One of the things that has come up in some forums after The Wedding episode is the question of whether Dougal MacKenzie is made to seem more of a villain in the show than he was in the books. I don't think so. I know what you're thinking, I'm Dougal's chief apologist and to a certain extent, you're right. I love Dougal, because he's a challenge. Who doesn't love a guy who is described like this?Read More
I shared this on facebook and twitter earlier today, so I thought I would elaborate a little. I get asked by a lot of people who read The White House what happens to Lizzie Poole after that story ends.
For a long time the truth of it has been that I don't know and I kind of liked it that way. I like leaving readers hanging. I like getting asked what happens next because it means that people care about Lizzie. I certainly do.
The funny thing about Lizzie is that she was introduced to me, the same way she was introduced to you. I needed another female character in The White House, if for no other reason then to provide a foil for Annie. So I thought I would add a servant girl, and just to show what a louse Silas Poole is I thought we would meet her when he reached out to cuff the back of her head.
That was when something magical happened. Lizzie ducked. I didn't expect it anymore than the rest of you did. With that one action, the story was no longer just about Annie, or Israel or even Blackbeard. It suddenly became a story about this girl. She just took over. For a writer to have a character surprise us or do something that even we as their creators don't expect is an incredible experience.
I fell in love with Lizzie Poole, and even though I've moved on to other worlds and other characters that I also love she just keeps popping up in my head. Every once in a while I'll start to wonder what happens next for Lizzie. Where did she go? What kind of opportunities would there be for a girl on her own in the colonies in 1718 and what would Lizzie make of them?
With that said, a few ideas have popped up. Bear in mind that I've done very little research, have no outline, and I have a whole host of other characters to be exorcised before I can get back to our Lizzie. Still, she's there in the back of my brain standing on the porch of the white house looking left and right trying to choose where to go next.
Which is where this morning's passage came from. It's short, but I think it's a promising start.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven't read The White House, you might want to stop now.
You wouldn't think it would take a man's head so long to rot when mounted on a stake in a marsh, but even now Lizzie could see tufts of his famed black whiskers that clung to the slack jaw hanging in mute mockery. He'd been jolly once, a right jovial character for all he'd just as soon kill a person and laugh with them. She reckoned it was the cold that had kept it preserved these weeks hanging at the mouth of the river. Still, she hadn't expected it to look like the man she'd known. She hadn't imagined that it would bring back so many memories of the man himself. For unlike many of the others gawking at the rail as they sailed by, Lizzie Poole had known Blackbeard.
It was less than a year since she'd seen him last. He'd been loud and boisterous as he'd pulled her into his lap, his ale sour breath wafting over her face as she looked up across the table into the eyes Israel Hands. For the first time in her life, she'd seen a man that cared enough about her to be bothered by the old pirate's rough handling. It had given her hope. Of course, that was before Teach had ordered the murder of the only friend Lizzie had ever known, before Mr. Hands had beaten her father near to death and Lizzie had learned that hope only got a girl so far.
The broad woman in filthy homespun beside Lizzie snorted noisily and spat into the water below. "I reckon he got what he deserved."
"Mmmm," Lizzie muttered, not taking her eyes off the pirate's head. "I reckon he did."
I have been sorely lacking in blog posts lately. This is mainly because my training/instructional design client has been taking up a lot of my time. It's also summer and my kids are well underfoot. Still, I wanted to give a little review of the 2nd quarter of my year of living outside my comfort zone. Unlike the last quarter I don't have quite so many things to report. However, this quarter did see me: Return to the corporate training room for the first time in 4+ years Since I haven't lead anyone other than my two children for he past few years, returning to the classroom was more nerve-wracking than I thought. Fortunately, my first batch of trainees was gentle with me and were mostly successful leaving the training room. Client was pleased. I'm feeling pretty good about it. So good in fact that I'm hoping to make this gig a more permanent thing.
Participating & posting online I am a chronic lurker online. I'll find a forum related to something that I'm interested in and watch it for activity without really adding anything. These days I am trying to be more active in forums like the Writing subreddit, and others. More on that stuff in Q3
Made my short stories FREE What started as a Stoddard-palooza promo has turned into something longer. It was a tough decision, because I worked hard on those stories. Still, the royalties I was getting were minimal and I decided exposure was the real priority.
I made them free on Smashwords first and the response was "meh". That's mostly because Smashwords is a bit of a niche market. However, once Amazon started matching that free price the downloads there took off. Now both A Fond Kiss and The White House have reached the top 100 Free Kindle books in Literary Fiction and Historical Fiction. Now, I went from measuring downloads in single digits to triple digits and I could not be more chuffed. I'm hoping that all these downloads will result in more reviews and more exposure.
I did however, have an acquaintance who downloaded them for free, hand me cash the other day. She said the stories were worth paying for, and she wants more. Makes me a little misty.
Overall, the increased interaction with folks has generated some interesting trains of thought. I've been pondering the concept of Creativity lately and how people can unlock theirs. I expect to have more blog posts to come on that front. I'm currently working my way through Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. and hope to have a review/musings on that for the blog soon.
Q3 Looks like it may include:
- My entry into fangirl-dom (Can anyone say Outlander!) Because you're apparently never too old for that kind of thing.
- Spearheading an online Gaelic learning group (if the logistics can be worked out)
- Home renovations! Finally getting a space for all my work; writing, spinning, knitting, felting, and consulting from home.
- Putting my kids in a proper daycare. You have no idea what a nail-biter that is.
Of course, I am always working on finishing the revisions to The River Maiden. That includes completely rewriting the end and the death of my much loved Prologue (Read it while you can. I might not leave it online much longer). Looking forward to it all:)
Years ago on our first trip to Beaufort, NC my husband and I were sitting atop the rather conspicuous doubledecker bus that provided tours of the beautiful historic town. It was a hot July afternoon, and I'm sure we would have been more comfortable in the shade of the first level, but I'm a sucker for historic architecture and was willing to endure the heat to have an unobstructed view. At the edge of the historic district stands a 2 1/2 story white house with a 2 story porch on a slightly raised plot of ground, it's view from the street slightly obscured by trees. The vernacular architecture enthusiast in me identified the "hall and parlor" layout of the first story. It was also clear that this is one of the oldest houses we had seen on the tour. The tour guide called this the "Hammock House" for the slight rise on which it was built. She also told us some of the many legends attached to the house that had been at that location almost longer than the town. The story that stuck with me the most was also the story that also was the murkiest without many supporting facts or specifics. The Hammock House first appears in a 1789 map of the coast and is prominently identified as The White House. However, it is believed to have been an old establishment by the time that map was made possibly dating back as early as 1713 when the town was first being planned. It is believed to have been an inn or ordinary. According to the earliest of the legends. Blackbeard was a regular guest, as the inn's location and Beaufort's deep natural harbor offered strategic advantages. On one occasion he is said to have brought his "wife" there on a visit. After staying at the inn for a few days, the pirate is said to have left and left his "wife" hanging from a tree in the back yard.
Of the many stories that I heard that day, this is one that sparked my imagination. I immediately began imagining scenarios that would have led to such cruelty, not that a notorious pirate would need much inducement to be cruel. What kind of woman must she have been? How had she come to be with Blackbeard? The story sparked so many questions that I had to learn more about the pirate, the town and the house.
In my research I discovered a couple more stories that further inspired me. Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, ran aground near Beaufort inlet in 1718. In 1996, marine archaeologists discovered a shipwreck near Beaufort Inlet that they are almost certain is the Queen Anne's Revenge. Some believe that Blackbeard grounded the ship on purpose as a sort of downsizing of his crew. I was fascinated by the idea of the pirate intentionally abandoning the ship that had served him so well and on the idea of pirate layoffs. What strategy would drive the pirate whose career seemed to be at it's height to jettison one of his most useful tools?
Another character that I came across in researching was Israel Hands, a person that not much is known about. As a writer that gave me a bit of freedom with which to flesh that character out. I also found intriguing, a story from Daniel Defoe's "General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates". During a card game, Blackbeard is said to have attempted to shoot another crew member, but hit Hands in the leg instead. When asked why he had done it, the pirate is said to have responded that “if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was.” which is to say "the BOSS". This sent my mind down the line of questions about how a man maintained rule over a crew that at it's zenith numbered around 300 cut-throats. By all accounts, Blackbeard was notoriously ruthless, not just with the people of the ships and towns he terrorized but also with his own crew. We can only speculate that it was that kind of behavior that inspired loyalty out of fear, but also inspired the kind of pragmatism that cause Israel Hands to testify against the corrupt officials along the North Carolina coast who helped Blackbeard elude the colonial authorities for so long.
All of these different aspects of the Blackbeard and Hammock House legends went into the creation of my story "The White House". I have tried to weave these loose bits of legend into characters and a narrative that attempts to answer some of those questions inspired by what we know of Blackbeard, his crew and this one of his many wives. Although the story is set in 1718, the questions that it attempts to answer about power, love and humanity are timeless.
Is now available via Kindle and Smashwords. Legend has it that Blackbeard frequented an inn in Beaufort, North Carolina that was called The White House. This story is based on one fateful visit that the town still talks about today. Annie Simpson is a Scottish lass on her way to the colonies as an indentured servant until her ship is attacked by Blackbeard's crew. Israel Hands is Blackbeard's second in command who is questioning his commitment to pirate life. Lizzie Poole is a lonely innkeeper's daughter who longs for a secure home all her own. As their worlds collide they explore the timeless dynamics of power in personal and professional relationships.
Great historical fiction for less than a cup of coffee.
I'm super excited about this and will likely post more about the legends that inspired the story in the near future.