Nano Sample – Ack!

Taking a page from Susan Dennard‘s book and RISING TO HER CHALLENGE. Forthwith, I give you the two opening POVs for Maxwell (Mila’s chara) and Rosaline (my Chara) in the Nanowrimo draft of Cynosure.

Briefly Awful Summary: When an eerie otherworld descends to hunt the youth of Manhattan’s Gilded Age society, a young debutante and a nouveau riche criminal find themselves tangled in a struggle to retain their humanity – and each other. YA Gaslamp Fantasy/Historical Fantasy.

And so we go~

She watched him from the edge of the forest. Her dress was in tatters. Her knees were skinned, her hair knotted from root to tip, and bloodied dirt caked uncomfortably under her fingernails. She felt wild from the weeks she’d spent free from corsets and society. Vale had sunk itself into her secrets, captured her, taken her alive.

Rosaline took a deep breath. Now it was time to go home.

He waited by the pond, staring up at the cliff that towered over it. He’d appeared not two moments before, and she’d come to meet him when she’d felt the world shiver. Vale always shivered at new life, the trees rustling and the ground stretching when an old blood chose to visit.

Almost as soon as she sank her first footstep out of the forest, Maxwell Harbrough turned from the cliffs to stare into her. Rosaline grinned. Her feet sped until she was running and skipping over the grass, down the hills and into the valley, to him, catching his hands and spinning them both around in the cool Valian night.

A hunger rumbled in her chest. She gripped his hands hard, pulling him closer than she ought, matching his gaze. Stayed there.

“And?” she whispered.

He watched her, his eyes searching her. Then Maxwell nodded, dark curls falling over his forehead.

“It is done.”

Done. Done, done, done. She let go of his hands so her fingers could smooth over his cheeks, thumbs brushing just beneath his eyes. Beautiful boy. She craved to know the hows, the whats, the whens, but that would not do if she was to return to who she’d been. Instead she pushed herself onto her toes and kissed him once between his brows.

“Thank you.” She stepped away. “I owe you everything.”

She extended her hand, as if to let him kiss it. He took it strangely in his own, as though he was not used to holding ladies’ – as though he could still consider her a lady – hands.

“Would you do the honours?” She smiled a low, slow smile. Again, he searched her, eyes running over her, and her smile widened. Then he slipped the ring from her finger, and all at once there was no more Vale, no more valley, no more forest. Just the cold, hard floorboards of an earthly bedchamber beneath her feet.

Time to go home. Time to wash the blood from her hands. Time to slip back into Rosaline Dukes; the one who had no secrets.

Two Years Later…

He could taste blood on the air.

The streetlamp overhead cast a circle of light on the old cobblestone road, catching in his eyes as his face tilted skyward. Maxwell breathed in, closing his eyes; it was the one scent distinguishable above all others against the smell of rain. The pang of it tasted thick on the back of his tongue, sweet and metallic in the darkness of full night. He rolled it across his taste buds like fine wine, luxuriating in its richness before exhaling in a white curl of breath. A flick of the wrist, and he replaced the taste with the cigarette that had been balanced delicately between his fingers. The smoke hovered over the street in thin clouds.  It obscured him from the world, and the world from him.

Lionel Richmond had begun the evening a classically handsome blonde of only enough status to be pompous and arrogant (which was less than Maxwell himself, if not by a great deal) but was at that moment feeling neither, curled into a neat ball at Maxwell’s feet. Mr. Richmond was bleeding moderately, for the most part from gashes and split skin, and was also now the proud owner a swollen black eye and a broken nose that would forever mar the harmony of his masculine face.

Maxwell smiled.

“Get up.”

 And that is all. : ) We have, sadly, hit a big roadblock, as we always do. But we’re meeting tomorrow for a Nano-Off! I’m going to aim for ten thousand words, I think, since I’m so VERY far behind.
How are y’all doing, Nano-Wise? Keeping up the wordcount? Loving/hating what’s coming out of those speedytyping fingers?
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Adjectives & Additives

It takes a lot to get your story down to the barest essentials. Mila and I aren’t at the point where we have to start worrying about query letters and synopses at this point, but I’ve had friends who’ve gone through the process, and, believe, me, I feel their pain. Quite literally now, actually.

Why? Because last night I decided I would, for fun (yes, fun…), come up with a one-sentence pitch for CYNOSURE. You don’t even want to begin to know what I started out with. (Let’s say that the words ‘lethal’ and ‘starcrossed’ were used – I’ll let you figure that one out by yourself.)

This is what I ended up with:

An occult secret society is caught between the gilded opulence of 1898 Manhattan and an eerie fantasy realm that hunts to reclaim their blood.

I don’t think that’s too shabby. It took me about three hours of intense concentration to get there – and the reason is word choice.

It took me about an hour in to figure out why all my little blurbages were falling flat; I wasn’t using the right words. In fact, I wasn’t using many adjectives at all. And, with so few words to use, the adjectives became the most important part! This is what my blurb looks like without any descriptive words:

A secret society is caught between 1898 Manhattan and a realm that hunts to reclaim their blood.

It’s concise, but I don’t like it. It doesn’t have as much of a story in it. It doesn’t have as many images. When we’re writing narrative, we’re warned to stay away from adjectives – at least too many of them – because it clouds our ability to truly pick up on what’s going on. But in blurbs, we don’t have the breadth of narrative TO convey what’s going on, so specifically chosen descriptive words are completely necessary.

Using ‘occult’ with secret society gives it a connection, or at least a lead-in, to the fact that there IS a fantasy realm. ‘Gilded opulence’ lends perspective to how the novel is approaching the time period, from the POV of these characters who deal with an otherworld. And ‘eerie’ lets us know that not all is well in this mysterious otherworld. I also like the contradictions it brings up, which is a lot of what CYNO is about; 1898 high society New York vs. the dark, cultish hunting of the otherworld creatures. It brings in conflict between the worlds, and conflict with the society that’s caught between them.

It’s not perfect yet. It doesn’t speak to me the way I want it to – which makes sense, since the manuscript isn’t complete yet (how I can I blurb something that isn’t a whole picture yet?). But I feel like I’ve gotten something out of it: something that will help once CYNO is complete, and we DO have to start wandering into the depths of the querying way…

Eep!

– Kae

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A Season of Splendor: A Personal Gilded Age

A Season of Splendor, by Greg King

This is THE book to go to for daily life gilded age info.

It’s also our first non-fiction review. Yay! Breadth!

Honestly, my favourite parts of this book – which I still haven’t gotten all the way through, if I’ve skimmed through almost the entirety of it (it’s a big book) – is that a) he provides approximate worth equivalencies for things like gems, mansions and boats and b ) he actually talks about the little details that writers need to know.

Things like how a lady’s morning would have gone, or that in the winter New York carriages became sleds, instead. How romantic is that? Can you imagine riding along at christmas time in a horse drawn sleigh, all bundled up in the most expensive materials money can buy? I can. And you can bet your bonnet it’s going to show up somewhere, sometime in my writing.

Greg King offers so much up to you with this book; lots of anecdotes! One of my favourites is about Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor, when the former makes the latter crack (since the Vanderbilts were, at this time, ludicrously new money) and drop off her card, which counts as a formal introduction, which allows Mrs. Astor’s daughter to be invited to the FANTABULOUS Vanderbilt costume ball, even though they never actually set eyes on one another face to face.

It also reads like a dream; because of the anecdotes, and because of the little personal things dropped here and there, historical personas are characterized splendidly; but not so much that it feels fictitious.The subjects also range over just about anything you could want; ladies, gentlemen, boats, mansions, Newport, dinners, balls. It’s TONS of fun.

You can only imagine how excited I was when I found out he’d written a book on the Romanovs, too. I’ve yet to read it, but I’m sure it’ll be just as wonderful.

Year: 1870-1914 | Setting: Manhattan

– A Kae Review

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The Vespertine: Paranormal HistFic, 1889

The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell

The Vespertine, by Saundra Mitchell

I lovedlovedloved this book.

And while I liked so many parts of it, what makes it so good is that I don’t know exactly what made me love it. Which is good. More than good. I’m a very picky reader, I like to dissect things as I go; I find books that immerse me completely once in a blue moon. I’m glad to say that this is one that did. I think I finished it in two days.

Amelia goes to Baltimore – a bustling big city compared to her priveledged little house on a hill in a small town – in search of an eligible husband and bettering manners. Of course, instead she finds a talent for seeing things that haven’t happened yet, and a dashing young bohemian boy who makes her heart a-flutter.

Saundra Mitchell does three things wonderfully (okay, not just three, but I’ll highlight three). The romance, her MC and the overwhelming sense that something’s going to HAPPEN.

Which is good. Because for a good portion of the book, nothing much does happen. There are teas and get togethers and balls, and, while I’m a big fan of all of those things, the magical plot (visions and predictions and vespers, oh my!) doesn’t get kicked into gear until near the end of the story. You have almost an entire novel to get to know Amelia, worry for Amelia (thanks to carefully placed glimpses that the readers get from a few months after the events of the novel), and love Amelia.

Who I adore. Amelia isn’t a cut and paste character: she’s got gumption, while being appropriately timid, and overestimates herself – sometimes to benefit, sometimes to ruin. She’s very follow your heart, whether or not others approve. A refreshingly natural girl, particularly for a gilded age period novel; relatable, while at the same time maintaining her era.

The romance echoes Amelia’s character; it occurs in waves, and really builds in tension alongside the magical plot. Nathaniel is an unusual hero for YA; to me, he didn’t seem particularly attractive (round face, small eyes), but you love him because Amelia does. And yet he has his own charisma; you see it in his dialogue, his actions, not just in how Amelia sees him.

The ending. Is great. You know what’s going to happen, but really, you don’t know at all, and that turnaround made the whole book for me. I might have cried a little- that doesn’t happen often.

It’s just a good story. A really, really good story.

Visit the Goodreads here.

Year: 1889 | Setting: Baltimore

– A Kae Review

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A Whole Old World: Is historical fic relevant?

(No more Disney titles for a while, I promise.)

The best part about historical fiction is the world building.

A lot of other genres have other things to amp their worthiness: contemps have issue-facing, romance has knee-bending tension, fantasy has bravery and quests, dystopians have uneasy morality and so on.

But historical fiction relies on one thing to make it what it is: context. And worldbuilding isn’t much more than very detailed context.

I have a lot of friends who don’t like reading historical fiction because they don’t like reading about ‘old things’. Mind, these are also friends who don’t read much at all – but still. That attitude has always astonished me. To each their own, but I’ve never found historical fiction to be about ‘old things’. I was too brainwashed by my high school English teachers about finding currency in Shakespeare to ever find old stories to be, well, lacking relevance.

When you read H.F. it’s all about replacement. You’re replacing your world with one that actually existed however long before you. Immersion relies on truths, not lies, like most stories – because the story exists in history, it exists as a falsehood enveloped in truths. And that conversation between real and unreal is what makes me love the genre so much. You have an automatic conflict: a ‘modern’ mind pulling and shaping an ‘old’ world to fit ‘new’ ideas.

So, you see, they aren’t stories about old things. They’re new stories that alter old concepts, plains, thoughts! And you can do anything with it, so long as you abide by the rules of your time: which is something that makes historical fiction so interesting, in world-building. The author doesn’t pull all the strings. They’re student to anyone who has written on the topic before, or lived through the period: they don’t get to decide all the rules that hem their characters into their stories.

A piece of historical fiction is an interaction between times. Personally, I think that’s why time traveling stories are so abundant: we love to reach out across the ages, to share ways of thinking between periods in time. We like to think that someone, in some fictional universe, got to be both there and back again. And that’s what makes Historical Fiction: we get to be the time travelers. We get to be both here and there. I think that with every piece of literature, we know ourselves a little bit better: and with historical fic, we get to know where we come from, too.

Nothing’s newer than that.

– A Kae Article

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Faithful: Debutante Gone Wild

Faithful, by Janet Fox

Faithful by Janet Fox features Maggie Bennet, a girl-almost-debutante who’s whisked out of her Newport splendors and into the not-quite-wild-anymore-but-fairly-rustic West. There she finds many things: independence, a boy to love, family secrets, and friendship with women who rely on themselves, not money or men.

You can find the goodreads here.

What I love about Faithful is that Fox writes Maggie’s story of growing up from within the world. Maggie is completely and totally enveloped in Newport society; to be honest, she’s kind of an impossible character to like at the beginning of the book. The first hundred pages are told through the voice of a spoiled, arrogant little girl who thinks she deserves anything she wants.

This is exactly what makes the book so good. You grow to love Maggie as she learns to love herself, and the fact that she’s such a resistible character at the beginning makes her journey that much more interesting.

The romance is subtle. There’s no bodice rippers here. Tom exists as a sort of conscience for Maggie, a reminder that there’s a world outside of the one she knows: he’s the prince to her mermaid, representative of everything she could learn and discover if she could just learn to walk. The story is not a wholly romantic one: this is a coming of age YA that includes romance, and not a romance that happens to have a character that grows up.

What really makes the book, though, is the elegant visuals; Fox’s style is simple, but displays exactly the setting and characters. It reminded me, in how it read, of books I’d read when I was younger. Yellowstone, Montana is brought to life in this book, as are all the characters that help Maggie as she makes peace with a dead mother, an absentee father, wild bears and a girl who might have all the secrets to unravel what’s left of Maggie’s life.

Year: 1904 | Setting: Newport & Yellowstone | Genre: Historical Coming of Age

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