I'm not forgetting my promise to talk more about the geography of Alpennia, but in order to come up with even the sketchiest of maps, I need to organize and review the data. In the mean time, I thought I'd tell you how Floodtide is coming along.
The original outline for Floodtide--the one I set up when I needed to do the combined, overlapping outline for both Mother of Souls and Floodtide--has 18 chapter-like-units for the story. These aren't meant to correspond to final chapters. They're more like temporal units that fit conveniently between the MoS chapters, because at that point the chronology was the important thing. At the moment, I'm drafting material for the 8th unit. You might think, on that basis, that I'm almost halfway done. You'd be wrong.
Most of the serious action of the story is only just about to start. (We've gotten up to the end of December 1824. To situate it in the context of Mother of Souls, we're in the middle of the first year of Margerit's school, the middle of the season when Iulien is visiting in Rotenek, right around when Luzie has a first polished draft of her opera.) Although there are several exciting events covered so far, an awful lot of the existing text is Rozild being introduced to other key characters and getting to know them. A lot of that is going to be ruthlessly trimmed and condensed, but it's something I need to work though to get to know the characters myself.
So as a start, let's introduce you to Rozild. I haven't actually come up with a surname for her yet. There are lots of placeholders in the text at this point. Roz comes from a rural area somewhere north of Rotenek, the oldest in a large and economically marginal family. Although she received some basic schooling from one of the Orisule grammar schools, at a relatively early age she went to live with her aunt (to remove one of the mouths her parents had to feed) who had a business doing laundry and mending. When she got to an age to "work out," Roz's aunt arranged for her to go to Rotenek and go into service in an upper middle class household, via contacts at an agency there. Hard work, and a bit lonely away from home, but Roz was able to send her quarterly wages back to help out her parents and younger siblings, as well as (in theory) saving up a nest egg for herself. The loneliness was eased significantly when Roz discovered some very enjoyable common interests with Nan, the girl she shared a bed with. (Keep in mind that in this era "sharing a bed" was the norm, not something that automatically raised suspicion.) But secrets can be hard to keep, and jealousies can run rampant in the downstairs of a Great House. And as our story opens, someone has accused Roz of unnatural affections and Nan concluded her own survival would require throwing her lover under the bus...
Here's the opening paragraph as it currently stands (which already needs some revising, but I'm not doing revising yet):
You know the scent of lavender on the fresh sheets when you get them from the linen press for the housemaids to take up? You breathe it in, remembering the long rows of purple spikes in the summer sun. Then you imagine the smile on the maisetra’s face when she settles in for the night on a new-made bed with that scent still lingering. That’s what I always imagined love would be like. But loving Nan was like the hours spent stripping the lavender spikes for the stillroom back in Sain-Pol. The sharp resin climbed up your nose, making your head throb and ache, and the memory of it clung to your hands and your clothes for weeks so that you’d think you’d never be free of it. I think that was how they found us out: because I was never free of thinking of her. I‘d watch her from the laundry room door as she went up and down the stairs to the family rooms, and find excuses to call her over to ask about some mending she’d brought down. Then at night, even when we were so tired we could barely talk, we’d kiss and cuddle in the narrow bed we shared. My head was so full of her and it was never enough. We had to keep quiet so Mari would think we were only whispering about the day’s work. I didn’t think she’d rat on us anyway; lots of girls in service have their bit of fun. I don’t think Mari told, but someone did. Old Mazzik the housekeeper took Nan back into her parlor and closed the door for a long time and when Nan came out she’d been crying and wouldn’t look at me. Then Mazzik took me by the arm without a word and dragged me across the yard and out the back gate and threw me down onto the cobbles.