This morning I woke up at 3 am to submit a query letter and the first five pages of Mirror of Sparrows to #RevPit.
#RevPit gifts writers the opportunity to work with an editor for five weeks. I’m competing against hundreds of writers who’ve all worked really hard on their stories. My hope is that I would at least make the first cut and that by some little bit of grace, one of the editors would ask me for a synopsis, or maybe even the first fifty pages. I’ll find out this week…let’s see what happens.
If that doesn’t work out, it’s okay. It just means I still have a lot of work to do. But in the meantime, I thought I would share my first five pages with you. Some of you will have read an earlier version of this from last summer – hopefully you’ll notice some improvements : )
If you are reading this, it means you are interested and care, at least to some extent. If you would like to send me feedback, that would be great. If it’s extensive, my preference would be for you to do so using my “contact” page. Thank you!
So here it is, Chapter 1 of Mirror of Sparrows:
Chapter 1: Colin
Colin popped the final piece into the lock. A perfect fit. He’d created an intricate contraption that would be tough for anyone to pick. Now, all he needed were the finishing touches, and he could submit the lock to the locksmith’s guild. Things might not have worked out for him with the warriors, but at least now, he would have a trade. He tried to be glad.
He gave his work a last inspection and sighed. This was good, but not what he’d longed for. More than anything in the world, he’d wanted to be a king’s warrior. He just couldn’t. For too long he’d fooled himself into believing the lie that he could.
Uncle Felix hollered for him from downstairs, stealing him away from his thoughts.
“Why are you still up there?”
Colin tucked away the lock into his desk-of-many-drawers. He hadn’t yet told Uncle Felix that he’d dropped out of the warrior selection process.
Before his uncle had the chance to rile himself up some more, Colin attempted to wipe from his hands the encrusted black residue left from hours of metal work and hustled down the twisted wood staircase into the locksmith shop. Uncle Felix, his big beer belly jiggling, pushed towards him through all the hanging locks and keys and iron tools. “Comb your hair. You look like you just rolled out of bed.”
Colin scowled. Uncle Felix seemed to forget he was seventeen and didn’t need to be told what to do. But Colin kept these thoughts to himself, and, in another attempt at tidiness and conflict-avoidance, he ran his fingers through his messy brown hair.
“Few people have the talent you have. Why are you taking it for granted?” He picked up some tools from the workbench and waved them towards Colin as he talked. “You don’t appreciate who you are.”
Colin was going to have to tell him that he’d dropped out. It wasn’t going to be pretty.
“That’s the problem,” Colin interrupted. “I know who I am.”
“Then you should know that you should be training today.”
“I dropped out of the selection.”
Uncle Felix stared at him in agonizing silence and his hand started to quiver. He could tell because the tool he held was shaking. Colin hoped his uncle wouldn’t turn it into a weapon against him.
“I don’t have a choice. They’ll find out who I am.”
“Your thinking is all twisted up. You do have a choice.”
“That’s what you’ve always said. But how do you know? You don’t know the duke and his men.”
“I’ll be damned if I let you throw your future away because of whatever the duke may have told you. I promised your father I’d do everything in my power to help you become a Warrior.”
“Did he tell you to do that before or after he murdered Lord Fitzpatrick? Because once he made that choice, he eliminated that possibility for Charles and I, forever.” He hadn’t intended to bring it up.
The shop door-bell jingled, cutting them off, and Mr. Smith walked into the store. Colin couldn’t help but brighten-up when he saw the old man. Today, he wore a red cloak, a matching hat, and well-polished leather boots.
“Looks like Mr. Smith locked himself out again,” Colin said.
Since Mr. Smith had arrived into the neighborhood, he’d locked himself out more than anyone Colin or Uncle Felix had ever heard of, but this was the perfect opportunity to escape the dead-end discussion with his Uncle. “I’ll see you later.”
Uncle Felix grabbed his sleeve. “I just don’t want you to look back one day and wish you had chosen differently.”
He couldn’t choose differently. That was the whole point.
“I know. Thank you. But stop worrying so much. It’s my life, and I’d rather stay here and work with you than be found out.”
Colin grabbed his lock-picking tools, a dozen or so slender metal sticks with wooden handles and various heads, and pulled on his own wool cloak, drab in comparison to Mr. Smith’s.
“Is this a bad time?” Mr. Smith asked.
“Perfect timing,” Colin said. “I’ve been inside all day. Fresh air will feel nice.” Colin thanked God that Mr. Smith had arrived when he had. His uncle would need space to process everything he’d just told him.
He and Mr. Smith walked out into the narrow cobblestone street where Charles and friends pretended to stick-fight. “Watch out.” He grabbed his brother and scruffed-up his hair. “You and your friends almost hit Mr. Smith.”
“Mr. Smith looks like he could handle us better than you can.” Charles squirmed away from his brother.
Mr. Smith laughed and he and Colin continued along. “You’re not training today?” he asked.
Colin ignored the question and pulled his cloak tight against the gusts that moaned down between the moss-covered stone houses. The air smelled heavy with rain, mud, and decaying, trampled leaves; they didn’t have much time before a downpour. “We’d better have you inside before the storm hits.”
Mr. Smith struggled to walk as fast as him, so Colin slowed down. “I’ve always wondered: why don’t you hide yourself a spare key? It would save you a lot of trouble and money.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble,” Mr. Smith said, adjusting his hat.
Colin gave Mr. Smith a confused glance. Maybe the old man just needed the company? But since he didn’t much mind helping out, Colin dropped the subject and encouraged Mr. Smith along.
The downpour caught them in the next instant. They hurried through the slick streets, until safely tucked under the cover of Mr. Smith’s roof ledge. Colin pushed away the hair dripping into his eyes, unwrapped his tools, selected two, and slid them into Mr. Smith’s front door lock. Within a few short moments, he pushed Mr. Smith’s front door open.
The old man clapped a hand on to Colin’s shoulder. “I know your uncle is so proud of you, and I can’t wait to watch your fights this week.”
Had his uncle put Mr. Smith up to this?
“Thank you.” Colin was in no mood for small talk about the Warriors, so he focused on putting his tools away. “You’d better head in.”
“You’re good at this,” Mr. Smith said. “But you’ll make an even better Warrior.” The old man pressed several coins into Colin’s hand, walked up the two steps to his front door, and dismissed Colin with a wave of his hat.
Colin meandered back through the rain, too lost in thought to notice how completely the water drenched him. The one thing he knew was that the Warriors always found out about everyone. And after what the duke had told him last week, he’d finally realized that if he followed through on trying out for the warriors, people would find out who his father really was. A murderer. And not just any murderer, but the traitor who’d killed the leader of the warriors.
He’d listened to and believed Uncle Felix for too long. All that work and hope had been for nothing. Maybe someday he’d find a way to serve his country and right his father’s wrongs, but joining the warriors would not be the way.