6 November 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post ~ The Spanish Patriot, by Nicky Penttila #HFVT

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Some fly to war. Others flee it. No one is safe. When the British army is sent into Spain to help expel Napoleon’s invaders, nothing goes as expected. Not for London newsman Sam Kerr, hunting a story that will win him the editor’s chair, who discovers one that could wreck his career. Not for the Wakefield family, loyalist refugees from America seeking peace among people of their faith, who find war has followed them even here. And certainly not for the British troops, whose mission of support turns into a fight for all their lives. Historical fiction set in Corunna 1808.

Craft: Introducing multiple characters 

For me, one of the hardest scenes to handle is those with many characters in them, especially early in the book. In The Spanish Patriot, newsman Sam Kerr, fresh off the boat in Corunna, Spain, is invited to dinner with the Wakefields, an expat printer’s family. Kerr has only once met Fred Wakefield, a cavalry officer, and doesn’t know the other three, though he has been corresponding with one of them as part of his London newspaper job. This is early in the story, so the reader is still learning about the family too, but I didn’t want the scene to just be “meet the Wakefields.”
I wanted it to say something about each member of the family: Louisa is sharp and curious, Ben welcoming and empathetic, Jordan standoffish yet deeply feeling, Fred somehow both welcome and unwelcome. Also, I wanted to keep something a little hidden—the relationship between Ben and the rest of the family. Here’s how I did it (this is in Kerr’s point of view):
An older man and a younger woman rose from their seats, each as rail-thin of body and heart-shaped of face as the lieutenant, and just as carrot-topped. The branches certainly did not fall far from Wakefield’s tree.
This, in Chapter Five, is the first description of Louisa Wakefield, who is a point of view character in other chapters.
“I return and I bring the beast!” Fred shouted. Me? Kerr’s step behind him slowed, and then he saw the leg of cured ham the man brandished.

The woman, tidy but plain of face, clasped her hands in front of her serviceable frock. “Virginia ham?”
“None other. Been saving it. And this.” He pulled a jug of cider from his side-sack.
Here is more description of Louisa, and reinforcement that Fred is sort of the comedian of the family, adding to an earlier suggestion that he doesn’t now fit in comfortably with that family. Also giving information that the family is from Virginia, adding to the reader’s puzzlement about how they ended up here on the west coast of Spain.
“Now that one I do not believe.” The baritone voice sounded from behind him. Kerr turned; an African man closed the door to a back room and came toward them, approval in his face in place of a smile.
This also is a first description of Ben, although we know from earlier that he is black. Why doesn’t he smile when he is approving?
“Ben. You know me that well. The ham, indeed, is from our former colonies.” He turned to wink at Kerr. “And the man, he looks London-born.”

Kerr grinned. “Samuel Kerr, of the Midlands, by way of London.”
Fred gestured with the ham. “Allow me to introduce my father, sister Caroline—Louisa now, my apologies—and Ben.”
Fred is casual and genial (over-genial?), but he does do the introductions, as he should. His introduction of Louisa is over-casual—he might as well just say his sister, since she’d be “Miss Wakefield” to Kerr anyway. But what he knows and Kerr doesn’t is that they have an elder sister, who would be the “Miss Wakefield” to Louisa’s “Miss Louisa.” What he apparently does not accept is that his elder sister is dead. Also, Fred says “Ben” twice, singling him out.
Kerr nodded to each of the men, and bowed to the young miss, who curtsied prettily. He handed her a fine-bound book. “Walter Scott’s newest, Marmion.”
This would be a treat: A newly published book by one of Britain’s favorite writers. Kerr know to bring gifts to meet the family, and to give it to the lady of the house.
Some emotion flitted across her face. Upset? She swallowed hard, then reached for the book. “Very pretty. I thank you,” she said in a pure, confident alto.

Fred laughed. “Look at that face. She’s already read it. Never bring a book to a printer’s.” His sister shushed him. She blushed from the apple of her cheeks out.
Here we see that Louisa is young—she blushes—and that Fred is a teasing sort of brother. Also that as a printer’s daughter, she is extremely well-read, and even in Spain people (especially printers, who also sell books) have access to much of what London produces.
“My fault entirely,” He rummaged in his bag; he’d purchased every new volume on the shelves for this trip but wasn’t sure what was directly upon him. Out came Ray’s Horrors of Slavery: The American Tars in Tripoli. Good heavens, he thought, but before he could hide it away, she snatched it out of his hands.

“I’ve been waiting for this. How did you know?”
Kerr is surprised, but can react quickly to the “problem.” Also surprising is Louisa: She wants to read ‘hard’ history, about slavery, when Ben over there could be their slave? (This was suggested in Chapter Two). And Louisa sounds an awful lot like “Lou,” the person he’s been corresponding with when in London.
Kerr did his best not to let his surprise show, though he could not stop his suspicions. If she read such as William Ray, anything was possible. “Louisa—could you be the ‘Lou’ who sends us the correspondence?”

“So I am. And you, the one who makes it sing?”
“Guilty, but it’s been no trouble. You’ve a strong hand.” Kerr looked down at her side-braided hair and round blue eyes. “You are certainly our loveliest correspondent.”
Her face froze, as if he’d confused her. What female didn’t love a compliment? The African, Ben, took the bottle from Fred and fetched an opener from the corner cupboard.
A convivial exchange of compliments, establishing Louisa as the correspondent and also as an “atypical” woman. Ben is fetching things—like a slave might.
“Right.” Kerr turned to the printer. That lean face looked permanently shuttered, even scowling as he looked upon what must be a prodigal son. “So the Spanish don’t go much for fireplaces, I hear.”
Ben answered, even as he was pulling the cork out of the cider jug. “Not all Spanish. Just here in the kingdom of Galicia they don’t see the need, or don’t want the danger. We had to have a room built behind the press to add one in. A pipe travels by that wall,” he gestured toward the back. “But it’s a thin warmth at any time.” He poured cider into five mugs Miss Wakefield had brought from the sideboard.
Now Ben sounds more like a family member, or at least someone who can explain the family. Readers also learn about details about heating in Galicia, which will be important later.
Jordan Wakefield strode forward to grab the first. “Glad at least for the cider. I’ve missed it.” Kerr caught a glance between Miss Wakefield and Ben that carried meaning, though he couldn’t be sure what.
Jordan’s first line in Kerr’s hearing is a backhanded compliment. Why would what he said cause Lou and Ben to give each other a speaking glance?  
Fred lifted his mug. “A toast. To old friends and new.” He rested a hand on Kerr’s shoulder. The officer always kept a body between him and his father.

Ben’s eyebrows lifted. His brows were thinner than those of the blacks Kerr had met in London, and his face more square. “To family,” he said.
Fred’s body placement suggests he’s not as comfortable here as his words would suggest. Ben is the first one to mention “family.”
Kerr sipped at the cider, wishing it were ale. He couldn’t help taking another look at the African. Was he a slave? He hadn’t been given a surname. A servant? Why did he stay with people who must have been his masters in the colonies?

It was Ben who set his tankard down and held out his hand to the lieutenant. “Frederick.” Fred opened both arms and walked into a full embrace, complete with back slaps. Ben pulled back first, hands on Fred’s shoulders. “I thought never to see you again.”
“Nor I you. With His Majesty sending men to India, Portugal, Egypt and the Orient, I expect, it seemed best to hold no expectations.”
Ben acts almost the (missing) mother’s part, welcoming Fred formally back to the family. We also get an idea how rare this meeting really is.
Jordan Wakefield snorted. “Throw your life away. Why should we respect it?”

Fred let Ben loose but did not turn to look at his father. “The Oracle speaks.”
Here we see Fred’s problem: his dad. Why doesn’t Mr. Wakefield respect Fred’s choice? We also see Fred’s reaction, not surprise, not argument. This isn’t anything new.
Miss Wakefield kissed her brother’s cheek and drew a hand down his arm. “Fred is here now, a miracle.” Don’t waste it, she did not need to say. She held out her other hand for her father, who did not move. Kerr wasn’t sure which Wakefield he should look at. I must be bouncing and blinking like a trapped sow. Fred looked at Kerr and laughed, as his sister unwrapped herself from him and went to their father. 

Louisa chooses her father in this scene; she will not always do so but I wanted to establish at top that this core family is solid. I could have said something more about the type of Fred’s laugh as he looks at Kerr, to distinguish whether it was at Kerr or at himself, but Kerr wouldn’t know Fred well enough at this point to be sure, so I left it out.

“Not that I don’t like soldiering. I’ve been blessed.” Fred ignored his father’s harrumph. “From secretary to cavalry, where else but in the army could I have risen so far?” Jordan Wakefield did not rise to the bait. Instead he hugged his daughter to his side, even breathing into her hair. His own had a spare hint of carrot among the white. Like Louisa Wakefield, his sapphire eyes dominated his face. Unlike her, life had made tracks down the sides of his mouth and fanning from the outer corners of his eyes. He looked to have the same mobile mouth, but held it far tighter than hers. He glared at Kerr, who dropped his gaze to his drained tankard. “Shall we have another?”
Fred has done well in the army, so far. Something about that angers his father, but Jordan Wakefield can hold his fire, at least after he harrumphs. Still his glare is enough to cow a stranger, even when that stranger probably knows it’s not strictly about him. What has made the tracks in his face; what caused the tightness at his mouth? Well, that will take another fifty or so pages to discover.

Nicky Penttila
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About The Author

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Nicky Penttila writes stories with adventure, ideas, history, and love. She enjoys coming up with stories that are set in faraway cities and countries, because then she *must* travel there, you know, for research. She lives in Maryland with her reading-mad husband and amazing rescue cat. Find out more at Nicky's website nickypenttila.com and find her on Twitter @NickyPenttila.



BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Sunday, November 1 Guest Post at Please Pass the Books Monday, November 2 Review at Book Nerd Tuesday, November 3 Excerpt at What Is That Book About Wednesday, November 4 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past Thursday, November 5 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter Friday, November 6 Guest Post at The Writing Desk Monday, November 9 Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews Tuesday, November 10 Review at She Is Too Fond of Books Wednesday, November 11 Review & Interview at Back Porchervations Spotlight at A Literary Vacation Friday, November 13 Spotlight & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads Saturday, November 14 Spotlight & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf Monday, November 16 Guest Post at I Heart Reading Wednesday, November 18 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Thursday, November 19 Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More Friday, November 20 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews 04_The Spanish Patriot_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

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