In the Hotseat

Red Pencil Thursday

Click image for details on how YOU can be a Red Pencil Thursday Volunteer!

I’ve put myself in the volunteer’s place today, sharing the first 500 words of my current WIP. This is a Scottish set novella that’ll come out in September 2013. My editor loves my working title so much she’s asked me not to share it till closer to its release date. Titles can’t be copyrighted and I’ve already had one title boosted by another author this year after its release.

I so appreciate my volunteers’ willingness to put their work out there. It’s scary to take your bath in public. But the hope of Red Pencil Thursday is that what we do here will help other writers as they hone their own WIP. So without further ado, I offer up my own shiny new words. Please leave your comments and suggestions and I’ll take them under advisement!

Scottish Highlands, 1521

Chapter 1

“That’s the ugliest castle I’ve ever seen.”

Cait Grant pulled her sturdy Highland pony up short and cast Morgan MacRath a poisonous glare. She hated agreeing with her father’s advisor on anything, but the man had a point.

Bonniebroch’s gray stone was the exact color of the lowering sky. Perhaps if the sun were shining, the granite would glimmer a bit, but now the castle brooded between two sloping hills like a squat toad, all warty and freckled.

“May I remind ye I will shortly be the chatelaine of yon ugly castle?” Cait said.

“Perhaps it merely lacks a woman’s touch,” Morgan said with a sniff, his tone slick as always.

She didn’t know if he was taunting her or not. Word about the highlands was that it was hard to tell when her father was talking because Morgan MacRath’s lips moved at the same time. Wallace Grant trusted Morgan’s judgment so implicitly it was as if he’d been ensorcelled, folk said.

But they didn’t say it very loud.

“Appears there’s a passel o’ people here to welcome ye, milady.” Grizel drew her mule even with Cait’s mount. A long strand of the woman’s iron gray hair escaped from her kerchief, reminding Cait that her maid was not as young as she used to be. But Grizel wasn’t one to complain, even when Cait’s father insisted they travel overland, taking game trails in a circuitous route through the Highlands instead of sailing around to the Firth of Forth and up the River Tay. “Mind how many are coming and going over the  drawbridge.”

Despite the castle’s dour appearance, the squeal of festive pipes floated up to their overlook.

“I doubt they’re here to welcome me, Grizel,” Cait said. “They didna know when we’d arrive.”

“We’ll never arrive if we tarry here, milady,” said Barclay, one of the two clansmen her father had sent to protect her on the journey. He tugged at his forelock in respect, then turned to the other guard. “Fife, take the lead.”

Fife, a barrel-chested one-eyed fellow, kneed his horse down the steep track without a backward glance, expecting the rest of Cait’s party to follow as if he towed them with invisible tendrils. Barclay formed their rearguard.

Of course, there was no need for a guard, either before or behind. Cait expected no trouble. They were a small party so as not to attract much notice as they traveled. Their mounts were sound, but not showy enough to excite envy. No highwaymen would suspect Cait’s dowry was secreted in the battered leather pouch draped over Morgan’s saddle. Barclay and Fife were old enough not to appear as dangerous as they really were. Cait’s clothing was so travel-stained and worn, no one would believe she was the wellborn daughter of a clan chieftain on her way to meet her bridegroom. No, they’d encountered no trouble on the road.

The real trouble will start once we arrive.


Now it’s YOUR turn. Please leave your comments and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from YOU!

11 thoughts on “In the Hotseat

  1. I’m a bit late to the party here, but I agree that the opening is wonderfully engaging. I’d definitely keep reading! That said, I had to wonder if Morgan is the hero since Cait has such a strong aversion to him. The fact we don’t know his age or appearance, however, suggests he might not be. As an advisor, our stereotype expectation is an older man.

    1. Mia says:

      Thank you, Helen. Morgan is not the hero, but you’re right that often aversion is the first reaction in romance novels. The greater the animosity, the greater the relief when they give in and decide to love each other.

  2. eli yanti says:

    Sounds a great story :), Mia, but Sept’13, so long time :(

    1. Mia says:

      It’ll be here before you know it!

  3. Marcy W says:

    I see what Berinn means, but I think I prefer the beginning as is. I am instantly “in” the scene, stopped at a convenient overlook, and seeing the castle, hearing the pipes, noticing the bustle going on. I like that feeling of being drawn in immediately. And you’ve packed quite a bit of knowledge into this intro, too; she doesn’t like her father’s man; there’s a bit of mystery there — why does Morgan have power, plus why did Cait’s father demand an overland trip, why are all the servants older — so I want to know more of the backstory. And I like all the names, too! For a WIP, this seems pretty polished to me, and a very good start. — One picky note: sixth paragraph, do you want to capitalize ‘highlands’?
    Can we have the next 500 words next week? Please?! :)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Only if I don’t have another volunteer! But I hope I do.

      I think you’re right about the Highlands. Will fix ASAP.

  4. Berinn Rae says:

    Wow, this is super engaging! The content rocks!! The only thing I found was that the last 2 paragraphs (i.e. starting with “Of course,…” were the ones that sucked me into the story, so you could consider starting chapter 1 with those and then the rest should append nicely after that with just a couple tweaks. Love it – thanks for sharing!!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Interesting idea, Berinn. I always try to tuck in some embedded hooks and the last sentence is the first one in this chapter. Perhaps it should be closer to the beginning. This is why I ask for the first 500 words to do a critique. The beginning has to carry so much freight–introduce characters, hint at the conflict, establish the setting and most importantly, hook the reader into reading on. It’s a tall order and one that demands all our writerly attention.

      I spend more time writing and rewriting my opening than any other part of my stories.

      1. Berinn says:

        Go with your gut. Oh, and a big agreement on the first page challenge!

  5. Okay…maybe I’m biased, maybe its because you’re on my “Ill read anything she writes” list….but dang it, Mia! I wouldna change a thing! ;o) I really, REALLY can’t wait to read more. See…this is why you get paid the big bucks and why everyone loves ya! ;o) (I hope I don’t sound too brown-nosey!)

    Suzan Tisdale

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I love brown noses, Suzan! Seriously, I really appreciate the kudos.

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