Wednesday, February 12, 2014

First Two (MG Fiction) #5

TITLE: The Key in the Castle
GENRE: MG Fantasy

Malory’s Guide to Britain, page 364

Overton Keep Inn: If you’re looking for lodging that’s fit for a duke or duchess, make sure to visit the palatial bed & breakfast at Overton Keep. It might be a little off the beaten track, but this privately owned castle on a lake is worth a visit. Guests can tour the ruins of the surviving 11th century structures, which are some of the finest preserved pre-conquest ruins in the country and rumored to be haunted. Book early because the well-appointed rooms are often reserved quickly in the summer months.

Chapter 1: The Clause in the Will

Emily hadn’t meant to wear a party dress to her great-grandmother’s funeral. As the only girl in four generations of the Keold family, she stood out even more against a sea of somber black suits in her flouncy dress with pink polka dots. She tried to stand very still so that her tap shoes wouldn’t clack (her only black shoes), but they were two sizes too small and were pinching her toes terribly.

There hadn’t been time for Emily’s mother to take her shopping for funeral clothes before they had to board the plane from Baltimore to London, so her sixth-grade graduation dress and dusty tap shoes had to do. No one had expected Great-Grandma Anne to die at 100. She had been so insistent that she would live to be 101 that everyone in the family believed it. Even the lawyer who had come to read Great-Grandma Anne’s will seemed surprised. He was staring so intensely at the papers in front of him that he had gone cross-eyed.

Great-Grandma Anne’s five sons, and their sons, and their sons (and Emily) had crammed into the library of the Overton Keep Inn after the funeral. Inheriting an Inn that was also a thousand-year-old castle on a lake was a pretty big deal. The younger men and boys shifted their weight or bounced on their heels, while the older men sat in straight-backed chairs reading the newspaper or napping. Great-Uncle Richard eyed the sparkly Faberge eggs on the mantel. Occasionally a cough echoed up into the cobwebbed ceiling rafters.

Emily scratched her nose and did her best to look solemn and sad. Honestly, she was more depressed about missing her soccer game this weekend. It was hard to be sad about the death of a woman she had never met and who had lived a long life.

Finally, the solicitor looked up from the yellowed sheets of paper. (Emily’s father whispered that lawyers were called solicitors in England. Sometimes they were called barristers too. It was rather confusing.)

“This is most unusual,” the solicitor said. “Most unusual indeed.”

Uncle Philip grabbed the papers from the frazzled solicitor’s hands. “It all seems in order to me,” Philip said. “The estate passes to the oldest son and her personal possessions are split amongst the rest. Quite standard.”

“Yes, but look here,” the solicitor said, pointing to the bottom of the page.


  1. Ooh, I am hooked. Great opening. I might like a little bit more interior observations from your MC and some way to work in her name. But this is really nice.

  2. This was really good. For some reason the word frazzled when describing the solicitor's hands bothered me. There was no apparent reason for him to be frazzled. It pulled me out of the story to wonder why he was frazzled.

  3. I liked the part about her more upset about missing her soccer game than the funeral since she never met her great grandmother. That rings true to most MG aged kids.

  4. I think it stopped at just the right point where we wanted to know what was going on, so that's a good sign :) I love the situation, it sounds lovely. I think your description is there, you character stands out and is likable, and I love London. I would read for sure.

  5. No fair! I want to know what was at the bottom of the page!! I liked this right away, but then I'm a nut for English history. I hope your book works in a lot of real history and facts in along with the fiction! Unless you made up the whole Malory's Guide to Britain about Overton Keep Inn, too.

    Nicely written, too! My only suggestion is to make the explanation of why Emily's wearing her flouncy dress the second sentence. And you might move ("her only black shoes") to right after "tap shoes."

    Good job!

  6. I love this. I'm definitely hooked. My favorite parts were the opening line and her being more upset about her soccer game. The two things I didn't like as much were the "prologue" advertisement of the castle and all the little parenthetical clauses.

    I think the advertisement part is unnecessary. You tell us what we need to know right up front in the actual story and the other bits and pieces can be woven it. I also think parenthetical phrases make a story extremely hard to read, are often unnecessary and make writing feel unpolished. My rule is, if you can't work it into the text in a smooth natural way, then it should be left out. The bit about her tap shoes being her only black shoes could easily be worked into the text and would be much easier to read that way. Plus, it's a fun detail. The part about solicitors and bannisters might be harder to work in at this point in the story. Give it a try and if it feels heavy-handed then leave it out. That information really isn't needed here if you can't find a smoother way to deliver it.

    Good luck. I enjoyed this and would have read further.

  7. I'm hooked! I don't have any problem with the prologue from Mallory's Guide. I can visualise it as a facsimile of the actual page - like an illustration.
    I think you should've taken out a few words beforehand so that you could've put us out of our misery - and included what was at the bottom of the page, haha. :)