Monday, 11 October 2010

Hook, Line & Sinker blogfest!

This blogfest is kindly hosted by Justin -  the title speaks for itself! 

Hence this is a snippet from opening (first draft) of a historical sequel novel, literally written today Sunday.  

Loxton House, Somerset 1650:

Elizabeth Mountjoy rose from her seat, sense of rage enveloping. If she did not exit the room immediately she feared she would strike Catherine Thornton a blow to the face, and for the life of her she could not imagine why she had agreed to marry this insufferable woman’s brother.

‘I fear it is time I made my way back to Axebury Hall.’

Her tone markedly deceptive in deliverance of intention surprised herself as much as that of her host, whom she thought of as the most despicable woman she had ever had the misfortune to meet.

‘So soon?’ queried Catherine, a poisonous sweet smile as she rose to her feet. ‘I hope I have not caused undue disquiet in mention of Anna Gantry, but I thought you should know a little of the history associated to Axebury Hall and its occupants.’

Lady Gantry,’ intoned Elizabeth, 'whom I owe much gratitude in providing temporary sanctuary from plague ridden Bristol.’

‘Be that as it may, but Axebury Hall was at one time a Royalist stronghold full of fornicating Cavaliers. It is no wonder Anna became tainted by the likes of those unruly beasts when sleeping within the house and her so young then.’

Elizabeth knew Catherine to be well aware a vindictive comment relating to Anna Lady Gantry would see Miss Mountjoy speedily on her way and, out of the house she herself would soon be mistress of whether Catherine approved or not.

She truly despised the widow standing before her, and couldn’t think why Catherine’s fair skin and dark locks and pretty face had failed to secure her another husband.

‘Are you forgetting Thomas, your brother, was a Cavalier Captain when I first met him? May I remind you I am aware he frequented Axebury Hall, and I do find it distasteful any suggestion he was one of the supposed fornicating band of Royalists you speak of with such disdain.’

Catherine’s face flinched not a jot, her tone full of pious malice. ‘Although he is my brother, I did not approve of his bawdy behaviour when a Cavalier Captain of horse nor his frequenting of gambling dens and doxy houses.’

At the mention of whore houses Elizabeth clenched her hands so tight she feared her fingernails would pierce the fine calf leather of her gloves. ‘Were you not yourself the wife of a Royalist?’

‘A loyal Royalist wife by design not out of love.’

‘You did not love your husband?’

‘No, I did not, for I was betrothed to Morton until he saw fit to disobey his father and declared he was for the Parliamentarian cause.’

For the first time Elizabeth noticed a flaw in the perfected mask of calm indifference essayed by Catherine along with her haughty airs and graces. ‘You . . . You were betrothed to Morton?’ she asked, knowing full well her future sister-in-law was never betrothed to Morton. ‘Then why did you not follow him, if you loved him as much as your countenance implies?’

‘Follow him,’ railed Catherine, ‘how could I, how could I? His father banished him from the estate. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and he ran away to fight for Parliament. You think I the daughter of a staunch Royalist could have held my head up if I had followed him?’

‘If you’d loved him as I love your brother, yes.’ Before Catherine could muster a reply, Elizabeth headed for the door, where she paused to say, ‘I would have followed Thomas to the end of the world if he’d asked me. Luckily he didn’t, and our courtship was fully approved by my father. Even when Thomas switched allegiance from King to Parliament my father accepted the inevitability that Parliament would succeed in ousting the King.’

‘Does a merchant have allegiance to anything but monetary gain, and the bleeding of rich coffers alongside the penny poor?’

Elizabeth opened the door and left in a rush, tears brimming.

One day, one day, she really would find herself unable to desist from striking that hateful woman a severe blow, and what then? What would that do to hers and Thomas’ relationship as man and wife?

She didn’t wait for a manservant or maid to open the main door. She just fled, and ran round to the stable block where her horse was tethered and waiting. A stable hand stepped forward and tightened the slacked off girth, not a word spoken as though he’d sensed her distress. He then proffered cupped hands to aid in her mounting one of Morton’s serene tempered mares, followed by tentative gap-toothed grin when assured she was ready to ride off. She thanked him and rode away pondering her fate in becoming Captain Thomas Thornton’s wife.

How was she to survive at Loxton House alongside that fiendish sister of his?

May God forgive her for thinking murder most foul the simple solution to her problem: beside that of an ultimatum she would be putting to Thomas next time she set eyes upon him. He must choose either her or his sister, for she would rather return to Bristol and die from the plague than live in the same house as that evil woman.

Does it hook, does it keep the line taught, and will Elizabeth land Captain Thornton without his sister?

To see entries by other participants go here.


Brenda Drake said...

I like Elizabeth a lot. Love that she has to refrain from striking Catherine. Makes me think she has spunk. Yes this hooks and I want to know if Elizabeth lands the guy. Wonderful scene! :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I wanted Elizabeth to smack Catherine, but that is the rebellious Texican in me. Like Brenda, I want Liz to land the man of her dreams. I'm a romantic like that.

J.C. Martin said...

There's definitely a hook there. The tension between in-laws, the catty remarks, the refraining from striking Catherine. Historical romance is not something I would read, but your writing style seems to fit the era perfectly!

Joanna St. James said...

for a first draft written in one day this is stellar. I still want to give both women a chance because am cool like that. can't wait to see how it goes, consider me hooked.

Sash said...

Although this type of romance is not my thing, so I'm no judge really, I like the way you give it a historic feel. The dialogue is great!

Little niggle: some of your descriptive paragraphs run on for a bit too long, particularly the 'action' particular I'm thinking the one where she gets on her horse to 'run off'. For what is effectively an action sequence, you've got a lot of...well, not exactly telling, but sort of that. Let her actually speak to the stablehand, for example. Or fidget while she waits for him to fix the saddle girth. Also, at first it's her horse that's tethered there, then she mounts one of "Morton’s serene tempered mares"...

There is definately a hook there, though (not like my definately hookless piece LOL), and although I probably wouldn't pick up a historic romance, you write well so I'm sure readers of your genre will like it!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I didn't join this one, Francine, but popped by to have a peek. Your "voice" really suites historicals. I like, like, like it! Very interesting and I would absolutely keep reading.

Jen Daiker said...

Great hook!!! There are a few of you who are awesome at these blog fests and you my dear are one of them!

L'Aussie said...

I didn't join this one either Francine, but I always like to read entries. Great work, great hook and i hope Elizabeth wins the man of her dreams.

Quite fitting place to announce that I'm awarding you again - the Literacy Builder Award this time. Please drop by my blog and collect. There's also a dishonourable mention of yourself in my post - ha ha..:) I think I'm funny anyhoo!

Summer Ross said...

Francine- I always love your very word worthy ladies! I was hooked right from the start and feel a connection with the MC already. The only glitch i noticed was this "Elizabeth knew Catherine to be well aware a vindictive comment relating to Anna Lady Gantry would see Miss Mountjoy speedily on her way and, out of the house she herself would soon be mistress of whether Catherine approved or not. "

It doesn't sound right- maybe try rewording to make it more clear.
Great post

Anonymous said...

You've got that historical romance tone down pat, and the effective hook doesn't hurt. Great job!

However, this paragraph confused me and I'm not sure exactly what you were trying to say:

"Elizabeth knew Catherine to be well aware a vindictive comment relating to Anna Lady Gantry would see Miss Mountjoy speedily on her way and, out of the house she herself would soon be mistress of whether Catherine approved or not."

Also, watch out for places in which you'd need a comma, like here:

Her tone(,) markedly deceptive in deliverance of intention(,) surprised herself as much as that of her host....

And here:

At the mention of(,)....

For the first time(,)....

Overall, there was some great writing to be found here. I applaud your talent! :)

Donna Hole said...

The characters are vivid, with well rounded pasts, and future expectations. The world - genre, time era, setting - is well built.

And the characters; wow, both women are strong natured, seem quite powerful in their restricted positions.

I'm completely drawn into the setting, and the characters.

I think you have a two fold premise here. I'm going with "May God forgive her for thinking murder most foul the simple solution to her problem" because it seems to me to say that there will be murder, and the Lady Elizabeth the wrongfully accused suspect. There lies the plot, the mystery that will unfold. Who really killed Catherine; and why?

Or it is: "He must choose either her or his sister, for she would rather return to Bristol and die from the plague than live in the same house as that evil woman." But, that shifts the focus of the story onto Thomas.

Well, romances are notorious for shifting POV between the male and female MC. Either or both could work as the hook.

An intriguing first chapter, to be sure.


Francine said...


Thanks to all for dropping by to comment.

Sash, Summer and Amanda. Hee hee, give me a break girls. Honest, I literally bashed this out on Sunday night twenty-mibutes flat and posted it at 11.30pm in it's raw state of coming straight off the keyboard. No read through, no edits! So thanks ever so for your valuable inputs "all three". :)

Francine said...

To enlighten for those interested.

Sash: because I've been published before and done the editorial/lit agent route several times, I can tell you that if a romance novel consists mainly of dialogue and sparse description, (all very well for category romance - easy read) it will not pass muster for a Romantic Saga nor a 100,000 word "Single Title", and this is a Single Title novel. Given the period of this novel and Elizabeth's state of mind, conversing with a servant (stable hand on the lowest rung of servant ladder)would be very brief and litle more than as occurred between Lizzie and the lad.

Re the horse and one of Morton's serene tempered mares: It is a borrowed horse, Morton Lord Gantry's mare, Elizabeth a guest staying at Axebury Hall Estate.

Summer: yep, grant your right to comment on convoluted sentence.

And Amanda same regard for comment: But to enlighten further. Anna Lady Gantry is Elizabeth's treasured friend, and she (Elizabeth Mountjoy) is naturally upset by Catherine's vicious comment relating to Anna.

Simple when you're the author, so all comments taken on board and to be sorted forthwith.;)

Rachel Morgan said...

I think this is well written and the style of writing fits the time period of the novel.
Good one :-)

Erin Kane Spock said...

I got a great feeling for Catherine's character, but not for Elizabeth as much besides that her feelings are easily manipulated -- even when she knows that's what's happening. I did enjoy this scene, but it did not feel like the beginning of a book.
I love the way you explained the history naturaly within the scene.
There are a few awkwardly worded bits, but, as you say, you just wrote this. In that, they did not detract from the flow much and you'll be fixing them anyway.
I love your voice, your imagery, and how your dialogue tells your story. I always enjoy your work. :)

In regards to the 100k ms, it seems like many publishers are decreasing their word count for single titles. My first ms was 97k words and I've had to pare it down in order to submit. In fact, for my current w.i.p. I decided to aim for 90k (on the upper end of the 75-90k that I seem to be reading in submission guidelines). That said, I'm still just writing the story that wants to be written. Who knows if I'll excede that number. We'll see.

SongoftheSea said...

Hello Francine,

I simply adore indulging in a good historical read and everything I expect from a period tome is in these opening paragraphs. There's immediate conflict, tension, jealousy sense of revenge, and snippets of backstory so slight as to go unnoticed but telling me enough about who is who and what is what.

Clearly Elizabeth is upset by malicious gossip, and cannot see any point in prolonging her visit. Catherine on the other hand has every reason to make Elizabeth feel unwelcome, because if and when Elizabeth marries Captain Thornton she will become mistress of his house. Catherine will therefore lose her position, and I sense her to be a cloying leech upon her brother. I must say I feel sorry for Captain Thornton whose life - I imagine - will be nearer to that of hell than one of heavenly bliss.

If I should be so lucky to write a first draft as good as this I would be mighty proud of myself.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Thank you, Francine, for the THE LITERACY BUILDER AWARD. I gave my 5 favorite words and the reasons for choosing them in the comment section of my latest post. I hope you like my selection of words and the reasons why.

No, I'm going to be a true gentleman about this. I'm going to paste my selection here so you don't have to go out of your way :

Francine : Thanks for the giving me THE LITERACY BUILDER BLOG AWARD. As for the five words that are important to me :

1) Balance -
Each of us walks a tightrope in life, spiritually, physically, and intellectually. Finding the right balance between the three is the key to getting to the Other Side safely or toppling off.

2) Compassion -
For ourselves : not being able to forgive ourselves drives us down many a dark road. For others : seeing past the surface to the bruised soul beneath can help us bring out the best in those we meet.

3) Courage -
It is not feeling no fear but facing that fear and going ahead anyway. It is daring not to repay as one has been treated but as one would want to be treated.

4) Crossroads -
We all stand at the crossroads in each decision we make. We look at the road signs in life, not realizing that many of them lie. And the paths we take do not always lead us to where we thought they would.

5) Consequences -
I was born in a hospital built upon a crossroads. My Lakota mother told me that with all those born in such places, an angel and a demon both come to claim the soul of the infant.

And so did an angel and demon come for me. They fought. I wanted to know who won. Mother whispered, "They are fighting still."

"Where?," I whispered back.

She tapped my chest. "Right here."

"Who will win, Mama?"

"The one you choose."

"Mama, I choose the angel."

She shook her head sadly. "You choose by your actions, Little One. By your actions. Choose wisely. The battle always ends sooner than you think. Always."

Madeleine said...

Ooh I am routing for her now NOT to marry into that awful family! Thanks for adveritising my blogfest, much appreciated. :O)

Ann Best said...

I'm hooked!! These ladies do nicely spar!!! As first on the spot draft, this is well done.

Talei said...

Francine, lovely writing dear lady. You had me at 'gambling dens and doxy houses'. Great sense of the period and history here, the dialogue and language is wonderful. I hope Elizabeth lands her man and ignores that evil sister in law to be. Why is always the in-laws that give grief? ;)

And I must thank you sincerely for the Literacy Builder Award - I'm very chuffed and will endeavour to post my 5 words this Friday. ;)

Happy writing!

Lydia Kang said...

I love the period dialogue! I'm so impressed when that comes off flawlessly. And plenty of great sparring, I love it!