Monday, January 20, 2014

1st 5 Pages Jan. Workshop Rev 2: Brockett

Name: Tina Brockett
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: My Lullaby  

My fingers danced on the steering wheel as I willed the traffic to move. I had less than twenty minutes to get to the depot, make it through security checks, and board the train. If I could get to the other side of town, and speed down Greenhouse Row’s alley, maybe just maybe, I’d make it in time. 

Daddy, please hold on. I’m coming. 

I slammed on the breaks, and screamed at the idiot in front of me. “It’s green. GO. What are you doing?  

This was the worst time of day to go through downtown. With my bad luck, of course it had to be lunch hour, when all the hungry workers packed the streets. For miles either way, office buildings, lavish Twelver temples and standard issue apartments lined Vegas Blvd. Used to be high-end casinos and hotels, but Twelver Law made it illegal to gamble within the Zones.

I felt bad for yelling at the guy, when an ambulance sped by. Or was it the memory of Grandma’s call? 

Welita had sounded so worried, her broken English harder to understand than usual as she told me Dad had fallen at work. She said he was in critical condition and to come right away. Why hadn’t I done something? I’d had “the dream” and then seen his face the minute my eyes opened. I should’ve called him, warned him.

Sirens wailed, and brought me back to the present, as another ambulance passed by.

I shook the crows from my mind. 

I’d only ever remembered two dreams. One in the woods with a boy in the shadows, and a fairy singing the lullaby my dad wrote the day I was born. In the other, crows squawked from a lone tree in the middle of a barren desert. Bad things happened when I had that dream. The last time that image came to me, Abuelito had died.  

Mother said my visions were a gift from the devil. Even though I knew better, I’d ignored them. What if Daddy died, because of it? Why, had I let Mother’s overzealous preaching and fear get into my head? 

I’d had that dream before, and no one died. I had to believe that Daddy would live to see another day. That he would not leave this earth before I made it to him.   

After crossing the Blvd, I took the first left into the alley. Crap. A patrol car sat in the middle of the road that split the acres of greenhouses in half.

“Slow it down, Katrina,” The officer yelled as I passed. 

“Yes, sir. Sorry sir,” I yelled from my open Jeep and then mumbled to myself. “Great way to fly under the radar, Kati.” 

They all knew Mother. As Secretary of Defense, she was their boss. If he stopped me, I’d never make the next train. Or any others that day, if he called it in to headquarters. 

I drove the speed limit until he was out of sight and then punched it the rest of the way. 

The front parking lot of the depot looked full, but the small one in the back was where I was headed. I parked beside a large truck, in case Mother sent someone to look for me. I hoped with it concealed, it would take her longer to figure out what I’d done.

I climbed out with a glance at the clock. Seven minutes to get through security, get a ticket, and board the train. I had to take the Express to L.A. I had no other options. No one, not even the Zone idiot, would dare drive across the desert. 

When I reached the front entrance, out of breath and dripping sweat, I cursed the August heat in the Vegas/Henderson Zone. I missed the lazy summer days by the beach in the L.A. Zone. 

With my shoes removed, I stepped onto the travel belt that transported me through the first metal detector tunnel to the check-in station. Nothing beeped. I searched the screen above for what time the Express left for L.A., as I stepped up to the guard. Five minutes until departure. Resting my arm on the counter, to steady my hand, I gave my resident card to the gold and blue uniform. Maybe he wouldn’t even question why I was there without Mother.

After a cursory glance at my ID, his eyes met mine, and the smile disappeared. When his forehead creased, I felt for my crowning cloth. Had I forgotten it in my rush to leave the house? 

Nope. The large crème colored triangle with twelve diamond-shaped gems was right where it should be, properly placed to cover half my forehead then wrapped around the back to conceal my long hair. All Twelver girls wore them. Mine had an insignia to establish my status as a Prime daughter. 

“What’s this, Katrina?” He leaned in closer, eyes narrowing. “Is that some new fashion statement you kids are wearing?”


The gold curly-cue in the middle of the cloth told people I was better than them. They had to show me an added bit of respect. I didn’t want to be above anyone else, and as a matter of fact, felt the opposite. I don’t know if it’s because I had a non-Twelver, alcoholic dad, or because at home they treated me like a slave rather than part of the family, but I’d never been good enough. 

 “Colored eyes, what’s next?” The guard chuckled as he shook his head.  

Crap, crap, crap, I forgot to put my brown contacts in. Mother insisted I always wear them while in public. Shoot. I’m dead. What do I say? 

“Yeah, they’re the coolest, aren’t they?”

Maybe the strange green eyes and red hair I’d been born with, that Mother made me hide behind brown contacts and brown hair so that I didn’t look different, was what made me feel that way.  
The guard laughed, “If you say so. He leaned to the side. “Lady Prime Ramirez coming, or are you with your father today?”

I hated it when people referred to Carlos as my dad, but when we’d moved, I stopped correcting them. In Henderson only a few people knew the truth, and the others never asked. Even though I had the surname Callaghan, while the rest of my happy little family went by Ramirez, no one seemed to make the connection that Carlos wasn’t my real dad.

“Neither. I’m traveling alone today.”

The guards’ brows slammed into a V as he shook his head.

“I’m fifteen and have my driving permit. You can’t stop me.”

“I meant no disrespect, but Lady Prime Ramirez knows better than anyone how dangerous the lines are. Why, we had an attack just last week.” 

“She’s busy. I can’t wait.” Too many stupid meetings to take me to see my dying dad. Whatever. I wasn’t scared to go alone. 

“Your mother gave you permission to travel without her?”

“Of course she did. My real Dad’s in the hospital. I must get to L.A. right away.”

When I’d called Mother at work, she told me to wait until she got off work. Even after I told her I’d felt horrible all morning, like when her dad died. That just made her angrier, and she gave me a direct order not to go. Forget that. I disobeyed her. What choice did I have? 
The guard picked up the phone.
 The gig was up. I should’ve known he’d call Mother.


  1. This is a great revision Tina, much more dramatic! I do think you can make it even more dramatic though. I think starting with Daddy please hold on is more riveting. I like how you cut some of the traffic, but I think you could cut further. Perhaps after Daddy please hold on, skip to Welita's call, and then go to After crossing the boulevard . . . and add a line or two there about the traffic in the zone - and what it used to be like - but just to increase her sense of urgency to get to the depot. I think if you tried rearranging it, cutting more of the traffic, and putting the explanations about the dream part in later - in the When I called Mother at work paragraph - the flow and tension might improve.

    You have a great start - a sense of urgency, a strange futuristic world, a girl with powers of some kind torn between two worlds -- so intriguing! I'm so curious to know what happens next!

  2. Hey Tina,
    You did a great job with amping up the tension here. I still think that "Daddy, hold on," is going to be the most powerful opening line you have--have you considered just swapping the first and second paragraphs there?

    I also have to agree with Erin up above -- while the dream stuff is great, I think it can come later. I think you want to really try to keep us in the moment here -- she wants to get to her father. Her father is dying. Keep us focused on getting Kati on that train -- and maybe once she's on it your reader can take a breath and she'll have time to let us know why she's so frantic over it.

    Overall though, I love it. You've done a great job revising it! :)

  3. Nice revision. I just have a few notes.

    I'm not as drawn in by the first paragraph as I would be with the 'Daddy hold on' line after it. As far as first lines go, I think that's the one. It hooks me and immediately sets up the urgency.

    "I felt bad for yelling at the guy, when an ambulance sped by. Or was it the memory of Grandma’s call?" I'm not sure what the second sentence means. It sort of feels like she's saying she felt bad at the memory of Grandma's call, but I'm not sure that's what you meant.

    "Welita had sounded so worried, her broken English harder to understand than usual as she told me Dad had fallen at work." Is Welita Grandma?

    "Why hadn’t I done something?" I read on an agent's recent blog that it's not appealing to ask rhetorical questions because it makes her want to make a snarky reply. I do it all the time, because I think there's something to be said in the questions characters ask themselves, but just a note.

    "I shook the crows from my mind." I'm assuming these are from the dream, yes?

    Ah...I see. Maybe move the sentence above to under the paragraph below it?

    "I hoped with it concealed, it would take her longer to figure out what I’d done." Are you purposely being vague here? Fine, if you are. I wasn't sure if I missed something.

    "not even the Zone idiot" Is this a specific person?

    "Too many stupid meetings to take me to see my dying dad." It took me a second to understand what you meant here. Maybe make it a complete sentence instead of a fragment?

    She has her driving permit, but she's taking the train, but the two don't feel connected. Are they?

    "My real Dad’s in the hospital." I almost expected him to not realize she had a "real Dad." It seems like her parentage is kept under wraps.

  4. Hi, Tina! I have to say I agree with the others. Though I'm not sure I like the Daddy hold on line as a cold opener, but I'd rearrange the first few paras just a bit. Maybe this way:

    I slammed on the breaks, and screamed at the idiot in front of me. “It’s green. GO. What are you doing?"

    I had less than twenty minutes to get to the depot, make it through security checks, and board the train. If I could get to the other side of town, and speed down Greenhouse Row’s alley, maybe just maybe, I’d make it in time.

    Daddy, please hold on. I’m coming.

    This was the worst time of day to go through downtown....

    So it's words and action, hurried explanation, then emotional stakes right after.

    Other than that, I've not got much to add. I still think some of her mental digressions into the world around her feel like they're slowing things down, which clashes with the urgency of her trip. For instance, she doesn't have to tell us that the Vegas strip used to be full of casinos. Everyone knows that. Just telling us that it's currently full of temples and apartments instead makes us curious and tells us something about this universe, but not enough to slow things down.

    I'm a little puzzled about her visions, I have to admit. Right now it sounds like prophetic dreams rather than actual visions, but then she says that someone doesn't actually die every time she has the dream. So I'm curious why she's so sure, and why her mom's so sure, that the occasional dreams are connected to anything. If the dreams have happened often enough before people's deaths that she'd have reason to wonder if they're connected and then tell her mother about it in a way that makes her mother paranoid, that isn't coming across in this little excerpt.

    So I think the dreams need to be given more time and more detail, but I don't think this opening is the place to do it. She's in a hurry, her mind needs to be on the task at hand. If she strays from it it should only be for a sentence or two at a time. As soon as she starts going on for paragraphs about, say, the exact description of the cloth she wears on her head, her sense of urgency vanishes and the readers might vanish with it. We'd be yelling at her in our heads the way she's yelling at that driver. "Why are you focused on this right now? You're dad is possibly dying! MOVE!"

    So I hope some of this helps. :) Trust your readers, introduce the universe to them in just enough small swallows to make the story itself coherent. Trust that they'll be taken in by the story and the MC's worry. Make them curious about the world, hopeful for the MC's success, and then once they're hooked that way you can slow things down and work in the greater details.