One of the challenges faced by historical writers….
Happy Wednesday, everyone! Last week found me freaking the heck out over a hellacious car repair bill and other personal drama and I was a bit of a basket case. I didn’t even answer comments to my post – my apologies! This week has been much better, though. I’m a freelance writer of various educational projects but I’ve been getting burned out on that front lately. I’ve done a few children’s nonfiction books work for hire (my name wasn’t on them) and I so enjoyed them that I’ve really been wanting to do more – and Tuesday I was offered that chance for a new client. YAY! And this book will actually have my name on it! Amazing!! I’m jazzed.
Wednesday is the day I join K. L. Schwengel‘s band of merry writers in doling out a date-related snippet of my work in progress. Today I have 18 paragraphs from my story Whiter Pastures. Don’t worry – they’re mostly short. Florance is struggling with a load of coal when …
She had gone no more than a dozen yards when suddenly the weight in her right hand vanished.
“Let me help you with that, miss,” said a warm, strong male voice.
“Oh!” Florance squeaked in surprise. “Why thank you, sir.”
A flash of white teeth and a cheerful grin. Lively brown eyes met hers.
“My pleasure, you can be sure.”
She glanced at him as they walked. Younger than her, most probably. A foot taller at least. Thick dark hair neatly combed back around a zigzagging side part. And a face that she found utterly, completely, transformatively gorgeous in all ways. She tried to control her burgeoning excitement. He must have arrived on this morning’s ship. She would certainly have recognized him otherwise.
On the steps of the administration building he paused, looking out at the post as people scurried about hatless and in shirtsleeves. At 35° she was practically sweating herself.
He looked vaguely troubled. “I was sure it would be different here.”
“In what way, sir?”
His eyes flickered to hers, and he gave a rueful smile. “Greener.”
She didn’t understand for a moment. Out here, green was for tinned vegetables and putrefying wounds, nothing else. Then she realized what he meant.
“Glory be, not another one! No one told you that you are headed to Mason’s Point and not Mason’s Mill?”
He shook his head mournfully.
“And that Mason’s Point lay in Antarctica?”
“Australia… Antarctica. They sound a bit alike.”
No, love, she thought. They really don’t.
“If it’s any consolation, you’re not the first to have made that same mistake.”
“I’m afraid I need a bit more than consolation right now,” he said, looking rather crestfallen about the whole situation.
That’s it for this week. Join in if you like:
Ruth Nestvold’s YA Fantasy Novella is available for pre-order now – just $.99! It will debut on 10/28/2014.
Seventeen-year-old Chiara Dragoni is a master glassmaker of Venice, a position that is both a privilege — and a trap. For the glassmakers of Murano are forbidden to ever leave the islands of the Venetian lagoon.
When Chiara’s uncle is caught on the mainland and thrown into the dungeon of the Doge’s Palace, she must use all her talents, including magic, to help free him. But the gift she creates for the ruling prince of Venice has unintended consequences, and now Chiara must decide whether to give up everything — and everyone — she knows and loves in order to save her dream.
Set in an alternate historical Venice with alchemists, witches and magic, the story uses familiar motifs from the beloved fairy tale “Cinderella” to tell a tale with a very different message.
Island of Glass is a Young Adult fantasy novella of approximately 25,000 words, or 100 pages. It is the first book in The Glassmakers Trilogy.
The prince chuckled, placing the second slipper next to its mate on the gilded side table. “Most young women scheme for the opportunity to be alone with a prince of La Serenissima. Yet here you are, offered the chance, and you turn it down.”
Chiara didn’t know what to say. She could only hope that beneath his smiles and chuckles he wasn’t offended. Her plan to gain the prince’s favor was backfiring badly.
“Talented, beautiful, and unusual,” the prince continued. “And quite rich as well, I presume?”
She could tell from the heat of her cheeks that they must be flaming by now. She nodded mutely.
He raised one expertly plucked, aristocratic eyebrow. “And you want me to free your uncle.”
She almost heaved a sigh of relief at his change of subject. She hoped that was the end of his attempts to flirt with her; flirtation was not one of Chiara’s strong points. “The Fenice Glassworks cannot be run properly without Gianfranco Dragoni,” she said. “Surely the Council of Ten cannot wish for such a situation. The taxes we pay are an important source of revenue for Venice, after all.”
He didn’t answer, staring instead at the matching glass slippers. “I wonder if they would fit me. They look to be my size.” He glanced at her again with a suggestive smile. “As if you knew me intimately, my dear.”
Oh, no, she hoped he didn’t intend to actually try the slippers on! They were decorative, not meant to be worn. If they broke and cut his princely foot, he would probably throw her into the prison of the Doge’s palace right alongside Uncle Gian.
He sank into the nearest lavishly upholstered chair and snapped his fingers. “Remove my shoes,” he said to the servant who appeared at his side.
Chiara watched the proceedings, trying to remain composed, given her panic at what would most likely happen next.
Chiara wiped her hands on her apron and lifted the goblet up to the light, inspecting her work critically. The fluted glass flared out like a lily beginning to bloom, and as hard as she tried, she could find no discoloring or bubbles. She breathed a sigh of relief: a nearly perfect piece. It would command a high price among the nobles of Venice and beyond.
The work of the Murano glassmakers was in great demand throughout the world. Their craftsmanship was the basis of their riches — and their curse. Out of fear that they might reveal trade secrets, the laws of La Serenissima decreed that members of the glassmaking families of Murano were never to leave the islands of their lagoon. Murano glass was more precious than gold, after all. Anyone who knew the recipe of the alchemists could make gold, but only the artisans of Murano could make glass so fine, one could nearly touch one’s fingers together on either side; cristallo without an imperfection or blemish, clear as the sky, with a sparkle to rival that of diamonds.
Ruth Nestvold’s short stories have appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov’s, F&SF, Baen’s Universe, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella “Looking Through Lace” won the “Premio Italia” award for best international work. Her novel Yseult appeared in German translation as Flamme und Harfe with Random House Germany and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. It is now available as an ebook in the original English.
Find Ruth Nestvold on the Internet:
Web site: http://www.ruthnestvold.com
Welcome to another version of WIPpet, the work in progress extravaganza run by the intrepid K.L. Schwengel. To participate, make sure the snippet of your work in progress has something – however tenuous – to do with today’s date. I’m going short and sweet today, and switching gears as I do so frequently. Last week I posted a bit from my children’s nonfiction history book – thankfully I was able to send out the requested chapters to an agent who displayed the barest hint of interest in it, so now there’s nothing to do but wait and drive myself up the wall, or work on something else entirely. This snippet is from Whiter Pastures, the first volume of my Icebound series, which is a sort of alternate history of the polar regions of the planet from about 1880 – 1930. Here is 18 sentences (10 + 8 = 189) from the story’s beginning. All comments, reactions, whatever are welcome. Oh, and the rather unusual spellings of the names are intentional.
The coal pan in the bottom of the room heater had jammed again. Florance tried all her usual fixes: shoving it in further and yanking it out quickly, shimmying it from side to side, wedging the metal handle of her favorite scrub brush in it to pry it open, but nothing would work.
“Do you have to make such a racket, girl?” Electa said in a voice which somehow managed to communicate boredom, disdain, and irritation all at once. She didn’t bother looking up from her typewriter. She was plucking the keys one by one, hunting and pecking for each one as if she were a particularly choosy hen searching for the perfect piece of corn.
Florance gritted her teeth. Electa knew her name – Florance had informed her of it on at least three separate occasions – but she couldn’t be bothered to call her anything other than girl. When she deigned to speak to her at all, that is.
It vexed Florance that people insisted upon referring to her as a girl when eternal spinsterhood was drawing ever nearer the closer she got to 30. Florance knew the reason for it, though. She was a rather quiet person usually, not a stupid one. The help always had to scurry around – seen but not heard — while the decent people went on with the important work. Her ability to be so very invisible had brought her here to begin with, after all.
With a discordant screech, the coal pan slid free, unbalancing Florance so that she landed squarely on her bustle. Coal dust puffed up in a cloud around her. Florance sneezed. Electa rolled her kohl-lined, brilliantly-blue eyes in exasperation.
That’s it for this week. Join along if you like:
God’s heart is a hawk
living in the city of crows,
with a deep loneliness
When one of the crows seems friendly,
it’s hypocrisy, as when someone says “yes”
after a long warning. He doesn’t mean it.
He just wants the admonishing to stop.
He stands with those who have genuinely changed,
but that’s the way it is in this market.
Damaged goods gets thrown in with the others.
Fly to the love-hawk,
and be its friend.
Any other is a
There’s a subtle fragrance that will come to you
when you’re in that one’s presence.
You dull that sense
when you live with crows.
(Mathnawi, V, 896-906)
Let That Laughter Lead You
When you go to buy a pomegranate,
pick the one that’s laughing,
that has its rind cleft,
so that through its broken openness
you get some information
about the seeds.
Listen for the laughter
that shows the inside,
that cracks the casket shell
and lets you see the pearl.
There’s another kind, an unhappy laughing
like the red anemone’s that show
its inner blackness.
The pomegranate laughter is blessed,
like the companionship of good people.
Even if you’re a common rock,
when you join them,
you’ll become a precious stone.
Keep the love of holy laughing in you.
Don’t visit sad neighborhoods. Let
laughter lead you to the right people.
Your body wantings will take you out of the sunlight
into the dark and dank places. Feed on the conversations of a lover.
Look for spiritual growth from one
who is farther along than you
There was once a Christian gospel
that had in it some mention of Mohammed,
his courage and his fasting.
Whenever a group of Christians studied
this gospel, they bowed and kissed the words
of that passage. Without knowing it,
they were looking for refuge
inside that light, and with its power
it befriended and help them.
(Mathnawi, I, 718-733)
Oh, dear. I’ve once again missed a couple weeks of WIPpet Wednesday! *flogs self with wet noodle* I’m afraid I’m chronically overscheduled and that catches up to me on a regular basis! Today I’m participating, though. Hurray! I’m afraid I’m going to inflict a rather morbid snippet on you today, though. I’m working on a children’s nonfiction book about the Black Death and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. There must be some gruesome children out there somewhere that want to read such a thing, right? 🙂
Since today is October 1st, I will post the first 10 paragraphs of Chapter 2. This is nonfiction but I think you’ll see that it does use some fiction techniques. Please let me know if you think this is too heavy and dark for a 12 year old. And any other observations you might have as well, of course!
Agnolo di Tura knelt next to the grave, shoulders slumped and head bowed. His shovel cast aside, he smoothed the last of the rich black soil to form a mound. His eyes burned, but he did not weep. Perhaps he had, at last, run all out of tears.
Nearby, two mongrels fought over the bright blue sleeve of a woman’s dress that stuck out of the ground. One of the dogs had unearthed it from a hastily buried corpse. Snatching up a nearby dirt clod, Agnolo threw it at them.
“Go away, you cursed beasts!”
The clod broke apart at the feet of the dogs, but it was enough to startle them into stopping their fight. Tails tucked and ears flattened, they separated and slunk away a few feet, watching Agnolo with suspicion.
He got to his feet, and took a few steps toward them, repeating, “Go, I say!”
One trotted away, its black tail held high. The other, a small brown and white speckled female, withdrew behind a clump of bushes. She might have been some lady’s pampered lap dog in former days. Now, though, her ribs stuck out from hunger and her coat no longer shone. She would be back after he left. At least she could not get at his child, buried before him. He had made sure to dig the grave deep enough and to fill it in with care.
He had done the same for his other loved ones, including his wife. Graves lay clustered under an oak tree where in happier times, the family had come. The hill overlooked Siena, a fine spot for picnicking while the children laughed and played games around them.
The Beginning of the End
The numbers of the dead had grown so large with such terrible speed that burial had become an option instead of a necessity, as it once was. Once, the dead would be carried through the streets on a platform called a bier, the priest at the head of the line chanting prayers. The death bell would sound. Weeping family members would follow. The corpse would then be buried in the cemetery, in holy ground.
With frightening quickness, that all changed as the plague devoured one after another. One bier now held two or three corpses, often members of the same family. Husband and wife, brother and sister, father and son, and so on. A funeral procession winding through the streets would be joined by two or three others spontaneously. One funeral, then, might start out to bury one or two people, and end up burying six or eight. One grave would bury several people. Then, that would not do. Trenches were dug and hundreds were buried at one time, piled one on top of another like goods on a store shelf. No one could find a priest to speak over the graves. Carts rattled through the streets, piled with corpses. People left their dead in the doorway to be picked up and placed on these carts.
When the plague first came back in May 1348, it seemed no different from other plagues. They came from time to time, an unfortunate fact of life. Some would recover from the sickness, and others would not. Soon, though, the horror of the Black Death became clear. No one had ever seen anything like it before.
Come join the fun, started by K.L. Schwengel, by clicking below to read more excerpts from works in progress, or if you’re feeling REALLY daring, post your own: