One of the coolest things about being a writer is that you are never more than your fingertips away from a story that you want to read. I’m the most successful as a novelist when I write the stories that I want to hear. For example: Can I ride a pony through the woods into another world? Voila, Gordath Wood.
Or the question that was the impetus behind The Unexpected Miss Bennet: Why didn’t Mary and Mr. Collins get married?
When I started writing what became The Sisters Mederos, I knew I wanted a Regency-inspired fantasy novel with my signature brand of magic (just a hint, and the kind of magic that you don’t quite know if it’s real or not). I didn’t know that there were going to be cross-dressing bandits, dastardly captains of industry, cutthroat gamblers, and ballroom politics. I just knew I wanted to read a ripping yarn, so I had to tell it to myself first.
Note: This might be why I don’t (or can’t) outline. If I know what’s going to happen, it takes all the fun out of it.
Here’s an excerpt, just to whet your appetite:
The clerk looked up at Yvienne’s entrance and rolled her eyes.
“Miss Mederos,” she said starchily, for all that she was Yvienne’s age or even younger. “Really, we can’t continue on like this.”
Yvienne was peripherally aware of a personage in plain rough clothing and a deep poke bonnet sitting on the bench by the door.
“Miss Mastrini, please. It won’t happen again, I promise,” she said.
“Heather Moon said that your uncle was lewd and unbecoming.”
Yes. That was Uncle all right. She looked the clerk straight in the eye.
“I’ll make him stop,” she said. Her declaration was met with the clerk’s skeptical demeanor. “Please,” she added, desperate. It wasn’t that she and Tesara couldn’t do the work. They had been thoroughly trained in the scullery arts at Madam Callier’s. But it would kill her parents if their daughters, their hopes for the future, would be reduced to scrubbing floors.
The girl sighed. “I suppose I can see who we have.” She said it with the air of someone who didn’t think it would do any good.
Yvienne reached into her small purse and handed her a folded paper, meticulously written out. “I’d also like to give you this.”
The girl scanned it and raised an eyebrow. “You wish to be a governess?”
“I think my qualifications will suit.”
Her vitae were woefully short, but she had learned something in spite of all of Madam Callier’s efforts. And she could hardly do worse than the average governess.
“Do you have any letters of reference?” Miss Mastrini asked.
“Well then, I’m afraid–”
“Miss Mastrini, they all know me. They know my family, they know my situation, they know everything about me, including that I’m desperate, poor, and the smartest girl in Port Saint Frey. Surely there’s someone who is looking for a governess for their girls who knows they can trust one of their own – even one such as me.”
The room was silent. She was deeply ashamed that the person on the bench had to hear her plea. Miss Mastrini pursed her lips and then came to a sudden decision. She smoothed out the resume and stamped it with a red ink stamp. Approved, Yvienne read upside down. The young woman dated it and scrawled her signature.
“I won’t have something for you right away,” she said. “It might take a few days. I’ll send you a letter if we do find an engagement.”
Yvienne wanted to clasp her hand gratefully, but she settled for heartfelt thanks. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“Now, as for your housemaid situation, unfortunately–”
The woman on the bench stood and Yvienne turned around. “Miss Mastrini,” she said in a firm, clear voice. “Perhaps I would be a good fit for this household.”
“Miss Angelus, we haven’t even taken your vitae,” Miss Mastrini objected. “And believe me, a different posting would be better for you.”
What an extraordinary name. Yvienne watched as Miss Angelus untied her old-fashioned bonnet and took it off, allowing them to get a good look at her. She was a tall, broad-shouldered girl, built for work, as Cook might say from the old days. She was not a young girl, but she was not old, being perhaps in her eight-and-twentieth year, or thereabouts. She was not beautiful but striking, with full lips, dark hair, and dark eyes under dramatic brows. In other words, Uncle Samwell would soon be lewd and unbecoming yet again. She felt a pang of disappointment.
“Let me introduce myself,” Miss Angelus said. “My name is Mathilde Angelus. I am twenty-seven years old, and I’ve been working in a kitchen and a domestic situation my whole life. I can cook dinner parties for two dozen and breakfast for the family. I’m clean, neat, and particular, and I can housemaid and nanny. I’m new here in Port Saint Frey because my family has moved from Ravenne and it is up to me to help my mother and father as they make a new life away from the mines. I’m not married, I don’t hope to be, and if your uncle tries anything on with me he’ll be very sorry. I don’t run from a lewd man, but I don’t suffer them neither — either.”
Silence rang in the tiny office, broken only by the ticking of the carriage clock on the mantel behind Miss Mastrini.
“Lovely,” Yvienne said, when she could break the spell of wonder and admiration. “When can you start?”
Just about three more months, people! I know I can’t wait. And then we can talk about The Sisters Mederos together.