Thursday, March 26, 2015


My dear chaps and chappesses. It is my great pleasure to announce to you today that Suzannah Rowntree's debut novel, Pendragon's Heir, is available for purchase! There has been some little difficulty with Kindle but Suzannah has that being worked out from afar. In the meantime, Pendragon's Heir is looking stunning in paperback! And I have the pleasure of letting Suzannah onto The Inkpen Authoress for a chat about the romance in this tale of

Romance Fixin’s
Suzannah Rowntree

Some people seem to be born with a writerly itch in their bones. Not me. I can be classified into that class of author who was a reader first and always—a reader moreover who, being disappointed with a shortage of the exact kind of reading she likes, decides to write something of her own for a change.
For me, one of the ways this manifests is as the temptation to write as a fixer. Something bugged me in that book I recently read? Well, I’ll put in my book just for the pleasure of doing it right!
And nowhere in my work on Pendragon’s Heir—my debut novel and so far only completed full-length work—was this impulse stronger than in the romance.
You see, I have read so many, so very many novels, most of them featuring romances, and most of those romances failing to satisfy either my common-sense or my artistic standards. From wish-fulfilment heroes who push social and physical boundaries (Mr Rochester, I’m looking at you), to the sheer twitterpation (a word neatly coined by my amiable hostess) infesting most of today’s romances, which focus more on the colour of the hero’s eyes than on actual interesting things like saving the world or building a city or questing for freedom and truth, the world seemed so full of unsatisfactory romances that I relished the chance to construct a really good one.
So today, I’d like to list a few of the goals I had in writing the Pendragon’s Heir romance—hoping they will provoke some thought and encouragement!
A Romance That’s About Something
The first important ingredient was the purpose of love and marriage. Marriage is meant to be about something bigger than just the two of you and your feelings. Ultimately it’s about building the Kingdom. It’s about the cultural/dominion mandate. It’s about the Great Commission.
Because marriage is about signing up together for a splendid adventure, I knew that the romance in Pendragon’s Heir had to be about a mission. This is actually the compelling force that draws my two protagonists together: although Blanche dislikes Perceval at first, she eventually comes to realise that they are on the same mission. This is the common ground on which they begin to build their friendship. For them, love and adventure become inextricable—and I think it’s the same in real life.
Mutual Help and Comfort
I recall being tremendously inspired by Leland Ryken’s wonderful book Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were. There, in the chapter on marriage, you can find many excerpts from Puritan love letters and teachings on marriage. One of the major themes coming out of this chapter is the powerful sanctification these men and women found in each other’s company. Their love for each other manifested in building each other up spiritually.
I saw something similar in many of the romances I appreciated most, from Jane Austen’s novels to Charles Williams’s, and I knew I needed to include the same thing in my own novel. Not only are both my protagonists on the same mission, they eventually realise that they are stronger together than they are apart. Sometimes, it’s Perceval helping Blanche to understand the rules of honour and duty in an alien world. Sometimes, it’s Blanche encouraging Perceval through disappointment and grief. Either way, each of them supplies something lacking in the other. And for me, these moments of help and comfort are the most romantic parts of the book.
Principles and Applications
I have to admit, I’m a fairly standard good homeschool girl. I hope that if the Lord brings someone into my life, we’ll court rather than date. It’s not a topic I’d stay up at night arguing about, but I think it’s reasonable to save your first kiss for on or close to your wedding date. I think it’s helpful to be intentional about marriage, to keep physical boundaries, and to seek the counsel of one’s parents and mentors. These are relatively minor issues for me, but I know why I hold them.
I also know that not everyone in history has held them. And certainly I know that concrete applications of general principles have varied widely across history.
As I wrote the romance in Pendragon’s Heir, I knew my protagonists needed to share my general principles. At the same time, though, I knew that their temporal and social position—nobility in anachronistic Arthurian Britain—would result in quite different applications. In the end, I ended up using two strategies to make sure I could stand boldly on my convictions while allowing my characters to be themselves.
First, I let them make mistakes. I allowed them to learn from experience, rather than coming to their romance with a preconceived set of notions. Fiction, being a dramatic medium, is well suited to dramatise the reasoning behind a certain application—so, in allowing my characters to do things I didn’t personally see as wise, I also had them learn from their experiences.
Second, I attempted to use the actual applications that historically existed in my characters’ general time period. Parental involvement, for example, was far more formal and expected then than now. In fact, if you were a noble, male or female, your marriage was often arranged as a matter of state, and this is more or less the situation in which both my protagonists find themselves. In fact, at one point in the plot, I knew I couldn’t delay resolving the romantic conflict any longer because beyond a certain point, their liege lord would step in and resolve it for them!
Again, these are relatively minor issues for me. But it was important to me that my book be consistent with my principles while retaining artistic integrity. If this is something you struggle with, I’m here to tell you to take heart: you can retain the integrity of both your principles and your art!
Superverting the Saturnine
Finally, there was one particular aspect of my romance that I just had to put in, more for giggles than anything else. Romance from Jane Eyre to Twilight (yes, I did read it—for laughs) has given us an endless parade of subversive, saturnine romantic heroes. You know the kind. They range from the rude (yes, Mr Darcy, this means you) and criminal (MR ROCHESTER) to the vampiric (Sparkles Cullen) and the downright abusive (supply your own candidates). Romance readers seem to get a real kick out of snobs, rakes, bloodsuckers, and worse. Me, I was a bit over it.
My hero, I decided, was going to be a nice, normal, well-adjusted boy with no dark secrets, no interest in pushing physical boundaries, and no rebellious streak. He would neither brood nor succumb to jealous furies. He would not even be strong and silent; he would be voluble and ebullient. He would be everything that St Bernard of Clairveaux first recommended for knights and which, later, Baden-Powell recommended for Boy Scouts: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
He would be huge fun.
But he would not be a doormat, either. Good doesn’t have to be boring, weak, or a pushover. Perceval was going to be all these things—and he was also going to be fierce in battle and uncompromising in his beliefs, no matter what the pressure to conform.
Yikes, I Hope You Like It, Folks
As you can no doubt tell, I really enjoyed writing the romance in Pendragon’s Heir! It was huge fun, not just to explore some of the basics of love and marriage, but also to get some pet peeves out of my sytem. The only thing left is to hope that you enjoy it half as much as I did. You’ll have to let me know!

Author bio:
When Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, trying to beat her previous number-of-books-read-in-a-year record. She blogs the results at and is the author of both fiction and non-fiction. Pendragon’s Heir, her debut novel, released March 26.

Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Verbal Self-Portrait

Hello, ducks! I went a creative route with the Description of Moi so that I could set up a scenario in which someone (I chose a man) was doing the describing. I find that having a set of eyes through which to see the character helps color the actual description. You know? So today you are seeing me through the eyes of a man sent to observe and describe me to someone else. This is, of course, a purely fictional occasion, but it is quite the truth. Hope you enjoy it. :)

(an actual picture of me in action, though less sparkly than usual)

What was she like? She struck one as being monstrously alive. That impatient toss of side-swept bangs, the inviting laughter spilled from one sentence into the next.. He'd been asked to describe her carefully. Easily requested, harder to fill. Her eyes might have been any color they were so caught up in her smile but he thought they were light. Light what? Green, gray, blue? Did she even know? As for pretty, he supposed she was in her comfortable way: generously curved in all the right places. Too curved in some. Womanly. Pleasing. In possession of all the required normal features in rather normal quantities and style. Brown hair bounced around her shoulders, got whisked to one side then the other as she spoke. Natural waves. Not uniform at all.

He drained his glass, glanced away as she shot an inquiry at him, and returned to studying her when she'd got distracted again. No, a million girls could fit the physical description: a stylish, plump brunette of middling height, moon-eyes, cracking grin. It spoke nothing of her. One didn't notice any of these things when she talked, and had he ever seen her stop in her ceaseless revolutions from group to group, caught in the bokeh-effect of her own light? He couldn't remember. She always talked. Talked with her whole body. Her head made as many motions as her hands. Her eyes expressed even more than her laughter. And when she was especially happy, she rocked her hips side-to-side, perfectly unconscious of the gentle swaying. She noticed his studying, flashed the moon-eyes just once, and hurried on with her next statement which, like them all, would be of a different tone than anyone else's. Shyness. There were bits of it still in her. Bits that turned her cheeks just a few shades lighter than her reckless lipstick.

He laughed at her, giving in, and was rewarded with a second moon-flash. He'd lost the battle; his laughter was probably what she'd wanted all along. But he'd given in to a worthy foe. After all, her whimsical charm was notoriously hard to resist, even for the most well-regulated of logical minds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Write Yo-self.

I'm issuing a challenge today, born out of this thought I found on Pinterest:

Because I do wonder, I'm going to write that passage, and challenge the rest of you to write it as well. Write a description of yourself as found in a novel and post it on your blog in the next few days. Mine will be up tomorrow, and I hope you'll join me. Nothing like using a live model for a character sketch, and if one uses oneself, the risk of offending the model is little to none. ;)

As far as updates go, I've fixed all the glitches in the domain-switchover except the follower-block. Still working on fixing that up and figuring out just where it went wrong after following advice found on the Blogger forums hasn't quite played out. Writing-wise I'm in a flurry to finish polishing The Fox Went Out and send it into Narrative before the March 31st deadline, after which I will continue writing Scotch'd the Snakes. May I recommend never adding a lisp you intend to take out? One misses so many places when removing it. Elisabeth Foley has been more than helpful in suggesting edits and in return, I am (I get to) read the first half of her novel for children, The Summer Country. There are pros to asking for help, because often people will ask for help back, and then you get to read things the general populace does not. And in the realm of reading, I've got Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers in the works for light reading as well as Flannery O'Connor's Mystery & Manners for heftier stuff.

So, off with you! Describe yourself in a short passage as if you had found your likeness in a novel, and leave a link in the comments below if you'd like me to read it. I can't wait to see who will take the challenge. At any rate, I'm taking it and my word-portrait will be posted tomorrow. Be brave. Be kind. Be true. Till tomorrow, then!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For Your Inconvenience...

Dear Everyone:

     So sorry for the under-construction look and the awkwardness of redirecting! I am working on switching The Inkpen Authoress to its own home at and am still working out the finer points of the change. Currently it asks people to redirect from the old blogspot address here, but there are a couple little glitches as there always are with web-changes. I hope to have it up and fully working very soon, though, so thanks for your patience! Same old site, just a new home.


Friday, March 13, 2015

"And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by."

(Quote from Rudyard Kipling's "Smuggler's Song") 
"Slowly, slowly, very slowly went the garden snail.Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the wooden rail."
Nursery rhymes seem good at describing my writing pace in the last couple of weeks. I have not written too much new stuff since I was busy editing The Fox Went Out. Now that I've applied the edits, I am slowly, slowly, very slowly easing myself back into the world of Scotch'd the Snakes. At this point, the main thrust of that work is research. I am dealing with two new areas of England in this mystery (alongside my fictional town of Whistlecreig) and want to really get a good picture of what they look like. One of the places is Saltburn-by-the-Sea: a place I stumbled upon by happenstance over Instagram and was instantly charmed by. I spent yesterday morning thumbing through the official website, delighted by each new thing that turned up. Its history has been an eclectic one, and besides lending itself perfectly to a 1930's seaside resort location, there is much material I can work with to lend an air of authenticity to the setting as I write. Perhaps one of the most interesting mechanical pieces of the town has been the funicular Cliff Lift.

The Cliff Lift

I couldn't get enough of reading about it and watching the video included on the site. The entire thing works by counterbalancing the cars with water so when one is going down, the other is going up, and I think it was a purely brilliant invention considering the steepness of the cliff which, I assume, people had to scramble down pre-lift days. I adore things that have been left pretty much alone since the era in which I want to inspect them. Makes my work so much easier, and as the Cliff Lift has been virtually unchanged since its construction well before the timing of Scotch'd the Snakes, I have loads of accurate material with which to work.

Another fascinating bit of Saltburn-ness is its famous (infamous?) history of smuggling. Bwahahaha. I can have fun with this one, can't I? If you want to hear an absolutely thrilling Rudyard Kipling poem ("Smuggler's Song") read by someone with an absolutely chilling voice, go thataway. I found it most inspiring.

The Ship Inn

For instance, John Andrew, most infamous Saltburn smuggler, also ran the Ship Inn, Saltburn's booming tavern, and on occasion "helped" the customs men chase down his smuggler friends. I'm seeing a bit of an ignoble Sir Percy Blakeney thing going on. I'm not certain what I'll settle on as far as using its smuggling past in my own book, but knowing the lore of a place helps wonderfully with drawing its portrait well. I'm so happy that my somewhat randomly-selected beach town ended up having such a rich and varied history, setting, and quality. I'm looking forward to working with Saltburn and using its character to color my own cast.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Win an Inn! (if you can handle the stress)

Today is all about research...Making sure you do it, that is.

Oh, I know you are all absolutely brimming with good intentions. Those of you who write historical fiction have stacks eight books high about the era in which you've planted your words. Those who create entirely fictional worlds have read thirteen articles about world-building this morning and created three playlists for each district in the fictional world beside. Anyone who writes non-fiction gets the entire hat-tip because people can fact-check you. People can get on your case over the smallest thing. You must be perfectly accurate. You are very well-intentioned and successful and probably a better man than I, Charlie Brown.

I know all this. I've done my research. Wasn't that the whole reason Scotch'd the Snakes has been at a stalemate? Because of (lack of time and) a glitch with the murder weapon? I want to be sure that when I write a mystery, it is accurate, plausible, and realistic. So if it can't be accurate, plausible, and realistic I sometimes pause until I have worked it out. But there's this thing about life. Sometimes you think you've learned a lesson and you really have not learned it at all. Or at least, the corner you've learned is just the start of the rind of a large slice of watermelon and you are a tiny ant at your first picnic. Research. And we thought they just meant for your books. Turns out there's a lot more than that to the subject such as...

not entering contests till you research the publication into which it will go.


not sending your manuscript to an agent till you are sure what kind of books they represent.


not trying to pitch your YA book to a publisher who deals almost exclusively in women's fiction.

There are about eight-hundred-and-five ways to make oneself look stupid. You don't want to look stupid. Believe me. It isn't such a big deal to the person to whom you look stupid. I mean, it's a fair guess that they have seen plenty of writers make the same mistake. But it really feels low to get a reaction from your action and think, "Wow. Could have totally avoided that collision if I'd googled the weight of worms in Paraguay." Life will hand you certain tight situations that were unavoidable. It happens and you can't sit there and beat yourself up over it. But there are plenty of cases where a little circumspection warns you in advance of awkward situations to come, allowing you to be on the offense or, gasp, discard former plans and humbly retreat.
I'm the type of writer who is extremely enthusiastic about new projects. One of the reasons I love writing flash-fiction is that it allows me to take an idea and give it a moment in the spot-light without any commitment. I promise I am not this way in relationships. I could not star on The Bachelorette or anything, tossing out this week's boyfriend for next week's because he bought me pink lilies and I like them better than yellow roses.
Back on topic: flash-fiction and contest pieces allow me a chance to win laurels over being unfocused. That's my confession. Entering contests is a lot of fun. There's usually minimal work involved, I am allowed to do my best with very few rules, and I never have to hear about it again if I do not win. A 1500-word essay is a completely different creature than a novel you've committed to and can't find an agent to take. So I enjoy entering contests. Prize money is always welcome. Publication too. Can't argue with that, and it looks good on the resume. But I'm learning. I really am slowly learning to take into account all the factors and not go sailing off entering contests I don't expect to win only to find myself left with the consequences if I do. There's a contest running around to win the 210 year old Center Lovell Inn in Maine. The only requirements are that you write a 200 word, grammatically-correct essay with the prompt, "Why I want to own and operate a country inn," and send your entry with a fee of $125 to the judges before they choose the winner on May 21st.

The inn in question...

Other conditions include keeping it painted white with green or black trim, and operating it as an inn for at least one year after inheritance. Oh, and there's a nice $20,000 thrown in there to help jump-start your ownership and all the antique furniture and equipment, plus twelve acres of land. On first glance, I'm all in. Why wouldn't I want to win an historical inn in Maine valued at $900,000? I mean, I'll never know if I'm good at innkeeping till I try, and honestly, I could actually see myself running a quaint bed and breakfast. So I was tempted to write my two-hundred word essay and see what came of the thing. My brain immediately took off with the millions of story ideas such a year would provide. And even if I didn't win, I could certainly spin a novella out of "If I had won," right? Well, yes.

Having been recently burned by a lack-of-research experience, I decided I would not enter this contest unless I'd really thought it through and done my research. I talked with friends, with my mother, and found an article written a year after the current owner (Janice Sage) won the inn in an essay contest herself. Janice, who is selling the inn after running it for twenty-two years, "inherited" the place from its former owner in a similar contest. The man had run it for nineteen years and was, quite frankly, entirely over it which is why he decided to host his contest. In this 1995 article, Janice (then, Cox) and her husband Richard had run the inn for a year...eighteen hours a day, seven days a week...and gotten a total of three days off that entire time. She's selling it now because she is sixty-eight years old and weary of 17-hour days. The inn itself is a prestigious place, featured in Martha Stewart, the Boston Globe to name but a few of its fans. Not only is it a charming B&B, but the Center Lovell Inn also operates as a restaurant open to the public. Oh. A restaurant. A gourmet restaurant. With a full and licensed bar and wine-cellar.

Janice Sage and her husband had worked in the restaurant business for years and years before winning the inn. Since her last name changed and poor Richard is no longer in the picture, he either died and she remarried, or they got a divorce. Either way, I bet stress did it. And they were trained for this business.

I'm a nanny for heaven's sake.

Though I'd love the inn to happen to me, I don't think the inn would be ready for me to happen to it. And honestly, the most tempting part of it for me is getting to live in the inn...which I could achieve with a heck of a lot less trouble by saving up and road-tripping to Maine at the end of the summer. The 1995 article also mentioned burst pipes, temperatures plummeting to forty-five below, and a 1400-pound moose visiting the front porch. I quickly came to the decision that I had better not enter this contest. I have the most beastly good luck winning things and it would be just like me to accidentally win an inn and have to scramble together a business brain I do not have and chump it up to Maine to fulfill a year-long promise to a retiring innkeeper. I mean, my MERCY. I want the adventure. I'm jealous of the person who will get the stories and the characters and the perfect plot-setting for literally anything to happen. But I'm not the right fit for the inn. The inn needs a person who can raise it to even higher heights, not waddle it through a year and hope it isn't sunk six months in.

The moral of the story is this: do your research. It is only fair to the people you are pestering, whether agent, publisher, contest-judges, or otherwise, that you are prepared to see it all the way through to the end. If you aren't aware of the thing for which you're applying, you'd sure as sugar better be ready to face the embarrassment of being stuck with an inn in Maine and no business sense. And really, who needs that kind of negativity in their life?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Born Out of the Common Cold

Who has not heard the saying, "Misery loves company?" Furthermore, who has not found it to be quite true? Last week, Elisabeth Foley gave me her cold over Twitter. It started when I innocently inquired after her health and she responded with equal innocence...

....which soon grew more sinister:

Yes, I caught her cold over Twitter. Since this was obviously her fault, I challenged the little lady to a battle of words. Length? Under 1500 words. Subject matter? The common cold. We designed a hashtag (#secondinkpen), rolled up our sleeves, and got to work. We documented this work on Twitter...and it began to attract attention:

And because my battle-piece ended up amusing and worked as an antidote to my cold by allowing me to laugh and forget my misery, I thought I would share it with all of you today. Thoroughly cured of my cold (and wishing all the best to Elisabeth), I give to you

The Sneeze-Piece.

“My dear Edwin, you cannot possibly attend the opera looking like...”
Edwin resented the bit of sentence Gwyneth left off. Did she not think him man enough to stand it? “Looking like what, exactly?”
Her eyes crinkled at him. “Like a particularly bland cat who has just been dragged through a particularly colorful alleyway.”
“I am berfectly fine,” he beeped through congestion stacked tighter than the Great Wall.
“But you aren’t, darling. You’re quite ill, really.”
“I won’t let you go by yourself.” Avoiding all “m’s” and “p’s,” Edwin found, restored his dignity. “What’ll beople think?”
Oh dear. That was short-lived.
He shifted a bit to see his beloved’s face. “Us only buried three bonths and barely hobe from the honeyboon...”
“If you mean that we’ve been married only three months and barely home from our honeymoon you ought to say so. I fear you’ll give Society the idea that we’ve died and are rotting away someplace six feet under.” Gwyneth came to him. Her violet evening dress was quite becoming as a lap blanket.
“I love you quite as much as ever, though,” she murmured.
“Even if my dose is swollen?”
Gwyneth considered that engorged appendage with her head to one side. Edwin studied the dimple in her chin and thought about kissing it. That would require lifting his head off the pillows and, quite frankly, wasn’t worth the bother.
“Your nose looks perfectly normal, darling,” she pronounced.
“It’s hideously swollen.”
“No.” Gwyneth straightened. “Quite normal.”
“Dash it all, woban! Do you bean to tell be that my dose is always this...elephantine?”
“What a bear you are when you’re ill! I do wish your mother had told me. She might at least have warned me what happens to my husband when set upon by the common cold.”
There was nothing common, Edwin felt, about this cold. Gwyneth was a delightful bride. Most delightful bride in all of New York with the profile of a Gibson Girl beside. But she hadn’t an idea about how he suffered under stodged-up nasal passages and scratchy throats. She laughed at him when all he required was a little consideration. And she wouldn’t kiss him.
“Won’t you kiss me?” he mewled, rather kitten-like.
Gwyneth peeped to the hall. “Did you hear something? I thought perhaps Nellie Grace had left fishheads on the doorstep again. Stray cats make the most terrible noises.”
Low. That’s what that was. Edwin did not want the notice of someone who was determined to make him look unreasonable. No kisses. No sympathy. What a bride. What domestic fol-de-rol this was, lying on their rented settee with his aching head on a wondrously stiff pillow that only allowed the throbbing to throb harder.
Edwin watched Gwyneth put her pretty white arms into the silken sleeves of her wrap. “And I subbose you’ll go and have a ball at the obera without me?”
One glove on, then the other. “You wouldn’t rather I stay here and be miserable too?”
Well, if he had to put paint to it, that was exactly what he’d rather. Edwin moaned and threw his right arm over his eyes. “Just go. If you cobe hobe and I’ve caught pneumonia, you’ll be sorry you ever left my side.”
Gwyneth smiled and pecked his cheek. “You can’t catch pneumonia, baby-dearest. It develops.”
If he had it to do over again, Edwin thought he oughtn’t to have married a nurse. Horrific, being ill and having the weaker sex lord her intellect over you. Like little Tin-Can Harry sending a left-hook into the heavy-weight champ after a bigger fighter had already knocked the champ down. A fellow would never do it. But he wouldn’t expect Gwyneth to know it. She was natively American after all, and a femme.
Gwyneth, who had taken up a crow’s nest position at the window-seat, brightened. “Sal’s here. I’m off.”
“Goodbye!” he fog-horned at her retreating (and very good) silhouette.
Gwyneth didn’t say goodbye. Not even out the door and she’d already forgot him. Blind the germs. Colds were obnoxious beyond compare. Some chap ought to write Congress a letter. Wasn’t that the way in this sneeze-ridden colony? Couldn’t President Wilson make a law announcing colds as acts of treason? Edwin kicked the far arm of the settee with his heels and brewed a fresh pot of mischief to drink.

* * * *

“Dellie! Dellie!”
Far from deaf--in fact, quite as sharp-eared as any New York domestic--it took Nellie Grace several moments of the frightening bellows to realize the sounds were being made by Mr. Edwin and intended to convey the idea of her name. She scuttled into the front parlor.
“Yes, Mr. Edwin?”
“To which of New York’s under-rate theatres did my wife intend to bake her way?”
“Wallack’s Theatre, I believe, Mr. Edwin.”
“An obera?”
“Yes, Mr. Edwin.”
Her employer groaned with the rattle of an underground rail system. “It could dot have been a cobedy, could it, Dellie? Obera. It had to be obera. And she sbeaks of alley-cats.”
Unsure how to respond, Nellie employed the respectful bob-and-nod drilled into her head by her mother, who had also been a servant among New York’s elite:
“When in doubt, Nellie, keep your mouth closed.”
“Yes, Mr. Edwin?”
“Fetch me my hat and greatcoat.”
“I hope I brushed them well enough last time, Mr. Edwin.”
“What the dev--oh, I’m dot here to insbect your work, Dellie. I am going out.”
“Aren’t you ill, Mr. Edwin?”
“A woban with a cold...why she looks bositively beastly. Sobething about their doses...” Mr. Edwin gestured to his beaconing nose thoughtfully. “Bakes theb look ridiculous. Dark circles under their eyes...gravel in their voices. Hideous. But the benfolk, Dellie. They have better constitutions than that. We rebain...attractive in all states ob health.”
Nellie bit her lip and tried to reconcile Mr. Edwin’s haggard appearance with his speech. Bob-and-nod. “I’ll get the hat and coat, Mr. Edwin.”

* * * *
When one does not know Italian and has dropped one’s translation somewhere beneath the seat of the sizeable woman in the row next, an opera soon grows dull.
Gwyneth beat upon her knee with the stem of her opera-glass. Wouldn’t Edwin roast her if she admitted her unspeakable boredom? Their seats were cheap and so far away that only the fat soprano showed up to any effect against the Far-Eastern backdrops. The lead male was quite swallowed up and of no more notice than a stage-curtain tassel. If Edwin were here they could whisper behind his translation. He would never do something as unforgivable as dropping his booklet.
“Sal,” she whispered, hoping for a clandestine answer such as, “Oh gracious, how dull. Let’s bail and get ices instead.” But Sal had disappeared on one of her frequent trips to the powder room to perfect her gauzy reflection.
Gwyneth sank a little deeper into her chair. It would have been kinder to stay back for Edwin’s sake. She hadn’t been married so long that the needs of her husband were topmost in her mind. On nights like this it was shockingly easy to forget that she was married to a man who yowled over trifling colds and wanted petting for it. She tried to forget it’d been her cold first.
“Poor Ed.”
Someone down the row made a faint disturbance which crawled up the dark length of seats until Gwyneth made out a man clad in evening dress. He cast about for a moment, clamped eyes on Sal’s seat, and beelined it.
Gwyneth might have bothered to warn him the seat was in use but if Sal wanted to play Jack-in-the-box she could jolly well afford to lose her seat. Besides--the new man must be amusing if he thought himself free to uproot an entire row mid-opera. She’d hazard her chances.
The fat soprano rent the theatre with a note not unlike that of a canary with a cat’s claw upon its trachea. Gwyneth winced. She recalled the translation mentioning “The Death of Ariadne.” Was this it? Sounded deadly enough
The newcomer shuffled his feet, sniffed twice, took out a rumpled pocket-square and applied it to his nose.
There was some fumbling onstage. The soprano staggered forward. Her curtain-tassel opposite dutifully stumbled after her. Someone (a lump whom Gwyneth had formerly taken for a sort of chair) held up a sultan’s knife. Following this touching display of familial drama and a last semi-musical shriek, the house fell silent.
So ridiculous silent as if they’d all been struck to the heart.

Gwyneth wondered if she had got by accident into a comic opera and turned to Sal to say so before realizing her companion was not Sal at all but that gentleman who had not stopped making garrulous noises in his throat and nose since his admission.
“Bless me, what a row,” the man croaked. And in the darkness that was no longer silent, he gave a petulant sneeze undeniably Edwin’s.
“Got a translation?” Edwin asked when his arm had got comfortably around both Gwendolyn’s astonishment and her waist.
She nestled into his rackety-sounding chest. “Dropped it.”
“Crikey,” he remarked. “Rather have ices?”

Hope that gave you a laugh, my readers, and may you soon recover from this (admittedly helpful) daylight-saving drama. I think I managed all right, though a full day out in the sun soaking up loads of Vitamin D certainly helped the matter. Here's to Spring arriving. I am ready for its full embrace.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March's Chatterbox: Hockity, Pockity, Wockity, Wack

Chatterbox is on time this month, and a grand hurrah for it, right? A mad and merry March to you all! I'll refresh your mind as to what Chatterbox is from the get-go so those of you who are newish won't feel left out. There's nothing worse than arriving late to a party and feeling that every eye is upon your ignorance.


 In England, there is an old tradition that if Easter should fall on Lady Day (March 25) than some disaster should soon follow:
"When my Lord falls into my Lady's lap,
England beware of some mishap."
Of course in 2015, Easter falls on April 5th, but I stole inspiration from this old superstition anyway. In addition to the tradition of havoc wreaked on Lady Day, there is more troublesome lore pertaining to this month. The name "March" itself was borrowed off of Mars, the Roman god of war, since the calender year used to begin with March, and spring was the time for wars.As Christianity spread, of course, we instituted a church calender which meant the year began in January, and out went March. Another version of the namesake comes from the old English word for "roar," which title obviously refers to the month's windy habit. Anyway. For March's Chatterbox, I thought I would foist off the idea of many traditions and wives' tales and announce the topic as:


Now, you can declare yourselves to be purists and write of a roaring war on superstition and thus win gold stars for your Marchyness. Or you can write of two characters who are all for believing in superstitions. Or one could be for and one against it. Or you could take the more "characters having a historical-philosophical-discussion-of-superstition" view. One thing that comes to mind is the iconic scene in Roman Holiday in which Hepburn and Peck's characters are visiting the Mouth of Truth in Rome...and get a (famous) bit of a scare.

I am probably the farthest thing from superstitious you could ask for. My black cat waltzed across my path on Friday the Thirteenth of last month and I laughed at the irony of how much such an occurrence might worry the unhealthy-minded. I consider morbid superstition to be its own peculiar form of madness, and March is the month for it, traditionally, is it not? However you choose to play the topic, superstition is yours to play with. Brava, and join your posts in the link below. Looking forward to reading all the entries, so share the joy around. :)