Category Archives: Held in the Balance

What a waste…

Are any of you out there hoarders?

My husband is a hoarder. My in-laws are extreme hoarders. But I would have said that I wasn’t a hoarder, that I was good at making sure I only kept the minimum of what I needed.

Ha.

Since finding out I am expecting twins, I, with a LOT of help from my family (thank you!) have been clearing the house to make enough room for everyone. And sure, there are boxes and boxes of junk interesting belongings of my husband, from empty boxes of things we no longer have, to all manners of things he thinks he might use ONE day. But in a way I am just as bad. My actual belongings are fairly neat and I don’t tend to double up on things, but as I go through drawers and boxes etc, I seem to find things like a carefully stored, empty bag of wine gums. An empty sweetie bag. Right. So it appears that I hoard rubbish. Yesterday I went through the cupboards under the sink and generated a bag of rubbish and I mean that literally. Likewise with the medicine cabinet, after I threw away half the empty boxes, the cupboard was practically empty. It’s bizarre.

This is what I hoard. There's no way I can pretend I am really planning on using an empty sweetie packet...

This is what I hoard. There’s no way I can pretend I am really planning on using an empty sweetie packet…

So it appears that I need to stand up, hang my head and admit I collect rubbish. That for some reason I’ve found it easier to find storage space for rubbish rather than just chucking it in the bin to start off with. I am a rubbish hoarder.

So I am turning over a new leaf. Rubbish goes straight in the bin. No messing. Out it goes. Even if I have to get in the bin and jump up and down to squash it all down to fit. (Probably won’t do that just yet due to immense size of stomach, see whale post…)

Now what I am supposed to do is find a link to my current work-in-progress. About rubbish. Hmmmm… Okay this passage has the word ‘waste’ in it. Is that good enough? In this snippet from Held in the Balance, Simon (Lord Curzon) is talking to his cousin Betty’s new husband.

Simon gave his usual small smile. “Fortunately I wasn’t cursed with an extended family, but I was perfectly willing to marry Betty and she’s my only cousin.”

“I can’t say I’m unhappy matters didn’t work out for you in that regard.”

Surprisingly neither was he, although he cringed to think of that final scene between Betty and him where he had but laid his heart out on the sleeve for her. A waste of time considering the strength of feeling she had for the other man. He hadn’t stood a chance. They had danced together, Betty in a gown of the midnight blue, the fabric encrusted with gemstones so she might have dropped down from heaven for the night. He had almost been afraid to touch her.

Now muslin and silks swirled about the ballroom in front of them as another waltz took hold, some couples stiff and formal, bodies held at arms-length, others so close as to be scandalous, pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. His own dance with Miss Taunton had definitely veered in that direction, no concern for her fragility held him back this evening. She was a world apart from his cousin.

I was thinking this kind of colour for her dress, liberally encrusted with tiny crystals...

I was thinking this kind of colour for her dress, liberally encrusted with tiny crystals…

 


Relaxing Whale

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet on here of late. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole twin pregnancy, both in terms of my huge whale-like proportions and of the amount of preparation that’s needed doing. But finally things are starting to get better. I’ve obviously still whale like, and I can’t imagine how big I’m going to get but I’m definitely as big as I was when I was full term with my youngest and I still technically have just under three months left. Eek!

This is how big I feel

This is how big I feel

But on the up side, the nursery is decorated and ready, cots are ready, my husband just paid for a new-to-me big seven seater car to fit everyone in, I have both a buggy to fit twins and a fantastic big pram that will fit in my two year old as well, the housework is just about under control, and I am finally starting to feel more relaxed and happy to put my feet up and wait for these two little miracles to finish getting big enough to put in an appearance.

This is what I shall be doing as often as I can

This is what I shall be doing as often as I can

Which means that I finally have time to get on with some writing. Hurrah. So this last week I have written over 1000 words. Alright, 1000 words is small fry compared to some of the figures other writers manage to rack up, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I’ve managed of late and that makes me very happy.

So who cares if my word count is the equivalent of a small fish in a big pond. At least I'm swimming.

So who cares if my word count is the equivalent of a small fish in a big pond. At least I’m swimming.

So here’s a snippet from Held in the Balance with Lydia and Simon’s first kiss.

She traced her fingers along the pronounced line of his cheek bone, around the curve of his earlobe before grasping strands of hair into her fist and pulling his head closer. This time he did respond, deepening the kiss, pushing her back against the door, hard enough to send a fleeting worry through her mind about the strength of the door-catch.

Slow and steadily he possessed her mouth, as if there were all the time in the world, his dominating confidence sufficient to make her toes curl within the confines of her slippers. She would have expected such arrogance to make her want to push him away but instead she melted into him, relaxing against the firm plane of his chest, her free hand gripping his shoulder to prevent her knees from giving way beneath her. She surrendered herself to the kiss, to the sensations tumbling through her and blinked open eyes drugged with pleasure as Simon pulled away.


Wallflower or English Rose…

These last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of regency romances, in the realms of one per day. Probably has something to do with the fact my expanding waistline means I need to take a break from chores about every ten minutes, even unloading the dishwasher has me out of breath. Although you would think I would pick a reading material which didn’t boast arms full of young and slender girls decked in empire line dresses. A fair proportion of my current wardrobe has empire line fitting but let me tell you, below my bustline I definitely don’t have the willowly column these girls have.
But that aside, reading so much in the era does remind me how difficult a young lady’s position could be when it came to finding a suitable partner, and with no employment for such ladies, marriage would be everything. A crooked nose, an excess of freckles, or an unfortunate hair colour, all would be enough to send the suitors scurrying and the season would turn into one long wait with the other wallflowers.
And even if you should be blessed with fashionable looks, the chase would be no less difficult. Family line, size of dowry, manner and voice, a lack of accomplishments, all could tip the scale between Rose and wallflower.
So how would I have faired? Well ignoring the fact that my family history seems to be farmers or labourers, I don’t think I would been a success, in fact a blue-stocking would have been an appropriate label.

bluestockingsociety-by-sinbozkurt-7

This is NOT the kind of blue stocking I mean.

I’ve studied hard, and I have no objection to supplying my opinion whether it is asked for or not. Now, romance books are teeming with blue-stockings but exactly like the feel-good romance movies we have these days, under every blue-stocking there is a pretty heroine waiting to emerge. You know the type, clad in ugly glasses, frumpy clothes and hairstyle, all it needs is a few hours with a stylist and viola, a beauty emerges that the hero could really fall in love with.
So what has all this reading taught me? That in the next story, my heroine Harriet is NOT going to be pretty. And I don’t mean that in the normal romance way, you know, where she just has slightly unfashionable looks, I mean a proper plain Jane with only her wit to recommend her. I want my hero to really have to look beneath the skin.

Here is the first description of Harriet from Held in the Balance as Lydia Taunton’s best friend.

“Harriet, I can’t do it.” The words burst from Lydia in a rush. If it had been anyone other than Harriet she would have been tempted to get a bit more drama in. “I’ve made a mistake.”
“A mistake?” Harriet’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into the flaming carrot orange hair the poor girl had been cursed with. The hair, along with a heavy enough case of freckles sufficient to look like a skin disease, was referred to them only as ‘the affliction’ and as far as Harriet was concerned was the reason for enduring her third season.


Needle and thread

This week I’ve had a little industry set up making baby dungarees. With a boy to sew for, my fabric choices have suddenly boomed. Not that I’ve always had my two little girls dressed head to toe in pink, but there is a bit of a princess/flower/teddy theme for the most part. No more. Super fabric is made for boys, from tanks and trains to material covered with all types of creepy crawlies realistic enough to have any mother in a flap batting them away. This time I settled for one with cars, one with chocolates, two french fashion prints and an emergency service print. Pretty exciting.

2013-01-08 13.46.44

Sadly I don’t tend to have the time to make my own clothes. When I did, I used to make myself a fair few period clothes. I like the individuality of making and designing clothes, to know I’m never going to meet anyone wearing the same dress or shirt.

I do wonder sometimes whether that would have happened to any of the tonne. Would any of the ladies recoiled in horror as the entered the ballroom as another woman waltzed past them wearing the exact same dress. It seems pretty unlikely. I think any modiste worth her salt wouldn’t do exact copies of dresses, she’d make sure there was something different in each one.  An extra ruffle, a extra pleat, some small detail changed. And to honest, when you’re handsewing getting things to look exactly the same is no easy task, believe me, especially if you are rusing to meet an ambitious deadline set by some demanding lady.

I like to make sure all my heroines can sew. Sewing isn’t really that difficult, and at a time when clothes would be very expensive, I think mending would be a skill all mothers would want to instill in their daughters, and would be a skill likely to be appreciated by husbands and fathers more than a dubious talent for watercolours.

In the following snippet from Held in the Balance, Lydia is about to demonstrate her mending skills….

Remembering the excuse she’d thought up, Lydia stepped back from the door and routed through her reticule, pushing past charcoal pencils to find a rather grubby needlework kit. Needle and silk at the ready, she just needed a rented hem and her presence would be explainable even if the ladies retiring room would have been a more obvious place to re-stitch the trailing piece. She jammed her low heel into the fine silk of her skirt and jerked the fabric upwards with a satisfying rip.

“Am I intruding?”

Lydia gritted her teeth at Simon’s gentle tones. Now she had no chance of spying upon Lord Goodall and had a torn hem to boot. Perfect. She span around, needlework kit clutched in one fist and made no attempt to smooth out her creased skirts. “Intruding? Of course not, I always like an audience while I attempt to do mending.”


Sorry for my tardiness in posting

Things have been a bit quiet on here in the last few months. I do apologise but I’ve had the mother of all excuses. Not writing related I’m afraid, no sudden confessions of fantastic contracts etc, but an even more exciting announcement, to me at least.

I’m expecting twins. Yup. You heard me right. 2012-12-18 14.40.30A little boy and a little girl. 2012-12-18 15.08.39Come April/May my world is going to get a whole lot busier as I will be a mother with four children under five.

Oh yeah. To say I am excited would a huge understatement. I couldn’t have asked for anything so very special. I’m currently 21 weeks pregnant and the last scan showed my two little people to be happy and healthy and doing everything they are supposed to do.

My eldest is excited and is already making plans for where the pair should sleep and sit in the car etc, not sure about Nancy, thinks she’s a little to understand exactly why mummy’s tummy suddenly looks like she’s eaten all the pies and then some.2012-12-17 08.41.31

So, don’t fret, I’m still writing. I’m about 15K into the next story and I’m currently 50% of the way through editing Braving Madness (which happily isn’t as bad as I had feared, well bits of it are, but some of it is pretty entertaining,) with the hopes of sending it out early next year and getting myself an agent. I’ll try and get on here when I can but as you might expect I’m pretty tired at the moment and that’s not a situation that’s going to improve for the considerable future. (For example it took me ten minutes to get into my support tights this morning…)

But I am just about ready for christmas thanks to a little help from my little helpers…2012-12-23 14.23.37

So Merry Christmas, I’m off to deliver a few last cards and presents, but I’ll leave you with a snippet from chapter 4 of Held in the Balance. This is Lord Curzon’s point of view at his engagement ball to Miss Lydia Taunton.

Simon stood at the far side of the ballroom, his back an inch from the ivory wainscoting, close enough to make the position defensible against the milling crowds of feathered and turbaned frights without taking advantage of the bevelled sill at hip level, a penance for his earlier lapse of concentration.AssemblyRooms

A dark figure made his way towards him with a determined stride. Simon slow breathed air into his lungs and prepared to talk to his cousin’s new husband, as if the evening hadn’t gone badly enough already. Carrington handed him a glass of champagne and Simon nodded his thanks, taking the smallest of sips of the bubbling wine, enough to be polite but no more. His entire six months on the continent had passed in an alcoholic haze, these days a cup of tea or coffee was more agreeable to his palate and conscious.

“Carrington.”

“Curzon.” Carrington leant against the wall, a slight wrinkle in the smooth line of his coat, the creases about cravat all suggestive of a bout of physical activity since dressing. Simon had no intention of trying to detect similar discrepancies to Betty’s dress, one didn’t look for tell-tale signs of sexual satisfaction in a woman who had until recently been promised to him instead. Three months and so much had changed.


Beware all who enter…

I live in a house filled with disease. Ever since my eldest started nursery she has brought one bug after another into our house with such frequency we should have a cross painted on the door to ward off visitors. The brave people who do actually manage to brave the lurgies and kindly come and help me out for the day(kind, kind people ) leave contaminated and within a couple of days are coughing and sniffing with the rest of us only dispelling the germs in time to come and catch the next batch.

But we have managed the first half term. Well sort of, as my little one is currently stretched out on the sofa and I need to ring up the nursery again and tell them she won’t be attending the last day of the half-term, but overall we have survived. An achievement of sorts. Just the next twenty years or so to get everyone through school… piece of cake.

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know my stories aren’t usually rife with disease, so this link is a bit of a stretch but I’m going for the stomachache angle. I’m still tinkering away at the first chapter of Held in the Balance. I would love to throw myself in full force but I’m still in editing mode for Braving Madness and I know if I don’t get on with that now I never will. Still, this snippet is at Lydia’s engagement ball and starts with Lydia’s father toasting the happy couple.

He lifted an elegant crystal glass ceiling-wards and the light from the chandeliers turned the champagne into the palest honey, catching the carved facets and making his hands impossibly large. “Ladies and gentlemen, will you all join me in wishing the happy couple a hearty congratulations on their engagement this evening. To the happy couple.”

The toast rippled across the ballroom, a mixture of sincerity, envy and downright apathy from those only interested in the free champagne flowing so freely through the evening they should be swimming in the stuff. She’d drunk enough herself and her stomach churned with bubbles and the inevitability of her future sank like a stone to the bottom.

 


Autumn

I’m not quite sure when it happened but it seems autumn is finally upon us. One minute I had roses still blooming in my garden and the next day the leaves on my dogwood had turned a fiery shade of red. And I’ve still not got my bulbs planted out. I went out yesterday and dug a couple of pits (with a little helper) and chucked some in, in half hearted attempt but it didn’t seem to make too much of a dent on the supply. This happens every year. I order bulbs from a catalogue some time in the summer when I am all enthusiastic and the prospect of planting out the odd few hundred bulbs doesn’t seem that daunting, a challenge even, my mind fixed on the images in the catalogue and all the pretty flowers my garden will have in the spring. But when it actually comes to planting them out I remember how half of the bulbs got eaten by slugs the minute they put their shoots up and how I spent much of the spring looking at the neon pink tulip and then at the catalogue picture of the lovely pastel shade of pink and thinking how unfortunate I should have planted them right next to the neon yellow tulips, which should have been the palest of creams according to the catalogue.

But nevermind. My riotous spring garden with its jumble of colours can wait a few months, right now I’m busy enjoying the autumn shades and snuggling under a blanket as the nights draw in early.

Now I’m going to struggle to find a snippet related to autumn in either Braving Madness or my new WIP Held in the Balance as both of them are set in the spring. Rats. So I’ll just cheat and share a snippet from my new WIP just because I can. This is written in Lydia’s POV and her father is announcing her engagement to Lord Curzon to the rest of the tonne. He is not a man accustomed to making speeches…

Sir John tipped his head towards his future son-in-law. “I hope you realise what you’re getting yourself into Curzon, my boy. She’ll not be an easy handful. I should know, had to raise the chit myself for longer than I care to remember. Shouldn’t admit she’s used to wearing the britches about the house but I’m sure a man like you will be able to charm her out of them once you’re married.”

Lydia refused to cringe and thanked her lucky stars that she never blushed. This time the titters were loud enough to be heard even from the ladies clustered at the back of the hall. Her mother would have been mortified. Not that it had ever taken much.

“I can assure you I will do my utmost.” Lord Simon Curzon’s reply was uniform, nothing in the words to tell he had even noticed Sir John’s accidental innuendo.


Finished

I don’t normally write posts about writing.

I figure I waffle on enough about writing to family and friends that I don’t really have any reason to bore you guys about it. Instead I waffle on about a range of other sometimes boring topics. But today I feel like I have sufficient reason to bend my own rules.

The book I have been working on for the last EIGHTEEN months is finally finished. Well, the first draft at least. I was beginning to think it would never happen. Admittedly I did somewhat slow the pace down by throwing the whole thing in the bin at 60,000 words but finally it is finished at a whopping 110500 words. In fact about 15,000 words longer than I wanted it to be.

But it is done. Printed out, (with steadily fading ink) and bound in a folder just a teeny bit too small for it so the pages all keep falling out. An unfortunate circumstance considering I forgot to put page numbers on. Oops. So now I am in editing mode, chiefly with my red pen handy for cutting that odd 15,000 words.

And I get to start a new story. Lovely lovely lovely. I’m 1500 words into ‘Held in the balance’ and I am loving it already.

So chocolate cake at the ready, here is a snippet from the epilogue to kick start the celebrations.

“I think now would be a good idea to take that constitutional walk of yours,” Edward said in a hushed undertone to wife. Considering the impressive lung capacity of their new grandson and the frequency he felt compelled to use them to their full extent, Edward could have bellowed the words to Betty and the rest of the company would have been none the wiser.

Leaving his son-in-law with his arms full of squalling baby and a comic look of dismay on his face, the pair of them crept from the overheated room even as the formidable nurse clad in a heavily starched uniform strode towards the infant with her arms outstretched and a disapproving look on her face.

Arm in arm, they hurried down the corridor like naughty children escaped from the nursery, gathering cloaks and shawls as they went from a sympathetic footman. Outside dusk was already approaching and the long shadows of grand oaks stretched out onto the lawn in front of Carrington house, and fiery leaves tumbled and swirled along the gravelled path and crunched beneath Betty’s sturdy boots.

Twenty years and he still hadn’t persuaded her into the lures of dainty footwear despite numerous pricey gifts, all outrageously boxed items with lengths of silk ribbons and mounds of the finest tissue paper. Not that he’d spent twenty years continually concerned about her feet; nine boisterous children and now an equally boisterous grandchild had a habit of forcing all but the most urgent matters from a man’s mind.