Fiction: Why William Weldon Fell

Thankful jumped the final step in a hurry to greet her lieutenant. Her large and expensive engagement ring glittered on her gloved hand, and she giggled her way closer to Fahy who stood like a proud peacock. William shifted in his boots—determined to sneak off after the first dance and join the rough privates at drinking behind the barracks. The men continued to smoke. Thankful brushed ash from William’s cigar off of Fahy’s coat sleeve.

“Damned sorry about your pony, Weldon,” Fahy tried.

“Yes, well . . .” was all William could muster.

“Any news yet on your wedding dress, my sweet?” Fahy asked Thankful.

“Mama is being difficult, as always,” Thankful replied with a red face.

Mrs. Markham, who had been giving the private final instructions at the back door, came out now into the cool night air. “Good evening, Mr. Fahy. You look well.”

The lieutenant tipped his hat with a smile but noted a sadness in her eyes. “Mrs. Markham, are you all right?”

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s been a Jonah day, is all.”

William said, “Again, I’m terribly sorry to have brought Miss Peckham. She’s not very nice, is she?”

“You need to ask, Willy?” Thankful sneered.

“Oh, Bill, it’s not about the horrible girl. The captain said he’d send word by now. I miss him—you know how I love a dance with him,” she choked out.

William coughed.  “I admire you, ma’am. I remember my mother waiting all alone—like you. You’ve got it hardest in a way because you can’t know all that might happen, but you’re brave. The few weeks I was with you, the captain always seemed so proud of you. I’m sure he’s proud still.”

“Thank you, Bill. I sometimes forget you were one of us.”

William took a lonely breath and glanced at the sky.

Miss Peckham pushed her way through now.

“Is this the same girl, who wore trousers a few hours ago and created such a ruckus?” Fahy asked. “You clean up nicely, Miss Peckham.”

“My proper clothes are still in town, sir. This outfit is positively idiotic on me, I’m sure,” Miss Peckham responded, but it was obvious to all that Miss Peckham was pleased with her looks and the attention the lieutenant gave her.

William enjoyed seeing Thankful with a pout of jealousy—everything should not always go her way.

Thankful spoke. “It’s a shame you’re so long-legged or else that dress might really fit you.”

“Oh, dear, Miss Crenshaw, I’ve hiked the skirt up on purpose. I’m not ashamed of my ankles like thicker legged girls might be and besides, Mr. Weldon will have an easier time without fussy skirts at his feet.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you,” William said with a grin, “but I don’t intend to dance. You have nice ankles though.”

“William!” Thankful scolded, but Fahy gawked at Miss Peckham’s ankles, causing Thankful to pout once more.

Miss Peckham put her arm through William’s. “Shall we be off?”

The group arrived under the soft light of the lanterns. The lieutenant, by far the best and most popular dancer in his fine dress uniform, led in the first German. It was tradition in the regiment for a guest to be given the same honor, and Miss Peckham put herself forward with enthusiasm. Mrs. Markham sought to commiserate with some women from the regiment who also awaited news of their men.

Thankful fumed at the attention Miss Peckham got in her borrowed things. “She’s not even in the remotest way pretty,” she pointed out to William, who stood beside her. “Look there, she missed a step!”

“Golly, Thankful, I’d hate to be under your critical eye if I ever danced.” William puffed his cigar.

Thankful touched his arm and said, “I felt so sorry when she joked about your . . . infirmity.”

“Why? I’m an invalid. There’s no hiding it.”

“It was an insensitive remark. I would never–”

“What? Accept facts? That’s what my parents do, too. Don’t you think I always knew what you thought of me even if you never said it?” William said his pleasant drunkenness taking a switch.

Thankful’s heart leapt. “Excuse me?”

“I like Miss Peckham because she’s honest. Everyone pretends, for my sake, not to notice my limitations—it’s maddening. She laughed about it but also complimented my riding—and she’s right. I’m a good rider if nothing else.”

“If you were so good, you wouldn’t have fallen long ago!” Thankful said.

“You say you’re a friend, but for the life of me I don’t see it,” William said and threw his finished cigar out the window.

“I’m terribly sorry!” Thankful said. “I don’t know what made me say that!”

William let the anger and shame of a secret memory spill from his gold eyes. “I don’t care. I was ten and drunk that night.”

“What are you talking about, Willy?” Thankful asked.

“At the brothel—the women tried to get me drunk enough to go with a man. So yeah, I was pretty unsteady on the horse I tried to escape on. So that’s why I fell.” He’d never spoken about that night.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: Love and Marriage

William had three drawings published in an obscure magazine back east and even one sketch put into the Army Navy Journal. He sent that one to his father. As long as he avoided Thankful, Lieutenant Fahy and thoughts of home, his days were bearable. The Apaches rampaged as the garrison troops polished their guns, awaiting orders. None of it mattered to William. He’d burnt that bridge.

Slipping out of his room he made his way towards the edge of town for horizontal refreshment. In funds again, however briefly, William whistled a tune.

Ginny always waited on the rickety, bone-dry porch for him. Sun-bleached as the wood planks, she had the prettiest blonde hair William had ever seen. Today another form sat beside her. He strode up, not bothering to tip his hat. The strange lady glared at him. This woman was cutting into his time. William stood waiting, hands shoved in pockets. Ginny looked caught.

“Say, Billy; this is Miss Peckham from Philadelphy.”

William nodded.

Ginny played with a long strand of hair that had fallen from her bun. “Yes, Miss Peckham is studyin’ the West and all us—ain’t that so, Miss Peckham?”

“Please, Virginia, you must call me Gertrude—we’re all equals, you know,” Miss Peckham instructed.

“Please, Miss Peckham, I mean Gertrude, I ain’t never been called Virginia. It’s always Ginny, please.”

“You must embrace your rightful name; lord knows how men try to define us otherwise.” Miss Peckham glared at William for a second, but worked a small charming dimple into a condescending smile.

“But, scuse me, Miss Peck—Gert—it’s my dead mother that named me Ginny so I’d like to keep it just the same,” Ginny said, her pock-marked face turning purple in consternation.

“Ginny, what’s the time?” William asked, jangling the coins in his pocket.

“Why, I have the time, sir,” Miss Peckham said. She stood and reached into the pocket of her mannish bloomers.

William gave Ginny an appalled look.

Miss Peckham opened her man’s watch and snapped it shut again. “Mister, you’re too late. Ginny will no longer be used by men like you.”

“Oh, and what will you do, Ginny, go east for a job in the White House?” William joked.

The women didn’t laugh.

“Ginny, what’s this all about?” William asked.

“It’s about women bein’ made all captured by men and such,” Ginny said. “I don’t mind you, Billy, but . . .”

Miss Peckham pushed her arm through Ginny’s supportively. “Ginny, when I asked, did you not say that this man was your worst customer?” she quizzed like an attorney.

“Well, no and then yes. He owes me, but . . . it’s different.” Ginny blushed.

“Didn’t you say he treated you like any other whore?”

“Say! There’s no need to call her that!” William said, expecting approval for his defense of Ginny.

“But it’s fine to ride her and use memory loss as an excuse for non-payment?” Miss Peckham asked.

“I pay when my money comes through—you know that, Gin,” William explained, pulling his hat low over his eyes.

Miss Peckham surveyed him, her free hand resting on her hip. “This world is run on men’s terms. That’s why things are such a mess.”

William laughed. “I doubt you and Ginny could do any better . . .”

“Women have run societies—Indian and aboriginal and . . .” Miss Peckham said as she fingered her fashionable bangs.

“And where are they now if they were so superior?” William asked.

“White men and their brutal ways destroyed all that was good and . . .”

“So these female societies never properly defended their people . . . hmm,” William responded, turning to Ginny. “Want to get in out of the sun?”

But Miss Peckham continued. “What men don’t understand they destroy or ignore!”

“I understand you perfectly. I just disagree. In a perfect world there would be no need for Ginny—I mean her profession . . .” William replied, taking Ginny’s hand even as Miss Peckham grabbed her at the opposite elbow.

“I’d like ta get married one day,” Ginny confessed, looking up at William with adoring eyes.

“Marriage is a death sentence for women!” Miss Peckham said. “They lose their names and their personalities, and I for one shall never marry. I have a greater love for all of humanity. Romantic love is a trap, made up to yoke women into slavery.”

“A trap, maybe, but one that women happily get caught in,” William said.

“Well, if they understood; I feel sorry for most women . . .” Miss Peckham stated. “Is dying in childbirth a good thing, sir?”

“Is dying in war, miss?” William asked. “You should take your men’s clothes and crazy notions back where you came from.”

“Why on earth would I take a suggestion from a man so lacking in manners?”

“This is how I speak to all men—we’re equals, right?” William said, pulling Ginny, but Ginny stood still.

“I ain’t too sure I agree with Miss Peckham about nothin’ cept gettin’ paid. Sorry Billy.”

William jangled his coins again more emphatically, but a stubborn look came upon Ginny’s usually compliant face.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: The Parting Glass

Parting is sorrow for William and his father . . .

William slid out of bed and rummaged around for a bottle. All were empty, but his father left a few coins amounting to less than five dollars on the bureau—probably all he had to spare. “Damn him, making me the guilty one. How does he do it?” William mumbled, scooped up the change and was about to walk out when Jay Haviland arrived.

“Say, Bill, I saw your ghost on the street an hour ago—Robinson tells me it’s your old man—you’re the spitting image, cut from the same cloth . . .”

“Yes, he’s gone now. Why are you here?”

“Well, that’s a nice way to talk to your closest friend and confidante.” Haviland looked around the room haughtily.

“Why is it I’ve never in all these months seen or heard about your family if they’re such big bugs?” William asked.

“I told you, but you must have forgotten, Bill, that they’re touring Europe, Tibet and all,” Haviland said, eyeing Thankful’s watch.

William snapped it shut and put it in his pocket. “I thought you said Asia or Siberia?”

Haviland huffed as if offended, but smiled then. “Here, I’ve brought us some spirits—thought maybe to share with your fine father . . . anyway, my family will be just across Panama and off first to the South Seas and THEN Europe—I told you already.”

William had a talent for map making but knew almost nothing of the world. He figured his parents didn’t think he’d go very far anyway. “Give me some of that, Haviland. I feel like a celebration,” he said with great sarcasm.

“You? I thought you’d be all cut up over Miss Crenshaw and that ass Fahy.”

William slicked his hair, wiped the oil on his trousers and took a drink from Haviland’s bottle. “He’s not an ass really. He’s right for Thankful,” William said.

“Well, I saw the two the other day at the agency, and they were so close if Fahy farted Thankful could smell what he had taken for supper. I knew somethin’ was up.”

William took another drink.

“Watch it, bub, you’ll be washed out and passed out before we have a night. Did Father Weldon put you in funds? I’d have expected a more dashing and distinguished look for an old lieutenant, but he’s nothing better than a down-and-out rail worker,” Haviland laughed.

“I’ll not have you insult my father!”

Haviland searched William’s face with friendly condescension. “Your secrets are out William Weldon. You don’t come from eastern royalty after all so no need to talk all high falootin!”

“I’ve never said anything about royalty.”

“No need to get all heated in the desert, Bill. Let’s go to the barroom. The air ain’t so close there.”

“Fine.”

Haviland held the door and William stumbled out, already greatly influenced by Haviland’s “Tarantula Juice.” At the saloon, Haviland looked disappointed with the small change William pulled from his trousers, but said nothing. Two days of hard drinking with only the brief respite of his father’s visit made getting back to blind drunk easier for William. He held his glass unsteadily and toasted. “To my father. I hope he rots in Hell.”

Haviland touched the glass with his own disinterestedly. William’s head fell into his dirty hands.

“For the love of Christ, Bill, this is some celebration. You’ve gone plumb loco and I’m not happy with it. You’re bad company these days.”

William lifted his head long enough to order yet another drink. He gulped it down, but the image of his father sending him off at the train station a year ago would not allow for clear thinking. He had expected his mother to take his parting hard, but she’d been stoic. She kissed him, her eyes full of pain and pride, and she wished him luck. Weldon shook his son’s hand.

At the time William received it with cold formality; again his father came up short with no words of wisdom, no parting words at all. William found a window seat and looked up to the houses on the hill before craning his neck to see their own hill rising on the opposite side, the shabbier side. He slid out of his seat and into the other facing the depot and spotted his parents sitting on an out-of-the-way bench. His father’s walking stick—his one nice thing—was on the ground next to his mother’s faded parasol still open.

They didn’t scan the windows of the train for a last wave good bye. Their son was gone. And William stared at them in surprise at their emotion. Katherine looked empty, but his father hid his face as his shoulders shook. At the time William turned away repulsed at yet another sign of his father’s weakness.

William tried another drink, but couldn’t finish it. He stood to go. “I have to go home and tell my father . . .”

“Your father is long since gone, Bill. I saw him myself,” another drinker said to him. “He was coming from the apothecary shop then took the train.”

“Apothecary? The druggist?” William pushed his stool away and felt his way out. “Just forget it all; forget him. He’s worthless. . . .” William’s gut pained him, and he slouched under the staircase up to his room. It smelled of urine and was the only damp place in the whole town. He couldn’t take the heat or the steps. It was too hard. Everything was.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

PHOTO courtesy Library of Congress

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

How to Write Believable Female Protagonists (and why we have such a hard time liking them)

Can we be honest? About 1/2 of the reading public has just moved on at the phrase “female protagonist.”  Since “women continue to read circles around men, especially in fiction and literature: 64 percent of ladies read at least one book in 2012 (and 56 percent read at least one literary book), compared to only 45 percent of men (only 37 percent read at least one literary book) why do we shy away from reading about women  when most of us fiction readers are WOMEN? SEE STUDY

We tend to see men as doing and women as feeling, yet in the study sited above even when names were switched and men  were  feeling and women  doing, readers felt they related to whomever was named Jack, not Jill.

As a novelist who writes about men and women who do AND feel I wonder why even I feel more ambivalent about female protagonists in my writing. Despite the study above my gut says there’s 5 things going on here as illustrated through my characters:

WEAKNESS: Katherine Weldon  and her husband both carry with them burdens of childhood trauma, yet John Weldon’s weakness (morphine addiction) takes center stage. Katherine is blamed for somehow standing out and being subjected to a violent sexual encounter. I don’t believe we live in a rape culture, but I do believe that rape is so horrifying to most moral beings that until very recently people would rather read about a trip on a raft down a river (as a small aside: statistically, more men than women are raped each year–mostly in prison).  In our modern age we don’t like butting up against a biological truth that, in general, women are weaker physically and at times more emotional. Sue me, but the ladies in SEX IN THE CITY and GIRLS are someone’s fantasy.  If you want to write about women realistically you have to accept the fact that it’s probably going to get pretty messy.

LOVE DRIVE: Keep in mind that I blog what I ponder, fully aware that I don’t have all the answers here. Mostly just more questions: Why do women want to be men?

Thankful Crenshaw does not have a man’s sex drive. She has a love drive. She is driven by an overactive desire for deep love. I know women like this (I may be a woman like this). A woman like this is not flippant about sexual encounters. I knew one young woman who was flippant until her boyfriend deserted her at the abortion clinic.

Real women can compete with men on many levels, but unlike men, they have a harder time compartmentalizing. A sex drive fits easily into a box. A love drive spills all over the place.

Women carrying heavy machine guns, kick boxing in tight spandex and yukking it up at the bar later (wearing lipstick) just don’t sit well with me. Men doing the same thing minus the spandex and lipstick entertain me greatly.

JEALOUSY: Men seem to use jealousy to drive themselves forward. Women tend …to … destroy each other. Thankful is beautiful. She’s used her beauty as power and sadly misused it as well. Miss Peckham arrives with her modern ideas and her contempt for women like Thankful and feathers fly. It’s not a pretty picture. This is not men cock-fighting. This is women and pecking orders. This is blood and guts in a way we don’t want to see it.  I wonder also if we as  women readers don’t really want to see a  successful woman to make us feel bad about ourselves. We want men with machine guns again or women pretending to be men.

IRRATIONAL FEARS: This does not mean women shouldn’t have their hands anywhere near the nuclear bomb button. What it means is that women unleash deep irrational fears in both men and women. The ability of women to have children is kind of weird. Even cavemen were awed. Awe is scary. Women access emotions and splatter them about when least expected. Men scatter. Other women sometimes scatter, too.

Men do a better job hiding the messy stuff behind action. Or maybe those compartments they have come in real handy. Be prepared as a writer to be shocked by your female characters. Wow, suddenly Katherine uses food as an outlet for freedom? Who would have guessed it.

RELATIONSHIP VS ACTION: A female character who isn’t concerned with relationships over action seems really alien to me. As a wife, mother, sister and friend I find it hard to imagine not sacrificing the limelight to another. In real life most women I know struggle at times with this. When writing about Lucy McCullough I walked a fine line. Somehow she managed to not only be strong and quietly heroic, but also generous and self-sacrificing. It’s probably why I have a love/hate relationship with her.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do we love men more or are we afraid of women?

WHY DO WOMEN READ MORE NOVELS?

THE HARRY POTTER EFFECT

29 AWESOME BOOKS WITH FEMALE PROTAGONISTS

THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

 

Fiction: Sex and the Single Girl

All the way to his quarters Fahy fretted over Thankful’s lie about enjoying sex and was disappointed.

Maybe Thankful couldn’t be trusted. Fahy considered his own lame attempt at making the night special. He had hoped that she would enjoy the element of risk and find the woodpile area endearing, but had known as he brought her there that he had failed.

Fahy did want to please Thankful, but she was so stiff and restrained. Being with her forever suddenly felt like a frightening burden even as he loved Thankful very much. Now Fahy wished he hadn’t pressured her. Before, Thankful seemed to enjoy touching, but he’d been impatient and may have spoiled it all. Fahy took a slug of whiskey. He didn’t even like it. Why had he assumed Thankful might? Ugh. The night had been a disaster. Fahy turned around and went back to the Markhams’ home now.

“May I speak for a moment with Miss Crenshaw, Captain Markham?” he asked the sleepy older man.

Markham called up to Thankful, and she came to the door in her wrapper with her hair loose now. The oil lamps made her face glow. Markham left for the kitchen.

“Thankful, I’ve been a brute. I never should have asked you to do what you’ve done.”

“Well, it’s too late now,” said Thankful. “Are you here to break our engagement?”

Fahy laughed nervously. “No, why?”

“I just thought . . . well, you tried so hard tonight.”

“Thankful, you’re wrong. I didn’t try at all. I’m the selfish one. Forgive me. I want you to wear my ring.”

“Oh, thank goodness!” Thankful whispered. “You seemed terribly disappointed in me.”

“No, it wasn’t you. With practice, you’ll be fine. It’s just that I ruined it for the wedding—you were right about that.”

“Lieutenant Fahy, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” She pointed to the kitchen where Captain Markham rattled pans. “I’m just happy that you aren’t angry at me.” Thankful peered up at him and ran her small hand over his. “I must go to sleep now—but would you mind if from now on I call you Pierce?”

“No, call me whatever you like,” Fahy replied, but seemed uncomfortable with the idea.

It troubled Thankful when Fahy moved his hand away from hers. “Maybe I’ll stick with Lieutenant Fahy,” she said, trying to make light of it. “That’s what I’m used to.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Fahy asked, glancing behind him at the empty parade grounds.

Thankful pulled her wrapper tight. “Nothing. It’s not important. Good night.”

“Yes, good night. I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You suppose?”

“Thankful, please, stop trying to catch me in my words.”

“I didn’t mean to . . .”

“I know. Damn. I’m just knackered. Things will seem better in the morning,” the lieutenant said.

“Why do things suddenly seem so bad?” Thankful asked.

Fahy shook his head. “Good night, miss.” He kissed her hand and left again.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

***Featured image “Sadness” by Julia Margaret Cameron

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: The End of Innocence

The rest of the day hung like a weight around Thankful’s neck. Poor young Lydia cried and suffered. Captain Markham came home from a few weeks in the field and was informed about Thankful’s surprising inattention to important household duties.

Thankful poured coffee for the couple and it took everything in her not to spill the hot liquid in Mrs. Markham’s lap. The captain listened to his wife with nodding head before turning to Thankful.

“You do know that we have a very sick child and my wife cannot be burdened with menial labor right this moment, Miss Crenshaw. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nothing, sir. I was dispirited over Mr. Fahy, but it’s no excuse for not having coffee made.” Thankful wanted to rip the captain’s disgusting sideburns from his face and fling him into the fire. Why on earth must they keep such a fire in the desert?

“What’s happened to Fahy?” Markham asked his wife.

“He’s fallen for our Thankful and plans to marry her.”

“Sakes alive! Why didn’t you tell me that straight off? Well, that’s darn good news for you, young lady—and Fahy, too!” Markham scratched his freshly-shaved chin as if pondering the mysteries of the universe. “Don’t worry about this morning’s coffee. I understand it all now, and I’m certain it won’t happen again.”

“No, sir.”

“Why doesn’t she seem at all happy then?” the captain asked his wife.

Thankful wiped her eyes. “May I be excused?”

Mrs. Markham replied, “Right after you wash up those dishes, dear. Will you see the lieutenant this evening?”

“Yes,” Thankful sobbed and ran to the kitchen.

When Lieutenant Fahy came to call, Thankful lingered upstairs. The few things she had to wear were smoky and wilted in the overheated house. Thankful washed and wondered if Fahy would like her body. She poured a liberal dose of flower water over herself and slipped on her best dress. Her hair needed washing, but she hadn’t any time, so she pulled it tight like a school marm, feeling anything but gay.

When Mrs. Markham called to her a third time, Thankful appeared. Fahy looked dashing in his dressier blouse and trousers. He flashed her a big friendly smile. They let the Markhams believe they were going to the dance tonight. Fahy and Thankful skirted the music and a wave of loneliness crashed over Thankful as the band played the fiddler’s waltz. She pulled on Fahy’s arm. “I’m so very frightened.”

Fahy kissed her, a little impatiently. “Don’t worry, miss.”

Thankful imagined that Fahy would bring her someplace special—a hidden spot—so she grew curious when they circled back behind the Markhams’ house and toward the woodpile. A tattered army blanket and a jug of whiskey lay in the shadows.

“You said that you imagined us under the pines—well, here’s some wood, anyway—pine wood—so it smells sort of the same,” Fahy explained.

“But the woodpile?” Thankful asked in astonishment. “I can practically see into Mrs. Markham’s kitchen. I hear the children! And there’s Mrs. Tremble bringing out the trash. My goodness! They’ll see us here!”

Fahy kissed her. “No one will come back here at this hour. There now, let’s sit.” He dragged Thankful down on to the itchy woolen blanket and kissed her again, handing her the jug of whiskey. “Go ahead. Taste it—it’ll make things easier for you. Go on then. It’s not poison!” Fahy laughed as Thankful sipped and choked.

“Oh, it’s awful!” she cried.

Fahy ran his hand over Thankful’s head. “Sweetheart, this is what adults do, I’m afraid. Don’t you like when I touch you?”

“Yes, but behind the woodpile? There are bugs and things and it’s just not what I expected.”

“Look, we have the stars and the cool evening . . . and each other, darling. Isn’t that enough?” Fahy kissed her more passionately and her body responded. “I love you dearly, Miss Thankful. Do you love me?”

“Yes.”

The lieutenant tore Thankful’s shoes and stockings off in a hurry. No fine words, no tickling behind the knees. She had worried all day about her body, but he plunged under her petticoats, pulled himself out of his trousers and pushed his way inside. “How does it feel?” he asked.

“Fine.” It hurt just a little, but then it didn’t. It wasn’t unenjoyable or enjoyable—it was nothing, really, but wrong.

Fahy moaned, kissed her and it was over. He rolled off and gazed at the stars. “So what do you think now, Thankful?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s wrong?” Fahy asked getting up on his elbows, his intense eyes shining in the moonlight. “Didn’t you like it?”

“I think so.” Thankful didn’t want to upset his feelings.

“Think so? You should know!”

“Should I?” Thankful asked.

“You should have had more whiskey,” Fahy said, sitting up. “Damn. So you didn’t enjoy any of it?”

“No. I mean, I did, sort of. Did it make you happy?” Thankful asked.

“Well, yes, but it’s supposed to be for both of us. Want to try again—in a few minutes?”

“No! Someone will come by,” Thankful said, grabbing her stockings and slipping one over her toes.

“No one will come by,” Fahy assured her, taking the stocking off her again. “I’ve got a friend watching out.”

“A friend?” Thankful cried. She tugged the stocking away from him and pulled it on in haste. “How awful! Now everyone will know what we’ve done!”

“No. He’s trustworthy. Thankful, why don’t we marry before your parents come?”

“I want a proper wedding,” Thankful cried. “You’ve already deprived me of a proper wedding night.” She tugged the other stocking on and slipped into her shoes.

“Don’t say that!” Fahy complained. “Our wedding night will be great.”

“Maybe we’ll even get to have a bed,” Thankful said.

“You told me you imagined doing it outdoors. I thought you’d like my idea.” Fahy said, surprised at her emotion.

“I never imagined doing anything behind a bunch of logs in view of Mrs. Tremble’s and the Markhams’ back yard. You said it would be special.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but you need to relax more,” Fahy offered, running his hand along her hot cheek.

“How many girls have you been with?” Thankful asked.

“Oh, Thankful, let’s not talk about this now. Let’s try again, and I promise you in time you’ll grow fonder of it.”

The horses whinnied in the stables and someone, probably the lookout, whistled a melancholy tune.

“I’m so sad, Mr. Fahy. Were you engaged before, too?”

“No, Thankful. Stop it. You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved.”

“But you slept with girls you never loved?”

“Yes, but . . .” Fahy began, shaking his head.

“But what did you tell them?” Thankful asked, her eyes welling with tears in the moonlight.

“I didn’t have to tell them anything,” Fahy said as if Thankful’s questions insulted his honor. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever had to explain myself to. Please, Thankful, I’m still randy—let’s try again.”

Something changed. Fahy didn’t love her anymore. But now Thankful loved him desperately. “Mr. Fahy, I love you.”

“I’m glad. Will we try again?”

Thankful was his now, and she so wanted to love him. Thankful lay back and this time Fahy was more attentive. “Do you feel anything? How’s this? How about now?”

At first Thankful was honest, but after a while it seemed cruel to keep him trying and not getting anywhere—so she lied and said it was good.

Fahy knew she lied and it upset him, but he kept it to himself, wondering if he had satisfied the other girls or were they just more practiced liars. Fahy brought Thankful home and kissed her good-night with forced passion.

Thankful stood at the gate and watched him go.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: How To Keep a Man Happy (Part Two)

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Thankful makes a decision about Mr. Fahy . . .

When Mrs. Markham awoke to find the fire puttered out, and the coffee not made, she wasn’t pleased.

“Thankful Crenshaw, I love you like a good friend’s daughter, but honestly, crying at this hour and before coffee is just wrong. I don’t pay you to pout. I’m sorry to be so upset, but you know how I am about coffee.” Mrs. Markham watched for reaction from Thankful out of the corner of her eye, but when she did not get it, turned more emphatically in the girl’s direction. “I allow other things to slide, child, but not this. I will have a word with Captain Markham about our arrangement.”

Again Thankful sniveled. Mrs. Markham wanted coffee, but softened. “I’d hate to lose our friendship over such a trifling thing. I’m at wits end, and the captain knows best what to do.” The mantle clock clicked the time slowly. A horse whinnied.

“I’ll pack my things, Mrs. Markham,” Thankful sobbed.

Mrs. Markham rushed to her side. “But you have no place to go, my sweetness, just be more mindful of your chores!”

“Yes. I’m sorry.” Thankful rose to fetch the coffee pot, wiping her eyes on her gingham apron–one Mrs. Markham had a laundress make for her pet.

“Whatever are you fretting about?” Mrs. Markham asked, sitting to write out Thankful’s endless list of chores. “Do you miss home?”

Thankful nodded, but then shook her head.

“Poor girl, you’re all mixed up. That’s what love does. I should know—the captain still keeps me in conflict. But love is love, and you’re lucky to have it. Some never do.”

“Mr. Fahy is demanding,” Thankful hinted.

“That’s men. Would you rather he left you to yourself and found another?” Mrs. Markham asked. “I didn’t think so.”

“But he’s very demanding,” Thankful said, wondering if the captain’s wife was really the friend she needed right now. “I just don’t know. . .”

“I don’t know how to say this.” Mrs. Markham took the pot from Thankful– too theatrically for Thankful’s taste and mood–and filled it herself with a scolding look. “I do love you, but you’re selfish in a way. A man has to be given his way once in a while—he needs to think that you trust his judgment. I’m sure that Mr. Fahy, of all men, wouldn’t lead you astray—he’s a fine gentleman.”

“Mrs. Markham, has he had any girls before me?”

“Many girls have sought him from what I hear, but I’ve never seen him take especial notice. I do believe Lieutenant Fahy is saving himself for you—that’s very sweet, I think. You’re a very lucky girl. Everyone thinks so. Don’t ruin things for yourself by being hard on him. After all, he’s only a man.” She laughed.

Later that day Mrs. Markham went visiting while Thankful took the children out to play. The sun blazed as Thankful’s temper flared. The older children fought, and the younger ones hung off her, wilted and cranky. Thankful could see Lieutenant Fahy smoking on the porch at headquarters, and this infuriated her. Usually he tripped up to see her for a moment around midday.

“Come along, children. It’s time to go indoors for your naps.” The young ones whimpered in protest, and the three eldest ran off, knowing Thankful could not give chase with the little ones clinging to her. “Horrible little wretches,” Thankful muttered as Fahy finally trotted over to her. She pushed past him.

“Thankful, please slow down, would you?”

“Why should I? I’m busy!” she said.

“I wanted to apologize for this morning. I can be a right bastard sometimes.”

“How you curse!” Thankful said, relieved and glad for his apology.

“It’s just that you’re so darn beautiful. I’m not a patient man, and I want you. But if you don’t feel the same way . . .”

“But I do, Mr. Fahy! I’m afraid of it though, and I only want to do what’s honorable and right.”

“But no one has to know and you’re nearly my wife.”

“I would do anything,” Thankful began–she must be honest, however immature it may seem to this man, “but that.”  She saw he was not pleased. “Oh, but let me explain. It’s very horrible really . . . I’ve never told a soul, but my parents conceived before they were married. It’s been a horrible marriage, and I’d hate for us to end so sadly.”

Fahy wiped his brow. The babies were crying, and the toddlers smelled like sewage. The lieutenant sighed. “Thankful, you’re a great girl—too good for me at times. I came over to apologize but also to let you know that I won’t be by this evening.”

“Oh,” Thankful said, a rush of panic and hurt coming over her. Had he even listened to her? “Well . . . why not?”

“Some of the fellows, well, I’ve been neglecting my friendships lately, and I have tonight free.”

“What will you do?” Thankful hated herself for asking.

“Just drink at The Buckskin. Nothing more.”

“Town? You’re going to town?” Thankful cried.

“Yes. Oh, you don’t think—what I said before about the others?” Fahy rolled his eyes and looked truly affronted. “Now I see you really don’t trust me!”

“No, it’s that I don’t know what to think! Before you threaten to use a whore and now. . .”

“I never threatened it!” Fahy said.

“Go ahead with the boys, but don’t expect me to be friendly tomorrow!” Thankful cried.

“So now I can’t have any friends?” Fahy complained. “You’re being unreasonable!”

“You can have as many friends as you like,” she said. “But I have no friends here at all!”

“And how is that my fault? Maybe if you were a little less stuck-up. You girls are always so dramatic!” Fahy fumed.

“You said you loved me!” Thankful sobbed now. “And I’m not stuck-up!”

“I do love you!” Fahy turned her away from passing soldiers. “Bear-up, Thankful. You’re making a fool of yourself, now,” he said irritably but hugged her. “My passion for you is so great that I don’t know how much longer I can wait. I’d never spend another moment with the lads if only I could have you the way we talked earlier.”

“So you would stay home for me?” Thankful asked. “I’m the most important to you?”

“Of course. It’s all I want, but I need to know that you trust me for everything.”

Thankful grabbed his arm. “Mr. Fahy, please come to me tonight, and I’ll be ready.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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The Seven Virtues in Writing

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Virtuous Girl? (Courtesy Pinterest)

How our culture hates a goody-goody! I think we hate virtuous people almost more than we hate child traffickers. Or so it seems.

As I write MY HISTORICAL FAMILY SAGA it’s easy to hate the virtuous because it almost feels as if there’s nothing to say about them. I sometimes imagine a virtuous person having no struggles, and this, I know, is unfair. My tendency is to focus on the lost and sinful elements of characters and heap tons of sympathy upon them while the virtuous remain alone in their human toil.

The virtuous, we think, are bland like vegetables to the person inclined toward sweets. Yet broccoli can be a tasty thing when put in the hands of a good cook. And so it is with virtue. Those of us who struggle to attain even a modicum of humility realize the great difficulty involved in becoming virtuous. There is a faith necessary here. One must believe that life, and the characters you write will become even better with a sprinkling of virtue.

When a person wakes up each morning expecting a do-nut (that in one half hour will make them feel sick to their stomach) they find it hard to believe that a warm glass of lemon water and some protein will will produce better results.

Anti-heroes intrigue me, but the characters who challenge me to take a hard look at myself and my icing covered flaws annoy. More than annoy, they tempt me to run from them. A virtuous person (albeit with some flaws) causes me to contemplate my own place in the race of life. Sometimes that’s not enjoyable.

The anti-hero understands our hidden parts, asks us to wallow a while in the shallow comfort of self-pity and despair, but the virtuous character asks us to stretch ourselves in uncomfortable ways with only scant promise of success (or that elusive thing called joy).

The further along this racecourse of life the more I’m ready to tackle the virtuous in writing with admiration instead of suspicion and jealousy. Buck Crenshaw as he grows through each of my novels is moving out of his anti-hero costume into something more compelling and rare: a man who (timidly at first) is drawn to the good race. Yet Buck is a clumsy runner and always will be.

Surprises sometimes come in the shape of a mate. Around the final bend Buck is brought to his knees, but along comes a virtuous friend. I can’t wait to see what Buck does with her.

So here’s the question, readers and writers: who’s your favorite virtuous character in fiction (or in life)?  I’m dying to know.

Humility – Humility is the virtue that counters pride. As pride leads to other sin, true humility clears a path for holiness. Pride is a sin based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.

Liberality – Liberality, or generosity, is the virtue that is counter to greed – the sin of immoderate desire for earthly things. The virtue of liberality is focused not merely on the appropriate concern regarding one’s earthly things, but furthermore on generosity and a willingness to give, freely and without request for commendation.

Chastity – Chastity is the counter-virtue to the sin of lust. Chastity embraces moral wholesomeness and purity, and in both thought and action treats God’s gift of sexuality with due reverence and respect.

Meekness – Meekness, or patience, is the virtue that counters the sin of unjust anger, also called wrath or rage. Where the sin of wrath is about quick temper and unnecessary vengeance, the virtue of meekness focuses on patiently seeking appropriate resolution to conflicts, and on the ability to forgive and show mercy.

Temperance – The virtue of temperance or abstinence counters the sin of gluttony. To be gluttonous is to over-indulge. On the opposite hand, the virtue of temperance is centered on self-control and moderation.

Kindness – Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others.

Diligence – Diligence, or persistence, is the virtue which acts as a counter to the sin of sloth. Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith. Diligence in matters of the spiritual combat laziness and this virtue is manifest in appropriately zealous attitudes toward living and sharing the Faith.

Excerpted from: AQUINAS AND MORE