A British Robot reads my story for me…

I spent hours reworking on the last three chapters of my story, worried that they didn’t flow too well. But then, two weeks later, exhausted, I refer back to my original draft of those chapters—and guess what? I find myself saying: Hmmm…not too bad…not too bad…oooh, I like it!—So I ended up sticking with the draft I had been trying to fix all along, seeing that there was nothing wrong with it.

ANYWAY, I promised to give an excerpt from TRC’s rewrite. So…I decided to be creative. Why make you guys read it when I can have a British robot read it FOR you guys? I hope you guys have as much fun as I did. Be sure to keep your ears open for the most hilarious line ever–it’s where a harlot says to Lucas: “Oh, look at ‘em legs. Never saw such long ‘n lean ones in the whole course of me life. I wouldn’t mind a pair of ‘em wrapped around me.” The way the Voice reads it sounds as if it is a meaningful, moving line. She sounds like she is on the brink of tears.

Yes…laugh all you want. Because I laughed my head off. But turning your MS into spoken word is a great way to catch the problems that need to be edited.

Part One 

Part Two 

If you have no idea what this Robot is reading, then…Oh fine, I’ll post it up.

Chapter One Rewrite

England, 1811

His boot heels rang against the cobblestone street, which glistened in the light rain. Street lamps did little to ward away the shadows of the evening, leaving his countenance unreadable beneath the brim of his hat. Only when the cheroot he smoked glowed did it light his features enough to reveal a pair of gray eyes.

The gentleman slipped a miniature portrait out of his pocket and inspected the face of a young woman no older than sixteen. It was not a beautiful face, for it was too narrow, the cheeks too prominent, and the chin too pointed. But that was easily substituted by the restrained animation which seemed to brim over in her clear brown eyes and the arch of her lips. Finally, after all these months, he had found her.

Reaching the threshold of the brothel, he carefully tucked away the portrait, and glanced up. The small letters above the door read Harleton House.

‘She should be two-and-twenty by now,’ he thought, and dropped the cheroot. Its stub hissed in a puddle before he ground it out with his heel. He raised his fist and knocked on the door of what he’d been told was one of the best houses in Brighton. It was soon opened by the keeper of the establishment who, upon seeing how well the stranger was dressed, favoured him with a fawning smile. “Good evening, sir.”

He gave her a curt nod. “I’m here to inquire after a young woman.”

“Oh?”

The open door left a picture frame which allowed him a better view of the woman’s voluptuous body, her powdered face, decorated with a patch at the corner of her lips, and the crowd of harlots and drunkards behind her. His eyes returned back to the Madam, as she asked:

“Of who, pray?”

Instead of replying, he pushed against the door; the woman at once opened it. When he stepped in the laughter and cajoling that had filled the brothel sank into hushed murmurs. The debauched creatures stared at him as he walked past, the Madam sauntering behind. Before he got far, a plump hand grabbed his arm, dirt lining the crescent of the nails.

“Oh, look at ‘em legs,” cooed the woman, eyeing his figure. “Never saw such long ‘n lean ones in the whole of me life. I wouldn’t mind a pair of ‘em wrapped around me.”

He glanced at her yellow teeth encased by her smiling red lips. He peeled her fingers off and walked on. “Good lord,” he muttered, realizing that this was not the finest house in Brighton. His journey here would indeed prove cruel if Amanda had turned out like this lot. Frowning, he looked around, searching for the face from the portrait. Seeing no one similar, he turned to look at the Madam.

“I’m looking for an Amanda Hollingworth—” and he added, that nothing should hinder his scheme “—I took an interest in her.”

“Amanda? She may be a sweet lass, but she’s only a maid, sir. We’ve got girls who know how to properly please a man,” she replied, grinning, even daring to nudge him with her elbow. But the grin faltered when she was subjected to his indifferent stare.

“No, I’ve come for Amanda, no one else,” he replied, and to nullify any suspicion, he offered her a bag of coins. “Now, where is she?”

The Madam snatched the coins from his hand. Her brows rose high as she stared into the bag. With a smile, she declared him to be the best gentleman that ever breathed! And then she called out in a stentorian voice, “Amanda! Amanda!” A pause. “Amandaaaaa.” Another pause ensued before it was followed by a sudden: “Ah! There she is. D’you see her, sir?”

He scanned the crowd. In the far corner of the brothel, he saw the face from the portrait: the common brown eyes, the brows which were oblique, dark slashes across her white skin, her long cascade of brown hair. She wore a vulgar dress and white threaded stockings. Her countenance no longer held the vigour and sparkle which had so defined the girl in the painting. Whatever had stolen the youth from her had transformed her features to sharp angles.

###

Amanda Hollingworth did not hear the call of her name. After fetching the tenth bottle of wine for a patron, she weaved her way towards the door of the reception room, throwing her shawl quickly about her before leaving the house—if only for a moment. She had to pump water out in the yard, before she could heat it in a cauldron, so that the girls might have warm water to wash in.

She heaved out a sigh.

There was so much to do before she could retire to bed. And in a matter of hours she would have to rise again to clean the reception room for the guests, though it would require such attention many times over, before the day was out. Then to scrub the front steps, which would be dirtied again a quarter of an hour later. And then, before she could even think of taking any breakfast, she would have to scoop the ashes from the grate and lay the fires afresh, the soot catching in her lungs.

She looked at her hands chapped and bleeding from work. ‘I was meant for more than this,’ she thought, but then she shook her head. There was no benefit in such wistful thinking. She had to accept life as it was. A life serving harlots and rakes, Amanda told herself, as she looked up to see a man swaggering towards her. She tried to move away, but his hand reached out in time to catch her by the waist.

“Come ‘ere,” he slurred, his hot breath creeping down her dress. “I’ll be good to ye.”

“Sir, not now,” she said through her clenched teeth, a stiff smile pinned to her lips. The smile that trembled from the pressure required to keep it from tilting into a thin line. She was nothing more to these men than a walking instrument of pleasure. “I need to attend to my work—”

“Yer may attend t’ me, girl,” he laughed out, his stale breath wafting over her face. When she tried to push him away, with a growl, he shoved her back against the wall and buried his head between her shoulders. His hand lowered to grab and squeeze her. “Ripe fer the pluckin’,” came his voice, muffled against her throat.

Amanda’s stomach churned with disgust. She lifted her heel, about to ground it into his foot, when the man was suddenly shoved aside. Relief flooded her. But the moment Amanda looked up, her relief was substituted by dread. The Madam stood glaring at her, face contorted with annoyance. The scars on Amanda’s back burned. She had angered this woman once before by insulting a patron.

“I’m sorry. I was trying to work,” Amanda quickly explained. “I had to get the water ready for the girls. But then this man came and—”

“You little chit,” the woman sneered, “can’t you hear a word I say?” She grabbed Amanda’s wrist, dragged her across the room and brought her before yet another man. From the corner of her painted red mouth, the Madam murmured so only Amanda could hear over the noise, “Go on to your new cully now. He paid more than you’ll ever be worth to me.”

Her cully? Amanda’s eyes travelled up the length of his well-cut figure and she had to crane her head slightly back to study his face. Shivers ran down her spine upon seeing the stern features of a handsome man in his late twenties.

“You’re his now,” the Madam said, thrusting her forward. Amanda stumbled a bit, her knees weak with trepidation. “I don’t know how you met a gent like this one, but—Ah, I shan’t keep you waiting, sir. Good night.” And with that, the Madam favoured the gentleman with a curtsey before ambling away with her easily-made fortune.

Amanda looked around in confusion before fixing her eyes back on the stranger. “You want me?”

“Yes,” he said slowly, “I want you.”

“But I don’t know you. There must be some mistake.”

He leaned toward her, his lips inches away from her ear. “Keep your voice down. Whether you like it or not, you’re coming with me.” Without giving her room to speak, he placed his hand on the small of her back and escorted her out the entrance and into the open.

She followed him through the light rainfall, glancing back at the brothel several times. Even that rat hole seemed more of a haven to her at the moment. She looked at the stranger again. What could he possibly want with her, a mere maid? She searched for a reason until she came across a possibility that sent chills down her spine. It was not unheard of for men to abuse harlots before abandoning their bodies in alleyways . . .

She’d worked so hard to stay alive these past months and now, this

When they arrived before the chaise pulled by four horses, the gentleman held out his hand, which she took with reluctance. She climbed up inside the vehicle and slid to the far corner. He soon joined her and signalled at the driver to drive on. At once the conveyance lurched into movement.

Her breathing quickened. She glanced out the window. The brothel was already growing smaller in the distance. Where is he taking me?—the question continued to ring in her mind. Her eyes dropped to the street outside, passing quickly beneath the wheels. How many bones would she break by jumping out? 

Before she could make any such attempt, her vision whirled upward, as the stranger caught her by the chin and tilted her face to the moonlight. His heavy-lidded eyes followed the arc of her brows, the line of her nose, and the curve of her lips. Amanda’s fingers grew icy beneath her palm while he stared at her for a contemplative moment. He returned his attention back to something in his hand—it was a portrait, she noticed—then to her face once more. “Yes,” he murmured, half to himself, “you’re the one.”

Amanda shot away from him. “The one? The one for what?”

Rather than answering her, he reached over to open the window. She flinched as cold rain splattered across her face. He held out a handkerchief, and when the white cloth darkened from the rain, he brought it in, shutting the window.

She went still as he leaned forward to her and pressed the handkerchief against her face. Her gaze slipped past him and rested on her reflection against the window. The layer of powder was being wiped off. She saw the strips of her skin, the faint bruises on her cheeks. Her eyes returned to him. “What are you doing?”

“Wiping away the paint. You no longer belong to the brothel.”

Her mind whirled. She no longer belonged to the brothel? Why? Did she belong to him now? What was he going to do to her? She wanted to ask, but her tongue was frozen. A shiver ran through her as a drop of paint-stained water slid from her jaw down to her throat. When his hand lowered to wipe the wetness away, his knuckles brushed against the skin beneath her chin. She immediately hit his hand aside, shocked by such intimacy—an intimacy that triggered foul images in her head.

“This isn’t a very promising beginning,” he said.

“What do you want from me?” she cried. “Who are you?”

“My family calls me Lucas and the public addresses me as Lord Candover.”

Her lips parted and her eyes went wide. “You have a title?” This fact only confused her more. What would a nobleman want with a maid? “You spent a fortune on me, or at least, it is to me. Why are you doing this when you don’t even know me? Of course, I am grateful, but—”

“My dear, I am no saint, but simply a man under a certain obligation,” he replied dryly. “And I do know you. You were born in America. When you were twenty, you moved to England with your family. But during the journey, you were orphaned. You remained in your brother’s care, until, by a strange and unfortunate turn of events, you ended up in a brothel. And there you have been working all this time. Now, is that enough information to have the right to say ‘I know you’?”

Amanda gaped at him. The facts he had uttered were not ones known to many. As the carriage passed by another street lamp, its light lifted the shadow from his features completely, rendering his countenance clear. She studied him carefully for the first time, trying to discern the answer his lips chose not to impart. His face, narrow with hollow cheeks, conveyed the brooding elegance of an aristocrat. She rummaged through her memory but in vain. She had never seen him before.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “How did you know where I was? Who told you—” Then she stopped. There was only one other man in all of England who knew as much. The color drained from her face. “Oh, God,” she whispered.

 Oh yes. I sent to Agent#1 the rewrite she requested. Wish me luck!–because I certainly need it! The manuscript will arrive at New York by…Thursday!

TEASER # 1
TEASER # 2

Horseback Riding & Teaser 2

(To read the teaser of The Runaway Courtesan, scroll down to the end)

Yesterday, a couple of friends and I went to Wildwood Manor Ranch to go horseback riding. While we were waiting for our horses to be led over to us, I found myself entranced by this one stallion in the open range, galloping around in circles. The way his mane whipped about in the cold air, the way he let out this wild, haunting neigh that echoed in the icy air, made him look like an untamed beast. Laughingly, I turned to my friends and said: “I hope our horses won’t be like that!”

I had only to wait and see. Soon, the instructor led out three saddled horses one by one. Liz went first to mount because she’s taken riding classes before; she got a chestnut horse. Then it was Ruth, who also got to mount a beautiful chestnut. And then, the instructor led out a black horse, named Ebony. I felt all fluttery inside as this was the first time ever riding a horse—and horseback riding had been on my bucket list for the past eight years (why? I wrote about men riding away on black stallions yet never knew how it actually felt). I slipped my left boot into the stirrup and swung myself onto the saddle. It was easier than I thought. Maybe this was because I had practiced the movement so often in my mind. What followed was not so easy, however. I couldn’t get the hang of steering the horse in the right direction. When I wanted to go left, I’d tug on the rein, directing Ebony right; and if I wanted to go right, I ended up steering him left. I sort of got used to it later on though. Another issue I had was getting Ebony speed up (which wasn’t my fault by the way) which I’ll elaborate more on as I write.

Anyway, we rode into the forest, in a line, following behind the instructor. My heart leapt into my throat the moment I saw my surrounding. Tall, bare trees enclosed our riding trail, with their brittle branches arced over us. The hard ground was layered in white. Soft curls of snow drifted down from the pale sky. In the near distance, camouflaged against the brown streaks of trees, was a deer, staring at us. I could have let out a wistful sigh just then had I not been freezing cold. The place was just magical. I felt as if I had been thrown into a fairytale.

After a few minutes we rode out into the open field, an ocean of white. By then my feet were numb, the cold biting into them. But this pain was quickly forgotten when the instructor asked if we were ready to speed it up with a trot. I wanted to yell out YES because my horse was so slow. The group broke into a trot, going further and further away, while my horse stubbornly preferred to walk. I continued to dig my heels into Ebony’s side, clicking my tongue for him to move faster. But he wouldn’t listen. It was only when the instructor whistled at him that he quickened his pace. His stubbornness persisted throughout the ride. Only after a bout of side-nudging and tongue-clicking and whistling would he trot. But once or twice he actually rode along with the others.

I loved it when Ebony rode fast (well, a trot is nothing compared to a gallop, but it was fast enough for me!). I could actually feel his hooves clashing against the ground as he ran. It was a bit uncomfortable, being bounced up and down on the saddle, but totally worth it. In a matter of seconds I would be on the other side of the field. I found myself daydreaming about getting Ebony to gallop away with me, but, in my imagination, I either ended up 1) being tossed off, or 2) being unable to get him to gallop, seeing as he is even too lazy to trot at times.

Here is a Teaser # 2 of THE RUNAWAY COURTESAN (chapter twenty-six). I chose this specific scene because…well…there is a horse in it, and today’s post is about horse riding.

Her thoughts stilled, in a trance by the rhythmic crashing of the waves. She couldn’t recall how long she stood there for, or for how long she wandered the coast afterwards, but she began to worry that she had stayed out too long. It would be difficult to travel by night. So she pursued her way towards the main road.

From the distance, Amanda heard the tramp of hooves, the sound growing louder by the second. She turned to look back. Past her disarray of curls, she saw a horseman with his black greatcoat billowing behind him. Her brows knotted seeing that she was directly in his path. She turned and walked in a different direction, but at that very moment, the horseman tugged at the reins to follow suit. It was then that panic gripped her.

She was being followed.

Amanda quickened the pace of her steps. She hiked up her skirt to keep herself from tripping. The wet grass spattered against her bare ankle. Her blood turned cold when the beast charged ahead of her, and then came to a prancing halt, its legs flaring in the air, blocking Amanda’s path. The animal let out a wild neigh that echoed eerily across the vast greenery, before steadying itself on all four hooves. Amanda remained immobile, like a deer in the face of peril. The man steered the horse as he rode slowly around her.  She turned, never taking her eyes away from him, winding up for the moment to dash away again. But when he took off his hat, the shadow lifted, revealing the stern features of the Viscount’s.

She let out an uneasy laugh, her hand fluttering over her pounding heart. “Is it your intention to frighten the living breath out of everyone with that scowl of yours, my lord?” When she finally mustered enough courage to look straight at him, something like concern weighed his brows—perhaps he noticed her red-rimmed eyes, bloated by spent tears. He leaned forward. In an unexpectedly soft voice, he said:

“Take my hand and mount.”

“No,” came her immediate response. “But thank you.”

At once his expression chilled. “Then stay out and freeze in the rain.”

She looked up at the sky and it was then that she became aware of the little droplets of cold wetness already falling. Perhaps she would postpone running away to another day. Perhaps on their ride back to the manor she would be able to reconcile with him. She reluctantly stretched her hand out to him. A long silence followed. She remained with her hand held midair, the Viscount staring down at it.

“On second thoughts,” he murmured, “enjoy your walk, madam.”

The harness clinked against the creature’s side. His Lordship spurred the chestnut around. With the swish of horsetail, air brushed by her dejected hand, which she soon dropped to her side. She watched him ride off, leaving her at least half a mile away from Burlescombe Park. She waited. He would return for her.

But he didn’t. 

Chapter One
Teaser # 1

 Agent Update: So, five days ago, I received my second partial request! I sent it to the agent in New York just today. I sort of took my time, as she wrote to me that she would be out of office until the new years. That was good for me. I needed some time to go around printing the material out, then travelling downtown to buy U.S. postage, and then looking through the partial to make sure everything was perfect.

Post-Querying emotions: Tummy Butterflies Died then came back Alive

Warning: This post is (overly) emotional. I’ve warned you, so please do excuse me.

I recall bragging for a while that if I get rejected by an agent I’d accept it with a smile, simply glad that I took this initiative.

I have never been more wrong.

There is so much emotion put into the process of Preparing-To-Query and sending out the query letters, that I now know why some writers break down when rejected.

I went to campus to pick up my History Paper, and seeing that I did very well on it, I became all optimistic. I thought: today is my day, today is the day I can conquer the world. So with much confidence I went to the library at my university to start emailing my first batch of query letters. Yeah, I couldn’t even wait to get home to do this. Three hours later I was still sitting in front of the computer. With icy, trembling fingers. There was a void in my chest when I sent my last letter.

For half an hour afterwards I wandered the streets. How well the weather reflected my mood. A veil of rain was falling from the gloomy blue sky. In my mind I kept thinking to myself that I probably formatted my cover letter wrong (the query letter, sample chapters, and synopsis). But more than this, I was disturbed by the newness of the stage I had stepped into. I’ve been in the writing-and-revising phase for so long that to move out of this comfort zone was totally unsettling.

When I wrote the Pre-Querying post I was so certain that what I wrote in Post-Querying blogpost would be brimming with triumph.

But no.

Needing to settle my overly sensitive nerves, I stepped into a coffee shop to get a drink. I sat down and stared at my Chai Latte (my new obsession thanks to Rowenna) for a long long long time. I wanted to curl into a ball and sob. The reality of publishing finally struck me. By querying it meant I wanted an agent to expose my manuscript to the world. Expose my heart. How would the world accept it? Would they love it? Would the hate it? Or even worse—would they not even notice it? I was filled with so much self-doubt. I came to the point where I asked myself if publishing was worth all the effort.

Something inside me, in a quiet voice, answered: Yes.

After that I put all considerations of putting an end to my aspirations aside. Silly goose, I called myself, you need to grow up, you need to move on, you need to be strong. Embrace the challenge.

Ah. Now that I’ve put my feelings down into words I feel MUCH better. Yes, writing is indeed therapeutic. Now I feel light enough to go prancing about once more.

Nothing will deter me from Let[ting] The Words Flow!