Lessons Learned

What a great month with the Spring Cleaning Challenge!

I’ve edited half my story so far and while there are major plot points I need to redo and minor character enhancement, overall my story doesn’t blow chunks as I previously believed.

This month taught me so much more than I’d planned.

I learned that the skinny, beautiful perfectionist trapped inside my current frame doesn’t know half as much as she likes to believe. I learned laughter really is the best medicine and mixed with wine can do wonders.

No seriously. I learned I’m not perfect and while it’s hard to let go-it’s okay-I won’t die of embarrassment, anger or shame. I learned I can grow as long as I give myself the right to make mistakes, and then promptly forgive myself, on the way of enhancing my skills.

I learned nothing is quite as awful as you first judge. I learned I’m my biggest critic, but also my biggest fan.  I learned editing doesn’t have to be equivalent to poking my eye out with a fork anymore then walking two miles a day does.  I learned if you want results you have to be willing to do the work.  HARD WORK! (Perhaps outlines are on my horizon after all.)

But most of all, I learned the journey doesn’t have to be full of solitary pain, angst and avoidance.

Sharing my work here on HerStoryCalls with some great friends has been an extremely humbly and wonderful experience. Freeing. So thank you!

I hope you find/share the same enjoyment and pleasure in writing as I. May your words flow like meandering streams and your love hold with constant passion.

Seize your pen and write!

Sláinte my friends, you deserve it!

Advertisements

Spring Cleaning Challenge #4

Welcome back to my Spring Cleaning Challenge!

While editing, I’ve learned my story starts in the wrong place and I need to throw them into action together faster. Rewrite! lol. Although this is common and don’t fret if you discover the same in your story. IT’S OKAY!

I hope everyone is working hard and having fun like me! Spring Cleaning never felt so good.

This week, I picked a chapter where Athena and the Mad Duke, “Stratton” aka Savage just met.

Quick Setup:

Athena has forced her way into the Duke’s home, thinking he is the Savage mentioned in her brother’s letter. Confronted with the “mad” Duke, she must fight to gain his trust and learn his secrets.

###

           “Start explaining what’s so bloody damn important, or I will toss you out.”  Stratton covered up his instant attraction the only way he knew how, by command. The words came out exactly like he wanted; cool, abrupt, harsh.  His body’s temperature though shot up, when Athena ran a hand down her bare neck drawing his attention towards her plentiful cleavage.

          The minx was trying to seduce him? “You have three seconds.”

          A mixture of emotions ran across her face and she fisted her delicate hands. Good, she thought him a rude beast. Focus on that and not how smooth and creamy her skin appeared.

           “I am here for your services.”  Her large golden-colored eyes widened as much.    Fascinating, she hadn’t meant to say such provocative words, but Stratton was a strategist and willing to dominate her weakness. Anything to hasten her departure.

          “My services?”  He couldn’t stop his instant look of interest that roamed over her body, soft as a lover’s touch and made her blush red as a cherry tomato, any more than he could stop breathing. Dressed in high fashion, she was a lady. So what was she doing here? And what game was she playing?

          She bit her lip and looked ready to cry.

          Excellent.

          “Your Grace. I did not phrase myself correctly,” her head shook side to side causing her light brown hair to shimmer in the sparse light.  Her hand rose and she pointed one finger at him reclining in the chair. “While I’m flattered, you took my words out of context.”

          Their gaze caught and he swore he saw her lips twitch in amusement before she quickly repressed them and looked down. Fine, he’d let her think she had the upper hand. What harm could come?

           “Explain, my services, you do want?” he repeated slowly and stretching out his legs, opening them ever so slightly almost touching her shoe.

          Her head jerked up and the smile, diminished. “I apologize. I don’t normally act so outspoken or forward. My only excuse is I am out of sorts from the long journey.”

          He doubted both statements, but inclined his head anyway.

          Moving her foot away, she straightened. “I will start at the beginning. My brother is missing. He never returned home from the war. The letters he sent to me led me here.”

          This was not good. How could this slip of a girl find him when he was supposedly dead? By letter was impossible. “Here? I fear you are mistaken.”

          Her eyes narrowed. “There is a good possibility you know my brother. He was last seen and heard of in France?”

          He tried to hide any discomfort at her words. The last thing he wanted was to be involved in a hunt for a dead solider. No matter how attractive the sister was. And France would only be a suicide mission. “Your point? I don’t see how I can be of assistance. Contact his commanding officer.

           “I feel I’ll have better luck with you since you were mentioned in his letter. He saw you command a charge that probably won the battle. The letter was the last one I ever received and since he admired you so I figured he’d had sought you out. You could tell me if you knew what has happened to him.”

          “How do you know I’m the same man mentioned in the letter?”

          “Although, he called Savage, when I heard your full name, James Savage Stratton, I had to come to see if you and that person were the one and same. Everyone assumes he’s dead, but I know that’s not the truth.”

          “He referred to me as Savage?” Abruptly standing, all thoughts of her beauty and seduction were doused. A cold feeling swept inside, making him on guard and alert. “What kind of letter are you referring?”

          “Personal correspondence. My brother wrote whenever he was able”

          Trying not to appear overly concerned, he examined the beauty sitting so blasé in his study. Her sudden presence in his home could be associated with the recent attacks against him. The many missions he’d been associated with in the past had been sent in letters, but no civilian should know of his secret identity. Was it possible that she was a spy trying to get information? The war was over, but many that were still fighting their own personal wars. Just how far was she willing to go to get information; was she willing to use her body?

          Could he withstand?

          She went on, oblivious to his mistrustful thoughts or an excellent actress. “My brother mentioned your courage and how much he respected you. He called you Savage. Only I could never find anyone with that last name, believe me I looked for the past year. But then it really isn’t your last name, but your middle. It explains why I could never find you.”

          He remained silent.

          Her head tilted and in a hesitant voice asked, “You did serve in the war? In the cavalry?”

           While the urge to play words games was considered, yet the sooner she was gone the better. The small chance she was a spy would over shadow his focus on more important matters needing his concern. “I do not discuss personal matters with anyone, let alone a female that showed up uninvited on my doorstop. Since I’m feeling charitable, I’ll make exception since you went to the trouble of traveling so far since I’m feeling charitable. I did serve in the war, in the cavalry, but I was never called savage. Except for perhaps by my nanny,” he smiled sardonically while the intense need to prowl seized him.

          “That’s it? That’s all you wish to say?” She watched him with curious eyes.        “What do you wish me to say?” Suddenly, he was disappointed in his hasty decision to not find out who she was and what she might know. Was it possible she was behind the attack in France that killed the general?

          As he continued to watch her, the desire to keep her there shot like a wave through his body. The lack of control showed him that he was weak against her beauty and would be too deadly to let her stay near. He turned away in self-abomination. He hated to feel weak. No one had had this effect on him since he was an adolescent and he did not care for it one bit.

          “You’re not insane,” just pigheaded  Athena muttered under her breath, “just pig-headed.”

          “What!” Certain this time of what he heard, not like in the parlor before, he swung around and stared incredulously at the gumption she showed.

          “I can see where this is headed, Your Grace. That is what I said.” She nodded once and sniffed into her handkerchief held up a hand trying to calm him. “Please, reconsider your harsh attitude and try to remember anything that you can about the River Nivelle and Clavinets Heights. Who you might have met there-”

          “I am not insane.” Why he felt justified to add, he knew not. To care what others thought drained too much common sense.

          “Just pigheaded,” slipped between her perfect white teeth before she could stop herself.   At least she could have the decency to look embarrassed.

          “Blast, I did not mean to say that. Well, I did. But not so you could hear. I’m afraid I sometimes speak before I think things through.” She lifted her chin as she replied, “I am ruining my chances of gaining your help every time I speak, aren’t I?”

          “My hide is tougher than that, do not worry.”  He replied, oddly amused by her frankness. And the opposite was true, the more she spoke the more she was winning her chances with him. A spy would not be so gauche. Yet, he wanted her to have no hope and choose his next words carefully. “I do not talk of my time at war. What is done is done. It is over and I will not open the wounds.” He sat back down with a slash of his hand.

          She tilted her blond head in interest.

          And before he knew it, he heard himself explain, “Someone such as you doesn’t need to hear about the carnage I have witnessed. I spent a long time in war, was wounded, then came home. I try not to think about it. That’s all I have to say.”

          She nodded in sympathy and he frowned.

          He clearly didn’t want her understanding. He wanted her anger. “I don’t know anyone from the last battle. They all died.”

          “All?”

          “Yes. All.”

          “I wonder the real reason for such bitterness. Is it because of the wounds you suffered or that you survived? I have a good friend back in London who feels useless and stays drunk most of the time due to his wound.”

          How dare she. He leaned forward with a black stare. “Do not imply as if you knew me. And I’m not useless.”

          “Prove it. Help me.”

          Christ, he’d fallen neatly into her trap. “First, I was insane, now I am wounded beyond repair. And you want my help? What does that make you?”

          “Determined.” She reached over and patted him.

          She irritated the hell out of him. He clenched his fists to keep them from breeching the distance between them and strangling her.

          “I only say those things because I have a feeling you would rather deal with honesty.”

          She was right. Damn her. “I can’t help you. I’m wounded, useless and insane.”

          “We both know that’s not true. Now’s your chance to prove to them that you’re not. Help me, help you.”

          “How could you help me?”

          “Marry me.”

 

           

Spring Cleaning Challenge #3

The story is emerging. I’m half way through my edits and still working hard. Spring cleaning has been good! I hope it has been great for you, too! 😉

I’ve continued where I left off last week, but next Thursday’s selection I’m looking for some suggestions. Would you like to see action? the first meeting? the juicy middle? a black moment? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Chapter 1 (continued)

The carriage ride to the party was unusually quiet. The streets went by PASSED in a haze of worries and perturbed scenarios. Athena could not pinpoint the exact reason. She leaned back and closed her eyes PLANNING WHAT SHE WAS GOING TO SAY.  HOW WAS SHE GOING TO APPROACH THE MAN SHE THOUGHT WAS THE SAVAGE, AND GET THE ANSWERS SHE SOUGHT? Athena knew there THERE HAD TO BE something she’d overlooked IN Pool’s letters. or missed in them. So far, any clue at that still eluded her. She had found nothing that she had not read thousands of times in the past. There was simply no OTHER lead in which to pursue. All she knew was POLL had been close to Toulouse, France, during a bloody battle and then…he’D had simply disappeared. She looked over the thousands that were listed dead and yet his name had not been among them. She’d BEEN TOLD TO LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE had no where to go from there, she had been told countless times. First, by her father, then second by Poll’s commander. ThAT dolt had replied with a blank look WHEN CONFRONTED, AND he couldn’t remember anything other than all the confusion that happened around him. With a BACKHANDED WAVE, she’d been ordered to return home and have her father LOOK INTO take care of the matter.

Was the man from the letter truly a barbarian-a Savage-with a long beard and a limerick voice or was the nickname just meant to scare the enemy? HIS NAME INTRIGUED HER, BUT Yet that, too, turned out to be a THE mystery WAS KILLING HER. NO SUCH There was no officer in Great Britain that carried that surname. NONE serving as a commander at the time of Poll’s disappearance or any other time during the war. She knew this because she had written to all and received the same response from them. Just dozens of notes stating, ‘Sorry for your loss, oh, and I have never heard of your commander. Best of regards’.  (WILL USE IN DIALOGUE LATER) THIS PARTY WAS IN HONOR OF THE MEN WHO’D FOUGHT AND THEY WOULD BE UNDER ONE RESIDENCE FOR COMMEMORATION. AN OPPORTUNITY SHE’D NEVER GET AGAIN.

THE CARRIAGE STOPPED. TRAFFIC ALREADY BACKED UP AND ALL THEY COULD DO WAS WAIT IN LINE.

She fought off her annoyance. of not knowing where to go from here. She looked over and saw her friend staring out the window with a smile. She did not want to disappoint Kit on her first carriage ride alone and focused on being less sullen. She tried to be chipper as she broke the silence.

“I still feel like a Christmas goose every time I appear at one of these events. Lying in the center of a table on display dressed with just enough garnishes to look nice-right before it’s carved in TO little pieces.”  She dropped her wrap and began to fidget with the top of her gown. It was slipping below the top of her bosom again, and she hoped it would stay in correct position throughout the Ball. The dressmaker had assured her it would.

She, however, still remained doubtful. (TRYING TO SHOW SHE NEVER TAKES ANYONE’S WORD)

“The clothes I MARY HAS have purchased for fashion’s sake in the last months are staggering. How did I get talked into this dress anyhow?” She sighed and rolled her arms to see if the dress would indeed hold during the stress. Not meaning to wear this fluff outside of the house, she’d been pleasing Aunt Mary and with her departure, ATHENA She had foolishly tried it on before becoming HAD BECOME engrossed in her letters. She had only placed her THE wrap around her NOW WAS for the chill in her Aunt’s house was too much. She was used to a fire in every room back home. Her Aunt was strict on SINCE the fire COULD only be lit after dark or on a dreary day. All the days in London were dreary, so how could onE classify when it truly was? She wondered with another pluck at her dress front. The time had vanished and before she knew it, she was being dragged down the steps in haste of not arriving late, without changing.

Kit glanced over at the dress in question. She gave a small jerk in her seat for she was shocked at the sight she was beholding. Athena was wearing the dress. “Oh, Oh, my word, look at you. You’re wearing the dress.”

“Oh, yes, the dress,” Athena muttered wiggling side to side. The impulse buy backfired. (DON’T BELIEVE THIS IS HISTORICALLY CORRECT-NEED NEW WORD)

Kit fluttered her eyelashes innocently. “If you did not want to be on display, why did you purchase it in the first place besides just to nettle your father? If it makes you feel better just think you’re not wasting your money now that you have decided to wear it. And just imagine how your father will foam at the mouth after he hears of this.”

“You portray yourself so sweetly. But you’re not.” Athena laughed and pictured her father’s red blotchy face becoming more so when he heard about her little girl displaying her goods. Then sighed as she thought of what would happen afterwards. Yelling. Lots of yelling. “It seemed like an excellent enough reason at the time.” She let her breath and looked down in frustration at the slipping dress. “Now, I don’t think even I can carry it through. It is too revealing. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and, well, cheap.” She glared at Kit’s laugh. “Well, it does. And it was absolutely not worth the price I paid, no matter what you claim about the dressmaker. I should never have been talked into going there by you and your mother. I could have purchased a new horse for the same price as this scrap of cloth that hardly covers…well you know.”

Kit hid her laugh at Athena’s discomfort. It wasn’t everyday that Athena let herself become embarrassed. And one certainly didn’t hear about it. It could be a milestone towards her character. Reassuring her friend, she added, “Yes, dear, but you have plenty of horses already. Besides, this is much more fun and exciting. It’s the new fashion, but if you insist we could go back so you could change. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”  (DELETE POV SWITCH)

Athena shook her head, crossing her arms in front of her. Nothing would make her comfortable, not until she found out about her brother. “You can’t tell me about fun PLEASURE until you experience some yourself.”

“I don’t know. I’m having an excellent time.” Kit gave a gracious smile and pointed.

Athena glanced down and saw her gown folded out and displaying the top of her bosom. Arms quickly dropped and she glared out the window.  Tonight was going to be a disaster.

Kit pleasantly continued, “You’re right about feeling like a goose for dinner. All the men will want to gobble you up the minute they lay eyes on you. But you resemble a swan more than a goose.”

KIT’S COMPLIMENT MADE HER more UNCOMFORTABLE. AND SHE began to fidget with the dress’s neckline now that she was self-conscious.  What if she went to hug GREET someone and THE FLIMSY SCRAP fell around her waist. Oh, the women of the Ton would love that. The troublemaker making a scandal and all of them would have grounds in which to publicly shun her. Well, they did that anyway, but this would make it much more justified, rather then they just didn’t like what she had to say.

“At least you do not need to be stuffed as a goose would.” She pointed at Athena’s ample assets as the carriage stopped.

Athena gasped, “Kit! I’VE never have heard YOU TALK you say such nonsense.”

“Yes, well, I have been your friend for over fourteen years and I guess you have tarnished me in the process.”

Athena didn’t know if that was a compliment or an insult. She knew exactly what Kit’s mother thought of her and was surprised their friendship had lasted this long. She touched Kit and said, “I enjoy it when you leave your corset strings untied. However, I never understood why you only act this way in my presence when no one else is around to witness it? The minute we go out in society you close back up.”

Kit waved her words away for she knew they were true, AND continued, “Think of Alison Smith and how jealous she will be when she sees you surrounded by all eligible suitors and, of course, with Medland. He’s never far from your side. You know how she feels about him.”

John Medland was a dear friend from their childhood. He was a menace. “Oh, that’s reassuring. At least, someone will be just as miserable as I will be.” She looked down in anger. “Some would be glad to be so well endowed. Must of the time they get in the way and, yet, when I need them, they fail me of holding up my dress.”

Kit giggled, covering up her mouth.

Athena snorted and then joined her best friend IN LAUGHTER. Kit’s humor was rare and she would have been more pleased if the circumstances were different. Perhaps she would go back and change? She glanced down again and the thought of the flat-chested Miss Smith and her animosity towards Athena. The cause of her dislike was unknown, but she stayed away from her like as much as possible. She couldn’t even remember if they had ever spoken to one another? However, Athena did so enjoy not doing the proper thing and decided to wear the dress. She couldn’t help it and started to laugh as she tried to imagine Alison’s expression. Turning a bright smile to Kit, she replied, “Thank you for cheering me up, as usual.” She reached for Kit’s hand. “I know exactly why I love you. You’re an absolute darling.”

Kit nodded and glanced away.

Athena, with one more pull, finished adjusting her neckline. She was ready to face one of the things she hated most. Society gatherings. She didn’t realize she looked very much like a princess, before she ruined the likeness when she flapped her arms. Just like the goose mentioned, causing them both to break out in hysterical laughter. Gathering their composure at the sudden knock on their carriage door, the ladies were helped out of their barouche into the driveway of one of the oldest estates of London. The weathered stone manor graced the city with its beauty. For once Athena was not reminded of the dank pungent odor that usually lay suspended over the populated city.

Spring Cleaning Challenge

April is just around the corner and a favorite month of mine for personal reasons. Yep, I’m a fiery Aries! 🙂

This year for my birthday I’m doing something new.

I’m giving myself the Spring Cleaning Challenge. What a great present, huh? A gift to myself from myself. And I dare anyone who wishes to participate to jump in armed with an arsenal of cleaning supplies and an open mind to do their own onslaught.

House cleaning not your thing? Well, who said anything about house cleaning!

I’m talking about dusting off that old MANUSCRIPT.

The one that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was tossed into the deep, dark corner of the back drawer. The one you always wanted to return to, but forgot completely, or didn’t know how to polish and shine. Have one? Have two? Oh, I know you do. Unfortunately, I have about six. 😉

Remember, no shame or guilt for this project.

Okay, did you pick one yet? Now, I want you to reread your creation straight through. Do not edit anything. That’s right. Don’t edit. Read the book in total, making notes in a notebook about chapters, scenes, missing data, dialogue anything that you notice. Write down your overall impression. What’s good-what’s not. What’s missing-what kicks ass. Etc…and then get ready to share.

Starting in April I’m going open up to the writing community and post my thoughts and feelings about my work and hope you’ll do the same.

I’m going to rework my p.o.s into something I can submit to an agent or editor and make me a proud momma once again.

Each week I will post a chapter or bits I love, or perhaps hate, and ask for advice and a helping hand for spots I’m really struggling with.  Perhaps we’ll have a drawing at the end of the month for a special somethin’,  somethin’  to anyone who leaves comments. <Suggestions welcomed>

Anyone is free to join me and post their own journey. The more the merrier. At least we can give each other moral support and cry on each other’s shoulders when needed.

So who’s with me on the Spring Cleaning Challenge?

Look out April, cuz we’re cleaning! <too bad it won’t be the house, snicker>