Monday, March 11, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Keitel Rev 1


Name: Kindra Keitel
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Title: Voice Lessons

It was there again, the metallic sting that bit her throat every time music crossed her mind. She knew better than to try to actually sing, that only made it worse, made her cough and gag with what tasted like a mouth full of pennies. So, she cleared her throat, swallowed hard, and wound the ballerina’s key one more time, watching her twirl amidst the colored glass stones and fake gold rings. The cinnamon lullabies of her childhood still hung heavy in the air and Delphine knew she’d never have another chance to memorize them.

Her mom used to sing a lot, less and less toward the end and then not at all. She disconnected the doorbell two years ago, gave away the radio and the TV. They hadn’t been to a movie in months. She forbade concerts and plays, downloads and speakers, dancing and all of Christmas. She made it her life’s work to limit Delphine’s pain.

What her mom didn’t know was how much Delphine ached to hear the few stray notes that would inevitably fall from her mother’s mouth when her mind was distracted. She didn’t know how Delphine would sit on the floor outside the bathroom when she was in the shower, how she was waiting for her to forget and let the downy strains drift under the door. Even though the two of them agreed removing music from their lives would be for the better, nothing could quell the pulse of song hidden just under Delphine’s skin. And no matter how much music hurt, there was nothing she wanted more.

She locked the front door and stored away the click it made, chipped off a piece of peeling white paint from the doorknob and put it in her pocket. The house she and her mother had shared was small, so small it begged pardon for being there at all. Grayed siding held thin walls together and the windows held their breath; the cracked sidewalk below beckoned their glass with a wrinkle and a wink.

She watched it all disappear through the back window of the car, fully realizing she wasn’t Delphine Martin anymore. She never was, not really. All this time, she’d been Delphine Lockhart without knowing it. Her mom knew, though. It was all her idea, passing down her maiden name and hiding estranged relatives in plain sight.

She was still replaying the ballerina’s hymn in her mind when it was interrupted by the static twang of a country guitar.

“Mom.” Sophie snapped off the radio and shook her head at her mother, a severe frown emphasizing the reprimand.

“Oh, God, I forgot.” Cate bit her lip and glanced in the rearview mirror, catching Delphine’s eye. “I’m sorry, honey.”

Sophie had become a kind of buffer between Delphine and the world. She softened the effect it had on her, shielded her from the constant cacophony of life. And when merely camouflaging music was no longer enough, when Delphine begged for Sophie’s earbuds long enough to hear just one song, she was there to hold both hands in a tight sister grip while Delphine cried. Sophie understood the chaos music was to her, how Delphine feared it, how it burned her on the inside and how she yearned for it just the same.

“This can’t be it,” Sophie said when they paused outside a gated lawn. “We’re not even out of town yet. I thought it was somewhere in the country.”

“This is where the GPS sent us.” Cate flicked the little screen on the dashboard.

So, Delphine was suddenly one of them, part of the family that lived in that big brick house in the same little Missouri town she grew up in. The house with the tall iron gates and foot soldier pines lining the yard. The house everybody talked about but nobody ever visited.

“I can’t believe she did this to me,” Delphine said from the backseat. “First, she dies and then she sends me to live with monsters.” She snorted. “At least I’ll fit in with the freak show.”

Sophie pulled down her visor and looked at her friend in the mirror. “You’re not a freak.” She smoothed down her hair and went to work on the small red bulge near her chin, her mouth twisted to the side.

Cate reached back and patted Delphine’s knee.

Delphine tied a knot in the tissue she’d had in her hand for hours.

Every time she asked to meet her dead father’s family, her mother refused, something about the whole family disowning the two of them when Delphine’s father died. Her mom couldn’t say anything about meeting them now, though; she was dead too. And that gap, the one that always stood between them, now it was an impossible abyss.

Delphine promised herself that even though she was bound to these strangers by blood, she wouldn’t let them change her, wouldn’t let them make her forget. She’d make sure they knew everything they had forsaken almost sixteen years ago.

Cate parked the car and craned her neck trying to see the top of the house. “Sophie honey, you want to double check the address?”

Sophie fished in her purse for the scrap of paper. She tossed a tin of mints, a tube of mascara and a Sharpie under the windshield before she found it.

Cate compared the crumpled note to the brass numbers beside the front door. “Hm.”

“It’s right,” Delphine said without looking. She’d known about this house all her life, though living in it was the last thing she ever expected to do.

Sophie turned around and faced her friend. “So, you think the stories are true then?”

Delphine swallowed. “Guess I’m going to find out.”

“Of course they’re not true.” Cate flipped Sophie’s visor back into place with a snap. “It’s just a big house.”

“A big house with a witch inside.”

“Enough, Sophie.” Cate reached for Delphine’s hand. “That’s just it: they’re stories, there’s nothing to them.” She smiled. “You get to live in the biggest house in the county and you got yourself a brand-new family.”

A tear pooled between the rim of Delphine’s sunglasses and her cheek.

Cate squeezed her hand. “I know, honey.” She squeezed again because motherly gestures were what made Cate Cate.

“There she is.” Sophie leaned toward the glass. “She’s old but hey, at least her skin’s not green or anything.”

Elizabeth Lockhart, her skin a respectable wrinkly pink, shaded her eyes with one hand and waved at the car with the other.

“I don’t believe it,” said Delphine. “I saw her at the funeral.”

“She was there?” said Cate.

“Yeah. She stood in the back and cried. She never got anywhere near me.”

“See,” Sophie said, “now don’t you think that’s weird? Just a little bit?”

The three of them looked at each other and opened their doors in unison. They unloaded Delphine’s bags and piled them on the paved driveway.

"You’re finally here.” Elizabeth floated down the blue and gray steps, reaching out her arms. Delphine ignored her grandmother, choosing instead to adjust the buckle on one of her bags. Elizabeth lowered her eyes and turned to Sophie. “How are you, dear? You’re Sophie, aren’t you?” She barely gave her time to nod. “I’ve heard about you. And this is your mom?”

“Cate.” Her hand shot out from under her coat. “You can call me Cate.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were?” Delphine crossed her arms to stave off any unwanted displays of affection.

“What, dear?”

“Two days ago, at the funeral. That was you, wasn’t it?” She could be brave behind sunglasses.

“Yes.”

“So? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m sorry.” She touched Delphine’s elbow. “I thought you had enough to deal with that day.”

“So what exactly are you, anyway?” No one ever accused Sophie of having any tact.

“What am I?”

Cate pinched her daughter’s shoulder and smiled an apologetic smile.

Sophie wrenched free and frowned. “Well, are you a witch or some kind of freak or what?”

12 comments:

  1. NICE! You really went in and answered the questions I had from the first round. This time, you've showed us how tight Sophie and Delphine's relationship is, how intimate when Sophie allows Delphine to listen through her ear buds, then holds Delphine's hands through the pain. This, for me anyway, certainly justifies Sophie's outburst about the 'witch' and condones it as well.

    Also, you've let us, your readers in on Delphine's problem. Now we know music hurts her, and as you so beautifully put it,"how it burned her on the inside and how she yearned for it just the same."

    Also, I love how you show us so much about your characters through action, Cate, for me especially shines, as mother, her actions are nurturing to Delphine, who it seems had an ailing mother.

    Another favorite part for me was when Delphine sat by the bathroom door, hoping to hear her mother sing. I am truly intrigued by Delphine's dilemma. Why does music hurt her so?

    There was only one sentence that confused me, "The cinnamon lullabies of her childhood still hung heavy in the air and Delphine knew she’d never have another chance to memorize them."

    Was she referring about the music those jewelry boxes play while the ballerina spins around? Why would she have to memorize them? Didn't this hurt her ears as well? You mention these lullabies again further down, "She was still replaying the ballerina’s hymn in her mind when it was interrupted by the static twang of a country guitar."

    I went back and re-read the first paragraph a few times and think if you re-structured those same sentences in different order, I'd wouldn't have been so confused. Perhaps start with her turning they key, like this:

    "Delphine cleared her throat, swallowed hard, and wound the ballerina’s key one more time, watching her twirl amidst the colored glass stones and fake gold rings. The cinnamon lullabies of her childhood still hung heavy in the air and Delphine knew she’d never have another chance to memorize them. And of course as she expected, there It was there again, the metallic sting that bit her throat every time music crossed her mind. She knew better than to try to actually sing, that only made it worse, made her cough and gag with what tasted like a mouth full of pennies."

    So then you go into the mom singing, is Delphine's reaction not as much to the music as it it to her reaction to want to sing, and that causes pain? If so, then just allude to that...if her mental reaction to hearing music is to sing those cinnamon lullabies, maybe her mouth opens to let out a note and then a searing pain?

    In any case, wonderful rewrite. I enjoyed this very much. My novel had music play a big part as well. Always interesting to read how others create stories using same elements in new and intriguing ways.

    Thanks for sharing.





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    1. Thanks for the comments, Janis! Yeah... the first paragraph felt a little clunky after the addition of the music box to me, too. I like your restructuring idea and I have another idea I might try, too. A little clean-up to do!

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  2. Kindra –You’ve made great changes! I love the added details, and they leave me even more curious – which is good. I definitely want to read on. I like the addition of Sophie protecting her from music. The two parts of Delphine’s life seem more connected in this version.

    I don’t understand what “cinnamon lullabies” means. I have mixed feelings about the mystery around Delphine’s music. If I was reading the book, I would just plunge on, anxious to find out more. Since I only have this, I wonder if you’d want to give the reader just a little more, but it might just be my own impatient curiosity that’s asking… Very intriguing! This is a book I’d definitely want to read.

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    1. Thanks, Jeri! The cinnamon lullabies is all about the sweetness of cinnamon and how it lingers in the air, like a much-loved song or voice. Too vague? Sometimes things make sense in my head but not on paper...

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  3. Holy cow! We know so much more now - fantastic! For the next round if you could find some way to work a time in here (is this happening right now, or not) and some way to identify Sophie (best friend, cousin - relationship) - those are the two big questions hanging out there for me right now.

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  4. Wow you've really deepened it!! I love it!! I'm truly intrigued by the music thing. Isn't there so much in the world that it would be really hard to even live outside of her house? How does she go in public? School? Etc. Just a question. But I do really like it more now. I love how she takes a chip of the house with her. Nice touch! I don't recall if it was there before or not, but it certainly stood out this time and worked with the flow.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! I think I had gotten a little bit paranoid about the dreaded info dump at the beginning and had pared away too much. Ahhh... it feels good to put it back in! And I love your suggestions here, too. Off to work I go!

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  5. Truly fantastic, Kindra! You've got such a talent for picking details and giving us very "real" moments and interactions. This is so much deeper and more thought through.

    Lisa raises great points, and I don't think they are idle questions. You've built her so much more now that I would love to see you introduce more of whatever coping mechanisms she has developed to deal with the situation. How does she define music and how is that distinct from general sound? And if this is intrinsic to the plot, can you give us a hint of stakes?

    Looking forward to reading more.

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    1. Thank you, Martina! Yes, I am definitely going to work some of that in these first pages- great idea. You have some wonderful suggestions here that I can't wait to put to use. Thanks again!

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  6. Kindra,
    You have a great style. But I have to tell you, I struggle through the first section where we learn that Delphine's mother died, and that Delphine was deprived of music, though she loves it. I just don't understand why they agreed life would be better without music. In a wierd way it feels as if music killed her mother. I know this is representative of Delphine's brokenness, and her inner struggle will be to enjoy music again, but unless it's a major plot device, it was bewildering to me, especially at the beginning of the story.
    What is really cool about the story is that Delphine's mother died, and let's face it, the majority of MG and YA books (though mostly MG) have orphan protagonists, and that Delphine is going to live in a big creepy house with her crazy grandmother. Now you've got a story, and lots of built-in conflict. I would get to the house and the grandmother as soon as possible, and then weave in backstory later.
    I am really intrigued by this plot, and the fact that Delphine's friends think her grandmother is a witch, and Delphine was probably embarrassed by this and kept it a secret makes it golden. One thing to consider, with the orphan situation and the witch grandmother, this does feel a little more MG than YA. Just something to consider.
    Good revision.
    Jim

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    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks so much for the comments! Yes, the music, it's effect on her and if she is able to experience it again or not are kinda the whole ball of wax, so to speak. They are essential to Delphine's outer and her inner struggle. But you have great points- I can definitely see where you're coming from. Perhaps I need to make it a bit more clear?

      Back to work for me!

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