Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"...pert robin red-cheeks"

"Legend says, when you can't sleep at night, it's because you're awake in someone else's dream."
(a quote I found online--not my words :)

Can you guess who this pretty little thing is? Yep. Do you love her as much as I? <3

Nick dropped his feet one by one onto the wooden planks of the floor and crept to the pallet in the corner where Imperia slept. “Imperia?”
She was awake in an instant and smiled at him. “Leaving, Nick?”
He nodded; there was a catch in his throat that blocked everything he’d meant to say. He scratched his nose and shifted from one foot to the other.
“Will you write to me?” Imperia asked.
“Often as I can. And you write to me, on your honor.”
Imperia raised a small finger and made a cross on her chest. “On my honor—and as often as I find a penny for postage.” She smiled at him—a moon-beam smile, Nick thought. Just as white and translucent as the light of the moon.

Various introductions aboard ship

A couple weeks ago I hit a wall with both Fly Away Home and Scuppernong Days. I possess a hideous talent for knowing where a story needs to go, and having no idea how to get there. But while I laid Fly Away Home on a shelf for a little while, I've been slowly pecking away at Scuppernong Days. I knew I needed to get Nick off shore and onto the ship and then the plot could begin. I did just that, and was surprised to meet one character in particular. Don't ask me why I was surprised--I just was. I knew I wanted a second cabin boy aboard Scuppernong, but I hadn't expected to find...well...him. Meet Elliott.
Okay, okay. I know there's no way this is 18th century garb, but who cares? :D

Nick squinted against the brilliant white light reflected into his eyes from the broad canvases that caught the wind and swelled like a grey goose’s breast. He stood, fascinated, but received a sharp blow on his back.
“Watch it, won’t you?”
Nick dodged the possibility of another blow as a boy slightly taller than himself shoved past. “Sorry.”
“Lookit—what’s your name and what are you doing on my ship? I’m the cabin-boy hereabouts.” The boy crossed his arms. His tone was blunt, but whether the boy was angry or not, Nick could hardly tell. His face registered nothing but disgruntled curiosity.
“Nicodemus Murdoch, sir.” Perhaps he oughtn’t to have put ‘sir’ after answering, but it was pure habit.
The formality seemed to appease the boy and he uncrossed his arms with a noonday shadow of a smile. “Mine’s Elliott.”
“Elliott what?” Nick asked. The boy crossed his arms again and his eyes were round. Nick wondered what he’d said wrong. He’d only asked a simple question.
“Just Elliott, Master Nicodemus Murdoch,” the lad said. He stared at Nick from his vantage point of two inches’ extra height, and sniffed with great contempt. Then he nodded toward a lithe, dark man carrying a keg on his shoulder. “That there’s Amaranto—he’s a Spaniard.”
Nick stared. He’d never seen a Spaniard before—he was more than a little disappointed to see the man wore none of the bright clothing of the matador that he’d assumed every Spaniard wore abroad or at home. Amaranto was clothed instead like all the other sailors in an open-necked cotton shirt and loose pantaloons.
Before Nick was finished looking, Elliott grabbed his arm and dragged him to the bow of The Scuppernong. Elliott pointed to the rigging on the foremast where several men perched like gawky birds on the yardarms, loosening some ropes and tying others. “Them up there—that’s Simon and Fisher and Jacob.”
“Does everyone have only one name of their own?” Nick asked.
“Aye. You didn’t expect sailors to have the luxury of addressing each other like gentlemen did you? Everything’s on short commons aboard ship. Th’only ones as get extra names is Captain Reynolds and Mr. Nesbit and Mr. Merrit. The bo’sun, Mr. Lightwood too, only most of us drop the formality. You don’t know a barebones thing about sailing, do you?” Elliott asked with another derisive sniff.

I just met him myself so I don't know a deal about him yet, but I do know that he believes he's superior to Nick (and nearly everyone else.) He uses titles of respect sparingly, and will often be heard to reference the first mate as "Old Nesbit," though I suspicion he'd not be so bold if confronting the first mate himself.
He picks on Nick once he finds that his new colleague knows next to nothing about sailing...

Nick’s hackles rose at this slight upon his upbringing. “I do too know a deal about sailing.”
“Then you’d know that we cabin-boys go through a keel-hauling every afternoon at three of the clock.” Elliott’s face was a handsome one, and he looked very virtuous indeed as he rested his hand for a moment on Nick’s shoulder. “Be sure ye be ready for it.”
This threw Nick into a state of some confusion. What was keel-hauling? Nick knew enough about ships to know that a keel was a long beam running length-wise down the ship’s belly—like a great long spine. But what did that have to do with a cabin-boy’s duties? Not to appear ignorant, however, Nick shrugged. “Of course. Any good ship has keel-hauling at least once a day.” It might have been a lie, and Nick felt his face grow pink. He hoped keel-hauling fell under the category of mopping and scrubbing and sweeping, in which case he was innocent of deliberately breaking a commandment.

But I don't think Elliott's all bad. Hee-hee. We'll see about that! I'm not certain of anything at this point! (Only I'll give you a hint of a character I love already. His name is Hans, he's Norwegian, and he looks like this:)
:) (only he's always smiling, and he doesn't have spiky hair.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lightening Flashes: Crumbs

I've been out of town for the weekend, and very busy in general, so to get back into the swing of words, I'm participating in this month's Lightening Snippets at Scribblings of My Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard. This event is basically a flash-fiction challenge. The Anne-girl assigns us a picture and challenges us to write a section that sounds to have been pulled out of the center of a larger story. Good practice and all that, right?

     Postcards were a marvelous invention. Some folk said they were the spawn of gossips and busybodies, but Harrison Jarvis thought of them as a godsend. Things weren't half as interesting in the Post Office as people thought; "Uncle Harry, tell us the news," the little Chirping Ones always said.
    Harrison Jarvis chuckled and slit the string holding together the day's mail with his rusty pocket-knife. Silly little Chirping Ones--silly little nephews and nieces who were good for nothing but stealing a man's heart out of his chest. No, the life of a post-master was ironically empty of crumbs to feed The Chirping Ones. Important correspondence, intrigues and scandals might slide through Mr. Jarvis' hands each moment of the day and he'd never know--people took such care sealing their letters. More's the pity.
    Mr. Jarvis shook his head and shuffled the drab mail into the worn, gray boxes. Seed catalogs for all the farming folk, and a package of Ginger's Optimistic Hair Dye for Mrs. Farquaharson. She bought it every six-month just as her hair was beginning to show indisputable signs of graying. Mr. Jarvis chucked the package into Mrs. Farquaharson's box and whistled an aimless tune. No. Not so much as a poppyseed to feed The Chirping Ones this evening. Pity, that. Mr. Jarvis took his duty as Uncle Harry warmly--he hated seeing the faces of The Chirping Ones turned away with reproof when he hadn't anything to feed them. But such was the life of a mailman in the United States Post Office. Privacy--bah. What the world needed was a few more tid-bits.
    But what was that? Mr. Jarvis' old heart beat a bit harder beneath his pocket-watch--beat nearly as fast as it had the day the Mayor had got a letter from the Governor--no, Mr. Jarvis' eyes had not deceived him. He pulled a slim post-card from the bottom of the mail-stack. The corners of his mouth crooked up into a leather-creased smile. A post-card, smelling of expensive cologne. The address written in a dashing, manly hand to one Miss Beatrice Lochlea--the beautiful Miss Beatrice who had a beau for every day of the week. Mr. Jarvis' keen and practiced eye scanned the small card, taking in  the few tender lines: love...eternal affection...Paris next spring...
    Oh yes. The Chirping Ones would be happy tonight.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revision: a timely guest-post by J. Grace Pennington

I am very pleased to be one of the stops on young, Christian author: J. Grace Pennington's blog tour for her newest book: Firmament: Radialloy! This book is the first in a series of 18 that Ms. Pennington has planned in her science-fiction series. You can read all about the book here, and even buy a signed copy! Isn't that cool? :) I know several of the stops on her blog-tour have been interviews, but I asked Ms. Pennington to write a guest post for turned out to be something I really needed to hear! She tackles the great big issue of Revision. Yep. *Casts a wary glance at The Scarlet-Gypsy Song.* Read it, be changed, and let J. Grace Pennington know by leaving a comment on her blog. :) Without further ado I give to you:
Revision: A Guest Post
by J. Grace Pennington

Everyone has their own method of revising their writing.  For me, as a first-time novel-reviser, the daunting task of somehow whipping Firmament: Radialloy into shape was extremely daunting.  Not only was it my first try at such a thing, but I had absolutely no idea how to go about it.

I tried many different ways.  The first time, I just read straight through, correcting any errors that I happened to come across.  That didn’t work, because it only fixed various little issues rather than looking at the novel as a whole that needed a solid arc, plotline, and good setups and payoffs.  I got some minor problems dealt with, and lots of typos fixed, but no really significant revision happened on that first pass.

So that wasn’t the way to go about it.  I tried something else.  This time, I talked with one of my test readers and we discussed things that were weak, and brainstormed for possible solutions.  Theme was foggy?  We discussed what theme would best spring from the action.  Villain was unrealistic?  We created motivation for him.  Conflict was weak?  We figured out how to add some more antagonistic forces.

So then I carefully figured out which things needed to be changed, and went through the draft and changed them.  I wasn’t sure about this draft, but by this time it was so mixed up and I was so confused about it that I couldn’t really tell whether it was working or not.  So I gave it to another friend who printed it out, marked it up with notes, and mailed the manuscript back to me.  Thus I learned that it was full of plot holes and blatant illogic, as well as character inconsistencies and other horrors.

Clearly this whole going-through-the-book-and-fixing-things-here-and-there thing wasn’t going to work.  I had to do something more drastic.

I had to stop trying to make it work the easy, lazy way.

This time I finally got serious.  I printed out the entire book and put it in its own special binder.  Then, armed with a red pencil and some post-it-notes, I mercilessly butchered it.  Rearranging scenes, deleting scenes altogether, completely reordering plot points, adding new characters.  When I was done, there wasn’t a page that wasn’t stuck with notes or scribbled with red.

And then, I didn’t just go through and make the prescribed changes.  Nor did I paste over the good and almost-good parts and fill in the gaps.  Instead, I took the binder, set it up on my desk, opened a brand new word document, and started all the way over from the beginning.

Yes.  I did just that.  Started over almost from scratch.  I didn’t copy and paste anything that was to stay the same, I looked at the binder and retyped it.  Why?  Going straight through like that helped me to have a better sense of the story as a whole.  It gave me a smoother and more accurate idea of how everything fit together from beginning to end.  So I’d type out a scene that stayed the same, then create the new material I needed to fit it to the next remaining scene.  When I came to a scene that could stay mostly the same with some altering, I’d fix it as I typed it out.

It wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be, though it was still definitely a long and arduous process.  At times it would go smoothly, and at other times my brain was screaming, “I already imagined out this whole thing, and now you’re making me do it all over again?”

But every second was unquestionably worth it when I took a look at the finished project and sent it out for feedback.  The story was tighter, more fulfilling, made more sense, had a better point, was more interesting, etc., etc., etc.  I absolutely could not believe how much better it was.

My test readers got back to me, raving about how much better the book was, and with some much more minor critiques.  I realized that then I could go through the manuscript and fix things as I went.  That there was a place for that sort of revision, it just wasn’t at the beginning, when the story still needed so much remolding.

So I fixed those things, gave it to a few more readers, fixed a few more things, and then began the final passes.  I did one read through the book just looking for “ly” adverbs, to see how many were unnecessary or weak.  I searched “was” to check for instances of passive voice that I hadn’t realized I was using.  I did a punctuation check of the whole book, reviewing my commas, semi-colons, dashes, and all the rest.  I did another to make sure that each sentence was as clear and communicative as it could be.  I did about ten or twelve of these before I was finally satisfied that the book was finished.

Yes, I could have gone on tweaking forever.  Oh yes, there are still things about the book that could be much better, and more polished.  But I knew that it was the best I could get it with the knowledge and skill that I had at the time.

And then, I went to publish it.

Revision can be a scary journey, especially when you’re new to it, but really any time.  Having to operate on your child, the story you’ve labored over so long and hard.  But if you think carefully, fit you revision style to the number and size of changes your book needs, it won’t be nearly as frightening, and you’ll end up with a better book.

A story that is worth all the love and work you put into it, and that will be very much worth reading.

*     *     *

J. Grace Pennington is a homeschool graduate and oldest of nine kids, living in the beautiful Texas Hill Country with her family. She loves to write (obviously) but also enjoys a variety of other activities including reading, watching films, playing piano, (and a bit of guitar and violin) playing with her siblings, chatting with friends, and riding her horse: Pioneer.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Organization is the key...?

Well, I did as I said I would and put together a post about my book projects. :) For once I was not thinking about writing books--only about organizing and sorting them. Here are the basics:

^ My shabby little fake-wood shelf before... (wasn't it depressing?)

...and after. :) Looks much more respectable, doesn't it?

I organized the shelves in my own little way. From the bottom up there are...miscellaneous books/Sarah's school books. Next shelf: Beloveds. Middle Shelf: Classics. After that: Antique Books. Top Shelf: Lamplighter/overflow classics. :)

My falling-apart copy of The Fellowship of The Ring--that's dedication you know; reading a book in that state.
I had forgotten I had bought a reprint Sears Roebuck's Catalog from 1902. :) It's the most marvelous thing for price-checking when writing a book set in that era....funny illustrations too. :)

Long underwear... haha!

My personal antique copies of books. :) There is nothing that delights me more than reading old books that I know were read and loved and cherished even before I bought them. :) I've got Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Windy Poplars, Little Women, Under the Lilacs, two of The Waverly Novels, Strawberry Girl, Hans Brinker, A Garland for Girls, Gulliver's Travels, a quote book, Moby Dick, and A Man Called Peter. :)

and my dear A.A. Milne books. :) I love the bumble-bee print covers. :)

My most cherished Literary Collection: 8 Dickens novels I bought with some graduation money. :)

This is actually Sarah's book--all of the letters Beatrix Potter wrote to little children--so sweet!

Detail of one page...

You want to know where I christen all my characters?
Yep. I admit it. Many of them have un-illustrious births in the Everything Baby Names Book. :D

My little book-loving statue. :)

This is the Antique Shelf after adding Sarah's books--some Thornton W. Burgess books, Eight Cousins, Jo's Boys, and others. :)

I hope you enjoyed seeing a little of my literary collection. :) After the sorting of the shelves I got rid of the books I never have liked. *feels slightly guilty.* ;) That means all these books left on the shelf (or nearly all of them) are tried and true and well-loved. I plan to expand my collection as I grow older, but for now it's probably just as well that I don't have any more books. As it was, Sarah is innocent of all charges of Book-Hoarder. Most of the titles on this bookcase are mine. :P Actually, I have a refurbishing project to do on a little cupboard that I hope to turn into a bookcase--I'll let you know how it goes! :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

the business bits we like to overlook ;)

I have not had much time for writing recently--life has caught me up in its talons and while it's all glorious and beautiful and hot and sticky and summer-y, it's left precious little time for actually thinking about plot and characters, phrasing and grammar. That is my little excuse, and I beg you to take it.
Otherwise I will have to do something terribly drastic mind. I couldn't think of anything drastic enough. ;)

Among the many project ideas and actually-accomplished-projects has been the all-consuming business of reorganizing and going through our bookshelves. I took plenty of pictures of my book collection (before, after, and favorite bits. :) so that you may see. It will have to be in another post though because I don't have the pictures uploaded to this computer yet. Be patient, y'all. ;) I was in raptures because I got to visit with all my beloved old friends, and literally throw out (or Goodwill) the chunks of paper that don't have a spot in my memory because they weren't worth it. ;) I felt powerful. Yes, I'm a bit of literary snob.

Though I haven't written any more of Fly Away Home since resigning from the Crusade, I have been working on a pin-board that may give you a bit of an idea of parts of the rest of the story. :) Yes, yes I know that's not a legitimate form of research... ahem...

Yes, I know I haven't been writing and really haven't felt that much like writing, but I've been indulging in reading. It had been a slightly forbidden pleasure for so long--I would forgo the pleasure of reading in order to get in my word-count--that I am quite giddy with the sensation of gobbling book after book. :)

Oh! In other news, who wants to help name some of my newest characters? I won't promise I'll use all of your ideas, but I need some names for the crew of The Scuppernong. Most specifically:

2nd mate
ship's cook
ship's doctor
a half dozen particular sailors who will figure in the plot
second cabin-boy

Oh! And besides a few minor adjustments (like putting back a few of the "about me and my writing" pages) the new blog design is done! Vote on how you like it at the poll on the sidebar. And thank for any suggestions you might have for sailing-folk names. :)
Au Revoir, Inky Ones! Have a loverly evening. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Putting lipstick on the blog...

Pardon the mess while I rearrange this blog! Soon enough it'll all be back to looking purty. For now, enjoy the mess. ;)

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Crusade Fades

I wanted to say that I have resigned from the June Crusade. I knew from the start that it would probably happen, but I thought I'd just give myself a break and officially resign. I am still writing, but part of the whole problem is that I want to work on Scuppernong Days and Fly Away Home simultaneously, and I don't have time (or brain-power) enough to try to speed-write one and still give quality time to the other. Sorry, Anne-girl, that I am not valiant enough to join in your crusade. I enjoyed my time participating immensely, but Life's limitations had written another story for me. :) I look forward to posting an update on Scuppernong Days soon! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Begging tips from Stevenson!

I am always on the look-out for fellow letter-writing enthusiasts. Imagine my extreme delight when I found a charming, witty, beggary-letter written from a 15-year-old Robert Louis Stevenson to his father, asking for more money. I found the letter reprinted in the newest issue of Reader's Digest. :) I've shared it for you, below. Take notes, my fellow writers--it's pure genius:

Respected Paternal Relative,
     I write to make a request of the most moderate nature. Every year I have cost you an enormous--nay, elephantine--sum of money for drugs and physician's fees, and the most expensive time of the twelve months was March.
But this year the biting Oriental blasts, the howling tempests, and the general ailments of the human race have been successfully braved by yours truly. 
Does this not deserve remuneration?
I appeal to your charity, I appeal to your generosity, I appeal to your justice, I appeal to your accounts, I appeal, in fine, to your purse.
My sense of generosity forbids the receipt of more--my sense of justice forbids the receipt of less--than half a crown.
Greetings from, sir, your most affectionate and needy son,
                              R. Stevenson

Thursday, June 14, 2012

they know not for what they listen

"It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this earth; and many of the children of the Iluvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen." -J.R.R. Tolkien
It can be hard to write emotions in any sort of fiction. Emotion is so colorful and yet unseen. So gossamer-threaded and yet shadowed. But it is seldom harder to write than in children's fiction. Because, let's be frank: children can't put words to their grief or anger. They only know that it hurts and it aches and tears momentarily cool the burning passion raging in their breast. But often children find expression for their emotions by other means, and it is up to the writer of children's fiction to familiarize themselves with the ways a child may view the world, and to write their emotional scenes in this way so that the children reading the novel may identify with the characters.
Take Nicodemus Murdoch, nine years old, and hero of Scuppernong Days. His mother died of the fever, and his father at sea. How does he process it all?
First in memories...

But now that he had arrived at the real site of it all, he felt very much ten years old. Never had the tall-ships seemed so massive—hull and masts and yardarms penciled insidious black against the grey morning fog. When Nick had visited the docks as a younger lad he’d felt king of all Salem, seated as he was on Father’s shoulder. The sailors had looked up at him then, their jovial, sun-crisped faces tilted at Father—six feet tall—with jolly recognition.
“What say you to a pint of rum, Sam?” they might ask. Or, if the day were fine: “How ‘bouts we row out to the harbor and see what the India Queen brung in?” And Father would laugh down his briny, brawny laugh and shake his head. “I’m spending the day with my first mate.” First Mate. That’s what Nick had been to Father in those happier times before.

....then in association.

It must be a very great and powerful God who had made the oceans. Nick wondered what language they spoke—what words the Lord had used to tell them this far they could come, but no farther, and here their proud waves must stop. It was a great thought—so great it made Nick feel too small and insignificant, so that he had to whistle his jaunty tune again to remember himself by. Still the sea kissed green against the dark bulwarks and Nick could see it down the cracks in the dock from his vantage of the coil of rope. That same water that slapped quietly against the piling might have come from China. It might have come from China or beyond, perhaps to a place yet uncharted. It might have come from father, from the place it had burbled around his head and shoulders and finally swallowed him up.
Then Nick knew why he had never taken Imperia to the harbor, and why even now he drew his feet closer to him, high up on the coil of cordage far as he could from any latent spray of the brine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yo-ho-ho and all that

On Monday I got the privilege to go to Norfolk and visit the OpSail and Harbor Fest in commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812. I got gobs of research done for Scuppernong Days. It was a blessing straight from God, that just as I needed lots of ideas and facts and knowledge about sailing ships, 51 of them sail into a harbor nearish-by! We almost missed it (second to last day!) but everything worked out so that I got everything I needed, and even more. I research partly by listening, partly by looking, and a great deal by absorption. I spent the day on sailing ships. It'll help far more with my writing than sitting and reading a whole book on sailing would ever do. :) I also indulged in a deal of people-watching, which is one of my absolute favorite sports. I overheard so many funny conversations, including one between a woman and an Indonesian sailor who had been sailing since January to get here.
"Are you homesick?"
"No! I wanted to see world so I joined de Navy."
 (at least he was honest. :) 

Very hard at work researching, as you can see. ;)

Ahhh... that's more like it. :)

Sarah and I on the Godspeed.

^ The salt-breeze-intoxicated Authoress posing for her personal photographer in front of Information. ;)

It was a fabulous jaunt and I am so filled with a ripping, tearing thirst for travel that it isn't even funny. :D Or maybe it is slightly comical, seeing as I am entirely broke and couldn't buy a tram ticket, let alone a pass to the West Indies. But all in all I had one of the most exciting, fabulous days I've had in a long time. There were enough memories made to last me a life-time. (and to exhaust 7 pages of a letter to a friend. *smiles at Felicity*) This is by far my favorite manner of doing research!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Goodly Sample

I shall follow trend and post a bit of The Seasonings to ask your opinion. Would you like to read this book if you saw this bit? :)

The next morning we waved goodbye to Angie from the gate of our little cottage on Barholt Lane. She wore her best Sunday dress, and a great big white hat. Her blond hair curled softly beneath the brim, and she looked like a china doll I had seen in one of the shop windows in the settlement. Though if you pressed me I’d never be able to tick off the names of all the frippery the girls delighted in, I prided myself on knowing a well-dressed woman when I saw one. And she was one. I was satisfied.
Dill thumped me on the back. “Congratulations, old boy. This is the best idea you’ve had yet.”
I knew that Angie was capable of very charming manners, so I had suggested we dress her up, and send her off to the Ladies’ Club where the OLAF met. I thought if she could listen to enough gossip, she might hear of any ladies that were single or widowed or looking to be married. Very posh, the club was, and she was the only one of us ‘proper’ enough to pass muster under their spectacled eyes, so we sent her on all our dirty-deeds. It was a good system, I thought.
We waved goodbye to Angelica from the neutral ground of our front garden, and she grinned and stuck her tongue out before turning back to the road and curtseying to Major Warner just as he passed. As I’ve told you, she could have good manners if she had a mind to.
The rest of us walked to down to the quiet, sandy, beach and tried to enjoy our first day of summer holidays, despite our eagerness to learn of Angie’s success.

                                                       * * * *
That afternoon Angie tore into the yard, waving a piece of paper. She paused to catch her breath and straighten her hat that sat askew on her curls. “I have a whole list of eligible ladies.” She pranced around like a peacock and I had a sudden twitching in my fingers that warned me I was about to pull one of her elegant tail-feathers by way of yanking a ribbon. Instead I snapped my fingers and cocked her hat to the other side of her head. She pushed my hand away and grabbed for the list Dill had snatched away. Rosemary and Fenny joined us in the yard, and we all sat along the fence listening to Dill.
“But not all of these women can marry Papa.” Rosemary reminded us, as the list wound to an end.
“Of course not goose. But I don’t think all of them would want to.” I took the list from Dill and studied it. “Angie, this is your handwriting. However did you get a chance to write the names down if you were sitting in the middle of the meeting?”
She only grinned more broadly than ever—a maddening, Cheshire of a grin she used at the most aggravating moments. “I wasn’t.”
I hated to show my confusion, but it was worse to sit there with my fate hanging in the balance. “If you didn’t sit in the meeting, then how did you find out about all these people?” I waved the piece of paper in her face.
“I sat behind that group of potted palms. Ram Nokis knew I was there, and he slipped me three cookies. He really is a very nice waiter. Too bad we don’t have a mother that needs to get married. He is so nice and has a funny little parrot that rides around on his shoulder and squawks rude things at the ladies. Then Ram Nokis has to lock him up in the larder until he stops.”
“But you still haven’t told us how you got the names.” I pressed.
Angie shot me a withering glance full of barbs and arrows and glass-shards. “As I said before, I was sitting behind the palms, and I found an old receipt from someone’s bill, and you know what they bought? Three dozen tarts and a bottle of champagne. Think of all that rich food. Whoever ate all that must have felt sick.”
I was about to pinch Angie to help her stay focused, but she saw me and continued with the story. “Anyway, I asked Ram Nokis for a pencil, and he gave it to me, and I listened to the OLAF and wrote every name down. Well, at least the ones that they said were unmarried or widowed or that sort of thing.”
I re-read a few of the names scrawled on the paper, stumbling verbally over Angie’s dubious spelling. “Widow Tabythuh Micklurrin, Miss Sinthyuh Lowell, Miss Jone Preengul…. And Dill read you the rest. Eleven in all.”  It’s not every girl who can combine the best penmanship with the most villainous spelling—I had often thought of bestowing some award upon her for her prowess in this area. I folded the paper and stuffed it in my waistcoat pocket alongside a bit of twine and a petrified tree-frog. “I propose that we go about this in a reasonable way. We’ll pick a name every day and visit that lady. If she isn’t the right one, then we’ll visit another the next day. That way we might find a mother before too long—we only have twelve weeks of summer holiday, you know.”
 “Capital logic Basil—I should have suggested just that sort of thing.” Dill agreed—he really was a good chap, always ready to take credit where credit wasn’t due him, and repeat the favor in your case.
Angelica—ever practical—crossed her arms and eyed me sternly. “When do we start?”
“Tomorrow—one doesn’t waste time when the future is on the line.”

*     *     *

That evening Papa was to come home from work early enough to spend an hour with us in the parlor. I worried that Fennel would speak about our plans in front of him. All little children (and girls most of all) seemed to be geniuses in saying the things that oughtn’t to be said at the moments it was worse to say them. Fennel was no exception. Really, all my siblings were gifted in this area. But tonight’s scenario was especially worrisome to me. Would Fennel remember our warning against telling Papa our plans? I hoped so.
I took out my pocket knife and chose a stick of wood from the queerly carved rack near the fireplace. Then, sitting down on an ottoman, I turned it over in my hands. I had no inspiration for carving, but my mind was in a state requiring action to steady it.
Papa entered the room and walked to the fireplace with his hands in his pockets. He faced us, and I looked at my father with eyes sharpened by worry and recent absence. If I was any sort of a people-watcher I might have sketched you a very pretty picture of his person—the way he stood erect and soldierly and as true to his convictions as a compass is to due North.
He was handsome. No one could doubt that. There was one point in his favor. Papa’s wavy brown hair was rumpled, as if by a strong wind, and his blue eyes twinkled.
“You all look comfortable,” he said.
Rosemary put her knitting aside and stood from her chair. “Won’t you sit down, dear?”
A smile brought the laughing, boyish look we loved so well into Papa’s face. “Yes, little mother. I will sit down, for I’m fagged. But not in that chair—she’s the easiest in the room and my Rosie must have the best of the best.” Papa always spoke of the furniture as a sailor speaks of ships. The easy-chair was a she and the dining-room table—especially when it had been especially cruel and banged us on the head with one of its sharp corners—was a He of the first order.
“But you’ve been working and I haven’t—I read in the garden all day. There’s a dear, and let Sali get you a cup of tea,” Rosemary pleaded
Papa gently pulled one of Rosemary’s curls and I smiled. Rosie was like a little mother, always fluttering about to take care of us all.
My carving-knife ceased action and I stole furtive glances at my father, continuing with my mental appraisal. Papa’s character was impeccable, and he was a gentleman. That was another point in his favor. The score was racking up, and I smiled to myself. What woman would be able to resist the offer of marrying our father?
I leaned against the wall and started again at the whittling of the wooden block. It began to take the shape of an elephant under my steady hand. I would give it to Fenny as a present.
She sat in Angie’s lap, near Dill, and looked on as he chatted about the OLAF.  So far there had been no tactless spilling-of-the-cats-in-the-bag. (Or however that old adage went.)
“The old hens at the Lady’s club eat so much, it’s a wonder they aren’t all as fat as…as elephants.” Dill said.
Fennel sat up a little straighter and her face assumed a wise expression that clutched my heart in frenzied hands and assured me some major slip of the tongue was imminent. “They sure do eat lots and lots. They et hundreds a’ tarts.”
The cozy click of Rosemary’s knitting needles ceased. Dill’s face was like a thundercloud. We all froze, hoping against hope that Fennel would stop speaking.
Angie was the only one who could gather her wits about her. “You’re right Fennel, the OLAF do eat a lot of tarts. You know, if you and I stacked up all the tarts they ate in a month, I bet it would reach all the way to the tippy-top of the church steeple. Or we could make a whole castle out of tarts for your dolls. Wouldn’t that be charming?” she asked, thereby diverting the conversation into safer waters. She grabbed Fennel by the pinafore and marched her behind the sofa I sat on, under pretence of drawing plans for a tart-castle. Brilliant girl. In my thoughts I marked down a note to slip Angie an extra cookie at tea-time for her cleverness. Such loyalty ought to be rewarded.
Dill hurried to the heavy-cargoed shelves and brought a book of European engravings to the table beside Papa. He began questioning him about some of them as we generally did in these odd hours we had our father to ourselves. I tossed my carving in the woodbox—it didn’t resemble an elephant after all—and plopped onto the couch with a book I didn’t intend to read. I could hear the whispered conversation Angelica and Fennel held behind my sofa. I flipped to the title page of Little Dorrit and pretended to be absorbed by my reading.
“Fennel Seasoning, don’t you dare say another word about the tarts. You’ll end up spoiling our secret.”
“What secret?” Fennel asked eagerly.
I tried not to smile, and turned a page in my book, not seeing the words.
“The secret about finding a mother. Remember Basil told us not to speak of it?”
“Ohhh…. I’m sorry Angie. Did I spoil it?” A note of panic crept into her voice.
“No silly. Not yet, but you almost did. Just be quiet for pity’s sake, and only talk about the weather or the garden or something. Because if you tell—”
“Will you take away my puddin’?”
“We’ll hide your dolls for a week solid and sow your covers with tin-soldiers so they’ll prick you while you sleep. You can’t tell Papa. Weather or gardening—nothing else. Heart-solemn-promise?”
“You’re sworn, Fennel—now shush.”
 I tried to stifle a laugh. Angie’s threats might reveal more than was seemly of our childish penalty-system, but it would be no good to tell Papa our plans for his looming marriage. He’d only remember Mama and be sorrowful and then what good would our scheme be?
Angelica and Fennel returned to the group, and sat primly on their chairs like actresses at the start of a charade.
“The weather was pretty today wasn’t it?” Fennel immediately began, with all her six year’s charm.
“Yes it was, Fenny.” Papa took her upon his knee and stroked her blond curls.
“No rain, or thunder, or lightnin’, or anything,” she continued.
“No Fennel, you’re quite right. The weather is usually perfect this time of year.”
“Yep. Just sun-shiny and pretty. I didn’t even need my stockings. And Rosie let me play in the garden with only my feet on.” Fennel said.
“Is that so?”
“Yes… but the flowers need rain. They’s gettin’ all droopy. The weather is so pwetty. Don’ you like this weather? I like this weather.”
Angelica frowned and poked her hard in the ribs.
“What? You tol’ me I should talk `bout the—”
“Papa.” I interrupted just in time.
I grabbed mentally for any topic that would divert the subject. “Wasn’t the roast extra good tonight?”
Angie rolled her eyes at the weak attempt. Pitiful. Absolutely pitiful. A porridgy attempt, really. Papa smiled faintly. “Yes, it was very good. But Sali always cooks the meat to perfection.”
We were silent for some time. The knowledge that we could not talk about the one all-consuming subject of finding a mother had put a damper on my ability to make conversation.
At last, Papa roused himself with a sad smile. “I’m sorry to be so dull tonight. It is—was—your mother’s birthday…But she would want us to be cheerful. She never went in for all this rain-cloud folderol. Come tell me about your day.” He took Fennel upon his knee, and examined the grubby bouquet of flowers Angie offered with assumed cheerfulness. Rosemary leaned over the back of his chair and stroked his head while Dill chattered away about a huge fish that we had found washed up on the sand.
“How was your day at camp?” I finally asked, for he was in charge of training new recruits for the British Army and it seemed a subject excessively far removed from any mention of mothers.
As if glad for a topic he could expound upon, Papa smiled and charged bravely forward with a report of the entire goings on.
Later on, after Papa had prayed with us and tucked each one of us in our own beds, I lay awake watching the shadows of the mango tree wave and flutter on the wall.
I wondered if our plan would succeed, and if we ever would have a real mother again. It was late when at last I heard Papa go into his bedroom. Not long after I succumbed to my own weariness, the day’s distractions slipping away—cotton-like—on the soft wings of sleep.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cape Farsight--the most complete incompleteness.

In my imagination I see things so vividly. The places in my books are alive and I could take you on a tour of my dream-worlds. Last night as I lay in bed my mind kept drifting over to Cape Farsight, India, home of the Seasoning children. I hadn't thought of this book of mine for a long time, being too absorbed in my other books. But you know when a book is good. You know it because you can't forget it.
As I drifted off to sleep I took a mental tour of the Cape and all the dear places I grew to love so well. It's strange how vividly I see it all--almost as if I've been there before. I was pleased to see how well I remembered each path under the shady trees and each turning of the dusty-dim road.
I can see the Seasonings' little bungalow--the front walk covered over in exotic vines, the large window looking into the dining room. The rooms are low and cool and shady--a blessed relief from the heat outdoors. I can see Derrydock in the distance, and I know (because I have walked it many times in thought) the way to the marketplace. You turn right out of the Seasonings' gate, pass a grove of low trees, cross a dusty foot-bridge, and you are in the market, socializing with Dharma and smelling all the thousand and one scents pervading the air there.
On the other hand, if you take the left branch out of the gate, you will come to Miss---oh blast. I forgot her name.--well anyway, you come to her house and then continue on. Pretty soon, taking a bit of a right-ward veer you will happen upon the Green in the center of the village, and on the other side of that Green is the Ladies' Club where the OLAF meet.
All of it is right there in my mind and I can see it and hear it and smell it and I know it. Cape Farsight is as real to me as any place in this world. Because I've spent a whole novel there. I met my characters there, and I do believe it will always stay with me because it holds the esteemed place of being my first novel I was satisfied with. I do hope to introduce you to it someday, and I do hope I have been able to describe it so you can see it as I do. At any rate, I hope someday to see Cape Farsight...I'll let you know when I find it. :)
P.S. I'm thinking of re-naming the book: The Mother-Hunt. What do you think? :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grit, Wit, It

It just so happened that before the June Crusade began, I had been re-re-reading (get that?) James Scott Bell's Revision and Self-Editing. It's a fabulous book, and one that I think every aspiring author (and even old-hands) ought to poke their noses into now and then. One point that I am always struck by is his section on what he terms "Grit, Wit, and It" Witness his introduction to this section:
"What is it that makes these characters unforgettable? In analyzing hundreds of memorable characters, I believe three factors prevail above all. I call them grit, wit, and it."
Obviously the first one leads perfectly into one of Mr. Bell's pet-peeves. NO WIMPS! Your protagonist should never be a wimp. Maybe he starts off weak in strength, but there is a way to write weakness that is as strong as strength. You have to put fight into your characters. Never let yourself write a wimp. You'll never get over it.

Point Two: Wit. This is something that I see precious little of in books, but when I do see it I cheer. There is nothing like a bit of wit thrown in unexpectedly. By wit, I mean something unexpected, clever, and throw-away. Something even so obscure that you don't even notice it's there the first time. Here, Mr. Bell talks about "wit":
"Wit is something that everyone warms to when it's natural, not forced. An easy way to do this is by making the wit self-deprecating. If the character as the ability to laugh at himself, wit will come naturally, as when Rhett Butler chides Scarlett O'Hara, 'Why don't you say I'm a damned rascal and no gentleman?'
Wit can also make light of an overly sentimental situation..."
In another spot Mr. Bell talks about a line of biting wit being "the perfect counterpoint to what could have become maudlin self-pity." I will admit, I'm not one who can write heavy drama. I just don't do it well. I've never liked melodramatic stories and I can't write it myself. Even in Fly Away Home when Callie is fleeing in tears from a humiliating moment when she loses it in front of America's most famous journalist, she can't help but find a tiny bit of humor:

"I continued my flight, weaving through the late lunch-crowd of my fellow journalists, hoping no one saw the tracks of tears in the powder on my face. I wiped my cheek with Annamaria’s napkin that I had somehow forgotten to let go of, and considered my options. I could leave the country. No—that wasn’t exactly doable. I had no money—besides. Mr. Barnett had already kindly pointed out that I was ignorant in all forms of second-langauges. And I didn’t suppose there was a secret island of Roman swine that would be willing to have me write articles in Pig-Latin for them. Nah—I didn’t recall reading anything of that sort in my high-school geography book."

Wit is definitely something that can add spice to a situation that might otherwise be run-of-the-mill.
The third and last component in creating unforgettable characters is "It". This is something that can be classified (in my mind) as charm. That thing in a person that causes people to flock toward them like bees to honey. As J.M. Barrie said: "It's a sort of bloom on a woman. If you have it, you don't need to have anything else; and if you don't have it, it doesn't much matter what else you have."
The characters with personal magnetism are the best. The ones that linger in your mind because even you can't help but be attracted toward them. Give your characters personality. Let them sparkle and snazz and do things you have no idea how you thought up. Let them be themselves and give them hearty helpings of Grit, Wit, and It with every meal. You'll never forget it. ;)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hold me while I swoon and wish I was a millionaire.

I just heard the most amazing news ever. Really. (Okay. Hearing a publisher wanted my book would be the most amazing news ever, but this is a really close second.) Crotchford Farm (A.A. Milne's house) is up for sale!!!! If you have 2-3 million dollars you can own a bit of Winnie-the-Pooh for yourself! It is the most darling home:

And dates back to the 16th century! 

All the best little places from the Winnie-the-Pooh books are within walking distance, including the Hundred-Acre-Wood, Pooh-sticks Bridge, and Pooh-Corner! The house has 9.5 acres of land, a bit of stream, field, and forest, 6 bedrooms, and 3.5 bathrooms. Perfect for a large, rambunctious family.

Right. Brilliant!

So's all I need is a husband, 3 million dollars, and a large rambunctious family. Then I can sit at Pooh Corner and let my genius pour forth to astonish the world. It's a beautiful plan and I'm muchly tempted. After all, it's the next best thing to hearing that Beatrix Potter's Hill-Top Farm has hit the market! :D

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ladybird Snippets

Ooodalolly! Time for June's Snippets of Story! I have plenty share, this being my June Crusade month and already about 5k words into it! :) All of this month's snippets are from Fly Away Home...the story I'm loving more and more. (and no--it has nothing to do with the fact that I am writing Mr. Wade Barnett for my own pleasure and to my own taste. ;) Without further ado, I present:
June's Snippets:

“I have given complete authority over you to Mr. Barnett. You take your cues from him now, and if he don’t find you satisfying, you’re out. Understand?” Shores’ balding head shone with perspiration, and a hot breeze wafted over us from the open window down the hall. 
“Perfectly.” I smiled and fluttered my lashes like Ava Gardner. “Gee Mr. Shores, you’re such a great boss—giving me this break and all. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.” 
“I’m sending you on this job because you’re dispensable. Jules can’t be spared. I already told you that. Now, if you’d stop blinking like a cat caught in a sunbeam, I’d appreciate it.”
 *    *    *
Mr. Barnett drew near and perched on the edge of my desk. He fiddled with the leather tassel on the clasp of my handbag. “Right-o. Shoot away. I’ll tell you all I know." 
“We’re supposed to create a family paper?” 
“So Mr. Shores says.” 
“News, nonfiction, short stories, poetry, ads, or what?” 
“A bit of it all, I suppose. A cosmopolitan paper for the family fireside, if you will.” 
“Real cute.” Real sappy, I said inside. I twisted on my chair to see the time. Eight-thirty sharp. “So it doesn’t sound like Mr. Shores has much of a plan.” 
Mr. Barnett laughed—it matched the elbows of his coat: shiny, worn, genuine. “Not much. The whole plan is mine, actually.” 
“Yours?” That threw me for a loop. “But I thought this was one of the Post’s ventures.” 
“It is. I signed a contract last month to head up a new magazine for the Post. But strictly speaking, it’s a personal venture; I wished to test a theory.”
*    *    * 
       He shifted and bent to look into my eyes. I tried to hold his gaze but it was too open and honest for me. I saw hopes written there, and dreams. I saw a soul and it troubled me. I preferred the cold glaze so much of Manhattan wore—it saved one the trouble being hurt.
 *    *    *
“…in every person, in every soul, somewhere there is a faint, long-lost glimmer of childhood. However deep they might wish to bury it, however long it has been hidden.”
 *    *    *
Mr. Barnett reached into the cardboard box and took out a stack of files. He glanced at the writing on each with a concentrated frown and handed it to me, smiling. I watched this play of expressions across his features and considered him. He was not eccentric—he was too pleasant and good-humored for that. He was not a crank. He was hardly even a bachelor—any more than I was an old-maid. Long ago when my first guy dumped me I determined I’d never get married and I would never be an old-maid. The two are not exactly inconclusive—I’d sorted it out in my head this way: spinster-hood is more a condition of the heart than the circumstances.  I never planned to let my heart grow bony elbows and graying top-knots and I certainly never planned on wearing spectacles—unless they were the cutesy ones with the rhinestones on the side. No. I was no spinster, and Mr. Barnett was not a hermit. That being decided, I filed the remainder of the folders and pushed the drawer. It closed with the familiar crunching, rumbling sound that never failed to make me feel productive.

I've Joined the June Crusade! *SAVE ME*! ;)

I have done something I may or may not regret. I've joined the June Crusade over at Scribblings of my Pen and Tappings of My Keyboard. It's NaNoWriMo but in June. Check it out! :) My novel I'll be using will, of course, be Fly Away Home. The goal is to write 50,000 words by June 30th. That means 1,667 words per day for 30 days. Think I can do it? Maybe. I'm trying at least, since I had been wanting to get back onto an accountable writing schedule. Yesterday's Word Count? 2085. Not bad. Not bad at all. I will be getting up early in the mornings to accomplish this. Think I'm crazy? Yeah. Probably. But I might as well try, since several of my writing buddies are doing it. :) To kick it off, The Anne-Girl (hostess of this event) has provided a fun tag:

What is the name of your novel?

Fly Away Home

Are you doing the book in a month challenge?

Well, I'm doing the 50k word challenge. I hope my book is longer than that. :)

Name your three main characters.

Eh....Calida Harper, Mr. Wade Barnett and Nickleby, the cat.

Give a basic summary of the plot line. Sort of like a back cover blurb.

Calida Harper graduated from journalism school and set out to win the title of World's Best Reporter. But now, a few years later Callie is chained to a desk drubbing out obituaries, ads, and the occasional theater-review. So she feels it's a big break when her boss assigns her to start a new magazine with journalism-hero Mr. Wade Barnett. It seems like the stroke of luck Callie has been waiting for. But life isn't all a bowl of cherries. Especially when one's measure of success, glory, and a life lived well oppose your employer's at every turn. Callie isn't sure she likes Mr. Barnett's old-fashioned ideas. He isn't certain she has her head screwed on right. Then the magazine-venture begins to fail and Callie risks losing her job, and the heart of the only man she has ever felt safe with. What will be the end of it all? Only time will tell if Callie is willing to fly away home.

Which character is your favorite so far?

Mr. Wade Barnett, of course. Actually--guilty confession--I am writing him as a character I'd be certain to fall in love with if it was a published book I was reading. You know--the next Mr. Knightley? ;)

Do you believe in assigned word counts and deadlines, or just writing whenever you feel like it?

I believe a self-imposed deadline or word-count can be rather beneficial in  getting the first draft done. However, I do think there is some wiggle-room. :)

What's your books theme song?

Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" or else "The Way  You Look Tonight" :)

What inspired you to write this?

My short story: "How About Coffee?" :)

Have ever read or seen Les Mis?

Read the entire, huge, thick, monstrous unabridged version, and have listened to much of the music and loved it. I'm planning on seeing the movie this December (*squeal*) and watching it on the Broadway tour next spring! :)

What author has inspired you the most? 

Gracious. Different people at different times. E. Nesbit, Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, L.M. Alcott, Jenny Freitag, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, A.A. Milne...lots of peeps. :)

Well...sing ho! I've joined the June Crusade!!!! :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

In defense of Callie Harper

After last post I realized I had made quite a mistake in not explaining Callie Harper to you better. In wanting you to love Jerry, I ended up making quite a pool of loyal Callie-despisers. That was not the intention of the post and now I find myself saddled with the enormous job of reclaiming her sullied reputation. Let me see how I do.

First of all, Callie is not a mean girl. She is only insecure in every way imaginable. Witness her mind in  action. :)

    All at once I realized the cabbie wasn’t taking me down Fifth Avenue. We had turned off Columbus Avenue where my apartment was, and were now meandering toward Broadway. I reached through the little pane of glass separating me from mine worthy host and rapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me. It is quite illegal for you to take me a different route from the one agreed upon. I have a constitutional right to go where I wish, as long as I pay.” 
    The cabbie shrugged and kept his eyes on the road, but through the rear-view mirror I could see he looked a bit unnerved. “What are you? A lawyer or sumpin?” 
    “I’m a newspaper reporter, actually, and if you don’t want to see your seedy cab-business written up on the front page of the St. Evan’s Post, you’d better take me where I want to go.” 
    My words sounded braver than I felt—I hated getting stuck in this sort of cab—having to use that constitution spiel. Now I wasn’t even certain I wanted to go down Fifth Avenue. I hadn’t any real business there—just wanted to scout out which penthouse I’d rent once I made it big.  Should I tell the cabbie to proceed on the course he’d chosen? But no—a woman had to stick to her word in NYC or the men would take shameless advantage over her.

Truth is, Calida Harper is a fish out of water. She doesn't know it, and even if she did, she wouldn't acknowledge it. But her father deserted the family when she was two years old. Her brother died in WWII. The men in her life have not stuck around and gradually Callie has grown a bit cynical. Still, she's not all bad. There remains in her a humorous, gentle, sweet streak that consistently appears for her cat, Nickleby, and at random moments for other people.
She wills desperately to be successful, glamorous, and famous. Her measure of her worth is in what other people think of her--therefore she gets complexes rather often, and wavers between self-satisfaction and self-doubt. Her issue is not her self-image. She knows she's pretty and can carry off pretty nearly whatever she puts her mind to, but rather she's wrapped up in the measure of professional success.
When Callie first meets Mr. Wade Barnett, she gets a jolt. He's like no one she's ever met, and truth be told, he annoys her. You see, she's rather jealous of Mr. Barnett. He's a man who cares not a jot for the world's opinion, nor tried to work his way up, and yet he's reached dizzying heights of success. Callie, on the other hand, lives for being a big-time reporter and it irks her to see him making so little of her favorite dream.
I think what makes Callie and Mr. Barnett tick as a pair is the fact that he consistently brings out her fun, easy-going, genuine side and gives her a new idea of what a successful woman might be after all. Callie's double-duty personality can be seen briefly here:

     Growling to myself over the unfairness of it all, I fled the office and stopped at the edge of the street. There—just across the constant stream of yellow traffic—was my destiny. “Wish me luck, Nickleby,” I muttered. I took a large breath, drew myself to my stylish height of five-foot-eight, and dashed across the street in a brief lull between cars. Shores never told me which building I belonged in—but I never bothered about such things, just followed my intuition. I walked with a firm step up the sidewalk, enjoying the clandestine sensation of treading on the golden side and belonging there. I grinned like a loony at everyone that passed by before realizing that sort of a loose, girlish expression in no way fit the image I’d built of the famous Callie Harper. I pooched my lips, dropped into a lazy saunter, and ambled up the sidewalk, searching for the place I belonged. 
“Miss Harper? Are you well? You look a bit faint.”To my extreme horror, Mr. Barnett was at my elbow; brown eyes bent on me with concern. “I was just looking out for you." 
That's what I got for elegance. I pulled my arm away from his touch and summoned all the hauteur I could manage. “I am exceptionally well, Mr. Barnett. And you?”

You can see how hard Callie tries to look and act and be perfect. Poor girl. Gradually as Callie works alongside Mr. Barnett on their Ladybird Snippets project her views are constantly opposed and challenged on every point. Will their individual differences get in the way of business? Will Mr. Barnett turn out to be just like every other man in her life so far? You will have to wait to find out. :) But I do hope I've given you a bit of a better picture of Calida Harper. I don't condone her behavior toward Jerry, and sometimes she's downright horrid. But don't hate her, for my sake. :)

I popped a chocolate caramel into my mouth and grabbed Pickwick off the table, opening to the silk ribbon that marked my place.  “Observe, Nicks,” I said. And even around the lump of chocolate my voice had a determined edge to it. “I take notes from the best masters.” I nodded out the dim window in the directions of Shores’ office and sucked my chocolate. “Let that be a lesson to you, Mr. High-and-Mighty. I won’t be easily squashed.”