Saturday, June 14, 2014

Nonlinear writing

Sometimes the best way to write is to work ahead. It can get you out of writer's block, and develop the characters. You do have to go back and make sure what you write is supported in the earlier bits, but that's usually not too hard.

This is from about the middle of the next book. Still a draft document. The lines that start with '//' are comments.

By the way, a Lady Luttrel appears in one of Georgette Heyer's books. This isn't where mine comes from. There was a real Lady Luttrel who ran a 'faro house' and was prosecuted for it. A 'Mr. Strot' was prosecuted as well at the same time. While we're at it 'Gropecunt lane' was a real place in London where ladies of easy and dubious virtue plied their wares.


Charlotte in the Suds.




// this is about halfway into the story. After Bath, Lady Maplerod (need a much better name) invites Charlotte to London. Elizabeth and Charlotte are sort of friendly but not as close as Elizabeth hoped.
// Maplerod takes Charlotte to the cleaners.
// Colonel Sam will probably a) complicate things by also falling for Charlotte or b) be a love interest for Elizabeth. (possibly appear to do a but do b).



Freddy rarely ventured into gambling hells, and it was only at the urging of his sister Lizzy that he accompanied her to Lady Luttrel's house. “Freddy, I so much want to see one of these Faro houses.”
“Lizzy, I'd rather you not. The odds in the games are always rigged for the house, the wine is poor and the food vile. The company is tedious, ill-tempered, noisome and noisy at best.”
“So? Charlotte has told me so much about it. I thought just once wouldn't be too awful. She said she would be at Lady Luttrel's tonight.”
“I'm not going to make good your losses.”
“Freddy! I'm not going to gamble, at least not much, where's the fun in that?”
In the end, they didn't make it into the house. There sitting on the stoop, crying, was Miss DeVere.
Lizzy stopped and asked her, “Charlotte, what is it?”
“I'm completely rolled up. I've lost everything I had, no it's worse than that. I owe as much again. There's no way I can ever pay it, and Mr. Strot has hinted that maybe I can earn my keep down at Gropecunt lane.”
Lizzy was shocked at what her friend said, but somehow Freddy wasn't. “Miss DeVere, look at me.”
Charlotte turned her tear-streaked face to him and looked up at his face. “Do you promise not to gamble again. I know it runs in your family, but can you promise?”
“Yes-s, I'll promise anything.”
“I don't want 'anything'. I want you to do one thing in specific.”
“Yes. I won't gamble again.”
“Good, I'm sorry Lizzy but you're not visiting the hell this time. Please keep Charlotte company while I sort things out.”
“Freddy!”
“Mr. Oswith!”
He didn't listen any of their objections but entered the hall. After he presented his card, Lady Luttrel greeted him as yet another fat pigeon fit for plucking. With the Oswiths, even detaching a couple of feathers was worth the game. “Mr. Oswith, how pleased I am to see you. May I show you to the faro table, or is piquet your game?”
Freddy rather rudely replied, “Neither. I understand Miss DeVere has some gambling losses that need to be paid. Can I see the books?”
Lady Luttrel put her nose in the air and assumed a patrician attitude, “Books? This is an affair of honor.”
Freddy, as usual when confronted by members of the tinsel aristocracy, was not impressed. “I fail to see the honor in skinning a young woman of her last savings.”
“What business is this of yours?”
“It's mine because I make it mine. Miss DeVere is under my protection.”
“Why? She's just another silly female.”
“Do you really think I'm a flat? Before I lay evidence,” at which words a pair of rather muscular and decidedly menacing gentlemen approached him on either side and momentarily interrupted his conversation. “I presume you keep track of your winnings somewhere. I need to see the records.”
“You bloody clerk, you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong.”
“If you don't have records of her debt, then I'm leaving. If anyone menaces her, you will hear from a magistrate. I have more than one friend on the bench.”
The gentleman on his right moved between Freddy and Lady Luttrel and gathered his hands into fists. “Do you want some of this?” He stood there breathing heavily with his nostrils flaring in and out. He was prepared for a fight, and hoped to intimidate this young gentleman into striking first. The other moved behind him, ready to stop Freddy from returning any punches once the 'fight' started.
Freddy calmly looked at him with deep disdain. “Please. Physical violence will only add to the charges against you. I didn't come alone.” The stand off continued for a few moments, when Freddy continued, “So Madam, what will it be? Do I see Miss DeVere's vowels or do I talk to my friends at Old Bailey?”
“Bloody bastard!” Lady Luttrel nodded to her assistant. “Get Mr. Strot and tell that lazy bugger to bring the books.”
“Thank you.”
It only took a few moments in the end. Satisfied that the debt was properly totaled, he peeled a monkey from his billfold and handed it to Lady Luttrel. “I would like a receipt please. Miss DeVere will not be bothered about this again. Do you understand?”
“Yes, damn you.” Lady Luttrel stormed at her two muscular gentlemen. “Make sure that neither Miss DeVere nor this Mr. Oswith ever darkens my door again.”
“I assure you I have no intent of ever entering your,” he paused to show his distaste for the place, “house.”
With that he turned sharply and left. Once outside he addressed Lizzy and Miss DeVere, “Come, let us find a cab or a chair, and leave this verminous neighborhood.”
“Mr. Oswith?” Charlotte began to ask, “did you fix-”
“You debts. Yes.”
“How much do I owe you?”
Mr. Oswith refused to say. Instead he hailed a jarvey and bundled the two of them into it. He told the coachman to take the women to the house on Portman street. Miss DeVere objected to his high-handed treatment. “Mr. Oswith, I would like to go to my own place.”
“Where? You were staying with Lady Maplerod, weren't you?”
“Yes.”
“Where is she?”
Charlotte pointed to the 'faro house', “In there.”
“Then you will go with Miss Oswith. Lizzy, have a footman send a message to the Maplerod residence when you arrive.”
Lizzy intently studied her brother's face. While he could hide his emotions most of the time from most onlookers, she could still read them. She whispered to her brother, “Freddy, are you fine? There's room in the cab for you.”
Freddy smiled at her, “Thank you, but I'll walk. The exercise will do me well.”



It wasn't until the two women had arrived back in the Oswith's house at Portman square that Charlotte summoned the courage to ask Elizabeth something that had been bothering her, “Miss Oswith?”
“Yes.”
“Your brother, did he just settle my debts for me?”
“That's what he said he did. He's generally honest about things like that.”
“What does he expect me to do?”
“Nothing. It would be nice if you said thank you.”
“What do you mean by 'nothing'?”
“Exactly that, nothing. He would probably dislike it intensely if you tried to repay him.”
“I don't understand.”
Elizabeth studied her acquaintance, “You really don't understand, do you? My father and Freddy, for that matter probably me as well, have a talent for business. It's a blessing, much nicer being rich than poor, but it's also a curse.”
“A curse?”
“Do you remember how Freddy dressed when we met?”
“What a lark, he was dressed up to the nines in the latest fashion. He almost looked silly”
“and now?”
“So sober. What of it, tastes change?”
“He dresses like that because of his responsibilities. He has to look serious if he wants to be treated seriously.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are many people who depend on him making the right decisions. If it were just us Oswiths, well, we have more than enough in the four-percents to live high for a long time. It's just there are others who depend on the firm for their livelihoods. He can't just leave them to starve.”
“But?”
“If you really want to repay him, help him to laugh. He needs relief from the difficulty of being the one man in charge.”
Charlotte stood there speechless. This way of looking at Mr. Oswith hadn't occurred to her. He was always so stiff and distant, or at least had seemed so, almost from the day she met him.
Elizabeth continued, “It's late and I doubt Lady Maplerod will be home before dawn. There are probably more pigeons for her to pluck. I'll ask my maid to set up the spare bedroom for you.”
“More pigeons? I'm not a pigeon.”
Elizabeth laughed, “No, Charlotte, more of a silly goose. How did you think Lady Maplerod supports herself?”
“I thought by her inheritance, maybe from her estate, but you're saying by gambling?”
“Not just gambling, but bringing young inexperienced ingĂ©nues to the table. It's called 'plucking a pigeon'. I've been told it's very lucrative.”
“I'm confused.”
“You're tired, it will seem clearer in the morning.” Elizabeth made good on her suggestion to find a bed for Miss DeVere. Then she returned to the front parlor await for her brother's return. Mrs. Radcliffe's latest would do to keep her occupied until he returned.
Freddy stopped off at White's for a snifter. The other members considered him a bit of an odd stick, but good company just the same. One of his friends came over and suggested he join the game of Hazzard underway.
“Sorry, but I can't.”
“What do you mean you can't, it's just chicken stakes.”
“Samuel, you know I'm a banker.”
“If you're just a banker, I'm an ensign.” Colonel Samuel Travers was a well-respected officer in the Coldstream Guards.
“You know what I mean. It could leave the wrong impression if I play the tables.”
“Hmmn, I see. Have a point there. Pity though, you used to be dashed good at it.”
“But never for more than copper stakes.”
“True, I say, how about you advise me? I could use the help.”
The other men at the game suggested that he come and join them. Freddy sat down next to his friend and soon was immersed in calculating the odds and advising his friend.
It didn't take long before they were cleaning the table. “Damn Freddy, it's a good thing we're playing for chicken stakes. You and Sam would be leaving us in damned low water.”
Freddy chuckled then stood, “Thank you Sam, gentlemen, I'd forgotten how much I missed your company. When you get run off your feet tomorrow, come see me. I always need some more clerks in my office.”
Freddy returned home in a much better mood than he left. As he pulled his latchkey from his pocket to open the door, one of the footmen opened it. “I thought I told you not to wait up for me, that Miss Oswith and I might be late?”
“Sir, Miss Oswith is waiting for you I the front parlor.”
Elizabeth immediately saw that her brother was in good spirits, “Freddy? What have you been up to?”
“Stopped in White's and met up with some old friends. Do you remember Sam Travers?”
“Wasn't he the one who joined up? A captain or something.”
“A colonel now. Still we had a nice chat, and I kept him from losing his stake at Hazard.”
“You gambled, after what you told Miss DeVere?”
“No, I advised him on the odds, though. Amazing how few of these fellows think those out in advance. It was only chicken stakes anyway.”
“I put our guest to bed.”
“I thought she was going to Lady Maplerod's”
“That old harridan? You know she was setting up Miss DeVere to be plucked?”
“Very probably. She does that doesn't she?”
“But?”
“It's a bit rude to just skip out as a guest.”
“I'll send her a message in the morning. Now that her pigeon is well plucked, I doubt she'll want to keep her.”
“Wouldn't surprise me, but Miss DeVere can't stay here.”
“Why ever not? You won't compromise her or anything stupid like that, and I'd like to get to know her better.”
“Lizzy, she detests us. What makes you think she would change her opinion?”
“I have my reasons.”



Early the next morning, barely before breakfast was started let alone the last cup of tea drunk and Freddy was off to the city to do whatever mysterious things he did, a footman entered the room and announced, “Mr. Oswith, you have a visitor.”
“This early?” Freddy looked at his sister who usually managed to rise early enough to see him off. She was dressed informally, in a morning gown, since it was far too early to be out and about the village. Miss DeVere blissfully slumbered on, unaware of the Oswith family's unsocial hours. “Who is it and was it important?”
“It is a Colonel Travers, and he says it is confidential.”
“Nonsense, show him in, he's an old friend.”
A few minutes later Travers entered. He stopped and staggered, there was a beautiful woman in the room.
“Sam, you remember my sister Lizzy?” He did, but the last time he met her she was a scrubby schoolgirl, all legs and arms, and here she a dashing and well-posed woman. She was smiling at him. It was unnerving. He stammered, “I s-s-ay Freddy, last night, when you said you had positions for clerk's?”
“Yes?”
“Did you mean it?”
“What happened Sam?”
“This.” He held out a missive from his father. Freddy quickly read the letter. It was not good news.
Sam continued while Freddy read, “He put the family fortune into Barlow's East Timor venture.”
Elizabeth had been listening during family dinners, “Oh, dear, he was a 'Captain Sharp', wasn't he? I remember you and father refusing to have anything to do with him.”
“Yes, I'll have to sell out, there isn't enough to keep going as a Colonel.”
Elizabeth asked her brother, “Freddy, could we lend -”
“No,” Sam stopped her, “I don't borrow from my friends, besides, Freddy always requires collateral.”
Freddy looked up from the letter. “Not always, but a loan won't help you with this. Sam, I'll see what I can salvage for you. Barlow's venture didn't completely collapse.”
“M'guvnor used the shares to back a mortgage on the family manse.”
“Oh, so you really are deep into the suds, aren't you? I might be able to salvage a shilling on the pound, but that won't be enough, will it?”
“I wasn't joking when I asked about a clerk's position.”
Elizabeth looked stricken, while Freddy was a generous employer, Colonel Travers would be hard pressed to live on a clerk's salary. Freddy was thoughtful, then asked one important question, “Sam, before you were in the guards, weren't you in an engineering battalion?”
“Yes, not so dashing, but a good place for a young soldier to start.”
“Remember any of it?”
“Why?”
“Come see me in the city this afternoon. I don't think a clerkship is what you want.”