Sunday, April 15, 2018

1st 5 Pages April Workshop- Jolley Rev 1

Name: Mary Jolley
Genre: Young Adult: fantasy romance
Title: Gray Throne

I hated the Grays. I hated all the thugs from Alta Belle, but especially Bear Gray—my so-called king, and his son, Angus—my future king.

Not if I can help it.

I twisted knobs as I looked through the telescope. A pack of horsemen came into focus, trotting up the cobbled main street toward the Cromarty Institute. My home. Not theirs.

“So many,” I said.

“Fifty, I guess,” said Lanie, peering down at the intruders from the observatory windows.


Last spring the Grays had come to check up on us with only twelve of their terrifying warriors. My lashes brushed the lens. A dozen of the Gray’s vicious paxaro birds patrolled the skies. The Gray flag depicting twin trees waved from front of the line of riders, right next to the king.

Not my king.

The tyrant wore a leather coat with fur trimming. In the temperate climate of Campbell, he’d opened the coat and pulled the hood back, revealing a bearded face, curling brown hair and deep-set eyes. At Bear’s side, his son rode a black horse. Coatless and hatless, Angus sat almost lazily on his beastly mount. Tilted shoulders and loosely held reins exuded arrogance.

Go away.

“Come on,” I said. “They’re almost at the courtyard.”

“I’m not greeting them like this.” Lanie motioned to her casual khaki skirt, lace-collared tunic, and cardigan. The same outfit I wore.

Who cares? Like they can tell cashmere from canvas. “Secret spot.”

Lanie nodded with a grin.

We fled down five flights of stairs to the storeroom on the ground floor. Dad would have lectured us for hours on propriety if he’d known his daughters had stuffed into a closet to spy on our guests.

I climbed onto a barrel and propped open the glass. We pressed our cheeks together and peered through the narrow window at the granite-paved courtyard, now packed with ruffians. Horses steamed and grunted—more daunting than the district train.

His unwelcome highness, Bear Gray, dismounted from an enormous horse. Worn leather pants wrapped thick legs. A dagger hung from one hip, a pistol from the other. Like many of his men, Bear wore a blue plaid button up. Only his air of cold authority distinguished him as the ultimate power here.

Dad strode into the courtyard wearing a pressed suit, broad smile, and Mom on his right elbow. “Majesty.” Dad lowered his head to the king. “Welcome to Campbell and to the Cromarty Institute.”

The two men stood eye to eye, but Bear looked twice the weight and triple the strength. Bear’s nose buckled in the middle and bent slightly right. He’d broken it three years ago in the uprising in Hogg and he’d never set it properly—a reminder to would-be rebels.

Rebels like me.

It reminded me how close Ian had come to killing the king. Bear was not unbreakable. I would break him. Skirt caught in my clenching fist.

Prince Angus Gray strode from the pack of horses and stood next to Bear. At twenty, Angus stood a palm taller than his father and had the same thick brown hair, although his was cropped short as his ears. His brow appeared permanently furrowed and his jaw remained clenched—as if his stony face would be enough to cow us into submission for another year.

Leave us alone.

“Well,” Lanie said. “Angus has improved over the last year. Much better without the beard.”

“Shush.” I was missing the outside conversation. And seeing his sharp jaw didn’t improve the situation.

“We have the West Tower prepared for you and your party,” Mom said. “I thought you’d like to freshen up after your ride and enjoy lunch before our meetings.”

The travelers looked like they’d had a romp in brown paint. Animal stink puffed through the window.

“We’ll speak in private now,” Bear said to Dad.

Lanie and I shared a look at his ominous tone.

Mom directed the fifty filthy barbarians away. Dad led a small group inside the East Tower, where we lived. A frightening paxaro bird, strutted in after the king. Dad’s brow pinched in worry and his lips turned down at the corners.

Lanie hopped off the barrel, but I watched the warriors from Alta Belle a moment longer—muscle, iron, and stench. I needed a good plan if I had any hope of us Campbells removing them with our puny arms. If only Ian were still here. He’d filled my head with dreams of revolution. He’d painted a bright future—without the Grays. But he wasn’t here.

The Grays had made sure of that.

I snuck out the back of the West Tower. Cutting a wide circle, I slipped in the East Tower and padded down a white plaster-walled hallway. A table bearing juice and pastries had been set up outside the meeting room doors, right below the air vent—my only chance of overhearing Dad’s meeting with the king.

Footsteps neared the corner ahead. Panicked, I dove under the table, smoothing my tablecloth shield into place.

“How many batches of the vaccine have you made?” Bear asked, his voice growing louder.

“Four successful rounds,” Dad said. “We’ve inoculated everyone here at Cromarty and we’re working our way through Campbell.”

“You’ll want a tour of our new lab.” I recognized Wolfton’s whinny voice. He’d been the Gray’s regent (aka spy) here for years.

Hold your tongue, Rat.

Heavy boots stopped at my table. I caged my breath.

“Have some lunch brought up.” Bear’s low voice was tight with disapproval at our snack options. “Something satisfying.” Bear marched down the hall toward the doors.

That was close.

A spindly shadow appeared on the tablecloth. The claw snagged the fabric. My covering ripped down. I yelped. Glass and chocolate splintered on the ground. A silver paxaro landed on the tiles in front of my hiding spot. Beady eyes glared. I stifled a scream. The bird, as tall as a three-year-old, cocked its head.

“Spy,” the bird said, its voice a screech.

I held a protective hand between its sharp beak and my nose.

“No, I’m not,” I whispered to the bird.

“Liar,” the bird said in a loud crackly voice.

Angus’s dirty boots thumped into view. A knife appeared next to his calf. Fear, as sharp as the tip of his blade, spiked my chest.

“Come out, spy.” The bird shifted onto one wiry foot and held up a clawed hand as if it would pull me out—probably by the neck. Talons glinted.

“It’s just me,” I said in a loud voice. I scrambled out, empty hands up and hot face down.

“Vera!” Dad’s voice was a cocktail of shock (fake) and disapproval (real).

Angus’s blade had disappeared by the time I lifted my eyes to his big empty hands.

“Couldn’t wait to see us?” Angus asked. Amusement played across gray eyes.

I never want to see you. “Please excuse me.”

Bear’s chuckles crackled up my spine.

“What were you doing?” Angus asked.

“I dropped something under the table.” I stiffened as he studied my face.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Angus said.

Dad stepped up to Angus’s side. “An excellent quality.”

Liar. Dad hated that about me. Dad knew how to make lies slid off his tongue like silk. He knew how to use his well formed weapon well—his words. If I had half his skill, I wouldn’t be standing here like a mouse with her paw caught in the cream.


  1. Thanks for sharing your rewrite. I'm glad you left the opening - it hooks a reader with the MC's desire right away. The scene with the bird and table is easier to picture and just as suspenseful. Good job.

    I enjoyed the part with the sisters better in your previous version. They felt more connected. Plus, I wanted to know Lanie's relationship to the MC right when her name is mentioned, such as "said my sister, Lanie." Why the name change? Just curious : )

    It may just be me, but I'm still distracted by the short internal dialogue phrases (besides the first one). Maybe add "not my king" to the previous paragraph. And if not italics, shouldn't it be "He wasn't my king."

    Also, they seem better dressed than their guests, so why the reference that they should be dressed better?

    It moves along well, has conflict and mystery, so just needs a little tweaking. Good job!

  2. I really like the brief dialogue between the sisters at the start. Just this little interaction helps set up their relationship. (Looking back, you had some dialogue between them in the previous version, but this version read better to me.)

    "Like they can tell cashmere from canvas" – Nice way to show how Vera feels about the Grays.

    Cutting out the reference to the year helped a lot for me. Now the early mentions of more modern clothing (khaki, cardigan, etc.) helped orient me to the modern elements of this world rather than jarring me. You might consider working in a couple other key elements of the world to help set our expectations early on (this would be a good question for any CPs who read the whole story: did they get an accurate feel for the world in the opening chapters?).

    "(Aka spy)" – nice way to briefly set up who Wolfton is.

    The moment with the bird finding Vera reads MUCH better in this version. I think you could use just a little more emphasis on what makes the bird dangerous, as Vera would likely be focused here on how the bird could hurt her.

    "I never want to see you. 'Please excuse me.'" – I love the contrast here between what Vera's thinking and saying. Very nice.

    I really like the last paragraph about words being a weapon. I can feel how the ability to lie convincingly would be an asset in Vera's position.

    I wanted just a little bit more about why Vera wants the king dead. What has the king done and how has that affected Vera personally?

    Overall, I think these pages move along nicely and have me wondering what happens next.


  3. I love the worldbuilding! It’s hard to get enough details about the world into such a small sample without being overpowering, but I thought you did a great job with that!
    One thing at the beginning, when asking a question either give the answer or a reason for not answering
    So the MC asks “Why” about the fifty men, but then is never answered. Even a “I don’t know,” might help?
    This is minor too, but sometimes her internal thoughts are italicized but sometimes they aren’t.
    I love how you set up how much she hates the king and his son; you do a great job of getting us in to her mind. And your descriptions! “Bear’s chuckle’s cracked up my spine” – what imagery!

  4. I agree with Jim on the cutting out the year reference and the modern clothing though I'm still having trouble completely picturing what the world looks like/feels like to the MC. It may come later since the MC is so focused on the arrival though so I can use a little patience :)

    Love the words as weapons - such a true statement!

    I am still curious as to why she feels so strongly against the king and wish I could hate him the same way as the MC. The Ian reference is much cleaner in this version!

    Thanks for letting me read!

  5. Mary, I was pleased to see how much critique you incorporated from last time. Establishing the modern day elements was helpful. I love the sisterly bond. More of this!! Where did she go by the way?

    I'm going to agree with Kim. The short internal thoughts are jarring for me as well. I think the italicization does help, but I'm not sure they're all needed. We get an understanding through other segments that she's clearly displeased by the arrival of this entourage.

    The bird is interesting. He calls her a liar. Does this play into the story later? Just curious.

    Great revision.

  6. (Sorry I missed last week and sorry to be late this week! Sheesh!) I LOVED “his unwelcome highness…” so how do you really feel about Bear Gray? And, knowing this is a romance I can imagine what’s coming. I wonder how she knows so much about Bear’s nose…but it was an interesting detail and led to a great button line—“rebels like me.” Ian…hmm…wondering who is Ian! Love the scene with the bird. It talks, which was a surprise and makes us wonder what other amazing things exist in this world. Nice intrigue. Nice world building. Nice character set ups. I think you have a really great start!