Curious Allure (part seven)

Marta had fallen asleep in front of the hearth, this was getting to be a habit. A kind young woman shook her awake.

“We have a room ready for you, upstairs in the servant quarters.”

Marta slowly opened her eyes, except one of them wouldn’t work, the swelling had shut the lid of her right eye.

“Oh, dear I’ll get Mrs. Davios.” Cinda volunteered.

“That won’t be necessary.” Came that same familiar male voice that belonged to the man that had introduced himself as Alex.

“First though Miss, I’ll need my boots back.”

Marta startled, stood, and looked at him through her one good eye.

“That is rather nasty.” he commented.

“I am so sorry, sir …”

“It’s Alex, please call me Alex.” he insisted. “Just return the boots and there will be no charges.”

Marta looked over to the hearth, where the boots were settled.

“Let me polish them up for you. I had no idea they were … stolen.”

“Ah, it serves me right, I had too many shots of vodka and had to stay at the Inn, even thought I live quite nearby. I’m glad it happened that way, I may have missed your knock at my door and who knows where you’d be if I didn’t rescue you from my demonic house keeper.”

“I needed boots to walk away from my abusive husband. I had been contemplating leaving but he just forced the issue.”

“Tell me his name, I will see what I can do, — I have connections.”

“I am Mrs. Phillip Sobienski. I was Martha Skavronskaya, now I am just Marta.”

“There is no just anything about you my dear, once that eye clears up you will be quite the charmer here in my household.” he teased. “I must be off, I have a soiree planned next week for the Tsar’s betrothal, just an informal gathering — no wedding yet, she is just a child. I will see what I can do for you at Archangel.”

Alex grabbed his boots and nodded to Marta, Mrs. Davios had returned with a warm cloth and a poultice for her injured eye. She was a might bit kinder.

Two days later Marta was growing used to her new surroundings and no one was knocking at the door looking for her. She had grown fond of Cinda who was very friendly and kind. She felt like she did at the Curious Allure at the Palace all those months ago.

The pace of the movement and excitement in the air grew as the days counted down to the return of the Master of the house and the Soiree planned for Royalty. Marta had no idea what to expect. She had the wrong idea though, there were no women present at this affair, just a bunch of bawdy men, and more than enough vodka and whiskey. The young Tsar was the very same one she was presented in front of and she darted from his sight. Leaning up against the wall in the pantry she realized how foolish she was, thinking the Tsar would recognize her from amongst all those beautiful young women.

She decided to act naturally and do the job she was hired to do. The tray was knocked out of her hand by a man who grabbed her arm, soon Alex was there again to rescue her. He helped her pick up the mess and wipe off the jacket of the man who had so rudely accosted her.

“Looks like you got back just in time to rescue me again.” Marta said coquettishly.

“You are quite the story back in Archangel.”

“You are taking me back?” Marta breathed as tears started to flow, stinging the eye that had almost healed.

Alex took her by the arm and ushered her into his private chamber. He poured her a drink and sat her down.
“That lug of a husband had to be persuaded to forget about you. Sergeant Kilov, was steadfast in your defense against your former husband. In fact he tried to bribe me to get invited tonight.”

“Former husband?” Marta gasped.

“Yes, my dear, you are no longer married. The papers were bogus to begin with, your uncle is a cad and the “ceremony” was easily wiped off the records. — you are free.”

Marta stood up and ran to Alex, hugging him and thanking him profusely. Then she remembered his promise from the first night. She drew back and insisted she get back to work. Alex’s hand lingered on her arm for a moment as she turned to leave the room.

Serving trays of food and filling half empty glasses Marta bore the looks the men were giving her and Cinda. Her new friend seemed to take it in stride and she resolved to do the same. When she went down the line filling glasses she happened to glance up to see the young Tsar looking back at her. She had her mind elsewhere and stammered to be so close to the Tsar. She bowed quickly, topped off his drink and tried to leave.

“Hello, you look familiar to me, are you from Moscow?”

“No your grace, but I have been to the Royal Palace.”

“Do you know my betrothed?”

“No, sir I only know … she broke off, what she was about to say would put her right in the middle of that circus she would dread for anyone to know she actually took part in that affair.”

The Tsar looked at her and then a light went off in his mind.

“Vonna, you were with her at the preview. I knew you looked familiar.”

It suddenly hit her that Vonna was the one selected, the ten year old child, the girl she befriended and promised she had nothing to worry about.

When Alex heard the volume go up in the corner of the room and saw Marta right in the middle of the controversy he immediately went over to investigate.

“Ivan Alexeyevich you have met my marvelous Marta.”

Curious Allure (part six)

Marta stared up at the ceiling from the bed she shared with her husband. Every moment, since the spontaneous wedding at the quaint chapel in the small town, has been strained. The hope she had when they said their vows was dashed over the first few nights of their life together. She smiled to think the plan to bring home a “witness” to her faults had backfired on him. Neither of them were ready for this farce nor were they going to admit it.

As the light began to appear through the windows she could see the opaqueness turn translucent from the gathering warmth, she wondered why Phillip was still lying there next to her. She figured she had better make her move. He hadn’t mentioned he would be spending the day with her. She had plans this morning, she had to work for food and the boots she required to expand the confines of her world.

As she slowly moved to get out of bed Phillip grabbed her arm.

“Where are you going?”

“I have somewhere I have to be.”

“I have a two-day leave. You will stay here with me.”

“You didn’t tell me of this. I have made a commitment.”

“Your commitment is to me.”

“Phillip, please I will be back in a few hours, stay here and rest. You cannot make plans without telling me of the arrangements. I am making my own life, I am alone here, you don’t understand …”

Marta tried to pull the conversation back to a more reasonable position.

Phillip, I will make a concession, I will go to the Inn and put in my mornings work. I will tell  Mrs. Borgen that I will not be there tomorrow and we can plan a full day together.”

Phillip did not let go of her and he pulled her back into his arms, she was not going to tell him what to do.

Late the next morning, Marta appeared at the Inn. Mrs. Borgen knew something terrible had happened. She knew her predicament was  dire. She had to help Marta but was concerned her obligation to the military presence that surrounded her might be compromised. She mixed up a poultice for the swelling on Marta’s face, some hot porridge and tea, and a fine pair of boots she pilfered from the man who had checked in overnight.

Marta picked up a clump of snow to place against her cheek that was throbbing, she worried about the cold but pain outweighed her better sense as she trudged through the deep snow. Mrs. Borgan had pointed her in the direction but she had to make the journey herself. And if she ever was in the position to pay back the kindness she wouldn’t hesitate to make a similar journey back, if she had to. Mrs. Borgen had not only supplied the boots, the medicine, the food but she also gave her some coin and a great recommendation and a place to go.

The muscles in her legs started to burn with the added effort of walking in the deepening snow. She measured the pain as if she was climbing out of a hole and up to a level where she could hold her head up and not be anyone’s property.

It was getting dark and the brick dwelling that Mrs. Borgen had described came into view. It was a remarkable sight, the candles in the windows flickered with a welcoming glow. The fresh snow gave a fresh clean look to the landscape. Looking back her fading footfalls with each new snowflake obliterating her regretful past.

She was met at the door by a sour woman with an impatient attitude. Marta handed her the letter from Mrs. Borgan and she pushed Marta aside as the snow from her boots created puddles on the floor. Marta grabbed the letter back and proceeded to let herself out when a man’s voice was heard over her own stifled sobs.

“Is that for me?” the man asked.

Marta turned to see an officer who was quite relaxed in his attire, jacket unbuttoned, shirt not quite tucked in and a glass of brandy firmly gripped in one hand — barefoot.

“There seems to be some mistake, I think I am at the wrong place.”

“Well looking at this letter, I would agree with you. But as fate would have it I am in need of someone like you. A fresh new face, one who won’t send my guests running back out into the cold to face certain death.”

“You are offering me a position?”

“What is your name dear?”

“I am Marta, but you must know that …”

He cut her off, ordered Mrs. Davios to help her get out of her wet things and in front of the hearth.

“And if she comes down with even the slightest cough, you will be out in the cold yourself, you cruel beast!”

As Marta was warming, getting back the feeling in her hands and feet the man who introduced himself as Alex put his hand on her bruised cheek.

“Who did this?”

“That is what I tried to tell you. I have left my husband. I have only been married a fortnight. He is just a boy, he forced our marriage to make it look good for his military career, but he doesn’t know how to treat a woman.”

Alex leaned toward her and whispered in her ear. “I know how to treat a woman.”

Marta shook her head and wondered if life was ever going to get easier.

“You won’t ever know how to treat this woman.”

One Step Closer (the sequel)

I promise, I will be off this subject. This is the last post concerning my experience this past weekend at the WDC2015 Conference. I am still distracted and the adrenaline is slowing down. I mentioned that I had received five invitations to query agents. I sent my first one out today, I am very excited and I hope I will be able to share another kind of experience in this journey I have recently started. It is a long process, I was informed that from the time the publishing house makes an offer to the time you hold your book in your hand it can take up to two years.

Queries can take up to three months to count the effort unrequited. Etiquette requires no more than ten queries out at the same time but you have to be familiar with each agents submission guidelines they may offer a shorter time frame in which to expect a reply.

The same goes for every other aspect of the process. Some literary agencies will accept additional queries to agents at the same agency. That must be established because it is frowned upon as a rule. As I mentioned in my last blog — suggestions are just that, you must be informed, each agent is different just as each agency is different you just need to find the right one for you.

The definition of Panzer (referring also to my last blog) When I thought the term “pantser” was actually Panzer. Means armor, armored moving artillery. I much prefer to think of myself that way. I certainly felt that way walking into the pitch session, which is not a natural thing. It was a fast-track though. I am much further along in my understanding of the entire process.

As I mentioned at the top of this blog, I am barely back to normal. I’ve yet to go on facebook and tend to my everyday business, I’m not complaining but just want to share the experience of how focused you become when following a dream.

I promised this would be the last blog about this particular subject. I will get back to Marta and her struggle to figure out her Curious Allure.

One Step Closer (continued)

Continuing on my conference theme. There were many suggestions and I use that term lightly, of the correct way to construct a well written story. However, you write the way you conduct your life — organized people plan their lives, organized writers set up a structure and plan for the stories they are conceiving in their minds and some are like me – explosive, but there is a lot of middle ground here, you do it the way that serves you best. I learned a new term this past weekend, it totally describes me and my style of writing — not sure if it’s a good thing or not. Regardless, it is the way I am — “pantser” is the term. While waiting in line for the first pitch slam session which I took part in, I thought the term I heard was  one of those WWII German army tanks it was then explained graciously to me as a “seat of your pants” style of writing. I prefer the explosive army tank context I initially heard. — it doesn’t have the negative connotation.

There is a formula for a well-constructed story — scene, plot, character arc, etc. Starting off with an idea of a target audience and genre. None of which were considered by me when I first sat down to write. In fact I was well into my story before I even considered any formal structure, in fact I had one heck of a time watching the words, thoughts and characters appear before my eyes.– I draw the same way. It occurred to me that creativity can express itself in many different ways. It’s like water flowing down the Colorado River. It will find its way through even the toughest of barriers.

The creativity that I experienced in my College days and prior, became more cerebral during my career; creating concepts, problem solving and the mechanics of the equipment.

In my personal life, creativity works well with children, when my second child was born I started my own business my creativity took on another path, volumes of ideas to set it up and keep it going. Now my creative flow has turned to writing.

I am very soft spoken like the quote at the top of this blog, I am a listener, mostly. — I have become a little more outspoken, — having children will do that, but public speaking is still my bane.

I don’t quite know why my creativity is so explosive and compulsive, when the dust finally settles on the page, that is when I analyze my work for sentence structure, scene development and plot sequence, etc.. I am not sure how that will change as I write more and learn more about the craft. But after five separate pieces of work so far I can only say it is still — rolling artillery.

The Conference was a huge success the number of people that attended was probably a record and the organizers have a good reason to be proud of the accomplishment. I got a lot out of it and I met some wonderful people along the way.

Personally I would suggest the “Pitch Day” be separate from the strictly Conference Days because (speaking for myself) I was so nervous and stayed up all night practicing my pitch because it was a chance in a lifetime (seemed that way) and I had taken so much risk and if I didn’t put my all into it I would ruin the opportunity, so I wasn’t able to attend the workshops that were before my pitch session or after for very diverse reasons.

One step closer

I have been blogging about the Writers Digest Conference for over one month and anticipating the experience. If you followed my progress from the beginning this is an exciting time in the process of learning the business of getting my book Woven In Time published. The Conference itself was quite an orchestration. The attendance was to capacity I am sure. Every workshop was full and very well done the panel discussions were informative and the speakers were exceptional. Friday afternoon started with the Pitch Slam session featuring Chuck Sambuchino who presented a seven point step process to the pitch opportunity on Saturday. I was feeling that I had prepared well but did make some changes to my script.

I suppose it is at this point where I should mention that I had the unbelievable opportunity to speak with someone who was able to give me an hour and a half of their time to listen to the synopsis of my story and pull out a log line that was just waiting to be drawn out of the vast explosion of my explanation of Woven in Time. I will never forget the kindness in which someone would take the time to share their knowledge and not only help me explain my story in one sentence but raise my spirits for the enjoyment they seemed to share with me about my project. These are the kinds of experiences that happen in life that remind you that your dreams have validity  and selflessness still exists.

With a great log line – that totally covers the jist of my  story and a boost in confidence I continued to believe in my story and the characters that live there. I was on the right path and followed the seven step process only having to rearrange my order of “Q” cards I had decided to use as a back up plan. Of the fifty agents in the first pitch slam session on Saturday morning, I had cut it down to twenty by learning the publishers that they represent and the genres they prefer. My story had gone from historical -fiction to fantasy fiction geared toward YA. (as the new owner of a business you must know where your product will be found once the book is published)  also I think going in the first session was another stroke of luck because I was able to recover and have the rest of the day to share with my sister who came along for moral support and if you can manage that I would highly recommend it.

When the doors opened the top agents had lines as much as eight deep and this is where strategy comes in to play. I went to the agents toward the bottom of my list and got some of the stumbling and awkward pitches out of the way, by the time I checked back with my number one and two choices the lines had died down and my presentation was a little bit smoother. This “pitch slam” process reminded me of a reality show where the contestants are vying for the win in an unrealistic amount of time, but there is nowhere else you can have the opportunity to be face to face with an agent who will have the added benefit of at least having met you at the WDC15 and when you send out the query letters it’s not just another blind request in the slush pile.

I was able to see nine agents, received four rejections and five requests for query letters. It was a very positive experience and I look forward to getting those letters out, I will continue to blog the results.

To me Sunday – The last day of the conference, was invaluable, because the two back to back workshops were both of interest to me, so well done and so informative. I was relaxed from the excitement of the pitch and related to the experiences of the excellent speakers who shared their love for the genre and writing. I am motivated and revived.