Something Else From The Drawer

*Okay, I’m still writing NB, plus at three in the morning we had to get up, change the bed completely and… yeah, someone in the house is on a little p*ssing reign of terror, and we don’t know which of them or WHY.  So–  Remember a while back I said I’d post stuff from the drawer now and then because I have like 20+ books started that didn’t sell, and I’m trying to get a feel for whether y’all like them or not and what to do with them?

I grant you this audience is not possibly representative, but you’re the only ones I have in terms of “fans who’ll give feedback.”

What follows is highly weird.  I ALMOST was forced to write it to the end, and I have several doubts about it.  For instance, can a foreign-born chick write something not only set in the south, but dragging the Civil War ghosts in, and not get crucified, particularly at Southern cons?

My agent thought both that I couldn’t, and that I should submit it under a pen name “possibly something Southern sounding” which I think made it worse.  So it never got sent out.

But I wasn’t intending to spoof or traipse into anyone’s territory.  I’d just spent a year writing six books and homeschooling the genius, then in three consecutive weeks: I had RWA.  I gave the genius his tests for certification by the supervising school and signed him up for the local high school.  I had to prepare for World Con AND clean the house (because we had friends staying) in about three days.  My explanation is that my brain fried.  I woke up the first day of Worldcon, with all the packing to do, and this chick in my head, with an accent you could cut with a machete.  And I HAD to write her.  The following was written early morning, one day, before Worldcon.  It’s not my fault.

That said, it’s been dormant a while, and it probably won’t PUSH me to write it, but if ya’ll think I should I’ll put it somewhere in the queue.

Warning: Contains relatively mild sexual situation towards the end.

Without further ado, I give you A Proper Southern Devil.  (Oh, and it’s not exactly spoofing the south.  In my head I HAVE a Southern accent, on account of having lived there my first seven years in the US.  That’s how I HEAR myself.  I’ve considered find a speech coach to make my exterior match what I hear in my head, but people think I’m nuts.)*

 

A Proper Southern Devil

Sarah A. Hoyt

©Sarah A. Hoyt 2008.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Down To Georgia

 

 

 

Look, honey, ain’t nothing special about what I do. I wish there were. I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last southern girl whose mama taught her to pack her exorcism kit in her purse whenever she went out for a big date. You got your protection – in case he forgot – and your other protection all tucked into that little purse of yours, and you don’t admit to either because, well, it is all about butter not melting in your mouth, ain’t it?

What I do is different not in kind but in degree. After spending her whole life protesting about my using grammar like ain’t and double negatives and railing against my hatred of nylons and my smoking in public, mama up and died and, son of a bitch – yes, she would have glared at me for swearing too – if she didn’t leave me stuck with the family business.

The call had reached me on a cool spring morning, high up in my rented loft in Denver, Colorado, where I’d run away – at least that’s what mama always said – to pretend I was no Southerner or – in my view of it – to get a job in commercial art and use my degree.  As Aunt Janeybelle’s slow drawl poured into my ear, slow as trickling molasses, I looked out my window, at the still-snow-capped Rockies.  “Well, Honey, it ain’t no use saying you didn’t break her heart, because you sure did,” she’d said.  And, “Her last wish was that you’d come home.”

And I can’t say it was mama’s wish that dragged me but legalities.  Mama’s only daughter had to come and do something about the household and such.  I delayed for two weeks – there was no memorial service and mama was cremated the day after her death – but at last there was nothing for me but to make my way towards the home I’d so long denied was mine, taking the first flight I could from Denver to Atlanta, then renting a car to get to Blazes.  It wasn’t that Blazes didn’t have an airport of its own.  Oh, Lordy no.  Our town of three thousand had everything that you could find in them bigger metropolises.  Or at least everything a body could want.  Just ask Aunt Janeybelle.  But on a good day, the Blazes airport could get tied up by the simultaneous take off of two pigeons and a crow.  Which left me to drive two hours to Blazes, along the highway bordered by indistinct greenery – most likely kudzu – and to think of what Aunt Janeybelle had actually said, beyond reproaches and recriminations.  My mother had died, as the obituary went, suddenly, at her residence.  Which I had to presume meant heart attack or stroke.

Aunt Janeybelle, had said mama had died of her broken heart brought on by her trouble. By which I supposed the fact that papa had gotten – in mama’s words – the hell out the day I was born.  But if that were what had killed mama it had taken its sweet time to work, since I had turned twenty eight just a week ago.

I drove down the Georgia highways with the windows tightly rolled up and the air conditioning on.  I’d rented a smoking car, and I filled the ashtray to overflowing and perfumed the car with the smell of tobacco.  Virginia Slims.  I’d come a long way, baby.

One feel of the outside air in the airport car rental lot had been quite enough, thank you so much.  While the Colorado air was crisp and dry and cool, well behaved air that did not intrude on you or demand anything of you, the Georgia spring was perfumed with more exotic fragrances than the most whorish of houris.  It wrapped you like a sweaty embrace between tangled, body-warm sheets.  And it didn’t give you a chance to ignore it.

I did slow to a more moderate speed as I turned off the highway and onto the rutted road that led me past a weathered, moss-covered sign welcoming me to Blazes, Georgia.

Blazes was — all told — a long main street and a straggle of farms in each direction.  Right at the center of Main Street around the centuries old park, there were the Baptist church, the Presbyterian church and, noticeably newer, the Catholic church.  To the side of that was Holy’s General Store, run by the Holy family since forever – Marylee Holy had gone to school with me – the school was past that, a sturdy butt-ugly building of fifties construction and managing to house under its flat roof all grades from kindergarten – usually called Kiddiegarden by the locals – to twelfth with no fuss and no muss, thank you very much.

Until I was about six, there had been trees on either side of the road and the road was unpaved.  But as more and more people got cars, they’d cut down the trees and paved the road.  I remembered mama had been right testy about their cutting the trees.  She said they had taken all the charm out of Blazes.

To me blazes still had plenty of charm, or didn’t, depending on I felt about it at the time.  When I was little and had first heard about the War Between the States and how Sherman had burned Atlanta, I’d imagined that Blazes had got its name from being burned to the ground.  But it turned out Blazes had been there long before the war and had always been called just that.  Aunt Janeybelle said it was because of our sunny climate.  Mama said then it would be called Steam Bath, and by the time they’d gotten to where they’d argue like that in front of me, I was old enough to have no opinion at all, save that I wanted to get the hell out of Blazes, and the sooner the better.

Past the cluster of churches, store and school the main street down which homecoming parades rode and where the Elderberry Wine festival took place every fall came to an abrupt end.  Or at least a stranger would think it just ended, in a confusion of cypress and a tangle of kudzu.  But if you looked very carefully, straight ahead, underneath all that green, you’d see that an unpaved road continued from there.

I gunned for it, hoping that no one had let trees grow in the middle of the road or something.  After all, this path led to only two houses.  Or rather, to a house and a set of ruins.

Time out of mind, the winding bit of rutted track had been a road at least as traveled as the main street.  At the end, it had branched off into twin plantations – what had been at one time twin homesteads started by two families that had got king’s grants at about the same time: the Childes and the Thornblades.  But the last Thornblade had died in the War Between the States and their plantation had been torched, house and fields and all.  For some reason, it had never been reclaimed – probably because Blazes was in the ass end of nowhere and even developers had never found us yet.  It, like the fields that had once been my family’s were just left to grow over with wild plants and kudzu.  Mama said our fields had been sold, but if so, no one had done claimed them.  And if someone owned the Thornblade’s place, they were no more interested in it than the owner of our place was.

Which just went to show you, I thought, even if I wasn’t absolutely sure what it showed.  I wasn’t very coherent, since I was dying for a cigarette but didn’t dare light it till I could see the way clearer ahead.

And seeing clear was a problem right enough.  Because you see, the kudzu and the Spanish moss hanging from the tall pines on either side of the road, had turned what had once been a narrow road into a tunnel, filled with a filtered green yellow light.  It was, I thought, just like one would imagine the bottom of the ocean to be like, with the tropical sun shining above.

A shiver ran up my back, because it was as if I were driving under water, as if I were drowned and long dead.

Nonsense.  But my hands were white on the wheel, as the track veered now left, now right, amid the green-hung trunks.  And then, as suddenly as it had closed in around me, the track opened up.  Instead of a tunnel, it became a country road, meandering drunkenly along a well-beaten track, with the trees where they belonged, on either side of it and well away.

I took a deep breath, and, by touch, without looking, pulled a cigarette from the pack on the passenger seat, and put it between my lips with fingers I was surprised to see were trembling.  I grabbed for the lighter the same way, and lit my cigarette, sucking the nicotine into my lungs as though it were heaven-sent nectar, or perhaps reviving water.  I didn’t know why I’d got so worried.  The track was clear enough out here, and of course mama wouldn’t have let it get grown over.

Mama hadn’t been dead all that long.  Something like a stabbing pain with no physical place made my heart clench, and I sucked another lungfull of nicotine, driving with one hand to the turn off to our house, leftward, and past what had once been gracious, tall gates and were now rusted permanently open and covered in vegetation, the walls that they had once ornamented now mere piles of unruly stones.

Inside, there was what had once been a garden.  Mama always said that her mama talked about her grandma speaking of manicured lawns and azaleas and oaks, rose gardens and orchards.  But it had been a century and almost a half a one since we’d had gardeners.  The plants had grown riot and the ones that could survive had, some thriving more than others.  Blackberries infested the grounds, rambling like carpetbaggers all over the other, weaker plants.  Their fragrance mingled with the scent of the roses – auntie Janeybelle said they were heritage or antique roses, whatever that meant – which also grew riot everywhere and even climbed the trunks the stately oaks still standing, even if senescently rotting from within.

There was no kudzu within where the walls had once encircled.  I wasn’t sure why.  There just wasn’t.  It wasn’t like I’d ever seen mama – or grandma, when she’d been alive – do anything at all beyond picking the blackberries when they were ripe.  Those blackberries, grown in our garden, made the sweetest jam in all the world.

And suddenly I found myself craving the jam I hadn’t had in eight years.  And I remembered Mama in the kitchen, at the end of summer, tending to a giant pot of the stuff, as it bubbled slowly with sugar, over the fire on the back burner of the gas stove.  Tears stung the back of my eyes.

Making that jam was my mama’s only domestic gift.

The smell of that blackberry jam penetrating every corner of the house had been a signal that summer was over and school about to begin, and the sweetness of its taste had been bitter too, because it meant my days of freedom were over, and soon I’d been taking the bus to Blazes School and spending most of my day confined there and away from the house and whatever interesting things Mama might be doing during the day.  I’d always been convinced Mama did some wonderful stuff during the day, when I was absent.  There seemed to me, back then, no rhyme or reason for me to go to school otherwise – not since I couldn’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, and I’d read everything in my path all the time.  It seemed to me left well enough alone I’d have learned whatever the school had to teach.

But Mama said I needed to learn what people were like, whatever that meant, and to my childish mind that meant she was up to something during the day.  Something she didn’t want me to know about.

As it turned out, I was right – though I didn’t know it that day, as I pulled up onto the flagstones of what had once been a gracious terrace.  Mama said the double French door –  right in front of me – had actually once been the back door to the house and opened off the ballroom, but we’d used it as our front door, all my life.

It was on the bottom floor of three which climbed gracefully up, with a wrap around porch on the bottom and two verandas above.  It was built of mellow grey brick.  You could sort of tell, from the vestiges on the brick, that – for whatever reason – it had once been painted, or maybe whitewashed, but I was glad that it didn’t need to be kept up.  Because we didn’t even use most of the bottom floor, much less keeping all of it up.  Brick maintains fairly well, and our roof was – mama said – asbestos and likely not to disturb anyone as long as we left it alone.  And likely to outlast us all, too.

It had outlasted her.

I stood up – without remembering getting out of my car – clutching an almost-gone butt  of cigarette, and realized I was crying which was plain stupid, wasn’t it?  After all mama had been dead two weeks, and crying was not going to bring her back.  Crying paid no rent.

Sullenly, as if it had done me wrong, I opened the trunk of the car, and dragged out my suitcase.  I’d packed enough for two weeks, in as tight as space as I could.  When I’d left, eight years ago, I’d left behind most of my clothes, and they should still fit.  Jeans and t-shirts was about all I’d brought, and the tennis shoes on my feet.

Oh, mama had always made me wear skirts and dresses when I came to visit.  Down here, I was Miss Childe and she said the locals noticed when I dressed like a common chit.  And perhaps they did.  But right now I didn’t care.  I threw down the butt of my cigarette and stomped hard on it.

What I cared was to dispose of the estate, donate what I could to charity and put the house for sale and get the hell out of Georgia.  Lord knew the house wouldn’t fetch much.  Certainly not these days.  But I’d make what I could of it.

Standing on the stoop, picking through my keys, I found my hands shaking again, for some unaccountable reason.  There was the key to my Denver loft, and how I wished I were back there.  There were my car keys for my car back home too, the battered jeep that had taken me up and down the slopes of the Rockies.

But I’d kept the key to this house on the chain, even though it made no earthly sense to always carry with you the key to a house that’s hundreds of miles away.  And right now my own life back in Colorado seemed like a nebulous dream.  It seemed as if I’d never left.

When the door opened, it was worse.  I entered what my mama said had once been a ballroom – and maybe it was – but which some ancestress had divided off with paneling so that I found myself on a prim and proper entrance hall with a table – with a telephone on it, the only telephone in the house – and a straight backed chair in which mama used to make service-men and bill collectors wait her pleasure before being allowed into the inner sanctum of the house.

I dropped my suitcase on the floor – the yellow mosaic floor that covered all the rooms in the front of the house and which lent credence to the idea that it had al once been one room – and I almost called out Mama, I’m home.

Remembering mama wasn’t – would never be –  home, was like a knot at my throat, and it made me catch my breath right quick, as if I were drowning.

Crying pays no rent.   And it wasn’t like mama and I had been one of those mother and daughter pairs who were best friends and who did each other’s hair and each other’s make up and went to the mall together.  Hell, I don’t think mama went to the mall, ever.  When I’d wanted to buy my prom dress, Aunt Janeybelle had driven me all the way to the mall in Atlanta, because there was nothing out these ways.  And mama and I had fought like cats and dogs and screamed at each other like banshees.  Bound to, when she’d raised me all by herself, and I wasn’t the most biddable creature around.  But she had been my mama.  The only mama I’d ever have.

I swallowed again, and closed my door, carefully.  Not that mama or grandma had ever bothered with the door much.  But I had lived away for a while, and I didn’t feel safe with it open.

I went into the house briskly.  My steps resonated hollowly.  The house was empty.  It smelled empty.  Uninhabited.  Isn’t it weird how you can always tell if there is anyone in a house or not?  You can feel it.  The air feels different and sounds are different.

Well, I was here.  Not empty anymore.  More or less blindly, I turned right, into what had been mama’s study and library.  The curtains were drawn and light looked much like the light in the green tunnel, only dimmer.  It cast a green penumbra on the oak bookcases, filled with books and notebooks in haphazard confusion.  In the middle stood mama’s desk, piled with papers and more books and a newspaper or two.

It had always been like that, I thought, swallowing like mad to keep moisture out of my eyes, and stepping over to the windows, to open the curtains with a ripping sound.

The light that came pouring in was grey-dim, much softer than the sun that had beat down on the highway just moments ago.  Looking up, I saw that the light had dimmed above and the sky was all over roiling clouds.  One of those squalls of spring was in the brewing.  Fine by me.  At least it had waited till I was safe and snug inside.

Turning my back on the window I frowned at the bookshelves and the desk.  Heaven knew what all those books were.  I for one had no clue.  Of all the books and notebooks in the house, the ones in this room were the only ones that had always been off limits.  Mama said it was none of my business.  Just as it was none of my business what she wrote in all those notebooks that she bought every month or so at the five and dime.

At some point – high school or so – I’d thought that mama must be a writer.  But if that were so, then she’d never shown her writing to a living soul.  And now I would have to look through the notebooks, I supposed, and figure out what to do with them.

And there was a dilemma.  Because if mama’s stuff was trash, yet it was mama’s, and could I burn it?  But if mama’s stuff was gold, too, what the hell could I do with it?  I had some writing friends, back home in Denver, and some vague idea their careers were no easier than mine – some vague idea it took more than a great story to make it big.

“Ah, damn it, mama,” I said, to the warm, musty air.  “You had to leave me stuck with this, didn’t you?”

I reached for a cigarette, and realized I’d left them, and the lighter, in the passenger seat of the car.  Well, I’d best go out and get it before the rain started pouring down.

Hastily, I started towards the door and tripped on a tear in the rug.  My eyes were strangely filled with water, which made it hard for me to see.

So my foot got caught and as I’d been rushing, my momentum sent me forward.  I reached for mama’s desk to steady myself, but the pile of books my hand rested on went tumbling.  My head hit the corner of the desk hard.  And there was darkness and silence.

 

 

 

Desperado

 

I came to lying on the floor of mama’s study, on the faded carpet that she kept atop the mosaic for when her feet got cold, she said.  The carpet was all big pink roses and green leaves.  Or had been, once upon a time, before it had all faded.  It had probably come from the attic.

I was lying on it, with my hand outstretched.  My hand was resting on a pile of books and, as I blinked and saw more clearly, I realized that the top one was a King James Bible with cracked leather spine.  The hell.  A Bible?  In mama’s study?

It’s not that mama was an atheist.  At least I didn’t think it was.  She’d never told me that there was no God, or that I shouldn’t listen when my little friends talked of the holidays and Jesus.  But she had withstood Aunt Janeybelle’s demands that she send me with her on Sundays to the church in Atlanta, and we’d never celebrated Christmas, not once.  Mind you, I’d always thought it was because Mama couldn’t be bothered putting up a Christmas tree.  At least after grandma was gone.  And before grandma was gone, grandma’d been right sick, and mama had looked after her and not paid much attention to the holidays.

And yet, not only was my hand resting on a Bible, but under the Bible and a little to the side was a silver cross with fat branches, enclosed in a sort of circle.  I remember that my friend Elene who does all the science fiction and fantasy art had said it was a Norse cross and not Christian, but… with the Bible…?

I started to pull them towards me, cross and Bible and all, dragging them because I wasn’t feeling all that well and didn’t want to sit up and pick them up.  And then I heard tapping.  Something tapping against the window.

Hail, I thought, and for once I did not mean the place where Sherman has been sent for torching Atlanta.  But the tapping continued, hard, and it didn’t seem like hail.  Besides, Georgia wasn’t Colorado where every now and then we got hail the size of Volkswagen Beetles.

My mind was none too clear, my head was still spinning from the blow to the head.  My eyes refused to focus and there was throbbing pain from my temple, where I’d hit the desk.  But I had to see what the hell was tapping at my window.  Besides, if I had concussion, I had to make it to the phone and call someone.  Or at least go back to the car and get the cell phone I’d left with my cigarettes on the front seat of the car.  Lying here and passing out and maybe dying was no part of my plans.

I dragged myself to sitting, while nausea pulled at my stomach, and turned to look at the window.  And blinked.

The first I looked at the window, I would swear there was a boy child out there.  Twelve, maybe less, at that time when males’ faces are none too sure if they are going to be young ones or adults and usually their various features are on a different time line.  This boy’s nose looked indecisive between a childish button and an aquiline slope.  His eyes were too big for his face – liquid eyes, the color of the Spanish moss out there.  It made him look like those postcard little boys, with eyes that no human could actually have.  His hair – soaking wet – was a blazing color between gold and red, like fire or a sunset.

But the most pathetic thing was his hand – reddened and spread out, the palm flat against the window and the fingers pushing on the glass as if begging to come in.

I blinked.  When I looked again, it was an adult man there.

Tall and rangy, as if he were half starving and been reduced to skin and bone and whipcord muscles.  The features were almost the same as the boy’s had been, only more regular.  The rest of them had caught up with his eyes, which remained, nonetheless, liquid and green.  His face would have been oval save for the blunt chin and the aquiline nose that prevented it being too sweet to be masculine.

But the hair was the same.  A blaze of glory, not exactly long and not exactly curly, but long enough to surround his face and curly enough to look as if it were as wild as the tangled blackberries in the garden.

And his hand – bigger, and with square fingertips – was still pressing against the window, so hard that his palm and fingertips looked white.  And his lips, under the pouring rain, were forming one word.  “Honey.”

The hell.  I blinked again, but he remained there, and now his lips were forming, “Honey, Honey, let me in.”

It was possible, all too possible, that he meant honey as an endearment, but it didn’t seem like it.  It seemed like he was saying my name.  And, yeah, I’m aware I have a weird name.  In Denver, I’d gone by Ney, preferring that to explaining to all and sundry that I’d not only been named Honey when our family name was Childe, but I’d been named Honey after my grandma’s great grandma, bless her heart, which must bespeak hereditary madness.

And this strange man outside the window was calling me Honey as if he meant it, calling me Honey as if he knew it was my name; as if he’d known me all my life.

Right.  For all I knew he had.  I couldn’t for the life of me remember anyone who looked like him, but then I couldn’t remember half of my high school class.  It wasn’t as if we’d been best buddies anyway.  Though by the time I attended the high school Blazes as about as integrated as it was gonna get, and though our family – that I knew – had no more money than any of theirs, and probably less, my mama had been known to be a higher class.  And therefore so had I.  Which had kept all the other children at bay.  Oh, I talked to them at school, and it wasn’t like we were enemies.  But there had been no one coming over to play, and there had been no sleepovers and no boyfriends or best friends.

I’d had some dates, but nothing really serious because we’d all known better – and I’d gone to the prom with my cousin Henry Albert, the son of Aunt Janeybelle and only because mama thought I should have the experience.

I squinted at the man on the other side of the window, trying to think from where I might have known him.  Had he sat next to me in Kiddiegarten?  Or pulled my braids in fourth grade?  There was no telling.

“Honey,” he said, his voice making the glass in the windows vibrate.  “Honey, let me in for the Lord’s sake.  I’m cold and soaked all over.”

Well, right.  And he didn’t look like a lunatic, or at least not like a dangerous one.  He just looked… cold and soaked.

I dragged myself up, with my hand on the desk, and stumbled out of mama’s study and to the front hall.  When I got there, he was already on the other side of the French doors, looking …  Well… looking no crazier than most Georgians.

Here I have to explain for the sake of anyone who might be reading this, and who might be from other parts.  Because my rainy-day visitor, shivering and dripping water on the front porch, under the shelter of the verandah, was wearing a confederate uniform.  This in itself was not all that strange.  If there was a Civil War renactment going on, any day of the week, there were a dozen of them.  No.  What made the blond man looking pleadingly at me through the glass, special was that he was wearing an historically accurate confederate uniform, for the end of the Civil War.  What this meant in practicality is that what he was wearing was barely a uniform at all.

Forget all the stuff about the grey and the blue.  By the end of the war, what men were wearing was mostly what other men had worn earlier in the war.  My late uncle Albert Michael, mama’s brother, aunt Janeybelle’s husband, had been a Civil War buff and he’d lived till I was fifteen or so.  He used to tell me that in the beginning of the war, the South was attired in uniforms from France or Poland, or something, all red with gold braid.

Perhaps they had, but what this man was wearing was a ragged dark grey jacket with insignias I couldn’t understand, pants that were some color between blue and brown, and what looked like – I’d seen them in museums – Prussian riding boots that came up to his knees.

I felt my jaw drop open in surprise, at this historically accurate splendor.  I threw the door open and heard the confused, slurred words, “Where is the battle?” come out of my lips.

His eyes widened and for just a moment he looked surprised. Then he shook his head.  “No battle,” he said.  “No battle, Honey.  I’ve been… lost.”  A crease formed on his forehead.  “You don’t know how lost I’ve been.”

I frowned in turn.  He didn’t look like a lunatic.  And his accent was definitely from these parts but overlaid with what seemed to be a cultured British accent.  Something that wasn’t exactly the province of some mad man tumbling among the wilds of this back country place.  I chose to take his word for it.  He’d been lost.  “This is the Childe house,” I said.  Which was just a little strange to say, but the truth was that I’d never bothered with an address on those occasions I had to write to mama.  Georgia Childe, Blazes, Georgia and the zip always found its way there.  It wasn’t like everyone in town didn’t know us.

It was all too possible he said something else.  I didn’t seem to be thinking sequentially, and I might have missed something, because what I heard next was, “May I come in?  Please let me come in?”  And the way he said it, all urgent and purposeful, I thought it must make sense.  I thought he’d asked to use the phone.

I stepped aside from the door.  “Sure,” I said.

He stepped over the threshold and there was a feeling that’s pretty hard to describe.  It was as if an electric shock had run not through me but through the air.  And then he was… staring at me.  There was a hunger in his eyes.  Not as if he was going to eat me – well, at least not unless I was very, very lucky.

I expected his uniform to smell – or at least to smell of wet wool and sweat because, let’s face it, you can’t be running around pretending to be a confederate soldier in the heat and humidity of a Georgia Spring and not sweat.  But though there was a hint of wet wool and a faint redolence of clean male sweat, most of all, he brought with him the smell of woodland.

When I was very young, I used to go out where the garden used to be and lie beneath the big fig tree, near the capped well, and read.  The smell he brought with him was the smell of that place – pine trees and moss, roses and blackberries.

I was so surprised by this, that I didn’t react as he closed the distance between us, and said, his voice all breath, “Honey, you are a sight for sore eyes.  I’ve… dreamed of you.”

And without so much as by-your-leave, his hands came down on my shoulders, and he pulled me close to him, crushing my body against what was a very muscular body indeed, harder some places than others.

I would have screamed.  I should have screamed.  Blame it on the concussion, but I was so confused, that I let him bring his head down, and let his mouth meet my mouth, and before you knew it, I was kissing a perfect stranger.

His lips were soft, his tongue had a mind of its own.  His mouth tasted of distilled liquor with an odd sweet edge.  And he was kissing me as if his life depended on it, teeth clashing against teeth, his breath ragged.

Hunger – and not for food – roiled off his body, as he pressed against mine and drove me back and back, against the wall.  Which was good, all things considered, because I was having a lot of trouble standing up.  It must be that concussion.  Same reason I didn’t scream.

He came up for breath for less than a second and I truly have no explanation for why I didn’t let loose with a shriek then, but I didn’t.  And then his lips were back on mine, his mouth sucking at my tongue like he could only breathe through my mouth, like kissing me was the only thing that could keep him alive.

Coming up for air again, he made a sound that wasn’t so much a moan as half a sigh and half a cry of need, and his green eyes were half-lidded, as if he were in pain.  Which he might very well be, since what I felt against my leg was definitely not a pez dispenser, and those pants looked a mite tight.

“I–” I started, but then I couldn’t continue because his hands were running over my body, warm, frantic.

“Why are you wearing breeches?” he said, but didn’t wait for an answer, which was good, because no one ever had called my jeans breeches.  But since what he did next was get hold of my t-shirt – yellow with artists do it colorfully splattered in red across the chest – at the neckline and tear it clean down, it went right out of my mind.  I just said, “Hey!”

And he looked up and said, “Don’t be missish, Honey, not now.  You don’t know what I’ve done.  You don’t know how I’ve dreamed of this.”

“What?” I said, trying to get hold of my shirt and pull it back together, even as those large, square-tipped hands were trying to work on my bra as if it were something he’d never seen before, and my mind was trying to run through everything I’d ever learned on rape prevention.  Which, mind you, was precious little, since I’d never had much in the way of fear of being raped.  I mean, I don’t jog in bad neighborhoods, I don’t walk in isolated places after dark, I don’t go out on dates with guys I don’t know very well, and I always carry a gun, and can shoot the nethermost wing off a fly at fifty paces.

Only I’d not brought checked luggage and you can’t fly with guns in carry on.  Not if you are just an artist.  And I didn’t know this man.  And I had no idea why he was squeezing his fingers under my bra and pressing them, hungrily, against my flesh.  I hadn’t ever heard of mad rapists running around in historically accurate Civil War gear.  Not even here.

And I wish I could say I’d gone cold on him, but it was stranger than that.  The part of me that could think rationally was thinking that this was a very strange encounter and that I was about to get raped.  And the other part of me – a part of me that to be honest I’d never been aware of except when I was painting and really immersed in it – was feeling the hunger and the need wrapped around this man.  It was an odd sort of hunger, an odd sort of need – a craving for love and comfort and acceptance, as if he were whipped dog, who had gone from doorstep to doorstep and at each one met with kicks and insults.  But it was more than that, because it came wrapped in unbearable-chest-crushing-grief, the sort that you feel between catching your breath and letting a sob tear out at the beginning of uncontrollable crying.

But, strangest of all, what I felt from him, wrapped around these feelings, was love.  Overwhelming love.  There was an odd softness in the green eyes, as they looked at me, that went well beyond any possible lust.  And his hands, warm and insistent, were also caressing, desperate, as if he knew me – knew me, loved me, had made love to me before and couldn’t wait to make love to me again.

I grabbed both halves of my shirt in a trembling hand, I wiped my mouth to the back of my other hand, more to gain control than to wipe his taste from my lips, and I didn’t even try to fight off his hand which had figured out how to unclasp my bra.  “Who are you?” I asked, as he pulled my bra up and dove down, his mouth hot and hungry on my left nipple, then up to cover my breast in soft, worshipful kisses.  “Who the hell are you?”

He blinked up at me, as if surprised at this question, and pulled away.  “Honey?” he said, concerned.  “Honey, you know me.”

I shook my head.  “No.  I’m sorry.”  My voice came out really shaky, because, let me tell you, it is a bit of challenge to manage to form words and everything while one of the best looking men you’ve ever seen is kissing both of your tits all over and doesn’t give any signs of wanting to stop.  Even if you have no clue who he is, and he seems to think you’re the bestest of friends.  I tried to remember some peccadillo, some azalea and moonlight romance the memory of which I might have suppressed because of a broken heart, but suppressed memories and broken hearts were something that only happened in aunt Janeybelle’s stories and never in real life and certainly not to me.  “I have no idea who you are.”

This got his head away from my breasts, which left them feeling rather lonely and neglected, strange as it might seem, and made him straighten up to his full six feet some.  “So, that’s why,” he said.

“That’s why what?” I asked.

“You forgot me.  Honey, what have they done to you to make you forget me?”

He grabbed my arm and squeezed hard.  “Was it one of the bastards…”  His eyes blazed with such crackling anger that I was afraid.  “The Lord knows I’ve shot enough of the bastards and taken enough revenge, but I didn’t know they’d done that!  If I’d known–”

“That?” I asked, now totally lost, and more and a bit afraid, particularly since his hand was holding my arm in a vise-grip.

“Your daughter!” he said as if this explained everything.  He spoke through tightly clenched teeth.  “I could forgive them destroying my home, I could forgive them burning everything.   I could have forgiven them killing me.  God knows I’ve deserved death.  But you!”

“I don’t…” I started, ready to tell him I didn’t have any daughter.  But he didn’t let me finish.

His hand left my arm and cupped my face, soft and tender.   After his painful grip it was the softest of touches, gentle and – despite the fact I could feel calluses on his hand – as soft as velvet.  “Honey, I am Gabriel Thornblade.”

“Thor– ” I started.  But clearly the recognition he hoped for hadn’t shone in my eyes, because his own were now distinctly moist.

“Damn it all to hell,” he said, as a thunderclap echoed as if on cue.  “We grew up together, you and me.  We were sweethearts as soon as we could say the word.  I just wanted the war to end so I could come and ask for your hand.”

“What war?” I asked, as a mad idea formed that this might be one of mama’s beaus who looked incredibly youthful.  Though mama had never talked about any of her beaus going off to Vietnam.  In fact, the war that had broken her generation apart and tore our culture asunder had seemed to leave mama as untouched as had most of the twentieth century, from which she’d adopted comfy clothes and cars and little else.

“Why, the war betwee– ”

“Honey Childe, have you run insane?” Aunt Janeybelle’s half-choked shriek echoed from the doorway.

 

 

A Proper Southern Lady

 

I was standing against the wall of the entrance hall, my shirt tore in half down the front, my bra undone and pulled above my breasts, leaving them bobbing, all white and round beneath.

In front of me was Aunt Janeybelle, as perfectly polished as a Southern woman could get.

Though Blazes was the back of nowhere, Auntie Janeybelle was not now and had never been White Trash.  She couldn’t have been to have married mama’s only brother, after all.  Though the Childes tended to marry off their boys, have the women keep the family name and inherit the house – at least since great great great grandma Honey Childe – Childe men were still Childes and they didn’t marry just anyone.

Auntie Janeybelle’s family had come from other parts.  Atlanta, I thought, though I couldn’t swear to it, and she had been the prettiest debutante once upon a time.  Now she wore a dark blue skirt suit, with a fluffy pink blouse and pearls around her neck, and her make up was so discrete you might not know it was there at all, save for the faint and tasteful lipstick.

She looked like one of those porcelain dolls you sometimes find in antique shops.  When she was young, she must have been real pretty – a smooth, oval face with round baby-blue eyes.  Age had not made her wrinkle so much as it had made her skin look stained and yellowed.  However her hair was as gold as ever I remembered its being.  I was sure it came from a bottle at this time, but that was the last thing I was thinking, as I panted, staring up at her, trying to think up of an excuse for why I was up against that wall and half-naked.

I realized that she was looking, her eyes very wide, at my temple, where I’d hit it on the desk, and I felt something liquid trickle from there and down the side of my face.  I reached over, half expecting it to be water.  Gabriel Thornblade – and who he could be, I plain couldn’t imagine, since all those people were gone – had been dripping wet, after all.  If he’d ever been there.  He seemed to have vanished like that, no more material than a soap bubble.  But my fingertips, as I brought them in front of my eyes, were stained dark red.

“Well, land sakes, child,” Aunt Janeybelle said.  Or perhaps Childe.  It was hard to tell.  “What have you been doing to yourself?”

I pulled my bra down, hooked it, and fumbled my t-shirt closed.  What had I been doing to myself?  Doing to myself being the great big question, since there was nobody around.  “I fell,” I mumbled.  And then looking up and giving her my best, innocent look.  “I don’t know how it came about.  I just tripped in mama’s study, and I fell.”

Auntie Janeybelle stifled a cry and covered her mouth with both impeccably manicured hands, with their polished, unnaturally long nails painted a lady-like pink that exactly matched her blouse.

I wasn’t in the mood for drama, though drama, it could be argued, was the birthright of every Southern-born woman.  “If you’ll pardon me,” I said, and ducked around her to grab my travel bag, which I carried with me down the hallway, past mama’s study and into the powder room in this floor.  The powder room was not a courtesy sort of thing in this case.

Though it did contain a toilet and a sink, the room was smaller than most closets and most suited to just powdering one’s nose in it.  It was so small in fact that mama always did say that it kept her slim.  If she gained any weight at all she would never be able to close that door again, and would need to give up on the powder room entirely.  Now I wedged my bag between the pedestal sink and the wall and closed the door in the face of Aunt Janeybelle who, wouldn’t you know it, had followed me and seemed disposed to follow me right into the bathroom.

Then I looked at myself in the mirror and bit my lip, refusing to give in to an impulse to have strong hysterics.  When Auntie Janeybelle was gone, I could go ahead and scream my head off, if it that was what it took.  But not just now.

I could have cried with mama.  I could have cried with grandmama.  I could have screamed at my friends in Denver and asked what the hell I’d been smoking, or how I’d come to hallucinate the world’s most handsome man in period clothes no less.  To any of them I could have said that I was going insane, but not with Auntie Janeybelle.

You see, she had always been there, this is true.  And it could be said that after grandma was gone she had helped mama raise me.  At least if you understand helping as telling mama every day and twice on Sunday that she was spoiling me and making me unfit for society.  And that my wild spirit needed curbing.  And that I read too much.

Aunt Janeybelle had the type of concerned, disapproving gaze that made me feel like I had forgotten to wash my face, I had dog’s doings on my shoe, or snot hanging from my nose.  To make things worse, she was so flawless all the time.

If I told her what I’d seen – if I told her what I’d felt – she’d think I had finally gone insane.  Not that going insane was something that Auntie Janeybelle disapproved of.  Not exactly. She seemed to think madness, like drama, was the proper right of any well bred southern lady.  She talked with pride of how one of her aunts was so high-bed and refined that she had spent years in a rest home, after a nervous breakdown.  Second to getting consumption – and that was definitely hard these days, though Auntie Janeybelle seemed to pin her hopes on the new antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis.  Or at least she talked of them a lot – going stark raving mad – particularly after my dear mama died – would probably be the only thing I could do to prove to Auntie Janeybelle that I was a proper southern lady and that she hadn’t failed in making me one.

She would be understanding and triumphant and rush me to some discrete rest home with some name like Frail Magnolias Recuperation Institute, and put me in a straight jacket.  If I were very lucky, the jacket wouldn’t be pink, and she wouldn’t crochet a lovely frill for it.

So I bit my lip until the urge to scream passed, while I looked at my ashen face glaring at me from the mirror.

My face made a poor study.  I had always had a face in shape of a face, with a jutting, stubborn chin, brown eyes and what my mother called a button nose.  When I scrubbed up and tied back my unruly brown hair, which seemed to grow in several whirlwinds all over my head, I could be considered pleasant.  My worst enemy could not accuse me of being a proper southern belle, or , for that matter, a belle of any description.

But now, my normally olive skin, probably inherited from the father I’d never met – since mama had always been a proper peaches-and-cream Celtic beauty – looked that curious green tinge it went when I was sick.  With the red blood trickling down the side of my face, it looked right christmasy.  I grabbed some toilet paper and dabbed at my temple, then held it there, pressing lightly.

That seemed to stop the blood, and it didn’t hurt as if I had broken any bones.  My friend Terry, with whom I went out now and then, back in Denver, was a pre-med student and he’d said that if one had serious concussion one’s pupil would be a different size of the other.

At least that’s what he said when Julie – my roommate – had fallen on her head in the bathroom, New Year’s Eve, after she’d drank way too much Jack Daniels.  I remembered trying to hold Julie’s eyelids open while Terry shone a flashlight into them.  That is, until she came to and threatened to break all his bones, even the one that wasn’t part of his skeleton if he didn’t stop shining bright lights at her.  He’d judged it enough evidence that she was back to her normal and let her be.

Now I opened my eyes as much as I could and turned the light on.  It was just a naked forty watts dangling from its cord all the way up there, in the nine foot ceiling and I can’t say it did much to augment the light coming through the little palm sized window almost at that level.

And then it was pretty hard to tell what was my pupil and what was dark-dark brown iris.  I glared at myself, daring my pupils to be the wrong size.

Auntie Janeybelle cleared her throat on the other side of the door.  “Honey?”

When I didn’t immediately answer, being rather busy trying to discern if my pupils were the same size, she knocked at the door – a light, lady-like knock.  “Honey.”

“Yes, ma’am?” I answered, deciding my eyes were about the same they’d always been, and so were my pupils.  And besides, I remembered Terry had said that if you were concussed you’d throw up – which had been a world of good when Julie had lost her cookies all over his jeans and shoes, considering what she’d drunk by then – and I wasn’t even slightly nauseous.  Not since first standing up.

Auntie Janeybelle shuffled uneasily on the other side of the door.  It says something about her that her minimal movements, indicating uneasiness, made enough of a rustling noise to convey to me that she was moving this way and that a little, to let me know she wasn’t happy.  “Honey, I can’t say as I’m comfortable with you being there on the other side of that door.”

I glared at the door.  Well, I couldn’t say as I was comfortable with the idea of Auntie Janeybelle on this side of the door.  Let alone the fact that to fit she would need to lose almost all of her weight, and spread herself thin along the wall.  Of course, I didn’t say that, but made a sound best transcribed as “Um.”

Turning on the water, and hoping that would drown out any pearls of wisdom my aunt might have left in her mind, I splashed my face which made me feel better.  That is, it made me feel better until I realized that there was no towel in sight, and I would have to leave my face wet and dripping.

In a fit of wild creativity, I took off my shirt – it’s not like it was fit for anything else now – and wiped my face with it.  I swear it smelled of wild blueberries and trailing roses with a faint trace of wet wool.  I flung it from me quickly.

Aunt Janeybelle knocked again.  At this rate I was going to end up causing her to do serious damage to her nails.

“Ma’am?”

“Well, Honey, I don’t know what possessed you to go into your mama’s study.”

I opened my mouth, but then I couldn’t imagine what had possessed me either, so I just said “Um.” again and sat on the closed toilet lid to unzip my bag and look for a t-shirt that wasn’t split.

Aunt Janeybelle sighed, which was a normal reaction of hers to anything I did that she didn’t approve of or didn’t understand.  I pulled my t-shirt on, then looked up the wall at the tiny window and wondered if there was any way I could climb up the smooth plaster and get out through that window.  Mind you, squeezing through the window might kill me.  It was that small.  And if memory didn’t fail, it was about seven feet off the ground on the other side, but breaking my head dropping from it seemed preferable to enduring Aunt Janeybelle’s lady-like reproach.

Only then she would stand over my bleeding self and tell me I’d always been a tomboy, and if only mama had always taken me in hand early.  “Yes, Aunt?” I said.

“Well, dear, I’m sure no one ever did tell you, but seeing as…”

“Seeing as?”

“Seeing as your mama did die in her study…”

For a moment – for just a moment – I felt as if the floor of the bathroom had shifted under my feet, which was stupid, since it was made of the same solid mosaic as the rest of the rooms partitioned from the ballroom.  I grabbed at the sink with both hands, to steady myself, and when I spoke, I confess I was less than polite.  “She what?”

Aunt Janeybelle cleared her throat, just enough to indicate, as it were, that she disapproved of my hoydenish manners.  “She died right there, just sitting at her work table.”

“I see,” I said.  “And my mama did what exactly.  By way of work?”

There was a long silence from the other side, and then Aunt Janeybelle said.  “I don’t know.  You see, I’ve never gone into her study.  Not a once.”

“I see,” I said, and flung the door open.  As much as my aunt annoyed me, I supposed that I’d have to put up with her.  “Then who found her?  Henry Albert?”

My aunt looked at me, with wide open eyes, and for just a moment it was like she didn’t remember who Henry Albert was, which, considering he was hers and my uncle’s only son, seemed a little odd.  Then she shook her head.  “No.  Henry Albert is just like you don’t you know?  He done left as soon as he’d finished high school.  He’s in New York City and he says he’s some kind of lawyer, though what he wants among them yanks, I don’t know.”  She sniffed.  “Not finding himself a wife, apparently.”

Well, considering that Henry Albert had taken a keen interest in pulling wings off flies, he was probably making a fortune.  But I didn’t want to hear about him, and I returned to my question, “Who found mama?”

“Father Carver.”

“Who?”

“Well,” Aunt Janeybelle said, and looked mildly embarrassed, as if she’d been discussing some rare and strange disease.  Not that she would be in the slightest embarrassed by strange disorders.  Discussing birth, female trouble and menopause was mostly what women in my family did when they got together.  And though they banished boys from the room, it had never occurred to them to banish me.  “The Catholic priest, you know?”

I didn’t know.  Not an idea.  “A… priest?  Mama was Catholic?”

“No, no, no,” my aunt said, hurriedly, reassuringly.  “Nothing like that, I’m sure.  Only when Father Carver came to town… Lor’ I think that was after you left, wasn’t it?  Well, he’s about Henry Albert’s age, or thereabouts, and I guess your mama was like a mama to him.”

I resisted an urge to stare.  I couldn’t imagine my mama being like a mama to anyone.  Even me.  Oh, mind you, she’d kept me fed and clean, but there was none of that flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone that other mothers indulged in.  I started to wonder exactly who this Father Carver was and what he looked like.  I mean, there were stories about Catholic priests, and though most of them didn’t have anything with their seducing middle aged ladies… well… this was the South and it made people do strange things.

In my mind, the sort of purple romance ending in a crime passionale was forming, and I cut it short.  It was the Southern mind, you see.  We were never all that impressed by Wuthering Heights.  Not that we didn’t read it.  We did.  But it paled in comparison to the stories of crazy aunts locked in the attics, mad grandma’s who’d died for love, and the woman down the street who claimed she was eloping, but the next morning they found her dead, with a set of male footprints that walked beside her and stopped abruptly.

I’d read A Rose for Emily in college and suffice it to say that if I hadn’t found it to be precisely advisable behavior to keep your dead lover’s corpse and sleep beside him for years after you murdered him, neither was I particularly shocked.  It was just Miss Moreyne up the street, all over again.

But I wouldn’t think of what might have been going on between Father Carver and mama until I met Father Carver.  I did not think, at any rate, that mama was the sort to get in the type of relationship that ended in her death – though I wouldn’t say anything about her lover’s death.  Aunt Janeybelle maybe.  Mama, never.  “And of what did mama die, precisely?” I asked.

My aunt shrugged.  “The doctor said it was a stroke.”

I shut of my mind on the various meaning of stroke.  There are things one doesn’t think about one’s mama.  I’d go see Father Carver and enquire.  And his God help him if I didn’t like his answer.

Until then, Aunt Janeybelle was there, on the other side of the door, right in the path I needed to take out of the powder room.  And she was looking at me with this curious, sharp expression.

I cleared my throat.  There was no way to just shove her aside and get through.  Not without enduring a speech on my manners.  And she didn’t seem to be disposed to get out of the way on her own.  So I grabbed the t-shirt I had flung on the back of the toilet, and resisted an urge to smell it.  Instead, I folded it neatly.

“How you happened to rip that right across.”

“I don’t rightly know,” I said.  “It happened when I fell.”  Give or take a few minutes.  I looked up, as she was as close to the door as if she meant to come in, but couldn’t.  “Why did you drop by, auntie?”

She blinked, as if startled, as if her dropping by was, of course, something she did constantly.  For all I knew it was true.  After all, she was a widow, mama was alone too, and Henry Albert and I were quite gone.  Not that mama had ever liked my aunt much, but I guessed that after a while what matters is who is left of your generation.

“Well,” she said.  “Well, what with your mama having died here and all, I thought you might have wanted to come and stay in my home.  It’s closer to the shops and all.”

Never mind that the only shops in Blazes were a sort of general store and a five and dime.  I must have looked my reluctance.  I remembered Aunt Janeybelle’s house.  It was clean, with the kind of meticulous cleanliness that looked as though no crumb and no dust particle was allowed to fall in it.  It should have smelled of disinfectant, it looked like.  But instead it smelled of lilacs – a heavy, cloying suffocating scent.

And she crocheted covers for everything.  All her kitchen appliances wore wooly covers, as if they were very cold.  And what she did to hide her toilet paper involved plastic dolls with hoop skirts.  I shuddered at the thought.  “Thank you, but no.  I’ll be fine here.  It won’t be for very long.”

She looked like she was going to say something, but then she just shook her head.  “Well, suit yourself, but why you’d want to stay in this mausoleum!”

“It’s my home,” I said, and as I said it I realized that it was true.  This was home, a home knit in my bones, a home I could not deny or refuse, anymore than I could deny or refuse mama and grandma and that poor ancestress who’d had the misfortune to also be named Honey Child.  Oh, this was going to be much more complicated than I thought.

“Well,” she said, and frowned.  “At least you must come for dinner at my house tonight.”

“All right then,” I said, and started to step forward, hoping she’d get the hint.  She dug for her keys in her huge pink purse, and stepped back, still looking at me.  “I shall expect you at five sharp.”

I wanted to tell her that five wasn’t night, nor even evening, but it wasn’t worth arguing.  “Thank you.  I’ll be there.”

A strong urge to get her out of my house had taken hold, because I’d just remembered – or thought I remembered – a letter half-showing between the pages of that Bible.  With all my luck, it would be a love letter to one of my long-dead ancestresses.  Except that I thought I recognized mama’s handwriting on it.  And I couldn’t imagine reading it in front of my aunt’s prying eyes.

Aunt Janeybelle made her twittering way towards the door.  When she was on the porch, on the other side, I remembered Gabriel Thornblade standing there, dripping rainwater and sexiness.

“Aunt Janeybelle?”

“Yes, dear?” she said, looking way from the bowels of her capacious purse and up at my face.

“Have you ever heard of a Gabriel Thornblade?”

“What?”

“Gabriel Thornblade?”

She blinked at me.  “He wasn’t supposed…”  She stopped and shook her head and it seemed to me she swallowed hard.  “He was the last of the Thornblades.  The one as died in the War Between the States.  Your grandma had a painting of him somewhere, I remember seeing it once, when she was sorting things.  A little painting, you know, a miniature.  With all the other old stuff.”

Since old stuff described most of the house, this wasn’t exactly helpful.  And I wasn’t about to believe I’d made out with a ghost.  “But there is no one by that name now?”

My aunt tittered, a gentle, ladylike laugh.  “Oh, no, dear.  The Thornblades were all quite gone.  Though they say…”

“They say?” I asked, imagining that they said there was some distant relative or something.  This was just what I needed.  I’d made out with some loony Brit – judging from the accent – who’d come back in search of ancestral glories.

“Well, they do say that Gabriel Thornblade walks.”

“Walks?”

She looked at me with sudden impatience, mixed with irritation, as though I’d just asked her to explicitly define the phrase female troubles.  “They say he is a ghost.  He wasn’t a good man.”

And with that she turned and left for her massive bright green SUV which she’d parked next to the rental car.  I watched her putting on driving gloves – gloves! – before she climbed into her car.  And I thought as hard as I could that I sure as hell and Georgia, I most certainly had not been making out with a ghost.

121 responses to “Something Else From The Drawer

  1. Harry the Horrible

    IF you figure out how to stop the feline p*ssing contest, please let me know – I have six landlords and some of them seem to be in a contest, too.

    • Part of it is the three males, thing, but I think mostly it’s Euclid (the model for Pythagoras in the refinishing mysteries.) We don’t have rugs on the floor because of Euclid. He interprets fabric over hard surface as “pee on.” It’s possible he was trained to fabric. He’s a rescue, we got him as an adult. The only note with him was “will hurt other cats.”

      Okay — I don’t know how. Mostly he is in a war with his own tail. BUT he might be scared of other cats, which would account for this.

      Of course, he’s not the one with the heart condition. (Rolls eyes.)

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Well, what happens next? [Wink]

  3. “(Oh, and it’s not exactly spoofing the south. In my head I HAVE a Southern accent, on account of having lived there my first seven years in the US. That’s how I HEAR myself. I’ve considered find a speech coach to make my exterior match what I hear in my head, but people think I’m nuts.)*
    I find that so hilarious that I know you are going to want to kick me.

  4. Wayne Blackburn

    The story itself, I think I would like to see finished. It sounds like the kind of thing I would like to read, and would probably enjoy a lot.

    That said, I think you would need to look for someone to collaborate with, because it seems somewhat jarring in parts, likely because you didn’t grow up there, and some of it sounds like a visitor’s misinterpretation of the way things are. I can’t point to specific paragraphs or phrases, but the overall feel is somewhat off. One thing I can point to (though Honey’s wide reading and having lived away for several years could explain it) is some shifting in and out of a Southern way of phrasing things.

    • Yeah, well… it’s not finished (i.e. edited.) I don’t think collaboration would be right, but if I ever do finish it, I’ll get someone to read it/mark it.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        I get my word usage screwed up at times. That’s really what I meant.

        • well, right now the people I’m likely to collaborate with are a Texan and the mad Aussie :-P

          • Texans are Southern.

            • Yeah, but with enough western in the mix that I don’t know if we’re Deep Southern like Georgia is. At least I, I know I’m probably not. (I have heard it said of the DFW area that “Dallas is where the South ends, and Ft. Worth is where the West begins” so take that as you will).

              • A Texan is Southern enough to be a good collaborator on a Southern story. Dallas isn’t Montgomery thank goodness! I found Montgomery to be a little too sleepy for me.

            • Eh, depends. Up here we’re more western than Southern, in part because the founders were 1/3 Southern, 1/3 Yankee, and 1/3 British. South of here is more Southern, in part because that is the cotton area, with a splash of Mexican. The Edwards Plateau is just strange. East Texas – that’s Southern.

            • Yes, but there are differences in dialect.

              • Texan-Southern is spoken faster than deep Southern (Mississippi, central Georgia before 1990) and not quite as liquid sounding. The dark vowels (ou, oo, u) sound brighter to me in Texan than in deep Southern.

              • Yes, there are. A lot of it doesn’t seem quite right, dialect-wise. But the good news is, that’s probably pretty easy to fix. Find yourself an adviser who’s a native of the area.

                Other “regionalities” I suspect are wrong (but I’m not from Georgia and can’t swear to it)…. (1) I doubt Atlanta is “the place” to go for a dress — no one thinks that much of it. Savannah or some place ultra-local is more likely, i would bet. (2) There’s a certain sort of characteristic Southern girl dirty swearing that can turn the air blue, but it’s far more about rhetorical put-downs than about casual crudity. Her swearing would be much more rhetorical and colorful, even as an act of rebellion. That alone would convey a lot of the atmosphere you want.

                • What struck me was that the accent seemed over done; so much of dialect is the tempo of speech and hard to convey in writing. Especially given that Honey had spent a third of her life elsewhere, I suggest not only toning the accent down but varying its usage — make it stronger as her emotions become more intense. Idioms are okay throughout, of course, but must be carefully used.

                  For the life of me I cain’t understand your not having titled it Gone To Blazes.

            • A lot of the Civil War Vets ended up in Nevada– so sometimes when I talk to a rural Nevadan I hear some of the speech patterns that are not exactly Western. ;-) I, of course, have the Canadian flavor in my speech with the West– (add in some Brit– and you’ll get your head spinning lol) –course I kind of sink into whatever accent of the place I am at–

    • I also had that sense of something feeling off, and on re-reading, I was able to pin it down. It’s Aunt Janeybelle’s name. It just feels like too much, like her name pushes the character over the top somehow. If she had a name like Deborah or Bonnie or something, then she wouldn’t have bothered me… but with a name like Janeybelle, I kept feeling like she was an actor playing a role rather than a genuine person.

      Apart from that, well, just add me to the long list of people who’ve said “Please, let us read the rest of it!”

  5. The narrator main character read like someone with parents who grew up in Georgia but who really considers herself not one of them. It didn’t sound like she could really have spent the first 20 years of her life there because she made references to how words were pronounced as if the Georgian way was odd instead of the non-Georgian way being odd. It seems like like all those distinctions could be made, but they’d believably enforce her characterization if she presented them with a different twist.

    Does any of that help at all?

    • Well, mostly I need to know if it’s worth finishing — but the truth is while she spent the first 20 years there her parentage turns out to be… odd…

      Um… I COULD have her raised mostly elsewhere except for summers. I mean her mom was SERIOUSLY weird.

      • I think it is interesting and worth finishing… if there isn’t something else screaming louder that seems like a better bet.

        I am concerned that presenting the main character as southern but having her critical in a way that seems to be critical of southerners as odds instead of critical of humanity would make the story unpalatably insulting to a largish chunk of the potential audience. I tried to point out which things made me think it was insulting instead of characterization so that you’d have that data (along with hopeful feedback from a lot of others).

        • Southerners of her class aren’t usually critical of Southerners, though they may be critical of small towns and the lack of privacy. It’s considered a plus to know everything about everyone’s family going back generations. You may wish for anonymity and flee to get it, but you typically respect the culture.

          The thing about the South that many people don’t get is that much of the culture is still intact, a culture of knowledge of place and history, of manners as a civilizing force, of the knowledge of human failings. It’s an old honor culture and their is much to approve of in it. Even if locals leave, they respect that.

      • That might be interesting “We only spent summers there. Mother said the winters were dangerous. I never figured out what illness she thought haunted Georgia, but never made it to any of the various places we lived . . . ”

        Or maybe they _always_ left town within a week or two of school ending, and never came back until late August. “Did she think there was malaria or something?”

        Whatever works, could be useful as forshadowing.

        • No, her mom would have taught her exorcism, but she thought it was all crazy and forgot most of it. Or she forgot most of it for other reasons. (I did say this is a profoundly weird book, right?)

          I know Honey’s dad is supernatural, but NOT a ghost.

          If she only spent summers there, she wouldn’t have lived with her mother. Which actually might be better, given Honey’s … er… nature. Her mother might not have wanted her around in case things got… er… confused.

          Her cousin is — I THINK — gay. Or not human. He’s not eligible, anyway.

          • Likely Momma taught her exorcism while still quite young, and it is a long forgotten knowledge, the sort of thing she knows she knows but can’t quite call to mind. Returning to the old homestead has a way of reviving long dormant memories of all kinds.

      • Yeah, but I think JP is right. It misses the feel of her being a native, no matter how far she’s come or how odd her upbringing.

        That said, sure, I think you should finish it. I think it has promise.

      • Finish it. That’s more than enough of a hook to catch with. Weird is good. Really weird parentage is excellent. I keep hoping my father will sit down with me and say something like, “now, son, you know how you never felt like you fit in? There’s a reason . . .” Hasn’t happened yet. /sigh

        • I have wondered why I didn’t fit into my family (prayed at one point that I was adopted). However, when you get into my weird heritage, my love of adventure and travel are written in my heritage. I guess I am a throwback (except female. lol)

  6. Well, I’m intrigued. Is he a time traveler? Vampire? Time traveling vampire?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      What ever else he is, I suspect that he’s the father of “Honey”. (Yes, considering how he was all over her, that’s icky).

      • Wayne Blackburn

        By the story line, he would maybe have been her great-great-grandfather (if I counted right). And the other obvious implication is that she looks just like her g-g-grandmother.

        • I was assuming he was the lost love of the g-g-grandmother and that g-g-grandma had married someone else.

          At first I thought he was going to be her dad and was greatly relieved to find the ick reduced by him being someone in love with her g-g-grandma. It hadn’t occurred to me that he could be her g-g-grandpa.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well Wayne, if he came on her mother like that, he might have fathered her.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Maybe so, but now you’re speculating on ghosts being able to impregnate someone.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Wayne, to quote Honey “I most certainly had not been making out with a ghost”. [Wink]

      • No. He’s not even her remote ancestor…

          • I’m SO not touching that…

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Now Sarah, what kind of guy do you think I am?

              I was just thinking about the idea that authors should think of the worst things to happen to a character and *do it*.

              How here’s a lady who meets a “hot guy” who doesn’t know that he’s her father. What could be worse????? [Evil Grin]

              • Except it’s a very bad setup for both supernatural romance AND Urban Fantasy. Also, I suffered through SO MANY “literary” versions of this that I gag at the idea.

                • Re-writing Oedipus is something that “literary” authors try a lot, is it? Would you say this obsession rises to the level of being, say, a complex?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Point

                • Indeed: Human Wave doesn’t flow that way. Far too much squick to overcome to qualify. You can do it, but the character absolutely MUST be turned off by it. If Honey’d been nauseated and tried to knee him in the voonerables, you could play it that way. Even if they’d both participated in the kiss, but had the “feels like kissing my sister” moment, and play it for laughs, that’d work fine. As is, he’s a serious contender, and given that Aunty Prissybritches mentioned that he’d never come back from the Late Unpleasantness, odds are good they don’t share a significant percentage of genetic material.

                • It is always HW to upend conventions and expectations. Honey has read so much of that type of novel that she misleads us with her anticipations, giving an extra twist to things. But it would be wise to signal that potentiality early on, so readers are prepared for Honey’s interpretations of events and clues to be wrong.

  7. Alpha Reader’s hat on:

    (1) Good opening, but is it for _this_ book? It sounds like her mother did _not_ teach her to pack her exorcism kit. Or even to _never_ invite a stranger in, especially the ones in century old clothing.

    (2) Oy! Three eligible men? Time traveling (or dead) Gabriel, the NY Lawyer and the Priest? Doesn’t the poor girl deserve better?

    (3) And is Aunt Janniebelle her mother’s sister or a cousin twice removed who was addressed as Aunt, and thus not close family to have been raised in Atlanta, not in the house and “never gone in the study.” Or the sister of the mysterious father? He wouldn’t be so mysterious, then, would he?

    (4) If Gabriel is her g-g-g-grandfather . . . or worse, grandfather . . . or worse . . . Wait, how many generations of women have grown up in this house, still named Childe? My ick factor is off scale. Most likely this could be an Erotica Best Seller.

    (5) You could go any direction with this. Have Ney frightened, and you could do spooky (not slasher) horror. “Breaking the family curse” sort of thing. Or for a paranormal romance, make it immediately very clear that he _isn’t_ a relative. Or get Henry Albert or the priest in quickly and have a romance. Not that I’m telling you anything new, just nattering on . . .

    (6) MORE!!!! Damn it, how can you draw a reader in like this, then cut them off! You’ve got my imagination going, and that’s a dangerous thing!

    (7) Probably more fun for Ney and Ghost-Gabriel to kick the Marriage minded Lawyer and Exorcism minded Priest off the balcony, but . . . Damn it Sarah, this is _your_ fault!

    • Wayne Blackburn

      A couple of points, Pam,

      1) I missed that – good point.

      2) The Lawyer is her cousin. Despite tales about the South, that’s not likely to be considered an eligible male.

      3) Aunt Janeybelle is explained to have been married to Honey’s mother’s brother.

      • Ah. I missed the line about the uncle . . . so why doesn’t Henry Albert own half the house? Didn’t Janniebelle and her husband inherit? Ever live there? Family estrangement?

        I’m trying to think of an American subculture this would fit. Even San Francisco is a bit too recent. Colorado/Nevada/California gold mining town with the decendants of the first Madam? G,D&R!

        • Pam, you’re assuming stuff. There is a reason for the house and the line of women — think fantasy reason. Magic… women, it will come to you. It’s just Honey’s mother went too far. We’ll say that. As for owning, it wouldn’t be the first time a family member buys the other one out.

          • The problem I have is not with the female line inheritance, but the combination with the “Down here, I was Miss Childe and she said the locals noticed when I dressed like a common chit.” A very Southern Attitude. But what might be missing is “because of the talk about my absent father, and whether there had actually been a marriage or not.”

            My Southern relatives were always a generation behind the others in modern mores . . . and illegitimate children were still scandalous for the California bunch.

            I can see the Childe’s being mentioned as “Those very strange people out there” but they’d have to be doing some magic to be “Very Proper”. Especially if they didn’t attend church.

            • Not for someone younger than us… it wouldn’t be scandalous. And yes, they’d be considered VERY odd.

              • Of course, there aren’t any date tags in there, I was assuming more or less “now,” So a twenty-eight year old would be born in the mid-eighties. Ten years after the “Flower children” scandalized their parents. Still, small town, old people, there would have been plenty of talk. Not sure how that would translate to Georgia.

              • Yes, it would be scandalous. Regional difference. Local families in the South, who’ve been there for several generations and can name all the ancestors, care about the dishonor brought upon their families by misbehaving youngsters, because they still have honor. Not that the young ones wouldn’t misbehave, but there would be very strong pressure brought to bear to paper that over with proper behavior and manners after the fact.

  8. Okay, one piece of feedback–as usual, enjoyed the story and its odd directions. Almost quit reading at the beginning, though, because the southernisms grated on me. They might work if you toned them down a bit, kind of like cussing, once every page still gets the feeling of cussing-ness across.

    If you want the feel of a slightly cracked Georgian belle, try Charming Grace, by Deborah Stone.

  9. Oh, hell yes, it’s worth finishing. The only suggestion I’d make is that you find an actual southerner to vet it before you publish.

  10. I love it. If you finish it, I will read it.

    That is all.
    :)

  11. Nice snippet, when are we going to see the rest of it? There is a part of me dancing around going “Do you want/need a beta?” Another part of me is kind of hoping not to see the rest. Something about this disturbs me, and it isn’t making out with a ghost. Very moving on a deep internal level.

  12. TEASE– I want to read the rest of this one– Course I am not a Southern lady, but I have had friends from the South. ;-)

  13. Both for Witchfinder and as encouragement to finish this southern tale I just paypal’d your donate button for twenty bucks. Complements are great for the ego, but the grocery store wants hard cash, so here is a bit of both to keep you going.
    Story needs editing as you well know and a bit of grammar checking while carefully avoiding squashing the southernisms, but even in rough form it’s plain that you are a skilled story teller. Hope you will consider finishing the tale.

    • I’ll consider it. A good half of my friends are from the south, and I can probably twist their arms to read it.

      Yep, this is first draft, as Miss Honey Childe (curse her!) dictated.

  14. Would love to see where this is going, and as a Alabama girl (altho have wandered far) whose mother’s family was from GA it was not too grating. However cut the molasses line, please! When we expatriots from the South talk to someone from back home, even someone who has a stong accent-they sound right, not slow.

  15. I’ve lived all over the South all of my life. The past 48 years in East Tennessee. I want to read the rest of this story. Definitely some intrigue in here. I like it.
    My only real criticism would be that Aunt Janeybelle needs to lose either the Janey or the belle. I’ve heard of both, down here, but never together.

  16. I like it. BUT as a southerner, who has lived in Georgia, but who is a Texan, I have only one criticism and it is a very valid point. In Colorado the blackberries may ripen in the fall but in the warm south they are ready even in Northern Georgia well before summer is over. Nit picking I know but I have made lots of jam in my time and it was not in the fall. It was always before summer, even before school was out for summer. Otherwise I’m fine with it, really wish the rest was there so I could finish the story.

  17. I’m like Cyn: read to the end, wanted the rest.

    I have absolutely no Southern exposure, having been born in CA, grown up in Mexico, gone to Seattle U, then U. Wisconsin Madison, and have worked and lived on the East Coast (MD and NJ) since. So I can’t say – but it sounded fine to me (accent-wise), if a tiny bit long-winded.

    People write outside their experience all the time. Run it past a southern friend when you’re finished with the STORY, to catch anything horrid.

    I think you did a good job of suggesting supernatural or horror or something in the beginning – that, plus a bit on the cover and you should be good.

    Not my genre – but you write it, I at least consider it – and the writing is good.

    I misunderstood – I thought your trunk writing stuff was finished. You’ve already invested in this, and it’s definitely finishable (word?), but only you can decide how much more effort you’d need to pour in – or how much you want to.

    If you don’t decide to finish, could you tell us all what happened? I hate unfinished stories. Even the ones I throw against the wall, I first read the last three chapters of.

  18. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It’s an excellent book, and for a change the movie version is also excellent. It conveys that perfect mix of respectability, manners, and scandal in the traditional South, even in the modern era.

    • I’ve seen it and read it. BUT — how do I convey small town “this family is odd?” My family was odd for our village and this didn’t cut us slack on dress, but it cut us slack on all sorts of things…

      • Introduce a character from outside the family but who is still a local and says just that? In idiom, however. Tough in a single-viewpoint story. Hmmm…

        • Not hard – do it in dialogue with other person: “Honey, we all knew your family was odd, I first heard that from my g-g-ma almost before I was outen diapers.” Or, since the priest is new come to Blazes, he could say he had been warned the Childe family was peculiar.

          • He’s d*mn peculiar himself.

            • I find I have a problem with that word “outen” I have never heard anyone actually use that word. I have not spent my entire life among college professors although I am married to a retired one. I grew up poor, we used proper English. I knew a lot of farmers and laborers but I never heard anyone use that word. I used to wonder why my mother’s English was so good but her sister’s sounded very hillbilly to my ears and she never used that word.

              • Wayne Blackburn

                Maybe it’s something from the Hillbillies closer to the North. I’ve heard that used, though not often.

                • Born & raised in West By Gawd Virginny. I adapt my dialectical to mah intended purpose and couldn’a say whence came thet word, other than it sometimes flows outen my mouth.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            … he had been warned the Childe family was peculiar.

            Well, they probably have Dorsai or Exotic blood in their ancestry.

            What’s that? Oh, the Childe family, not the Childe cycle? Sorry. carry on.

      • IIRC, in the beginning of Cold Sassy Tree (the novel), when the MC survives the train, there is much gossip and discussion about the family being “that way” and being angel-touched or the like. In my family, everyone understands that one branch is more Irish than the rest, “Irish” having nothing to do with ancestry and a lot to do with the uncanny. I also recall one of my aunts speaking of someone that everyone knew growing up and saying, “well, he’s a [family name] on his father’s side, you know,” as if that explained the eccentricity. And it did, judging by the nods and “um huh” that followed.

  19. I haven’t finished it yet, but what I have read (the first chapter?) is definitely good enough to spend time completing. I’m from the South — deep south. If you go much further south, you need to wear waders and cling to a pontoon. I do not now, nor have I ever had, a Southern Accent. Period. Most of Dad’s side of the family never had one. Since the family came to the US as part of the Highlanders General Oglethorpe hired to guard his new city of Savannah, we also have strong Georgia ties. My family came from Scotland (Skye, Islay, Dumfries), and were mostly ministers and traders. They quickly moved inland, into what is now Alabama. They also intermarried with a couple of other Scottish families and the Native Americans (Creeks). I know Southern, having it knocked into my head since I was a wee cub.

    There are a lot of misconceptions about the South, and Southern expression. Most people on the outside aren’t aware that Southern people are divided into three classes: the upper class, mostly landowners, especially those with inherited property, but also including lawyers, doctors, and some politicians; the tradesmen/working folk; and “them” — people that are pretty much considered to be beneath notice (that includes most of what’s referred to derogatorily as “trailer trash, and just about anyone on government assistance or welfare). It’s never openly expressed, but it exists, and the locals can judge within an hour whether you’re one of them, and in what class, or whether you’re an outsider, which means you can be given a chance to show where you belong on the social scale.

    During the time of the Civil War, the lines would have been rigidly enforced, and children of well-to-do families schooled at home. Only the middle class went to government-provided school consistently, with the lower class attending for a few years, then dropping out, if that (I’m talking the period following the Civil War until about 1940. WWII changed a lot of things, but school the most). I know I’m painting with a broad brush, but I’m trying to relate to the vignette you’ve created here. Honey would have attended public school much as you’ve depicted it. However, her language would have definitely been more refined, and “ain’t” would be used for emphasis, not commonly. Also, if she’d lived in Colorado for six or eight years, It would have been reduced even more.

    If her mother and her aunt moved in the upper echelons of society, it would have affected Honey’s language and behavior subconsciously. It doesn’t mean she wouldn’t use foul language, but she would use it like a knife, cutting deep, rather than as a blunt instrument. Even thirty years in Colorado wouldn’t have changed that. As for the “family business”, I can give you some insight on that as well, having learned a bit of it from a few of my own ancestors and an old, old “witch” I befriended when I was a teen.

    If you need a reader, whatever class, and suggestions, I’ll be glad to do whatever I can to help. Just, please, please, FINISH IT!!!

    • This is very good advice. You might also want to drop a scathing “Bless her heart,” in there somewhere. It is NOT a blessing.
      I agree, ain’t definitely doesn’t ring true unless said amongst friends who know it is not what you would use in most cases. It is used for emphasis such as “I damn sure AIN’T givin’ up MY gun.”

      • My aunt’s most scathing deconstruction of another person usually ended with “bless her little pea-picking heart”. The only people that “picked peas” were sharecroppers or poor dirt farmers. The latter describes my family.

        RE: blackberries. Blackberries grow in huge clusters, usually referred to as breaks. Cane-breaks are another way of saying it. They bloom in early April, and continue to bloom into late August. Berries get ripe beginning in early June, and continue through October. I used to earn my spending money by picking blackberries for my mother to can and make jelly with. Quick fact: blackberry jelly has had the seeds and mash strained out (usually through a cloth), while blackberry jam has the crushed berry skins and seeds in it. The straining is done once the berries have been blanched (before the juice is cooked down) in making jelly.

        I’ve never heard much talk about elderberries in Louisiana, but I have heard a lot about musqedine wine. Musquedines are small berries about the size of a marble. You MIGHT get fifteen berries off a vine. Blackberry brandy was supposed to be some of the finest liqueur ever produced. I know from personal experience that blackberries add a nice flavor to moonshine…

        • Oh geez– that was an epitaph in my family “bless her pea-picking heart.” We knew Mom was at her sarcastic–

        • We used to pick blackberries for jam where I grew up. I KNOW blackberries ;) Actually any walk in the woods was accompanied by eating the wild blackberries as you went. And getting bawled out by mom for stains that couldn’t be removed.

        • Muscadines are a kind of grape that like blackberries grow both wild and cultivated throughout the Southeast. I know from experience that they are fine eating right off the vine, though their skins are tough and they have seeds. Seems to be a natural instinct for common folk to take any crop that grows well and has a decent sugar content and make it into an alcoholic beverage of some sort. Muscadine wine has a strong distinctive flavor. Have not heard of it being turned into brandy though no reason it couldn’t be. Blackberry wine and brandy in moderation have been used as folk remedies to cure tummy troubles.

        • “Quick fact: blackberry jelly has had the seeds and mash strained out (usually through a cloth), while blackberry jam has the crushed berry skins and seeds in it.”

          Yes, but jam is much better than jelly IMHO. We always called patches of blackberries briarpatches, here breaks are very steep, rocky, rimmy country, usually breaking off into a river. The term canebreaks always confused me, because usually they are described as being flat, and I have a hard time picturing flat ‘breaks’.

          • Bearcat — where I grew up in Louisiana (the piney hills north of the Red River), blackberries grew in huge patches several hundred feet long and 40-50 feet wide in places. Lots of animals liked to nest inside the largest groups of brier canes (country blackberries have THORNS!), which were called ‘breaks’ because they usually grew in open spaces between the pines. You CANNOT go through them with anything less than a tank. The biggest problems we had picking blackberries was watching out for snakes and spiders. Copperheads and water moccasins loved to hide in blackberries and ambush the birds that came to feast on the berries. The worst spiders were black widows. The rest were mostly harmless.

            • I grew up on the coast of Washington and they grew in much the same areas (here they only grow in the low country, they don’t like higher elevations). Any abandoned field or homestead would become one big briarpatch. I used to hate surveying old places because they would be nothing but blackberry briars, we would end up finding trees to fall down the lines, mashing down the briars, then walk down the tree cutting the limbs off, or failing an avialability of trees close to line, we would cut a pole and use it to beat the briars down and then chop the ones mashed under the pole with a machete. (anyone who has tried to cut briars with a chainsaw will quickly, and probably profanely, tell you this is a BAD IDEA) Luckily we didn’t have poisonous snakes and the only poisonous spiders were brown recluses which were rare.

      • Er… I use ain’t for emphasis. AND I use Bless Her Heart. Correctly. ;)

        Part of this is that the culture I come from has more in common with the South than you can imagine. (The NORTH of Portugal, not Portugal in general.) It’s just sometimes the translation… And I have clue zero why this is set in GEORGIA. I’ve lived in NC, and I have friends from all over the south, but NOT Georgia. It was just how it presented.

        The mix of love hate, though, I think might be my own background bleeding through. It’s possible to be mad in love with a place and LOATHE it at the same time, and I think that’s Honey’s issue.

    • Better than I could put it.

      Don’t get me wrong, Sarah, I think this is a good story and I want to know what happens next. I just think the whole “character is reasonably representative of her putative background and upbringing” stuff isn’t quite there. But I also think it would be straightforward to adjust that, and then go for it.

      We all want to know what happens next, and that’s the important part!

  20. Me, too! Definitely put this one on the list to be worked on. We all want moar!

  21. Sorry – can’t say if it is worth finishing unless I finish it. ‘Sworth starting, that’s for sure. I’d probably stay with it, even as rough as it is at points and clearly in a genre I wouldn’t ordinarily read. OTOH, without “By Sarah Hoyt” on it I suspect I would not never commence to reading it.

  22. In reply to several. I am old, 76, so I’ve lived through a lot of generations in the south and southwest. I see through my viewpoint and like the rest of you that is what guides me. As for the “ain’t” and “bless her heart” if I missed your point Sarah, sorry, I was reading rather quickly and will re-read for better understanding.
    As to blackberry jam, I have to say I prefer dewberries. Dewberry canes are prostrate, blackberries grow upright.
    I always though cane breaks were the huge thickets of canes the Texians had to cross when fleeing Santa Ana.
    (I’m not that old, I wasn’t there.)
    Pea Picking- a term used by a lot of people including Tennessee Ernie Ford a favorite singer of mine.
    I like this story, I’ve read many similar to it and would like to read the finished book. I am assuming this would not be a book for deep thinkers but one that pleasantly passes the time and leaves you wanting to know more about the characters. We need books like that too.

    • yes. I think it would be almost at the level of a paranormal romance, except I’m not sure I CAN write explicit what goes where without getting bored… ;)

      • So don’t write explicit what goes where. Allusion to is usually more powerful than graphic description. Besides, I would like to see a return to a tim when closing the bedroom door firmly behind them was enough. Much more human wave IMHO

      • Personally I don’t read explicit sex scenes and am very annoyed when a scene lasts up to five pages or more (just read one recently and I had to put it down even though I liked the story). I sometimes write paranormal romance and I put a starter scene– and then leave them to it … A few years ago I was pretty annoyed with I found that romance had gone to three required sex scenes with at least two of them explicit sex. Why? Why? did this become acceptable. Dang it– Because I flip through the sex scenes, I feel cheated that I lose 20 pages or more that should have been the STORY. I should get a refund on those pages imho.

        • GOOD Romance writers make the sex count — but the thing any “obligatory/set pieces” are going to mean the piece suffers. Some books don’t WANT explicit sex.

          • Well–it was a good Romance writer– I just get impatient… I mean, I know where tab A goes. (usually slot b). Unless we are talking alien romance and I might (might) have a prurient interest of where the tabs go…

          • With Indie, you don’t have to meet any publisher’s check list. Titlilate, go for emotion. Never mind the tabs, most readers know about that part, so memory and imagination can supply a lot of background for the fancy embroidery the writer puts around it.

  23. I very much like. It’s a little heavy on the interior dialogue for my tastes, but I’m definitely enthralled. :)