Prance and Preen and Swoon – #NANWRIMO Day 20 – 33,237 #wordcount

I didn’t think I was going to write tonight.  In fact, I had pretty much decided it was ok if I didn’t — since sleep is important and I’m feeling rather exhausted.  But as I laid here in bed, I thought why not?  I didn’t really have any ideas, but I thought I might as well try to write some of the parts that I have been avoiding – things I know should happen, but I don’t feel strong enough to write them.  I’ve always told myself throughout this process that I could write those “challenging” parts in the rewrite 🙂

So I wrote, and got about 1180 words in.  It was alright.  Not super thrilled, but it worked and it was a start.  I’ll fix it in post as they say.

For tonight’s excerpt, I decided to post something I wrote a few days ago — the fight between Jo and Cal.  I mentioned it in a previous post, but I never posted it.  This scene comes after their good friend Tamsen has been kidnapped by slave catchers who believe him to be a fugitive slave, and Jo and Cal get beat up trying to stop it.  When Jo comes to (after being knocked out) she and Cal have words — and not happy ones.

As always, would love any thoughts, feedback, questions, ideas, or anything you wish to offer.  Thanks in advance!

*****McKendrick Saga Excerpt — Nanwrimo day 20 *********

“You got knocked out, Jo.  That man gave you some shiner, let me tell you.”

Jo looked awful.  Already Jo’s eye was swelling shut, the purpling extending from the bridge of her nose across her cheek to her temple.  A sick feeling swirled in Cal’s gut – a feeling that had nothing to do with the dozens of kicks and punches he’d sustained in that area.  This was all his fault.  If he hadn’t relented, if he hadn’t given in to her relentless pestering about taking her to “the games” as she put it.  The near miss at the horse races had only whetted her appetite for more.  Jo loved taking risks, she loved the thrill of the chase, the way impending danger made her blood run.  He knew this about her, and yet still he had given in.  Despite his better judgment, he had given in and look where it had gotten them.  Both hurt and Jo nearly killed besides.  What a fool he’d been!  He should have been the gentleman he had been raised to be, and told her no -absolutely no – when she had asked to go back.  But who was he kidding?  He had never, not once, been able to deny Jo anything she’d wanted.  Instead, he’d convinced himself that if he didn’t take her, she would find a way to go on her own.  No, he rationalized, he needed to be there to keep her out of trouble, to keep her safe.

But she’d gotten hurt anyway.  All because of his weakness for her.

He pulled Jo up off the ground and into his arms.  He stroked the other side of her face.  She was still groggy from coming to; Cal doubted she was even aware of him or her surroundings, at least not fully, not yet.

Jo could feel his arms encircling her, protective, warm — safe.  Images of a struggle flashed in her mind.  Two men.  Tamsen, hooded, tied.  Calvin kicked into a pile against the wall.  Her knife, sawing ropes, then flashing in her hand in an arc, an arc coming down, down toward the fleshy jowls of a big burly man, and…

She shot up and out of his arms without warning, then swooned- unsteady.

“Where’s Tamsen?”  Jo cried, panicky. “You stopped them didn’t you? Please tell me you stopped them?” She said, her eyes met Cal’s, filled with hopeful desperation.

He was silent.  That look on her face.  She was depending on him.  She believed that he could make things right.  But he hadn’t.  He’d failed her in more than one way today.  He shook his head no.  Her face fell.  It was all coming back to her now. The fight, Calvin in a pile against the wall, her with a knife, facing off her two attackers, the punch to her face.  Her head in the dirt, watching through blurry eyes as they dragged Tamsen into the coach — the last thing she saw before she passed out.  She raised two fingers to her face; she couldn’t even feel her left eye socket.  Her eye had nearly swollen shut.  Touching anything in that area made her wince.  She noticed Cal holding his ribs gingerly and doing a fair amount of wincing himself.

Cal was on his feet now, pulling her up with him.

“Come on Jo, I’ve got to get you home.  Its almost dark and you’re hurt.”

Her one open eye flew wide, casting him an accusing look.

“You can’t be serious?  I’m not going home now.”

“Jo listen to me, you’ve got to go home,” Cal was straining for breath now, “You need a doctor to look at that eye, and I –I believe I need one too.”

Jo could see that he was hurt and needed a doctor. But she was fine.  So she had a shiner.  That was nothing compared to the torture Tamsen must be enduring at this moment, scared and alone with those two animals.  No, she couldn’t go home even if she wanted to.  Even if she could see that it would ease Cal’s all too apparent worry.  She had to find Jared.  He was the only one she knew who could do something about this.  And Tamsen was his friend after all.

“I’m fine Cal, you go.  I’m not going — I need to get help.  I need Jared.”

Cal couldn’t believe her – she didn’t have an ounce of sense in her body!

“You can’t go like that,” he pleaded. “Let’s go home first, please”  Cal prayed she would relent.  He was too sore and too weary to fight her right now.

Jo felt herself softening towards Cal, but she shoved it aside.  Now was not a time for softness.

“No Cal, I’ve got to find Jared first.  He’ll know what to do.  You said you were meeting them for dinner, so where are they?”  Jo demanded, her tone harsher than she’d intended.

“I just said that to get you out of the knife shop Jo – I didn’t mean it.”  Cal shot back, his temper rising.

“I know you know where they are,” She insisted again. She bore a look of desperation that Cal had never seen before.

Calvin stood tall now, despite the soreness in his side. “Look Jo, enough.” He said, feeling a desperation of his own. “If you aren’t willing to see to your own safety, then I will – by god!”

“Are you saying I can’t take care of myself? I can see to my safety just fine!” Jo snapped back, insulted.

“Your face says otherwise,” Cal retorted. “For heavens sakes Jo, what is this – this obsession you have with danger?  It’s a death wish.” Cal leaned heavily on the alley wall now for support.  He continued, “I think you do mean to die before you reach sixteen years of age.”

“We don’t have time for this right now!” She said, utterly exasperated. “Tamsen is god knows where, enduring god knows what or worse! We don’t have time for your pride, or mine for that matter!” Jo softened her tone now, pleading, “Please, I need to find my brother, and he’s with Robert tonight.  I know you know where they are, please Cal – please just tell me.”

But Cal had been here before with her, had succumbed on endless ocassoins to that soft, lovely, pleasing, cajoling voice.  Not today.  Not when her very well-being was on the line.  He would be strong, he had to.

“Jesus Jo, would you look at yourself?  You look like you’ve just been kicked in the face, your clothes are torn, you were knocked out cold and almost killed — and still its not enough for you is it?  Will it ever be?” Calvin was shouting at her now.

Jo stood there stunned.  Calvin never shouted, never lost his temper with her.  His chest heaved up and down, red splotches dotted his face.  He reminded Jo of her mother having one of her hysterical fits.   Perhaps the brawl had addled his brain.

“You’ve gotta go home  — just stop acting crazy and act like a girl!” he added.

Her jaw dropped.  “What did you just say to me?” Jo said, her voice low with suppressed rage.

“I said,” Cal spoke with a fire she had never seen in him before, “you’ve got to act like the young lady you are – and this —“ he gestured wildly at all of her, “is not how young ladies act!  Why can’t you just be a normal girl?  Why do you always have to prove how tough you are?  Get yourself into situations where you’ll get hurt?  Where you’ll get others hurt?”  He was huffing and puffing with the effort of yelling, his ribs digging into his lungs on every breath, his face flush with the effort.  He collapsed into the wall now, nearly all of his meager energy spent.

If Cal’s face was red, then Jo’s face was crimson.  Her blood boiled within her, at the thought, the thought that her best friend in the whole world, the person that knew her best – knew all of her secrets, and accepted her and loved her anyway, would ever say what Calvin had just said.

“Oh? Its a girl you want? A good girl to look pretty and dress pretty and mind what you say?” She hissed.

“I didn’t say that Jo, I just want you to be safe,” Cal countered quietly, the fight had all gone out of him.

But the flood gates inside Jo had opened, and there was no holding back the torrent.

“An obedient girl to do your bidding, to be your trophy, your manly pride’s accessory, a useless plaything to be bought and petted, to swoon and faint at your touch – at —at —  your kiss?” She spat unthinkingly. If Jo had been in her right mind, she would have gasped at what she had said, the awful intimacy of it – especially in light of all they had shared that day.  But Jo was not in her right mind.  Not by half.

Cal’s face fell, his face a pained mask of horror and embarrassment. Jo had said it to hurt him, the same way he had hurt her when he told her to be a lady.  Jo knew she should have never said it though, because the truth was she did nearly swoon when he had kissed her.  She was a liar, a fraud.  But Cal didn’t know that.  It was done and Jo didn’t have the time or the inclination to take it back or apologize.  She was still consumed with her anger and pressed forward with a commitment that shattered any shred of compassion she might have mustered.

“Well if its a lady that you want” she said with a sneer, “then Lucinda’s house is that way.  I’m sure she’d fairly die to prance, preen, swoon, and faint for you.”

Jo turned and stormed away leaving a stunned Cal in her wake, and for the first time – perhaps ever— he didn’t follow.


Bloomers! #NANWRIMO Day 19 :)


I’ve been having a lot of thoughts today that most of you have already had.  Most of my thoughts centered around the idea that its hard to write on this schedule (no kidding) instead of just writing when you feel inspired.  However, I think if I waited around to write only when I was inspired, I would probably not get anything written — owing to the fact that usually my inspiration strikes in the middle of the night (in dreams I probably won’t remember) or while I’m driving, or while I’m out to dinner — none of which are great places to bust out the laptop and capture the moment.

So back to writing on this nanowrimo schedule… I kind of feel like my tank is dry.  I read a blog post the other day where the Wrimo’er basically shared that they had hit that point in nanwrimo where they had executed all of the writing for the stuff they had planned, and now had resorted to full-fledged pantsing.  I feel like I’m at that point.

So what to do?  Just keep writing even though it feels totally lame, just to garner that proverbial “win”?  Your thoughts are much appreciated here.

As far as my thoughts go — I’m leaning toward going for the finish line.  Simply because I want all of the nanowrimo badges (shallow I know), but also because perhaps in all the dross my fingers pound out there will be one or two things I can use when I make good on my revision pledge (gotta get that badge too you know.).

So tonight, I wrote an impromptu scene about women’s fashion and… BLOOMERS.  Do you guys know about bloomers?  They were kind of a thing in 1849.  And even though my novel is set in 1854, I figured hey — bloomers could still be a thing. 🙂


Today’s ending word count 32,057 — I’m getting there folks!

***McKendrick Saga Excerpt – Nanwrimo Day 19 *****

Jo threw herself upon Lu’s bed with utter abandon.  She couldn’t possibly be more grateful to have an outing come to an end.  Not that she didn’t like shopping, because she did.  Who didn’t like to get something new or different?  It was clothes shopping that she objected to.  Women’s clothes had to be the most frivolous, most useless things in the whole world, Jo thought.

“Jo, really.  Why do you have to look so miserable? It’s not as if you’ve just came from a funeral” Lu said, teasing her friend.

“It most certainly was a funeral,” Jo argued,  “A funeral for my freedom.  For my liberty.  For my days of having a say in my own life!  Time to be reborn as Charity McKendrick’s debutante daughter and land a rich and socially prominent husband!” Jo said without irony.

“Its not as bad as all that,” Lucinda encouraged.  “At least the dress was beautiful. You’ll no doubt be the very talk of the fair.”  Lu looked at the window dreamily, as if she were reliving the scene at the modiste.  She hugged her arms to herself, as if shy, bent a dainty curtsey to an invisible dance partner, then began whirling her way around the room.

Jo watched her pretty friend and sighed.  Lucinda was beautiful.  She had dark brown hair, almost black, with large, soft, warm brown eyes.  They were fringed with the longest, thickest black lashes that Jo had ever seen.  And whenever Lu chose to bat those lashes, which was quite often, she was quite irresistible.  Though not wholly irresistible, Jo thought.  Lu had certain amorous feelings for their mutual friend Calvin, though she would never admit it.  It was easy enough to see, the way she behaved around him, all smiles, and blushes, and flutters.  Sometimes Lu’s methods were so painfully obvious that Jo had to stifle a laugh or two of her own.  But so far as Jo could tell, Calvin had remained oblivious to Lu’s overtures, or he simply ignored them.  Jo wasn’t entirely sure which.

“I can’t wait for the fair.  Mother said there will be a thirty piece orchestrate there, and that they will have all the latest tunes to play.”  Lucinda continued her twirling and talking, “ I hope Calvin is there,” she said dreamily, and then quickly went on lest she reveal too much of her actual feelings, “oh and Jonathan of course, and Henry, and Carlisle, and…”

Jo burst out laughing, “do you mean to seduce them all?”

“Well, it can’t hurt.” Lu said playfully.  “Father says never to put all of your eggs in one basket.”

“Well I could care less about who is there.  I just pray that the evening passes quickly.” Jo drifted over toward Lucinda’s vanity where several circulars and periodicals were arranged in neat little piles.  Most of them appeared to be the latest fashion circulars, of which Lu was an avid reader. Jo flipped through the pages testily. Each page revealed another frothy creation that was no doubt designed to exhibit its wearer’s feminine assets to great effect.

“Just what is the purpose of all this anyway, Lu?”  Jo asked sincerely.  “Is there any practicality at all to it?  Did someone, somewhere, at one point think, young ladies need bigger bottoms, so lets make a bustle!”

Lucinda giggled at Jo’s plain speaking, but attempted an honest answer, “Women’s clothing isn’t about being practical, its about being pretty – pretty enough to turn a man’s head.  At least that’s what my father says.”

“Bah! What do I care if I turn a man’s head?  A woman can barely turn herself in some of these contraptions!” Jo tapped an angry finger on a full page illustration of the latest corset and spring-steel hooped frames. “I mean just look at this?  It’s already impossible to get through the doors with the piles of petticoats, hoops, and fabric that we are expected to wear, and they now propose to clad us in this? Surely all of Boston will have to be rebuilt to simply accommodate the passage of ladies through the doorways,” Jo snorted.

Lu looked at the illustration causing Jo so much consternation and said, “I should be happy to wear it. Just imagine how it would sway and sashay as I move across the ballroom floor.  I should be a vision, I think!”

“Be serious Lu.  You can not possibly see this as a practical garment.” Jo insisted.  Lu loved pretty clothes, loved feeling pretty in them.  Jo understood this.  But even Lu had to admit that none of it served any functional purpose.  Not like the clothing men wore.  Jo thought about the way she dressed whenever on an adventure with Calvin: strong sturdy breeches, the kind that didn’t wear out from too much horse riding, or scraping against the rough bark of a tree when climbing.  She thought of how easy it was to breathe whenever she wore her brother’s old shirts, and even though she bound her chest to ensure the boyish effect, air still flowed freely in and out of her lungs.  Why would any woman, if given the choice, choose to wear a painful corset that made it so difficult to breathe that one was in constant danger of passing out?  Jo would never know.

“Perhaps if you are so insistent upon wearing practical ladies clothes, you should take a look at this,” Lu said as she opened a different circular to reveal another illustration.

Jo studied the illustration as one would an exotic animal.  Never before had she seen such an ensemble as displayed before her on this page.  The lady in the illustration sported a relatively loose fitting top bound by a narrow belt at the waist, a shortened skirt that fell only just below the knee, and under all that, a pair of the strangest trousers that Jo had ever seen, cinched in tight at the lady’s ankles.

“What in the world is this?”  Jo said, not without a little awe.

“That, dear Jo, is an illustration of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, noted suffragette and reluctant fashioniste,” Lu took in the surprise and delight on Jo’s face and couldn’t help but laugh. “See something you like?”

Jo saw many things she liked. Her mind raced, thinking of all the things that would be possible in such an outfit.  The short skirt and pants would no doubt make riding astride that much easier.  There were no hoops, at least not as Jo could determine, which would certainly make walking, sitting, just plain living a breeze.  And the top…  Jo looked closer at the image, and gasped.

“She’s not wearing a corset!” Jo exclaimed with wonder.

“Of course not,” Lu said smartly. “You said you wanted practicality.”

“What are these called?” Jo said, pointing at the trouser like undergarments, “And is this allowed?  For her to show her undergarments like this?”

“They aren’t undergarments silly,” Lu giggled again, “they’re bloomers.”

“Bloomers?” Jo asked curiously, “But isn’t that her name?”

“Yes but people have taken to calling them Bloomers, after her. She wore them to the Seneca Falls convention.  She’s a suffragette.” Lu’s voice dropped to a whisper on the last word.

“A suffragette!” Jo exclaimed, with Lu shushing her immediately.

“Jo!  Do be quiet!” Lu whisper yelled.  “My father absolutely forbids any talk of suffrage in the house.”

“Then where did you get this magazine?” Jo asked pointedly.

Lu hemmed and hawed.  “I borrowed it from Ms. Johnson’s last time we were there for the sewing circle.”

Contrary to the name, a sewing circle was not primarily for the purpose of sewing.  The sewing circles of Boston (and elsewhere) were covers for women’s abolitionist fundraising and petitioning efforts.  Lucinda’s mother was very “involved” in several sewing circles, though her main concern was abolition and not suffrage, even though the two often went hand in hand.  Mrs. Johnson, on the other hand, was an ardent supporter of the suffragist cause, and was even close friends with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

“Borrowed huh?” Jo said thoughtfully.  Lu had a bad habit of borrowing a lot of things that weren’t hers.  It was a problem to be sure, but for once Jo was ecstatic that Lu had a borrowing problem.

Jo folded the book closed and studied the cover of “The Lily”.  “Hmmmm, published by the Ladies Temperance Society.  But they’re teetotalers, not suffragists. That doesn’t seem like suffrage propaganda.” Jo asked.

“Well I think it started as a magazine devoted to temperance, but includes articles of interest to those ladies with suffragist leanings. At least that’s what I overheard Mrs. Johnson saying to Mrs. Wright at the meeting,” Lu said slyly.

“Eavesdropping too? My goodness Lu, we have been busy.” Jo tsked, raising her eyebrow in mock rebuke.

Jo flipped back to the illustration of Amelia Bloomer.  The caption read Mrs. Amelia Bloomer turns heads with outrageous ensemble at the Seneca Falls Women’s Convention. “Outrageous huh?  Looks pretty practical to me.”  Jo had a speculative look on her face.

“Perhaps you can get Dorothea to make you some,” Lu suggested helpfully.

“Indeed,”  Jo said thoughtfully, “but the question is, can she do it in time for the fair?”

Finally on Track. #Nanowrimo Day 18 – Word Count 30,520

I’m finally ahead again for the first time since the beginning of the month.  I wrote a good amount tonight, most of it crap – I’ll admit it.  But, I did get one scene that I’m happy enough to share.  YAY! 🙂  (I thought I wasn’t going to be able to share anything tonight because it was all crap, but then this happened…)

This scene occurs after a very eventful day — full of chases, brawls, kidnappings, hiding in closets (and a first kiss if you read yesterday’s excerpt), a visit to a house of ill repute, and a tavern …. all of which resulted in a number of injuries to our intrepid heroine (Jo) and her trusty sidekick (Cal).  Even worse, they parted ways on the heels of a fight during which Cal told Jo to act more like a lady, and Jo told Cal to go court Lucinda if he wants a lady.  It wasn’t pretty.

In this excerpt, Jo is being brought to the Ellis home (Cal’s home) for medical care – by Cal’s older brother Robert.  Robert does have a small history with Jo, since he’s her brothers friend, and was her escort to what amounted to the 1850s version of her “coming out” ball.  Cal and Robert have a close relationship, but its put to the test in this scene…

***McKendrick Saga Excerpt – Nanowrimo Day 18 *****

Robert kicked open the door to the study, using his back to hold it while he maneuvered a sleeping Jo through the doorway.  Calvin was already on the couch, Doctor Sams wrapping his bare torso tightly.

“Broken ribs, huh?” Robert said, his tone ironic.

Cal gave his brother an annoyed look, until he noticed who Robert held in his arms.  He tried to jump to his feet, but his sore ribs immediately forced him down again.

“I told you son, you’ve got to stay still for the next few days so these ribs can heal.  You’re going to be in some pain for quite a while.”  Dr. Sams gave Cal a disappointed look, as if he couldn’t believe that Cal would be stupid enough to get into a fight with two men twice his size.  He didn’t know the half of it.

Cal looked at Robert, his face a mask of worry and panic.  He could see that it was Jo, but he had no idea if she was ok, or how she’d come to be with his brother.

“Is she ok?  I mean – what happened?  How did you —“  he said

“Hold up there little brother, one question at a time,” Robert smiled patiently, carrying Jo to the other settee.  He bent over to put her down, but in her sleep she reached out for him again, tangling her arms around his neck.  Calvin frowned, feeling annoyed, though he couldn’t pin point why exactly.  Robert worked to free himself from Jo, but her hands kept reaching for him, for the safety that his embrace represented to her sleeping self.  Finally Robert gave up and just sat on the settee, Jo curled like an injured kitten in his lap.

“She looks fine enough, I’m sure she doesn’t need you fawning all over her.” Cal said irritably.  “She wouldn’t like it anyway.  If theres one thing Jo hates, it’s people thinking she’s helpless.”

Robert raised an eyebrow and gave his young brother a speculative look.  “Is that so?  Well it so happens that Jo is not ok, but with Dr. Sams ministrations I daresay she’ll pull through like the champ that she is.”  Robert looked admiringly at the small girl sleeping in his arms. Her strength and tenacity had impressed him far more than her pretty little show at the fair.  He decided he like this Jo, the real Jo, much better than Jolene the debutante.  He took the cap gently from her head, so as not to wake her, and began running his fingers over her face, skull, and through her hair – some of which was crusted over now with dried blood.

“What are you doing?” Cal demanded, ‘You can’t just go touching her like that!  Not while she— while she — she’s in such a vulnerable position!”

Aside from a slight smirk, Robert just ignored Cal and continued his examination.  Like most siblings he enjoyed tormenting his younger brother.  But, he had a more noble purpose in mind; he wanted to better know the extent of her injuries.

“Dr. Sams, I believe the young lady may have a broken nose. Her eye socket seems in tact, though its hard to tell with all this swelling.” Robert said, his voice clinical now.  Cal remembered that Robert had been a medical student at Harvard before switching over to the law, but it galled him to see Robert touching Jo so liberally.  “And, she seems to have a rather deep cut on the left side of her scalp.”

Dr. Sams nodded, removing various and sundry items from his medical bag.  He wet a cloth with some noxious liquid and smeared it over her cuts and bruises.  “Might be that some of this hair needs to come off,” Dr. Sams said, gesturing to the area where Jo’s head was cut.

“You’ll do no such thing!” Cal shouted, standing up despite the pain in his ribs. “Jo wouldn’t want it I tell you!  She wouldn’t let you near her with a ten foot pole!”

“Easy, easy,” Robert said, giving Cal a disapproving look. “What’s gotten into you Cal? No one is going to cut her hair, no one is going to hurt her.  Now sit down and rest like the doctor said.  I’ll make sure she’s ok.”

“Well, I don’t think there is a need for you to be so… handsy about it!” Cal accused.

“Handsy?  I’m not being Handsy little brother, I’m examining the patient.” Robert reassured him.  “That being said, I believe Dr. Sams can take it from here.”

Jo had slipped back into deep sleep and Robert was able to easily remove her arms from around his neck.  He laid her gently back onto the settee, using a blanket to cover her.  He again smoothed her abundant riotous curls away from her face to ensure no impediment to Dr. Sams’ work.

Cal snorted and turned to sit back down.  He kicked the empty water bucket in his frustration.

Robert’s look turned from speculative to knowing.  You love her, Robert thought, taking in his brothers behavior.  Poor sot.  Loving any girl was a challenge at best, but loving a girl like Jo?  Good luck with that, he thought.  Robert fancied Jo himself, but at the present moment he considered her too young for him.  She was sixteen and only just.  Perhaps in a few years she might interest him in a serious way.  For now she was simply his best friend’s pretty young sister.  But to Cal?  He understood now.  Jo was Cal’s first love.  How glorious.  How painful.  He didn’t envy his young brother one bit.  He was in for a rocky ride with this filly.

#NANWRIMO – CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES COME ON!!!!! …and the 25k badge


Hello fellow Wrimos!!!  I have returned from the long dark abyss of not writing all week, and then writing all weekend to get back on track.  Holy cow I’m exhausted.  I wrote around 13,000 words this weekend, and I’m done for.  I have NO IDEA how the insane 50K in one day Wrimos do it.

Part of my problem is (1) three herniated disks, and (2) tennis elbow.  That translates to:  no-comfortable-place-to-sit-and-type-anywhere-ever.  But, with the help of my awesome husband (you can check out his nanwrimo blog here: ), and the use of my parent’s cabin up in Running Springs – I have overcome these obstacles and gotten myself back in the game!

This past week was really hard.  I didn’t have time to write, and I didn’t have time to read all of your lovely posts either. 😦  There were many times when I really felt like giving up.  I mean, who wants to force out 10,000 words just to keep up in a silly contest?  But, its not silly and I really really want to win this year.  I mean, I’ve come this far haven’t I?  I can do it!  I have to keep telling myself that, or the lazies might get me.

This weekend, conversely, was super awesome.  It was so relaxing to get away from the city and into the country for a change. My parents have this quaint little cabin that they use whenever they are in town to visit us (They live most of the year in Florida). That means when they are not here, we get to use it – which is awesome.  Aaron and I haven’t used it as much as we would have liked.  Something always seems to get in the way; excuses abound.  This weekend, Aaron wasn’t accepting any excuses. “We’re going!” he kept insisting.  And, I’m so grateful.  I work so hard during the week, it can be easy for me on the weekends to just say, screw the world! And just stay in bed.  The chronic pain doesn’t help either.  But this time I listened to my wise and sage husband, and we went.

Its been glorious!  Yes the writing was work, but I made it through.  I spent most of Saturday just resting, and I’ll admit it, resisting the writing.  But, I got busy eventually.  I was able to get 3000 words in yesterday, and another 10k today (or nearly that).  YAY!!! 🙂

I liked a lot of what I wrote, even though I recognize a LOT of it still needs mounds of work.  Still, there were some satisfying bits and pieces.  Also a lot of unexpected things showed up, like….. wait for it…. Jo and Cal’s first kiss!!! WHAT?????? I know right?  I was stunned too.  That wasn’t even going to happen in this book, like, EVER.  I keep plotting ways to kill Cal off, because Jo is supposed to fall for this manly man in book 3.  But Cal won’t go away!!  What the heck man.  Oh well.  I’ll let him live for now and see what happens.  Maybe he’ll become a manly man… eventually.

So, in the spirit of Jo and Cal doing whatever the heck they want in spite of what I have planned for them… I give you, “The First Kiss”

PS…. I apologize in advance for the length of this excerpt…

[cue scene]

*********McKendrick Saga Excerpt — NANOWRIMO Day 16 ********

“Stop fighting me!” Calvin said, as he pulled her along behind him.  The alleyway was barely wide enough for one person to pass.  Jo could still hear their pursuers shouting from the street.

“Hurry up!” she said, pushing Calvin ahead of her now, “go faster!”

Calvin rolled his eyes, then turned to grasp the knob of a door off the alley to their right.  He pushed it open and yanked Jo in behind him, pulling the door closed just as two menacing faces appeared at the alley entry way.

“Did they see us?” Jo whispered.

“I’m not sure.”  Cal whispered back, “Just be quiet.”

They were in a very dark, very tight space, face to face.  She could feel the heat of Calvin’s breath landing rhythmically on her forehead, though he appeared to be attempting to hold his breath.  Seeking any extra space, Jo gingerly extended her hands to feel for her surroundings.  She could feel the handles and rods of tools to her left and right, or were they brooms?  She wasn’t sure, but it seemed to be a storage closet of some sort.

Footsteps sounded on the other side of the door, just a thin barrier of wood lay between them and their pursuers.

“Where’d they go?” one of them said.

“I dunno, I reckoned they went this way.”

More padding of footsteps.  The men seemed to be walking back and forth in the alley.  Jo held as still as she possibly could. The knob started to rattle and shake, and a startled gasp escaped Jo’s parted lips.  In an instant the warmth of Cal’s hand was over her mouth, stifling any other exhalations.  The rattling stopped.  Thankfully Calvin had thought to throw the latch.

“Aw, come on ye lump. They aint here.  Ye let em get away.”  Something large and solid thunked into the door, as if one had pushed the other.  Then Jo could hear the footsteps fading as the miscreants gave up the search and moved on.

“Don’t move.” Cal whispered, his mouth close to her ear. “Not until we’re sure.”

Jo nodded silently.  Cal’s breath tickled her neck, and perhaps something else as well.  Butterflies rioted in her stomach; Jo wasn’t entirely sure it was just the danger of being chased by angry irishmen who thought they’d been swindled.

Jo was pretty sure the men were gone, but Cal’s hand was still resting over her mouth – though more gently now.  She wondered at the mixture of smooth and rough flesh.  Cal was an expert rider and she could feel the callouses on his palms rubbing against her lips.  The butterflies were rioting again.

Jo felt Cal’s hand slide away from her mouth, as if Cal had just remembered it was still there.  Although he didn’t remove it from her face entirely.  She felt it slide over her cheek, then down over her jawline, his thumb brushing gently over her lips.  His breath was coming faster now, or was that hers?  The butterflies in her stomach were gone now.  A thundering herd of bison had taken up residence in body, running at full speed through her veins.  Her blood pumped through her ears as loud as mighty Niagra.  Her heart pounded louder than the fireworks on Independence Day.  She could feel Cal leaning closer now.  Was he going to kiss her?  Was he?

She suspected he had wanted to for some time, but he’d never gotten up the gumption to do it.  Jo had always he didn’t want to hurt Lucinda, who had the worst of girlhood crushes on Cal.  Or maybe he, like she, valued their friendship too much, and didn’t want to chance having things change between them.  But the truth was, Cal wasn’t just Jo’s best friend.  She liked him.  She liked him a lot -a lot more than just a best friend.  She had always been too shy or too afraid to say anything.

By the looks of it, Cal seemed to be doing just fine figuring things out without any additional encouragement on Jo’s part.  She could feel his lips just inches from hers.  The air between them was charged, tingling, alive with microscopic bolts of lightening.  She felt hot and flush, and was grateful at least for the darkness that hid her from his view.  What would he say if he could see her now?  Would he think her forward?  Inappropriate?  Oh who was she kidding — Cal already knew that Jo was entirely inappropriate.  Jo forced herself to stop thinking. She leaned imperceptibly closer to Cal, pressing herself into him just so.  She wanted this after all.  Didn’t she?

Cal couldn’t believe that they were here, together, like this.  Smashed up against one another in the tight confines of the tiny storage closet.  Thank heavens it had been here, and unlocked too.  Cal wasn’t sure how they would have escaped without it.  When Jo had run like a bat out of hell from the Chuck-a-luck game, he’d still been in shock over her winning that last roll.  She had quadrupled her money in one shot, and the gamers, a rough sort on any day, hadn’t appreciated her luck — or their empty pockets.  His sense of self preservation had kicked just as the punch intended for this face had been thrown.  He had raced out of that alley as fast as could, dodging and ducking as he went.  The punch originally meant for him had connected with another gambler when Cal ducked, turning the brawl into one giant free for all.  After that, Cal’s escape had been relatively easy.  He ran up North Beacon street, chasing after the two devils who took off after Jo.  He saw her make a left on Olive and he knew he had only one chance of catching her.  He took a short cut through a series of tight alley ways until he was fairly certain he was ahead of her on Olive.  Sure enough, a quick peek out of the alcove revealed Jo running at break neck pace, the two brawlers not far behind.  But, the street was crowded and both Jo and her pursuers were ducking in and out of traffic, jumping barrels and foodstuffs for sale, skirting around passersby, created a general nuisance of themselves and an unruly commotion of the street.  As Jo approached, unaware of Cal waiting for her, he worked to time his move just right.  The men chasing her were now stalled behind a wagon that had just passed between them and their prey.  Just as she reached the opening that concealed Cal’s presence, he shot out and landed a solid grip on her upper arms, yanking her to an abrupt stop, and pulling her into the shadows of the alley with him.

She had struggled, at least until she figured out it was him.  He hadn’t slowed for a moment, just kept dragging her toward the unlocked storage door that he had discovered on his way to head her off.  He hadn’t, however, realized it would be quite so tight with the two of them nose to nose inside of it.  They had to stay completely still to avoid knocking over any of the tools that lined the walls.

Once in the closet he had quickly locked the door behind them.  It was nearly pitch black, save for the small cracks of light seeping in through the crevices of the door jam. He held his breath and had hoped she was doing the same, especially after he heard footsteps just outside the door.  Cal thought they were done for sure when Jo gasped.  The rattling knob had startled him too, but he had been quick to slam his palm over Jo’s mouth… Jo’s inviting mouth with soft, full, rose-colored lips.  He couldn’t see them of course, not in the dark.  But he didn’t need to.  He had every inch of her face – of her memorized.  He saw her from afar.  He saw her when she wasn’t there.  He saw her at night in his dreams.  He simply saw her.  Even here, in darkness so complete he couldn’t even see his hand there in front of him, he saw her.  He saw her as if she were bathed in the brightest sunlight, for that’s how clearly her countenance had been emblazoned upon his soul. She had turned him into such a sap.

He realized somewhat abashedly that his hand still covered her mouth, though he suspected the men were long gone.  He was reluctant, though, to remove his hand and break contact with her.  Instead of removing his hand, he simply slid it over her smooth skin, her cheek, her jaw.  How anyone could mistake her for a boy he would never know.  But he enjoyed seeing her in boys clothes – clothes that revealed far more of her shape than her ladies dresses ever did.  He knew, for instances, that she had long strong legs that could keep her solidly seated, even when riding bareback.  And though she usually wore her boy clothes a little large for her lithe frame, he could just make out the line of her rounded hips, and the curve of her… of her… he shook his head slightly.  He knew he was wrong to let his thoughts wander so inappropriately.  He was grateful for the dark that hid his face; he was quite sure that if Jo could see him right now, she would surely slap those thoughts right out of his head.  In fact, even though she couldn’t see him, he wondered at the fact she hadn’t already slapped him.  He took inventory of their position – their bodies pushed together, his hand still on her face, his thumb grazing gently over her lips, which were parted slightly he took note.  He could hear her rapid breathing, keeping pace with his own.  Was it the thrill of the chase?  Or, something else? He felt himself leaning closer.  A moth drawn to her flame.  She would stop him wouldn’t she?

But she didn’t stop him.  He felt her leaning closer, leaning in for… for… and then it happened.  The slightest touch.  Her lips fluttering across his own, like the wings of a butterfly against a child’s cheek.  Or the fluttering of eyelashes.  His lips burned, singed where they had met Jo’s.  He relished the touch, savored it, but at the same time felt an unquenchable fire ignite for more.  The force of the desire slammed into him with a shock, a bolt of lightening that broke through the dreamlike reverie… he remembered himself. Painfully so.

“We should go” Cal said, setting her away from him, “quickly. Before they return.”

Jo was confused – he had pushed her away.  Did that mean he didn’t want to kiss her after all?  Had she guessed wrong?  She shook the thought away.  Cal was right of course.  The two men could come back at any moment, and what was she thinking anyway?  Hiding in a closet, in the dark, in boys clothes, with Calvin, tempting him with a kiss (if you could even call it that).  This was by far the riskiest thing she had ever done, and she had done some pretty risky things in her day.  Time to come to your senses Jo, she told herself.

“Yes,” she said, “good point.”

She turned and felt around clumsily for the door knob and latch.  Just as she found it, she felt Calvin’s hand land on hers, and then instantly pull back.

“Oh!  I’m sorry, I just thought you couldn’t find—”

“I found it,” Jo said, annoyed that he would pull back as if she disgusted him. “Of course I found it, I’m not a total ninny.”

“I didn’t say you were—“ Cal began to protest, but then the door was swinging open, letting in the light.  They stumbled blindly out of the dark and into the light, like Lazarus from the dead.

“Nevermind,” Jo said.  She didn’t have the patience for Cal to play the awkward schoolboy now.  Best to just ignore it and pretend nothing happened.  Maybe that would put him at ease.

Looking up and down the alley, Jo pronounced the way clear.

“Come on, let’s go to Belknap street,” Jo said, forcing a bright smile.

“Belknap street?” Cal replied. “What on earth for?”

“Because I’ve got a load of money in my pocket, and hankering to spend it.”

“Spend it on what?” Cal said, eying Jo suspiciously.  Good, Jo thought.  Suspicious was better than the awkward-embarrased-shy look he’d been sporting when they exited the closet.

“Why a knife of course,” Jo said smartly, and took off running down the alley.

Cal watched Jo run ahead of him for just a moment before taking off after her.  Some things would never change, he thought, shaking his head.  He touched his lips automatically, the ever so slight taste of her lips lingered there, like the fast-fading hints of a dream.  Was it a dream?  Had he simply imagined he kissed her — no, he corrected himself — she had kissed him.  Maybe it was a dream. But his blood still flowed in in disturbed fits and starts, as if his heart couldn’t decide whether to race or stop all together. Well, he thought, his body believed the kiss had happened, even if his mind doubted it.

He watched Jo disappear down the alley and turn the corner, never slowing, never looking back.  Clearly she was back to her usual self, untroubled by anything that had happened in the closet or even the chase that led up to it.  He felt a stab of disappointment at that realization.  What had he expected?  That Jo would swoon, overcome with ardor and passion? He shoved the thoughts aside, exhaled an exasperated sigh, and ran to catch up with her.

To Infinity and Beyond. . .


Aaron's Ramblings

NO, this is not a post about Disney. You’ll have to visit my Disney Photography page for that (shameless plug). This post is about the newly released Interstellar by Christopher Nolan. I have been tracking this movie for some time and have been greatly anticipating its arrival. It seems like there are 2 types of Chris Nolan fans – Love him or Hate him. I would be in the former. I have like his style of story telling since Momento. I was BLOWN away by Inception, The Dark Knight has been one of my favorite movies for a LONG time (and not just because of Heath’s performance – though that was a HUGE part of it).

I wasn’t super keen on the casting but that was not enough to get in the way of my enjoyment. It had some of my favorite actors (McConaughey, Hathaway, Chastain, and even the suprise…

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Not so Good News — and wait for it — GOOD NEWS!! #nanowrimo

Ok so the not so good news is — I DID NOT write any words today toward my word count.  But its TOTALLY OK because, guess what?  I just plotted the beans out of two really important scenes (read: chapters) in the book, and so tomorrow (or whenever) I sit down to write them, I’m probably going to bust out a minimum of 5000 words!!  I’m super duper excited!

It all started when…

I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I have a big time work schedule this week, I’m exhausted, and I had no idea when, if ever, I would write.  That was part of my tantrum this past weekend where I told my husband that I was going to quit nanowrimo.  For those of you that didn’t read that previous post –I got over my tantrum and didn’t quit.  Anyway, as I said, I’ve been having a mini-panic attack because I literally didn’t know when I would write.

So today, since I really couldn’t write, I decided I would use my freaking 2 hr commute (each way) to record my thoughts about a couple of scenes critical to the rising action of the plot.  As I talked into the recorder, my thoughts just got clearer and clearer.  I had a boatload of ideas!  A cornucopia of ideas!  A UNIVERSE of IDEAS! I talked for about 20 minutes total.  I spent the rest of my commute talking to my mom as usual.  HAHA.

When I finally got home tonight, I sat down to type up all the ideas for the scenes — into a sort of outline-ish list.  When I was done, I had over 2100 words, just in outline form!  AND — I’m so excited to write it (as soon as I have the time and am not ready to keel over with exhaustion).

So that’s the REALLY GOOD NEWS >>>>  I am excited to write my story again.  YAY! 🙂

I also figured if I can’t find the time to actually write this week, I’ll just keep recording my ideas and typing them out.  Then when Saturday comes, maybe I’ll even have one of those elusive 50K days!  A girl can hope right?

I hope all of you are having an awesome breakthrough day as well!

Just Keep Swimming. #nanowrimo

Today was better, I have to admit.  Though I still feel a bit lost, I at least feel like some of the writing it starting to come.  Its like the log jam is beginning to break apart — just a bit, and the words are starting to seep through the gaps.

I was able to get 1700 words.  In tonight’s excerpt I hit an interesting problem.  One of my supporting characters is named Robert.  But in this scene, the characters are discussing an actual historical court case called Roberts v. The City of Boston.  It kind of annoyed me to have so many “Roberts” in the scene.  Should I change the character’s name to avoid this?  Your thoughts are much appreciated!

In other news, we went to Medieval Times for my oldest daughter’s 23rd birthday.  That was awesome. 🙂

Here is my excerpt from tonight…

(Please pardon typos and inconsistencies — I didn’t have time to work my way back through this one.  So you are getting the UBER RAW version.  It’s just that its after midnight, I have an early morning and a long day tomorrow.)

*********McKendrick Saga Excerpt –Nanwrimo Day 9 *********

The tavern was crowded and rowdy, just the way Jared liked it.  Plenty of noise to obscure one conversation from the next.  The three friends worked their way through the myriad alcoves, niches, and recess to their favorite table.  Located partially behind a wall, it offered a great view of the main tavern dining hall, while simultaneously providing a good deal of privacy.  Not that they needed privacy, its just that after a very long week of endless study and rigorous mid-term exams, they didn’t want to be bothered.

As their exhaustion melted each into his seat, Miriam, their usual server, set down their ale tankards with an unceremonious thunk.  She put her hands warmly on their shoulders with a familiarity that she shared with all three of them, since they had been regulars here for the past decade. There was a time when the boys would sneak in, too young for a drinks but determined to swindle, flirt, or bribe Miriam out of her ale.  She had been much younger then and all three boys had fallen for her big blue eyes, strawberry hair, and Irish sass.  They had been fast friends ever since.

“What’ll ye be haven’ then?  Ye look like the verra devil, trut be told.  Professor got ye hoppin’ I see!”  Miriam said, clucking her tongue like a mother hen fussing over her chicks.

Jared laughed, “Yes, you have the right of it.  Mid-terms this week.”

“Ach, I knew it!  How about some nice hot stew?  Cook’s just made it fresh with a bounty full of roots and greens, an’ one o’her prize hens as weel.” Miriam said, one hand thrust on a jaunty hip.

They all three nodded in hearty agreement, suddenly feeling famished.

“I’ll be back in three shakes of a lamb’s tale,” Miriam beamed, heading off to the kitchen.

Jared took a long deep swig of the ale.  It was sour and cheap, but it blazed a fire from Jared’s mouth to his belly.  Tingles pricked at him from the inside out, until his entire body felt a buzzing release of all the tension he had held in for the past several weeks.  A look at Robert and Owen’s faces told Jared that they were experiencing the same.

“To the worst ale in all of Boston,” Robert announced gleefully.

“With the best service!”  Owen and Jared replied, smiling.

“Here, here!” they all said, smashing their tankards into Roberts over the table.  Ale splashed over the brims and onto the table, as they returned the cups to their mouths for another drink.  It was the traditional toast between the three of them.

“So how about today in Sanders’ class?” Robert asked.

“I daresay that Dean Emerson didn’t think it over very carefully before allowing that student to register,”  Owen said.  “Surely they would have foreseen the protest of our southern brethren.”

“Perhaps they are as eager to be rid of all that Dixie pomposity as we are,” Robert said.

“I fear it may be just the opposite.  I believe that they knew full well what they were doing.  You know Sanders is most strident in his abolitionist beliefs.” Jared reminded them.

“As are we all,” Owen vowed with a little too much fervor, “but to enroll a negro in Harvard?  I’ve never heard of such a thing.” The confused look Owen had sported during class today hadn’t entirely dissipated.

Miriam returned to the table with three steaming bowls of stew.  The smell wafted aromatically up from each, tantalizing Jared’s nose and tempting his tastebuds.

Jared lifted a heaping spoonful into his mouth, and observed Owen closely.  It was true that Owen did come from one of the best families in Boston, one that outwardly professed great support for the abolitionist cause.  But Jared wondered how deep that support ran. He set his spoon back down on the table. He decided to toss a pebble into Owen’s pond and see how far it rippled.

“And why shouldn’t Quick be admitted?  Sanders announced him to be one of the finest minds in the country.  That’s good enough for me.” Jared said.

“I have no doubt that his mind is fine, for a negro.  But shouldn’t he… well… feel more, uh, comfortable with his own kind?” Owen asked.  “I shouldn’t like to be admitted to a school of negro students after all.  I would feel very out of place,” Owen’s arguments always tended to center on himself.

“You certainly would attend such a negro school if it was the finest law school in the world, I’d wager.”  Robert added good-naturedly.

Robert Ellis hailed from a long line of abolitionists.  His grandfather had been alongside Crispus Attucks when he became the first martyr for independence at the Boston Massacre.  Robert’s mother was president of the Ladies Vigilance Committee of Boston, which dedicated endless hours to raising funds for the abolitionist cause.  Just two years past, Robert’s father had been part of the “rabble” to break that infamous fugitive slave Shadrack Mingus out of jail and spirit him off to Canada on the underground railroad —much to President Fillmore’s everlasting vexation.  Shadrack had been so eternally grateful to his Boston vigilante angels that he had written back to let them all know he arrived safely, had entered into the restaurant business, and was soon to be married — much to the joy and relief of the Ellis family.  Robert was dedicated to the cause indeed.

Owen looked at Robert like he had grown another head.

“That’s preposterous,” Owen said.

“Oh? I think any one of us would go to the best school no matter where it was or who attended there.” Robert insisted.

“Of course I would go to the best school, but that is not what is preposterous — I meant the notion that a school run for and by negros could ever be better than a school for us,”

“Us?  Who do you mean?” Jared asked, his ire rising.

“Us. Us! White persons.” Owen continued, flustered. “It isn’t possible.  Negros simply do not have the mental capacity to excel in academia, therefore it is entirely implausible that such a negro school as you describe could exist.”

“What proof do you have?” Jared demanded.

“Proof?  Proof of what?” Owen looked completely perplexed.

“Proof that negroes do not have the mental capacity necessary to excel in academia,” Jared said.

“Well… I … don’t suppose I have proof,” Owen said, astounded to be asked for proof of something he had taken as a given. At last he replied, “But if one could, surely he would have done so by now.”

“How on earth do you propose he do so?  The negro is, at every turn, prevented from accessing the best education, best tutors and teachers.  While we have every advantage.”  Jared continued, “ even here in Boston — this bastion dedicated to the dignity and liberty of all mankind — even here the negroes have not access to good education.  Have you not read ahead in our coursework?  We shall soon be studying the case of Sarah Roberts—“

“I should think that you remember the case first hand, Owen – it happened when we were all lads of fourteen,“ Robert chimed in.

“— Roberts vs. The City of Boston.  Sumner and Morris argued it before Judge Lemeul Shaw,” Jared finished.

“Sumner?  Senator Sumner?” Owen asked

“The very same,” Robert said in low conspiratorial tones. He leaned close to Owen’s ear, as if he were confirming secrets to a child.  Owen swatted his irritating friend away.

“And his partner on the case was Robert Morris, this nation’s very first negro lawyer,” Jared added importantly.

“Indeed,” Owen was genuinely surprised.

“The case revolved around five year old Sarah, who had to walk a great distance to an all-black common school, even though there were four excellent white schools much closer to her home,” Robert added helpfully.

Jared cleared his throat dramatically and began to recite, “a school, exclusively devoted to one class, must differ essentially, in its spirit and character, from the public school known to the law… it is a mockery to call it an equivalent… “

Robert and Owen groaned in unison.

“Now you’ve done it,” Robert said, giving Owen a pointed look. “He’s resorted to quoting case trasncripts!”

“Me?  You are the one that started summarizing the case!” Owen shot back.

“Comparing negro schools to white schools and calling them equal is like comparing figs and cheese and saying they are the same—and equally as good!”  Jared insisted.

“Hey, I love figs and cheese,” Robert said agreeably.

Jared jumped up and stood upon his chair now, placing one hand emotionally upon his chest, and extending the other to his imaginary courtroom.  He continued,  “On one side is the city of Boston, strong in its wealth, in its influence, in its character; on the other side is a little child, of a degraded color, of humble parents, still within the period of natural infancy, but strong from her very weakness…. This little child asks at your hands her personal rights.”

“No wonder you are Sanders’ favorite.  Who memorizes arguments from minor court cases?” Owen said.  His irritated tone belied a hint of envy.

“It is not a minor case, Sir.” Jared said with no small amount of moral loftiness.  “Sarah is but one child that no doubt represents thousands of children, all growing to maturity without the benefit of a decent education, denied the advantages of their white peers.  It is a travesty.”  Jared punctuated his declaration by jumping to floor and re-seating himself.

He added thoughtfully, “I have no doubt that whatever education this Tamsen Quick has had, he is the exception to the rule, and very fortunate no doubt.  I, for one, am eager to know more about him; I intend to make him my friend.”

“What?” Owen said, aghast.

“Excellent idea!” Robert said, enjoying Owen’s discomfort a little too much.

Owen was silent and brooding now, having no rebuttal for his friend’s emphatic defense of the education of the African race on the point of sticking up a friendship.

“Oh come now the two of you,” Robert said, smiling broadly and slapping both of their backs. “Let us drop this seriousness.  Owen you may stop puffing up like an agitated owl, and Jared, we are not in court.  You may take off your defender’s hat, and let us all enjoy this fine repast before it grows cold and much less satisfying.”