Monday, October 11, 2010

Hook, Line, and Sinker Blogfest

I feel woefully out of the loop in regards to blogfests. The last two in which I participated, I had scheduled almost a month in advance. Since then I have not come across anything new. This morning I decided to go on a spastic blog hunt. I came across this one by Justin W. Parente and promptly put this together, rescheduling all my existing posts for later.

Here's the blogfest description:
Just to remind you, the theme of the blogfest is such: Please post a 1000 word (a few over is okay) sample of your hook. Preferably, chop it right out from the opening of your manuscript. I'd like to see the range of openings various writers have to grab attention. Can you establish a great character relationship in just those few words? How about showing the world? Whatever your hook is, post it for the fest and we'll do the little jig around it (and give you comments along the way).

The selection below is the first 1051 words from my w.i.p., Courtly Scandals.

Mary’s corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary’s discomfort. “Christmas will be so wonderful this year!” She grabbed Mary’s hands and threw herself into a reel, towing Mary with her. “I have you, my dearest friend, with me. It will be such a jolly time.”
Mary smiled as Anne pulled her into another swift hug. She had not seen Anne for almost three years. Mary had left Anne’s father’s household just before Anne had married the Earl of Oxford and become the Countess. She had never had high expectations for the marriage, but been horrified to see how sapped, how spiritless Anne had appeared upon their reunion at Hampton Court Palace. In spite of the fact that she had not heard once from Anne in the three years they had been apart, she felt like she had no choice but to accompany her to Whitehall palace for the Christmas festivities. Anne needed a friend.
While her smile seemed genuine, Mary could not believe that she actually intended on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry. Anne was much too somber to actually enjoy a good party.
Mary did not have that particular problem.
If everything she had heard was correct, the twelve nights would be full of the most amazing entertainments, some provided by the Queen’s household legitimately, some by the courtiers unable to control themselves under the guise of Christmas. She could hardly wait.
The two ladies finished two full twirls before collapsing side by side on a chaise, their full hoop skirts fighting each other in the limited space.
Mary stood and reached out her hand. “Here, let me fix you.”
Anne accepted the offered assistance and stood, letting Mary settle her skirts into a more ladylike fashion before sitting again, this time more elegantly.
Mary suppressed a smile. Anne had let the new high rank of countess go to her head. It was nice to see a moment of honest abandon – this was the first since she had witnessed since she had joined Queen Elizabeth’s court in late September. It was now the twenty-fourth of December. Three months and nary a smile.
“Will you join the Christmas festivities then, Anne?”
“Oh, my father would have an apoplexy if I did.”
“Then why the excitement?”
“Well, you shall go, of course. Then you will tell me everything.” Anne sat forward, the façade of the mature lady gone. “And I mean, everything. You might even have a dalliance.”
Mary laughed and settled herself onto a cushion on the thick hearth rug. “You wish me to have a dalliance so I can tell you about it?”
“Well, I expect you to enjoy yourself as well. It is Christmastide.”
“Christmastide is not an excuse for everything.”
“To some it is. I recall you felt the influence of the Christmas spirit quite strongly three years ago.”
Anne’s words hung in the air as Mary tried to form a response. The past few moments had tricked her into feeling as if the past three years had never happened. As if Anne was still her fifteen year old charge and Mary was a marriageable twenty-three year old gentlewoman serving in the Burghley house.
But no, time had passed and everything had changed.
Strumming broke the silence as Girard, the Oxford house minstrel resumed on his lute, reminding Mary and Anne that they were not alone in the room. Perhaps Anne did not care her ladies in waiting and various servants could hear their conversation. After all, Anne was a countess and did not have to worry about her reputation the same way Mary did.
“Alas my love you do me wrong, to cast me off discourteously…” Girard’s soft tenor soothed the tension in the air. Mary looked around surreptitiously, noting Anne’s ladies in waiting working on their needlepoint, their eyes down cast. Of course they had been listening. Girard was sure to have heard everything, but he was a dear friend of old and already knew all of Mary’s secrets.
Mary let the silence between her and Anne stretch and made a pretense of listening to Girard’s song. Anne did not seem to notice – probably lost in her own thoughts as usual.
The Oxford household had spent the last few days moving into the massive suite of rooms at Whitehall Palace. Anne, the Countess of Oxford, had insisted that her rooms be opulent as befitted her station, so the household had travelled with wagon after wagon of boxes full of tapestries, rugs, and furnishings – not to mention Anne’s wardrobe. The rooms were packed full of high quality items that had been positioned perfectly, and still they felt cold. Mary was a special guest of the Countess and had been instructed not to help with the move. It was not so for Anne’s ladies in waiting. Mary had to wonder if they resented her – after all, most of them outranked her.
Mary leaned closer to the fire, feeling the heat soak through her heavy wool gown. Winter had come late this year – which had been convenient in regards to the move from Hampton Court Palace to Whitehall. Over the past few days, the frost had struck with a vengeance and the world outside the limed stone of the palace was crisp and harsh, stripped of life. Looking around at the thick tapestries that covered the mismatched wood paneling, Mary prayed that it would be enough to fight off the chill.
“Mary, you do know I have forgiven you for leaving me.” Anne’s words were crisp and sharp.
Anne? Forgive her? Mary had always thought it was the opposite way around. And here she thought she was being the benevolent one. “Anne, you know I had no choice at the time.” Mary’s words came out louder than she had intended.
“So you say.” Anne sniffed with her newfound countess affectation. “But you left me alone…”
Anne’s statement was cut short by a loud crash as the heavy oak door leading into the sitting room slammed open. Directly into a standing cabinet. Apparently not everything in the room had been positioned as perfectly as Anne had demanded. Her amusement was short lived when the Earl of Oxford entered the room.
Damn and Blast.


stu said...

It's an elegant start that does a lot to establish the characters, setting, and key relationships quickly.

Justin W. Parente said...

So historical isn't normally what I read. I have a tough time really jumping into the world, as it were, and knowing characters. But, here, you have me reading without interruption. The characters are speaking to each other of events past and other happenings of Christmastides. I genuinely enjoyed it.

I'm sorry, I don't know quite what else to say because this is the first I've read the genre. Hopefully others can offer more insight.

Thanks for sharing!

In My Write Mind

Francine Howarth said...


I love historicals full stop, so this a genre I'm familiar with.

It has a happy opening and the story flows well, and I can feel the love between the two women. At the end, though, I feel "Damn and Blast" a tad modern, and would expect "Devil's teeth" or something similar and in keeping with the era. Shakespeare is a wonderful medium for extracting suitable phrases for all occasions. ;)


Raquel Byrnes said...

I like your beginning. It gets me interested right away. I have no problem with your choice of expletives, though I don't often read historical so I don't know.

Great entry.

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Brenda Drake said...

I enjoyed meeting Anne and Mary, they seem quite happy to see each other. I get a good sense of the setting. I'm wondering what mischief the two will get into and curious about Anne's reaction to the Earl's entrance. Is she so unhappy that she may have an affair or something? I'm intrigued. :D

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