It is still summer vacation for me. School will not be starting until September. But, I thought I would start today’s post with a quick grammar question that you are guaranteed to get correct. I just know it. (And yes, this does have something to do with my writing. I promise.)
Did you pick is? Then, you’re correct.
Did you pick are? Then, you are also correct.
I told you that you were guaranteed to get it correct. 🙂
Actually, it was a trick question. Unless we are given more information, we cannot select the proper subject/verb agreement for macaroni and cheese because it’s one of those pesky subjects that relies on context to determine what verb it needs.
Read these sample sentences:
Macaroni and cheese are needed to complete this recipe.
Macaroni and cheese is my son’s favourite food.
Both are correct. In the first example, macaroni and cheese are two distinct items while in the second sentence they are working together as one unit. The context renders the subject as either singular or plural.
Fun, huh? 🙂
Ok, so not everyone finds grammar as interesting as I do, but understanding that two nouns joined by the coordinating conjunction and could be used either individually or as unit helped me to make a realization recently about who I am as an author.
It should have been obvious to me a while ago…quite a while ago…but it wasn’t.
Here’s what I am talking about.
When I began down the path to publishing my first book, a more seasoned author told me that I needed a tagline to describe who I was as an author. I came up with “Author of Austen-Inspired and Original Fiction” to describe what I wanted to write. It was both specific enough and broad enough to describe many of the ideas I had in mind for stories.
I think I knew even then that my style of writing was not going to be standard JAFF, nor was it going to be only JAFF. I knew I wanted to write stories featuring characters and plots which were all my own. So, I considered Austen-Inspired and Original as two separate and distinct types of stories. And that’s not wrong. However, as I have progressed down my writing career path, I have come to realize that Austen-Inspired and Original can also be used as one descriptor for my stories.
I have created several Austen-inspired stories that wander away from the plot of canon (they are definitely not retellings) and which contain some interesting and lovable (perhaps even swoon-worthy — I’m thinking of Lord Rycroft, for example) characters of my own creation.
I have given back stories to characters from canon who had none or very little (Lady Catherine and Mary Bennet are two).
I have made unlikeable characters into heroes and heroines (Henry Crawford, Mr. Collins, Caroline, and Wickham come to mind).
And all of those stories have taken some amount of original thinking about Austen’s characters.
However, there is also His Beautiful Bea, which, although it does contain deliberate nods to Mansfield Park, is a sweet Regency romance of my own creation, containing both original characters and an original plot. (You can read more about that in this Austen Authors post from last year.)
And then, there is my most recent work in progress which is working its way to publication at the end of August.
For me, this story brings the worlds of Austen-inspired and original together in a different way than any other story I have written before it. The hero and heroine are original characters — but friends of Henry Crawford, who shows up in the story in many places. The hero begins the story with the intent to draw the heroine along just enough to steal a kiss. (Does that sound a bit like his friend, Henry? It should.) But, of course, the plan does not play out as expected and affections become aroused. (Again, that should sound a bit like Henry and Fanny.) However, aside from those slight Austen influences and the appearance of a couple of Pride and Prejudice characters as walk-ons with a purpose, this story is completely original and so enjoyable!
I intend to tell you more about the story in a month, which will hopefully be right around release day, but for today, I wanted to give you an introduction to this story that made me realize that my description from years ago “Author of Austen-Inspired and Original Fiction” was more than it appeared to be at first but is an excellent descriptor of the heart of the author I am still becoming.
I don’t want to be an author that writes either Austen-inspired or original stories. I want to be an author who also writes both on the same page. I want to be macaroni and cheese. 😀
Below is an excerpt from chapter one of Charles: To Discover His Purpose.
[one note before you begin: It might help you to know that Constance is Henry Crawford’s betrothed and that Charles and Evelyn (the she in the excerpt) are the hero and heroine of this story.]
“Hear me out. Do not refuse until I have made my full request. And come forward more, I feel as if I am going to fall out of this door and onto the street.”
Charles chuckled. This young woman sounded more like Linton’s cantankerous Aunt Gwladys than a young lady of the ton. Most young ladies who presented themselves during the season went out of their way to appear demure to one and all – always.
“Do you scold everyone?” he teased as he did as she said.
If he had expected her to be offended, he was once again going to be surprised, for she merely smiled, batted her lashes, and replied, “No, very few beyond my brother actually.”
“So, I am special,” her returned.
She shrugged. “Perhaps you are. Or perhaps I just find you as troublesome as Griffin.”
“I think I will insist you find me special.”
“Do what you will, it matters not one jot to me,” she retorted.
Her words might have said she did not care, but her tone clearly said she was annoyed.
“As I was saying…”
“Before you began scolding.” Charles smiled at her huff.
“Before I had to pause to give instructions.”
Charles chuckled. “Continue. I shall not refuse until you have said your piece.”
“Refuse? You intend to refuse?”
“Most likely. But, I have not heard your request in full, so I cannot be certain I am correct until I do. I have been wrong before.”
Her brows rose, and her lips pursed for a moment as if she were holding back some retort.
“There will not be very many people in our box. If you slip in a side door or something and scurry up to the box, you will not have to have many people gawk at you.”
“You think I am worried about being seen?”
“I would be if my eye were the colour of yours, and that is why you are riding here and not in a more populated place, is it not? And, I have not seen you at any events since…well…” she pointed to her eye.
“I will admit that I do not relish the whispers.” Why he felt he needed to admit such a thing was beyond him. He could come up with any number of reasons to be riding where he was and for not having been at any soiree she had attended. A smile slipped slowly across his face. “Have you missed me?”
“What?” She shook her head vigorously. “No. I just noticed that I had not seen you slinking from shadow to shadow.”
“If you say so.”
“I do.” She scowled. “Now, will you be joining us? I am certain no one would be in the least put out if you did.”
“How reassuring,” Charles muttered.
“Please,” Constance added from the interior of the carriage. “I do feel dreadful that you have been out of society. It must be terribly boring sitting at home instead of going out.”
“Who said I was sitting at home?” He smiled a lazy, suggestive smile.
“Henry,” Constance replied.
Blast! Did Henry tell her everything?
“Very well, I have been hiding away. Are you happy to know my shame?”
“Only if it means you will join us,” said Miss Barrett.
“Can you not muster an ounce of sympathy?” he asked in surprise. Were not young ladies – especially those who did charity work – supposed to be compassionate?
She shook her head. “No. Not a morsel. While I am awfully sorry you were injured, I do believe you have escaped more times than you have been caught.”
The lady might look like an angel, but she had a heart of ice. But ice could be melted. In fact, it could be quite a marvelous lark to attempt to melt that ice.
“Very well, I will join you if you will but attempt to feel an ounce of pity for me.”
The way her lips pursed with contained amusement was tempting. “A full ounce?”
“Yes.” He moved closer to her door. “A full ounce.” He repeated the words in a low, sultry tone – slowly and deliberately. Satisfaction curled his lips as he saw her pretty nibble-worthy neck rise and fall as she swallowed.
She licked her lips. “I shall make an attempt.”
“Then, I shall see you at the theatre.”
He chuckled at the uncertainty in her voice. Again, he tipped his hat to the closed carriage door and watched it drive away before continuing on his way home to prepare for an evening of entertainment — and a play.
So what do you think? Do you think you might be interested in a “macaroni and cheese” story about Henry Crawford’s rakish friend? (Charles turns out to be a very charming, swoon-worthy hero. Sigh…)