Another Pretty Nothing — Prologue

15 Feb

Author’s Note: For your Valentine’s Day Present, I got you a new story! Not really. Anyway, I got this idea for a novella/short story/novel last week and couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s not very plot heavy, so instead of outlining it and researching it and doing all the boring things I usually do I decided to experiment with “pantsing” this. I don’t know where it’s going anymore than you do! Fun! Mostly I want it to be a palette cleanser, basically. It’s here to let me write with no pressure to make sense or be any good. The “theme” is basically that these are two people who got involved in a marriage of convenience and then realized they were completely mismatched and had to learn to live together and love each other afterward.

It goes without saying, don’t publish this anywhere and claim it as your own because it is mine.

Another Pretty Nothing by Charlotte St. Claire

Prudence Weathers was in a bind. No, she was positively drowning in humanity. She scanned the room again, but it didn’t matter. She was still alone. Well, not exactly “alone.” Alone doesn’t happen at a ball. But the fact remained she was not in the immediate proximity of anyone she knew, which was practically the same thing when you thought about it.
She cursed her luck and the circumstances that had led her to this point. She was the only daughter and oldest child of a dead man of modest means. Everything he had left was earmarked for sustaining the household of her younger brother, but enough had been set aside to fund this one lonely season before she would have to go home. She wasn’t sure what would happen if she didn’t manage to attract a husband in that time – she had a family name, but not a good enough one to make up for her poverty and definitely not enough to keep her from becoming a governess if she refused to live with her brother. She guessed one of her cousins might make an offer for her, but Rue would be damned if she was going to leave her fate in their hands.
Unfortunately for her, the London season was always full of heiresses of moderate beauty and wit, and most of them were in a far better financial situation than she was. And so, she found herself in a bind. She lacked even a meddling mama to push her at eligible gentlemen – she was, actually, chaperoned by a grandma whom she strongly suspected favored a match between her and the aforementioned cousin. Well, Rue decided, if the gentlemen were not going to come to her she would just have to go to them.
She had noticed during previous balls a certain young man who gave her a reason to hope. His name was Sir Thomas Montgomery. He had a modest fortune and an inconsequential title, and most importantly to Rue, he was completely awkward and uncomfortable around strange women. Even the meddling mamas didn’t bother throwing their daughters at him anymore. A man with no other prospects. In short, for Rue, he was perfect.
She had, through some stroke of luck, come into possession of glass of champagne from a man who found himself sadly unable to dance with her as he was previously engaged to dance with an heiress who was painfully shy but in possession of 5,000 a year which Rue found erased most flaws. She tried not to let that get her down. What she lacked in finances or beauty she more than made up for in resourcefulness and charm. She was a shrewd creature – she would be fine.
Rue locked her eyes on the object of her interest. Sir Thomas was the roll of the dice on which her future was to be gambled, he just didn’t know it yet. She wouldn’t even call it gambling, really. Rue had been raised around cousins and male relatives with no father and only a younger brother to look out for her interests – she knew men and she had no doubt she could bring this one around to her given time. Sadly, time was one of the few things she was very short on.
He had begun to move towards the refreshment room and she tracked his course like a springer spaniel. If she moved fast, she could be on a collision course with him by the entry. The rules of propriety prevented a young lady from making the acquaintance of a strange gentleman on her own – really, there was only one way for an unattached girl to introduce herself and keep her reputation in tact. It was a risk Rue was willing to take.
She gauged her approach carefully, too fast and he would see her and pause to let her pass him, too slow and she would miss him entirely. As he reached the doors to the next room, Rue moved into place behind him and tripped, splashing champagne onto his sleeve. No war is won without casualties.
“Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry!” she gasped, convincingly, she thought, as he turned to look at her for the first time. He regarded her quietly for a moment and she chanced what she hoped was an embarrassed smile.
“It’s perfectly alright, Miss…” He seemed taken off-guard by the fact she had retrieved a handkerchief from her reticule and had begun blotting his sleeve gently.
“Oh forgive me.” She stopped her work and gave a curtsey. “Miss Prudence Weathers, but please call me Rue.”
“Ah.” He gave a low bow, “Sir Thomas Montgomery.” He seemed, she noticed, far more comfortable now that she wasn’t touching him anymore. Well. That was no good at all.
“Sir Thomas.” She smiled as charmingly as possible, “you have my sincerest apologies for the damage to your coat. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”
He stiffened slightly, obviously uncomfortable, but Rue had come too far to give up now.
“That’s quite alright, Miss Weathers, I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your time. I’ll let you get back to your friends.” He moved to leave and she stopped him with a hand on his arm. It was terribly forward of her but it was a calculated risk.
“Oh I have no idea where they’ve gone off to. Honestly, you’d be doing me a favor more than anything – the only place you can see anyone in this crush is fro the dance floor and I’m sadly unclaimed for the next dance.” She smiled again, but softer this time, willing him to accept her. He stood warily for another second before seeming to resign to her gentle pressure.
“Very well. Miss Prudence Weathers, may I have the honor of this dance?” He said, stooping into a civil bow before taking her hand.
“That’s very kind of you, sir. The pleasure is all mine.” From the look on his face, she was fairly sure that would be entirely true. He looked more like a man on his way to the gallows than one who was actually happy to be dancing with his partner. But he had fallen in with her, which was the important thing. A man who would give in to a dance might be inclined to give in on larger things . God but she hated thinking like that – it made her feel unclean.
He didn’t speak, she didn’t care. She needed him to grow used to her, not fall in love with her. Love could wait. Once the dance was over, propriety dictated he escort her to the side of the room. After another bow and a few pleasantries he left her to locate her chaperone while he adjourned to his lonely corner where he watched everyone else have a good time.
Things progressed in that way each time their paths crossed – usually, not by accident. Rue would push just a little further and each time Sir Thomas would initially balk but quickly gave in to her gentle prodding. Soon, word spread that there was a lady he particularly favored. Having never been the subject of gossip before, Sir Thomas reacted most unexpectedly by fleeing London to visit his mother. Rue experienced a temporary moment of doubt, until he returned ring in hand, and professed his utmost admiration for her many virtues and begging the favor of her hand in marriage. He didn’t profess love – he didn’t even acknowledge like – but he had proposed. Everything Rue had hoped for had finally come to pass.


Is Fiction Too Realistic?

22 Jan

(Okay, first off in NaNoWriMo news, I am still “technically” editing by which I mean I’m probably going to call it quits on fixing the formatting and missing words for now and start sending it out to betas this week.  I’m in school again and trying to actually get GOOD grades so I can go to law school instead of my previous plan of getting mediocre grades so I could be finished and also trying to prep a novel to write during Camp NaNo so my time has officially vacated the building and editing is on a back burner until at least May.  If you’d volunteered to be a beta reader, keep an eye out this week because I’ll be sending it away.  Now that THAT is out of the way…)

I’m taking a literature class this semester.  I haven’t taken anything remotely related to literature or writing since 2006, and that primarily dealt with poetry and short stories.  This class is specifically interested in survivor’s tales.  Stories about people overcoming great obstacles and surviving in horrible situations.  Now, when I signed up for this class I was pretty upset.  I tried to get into literally any other literature class but African American Literature, Women’s Literature, and British Literature were all full.  It was this or bust.  I was afraid it was going to be “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” style stories about people who were drinking their own pee and cutting off their own limbs and crap and I didn’t want to deal with it, but I bucked up and decided to go through with it anyway because I need a literature class to graduate and I couldn’t really get any of the other classes I needed this semester.

Well, it turns out it’s NOT all high seas adventures and hiking down Everest on one leg.  The first book we’re reading is The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.  Now, this is not a review site and even if it were, I haven’t finished reading this book yet.  However, there are parts of this book that are absolutely unbelievable.  I mean, I’m sure they really happened.  I assume if she were making things up, one of her siblings or her parents would have mentioned it by now.  And anyway, my family has a long and happy history of dysfunction that makes stories like this incredibly believable.  So there’s that.

But I have a friend who I was talking to as I read the first hundred pages of text and I’m just going to post this little exchange in its entirety because it makes up my thesis for this post.  Just beware there is a minor spoiler for The Glass Castle in this conversation:

[14:29] Me: Oh my.
[14:29] Tim: Yeah?
[14:29] Me: This book is just horrific.
[14:29] Me: I’m reading The Glass Castle still.
[14:29] Tim: Oh?
[14:30] Me: The parents just had their fourth child and she’s a few months old and the other ones are about 8-5
[14:30] Me: And they almost got caught driving with no insurance, registration, brake lights, and a license plate stolen from another car.
[14:31] Me: So they ditched the car and rented a U-Haul but the front is only big enough for two so they but the four children in the back of the U-Haul for 14 hours “plus some scenic detours.”
[14:31] Me: With the 6 year old narrator holding the baby.
[14:31] Me: If this were a novel I would call bullshit.
[14:31] Tim: Heh.
[14:32] Tim: I think that’s the general thesis for why memoirs have become so popular over the last decade or so: non-fantasy fiction has become “realistic” to the point of tedium.

I bolded that myself for emphasis because I think it raises a good point.  I have a tendency to role my eyes at characters who have a lot of things “wrong” in their backstory.  This is a trait I probably picked up over my years of reading fan fiction — a lot of amateur writers will just toss everything and the kitchen sink at their original characters/”Mary Sues” to make them interesting or less perfect or whatever.  It gets to the point where you can gauge pretty quickly whether you want to continue reading an OC fic:  if the character is an orphan who was abused and molested by their caregiver, left homeless from a young age, prone to abusive relationships in the past, has a child with an unknown parent, forced into prostitution, etc. before the story even begins?  Just quietly hit the “back” button and pretend like you never saw this because shit’s about to get stupid.  When I started getting into Sim stories (people who make up stories about their characters using The Sims 2 or The Sims 3) and contests (people who have competitions to see who can make the prettiest Sim and tell the best story about them in words and images) I would mentally role my eyes at the people who seemed to delight in throwing one bad thing after another at their poor character — before the story even started!

I’ve always tried to make a point of only including 1-2 “bad” things in a character’s background for my stories.  In the background, mind you.  I think that’s the big difference.  Anything that you want to have happen during the story is fair game, but if you want to deal with the after effects of a molestation, then you (a) want the character to come to grips with it during the course of the story or (b) want to show it happening.  Tossing it in as one of many background horrors that were visited on your poor heroine during the planning stage means it’s probably only going to get minimal screen time in the story.

But I think it also comes down to Reality is Unrealistic.  I’m going to illustrate this with a story from my own past that I don’t think would work in a fictional work (although if anyone would like to try be my guest.  I’d just like an acknowledgement).

In high school, I was a bit of a slut.  Same in college.  I kept stumbling into committed monogamous relationships when I was looking for casual sex.  The guy I lost my virginity to assumed it meant I wanted to get married and live happily ever after, but I had only intended for it to be a semester long fling to get my hymen out of the way of future happiness.  I ended up dating him for 4 years because I couldn’t find a compelling reason to break up with him beyond “gee I’d really like to be having some casual sex right now.”  I had a great relationship with my dad, I was confident, I was fairly pretty.  But I didn’t particularly enjoy sex at that time (I do now, lemme tell you) but I felt compelled to have a lot of it with random men.  I didn’t, but I wanted to.  I had been molested, but honestly I never really considered the molestation to have been the worst thing that ever happened to me and I didn’t blame myself for it particularly.  So why did I do it?

Well, a lot of soul searching and research and thinking hard on my behavior DID lead me to an answer.  An answer so stupid that if I were to come across it in a novel I would throw said novel across the room and take to the web to rage about it:

When I was 8 or 9, I said something sarcastic to my mother.  She’s never been particularly well equipped to handle sarcasm although she grew up in a sarcastic household and my father was sarcastic (also passive aggressive).  She, at that point, basically told me nobody was going to like me if I kept being so sarcastic.  That took me off-guard because I wanted people to like me.  I really did.  I wanted to get married and have friends, but I also didn’t want to give up this central piece of myself to achieve that so I decided I’d just deal with it if I ended up alone because of my sarcastic personality.  So then I get to high school and I’m pretty but I’m not conventionally pretty, I’m very tall, I’m chubbier than most of the girls, I’m smarter than a lot of the boys (which I considered at that time to be a weakness in the world of dating, and it probably was in high school but that’s a whole other post someday), and I think I have a terrible personality.  Why would anyone ever want to be around me?  Well, I put out.  And I did.

I know, that’s the worst reason ever, isn’t it?  But it’s a true reason.  To my high school (and college) brain, sex was what you did so the boy you liked would deal with your obvious flaws as a human being.  I mean, it worked but still.  Who would write that?  It’s a terrible story.  It was a throw-away comment she made because I hurt her feelings but my brain turned it into this huge thing and I think that’s where I should probably start allowing my characters to have more angst-ridden pasts than I have been.  I’m fascinated with the idea of a perfectly normal person thrust into unusual circumstances, but I think everyone has a story like mine of some minor slight that grew inside of them until it was an insurmountable hurdle.

What do you think? Do you prefer a simpler back story or do you like one with the “kitchen sink angst” effect?  How far can a novel go and still be considered “realistic” to you?  Am I just a judgmental bitch?  Because I’m okay with that.

Resolutions in the New Year

1 Jan

Happy New Year! I meant to write this post last night but one of my friends was feeling kind of down and long story short, just because you don’t FEEL the half bottle of rum right away doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Anyway, I’ve officially stopped throwing up and whining on Twitter and it’s time to blog!

I’m a fan of resolutions. I’m a fan of change in general, actually. What can I say? I’m a water sign. I make New Years resolutions, I make birthday resolutions, I even make “just because” resolutions. Resolutions rock. Let’s all change for the better! The thing is, resolutions only work when you’re ready for change and most people aren’t. Change is big and scary and unexpected. Change is uncomfortable. Change is also something that is going to happen whether you’re ready for it or not, so it’s better to be ready for it so you can have some control over the outcome. See? It’s kind of logical!

Anyway, if you are ready to make a change in your life, now could be your time! I try to look at my New Years Resolutions as less of a holy mandate for how I’m going to like, completely turn my life around, man! and more as a list of things I want to accomplish for myself this year. That way it’s less intimidating, it’s just things I want to get done not big scary things.

  1. Finish editing Promise Me Paradise and begin the second draft
  2. Complete the first draft of The Madness in the Moonlight
  3. Read 25 NEW books (however many rereads I can squeeze into my daily activities as well)
  4. Finish my BA and sit for the LSATS
  5. Get a job
  6. File immigration paperwork so my fiance can move to the country
  7. Try to take at least two long walks a week, more if I can find the time

I’d like for the walking to be slightly higher on the list, but everything else on there is non-negotiable whereas the walking is something I can add in if/when I have free time. Note that I’m very specific in my goals. “Read more” and “get some writing done” aren’t very helpful at all because it’s so easy to trick yourself into thinking you’ve done more than you have. Also I think I should add in the resolution that I won’t drink myself stupid and hungover again unless it’s a really special occasion. Ugh.

Merry Christmas!

24 Dec

So the thing nobody tells you about writing until you start doing it is that in the beginning it’s less hanging out in Starbucks wearing a corduroy blazer with leather elbow pads and more sitting in your kitchen on Christmas Eve eating Handi Snacks and trying to figure out whether your heroine actually likes the hero in the beginning of the book and, if not, why she decides to try to be friends with him anyway.

Also whether or not the hero has full blown shell shock. I should probably know that by now, but I’m slowly changing my mind. Maybe he just doesn’t like people anymore. Anyway, in case you’re bad at context clues, I’ve started working on the next book in the series. I’m not done editing the first one yet, but I’m not in an incredible hurry. Nobody will be able to beta read in the middle of the holidays anyway and my brain is finally functioning.

Anyway since I love people who read my blog so much I’m going to give you a sneak peak of the main characters! Call it your Christmas present. These two make a guest appearance in the beginning of Promise Me Paradise, so the beta readers will get to meet them soon.

Sarah Gertrude “Sally” Newson — Sally is the youngest of three girls and her two sisters were 8 and 9 when she was born and her parents lead a busy social life. As a result, she spent most of her time reading. She went to boarding school with her cousin, Josie Hudson, and they spent summers together at Josie’s parents house in Florida so the two are closer to sisters than cousins. Sally did well in school, and participated in the drama program where she tended to be cast in male roles as a result of being slightly taller than most of the other girls. She’s flippant, self-absorbed, constantly needs to be the center of attention (a result of her childhood being spent largely in benign neglect by her parents), and is utterly charming about it. She’s a shrewd woman, but has an overactive imagination who loves going to the cinema. On first blush, she comes off as entirely silly which causes Sinjin to underestimate her abilities. She loves Valentino pictures and is at first surprised when Egypt does not resemble the film “The Sheik” at all. She doesn’t understand the nuances of the British peerage system particularly well, which leads to a small misunderstanding about Sinjin’s place in society and makes her believe he’s a criminal. I very much adore her.

Sir St. John “Sinjin” Cuthbert Godolphin Fforbes-Prentice — Sinjin is the eldest son of a baronet, possibly ends up knighted at some point for his service during The Great War. A career military man, he had some minor shell shock towards the end of the war and the shame of it caused him a lot of embarrassment and as a result he all but retired from public life and wound up resigning his commission not long after hostilities ceased. His parents are both quite proper, and he and his younger brother were both raised “right.” As a result of those two things, he can come off as aloof, cold, and snobbish. He feels crushed under his responsibilities. He came to Egypt hoping a change of scenery would snap him out of his funk. Initially, he thinks Sally is all fluff and no substance, but he’s rapidly impressed with her knowledge of the classics as well as the fact that she’s unaware of his mental problems and treats him like she would anyone else. He attempts to befriend her, unaware that she suspects him of banditry. When he discovers her suspicions, he lets her drag him into an adventure!

So, you know, Merry Christmas y’all! Hope you get everything you ever wanted!

So this is what it feels like to succeed

22 Dec

Guess what! The first draft is done.

No, seriously! I finished it yesterday afternoon. I know, right? I didn’t think I’d ever finish either. I was starting to seriously doubt myself.

Anyway, I sent it off to a friend of mine to read and I’m going to spend the next few days fixing the formatting and doing the most basic of bare bones editing. I’d be done today except I went to Arkansas with my mother to try to write without distractions (it worked, apparently) and we’re driving back to Texas tonight. I’ll be working on it and sending it out to beta readers sometime after Christmas.

Thanks for being so supportive everybody. This has been a ridiculously positive experience for me.

I Hate This Book (But I’m going to finish it anyway)

15 Dec

Oh hey, so I still have a blog. How about that? I’ll admit, since it became December I’ve been slacking hard. The book is so close to being done, y’all, I don’t even want to give excuses. I’m basically down to all the boring parts that I skipped the first time. So as soon as that’s done, I’ll do a read through to fix the glaring spelling and grammatical errors, probably fix a few sentence constructs and then it’s off to the beta stage. If I had anything interesting left to do, it’s probably the work of about a day. As it stands, who the hell knows? I should probably just get drunk and see what comes out because I can fix bad writing. Oh hey, speaking of bad writing!

I hate this book. But I’m going to finish it anyway. Beside the fact that “it’s character building!” I’ve come to a realization (and a metaphor!):
See, I knit. I’m good at it. I don’t do it all the time, but every so often my fingers start to itch and all of a sudden my entire family comes into possession of new scarves. When I first learned to knit, I was about 10. It was impossible. I’m making these little tiny bitty loops with STICKS?! Are you high, grandma? My stitches were too tight, I was adding and dropping every which way, the entire thing slanted to the left and it was just impossible. How the hell do people do that, anyway? I threw it down in disgust and didn’t try again until I was in high school. Well, it turns out grandma wasn’t high, actually. When I picked it back up I had a book and a complete inability to knit in the round, but I kept trying. And you know what? I’m good at it now. I can cable knit in a movie theater or while taking notes. I’ve made lacey cowls and an entire shawl in 48 hours. I’ve written patterns. Once, after a long break from knitting, I couldn’t remember how to cast on but set it up anyway and as soon as I had the yarn in my fingers muscle memory took over and next thing I knew I had the cast on finished.
I thought about it harder. I took an art class that focused on chiaroscuro and suddenly my recreational art progressed in leaps and bounds. I didn’t draw anything for a long time and regressed to an earlier style.

I’m going to finish this book, not because it’s any good, not because I love it, not even because I want to at this point. I’m going to finish it because I want to get better and because I can get better. I will get better. That is my solemn vow to myself. I will get better and I will become the writer I want to be and the writer I think I can be. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Oh hey, apparently this is my tenth post! Yay me!

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor

1 Dec

Well, it’s less than 2 hours until December and NaNoWriMo is over. I’m not crushed for word count. I’ve been ahead all month and I’ve gotten past the climax of the book. All that’s left is to write the conclusion, the epilogue, and go back and insert some scenes I skipped and I will have a first draft of a novel. The entire process should take about a week and I just don’t even know what to do with myself now.

Farewell, NaNoWriMo. I hardly knew ye.

I am still looking for beta readers if anyone out there is interested. This draft is god-awful but it’s a first draft and therefore it is allowed to be. The hard part is now I have to let other people read it and tell me what they hate about it so that I can make it better. I am very good at accepting insults because there is no way you can hate this book more than I do right now since you haven’t just spent 30 days trying to force it out of your soul with a sieve and a pickaxe but you never know.

I feel like I’ve done some terrible things to literature this month, but there have been little successes. For example, I’m rather fond of this line:

He didn’t dare move, to break the spell she was casting over him. Maybe she was a mermaid, he thought. Maybe this was the real song of the Siren – not a beautiful melody, but love.

Because when I look back at this book, the one thing it’s lacking is MOAR MERMAIDZ.

I’ve also discovered that I’m not as funny as I think I am, but that I am quite good at writing someone with a concussion, so there’s that.

But there are the other, less tangible rewards and those are the important thing. I’ve gained the courage to actually write something and let people see it. I’ve spent my life not putting the effort in because I’ve always assumed I couldn’t do it, that I didn’t have the patience, that I didn’t have anything to say. Well, now I have things to say and I find that I’m much more patient than I’ve ever given myself credit for. I’ve almost finished the first draft of a novel. How many people who I let make me feel bad about myself have ever done that? Not many, I would imagine.

I’ve also finally started being comfortable identifying as a novelist. I’ve never done that before. Hell, my Twitter “about-me” section says that I write romance things sometimes. I’m not great yet. I’m not a fantastic author who’s going to change the world, but I’m getting better. I’m learning and I’m growing. I’m closer now to the person I’ve always wanted to be (and never thought I could be) than I was in October.

The best thing about doing this is the community of people I’ve found willing to talk to me and help me and take an interest in my characters. I’ve always been a bit of a solitary person, but I don’t think I’ve discussed writing with another human outside of a classroom since high school when I used to write fanfiction. And even then, that wasn’t exactly a round table of ideas. This is the first time I’ve tried to accomplish something with help and I love it. I could say I did this all by myself, but it’s actually more impressive that I did it with help. I’ve done lots of things by myself, but this is the first time I’ve ever actively sought help and that’s a big step for me.

I’ve decided I’d rather fail than go to my death bed having never tried, and that’s the important thing.