Sep 21 2017

A Less Agreeable Man: Deleted Scene#2

Writers have a saying, ‘You have to kill your darlings’, which means stuff gets cut in the editing process. It’s tough, but it has to be done. 


Scenes get cut for number of different reasons. This one suffered the axe when I applied the pacing test. In other words, if I cut this scene move too fast or slow down the story? I needed some help seeing it, but the scene slowed down what was otherwise a frenetic scene. So out it went. That being said, I still really love feel of the scene and wanted to share it with you. Hope you enjoy this little snippet, set right after the Rosings’ fire.


Still Room

“The barn fire will be contained very soon. You must send for the surgeon and the apothecary.” Mary braced both hands hard on the ground as hot winds abraded her burns. She gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut until the wave of agony passed. “Call for Mrs. Anderson, the vicar’s wife from the next parish, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Leighton, their housekeepers as well. See that the injured are taken to the manor—set up the servants’ hall for them. Check the stores. We will need lime-water and oils—linseed and sweet—yellow basilicum ointment and—”

“I am not sure what we have in the stores.” Parkes crouched beside her and steadied her. “I am certain we have no yellow basilicum.”

“Set one of the girls to make some. We will need it in great amounts.”

“I am not even sure how to make it.”

Mary slapped her forehead and sat back hard. She clenched her first and sucked in several deep breaths, counting until the harsh words on her tongue subsided.

Not everyone had lived with a physician who pontificated loud and long on preferred remedies and formulas. And the need to be prepared for the vicissitudes of life.

Apparently, those of high enough rank did not need to anticipate vicissitudes. She clutched her temples. Impatience with Parkes would serve no one well right now.

“Have you a copy of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine in the house?” Pray let at least that much be available.

“I am not sure. Lady Catherine has had a physician in attendance for so long that –”

“I see. Now is not the time to go digging about the library for one. I know there is one in the mistress’ parlor of the parsonage. Send someone to fetch the Collins’ housekeeper and have her bring it to me. After this is finished, you will make certain that there is a copy kept in your office. I will return to the house now and check the stores and still room myself.”

“Yes, of course.” Parkes waved down a young groom who looked anxious to be away from the dead and injured. Then she took a pile of wet sacks from a young maid and directed her run back to the manor with Mary.

“Start moving the casualties to the house immediately.” Mary called over her shoulder, forcing herself into a trot back to the house.

How was it possible that a place as large as Rosings could be so ill-prepared for such an event? Truly, it had nothing to do with adequacy of resources, and everything to do with the mentality of its mistress. It was one thing to rely upon the physician she patronized for major issues, but there was no reason the household should not be prepared to handle more mundane crises. No wonder Lizzy had always seen to the needs of the servants. How many of those needs could have been addressed by a simple copy of Buchan’s text? How much unnecessary expense at the apothecary’s could have been spared by preparing remedies at home?

The waste!

She would address that matter with Fitzwilliam if—no when—when he recovered from his injuries. And with Michaels, too. Any new place to economize would be most welcome news to him.

She entered through the kitchen and lit a candle from the fireplace. Half eaten platters and dishes from dinner were scattered along the work tables, left where they landed when the kitchen staff answered the call of “Fire!” Empty halls echoing with unnatural stillness provided an eerie foil from the bedlam outside.

The still room—even more still than usual—invited her in with dusty herbal scents that hung upon the quiet, stuffy air. It should have been full, shelves brimming with baskets and jars, bundles of drying stuffs hanging from the rafters. The floor should have been a jumble of boxes, large earthenware crocks and more baskets. How long had it been since someone had actually seen to its stocks? One more thing to deal with later.

She picked along the walls, candle held close to the shelves, squinting in the flickering light. Pray let there be something useful here!

 Yes! A half-full basket of dried poppies! Those would provide sufficient poppy tea to relieve the injured for at least a week, perhaps more. Several bottles of prepared calamine forgotten on a shelf!  Dusty, but still useful.

On another wall, a high shelf offered a box of yellow wax, one of white resin and a jar with frankincense. Those would make sufficient yellow basilicum for the time being.

Excellent. It would not take too much time to prepare. If only—yes!—there it was! A box of quick lime on the floor, enough for gallons of lime-water.

Providence had granted enough to meet their immediate needs. Trials and hardships would always be there, but thankfulness was still a virtue she could hardly afford to do without.

A scullery maid, scent by Parkes, scurried in. They carried the supplies to the disordered kitchen where the maid quickly cleared a work table to receive them.

Proportions, what were the proportions? It had been a long time since she had helped Mama prepare the ointment. Mary paced in front of the low kitchen fire, pressing her temples and muttering to herself. Yes! One part yellow wax, one of frankincense and one of white resin to be melted together then added to four parts of melted lard.

She had not forgotten. She could do this.

The maid fed the fire, encouraging it to something more useful. A large melting pot went on the hob near several kettles of water. Those were for the poppy tea.

Now, lime water for washes. A pound, yes that was it, a pound of quick lime—that was close enough—and how much water? One gallon, no, that would not be enough. It must be two. She added the lime into a large basin and poured the water over, wincing at the violent reaction. Filter paper? Where would that be?

The maid ran for it and returned before Mary could even ask. She was a quick study. Perhaps it was time to move her into higher work, perhaps assign her to the still room.

“Bring me clean jugs and corks for the lime water while I finish the basilicum.” Mary added the lard to the melting pot and stirred until it was thoroughly incorporated. She removed the pot from the fire, covered it with a clean cloth and set it outside to cool.

The kettles were boiling. Where were the poppies? There. Why had they not been properly cleaned? Blast and botheration. She probably should be grateful that they were even available, but was it really too much to ask that they might have been properly prepared?

Had Parkes even noticed? Or was she kept too busy to properly manage the still room by Lady Catherine’s incessant demands?

Stop. That could be dealt with later. Focus on the immediate needs.

She plucked debris from the poppy heads and added them to the hot water. They would steep on their own on the hearth. Had it been long enough for the lime water to settle yet?

No, not yet.

She turned to the scullery maid. “I will return for the poppy tea shortly. Watch the lime-water and find me when all the lime has settled. See that no one touches any of this before I return.”

The girl nodded, a slight look of terror in her eyes.

 

Tell me what you think in the comments!


Don’t miss the first two books in the series:

 

 

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Sep 19 2017

Courtship and Marriage: Visiting JASNA NY

One thing about natural disasters, they are very ill-mannered guests. They show up to your place uninvited, sometimes with other unexpected guests in tow. They overstay their welcome, leave everything a mess–and all that is after they have shown up at the worst possible time.

As we were coping with all Harvey brought our way, in the moments I had two extra brain cells to rub together (which I confess were few and far between) I wondered whether or not I’d be able to keep my commitment to the JASNA NY to speak at their September meeting. As the waters rose and all the Houston airports closed, it started looking really doubtful. But when the waters stopped rising before they reached my front door, I knew I’d be able to do it, and I’m so very glad I did.

The meeting took place  in the library of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen,an organization founded when Jane Austen was just ten years old! The library was a fabulous place complete with a grand piano.  Take a look at this balcony, it was simply amazing!

Claudine and her cohorts of JASNA NY made me feel right at home as they ushered in 110 of their closest friends–opps I should say, JASNA members and their guests–for one of their largest meetings of the year. Seriously, what a way to make a gal feel welcome!

It is hard to top that, but they managed to. They had invited me to speak on Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World. Since it is a HUGE topic, we started with the question, “What do you want to make sure we talk about today.” As often as not when I ask that question, I’ll get one timid answer and a room full of terrified looks silently pleading ‘Please, don’t call on me!’ But not this group! They were raring to go with a host of great questions from the starting gate.

And it got better. Two slides into the program, they started asking so many fantastic questions that we just ditched the slides and did an hour and a half of Q&A. Finally at the end, poor Claudine threatened to turn off the mike and tie down hands to stop the questions. (Ok, no she didn’t really do that, but I’m sure she considered it. But she far too much of a lady to really do such a thing!) It was hard to stop, though, with such a fabulous group, so we adjourned for snacks and resumed the conversation for another half hour or so. I had such a wonderful time with this group. I’d love to see them again. (No, that wasn’t anything like a subtle hint. No not at all…)

On the heels of something like Harvey, it was really wonderful to share Jane Austen’s world with this awesome group. Thanks so much for having me!

Sep 16 2017

The Development of Transportation by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

                                                    

 I’d like to welcome Barbara Gaskell Denvil today as she shares a fascinating article on the development of transportation.

 


A fundamental requirement for the freedom of humanity, is the need to move, and to move over varying distances. Yet, somewhat surprisingly it took a very long time for us to invent an easy method of travel.

Now we take it for granted. The car is a passion as well as a basic modern necessity. Trains, buses, bikes and now, the ultimate, planes! But for most of our history it was walk or ride a horse – no other choices were available. If you couldn’t afford the horse, then you walked. Travellers covered hundreds of miles on foot, and might take a month to arrive. Others simply stayed at home! Indeed, small communities became extremely insular and in England someone just from the next village along the road could be called a foreigner.

Other cultures invented the war chariot, but this wasn’t normally used except in battle or for sport, carts gradually became an accepted mode of carrying possessions and goods for sale, but you still needed the horse to pull it.  For a long time these carts were simply wooden wheeled without any form of spring, and therefore they would bump over every rut in the road – of which there would be thousands – and offer an excessively uncomfortable ride. But for a long journey, especially for women and those with young children, there was no alternative. These carts could be adorned with a waterproof covering, which would also offer privacy, and such carts were referred to as litters.

The wheel was an exceedingly early invention, and one which completely altered the lives of those who utilised it, but for a very, very long time it was simply a wooden circle with inner bars, giving no comfort of any kind and which could easily break on over-use. There are some indications that carts and wagons were used in ancient times, and that the invention of the wheel occurred even further back than we generally suppose, but in many parts of the world, in the Americas for instance, the wheel remained unknown for centuries.

 Boats of various kinds enabled travel across the water, but travel across the land remained an exhausting business.

Along comes the Carriage

And then along came the carriage. Oh, what a change! Yes, the horse was still required to pull it but at last there was some degree of comfort, and great distances could be covered with accompanied baggage and the whole family along for the ride, including babies, the aged, and the sick

Two, three and four wheeled wagons were used in medieval times, and there is an indication that pivotal axles and adapted steerage with some suspension were definitely in use in the later medieval, but were certainly restricted to those who could afford them.

The more comfortable and well sprung coach became extremely popular as the design spread from Hungary in the late 1500s. This was designed with a bench outside at the front for the driver, and possibly also for a guard, and well cushioned seats inside for the gentleman and his lady. There was a boot outside at the back for less genteel travellers, or luggage. This began the development of one of the most innovative methods of long-distance travel with an assurance of some safety and comfort.

Gradually glass windows were introduced, but these were only used for short journeys, and when a long trip was planned, the windows were removed and replaced with wooden boards. Otherwise, travelling over the rough roads, the glass would have broken and shattered all over its owners. The bumping discomfort during coach travel must have been considerable for many, many years, and there was a definite danger of over-turning.

The joys of Georgian Transportation

So carriages, coaches and wagons of great variety were not introduced until the 17th and 18th centuries. It is during the Georgian and Regency eras that the carriage really became not only a comfortable and attractive way of travelling, but the style and quality became both a passion and a way of showing your importance. The horses used, usually a pair, were bred and chosen so carefully that they became as important and as expensive as a small country cottage. There was also considerable skill required in handling these horses and carriages, and a certain amount of racing, betting and sport became involved.

Even minor nobility and wealthy citizens invariably hired the horses, carriage and drivers needed for a long journey. To own a vehicle fully equipped for all occasions was just too expensive, and also demanded considerable space in the outhouses and stables. Only the fabulously rich could afford to own, for instance, a racing curricle, a grand barouche for more sedate journeys, an elegant phaeton for driving around town, a Berlin carriage for the old fashioned and aged, and perhaps a  comfortable Landau for the ladies. The stage coach was the standard early horse-drawn bus, and was often so over-crowded that passengers had a hard job all squeezing on together.

Whether owned or hired, these equipages became common usage, and so naturally they became the targets of the criminal element. First had come the foot-pads, thieves  hiding in bushes beside the road, ready to spring out and threaten travellers unless they handed over their valuables and money. Later, such thieves became more organised and successful enough to own horses themselves, and so the notorious highwaymen became the greatest hazard while travelling on quiet country roads.

The beautiful coaches still used during traditional occasions by the royal family, are far more highly decorated, but still remain in the general fashion of these past times.

Of course, the principal need was one of travelling both short and long distances while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort. This was certainly achieved during the 19th century, but almost as soon as the ultimate had been reached, it was the dawn of a whole different method of arriving, with the development of the steam and motor engine, with thee train, the car, and aeroplane.

So just as they had arrived at a pinnacle of elegance and desirability, the carriage was no longer needed!


Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Barbara Gaskell Denvil  is a multi-award winning author of historical fiction, mystery, suspense and fantasy.

Born in Gloucester, England, she grew up in a highly literary family, her great, great, great aunt being the classic Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell, and her father a playwright and artist. As a young woman she worked in many literary capacities, as a publishers’ reader, a television researcher and script writer, an editor, literary critic and published numerous short stories and articles. Then motherhood took precedence. Having three young daughters, two of whom were identical twins, writing had to take a back seat.

She then spent many years living on a boat and sailing the Mediterranean before finally settling in rural Australia amongst the parrots and kangaroos.

She has written five historical mystery/adventures, FAIR WEATHER, which is a time-slip novel which has won five prestigious awards, and a fantasy trilogy. Now Bannister’s Muster is the new children’s series and the first in the series, SNAP is  already published to considerable acclaim.


Books by this author:

Sep 14 2017

A Less Agreeable Man: Deleted Scene #1

Writers have a saying, ‘You have to kill your darlings’, which means stuff gets cut in the editing process. It’s tough, but it has to be done. 


Scenes get cut for number of different reasons. This one suffered the axe when I applied the ‘does it make a difference’ test. In other words, if I cut this scene does it make any difference in the story? In this case the answer was no, it made absolutely impact at all, so out it went. That being said, I still like the scene and wanted to share it with you. Hope you enjoy this little snippet, set in the middle of Charlotte’s labor.


Tending Lady Catherine

The maid all but ran along at Mary’s side to Lady Catherine’s chamber at the opposite end of the house, their steps lost in the heavy carpeting. Mary paused twice, leaning on one of the dozens of hall chairs along the way, to catch her breath. At least there was absolutely no worry that Lady Catherine might hear anything from Charlotte’s travail.

            As Lady Catherine’s carved mahogany door came in sight, shrill demands pierced the air.

“She has heard the guests downstairs and is insisting on attending them,” the maid whispered, face pale. “She was half-dressed when I was sent for you. She asked about the bandages and tried to remove them. It is as if she does not feel the pain.”

“Find Parkes and fetch fresh bandages and ointment.” She propelled the girl toward the nearest servants’ door.

“Who did this to me? I demand to know! Who did this? Why were they permitted to do such a thing?” Lady Catherine’s shrieks cut through the closed door like a freshly-honed knife.

Mary strode in. As long as she looked confident, Lady Catherine was likely to go along with whatever she said. How she actually felt was mostly irrelevant.

Candles—far more than necessary lit every corner of the room, heating it nearly as much as the fire in Charlotte’s room. Flickering light glittered off the ormolu that covered nearly article in the room including the fireplace furnishings. The fireplace itself was dressed in marble that matched the front stairs.  Every piece of wood—the bed, small round table, chairs and curved-front press—was carved and gilded or painted with Egyptian themes matching the garish sphinxes on her “throne” downstairs. Bed curtains and draperies—pulled shut over the tall windows—all matched: rich embroidered deep wine-colored wool. There could be no mistaking that this was Lady Catherine’s chamber.

“Why will no one tell me what happened? You there, Bennet girl, tell me why has someone wrapped me in these horrid things?” Lady Catherine stopped pacing in the middle of the room and extended her burnt arm. Her sweat-soaked nightdress clung indecently to her boney frame.

Near the bed, Mrs. Jenkinson huddled in a large arm chair, pleading with strained eyes. The lady’s maid cowered in a corner as though ready to hide behind the curtains to avoid detection.

Why did everyone expect she would know what to do?

“Lady Catherine, pray sit down. We would not have you hurt yourself further. You have been so very brave and stoic through all this, such an example to all of us.” Mary took Lady Catherine’s uninjured elbow and guided her to Mrs. Jenkinson’s chair. Mrs. Jenkinson jumped aside and helped Lady Catherine to sit.

“Of course I have. It is my place to set an example for those around me. I am glad someone here recognizes what I do.”

Mary ducked as she waved her arms, emphasizing her point.

“Indeed we all do and we are very thankful for your gracious condescension even in the time of your own tribulation.” Mary peeled away the disheveled bandages from her arm.

Lady Catherine stared as though seeing it for the first time. “That does look like quite a tribulation.” She stretched out her arm turned it this way and that. “Are you certain that it is mine? The arm does not look like mine.”

“You are indeed too brave, your ladyship.” Mary patted her other hand.

The maid scurried in with fresh bandages and a pot of yellow basilicum. Mary took them and dismissed her with a wave. The girl was far too rattled to be of any use. She beckoned Mrs. Jenkinson nearer. Lady Catherine’s lady’s maid joined them as well.

“It is time to freshen your bandages, before you take your rest.” The wounds had not begun to fester, that was a good sign—very surprising, but good.

“It is not the time for rest. There are guests downstairs. I must attend them.” Lady Catherine started to rise.

Mary laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Colonel Fitzwilliam does not wish you to tax yourself with guests. He is managing them very well.”

“Him? He has no sense of etiquette or order. I will be humiliated! I will not have it. And you still have not told me, who did this to me? The magistrate and constable must be called! They cannot go unpunished.” Lady Catherine waved her injured arm.

Mary caught her wrist and pointed with her chin to the lady’s maid who scooped up the ointment and began to coat Lady Catherine’s burns.

“There was an accident, your ladyship. No one did this to you. Your gown, it caught fire.” That was the truth, even if it was missing in a few key details.

“My gown? Which gown? How? A fireplace? A candle?” Lady Catherine shrank back in her chair, her voice shrinking with her. “I have always been afraid of fire.”

Mary wrapped bandages, starting at the wrist. “That is a very sensible thing to fear. I think we all dread the possibility.”

“Father used to warn me so very strictly that I was to keep a safe distance from the fireplaces and never, never to read in my bed. That is why I rarely read you see—did you know that? I do not like to read because it requires candles so often, and candles cause fires, very dreadful ones, you know.”

“I shall remember what you have said. It is very wise. I thank you for sharing it with me.” Mary, throat so tight she could hardly speak, tied off the bandage and moved to Lady Catherine’s leg. “May I change these as well?”

Lady Catherine stretched out her leg, studying her foot closely. “It must have been very indecorous—did anyone see?”

“No one of any importance, your ladyship. And those who did were struck by your bravery.” Mary undid the knot holding the bandages.

Lady Catherine touched Mary’s arm. “Was … was there anyone else…”

Mary bit her lip and held her breath.

“That is not for you to worry yourself with, your ladyship.” Mrs. Jenkinson took over wrapping Lady Catherine’s wounds.

Mary rose, legs shaking far more than they should. Luckily the bedpost was in reach. A few deep breaths steadied her for the journey to the press, where she had left the bottle of laudanum. Clever maid—she had brought a small crystal glass of red wine and water along with the bandages. Mary measured in the medicine by drops.

There, that should keep her asleep through Charlotte’s labor … at least if it continued to progress as quickly as it seemed to be going.

“What is that you are doing, you, Bennet girl? I must know what you are doing.”

“I am preparing your cordial, Lady Catherine. Here. The surgeon, Mr. Peters, said you are to have it when we change your bandages.”

“Surgeon? What surgeon? I have seen no surgeon. Nor have I seen the apothecary about. Where have they been?” Lady Catherine’s eyes flashed. A temper tantrum was in the offing.

“Here now, your hand is shaking. Let me help you.” She lifted the cup to Lady Catherine’s lips.

“But I am not sure—” She tried to push the cup away.

“That is why we sought the surgeon’s recommendations. He is sure.” Mary gently pressed the cup at her.

Sputtering slightly, she drank. “But I did not see him. I must see him. I insist! He is devious and must be watched, you know. I insist on seeing him when he is next at Rosings.”

“Of course, Lady Catherine. We will make it so. Now, pray, let us help you back to bed. The cordial makes you sleepy, and you say it is unladylike to fall asleep in a chair.”

“Of course it is! A lady should never be found asleep by anyone! It is undignified. What will people think?” Her bandaged arm waved drunkenly.

Mrs. Jenkinson took one arm, and Mary grasped under Lady Catherine’s other shoulder and helped her to rise.

How thin and frail she had become. Had it been just since the fire, or had her fine clothes been hiding the frailty very well?

Lady Catherine tottered like a child first learning to walk, barely making it to her bed before she fell, almost too weak to continue. There was something poignant about seeing the great lady so reduced. 

A tap on her shoulder—again?

“Mrs. Grant says you are wanted most urgently.” The young maid cringed.

“Mrs. Jenkinson, stay with her until she is well and truly asleep. See that she is not left alone after that.” Mary followed the girl out into the bright cool hallway. “Has something gone amiss?”

 

Tell me what you think in the comments!


Don’t miss the first two books in the series:

 

 

These affiliate links help support both the author and this website.

Sep 12 2017

So, uhm, yeah…Harvey

Important discovery…hurricanes and book launches do not mix well.


Some of you might have noticed that the blog has been a little on the quiet side since just before A Less Agreeable Man released. That was not exactly the plan to be honest. A book launch is supposed to be fun and busy, right?

What’s more, since January, I’ve been posting on Random Bits of Fascination three times a week, every week, and honestly, I’ve been loving it. I admit it, I’ve been pretty proud of maintaining that schedule and hopefully providing you guys some fascinating bits of reading to brighten your week. But even more than that, I really enjoy blogging and hanging out here with you guys.

I hate breaking my schedule and my routine, but I suppose I should have some satisfaction that it took a record breaking hurricane to make that happen. 

Yep. that’s right. I’m blaming Harvey for all this.

Rising Waters, part 1

I’ve been told that (at least parts of) this adventure would make for interesting reading—rather like Sharknado, I think, in the vein of disaster-comedies. I’ve been trying for two weeks now to settle down and actually write it up. But between recovery efforts, trying to get the boys off to start their university schedules, managing the rest of the book launch, and just coping with the stress left over from the storm, putting letters together, much less actual words just wasn’t happening. I mean seriously, I could have put my dragon-cat, Minion, (the one with thumbs) on the keyboard and come out with something far more comprehensible that I would have written. 

But things are better now (ie: I’ve had sufficient quantities of chocolate to subdue a major dragon) and as close to normal as they are going to get in my community for quite some time. So now it’s time to write again. I think it will take several posts to tell the whole story. So let me take you back a few weeks in time and start at the very beginning.

Lesson one: No matter what you do, ALWAYS check the weather

I’m generally a very organized and prepared person, to the point that my kids tease me mercilessly over the little things I do to make my life easier, like the way I unload the groceries onto the conveyor at the store. I put them on a specific way so they can get bagged with like things together and they are easier to put away when I get home. Makes sense right? Even the boys know this because they tease me, BUT they appreciate it when it comes time to store all the groceries.

That being said, I have a particular workflow that I lean on when I write. I get the final draft done, contact bloggers to set up a book tour, while that is in the works, do the final edits and send off the proofs to my diligent and ever patient proofreaders. (They really are saints…) While waiting on the proofs, I finish setting up the tour, plan the posts I need to write and gather the research and notes for all of the articles and make my tour spreadsheet. Yes, I said that, a spreadsheet.

Then it’s back to compiling the proofs and creating the final draft of the book. At that point, I create an electronic Advanced Reader edition for bloggers and reviewers to have a looky-see at the book before the tour. From that file, I setup the pre-order for the book in advance of the tour. (Yes, I’m sure you’ve been dying to know about the exciting secret life of indie writers. I promise it gets more interesting…)

It’s at this point that everything went utterly sideways. Totally and completely upside down and sideways.

Late on August 23, I set up the pre-order which then locked me into a timetable determined by Amazon, one that I could not break out of without serious consequences. Lucky me. Never once did I think, “Gee, this would be a good time to turn on the news and check the weather forecast.” I should have.

The next morning I woke up to news that Tropical Storm Harvey was now Hurricane Harvey and would hit somewhere between Corpus Christi and Galveston on the 25th, probably as a category 1 storm, possibly a 2.

Back in 2008, Hurricane Ike’s eye wall passed directly over our home. It was ‘just’ a category 2 storm. We were left without power for nearly two weeks after that. Two weeks. And I had a book launch setup for 7 days hence.

Perfect, just perfect.

So, going off past experience, I figured we’d get out power knocked out as soon as it made landfall on Friday morning, just like happened with Ike. I needed to get our final hurricane preparations in place AND accomplish at least two weeks of book launch work in 48 hours. 

So what needed to be done? Well, on the hurricane front, we were fairly well prepared. Our area never flooded in the past (yeah, that’s another post…) so the official word was to shelter in place. Done that before, we know how to do that. Got an autopilot setting for it, we’re good.

Early preps had been done when the season started. Generator had been checked out; had extra propane for the grill; batteries were in good supply as were candles and lamp oil. So all I really needed were basic groceries, to get laundry done and vacuum the house. (When you don’t have power for two weeks, you want to start out with all the underwear and socks in the house CLEAN! Ok, I concede, vacuuming though was not a necessity, just a comfort thing for me)

In the back of my mind, I figured we’d end up having at least part of my family–my rather carnivorous family–staying with us at some point because of the generator and the fact we don’t flood. (The irony will become clear in the next couple posts… 🙁 ) So when I went shopping I got about a week’s worth of meat, cooked it all and tucked it into the fridge. It sounds a little odd, but since I could be reasonably sure we could keep the fridge on the generator, I’ve found that having cooked meals that we only need to heat up is a lot easier on all of us during the stress a hurricane brings.

So, with the kitchen full of various things cooking, middle son–the one who had been at my elbow telling me I was overreacting to the storm news–had job interviews scheduled for Friday and Saturday the downtown canceled for the storm. In light of that, we decided he’d go back to law school the next morning, before the storm was scheduled to hit, so he could drive in on dry roads. I hated sending him away when I wanted all my chicks under my wings, but it was the right thing.

Lesson Two: There’s nothing like a good list  

With all of this swirling in my scattered brain, I sat down to format final book. Exactly the sort of detailed fiddly thing I love to do when I don’t have two brain cells to rub together. With the help of one of my old check lists, I was able to get through formatting and upload all the formats by midnight. (Note to self, I’m not just a packrat–there’s a good reason for keeping old lists after all!)

Thing one done.

Got up early the next morning to start getting book tour stuff ready. So thankful I didn’t have to figure out what I was supposed to do. Just jumped on the first line of the spread sheet and cranked through. Granted, I may not have been at my usual peak of warm wittiness (I can hear you snickering, don’t think I can’t…) but lots of posts were being written as I watched the news of the storm hitting Rockport–leveling Rockport to be more accurate–as it came ashore at a Cat 4, not a Cat 1 storm. All our coastal cities know there’s a risk of hurricane damage, but storms just don’t spin up from a Cat 1 to a Cat 4 overnight. They just don’t. Except when they do.

Already the storm was doing totally unprecedented things.

Then the rains moved up the coast and started pounding us.

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