Sunday, June 16, 2019

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Kells Rev 2

Name: KD Kells
Genre: Young Adult fantasy/gothic fantasy
Title: The Witch Maid


Evie Wilkins doesn’t believe in witches. With her once respectable family destitute, she has enough worries without listening to the rumours about her new employer, Lady Black. Then Lady Black’s cat tricks her into releasing a hundred demons on the town, and keeping her family off the streets becomes the least of her problems.

The witches of the Black family have been protecting the balance between the human and demon worlds for centuries. A balance Evie has just jeopardised. If she recaptures all the demons, Evie will be rewarded with more than enough to restore her family’s fortunes.

Now Evie’s stuck with magic she can’t control and an arrogant cat demon as a partner. With a disarmingly attractive human form and an agenda of his own, Nero has no interest in helping a weak mortal. His missing memories might be the key to stopping a demon invasion and saving Evie’s family from enslavement, if they can learn to work together. But Evie will have to overcome a few demons of her own first.


It was too early to be up. Mama always said a lady shouldn’t rise before nine and the sun hadn’t yet pierced the coal smog hanging over town, but here I was, hugging myself against the cold autumn morning on a stranger’s doorstep. And not just any stranger’s – Lady Black’s. I sucked in a deep breath and knocked.

Rows of darkened windows encrusted with cobwebs glowered back at me as I waited. Maybe no one was home. Maybe they’d all died. It was possible – when was the last time anyone had seen Lady Black in person? If it hadn’t been for the bottles gleaming with fresh milk on the step, and the letter in my pocket, I could almost have convinced myself to turn around.

No, the family was just private, as all the best families were. Papa had said that was why there were so many rumours about them. Jealous lies spread by people without proper breeding. Would he have been so dismissive if could see me running to Lady Black for help?

Overgrown plants engulfed the garden between the house and the outside wall, and long dead vines wound up the crumbling turrets above me. I leaned over withered bushes to peer in the nearby window. Should it be taking this long? Something rustled through the leaves below me and I jerked back, my heart racing. It had been a long time since I’d believed in anything as childish as magic or flying broomsticks, but as the wind fluttered through the cobwebs, it wasn’t Papa’s assurances that filled my head. It was the other whispers.

“I heard she grinds up the bones of babies to use in spells.” Patty had insisted one lunchtime. The teachers were at the other side of the dining room, but she’d kept her voice low. “That’s how she’s still alive. They say she’s over 200 years old!”

“I heard she captures the souls of any young men that wander too close to her estate. That’s why there’s no eligible bachelors in town.” Melody agreed.

“She’ll make you a love potion for five pence, but they only work on the boys you don’t like.”

“Her daughter ran off with a demon.”

“She has a black cat.” Jacinta had said as she drowned her roast beef with gravy. When her opinion was met with silence, she looked up. “What?”

“Oh Cinny, owning a cat doesn’t make you a witch.”

“A black one does. They’re bad luck you know.”

We’d all burst into peals of laughter, and Miss Bloom had scolded us for being so unladylike. But that had been before, when I’d had friends and a future...

No, I couldn’t let my mind go down that path. I had a job to do and there was no use moping around. This was life now, suck it up as my sister, Liliana, would say. I took a steadying breath and tried the bell, pulling hard on the rusted chain. The sound echoed through the house, far longer than it should have. How many rooms must there be inside? Dark despair threatened to swallow me just thinking about it.

Without warning, the door swung open. A woman stood there wearing a flour-spattered apron and wielding a wooden spoon. I hadn’t heard any footsteps, how had she got there so quietly?

She was shorter than me, though that wasn’t hard, with arms muscled from a lifetime of hard work, and grey hair tucked in a braid under a colourful kerchief. This was not what I had expected of Lady Black. She should have been someone refined and elegant, someone befitting the largest estate in Sinwillow, even if it was a run-down old wreck.

“Yes? What is it you want? I am in middle of making vatrushka!” The woman demanded.

Not Lady Black then. Her voice was thick with an accent I couldn’t place and I’d certainly never heard of...what had she said again? Vatrushka? In all the rumours, there’d never been one about Lady Black having foreigners in her house. That would have been intriguing in itself, Sinwillow wasn’t exactly known for being a hive of immigrants.

“I’m Evie... um, Evelyn. Wilkins.” Drats. Mama would be so disappointed if she’d heard that. It was uncouth to introduce oneself with a nickname. Well, I supposed it wasn’t like it mattered anymore, we’d lost our claim to being genteel along with everything else. When the woman shot me a blank look, I had to add, “the new maid?”

“Oh yes, yes, Adeline said new girl comes today.”

The woman’s dark eyes bored into me down that hooked nose, taking in every detail of my appearance. My last good dress, the one that brought out the green in my muddy eyes, felt like a rag under the scrutiny. At least my hair was behaving today. I’d tamed the thick brown mess into two braids at the base of my neck. Liliana had even lent me a hat for the occasion, and all in all, I’d thought I was rather presentable under the circumstances until the woman tsked loudly.

“No, no good. You are too skinny. We will have to fatten you up.”

Liliana would have laughed herself silly at that suggestion, I’d never been accused of being too skinny in my life, not next to the slender willow of my sister. I was more like our father – tall, solid, and prone to freckles over my nose. Yet another reason to be grateful for this job, it was far enough away from home that Mama wouldn’t have to look at me every day and see him.

“Come then, Adeline want to see you.” The woman strode off down the hallway.

I took one last look down the hill, at the town below and my old life. I could still turn and run, go back to school and... and then what? No, this was the only way if I wanted to protect my family. The door thudded behind me with a thunderous finality.

“My name is Ludmila, you call me Mila. I am the cook,” the woman said as she led me through a labyrinth of rooms.

I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but this wasn’t it. There were no cauldrons of skulls or scurrying rats, no shelves housing mysterious vials. It was like every other grand house I’d been to, if a little more shabby. The few rooms I saw in to had white sheets thrown over the furniture and the closed, mildewy smell of a house shut up for too long lingered in the air. Everything was covered with a thick film of dust, even the gas light fittings.

“You not bring much with you.” Ludmila gestured at the small case in my hand.

“Oh. I guess I didn’t think I would need to.”

That much was true. My uniform, bedding, shoes, all that would be provided by Lady Black. I didn’t want to tell this woman that pretty much everything else I owned was in the case. There hadn’t been much left to pack after the move, and so many things had been sold off.

“Smart girl. Not good to form unnecessary attachments. Ah, here we are.”

Ludmila stopped so suddenly I almost crashed into her. The black door at the end of the hall was just like every other one we’d passed – the only difference was the doorknob looked like it had actually been polished in the last fifty years.


  1. I like the addition of the description of the house. I think it makes the house become like a character of sorts. I think it would be even better if she saw the cat when she first arrives but maybe that will happen soon. When the girls are talking about the rumors of Lady Black, I was a little thrown off by the peals of laughter at the end. I feel like I would be frightened by the tales, not laughing, but this could just be me because I'm a chicken. The pitch leaves me curious as to how she ends up working with the cat but maybe it's good to leave some things unsaid in a pitch. I like that the cat is male. Most familiars are female. This sounds like a fun read.

    1. Thanks Susan. I didn't know that most familiars are female, there you go! And yes, the cat comes in when she opens the door in the next bit.

      lol, I don't think that makes you a chicken, I just remember everything being hilarious when gossiping went on as a teenager

  2. This revision feels much more fully realized. I like the added description and the memory of the girls whispering about Lady Black feels better integrated now. When she hears the rustling in the bushes at the doorstep, I'm assuming that's the cat you mention in the pitch? Maybe foreshadow his arrival and importance to the story a little more with her actually seeing the swish of a tail whipping into the undergrowth. You've already brought up the fact Lady Black has a cat with the girls whispering, so confirming it feels natural.

    That said, I feel like the third paragraph of your pitch where you mention the cat becomes her partner actually muddies the stakes. That Evie has set loose a whole bunch of demons and that to restore equilibrium (and her family's fortunes) Evie must recapture them. I think that's all you need. Especially since you mention the cat tricks her into releasing them in the first place. Talking about him as her partner in re-capturing them is a little confusing.

    1. Hi Kate, I hadn't thought about the noise in the bushes being the cat, it was mostly just for atmosphere haha. The cat is in Lady Black's study in the next bit. He's pretty much the other major character in the story so I feel he does need a big mention in the pitch, but I'll have a think about how to make it less confusing.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your pitch. I think the story sounds really unique and exciting. There's plenty to hook me in and it stands out from other books.

    I like the additions you've made to the first few pages with the added details. Overall, I've really enjoyed it and would want to read on. Well done and good luck with your writing.

    1. Thanks Prentis! That makes me so happy to hear >.< Good luck with your writing too!

  4. Love how this has revision has turned out! I think it's much tighter and a great mix of voice and description. The pitch felt a little bumpy to me - almost like the first paragraph was a micro pitch and the second/third paragraphs a longer explanation. Also is the cat actually a demon? And he has a human form? I got lost there (but it might just be me!) Best of luck on this!

    1. Hi Nikki, that's good to hear the revisions are getting better!
      Yes, the cat is a demon who has a human form. Have just had a suggestion from a friend that I might need to mention at least part of that in the first paragraph. I'm not sure how to fix the other problem though, of making it flow together better. (I've already workshopped the heck out of it with my writing group, I've hit a wall)

  5. Hi KD! I'm so glad to finally see the pitch for this! I will say, I think there's a small disconnect between pitch paragraphs one and two, with three. We're not told how Evie develops this magic, and if there's a relationship between the demon release and her inability to get rid of her magic. I'd like to know why and how this happened to her. Also, what kind of demons are they? Are they physical manifestations, shape shifting tricksters, possessive kinds, etc? To me, the term "demon" is so ambiguous in pitches, I think you could solidify their identities with a simple description.

    But the writing is solid and a joy to read! Best of luck in your career!

    1. Hi Kim. Hmm, so the demons are based off the Japanese concept of "Yokai" which doesn't have a great english translation other than demons... not really sure how to fix that in 200 words? I've got a longer version which goes more in to the magic but hopefully if this has you asking questions and wanting to know more, then it's doing its job?

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  7. Hi KD! This is such a fascinating project! I thoroughly enjoyed the sample pages--the voice is REALLY fantastic! My only critique would be that the pitch seems a little disjointed. I think all the pieces are there, but the order in which they are presented makes it hard to follow. I'd tweak a bit more but it's close.

    Excellent job!

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