Sunday, March 18, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Femia Rev 2

Charles Femia
Middle Grade - Urban Fantasy


Obsessed with his father’s murder, Leonidas discovers he’s a descendant of legendary monster hunter Abraham van Helsing. The revelation of his dad’s death, and those responsible, clues Leo into a personal danger, the same monsters– werewolves, vampires, and witches – are coming for him. His grandmother whisks Leo away to a secret school nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains.

Despite his reluctance, Leo taps into the family legacy aided by several mentors, including a vampire and werewolf, and begins to develop unique talents.  He’s the first of the Order to show any ability at controlling the mind of a vampire, let alone communicating with a werewolf during a full moon!

But when the sanctuary of the school is infiltrated by the minions of the Count of St. Germain, an evil Master Lord vampire, the Order’s safe haven is thrown into chaos. Leo’s forced to use his acquired skills in spite of his fears. Penetrating the mind of a captured enemy, he unveils the location of St. Germain’s hidden castle. Leo must confront the Master Lord if there’s any hope of saving his uncle and uncovering the answers to why humanity’s losing the war with the immortals. If he can stay alive.

1st Five Pages:

Leo glanced out the bedroom window, checking to make sure the driveway remained empty. He crossed to the bed and dug out his father’s sweatshirt from under the mattress. Slipping it on, a faint trace of cologne enveloped him. Details of the memory flashed through his mind. A dark coffin lowered on creaking chains into a hole in the earth. The scents of decaying flesh and something like pickle juice mingled together. Leo’s stomach turned. He’d never see him again, or talk to him. All the possible never agains ran on a loop in his head. What if I forget what he looks like? 

He pushed the thought away, deep down in a corner of his mind. Leo picked up his basketball and paced laps around the nearly empty room, tossing it from hand to hand. Its tacky orange goose bumps sticking to his fingertips.
Sinking on to the bed, he peered at the clock for the third time, propped on the carpet between unpacked boxes. They could stay that way forever for all he cared. Leo wanted to forget about this house in Upstate New York and go back to New Jersey, where his friends and basketball team would welcome him back with a standing ovation.
He tossed the ball against the wall. The thumping against the drywall and the slapping back into his hands created a rhythm to distract him. Clouds of plaster dust mushroomed out with every bounce. He stole another peek at the clock. Where is he? Vikram Singh had agreed to bring over his laptop. Leo huffed a deep breath, puffing his cheeks like a blowfish.
Hurricane season hurled major storms through the area for the two weeks since the move, preventing anything from being turned on in the home. Life for a twelve year old without TV or internet access proved to be no life at all. Rumbling thunder rattled the windows as though on cue, mocking him.
A knock on the door made him jump. Leo dropped the ball amid the boxes and tugged the sweatshirt off. He folded it on the comforter, glided his fingers across the smooth fleece and returned it under the mattress. He went to open the door.
A thin boy in a sky blue Columbia hoodie smiled, freeing himself from his backpack straps. “Hey, dude. Sorry I’m late.”
“Vik, where you been? Did you bring your laptop?”
“Relax, man. Yeah, I got it. I was helping your Mom unload some decorations and pumpkins from her car. Some son you are.” Vik laughed and punched Leo in the arm as he entered the room.
Leo pushed the door closed. “I didn’t even hear her pull up. I must’ve zoned out. Did you find anything?”
Vik shook his head and pulled a fully-rigged laptop out of the backpack. “Not a whole lot, besides what you already told me. Good thing our power came back on so I could charge this. I don’t know how you been living without anything this long.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve got nothing to do here.” Or anyone to hang out with, he thought. He missed his friends. At least on the day of the move, he was lucky enough to have spotted Vik waiting for an archery lesson from the old woman next door. Leo bee lined across the lawn to introduce himself and check out the bow Vik held. The boys hit it off right away and hung out every day since. “So what did you find?”
Vik kneeled, placing the laptop on the bed and reached to flip it open, but stopped. He turned to Leo. “Is it possible you’re obsessed with this?”
Leo tilted his head. “What?” He squinted. “What’d my Mom say to you?”
Vik opened and closed his mouth several times. “Nothing. Just...she’s worried. Can you blame her?”
“I’m not obsessed. She thinks I’m a little kid. I can—“
“Dude.” Vik cut him off. “I’m on your side. But, this is heavy for anybody. Your Dad was... murdered.”
Leo winced. The word carried an almost physical weight. He tried to swallow but his saliva had disappeared. His tongue bumps raked across the roof of his mouth. The clouds of pain threatened to swarm in again.
“And considering everything else you told me?” Vik paused. “I mean, why would he think you’re in danger?”
Leo hesitated. “I didn’t tell you everything.”
Vik looked up at him but didn’t speak.
“Me and my Mom…we didn’t know anything about this house. We only found out from his will.”
“Whoa. That’s crazy. He must’ve made a lot of money to own two houses at once.”
Leo shook his head. “That’s just it. He was only a translator.” He plopped down on the bed and stared off into space, struggling with how his Dad could’ve kept it a secret from them. The look on Mom’s face when they found out, haunted him. Her dropped jaw and shaking head, especially after hearing it was for Leo’s protection. From what?
“Leo?” Vik asked. “You Ok?”
Leo blinked several times. “Yeah. I’m good. Really. Look, I’m not obsessed, and I’m not crazy. I just have to know what happened to him.” He pointed at the laptop. “What’s it say?”
Vik watched him for a beat and shrugged. He lifted the screen. A silver bracelet dangled about his wrist as he punched the keys. A newspaper article popped up on the screen in Italian. Two commands later, it enlarged and translated into English.
Leo looked on and his heart battered against his rib cage like a piston. He read the headline:
American Slain in Hotel Room
Roma- An American man on business was found murdered early Thursday morning in his hotel room. Investigators have yet to positively identify the body, but believe it to be the man to whom the room was rented. Police were alerted when the Nike employee failed to appear for several meetings. Upon entering his hotel room, police found a body submerged in a tub full of water.    
“Apparently the body had been placed there for several days which is why we can’t yet ID the body,” Bruno Marchetti, a Commandante Generale said. “We have been able to match blood found in the room to the DNA of the American...
Leo blinked the sting out of his eyes. He recognized the article. “Is this all you found?”
“Have some faith, dude. I told you. I’m the techie geek wizard.” Vik fired away at the keyboard. Multiple screens flashed at once until finally resting on a police report. Vik lowered the screen of the laptop and turned to Leo.
Leo’s eyes widened. “What’re you doing?”
Vik took a deep breath and let it out. “Dude. You sure you wanna see this?”
“Yeah, why? What’s it say?” Leo reached his hand toward the computer.
Vik pulled it away.
Leo jumped to his feet. “Vik, I’ve gotta know.”
Vik stared at him for a second and lifted the screen. “Ok. But this is pretty harsh. I was able to backdoor into the Italian police server. The cop that wrote this said that the wounds seemed to be made by an animal. In fact, if this didn’t happen in his hotel room, he would have stated it was a wild animal attack. Plus, there was no forced entry. Like whoever did this was already in the room, or knew your dad.”
Leo tried to control his breathing as the room started spinning. He fought off the wave of nausea.
“I’m so sorry, man.”
Leo nodded. He didn’t want to hear anymore but couldn’t help himself. “What else?”
“That’s pretty much it, so far."
Leo kicked his basketball into a box, crushing in its corner.  “It just doesn’t make any sense. I have more questions now than before.”


  1. Hey Charles!

    Ooh! A descendant of A. Van Helsing! Very nice!

    Nice pitch. You make out that Leo has to go to the castle … alone? There’s no mention of any one with him to help, especially someone with more experience than him. I doubt he can stay alive without assistance. I wonder if a brief mention of his ally/allies would benefit the pitch. It doesn’t have to be a lot. This is his story. Just a word or three.

    I like the additions in the first paragraph. Especially the cologne. Really made me feel his loss and longing more.

    Overall, this is great revision. It’s so much stronger than that first draft. (I even like that the pitch answered a few of my questions.)

    If you have any questions on my feedback, let me know. Good luck with it for the future!

  2. Hi Charles,

    Gosh, I love the information you've included in your pitch. It answers some questions I've had and it also adds to the intrigue. I do think it can be tightened, though. I'd suggest trying to condense the first two paragraphs into one or at least shorter ones. Mentioning his father's murder and then his father's death is a little redundant. Maybe see if you can meld the remaining information from these two sentences into one, while letting the reader know that his father is dead only once. And does his revelation of his heritage spurn on the danger that's coming for him? If so, you could probably tighten and add tension here as well.

    Again, this opening paragraph is so much better than your original. I feel for Leo and want to know more about him and what took his father away. My only comment is about the first sentence. The ending phrase jarred me a bit. It took me out of the story because it made me question why he cares if the driveway stays empty. I know, from previously reading, that he's waiting for a friend to show up, but I don't think it's important yet, if at all really. Other than that, I like the changes you've made to his action in his room while he's alone. It's concise and really works. Nicely done! And then the tightening you did to the dialog between Leo and Vik is good, too. It's more natural. I also like the way you ended this.

    Thank you for letting me read your work. Best of luck with it!

    1. Hi Sheri,

      I wanted to thank you for helping me. I appreciate the time and critiques. I've learned so much and am excited about my work going forward.

      All the Best,


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Charles, something about the opening sentence of your pitch is off. It's passive. Is his being obsessed with his father's murder what leads him to discover he's a descendant of Van Helsing? If that's the case, I think it can be stated better. Query letters need to get to the point straight-away. Perhaps:

    When twelve-year-old Leonidas discovers he's a descendant of legendary monster hunter Abraham van Helsing, all hell breaks loose. (Or something like that, Charles.)

    Soon, he discovers that the same monsters that murdered his father- werewolves, vampires, and witches - are coming for him. His grandmother whisks him away to a secret school nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains.

    We need to know more about the school and the grandmother. Is she clued-in to what's going on? Is the school a place where the existence of monsters is known as fact?

    The fix can be simple:

    His grandmother, part of a secret order known as XXXX whisks him away to a secret school nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains, where he not only takes refuge, but begins his training as a monster hunter.

    But when the sanctuary of the school is infiltrated by the minions of the Count of St. Germain, an evil Master Lord vampire, the Order's safe haven is thrown into chaos. Leo's forced to use his newfound skills-one of them being the ability to control the mind of a vampire. But is he really ready, or will the Master Vampire destroy the Order once and for all, and killing Leo in his wake. (Or something like this.)

    There's no mention of an uncle before this point. Overall, this query needs more conflict. What does Leo want or need and what is keeping him from it? Vengeance for his father's death? Respect?

    You also need to close with:
    Van Helsing's Blood is a middle grade horror-fantasy that will find a home with fans of (similar titles) It is complete at XXXX words. Thank you for your time. (You may want to add a personal note. How did you hear about the agent? Does one of her clients write books that are similar to yours? Was there something in her bio that drew your attention?

    Good luck, Charles. I think your pages have improved and you've got a good story on your hands!

    1. Also, check out

      It's a good resource.

    2. Hi Ron,

      Thanks so much for taking the time and all of your wonderful suggestions. It's been immensely helpful. With your help and everyone else's, I feel great about where this is headed. I really appreciate it.

      All the Best,


  5. Hi, Charles,
    I'm all about the adventure and the high stakes in your pitch. My biggest question is how the conflict and what Leo must face in the end conflicts with him, with what he wants, with how he views himself. In other words, how is this final scene going to stretch him and make him grow beyond where he is in the beginning so we have a strong character arc? Perhaps his father shielded him, told him and his mother they were precious and fragile -- don't cross the street too fast, always get enough rest, let me take care of you -- but then when he dies, Leo still thinks of himself as fragile even though he now needs to take care of himself. Then when he must rise to the level of killing the ultimate villain in the end, we feel this struggle and truly want to root for him. THIS is why I was asking you who instigated an introduction initially between Vik and Leo. I wanted to know what kind of person Leo was. And Vik too. When the reader knows where the character arc starts, then they know how far the character must travel and work to get to the ultimate change and fight the internal demons/thoughts/flaws that plague him. However, I do notice that he seems to be a basketball superstar in the beginning of the story. So he's used to rising above and going for the win. How does this play into his character arc? And also, what is his ultimate goal? Things seem to be happening to him, but what does he want? To protect his mother? To keep the memory of his father alive? I understand all the action, but I'm not sure what he's really working toward.

    With the first five pages, that question at the end of the first paragraph seems unneeded. The sentence prior, which I think should have "never agains" or italicized never agains, is an okay place to finish that thought and move into the next paragraph.

    Otherwise, I think your dialogue between Vik and Leo sounds genuine, and the five pages tugs us right to the end. Great work on all your revising this month! I wish you luck with this story!

    1. Hi Heather,

      Thank you for taking the time to do all of this for us. I really appreciate it and the great advice. I've learned so much during this contest and can't wait to apply it all to my work. It's been a great experience, so again thanks.

      All the Best,


    2. You're very welcome! So glad to help.

  6. Hi Charles,
    I really enjoyed the pitch, and the big picture of where your story's headed. The premise is so cool.

    My problems with the pitch echo what's been mentioned above. Leo's whisked away, he's reluctant, and then he's "forced..." He comes off as being along for the ride. A strong sense of his inner drive--even if it takes awhile to emerge in the story--would add the needed spark. The last couple sentences also lean toward generalities, and I think you could craft something more pointed and hooky to close with.

    Just a few nitpicks with the pages, which have nice momentum now.
    -Not sure why he checks the driveway in the first line. He feels self-conscious about missing his dad?
    -Why is he surprised when the door slams since he's expecting Vik?
    -Not sure why he thinks he has "no one to hang out with" since he's about to hang out with Vik and remember how they met.

    That's it. It's been a lot of fun to read these pages and I love the way the scene ends now. Best of luck, man!

  7. Now that I have read your pitch I know where the story is going, and it is nowhere near where the book starts. The pages were grim and gave off that impression if you are not going for that, I suggest you change the voice of your pages. The story is very interesting and the plot seems to drive itself but you need to bring out that urgency in the pitch.

    In the pages, Leo's voice has improved a lot but I would still like to get a feel of Leo as a kid before I dive into his problems. The dialogue now flows better with few tags.

    it was great reading your revisions, I got to learn a few things myself from you. Thank you for sharing the work and good luck with the book. The story is very promising and who would love a human who can mind control a vampire and a werewolf.

    Happy Writing.

  8. Charles,

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

    Pitch: Wonderful pitch, but I would like a little more clarity in the first line. In the first paragraph, we already know he’s a monster hunter and that they’re coming for him, so we know what’s at stake. The fact that he’s the first to be able to control the mind of a vampire and communicate with a werewolf during a full moon shows how he’s special and what makes this story unique. We also see the internal and external conflicts. Great job! We know what he must do (external goal), but the bit about saving his uncle threw me. What happened to his uncle? What will happen if he doesn’t save him? Is this really a part of the story GMCs (goal, motivation, conflict) or is it just a part of the journey? I’m not sure you need that bit in the query. Speaking of GMCs, what are Leo’s? His story goal and conflict need to be included in the query, so we can see what he needs to achieve and what’s keeping him from achieving it.

    Pages: The opening line could be stronger, hookier. I get a good sense of where he is emotionally. He lost his dad and misses him, he recently moved and misses home/friends, no electricity for two weeks = no TV or Internet. So, basically, his life could be better. Understatement! Watch out for grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues. I spotted quite a few. When someone thinks something, show this by putting the thought in italics. Don’t tell us “he thought.”

    This is my favorite line, “The clouds of pain threatened to swarm in again.” Beautiful! I’m also really interested in what happened to his dad after reading that police report. That definitely hooked me. Well done!

    Lynnette Novak
    The Seymour Agency

    1. Hello Lynnette,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my submission and also for the great advice. It's very helpful. I can certainly see it now and I appreciate it.

      All the Best,


  9. Hi Charles,

    Wahh, cool concept and hook there - descendant of van Helsing! Awesome. Also, love the stakes - that these monsters are coming for him. It makes me nervous for him.

    I love that he has mentors. Neat. Now the word ‘Order’ made me pause for a moment - maybe you could hint at a bit more as to who they are :) ? Are the students the Order?

    Who is his uncle? I don’t know if you had mentioned before :) Just a little addition earlier would help us understand why Leo can’t lose him. What does Leo want more than anything?

    I really enjoyed reading your first five pages and the revisions this month. I think you have a really intriguing story here and awesome hook - re the van Helsing descendant. Good job.

    I think your first five pages are polished. The dialogue between the boys is great. You leave us hanging and wanting more with the final bit about what Vik finds out. I wish you the best with your writing and this story. Happy writing!