Now for today's entry. Please take the time to read through the passage and offer the author feedback. My detailed critique is below.
Genre: Paranormal YA
Author: Tere Kirkland (visit her site and say hi)
Blinding smoke chokes me as I dashinto our tiny bow-top wagon. Its wooden walls haven’t caught yet, but theywill, sending my home to the hereafter. Just like Papa. It’s been just over aweek since his death, but life without my sweet papa already seems unlivable.Now I’m losing my home, where he used to sing with me. Where he used to listento me play for hours. If I lose my violin, I might as well die, too.
I fling open the doors to my littlebunk, praying for its safety. Orange light flickers off its smooth surface,right where I left it, the bow nearby. You should have loosened the bow whenyou were done playing, Mara, comes Alex's voice in my head. A fine time forsuch a warning, when I'm risking my skin.
The wooden doors of my bunk are aflamenow, but the blanket is still unburned. I snatch it from the soft mattress,holding my violin tight to my chest and wrapping the blanket close. I canbarely breathe. Crouching down low, I stumble sightless toward the door I'dleft open while the flames eat away our beloved vardo. They'll eat menext if I stay any longer.
Mother is shouting outside."Sweet Saint Sara, save my baby girl!”
I try to croak that I’m here, but myfirst breath scorches my throat. Coughing drops me to the ground. The heat aloneis enough to suck most of the air from my chest. If I die, there'll be nothingleft of my possessions to burn. Nothing left of me to be remembered. Nothingbut my restless muló to haunt them.
I'd laugh at myself if it wouldn'tmean sucking in more smoke. Me, just another muló like old Kira and theTinker? Wouldn't they love to see me so? I grit my teeth. I'm determined tolive, if only to keep from spending the afterlife with those two chattering inmy dead ear.
Clutching my violin tight, I forcemyself to stand. I tuck my face under the blanket and make myself walk towardthe door—that painted door I know so well—quick as a match is struck.
I trip down the three steps and suckfresh air in, nearly collapsing. Mother runs to my side and clutches at thesooty blanket I’m coughing into. Even as she babbles at me through a mess oftears, I push her away. Not that I'm not glad to see her, but I see anotherface in the gathering crowd. The cold, manipulative face of Lucia Saray.
Old Kira stands unseen next to her,rubbing her bloodless hands and speaking threats that I alone can hear. OnlyLucia could have convinced Mother to send our vardo up in flames afterPapa died inside. Though today was his first pomana, the memorial supperheld nine days after his death, Mother still feared his spirit might haunt ourhome.
But she didn't have to worry aboutPapa's muló. Perhaps she wouldn’t have believed me, but I should havetold her so before she burned our vardo. Before she let Lucia take itfrom me. My punishment for chasing Alex away.
I thrust my violin and bow at Motherand drop the blanket to the ground. The wind whips it into the wheel of theclosest vardo where it flaps like a dying bird.
“Mara, what were you thinking?”Mother cradles my tiny violin as if it's a baby. “You’re lucky to be alive.”
“No thanks to that old hag,” I spit,stepping closer to Lucia.
The woman’s needle-like eyes narroweven further.
My sister Jeanette steps in betweenus. “Behave yourself, Mara. Have some respect for your elders if you’ve nonefor the dead.” Her grim-faced husband Hugo watches the fire from behind her forany signs it might spread to the other wagons.
Holding my chin up, as if that couldmake me any taller, I spin on my heel away from the judgment in their eyes. Awayfrom the cunning frozen smiles of the Tinker and Kira.
Fire licks at the painted sides ofthe bow-top wagon. Flame manes crown Papa’s painted mares, one each for me andmy two sisters. The little birds Mother kept bright with oil and wax havecurled and warped under the heat. For sixteen years I’ve called the vardohome and in less time than I could play an Irish jig, it’s been taken from me.And soon Jeannette will take Mother away, too.