Sunday, January 19, 2020

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Devine Rev 2

Name: Michael Devine
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: The Last of the Magi


Pitch:
Ever since his older brother disappeared four years ago under mysterious circumstances, Jalen Talos has been kept under the watchful eye of a secret society known as the Magi. Like his older brother before him, Jalen is a mystic, someone who can tap into the spirit world to access otherworldly powers. In the totalitarian city-state he lives in, being a mystic is illegal, a crime punishable by death.

Jalen’s world begins to unravel when a stolen necromantic grimoire ends up in his hands. He doesn’t have much time to delve deep into the book’s secrets: the Shadow Coven hunt for him and their grimoire. The nefarious Coven, once the scourge of gods and mortals alike, seek their former glory, hellbent on reclaiming the dark power they once wielded so devastatingly.  

And helping them in their efforts is Jalen’s long-lost older brother.

Jalen escapes a brutal Coven attack on the Magi and flees for his life. But before long, the hunted becomes the hunter and he embarks on a race to find the ancient sanctuary of a long-lost god. If Jalen can find the stronghold before the Shadow Coven, he can prevent an ancient horror from being unleashed on the world.

Chapter 1
The storm ravaged the island city-state of Santivar. Alone in his room, Jalen Talos felt the whole dormitory shake with the buffet of each gust. He sat hunched over his desk, trying to concentrate on the piles of parchments and manuscripts scattered before him, doing his best to ignore the wind and rain pummeling the windowpanes. A single candle on his desktop burned low, casting flickering shadows on the rows of bookshelves that lined the walls. 

Somewhere outside in the night, above the roar of the storm, he heard the city bells toll. Three in the morning.

He leaned back and stretched. He should just go to sleep. It was so late, and he was spending more time dozing off than anything else.  

As he cleared off his desk, his gaze drifted to the empty bed across the room. Malachi’s old bed. It had been four years since he had last seen his older brother. Jalen had been twelve at the time, old enough to know that Malachi’s days were numbered, that it was only a matter of time before he left for good.

Still, that knowledge didn’t prepare Jalen for when the time came. And it didn’t prepare him for what came next.

With a deep sigh, Jalen leaned over to blow out the candle. Only, before he did, the candle extinguished itself.

Jalen blinked as he sat in the sudden darkness. Did I just imagine that?

But there was no imagining the sudden heaviness that descended around him, like a blanket drifting down over him. His room grew deathly quiet, the air stilling, muffling even the commotion of the storm outside.

Cold terror gripped his soul. Jalen clenched and unclenched his fists as his heart raced. What was happening around him was not natural. He knew because it was something he had experienced before.

The night Malachi left. The night the Sentinels came for him. 

He breathed deeply, willing himself to be calm. How did they discover me? And how do I get out of here? The window? No, his room was on the fifth floor; it was a straight drop down hundreds of feet to the street below. He would have to go out the door. But if they were watching him…

There was a knock at the door.

He almost screamed. He felt paralyzed. He couldn’t even think.

The next knock was firmer, more insistent. A frantic whisper followed the knock. “Jalen! Let me in! 

They’re coming for you!”

Jalen felt a sliver of hope. The voice belonged to Kishari Ashcroft and she was a member of the Magi. If anyone could help him now, it was the Magi. He jumped up and ran to the door, opening it as quietly as he could. 

Kishari stood before him, wrapped snuggly in her drenched cloak, a hood pulled over her head. Even in the darkness, he could see her eyes wide with terror.

“The Sentinels?” he asked softly.

She nodded and pushed him into his room. “We keep an eye on their headquarters. As soon as a raid departs, we’re notified. Especially if they’re coming in this direction.” Her breathing was labored but she looked at him intensely. “You are the only mystic in this dorm that the Magi are aware of.”

He gasped. If the Sentinels had discovered that he was a mystic, if they were coming for him, then he was as good as dead. And Kishari, too, for taking the risk in helping him.

For there was one thing that all mystics in Santivar had in common: being one was illegal.

Unless you were a Sentinel.

Before Jalen could respond, he heard a noise, outside and further down the hallway.

Kishari froze; she had heard it, too.

“What do we do?” Jalen whispered, recovering but barely able to speak.

Kishari hesitated, biting her lip. But her indecision lasted only a moment. Softly closing the door, she dragged Jalen across the room and sat him down on his bed.

“Do you still have the amulet that your uncle gave you?” she asked.

Jalen nodded and withdrew a figurine – a miniature replica of an ebony hawk, about to take flight – from within the folds of his tunic. It was made from everwood, and it generated its own mystic source. By simultaneously tapping their own source and that of a figurine like this, a mystic would be able to augment and amplify their abilities and talents.

“Will it protect us from the Sentinels?” Jalen asked.

“Hopefully,” Kishari whispered. “It should be able to shield us from their mind probes.”  

Hopefully? Should? That didn’t sound too reassuring. He stared at her intensely. “I don’t know how to use it like that.”

“I will show you.” She folded Jalen’s hands around the amulet. “Close your eyes,” she said softly. “Hold the image of the hawk in your mind’s eye. Reach out to it, touch the hawk’s spiritual essence with your spirit.” 

Jalen breathed in deeply. Like most mystics, Jalen’s ability to tap into the power of his soul began with the onset of puberty. But the Magi had placed barriers within his mind, to both regulate and hide his ability. As a result, he could only tap a small portion of his mystic source, and even then not for long. It was a struggle but he pushed against those barriers, pushed past them just enough so that the warmth flowed through him, first as a trickle, then gaining volume, flooding his entire being.

“Focus…” Kishari continued, almost in a trance. “Feel your soul and the hawk’s soul, becoming one…”

Gradually, Jalen felt his spirit melt with the ebony raptor’s, his soul infused with that latent power harbored within the hawk.

The amulet began to feel warm in Jalen’s hands. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“Will the hawk to expand, to extend outward, covering you and me.”

It was as if immaterial wings unfurled and spread out, enveloping them both.

Jalen stared at Kishari, eyes wide in amazement. “I got it! What now?”

“You’ve got to hold onto it, Jalen. Keep up the shield. Can you do it?”

How would he know? He was already feeling the headache coming on from tapping his source. But he nodded to her.

“Now, we wait.”

For a moment, the hallway outside the room was deathly quiet. But then Jalen heard the shuffle of feet as heavy footsteps, somewhat muted, trotted swiftly down the hall. He held his breath. Judging from the sounds on the other side of his door, there seemed to be an inordinate number of people in the hallway.

He thought that they might pass his door, that maybe they already had, for he no longer heard the footsteps. But no, they had stopped. The voices, faint and muffled, were right outside his room. The wait was interminable. His heart was pounding inside his chest and he was sweating with the strain of holding onto the power he was drawing from the hawk.

And then came the sound that kept mystics like Jalen awake at night: the violent explosion of a door being busted down and ripped from its hinges.


14 comments:

  1. Hi Michael,
    If I read your pitch on the back of a book, I’d buy it for sure!
    I’m probably nit-picking now, because it is really good, but …
    In this sentence, I had to re-read: “His room grew deathly quiet, the air stilling, muffling even the commotion of the storm outside.” I think if you swopped the words muffling and even, or if you left the word even out, it would read with more fluidity.
    And in this sentence: “He couldn’t even think” If you left the word even out, the sentence comes across more powerfully.
    Perhaps you could expand on the moment when Jalen tries to break through the Magi barriers in his mind, let him fail before he succeeds. It may enhance the tension of the moment. I realize you may have wanted to include the exploding door in your 1250 words, which is nice, but I think enough tension would have been created in him trying to access his power. Just my thoughts. See what others think. Like I said in the beginning, I definitely want to read the book when it’s published.
    All the very best,
    Carryn

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    Replies
    1. Carryn - thank you so much for your feedback over the past couple of weeks. I appreciate the time and effort you took and I think my first 5 pages improved as a result.

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  2. Hi Michael,

    Your first paragraph in your pitch is very spot-on and fits the tone of the pages so well.
    I got lost at “necromantic grimoire”, however, I did google and noticed this is a historical (?) term. My only hesitation is that it might be too obscure for common knowledge and could easily be replaced with a general description (ie book of spells). It also feels like the main hook should be the fact that Jalen ends up fighting against his long-lost brother. Perhaps focusing on that and the choice Jalen must make to defeat the Shadow Coven?
    I REALLY like this revision. The tension is very present and where it cuts off is absolutely perfect…

    All the best,
    Star

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    Replies
    1. Cool - thanks so much, Star! I am grateful for the time you took and the insights you provided over the past couple of weeks. My five pages are definitely better now than they were.

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  3. Hi Michael,
    Wow, what a great revision. The scene with everything growing quiet is clearer and I could see the blanket of it moving in. The overall flow is much smoother & cleaner.

    Regarding the Pitch I don't have much to add either, except, like Star, I had to look up necromantic grimoire. Maybe after it just add a short description, ex. The necromantic grimoire, study of black magic...so that we know going forward what it is. But it could just be me.

    Best of luck with this!
    Kristin

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kristin! I appreciate you taking the time to read my pages and share your insights over the past couple of weeks.

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  4. Hi Michael,

    Your pitch is interesting - there is a lot at stake for Jalen! In your first sentence, I don't think you need "mysterious circumstances" since disappearing is already mysterious.

    You also mention that his brother is older three times - you only need one.

    I'd like some more specifics in your pitch if you're able to find a way to weave them in. How did the grimoire end up in his hands? How does finding the Coven stronghold help him prevent things? Does the Coven need Jalen AND the book, or just one or the other? Knowing this would help pump up the stakes.

    Your pages read really nicely. In the paragraph that mentioned Jalen knew his brother's days were numbered, it had an ominous feel. Was Jalen worried about what he'd do after his brother graduated? Or was he afraid for him?

    Last, I love where the pages stopped this time. Very cool and I wished there was more to read.

    Good luck with this piece!
    Gina


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    Replies
    1. Gina - I really appreciate your insights and feedback over the past couple of weeks. You helped spot and correct so many things I wouldn't even have thought of (and I'm grateful for your ability to spot how I apparently like to repeat the same details over and over). I hope the workshop was equally beneficial to you.

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  5. Hi Michael,

    I thought your pitch certainly had stakes, but it felt almost like 2 different stories. I didn't see the connection between the magi and the Shadow Coven. I'd work on connecting the two more seamlessly.

    As for your pages, great job! Great stakes and tension - I really was drawn in and wanted to know what happened next!

    I have a few minor suggestions. This took me out of the story, because I wondered why his brother's days were numbered and what happened next, and the repetition in the last line confused me.
     
    Jalen had been twelve at the time, old enough to know that Malachi’s days were numbered, that it was only a matter of time before he left for good.

    Still, that knowledge didn’t prepare Jalen for when the time came. And it didn’t prepare him for what came next.

    I'd suggest ending it at - It had been four years since he had last seen his older brother. Or, It had been four years since his older brother had disappeared.

    This is still too telling:

    Jalen felt a sliver of hope. The voice belonged to Kishari Ashcroft and she was a member of the Magi. If anyone could help him now, it was the Magi. He jumped up and ran to the door, opening it as quietly as he could.

    Kishari stood before him, wrapped snuggly in her drenched cloak, a hood pulled over her head. Even in the darkness, he could see her eyes wide with terror.

    I'd suggest rephrasing it and trimming it. Something like:

    He jumped up and ran to the door, opening it as quietly as he could. Kishari-- a member of the Magi - stood before him, wrapped snuggly in her drenched cloak, a hood pulled over her head. His hope at seeing her quickly vanished, for even in the darkness, he could see her eyes wide with terror.

    It's been a pleasure reading your pages these past weeks! I wish you all the best going forward!

    Best,

    Erin, 1st 5 Pages Mentor


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    Replies
    1. Erin - thank you so much for taking the time to read my pages and for sharing your insights. This workshop has been invaluable and I am grateful for your perspective. I feel that I - and my story - are further along than we were a few weeks ago. So, thank you!

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    2. You are very welcome! It was a pleasure to read and I wish you the very best with your writing!

      Delete
  6. From Karly Caserza:

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your work. Reading critiques about your work is never easy so I appreciate you opening yourself to different ideas. Don’t forget that advice given is always subjective. These are edits that I think would help your work though someone else or you may completely disagree. Pursue the path that’s true to you as the author and your work.

    Pitch:

    Spot on and well done! Character: check. Plot tease: check. Voice: check. Well done well done.

    Pages:

    These starting pages are solid. The tension escalates quickly and you subtly embed characterization, voice, plot, details magnificently throughout such a short space. The only thing that stuck out to me immediately was the voice felt much older in the first few paragraphs but settles to a nice YA voice as the candle scene unfolds.

    I also kind of wish that his ability to activate the shield on his first try wasn’t as perfect. I would think that it would flutter, retract, activate and teeter totter as his fear and the noises outside of the Sentinels would influence his ability to concentrate—especially being his first time trying this.

    You have some instances were there’s a small bit of info dumping to clue in the reader to details that could be better embedded within the narration more naturaly.

    But the ending line is fantastic as this particular literally flourishes in color for me: “And then came the sound that kept mystics like Jalen awake at night: the violent explosion of a door being busted down and ripped from its hinges.” Everything prior felt hushed, muted, dulled to almost a grey scale scene for me but this line connected with me on a wonderfully alive level.

    Thank you again for sharing your work. Good luck on your writing career.

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