Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Definition Please: Community

Writing is a lonely business. We spend all our time staring at a piece of paper or a computer screen, pouring out the things that only we see. We squeak in as much time as we can from our every day lives. If we are really lucky, this is our full-time gig and we do it all day. And we love it. We love to put little pieces of ourselves into words. It's still lonely.

That's why we need community. People who understand what we are doing. Where we have been and where we are going. Why we feel driven to do it.

My writing life and my personal life has been enriched and supported by the people I have met in the writing community. When I'm having a down day, there's always a blog post or a comment from someone that picks me up again. When I'm enjoying a bit of success, there's someone out there doing a happy dance with me. It makes the journey a little less lonely. For a career path that leans toward the solitary, having a sense of community seems pretty important.

To all of you who have become part of my community, thank you. From the bottom of my feet. Because the bottom of my heart just doesn't feel like enough. You will never know how much you mean to me.

What does community mean to you? How has being part of a writing community helped you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Beauty pushed her empty plate away from her just as her mother entered the room. Amelia stalked down the narrow room, fingers rapping against a brown, leather covered book. Beauty slunk down into her chair when Amelia got close enough for her to read the title—Secret Life of Fairies.

“Dawn, what is the meaning of this?” Amelia said. “I went to the sitting room to say good morning to you and all I found was this book.”

Beauty stared at her empty plate without answering. Amelia didn’t move. The scraping of Thaddeus’s chair across the floor as he got up to leave only emphasized the unnatural stillness between the two women. Amelia’s fingers beat out a steady rhythm on the book’s cover once again.

“I was just doing some research.” Beauty still avoided her mother’s eyes. When Amelia made no comment, she continued, “I wanted to see if there were any clues. To breaking this curse.”

“And you didn’t think that maybe we have already been through every book in this house? There is nothing, Dawn. Nothing.” The words echoed hollowly against the walls. “We’ve talked about this before. There is nothing you can do to change the curse. We have tried everything. Just be glad that you are only going to fall asleep. It could have been worse.”

“I don’t understand how you can just accept this, Mother.” Beauty pushed away from the table and slammed a small fist onto the wood. “It’s not you that has to wonder if you will ever see another sunrise. It’s not you who has to constantly wonder if they will ever figure out what love is. It’s not you. It’s me. And I don’t want to just sit her and wait. You keep saying that I need to wait, but what if that isn’t good enough?”

“Your father and I have spent your entire life trying to protect you from this curse. The only thing we can do is wait until your birthday. If nothing happens by then, you will be safe. Please, just trust us.” Amelia put the book on the table and slid into a chair. She took the hand that Beauty had slammed down onto the table into her own and patted it gently. “We love you, Dawn, but I will protect you. Until your father comes home and we can talk about it, you are forbidden from reading any more of these books. The library will be locked from now on. And I will be sitting with you in the mornings. It’s for the best.”

“Anything else you want to take away from me? What’s the point of having a life if I can’t even live it?” Beauty shook free of her mother’s grasp and rushed away from her.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Well, I'm only a few weeks away from entering the query trenches. I'm feeling really good about the revisions I've made and only have a few things left to do. The readers are saying they think it's pretty solid and I'm going to just polish it up a little more. Then, it's putting together a query from all the different, half-hearted attempts and start submitting. I feel really frightened about it, for some reason. It's mostly a fear of failure. I haven't been actively writing for as long as a lot of people. What if I'm not good enough? What if I haven't put enough effort into it? What if I don't make it to my dreams? It's one of the scariest things I have ever contemplated. And even more scary than failing is actually succeeding and being somewhere that I almost didn't dare to hope.

It's strange because I find myself coping in the same ways I have with other things in my life. RETREAT! I've read several books in the last week. (Four. That's a pretty significant reading jag.) I've thrown myself into the housework. (Ok. It's been neglected for the last little while. What with one thing or the other. Mostly the other.)

I think it's funny that I retreated from the things of real life to push forward on my story and now I'm pushing forward on my real life to avoid the story. People are weird. Just saying.

I suppose I should just put down the nerves and move. It'll be worth it, right?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Running a little behind today. The boys have been sick all week and every one is clingy to mommy. It's great fun. And it's been snowing most of the morning. Another three or four inches. March came in like a lion and it's leaving like a lion too.

I was thinking last night about this where I am right now. And where I was a year ago. It's amazing to step back and see the progress I have made in my life.

One year ago, we had just moved into this house. We had been managing an apartment complex, but our family was just too big to make it work any more. We gave up our free internet and cable and found a bigger place. And I went crazy for about a month, not having anything to do with the free time during naps, or down time. And so I started writing.

I surprised myself. I didn't know I had a book in me. But I did. And it only took a few months to get a first draft finished. Not even writing full time. Just during naps and after bedtime. And I found out that I loved writing. Since then, I've written another first draft and half of a second draft. And it's amazing and fun and fulfilling in a way that other things weren't.

I can't believe how much difference a year can make. Even just in myself. What have you done in the last year that you are proud of?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Definition Please: Diligence

So, right now, I'm working my way through several different character traits that seem pretty important for a writer. It's probably something that everyone has thought about at one point or another: what makes a good author?

It's easy to think that you (speaking in the hypothetical, second person sort of you) have written the world's first perfect draft. It's easy to think that you will be the one that will find a kick butt agent with your very first query attempt. It's easy to think that an editor will fight for the rights to your book with an auction that gives you a HUGE advance. It's easy to think that you will be the one to become the overnight sensation.

It's hard to keep going when none of those things happen. It's hard to accept criticism and recognize the truth in it. It's hard to believe that rejection from an agent isn't a reflection of you as a person. It's hard to continue to put hours and hours and hours into something when you don't know if it will ever get you anywhere.

And that's where diligence comes in. To keep on when you don't see anything coming from it, when you lose motivation, inspiration, and desire. To just work through it.

I first figured this out as a mom, actually. No matter how many times I do the dishes or pick up the house or fold the laundry, it will have to be done again in two hours, two days, two weeks, two years. I have to be diligent about it, no matter how many times I have to do it. Nobody else is going to pick up the slack if I don't. And it's the same with my writing.

So, when things are feeling tough, when the words just aren't coming, when other things get in the way, I'm going to be diligent.

How do you define diligence? What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Hunger Games, A review

OK. I know. I'm extremely behind on my TBR. In my defense, the library in my little town isn't particularly good at keeping up on new books and my new book budget is virtually non-existent.

I loved this book. I'm not normally a fan of first person, present tense, but wow. I just don't know what else to say about it. I think the really good thing is that I'm coming into the trilogy when it's almost entirely finished, so I don't have to wait several years for the resolution. I just have to wait until August. (And whatever time it takes to get it at the library.)

I don't remember the last time I read so voraciously. I seriously couldn't put this book down. (OK. I had to. Sleep had to happen at some point.) It interfered with my usual writing time, though. It was just that good. The characters were original. The plot was original. The pace was fast and not a single word was wasted. I could go on and on. I don't want to cover any of the story for those of you who, like me, haven't had a chance to read it. (If this is you, read it. You won't be disappointed.)

It really makes me want to be a better writer. With that said, back to work.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Definition Please: Success

Lots of people talk about success, but what exactly do they mean?

My husband and I have recently been talking about this subject, quite a bit. (We're a good mix. When I'm down, he's up and vice versa.) Right now, he's having a hard time with work and feeling like he's not really getting any where. A few weeks ago, I felt the same way about my writing. The advice he gave me was to figure out what success means to me.

For him, success is being able to pay all the bills. And provide for the family. And still have free time to spend with us.  I don't have a job as a stay at home mom, so I don't really have a tangible measure of success like my husband does. I've been talking to lots of different people about what they think success is and I'm surprised how each person has a unique idea. Success always seems to be catered to the individual situation.

So, for me, right now, trying to be a wife, mom, and writer, I want to find my personal definition of success. I have some pretty lofty goals and some high personal expectations, and frankly, I disappoint myself a little too frequently because of it. What I consider a success has been a little elusive, and therefore, I am always left thinking I could have done better. So, here we go.

If I can spend some quality time with each of my family members during the day without resorting to the TV for entertaining or diverting, it's a success. (No limits or specific expectations of what quality time is or how long it has to be.)

If I get the house clean at least once during the day, it's a success. (Even if the house doesn't stay clean after I have finished.)

If the dirty dishes don't fill the sink and run out onto the cabinet before I get to them, it's a success.

If I can open up my WIP and get even a few hundred words a day, it's a success.

Anything beyond these things is gravy. Or maybe icing. I'm much more a sweet tooth. If I persistently seek success in these simple things, the forever elusive big things will surely happen.

What defines success for you?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life and Death

I'm missing the funeral right now. My kids got sick on Saturday, just in time for the wedding. It's been one of those weeks. I've been doing a lot of thinking and I'm not sure it's going to make sense, but I wanted to put it out there.

It's a cliche of sorts. We've all read it or even said it. It's a matter of life or death. I think it should really be a matter of life and death. See, I think life and death aren't ever really separated. This was really brought home to me with a wedding followed by a funeral. I'm not talking about a cheesy movie type thing like Four Weddings and a Funeral. (I haven't seen it, but that's the title that keeps coming to mind when I think about this past weekend.) It's the starting of a new life as my sister and her husband drive off together from their reception. It's the coming together of family at a funeral that haven't all been in the same room for maybe 10 years.

I think, sometimes, for life to keep going, we need a little death. We need a reason to come together. And to really appreciate death, we need to have a life. We need to make it meaningful so that when it does come to an end, it isn't the end of everything.

This might be a really important thing to remember for writing as well. You don't have to put a character in a life or death situation. You can put them in a life situation. Or a death situation. Either way, it can be a good place to start. There needs to be something to make the character grow, to reach beyond themselves, to find meaning in their existence. And it doesn't have to be earth-shattering or staggering. Just make it life and death.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Probably taking a break

Thank you to everyone for their kind words and thoughts. It's a difficult and strange time at our house. My sister is getting married on Saturday and my uncle's funeral will be Monday.

I must confess to being slightly out of sorts with all the things that are happening this week. I can't seem to put my thoughts in order. I don't know whether to be happy or sad. And it is affecting my ability to write.

Most strange, I am not sad or happy for myself. I am sad for my mom and her siblings and parents. They are all taking it very hard. I am happy for my sister who has waited 30 years to find that perfect someone. And I'm sad for everyone because weddings and funerals shouldn't be mixed like this. My poor mom is stressed out beyond anything I can imagine. She's putting together a wedding, helping to plan a funeral, and trying to finish her Bachelor's degree. One of these things is sure to fall at some point and I don't know which it will be.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I may be pretty quiet in the blogosphere for the next few days while I try to help my family rally through the pending crises. If I can't pull my own thoughts together, I'll be back again next week.

And, in a related note, please consider life insurance. My uncle didn't expect to die and never had any insurance. Now, the family is left with a huge financial burden. Even just a small life insurance policy can give your family some relief in the face of grief.

Monday, March 15, 2010


It's a funny thing. As a writer, and a blogger, I pour my heart and soul into words. Little pieces of me trail out onto the paper every day. And the words seem to flow with an ease that I would never expect. Any one who reads what I have written can see those pieces of me and know something about my hopes and dreams, the person that I am.

It's a funny thing that when it comes to something really personal, I don't know where to find the words. My uncle died last night. It was sudden and unexpected. A heart attack. Despite every effort, nothing could be done to save him. I didn't know him very well. We've never been really close to that side of my family. I don't feel particularly distraught. It's just something that happened. And I don't know if I should feel something different. Or if I should say anything else.

It's a funny thing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Something different

Sometimes, you just need to change.
Rearrange the furniture.
Get a haircut.
If you stay at home all day, go out.
If you are out all day, barricade yourself in.
Change your schedule a little.
Try something new.
Just make a change.
It's amazing how much simple changes will change your perspective on everything
And make it easier to stick to the things that are really important.
Get out there, be brave, and make a change.
I'll be right there with you, making my own.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Help Wanted

I have very recently come to the conclusion that I need to find some new beta readers. I've had several people read over the first draft. It's been good to have feedback. Now, I need fresh eyes. Fresh ideas. New perspective to see if where I am heading is a better, more productive direction for this story to go. The problem? I don't have a clue where to find these people. The ones who will be willing to read and critique and, in turn, share their creations with me.

I've never been part of a formal critique group. I'm still new to this writing thing. I've been at it for about 11 months, and entirely in the solitude of my own home. I've swapped with a few people that I met on forums at, but I want something more permanent. And I don't think there are any groups that meet locally in small town Southern Utah that I could join. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And then there was... writing

Yes, friends. I went back to my writing. And it was good. I mean, not blow me away amazing, but good.

I was talking to my husband about the insecurities I have been feeling. The way I haven't felt motivated to even try any more, because I'm just not going to be good enough at any point in time. And he said, "I guess you'll just have to get to work." And he was right.

I may not have the greatest book ever written. I may not have anything insightful and powerful to say. But I'm still going to do it. Because it is work. And if I don't work at it, I never will get better. No one else is going to tell my story. I have to. So I will. And I'm going to feel good about it. Now, back to work!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


There is a blizzard going on outside my front window.

In other news, I just wanted to give a shout out to some cool contests.

Elana Johnson is having a fabulous followers contest. She's reached 700 followers, so she's giving away 7 books, most of them personalized. She has several different ways to gain entries, but the biggest thing is that you have to follow her blog, as well as Suzie Saxton and Bethany Wiggins' blog.

Which brings us to the second contest. Suzie and Bethany are having a contest at their blog, Shooting Stars. It's also a followers contest, so become a follower of their blog and Elana's blog for a chance to win a 40 page submission/critique from Suzie Townsend, an agent at FinePrintLit. There are several other prizes, so make sure you head over there.

Have a great day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A down weekend

I spent some time thinking and reading this weekend. I know it's a common thing, probably more so among writers, but I had a pretty down couple of days. I kept thinking about the books and blogs I read and how I don't think I'll ever be as good as what I'm seeing from other people. I even thought about packing it in. I don't have any staggering insights or valuable tips or anything like that. I'm just a girl who wrote a book and wants to see something happen with it, like hundreds of people out there.

I'm not looking for any one to say, "But you're wrong. You are great." It's just something I wanted to put it down some where. I think if I can acknowledge the hard times, it will help me get through them. I am pretty sure that this won't be the last time that I feel this way. It's definitely not the first.

Today, I'm going to take a break from things writing. Recharge myself. Get a grip on what I really want and where I want to go. What do you do when you have those down days?

Friday, March 5, 2010

A new award!

And the winner was: Me! Of course. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Kristin Rae at Kristin Creative for the award that you see below. She's pretty great and I love reading her blog.

I'd like to pass this award on to: Jennifer Shirk at Me, My Muse and I. Her blog resonates with me. I like it.
And also to Kristen at Take It As It Comes, not just because she gave me my first award, but because she's a great writer.

It's pretty fun to share things about myself, so I'm going to! Have fun with these random factoids.

1. I'm a closet geek. Not even just a nerd. It's full on geekdom. We own Star Trek Scene-It, people. I don't think it gets more geek than that.

2. I also am a closet anime fan. (Ok. A selective closet anime fan.) My husband has introduced me to several series that I would never have watched before, like Naruto. (Don't tell him I secretly enjoy huddling over the computer to watch the newest episode on Hulu. It'll ruin my reputation.)

3. I love Jazz. Especially Jazz with piano. Like Dave Brubeck. Awesome. When I was in DC at the Smithsonian, I spent hours in the wing dedicated to various Jazz musicians.

4. I'm a nut for nuts. Like Pistachios. I think they are just a little piece of heaven.

5. I've had plastic surgery twice. I had a rhinoplasty (nose job) but it didn't change my looks at all. (It was actually all interior work to help me stop having sinus infections. We used a plastic surgeon so I still looked the same.) The other time was liposuction, sort of. They took fat from my thigh and injected it into my cheek. (I got bit by a brown recluse spider and it ate away the fat cells in my cheek so they were filling in a divet.) Kids at my high school called me buttface and spider woman for months.

Well, that's it from me. Have a great weekend. See you all on the flip side.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Random Ramblings on a Wednesday

Recently, I was thinking about the me that I was as a teenager. It's because of my writing, I think. The main character in my current manuscript is sixteen. That's fifteen years ago for me. Today, I found myself thinking, "If you could go back and talk to that girl, what would you tell her?" And so, I'm going to write that letter right now.


"Dear past me,

If you are reading this letter, some kind of miraculous time travel thing has been invented in your future and I am now talking to you. Pretty wild, huh?

I wanted to give you a few pointers about your life five, ten, even fifteen years from now. Pay attention. This is important stuff.

First, zits will still happen. Right now, you hate it when you have a break out and you are worried that the cute guy in your English class is going to notice. They aren't going to go away. Not only will you have zits when you are thirty, you will have crows feet around your eyes and laugh lines. Your hair will still bug the tar out of you. And you will have stretch marks in places you never thought could have stretch marks. Don't let it bother you. Your husband will still think you are beautiful and he doesn't care about the zits.

Second, dating is not all it's cracked up to be. I know. Every one around you has a boyfriend and you are the loser who sits at home on a Friday night. It's ok. Really. I promise. When you get to where I am, you will look back and really appreciate those Friday nights at home. You'll have learned to value who you are because of who you are and not for who you are with. You also won't be the girl who got pregnant when she was a senior and had to drop out of high school. Taking your time with dating is a great idea because it will get you the coolest, funniest, most amazing husband ever.

Third, you are pretty talented! You don't always trust yourself and you can't always see things the way others do. When I look back at the things you are doing at sixteen, I wish I had kept going with some of them. It would have been really amazing to see where I would be now if I hadn't quit. Trust your abilities. You aren't perfect and you don't have to be. You just have to keep doing your best and your best will eventually get better.

Last, just keep doing what you're doing. I'm not going to tell you to change anything. I wouldn't be who I am now if you do. I don't look back with very many regrets and the regrets I do have made me a stronger, better person. It's not going to be easy a lot of the time. You will have down days. You'll feel like you aren't good enough. You'll wish you had someone else's life. And that's ok. And it's normal. Just keep being you and it will be worth it.

Well, that's all I have to tell you now. Maybe in another fifteen years, I'll try again. Who knows? Good luck, me. We'll make it.

Your future self."


What would you tell yourself if you could send a message back to the you that you were five, ten, or fifteen years ago? (I think I may have just had an epiphany for a new story. Off to take some notes. Talk amongst yourselves.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- A review

So, I've been reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (hereafter referred to as PPZ for the sake of my fingers.) I'm a bit of an Austen fanatic. I have the complete works in a handy volume that sits in my library, should the urge to read strike me. (And it does. Frequently. Especially PP. It's my favorite.) So, I went into this with some skepticism. How can you mess with the quintessential Austen? My husband told me it was the original, with pieces added. He also said it will forever ruin my reading of PP because I won't be able to avoid thinking of the zombies. I'm happy to report that he was wrong on both counts.

The storyline is basically the same. Many of the phrases have carried through from the original, especially the dialogue. However, PPZ is its own book. The motivations of the characters are different. The settings are different. (For instance, Pemberly, Darcy's ancestral home, is rigged up like a Japanese temple.) It might best be said that this book is loosely based on the original. And it's probably better that way.

I have enjoyed reading it. It's been a slower read than if I was plowing through PP without the zombies. I keep expecting to have it be like the original and the changes throw me off a little. This book is also not for the faint of heart or for the younger crowd. There are some gruesome illustrations of zombies eating people that I truly wasn't expecting. And some of the additions are gruesome or slightly veiled crude references. (At least as veiled as something in Regency England could be.) (OK. It's not really that bad. I just don't normally go for horror, zombies, or things of that sort.)

I don't think I'll read it again. I find the original much more satisfying. I am glad that I read it once, though. Now, to catch up on some of the other great books I've missed in the last while.

Looking for color

It's pretty gray outside my house. The sky is gray. The ground is gray. The roads are gray. Dust and dirt are everywhere, even on the snow that used to sparkle a clean, crisp white. It's hard not to feel gray, too.

I'm wishing it was spring. Spring might just be my favorite time of year. I love the greens that spring up everywhere. Green has been my favorite color as long as I can remember. I love the colors that start to peak through the snow and dirt as the first flowers begin to bloom. Lilies, daffodils, tulips. It's the sign of returning life after all the cold death of winter.

It actually kind of reminds me of the revision process. I'm right in the middle of it now. I'm taking something that was cold and lifeless and adding color to it. Little bits of detail peaking through the drab and making it breathe. After this draft is done, I might have to go through and prune it back a bit, like a good gardener. Being completely overrun isn't very pretty. You don't know where to look first or what the focus is. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

I think this might be my best motivation yet to keep on revising. I want a book that is an orderly but beautiful garden of words. What keeps you working on that next draft?

Monday, March 1, 2010

An excerpt

This is from my first novel. It's basically the prologue. Enjoy!
The last drops splashed musically into the puddle under the rainspout. Pristine pools dotted the walkway leading from the back door of the manor. The sun glinted like diamonds off the droplets still clinging to  individual blades of grass. Water stained the good brown earth of the kitchen gardens an almost black color and the early spring blossoms stood at attention under the influence of abundant moisture. Only the clouds on the horizon, now stained bright pink and orange by the rising sun, bore testament of the previous night’s storm.

A small bundle, packed tightly in a wicker basket, lay nestled up against the threshold of the large black door that opened up into the kitchen of Moss Haven Manor. The soft cotton fabric rustled as the contents of the basket shifted slightly and a soft cry escaped the folds.

From inside the house, a mellow toned voice called out, “Camilla! Stop your woolgathering and get me the eggs!”

“Yes, Ma’am. Right away,” a young girl stammered in reply. As the door swung open to let the girl out into the yard the sounds of the kitchen filled the cool air. Pots and pans rattled against each other, followed by a loud crash as several items fell to the floor. In confusion, the girl turned back to the kitchen and tripped over the large basket, nearly dumping the bundle out onto the cobblestones.

An indignant wail came from inside the woven container, startling the girl as she tried to recover her balance. The girl tentatively nudged the basket with her toe, setting the basket to gently rocking. The wail died down to a soft whimper, then disappeared entirely under the movement of the basket.

“Cook, Ma’am,” the girl said, her voice nearly a whisper. “You’d better come look at this. I don’t know what it is or where it came from.”

“Camilla, I don’t have time for your games this morning,” the cook said in exasperation. “Speak up and tell me what is so wrong with the world that you haven’t gone to get me the eggs.”

Camilla carefully lifted the basket and carried it even more carefully through the kitchen door and to the big table in the center of the kitchen. She quickly pushed half-peeled carrots and potatoes out of the way to make room on the edge of the table. The cook wandered over, her agitation at Camilla showing on her face, when another heart-wrenching cry escaped from the wicker package.

"What in heaven’s name….” Her irritation with Camilla forgotten, the cook cautiously poked her fingers into the basket. Her hand brushed a sheet of paper, lying gently on the soft blanket. Camilla watched as the cook pulled the paper out and scanned its content. The cook’s face grew more and more disconcerted as her eyes traveled further down the page. “Oh my! What to do? Quick, fetch the Mistress!” the cook said when she reached the end. Her knees buckled and she sank into a nearby chair, letting the note fall to the tabletop, to await the arrival of the Mistress. Her hands plucked unnoticed at the folds of her yellow apron, her
head shaking slightly in time to the rise and fall of fabric on her lap.

Camilla ran to the far end of the kitchen and rang the bell to summon a pageboy. When the boy arrived, tugging on his scarlet tunic, she hurriedly said, “The Mistress’s presence is requested in the kitchen. It’s very urgent.” After he had left, Camilla went back to the table and peered, uncomprehending, at the neat writing on the small page. “What does it say, Ma’am?” she asked nervously.

“Let Mistress Olivia read through it first. She’ll know what to do,” the cook said confidently. She stared at the basket, almost willing it to disappear.

The cook and scullery maid sat in silence, interrupted occasionally by a rustling or muted whimper from the basket on the table. Neither made a move to exhume the contents, knowing the Mistress would be upset if they changed anything before she got there.

After what seemed an eternity, the Mistress of the house swooped into the kitchen, trailing her two daughters behind her like toys on a string. The Mistress walked purposefully to the table, the skirts of her mud colored dress communicating her irritation with each swishing step. Her daughters followed so closely on her heels that they almost ran into her when she stopped, standing almost knee high to their mother in matching muslin dresses behind her. The orange-brown hair of the oldest girl, the same shade as her mother’s, sat piled in tight curls at the top of her head. The younger girl pulled nervously at strands of her moss green hair; too short to be pulled up, it hung limply around her face. Both wore looks of pampered boredom as they crossed the kitchen floor to the table in the center of the room.

The Mistress picked up the page and read it briefly before turning her attention to the basket resting delicately on the table. “Well, it says her name is Ella,” she said, succinctly. “I don’t know why someone would choose our doorstep to leave a baby, but there you have it.”

She reached into the basket to move the blanket away and look at the small bundle that had caused so much disruption to her household. Camilla and the cook leaned in for a better view while the two girls struggled with each other to see who could catch the first glimpse of the new addition to their home. The mistress grasped the tiny thing in her large gray hands and drew it out where everyone could see. A soft, pink face surrounded by pale gold tufts of hair looked up at her.

“She’s so ugly!” exclaimed the Mistress. She held the smiling baby out at arms length and quickly deposited her in the unprepared arms of the cook. She grabbed each of her daughters by one hand and pushed them behind her, as if to shield them from further exposure to the monstrous sight.

“Don’t let that thing any where near my precious girls. I don’t want it
to contaminate them.” She hurried off, herding her girls in front of her,
already trying to forget the ragged little child left to her unwilling care.