The Painted Veil: Week 1 (Chapter 1)

1

I stand at the back of the room, picking at the lace on my dress’s cap sleeves. I hate parties. In theory, they should be fun, but not Mother and Father’s parties. When I was younger, I actually liked them. Somewhat. Because of our Position in Society, we could afford to have nice parties, and show off a bit. But Mother doesn’t believe in spending money on anyone else. Why would she splurge on good wine, when nobody knows the difference between expensive and cheap alcohol? So we buy lots of cheap wine, keep it flowing, and by the end of the night, everyone is too drunk to tell any difference.

I lean back against the wall and cross my arms, looking over the crowd. Usually, after the party had kicked into gear, and no one would miss me, I would sneak away to the nursery to play piano. No one would hear. And if I made sure to sneak back down before the party was over, no one ever knew I was gone. Not even Mother and Father. Those days are done now.

My parents still use the parties as a display of wealth and Position, but they have other purposes now. And because those purposes involve me, remaining at the party, smiling and charming, is a requirement. I decide to track down a maid to get a glass of Mother’s wine, when I see him. Or, rather, he sees me as I nearly run into him.

“Hello,” he says.

He is about twenty-one. The age of Choosing for men. That’s how I know why he’s here. I still haven’t been chosen.

Since the plague, Society had managed to rebuild, the world becoming populated again. But since the Society wants to keep it that way, they’ve enforced The Choosing on us. Once every girl turns sixteen, she is eligible to be chosen. Technically, it’s not as easy as a man simply choosing her. He has to ask her. But most girls say yes. The Choosing is a time where people have a chance of actually finding someone they love, having children the normal way. If you are not chosen by the time you’re eighteen, you are assigned a spouse. Personally, I think that you are no better off with a Society-matched spouse than one you pick yourself. Most of the Society matches have test tube babies, which everyone knows is because they don’t really care for each other.

This man is no better looking than most of the acceptable matches Mother and Father have come up with, but then he’s no worse. He has dark blond hair, and eyes that are grey. Personally I couldn’t really care less what he looks like. All my potential matches have been boring, and I don’t think that he will be any different.

I look at him. His posture is straight, but something about the way he carries his shoulders suggests an awkwardness. I try to twist what I know is a scowl into a polite half-smile. “Hello,” I say, noticing how hollow it sounds.

He looks into my eyes with his grey ones. I have to say, I have never seen grey eyes quite the shade of his, silvery, yet almost charcoal like the sky before a rainstorm. “You… you are Katrina, aren’t you?”

I shrug. “Yes, I am. Kitty, if you’d rather. And you are?”

“William Lane. But most…most people call me Will.”

He’s quiet for a while, but he almost looks like he wants to say something. Formality and awkwardness are a natural part of the Choosing process, or so the Guidebook says. But I haven’t met anyone quite so formal and awkward yet. Part of me wants to ask him if he wants something, anything to break the silence, but part of me also sees a chance to sneak off and be by myself. I debate, and then decide to do the polite thing. “Is there something you were going to say?” I ask.

He almost shakes his head, “Kitty”- he sounds like he’s trying out my name- “would you like to dance?”

I consider this. At this moment, what I really want is to run from the whole stupid Choosing thing. I’m bored of Mother’s matches for me, bored of the matches’ lame formality, or obsessive adoration. A Society-issued spouse sounds good right about now. I look up at him, about to say no.

But then I look into his eyes. He may be just about the most boring, awkward match yet, but he doesn’t seem unkind. I can at least humour him for the moment.

“All right.”

Will looks surprised that I said yes. He stares at me for several, long moments, before I clear my throat. “You still want to dance?”

“Oh.” It’s as if I’ve broken a trance. “Of course.” He holds out a hand, waiting for me to take it. I place my hand in his, noticing its texture. It’s soft, but not as soft and perfectly manicured as some of the other matches’ hands. There’s a light roughness to them, and his nails are cut nearly to the quick. I wonder what he does. Most of my matches have perfect hands, as nice as a child’s, only cleaner. Hands that don’t likely do much, profession-wise.

“Um-hmm.”

I jerk my head up in the most unladylike way possible and blush. I’ve been so busy studying his hands that I forgot why I had mine in his.

He motions his head to the dance floor. “Ready?”

“Sure.”

Although, deep down, I wonder if I am ready; ready to spend another evening with one of Mother’s matches, ready to spend more time questioning whether this person was the one that I would end up choosing, or rather, having to choose.

But, deep down, I also know that I’ll have to be. Sooner or later, I won’t be looking at someone, wondering if they’ll be the one I’ll be stuck with for life. They will be the one I’ll be stuck with for life. And that will be my forever.

It’s that thought alone that fills my head as I dance with Will Lane.

*******

I’m picking at breakfast the next morning when Mother asks me.

“Kitty, that looked like quite the nice young man you were dancing with last night.”

I roll my eyes. If lying about who she’s invited as a potential match for me is her new tactic, it’s the worst one yet. I won’t give her that satisfaction.

“I suppose he was fine. And who was he, Mother?”

“How would I know?”

I look up at her. She sounds and looks genuinely surprised, like she really doesn’t know who he is. Nice try.

“Oh, come on Mother, you must know. He’s William Lane. You invited him, after all.”

Mother’s cheeks gather colour. “I certainly did not. I have no…”

“I invited him.” My father’s voice is quiet, but it cuts Mother’s words.

“Father, you invited him?”

“Well,” Mother huffs, “you could have at least told me. And where did you find him?”

“He’s a young doctor I work with, just graduated from his Training.” As Father speaks, I can feel myself groan. Is this how he sees me, stuck as a doctor’s wife?

“Kitty, he’s a good pick.”

My head snaps toward Father. “I never said he wasn’t.”

“But you’re thinking it.”

“Yes, well, I have five months left until I’m eighteen. Lots of time to decide.”

“But Kitty, you aren’t deciding. You don’t like any of your mother’s picks for you. They’re too dull, too obsessive, not handsome enough.”

“I’ve never mentioned that any of them aren’t handsome.”

“But you think that.”

I keep my mouth shut and let that drop, since I know that there’s some truth to his statement. But I still want to argue. “The whole idea that a woman should marry a man because he’s a ‘good match,’ and not because she actually loves him is old-fashioned. It’s stupid, Father.”

“But it’s the law. Like it or not Kitty, it is the law. He’ll be able to take care of you. You’ll keep a good Position in Society.”

“Why should I care about any of that?” I cry out in protest.

Mother is quiet. Unusually quiet. “Kitty, children cost money to raise, and grown girls even more so. The parties we’ve held to help you find a suitable match have been wasted so far. The sooner you’re married, the sooner you’ll have someone to take care of you. How long do you expect your father to support someone who obviously has no desire to be chosen?”

I gape at her. How can she say this? Of course I eventually have to be chosen, or have the Society choose for me. But that having me live with her for another five months is too much of a burden? I look to my father, hoping to see any sign of compassion. There is none. He looks at me pointedly, and even though he doesn’t voice it, I can hear him telling me that he agrees with my mother.

I bite my tongue until I taste blood, forcing back the tears that sting the back of my eyes. “If that’s how you feel – fine. I’m going for a walk.” I get up, and no one stops me.

I leave the breakfast room and head through the foyer to the door. I had never truly felt at home in our large home, and now I feel even less so. In just a few months, like it or not, I will be living somewhere else.

As I open the door I see him. Him, being Will Lane. He still stands with the same gawkiness as the night before.

“Oh,… hi,” I say.

“Kitty, hello. I…uh…” He stops mid-sentence and looks down at the floor. I’m not sure if he forgot what he was going to say, or he changed his mind. We stand for a few seconds without speaking. Then I know I need to break the silence.

“What?” I ask.

“Huh?”

“Sorry, but I thought you were going to say something.”

“Oh!” his cheeks colour slightly. “Yes, I was…was wondering if you’d like to go for a walk?”

Truthfully, with him I do not, although I was going for one myself. Then I hear shuffling not far behind me. Mother. I sigh. “Might as well. I was on my way out.”

“Oh…good.” Will stands aside so I can walk out before shutting the door for me. I will give him credit for being polite. Still, you can’t exactly build a life on politeness.

“So, where to?” He asks as we step off the porch.

Good question.

The Painted Veil: Week 1 (Prologue)

Prologue

I sit by the window of our house-if you could call it a house. It’s more of a hut, really- looking out at the misty, cloudy landscape. I hate it here. It’s unbearably hot and muggy all day, before it drops to the cold, damp chill of night. At night it’s pitch black outside, but it’s almost preferable to the day, when all you can see are smog, and mist, and pollution.

“Wasteland,” I murmur to myself. “That’s all it is here. One big wasteland.”

I hug my arms to myself, feeling the stickiness of the humidity on my skin. It’s my fault I’m here, my entire fault. Nothing I can ever do will change it. And I’m trapped here with the one person who hates me the most in the world. The one person who should have loved me.

The one person who had once loved me.

The Painted Veil, Dystopian Style: My New Weekly Series

Hey All!

You know how I’ve promised you that I had a project in the works that I would be able to show you soon? Well…soon is now!

Although it was top-secret at the time, I can now announce that I’ve been working on a dystopian YA novella based on M. Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. Although I had originally planned to turn it into a free ebook, I’ve decided to release it chapter by chapter about every week or so for the next few weeks. The Painted Veil is one of my favourite movies, and although I’ve enjoyed the original novel, I always felt dissatisfied by it. The Kitty in the novel, a twenty-five year old at the beginning, seemed so childish at the beginning, then so suddenly knowledgeable and wise.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book, but I always felt that Kitty suited a younger character, who is only just beginning her journey. Also, there’s no way you could work that novel into a modern context (or maybe their is, but a I honestly can’t see it), but I couldn’t help but wonder; what would happen if the bored, twenty-five year old Kitty was placed in the context of a trapped, feisty teenager? And what if the natural confines of a certain time period were swapped for the forced confines of a dystopian society?

Cue all the dystopia stereotypes in all their corny glory. You’ll notice that I do a lot of those, like capitalised “Society.” Keep in mind, although I wrote this with serious intent, this could qualify as fan fic. Also, keep in mind that I haven’t had this professionally copyedited, so there may be some grammatical issues. But I know you won’t mind, ’cause free reading, right?!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Feel free to read, comment, print off. Just DON’T take this of my blog and pass it off as your own . Good? Good!

XO,

Emily

Spring Update

Hi All!

It’s spring! Can you believe it (I know I can’t)? It’s been a crazy term for me, which is probably why I haven’t been on here as often as I’d like. Right now I’m on a little break before going back for what I hope is my final term (happy dance). It’s bittersweet. I’m ready to move on to new things, but I know I’ll miss school as well.

Moving on from that, it’s exciting to see my life lining up. When you first graduate and turn eighteen, life can feel a little overwhelming. I finally feel like I’ve grown into myself, and that I know what I’m good at. It doesn’t mean I know everything, but it means that I feel that I’m right where I need to be. Deep exhale!

Moving on from that, I have exciting news! I’m a contributing editor at scifivision.com ! I’ve always loved this site and wanted to contribute, and now I am! I get to take conference calls, which is very exciting, and will also do some reviewing. Check it out! It’s an awesome site!

Remember that novella I told you all about? I’ve been looking it over and It’s almost done. That means that before you know it I can show it to you guys! Hopefully soon.

I’m also excited to announce that soon, I’ll be posting reviews for three new books, as well as an author interview with the fabulous Rosanne Rivers! Rosanne was one of the first author I met when I started this blog over 2 years ago, and is an awesome writer! I’m so excited to be interviewing her! Also exciting is Kiera Cass’s The Heir, out on May 5th!!!! Can’t wait!

Later Gators,

XO

Em

Hitting a Wall

It’s springtime again, and although this is a season that symbolizes hope, rebirth, and new beginnings, I find that at this time of year, I always hit a wall, both in writing and in my life. I think that this has to do with a lot of busyness, and not enough time to think. I typically thrive on positive or affirming words, and this is the time of year when warm weather isn’t coming fast enough and people aren’t the most charitable with their words. Just now, I’m taking a break from a study wall (trying to figure out the truly awesome (aka, pain-in-the-neck) invention of Prezi, which feels like a super high, super hard wall at the moment.

Here’s some tips to help you when you hit a writing (or life) wall:

1. Move Around It.

This isn’t the same thing as avoiding the problem. Avoiding is putting something off, knowing that you’ll likely never return to it. Sometimes, problems, whether writing or life or whatever, simply need to be looked at from another angle, or after some time away. Almost like when you’re doing a quiz. You don’t want to get stuck on one problem, and end up not finishing So move around the wall by continuing to write past the your pain point. Sometimes, this will give you all the clarity you need.

2. Offer the Wall to a Higher Power.

When I get stuck, I usually start internally freaking out. After the panic attack, I realize that maybe I don’t need to take care of the wall all on my own. After that, I usually pray to God for help regarding the problem. Not only is this soothing, but I find I get the help that I need to move past the problem, whether its through a dream or through some sort of life experience that gives me new inspiration. Jonathan Ball talks about praying to the “God of Writing” in this post: http://www.jonathanball.com/godofwriting/      Whatever floats your boat. Either way, realizing that you don’t have to handle the wall by yourself can help you move past it.

3. It Takes a Village to Raise a Child….or Move a Wall.

Sometimes you might get the answer to your prayers (or you might feel like you’re not) and you need to make sense of it. How do you do that when you’re close to the wall? Call in the troops! While I sometimes advise against outside human help in early stages of writing (or life problems), simply because it can be confusing, sometimes, things are too big to interpret ourselves. Maybe there’s someone who can help? Could be a family member or friend, or another writer. Getting someone to read your work, or talk about a writing issue with you can open up new ideas, which can help you move forth.

My Favourite Books (2015 edition)

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve talked about more books than I can count, whether in reviews, or critiques, or cover reveals. I’ve gabbed and gushed, and sometimes even talked about books that I don’t like. But I haven’t really spent a lot of time talking about books that aren’t new and hot, especially since converting from a purely dystopia-oriented blog to a more open-ended one.

Recently, I enjoyed the glorious week-of-all-weeks, better known to university and college students as “Reading Week.” Although I had way too much work to read anything new for pleasure, I did have to review Anne of Green Gables for a test. I say “had to,” but Anne is actually my favourite book ever. Getting to read it is always a pleasure (I’ve re-read it almost every year since I was eight), and every time I read it I get a new understanding of it. Because I’ve read it so often, I also get a bunch of good memories flooding back at me every time I re-read it.

Book lovers will understand. While some books are enjoyable for a time, or a guilty pleasure, some books stick with us for life. Their words make us smile, or their characters feel like friends. Sometimes, in these cases, even holding a copy of the book is enough to touch us. So, in honour of favourite books, I’ve decided to share some of mine, as of February 2015. It’s maybe not an exhaustive list, but it’s the books that are at the top of my head. Which maybe establishes them as my favourites.

1. Anne of Green Gables (and Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island)

2. Anything by Jane Austen

3. Little Women and Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

4. Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston

5. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (I like pretty much anything she writes, but this one is my favourite)

6. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

7. The Selection by Kiera Cass

8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

9. Anything by Agatha Christie

10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

11. Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

12. The Walk series by Richard Paul Evans

13. Fallen Angel by Don J. Snyder

14 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

15. After the Fear by Rosanne Rivers

16. Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Book Review: Grasping at Eternity by Karen Amanda Hooper

I’ll admit it, I’m really behind in book reviews. Even though I’m a fast reader, and can even speed-read, it’s my last year of my English degree, and I’m required to read about two books per week, plus assignments and other readings. As such, I’ve regulated most of my reading for book reviews for reading on the bus. That said, rules are meant to be broken. Especially when reading books like Grasping at Eternity.

Even with my self-enforced ban on any review-reading, except on the bus, I was so compelled by this book that I found myself reading it between classes, before bed, sitting on my porch…you get the idea.

Grasping at Eternity is about Maryah, whose parents and brother are brutally murdered at the beginning of the novel. Maryah is almost murdered and left for dead, but is rescued by a mysterious force and recovers after several surgeries, save for the emotional trauma. Orphaned, she moves in with her hippie-esque godmother, her godmother’s husband, and their expansive family of  children, surrogate children, and other family members. What Maryah doesn’t realize is that they are a family of reincarnated souls who have lived many past lives, and that she herself has lived through many past lives. She also doesn’t realize that one of the Luna family’s children, Nathan is her soulmate, and that she must face grave danger in order to be with him.

I loved how this book started off structurally and emotionally strong and kept plugging through, pulling me along the entire way. Maryah’s emotions as she copes with the grief of her family’s deaths  feel very real, and she is very relatable as a character, not only in her grief, but also in her humour and spunky personality. I also loved the past lives/soulmates idea, which is original to many of the paranormal plots I’ve read recently.

If I have one complaint about this novel, it is probably the dual narration of Nathan and Maryah. Hooper does a good job of giving both characters distinctive voices, but I wasn’t overly keen on the dual narration. Usually I enjoy dual narration, but I felt that in this story, it slightly inhibited the mysteriousness of the plot by cluing the reader into Nathan and his family’s background almost immediately. It doesn’t take away from the plot, but I would have preferred to find out about the past-lives plot through Maryah’s point of view. Still, the emotional integrity of the story and a nice little twist at the end keeps things exciting enough to keep the reader turning the pages past bedtime. Recommended!

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