Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday

I have been posting teasers passages on most Tuesdays. I try to keep them free of major spoilers, though there might be some minor ones and maybe a name or two that you don't recognize. In case you've missed them, you can see them in the gallery below (not in any particular order).

And of course keep an eye on my Facebook page or Twitter to see them in the future. Look for the #teasertuesday

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This girl keeps popping up in my head

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.

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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."

Just a little taste...

Summer is hard for me as a writer because my kids are home and there is much shuttling, feeding and referee-ing that goes on. While I do have a share of down time, it's super hard to get into that writing mindset when there is someone in the next room who any minute is going to need a snack or a mediation. On the upside, I'm almost caught up on laundry and am actually enjoying spending time with my little ones. With that said, I'm posting a short excerpt from my WIP for your perusal, feedback, titillation...

***

"This is Sarah MacAlpin interviewing Alex Budge, October 12th 1995. Also present, Randy Budge and Dermot Sinclair." Sarah said into the microphone before setting it down on the little table facing Budge. They had returned to their original seats on the porch each with a jelly glass of Budge's best stump water to sip while they talked.

"Simon Budge was my grandaddy." Budge said with great significance looking directly at Sarah. "And he did teach me that song you're talking about. But I'm not much of a singer, so I'll tell ya the story he tolt with it."

"Alright." Sarah would keep her talking to a minimum as long as Budge kept going.

"My people come from Scotland back in the colonial times, and they been passing this story down all that time. I can't say how much it's changed, but here 'tis as I learnt it." He leaned back took a deep breath as if he were gettting ready to sing after all. When he spoke again his voice had a far away quality as if he was in a dream.

"Long ago when Scotland was just a wild place with different tribes running their own territories, a family came over from Ireland and made to take over the place. They wanted control of the land. Now, some say they were more civilized than the tribes that were there before, but I don't know that that's true. They say that these fellers tried to get the tribes to all work together, but the old folk, that's what my grandad called the old tribes, they weren't havin' it. They fought over everything and some of 'em made friends with the new tribe and some of 'em resisted. The new people maybe didn't mean any harm, they just thought their ways were better, and they couldn't get why some of the old folk didn't want to change.

So one day the king o' the new folk goes out wandering to think. He's trying to figure out how he can get everybody to come over to his side and get along. So he gets tired and he stops by a riverbank. While he settin' there, up swims this girl. Now, she's about the prettiest thing the king's ever seen and she's wavin' to 'im, 'Come on in, the water's fine'." Budge gave a beckoning wave.

"So he goes in for a swim. Only this girl is so pretty he doesn't pay attention and they drift downstream to an island. Now, the king thinks they're lost, but she says it's her home and he should come and meet her family.

So, she takes the king to meet her father, but her pa is old and sickly and lame. The king starts to wondering who's gonna take care of this girl and her people when her pa dies. He thinks they've got to be pretty poor if they're just living on this island and he's never even heard of her tribe before. But then she takes him over to the hearth and shows him their cookpot. It's a big ole iron kettle and every time he sees someone go to the kettle and put in a bowl or a ladle, it comes up full of food. He keeps watching and thinking that kettle's got to be empty, but they still keep comin' up with food, and they're not even scraping the bottom.

Then she takes him and shows him a cave that's hidden under a hill, and in that cave is a big stone.   And she tells him, 'This is the heart of our people.' Only he's got a different heart in mind. Remember, she's the prettiest girl he's every laid eyes on. So, he kisses her right there in the cave and tells her that he loves her and wants to protect her when her father dies.

Now, just when that happens, a big storm like a hurricane comes up and hits the island.

When the king wakes up he and the girl aren't in the cave anymore, but on shore. And the island is gone. But they find that big iron cookpot on the beach too. So he takes her back with him and makes her his queen. They work to bring the tribes together. The old folk see that she's with him and she's one of them. And they see that he's got this cookpot that never runs out, and they start coming over to his side.

It goes slow, but by the time their son becomes king, all the tribes have come together and since his mother taught him the old ways and his father taught him the new way, he was a good king."

It seemed important to Budge that she understand that the king was good. Sarah nodded. "Did your grandad ever tell you any names for this king or the queen?"

Budge took a sip of moonshine from his glass and shook his head. He blew out a breath     so thick with fumes that Sarah had to blink fast to keep her eyes from watering. "No. He never said names. He did say that the queen's people were older than names. Old as the stone, he used to say."

It was an expression that Sarah had heard before, one that Granny had used. "Do you know where in Scotland your people came from?"

"Can't say I do." Budge shifted in his chair and took another sip of moonshine. "That museum in Franklin says the Budges are Lowlanders. Way I figure it, we been here so long it doesn't much matter."

It mattered to Sarah though. It could help her trace the source of the song. She tried not to show her frustration. She glanced over her shoulder at Randy. He was leaning against the post gazing out at the mountain. Turning back to Budge, "Did you teach that story to your grandchildren?"

"Aw most of em don't have time for an old man and his old stories. 'Cept for Randy over there. He likes learning the old ways." He gave her a wink and a devilish grin, "And you have a lotta time for tellin' stories while you're mindin' a still."

She smiled back at him. That was a fact she knew all too well. She'd learned many a song by the ever present beat of a thumper tank. She was glad she had found Alex Budge. Even if he hadn't known the legend behind the song, she'd have been happy to know him. She laid her hand over his knarled work-worn one where it rested by his glass on the table. "Thank you for talking with me. I appreciate your help."

He turned his hand over to grasp hers his face serious. "I'm glad you could record it. You'll make sure people remember."

She gave his hand one last squeeze before switching off the recorder and beginning to gather her equipment. Dermot pushed himself up off of the top step to help her. Sarah looked over to where he'd been sitting and noticed that his jelly glass was empty. She hadn't taken more than a couple of polite sips.  There hadn't been much in the glass but it was strong. Fortunately Dermot seemed pretty steady.

Sarah was just stepping down from the porch, Dermot by her side when a thought occurred to her. "Hey, Budge?"

"Mmm?" He had been looking into his jelly glass in deep concentration.

"You know a man they call Old Duff?" She realized that she missed the old man, and felt guilty for not having done more to keep track of him.

Budge let out a hearty belly laugh and slapped his knee. "Shoot, girl! Everybody in the hills knows Grant MacDuff! He comes round this way at least twice a year."

Sarah couldn't help smiling back at the man with his dirty worn clothes and missing teeth, and his jelly glass full of stump water. He and Duff and Granny were why she did what she did. Their beauty and their humanity hit her so hard sometimes it took the breath right out of her chest. They were people who lived and died in these hollers and without someone like her their culture would die in these hollers too. "Well, next time he passes this way, you tell him I was here."  She felt tears pricking the backs of her eyes.  and tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. "Tell him I remember everything he taught me."

The old man gave her a solemn nod. He knew what it meant to her. Sarah started to turn away again, but his voice stopped her. "Wait! You never did tell me the secret to your Granny's peach brandy."

Sarah gave him a knowing smile before walking back up the porch steps. Slowly, She leaned over Budge's chair and planted a kiss on his weathered cheek before whispering Granny's secret in his ear.

Budge looked at her closely as if he could verify the truth of what she said in her eyes. After a couple of seconds he burst into gusty laughter accompanied by more knee slapping. "Ha! I knew it! I just knew it!"

Sarah and Dermot climbed into Randy's truck for a ride back down to their car. When they pulled away from the house they could still hear the old man's cackling laugh.

 

A Fond Kiss

What with colds and stomach viruses, I haven't had much time to get work done in the last week or so. So, I will ply you today with a teaser from my upcoming novelette, A Fond Kiss. The ebook should be available soon. A Fond Kiss

“Mr. French, will you be able to visit your family before beginning your clerkship?” Mrs. Manney, as was her habit, made polite conversation while Minerva, bustled around the table serving dinner. This was the regular way of things at meals in the Manney household. Despite her northern roots, or perhaps because of them, Maria Manney was forever striving to outdo her southern neighbors in hospitality and elegance. Each day at the dinner table she set about providing her daughters with an ideal example of womanly behavior. She kept up a steady stream of pleasant if vapid conversation, diffused potential conflicts, and demonstrated impeccable manners for her children. The result of her hard work being that her children all had manners so fine that she never realized that they found her efforts at conversation to be a somewhat of a nuisance.

Charles cleared his throat. “I’m afraid not, ma’am. I will be starting in Philadelphia almost as soon as I arrive. I am told that the attorney I’ll be working with is a stern taskmaster. I doubt that I will have time to visit them before I become an attorney myself.”

“You should try to find the time, young man.” Dr. Manney’s gruff voice cut in from the head of the table.  Where Mrs. Manney ensured that meals were pleasant for everyone, Dr. James Manney ruled like a stone-faced monarch caring little for the opinions of the others. Although he never missed meals, Charles had always had the impression that his mind was frequently elsewhere, likely on his next business venture. Rarely did he allow himself to be drawn into the conversation, save the rare occasion when something caught his attention. “Family is important. You’ve been separated from yours for too long.”

“I have, sir, and I do miss them. However, my mother and I correspond frequently. She keeps me abreast of the news at home, and living with a family as generous as yours has prevented me from getting homesick.” He smiled around the table being careful not to let his gaze linger on Nancy too long.

The doctor merely grunted and returned to his beef. When the main course was removed and Minerva brought the dessert, the doctor picked up the subject. “I suppose a young man in your situation has to be willing to leave family behind in pursuit of professional success.”

Charles wasn’t sure how to respond to that. What had the doctor meant by ‘your situation’? He was rescued by Nancy who asked in seeming innocence, “You mean the way that you did when you moved here from New York, Papa?”

All eyes turned to the doctor to guage his reaction to this question. He eyed his eldest daughter for a moment one eyebrow cocked high.  “Hmph, indeed.”

“I do believe this pudding has been burnt!” Mrs. Manney burst in from the foot of the table. “Minerva. I have told you that I cannot abide an overcooked pudding.”

“Yes’m. Can I get you some of that cantaloupe?” the house slave deftly lifted the pudding from in front of the doctor’s wife and placed it on the tray of dishes to be returned to the kitchen behind the house.

“No, I believe I have had enough. Nancy, when you are finished I would like for you and Francis to walk with me down to the mercantile. I want your help picking some ribbon for the new bonnets.”

“Yes, Mama.” Nancy cast Charles a look as she lowered her head appearing suddenly very interested in her pudding.

 

***

 

At the sound of her footstep in the hallway, Charles stepped from his room and silently followed Nancy into hers easing the door shut. “I’m going to talk to him while you’re out.”  He whispered.

She took a nervous breath. “Should I try to delay us returning?”

“I hope there will be no need for that.” He took her hand in his. “I will give him the final progress reports on James and Julia, and that should conclude any work that I have left to do. Once I’m no longer working in the house, I don’t see how he can object.”

“I wish I had your confidence. I just don’t know how he’s going to take this.” She stepped away from him to her wardrobe to retrieve her bonnet and lace gloves from a top drawer. Charles was suddenly struck by the novelty of being in her room, of knowing in which drawer her gloves were kept. Had he not been so nervous he would have savored this small intimacy. “You’ve seen all the young men he’s introduced me to over the last couple of years.”

“I have," He refocused his eyes on her face. "And in a few years once I’m practicing law I’ll outshine them all. He saw enough promise in me to bring me here, surely he can believe in my future success.”

A sound in the hallway silenced them and they held their breath for a moment afraid of being discovered. It wouldn’t do to find the family tutor in Nancy’s room. They had managed to keep their romance a secret for over a year.

When she was satisfied that they had not been overheard, Nancy began fumbling with the tiny crocheted buttons at the wrist of one of her gloves. She made a guttural sound of impatience. “My hands are shaking. This blasted button loop is twisted!”

He took her hand and attempted the button himself, but his blunt fingers weren’t of much more use on the tiny buttons and the twisted loops that were supposed to fit around them. “How do you ever wear these things!”

“Charles, what if he says no?” Her voice sounded impossibly small. He looked up to find her watching him, in her eyes a blend of uncertainty, hope and fear.

“He won’t.”  He turned back to the button and finally managed to push the button through the tiny loop. He held her wrist up to show her. “See? It will work out.”

Her eyes began to get misty and she merely nodded and began fervently examining her bonnet.

He titled her chin up with his other hand and tried to sound more sure than he felt. “No matter what he says, we will be together. We were going to wait anyway until I am set up. If I can’t convince him now, then I will convince him then. I would rather leave here knowing that I have his blessing to return, but even without it I will be back for you. As long as I know that you believe in me, I can bring your father around eventually. You do believe in me, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do.”

“Then that is all I need.” He lifted her gloved hand and placed a kiss just where the glove ended at her wrist feeling her pulse jump. “I love you. No matter where I go or how long it takes me to return you have to know that.”

She swayed toward him and leaned her cheek against his lapel. It was the most contact they had allowed themselves in their long but secret courtship. Charles fought against the urge to wrap his arms around her and simply hold her there until all else fell away. He had to satisfy himself with bending to his head to kiss the top of hers taking a moment to mark the lemony scent of her hair.

“Nancy!” Her mother’s sharp voice barked from the bottom of the stairs. They both leapt apart.

They said nothing more but sought courage in each other’s eyes for a few more heartbeats before Nancy opened the door just enough to slip outside. Charles stood listening to the silence in the hallway and staring at the door she had just closed. He muttered a quiet prayer to himself before slipping into the hall.