Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Two (MG Fiction) #8

TITLE: Dream-Seer
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Samantha Greer dug her fingernails into her wrist, anything to keep from falling asleep on the school bus. Not here. Not now. Every time she closed her eyes the dream came and John died. Every time she awoke in a cold sweat calling his name.

Jasmin leaned across the aisle. "Do you think they'll have tapestries and surcoats at the exhibit?" She fingered the hand-woven shawl wrapped around her neck, the one she'd designed herself.

Sam nodded. "The website showed lots of cool stuff. Some embroidery, too."

Amy smiled as she peered around Jasmin. "You should be our tour guide. I bet you know everything medieval, don't you?"

Sam bit her lip. She knew everything you could read in books, plus a bunch of stuff she couldn't share. She knew the chalky feel of a battlement crumbling beneath her fingers, the heat of an arrow slicing her shoulder, the stench of a dungeon after a cold rain.

"Yeah, everything," she mumbled as she turned toward the window.

Outside the bus, stubbly fields and billboards whizzed past. Her head nodded and her eyes closed, the hum of tires against the highway lulling her asleep like a softly strummed harp.


Sam peered over the crumbling stone wall, her fingers clutching wet moss. Above her, the dark castle loomed. The Silver Knight paced its battlements, moonlight glinting off his armor as the silver orb broke from behind black clouds. Men with crossbows stood watch by the tower, while skeleton trees creaked in the wind.

John slipped from one shadow to the next as he crept toward the castle’s secret back gate.

You can make it! You have to make it . . . Sam held her breath. She cringed as a twig snapped beneath John’s foot. She froze when the Silver Knight turned dark eyes toward her. An eerie howl pierced the night, and shouts erupted from the tower.

“Run!” John sprinted down the hill as arrows rained from the castle walls.

Sam leapt over a rotten log and bolted into the forest. Thorny brambles clutched at her pants as terror clutched at her heart. If the Silver Knight caught her, she would never save Galwyn, never get home, never see her family again.

A horn sounded, and waves of armored men swept out of the castle gates.

No! We can’t . . . She tripped over a tree root, the ground knocking the breath out of her.

Strong hands pulled her to her feet. “Hurry, Samantha!” John cried. “We must gain the river before they let loose the dogs.”

A mournful baying jarred Sam to her senses. White, shining hounds with blood red ears and fiery eyes raced across the midnight sky. They weren’t the castle’s dogs, but the ghost-like hounds John couldn’t see or hear, the ones that always foretold death and doom.

She stumbled toward the creek bed, an arrow whizzing past her shoulder. John pitched forward, the arrow lodged in his back.

“John!” Sam screamed, waking with a jolt.


  1. I am not a big fan of starting with a dream but it is very well written. It sounded a little older than MG, more YA to me.

  2. I like both of these pieces. They are both interesting and well written. My issue is that the first piece immediately drops into a dream type sequence. Consider getting us into the exhibit and then let artifacts trigger brief memories in Sam, instead of the straight out dream sequence.

    Because of the name, Dream Seer, I do expect some visions to occur. But it might be better to get farther into the story before one comes along.

    I also question if a seer would be looking forward in time, or backward in time. That raises the question, of when this story is really set, current or past? Is Sam envisioning her future life or her past life?

  3. Cool beginning. I actually think if you cut the two sentences about the dream it would keep things more mysterious and we'd wonder why she didn't want to fall asleep. John and death could come later after we've worried for a while.
    Then I like the details about tapestries mending with the "stuff she couldn't share"

    Interesting beginning. I do wonder what's going to happen.

  4. I liked this a lot. I found myself skimming along, eager to get to the next thing. The part that hooked me was the chalky feel of battlement.

    Nitpicks only: one thing that confused me was that I thought when Sam was " her senses," that she was waking up--but that didn't happen for a couple of paragraphs. And if more readers agree--I'd be cautious about "silver orb" when "full moon" would do. I think you may be trying to avoid a repeat of moon. But then you end up with a repeat of silver.

    I like the apparent time-travel element. I'd read more!

  5. Your first line hooked me! I wondered: Why does Sam have to stay awake on the bus? What does she have to be prepared for?

    Yet when you jump into the next part, I found myself wanting you to stay with your opening scene. Slow down. You hooked us in the first paragraph, let us stay there and be curious. Set up the conflicts with Amy and Jasmin. Give us a hint about what Sam wants and desires.

  6. I'm interested enough to want to read more, to see what is going on. Why they're on the bus, where they're going, what is happening in the dream sequence etc.

    Dreams/flashbacks are generally frowned on in the first chapter.

    Amy smiled as she peered around Jasmin.
    Who/what is Jasmin?

    Sam is obviously traumatized by John's death, but I'm not. I don't know enough about him to care one way or another. If the reader is supposed to care about his death, we need to get to know him better before he dies.

  7. The concept of a modern day Samantha having vivid dreams or a simultaneous life in a medieval past is a great hook. The medieval sequence has some great action and sense of urgency.

    Now lets talk about some things that can be polished.

    While the concept is a great hook. I feel like the way the opening scene unfolds is a bit heavy handed. For example, it's rather uncanny that Samantha dreams or has an alternate life in the medieval past and she and her classmates are on their way to visit a medieval museum exhibit. But at the same time this hooked me: "She knew everything you could read in books, plus a bunch of stuff she couldn't share. She knew the chalky feel of a battlement crumbling beneath her fingers, the heat of an arrow slicing her shoulder, the stench of a dungeon after a cold rain." Perhaps you can find another way of setting this up?

    This is more of an observation, rather than something you necessarily have to fix. Samantha isn't really the character that drives these two opening scenes. In the bus scene, she's fighting the dreams, but it's Jasmin and Amy that are feeding information to the reader about what they're doing and where they're going. And then in the medieval scene it's the chaos around Samantha that's moving the story forward and the death of John. As you move forward in the story, make sure that Samantha develops into a more active role. That she doesn't just have things happen to her, but that she's trying to make things happen.

    I hope this helps. Happy writing!