Archive for the ‘twice-told tale’ Tag

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I helped a woman with some blinds today. I helped her pick them out, and then cut them down to size. She kept commenting on how nice I was and how helpful I was being. I would simply say thank you.

As I was cutting the blinds, she told me about how she was just in town to help her sister move. Her sister had moved into a new house and was too busy to do the unpacking and settling in herself. So she had come from California to do it for her. I commented that that was very nice of her.

“Do you know Miami Boulevard?” the woman asked. “Do you ever drive down there?”

I said that I do. I actually haven’t driven down Miami Boulevard in several months, not since we moved to the townhouse, but I have driven down that road. That seemed like an unnecessary detail, so I just said that I drive down Miami Boulevard.

“You know the psychic on that road, right?”

I actually have never noticed a psychic on Miami Boulevard, but I said that I had.

“That’s my sister,” the woman said, proudly. “You’re so nice. She can help you with your issue. You know the one. I can get you a special rate, since you’re so nice and helpful. Would you like to meet her?”

I actually ran through a list in my head of all the issues I deal with — my depression, my career, my social isolation, my schedule, my marriage, writer’s block — before I realized that she was playing me. She was networking for her sister. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to go to a psychic. The fact that we have therapists indicate how helpful it is to have a third party to talk with. But psychics are an unregulated industry, use chicanery to do their work, and have been known to abuse their positions. I’m sure most psychics are very nice. I’ve been to a psychic once, at the Renaissance Festival, for the novelty of it. She was very nice and did not take advantage of me at all. But it was clearly just a cold reading facilitated by some props. So no. I was not interested in visiting her sister.

“Sure,” I said.

Saying no seemed to be rude. Anyway, I could take the number and then just never call her.

After she left, I went to go see if there were any returns in the returns bin. I spotted Don, one of the paint guys, standing by himself. I walked up to him.

“Do you believe in psychics?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

I looked at him in surprise.

He told me that when he had been stationed in Hawaii, he had visited a psychic. He had been surprised at how much she knew and how much she figured out. “She knew I was a pilot,” he said.

I could imagine that hadn’t been hard to guess.

“She said I would go to school on the East Coast, which — I didn’t know any schools on the East Coast! She said I would go to Florida. I said that I had family in Florida so of course I would go to Florida. She said I wouldn’t go because of family. And she said that I would have one child, which, for reasons, I didn’t think would happen. I visited her twice. I went a third time, but her house had burned down and she was taking care of that. When I was stationed in Alabama, we had to go to Florida after a hurricane and help clean up. I was there for forty days. Afterwards I tried to apply to be an instructional pilot. I was turned down for that, but they offered to train me to be a maintenance test pilot — on the East Coast! And then afterwards my wife said that she was pregnant! Are you going to be able to cover my lunch?”

That seemed like an awful lot to try to disprove. So I simply accepted it. Andrew, another paint guy, approached. I asked if he believed in psychics. He said no. I explained to them both about what happened with the woman in blinds. Then I went and took care of returns (we had lots of returns).

Speaking of writer’s block, I have it. There’s two projects that I’m working on right now. One is the fairy tale story. The problem is that right now I’m working on a very plot-point heavy section. The protagonist/future princess/whatever is three years old and very sick. So her mother has summoned her cousin, the court physician, to cure her. He’s going to do some bloodletting, drop in the knowledge that Prince Orson is missing, and then inform Martha, the kindly governess, how she can get in contact with the local witch coven.

At long last the physicker arrived, after dark, when most of the household had gone to bed. The footmen sent a pageboy to the butler, who arrived in the foyer within minutes, straightening his tie and giving a formal greeting. He and the page escorted the physicker to the sickroom.
Dawn, Martha, and the staff were preparing the room for the night when the door swung open, and the physicker stepped into the room. His wax-lined cape shuddered around him, swing flatly from side to side. He wore leather gloves and black clothing, and peered down at the women behind his glasses. Did he have a big nose or was it just the angle?
He was also shockingly young, hardly older than Dawn. Everyone was starting to look young to Martha’s eyes, but he looked really young.
Martha shooed the servants from the room. The visit was a private matter.
Dawn stood up and curtsied before him. “Paul,” she said. “Thank goodness you’ve arrived. How was your trip?”
“I cannot stay,” he said.
“Have you come straight from court?”
“I cannot say no to you,” said the physicker. “But the timing is inconvenient. The queen is ill.”
Dawn glanced at Martha, who was already shutting the door firmly. Martha’s mind was racing.
“Hysterics,” said the physicker. “The prince has gone missing.”
Martha eyed the boy. She wouldn’t be trusting him with any secrets anytime soon.
“That’s ridiculous.”
“It’s fact.”
Martha allowed herself to turn her head. Dawn was sitting on the bed, holding Lily’s hand. The physicker had not moved. Dawn glanced at Martha, then lifted up her daughter’s hand.
“She still has a fever, even after three days.”
The physicker finally approached Lily. He knelt down by the bed and took Lily’s hand from Dawn. He lifted up her arm and poked her armpit. Lily squirmed. Martha stepped closer to the bed. Lily was probably going to wake back up and try to get out of bed again.
The physicker tapped along Lily’s neck, then tapped down her chest and to her bellybutton.
“How has her breathing been?”
“She has coughing fits, but then she’s fine.”
He leaned his head over and placed it on Lily’s chest. He waited for a few breaths, then lifted his head back up. Lily squirmed again. The physicker reached over and lifted one of her eyelids. He peered into her eyes. He let go, but Lily blinked and stared at him. The physicker didn’t seem to notice; he reached a gloved hand into her mouth and pried it open. Lily looked up at Dawn, at Martha, at Dawn, and Martha again.
“She’s hot and wet,” said the physicker.
Lily squirmed, trying to sit up. She coughed.
“It’s an imbalance,” said the physicker. “Too much yellow bile and phlegm, and it’s all trying to get out. This is a good start,” he gestured at the fire. “What have you been feeding her?”
“Broth,” said Martha.
The physicker turned and gave her a once-over. “Is this the nurse?”
“Martha is Lily’s governess,” said Dawn. “I nursed Lily myself.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” said the physicker. “Nursing is hard on gentle ladies. You would have been better off entrusting her to the milk of a physical creature.”
“Is that why she’s sick?”
“No, she’s imbalanced. All this sweat, this coughing, she’s trying to get the phlegm out of her. And this heat! You,” he looked at Martha. “Send for some bread and salt.”
Martha looked at Dawn, but Dawn was looking at Lily. She sucked in her breath and turned back towards the door.
“We might have to bleed her, she’s so hot.”
It was the first sensible thing the man had said. Martha went to the door and opened it. As expected, three servant girls were clustered by the door, listening in.
“I suppose you heard everything?”
Their eyes wide, they said nothing.
“You heard nothing, yes?”
They nodded.
“Good. Go get some bread. Or cookies. And some salt. Bring them here.”
The physicker had managed to convince Dawn by the time the servant girls returned with a half-loaf of bread and a bowl of salt. The physician took the bread. The bread had been made in the morning. The crust was hard, but his poke could still dent it.
“Excellent,” he said.

…aaaand now what. I have to write a sequence where a three year old gets cut open and bled, and write it as if it’s a good thing. And then roll right into more plot development. Ugh.

The other project, a modern adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm, is still in its development stages. I am honestly completely stuck on how to update the Starkadders. Flora and her friends are so obviously hipsters. But the Starkadders? They’re supposed to make fun of trends popular in literature of the turn of the century.

At first I thought it was just Judith Starkadder who was difficult to deal with. She’s obsessed with her son Seth. This is conveyed very well in the writing, but I have yet to see an adaptation that makes her feelings for Seth obvious. Seth is described constantly as manly (literally, he walks around in a masculine way, the curve of his neck is masculine, etc). He is described as unbuttoning his shirt constantly.

His conversation with his mother is punctuated by the porridge boiling over. It’s hilarious. But how to convey all that on stage? So I thought, well, there’s the modern-day problem of helicopter parents. So maybe she’s a helicopter parent? But no, helicopter parents want their children to go out into the world and succeed (thanks to Mom and Dad). That wouldn’t work in the cloistered world of Cold Comfort Farm.

I then started thinking about the other Starkadder son, Reuben. At first he has a one-sided antagonistic relationship with Flora, thinking that she’s here to take the farm from him. Once he’s convinced that she won’t take the farm, he becomes her ally. Then, randomly, he proposes to her. She turns him down. He continues his lunch. It’s out of nowhere in the book, and it’s supposed to be out of nowhere. I was driving home a few days ago and suddenly thought that maybe Reuben was written in imitation of some romance books where the girl goes to the farm and the guy is antagonistic with her, and then in the end they get married because Belligerent Sexual Tension?

How many tropes am I missing because I haven’t read most of the books Cold Comfort Farm is making fun of? Do I have to go on a classic novel binge in order to really, truly understand Cold Comfort Farm? Why is this such a difficult project?

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I haven’t posted in a month! It’s been a very busy month.

-James and I moved to a townhouse! We’ve been here for ten days now, and it’s been great. We have so much space. We can fit all of our furniture here. The most difficult part was getting the kitchen fixed up. We hadn’t realized how little storage this place has, so we had to buy a bunch of shelves.


They’re filled with dishes. The cabinets are full of food. Everything seems laid out nicely now!

-Every time I sit down to start a blog entry, I started writing fiction instead. Which is good. Except for the fact that I went a month without updating. Will my future children want to look at this blog and see what all of my thoughts were when their father and I were moving? (no)

-We bought a wedding dress! It is beautiful! Now I have to pick a printer for the Save-the-Dates and start working with my Ladies to pick out their dresses. The process of picking out the dress could be the fodder of so many blog entries, but, alas, that stuff has to be secret.

-I finally sought help for my depression. I visited an independent doctor (hard to find in this area, the intersection of UNC and Duke). My doctor introduced herself and explained the concept of the clinic (less patients, more time with each patient). We went through all the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and yes: I have anxiety and depression. Not a severe case, but definitely a case. So she prescribed regular exercise, medication, and visiting a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist.

Something I was surprised to learn: my tendency to not want to get out of bed is a fairly common sign of depression. My tendency to not want to leave my car when I get to my destination? My inability to get off the couch when I’m hungry or have to pee and want to get up, but can’t? That is exactly the same symptom. Who knew?

Doctors. Doctors knew.

-Look at this writing though:

Asking about any sort of magic would look suspicious, and for days Martha was held up by not knowing how to proceed. In her twenty-two years of governing, she had never had a problem like this before. She turned the question over in her mind. She would be tickling Lily and start wondering if the local laundry girls would know anything. Hyacinth would take her two girls out for walks and would start making sniping statements, but Martha would be wondering if the local coven had some sort of signal to signify a meeting, and if so, what could it be?

The answer came rather undramatically. Lily woke up one morning red in the face, coughing, and hot as an oven. Martha and Dawn worried over Lily while waiting for the physician. For a while Martha forgot about the frog and the witches.

The physician explained it was just a sort of generic fever. He prescribed fluids, and stated that the room be kept as hot as possible to help the fever along. They were to summon him if the fever became any worse.

As he left the bedroom, he paused by Froggy.

“Has this been attracting bugs?” he asked.

“No,” said Martha. “But look.”

She tore off a small piece of bread from Lily’s bedside and put it in front of Froggy. Froggy considered the bread, then snatched it up. “He won’t eat bugs,” she added.

“Interesting,” said the physician quietly. “Have you consulted the Sisters?”

“I haven’t consulted anyone,” Martha whispered.

“The sisters meet at the full moon where the tributary meets the river,” said the physician. “Speak of this to no one.” Dawn and handmaiden entered the apartment. The physician said, louder, “Keep me informed on your girl’s condition, and make sure she stays in bed. Little girls get antsy after too much rest.”

“I’ll keep you informed,” said Martha.

“On the girl,” said the physician.

Martha smiled and curtsied.

I am a terrible writer. Just the worst. I don’t want to be blunt. I want to be light. I want to be like Jane Austen. I want to write sentences backwards just to point fun at social conventions. Believe it or not (especially given this example), my main writing strength is in dialogue. I couldn’t think of a way to get all this information across lightly.

So I’ve had to step back from wanting to write well and convince myself to just write. It might help that I joined a writer’s circle. They gave me a lot of good advice on improving a scene I’ve been struggling with in Pizza Boy and Maggie.

Posted May 21, 2015 by agentksilver in Personal, writing

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Twice-Told Tale, pt 2   Leave a comment

Dawn and the miller-knight were very happy for a time, and Dawn soon became with child. Unfortunately, Dawn did not take well to pregnancy. She lay in her upstairs chamber, sick and clammy with the pains of pregnancy. Her ladies opened up the window to ease her hot body. Dawn stared out the window for days.

“Our child will have eyes as blue as that sky,” she said. “She will be absolutely beautiful.”

“If she looks anything like you, she will be,” said the miller-knight as he dabbed her forehead with a cool cloth. He kept his wishes for a son to himself. If she spoke, she still had strength in her.

“Her skin will be as white as that cloud,” she said.

He pressed the cool cloth against the red splotches on her cheeks. Her skin was once pale and creamy, and if he had his way, it would be again.

The next day she swallowed some broth and said she felt better. The miller-knight thought it best if she tried some fresh air. Two strong men carried her in a chair down to the river. He arranged to have some servants change out the bedsheets and other linens, and called for flowers and dry herbs to be strung around the room to sweeten the air.

The small party sat by a calm tributary of the river. It would soon meet with another tributary, where the waters would flush and rush and form the strong current that ran the mill. But here, it was shaded and calm. They could see small fish and insects. The miller-knight pointed out a group of tadpoles to Dawn, who smiled at his words without looking. She was pink today. A lady sat by her chair and fanned her. Perhaps the cool air by the water would help.

The picnic lasted only for an hour or two, but when the miller-knight appeared distracted by clean-up, she complained to her ladies of how achey her bones felt; her knees, her elbows, her shoulders, her neck. She tried to smile whenever the miller-knight looked at her, but he looked at her so often. She was carried upstairs, and was delighted by the changes made to her chambers.

Dawn allowed herself to be tucked into bed and announced that she would be taking a nap. The servants and ladies all left the room. The miller-knight hesitated and ran his hand lightly over her arm before turning to leave.

“They will be frogs soon,” Dawn murmured. The miller-knight stopped and looked at her from the corner of his eye. Dawn ran a hand over her large belly. “They won’t have a lily.”

The miller-knight pinched her hand and started to leave.

“Why would they live somewhere without a lily?”

The miller-knight turned and looked at Dawn. Her eyes were on him, wide and frightened.

“Maybe they don’t need a lily pad,” said the miller-knight.

“But they do,” said Dawn. “That’s what they always say.”

He thought for a moment, and then said, “I’ll get them a lily-pad. I promise.”

She smiled.


When the child was born, she was dipped in cold river water, wrapped in a fine blanket, and brought before her father to be named. All thoughts of wanting a boy disappeared when she was sunk helplessly into her father’s arms. Her eyes were as blue as the mid-summer sky, and she quickly closed them when he had her safely in his arms. She was safe. She was beautiful.

She was named Lilian Patricia Dawn of the Mills. She was presented before her mother, who accepted her as such. The announcement therefore was sent out; the name was announced before the King in His royal court. Letters were sent to connections, merchant and genteel. Lilian Patricia Dawn was born to a noble and wealthy family. Her life would surely be one of prestige and luxury.

For the first few years of her life, it seemed to be the case. Dawn recovered from her fever, although she never regained her full strength. She laughed when she told Lily how she got her name. She brought Lily to the picnic spot often. She walked with a cane and rested frequently, with servants and ladies lagging behind, but she insisted on walking to regain her strength.

The miller-knight had indeed brought lily pads to the little picnic area, just as he had promised. The spot was a nice one for frogs, who jumped around and snapped up all the little bugs in the area. Little Lily ran to and fro, chasing bugs, grabbing worms, sticking her hands in mud, and giving random people hugs.

“She will need a friend soon,” said Dawn, watching her rub her muddy hands all over her dress. “She will need to learn how to act properly. Send out for a governess, and get for me a list of families with children just her age.”

“How old are the King’s children?” asked Lady Abigail, idly.

Lady Georgina sighed and thought. “Brendan is four,” she said. “Beatrice is six, and there are rumors that the Queen is with child again.”

“Excellent,” said Dawn. “I will have to apply to have Lily be made a lady-in-waiting for Beatrice.”

She told her ladies often of her plans for Lily. She would become lady-in-waiting to the princess, and be seen often at court. A young nobleman, a baron or a count, perhaps, would fall madly in love with her and marry her, raising her up higher in society. With such a dowry as a first-born child of the Miller-Knight, any member of the Peerage would welcome her with open arms. Perhaps Lily would own two houses instead of one. Or three houses, and spend part of the year in the city, attending court.

Lily would need to know how to dance and sing. She would need to know her letters, arithmetic, geography, literature, and history. She needed to learn herbs. Someone needed to teach her how to walk properly. The way she walked now was fine, since she was just learning to walk. But soon she would no longer be a wobble-headed toddler but a colt-legged child. She needed to learn grace and modesty.

A governess was hired when Lily was five years old. Elizabeth was barely twenty, the daughter of a shipping agent who had died recently. The miller-knight made the arrangement at his wife’s behest. She was a sweet girl, and balanced the need for Lily to behave and her need to play.

A friend for Lily was much harder to come by. The local families were much too enthralled by the wealth of the miller-knight. Finally the miller-knight and Dawn attended the funeral of a count. Dawn met with the count’s widow and saw that she had two daughters just Lily’s age. She sent for Elizabeth and Lily, and arranged a picnic for the three girls.

Posted February 10, 2015 by agentksilver in writing

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Twice-Told Tale, pt 1   Leave a comment

Once upon a time, there was a small kingdom, ever pushed-upon by its larger neighbors. The other kingdoms pushed ever farther outwards, conquering and expanding, so that the little kingdom wondered always if they, too, were about to be taken. But the people who had settled and made the small kingdom had been wise; they had chosen an area by a great river, surrounded by lush fields. The small kingdom was fertile. The people were well-fed and happy, and sent out their surplus to the surrounding kingdoms, creating strong trade alliances that all involved parties were reluctant to throw aside. Still, the people of the small kingdom were frightened of their much larger neighbors.

In time, the larger kingdoms became more technologically advanced than their smaller neighbor. A young knight of the small kingdom went and studied in one of the neighboring kingdoms, and learned about the latest and greatest in technology: mills. Strong currents pushed the wheel of the mill, which pushed another wheel, creating so much strength that pushed and pressed and made tiny pulp of the smallest and strong things. The young knight vowed to bring this technology to his small kingdom by the river.

He did; he built a grist mill by the river on his family’s lands. The people brought wheat to the mill to be ground. He separated the shaft from the seed and ground the seeds, creating flour that could be sold to bakers and families in the kingdom and in the surrounding kingdoms. So pure was this flour that merchants bought the flour sight-unseen. Just a stamp on the sack of the flour was enough to double the price of the flour.

The knight in due time became economically prosperous. As the saying goes, a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want a wife; in this case, the young knight chose for himself the prettiest young lady in the kingdom. She had golden hair and eyes the color of the morning sky. Her name was Dawn.

Dawn and the miller-knight were very happy for a time. Unfortunately, Dawn did not take well to pregnancy. She lay in her upstairs chamber, sick and clammy with the pains of pregnancy. It was mid-winter, and the ladies opened up the window to ease her hot body. Dawn stared out the window for days.

Posted February 9, 2015 by agentksilver in writing

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