Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #8 - THE NETTLE SPINNER 10:10 AM EST

TITLE: The Nettle Spinner
GENRE: YA Fairy Tale Retelling

After the death of her mother, all Renelde wants is to provide for herself and her great-grandmother. But the Count Burchard's jealous attentions spur a rash oath, requiring Renelde to complete what seems an impossible task: spin cloth from nettles—or risk losing the man she truly loves.

“Ay, lamb, it’s time.”

I took the flaxen burial shroud from the wooden chest at the foot of my bed and clutched it to my chest. The spongy layer of crushed, fresh rushes lent a sweet fragrance from beneath my thin-soled shoes.

There were eight gathered in our little cottage, including great-grandmother Adela and me. Too many.
“Joan must have longed for death, even before she became ill,” said Mrs. Molke.

She hadn’t even tried to lower her voice.

“Hush.” Mrs. Bette chided softly and darted a glance in my direction. “Speak well of the dead or not at all.”

Mrs. Molke pursed her thin lips and turned away.

“Joan?” Great-grandmother Adela called from her bed in the adjoining room. “Joan! Come here!”

I handed the burial shroud to Mrs. Bette and hurried to Grandmama's side. “Mama can’t come right now,” I said in a hushed tone, fairly at wit’s end. I’d already told her three times that morning Mama had passed.

“You tell her to come, Renelde.” Grandma Adela insisted, her lips trembling.

I nodded and brought a wooden cup of mead to her lips. “After you take a nap—“

“And what are all these people doing here?” She pushed the cup aside. “You know I dislike visitors!”

“Shhh.” I hushed softly, and drew the blankets up around her. “Mama’s sleeping.” I felt terrible to say it again, but didn't know what else to do.

“With all these people here? Unlikely!”

“You’ll wake her,” I warned in a whisper, and my heart broke again.


  1. Nice. The MC immediately comes across as tough and compassionate. I'm not always a fan of fairy-tale retellings, but this one passes my line in the sand: It gives me a character I'd be interested in spending 300 pages with.

    The fantasy-esque syntax reads smoothly. My reading did hiccup as I tried to pronounce the oddly spelled names, but that might be a personal preference.

  2. I really liked your opening. You made the character sympathetic, and you raised questions (without being confusing) that would have kept me reading for answers. That last line even tugged at my emotions. I like Renelde and Grandma Adela.

    My concern is that the voice in the hook and the voice in the story don't match. The voice in the hook is overly archaic and complicated. I'd simplify your hook to match your story and character.

    Wishing you luck! I actually love fairy tale retellings, and this is one I've tried without success to find a way to retell. I'd love to read your version.

  3. I'm hooked. I like fairy tale retellings, and your characters are sympathetic and interesting at the same time. I'm especially drawn to the grandmother and hoping she ends up being a personality in this story! Your last line was spot on, showing us her tenderness in dealing with her grandmother and a glimpse into her feelings, even as she also comes across as a strong character who is going to be quite resilient no matter what happens.

  4. I am also hooked! However, I'd like a little more set up and less dialogue. Maybe a couple of sentences so I can at least picture the scene better. I feel like you are throwing out a lot of names without properly introducing them into the scene. Think about slowing the opening. I also agree that the opening voice is not consistent with the rest of the story, but yet, I don't know who said it and if they will speak in the voice again, since there are eight people in the cottage. I think you could start with...There were eight gathered in our tiny cottage...Good luck!!

  5. I like the description and dialogue, even if a few lines could come out. I need a hint to her age so I can better understand her actions. I'd love to see some of the gossip mention Count Burchard's possible interest/actions even if Renelde does not hear it so we have that tension on top of the family drama. Cheers!

  6. I'm also hooked. Very nice and smooth. My only quibble is with the logline. I'm not sure I understand it. It's this part that throws me "jealous attentions spur"

  7. I liked this and thouģht it worked well. You made things evident through action and dialogue. I know someone died because there's a shroud.I know there are rushes on the floor from the fragrance rising beneath her fèet. I know Mrs. Molke is a gossip and Mrs. Bette is kind. All without you ever saying it. Very nice way to get details in.

    The MC is kind and compassionate, very likeable, and you've chosen a fairytale that hasn't been done to death. Nicely done!

    My only suggestion is for the first sentence in the 2nd parg. You use "chest" twice, once as a trunk, once as a body part, and it stood out to me. Maybe change one.

  8. Ooh spinning nettles! Is this a retelling of the Six Swans? Perhaps let us know in the logline so we know what to expect?

    The logline confused me a bit because it said all Renelde wanted to do was to take care of her great-grandmother, but then she has to save the man she loves. I'd pictured it as her and her great-grandmother against the world, so that lost me a little.

    I liked the opening scene with the death shroud, and the fragrance of the rushes; both place us firmly in your medieval world. However, I found there were a lot of characters and names all at once, which took away from the scene, I think. (I went and re-read, and I see there are only two ladies with the MC, but because they were named one after the other, and then the grandmother yelled Joan, it was three names in a row and it broke me out of the story).

    I do like the MC, and this scene is a great way to introduce her, and that she's strong but kind and devoted to her great-grandmother.

  9. I did find your pitch confusing. I wouldn't necessarily mention Count Burchard, unless he's the hero. If he's the villain, I would simply describe him as such; lame example, Evil Wizard.

    I love the nettles concept and the mention of the burial shroud, but I think this scene gets bogged down by too many unnecessary details and dialogue.

    You sound like you have a sympathetic MC, though, and I'd love to read her story.

  10. Watch overuse of adjectives: You have seven in your relatively short second paragraph. I'd get rid of two or three.

    And pointing out that the cup of mead is wooden breaks the flow - it's the author sticking in a detail that isn't germane.

    Pay attention to grammar/typing/phrasing. You have at several glitches on this page - not major ones, but even one is too many for a first page:

    -"I felt terrible to say it again" - you want "I felt terrible saying it again"
    -Missing comma after "Hush"
    -Missing comma after "“You tell her to come, Renelde”
    -Missing comma after “Shhh”

    I would also quickly clarify that Grandma is calling out for her dead daughter as soon as she calls for Joan - it's not immediately clear (the narrator could also be called Joan).