Welcome 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.
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.
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.
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.
Yvonne 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.
Yvonne 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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