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[personal profile] namaste
OK, so I've mentioned before the kid's book that I've been writing since last summer. It's essentially done, and I had a professional critique to help me fine tune some elements of it. One of the things brought up at that time was that I needed a more straightforward first chapter, since there was a section of flashback, which kids in the age range I'm aiming for -- 8 to 12 -- need a more linear approach to the story telling. (The original first chapter and more background on it are here if anyone's interested.)

But in reworking it, while I felt it was still good, I didn't feel it was as strong a hook, and I simply didn't like it as much as I had the original one. Now that I'm getting close to getting it sent out to publishers (who will hopefully be interested), I suddenly came up with another approach, which I like and think is stronger, but I'd love to hear some opinions -- since at this point, I've been through the story so much it's hard to think objectively about it.

So I've attached the first chapter, approached in two separate ways. (You'll see that the second half of the first chapter is essentially the same.) If you've got the time, I'd appreciate hearing what you think.

Thanks.



Forgive the formatting. It's the one I need for this project, v. the standard formatting on the 'net and would take some time to rework just for this post.

Shira woke up hungry, just like every other morning. Every night she dreamed of food -- mounds of meat spread out as far as she could see -- and no one to fight her for it, but it always disappeared when she opened her eyes. She knew she wasn't the only hungry dog in the city. She saw dozens of other dogs roaming the streets and alleys just after sunrise every day, and snarled and snapped at them over scraps of food as she looked for enough to fill her belly, at least for a few hours.
At least she had a home where she was warm and safe, with a spot beneath a bench where it was dry, and the grass was soft beneath her. There were even high walls all around her there to keep people out, but there wasn't any food at home, so every morning started like this, with a search for food. She squeezed beneath the gate and padded down the narrow lane that led to the bigger streets. Those bigger street led to places where people got food, and some of that food always seemed to fall into places where skinny dogs like Shira could squeeze in and get it.
She started at the places where she always found food: under the tables where people ate outside on warm days and beneath the small round boxes where trash spilled out when they were full. Someone had swept the concrete beneath the tables, though, and the barrels were only half filled. The food stayed stubbornly out of reach even though she could smell it, and smelling it just made her hungrier. The streets were getting busy now, filling up with cars and people. Shira didn't like people. People scared her, so she snuck off into a dark and narrow alley.
Maybe in the alley, she'd find food, somewhere near the big metal boxes. One time, when she was very lucky, she saw a man toss a bag up into one of the boxes, only to have it roll off the top and land at Shira's feet and burst open. Inside was meat and bread and fruit and sandwiches wrapped inside something that was clear and tasted funny, but the wrapping easily came apart between her teeth. Shira tore open one after another and ate until she was full. That day was a good day, but there were no bags for her today.
She was about to give up on the alley when she caught the scent of meat from somewhere nearby. Following her nose past the empty cardboard boxes and dripping drain pipes, past the dark and dirty brick walls and smudged windows, Shira knew she was getting close. She smelled spices now too, and the smell made her mouth water. When she came around a corner, there was a car idling behind one of the stores. She knew that there were two different kinds of cars in the city -- the kinds that carried people, and the ones that carried things. This one had things. Even better, this one had food, and its rear door was open.
Shira wanted to run to it, wanted to leap into the back and thrust her nose into every corner. But she didn't. Not yet. Even when they weren't cars that carried of people, cars always had people somewhere nearby. Shira didn't trust people. People yelled. People threw things. People hit and kick dogs. People took dogs away.
The last time Shira saw her mother was when a car like this one had caught her mother and thrown her into it, closing the door with her trapped inside, barking and growling but unable to escape.
That had been early summer, and Shira had been even more afraid of people since then. She only got close to them when she was looking for food, and only for a few moments even then. There were no people near this car, though. All she could smell was meat, and it smelled good. Her belly ached. She took a few steps closer, but still didn't see anyone. Shira cocked her head to one side, listening for voices or footsteps. All she heard was water dripping from the eaves of the roof over her head.
Shira stepped even closer, and could almost taste the meat. There was a lot of it inside the back of that car. Moving in, she started to smell other things: cheese and bread and chocolate. A few more inches, and she could tell that there were different kinds of meat, things like sausage and ham and beef.
Shira took another step closer. There was still no one around. She was next to

the car now, and saw a box just in front of her, filled with all kinds of
wonderful smells. She stretched forward, slowly, until her nose nuzzled the end of

something wrapped in white paper -- something good. Her muscles quivered as she forced herself to stand still. Cocking her head to the side, she listened again for any sign that people were nearby, but there was still no one.
She eased forward just a little more and tore at the paper with her teeth. It ripped apart and she bit into it. Ham. It was ham, and cheese and bread and something spicy that made her sneeze. She chewed and swallowed, then pushed her nose further into the box, and there it was. Sausage -- long and nearly as big as her head -- filled with spices that made her feel warm all over, like a summer day spent in the sun.
She opened her jaws and bit down.
"Hey!" A man's voice blasted out from a door behind her. She knew he was angry and his words echoed off the alley walls.
Shira knew she should have run away right then. She knew he would probably just let her go if she just ran, but she was hungry, and bit down on the sausage and pulled. With just one quick, hard tug, the box tumbled out onto the pavement, spilling all kinds of meat and bread. The sausage slipped from between her teeth and landed on top of the rest of the food.
"Get away from there," the man yelled. He ran down the steps toward her. He had a long stick in his hand. Shira knew that if he caught her, he'd hit her. He'd hurt her. But she couldn't stop now.
She hesitated for a moment, just long enough to grab the sausage again. She gripped it tightly, and ran.
Shira darted out to the end of the alley, and the man's steps followed her. It sounded like he was getting closer.
"Get back here!" he yelled.
Shira kept running. She darted out onto the street. The man was still following her. She squeezed between a light pole and a metal box, but the man barely even slowed down. He was fast, faster than she'd expected.
Shira had been chased before, many times. Usually the man or woman gave up after a few steps. Some went as far as the end of the block before they slowed down. Now she'd gone past the end of the street, and the man was still chasing her.
There was a busy street ahead, filled with big and little cars, all of them moving fast. Shira always hated crossing it, but she didn't stop, just kept running. There were loud noises and something that sounded high pitched whining. Something brushed the tip of her tail, but she kept going.
The man reached the street just behind her. He slowed down -- not for long, but long enough. Shira put space between them, gaining on him with every stride. She could do this. She could. Shira knew these streets -- every turn and every twist, and she knew someplace to hide, if only she could get there first.
With one block to go, his footsteps started to fade behind her.
Half of a block.
Shira snaked right around the corner and into a side street, then cut right again into the familiar lane.
There. Just ahead. She was almost there.
Down the lane, and running full speed toward the stone walls. Between the walls was the gate, which was always closed, but Shira knew she could squeeze beneath it. Even if the man knew to follow her into the lane, even if saw the walls and the gate, he'd never fit beneath it. Shira could.
She came to a sliding stop in front of the gate. She crouched down, and pushed her head beneath it, still holding the sausage in her mouth. She slid under the metal bar at the bottom of it, feeling the ground scrape against her belly. Pulling her tail behind her, she was through.
She darted behind the stone wall, out of sight, and listened.
It was quiet there, but when she raised her ears, she made out the sound of the man's steps. He'd followed her into the side street, then into the lane. Shira slunk back into the grass, and watched. The wind rattled the branches of the trees above her, and she heard cars out on the road.
Whap, whap, whap whap. The man's footsteps seemed to explode against the hard pavement.
Whap, whap, whap -- coming closer now.
Whap, whap.
Shira peered beneath the gate as his steps drew close. His feet beat down hard as he drew near, then they slowed. Then they stopped. From beneath the gate, Shira saw his shoes, smelled his scent, and heard him breathing hard. He couldn't see through the gate. He couldn't smell her. He couldn't hear her.
Shira took a big bite from the sausage and watched the man's feet as he turned in circles, like he was lost and didn't know where to go. She swallowed down a hunk of it as he walked away, and shook herself as his steps grew faint in the distance. Her tail banged lightly against the stone wall and she tore off another piece of sausage.
Shira was happy.
Shira was safe.
Shira was home.
And now, Shira had food.


---------------

OR

"Hey!"
Shira jerked her head at the sound of the voice, hearing the anger blurted out in a single word, but she didn't run.
"Get out of there, you mutt!"
She heard the footsteps now too, heavy and fast, closing in on her. She should run. She knew she should run, but she was hungry -- her belly in a tight ball like a fist, demanding satisfaction. She'd had no food all day, and not very much the day before that. Sometimes even a clever dog like Shira couldn't scrounge up much to eat on the city streets, but the car with its back door left open had been just what she had wanted. Boxes filled with all kinds of smells of meat and cheese and spices had lured her closer and closer, even though she'd known there must be some person close by. She'd been hungry enough to risk getting close to the car -- and close to people. And now, just as she reached inside it, the man had seen her.
"Hey!" His voice was even louder now, and much closer.
Shira's hunger was just a little stronger than her fear, though. She didn't run. Instead, she bit down on the thing closest to her nose. Her teeth slipped through the skin of a sausage and she felt the juice inside it spill out onto her tongue, filling her mouth with the taste of pork and beef and peppery spices. She pulled hard, and the sausage pulled loose from the tangle of other food inside the box. She pulled again, and it was free.
"Let go of that!"
The sausage was long and heavy. Shira was so surprised by its size that she lost her grip on it for a moment, and it fell onto the hard pavement of the narrow lane behind the shops.
"Leave that alone!" The man was nearly close enough to reach her now -- nearly, but not quite.
Shira only had a split second, and she took it. She scooped up the sausage again, and ducked as the man grabbed for her. She felt the whisper of a touch when his fingers just brushed against her fur as she scampered around the edge of the car, then swerved away from the dirty brick wall and broke out into the open.
Shira darted out to the end of the alley, but the man's steps followed her. He wasn't giving up, but neither would she. All she had to do was run faster than him, and further than him, and she'd be able to run for home where she'd be safe.
"Get back here!" he yelled.
Shira kept running. She darted out onto the street. The man was still following her. She squeezed between a light pole and a metal box, but the man barely even slowed down. He was fast, faster than she'd expected.
Shira had been chased before, many times. Usually the man or woman gave up after a few steps. Some went as far as the end of the block before they slowed down. Now she'd gone past the end of the street, and the man was still chasing her.
There was a busy street ahead, filled with big and little cars, all of them moving fast. Shira always hated crossing it, but knew she had to. She didn't stop -- didn't even slow down -- just kept running. There were loud noises and something that sounded high pitched whining. She felt the sting as something slapped against the end of her tail, but she kept going.
The man reached the street just behind her. He slowed down -- not for long, but long enough. Shira put space between them, now finally gaining on him with every stride. She could do this. She could. Shira knew these streets -- every turn and every twist, and she knew where to hide, if only she could get there first. She knew someplace safe.
With one block to go, his footsteps started to fade behind her.
Half of a block.
Shira snaked right around the corner and into a side street, then cut right again into a familiar lane.
There. Just ahead. She was almost there.
Down the lane, and running full speed toward the stone walls. Between the walls was the gate, which was always closed, but Shira knew she could squeeze beneath it. Even if the man knew to follow her into the lane, even if he saw the walls and the gate, he'd never fit beneath it. Shira could.
She came to a sliding stop in front of the gate. She crouched down, and pushed her head beneath it, still holding the sausage in her mouth. She slid under the metal bar at the bottom of it, feeling the ground scrape against her belly, then pulling her tail behind her, she was through.
She darted behind the stone wall, out of sight, and listened.
It was quiet there, but when she raised her ears, she made out the sound of the man's steps. He'd followed her into the side street, then into the lane. Shira slunk back into the grass, and watched and listened. The wind rattled the branches of the trees above her, and she heard cars out on the road.
Whap, whap, whap whap. The man's footsteps seemed to explode against the hard pavement.
Whap, whap, whap -- coming closer now.
Whap, whap.
Shira peered beneath the gate as his steps drew close. His feet beat down hard as he drew near, then they slowed. Then they stopped. From the gap beneath the gate, Shira saw his shoes, smelled his scent, and heard him breathing hard. He couldn't see her, though. He couldn't smell her. He couldn't hear her.
Shira watched the man's feet as he turned in circles, like he was lost and didn't know where to go. She watched as he finally walked away, and shook herself as she heard his steps grew faint in the distance. Her tail banged lightly against the stone wall as she finally put the sausage down on the ground in front of her. She tore off a bite, chewed and swallowed, feeling a warmth in her belly for the first time in a long time.
Shira was happy.
Shira was safe.
Shira was home.
And now, Shira had food.

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namaste

October 2011

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