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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A New Novel, Part 58 Dinner Setting

Some more description and a transition to get you to dinner with Aksinya and Natalya.

They made their way out of the dormitory and through the corridor on the lower floor of the school. The elementary level girls stood in careful lines with their teachers ahead of them. The older girls stood in the halls and waited for the supper bells. They all carefully scrutinized Aksinya and Natalya as the two of them followed Frau Drescher and the Reverend Mother. Whispers followed in their wake. The corridor from the school ended in a door barred to the outside. On the left was a large double door with a rounded top that led into the convent. Just before six, the Reverend Mother opened the doors and nodded to the elderly sister inside. The sister picked up a small block bell and a matching mallet. She rang the quiet bell and began to move among the girls in the hall, and they began to file into the room.

The Reverend Mother and Frau Drescher led Aksinya and Natalya into the large dining room. There were at least twenty tables. The tables were round and each had ten chairs around them. They were covered with lace tablecloths and full silver place settings with cloth napkins. Maids and novice nuns stood at the sides of the room.

As I mentioned before, part of the importance of an education in this period is etiquette and decorum.  We will see this in great detail as we move in the world of 1918 in this novel.  We can see the setting for dinner at Sacré Coeur is very formal.  The uniforms are not completely formal, but they are uniforms and considered appropriate for dinner wear. 
I also showed you a little of the students and the school.  It's a typical convent school at the time.  The convent novices provide the labor and serve the meals.  There are maids as well--that indicates the number of novice nuns.  There are enough, but not enough to staff so large a dinner. 
You might also note, I intend to use the word luncheon for the midday meal and dinner or supper for the evening meal.  A supper is a less formal meal with the family and usually not in courses.  Dinner is a formal and long meal.  This was common at this time.  Today, we use the words interchangeably, they were not interchangeable in the near past.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Novel, Part 57 Hair, Confession, and Sin

So, with the description over and the scene set, we may move to the more direct points of the storyline. We know their current environment. We know how they live, now we see the story take off.

Before supper, Natalya dressed Aksinya and fixed her short hair. Frau Drescher and the Reverend Mother came to retrieve them for supper. In their sitting room, the Reverend mother held Aksinya’s arms and looked her over carefully. She grinned and spoke in French, “You look very nice, Countess.” She glanced over at Natalya, “Lady Natalya did you adjust the clothing?”

Aksinya answered for her, “Of course she did. She does everything for me. She is very skilled, isn’t she?”

“You both look perfect. She also made your hair look wonderful.”

Aksinya turned her face away.

“Don’t be pained. Your aunt told me what she knew about that.” She whispered, “You may desire the comfort of confession at some time, Countess. You may consider me your confessor any time you wish. I will attempt to comfort you as much as I can.”

Aksinya was breathless, “What if that isn’t my sin?”

“Sin isn’t the only reason for confession, Countess. You might wish to share something that hurts your heart and soul.” She smiled, “I would be pleased to listen to anything you desire to share.”

Aksinya mumbled, “Thank you.”

The Reverend Mother is really a nice person. She tries her hardest because she is pleasant and because she doesn't want to offend her new Countess border. Still we get a repeat of the previous comments about the uniforms. We see that Natalya is praised again, and Aksinya answers for her. This will not continue, but we see that this is the proper setting and the proper response. Aksinya speaks for Natalya--it must be.

Then, bang, the hair again. Will no one let the hair alone? It can't be. The hair is a key point. RM will not let it go and the conversation turns to the worst place Aksinya could ever imagine--confession. RM offers Aksinya confession, but note Aksinya's answer, "What if that isn't my sin?" Do you see, Aksinya isn't certain that she has sinned--yet she knows she has sinned. This is the paradox within the brains of all men--all men assume their actions are never sin. They always believe they are right. maturity comes when a man understands that he is a sinner and that his actions are not always right.

The RM realizes this too, thus her response. Can you see Aksinya's mind working. She desires to be confessed and she wonders just what she can confess. We would say--everything, but she can't do that yet. She isn't to that point--yet. We also see the beginning of the mumbles. Aksinya has shown a tendency to speak her mind but quietly where she assumes others can't understand her. She will show a continuing tendency to mumble when she psychologically wants the words to get out, but does not want to be understood.

I just finished chapter 13 and I'm going on to chapter 14--everything is mapped out and ready to write, but I'm going to take a break this evening.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Novel, Part 56 Answers to Questions and Uniform Details

I'm answering questions today.  I'll address any questions you might have on my comments or the text itself.  This helps me clarify the writing when I go through it in future edits.  My answers are in italics.

Part 42 The Proposal Part 2

You said the demon chose this aunt/uncle, city (Wien, ie, Vienna), school for his own purpose; not yet revealed, but you hinted the demon wanted "more scope to torture Aksinya."

Couple of basic Q's on your choice of words:

1. Why use Wien..'German' language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria? (Many readers will miss connection.) Yes!  Wien is Vienna.  I did this on purpose, and I'm not certain I want to explain it to my readers.  The reason is that I very much like the scope of using foreign language terms in my writing.  It ensures the reader steps out of her/his safety zone and has to think in a new way.  The basis language for the writing is Russian--they means I transliterate most Russian terms into their English equivalents.  Count and Countess, for example, instead of their usual Russian equivalents.  On the other hand, as I explained before, I had Aksinya use the Russian for "shut up" to drive the reader back into the idea of the use of the Russian language.  As they move into Austria, I want the reader to be constantly reminded that this is not Russia, it is Austria.  I can't imagine a better what than to refer to the correct Austrian names for places and people's names.  Also, the use of stra(sset)e instead of road.  So, in conclusion, the knowledgeable reader will know that Wien is Vienna and all it's cultural associations (which will come out in the writing)--about 20%.  The not as knowledgeable, but curious will look it up and figure out what is going on--about 30%.  The entertained will just think it is a place in Austria and make the association at some point in their life.  That might make them want to reread the book to see what they might have missed--about 30%.  The rest of the readers will assume it is real or imaginary and just enjoy the story--the remaining 20%. 

2. Why did you say demon wants "more scope to torture Aksinya? I'm aware the demon attacks her.. tied directly and indirectly to her actions. But, inflicting torture evokes the idea of punishment or pain to get info or to coerce another to/away from a certain a certain actions without tortured one able to make an decision of 'free moral agency' w/ consequences know a priori...which is vastly different.  I'm not certain where I write about this in the story, but the demon does say it directly more than once:
1.  His job is to do evil in the name of Aksinya--if she will not do evil or not order him to do evil, he will take it into his hands to force her to it.  That is his purpose.  This is torture enough for a normal soul, but there is more...
2.  He is allowed to torture those who do evil.  So every time Aksinya accomplishes evil, that gives the demon further latitude to torture her.  This small detail has not been revealed before, and is a major revelation about the book.  This is the expanding tragedy that is Aksinya, by following the dictates of the demon, she causes herself further suffering.  In other words, there is no way she can save herself from the demon.

Part 43 The Arrival at the Gymnasium

1. Interesting choice of name for the girls' gymnasium, Sacré Coeur; I think that's French for Sacred Heart. Why a French language catholic school? I realize Austrian aristocracy sent their children to French speaking schools preparing them for University; but, why choose a Catholic place? Seems like a 'religious' place is the last place a demon would want the girls. Very good sleuthing. Sacré Coeur does indeed mean sacred heart in French.  It is the name of a real convent and girl's school in Wien (Vienna).  Where better than the heart of Christ would there be for a demon to do evil.  What better Trojan Horse than a pitiable young countess who was driven from her country.  Here is a revelation, the demon will attempt to bring down the school and the convent from within and without, but that is simply a sideline to his main goals.

2. Also interesting to note, 'sacred heart' is a devotional name used by Catholics to refer to the physical heart of Jesus Christ (as a symbol of divine love), and often associated w/ asceticism..a far cry from compulsion & temptation the girl falls pursuit of luxuria. (I'm guessing, the school name, and environment was purposely chosen, for juxtapositional purposes.)  You are right on the money.  I didn't intentionally skip over these associations--as I mentioned before, I try to explain the multi-levels of the writing as well as I can, but I will certainly miss some of my own key points.  Many of these will come out later in the text in a more complete revelation.

3. Finally, interest why Freifrau Bockmann, while making a running commentary on the school, and say... “...across from the church is the school... I mean the gymnasium. That is such a new term for me. It was always just a school when I attended there.”

Why did she call it a 'new term/? My understanding, the gymnasium was the model of German-Austrian schools since the 16th century; and in 1812, a Prussian regulation ordered all university prep schools bear the name of gymnasia. And, by the 20th century, this practice was followed in almost all German states, in Austria and in Russia. Would imply, in Wien, schools were called gymnasiums, preceding Freifrau Bockmann's own childhood, and training at that very school. Am, I missing something?  When Freifrau Bockmann went to Sacré Coeur it was simply as school for girls.  By this time it was a gymnasium for girls.  Perhaps I need to clarify.  I did try to convey this point in the text and I might have mentioned it before.  There were no gymnasia for girls until the 19th century in Germany and into the 20th century in Austria.  Therefore when Freifrau Bockman went to Sacré Coeur, it was a school and now it is a gymnasium for girls.  As I understand it this is also historically correct for the actual Sacré Coeur in Wien.  Note also, instead of Baron and Baroness, I use Freiherr and Freifrau.  I would have liked to use Baron and Baroness, but I use the Austrian terms to place you in Austria.  Harder for me, but, I hope, a scene setter for my readers.

New section in the chapter with a break.  So we move on to the school itself and their incorporation in it.
Freiherr and Freifrau Bockmann left Aksinya, Natalya, and Asmodeus and took their coupe back to their estate at the edge of the city.

That afternoon Aksinya and Natalya received a pair of uniforms from Frau Drescher. To her credit, she chose clothing that was not too worn or faded, and the uniforms fitted the two of them reasonably well. After Natalya was finished with them, they were perfect. The stains were gone and the fitting was perfect. They flattered both of them. The uniforms were classic grey woolen skirts that reached to the ankles with a black belt at the waist. The blouse was made of white silk with some gentle lacy frills at the collar. For the winter seasons there was a grey short coat and a grey sweater. The shoes were button-up black brushed leather. Asmodeus gladly found shoes that matched Aksinya’s requirements from his large chest. He brought out the basic items Aksinya requested from him.

Okay, I couldn't find out the exact uniforms that Sacré Coeur used at this time, so I did some research and used the model of a typical convent school uniform for the time in Austria.  The style is typical convent mixed with a little Art Deco from almost a decade before.  If you note, we get again the perfection that is Natalya.  She knows exactly what to do domestically and as a lady-in-waiting.
Just a short piece to round out the questions I answered.  In the writing, I am at chapter 13 and almost finished with it.  I have been so busy, I haven't had much time to write, but I intend to finish this chapter and go to 14 today.  I have the rest of the book outlined, and I know where it is going--the devil (demon) is in the details.
In fact, a little about where hard points come in the writing.  The last pieces for me were difficult.  I don't like to have to set every bit of the scene, but I know it is critical to the novel.  Once the scene is set, you can then write directly to the storyline, plot, and theme.  You will see this direct detail in the next section of this chapter, that is chapter 6.  In chapter 13, I had a heap of description, plus a lot of introductions.  The description is necessary, the introductions are critical.  Introductions in this cultural period are the lubricants of society.  Therefore, the detail I put into this novel must show you these introductions.  As we will see (have seen) the way introductions are made are critical to pick up on many of the deeper details of the story.  To pull all this together, once the details of the scene are set, the author is free to then let the players move around in it.  The hard part is the scene, the easy part is the play of the novel within it. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A New Novel, Part 55 Uniforms and the Demon's Grin

So, I described the details of the dormitory and the rooms Aksinya and Natalya will use.  The point in scene setting is to spend the right amount of time and words on these descriptions.  Too much disturbs the flow of the narrative, too little doesn't give the reader a good enough picture.  And that's the point.  An author is trying to draw a picture with words.  The words and the picture are critical to the novel because they each support the theme and draw along the story and plotline.  You can see how I use dialog in the description to transition the description and to make it something more than just a list of things.

The Reverend Mother beamed, “Are you decided then, Countess. You will be studying with us?”

“Yes, we shall.”

Frau Drescher frowned, “You will need to be fitted for your uniforms.”


“Yes, all the ladies here wear similar uniforms.”

Aksinya smiled, “Ah, the clothing they were wearing all matched. That will be fine for us. The Lady Natalya can fit us both, she is very skilled.”

The Reverend Mother put her hands together, “If it is all right with you, we can loan you both uniforms until yours can be made for you. That would allow you to start classes right away. Frau Drescher, please find uniforms that will fit the countess and her lady.”

Frau Drescher frowned again, “Yes, Reverend Mother.” Frau Drescher disappeared.

Aksinya stepped around the rooms again. She asked Natalya in Russian, “I should have asked you before, Lady Natalya, can you live here? Will this be acceptable to you?”

Natalya’s face was ecstatic, “Yes, Countess, I would love to live here. I will be very happy with you.”

Aksinya addressed the Reverend Mother, “Everything is worked out. We will live here, and we will study at your school.”

The Freiherr and Freifrau Bockmann nodded in pleasure. The Lady Natalya’s smile was almost as wide as her beautiful face. The Reverend Mother held her hands together with delight. Asmodeus grinned. Aksinya caught that grin, and she was suddenly filled with foreboding.

Aksinya forgot her role with the Lady Natalya--she is her first friend and confidant.  After the question of the uniforms is settled, Aksinya remembers to ask Natalya her preferences.  That is a little late, all the decisions and the arrangements are already made.  Note Natalya's response, she is ecstatic.  She doesn't care that Aksinya doesn't ask--Natalya is unused to being asked anything.  Natalya just picks up the pieces and makes everything right.  She will fit the uniforms.  She will take care of Aksinya.  This will occur over and over.  Still, Aksinya must ask Natalya before everything is in order.  This is the way of Aksinya's life--perfection of order, although not in the correct order.
The end is the response from the participants.  The Bockmanns are happy.  Natalya is happy.  The Reverend Mother is happy.  Asmodeus is happy.  Aksinya is filled with foreboding--her joy turned around... Isn't this the point of the demon's existence.  He is to carry out evil in Aksinya's name.  In everything, Aksinya should expect her joy to be turned into unhappiness, that is as long as she opposes evil.  If she accepts evil, then the actions of the demon should make her happy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A New Novel, Part 54 Meals and the Other Details

I mentioned before about meals.  The meals I outline in the novel are similar to what most well to do people ate during these times.  The poor usually had one to two meals a day.  The fashion of eating more meals came into practice late and came from the wealthy.  Tea was invented to hold a person over from the very light luncheon (dinner) to the long supper.  As I mentioned before, supper was a long meal with many courses, but in most households was not large amounts of food.  Any leftovers were the servants meals.  In general, before the modern era, meat was very very small amounts and the fish course made up for the lack of protein.  The poor received very little protein.

The entire time Frau Drescher spoke, Aksinya gave a running commentary and translation in Russian to Natalya.

Natalya asked many questions in return to Aksinya, but Aksinya was able to answer most of them herself. Finally, she stopped Frau Drescher, “The Lady Natalya wishes to know more about breakfast and luncheon.”

“They are very simple meals. We serve coffee and tea at breakfast. You may have soft boiled eggs, bread, meat, and cheese. Luncheon isn’t much more than that. We have a break of one hour at noon. Usually, the ladies take a long tea, but the dining room is open and food is available there.”

Aksinya explained everything to Natalya.

Frau Drescher was suddenly finished. She made one last statement, “I do have very strict rules about the dormitory. Those rules are to protect the ladies here. I will provide them to you with the materials that include the rest of the details.”

Aksinya asked, “Rest of the details?”

“The linens and use of the facilities. The storage of items. The care of your clothing. The cleaning schedules for your rooms. Each of these things is taken care of for our dormitory students.”

Aksinya cocked her head, “Very good. The Lady Natalya and I like these rooms very much. We accept them. My servant Asmodeus shall bring our clothing and such things as we need.”

The Reverend Mother beamed, “Are you decided then, Countess. You will be studying with us?”

“Yes, we shall.”

The commentary to Natalya and the question from her allows me to explain a little about the meals.  It also allows me to expand some about the details.  You don't need much, but a touch of them helps increase the realism of the scene and gives you a taste of the complexities of life in the times. 
I don't tell you the "strict rules."  You can guess most of them--they are the typical rules found in most dormitories.  I will give you a little more explanation later, but for now, this is sufficient. 
Aksinya clinches the deal by accepting the rooms and puts in a dig to Asmodeus--she calls him "my servant," which he is.  The Reverend Mother clarifies the position and that is all for today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A New Novel, Part 53 The Other Bedroom and Bathroom

We get a short description of the other bedroom.  Then we transition to the bath.

Frau Drescher let them look through the room then she led them back to the center door, “This is the other bedroom.” She opened it. The door led into a slightly smaller room with a bed, schrank, desk, and similarly padded chair. The room had two windows behind the bed and a gas lamp both over the desk and between the windows. The desk took the place of the bedside table. “These rooms were intended for a suite for two young ladies. It will be very appropriate for the Countess and her lady-in-waiting. Finally, I wish to show you the bath.”

Frau Drescher led them to the final door. This entered into a room that was smaller than the other two. The door opened into a blank wall, but a turn to the left revealed the rest of the room. At the end, against the street side, the high window was crazed and curtained. The top could still be opened, but it was more than six feet above the floor. Under the window lay a bathtub. To the left sat a standing sink and instead of the usual stove of the bathrooms Aksinya was used to stood a water closet and a bidet.

Frau Dresher pointed proudly at the devices. Freiherr Bockmann turned his back and blushed. Frau Drescher ignored him, “We have indoor plumbing including hot water in our dormitory. We also have modern toilets and bidets. We want our ladies to have the comforts of modern sanitation at Sacré Coeur. As I mentioned, water for making tea is available from the sink here. We do ask that you do not attempt to cook or bake anything in your rooms. Our kitchen can provide you baked goods for tea, and you can bring your luncheon or breakfast to your rooms for consumption. Supper is considered an important event for the school and dormitory. Only students who are not borded here are allowed to miss supper.”

As I mentioned yesterday, our expectations for sanitary facilities are very different than in 1918.  Typically, in towns people were just getting running water and sanitary sewers.  Baths inside houses with other than just bathtubs and stove is a very new thing.  Did you ever wonder why they were called bathrooms or water closets or why the Europeans separate bath from toilets.  The all in one idea is relatively new even in cities.  In the past, as I mentioned, people went outside to outhouses for the toilet and used bathrooms exclusively for baths.
Sacré Coeur is a very high level school.  It obviously caters to young women from wealthy backgrounds.  I will not go into the details in the writing of explaining how important an invention a bidet was considered to women in an era when toilet paper did not exist and women's sanitary devices consisted of rags, cloth pads, and belts.  Notice that the Freiherr is embarrassed.  Toilets and such facilities were embarrassing to people in this time and culture, but the women's outlook is very utilitarian.
Finally, we get to the details of eating at Sacré Coeur.  Breakfast and dinner (luncheon) are short and light with a heavy supper.  The heavy is nothing like our idea of heavy.  In a school like Sacré Coeur we could expect the minimum of food size to give the full courses to the students because much of their training is in how to eat, etiquette, and decorum.  We also see how important tea is again.  Note the carry on of the idea of a water closet.  You get your water for tea from the bathroom.  There is no need to have it close to the tea preparation place.
Happy Thanksgiving.  I would have liked to include some bit about thanksgiving in the novel, but that is an American holiday.  Perhaps if we get to the USA at some point, I can include it.  That is a hint.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Novel, Part 52 The Sitting Room and First Bedroom

The world is where people live.  That may seem to be an obvious idea, but in history, people did not live like they do today.  I tried to show this to you with the outdoor toilets at Aksinya's family estate.  I also wanted you to see that most bathrooms outside (and even in Russian) large cities didn't have toilets--they had bathtubs and stoves to heat the water.  In this period, gas lights are ubiquitous and electric lights slowly moving into the world.  The same is true of other living spaces like bedrooms and sitting rooms.  At Sacré Coeur we find very modern facilities.  I want you to see them first hand.

They all followed Frau Drescher to the end door on the right that also happened to be directly above her office. She pulled out an old key with an attached heavy bob like those from a gasthouse and unlocked the door, “Usually, the doors are kept unlocked while the students are away from them. They may be locked when a student is inside, but I don’t recommend that.”

Frau Drescher pushed open the door and exposed a small sitting room. The wallpaper, flooring, and floor covering were all similar to the corridor. The entire suite was comparably decorated. In the center of the sitting room sat a short tea table, a small sofa, and two chairs with padded seats. A couple of curtained windows lay behind the sofa on either side. A gas lamp hung next to the door to the corridor and next to another door on the right. In the right hand corner built into a cabinet was a gas burner. A fine tea service sat on the cabinet. The room was simple, but still elegant.

Frau Drescher allowed them to look around for a few moments, “You can see there is provision for preparing tea in the room. The water is available from the bath that I will presently show you. Please, follow me into the bedrooms.” The door on the right opened into a very short corridor. Within the corridor, were a door at the left, one right before them, and a door on the right. The entire corridor was less than six feet long.

Frau Drescher opened the door on the left. It let them into a very bright bedroom. Its decor was similar to the sitting room. The room was somewhat “L” shaped. The door opened toward the outside wall which was also the back wall of the sitting room and looked down into an alleyway. About five feet separated the door from the outside wall. A turn to the right revealed the rest of the bedroom. It was small. The bed rested against the right hand wall and the street side of the building. The bed was almost entirely concealed from the door. They had to take a step and turn the corner for the bed to become entirely visible. At the head of the bed was a high curtained window. To the left was a bedside table, a desk, and a chair with a padded seat. Another high curtained window lay behind the bedside table.

At the foot of the bed was a large ornately carved schrank for storage of clothing. Behind the desk on the other wall were two matching high curtained windows like those in the sitting room. The room was very bright from the winter daylight that came through the windows. A gas lamp hung on the wall between each set of windows. That provided light for the desk and for the bed.

Without using too many words or too much space in the writing, I tried to give you a short but detailed description of the rooms in which Aksinya and Natalya will reside.  These rooms will be important for a while, but the detail, like I explained, lets you see the private areas where people live.  This is the most important idea I want to convey.
The first description is the sitting room.  I want you to know the area is decorated similarly to the upper corridor.  As I mentioned, the red rose motif indicates romance in the culture (perhaps not the idea Frau Drescher wants to convey).  The furniture is not spartain, but not crowded.  The fixtures are gas lamps and a gas burner.  These are obviously very important to the people of the time.  Note, the burner is for tea preperation and there is a tea service for the room.  This is how important the preparation of tea is.  This indicates the lack of sufficient heating.  Tea helps heat the body and the soul.  I likely need to add in a bit about the heating--it would be steam radiators.
The second description is the first bedroom.  In the description, I give you a sense of the placement of the rooms (the location of the street) so you can understand the environment outside to a degree.  The furniture here is very important.  Note, the rooms are small and the bedrooms are cramped and utilitarian.  There are no closets--this is true in Germany and Austria today.  They have schranks which are large standing closet furniture to store clothing.
Gas lamps don't provide much light--note they are above the bed and the desk.  This should hopefully produce enough light for reading and study.  Is it a wonder that houses were dark inside until the acceptance and integration of electrical lights and electricity.  I'll try to convey some of this in the future chapters.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New Novel, Part 51 The Upper Dormitory

Frau Drescher's attitude changes with Aksinya's pronouncement--if she knew more about Aksinya, she wouldn't have made such a change.  She should be more wary, but then, no one knows Aksinya at all, and we understand her issues more than anyone else.  Note, Frau Drescher's response to Aksinya's order.  Ma'am is the correct address of any titled woman--including a queen.  I hope that you were sucked into trusting Aksinya too.  I certainly wouldn't invite a woman who has a contract with a demon into a dormitory of young girls and a convent of nuns.

Frau Drescher’s lips made a flip-flop but never became a smile, “Yes, you are very perceptive, Countess. I am very concerned about having a woman of your quality and standing in my dormitory. Your own appraisal does make me feel much more comfortable…”

“Please take us to our room.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Frau Drescher led them to the stairs where the archway cut the building. She directed them up to the second floor. On the upper floor lay a very long corridor that led from the school to the church. The street side was similar to the bottom floor, but the windows were full. Aksinya could see the street and the building across from it. The wallpaper was a darker mix of flowers to match the brighter light from the windows. They were also roses but colored shades of red. Everything seemed fresh and well taken care of. The floor here was also oak, like the lower floor. Runners that matched the handsome wallpaper ran at the center of the floor and marked off the corridor by rooms.

Frau Drescher turned down the corridor away from the church and toward the gymnasium proper. At the end, she turned left. The doors at this end of the corridor would have opened directly on the second floor of the school. They were closed and locked.

They all followed Frau Drescher to the end door on the right that also happened to be directly above her office. She pulled out an old key with an attached heavy bob like those from a gasthouse and unlocked the door, “Usually, the doors are kept unlocked while the students are away from them. They may be locked when a student is inside, but I don’t recommend that.”

The parallel is the description of the upper floor and the lower floor.  Remember, the lower floor has yellow and pink roses, the upper floor has red roses.  In German culture, red roses are indicators of love.  This is an important idea that will be used later.  The change shows the paradox that Frau Drescher wants to prevent--she is obviously deathly afraid of impropriety.  This fear is common in the culture and society represented by this time (1918)--think of Victorian culture.  It is not much different in Austria (as compared to England).
We also see how the dormitory is isolated from the rest of the school--the blocked and locked doors on the second floor show this directly.  We will find that there is only an entrance at the lower floor and one into the chapel on the second floor.  You can get the imagery here, the only exits are into the school and the church--there isn't any other way out.
Then the clincher, Frau Drescher tells us the doors should remain unlocked while the students are away and when they are in their rooms.  The keys are like a gasthouse, they are not retained by the students--they are kept by Frau Drescher.  This will become important later.  Can you guess why Frau Drescher doesn't want the doors locked--it isn't a perverted reason, but we will see exactly why later.
I also surreptitiously draw your attention to the fact that Aksinya and Natalya's rooms are right above Frau Drescher's office.  This should indicate the level of surveillance.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Novel, Part 50 Candid Perception

Frau Drescher is like a bull in a china shop.  I plan to do more with this in the future, but for right now, I can use her and the tour to show you the dormitory too.  That's the point of such a scene.  I could simply describe the dormitory to you, but instead, I show it to you as Aksinya and Natalya see it.  Notice that Aksinya protects Frau Drescher--she interprets for her.

Frau Drescher’s lips formed a fine line that then fell into a frown again, “What you say is very true, Freifrau Bockmann. I was simply answering the Countess’ question.”

Aksinya tilted her head, “So she was Aunt Brunhilda. Please Frau Drescher. Lead on and show us our room.”

“Our room?”

“My roommate shall be the Lady Natalya. She is much more than my lady-in-waiting. She shall attend with me.”

Frau Drescher made a face with an expression that was completely indecipherable, “The Lady Natalya?”

Aksinya grasped Natalya’s sleeve and pulled her up beside them, “This is my lady-in-waiting, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska. She is untitled, but a lady of the court. She shall be my roommate and attend here with me. She does not speak nor understand German yet.”

“You will explain all the rules to her. I don’t wish there to be problems.”

“She is my responsibility, and I am certain your rules are the same in French as they are in German. I shall explain them to her and be responsible to you for her as necessary.”

Frau Drescher let out a tiny laugh, “You surprise me, countess. I have never met a titled girl or woman who would take on such a responsibility. Perhaps we will get along much better than I imagined.”

The Reverend Mother stepped forward, “Really, Frau Drescher, you are much too candid.”

Aksinya touched the Reverend Mother’s hand, “Please, she is not too candid. I do realize her worries. She thinks I shall cause her and her charges many problems. She is concerned that I am a privileged and spoiled girl who will excite controversy and rebellion. When she knows me better, she will see I am no better nor no worse than anyone else she is responsible for here.”

Frau Drescher’s lips made a flip-flop but never became a smile, “Yes, you are very perceptive, Countess. I am very concerned about having a woman of your quality and standing in my dormitory. Your own appraisal does make me feel much more comfortable…”

We get a wonderful introduction of Natalya to Frau Drescher.  Aksinya makes her point by physically moving Natalya.  Her introduction is personal and specific.  It tells the Frau that Natalya is a lady of the court and put her on a par with Aksinya.  Frau Drescher is unhappy that Natalya might break her rules because she doesn't understand German.  Then, we get a double triple from Aksinya.  First, Aksinya states she will be responsible for Natalya.  Second, we get the joke at Frau Drescher's expense--Natalya is not deficient, she understands French, but not German--yet.  Frau Drescher only knows German--that's the point Aksinya didn't miss.
Aksinya both read Frau Drescher correctly and touched the lady exactly in the right place.  Frau Drescher's concern is that someone take responsibility for Natalya and that Aksinya will be responsible for herself.  Frau Drescher is obviously too used to young women and girls who are not responsible.  That is the reason for her personality and actions.  Aksinya pronounces this very thing to Frau Drescher and that is exactly what the Frau wants to hear.  We will find that Aksinya is a problem for Frau Drescher in the future.  She will be a problem for everyone.  But that goes with the territory of the tiny tragedy that is Aksinya. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A New Novel, Part 49 A Description and a Question

Frau Drescher just can't smile.  I do wish you to think about this.  I want to use Frau Drescher somewhere in the novel as a greater character, but I haven't worked her into the main plotline for the theme--that is other than a colorful secondary character.

Frau Drescher paused again and her mouth rotated up in a little line that became a frown. She turned around and led them to the end of the corridor. It went around a corner to the right and there entered a long well lighted corridor. The corridor halted at a stairway where the archway into the courtyard bisected the lower floor. The hallway was covered in heavy, flower decorated wall paper. The flowers were light pink and yellow roses. Along the street side were high windows that let in much light, but still hid the street from view. No one would be able to look outside or in. The hallway was cold and stuffy. Because of the crisp December weather, none of the windows were open. On the other side of the corridor were widely spaced doors with a gas lamp on the wall between each of them. The floor was dark oak and covered with long runners that were similar in decoration to the wall paper. The runners were each centered on a door and ran from room center to room center.

Frau Drescher opened her hand and gestured toward the doors, “These are the rooms of our regular students. The young ones share a room with eight together. As they progress in age, we allow them to have four as roommates and finally, after they are fifteen, they are allowed two to a room. We always keep at least two to a room to prevent any impropriety. The room we have prepared for you is our best. We don’t have any other students of your social standing right now. The highest is a bevy of ladies of the courts, but none of them are titled.”

Aksinya asked, “Is that unusual?”

“Not really. Most of the titled ladies are educated and trained at home.”

Aksinya looked down, “I see. That is so. I was also educated at home—when I had one.”

The Freifrau stepped up, “Really, Frau Drescher, there is no reason to remind the Countess of her loss. Her home is with us now. It is, to my mind, better for her to gain your gymnasium’s knowledge and prepare herself for higher learning.”

Frau Drescher’s lips formed a fine line that then fell into a frown again, “What you say is very true, Freifrau Bockmann. I was simply answering the Countess’ question.”

First, we get the description of the lower floor of the dormitory.  The picture I paint isn't unpleasant, but the place is stifling.  I also try to give you a flavor of the times and the building.  Notice the gaslamps and the very beautiful fixtures.  Still, the picture is of a cramped and stifling place.  From the wall paper to the rooms set in near perfect symmetry.  Then we find the reason for the order in Frau Drescher's dormitory--to prevent impropriety. 
We see the reason there are no titled ladies in the school.  The only reason Aksinya is there is that she lost her family, and we see again Frau Drescher's lack of sensitivity.  I also wanted to remind you and Aksinya of her condition.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A New Novel, Part 48 Beginning of the Dormitory Tour

In this short vignette and transition, we wrap up the tour of the school proper with tea.  You will find that everyone has tea--that is the proper thing to do.  I want you to see this cultural phenomena clearly.  In this society and this time, tea is de rigeur.  We have nothing quite like it--perhaps those who still hold to offering coffee or tea to their friends keep it in their heart, but tea is becoming a lost function in modern culture.  It is such an important function, I'm surprised we let it go. 

We see that the RM Kluge has tea.  Note how everyone is arranged and note who serves.  Because it is time for tea, I don't have to tell you it is the early to late afternoon.  Since, we know they came during the late morning, we can infer that this is relatively early in the afternoon, but likely near or after two.  You might note that they didn't have dinner (lunch).  In this time, the usual practice was to have a light breakfast, a light dinner (lunch), a light tea, and then a large supper.  We will see that this is the practice at Sacré Coeur.  We eat much more during a day than the usual aristocrat during this time.  Though their suppers are long, the portions are small.  We shall see some in more detail as we go along.

They ended the tour at the Reverend Mother’s office. The Reverend Mother sat Aksinya directly in front of her desk. Natalya stood behind Aksinya. The others arranged themselves on the chairs against the wall. The office wasn’t very large. The Reverend Mother called for tea and served them herself. While they had their tea, the Reverend Mother asked, “Countess, do you have any questions about our gymnasium or our curriculum?”

Aksinya shook her head.

“Then when we are finished with our tea, I will take you to the dormitory and let you see the room we have prepared especially for you.”

Aksinya glanced over her teacup, “Thank you.”

When they were finished, the Reverend Mother led them to the dormitory. The long hallway down the center of the school building ran into a large set of open doors. To the left of the door was a small office with a split door. On the other side, Frau Drescher sat at her desk and handled paperwork and correspondence.

The Reverend Mother rapped on the top of the door. She changed back to German, “Frau Drescher, we are ready to begin our tour of the dormitory.”

Frau Drescher frowned then tried unsuccessfully to turn the frown into a smile. She paused a moment too long, then stood abruptly. She came to the door, opened it, and stepped out. She spoke intentionally in exaggeratedly enunciated German, “If you please, Countess, follow me.”

Aksinya twisted her lips in a grimace and replied in quiet but finely articulated German, “I will be pleased to Frau Drescher.”

So now we return to the very Austrian Frau Drescher.  Frau Drescher has a typical office for such a lady.  She takes care of a dormitory.  She keeps watch on who goes in and who goes out--thus the split door.  This is the typical use of such a door in Europe at the time.  Dormitories and apartment buildings for women tended to have such offices with their typical ogre guardians.  Frau Drescher does much more than the usual, however, she handles paperwork and correspondence.  This should key you into the fact that Frau Drescher is a bit more than she seems. 
Frau Drescher has this problem with smiling.  She is either out of the habit or unable to smile.  We see the joke of the languages again at the Frau's expense.  Aksinya speaks more to her than to RM Kluge.  And so the joke and the transition to the Dormitory tour.  Tomorrow a description of the dormitory.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A New Novel, Part 47 The School Tour

So we begin the tour of Sacré Coeur with RM Kluge.  We can't forget that Sacré Coeur is a convent and a school.  We learn some more details about it.

The Reverend Mother led them from classroom to classroom. They saw girls of every age from as young as six up to twenty-one. The classrooms were small and comfortable. The classes were rarely larger than ten girls. The teachers were nearly all nuns. The Reverend Mother explained, “Our day begins with chapel. The priest of our church, Sacré Coeur, is Father Abend. The Father also acts as the chaplain for our order and for our school. He officiates on most days and the sisters and students take turns with the details of the service. We have communion every day... ”

Aksinya interjected, “The Lady Natalya and I are Orthodox and not Catholic. We will not be able to commune with you.”

“There is an Orthodox church a couple of blocks from here. They cater already to many Russians who have escaped to the west. You will be allowed to attend there as you desire, but I must insist you be present for our chapel each day.”

“Of course.”

The Reverend Mother smiled, “Good. Our school, a gymnasium, is broken into classes divided by ability and not by age. We teach primary and advanced subjects including philosophy, languages, history, mathematics, art history, religion, science, literature, as well as culture and domestic skills. For those ladies, like the Freifrau Bockmann, our classes prepare them for their future responsibilities among society. For those others who continue on to the university, our classes provide the foundation for excellence and success. Most of the young women accepted into universities in Austria and Germany attended our gymnasium. We also provide a means toward vesture as a nun in our order as well as leadership for other orders in the Catholic church.”

Again, we get details about the school.  The class size and makeup, the teachers, the chapel, the chaplain, the communion... Then the reminder, Aksinya and Natalya can't commune with them.  You can guess that Aksinya will have problems communing at all--we will see this.  Then the information about the Orthodox Church close to Sacré Coeur--this is a deliberate foreshadowing.  The Orthodox Church close to Sacré Coeur is a critical point of the novel.  We see that this Orthodox Church caters to escapees from the Russian civil war.  Then RM Kluge tells them they must attend chapel every day, but they may not commune--this is an important point.
Then at the end, we get a repetition of some information we already knew.  The information isn't as important to us as it is to Aksinya.  It repeats the fact that she could go to the university.  This tempts her.  Then the other information lets us see more about the importance of Sacré Coeur, it not only provides training for women going to the university, it provides education for women going on to Catholic orders.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A New Novel, Part 46 Languages and Friendship

Welcome to Dr. Ryan.  Glad to have you aboard. 

We get rid of Frau Drescher for a little while and provide a little more interesting levels to the story.  Remember, in this time and culture, you don't introduce servants.  So here we go.

Frau Drescher’s brow rose, but she nodded and curtsied to Aksinya then left toward the dormitory.

The Reverend Mother let out a sigh, “Will you all please come with me. I’ll show you around our school and answer any of your questions.” The Reverend Mother gestured Aksinya to her side and Natalya stepped right behind her.

Aksinya halted and turned toward Natalya, “Reverend Mother, this is my lady-in-waiting, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska. I address her as the Lady Natalya. She is my confidant and my friend. She will be attending Sacré Coeur with me.”

The Reverend Mother’s smile widened. She turned her gaze to Natalya, “That is very interesting. Is there something wrong with your eyes, Lady Natalya?”

Natalya blinked the moisture from her eyes.

Aksinya repeated the question in Russian to Natalya.

Natalya blushed and ducked her head, “No, Reverend Mother.”

Aksinya continued, “The Lady Natalya doesn’t speak German yet. She is very conversant in French. Though she serves me, the Lady Natalya is to be treated with the same respect as any other student.”

The Reverend Mother nodded and continued in atrociously German accented French, “Then for her benefit, as well as yours, we shall use French.”

Aksinya barely constrained a laugh. She glanced at Natalya, and they shared a smile. Aksinya whispered to her, “Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about my German.”

From the beginning, the RM (Reverend Mother) is happy to get rid of Frau Drescher--she sighs, and we move on with Aksinya, Natalya and the rest on the school tour.

So, there you have it.  First Aksinya, introduces Natalya--that means she is not a servant.  Further, Aksinya called her "confidant" and "friend."  In the aristocracy, this is very important.  A friend is one thing, a confidant is entirely another.  Aksinya goes on to tell RM Kluge that she, she Aksinya calls Natalya, Lady Natalya.  Already, Aksinya has called Natalya, friend, confidant, and said she holds her in such high esteme she calls her Lady (that is a title reserved for an aristocrat).  It should not suprize you that the very emotional Natalya's eyes moisten.  She would cry outright, but that is never acceptable in high society.  The RM kindly reminds Natalya of that.  This is a nice admonition in this culture and time (remember Frau Drescher).  And so, Natalya blushes and ducks her head.
Aksinya goes on to instruct--did you get that?  She instructs RM Kluge that Natalya is to be treated like any other student.  She didn't say, "to be treated like me."  Such words wouldn't come from a Countess.  She also "suggests" that they use French, for Natalya's sake.  Can't you see Natalya in your mind.  She understands what is happening.  Aksinya even gives her such a compliment, "Natalya doesn't understand German--yet."  The implication is that she will and very quickly. 
Then we see the break and the level of the RM's French.  This is intentional.  Though the Austrians and the Germans taught French, they didn't see much purpose in it--(sarcasm) it was only the language of gentility and diplomacy at the time.  It was also the language of the Russian Court.  It was not the language of the German or the Austrian Courts.  Ah, the prejudice of their betters flows down to the people. The break is the smile that Aksinya and Natalya share at the RM's poorly accented French.  This also cements the Aksinya/Natalya bond.  Finally, Aksinya's comment about her own German ends this piece.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A New Novel, Part 45 German Introductions and the Demon

The piece today continues from the arrival at Sacré Coeur.  By the way, Sacré Coeur is a real school with a convent and church.  The names of the people have been changed, of course.  The descriptions and the places are fiction.  In my historical fiction, I want the places and in many cases, the descriptions and places to match--we will see this later, but to keep to the fiction world, in some cases we must modify the world a little to achieve the theme--remember, the theme is always the reason and the purpose.  Many modern works go adrift because the author forgets this very important concept. 

The opening of this piece is more about the demon--he doesn't like crosses.  Aksinya has guessed this.  We get more information here.  It confirms more to us, but we still don't have enough information.  I'm saving that for a very pivotal scene.

The Reverend Mother wore a large cross that depended from a silver chain around her neck. The demon eyed it then moved to the far side away from her. The Reverend Mother engulfed Aksinya in her smile, “I understand Countess that you would like to attend Sacré Coeur like your aunt.“

Aksinya nodded.

Aunt Brunhilda interjected, “The Countess believes her German is not very skilled.”

Frau Drescher’s response was slightly tense, “Does she speak any tongue well?”

Freifrau Bockmann raised his eyebrows, “She is a Russian Countess but speaks French, Greek, and her German to my mind is excellent.”

The Reverend Mother bobbed her head, “Frau Drescher takes care of our dormitory and the students. She speaks only German. She is concerned that the Countess might not understand her or our rules well.” She turned to Frau Drescher, “Frau, you should prepare your dormitory for the Countess’ visit. Thank you.”

Frau Drescher’s brow rose, but she nodded and curtsied to Aksinya then left toward the dormitory.

A short piece but very important to tell you about Frau Drescher and RM Kluge.  I intend for Frau Drescher to play a more important role in the future than I have given her yet.  Her introduction is jarring.  She reacts as she does because Aksinya does not speak.  If you are familiar with aristocracy, you would expect Aksinya to act like her aunt.  That is what Frau Drescher expects and when Aksinya doesn't speak, she makes a very rude and terse comment.  This is not out of character in German or Austrian culture, so don't let it bother you.  Notice that RM Kluge covers it up the best she can.  In this exchange, I try to show you the culture of the time.  I also show you the characters of Frau Drescher and RM Kliuge.
Additionally, I show you Frau Drescher's job at the school.  Can you see her in your mind?  That is my ultimate goal.  I want you to see Frau Drescher in your mind's eye.  I don't want you to totally dislike her yet, just a little.  Don't you like and trust RM Kluge already?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A New Novel, Part 44 Reverend Mother Kluge and Frau Drescher

So, do you know what a coupe is?  In the world of horse-drawn vehicles, each type had its own name and each name was important--as important as a convertible, compact, subcompact, luxury, sport, SUV.  Do you get the point?  If you are going to immerse your readers, you need to use the appropriate words from the past.  I will perhaps add a little more description of a coupe later, but you can see it is covered for the riders (not the driver).  It can carry at least five comfortably.

The driver opened the door of the coupe and handed down first the Freiherr then the Freifrau Bockmann. The Lady Natalya followed them, then Asmodeus. At the last, the driver handed down Aksinya. She was dressed in the finest clothing of anyone there. She wore a wonderful creation in red satin and white lace. Her hat was the newest style from Moscow, red brushed satin with a bit of lace and feathers. Her mother never had a chance to wear it. Although her uncle and aunt had put on their best, their best was nothing compared to the gowns Aksinya’s mother once wore. That and the long mink coat Aksinya had on marked her as the Countess Sacré Coeur expected.

The nun and older woman immediately came to Aksinya’s side. They both curtsied.

Freiherr Bockmann put out his hand, “Countess Golitsyna, may I introduce the Reverend Mother Kluge and Frau Drescher. Reverend Mother and Frau Drescher, this is my niece, the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna. She is the one we spoke about yesterday.”

The Reverend Mother’s wore a full habit with a wimple that only allowed her face to be seen. The wimple flowed over her head and shoulders and was lost in the folds of her habit. The face that showed was wrinkled, but appeared kind. It wasn’t a hard face or a harsh one. It seemed to be filled with a smile most of the time, like the smile that went out to Aksinya right now. Aksinya lowered her eyes, but not her head.

Frau Drescher on the other hand displayed features of steel. Her wire rimmed glasses sat back on her very sharp nose. Her eyes darted constantly until they focused on a person and then they didn’t seem to move at all until the woman was fully satisfied with her scrutiny. Frown lines marked the corners of her mouth and her eyes. She wore a frown now and unsuccessfully tried to turn that into a smile. She was slightly plump and wore a very severe dress that wasn’t a habit, but might as well have been.

First point is Aksinya's clothing.  She is dressed appropriately now--the demon insisted.  The clothing is not exactly appropriate for a school visit--unless you are trying to impress.  The demon wants to impress.  The gown is new, the newest fashion, and fabulous.  The clothing is exactly what the school would find impressive.
So Aksinya should look like exactly what Sacré Coeur expects.  Now we see a reflection of the school: Revernd Mother Kluge and Frau Drescher.  Kluge means smart or clever in German--so should we expect that of RM Kluge?  Perhaps.  Drescher means thresher in German.  Well, perhaps she is a thresher.  We shall see.  The descriptions put these two women directly in their correct situation in Sacré Coeur.  We shall see how they fit into this school...and how Aksinya will fit in or not.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A New Novel, Part 43 The Arrival at the Gymnasium

So the situation is set.  Asmodeus manipulated every circumstance to bring Aksinya to a convent and girl's school in Austria.  We still don't have any idea what the demon's overall plan is.  He obviously thinks there is more opportunity for evil in this situation than in Russia.

They visited Sacré Coeur in the late morning the next day. Aksinya wore a wonderful gown Natalya had just finished fitting to her. Natalya had an appropriate matching dress that had come from Aksinya’s closet. Natalya could wear almost any of Aksinya’s clothes without fitting. They never fit Aksinya very well to begin with. Now, Aksinya wore nearly only those that had been her mother’s or her sister’s. Asmodeus insisted.

The weather was clear and cold. They rode in an elegant covered carriage, a coupe, from Aksinya’s uncle and aunt’s mansion to the convent and gymnasium at Sacré Coeur. They entered the center of Wien and arrived at a beautiful old catholic church with three attached buildings. The church appeared first. It was tall with a face decorated by stained glass. The bell tower stuck upward from the center. Connected directly to the church was another long building that was constructed in a more modern style. It was mostly sandy brick with long windows on the upper floor and shorter windows on the lower floor. A wide archway cut through the center of this building. Their driver turned the stylish coupe, through this archway. They entered a large retanguler courtyard. That’s when the other two buildings came within sight. On the other side of the courtyard was a building that appeared almost as old as the church. It was wood and stone and built in an archaic style. To the right, another building attached to the building that fronted the street and the older one across the courtyard. The building to the right was the newest. Within the courtyard, to the left across from this building the side of the church. It was as decorated with stained glass as the front.

When they entered the courtyard, Freifrau Bockmann began a running commentary, “Do you see Countess, the building along the street is the students’ dormitory. Most of the rooms front the courtyard. Across from that is the convent. They are both attached to the church. Between them and across from the church is the school... I mean the gymnasium. That is such a new term for me. It was always just a school when I attended there.”

The building between the convent and the dormetory had a fine facade. It looked like a school, but definitely one that taught the highest level of decorum. Over the double door in elegant script was the name, Sacré Coeur. The driver pulled directly before the door. A very officious appearing older woman and a tall nun stepped through the wide door to greet them.

This is mostly description punctuated with little tidbits of information.  I have to take this chapter to describe this place to the reader because this will the an important part of the story.  Much revolves around the school, convent, and the Bockmanns. 
The first point is that Aksinya's clothing is a choice of Asmodeus.  We've seen this before.  This time, he obviously chose it to impress.  When the clothing is described, it is exactly what a Countess would wear.  Note also that obviously Aksinya's clothing was sub par to her mother and sister.  You might expect that difference from her mother, but not her sister.  We also see that Aksinya's clothing never fit her well--isn't that interesting. 
The rest is simply the description of the buildings.  I usually have to work on this over and over.  I try to use the fewest words for description, but I want the reader to see what I describe.  This takes time and careful editing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A New Novel, Part 42 The Proposal Part 2

We saw the proposal--Aksinya's uncle and aunt want her to attend the gymnasium for girls, Sacré Coeur.  This idea came from Asmodeus--it was likely a suggestion in the telegram.  Asmodeus chose this aunt and uncle, this school, this city for exactly his own purpose.  I haven't shown you that purpose yet, but I did give a big hint.  I revealed to you that the demon would have more scope to torture Aksinya in the West than in Russia.

Aunt Brunhilda clasped Aksinya’s left hand with both of hers. “We wish to enroll you in my old school, Sacré Coeur. It is a school, a gymnasium, for girls here in Wien. The church runs it, and it is connected with a convent of the same name. I know it is something you have never experienced before, but I believe you will blossom in it.”

Aksinya stared at her aunt. Then she turned her stare at the demon. Asmodeus’ face was covered with a scowl. He stood, “Freiherr, I’m not sure the Countess should be placed in this kind of environment. She is a very sensitive young woman who is not used to being among so many people.”

The Freiherr immediately warmed to his argument, “The Countess would have her lady-in-waiting to take care of her. She would be boarded in the style of a princess. She would possess the highest rank of anyone in Sacré Coeur.”

The demon didn’t back down, “But the Countess isn’t used to being away from her family.“

Aunt Brunhilda clasped Aksinya’s fingers a little tighter, “We are her family now. She may come stay with us on the weekends. She will certainly go to church with us and dine with us, and she may bring as many of her friends as she likes for the weekend.”

Asmodeus straightened, “Is all this certain?”

The Freiherr stuck out his chest, “It is a surety and a promise.”

“Do you swear?”

Baronet Herman Bockmann’s eyebrows rose, “Yes, I guess. I do swear.”

Asmodeus bowed, “Good. Then the Countess shall attend Sacré Coeur. Should we visit the school tomorrow?”

Aksinya’s brows lowered, “Don’t I have a say?”

Her aunt and uncle stared at her.

Asmodeus' look was dangerous, “Yes, Countess, of course you have a say.” The demon’s voice dripped with menace, “What do you wish? It is your choice, after all.” He glared at her.

Aksinya returned his gaze. Then after a moment, she lowered her head, “I shall go to Sacré Coeur on a trial basis. If I am not happy there, I shall not continue.“

Aunt Brunhilda shook Aksinya’s hand, “What a wonderful answer.”

Her uncle lit another cigarette, “Yes, very wise. It shall be on a trial basis. We shall see how all of us like it. I would rather have you here all the time with us, Countess, but I am willing to give you up during the week for your own improvement and education.”

Aksinya mumbled under her breath then she glanced up, “I will attend on a trial basis only if my lady-in-waiting may attend too.” Aksinya continued before anyone could respond, “The Lady Natalya is incredibly bright and educated. She would succeed very well in such an environment.”

The Freiherr glanced at Natalya then back at Aksinya, “Certainly, I don’t see any reason why the Lady Natalya cannot attend with you. Her primary job must be your care, but she may attend and study with you.”

Aksinya bowed her head, “Thank you.”

“You are very welcome,” Aunt Brunhilda smiled and stood. Now, let us ladies retire to my sitting room where I will inform you both all about Sacré Coeur. ”

Reluctantly Aksinya stood. Natalya bounced up. They followed Aunt Brunhilda to the second floor and her sitting room.

The demon is a consumate actor.  Look at his response.  He plays the "devil's advocate" and gives a counter arguement.  His focus isn't the arguement, it is to get Freiherr Bockmann to swear.  You can imagine why this is so important to a demon.  It means there is a resolve to act.  It means there is a contract.   When and if (it will be when) Aksinya can no longer continue at the school, Freiherr Bockmann will be forced to break his promise (contract).  This is the way with all good, even if we swear to achieve it, we make it all wrong when we cannot achieve what we have agreed to do.
Then Aksinya takes matters into her own hands for just a singular moment.  She defies the demon.  She matches his gaze, but can't hold it.  She knows she wants to go to the school.  So does the demon.  Aksinya attaches two criteria to the proposal: it is a trial and Natalya must attend.  You can see the reaction of both.  Aksinya is reluctant--she lost out, but achieved what she wanted.  Still she worries about the ramifications of the demon's choice.  Natalya bounces up--her mistress thought of her and gave her a great gift.  That is the end of chapter 5.  I need to get writing.  I just finished the first run through of chapter 11 and started chapter 12.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A New Novel, Part 41 The Proposal Part 1

So now we get the point of almost everything.  Freiherr Bockmann makes a proposal to Aksinya that truly tempts her.  She can't let it seem she it too interested, but she is truly tempted by what he proposes.  Do you think Asmodeus had anything to do with the proposal?

The fire was still burning in the great fireplace, but it was mostly coals with only a light sprinkling of flames. Aunt Brunhilda led Aksinya to a chair and sat her. She took a seat in the chair beside her and held her hand.

The Freiherr stood. He stepped to the fireplace and lit a cigarette. He took a puff and turned around, “You don’t know how pleased we are that you came to us and that you are safe here with us.” He flicked some ash from his cigarette into the coals, “When we heard about your family, I had the priest make a high Mass in their honor. At the time, we thought you had died with them.” He gave her a crooked smile, “We were glad someone survived and that you survived. You being who you are, after all.”

Aksinya lowered her eyes, “Thank you.”

“Your Aunt and I have discussed this since we heard you were coming.” He smiled again, “You are not quite seventeen, am I correct?”

“I am seventeen, Uncle.”

“How much education have you received?”

“None except from our family’s priest and my governess.”

“In the past that might have been sufficient for a young lady. Today, it is woefully deficient. As I remember, you have always been very keen on learning.”

Aksinya tried to appear disinterested, but in spite of herself, she nodded and leaned forward expectantly.

“Yes, I see I am right. Your German is much better than you led us to believe last night. I see you understand me very well.” His eyes crinkled, “You learned it from your mother, I know. And I know you speak French and can read Greek.”

“Yes, Uncle.”

“What do you think about the idea of an education.”

Aksinya smiled, “What did you have in mind, Uncle?”

“There is an excellent gymnasium in this city.”

Aunt Brunhilda laughed, “I went to it myself.”

“What is a gymnasium?”

“It is a school for students who will go on to a university.”

“To a university? Could I attend a university—is it allowed for women?”

Aunt Brunhilda put her hands together, “Yes, it is very possible for you to go on to a university.”

“I would gladly attend, but for what purpose?”

The Freiherr stood straight and threw the butt of his cigarette in the coals, “Ha, the world we once knew well is changing. The future will belong to men and women who have grasped an education, and who have an aristocratic pedigree. The people will need someone to lead them. This is what we wish for you. It is certainly what your father and mother would have desired.”

“I’m not so sure. You tempt me...”

Asmodeus cleared his throat.

Her uncle grinned, “I want to tempt you. I want you to follow this course, and I think you are well fitted to succeed. You always were a studious child.”

Aksinya sighed, “What exactly do you propose, Uncle?”

Aunt Brunhilda clasped Aksinya’s left hand with both of hers. “We wish to enroll you in my old school, Sacré Coeur. It is a school, a gymnasium, for girls here in Wien. The church runs it, and it is connected with a convent of the same name. I know it is something you have never experienced before, but I believe you will blossom in it.”

We begin with a slight remembrance of Aksinya's loss.  Her uncle reminds her while he begins his introduction.  Do you see the multi-level mystery he invokes.  They were happy she survived of all the others--this should get you thinking.  I'm not going to tell you why yet.  The point is emphasized twice.  Then he brings up the next point--to him it is important and important to the demon.  Asmodeus chose her clothing.  Her uncle should know her age, he assumes she is younger--who might have put that thought in her mind.  The first point is her age--she is young yet.  The second point is her education.  She, like most aristocratic women in this age, was educated by the family governess and priest.
Her uncle then praises her.  He praises her German, French, and Greek.  She knows German from her mother (a clue), French from the Russian court, and Greek from the Orthodox church.  Her uncle's pont is to tempt her toward an education.  You might wonder why the demon wants Aksinya to get an education.  Keep thinking.
The next idea is the gymnasium.  I use a trick of a question in the dialog to tell you what it is.  Aksinya doesn't know, so I can explain what it is to the reader.  The obvious question to Aksinya is whether a woman can aspire to the university--this was not expected at the time.  We get a shot of the culture.  Her uncle is tempting her.  He uses a hard argument "your mother and father would have wanted it."  See the reaction of Aksinya--she realizes what is happening.  The demon threatens her just a little, and Aksinya sighs.  She realizes she can't win against her aunt and uncle, the demon, and her own desires.  We end the first part of this dialog with the revelation that the gymnasium is a convent school run by the church.  Do you begin to understand why the demon might want to put Aksinya there--ah, we will find out soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A New Novel, Part 40 Breakfast and the Parlor again

Aunt Brunhilda can't get away from it, and I don't want you to forget about it--the hair.

When they came down to breakfast, Aunt Brunhilda greeted them. She took one look at Aksinya and her mouth turned up into a large smile. She grasped Aksinya’s hands, “You look ravishing this morning. Who did your hair?”

Aksinya glanced at Natalya.

Aunt Brunhilda grinned at the lady, “You made her look marvelous.” She turned back to Aksinya, “I remember, countess, your hair was so beautiful. I hope you will grow it out again. I know the style today among the youth is for short hair, but my heart longs to see it like it once was.”

Aksinya gave her a strange look that Aunt Brunhilda didn’t know how to interpret. Aunt Brunhilda still held one of Aksinya’s hands and led her into the family breakfast room. Aksinya’s uncle stood when she entered and helped seat her and then Aunt Brunhilda. Aksinya noticed his monocle was in his right eye this morning. They served her bread, meat, and cheese. Her aunt and uncle had coffee. Aksinya ate a soft boiled egg and tea. Natalya attended her.

After breakfast, Uncle Herman put down his napkin, “Countess, would you please join us in the family parlor so we can discuss your future?”

Aksinya touched her lips with her napkin and laid it at her place. She nodded.

Before they entered the parlor, Asmodeus suddenly joined them. No one seemed surprised although Aksinya and Natalya noticed his appearance more than Aksinya’s aunt or uncle.

The fire was still burning in the great fireplace, but it was mostly coals with only a light sprinkling of flames. Aunt Brunhilda led Aksinya to a chair and sat her. She took a seat in the chair beside her and held her hand.

This is scene setting with a slight transition.  Aksinya does look ravishing--Natalya made her look that way.  If you remember, her hair is parted and pinned.  The dress is perfect, but too bright and light for the season--it also makes Aksinya look like a girl.  Can you see the aunt's reaction?  It is to Aksinya as a child, not an adult.  Aksinya doesn't help things along--she is still in her silent mode.  Remember, manic depressive.  This is the depressive mode.  She nods at Natalya and we immediately understand what she means.  She gives her aunt a look and we know what that means.  She doesn't have to say anything and we understand.
The culture is there for us to see.  Austrian breakfast, coffee etc.  Aksinya eats what she likes.  She will not be cowed.  She knows her own mind in spite of her depression.  Another indicator of her mind is that she lets Natalya serve her without making any remark--you will see that this changes very quickly when she again has purpose and feels a little in control again. 
Then again with the culture: the napkins are a tiny piece of a social puzzle.  Only the wealthy have napkins.  Only the wealthy and aristocracy know what to do with napkins.  Tiny reminders and scene setters.  Then the demon joins them.  Note, he just appears almost out of nowhere.  We will see this strange effect more powerfully later.  He is supposed to move within human affairs like a shadow, only seen and heard when he wishes to be.
Finally, we reenter the parlour.  I don't have to describe it again to you.  I just remind you about the fire, then you imagine it again yourself.  I didn't give a huge description before--perhaps I will add one to the final manuscript.  We get the picture again of Aksinya in the chair with the Freifrau at her side.  We have returned to the evening before--the unanswered questions are all still unanswered.  That is what we shall see next.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A New Novel, Part 39 Dressing Aksinya

There are multiple duplicities going on here.  Look especially at what Asmodeus chose for her to wear. 

In the morning, Natalya drew Aksinya a bath, and helped Aksinya into it. When Natalya returned to the main bedroom, she found Aksinya’s trunk with a note on it. Crisp Russian handwriting described one of the wonderful gowns she had fitted to Aksinya. Natalya searched through the trunk and pulled out the gown. It was a light parchment color with lace all around. The dress was both formal and yet wonderfully intimate. It was made of light silk and fine silk lace covered it.

Natalya retrieved Aksinya from the bath and dried her off. When Natalya dressed Aksinya in the gown, it fit her shape wonderfully. It was loose, but fit Aksinya tightly. It did not draw attention to Aksinya’s lack of bosom, but rather accentuated her slight and girlish figure. It made her slim hips look feminine and stylish. Natalya would have liked to see Aksinya wear it to a grand social affair. She knew it would show off her mistress’ best features, although it did make her appear younger than she was. As she settled the dress on Aksinya’s slim figure, Natalya fingered the crosses she had sewed in the fabric and wondered why Aksinya had made her put them there. At the last, Natalya placed a small square silk and lace cap on Aksinya’s head. She pinned the cap and then Aksinya’s hair and pulled her bangs into a part across her forehead.

Aksinya took a glance at herself in the mirror, something she rarely did and smiled. Natalya smiled behind her. Aksinya’s appearance was almost radiant.

He did it again.  The demon chose a thin dress in the middle of winter.  Look at the material and the color.  It is out of place--out of season.  Remember Aunt Brunhilda.  Natalya fits Aksinya better into her clothing than Aunt Brunhilda's seamstress, but still...  The dress is very elegant, but it makes her look like a girl and not a woman.  This will play in the coming scene.  Natalya applauds the choice because?  I wrote it before, but I need to foreshadow this a little.  Natalya obviously views Aksinya as someone to take care of.  She sees her like a sister.  She wants to dress her up, like a doll.  Look at the attention to detail Natalya places on her mistress.  Notice the care with the hair and the cap.  It was such a wonderful change, Aksinya smiled.  This is obviously the single most important thing to Natalya--to please Aksinya.  The dress was chosen by the demon to make Aksinya appear younger and less mature--the reason, we will soon discover.
I also took the time to remind you of the crosses on the dresses.  We still don't know if they will work.  Obviously, Aksinya wishes to prevent the demon from removing her clothing as a torture to compel her to act.  We also can guess that she hopes the crosses protect her and Natalya from the influence of the demon.  We and she don't know if this will work at all.
Finally, the last picture before the transition is Natalya behind Aksinya at the mirror.  I love this picture.  We see Aksinya backed in every way by her lady-in-waiting both in image and reality.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Novel, Part 38 A Transition

Here is the remainder of the scene.  I guess I could have left it intact, but I thought that this would give an example of a transition.  The bell breaks the scene and gives Aksinya a reprieve from her aunt.  Then we get supper.

A servant came to the door and rang a small bell.

Aksinya’s uncle stood, “Supper is ready. Come, countess, you must eat with us and then sleep. Tomorrow, we will discuss what we shall do.”

They entered the family dining room to a very long and formal supper. Natalya quite properly served Aksinya at her shoulder, but Aksinya didn’t seem to notice. Aksinya nodded off a couple of times before dessert. Aunt Brunhilda finally called an end to the supper, and she herself led Aksinya and Natalya to a room on the second floor. It was the best room in the house. Natalya undressed Aksinya and put her to bed. Then she went down to the kitchen to eat her supper. She returned to Aksinya’s room and went to sleep in the attached servant’s chamber. She left the door to her room wide open so she could hear any sound Aksinya might make during the night.

This is an obvious regression that we see in Aksinya.  I will show you this characteristic of Aksinya more than once.  A psychologist might analyse her as partially manic depressive.  She has such energy when she is accomplishing sorcery or when she is focused on something.  She becomes an introverted child when she is confronted with a world she does not want to face.  In this transition, we see Aksinya in her low stage, but she isn't the only focus of the transition.
Natalya's personality is also displayed and note the slight change.  You might think it is for the better.  We shall see this more in the future--right now, notice that as Aksinya flags, Natalya just takes over.  All the details of life get accomplished by Natalya even when Aksinya cannot or will not act.  Look at the detail I tried to show in Natalya.  It is as the demon said, Natalya does everything perfectly. In the past, she was punished in spite of her perfection.  I might need to indicate more of this perfection especially in this transition.  You have not seen any obsessive-compulsive activity in Natalya.  She does have some ingrained habits, but she is not obsessive-compulsive.  Natalya is perfect in many ways.  In the main, she perfectly protects her mistress--keep this in mind and watch what she does.  How she reacts. 
So, a simple transition.  I think there is really no such thing.  Every bit of the writing must drive the story forward.  There must be no extraneous part.  Everything stitches the pieces together to get to the final garment (the novel).  In a strong piece of writing, the seams become elements that adorn as well as bind.
I've written more about the transition than the actual length of the transition.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A New Novel, Part 37 The Fireplace, the Sherry, the Hair

We have to encompass the culture of the times.  In 1918, much heating was still done by open coal fires especially in more ancient homes.  The poor and the wealthy made due with this kind of heating until electricity made forced air heating more common.  The middle class had radiators and boilers.  The oddity here, and I will show you more of it, is there is a wood fire.  Wood roars; coal burns.  Generally, a coal fire might be augmented with wood in a wealthy house especially if they intend to show off.  Note the Freiherr and Freifrau do indeed want to show off.

Aunt Brunhilda cleared her throat, “You poor dear.” Aunt Brunhilda guided Aksinya into a large room with an enormous fireplace. In it, a hot wood and coal fire roared.

Aksinya felt drawn to it. She moved to the fire like a moth to a flame. Aunt Brunhilda pulled her back before she could step into the coals. She held tightly to Aksinya. The Freiherr drew a chair close and Aunt Brunhilda pushed Aksinya into it. Aksinya closed her eyes. The heat clasped her in its grasp, and a slight smile stole onto her lips. She raised her arm, “Thank you, Aunt, Uncle.”

Her uncle and aunt pulled their chairs close to her on either side. Her aunt held her hand. The Freiherr sat and a look of concern crossed his face. After a while he clasped his chin, “When you feel better, we can go to supper. Would you like something now?”

Aksinya shook her head.

“I’ll bring you a glass of wine.” The Freiherr stepped to the sideboard. He selected a bottle and filled a glass. He took it and held it near Aksinya’s hand, “Please, countess, drink this. It will warm you and make you feel better.”

Aksinya took the glass in her shaking hand and tasted the dark brown aperitif. The sherry was very fine and rich. She sipped on it while her aunt patted her other hand.

In a while, Aksinya sat a little straighter. Aunt Brunhilda squeezed her fingers, “Do you feel better, countess.”

“Yes. Thank you, Aunt Brunhilda. I have not felt myself for a long time.”

“You were always a sensitive child.” Aunt Brunhilda touched Aksinya’s face then moved her hand a little higher and touched the tips of her hair, “Dear child, what happened to your hair?”

Aksinya took a deep breath, “I lost it with my family.”

“Did you cut it off yourself?”

Aksinya hung her head.

“Yes. It looks like you did. You poor girl.” Her aunt took Aksinya’s hand and held it against her face, “Tomorrow, I promise, my beautician will trim your hair and make it look much better.”

“But I don’t want to trim it. I don’t want to…to… forget…”

“We will not forget. Your mother and father were great friends as well as relations of ours.”

Aksinya could feel the eyes of the demon on her, “Thank you, but I don’t wish to cut it—I insist.”

“Then, would you let me style it for you? If you won’t have it trimmed, we shall make the most of it.”

A servant came to the door and rang a small bell.

There is so much unspoken in this scene.  Here, we have three touchstone events.  The first is the fire.  I told you a little about fire.  Fire indicates status.  Yesterday, I showed you Aksinya's desire for death.  We understood this, but now we see a little of it manifest itself.  I will not make a lot of this, her survival instinct is too great--she is not self destructive, but I wanted to let her put on a show for the demon.  It is a game, so Asmodeus said.  Her aunt and uncle play a part in the game, but they have no idea the rules that govern it or Aksinya.  Note, that her aunt pulled her back--a little foreshadowing, but not of great consequence.  I just wanted to show Aksinya when she had little control over herself.  Remember, this was the demon's doing.

The second is the sherry.  She refuses, but her uncle still pours her a glass.  He promised her wine, but brought sherry.  If you remember, Asmodeus told her to do what her uncle asked.  This works on multiple levels because even if you realize Aksinya is acceding to the will of her uncle (whether intentionally or unintentionally), her uncle's action is an indication of his personality and character.  Her acceptance just reinforces her own problem--luxuria.

The third is the hair.  We cannot ever forget the hair.  It is and must be part of the plot and theme throughout the novel.  She gave her hair as the surety of her contract with the demon.  The ignorant actions of aunt press deeply into the wounds Aksinya bears, yet look at her response.  She simply states directly though her aunt can't understand.  Do you see the multilevel here too.  Part of the act of mourning in many cultures is to cut the hair.  Her aunt may or may not recognize this--many readers will see this.  For Aksinya, her hair is absolutely a sign of her mourning--the loss of her family.  It is a sign of her contract--her greatest anguish.  It is the loss of the one thing she thought was beautiful about herself.  Talk about pitiful, and Aunt Brunhilda is picking in the wound with a blunt pair of scissors (isn't that a great analogy?).  Aksinya is literally rescued by the supper bell. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A New Novel, Part 36 Fear and Trembling

We saw the setting of this scene.  It moves now from the entrance way to another room.  As they are moving, we get a dialog that the demon will not like at all.  We see every pretense pulled away from Aksinya.  The question is whether this too is the design of the demon.

Aksinya was shivering. For some reason, the thought of her mother and the presence of her uncle and aunt affected her. She couldn’t speak.

Aunt Brunhilda stared at her, “What’s wrong, Countess?”

Still Aksinya still didn’t speak.

Aunt Brunhilda stood and put her arms around Aksinya, “You don’t need to fear anything while you are here.” She pushed back a little, “You are freezing. Are you well?”

Natalya stepped forward. She spoke in Russian, “My mistress is cold and hungry. She does not speak German well. Could you show us to a place where she can warm herself?”

They both glanced at Natalya. Aunt Brunhilda spoke, “We don’t understand Russian.”

Aksinya tried to smile. She addressed them in German, “It is as my lady-in-waiting said. I’m cold and hungry. I’m sorry my German is so poor.”

Freiherr Bockmann stepped to Aksinya’s side, “Tut tut, I understand you very well. Please come to the family study.”

Aunt Brunhilda took Aksinya’s arm, “Are you certain you are not ill, Countess?”

Aksinya shook her head.

Aunt Brunhilda drew Aksinya with her and they all headed to the right and toward a hallway beneath the stairs. Her aunt pulled her close, “When we heard the news about your family we feared that no one had survived. After we received your telegram, we were so relieved.”

Aksinya turned a stricken face to her, “You were relieved about me?”

“You are a lovely child. We feel your hurt. It was such a great loss to our family.”

“It was my greatest loss. I wanted to die too.”

Asmodeus lifted his hand and made a sign to her.

Aunt Brunhilda pressed her lips together, “You poor child.”

Aksinya turned her face away from the demon, “I wanted to die. I’m sorry I didn’t die.”

Her aunt pulled her closer, “We are so glad you did not die too. We want you to be happy here.”

“Can I be happy anywhere? My mother and father, my sister and brother are all dead. I wanted them to live.”

Aunt Brunhilda cleared her throat, “You poor dear.” Aunt Brunhilda guided Aksinya into a large room with an enormous fireplace. In it, a hot fire roared.

Notice, the first response from her aunt is to interpret Aksinya's trembling as fear.  When she embraces Aksinya, she realizes the girl is cold.  Natalya immediately understands Aksinya.  Note, Natalya does not expect Aksinya to be afraid.  This is important.  It is her view of Aksinya and ours too.  Although Aksinya was startled in the cemetery, we have not seen her afraid.  She is afraid of the demon and afraid of her own temptation, but she has not shown fear of anything else, and she has not shown fear of anything in the world.  She has shown few emotions at all.
Aksinya's response to her aunt is uninhibited, she wishes she had died with her family.  Did you get this from before.  When she lost her family, the demon had to force her out of bed and out of her depression.  He knows there is a self destructive tendency within Aksinya.  He has worked hard to prevent her from acting on it.  Here, he stripped away her every defense, and she responds honestly to her aunt.  The answer Aksinya gives her aunt is honest too--"Is there anywhere I can be happy?"  This is what Aksinya seeks.  Even if she doesn't realize this, this is what drove her from the beginning--she seeks happiness.  She sought happiness in sorcery.  She tried to hold the little happiness she had with her family by selling her soul, yet we begin to see that she was not really happy with her family either.  If you didn't put it together already, Aksinya is a mess.  She is like so many who seem competent and perfect on the outside, but who hide their true problems behind closed doors and within themselves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A New Novel, Part 35 Freiherr and Freifrau Bockmann

I know I have been remiss at revealing everything in the book--I hope you caught it.  I don't think I will have the opportunity to revisit anything unless there are specific questions.  In this installment, I will show you extensive scene setting in the narrative.  First, I will show you enough description of the interior of the house to allow your own imagination to take over the rest.  There is a critical balance in not showing too much--that overburdens the reader and chokes the storyline.  And too little--that leaves the reader adrift without an appropriately set scene.  Note, the characters too.  Here I introduce two important secondary characters.  They must have their own descriptions.

They made their way up the marble steps up to the large front door. The servant opened the great oaken portal and let them in.

They entered a wonderful and huge marble and statue lined entry that overlooked an enormous open ballroom. They stood in an unenclosed foyer bordered before them by a wide set of stairs that led down to the floor of the ballroom. On the other side of the ballroom, twin wooden stairways led to the second floor. The stairways climbed into each other and joined then separated again and continued to the upper floor.

When Aksinya, Natalya, Asmodeus, and the servant entered, a host of maids descended on them. They took Aksinya’s coat and Natalya’s cloak. Aksinya then spotted a very well dressed man and a woman who had descended, unnoticed, to the center of the house’s converging stairways. Asmodeus stepped forward and called in a loud voice, “May I announce, the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna and her lady-in-waiting, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska.”

The man and woman made their way slowly down the steps. The moment Aksinya’s coat had come off, she began to shiver. She had not eaten, and she was cold. She wondered automatically if the demon had anything to do with her sudden discomfort. He turned to her that moment and grinned. Aksinya scowled back at him. She impatiently watched her uncle and aunt make their way to them. She certainly would not move. She was too cold, and she knew how these things worked. She had lived in this type of society all her life. It was a painful reminder of the life she left when her family died.

Her uncle and aunt finally made their way to the ballroom floor and stepped slowly across the ballroom. They made their way to the wide foyer steps and then up them. Her uncle stood before her and grasped her hand. His face was thin and well lined. Still, it seemed as jovial as Aksinya remembered it. She always thought he endeavored to convey a haughty appearance of aristocracy, but that attempt was constantly overwhelmed by his gentle features. He sported a wide mustache and a pointed beard. He put the unnecessary monocle in his left eye this time. He routinely forgot which eye was supposed to require it. This evening, he wore a fine woolen suit with coat and tails. He went to his left knee and touched her white-gloved hand with his lips. He spoke in German, “Countess, I am your uncle, Freiherr Herman Bockmann, and this is your aunt, the Freifrau Brunhilda Bockmann. I hope you remember us. I welcome you to our home.” He stood and Aksinya’s aunt stepped forward. Aksinya had remembered her name was Brunhilda. She always thought that was so funny when she was a child. Freifrau Bockmann was tall and stout. She had a well endowed bosom and clothing that was just a little too small for her. Aksinya remembered her mother’s words about Aunt Brunhilda, “That her sister-in-law was always one season and one size out of style.” Aksinya couldn’t help but smile at the remembrance. Indeed, Aunt Brunhilda wore a silk dress of a bright summer hue. Yet, she wore it with grace. Aunt Brunhilda looked well in anything.

Aunt Brunhilda took her hand and curtsied to the floor, “Welcome, Countess.” She glanced up and smiled, “I am so glad you came to us.”

Did you notice the revelation (or perhaps a remembrance) of some of Aksinya's past.  This little revelation ties Aksinya into the scene and bridges the relationship with her aunt and uncle.

Next the description of the Bockmanns.  I give you a little paradox in each.  First, I introduce Freiherr Bockman.  He is not a caricature of an Austrian Nobleman.  I tell you he is a Freiherr (not a Baron), that puts your thinking outside the normal box.  Next, he is described as attempting to be the caricature of an Austrian Nobleman--we knew that from before in the dialog of the demon.  Second, Freifrau Bockmann is described as wearing too tight clothing that is out of style, but still she appears elegant.  These small paradoxes force you to see the characters as more than simply stereotyped nobles.  They also force you to think about the characters.  This locks them in your brain.  I can then remind you in later scenes and reset your thinking to let you see them as the characters they are.

Next, did you notice how the demon is manipulating Aksinya.  He brought her in an open carriage (likely from manipulation of her uncle or a suggestion in the telegram--why let out all the demon's secrets at once).  She has not eaten.  The maids too her coat.  She is wearing the dress he chose--it is lace and thin.  She is freezing.  We feel her impatience in the slow walk of her aunt and uncle to greet her.  We will see how this fits in the next installment.

Finally, I reminded you of the relationship between Aksinya and her uncle and aunt--this is new information.  It ties Aksinya to these people through her mother and gives you a hint about her mother.

You can see there is a lot in each tiny piece of a scene.  I should get to this detail in every "revelation" to you, but I usually don't have time.  This is Sunday and I am drinking a caupachino, a martini with olives and avocado, and smoking a great cigar.  In a moment, I will be adding to chapter 11.  Happy reading.