Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Power of a Story

I grew up in a small town with an even smaller library.  For a while, my mom worked there, and through her, I befriended a new librarian who took me under her wing when she discovered that I loved to read fantasy.  Throughout her short stay, she sent books home with my mom for me to read, simply because she thought I'd love them (and I did).  Sometimes they were new releases that she would set aside for me; other times, they were simply books off the shelves (and who knew how old they were...and who cared!).

What a tremendous gift to give a child--stories to feed her hungry soul and stoke the deep wells of imagination within her!  This lovely woman, whose name I can't even remember, played a huge role in turning my heart forever toward the world of fantasy.  How I wish I could thank her.

Amid all those wonderful novels, a certain story niggled at my memory throughout my adult life.  I couldn't remember the title, the author, or even the main storyline.  In fact, there was really one scene that stuck out in my mind, tantalizing and frustrating me because it was all I could remember.

A sister and brother inside a barn.  A Pegasus foal hidden there.  Something evil outside, trying to get in.

Over the years, I tried to find it on the Internet.  Surely, I thought--surely--if I type in "Pegasus" and "brother and sister" and "barn", it'll pop right up on this list-of-forgotten-books.

Nope.  No luck.

Then, a few months ago, I decided to try again.  AND I FOUND IT.

It took me five minutes, and there it was.  And here it is:

The Stolen Telesm by Caroline Baxter was published by Lippincott in 1975.  It is, of course, out of print.  As you can probably tell by the photo, the copy I purchased is an old library book.

I was SO VERY EXCITED to read it.  Suddenly I was ten years old, eager to fall once again into the world where Pegasus was real and children my age got to have a grand, scary, fantastical adventure.

You guys.  The writing was horrible.


Not only that, but the plot was lame.  Point of view jumped erratically between the brother and the sister to the point of distraction.  And the clunky, adjective-heavy sentences went on ad infinitum.

On the back flap, the author bio states that Ms. Baxter wrote this story when she was seventeen.

And Lippincott published it.  Well, huh.

Here's the thing, though, and it's a big one:  When I was a child, I didn't know about points of view or plot arcs or overwriting.  All I knew was that there was a Pegasus foal trapped in a barn with a boy and a girl.  

Now, this isn't a nod of approval toward bad writing for the sake of good story.  I think it's a travesty--really, I do--when someone who's a good storyteller does not hone his craft so that he also becomes a good writer.  (Good story and good writing are two separate things. Sometimes they are mutually exclusive.)  What I'm really saying here is that stories are powerful.

So powerful, in fact, that the best one stick with us for years despite deficiencies of writing.  So powerful that, decades after having read something, a wistful adult will search and search until she finds the long lost treasure.


It's not about lovely sentences or a wonderful premise.  It's about STORYTELLING.  And yes, there is plot arc and character arc and all that really important stuff.  But the ART OF STORY is what will draw your readers in and keep them hooked--sometimes for life.

As for me and my little book?  I passed it on to a sweet young person in my life who happens to be a fantasy-loving bookworm.  She devoured it.  Loved it.  Raved about it.  Like long-ago me, she wasn't bothered by the weak plot or point of view mess.  It was all, "Pegasus! Magic! Scary things!"

She has a steady diet of well-written literature in her life, so I don't think I've ruined her by handing her a book that would certainly never be published today.  I have it under good authority that she has recently started Fellowship of the Ring, so there you have it.  (She's not quite ten. I know for a fact that I was not reading Tolkien at that age. The sad truth is that I didn't know who Tolkien was. But that's a story for another day.)

And there you have it.  We all remember things from our childhood that, upon being revisited, don't come close to living up to our memories.  Like Moon Pies.  And freezer pops.  And Michael Landon as Pa.

But if even one kernel of a story nestles in our hearts and inspires us for years to come, it's worth revisiting, and worth giving credit to, despite its faults.  Go forth and find a story that's lodged in your brain from your own past.  Who knows--it may actually be as wonderful as you remember!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hello. It's Me.

I've been wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet...

Okay, it hasn't been THAT bad.  (I do love that song, though!)  But for months I've been less communicative than I'd like to.

There are reasons.

  • I've been revising.  A lot.  Heavy-duty, deadlined revising.  For a revise and resubmit.  It's all good, and I'm moving on to the next thing during the exclusive.  
  • I've been practicing.  Piano and voice.  Mr. A and I hosted a Beer and Madrigals party for members of the symphony chorus, and I accompanied as well as singing.  And I cooked.  And cleaned.  And moved furniture. was a big party.  You get the idea.  It's over now.
  • I've been focusing on other things in general.  Writing.  Resting.  Life-ing.  The blog has always been the one thing that took up time that I probably could've used another way.  And yet I can't seem to let it go.  Seeing my readers grow as writers...achieve success...find encouragement...there's no way to measure the importance of all that.  It fills me up.  And I don't want it to go away.
On that note, it's my goal to have another Secret Agent Contest by the end of this year, as well as some more in-house crit (which you all rock at).  And I'm going to do my best to start Friday Fricasseeing again.

So, that's me, in a nutshell.  I still want to be present for you.  I still want to share this journey with you.


1.  I currently have an opening for one PREMIERE CRITIQUE, first come, first served.  This is:
  • A detailed line edit of your first 75 pages
  • An editorial letter
  • Guaranteed 1-week turnaround
  • $260 in 2 equal payments
If you're interested, please email me ASAP at authoress.edits(at) to secure your place.

2.  I'd like to pick your brain about some HOLIDAY FUN IDEAS for the blog.  In the past, we've done things like Christmas/Hannukah song lyric contests and such.  I'd love for you to share your ideas in today's comment box!

Hugs to you all -- serious, squooshy, full-body hugs.  (Or, if you're the no-touch type, a friendly air-high-five.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Are You Hooked? Critique Guidelines

Here we are, folks -- 15 opening pages that will attempt to draw us in!

Please follow the guidelines below.

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Cheerleading IS NOT THE SAME as critiquing.  Please don't cheerlead.
  • Having said that, it is perfectly acceptable to say positive things about an entry that you feel is strong.  To make these positive comments more helpful, say why it's a strong entry.
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique a minimum of 5 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Are You Hooked? #15

TITLE: Silent March
GENRE: YA Recent Historical / Diversity

          Dad fixes people’s ears, but he doesn’t listen. Seven a.m. first day in the new house is Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day? Bogus.

            “We’re leaving in five,” Dad calls from upstairs.

            I raise the volume on my walkman. Here I go again on my own, my hands sign my current anthem. Maybe knowing some sign language will keep my big mouth shut at East Maryland Prep instead of ruining my life at West Miami High. Dad didn’t hear a peep from me when he yanked me from Florida midwinter senior year.

            “EGG, did you hear me?” Dad pokes his head in the door.

            I lift one headphone. “Yes, I’m not one of your patients.” If I was deaf, he’d give a damn.

            “Watch your tone young lady.” He pushes his coke-bottle glasses back up his nose. “And turn that music down or you will be. Let’s go.”

            ‘Why I don’t speak,’ for $100 Alex. I pound up the stairs from my basement bedroom. In Miami, basements don’t exist. Dig and hit water. Now I live in one.  At least this one comes with a kitchenette, bathroom, and French doors to the backyard. No soundproofing, though. Mom and Dad fight. Constantly.         

            In the mudroom, I layer on sweater, jacket, scarf, gloves, hat, and boots.

            Dad eyes me. “It’s not that bad.”

            “You grew up in Brooklyn.” I fling open the door to the garage which is like a freezer.  The car ride is equally icy. Why talk? It’ll come out wrong. I speak my mind better with my hands.

Are You Hooked? #14

TITLE: Seeking Sara Sterling
GENRE: YA Contemporary

A tiny, cream-colored spider crawled across the outside of the windshield. Sara couldn’t take her eyes off it. In that moment, she almost wished she were that spider. She wanted to be anywhere but in here.

    A silence as thick as mud hung between her and Bryan. She wasn’t sure how long it had been since he’d spoken those words. The ones she’d contemplated saying for more than a year now. But she’d always been wishy-washy, going back and forth about things. It was so hard to know what her true feelings were sometimes.

    The spider angled downward and then leaped onto the Jeep’s windshield wiper. A second later, it disappeared from sight.

    “Say something, Sara.” Bryan’s strained voice finally cut through the silence.

    But she had nothing to say to him. Inside, she felt completely numb. Like she’d just swallowed an entire bottle of that chloraseptic throat spray her mom used to give her when she was younger. 

    Sara bit her bottom lip, staring out the windshield again. A dent marked one side of her maroon garage door. Her younger brother, Derrick had backed into the drive, hitting it with the hitch of his Tundra a few weeks ago. She was surprised her parents hadn’t done something about it yet. 

    In her peripheral vision, she saw Bryan run a hand through his hair before placing it back on the steering wheel. As if he were ready to just get the hell out of here. “Come on. Don’t be like this,” he pleaded.


Are You Hooked? #13

GENRE: YA Paranormal

          Matt Flaherty’s heart pounded in excitement as he ripped open his Study Abroad confirmation packet. Moving his laptop to the foot of his bed, he flipped through photos of smiling students in front of lush landscapes and ancient buildings.

          “God, this itinerary looks awesome.” The Irish summer program offered hiking, city pubs and kooky mythology–his perfect idea of adventure. He couldn’t wait to see the Blarney Stone, and climb the Cliffs of Moher.

            At the Galway page, a surge of energy ran through Matt’s hands all the way down to his bones. The aftershock left a warm tingling up and down his limbs.

          Holy shit, that was weird.  

          He focused on his next move. The fact that he’d forged his dad’s paperwork and created a fake parent email hadn’t bothered him then. Now, he had to face the fireworks.

         Matt hurried down the hall to his father’s office with the packet. Barely stopping to knock, he rushed in, holding the brochure over the massive desk. “Hey dad, look at this.”

         Making his face as guiltless-looking as possible he raised his eyebrows. Like when he was ten years old. Back then, it was the three of them: his mom, his dad and Matt. Life was halfway decent, even when Flaherty Sr. rebuked him for the smallest misconduct. Instead of timeouts or swats, Matt’s childhood was filled with humiliation and rejection. His mom always got between his dad and him, like some blinged-up Rottweiler. She kept the balance; kept them civil.

Are You Hooked? #12

GENRE: MG Contemporary Adventure

Casey Buckles sank back, trying to bury himself in the bus’s musty seat. He clutched a note, certain its words would lead to someone’s death:

Marty, your family, danger, killing, get to the ice caves.

A shiver tingled down his back at his dad’s name. His father had taken off on a sudden trip—fifth one in three months. No explanation, no discussion. Was the family breaking apart? Casey’s blood ran cold at the thought. Could be why his mom cried harder than normal when he’d boarded the bus.
He smoothed the note across his thigh, wishing he hadn’t found it that morning, wedged between the fridge and cabinet. Thinking it a lost page from his geography notes, he shoved it into his camping bag, not giving it a second thought, until now. Reading it made him want to crawl out the bus’s emergency exit and take his chances in the forest. Bigfoot would be cake compared to the backflips and somersaults his imagination was doing over this note.

Snatching his lucky magnetite lodestone from his jeans pocket, he turned it over and over in his hand. Silver flecks across the black-grey surface winked back at him. The metamorphic rock was his favorite, morphing from one rock type to another. Too bad he couldn’t morph into the son his dad wanted to hang with.

The rickety bus jostled Casey about as it bumped along the dirt road. The note played on his mind. Where in the heck were there ice caves in the mountains of Idaho?

Are You Hooked? #11

TITLE: Cordelia
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Our red Ford Festiva was nicknamed The Clown Car by my late father, and I have a love-hate relationship with this crummy compact. It holds lots of memories but is older than me and falling apart. This morning, we’re running late, and Mom sets her jumbo insulated tumbler of frappuccino on top of it while my ten-year-old brother, Declan, gets in the backseat. She needs both hands to shove her purse and workbag in beside him.

I take the passenger seat, and with an uncontrollable grin, say, “Mom, don’t forget about my driver’s test after school.”

She smiles and turns the key in the ignition. “Of course I won’t forget, and guess what—”


Panicked, I look around for a fire, and a strangling sound escapes me as cold, bony fingers of dread squeeze around my neck.

“Are you okay, Cordelia?” Mom asks, rubbing my shoulder in concern. “It was just the car backfiring.”

Declan says, “Yeah, that was loud.” Laughing, he adds, “Usually it sounds more like the car’s farting.”

Taking a deep breath, I loosen my death grip on the door handle and laugh too, feeling silly for my overreaction.

“The mechanic’s going to take a look at it this week,” Mom says. She begins to back out of the driveway but immediately slams on the brakes and gasps, “Oh no!”

The slushy, chocolaty, caramel contents of her tumbler—that she couldn’t find the lid for—start oozing down the windshield in front of us.

Are You Hooked? #10

TITLE: Deyou's Heart
GENRE: Adult Fantasy

Before I pass, I wish to give you something of your mother’s. Jeran

Sia An’Terran crumpled the parchment with its crabbed writing in her hand as the ocean breeze tickled hair as it teased across her forehead. The enormous black-stone causeway glittered in the early morning light, its massive surface nearly packed full with people making their way across it to Deyou’s Isle, currently visible to one and all. She’d been atop the cliff at dawn when the Voice brought the shield down, exposing the Isle to the world and marking the beginning of Dragon Day.
This would be the last day she saw the causeway. Either she’d be dead by mid-day for setting foot on the Isle or she’d be on her way back to Capita. She tucked the crumpled note into the pouch hidden in her belt, next to the quite-illegal tools she kept there.

Her jaw firmed as she gritted her teeth and took the last steps down the well-trodden path which led from Verisit atop the cliff to the beach leading to the causeway. Merchants hawked their wares from stalls that lined the walkway, some having wisely decided to remain on the mainland rather than cross to the Isle.

Heavy sand crunched beneath her feet and she wound her way through the crowds. Not in a rush exactly, but she wasn’t going to waste her entire day on this idiocy and if she didn’t make it by the final calling bell, her chance would be gone.

Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: Counting Perfect
GENRE: YA Contemporary

There’s no such thing as luck. As far as I see it, life happens one way no matter how much you wish it would turn out another way. If it does take your side on certain days, then that’s how it’s meant to be. But everything evens out, so you can bet the next day, things won’t be perfect. You can count on it.

My brother badumpthumps over every gap in the pavement riding solo on my skateboard. “Stop!” he shouts at me. “You’re gonna crush him.”

He jumps from the board, letting it glide to the grass, and engages in mini acrobatics to protect yet another insect.

I resist a close inspection. Bugs and I don’t get along. They crawl through their own poop, and I’d rather not mix with anything covered in insect feces.

Alex has different standards when it comes to the world of gross.

“Look, Z, he’s so soft. Feel him.” He strokes the fuzzy orange and black critter.

“I’ll take your word for it.” I walk over to retrieve my board then freeze. “Where’s his family? I don’t want to step on them…as gross as he is.”

“Caterpillars are loners. Like you. The mother butterfly lays eggs…then she just flies away, I guess.” His finger barely touches it. I’ve never seen Alex so gentle.

I lean over his shoulder. “And the father butterfly?”

“Oh he’s probably dead by now. They don’t hang around long after getting the female pregnant.”

Thanks for the replay of my childhood.

Are You Hooked? #8

TITLE: The Wall
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

          Jo rose on her tiptoes straining to see beyond the white wispy zigzag pattern that stretched across the great Pacific. She longed to catch a glimpse of the land that the sailor had spotted from the crow’s nest earlier that afternoon. Her heart pounded. Her fear that last week’s storm had tossed and hurled the boat back towards Shanghai gripped her chest. She desperately needed to see the port of San Francisco, to know that Shanghai and the danger that lurked beyond the dirty Yangtze River were far away.

           She wondered, Did the Pilgrims feel this way as they were fleeing England to find safety in the New World?  Could America become my New World, too?

            The boat swayed and tipped back and forth to and fro, but Jo’s sea legs were strong.  She no longer weaved and stumbled, sometimes even falling, like she did a month ago when they first boarded The Orient. She remembered that first day as she clung onto anything stable to keep from falling while her younger sister, Lizzie, twirled and jumped around her in circles. Her poor mother faired far worse. She had to be near a bucket for what seemed like a week. Jo had never seen her mother so pale.

            Darkness began to cover the sky like a mother her covering her child for the night. There would be no land sighting today. As a child Jo loved this time of night when the sky became a dark blanket speckled with silver sequence.

Are You Hooked? #7

TITLE: For the Love of a Child
GENRE: Adult Suspense/Thriller

When I passed out last night, I gave myself a fifty-fifty chance of waking up again. The sunlight slanting through the blinds let me know fate’s coin flip had come up heads. This time.

I turned my head slowly, careful to keep the rest of my body still. My shoulder dropped back ever so slightly and my neck strained as far to the side as possible in an attempt to see directly behind me.
Even before I laid eyes on him, his hot breath caressed my ear. My arms tensed.

I waited five breaths before turning back and easing out of bed. A glance behind verified that my husband slept on undisturbed. Another coin flip won. I should find a casino.

The digital clock on the nightstand confirmed the suspicions the sunbeams put in my head. Half past noon. The pills had done a number on me, but I could still make it to work on time. A double shift should give him enough time to cool off, maybe even forget.

I grabbed my purse from the floor and slipped into the bathroom. In went a brush, some deodorant, and my toothbrush and toothpaste. There were fresh scrubs at the hospital, and I’d manage wearing yesterday’s for a few more hours.

Shoes in hand, I tiptoed into the disaster of the apartment’s living room — a problem for another time. Right now my well being relied on getting out of here without making a sound.

The telephone rang.

Are You Hooked? #6

GENRE: YA Contemporary

     Crisp October air sweeps inside as I pull the front door open. I take a deep breath and bristle with anticipation. Bailey, my yellow lab, waits patiently by my side.

      My grandmother steps into the foyer, her flowered robe cinched tight, the one Mom gave her last Christmas. She tucks the morning paper under her arm. “You two heading out?”

     “Yeah, it’s perfect running weather.” I tug at my sleeves, pulling them over my thumbs.

     I need to lose myself for an hour and clear my head, push away the bad feelings that darken my mind. Running is the only thing that makes me feel good in my skin, when I don’t have the urge to hurt myself.

     “Are you okay, Alexandra?” Gram touches my sleeve and I wince, the bandage underneath rubbing against my raw wound. 

     “Yeah, fine.”

     “I’m always here to talk,” Gram says.  Her eyes linger on my face.

     “I know.”

     “Have a good run.”

     I step outside and head to the bottom of the grassy hill, wet with the morning dew. Lying to Gram churns my stomach, but I need her to believe I’m fine. She’d be disappointed if she knew I’m cutting again. But it’s the only way I can cope with the isolation at school and Jess, the girl who’s making my life hell. It’s the only way to deal with my insecurities, the voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough.
     When I reach the curb, the mailbox door hangs open. Wait, mail on Sunday?

Are You Hooked? #5

TITLE: The Secret of Mount Pella
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction

Her mother’s words, laden with impending death, seared Satara’s heart but ignited her soul.
   “This is a very important necklace, Satara.” With a shaky hand, Lucia placed it in her hand. “The key on this necklace opens the way to Mount Pella. There you will find the Secret Place.”
    “What do you mean, Mother?”
    “One day, you will have your own adventure, your own quest,” her raspy voice crackled. “You must make your way to Athenica, through the back gates of the palace, and up to the first summit.”
    “The palace? How will I ever get there?”
    “You will know when the time comes, my dear. It is your destiny.” Lucia clenched her eyes shut. Whether in pain or in recollection of something, Satara couldn’t tell.  
     Satara’s forehead tightened with concern. “Mother, you must rest.” Perhaps the fever was affecting her mother’s mind.
    “Not yet. You must promise me to keep this necklace safe. You are special, my child. You will do great things, but you must promise me.”
    “I promise, Mother.” She kissed her mother’s forehead and Lucia closed her eyes for the last time.

Are You Hooked? #4

TITLE: Room Full of Killers
GENRE: Adult Fiction

A million and one fresh and exciting ideas were flooding his skull as he drove back to Willoby. This 2 day experience made Gianni recall his conscious awakening in life. His father used to tell him about strong men of the past and bare knuckle fighters when he was an adolescent and bed ridden in an oxygen tent with asthma. Those stories were an epiphany that created a desire within him. The seed was firmly planted. He started slowly, worked out religiously and eventually got rid of his illness with weight training and the deep breathing that it involved.. 

He regarded seeing Clay and Liston training as providential. He analyzed both their styles. He also thought a lot about the money they were getting for the fight, which was more than a million dollars each. In fact, he couldn’t stop thinking about the money. Cash incentives will make people do strange things. He always wanted his own health spa and, also, wanted to open an Italian restaurant called, “Gianni’s.” That’s his first name. His full name is Gianni Valentino Romasco.

After vacillating on the pros and cons of getting involved with boxing, he finally committed to giving it a shot. His best shot, of course. When he got back to Willowby he called his best friend, Tony DelVecchio, to share his decision with him as Tony would likely want to get involved too. They’re both 21 years old. Tony also has more balls than the Boston Red Sox.

Are You Hooked? #3

TITLE: Island Shell Game
GENRE: Adult Literary Fiction

James couldn’t remember the last time he’d read a newspaper. Even now he wasn’t actually reading the Providence Journal—he was hiding behind it. Hiding from the sun’s glare off the harbor. Hiding from that empty dock where the ferry should be. And hiding from the chatter at the tables around him—the place sounded like a seagull feeding frenzy.

James should’ve delivered the island’s morning commuters to the Newport docks more than two hours ago. And right now, he shouldn’t be sitting here on the crowded outside deck of the Bean; he should be steaming south out of Narragansett Bay, carrying a few hardy spring tourists back to Brenton again. On a clear morning like this one, he’d cover the three and a half miles in sixteen minutes, aiming at the tall lighthouse until it was time to round tiny Piglet Island to starboard. Once he cleared the harbor breakwater, he’d idle across to the town pier and spin the forty-eight foot Homer S. Morgan in her own length to come in port side to. At exactly ten minutes past eleven, dock lines and a metal gangway would land on the Homer’s side deck.

When his passengers—two or twenty-two, it didn’t matter to James—smiled their goodbyes and headed up the wooden dock, their first stop was usually right here at the Bean. This shingled bungalow just beyond the ferry landing served as the island’s unofficial welcome center.
James would follow a few minutes later, barely nodding to the regulars at the big table before heading inside.

Are You Hooked? #2

TITLE: Unbecoming Bea
GENRE: YA Contemporary

Six months ago, when Momma turned her kitchen into a no-fry zone, a little piece of me died. But then I asked myself, WWED, what would Emeril do? And BAM! I found a job as a fry cook thirty miles away in Macon. One thing led to another and soon enough I worked my way up to head chef, even though it’s only on the weekends. But Momma wouldn’t approve, so for now, cooking is my secret love affair. Except if I get this big catering job, all that will change. Taking one last peek inside my backpack, I reassure myself for the umpteenth time I packed my knife-roll. Satisfied, I open the kitchen window.


The tops of a row of yellow rose bushes bend down and back up like performers taking a bow. Not something the wind could do so I know she’s in the garden.

“Momma!” I yell louder.

“Sugar.” Her boiled-peanut-cotton-candy hair appears above the top of the roses as she stands up.
“I’m going over to Zander’s. To study. We have a calc test.”

She tugs on the ends of her hair, a sign something’s bothering her. Probably one of her roses sprouted a weed or attracted the wrong insect. She worries over those roses more than Daddy and me combined. “Again? You’ve been spendin’ every weekend there for goodness knows how many months now.”

When she’s quiet for much longer than normal, a familiar flutter bubbles inside me. Don’t ask me more questions.

Are You Hooked? #1

TITLE: Defender of the Kingdom
GENRE: MG Fantasy/Adventure

She was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. Until her daughters followed her out of the coach. She was swathed in green velvet, brocade, and satin and underarm rings stained the tight bodice. About eighty ells of bobbin lace, which caught on the coach door handle as she strode forward, engulfed her gown. If the coachman had not caught her, she would have sprawled on the cobblestones of the lane surrounding our village green. I noted that the grass was the exact color of her gown as I tried to hide a smirk. The largest peacock feather ever adorned her velvet cap and it dipped over her face, ending at the large wart on her chin. Her eyes were daggers as they glanced my way. I tried not to tremble as I turned toward the daughters.

The girls were near my own age of fourteen – one maybe a bit younger, the other a year or two older. They both wore satin. The shorter one was in pink and the tall one in blue. The pink gown was covered in almost as much lace as the mother’s, but the blue gown was simple. Compared to the other two. The girls both fanned themselves furiously with lace covered fans, but the eyes that glanced over the fans looked friendlier. Slightly. Well, that was something.

I looked down at my own linen kirtle that matched the embroidered coif on my head and at my father’s simple doublet and breeches.