Friday, July 31, 2015

"The Leopard Clause:" A Snap of Short-Story

I stand upon the brink of the eighth month of this year and think of how patient all of you are. I've not had a good schedule with my writing and I freely admit that. Work has gobbled me and since I can't write in the middle of life, the choice to write when I reach home of an evening means choosing to ignore my family, and I've just not been ready to make that choice. So my word-count has suffered miserably. It's not dead, however, and while I intend to start August with a month-long goal of 10,000 words added to Scotch'd the Snakes, I have scribbled in little things here and there in the interim. Below, I'm sharing the start of a short-story for my brother. Meet "The Leopard Clause."

“The Leopard Clause”
by Rachel Heffington

Lord of the Earth.
The category sat well with him, so Banistre Cleveland tried it aloud: “I am a Lord a’ the Earth.” Not too loudly of course, because it wasn’t quite the sort of thing a suitably grief-ravished nephew said upon coming into a sizable inheritance. But this was Middleburg. This was Eden-pure air and grass greener than envy. This was plump, pedigreed horseflesh going more per ounce than gold, and long, low stables rife with barn-swallows. No one would hear him, and if they did, no one would care.
“Lord a’ the Earth,” Banistre repeated. He spread his palms along the rail fence and collected several splinters.
“Enjoying the view?”
The intrusion of a fellow human jarred Banistre’s heady mood. He turned, nursing his injured hand to face the offender. Silhouetted like one of Satan’s finest, all angles and intelligent movement, stood the Hon. Phillip Dean Wicks, attorney at law. This Wicks, Banister’s late uncle’s solicitor, specialized in adding his presence unannounced. Banistre felt an immediate weakening of his lordliness. What was he after all but a half-baked law student with a palmful of splinters and a recently acquired estate? But there was an estate, and the positive implication of that word buoyed him. Mr. Wicks couldn’t frighten a Lord a’ the Earth. Banistre shifted to allow for Mr. Wicks’s joining him at the fence and nodded down-pasture to where a fat mare cropped turf.
“She’s ready to pop,” he offered.
Mr. Wicks squinted. “I believe ‘foaling’ is the official term.”
“Ah, yes. Foaling. It’s got to be hell, bringing one of those kick-boxers into the world.”
Mr. Wicks said nothing.
“I mean,” Banistre fumbled with a piece of fence-rail under his skin, “it’s purely marvelous, how all them arms and legs are all jumbled up so neat and quiet inside. Like a Jacob’s Ladder, I’d imagine. And then a bit of a struggle later and you’ve got a foal racing around like the Triple Crown was his natural right. Fascinating.”
Mr. Wicks turned a dark, intelligent eye to him with that smile that always made Banistre recall how bad his Latin was.
“Indeed,” the lawyer said, “Is animal husbandry an interest of yours?”
“Animal...husband...” Banistre fell into a cold sweat. “What...I mean, oh! Of course. Yes, well, I do go in for a bit of it. Just enough to feel my way around the paddock, so to speak.” When nervous, and he found Mr. Wicks particularly inspirational in this respect, Banistre got chatty. “I don’t want to be one of those heirs who can’t hold his liquor and flirts with ruin and plays the dames.”
If Mr. Wicks thought well of him for this rare bit of philosophy, he kept well away from outward applause.
Banistre pulled out the first splinter triumphantly. “I will be a wise land-owner and know what crop per acre my land is bringing, and who’s bred with whom and what a bad drought we’ve been having lately, don’t you know.”
“Just so.” Mr. Wicks put a hand into his breast pocket. If he had suddenly brought out a mother o’ pearl-handled revolver, it would have suited his elegant style of darkness, but he did not. A sheaf of papers appeared, which Mr. Wicks undid with a refined snap and put into Banistre’s hands.
“Before you begin your wise reign, O, Jehoshaphat, you might find these of interest.”
Being a law student, Banistre ought to have made sense of the legal jargon; being a simple man, he could not.
“I see,” he said, and handed the papers back with a tepid smile.
“Unusual clause, isn’t it?” Mr. Wicks had obnoxiously virtuous hair, as if it dared not defy the style in which he set it of a morning. “My client favored what I call ‘creativity’ in his dealings. Bad luck for you, though, my man.”
Under his shirt, Banistre felt his body go a startled shade of boiled crayfish. “Just to be really sure I’ve got it down, d’you mind explaining it in laymen’s terms? My people will want to know,” he hastily added.
A sharp-eyed grin from the solicitor. “In the simplest words: you’re out of an inheritance.”
Banistre choked, presumably on an inhaled may-fly. “Oh. Well....drat. Just like that, huh?” Something had gone wrong with his breathing. “And who’s the lucky fellow to take my place?”
“Uncle Sam. The Government. That is, unless you are able to defy death and answer the Leopard Clause.”
“Surely you noticed?” Mr. Wicks unsnapped the papers again and pointed to a section of print circled several times in red pencil. Anyone ought to have seen it. “In this clause, your romantic-minded uncle detailed the conditions of your inheritance.”
“That he die?”
“That you kill (and have attractively taxidermied) the Leopard of Harbaryaband.”
Banistred laughed a great, booming “HA!” which startled the brood mare and sent a barn-swallow kiting away.
“Are you a big-game hunter, Mr. Cleveland?”
“I’ve never shot anything larger than a woodchuck,” Banistre confessed.
The spirited eye of Philip Dean Wicks seemed to declare things about its owner: “Lions,” it cried. “Panthers.” And in the left-hand corner, if one could stand the exposure for so long, a sort of glint hinted at “Rhinoceros.”
“But I’m terrified of large animals," Banistre babbled. "And diseases like Malaria. I’m not rich and I’m not English and I’ve never been to Africa, let alone had any desire to go!”
Mr. Wicks refolded his papers. He clamped a resolute palm on Banistre’s shoulder before sauntering off. “It’s a good thing for you, then, this particular leopard hails from India.”
Banistre’s mind had gone spinny. “But...all those idols!”
“Staying?” Mr. Wicks called back, his nose, hair, chin, limbs all sharpened by the back-light. “I’d come along if I were you. You’d best get yourself outfitted.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I Promise I HAVE Been Writing...

Dear Folksies:
     Contrary to popular belief, I've been doing a LOT of writing recently. Why the secrecy? Well, this is actually non-fiction writing. For the past three or four months, actually, I've been hard at work on developing a new bit of blogspace to further and officially explore my triplet of other passions:

Food, Fashion, Art.

Lipstick & Gelato will give me a happy, organized outlet for all three while I people can still keep tabs on my reading and writing here on The Inkpen Authoress! I love a fresh start, a new focus, and a place to show my pretty things. Lipstick & Gelato will take the place of A Butcher, A Baker, A Candlestick-Maker  as my "other blog," and will focus on these three main things:

Recipes: In the Kitchen, on the Gelato side of the house I share all things edible: recipes new and old, hole-in-the-wall spots for a fine meal, foodie friendships, cooking challenges and more.

Fashion: In the Closet (or Lipstick gallery) I talk about style, beauty, dressing my ‘curvy’ body gracefully, and all things related to looking your best. Some of my inspirations style-wise are Audrey Hepburn, Amy Adams, Tanesha Awasthi, Kate Spade, Zooey Deschanel, classic and vintage silhouettes, and rich colors.

Art: My art is...all around! From fashion-sketches to food illustration, to quick sketches done on the sly under the nose of a snobby Starbucks barista, I throw my art into this blog the way I fit it into daily life: here and there, in all the nooks and crannies.

Think you're interested? Bookmark the blog ( so that when it goes public on August 11th, you'll be prepared! Spread the word with the image below on all your preferred venues of social media, and until the day you can actually get into the blog (which is, again, August 11th), follow Lipstick & Gelato on Instagram

Cheers to all of you! Thanks for being such ducks and putting up with my random silences!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

C'est la LIFE


My MERCY, life flies by. It's July and I have the most baffing feeling that I've been some sort of hideous fake this whole spring, calling myself a writer. The truth is, what I've written this spring wouldn't fill a wide-ruled, spiral-bound notebook. I have not logged into my publishing account in four months. My Twitter is a ghost-house. I'm doing horribly with self-promotion. I'm not sure I should even be telling you this, but PR has never been my strong suit. Actually, scratch-that. Public Relations are where I am GOOD. Selling books is where I don't give a horse-fly, even when I ought, which is why I still work as a nanny rather than a full-time writer. Life has been giving me a workout and in a fist-fight between my family and my books, family wins out. That is not to say I haven't wished to write and even written a (very) little. I've started a secret thing that I can't whisper about yet because I don't want to announce my lipstick-taser before firing. I've worked a (very) little bit on Scotch'd the Snakes. I've worked on a few pieces of worthless flash fiction to keep my mind limber, and have plans to write a very quick piece of humorous fiction in honor of something I misheard a couple of weeks ago while in church. Cottleston Pie is marinating. I am not sure what to do with it yet, but murmurings of a rewrite are in the nearest corners of my mind when I stop to think about it. Historically, just about forty or fifty percent of the reading populace, after reading one of my novels, suggest I write a children's book. I have never quite decided how I feel about this reaction. Did they not enjoy my novel, but find my tone amusing and therefore feel I should tackle something of less import? Or did they like my story and/or tone so much they want it in short-order form? Or do they think I am entirely on the wrong tack and ought to pin my sails and try for something that will harm no one if it flops miserably? I cannot tell. But I love Cottleston Pie and I think I'm on the right track with it and when I take it out, it is always so much a better project that I remember it being. This is my update on personal writing. I was vicariously thrilled with my friends, like Mirriam Neal, who managed to do JuNoWriMo. Brava!

I've had a little more success. Suzannah Rowntree's Pendragon's Heir is marvelously well-written but a little too brocade for summer wear. I find it slow but pleasant going. I picked up Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally after going on a blitzkreig-speed tour through DC's Holocaust Museum. I want to go back and spend more than fifteen minutes on each floor, but what I saw was enough to convict, impress, and sober me. So far, Keneally's book is thoughtfully researched and reads much more like an interesting history than a novel, which is rather the point. Lurking behind-hand in the book-wings are a book about the children of the Holocaust (also a Museum purchase), The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, two cookbooks, and a book about the history of maps. No, it's not The Island of Lost Maps which I read earlier this year...I just have a strange fascination with cartography since the day I first watched National Treasure. The influx of reading material happened when I made the trip to our dinky library which is hardly ever open to renew my card which had expired at least a year ago. What do you know? They have books at libraries. And I'm terrible at resisting a book.

I don't listen to music while writing, generally, but I do have a list of songs that have been in my heart and head recently and here is as good a place as any to share them! :)
  1. "Geronimo" - The Sheppherds
  2. "Bright" - Echosmith
  3. "You Belong With Me" - Taylor Swift (Come on, it isn't summer till you've had some T-Swizzle)
  4. "Almost Like Being In Love" - Nat King Cole
  5. "Out of an Orange-Colored Sky" - Nat King Cole
  6. "Shut Up And Dance With Me" - Walk The Moon (unashamed)
  7. "Budapest" - George Ezra (heard the most beautiful female-vocals version of this done by two sisters I know.)
  8. "Take Your Time" - Sam Hunt
  9. "Lay Me Down" - Chris Tomlin
  10. "I'm a Believer" - The Monkees
  11. "Christ Be All Around Me" - Leeland (my prayer, always)
My taste is eclectic, as you can see and ranges up and down the scale from standard pop to country, to big-band, to Christian contemporary. I love having varied tastes. Keeps things interesting.

Lavender Soda. It's a beautiful thing. Like drinking a vase of flowers steeped in Sprite...only less perfume-y. Also, anything boysenberry. After three years, our patch is doing prolifically well and my hands and lips are stained with the sun-soaked gems. York Peppermint Patties. I bought a bag to share around my wing at a camp...and ended up taking the whole thing home. Now I really, really want to try making s'mores with York instead of normal chocolate. Parmesan from the block. MmmHMMMM. You heard that right. Cheese is bae. If I talked that way. And I don't. Moving onnnnnn. Cherries. Dark, sweet cherries. Divinity right there. And whenever I eat cherries I am reminded of an anecdote about Oswald Chambers which you probably don't have time to hear, so I will refrain from sharing it.

I'm off to bury my nose in one of my neglected writing projects. Ciao, darlings!