Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scuppernong Days: The New Brain-Child

  "I'm running away, Imperia-lass." Nick called her that in the way Father used to before he'd gone missing at sea. It made the coal-glimmer of courage inside Nick flare to say it, so he spoke again: "Imperia-lass, I'm running away."......
      They were silent for a moment more, then Imperia released his hand and sat up. "And will I stay here?"
       "Do you mind so very much, Peria?"
       "Not so very much, Nick. Not if you promise to come home to me by and  by."
Thus starts the newest of my stories and one that I think will stick to me and I to it. I have told you before that I can write in many many styles, but the best and bonniest and most natural of them all tastes of Edith Nesbit and Louisa May Alcott. It's the style that runs in my blood. It is my voice. My voice is best suited to children's fiction and thus I feel lost as a writer without some story for the young ones kerbobbling about it. Ever since finishing my Gypsy Song I've been toying with "grown-up" stories and feeling out of it. But as soon as I fastened on this plot everything felt right again. :D

I don't have a name for this tale yet, (The working title just so we know of what I speak is Scuppernong Days) but I will introduce you to the characters and a bit of the plot.

First off we have Nicodemus and Imperia Murdoch: Ten years and eight years old respectively. Then comes The Blackbird Woman--a nasty, wicked old woman who has the keeping of the children since their parents died. The other character I have so far (yes--she's a character) is the ship: Scuppernong. She is a 3-masted merchant ship boasting 12 guns and 12 sailors (besides the captain, ship's cook, and cabin-boy.) with a burden-rating of 240 tons.

Imperia and Nick are the children of a sailor and his wife, living in New England at some point in the mid 1700's before the war with England. (haven't fastened on an exact date) When their mother dies and their father is lost at sea they are scrapped to The Blackbird Woman's home where they are put to hard labor and cruel treatment. Nick decides to run off to sea to make their fortune so he may come home and rescue Imperia, and so he sets out to do. But little does Nick realize the long, hard road it'll be to getting home, let alone making a fortune. Still, with the image of little Imperia trapped in the sooty cottage with the Blackbird Woman nothing--not forty Spanish galleons, not pirates, not fever, not hurricanes--will keep Nick from fulfilling that dream.
      Imperia snuggled close to him one last time before the blinding light of a June morning blazed through the darkness.
      The Blackbird Woman's face was painted with shadows, but her voice was clarion-clear and cracked as parched wheat kernels. "The cockroaches' company is too decent for you. Come hither and fetch me the water or there'll be the devil to pay for it."
      Nick jumped to his feet and pulled Imperia up beside him. The bright light whitened her peaked face until she appeared less like her seven years than ever. He patted her shoulder lightly, careful not to touch where the bruises showed through her torn sleeve, and followed the Blackbird Woman into the upper-world.


Anne-girl said...

Sounds delightful! I love ships.

Morgan said...

Sounds good! Looking forward to hearing more!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel,
The premise sounds very interesting. Nick is just the right age to be running off to sea. As you are probably aware, I love ships, and always enjoy a good tale. I must as a purest, however, tell you that the Scuppernong's is underhanded to the extreme. I would never presume to inform you as to what is best for your story line, but I thought you should know that a crew of twelve men might just barely be able to handle a three masted ship, but if she boasts twelve guns, depending on the weight you would need six men to a gun, bare minimum. Any way it is just something to consider, and I would in no way wish to discourage you. It is just a technical detail I thought to mention.
Keep up the great work.
Wyatt Fairlead

Horse Lover said...

Neat, I like ships! I wrote a story during that same time period . . . it needs a lot of work. I started it when I was 14 . . . it's still not finished.
:-D haha. I'm not very good at children's stories myself.

Rachel Heffington said...

Ah! @Wyatt Fairlead--thank you for pointing that out to me! I am woefully remiss in my shippish knowledge (something I plan to research) and although I got my numbers from an account of a ship: (The HMS Brother, I believe--they said it had 14 guns and 14 men...?) I will downsize the guns. As a point of interest, how many men do you think it *would* take to man a ship that large? I think I shall have to count upon your knowledge to illuminate the way in this respect, as I have hardly set foot in a rowboat, let alone a ship. :) Thank you so much for correcting that error! There is nothing like facts!

Anonymous said...

I suppose I should clarify. It is entirely possible for a ship to have a crew of 14, and 14 swivel guns. I am not sure which type the ship you mentioned was referring to, but ordinarily, when the word gun is used it is a generic term for the cannons a ship holds. It could mean anything from a 4 pound gun most commonly used on merchantmen to a 36 pound gun only used on the largest 1st rates. As to the crew compliment, the infamous HMS Bounty, which is very similar to the tonnage and description of the good lady Scuppernong, was armed with four 4 ponders and 10 swivel guns, and had a compliment of 46, leaving 22 men for working the ship and the swivel guns in combat. (although it was unusual for both batteries to be in use at the same time.) I am guessing that if you wanted the Scuppernong to have twelve guns, you would want at least a crew of 90.(my best guess, as I am not an expert)
I will look up the HMS Brother and research some more.
Wyatt Fairlead

Rachel Heffington said...

Marvelous! Thanks so much, Wyatt!

Chloe M. Kookogey said...

I am in love with your new brain-child already, Rachel! Nick sounds like a dear little chap, and 'Peria is a darling. There is something about you — as you mentioned, it runs in your blood — and children's fiction that makes the characters come alive. They pop off the page and demand your attention in a manner so childlike and charming. I could read your work for hours, and never grow tired. :)

Elizabeth Rose

Emily Chapman said...

Oooooh, I don't know if I can say it enough; this looks wonderful! I truly hope I will have the chance to read it someday! =D