Sunday, January 19, 2020

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Kerr Rev 2

Name: Carryn W. Kerr
Genre: Young Adult romantic, light science-fiction, adventure.
Title: The Renascent World


Cassidy Jones was five years old when her parents escaped Earth with her and her brother. They lived with the fifty thousand chosen in the town of Petriville, encased in an indestructible sphere. They were safe in Earth’s orbit. Sheltered from the meteor when it impacted Earth. Safe for the next eleven years.

But Cassidy won’t conform to Gina’s expectations. She refuses to pair with Jonas. Especially when she secretly discovers and develops feelings for simulation Eric, a survivor in an Earth refuge. In doing so, she enters Gina’s world of deceit and malice and begins the ball rolling in a series of dangerous events.

The mysterious slave, Jaya, who lives in Petriville’s underground tunnels warns Cassidy her kind deeds won’t go unpunished, and she will bring death to herself and those she’s trying to help. Neither they nor those on Earth will be safe from Gina. Despite this, Cassidy won’t back down. Ultimately though, she discovers something, not even she had anticipated.


Without hesitation, as though I’d change my mind if given the option, Liam pulled open the door to our Home Virtual Experience room. Laying one arm around my shoulder, my eighteen-year-old brother held his hand, palm up, towards the center of the room. The leather couches taking half the length of two walls invited me to flop into the L-shaped corner. But today, we wouldn’t use them. As the door sealed behind us, I sucked in a sharp breath, “I can’t do this, Li!”

Liam took in my terrified expression. His bright green eyes grew soft, his familiar rapid-fire speech soothing my racing heart, “Cassidy, it might make it easier if you remember we all did this on our sixteenth. It wouldn’t be fair of me to sugar-coat—”

He did not conclude his thoughts but gulped as the ceiling-mounted VE cube whirred, throwing a triangular light to the floor. The light expanded, sliding over our feet, up our legs, bodies, heads. A gravitational pull sucked us to the center of the room, into another time, just a short distance from where we now stood. We were in the park over the cobbled walkway curving past our home.

I drew in the fragrance of spring flowers and freshly cut lawn. The soft early evening breeze brushed my skin. Tiny recording drones floated around spectators like silent flies, recording moments to become Petriville’s history. Sunset’s orange glow deepened. My eyes landed on a three-dimensional version of Dad — looking all of the eleven years younger than he was now. The drones took in every facade of Dad’s tall, fair, sculpted physique. My eyes shifted to Mom as Dad took her hand. Her olive-toned face was drawn, her dark hair hanging limp. And, like now, her jeans never quite reached her ankles. My tall, beautiful, and elegant mother.

At seven and five-years-old, Liam and I buzzed around our parents. The breeze fluttered Liam’s soft blonde curls, as he clasped my tiny hand in his and pointed to the sky. I recalled none of it but noted how, even then, we were tall for our ages. My deep blue eyes contrasted my olive skin and straight, dark hair. The knobby knees, Liam had so often teased me about, protruded below the hem of a pale blue dress, I could almost remember.

The scene was so lifelike it drew me into the moment. Up and down our block, neighbors stood on the cobbled walkway, on their front lawns, or in the park. No eyes left the darkening sky as the myriad of tiny recording drones floated around families.

Petriville’s launch into space should have left me with a thousand vivid memories. But mine were like broken shards of glass — shimmering or shattered. To an onlooker, Petriville’s launch must have seemed unnatural. A town within an indestructible dome. A transparent kaleidoscope of rainbow colors. The dome had ballooned into a ball that grew and grew until thrusters propelled it into Earth’s exosphere. Complete with houses, gardens, trees, conveyor streets, schools, and shops, Petriville seemed to magically hover at the ball’s center. Pure science, of course.

My focus drifted back to the VE, my eyes drifting upwards. The most magnificent scene materialized, laced in tones of the softest blues to the deepest greens. Draped over it all, clouds floated in languid majesty — crisp white to deep, dark grey. It was as though we were Earth, and Earth our enormous moon.

Whimpers started breaking the silence, escaping both men and women. Dad pulled Mom back against him, as tears flooded her deep blue eyes and cascaded down her cheeks. My chest tightened. All around me, deathly silence fell.

The asteroid hurtled through space, and its trajectory placed Earth in its direct path! In no time at all, it drew nearer. So much nearer. As the asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere, flame enveloped the monstrous bulk, turning it to a fiery meteor. It seemed only seconds later when an ethereal brightening seared the dark sky. A shimmering mushroom of debris! Light and dust shot into the air then rained back to Earth.

Mom’s scream shattered the night. An echo in a chorus of onlookers’ grief. My young parents collapsed to the ground, comprehension slamming into them: They had just lost their parents, Aunt Susan, and Sarah! Searing pain tore into my gut. I barely noticed I was clinging to Liam; that he held me against him, his arms as tight as the vice gripping my heart; that I shook, sobbed; that tears slid down his cheeks too. My parents’ continued screams cut a burning, stabbing pain through my chest. But, I couldn’t drag my eyes from them nor escape the suffocating VE. My body numbed. A weighted, nauseated, distant dream took hold. I tried to lift my hand to wipe at the tears burning my cheeks, but my hand wouldn’t move.

The VE faded, and we were back in the room with the familiar leather couches. After the longest time, Liam loosened his grip, and I stepped away, wiping my cheeks. Liam kept his eyes on me, “Are you alright, Cass?”

A choked, “Why would they make us—?” was all I managed as my tears gushed, my eyes moving to my wrist. To Grandma’s antique, white-gold wrap-around bracelet pen and the sixteen silver sparkle bangles Mom and Dad had given me this morning. My ‘Age of Understanding’ gift. Sixteen. The old maxim really applied to me. But it felt back-to-front. Like the soft sensation of a boy’s lips on mine should have preceded what I just witnessed. “Why?” I repeated softly.

He absorbed my gaze, “Not witnessing it doesn’t erase nor diminish what happened. Don’t you think this a fair way to honor the people who lost their lives?”

My voice emerged in tight gasps, “I thought that was what our annual ‘Extinction Day’ commemoration is for.” I hated the crass term. It didn’t sound at all like an honor.

A sharp rap on the front door interrupted us.

Liam opened the door to Gina Petri, Petriville’s founder. Horn-rimmed spectacles magnified her watery blue eyes, and a toothy smile grew beneath her parrot nose.

My lips pressed into a sneer. “Ms. Petri! What brings you here?”

Gina’s oh-too-sweet melody reminded me of a snake. “Is that any way to greet the woman who saved your family?”

The words burst through my lips. “Really? You let my grandparents, aunt, and cousin die!”

Liam closed his hand around mine as though to calm or comfort me.

Gina ignored my outburst, not changing her smarmy tone or slow pace. But an airy chuckle slithered, seemingly unbidden, into her voice. “Your mother’s sister and your cousin were scarcely the caliber I desired. And naturally, I couldn’t save everyone.”

I glared at her, “Well, are you going to tell us why you’re here?”

Before she could answer, I began closing the door, but her tiny foot blocked it. “As a matter of fact, I hope you do not take too much stock in what you observed today. But you must understand why I had to wipe all your memories back then. It was done to protect you.”

So that was what this was about! Gina just wanted her subjects as happy and amenable as her robots! I pushed the door closed, shoving her foot out the way with it.

Liam took my hand. “Don’t worry about her. She’s just a crazy old bat.

Although it wasn’t his fault, I glared up at him. “Are you sure that’s all she is? Because I’m not!”


  1. Hi Carryn,

    I liked the introduction to your pitch. Unfortunately, I was a bit confused with the next few paragraphs. You refer to characters we have not been introduced to. Perhaps introducing their roles in the plot, without naming them would help? (ie But Cassidy won’t conform to the expectations of Petriville’s founder.) I would also cut out unneeded information and stick to the main plot point which seems to be the danger Petriville and those remaining on Earth face because of the founder. Then, clarify what Cassidy has to do/what choice she has to make to accomplish this.
    Your pages have definitely improved with each revision! I would love more from Cassidy in these first few pages, something that would help us get to know her (and the fact that she is a non-conformist). I almost wonder if you could hold off on bringing Gina in. Another thought that occurred to me after reading this is why is her brother the one to show her the VE? Why not her parents? It might be something to consider addressing.

    All the best,

  2. Thanks Star,
    Your points are very valid. I will address the reason her parents don’t go in with her, and add more that allows the reader to get to know her.
    Thank you a million,
    Carryn :-)

  3. Hi Carryn,
    Overall, what an interesting concept. I'm a fan of this type of sci-fi.

    Your pitch is interesting, but I got bogged down with all of the names and not quite sure who they were. I think adding a title to who Gina is would help in the second paragraph. And I think swapping the order of the sentences mentioning Jonas & Eric would make it clearer.

    I don't have much to add to your revision, I think I liked the last one a little better, when you showed a happier time in the VE room, and then went to the destruction of earth, but that's just me.

    Bringing in Gina feels abrupt, almost an interruption. Just when I'm beginning to get invested in her grieving emotions, I'm pulled away when she is yelling at Gina. This might be the right spot for this, but maybe a little more dialogue would help the transition. But that's just me, everyone else might like it.

    Good luck and look forward to reading the published book!

  4. Hi Kristin,
    Thank you so much. I appreciate your feedback on the pitch and pages. I’ll certainly try what you’ve suggested. It makes sense.
    All the best,

  5. Hi Carryn,

    I agree with the other comments. Your pitch had interesting elements, but I got confused quickly so I wasn't able to sit in them as long as I would have liked. Here are some questions that ran through my mind:

    - Who is Gina and what are her expectations? The jump to her was jarring.
    - Is Eric a computer program? Calling him a simulation makes me think so.

    I also think that getting as specific as you can will help the reader get excited about your story. How is Cass entering a world of deceit? Who is she trying to help? What does she discover?

    I finally understand what is going on in with Petriville:) I think your paragraph describing the city helped clarify it nicely.

    At the end, the kids' attitude towards Gina seems very cavalier towards someone who can erase their memories, and I'm wondering how they're getting away with it.

    Great revisions. Good luck moving forward!



    1. Thank you so much, Gina,
      I have started adjusting the pages and pitch to the suggestions and will work with yours too.
      All the best,

  6. Hi Carryn,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me read it. Here are some thoughts:

    Pitch: there seems to be a lot of names/characters in the second paragraph but without much context. (I thought that when you added "Gina Petri, Petriville's founder" in your pages it provided a much needed frame of reference. Maybe include that in the pitch?) Along the same lines, I like "Gina's world of deceit and malice." This part stood out for me and I feel with some more details, it could be even more intriguing. Jaya seems like an interesting character and I liked the "Cassidy's kind deeds won't go unpunished" line, but I am wondering what that refers to. Finally, you refer to "those on Earth;" having read your first 5 pages, I got the sense that there wasn't anyone left on Earth. Might be me assuming and jumping to conclusions. If there are people still on Earth, I think that's a compelling angle to pursue.

    Pages: I think your revisions have really streamlined your narrative; it flows nicely! The one part that I felt needed some tweaking still was Gina's arrival at the end. I'm not sure how to improve it, but it seemed a little forced and abrupt to me.

    Overall, great job! I think you have a really interesting premise, one that would appeal to a lot of potential readers. Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much, Michael,
      The feedback from Star, Kristin, and Gina, is consistent with yours, with slightly different views, which is great to work with.
      All the best,

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  8. Hi Carryn,

    Wow. Great job@ You've really transformed this manuscript, and you've covered a lot of ground in this revision. I know you're fighting the word limit to get everything in, so I suggest that you slow down a bit now and take the time to go back and explore some of the missing elements, some of which ended on the cutting room floor. I'd love to see the exchange with her brother brought back where he gives her a warning about how what she is about to see impacted him. That adds tension to the scene, and gives us a context for his emotions. I'd also love for the reader to know it isn't usual for a brother to go in wiht a sister--that tells us abotu the event as well as their relationship. Maybe let us know also whether she could have had her parents and why they aren't there. A line or two is all it would take, but it adds a bit of completeness to our sense of her family dynamic. We need to care about her to care with her.

    I'd also love to see a bit more of the softer side, the hopeful side of the launch and the wonder of the project from your last revision before it transitions into the horror. And I'd love to see her recognize that memory, but then react more clearly in suprise as things happen that she doesn't remember. Why doesn't she remember them? Then take your time with the buildup of her anger toward Gina. Gine feels a bit of a caricature--she's too glib and nasty, and the best villains are ones that are far more subtle and benevolent on the surface. Why would Gina show her hand like this? And why would your MC get so angry so fast? Let us see her begin to doubt, Consider letting us see her reacting differently than Gina expects her to react Gina, in turn, reacting to that strangeness and unfamiliarity. Think through the spiral of reactions on all sides--and what is the brother really feeling and doing through all of it?

    Okay, your pitch. It's intriguing, but confusing. The pitch is for an agent, and it will become the foundation for what your agent may well send to editors. These people need to know what the story is really about--it's not book cover copy designed to intrigue. Make it exciting, sure, but it also has to be informative. Put a tag line with each character that tells us who they are and puts them in context for the overall story. Consider keeping it down to about than three main named characters in a pitch of this length--the MC, the sidekick or romantic interest, and the main antagonist. Keep to the main thread of the story and avoid the subplots. You don't have to specify the end, but give us some telling details about the world, the main character's personality, wound, and the main problem with stakes and the MC's main goal. Put this in context with the strokes of a beginning, the middle, and a climax with a hint about what she will need to learn about herself or her world in order to achieve her goal.That will give everyone enough to go by. Pitches are hard, but you've already done such a great job with the ms revisions, I have every faith you'll nail the pitch as well. Hope to see this in book form someday very soon! Best of luck!


    1. Thank you so very much, Martina,
      I am so grateful for your wonderful guidance and will make sure to address your suggestions, in both the pitch and pages.
      All my best,

  9. 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.

    There are a few confusing elements to the pitch. How old is Cassidy? Is she 16 and now they are no longer safe? Who is Gina? And is pairing a common event on Petriville? And how does she know Eric and has communication with him via Earth? And dangerous events? What kind deeds has Cassidy done? And who is Gina again and what power does she truly have?

    I think there are a bunch of vague introductions/ideas/storylines here that leave me a little confused. I need something more to go off of…or maybe in this instance, less? Something more focused and concrete that establishes the core of Cassidy’s journey.

    “Cassidy Jones was five years old when her parents escaped Earth with her and her brother. They were safe in Earth’s orbit in the town of Petriville—an indestructible sphere—when the meteor impacted Earth. They were safe for the next eleven years until [insert reason here hopefully tying it to Gina].

    But Cassy won’t conform to Gina’s expectations (what expectations? Is it the pairing)? And by deceiving Gina, [something something happens because of it hopefully something Gina driven—the stakes] Neither they or those on Earth will be safe from Gina. Despite this, Cassidy won’t back down. [Finish with something strong].”

    I would’ve like a little bit more character interaction-building-delving into the mind of Cassy as she prepares herself for the VE or her fear/apprehension, what was about to happen, before we actually enter the VE itself. We never really get to know Cassy and establish ourselves in her mind before we’re given a lot of history and world-building.

    These five pages barely draw out her voice too to allow us to really immerse ourselves in this virtual world that’s reliving her past.

    The first interaction between Cassy and Gina, while most definitely displaying the animosity between the two, seemed a little forced. Again, could be because the reader hasn’t had time to acclimate to Cassy and the world but I think this could be more naturally developed into the storyline.

    Despite this, I’m curious about this indestructible sphere with the selected population. What makes them special? What made Cassy and her family special but not the extended family? Who is Gina? And what about her robots? You’ve definitely inspired questions that have me curious about the journey.

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

    1. Thank you so much, Karly,
      I so appreciate your feedback and can’t wait to work through your most helpful ideas. It all makes very much sense.
      All my best,

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