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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Writing by dice - how it works...

So, there I was, wondering whether I could actually write a story using the dice method.  And here it is.  An erudite, good-natured, sarcastic hero, with a child, wealthy, noble family and good looking, with a heroine who is spirited, pleasant, and determined with an absorbing hobby, poor as a church mouse, and attractive.  One of the incidents was meeting a carter ill-treating his pony.   The other was a letter from a relative, which I decided was from the heroine to the hero.

Here's how it panned out. [have now corrected all the howlers my voice recognition program put in, but have not yet figured out how to stop it putting caps after exclamation and question marks in speech...]
Ok, now I've been through it again and thanks to Colleen for picking up the ones I read right over. 

The Unexpected Librarian

“But Lynnie, you can’t!” wailed Mrs Ashe.
“Why not, Mama?  It relieves you of having to bring me out, and feeding me, and I shall have a regular wage into the bargain.  Frank will be able to stay at school.  We have to face it, Papa did not make sufficient provision for us, and I need to do something to earn a wage.  And I really do not wish to be a governess to some horrid girl who will get everything I had expected to have, and is featherheaded into the bargain.”
“Nobody would employ you as a governess; you are too young, and rather too pretty,” said Mrs Ashe.
“Precisely.  But to work as librarian to a second cousin who is a widower, and probably quite old, is much more to my liking,” said Jocelyn Ashe.
“But he thinks you’re a man!”  her mother expostulated.  “Only look – he has written to J. Ashe, esq.!”
“I cannot help it if my name is more usually given to boys,” said Jocelyn.  “I signed it honestly enough when I wrote to him.”
“So forward of you!”  her mother complained faintly.
“Yes, but needs must, and Adam, Baron de Curtney is a relation, however distant, and it behoves him to find gainful employment for impoverished relatives.  I told him I had catalogued my father’s library, and sent him a sample of the system I invented for so doing; and he has written back that he is impressed by it, and that such invention and industry deserves further education.”  She chuckled.  “I believe he is hinting that if I do well, he might sponsor me to Oxford.”
“The dreaming spires would fall at the thought,” said her mother.
“I fear so,” said Jocelyn, “though I wager that I have more brains than half the young men who may go there.”
“Undoubtedly,” sighed her mother.  “At least if he does not send you home again – as he might well, my love – you will not have to conceal your intelligence as you would if you had a season.”
Jocelyn looked affectionately at her mother.  It was from her mother that she had gained her love of books and she knew that her mother had been much irked to have to hide her own intellect in her own youth.

“My Lord, there is a young lady here to see you, who says you are expecting her,” Adam de Curtney’s butler, Hawtin, hesitated.  He went on, “and there is also a rather mangy pony about which she said she would explain.”
“She had better explain, for I will not brook anyone ill treating animals,” said Adam, grimly.  “But I am not expecting any young, er, lady.  Why did you not send her about her business?”
“She has a letter which is unquestionably in your hand, my Lord, and she is undoubtedly a lady,” said Hawtin.  “I placed her in the blue parlour.”
“Very well,” said Adam.  “Thank you, Hawtin.”

The young lady – Hawtin was right, she was definitely a lady, very young, and rather pretty – rose as Adam came in to the blue parlour.  She dropped a curtsy.
“I have arrived to take up my duties as you requested, my Lord,” Jocelyn said.  She was rather taken aback to see a very handsome man, who was by no means as old as she had expected.
Adam stared at her in consternation.
“I do not understand,” he said.  “I have no expectation of your arrival.”
Jocelyn laughed.
“Why, my Lord, what a bouncer!” she said. “We have been in correspondence; indeed I have your last letter inviting me here to catalogue your library.  I am Jocelyn Ashe.”
He stared, nonplussed.
“But … But you’re a girl!”  He managed.
“How very perspicacious of you, my Lord,” said Jocelyn.  “You were expecting a male Jocelyn?  I confess I was taken aback when you wrote to me as J. Ashe esq.”
“No, you were not,” said Adam.  “You anticipated the error.”
She twinkled at him.
“Well, perhaps,” she admitted.  “I feared you might not take a lady librarian seriously.”
“I should not have done,” said Adam, firmly.  “So, tell me, where did you obtain the cataloguing system you so glibly described?”
She flushed, angrily and frowned.
“I may have chosen to permit you to assume that I was male, my Lord, but I told no lies.  I invented it myself for my father’s collection, because he was not of bookish disposition.  I expect it will have to be sold if you will not employ me,” she said, sadly.
“And you will not make your come-out either,” he said cynically.
“Well, no, but what is that next to a really excellent library amassed over many generations?”  Said Jocelyn.  “Besides, the addition of Lord Evenmere’s incunabula that I persuaded papa to make an offer for, when the Lord Evenmere went bankrupt.  It was my eighteenth birthday gift,” she added.
“You asked for incanabula for your birthday?  Well, it explains why the incanabula were missing when his library was auctioned off.  I take it that this purchase was made prior to the sale of the rest of the library?”
“Yes, my Lord.  One of my school friends is the sister of Lord Evenmere’s secretary.  I was able to assess the collection and make an offer through her good offices,” said Jocelyn.  “Papa may have made no provision for us, but he was very generous.  This was why mama and I never realised how short of funds he was.  It seemed impolite to take over his finances as well as taking over his library, especially as we had no idea that his finances were in any wise in difficulty.”
“What an extraordinary girl you are!” said Adam.  Surely he could not employ a female to catalogue his library?  And yet the system, if it were indeed hers, seemed quite remarkably good.
He shot some pertinent questions at her regarding the cataloguing.
Jocelyn answered with aplomb, and fully.  She knew what she was talking about.
“Very well,” he said.  “I will give you a trial; if I am not satisfied with you after a month, then I shall send you home.  But I will make a firm offer for your incanabula if I cannot employ you.”
“That seems fair, my Lord,” said Jocelyn.  “I cannot see that you would not be satisfied, so I may rest assured of retaining my collection.”
“I should like to see it sometime though,” said Adam.  “I believe it is said to include a handwritten copy of Chaucer’s tales, with a tale as yet unconfirmed as one of the collection.”
“It does, and I should be glad if you would look at that tale, my Lord.”  She grimaced slightly.  “I should like an expert to see it, since I am convinced that it is spurious, and may have been an attempt at forgery in the past perhaps by some earlier member of the family.  Either that, or they were taken in by it.  The quality of the parchment feels slightly different to the rest of the tales, and the illumination style is not precisely similar to the rest.”
“Fascinating, even so,” said Adam, disappointed, but not surprised.  “Now, there was one other matter… I believe there was a pony in rather poor condition…”
“Oh yes, my Lord!”  A sparkle of anger came into Jocelyn’s eyes as she turned her thoughts to the pony.  However, before she could answer further, the door burst open and a tiny child of about four or five years old came running in.
“Papa, I could not come before but Cousin Lynnie here, has taken a pony away from a bad man, and it needs to get well, as please my I ride it all for my own?”
Adam raised an eyebrow.
“You have already met, er, Cousin Jocelyn?”  He queried.
“Yes, Papa, on the drive, while I was out for my walk with Lindy, but she wanted me to change before I came to see you.  There are tadpoles in the lake,” said the child, “and it’s a bit muddy.”
“My daughter, Georgiana,” Adam murmured to Jocelyn.  “Miss Linders is an indulgent nursemaid, and I should not have it any other way.  I will look at the pony, Geegee, now back you run to Lindy.”
Georgiana put up her face for a kiss, and received one from her father, and ran over to Jocelyn too.  Jocelyn promptly bestowed one, and the child ran off, satisfied.
“A bad man?”  Adam raised an eyebrow.
“He was beating of the poor pony because the cart would not move; it was stuck in a rut.  So I shouted at him, and told him,” she flushed, “oh dear, it sounds like Puss in Boots, and the Marquis of Carabas, because I said my cousin, Lord de Curtney, would pay him a fair price.  I thought you could dock it from my wages,” she added.
“What, you value the beast above books?”
“I could not permit the poor creature to suffer, could I?” said Jocelyn.  “But you will not be obliged to pay a penny, for he went white, and told me to just take the pony.  He added an adjective that I did not understand,” she added.
“Just as well; this is the carter who works out of the Red Lion,” said Adam grimly.  “I threatened him, last time I caught him mistreating his animal, that if he ill-treated any more, I would horsewhip him, and throw him in the pond.  I take it, therefore, that your luggage is still at the Red Lion?”
“Yes; bringing the pony somewhere where he might be fed and watered, cooling him by walking him here, seemed a good idea,” said Jocelyn.
He nodded.
“I like your priorities,” he said.  “I will have your luggage collected.”

Jocelyn found Adam’s library something of a challenge, as portions of it, which overlapped, had already been catalogued using a selection of very different systems, which were not compatible.  However, she worked assiduously on it.
Adam would sometimes come in to see how Jocelyn was getting on, but schooled himself to stay away, in case she felt he was hovering with the intention of criticism.  As Jocelyn shared her advances with him over tea, each day, he felt no need to pry into her work.  When he walked into the library looking for a book, and was able to lay his hand on it almost immediately, the efficacy of her system was definitely vindicated.
Often in her breaks, Jocelyn would take walks in the thin spring sunshine, and sometimes in light showers too.  When it was fine, she often met Lindy and Georgiana, out for a walk. Sometimes she saw Georgiana riding the pony, under the guidance of a groom, once the pony was deemed well enough for the little girl to ride him. When they were walking, Jocelyn usually made a point of speaking with Georgiana. 
“I want to read proper books!” declared Georgiana one day.  “Lindy only has baby books.”
“Can you read them all?”  Asked Jocelyn.  As one of her reasons for needing a job had been the desire to keep her much younger brother in school, she had some experience of small children.  Frank had been impatient over learning to read, and had burst into angry tears when he was not able to read the newspaper the same day he had started to learn his alphabet!
Georgiana appeared to suffer the same impatience, for she scuffed the toe of her shoe into the gravel of the drive.
“No,” she said in a small voice.
“Dear me!” said Jocelyn.  “These things take a lot of practice, you know.  Perhaps Lindy will let me come up to the nursery after tea, and if you work hard to read for me, I will tell you a good night story.”
Georgiana brightened.
“Oh yes!” she said.
“It’s up to Lindy,” warned Jocelyn.
Miss Linders looked gratified.
“If you would, Miss Ashe, I would be delighted,” she said.
Jocelyn privately suspected that Georgiana rode the poor woman ragged, not from any deliberate naughtiness, but because Lindy had not the heart to say ‘no’ very often, and Georgiana was strong minded enough to be in danger of becoming a nursery tyrant.

It turned out that Georgiana had indeed been mutinous about learning her letters, as she wanted to learn whole words.
“Tell me, Geegee,” said Jocelyn, “what is this house built of?”
“Stone,” said Georgiana.
“Stone, indeed,” said Jocelyn.  “And the stone is in big blocks, isn’t it?”  Georgiana nodded, and Jocelyn went on, “Do you think the men who built it could pick up all the house at once?”
“’Course not,” said Georgiana.
“Well, reading is a lot like that.  The sounds the letters say are the stones, that can build anything.  When you know how all the stones work, reading becomes easy.”
“Oh,” said Georgiana, thoughtfully.
“Then let us read through ‘A – apple, B – bit it,” said Jocelyn, “and you point to the letters you know, and tell me what part of the word they are saying.”
Georgiana was a clever child, and soon became excited.  She cried out,
“B – I – T, bit,” she said, and added “and you can make C –A –T, cat!”
“You can,” said Jocelyn.  “See you’ve done some building for yourself, and that means that you are starting to understand how to use the sound-stones.”
Jocelyn had not noticed the nursery door opening, and the tall figure of Adam coming quietly in.  She closed the book.
“And now, I will tell you a story,” she said.  “A story about a wizard who built a castle with magic, just by saying the word ‘stone’ for every block.”
“S – T – O – N?” asked Georgiana.
“Aha!  Now we use a bit of word magic there,” said Jocelyn, “for that would be ‘ston’ which has no meaning.  But magic -e on the end of the word makes the letters in the middle say their name, not their sound, so it is S – T – O – N – and magic –e.”
Georgiana clapped her hands.
Jocelyn told the tale of a wizard who had built his castle, but forgot to leave a door to go in; she told how he had to ask for help to knock through a doorway, and how a clever builder had showed him how to build an archway with a keystone to hold up.  She explained that this was just like the main front doorway to Georgiana’s own house.
Georgiana was getting sleepy by the time Jocelyn had finished, and Lindy whisked the little girl off to get undressed.
“Papa!” cried Georgiana as she saw her father.
“I will kiss you good night presently,” said Adam.  “Miss Ashe, why do you blush so furiously?  You have done nothing wrong.”
“I was wondering how long you had been listening to my foolish story,” said Jocelyn.
“But it was not foolish, it was quite charming!” said Adam.  “A lesson in reading, an excellent object lesson in asking people when you need help, a bit of engineering, all in an interesting tale.  Geegee is a lucky little girl.  Do you suppose you could take on some duties in teaching her?” he asked, abruptly.
“I am not sure if I would wish to give up being a librarian for being a governess full-time, if that is what you are asking,” said Jocelyn.
“No, no, not at all!  I am perfectly satisfied with your work in the library, but there are now less duties there, and I hope you might let me pay you for an hour or two every day, to teach Georgiana.  I do not want her to have a full-time governess yet.”
“Then in that case, I am happy to accept,” said Jocelyn.  “She is a delightful child, but a trifle wilful.”
He pulled a grimace.
“Lindy is indulgent, which I like, but Georgiana needs to learn discipline too,” he said.
“Indeed, but not the sudden transition to a governess.  Lindy is such a lovely person, but Georgiana is a stubborn child, I think,” said Jocelyn.
“She takes after her father,” said Adam, dryly.  “And you handle her very well.”
“My little brother is eight,” said Jocelyn.  “I know about stubborn children!  I will need to work with Lindy on this, so that we give Georgiana a good balance in her day.”
Lindy, listening in trepidation behind the door, relaxed.  She was not to be turned off!
“Indeed, I do not know what I would have done without Lindy,” agreed Adam.  “Geegee minds Lindy most of the time, you know!”
“She would not be such a happy child if she were not in the habit of obedience,” said Jocelyn.  “But she is trying the limits.  It is far easier for a newcomer to impose those limits.”
“You are wise,” said Adam.  “Thank you!”

Georgiana proved an apt pupil, but Jocelyn was thankful of having the experience of having listened to the family governess dealing with her brother’s stubbornness!  Jocelyn was able to ask, “Shall we do sums first, or reading?” making the question of whether to do sums merely a question of being before, or after, Georgiana’s preferred lesson of reading.  Discipline was easy enough, for Georgiana responded very well to a threat of withholding such privileges as riding her pony.

Adam felt Jocelyn to be a blessing; she had restored order to the chaos of his library, and had arrived at just the right time to prevent Georgiana from becoming spoilt.  How could he have considered sending her away!  However, a visit from the vicar and his wife disturbed Adam greatly, and after they had left, he sent for Jocelyn.

Jocelyn tripped cheerfully into Adam’s study.
“I have a list of those books which will need a proper restorer,” she said.  “I am not qualified to do it myself, though if you permit, I shall watch, and try to learn.  Why, what is wrong, Sir?”  As she saw his bleak face.
“I have to send you away,” said Adam harshly.
Her face went white, and her eyes held the expression like a whipped puppy.
“Why?  I thought you were satisfied with what I have done!  I know Georgiana became rather muddy when we made a model of England in that big puddle, but…”
He held up a hand.
“You give perfect satisfaction,” he said, reflecting how adorable she had looked with tendrils of hair escaping her cap, and a smudge of mud on her nose, after Georgiana’s excursions into geography.  He went on, “the vicar’s wife has pointed out that as a man who has no wife I am damaging your reputation, a lone woman in my household.”
“Old cat,” said Jocelyn, in shock.  “But I am not a lone woman in your household.  I have an adequate chaperone in Lindy.  And may I ask how come the vicar’s wife has never worried about her reputation before I came?”
“Perhaps she feels that Lindy is old enough not to count,” said Adam dryly.  “I am glad that I can point out that Lindy is your chaperone; I cannot think how I came to forget that.  Shock I suppose.  I presume there has been talk because you are young and pretty.”
“And Lindy cannot be over forty; and mama was almost forty when Frank was born, so papa must still have felt her quite suitable for … such things as occur between men and women,” she blushed.  “If you ask me, it is nothing more than interference, and jealousy, because that old besom thrusts her muffin-faced daughter at you at every opportunity.”
“She does, does she?”  Said Adam.  “I am dense!  Why, it was an attempt to blackmail me into marrying her daughter, supposedly to preserve your countenance.”
“And if you ask me, the reason that young woman is still on the shelf isn’t so much a lack of looks, because anyone contented has their own inner beauty, but because she has a sour disposition,” said Jocelyn.  “Disappointed in love perhaps.”
“She threw herself at my head when she was first out,” said Adam, dryly.  “However I was always going to marry Letty Lorimer, Georgiana’s mother.”
“Did you love her very much?” asked Jocelyn a little wistfully.
He considered.
“We were good friends,” he said.  “It sounds a little lukewarm, but we could laugh together.  I loved her, but I never felt any overwhelming passion.  We just always expected to get married,” he laughed, “and though we had a private pact to release each other from our parents’ plans if we met the love of our life, it never happened.  And we were happy,” he said softly.  “She had such plans for our children; she wanted to teach them herself at first.  But we only had Georgiana.  She would have approved of you,” he added.
“Oh, Adam, I wish I had known her,” said Jocelyn.
“In a way, so do I,” said Adam, “but then, I might not have learned to love you, Lynnie.”
Jocelyn’s heart beat faster.
“Oh, Adam!”  She said.  “Even if you only want me as a mother for Georgiana…”
“I don’t,” said Adam, savagely, “I want you,” and he came round his desk to pull her into his arms to kiss her.
Jocelyn realised that perhaps this was what the vicar’s wife had anticipated, but she did not, in the least, consider the situation worth protesting.
Inevitably, Georgiana walked in on the embrace.
“Papa, I… Why are you cuddling Cousin Lynnie?” she asked.  “Has she hurt herself?”
“No, sweetheart,” said Adam.  “How would you like Cousin Lynnie to be your new mama?”
Georgiana considered that.
“She won’t stop teaching me, will she?” she demanded.
“It’s one of the important things mamas do, to teach people,” said Jocelyn, who was blushing.
“Oh, good.  I’d like Cousin Lynnie to be my mama, then,” said Georgiana.  “Papa, Lindy let me play rescuing her from highwaymen, but I can’t untie her.”
“Why did you tie her up in the first place?” asked Adam.
“Because she was napkinned by highwaymen,” said Georgiana, unanswerably.
“I think you mean kidnapped, and are a bit muddled, darling,” said Jocelyn.  “Highwaymen just steal things.  Shall we go and rescue Lindy?”

Lindy was very pleased to be rescued from a rather spidery coach, in the back of the coach house, where she had been ‘napkinned’.  She was delighted when Adam begged her to be the first to wish him happy.
“Oh, I am so pleased!” she said.  “Of course, not unexpected … Oh Miss Ashe, you will want your mother here!”
“Hah!  Of course, the very thing!” said Adam.  “If Mrs Williams does not consider Lindy a suitable chaperone, she cannot take exception to Mrs Ashe!  And I shall let her stew before the betrothal is announced!”
“Adam, you are a bad man!” laughed Jocelyn.
“Yes,” agreed Adam, “and when she proses on about the vanity of choosing someone as young as you, I will tell her that I am only marrying you for your incanabula.”
“Aren’t you?” said Jocelyn, peeping at him from under her lashes.
“No, you minx; I am marrying you because I adore you,” said Adam, kissing her again.
It was only later that Adam reflected with amusement that the vicar’s wife probably had no idea what incanabula were, and would probably think it highly improper.  That  pleased him no end!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Writing by dice...I've been guest blogging!

Anna Thane, an accomplished Regency historian and writer, kindly asked me to write a blog for her on using random chance to encourage plot bunnies:  please find it HERE

Thursday, 20 March 2014

New project - a whole Regency Series!

I've got a big, exciting new writing project on hand! And it's partly down to mum being ill, and needing entertaining that I'm getting stuck right in there...

Now I enjoy the lighthearted Regencies of M.C. Beaton, who has written a heap of stories that stand alone but are part of a six-book series that interconnect, with some characters running through all of them.  And they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  So, I've started the first of a 6 - or maybe more - part series, opening in 1809 to be called the Charity School Series.

The first book, Elinor's Endowment, opens with a young woman, Elinor, who has always been given to believe that she will not survive past 30 with inherited heart disease deciding to endow a school for impoverished orphaned gentlewomen.  She wants to see it running before she dies, however, and as well as her own governess, Libby, as Headmistress, she engages a blunt Scots doctor who informs her that there's nothing wrong with her that fresh air, good food and exercise won't cure.  As both he and Elinor are very stubborn people, sparks fly from the first, and continue throughout the book as pupils arrive. 

Book 2 is Ophelia's Opportunity; a young lady left destitute applies for a post in the Charity School, to keep her younger brothers in their own schooling.  She becomes very close to the youngest orphan pupil, close in age to her own brothers.  This pupil however develops a father who has been trying to track his daughter down since he returned from the war. 

Book 3 is Abigail's Adventure; one of the orphans is told she has relatives she knew nothing about.  They offer to give her a Season.  However, there appears to be an ulterior motive in their generosity, and Abigail finds herself relying more and more on her guardians' nephew...

Book 4 is Marianne's Misanthrope.  Marianne was orphaned and had no skills to speak of outside being a lady; her branch of the family had been disowned by the main branch.  Her education is sponsored however by someone she knows only through his solicitor as Uncle Silas, who his the other branch of the family, on condition that she writes to him weekly with her progress.  Marianne learns to dislike him less through the letters she receives in return, and is glad to have a relative when one of her father's creditors decides that she is the means to pay off an old debt...

Book 5 is Francine's Fear.  Francine is the child of emigrĂ©s and she does not know of any relatives in England.  When a most dodgy cousin turns up and wants to use an innocent young girl to further his spying, however, Francine must choose whether to be terrorised by him, or confess the whole to Miss Libby Freemantle.  I'm currently wondering whether to cross over this with The Unwilling Viscount and use the government agent left at a loose end in that....

Book 6 is Libby's Luck.  Libby Freemantle was not many years older than her charge, Elinor, and though the school has run successfully she is still a handsome woman not yet 30.  She may have given up all hope of marriage, but it does not stop her being much disturbed by the new trustee, who believes in taking a closer interest in the school than merely overseeing its fiscal arrangements.