Image Prompt 070 – Silent Snowscape

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I chose the image of the snowy scene in Dundee Scotland for my twenty-minute sprint.  I’m also still having fun with the idea I started two image prompts ago and continued last month.  So this is a continuation of those two scenes.

Silent Snowscape:

Valerie shivered as she stepped out of the tent the next morning.  There was a dusting of snow over everything, giving the world a hushed feeling and a brightness that didn’t seem to belong in their world anymore.

She made her way to the latrine and then the washing tent to prepare for the day.  By the time she was back Dr. Harrison had left the tent, so she went through their packs and put everything they would need into the smallest two.  They had one last device to install today.  She closed the second pack and sat down on her bunk beside it.  This was the last one.  The last step.  She didn’t know what they’d be doing after today.

Valerie shook her head and got to her feet.  She wasn’t going to get maudlin.  Besides, Dr. Harrison had admitted that he requested her as his partner.  She would likely get to continue working with him if he wanted.

She found Dr. Harrison in the mess tent and joined him for a quick breakfast before they returned for their packs.

“As efficient as always,” Dr. Harrison said, laughing as he picked up both packs to gauge their weight.  He always took the heavier pack.  She tried to load them fairly equally when she could, but she couldn’t argue with him over it.  She was a slender 1.6 meters and he was a solidly muscled 1.9 meters.  She wasn’t out of shape but he was definitely equipped to carry more weight than she was.

They gave their names and codes at the gate and let them know they were returning as soon as the device was installed and headed out on foot.  The camp was tucked between buildings in what was once the city center.  They made their way back across the eerily quiet snow-dusted emptiness in silence.

Valerie remembered Dundee as a bustling city.  Normally there would have been plenty of people out, even on a cold snowy day like this one.  But now the city was a shell of what it once was.  The buildings on one side of the central square had been leveled and the rest heavily damaged.  By some miracle the dragon statue in the middle of the square had survived.

It didn’t take them long to make their way across the empty city to the shores of the Tay.  They took a right past a cherry tree that seemed frozen in time.  It was dusted in snow now, but every time Valerie had passed it in the pasted six months, it looked exactly the same.  The pink flowers just starting to bloom like it was early spring, even though it was late January at the moment.

In the lee of the building behind the mysteriously static cherry tree was what looked like a pile of debris.  Valerie took off her pack and handed it to Dr. Harrison before crouching down and making her way under the first board until she could reach the boat that was hidden there.  She pulled the small row boat completely out onto the snow before accepting her pack again.

They made their way down to the water with the boat carried between them.  Valerie climbed in firt and and Dr. Harrison pushed off as he stepped in.  Dr. Harrison did the rowing and Valerie using a third oar to help steer.  They made for the piles of the old Tay Bridge.  It was going to be a tricky installation, but the location was too good not to use.  The devices were meant to both gather data about electromagnetic activity within their range and work as rudimentary communication towers.

The hope was to determine what was interfering with radio communications and hopefully allow a limited number of cellular devices to communicate.  It would solve one of their largest problems, and allow them to better coordinate and share information.  They still didn’t know what actually happened ten months ago aside from the physical devastation it left behind.  They didn’t even know where the attacks came from.

When they reached the pile they wanted, Valerie shifted to kneel in the center of the boat.  She wanted as much stability as possible while they tried to find a way to anchor the boat to the pile.  If the thing had been big enough they’d have brought along a third person to help them.  One who knew more about boats.

Image Prompt 070 – Scheile Museum Historic Mill and Snowy Dundee Scotland

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 070-001 - Snow05-02-23 003

Image Prompt 070-002 - Scheile Museum Nature Trail 08-07-27 040

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 6

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It’s been a pretty epic first few days of NaNoWriMo.  I stayed up for a midnight write-in with my region and wrote more than par in the first couple hours.  Then I went to two more write-ins that day and wrote 9,333 words on just the first day!

I’ve been a bit more NaNo consistent (for me) since then, writing closer to 1,667-3,333 words a day, so I had 20,213 words going into today.

Updates are going to be pretty short this month as I focus on NaNoWriMo, but I’ll still be around.  Good luck to everyone else out there working on a NaNoWriMo project this November!

NaNoWriMo 2020 Planning Journey: Sneak Peeks Part II

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I wanted to share a few more of the scenes I’m writing in preparation for NaNoWriMo.  Again, these are fairly rough (just drafted, a very quick copy edit, and with placeholders and inconsistencies intact) but I hope that won’t detract from them too much.  I’ve really enjoyed writing about all my characters for the last several weeks and I hope you enjoy meeting them and getting a sneak peek at the novel I’m writing for November 2020.

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Meet Prince Dominique

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[Dominique is 15 in this scene.  It’s summer, several months before he goes to the Royal Academy.]

Dominique was bored.  He was always bored.  He was so far down the line that no one really cared what he did as long as he looked good, behaved well, and showed up.

He couldn’t even remember what today’s event was supposed to be.

His brothers walked into the room first.  They generally proceeded in age order behind their father and sister.  Dominique had been given the option to stay behind since he was still only fourteen, but he’d have been even more bored there alone.  At least with Father’s events there was important discussion going on so people left him alone.

When they walked into the hall it was more sparsely populated that Dominique was expecting.  Only about a dozen others standing around the long table.  It wasn’t until he saw the Vizier that Dominique remembered what event this was.  His father was being social for once.  He’d invited the Vizier and his top four clerks to bring their families for dinner at the palace.

“Archibald, it’s good to see you tonight,” Dominique’s father greeted the Vizier.

“It is always a pleasure, your majesty,” the Vizier replied formally.

“Come now,” the king said with a laugh, “no need to be so formal tonight.  “It is Josselin for tonight.”

The Vizier just smiled and nodded.  He was far too smart a man to allow himself to use such informality with the king, even when invited.  He was only a commoner after all, even if his family had been serving as clerks and Viziers for hundreds of years.

Dominique followed his brothers down along the table to take their seats.  He was at the end, as per usual.  But that meant he would be sitting next to someone other than his brother, so there was a chance of a conversation, even if they were usually boring at these events.

The Vizier and his wife were seated beside the king, across from his sister and eldest brother, and the four clerks and their wives sat on that side, he assumed in rank order, which put Dominique across from the second clerk.

Dominique glanced sideways when someone pulled out the chair two down from his.  It was the Vizier’s eldest, Benjamin, who was pulling out a chair for his sister, Catherine.  After seeing his sister seated, Benjamin took the seat beside Dominique.  He was a little more than two years older than Dominique, and very rarely had much to say on the few occasions they’d met.

He’d known he was going to be bored.

As soon as everyone was seated the servants began bringing out the first course.  Dinner conversation was almost always boring.  Today was no exception.  Dominique tried not to sigh and ate his food quietly.  There was no reason to be talkative if no one addressed him.

There were seven courses, which was a little excruciating, and by the end all Dominique wanted to do was get up and stretch after sitting for so long.  He knew better though.

As the food was finished and the servants began to clear away dishes real conversations began.  The clerk across from Dominique actually got into a fairly complicated discussion about fiscal policy with Benjamin.  Dominique only understood about half of it, so once others began to get up from the table, he quietly excused himself and walked away toward the far end of the room.  He stepped over to the window that looked out over the garden.

“Were you as tired of sitting as I?”

Dominique only just kept himself from jumping at her soft words.  He turned his head slightly to find Catherine already standing at the window.  She was standing at the far corner, partially in shadow.

“I am glad for the chance to stretch my legs,” Dominique replied.  Never complain, that was one of the rules of etiquette his mother had drilled into them all.

Catherine laughed softly.  “It is always a pleasure to get to see your gardens,” she said, her attention still on the window.

“They are lovely,” he replied.

“Do you ever go exploring in them?” Catherine asked.

“We don’t often have the opportunity.”  Which was a shame.  They were lovely, and he’d always like wandering the gardens at the summer palace.  He had more freedom there, and his father tolerated him talking with the garners and occasionally designing a new planting.

“Do you think they’d let us tonight?” she asked.  “Maybe if your escorting a guest no one will mind you taking time in the garden.”

Dominique actually turned to look at Catherine.  She was nearly a year older than him.  Surely she knew how inappropriate her suggestion was.  She was an unattached female, and a commoner at that, it would be scandalous.

“What’s that look for?” she asked, smiling again.  “I’m sure someone would insist on accompanying us, or sending a servant along or something.”

“You’re very forward,” Dominique said.  She was.  She was asking a prince to take a walk in the garden, and she wasn’t even a noble.

“I just know that this evening is much more about casual conversation of official things than it is anything else.  It’s also a reward that I’m sure everyone appreciates, but for us children it’s just another boring dinner.  Why can’t we go explore the gardens?”

Dominique met sparkling hazel eyes and found himself nodding.  He turned slightly and offered her his arm, as was appropriate when escorting a woman, even if they were still both under age.

Catherine beamed at him and placed her hand gently on his arm, allowing him to walk her back into the room.

“Try Mistress [clerk 4],” Catherine whispered.  “I know she loves gardens.”

Dominique duly walked over to where the indicated clerk’s wife was standing near her husband.  She looked horribly awkward.

The woman dipped a curtsey when she saw them approaching.

“I was just offering to show my companion the gardens,” Dominique said.  “She suggested you might enjoy the chance to see them as well.”  Even though it was all Catherine’s idea, he had to take credit for it as a proper gentleman.

“I would love to see the royal gardens,” Mistress [clerk 4] said in a soft voice.  “I thank Miss Verity for thinking of me.”

“Not at all,” Catherine replied, smiling at the woman.

“Please, lead on,” Miss [clerk 4] said motioning them toward the door.

Dominique escorted Catherine with Mistress [clerk4] following behind.  When the servant opened the door, Dominique informed the man of his plan and continued down the hall.

They didn’t talk as they paced down long corridors to the formal parlor that let out into the gardens.  If he were alone, he’d have used a back staircase and a servant exit, much to the family’s dismay, but he knew better than to take a short cut with guests.

“These are truly beautiful,” Mistress [clerk 4] said as they walked down the steps into the rose garden.

“The family takes pride in its gardens,” Dominique replied.  He more than most.  They had skilled gardeners and highly educated herbalists.  He’d learned a great deal from them over the years despite his mother’s disapproval of his interest in plants and being out of doors when he was younger.

“I’ve never seen roses so large,” Catherine said softly.

“They’re a special variety,” Dominique replied.

“Oh, in what way?” Catherine asked, with far more interest than anyone in his family ever had.

So Dominique told her.

Catherine asked questions, and so did Mistress [clerk 4] and somehow Dominique found himself giving them a complete tour and talking almost the entire time.  It wasn’t until a servant came up to let them know that Master [clerk 4] was intending to depart soon, that Dominique realized how late it had become.  It was almost sunset.

Dominique escorted his two companions back to the hall where the meal had been served, seeing Catherine into the care of her brother almost as soon as they walked into the door.  He moved over to stand with his brothers, hoping he hadn’t overstepped by taking the two women away for so long.

When the last of the guests had departed Dominique sighed softly.  That was the least boring social dinner he’d ever been to.

“You did well tonight,” Josephine said softly as she stopped beside him.

He looked up, not having expected a comment, let alone praise.

“It’s important to entertain one’s guests,” Josephine said, smiling down at him.  “The two ladies obviously enjoyed their time with you.  Where on earth did you take them?”

“They wanted to see the gardens,” Dominique replied.

“Ah, that makes sense,” she said.  “It explains why you looked so much happier too.”  She patted him on the shoulder, laughing softly as she moved away.

She didn’t see his interest in plants as unseemly like their mother had.

Dominique sighed again as he followed his brothers out of the room and back toward their own suites.  It would be another boring evening studying subjects he wasn’t as interested in.  It had been nice to not be bored for once.

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Meet Catherine

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[Catherine is 12 at this point.]

Catherine enjoyed the chance to go to a party with her brother.  No one seemed to like letting her go by herself, so she only got to accept invitations that included Benjamin.  Today’s was being hosted by the family on the estate just north of theirs.  They were a noble family, but didn’t have much standing or much wealth.  She heard father say that they were jealous of the Verity family’s success and a little resentful because they were only commoners, but for some reason she and Benjamin were always invited to the parties they had.

Benjamin helped her into the carriage in her pretty dress.  It was the simplest of her party dresses.  She knew better than to show off by wearing something that would be fancier than her hosts could afford.  She’d seen the daughter of the family in a very similar style dress at the last party, so this might even be seen as a complement or copying her style.  Catherine hoped so.  Olivia was nice.  Catherine wished they could be friends, but whenever she tried to talk to Olivia their brothers seemed to get in the way.  Olivia’s first usually.  He was always wanting to talk to her.

When they arrived at the house, the family was there to welcome them, and Catherine made sure to smile when Olivia greeted her and be properly polite to everyone before Benjamin escorted her into the parlor to mingle with the other guests.

Thankfully they already knew everyone here, so they didn’t have to do any of the awkward introductions.  Catherine hated introductions.  Especially with nobles.  They were always polite to start with, but by the time Catherine and her brother had finished saying their names they would often turn subtly insulting.  The Verity family was invited to a lot of functions hosted by the nobility, but they were also often looked down upon because they weren’t nobility themselves.

They talked briefly with a few of the other young people and answered all the inquiries from the adults about their parents’ health and the family and all that.  Catherine used the answers mother taught her.  She’d tried being honest once and mother had been furious, so she wasn’t going to do that again.

Catherine tried hard not to show her relief and excitement when everyone had arrived and they were led from the parlor out into the yard where tables had been set up with delicious treats and awnings had been strung between trees to create a cool and shady spot for the adults to sit and talk over their food.

Benjamin let Catherine out of his sight for a little while which was a bit of a relief.  Catherine made a modest plate of small bites, again like mother had taught her, and milled about slowly, trying to see where Olivia had gone.  When she saw the other girl surrounded by the other noble girls at the party, Catherine decided today wasn’t the day to try to become friends.  She didn’t want to look pushy and rude, and at least one of the noble girls was from a family that very much disliked Catherine’s and none of the family members where shy about it.

She walked past where all the adults were sitting at little tables under the awning looking for her brother when Olivia’s brother found her.

She didn’t dislike Pascal, but she didn’t particularly like him either.

“You’re looking scrumptious today,” Pascal greeted her.

“Thank you,” Catherine said, holding her plate in one hand so she could lift one side of her skirt as she dipped a curtsy.  She was to always be polite and respectful of the nobility.  It was the proper way for the family to behave.

“Why don’t I show you around,” Pascal said, brushing the back of his fingertips down her arm.

“I do enjoy your family’s lovely gardens,” Catherine replied.  She didn’t need to be shown around.  She’d seen the place often enough since her first invitation when she was eight.  It was rude to say that though, so complementing something she already knew was a good strategy.

“Then I will have to take you to see them,” Pascal said, actually taking Catherine’s hand to place it on his arm so he could escort her.

That was very forward, but Catherine didn’t want to be rude, so she went along, still holding her plate with one bite-sized morsel left on it.

Pascal walked them sedately across the lawn to the entrance to the garden path that wound through a variety of decorative plants from small delicate flowers to large hedges.

The sound of the music and talking of the party faded as he led her down one of the paths lined with hedges.  It wasn’t as pretty as some of the others this time of year.  In the fall when it was just warm enough to have outdoor parties they would be covered in brightly colored berries, and Catherine found them quite pleasing then, but now they were just a large wall of green.

“You are enjoying the party?” Pascal asked.

“It’s been delightful so far,” Catherine replied.  Even if she was slightly bored and no one was paying her much attention, she must never say that.  Her mother would be furious.

“Why don’t we sit for a moment and you can finish your morsel,” Pascal said, guiding her toward a bench between two hedges.

Catherine let him lead her over and she sat carefully when he released her hand.  She had been saving this bite for last because it was a tiny berry tart and those were her favorite.  She glanced sideways at Pascal as he sat beside her.  His sleeve brushed her arm and she could feel the heat of his leg through her skirts.

Not wanting to comment on his closeness, Catherine ate her tiny tart, setting the plate on the bench beside her temporarily.  She didn’t want to leave it, because that would be unkind to the servants who would have to hunt for it later, but it was nice not to be holding it for a moment.

The tart was just as delicious as she’d hoped.  The berries were bright and tart and the cream was smooth and rich and the crust was buttery and gave substance to the bite.

“Perhaps I can have a morsel now,” Pascal said softly.

“We’d have to go back,” Catherine replied.  “But they are quite good.”

Pascal just laughed, reaching over to brush the back of his hand down her arm again.

Catherine faced forward, not turning to look at him.  She wasn’t used to being touched by other people.  Her parents, while loving and supporting, weren’t terribly demonstrative, and her brother always seemed to be trying to play the perfect model of their father, so he didn’t hug her like he used to when they were children.  Only Emma touched her much.

She did keep an eye on Pascal in her peripheral vision, so she saw him lean in closer for a moment.

Catherine remained very still.  People didn’t get close.  She had no idea what to do when she felt her hair move as Pascal leaned very close to her.  His face was practically in her hair and she just couldn’t seem to move.

“I was wondering where you’d wondered off to,” Benjamin said as he walked up.

Pascal moved away very quickly, sliding further down on the bench too.

“I wasn’t hiding,” Catherine protested.  Benjamin was always accusing her of hiding these days.

“Just enjoying the gardens?” Benjamin asked.

“You know I like flowers.”

“Then you should see the other path,” Benjamin said, his smile sharper than usual as he glanced at Pascal.  “There are more flowers there this time of year.”

“I’d love to,” Catherine said, smiling at her brother.

“Will you escort us?” Benjamin asked, staring hard at Pascal.

“Don’t let me impede your enjoyment,” Pascal said, getting to his feet and walking off.

Benjamin watched him go.

Catherine picked up her plate from the bench beside her and got to her feet.

“You need to be more careful,” Benjamin said as he held his arm out to her.

Catherine took his arm, her hand resting lightly just above his elbow.  “About what?”  She’d been very polite and she wasn’t leaving the dish for the servants to miss.

“About being alone with a man,” Benjamin said.

“Pascal isn’t a man yet,” Catherine replied.  He was only just fifteen.

“He’s not sixteen, but you shouldn’t be alone with a boy over twelve either,” Benjamin said, leading her down the path toward the flowers.  “It’s not safe.”

“What do you mean?” Catherine asked.  “We’re at an estate.  How is that not safe?”

Benjamin sighed.  “How about this,” he said.  “Promise me you won’t be alone with any males for the duration of the party and Emma and I will explain it all when we’re home.”

“Why would Emma need to be there?” Catherine asked, frowning.

“Because she’ll be able to explain it in a way you’ll understand without anyone being embarrassed,” Benjamin replied.

“Alright, I promise,” Catherine said.  She knew her brother hated being embarrassed and wouldn’t dream of embarrassing her if he didn’t have to.

Benjamin patted her hand on his arm and they had a nice little walk before returning to the other guests.  Catherine was able to get one last tiny berry tart before they left too.

NaNoWriMo 2020 Planning Journey: Sneak Peeks

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As I mentioned in my last planning journey post, I’m writing out scenes that happen before the novel as a way to get to know my characters better before November and starting the actual novel.  Today I wanted to share some sneak peeks and a few of the scenes I’ve written so you can see exactly what I mean.  These are fairly rough (just drafted, a very quick copy edit, and with placeholders and inconsistencies intact) but I hope you enjoy them anyway.

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Meet Emma

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 [Note: nine years old, arriving at Verity household]

Emma waited until the coach had come to a complete stop before jumping down from the seat on the back.  She stepped around the side and waited for her cousin, who had been driving it, to tell her what to do.  She wasn’t entirely sure how she was supposed to know what to do now that she was here at the Verity’s ancestral home.

“Alright?” her cousin asked softly as he stepped down from the driver’s seat.

Emma nodded.  Being on the seat at the back meant she could move around a lot more than if she’d had to ride inside with their passengers.

“Just stay there and look dutiful for now,” he whispered to her before opening the coach door.

Emma shifted slightly so she was standing with her back to the coach wheel and faced the mansion.  That at least gave her something to look at as she stood quietly, hands folded against her belly like her mother taught her.

The mansion was huge.  Mother had told her that the family didn’t all live here anymore, and that they didn’t even use the entire mansion, but it was still intimidatingly huge.  It was four stories tall, taller than any building she’d ever seen.  Even the clock tower in town was only three stories tall.  The mansion was made of some kind of smooth white stone that practically glowed in the late evening light.  There were huge windows on every floor with real glass in them, not the thick bubbly kind like they had in the town hall back home, but the smooth clear kind.

She was going to be some kind of maid now, and she really hoped it wasn’t the cleaning kind.  Mother had taught her everything she might need to know.  How to clean, cook basic things, follow recipes she didn’t know, properly serve at table, dress and undress a noble lady in all the fancy clothes that were impossible to get into by yourself, style and care for hair, and assist a woman with basically any every day need.

Mother had also taught her how to be properly deferential to her employers and anyone of rank.  Emma worried about that part the most.  She was used to interacting with her mother and her younger siblings and the other families in their little town.  She’d never even seen a noble before.  Not that the Verity family were actual nobles, but she was supposed to treat them as if they were because they were her employers.

Emma continued studying the mansion as her cousin helped the two passengers from the coach and assured them their luggage would be delivered to their rooms presently.  She never turned her head as she watched the two young men walk away from the coach and up the three steps to the grand door of the mansion, which opened for them.

Once they had disappeared inside, two other men walked out, dressed in matching outfits.  Brown slacks with sharp creases, white shirts, and sharp brown vests that matched their slacks.

“Well met,” the taller of the two said, offering his hand to her cousin.  “I hope the drive wasn’t too awful.”

“The weather held the whole way, so it was fairly pleasant,” her cousin replied, laughing as he clasped hands with the man.  “This is my little cousin, Emma,” he continued, turning and beckoning her forward.

“Please to meet you,” Emma said, dipping a curtsy when she stopped beside her brother.

The shorter man laughed.  “They said you’d have good manners,” he said with a smile.  “No need to be so formal with us,” he added, smiling down at her.  “I’m Neal and this is Owen,” he continued.  “We work here, just like you, so you only have to be formal with us when we’re in front of a Verity or a guest.”

“Thank you for letting me know,” Emma replied.

“You’ll get a uniform,” Owen said, “which will be the same as all the other women employed in the house proper, and we’re wearing the uniform for men in the house proper, so you’ll be able to easily tell who the other servants are.”

Emma nodded.  That was useful information.

“Let’s get the luggage in first, then we’ll take you in to see Hollis, who can tell you all about your new job.”

“Should I help?” Emma asked.

“You can get little things,” her cousin answered.  “There are a few boxes in the coach under the seat.  If you can gather those, we’ll get the trunks.”

Emma nodded and turned back to the coach to gather things.  She would be polite and helpful.  Mother had stressed that, even when interacting with her fellow servants.

It didn’t take them long to carry everything inside, and other servants came to take everything away to the right rooms.  When they were done, Emma stood beside the empty coach unsure what to do next.  Her cousin went down on one knee so he was the same height as her and gave her a hug.

“You’ll do fine here,” he told her.  He’d been working as one of the family’s coachmen since he was twelve.  Emma was only nine.  “Just remember what your mother taught you and everything will be fine.”

Emma nodded and hugged him tight before he could stand up again.

He laughed and hugged her back before getting to his feet and reaching up onto the top of the coach.  He lifted down her little bag of belongings and handed it to her.

“I’ll see you when I come through,” he told her, patting her on the head before getting back into the driver’s seat and clicking to the horses.  He needed to see them safely to the stables and get a fresh pair for his next journey.

“This way then,” Neal said to Emma.

Emma followed him back into the house and then through a side door she hadn’t even noticed before—it was very well concealed—that lead into a narrow hallway and then into a large pantry room.  At least she assumed it was a pantry based on the lack of cooking facilities and the preponderance of vegetables and other food stuffs.

There were three women at work in the room, but only one, the oldest based on her gray hair, turned when they entered.

“Ah, this must be young Emma,” the woman said, smiling over at them.

“It is indeed,” Neal replied.

Emma dipped a curtsy even though they’d told her she didn’t need to.  If this was Hollis, then she was the head maid, which meant she was in charge of Emma and all the other maids in the house.

“She taught you well, she did,” Hollis said.  “Remember your manners in front of the family and guests, but we don’t stand on ceremony and such when we’re back in the working parts of the house.”

“Yes, mistress,” Emma replied.

“And you can just call me Hollis,” she added.  “In public you generally shouldn’t actually respond to me with more than a nod and curtsy.  We’re generally to be seen as little as possible and not heard if it can be helped.”

Emma nodded.

“Let me show you where you can put away your things and then introduce you to your new charge,” Hollis said, waving Emma forward as she turned toward the other door on the far side of the room.

This lead to the kitchen, which was bustling, but also incredibly clean.  It helped that they had the fancy steam powered cooking machines her mother had described, rather than a fire.  It meant no soot and ash to worry about.

Hollis lead her through the kitchen and out the other side into what appeared to be a dining room.  From there, they went into a wide and airy hallway and through another cleverly hidden door into another narrow hallway lit by some kind of indirect glow.  Emma wasn’t sure if it was sunlight coming from hidden windows, or if there were some sort of fancy advanced lighting somewhere.  Mother had known about the cooking machines, but didn’t know much about the other technologies the nobles and the richest commoners had access to now.

At the end of the long narrow hallway, Hollis took a right and walked all the way down to a narrow set of stairs that took them up to the second floor, where they went right again before exiting through a door Emma was worried she wouldn’t even be able to identify on her own.  They walked across another large airy hallway and into a suite of rooms.

“This is Catherine’s suite,” Hollis told Emma.  “She’s just turned nine years old, so a little bit younger than you are.”

Emma’s birthday was seven months past.  It was only the day after that they’d gotten the notice about when she would start work at the Verity household.

“You’ll be her personal maid,” Hollis explained.  “You’ll stay in this room,” she continued, opening another carefully concealed door that led into a tiny chamber with just enough room for a bed, a chest of three drawers with a pitcher and wash basin on top, and a candle in a holder.  “You’ll spend most of your time attending Catherine, but may occasionally be asked to help with other tasks if she’s away or while she’s in her lessons.”

“So I’ll assist her with anything she needs then?” Emma asked.  She knew what was expected of a lady’s made to an actual lady, but what did a little girl need?

“Yes,” Hollis replied.  “You’ll assist with bathing and dressing and the usual things, but you’ll also bring her meals if she takes them in her room, attend her if she is ever ill, and generally keep watch on her health and wellbeing.  You won’t be primarily responsible for the cleaning of her suite, which happens twice a week during her lessons, but you will make up the bed in the mornings and change linens as needed between cleanings, and deal with any messes that need immediate attention.”

Emma nodded.  That all made sense.

“You will also attend her whenever she asks,” Hollis added.  “Catherine has always been a fairly solitary child, so I don’t know how much she’ll ask of you, but if she wishes to go out into the gardens or take walks, she may ask you to accompany her.”

Emma nodded again.  So she was possibly a bit of a companion as well as a maid.  That made slightly more sense given how young she was.  Her mother hadn’t been given a place until she was twelve, and had only left it when her back was injured and she could no longer do the work.  Thankfully her father was able to support them both until her mother was well enough to take in sewing work.  Emma had helped with that for almost as long as she could remember, but they’d always known the Verity family would offer Emma a place.

“If you ever have any questions, you can come see me about them.  Catherine should be back from her lessons momentarily.  I’ll return during dinner to show you where everything is that you’ll need in her suite, tomorrow during her morning lessons I’ll show you where everything else is.”

Emma nodded again.  She hoped Catherine was a nice girl.  Her mother had warned her that not all nobles and rich commoners were kind to their servants.  Emma hoped perhaps a nine-year-old like herself wouldn’t have learned to be cruel yet.

Hollis led Emma back out of her little room and Emma closed the door behind them.  She glanced around the sitting room, which was actually quite large.  It had a couch, a chaise, and two chairs grouped around a fireplace with a low table between them.  There was also a writing desk in one corner of the room with a few books stacked on it and several quills in the stand with the ink.

There was only one door leading further into the suite, so Emma assumed that would be the dressing room with Catherine’s bedchamber being beyond that.

“Do you have any questions before Catherine arrives?” Hollis asked.

“What is the proper address for her?” Emma asked.  Catherine wasn’t a noble, so she wasn’t Lady Catherine, but she was Emma’s employer’s child and Emma’s charge.

“I recommend starting with Miss Catherine,” Hollis replied.  “She will let you know if she prefers something else when you are in private, which you can use whenever it’s just the two of you and other servants to hear.  In front of the master and mistress of the house, you should always address her as Miss Catherine.  Master Verity and Mistress Verity will be your normal address for them, and any other family members in the house should be miss or mister and their first name.  At present there are [a dozen?] members of the family staying here.”

Emma nodded.  That was a lot of names to learn.  “If I don’t recall someone’s name, would a simple miss or mister be appropriate?” she asked.

“That should suffice,” Hollis replied.  “You shouldn’t be seeing them much outside Catherine’s company, and she’ll likely supply names for you during conversation.  She’s incredibly polite and tends to make fairly formal greetings even among her own family.”

Emma nodded.  That would be helpful.  She’d learn all the names soon enough, but having help at the start would be good.

The door opened then, and Emma quickly resumed her proper posture, hands folded across her belly and looked over at the door to see who walked in.

The girl was almost a hand shorter than Emma with a delicate build, a tumble of brown curls loosely tied at her neck, and hazel eyes that sparkled as she quickly surveyed the room.  She smiled when she saw Emma and Hollis standing off to one side.

“You must be Emma,” she said, walking over to them.

“It’s nice to meet you, Miss Catherine,” Emma said, dipping a curtsey.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Catherine said, actually curtseying back to Emma.  “You can just call me Catherine.”

“Of course,” Emma replied.

“I’ll leave Emma to help you get ready for supper,” Hollis said.

[Notes to self: If I ever use this scene formally, go back and fix things so that the first thing Emma does is get her uniform and a few spares, and then be taken to C’s rooms.  She’d have needed a bit of cleaning up from the dirt of the road since she traveled outside on the back of the coach.  Also dinner is noon meal and supper is evening meal.]

“How can I assist you?” Emma asked after the door closed behind Hollis.

“I’m supposed to wear the nicer dresses for dinner, and mother likes my hair up,” Catherine said.  “For day wear I have simpler dresses and I can get away with wearing my hair like this as long as I don’t have something scheduled that involves mother.”

Emma followed Catherine across the sitting room and into the room beyond, which was a quite elaborate dressing room.  In one corner, perfectly placed to have the best light, there was a vanity with a stool in front of it and a large and elaborately framed mirror on a swivel mounted to the vanity.  The opposite corner was sectioned off with a folding screen and beside that was a long rack full of dresses and other clothing hanging neatly.  A few items where shrouded in white cloth, so Emma assumed those were the most costly and elaborate dresses.

“Do you have a preference of dress this evening?” Emma asked, glancing at the options.  There were a few dozen similar to the one Catherine was currently wearing in a variety of pastel shades, which Emma assumed were her day dresses.  The next set seemed to be in slightly darker colors and richer fabrics.  They also came in a wider variety of styles.

“Nothing too elaborate for supper at home,” Catherine said.  “When we have guests someone usually sets out the dress mother wants me to wear, and she supervises the packing when I travel.”

Emma nodded and went to the rack to quickly assess the dresses available.  She found one in a medium blue that was fairly simple except for the more elaborate bustle and the decorative trim on the jacket.  She stretched up to remove it from the rack and hang it on the hook on the outside of the folding screen.

“Is this acceptable?” Emma asked.

“Yes,” Catherine said, “that’s exactly right for supper.”

Emma smiled and dipped a curtsy, happy that she’d selected something appropriate based on Catherine’s instructions.

“Do you have a preferred routine before supper?” Emma asked.

“Unless I’ve been outside, I usually just need my hair done and to change,” Catherine replied.  “If I’ve been outside, I might need to a bit of a wash depending.”

“Would you prefer I do your hair before or after taking off your day dress?” Emma asked.

“After would be lovely,” Catherine said, smiling at Emma.  “It’s nice to get out of things for a little.”

Emma nodded and smiled back.  Catherine was very well spoken and sounded so much like an adult.  Emma hadn’t done much playing in the past several months, but she didn’t remember the other children being so formal when she’d had a chance to play with them back in town.

Catherine stepped over to the screen, standing next to a panel that Emma noticed had an empty hanger on it for the dress.

Emma followed and began to unbutton the back of Catherine’s dress.  The buttons were small and covered with the same cloth as the dress was made out of so they blended in with the rest of the dress.  There sure were a lot of them though.  It was a good thing Emma had nimble little fingers.  Once all the buttons were undone, Emma gently eased the dress off Catherine’s shoulders and bent down so it would pool around Catherine’s feet.

Catherine stepped out over the skirt and moved toward the screen, slipping out of her shoes as Emma stood and hung up the dress.

Emma left the day dress hanging on the screen for the time being.  She’d need to ask Hollis what the procedures were for caring for Catherine’s clothing.  They likely wouldn’t need to be laundered every time Catherine wore them.  When she turned back, Catherine had already seated herself on the stool by the vanity.  Emma noticed that her feet didn’t touch the ground.  Catherine was still rather small for nine years old.

“Do you prefer simple styles or elaborate ones?” Emma asked as she stepped up behind Catherine and carefully untied the ribbon holding her curls back from her face.

“I prefer simple styles like this one,” Catherine said, “but mother prefers more elaborate styles.  For supper at home, I can get away with something simple, but up and contained.  For guests or when we travel, you’ll have to learn the elaborate ones.”

“I know a wide variety of styles,” Emma replied, pulling the box of hair pins closer to the edge of the vanity so she could reach them easily.  “But I am always eager to learn more,” she added, realizing she might have sounded rude.”

“I don’t even know how to braid,” Catherine said.

“I could teach you,” Emma offered as she began to pin Catherine’s curls into place.  She would do a simple pile of curls at the back of Catherine’s head tonight, something up and contained, but that would show off the volume of beautiful hair Catherine had.

“Really?” Catherine asked, starting to turn, but stopping herself short.

“Of course,” Emma replied.  There was no particular need for Catherine to know how to braid, but Emma’s mother had told her that if she could do little things to please the person she served, it would benefit her later, and this was a very small thing.

Catherine’s smile was huge as she looked at Emma through the mirror.  “No one else has ever offered to teach me anything.”

“I’m sure it simply didn’t occur to them that you would wish to know,” Emma replied.  Catherine’s hair was incredibly soft and a joy to work with.  It took the pins easily and actually stayed in place.  Curls were often easier to deal with that straight hair, because they had texture to them.

“Maybe,” Catherine replied.

Emma quickly finished pinning up Catherine’s curls and picked up the hand mirror so she could show Catherine in the mirror.

“Oh, I like this one,” Catherine, said, smiling.  “It looks fancy, but doesn’t take long to do.”

“Your hair is a delight to work with,” Emma replied. 

Catherine just smiled and nodded, so Emma put the hand mirror back on the vanity and pushed the hair pin box back to where it had been.

“When do you need to be ready for supper?” Emma asked as she took a step back from Catherine.

“Not for half an hour,” Catherine replied.

“Would you prefer to dress now, or closer to supper time?” Emma asked.  Catherine had mentioned liking to be out of the layers earlier.

“This is fine for now,” Catherine said, sliding off the stool and moving toward the door leading further into her suite.  “Let me show you my room and tell you about things,” she said, waving Emma after her.

Emma followed when Catherine opened the door to the other room, which was Catherine’s bed chamber as expected, but it was also a bit more than that, she realized.  There were bookcases between the windows and two large upholstered chairs in one corner near the window that looked out on the south side of the house.

“These are my books,” Catherine said, turning to smile at Emma.  “I’m allowed to loan them out if I want, so you’re allowed to read them as long as they stay in the suite, which includes your room.”

“Oh,” Emma said softly.  She could sort of read.

“Do you like to read?” Catherine asked, hopping up into one of the chairs, which looked incredibly plush and comfortable.

“I don’t know,” Emma replied.

“Oh, can you read?” Catherine asked.  “I didn’t even think to ask, I’m sorry.”

“I can a little,” Emma replied, taking a few steps into the room.  “I don’t have much formal schooling.  Mother taught me enough to read a shopping list or sound out the words on directions left for me, but we didn’t practice it much.”

“Oh, well, you’ll have to practice while I do the work my tutors give me,” Catherine said.  “I love having someone to talk to about what I read, so I’d love it if you’d practice so you could read stories with me.”

“If it doesn’t interfere with my duties, I’m sure I can do that,” Emma replied.

“Oh, it shouldn’t,” Catherine said, smiling happily.  “Hollis said you’ll have very little responsibility aside from me, and I don’t take much work except before dinner.  Besides, you could think of it as part of your work if you needed to.  It’s something you’ll do so you can be a better companion for me.  Mother and Father said that’s the primary reason they wanted you specifically, because you’re a distant cousin and my age and we can be good companions.”

“I’d like that,” Emma replied.  Hollis had mentioned that Catherine was a solitary child.  Maybe that wasn’t entirely by choice.  It sounded a lot like Catherine wanted a friend, and Emma was more than eager to be a friend to Catherine.

#

Meet Nadine

#

[Note: Nadine is 13 at this point.]

Nadine stood as still as she possibly could while her mother’s maids dressed her and did her hair.

Her own maids had been deemed too young and inexperienced for the task today.  Her mother hadn’t explained why yet.  Nadine very rarely knew why things were happening.  Nadine knew that if she was being fussed over this much, then whoever they were seeing today was important and Nadine needed to be on her best possible behavior.

“This will have to do if we don’t want to be late,” Nadine’s mother said after the maids had spent hours tweaking every possible aspect of Nadine’s appearance.

When the maids stepped away, Nadine very slowly stepped forward toward her mother, being careful not to disarrange anything the maids had spent time on.

“Come,” her mother said, turning and walking out of the room.

Nadine held in the sigh and followed at a properly sedate pace.  If she moved too fast she was sure her hair would come undone and her dress would fall apart.  She felt ridiculous in the overly fancy thing.

When she followed her mother into the formal dining room to find her father conversing with the king and the Royal Vizier, Nadine began to understand why her mother had made such a fuss.  A royal visit was indeed worth fussing over.  She wasn’t sure why she was being included in one, but that was beside the point.

Nadine followed her mother and played the perfect miniature lady as she was introduced to the king and his party.  No one was named for her, because she was expected to know everyone in the royal family on site and any of the important person surrounding them.  She knew the vizier was Archibald Verity, a commoner from a family with a long history of filling the role, and that it was the king’s second son and third child, Corentin, who stood quietly beside his father.  The royal consort wasn’t with them today, and neither was the heiress, Princess Josephine.  This was expected as the royal consort had been quite ill for the past few months.

It was a relief when supper was announced and they could all take their seats.  It turned out to just be the six of them dining, so Nadine ended up on her father’s left, next to Prince Corentin, who sat on his own father’s right.  He was very polite and even pulled out Nadine’s chair for her.

Nadine thanked him in an appropriately mild tone and volume, as her mother had always instructed her.

The meal was filled with talk of the kingdom and matters of state.  Her father was an active member of the court so he, the king, and the vizier did all the talking.  Nadine listened politely.  She had listened to her father talk enough that she knew what was happening at court and could follow the conversation well enough.

It wasn’t until the dessert course was served that the conversation seemed to die away.

Nadine could feel her mother’s eyes on her.  She wasn’t doing what her mother wanted, but she’d been given no directions or instructions, so what was she missing?

Nadine glanced at her father and then her mother.  Her mother was indeed staring hard at her, but Nadine could do nothing but return her gaze with a polite expression.  If her mother wanted something, she needed to tell Nadine.

All through dessert, her mother stewed and Nadine remained quietly polite as she enjoyed the fresh fruit and cream.  It wasn’t her fault her mother never told her anything.

After supper, as was the family’s custom when guests had joined them, her father led them out through the large glass paneled doors on one side of the dining hall and onto the gracefully appointed patio that lead out into the family’s famous rose gardens.

Prince Corentin approached Nadine, bowing gracefully.

Nadine curtsied back, unsure if that was the proper response.

“It would be a pleasure to escort two such lovely ladies through the garden,” Prince Corentin said.

“It would be my pleasure as well,” Nadine replied, curtseying again.

When the prince offered her his arm, Nadine glanced sideways at her mother, and seeing a real smile on her face for once, Nadine gently placed her hand on the prince’s forearm.

He walked sedately, and even engaged them in a polite conversation about the garden.  Nadine was able to reply back and even managed to occasionally ask a question or two to keep the conversation moving.  She wasn’t the best at this, and she had very little chance to practice.  Her elder brothers were always the ones going with her parents to functions.  She was usually left at home.

By the time they’d made a complete circuit of the garden and returned to the patio, it was time for the prince to leave with the king and the vizier.

“It was lovely spending time with you this afternoon,” Prince Corentin said, gently taking her hand from his arm and bowing over it, his lips barely touching the back of her hand.

“It was a truly wonderful afternoon,” Nadine replied, barely managing to keep her tone even.  She’d never had anyone kiss her hand like that, and he was a prince.

He smiled at her before turning to follow his father and the vizier back into the house.

Her father went with the, but her mother stopped her from following.

Nadine sat down on the bench beside the door and waited while her mother paced up and down the patio.  It had been quite a while since she’d seen her mother so agitated.

“Well?” Her mother asked as soon as Nadine’s father reappeared in the open patio doorway.

“We’ll be meeting tomorrow to finalize the details,” her father replied.  “It’s all settled except the signatures.  They’re already aware of the dowry and he’s amenable to my desire for the wedding to happen after she turns eighteen.”

Wedding?  Nadine frowned.

“Splendid,” Nadine’s mother said, looking positively and radiantly happy.  She barely even glanced at Nadine before sweeping back into the house and calling for her chamber maid.

“What was agreed upon?” Nadine asked softly.  She didn’t usually question her parents, but she felt this had something to do with her.  She didn’t have any sisters, so a dowry probably meant her.

“Tomorrow I will meet with the king to finalize an agreement for you to be wed to Prince Corentin in the year following your eighteenth birthday,” her father replied.

“Oh, I see,” Nadine replied.  Wed?  To a prince?  She was going to be betrothed to a prince?

“He seemed rather impressed with your gentility this afternoon,” her father said.

“I’m glad,” Nadine replied softly.  Her mother was happy.  That’s what mattered.  When Mother was happy, Nadine was left to herself more and her every action wasn’t picked to pieces for flaws.  This was a very advantageous match after all.  Her father was heavily involved in the court, but their family didn’t have the long standing prestige and pedigree that normally lead to a royal betrothal.

She didn’t know what to think.  Her conversation with Prince Corentin could have happened with any noble anywhere.  There was nothing personal about it.  She knew nothing about him personally and tomorrow her father would sign that she was to marry him?  Oh dear.

Image Prompt 069 – Our Most Reliable Navigator

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I chose the image of the bridge and the remains of an older bridge on the Tay as viewed from Dundee, Scotland.  This is actually a continuation of last month’s scene.  I was having so much fun with the idea I wanted to keep going.

Our Most Reliable Navigator:

Valerie and Dr. Harrison arrived at the University’s camp site on the Tay just as dusk was fading into night.

“Who goes there?” The guard posted at the gate called.

“Harrison…and…Tavish,” Dr. Harrison called back between huffing breaths.  “Bravo…Six Niner…and Hotel…Niner Niner,” he added.

“Get in, quickly,” the guard said.  “We’re in the process of locking down for the night.”

“Why do you think we’re out of breath?” Dr. Harrison asked as they dismounted their bikes and wheeled them through the gate.  “It was a hell of a trip.”

“Go get cleaned up and settle your gear,” the guard said.  “I’ll send someone to let Dr. Avery know you’ve arrived safe and will report to her before turning in.

“Thank you kindly,” Dr. Harrison replied, motioning for Valerie to lead the way.

She nodded to him, still too winded by the headlong rush to get to the camp to respond properly to anyone.

By the time they’d secured their bikes along the wall and found the tent reserved for the research team, she was breathing easier and the stitch in her side had subsided to a dull ache.  Everything had gone smoothly for the first day of the trip north, but on the second day, they’d stopped for supplies near Edinburgh, and gotten on the road with seven hours to make the six-hour trip.  Then found the Edinburgh bridge had been destroyed in the three months since they’d last been through.  It took an extra hour and a half to go around, so they’d pushed themselves as hard as they could to make it all the way to the Dundee camp before dark.

In retrospect, she should have recommended they diverge north toward Dunning and take the extra day to get to Dundee, but they’d made it, so at least she didn’t have too guilty about it since Dr. Harrison seemed less winded than she was.

She followed Dr. Harrison back out into the night and across the camp to the planning tent that was set up in the center of every University run camp.  It made it easier for everyone to find and report into their superiors.

“I was beginning to think something had happened to you two,” Dr. Avery said as soon as they walked in.  “Tavish is one of our most reliable navigators.”

“We hadn’t gotten word the bridge was out,” Dr. Harrison replied.

“What?” Dr. Avery snapped, standing up from her folding chair.  “Which bridge?”

The bridge,” Dr. Harrison replied.  “Edinburgh bridge.”

“Damnation,” Dr. Avery spat, followed by a colorful stream of cursing that was inventive enough for any historical sailor.

“Is this your first word of it as well?” Dr. Harrison asked softly.

“Yes,” she said, slumping back into her chair.  “We had another crew arrive back only a week ago, and they didn’t mention anything about the bridge.  Almost everyone resupplies at Edinburgh, so it’s the most used route to us.  Someone must have figured that out finally.”

“Just make sure the word gets out,” Dr. Harrison said.  “It was almost everything we had to make it before the gates closed.  We had an hour to spare, but closer to two would have been more comfortable.”

“You did well,” Dr. Avery said, including Valerie with eye contact and a nod.  “I’ll get word out on the network about the bridge so others can plan for the detour.  We may need to move the supplies to a better location as well.”

“Other than our travel mishaps today, everything went to plan,” Dr. Harrison said.  “Valerie has been indispensable as always, and we’ve got only one device left to install.”

“That was faster than anticipated,” Dr. Avery said, actually looking surprised.  “Dr. Davis had estimated two weeks for installation for the southern sites.  He’s only just now finished his three.”

“As I said, she’s been invaluable,” Dr. Harrison replied.  “I’d never have gotten it done in twice the time without her.”

Valerie could feel herself blushing.

“We’re all very aware of how important Tavish is to this project,” Dr. Avery said softly.  “Why do you think she’s the only student who always gets her first pick of research partners?”

Valerie glanced between them.  What was that supposed to mean?

“Don’t go scaring the poor woman,” Dr. Harrison said to Dr. Avery before turning to Valerie.  “We’ve noticed that you request to work with me and I’m very aware that it’s because the two of us make a very efficient team and you value efficiency.  It’s why I’ve always requested you in return to ensure you get your first choice.”

“I do value efficiency,” Valerie said softly.  It was too embarrassing to say that she also preferred working with Dr. Harrison because he cared enough to explain things as they worked.  She learned more with him, that’s why she really wanted to work with him so much.

“Why don’t you head to bed,” Dr. Harrison suggested.  “I’ll give our report and then we can head out to the Tay first thing in the morning and see if the boats survived.”

“Yes, get some rest,” Dr. Avery urged.

“Thank you,” Valerie said before leaving the tent.

Image Prompt 069 – Blue Ridge Parkway and Tay Bridge

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 069-002 - Dundee05-03-25 005-Tay Bridge

Image Prompt 069-001 - Blue Ridge Parkway08-10-12 053

NaNoWriMo 2020 Planning Journey: What Does Prep Look Like?

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If you’ve been reading along for a while, then you already know that I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November and try to write a brand new 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  I encourage anyone who likes writing, or hanging out with other writers, to give it a try and find your local NaNoWriMo community (online) this November.  It’s a great place to meet friends and an amazing challenge to try to get a draft down on paper while ignoring your inner editor and perfectionist.

You may also know that I tend to be what the NaNo community calls an Pantser.  Which is the opposite of a Planner.  Planners have outlines or scene lists or beat sheets, or in some way plan out what their novel is going to look like.  Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants.  This can also be called discover writing in other spaces.  While I’ve been experimenting with planning and plotting in advance (or at least between draft 0 and 1), I’m not very adept at it, but I still do NaNo prep every year.  So what does that look like?

It can look like a lot of different things depending on what kind of world I’m writing and what kind of story.  I’m going to take a couple posts to talk about what that’s looking like this October.  It’s only the second day of the month, so not a lot of work has happened, but I’ve started a process that I plan to continue, and we’ll see how it develops.

I have this history of writing a lot of story before the story starts.  A beta reader told me to cut the first 100 pages of book two, and they were right.  Last year, someone said I’d get an idea the week before NaNo and spend the first 6 days writing back story before I got to the actual story.  That was pretty close to what happened.  (And this was the same person in both cases…my friend really knows me well as a writer.)  So this year, I’m leaning into that.

I have an idea that centers around a female MC, who is going to be important because of the relationships she builds with the other characters.  I haven’t quite worked out why, but that’s not really important because the idea is to track her slowly building up a large group of friends and admirers who each want to be her most special person (whether that’s as a favorite sibling, a best friend, or a romantic partner) and how they jockey for position to be closest to her.  The idea developed from a reverse harem anime I watched recently.  It was just so genuinely nice.  The MC was sweet and caring and genuinely nice to everyone, and the characters in her harem were also genuinely nice people who for the most part liked each other too.  That’s the vibe I’m going for at any rate.

So in order to prep for that, I have to get to know all the characters.  I’m taking them one at a time and writing little scenes that would have been formative for them.  What gave them their life’s ambition?  When did they first meet the MC and what impact does that have on them?  How do they relate to the other characters around the MC?  What was they family or childhood like?  Those sorts of major developmental scenes.

Writing these scenes is also letting me play with the world building.  What sorts of technology is there?  What is magic like?  How much technology do I want?  What is the aesthetic of the world?  Is it a highly class based society or more egalitarian?  What kinds of clothes do people wear?  So far, I’m leaning toward slightly Victorian inspired clothes, a fantasy world with magic but also a hint of steam punk aesthetic with some tech and travel related things, and a definite class hierarchy (at least between nobles and commoners).  I’ll know more about the world as I keep writing and adding details.

Once I have enough of the characters planned out, I’ll start thinking about what order I want to focus on the secondary characters.  When does the MC meet them?  How does the MC feel about them?  When does each SC realize they want to be the MC’s most special person?  When does the MC clue into this?  Does the MC clue into this?  So far I’m writing her as intellectually fairly quick and studious, but socially a little but clueless, so she may not pick up on the hints the SCs are dropping, or at least not interpret them correctly.

I’ll report back in late October about how all this is going, and maybe give a few more sneak peaks at what I have planned so far.  I’ll also let you know what amount of outlining or scene listing I’ve been playing with.  I might actually try out planning each SC’s relationship arc with the MC (to a point at least) and then see if I can interweave them together in a pleasing way that gives the MC a coherent arc as well.  We’ll see how that actually goes, and if I even get to that point.  But stay tuned for more on how I’m prepping for this November.

Next week I have an image prompt and then the week after that is a response, but be sure to check back in on the 23rd for an update, and likely another on the 30th.

Happy prepping, planning, and writing, to all my fellow WriMos out there!

Introspection in Images: Fascinated by Decay 007

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I have always been fascinated by the decaying remains of human structures.

That sounds weirder when I say it out loud, but I always knew I was weird.

I love to take pictures of stone buildings being overgrown with ivy, old gravestones, wooden houses being reclaimed by nature.  Old monuments.  Mossy stones set up by ancient people.  It all fascinates me.

My first digital camera probably took more pictures of things like that, than it did people.  I have hundreds of photos from trips around town and around the world of the things humans have built that are now wasting away.

Today, I’ll share a few of them with you.  And I expect in later posts I’ll share some more.

I hope you can see the beauty in them that I do.

Image Prompt 068 – The Common Sense on the Team

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I chose the image of the statue (which I think it supposed to be either Atlas or Hercules) with the gorgeous tree behind it for my twenty-minute sprint this time.  I took this photo on a backpacker’s tour called the Welsh Dragon, which may have colored my response.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Common Sense on the Team:

Valerie was crouched at the toolbox when the cursing started again.  At least she assumed it was cursing.  Dr. Harrison was letting out a stream of angry words that Valerie assumed where in his native Welsh.  Even living in Cardiff for three years, she wasn’t usually fluent enough to catch one word in ten, and usually those were the numbers or articles anyway.

She stood up and looked back at the statue they’d set up around.  Dr. Harrison had actually climbed up on the pedestal and was using one hand on the head of the figure to balance while positioning the device over the sphere at the top.

Valerie saw immediately why he was cursing.  He’d gotten the device positioned properly, but couldn’t let go of it or the head of the statue without sending the device and likely himself, crashing back to the ground.

Valerie bent down again to grab the screwdriver she’d come for and hurried over to the statue, actually using the ladder they’d put up on the tree-side so they could reach the top of the sphere.

With quick, deft motions, she tightened down the screws that would stabilize the device and keep it in place on her side.

“I’ve got the device,” she said, making sure she had a solid grip on it with her free hand.  “Here’s the screwdriver,” she added, holding it out over where his hand was braced on the statue’s head.

“You’re a lifesaver as always,” Dr. Harrison said, laughing as he reached over to take the screwdriver with the hand not braced on the statue’s head.

“That’s because I’m just down to earth enough to plan my next move properly,” she replied, grinning.

He laughed so hard he almost fell off, but he still managed to finish with the screws and secure the device in place.  He leapt down as soon as he was done, whipping tears from his eyes.

“It’s not that funny,” she said primly as she came down the ladder.

“That’s the thing,” Dr. Harrison said, smiling over at her.  “It’s not funny at all, it’s true.  The other researchers and I have our heads so focused on the problem and the solution we’re trying to test, that we get a bit lost.  You’ve been our saving grace this entire project because you actually take a moment to look before we all leap and remind us to use safety measures and practical things like ladders.”

“I’m learning a lot,” she said, “so I don’t mind being the voice of common sense while I’m here.”  She was a few months of dissertation work away from being Dr. Valerie Tavish, but she kept putting it off because of the project.

“I think that’s everything for this site, isn’t it?” he asked as he returned the screwdriver to the toolbox in its proper place.  He was Valerie’s favorite of all the researchers on the project because he was willing to take the five seconds needed to read the labels and return tools to their proper homes.  It was so much easier to work when you could find all your tools without even looking.

“We should do a test start,” she suggested.

“Of course, of course,” Dr. Harrison replied, moving over to the Diviner Source Crystalline Matrix (or DSCM) that was positioned at the bottom of the statue and bolted to the sidewalk.

He flipped a few switches and there was a soft hum from the DSCM and then a sharp whine from the devise on top of the statue.  It glowed a soft green before Dr. Harrison flipped another switch and the color faded.

“That’s a success then,” he said.  “Where’s out next stop?”  He started packing away his books and returning the remaining tools to Valerie’s toolbox.

“Next is up in Scotland,” Valerie replied as she started carefully folding the ladder.  They would be back in her home turf, near where she’d completed her undergraduate degree and not far from where she’d grown up.  Not that there was much left of either place.

“It’ll be a few days’ journey then,” he replied, lifting the bags he usually took charge of during their trips.

“We can probably make it in two if we plan the route right and leave at first light each day,” Valerie replied.  She knew the paths, and all the shortcuts between England and Scotland, and she was fairly sure Dr. Harrison knew the same between Wales and England.  The could combine their knowledge and cut out a considerable amount of travel time.  Especially if they could avoid getting too close to London.  You have to travel much slower around the remains of the capital to remain unnoticed.

“I see you have some shortcuts in mind,” he replied with a laugh.  “I can get us to the border in about half a day of riding if we take the shortest route.  We won’t be able to stop at the primary University base for resupply if we got that way.”

“There’s a supply depot near the ruins of Edinburgh,” Valerie offered.  “I think our supplies will last a good four days, which gives us a buffer.

“Let’s get back to camp then and collect the bikes and the rest of our gear,” Dr. Harrison said.  “We’ve got a good four hours of daylight left, and there’s a good camping spot about three hours ride down our route, might as well get a head start.”

“Let’s go,” Valerie replied, following Dr. Harrison.