Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Flight from Fact to Fancy: How I Conquer Writer's Block.

Daisy (Marguerite) Kirkcaldy
Should anyone wonder what happened to my plan to write daily posts during the month of July expressing my frustrations with the U.S. sociopolitical climate, the answer is simple. There is no rational answer. I am outnumbered and overwhelmed. After the first two posts, I abandoned the idea and went on to endeavors in which I had some chance of success, such as installing an exercise pool in my garage and cleaning fish tanks.  But having reduced my remaining list of activities to cleaning latrines and cutting the toenails on my giant Alaskan Malamutes, I am back at the cusp of the 16th and17th Centuries with my fantasy friends. I should have known better than to leave them to their own devices so long. 
        The first one to scold me soundly was Daisy.  If you have not met Daisy, you could get to know her quite well in the pages of my most recent novel The Other Daughter:The Midwife's Secret II.  Daisy is the posthumous natural (i.e. bastard) daughter of the controversial knight Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange who was hanged at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh on August 3, 1573, 440 years ago. There is nothing I could do to save Kirkcaldy, since the Scottish Regent dispatched him a long time ago and stuck his head on a pike above the Portcullis at Edinburgh Castle, but Daisy is quite another matter, because while Kirkcaldy did impregnate an adolescent laundress in the months before he climbed the stairs to the gallows, nothing is written about the child, and thus, the Daisy in my novels is entirely made-up, and that makes her my responsibility.
      "Ye wrote me guid enoogh in the first book--bauld an' saucy--but ye gart me superficial!--a silly lassie withit a shred ay gumpshin, but now yoo've gone and written me as a widaw wi' a bairn, waitin' fur Will Hepburn tae come back frae th' deid while ye gang rantin' abit politics an' cleanin' up efter giant woolie animals 'at hae fooled ye intae thinkin' they ur dogs." She stands with her hands on her hips and clicks her tongue against her teeth as if I were one who should be apologizing when she knows how I hate it when she speaks Scots.  
         To appease her, I promised to write her out of her current fix, but I sat at my laptop and nothing happened.  I had developed a major attack of  writer's block..
          'Tis naethin' ay th' sort, ye silly twit. It's coz Ah am nae 'spikin tae ye." Time to show the spunky little wadwife which was us was running the show.  I explained to her that if she wanted her husband Hepburn back in her bed and her toddler to start sleeping through the night, it was time for her to speak up. She smart mouthed me about being stuck in the fancy house in Canongate doing what she always did, and that it was Hepburn who needed the jolt.  I explained that he was not speaking to me either, because I had left him in the middle of a sea battle that raged around him while he was chained in the brig, and I had no idea how to set him free. 
"Simple enaw. Reid some guid history books, fin' yerself a real battle an' write Hepburn  oan th' side 'at wins". Since he was chained in leg irons, that was precisely the wrong answer, but it got me writing.  I wrote him into the  Spanish galley San Luis in the Battle of the Narrow Seas, and I let the Dutch Admiral Van Cant blow holes in the deck and collapsed the lateen sail.  That loosened the bolts that held the leg irons to the floor and allowed Hepburn a chance to attack the next Spaniard to come near down into the brig.  I read the account of the battle in the fine book Elizabeth's Sea Dogs by Hugh Bicheno and was able to get Hepburn onto the dunes at Dunkirk.  Now that I am moving forward, here is an excerpt from the next segment.  The scene is set in Kinghorn, where Daisy is spending the late fall at her cottage on the beach.  She has just learned that Hepburn was alive, but possibly not for long, since at last report he was in the midst of a raging sea battle between the Spanish and combined force of  Dutch and English. Andrew  is Daisy's nephew, the notorious Border Reiver Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst. copyrighted by Linda Root, 2013

In spite of the solid construction of the cottage it was nigh impossible to keep out the draft formed from the remnants of an off-shore gale.  At first Daisy thought she had been stirred from her sleep by the kiss of ocean  air against her cheek. She turned to the side an was about to raise the covers to her chin to protect herself from the draft  when she felt a pressure on her breast that was not caused by an invasion of the elements. She had been foolish to turn her back to whoever was hovering over her. Then she thought of a means of turning folly to advantage.
            It had to have been Andrew. A stranger would have made an attempt to silence her before he struck.   A murderer or rapist would have approached her roughly, not with a gentle hint of a kiss and a soft caress. But this intrusion into her bed chamber was too much. It was time to end it. This  time there would be blood.
              She pretended to be settling back to sleep and let her right hand dangle over the side of her pallet, its movement sheltered by the overhanging covers.   She slowly and deftly surveyed the floor beneath her pallet for her sgian dubh while she endured the weight she felt as something  heavy like a human knee weighted the bed   When her nimble fingers found her little knife, she maneuvered it so that the blade was hidden in her nightdress but the hilt was secure in her fist.  Then she kicked free of the pelts that covered her body and sprang.
            “Damn you, Andy,” she screamed as she lunged.
A strong hand caught her right hand just above the wrist and wrenched the dagger from her grasp.
“Girl, ya sure do know how to put a wee bit of a damper on a husband’s homecoming!” 
Daisy swooned.
Her scream must have awakened Hamilton and Isabeth  When Daisy regained her senses, there were four faces peering down at her, including Hepburn’s.  The fourth belonged to Peter, who was bouncing on Hepburn’s shoulder and giggling.  Hepburn was not smiling.
He handed Peter to Isabeth. "Ah'll just be having me a private converstion wi' ma guidwife," he said, shooing them off.
When they left he sat on the edge of the pallet’
“While I am tickled half silly that you saw fit to greet him with a sgian, Daisy, I really need to know why you mistook me for Andy Ker.”
Daisy’s sigh was so intense that her entire body shuddered.
“It is not what you think, Hepburn.”
“And how would ye know what that might be?”
Daisy started to cry.  None of this was turning out as it should—not at all the reunion she had anticipated
Hepburn remained unusually reticent.  He patiently waited for her to recover.
            “My nephew presumed that your widely reported death changed the nature of our relationship.  I thought I had straightened him out. The last time I used Uncle Melville’s musket, which should have done it, but I have come to realize that  with Andrew one is never entirely certain. That is why I sleep with a dagger by my pallet.”
            Hepburn reached down and stroked Daisy’s cheek.
            “That’s my same old Daisy,” he said. “As to Andrew, seems I have been learning the same lesson about him as you have.”  
Then his tone changed.
            “Good thing, though, that the tyke  has squared off shoulders and my dimpled chin.”
            He was smiling broadly when he said it, so she did not use all of the force at her command when she punched him.
            “Shall we go tell the others that the squall  has passed over our bedroom and we are fine?”
            “I reckon they’re smart enough to figure it out.” 

            With Daisy's cooperation and a large contribution from King James VI, I should finish this by the end of November.



1 comment:

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