Tag Archives: historical romance

Back on the Horse

I’ve finally wrapped up a tough work contract that absorbed all my time for the past ten weeks, with no more than a single day off in the past six. I knew going into the job that I would lose writing time, but I decided that the opportunity was worth the sacrifice given that the job was not expected to carry on for more than four or five weeks. Well, surprise—the work extended to more than double the expected duration.

Interesting thing about this particular film job: the period setting was identical to my novel-in-progress (England and the Colonies in the mid 18th century). The only difference was that the scripted colonial location took place in Virginia, whereas my novel unfolds in New York and Philadelphia. As an art director, I spent many hours neck-deep in research since part of my job is to match the look of the period. But while I took advantage of swimming in my own novel’s setting, I did not have the time to delve into my story.

How does one get back into a big story after such a long and intense break from the material? I always find the best way to get back into a project is to re-read the manuscript. The characters come to life and the story fills the mind again in a way that feels like getting into a freshly made bed. I’ve started tackling the 83,000 words I’ve put on the page to date. I’m enjoying the read, which is a good sign—and also see clearly where I need to do some re-structuring. Reading with fresh eyes is one unexpected advantage of having to take a break from a manuscript.

The timing of the end of my work contract lined up perfectly for taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I would have signed up if I were ready to start a new novel. However, I’m still working on an unfinished gap in the middle of the novel from last year. Instead, I’m doing “unofficial” NaNoWriMo. I’m writing every day, working to a word-count goal, and aiming to finish the middle of the book by the end of the month.

I’m finding it a challenge and suffering from immense blank page syndrome, but I’m glad to get back on the horse.

I’d be interested to hear how others deal with major interruptions in their work flow. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

 

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Filed under Getting Published, Writing

Excerpt from Servitude (Work-in-Progress)

Eva winced at the ivory-stitched swatch of fabric her mother held up to her for approval.

“Evaline, it is unfathomable that you should object to every pattern in the shop,” said Eva’s mother.

Eva understood her mother’s point. The shop had no shortage of the latest silks in new patterns and colours for the season. Birds, flowers, sea shells, butterflies and more creatures than she could dream of festooned every set of colour variations. Most of the selections improved on the items she owned, and several met well with her approval. But the fabric was not the point.

“Mama, it is not the fabric which is objectionable,” replied Eva

“I don’t want to hear it,” snapped Elizabeth, lowering her voice.

“Why don’t you pick something suitable,” Eva flung back at her. “This entire arrangement is for your and father’s interest. I have no say in it at all.”

Eva ducked out of the reach of her mother’s arm and ran out the door of the shop into the street. She shivered in the cold spring morning air, having left her overcoat inside. She looked back at it through the glass, pondering whether its retrieval was worth it. Eva caught her mother’s glare fixed on her from inside, and turned her back to the window. Why could her parents not have found someone less horrific? Why in all of London was there not a handsome well-to-do gentleman willing to liberate her from this dire engagement predicament and insist on making her a better offer?

Eva could see her own breath as she exhaled. She rubbed the cold from her arms. In her distraction she missed an approaching couple who jostled her aside. Their rudeness interrupted her daydreams of marital rescue. Eva noted that back inside the shop her mother had indeed taken matters in hand and was poring over several new imports and a variety of laces.

Across the street, a crowd gathered around a new print shop. Individual prints filled each window pane on the facade. Eva could hear gasps of surprise and loud chuckles from where she stood. She looked back at her warm cloak but decided that to risk its retrieval would be to succumb to entrapment once again. She shivered once more and set out across the street in the cold to have a look at what was so funny.

Eva was much smaller than most of the crowd. With two slight parents she had not much hope of ever being of average size. She attempted to squeeze through a break in the crowd, but a heavy roughly-dressed man pushed her aside and filled the gap. Determined, she moved around the crowd to the other side of the print shop. The crowd swelled as greatly on this side, and their jostling knocked her into the adjacent alley. Standing alone in a covered alley was too much for Eva, who despite a sheltered upbringing had spent enough time around her family’s various shop merchants to know that alleys were cesspools of dangerous vagrants.

Eva looked down the small stretch of covered cobblestone way, to where the alley opened up at the other end. A hang-dog group of men strutted towards her in silhouette. Most of the men appeared worn and broken, with the exception of one who walked upright and strong with the pride of youth. Perhaps he was a son of one of the others, or perhaps he led the gang—either way, the figure struck her with fear. Eva didn’t know which way to turn and as the group bore down on her, she froze in the mouth of the alley.

The men burst into the sunlight from the covered darkness, their faces as frightening once the light hit them as her imagination had made them unseen. They moved around her as if she were nothing more than an inconvenient post. The smell of sweat and coffee lingered in the air as they passed. Unlike the others, the young one stopped directly in front of her, standing a head above and only inches away. Her heart skipped against her closed throat, as if his strong hands already closed around it, choking the life from her.

“What are you doing here?” asked a familiar voice.

Eva forced her gaze up across his half-open linen shirt, across the bare chest that still carried a glisten of sweat, under the chin that wore the faintest shadow of a future beard, and onto the much matured face of her long-lost Sam. Relief burst from her with such force that she threw her arms around him.

“Sam!” she cried.

“Please don’t,” said Sam, peeling her from around his waist. His voice was colder than the air.

Eva swallowed her flush and began to straighten out her skirts as a distraction. She shivered with the removal of his body warmth.

“Why don’t you have a cloak?” asked Sam. He sounded annoyed, as if her lack of warmth obligated him to take care of her, and this were the worst of outcomes.

(Updated Mar. 17)

To be published in a 3-part series, beginning June, 2018.

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Filed under Flash Fiction (and Other Bits)

NaNoWriMo Recap (Long Overdue!)

I started a short blog post a week after NaNoWriMo ended, ruminating on a post-partum writing-blitz funk I found myself in. I never finished the post, as the funk rolled into the holidays, followed by a scramble to prepare for a three-month contract away from home, and attempts to squeeze in some promotion for the published novel. I am shocked to return to the post only to discover I wrote the thing two months ago! So without further blah-blah-blah-ing, here are some reflections on my Nano experience.

I took November off to write—something I have never done before officially (unofficially I have refrained from actively seeking new contracts in the interests of spending time with words … but often to my detriment as the gnawing worry of lack of income undermines the ability to sit down and concentrate on a novel). This time I had the luxury of knowing I had work lined up at the end of the month. I treated the November novel month as a contract with myself, determined to write a minimum of four hours a day and aiming at six or eight.

I decided to write a story inspired by a visit to Annapolis several years ago when on visiting one of the historical houses I learned about indentured servants. I wondered what it might take to persuade someone to voluntarily put themselves in complete servitude in exchange for travel to the Americas. Could love be a motivator?

The week before writing officially began, I dedicated my time to putting together character studies and period research. I’ve set the novel in 1740, beginning in London, jumping to New York and Philadelphia, then back to London, over the course of five years. I did not intend to write another novel about crossing the Atlantic, but that seems to have happened. I would have liked to have had more time for research but I ended up working on my last contract right up to late October.

Nano encourages word count, with a winning participant culminating a total 50000 words over the 30 days of November. I managed an average 2500 per day, with my best day writing just shy of 6000 words. I tied the structure of the novel to the calendar days, knowing when I wanted to hit certain plot points. The most difficult points to achieve happened in the middle of the month, and with a week to go I jumped ahead to the third part of the novel. I wrote the final sentence on the last day of November, some time late afternoon or early evening, to great satisfaction. I finished with 74000 words down on (virtual) paper, and a giant hole in the middle of the story. The last sentence? [spoiler alert!]:

“Each of them basked in the promise of a future that neither of them had ever dreamed possible.”

I guess as much abuse as I put my characters through (I’ve learned I like to abuse my heroes), things turn out all right in the end.

My goal now is to fill that giant middle-of-the-story hole and edit the rest of the 74000 word manuscript. I intend to publish each of the three parts electronically through this year, and release a full print version at the end. I’ve been rereading the novel this week as a first step, and am happy to find myself fully engrossed.

Stay tuned next week for what I’m doing to create my “author platform.”

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