So last summer I finished writing a middle grade fantasy novel. (Middle grade is younger than "young adult" but older than "children's," generally considered to be targeting ages 8-12.) My intention
was to begin the agent search by the summer. Did a lot of legwork in that regard, but other projects
got in the way and that effort has been on hold. If I am not a total asshole, I will pick up that ball and run with it this autumn and winter.
Anyway, many moons ago I stuck a sample of the first chapter on my website:http://www.ericsanjuan.com/davrenchapterone.html
But I will also post it here. Critiques and criticism are welcome and encouraged. I'm a big boy; it's okay to say what you feel:Davren & The Sword of EvenChapter 1A BORING LIFE
Davren was not a happy boy. This should come as no surprise, for Davren was an orphan, and orphans are rarely happy.
But Davren was especially
unhappy. He wasn’t unhappy because he did not have parents, or because he was picked on by older boys, or because he lived with cruel people who beat him and starved him and locked him away. Davren was unhappy because he was bored. And nothing was more terrible to him than boredom.
His boredom was especially frustrating because he lived in the greatest city in all the realm, Calahorn, where merchants and traders and heroes and travelers from all the lands gathered to do business. Steel-eyed men from Backus-Tor and merchants from Talis, with their broad smiles and colorful clothes. Weather-beaten, scruffy travelers from the Outerlands, and stout dwarves from the Grey Mountains. Even the occasional elf or dwarrow. No doubt they had wonderful stories to tell, stories about far off lands and amazing adventures. Yet none of their adventures ever reached him. All he could do is watch as they came and went along the busy avenues of the cramped old city, doing the things Davren could only dream of doing and seeing the places he could only dream of seeing.
Even though it was a big, bustling metropolis, Davren thought Calahorn rather boring. Yes, people around him were always rushing about doing this or that –- delivering messages and carrying goods and shouting at one another over adult concerns such as the price of apples –- but all that activity didn’t fool him. The things they did were bland. Taking cloth to the shop or bringing fruits to market or whatever other boring nonsense adults did to pass the time, what interest was that to him?
“Always running around with nowhere interesting to go,” Davren would say. “Why do you suppose they bother? It can’t be very fun at all.”
So Davren spent his days doing boring chores, playing with his boring friends, bothering Grenn the boring fish salesman, and getting back to the Calahorn Home for Wayward Boys in time for his boring dinner.
Yes, Davren thought he led a horribly boring life.
It couldn’t be helped, of course. You see, Davren was not yet a grown man. While he thought himself rather brave, even a bit dashing, he was only a boy of eleven. Not only did most adults refuse to take his desire for adventure seriously, Mister Coppernose at the Home For Wayward Boys wouldn’t even let him venture outside the city on his own. “I’m tasked with keepin’ you lads safe,” he’d say in that fat way he spoke, “and safe if what you’ll be. That means you stay near home!”
What a bore!
It’s not that Mister Coppernose was a bad man. In truth, he was quite good to Davren and the other boys. Maybe too good. He kept them out of trouble and out of danger. Adults agreed this was a good thing, but not Davren. Just once in his life he’d like to have a bit of trouble. He had never been further than Old Trumpy’s Tavern, and that was not far at all. It was only two blocks from West Park, and that was across the street from the Home for Wayward Boys. So as you can see, Davren’s world was a rather small one. Some day, he was sure, his fortunes would change.
That day would be today. Davren would soon be having the adventures he dreamed about.
Well, not exactly
the adventures he dreamed about ...
Davren was sitting in West Park, chewing on green apples and minding his own business –- he was thinking about seeing if Grenn would let him wrap fish for the afternoon -- when he heard a commotion. Commotion was common enough in Calahorn, most of it the boring sort you get when too many people are crammed into too small a space, but this sounded like the interesting kind of commotion. Someone was crying for help! That sounded much better than wrapping fish. Davren decided to take a look.
The cries were coming from a stand of trees in a deep part of the park. No one knew West Park better than he did. He had had plenty of lazy Saturday afternoons to learn every branch and bush. Davren crept as close as he could to the source of the cries, ducking behind trees and under the brush. When he got close he hid beneath a thick buckberry bush. What he saw startled him. Two sour looking men were tugging and pulling at a young girl!
A very pretty
young girl, Davren thought, though he would not dare say that out loud.
The men were trying to toss her into a wagon. She struggled, putting up a terrific fight. She looked pretty tough for her size, but she was still just a kid fighting adults. Davren knew they would win in the end.
For a moment he watched, unsure of what to do. These things were better left to adults, after all, and he was just a boy. Eleven is pretty old, but not that
old. Still, just sitting there watching did not feel right to him. In fact it felt pretty dreadful. No, Davren decided, he couldn’t stand by and watch this happen. He knew he had to do something -- and so that’s exactly what he did. He crawled out from beneath the buckberry bush, stepped into the clearing, and put on his bravest face.
“Hey!” Davren yelled. “Leave her alone! She’s just a little girl!” Davren could be quite loud when he wanted to, and he fancied himself menacing for an eleven-year-old. He glared and yelled again. “Stop it!”
The two men paused for a moment, though they kept a firm grip on the girl’s arms, and looked at the boy who had so rudely interrupted their crime. They did not appear scared. In fact, rather than squeak in fear they laughed.
“Har har! Look here, it’s a boy! A boy who thinks he’s a hero, right? What a hoot!” The smaller of the two was pointing at Davren. He had a terrible scar on his forehead, a rugged looking neck-beard and wiry arms. “Hey Skar, maybe we might be needin’ to run soon, eh, what with this here boy tellin’ us to stop and all. Don’t want him to put a stop to us and such, right?” He snickered.
The other man laughed too, but his laugh was angrier than the smaller man’s. Rougher. He looked like the sort of man who had done murder. Davren began to think he had made a mistake. Even the girl stopped struggling for a moment, surprised at the intrusion.
“Well then, Mal,” the rough looking man said, “it looks like we might have’ta take a’ extra package with us, if you know what I’m gettin’ at.”
“That I do,” Mal said.
Like lightning the larger of the two ruffians, the man named Skar, scooped up the girl and tossed her into a sack. While Davren watched in horror, the thug dragged her to the side of the clearing and tossed the sack –- girl and all – into the wagon. Skar covered her up with a heavy blanket and held her down.Oh no!
Davren thought. I don’t think this was a good idea!
He was right. It wasn’t a good idea. Davren did not yet know it, but Skar and Mal were not simply bad men, they were absolutely dreadful. Crossing their path would change his life forever. Yet none of these things crossed his mind. Little other than panic crossed his mind, but by then it was too late. Before he could think or flee or fight back or cry for help, Mal jumped at him.
He felt a great thump on his head, and blackness took him.