Descriptions in WIP Wednesday

One of my beta readers on my contemporary novella pointed out that I described two secondary characters, but not the hero and heroine. Which was true. In fact, sometimes I barely describe my characters at all, though I almost always work from photographs and paintings so that I can see the person in my mind’s eye as I watch them act the dramas I document.

How about you? Do you see your characters? Do you describe them, and if so, is it eye of God or in another character’s viewpoint or the old ‘in a mirror’ trick?

This week, please share a description of someone in your work in progress. My excerpt describes, Ottilie, the heroine of Forged in Fire, which will appear in the box set for the Bluestocking Belles. We announce the title and reveal the cover this coming weekend.

She wasn’t as meek as she pretended. He’d seen the steel in her, the fire in those pretty hazel eyes.

The word ‘pretty’ put a check in his stride, but it was true. She had lovely eyes. Not a pretty face, precisely. Her cheeks were too thin, her jaw too square, her nose too straight for merely ‘pretty’. But in her own way, she was magnificent. She was not as comfortably curved or as young as the females he used to chase when he was a wild youth, the sort he always thought he preferred. Not as gaudy as them, with their bright dresses and their brighter face paint. But considerably less drab than he had thought at first sight. She was a little brown hen that showed to disadvantage beside the showier feathers of the parrot, but whose feathers were a subtle symphony of shades and patterns. Besides, parrots, in his experience, were selfish, demanding creatures.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Time, a tavern, and a marmalade cat

The Final Draft Tavern was, said the Marquis of Aldridge, a considerably more reputable place than it had been just before the turn of the century, when he came down from Oxford during his holidays and caroused there with his student friends.

Nonetheless, he insisted that his mother wait in the carriage while he and Jonathan, shadowed by two of the larger Haverford footmen, checked that the tavern held no dangers and nothing unsavoury.

Foolish boys, but the duchess would allow them their precautions as long as she had her way in the end.

She was here in Paternoster Row to meet the Marchand family, proprietors of a tavern of some kind since shortly after their ancestors crossed the English Channel in the army of William the Conqueror. As did her own, though they sat, Eleanor thought, considerably further up the would-be-king’s table, on the noble side of the salt.

Still, heritage was heritage, and there was something to be said for a family property that stayed with the same line for eight hundred years, even if it was a tavern.

The tavern and the Marchands were not the attraction, however. But Aldridge had warned that the tavern cat might not be present. A cat, after all, cannot be commanded, and this cat, more than most, was an uncanny beast.

Aldridge reported the all clear, and Eleanor entered the tavern on his arm, her younger son alert at her heels and a phalanx of stout footmen before and behind.

“It has always been a place that welcomes dissenters and independent thinkers, Mama,” Aldridge murmured, “as long as their coin was good. But the meeting rooms and private parlours are empty this early in the day.”

The public bar was fast emptying, too, the early drinkers sliding out the door as unobtrusively as possible so as not to catch the eye of the ducal party. Eleanor must be sure to leave a suitable purse to recompense the owners for any loss.

Aldridge led his mother to the young woman waiting by the fire place. She was pretty in a buxom kind of a way: brown hair neatly tucked into a cap trimmed with a discrete edge of lace, a gown in green worsted, long-sleeved and buttoning to the neck, and a crisp white apron she was twisting in nervous hands that belied her calm face.

“Your Grace,” Aldridge said, “may I present Mistress Marchand?” Mistress Marchand sank into a deep curtsey. A wife? Or a daughter of the house? Aldridge continued before she could ask. “Mistress Marchand is the eldest daughter of the proprietor, duchess, married to a third cousin and mother of a lovely little girl. She is also the designated– er– carer of the cat.”

“Please rise, my dear,” Eleanor suggested. “Shall we sit down?” The chairs by the fire place looked a little scruffy, but clean enough. Eleanor sat, and the young woman, after a hesitant glance at Aldridge, followed suit. “It is the cat I wished to see, Mistress Marchand. Is he within the premises at present?”

“Whiskey comes and goes as he wishes, my l– Ma’am. I went looking for him when Lord Aldridge said you wanted to meet him, but he wasn’t in any of his usual places, and he didn’t come when I called.”

Eleanor must have looked disappointed, because Mistress Marchand added, “I am sorry, Ma’am.”

“Is it true that a cat called Whiskey has always lived in the Final Draft tavern?” Eleanor asked. “A marmalade cat?”

“So family legends say, Ma’am.”

“I have heard that the legends go further, and say it has been the same cat, for eight hundred years,” Eleanor added.

Mistress Marchand looked reproachfully at Aldridge, who said, “I didn’t tell her that, Molly.”

Eleanor looking between the two, wondered just how old Molly had been when Aldridge came here as a student. He had said the attraction was the beer and the egalitarian conversations with a street’s worth of printers and the like, but there was something between the two of them that spoke of more than mere acquaintance.

The tension was broken when a large ginger cat strolled nonchalantly out from under a table. “Where did he come from,” Jonathan exclaimed. “I looked there!”

“Whiskey, come and meet the duchess,” said Molly. The cat sat in its tracks and bent to lick its own stomach, then, with an air of conferring a great favour, sauntered to the chair where Eleanor sat, and sniffed at the hand she offered.

“Hello, Master Whiskey,” she said, and made an attempt to pat the animal, but it ducked so that her hand did not connect, and slid out from under, moving several feet away before turning back to regard her with a lordly disdain.

“You have been found wanting, Mama,” Lord Jonathan said, and tried to scoop the cat up, but it evaded his clutch, and when Aldridge joined the chase, it disappeared back under the table.

Both men, and several of the footmen, bent to look. But the cat was gone.

“I am that sorry, Your Grace.” Molly was blushing. “Whiskey is… Well, I don’t know what to say.”

“You warned me, Mistress Marchand,” Eleanor pointed out. “Whiskey comes and goes as he pleases. Shall we have a cup of tea and wait to see if he will grace us with his presence once again?”

****

The Final Draft Tavern, formerly the Final Draught Tavern until Paternoster Row was given over to booksellers whose proprietors and patrons rebaptised it, features in the novellas of the holiday box set that the Speakeasy Scribes are producing for this holiday season.

Watch for stories set at different times, in different moods, in both London and (after the Marchands move to the New World) Boston, and linked in some cases to the other work of the author responsible. Mine is a stand-alone, though; a post-apocalypse story called A Midwinter’s Tale. My heroine is almost the last of the Marchands, though she might also be an ancestress of the charming Molly.

Cover, title, and pre-order links to come.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

The dangerous pen

David Skinner’s ‘Terry Pratchett Tribute Graffiti’, installed at Code Street, near Brick Lane, London

I write, at least in part, as a way to explore ideas and feelings that are bothering me. Once, being bothered, unhappy, sick or grieved would send me into books written by other people. Today, in a world riven by strife and fear, at whom and abroad, I am just as likely to transmute those feelings into a world I create myself.

When I write, I see things more clearly. I can also rewrite reality to give me a better result, which can be easing to the soul. I do like happy endings.

Which is all by way of introducing a book I’ve been reading. I have been a fan of Sir Terry Pratchett’s since Strata, one of his first books. I have just been reading Raising Postal, his second to last Discworld novel.

On one level, it is the story of the coming of the railway to Discworld. On another, it continues Pratchett’s burning indictment of the stupidity of prejudice based on racism, sexism, or any other ism. And it eviscerates the mindset behind terrorism that results from such prejudice.

Here’s a typical footnote:

Scouting for trolls, dwarfs and humans was brought in shortly after the Koom Valley Accord had been signed, on the suggestion of Lord Vetinari, to allow the young of the three dominant species to meet and hopefully get along together. Naturally the young of all species, when thrown together, instead of turning against one another would join forces against the real enemy, that is to say their parents, teachers and miscellaneous authority which was so old-fashioned. And up to a point, and amazingly, it had worked and that was Ankh-Morpork, wasn’t it? Mostly, nobody cared what shape you were, although they might be very interested in how much money you had.

And here are the terrorists, recruiting:

‘Nobody has to be hurt,’ they said, and it may have been too that people would murmur, ‘After all, it’s in his own interests,’ and there were other little giveaways such as ‘It’s time for fresh blood,’ and such things as ‘We must preserve our most hallowed ordinances,’ and if you were susceptible to atmospheres, you could see that dwarfs, perfectly sensible dwarfs, dwarfs who would consider themselves dwarfs of repute and fair dealing, were nevertheless slowly betraying allegiances they had formerly undertaken with great solemnity, because the hive was buzzing and they didn’t want to be the ones that got stung. The watchwords were ‘restoring order’ and ‘going back to the basics of true dwarfishness’.

To kill innocents in the name of politics is very warped. To kill innocents in the name of God is, in my view, both warped and risky, as Pratchett points out in this brief passage:

… and in the gloom the locomotive spat live steam, instantly filling the air with a pink fog . . . The dwarf waited, unable to move, and a sombre voice said, PLEASE DO NOT PANIC. YOU ARE MERELY DEAD. The vandal stared at the skeletal figure, managed to get himself in order and said to Death, ‘Oh . . . I don’t regret it, you know. I was doing the work of Tak, who will now welcome me into paradise with open arms!’ For a person who didn’t have a larynx Death made a good try at clearing his throat. WELL, YOU CAN HOPE, BUT CONSIDERING WHAT YOU INTENDED, IF I WERE YOU I WOULD START HOPING HARDER RIGHT NOW AND, PERHAPS, VERY QUICKLY INDEED. Death continued, in tones as dry as granite, TAK MIGHT INDEED BE GENTLE. STRIVE AS YOU HAVE NEVER STRIVEN. YES, TAK MIGHT BE GENTLE, OR . . . The vandal listened to the sound of silence, the sound like a bell with, alas, no clapper, but finally the dreadful silence ended in . . . NOT. [Tak being the deity of the dwarves]

Pratchett’s great genius was in making us laugh while making us think. Rest in peace, Sir Terry.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Inheritance for illegitimate sons

The Rightful Heir, by George Smith

Today’s Footnotes on Friday post is by Regina Jeffers. Welcome, Regina, and congratulations on the new book.

Could an illegitimate son inherit during the Regency? Or should we say could the illegitimate son inherit his father’s property, and not necessarily his peerage/title? First one must realize that there is actually a rule against perpetuity (which is a restriction saying the estate cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor for a period beyond certain limits fixed by law) which addresses an entail lasting more than the three lives (generally the grandfather who is the holder of the entailed property, his first born son, and his first born grandson) plus twenty-one years. Keep in mind that an entail can be renewed when the original owner’s son (meaning the first-born son), as described above, becomes the grandfather, the original grandson becomes the father, and there is a new grandson.

The rule against perpetuities

The common rule against perpetuities forbids instruments (contracts, wills, and so forth) from tying up property for too long a time beyond the lives of people living at the time the instrument was written. For instance, willing property to one’s great-great-great-great grandchildren (to be held in trust for them, but not fully owned, by the intervening generations) would normally violate the rule against perpetuities. The law is applied differently or not at all, and even contravened, in various jurisdictions and circumstances. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule against perpetuities as “[t]he common-law rule prohibiting a grant of an estate unless the interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years (plus a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth) after the death of some person alive when the interest was created.” At common law, the length of time was fixed at 21 years after the death of an identifiable person alive at the time the interest was created. This is often expressed as “lives in being plus twenty-one years.” (Wells Law Blog http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/05/remember-the-rule-against-perpetuities/)

Property and peerages followed different rules

Another point to keep in mind is that property and peerages followed different rules of inheritance, so customarily matters were set up so that the family seat went along with the title.

Property was disposed of through deeds, marriage settlements, and wills. Trusts were established to hold property for the benefit of the real owners. The rules of descent and distribution of these trusts could be set up any way one wanted-—within reason, of course. If property was disposed of by a settlement that was in force for the three lives in being + 21 years (as described above), at the end of that time it would need to be resettled by creating a new entail. That is what many did. If the property was not resettled, or dealt with in a will, it descended through PROPERTY LAWS, not by LAWS GOVERNING PEERAGES. As long as the  property went from father to son or from grandfather to grandson along with the title, all was well. However, if there suddenly was no male heir in the direct line, other provisions were established for disposing of the property. The title might go to a cousin twice removed, but the property could even go to a daughter or the offspring of a daughter. [If there was no male heir, i.e., Mr. Collins, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s property could have been left to his daughters or the eldest son of one of the Bennet sisters. Interesting idea…]

Male heirs were preferred only because males, especially of the gentleman class, did not want the property to go to another family. Though daughters have as much family blood as a son, when a daughter married (at least, by law up until the 1870’s) her property came under the control of her husband. Her son would belong to a different family then.

The laws of descent and distribution and inheritance of real estate are complex. It should be remembered that property and peerage have different rules of descent. The family seat can be separated from the title. Property cannot be extinct, though titles could be. Property was rarely forfeited to the Crown due to lack of heirs. Usually it was due to a criminal action.

Illegitimate sons who inherited

For example, Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, died without legitimate issue. In 1871, his illegitimate son, Richard Wallace, inherited all his father’s unentailed estates and an extensive collection of European art, while the title and a country estate passed to a distant cousin. Later, Wallace was made a baronet [not part of Hertford’s titles] for his services during the siege of Paris, when he equipped several ambulances (using his own funds), founded the Hertford British Hospital, and spent lavish sums to bring relief to those afflicted by the clash.

Another example of the illegitimate son inheriting comes to us from Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, who was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Wyndham and Catherine Seymour, daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. He succeeded to the Orchard Wyndham estates as 4th baronet on his father’s death in 1740, and in 1750, he succeeded by special remainder as 7th Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Egremont and received his share of the Seymour inheritance, the former Percy estates, including Egremont Castle in Cumbria, Leconfield Castle in Yorkshire, and the palatial Petworth House in Sussex. Charles’ son George, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, inherited in 1763, but after the 3rd earl’s death in 1837, his son inherited all but the title due to illegitimacy. How so, you may ask?

George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont was the son of William Frederick Wyndham (youngest son of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont and Frances Mary Hartford, the illegitimate daughter of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore. George’s father’s eldest brother, George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House, Sussex, died without legitimate male issue and so George Francis Wyndham as the male heir succeeded him as Earl of Egremont, as well as Baron Wyndham and Baron Cockermouth. Unfortunately, George Francis Wyndham did not inherit the Petworth estate or mansion, which was inherited by the 2nd Earl Egremont from the Percy family). Instead, the 3rd Earl of Egremont bequeathed that property to his natural son, Colonel George Wyndham, who was created Baron Leconfield in 1859.

Royalty often bestowed titles upon their illegitimate children. King William IV, for example, presented his illegitimate son, George Augustus Frederick FitzClarence with the title(s) 1st Earl of Munster, 1st Viscount FitzClarence, and 1st Baron Tewkesbury on 4 June 1831.

For a more modern take on the law of perpetuities, check out this piece from CBS News, dated 9 May 2011. “Millionaire’s Heirs Get Inheritance After 92 Years.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millionaires-heirs-get-inheritance-after-92-years/

The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy (releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books)

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

Preorder on Amazon

Excerpt:

Howard’s expression became more serious. “In the beginning, I enjoyed the novelty of the situation. When we called in at the clubs, everyone thought Troutman was you. I knew a few meals would not break your credit, and so Frederick and I considered it amusing. But soon I heard rumors of your accepting invitations to some of the ton’s finest events. I am profoundly grieved, Remmington, that my lack of forethought encouraged Troutman’s deception.”

“So this Troutman fellow learned of my directions and my habits from you?”

“I fear so,” Howard admitted. “I beg you to extend your forgiveness.”

“When we finish our conversation,” Rem instructed, “I will expect you to repeat your story to Sir Alexander.”

Howard nodded his agreement. Rem had not offered his forgiveness, but eventually he would. He learned long ago to keep Howard on a short rope.

“How long did you remain Troutman’s associate?”

“No more than a fortnight,” Howard confided. “I enjoyed his company at first, but over the first sennight his interrogation regarding your comings and goings began to wear thin. In the midst of our second week of acquaintance, Troutman said something that set my hackles on alert.”

“And that was?” Rem asked suspiciously.

A vaguely disturbing smile crossed his cousin’s features. “One day in the midst of a conversation as we reviewed new quarters for my residence, Troutman said if he were the earl, then he would see that I did not go without, and that is was a grave oversight on your part that I was to know less than I deserved. I attempted to explain how my fortune came from a yearly allowance from my revered father, and I was not your dependent, but Troutman was adamant that I was your responsibility.

“Then he said it would serve you right to lose the earldom to a stranger with ties to the title. I explained that, with my father’s poor health, many saw me as your heir presumptive for even if father first succeeded, I would soon follow. I also explained that if another had a right to claim the earldom that it would not lessen your position in Society. Parliament accepted you as Remmington, and even if another proved to be the earl, the fortune and the unentailed lands would remain with you. The claimant would have Tegen Castle and Davids Hall and little else. From what could be salvaged from those properties, your mother retains her widow’s dower.”

Rem wondered if his pretender had aspirations of unseating him as the earl. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

“Yes,” Howard said as he set his glass upon a nearby table. “The remark that caused me to curtail my association with him was when Troutman asked if I thought you were the father of Lady Kavanagh’s daughter.”

Rem lifted his brows in surprise. He wondered who spoke so intimately to Troutman of Rem’s business.

Howard continued as if Rem had not reacted to the remark. “Certainly it is possible that Troutman overheard those awful rumors, but as many in Society thought Troutman were you, I cannot imagine any fool would speak so freely to your face.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Meet Regina Jeffers

With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for 40 years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter.

Every Woman Dreams: https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com

Website: http://www.rjeffers.com

Austen Authors: http://austenauthors.net

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Regina-Jeffers-Author-Page-141407102548455/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reginajeffers

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Regina-Jeffers/e/B008G0UI0I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479079637&sr=8-1

Also on Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook copies of The Earl Claims His Comfort available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, September 19.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Chapter hooks on WIP Wednesday

McRae’s hotel after the eruption my hero and heroine are hiding from in the following scene.

I’ve evolved the tactic of not putting in chapter breaks in first draft. I just tell the story, and then I use the initial edit to reshape it, putting in breaks, baiting hooks at the end of chapters, and setting hooks at the beginning of the next.

I’ve spent a couple of hours today doing just that with a novella, so I thought chapter hooks might be quite fun. Please give me an excerpt from the start or end of a chapter, in which you intrigue your readers and pull them in. Mine is from Forged in Fire, my story for the Belle’s 2017 box set.

And the uncle and aunt abandoned her, ruined by their daughter’s lies and a conscienceless scoundrel, bereaved, poverty stricken. “I have been content, on the whole.” Tad was moved beyond words, her gracious acceptance casting sharp relief on his anger at the players in his own tragedy. And his break with his family had given him freedom, not enslavement to the whims of a cantankerous widow.

He rubbed his cheek gently on the soft hair that tickled his chin. She was wrong about her appeal. She might not have the kind of spectacular beauty that attracted fawning courtiers, but she was pretty. If she was his, he would dress her in colours that better became her. Green, perhaps, to bring out the green flecks in her eyes.

But she could not be his. So foolish to even think of it, when he was leaving New Zealand, heading back to the very Society that had wronged her fifteen years ago. He had no right to be holding her tenderly, caressing her, thinking about kissing her and more. He was no wild boy to act on this inconvenient attraction, this protective tenderness. But he didn’t let her go.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Janet

Three young women, linked by marriage and scandal, awaited the duchess today.

The Countess of Chestlewick had intrigued Society less than a year ago, making her appearance as a young, impoverished, and extremely beautiful widow. The much older Earl of Chestlewick had been, as far as Eleanor understood the matter, one of the few to offer her a permanent arrangement of the legal kind. Many had more illicit relationships in mind.

Gossip suggested she had chosen Chestlewick for his wealth, but Eleanor had seen them together. Yes, the earl doted on his young wife, but equally the wife looked up to and admired her husband. It was, in short, a love match, and Eleanor was confident that the robust baby the joined the household only a few months after the marriage was, in fact, the true son of the earl who claimed him.

With her was her daughter-in-law, Countess Medford. Now there was a story. The Earl of Medford had returned from a hunting trip in the Scottish Highlands with an aching heart, after a lass who nursed him through sickness disappeared without a trace. Medford’s lack of interest in his former rakish pursuits, his dogged devotion to finding his lost love, and his mournful demeanour won him the nickname ‘the Cursed Earl’.

Imagine Society’s delighted horror when the missing girl proved to be none other that the Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter by a former marriage. Lady Jane Amhurst, as she was known here in England, arrived from the Highlands with a pair of Scottish servants, a small daughter, and no husband. As Mrs Pellingham, the third guest this morning, gleefully explained to anyone who would listen.

But it turned out that the pair had married in the Highlands, and their blissful reunion was rather more than a nine-days wonder, especially when a chastened Mrs Pellingham made her first appearance with her wronged sister-in-law.

The gossip had not died down, of course, but Eleanor would see what she could do to help ease at least the way of the Countess of Medford, and the others, too, if they seemed deserving.

My Lost Highland Lass is a story in my new book of lunch-length reads, Lost in the Tale.

Other Monday for Tea posts about stories in the book are:

Tea with Mrs Markinson (The Lost Wife)

Tea with Callie (Magnus and the Christmas Angel)

Tea with Morag and Caitlin (The Lost Treasure of Lorne)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

So many plots, so little time

My latest set of short stories has hit the New Release Bestseller lists on Amazon UK and Amazon US, and my newsletter short story was opened by more than 200 people. I enjoy the short story format. Two main characters, one tight plot arc, and a gallop to a happy ever after you can enjoy over a lunch break, with a cup of coffee in one hand and the ebook reader of your choice in the other.

Could some of those stories be novels, as some readers have suggested? Yes, of course. Mostly, I manage to keep the word count tight by hinting at backstory, any part of which could be shown on the page.

But… if I write the books that occur to me as I go along, what will happen to the 45 or so plots I created before I wrote my first historical fiction novel?

I need to buckle down and write novels. At the moment, I’m still working in my day job 72 hours a fortnight, and writing in my spare time. I’m managing just under two novels a year. In due course (sooner if I suddenly start to sell lots more books), I’ll leave the day job, and make fiction writing my full-time work. Then, I reckon, I should be able to write at least four novels a year. Maybe five.

Here are the ones I have in the pipeline. Novels only. Short stories and novellas arrive like manna from heaven and get squeezed into the gaps. (The numbers are the order I’ve published.)

Standalone: not part of a series

2. A Baron for Becky (published)

A Monstrous Masquerade The tentative working name for the book about what Jonathan Grenford was up to between the end of Concealed in Shadow and the last quarter of The Bluestocking and the Barbarian (you may recall he was fetched from overseas during his mother’s house party.

The Golden Redepennings

1. Farewell to Kindness (published)

4. A Raging Madness (published)

5. The Realm of Silence (in progress)

Unkept Promises

The Flavour of Their Deeds

An Unpitied Sacrifice

Children of Wrath

The Children of the Mountain King

6. The Bluestocking and the Barbarian (being rewritten into a novel)

The Healer and the Hermit

The Rake and the Reformer (or The Saint and the Sinner)

The Diamond and the Doctor

The Lamb and the Lion

The Maid and the Mercenary

Danwood’s Daughters

Lord Danwood’s Dilemma

Lady Henry’s Choice

Charity Begins at Home

Smuggler’s Coast

Deborah and Destiny

And three others that don’t have titles yet

Lion’s Pride

(seven novel plots, no titles yet) — returned soldiers, all linked because they worked in a loosely connected group as Exploring Officers for Wellington

Series about three sisters

And also about the villain from the first three books — no series title yet

Lady Charlie Charms the Marquess

Lady Freddie Fascinates the Reverend

Lady Ernie Engages the Soldier

Miss Henwood Dices with Death

A Game of Mist and Shadows

(historical suspense with spies and thief takers)

3. Revealed in Mist (published)

7. Concealed in Shadow (work in progress)

Veiled in Darkness

The Wages of Virtue

3. (Revealed in Mist — Prue’s story belongs in both series)

Practising Charity

Finding Faith

Delivering Hope

And more…

Then there are the other three series that are no more than ideas on a piece of paper.

  • A half-formed idea about a series of eight novels under a series title The Curse of the Three: three linked families whose enmity dates from generations back and who each have a clue to a treasure.
  • Four West-Indies related stories in a series, one linked to Farewell to Kindness.
  • Four reverse fairy-story ideas.

Right. Better get on with it then.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Fool Me Twice

Last week, we talked about get-rich-quick schemes. In some ways, the next category of fraud is much worse. Persuasion tricks use a person’s deepest desires to draw them in and fleece them of their money.

The Victorian era is infamous for persuasion tricks that involved seances or other promises to contact the dead. But frauds of this type have been known throughout history, and are as common today as they ever were.

The scheme is simple, in essence. The con artist claims psychic powers, a special ability to see those who have ‘passed over to the other side’. Someone who has suffered a bereavement is told that their dearly departed is anxious to communicate.And communication is lubricated by money.

Fortune-telling powers are a broader category of the same type.

Fortune-tellers and mediums use a technique called ‘cold reading’ to gain the trust of their victims. A practiced cold-reader uses anything they can observe about the victim’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, and so on to come up with some guesses that are highly likely to be true.

“He is asking me about ‘John’. Does anyone know John?” Does anyone not know someone called John?

The cold-reader quickly picks up on signals about whether the guesses are moving in the right direction, moving on from failed guesses and reinforcing those that the victims acknowledges.

Fraudsters also use hot reading (that is, they research their victim beforehand) and warm reading (which employs statements that apply to most people, called Barnum statements after the famous showman who began the Barnum circus shows.

“I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”

“You have a box of old unsorted photographs in your house.”

“You had an accident when you were a child involving water.”

“You’re having problems with a friend or relative.”

“Your father passed on due to problems in his chest or abdomen.”

“You are wearing a piece of jewellery that you associate with someone important to you who has died.” (Almost always true of a widow. Wedding ring, anyone?)

In one case in the Old Bailey records, the defrauded woman was missing her mother when she was introduced to one Mr Fletcher, who introduced himself as a magnetic doctor. In Mrs Hart-Davies’ evidence, she describes each meeting, and we see her being sucked further and further into faith in this man.

he found me with tears coming down my face, with joy at having, as I supposed, met my mother again… I paid him for his visit; I paid after his four visits… it was about five guineas.

She goes on to explain that, at many of the meetings that followed, she and the Fletchers talked about her jewellery, which she showed to them during one of their visits, and sure enough, in due course of time, the deceased mother sent a message through Mr Fletcher to explain that the jewellery interfered with ‘the magnetism’, a problem she could correct by presenting the jewels to the Fletchers.

I collected my jewels together in a bag, thinking I should be disobedient to my mother if I did not hand them over…my mother, through him, handled the jewellery in Fletcher’s hands, saying, “Oh what happy memories these bring me!”

In vain, the Fletchers pleaded that their psychic gifts were real, and they were merely carrying out the instructions of the spirit world. They were found guilty.

Romantic scams are a persuasion trick much beloved by historical romance writers. The lovely young woman or the handsome young man pursues the innocent peer’s offspring, manages to elicit an agreement to marry, and then accepts money from the guardian to go away.

This edges into blackmail, such as the case of Florence Vining and the Marquis of Worcester. Lord Worcester, some thirty-one years before the case in question, had an acknowledged fling with Miss Vining.

I made the acquaintance of the prisoner … at a place of entertainment… I visited her from time to time… In the year 1869, I agreed to pay her 250 pound if she ceased to annoy me.

But she didn’t. He last saw her in 1874, but over many years he continued to receive begging letters, until they took a turn for the nasty during Lady Worcestor’s confinement.

I will, when you least expect me, tear the gown from your wife’s back, and will curse your child. God knows you have given me much provocation… You shall bitterly repent it. I ask you for 20 pound to leave London. Send it.”

He gave her money to go to Scotland, but the letters continued to come and the marquis had had enough. He began court proceedings.

The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ hard labour, which seems quite light for 1898. Did the court note, as I did, that she was a mere sixteen years of age at the beginning of what Worcester acknowledged to be a seven year relationship? Certainly, the proceedings acknowledged that she seemed to genuinely believe she had been hard done by.

More to come. We’ve barely touched on extortion, and we haven’t talked about gold-brick scams at all.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Family occasions on WIP Wednesday

I like stories where you get the sense you’ve moved into the middle of an existing life. All the ordinary things might be carrying on, or some big crisis might have shifted our hero and heroine out of their usual preoccupations, but somewhere in the background is normal.

Part of normal life are the things we do regularly with our friends and family. Sunday dinner. Tuesday chess night. Thanksgiving. We do something once, enjoy it, do it again, and before we quite mean it, it has become a habit, or even a tradition.

And such interactions enrich fiction. Four old school friends always meet in London on the first day of March. Mama kisses her children, and later her grandchildren, and always says ‘Love you forever’.  Two cousins, separated by years and distance, go to their old fishing hole to become reacquainted. The echoes through time add depth.

In this week’s WIP Wednesday, pick any type of repeated interaction you like: a joke, an activity, an event, a ceremony, a habit. Post it in the comments, as usual, and I’ll post mine below.

It’s from my new contemporary novella for Author’s on Main Street, A Family for Christmas. My heroine hasn’t seen her husband since their wedding day, eight and a half months ago.  She has been out with her in-laws, cutting and bringing home a Christmas tree from the farm’s hilltop.

After a cup of tea back at the house, they wrestled the Christmas tree into a bucket of damp sand, sitting ready in the corner of the big sitting room. Cheryl shifted the bucket a half circle and then back a quarter until Lee and Old Trev agreed that the young pine looked even on all sides. It was full and bushy, with branches arching upwards and one grand leader almost scraping the plaster ceiling ten foot above the floor.

“You young ones finish it off,” Old Trev commanded. “I’m going to take a bit of a sit down.”

He wandered off to the screened end of the verandah, where a comfortable recliner chair waited. Not to sleep, he would have told them, but to check out the back of his eyelids, as he did every afternoon.

Cheryl fetched a short wooden stepladder, and Lee carried over the first of the boxes of decorations. They all had stories, Cheryl told her, and each member of the family added at least one new one a year. Old Trev whittled his. He carved one a year, delicate wooden snowflakes all in different woods, oiled and waxed till they shone.

Lee and Cheryl had purchased one each in Palmy at Lee’s most recent antenatal scan. Cheryl’s was a Santa on water skis, and Lee found a medallion of a Madonna and Child. She had bought the matching St Joseph to put up for Trevor, so he’d have a part of the tradition even if he wasn’t home in time, then hidden it for fear Cheryl would think Lee was putting herself, Trevor, and the baby into the centre of the Christmas story.

They were certainly no Holy Family, though Lee had been roped into the pageant planned for the Christmas Fair. Just a small part; being led across the stage on a donkey. With Cheryl’s acceptance, the whole community had embraced her as one of their own. Not like when she first arrived.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Mrs Markinson

Villages could be cruel places for an outsider, and the new solicitor’s wife was certainly an outsider.  Mr Markinson himself had been quickly accepted by the men, and their wives and sisters were rapidly won over by  his grave courtesy and the military bearing left by years in the British Marines. Indeed, had he been less personable, they may have more quickly forgiven the foreignness of his lady.

Rank and foreigness were the two problems in a nutshell, and today the duchess intended to solve them both. The rumours had it she was an army-lightskirt, or one of the wild girls who followed the Spanish guerrillas and slit the throats of wounded Frenchmen. The rumours lied. Mrs Markinson was some sort of Spanish nobility, and the Spanish nobility was even more complicated and heirarchical than the English. The women of the sizeable village that nestled around the feet of Haverford Castle were unable to assign her a place, and so counted her very obvious quality as an affectation and a lie.

At the rectory, most of the committee for the Spring fete had already arrived, but not Mrs Markinson. Excellent. If the woman following instructions, Eleanor had precisely fifteen minutes before introducing her as the newest committee member. Plenty of time for the ridiculous courtesies the village ladies thought suitable for the mistress of the castle.

Eleanor swept into the room, this month’s companion-secretary in her wake, and sure enough, within ten minutes, had the committee seated and ready for her next move. “I have asked the new solicitor’s wife to join us, my dears, and I expect her shortly. Before she arrives, may I solicit your kindness for Mrs Markinson?” She paused, her brows delicately raised, looking around at the startled faces of these leaders of local society. The mayor’s wife was trying to smooth out a frown, and the squire’s wife was near biting her tongue lest she say something to offend the duchess.

The village haberdasher, who was the biggest gossip in all of Eastern Kent,  opened her mouth, and the rector’s wife (God bless her) was swift to ask her, sotto-voiced,  if she needed more tea.

“I trust I may expect you to keep my confidence,” the duchess continued, silencing any further attemp at interruption. “I believe it may help us to make Mrs Markinson welcome if you know a little of her history, and of her connections with my family. She grew up in England. Her father was the younger son of an English gentleman, and her mother the daughter and widow of Spanish lords, equivalent perhaps, to what we would call a baronet.”

The ladies were nodding. The daughter of a baronet and a country gentleman. Mrs Markinson was assuming a shape they could understand. “After first her father and then her mother died, she returned to Spain to keep house for her half-brother, child of her mother’s first marriage.”

“The baronet,” the squire’s wife said, nodding to show she was following the story.

Eleanor inclined her head in agreement. “Don Imanol Mendina de la Vega, who by chance was at Eton with my son Aldridge.”

That fetched a buzz. Mention of Aldridge always provoked comment. “When the war came to Spain, Don de la Vega led a force into the mountains to support the English and oppose the French, and his sister continued to manage his household, but also to keep a village school. She also learned simples from her mother and her English grandmother, so naturally she used her knowledge to treat the wounded. And one day, a badly injured English marine was carried up the mountain to her village for her care.”

“Mr Markinson,” the ladies chorused, their soft smiles displaying their enjoyment of the romantic tale.

“You have guessed it. And the rest must be quickly told, for I see Mrs Markinson at the garden gate. It was, of course, Don de la Vega, who recommended his sister’s new husband to my son, and for love of her husband, she has followed him to Kent, leaving behind both her Spanish people and her childhood town far to the north in Lancashire.”

Eleanor stood as Mrs Markinson entered the room, and crossed to take her hand, as the rest of the village ladies rustled to their feet around her. “Mrs Markinson, I am so pleased you were able to join us. You see before you the committee for the Spring fete. I always say the best way for someone to feel at home in a new community is to be given a job to do, and you have come to the right place.”

Seated again a few minutes later, Eleanor watched with delight as the village ladies tumbled verbally over one another in their anxiety to please the duchess’s new protegee, and Mrs Markinson gave agreeable replies in her softly-accented English.  The duchess had given the barest outlines of the story, of course. Nothing of the decade of separation that split the Markinson’s wedding from their marriage. But the rest was Teri Markinson’s to tell.

The Lost Wife is a story in Lost in the Tale, to be published this week.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss