julian_griffith (julian_griffith) wrote,

an unexpected party

Or, How I Wound Up At Readercon.

I hadn't planned to go. Too much studying, not enough money. But it turned out that the blood drive was short of volunteers for its signup/admin table, and I help with the blood drive at Arisia, so I was on the list that got asked for help, and they said they'd comp people, and I said "sure, why not..."

So, for the price of the gas to drive there, and a few hours helping out at the table (including playing running footman when the walkie-talkies were acting up), I got to go go a panel on Romance in SF/F, another on the works of Roger Zelazny (one of my earliest fandoms, and if you're guessing that has something to do with why I call myself Julian, you're not wrong), a kaffeeklatsch with [personal profile] ceciliatan , a few other cool panels -- I got to meet John Crowley! and finally meet [personal profile] yhlee in person! and then... [personal profile] matociquala said "come to the room parties with me."

Right. I'd forgotten that Bear always knows where to find the booze. That turned into an unplanned overnight stay.

Now I'm home, and I have a new question: does anyone have advice on how to select an excerpt for promotional purposes?

Should it be fairly close to the beginning, or should it be farther along? Should I try to have something that has all three main characters in it, or is it okay to just have two? Should I choose something that particularly sets up that it's a ménage story, or is that unneccesary? And how spoilery is too spoilery? Also, how long should it be?

Here's the two choices I had in mind:

"I'm sorry you had to be subjected to that," Rockingham said, once they were underway.
"Don't worry about it." Thorne laid his hand atop Rockingham's. "You're hardly the only person in the world with a sharp-tongued grandmother. Mine certainly knew how to take people down a peg."
"Still. Did she go around discussing all your shortcomings in front of your friends? I don't think she'll ever believe that I'm more than sixteen, or that I might have learned something since then. I like to think that I'm doing a tolerable job with the family concerns, even if I wasn't trained to it from the time I could do my first sums."
"I know the feeling," Thorne said. "I went away to sea at twelve, with no idea that I'd be the man of the family by the time I was fourteen. Plenty of years sending home my pay and knowing it could never be enough, with four sisters all younger than me besides."
"I'd no idea," Rockingham said. "Forgive me. You must think me very self-absorbed."
"Not really," Thorne said, although if he were honest with himself, he'd have to admit to thinking just that about a rich man's troubles. "Besides. It wasn't as bad as all that. There was enough for them to keep hens, and a pig, and a patch of garden, and they could take in sewing, and my grandmother brought most of the village babies into the world, so between that and my pay they all got by. I think it was that last that made my grandam such a terror—she knew everything about everybody, and she wasn't shy to bring it up at the worst moments."
"It sounds like she and my grandmother would have made quite the pair."
"I can just imagine. Turn them on the French and we'd have no need of broadsides!" They both laughed.
Rockingham turned his hand palm up beneath Thorne's, then. "At least, if you left home at twelve, your grandmother wouldn't have been in the habit of nagging you to marry."
"No, that she wasn't." And there it was, left open; he'd wanted to ask, but hadn't dared to until now. "Do you hate the idea so much?"
"Not for the reason you're thinking, I'll wager." Rockingham squeezed his hand; Thorne wondered if the gesture was meant to reassure him, or if Rockingham was reassuring himself. "I don't dislike women, and I would be pleased to have a family. But I could wish for a wife who would like me."
"I wouldn't think that such a difficult thing to find, my lord."
"My lord," Rockingham echoed bitterly. "And there's the problem. This is going to make me sound insufferable, I know. But when I'm introduced to suitable young women, it's clear that they like my title and my fortune, and they're on their prettiest manners in the hopes that I'll like them enough to choose them. But when I see them looking around my house, or admiring the jewels my mother's wearing while I can see on their faces that they're deciding whether the gems will look well as they are or if they'd care to have them re-set... it's very hard to believe that I figure into it much at all."
Thorne had never considered it in that light. He supposed it must be much in the way that a captain could never be said to have friends on his own ship, no matter how much he trusted his lieutenants or his men, because in the end they had to answer to him, whether they wished it or not. Not that being a captain or a lord was without its compensations... but he couldn't envy them, not in that. He squeezed Rockingham's hand back. "I see."
"What of you? Had you ever thought of marrying?"
"I didn't spare much thought for something it was plain I couldn't have," Thorne said. "It's not that I'd no eye for pretty faces and girlish figures, but I'd nothing to offer a woman. All I had went to look after my mother and my sisters, and even now, with my sisters all wed and my share of the Spanish prizes making sure my mother will never want, well, if I'm on shore, my half-pay isn't enough to keep a family, and I've no other trade; and if I'm at sea, they'd do well enough as long as I kept alive, but I'd never be there to see them. No. I'd make a very poor husband."
"And neither of us able to make a choice without fortune or position coming into the matter," Rockingham said. "I'll have to marry someday, I suppose; if I find out too late there's no affection in it, I can only hope that the girl will think my title and my fortune enough, and not task me with it if I'm discreet in finding some affection elsewhere." He looked at Thorne, the question plain in his eyes.
Thorne met his gaze. "I can't hold with that." He shook his head. "I know it's the way of the world, but... I can't say I've never been with a married man, not with the ones I've had without knowing their names, but I've never done it knowingly, and I don't plan to start. Whether a man's happy or not... it's a vow, and I don't care to help anyone break it."
Rockingham nodded. "I honour you for that." The pressure of his hand, again. "I hope that, whatever else may happen, you will always consider me a friend."
He meant his offer of friendship, too; that was no idle courtesy speaking. Thorne wondered how it had come to pass, so quickly; certainly not from one night spent in his bed. Maybe it came from them both knowing Alexander's tale. If a man could be trusted to hold a secret that would mean someone's life... such a man could be trusted with anything . He answered him seriously. "I will."
Rockingham smiled. "Good." His face was relaxed now, its earlier intensity—something about the set of his eyebrows, Thorne thought; how could he have ever believed the man difficult to read?—its earlier intensity faded into something calm. "In any case, I'm not married yet, so we don't need to trouble ourselves with it until the time comes."
"No, we don't." And, with that, Anthony's arm was around him again, and the distance between them gone, and the easy affection of the morning back in their touch. He found himself giving more than a little thought to how they'd pass the time at the inn that night.

Or, choice two:

She did not retire until a footman brought word that "Master Stephen's nursemaid begs her ladyship will attend her son." Her withdrawal caused a general dispersion amongst the party. When Stephen was fed and asleep once more, and Nancy had helped her into her nightdress and gone to her own bed, she opened the door that connected her room with Anthony's. His fire was banked, and his candles put out, but he had certainly not been asleep yet, for even as she stepped inside he was pulling back the bed-curtains.
"Caroline," he said, with quiet pleasure. "Come here, before you take chill."
She left her slippers at the side of the bed and got under the covers, moving close to his side. He put his arms around her and kissed her forehead, and she tucked her face against his neck, taking comfort in his kind embrace.
"It's good to have you near," he murmured. "I've missed you."
"And I you, my husband," she said. "Many women would count themselves fortunate to have even three weeks' lying-in, let alone the six that Peggy swore I needed, but I own I did not care for keeping my own bed so long. I scandalized her enough by insisting I sit for some hours each day in a chair, and even walk about; I dared not suggest that I go to your bed, or take you to mine."
"I'm glad that's done with. And the christening too. Perhaps we ought to have laid out the collation in the dining room, and set you at one end of the great hall. I had not remembered how crowded the drawing room could become."
"It was crowded, was it not?" Caroline said. "Your mother was most considerate, making sure that I did not have to make my way through it."
"She's well practiced at arranging such things," Anthony said. "But I fear it was very tiring for you, even so. Do you wish to sleep?"
"I do." Caroline drew in a breath, gathering her courage. "But, Anthony, I would speak with you."
"Of course, my darling. What did you wish to say?"
Caroline curled tighter against him, trying to reassure herself that she would not soon be pushed away. "Do you remember, before we wed, when you bid me that should I ever find myself in love, I should tell you of it, and you would not reproach me?"
Anthony kissed her hair, and rubbed his hand in circles on her back. "I remember well. Are you telling me of that now?"
Caroline found that she could answer him only in the smallest of voices. "I am."
He kissed her again. "I'm glad to hear you tell me," he said. "I hoped very much that you would believe me when I said I'd not be angry, and trust me enough to do so. I'm glad you find me worthy of that trust. But you are unhappy. Will you tell me more?"
Caroline blinked back the tears that were welling in her eyes. "I did not wish this," she said. "It came all unbidden. I hoped it might be a moment's fancy, but I cannot put him from my thoughts. I fear I am in love with Lieutenant Thorne." She sniffled. "And I was right. Being in love is most uncomfortable."
Anthony held her close, resting his lips at the crown of her head as she hid her face against his shoulder. He moved his hand in slow strokes down her spine. "Oh, my darling. I'm sorry it grieves you so. I don't blame you for an instant. William is the best of men, and it's no surprise you should love him. I love him, too."
"But hardly in the same way, I think, my lord?"
"In very much the same way, I should think. I'll speak it plain: you wish to lie with him?"
The tears would not be stopped. "I do."
"As do I," Anthony said softly. "We were lovers once, and I care for him still."
The surprise was enough to do what comfort could not. Lovers? Well, Anthony had said, upon their very wedding night, that he'd lain at times with men. She'd not taken much notice of it at the time, being intent on other concerns, and he'd never spoken of it since. But he'd told her privately of Captain Birtwhistle's love for Alexander Godwin, not with any distaste, but only so that she might not trouble them with questions about sweethearts; and with Mr. Godwin one of Stephen's godfathers, it was clear at least that Anthony counted it no sin, never mind who might think otherwise. And could she fault him for desiring William, when she did the same? But that they'd once been lovers... she'd never have suspected.
"Did you quarrel?" she asked. It seemed a safer question than many others she might ask. Do you prefer to lie with men? I have never found you wanting as a lover, and I had thought I did delight you well, but I have never lain with another man, so how am I to know? Would you lie with him now, if he were willing? If you did, would you tell me?
"No, we didn't quarrel. But we spent as much time apart as we ever did together, likely more, and while he was at sea, I met you, and I knew very soon that you were the girl I wished to marry. I had met no such girl before. He knew that when I married, we could be no more than friends. Indeed, he assured me, long before you and I ever met, that he'd not have it otherwise. I count myself fortunate to have found so much happiness with you."
"Can you be happy with me now, knowing this?"
"I said I did not blame you, did I not?" He hugged her tightly. "I care for you no less than I did before. Do you now find yourself unhappy with me?"
She clung to him. "No. I do not understand how it is so—but so it is. You are my sweet and amiable husband, and I am as well pleased with you as always, and would be loath to lose your affection—but when I think of William, my heart aches."
"There's only one cure for that I've ever known," Anthony said, tipping her face up to him and kissing the marks of her tears. "Take him to your bed, with my blessing. I doubt you'll find it difficult. I've marked how he looks at you, and how he seeks your company. I'd say he's every bit as smitten as you are."
Could it be true? Well, Anthony knew him as well as any man could; he wasn't likely to be wrong. And was Anthony really telling her to do such a thing? She supposed that, if he knew about it, it could not be said that she was deceiving him. Could any woman wish for a better husband? She was certain no one could.
"How shall I manage it?"
"It ought not to be hard. You'll not want to be discovered, of course, so you won't be able to pass the night with him; he'll need to leave you before Stephen wakes to be fed. But those are mere details. If you want him, you shall have to ask him."
"I have always found that putting these things forthrightly and directly is the best course. It goes ill if you leave it open to be misunderstood."
"But how shall I ask him, when I must of all things be discreet? Suppose someone should chance to overhear?"
"I can help with that, my darling. Let Mama take your place at the head of the table tomorrow night, and then it will fall to her to set the example of retiring. I will be sure to keep William in some conversation or perhaps cards until all else but you have gone, and then withdraw myself. Ask him then. And I wish you joy, for I care for you both, and you deserve joy of each other."
"I cannot possibly deserve such a patient husband as you are."
"Hush," Anthony said. "It only comes to this: do I care for you better miserable, or happy? What sort of husband would I be to you if I chose the first? Be happy, sweetheart." He kissed her slowly. "I hope you'll not forsake my bed entirely for his, but I am well content to share you. And, should you and he both be willing, if he might sometimes share mine—or if you both would—you would make me the happiest of men."
"Both at once?" There was an idea she had not considered!
"If the notion pleases you, then yes," Anthony said. "I should enjoy it of all things."
"You must tell me how it can be accomplished, Anthony," she said, feeling suddenly, delightfully wicked. "I must know more, before I can say if it pleases me or no." And, as he began to murmur in her ear, she found herself more pleased with her husband than ever.

So, thoughts?

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