder if the motivation in the book will be a little squishy like it is in the pitch.

    Now that I know about the eye-stealing, though, I do have one suggestion that kind of goes along with what Ms. Novak said about increasing the interiority of the scene with Olly. When she's with Olly and he mentions her eyes, I wonder if she wouldn't react a little--if not externally, than internally. And that could be a more natural place for her to think about the Naja and for you to bring that up.

    I like that you added more info to the Naja mention, but it still feels like it's an odd aside in the middle of her worries about the sea and her fish.

    Just a thought!

    I wish you all the luck in the world with this book. It really sounds like it has the potential to be amazing!

    Heather Petty