Thursday, March 1, 2012

The meaning behind “Velociraptor Hands” is finally revealed! (Admit it. The suspense was killing you.)

Last week I promised you an excerpt of my young-adult dystopian novel which would explain the name of this blog. So I won’t waste time rambling about things like the Oscars, mainly because I failed to watch them, and have spent all week feeling behind the times.

You might expect this excerpt to be near the beginning of the book, but it’s actually closer to the middle. Now, you may be asking yourself, why would I show you an excerpt from the middle of the book?

I want you guys to see the beginning of the book once it’s actually a book. The beginning is when you pull the reader in, and hopefully don’t let go. So instead I’m doing it like Renaissance Lab is a movie and I’m on Conan (just roll with this metaphor, okay?), showing you a clip to get you interested enough to buy a ticket on opening day.

I take him through a few vocal exercises and see that he wasn’t exaggerating. His actual voice is lovely—it’s deep and rich, just like his speaking voice. But Roth really is tone-deaf. When I sing notes to him, he responds by jumping up at least half an octave. I’m also not a very good voice teacher. When Roth prods me with questions, sometimes all I can say is, “Just do what feels right.”
He does a little better once I show him how to raise his hand and move it according to the music—up for higher notes and down for lower ones. Finally, I hand him the sheet music for “Shenandoah.” It’s a simple song; hopefully he can handle it.
After his third off-key rendition of the song, it’s tough to keep from grimacing. Roth notices my expression and stops singing. “Are your ears bleeding yet?”
“Only minor damage, I think. That time was a little better…” I trail off.
He laughs. “Oh, be honest. I’m horrible.” Roth sits next to me on the piano bench and thumbs through some of the sheet music on the stand. “I think I better stick to instruments I can see.”
I stiffen and try to figure out a polite way to get away from the bench. Why do I care about being polite to him? Some sense of manners keeps me in my seat, though I scoot as far from Roth as possible. “Yeah, I guess singing must be one of the tougher ones. Sorry I’m not great at explaining it. I pretty much just navigate singing by trying to feel my voice in the right places…” That doesn’t even make sense. Good thing teaching has never been a Kin career.
Roth shrugs. “Well, however you do it, it seems to work. You have … uh, you have a nice voice.”
“Thanks,” I reply quietly and focus my attention on a chart on the wall with pictures of a doe and rays of sunlight on it. Singing has always been the part of music I’m the most insecure about. To my ears, my voice lacks the trilling beauty of Sophie’s—it’s low and boring. “So do you. You just have to learn how to use it properly.”
“That’s what my mom used to say. But she always seemed to get a headache less than halfway into her lessons with me.” 
I chuckle, picturing an older blonde woman running from a singing Roth and towards a bottle of pain relievers. Roth’s black eyes catch mine and my smile slips away. “What?”
He shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s just, I’m not used to you smiling so much. Or at all. You’re usually so serious.”
Easy for him to say. It’s hard to joke around when you don’t have anyone to do it with. “You’re one to talk! You look so angry all the time … Stone Face.”
Roth lets out an incredulous laugh. “Stone Face? That’s the best you’ve got? And I bet you think you’re the funny one back home.”
I start searching for a better comeback then reflect on his words. Back home. Back where I ribbed at my friends all the time. Friends who couldn’t fathom the idea of speaking to a Vis Rebel, much less helping one. And laughing at his jokes.
Roth seems to be thinking something similar, since he abruptly rises from the piano bench and moves to a keyboard. Maybe he remembered that home to me is the same place that was prison to him. “Could we go over scales?” he asks. “I had a few questions.”
“Sure,” I reply, relieved to be back on familiar ground. 
Things are a little awkward for the rest of the session, and I’m sure this is the last I’ll see of Roth outside of class. But a few days later, he turns up again. He plays the entirety of “Shenandoah” on the piano and it sounds much better than it did when he tried to sing it.
“Any ear-bleeding this time?” he asks when he finishes.
I shake my head. “None at all. Though you need to loosen up your hands. You look like a velociraptor.”
He probably doesn’t know what a velociraptor is—he’s never played Battle of the Dinosaurs. But he grins without confusion. “I’m missing what’s bad about that.”

P.S. I told Young Daniel about his nickname on the blog and he was NOT pleased like I expected. Not at all. I don’t see what you’re so upset about, Young Daniel. I’m making you famous. Like, seven more people know that your name is Daniel, and that you are young. These are good things. And four of those people are from Thailand. You’re welcome.


  1. Awww poor Young Daniel. He must be younger than you. Poor boy! Also, I commented on the last journal...and it ATE my comment. How dare it?

    That was a good synopsis. I really loved the music segment of training too. I'm excited to find out how publishing goes.

    As for my novel... I feel like I lost something important to writing recently, and can't find it. Ah well. Maybe more writing will fix it.

    1. Ha, Young Daniel is actually only three months younger than I am. It just amuses me to no end to tease him about that fact. Thank you for the kind words! I will be sure to keep you guys updated on any new developments in the publishing department.

      Good luck with your novel! Working on another project for a week or two helps me with writer's block sometimes.

  2. Young Daniel can get over it! He could be Kid Daniel or Baby Daniel or Fetus Daniel. He should be grateful such a forgiving honorific!

    1. That is a very good point. I also may have to steal Fetus Daniel next time I'm having a hard time thinking up a new nickname.