Monday, March 18, 2013

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Keitel Rev 2

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 nestled deeper into the old rocking chair. 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. When she was small, the songs quieted Delphine’s fears, comforted her in a way that spoken words could not. But their soothing effect waned as they became increasingly violent, torturing her with nothing more than whispered melodies. Her mother 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. 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 stood from the rocker for the last time, wincing at the sing-song creak of its joints. 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 and fully realized 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.

Tsk-tsk-tsk. Tsk-chick-tsk-chick, she clucked her tongue to drown out the hum of tires against the pavement. Though the subtle whine of everyday sounds like car tires, vacuums and blenders didn’t hurt, there was a melody there, hidden below the mundane, that made her uncomfortable. If music was religion, her tuneless chanting was secular reproach.

The whine grew louder and Delphine battled harder against it until both sounds were 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. She 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. “I wouldn’t be best friends with a freak,” she said, 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.

“Do you hear that?” Delphine gestured toward an enthusiastic mockingbird hopping across the cement.

“Get out of here, you stupid bird.” Sophie stomped toward the stubborn creature.

Delphine grabbed her arm. “But you hear it?”

“Of course I do. The little brat won’t shut up.” She waved her arms and stomped closer until it finally flew away. Once the threat was gone, she looked at Delphine over her shoulder. “You okay?”

She didn’t know how to answer. The bird’s song didn’t carry the bitter burn she’d come to expect. It was like no other sound she remembered; it was sweet. And she had been thirsty for it all her life.


  1. This is great! I understand now. Before I thought something specific happened to cause Delphine's pain with music. (actually I thought it had something to do with her dad's death) This makes sense to me. And I LOVE the last scene with the bird and that I know the new family/house will heal her. Yay! I want to read more! I am enthralled with the grandmother too.

    I've enjoyed being a part of First Five Pages with you. Thanks for your comments and best of luck with the rest of your story.

  2. OH I LOVE IT!!! Beautiful job! I really want to read more now. Great touch with the clicking of the tongue and the bird. My one question I just thought of? If Sophie's mom is used to her too, why would she forget the radio? Just a thought! But love it.

    1. Thanks, Lisa! You're right- I need to explain that a bit better. And thanks so much for all of your input these past weeks. This workshop has been a great experience and has definitely strengthened my opening, no doubt!

  3. " If music was religion, her tuneless chanting was secular reproach." Love this line, it really tells us so much about Delphine's relationship with music. Interesting about the mocking-bird. Just one question though, why does Delphine ask if Sophie hears the bird? Why wouldn't she?

    I got that the house would heal her from the last round because of the grandfather, but I do like this new bit of information you've imparted about the bird.

    Okay, I have one comment - just a crazy idea - why not bring us right in the action, in the car She can play with the chip of paint in her pocket, then the rest of the information you can weave in the car ride? It moves with more intensity. Just a thought. I am intrigued one way or the other.

    I enjoyed work-shopping with you. Interesting premise here, and your characters are well developed, even Delphine's deceased mother. And I just love Sophie, and look forward to seeing how their relationship transpires when Delphine has a new family. Good luck with this work. Looking forward to more.

    1. Thanks, Janis! Hmm... I just might have to give that a go. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Hi Kindra - You've come a long way baby, as they say! Music is such a huge part of life at that age I'm sure your premise will capture a lot of imaginations. This is going to be really out there, but I think you should consider a way to embed some sound/music in this project. It's been done, and this seems tailor-made for it. You could do it through QR codes in print or links for ebooks. Best of luck! Heather

    1. Hehe- thanks, Heather! Ohmygosh- that sounds like something I most definitely have to look into. I've actually been composing a piece (I'm a musician, too) that is inspired by the story. Who knows- maybe I can actually make use of it in conjunction with the book! :)

  5. GREAT job! So much clearer, and as always, completely compelling.

    A few more thoughts:

    Her mom used to sing a lot, less and less toward the end and then not at all. When she was small, the songs quieted Delphine’s fears, comforted her in a way that spoken words could not. But their soothing effect waned as they became increasingly violent, torturing her with nothing more than whispered melodies. Her mother 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.

    You're shifting between songs and music and sound in a way that is still a little confusing. They aren't interchangeable concepts, I'd love it if you would make this all even clearer. Check your tenses through here. Past perfect and simple past aren't interchangeable either, and "had" or "was" in an appropriate context aren't going to make your writing passive, just clearer. I tend to go overboard trying to cut that too, but especially at the beginning, if something happened before the rest of the action, you have to differentiate.

    Overall, be very careful of pronouns and "it" --make sure the reader always knows who and what you are talking about so that we can concentrate on your lovely concepts, details, and images.

    Best of luck with this! It's going to do very well.

  6. Thanks so much, Martina! I will definitely work on your suggestions. Yes- I'm sometimes afraid of too many hads and was-es. (Oh my- plurals). Being clear is more important.

    This workshop has been so helpful to me- thank you again and again. I'll be keeping up here and over at Adventures!