Surprises on WIP Wednesday

I’m on the home straight with A Raging Madness. Ten more scenes, I think, and the mystery will unravel, but not before Alex and Ella have to decide what matters to them most.

They have several more surprises in store;  the book has been a series of them, mostly nasty. They’re almost due a nice one. Almost. Meanwhile, one of the latest incidents has provided today’s excerpt.

As always, I invite you to post an excerpt on the day’s theme in the comments. Surprises. Of any kind: exciting, unpleasant, spoken or in action. Mine is snakes.

“No thank you, Miller. I have had sufficient to drink. Indeed, you can put the rest of this into the slop bucket.” Ella handed her cup to Miller.
“But you must have your chocolate, my lady. I made it especially for you.”
Ella looked at the cup, and almost picked it up. Whether it was her irritation with the maid’s insistence or her revulsion at the thought of any more liquid, she decided against it.
“No, Miller. I thank you for making it, but I will not drink it this afternoon. In fact, please do not make it unless I ask for it.”
For a moment, she thought the maid would argue some more, but Miller pressed her lips together and turned away to take the remains of the tea into the bedroom.
“Amy, I will have my wash now, darling. And you should find your room and freshen up from your journey.”
Ella was about to follow Miller when the maid screamed.
“Your Hounslow has won my admiration, Susan,” Alex told his sister over dinner after the fuss was all over. Hounslow had joined Jonno and Alex in recapturing the snakes Miller had released when she knocked the slop bucket over in her shock at its contents.
He was now directing an inch by inch search of the room to make sure they’d not missed any of the creatures, and proposed to spread the search to the whole house to prevent further nasty surprises. After he finished supervising the dinner service to his new employers and their guests.
Adders! They were shy creatures, on the whole, slithering away from an encounter with human beings. But, as Miller discovered, they would bite if they saw no alternative, such as if they were woken from hibernation as these were, disturbed with no way out except through a person.
The maid had been put to bed, her bite washed and Miller herself dosed with elderberry wine. Apart from some pain and swelling, she had not yet evinced symptoms of severe poisoning, but adder venom was not to be trivialised. Ella had set another maid to watch Miller, with a list of symptoms of which to beware.
The whole household was on alert to regard all receptacles with caution. Hounslow, however, had taken firm charge of incipient hysteria amongst the maids, and had fostered a competition in bravery amongst the footmen, grooms, and carpenters by suggesting the maids could depend on their protection.
“But how could the snakes have got there, Uncle Alex?” Amy asked.
Alex had just finished a frustrating and unproductive hour questioning servants and carpenters about who had been into the room, or seen carry the bucket or a bag that could have contained snakes. “I don’t yet know, Amy, but I intend to find out. Meanwhile, Jonno has gone into the village to see if he can find anyone who has recently uncovered a nest of the pests, and to borrow a couple of dogs to help search the house.”


Antagonists on WIP Wednesday

maxresdefaultI do enjoy writing a good villain. Not all of my books have one. Sometimes, the only obstacles to the hero and heroine come from within, or from their life circumstances. Overcoming those can be hard and the journey can be satisfying, but for a true hiss-boo moment, with rotten tomatoes flying from the audience and ladies fainting in the gallery, we need a moustache-twirling, hand-rubbing, snickering,  wicked villain.

So what does your WIP hold? Is your antagonistic force a person, and is that person a villain? Share an excerpt that shows him or her in all their dreadful glory! (And if you don’t have a villain, share your antagonist anyway.)

Here are two of my villains, from A Raging Madness. Ella is escaping from the window of her bed chamber, and stops at the bottom of the climb for a rest.

Inside, a very long way away on the other side of the gentle fog that embraced her, two people were talking. Constance and Edwin. It did not matter. They were silly people, anyway. Gervais had not admired his older half-brother; a matter in which he and Ella were in rare accord. The two men shared a mother, but little of that kind, gentle woman showed in either son: the one a bullying, often violent rake; the other a sanctimonious Puritan—but another bully for all that. Not as much so as his wife.

The bully was bullied. Ella suppressed her giggle. Sssshhh. Mustn’t make a sound. She was running away. Soon. First she would have a little sleep.

But as she closed her eyes, her own name caught her attention. Constance and Edwin were talking about her? She forced herself to concentrate, to listen.

“No, Mrs Braxton. Ella will not convince them she is sane. I have chosen with care, I tell you. I visited six asylums before this one, and this is perfect for our purposes. The doctor in charge has promised to keep her dosed, and even if he does not, the place itself will drive her insane. If you saw it, heard the noise… Yes, my dear, I can assure you, our plans are sound.”

Constance answered, the whine in her voice grating against Ella’s eardrums. “But what if you are wrong, Edwin? If she convinces someone in authority that she is sane, prison will be the least…”

“No, my dove. Not at all. No one at the asylum will listen to her ravings, and if they did, what of it? Who will they tell? Even in the worse case, all we need do is say her mind was turned after mother’s death, and how glad we are that she is well again.”

“I do not know.” The frown was heavy in Constance’s voice. “But we cannot keep her here. I trust Kingsford, but the other servants may start to murmur. It will drive her insane, you say?”

“It will. I guarantee it. I hesitate to mention it, Mrs Braxton, it not being a topic for a lady’s delicate ears…”

“Spit it out, Edwin. What?”

“My own treasure, I am given to understand that the attendants avail themselves of the, er, charms of the patients, and even do a, er, trade with the nearby town. Not, of course, with the approval of the medical staff. No, of course. That would be most unprofessional. But it is most enterprising of them, and serves our purposes rather well, dear sister being a comely woman.”

Ella puzzled this out. Surely Edwin did not mean that the attendants forced the women, and prostituted them?

“Ah. Very good,” Constance said. “The woman is horribly resilient. Any decent gentlewoman would have succumbed to madness long since with all your brother put her through, and what has happened since. But surely even she is not coarse enough to withstand multiple rapes.”

“The doctor will be here tomorrow,” Edwin said, with enormous satisfaction. “And she will be safely tucked away where she can do no harm.”

Their voices faded as they moved away, clearly leaving the room since the window went dark.