I received some very good feedback from someone last week on the opening pages of 'A Kestrel Rising' and one of the main shortfalls was my leisurely start. So, I threw out the first two chapters and wrote a new beginning. The first few paragraphs were posted on AW in the Historical SYW, for fine-tuning. After sifting through the comments from critters, here is the new opening for Kestrel. Gretchen asked for a 'plot-driven' extract last week so, here it is!
Edited to add: Have deleted first sentence. :)
The low thrumming of an engine broke the afternoon silence, growing louder until the plane burst from beyond the trees with a roar that had Ilona and her sister scrambling for cover.
‘What on earth is that?” Aislinn asked, clinging to her arm as they ducked behind the low wall of the terrace. “Is it the Germans, Ilke?”
Ilona gripped the warm brick, her fingernails dug into the moss as the ground trembled. She was convinced her heart was going to hammer through her ribs. The noise reverberated through her bones. “I don’t think so. I think there’d be more than one plane.” She glanced up as the plane swept into a banking curve above the house. It was low enough that she could see the RAF roundels on the underside of its elliptical wings and she took a deep breath. “It’s all right. It’s one of ours.”
“Are you sure?” Aislinn’s voice quivered.
“Yes, I’m sure.” She stood up, her fear gone, and shielded her eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun. “What a sight!” It seemed impossible to her that it had been made in a factory, its slender fuselage and upswept wings were something that nature would fashion, it echoed the shape of the kestrel that rose, screeching, out of the woods in pursuit of the intruder. Ilona watched the bird for a moment and wished she could fly with it, to follow the plane and see off the enemy that waited in the east.
“Bloody cheek,” Aislinn declared as the plane straightened and launched into a steep, fast climb. The throaty growl of its engine stunned the squabbling blackbirds into silence and brought the girls’ parents out onto the terrace. “He nearly took the chimney off.”
Ilona wasn’t listening to her sister. She stared at the plane as it continued its climb, rising into the sky before it turned and leveled, sweeping away to the south. The heavy purr of its engines faded away. Something inside her took flight, rising with the plane. The engine’s song was in her blood, she had to hear it again. She knew she would never be able to fly one but to see them again would be enough. It thrilled her that such a marvelous plane belonged to her country. For the first time since war was declared, Ilona knew what she was going to do.
Her father put his hands in his pockets and whistled softly. “That was some machine.”
“What was it, Papa?” Aislinn asked.
“I think it was a Spitfire. They test fly them out of Aldermaston.”
Ilona sat on the wall. “I didn’t think something like that could be beautiful. It looked like more like a living thing.” She hoped that fleeting, heart-racing glimpse would not be all that she ever saw. The ease with which it moved tugged at her. She had only ever loved living things, her family, her horses, her dogs and cats, never a machine. It didn’t seem possible that she could fall in love so quickly. She had to be where they were, to stand in the grass and watch them soar overhead. It would not be enough to stay at home when there was a war to fight. She looked at her sister and her father, her mind made up.
“I’ve decided,” she said. “I’m joining the WAAF.”
She took the train to Reading the next day and joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.