Delphi Altair Strange Beginnings Book 1

CHAPTER 1
THE MYSTERIOUS JOURNAL

On the day of her mother’s funeral, Megan Donnelly found a mysterious package, wrapped in faded brown paper and twine, on her dresser. She had no idea where it came from or how it got there. Somehow, despite her grief, the bundle of faded brown paper and twine seemed to have a strange power over her, as if she were spellbound. Megan was about to reach for it when her cell phone rang, startling her. She reached over to her bedside table and saw it was the geeky boy who lived in the house next door.

“Hello, Jake,” answered Megan. Megan was willing to talk to anybody, even Jake Peterson.

“I’m sorry about your mom, Megan. I really am. Is there anything I can do – like help you with your homework or something? Anyway, I was just wondering if you wanted to catch-up on what’s goin’on at school. Or, you know, I just got a brand-new Future Time game and it’s really cool. I thought maybe I could come over. It might help you, you know, take your mind off things.”

“Thanks, Jake,” replied Megan, gulping hard and trying to swallow her pain. “Maybe, but I’m kinda not into it right now. I’ll call you later.” She put her cell phone back on the table. “It isn’t fair”, she murmured. It was the saddest day of Megan Donnelly life.
Megan got up from the edge of her bed and walked over to her dresser. Her ginger-colored bangs fell over her hazel eyes in feathery wisps. She pushed the bangs aside, and as she did she looked down at her black dress shoes. She noticed bits of red dirt still clung to the bottom of her shoes. She inhaled sharply as a wave of grief enveloped her. Exhaling slowly, she picked up the package with her name scrawled on it and sat down on the edge of her bed.

She tore at the brown paper wrapping and stared at the leather-bound journal that included a lock and a silver key on a chain. She looked down at the journal on her lap and ran her fingers over the aged leather binding. It looks really old and it even smells old—like it had been wrapped in mothballs. She considered for a moment something she had not thought of— maybe my mom sent this package! It would be just like her to try and comfort me, but there was no note or card from her or anyone else. Megan slipped the silver chain with the key over her head. It felt warm against her skin. She put the key in the lock and turned it.

Thankful for any distraction from her grief, she shrugged her slender shoulders and flipped it open to the first age-yellowed page. It was written in an old style with ornate flourishes by a skilled hand—like historical letters she had seen in museums. Megan read the title aloud: “The Strange Beginnings of Delphi Altair.”
A strong breeze billowed into her room from the open window. She had not noticed until now that it was a bright sunny afternoon. It was Friday and there would be a football game at school tonight. Everyone would be there. She felt a sudden chill and got up to close the window.

As she turned around to pick up the journal she noticed the book now open to a different page and thought, that’s strange. Oh, well, it must have been the wind, of course, and scooped up the journal into her lap. What she found inserted into the journal was a letter addressed strangely: To Whom the Journal Has Found. Megan, perplexed as to who could have sent her the journal, began to read it in the hopes that it might reveal the sender.

TO WHOM THE JOURNAL HAS FOUND
AUGUST 1950

I found this journal by accident (or perhaps it found me). My mother and I had come to live with my grandmother after the untimely death of my father. The house we came to live in was a very old Sea Captain’s Manor situated on a bluff, overlooking the sea, in a time forgotten town.

One day, a very wet and windy day, I found myself with nothing to do. I was feeling sad and lonely, missing my home in New England, and my friends. In my room there was only a small bed and a very old sea chest. The house was very old and the mist of sea sprays had crept through the windows and doors over the years and I remember still the scent of sea spray on the weathered wooden walls.

Underneath the window sat the old sea chest. “The key to the chest”, my grandmother told me, “was lost long ago”. My very superstitious grandmother saw this as a sign to let it remain unopened and that was that.

Never one to let well enough of alone, I decided to see if by chance a key might have been placed on top of the wooden window frame. People did that sometimes I had been told. To reach the top of the window frame I had to stand on top of the old chest. I carefully climbed up and searched for it. To my disappointment there was no key to be found. As I gingerly stepped down off the sea chest the lid popped open, as if by magic.

I can’t say I wasn’t frightened, but then my curiosity was stronger than my fear. After all, it was just an old trunk with a rusty old lock that broke free, being so old, no magic needed. I slowly walked up to the old sea chest to see what treasure it might hold.
As I began looking through the numerous folded blankets and clothes, I saw a package wrapped in plain cloth. I opened the package to find inside a leather-bound journal. I opened the journal to the first page and on it was written, the Strange Beginnings of Delphi Altair. It was hand written in an old style with ornate flourishes. I felt oddly compelled to read this mysterious journal. Soon, I found myself being taken to a magical and dangerous place and time. I cannot say more. I daresay, to whom the journal has found, keep it safe, whatever you do. So much depends on it.

Megan sat dumbfounded. There was no signature on the written letter and not a single clue as to the author of the journal. Curious, she turned the page and began to read.

THE OLD SEA CAPTAIN’S MANOR

Beside a narrow strip of oyster shell road is an old Victorian Manor sitting high on an ancient bluff over-looking the sea. The manor was built long ago by a wealthy Sea Captain. As time went by, the Sea Captain grew older and bequeathed the manor to his sons who, in turn, bequeathed the manor to their sons.
The Old Sea Captain’s Manor had survived countless storms, gales, and violent hurricanes for more than hundred and twenty years. But oddly enough, when Eastern gale winds blow, the Old Sea Captain’s Manor begins to shake violently on its foundations.

The Tuttle family that came to live in the Old Sea Captain’s Manor was not put off by the manor’s mysterious quirks. A poor family, the Tuttles felt fortunate to live in such a grand place bequeathed to them by a far removed, extremely distant relative.
The gossiping town folk reckoned the Tuttles were strange enough, but the young girl who lived with them was more than strange. Delphi Altair had unusually bright violet eyes and a firestorm of shimmering dark red hair that almost looked purple in bright sunlight. But it wasn’t her looks, specifically, that cast Delphi in a suspicious light in the community. It was her very unusual way of being. The town folks would often say, “There is something peculiar about that girl.” Yet, no one could say exactly why.

Fortunately, the Tuttles did not care what the town’s people thought about Delphi. The Tuttles loved the strange girl that was not their own. Delphi was a foundling. They found her in an old shipman’s basket one cold morning, wrapped in a blanket. Clutched in the infant’s tiny fist was a small star-shaped pendant with a blue stone inset in the middle. A weathered parchment was pinned to the infant’s clothes. The only words written on the parchment were these: Delphinus Decima East of Altair. The Tuttles had never heard of such a place called Delphinus Decima that was East of Altair. So, they shorten the words to make her a name: Delphi Altair. The Tuttles believed it would be best to keep the infant as their own until someone came to claim the child. But no one ever came.

As time went by, the Tuttles had two children born to them, Scout and Scooter, known about town as the “scalawag” twins. By the age of eight, the mischievous and rambunctious boys, tall for their age, were without mercy to little Delphi, teasing and taunting her daily.

Most people in the old seaside town made their living in some way connected to the sea. It was a booming industry and the people in the town did fairly well by it. It was booming, that is, until the blight came to the sea and in turn to the people of this seaside town. In a small town suffering great hardship everything is suspect and nothing is ever forgotten. Someone had to be blamed for the town’s misfortune.

Delphi became the focus of all the town’s troubles. From the very beginning of the town’s decline, there was the question of Delphi’s mysterious discovery by the Tuttles on that cold winter morning. This was the mindset that kept the townspeople eyeing Delphi suspiciously (besides the fact they found her mysteriously strange anyway). Like an unchecked simmering pot, things were bound to reach a boiling point.

Book Review Monday! Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Uniquely Magical, Alien, and Danger-at-Every-Turn Mystery Thriller! Great Story!

This magical, alien driven, strong female heroine story, first captured my attention by its interesting cover and title. This story takes place in a normal appearing small town in the present day, with chapter one opening with, “Brutus is dead”. Well, I had to find out what happened to Brutus and from that moment, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading. Our intriguing Heroine, Dina, keeps us guessing about who, what, where, and when, as she struggles to resolve the mysteries surrounding her – while managing to stay alive. This fascinating story takes you by surprise with exciting and scary alien adventures from the very first page with unique mysteries, good writing and complex characters that will make your head spin. The ending left some unresolved issues, however, they are carried over to book 2. Anyone looking for a good mystery involving human and alien magical interactions, this is it.

Foreshadowing – how much is too much?

ForeShadowing 3

I was working on my second edition of a middle grade novel when my editor told me that I should be careful about using foreshadowing to liberally.  It was my writing technique to include foreshadowing at the end of each chapter, if needed. In fact, she eliminated, in each chapter, all but one of my foreshadowing lovelies.  It was hard to take. So, in a state of rebellion I put several of the best, in my opinion, back where they belonged. I kept those rebellious foreshadowing evils in my revision.  The following is an example:

With Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there. Laura had no way of knowing how prophetic her words would become and the danger therein.

Without Foreshadowing:

After supper, Laura cleared the table and put the dishes in the sink to wash them. The summer storm had passed and in its wake was a beautiful evening.  It helped Laura to forget about the nightmare that still haunted her.  At the kitchen window above the sink, Laura watched as the first star of twilight became visible. It was the Dog Star, Sirius; the star that guided wayfaring sailors home from turbulent seas. “I wish, I wish” said Laura, that I could fly up to the planets and discover the world my parents knew, my home, somewhere up there.

Come what may, I will live with this decision. Of course, if anyone out there has  some sage words of instruction, I would love to know how other writers have handled this perplexing problem!

Word Painting – The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan

Word PaintingHere are 11 secrets to keep in mind as you breathe life into your characters through description that Rebecca finds to be very important in writing descriptively.

  1. Description that relies solely on physical attributes too often turns into what Janet Burroway calls the “all-points bulletin.”

When we describe a character, factual information alone is not sufficient, no matter how accurate it might be. The details must appeal to our senses. Phrases that merely label (like tall, middle-aged, and average) bring no clear image to our minds. Since most people form their first impression of someone through visual clues, it makes sense to describe our characters using visual images. Green eyes is a beginning, but it doesn’t go far enough. Are they pale green or dark green? Even a simple adjective can strengthen a detail. If the adjective also suggests a metaphor—forest green, pea green, or emerald green—the reader not only begins to make associations (positive or negative) but also visualizes in her mind’s eye the vehicle of the metaphor—forest trees, peas, or glittering gems.

  1. The problem with intensifying an image only by adjectives is that adjectives encourage cliché.

It’s hard to think of adjective descriptors that haven’t been overused: bulging or ropy muscles, clean-cut good looks, frizzy hair. If you use an adjective to describe a physical attribute, make sure that the phrase is not only accurate and sensory but also fresh. In her short story “Flowering Judas,” Katherine Anne Porter describes Braggioni’s singing voice as a “furry, mournful voice” that takes the high notes “in a prolonged painful squeal.” Often the easiest way to avoid an adjective-based cliché is to free the phrase entirely from its adjective modifier. For example, rather than describing her eyes merely as “hazel,” Emily Dickinson remarked that they were “the color of the sherry the guests leave in the glasses.”

 

  1. Strengthen physical descriptions by making details more specific.

In my earlier “all-points bulletin” example, the description of the father’s hair might be improved with a detail such as “a military buzz-cut, prickly to the touch” or “the aging hippie’s last chance—a long ponytail striated with gray.” Either of these descriptions would paint a stronger picture than the bland phrase brown hair. In the same way, his oxford shirt could become “a white oxford button-down that he’d steam-pleated just minutes before” or “the same style of baby blue oxford he’d worn since prep school, rolled carelessly at the elbows.” These descriptions not only bring forth images, they also suggest the background and the personality of the father.

  1. Select physical details carefully, choosing only those that create the strongest, most revealing impression.

One well-chosen physical trait, item of clothing, or idiosyncratic mannerism can reveal character more effectively than a dozen random images. This applies to characters in nonfiction as well as fiction. When I write about my grandmother, I usually focus on her strong, jutting chin—not only because it was her most dominant feature but also because it suggests her stubbornness and determination. When I write about Uncle Leland, I describe the wandering eye that gave him a perpetually distracted look, as if only his body was present. His spirit, it seemed, had already left on some journey he’d glimpsed peripherally, a place the rest of us were unable to see. As you describe real-life characters, zero in on distinguishing characteristics that reveal personality: gnarled, arthritic hands always busy at some task; a habit of covering her mouth each time a giggle rises up; a lopsided swagger as he makes his way to the horse barn; the scent of coconut suntan oil, cigarettes, and leather each time she sashays past your chair.

  1. A character’s immediate surroundings can provide the backdrop for the sensory and significant details that shape the description of the character himself.

If your character doesn’t yet have a job, a hobby, a place to live, or a place to wander, you might need to supply these things. Once your character is situated comfortably, he may relax enough to reveal his secrets. On the other hand, you might purposely make your character uncomfortable—that is, put him in an environment where he definitely doesn’t fit, just to see how he’ll respond. Let’s say you’ve written several descriptions of an elderly woman working in the kitchen, yet she hasn’t begun to ripen into the three-dimensional character you know she could become. Try putting her at a gay bar on a Saturday night, or in a tattoo parlor, or (if you’re up for a little time travel) at Appomattox, serving her famous buttermilk biscuits to Grant and Lee.

  1. In describing a character’s surroundings, you don’t have to limit yourself to a character’s present life.

Early environments shape fictional characters as well as flesh-and-blood people. In Flaubert’s description of Emma Bovary’s adolescent years in the convent, he foreshadows the woman she will become, a woman who moves through life in a romantic malaise, dreaming of faraway lands and loves. We learn about Madame Bovary through concrete, sensory descriptions of the place that formed her. In addition, Flaubert describes the book that held her attention during mass and the images that she particularly loved—a sick lamb, a pierced heart.

Living among those white-faced women with their rosaries and copper crosses, never getting away from the stuffy schoolroom atmosphere, she gradually succumbed to the mystic languor exhaled by the perfumes of the altar, the coolness of the holy-water fonts and the radiance of the tapers. Instead of following the Mass, she used to gaze at the azure-bordered religious drawings in her book. She loved the sick lamb, the Sacred Heart pierced with sharp arrows, and poor Jesus falling beneath His cross.

  1. Characters reveal their inner lives—their preoccupations, values, lifestyles, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations—by the objects that fill their hands, houses, offices, cars, suitcases, grocery carts, and dreams.

What items would your character pack for a weekend away? What would she use for luggage? A leather valise with a gold monogram on the handle? An old accordion case with decals from every theme park she’s visited? A duffel bag? Make a list of everything your character would pack: a “Save the Whales” T-shirt; a white cotton nursing bra, size 36D; a breast pump; a Mickey Mouse alarm clock; a photograph of her husband rocking a child to sleep; a can of Mace; three Hershey bars.

  1. Description doesn’t have to be direct to be effective.

Techniques abound for describing a character indirectly, for instance, through the objects that fill her world. Create a grocery list for your character—or two or three, depending on who’s coming for dinner. Show us the character’s credit card bill or the itemized deductions on her income tax forms. Let your character host a garage sale and watch her squirm while neighbors and strangers rifle through her stuff. Which items is she practically giving away? What has she overpriced, secretly hoping no one will buy it? Write your character’s Last Will and Testament. Which niece gets the Steinway? Who gets the lake cottage—the stepson or the daughter? If your main characters are divorcing, how will they divide their assets? Which one will fight hardest to keep the dog?

  1. To make characters believable to readers, set them in motion.

The earlier “all-points bulletin” description of the father failed not only because the details were mundane and the prose stilted; it also suffered from lack of movement. To enlarge the description, imagine that same father in a particular setting—not just in the house but also sitting in the brown recliner. Then, because setting implies time as well as place, choose a particular time in which to place him. The time may be bound by the clock (six o’clock, sunrise, early afternoon) or bound only by the father’s personal history (after the divorce, the day he lost his job, two weeks before his sixtieth birthday).

Then set your character in motion. Again, be as specific as possible. “Reading the newspaper” is a start, but it does little more than label a generic activity. In order for readers to enter the fictional dream, the activity must be shown. Often this means breaking a large, generic activity into smaller, more particular parts: “scowling at the Dow Jones averages,” perhaps, or “skimming the used-car ads” or “wiping his ink-stained fingers on the monogrammed handkerchief.” Besides providing visual images for the reader, specific and representative actions also suggest the personality of the character, his habits and desires, and even the emotional life hidden beneath the physical details.

  1. Verbs are the foot soldiers of action-based description.

However, we don’t need to confine our use of verbs to the actions a character performs. Well-placed verbs can sharpen almost any physical description of a character. In the following passage from Marilynne Robinson’s novel Housekeeping, verbs enliven the description even when the grandmother isn’t in motion.

Notice the strong verbs Robinson uses throughout the description. The mouth “bowed” forward; the brow “sloped” back; the hair “hovered,” then “sprouted”; the hem “swept” the floor; hats “fell” down over her eyes. Even when the grandmother’s body is at rest, the description pulses with activity. And when the grandmother finally does move—putting a hand over her mouth, closing her eyes, laughing until her shoulders shake—we visualize her in our mind’s eye because the actions are concrete and specific. They are what the playwright David Mamet calls “actable actions.” Opening a window is an actable action, as is slamming a door. “Coming to terms with himself” or “understanding that he’s been wrong all along” are not actable actions. This distinction between nonactable and actable actions echoes our earlier distinction between showing and telling. For the most part, a character’s movements must be rendered concretely—that is, shown—before the reader can participate in the fictional dream.

Actable actions are important elements in many fiction and nonfiction scenes that include dialogue. In some cases, actions, along with environmental clues, are even more important to character development than the words the characters speak. Writers of effective dialogue include pauses, voice inflections, repetitions, gestures, and other details to suggest the psychological and emotional subtext of a scene. Journalists and other nonfiction writers do the same. Let’s say you’ve just interviewed your cousin about his military service during the Vietnam War. You have a transcript of the interview, based on audio or video recordings, but you also took notes about what else was going on in that room. As you write, include nonverbal clues as well as your cousin’s actual words. When you asked him about his tour of duty, did he look out the window, light another cigarette, and change the subject? Was it a stormy afternoon? What song was playing on the radio? If his ancient dog was asleep on your cousin’s lap, did he stroke the dog as he spoke? When the phone rang, did your cousin ignore it or jump up to answer it, looking relieved for the interruption? Including details such as these will deepen your character description.

  1. We don’t always have to use concrete, sensory details to describe our characters, and we aren’t limited to describing actable actions.

The novels of Milan Kundera use little outward description of characters or their actions. Kundera is more concerned with a character’s interior landscape, with what he calls a character’s “existential problem,” than with sensory description of person or action. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Tomas’s body is not described at all, since the idea of body does not constitute Tomas’s internal dilemma. Teresa’s body is described in physical, concrete terms (though not with the degree of detail most novelists would employ) only because her body represents one of her existential preoccupations. For Kundera, a novel is more a meditation on ideas and the private world of the mind than a realistic depiction of characters. Reading Kundera, I always feel that I’m living inside the characters rather than watching them move, bodily, through the world.

With writers like Kundera, we learn about characters through the themes and obsessions of their inner lives, their “existential problems” as depicted primarily through dreams, visions, memories, and thoughts. Other writers probe characters’ inner lives through what characters see through their eyes.

… and I saw how the smooth, white curve of the snow as it lay on the ground was like the curve of a woman’s body, and I saw how the farm was like the body of a woman which lay down under the sun and under the freezing snow and perpetually and relentlessly produced uncountable swarms of living things, all born with mouths open and cries rising from them into the air, long-boned muzzles opening … as if they would swallow the world whole …

Later in the book, when Agnes’s sexual relationship has led to pregnancy, then to a life-threatening abortion, she describes the farm in quite different terms.

It was August, high summer, but there was something definite and curiously insubstantial in the air. … In the fields near me, the cattle were untroubled, their jaws grinding the last of the grass, their large, fat tongues drinking the clear brook water. But there was something in the air, a sad note the weather played upon the instrument of the bone-stretched skin. … In October, the leaves would be off the trees; the fallen leaves would be beaten flat by heavy rains and the first fall of snow. The bony ledges of the earth would begin to show, the earth’s skeleton shedding its unnecessary flesh.

By describing the farm through Agnes’s eyes, Schaeffer not only shows us Agnes’s inner landscape—her ongoing obsession with sex and pregnancy—but also demonstrates a turning point in Agnes’s view of sexuality. In the first passage, which depicts a farm in winter, Agnes sees images of beginnings and births. The earth is curved and full like a woman’s fleshy body. In the second scene, described as occurring in “high summer,” images of death prevail. Agnes’s mind jumps ahead to autumn, to dying leaves and heavy rains, a time when the earth, no longer curved in a womanly shape, is little more than a skeleton, having shed the flesh it no longer needs.  ****originally posted  Writer’s Digest by Rebecca McClanahan

 

 

 

A Blank Page

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Jumping into the unknown fathoms of starting a new novel this week has left me beginning to panic!The image above exactly represents how I feel when starting a new novel. I write down the concept in a special notebook for each new concept for a new novel. Except this time, I don’t have a title, per se.  So, when beginning a new novel, I often make up things I need to do first. For instance,  like reading the news, old magazines, walking, shopping, and trying not to panic by doing yoga or crocheting. Yes, I do crocheting and I almost have a blanket now.  After a while, I run out of excuses, take a few deep breaths and jump into a fathomless pit of indecision. Suddenly, the squeaky mouse, turns into a brave tiger and an hour later – viola – I have 10 pages written, that need lots of editing and maybe tossed in the wastepaper basket before the day is over, but it is a beginning!

So, other writers, what is your experience when facing a brand new blank page?

 

 

MY WORD OF THE DAY

Choose one word listed that represents your first impression of the artistic rendition above or one of your own choosing.

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EVOCATIVE:

eloquent,

expressive,

meaningful,

pregnant,

revealing,

significant;

affecting,

emotional,

impressive,

moving,

poignant,

stirring,

touching,

exciting,

provocative,

provoking,

rousing,

stimulating

 

Delphi Altair – A Review

Delphi Altair Third Edition 11-2015 sample - Copy

A Great Adventure with a Charming Heroine!

By Kirstin Lenane

Simply put: this ageless novel is beautifully done and should be picked up by any fan of epic fantasy stories. I am very impressed by K. D. Dowdall’s ability to weave together so many characters and story-lines into a cohesive whole (it reminded me of the way Dickens and Tolkien are so deftly able to do this). The story takes place mostly in three settings: in a briny, seaside town sometime in the past, in a beautifully evocative land called Janji, and then in a familiar-seeming town sometime in the present day (where McDonald’s and Diet coke and movies exist). Whether K. D. Dowdall is evoking an other-worldly one (filled with magical creatures, such as Snagettes and Tittlecrests) or an earthly one (with clam chowder boiling on the stove and nasty schoolteachers pounding paddles on their desks), her scenes are drawn with such detail that they will pull you in, time and time again.  I really can’t recommend this book enough. Try it! You’ll be hooked and waiting for the next one.

****Kirsten Lenane is a professor of English Literature and Creative Writing. She is also the author of several wonderful children’s books: http://kirstinlenane.com