Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Writing Retreat: Take Two

60,000 words has come and gone. Will this actually be a novel? Will I even finish Book Three? A well-timed Writing Retreat might just make all the difference . . .

Download wallpaper above Park City,  Utah,  Mountains,  sky free desktop wallpaper in the resolution 4802x3169 — picture №590018
Beautiful Park City, Utah
Our Writing Retreat last year helped me finalize Midnight Sisters for publishing this year. It was also one of the best weekends I had last summer. Fun, interesting, and just busy enough. So this year when the girls asked if I wanted to participate, I jumped right in. I had reached 50,000 words in my current WIP, which is the length Becoming Beauty weighed in at, and I had also reached a critical point where I wasn't sure what to do next.

Mermaid tails keep toes warm. It's true.
As you may know, I'm not a planner. Well, there are times that being a pantser really leaves me in the lurch. And this was one of them. I'd been adding 10,000 words a week throughout July and had more than doubled the length of my novel. I planned to add as much as I could during our Writing Retreat and then browse the manuscript from the beginning for ideas of how to reach the end. I put in about two days writing and added about 5,000 words and gained some direction at last.

Yep. I finally know how I'm getting to the end! And if it took a lot of snacks, ice water on standby, a couple of pool and hot tub hours, and countless quiet writing hours, I'm glad to do it! Our Park City weekend also included evenings on the town and a Saturday shopping spree at the outlets. If you haven't figured it out, I love ALL of those things.

Book Three will probably take another year to complete, edit, and polish but it's much closer to the finish line than before Writing Retreat 2017. Carry on, my writerly friends, and remember that there's power, inspiration, and strength in numbers. Also, geekiness.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's In The Works?

Back when Becoming Beauty was on its way to being published, I wrote a good deal of Midnight Sisters. However, self-publishing Midnight Sisters didn't allow me the luxury of doing the same with my third novel. Marketing and promotions fell squarely on my shoulders during the height of kindergarten craziness (January through May). 

Related imageFor those of you who don't know, kindergartners return from Christmas break refreshed and ready to go. Differences in student ability is never more evident than during the last few month of school. It's my job as the teacher to keep everyone on track and everything running smoothly.

Imagine doing all of that during the same five months Midnight Sisters was released, the Blog Tour ran, a Launch Party was thrown, and about six more Author Events were held all over Northern Utah. 


Needless to say, I didn't do much novel writing on my new novel until the school year wrapped up. Since June is when I do most of my summer traveling, I was pleased to hit 20,000 words. For me, 20,000 words means a story has enough momentum to become a novel. In the last two weeks, I've put the pedal down and doubled that number, pulling in at 40,000 words. My plan is to stay focused, draft through July, and finally hit the end.

In the meantime, my Rumpelstiltskin* rewrite has transformed into a conglomeration of several fairy tales. Gilberto (Gil) is a Spanish Rumpelstiltskin blended with my first love, Gilbert Blythe of Anne of Green Gables. Behind him hovers an army of workers he refers to as elves, much like the Elves and the Shoemaker. Also, I couldn't resist setting Crown Prince Henry on the hunt for a wife, a lá Cinderella. That means that our heroine Elyse, who is a cross between the Rumpelstiltskin's miller's daughter and Cinderella, becomes the mystery princess at Prince Henry's wife-hunting ball. Of course, being just as mischievous as Rumpelstiltskin, Gil will choose that moment to appear and throw everything into a tailspin. 

Can you tell my fingers are itching to write that scene?

Sarah E. Boucher, author & educator
And that's why I haven't blogged in weeks. Writing time and writing energy only stretch so far. However, I promise that as I pull into the finish line, I'll share snippets of scenes. Also, as soon as the drafting and editing pace slows, I'm planning to do another feature like the Humor & Inspiration Features of last year or this year's character features Meet the Sisters.

Thanks for taking this journey with me!

*Author's Note: As an educator, I always love sharing new things (even if they're old things) with my audience. So, if you aren't acquainted with the original fairy tales Rumplestilskin, The Elves and The Shoemaker, or Cinderella, follow the links embedded above! Happy reading!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Stop Talking. Start Writing.

There seems to be a recurring theme in my world these days.
I'm currently on vacation with my best friend and guess what was one of the first things we did? We talked about writing. 

Did we talk about what we're writing?
Nope.

Did we talk about how much we've written?
Nope.

Did we discuss our upcoming projects or how excited we are about them?
Nope.

We talked about how we should be writing, how much time we wish we had spent writing, and all the other things we've been doing instead.

Sound familiar?

While growing my Twitter following, I've encountered some newbie writers who are in the same boat. (Names have been omitted in order to protect the dear, sweet, writers. If by some strange twist of fate they are actually reading this, bless their dear, sweet souls, because I've got a truth bomb or two to drop.) 

Here are their the account descriptions:

I'm an aspiring author with a bad case of lazy. Currently writing a couple of novel series and a few screenplays.

I want to reply, Kudos on not calling yourself an aspiring writer! And for actually getting the job (or several jobs) started! Keep it up, Sunshine!

Here's another:

Hey guys! I'm a fiction writer who dreams of getting published; feel free to throw some inspiration my way!

I want to ask what's standing in her way. Is she waiting for the right time to publish? Is she waiting for a big, shiny contract? Those are pretty tough to score. And there are always strings attached. So if writers want to publish their stories, they need to get smarter and find the path that's right for them. 

Boom. Inspiration.

Here's my favorite account description:

Follow me as a I try to complete a novel I've been working on for the last seven years.

I want to comment on that, but I can't decide just how brutally honest I want to be. Which of the following would you suggest?

a) What's your timeline for completing this novel? Another seven years? Because YIKES.

b) Do you expect to see a return on your investment? Because you'll need to sell a ton of those puppies to break even after you've committed a decade to the project. Again, YIKES.

c) Obviously this project is going nowhere. Set it aside and find something you are truly passionate about finishing. And guess what? You'll have published that novel before you could have ever finished this one. 

I've known writers who couldn't give up on that first novel and/or publishing contract and insisted on pursuing it instead of moving on. The truth is we are better writers today than ever before and the stories and characters we develop will be more complex than they would have been several years ago.

On the other end of the spectrum is my amazing friend Jo Ann Schneider. Jo and I published our first novels the same year. However, in the time that I've published two Young Adult fairy tales, Jo has published seven novels, two novellas, as well as collaborating on a couple of short story anthologies. Did I mention that they're all in different genres?
Now that's smart. Jo not only talks about writing, she gets the job done. Her Facebook feed shows some awesome stuff these days. Here's what she shared last week:

Thursday:
Hey Jagged Scars fans. I'm on a mission to write a rough draft of book 5 between now and July 6th. It's only going to be about 80,000 words. That shouldn't be a problem, right? I started yesterday. 

Here is my progress report for today. Time for a snack.
Beginning word count: 5,015
Ending word count: 12,023

(Sarah's math says: 7,008 words on day one!)

Friday:
Hey Jagged Scars fans, here's my daily report:
Beginning word count: 12,023
Ending word count: 21,576
21,500 words down, only 60,000 to go!

(Sarah's math says: 9,553 words on day two!)

Saturday:
My goal was 25,000 words this week. Got a little more in. One week down, two and a half to go.

Beginning word count: 21,576
Ending word count: 26,610

(Sarah's math says: 5,034 words on day three! 21,595 words written in one week!)

She's amazing. If I wrote like that, my 50,000-60,000 novel would already be written. But I've let life get in the way. I've let distractions (like those blasted idiots who are supposed to be fixing my AC but still haven't done so) get in the way of my summer writing goals. 

So here I am, pulling up my big girl panties and saying it loud and proud:

I'm finishing another novel this summer. 

I'm already a third of the way done at over 20,000 words. Another 10,000 words (which I knocked out in one day last summer) and I'll be halfway done. I can do that, right? 

A life lesson that both Jo and I have learned is that as soon as you publish a novel the first thing your readers will ask is:

When will the next one be out?

Every author wants to say, Holy Heck, Greedy Gus! I just got this one out and it nearly killed me! Can you give me a second?

What we should do is express our gratitude for their support. We want them to be invested in us and all we do, right?

These are the people who will pay our bills. Or at least pay for the occasional pedicure.

As I continue down the road to fame and riches (or just regularly pampered feet), I welcome you to come along on the journey. Here's to finishing my first draft instead of just talking about it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Midnight Sisters: Meet the Gentlemen

Twelve noblewomen, two smitten gardeners, and one angry father.
In the Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies series, we learned about each of the twelve noblewomen featured in Midnight Sisters. But what about the men? They're just as important as the women they love and fiercely protect. Today Jonas, Braden, and Lord Bromhurst take the spotlight to reveal their secrets. Who's in love, who's a horrible poet, and who is still mourning love lost? Read to find out!
* * *
Jonas
Philip growled at the plant before him.

“Is there something particularly irritating about that rose bush, sir?” I asked.

He let out a hmph, shoved his bangs out of his eyes, and turned his glare on me. “Women.”

I squinted at him. “Women, sir?”

“Yes,” he growled out, stabbing violently at the rose bush with a trowel.

“Anything specific you’d like to impart on the subject?” When I’d first come to his estate, I wouldn’t have dreamed of baiting my master in this way. But I knew the plants would take the brunt of his ill humor.

“A good woman is worth her weight in gold, Jonas.” He pushed his bangs out of his eyes again. “But she will probably never let you forget it.” He jabbed at the plant again. “And neither will her sister.”

I nodded slowly and turned my attention back to weeding. “Enlightening, sir.”

“Two weeks and you’ll be off on a new adventure, Jonas.” He didn’t look up from his work. “Mind you keep your head down and don’t flirt.”

I thought of the new position he’d procured for me in a household so much more grand than his own. “The Earl of Bromhurst’s daughters are said to be very beautiful.”

“Each more beautiful than the last. More reason to keep your nose clean,” he grumbled. “Who needs a hoity toity noblewoman in his life?”

A grin tugged at my lips. “Even if she’s very, very beautiful?”

He scoffed. “Find yourself a willing milkmaid, Jonas.” A sardonic gleam burned in his eye. “And watch out for bossy kitchen wenches.”
* * *
Braden
I wadded up another sheet of paper and tossed it on the growing pile. It just wasn’t right. She was the most perfect woman I’d ever laid eyes on. I couldn’t offer her something less than perfect. 

I began again:

Fairest Lady,
With skin is of purest snow,
Hair of burnished gold,
Whose eyes the brighter glow,
Within such mysteries hold.
If I could let you know
Your hand in mine enfold . . .

Told? Bold? Show? Flow? Blech. I tore the paper down the middle and crumbled it like all the rest.

“Braden!” the voice boomed behind me. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Gregor glared at me from the doorway. I found few things intimidating, but that eyebrow inching upward was certainly one of them.

“Um . . .” I fished for a plausible lie. Another plausible lie. “Just writing my mother, sir.”

He growled. “You should know better than to waste paper, boy. We’re given a strict allowance.” He motioned to the pile of discarded sheets. “That is coming out of your wages.”

I nodded in agreement. “Yes, sir.”

“Clean up this mess and report to your post.”

“Of course, sir.” I offered up what I hoped was an innocent smile. His footsteps retreated and I turned my attention back to penning the perfect love note.

Hours later, I signed my name at the bottom. If she didn’t favor me, I was signing my own dismissal letter. What else could I do? I folded up the single sheet and scrawled her name on the front.

* * *
Lord Bromhurst
Twelve empty beds. At midnight. 

I ran a hand through my hair, wishing I could rip it out by the roots. Katherine’s patient face flitted through my mind. My heart panged, at war with the anger coursing through my veins. She would have had the answer. Katherine would have known what to do with twelve unruly daughters.

“Why did you have to leave me?” I whispered. It was the question that had plagued me for over a decade. I would never know the answer. And day by day, our daughters were becoming more and more willful. The empty beds, all perfectly made with crisp corners and plump pillows, mocked me. Innocent, proper, and completely disconcerting at the same time.

“Your Lordship?” one of the menservants called tentatively from the doorway.

I cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?”

I could tell he wanted to shuffle his feet under my glare but he held himself erect all the same. “What would you like us to do?” 


What would you have done, Katherine? I sent the silent plea heavenward. As usual, the heavens remained silent. I would have to manage on my own. A sigh gushed out of me. “Alert the staff. My daughters are missing. They must be found at once.”

“At once, My Lord.” He offered a small bow before turning to leave.

“And when I find them . . .” My hands clenched at my side. Anger solidified in the pit of my stomach like a rock.

The servant turned back. “Pardon me, My Lord? What was that?”

“Nothing,” I grumbled.
* * *
Author's Secrets: Jonas's scene occurs during the finals scenes of Becoming Beauty. As I prepared Becoming Beauty for publishing, I was already chapters into the first draft of Midnight Sisters. Since Jonas was a gardener, it seemed fitting that he should have a place in Becoming Beauty's rose garden. So yes, you can find a teenage Jonas Selkirk in Becoming Beauty's finale.

Read more about the twelve sisters in the Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies series:

Meet the Sisters I (Ariela, Brisella, Canela)
Meet the Sisters II (Daniela, Estella and Frizella)
Meet the Sisters III (Gisella, Hayla, Isella, and Janela)
Meet the Sisters IV (Krisela and Larela)

For the full story, order your own copy of Midnight Sisters or Becoming Beauty on Amazon. Contact me directly if you'd like a signed novel. (FYI a special discount will be offered for anyone ordering both novels through me.)

Happy summer reading! Thanks for dropping by! 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies IV

Twelve sisters. Twelve personalities. Twelve times the trouble. 
We've met ten of Lord Bromhurst's daughter in Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies I, Meet the Ladies II, and Meet the Ladies III. Today sweet Krisela--whose affection for animals exceeds her love for human company--reveals a secret of her own. And Lady Larela, possibly the most mischievous of the bunch, may be falling in love. On with the story! 

* * *
Lady Krisela
“You like that, don’t you boy?” Brutus lapped up the water like he’d run all over creation. Would my father never learn to care for his hunting dogs? Caesar nudged Brutus out of the way. They reminded me of the triplets, always vying for a place.

“Now, now,” I said, patting Caesar’s black head. “There’s plenty for everyone, boy.”

“You have a way with them,” a deep voice said.

My nerves zinged. I hazarded a glance behind me. It was enough to confirm my worst fears. But why would Lord Whatsits spare any time for me? I was only fourteen.

“I’ve fine hunters of my own, My Lady. Have you any tips on managing them?”

I kept my eyes glued on the dogs who were still pushing one another to get to the water. I knelt to dump the rest of the bucket full of water into their dish. I stayed on my knees with one hand on each animal.

“You’re a shy one aren’t you, My Lady?” The low voice hummed with innuendo. “I’ve always liked a challenge.”

I closed my eyes tightly. Please don’t do it. Please don’t do it. Please don’t do it.

He shuffled nearer. I could feel him behind me. There was only one thing to do. I leaned forward so only the dogs could hear me. “Get him, boys!”

They tore off, nearly toppling me in the process. Wild yelps sounded followed by a not-so-manly shriek. I turned to watch the nobleman lolloping across the grounds like an ungainly giraffe. The dogs were nearly at his heels. 

“Do it! Come on, boys!” I whispered. With a leap, Brutus sank his teeth into Lord Whatsits’s derriere. A chortle of laughter broke free. I laughed until my sides hurt. 


* * *
Lady Larela
He brushed his moist lips over the back of my hand and cultivated the same sultry smolder he’d poured on everyone between my father and me. 

Blech.

It didn’t matter that he was attractive, wealthy, and well-dressed. Leftovers and hand-me-downs weren’t my style. With eleven sisters it was practically impossible to stand out. All the same I refused to be just another pretty face.

The nobleman turned back to the more eligible females in my family without giving me another second of his attention. I cast a wistful glance toward the gardeners. Green eyes caught mine and held. I glanced away but I couldn’t stop my lips from twitching upward.

“Lari?” Krisela whispered. Everyone else had headed back inside. Hopefully they wouldn’t miss me.
“I’ll be right there, Kris. I’m just taking a turn around the flower garden to clear my head.”

“All right,” she said with the knowing smile. She’d cover for me if it was necessary.


I headed down the path. Out of habit, I felt for the note tucked in my sash. It crinkled comfortingly beneath my touch. By now the staff should be headed back to their posts. I opened the single sheet and scanned the familiar lines. 

Fairest Lady . . . I closed my eyes, pressed the note to my heart and recited the words from memory. A rush of pleasure danced in my stomach. I didn’t care that the poetry was atrocious.  I pressed my lips to the name scrawled at the bottom and grinned.

A girl never forgets her first love letter. 

* * *
We've reached the final installment of the Midnight Sisters: Meet the Sisters series. Revisit the other posts to learn more about Kris and Lari's elder sisters.

Meet the Sisters I (Ari, Bree, and Cinnamon)
Meet the Sisters II (Daniela and the twins, Estella and Frizella)
Meet the Sisters III (Janela and the triplets, Gisella, Hayla, and Isella)

And coming soon: The Gentlemen of Midnight Sisters. Learn about the men featured in Midnight Sisters and discover what they've been hiding. 

Midnight Sisters is available on Amazon. Contact me directly if you'd like a signed copy. I'm running a bargain bundle price for Midnight Sisters and Becoming Beauty! 

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies III


Women are rarely at a loss for words. The Midnight Sisters certainly never are. 
Join the triplets and Lady Janela as they reveal secrets about themselves and their history. When the triplets are on the scene, someone is bound to be injured and/or maimed. For the first part of Janela's scene, read about her adventure with Daniela in Midnight Sisters: Meet the Sisters II.

* * *
Ladies Gisella, Hayla, & Isella
“It’s mine!” Gisella snatched the toy horse from Hayla and bopped her on the head with it. Hard. Hayla began crying at the top of her lungs.

“Meanie!” Isella screeched, grabbing at the horse. Gisella yanked back. Isella let go of the toy and it smashed into her sister’s cheek. Gisella erupted into tears.

Poor toy horse. Stubby bits hung from its hind end where the tail should be. Did I imagine the pained look on its wooden face?

“Markus!” From the sharp edge in her voice, I could tell it wasn’t the first time Mrs. Jenkins had called my name.

“Yes, Mrs. Jenkins?”

She cradled a blubbering Gisella in her arms. The girl sported a goose egg on her forehead and the beginnings of a nasty bruise on her cheek. The look on Mrs. Jenkins’s face said, When will they hire a proper nanny? “I’m taking Lady Gisella inside to have her seen to. Will you mind the other two, Markus?”

My spine went rigid. The thought of being alone with the miniature monsters terrified me to my core. My wooden lips formed the words anyway, “Of course, Mrs. Jenkins.” 


* * *
Ladies Hayla & Isella
The two small girls blinked up at me, their eyes round and brimming with innocence.

“Ladies,” I nodded down at them, forcing my lips into a smile. I straightened my livery and tucked my hands behind my back. They could probably smell fear.

“Want to play?” Isella shook the toy horse. I could have sworn the horse leered at me.

I swallowed. “Of course, Lady Isella.” I dropped into a squat before her. Isella trotted the horse over my knees, making various snorting noises.

“No!” Hayla snatched the toy from her sister. “Horsey say, ‘niegh, neigh!’” She pranced Horsey in the air to demonstrate.

Rage glimmered in Isella’s eyes and her rosebud mouth tightened into a dot. Dread pooled in my stomach. “He’s mine!” she screamed and grabbed for the toy. Was it just my imagination or did Horsey flinch? Hayla kept a tight hold on the toy. Back and forth Horsey went. Then with a mighty heave, Isella yanked the horse from her sister’s grasp and let out a cry of triumph. 

But it was too soon. She had pulled too hard. The toy arced through the air, flying out of her grasp. It fell impossibly slow.

My first instinct was to protect the girls. I covered each of their heads with an arm. I tipped my head upward.

“Owwwww!” I howled, clapping a hand to my eye. Tears poured down my face. “I can’t see! I can’t see!” Small people scurried off. At the same moment a larger form shuffled up to me. 

Mrs. Jenkins sighed. “Oh, Markus. Will you never learn?” 


* * *
Lady Janela
My younger sisters tootled over. Their matching pink frocks made them look sweet, I thought. But their cranky expressions and smelly diapers did not. Daniela had gone inside, leaving me to clean up the mud pie mess. And deal with the triplets.

“Hello, girls,” I said brightly, trying not to frown at the smell they brought with them.

“Jani?” one of the tiny terrors said. She reached a grubby hand into the mud-caked can and drew forth a brown-speckled palm.

“No!” I grabbed the hand before she popped it in her mouth. I wiped it on my muddy apron.

Her lip quivered and her large eyes filled with tears. Her mouth opened and a loud waaaah came out. The other two girls picked up the cue and began crying too. I clapped my hands to my ears and squeezed my eyes shut. Why did Dani have to leave? I’d have to do something myself.

“Want a tweat, girls?” I pointed toward the pan containing our mud pie. It looked good enough to eat.

“Ooh,” another of the terrors cooed, shuffling over to where the pie sat baking in the sun. The other two left off crying to investigate.

I swiped a finger over the mud pie and popped it into my mouth. “Mmmm . . .” Dirt clung to my tongue. I tried not to choke on it.

The first sister thrust a fat hand into the mixture. One of the other triplets grabbed her by the hair and pulled her backwards. More crying followed as the first sister landed flat on her bottom. The third triplet shoved both of them out of the way to get to the pie. She planted her face in it. The other two attacked, wailing as they dragged at her pink frock to get a taste of pie.

Engrossed in the treat and resulting tussle, they didn’t see me sneak off. Their wailing grew quieter as they gorged themselves on our latest creation. I smothered my grin with one hand. I couldn’t wait to tell Dani. 
* * * 
Learn more about the Midnight Sisters' adventures in Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies IMidnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies II, and Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies IV

Read the whole story in Midnight Sisters, now available on Amazon. Please contact me directly if you'd like a signed copy!
  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies II

No matter how long the book may be, there is always more story to tell. Midnight Sisters is no different. 
We've already read about Ari, Bree, and Cinnamon and the romance, sorrow, and high jinks of their past, today Lady Daniela and the twins, Estella and Frizella, take the stage. Whenever the twins are on the scene, mischief is sure to follow, but studious, mild-mannered Daniela may surprise you as well. 

* * *
Lady Daniela
“The recipe says to add more.”

Janela turned wide eyes on me.

“Don’t worry. It will be fine,” I reassured her.

With one dimpled hand, she dropped another handful of powder into the can.

“Now mix until well combined,” I directed.

Janela inserted the long-handled spoon into the can and began to stir. The ingredients clanked disconcertingly against the sides. Janela stopped and peered into the can. Her eyebrows scrunched together. “Mo’ wata?”

I peered into the can. “You’re right, it does need more water.” I dumped a cupful of water into the can.

Janela continued to stir, stopping only occasionally to make sure the mixture was coming together. “Weaves?” she asked.

“Yes, I’ve prepared the leaves,” I said, motioning to the herbs I’ll filched from the kitchen gardens. “Let’s place it in the pan first.”

Janela nodded. She pulled out the tin pan Cook had given us and proceeded to dump the batter into it. The mixture glooped and clunked into the pan. Janela’s nose crinkled up. “Gwoss.”

“It just needs to be smoothed out.” I applied the long-handled spoon to the mixture and worked away at it until no lumps remained. “Better?”

“Yeth,” Janela lisped. At four-years-old, she still hadn’t mastered s. “Weaves now?”

I passed her the leaves. Together we placed them atop the batter in a pleasing pattern. “Now it looks like a proper pie.”

“Bake it?” Janela asked.

I consulted the directions scrawled on the page. “It says, ‘leave in the sun for four days or until firm.’”

Janela nodded again. “Tathte it?”

I shook my head, my own nose crinkling up. “We don’t eat mud pies, Jani, no matter now pretty they are.”

A mischievous look crossed her round face. “The girls?”

“The triplets?” I thought of the tiny menaces in their matching outfits. From the whining, crying, and screaming issued from nearby, someone was pulling someone’s hair and someone else needed a diaper change.

I grinned back at Jani. “I think they’d love a taste.”

Jani’s burbling giggle filled the air, so infectious I had to join in.


* * *
Lady Estella
We bent our heads together. “There has to be one someplace,” I whispered. “This place is too big.” We had been in the manor for one month. One whole month and we still couldn’t find any secret passageways.

“It’s like a fairy tale, Essie.” She patted a well-worn book fondly, her eyes twinkling at me. “Or a mystery.”

“And we love mysteries.” We said together, sharing identical grins.

“If only we had a fairy godmother . . .” I mused.

Fritz spread the handmade map between us. “We’ve looked here.” She pointed at the attic.

“And there.” I motioned toward the servants’ staircase.

“And in the ballroom.”

“Remember how we almost got caught?” Her shoulders shook with silent giggles, just as they had when we ducked behind the curtains before Father strode by.

I clapped a hand over my mouth to muffle my own laughter. 

Fritz’s grin faded as she turned back to the map. “Hmmm . . . maybe in the kitchens?”

“Then we’d have to talk to Cook,” I replied. “She’s no fairy godmother.”

“And we probably couldn’t talk her out of a treat.” She propped her chin on her fist. “It’s not fair. She makes the best cookies.”

“Mmmm . . .” we said in unison. “Cookies.”

I grinned. “The pantry would be the perfect spot for a secret passageway!”

Essie’s eyes grew wide. “Or a cookie jar!”

“Let’s do it!” I rolled up the map and hurried after my sister. Hand in hand, we tiptoed down the servants’ stairs and toward the kitchen. We paused outside to listen and peep in the door. Kitchen girls and servants scuttled in all directions. We waited until they were all distracted. At the same moment, we looked at one another and mouthed, “Now!” Together we crept into the kitchens.


* * *
Lady Frizella
Minutes later we rushed outdoors, our hands full of cookies and our bellies full of laughter. We ran over the grounds and climbed up our favorite tree, the one directly in front of our rooms. We stuffed our mouths with Cook’s delicious cookies and laughed in triumph.

“Cook must have magical powers,” Essie said, licking the crumbs off of her fingertips.

“Maybe. But it’s not enough to keep her treats safe from us,” I replied, stuffing the last cookie in my mouth.

Essie took the map from me, shook off the crumbs, and spread it across her lap. “It just doesn’t make sense. We’ve looked everywhere.”

I looked over at the bank of windows before us, trying to piece the puzzle together. Then I squinted at the map. “Wait a minute . . . does that look wrong to you?”

Essie huffed. “Fritz, you know the map’s not to scale. Father wouldn’t allow us to use his tools. ‘What use would nine-year-olds have with cartography instruments?’”

“It isn’t that,” I hurried to explain. “Look at the outside wall. Doesn’t it seem too . . . wide?”

She followed my gaze. “I never noticed that before. Let’s go investigate!”

We scrambled down the tree and flew over the lawns. The unrolled map flapped behind us. A quick trip up the stairs brought us to our rooms. Luckily all our sisters and maidservants were out.

The air whooshed out of me when I faced the wall. It looked the same as all the rest. “I guess I was wrong, Es.”

“Just a minute.” Essie ran her hands over the wall, then began tapping. She turned wide eyes to me when the sound changed.

“It’s hollow!” we crowed.

I joined my sister, tapping until I found something else. “Essie, it’s colder!” She placed her hand where mine had been, on the place where the outside wall joined the back wall and moved her palms up and down slowly. After a moment, a gentle click sounded. Part of the wall moved, opening outward onto a dim chamber.

Our eyes met. Together we whispered, “The secret passageway!” 

Maybe we had a fairy godmother after all.

* * *
Revisit Lord Bromhurst's eldest daughters in Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies I. Also, read about all the rest of the sisters in Midnight Sisters: Meet the Ladies III and Meet the Ladies IV. And as always, you can claim your own copy of Midnight Sisters on Amazon or you can contact me for a signed copy.

Thanks for reading! More sister adventures are on the way!