Tuesday, February 9, 2010


"Perched uncomfortably on a low stool in the drafty sitting room, the young girl stared miserably at the scrap of embroidery lying forlornly on her lap. Refusing to look at her mother, Jane Maxwell angrily stabbed her needle into the clumsily stitched letters that proclaimed 'She is a Joy Who Doth Obey'.

'Jane!' said Lady Maxwell crossly, pointing to the threads that ran at decidedly odd angles across the soiled fabric. 'Tis impossible to sew properly if you dinna stretch the piece upon your frame. You'll take out every word, missy,' she said in an exasperated tone, 'until you do it perfectly!' Voicing her reproach at her ten-year-old daughter's failure to master yet another of the feminine arts, Lady Maxwell retrieved Jane's crumpled sampler and sighed audibly as she examined it more closely."

The first paragraphs of 'Island of Swans' capture a theme that will run through Jane Maxwell's life; a lifelong struggle to determine whether to submit to the will of others as was expected of daughters and wives in that period of time, or to decide the best course of action for herself.

They also may be a sign of how writing fashions change over time. Ten adverbs ending with a 'ly' suffix spread over two paragraphs. From her experience with writing contests, Apprentice Writer wonders whether an editor looking at this proportion would bring a red pencil into play, though the editor who first published the novel in 1993 clearly had no issue with it.

Please come back tomorrow for review and giveaway!


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