December 6, 2011

A Troublesome Child

Several days ago, Rachel, the Inkpen Authoress, introduced readers to her story The Scarlet-Gypsy Song (and a fascinating introduction it was, too!). Not only that, but she invited several others to join in and give readers a glimpse into their works-in-progress through a number of questions. I'm still puzzling over some of them, but I will do my best to answer and to allow you to shake hands with and say how-do to my novel

the white sail's shaking

"Do you think I would have any bravery," Tip answered, "if I were not a fool?"

1. Who are the main characters?

The main main character is Tip Brighton, an awkward fellow tottering on the line between boyhood and manhood. The other point-of-view character is the headstrong, thoroughly Mediterranean Marta Rais, who finds herself under Tip's protection and isn't pleased about it. Those are the two from whose perspective the story is told, but there are other main characters: Charlie Bent, a proud young Southerner with a secret; quiet, cat-like Josiah Darkwood, whose Indian heritage has made life difficult for him; Lewis, the midshipman whose ambition far outpaces his companions'; and Lieutenant Decatur, debonair commander of the schooner Enterprize.

2. How did you get the idea for this story?

After reading Ian Toll's Six Frigates in 2010, my interest in Stephen Decatur prompted me to write a story set during the First Barbary War. The actual plot developed very slowly from that starting point, and didn't actually take shape until well into the writing of the story - indeed, not until after I introduced Charlie Bent. It's quite amazing how nebulous this whole thing was when I first began.

3. What genre is this story?

The White Sail's Shaking is straight historical fiction. As evidenced by the heaps of history books around the computer desk.

4. Describe your book in three thoughts:

A choice between winning glory and having true honor. A glimpse through the blood-shot, gut-wrenching times in life to the things that matter. Sometimes it takes a storm.

5. The bit that describes an obscure piece of real life best:

He went away, and Tip found himself not only alone, but lonely. He sat in the dim yellow light with his mother’s letter in one hand and the ribbon from Gibraltar in the other, and as he read over the paragraphs and the velvet brushed against his skin, the longing for home intensified until he found his eyes burning with it. There were damp blisters on the paper; he tried to brush them away, but another tear splashed and another watermark formed. He put his head in his hands and rocked himself back and forth, crying softly with homesickness that would not be denied.

Darkwood was right. How easily you despise the things you have, Tip Brighton—until they are lost.

6. The funniest line said by a side-character thus far:

Lawrence gave a rough laugh in answer. “A man after Mr. Decatur’s heart,” he said, and Tip could not decide how much mockery there was in the remark. “Well, then, let the fellow come ashore with the rest, but you’ll be responsible for him, Mr. Brighton—oh, ---,” he added languidly, glancing toward shore, “you aren’t allowed to come, are you? Deuced quarantine. There’s hardly a sick man on that ketch, but merely because it comes from Africa, it has to serve a quarantine. Governor What’s-his-face is a real stick in the mud, boil his guts.”

7. Your favourite piece of description:

For a moment Decatur was silent, and when Tip dared an upward glance, he found the lieutenant plucking at the ship’s rigging again. Did he keep it, Tip wondered briefly, just for times like this when he was irritated? The taut strings thrummed softly, wavering in and out of the shadows each time Decatur loosed them from his finger.

8. Your biggest fear in the writing of this story:

The next session of writer's block. And perhaps that I won't be able to convey the message that I want.

9. Last full sentence you wrote:

Tip had first watch that night, and he was glad of it; it was better than lying in his cot waiting for a sleep that would not come.

10. Favourite character thus far:

I am very fond of most of my characters. Darkwood is enigmatic, which makes him enjoyable to write, while Decatur, who is ever in the background just watching, is just plain fun. But I think I would have to answer "Charlie." This dandy of a Southerner came unbidden into the story, and since then he has managed to become so central to the plot that there would be no story if he were not there. A scene never fails to flow more easily when he appears.

11. What books have been written or have you read that are similar in style and flavour to your novel?

I have purposefully not read many sea novels prior to the writing of The White Sail's Shaking, because I didn't want Tip to be yet another Hornblower or Aubrey or Jack Easy. I do, however, want to read more for research when I am finished with the first draft. I have read The Tall Ships while deep in White Sail's, and it has some similarities.

12. If it was destined to become a book on tape, who would you wish to read it?

I'm afraid I am not much for audio-books - not that I have anything against them, but I don't own many. Therefore, I am afraid I can't answer this.

Thanks so much for the exercise, Rachel! It was splendid fun. I believe that, having finished this, it is my solemn duty to pick others to do the same thing. Therefore, I will choose

Keaghan of Whisper Above the Thunder
Gabrielle of The Ink Stained Parchment


  1. Thank you so much for tagging me Abigail. I just finished my questionnaire. I also tagged you. Great question answers Abigail. I look forward to reading this story and I love the picture for it. Where do you get your ideas for story covers?

  2. "Sometimes it takes a storm to really know the light:
    The scent of rain, the weight of clouds pulling down the sky.
    Sometimes it takes a storm to know how you feel,
    To understand indigo and the varnished sun lighting up the fields...

    I know what you mean about stories being so startlingly nebulous when you first begin them. Looking back on many of my stories, I realize that, at the beginning, I had no idea where I was going. It seems that such a situation would discourage one from writing, but no - you and I (and probably many like us) plunge in anyway, driven by goodness knows what and the desire to write, until one day we realize that we're writing Something Worth Reading. Funny odd thing, that.

    Your "Mr. Brighton—oh, ---,” made me laugh. out. loud. It wasn't so much the quotation as your polite dash which did it, coupled with the sleepy irreverent image of Lawrence himself. Positively Percy! And your piece on Tip's homesickness really made me cry: it is just so poignant and real. It is always a struggle, bringing a male character to the point where he can cry and not making it sound childish. Perhaps the crying is childish, but the reason, and just the way you write it, makes you sympathize with Tip, not censure him.

    "Boil his guts." :P

  3. Thank you so much for doing this post, Abigail! :) I feel much more "howdy'd" with your crew now, and I can sit back and enjoy The White Sail's Shaking all the more now. :)
    Love your dialog, and the way you described Tip's had a note of defiance in it at first which goes perfectly with most guys who are on the verge of crying. :)

  4. Londongirl - Bother! Having come in late, I ended up "tagging" two people who were already tagged. Ho hum. But anyway, I enjoyed reading your answers, especially since I've actually been reading the story for myself. As for covers, I usually pick something that is a theme in the story, like the horse-head tattoo on Wordcrafter and the ship on The White Sail's Shaking. This cover was inspired by the one Jenny made for her novel Plenilune. Glad you liked it!

    Jenny - I thought you'd like Lawrence's quote! He's rather annoying, but I did enjoy that bit. And as for Tip's homesickness, I waffled on whether or not to write that section, but since the news he got from home hit him pretty hard, I decided to include it. I'm very glad you thought it turned out well.

  5. Rachel - Thank you for writing this up! I have a fondness for questionnaires like this, and this was one of the best. I am glad it helped introduce you to the gang; your own post was very beneficial in giving me a glimpse into the tale of The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. Perhaps one day I'll do this for Wordcrafter. It really is a great way to give a taste of the story.

  6. I don't know that I've said it before, Abigail, but I love your descriptive style. Your bit about Tip being homesick was so poignant and true-to-life!

    So, now I've been doubly tagged. I suppose that means I am doubly bound to do it! I will try to get my answers up within this week! Thanks for tagging me.


  7. Hurrah, more on White Sail's! I have to agree with the others: your description of Tip's homesickness was chokingly perfect. The three thoughts you chose, too, were striking. I'm even more captivated by this story now.

    (And I really like Charlie.)

  8. Keaghan - Wow, that section is popular! It seems that the sections I am least sure about always end up being everyone else's favorites. But I'm not complaining! I'm looking forward to reading your post.

    Megan - The three thoughts gave me the most trouble. The last one I had already - "Storm" by Fernando Ortega is Marta's theme song - but the others were tough to come up with.

    (I thought you'd like Charlie. He's Your Type of Character. Now we just have to see if he dies...)

  9. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my answers. Okay cool.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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