Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Beginning 61


Angels at Almack's

“Bonaparte requested safe harbor and then turned his guns on the Maltese, leaving the girl twice orphaned.” The British naval commander turned and whispered to the visiting poet, Lord Byron, the events which freed Principessa Adina from her own kind of oppressive existence.

Lord Byron smiled at the Commodore, a condescending little twitch at the corners of his mouth. “The Royal Navy to the rescue and all that.”

The Commodore’s nose twitched. “Precisely.” He raised a sparkling cut-crystal glass of tawny port to his lips.

Byron on the other hand sipped champagne as the men admired her portrait in Palazzo Verbena’s private gallery, one of the few places the French had not ransacked. “Is it an accurate likeness of the Principessa Adina?”

Adina hung back, hiding herself in the shadows of the stairwell. She rested her hand on the cool lyre-like curves of the marble balustrade to steady her nervous breathing. Oh, it's accurate all right, she thought. In fact, if you look closely you can even see the outline of the Persian throwing knives under my bodice.

Adina didn't entirely enjoy her work as one of Italy's top assasins, but a girl had to earn a living. And she was definitely getting paid tonight.


Opening: Cathy Leming.....Continuation: Marjorie James

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

What's with all the twitching?

Bernita said...

Position of phrases makes this a little wooly.
The antecedent of the "her portrait" appears to be Lord Byron.
It's charming, but one gets a sense - because of the awkward phrasing, that the writer is feverishly cramming in descriptive detail.
Can the men cluster in front of a ravishing portrait of the - insert hair colour - beauty and then begin their conversation?
Do want Byron to raise a superior eyebrow before he asks if the likeness is accurate.
Think it might read better if you slow it down, just a bit.

bonniers said...

I assume based on the title, the setting, and the presence of Byron that this is a Regency romance?

With all the Navy talk, I expected them to be on a boat. It took a while to figure out where I was.

The Commodore's comment "freed her from her own kind of oppressive existence" sounds like Adina is dead. Is she a ghost? If she's the viewpoint character, why not get right into her head? "Adina froze in the shadows of the stairwell so the two men in the portrait gallery woudn't see her..."

"turned his guns on the Maltese, leaving the girl..." So the girl is Maltese? Why did he want to kill her? And is this girl the same girl as Adina?

"twitch" and "twiched" only a sentence apart grated on me.

"...as the men admired her portrait" whose portrait? The boat? The champagne? The Royal Navy?

All in all, a competent beginning, but nothing to grab my attention.

Jeb said...

Minor quibble: nobody can be 'twice orphaned'. You're only an orphan when BOTH parents are dead.

If this scene is from Adina's POV, try to establish her as a living, present individual in the opening paragraph, before the reader makes assumptions about one of the men being the POV character. Show her hiding in the stairwell, eavesdropping, and tell us why knowing what the men are saying is important to her. THEN we might care what they say about her.

SHE might think she had been 'freed from her own kind of oppressive existence', but it was not at all clear that this was her interpretation of the Commodore's words and not author-intrusion.

Also, if she is hiding in a stairwell, how can she clearly see the minute details of these men's expressions while they are looking at a wall on which hangs her portrait?

Sorry but I'd be closing the book already, even though I read a lot of Regency.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph is awkward. Can't you just say, "Bonaparte requested safe harbor then turned his guns on the Maltese, leaving the girl twice orphaned," the British naval commander explained to Lord Byron, the visiting poet. They were discussing the portrait before them, a beautiful painting of Princispessa Adina.

Of course, that is not the best writing, but do you understand what I am getting at? The second sentence in that paragraph just doesn't fit, or flow. change it.

I agree about the 'twitch'. you have a thesaurus, don't you?

I also agree that the fact that this is from Adina's point of view should be established first thing, not last. I was a little confused, because I thought she was dead.

Also, please learn how to use commas. "Byron, on the other hand, sipped champagne as the men..."

Aspiring Author said...

"you have thesaurus, don't you?"

"please learn how to use commas."

I am happy to report that a partial of this garnered me a request for a full. I'll slip in those commas before I'm doomed.

Aspiring Author said...

Malta
“Bonaparte requested safe harbor and then turned his guns on the Maltese, leaving the principessa to fend for herself.” The Commodore shook his head regretfully as he related the events that actually freed Adina from her own kind of oppressive existence.

Adina stilled in the shadows of the stairwell, hoping the Englishmen would not see her standing there.

The British naval commander and the visiting poet, Lord Byron, admired her portrait in Palazzo Verbena’s private, open gallery.

Lord Byron smiled at the Commodore, a condescending little twitch at the corners of his mouth. “The Royal Navy to the rescue and all that.”

The Commodore lifted a cut-crystal glass of tawny port to his lips. Smiling over the rim, he said, “Precisely.”

Byron sipped champagne and moved closer to the portrait. “Is it an accurate likeness of the Principessa Adina?”

Adina rested her hand on the cool lyre-like curves of the marble balustrade to steady her nervous breathing. She determined to listen a few moments longer before welcoming her guests to her guardian uncle’s home.

Better? I really appreciate the input, as I have had a request for the full. Thank you.

Aspiring Author said...

Nevermind. I do not like that one either. I'll work on this.

McKoala said...

How about starting with Adina hiding? Her feelings - nervous - trying to still her restless fingers from playing with her hair, as was her habit - not daring to move lest they see her? Then open out the focus to show what she is hiding from/why she is hiding? Stay with her, let her have some difficulty in hearing some words, perhaps curious to see Byron's face, but he keeps it turned from her etc?

But if you have a request for a full, then surely this part has already passed the partial test?

Aspiring Author said...

I imagined I passed the partial test if the agent (a dreamy agent) requested the full. HOWEVER, it could be my plot and that it has a quirky paranormal element, which might make it a bit different and admittedly quirky, in a desireable way. (Yes, I know, I used quirky twice).

But... but... SOME of the comments here ring true (the nicer ones. I wrote this beginning last, and sent to EE right after completing in rough draft. Since I wrote it last, I'm very familiar with my characters, and wonder if the scene I picture (in the gallery) is too familiar to me, and not at all familiar to readers... Like whose POV? Obviously the heroine's, but I didn't make that very clear, obviously.

I guess my first line doesn't grab you? My reasoning: Malta sounds exotic (though I've been there on several occasions, and it's lovely), and Bonaparte did something atrocious there, and it caused a young lady to lose her guardian-uncle, thus leaving her orphaned twice (she lost her parents much earlier in her life), and Byron adds a bit of wonderment (I think) to who the heroine might be to grab his interest.

So... considering requests for fulls are not instant "I love your ms and want to rep you" then I feel I must work on it. Make sense?

Aspiring Author said...

McKoala --

I forgot to thank you for the kind comments. Thank you.

I like the first line, with a few modifications, I think. I'm down with your idea to hint at some of her habits/characteristics (playing with hair), but she wouldn't do that since Maltese women wear a ghonella (veil) then. She does, however, carry her little dogs about, hidden by the ghonella. This comes up very short after where I needed to cut it for EE's New Beginnings.

Evil Editor said...

This doesn't address some of the complaints the minions have had, but my own problem was with whether she could hear whispering from her position, or identify wine. This moves her a bit closer to the top, though not all the way, but it may be clear it's her POV.

“Bonaparte requested safe harbor and then turned his guns on the Maltese," the British naval commander informed Lord Byron. "Leaving the Principessa Adina twice-orphaned. And, in effect, freeing her from her own kind of oppressive existence."

The poet smiled at the Commodore, a condescending little twitch at the corners of his mouth. “The Royal Navy to the rescue and all that.”

“Precisely.”

Adina hung back in the shadows of the stairwell. She rested her hand on the cool lyre-like curves of the marble balustrade to steady her nervous breathing.

The Commodore raised a sparkling glass of red wine to his lips as the two men admired her portrait in Palazzo Verbena’s private gallery, one of the few places the French had not ransacked.

“Is it an accurate likeness of the Principessa Adina?” Lord Byron asked.

Aspiring Author said...

You're just a big ole' luv muffin, EE!

How does your suggestion improve POV clarity? I'll assume you know what you're talking about, however.

Here is what I've obviously failed to convey. The heroine has no difficulty hearing the gentlemen. The gallery is mostly open, and made of marble. Echo -- and she's close by, hence her need to hide in the shadows.

The commodore would not know about Adina's oppressive existence. He imagines, being the niece of a Knight of St. John (the ruling class in Malta) she had a cushy life, and the class-hating French have compromised her life severely.

Oooo... ooo... that gives me an idea.

xoxoxOOOXOXOXXXXX !!!!

Let me take another stab at this...

Aspiring Author said...

Do you have problems with "twice orphaned?"

Aspiring Author said...

“Bonaparte requested safe harbor and then turned his guns on the Maltese,” the British naval commander informed Lord Byron, the visiting poet, “leaving the principessa to fend for herself.”

Adina hung back in the shadows of the stairwell, her hand resting on the cool, lyre-like curves of the marble balustrade to steady her nervous breathing. Had these gentlemen known the tyrant's actions had actually freed her from an oppressive existence, the Commodore would not have been shaking his head regretfully. She determined to listen to their loud echoing conversation a few moments longer before welcoming her guests to her guardian uncle’s marble palace.

Lord Byron smiled at the Commodore, a condescending little twitch at the corners of his mouth. “The Royal Navy to the rescue and all that.”

“Precisely.” The Commodore lifted a glass of port to his lips as he turned his gaze back to admire her portrait in Palazzo Verbena’s private, open air gallery, one of the few places the French had not ransacked.

Ok, minions, let me have it!

Evil Editor said...

Do you have problems with "twice orphaned?"

I guess I would if I knew that "orphaned" can refer only to birth parents. Is an adopted child orphaned if her adoptive parents die? If your parents have died and your uncle was appointed legal guardian, and he dies... Someone look it up, my dictionary isn't thorough enough on the matter.

The fact that readers might think the author means both parents may be reason enough to change it.

Evil Editor said...

To me it feels like you're forcing a lot of descriptive information into a scene in which the character wouldn't be thinking about it. I would drop the last sentence of paragraph 2, and shorten the final paragraph to:

“Precisely.” The Commodore lifted a glass of port to his lips as he turned his gaze back to Adina's portrait.

You can work in the guardian uncle's marble palace and the open air gallery setting on the next page, after the tension of this scene is broken.

Aspiring Author said...

I cut a lot of stuff out and moved up other pieces of dialogue.

Certainly it introduces more of my heroine's character and hints at her dilemma???

“Bonaparte requested safe harbor and then turned his guns on the Maltese,” the British naval commander informed Lord Byron, “leaving the principessa to fend for herself. Her guardian uncle, a Knight of Saint John, is in exile, as is her noble betrothed, Count Basarab, a former ambassador of Malta.”

Exiled, not dead, to the best of Adina’s knowledge. She had prayed Basarab’s worthless body would find its way to the sea and some godly dolphin ram his sorry carcass, leaving the assorted pieces to bob on the waves as shark bait. She crossed herself carefully so as not to disturb the little dogs sleeping in her sleeves, or make the Englishmen aware of her presence in Palazzo Verbena’s gallery.

“Does the lady pine for her beloved?” Byron looked intrigued, the romantic sot.

“I would imagine so.”

Lord Byron smiled at the Commodore, a condescending little twitch at the corners of his mouth. “The Royal Navy to the rescue and all that.”

“Precisely.”

Frainstorm said...

I loved the phrase twice orphaned. Consequently, I'm very drawn in by the first line. (UPDATE: I see, however, I'm way behind. There are a few updated versions since I wrote this.)

Admittedly, I'm reading it wrong, not knowing the details yet, but that'll get fixed when you tell me about her great-uncle. On my first read, I take it to mean she'd already lost her parents and now she's lost her country. Maybe it's the presence of Byron that's lending me the poetic license there, who knows?

Regardless, I enjoyed that first line immensely.

Frainstorm said...

Okay, now regarding the latest and greatest version:

I'm not sure that a reader will make the connection that Adina = principessa right up front. I'm not your target reader, so forgive me if I'm off base.

As I read through this latest version, it's hard now to know if the second paragraph is confusing because I'm familiarized myself so much with what's going on.

I think you need to set it aside a couple days and come back to it with fresh eyes and see if it flows how you want.

My observation would be that the second paragraph has several references from the first, but it's not clear if you're not already grounded in the story. Let me give a couple examples in case I'm not making sense. Will a reader understand that:
- "tyrant" = Bonaparte
- Adina = principessa
- "her" = Adina (principessa)
- oppressive existence = Bonaparte's massacre

Your writing is well done and I'm not a good reviewer for this material, so you'll have to decide if it's too confusing as it stands right now.

Good luck.
John

Aspiring Author said...

John,

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my first 150 words. Time is always a good thing. I've written this whole story and am just trying to come up with a new, curiously egaging beginning.

I'll take your advice, read it again in a few weeks (after I've done some more editing on the ms) and return with a rewrite.

Cathy