Sunday, April 7, 2019

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Palmer

Name: Kyra Palmer
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Title: Hunting Legends

Fastest way to a guy’s heart is a bullet between the third and fourth
rib. Knife works too, but it’s slower, messier, and requires close
range. I don’t need either to be lethal on sight.

Low fog hangs in the deserted streets of the French Quarter ruins like
lost souls. Behind me lies a copse of leshy I was seconds too late to
save. Shallow breaths shudder through my lungs, guilt smothering me
for not being fast enough. The gentle tree guardians didn’t deserve
this. Pine green blood with the consistency of sap pools around their
dead, broken bodies. Leaves on their branch limbs wilt and shrivel in
fast-forward, color fading to rot. In front of me is the Venator squad
who slaughtered the leshy. They’re dead now too. Phantoms of their
dying heartbeats echo inside me like a gnawing ache in my chest. They
didn’t go quietly.

These humans should know better than to hunt the supernatural in our
own territory. The Dead Zone originated here and belongs to Legends,
“monsters” like me.

Valravns circle overhead, cawing, fifteen-foot raven wings casting
wraith-like shadows. Their skull faces gleam white in the moonlight,
eye sockets empty, beaks sharp enough to cut stone. They won’t descend
until the bodies are cold. I crouch beside the nearest corpse and set
off the distress signal clipped to the tactical vest. A red light
blinks, a sign the homing beacon is activated. Now I won’t have to
track down the second squad, they’ll come straight to me.

Within ten minutes, I spot the other squad creeping down the road
toward my trap, glowing neon green through my night vision goggles. If
they see me, they’re dead, which is my intention and my orders.

“Final target sighted,” I whisper in my comm to my partner.

“Azrielle, wait to engage,” Knox says, smooth voice filtering through
the comm’s static. Even when he isn’t using his encantado charm,
there’s something about the way he speaks that compels a desire to
obey. Not sure if it’s an encantado thing or a Knox thing.

I crouch behind the husk of a toppled red and yellow streetcar at the
intersection of Canal and Bourbon Street. Jagged metal curls away from
the vehicle’s side as if something clawed its way out. Debris, grime,
and overgrown foliage cover the evidence of violence from ten years
ago when the birthplace of jazz was silenced. When the Tutela
collapsed, our worlds bled together, and people realized all the old
myths and stories are real. When legends became reality.

Humans say they won the “war” that followed. They merely survived
better, but we’re not extinct yet. The hunt never ends. I want no part
of the carnage, but have never had a choice—until after tonight. This
is my last mission. I eliminate the two squads foolish enough to
invade this forsaken metropolis and my service debt—or rather my dead
father’s—will be fulfilled. Drop a few more bodies and I’m done. Free.
No more bloodshed. No more Shade and their self-righteous crusade of
noble intentions that lead straight to the graveyard. Tomorrow I can
fly somewhere far away and no one will use me ever again. Preferably
somewhere cold. Maybe northern Greenland. I wish I could convince my
partner to quit too.

The valravns drift lower.

Careful not to touch the streetcar, I stand up. Knox is taking too
long clearing this sector.

“Can I move in?” I whisper through my comm. “The Venators are covering
ground fast. I need to do something before they go after the

“I’m not done yet,” he grunts, words choppy like he’s out of breath.

My fingers drum on my leg, knees bouncing. I can’t signal the valravns
to flee nor count on their help. They might even attack me if they
think I’m after their meat. Like many Legends, they don’t understand
the threat of humans and need Shade’s protection. Humans can work
together. They have armies, hospitals, and governments. Law and order.
We don’t. No one’s ever survived telling a dragon what to do.

The valravns hover closer, cawing softer. The Venators notice, raising
their guns higher.

“Knox, if I don’t intervene, they’ll start shooting.”

“So stall the Venators.” His smirk is audible.

“Seriously?” I hiss, so not amused. “If this is so you can flirt with
a nymph again—”

“I wish that were the problem.”

Concern drowns my irritation. “Do you need me?”

“No, hold your position. I found a rougarou who isn’t interested in
leaving. He keeps growling at me. I don’t think he trusts my human
form, but I can’t shift here.” He pauses, tone darker. “He’s a
toddler. I’m betting he was bitten recently.”

And abandoned once his parents realized he wasn’t human anymore. My
teeth grind. I’m surprised he’s alive. Maybe they tried to kill him
and failed. Like my mother did to me.

“Can’t you charm him to follow you?” I edge out from my cover of the streetcar.

“Tried. He’s scared and starving. Instinct is overriding my control of
his mind.”

I hate playing decoy, but Knox needs time to get the rougarou out. We
can’t risk him smelling blood and getting drawn into the fight. He
won’t be able to resist the impulse.

“Get him to the patrol boat. The Shade agent there can help.”

“Edon. I’m calling him Edon.”

Name or not, Knox would still get attached. His whole identity
revolves around defending Legends. With that kind of loyalty
entrenched in his soul, he’ll never leave Shade.

“Fine. Get Edon to safety. If you hear screaming, don’t worry, it’s me.”

I switch on music through my other earpiece. No words, only
instruments—drums, piano, guitar, violin—rock versions of classical
scores, background music just loud enough to help me detach. So I can
pretend not to feel the death I inflict on others. Everyone wonders
what dying is like. Not me. I experience it with every life I take. I
know my victim’s pain and I hate it. Death is never peaceful.

The cawing stops. Time’s up. I need the Venator’s attention now.

Running across the street, I scream like I’m being chased and hurtle
over the low ledge of a blown out window display, hunker down, and
wait for the enemy to find me. The concrete floor is charred black
save for the silhouettes of four people. One is a child. I scoot away
from the small handprint. Boots pounding the asphalt warn me of the
Venators’ approach and I pretend to startle the instant they enter my
field of view. Two of them with weapons pointed at me. Not the whole
squad like I wanted. I’ll have to make more noise to lure in the rest.
Standing slowly, empty hands up, I back away, faking out of breath.

“Identify yourself,” one says.

“Samantha Winchester,” I lie. “I’m looking for my sister, Deana. We
were hunting and got separated. There’s a cockatrice out here.”

“She’s young,” says the other, ignoring my warning. “High school unit?”

“We’re too far out in the Dead Zone for that. What are you doing
here?” asks the first.

“I told you,” I let my voice crack. “I lost my sister.”

“We’re on the move,” Knox says in my comm. “I’m carrying him. He’s
unconscious. Try not to spill any blood or he might wake.”

Good. Playing with the kill first is dangerous. I’d rather finish them quick.


  1. Hi! It's rare that I read the first five pages and jump straight to line edits, but I honestly really, really liked this! You teased the problem, set up the characters and world beautifully, I was able to follow for the most part (maybe a few too many new species/words but much clearer than I normally see), and even though it jumps right in to the action, this is her "normal" day. So well done! I thought the writing was beautiful as well. Don't be too excited that I'm complimentary because I wish I had more helpful insight!
    Okay, so this line tripped me up: "Low fog hangs in the deserted streets of the French Quarter ruins like lost souls" Maybe a slight rearrangement? Anything that makes me have to read it twice pulls me out and you don't want that. Also, in the last line where she says, "Good." I assume that's sarcastic, but I did have to read twice. Probably only because I'm tired, but look at that and see if you can make it obvious from the moment it's read that that's what it is.
    I love the idea that humans work together but not these supernatural beings. The dragon line was gold in my opinion, as was your opening line.

  2. Wow! This blew me away. I'm immediately interested and completely immersed in your story. I think you very masterfully set up the mood, the stakes, and the world. Worldbuilding is so, so hard for me and many other writers, but you knocked it out of the park here. I get a sense of the history, the coming conflict, the MC's objective right away. Nicely done!

    My only critique right now is that I found myself a little lost in some of the species/language you used to reference different types of Legends. I'm sure you're pulling a lot of this from real folklore, which I think is cool, but adding in more descriptions will definitely help your readers not to feel lost. There were a few times I had to go back and check who or what you were describing. You did a great job describing the Valravns. If you did that with some of the others, it will only strengthen your worldbuilding.

    Overall, I really love this. I can't wait to read more and see where you go with it!

  3. Lovely first pages. I think you're world and premise is super cool. I LOVE the opening paragraph. Well done. I do think that because the world is so new and you have soo many different words and creatures in this opening that you could benefit from slowing way down. I want to get more of an introduction and visual of each creature. Do you need to introduce so many different creatures in these first 5 pages? There is so much exciting action that i don't think you should feel rushed to plow through it. It's a great setting to give us more about her world. And also her feelings. However I did think it was cool how you gave us little teasers about what/who she is. shifter/monster/nonhuman, etc.

  4. Hi Kyra,
    Wonderful opening and intro to your MC as a warrior. Setting your dystopic world in post-war New Orleans makes it engaging and easy to visualize. Your descriptive language is beautiful--Azrielle hiding between the destroyed streetcar, the fog and lost souls, the tree guardians, the Valravns--all painted with a vivid brush.

    I am very drawn to the relationship between Azrielle and Knox as friends and colleagues and sense a future threat to their bond because of Shade.

    So many characters/species was a bit confusing, but I think that could be helped by more description of each or perhaps using fewer for the action and introducing the others later. That being said, it was a very fun and intriguing read, and that small confusion on my part did not hamper my enjoyment of these pages. Well done. I'd like to see what happens next!

  5. Hi Kyra, Our author mentor is having trouble commenting in the blog, so I've cut and pasted her feedback below. ELD

    Comments by L.E. Sterling

    Kyra, you have some gripping opening lines to this manuscript, which continues throughout this excerpt! Well done!!! I love gritty heroines like this -- they defy expectations and are extremely compelling. I also enjoyed in this scene the interplay and characterization of Knock and Azrielle here: Knox, too, seems to be a complex character, which is also nice to see in a fantasy novel.

    I also appreciate very much the complexity of the world you’re creating -- obviously there are layers here that will come out over the course of the story. I hope you keep all this complexity! It’s very compelling! On the other hand, I think you run the risk of alienating your reader with too much information that is not yet grounded.

    I would, in fact, consider stripping down the opening scene so you can let the reader in a little more. The opening lines of this MS, as I said, are amazing -- but what can you next develop in the scenario to really explore what they mean? It would be awesome in the very next lines to demonstrate what this means to her through action -- does she shoot something? Does she

    Lines like: “These humans should know better than to hunt the supernatural in our

    own territory. The Dead Zone originated here and belongs to Legends,

    “monsters” like me” are excellent at conveying a world of information to the reader. Maybe go further in this vein: can you explain what is going on in the world in a simple sentence or two, then go from there?

    I wonder, too, if taking some time to flesh out more fully and explain what some of these other Legends are would also help root the reader.There are also an awful lot of them -- maybe too many for a reader to track in the first 5 pages. Can you simplify, focus on one or two different entities, really get into them more?

    An amazing first spin -- and I’m looking forward to more!

  6. Absolutely loved your opening lines - great work!

    I felt immersed in the world from the get go, you did a good job of immediately setting the tone and mood. I could really picture a dystopian New Orleans.

    It was a bit tricky to keep up with all the different creatures - perhaps you could concentrate on one type and trickle the rest through later? I felt pulled out of the story because I got a bit confused.

    I do love the little hints that the narrator isn't human because I thought she was at first. Brilliant start!

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  8. Hoping it is okay to ask questions and hopefully someone will answer as I don't know what to do.

    So yes, the worldbuilding is rather heavy here, but only in the first five pages. The rest of the scene focuses on Azrielle & Knox fighting off the Venators while trying to save the toddler that Knox found (1,750 more words). The next scene, Azrielle is assigned to go undercover in a human-controlled city, where she stays for the rest of the book. So there really isn't anywhere else that there is the opportunity to see that there are lots of different creatures because she is in a more "protected" environment where she only sees things one at a time and it is much more spread-out with time to flesh each out. The only other places where she sees lots of different types all at once is in the classroom that has hunting trophies on the walls (chapter 3) and a very small bit at the end during a large battle. In both of those scenes, types are mentioned more in passing with a key detail or two to visualize and then it moves on because there's not time to dwell on anything.

    This is a world where every mythical creature actually exists (all based on "real" mythology), so there are tons of different ones, which makes categorizing for simplicity sake pretty much impossible. Readers don’t need to remember the monsters mentioned in rapid-fire style, specifically what it is is irrelevant and I never use the same one twice. I'm not expecting readers to remember that much. But maybe the way I've done it still feels like that is expected, which pulls readers out, in which case, I'm not sure how to fix it. Or if given that the rest of the chapter is far less dense, it levels out and is fine.

    The worldbuilding for this has been so tricky because I need to establish very quickly that there are lots of different kinds of monsters and that some are of human-level intelligence, but many are not and are more animal-like. We’re not talking about apartment buildings with centaur and vampire families living in them like you'd expect people to in a civilized manner.

    Wondering if it would maybe help if Azrielle herself doesn't know what every single creature she encounters is, just describe it without the names. Or the only other option I see is to scrap the leshy/valvaryns and just open with Azrielle standing over the dead humans to lure in more humans. Which really only cuts out two unfamiliar terms, so I'm not sure if that's helpful or not.

    The opening lines are there because Azrielle did actually just do exactly what it implies a moment before. The reader just doesn't get to fully see what that means yet, I make you wait for it a few pages. It is actually on the very next page from where this ends, word count just didn't allow for me to share it here.

    I do see the point that has been brought up in all of the comments so far and totally agree that it is a lot. I just don't know how else to do it because without it, I lose some of that worldbuilding background, which causes confusion later. Any thoughts on how to balance this all better would be greatly appreciated :) Thank you!

  9. Kyra,

    I loved this! The voice is great!! I wasn't confused at all, but all readers will be different and you have many critiques above saying that while they read they were confused with all the creatures. You could keep it as it is and sprinkle in a little more description if you want. I was so hooked. Then again, I tend to confused my readers at times. So giving some more description if you need to keep these creatures in the opening may help paint a visual for the reader. Or you could slow it down some as Erin suggested. Have her walk around more, searching for the bad evil things, amp up the tension that something is going to pop out at her. So bring us into the scene more with her internal thoughts and emotions. Also add more atmosphere into the scene. We get a good amount sight and sound here maybe add some of the other senses such as smell, touch, and taste. Taste? How? Maybe she cracked her lip and tastes blood on her tongue or there's a car on fire and she can taste the fumes. Or chokes on the fumes.

    I think that you idea of her not knowing what the creatures are is a good idea that way she has to describe them. Such as ... the big bird with a long beak and sharp claws swoop down - that's horrible but you get them drift, right? That way the reader doesn't have to keep the names of things straight and you're just describing the world.

    Whatever you decide to do, I love this and I'm soooo intrigued by this story. Wonderful job!! I can't wait to see what you do next.

    1. Also, excuse all my typos. I'm doing this in a car and my husband is blind to potholes. :)