Extract 002: The Dreamt Child by Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne newWelcome to Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group and the first novel extract submitted for this blog (yesterday’s was a replay of a Red Pen Critique). 🙂 This 837-word extract is by epic fantasy novelist Yvonne Hertzberger. Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this story and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it. Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!

The Dreamt Child: Book Three of Earth’s Pendulum

Synopsis: Liannis is the goddess Earth’s seer and servant. In this excerpt she has been living alone with a horse and kestrel, with whom she can ‘mind-speak’ for the entire winter – recovering from the trials of the past two years (Book Two). Merrist, her peg-legged servant, with Earth’s help, has located her and now must inform her she must to return to society and to her duties.

Feedback sought: This is the opening chapter for the third book in the trilogy. Does it stand alone as an opener? Does it give enough information to hold the reader? The italics denote the ‘mindspeak’ between Liannis and the horse and kestrel. Any further comments welcome.

Extract:

SPRING

Kira flew in excited circles overhead to get Liannis’ attention, emitting such a series of anxious klees and chirrups as she had ever heard from her. Liannis opened her inner senses.

Man comes! Wooden leg! Wooden leg comes on horse!

Liannis had gone deeper into the forest in search of early greens and stood, bent over a patch of cress at the edge of the stream, where I had been getting my water. The snows had almost all melted, leaving only a few dirty patches under the evergreens where the sun could not penetrate. Merrist! It had to be.

Wooden leg was the name Kira had given him. She did this with all people. She could not understand names and referred to everyone by some identifying feature.

Liannis head came up in alarm, resulting in a painful crack as it met with an overhanging tree limb. She fell into the water with a splash and watched her precious harvest float downstream. She pulled herself out by the same offending branch that had caused her mishap and wrung out her cloak and the hem of her gown as best she could, silently cursing herself for her clumsiness.

She looked up at Kira. Are you certain, little one? Where is he now?

Wooden leg comes! On big horse. Come! Come see!

Part of Liannis wanted to hide. She had grown accustomed to the rhythm of life alone in the forest, with only Cloud and Kira for company. It demanded little of her, only the day to day practicalities of snaring rabbits for meat, gathering what greens she could find to supplement the meagre provisions she had brought with her and caring for Cloud. Kira hunted her own food. Liannis had found a measure of contentment here, away from the reminders of the death of her father or the demands of her family and friends … or the goddess, Earth.

She mused that perhaps her fall into the water was the goddess’ way of making sure she returned to the cabin quickly.

Answering some call she had not sensed, Cloud appeared between the trees. Go back now? Need ride?

Liannis gave up on the idea of running. The cold from the icy water had chilled her skin and she began to shiver. She needed a change of clothes, and soon. Thank you Cloud. Yes, I need to get back to the cabin.

Why are you wet?

Because I fell in the stream.

Hmph.

The disdain in Cloud’s tone pricked her. Yes, she had been careless to let herself be caught unprepared. But Cloud was a horse. She did not need to be chided by a horse.

Just get down so I can climb on. And hurry, I am freezing.

Chagrined by the rebuke, Cloud hurried to obey, and Liannis climbed onto her back. Ever since they had been isolated here Liannis had not bridled her or used a saddle. There was no one here to question how she controlled a horse.

Kira had flown off when Cloud appeared and now returned. Wooden leg close to cabin. Come!

Thank you, little one. You may show yourself to him. It will let him know that I am coming.

I go. The little kestrel hurried away,

Liannis had no time to sort out how she felt about being found, or about seeing Merrist again. She knew it meant that her respite had ended. Was she ready? Just as she approached the last trees that sheltered her from view she heard his voice.

“Kira? Is that you?”

Kira’s excited answering klees left no doubt.

“It is you. I have found you. Where is Liannis? She must be near. There is a fire in the hearth. I see smoke. Is she coming?”

The eagerness in his voice awakened something in Liannis that had lain unacknowledged all winter. She no longer wondered if she ought to flee. She urged Cloud into the small clearing. “Merrist! How did you find me?”

Merrist turned to meet her eyes. “Liannis! At last!.” He stumped in her direction.

Liannis slid off Cloud’s back so they stood face to face, each at a loss for words.

“How did you find me?” Liannis asked again when she found her voice.

A puzzled look came over his face. He opened his hands wide. “I do not know. I left as soon as the snows had melted enough to pass. I had to, though I could not tell you how I knew. I had no idea where to begin. And every time I chose a different direction, Warrior refused to budge so I finally gave him his head and here I am.” The last words brought the familiar grin that made him so dear to her. He threw his arms wide in triumph, his mission accomplished.

At her answering grin the shyness fell away and he enveloped her in a great hug. Just as quickly he drew back, taking in her wet attire.

“Liannis, you are soaked! You need dry clothes!” He grasped her hand and pulled her, laughing, into the cabin.

*

My comments

You had me at ‘Kira flew’! 🙂 Seriously… I do have a few comments (as you would expect), although I won’t go into as much detail as I would on the red pen critique or there’d be little left for others to say. 🙂

  • The initial sentence implies it’s going to be a third-person story from Kira’s or Liannis’ point of view so I was a little confused when ‘I’ appeared.
  • I loved the ‘Man comes!’ line, although I wondered if it should be in speech marks or italics?
  • I invariably pick up phrases like ‘head came up in alarm’ to see if there’s a way of avoiding ‘in alarm’ because we want to be shown why her head came up, rather than told.
  • I did feel sorry for Liannis when she lost her harvest.
  • I think ‘day to day’ (and later ‘face to face’) should be hyphenated, and commas after ‘chilled her skin’ and ‘Thank you’… and later ‘At her answering grin’?
  • Should ‘Yes, she had been…’ and ‘But Cloud…’ be one sentence separated by a comma?
  • The comma after ‘The little kestrel hurried away’ should be a full-stop (period).
  • There’s a good mix of long / short sentences helping the pacing of the story.
  • ‘He stumped in her direction’ – I love ‘stumped’ and him throwing his arms wide.
  • Great ending. I had thought there’d be unease between them, given his mission, but so glad there isn’t, although that means we don’t have a dilemma yet, which I think we should in a first chapter.
  • I don’t read or write fantasy but the description sounds authentic to me, although not having read the first two books and had I not read the synopsis, I could have done with an explanation as to who everyone was. It’s a very short chapter so without info. dumping at the beginning, you could put in some more detail. Actually I read the synopsis afterwards (so I didn’t know anything) and hadn’t realised that Merrist was a name when first mentioned – I took it for a form of merriment!

Thank you, Yvonne.

**

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is married with two grown children, (one married) and resides quietly in Stratford, Ontario with her spouse, Mark in a 130 year old, tiny, brick cottage, where she plans to live out her retirement. She calls herself a jill-of-all-trades and a late bloomer. Her many past paid jobs included banking, day care, residential care for challenged children, hairdressing (her favourite) retail, and customer service. She enjoys gardening, singing, the theatre, decorating and socializing with friends and family.

Back From Chaos - smallYvonne is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, first with a B.A. in psychology, then and Hon. B.A. Sociology and stopped ½ a thesis short of an M.A. in Sociology. She has always been an avid student of human behaviour. This is what gives her the insights she uses to develop the characters in her writing.

Through KEYvonne came to writing late in life, hence the label ‘late bloomer’.  Her first Fantasy novel “Back From Chaos: Book One of Earth’s Pendulum” was published in 2009. The second volume in the planned trilogy “Through Kestrel’s Eyes” is available currently and the third book in the trilogy “The Dreamt Child” is pending.

Her website / blog: http://yvonnehertzberger.com.

***

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10 thoughts on “Extract 002: The Dreamt Child by Yvonne Hertzberger

    • Frankly, Yvonne Herzberger’s genre is not my scene at all. However, in an attempt to be totally objective, here goes: does this opening for another book in the series grab the reader’s attention? Yes, I think so – and the characters are well drawn. At the end of the passage, a reader would want to continue with the story to find out what will happen next. I liked the characterisations of Kira and Cloud and their ‘voices’ came over clearly. Nice one, Yvonne.

      • Thank you. I appreciate your response, especially when Fantasy is not your cup of tea. If my work comes through even to those who would not normally read it that says something. It means I am on the right track.

  1. Hi, Yvonne,
    I know how hard it is to make the beginning of Book 3 make sense to a person who’s just now coming into the story. I’m struggling with that myself — a lot — with my current WIP. However, I think you’ve done a good job here. I don’t feel lost, and I do feel like I’d like to read further to learn more.

    I agree with many of the things Morgen said so I won’t parrot her. Here are my own contributions:

    In the first sentence, Kira flies overhead “to attract Liannis’s attention” (and I do believe that “s” after the apostrophe should be added — as I understand it, the rule nowadays is that we should spell possessives of words/names that end in an “s” the way we pronounce them) but we’re in Liannis’s POV, and she wouldn’t know Kira’s purpose. The reader will understand exactly what you mean if you just say “Kira flew in excited circles overhead, emitting such a series of anxious klees…” But then you’d need to change the pronoun “she” to the character’s name: “… and chirrups as Lianna had ever heard from her.”

    And speaking of apostropes, you need one where Liannis’s head comes up in alarm. But as Morgen said, “in alarm” could be cut in favor of showing us her alarm. Maybe, “Hearing the kestrel’s cry, Liannis’s heart leapt and she lifted her head.” Or some such a thing.

    Maybe, when Liannis gets on Cloud, instead of “had not bridled her or used a saddle” you could trim a word or two and say “had not bridled or saddled her.”

    I wonder if the sentence “Liannis had no time to sort out how she felt about being found, or about seeing Merrist again” is necessary. I think the flow is better without this information. Instead maybe start that paragraph “Merrist’s arrival meant her respite had ended.”

    In the sentence that starts, “A puzzled look came over his face.” – I suggest following that sentence with, “I do not know. As soon as the snows had melted enough to pass, I felt compelled to go, though I could not tell you why.” And I think the last sentence in that paragraph should be broken up a bit: “And every time I chose a different direction, Warrior refused to budge. I finally gave him his head. And here I am.” I also think it might read better if you have him open his arms wide in triumph (like Morgen, I like this gesture) before the sentence “And here I am.” Seems to fit better there.

    All suggestions are of the IMHO variety — I would not be the least bit offended if you rejected every one of them. This is a good opening, and I appreciate the opportunity to read it.

  2. I really enjoyed this opener and felt I could have enjoyed carrying on reading it because I quickly became engrossed in the story. There was enough description to fir my imagination of the setting and characters. I liked the names used and loved how the mind speak was in italics to represent the conversations. great idea and a well told introduction. I will be looking for your other books Yvonne and adding them to my wish list for when I start buying books again. Lovely. 🙂

    • Wow! Thank you so much. It’s good to get feedback in this solitary occupation. I was worried that some would object to the ‘archaic’ language, like not using contractions. I need to continue that as the other two books are written that way. I had a critic once tell me I ought to use modern colloquial speech patterns so I’m glad no one here has said that.

  3. Just a general comment. Some have mentioned punctuation. It has always been a challenge for me as I missed that year in school. (skipped a grade) The other issue with it is that the rules vary from country to country, especially with regard to commas. I try to stick with Canadian English, which is close to British but not exactly the same. So, DO keep pointing them out so I can check, but I won’t promise to always change them. I have to stay consistent. 🙂

  4. I tend to put commas where the reader would breathe (and always before ‘but’ – my editor told me that one!) so if you read your work out loud (which I’d recommend anyway as it’s a great way of spotting mistakes) that may help. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people when putting titles / references in speech marks (double inverted commas – I always use single for that and double for speech, because they’re speech marks! – as long as they’re different whichever way you use them) they put the comma before the closing single / double inverted comma, but it’s not dialogue so it shouldn’t have the comma inside, but just after / outside.

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