Thursday, May 17, 2012

Team Krista #7: DUET WITH THE DEVIL'S VIOLIN

Title: DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN
Genre: MG magical realism
Word count: 43,000

Query:

Thirteen-year-old prodigy Miranda Harper craves the kind of perfection that goes beyond hitting all the right notes--she wants to be inside the music. Thanks to her new violin, she achieves her goal, but it's more than she bargained for. A flawless performance of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” lands her in a flying chariot piloted by a six-and-a-half-foot Valkyrie delivering a dead soldier to Valhalla. She’s sure there shouldn’t be dead bodies inside the music.

Miranda snaps back to reality, only to battle exhaustion and a reluctance to play for several days. She decides the Valkyrie incident was a hallucination, until the magic strikes again during a Halloween concert. This time her world goes black and white, and a dress-clad psycho chases her with a butcher knife. As a bonus, the scratches Miranda gets during her escape come back to the real world with her.

With each trip into the music, it’s harder to return and the side effects get worse. Miranda knows she should stop, but the violin and its promise of perfection call to her. The euphoria of one extraordinary performance is worth a few days of exhaustion and some cuts and bruises. But when she discovers continuing to play the violin could trap her forever in an alternate reality, she must decide what perfection is really worth.

First page:

Perfection.

I knew it wasn’t really possible. Near perfection, yes. Total perfection, no way.

I’d learned that lesson after years of playing the violin. Something that sounded flawless to the average person was bound to have minuscule errors.

A tone so slightly off pitch that even someone with a highly trained ear couldn’t tell.

A note played a hundredth of a beat too soon.

A bow pulled at the wrong speed to produce the right sound.

A measure performed in mezzo piano instead of pianissimo.

Joshua Bell, classical music superstar and my idol, once said: “When it’s perfect, I feel like I can do no wrong. I could change my fingers--do it on a different string--because I have that much concentration. Also, you feel like you’re inside the music.”

That was what I wanted to feel--that I was inside the music. That I was the music.

I especially wanted that sensation today, my first day as concertmaster of the youth symphony. Miranda Harper: concertmaster. I loved the sound of it. I should have had the title last season, but Dr. Kamensky had said I needed a year to observe. It probably hadn’t helped that my first year was the previous concertmaster’s final year before college, and it would have really sucked to be bumped by a seventh grader.

Instead he’d named me principal second violinist. At least we’d played some Mozart. Good old Wolfgang sometimes let the second violins outshine the firsts.

Now it was my turn to shine, and we weren’t playing Mozart today.

26 comments:

Monica B.W. said...

Just so you know, Krista, I was going to fight with you for this entry! But, well, you snatched it first.
Anyway, I really love it!! :D

Michelle Mason said...

Thanks for the extra vote of confidence, Monica! As nice as it is to be fought over, I would have hated having to choose :).

Noelle Henry said...

An entry after my own heart! Go Team Krista! I love the music aspect (of course!), especially the fact that it's violin, since that's what I play. And I love how you've combined that with a bit of magic. You've hooked me into wanting to read more!

Sarah Henson said...

I second Noelle, I love the magic in this story, but what I like most is that it still feels real. Go Team Krista!

erinpetti said...

I love the concept, go Team Krista!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for that vote of confidence, Monica! (But I would have dueled you to the death! :) )

Becky Mahoney said...

What a fantastic concept! I love Miranda's voice (and oh, can I relate), and I'm dying to see what happens when the breaks from reality start.

loritayseastep said...

I would have LOVED this as a middle grader! And I love it now. :) Go Team Krista!

Ryan said...

Your first 250 have so much voice! I'm hooked!

Lisa K. said...

Okay, first off, I love, love, love the title. Second, I love, love, love the premise. Third, I love, love, love...okay, you get the idea. :-) Go Team Krista!

T.L. Bodine said...

This is one of my favorites in the whole thing, not even gonna lie. I would read this book in a heartbeat. *makes grabby hands*

Ben Spendlove said...

I was never much of a musician, but I was a little, and I can totally relate to this. I'd definitely keep reading.

Jennie Bailey said...

I would buy copies of this for my neice and nephews - right up all of their alleys. Love, love, love it!

TYHatch said...

A great MG story. There are a lot of kids who would devour this.

Good luck!

TYHatch said...

A great MG story. There are a lot of kids who would devour this.

Good luck!

erica m. chapman said...

LOVE this. Such a cool concept!!

Becca C. said...

This just sounds - great drive and energy in the MC!

kiperoo said...

Oooooh, I love how we are pulled into the magic of Miranda's world right from the query--great job! I <3 this entry!

Leigh Ann said...

A hundredth of a beat too soon? She has like violin spidey sense. I LOVE this girl!

Sounds great. Best of luck!

April Wall said...

As one MG writer to another, this concept is just so great :) Good luck!

erica m. chapman said...

Such a cool idea. And I love the writing. I remember this from the preliminary rounds. I enjoyed it then too ;o)

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I love the originality of this. This was a stand out among 200 in the preliminary round. Still really enjoy ti! Good luck to you!

Andrea Somberg said...

I vote for you!

Susan Hawk said...

I vote for you!

Louise Fury said...

I vote for you!

Tara Dairman said...

#7 DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN

Query:

I like the title, it’s definitely memorable. However, the query reads to me more like a synopsis than a query: this happens, then that happens. I found myself wanting to know what was really at stake earlier on rather than getting a detailed summary of each trip into the music. Perhaps a little more of a glimpse of Miranda’s “real world” would help here—is there another character in the story that she tries to tell about the weird stuff that’s going on? Does he or she not believe her? That would ground things more and up the stakes for the reader if you wove it into the query.

First page:

Your writing is strong, but to me the tone feels older than middle grade. Until you get to the part where she says it would have sucked to be bumped by a 7th grader (very funny), I would have assumed that the protagonist was an older teenager. Even if Miranda’s a prodigy, she’s still a kid, right? Perhaps jumping into the first scene sooner, to let us see her personality in action, rather than starting with the discourse on perfection and the Joshua Bell quote, would let us see her more clearly.