Category Archives: Tipping My Hand

Tip My Hand Tuesday

I’m editing today. “No One Cared to Notice” is a short story that interrupted things with In Favor of His Constancy. It may be the story I place in an anthology, or I may just put it up at Beyond Austen. There is no telling these day.

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Not the smile he was expecting! Photo: Daniel Johnson (Creative Commons Flickr)

To add insult to serious injury, my mouse is dying. (I know this is not a mouse. But, the internet is taking it’s time getting a pic from my phone to my email so I have to improvise.) I use a laptop and despise the touch pad so I have a wireless mouse as my writing companion. But, Purp is dying a slow and frustrating death. When mice die, they refuse to perform properly. So, highlighting is impossible, pointing is whimsical, and clicking is nearly out of the question. Another mouse is coming from Amazon but won’t be here until Thursday. I’ve got a couple of says to figure out how to dispose of the body and then I will have to learn to use the new on. It has buttons and such that control CPI and DPI. I don’t know or care as long as I can point and click without all the drama.

I’ve saved the best for last on this bright May Tuesday. My daughter’s mother-in-law has suffered from COPD for years. Last Wednesday she was taken to the hospital with a serious viral infection. It was serious enough that all the proper papers were signed and the conclusion was that she was not coming home. I mean in the people-flying-in to say good bye way.

She came home yesterday.fireworks-light-japan-festival-66277.jpeg

I am grateful to live now when medications are wondrous things. But I also know this woman is stubborn as HELL. To the point of emotional damage in some cases. But in this case, Welcome Home, Sue.*

MY lesson in this is not to roll over and die when things look bad. Literally.

*There are a lot of weird coincidences between my daughter’s MIL and myself. Too many for me to be comfortable with.

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Tip My Hand Tuesday

While doing a writing sprint this morning, I read an article by James Scott Bell entitled, Garlic Breath for Writers (aka Bad First Pages). The article helps writers improve their first pages so no one shies away.

He points out that writers don’t have much time to attract an editor’s attention so don’t blow it by making your opening lines uninteresting. I think it’s a little unfair that we write books for the mythic editor, (or reader), that only gives you 13 seconds to WOW them. If they’re not transfixed by your characters, plot and setting in that time, you’re tossed aside like so much cold oatmeal. But, I also have ended my past policy of if-I-start-your-novel-I-finish-your-novel. I give a writer 50 pages. I don’t have to be transfixed by your book. I don’t even have to be in love. I just have to be interested enough to turn the page. Maybe like me, the only shocking thing is how many books fail to do even that!

IN the spirit of putting myself at risk, I’m putting the first few paragraphs of a new novel I’m working on. (Yeah, yeah, I know, “finish the ones you’ve got going now, Madam Can’t-finish-a-thing!)

The first segment is the original from the first draft I’m working on. The second is the reworked version. The segments include a title change, a short synopsis, and several paragraphs of narrative and dialogue.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Original:

THOUGH I HAD A SON

The stillborn son of the Elliots survived.  With a son, SW is worse than ever about precedence, money, rank, all of it. Though Lady Elliot survives past 1800, she is often “unwell” and must withdraw from society for short periods. During these times, SW is free to spend on their son at an alarming rate. This brings the retrenchment closer more quickly.

CHAPTER ONE

Anne Elliot took her place down the table from her father, Sir Walter. With the eldest Elizabeth on his left, and his son and heir, Young Walter on his right, it was always Anne’s duty to go lower. Her father was reading a letter that had her sister and brother’s rapt attention. She carefully eased her napkin from under the silver so as not to disrupt him.

The warm touch of her mother’s hand comforted her. Lady Elliot sat straight and still, still facing her husband, but her eyes shifted to Anne. She winked. A wisp of a smile followed and then she looked back to the head of the table.

There were no footmen to serve the family’s breakfast, so Anne served herself an egg and a bit of sausage. This was the one area in which Lady Elliot was supreme. She had grown up in a house with a lawyer for a father who left the ordering of the house to her mother who was raised on a farm. The household had moved through the seasons dictated by what the land needed at the moment. At no time of year was it acceptable to dawdle over meals. There was no ceremony about seating, who sat where sorted itself by who got to the table first. If the matter was left to Sir Walter, every meal would be a rigorous, proper affair that took far too much time. Before the children had been born, and she still had a hold over him, she had insisted that breakfast be a quiet, casual affair. It was still a battle to keep it such. Everything, whether household or estate was now being used to teach their son that, in the words of Sir Walter, “a baronet should be seen to live as a baronet.” Even if that meant the hard-won domestic preferences of my lady were dashed.

“… and so, Miss Elizabeth’s gown, and the suits of Sir Walter, and Young Walter Elliot are ready for a final fitting. If you would be so kind as to fix a date that would be convenient to you and your children. Madam and I are most anxious to travel to Kellynch and to see our creations in the very house they will grace.  M. Perry and co.”

The havoc a fitting would stir depressed Anne. Before the visit, her sister was sure to fly into fits. Problems with the materials, snagged lace, uneven stitching, and surely the colours will be nothing at all like the ones she chose a month ago. Her father would be as bad, if not worse. Young Walter would merely snipe about the Mr Perry’s broad accent, the couples being from Exeter, and not being a fine London tailor.

“I do think that is high-handed of Perry, Father—”

“Yes, it is, Father. And his wife is not even a seamstress. The only proper gowns I have are made in London—”

“—presumptuous to make himself and that silly little wife out to be the actual creators of anything. If it were not for us, he would have been doing nothing in his little shop sewing buttons, and hems, and nothing else.” Young Walter took a bite of potato. A bit dropped on his waistcoat. He then stabbed a bit of toast in some yoke to follow. “What?” with a full mouth he demanded of Anne.

“Nothing, Walter. I just—”

“You have no interest in this, sister. You chose to embarrass the family by having something made over by Mother’s maid rather than—”

“Enough, Walter,” Lady Elliot said.

Yes, indeed,” their father said, folding the note. “Anne’s choices are her own. The dress was your mother’s and fit for London a season ago, so I think it will be sufficient. Though,” he set the note aside, “I hope you will make more than a superficial appearance at the ball my dear.” He spoke to Lady Elliot. She was in one of her periods of societal withdrawal, as Sir Walter called them. “We are twenty-two years married and this is a great occasion.” He realized he was leaning forward and that his voice was brusque. After a deep breath, he softened his tone. “It is my fondest wish that you would rally yourself and be at my side throughout the evening.” He smiled and raised a finger to the children. They turned and smiled as well.

The reworked version:

ANNE ELLIOT’S MOST DEGRADING ALLIANCE

From the Baronetage: “Walter Elliot, Born March 1, 1760 … Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, Nov. 5, 1789 … ” In the Regency period, a son made all the difference in the world to a family. Particularly one with a title and estate. In this Persuasion retelling, the stillborn son of the Elliots survived. In this story, as in reality, a small change can make a startling difference.

CHAPTER ONE

Anne Elliot carefully eased her napkin from under the silver so as not to disrupt her father as he read a letter at the breakfast table. The warm touch of her mother’s hand comforted her. Lady Elliot’s eyes shifted to Anne. Her mother winked. A wisp of a smile followed and then she looked back to the head of the table.

Her mother’s posture was ramrod straight. The Baronet’s flagrant disregard for his wife’s opinion that dining table was a place for polite and appropriate conversations amongst the family was, once again, ignored. Meals had never been delightful family affairs, but lately, tension was always on the menu.

Unfortunately, tension was not restricted to the dining room. More often than not, walking into a room unannounced brought a halt to intense conversations between her parents. As a matter of course, Anne cleared her throat or dropped things to make her presence known. Her elder sister, Elizabeth, was beginning to take notice, and her younger brother, Young Walter, outright called her an oaf. These snatches of conversations, and oblique references to things only understood by her parents weighed heavily on her.

“… and so, Miss Elizabeth’s gown, and the suits of Sir Walter, and Young Walter Elliot are ready for a final fitting. If you would be so kind as to fix a date that would be convenient to you and your children. Madam and I are most anxious to travel to Kellynch and to see our creations in the very house they will grace.  M. Perry and co.”

The Elliots were celebrating their twenty-second wedding anniversary with a ball. Lady Elliot was notorious for limiting extravagant socialising, and this gave Anne’s father an excuse to open his purse and spend freely. This included new clothes for everyone. The occasion being what it was, her mother felt helpless to stop him

The tailor’s letter held Elizabeth and Young Walter in thrall. A fitting with the Perry’s would rain havoc on the household. Even before their arrival, Elizabeth would fly into fits about snagged lace, uneven stitching, and mismatched buttons. She suspected there would also be doubts that the colours or even the material itself will be the ones she chose a month ago. Her father would be as bad, adding irregular lapels, and breeches too loose or too tight, whichever made the least sense. Young Walter would not bother commenting on the possibilities about the clothing, but cruelly snipe about Mr Perry’s broad accent and how the couple residing in Exeter could not possibly be skilled as a fine London tailor.

“I do think that is high-handed of Perry, Father—” So began Young Walter’s bombast.

“Yes, so high-handed, Father. And his wife is not even a seamstress. The only proper gowns I have are made in London—”

“—presumptuous to make himself and that silly little wife out to be the actual creators of anything suitable. If it were not for us, he would have been doing nothing in his little shop sewing buttons, and hems, and nothing else.” Young Walter took a bite of potato. A bit dropped on his waistcoat. He then stabbed a bit of toast in some yoke to follow.

“In the past, they have proven very good—”

What?” with a full mouth he demanded of Anne.

“Nothing, Walter. I just—”

“You have no interest in this, sister. You chose to embarrass the family by having something made over by Mother’s maid rather than—”

“Enough, Walter,” Lady Elliot said.

“Yes, indeed, enough.” their father said, folding the note. “Anne’s choices are her own. The dress was your mother’s and fit for London a season ago, so I think it will be sufficient. Though,” he set the note aside, speaking to Lady Elliot. “I hope you will make more than a superficial appearance at the ball my dear.” She was in one of her periods of societal withdrawal, as Sir Walter called them. “We are twenty-two years married and this is a great occasion.” After a deep breath, he softened his tone. Was it possible that he realised he was leaning a bit too far forward and that his voice was little too brusque? “It is my fondest wish that you would rally yourself and be at my side throughout the evening.” He smiled and raised a finger to the children. They turned and smiled as well.

 

These are both portions of a work-in-progress and subject to change.