Saturday, July 30, 2011

6 Sentence Sunday: A Cheap Voyeur

Thanks for dropping by to let me share my Sunday 6 with you. I feel lucky to have discovered this talented group, who not only represent a variety of genres but a number of different countries as well. If you haven’t already done so, pay a visit to the 6 Sunday site and sample their work. I promise, you’ll be glad you did. 

I’ve been pulling each week’s selection from my book, A Bed of Thorns and Roses, available as an ebook from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other major ebook distributors. The story is a romance based on Beauty and the Beast and is set during America’s Gilded Age.

Last week, Jonathan watched from behind the curtains as Isabelle arrived, ducking out of sight when she sensed his presence and looked toward the window. Earlier, faced with losing the use of his right hand, Jonathan had given in to his doctor and agreed to hire a secretary. On first seeing Isabelle, Jonathan realizes to his horror that the doctor has hired a woman for the job. Though his mask hides the worst of his disfigurements, he knows she will react with disgust and even fear at the sight of him.

After last week’s selection, I left you with the question, how will Jonathan resolve his dilemma? Well, I’m sorry to say, he doesn’t. Not yet at least.

It is now Sunday morning. The servants have left to attend church services in the nearby village. Isabelle has stayed behind, and while she walks in the garden, Jonathan finds himself spying on her once again.

A Bed of Thorns and Roses #4

The woman stopped beneath his window, for no apparent reason. Jonathan tensed, ready to hide behind the curtains if she should look up. Instead, she bent her head, then lifted her arms and placed her hands on the crown of her hat, feeling for the pin that anchored it to her hair. Her bodice stretched taut, revealing the shape of her breasts beneath. Jonathan held his breath, feeling like a cheap voyeur in a penny arcade but unable to look away.

She twisted around as the hat came free, tossing it on the grass, then turned her back to him. He could almost believe that she knew he was watching and purposely meant to deny him a glimpse of her face.

Next week:  Jonathan finally sees Isabelle’s face and knows what he must do.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

6 Sentence Sunday: Nothing But A Coward

Another Sunday, another 6. There are over 150 participants this week. If you haven’t already done so, please stop by the Six Sunday site and check out this week’s authors.
Below is my offering for the week. I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your comments.

Last week, as Isabelle started to enter her new employer’s home for the first time, she sensed someone watching her from a second-storey window. It was Jonathan, of course. This week’s 6 show his reaction at seeing Isabelle for the first time.

A Bed of Thorns and Roses #3

With an admirable instinct for self‑preservation, she must have sensed his presence. But when she turned to look up at the window where he stood, he had hidden behind the curtains, sacrificing the satisfaction of his curiosity for anonymity.
Coward. He was nothing but a coward. Were it not better to stand his ground, to let her confront the monster? Not to do so seemed a terrible deception.

Next week:  How will Jonathan resolve his dilemma?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

6 Sentence Sunday #2: Isabelle arrives at the Nashe estate

I want to thank everyone who commented last week on my first 6 Sentence Sunday post. The "Sixers" are a very welcoming group. If you have not already done so, please check out the wide variety of talented writers at the 6 Sentence Sunday site.
I decided to lift excerpts from my book following the story's chronological timeline and will number them as they are posted. That way anyone who likes to start at the beginning can easily go back to the first one and follow them in order.
Set-up for this week's 6 (actually 5, but they're long sentences):  After accepting the job as Jonathan Nashe's secretary, Isabelle Tate leaves home for the first time to assume her new duties. She finds the household staff waiting for her when her carriage arrives. The following takes place immediately after they have introduced themselves to Isabelle.
A Bed of Thorns and Roses #2

As if by some prearranged signal, the other servants moved toward the house. Isabelle started to follow them, then paused, momentarily overwhelmed by the sense that her life would never be the same once she crossed the threshold.
With a sigh, she continued, only to stop again after a few steps. A tickle of awareness rippled down the back of her neck and was gone, as if someone had lightly run a finger from her nape to her shoulder. Without reasoning why, she looked up toward a second‑story window in time to see a panel of heavy drapery fall gently back against its mate.

Next week:  Jonathan's reaction after observing Isabelle's arrival

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fool's Gold

We have one of those calendars at work that labels every day of the year with a special event or idea to celebrate. July 11th is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day. In honor of that commendable thought, I wrote the following.

Neil Young sang about looking for a heart of gold, about how he spent years looking and not finding. I always wondered, how would he recognize a heart of gold if he ever found one?

How are we supposed to tell true gold from fool's gold? They used to use a touchstone. Being a word freak, I found this out in the dictionary. My ancient and beloved copy of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines a touchstone as 1) a black siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal; and 2) a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing. A touchstone, Webster's says, suggests a simple test for determining the authenticity or value of something intangible.

So, what is our touchstone for that elusive heart of gold? Judging from the movies, the magazines and--let's be honest--the covers on romance novels, it's the way a person looks. It's Fabio and some buxom heroine in an advanced state of dishabille. It's the impossibly thin, impossibly gorgeous airbrushed models. It's Brad and Angelina.

I got suckered into all this as a girl. I faithfully read Glamour magazine, hoping that if I figured out the right clothes, the right make-up, the right way to act, that I, too, could be popular. I remember when they would ask the famous super models for their favorite beauty tips, one of the most frequent answers was, "When I step out of the shower, I push my cuticles back with a towel." Huh? Honestly, I don't know how many times I read that same "beauty tip" before it finally dawned on me this was super model code for, "I was born this way, idiot. No matter what you do, you'll never look like me."

My Glamour-reading days were years ago. Yet even now, after decades of progress toward full economic and political equality, how many women judge themselves by a false standard of beauty? How often, like my character Isabelle, do they consider themselves inferior and unworthy of love? This impossible standard is simply a slower-acting version of the witch's curse; those who adopt it are inevitably changed over time by the accumulation of slights, rejections, and outright insults. Not getting asked on dates, missing the senior prom because no one wanted to be your escort, wondering what it's like to go out on a Friday night instead of staying home with a half-gallon of Breyer's ice cream for company.

Unfortunately, I'm a slow learner, but the gradual realization finally sank in, the fact that fairy godmothers don't exist, that no one was going to come along, wave a magic wand or produce a magic jar of face cream, and turn me into a princess.

Being a dreamer, though, I couldn't give up fairy tales altogether, which might explain my obsession with the story of Beauty and the Beast. Judging by the number of novels based on this theme, I'm not the only one. There are other tales where the man is changed instead of the woman--the princess and the frog comes to mind. But one of the things that fascinates me about this story and I believe one of the reasons for its persistent popularity, is the question of who underwent the greater transformation. The Beast may change outwardly, but it is Beauty who eventually learns to see past his appearance to his inner qualities. She is won over by his kind, gentle nature and comes to understand his lapses into beastly behavior stem from his pain and loneliness rather than a defect of character.

 If she had failed to look past his appearance, she would never have found her happy ending.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it as eloquently as anyone ever has in his “I have a dream” speech. He dreamed that his children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

I have a dream, too. Of a day when men and women will judge one another, not by a genetic fluke of birth, but by the content of their hearts. By their capacity for love, for selflessness, for wanting their loved one's happiness over their own. That capacity for love is how Isabelle saw past Jonathan's scars to find a man who would never harm her; it is why Jonathan let Isabelle leave despite knowing he couldn't live without her.

There is a reason why the romance genre outsells all others. I'm not the only one who has a dream. Women want to believe that genuine love is possible. They want their heroes and heroines placed in impossible situations, and they want to empathize with their struggles until, in the end, true love triumphs.

We may not live in the best of all possible worlds. Society's standards may be skewed. And if we use the wrong touchstone we may end with fool's gold instead of the genuine article--but let's keep the dream alive. Let's hold ourselves to a higher standard.

Keep on searching for your heart of gold. True gold, not fool's gold.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: Not Even Human

This is my first Six Sentence Sunday offering, and so I thought I would start at the beginning. The excerpt below is from the first scene of my newly released ebook A Bed of Thorns and Roses. Based on the theme of Beauty and the Beast, the story is set during America's Gilded Age. The hero Jonathan is heir to one of the wealthiest robber barons in the country. He had every advantage money could buy until a tragic fire left him horribly disfigured. Now he lives the life of a recluse in his isolated country mansion. The kind-hearted Nellie, Jonathan's English maid, joined the handful of servants there over six years ago and has yet to set eyes on her employer. As she carries his afternoon tea tray to his room, Nellie considers the stories she's heard about Jonathan and his father.

That was bad enough, but what they said about his son was worse. They talked about how nobody ever saw Old Cornelius Nashe’s queer son, and just as well. What was left of him after the fire wasn’t fit to set eyes on, that’s what people said. Some claimed he wasn’t even human.
Balderdash, her mum would have called it, pure balderdash. Ignorant tales carried by ignorant folk.

To learn if Nellie's mum is right, you can find A Bed of Thorns and Roses at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and Smashwords.