Writing Prompt Wednesday

I’m going to try a new theme on my blog. Wacky Wednesday is hard to keep up with so I’m swapping it for Writing Prompt Wednesday. It’s not really a thing. It just is in my head. 

I took a creative writing class in college. We were sometimes given newspaper headings and told to write a story. No pressure or anything. Geez! It was hard! However, I hadn’t really written before then. I just thought I might some day kind of sort of like to try it. 

Now, a lot of my stories start off with prompts. I have a list of prompts I came up with and will look at it when I need to start a new story. It will (hopefully) trigger a flood of ideas. 

I also like to write flash fiction when I’m practicing new things. It seems less intimidating in a way because it’s shorter. It still hones the craft because you have to be very precise with your word choice and what you are putting into the story. If you have a bloated manuscript, I suggest trying some flash fiction. Take one element, focus on that for 500 words. Repeat doing that until you feel confident with it. Then go back to your manuscript and be merciless. 

I found this prompt from Pinterest. I’ll probably keep going there for other inspiration rather than using my long story list. My goal with these is to write flash fiction of Regency Romance so maybe not every character will start in my head as Darcy and Elizabeth. I’m trying to retrain my brain!

Here goes nothing!

Octavia attempted to blend into the mass of passersby on the busy London street. If she were bolting down it, then it would appear unusual and her father would more easily find her. She would not be another woman that he sacrificed on his quest for wealth and status.

As the eighth daughter, there had been seven others before her, and then her mother paid the biggest price of all. However, with any luck, Octavia would not be another casualty of his schemes. She had slipped out the door during a shopping trip to the milliner. The busy Cheapside area provided the perfect area for her to disappear.

With heart pounding, she ducked out while someone else had opened the door so there would not be an extra ring of the bell. Octavia had no further plan than to escape her father. 

A gentleman was just emerging from a hack and she ran over to it. “Stop him! I will take your carriage.”

The young man obliged but his shock was obvious on his face. He glanced around her, undoubtedly looking for an escort. “Are you riding alone?”

“Yes, and I have not a moment to lose.” She climbed inside.

“What is your destination, madam?” He climbed in as well.

“As far as six pence can take me. Pardon me, I thought you had completed your journey.”

He frowned at her words. “That will not carry you very far.”

“It is all I have. Might I ride with you as far as you deem that a fair exchange?”

The gentleman looked at her for a moment before leaving the carriage and speaking with the driver. Octavia feared he was telling the driver to remove her, but just as quickly as he left, he returned. He sat across from her and then beat his walking stick on the ceiling of the coach to signal the driver. 

At first, they remained silent as the carriage jostled them over the cobbled streets of London. Eventually, they seemed to be leaving the city behind. 

“Where are we going?” Octavia asked the stranger. He had said nothing but had not ceased to stare at her. 

He flushed. “You said you needed to leave London but had no destination. We can change carriages and continue North all night if need be. In fact, I can convey you all the way to Scotland.”

Octavia felt her eyes widen and she gulped. “Scotland!”

“Only if you wish it,” he rushed to say. “I could find you employment or assist you in other ways much easier once we reach there.”

“Why were you in London? Why would you turn and leave just as quickly as you came?” She ought to view the man with skepticism, but the fluttering in her heart had not ceased since meeting him. 

“I am returning to Scotland because I cannot bear to finish the task laid before me and the reason I came to London.”

“May I know your name, at least?”

“Cripsin Harrington,” he reached for Octavia’s hand and bent forward as though in a bow. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss…?”

“Octavia Lamb.” She smiled as he bowed once more. “Why are you helping, Mr. Harrington?”

“Call me Crispin.” 

Octavia nodded her acquiescence. “Very well, Crispin. You may call me Octavia. Why are you helping me?”

He looked at her for a long moment before replying. “Do you want the truth?”

“I think that is generally preferable,” she smiled to encourage him. Something about him was utterly endearing. 

“A gentleman always wishes to help a damsel in distress. It is most curious because I have lived a very orderly life and have never done something so spontaneous before. There was something about you, the moment I saw you…”

Taking a shaky breath, Octavia nodded. She had felt it too. There were any number of hacks she could have hired or people she could have approached and yet, she went directly to him.  “Thank you for helping me,” she murmured.

“Thank you for trusting me,” Crispin said and squeezed the hand he still held. “I have a book with me. Would you care for me to read aloud?”

Octavia agreed and enjoyed hearing his baritone voice. As he read, she could not keep from stealing glances at him. She had never been so attracted to a gentleman before. After a period of time, she took a turn. Soon, it grew too dark to read. They changed carriages and horses several times and although he suggested she sleep, they talked until late in the night. Finally, she could not help yawning. 

“Rest,” he urged. 

She murmured a good night and attempted to find a comfortable way to lean her head against the carriage wall. Nothing seemed to suit. Additionally, the darkness had brought a chill. She pulled her pelisse closer but could not warm. Attempting to hide her shivering was no use.

“You are too cold,” Crispin said. 

“I will manage.” Octavia gave him a weak smile. If it were not for him, who knew where she would be spending the night. She probably would be far colder.

“Nonsense,” he said before slipping to her bench. 

He immediately radiated warmth and Octavia practically sighed at his presence. 

“Here…” he wrapped an arm around her and brought her head to his shoulder. “I will keep you warm. Rest now.”

It made no sense to Octavia at all, but she was sure Crispin Harrington would hold her heart forever after that moment. She had nearly lost all faith in humans to be so selfless and caring. How did she have the fortune to stumble upon such a good man?

When she awoke with the early dawn, he was smiling down at her. “I am glad you managed to sleep.” 

“You are a very comfortable pillow.”

“Are you warm enough?”

“Yes,” Octavia said as she attempted to raise her head from his shoudldr. 

Crispin nudged it back down. “You do not need to sit up for my sake. I quite like this position.”

Octavia blushed but could not deny her mutual feeling. “Did you sleep at all?”

“A little,” he half-shrugged. “I confess I was mesmerized watching you. You looked so beautiful and peaceful. It was as though I had an angel in my arms.” He lowered his face to hers.

“Crispin…” she whispered. After sleeping on his shoulder all night, it did not seem strange at all that she should wish for his kiss more than she wished for her next breath. 

When his lips met hers, Octavia knew there was no turning back. She would follow him to his estate in Scotland or to the ends of the Earth. By the time they arrived at Crispin’s estate beyond Gretna Green, they were blissfully in love and married. 

“Welcome home, Lady Grantley,” he whispered as he scooped her into his arms and carried her over the threshold.

Octavia had marveled at the new title when her husband had told her that he was actually an heir to an earldom. The estate he went to was inherited from his mother’s side and could not be revoked by his father–who would be angry as he had not married a stranger to settle a gambling debt of his. 

“Did you even know her name?” she had asked, as he held her tightly the morning after their wedding night.

“No, I never desired to know. I was determined to do my duty and have a cold, loveless union as my parents had. Knowing her name was unnecessary. However, the instant I saw you, I knew I could not do it. You looked alone in the world and I wanted to make you mine.”

“How curious. I was in the same position. My father wished for me to marry a Lord Grantley without ever seeing him or knowing anything about him. He had done similar things with all my sisters.”

Crispin gaped at her. “Darling, are you sure that was the name he said?”

“Yes,” she shuddered. “I heard it in my nightmares for weeks. I would not be bought and sold like a horse. I fled without a plan, but the moment I approached you I knew I could trust you.”

“Love, I do not know how to tell you this but…but, I am Lord Grantley.”

“We were on our way to each other even then?” she asked.

“I suppose so, but I do not think that would have suited us well. Would you have been predisposed to like me if you had forced to marry me?”

“Certainly not!”

“And I was not expecting to ever love the bride my father had selected.” He kissed her. “Do you know that I was so dumbstruck by your beauty and the feelings in my heart that I could not speak to you the first hour?”

“Is that why you were so grave and silent.”

“Yes, although that is not unusual for me. I told you before that you caused my spontaneity. You also give me great joy. My heart feels lighter with you than it ever has before.”

Octavia clung to Crispin’s words in their first days of marriage and when they both received letters from their fathers condemning their actions. Crispin might have bankrupted the earldom by not marrying as he should. It was only Octavia’s pleading that since she had married him after all, her father considered the debt settled. In the years that passed during their long, happy marriage, she could only rejoice that she had met Crispin on a crowded London street. 

Tempting Scandal–Chapter Two Part Two

This will be the last divided up post. From now on, I will be posting entire chapters. I can’t promise how often that will be but I am hoping once a week or more. 

Sylvia sighed as she rubbed her aching back. She slowly lowered herself into a chair and unpinned her hair, then propped her feet up on the desk before her. In her youth, this had been her father’s study. Now, by law, it was her brother’s. However, he hardly set foot in it. Every inch and artifact in it bore her stamp.

She had not replaced the furniture and so the worn pieces from generations past still honored the room. Instead, Sylvia eyed the walls. She had replaced some of the more ancient tomes with modern books on farming methods and breeding practices in Scotland. Through her brother’s name, she subscribed to all the latest publications from the northern geniuses.

Not that she had cast aside a book, even if ancient and mostly useless. No, they were now housed in the attic along with old baby cots and christening gowns.

Indeed, it was nearly time to need them again. Owen ought to marry soon. He should fill his house with a wife and babies. Aside from the fact that no lady on earth would be good enough for him—especially not the conceited sister of the most pompous duke to ever live, Sylvia knew her brother put off the task out of concern for her.

While she was out today visiting tenants and looking over fields, she came upon a solution for Owen’s troubles. For years, she had hoped to save enough so she might have a modest income to live upon in some small cottage. Before that, she dreamed of supporting herself as a steward.

However, no one could see past her sex. They refused to see the improvement in Linwood’s ledgers or attribute it to her. Many times, she would meet with a solicitor who Owen thought would be agreeable to recommending her to his clients. There were times Owen would tell her that the gentleman in question knew much of the current state of affairs resided upon the war. Then, she would meet with the said solicitor and rather than acknowledging Napoleon and the trade hardships, he would blame her for Linwood’s stunted growth.

There was a time, however, even before her ill-fated and lofty hopes of independence, that she had craved marriage with a loving partner. One who saw her as an equal but also recognized her unique femininity. Of course, her teachers and mother had been correct about her inability to inspire love and not being womanly enough for a man.

She had been a foolish sixteen-year-old when she announced to the heir of the local baronet that she was in love with him. Even more stupidly, she did it in earshot of his friends. It spread through her small community like wildfire. Now, although it was years ago, she was met with either sad smiles or sniggering laughter. No one would ever consider her for a wife.

 Clara invited Sylvia and Owen to a house party in Essex. There, she would find some gentleman in need of a wife. She did not have much dowry or beauty. As she was, she could not inspire love, so it seemed. Instead, she would pretend to be everything a gentleman would desire in a marriage. She would be insipid, biddable, and meek. He certainly could never know about her ambitions to be a steward.

Sylvia sighed. A tear threatened to escape but she refused to allow herself the luxury of crying. Her husband surely would have his own steward and never permit his wife to act as one. However, she might intervene with the tenants. She could put herself forward as the person to talk to rather than the employee. She did not know of a steward who did not feel overworked. She would have to be careful to never let it seem like the man in question was not doing his job, however. She would never want someone to be fired simply for her desires.

How would she manage it? What sort of man would not suspect her true intentions and actions? She would have to find a very dull man with little wit. All the better if he were rich and likely to give her a large stipend. As for the household, well she managed Linwood well enough with her divided attention. She simply needed a capable housekeeper.

And children? Sylvia was two minds about them. She hated the idea of the begetting. She had never met a man who stirred any passion or curiosity in her. Even her long-ago love had not inspired such feelings. How could she allow marital intimacies if she dreaded even a mere kiss? However, gentlemen would expect heirs. She supposed she could put him off most of the time—she had heard whispers of how to do it and very few ladies of their class were incessantly with child.

“Are you packed?” Owen said, bringing Sylvia’s mind to the present.

“Susie has seen to it, I am sure.” The truth was, she packed with more care than usual as she intended to pass herself off as some demure miss and needed to look the part. However, she did not wish to alert Owen to her scheme.

“I wish to leave precisely at noon.”

“Yes, I know. I am nearly finished in here.”

She had spoken with Richards, the butler, and Jefferson, one of the tenants, on how to handle any concerns while they were gone. Now, she was reviewing building plans to improve a few of the cottages before winter weather set in. Next, she would compile lists for the grocer and butcher. There were tasks to be done at certain times of year which allowed everything to flow best and they needed to be performed regardless of her brother’s impatience to travel and eagerness to attend house parties.

Her duties finished in perfect time and Sylvia made her way to the carriage before her brother. She always enjoyed causing him to fret and then proving him wrong. He seemed outraged each time, but truthfully she thought he enjoyed it.

A moment later, the carriage door opened and Owen’s mouth fell open in astonishment. “You have done it again!” He climbed in, taking the seat across from her.

“Just so,” she grinned.

“I must know your magic,” he said. “I can never end perfectly on time. I am either late or must plan to be early.”

Sylvia laughed as the coach lurched forward. “You are not early if you tell yourself to be ready at eleven and finish by twelve, instead. You are still late according to your own time.”

“Yes, but not according to anyone else’s!” Owen chuckled. “Today, I did manage it.” He pulled out his watch to show her. “What? This says it is one! Well, it is unlike you to be late!”

She withdrew her own watch and showed him the time, laughing at his puzzled expression. “I am afraid, dear brother, that I turned your watch forward an hour.”

Sylvia expected a good-natured scolding. Instead, her brother’s eyes took on a far away gaze.

“I suppose I need the gentle care of a loving woman.”

Oh, dear. He surely was not thinking of her. She had hardly a gentle bone in her body. No, he must be thinking of some lady he would like to bring home and give his name to. Lord help her if it was who she feared.

“Why were you so adamant we attend Clara’s party?” she asked Owen.

“Clara and Stephen are our good friends.” He did not meet her eyes and instead busied himself with looking at the passing scenery.

“Owen,” Sylvia said in the stern voice she had often used on him as a child. She was only two minutes older than him, and yet had always mothered him. “Is there a particular guest you wish to see?”

“Yes.” He drew out the word as though he did not wish to be untruthful and yet hesitated to explain more.

“And?”

“And, what? I know you. You have already concocted some story in your head. Go ahead and tell me what it is so I may discover if it is fact or fiction and know whether I am guilty as you imagine.”

Sylvia huffed and crossed her arms over her shoulders. “I do no such thing!”

“You do indeed! You are always too quick to come to conclusions.”

“I certainly am not.” In the back of her mind, Sylvia wondered if he were more insightful than she usually gave him credit for. “I am patiently waiting for your answer to my question. If I believed I knew it already I would not have asked.”

Owen frowned, seemingly stumped by his own argument. Sylvia internally rejoiced. This was yet another reason no man would marry her as her usual self. She enjoyed arguing too much.

“Very well,” Owen said, at last. “Lady Laura Gordon and her brother shall be present. I hope to present my suit to them at the close of the party.”

Sylvia gasped. She had not thought he was so determined. “That would be a very fast courtship!”

“Not at all,” Owen said as he crossed an ankle over his knee.“I met her at Stanton’s party last year. We have seen each other at four others beside meeting in Town frequently.”

“You have been very quiet about this!” Sylvia gaped at her brother. Had she been so engrossed in her own affairs that she had not noticed him falling in love?

“You refused to come to any of the events.” He shrugged.

“And do you think she encourages your affections?”

The faraway look returned. “I do. She is so kind and sweet. I wish you would take the trouble to know her better during this fortnight.”

“But—but—but she is the daughter of a duke! Her brother is the most arrogant man I have ever met!”

Owen rolled his eyes. “Allow me to point out that you do not know many men. Compared to someone as affable as Stephen, perhaps he does seem aloof. However, I have seen him very animated when speaking to his friends.”

“And how does he treat you?”

“With civility,” Owen said.

“Does he welcome you as a suitor to his sister?”

“I am aware of the obstacles to our union.” He sighed. “Laura assures me that her brother only needs to know me better.”

“Owen,” Sylvia said gently. “I know you are one of the best men to walk this earth and I applaud Lady Laura for seeing that in you as well. However, surely a duke wishes for more than strong character for his sister’s groom. You have no title and we are not rich. He must expect more for her.”

“The way you talk, it is no surprise you are still unwed!” Owen cried. “Is that all you care about? Do you think that a man’s worth is tied only to his circumstances in life?”

“No, of course not. Pray, forgive me. I did not mean to insult or offend.”

“You do not know the duke. He may feel as you do. You are proving your prejudice. Not everyone with a title is like Sir Anthony. We are not unworthy and I refuse to act as such.”

“You are correct,” Sylvia said in a whisper. Clearing her throat, she attempted to smile. “I will attempt to let go of my prejudices.”

“Good,” Owen nodded. “Lady Laura is essential to my happiness and her brother is essential to hers. It is important that we both please him.”

Sylvia’s smile faltered. She could never imagine the stuffy duke would approve of her. Now, regardless of her private ambitions, she had even more reason to conceal her hoyden ways.

New release! The Maid of Inverness

The Maid of Inverness Ebook Cover Full SizeMore than a year ago, I was approached by a small publishing print that I had worked with before about writing an original non-JAFF story for a multi-author themed series. Sir James Stirling is called “the Marriage Maker” and has an unusual ability to help people find their true love. Within the larger series, each month unveils a new theme. Four novellas are released, one each week. My book is in the “Flowers of Scotland” series. A part-time historian discovers four women who are illegitimate descendants of Robert the Bruce. In a bit of a Cinderella tale, this historian and the Marriage Maker are determined to find wealthy suitors for each lady.

The Maid of Inverness is set in Scotland during the Regency Era. As such, I had to do quite a bit of researching about Scotland. I was also the author who introduced the character of the historian and laid the groundwork for his obsession with Robert the Bruce. It was a delight!

I think JAFF lovers will enjoy this tale even if it’s not Jane Austen’s characters. Marigold is as aware of her place in the world and the unfairness of it as any of Austen’s heroines. Like most of them, she has suffered from circumstances, but it is her strength of character that attracts the love of a certain flawed gentleman.

Blurb:

Despite Douglas Randolph’s attempt to avoid Society and his responsibility as the future Duke of Inverness, news he has inherited the dukedom reaches him deep in the Highland hills of Scotland. That problem pales into comparison to the wager he makes with the man known as The Marriage Maker. Sir Stirling James swears he can find suitable husbands for four ladies directly descended from Robert the Bruce. Little does Douglas know he is to be the first groom.

Orphaned at a young age, Marigold Kincaid now works as a servant for her much older cousin. Knowing life would have been worse on the streets, she accepts her position in the household with grace and kindness.

After Marigold mistakes Douglas for a thief, an unlikely friendship forms between the two. Their friendship quickly blossoms into something more as each sees what they need most in the other. While love struggles to bloom, secrets come to light that threaten their friendship.

Somehow, they must break through the walls they have erected around their hearts and learn to trust one another.

Buy Link

Amazon