NaNoWriMo Day 3: And the days of crappy writing have begun…

Pretty much sums it up.  Today was a crappy writing day.  I pretty much hated just about everything I wrote, and every word on the paper felt like I was carving garbage out of granite.  It was hard to write today.  Nothing came easily, I was tired, and grumpy, and bummed out that my sentences were clunky, repetitive, and my words and descriptions elementary and boring.  I guess some days are just like that.

But, in the interest of keeping my promises to myself, I am posting my crappy writing from today.  Please feel free to give me suggestions on how to make it better.  The good news is that its probably not hard to improve it, since there’s so much to fix!

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tumblr_nkakscZYyz1qzjmo0o1_540The Revivalist

by Anastasia Betts

Chapter Excerpt

By the time Ella reached the steps leading up to the front door, she was thoroughly drenched.  Hair plastered to her face, mud and damp sticking her skirts and petticoats to her legs, sweat making her chemise and under garments chafe in the most uncomfortable ways.  But she was her at last.  An din one piece.  She gratefully set her bag down on the portico, and rang the bell for assistance.  No one came.  She waited a period of time that she deemed acceptable, and then added an additional count of five, owing to the fact that her version of acceptable, and the worlds version of acceptable did not always agree — and then rang the bell again.  She waited.  And waited.  But still no one came.  She had raised her hand to ring the bell a third time when the door was pulled open to reveal a very stern looking woman.  She was tall and slender, and had the look of a beauty faded by time or circumstance.  Her had was perfectly coiffed albeit in a style quite austere, pulled severely back from her face, which was all hard angles and edges.  Gaunt was the word that came to mind.  Don’t they feed people here, Ella thought?

“Umm, hello.  I am Eleanor Whitby and I was sent ov-“

“I know who you are, and that’s a nit wit.  How dare you think to enter this house, dressed like that?  Why you’d have mud all over Mr. Poe’s floors.”

“Oh, quite right.  I”m very sorry but I wasn’t s-“

“You’ll need to walk around back.”

“-ure where I sh-“

“There’s an entry for servants, you know.”

“-ould go.” Ella finished lamely.

The woman made no introduction or offer of help.

“Off with you then.  Around the house, in back I said.”

And with that the door was promptly and most decidedly shut in Ella’s face.  She was liking the place less and less by the minute, not that she had liked it all at any point, but she had been hopeful — hopeful that it would be at least a friendly and congenial place to work, full of people with whom she could make acquaintance and connection.  She began to think that hope may have been in vain.  With the door shut and no other option, Ella once more picked up her bag, and began to hobble and tote herself around the house to the back where the coveted servants’ port of entry was to be found.

The house was big.  Much bigger than was perceptible from the road.  Her trip around its perimeter told her that much.  At least the ground here was a bit firmer and prevented her boots from sinking in, gathering more mud on her hem.  Oh will this walk never end!  Ella said to herself, exasperated. Her experience of this evening had called to mind a story she had once heard, where a man was made to walk on and on as a form of punishment.  He was made to walk without ceasing until at last, in a state of utter exhausted, he collapsed and died.  She didn’t know if this were possible, death by walking.  Nothing in her medical training provided her any evidence to the contrary.  She began to laugh at the irony of it – to have survived drowning only to die walking.

No sooner had she these thoughts that she had arrived upon her desired destination, the servants’ door.  Or at least, she presumed so since she was now at the rear of the house and this was the only door on the bottom-most floor.  The doors upon the portico were likely for the residents, and not for the help.  She knocked lightly and the door swiftly opened.  Her friend Ms. Severity greeted her about as warmly as an icicle greets a cold winter morning.

“Well don’t just stand there like a ninny, come in,” the woman barked.

Ella wasn’t about to argue.  The temperature outside had dropped considerably just in the time Ella had walked from the front to the back of the house.  She stepped in from the cold, bag dragging behind her, to find herself into what knew to be aptly called a “mud room.”  It was dark and cramped, with overcoats and boots piled up around the perimeter.

“Take your shoes off your shoes and put them there,” she pointed harshly to the floor. “You can take off the rest of it in there,” she pointed to a small door that must have led to a closet.

“You mean for me to take off my clothes?”  Ella asked, astonished.

“Just the one’s with mud on them.”

“But all of them have mud on them!” Ella replied.

“Well then I guess you’ll have to take them all off,” the woman said shoving Ella more forcefully than was necessary into the small dressing room behind her.

“You can’t be serious,” Ella exclaimed, stumbling backwards into the much smaller room.  The woman slammed the door and said, “Master Poe insists on a clean house, and I’ll not let a gutter snipe such as you be the cause of trouble in this household. Now hand me your filthy garments or you’ll be walking up to your room as naked as the day you were born.”

Ella couldn’t believe this was happening, but she didn’t doubt the seriousness of the woman’s threat.  She began to unbutton, untie, unfasten her garments with a haste and efficiency she’d hardly known possible.  The closet was small to be sure, but at least  there was a pitcher and basin on a small side table.  She use the water and wash cloth to vigorously scrub the mud from various parts of her body, her face, her hair.  There really wasn’t a spot on her face, arms, or lower legs that hadn’t been tarnished.

The door opened abruptly on Ella standing only in her chemise, which was mud free thank goodness.  The woman snatched Ella’s soiled garments and in turn thrust another stack of clothes at her, then disappeared with a slamming of the door just as quickly as she had appeared.  Ella looked at the grey woolen garments in her hands.  They were woolen and very itchy, but at least they were clean and no doubt warm.  Despite the manner in which they had been provided, she found herself feeling grateful for them.

“Hurry up, girl!” she heard the woman snap. “Don’t dawdle!”

The door flew open again just as Ella had finished fastening the last button.

“Well, I don’t know how fit you are, but at least you’re clean,” the woman pronounced, turning to exit into the adjoining room, which Ella presumed was the kitchen from the look of it.

Now that she had been deemed acceptable, Ella picked up her bag and attempted to follow the woman.

“No.”  Came the automatic and stern reply.

Ella had no idea what the problem was.  She was clean.  She had left her offending clothes and shoes behind in the room.  The woman motioned to the muddy bag in Ella’s hand.

“Oh, but all my things are in there,” Ella said.

“You’ll get your things later,” She said. “For now, leave that filthy thing in the mud room.”

Ella dutifully, if not somewhat reluctantly, returned her bag to the mud room.

“I’m sorry, I don’t even know your name,” Ella began, hoping for an introduction.  “My name is Ella Whitby-“

“You may call me Ms. Beaufort, Master Poe’s head of household,” the woman said.

“Head of household?  You mean like a housekeep-“

Head of Household.” Ms. Beaufort said with air of finality.  The subject brooked no more conversation.

“Yes, I understand.  Head of Household,” Ella said, trying to keep the peace.

“And as Head of Household,” Ms. Beaufort continued, “It is my responsibility to ensure that the household is run according to Master Poe’s very exceptional, very singular standards.”mud room

Ella had never heard of a head of household as a position in the house before.  Perhaps this title was one of Poe’s peculiarities?  She wasn’t sure.

“We’ve been expecting you all day, but I’m sure no one expected you to be so rude as to arrive after sundown.” Ms. Beaufort said, scolding.

“It’s too late tonight to get into particulars,” the woman began, “So, I’ll show you to your room, and then we will discuss your placement here in the morning.”

“Yes, thank you.”  Ella said, grateful to hear that she would soon be in her room resting.

“Yes…?”  Ms. Beaufort challenged.

“Uh, yes ma’am?”  Ella replied, remembering her manners.

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NaNoWriMo Day 2: Getting A Job!

I literally just lost my post.  Sadness.  Sorry you will miss all of my cleverness that I am now too tired to retype. 🙂

So down to brass tacks.  My daughter Halie is the best writing coach ever.  I want to thank her for all of her help.  I have no idea how she got so smart about telling stories, but her advice is honest, real, and spot on.  I feel like tonight’s excerpt is so much better because of her feedback.

So tonight’s excerpt actually takes place just before the excerpt I posted for Nanowrimo day 1.  Basically, in yesterday’s excerpt, Ella was slowly making her way to the Poe house where she hoped to be hired on.  In tonight’s excerpt, its the interview she has with the agent who tells her about the job in the first place.

So without further adieu, here’s excerpt 2.

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SvDemo.Ray.McCorkle

The Revivalist

By Anastasia Betts

Chapter Excerpt

Ella sat, waiting for her turn on a very hard, very uncomfortable bench in the furthest corner of an office that could charitably be described as dank.  A musty miasma wafted about, invading Ella’s nostrils. The smell reminded her of Aunt Phyllis’ old attic.   A ferocious nor-easter had blown in the roof one year —it had rained for days and days. The whole house had flooded but the attic had the worst of it.  Aunt Phyllis never did get the damp out of room after that, no matter how she tried.  The smell of mold and old wet decay lingered for years in the attic, and even longer in Ella’s memory.  She rubbed her nose absentmindedly, feeling an odd, yet familiar tickle. Her nose always itched in the presence of mold.

“This is a nice office,” Ella said brightly.  She was nervous, and she always tended to talk more than she should when she was nervous.

“Mm-hmm,” the young man said, not bothering to look up from his ledgers.

“I visited an office once like this, with my father,” she continued. “He had business in town from time to time.”  She waited for Mr. Jones’ secretary to reply.  He did not.

Ella fidgeted.  The clocked ticked away on the mantle on the far wall. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.  Ella began to count the tick-tocks to keep her mind busy and her mouth closed.  One… two…

She was never one to sit still and this was something of a small torture for her. Fifteen. Sixteen.

The furious scraping of the secretary’s pencil added a counterpoint to the tick-tocking. Thirty. Thirty-one.

Ella began to tap a jaunty little rhythm on the wood floor.  It was something of a trick to manage the rhythm and the tick-tock counting at the same time.  The challenge entertained her and before long she had a bit of a funny percussive ditty going.  She smiled to herself and began to hum. Fifty-five. Fifty-six.

The secretary slammed the pencil down hard on his books, and sighed heavily.

Ella stopped counting tick-tocks.

She began examined the small waiting room instead.  It only took a minute to decide it was a dark and uninteresting, excepting the smell that reminded her of Aunt Phyllis’ attic, but she’d already thought about that and just thinking about it again wasn’t enough to interest her.

“Excuse me…” she started.

“Be patient,” the secretary behind the desk cut her off mid-sentence. “Mr. Jones is a very busy many and will be with you shortly.”

Ella eyed the secretary with no small amount of annoyance.  He was oblivious, his nose still in his books.

“…I was about to say, could I have a glass of water?”  Ella said with an edge. She was never very good at masking her feelings, or her thoughts for that matter.

The gentleman frowned in her direction.  His frown was not lost on Ella.

Darn it, Ella.  Get a hold of yourself. 

Ella put on as sweet a smile as she could muster, and added prettily “please?”

The young man softened a bit, stood, and went to retrieve a glass of water from the pitcher at the sideboard.  He strode across the room with heavy, purposeful footfalls, and handed the water to Ella, managing to slosh some of it onto her. But as the door to the private office behind him opened, she promptly forgot his rudeness.  A short squat man with narrow eyes and a fat handlebar mustache appeared at the threshold.  His bald head glistened in the daylight streaming in from the window, and dark damp spots stained his sleeves where his arms joined his body.  She was convinced she never saw a man so sweaty in her life, and she had watched her father plow many a field in the height of summer.

“Who’s here?”  Mr. Jones hollered, much louder than was seemly.

“Just a girl sent over from the Quaker School in Philadelphia,” the secretary replied

Ella bristled at being referred to as “just a girl,” but managed to hold her peace.

The younger gentleman handed Mr. Jones the card that Ella had provided.  It was the card that Headmaster Prior had instructed her to present at Harvey Jones Esquire when she arrived in Trenton. And so she had.

“Ah, yes, yes.” Mr. Jones pushed his spectacles up further on his nose to get a better look at the card.  “Sent over by my good friend Charles Prior, very good.”  Mr. Jones smiled kindly at Ella and motioned her forward.

“Come in here, and let’s see if we can find you something to do.”

Now that she was no longer his responsibility, the young man returned to his desk and paid Ella no further attention.  Ella swished past him and into Mr. Jones office, hoping that her interview would fair better than her time with his secretary had.

“Have a seat here, uh, Miss…”

“Miss Whitby,” Ella provided, “Miss Eleanor Whitby.”

She smoothed her skirts as she sat on the chair provided.  Her back erect, her hands folded demurely in her lap, she worked to remember all the lessons in etiquette and propriety she had had at school, and put them to full effect now.  Never had a meeting been so important or mattered so much.  With her parents gone now, it was up to her to provide for herself and for Alice.  The loss was still fresh, and tears threatened.  But Ella was growing used to pushing away her grief.  She had never imagined that at the tender age of eighteen, so much would be thrust upon her.  Its funny how children always seem to think their parents will be around forever, she mused — to love and protect, to care for their children.  But those were just the foolish imaginings of a child.

Over the past few weeks, much had happened, and she had learned so much.  Much more than she had wanted to learn.   She had learned that the beautiful farm that she had grown up on, that had been in her family for at least two generations or more, no longer belonged to her family.  She had learned the unhappy fact within days of her parents’ death.  There was no money to bury them.  She had had to sell everything. All the animals, her favorite milk cow, Ruby the silly goat she had hand reared when her mother rejected her, a modest flock of sheep they had used for a small wool exchange, a whole brood of prime egg laying hens.  And still, she was forced to rely upon the charity of friends in order to settle outstanding debts and to provide a final resting spot for her beloved mother and father.  They now rested in peace at Christ’s Church Cemetery, just across from the Friends Meeting House on Arch Street.  It seemed fitting, she thought.  Her family had spent so many days and nights at that Friends Meeting House.  Even better, it was very near the Quaker school that her sister, and until this week Ella herself, attended. Which meant that any time, any time at all, Alice and Ella could walk the short distance to spend time at their gravesides.  Ella couldn’t have known that the time that she would need to leave Philadelphia, and that such moments of solace would be lost to her.

Her life in Philadelphia was over now.  As was her dream of a future residency at the New York’s Infirmary for Women after graduation. Her acceptance had been a conditional one after all, contingent on her graduation from Quaker School with honors.  The honors part was easy, as Ella was a meticulous and eager student.  But without the necessary funds for tuition, completing her education at Quaker Friends was an impossibility.  It had destroyed her to learn that her father had mortgaged everything to pay for her and Alice’s schooling.  But it had been an easy thing to sacrifice her last year’s tuition to make Alice’s education possible, or so she kept telling herself.  Alice had suffered enough with the loss of their mother and father.  She needed the support of her friends and mentors at school.  No, Ella thought.  I made the right decision.  Besides, I haven’t quit my schooling.  I’ve just put it on hold for a bit. 

“…medicine, is that right?”

Ella snapped back into the present, unable to make sense of Mr. Jones last words.  He was waiting expectantly for her to answer.  She wracked her brain trying to recall what he had been saying.  She could not.

“I must beg your pardon sir, could you please repeat your last question?” She asked politely. Hopefully.

Mr. Jones huffed slightly, “Pay attention girl.  You’ll never get through an interview with a prospective employer if you can’t prevent yourself from going all addled-brained.”  But his toned softened and he continued, “Listen, I know you’ve been through a lot.  Charles sent me a letter that explained your situation somewhat.  But I’ve got to know more about what skills you have.  Now it says here in the letter that you received top marks in your schooling, and that you planned to continue your education in the field of science or medicine, is that right?”

“Yes sir, that is correct.  The top of my class, out of both young ladies and young men.  We’re a co-ed school.”  She replied, with some amount of pride in her tone.

“That’s well and good, but I don’t rightly have much call for a lady science student.  And since you didn’t finish, I can’t send you out as a governess or school teacher, though I suspect you might be better suited and skilled to the prospect than most others I’ve ever placed.”

“Well, I can read and write with some expertise I like to think,  I can dissect an animal cleaner than any hospital surgeon; I can separate the parts of a nerve with a scalpel, I can tell you how your heart works, I can diagnose over a hundred different common ailments and prescribe the proper treatment. I can cross breed over a thousand different types of plant species, expertly midwife any farm animal you like and hand rear its young if the mother doesn’t make it or doesn’t take a liking to her babe..”

“Yes, yes, yes… I know that you have tremendous intellect when it comes to science and medicine,”

“But there’s more,” Ella said.

He held up a hand, silencing her.

“Miss Whitby, this would all be well and good but I have absolutely no jobs that require your particular skills or knowledge.  Is there anything else?  Anything at all?  Some hidden talent that you’ve forgotten?”

“Well, I can play piano and sing a little…” she said weakly.

He sighed.

A sinking feeling began to form in her stomach.  She had worked so hard, and put in so many hours on her studies.  Becoming a physician was all she had ever thought about, for as long as she remembered.  Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Blackwell, Maria Zakrzewska, Eleanor Whitby.  Her name was supposed to be up there with the greatest women physicians of all time.  She had even forced herself to overcome her revulsion and moral objection to studies that involved live subjects.  Blood was a problem, but she had licked it.   And now, after all of that work, after the demonstration of incredible intellect and competence, to be told she wasn’t fit to teach children, or to be a ladies companion, or to work in an office, or some or other medical establishment?  The ironies of life were astounding, she thought.

She began to feel desperate.  This was her one chance, her one opportunity to secure her future. She couldn’t fail.

“Mr. Jones, please listen.  I can not — I can not – leave your office without a job or a prospect of one.  I will do anything.  I’m a hard worker and fast learner.  I’m an early riser, and willing to work late in to the evening if that is what the task requires.  I’m of sound mind and healthy constitution – I almost never get sick,” she took a breath to continue.

“Now that’s something I can work with,” Mr. Jones interrupted.

She waited anxiously.  He reached into his desk, pulled out a slip of paper, and looked intently at it.  Then, he looked directly at Ella.

“Miss Whitby, I don’t know if this is the job for you, but its the only one of got that you seem fit for.  And, with all you’ve just told me, I’ve reconsidered.  Now I have to warn you, the employer is a bit of an eccentric.”

“An eccentric?”

“Yes, he has some peculiar ways of doing things, very private man, likes everything just so.”

“But what is the job?” Ella asked, intrigued.

“Oh the job is nothing so mysterious as its sounds.  He’s in need of a house maid.”

Ella’s enthusiasm evaporated a little, but not altogether.  She could do that.  She was no stranger to cleaning.

“That seems like an easy job to fill,” she mused aloud.

“Yes, one would think so.  But it has been strangely difficult to keep people employed at the Poe house,” he reached over the top of his desk to hand her the slip of paper.  She took it eagerly and began to read it, still having trouble processing what he was saying.

“The Poe house? As in Edgar Allen?”

“As in George Poe.  Edgar’s cousin.”

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#NaNoWriMo Day 1 — Feeling Groovy

So this year, I decided to work on a book I worked on a couple of years ago.  Its a story I’ve had in my head for quite sometime — based on or inspired by true events and historical persons, etc.  Though the story itself is my own creation, with fictional protagonists and antagonists.  Its a dark tale of intrigue and ethical conflict in the late 19th century, about a young girl that finds herself caught up in the morally dubious world of medical research in turn of the century America.  These are the days of Pasteur and Lister, and many other men all looking to get their name on some new patent, pathology, or other medical discovery.  Its the wild west of early medicine, where there are no rules and its anyone’s game.

The coolest part of the story is that one of the historical figures is actually a cousin of the famous Edgar Allen Poe, and so the story very much has the feeling of one told by the master of the macabre…  that is if I can tell it write.  Who knows, but I am trying.

I did hit my word count today, so here’s an excerpt.  This scene takes place with the main character, Ella, first makes her way to Poe’s house where she hopes to find employment.  Of course the house is in a scary, isolated wood…  of course.

I’m just posting an excerpt of what I wrote below.  Be kind, its raw and unedited, straight off the presses…

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The Revivalist….  by Anastasia Betts

Excerpt

For the second time this night, Ella steeled her resolve and willed her exhausted body into action.  Once again she hefted her bag, and squeezed her way, quite awkwardly, through the narrowly open gate which refused to open further.  Her person made it through well enough, but her large bag nearly didn’t.  Some vigorous tugging, grunting, and twisting finally saw the job done.

Ella sighed heavily. Weary and bedraggled, coated with sweat underneath her layers of clothing, she began to feel a chill of a different sort.  Now within the property, she could see marginally better.  Trees with sharp angled branches crowded the drive, having already lost their leaves in anticipation of a long winter sleep. It seemed too early to have done so, Ella thought, but perhaps winters in these parts were harsh and came early.

The ground was moist and soft as she walked, sucking slightly at her boots with each step.  The going was slow and cumbersome, not to mention very unfortunate for her boots and skirt hem.  She only hoped her new employer – prospective employer, she corrected – would be understanding.  After all, she never expected to have to walk all this way in the dark, and through the mud!

Her legs were weary, her bag heavier with each step.  From time to time she would stop, and transfer the bag to her other hand – too afraid to set it down on the ground lest it too become muddied.  Her arms ached with the effort.  “I must have walked two miles already carrying this old thing!” She said to the trees who seemed not to care one whit for her trouble. Her pronouncement was met with silence followed by the faint thudding of hooves beating a rapid tattoo in the distance.  She whipped around to face the direction she had come.  If her ears could be believed, and she wasn’t entirely sure they could since fog was known to play tricks with sounds, it seemed to be getting closer.  She stared intently down the drive, but could make nothing out in the fog.  Unconsciously, she pulled up her bag with both hands, hugging it to her chest.  The sound grew louder and faster the longer she listened.

Someone was coming.  Someone was coming fast.

In the blink of an eye, the largest horse and rider Ella had ever scene burst from the fog and was upon her. She had no time to react before the beast had barreled past her knocking her bag from her arms with the force of a train.  Whipped around, her bag flying, Ella careened wildly off the main part of the road and into the muddy ditch beside. She lay there for a long moment, wondering if she were dead or worse.  But she could feel nothing broken or injured.  She supposed it providence that she had been clutching that big bag of hers, as that was likely what saved her.  She lay there expecting at any moment to hear a concerned voice asking her if she was alright, but it didn’t come.  Somewhere in her addled mind, she registered hoof beats sounding further and further away.

“You just leave me here without an offer of help?”  She exclaimed aloud, incredulous.  Once again the trees had no answer, though she imagined that they must feel sorry for her predicament.  She now wondered if she wanted to work for this employer, if that was in fact her employer riding like the very minions of hell were in pursuit.

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Nano…plano..failo…

So yeah, NaNoWriMo is less than 2 weeks away now and I’m starting to freak out that I don’t know, deep in my gut, what I want to work on.  Do I have novel ideas?  Heck yes.  But almost all of my ideas are historical fiction, which require gads of research, and I just don’t think I have the time or energy for research this year. 😦

I was in the car a lot yesterday with Halie (my daughter), and our car conversations almost always turn to writing.  She’s a writer too, though she’s working on her own indie comic (its a great story and if she ever gets the website going I’ll post if here).  So, LA traffic means trapped in your car for a long time which means good discussions (for the most part).  Well, yesterday’s discussion led me to think that perhaps I do have one historical fiction that I could work on — one that doesn’t necessarily require immediate research.  Meaning, I could probably get through most of NaNoWriMo on mostly minimal research.  Though its based on true events (or should I say inspired by true events), its not truly historical because we don’t have enough information to go on…  Also my main protagonist is completely fictional, though my other main character is historical.  What are the rules for this anyway?

So this story I’m thinking of, tentatively titled “The Revivalist,” probably belongs in the American Gothic Horror (Romance?) genre.  It takes place in the late 1800s during the early days of the surgical/medicine/end of the scientific revolution movement…  If you’ve ever watched that show “Knick” the TV show on Cinemax (or Amazon Prime), then that’s precisely the era/setting in which my novel takes place.

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I may just watch the whole first season to get in the mood to write…  but for tonight I think we might just go see Crimson Peak… the new gothic movie out by Benicio del Toro…

I did it!!! #Nanowrimo Winner @ 50,068 word count

I could have kept writing.  I was in the middle of a scene.  But I figured writing over 18,000 words in less than 24 hours, I had earned the right to stop.  For now. 🙂

I’m proud of myself but I feel a bit underwhelmed by it all.  I guess its because I know that even though I got a boatload of words written, the idea of a complete novel is still very far off.  Oh well, its been a great experience and I’ve gotten a great start.  I’ve learned a lot too.  I’ve learned a lot about my characters, my fictional world (even it if is based on 1850s Boston), their relationships, their motivations, their challenges.  I’ve learned that the book I thought I was writing, was actually NOT the book I was writing — but will come later in the series.  And I’ve learned a lot about how to write — how I feel when I’m writing toward a very concrete established goal, vs. writing just for the pure enjoyment of it.  There are pros and cons to both.

Anyway, to all of you who have followed me and stuck it out with me through this journey, I thank you.  I also want to thank my husband for his support, even while he struggled with getting his own nanwrimo goal completed.  He won, by the way, with 56,000 words.  I’m kind of envious of his word count… just a little. 🙂

And most of all, I’m grateful for that little voice in my head — the one that refused to let me give up, even when I had already given up and made my peace with it.  Its amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.

And so, for 2014 Nanwrimo… here is my final excerpt….  Again, please overlook the mistakes.  This has received no edits since my main focus in the last few hours was simply hitting the word count.

****McKendrick Saga – Nanowrimo Excerpt Day 30 *****

Without her mother’s knowing, Jo had made several clandestine trips back to Dorthea’s. Had her mother found out, it most likely wouldn’t have been a problem, since Charity would most probably assume that Jo was returning for additional fittings of her debutante ball dress. But Jo didn’t want any problems, even if the chance of discovery was slight.

“Arent you worried that Dorthea will say something to your mother?” Lu had asked.

“Not at all,” Jo said. “Dorthea absolutely loves to try out new and innovative fashions, and what could be more innovative than a pair of bloomers? Besides, I convinced Dorthea that I have mother’s blessing, and I paid her in advance.” Jo smiled, clearly impressed by her own cleverness. “No, I don’t think that Dorthea will be uttering a peep. Afterall, I shall be the talk of the ball and all of the ladies will be wanting to know who dressed me. I’ll say, Dorthea of course, and Dorthea will be booked until the end of the decade.” Jo continued, imaginging the scene. “My mother will be happy about all the attention, I shall be happy to be wearing pants instead of a dress, Dorthea shall be happy with all of the new business – everyone wins.”

Lucinda wasn’t so sure. Jo had a way of concocting plans which on the surface seemed to be full proof, but in actuality were the worst ideas ever.

“I’m not so sure your mother will be happy with the attention you get, especially if that attention is on account of you dressing yourself like a radical suffragette,” Lu cautioned.

“Oh bother, what does mother know about the suffragette movement? She hardly ventures out of the house and cares only for parties, dances, frivolities – all the trappings of gay society.” Jo dismissed Lu’s concerns with a wave of her hand.

“Never the less Jo, I think caution would be wise. Perhaps it is best to save this ensemble for a less – eh – critical moment.”

“Nonsense – this is the perfect moment. What could be more perfect than to let everyone know exactly who I am from my very first moment in society? That way Ill never have to deal with the fakery and show. The endless role playing. Mother wants me to enter society, so fine, I’ll enter society. But Ill do it my own way on my own terms.”

Lu just shook her head. She wasn’t sure her friend had thought this all the way through.

“Jolene, it is time to go are you ready?” Charity called from the foyer downstairs.

Donna descended the stairs and delivered a small hand written note to Charity waiting at the foot of the stairs.

“what is this?” Charity said irritably.

“I beg pardon, Ma’am. But Miss Jolene says she feels just a mite ill at the moment. She’s certain it will pass, but she asks if she can just have another hour before leaving.”

“Another hour!” Charity huffed. “But I am supposed to hand out the carnations to the guests at the start – its part of the fundraising effort by the Boston Ladies Society. I have a very important position tonight!” Charity said, full of self-importance. She looked like a peacock puffing up his feathers as if to prove how important he was.

“My dear, I’m certain that if Jo says that she is coming, she will come. We can go on ahead, and have Watson drive her over when she feels better. I’m certain its just a small bout of nerves. Besides, Lucinda is up there with her. You and I both no there’s not a chance that Lucinda would miss the biggest social gathering of the season.”

Charity looked doubtful, though she knew most of what Charles said was true. “Are you certain? What if she doesn’t come? After all this is supposed to be her first foray into society. Should we wait here for her and go together?” Charity said, uncertain.

“My dear if want to miss handing out carnations we can certainly wait. But I am sure that Jo will be fine and Lucinda will see her safely to the event. If , she does not show up, we can always come back to retrieve her.” Charles said patiently.

This seemed to mollify Charity some what.

“Yes, yes of course. We can always come and get her, its not too far away. And, I do so want to be there to hand out carnations. It’s a very important task you see. I shant wish to disappoint Ms. Ellis.”

Ms. Ellis was the president of the Boston Ladies Society, and Charity had only just made her way up enough amongst the ladies to actually receive an assignment. Re integrating back into society had been a much tougher challenge than Charity had expected. Charity had thought with her name and connections that she would be accepted, welcomed with open arms even, back into the bosom of the ladies of the Boston Brahmins – so called because they resembled so closely the upper caste of Indian Society. But Charity had been surprised to find their friendly affection not so forthecoming. But Charity was determined, and through her grit and determination she had finally made some inroads. She had found many of the ladies had become very passionate about the issues of the day, slavery, abolition, temperance, and heaven forbid, suffrage. Charity had pretended to be interested in it all, or just enough so, to sercure invitations to sewing circles and ladies meetings, the she found the pretense exhausting. She was glad to have been asked to be part of the planning committee for this fair, as it signaled a new development in her efforts. Her peers were finally accepting her. She was especially keen to impress Ms. Ellis – a young widow in her early thirties with a tremendous amount of money and power.

“well if youre sure, Charles. Donna, please tell Miss Lucinda that we are counting on her to deliver Miss Jolene to the fair in precisely one hour, and if they do not show, we will promptly return for the both of them.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Donna said, turning to ascend the stairs.

Jolene looked at herself in the mirror.

“Did you ever see anything so glorious or divine?” She said, twirling to get a better look from all angles. “Dorthea is a veritable genius!”

Lucinda had to admit, Jo looked divine. The beautiful and very modern ensemble suited Jo’s lithe figure impeccably. Even without a corset, Jo’s slim waist was highlighted to perfection. The top, rather than the modest linen version worn by Amelia Bloomer to the suffragette convention, dipped low across Jo’s neck line, and hung just off her petit shoulders. The blouse puffed out in soft billowing ruffles around her bosom and down her arms, cinched in at her tiny waist by a very wide ribbon, not unlike a more feminine version of a man’s waistcoat. A full, split, yet short skirt billowed out from under her ribboned waistline, falling to her knees. The front of the skirt was split to revel delicate, shapely “bloomers” which hugged her legs with every movement. Lu couldn’t decide if it was brilliant, or scandalous.

“Lu, do you think that anyone will understand this? I mean, will they know what I am doing?” Jo asked hopefully.

“I daresay a few ladies are in the know, but no one is near brave enough to pull it off. I happen to know a few of the older ladies were at that very convention. Though I can’t say for sure if they approved or disapproved of Mrs. Bloomer’s attire.” Lu said. “One thing I can say for sure, is that you’re sure to cause a stir.”

Jo smiled even wider, “I think I’m ready.”

A knock sounded at the door and Donna’s voice drifted through. “Miss Jolene, your mother says that if you’re not at the fair at the promised time, they’ll be coming back for you as right as rain. And they says that Miss Lucinda best make sure you turn up.”

“Do not worry yourself Donna, we are nearly ready to go.” Jolene called back to her.

Jo took one last look in the mirror. Lucinda came up behind her, placing Jo’s cloak gently over her shoulders.

“Are you ready for this?” Lu asked, smiling at her friend in the glass.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Jo responded happily.

“Good, then lets go stir things up,” Lu said, as they both turned and headed out the door.

Jo and Lu arrived at the fair in plenty of time. The fair was being held at the huge estate of Ms. Ellis, Calvin and Robert’s very wealthy, very powerful widowed aunt. Jo had never been here before though she had certainly heard of it. Ms. Ellis’ home was the very center of the Boston social scene, and parties, fairs, and fundraisers were a regular occurrence here. This was Jolene’s first official “society” event, and she was excited despite her professed dislike of society and all its annoying conventions.

The house was brightly lit with the newest of modern conventions – electricity. While most of Boston’s homes still relied on gaslamps. It was a wonder to be sure. The line of carriages waiting to enter the portico was at least a good block long, and Jo and lu chatted happily as they waited for their turn to disembark. Happy music drifted brightly from the open windows of the home out into the night – and a beautiful night it was. They couldn’t have asked for better weather. Though the humidity was a little higher than normal, it was not too warm and a light breeze blew in from the bay. Jo could feel the color in her cheeks, she felt like every inch of her buzzed in anticipation. She hadn’t completely given up the idea that being a lady was useless, by like any one addicted to excitement she truly did look forward to the night’s adventure that awaited her.

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Home Stretch – #nanowrimo Day 30

I’m almost there.  if you read my last post, I had decided to quit, and was ok with it.  I had accepted it.  Then something happened and i started writing again.

I began writing at 9pm, and had 18,000 words left to complete.  It is now nearly 2 am, and I have 7700 words to go.  That means I wrote about 10,300 in 5 hours !! Not too shabby.  My word count stands more or less at 42,300.  Yay for me! 🙂

Anyway, I thought I would post another little excerpt before I go to sleep and “clear the mechanism” as my husband says.

Again, i haven’t done ANY correcting.  Please excuse the mistakes.

******McKendrick Saga, Nanowrimo Excerpt Day 29.5 *****

“But I didn’t get to say goodbye!” Charity wailed. “He never forgave me, not in all this time. He’s gone now and I’ll never be out of disgrace!”

“There, there my dear, its all going to be all right,” Charles looked awkward and uncomfortable as he gingerly patted his wife’s head and shoulder, as one might pat a an adder that could turn and strike at any moment.

“Nooooo nooooo, it will not be alright” Charity continued. Her face contorted in the most unattractive crying that Jared had ever seen, even for Charity. He slunk to the far corners of the drawing room, intent on remaining as invisible an observer of the scene as possible, lest he become the object of Charity’s displeasure as he so often did.

Jolene ran over to her mother, ever one for the direct approach. “Mother, what is it, what is the matter?”

“Tell her Charles, I just can’t!” Charity moaned like she was dying right there on the chaise lounge.

“Your grandfather lockwood, and your uncle Richard Lockwood, both, have unfortunately passed away most unexpectedly as a result of the Cholera epidemic in Boston,” Charles said.

“ohhhhhhhh! It is a tragedy of the greatest proportions!” Charity cried. “My father never forgave me for marrying Charles, and now he never will! Now I will never have my father’s forgiveness or my inheritance!”

“But that is precisely what I’ve been trying to explain, if you will allow me ma’am,” an unfamiliar voice spoke from the far side of the room.

All heads turned toward the smartly dressed elderly man. Charles made the expected introductions, “children, this is Mr. Carlson, Mr. Lockwood’s man at service.”

The man nodded briefly to the children, “how do you do.” He said in a hasty if not perfunctory manner, and turned immediately back to Charles and Charity.

“Ms. Lockwood – eh – I mean Mrs. McKendrick, this is what I have been trying to tell you. Yes, your father is gone – for which I am very sorry and express my sincere condolences – but your brother is gone as well. Which isn’t to say that I’m not sorry for his passing, for I am as well, oh dash it all, I’ve come to tell you that with your brother also gone so suddenly, that you are Mr. Lockwood’s only surviving heir.”

Charity had a stunned look on her face; she ceased crying, though the hiccups continued.

“What do you mean I am the heir?” Charity said, incredulous.

“I mean you are his last surviving child, and therefore his only heir.”

“But my father disinherited me. Since Robert is dead, surely his estate will pass to my evil twin cousins Bert and Barty over in Cheshire County!” Charity insisted, but with a whole lot of hope and very little conviction.

“Would that it were true, at least bert and barty wish it so. But alas it is not the case. Your father never re-drew up his will, he never made your disinheritance legal in any way. Either he believed that the two of you might one day reconcile –“

Charity snorted loudly at this, then covered her face embarrassedly with her soggy hankerchief.

“More like the old son of a gun was too arrogant to believe he might ever die,” Charles grumbled impolitely.

“— or he did not expect, as Mr. McKendrick has said, to die so young. It is fair to say that he never expected your young healthy brother Robert to die at the age of twenty one.”

That started a set of fresh wails from Charity, “ohhh poor Robert! He was so young! He was so handsome and smart! Ohhhh” she cried. “But – “ she stopped and sniffed delicately, “ do I understand you correctly, sir, that because of my dear brother Robert’s untimely death, that all that my father has now passes to me?”

From his darkened corner, Jared rolled his eyes. Was she daft? That was precisely what he had just said. But he held his tongue.

Mr. Carlson replied patiently, “yes Mrs. McKendrick, that is precisely what I am saying. All of the wealth and holdings of Mr. Lockwood, your father, now pass directly to you – well, to your husband actually.”

“To my husband?” Charity cried her voice loud and shrill, “Whatever do you mean? You just said that I was my father’s heir. And daddy hated Charles after all. He would roll over in his grave at the very thought!” She continued, as if Charles were not right there, holding her, comforting her, hearing every unthinking word she uttered.

“That very well may be, but do remember that as a married woman, all of your property, everything you own, belongs to not to you but to your husband.” Mr. Carlson reminded her.

“But that’s not fair,” Jo said, joining the conversation for the first time. She looked apologetically at her father.

“But it is the law,” Mr. Carlson said. “If Mrs. McKendrick was unmarried, she would, indeed, inherit all of the estate. But as a married woman, by law it becomes her husband’s inheritance.”

Charles spoke softly to Charity, “My dear, you know I care nothing for such things, it is your inheritance, even if in the eyes of the law it is mine.”

“And so it should be!” She said hotly. “well never mind, Charles never did have a head for money. I shall manage it all and it shall be as if it were all mine in any case.”

Everyone’s eyes were on Charity now. She had ceased wailing and crying, and there was a scheming look, a calculating look to her now. Her mind was ticking off various properties and investments. The Mill in Lowell, the Mansion on Tremont Street, the Shipping line, and those were just the investments that she knew about.

“Do you have a full accounting of daddy’s estate? I should like to have a look at it immediately,” she said, pulling herself erect and out of Charles tenuous embrace. She no longer needed or wanted his comfort it seemed. Charles moved imperceptibly further from her on the sofa, putting physical distance between them to match the emotional distance that charity had just established.

“There is a great deal to be done, a great deal indeed. We must see to an accounting of all the investments, the accounts are settled, the debts. We must know exactly what we are worth, what must be liquidated, what must stay,” she stood up and began to pace, thinking and talking furiously as she walked about.

“And of course we will have to move back to the mansion on tremount,”

“Move?” Charles said, dazed.

“Of course we will, do you not see your daughter there growing into a young lady? You would not dare deprive her of her legacy as a Boston Brahmin?”

“What’s a Brahmin?” Jo asked, but was promptly ignored.

“And of course we will send your boy off to school – perhaps they can do with him what you have been unable to do, make something of him. I for one shall be glad to have him in someone else keeping for once,” she continued.

Jo looked at Jared, meeting his eyes. He looked cool and unaffected but she knew him. Her words hurt, even if he was well aware of her dislike.

“And Charles will have to take over running the mill –“

“Now see here! Just wait a minute, I don’t know anything about running a mill,” he protested

“So you shall learn! You listen to me Charles McKendrick! I have done it your way for ten years now. For ten years I have sat here in the middle of cow country, and played the pauper’s wife – a life I was never destined to lead. And now, now my destiny has come calling. You. Will. Not. Deny me this. If you love me. If you ever loved me. You will not deny me this Charles! You will bring the family to Boston and take your place in the family business, and you will cease this menial work with cattle!” She was screaming now, the force of her voice filling every inch of the room, sucking the air out so that no one dared breathe, no one dared utter a single word. Even Mr. Carlson stood in complete silence. The only sound to be heard was the deep and hearty draw and exhale of Charity’s heaving chest. Charity stared hotly at Charles, daring him to speak, daring him to contradict a single word of her admonishment. He did not.

Many moments passed. No one spoke, no one moved, no one breathed. The storm that was Charity McKendrick stilled and gentled, and passed.

“Mrs. McKendrick,” Mr. Carlson dared to step into the void, the eye of the squall. “I will have the accounting for you next week, if you can make the trip to town?”

She turned to Mr. Carlson, her eyes flashing with deadly promise, “I most certainly will be there. We shall all be there. With daddy’s money, we most certainly could hire laborers to pack up this old place and move it to the city. “

Charity looked around the humble, yet respectable drawing room her face a mask of disgust– all around her the room was a revelation of the last ten years and the life that Charles had provided for her, for the family. Jolene followed her gaze, confused. What did she find not to her liking? Jo loved this room with its bright and cheery windows and shelves full of books – shelves that her father had made himself, along with much of the furniture.

“No, I daresay there is not a single thing here I would deign to take. I think I shall have all new things, entirely new things.”

“But mother,” Jo began to interject.

Her mother turned on her then, her eyes still burned hotly, as they had when turned on Charles. But Jo was not afraid of her mother.

“Mother there are things here that are special to me. I shall be sad to leave them. I do not even want to move to Boston.” Jo said, making her feelings known.

“Nevertheless, you shall. You shall and you shall grow to love. You are a silly little country mouse. But believe you me, I shall make you into the very belle of society. You will have the chance that I so foolishly abandoned. You will achieve all that I did not.” Charity looked at her and vowed.

“But I do not want to go to Boston! I want to stay here with our horses, I want to stay here with Spirit!” Jo had a temper herself when it came right down to it, Jared decided.

“You will go.” Charity shouted.

“I won’t!” Jo vowed.

The slap was hard and full across Jo’s face, and whipped her head violently to the side.

Charles was on his feet before Charity had even realized what she had done.   Jo looked at her mother, holding her cheek. She looked at her mother as if she didn’t know her, like she was some stranger standing there. Jo had never been struck, not once. Jared had always been the one to be punished, and that had been enough for Jo, seeing his pain.

“I HATE you! I will never forgive you for this, ever!” Jo said, and ran from the room.

Charity, who loved her daughter despite her bitter and resentful nature, was beside herself. “What have I done? What have I done?” She kept repeating nonsensically. Charles just held her and brought her back the sofa.

“My dear its been a trying day, much has happened. You are not yourself,” he soothed.

“Yes, yes, I am not myself, I am not myself.” Charity chanted.

Steamrolling to the End – #NANWRIMO Day 29

I began this day with 18,000 words to go.  I had decided I was done for this year.  I had accepted it.  I had made my peace.  I mean, 32K isn’t bad.  Its definitely further than I’ve ever gotten before.  I rested most of the day, relaxed after the holiday festivities.  It felt good to just do… nothing.

But then something started happening.  Some niggling feeling.  Some voice in my head, relentless.  Are you really not going to finish?  You still have time.  You write fast.  You can do it.  You can bang it out.  Just do it.  I tried to ignore those voices.  I took a nap.  Watched a documentary.  Made dinner.  Went to drop some donations at Goodwill.

Then came home and the voices started again.  Just do it.  You’re a boss.  Think of how amazing you will feel.  Are you really going to let your husband win and you not win with him?  [btw, Aaron has already completed his 50k word count YAY!!!!!].

Anyway, I picked up the laptop and started to write.  I reminded myself it doesn’t have to be good.  Fix it in post.  So in the past two hours, I finished 4k.  That’s pretty awesome.

So I’m on a writing role.  Before I dive back in, I thought I would post an excerpt of the crap I’m writing — the crap that I will polish into diamonds in the revision.  🙂  Ignore the probs please — I will fix.  No time to fix right now.

Send me your good thoughts… I need them.

Heading back into the zone.

*****McKendrick Saga NANOWRIMO Excerpt Day 29 ***

Jo remembered a time when she and Jared had been playing in the kitchens. They did have a cook, Mother had insisted on it, and the cook had been making Chritstmas cakes all day long – for the holiday. Jared was ten and Jo was five – and like all young children they had been in the kitchens sneaking cakes whenever Cooky wasn’t looking.

“Now you’s children get yoselves out of this here kitchen!” Cooky had said, snapping a towel at the two of them. They both just giggle and chased each other around the kitchen table. Unfortunately things had gotten out of hand and as Jo had raced around the table to catch Jared, she had gotten frustrated. Noting the massive bowl of flour in the center of the table, she had on impulse, grabbed it, thrust her hand into the powdery substance to grab a handful, and had thrown it at Jared. The stuff just whipped through the air floating in powdery waterfalls , catching the light, getting everywhere – everywhere save her target – Jared. She grabbed another and another and another – throwing each with childish abandon, and glee. Cooky started squealing loudly over the mess Jolene was making, but Jared and Jo just kept laughing, Jared dodging every throw.

“Stop! Stop this instant you hellions!! Stop I say!”

Jo had expected the voice to belong to Cooky, but it didn’t. No, she recognized that shrill voice, and the maniacal tone too. Both Jared and Jo froze instantly.

“Just what do you think you are doing in here? How do you come to be in here ruckusing about like common street urchins!!! This is your doing isn’t it?!@” Her eagle eyes and landed upon Jared with a predatory intensity.

Jo immediately interjected, “No mother – I started it. I saw the flour and I couldn’t resist. I was trying to hit him with it.”

Charity’s gaze never wavered. Jared just looked at Charity with wide eyes, like a deer or a rabbit facing down a hungry wolf.

“I – I – I – did—didn’t “ he stammered. He was only ten, and Charity could be terrifying. Especially to a ten year old.

Cooky interjected then. “Ma’am, if I may, Miss Jolene has the right of it. She began the kerfuffle, by throwing the flour—“

“Be silent girl!” Charity raged. Her arm snaked out landing in a vise grip on Jared’s ear, jerking him viciously upward. He yelped and stood on his tip toes to allieviate some of the pain.

“But mother, It was me – I promise. Jared was only trying to get away!” Jo pleaded. She ran over to the two of them, and began tugging on her mother’s arm, trying to dislodge it from her brother’s ear. But she only succeeded in pulling her arm down to her miniature level, Jared’s head following suit. He was bent over at the middle now, but Charity paid no mind to Jolene or Jared. With her vise grip as intractable as ever, she began marching Jared out of the kitchen through the back door to the yard where she kept the birch switches.

“No no! Mother!” Jolene continued to hang on, her toes shuffling, dragging through the dirt.

“Ow, ow, ow,” Jared was howling as the three tangled along.

“Jolene, get to your room, I’ll deal with you later. Right now, your brother has a well deserved switching coming!”

“But—I – d-d-didn’t do anything!” Jared protested again between howls.

Finally Charity let go of his ear, thrust Jolene away and grabbed the bundle of birch switches leaning against the clapboards of the house. Jolene landed hard on her bottom on the dirt, and winced. Her tailbone had taken a direct hit.

Now Charity had a hold of Jared’s upper arm with her left hand, and the bundle of switches in her right hand. She was going to town, as father liked to say, those switches thwack thwack thwacking across poor Jared’s tender bottom. He only had light muslin breeches on, and Jolene could only image how his bottom was singing under the assault. She started to scramble to her feet again. She could hear the violent swishing as the branches sliced through the air, then landed hard on her brother. She could feel the force of the wind toss her hair as she approached. Her brother’s howls could probably be heard all the way to the Wilke’s farm in the next county! She ran for her mother again and grabbed on to her arm mid swing. But Jolene was just a little slip of a girl – always small for her age. And a five year old has nothing on a grown woman. The force of Charity’s arm continued to come down hard, advancing toward Jared’ backside yet again. But the hesitation, the obstacle of Jolene latching onto Charity’s arm had distracted her just enough, slowed her down just enough so that Jared had a chance to wrench his way free from the onslaught. He wiggled and squirm while Charity’s attention was on the little hellion attached to her arm. He had no sooner wrenched free of her grasp that he took off at break neck pace for the stables, where he knew his father would be working with the horses. As soon as Jolene saw that Jared was free, she let go of Charity’s swinging arm and followed Jared out of the yard. She could hear her mother screaming bloody murder all the way to the stables, but she knew her mother would not follow. Despite the vim and vigor displayed by Charity’s beating, Charity didn’t have much energy. Father said it was the result of Jolene’s difficult birth. Jolene had always felt guilty about that, like her mother’s weak constitution was somehow her fault. But for once she was glad of it. She knew her mother wouldn’t chase them.