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An excerpt from the Perils of Pleasure

In this little excerpt, Colin Eversea, the most popular criminal in recent London history, awkaes from his first official night as a fugitive. The night before, his very reluctant partner, Madeleine Greenway, has tricked him into much-needed sleep on a bed of flour sacks in Croker the Broker's storeroom, and need to be off as soon as possible to attempt to prove Colin's innocence. Off we go:

Colin jerked awake, sat bolt upright, and thrashed and thrashed away at the thing covering his body as though it were a mortal enemy. A great moth? A bat? His heart was hammering, his palms sweating, and then the wool registered on his palms and he stared at it dumbly, embarrassed.

It was a blanket.

“I see you’re awake,” came an amused feminine voice from somewhere nearby.

Admirable understatement, there. No one was more awake than he was at the moment.

He gingerly set the blanket aside. Consciousness sifted back in disorderly, jagged pieces. He wasn’t in prison, then. He was in a…

“We need to leave now,” the voice added. It was pleasant, but insistent.

… a storeroom. He was in a storeroom. Who was talking…? Colin pushed his hands up through his hair and blinked in the direction of the voice, knuckling the kernels of sleep from them, his thoughts struggling to catch up with his senses and give names to the things he saw. Ah, yes. Greenway. Madeleine Greenway. Beautiful prickly woman with soft hands who’d tricked him into sleeping on the flour sacks in a storeroom. She looked very pale. She sat at the little table in front of a lit a candle, and even in this light he could see faint dark rings beneath her eyes. Ah, yes. Fine eyes, he recalled. He thought she was smiling a little faintly, but that might have been wishful thinking, because he would have liked to wake to a smile.

Colin rolled from the flour bed and stood upright too quickly, felt myriad twinges everywhere in his body, stretched his limbs to unknot them, and then glanced looked down on a perfect imprint of his body in the flour sacks. They’d made a death mask of Gerard Courvoisier after he was hung for murdering his aristocratic employer. Perhaps they could make a Colin Eversea out of bread.

He admired it for a moment, half grimly, half-whimsically, then patted his shape out of the flour.

A horrified thought crossed his mind. He glanced down quickly to determine that yes, had slept in his clothes, when normally—when he was not in prison, that was—he might not have, and exhaled.

“Time?” His voice was raspy from sleep. Oddly, however, he felt altogether stronger than he’d had in months.

“Five o’clock,” she told him, her own voice a little worse for keeping watch all night. “The watch should circle around in a half-hour’s time, so it’s best we leave.” She handed the skin to him. “Water.”

He took it, gulped a good half of it down, swiped his mouth, got his boots on, and reached for all he owned in the world: part of a cravat, a coat missing a button, and a waistcoat.

Madeleine Greenway paused to swiftly load her pistol: tapping powder down the barrel, pressing in the paper-wrapped ball, locking it, tucking it away in the pockets of her skirts. In the dim light of the room he could have been dreaming: Watching this very feminine woman efficiently loading a small firearm the way another woman might pin up her hair. She turned the handle on the door, and it occurred to Colin that most women would have deferred to him, or glanced back at him, or at least acknowledged his presence.

This was a woman so accustomed to being alone she didn’t give it a thought anymore.

And before he left, he signed the broadsheet with a flourish and sprinkled sand over it. He was a man of his word, and that broadsheet was their insurance of Croker’s silence.

They went out through the kitchen, which was quiet, apart from the crack and hiss of the low fire. Red glowed in the center of chunks of nearly completely consumed wood. The kitchen boy was sleeping next to the hearth, twitching in the depths of a dream, and when they passed him, he muttered in his sleep and rolled onto his side, toward the fire.

Colin watched in mild amazement as Madeleine very stealthily tucked a coin into the boy’s shoe—astonishing that the boy had shoes, though Colin could see one small grimy foot through the hole in one—as she passed, scarcely pausing. The boy didn’t wake.

Colin watched Madeleine’s narrow back. A few tendrils of dark hair were coming down from their pins to trail the collar of her gown. This would have driven his sister Genevieve mad.

Almost as though she could feel his eyes on her, Madeleine Greenway’s hand went absently up and touched her hair. Colin half-smiled. She was a woman, after all, albeit not like any woman he’d ever before met.

And then he went out into the grimy English dawn, he and his new partner, who hadn’t murdered him in his sleep or called the authorities down upon him, but who loaded a gun as efficiently as any soldier, went to find a hackney.

In Pennyroyal Green, one could use metaphors about maidenly blushes and mother-of-pearl to describe the dawn. Not in London. The coal smut-covered skies merely grew steadily brighter, and sometimes took on a lemon-like shade. And then it grew hotter, and that’s how you knew it was officially daylight.

But now it was still cool, the drunks and thieves were nodding and rising in the streets from where they’d collapsed the night before, like dark little flowers opening to the haze-masked sun, and Colin and Madeleine heard the telltale clip-clop of a hackney circling round.

He hailed it with a raised hand, grateful for the haze and relative dark and his big hat.

“Grosvenor Square,” Madeleine told the driver, who was just a little drunk, his nose red, because he was a hackney driver and he drank the night through to keep warm. He only looked at the money she handed to him; he didn’t look at the tall bloke getting into the hackney and pulling the door closed.

*****

Read more excerpts from the Perils of Pleasure at my website, http://www.julieannelong.com/internal/books_julieslatest.html#excerpt.

 

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Hi Again, Julie!

I really like this, because your writing makes you sound a lot older than you are. (This is a real compliment, trust me!) There's an "old-soul" wisdom here. You can't fake it.

 

Forgive me for being off topic, but I seem to have misplaced the thread wherein we speak of left and right-brained writing. Here's one of my little "orphan essays" on the topic, if you'll indulge me. :)

 

Again, great work

 

Eric

Writing: The Blessed Masochism

How many of you here entertain a notion of being a writer? If there's any possible way you can help it, don't. It took me thirty-three years to think of something to say, another year to say it, and yet another seventeen years to convince someone to pay me for what I said. And that was just for my first book.
Now for the bad news.
The odds of an asteroid splashing into your morning bowl of Froot Loops are better than your odds of becoming famous as a writer...if you have talent and persistence. You will be considered weird. Even the class nerd will overtake you socially, because at least he can get a real job some day. For years, your primary items of mail will consist of impersonal rejection slips. And those are the welcome ones. The publishers and editors who actually take time to respond to you personally will tell you your writing is insipid, unoriginal tripe. If you do manage to get published, the humiliation only moves to a higher level. Now it will be reviewers and readers who tell you your writing is insipid unoriginal tripe. Perfect strangers and long lost relatives who were nowhere to be found during your long years of isolated toil and tears will suddenly materialize in droves out of thin air, telling you exactly how THEY would have written your book. Previously illiterate acquaintances will become self-appointed proofreaders, offering their unquestionable expertise on style and grammar long after your masterpiece has already survived and triumphed over the terror of the publishing process.
You will be ignored by the best and criticized by the worst. Ignored by the best, because they are too busy doing the hard work of creating to worry about criticizing anything but their own workmanship. Criticized by the worst because critics cannot stand excellence. You will learn that the only advice worth heeding comes from other successful writers, those who have walked the same lonely path.
Now, if after knowing all this, you still want to be a writer...you are a hopeless case, a lost cause. You have our deepest condolences. You will write because there is no other choice, and because of that, you will be one of the few voices out there worth listening to. If you pass this test, there are still a few things you need to know. Your newfound masochism can be subdivided into several categories.

The Novelist: For hundreds of years, we have had prophets of doom periodically spring up to declare the novel and the novelist obsolete. More recently, we are told that in the age of the Internet, nobody has the time or the attention span to read a book of 100,000 words, much less write one. To borrow a quote from Mark Twain, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” The purpose of the novelist in the twenty-first century is much the same as it has always been...to force us to look at our world and ourselves in a new and different way. Sometimes, it's to spur us to change; sometimes it's for pure entertainment. In any case, the novel should cause someone to think.

The Form of the Novel:

Contrary to first appearances, the novel is considerably easier to write than the short story. In a short story, every word has to be absolutely necessary; it is brutally unforgiving of leisurely writing. The short story is the drive-by shooting of the literary world. Very few people have the quick reflexes and unshakable nerve to pull it off effectively, much less make a living at it.
On the other hand, the Novel affords what is sometimes referred to as “elbow room.” There is time and spaces to dissect, analyze, and to some extent, loll about a bit in both the creation and the consumption of the novel. The novelist creates a world with many different area codes, some full of physical action, some merely regions of the mind. He invites the readers into his world with all their own baggage, and lets them set up shop for a while...sometimes days, sometimes years, sometimes eons. If the writer does his job well, his guests will leave with only the greatest reluctance. The challenge for the novelist in the age of microwave meatloaf, the five minute tan, and drive-through psychotherapy, is to create a valid illusion of time...to give the reader the impression that he's been with the story for a lifetime, even though he may have read it in a matter of days. If you can skillfully manipulate time, or at least your readers' perception of it, you have a head start as a novelist in the 2000s.

Tools of the trade:

No, I'm not talking about your word processor, or your printer, or your extra ink cartridges, or reams of paper. I'm talking about your command of the English language, the only real weapon in the novelist's arsenal. You need to love language: to play with it, to explore it, to wield it as a battle-axe, a wrecking ball, or a scalpel, whichever is appropriate for the occasion. If you don't like English, it's impossible to fake it. If you don't absolutely love what you're writing, your readers won't either. Actually, it's worse than that. You won't have any readers.
Learn to diagram sentences...big sentences...until you can do it in your sleep. No, diagramming sentences will not make you a literary genius, nor impart some mystical aura to your writing. What it will do is make the language so second nature to you that you never have to think about it again. Your language should be absolutely transparent to your story, a throbbing aorta between your tale and your reader's head, unclogged by grammatical cholesterol. If you must, for artistic reasons, violate rules of good grammar, do it ON PURPOSE. Never allow a hint of suspicion that you don't know what to do with a word or a sentence to exist. A good rule of thumb is to keep your grammatical felonies safely within the confines of direct quotes. People are very forgiving of your characters' butchering of the King's English. However, YOU will never be forgiven.

What to write:

Once upon a time, when a young would-be novelist would ask an experienced author what he should write about, he or she would typically get a flippant response like: “If you have to ask, you aren't a novelist.”
There's been a myth floating around for ages that goes something like this: If you're a novelist, you have a book already burning in you; all you have to do is let it out. A great novel just writes itself.” Well this certainly sounds pious and romantic, and special, but it seldom has much basis in reality. Novelists CAN be made; not many are just born. It helps to have some of the raw ingredients, but more often than not, those raw ingredients are sheer willpower and discipline, rather than “the gift” or “the Muse.”
It's certainly wonderful to experience those rare moments when the writing flows effortlessly, those times when cranking out prose uses no more gray matter than taking dictation. Athletes call this being, “in the zone,” and it is every bit as real an experience for the writer. Most serious writers have experienced this a time or two...however very few experience it frequently, and almost none experience it most of the time. It is a rare, marvelous event that can make up for days, weeks, months of sheer drudgery. It also comes in quite handy when you've “written yourself into a corner,” a horror that you will, without fail, experience numerous times in your career. But don't hold your breath waiting for “the zone” to make you a writer. It just will not happen. Writing happens because you write.
So, what should you write about? Where does the novel come from? First, a reality check. The writing of a novel is a serious commitment, the likes of which few are willing to encounter in any other endeavor. It takes the same level of concentration and attention to detail as running a marathon or climbing Mt. McKinley. The only difference is, a much smaller percentage of writers actually die because of the effort.
If the prospect of writing 100,000 words sounds daunting, it is. Actually, the average “mid-stream” novel runs around 85,000 works, but plan on writing 100,000 in any case, because you will throw out 15,000 words. Is the thought of throwing away 15,000 words even more horrifying? It is. But it gets much easier. Not everything that sloshes out of your inkwell is worth keeping. The sooner you realize this, the better. The good news is, you don't have to incinerate those 15,000 words. They can usually be put to good use in another novel, or even a short story. I have approximately a cubic yard of unpublished writing. And I'm a small player in this business.
We mentioned earlier the “time compression” aspect of writing a novel. A novel that covers vast spans of time, such as those of James Michener, or even Charles Dickens, are by far the most difficult. The longer the time span embraced by a novel, the more difficult it is to maintain your own concentration, as well as those of your readers. These are loosely categorized as “epic” novels. They're generally the ones you read because you have to. At the other extreme are the “action” novels. These are the fast paced, physical works that make up the bulk of most modern fiction. The story generally lasts no more than a few days or weeks at the most. These are not necessarily short books...in fact the average thriller has been getting progressively longer in page count, even as the time span of the story shrinks. We call these page-turners. These are the works of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and their kin. (My personal favorites.)
And then there are books that fall somewhere in the middle. These are books that encompass a relatively short period of time, and yet deal with much more “monumental” topics. I believe Amy Tan's “The Joy Luck Club” merits special mention in this regard. Although the actual “story line” in the work encompasses not much more than one day...and a rather insignificant day at that...the planning of one character's trip to China...the magnificent use of flashback definitely puts this into the class of an epic novel. We learn a great deal about the history of China and its culture and ancient ingrained attitudes. I wouldn't recommend anyone trying to duplicate this feat. There is probably not another living author who could pull this off...an epic novel that takes place in one day. This sort of thing is best left to true geniuses.
Then again, you never know if you're a genius unless you try. If that happens, all bets are off. You are free to ignore any or all of the above.

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I absolutely LOVE all of your books. Am anxiously awaiting the next one..........

HURRY!! HURRY!!

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LOL! You're so cute!! I'm

LOL! You're so cute!! I'm blushing! I'm so pleased you love my books. The next one is out in November -- LIKE NO OTHER LOVER, and you can preorder it now, but hopefully I'll have an excerpt up soon(ish). I'll keep everyone posted!!