Tag Archives: time travel

Aphra Behn and Chameleon in a Mirror

Usually I try to post every year on the death date of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in the English language. I missed it this year (April 16) for a number of reasons, the main one being that I was preparing for the Villa Diodati Workshop, reading stories and writing critiques.

But I have a consolation prize this week: for those who have not yet read it, my time travel based on the life of Aphra Behn, Chameleon in a Mirror, is on sale for only 99c on Amazon until April 28. 🙂

Chameleon in a Mirror

Here’s a short excerpt, based on an incident from Aphra’s life:

Aphra entered the playhouse with more confidence than she felt. The portly playwright, poet laureate of the realm, was giving instructions to the actors and actresses. “Wait here,” she said to her maid. Katherine nodded.
She approached a dark-haired woman standing on the side of the stage. “Prithee, can you tell me where I might find Thomas Killigrew?”
“He’s not here right now, lass,” the actress replied. “But if you want a part in the play, you can speak with Mr. Dryden.”
Aphra felt a surge of sick disappointment. “Nay. I wanted to give him this.” Aphra took the linen cover off the basket she was carrying and pulled out a feathered headdress. The actress gasped.
Aphra’s courage returned. “I brought it and several others back from America. I heard the King’s Company was staging a play where they might be of use.”
“The Indian Queen,” the actress murmured, taking a colorful feather between her fingers. “They would be perfect.”
The playwright joined them so abruptly, they were both startled. “What is the attraction here, Mrs. Marshall? There is work to be done!”
“I had no lines, Mr. Dryden. And you must see what this young woman brought — perfect for The Indian Queen!”
Dryden took the headdress from the actress’s hands, staring at the clever arrangement of colorful feathers. “This is incredibly good,” Dryden said, looking up from the feathers and into Aphra’s face. “Where did you get it?”
Aphra made a hurried curtsey. “I am fresh arrived from the colony of Surinam, Mr. Dryden. I brought the headdress with me, and several others as well. I also brought an assortment of unusual insects …”
Dryden waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. “You can present those to His Majesty for his zoology collection. But this … this we could use.”
“I would be happy to present them to your company.” The words nearly stuck in her throat in her excitement. “When are you expecting the master of the company, Mr. Killigrew?”
“He did not plan to come to the theater today, to my knowledge,” Dryden said, and Aphra’s face fell. “If you leave the headdress with me, I will give it to Mr. Killigrew.”
“I had something particular to give him,” Aphra stammered.
“I am one of the shareholders of the company, Mrs. …?”
“Johnson.”
“I will make sure it gets to Mr. Killigrew.”
Aphra pulled a sealed letter out of her basket, along with the painstakingly copied manuscript of The Young King, and handed them to Dryden. “This is a letter of introduction from my foster brother, Thomas Culpepper, and a play I wrote while I was in America.”
“A truly American play,” Dryden said with a sarcastic smile. “Not like our London Indians.”
“Oh no, nothing of the kind,” Aphra hastened to reassure him. “’Tis based on a classical precedent!”
Dryden raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
The actress shook her dark head and smiled. “The times are changing, are they not, Mr. Dryden? Women are already actresses. Perhaps playwrights next?” Dryden didn’t look pleased, and Mrs. Marshall gave Aphra a conspiratorial wink.
“I will give these to Mr. Killigrew, Mrs. Johnson,” Dryden said in a tone of dismissal. “Good day.”
“Good day, Mr. Dryden, Mrs. Marshall,” Aphra said curtseying, and turned to leave.

The actress and the playwright watched the copper-haired woman and her maid leave the theater. “A woman playwright would be quite a novelty, would it not?” Anne Marshall said, baiting the playwright, not well-liked among the actors.
“That it would,” Dryden agreed.
“Enough of a novelty to mean serious competition?” the actress added, a malicious gleam in her eye.
Dryden glanced through the pages of fine handwriting, quickly skimming a passage. He was relieved to see that the writing was bombastic and artificial, and although the public was often pleased with much less these days, he probably would have little difficulty persuading Killigrew not to take it. “Only if she wrote better than this one does,” he said. “Come, Mrs. Marshall, it will soon be your entrance.”

One of the things I love about Aphra Behn is the way she managed to succeed despite the odds. 🙂

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Editing Chameleon in a Mirror, and an excerpt for #WIPpet Wednesday

I didn’t get around to posting an update on Sunday because we were painting in the new apartment where my son and his family are going to move in. Afterwards, catching up on the translation and new word goals took up too much time and I didn’t feel like blogging anymore.

Last week, I managed to get 1600 new words written. I also started to go through the edits for Chameleon in a Mirror. I don’t remember if I posted the latest incarnation of the cover yet, so here it is:

Right now, I’m up to chapter 6 on the edits. I really want to get this baby published by the end of the month, so I’m giving up on new word goals until I do. So far this week, I’ve managed 500 words on the thriller, and that will be it until I get CIAM done.

Anyway, since I haven’t been working on A Wasted Land, this week I’m going to give you an excerpt from my Aphra Behn time travel for WIPpet Wednesday. WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts. 🙂 Today I’m using the date in this way: I went to page 14 of the manuscript and counted 29 lines. In this scene, Billie has just been sent to the past by a magic mirror after reciting some lines from a play by Aphra Behn. Now she is trying to reverse the magic:

Pulling a notebook and pen out of a back pocket of her jeans, Billie sat down at the table in front of the mirror. The little pocket-sized notebook was her constant companion, her resource for notes for all occasions. She liked to “collect images” as she called it; they were the raw material for her poems and songs.
Desperation made her memory especially clear, and she soon had a working copy of the lines to Clarinda.
Her stomach clamping painfully, Billie looked into the mirror and read the verses out loud. Nothing. She read the verses last line first. Nothing. She read them backwards, word by word. Still nothing. She stood up, gripping the lute, posed and pranced and tried all three methods all over, but the only feeling of nausea she experienced was from disappointment. She sat down again, her insides hollow.
She drew a deep breath, and another. It all had to be a dream anyway, so what did it matter? She wished she could force herself to wake up, but since she couldn’t, she might as well acquaint herself with the lute. Unfortunately, she’d never played a lute before. She knew it was related to the mandolin somehow, but that didn’t solve her problem of how to tune the damn thing. What was she supposed to do with the extra pair of strings or that last single string?
Simple: ignore them. The main thing was to get the instrument into some kind of working order so she could play it. She would tune the fifth to second courses like a mandolin and the others an octave higher. That way at least she’d know where to put her fingers.
Luckily, the strings appeared to be relatively new; the lute must have been restrung before it was stashed in the cellar. By the time she had urged the instrument into “G”, “D”, “A” and “E”, she’d regained some of her usual equilibrium. But just as she almost reached the second “G”, the string snapped with a loud twang. She jumped, the lute sliding out of her lap and onto the floor.
Billie put her head in her fists and burst into tears.

If anyone is so inclined, I’d love some feedback on the blurb I’ve come up with:

Take:
– one graduate student who wants to change history;
– one dead playwright who did change history, now forgotten;
– the colorful and turbulent times of the English Restoration;
– one magic mirror.

Mix thoroughly, and you have a Chameleon in a Mirror.

Billie Armstrong has long wanted to give Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in English, the prominence she deserves. But when Billie accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, propelling herself into the seventeenth century, she gets more than she bargained for. What develops is an unwilling masquerade in a tale of license, love and literature, a high-spirited Restoration romp, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future.

What do you guys think? Too silly? Not silly enough? 🙂

Announcing a new anthology with one of my stories – and a reminder of free ebooks

I just got the news this week that an anthology I sold a story to some time ago has finally come out in ebook, with print to follow:

The theme of the book, Times of Trouble, is the much-maligned genre of time travel. A lot of people say it’s been done to death, and maybe they’re right, but reading A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid was a mind-blowing revelation, and I’ve had a fondness for time travel ever since. Here’s the description of the book:

TIME TRAVEL IS THE ULTIMATE DO-OVER.

It’s funny how second chances usually wind up being just another opportunity to make the same mistakes, though.

The authors represented in the collection you now hold were tasked to create grim and gritty tales of time travel gone horribly wrong.

They have done so, in some wildly varied ways.

There are stories of rare and exceptional beauty; stories of dark, otherworldly horror; stories of white-knuckle thrills and even some that will make you laugh out loud.

In fact, if you pay close attention, in at least one of these adventures, you’ll realize that no time travel at all ever takes place.

All of them will take you places–and times–you’ve yet to be, and make you think about the experience.

I also want to remind everyone that two of my ebooks are free today, Beyond the Waters of the World and “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife.” In addition, Shadow of Stone will be on sale this weekend for 2.99.

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

On the 324th anniversary of Aphra Behn’s death

I finished the “fast” (ahem) read-through of Chameleon in a Mirror yesterday, and the last chapter reminded me that today is the anniversary of Aphra Behn’s death. And then it occurred to me that I could actually do something in honor of the occasion this year — by beginning to post chapters of the novel. I run The Aphra Behn Page, a site dedicated to Behn’s life and works, and so I’ve decided to start uploading the chapters there. I may eventually also upload to Fictionpress and/or Wattpad, but I haven’t looked into those options enough yet.

While the book has been workshopped and critiqued, I make no claims to perfection. It is NOT in an officially publishable state yet. I sent it to my critique partner yesterday, and it also still has to go through the professional proofreading process. So please forgive any mistake you find — and if you’re feeling particularly generous, let me know about them!

I will try to upload a chapter a week, but I’m not making any promises! Life happens sometimes, after all. 🙂

The blurb (as stands):

Billie (Willa) Armstrong, an American graduate student with a penchant for street music, is disenchanted with London, her lover and her academic progress. She has always wanted to discover something decisive about her idol Aphra Behn and help her attain the place in literature that she deserves, but when Billie accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, she gets more than she bargained for. What develops is an unwilling masquerade in a tale of literary politics and passion, a high-spirited Restoration romp, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future.

And here’s a short taste of Chapter 1:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she — shady and amorous as she was — who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.

         Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Professor Fogerty had a small mole near the corner of one eye, and it was twitching. Billie concentrated on the twitch to keep her temper in check. All the power might be on his side of the desk, but at least she didn’t have any nervous tics.

“You have to remember that Mrs. Behn was little more than a marginal writer, Miss Armstrong,” the professor said in that smarmy way he had. “A transitional force, yes, but not innovative, not really. If being a woman in itself were innovative — why the world would be in constant revolution.”

Billie ignored his weak attempt at a joke and took a deep breath. “But what about Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister? It was an epistolary novel written sixty years before Samuel Richardson, after all.”

He chuckled, a sound intentionally jovial. “You cannot seriously claim that Behn influenced Richardson!”

Since that was precisely what she had intended, she kept her mouth shut. It seemed she was going to have to find a different thesis advisor — or else go back home to the States in shame, without a dissertation.

Autumn sun spilled through the high windows of Fogerty’s office, hampered by streaks of grime. The buildings of London Blackfriars University were much like those of the Inns of Court nearby, lofty and arching, a metaphor for freedom of thought and high ideals made stone. It was too bad that even a modest attempt at redefining literary history had no place here, at least not as long as Fogerty had a say in it.

“What I’m trying to show is that Behn used autobiographical material in a very original way, and it influenced a number of people,” Billie said carefully.

“Miss Armstrong, Mrs. Behn was a hack — a very talented hack, but a hack nonetheless.” He shook his massive head. “Don’t get carried away by causes in your academic work. Literature is not about the odds.”

“But she was one of the most respected dramatists of the Restoration,” she couldn’t help protesting.

Fogerty’s insincere smile spread across his face. “Respected? Come now, Miss Armstrong! Certainly you know of the lampoons written about her?”

“Those were written about her morals, not her writing. A lot of her contemporaries were envious of her success.”

“It’s a mistake to equate popularity with literary merit.”

“Oh, I would never make that mistake,” she muttered under her breath.

“What was that?”

“Defoe for one respected Aphra Behn,” she said, loud enough for him to hear. “He called her one of the ‘giants of wit and sense’ — along with Milton, no less.”

He gazed at her critically over the top of his glasses. “Are you implying that Behn influenced Defoe now?”

Billie couldn’t keep her mouth shut any longer. “Among others, yes,” she said, rising and gathering up the papers on the desk between them. Her preliminary abstract for her dissertation, all shot to hell now. “I see I will have to reconsider my approach.”

Fogerty rose too and shook her hand. “Very wise, Miss Armstrong. I’ll be looking forward to your new proposal.”

She shut the door of his office behind her, closing her eyes briefly. That had gone even worse than she’d expected. It was well known that Fogerty had been bullied into helping host the upcoming Aphra Behn symposium after Billie’s former advisor had been bullied out of the department, but she hadn’t realized his resentment of a female playwright dead for over three hundred years went that deep. But what did it mean for the symposium? Maybe Fogerty and his ilk — the ones who had mobbed Professor Bentley until she fled to a foreign university with a Women’s Studies department — thought they could turn the clock back, envisioning themselves as an antidote to the Great Feminist Danger and its Trivializing Impulses. …

Continue reading here.