Monday, December 17, 2012

1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Kelly Rev 2

Christine Kelly
YA urban fantasy

Rosaleen pushed her violin case against the rehearsal room door and stepped inside. She stumbled against a music stand, setting it rocking. A boy thumped a melodramatic chord on his bass. Laughter rippled through the aisles.

She slunk to her seat, noticing she had sliced her palm on the music stand. A drop of bright blood had fallen on her second favorite pair of black cowboy boots. Excellent, she thought, squeezing the cut. She'd get gangrene and have to have her hand amputated. It would be the perfect excuse to skip Philadelphia Charter School's spring concert. Music was dead to her anyway.

She glanced sideways at her neighbor's sheet music. Jenn slid a folder to block the pages. "Late again," Jenn said. "You even practice this week?" She looked across the room and smirked. "Check out Heather."

Rosaleen's childhood friend was waving energetically from behind her harp's ornate soundboard. Rosaleen made a half wave in return and Heather beamed. She drew her hand across the harp strings.

Rosaleen steeled herself. Each harp note sparked a painful double helix of oranges and reds across her vision. She massaged her temples. The recurring headaches didn't make sense. But hello--good reason to persuade Dad she should drop violin?

"Oooh, you made her day," Jenn said. "Now let's pretend we totally love her solo."

"We will love it," Rosaleen said softly. So what if Heather was into granny stuff? Why should Jenn care?"

Jenn looked surprised then tapped Rosaleen's shoulder with her bow, leaving a smudge of white rosin. "We're all going to the coffee shop after practice. Jonathan will meet us, of course."

Rosaleen arranged her face into a bland mask. "Got stuff to do" Meaning: stuff yourself. And take my lying, cheating ex boyfriend with you.

Jenn flicked the powder off Rosaleen's sweater, snagging a thread. Her eyes narrowed. "Daddy back yet? You need to nail down our concert tix."

Rosaleen flushed. "You'll get your comps. You know Dad has connections with pretty much everyone touring Philly."

Jenn pushed her face toward Rosaleen. "So get on the stick. I told you what we wanted."

"And I told you my father would handle it. Front row seats as usual." The buzz in her head had started again. She closed her eyes. Maybe it wasn't the sound of instruments that caused her weird headaches. Maybe it was the yapping from Jenn and her snooty orchestra clique. Sucking up meant a part-time job for her father and free tuition for her. But also meant keeping her own mouth buttoned. Controlling her inner Rosaleen--whatever it may be--may never be.

"I said, when's daddy returning?" Jenn asked irately. "I need some work done on my violin." She tapped a manicured nail on a tiny scratch on the soundboard.

The conductor rapped his baton on his music stand and pointed it at Rosaleen. Face burning, she grabbed her violin. Dad, where the hell are you?

. . . . . . . . .

Rosaleen dropped her violin case on the kitchen counter and let her backpack fall onto the worn linoleum floor. She pulled up a chair, propping her boots on the recyclables bin. Remnants from last night's Philly cheesesteaks tumbled over a clutter of smelly take-out containers.

The phone rang. "Simone O'Reilly?"

Rosaleen pinched her nostrils. "Wrong number."

"Is Simone about?"

"I said, no Simone here." Her finger hovered over the disconnect button. How many collection calls had she shielded Mom from this week?

"I know 'tis ye, Rosaleen." The woman's soft Irish brogue turned hard. "Put your mother on. It's Brigit from Cnoc Feeorin."

Rosaleen eyed the phone, surprised. As far as she knew, her parents had broken all contact with Dad's Irish godmother. "Brigit? I don't think Mom wants to talk to you."

"Tell her your father is on his way here."

Rosaleen white knuckled the receiver. "You talked to him? Where is he? Is he okay? We haven't heard anything for---." She looked at the wall clock. For 26 days and about 12 hours.

Music played faintly behind Brigit. The phone faded then hummed back to life.

"Never mind the chatter. Tell Simone I expect you straight away. You can have your old bedroom above the pub."

"But Dad never said he was visiting you!" A swirl of colors signaled the beginning of another migraine. Rosaleen wedged the phone on her shoulder and rubbed her temples. "Is he still with a client? Can't you tell him to come home?" Her voice had gone small.

"It's best ye come here."

"Why?" A burst of static almost made her drop the phone. "Brigit, you there?"

"I have no time for this." Brigit's voice was faint. "Pass on my message."

"Wait! My school won't be done for a couple weeks. And the twins—have you forgotten them?" Rosaleen straightened and blew a paint flake off her thumb. Serve Dad right to be ignored for a while---just like he was doing to them. He could hit speed dial, couldn't he?

"There is a school here, Rosaleen. Your father needs you, so make haste." The line buzzed. Brigit had hung up.

Rosaleen slid her hand under her sleeve and pushed her fingers under her woven leather bracelet, a gift from Dad. He was the only one who had her back, but even he never noticed the unhealed sores around her wrist. The oozing red marks created an exact pattern of the bracelet's Celtic design. She snapped the bracelet hard, stifling a moan.

Her mom shuffled into the kitchen, a faded bathrobe tied loosely. Dark auburn hair hung in oily waves along her thin neck.

Rosaleen fanned herself with her hand. "Don't you take showers anymore?"

Her mom flushed. "I thought I heard you say 'dad'."

"Shouldn't I? Just because he abandoned us doesn't mean he doesn't exist." She eyed her mom. Wait for it, wait for it.

"He would never!" Her mom's red-rimmed eyes went scary wild. "He's with a client! You know how he gets when he's repairing their instruments. He loses track of time." She grabbed an unwashed glass from the sink and went to the freezer to fill it with ice.

Rosaleen's mouth tightened. "Ever wonder if he could be hanging out with a client's groupies? Even classical musicians have them, not to mention the rockers. I mean, look at you."

There was no response except for the slow, steady pour of whiskey slipping into her mother's glass. Rosaleen slumped. Resentment at her life was turning her into a Jenn monster.

"Sorry, sorry. I know he wouldn't dump us," she said." Or her, his favorite? "That was Brigit on the phone. Yeah, Irish Brigit. She says we need to get over there 'cause Dad's coming to the pub and needs us."

Her mother swirled around. "She said that?"

"But when I tried to get her to tell me what's going on, she hung up. Guess being a million years old cuts you some slack. Still, she was massive rude. What was that about?" Rosaleen crossed her arms and stared at her mom. "Something happened on Dad's and my last visit to Brigit didn't it? Is that why he wouldn't tell us he was going there?"

Her mom looked away. A half memory moved through Rosaleen's consciousness. So far she had been successful at quarantining her worries about Dad. Now fear heaved up like an abscess rising from a ring of pus.

Sleet rattled the window in the tiny bedroom above Brigit's Irish pub. Roiseen grabbed her fourth-favorite pair of cowboy boots, pulled on black jeans over her pajama bottoms and shivered into two layers of sweaters, her nose cold as a healthy Irish Setter's. She tiptoed to her mother's room. Her mom lay sideways across the dingy blankets, mouth slightly open. Drool crusted her cheek.

Roiseen took the corner of a blanket and yanked until she had enough to cover her mother's shoulders. She fumbled for another blanket to drape her Mom's bare feet. Her boot heel connected with an empty Bushmill's whiskey bottle. It spun then stopped, pointing at her mother. A bitter smile touched Roiseen's face. She had no intention of kissing Mom. Stale whiskey breath was so not cool.


  1. Hi!
    I think you need to make your first paragraph stronger. It is the first thing a publisher sees and it doesn't hook me.

    I still get hung up on her getting her hand cut on a music stand. I don't see how that can happen. I also find the Music is dead to me sentence to be off. I know a lot of others liked it so it's just a personal opinion.

    I'd like a little intro to who Jenn is. I feel like I should know her alradey but I don't. As we read on it becomes apparent that they are not friends. Maybe let me know that from the get go.

    I find the transition between your paragraphs a bit jarring. We are in the orchastra room, then her house, then in Ireland? I know we all get harped on with too much backstory too soon and to show the backstory through action but I think you could tighten it up a tad so the basic idea is clearer. If I'm correct her dad has left the family, mom is distraught and someone called and told the MC she needs to get to dad asap? NOw as the author look at the pages and see what's there that moves that strain of the story forward and what needs to be there and what can be taken out and devuldged later. You story is intreging. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. I LOVE this. I mean, LOVE it. I would totally keep reading! I actually like your first paragraph, there's a subtle tension there that hooked me and made me want to know what was going on. And then in paragraph 2 we get to see her voice coming through, and I already connect with her.

    I also liked the brief details you added in about her relationship to Jenn, that helped me to understand why she acted why she did in the whole first scene. I also didn't feel like your transitions were choppy, but honestly I may not be the person to ask on that, because I got that feedback about my own work too. :)

    If you're looking for an alpha/beta reader, let's talk! I'd like one for my own work and I feel like we have similar enough styles to be target readers for each other's writing styles. Either way, I really enjoyed your work and think you're on the right track!

  3. I like your changes. I think your first paragraph immediately suggests this poor girl is having a bad day, so I feel for her from the start. I have no problem with her cutting her hand on the music stand. But why does Jenn (her stand partner, i'm assuming?) block the sheet music - isn't the point of stand partners to share the music? Is that to show she is a complete jerk? If she is that openly hostile I'm surprised she invites Rosaleen out afterwards.
    I like the first paragraph of the home scene as it shows right away that their home is in a shambles.
    Interestingly, in your first version I thought Dad was a cool mover and shaker in the music industry, but in this version I sense he is more of a lowly worm... Best of luck!!

  4. Hi Christine,
    You've done a nice job with your revision and creating empathy for Rosaleen. Now we know her dad works part time at the school and Rosaleen has free tuition. It'd be great to have other info on how good Rosaleen is compared to Jenn. Is one first chair, the other second chair? Etc. Why doesn't Jenn share the music?

    Nice transition to your second scene and showing more about Rosaleen's home life. I'm curious about the bracelet and why Rosaleen continues to wear it if the sores don't heal. And why doesn't she worry that it doesn't heal?

    You've done a nice job showing hints of Rosaleen's "inner Rosaleen." Your pages are reading so much better and it's clear you've put in a lot of work developing her character. Keep going! Best of luck as you work on your manuscript.

  5. These pages are much tighter and grabbier now - I like what you’ve done. I like the subtle hints of the supernatural that give me just enough to whet my appetite and make me want to know more.

    However, I still think the ends of the scenes need work; they seem to end on a downbeat, the kind of place where a reader thinks “Okay, time to put the bookmark in and go to bed” not “OMG JUST A FEW MORE PAGES I MUST KNOW WHAT’S NEXT!” Not that this means every scene needs a complete cliffhanger, but it’s good to set up some sort of unanswered question or tease or reveal that keeps the reader turning pages.

    Also, the transition between Rosaleen in America and Rosaleen in Ireland is very abrupt. I had to read this several times to realize what was going on, and it took me out of the story.

    There are still a few lingering turns of phrase that sound awkward and writerly IMHO (“Now fear heaved up like an abscess rising from a ring of pus”) but for the most part I’m liking where this is going and I wish you all the best with it!

  6. Hi Christine,

    GREAT job! The bones of this were there in your first entry, but you've really worked hard to create a cohesive, intriguing story out of it. I agree that it feels like she isn't curious enough about her father in the first scene for that to hook us into reading the second scene and there isn't enough suspense about whether she will go or not at the end of the sentence. I still feel like your second paragraph is more compelling than your first, but that's a minor issue. Overall, fantastic job. Best of luck with it!