Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 9

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Obviously I've failed in my attempt to get back to this sooner, but I am back, and so on we go...

In progress photo of what would become the cover art of Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story. Island Expedition and sails have been blocked in at this point.

The last time I was here I hinted that I'd talk a little about story length.  A beginning writer might ask, "How long should my story be?"  As far as I can see, the answer is... "As long as it needs to be to tell the story you want to tell."  But, as with anything that involves more than one person, there are standards and conventions.  One of the first is that we assess story length on the basis of word count rather than page count.  That's because word count is absolute.  A thousand words is a thousand words.  It doesn't matter if we've crammed it all onto a single sheet of paper, or if we've spread it out over dozens of pages.  In standard manuscript format, we can estimate those thousand words to occupy the better part of four pages.  Yet we can decrease margins, decrease font size, and lessen the line spacing to use fewer pages.  Or we can increase our settings and spread that thousand words out beyond the four pages.

A work of fiction can range in length from just a few words to something nearing infinity.  I think we've all seen the Tweets with a picture and the directions, "Write a story about this picture in six words or less."  There are also places on Twitter where folks try to write stories that fit within the length limits imposed by the social media platform.  Previously that would have been a maximum of 140 characters, but now it's at 280.  Short works of fiction are often referred to as flash-fiction or micro-fiction, each of which has a specified range of acceptable word counts.

Typically, if a story goes beyond one thousand words, it is considered to be a short story.  Depending upon the source, short stories can range from approximately one thousand words to as many as ten thousand words.  Novelettes can be anywhere from ten to twenty thousand words, and novellas from there up to forty thousand words or so.  Anything beyond forty or fifty thousand words is usually considered a full length novel.  Some people consider anything beyond 100 thousand words to be an epic novel.

Please understand that these ranges of word count for the various types of stories are general and that individuals may have more detailed and different cut off points.  Particularly if you are submitting work for publication, you should be aware of the publisher's definitions and limits.  Someone putting together a short story anthology may not want a ten thousand word short story.  They may only want 7,5k or even five thousand.  More than likely they have an idea of total word count for the book and the number of stories they wish to incorporate.  Thus, simple math will determine how long each story can be.

When it comes to full length novels, often the genre determines how long it should be.  Different genres have accepted lengths.  The age group of the intended readership also matters.  Typically, works for younger readers will be shorter.

There is no hard upper limit on the length of a story, but many folks see 100k words as a sort of soft upper limit.  In traditional publishing and printing, when a story length goes much beyond 100, words, the cost of producing the book rises at a faster rate than the selling price can be raised.  It means a greater risk for the publisher and that more sales will be needed to break even and then show any sort of profit.  Publishers can be wary of taking on epic length works by new unknown writers.  Sometimes it might be best to edit a longer story down to a more acceptable length or to offer it as a two part story or as a trilogy.

Depending on your writing process, you may determine to write a specified length and come very close to that when done.  Or you may start out, write until you finish, and be amazed at what you've ended up with.

Next time I'll look at my experiences regarding story length.
Dave
Me and my first book

More Ambition II

Obviously, that's what I need... more ambition.
Had a bit of it over the past couple of weeks, but it seems to have faded in the more recent days.  I did get my truck washed, and also installed some window tint film at the top edge of the windshield.  Additionally I reglued the mount and resinstalled the large five segmented Wink mirror.  One of the two mounts was coming loose earlier this summer and I went back to the stock mirror.  Great to have the expanded rear vision again.  I can live with/drive with the standard/stock one, but sure like having the bigger unit.

Last week, the same crew that painted the house last summer came by and repaired our chimney.  We'd had a guy do some work on it a few years ago, but it didn't seem to last, or perhaps he didn't go as far in to it as was needed.  Anyway, they discovered that most of the mortar between the bricks had disappeared.  The question on all our minds was, "how is this thing still standing?"  Anyway they replaced the mortar, rebuilt the upper cap and reinstalled the vent caps over the individual flues.  Looks better and is definitely a lot sturdier.  Should be a while before we have to do anything more with it.  (We had some pretty gusty winds a few days ago and it seemed to hold up just fine.)

A couple months ago I went to get on my Facebook Page and was unable to do so.  Thus I haven't been providing llinks there to posts here.  A day or so ago I tried again and now I can get back to it.  But it seems as if they are changing it somewhat and I'm still trying to learn my way around.  Biggest thing is, I can't find the Pages Feed, where I can see the latests posts on the Pages I've liked as my Page.  I always find interesting things there to post to my Page.  (Nor can I find the list of Pages liked by my Page.)

Noticed that in large, what they are doing is making the desktop version more like the mobile version and I don't know if that's a good thing or not.  Noticed that Twitter did something similar a couple of years ago.  Nice, I suppose for those folks who do most of their social media stuff via phone or tablet, but I always thought the desktop versions were better... for both platforms.  But anyway, I'm back on Facebook, and hopefully as we move forward, I'll post links there to get you to what I post here.  And if you want, you might scroll back through the last several posts here on LJ as some were never linked via Facebook.  There are a few updates to "Thoughts on Writing" and a few more excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories.
Dave
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

On with the Story

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Looks like my latest attempt to get back on schedule with posting has failed.  Nonetheless, the only way to get back to it is simply to do it.  So, here's a bit from Chapter Two of Sailing Dangerous Waters: Another Stone Island Sea Story.  The chapter is titled, "Good News." Enjoy!
Again, a picture that has nothing to do with The Stone Island Sea Stories or this post.  If you look closely, you may be able to see the praying mantis that spent several minutes sunning herself on one of the rocks I used to build a border about the shubbery in front of our house.  I ended up zooming in on the original pic, saving that and zooming in again.

            The conversation drifted.  Moments later they heard a voice from the pier and Andrews respond to it.
            Then Andrews turned to his captain.  “Sir,” he said.  “A message from the consulate, and Lord Sutherland would see the captain when most convenient.  The first lieutenant as well, if possible, sir.”
            Pierce looked quizzically at his friend.  Hotchkiss’s return glance mirrored the same puzzlement, as never had the Tritonish counsel ever sent for either or both of them, not when they were not physically present at the Consulate.
            Pierce must have dwelled on this for some time, for Andrews spoke again.  “Beg pardon, sir.  But the messenger is awaiting a reply to Lord Sutherland.”
            “Quite right, Mr. Andrews.  Tell him we will arrive within the hour!”
            “Aye aye, sir!”
            “Now we have some time, some short time to be spent making ourselves presentable.”
            “No, it would not do, half a bucket of slush on my trousers.  But I could never resist helping grease the carronade slides.”
            Fifteen minutes later Pierce and Hotchkiss appeared on deck in full dress uniform, polished, shined, and brushed clean and smooth.  “Mr. Andrews, you have the deck, it would seem.  Normal routine, if you please for the remainder of the day!”
            “Normal routine it is, sir.  Shall you go ashore with ceremony, sir?”
            “I think not, Mr. Andrews.  We’ve the hands busy for once, and would be a shame to break them from it.”
            “Aye, sir!”
            As they walked along the waterfront, Pierce had to check himself and continue past the Frosty Anchor.  It had become a habit to stop there.  Hotchkiss saw the slight change in pace as his captain recovered.  “I too thought to stop.”
            “The place has been a refuge at times.  When we do leave here, the Frosty Anchor is one place I will remember with some affection.”
            “As will I,” answered Hotchkiss.  “Would it be His Lordship summons us with news of that event?”
            “Deep within my soul, friend, I do hope for that.  But if I was a gambling man, I’d not wager it.”
            “Doctor Robertson’s last communiqué was quite optimistic.  Perhaps we can take heart from that.”
            “But he said progress was being made, not that any real results were forthcoming.”
            “Aye!” sighed Hotchkiss.  “It is nice to think we may soon be away from this place.  As much as we would welcome our departure, I would worry about Mr. Morgan’s heart.”
            “I daresay the bond between them grows stronger each day.  It is fortunate that she and her mother have joined him here”
            “Indeed, sir,” continued Hotchkiss.  “I believe there is real caring between them.  It’s not the old, ‘girl in every port,’ as said about sailors.  I’ve enjoyed my time with Gisele, as I am sure you have enjoyed yours with…”
            “With Leona Jackson?” Pierce finished the thought.  “I catch your drift, Isaac.  And yes I have enjoyed my time with her.”
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 8

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Here's hoping I'm back into a routine and will be posting "Thoughts on Writing," Excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories, and general tidbits on a more regular basis.  Today I should be mowing the lawn, but we have a crew repairing the chimney and I won't be able to get all of the yard done with them here, so I might as well get something posted.

Anyway, the last time I was here, at least in regards to the writing side of things, I talked a little about the imagination phase of writing.  Now, I'd like to talk a little about the actual process.

Creatively, when I sit down to write, it might be to get a scene or two on paper (computer) that I'd come up with earlier.  It also might be to continue a scene already started, or to go on to a new scene dictated by what has already happened.  Sometimes there is a lot of forethought in a scene and at other times it is just what comes to mind at the time.


I do my writing at a desktop computer, here in the little room we call, "the office," as seen above.  If I had a lap top, I'd use that.  But I want a real tactile keyboard, one that I can actually type on.  I learned to type half a century or more ago, in the eighth grade, and can to an extent, touch type.  I find the virtual keyboards such as we have on our phones and tablets to be to small and hard to work with compared to a real keyboard.  I end up hitting the wrong key way to easily, especially when I mean to hit the space bar.  I get frustrated with so called "auto-correct" as well.

While there are many forms of software out there for writing, I simply use Microsoft Word, whatever version I happen to have at the time.  Currently, I can open up a new document and with a handful of clicks have it set up so I can write in standard format.  (More on that in the future.)  I also do a separate document for each chapter.  That maybe a result of a bit of experience with computers and word processors when they were in the early stages of development.  Then, memory capacity was very limited, and a document the size of my typical chapter would basically max out the memory.  Then one would need to save it to a disk... the big ones about the size of a salad plate... 8 or 9 inch?  And each disk was good for only a chapter or two.

I've also found it easier only deal with the chapter I'm working on, rather than to open up and scroll through the entire story.  Once everything is at the final edit stage, or when I am ready to send it out to editors or perhaps agents, I'll combine them all into a single document.  But until then, each chapter is a separate document, with all filed in a folder for that particular story/book.

Usually when I sit down for a day's writing session, I'll go back over what i wrote the day before.  The idea is to get a running start, so that when I reach the point where I ended, I can automatically transistion from reading to writing.  I don't edit, per say, but if I see an obvious typo or other blatant error, I'll fix it.  On rare occasion I might decide I'm just not happy with the previous results and will do a bit more of a rewrite/revision to that point.  If memory serves, that happens once or twice per story.

When I sit down to write, my goal is to advance the story by three, four, or five pages.  Depending upon your view of things, your personal writing experience, that may seem like a lot, or it may seem like very little.  However, you should consider this.  If one writes in standard format, which I believe one should, each page is estimated to average 250 words.  If one completes four pages, a good average output for me, that's 1,000 words.  In fact it's probably somewhat more, as a typical page is usually over the estimated 250 words.  So if one completes four pages everyday for three months, one will end up with 90,000 words, more than enough for a full length novel.  Likewlse, if one only wrote a page a day, after a year there would be roughly the same word count.

Next time I hope to look at story lengths.  I also hope to be back to the subject sooner than I was for this post.
Dave
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Another Stone Island Sea Story

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Trying to get back to posting regularly again, both with excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories and my "Thoughts on Writing."  The mind isn't allowing me to concentrate at the moment, so here's an excerpt from the first chapter of the second book... Sailing Dangerous Waters.  These ae the opening pages of that first chapter, "The Long Wait."

The first chapter of all three stories can be found on my web-site.


Perhaps a bit difficult to make out, but this fairly crude map of Stone Island is on the wall next to the computer desk.

             A rivulet of perspiration trickled down Edward Pierce’s forehead and threatened to flow into his left eye.  He squinted, changing the contours of his face so the sweat dripped off the tip of his nose. As the drop fell free, the persistent fly that had harried him for the past half hour landed on his right cheek.  He swatted at it, ineffectively.
            “We should rest.  Tom grows weary.”  Pierce was one of four men moving easily through the glade, balancing the desire to keep moving with the need to rest.  Towering evergreens blocked the February sun’s brightness but did not ease the heat felt at their roots.  No breeze cooled those moving through the undergrowth.  Other creatures had sense enough to wait for the evening’s relative coolness.
            “I’m quite all right,” Tom Morgan panted from the rear.
            “Edward is right.”  In the lead, the Original Vespican’s diction and accent strongly contrasted with his appearance.  Darker than the others, he wore a breechcloth, linen leggings, and deerskin moccasins.  His uncovered hair fell loosely about his shoulders.  Two nondescript feathers were woven amongst its strands.
            “If we are in no haste,” asked Isaac Hotchkiss, “why do we push so?”
            “I must say, you learn quickly.  I’ve seen those raised on the edge of the wilderness not master life here as quickly.  That you are seamen amazes me that much more.”
            Seafarers or not, the three seemed accustomed to life in the forest.  Baltican in appearance, they dressed more completely but similarly to their guide.  In the afternoon’s heat, none wore more than buckskin trousers and homespun linen shirts.  Pierce and Hotchkiss sported old misshapen round-brimmed hats.  Tom Morgan wore a fur cap, complete with the striped tail of the creature.  He walked with a noticeable limp and worked harder to maintain their leisurely pace.
            “We have an excellent teacher,” replied Pierce.  “And Isaac is right to wonder about our haste.”   He swiped half-heartedly at the fly.
            Tom sank gratefully to the ground in spite of insisting he wasn’t winded.  The three carefully leaned their muskets against a nearby stump.  The leader’s rifle, a fine precision made firearm was also within quick reach.  They weren’t hunting, nor did they fear any immediate danger.  Still they remained alert, not knowing what threat might materialize out of the deep forested groves.
            “The only haste is on Tom’s part, I believe,” said Isaac.  “Were I enroute to see someone as dear as she, a little afternoon heat would not stop me.”
            “Nor would a missing leg, Mr. Hotchkiss.”  Tom twisted and stretched, the wooden end of his right leg clattering against an exposed root.
            “Does it pain you, lad?”
            “Not at all, Doctor.  I believe it has healed completely over the past months.  A bit of fatigue from continual movement is all it is.”
            “Do I examine it and be assured?  Perhaps the stump is not callused enough for such a prolonged journey.”
            “If you choose to, sir.  But any aches I feel are due the awkwardness of movement and not any tenderness.”
            “Then I will forego a look, Tom.  But you must promise to notify me of any additional discomfort.”
            “Of course, Doctor.”
            “Edward,” said Isaac, addressing the second individual.  “Is this similar to your search for the herbs needed to treat Tom’s leg?”
            “Yes, but we were mounted and did not roam so far away from the settlements.  I’m sure Lord Sutherland was more troubled then because I was out of his immediate control.”
            “With your behavior over the past months, and my own minute influence, I believe he is more at ease with your current absence,” said Doctor Robertson.
            The four drank moderately from the water bags they carried.  Silence ensued as each became lost in his own thoughts.
            Edward Pierce took his rest stretched out on the soft carpet of the forest floor, his eyes closed and his breathing slowed.  But he was not asleep, his active mind and the ever present fly would not allow it.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Apologies

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I started out doing really well, posting excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories and alternating them with "Thoughts on Writing."  Over the past few weeks, however, I've lost the rhythm of doing so.  Hope to get back to some sort of schedule shortly.
In the meantime, a quick doodle I recently did.  If it looks crude, the original is roughly 1.5 x 1.5 inches.  It's on a piece of scratch paper, hence the numerals in the corner.
Dave
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

More of the Story

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Here is another excerpt from Beyond the Ocean's Edge: A Stone Island Sea Story.  This in fact comes from the last chapter of the first Stone Island Sea Story, the twenty-fourth, "A Ray of Hope."

Edward Pierce and Dr. Robertson heading into the wilderness to find medicinal plants to heal Tom Morgan's infected amputation. (From Chapter 23 of Beyond the Ocean's Edge.)

             “Tomorrow, sir,” the doctor said.  “I’ll show you and Mr. Hotchkiss how to apply the salve and bandages.  Now that we have done the first application, you need not do the ancient rituals of purification.  The actual treatment is all that is required.  Perhaps we should have Mr. Andrews trained as well.”
            “But surely, Doctor, you can do it yourself?   Do you seek others to do your work?”
            “I do not shrink from my duties, sir.”
           Collapse )
            “Mr. Morgan,” said the doctor when he completed the introductions, “you have already allowed a half-Rig’nie doctor treat you.  Do you object to the care of this young Kalish woman? You can all rest assured that her skill and knowledge are far beyond her years.”
            As the doctor spoke, Cecilia drew a chair to Morgan’s bedside.  She sat next to him, and reached out to touch his brow and check that he was not feverish.  From the look on Morgan’s face, Pierce wondered if she had some power or magic in her touch.  The midshipman’s eyes shone with admiration, a smile had played upon his lips, and he plainly but quietly whispered, “No objection, sir.”
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Thoughts on Writing 7

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So I ended up getting a little off schedule for posting... both "Thoughts on Writing" and excerpts from the Stone Island Sea Stories.  Now, I suppose it's time for the next "Thoughts on Writing.."

Over time I've enjoyed reading Naomi Novik's "His Majesty's Dragon" series, and came up with this idea of what a Dragon Transport ship might look like.


Anyway, the last time I posted on this subject, I talked a little about the variations between so-called  plotters, planners, or outliners versus those often referred to as pantsers.  (If you remember, I described myself as a pantser because I don't outline, but noted I do plot and plan.

For me, writing is a two step process.  First comes the daydreaming phase, the figuring it out step, the getting it it my head part.  This is something I quite often do when not at the computer, when I haven't set down to actually write.  I might do this while engaged in some other activity, one that allows me to put myself on autopilot and turn my mind over to the creation of a story.

Sometimes I might be looking at the overall story, figuring out what I want to have happen at keypoints along the way.  There may be certain things I want to mention, have happen, or allow the characters to be involved in during the course of the story.  Then there are specific scenes I want to incorporate, and I might spend some time visualizing those scenes.  When I do, it is almost as if I'm reading the scene, or as if someone is reading it to me.  I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the action, hear the conversations, etc., in the same way I would as if reading it or having it read to me.

Many folks reccommend having something to write down such thoughts or otherwise record them for later use.  Quite often I'm in a situation where that isn't possible.  (I used to do a lot of this while at work, especially while cleaning tennis courts in the very early morning hours.  Once I got to going around and around the courts, pushing/guiding the sweeper, I could let habit take over to do the job and turn most of my attention to "working" on the story.)  Instead, I simply file it away in my memory.  I might dig it out the next day and go over it again.  Or, if I haven't yet written that particular scene, I might revive it days or weeks later and run through it again.

Sometimes the scene I visualize is what I'm going to write the next time I sit down to write.  At other times it might be a scene I won't use for some time.  On occasion it might be a scene or an idea that won't get used until I'm working on a later book or story.  When I do sit down and write the scene, it might give me some clues/ideas as to the next scene or the continuation of the one I have in mind.  If possible, I'll continue, even if I haven't done any previous consideration of what comes next.

For me the second step is the actual writing.  If I were a plotter or planner, I imagine the second step might be creating the outline, and the third step, actually doing the writing.

Next time I'll look at the actual writing process.
Dave
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

Nearly to the end!

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So somehow I got distracted over the past weekend and didn't get the next post on "Thoughts on Writing" written and up.  I'm thinking I'll resume that come Saturday or Sunday.  Meanwhile, here's another excerpt from Beyond the Ocean's Edge: A Stone Island Sea Story.  This comes from Chapter Twenty-Three, "The Healing Man."  I hope you enjoy it.
Dave

Daughter Jessica used her computer skills to make this, based on the sketch that accompanied my last post.
Here is a second variation which with some changes has ended up on both front covers.


           Pierce felt much better the next morning.  He had eaten more sensibly and had gone to bed at a sensible and civilized hour.  He had gotten a decent night’s sleep, despite a stealthy midnight visit from Leona Jackson.
            He had gone to see Morgan soon after arising, and had found the midshipman’s condition the same, if not slightly worse than before.  The room had been cooler and the fetid smell of infection had dissipated some.  Pierce had been grateful that the doctors had not returned to close the windows and bundle poor Morgan into a feverish sweat-soaked cocoon.  At the same time, that they hadn’t returned irked him.  It was inexcusable that they would not spend even a few minutes to see to a patient in such obvious need.  But both of them had other patients, and perhaps situations with those had prevented their return.  Or had both Matheson and Blackburn decided no hope existed for Morgan and simply avoided seeing him?
            Pierce was in Major Howard’s office later that morning, engaged in a lively discussion of how to prove his innocence.  The major had done his utmost since their arrival, but Pierce was impatient with the progress.  As the morning wore on, tempers sizzled and voices were raised.
            Just before it turned into a full-scale argument, a marine knocked at the door.
            “Yes?” said Major Howard.
            “A gentleman to see Commander Pierce, sir!” shouted the marine through the door.
            Pierce asked, loudly, “Does he have a name?”
            “Aye, sir.”
            “Well what is it?” demanded Howard.
            “Says it’s ‘Dr. Robertson,’ sir.”
            “This is unbelievable!” said Pierce and a smile spread across his face.  He leapt from his seat.  “He could hardly have come so quickly!  This is unbelievable!”  Then to the marine at the door, he said, “Tell him that I will be there straight away!  Major, I’ll give you respite from my temper.  This is unbelievable!”
            Pierce found the doctor in the consulate’s waiting room.  “Dr. Robertson?” he inquired, although it could be no one else.  “I am Master and Commander Edward Pierce.”
            “Most happy to meet you, Commander,” said the doctor, extending his hand.
            “And I, sir, you!” exclaimed Pierce as he took the proffered hand in a strong grasp and pumped it vigorously.  “You are here so quickly?  I did not expect you until next week at the earliest!”
            “You were expecting me?” asked Robertson.
            The doctor was younger than Pierce had imagined, his first guess being that the two were close to the same age.  The doctor was an inch or two shorter and had a thicker and stockier build.  His Native Vespican ancestry was apparent.
            What caught Pierce’s attention were the man’s eyes.  Dark brown, nearly black, they exuded warmth and humanity, fairly twinkling with good-natured kindness.  There was a familiarity about the man that Pierce could not fathom.
            “Lord, yes!  Humphrey, at the Frosty Anchor, sent the messenger only yesterday!  I was told four or five days or more for you to journey from Bostwick!”
            “Then it is answered, sir!  I was not in Bostwick.”
            “You are not here for Midshipman Morgan and his amputation gone awry?”
            “I have not been told of a Mr. Morgan.  But as I am here, I will look into the matter.”
            “Thank you, sir!” said Pierce.  Beside himself with relief, he grasped the doctor’s hand and shook it strongly once more.  “But if you have not come regarding Morgan?”
            “I come about you and your men.  When my father returned from his visit to your colony on Stone Island….”
            “Your father?”
            “Shostolamie.”
            “Shostolamie is your father?”  Pierce knew why the man’s eyes were familiar.
Beyond the Ocean's Edge

And The Story Continues

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Thursday and time for a small excerpt from the Stone Island Sea Stories.  Today, a selection from Chapter Twenty-Two, "Dangerous Diversions," from Beyond the Ocean's Edge: A Stone Island Sea Story.  Pierce is at a dinner hosted by a prominent resident of Brunswick.  He has just met the wife of the captain who brought him there, basically as a prisoner.

Yours truly at a book signing several years ago... back when Hastings was still in business.  That's the original cover art on the stand in front of me.

            “I understand, Commander Pierce,” she said between bites of roasted lamb, “that my husband had the honor of conveying you to Brunswick.”
            “Indeed, he did, ma’am,” he answered politely.
            “And how did you find him, sir?” she asked.
            Pierce found the wording amusing and replied, “I was not aware he was missing.  He was always aboard ship, the best I knew.  Had I been asked, I would have aided in any search for him.”  For once he was able to maintain a totally solemn expression.
            She and the others sat dumbfounded, thinking he had mistaken the intent of her question. He grinned slightly and at once the Gallician picked up on it.
            “He has us all, I daresay!” laughed the Gallician.
            “Yes, quite!” interjected one of the ladies seated beside him.
            “How amusing, Commander,” said Mrs. Jackson.  “I was meaning what you thought of him?  How the two of you got along?”
            Should he answer truthfully and tell her that he had been totally disgusted by Jackson’s treatment of his crew?  Should he explain that the conditions that Hotchkiss and he had traveled under were due to explicit orders from Commodore Hargrove, and not the result of Jackson’s own desires?
            “Being strangers, ma’am, and that Mr. Hotchkiss and I were, and are, under suspicion, our relationship with the captain was correct and civil.”
            “Silly me,” she laughed.  “I needn’t have asked.  It’s what I would have expected.  But what else would one say in company and to his wife?”
            “Mrs. Jackson hoped to arrive and surprise her husband when he arrived to take on stores," announced Lady Sutherland.
            “And I have caused that to go awry,” murmured Pierce.  “For him to deliver us, he sailed earlier than scheduled.  Please accept my apology, Mrs. Jackson.”
            “My dear Commander, think nothing of it.”  She smiled and a reached out to reassuringly squeeze his hand.  “We all know that wind and tide play havoc with the best plans of men and ships.  I may well have arrived after his visit, regardless of any unscheduled intervention.”
            “I am relieved you do not hold it against me, ma’am.”
            “But what will you do, Mrs. Jackson,” asked the lady directly across from her, “while you are here and he is out to sea?  It may be some time before he is back.”
            “Still, he will be back, and much sooner than to Kentland.  Here I can see him every few weeks, or wait at home and not see him for months.  Perhaps years.”  She took a sip of wine and a bite of lamb.  “I shall find enough to busy myself while waiting.  Perhaps I will eat like this every day, get fat as a pig, and see if he recognizes me, ha ha!”
            Pierce had cooled from the fluster of his moment of decision, but now the warmth returned.  Mrs. Jackson had shifted slightly in her chair, and had slipped her left foot behind his right.  She gently flexed her foot and allowed her shin to gently nudge his calf.  He caught her scent, floral and sweet, but not overpowering.  It was enough that he noticed and realized her nearness.  He grew warmer still, and hoped desperately that it did not show.  He should not accept what were obvious advances, but the means of refusing escaped him.
            “I’ve had to adjust my breeches twice,” he announced in response to her last remark.  Hastily he added:  “They do serve a hearty meal in these parts of this world.”
            “I’ve been to great dinners in Malden, and oft times, I believe, those people cannot have done better than what’s before us tonight.  Most excellent!” she said.
            “Yes indeed,” remarked Lord Sutherland.  “We should say very well done, and thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Mercer.  Theirs is always a most delicious and bountiful table.”
            “With such a variety as well.  I’ve learned to eat sparingly at their table, lest I be ready to burst before the first remove,” added Lady Sutherland.  “In three days, I believe, dinner shall be at the consulate, and I hope that Mrs. Jackson finds our table as well-laden.”
            “Oh, I shall!  I know I shall!”  She shifted again and changed the position of her lower limb against Pierce’s.  “It is so good to have a real dinner for once.  I apologize, Captain Robards, but even at the captain’s table, sea-going meals are not all they could be.”
            “There were storms and squalls, ma’am, such that the galley fires were out much of the time,” said the packet captain, who had been silent for much of the meal.  He looked strangely at Mrs. Jackson.  “I too rejoice in the fare now set before us.”
            Pierce caught the glance Robards turned in the lady’s direction, and wondered of any connection during the voyage.  “I have seen times,” he said, “when salt pork, dried peas, and biscuit without a frigate’s complement of bargemen seemed a feast!”
            “As have all who journey upon the sea,” responded the packet captain.
            “I meant no disrespect as to the quality of your table, Captain,” said Mrs. Jackson.  With coolness toward the packet captain, she continued.  “I thought to clarify that earlier.”