Seven Southern Superstitions

by Andrea on June 8, 2014

 

MC900436255[1]Just playing around with my southern roots for a spell and tossing out seven sunny south superstitions.

A superstition is the belief that one event causes another without any physical process linking the two events. Sayings and superstitions have been around about as long as the spoken word. Most of them defy logic and likely came about as a result of ignorance and fear of the unknown. Many superstitious practices can be attributed to false interpretations of natural events. Others arise from a desire to predict the future or simply to ease the anxiety of uncertainty.

We may laugh today when a superstitious saying pops out of the mouth of a friend, acquaintance or family member, but it is likely each of us has one or two we cling to, whether we admit it or not. Honestly, can you see a black cat crossing your path or a ladder propped against a building and not steer clear?

These southern superstitions gave me a chuckle and invited comment. See if they are new to you or if they spread to your part of the country and got a regional twist.

1. Pull three hairs from a dog’s tail and put them under the doorstep. Your dog will not stray from home. (He might bite you though, so fair warning.)

2. Sweeping after dark will bring sorrow to your heart. (That goes for any housework as far as I can tell.)

3. Slips from plants should be stolen. Only stolen ones grow. (Do be careful pinching off the plants at Home Depot.)

4. If you want to learn to pick a banjo, take your banjo to the forks of a dirt road on a dark night and start playing. (Wear your running shoes.)

5. To become beautiful, get behind a door and eat a chicken foot or swallow a chicken gizzard whole. (Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)

6. Run into a cobweb, you’ll get a letter. (And tick off a spider.)

7. Kissing a gal behind the ear brings bad luck. (She won’t care.)

I ran across these researching backgrounds for characters. Got my fingers crossed there are are a few you haven’t heard. It you have a favorite superstition; I’d love to hear it.

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An Excerpt From Devil Moon

by Andrea on March 11, 2014

Meet Rhys and Teddy from Devil Moon

Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell (Trove 2013) Inside the Brass Bell Saloon, Teddy Gamble led to a corner table, kicked back a chair and sat.

 “Marc André Rhys Delmar at your service, mademoiselle.” Smiling to full effect, Rhys slid into a second chair and squared himself across the scarred bar table from Teddy Gamble. Her expression was that of a caged cat, one of pent-up energy and barely held-back anger. He stared at her because it was impossible to do otherwise. She was like no woman he’d ever seen. Her face was finely boned. And her hands had tanned a honey-brown from the sun. They were nearly the same color as the fringed buckskin shirt and trousers she wore. Her eyes, all banked with angry fire, were the most striking he’d ever encountered, a glowing green color as remarkable as the stones she wore.

 “It’s plain Teddy, here,” she said. “I don’t need any mademoiselle or mouthful of names to know who I am.”

With a whisk of her hand, she pushed the dusty hat from her head and sailed it into the seat of an empty chair at the table. Rhys had been prepared for a cropped head of straggly hair but was surprised to discover that Teddy Gamble had an abundance of shining tawny locks which had been gathered in a braid and pinned beneath her hat. With some relief he concluded he’d been right to suspect that the woman had at least a tiny element of femininity to her.

 “A thousand pardons, mademoi—Teddy,” he said. “I only intended politeness.”

 “Well don’t tangle yourself up in it,” Teddy snapped. “Just spit out why it is you think you’re part owner of the Gamble Line.”

 Rhys flashed another smile. “It is not what I think. It is what is true.” He fished in his inside coat pocket for the leather packet in which he’d placed the papers given him by Zachary Gamble. “Monsieur Zachary Gamble wagered his share of the company in a game of cards.” With what was, to Teddy, agonizing slowness, he spread the papers on the table for her to view. “He lost.”

 Teddy’s heart faltered a beat. Her Uncle Zack’s exaggerated penmanship was unmistakable. He’d signed his interest in the company over to the Frenchman as a pledge against a gambling loss. And evidently her Uncle Zack had either been unable or unwilling to ante up the cash to buy that interest back.

 But be that as it may, Teddy wasn’t about to accept the fancy man’s claim without a challenge. “Uncle Zack will have to tell me himself that he surrendered his interest to you,” she said coldly. “For all I know you robbed him and forged that signature.”

 Rhys blanched white. He came halfway out of his chair, then thought better of his action and eased himself down again. “Mademoi—” He paused, blew out a long breath then spoke with deliberate slowness to Teddy. “If Monsieur Gamble could tell anyone anything I would not have come halfway across the world to redeem these documents.”

 “What do you mean?” Teddy hissed.

 “Your uncle is dead.”

***

Rhys and Teddy are setting the West on fire in Devil Moon. If you like stagecoaches and lots of sparks, look for Devil Moon at your favorite ebook store.

Available at:

For updates on future releases and specials, be sure to sign up for my email list.

Happy Reading!

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Celebrate Read An Ebook Week at Smashwords. March 2-8, 2014.

I’m joining in. Use the special code at Smashwords to take advantage.

Whispers At Midnight is free!
Dark Prelude is free and Dark Splendor is half price.
Delilah’s Flame, Devil Moon, My Only Desire are also half price.

Stock up. Read your heart out.

Kudos to Smashwords for giving authors a portal to publishing and prosperity and readers loads of new books and authors to discover.

 

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Ten Quick Tips For Writers

by Andrea on February 16, 2014

I appreciate and adore all readers. I also know writers are voracious readers and many of you who visit my site are writers as well as readers. Occasionally I like to include a post especially for you.

Even if you are a long time writer it is good to run a checklist on yourself and your work periodically.  The following ten tips are just a few quick reminders to sharpen up your work or get it moving again if you get stuck.

Ten quick Tips For Writers by Andrea Parnell

  1. Open with a situation that creates a mystery factor.
  2. Plant hints throughout that something new is about to happen.
  3. Give your character a time limit.
  4. Give the villain a few redeeming characteristics.
  5. Check your manuscript for problem words. Suddenly, there, it was, others you tend to overuse.
  6. Use Colorful verbs to add life to your work.  She breezed through the room. vs She made her way through the room.
  7. End every chapter with a hook to make a page turner.
  8. Vary sentence length.
  9. Keep a bibliography or a list of websites  identifying your research sources.
  10. Pause in the middle of a sentence when you end your work for the day.

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

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Valentine Goodies

by Andrea on February 6, 2014

Dear Romantic Readers,

Valentine’s Day is all about love and romance, sweethearts and special ones in our lives.  In celebration of Cupid and all the tricky things he does with hearts and emotions, Trove Books is offering Delilah’s Flame and Devil Moon at a special limited time price of $.99.

Delilah’s Flame

She’s no redheaded angel, don’t you fall for her smiles.  ‘Cause the devil taught Delilah how to use her wiles.

Tabor Stanton thinks he’s just the man to tame wild, wicked Delilah.

Devil Moon

His new business partner wasn’t what he was expecting.  Gentleman gambler Rhys Delmar could not have invited more trouble if he had lit a stick of dynamite and stuck it in his pocket by claiming a share of Theodora Gamble’s stage line.

“Mademoiselle Gamble,” he said with the smooth, deep voice that had weakened many feminine knees. “It seems we have gotten off to a bad start.”

“You bet your ass we have!”

Cupid is at his mischievous best in these two Guns & Garters Western Historical Romances, flinging arrows galore at hearts battling each other and the lies and secrets surrounding them. Warm up your Valentine’s Day with one or both.

Happy Reading!

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A beautiful bounty hunter on a mission A handsome scoundrel on the run. When two strong wills and two empty hearts collide, there is bound to be fire and smoldering passion that will not let it die.

My Only Desire is inspired by all the women who after experiencing great personal loss shift their energy and emotion into protecting those at risk and those whose lives were similarly touched by tragedy.

My Only Desire by Andrea ParnellGreat adversity can bring great change in a person.  In My OnlyDesire I explored this premise after noting that many organizations such as MADD, were formed by individuals following devastating personal loss.  I wondered if it could have been much the same in the old west, if a woman who experienced heart-breaking tragedy might transform into an advocate for justice.  A beautiful bounty hunter stepped up.

My Only Desire,  features the gun-toting, no-nonsense Sunny Harlowe.  Like Delilah in Delilah’s Flame and Teddy in Devil Moon, she’s a western woman to contend with.  You won’t find Sunny corseted or coiffed to perfection or consumed with the latest fashion or longing for a beau.  You would do a double take to believe your eyes and by then it would be too late; the shrewdest bounty hunter in Colorado would have you in handcuffs.

Sunny Harlowe is a woman on a mission doing a job she was never meant to hold.  Sunshine, supper on the table, a baby in the cradle, these were her dreams.  All changed to dust in 1873 Colorado, when this darling of the mining camps,  a demure young woman and loving wife, experiences an horrific event.  Her life and hopes for the future shattered, she packs away her calico and lace, straps on six-shooters  and embraces a stunningly different future as a bounty hunter committed to bringing to justice men like those who cost her what she held most dear.

A danger for those committed to a single purpose is that they can lose all of who and what they were before.  All the sweetness, all the dreams young Sunny Harlowe had are fading away until she captures Price Ramsey, a man with a mission of his own and all the charm and persuasion needed to remind Sunny she is a woman with a woman’s heart.

Download a copy at your favorite ebook store.  If you enjoy the story, Sunny, Price and I would appreciate a review.  Happy Reading.

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Excerpt from My Only Desire

by Andrea on January 13, 2014

My Only Desire

A Guns & Garters Western Historical Romance

A man in chains.

A  woman in charge.

Sunny Harlowe is a bounty hunter who always gets her man. But this time she’s captured trouble in Price Ramsey, a scoundrel who always gets his woman.

My Only Desire by Andrea Parnell“Sunny. Do you know what I thought the first time I saw you?”

“Let me guess.” With difficulty, she broke her gaze away from his and swung off the pinto.  “You thought, ‘There’s a woman I haven’t had.’”

Dammit. Nothing was easy with this woman. But he fortified himself for the new assault. “No,” he said tenderly. “I thought, ‘There’s the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen.’ ”

“Hah!” She tossed the stirrup up on the seat of the saddle and unbuckled the girth.

“And the next time,” he continued. “I saw you, and I forgot I was supposed to be shooting at the target Delos tossed for me.”

“You hit it.”

“Barely,” he said. “I tried to find you afterwards.”

Pretending indifference, she unshackled the chains on Price’s handcuffs so he could dismount. “I didn’t want you to find me,” she said.

“No,” he ground out. “But you wanted me, Sunny. I’m not wrong about that. I’m not wrong about what I saw in your eyes before you disappeared.”

“Over there.” She pointed at a thick part of the grove. “Go.”

He obeyed, docile as a lamb while she hooked his shackles around still another tree.

“Sunny?”

“What?”

“Kiss me,” he said softly.

“You’re crazy,” she hissed.

“I know.” His eyes flashed, and his low, husky voice sent a shiver up her spine. “I am. Look at me. I can’t move more than a foot. I can’t hurt you. I can’t do anything to you that wouldn’t leave me in a worse predicament than this. Kiss me. Please. It’s not too much to ask.”

“Yes, it is…”

She said it too slowly, and he knew she was thinking about it. And she was standing so close. A tilt of his head was enough. His lips touched hers, light as a breeze. He didn’t raise his hands. He didn’t want to remind her of his chains.

Sunny moaned softly as his mouth opened and closed hungrily on her lips, tender yet demanding.  The shock, the satisfaction caught her.  She trembled, felt a whirlwind rise and twist within her, felt the spiraling power of it numb her mind and inflame her senses.  Her knees shook and her eyelids slid down as the heart of the storm swept deep in her abdomen then spun up and out, higher and higher.  And then he stepped away…

***

My Only Desire is available now for your favorite e-reader at:

 

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Finding Devil Moon

by Andrea on October 9, 2013

She was no lady. He was a gentleman gambler. Together they were like gunpowder and flint, setting the west on fire beneath a Devil Moon.

Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell (Trove 2013)Western lore dominated my childhood. Kid-friendly western movies streamed from the local theater. I saw them all and yearned for life on a ranch, a six-shooter and spurs. Not much of that in Georgia farm country but a kid can dream. Decades later my dreams saw fruition when I began creating my own tales of the West. Though I had been weaned on male dominated features where women were merely in the supporting roles or part of the scenery, I wanted to showcase  atypical women of the West.

Surely, all women of that era were tougher than hardtack and had hearts bigger than the sky, but I wanted them to put aside their bonnets and petticoats and stand toe to toe with the men. I wanted them to strap on six shooters and ride herd and take on bad guys and bad times just like the men.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved those rough and tumble good guys in their boots and Stetsons even if it was mainly their horses strumming my heartstrings. TV westerns were better at showing strong go get ’em women but that only made me more determined to give my characters some grit and sass.

The first of my western heroines made her debut in Delilah’s Flame. Delilah takes justice by the tail and gives it new meaning. Teddy Gamble steps out in Devil Moon. Teddy is prickly as a cactus flower and pretty as a desert sunset.  She runs a stage line, wears buckskins, battles road agents, a hostile takeover attempt, and her own wayward heart. She needs all the grit and sass she’s got when a handsome Frenchman enters her domain and claims a part of it.

Writing historicals is a little like time travel. I loved and lived every minute of Teddy’s adventures and misadventures even though she’s braver and bolder and a better shot than me. I am strongly addicted to American history, particularly that of the West. I enjoy creating characters whose lives show the strength and forbearance that gave us our heritage.

Devil Moon is the second of a trio of Guns and Garters Western Romances, to be released as an ebook this fall from Trove Books. Pre-order Devil Moon now at Smashwords at Barnes & Noble and on Apple iBookstore.

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*The following is a chapter excerpt from my book Roadmap For Writers and expounds on the use of the character chart shown in an earlier blog post.  Many of my Creative Writing students found it useful for fleshing out the characters in their stories.  For major characters, I often write several paragraphs or more about each item in the character chart. Write as much or as little as works to make your characters real. 

Traveling Companions

You’ve thumbed the travel brochures, picked a vacation spot.  The bags are packed.  The car is filled with gas.  You’re ready to go.  But do you really want to travel alone?  Consider asking a friend along.  Good traveling companions make a trip more fun.

In writing a snippet of conversation overheard, an article you’ve read, an experience you’ve had or any of a hundred other events triggers a spark in your head.  You’re excited and eager to plunge into chapter one or to start plotting an outline.  But do you really want to travel alone?  Consider asking your protagonist along from the start.  Good characters make a story worth reading.

In a sense the reader and the protagonist share the same seat in your story.  The idea that got you going has to be an integral part of your protagonist’s existence.  Plug your idea into your protagonist’s makeup right from the start.  You’ll be well on the way to creating a character readers can identify with and a story they can’t put down.  One of the best ways to do this is to make an extensive character chart early in the process of writing a book or short story.  Think of your chart not simply as a police report that covers primarily physical characteristics and whereabouts, but rather as a complete psychological workup that includes every facet of the character’s personality and life.

Think about characters who live on in your memory.  Scarlett O’Hara.  Luke Skywalker.  Indiana Jones.  Captain Jack Sparrow.  Katniss Everdeen.  What makes him or her endure?  Capture those traits and you have a character who lives for the reader.  The key word is live.  Any character, particularly the protagonist in your story, must have a life.  This includes a past, a family, friends, opinions, goals, fears, all the components of being a living person has.

You, the writer, must know your protagonist as well as you do your brother or sister or best friend.  You’ve got to be on speaking terms with all your characters.  You must know secondary characters as well as you do your neighbors, the guy in the next office, the stylist who cuts your hair.  Otherwise your characters are merely mouthpieces for the narrator — that’s you.

A major character must be extraordinary in some way.  If you attend a party where there are fifty guests, this is the one you would tell everyone about afterwards.  Imagine what you would have noticed about this person:

Appearance

  • Behavior or Action
  • Conversation or Dialogue
  • Thoughts, introspection (He’s your character now so you can get into his head.)

These are the same traits that make a character believable and worth knowing.    Be sure to give your major character some quirks and faults.  Extraordinary doesn’t mean perfect.  You want your character to have a reason for not doing everything right.

The following character chart had been useful to many writers.  It guides you to include physical, emotional, psychological and social traits as you develop characters.  It also includes several components essential to developing a successful plot.  A thorough workup on a major character can take three or more single spaced pages.  Secondary characters may require only a paragraph or two.  Walk-on characters can be covered with a couple of sentences.

Suggestions and examples for making the chart more effective are included below.  (Most excerpts and examples are from Devil Moon, a Western romance.  My idea was a stage line run by a woman.  I knew I wanted to set it in Arizona.  That’s all I knew.  My heroine-protagonist gave me the rest.)

Meet your protagonist in the character chart.  Plug in your story idea.   Use the chart in any way that works for you.  Use part of it, all of it, expand it.  It’s your tire tool now.

Character Chart

  • Name:  A name should tell something about the character, so choose carefully.  The reason a name was chosen can also be important.  (He was called T.J. Benton after an uncle who had been hung for rustling.  /  Her father was Theodore Timothy Gamble.  She was called Theodora after him.  Her twin brother was called Timothy.)
  • Age/Height/Weight/Sex:  More than numbers and letters here.  Include shape and appearance and the way the character feels about his or her size.  (Theodora has an hourglass figure that owes its shapeliness to heredity rather than the confines of corsets which she despises.)
  • Birthdate and birthplace:  Both these can have more significance to the story than the details on a birth certificate and can factor into the character’s personality.  Was he born on Friday the thirteenth?  Or in a leap year?  (She was born beneath a tree on the banks of the Savannah River on the hottest summer day of 1785.)  note:  A book of  astrological signs can be an excellent resource for character development.
  • Hair color/Eye color:  Create description that can be used in the text of your story.  Remember these features can be telling details about a character’s personality.  (Teddy’s hair is the color of taffy candy, brown-streaked with sun-lightened strands.  It is long, silky and straight and is her one vanity.)
  • Mannerisms, gestures, expressions, sound of voice:   Assigning a character a dominant impression, labeling, is an important part of character creation.  Give your character a distinctive tag or trait.  Assign two or three to a major character.  You will use these throughout the story for anchoring with the character.  These can include a pattern of speech, an accent, pet expressions, a way of drumming the fingers, a favorite item.  Katniss has her bow.  Indiana Jones had his whip and fedora.  James Bond his martini, shaken not stirred.
  • Scars or handicaps  (physical, mental or emotional):  Include childhood experiences, traumas.  (Teddy’s twin brother drowned at age ten.  Fifteen years later Teddy still blames herself for the accident that cost his life.  Her grandmother believes her continued tomboyishness is her way of making up to her father the loss of his only son.)
  • Educational and work background:  Account for skills or the lack of them.  (Teddy endured her grandmother’s teaching.  She did embroidery, learned French, and curtsies but only because it was required of her before she could mount her pony and spend the remainder of the day riding the range.)
  • Family members and family background:  Include siblings and parents and other influential persons in the extended family.
  • Description of home (physical, mental & emotional atmosphere):  (Teddy’s grandmother was nurturing.  Her father was loving and kind but he was never able to hide his belief that a family’s heritage passed through the male heir.)  
  • Financial status & feelings about it:  (During his father’s illness his older half-brothers began to spend and waste the family fortune, diminishing all assets.  Rhys left his family home penniless and embittered.) 
  • Friends/best friend/romantic interest:  The friends a character chooses tell a lot about him.  A best friend can make an excellent supporting character and supply backstory throughout the book.
  • Enemies and why:  A story is about characters in conflict so give your protagonist enemies and give the enemies a reason to be.  (Teddy inherited her father’s enemies along with his stage line.  Top among them is Parrish Adams.  His rival line will go under if Teddy stays in business.)
  • Personality type/self-image/attitude:  Is your protagonist a loner or leader, cheerful or brooding?  What does she think of herself?  What’s his attitude about life?(Teddy is a no-holds-barred woman who thinks nothing of walking into a saloon and having a drink with the men while she smokes a cheroot.  She has a quick temper, another defense against being a woman.  Teddy subconsciously feels half of her is missing and tends to believe others see her that way.) 
  • As seen by others:  Including the views of friends, enemies and minor characters can offer insight into the character and his motivations.
  • Ambition/Philosophy/Code of ethics/Religion/Values:  These are the traits that determine how a character will act and react in given situations.  They are the core of the character.  Be wary of violating them by having the character act or react in a way contrary to what you have established as his basic nature.  (Teddy’s ambition is to do what she believes her father would have wanted her brother to do.  At this she is driven.  To fail would be unthinkable.)
  • Hobbies & pastimes; music, art & reading material preferred:  An unusual hobby can make an interesting tag.  Generally these make up the softer side of a character, the rounding out.  They may also supply links for subplots and interplay with other characters. (Edward Cullen collected cars, played piano and kept a journal.)
  • Habits:  Routine and predictable patterns of behavior can be areas of vulnerability for a character.
  • Favorite color/foods:  Is he turned on by red?  Is her bedroom painted black?  Has he got a favorite beer?
  • Clothing choices & why: Clothes make the man or woman.  More significant in some types of fiction than others but useful in helping the reader visualize the character. (Teddy wears pants or shirts in beige or gray and a man’s style jacket or long duster coat.  Her grandmother reluctantly makes her garments.)
  • Worldliness or lack of it:  (Rhys has had all the worldly experiences of high society decadent living.  He is a man who has been influenced by outside forces and allowed them to shape his destiny until he found the reserve of power within him.) 
  • Romantic experience:  Relationships help define a character’s expectations from others.  (The men in town treat Teddy as one of the boys.) 
  • Traits admired in others – men/women:  (Teddy admires men who know what they want and are willing to work hard for it.  /  Rhys has always admired people who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in.  This is what he sees in the West and what he wants for himself.)
  • Positive & negative traits in self & feelings about:  Here’s the place for quirks and faults.  (Teddy’s strongest traits are her courage and determination to succeed where by any standard she is out of her element as a woman doing a man’s work.  Her weakest trait is her refusal to acknowledge the woman within her.)
  • Traits that make this character memorable:  What makes a character live for readers long after the book is read?  (Rhys will be remembered for the way he teases Teddy and for his determination to prove to Teddy and to himself that he is a man of substance.)
  • Fears:  These are the stumbling blocks that hinder the protagonist from achieving his goals. (Teddy fears failure and is afraid to acknowledge the woman within her.)
  • Goals:  In the context of your story, what does the protagonist want to accomplish?  What does she believe in or care about?  What will make him take risks?
  • Present problem or crisis — external & internal:  What is the character on the brink of doing?  What is about to happen that will upset life as your protagonist knows it?  (Teddy’s external problem is battling a diabolical rival to keep her stage line running and dealing with an unwanted partner.  Her internal problem is coming to terms with her brother’s death and overcoming her denial of her womanhood.) 
  • Complications:  Complications make conflict and conflict makes a good story.  Give your protagonist plenty of problems.  (Teddy deals with a lack of money, holdups, her unwanted partner, a kidnapping, a flood and a pregnancy.) 
  • Growth & change in character:  At a basic level this is what your story is about.  Your protagonist must be different at the end of the story than he or she was at the beginning.  (Teddy grows by confronting her demons and by trusting someone other than herself.  Only then does she truly have anything to give to another.) 
  • One line characterization:  Get a handle on your characters.  (Teddy Gamble is energy and ambition, a woman no man would forget but a stranger to herself until love unlocks the secret self within her.  /Rhys Delmar is a man forged by the West into one of its finest and strongest, a man both tender and formidable, a man to love.) 

            There you have it.  Do this for all major characters and as is needed for others.  You’ll have the basis of your plot when you’re finished.  You’ll have most of the major action.  You can quickly outline the rest of your story.              

Character Chart

  • Name
  • Age/Height/Weight/Sex
  • Birthdate and birthplace
  • Hair color/Eye color
  • Mannerisms, gestures, expressions, sound of voice
  • Scars or handicaps (physical, mental or emotional)
  • Educational and work background
  • Family members and family background
  • Description of home (physical, mental & emotional atmosphere)
  • Financial status & feelings about it
  • Friends/best friend/romantic interest
  • Enemies and why
  • Personality type/self-image/attitude
  • As seen by others
  • Ambition/Philosophy/Code of ethics/Religion/Values
  • Hobbies & pastimes; music, art & reading material preferred
  • Habits
  • Favorite color/foods
  • Clothing choices & why
  • Worldliness or lack of it
  • Romantic experience
  • Traits admired in others – men/women
  • Positive & negative traits in self & feelings about
  • Traits that make this character memorable
  • Fears
  • Goals
  • Present problem or crisis — internal & external
  • Complications
  • Growth & change in character
  • One line characterization

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An excerpt from Whispers At Midnight

by Andrea on June 28, 2013

Whispers at Midnight is a Gothic Romance set in Colonial Era America.  I particularly like exploring the early days of our country and imagining what might have been.  The following excerpt is from the prologue. I hope you will enjoy it.  A longer excerpt is available at Amazon.

Whispers At Midnight

Virginia, July 1730

The night was hot and still. More so than any Evelyn Wicklow could ever remember. She held tightly to her husband’s arm, so that her steps would not falter and reveal the tug of fear at her heart. Not a sound rose up in the cloying heat, not the chirp of a cricket, not the song of a bird. It seemed both time and the movement of the elements had come to a halt as an omen of the evil she sensed.

“He’s a heartless man, Jubal,” her lovely, sad voice petitioned Jubal Wicklow. “If only there were another way.” Her soft gray eyes, rimmed with worry, pleaded silently with him. At sunrise Jubal would fight a duel on the riverbank near Wicklow House. Knowing he had been one of the best shots in England failed to ease Evelyn’s mind, for deep in her soul she already knew the outcome of this senseless contest.

A dark wave of apprehension swept through her as hazy images clouded her thoughts. Her head ached violently, yet her hands clung lovingly to those of her husband. Since childhood she had borne the peculiar gift of foretelling the future. Evelyn had often thought that ability was more of a burden than an advantage. Sometimes, as now, when the vision involved those to whom she was closest, what would happen could only be viewed through a deep, murky mist and not clearly enough to see one’s way. And yet she had read disaster in the dark warning clouds long before she knew John Mott had come to Virginia.

“Aye, but there will be no reasoning with John,” Jubal Wicklow responded calmly as he clasped Evelyn’s hands between his own. “Four years at sea with the man and I learned to know him well.” He did not try to make light of her words; instead he marked the depth of anguish in her voice and eyes. She was so lovely to him, with her fair hair and eyes which at times were as luminous and mysterious as silver moonlight. He never tired of looking at her, his Evelyn, the sweetest treasure a man could ever possess.

Jubal Wicklow smiled reassuringly. As always, Evelyn aroused his protective instinct. He did not ask what she saw. He knew the effort would only heighten her pain. He understood his wife’s power and the toll it required of her delicate body. For even though she possessed great spiritual strength, she was as fragile and beautiful as an orchid. Above all things in life, he swore to himself, he loved Evelyn and their young daughter, Elise. Nay, more than that, he loved nothing or no one else on earth.

Evelyn lifted her pretty chin. “I prayed, Jubal, you could settle this debt with John Mott without bloodshed.” Still, she did not believe prayers could help and would send Elise to a trusted friend in Williamsburg.

Jubal led his wife into the newly finished maze of hedges, her single request for the grounds of Wicklow.

“Bloody bastard,” he said, and nodded. “Begging your pardon, my love, but it boils my blood that he should come here making his challenge after a full decade. As for the debt he claims, there is but what he invents. John holds no right to the gold or the ruby. The full bounty we took on our last voyage we divided before returning to England. I take no blame that John Mott’s share rests on the ocean floor. He sailed into weather no sane man would have faced.” Jubal halted his steps at a turn in the hedges and glanced about until his puzzlement brought the wanted smile from Evelyn. She pointed out the correct path. “The blighter lost his crew to the last man,” he said. “It should be enough he has his life.”

“It is more than gold and jewels he has come for,” Evelyn said softly. She had not thought John would follow them to the colonies. With an ocean and the passage of time between them it seemed that her dreadful destiny with the man could be overcome.

Once she had been betrothed to John, a prosperous sea captain and a widower with a young child. As a girl of seventeen she might have been enthralled with the handsome Mott and even delighted in accepting the marriage her parents arranged. But there was always something about the man that his smooth words and elegant manners could not overcome. He frightened her.

A fortnight before the date of the wedding, John Mott introduced her to a seafaring companion, the exuberant and red-haired Jubal Wicklow. One week later Evelyn and Jubal eloped and in so doing made a fierce enemy of John Mott. Having seen in her vision what John meant to do, Evelyn convinced Jubal that they should leave immediately for the colonies. A month following their departure, John wed another young woman.

For once Evelyn believed the visions had been wrong. John had forgotten them. But now, on the tenth anniversary of her marriage to Jubal Wicklow, a duel would be fought. She did not enjoy seeing John Mott’s face so plainly in her mind. Indeed she could not shut it out as she prayed that once again what was destined would be postponed.

Jubal Wicklow embraced her. “You must not worry, love. No harm will come to me. Not to any of us. I promise you.”

“Jubal, my darling,” she whispered, wishing she could be reassured. “If it should, you must remember this: we will find one another again. That I can promise you.” Her soft, liquid eyes gazed deeply into his and then she kissed him long and lovingly. “For time, my darling, is only a moment after death.” Her voice softened. “I will wait for you, Jubal.”

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