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Looooooooooooong Novel Excerpt

This is a chapter for my printerfic novel I've been revising for my creative writing class. You know, the seventeenth century one about the girl who wants to be a printer so she crossdresses (as happens) and runs into hijinks (as happens) and prints (as happens if I'm writing it). Anyone with some spare time and the will to concrit will be LOVED FOREVER.

ETA: Trigger warning for assault. She'll be fine though, BUT!

The Coldest Part of Winter

London, February 1666

With a year and more gone since the start of my ‘apprenticeship’, I had grown comfortable in my employment with Kirk. When the playhouses reopened for a time, Da returned to the stage; I had once thought to join him there, but no longer. I was pleased with my own place and my boy’s garb. I daily gave thanks to God that my shape remained thin as a sapling, with little promise of tell-tale roundness to come. At the same time, as ever, I frankly and silently envied Liz her own abundance, her ease in her womanly role. I wondered if such was ever to be, but not often—I was too busy for that.


Men will often chuckle ruefully over their apprentice days: subject to the will every journeyman, to every job none of the other cared to take on, to endless bouts of fetching and carrying and thanking one’s betters for the opportunity to serve. But for my tenure, I’ll say that life as a printer’s devil was none so bad, and as near as I saw, better than most. In time I could fold my week’s cap in my sleep, compound pigment and varnish without want or waste, refresh the lye trough, and turn my hand to press or beating without thought or hesitation. Aaron was not so lucky.

“’Sblood, Simmons,” he said as we were washing the type one evening, the well-watered lye still strong enough in our noses to provoke tears, “it’s not fair.”

“It’s none so bad. We’ve only the two galleys left.” Mitchell and Henry had collected their coats and gone by that time, and Kirk and MacKenzie had retreated to Ned’s. I supposed Marcus was with them, and felt regret that we’d share no walk homewards that evening. “Come now—we’ll be done yet!”

“Ye know what I mean.” I looked up: Aaron’s face was dark red, chapped with cold. His freckles were invisible, which I thought a shame; I found them endearing, and by then I knew him well enough he was in a rare temper.

“I don’t,” I admitted, turning my eyes back to our work. “I’m sorry. I’m tired, and Da’s waiting.” I gestured helplessly with one hand, then began scrubbing all the more industriously at the tray of type. I willed Aaron to similarly busy himself with his own, but he didn’t. “It’s none so bad as all that,” I said at last, placating, “no more than usual.” When Aaron remained in his sulk, I prompted him once again, making my tone as light and playful as I could. “Come, now, just a wee—”

“I’ll no’ take orders from the likes of you,” Aaron said with a fierceness that shocked me to silence. His anger seemed to ring out through the empty workshop, but it was only his next speech that truly filled my ears. “Blackamoor!”

I had heard worse, earlier and elsewhere, but until that moment I had thought Aaron was my friend. I stared at him, shocked and stung, but it was Marcus who spoke.

“Such epithets are unnecessary, Mister Bartlett,” he said, emerging from the door to the Pit. He carried one of the thick bales of crown paper in his arms; he carried it past where we stood gawking and set it down on the work table closest to the tympan, where earlier that evening we had already set aside all of the sheets dampened in preparation for tomorrow’s work.

“We thought you’d gone, sir,” Aaron said. I could see the flash of regret on his face, the start of an apology on his lips, but he hadn’t the chance to speak.

“I know. You were incorrect.” Marcus didn’t look at either of us, but went about the work of removing the pressing stones from the copper sheets we used to keep wet pages flattened in the night. He took his time with it, and it was clear he had no patience for more from us, so we went back to our type. I bent to my task, eyes on the blackened letters before me, removing the first coat of grime from the ink. I concentrated so that I jumped when he spoke again. “Mister Bartlett, I believe you should apologize to Mister Simmons.”

Aaron’s red cheeks had paled to something more like his accustomed complexion, but they began to burn again at that. “I’m sorry, John,” he said in a rough voice.

“Aye,” I made myself say. “Think naught of it.” There was a thickness in my own throat, a misery at the whole tableaux. I didn’t want Aaron’s apology; I wanted to forget the whole sorry incident. “I know he meant nothing by it, sir,” I said to Marcus. “Truly.”

“Mmmm.” Ben was less than convinced; I saw that plain enough. “Is that type clean yet, Mister Simmons?”

“No, sir. Right now, sir.” I cleaned and shined, straining to listen as Ben said something else to Aaron, but all I truly heard was the old taunt itself—it and others. Blackamoor, black sheep, Moor…

“Mister Simmons! John!”

So caught up in my own cares, I had forgotten my role. I looked up, blank, and saw Marcus warring with himself between exasperation and something I couldn’t quite name. “You may be excused until the morrow, Mister Simmons.”

“I’m not done yet,” I said, the words tasting foolish in my mouth, though I knew not what else I ought to have said.

“Mister Bartlett will finish that task. As I said. Good e’en, Mister Simmons.”

“Good e’en,” I said, and my mouth tasted like dust as I put down my cleaning rag. I washed the stickiness of the varnish off my hands as quickly as I could, placed my paper cap on a shelf, and left the workroom. The public front of the shop was dark in the twilight, only a bit of light showing through from the lanterns outside, made brighter from the snow. I fetched my coat and hat, fishing the gloves from my pockets with fingers that already anticipated the cold out of doors.

“John?” It was Wee Beth, peering through the doorway from the common room. She hurried over to me, her expression sympathetic. “I’m so sorry, John. You yourself said it, though—he didn’t mean it.” She meant it kindly, but between her good intentions and the truth, I felt myself closer to tears than I had any right to, especially in my guise. Stick to the part, Jane!

“Aye,” I agreed. I turned away, hand reaching for the doorknob and a farewell on my lips, when a warm body pressed itself close to mine. Wee Beth’s arms were around my shoulders, her lips on mine, and I staggered back hard enough to knock against the wall. The knock of my head to the wood was loud enough to make me wince and Wee Beth to jump back, appalled.

“Oh, John, I’m so sorry!” Her face was pink, her hands over her mouth in mortification. “I didn’t mean—”

“Yes, well, good e’en, Mistress.” Flustered, I exited the shop with a sufficient lack of grace so as to all but trip over my own feet into the snow. Outside, in the darkness of the winter night, the city was at peace and I was blessedly alone.

Painfully alone.

Was there ever a poor sinner even half as foolish as I? A girl actor accursed with a tender heart, torn between a genuine life that every day seemed less genuine, and a part that each day seemed to supplant truth? A black creature who repelled all but poor, deceived Wee Beth, whom I hurt more and more every day all unmeaning?

“Sweet Jesu, have mercy on me and mine,” I said into the night, pausing. I closed my eyes tight. “Give me patience, for I am sore tried. Give me strength, for I am weak.”

A door opened, and I jumped again: But it was only Ben. “Mister Bartlett assures me there will be no recurrence of tonight’s incident,” he said. “Shall we walk?”

“A-aye.” I stumbled again, this time over words as Ben joined me and we fell into stride together. I had come to enjoy these interludes, conversations where I felt almost real and no part at all. Sometimes at night I imagined telling Ben the truth, wondering what he would say; in my typical fancy, he would take the revelation with his usual imperturbable calm, and often my soul found its way to sleep thusly lightened from its burden.

We walked in silence until we came to our characteristic place of parting. I made to say my customary fare well, but Ben stopped me. Instead, he squeezed my shoulder with a firmness that was near close to pain, and showed his teeth in a grimacing smile. “Good e’en, Mister Simmons.” He nodded his head sharply, and went his way. Sighing, I went mine, and if Da noticed I was uncharacteristically quiet, he said naught of it.


The next day—and the several that followed it—Aaron was silent throughout. He didn’t come down when Wee Beth brought the morning’s bread and dripping. That first day, she made to take his share to him, but I suppose there must have been some words from Sam, for she didn’t repeat the attempt. When we returned the day following the Sabbath, Aaron broke his fast with me, but wordlessly, and he only used what speech he must have with me throughout the day: asking for this tool, or assistance with that task—and only if none of the other men helped first. It was only a matter of time before they worked out there was trouble between the two devils.

“Right then, Thing One an’ Thing Two, get yer lumps o’er here,” Mitchell said one day. He had been beating while MacKenzie was acting as horse, the pair of them acting in quick tandem. He hung up the ink balls while MacKenzie retrieved the spitshooter and mallet. “Time to unlock this lot. Bring us string and trays. Lively now!”

I was closest to the shelves of tools, so I retrieved the spool of thread and shears while Aaron retrieved empty galley trays from one of the cabinets. Kirk and Marcus were at the correcting stone, seemingly paying us no mind, but I noticed Marcus’s eyes flick to mine. I raised my eyebrows in acknowledgement, and he returned to his work with the proofs.

Aaron paired with Mitchell to unlock the forme while I brought the galley trays over. We carefully loaded the sets of type into them; they were printing a small octavo that day so there were sixteen pages set for us to remove neatly, to tie in place in the trays, to keep in careful order lest we needed them again before the type was redistributed. Next to setting the type into the forme proper, it’s one of the tasks in the shop requiring the most care. Once that was done I started to clean the type, and Kirk and Marcus started to lay the new forme in the bed of the press. My supply of watered lye was running low, so I excused myself to go fetch some more from the Pit.

Mitchell followed me.

He hadn’t been any trouble for months by then; I’d naively assumed that he’d only been having a bit of fun at the new lad’s expense, and as I grew into my place he’d grown bored of what passed for entertainment in his wicked mind. I hadn’t truly realized it until then how the other men had, in their own ways, been taking care not to leave me be with him. Always Henry or Ben found some excuse for this or that, and Aaron and I were of course always together—at least, until then.

The reader who is no doubt far wiser than I will have realized by now: Mitchell had only been waiting.

It didn’t take long to find the supply of lye in the more or less orderly shelves of the Pit. It was cool and dark down there; in the daylight hours there was a bit of light from the grating by the street, but not so much. Having fetched my parcel, I turned to leave only to find my way blocked.

“We never got to finish our chat, Simmons,” Mitchell said, with that angular smile that made me quail inside.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, willfully misunderstanding him. I held up the lye. “I found what I was looking for.”

He smirked. “Did you now?” Mitchell eyed me up and down, and I liked not his look one bit. Suddenly I regretted volunteering to come down to the Pit. “Surely you know what I mean, lad.”

“Surely not.” I held my ground, jutting my jaw out like I’d seen Kirk do with the man from the Star Chamber. “Surely you don’t either. Surely you should go back upstairs and will have the sense to pretend you never said such a thing—”

“Peace, boy, peace.” Mitchell gave me the look he seemed to think was a disarming grin, the sort that worked all too well on the wenches at Simpson’s Tavern. I, on the other hand, knew it to be as false as he (and another might say as black as his soul—though I, knowing better in both degrees, merely assumed he had none) and felt disgust coil in my belly. It rose like a snake inside me as he approached closer—too close. “Let’s not be like that, hmm?”

“Let’s not,” I agreed. My voice sounded cool and even—more so by far than I felt inside. “Get thee gone, Mitchell.”

I refused to give my ground—foolishly so. That part of me that was an actor felt that no true boy or man would do such a thing, and if I did I would be exposing to myself to more danger than I would be in from a beating or—whatever he had in mind. And yet as he drew closer I realized that for all I wore the clothes and took the habits of a lad, inside I was still very much a lass. All the same I stayed where I was, and it was only when he was close enough to touch that I gave way.

“Don’t be like that,” Mitchell said with a grimace, pulling me to him. His hands were on my shoulders, large and bruising. I hadn’t realized until then, or perhaps I had only forgotten, how big men could be. I could feel his fingers through my smock, coat, and shirt, hard and bruising. Liz will ask why I have spots, I thought absurdly. “Little bird,” Mitchell said with something he probably thought was affection, and held me in place as he kissed me.

I say kiss but it was more like an assault of tongue, hot and meaty and leaving the taste of beer on my lips. I tried to scream, but what came out was a harsh squawk, and I threw my head forward as hard as I could just as I stamped at his feet. My forehead caught him on the chin, but my feet did little, as his boots were of heartier stuff than my own shoes. Mitchell cursed low under his breath and caught me by the length of my hair, pulling it back with enough force for tears to spring to my eyes, and pressed me against one of the rows of shelves. It was hard enough for their contents to rattle, hard enough for the beams of wood to make my spine ache where they touched. He was pulling at my coat, my shirt—I scrabbled and slapped at him, and then he pushed one forearm against my throat so I couldn’t breathe.

“Stay still,” he said in my ear, moisture from his breath collecting in the shell of it and making me shiver. “That’s it,” he continued approvingly, like he thought I was giving in, and I felt the tears burn hot in my eyes more than ever. Lightning danced across my vision, blue and white, and then I felt cool air on my chest. “You cat!” he declared in an altogether different voice, and that was it: I was undone, altogether.

John Donne, Anne Donne, undone, I thought absurdly. John Simmons, Jane Simmons—my wits were so scattered I couldn’t even complete a bit of foolishness!

“Mitchell!” Kirk’s voice like thunder, and Mitchell’s weight pulled off of me.

The sound of fists on flesh.

Marcus was in front of me—if you’d asked me when he came or how he’d got there, I couldn’t have told you. His face swam in my vision, dark eyes and thick brows and pale face. His long fingers against my skin, and I was shivering uncontrollably as he made shushing noises like I was a stray dog or some such. He was fixing the laces of my shirt, the buttons of my coat. “How long?” he was asking, and for a wild moment I thought he was asking, How long have you been a woman?

“All my life,” I answered through chattering teeth, and the man gave me an impressive frown and began to unbutton his coat. I flinched away from him, but then the garment was off and wrapped around me, still warm from his wearing of it. He looked strange in his shirt; I could see the long neat lines of his body through the worn threads of it, and thought it odd somehow, that Ben was so framed. He looked younger like that.

“Are you—? Did he—?”

I wondered at a Ben Marcus unable to put words together. Or perhaps I was too stupid to understand, a stupid girl, a stupid woman—

And then I understood what he was trying to get at; perhaps he was unsuccessful because he had some wish to spare my ‘delicate sensibilities’ such as I may have yet possessed, or perhaps it was only that being a Puritan he couldn’t finish the thought aloud.

“No,” I said in a voice that was barely my own. “I am—whole. As yet.”

He nodded, and then he raised a hand and stroked the skin of my right cheek and jaw. Later—much, much later—I would wonder at the caress, but then I was only dimly aware of it. “Come,” he said with an astonishing gentleness I had never heard from him before. The strangeness of it made tears build up behind my eyes again, and drop one by one down my cheeks. “You will have your justice.” He rubbed the tears away and took my cold, cold hands in his (they were warm, but not warm enough, nothing could ever be warm enough, I was certain) and led me upstairs.

Kirk was angry, a fury such as I had never seen. I heard his voice but couldn’t make sense of the words. The expressions of the other men in the shop were grim. Gibbons and MacKenzie held Mitchell between them, held athwart the correcting stone. They had his arms stretched out and his ankles were tied to the legs of the table. The other tables had been pushed away—it must have been some work to move it all in such a short span of time. I wondered if Mitchell had struggled—he must have done, I thought, noticing the mottled skin of his face, already changing colors. He didn’t move now, just breathed harshly as Kirk finished speaking. Aaron cut Mitchell’s shirt off, slicing it neatly down the front with a pair of shears.

The beating began. I wondered how many solaces for an attack, a—a rape my mind supplied distantly—but as the blows continued, I stopped counting. Kirk’s fist balled up was nearly the size of one of our ink stocks, and he landed each punch on Mitchell’s abdomen with all the precision with which he corrected type, fast and clean.

Mitchell was silent at first, but after the first series of blows he began to grunt and then to whine with pain. “Ye—try—tryin’—to—kill—me—Kirk?” he asked between blows.

Kirk didn’t answer.

Gibbons’s face was dark; it was clear he was willing to keep Mitchell down as long as Kirk wanted him to. MacKenzie, on the other hand, began to flinch as the punishment continued. “Sam, you’ll kill him,” he said, but either Kirk didn’t hear or he didn’t care.

For my part, I felt nothing—truly. Later, much later, I would think on it with disgust and with horror. Never would I think of it with compassion or forgiveness, as the priest would urge. But then, shivering in Marcus’s borrowed coat with his hands on my shoulders (for a while it seemed as though he was all that was keeping me up and in place; perhaps you would think it odd I could bear the touch of a man after what Mitchell had tried to do, but somehow I knew then, or always knew, that Ben would never, ever, hurt me), all I wanted was for everything to be over and done with.

At the end of it, Mitchell lost control of his bladder and bowels both, and the sharp stench of it filled the small space. Kirk finally pulled back from the stone, breathing hard. “Get this misery out of my shop,” he told Gibbons and MacKenzie, and they did. “Bartlett, clean this up.” He turned ‘round to me and Marcus, and thankfully he looked almost human once more. “Marcus. Simmons. Upstairs. Now.”

Kirk led Marcus and I up to the third floor, where he unlocked a door that opened into a single room that held a bed, a desk, a closet—in short, what passed for Kirk’s own home.

“Sit thee down,” Kirk said, and Marcus pulled a chair out for me. I sat in it awkwardly, my body stiff yet from fear and horror. I was still shivering and pulled Marcus’s coat more tightly about me. “Forgive me, Marcus,” Kirk said, and Ben nodded. I saw that Kirk was pouring a glass of spirit, which would of course offend the Puritan—though Marcus didn’t seem to mind. Kirk pushed the glass into my stiff fingers. I stared at it; the liquid was the color of amber, the scent of it sweet. Brandy, such as Da was once fond of; the urge to cry came to me once more, all but overwhelming me. “Drink it up, lad. You need it.”

“Sir.” Marcus’s voice was low, and Kirk looked up at him in annoyance and then—something else. Words passed unspoken between the pair of them, and they moved away to converse in private, but not before Kirk repeated, “Drink.”

Here is where it all ends, I thought, and drank. One swallow, then another. I coughed; liquid pooled in the bottom of the glass, but I thought I’d be sick if I had anymore.

The men returned. Kirk sat facing me, Marcus at my side. “Is it true?” he wanted to know, expression unreadable and blank as any choral mask I had ever seen.

I took the last swallow of brandy anyway. “It is.” The words came out not even as loud as a whisper, so I coughed and cleared my throat. “It is,” I said again, properly.

“Hmm.” Kirk nodded once as if to himself, then twice. “Stay here. We must close the shop, send the men away.” He looked pointedly at Marcus, who touched my hand in apology, and then followed our—his—master out the door.


It’s a funny thing, to sit and wait out one’s fate. There was a clock set on the desk nearby; the marks of time passed loud and slow, like an artificial heartbeat. I wondered what would become of the shop, missing a pressman and devil both; I supposed Kirk would needs must go to the Company and apply for more men, and Master Selmy the barrister would come ‘round again to count noses. Three pressmen and one apprentice and two presses, I suppose that you are warranted for need after all. A few bits of paper and another boy on the steps.

I wondered who he would be, and felt jealousy rear its head already.

There was a knock at the door, and then Wee Beth peered in. “There’s a great stramash downstairs. Are ye alright, John?”

“Aye,” I tried to say, but the word came out all strangled. Wee Beth looked horrified, darting in to grasp my head, take it to her lips, and then dart out again. Poor thing, more mouse than lass; I wondered what Sam would say to her once I was gone.

Left to myself again, I could hear voices downstairs—not words, just the sound of speech, indistinct; Kirk’s rumbles, the staccato interjections of MacKenzie, and brief periods that I assumed must be Henry or Ben speaking. I wondered if Aaron had anything to say, but then, even if he did, his word hardly mattered. And then there was silence, followed by the protest of wooden steps under heavy feet, and my master’s return. Kirk was alone, I saw.

“Where’s Ben?” I wanted to know. “Mister Marcus, I mean.”

Sam made a sound of amusement. “Don’t fret; your protector has been at me already. He and I will have to talk about that sometime, but no’ today.” I regretted my words, fearing I’d gotten my friend into trouble; something must have shown in my face, for Kirk shook his head. “No, lad, nothing like that. His soft spots keep me in line, now and then. I’m grateful to him for’t.” His gaze shifted to the cup still before me, the liquid still in it. “Phssht.” He clucked disapprovingly and sat down opposite me; took the cup and drained its contents in a single gulp. “That didna help.”

“No, it didn’t.” I wasn’t sure if we were speaking of him or me, nor was I sure whether it mattered. Sam stared at me, eyes narrowed as if he could read my thoughts. I shifted uneasily, wanting to look away, but unable to do so. “What’s going to happen to me?”

He didn’t answer, just kept up that same regard. I felt tears burning behind my eyes again, but held them in check. Samuel Kirk, for all his tempers—indeed, for all the violence he had availed himself of only a short time before—did not visit pains on those who did not earn them. While I dreaded him at times, I had never feared him. Thus was the mark of the just man made.

“Ye might have said something,” Sam said at last, sitting back in his chair and looking—tired, I supposed. His cares were many, and if Mitchell were truly gone, and I were to follow, he’d be two men short. “After all—”

“And after all, I’m a woman. Would you have hired me in skirts, with no kin in the trade?” I dared him to say differently, and he didn’t.

Was I disappointed at his silence? Vindicated? Truly, I know not, only that the certainty of it was a hot piece of lead in my heart: stabbing with pain as it shrunk and condensed into cold hardness.

Finally Sam’s lips twitched, curled upwards, and he said, “More girl than woman. More devil than all.”

I stiffened in my seat, and only after a foolish heartbeat realized he meant printer rather the common accusations of the street preachers. My angry flush became one of shy pleasure, then. To my surprise, there were tears in my throat again, but this time, grateful ones. I choked on them, speaking with less certainty than I would have liked. “Aye?”

“Aye,” Sam said, taking my chin in his fingers and then gently poking my nose with his stained thumb. “Lass.”

I laughed, swallowing back tears of relief this time. It’s perhaps a hard thing to describe if you’ve never known a fear so great, a weight so heavy as to bend your back with you all-unknowing, at least until such day you were freed of it. That was what I felt then, a heady release that was relief and thanks and simple joy all mixed together, warming me from the inside like a cup of hot mulled wine. “Thank you, oh, thank you, Sam—Master Kirk! Oh!”

Sam gave me the broad smile he so seldom displayed, and then sobered. “I’ll be honest, though, John—ah. What’s your name, lass? Your real one? Unless your real name is John, in which case your Da has a lot of explaining to do—”

“Jane,” I said. “My name’s Jane.”

“Jane, then. O’course.” Sam nodded. “Well, Jane, we’ve a bit of work to do yet. If you’re to stay on as my apprentice, everything needs to be legal-like.” I thought of my forged bienvenue and froze guiltily, but he continued on. “Your papers are a small thing—‘Jane’ instead of ‘John’ is an easy mistake for the Stationer clerk to make. That’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it, ye ken.”

“As you like,” I agreed, relieved that was all.

“The other business, though.” Kirk sighed, and scratched at his whiskers. At the end of the day, his chin had already gone dark again. “You’re a lass, and you’re not yet the age o’ majority. I know ye’ve been keen to keep you’re Da out of all this, but if we mean to keep on, I need to speak to the man.” He gave me his gimlet eye, a dark blue that was almost black in the afternoon light. “Is that going to be a problem, then, Mister—Mistress—Simmons?”

“Ah.” I licked my dry lips, and sweet Jesu have mercy, lied to the kindest master and truest friend one could ever have. “No.”


( 9 comments — Add your .02 )
Feb. 10th, 2013 06:16 pm (UTC)
You really had me caught up in Jane's story. I've probably read a few other bits and pieces here and there, but not enough to have gathered some of the salient points.

1) She's underage? for her position and also lied about that? Or is it that she would be old enough if she was a boy, but not as a girl? There's nuances there that I'm missing.
2) Aaron refers to her as a blackamoor. Where is she from? Is she black or just of a more Mediterranean ethnicity with accompanying complexion? I know the word can be used both ways. You've probably explained this in an earlier bit, but one I missed. I like that you've really done a great job recreating the various ways people of different classes/religions/backgrounds dance around each other in their proscribed roles. And that (if she is black) people of color existed in European society in roles other than slaves. I get so tired of (fan)fic writers who complain that you can't have blacks in historical AUs because they didn't exist as independent people. At least among American writers. They seem to think that no blacks were free anywhere in the world until we outlawed slavery here.
3) Would you mind adding a trigger warning to your header? I think that's what you meant by hijinks, but even with the foreshadowing from Jane, Mitchell's assault still caught me a little off guard and I had to do some quick skimming. If I'd read the piece where he originally created the problem, I probably would have been better prepared, but I felt a little blind-sided. Thanks, bb.
Feb. 10th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)

1) So she's a girl, which means that she's underage until...25 or 21, I forget. If she was a boy, she'd be fine.

2) She's a British black--well, mixed, her Dad's white. In my head she's the great-grand-daughter of the black troubadour in Henry VIII's court. 17th c. racial issues are really interesting because it's when current racism is being sorted out: You do have slaves but you ALSO have artisans and so forth. Laws limiting positions and such like aren't established until the 1730s.

3) Sorry, bb, I didn't even think of that. I'd done it before with the earlier scene but I've gotten inured to "things sucked in the 17th c." Will edit forthwith!!

Feb. 10th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
You should not be worrying about this fic! I'm so peripatetic about keeping up on LJ that I haven't caught more of this and I wish I had. You've got such a deft touch with cluing us in to the process of printing with just enough exposition and then showing us how that translates to the process through the actions of the characters. I find it pretty enthralling. And, of course, that feeling of being on edge with Jane's predicament: will she be discovered as a fraud and the way she's navigated that before Mitchell inadvertently outs her. And now that they've found out, it's going to be interesting to see how that changes everything and what problems it will bring. I'm very much looking forward to being able to read the completed work at some time. :D
Feb. 10th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
I write original fic slowly and have only posted little bitlets of this because it is coming slowly, or I change my mind about what happens with the characters, etc. etc. There's a modern-day component too, and I posted the first bit of it here. I want to make these pieces the focus of my submissions for my creative writing class this term tho, and we have a good prof, so I'm hyper-aware of wanting to have things all shiny!!!!!!!!!
Feb. 10th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, bb, I love this! And I'm not just saying that because I'm biased towards your writing either. ;) I adore the turns of phrases and the way that people used to speak, it's always a sure way to suck me right into the time period and you have it down perfectly. All the little details of the work in the print shop are fascinating and I was drawn right into John/Jane's emotions and did not want to stop reading. I wibbled when Aaron was mean to her and then when Mitchell nearly raped her, OMG! D: And poor Wee Beth. She's going to have her hopes smashed, isn't she? *pets* Also, something tells me that Marcus is sweet on our dear Jane. :) TL;DR: LOVE IT. WANT MORE.
Feb. 10th, 2013 06:34 pm (UTC)
OMG OMG I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU!!!!!!! <3333333333333 You're awesome and amazing and now I WILL SURVIVE BECAUSE OF YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <333333333333333333333
Feb. 10th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
D'awwww. I LOVE YOU TOO!!!!!!!!!! And you have seriously been worrying for nothing IMO, because you are even more awesome and amazing! ♥!!!! *tackle squish*
Feb. 20th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
Found this through your post on jb-write... I really enjoy the language and the old feel of it, not only in the dialogue, even though, being non-native-english it throws me sometimes - but that is on me and I'm probably learning things :) I also find the story fascinating, both for her personal struggle and for the printing part.

I agree with the others: I don't think you need to make the sexual assault more severe but you could show the emotional impact more.

I found the use of names confusing - you use the first names sometimes and last sometimes. I prefer when either the first or last name is used by the narrator throughout, then the way people address each other can of course change, and the narrator might also change in response to a change in relation to the person. Two examples of what I mean below.

Sam made a sound of amusement. “Don’t fret; your protector has been at me already. He and I will have to talk about that sometime, but no’ today.” I regretted my words, fearing I’d gotten my friend into trouble; something must have shown in my face, for Kirk shook his head.


“Aye,” I made myself say. “Think naught of it.” There was a thickness in my own throat, a misery at the whole tableaux. I didn’t want Aaron’s apology; I wanted to forget the whole sorry incident. “I know he meant nothing by it, sir,” I said to Marcus. “Truly.”

“Mmmm.” Ben was less than convinced; I saw that plain enough. “Is that type clean yet, Mister Simmons?”

“No, sir. Right now, sir.” I cleaned and shined, straining to listen as Ben said something else to Aaron, but all I truly heard was the old taunt itself—it and others. Blackamoor, black sheep, Moor…

“Mister Simmons! John!”

So caught up in my own cares, I had forgotten my role. I looked up, blank, and saw Marcus warring with himself between exasperation and something I couldn’t quite name. “You may be excused until the morrow, Mister Simmons.”
Feb. 20th, 2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for your thoughts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <33333

So the name thing is actually a working thing: people go by both names interchangeably, with the foreman referred to a bit more often by only the last name. It's the sort of thing that if read in the context of the whole thing would seem perfectly natural (I hope!)

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