Thursday, May 30, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 8

Episode 8 - "Plink's Plan of Escape"
by Camille LaGuire

Antonio was -- had been -- a slight man.  Not much taller than Plink herself.  His coat ought to fit well enough. And since he had a tendency toward flamboyance, he had a large floppy-brimmed hat.  Her feet sticking out from beneath the coat might give her away.  It would be clear she wasn't wearing trousers... but there were those riding boots. Tall enough to disguise her lowest extremities.
She slipped off her small boots and stuck them in her suitcase, and donned her disguise, but as she reached for the hat, she realized that her chestnut hair was too short to gather and hide under the hat. But she might cover it to hide the color at least.

She pulled the dark blue scarf from her neck, and wound it round her head, tucking it behind her ears so that it could be mistaken for hair if any showed from under the hat.

She grabbed her suitcase and peeked out the front door. 

The man stood there on the walk, looking up and down the street.  If he saw her come out of the house, even in disguise, the game would be up.  Behind her, she could hear the boss and his sidekick Bains searching the back of the house. They'd move to the front soon.


She tried to remember which side of the house had a narrow alley beside it.  She was pretty sure it was on the office side, to the right.

She glanced through the door again, and dashed across and into Antonio's office.

It was a cluttered room, and showed signs that someone had been searching it; drawers open, papers scattered about the desk.  Across the room was a small window, half covered by a folding screen.  She ran to it, and adjusted the screen to shield her from view if the other men returned.

The window was small, but large enough to get herself and her overnight bag through.  She carefully pushed the sash up, and found it didn't stick too badly, but it made some noise.  She paused, but heard no footsteps running to see what made the sound.

Below was a fine narrow alley, no one guarding it at either end, and there were dustbins to hide behind.  But the window was a tad high, and the dustbins were so close, that dropping her suitcase might make a racket.

She could lower the bag and perhaps herself with the assistance of an umbrella. 

She turned to go back to the hall and fetch one, when she saw, behind the door, Antonio's silver handled cane.  It was lying cross-wise atop a small suitcase along with a pair of gloves and a large leather wallet, of the sort you might keep your papers or tickets in when traveling.

Two thoughts struck Plink on viewing this tableau: one was that Antonio had clearly set out these things in preparation for his trip, and the other was that whoever had been searching the room hadn't got to that side of the room yet.

The other side of the room was all in disarray. This side was not. And the suitcase was out of view of where the man had been searching.  He probably hadn't seen it.

And if Antonio had something they wanted, wouldn't he take it with him on his trip?

Plink bounded across the room.  She peeked out the door as she slipped the wallet and gloves into the pockets of the coat, and took up the suitcase and cane.  She could hear the men, distantly.  Maybe coming closer.

She slipped back to the window, and lowered the suitcases as quickly as she could. The voices were already closer.

"What will we do with him?" asked Bains.  He seemed to be standing near the body -- not at all far from the door to the office.  "Best to make it disappear, shouldn't we?"

"Leave that to the Varishkins," said the leader.  "They're good at making things disapper.  Go up and check on them.  Tell them to take the body when they're done."

Plink tossed the hat and coat out the window, and slipped one leg through.  The men had stopped talking and footsteps moved toward the office.  Oh, blast! she thought.  She pushed herself through as quickly as she could manage without making much noise. 

Thank god I'm good at climbing lampposts and things, she thought.

She clung to the sash as she got her feet down, and onto the suitcases below. She leaned against he wall and slid downward, hoping the wobbling suitcases would hold.

Stay Tuned For Episode 9 - "Antonio's Itinerary"

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Monday, May 27, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 7

Episode 7 - "Burly Men With Nefarious Intentions"
by Camille LaGuire

Plink stood still in shock for a tiny moment.

Was this a coincidence?  Had Antonio simply fallen down the stairs?  No, no, it couldn't possibly be. His was lying with his feet to the side of the stairs.

He hadn't fallen. Someone had bashed his head in.

And was that her fault? Had she somehow brought this on him?

She started to step closer, but then she heard the sound of footsteps overhead.  Someone was in the house, perhaps the killer.  She wheeled around to run out the door, but she heard running footsteps on the walk, and the man she'd mistaken for a chauffeur -- the one reading a paper and leaning on a car -- came running into view.

She ducked into the shadows behind the door before he saw her.

There was a large coat rack, with several hats and long coats on it, and Plink slipped behind them.  She set her suitcase down against the wall as if it were stored there, and lined her feet up with a pair of old riding boots, hoping that the small winter boots she'd worn to ease her sore feet would blend in.

She needn't have worried about that.  The man who came in behind her shoved the door open so violently that it slammed back against the coat rack, covering it and her completely from view.

"Hoy! Hoy!" he called. "She's here! Catch her!"

His call was answered by other calls within the house, and the thundering of feet.  Some from upstairs, another from the next room.  There must have been at least five or six of them.

As they gathered, the chauffeur man continued calling to them.

"She just came in here!  Came in a taxi. Almost missed her. That baroness!  She's here!"

"Are you sure?" said an accented voice.

"Course I'm sure!  Bobbed red hair.  Can't miss her."

There was then a general hubbub, in a mix of languages.  One voice rose a little above the others, in quick, quiet command.

"You, out back.  You, in front.  Don't let her get out if she's still inside. You two, check out the streets all around, in case she's already out."

This man spoke with a flat, nasal, Freedonian accent.  More cultured, perhaps, than she expected from a big city gangster or a cowboy.  But then, Freedonian gangsters were always called things like "Gentleman Jim." Perhaps their leaders had to meet some educational requirements.

There was a scurrying and shuffliing as at least half their cohort went outside to obey their leader.

"Bains!  You were in that front parlor?"

"Yes, boss."

"And I was searching the office.  The only way she could go was upstairs or to the back.  You boys go upstairs, Bains and I'll search down here."  Then, as footsteps thundered up the stairs, he called out, "And be thorough!  She can't get out, so there's no hurry."

There was a moment of silence, and Plink wished dearly that she could peek out from behind the coat rack, but there was a solid door as well as several coats in her way.

"Well, boss," said the voice of Bains. "This means Maurinos lied to us."

"That he did.  But we lied to him, so I guess it's even," said the boss.

"This has got out of hand," said Bains.  "We need to pack up and--"

"No we don't," said the Boss firmly.  "We've got it fixed. The police will stay out of it."

"For you they might, you've got high up friends.  But the rest of us will rot.  We'll swing!"

"No you won't.  My friends, as you call them, want us to succeed. If the police get in the way, a little phonecall here, and another one there, the case gets transferred, shuffled, and forgotten."

"They won't forget the murder of a baroness," said Bains.

"Oh, that we'll just blame on Maurinos." The boss paused, and then chuckled.  "It's only right," he added.  "Let's get cracking.  We'll start at the back and move to the front."

Their voices and footsteps faded and Plink was left alone, except for poor Antonio.  She resisted the urge to shove the coats aside and run screaming out the door.  They were watching the door, and the street itself.

Watching for her.

But there were other people on the street.  These men weren't watching for everyone.  They were not, for instance, looking for a man....

Stay Tuned For Episode 8 - "Plink's Plan of Escape"

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Update -- Chasing Squirrels

I've had a more productive week than I thought I was having.  But I did spend a lot of the week chasing squirrels.

As distractions go, "squirrels" are at least fun.  (If you've never seen the movie UP; the talking dogs have a tendency to whip their heads around and say "Squirrel!" in the middle of any conversation.)  They're the shiny, pretty new things that can grab and absorb your attention completely for a bit.  They're kind of like Popcorn Kittens --with one vital difference.

Squirrels are temporary distractions which don't hold you.  You can think "Squirrel!" and hare off and play for a short time and then return to what you're doing.  As a matter of fact, a really good squirrel tends to become boring rather quickly.

For example:

One part of my Experiment in Mercenary Writing involves Twitter.  The idea of the overall experiment is to test whether the best promotion for a book is another book.  And as a part of testing that, I'm doing it under pen names and keeping a firewall between me and the book identities.

However, books hidden in your basement are unlikely to be found, no matter how many of them there are. So I felt I needed an announcement mechanism.  I decided on Twitter for many reasons I won't go into now, but you need to establish a Twitter follower base before you make the announcements.

And as long as I'm using both pen names and creating a new Twitter account, it seems like this would be a good time to use some of those "power user" methods of gaining a following and promoting to it. (I am modifying these to be less annoying, but that's one of the things I love about Twitter -- the users do not have to put up with or battle annoying behavior.  You can just unfollow and those people are gone.)

Thus I was chasing some Twitter squirrels this week. (Actually, though my other accounts don't follow them, there are a lot of very cool squirrels to follow on Twitter.  Particularly "Clyde The Exceptional Squirrel," and if you are into progressive politics, there's Beebz and Mad City Squirrel....  Whoops, I just chased squirrels again, didn't I?)

In the meantime, the writing:

Is going well.  Not as well as I'd hoped, but I now have four projects in the queue for the experiment (and the romantic suspense is back on) and I've been working hard on The Serial.

One of the things that set me back was that I was going to spend this week trying to get several episodes ahead on The Serial.  This did not work.  This is a story that likes to be written on deadline -- and real deadlines, not pretend ones I set for myself.  If I spend more time, I just spend more time, and don't get more story.  (I do get more and better plotting, though.)

So new plan: I have a time later this summer when I will be out of town and will have to have a couple of episodes done ahead.  I'll set aside the week before that to get more episodes done.  That will be on deadline too.

Now back to the drawing board...

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 6

Episode 6 - "Making Use of One's Reputation"
by Camille LaGuire

"Run away with Antonio?" said Mrs. Lister. "And why would you want to do that, after all the trouble you had to say this wasn't a prank."

"My would be killers are waiting for news of my disappearance and death," said Plink.  "If I do nothing, they'll know I'm all right, but if they hear I disappeared and everyone is assuming I ran off with Antonio, well, they'll know that's wrong.  So perhaps they'll think they succeeded and get on with their business and leave me alone."

"A large perhaps, madame," said Lister.

'Indeed," said Plink.  "I'd better ring up Antonio and give him the heads up."

She got to her feet, and found that she could walk all right if she paused to wiggle and stretch her toes.  Then she went to her writing desk where she kept the phone and all her correspondence.  Plink was terrible at remembering numbers, so she rifled through and found where she wrote it down.

"The question is," said Plink, as she dialed, "should I ask him to play along, or pretend complete ignorance?"

"If you want the killers to be fooled, it's better if he's ignorant."

"Yes, but if he sits there and professes ignorance, then it will be clear enough to everyone that I didn't run away.  And then everyone will ask what happened to me, and the police will tell them that they saw me here and in good health this morning."

The telephone continued to ring.  Antonio was notorious for taking his time in answering, so she let it, and glanced over her correspondence.  There was a note there from Antonio, regarding the party:

This is to remind you, dear Plink, that I have to catch the one o'clock boat train the next afternoon, so I will be leaving your party early.  I am devastated that I will not be able to dance with you until dawn, but when one goes to the continent, one has so many things to prepare.

"Oh, blast!" said Plink.

"Your ladyship?"

"Sorry, I just remembered that Antonio is leaving town today. He must already be gone."

"That resolves it then.  He'll be gone, so no one can ask him whether you've run off with him."

"It seems rum letting him go off without knowing he's being blamed for it all, though."

The phone was still ringing, however, so she hung up and collapsed down into a chair.

"The fact is, Lister, I wanted to talk to him anyway.  Antonio is the sort who sees everything.  If anyone noticed anything odd at that party, he'd be the one to see it.  And he has a wonderful devious mind...."

Lister had come over to look at the note Plink had been waving around, and finally took it away, ever so politely, to read it herself.

"His train doesn't leave until one.  He might only be out for breakfast."

"Yes!" said Plink, sitting up. "And if he doesn't go back home, I can probably catch him at the station or ....  Lister!  Pack a small overnight bag, quick!  I'll go with him on the train, and we can conspire in full.  I could even take the boat over with him.  We can start an investigative notebook and he can give me every detail."

"I'll include your passport," said Lister.

It was barely a half hour before Plink was ready, and dressed in plain and inconspicuous clothes, and small boots which were not attractive, but comfortable on her sore feet.

Lister called a taxi to wait in the mews out back, just in case the killers were watching the house.  If Lister questioned this precaution, she didn't let on.

Antonio lived in a bohemian district beyond the park, on a nice little street, where it was fashionable enough for is clients, but affordable for a man who always had to live above his means.  Plink paid off the cab and took up her little suitcase.

She should have asked him to wait, at least until she had determined if anyone was home.  But she didn't and the taxi drove off before she thought of it.

And suddenly she felt nervous.   There was no reason for it.  It was a quiet neighborhood, but there were people around.  A maid with a perambulator, a chauffeur leaning against a car a few doors down, reading a newspaper.

Perhaps she was nervous about how Antonio might react to her horning in on his trip.  Well, it was an emergency. She was nearly murdered, and if the police had believed her, they might have stopped him taking his trip at all.

Plink went up the stairs and raised her hand to knock, but as her hand touched the door, it swung away.

The door was not latched.  She pushed it open and noted a sort of coppery, metallic smell.  She stepped inside the darkened hall and saw a figure sprawled near the bottom of the stairs.

It was Antonio, his head lying in small pool of blood. His eyes were open and glassy. Unblinking.

Definitely dead.

Stay Tuned For Episode 7 - "Burly Men with Nefarious Intentions"
(Available after 8am EST, Mon)

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Story Notes - Episode Endings vs. Chapter Endings (and a change in Ep 5)

Yesterday, Episode 5 of The Case of the Misplaced Baroness got posted with a place holder for the last line.  I corrected it in the morning, but some of you likely only saw the original, so I'll mention it here.

In the orignal, Plink informs Mrs. Lister that she needs to talk to Antonio.

The line now reads that she needs to run off with Antonio.

The line was wrong because Blogger went gazookie last night, and I ended up fighting technology rather than finishing the last go on the story.  I was up until four, my brain was no longer functioning, so I left the place holder.

It was not a big difference, but it was in the last line, and for a serial, that is important.

Pulling a "George Lucas"

They say that in the script of Return of the Jedi, during the fight between Luke and Vader, there was a spot which read: "Vader says something to get Luke really mad." They didn't have an actual line, so they put in a place holder.  They finally came up with what he should say on the set.

I do that sometimes.  Okay, I do that often.  Most of the time, it doesn't matter much.  It's a set up for a joke, or a transition.  A great line in those situations will make the punchline or new direction shine, but it's not something you dwell on.  An approximation will do the job.

And if I come up with a better word or line or phrasing when I'm editing, I'll stick it in later, without mentioning it.  Or just put it in the book version during the editing and formatting stage.

More Important Than a Cliffhanger

With a serial, there is one place where the right detail or line can really matter: the end of an episode.

This is especially true of a short episode serial such as I write here.  With a longer episode, a writer has a whole scene to set things up for the next episode, put in a cliffhanger, and otherwise make promises for the next episode.  With a short episode serial, that last line is what you leave the audience to think about for three or four days.

I don't always come up with that perfect end line.  Sometimes, I am left with the option of just haivng Vader say "Yeah, and you're ugly too!" and getting on with it. 

When that happens, I can make it better in the novel version. But here's the unexpected thing:

That great episode ending is not nearly as important for a novel as for a serial.  With a novel, you actually can end a chapter abruptly, and it doesn't matter, because the audience can flip the page.  And the fact is many/most readers do check the first page of the next chapter before putting a book down.  (I don't remember where I read that, but I know that I do that.)

With a novel, the audience gets to decide where they take their breaks.  They can, and often do, end a session on a note of satisfaction. They can read until they see the next direction of a story, and then stop.

With a serial, the breaks are not optional.  And that is more than an accident of the form; the breaks are what a serial is about.

So it's actually less important with a serial to leave the reader in suspense.  With a novel, if you  leave Jim the Adventurer dangling over a pit of zombie alligators, that will make the audience want to turn the page.  Great!  Because they can have instant gratification with a novel.  With a serial, you need to give them something that lasts for days or weeks; something to actually think about.

I heard a bit of an interview with a reader of serials who had discovered that the serial format forced her to stop and think about the story between episodes.  That turned out to be a real pleasure for her.  The gap between episodes was the best part.

It made me think about how people react to TV shows -- especially on shows which have some sort of overarching story to the whole series.  The thing that gets people to talking about the show between episodes is not exciting peril, but rather that something changes, making the future uncertain, or something is revealed that gives a whole new meaning to what went before. Things, in other words, to think about.

Mastering this for short episodes is tough. I don't know how well I do it, but it makes for a great goal in writing the story.  

In Episode 5, the fact that Plink wants to talk to Antonio doesn't mean much.  The audience doesn't know enough about him to anticipate anything or think about it.  Sure, yeah, he was at the party.  So maybe he knows something.  But...  The fact that she has just spent a couple of episodes trying to convince people to take her story seriously, and that it isn't a prank or joke or accident, makes her suggestion that she carry out a joke that would make people take her even less seriously -- that's more of a question.  It's something to hmmmm about.

Therefore, I think it is a better to put it at the end of one episode than at the beginning of another.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 5

First Episode | Previous Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Next Episode

Episode Five - "MacGreevey's Theory"
by Camille LaGuire

"MacGreevey, don't talk nonsense," said Chief Superintendent Darling.  "Why on earth would she jump off that train?"

"To create a stir," said the sergeant with a great deal of satisfaction.  "Get in all the papers; mysterious disappearance of the new baroness.  Everyone making a fuss."

He turned an almost sneering look on Plink, and she had feeling she'd seen him somewhere before.  He was very ordinary looking, with ginger hair and freckles.  Tall enough, but a bit slight for a policeman.  She vaguely remembered having that thought before, too, but she couldn't remember when.

"Her ladyship has a long history as prankster," the sergeant went on, emphasizing her as if Plink were no ladyship of his.  "Starting with riding her pony through the Haverton Tearoom on a paper chase when she was, what, seven years old?"

"Nine," said Plink. "We had permission."

"For the paper chase, not the pony.  Then there was the incident where she hung a full beard and mustache on the statue of Queen Valaria at Pinsby Square.  And then the malicious destruction of property in Manners Park, including an assault on a police officer..."

"Oh!" said Plink, and she suddenly knew why the sergeant looked familiar.

That day in Manners Park, Plink had been attempting to affix a woman suffrage banner to the top of the light poles near the pond. A constable attempted to pull her down. She did not kick him. She just sort of shoved his shoulder with her foot, and he lost his balance and ended up in the pond, covered in mud and as angry as a cat would be in similar circumstances.  This sergeant was that policeman.

"You slipped," said Plink, defensively.

"And you jumped!" said MacGreevey.  "You plotted out this whole event.  You had a fellow waiting in a car by the side of the road to pick you up, after you jumped. We found the tracks of the car."

"Those were obviously the tracks of my assailants.  Find those men, and you'll find they're no friends of mine."

"Stop this nonsense, MacGreevey," said the superintendent.  "This is utterly improper to accuse a lady of this kind of malfeasance."

"Oh, stuff it!" said Plink.  "He at least gives me credit for some brain.  You accused me of drinking myself silly!"

She turned back to the sergeant.

"If I had jumped off the back of a moving train," she said to him, "no matter how lithe and acrobatic I might be, I would certainly have at least fallen to my knees, and look, you can see for yourself... my knees are fine."

With that she slipped out from behind the breakfast tray, and pulled up leggings on her pajamas to display her knees.  The constable turned pink and spun away to avert his gaze.  The superintendent did something similar in a more genteel way.  Both the inspector and the sergeant actually looked, though she thought the inspector was admiring and not really examining.

MacGreevey, on the other hand, bent closer and squinted at her knees.

"Very nice," he said.  "But since the momentum of the train would have you going the other way, you'd have fallen on your hind quarters. Shall we have a look at them?"

"MacGreevey!" said the superintendant.

"No need," said Mrs. Lister. "I've seen her ladyship's other side, and she didn't fall there.  She's nothing but scrapes and wee bruises anywhere.  Nothing you'd get from a fall -- or a jump -- like that."

The police scowled and had a brief consult, in which the superintendent snarled at MacGreevey, who finally backed away like a sullen dog ordered back from an impertinent rabbit.  No more was to be heard of the Prank Theory.

"Lister, would you fetch the things I was wearing last night?  These gentlemen will want them as evidence."

The sergeant gave a nudge to the silent constable, who went with Lister to fetch the things.

"I think it would less of an embarrassment if we closed the case," said the superintendent.  "Though, of course, we will investigate further if you insist.  But there really is no evidence--"

"Bosh," said Plink, and she displayed her genteel upbringing by not throwing the tea pot at his head.  "There will be evidence if you look for it.  I am sure you fellows are much cleverer than the way you are portrayed in popular fiction."

Mrs. Lister and the constable returned, the constable with a carton full of Plink's things.  The sergeant, still sulking, dug into the box with a scowl.  He happened to pull out Plink's heavy cloche hat.  The rabbit-like inspector exclaimed at the sight of it.

"I say, that's a rather thick hat, isn't it?" he said, hopefully, glancing around at everyone.  "You could have had a blow to the head and not got a bump because of the hat!  You'd still have a concussion. That would resolve everything, wouldn't it?"

"Perfectly!" said the superintendent.  He smiled at Plink. She did not return the smile, so he bowed and took his leave. The sergeant lagged behind, examining the lining of the hat with a frown.

"Come along, MacGreevey!" snapped the superintendent.  And then, with a thunderous clomping down the stairs, they were all gone.

"Well!" said Plink.  "That was as useful as a partridge at a prize fight!"

"Indeed, your ladyship," said Mrs. Lister, and she cleared away the breakfast tray.  "Will you be wanting a nap, or will you be chasing after trouble this morning?"

"Oh, trouble, I think. If I had any idea where to look for it." Plink took a sip of her tea.  "I think... perhaps I should run off with Antonio after all."

Stay Tuned For Episode 6 - "Making Use of One's Reputation
  (Available after 8am EST, Mon/Thur)

First Episode | Previous Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Next Episode

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Update - Beware of Meaningless Talk

Here is an eternal truth:

Nothing is as exciting to you as what you are going to do next.  But what you haven't done is pretty meaningless until you've actually done it

It's one of the reasons why the blogosphere is full of beginners blogging as if they are experts on subjects they hardly know: they're the only ones actually interested in blogging about it.  (People who are experts are bored with it and want to get on to things they haven't done yet.)

And though it can be interesting to follow someone's journey into new territory, it's also one of the reasons why the internet is rife with rumors, myths and ill-considered half-truths.  The people talking the most on any subject are the ones who don't know about it.

This is also why so many beginners never advance on to an intermediate level.  They are so busy talking about what they're going to do that they get stuck right there at the point where they started talking. They settle into the comfortable spot of being the Advanced Beginner, who mentors the newer beginners along.

Which is what happened to me this week.

After 35 years of writing, you'd think I'd know better.

I probably wrote 10,000 words or more this week, prepping this update post.  I am so jazzed about what I'm doing this summer that I'm talking about it rather than doing it.

The words are not wasted -- those words contain the core of a dozen or so good blog posts for later -- but they are not what I'm doing. They are what I'm thinking about.  The theory behind my experiment, etc.  Which is fine.  But I don't need to tell you about that until I've done it.

So, for the most part, I won't.

(Other than to refer you to last week's update, if you want to know what this writing experiment is. Its under the middle section about Writing as a Get Rich Quick Scheme.)

What I learned this week:

*I write different genres and kinds of stories at different speeds. If the goal is to complete novelettes quickly, I have to first experiment with what I can write quickly. (Hint: Romantic Suspense triggers my intricate mystery puzzle plotting instinct. I love that stuff, but it goes SLOW.)

*When I try to write erotica, it takes a left turn into quirky literary territory.

*Creating a better, more productive writing schedule means taking the pulse of your life over a long time.  (Also, it's easier to mess with your schedule and habits when you're doing something "unimportant" like mercenary writing.)

*Sleep is good. (I think I already knew that, but it's a lesson I always have to keep learning.)

*Kale makes a lovely (and healthy) addition to homemade coleslaw.

*Writing Experiment + Kale = Weight Loss (Who knew?)

Story Notes on Misplaced Baroness

Really short story notes this week, to whit:

I guess the cops decided they wanted to play a real part in the story after all.  I'm thinking that I needed the interview between Plink and The Rozzers to set two things in motion.

Still doing my artwork at the last second. Must stop that.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 4

Episode Four - "Breakfast With The Rozzers"
by Camille LaGuire

The bath was wondrous.  She soaked away the fuzz and confusion until the steaming water turned cold.  Her poor abused feet felt much better, though the scratches on her skin from that tumble down the embankment stung a bit.  A few bruises, but only small ones.  No major damage.

It wasn't until she was seated in her boudoir, clad in lounging pajamas and a pair of very soft slippers, scarfing down a pile of toast and pastries like a starved puma (if pumas ate toast and pastries), that her mind began to function properly.

"Lister!" she said.  "You are right.  We should call the police.  Oh! Is that the rest of my breakfast?"

Though she had eaten sufficient bread to feed a small village, she looked with great eagerness on the tray which Lister had just brought in.  It was piled with sausages, bacon, ham, an omelette, grilled tomatoes and a lovely large dish of creamed kippers.

"I've already called them," said Lister.

"Mmmffh?" said Plink, her mouth already full of kippers.

"The police, your ladyship," said Lister.  "I know it was against your orders, but the aunts called.  I might have put off Lady Hortense, but your Aunt Amelia was in a dreadful state and I couldn't help but reveal that you are safe and sound. Then, since the cat was out of the bag, I considered your fear that the villains would find out that you were alive and well, so I thought it would be best to ring up the police right away so they could protect you."


"They are waiting downstairs in the morning room."

"Well, call them up!" said Plink. "My feet have had enough traveling today.  And someone tried to squish me with a train, Lister.  We should not delay the pursuit of the malefactors."

She then attacked her sausages, as Lister went out with a look of disapproval.  It was fond disapproval, though, for if Lister really disapproved, she'd never have taken the  position. She knew Plink from early childhood.

Soon she heard the exceptionally heavy tread of the law on the stair, so heavy that when the door opened, she half expected to see a police horse enter the room. Instead it was no less than four policemen, three in plain clothes, and one uniformed constable.

They filed in, all correct and grave, and the one in the lead, who looked more like a politician than a policeman, bowed.

"Your ladyship," he said.  "I am Chief Superintendent Darling. This is Detective Inspector Pfaffle, and Detective Sergeant MacGreevey."

The constable apparently had no name.

Plink waved a sausage in greeting and said, "Thank you for coming so quickly, gentlemen.  Can you tell me what happened last night?"

The superintendent paused in surprise.

"We're here to ask that of you, your ladyship."

"I haven't any idea," said Plink. "I was largely unconscious, and now I'm eating sausages.  So why don't you start.  I'm sure you have gathered some information?"

The superintendent turned to the inspector. The inspector turned to the sergeant.  The sergeant did not turn the the constable but instead raised his chin and recited a report.  Plink had, apparently, declared she was running off with Antonio, stolen Lady Blinkersley's cloak, driven her car into a ditch, caught a train, lost a shoe on said train, and was never seen again.

"It's nonsense," said Plink, as he finished his report and she finished her sausage.  "All except the bit about Antonio, which was a joke.  I did not leave the party or drive anywhere or get on a train. I was drugged into unconsciousness."

"And how are you sure of that, your ladyship?" asked the superintendent.

"Because I was perfectly conscious and having a wonderful time, and then suddenly I was lying on a train track, wrapped in a strange robe, with a train bearing down on me."  She briefly related her escape, and return home, complete with her impression of the Grim Reaper's Attack Goose.

The police were not impressed.

"So you never saw your ... assailants," said the superintendent in a tone which dripped with doubt.

"No," said Plink.  "I was, as I said, unconscious."

"What is the last thing you remember before you woke up on the tracks?"

"We had just finished playing charades and I called for a cocktail, and then... nothing."

"That is, unfortunately, a common effect of cocktails."

"Not just one," said Plink.

"Oh, just one can have a powerful effect on a genteel young lady," said the superintendent, knowingly.

"Not on me," said Plink.  "And regardless, I don't drink so quickly or heavily that I can go from cold sober to unconscious in an instant.  And it offends me that you assume that I do."

There was a moment of silence.  The superintendent clearly didn't like being corrected by a slip of a girl, but he was a gentleman and had to be aware that she ranked him.

The silence was finally broken by the inspector, a fluffy little round man with a curly mustache.

"But the fall!" he said.  "It can all be explained by the fall from the train. She hit her head, and that caused amnesia.  No need to explain it with drink. You see?"

The superintendent sat back and looked mollified.  "Of course," he said.  "That would explain a lady's loss of memory..."

"Yes," said Plink.  "That would explain it quite nicely, except for the fact that I don't have a bump on my head."

She raised both hands to her head and poked and prodded at her scalp to illustrate.

"Not a scratch on the noggin," she said.  "As a matter of fact, I don't have any injuries that would be compatible with falling off the back of a train, even a stationary one."

It was at this point that the sergeant, who had been silently scowling behind the inspector spoke up.

"Of course not," he said.  "That's because you didn't fall.  You jumped!"

Stay Tuned For Episode 5 - "MacGreevey's Theory

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Monday, May 13, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 3

Episode 3 - "Barefoot in the Big City"
by Camille LaGuire

It was a long long walk.

The one shoe Plink had left had been useful for feeling her way along when she went from the track to the road, but it was more trouble than help in walking, so she took it of and walked barefoot along the road toward the city and her second home in north Thronden.

The pain in her feet made it impossible to think, or to count time, but at least it made her less aware of the pain in her head.  And her back.  And her knees.

Thoughts swirled in Plink's mind as to who might want to kill her, but she was so weary that it was more like a bad dream of fractured images and idea, flitting by like angry flies.

She walked on, through muddy pools of what she hoped was water. She walked over sharp stones. She was barked at by dogs, and still never saw any place she'd like to stop for help. Or any place she thought there might be someone who could help.

But presently the streets became more narrow and buildings more crowded.  She was too numb to really look at them. It still seemed silent and dead, but soon, perhaps she'd see a policeman or a place to call for help.

As she passed the dark specter of one more abandoned factory, its open door like a gaping maw of hell, two figures stepped out of that darkness.  Unsavory men, lurking.  Their voices were thin and reedy in the echoing night, but she could hear them well enough.

"Here, this looks like a bit of interest," said one of them.

They moved closer and the other, with a nasty sounding voice, called out, and not at all kindly: "Where you from, missy?"

Plink looked at them, decided they were not the sort of person she should speak to without introduction (a rule she normally did not follow, but here seemed appropriate).  She saw a glint and realized one of them had a knife.  They separated slightly as though to trap her.

She couldn't run away.  They'd have her in a second.  But she'd be blasted if she'd just faint on them. The honor of the Beethinghams demanded some reaction.  So she let out scream and ran straight at them, raising her arms as far as the heavy cloak would allow, which wasn't far.

She imagined she looked rather like an angry goose, with her flapping arms and waddling uncertain gait.  She hadn't the lung power to give a good solid highpitched scream, so it came out a deep ghostly howl.

The men turned tail and fled into the darkness whence they came. Plink staggered a few more steps and wrapped herself around a lamppost.

"Honk, honk," she said after them, in rather the same tone of voice you'd say take that!

She figured they might come back if she stayed too long and looked too weak, so she pushed herself away from that post and continued on her journey.   The incident gave her a new surge of energy and she focused her mind on the nice hot bath she had waiting at home.  And breakfast... yes, breakfast!  She was starving.

The sky was quite bright by the time she staggered into Kerrington Lane, dreaming of bacon and sausages and grilled tomatoes, and toast and jam and kippers in that lovely cream sauce that only Mrs. Lister could make....

Mrs. Lister answered the door very quickly like she was waiting for the knock.  She was fully dressed in her black housekeeper's habit.  She wore it like a priest wore his vestements or a butler his waistcoat.  But to be wearing it at this time of morning, she must have been waiting.

"Oh, your ladyship!" she cried, before Plink could say a thing.  "We've all been so worried about you.  They thought you had an accident!"

"It was no accident, Lister," said Plink and she staggered inside.

"We should get you to bed, your ladyship," said Lister.

"A bath," she said in reply.  "A hot bath and then breakfast."

"I'll draw your bath and then call your aunts--"

"No!" said Plink.  "No, I don't want anyone to know where I am."

"But they'll be worried, ma'm."

"Lister, someone tried to kill me.  I don't know who, and I don't want them to know they failed.  I don't want to tell anyone until I've had a chance to think."

Lister was silent. She was an old-school servant and did not like to contradict her betters, but she also had the backbone to do it anyway.

"Miss," she said, using the term of address she'd used when Plink was a child.  "You can't just hide while everyone worries.  And if someone is looking to harm you, how safe will you be here on your own?  Let me call the police at least. And a doctor."

"I'll be better able to receive tham after a bath," said Plink.  Lister made a slight harrumphing sound but accepted that.

Lister helped her upstairs and drew the bath while Plink dumped the cloak and peeled off her hat and dress and the remains of her stockings.  The dress was a beaded, clinging affair, and its weight had become unbearable. Next party, she's wear silk chiffon, regardless of how scandalous it might be.

"What would you like for breakfast, ma'm?" asked Lister.

"Everything," said Plink, in a deep, haunted sort of voice.  Mrs. Lister took her arm and helped her into the bath.

"Then you shall have everything, little miss."

It was GOOD to be home.

And she could always think better in the bath.  If she didn't fall asleep.

Stay Tuned For Episode 4 - "Breakfast with the Rozzers"
(Available after 8am EST, Thursday)

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Update - a Reboot, Experiment, and Story Notes

It took a bit to extricate myself from the Tsunami of Kerfuffle that swept me away recently.  We shall not speak of it.

Instead, we shall look forward to a good old-fashioned reboot:  power down, sweep the decks, unplug everything, count to ten, and start back up again. Brrrrring! (That's a Mac start up chime.)

The very best way to effect a reboot, imho, is to find a barrier and kick it down.  To do something which, a polite English bobby would tell you, is "not recommended."  (Or as Will Rogers might say, it's time to pee on the electric fence for yourself.)

Therefore, for the next four weeks I am going to indulge an experiment:

Writing As A Get Rich Quick Scheme
("Rich" and "quick" being relative terms....)

I was inspired, directly and indirectly, by Dean Wesley Smith's talk a year or two ago about the income you could potentially get by writing short story after short story.  That interested me, intellectually, but the fact is, the idea of writing short story after short story doesn't fill my soul with glee.  I enjoy writing them once in a while, but it tends to be slow going.

But the idea of writing novelettes?  That actually does interest me.  Novelettes and novellas are different than either shorts or novels.  They are, in fact, screenplay lengths, with similar structure and pacing.  I use a whole different part of my brain for that.  It's more like, well, hack work.   Screenplays and especially TV shows have strict criteria -- length, act structure, budget, locations, cast size, sometimes weird things like you need to put in a role for producer's girlfriend.

(Irony time -- DWS recommends that you not use the cold logical "inner editor" part of your brain for writing. But for me, the cold logical part of my brain loves that kind of writing, and is surprisingly good at it.  If my inner editor had a human form, it would probably look like Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer.)

Writing this way is not something I would want to do all the time, but it is a great way to reboot. It is easy on the imagination (while still giving it a nice workout) so it's a great way to meet the first goal of this experiment: to build new and better habits.  At some point my creative side will get sick of it and kick Mr. Warner out, but I'll have a new more focused work pattern set.

The other goal of this experiment is a "proof of concept" for things we believe about writing:  Is a book really the best promotion for another book? Does the author's name have to be known at all?  Is 2.99 too high of a price for a novelette?  Do people even read novelettes?  KDP Selects - good idea or bad idea?  Etc.

I'll be writing these under a pseudonym, both to help unleash my inner shameless movie mogul, AND because of those marketing questions.  I will not tell anyone the name.  But I will talk about how it's going, and the issues involved, each Sunday in an update post.

In the meantime, those who like what I do under my own name will have to make do with The Serial for a while (which will continue every Monday and Thursday).  In some ways, The Serial has also been a kind of "reboot."  I write it for fun, off the cuff.

And speaking of The Serial.....

Story Notes for Episode 2

Yeah, I admit it.  Episode 2 is a lump of exposition.

As I stumbled beyond the end of the first episode, I realized that I really don't want to spend episode after episode with Plink thinking through everything she knows.  She knows lots of things that could be relevant, and can't remember or doesn't know a lot of things which are actually relevant.

Furthermore, as I mulled over the 49 episodes and 20 characters it would take to illuminate the events of the party in flash back, I thought: this story isn't a fair-play whodunnit, and it won't be solved by parsing out exactly where the butler really was when the kumquats disappeared. This is a bounce-and-go adventure.  Future events will resolve it, and very few of the party characters will enter the story again, because we're going to get out of town and head across the continent soon.

So, since neither Plink nor her party guests can tell us efficiently the few relevant facts, I guess I should bring in the professionals whose job it is to gather those facts and sort them:

Meet Pfaffle and MacGreevey of Thronden C.I.D. (Special Greek Chorus Branch)

One method of exposition is the "Greek chorus" method.  You interject scenes of someone outside the story who comments on what's going on.  This is a common trope in spy stories.  The hero is running around blowing things up and stealing things, and meanwhile back at the CIA, the suits are scowling at the trail of evidence he leaves behind, while they explain and comment on what it means.  And it's a particularly fun trope in comedies, where outsiders are perplexed by what the audience knows first hand.

So that's what I decided to try here.  It isn't quite what I wanted. (I wrote it at the last second before posting, and I'll certainly rewrite it for the ebook.)  But I can see that I could really have fun with this.

Will I?  I don't know.  The story will eventually leave the jurisdiction of Pfaffle and MacGreevey, and I doubt it will come back to them within this particular story.

In the meantime, I think I'll make Pfaffle's first name "Robert".  Then MacGreevey can say: "As you (should) know, Bob, (if you had bothered to pay attention)...."

(For the uninitiated, this is a writer joke.  Bad dialog that just exists to give information to the reader is sometimes called "As you know, Bob..." dialog.)

As for the characters: MacGreevey actually has a bigger part to play in later stories. He's Plink's nemesis. (In kind of the same way Sylvester Puddytat is Tweety Bird's nemesis.)  He's bad tempered and arrogant which means he will always be destined for a pie in the face, no matter how diligent he is.  (However, he is destined for his own story too.  He's not really the sort of person you can stop with a pie in the face, and he has honor.)

Inspector Pfaffle is more secondary, but there is more to him than it seems.  He has a certain amount of wisdom and an instinct about people.  He can see their hearts, you could say.  This makes me wonder if he too has a bigger part in the future.

But for tomorrow, we shall return to Plink (a.k.a. Lady Pauline) who is treading barefoot through a bad part of town in the wee hours of the morning, and she's just about to do her impression of The Grim Reaper's Goose.   Stay tuned.  (You can start at the beginning with the introduction to The Case of hte Misplaced Baroness.)

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 2

Episode 2 - "Meanwhile at Beethingham Hall...."
by Camille LaGuire

The dawn was breaking over the vast expanse of Beethingham Hall.  Some of the lights were still lit, but most of the denizens had finally tottered off to bed. Servants scurried about cleaning up the shambles that was left of the great party.  Too bad the guest of honor had taken a powder.

Out on the damp and dewy lawn, Detective Inspector Pfaffle and Detective Sergeant MacGreevey stood looking over their notes. Or at least, Pfaffle was.  He always took voluminous notes, especially when dealing with important people. It impressed them and made them think he was listening.

Unfortunately, he didn't actually listen or take notes very well, so his notes were a confused mess of doodles and disjointed phrases.  This whole case was a mad confusion of misplaced facts, suppositions and witnesses who were drunk, hung over, hysterical, or uncooperative.

He glanced over at MacGreevey.  The sergeant was writing furiously -- furious being his demeanour, not his writing speed -- in his notebook, in neat careful marked lines.  Unlike Pfaffle, MacGreevey listened well and never took notes until later, after he had it all ordered in his mind and ready to be turned into a report. 

MacGreevey was smart, brave, talented and ambitious, and should have promoted above Pfaffle a long time ago... except for the fact that he was also stubborn, naive, arrogant, rude and insubordinate.  He was constantly on the edge of being dismissed.   Pfaffle had won the man's loyalty with a persistent application of patience and a steadfast refusal to take offense.   He needed MacGreevey to do things like think, and MacGreevey needed Pfaffle to keep their superiors from dismissing him.

"Well, MacG?" said Pfaffle, as the sergeant flipped his notebook shut.

"Waste of our time," grunted MacGreevey.

"Oh!" said Pfaffle, looking at his notes.  "Are you ... sure?"

"You don't agree?"  The sergeant looked at him narrowly.

"Well, I thought, at least we should do a sum up.  Shouldn't we?"

MacGreevey knew full well that Pfaffle wanted him to explain it all, but he was clearly in a mood this morning.  Pfaffle squirmed and looked helplessly at his notes.  As hoped, that satisfied his subordinate, who gave a small, superior smile and put away his notebook, just to show he didn't need it.

"The subject, Lady Beethingham, is a known prankster."

"Ah, but she's a peeress now," interjected Pfaffle.  "Responsibility sobers a person up."

"She was hardly sober last night," said MacGreevey, then he went on reciting the facts.  "Last night was her twenty-first birthday party.  There was crowning ceremony, like she was a queen, and then a dignified dinner with lots of dignified people who are above talking to us.  The subject then led the younger members of the party on a wild game of cat-and-mouse through this barn--" MacGreevey here paused to glance distainfully at the manor house behind him.  "--which is larger than some whole countries."

"Yes, very fine. Very large," said Pfaffle. "It makes it all more confusing.  So many things going on."

"Not really," said MacGreevey.  "The only possibly relevant thing is the bit about Antonio Maurinos."

"Yes, the foreigner!"  Pfaffle looked down with satisfaction the exclamation point he'd made in his notes, right next to the word _foreigner__.  "A magician or something."

"Dance instructor," said MacGreevey with derision.  "Paid party host and entertainer.  According to some rather hazy witnesses, Lady Beethingham declared she was already bored with being lady of the manor, and she planned to run off with this Maurinos.  Soon after that, Maurinos left the party, presumably fleeing a fate worse than death.  Lady Beethingham then was seen to pass out on a settee in a small drawing room of some sort."

"The west wing, yellow sub-drawing room," said Pfaffle, who tended to remember that sort of detail, though not its significance.

"Next relevant moment was when Lady Blinkersley left and found that her peacock cloak was missing, whereupon several witnesses, again hazy, recalled that they had seen Lady Beethingham stumbling across the patio wrapped in it.  She called out that she was headed toward Thronden and freedom.  Concerned about her safety, the servants called the local constabulary, who found her roadster in a ditch near the railway station.  The ticket agent remembered a young woman in a large peacock cloak, who bought a ticket and got on the midnight train to Thronden. At which point the local constabulary called us down in Thronden to see if she had arrived safely."

"And we found her shoe!"

"Yes, one of our constables found the subject's right shoe caught in the scroll work on the observation platform at the back of the train."

"So she fell or jumped off the train."

"Or she put her shoe there as a prank, threw away the peacock cloak, and ran off with poor Maurinos."

"She could be injured. Or dead!" said Pfaffle.

"The local chaps are searching the tracks, now that it's light."

"You should get on to them.  You should---"

"I should find Maurinos and then get some sleep."

They compromised on breakfast in town. By the time they were finished, the local constabulary reported back. No body found on the tracks, but they did find some peacock feathers, and also some suspicious tire tracks in a spot in the last bit of woods before Thronden.

"So she jumped," said MacGreevey, "and Maurinos, or someone else, picked her up."

Stay Tuned For Episode 3 - "Barefoot in the Big City"
(Available after 8am EST, Monday)

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal

Monday, May 6, 2013

Misplaced Baroness - Ep 1

Episode 1 - "Plink's First Peril"
by Camille LaGuire

For a fraction of a second, when Plink drifted awake, she was quite cozy.  She was well wrapped in her blanket, her arms wrapped around her too, and so utterly unconsciously relaxed that her body seemed molded into whatever was beneath it.

It was that cozy feeling you have when you are a child with a cold, and you are tucked into bed, and people are hovering to take care of you, and bring you soup and treats and read you stories....

But after that fraction of a second passed, Plink realized she was not lying on a bed.  She was not wrapped in a blanket, and her feet were cold -- one foot more cold than the other, because she was wearing only one shoe.

Her head throbbed, and she felt nauseated.  Her twenty-first birthday party must have been quite the shin-dig, though she hardly remembered it just now.

But it wasn't actually her head that was throbbing.... No, it was the pillow.  A hard cold, wretched pillow which forced her head at an odd angle was vibrating at some painful frequency.

It was only then that she realized that she laying across a railroad track.

And there was clearly a train coming.

She opened her eyes and tried to sit up, but she could not.  She was wrapped up in some sort of cloak that smelled faintly of gardenias.  She wriggled, but could not get loose of it.  As far as she could tell, she was not tied, merely so well wrapped that she could hardly move.

The engine was now clearly audible, and not far.  The vibration of the track was nearly unbearable.  She lifted her head and tried to roll, hoping to unwrap the cloak, but it did nothing for her.

It was dark, but she could make out the shape of trees and tracks in the moonlight, and now the light of the train shone down on the tracks, picking up details of the gravel and ties.  It was coming fast, perhaps an express.  No sound of the horn. No squeal of breaks.  No indication that they could see her.

The sound and vibration was now overwhelming, and no logic could fight the sudden, immediate urge to get out.

She curled her body up and then rocked back, so she could kick her feet up in the air and make a backwards somersault.  It didn't move her entirely off the tracks, but she was in a better position to flop and gyrate like an acrobatic inch worm.

By now the noise was so loud it was disorienting. She didn't know which way was up, or which direction to roll.  For a moment she thought she'd been struck by the train, as he felt her body tossed and bumped and thrown about.

... But it was merely that she'd made it off the tracks and tumbled down a rather steep embankment.

The train roared by overhead, and she lay breathless and shaken for several minutes.

She was now free of the cloak.  It had caught on a stump halfway down the embankment and she had rolled free of it.

The train was now gone.  She could still hear the engine in the distance, but by contrast to its passing, the earth seemed suddenly still.  She propped herself up, hands braced behind her.

"That, my dear, was a very close call," she said.

Her shaken voice sounded thin and reedy in the hollow darkness around her, though loud enough that she wished she hadn't spoken aloud.  That perhaps she didn't want to be heard.  Which was nonsense.  She should be screaming for help...

Except for that nagging question: How on earth had she come to be laying on a train track, unconscious and helplessly wrapped in that cloak?

A thousand romantic scenarios flitted through Plink's head, most of them involving burly men with nefarious intentions.  She didn't know any such men, certainly none with a motive to murder her.  She knew no one with a motive to murder her, except perhaps for Freddie, her cousin and heir and would-be fiance -- who was neither burly nor imaginative.  If he'd had a plot to kill her, it would be by smothering her in boring declarations of his insipid opinions.

The other scenarios were of poor, helpless, amnesiac women, wandering helplessly and hopelessly in the wood, who become entangled in their own tattered cloak and fall unconscious into some perilous situation, like onto a high ledge or railroad track.

And that was ridiculous because she had no reason whatsoever to be wandering helpless in the wood, and she certainly didn't have amnesia. She knew exactly who she was.

Reading from top to bottom, she was: Lady Pauline Anne Marie Tritt-Woolsey Beethingham Smythe, the eighteenth Baron of Beethingham.  (Or the third Baroness of Beethingham, if you wanted to be very literal.)

She had just turned twenty-one, and come into her full fortune and title that very day.  She had no reason whatsoever to wander helplessly in the wood, tripping pathetically in her cloak.  She was not abandonned, or deceived, nor did she have a love child or dread disease.

And besides, the cloak had been too well wrapped around her for it to have been an accidental entanglement.

Burly men with nefarious intentions it was, then.

Well, they were gone now -- because surely, if they were waiting around in the cold and dark to be sure their deed was done, they would have checked on her by now.  All the same, they might come back.

It was time, she thought, to make a hasty exit.

Stay Tuned For Episode 2 - "Meanwhile, Back at Beethingham Hall...."
(To Appear after 8am EST Thursday, May 9)

Note!  This story is currently unfinished. I hope to get back to it in 2014.

Support the writing of this serial!  You can donate directly, or you can buy the first book in the series, The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or donate via Paypal