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First Page: Tentative- The Wizard and Her Proxy

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Cyprus Speaker, Eldest Wizard of the city-state Archet, left his staff leaning in the hall before entering the blank-walled Room. He completed the ritual of calming the mind, bringing his palms together above his head and then slowly down until they were at his chest. His elbows and head formed the three corners of the Open Triangle that was to remind him of the link between hands and mind. He lowered his arms to his sides and began.

“Awake,” he said, extending his open hands and bringing them upward.

“Awakened,” replied the Room.

“Interface. Visual.” He began a series of complex hand motions in response to the images the room began to show him.

He placed his left hand before his face and spread his fingers and the Room showed him a map of Archet. The dark green of the wood filled the borders of the map, and inside lay fields, pastures and little villages. Farther on, near the center on a rise in the land lay the outline of the city walls, and within them the houses and markets of the city dwellers. Cyprus Speaker gestured to the concrete castle at the heart of the city and spread his fingers wide again, and the room showed him a picture of the inside of the castle. He closed two fingers over the image of a room, the same blank-walled Room where he stood.

He cupped that image in one hand and with the other swept the rest of the pictures away. With delicate and precise motions he called other images—people and places, tools and machines, representations of the farms and industries of Archet, symbols and words from languages long forgotten.

Although he could not see it in the blank Room, while he worked the sun tipped from its place overhead and touched the distant treetops.

Finally, he lowered his hands to his side and stood silent for a moment, calming himself again.

“Query. Alnode spross ess,” said the wizard, lowering his hands again as he spoke the secret, magic words.

“Ready,” said the Room.

“Why is this Room losing its function?” asked Cyprus Speaker.

“Thinking.” The Room thought for four seconds. “The rate at which this Room loses function is directly equivalent to the rate at which its power source fades.”

Cyprus Speaker had been Eldest Wizard for fifteen years, and for forty before that he had worked within the Room. In all that time he had never strayed from the rules of use that governed it, but he did so now.

“Without you our land will wither! Who will bring rain in drought? Who will show us where to dig the mines or how to construct the forges? When another plague comes, who will cure it without you?” His voice lost its clarity and became harsh with fear. He was thinking particularly of a childhood memory of his bondslave, Tisha, and watching her return to health within a day of receiving medicine from the great wizards.

“Unable to comply,” said the Room.

The wizard calmed himself again. “Further query. How long can this Room continue to provide information?”

“Thinking. Approximately two hundred and seventy days from this day.”

Cyprus Speaker bowed his head and his shoulders stooped.

“How can the flow of information be restored?” he asked.

“Thinking,” said the room.

No sound came from beyond the walls, and no sound came from the room as it thought or the wizard as he waited. He waited many minutes.

“Answer available,” said the room, “visual form, statistical form, auditory form.”

“Provide,” said the wizard.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

10 Comments

  1. Lily
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 04:45:14

    This is really interesting because it’s both really cool and has some of my personal major pet peeves.

    Firstly the cool things:
    -I love the combination of magic and technology. So far, my impression is it’s old technology that is no longer understood as such, but as magic – anywhere close? That’s a really cool premise, right there. I also like the problem of the novel, the central issue to overcome.

    - Is the character the protagonist? I really hope he is because that feels actually kind of rare to have an already powerful person with a very high position and knowledge as someone to solve a crisis. If not… is this a prologue?

    Things I would question a little bit:
    - I have an issue with sequences in books that feel in the wrong medium. Here especially the beginning sequence with images and handmotions – that’s a film sequence, slightly reminiscent of Minority Report and similar. We would get a LOT more out of seeing it in film than in writing. Now, these can’t always be avoided, sometimes it’s impossible to only use situations and circumstances that are more interesting in text form than they would be in a movie, but I wouldn’t start the novel out with one.

    - While I love the concept and we learn a lot about the verse in that one short page I do kind of question the starting point. It feels inbetween – like did something interesting happen that prompted him to ask this question now? Why now? Or what is he going to do now that he knows? I feel like either would be more interesting – and then he could go into this sequence or into a similar one asking if the predictions are still the same.
    If it’s a prologue, it makes more sense, but not to beat a dead horse, do you need one?

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  2. SAO
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 05:02:46

    I was really thrown by the name. It didn’t help that my husband is, as I write this, on a plane to Cyprus. But we’ve vacationed there, so to me, the name brings up vivid images of beaches, ancient ruins, mountain monasteries and great wine. Adding to it the last name Speaker, which could be a title, my first impression was that he was a Speaker of (parliament?) in Cyprus. So, the first few words were confusing to me. Cyrus (no P) is a name I know.

    Fantasy isn’t my thing, but I was a bit bored by the arm movements. I didn’t know what Cy was trying to accomplish. My first impression was exercise combined with a video game. I probably would have been interested in watching him accomplish something rather than just “work.” Rather than telling us about Tisha, and that the room can fix droughts, why not show us?

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  3. CG
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 06:16:31

    I love this premise and while I’m not really a big fantasy reader I would totally pick this up. Kinda reminds me of the Broken Empire series, which I picked up on a whim at the library and devoured and has left me hungering for MOAR. As it stands this is well written and I understood what was going on, but I agree that you don’t necessarily need to start here. When/how did your protagonist discover the tech/magic was losing power? If it was in the middle of a more active scene, that might be a better place to begin. Maybe the tech fails at a really critical time; showing that unfold and its effects would ramp up the tension and urgency. Hope you let us know when/if this is out because I would totally purchase even if you stick with this beginning.

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  4. Lynne Connolly
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 07:37:26

    It’s a bit Star Trek! Actually reminds me also of “Stairway to Heaven” aka “A Matter of Life and Death,” but mostly Star Trek, of civilisations that don’t understand the bit of advanced tech their ancestors left behind. Rodenderry liked that trope, used it a few times. And Anne McAffrey’s Pern books. They’re either going to restore the Big Bad, or they’ll discover they don’t need the crutch, yes? And it’s a classic Quest story, so the conflicts will be mostly external.
    Anyway, I read it through, but it’s a setup scene, and to be honest, as the average reader, I don’t care right now. But it’s short enough so that I’d read more, hoping that something would happen soon. I’m a romance reader. I read for the characters far more than the situations, so I’d hope for some internal conflict soon.
    Grammar etc looks fine for a first. Is the book called Tentative, or is this a tentative first scene?

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  5. SAO
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 07:42:42

    Oh, I totally agree with CG. She nailed what’s missing here. Start with a scene where the Wizard is struggling or failing to do something that should otherwise work. Then we’d get urgency, in his reactions (does he hide the problem to seem more powerful? Does he admit a problem, that he can’t do as much as he should do? etc) we get his character.

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  6. Mary
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 09:39:17

    I agree that this is an intriguing concept; it reminds me of Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series.
    My only complaint is that you use the phrase “blank-walled” or “blank” to describe the Room three times in one page. Which is kind of a lot. Everything else seems good in terms of writing, etc.

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  7. Author
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 09:56:52

    Thanks for the feedback. This is still very much a work in progress, and I’m going to use some of your suggestions, particularly making the first sequence and the discovery of the power problem happen in the middle of a more active scene.

    When I first wrote this, it was a prologue, and this wizard is not the protagonist. While he’s still not the main character, he has become a lot more important than I originally intended, and it makes sense to build his character more in this intro scene. Also, I’m now spelling his name Cypress, like the tree, not the vacation spot. But in any case, his name is something I’m willing to change if it doesn’t work.

    The hand motions are a bit unwieldy in prose. Maybe if the interface was more voice activated, or even mind activated, with only a few key hand motions? Have any of you read Sabriel, by Garth Nix? Maybe something more like that?

    I’m glad it has a Star Trek vibe as well as an old-fallen-civilization vibe. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and the Room has some echoes of the holodeck. I’m also a medieval lit student, and I’m fascinated by the fall of Rome and how that affected European culture in the Middle Ages. I’m modeling this setting on the fall of Rome, if Rome was the United Federation of Planets. I also like the idea of playing with genre a bit and writing a scifi novel in which the characters think it’s a fantasy world.

    It is not called Tentative. The title, The Wizard and her Proxy, is tentative. And this is a long way from publication, but if it ever happens, I will try to let you know.

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  8. cleo
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 14:44:41

    I’m intrigued – I’d keep reading. And I’m totally your audience. I also thought of Sharon Shinn and the holodeck. Plus Orson Scott Card’s Worthing Saga.

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  9. Jamie Beck
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 18:55:25

    First, thanks for sharing your work with us and opening yourself up to comments. It takes courage, but we all learn from it, too.

    Second, I agree with everyone that the premise is interesting/intriguing. I’m curious to know more about this Room and its failing power source. However, like others, I also agree that the story starts in the wrong place, especially because this scene lacks real action. CG, however, makes an excellent suggestion for fixing the problem. After reading your notes, I see the wizard is not the protag. I think it is highly unusual for a story not to open with the protagonist in the first scene (and probably from his/her/its POV).

    Finally, two little notes. There are four places where you didn’t capitalize “room” although it would seem you should (second full paragraph, “and the room showed”, and then again in the dialogue tags toward the end of the passage, and in a late narrative section, “no sound came from the room”). Also, you may want to consider editing/tightening some of your narrative. For example, the passage you’ve written “Cyprus Speaker had been Eldest Wizard for fifteen years, and for forty before that he had worked within the Room. In all that time he had never strayed from the rules of use that governed it, but he did so now.” might be smoothed out to read along these lines: CS reflected on the half-century he’d spent working in the Room, the past fifteen of which he’d presided as Eldest Wizard. Never had he breached its rules of governance – until now. Of course, that’s just a suggestion. Everyone has a unique writing voice and I don’t mean to impose mine. I just wanted to give an example of how you can eliminate extra words to improve the pace of narrative.

    Hope this is helpful. Take it with a grain of salt, as everything is very subjective. Good luck!!

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  10. Vuir
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:35:26

    I loved the title. It’s why I clicked the link to read the rest of the First Page.

    ReplyReply

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