Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Can't Become a Writer...

... by character casting on Pinterest.

... by listening to inspiring music.

... by reading lots of great literature.

... by having late-night chats with Sister Dear about troublesome plot holes.

... by doing Beautiful People.

... by reading and re-reading On Writing Well.

... by reading writing blogs.

... by collecting writerly quotes.

... by complaining about writers' block.

I can become a writer in just one way... by writing.

*closes Internet and opens Microsoft Word*

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Are you still alive, Philippe?

I'm linking up with Rosamund Gregory's character letters for the very first time.  Oddly enough, I've chosen a character who can't read or write for this first letter, but I chose her because I want to get to know her better (and what better way than to get directly inside her head?).  So though this letter will never be written down, never sent, never read by Philippe, here is the letter Margot composes in her head to her older brother.  Even in her thoughts, Margot frequently rearranges what she wants to say, which will account for the multitude of strike-throughs in this letter.  The fact that Margot and Philippe's relationship is rocky at best will account for the rearranging of Margot's thoughts.

Margot's handwriting is nonexistent (as I said, she doesn't even know how to write), as is her stationery, and she doesn't doodle in the margins because she has no paper on which to doodle.  Even if she did have paper, she wouldn't waste it in doodling, though.  I'm not sure what she'd do with it.  Maybe she'd give it to Philippe, just as she wishes she could give this letter, but of course there's no way to do that.  

Dear Phillipe
Hello, Philippe

Are you still alive?

Are you coming to find us?

If I say nothing else here, I must say that at least.  Fina and I are safe-- I hope I'm sure you'll be glad to know that.  We're in a village I've never seen, a place I'd never even heard of... but of course I know so little of the surrounding villages.  I don't know how far we are from home.  We walked for so long that horrible night, but I have no idea how much distance we covered.

The people who found us are good, I think.  They are gentle and kind, and one young woman especially has become attached to Fina.  They have told us we may stay with them, but I do not know what to do, nor indeed what to think of them.  I do not know who they are, exactly-- their manner of living is like the gypsies that came to the manor last year, but these people do not steal as the gypsies did.  They make their living, so far as I can see, as tinkers, traveling from village to village with no fixed destination.

All this is not really so strange, I suppose, but the oddest of it all is their religion.  I'd never met a real live heretic before, and I always imagined them to be great brute beasts with horns, but these travelers look just like you and me.  Yet their beliefs--though neither pagan nor occult--are in direct disobedience to the holy Church, and I fear that Fina and I may be tainted if we stay with them.  Of course we do not listen to their heresies, and we try our best to shut our ears when they recite their prayers around the fire each night.  But might we, too, be condemned (as they will surely be) from association with them?  Why am I even asking you?  You are the one constantly searching for answers.  You are the one who went on a pilgrimage.  But I do not think you came back with any more answers than when you left, now did you?  

I do not know what to think.  All I know is that we must get away.

I miss you terribly I should like to see you again.  Each night as I lie awake I think over the last words I spoke to you, and I wish so much that I could take them back I would like to apologize for what I said.  I know you only want what is best for me  Perhaps you did not mean to be so autocratic.

I know you'll come for us, Philippe-- you wouldn't abandon your sisters, would you, if you could possibly avoid it?  Please still be alive I'm sure you must be all right.  They wouldn't dare to capture you or harm you in any way, would they?

Please come, please come, as soon as you can I look forward to seeing you again.
We need you. 
I need some answers.
I miss you.  Fina misses you.

With love,
Your sister,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Getting to Know the Rochesters

I've seen this tag on Rachel and Jenny's blogs, and since a) I adore almost all tags and b) tags are insanely helpful in straightening out my thoughts where writing is concerned, I decided to use this one for The Rochesters.  Accck, I really need to find a real title for this story... oh, and prepare for long-winded-ness.  Ahem.

1. Who are the main characters?

Sylvia Lemmins, upon whom I elaborated here.

Mr. Gregory Rochester, Sylvia's legal guardian and the father of the rambunctious bunch known as the Rochesters.

Alice Rochester, the eldest of the bunch and engaged to be married at the end of the summer.  Don't let the picture fool you-- Alice is not the kind of girl who minces around with perfect hair and makeup and never has any fun.  Not.  In.  The.  Least.

Frances (Francie) Rochester, who sings in the shower and forgets to hang up her towel afterwards, makes way too many commitments but manages to keep all her appointments anyway and has never fainted in her entire life, but always thought it would be rather fun.

Celia Rochester, who might strike you on the surface as being the dreamy bookish type but is really rather feisty underneath and has a rather frightening repertoire of practical jokes.  (Not that her jokes are frightening. It's just frightening that she knows so many.  I'm being facetious, folks.)

Mark Rochester, whose face has not yet manifested itself to me, and who is firmly convinced that Sherlock Holmes is the answer to all the world's problems.  He will come to blows with you over the fact, especially if you dare to suggest that Sir Percy Blakeney might be better.  It's a bitter point of contention between him and Celia.

Timothy (Timmy) Rochester, who asks why about everything, is best friends with Pumblechook, the family's golden retriever, and is always ready for a midnight snack.  Whether or not it is actually midnight when the urge to snack comes upon him is irrelevant.

Patricia (Patsy) Rochester, who also remains an enigma to me as far as appearance goes, and who is the button-nosed, cute kind of child. When people remark upon this, she gravely agrees with them.  Who is she to deny the obvious?

George Rawlins, who is engaged to marry Alice at the end of the summer and is well aware of what he's getting himself into with this family.  George is just plain fun.  I like him.

2. How did you get the idea for this story?

This story began back in March, when I was suffering from writer's block over OAN.  One day I randomly pulled out a short story I'd written back in 2010 about a girl who made a cake for her sister's wedding only to have it ruined by the family's dog.  The story's pretty weak, but there were some good elements in it, and I started brainstorming a little bit about how I could work this into a full-length novel.  Lo and behold, The Rochesters was born.

3. What genre is this story?

Hmmm.  Well, it's not really historical fiction, although it takes place in the 1950's... do the 50's count as historical?  I'd say it's Light Summertime Reading.

4. Describe your book in three thoughts:

New experiences.  Family moments.  Silliness.

5. The bit that describes an obscure piece of real life best:

Her back ached from being held so stiff and rigid, and though her ankles were neatly crossed, both legs were fast asleep.  More than anything, she wanted to relax and lean back against the prickly plush seat, maybe even tuck her feet under her or draw her knees up to her chin.  But such a thing was, of course, unthinkable.  The train was too crowded with people.  Maybe some of these people even knew Uncle Gregory—anything was possible.  No, she wouldn’t disgrace her newfound family by behaving unimpeachably on the train. 
~chapter 2 

6. The funniest line said by a side-character thus far:

The costumes, the scenery, the makeup and props and what have you… delightful indeed.  Now I think I need to go fell a tree with my bare teeth so I can feel at least slightly masculine again.

7. Your favourite piece of description:

Mrs. Buchran’s office had always smelled rather oddly of butterscotch candies, the golden oval Brach’s kind that took forever to suck and made your mouth feel quite bland for a good while afterwards.   A little green dish of the butterscotch candies had sat on the edge of Mrs. Buchran’s desk for years and years, yet not one girl in the entire school could remember being offered one of them.  Perhaps they were only for the faculty, or only for Mrs. Buchran herself.  But since no one had ever seen Mrs. Buchran actually in the bourgeois act of sucking a butterscotch, this theory was usually dismissed as a mere “rumor hath.”
~chapter one

8. Your biggest fear in the writing of this story:

That it won't be interesting enough.  I'm writing solely to please myself with this story, and what I find funny and what the rest of the world finds funny can sometimes be very different things.

9. Last full sentence you wrote:

 “Sorry, can we use your hair things?”

10. Favourite character thus far:

Francie, I think, but I like all of them tremendously.

11. What books have been written or have you read that are similar in style and flavour to your novel?

Two are Better Than One and Louly by Carol Ryrie Brink.  Some of Elizabeth Enright's books, too.

12. If it was destined to become a book on tape, who would you wish to read it?

Oooh, fun question.  I think maybe Anthony Andrews-- he'd do all the voices perfectly.  :D

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What kind of a person doesn't give hugs?

You know the post I wrote a few days ago about actually finishing something this July?

Scratch that.

Yes, yes, that sounded defeatist.  I know.  But it isn't, honestly and truly.  It's just that finishing something really isn't my goal this July.  Rather, my goal is to begin something.  Some things, I should say.

There are currently three main ideas swirling around in my head, and I'm itching to get them down somehow, to start each story and let it begin to flow.  And right now, I don't want to tie myself down with an accomplishment goal.  I just want to write what I want to write.  Yes, I'm going to work on The Rochesters.  But I'm also going to work on The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives.  And possibly The Color of the Sky [vewy, VEWY tentative title there].  And you are going to be hearing a whole lot more about each of those projects.

So, to celebrate these beginnings, I give you July Snippets, paired with pictures that have been inspiring me lately.  (Most of the images are snagged from friends' Pinterest boards.  I don't own anything, nor am I making money of this, yada yada yada.)

“Oh, quite, quite.” Mr. Payter buried his face in his coffee cup. A sip or two of the honeyed coffee covered his embarrassment and he was ready to converse again. Most people do not put honey in their coffee, but if you tried to tell that to Mr. J. Paxton Payter, he would merely fix you with a stern and quizzical eye and demand why that prevented him from doing so.
~The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives

This highly interesting conversation (which, if you did not find interesting, you should go back and re-read in order to better develop your sense of humor) took place at a largish sort of dining table in a smallish sort of boardinghouse in a smallish sort of city. The name of the city is none of your business. If I did tell you its name, you would be on the next subway in no time flat, speeding your way towards the boardinghouse so you could get a hold of Miss McSmith for an interview and possibly even some photographs.
~The Butterwick Boardinghouse Detectives

“Sylvia Lemmins, you’re wanted in the headmistress’s office.” The buck-toothed fourth grader who delivered this ominous message stared eagerly around the ninth-grade classroom, hoping that her statement would induce the kind of awed titters and whisperings that it would have in her own classroom. To her intense disappointment, the ninth-graders merely glanced up from their maps and regarded her with something akin to annoyance.
~The Rochesters

Mrs. Buchran’s office had always smelled rather oddly of butterscotch candies, the golden oval Brach’s kind that took forever to suck and made your mouth feel quite bland for a good while afterwards.
~The Rochesters

Celia regarded Mark with her best Miss Manners look. “Please at least pretend you're civilized and close your gaping mouth. It’s open so wide I can see your tonsils.”
Mark snorted. “No you can’t. I had them taken out two years ago.”
~The Rochesters

Celia’s voice dropped to an awed whisper. “And then he said… you know… A Word.”
Alice raised an eyebrow. She did not ask what the word was, but Celia went ahead as if she had.
“You know. The word… the word Rhett Butler doesn’t give.”
If it were physiologically possible for Timmy’s ears to prick up, they would have pricked up. “What doesn’t Rhett Butler give?”
“Hugs,” said Alice quickly. “He doesn’t give hugs.”
Francie snorted.
“Well, he doesn’t,” said Alice.
Timmy wrinkled his nose. “What kind of person doesn’t give hugs?”
~The Rochesters

More than anything, she wanted to relax and lean back against the prickly plush seat, maybe even tuck her feet under her or draw her knees up to her chin. But such a thing was, of course, unthinkable. The train was too crowded with people. Maybe some of these people even knew Uncle Gregory—anything was possible. No, she wouldn’t disgrace her newfound family by behaving unimpeachably on the train.
~The Rochesters

But best of all were the days when Margot would pause before she spoke to drink in the smell of the sun on the earth. “It’s a blue sky today,” she’d say, and wait for Fina’s inevitable question.
“What kind of blue?”
“Rich blue, royal blue, a blue for a princess, and golden sun warming the blue and deepening it.”
Fina would find her way to the window and they would stand together, letting the sun warm their eyelids until Alienor came and the day had to begin.
~The Color of the Sky

“Souci’s eyes are your favorite blue,” Margot whispered.
Fina leaned closer. “Tell me about them.”
She grasped for words, but nothing came. “I—I don’t think I can.”
“Deep blue? Or pale?”
“Deep, very deep, nearly as deep as the shawl she wears.”
“I cannot see the shawl she wears.”
Helpless, Margot shook her head. “It is blue with a green thread running throughout… and a tiny touch of silver.”
“And her eyes are like that?”
“Yes, in a way.”
Fina sighed. “And her hair?”
“So black as to be almost blue when the light touches it.”
“Is everything around us blue, then?”
Margot leaned back against the tree trunk and gazed up through the leaves. “Yes… almost.”
~The Color of the Sky

Fina drew in a sharp breath. “You cannot read for yourself the… the Holy Scriptures of our Lord.” The words came out as little more than breath, but even the flames’ crackle kept no one from hearing.
“And why should I not?” Henri’s face was turned toward Fina, though his eyes searched the fire. “They are the words of God, breathed by Him alone—and am not I a man, whose very life was also breathed by God alone?”
~The Color of the Sky

Monday, July 9, 2012

Found her!

I found my Sylvia, and I am happy now.

[insert row of immature smiley faces and watch as my sister rolls her eyes]

It's hard writing a story if you don't know how to picture your protagonist.  I struggled through the first half of OAN without knowing precisely how Elizabeth looked-- it wasn't until I stumbled upon some pictures of Anna Friel in Our Mutual Friend that everything fell into place.  But now, folks, I can truly begin real work on The Rochesters with a light heart, because I can look at Sylvia's face whenever I want to.  May I present Miss Sylvia Jane Lemmins?

For all those of you who might not have guessed...
this is Julie Andrews at sixteen.  Sylvia's fifteen,
but hey, you can pretend she's younger.

Now, of course, she looks quite sophisticated and grown-up in this picture AND her hair is short, which leads me to believe that the picture was taken just before Alice's wedding.  Because when Sylvia first came to the Rochesters, her hair was past her shoulders.  It got... um... cut... during the course of the summer.  *snickers*

So in this picture she's feeling (and trying to act) terribly grown-up, but don't think that Sylvia is a model of primness and propriety all the time.  Because she just isn't.  She's more fun than that.

To celebrate my delightful discovery, I chose a Beautiful People questionnaire from the archives and will now proceed to fill it out for my Sylvia.

What type of laugh does she have?

Bubbly and happy and something like an older version of a baby's laugh.  Kind of hard to describe, but very spontaneous.  Very spontaneous indeed, and rather unfortunate if she happens to be eating or drinking at the time when her laugh is provoked, because then she tends to embarrass herself.

Who is her best friend?

Myrtle Lionel was a good friend to her at boarding school, and she corresponds with her over the summer, but her best friends are really her cousins.  Francie and Celia especially, as they're the girls closest to her in age.  Technically Mark is closer to Sylvia than Francie is, because he's twelve and Francie's nineteen, but like I said, Mark's twelve.  He doesn't consider girls (cousins air otherwise) to be best friends.

Before her hair was cut.  Obviously.

What is her family like?

Her family?  They're awesome.  :D
I'm taking "family" here to mean "extended family", because Sylvia's family is currently comprised of her cousins, both second and first-once-removed.  The Rochester family is noisy, silly, witty, slapdash, let's-go-on-a-picnic-in-the-pouring-rain and just all-around fun.

Is she a Christian, or will she eventually find Jesus?

Sylvia is a Christian, and was before she came to stay with her cousins, but seeing their strong, day-to-day-and-not-just-for-Sunday faith helps to strengthen hers.
Hmmm, I'm thinking there ought to be a play of
some sort in the course of the story...

Does she believe in fairies?

She'd like to, but can't really find it in herself to believe in them.  Sylvia's down-to-earth, and fairies aren't.  She's always been a little wistfully envious of those who can believe in fairies, though.

Does she like hedgehogs?

Um.  Well, that depends on the way this question is being asked.  How is she supposed to like them?  With ketchup?  No, thank you.

Favorite kind of weather?

Sunny  and warm, with puffy white clouds in the sky and enough wind to make peaks on the lake.

Does she have a good sense of humor? If so what kind? (Slapstick, wit, sarcasm, etc.?)

I love her hair like this.  :)
Sylvia has an excellent sense of humor, which is further developed by constant exposure to her cousins.  Sylvia's tends toward sarcasm and puns.  The Rochester kids (well, except Alice, who likes to think herself too old for that) tend toward slapstick.  But not with real sticks.

How did she do in school, or any kind of education she might have had?

Sylvia's still in school, actually, and she does pretty well.  She's a straight B student, neither at the top nor the bottom of any class.  A boring teacher's dream.

Any strange hobbies?

None that I've come across... as yet.

Why I Write

I encourage each one of you to check out this tumblr page... it's one of those nodding, smiling, oh-yes-that's-me sort of things.

Some of my favorites:

Why do you write?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Actually Finishing Something This July

I'm linking up with Katie's Actually Finishing Something July challenge!  Go here for more details.

What is your writing goal?

Ten chapters in my new story The Rochesters.  That's a working title and does not in any way reflect upon what the book's actually going to be called when it's finished.

Tell us about this project. Give us a small synopsis.

This story began back in March, when I was suffering from writer's block over OAN.  One day I randomly pulled out a short story I'd written back in 2010 about a girl who made a cake for her sister's wedding only to have it ruined by the family's dog.  The story's pretty weak, but there were some good elements in it, and I started brainstorming a little bit about how I could work this into a full-length novel.  Lo and behold, The Rochesters was born.

As far as synopsis goes, this is what I have as of today.  Sylvia Lemmins' guardian dies, leaving her alone at her boarding school for the summer--not a happy prospect.  Her mother's cousin, Gregory Rochester, and his six children offer to have her come and stay with them in Cedar Lake, Michigan.  (It's a summer resort town, and yes, it's called Cedar Lake, and yes, that's because I'm bad at place-names, and yes, the characters often complain about the mediocrity of their hometown's name.)  Sylvia's desperate to fit in with this large and boisterous family, and as the summer goes on and preparations for the oldest daughter's wedding get underway, she's on the lookout for the perfect way to give something back to this unusual family who has made her feel so welcome.

How long have you been working on this project?

I started planning the characters and some events in March and even wrote a few pages, but I didn't start truly working on it until last week.  Other projects were calling my name in the meantime. :)

Introduce us to three of your favorite characters in this project.

Yay! I adore my characters with mucho adoration, as you may have already deduced, and I firmly believe that the characters make the story what it is.  So without further rambling, may I present Sylvia Lemmins, Francie Rochester and Gregory Rochester.  Sylvia, Francie and Gregory--er, Mr. Rochester--, please meet the lovely readers of Quest for Stories.

Sylvia, my fifteen-year-old protagonist, is pretty much me in a nutshell.  Except for the parts where she's completely not me at all.  Sylvia wants little more than to be accepted by those around her, and in that way she's tremendously like me.  The difference lies in the fact that Sylvia is extroverted and outgoing; she will do her utmost to make people like her.  Usually she'll succeed, too.  (I'd be more likely to wait for people to make me like them.  Saves so much trouble forcing myself to like them.)  Sylvia often talks too much for her own good (which I've been guilty of at times... ahem...) and she's never at a loss for something to say.  I'm finding it rather hard to describe her, frankly-- everything I say seems to make her sound childish and attention-seeking and she's not. She just wants to be needed.  I haven't come across a picture that represents Sylvia yet, but when I do y'all will be the first to know. :)

Francie, the second child in the Rochester family, is nineteen-going-on-twenty and one of the most joie-de-vivre people you will ever meet.  Home for the summer after her second year of nursing school, she's the kind of person who will sing "Que Sera, Sera" in the shower and blithely forget to make her bed while scolding Patsy (the youngest) for not putting her dishes in the sink.  It takes a lot to upset Francie, which is a good thing, because an awful lot happens over the course of the summer that would upset a lesser person than Francie.

Mr. Gregory Rochester is the patriarch of the bunch, a dry-humored man with a calm that can last throughout a storm.  Just about anything can and will amuse him; he takes life with a good measure of salt and a tall cup of black coffee.  His children adore him, as does his niece (okay, technically she's his first-cousin-once-removed but she calls him Uncle), as do I.   And I couldn't help naming him Gregory.  At first he was to be Arnold, but the name just didn't fit properly, and after I'd cast one of my favorite actors in his role... well, the rest is history, as those people known as "they" are known to say.

How often do you intend to write in order to reach this goal by August first?

I hope to write a little every day, but I know that won't happen... I'll settle for four thousand words a week.  A nice, round number.  Whether I'll attain it or not remains to be seen.

How will you make your characters behave long enough to finish this goal?

I don't make my characters behave.  They make me behave.  It's a great honor to be writing the stories of their lives, and they never let me forget it.

Go to page 16 (or 6, 26, or 66!) of your writing project. Pick your favorite line or snippet on the page.

Heehee.  I have exactly five pages so far in this project.  Dreadful, I know.  That's why I need this July motivation to get me crackin'.  So I'll take a wee bit from page five and hope that will suffice.

“Then I suppose I’ll have to tell Frank I can’t go.”  Celia, who was (as aforementioned) not the drippy type, was also not the type to bewail her losses.  She took a pragmatic sip of milk.
“I suppose you shall,” agreed Mr. Rochester, “but if you care to pull a Bartleby the Scrivener and would prefer not to, I will be happy to perform the hated task myself.  Do you think that I might look more harsh and forbidding and properly like a stern guardian if I wore my horn-rimmed spectacles during my little chat with Frank, the hopeful suitor? I believe they’re in the attic somewhere—I can easily fish them out if you think they’ll aid me in the part.”

Tea or coffee?

Tea.  And in this kind of weather, it had better be well chilled.  Preferably with lemonade mixed in, thank you very much.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beautiful People, June {Archive} Edition: Christine Pelham

 There aren't any new Beautiful People questions for this month's edition, so I delved into the archives at Skye's blog and came up with some old questions to use for my newest heroine.  Christine Pelham is the MC of my contemporary mystery novel (not a genre I ever thought I'd write, but it's been swellissimus so far) and since I don't know too much about her yet, this was a great way to find out more.

(Special thanks to Kiri Liz of Lianne Taimenlore, who unwittingly provided me with the face I needed for Christine.  I'd never heard of Miranda Otto before I saw Kiri's profile picture, but when I saw the picture of Eowyn from LOTR on Kiri's profile last week, I knew I'd found the actress I was looking for.  Yay for character casting!  Oh, and some of these pictures are of Miranda Otto when she was in her early 30's-- Christine's actually only 20.  So, um, pretend she's younger, 'kay? Thanks.)

What kind of music does she like?

Classical and a lot of Broadway.  Songs from Les Miserables especially.  Can't imagine where she gets THAT...

Does she like to go outside?

Ye-esssss... but she's so fair-skinned, she gets sunburned really easily.  So she has to be careful.  And now that she's spending a week at the Outer Banks in preparation for her friend's wedding, she's wearing about six coats of sunblock so she won't look like a boiled lobster in a bridesmaid dress when the Big Day arrives.

Is she naturally curious?

Indubitably.  But she's also cautious.  She's the kind of girl who'll say, "No, you ask," when she wants to know something.  She doesn't leap before she looks.   When a house mysteriously burns to the ground during the Beach Week, it's Christine's best friend Laura who wants to go all Tuppence Beresford and find out what happened.  Christine's more inclined to let the police sort it out... until the police arrest the wrong person.  DUHN DUHN DUHN.

Right, or left handed?


Favorite color?

Powder blue, which is fortunate because that's the color of her bridesmaid dress.  Since her favorite color tends to change every few weeks, the powder blue thing may or may not actually be a result of the dress. :)

Where is he/she from?

You would have to ask that.  Um.  Ohio.  A little town in Ohio.  It's not important because her whole story takes place away from home anyways.

Any enemies?

Not a one.  Not a one that she knows of, that is. Christine tends to get along with people.

What are her quirks?

Her left ring finger is crooked. Is that a quirk?  Sure it is-- it's a quirk in her finger.  Most people wouldn't notice it unless they're staring at her hands, but it bothers her because she'd like to wear a diamond on that finger someday, and she's afraid it will look funny.  Also, she always unties her shoes before putting them on.  No sliding into pre-tied sneakers for Christine.

What kinds of things get on her nerves?

She can't stand it when someone scrapes their fingernails against one of those upholstered chairs they have in hotels and whatnot.  It makes a horrible sound.  She also hates it when people talk with their mouths full.

Is she independent, or needs others to help out?

Definitely needs others to help her out, but in a crisis she can be depended upon.

Wow, I love Beautiful People.  That took me less than ten minutes and now I know much more about my MC than I did ten minutes ago.  *happy sigh*

Monday, July 2, 2012

Only Some Snippets {and a giveaway...}

I'm giving away one free copy of Only a Novel this week... so if you're interested in reading the book, hop on over to Yet Another Period Drama Blog to enter the giveaway! In the meantime, I thought I'd take the opportunity to give you a little taste of what you're getting yourself into.  I know I wouldn't enter a giveaway unless I knew a bit about the book I was hoping to win, so without further ado...


“We’re memorizing all the kings of Judah in Sunday school,” Isabelle confided to Rodney as they meandered down the road. “And I know more than Jonathan already.”
“Fighting words,” said Rodney warningly, but he sounded amused. “And how many do you know?”
“Um… well, I know more than Jonathan.”
“You do not,” said Jonathan.
“I do so.”
“Well, suppose you show us,” said Rodney, and Isabelle promptly launched into a long list of names, pronouncing Solomon correctly and sadly butchering the rest.

“Miss Markette,” Mr. Rowe droned, “your grandmother desired that this check in the amount of one hundred and fifty dollars be presented to you when she…ahhhhhhhh…” He seemed to be searching for an appropriate euphemism, and stretched out his hesitation until Elizabeth feared the “ah” might snap.
“…Depaaaaarted this earth,” Mr. Rowe decided. “And she desired that I be the one to present you with the… errrrrrrrr… funds.” He poked a long, thin hand into his long, thin pocket and withdrew a paper. Peering shortsightedly at the writing, he adjusted his wire-rimmed spectacles—the only thing about him that was small and round—and nodded in a self-satisfied manner. “Aaaaaahhhhhhh, yes. Everything seems to be in order.”

“You must meet the nephew of my dear friend Mrs. Wakenshaw,” Lady Fagles boomed. “Lieutenant Scarborough is a MOST excellent young man, as Miss Bancroft can testify, can you not, Miss Bancroft? Most eligible, as well! I am afraid, Miss Bancroft, that Miss Markette will prove to be some competition for you.”
Lavinia only nodded and turned away as soon as was politely possible. She evidently was not at all interested in the most eligible Lieutenant Scarborough.

Elizabeth swallowed hard and forced herself to smile and greet the children. “Good afternoon,” she squeaked. Ugh.  Hastily, she cleared her throat and tried to look like an intelligent human being. She achieved this effect by elongating her neck and widening her eyes—but now she felt even more like an imbecile than ever and quickly rearranged her face back into its previous expression, intelligent or otherwise.

They might have sat there smiling timidly at each other all day long—an occupation that might not be the most profitable in the world—if Mercy had not wandered in.

People in books always tossed and turned in bed when they could not sleep, but Elizabeth had never found this procedure very effective. Instead, she lay rigid in her bed and stared in the general direction of the ceiling. It would have been rather difficult to stare at the ceiling itself, as she could not see it. This was because the lamp was out and if it had not been for the tiny sliver of light leaking under the door from the hall, the room would have been almost pitch dark. She wondered how dark pitch was, and what it looked like, and who had coined the simile about it. Probably Shakespeare; he had come up with practically every other idiom in the English language.

Ah, well, it can’t be helped. As I said before, I must make an effort to be charming. Of course I shouldn’t be too charming, or else he might fall desperately in love with me, and then I would be in a pickle.  
[this italicized bit comes from a letter written by Lavinia]

“What will we do?” Jonathan repeated.
“We could play checkers,” said Elizabeth, feeling inspired.
“Most of the men are missing,” said Isabelle, “and only two can play anyhow.” Elizabeth had not seen this as a problem; they could have played while she retreated with a book, but if the pieces were missing there was not much she could do about it. Her inspiration sagged.
“We could organize the bookshelves,” she hazarded.

“What sort of things do you write?”
“Adventure stories, mostly.” Mr. Pickering blushed. “I wrote a little one recently about an elephant hunt—I’ve never been on an elephant hunt, but I always thought it sounded rather intriguing.”
Elizabeth privately wondered if the poor elephant found the idea intriguing, but did not say this aloud.