When my boys were young, we had several Patch the Pirate recordings, which used stories and songs to teach Biblical truths. It has been years since I listened to any of those tapes or CD’s, but bits and pieces of songs have stuck in my mind. One of these choruses is
Practise, Practise, Practise
Practise every day
If I want to get better
That’s the only way
There’s no doubt of about
There’s no way around it
Mother, please don’t shout it
Practise, Practise, Practise!
I don’t remember the story or the rest of the song, but every time I think about practicing, there’s that tune humming its truth in my brain.
Practising is essential for improvement in many things.
Writing is one of those things.
March 17, 2016, will mark my one year anniversary of being a published author, and over the past year, I have been experiencing what I already knew to be true. Writing becomes easier, and writing skills become stronger through practice.
One of the things I have been using to practice writing is what I call Thursday’s Three Hundred. My intention was for these blog posts to be just short descriptive writing exercises. They were not supposed to be linked in any way. They were not supposed to pull me into a story and evolve into something far longer than three hundred words. They were not…but they did.
The first three hundred words grew to be an original Regency short story of about six thousand words called “Hope at Dawn.” When that story was completed, a second, longer one followed. Below is a description of this second story, followed by a short excerpt from the first chapter.
She needs a rescue. He is her only hope.
When Lucy’s father dies, she must either marry quickly or go to live with her uncle. For Lucy, there is only one choice, and his name is Philip Dobney.
To be presented with an offer of marriage from a long time friend is shocking to be sure! But the thought is not unwelcome. Philip is in need of a wife, after all, and Lucy is more than qualified to be a parson’s wife.
However, what seems to be a simple solution soon becomes complicated when Lucy’s uncle shows up with plans to gain enough money to cover debts — both his own and those owed to him. Events from the past combined with threats in the present threaten to tear Lucy and Philip apart unless Darcy can help his friends save their blossoming love and rid Lucy of her uncle once and for all.
The sun’s rays were sliding toward the horizon as Lucy Tolson folded the letter. A slight breeze dashed by and tried to snatch the paper from her. Lucy tucked it into her pocket. How long she had sat there, reading and considering that letter, she did not know. It had come earlier in the day, but she had refused to open it until she would be able to share it with her father for she knew the news it contained would not be welcome.
“It is as you said, Papa. Uncle will take me in two month’s time if I have not found a suitable husband before that.” Lucy leaned her head against the coolness of her father’s headstone and spoke to the fresh mound of earth that covered him where he lay beside her mother. Two months? She shook her head. She would be lucky if her uncle did not come for her within the week. Not that he cared for her! No, his interest in her as in all of life had always been mercenary. He had proven that long ago.
“I’ll not be separated from you, Papa.” She lay a hand on the earthen mound. “I could not abide living in his house with that woman and those children. And my money, Papa, you know he would not care for it as you have. It would be gone within a card game along with my chances for a good match.” She pulled her handkerchief from her pocket to catch her tears. “I cannot go with him, Papa. You know what he is.” She buried her face in the bit of cloth she held and let her grief and fears flow freely for a few moments. Then, after several shuddering breaths, she lifted her face to her father’s marker once again. “I will consider all you have told me. I will make a good choice, and even if I am not loved as Mama was, I will be happy.”
“Miss Tolson?” From a window in the church, Philip Dobney had seen the lady enter the graveyard and was worried when she had stayed for so long. For the last few minutes, he had been watching her weep from the window as the sermon he had been practising sat neglected on a pew a few feet away. He knew that grief was a demanding master who ran roughshod over many, sometimes, leading them to consider all sorts of things they would not have considered when in a happier state. And it was always strongest at first, so he knew that Lucy’s grief was great. It had been but a few days since Mr. Tolson had been buried. It was the first service of that sort which he had performed since accepting the living here in Kympton.
Lucy accepted his hand and with his help rose from where she knelt. “I am well, Mr. Dobney. I was just sharing some news with Papa.” She dried her eyes and allowed him to guide her to the bench next to the church.
“Please call me Philip,” he said, taking a seat next to her. “We have known each other for years, and at times such as these, I believe we can be less formal?” Indeed, Lucy and his sister Mary Ellen had been friends since before they were in leading strings. His mother and Mrs. Tolson were often in each other’s gardens or sitting rooms when he was young. They would have tea and stitch while their daughters would play. More than once, he had been enlisted to help keep them from trouble so that their mothers could relax. They had been tolerably good and pleasant enough to have as companions for a while. He and his friends had actually come to like having them around on occasion.
“Very well, but on Sundays and in company, I shall insist on calling you Mr. Dobney.” She smiled at him as she sniffled and stuffed her handkerchief into her pocket. “And you, of course, may call me Lucy.” She drew a deep breath and released it. Her heart felt less heavy and oddly protected as she sat there with him. But then, that was how his presence had always made her feel.
“You have settled into the position of parson well.” She gave him a sidelong look. “My father commented on how he has enjoyed your sermons these last few weeks. I believe he called them refreshing.”
“Lucy, I am here to offer comfort to you, not garner your praise.” He chuckled.
“Passing on my father’s praise gives me comfort. It makes it seem less like he is gone.”
“Then, I shall attempt to receive his compliments graciously.” He leaned back and looked toward the grave next to which she had been kneeling. “You said you were sharing news with your father. Is it anything with which I could be of assistance?”
She tilted her head and gave him a searching look. She had promised her father that she would speak to each of the men on his list. However, she had intended to do so with her Aunt Tess present, not while alone in a churchyard.
“Anything at all, Lucy,” he prompted.
Her cheeks grew warm, and she pulled up her shoulders and let them fall in a little shrug. “There is nothing,” she paused, then allowed the rest of her thought to rush out before she could think better of it. “Unless you wish to marry me or know of someone else who would be willing.”
If you would like to read the rest of the first chapter and a portion of Hope at Dawn you may do so by clicking this link. If you would like to be entered to win a Kindle copy of this book when it publishes this month, leave a comment below. Contest closes at midnight EST on March 17, 2016.
And, in case you are wondering, I have not stopped practising. A third story, The Tenant’s Guest: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, has been started with a new section of story posting each Thursday on my blog.
“If I want to get better, it’s the only way.”
How about you? What are some of the things you practice?