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NaNoWriMo 2016 Update #1

by Kellyn Roth |
November 7, 2016

At 14,588 words, I’m pretty proud with what I’ve accomplished this November so far.
I think I could have done more … but there have been distractions. School, visiting siblings, an early Thanksgiving dinner, realizing that I haven’t touched my guitar in months and that the only song I practiced this year on my clarinet is the one we’re not going to end up playing in the concert … life is hard. XD
And because I can’t think about NaNo for another second, I’m going to randomly change the subject and talk about something else.
Yesterday I made the boys rake up the yard (what? I helped …) and do a photoshoot with me. I got lots of pictures of them trying to kill each other. What? This happens every time we collect a throwable substance … snow, leaves, water – you name it!
And yes. You can throw water. Sort of.
So, I thought I’d share some of the photos I took with you. 🙂 A few are already incorporated into my blog design, as you can see if you look around.




















Yeah … Dumas and Herbert are odd little boys, to say the least. (And no, Dumas and Herbert aren’t their real names; they chose ‘special’ names to be represented as on my blog … yep … I told you they were odd …)
Okay, that was enough of a break. I’ll return to NaNoWriMo, At Her Fingertips, and all that other lovely stuff you came here to read about. 😛
I think At Her Fingertips may be longer than The Dressmaker’s Secret and Ivy Introspective. I’m nearing 15K, and I haven’t even gotten Alice to London yet (although I will in a scene or two). On the other hand, a lot of what I end up with in the first draft will be trimmed off. For instance, the prologue.
THERE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE A PROLOGUE, PEOPLE!!! But when I, on November 1st, opened up my blank Microsoft Works Word Processor document, I typed ‘Prologue’ at the top of the page instead of ‘Chapter One.’
And it all went downhill from there.
2K PEOPLE!!! That’s how long the prologue is.
And it has nothing to do with the story. I know, I know. Most prologues have nothing to do with the story (or, alternatively, could be titled ‘Chapter One’). But this one really has NOTHING to do with the story.
And I mean it.
Basically, I picked a random minor character and began telling a story from his childhood that won’t effect him at all during At Her Fingertips.
You don’t believe there’s no relation between the rest of At Her Fingertips and prologue? Well, feast your eyes on this!!!
Oh. Wait. Copy and paste didn’t work for some reason … um … give me a minute …
Here we go!
Here’s part of the prologue of the first (rough) draft of At Her Fingertips.

(A content warning for younger readers: some violence and mentions of violence; nothing graphic.  Mentions of slaves, slavery, and owning someone. A mention of childbirth.)


March 4th, 1860

Appalachian Mountains, Virginia

Rushing onward, stumbling over stones, scrambling up hills, leaping creeks, panting, his legs bruised, his pant legs ripped, but he mustn’t stop. Ignoring the throbbing pain in his head, he ducked through the trees, taking a side-winderly course.

He paused under a pine tree for a moment, looking around him, trying catch sight of any landmark that might mark his way in the pitch-black darkness. He saw none. A snap of a twig frightened him. His mother’s voice returned to his subconscious: “Run, Peter, run!”

A wolf howled in the distance. Starting, the boy huddled back against the tree and listened. The usual night sounds – crickets, the leaves of nearby trees rustling in the light breeze, the intense hoot of an owl, the trickling of the nearby creek – greeted his ears. Then something very unusual greeted his ears.

“Where are you, little boy?” The rough voice had a slight Georgia accent that Peter hated with its slow drawl, its friendly tone that was fake … so fake. He mustn’t trust the friendliness.

Peter backed slowly behind a bush and crouched, tugging his coat tighter around his little heaving chest, trying to become smaller and less visible.

“We have your mother … your slave-smuggling mother. Why do you hide from us? You can’t get anywhere without your mother, a little boy like you. You can’t be more than six. Where are you? What’s your name? Peter. She called you Peter. Come on out, Peter. There’s no use in hiding.”

Flattening himself against the ground, Peter hoped the man was lying. Pressing his face against the pine needles, he determined not to cry. Even seven-year-old boys – even small-for-their-age seven-year-old boys – didn’t cry for their mothers. After all, what would Papa say? He never cried, and, oh, did Peter long to be just like Papa!

“Now, Peter. Your mother would be more like to cooperate if we had you to … to keep safe for her. We just need her to tell us a few things about the Railroad … but she refuses to. You know, maybe you could tell us. Wouldn’t that make it easy? We could let you go afterwards. You and your mother could go back to wherever you Yankees come from, and everything will be all right.”

Except we’ll return in shame. Except Mamma’s work will have to be dropped. Except they might never see Papa again. Except thousands upon thousands of wonderful human beings would go on to live and die enslaved. And Peter – little boy that he was – couldn’t let that happen. He had to save himself, he had to save Mamma, and then he had to help her get the group they’d brought from South Carolina to Canada. It was the only way.

Peter closed his eyes and waited for the man to pass. He moved on shortly, leaving Peter crouched in the darkness.

I need to move now. I need to go to Mamma. She’s back at the bad men’s camp, all tied up. I can sneak in while they’re distracted. I have my knife. I can cut her loose and we’ll get to the Sullivan’s basement. Papa is waiting for us. He’ll know what to do. He’ll keep us save.

Peter eased his way forward through the bushes in the direction from whence he had just come. He tried to remember what his cousin – and best friend – Riley had told him about the Indians’ methods of silent movement. He couldn’t remember. All that came to him was a method for making a birch-bark canoe. He’d tried that and nearly drowned. He’d have to figure out how they sealed the seems. Sap, probably. Or maybe they just used bigger pieces of bark than he’d been able to get.

Stop it, Peter told himself. Stop it this instance. Stay here, brain. I’ve got to help Mamma.

About a half an hour later, he managed to reach the bad men’s camp. It was simply a small clearing with a little fire in the center. Two men laid sprawled on the forest floor. One was staring up the stars; the other was whittling at a stick with a very big knife. Peter gulped.

The third sat next to the fire, staring straight at his mother who sat opposite to him, hands tied behind her back, a blanket tossed over her shoulders. A big bruise was starting to appear around her left eye, which was squeezed shut, and a bit of blood was dried to the corner of her lips.

“Now, Miss Lilli -”

“Excuse me?”

“Mrs. Strauss. Pardon my manners; I’m not in the mood for civilities, having tracked you from all the way from Savannah. Now Mrs. Strauss, as I was saying before more or less, we just need a few bits of information. We know you’re deep in the system, or else you wouldn’t be able to publish such well-informed articles on the Pennsylvania Gazette. Vague, but well-informed. Always giving just enough to make us hard-working gentlemen -”


“… just enough to make us hard-working gentlemen angry – to dangle a worm in front of our faces, if you will – without letting us know exactly what’s going on.”

“You have no proof that I’m the author of those articles.”

He laughed. “But you are, aren’t you?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not.”

Just then, the Georgia-accented man stumbled into camp. “Looked everywhere. Couldn’t find him.”

The third man swore. Peter covered his ears. As the third man seemed to be just sitting there in thoughtful silence after his outburst, Peter lowered his hands.

“Has she talked?” asked accent-man.

“Nothing but nonsense.”

“Oh, nonsense is the best kind of the senses,” laughed Mamma.

“Shut up.”

“I will not! One of the rights granted to me by this great country – be it or be it not marred by the likes of you enslavers of one race of humankind – is freedom of speech, and I will exercise it, even if -”

“Even if you’re like to be killed for it?” suggested Number Three.

“Exactly. I’ve nothing to loose.”

“Your son, your husband. I think there’s a baby, too, isn’t there?”

Peter silently nodded. Little Billy, aged two years old. But he was back in Philadelphia, staying with the Farrensons, family friends.

“Perhaps, perhaps not. What matters, really, is that my son will find his father, and they will get to the North in no time. I don’t care about anything else, and I’m ready, God help me, to die any time if it’s for a cause such as this one.”

Peter shivered.

“Brave woman who talks just like the anonymous writer of those many articles in the Pennsylvania Gazette,” taunted accent-man.

Mamma laughed. “Perhaps. Perhaps not.”

“I say we kill her,” said the Whittler, speaking for the first time.

“Nah,” said Star-Gazer. “We need the information out of her, and we’ll get it, one way or the other.”

“You won’t. I’m not afraid of anything you can do to me.”

“Why don’t you just dig yourself farther in?” asked accent-man. “Oh, wait. You already have got yourself ten feet under. Much farther down and you’ll be buried alive.”

Mamma leaned back against a tree and closed her eyes. “If you’re going to torture me, you’d best get it over with. Trust me; I can stand the pain. I’ve gone through childbirth twice. What can you possibly do to me? Besides, my husband will be here soon. He will find a way to rescue me.”

“And the rest of our group will be here sooner if they haven’t already caught your husband and the property which you tried to smuggle away from him.”

“You mean the people I smuggled away from a life of captivity, those whom you treat worse than your dogs, your horses, your pigs?”

“You’ve been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin like almost every Yankee,” commented Star-Gazer. “Those slaves are happy where they are, lady. They couldn’t live any other way. They haven’t the brain for it. They need to be in captivity to survive.”

“You’ve taught them to seem that way, and it’s never to late to teach an old dog new tricks.”

“Nevertheless, they are our property which you have stolen.”

Mamma didn’t reply. Her eyes remained closed, her body relaxed as if she was sitting in her favorite chair back at home, resting her eyes for a moment after a long day cleaning the house, baking the food, washing the laundry, and minding Peter and Billy.

Number Three stared angrily at Mamma for a moment, then turned to the Whittler, Star-Gazer, and Accent-Man. “Find the boy. He can’t have gone far. He’s likely trembling under a bush somewhere. You saw his eyes; he’s terrified. I’ll stay here and watch her.”

Peter closed his eyes and buried his face in his arms. He didn’t want those men to find them. Hopefully they’d look farther away. Peeking up, he saw them walk off in different directions, all thankfully away from the bush where he crouched.

Glancing at his mother, he saw her sitting up straight, pale from fright, pupils dilated, eyes roaming around the camp restlessly. “What will you do to him?” she panted.

“Nothing if you tell us what we want to know.”

You see what I mean? It goes on for quite a bit after that, too. I feel like I should delete it now … but maybe it’ll tie in later? I don’t know … I’m usually not a huge fan of prologues. I do have one in The Dressmaker’s Secret, though … so we’ll see. I’m not going to write a book to match a prologue I wrote in an hour of weakness. 😉


“Don’t be a such wet blanket.”

“I’m not wet; I’m cold.”

“Well, don’t be a such cold blanket!”

Now, I’m going to have to run back to my writing.
~Kellyn Roth
p.s. Just so you know, I’ve decided to write two update posts a week … either Monday and Thursday or Monday and Friday. However, I won’t hold myself to that, so if I only post on Monday one week, don’t be surprised.

What do you think of my thoughts?

17 Responses

  1. Wow, you are a fast writer! I’m only on 6K but soon it will be 7K. I was at co-op all day on the first day of nano, so that’s my bad excuse. I’ve also been busy….yup. Excuses, excuses. I really just need to sit down and WRITE.
    I’m reading this post right after finishing raking our yard! I wasn’t aware that you could throw water, but hey, you learn something new every day. 😉 Great photos! And great prologue! I’m intrigued!

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