Skip to content Skip to navigation

Beginnings and Endings

Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 07:00

It's time for the return of Teaser Tuesday! Floodtide doesn't have enough chapters to post a teaser from each chapter weekly up to publication day in November. I plan to do regular Tuesday posts intended to stir up buzz and anticipation. Some will include teasers, some won't.

I have belatedly discovered that I'm most happy with how my books start and end when they have some sort of "bookend" scenes that refer to each other but somewhow stand apart from the rest of the narrative. Not everyone has been quite as enthusiastic. I got a few comments on the epilogue of Daughter of Mystery that readers felt it was unnecessary. (In retrospect, perhaps, but since I had no idea I was writing a series, I wanted to make it clear that Barbara and Margerit got their happily ever after.) But bookending DoM with brief omniscient scenes made it a lot easier to set up Barbara as a character at the beginning, and to provide that HEA promise at the end.

In Mother of Souls, I bookended the story with a description of the river dynamics of Alpennia as they related to floodtide, which provided a foreshadowing at the start of the part the weather curse would play, and a foreshadowing at the end of the main plot of Floodtide.

I didn't do this sort of bookending for The Mystic Marriage and, in retrospect, I think I would have had fewer problems around the concluding paragraphs (and been happier with the result) if I had. If I'd begun the story with some sort of stronger metaphoric connection between Antuniet's life and her alchemical work, and then ended more clearly emphasizing the connection in her mind between creating alchemical gems and developing strong interpersonal relationships. Maybe someday I'll write those scenes just as an alternate version.

But for Floodtide, I knew I was going to do bookends again, and I knew what the theme of those bookends would be because it was the very first scene I wrote. Searching back through my old LiveJournal entries, I was startled to remind myself that I write the opening scene of Floodtide in August, 2014. Almost five years ago. To be sure, that's because I wrote it when I was just barely starting the draft of Mother of Souls, but there's also that two-year gap in getting the books out.

Here's what I posted in 2014 as my idea for the opening of Floodtide.

* * *

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. 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; 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.

* * *

And here's how the opening of the manuscript currently stands:

* * *

You know the scent of lavender on the fresh sheets? When you take them from the linen press, you breathe it in, remembering the long rows of purple flowers in the summer sun. You think of the smile on the maisetra’s face when she settles in for the night with that scent still lingering. That’s what I always imagined love would be like.

But loving Nan was like stripping the lavender spikes in Aunt Gaita’s stillroom back in Sain-Pol. The sharp resin filled my head and the memory of it clung to my hands and my clothes. I’d say the prayers to Saint Cheler with my aunt as we distilled lavender water and mixed herbs to add to the soap. Sometimes I’d get a warm stretchy feeling at the base of my belly, like the one I got during the mysteries at church.

When I was in the middle of the lavender harvest, I’d forget about everything else. I wouldn’t think about how lucky I was that Aunt Gaita picked me out from my brothers and sisters to learn a trade and teach me how to behave proper in service. I’d forget about tending the boiler where the linens were soaking. My mind would wander off and she’d box my ears and threaten to send me back home to mind the babies. I knew she didn’t mean it, but the scent was that strong it could drive everything else out of my head.

Loving Nan was like that. 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. I’d lean close and breathe in how lovely she smelled. Then at night, even when we were so tired we could barely talk, we’d kiss and cuddle in the narrow bed we shared.

Nan was the one who taught me what to do with that feeling in my belly. We’d never meant it to go further than the ordinary sort of keeping company. Most girls in service have a special friend. You get lonely away in the city with no family about. But it did go further. I was so hungry for Nan we’d be up late into the night, trying not to make noise and wake Mari in the next bed, and then stumbling bleary-eyed through the morning chores.

I don’t think Mari told on us. Why would she? But someone did. That morning Mefro Mollin, the housekeeper took Nan back into her parlor and closed the door for a long time. I watched the door until Nan came out crying. She ran upstairs without looking at me. Mollin saw me standing there and took me by the arm without a word and dragged me out the door, across the yard, and out the back gate then threw me down onto the cobbles.

* * *

It's longer and has more details, but for all intents and purposes, it's nearly identical to that original idea. Not all my openings stay that stable from first idea to final draft! But the image stuck, and I always knew that the closing images of the book would touch back on the lavender metaphor. I didn't always know how they'd do it, but it gave me a clear end-point to work towards.

Major category: 
historical