Monday, November 20, 2006

New Beginning 159

Annis leaned on the windowsill and swore, yelling so loudly she prompted birds into flight and the gardener into dropping his wheelbarrow. She slammed the window shut, confining her temper, and began to prepare for Rosalind’s betrothal dinner.

No man in Christendom would consider marrying a girl who could throw a dagger into an apple at 20 paces, nine times out of ten. Nor would they wed a wench who owned a sword. Unless perhaps it was Excalibur. But Annis knew the reason for her spinsterhood was her complete lack of a dowry. She kicked the wall, averting her gaze from the glass of wine on the windowsill. It would be easy to succumb, to take a few sips to fortify herself against the stares and whispers. She moved back and picked up her comb.

By the time Annis had forced her hair into what she hoped was a flattering style, she changed her mind and reached for the glass. She emptied it in one neat swallow and poured herself another. Not only would it help her to forget the stares and whispers, but it would add some flattering colour to her cheeks.

A dowry, a dowry . . . How was she to come by a dowry?

By the fourth glass a glance in the mirror showed not only that her cheeks were a becoming shade of pink, but that her hair now looked more like soft ringlets than her usual snaky Medusa-like locks.

Who wanted a dowry anyway? Why throw away all this beauty on some white-wigged, fat-bellied fool like Rosalind's betrothed?

She opened her window and leant out to call the gardener. It was time to play with Excalibur again.

Opening: Emma.....Continuation: McKoala


Bernita said...

She slammed the window and didn't spill the wine?
Gives the impression of a double hung sash, btw.

Anonymous said...

No, the double hung sash was the gardener...

Anonymous said...

The gardener always gets it.

Hey! I got a Rosalind in MY book! Oh, well, I'll change it, fine...

I like the voice, I feel like I could see this assertive-agressive girl.

I got a problem with Christendom, it feels a bit awkward. Don't take it to heart(I'm sure you won't), you know a nut when you're hearing one. I just meen, maybe just Christdom instead. Okay, shutting up.

This is not a criticism, so feel free to ignore it(as you probably should), but is Annis a young maiden? I can't see a grandma throwing daggers at apples, even if she was baking an apple pie. If Annis is young, is she qualified to be called a spinster? I might just be nitwittish about this, but I thought spinsters were unwed women over 30, or something(No, I don't think that's old, cause I'm over that line, but in those ages, Dark?/Middle?, it was, I think). Or, is it Annis' take on life, does she feel like a spinster, whereas others see her as a spinster.

As usual, Nut will not spellcheck (unless its my manuscript/quiry letter, etc.), so enjoy the typos!

Anonymous said...

More violence.


Bernita said...

I suppose that explains the wheel barrow, Anon?

magz said...

hehehee. Gee, compared to sitting sweating in a traffic jam, this is action packed! Swearing! Haircombing! Wine glass holding!

All kidding aside Oh Author, it's very well written and smoothly seamless. A good setup for what I'd bet is a great tale I'd love to read.
She sounds like my kinda gal, and you have a very good voice for writing her. Thanks for sharing it! (and nice cont, McKoala!)

none said...

Would she think of herself as a wench? That jarred on me.

Rei said...

Yawn. Cliche, cliche.

Open with something that sets you apart, not "Yet Another Angsty Woman With Inexplicably Modern Mores In A Medieval Setting."

Kate Thornton said...

I can't see where this one is going. I like strong heroines, but not wacked-out ones. Annis doesn't sound as sympathetic a character as I'd like to read. Spinsterhood, dowry, tomboy Annis with a dagger and a sword - make her *smart* and I'd be more interested. But a smart woman would know how to make lemonade out of bad customs, poverty and a really good sword-arm.

Give her some brains and see where she goes!

(PS McKoala - sweet! - you dun it again!)

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it could be an interesting read. Even without the continuation. -JTC

McKoala said...

I'm not a historical reader, so please excuse me if this is all silly, but I got confused about when in time we might be. The first sentence with swearing and wheelbarrows sounded contemporary. Then we had 'betrothal' dinner, so I slid back in time a little. Then we had Excalibur and I slid back even further. Even so, I ended confused, as her behaviour and most of the language seemed very contemporary.

I had a Great Aunt Annis whose behaviour was not dissimilar from this Annis. She wound up in court once for speeding and got fined heavily, for poor dear Great Auntie had gone over the speed trap at twenty miles over the speed limit, with all four wheels locked, i.e. she'd spotted it and already put the brakes on and she was still twenty mph over the limit. Ah, there was life in the old one yet.

Anonymous said...

I think Annis is a hag from Scottish legends who lives in the mountains and eats unwary travelers. Unfortunately, that's the first thought to pop into my head reading this. Now, if this was a story on who she was before she moved into the mountains...that could be an interesting tale.

Anonymous said...

"Spinster" is, I believe, one of those terms (like "ape-leader") that got slapped onto unmarried women one wished to sneer at. Age was a secondary consideration. "Spinster" might be politely applied to someone over the age of, say, thirty-five, but if you wanted to be snide, you might use it to refer to a twenty-two-year-old.

Anonymous said...

writer here...

thanks for all the comments - as ever, this site is both amusing and useful. Love the continuation!

Annis is being sarcastic when she thinks of herself as a wench, but I see I did a bad job of getting that across. Same with 'Excalibur'.

It is set in England, 1401. Women's options were marriage or the nunnery. Annis has no dowry and absolutely no religious vocation. I was going to dribble backstory in later.


Bernita said...

The mention of "Excalibur" sounds a bit anachronistic for 1401.
Malory's work - where the sword is called Excalibur - hadn't been written yet.

Anonymous said...

um, I thought Excalibur was mentioned by Wace in the Roman de Brut, can't remember the date but I think end of the 12th century?


Bernita said...

You're absolutely right.
Wace apparently was the first to use the name as opposed to the "Caliburn" I had stuck in my head.
Around the middle of the 12th I think.

Anonymous said...

hi Bernita
when I discovered Arthur had a cloak of invisibility as well, I laughed and laughed! (hope you like Harry Potter, or that will make absolutely no sense.)

Anonymous said...

I don't know about historicals, but certainly in fantasy the rebellious girl who spurns arranged marriage and prefers martial pursuits has been done and done again. Have you run Annis against the Original Fiction Mary Sue Litmus test?
I'm not quite convinced about the research - does Annis not have a maid? Was hairstyle a concept in 1401? I'll accept that if she's young and unmarried she would have her hair uncovered, but the art of the time doesn't suggest much variation in how hair was dressed.
The writing is smooth and competent, and I'd probably skim a few more pages to see whether the setting makes me twitch or not.

Anonymous said...

Annis has a maid. Perhaps 'hairstyle' is the wrong word - no, of course 'hairstyle' is the wrong word. But hair _was_ dressed, braided, pinned etc. Speaking as one who cannot even 'do' a French braid, I thought it was fair enough for Annis to have problems with little side-plaits.

I was not clear in these first 150, sorry! Annis wants to marry. However, her father is killed on the next page, in a hunting accident, leaving her dowry-less and at the mercy of her father's wife.

thanks for commenting. For those in the States, happy Thanksgiving.


Anonymous said...

I agree about the frequently-used 'rebellious girl' plot. Annis _wants_ to get married but has no money to tempt a husband.

Also agree about 'hairstyle' - I used quite the wrong word here. But unmarried girls did braid the side bits of their long hair, twisting it back into a sort of mini-bun at the back of the head. Annis has a maid, currently flirting in the garden.

Thanks for commenting

Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans reading.

Anonymous said...

I am _so_ sorry if I have commented twice. I thought the first one must have been consumed by blogger, but now I'm worried that it was simply in the system somewhere... am really not sure how this works.
Have made enough of an arse of myself already, without this.

Anonymous said...

Emma, just keep hammering at it, and you'll get there. Its stressful, but that's how it works.

Anonymous said...

Well, if she's wanting to be married, that's not falling into the complete trap. Presumably it's made clear later how she acquired martial skills and a sword, and why her parents aren't providing a dowry - was she intended for the convent?
Yes, hair was dressed, as you say, but it usually required help, and I shouldn't have said 'maid' (bad me!) it would probably be 'tiring woman' at that date, the woman who 'attired' her mistress, robes and hair and headdress.
It's a narrow path to make things comprehensible to the modern reader yet true to the time. If you use the accurate words (like 'tiring woman') some will be pleased and others will be annoyed at the strangeness. If you use modern words like 'hairstyle' some will raise their eyebrows and others will be pleased to have familiar terms. I have no useful advice to offer, unfortunately, except to research as much as you can, especially texts from the time (The Goodman of Paris would be good for 1401), and to trust your story and your voice.
You might want to check out the Absolute Write forums, which have sub-fora on Historical writing, too.
Good luck!