Confession: I am a complete sucker for animals. These pictures are totally unrelated to this blog entry, except for the fact that Daisy (the puppy in the picture) helps me type by snoozing by my feet. Looking at this picture forces me to realize that Daisy now looks more like Maggie (the older dog in the picture, who is sadly no longer with us) than she does the pup.
A BIG THANK YOU TO
THE FIRST FIVE PAGES WORKSHOP
AND THE MENTOR, S.T. UNDERDAHL
AND, LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST, MARTINA AT ADVENTURES IN YA PUBLISHING...
This month I entered a workshop (http://firstfivepagesworkshop.blogspot.com/) to polish the first five pages of my Young Adult book via a weekly feedback and revision process. Here are the results:
Prologue – To Find the Perfect Girl
Wesley’s hands trembled as solutions in glass flasks percolated. Yellow, orange, and green fluids coursed through tubing and collected in glass beakers.
Please be a match.
The collected samples of hair from the prince and the maiden in question curled together in a small cauldron upon the tripod. Wesley carefully added the distilled concoctions, turned up the flame underneath, then stepped back.
The cauldron steamed in the sweltering laboratory. As the experiment rose to a boil, Wesley’s heart raced. His unruly hair fell into his eyes. He swiped the damp strands away before extinguishing the flame. He watched the solution cool as sweat ran down his neck.
Please be red. Put an end to this.
The fluid continued to bubble for a long while, turning from purple to pink to...
It’s going to be red! She’s the one! I am saved!
With a loud belch, the solution curdled and turned black. And stayed that way.
Wesley dropped his head in his hands.
I better warn that sweet girl before
gets a hold of her. Duncan
Chapter One – The Prince Needs a Wife
Maria heard the front door slam. Her nap interrupted, she rubbed her eyes and glanced around the tranquil family library. Her younger sister Anna leaned over their father’s shoulder as he sat in his favorite stuffed chair. Anna’s finger trailed a great river across the map which lay open on his massive wooden desk.
Maria yawned and stretched, then picked up the book she’d dropped next to her in the window seat. She peered outside, hoping to avoid her mother’s constant criticisms: “Maria—sit up straight and fix your hair!” or “Maria—tighten your corset before Lady Peafowl tells everyone you’ve gained weight!”
She tensed as footfalls approached the library door. Oh no, here she comes…
A few seconds later, Mother Leon burst into the library. “Oh, my dears—I have such news for you!”
Maria sat up. “What is it, Mother?”
“The prince is coming!” Mother Leon announced.
“Here?” Maria eyed the cluttered bookshelves, worn furniture, and faded tapestries. The prince had been touring Desiderata for the last two years in search of a suitable wife, but Maria had never thought he would come to their home.
Mother Leon sighed. “No, of course not, dear. He’s been invited to the Pekipsies’ estate for their annual Summer Festival.”
glanced up from his large book of maps. “They’re
the only family around here with enough gold to impress royalty. Your mother almost married into the Pekipsie
family. Did you girls know that?” Leon
Mother Leon shook her head. “No need to dig into the past, dear. I’m more concerned about the girls’ future.” She turned to her daughters with a gleam in her eyes. “Anna’s fifteen, the perfect age to be presented! And, Maria…” Mother Leon narrowed her eyes. “Maria, step forward, please.”
She left the window seat and stood before her mother, trying her best to hide a stain in the back of her dress from where she’d sat in the damp grass earlier that morning.
“What happened to your dress?” Mother Leon shrilled. “You’re more careless now than you were as a child, I swear!”
Maria’s cheeks burned as her mother dismissed her and turned to evaluate Anna, who somehow always looked perfect.
“Anna, my dear, your golden hair glows like the sun and your waist is smaller than mine was at your age.” Mother Leon circled her youngest daughter like a cat. “Let’s see what we can do to make you look your best at the Festival.”
Anna turned frightened eyes towards her older sister. “Help me,” she mouthed.
An hour later, Maria followed her parents’ angry voices down the hallway and paused outside their bedroom door to listen.
“We’re not in the poor house yet,” Mother Leon pleaded. “We still have our pride. This is Anna’s chance at a royal marriage!”
“Where do you think we’ll end up, if you spend the last of our borrowed gold on gowns for the girls?” Father
“Then we will only get a new gown for Anna. If she marries Prince Bane, it will put an end to all of our troubles.”
Maria hurried down the hall. She burst into her bedroom, slammed the door shut, and fought back tears. Bright afternoon sunlight fell through the window and caught on the vanity mirror. Maria gazed at her reflection. A tall girl, almost a woman, with long auburn hair and intelligent blue eyes stared back.
She watched herself swipe at the smudge of dirt on her cheek, the leaf stuck in her hair, and the scrape on her elbow. Then Maria frowned and moved away from the vanity. As she passed by the window, she noticed Anna working in the garden.
Blue skies cheered Maria’s spirits as she hurried outside, but one glance at her sister’s face told her she didn’t feel the same. “Anna, are you okay? You look like you’re about to cry.”
“Maria…” Anna took a shuddering breath. “I don’t want to go to the Summer Festival.”
“Why not? It was loads of fun last year.”
Anna shrugged. “For you, maybe. But there’s so many people there, all staring at me, and waiting for me to say something clever…but I never know what to say to them.”
“Then stick by me, and I’ll be clever enough for both of us.” Maria winked.
Anna attempted a weak smile, but faltered. “Besides…I don’t like the way Mother looks at me, like I’m the fattened pig about to be slaughtered.”
Maria chuckled. “It’s better than the way she looks at me—like I’m the spider she forgot to kill before important company came over.”
“That’s not true! Mother loves us both the same!”
“If you say so. Now move over—you over-trimmed that arbor vitae.”
“No, I didn’t.” Anna shook her head. “The deer got in here again.”
Maria sighed. “We’ve gotta fix that gate. Come on and give me a hand. Or two.”
Both girls grappled with the broken gate. Finally, after much sweating and swearing (both on Maria’s part, Anna did nothing of the sort), Maria gave the gate a final heft and slid the bolt back into place.
Maria grinned. “That’ll keep those thieving buggars out!”
“They’re just hungry—you know how that feels.”
“I don’t care. They have to find their meals somewhere else. We’ll be the ones to starve if they don’t.” Maria swatted at the newest dirty spot on her gown, smearing it even worse than before.
“Look at you!” Anna gasped. “You’ve ruined another dress! Mother will have a fit!”
“Don’t I know it! Oh, bother, there’s no point.” Maria stopped fussing with her dress and moved over to examine the sparse arbor vitae. She closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and brushed her open hands slowly back and forth across the branches. Soon, fresh greenery filled up the gaps.
“Be careful, Maria.” Anna glanced around. “What if someone sees you?”
“Who would see me? There’s no one out here but us.”
“I hope you’re right. You know what they say about us in town.”
Maria snorted. “You worry too much, Anna. What could they possibly say? That it’s a pity to see a noble family reduced to selling berries to get by? That it must be magic we can grow anything in here with our fence in shambles and a broken gate?”
Anna smiled. “At least that much is true.”
“You know what they really say about us, Anna? Nothing. No one even notices us anymore. That’s what comes from being poor. Now come on, we should fix that hole in the fence, too.”