The minstrel boy to the war is gone, In the ranks of death you’ll find him; His father’s sword he has girded on, And his wild harp slung behind him; “Land of Song!” cried the warrior bard, “Though all the world betrays thee, One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard, One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain Could not bring his proud soul under; The harp he loved ne’er spoke again, For he tore its chords asunder; And said “No chains shall sully thee, Thou soul of love and bravery! Thy songs were made for the pure and free They shall never sound in slavery!”
Come this Sunday, I will most likely be the grouchiest grouch that ever grouched–for reasons that I explained in some detail last year. Rather than rehash my eternal grudge against Daylight Savings Time, I decided to accentuate the positive and share a bit from my current WIP, tentatively titled Devices and Desires.
Recently I took a stab at writing some BCC (Back Cover Copy), a task that seems to devolve more frequently on the author these days. (Not that I’m complaining–having read some truly baffling publisher-generated BCC in my time, I suspect authors do a better or at least more accurate job of it!)
A Little Less than Kin . . .
From childhood, Lady Margaret Carlisle’s life has been entwined with the rich, powerful, and contentious Lyons family, until her intended’s untimely death five years ago. Now a widow, she finds herself drawn into their intrigues once more . . . and unexpectedly tempted by a brilliant, lonely man, whose friendship she has long taken for granted.
And More than Kind . . .
They call him the Clockwork Solicitor, the perfect lawyerly device. But Lord Gervase Lyons’ icy demeanor conceals a lifetime of emotional scars–and an undying passion for the one woman he can never have. Summoned to his family’s Christmas gathering, where old wounds will be reopened, old quarrels revisited, and old secrets revealed, Gervase receives the chance to win her heart at last.
(In this scene, the hero and heroine–aged 16 and 14, respectively–come together to help his 8-year-old sister during a pet-related crisis)
“Mr. Scorton’s horrid mastiff chased Xerxes up a tree, and he won’t come down! Please, Gerry, you’ve got to help–he could be stuck up there forever!”
Gervase had closed his book with a martyred air, accompanied by a put-upon sigh. “Ju, didn’t Mother tell you to leave the little beast at home? He hasn’t the sense to fend for himself out here.”
“I–I forgot,” Juliana faltered, flushing.
“How convenient,” Gervase observed dryly. Then he looked at his sister, gazing up at him with tear-drenched blue eyes . . . and weakened, visibly. “Oh, very well, brat. I’ll see what I can do. But I’m not risking my new jacket for that wretched bit of fleabait. Which tree was it?”
Juliana, to her credit, did not so much as bristle at this slur on her beloved pet. “One of the trees we picnicked under,” she sniffed, swiping at her eyes.
Margaret surprised herself by coming forward. “Can I help?” she asked.
“How are you at climbing trees?” Gervase inquired.
“Not so good,” she admitted. “At least, not while I’m wearing a dress. But if you need an extra pair of hands . . .”
“All right” he conceded. “Come on, Ju–take us to the tree.”
Minutes later, they stood at the foot of an ash tree, looking up into the leaves. A scrap of ginger fur clung to one of the higher branches, mewing pitifully.
Gervase considered the kitten for a moment, then turned towards the blanket still spread out upon the grass. Shrugging off his jacket, he rummaged through the picnic hamper, emerging with one of the finger sandwiches. “Fish paste,” he explained, and returned to the tree.
“You’ll need both hands for climbing,” Margaret warned him.
“I’m aware of that.” He glanced at the sandwich, gave another forbearing sigh, and gingerly tucked it into the cuff of his left sleeve before starting his ascent.
“Will the branches bear your weight?” Margaret called anxiously as he shinned up the trunk. Agile and lightly built as he was, he should climb more easily than Hal or Reg, but still . . .
Gervase glanced down, his expression slightly pained. “I’ll find out soon enough, won’t I?” he remarked, and reached for the nearest bough.
Strangely breathless, Margaret and Juliana watched him climb, a slim figure moving from branch to branch, a fish paste sandwich peeking incongruously over his left shirt cuff. Up he went, balancing carefully. Once his foot slipped, and Margaret thought she heard him mutter a curse as he strove to regain his balance, then adjusted his position, set his foot on a different branch and resumed his climb.
Finally, boy and cat were face to face, with barely a foot of distance between them. Gervase clicked his tongue, and held out the sandwich just within reach. “Come along, then.”
The words were brisk rather than coaxing, but his tone was low and gentle enough. Margaret could just imagine the kitten’s whiskers twitching at the smell of the fish paste. He gave another plaintive mew, scarcely more than a squeak, stretching out an imperious little paw.
Gervase leaned in, extending the sandwich further, and Xerxes inched closer. And closer . . . until he was just within reach. Quick as a flash, Gervase tugged the kitten free of the branch, and pulled him close to his shirtfront as he began to climb down. He moved cautiously, not rushing his descent, but Margaret wasn’t sure she breathed until he was on the ground again.
“Here you are, brat.” Gervase held out the kitten and the by now half-eaten sandwich to his sister. “Now for pity’s sake, take him home, and don’t let him out until he’s bigger and has more sense than a dandelion puff!”
Juliana, eyes shining, kissed her brother on the cheek and ran off, the kitten still clutched in her embrace.
“Little pest,” Gervase observed.
Margaret couldn’t tell whether he meant Juliana or the kitten. But when he reached up to push back his hair, she caught sight of something more alarming, “Gervase, you’re bleeding!”
“Ah.” He pulled his hand back, glanced at the drops of red welling on his forefinger and thumb. “Little beast managed to get a claw into me, after all.”
“Here.” Margaret fished out her handkerchief–clean, thankfully–and wrapped it carefully around the affected digits. “Juliana will be everlastingly grateful.”
“Well, she’d better be,” he retorted. “It’s not every brother who’ll risk life, limb, and wardrobe retrieving some dim-witted cat. I must have looked a proper charley trying to coax him down.” He pulled a face. “And my shirt now smells of fish paste, though it had to be laundered in any case, so no harm done, I suppose.”
“I thought . . . I thought you were rather splendid, actually,” Margaret confessed.
He stilled, his grey eyes flaring wide. “Good Lord, was that a compliment? From you?”
Margaret felt herself flush. “I pay them–now and then,” she said, a touch primly. “When someone deserves it.”
His mouth quirked up and she caught the unexpected flicker of a dimple. “Lady, I shall study deserving,” he misquoted, and swept her a mock bow.
* * *
Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into WIP-land! And may you weather the time change smoothly and successfully.
As I type this, March is fulfilling its proverbial role of coming in like a lion. Just a few minutes ago, all that I could hear was the roar of water descending from the sky, like the flow from an Eternal Faucet (or Showerhead). It’s subsided a little by now, but I can still hear it, trickling from the eaves, beating its way into the still-damp ground. The raindrops sound like tiny hammer blows as they strike the earth.
We need this rain badly, of course. Southern California’s had one of its dryest years yet, and there have been some nasty brush-fires recently–one of which was caused by a trio of careless idiots who decided to light an illegal campfire while they were out in the hills one night. Alcohol and pot may have also been involved, which doesn’t surprise me a bit. I could wish, though, that we weren’t getting this rain in a lump, increasing the risks of mudslides, flash floods, and road accidents.
Still, compared to snow-besieged friends and family in the East, we’re probably getting off lightly. And when I’m not actually caught in the rain, fighting the wind and wet as I try to get from Point A to Point B (as I was on one notable occasion last summer), I find it evocative, and sometimes even soothing.
If you can avoid going anywhere during a rainstorm, I advise you to do so. Curl up with a good book or a favorite movie. Press on with that troublesome scene you’ve been writing. Cook something that makes the house smell wonderful. Catch up on some correspondence. Listen to that album you’d been meaning to play. Take advantage of Nature’s little tantrum and treat yourself to some entertainment indoors, especially if you’re lucky enough to still have electricity!
The unknown author of the 16th century poem I quoted in the title of this blog may have had the best idea yet:
O, western wind, when wilt thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!
As rainy day activities go, that has a distinct appeal!