On the third day of writing, I stumbled onto something and thought I had to share it with all of you. When I write a book, I do not do an outline first or anything like that. I’m a strict pantser. I wing it. I listen to the voices and allow them to tell the story to me. While I was writing today, I noticed that the voices were contradicting themselves. Let’s use Edouard’s age as an example. When I opened the book, I thought Edouard was about twelve and Andreu was nine, but as I kept typing I realized he may be a bit older, especially when I think about Jenna talking about him getting married. But again as I was typing, I started to wonder if it would make more sense if he was about seventeen, because that age may sound more feasible for someone whose parent want him to get engaged.
His age is important, because it also tells me which year my historical is starting in, and since most historicals include political or world events, I want to make sure that my mentions are for the right era/year I'm writing in. But I really don’t want to focus on that now. I don’t want to stop writing just yet and make firm decisions. I want to keep writing what the voices are telling me and figure it out a little bit later on. The reason is because I’m learning about this story as I’m going on.
In other words, I’m going to listen to the voices to learn more about what this particular story is about, but while I’m listening I’m going to be mindful of the habits I have when I’m usually writing. Here is a small list of things I don’t want to do or include just for the sake of including.
1. Crutch Words – many writers use the same word over and over again. This word can be anything and mentioning it over and over gets annoying to the reader. Whatever crutch words I notice, I’m going to either remove them or find a different word to use in its place.
2. The same word used more than once in a sentence or paragraph, and I will go even further by saying on the same page – this doesn’t include a character’s name, because I can use a character's name as many times as necessary. When I say repeating the same word in the same sentence, it isn’t a crutch word, but more likely a word that’s needed, but the way I’m writing it makes me use it more than once in the same sentence or paragraph. This word can be as simple as the word ‘door.’ To give you an example of what I mean…
I walked through the front door. Harry stood by the door and was the first person I noticed. I went to the kitchen and argued with Aunt Belle, then turned and walked back out the door.
Okay, this was a bad example, as I would never write in this fashion, as these sentences are boring as hell and doesn't inspire any reader to keep reading. But my point is made. Door is used three times. What I’ll want to do is rewrite these sentences so that I use door only once. The reason this is important is for good flow and I always want to keep the readers in mind. What’s the sense of writing a good story, but I’m turning the reader off by the way I’m telling the story.
3. Don’t kill all of my characters – for some reason authors love to kill off characters. Sometimes this is necessary to bring a main character more in the forefront. A good example of this is seen in the Game of Throne series by George R.R. Martin. Have you ever read a story that had plenty of characters in it and you love some of these characters more than you do others? Once I fall in love with a character, I don’t want him killed. This happened to me while reading the Game of Throne. I fell for a particular character and when he died, I was sorely disappointed. The only reason I was able to get over it and keep reading was because this character was now dead and a character I loved even more could shine in the story as the star. Once again, I’m being mindful of readers. I don’t want to kill any characters that they have fallen in love with if I can help it and unless their death is pivotal to my plot.
4. Stop making all my characters sluts – this is for male and female characters. For some reason, if the relationship warrants it, I always tend to sway toward some hanky panky between characters. A good example of this is seen in the opening of this book. As the author, I feel for Jenna. I mean, she’s legally married to Pierre. I’m thinking this woman needs some hot steamy romance with the man of her choosing, which is Pierre. But my sympathy for her can’t get in the way of the plot. I also find that any time there’s a girl in my story that is unattractive and can’t get a man, or she has something else going on that prevents her from experiencing romance, I tend to want to rewrite the story so she finds love. But this can get in the way of my plot. First and foremost, I want to stay in line with my plot, so I have rewritten parts of my second chapter and brought the plot back on course.
So those are a few things I’m being mindful of, and I’m going to keep being mindful as I’m writing more chapters. The voices are telling me the story, but I find myself wanting to veer off and write what I want. This is the biggest mistake I can make. By avoiding this it will stop me from having to rewrite chapters over and over again and keep my plot tight. But writers are artists. We create. And when we see a blank canvas, we desire to cover it with color and images that we desire. A rule to keep in mind is be mindful of the reader. I don’t want the final masterpiece to be something only I can admire. I want other people to admire it which means I have to take ME out of the story entirely (sort of speaking) and allow the voices to illustrate what truly happened.
It doesn’t matter that the genre I’m writing falls under historical saga. These rules apply to all genres of fiction and also biographies and memoirs. Don’t write about what you want, per se. Write what the reader wants to read about instead. That’s kind of a broad statement, but I think you get my meaning. Be true to the story you’re writing. If you stay true to the story, your readers will love you for it. I have pasted the revised second chapter. Leave your comments. Let me know which edition of this particular chapter that you like better. Oh, yeah. Again I'm posting an unedited version. You may be asking why I am doing that. The reason is because this is my process. The voices are usually telling me lots and lots of stuff at one time. I don't stop and worry about editing, but instead I focus on getting more of the story out and on my computer. Most of my manuscripts are gone over no less than four times. I can hear all of the smart asses saying, "I read one of your books and found an error." I wouldn't doubt that. That's why writers complete a 'rough draft' then turn it into a final draft. The problem is, each time we read it through, we're reading what should be there versus what we see. :)
“Where’re you running to?” Sarah’s son, Andreu, yelled and threw up his arm in question when Edouard passed him in a mad rush and ran toward the start of the trees that led to the sugar cane fields. He knew Edouard couldn’t have heard him, because not once did Edouard stop or look his way or slow down even. Before climbing down from the horse he sat on top of, Andreu stared back at the mansion to see what Edouard was running from.
Aunt Jenna stood inside the rear door with her eyes on him rather than in the direction her son ran. The way she looked at him, Andreu could feel her need to harm him. It’s why he no longer went inside the plantation’s main mansion, but always waited for Edouard outside. Her looks made him jumpy. They also made him constantly look over his shoulder, even inside of rooms that had plenty of lighting. But light or not, her looks made him feel like he was surrounded in darkness and something hiding in the shadows waited to jump out and attack.
“Get in here,” she said, then took one step back inside the house.
He looked where he last saw Edouard, but Edouard was long gone.
Climbing from his mount, his riding boots hit the ground. As he walked toward the house, although he didn’t look directly at them, he noticed that the slaves tending the jardin or had chores nearby had stopped what they were doing and watched this moment closely. None whispered or said anything to the slave closest to them. After he had taken many steps and had gotten closer to the rear door, he looked back and saw them hang their heads low, purposely not wanting to see more than they already had. At times like these, he felt the same way the slaves did, as if the main mansion was one huge secret and everything that happened inside it shouldn’t be uttered to anyone, although no one had told him this was true. It was simply something he felt in his heart, and fear caused him to follow these unspoken instructions, as if his life depended on it.
When he reached the door, Aunt Jenna stood just inside it wearing the expression the nuns wore whenever he went to mass.
“It’s hot today,” she said. “I’m sure you can use a drink. Follow me inside the petite salle. There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Yes, Tante,” he answered, his eyes darting around the hall. The mansion had more servants that worked inside it than the maison where he lived, but he always found this hard to tell whenever he came inside. Although sometimes he heard servants moving about or saying a few words, he rarely laid eyes on them and when he did see them it was always the back of them as they rushed to a part of the house that his Tante had deemed off limits to him and his mother’s other children.
The petite salle was more than comfortable. After all, his father was still the wealthiest man inside the entire South. The softest cushions covered with the softest fabric pampered his rear as he sat on the settee his Tante had pointed at. With her back to him, she walked to cafe trolley that sat in front of two open French doors.
He watched as her hands moved frantically in front of her and out of his sight.
Tante Jenna is pouring me a cup of café?
When was the last time he’d seen his Tante do anything that a slave could do for her?
Just when he almost looked away, it looked to him like she had reached inside her sleeve and had pulled something out.
“The reason Edouard is upset is because he doesn’t want to get married, but he will and soon,” she said.
“Married?” He sat forward on the settee. Creole men weren’t married until they reached the age of thirty. Before that age they took on placées for sexual gratification and sometimes other reasons. He and Edouard had discussed this at length, and how they couldn’t wait until they were fifteen, because usually around fifteen or sixteen Creole boys were given their own apartments, because no Creole boy of this age was expected to live under the same roof as their mother.
“To an Américain girl."
He heard sadness in her tone, and sadness had come over him as well. To be married so young was bad enough, to an Américain girl could only be worse. Now he understood why Edouard had run like he had. Marriages were often arranged between Creoles, but usually this arrangement involved a daughter and not a son.
She turned to him with two cups of café. The one in her right hand shivered a bit as she drew closer. A pleasant smile spread across her face as she handed it to him. Out of habit he looked toward the door, but looked down suddenly before he noticed anyone standing in it, because for the first time he didn’t feel threatened. The sale almost felt the same way when he was home. This thought made him feel guilty for thinking that his Tante secretly hated him.
“Merci,” he said, taking the saucer and cup gently, then as he was taught, waited for her to be seated before he spilled café onto the saucer. All Creoles drank café this way, as spilling it onto the saucer helped it cooled, and all Creoles knew that eating or drinking anything too hot brought about illnesses that sometimes led to death.
He happened to look up when his half sister walked into the salle, holding the hand of Madame Fortier.
“Dreu!” Alexandrine squealed, yanking away her hand and running to him.
He stood and folded his arms around her. At twelve, Alexandrine stood almost as tall as he did at fourteen. Extreme height ran in their family. Their father stood above seven feet, making him one of the tallest Creoles in New Orléans, as most French Creole men barely reached a few inches above five feet. Alexandrine also possessed their family’s traits that made the Jennings stand out in a crowd: albino white hair, gray eyes and bronze hued skin.
"Isn’t it time for your lesson, Alexandrine?” Jenna asked, lifting the saucer and taking a nice slow sip. "Shouldn’t you be in the music room learning to play the piano?"
"Madame Fortier promised that I can have refreshments first,” Alexandrine answered softly, doubt suddenly showing in her eyes, but they lit up the moment their father stepped into the salle through the French doors.
Jenna saw him and rose swiftly to her feet.
Although the mansion had high ceilings, Pierre had a way of filling a room. At seven-feet-three-inches tall and having the muscle mass to match, he looked indestructible underneath his embroidered over coat. Black Hessian boots reached far above his calves. The silver-gray of his eyes made them capable of looking through someone rather than at them. He was a man that wore wealth well. Whether inside his home or in the Quarter, people couldn’t pull their eyes away when they saw him.
“You are in here,” he said, his eyes on Andreu, then he looked at Jenna, studying her attire and the expression on her face. Andreu didn’t like coming inside the mansion; Pierre knew this. And although Jenna pretended she had no qualms about his other children coming inside the house, he knew this wasn’t true. So seeing Andreu inside this room not only moved him as odd, he thought it highly suspicious.
Jenna spoke in a somber voice, as if on cue. “I was hoping to talk with Andreu about…” She stopped midsentence and looked at Alexandrine. “Run along, child. Your lesson will come first and only when it’s done can you have refreshments.”
Alexandrine giggled, her face twisting into an ugly expression of glee. “Are you sneaking off to the lily fields again, Papa? I heard Desie tell Cyril that’s where you run off to when you’re dressed like you are.”
The lily fields? Jenna’s spine pulled upright and as rigid as an arrow. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning such jaunts, Pierre? Maybe you shall like to mention them now?”
Pierre ignored her and fixed his gaze on Alexandrine. “Off with your lesson, petite.” He then looked at Andreu. “You’re not getting out of this trip and using Edouard as an excuse to stay behind isn’t going to work this time.”
Madame Fortier gripped Alexandrine’s head and escorted her out of the room.
Andreu gave a nod toward Jenna, then walked with his head held high the way he was taught to leave a room. It would have been polite to say goodbye to Alexandrine, but Madame Fortier had made it clear that such pleasantries wouldn’t be allowed in her presence from a bastard.
Pierre patted Andreu on the shoulder, a gesture to encourage him about Madame Fortier’s rudeness, as well as a hint that he should wait outside for him.
“The lily fields?” Jenna asked when the two of them were alone. “Tell me you’re not still looking, Pierre. The twin daughters my sister gave birth to are dead. They drowned at the age of two in the Mississippi River less than a mile from where we stand. Today I thought you were meeting with Mr. Vaughn...”
The anger that shone on his face stopped her from saying anything further.
“That meeting has ended,” he answered. “My eldest son will not be getting married anytime soon, especially to any Américain girl.”
Jenna had agreed to the arrangement so Mr. Vaughn could act now. Green Lea, the plantation she inherited from her late mother, currently sat in ruins. No one had lived on the land since the day Sarah decided not to marry a man by the name of William Murray and instead secretly began having an affair with Pierre. By the time Mr. Vaughn was told that their children weren’t to be married, he would have moved onto the land, along with his servants, and planted new crops and started renovation on the sprawling mansion that now sat almost hidden in tall weeds and overgrown trees in desperate need of pruning. But telling anyone her plan and Pierre would believe she had turned back to her old ways. It was that she couldn’t risk, especially now. Sarah had to die and it had to be Edouard that killed her. Only Edouard had the ability of getting inside the maison whenever he wished. If Pierre found out Edouard was behind Sarah’s death, the worse Jenna could think of was him agreeing for Edouard to marry Ingrid Vaughn. No other punishment could be more severe, except death. But surely Pierre loved all of his children far too much to even think of such a thing.
“I’ll walk with you,” she offered and reached with a hand to hook her arm through his, but Pierre wasn’t a man of false pretenses. Not even when they were alone did he dare hint at any kind of intimacy between them.
Facing her, his grey eyes became stern. “Why was Andreu here? Why did you call him inside?”
“Have you spoken to Edouard? Maybe he wants to marry this girl?”
“A girl he’s never met?” The words didn’t come out as a question, but more like an accusation. “That’s what you want me to believe, Jenna? That our son wishes to marry an Américain girl that has scars all over her face? You can lie to anyone else, but not me. I saw the look in Mr. Vaughn’s eyes and in them I could see that the two of you have plotted in secret. Somehow your plot has something to do with Edouard, but what do I find when I return to the mansion? Andreu sitting on your settee as if he was an invited guest.”
Fearful that he would reveal more of what she had plotted in secret, she took several steps away from him and turned her back to him. “You accuse me too much, Pierre. It’s unmerited…”
“Is it?” For a reason he couldn’t explain, he stared at the two cups of café, because if anything, history had taught him that Jenna was most conniving during the moments she seemed he sweetest. “You made Mr. Vaughn a promise.” She turned back to face him. His eyes found her. “A promise that ensures he gets his hands on what he wants. Green Lea sits adjacent to his land. Renovating a mansion as big as the one that sits abandon on your land is cheaper than building one from the ground up.” He drew closer, his eyes threatening a thrashing the closer he got. “I’m seeing the old Jenna return. I don’t know what you’re plotting, but I do know that since my children have been born you have more victims to choose from and it seems Edouard isn’t excluded.”
“I will never hurt my son,” she hissed, then pulled her face back from him slowly as if in a delayed reaction from a harsh blow. Malevolence shone in her eyes. It had been a long time since he’d seen it last.
“And there you are.” He spoke in a harsh whisper. “The same woman I met many years ago then walked away from on our wedding night. I knew then how well you can keep a secret, especially when that secret benefits you…”
Leaning closer to him, she spoke gently, sincerely. As he looked into her face he saw beyond the makeup she wore and saw the woman that day in and day out pretending to be alive.
“For close to twenty years I’ve lived inside this house while you slept between the trees in my sister’s bed. Can you imagine how many times I imagined what that looks like, you lying there with her and if the two of you are talking and laughing and telling each other things you trust to tell no one else? I’m your wife, Pierre, but you won’t even hold my hand. How often do you hold hers? How often do you kiss her lips and tell her you love her? Secrets, you say? The biggest secret I keep concerns you and my children and how their lives can be ruined if that secret ever got out. The land in this city no longer belongs to France. It’s considered Américain soil. That’s where we live now, in América. Even now there are more mentions of war, although one has just come to an end. A war over what? Who has the right to own slaves? That is something I care not about. What I care about since you’re standing there looking as if you truly want to know is what I have given up so that you can be happy with my sister and how you have given nothing in return except a son and daughter of whom I truly love. So don’t stand in front of me ever again and accuse me of having the capability of hurting the only two reasons I find worth living for.”
Her eyes wandered out into the yard. Walking past him, she stepped out onto the galerie as a coach pulled in front of her home. The curtains over its door were closed, but still she knew. Her sister and all of her children sat inside. The sister who had stolen her husband’s love and provided him with a home so sweet he rarely left it unless he had a moment to spare.
Pierre stepped outside beside her. “We’ll talk more on Edouard later. I should have been gone by now. I wouldn’t have ordered the coach around if it could have been helped, but our boat is leaving soon and we must take our seats before the steamer gets on its way.”
The servant Jeffy jumped down from the driver’s seat and hurried to the rear door. After it pulled open, Jenna witnessed glimpses of silk and ribbons and attire suitable for a man of Pierre’s wealth. And then her eyes rested on Sarah and the two of them held each other’s gaze. The hate between them became palpable enough for Jeffy to feel. In an awkward rush, he couldn’t wait for his master to be seated on the cushions before he closed the door, then turned to Jenna and gave a deep bow before climbing back into the driver’s box and put the horses into a trot.
Andreu, Jenna thought. How close she had come to getting revenge on the child that was more like her sister than she could stand. Because of Andreu, Edouard rarely stayed inside the mansion. The brothers were inseparable and went everywhere together. It was Andreu who Edouard told his secrets.
Sarah has stolen my husband. Andreu has stolen my son.
Turning swiftly, her skirts swirled as she hurried back inside of the petite salle. The contents of Andreu’s cup must be gotten rid of. One step inside the salle and the blood drained from her face.
“What are you doing?” She barely got the words out.
Alexandrine lowered Andreu’s cup back to the table, then staring at her mother, she blinked once, then crumpled onto the floor.
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