Red Pencil Thursday

Red Pencil ThursdayI don’t have a volunteer today, so I’m plopping myself into the RPT hotseat. The opening of the story I’m going to share today is different from my usual fare. It’s a new adult/romantic suspense mash up. The title is still up in the air. I’m hoping you’ll help me with some suggestions.

My heroine lost her hearing to a bout with meningitis while she was in college. Then she lost her marriage when her deafness changed how she and her cop husband communicated. His affair was just the final straw. The new man in her life signs like a Deaf guy even though he hears just fine, but she’s not sure how far she should trust someone with family ties to the Irish mob. When she accidently speechreads a hitman talking on his cellphone about a contract, she becomes his next target.

If you’d like to submit your first 500 words for the Red Pencil gang to critique, please check out the details here. And now to my opening:


Twenty-three hits and no questions asked. The Valenti job was textbook. Flawlessly executed.

But the deaf girl threatened to screw it all to hell.

Anger crept up Neville Rede’s neck like a rash. Anyone could whack a guy. Give a sixteen-year-old a Glock and a couple hundred dollars and you’ve got yourself a hitter.

But to engineer an accident takes an artist. And the Valenti job was a work of art.

A bloody Sistine Chapel.

Until the deaf girl turned up.

Neville leaned on the cold metal rail and looked down at the Orange line platform. His nose twitched. The air in the T station was always a stale fug of diesel fumes and too many bodies in a confined space, not all of them terribly clean. A good-sized crowd was beginning to gather for the outbound train.

A flat smile tugged at Neville’s lips. Picking the right location was the first task in the art of an accident.

Irritation fizzed along his spine. This was a waste of his talents, but it couldn’t be avoided. Unfortunately, it was his fault. Damned sloppy of him.

He drew a deep breath and shook off the anger. There was nothing personal about what he was about to do. This was about pride of workmanship.

He’d been careless. He had to clean it up.

A hit was a tapestry. Leave a loose thread and sooner or later someone would notice and give it a tug. The entire work could unravel. He’d left something dangling in an otherwise perfect job.

Neville scanned the commuters below. There she was, right on time, her scarlet trench coat a dash of color among the blacks and grays. Whoever said redheads couldn’t wear that shade had never seen Megan Kelley on a rainy day. Even though her figure was a little too round for high fashion, she was still the best looking skirt he’d ever off.

A tingle of desire rippled through him. He tamped it down. He wasn’t some freak with a fetish. He was a professional.

It wasn’t dominance or the buzz or even kinky sex that drove him. It was the connection with the victim, that delicious moment when the soon-to-be dead recognized him as the harbinger of the great dark.

Even in this crowd, he hoped to see that glint of terror-filled awe in Megan Kelley’s green eyes before the spray of blood and crunch of bone and squeal of the train’s emergency brakes.

In that slice of a moment, Neville would feel like God Almighty.

“Outbound train approaching,” a computer-generated voice splatted over the loudspeaker. “All trains terminate at Oak Grove Station.”

“And some commuters terminate sooner,” he murmured.

Megan Kelley shifted her weight from one foot to the other, on the yellow caution line.

The air stirred in anticipation of the coming train. Neville descended the stairs, his tread silent.

Even if she wasn’t deaf, she’d never hear me coming, he thought, pleased by the symmetry. This was art, after all.

Time to tie up his little loose thread. Permanently.


Waking Up with a Rake

Mornings never looked so good…

Now for the most important part of Red Pencil Thursday–YOU! Please leave your suggestions and critique.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Sourcebooks is running a sale on Waking Up with a Rake, Book 1 in my Royal Rakes series. Just in time for Valentines Day, Rhys & Olivia’s romance is only $2.99!

Claim YOUR rake today.  Kindle | Nook


24 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. Chuck Robertson says:

    Let me comment on my previous post. I didn’t realize until reading all the comments that “Hear No Evil” is certainly taken. This may sound stupid, but here goes: “Shattered Silence”.

    1. Mia says:

      Since this is also a romantic suspense, I also need to come up with something that suggests that while Megan is running for her life, she’ll be having a hot guy running alongside her.

  2. Chuck Robertson says:

    Hello, Mia. I’m hesitant to pick at or criticize something written as well as this, but I thought I’d express two things that came to my mind as I read. You can accept or discard them as you see fit.

    First, as I read I got a craving to know how he knew she was deaf. I personally feel incomplete without that knowledge. To me, I would have felt better knowing right off. You may, however have plans to disclose that later in the story. If so, as a reader, I’d welcome it.

    Second, some things I thought were stated redundantly. As an example,”Unfortunately, it was his fault. Damned sloppy of him” seems to echo “He’d been careless. He had to clean it up” and “But the deaf girl threatened to screw it all to hell” seems to echo “Until the deaf girl turned up”. They seem to say basically the same to me, and thus come across as repetative and unnecssary.

    If I’m the lone voice in the wilderness, you may want to ignore what I just said. I’m stating my own opinions only. As the author, it’s up to you.

    As for a title, I’m surprised no one came up with “Hear No Evil”. I think it would be perfect.

    Good luck:


    1. Mia says:

      Good catches on the redundancy, Chuck! Thanks. And you’re right.

      In the coming chapters, you learn how Neville knows about Megan, her deafness and why he targets her. At this point, I’m hoping to leave a few unanswered questions to draw my readers on.

    2. Chuck: The title you suggested also occurred to me. I checked Amazon to see if it has been used recently for any romantic suspense novels. Alas, it has.

  3. I’m a little late to the party, but the opening hooked me right in. I was hoping Neville wasn’t the hero because he was definitely too creepy. Starting in a POV not belonging to either main character is always a challenge since the reader wants to bond with the first person encountered. However, in a suspense, that’s often either the victim or the murderer, so it works for your target genre, Mia.
    As to title, what about The Art of Elimination?

    1. How about Accidentally on Purpose?

      1. Mia says:

        Thanks for the title suggestions!

    2. Mia says:

      I know it’s a bit of a risk to start with the villain’s POV, but I wanted to begin with danger. Chapter 1 begins with One week earlier…

  4. As long as Neville’s the villain and not the hero, I love it! Great suspense, and I love the peek into his twisted brain.

    I did wonder about the line, “she was still the best looking skirt he’d ever off.” Do you mean that to say “he would ever off” or “he had ever offed”? My brain wanted to turn it into the latter, but that’s not what’s written.

    I wish I had title ideas for you, but nothing’s coming to mind.

    1. Mia says:

      Neville is the hero in his own mind, but that’s a tale that will never be written because it’s far too twisted. He’s definitely the villain.

  5. Marcy W says:

    Oh shoot, “fug” is one of my favorite words for that situation, but I’m at the bottom of the list. I’m glad you discussed the villain’s dead art career, Mia, because I was going to question the “a hit is a tapestry” line … seemed a bit fancy for a hit man; but knowing this is not your average thug helps.
    As far as title goes, nothing leaps to mind. I would advise leaving out her deafness from the title; I don’t like categorizing people by their challenges, and putting it in the title feels like to me — IMHO, of course. Her name and that her new beau is ‘connected’ to the Irish ‘mob’ would make me think about alluding to Irish in the title (any chance it could be published about this time next year, just before St Pat’s Day??). … ‘the green hills of Boston’; if her raincoat is emerald green instead of red, ‘the wearin’ o’ the green’; ‘when the green woods laugh’ (Wm Blake) sounds like a good title tho not perhaps for this book; — and there are a thousand Irish proverbs that might be fun for a character to use (one for every occasion!) . . .
    All that apart, I like this direction for your writing, and this 500 word segment gave me a wonderful introduction to this villain; it definitely catches my attention and desire to know a lot more! Keep going :)

    1. Mia says:

      Since this is the opening, I hate to go into Neville’s frustrated artist backstory too much here.

      I agree with you about not categorizing Megan by her challenge. Will consider other directions for the title.

  6. Trudy Miner says:

    Very chilling opening; makes you want to read more! “Fug” did throw me also; I never heard this word before. The killer is cold-blooded for sure but I feel that he has a soft spot for his victim. Makes me wonder if he’ll actually carry out the hit! As for your title, and I know it’s not your normal style but what about: “What the Deaf Girl Heard”

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Ok, fug is out. Will think about that title, Trudy. Thanks!

  7. Hi Mia,

    You have an interesting premise here. I like the deaf/reading lips aspect.

    I’m not sure about the New Adult genre though. Your characters seem too old–twenty-three hits takes time, and so does a marriage.

    I’m assuming Neville is not the hero. He might be excellent at killing people but he isn’t likeable. Bring in a fascinating skilled detective for me to cheer for, or another rescuer.

    Your opening has tension and puts me deep into the sights and sounds of the train station. I would definitely keep reading.
    Way to go.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Neville is the villain, so he’s quite a bit older, mid-thirties. Megan has just graduated from college and is working in her first teaching job. She and her high school sweetheart married after her sophomore year at Boston College and the meningitis hit during summer of her junior year. A week after she graduated, she discovered her husband had been unfaithful. She’s had a bunch to deal with for someone so young.

  8. Oops, I hit the wrong button. Allow me to continue.

    Megan’s in grave danger and doesn’t realize it. But we do!

    As for a title, I thought up several, then googled them to see if they’ve been used for recent romantic suspense novels. Alas, they had—with one exception. “The Rest Is Silence”.

    If I can think of other possible titles, I’ll let you know. Good luck with your new project!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks, Mary Anne. The title for this project really has me stumped. I don’t know whether to play up her hearing impairment, or key in on the love triangle aspects. Oh, yes, her ex is very sorry now and wants her back. Megan’s heart is in as much danger as the rest of her.

  9. Thank you, Mia. Your opening scene really hooked me! The situation caught my interest from the get-go. The hired gun’s twisted thoughts, such as calling staging a fatal accident a work of art, drew me into the story. The descriptions vividly set the scene, and the short, “newspaper-style” paragraphs enhance the tension.

    Though we know little about the protag so far, I can readily empathize with her. Megan’s in grave dang

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      About the art angle. We learn later that Neville Rede is a frustrated artist who was denied a place in a prestigious art school because his work, while evidencing excellent technical skills, showed no original spark. Now he works in an entirely new medium–seemingly accidental death.

  10. WOW! I can’t wait to read more!! :D

    The only thing I saw ‘wrong’ was one tiny typo. You have f u g instead of fog.

    And the word ‘splatted’….I’m not sure about that word.

    From a reader’s perspective, I am immediately drawn in by the third sentence. From a writer’s perspective, I’m quite jealous! lol

    Keep up the most excellent work!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Actually, fug is the word I intended to use. It refers to bad air in an unventilated space. But if it’s jarring, perhaps I should think about changing it.

      Maybe ‘squawked’ would do better than ‘splatted.’

      Thanks for your input, Suzan. This is a different genre for me, so it’s like exploring a unknown country.

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