Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love At First Sight Blogfest

I love the word 'blogfest'. It sounds almost gooey, in some way reminiscent of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food.

Just me? OK.

I found out about the Love At First Sight Blogfest at Courtney Reese's blog and thought it sounded fun. A group of writers are posting scenes from their writing where two characters fall in love, or realise they're in love. I don't write romance, but as it happens, there is a scene in my WIP where two of my characters meet properly for the first time and start to fall for each other so I thought, why not? I like to be a part of things. I'm quite Zoidbergy in that respect.

Ahem. So now that I've name-checked a scifi cartoon lobster, I trust you're all in the mood to read about something romantic. Well, actually it's not very romantic at all. I may have bent the rules a little with my extract but my book seriously lacks romantic bits.

For links to all the other participating bloggers, if you fancy something else to read, go here :) I can't wait to read them all.

March 1935

Elizabeth was seventeen when she went to her first dance – a ceili in the parish hall, which Rosie had begged and begged her to attend. She had spent most of the night standing around sipping an orange drink and feeling very out of place as Rosie danced with Stephen Collins, the doctor's son. It was when Rosie vanished for a while and Elizabeth was looking for her coat so she could leave (and then Rosie would be sorry!) that Billy McCarthy asked her to dance. Elizabeth said yes, blushing, then took his hand and walked into a table.

Billy told her later that he fell in love with her at that moment, which she didn't quite believe.

When they sat down to talk, Elizabeth was glad they'd danced first. It gave her some time to mentally process the fact that Billy McCarthy was two feet away from her and had asked her to dance and actually seemed to like her.

“So you work in your dad's shop, do you?” he asked her.
“Yes. I see you coming in sometimes.”
Billy smiled.
“Do you work for your father as well?” she asked.
“He's training me to be a carpenter. Did you know that?”
“I think your sister said something to me about it once.”

The annoying thing about Clonleth was that you knew exactly who everyone was – you knew their family, their history, what side they took in the civil war that Elizabeth could hardly remember. You also knew anything foolish or embarrassing that they had ever done. The entire town and the areas around it seemed to be populated by anecdotes dressed up in human disguises. To make things worse, she knew everything about Billy because she'd always had a notion in him, and it was hard to strike the right balance – if she knew too much about him, she'd look pathetic and strange, and if she knew too little, she'd either look stupid or like she never socialised. In fact, she only socialised with Rosie (if you could even call it that), but Rosie's talent for gossiping was so great that she was practically an entire town wrapped up in one person.

“Da wants me to take over his workshop in a few years' time.” Billy said.
“You're very young for that!”
“I know, but he's been training me on and off since I was a kid. Whenever he was busy I'd help him out for a bit after school. I suppose your da will have you married soon?”
“I don't know,” said Elizabeth, with feeling. “Nothing's been said.”
“Now, I find that hard to believe.” Billy said, flashing her his best smile.

Elizabeth said nothing. It was a touchy subject at home. She was grateful when Billy started talking about his sisters. Elizabeth told him about her family – her brother, Thomas, the eldest, in university in Cork learning to be a pharmacist; her younger sisters, Kate and Carmel, were both still at school. Carmel was eight, and she would help out in the shop at the weekend, stacking the shelves and sweeping up and tidying while Elizabeth managed the till. This was Elizabeth's favourite time of the week because she could play with Carmel all day. Kate, the middle sister, was thirteen and a gifted seamstress, and she was excused work in the shop and had a bedroom to herself because she “had a gift”, which Elizabeth felt she was welcome to.

Rosie sprang up behind Elizabeth just as she was telling Billy exactly where their house was.

“Lizzie! Who's your suitor?” she joked. Elizabeth's heart sank.

Billy laughed. “I'm Billy McCarthy. And you must be Black Rosie, who else could you be?”

Something in Billy's voice made Elizabeth's insides tremble. There were two Rosies around Clonleth, and they had gone to the same school. To distinguish them, the boys called Rosie Martin 'Black Rosie' because her hair was the colour of new leather shoes. The girls had never adopted this habit and called both Rosies by their full names – except Elizabeth, who called them “my Rosie” and “the other Rosie”.

Sometimes in the shop, Elizabeth heard people allude to Rosie in ways she didn't like – that she was “fast”, that she was “troublesome”, that she was “popular”. Elizabeth had some idea what they meant – she knew she was naive but she also wasn't stupid – but she could never bring herself to believe it. Rosie was wild and funny, and Elizabeth had always felt she was running to keep up with her, but she was a good person. Elizabeth was certain of this because she kept a running tally in her head of incidents that proved Rosie's goodness, and whenever Rosie upset her – which was often – she used them to construct a defence of her friend. She had listed these incidents so many times that she had a private shorthand for them, and a single word could stand for an episode in their friendship that had strung out for weeks.

Elizabeth didn't want Billy to know that Rosie's reputation wasn't perfect. She also didn't want to think about how he seemed to know it already.


  1. Oh poor Elizabeth all insecure and having a thing for Billy! Methinks things will be a little tangled with Rosie in the picture..! Oh dear. Poor Elizabeth.

    What a great romantic read! Will check the others once I get myself more chocolates...


    Take care

  2. You had me laughing with "had a gift, which Elizabeth felt she was welcome to." And I love the way I am drawn in to these characters and begin to realize that Rosie is walking a knife blade, Elizabeth wants to protect her and it's all going to get quite complicated. Good work.

  3. I really like this. Happy to have found you through the blogfest. I love the 'anecdotes dressed up as people' sentiment. Nice. I love the whole setup.

  4. I really got drawn into the atmosphere of this. It brought to a novel by Edna O'Brien I read not long ago. I'd love to read more!

  5. Thanks, guys, glad you enjoyed :D

  6. In small towns indiscretions are the only big events.
    You set the mood and the tone beautifully.

  7. Enjoyed this! Would love to read more!

  8. Thank you for such an enjoyable read. Anxious to see where it all goes.

  9. Thanks all :D

    Elaine, I'm glad I got the small town thing OK - I lived in one growing up but I left before I was really old enough to think anything very much about them. I was like Elizabeth, though, quite a lonely kid, and the people you just heard about in the schoolyard could become like celebrities in your mind.

    Karen, glad you liked it, hopefully you'll read more of it sometime :)

    Ann, thanks for the comment. It goes a bit mad, really. . . don't books always? :)

  10. I loved this scene. I felt like I stepped right into Elizabeth's world. Great setting, characters, and dialogue. Thanks for an intriguing bit for me to think about and wonder over. Great post!

  11. I like how Elizabeth didn't want Billy to think badly of Rosie. Kinda hints at different layers of character interactions.

  12. I love the description of Rosie's hair being the color of new shoe leather. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Hi Roxy, thanks for the comment! This bit comes quite early in the novel so it's good to know that it got you wondering :)

    Livia, thanks for stopping by, I've been a fan of your blog for a while. I was trying to hint at the ambiguity you get with long friendships, where you can't always decide how you feel about the person.

    Amalia, thanks! But I have to own up, I nicked that description from my mother :)

  14. Ah, Elizabeth and Rosie! *fond sigh*

  15. They miss you too, Claire :)

    I wonder what ever happened to Mila Marsden, and her dreadul mother, and Si and Lexi. . .

  16. There's a sequel now! All v exciting.


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