Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent: The Paradox

photo credit: tatum teels

Lord, deliver!
Rend the shiver
As our swollen
bodies lie
In the dark net
of the "not yet"
where we, wandering,
fear to die.
From "Adventus"

I sit down this evening to write and my heart is full with so many things. I am happy because I have spent the last several days with the best sampling of family and friends. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have not much more than we have ourselves, yet give lavishly. I am wistful because we are having our woods cleared and replanted and there is an ache inside me when I think of how pillaged it will long those trees grew. I am grateful because I know what it is to love and be loved. I am cozy because the sun curtsied goodbye with the colors of saffron and I am cold because there is none of summer's riot to the show. I am perfectly content and discontent all at once, happy and sad, up and down, satisfied and yearning, peaceful and anxious.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It is perhaps the only month in the twelve where the paradoxes are realized in this old event of waiting for the coming. The coming of Christ. The re-coming of Christ. We are content, peaceful, gentled, joyful in the assurance that it will happen. We are unsatisfied, anxious, pacing, saddened that we wait yet a while longer. And the preciousness of this season for me is the permission to feel myself torn in half sometimes by the beauty that is not yet versus the beauty that is right now. I often find myself upset by the many, conflicting minds of me. Have you ever felt your soul wrung by the fact that though you long for heaven's joys, there are beautiful moments that belong peculiarly and perhaps only to earth, and you wonder if you'll miss them? Moments like laughing so hard that you choke on your lemonade; moments where you slowly freeze with a friend's arm thrown companionably around you while you watch the sun set and nearly suffocate with bonfire smoke; moments where an Irish beat pounds as you reel down and down and down a line that never ends; moments where the stars are so clear and close you feel as if you could reach up and pluck one. Maybe in the new heaven and on the new earth, we'll have lemonade and choke with laughter too. I'm certain there will be sunsets more glorious than any I've seen here. Maybe there will be wild Celtic dances in the timeless time and we'll never retire with aches in our sides. Maybe the stars will be ours for the touching and we'll wear them in our hair. Perhaps it will be all these things and more. I know that the stabs of joy I experience in these earth-moments are so precious to me because they are reflections of the joy to come. But there is a fierceness in me that clings to earth because it is home. It is not home, but it is familiar. The familiarity is a home in itself. Heaven is unfamiliar, or rather so familiar it seems strange, so homelike it is almost unrecognizable as home.
So I long for earth.
And then I hear news of wars, plagues, uprisings, children brutally murdered by psychotic parents, abortions, terrorism, pain. Pain everywhere. And when I think it cannot get worse, death happens. I know our souls are immortal, that we are beings created for eternity, but again, earth has a beauty of its own. Because I live here, I want to be comfortable here. I don't want to know that if one of my beloved friends or family dies, that I will never be able to see them again until eternity. I want them to be here to snort lemonade with me, to nearly suffocate around the bonfire, to make my arms ache with the force of a grand reel. People sicken and grow old and their bodies belong less and less to earth. I wait for things. I wait for many things. I wait for a man who will pledge his life to mine and sometimes the waiting is especially hard. Not because I am tired of waiting, but because the people who are growing old and sickening belong to my heart. I want my grandmother to be at my wedding more than anything. And while time wears down her body and her lungs grow weary, I am still waiting. There are no men. There are no weddings. Will there be no Grandmama as well? And in those moments I ache as I have never ached before with wanting eternity. No more wars. No more separations. No more death. No more sickness. No more strife and arguments and tears and financial worry. I sin again. And again. And again. I doubt, I stumble, I fall, I rise, I deny, I admit, I inflict hurt, I ask forgiveness. And some moments I hate my beloved earth with a passion deeper than all the rest. I long for Christ. To be in His presence and have all this blown away in the glory of Himself. I thought I wanted earth when what I really want is eternity and a life in His presence--literally. In His presence. Able to reach for His hand and wander an amber wood and just adore Him. This is the thing for which I was created and I realize that I'll never be at home on earth. Earth is just a passing-through. Glory is beyond. But the real kicker? I'm stuck here. You're stuck here. We're stuck having precious earth and wanting wondrous heaven. Loving heaven but clinging to earth. Aching for what we'll leave, breaking for what we know is before us. The End is withheld. For now. It is coming but it has not come. You aren't imagining the feeling of pacing a room you love, scenting change in the air, knowing that any moment the glorious unfolding will gloriously unfold. But the "will" is not the "has."

Advent is a paradox. Your paradox, my paradox. Christ's paradox.
Weakness and strength.
Baby and King
Here and There
Now and Soon
We are the "and" in these arrangements. We don't belong to either world yet. Too much alive for heaven, much too immortal for life. But we have been called to a paradox and who are we to complain? Life is the messy bits. Our call is to live the paradox and draw into it the souls around us. Advent is the time when we remember this. The ache under my breast-bone is not a bad thing. The love I have for this life and the passion I have for the next are not meant to be lived one or the other. Somehow they combine. Some messy, messy way they do.

Advent: the coming. I wait with open arms.
"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace; Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end." -Isaiah 9:6-7

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Steal: 25% Off Anon, Sir, Anon! :)

Happy Belated Thanksgiving, my dears! I hope that your days were full of sweet family time and remembrances of God's gifts in your lives. Mine was! We had our neighbor-cousins, grandparents, sister-in-law, and two friends at dinner and it was beautiful. And crammed. And beautiful.

I was not part of the Black Friday craziness that begins on Thursday night at 6 pm. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous. But we older siblings have a long-held tradition that we do go out Black Friday morning, leaving our house around eight o'clock and coming home sometime mid-afternoon. I never buy anything of substance, mostly just Christmas presents. The real reason for going out is to holly-jolly with the best of family and friends. But some of you have to work, or can't get out, or don't want to get out, and I know how that is. So when I had the opportunity to participate in a big, fat, Black Friday book-sale event, I thought of you sitting there amongst leftover Thanksgiving food with nothing to read and I decided to join in with Anon, Sir, Anon at a 25% off discount!
 Today's deal is 25% off paperback copies...and Cyber Monday is 25% off the e-book!
So if you have not got your hands on a copy of my mystery and want your chance, now is a great time to buy it. I have it on good authority that Anon, Sir, Anon pairs excellently with chilly November days. For heaven's was set during cozy November days. I must tell you, though, that my book is not the only book on sale! Not a bit of it. Below, you will find a list of all the authors and titles participating, so here you go!
Kendra E. Ardnek
The Ankuluen: Cyber Monday
Saffron's Big Plan and Other StoriesCyber Monday
Do You Take This Quest?: Cyber Monday

Faith Blum
A Mighty Fortress: Black Friday  [V4Y5K36D -- 10%] and Cyber Monday)
Be Thou My Vision: Black Friday [7626YZAK -- 20%] and Cyber Monday

Sarah Brown
The Prodigal Pup: Black Friday [SB14CP31 -- 25%] Cyber Monday
Learning Lessons from Furry Friends: Black Friday  [SB14CP31 -- 25%] Cyber Monday

Kelsey Bryant
Family Reunion: Black Friday [YFY84GHU -- 20%]

Elizabeth Ender
RansomedBlack Friday [GNE6VUXY -- 30%]

J.J. Francesco
Blood Chain: Cyber Monday

Julie Gilbert
Nadia's Tears: Cyber Monday

Leah Good
Counted Worthy: Black Friday [K7CVNEER -- 40%] and Cyber Monday

Melody Grubb
The Land of Calais: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The Warmth of His Eyes: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Send Me, Lord Jesus: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Rachel Heffington
Anon, Sir, Anon: Black Friday [9MTYHSX3 -- 25%] and Cyber Monday

Rebekah Jones
Journeys of Four: Cyber Monday
Grandmother's Letters: Cyber Monday
A Year with the Potters: Cyber Monday

Jaye L. Knight
ResistanceBlack Friday [Q45HN6G9 -- 25%] and Cyber Monday

Tina M. Neely
Diamond Hair Princess: Black Friday

Joel A. Parisi
Shadow Play: Cyber Monday

J. Grace Pennington
Radialloy: Black Friday [Y2XHGYDN -- 25%] and Cyber Monday
In His Image: Black Friday [KXNZ7PYN -- 25%] and Cyber Monday
Machiavellian: Black Friday [UFXGUYMM -- 25%] and Cyber Monday

Jennifer Sauer
Why Rodney Never Should've Gone to the NAPIC: Black Friday [F76DDR7S -- 45%] and Cyber Monday

Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
Touch My Tears: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Third Side of the Coin: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Cara Simmons
The Haven: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The Leviathan: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The Champion: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Jordan Smith
Finding the Core of Your Story: Black Friday [NL4NJXWS -- 30%]

Rachel Starr Thomson
Reap the Whirlwind: Cyber Monday
Lady Moon: Cyber Monday
Angel in the Woods: Cyber Monday

Therese Heckenkamp
Past Suspicion: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Frozen Footprints: Black Friday

Melika Dannese Lux
City of Lights: Black Friday [FNB98MY6 -- 35%] and Cyber Monday
Corcitura: Black Friday [GU46WHKT -- 55%] and Cyber Monday

T.R. Lykins
Last Heartbeat: Black Friday and Cyber Monday
The Life Gift: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Melanie D. Snitker
Calming the Storm: Cyber Monday

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"My sister gets to keep her cat."

This is a public service announcement to let you know that this weekend, I'm running a special deal on Anon, Sir, Anon. That's right! On Black Friday, paperback copies will be available for at least 25% off the original price, while on Cyber Monday, I'll have a similar deal on e-book copies. So if you've held off on purchasing my mystery, now is a wonderful time to get ready to buy it. This deal is part of a big Black Friday book party I will be participating in and I'll have more info on that coming up in the next several days. But I thought I'd give my own dear readers a heads-up so you can start thinking about getting your own copy of this coziest of mysteries. :)

And in case you still aren't sure if Anon, Sir, Anon is for you, there are quite a lot of reviews up on Goodreads showing a variety of opinions. You ought to be able to find something to suit. I'm still tackling the finishing-bits of Cottleston Pie over here. Writing time is a little pinched this week. I opted to see Mockingjay Part 1 instead of sitting at home writing after work yesterday...I'm glad I did, but I will admit to being entirely at the mercy of every emotion as it hit me. I haven't read the Hunger Games trilogy and my sister has. Thus, I am totally oblivious to what will happen next and everything effects me deeply. I nearly died of high blood pressure. At any rate, all of this to say, when I finish the first draft of Cottleston Pie, I will do a triumphant snippets post. If you'd like that, comment below and give me a pep talk so I'll kick my tail into high gear and finish this. I only have about seven-thousand more words to go...which is a matter of a couple "chapters" of the story. Quite feasible. I would like to get it finished this week...which means getting it finished between tonight and tomorrow afternoon because THANKSGIVING IS COMING. I am so excited for the holidays this family has been rather spread out over the past six months. I've had a job and haven't been home much, my sister has been living away and interning/working at my brother's company, and Thanksgiving will be the first time we'll see my brother and new sister-in-law since the wedding! Not to mention the fact that we're also getting to spend this holiday with two amazing friends who can't make it to their own homes for Thanksgiving. So much for which to be grateful. :)

The quote is from Mockingjay and made me laugh aloud, even though I anticipated what Katniss would say.

Ten minutes of Cottleston Pie before I dash off to work. One good thing about working with kids is that I get free inspiration for Simpian Grenadine & Co. Tra!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

News About Cottleston Pie

"Wait to announce your weapons until after you've fired them."
This idea is quite appropriate for me when it comes to writing stories. I am a visionary. I get excited over a story, I start writing the story, and I get so terribly caught up in the delight of new words and characters and places that I announce the story. And then I realize that I was ill-prepared to tackle the task in the time in which I said I would do it, and I go off to crash and burn. This is why I've never participated in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). If November was not the month cram-jammed with family birthdays and occasions, I would probably be tempted yearly. But I know myself well enough at this point to know that I could not promise (or fulfill the promise) to write that much every single day without losing sanity or writing cheap prose for the sake of a word count.
"I can't help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as sailing through a sunset...almost pays for the thud."
-Anne of Green Gables, The Continuing Story
A little while ago I announced that I was writing a Christmas story, tentatively titled: Ring the Belles. It was meant to be finished in time to be given to a family member for a Christmas present. As I wrote, I realized that the story was not working in the era in which it was set...the tone is autobiographical and thus a bit too rollicking for the Regency Era setting. As I discussed this issue with fellow author Meghan Gorecki, she suggested I move the story to a different continent, where a slack tone of unconcealed dryness, wit, and raillery would not be unacceptable. I could keep my era, keep my plot, and keep the tone with this solution. Unfortunately, the idea of packing up the entirely 10k words and rewriting them on a new continent overwhelmed me. I had only a few days before my brother's wedding and I could not stomach the idea. So I shut down Ring the Belles till after the wedding. When I came back to writing this week, I was just not feeling a Christmas story. I did not feel much like writing at all, so I sat on my bed and did a few quick pen/watercolor sketches of the main characters in Cottleston Pie.


I don't know why they were stuck in my head, but they were and as I drew them and looked at these characters who are so well known to me, I realized what I really felt like doing was finishing Cottleston Pie. The Christmas story can wait. I have added six or seven-thousand words this week and am running along merrily toward a wrap-up. I intend to pitch this book as a short-novel for Young Readers (ages 8-12). The finished length will be about 25,000 words, with the option to chop the book into single picture books if need be. 
The deal is this: I do not want to publish Cottleston Pie on my own. It needs illustrations. It needs people who know what they are doing. People have said that I should illustrate the books myself, but I know nothing of illustration. I can draw, but I am unskilled in knowing how to transfer that into a digital form and transfer that into a layout and print it and anything else of that nature. This book is not for the indie-published. Of course down the road if I cannot find a publisher to take Cottleston Pie, I will probably do it myself, but I hope to be able to find a company that will publish these stories. They have a wider appeal than some things I plan to write, and I do think they could become beloved. I will be querying traditional publishing houses as soon as I have finished the first draft. I really hope something comes from this.
There is one publishing house especially that I would love to take doesn't help to know that almost nobody gets their book taken by the first house to whom they pitch it. All the same...this company sounds amazing. I'll definitely be following their projects even if mine isn't among them.

So maybe I'm announcing yet another weapon before I've fired it (LIPSTICK TASER!) but I decided I'd tell you now: I'm looking for a big-girl publisher for Cottleston Pie. Proceed as usual.

So the King gave Simpian his pen-knife and told him that, yes, he could have the pen-knife and yes, it was sharp, but no, he was not allowed to hurt anyone with it and if he did that yes, the King would have Words with him. What Words? Stern ones, and holy Moly, my boy, it was a foolish person who would volunteer himself to hear Stern Words from a King of his callipiller, so Simpian had better not try or he’d see what was what. And a peck of pears with green olives.
Whatever that meant.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Darley Coom

My brother is marrying my best friend on Saturday.
I got my first ever French manicure and thus crossed something off my bucket-list.
I will be wearing a sleeveless yellow chiffon gown in an outdoor ceremony.
The weather is meant to be 40 degrees.
Obviously, it's a big week.

I took leave of my senses and my responsibility this entire week as to trying to write anything I actually intend to turn into a real book. No nannying, no writing. But I found myself with time and desire for sketching up a little bit of Nothing, and since Nothing was pleasant, I give it to you now. This thing is filed as "Darley Coom Story" and as I said, is Nothing. But it is copy-righted (I always feel that ought to be "copywritten") so no snitching it. M'kay? On a side-note, I have missed my writing-for-children and this was a sweet pause in my workaday schedule.

{Darley Coom Story by Rachel Heffington}

August 4th, 1941
Somewhere outside of London

After--long after, when rain finally drowned the too-sunny sun and he had forgotten his splinter--Oliver thought he would remember precisely how his mother looked when he was put on the train and taken away from his family with a lot of other little children who didn’t want to go either. Mother looked like a doll whose face had been broken and put back together the wrong way. Her face, Oliver thought, had never looked so like a smashed teacup. And everyone knew a mother’s face was not supposed to look like a teacup in any state. But hers did, and the clock struck noon as she pressed him too hard to her coat and ran her hand over and over the top his hair, even while the rest of the family was saying goodbye, and then hugged him once more.
The day, as we have said, was not rainy or misty or fog-ridden as anyone would expect when such things were happening. It was actually a rather wonderful day, weather-wise. Oliver found himself angry at a little bit of everything in the world, including the weather.
He was fond of lists, was Oliver, and when things happened to him, he liked to order them inside his head. It was really unfortunate he did not have a pen and paper. There was nothing to write with. Not even a stub of pencil, which was unfortunate, and the only paper in the train car was pinned to their clothes in small, scared-looking squares that had the children’s names and destinations printed on them in a frightened hand. Oliver might have asked one of the three other children in his car for a pencil, but when he thought of opening his mouth and breaking the awful silence that had accompanied them now for half an hour out of London, he turned bashful. Thus, Oliver’s Unwritten List of Bad Things that day grew longer with each moment the train chugged away from his mother and father and big sister, Colleen and the horrible sunny platform at Paddington Station. At the exact moment the train passed under an extra-long railway tunnel and got frightfully dark, Oliver’s list looked like this:
  1. Leaving London
  2. Tears. I can’t cry, so the bridge of my nose hurts
  3. Sunshine when it should be raining
  4. Sunshine and having to be on this beastly train
  5. Railway tunnels
  6. Railways in general
  7. Germans, because they make bombs.
  8. Bombs, because they make me leave London
  9. No paper
  10. Or pen
If he thought longer about it, Oliver suspected he could come up with a few extra things to write down, but the list seemed long enough and the train had passed out of the tunnel and life was moving on in its horrid way.
“Number eleven,” he muttered, “Darley Coom.”
He picked at the splinter he'd got from running his palm over a stack of wooden crates. What was Darley Coom? Oliver had a vague notion of its being a place somewhere in the countryside where he should be safe from the Germans and their bombs. At least, that’s what his mother and father had told him. Not, he thought grimly, that it was much good now believing what his mother and father told him. They’d told him his family would never be apart, not even if a hundred Nazis were shouting on the doorstep, and look who was steaming out of London at this very second, headed for an unknown place with a strange name.
“Want to play cards?”
Oliver frowned at the girl who sat across from him with a stack of beaten-looking playing cards in her grubby fist. “Not much.”
“Come on. You’re not doing anything sitting there, are you?”
“I was thinking,” Oliver said. Then it seemed to him that he sounded a bit of a bear, so he tried again: “I’m not much good at anything but old-maid and that’s tiresome.”
“I can teach you poker,” the girl said.
This was unexpected. Children weren’t supposed to know how to play poker. His curiosity aroused, Oliver shrugged and turned his knees away from the wall of the train car and toward the little girl.
“I’m Mary Harrell,” she said with smile. “But you can call me Violet.”
“Why on earth would I call you Violet if your name’s Mary?”
This time she frowned. “You can call me Mary but I won’t promise to answer. Mary’s an ugly name and it belongs to my aunt who is an ugly aunt.”
“Oh.” He could see why it was to be ‘Violet’ after all. “I’m Oliver Hood. And where did you learn to play poker?”
“Dilly learned me.”
“Taught you, Violet.” The boy who looked to be a few years older than Oliver, twelve or thirteen or something, tossed an already-worn book aside. “Dillon Harrell. Vi’s brother. Older brother. And if you’re going to be a prude and refuse to play, tell me quick before I waste my breath explaining.”
“I’ll learn,” he snapped. Under the bashfulness and the anger, Oliver glowed with embarrassed over how difficult he was being. At least the fourth person in their unwilling company was being rude in a polite way. It was another girl and she sat beside Oliver and said absolutely nothing, nor looked at them. So what if she seemed unable to make friends--at least she didn’t blurt out snappish things all the time as he seemed to be doing. The girl sat quite alone in her corner of the train car with her rather grubby feet propped up against a threadbare carpet-bag.
“Will you play?” Oliver asked.
Violet and Dillon turned quizzical eyes to him. Oliver lifted one shoulder and inched nearer to the silent girl. “I say, will you play with us?”
The girl would not talk. Oliver could see she had been crying and he felt good to know someone could cry if he could not. But he did not like to see anyone upset, much less little girls, so he put a hand on her shoulder.
“Here now,” he said, “let’s dry you up and have a go at learning poker.”
At this, the girl darted a half-curious, half-reproachful look at the Harrell siblings and slid out from under Oliver’s hand.
“Oh, leave the dripper alone,” Dillon said. “If she’s not up for the game, she won’t play worth snuff anyhow.”
Violet shuffled her deck. The cards slapped against each other like a small crowd applauding. Like Oliver and his family had applauded when the soldiers in their neighborhood shipped out for Germany. Oliver watched the silent girl twitch when Violet flipped the deck over and shuffled again. Violet could do bridge, he noticed, and he wondered when his hands might grow large enough to learn the trick.
“Won’t you play?” he begged the girl.
She shook her head but she was looking at them now, at least. Her eyes were a funny silvery-green color and her hair was dark and heavy and cut level with her chin.
“So what you want to know first,” Dillon said, “Is what ‘ante’ means.”
Oliver, who knew a little Latin though he was only nine and half, perked up. “It means ‘before’, doesn’t it?”
“Well look what we have here! A cute little scholar. In poker, goose-head, it means the amount of money we’re all betting with.”
“But I don’t have any money.”
“Neither do we, silly,” Violet said. “Which is why we use pins.” She worked the pin out of the square of paper stuck to the front of her red sweater and cast it into the cap Dillon offered up for the occasion.
“One pin for each of us,” she said. “All in or don’t play.”
Oliver took his paper off, tucked it carefully under his left knee, and deposited his pin into the cap. “What’ll happen now?”
“One of us will win all the pins--and it’ll probably by Dilly, so don’t be surprised if that pin is gone for good.”
“But...” Oliver began to wonder if there was a reason children weren’t supposed to play poker. Violet and Dillon did not seem the most well-bred of all creatures. “Okay. Fine.”
“And the second thing you’ll want to learn--”
But before Dillon could get any further, the train-brakes shrieked, there was a grinding noise, a chewing noise, and Oliver and the silent girl were thrown forward into the laps of the Harrell siblings.
“Great horse whips,” Dillon swore softly.
Violet grunted and pushed Oliver off her body. “What the blazes did you do that for? You’ve made me drop the cards!”
“I didn’t do anything,” Oliver protested.
“Come off it, Vi,” Dillon said. “There’s something wrong with the train.” He stood and though the train still swayed from side to side, it was going slower and slower and slower as if limping. Finally, with a hiss and a groan, it ceased motion altogether.
“Wonder if the engine’s blown,” he muttered. Then: “Crikey, we’re lopsided.”
They were. The silent girl’s side of the train tilted sadly downward and she had wedged herself and her carpetbag farther into the corner than seemed possible. Dillon pressed his face to the window-pane and fogged it up with his heavy breathing. Violet wedged herself beside him and tip-toed.
Because she wasn’t looking and he wanted it back, Oliver rescued his pin from Violet’s cap. He stuck his paper tag back onto his shirt. No more poker if there was something wrong with the train. The silent girl shivered even though, because of the angle, the sun poured down from his window into her lap.
“It must have gone off the track,” Dillon said. “That’s just peachy.” He stumbled back to his seat and sat sideways so he could prop his feet uphill against Dillon’s wall. Violet perched on top of his shoes and he didn’t seem to mind.
“So the second thing you’ll need to know,” he began.
“Wait.” Oliver stared from Violet to Dillon and back again. “We can’t play poker now.”
Violet wrinkled her nose. “Ummm why, please?”
“Because there’s been an accident.”
Dillon bounced Violet off his feet and sat up. He leaned forward. His eyes glittered. “I don’t think there’s ever a good reason not to play poker.’ He settled back in his position. “Unless maybe someone died.”
What answer was he supposed to make to that? Oliver had never met anyone like these two. “I just don’t feel like playing.”
“Okay, but I’m warning you it’ll be an hour before anyone comes to tell us what’s wrong.”
“In an emergency?”
Dillon shrugged. “Didn’t you notice we were put on nearly at the end of the train? It’s going to be ages.”
So the Harrells played cards by themselves and Oliver and the silent girl sat by themselves, and the sun continued to pour down through the right-hand windows.
A fly got in and pestered them.
A thrush banged into the window and flew off in zig-zags.
Somewhere down the line they heard voices, and for a moment Oliver thought perhaps he’d proved Dillon wrong and they’d be rescued before an hour was up, but the voices faded off. Against all common sense, Oliver felt himself growing sleepier and sleepier, and as his head grew heavy his knees tired of bracing himself so he’d stay on his side of the bench. Oliver began to slide toward the silent girl. With every ounce of muscle left in him--and there was not too much to begin with--he wished to leave her alone. She didn’t want to be bothered. She didn’t want a sweaty, disheveled boy melting toward her like a slug from the back garden.
“It’s all right,” the silent girl said without turning her head.
For a moment, the idea that she’d read his mind overcame the tiredness of his knees and he was able to keep upright with shame, but pretty soon he started to slide again.
“I’m sorry,” he said, as their legs collided.
“I said it’s all right.” This time the girl shifted. Not a lot, because he was so close now that their shoulders were touching, but enough so that he looked into her eyes. She was probably ten, he thought, and un-pretty in a way he found fascinating. Maybe it was the blunt square of her hair around her pert chin and the way it was too straight and too thick. And her eyes didn’t match the rest of her. They were like aggies: light and a swirl of too many colors. Marble-eyes.
“I’m Oliver Hood.” Her shoulder was sharp. It dug into him.
“Agatha Samantha Roberta Brooks. I wish I hadn’t left London.”
“Like I said: a dripper.” Dillon sniffed. “I told Violet we’d get stuck in a car with one.”
“Would you stop?” said Oliver. “I wish we’d never left too.”
“You lot are babies. We’re glad to be leaving.” Dillon laid down his hand of cards. “A royal flush, by the way, Vi. London has nothing interesting in it. You go to school, you come home, you do your lessons, you go to bed. Day in, day out, all the same. And holidays are no better, you know. There’s absolutely nothing worse than Aldersgate when everyone else is gone away and you’re the only ones left in town. Besides--who wants to wait there to get smashed flat by the Blitz when you could be having a jolly time in the country?”
“Don’t you miss your parents at all?”
Violet fished the remaining two pins out of Dillon’s cap and handed them to her brother. “Papa got himself killed in France and Mum is either working or sick.”
“Or dead,” Dillon said.
Oliver’s gut wrenched. “What do you mean?”
“Well, that’s why they’re making us leave, isn’t it? So we don’t get blown up?”
“Oh, right.”
An image of his mother’s broken-teacup face shattered on the floor seared itself into Oliver’s mind. He had not realized that while he would be safe, the rest of his family would be in danger. That the reason they had sent him off was because it was getting more and more dangerous each day. He had known, of course, about the bombs. But knowing and realizing were two different things.
Agatha Samantha Roberta Brooks realized. She had shivered and he’d wondered why. Fear, cold as a snowball in the face, slid down his collar. He cowered in the sunlight feeling impossibly hot and freakishly cold all at once.
The door burst open. “Get your things and hurry up.”
The owner of the voice stepped into the aisle and his head looked to Oliver like a potato, a cabbage, and two black olives arranged into a knobby face. It was a comical face, if ugly.
“Hurry now. Train’s gone off its bally rails and all kiddies are to be distrib’ted round the farms nearby till Railroad sorts it out. Come along, come along.”
The conductor (his hat told the secret in bright brass letters) bustled them out of the car. Dillon and Violet were paperless, Oliver noticed. How they were ever to be delivered to the proper place without them was a thing Oliver could not bother to worry over now. But everyone seemed to have kept the little cardboard boxes around their necks. Inside each box was a gas-mask which would be utterly useless until it was important, and then it would save their lives, the rail-road ladies had said.
“Your lot’s to go to Hilly Mead for th’night. Two miles up that road.” He pointed a fat finger to a dusty-looking lane on the left. “Big white house, black shutters, red cows. They told me you can’t miss it.”
“You mean we’re to walk?” Violet asked.
The conductor sighed. “Your legs haven’t been blown off, have they? Soldiers is fighting all ‘crost Europe and you’re fretting about walking two higgledy-piggledy miles in flat country. Keep calm and--”
“Carry on--Churchill’s orders. Let’s go, Violet. You drippers need help carrying your truck? No? Well then, onward men.”
Dillon and Violet marched off. Oliver slung his satchel across his chest and followed. Agatha Samantha Roberta Brooks took her carpet-bag in one hand and came last of all. In her other hand she held a birdcage with a real little finch in it. Oliver hadn’t remembered seeing the birdcage the entire way here...where had it been? What if he’d accidentally stepped on it when the train came off the track and crushed the little bird? Well he hadn’t, and that was a relief.
Gas-mask pounding against his heart, Oliver trotted to catch up with the Harrells, and the aggie-eyed girl did the same.
Two miles to this Hilly Mead. And then Darley Coom.
London was so wretchedly far away.

They walked on and on and on like the Jews in Exodus, kicking up clouds of the powdery white dirt till Oliver doubled over from coughing. They’d given up trying not to kick. The chalk road puffed around them exactly as if some giant had taken a pair of erasers and clapped them together over the children’s heads.
Another puff for good measure.
And another.
“We might (huff puff) try marching so our feet won’t drag,” Dillon said.
But the day suffocated around them and the road gasped for rain and the dust rose up in a sort of fog that was worse than fog.
“This is a beastly lot more than two miles,” Violet complained. Her face was red and sticky-looking and the dust had stuck in the hairs of her eyebrows.
Oliver’s gas-mask clomped against his chest with each step, his satchel slapped his thigh, and he thought he had never been thirstier. “I only wish there was a stream nearby where we could get a drink.” He coughed and spluttered from the effort of talking.
“There’s one other side of th’field looks like,” Dillon said. “But there’s cows in it...and I don’t really like cows.”
“You’re scared of cows?” Oliver looked over his shoulder at the silent girl to see if she was listening to him tease Dillon. It was daring of him, to tease the older boy.
Agatha Samantha Roberta Brooks smiled a tiny crease of a smile and Oliver felt a little less like a trampled receipt.
“How’s your bird holding up?” he asked, falling back to meet her.
She held up the cage and inspected it. “He’s quiet.”
You’re quiet.
“I don’t think he likes the dust,” the girl said.
“Well rum luck for him,” Dillon grumbled, then stopped. “Hullo. Those cows are red, aren’t they?”
They wandered to the hedge and slowly, slowly, slowly, the dust-fog cleared. When they were able to see, a low, lumpy field sprinkled-over with copper-colored cows spread out before their eyes. The herd’s hides gleamed in the late afternoon light. Here a bell tinkled, there a bell clanked. A calf lowed. A big heifer sloshed into the stream Dillon had pointed out, and such a pleasant gush burbled up around her glossy flanks that Oliver’s throat tore with a half-sob that couldn’t get out. He was so thirsty.

And obviously enough, that's as far as I'd got. As I said: a pleasant manner in which to spend some pent-up creativity. What do you think? Do you like my Darley Coom? Also, Big Hero 6 was precious. You ought to watch it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Joy Inquires, I Answer

Yesterday, Joy Chalaby was kind enough to host me for a bit of a Q & A at her blog, Fullness of Joy. I couldn't possibly let her take all thirty of the questions, though, because I like my hand in the fun. So she nicely obliged my wishes and let me tote the other fifteen questions and answers over here. Enjoy! (There is a treat at the semi-end I've been saving.)

  1. How much of a similarity in genre-style do you think your novel is to an Agatha Christie murder mystery or to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes? Who is your favourite mystery-genre author?
The similarity between my novel and an Agatha Christie is the setting: early 1930’s, rural England. There, it ends. My mystery is a cozy mystery...the authors you mentioned are a little more hardboiled. My favorite mystery writer is Dorothy L. Sayers. :)
  1. Out of all the characters from Anon, Sir, Anon which one do you connect with and love the most?
I really do love Farnham. He is a duck. I like people who pretend to be contrary.
  1. Have you ever met any people in real life that have inspired you with any of the characters we read about in Anon, Sir, Anon?
Mmmmmm not this book. I wrote the first draft so quickly, there really wasn’t time to bother with shoving in people I know and properly masking them. ;)
  1. In the case of Anon, Sir, Anon, are some of the moral or philosophical themes/questions you feel the novel addresses, and were there any philosophic books that helped influence the heart of this tale?
It pretty effectively addresses the sanctity of life, how to fall in love, and the formation of unlikely friendships. I can’t think of any philosophic book that exactly imprinted itself on mine in a sizeable way. I’m made up of all the books I’ve read and they wiggle into the story somehow, I’d bet. But not specifically.
  1. In one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of Anon, Sir, Anon?
  1. As you wrote this novel were there aspects of the story that took you by surprise?
Mainly, how I was ever going to make the threads connect.
  1. Do you outline your books or do you prefer to begin writing and let the plot sort itself out?
I much prefer letting the plot sort itself out. It works best that way, I feel.
  1. How do you think the main characters of Anon, Sir, Anon (Vivi and Farnham) would react if he or she were introduced to you?
Farnham would probably actually like me. Vivi would take me quietly, mull me over, and then like me. Jimmy Fields would politely like me but not go wild over me. Dr. Breen would like me because he likes everyone, but then he would probably end up liking me quite a lot just for myself. Michael Maynor would disdain me. I am not his type.
  1. Can you tell us what are your current favourite movie(s), TV show(s), and/or book(s)? (Stress is on the current!)
The clean episodes of White Collar (IMDB has a great guide), Once Upon A Time S3, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Barrows.
  1. Having been already self-published “Fly Away Home”, as well as having your novella “The Windy Side of Care” published in an anthology through a traditional route, what are some of the benefits you’ve experienced in self-publishing, and what have been its special pains?
Benefits-wise, I am in charge. If I have done it, it is done. If I have not done it, it is not done. The especial pains are that I am in charge of publicity so if I’m not picketing for it, no one is. This is why excited readers are my favorite thing in the world.
  1. Can you tell us a little about the lovely cover-design of “Anon, Sir, Anon” and how it came about (designer, etc)? It’s beautiful, and so charmingly fitting its genre as a cosy British mystery!
My designer was a gift to me from Heaven above and she is known to most as Rachel Rossano of Rossano Designs. I know her as St. Rachel. I threw my ungainly and vague desires and she quickly assembled this amazing cover. It’s a hit.
  1. Was there any one moment when you were hit with an urgent need to invest your time to this particular work? What kept you going through the tough parts?
I didn’t want to lose track of the threads of thought running through the book, so really what kept me going was my doggedness in keeping up my thousand-word-a-day regime. It really works, I’m telling you.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about the new writing project(s) you’re currently working on now? Please do tell!
When I’m not working as a nanny, prepping ASA for publication, blogging, or planning my brother’s wedding, I have begun work on Scotch’d The Snakes. It’s the second Vivi & Farnham mystery, so if you like the people of Anon, Sir, Anon. There’s more coming.
  1. Could you be persuaded to share three excerpts from Anon, Sir, Anon or some of your other works with us, please?
How about I compromise and give you a peek at the second Vivi and Farnham book instead? This bit is from Scotch’d The Snakes:

There had been no fire, for it was April, and a clammy-fingered one at that. Hence, there was no light of which to speak and Vivi groped her way along the wainscoting till her free hand caught at the fireplace mantel.
She raised her candle, feeling strangely like a lighthouse keeper. “Uncle?”
Again, no answer. His winged, high-back chair stood empty, like a throne won at dice.
If this is a childish prank, Farnham, you can stop playing right now. You've rummaged me and Allen out of our rooms so it's only fair you make a peep.”
A mumble, a groan, and a scuttling among papers from the corner library wherein he kept his precious books.
Farnham, you beast!”
She cleared his footstool which was overturned and looked to be the reason for the crash, and came upon the great Orville Farnham in a case of rumpled glory. The candle showed the man, clad as usual in soft cardigan and tailored pants. Nothing amiss, hair neatly combed. This candid picture of habitual neatness back-slid as she gained a better view: Farnham sat on the floor, crumpled in the corner of two cases. He was mumbling. A tumblement of hard-backed volumes marked the path of the human missile launched, no doubt, by the combination of darkness and ottoman. Flanking him, like well-meaning fairy-dust around an unhappy Pan, lay a sprinkling of shattered glass. There would be no flights to Neverland tonight. His elbow, Vivi saw, had gone right through the glass front of the book case. It was probably cut to bits.
He blinked at her with a content look on his face. “'What to him from England?'”
The Game? Really, Farnham?”
No response came, save a look of abstracted mischief in his eyes. “'Scorn and defiance, slight regard, contempt, and anything that may not misbecome the mighty sender, doth he prize you at.'”
There was no illness, no emergency of any sort, and Vivi watched her temper lumber to its feet. Now that she saw no reason to have wandered the draughty passages of Whistlecreig on this rescue-mission, she could afford some anger.
Farnham passed a hand over his eyes. “Scorn and defiance...regard...contempt.”
Well, bravo, Mr. Farnham!” Vivi rolled her eyes and applauded slowly.
Farnham blinked again and gave a foolish smile. “You see, it's rather good. Rather a perfect insult: 'scorn and defiance, slight—”
Scorn and defiance, you!” Vivi hauled her uncle upright and tore the volume from his hand. “Why on earth did you go pitching into your bookcase in the middle of the night?”
Oh.” Farnham peered about him. “Well, you see, I had a quotation buffeting my inner man and I could not for the life of me remember who had said it. Never had that trouble before and you know how slight things will worry one. Began to fear I was losing my touch. Just as I'd got it settled it was Henry IV, I began to think it was V and I had to know.” He looked about at the mess, at Vivi, and at Allen, who had lit the candle-tree and stood at the fireplace like a benign ghost. “What,” he said, staring at Allen again, “Is Allen doing in his pajamas?”
Rescuing you.”
What time is it?”
Half-past three, by the clock under the spreading chestnut tree where the village blacksmith stands.”
That's good.” Farnham chuckled and shook his head. “Half-past three...well, Allen, I propose you dress yourself appropriately and get a jump-start on the morning. Oh, but it's a bang fine day.”
But, sir—”
And you, Vivi, you ought to not parade yourself in your negligee. Not that there's anyone here to see you, but you never can tell. I've heard many a story of young girls surprising burglars in their nightclothes. Unseemly. You never can tell.” He shook a finger at her and cracked his spine.
Vivi looked down at her old-fashioned cotton nightgown and thought of the high collar that practically suffocated her if she dared to so much as yawn. If this was the best she could do at scandal, she made a pathetic Modern Woman. She made a mental note to order a real negligee from Avenue Montaigne. Never-mind that such a thing would cost a birthright. It would scandalize Farnham, and that was enough for her, at present.

  1. What would you most like your readers to take away with them from reading Anon, Sir, Anon, besides the pure entertaining pleasure of it?
The idea that murder is not to be accepted as a plot device to be used without leaving carnage behind. There are consequences, and people pay them.
  1. In ending, do you have any special words of advice or something you would like to share with fellow young writers?
As cliche as it sounds, don’t try to be anyone else. You know deep, deep down what your gift is. The longer you write, the more you write, the better you will be able to see it. Trust me.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview, and that you had a chance to enter the giveaway. Because believe it or not, the Rafflecopter has landed and I will announce the winner at the end of this post. But I have two last stops in the Anon, Sir, Anon party to show you. The first is where I sit down and peg out for Rachelle Rea what my days look like and how I manage to shove writing into the cracks of life. It's rather humorous and I want to know if you can relate, so head over and let me know what you think. Also, I will be stopping by the immensely popular (and deservedly so) Mirriam Neal's blog for an interview at some point today, and you'll want to read that and say hello to that most vibrant of young ladies. :)

And now you want to know who won the giveaway. Well, I struggled for some time over whether to leave the option open to readers from abroad, and this time I said yes. It might be expensive, but it was a price I was willing to pay just because I was feeling expansive. My wallet might complain, but I am very happy to let you know that the winner of the Cozy Quagmire Party Pack is actually a little ironic, considering the topic of this post...

Joy Chalaby

Joy, if you'd message me your home address, I will get your package to you fairly soon. Too bad it's summertime down-under. The Coziness will rather fail, I think. A huge thank you to everyone who worked together to make this thing a success. We had well over 600 entries and you were lovely about entering for a chance for this party pack. Thanks. If you aren't Joy Chalaby and thus didn't win a copy of Anon, Sir, Anon, you know where to find it. Amazon & so forth.

And last but not least, I want to take a moment to recognize the fact that it is Veteran's Day. I want to thank all the men and women who have served in the past and those who are serving now. I have several friends in the military, several friends whose fathers are in the military, and I grew up in the Tidewater area of Virginia which houses many of the largest military bases in the country. I have seen these men and women and respect the work they have done and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe. Thanks. You guys are heroes.