Behind the Scenes: Deleted Scene

This is part of a scene from an old version of a chapter of my novel. I like the conflict between James and Zaddock, but after this semester’s experiments with my tone, style, voice, and structure, the writing feels so stiff to me. I might grab a few descriptions to reuse, but for the most part, this scene will likely remain deleted.

Two days later, the bell rang from the lookout again. I was in the stables when I heard the chimes fill the air. The horses here were majestic creatures. Abner’s own reminded me of Katherine for they were both Thoroughbreds, but Abner’s horse—called Barnaby—was different from the mild-mannered mare of my childhood. He was younger, and far more spirited. But he had the same white star pattern between his eyes that Katherine had. My father had said it reminded him of a jewel, so that’s why he named her after the queen of one hundred years ago.

Barnaby nuzzled my palm and I pat that star before leaving the stables. The lookout was on the armory, which made sense as the two long guns were perched on the lookout deck. I wasn’t technically supposed to be in the armory without permission, but my curiosity got the better of me; I wanted to see what the bell was for. I slipped inside, spotting a trio of soldiers in the midst of the room. At the moment, all of their backs were turned so I took the stairs two at a time, and almost ran into Gibbons at the top. 

“Oh, pardon me.”

“Mr. Stanworth,” he greeted with a tilt of his head. “Weren’t you supposed to stay out of the armory?” He was smiling. I was certain he recalled giving me a brief overview of the fort and it’d been he who issued that decree.

“Was I? My apologies if that’s so. You can search me if you must.”

Gibbons cocked his head to the side, and it looked like he was chewing on his cheek. “No,” he decided finally. “I trust you. I imagine you’re looking for the Lieutenant?”

I nodded. Gibbons pointed toward the door across the landing. “He’s out on the lookout with the Captain.”

I thanked him and walked past him but then stopped. “Mr. Gibbons?” When he turned from the top step, I asked, “What do you think of the Captain?”

His smile fell from his face. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? What I think? He outranks me, so I do as told, Mr. Stanworth, sir.”

“I see. Thank you.” 

Gibbons nodded and went on his way. I pulled open the door to the lookout and stepped outside. Up here, the wind curled up from the river and smacked my face. The cold made my nose tingle for a moment until it started to feel stiff and numb, even when I tried to wiggle it. I watched the tip, but what I saw didn’t connect to what I felt.

“What’re you doing up here?” Zadock demanded. 

Not my captain. “I heard the bells.”

“You are not a military man. You shouldn’t be up here.” 

Abner shook his head. “It’s alright, James. See that?” He pointed toward the river. 

“Damn Dutch,” Zadock grumbled.

“Is there no one you don’t hate?” I asked the Captain, who turned and thrust his stubby fingers into my chest. 

“I don’t hate the English. Our own kind.”

“All evidence to the contrary,” I answered, pushing his hand away.

Behind the Scenes: Ivy & Trees Snippet

This is from an older version of a chapter, though I might take pieces of it for the draft I’m working on now.

I tug at the collar of my doublet and glance at the clock on the mantelpiece. The carvings that encase the clock look like swirls of ivy. The only problem with that is that ivy doesn’t really swirl. It crawls. Its leaves lie flat, though sometimes the plant itself will wind its way around a tree and choke the life out of it, sending tendrils of roots seeking any available entrance to the trunk through scales of bark. Floorboards creak from the next room, beyond a door that sweeps open. 

My father’s home was filled with ornately-carved clocks, mantelpieces, and doorways. It’d been built one hundred years before I was born. Around my father’s property stood a forest: tall and sturdy like a colonnade. The forest was off-limits. Not because there might be criminals or because I might have fallen out of a tree, but because of evil. My father was convinced, and my brother with him, that evil lurked beyond the sentries of sessile oaks and conifers.

Behind the Scenes—iTunes Playlist

This is the playlist I’ve been listening to while working on my novel. I usually try to listen to music from the period of my story if possible.

MFA Update: Submission 3 Progress

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I’ve finished drafting the fiction portion of my submission. I feel pretty good about it, but I expect I’ll have plenty of tweaking to do next week. I’m going to let it sit over the weekend and just rest so I can come back to it with somewhat fresh eyes on Tuesday (going to try not to touch it Monday after I get home from TA work).

I’m woefully behind on my craft essay progress, but I still think I might be able to bang one out by Sunday night, which leaves one more for next week. My submission isn’t due until 5/1/18, but I’m going to try to have it done early as always, just in case. One never knows when it will be beneficial to finish work early.

With the third submission drawing to a close soon, it’s time to start thinking of mentors to request for next term. My current mentor made some great suggestions that I might just run with, but I need to read some more of the work by two of the mentors first. That might be a good project for after this submission while I wait to hear back from my current mentor, especially as my last two craft essays should be fairly easy to complete–I’ve already read one of the required books in my MA program.

In teaching news, my second TA semester is almost over. I have three more trips to make to campus and then that’s it–then it’s prep time for working as an adjunct next semester. I sent in my transcripts today at the school’s request. My syllabus needs a few edits, and then I have to finish developing my course calendar, selecting readings, and creating assignments. I’m sure other adjuncts face this challenge too–but I have so many ideas that it will be impossible to fit them all into one semester.

MFA Update: Yet Another Discovery

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I have a good friend who is also a writer. We happen to have been writing together for the last almost eight years. When we write together, it’s in a particular structure because of the need to work asynchronously. Anyway, I suggested to this friend a writing exercise with her own fiction based on this approach–and then I decided to try it myself.

The result? Something that I’m excited about. Not only did it help me get into a story I had started several times and still felt distanced from, but it meets some criteria that I have for my work right now:

  • I want to try to tell a story in a way that isn’t commonly used in novels.
  • Even though this story follows another character in my book, my linking character still gets a say.
  • I get to tell a 17th-century story in a modern way.

Will I keep this going for the whole book? I don’t know yet. I’m just at the start of it, but I know it’s exciting to write this story in this way. I don’t want to get into details just yet–suffice to say that it’s something that’s been tickling my mind for awhile now and I’ve never actually tried it until yesterday.

I’m excited to write the rest of this submission and send to my mentor for her thoughts. At the very least, even if I’m starting my thesis from scratch at the start of my third semester, I know I’ll be able to look back and say that in my first semester, I really got to know my main character and my themes, and I became familiar with the research enough to write a story set in this time (there’s still more research to do, of course). I’ll be able to look back and say that in my second semester, I really forced myself to stretch and grow as a writer, trying new styles, structures, and voices.

This will be my third out of four submissions, and already it’s taken me to unexpected places as a writer, thinker, and human.

Behind the Scenes: Fort Saybrooke

Here are some pictures I took from Fort Saybrooke last summer. This is one of the locations in my novel, and I didn’t even realize that this park existed even though I grew up a few towns over. It was an important location in the Pequot War.

This is one of many reasons why our public school curriculum needs massive updating, particularly in the humanities. Did you know I never even knew the Pequot War happened until a few years ago?

MFA Update: Phone Chat

If you ever enroll in an MFA program–or any graduate or undergraduate program–never be afraid to voice your questions. Today, as I mentioned yesterday, I chatted with my mentor on the phone. Not only did we have some productive discussion about moving forward with my thesis, but I also got some great book recommendations and a new plan for my writing exercise.

It was going to be a 10-page letter from one specific character of mine to her father, questioning and imagining why he did certain things during her life. I liked the idea of her trying to figure out his character in this way, but I was having difficulty hitting my page target without including elements they would both already know before the letter was already written.

This is one of the pitfalls of epistolary writing that my mentor discussed with me last month–and after having experienced it, I agree with her that it can be a difficult one to avoid. However, by changing the scope and parameters of this exercise just a bit, it seems not only doable, but enjoyable and productive.

My next deadline is just under a month away. I’ve got this.