Sunday, November 17, 2019

1st 5 Pages Nov Workshop - Grant Rev 2

Name: Belinda Grant
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Librex

When Annalyn Demar touches her book of fairy tales, she hears the thoughts of its former readers. Dangerous in Moridan, where the magical gifted are kidnapped to serve the ruling Wizard Lords. Yet what use is her gift? Her sister Sunny’s magical strength, and ability to move things with her mind seems more practical. They should be safe, if Annie can keep her sister in check.

Annie and Sunny are separated when their powers are discovered. Annie is taken to the Librex, the Wizard Lords’ Library of magical books. A million minds at her disposal and no magic can stay secret when her gift is in play. Her master, Lord Zavin, shares her magic and passion for books. But he isn’t willing to share his research. Or Sunny’s location.

But years later, comfortable in her new home, Annie learns of an old, dark magic that could threaten her long-lost sister. But the Librex is Annie’s prison, and escaping leaves her a fugitive, with a master who’ll stop at nothing to get her back.

But her biggest obstacle might be Sunny herself. Because you can’t rescue someone who’s determined not to be found.

Chapter 1

Climbing down a slippery cliff in the dark was not one of my talents.

My sister Sunny was made for the task. While my stubby fingers gripped for dear life, she’d scampered down like a lizard, barely touching the grooves in the stone. She dropped down to the hard, slick rock as if it was spongy grass, dumped the contents of her bag and began to make a fire, occasionally looking up as if surprised I hadn’t joined her.

I wished I’d stayed in bed. The night’s little moonlight had vanished. All that guided my hands was the slight glow of the clouds, and the white waves that lapped against the rocks below. Those same clouds also gifted a misty rain, adding to the unpleasantness of my descent. Secret, mysterious caves, it turned out, weren’t so appealing in the rain.

I inched my way down further, dropping the toe of my boot into a lower groove. Now I stretched out as far as I could reach. I let go with one hand to grab a rock jutting out near my elbow, but the pressure on my other hand was too much. With a cry I fell. I landed on my feet but lost my footing and crashed onto my rear.

“Why’d you let go, Annie?” Sunny called out.

I lay flat on the rock, glaring at the grey sky as if it was to blame. “It wasn’t exactly on purpose.” I groaned and pushed myself up gingerly onto first one, then both of my feet. My ankles survived, though my rear started to throb.

Sunny had finished her fire and was now preparing a torch to light our way. Even she wasn’t dextrous enough to descend a cliff holding a lantern. “Well, hurry up. We don’t have much time.”

She was right. I’d spent many sleepless nights observing the tides, and the platform where we stood was only safe from the waves for an hour at a time.

Research. That was a talent of mine.

For years we’d been fascinated by the cave, situated in the cliff just north of our house. Visible during the low tide, we pondered if anything hid behind its jagged mouth. We couldn’t risk swimming in, where the waves did their regular battle with the rocks. We assumed the smooth cliff was too difficult to climb. But a few weeks before I’d noticed the strange grooves in the rock, making it safe to descend to the platform at its mouth.

Safe for Sunny at least.

The grey Morgandy Sea reflected the night’s cloudy sky. The biggest waves would break against the platform, close to reaching Sunny’s spitting fire. I ducked down, holding my aching hands up towards the flames. The cave was darker than I’d pictured, and I rubbed my prickling arm.

Sunny twisted an oiled cloth around a green branch. She rocked from one foot to the other and her night-dress, half tucked into her drawers, billowed in the wind against her tall, lean frame. Her blonde curls danced across her face as she worked. She kept blowing them out of the way with frustration, but little success.

“What do you think’ll be in there?” Sunny asked, using her body as a shield from the wind as she lit the torch.


“Treasure?” Sunny’s laugh had a patronising undertone, as if I wasn’t already fourteen, and barely two-year years her junior.

“Well, what do you think it is, oh wise and great Sunnilyn Demar?”

“A pirate skeleton, maybe? Not coins or jewellery.”

I hadn’t meant coins or jewellery. I hadn’t lost sleep marking tides for coins or jewellery. I hadn’t risked my ankles or the wrath of our protective parents for coins or jewellery.

I had a greater treasure in mind. Magic. But how to explain that to Sunny? I licked my lips and moved forward.

Sunny stepped into the mouth. The slimy walls and loose rocks at my feet were perfect locations for things to hide. Slimy, dark things. I pushed up close to Sunny. What might have made their homes in the cave’s depths?

I could almost taste the salty water that clung to the walls. The light from Sunny’s torch bounced off the stone as she hurried along. She came to a ledge standing just above the high tide line. With a jump she was up, light in hand, and she reached down to help me lumber my way to the top.

The cave walls closed in around us, the roof brushing Sunny’s head. Damp from my cloak seeped through to my nightdress. Sunny raced ahead, but I slowed down, surprised at the length of the tunnel. Who’d last braved this spot?

Someone had been here. Waves couldn’t forge this. Someone cut the groves in the rocks.

The tunnel went dark as Sunny turned a corner. She gasped, and I quickened my steps. There were still no hints of the whispers I’d always heard when a magical item was close by.

Sunny stood at the end of the cave. If there’d been any doubt that people had made this, it was quelled by the sight of a symbol, the size of my head, chiselled into the wall. Four triangles connected at their tips and fanned out like a flower. Below was a stone pillar, carved out of the back of the cave.

On the pillar was a wooden box.

Tiny enough to fit in the palm of my hand, the wood was dark-brown. On the box, etched into the surface and burnt black was the same symbol that watched over us from the wall. It was too small to hide a staff or a book. A gem perhaps?

Sunny poked the wood with her finger, as if hearing my thoughts. “It might be an artefact. Do you hear anything?”

I moved closer, even held my hand over the box. I strained to hear something, anything. But it was no good. There was only the sound of distant waves and our two sets of breath.

“No whispers.” My voice was low and someone more sensitive than Sunny would have picked up the hint of tears behind it. There was no reason to think there’d be an artefact just waiting in the cave by our house. But I’d day-dreamed the possibility too many times, it had become almost a certainty.

But there was nothing. No Magic. No answers as to why I could hear what I heard. And no magic I could use to protect Sunny and I from the Wizard Lords if they came for us.

I turned the box in my hand. The resin which protected it from the elements sealed it shut. Sunny rustled through her pack and handed me a knife. She stood behind me and rested her chin on my shoulder, holding up her torch for light as I pried it open.

Inside was a quartz stone. It was a speckled, cloudy white, with a vein of metallic blond running through the centre. Shaped like a bent knuckle with a hole in the end.

“A rock?!” Sunny shook her head as I held it up to the light. “I could find five thousand of these on the walk to town. Why the shrine?”

Why would someone go to the trouble? I held the stone in my hand and stared at the string of metal within. A feeling came over me. A warmth that had nothing to do with a sensation on my skin.


  1. The pitch looks really good to me. I feel like I have a good feeling for the arc of the story and I can see that there are tough times ahead for Annie. The only little quibbles I would have are the second sentence seems like it could be tidier. Maybe start with 'Her magical gifts make her a magnet for powerful kidnappers in Moridan...' or something similar. You also have three 'but' sentences in a row and you might want to clarify how long-lost her sister is so you can clarify they are still in YA territory. I think the final sentence of the pitch captures a lot - sisterly conflict, a mission, an obstacle, and a mystery.

    1. Thanks Pat. This is what happens when you decide in a panic to change your pitch at the last minute. I think the long lost was a mistake, I wanted to show that there was a time jump in the pitch, but I think with more time I could do it better. Thanks for the suggestion and all your help. I've learnt so much.

  2. Hi Belinda!
    First off, I love your pitch. Annie's power sounds so cool and very unique (which is hard to do these days!). If I were reading the backs of books at Barnes and Noble, I'd definitely be buying this one.
    Again, great job on the revision, the little detail changes made this even better. I've really enjoyed reading your work each week, best of luck with your book! (Also, I'm serious about wanting to read it...let me know when it's out!!)

    1. Oh Casey! Your feedback has been super encouraging! Thanks for all your help!

  3. Belinda- I've adored reading your story and seeing how its improved each week. You really are a talented writer! I think your opening pages provide excellent description and pace, but while I'm not sure if this is supposed to take place in the past (when the MC's are younger) they definitely feel younger than YA age. If they are, then its perfect. ;-) In regards to your pitch, I think you could tighten it some. For example leave out the "Dangerous in Moridan,..." And just says "In Moridan, magically gifted kids are kidnapped..." Or you could say, "In Moridan, magically gifted kids, like Sunny and her sister, are often taken and enslaved by the Wizard Lords" That would shorten your query and pack more punch in one sentence. Best of luck and congrats on all your hard work!

  4. Oh, that is a great idea Sarah. I had trouble cutting it down to 200 words, but that would make it so much cleaner. Thanks for all your help!

  5. Hi Belinda,

    This is a great pitch and a great voice! I was instantly drawn in by the strength and visibility behind the prose. My only concern is the time jump. How long before we have to jump to "years later"? I had half assumed we would begin in the library, a life of servitude, only to learn of something that compels her to break out. But I did like this beginning, too, so I can still see the jump working. Great job!

    Kaitlyn Johnson
    Associate Literary Agent
    Corvisiero Literary Agency

  6. Hi Belinda!

    Wow - really great revision! You've nailed it. It is clear this is a fantasy with magic and the ages and personalities of the sisters are so clear and compelling! You've also done a nice job amping up the stakes. I also love the extra details you've added, helping me to visualize the world.

    As for the pitch, you've also done a great job, but I'd suggest tightening it. This was confusing to me:
    When Annalyn Demar touches her book of fairy tales, she hears the thoughts of its former readers. Dangerous in Moridan, where the magical gifted are kidnapped to serve the ruling Wizard Lords.

    Maybe something like: When Annalyn Demar touches her book of fairy tales, she hears the thoughts of its former readers. She guards this secret with her life, for in Moridan the magically gifted are kidnapped to serve the ruling Wizard Lords.

    Overall, great job! It's been a pleasure to read your pages. Best of luck!!!


  7. As a huge fan of fairy tales, I love the premise of your book! That alone makes me want to read it! I think your revision is sounding better each time as well, though I think it could be trimmed as well. I like that her magic was clarified or how it worked seems to be more clear. Well done!

  8. Well done, Belinda. You’ve got yourself a very strong opening now, and reading the synopsis, it’s an exciting book too.

    Can I just comment on the synopsis though? It just doesn’t connect to the first five pages. Clearly, from the pages we’ve been reading, she has only a vague idea that magic really exists, and almost none that she and her sister are themselves magical. Yet the synopsis goes straight in to introduce us to her at her full magical powers. This means one of two things to me: a) you just need to add in a sentence like “After Annalyn discovers she has special powers…” (but better!), or b) you’ve started your story in the wrong place. By that I mean, would a more exciting opening be once she’s already got her powers and is about to wield them (as in the synopsis)?. Most authors struggle to find the true start of a story because we all know our character’s “backstory” in such detail, so it’s worth looking at your full ms again to see if your instinct to start the story in the synopsis with her at full-power offers up more of a hook than her going on a late-night adventure to discover her powers.

    Also, have you thought about any “comp titles”? Agents and editors love seeing “For readers who enjoyed XXXX and XXXX” or “MY BOOK is XXX meets XXXX.” Or you can also use authors’ names instead of titles if that makes more sense. It gives them an immediate sense of what readers you imagine your book will attract. If you don’t understand what I mean, go and look at Sarah Jane Pound’s query – she’s written the perfect comp sentence: “RIDER IN THE MIST is a Frozen meets Wintersong dark YA fantasy” See if you can do one too.

    Thanks for letting me read your pages, and comment on them, and I’m sure you’ll get a good response once you send it out into the world even further!

  9. play bazaar

    play bazaar Power cords that lay on the floor can be tripping hazard.