Sunday, June 18, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Woods Rev 2

Kristina Woods
The Isle of Apples
Young Adult Fantasy

Rhiannon Vittoria’s enchanting beauty has always cost terrible price - her freedom. Trapped by her mother’s magic, she is forced into accepting a marriage proposal from a king more than twice her age. Only through the Goddess Rhiannon escapes and stumbles into the notorious Robin Hood, who vows to keep her safe. Soon she is falling in love with not only forest life, but the outlaw sworn to protect her.

A quest for a sacred relic cost Robin Hood his father, his wife, his home, and his faith. Now a single father and outlaw, he struggles to move on in life until a surprising love comes to him in the form of a princess fleeing the very crown he steals from.

Their budding romance quickly dissolves into a race for survival - unexpectedly landing them in a place believed to have disappeared forever - Avalon. It is here that Rhiannon and Robin discover Morgan le Fay has a plan to use Robin to get what she believes will restore magic to her. In the end Robin is left with a choice: a life in Avalon in exchange for Rhiannon’s freedom, but either choice will tear Rhiannon away from him forever.


A bitter chill clung in the air as winter began shifting into spring. Dark, heavy clouds continued their descent down from the high snow-capped mountains with no sign of relenting. The frost clung heavily to the late blossoming trees - refusing to melt - even as the sun rose overhead.

In this place, a castle sat high up on a hilltop, surrounded by a vast forest.

Looking out the large open balcony, Princess Rhiannon Vittoria attempted to commit as much of her land to memory she could as she would soon prepare to leave it all behind. After years of being paraded in front of suitor after suitor, she was now betrothed. Though she was a woman by the Goddess, just now seventeen, her soon-to-be husband was more than twice her age. Hopelessness and dread filled her with such fierceness, Rhiannon could scarcely breathe.

Admittedly, a small part of that could also be the corset the dressmaker forced her into.

“You’re pinning it too high,” Lady Caroline said, sweeping across the room to where the circle of seamstresses and King Hector’s personal couturier were fitting a dress to Rhiannon.  Her mother was a petite woman with dark hair and eyes, features of her northern Scottish heritage. She shook her head and pointed at the bodice of Rhiannon’s pearl white gown. “No, that won’t do. Lower still.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” came the obedient reply from the maids before bowing in expediency.

Rhiannon caught the eyes of one of the young seamstresses, and while her mother may not have seen it, the fear in them was poorly hidden. It seemed the rumors of her mother made it beyond the borders of their realm. In addition to Lady Caroline’s reputation for her cruelty, her mother was one of the few left in the land gifted with magic.

A land in which practicing such magic was now punishable by death.

“And her hair,” Caroline began, thinking out loud. Clicking her tongue, her eyes narrowed, and she hummed. Rhiannon could only imagine what her mother would suggest. “I think we should pin it back. Leaving it down over her shoulders covers her too much and gives her far too innocent a look.”

Rhiannon sighed.

Barden, the dressmaker, stepped up to Rhiannon. Taking her long, dark hair in his hands, he pulled it away from her shoulders into a knot at the base of her neck. His small, round eyes took her in, slipping from her hair further down making Rhiannon’s jaw clench. “Mm, yes, I do see what you mean. Pin it up and away. It will bring out those high cheek bones, olive skin, and her other remarkable assets…”

Rhiannon’s eyes locked onto Barden’s and for a moment, she was tempted… While she did not possess her mother’s talents for conjuring and casting, she did have what her nursemaid called her enchanting beauty. Her power gave her the ability to mesmerize not only the eyes, but the minds of men as well. She was able to use the features to draw them in and make their desires her own. Her parents used Rhiannon’s gift to persuade many lords and dukes alike to donate generously to her father’s kingdom. If only her magic could undo the protection spells her mother placed on her father, the king, and other imbeciles...

“Rhiannon,” her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts and Rhiannon pulled her gaze from the insipid man, raising her chin. Her mother’s eyes held warning and reproach, and remained locked on her while Barden shook his head as if coming out of a daze.

Barden snapped his fingers, startling Rhiannon. Without delay the seamstresses stepped forward, one continuing her adjustments while another began placing rings, bracelets, and a heavy jeweled necklace which at once felt heavy with burden and injustice.

“Must I wear so much?” Rhiannon asked, eyeing the adornments she never cared for.

She inhaled sharply as the strings of her corset tightened around her once again, yet there was no one behind her making such adjustments. Her eyes flew to her mother who gazed back at her with straight-faced satisfaction.

Be still and breathe, Rhiannon told her herself while letting out a steady breath between her lips.

Rhiannon shifted her focus back to the forest. Oh, how she wished she could leave this place. The crown, the title, the riches, all of it meant nothing to her. Not for the first time did she look out the window and wonder how different her life would be if she were born a commoner. Would her life be so different? How did they marry if not for love?

Not for riches or thrones, or in Rhiannon's case, a preservation offering. A bargain made in the dead of night between kings, one king on the verge of losing his country and the other wrought with grief and anger over losing his most beloved queen.

“No, no. Stop. You’re doing it wrong,” Lady Caroline scolded, gesturing with a wave of her hand for the seamstress to step aside. Walking up to Rhiannon, Caroline took her dress and pushed the bodice down and back, making her bust ever more prominent.

Rhiannon’s cheeks flooded with heat. “Mother!”

“Quiet, Rhiannon.” Her mother continued adjusting this way and that until finally satisfied. “There, you ignorant girl,” Caroline chastised the young seamstress. “The way you were covering her up made her look like a child. And she’s not. She’s a woman about to be married.”

Caroline’s dark painted red lips smiled widely around at everyone. Rhiannon could feel the looks of pity and sympathy from the ladies gathered around her, all no doubt thinking the same as she. Rhiannon was far too young to be marrying their king.

“Oh for the-” her mother’s voice snapped Rhiannon’s attention back to the here and now, and Rhiannon watched as Caroline paused, catching herself from uttering the name of the Goddess. “Rhiannon, hold up your chin and stop looking so sullen,” Caroline chided while taking Rhiannon by the shoulders and gripping her tightly. “Have you forgotten you’re going to be a mother soon? Will you teach the princess these behaviors?”

Rhiannon held her mother’s eyes for the briefest of moments before settling back on the view of her kingdom. Had she forgotten? If only she could forget. Raising her chin, Rhiannon’s hollow voice answered, “Of course not, Mother.”

Her stomach twisted violently just thinking about her coming union. What more could she say? She already begged, pleaded with her father until she could no longer speak. Her entreat only gained a bruise across her cheek from her mother. One she wore for days on end until this very morning with King Hector’s arrival, and only then did her mother cover the dark mark with a glamour spell.

“That’s my girl.” Caroline smiled at her and raised her hand to rub her thumb across Rhiannon’s still tender cheek, making Rhiannon’s eyes close. Her eyes watered and she held back a hiss of pain. To an outsider, one might believe this to be a gentle moment between mother and daughter, but for Rhiannon, it was a reminder. “Soon, my dear you will be queen, and we will never have to worry again.”

You will not cry, Rhiannon commanded herself silently.

For that, she would wait until later that night when she was alone. On the night before they left her home to journey to another. Only then would she let the tears she’d been holding back fall.


  1. Hi Kristina,

    I really like most of what you've done here! You have re imagined the opening lines to still give us that glimpse of this mystical realm without over doing it. You have also given us a glimpse into Rhi's mind with both thoughts and some dialogue and have done the same with a few of the minor characters in this scene.

    I did have a few thoughts. I'm not sure of your approach when you say things like "In this place..." or "admittedly..." I'm taken out of the story because it almost sounds like the narrator of a play is talking. I'm not sure if this is a stylistic choice that I should accept or distracting.

    I felt as though what you are trying to say about her innocence gets a bit convoluted and forgotten because there is so much that happens in between the beginning of the talk about how she looks like a child and then end of the discussion when things come full circle. Between her gift, the forest, why commoners get married, and her riches, your message about what she looks like gets a bit buried.

    I feel like there is a word missing in the first sentence of your pitch. I'm also not sure your pitch focuses on the right things. You say "In the end Robin is left with a choice: a life in Avalon in exchange for Rhiannon’s freedom, but either choice will tear Rhiannon away from him forever..." what is the other choice? I also feel like you talk about Robin Hood more than your main character and how things will effect him--not her. In the end we are not told what not having Rhi means to Robin, (I know, it seems self-explanatory, but these are specifics we need). Is she his last hope for love? Why? Will losing her cause Robin to lose focus of his mission of robbing from the rich to give to the poor? More importantly, what happens to Rhiannon as a result of these choices?

    Lastly, I wonder if you shouldn't change your male protagonist to your own version of Robin Hood. My fear is that you might run in to copyright issues if you stick with Robin Hood. Your setting, your main character, everything seems so unique and distinct, let your male co-star shine just as bright and make them your own.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Hey Jason,

      Thank you for pointing out those little details and what worked and what you found a little distracting. I will definitely make sure I work on those a bit more. As far as my pitch it does need some work, pitches aren't exactly my forte. I would much rather rewrite the entire book then a 200 word pitch LOL. Also thank you for your input on Robin Hood. As I'm setting up the book I'm using a foundation with Camelot, Avalon, King Arthur,
      Merlin, and most importantly Robin Hood. I wanted my main character to be swept into their world, so it's really important to me that I stick with him as my second character but thank you for your input and thoughts!

  2. Kristina, I like your changes! In your pitch, the only thing I have an issue with is the final paragraph. You mention Morgan's plan to use Robin to restore the magic in Avalon, but you don't tell us what it is. Specific statements hold more value than a vague 'plan'. Also, you only tell us stakes for Robin. He has a decision to make. But what about Rhiannon? What are her choices? It seems like she's back to where she first started, helpless and a pawn in someone else's game with no say in the matter, which makes me question if all the trouble she went through was worth it and if her character grew enough.
    As far as your pages go, I'd combine paragraph 3 and 1, and delete the 2nd. It's very telling.
    "Looking out the large open balcony, Princess Rhiannon Vittoria attempted to commit as much of her land to memory she could as she would soon prepare to leave it all behind. A bitter chill clung in the air as winter began shifting into spring. Dark, heavy clouds continued their descent down from the high snow-capped mountains with no sign of relenting. The frost clung heavily to the late blossoming trees - refusing to melt - even as the sun rose overhead.(here would be a good place to compare the weather to Rhiannon's emotional state. Then it would tie in nicely to what comes next.)
    After years of being paraded in front of suitor after suitor, she was now betrothed...." You get the picture. Of course, that's how I'd do it; it's just a suggestion. I just feel like you need to start with your MC, not the weather. Besides, describing nature first thing is a cliche opening. If you use it to accentuate your MC's state of mind, then it works great and is not just a filler.

    I really like the additions of Rhiannon's powers, and her mother's. But stating one can die for possessing magic in your very 1st chapter doesn't work after claiming that Rhiannon's mother's reputation has spread beyond their realm and that she is feared because of those powers. Why does everyone fear her when they can just burn her for witchcraft? If practicing magic is illegal and punishable by death, wouldn't the queen keep her abilities secret?

    I think this sentences has wrong wording: "She was able to use the features to draw them in and make their desires her own." You probably meant to say the opposite: to draw them in and make HER desires their own. Otherwise, how would she convince anyone to do her bidding?

    I'd delete this sentence: "Would her life be so different?" because it's redundant as it comes right after Rhiannon wonders how her life would be different if she were a commoner.

    And I believe this is it :) Good luck!

    1. Hi Lana!

      Thank you for all your feedback and suggestions. I I have such a habit of restating and being redundant and that that is something I'm definitely going to have to work on a bit more. And you make a good point about her mother's magic and how the rumors about her and yet magic is for bitten my death so I'm going to have to really think about how to re-corporate that around the rumors. It's given me a lot to think about. Thank you again and good luck to you as well!

  3. Kristina!

    I am so excited for the rest of your book. I really love that Morgan le Fay will be making an appearance. I'm a huge fan of all things King Arthur. Also, now knowing that Rhiannon will be meeting Robin Hood, a fairytale character, it gives me better perspective on the opening pages.

    Pitch: Since this story will not be told from a dual-perspective/two narrators, I would actually completely delete your second paragraph about Robin Hood. Readers already know about him and I think it slows the pitch down a bit. I also think if you read the first paragraph and the third paragraph out loud, they naturally flow together really nicely.

    2nd Revision:
    Great job overall! I like this opening very much as it sets the scene well. Sticking with this particular revision, my only note here really is that the details about how beautiful Rhiannon is seems to get lost a bit. I want to find out about her beauty sooner. I recognize that the way you have the pages structured now all flows well and pushing these details about Rhiannon sooner could upset that, but at the same time, it's the most interesting information in these first five pages, besides her plan to run away. Being upfront about these details early on will make the readers want to know more and keep reading.

    With that being said, I still really wanted something a little more exciting to happen in these first five pages. There's a lot of exposition and not a lot of action, so I do find myself drifting in and out a bit. I almost wonder if you start the first five pages with Rhiannon pleading one last time to her mother and then her mother giving her the dark mark you talk about at the end of the five pages, which she then must cover up with a glamour spell. After which, Rhiannon must go get ready to get married, and in THAT MOMENT she makes the decision to run away that night. These are the things that are fun to read about. Rather than be told about them after they happened, I want to read those events as they unfold. It's more interesting to see characters make choices than it is to be told about the choices they've already made-- if that makes sense.

    Anyway, just some food for thought! I don't want to send you into a major revision upheaval, but maybe just giving it a shot and seeing how it turns out could be useful.

    1. Hi Elisa!

      I'm so glad to hear that you're excited by Morgan Lafay and the mythology involved in the story yay. You're definitely not the first person to point out that her beauty gets lost so that's another thing I'll be sure to embellish on more and leave a lot of the description out. I guess what this workshops have taught me is that I definitely need to let go of my exposition. Lol it could be that I started the pages in the wrong place maybe I need to start it with Robin since he is really one of the central characters two and a big part of it maybe that will help with this part? Anyway thank you for all the suggestions!

  4. Pitch: The motivation for Robin to fall in love and swear to protect Rhiannon is vague. Due to the Rhiannon’s abilities, it might be important to clarify if this is a true love (and if so why and how) or a possible manipulation. Also there seems to be a missing link in Robin’s ultimate choice, and by the end of the query sounds like he’s the protagonist, not Rhiannon.

    Pages: 2nd paragraph makes it seem like Rhiannon is looking out the window at the castle, but I think maybe you mean her to be IN the castle. It felt like the first paragraph was her perspective of what she’s sees, which fits fine with her being on the balcony.

    Good changes in the story—the part about magic punishable by death certainly ups the stakes early on, and followed by Caroline’s use of magic (apparently flaunting the law) to hide Rhiannon’s bruise, it promises some drama. I like that you end it with the reference to the journey they’re going to make, it definitely give the sense of advancing the story. If you can tighten further, it would help. I agree with Elisha, that decisions are more interesting, and it might be nice to see Rhiannon considering some alternatives here.

    Regarding Jason's suggestion via Robin Hood, you should be safe on copyright, pretty sure Robin Hood is public domain, BUT, giving him his own identity could also work to make your story stand out and be more unique.

    It's been great seeing your pages progress--your opening is a lot stronger now.

    1. Hi Maria!

      I never really thought about having her consider alternatives. That could work really well. I'll have to see what I can come up with with that thank you so much! With Robin Hood as I told Jason above I'm really kind of sticking to him I think the way that I'm going to re-invent Tim will give him more of a unique spin then just the outlaw that we all know from the earlier stories and fables. So hopefully that will help the story and not hinder it I realize it's not being as creative as I could be but again it's important to me the MC stays Robin Hood.

      Thank you for all the advice and feedback over the last few weeks it's been fun good luck on your story!

  5. Hi again, so Maria's comment got me curious. I knew of public domain but wasn't that familiar with it. I looked it up and it seems as though you willie fine so long as your version of the character is based off the versions prior to 1923. Thanks for bringing that up, Maria! I learned something too!

    1. No worries Jason. Sorry I've been so late in my responses my kiddos been sick and it's been a week. I actually looked into it as well before I made the decision to write about them and create the world. That would've been so horrible to write all about him and kind of reinvent that one character and all the characters really and then have someone wave a finger and be like, nope, copyright. Haha. Thanks for checking up though!

  6. Kristina,
    The pitch: I like it! You've down a great job here. I'm surprised to see Robin Hood with his own paragraph. Is he equally important in the story? I typically see that construction with romances that have equal time for hero and heroine. Is that what you have here? Otherwise, stick with her pov. Also, in the last line you talk about a choice that he had and talk about "either choice," but I only see one choice.

    The pages: wow, Kristina, I'm so impressed! This is so vastly improved!!! Fantastic job. I can tell you really listened to what I was saying. I do think the dressfitting goes on a little long, though. You don't want to lose the reader's interest in the beginning. My suggestion would be to get off the whole dressfitting scenario sooner rather than later. Make your point and move on to the next action sequence.

    Good Luck! I'm really so impressed with how much this has improved!

    1. Thank you, Pintip!

      I really did try and use my exposition and make it more of the action. I'm so glad you like it. Also, yes he is the heor to her heroin and has an equal role to play. Thanks for the advice! I'll make the changes to the pitch to incorporate both their choices. Again, thank you!

  7. Kristina, you did a fantastic job. My comments are going to be nit-picky so bear with me.

    First, regarding the comment above about copywrite issues, the story of Robin Hood is public domain. Just like I can write about Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, you can legally write about Robin Hood without repercussion. I would hover give him a name change. Just like your Snow White character is not obvious,I'd make it so your Robin Hood character is equally obscure. Trust the reader to figure it out. They're smart and often times can deduct what you're trying to do all on their own.

    Pitch: It's good, but definitely needs a editor on it. If you're interested, I would love to take a stab at it for you and see if we can spice it up. I'm a little confused because of the dual storylines. While I get that you're doing two pov's, who is the main character? It's okay to mention that the story is told in dual pov, but if the journey is princess's, then I would focus on her and give Robin Hood a mention. Feel free to send it to me at and I'll give a edit over if you'd like.

    First Five Page: Definitely stronger. I love, love, love the banter between the mother and daughter. It brings both of their characters to life. Great job.

    You still have some passive writing. Go through and look for things like "began to", "was" plus a verb, "there was", etc.

    Something occurred to me this time around. Her mother is northern Scottish. However, Snow White is a Germanic fairytale, Robin Hood is from England, and King Arthur is English as well. Is there a reason you chose for her blood line to be Scottish? Just curious. It'll be something you'll need to be prepared to answer, because when this does go into publication, which I'm sure it will, your readers will ask that question. Again...they are smart cookies!

    Overall, a fantastic revision! Again, feel free to email me your pitch and I'll take a look at it. If you have any writer friends that are excellent editors, you may pass your pages off to them to help you out. There were minor things I saw like missing commas and such. However, the content is excellent. Great work!

  8. To everyone, I thank you. Your opinions on what works and doesn't work, even when the author doesn't agree, is what makes this workshop so special. We have had the chance to get so much feedback regarding that in such a short amount of time, its just amazing! It's taken out a lot of guesswork and I am so grateful! Thank you all again. I would say good luck to us all with our work but we don't need it. We are making our own luck. We are writers, we just need an audience.