Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Duel of Wits

I found that I had a few moments of leisure, and I discarded the French Revolution in favor of scribbling down this short tale. I hope you appreciate it! ;) The events in this story actually happened to me, word for word, so Charlotte Sinclair is me. I was reaching into the deepest reservoir of my mind for a topic to write on, and then I stumbled upon this memory and decided to spin it into something that some of you might be able to relate to. This is one of the very few times I have said something witty at a perfect moment. :) I think that's why I remembered it. :D Enjoy the read!
"A Duel of Wits"

By Rachel Heffington

“Are you dancing, Lottie?”

Charlotte Sinclair paused in her retreat to a shady corner on the lawn and turned. It was the Spanish Waltz, her favorite, but the other young people had paired off and she was left alone. Marion Hedgespeth waved at Charlotte from her position as lead dancer and repeated her question.

“I don’t have a partner,” Charlotte offered as a reply, and crossed the last few feet of lawn between herself and the grove of crepe-myrtle trees. It was awkward enough being the only girl left without a partner, but admitting it in front of a large group was embarrassing. She didn’t mind so much—she’d watch the dancing and have a lovely time by herself. Lottie put a hand up to her hair, then adjusted the pins keeping her rose-colored sash in place. Dancing was hot business, and she was in disarray, she knew.

No, she didn’t have a partner—that wasn’t the irking part of the matter. What vexed and piqued Lottie’s pride was the fact that a young man—one who had danced every dance so far without the least hesitation—stood in the corner calmly looking observing her without the least intention of relieving her position as wall-flower.

Gregory Enfield was perfectly aware of his error, she knew. Lottie stole a look at him and her temper rose as she caught his dark eye. He straightened his shoulders and his cheek reddened. Charlotte saw Marion glancing from him to her direction—after such an exchange she knew Mr. Enfield was pledged by honor to ask her to dance. It was not the most illustrious way to get a partner, but at least she would not have to sit out the Spanish Waltz.

Charlotte smoothed her silken skirt and folded her hands, watching the approach of Mr. Enfield. His long, sleek figure sauntered toward her—dark hair immaculately combed, black eyes full of pride and a touch of arrogant elegance. It did not help matters that every other young person at the party stood waiting. The music was cued, the dancers lined up. All eyes rested upon Charlotte waiting in the shade and Mr. Enfield approaching with a languid step.

He stopped in front of her and cocked his head, fully assured of the catch he was and the honor this rather plain girl received by his dancing with her. Oh yes, Charlotte could see through him like a glass window.

Mr. Enfield ‘s lip curled into a haughty smile. “Dancing this one?”

He thinks he can have any girl he wants, doesn’t he? I might be plain but I'm not dumb, and therefore not to be trod upon. Charlotte’s heart thundered in her breast and her eyes flashed. Two could play this game. “I don’t accept a partner until I’ve been asked,” she said. Her own quick reply startled her. Was that her voice ringing through the crisp autumn afternoon like a silver bell?

A murmuring ripple circled among the waiting dancers. Gregory Enfield’s jaw tightened and he bridled, like a stallion smelling a storm on the horizon. How to regain his footing as the elegant, charming, perfect young man? “Ah…playing hard to get are you?”

All was silent on the green lawn. A chill November breeze pushed between the couple and Charlotte’s mind spurred to action. What cheek this fellow had! Old grievances flashed to mind and Charlotte threw her head back.“I was merely trying to be a lady,” she answered with cool composure.

Ah. Her missile had hit its mark. Mr. Enfield’s dark eyes flashed with heated passion and he raised his head. Not an audible word passed between the gentleman and Charlotte, yet volumes were spoken. Charlotte knew Mr. Enfield understood her perfectly. He extended his thin, olive-skinned hand, and Charlotte placed her own in it, barely touching his palm with her icy fingertips.

She kept her chin in the air, her eyes fixed on the group ahead, ignoring her partner entirely. Marion, renowned in their circles for such witty remarks was having difficulty keeping her countenance. Charlotte’s lips twitched into a smile and she felt her eyes dancing. For a moment she had quelled this polished gentleman who seemed to think he was entitled to homage from any lady he wished.

Mr. Enfield led her to the front of the line and bowed coldly. The first strains of the waltz began and with them, a duel of wits. Charlotte knew she was a good dancer, and she made certain that each step, each turn, each curtsey was perfect. Mr. Enfield hardly looked at her—indeed, seemed relieved when the dance was complete and he could discard his conqueror on the edge of the battle-field.

“Thank you for the dance, Mr. Enfield.” Charlotte couldn’t help but release her green eyes to dance and her crooked smile to flash forth. She laughed inwardly at the sight of cowed gentleman beating a retreat among the knots of more appreciative young ladies. Wit had slain Beauty with rare success.

Triumph was sweet sustenance to one accustomed to obscurity.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Hello girlies! Now, wouldn't you love to find to hear the story behind this painting? I would! :) I love how the first things you notice is the woman, and then the every-helpful captives behind her. ;) I just wanted to let you know that posting on this blog will be erratic this week, since I am off to Warrenton, NC to get my dog's leg amputated. Lovely subject, yes, but she got hit by a car and got her femur/hip-bone shattered. :(
Anyway, this is a fare-thee-well post and a handful of wishes that your writing may thrive and you may not write about something brilliant that I will miss entirely. ;) I've buried my nose in The Oxford History of the French Revolution and am researching for that New Novel as well as continuing to write Puddleby Lane--I had all weekend to leisure, thanks to the hurricane, but I couldn't run our desktop computer so progress on my writing was on hold. :[ Oh well! I still had fun! And please girls, don't forget to enter the Merry Auld England Writing Challenge! Details are on the side-bar, and I have 2 out of the 3 fabulous prizes made! I hope to post the "Things You'll Win" post soon! ;) Have a glorious week!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Author Interview: Katie S.

I have only known Katie in the writing world, but already I can tell she's a girl to be reckoned with, a marvelous writer, and an original person. :) I am pleased to have her here this morning!

So, Miss Katie S., how do you find yourself on this coolish summer morning?
I'm quite well, allergies aside. The weather here is starting to cool down nicely. Autumn is in the air!
Tell us a little about your latest writing project!
At the moment I'm working on Lara's Story, and hoping to finish the first draft sometime in January. Here's a little snippet I wrote up to tell more about the story:
No longer able to keep her thoughts to herself, yet unwilling to share them with others, young Kate Landess starts a journal. Through her entries, she tells of her sister's life -- her mysterious disappearance -- and slowly unravels the many threads of Lara's secrets.

What is your number one, brilliant piece of advice for other aspiring authors?
Read. Read, read, read. Never, ever, under any circumstances stop reading. Read old, classic books that have stood the test of time. And write incessantly.
Are you seeking to become a published author yourself, or do you write for fun?
Someday over the rainbow, I hope, as I believe most writingly inclined people do, to be published. It's very much a dream of mine, a dream I'm slowly but surely working toward.

How do you get inspiration for your stories?

By reading, by writing whatever pops into my head, by gazing upon glorious stretches of countryside, by observing people and their habits, by looking at pictures of faraway places, by jumping on the trampoline at midnight and gazing at the stars, by asking myself "Why?". In short, I glean inspiration from so many different avenues, so many different strains of thought and imagination, that I can scarcely narrow it down.

Are your characters inspired by real-life people, your imagination, or a little of both?
A little of both. Some characters spring to the page completely uninfluenced by any other human I can place. Some are formed with great resemblance to those I know and love. Others are mixtures of the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unfamiliar, and are quite enjoyable, albeit difficult, to write.

Do you have a favorite spot to write? (If you have to sit at the computer desk you might just skip this question! :D)
By a window. I love writing by windows. There's something so perfect about gazing out a window as one orders thoughts around in one's head, making room for the old unfinished manuscript to open its pages. I love writing outside, writing in the dark of night, and in libraries--anywhere quiet.

Do you work best in peace and quiet or with background noise and action?
COMPLETE peace and quiet. I'm just queer like that; I cannot think clearly when great amounts of noise are blaring through my head, begging me to attend them. And living in a large family, it's pretty needless to say that I do most writing in the very late evening or early morning.

Which area would you say you're strongest in as a writer? Plot, dialog, characterization, action, showing vs. telling, description, etc?
Description. Description is my first love. I can read blocks upon blocks of description and, though devoid of dialogue and rather lengthy in size, still be as happy as a lark. Hence my love of penning my own little descriptions.

Which area is hardest for you?

Plot, above all. "Ooh! Idea! Shiny! But should I plan first? Pfft, no! Must write!" Then I get to about the third chapter, have to stop altogether, and am forced to create some sort of outline.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte for their sweepingly beautiful prose. Charles Dickens for his ingenious use of both plot and character. Jane Austen for her unforgettable -- and hilarious -- characters and stories. C.S. Lewis for his wonderful, simple way of portraying and explaining Truth. And Agatha Christie, the Queen of Mystery, for being ever so much smarter than myself and outwitting me every time.

Do you agree with the old adage, "Write what you know"?
To some extent, yes. I believe a person should write what they know best, but still delve into the very depths of their imagination. The adage, the advice, should not stop one from being as creative and original as possible.

Any tried and true tips as far as technique goes?
Read. Read and your writing and technique will improve steadily, though you may not be aware of it at first. Notice things as you read; study passages of description to better your own, study streams of dialogue further your own. And then write, write, write. Write little stories, write little snippets of Nothing Whatsoever just for the fun of it. Sitting outside in the middle of the day? Get some paper and describe a blade of grass, a flower, a birdsong. Write a short stories. Look up into the clouds after a storm and try to spin your feelings into words. Keep reading, keep writing.
What is your remedy for Writer's Block? :)
Droop, die, fall over, and then pick yourself up and get back to it. Force yourself to write, perhaps not your novel-in-progress, but a short story. Read. Drink tea. Take a walk alone. Interview your characters or write little stories about their past. Keep plugging along until you break the roadblock in two.
And now for your last, and most challenging question: Why is a raven like a writing-desk? :)

I haven't the vaguest idea! I am shamed to say I have never really contemplated the question. Why is a raven like a writing-desk?

Thank you for letting me host this interview on my blog, Katie, and for giving me your precious time and pearls o' wisdom! ~Rachel

Friday, August 26, 2011

Puddleby Lane Excerpt: Chapt. 15: Forbidden

After many pleadings not to leave you ...where I left you...in the last excerpt I posted, I am giving in and sharing another excerpt of Puddleby Lane. I ought not to, and increase your suspense so that in that all-elusive Someday you will still want to buy a copy...however, I am much too tender-hearted and I have little will-power when my dear friends beg. ;) Cora and Tucker have found even more mystery in the Other House, as well as a strange portrait.

The woman’s face was noble and soft, reminding one of cherry-blossoms and dew-wet grass. Her eyes were deep and blue as…well, bluer than anything Cora had ever seen. They commanded her to look at their marine depths and be caught in their undulating beauty. The age of the portrait seemed to be in keeping with everything else in the room. The subject of the painting wore a soft, white evening gown and a cluster of forget-me-nots at her breast. Her shape curved in and out in lines of perfect grace, and she leaned slightly forward, a laughing smile on her rosy lips. Her auburn hair was swept up in soft, elegant waves, and fastened with a comb set with stones the color of her eyes.

Cora thought she could stand gazing at the portrait forever. Time passed unhindered, and Cora’s eyes took in every detail of the painting again and again. It was such a life-like portrait. She could almost hear the woman’s laughter, and feel the soft touch of her white hand. This woman could explain the mystery, Cora knew. If only she was real. If only she could help solve the story of the strange light.

Chapter Fifteen: Forbidden

Cora and Tucker banged inside dripping and gasping for air. The umbrellas were nowhere to be found so the water streamed in rivulets down their bodies freely.

“Mercy on us,” Maggie exclaimed. “To the tub, both of you and don’t come out until you are completely thawed.”

She herded the dripping pair up the stairs where they each soaked in steaming water until their toes were pruny and their cheeks glowed pink. Cora didn’t mind soaking in the tub in Maggie’s bathroom with the bubbles frothing around her. She let her mind wander to insignificant thoughts. Thoughts about the little things she never took time to ponder. Bubbles, for instance, were such delicate, fairy-like things. Little more than a crystalline ball with a shred of rainbow twisted inside. She scooped a handful of the bubbles and blew them across the room. Bet the woman in the painting took her baths in a gold-plated tub with diamond-studded feet.

Cora leaned back against the cool, porcelain wall and closed her eyes. Mysteries were a nuisance. She would have to tell Maggie the whole story and she knew what the result would be—they would be forbidden to step foot in the Other House without express permission from Captain Boniface. It was just, of course. The Other House did not belong to her and they had entered and rummaged in the chest without asking.

The water in the tub had cooled and Cora stepped out and dried herself with a plush towel, then wrapped up well in her pink bathrobe with the roses embroidered on the hem. The Woman probably wore a silk robe with an ermine ruff when she got out of the tub. Cora laughed at her fancy and rubbed a circle out of the fogged mirror.

“Shall we ever get this mystery out of our mind?” she asked her reflection. Of course not. Though I don’t know how we’ll solve it.

She met Tucker, equally shiny and warm in the kitchen. Maggie bustled from stove to table with cups of hot tea and warm ginger-cookies.

“You two will die of pneumonia and whose fault will it be? Mine. Not because I thought it a good idea, but because I was fool enough to give into your insistence.”


“No buts about it, Cora. I was irresponsible and if you get ill and—” Maggie shuddered and turned her back to the pair.


Maggie put her hands on the table and her lip trembled. “It can happen, Cora. Pneumonia is a serious thing. And in such an out of the way place as this… And what were you so intent on exploring anyway, miss?”

Maggie always added the little prefix to the end of anything she wished to make especially accusatory.

Cora dropped a lump of sugar into her tea and tried not to look at Maggie. “We were exploring the Other House.”

All was quiet in the kitchen. Tucker slurped his tea and Maggie hushed him. The white-faced clock on the wall ticked like a sentinel treading out the last watch before a dawn execution.

Cora squirmed. “I know we shouldn’t have gone in without permission, but I had to see what that light was, and it was the only way.”

“What light?” Maggie’s voice was laden with grave displeasure. Her feathers had been ruffled and no mistake.

It would all have to come out. “The first night we were here, as I went to bed I saw a light shining out of a window in the Other House. It was strange, Ann Company having assured us that nobody went in the house except once a year at the New Year when the Captain goes in to make repairs and tidy up a little.”

Maggie’s face was pale, except for a spot on either cheek glowing an indignant red. “And you just walked into that house. There could be robbers or thieves in there. Murderers! Anything.” She covered her eyes with her hand and shook her head.

“Maggie,” Cora reached out a hand and stroked her sister’s hair. “I don’t think anything of a villainous nature has ever found its way to Puddleby Lane. Everyone here is good and kind—you know that as well as I.”

Maggie pulled away and crossed her arms. Tears stood in her eyes. “You are your own girl, Cora, and I’m only your sister. I can’t dictate what you can and can’t do. But you took a little boy, my son, into that house without knowing who or—or what was in there. It was a poor choice on your part.”

Why was Maggie so high-strung? A shutter banged in the wind and they all jumped. Cora shrunk into her seat. She hated disapproval of any kind, but Maggie’s was always worse for its womanly emotion. “Sorry, Maggie.”

“I forgive you. But that still doesn’t mend the matter. You and Tucker could be hovering on the verge of illness and we won’t know it for a day or two at the very least.”

Tucker sniffed and Cora and Maggie fastened their eyes on him.

“The tea’s too strong,” he said, by way of an explanation.

Maggie pushed her chair away from the table and stood. She tied the strings of her apron again and put her hands on her hips. Cora felt that each action was a death-blow to her chance of ever unraveling the mystery.

“You two are not to leave this house, not even to go on a walk for three days. And you are never ever to set foot in that other house without permission. Understood?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Yes Mama.”

“Good. And perhaps you’ll bypass pneumonia altogether. Let’s pray for the best.” Maggie returned to the stove and stirred a pot of something.

“What about pneumonia?” Frank’s jolly voice sailed into the kitchen on a cold blast of wind.

“Oh, Frank!” Maggie ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. “You’re soaked through.”

He put her from him gently and touched her cheek with a finger. “What’s this, my lady—tears?”

“Cora and Tuck went out in this gale and—oh, Frank! You’ve been out in it too. You’re in more danger than all of them with such a long walk from the station.” Maggie stripped his woolen overcoat from his back and pushed him down in a chair. She knelt on the floor and removed his soaked shoes.

Cora poured a cup of the black tea and stirred two lumps of sugar and a splash of cream into it. She passed the cup to Frank and kissed his cheek.

Frank grinned through a wreath of the fragrant steam. “I trudge all the way home through a gale like a shabby pilgrim on a trip to the Holy Lands, but I come home to be treated with the purplest Orientalism. Ah, my Scheherazade, will not thou rise and tell me this strange tale?” He touched Maggie’s chin and tilted it upwards, then kissed her.

Maggie laughed in spite of herself and perched on his lap. “Apparently there was some light shining in the window of the house next door the first night we were here. Cora saw it and never told me. This afternoon she asked if she and Tuck could go exploring. I didn’t want to let them go, but it seemed to storm had died down a little. But immediately after they left it picked back up and they were gone for an hour at least while I—”

“Now, now little woman,” Frank hugged her. “They’re home and they don’t look in the throes of death.”

“Yes, but they came home cold and wet and having traipsed through a house that they had no right to be in.”

“Find anything, Cora?”

“Frank!” Maggie pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. “You aren’t helping things.”

“My apologies, Mag. But I’d better get out of these clothes if you don’t want me to catch pew-mony too.” Frank winked, gulped the rest of his tea and strode out of the kitchen.

Maggie tsked and shook her head, but Cora noted with relief that her color was back. “Maggie?”


“Can I help with dinner?”

* * * * * *

The weeks flew by on the chill wings of early winter. Life at Puddleby Lane settled into a sort of rhythm set by the dance of the days. The first rays of sunlight curtsied to the dark of night and began the dance. Cora would take the children out to walk along the barren shore searching for treasures of the sea. In her moments alone Cora was content to walk for hours on the sand, watching the gulls winging over the white-frothed waves in utter abandon, reckless of the salt spray and strong winds. Her spirit seemed to soar with them, and her heart to mount on wings of prayer. It was so easy to be good when one had nothing but the sea, the sky, and God to speak to. If only life could always be so—nothing to vex and everything to build strength.

The air agreed with Dorothy too. She had only grown rounder and rosier from the daily walks. Cora delighted to hold Dot in her arms and show her off to Captain Boniface whom they often met pacing the sands in front of the three cottages. They were good friends now—the children and the captain. Cora laughed at the idea that she had been scared of him. Her ease in Captain Boniface’s presence would be complete if only—.But the persistent thought that the Other House and Captain Boniface were wrapped up in each other plagued Cora’s mind. She could not tell why she felt that way. But if she could get a few clues as to his youth, perhaps it would help solve the mystery.

For, though Cora had not been back to the Other House and the beautiful guardian of the chest since that stormy afternoon, she had thought of it constantly. If only Maggie hadn’t forbidden them to go back.

They had not caught pneumonia, and there had been nothing terrifying in the house anyway. It seemed a desperate measure to forbid any visiting in the Other House. Maggie had said it was only the unauthorized visiting that was a problem. Still…Cora didn’t want to ask Captain Boniface outright. For starters she’d have to admit she had been prowling in a house that didn’t belong to her. Secondly, mysteries never seemed so mysterious when one talked them over aloud as if they were of no more consequence than the price of eggs—and that was another thing. Even Piper’s Corner could not entirely disentangle itself from the hard times in America. The stock market was still down, and people—so many, many people—were desperate. Prices, rates and politics weaseled their way into discussions at dinner, over tea, and even on walks to town. How could such a national calamity find its way this obscure little town that was so cut off from the world in every other way?

“Captain Boniface,” Cora said as he escorted her to town on an errand one afternoon. The Captain and she walked on either side of the sandy road where the footing was less slippery.


“Don’t you ever get tired of money?” Cora swung her pail with Frank’s lunch in it until the lid rattled. Dry oak leaves crackled underfoot, murmuring at her passing.

The Captain laughed and stroked his chin. “Can’t say that I’ve had th’problem of havin’ so much money I could get overly tired of it.”

Cora laughed too and plucked a sprig of holly from a tree near the road. “What I mean is, don’t you get tired of speaking of money and thinking of money and slaving away for money all the time?”

“Do you?”

“Oh, I do. If one could live without money I should do so in an instant. It’s such a necessary evil, though.” She plucked the holly berries from the spray one by one and sent them rolling into the road.

Captain Boniface puffed out his cheeks and blew on his hands. “Aye. So ‘tis.”

Cora pulled her coat closer. The early December wind keened around them. “I don’t need to be rich, but I should like just enough money that I didn’t have to be working every minute to keep the shabby ends of life meeting.”

Captain Boniface jammed his hands in his pocket and swung his long legs. Cora had to trot to keep up. “Are you speakin’ of yer own experience or just thinkin’ aloud?” he asked.

“I don’t know… Frank works so hard to keep our family together and if…if something came up and he couldn’t, I’ve been thinking of what I could do to make any money.”

“Now, Miss Cora. You needn’t worry your pretty head about that.” The Captain inclined his head toward the distant Piper’s Corner. “You’ve got friends here, and—God forbid—if anythin’ did happen to one of you, we’d not be leavin’ you in the lurch.”

Cora dashed across the sand-road and put her arm into the Captain’s. “Thank you. I know you are too good and kind to do anything of the sort.”

Captain Boniface chuckled and pulled his hat down over his eyes. Cora ventured a study of his profile. Strong features—cut from stone, yet supple and changing as the wind over the ocean waves. Kind features—as capable of tenderness as any woman’s. Noble features—if any man could be trusted to treat a woman with gentleness and respect, it was Captain Boniface.

The character sketch being finished, Cora turned away. All this she knew, and yet Cora would not, could not force the question from her lips. She wished it was easy to ask such a strange question:

So, Captain Boniface, who is that woman?

And what right had she to suspect the captain knew anything? Cora’s face flamed and she settled her tam tighter on her head. It was no use. She could not out and out ask the captain about the Other House. She would have to be content with simpler information.

“Captain Boniface?”


“Have you always lived on Puddleby Lane?”

The Captain pushed his cap up on his head at a jaunty angle and set his chin. “Pretty near. My father and I moved here and took over the care of th’cottages when I was seven. ‘Bout Tucker’s age.” He chuckled softly.

“You say you take care of the cottages…do you own them?”

“Not all of them.” The Captain pulled the collar of his coat higher. “The Bonnie Addie’s mine, of course…”

And the Other House? But Cora kept the thought silent. “Who owns our cottage?”

“A Mr. Beaumont from back near your old home. He was the one that suggested th’plan to Frank.”

Cora froze in the middle of the path. “Mr. Beaumont?!”

“Aye. I would think you’d have heard all about it from Frank.”

“No.” Cora dragged her feet in the sand and shook her head to clear the bewilderment. “Mr. Beaumont’s daughter and I were not the best of friends…perhaps Frank realized I would not like Puddleby Lane so well as I do if I knew her father owned our house. It was probably the wisest decision.”

The Captain nodded, and bumped Cora playfully with his elbow. “So y’do like Puddleby Lane?”

“I think it’s the dearest place on earth. Even if Dorie-Ann’s dad does own my home.” She smiled ruefully.

“Ah. Well, you needn’t worry ‘bout seeing the Beaumont family if y’don’t like them. The elder Mr. Beaumont—your friend’s grandfather—bought the house. I saw him th’day of the purchase when he arranged for me to take care of it. The only other thing I ever heard was that he’d died and the deed had passed to ‘is son. Your friend’s daddy. So I wouldn’t fret yerself on that account.”

Mr. Beaumont owned their cottage. Cora’s stomach knotted. Their hard-earned money was going to the rent which was going to Mr. Beaumont which was probably going into manicures and beauty-shop appointments, candy and movie-tickets for Dorie-Ann’s benefit. The idea turned Cora’s stomach. Frank worked long and hard at the railway. He had the three-mile walks to the station morning and night, and the strenuous day of work in between. Especially the weeks he worked on the construction of the railway bridge. Some nights he came home happy but so tired that he kissed Maggie, dropped into a chair and fell asleep over his cup of coffee.

At least Frank had a job and the price of living at Puddleby Lane was minimal. Still, most of the money went to the rent. The remainder Maggie threw her heart into piecing together to make a beautiful tapestry for their home. Candles and coal were dear, as were sugar and tea. Yet nothing seemed to be lacking under Maggie’s expert management.

All the effort and work that went into keeping the family afloat, Cora realized, was being painfully extracted and thrown to the capricious winds of the Beaumonts. The idea sent a pathetic shiver through Cora’s body, and she felt sick. Suddenly Piper’s Corner resumed that queer habit it had of morphing between a bright existence and a shabby ghost-town.

The Captain and Cora stood at the cross-roads. Cora swallowed and grabbed one of Captain Boniface’s hands. “Promise you’ll always be here?” Why had that come out? She hadn’t known that was what was coming, but she needed the assurance of a friend when the prospect of Mr. Beaumont for a landlord loomed on the horizon. “Will you promise you’ll always live in the Bonnie Addie and be near us?”

Captain Boniface shrugged his outer coat off and draped it around Cora’s shoulders. His rough hand passed lightly over her hair and he lifted her chin “I’ll be here when you need me, Miss Cora. I promise.”

Tears sprang to Cora’s eyes and she wrapped her arms around the Captain. Here was something strong and reliable; someone that had weathered storms and come through them. Here was a friend who she could depend on.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beautiful People: Angelica Seasoning

I have decided to link up with the Beautiful People monthly event created by Georgie and Sky. I've done it once before, and I shall do it now. This event is designed to help you get to know one of your own characters better, or to introduce your readers to a character and let them get to know him/her. Without further ado I shall introduce you to my other favorite character in A Mother for the Seasonings:

Angelica Seasoning

1. What is your character's full name?

Angelica Isabelle Geraldine Seasoning. (Yes, I have a penchant for long names. :P)

2. Does her name have a special meaning?

No. Beyond the fact that she and all her sibings are named after herbs, and they all have four names.

3. What is her biggest accomplishment?

She would vow that her biggest accomplishment was finding her family a mother. She is convinced it was partly through her own doing that there is a Mrs. Seasoning by the end of the book. She also takes delight in bossing and fixing up her siblings enough so they are fitting for an OLAF tea-party, as she ever is.

4. What are her strongest childhood memories?

As Angie is only 11, she still has much of her childhood before her. However, some of her best memories are of when her mother was still living and would tell them stories. Now, however, she likes looking back on the adventures of the Mother-hunt, many of which were of her own design.

5. What is her favorite food?

Lemonade, lemon ice, lemon-custard tarts, etc. Lemons agree with Angie's personality. She's spunky, tart, bright, and beautiful, with a little bit of punch to her.

6. Does she believe in love at first sight?

Well, do you, Angie? Yes, of course you do, for if one has an armful of roses to give to a lady, love will naturally follow. A batch of custard tarts wouldn't be taken amiss either.

7. What kind of home does she live in?

A bungalow in a British settlement in East India. It's a tidy, low, cool house furnished comfortably. After all, one's father isn't a commanding officer in the British army for nothing.

8. What does she like to wear?

Her sailor-dress with the pleated skirt. It puts her in high good humour anytime she wears it, which is a mercy after some of the escapades.

9. What would she do if she discovered she was dying?

Laugh, stick out her tongue, and proceed. Dying doesn't bother Angie. She has no regrets, for she's always lived life to the fullest, and is not one to get down in the mouth over something that happens to the best of us.

10. What kind of holidays or traditions does she celebrate?

Christmas, Easter, Guy Fawkes day, May Day, and many another merry English holiday. Also various expeditions and rendezvous with their Derry-dock town.

What do your other characters have to say about her?

Dill says she's his best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one. Rosemary says she's a dear but needs a strong hand to tame her. Basil has a soft spot for this wild sister and obeys her unquestioningly. Aunt Regina loves her to pieces, and appreciates her frank good will.

If she could change one thing in her world, what would it be?

At the start of the novel she longs for a mother. At the end....? Perhaps a bit more adventure?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

15-day Challenge Day 6 and 7: Favorite Genres and Current Project

I am agreeing with Abigail Hartman when she says that picking one genre to write in can be "damaging to the mind and doom the author's writing to tedious repetition." Like any other thing in life, you ought to use moderation in your favorites. One can not survive on one kind of food only. One cannot have a well-formed mind if the mind is only fed on one kind of book or one subject. And so it is with writing. One genre only can quickly reduce the flavor of your writing to stale crumbs of half-baked inspiration trying desperately to be an elaborate Charlotte Russe or some other stunning dessert. That being said, I will name my favorite genres to write, and what I like about them:

15-day Writing Challenge Day Six: What is your favorite genre to write in?

Light Historical Fiction: this is what I'm terming novels as that are not dealing with historical events, but are set back in time. Using history as your setting, rather than what moves your plot along. A Mother for the Seasonings fits this category well. It's set in a British settlement in East India during the Victorian Era, and while I tried my best to be historically accurate with what was going on during that time, the kids don't encounter much history.

Historical Fiction: This is researched, thought out, careful writing that has to deal closely with historical events and people. My newest idea is going to be a French Revolution historical fiction, and I am in the stages of researching and planning and loving it to death. :)

Poetry: Is this a genre? I guess it is. I love poetry. It comes to me quite often with a resounding "SMACK!" and I'll have written something passable. A phenomenon, really, as the words seem to write themselves. What moments. If only prose was as easy as poetry is for me most of the time.

Satire: I will admit, I love satire. I love Mark Twain's tongue-in-cheek, biting words. But a little of satire goes a long way, and I have to be careful in selecting who I show my bits to. I actually am quite a hand at poking fun at our conservative/homeschooling foibles and follies. :P *smiles at Marybelle*

Short Stories: Until about a month or two ago, I had never been much good at writing these. I found it hard to fit a beginning, a plot, and an end into a few short pages. But I've found that when the writing bug has bitten and my main novel isn't agreeing, it's a great way to liberate inspiration.

15-day Writing Challenge Day 7: What is your current writing project?
Aha. Puddleby Lane claims my attention at present. I am not the writer who works on two projects at a time--I can't fathom how that can make for a very cohesive novel...hopping back and forth from plot to plot as if you were playing one-man ping-pong? Strange indeed. I know most of you have heard enough about Puddleby Lane, but for any new-comers I shall do a blurb:

"In her fourteen years of life Cora Lesley hasn't met with much that she'd call adventure. Beyond The Accident, there hasn't even been anything worth writing down as her "life story". That is until the stock-market crashes on October 29, 1929 and Cora and her sister's family lose everything. They are forced to leave their cozy home in the Mid-West to move to a shabby seaside town. Does Puddleby Lane hold a promise of adventure? It seems so. The discovery in the Other House and the mystery cloaking it, the budding friendship with the three year-round inhabitants of the town, Captain Boniface and his queer home, The Bonny Addie, and even the change of scenery all point to new experiences for Cora. But when calamity touches the family and a shadow falls across Puddleby Lane, the question arises: Will Cora, Maggie, and the children be force to go through yet another storm, or
will this new set of adventures teach them to lean more than ever on the Everlasting Arms?"

There you have it. I am at 139 pages right now, and about half-way through the plot. I'm estimating it to be about 300 pages long by the end. Plenty long enough for a light historical-fiction novel, I believe. Anyway, that's all for now, folks!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Inkpen Poetry Day: Here Runneth the Path of Fairy Feet

You know, I don't think I ever posted the poem that won a contest over at Perfectly Sensible Nonsense blog. :) The theme was something fairy-tale-ish, and my imagination took flight. :) I have always loved the hauntingly beautiful rhythm and rhyme of Tolkein's poetry, and I think something of that sort found its way into my poem.
It was inspired by the fact that I do not believe in fairies...but there are those times of day...those trysts with the gloaming
when I can almost believe in something of the sort.
Do you know the feeling? Anyway, enjoy the poem. Oh yes, and I wanted to announce that I am choosing days of the 15-day challenge to do because some of them don't really have anything to do with writing. (Like today's question about a bucket-list.) I do believe, Carrie, that the over-flowing treasure-chest you mentioned in the comment could be remedied by less frequent posts? (Everyday might be a little much for some people.) Let me know! Perhaps you would all rather this writer do less writing about writing and focus on more writing? :P I think my sentence structure needs help, if that last one was any example. Also, I wanted to urgently remind you of the Merry Auld England Writing Challenge going on right now! I've been working on the prizes, and they are going to be pretty great! I'll try to announce them soon, but I must have entries to have winners, you know. :) Anyway, I have drabbled on long enough and you need a refresher. Please, enjoy the poem below, with my compliments.

"Here Runneth the Path of Fairy Feet"
by Rachel Heffington

Where childhood fancy and twilight meet
Here runneth the path of fairy-feet;
On shadowed road and misty bend
Here coldsome facts of "real life" end,
And the simplest thing on earth would be
To find a dryad 'neath her tree.
She'd comb her locks like shimm'ring ferns
In that hour where the daylight turns.
And you'd never stop to blink your eyes
and say, (Because you're oh, so wise)
"Dryads aren't real--they're quite a myth"
If once you'd been in comp'ny with
A creature like her--lissom fair
With willowy limbs and leafy hair.

Where childhood fancy and twilight meet
Here runneth the path of fairy-feet.
In dusking woods at evenlong
You'll chance to hear an Elven song.
Like beads of dew on honeyed string
The notes, elusive, dip and sing.
And lamps we now call fire-flies
Can one more dazzle in our eyes.
Then we shall learn, as children do,
the things we thought we surely knew.
Fair beings that we'd long forgot
May weave with us a dreamy knot
Content, within this half-light time
To feed us with their storied rhyme.

Where childhood fancy and twilight meet
Here runneth the path of fairy feet
And those who spent the day in bed
Now tip-toe with their soft wings spread
And dance within the brilliant sheen
of moonlight and the summer's green.
The grown-up cares of life must fade
When pondered in that purple glade
Once more we change to half a child
Perfumed with scent of roses wild
And honeysuckle like a crown
That we'd been used to crushing down
Until twilight and fancy met
To tread with us this minuet.

Monday, August 22, 2011

15-day Challenge Day 5: Least Favorites

Day 5: Who is your least-favorite character you've written?
Dear oh dear. Can I have a least-favorite-character-I-kind-of-like? No? Well this shouldn't be too terrible hard, as I introduced about a dozen horrid women of all sorts in A Mother for the Seasonings. Of course some of the women were nice, but I had to get rather creative with reasons why all these women would simply *not* do for a mother for the Pot O' Seasonings. :)
There was Lorraine Simms, the dried up, wizened, vixen of an old woman. She certainly was a pill.
There was Widow Tabitha McLurrin who was.....dead.
There was Madame Chantolle Vervay, the "half-gypsy and whole villain" (to quote Miss Pole of Cranford) who the children discover is a fortune-teller by her trying to read Fennel's palm. Actually, one of my favorite scenes with Basil being a protective older brother is at this moment. He slaps the woman's hand away, yells at her, picks Fennel up, and flees the place. It's rather triumphant. ;)
Then you had Mrs. Joan Pringle, the rather slatternly, poor woman who you never met but heard enough about from her horrid triplets to serve you for life.
And of course we can't forget Sali, the native cook who has a love/hate relationship with the children, (especially Dill) and in the end runs off with the butcher man. :P
But of the reams of characters, including the women could possibly have stood for a mother in a pinch (Bessie Hartwell, Mother Ana Vassilieva, Miss Cynthia Lowell, Nellie Stevens, and Miss Lilly Piccalo) the most horrid, evil one of them all was Artemesia Arulia Annabelle Watkins. I shall explain her in Basil's words:
"...A moment later I was pleading earnestly with Miss Artemesia Arulia Annabelle Watkins. Her regal beauty egged me on to complete the proposal without a flaw.
'We really haven't a mother of our own, and we need one terribly, so we were wondering if you wouldn't like to marry Papa.' I finished and my shoulders slumped. It was not as easy as you would think, trying to explain our business to these women. None of them seemed to understand the thinking behind it. It was a perfectly simple idea that even Fennel could understand. Why did women have to be so complicated?
Miss Watkins smoothed her flaxen hair with a lily-white hand and adjusted her locket so that it rested exactly in the center of her white collar. Her eyes glinted like a python's do before it coils around its hapless prey. 'I don't think I'd mind marrying your father,' she simpered, 'But gracious, there are so many of you children.'
I didn't know what to say to this. I exchanged a quiet glance with Rosemary. She appeared just as kerflummaxed as I, as Papa would say.
'There aren't...so many of us,' I said. 'Mrs. Perkins has twelve children. We're only five. Won't you reconsider?'
At the reference to Mrs. Perkins and her twelve children Miss Watkins opened her eyes wide and said in a bitter tone, 'I would call Mrs. Perkins irresponsible. Still, I might be able to reconsider if you all were sent away. I'm sure your father could have no objection. Boarding school is always an option...Yes...that would be just the thing...' A look of greed crossed the no longer lovely countenance of Miss Watkins....
Miss Watkins sat back in her chair, imperious. She might have been made of stone for all the interest she showed in us children. One hand clasped the arm of the chair as if it were gold and she a dragon protecting it.
I wanted to shout that we withdrew our proposal. That we took back everything we had said, but the words would not come. This woman, this dragon, had us in her grasp, and I feared she would not be easily deterred from her object."

See? Hateful woman. That is why I allowed the Seasonings to be the naughtiest they've ever been in the following scene. :) Well, company's here and I've got to go! ~Rachel

Sunday, August 21, 2011

15-day Challenge: Day Four: Inspiration

15-Day Challenge Day Four:
{A novel or author that has inspired something in your writing style}

I am one so apt to catch grains of inspiration as they fall from each book I open that this is rather an interesting question for me. But of course I now realize the happy truth that the question is a writer or book, not the writer or book.

"Let us proceed at once to business. What is the use of delay when we agreed to take that up the first thing?" ~The Society for the Suppression of Gossip (hilarious Victorian play, that)

ANY-whoo, to answer the question, I am afraid I must again choose two authors, and one of those authors will be making his second appearance in this 15-day challenge:

1. Louisa May Alcott- I have always felt a deep connection with this author's novels. You see, being the eldest sister in a chunk of four girls right in the middle of our big family, I felt much like Meg with Jo, Beth, and Amy to look after. Even our personalities match up to the March girls! So it was only natural that my life would be rather Little Women-ish, and it will not surprise you to hear that we started our own literary society when my fellow members were 9, 6, and 4 respectively. *Harumph* (Needless to say, talent was limited. :P)
Louisa May Alcott novels are sweet and innocent, and I feel each time I put one down that I walk away a better girl for it. Morals and wisdom are entwined so effortlessly in the windings of the story that one doesn't know one has learned anything, and yet the day is colored by noble ideals afterward.
I did not realize her writing had truly influenced mine until I'd had...oh...probably near a dozen people tell me that my books remind them so much of Louisa May Alcott's. Someone said that The Seasonings had the flavor of Eight Cousins about it. :)

2. Charles Dickens. I know, I know you must be sick to death of hearing about him. You must think I never read anything else. But I had to bring him in, because I have come to realize that he has influenced me in the forming of my characters. I am continually delighted with the ream of people I find in the pages of his novels. They are so queer and quaint and unusual. He can concoct the most interesting mash of qualities into a larger-than-life personality that one remembers forever. In Puddleby Lane, particularly, one character is fashioned on purpose in the Dickensian style. :)

It did not take as long as Cora expected to get to town. Perhaps it was the cheerful conversation of Ann Company, or the novelty of walking like a caravan of gypsies down a sandy road, that made the two miles seem like a hundred yards, but Cora did not feel at all fatigued when they finally reached the train station.

Piper’s Corner was not so bleak after all. Cora tilted her head at the station. Still windswept, and the row of wax myrtles weren’t the most robust bushes she’d ever encountered, but there was a certain charm even in the loneliness.

“Hey, Pa!” Ann Company’s shout startled Cora, and she turned to find Tucker and Dot sitting on the edge of the platform.

“Don’t sit so near the edge, Tuck. What if a train came along?”

“Shoot, Miz Cora! There’s only the nine-fifteen, the one-thirty, and the five-forty-five that comes through here this time a’year. Tucker could sit there another three hours an’ he’d be no worse’n me fer it.”

“Can I, Cora?” Tucker hammered the side of the platform with the heels of his shoes.

“Certainly not.”

A heavy hand descended on Cora’s shoulder. “Well what’ve we got here? A pack of young’uns?”

Cora turned to find Flounder’s red face crinkled up in what she supposed to be a grin. “Good morning, Flounder.”

“Good mornin’ to you.” He withdrew his hand and stuck his thumbs through his suspenders. The sleeves of his shirt were still rolled up. And was it the same shirt? If not, surely the ink-stains on the cuffs had been duplicated with a careful eye to authenticity.

Ann Company adjusted Flounder’s collar and brushed crumbs from the front of his shirt. “I’m fixin’ t’give these kids a tour a’Piper’s Corner.”

Flounder patted Ann Company’s curly hair as if she was a favorite puppy of his and cast his wall-eye at Cora, Tucker, and Dot. “A splendid idear. I splendid idear. Didn’t I say this mornin’, Ann Company, it’d be a splendid idear?”

“I b’lieve you did, Pa. That’s what put it in m’head in th’ first place.”

Flounder shook his head like a ponderous bull-dog. “Splendid idears sometimes do come to me, you know. Though some might doubt it.”

“Course idears come t’you.” Ann Company, who had been putting her father in shape with many a tender push, pull, and shove the whole time, stepped back and grabbed Tucker’s hand. “I guess we’ll be goin’ now, Pa.”

“Yes, yes. And don’t forget to show your friends Adolphus.”

“I won’t, Pa.” Ann Company nodded to Cora and led the way across the tracks, leaving Eulalie near the railroad office.

See? :) Flounder is turning out to be a rather fussy but good-hearted man. He whines. Rather a Mr. Dorrit, if you will, minus the debtor's prison. I admit Dickens has influenced this character heavily, but that's okay. Since I did it on purpose, it doesn't count as copying. ;)