Whitehall
Whitehall Palace – All that remains today is the Banqueting Hall   

I have to admit, this writing business is really tough for me.  It comes as no surprise though–otherwise, I would've written a novel a long time ago.  From what I gather, it's tough for everyone, or most people, who give it a go.  The animosity I have for it is only slightly less overwhelming than the compulsion to do it, so I slowly move forward, despite my doubts and fear of failure.

You might ask why I would even try to do something that is so obviously difficult for me?  For that, I have no answer.  I have always lived very much in my head (which is a curse), and I have always constructed stories and scenes in my mind.  I have also always loved reading and am happiest when I am consumed by a good book.  I have considered myself a writer since I was young–it didn't matter that I was a writer who didn't write.  Turning 40 was important for me in that I was finally able to see the future as remaining fertile with possibilities, but that it wouldn't be forever.  That's not quite right–the future will be full of possibilities as long as I am alive–I firmly believe that.  But as I grow older, opportunities might lessen, illness might intervene, one never knows.  I do have today, however, and probably tomorrow, and so the time has come to write.

This time around, I'm doing a lot better at it.  I'm not sure of my word count but it's getting close to 20,000 if it's not there already.  I've got several scenes written, some of which are complete enough to call chapters.  All of this is great progress for me, since previous attempts at writing anything have not amounted to even a chapter and I generally got stuck in the world of outlines and character bios.

My writing process is very simple.  Originally I would sit at my computer with an open document struggling to find words–any words–and I would find myself constantly deleting and backspacing, editing myself as I went along.  I also constantly struggled against the desire to check my email or CNN.com or one of a dozen or more other websites that I commonly use to waste time.  Even as I write this post it is difficult for me not to check my email even though I checked it not five minutes ago.  It's a problem.

It wasn't until I got a legal pad and pen and went into the living room with a scene in mind that the writing really started to flow.  I sit and I let the words flow as quickly as they want to.  I'll admit to crossing things out and re-wording them now and then, but it is far easier for me to write without censoring myself on this yellow pad than it is in front of the computer.  Four or five written pages later and I have close to my daily goal of 1000 words, and I go to my computer, open a document, label the scene and type what I have first written by hand.  This process allows for some editing as I go, but I am much less concerned about it since the words are WRITTEN.  The only way I am going to have a first draft is to write, and so that is what I do.

What I notice mostly at this point is that I am deficient in my descriptions.  It's as if I want to dispense with the necessity of describing a person or place and get right to the action.  This might be due to my "background" in screenwriting.  I'm not worried about it though.  There will be time enough for describing a room or an outfit when I get around to writing my second draft.  All I want, all I dream of, at this point, is a finished first draft.  I will have it before I am 41.

Aphra_Behn_by_Mary_Beale

Isabel Wilde (10 July 1646 – 16 April 1689) was an English spy against the Dutch between the second and third Anglo-Dutch wars who became a famous soothsayer, fortune teller, and voodoo practitioner who had many prominent clients within the court of King Charles II.

Early Life
Isabel Wilde was born in Wye, near Canturbury, England.  She was the middle child of Bartholomew Wilde, a barber, and his wife, Elizabeth.  She had an older brother, Adam (1644-1665) and younger brother, Lucien (1648-1685).

Though the Wildes were not of noble birth, Bartholomew had a good reputation in the village and his wife was employed as a wet nurse for the prominant Colepeper family.   Isabel spent much of her childhood with Thomas Colepeper and his siblings and it was a relationship that carried on into adulthood.

When she was 17, Isabel's father Bartholomew was appointed Lt. Governor of the colony of Surinam in South America.  Whilst in Surinam, her family lived on a large plantation called St. John's Hill, where Isabel befriended an African slave named Kwasi who worked on the plantation.  Kwasi was a voodoo priest and he and the other slaves taught Isabel the rituals of African religion, knowledge that she took with her when she returned to England in 1664.  Her father died at sea on the voyage back.

Shortly after she returned from Surinam, she married.  Very little is known about this marriage, but her husband died 1665, possibly from the plague.

Spying for the Crown
Some time after the death of her husband, Isabel was introduced to the court (possibly through her brother Lucien, who was becoming a popular playwright).  She became the mistress of King Charles II but it was a short lived affair because Barbara Palmer strenuously objected.  Knowing her loyalty to the crown, advisors to the King (principally Baron Arlington) enlisted her to spy on a known English double agent working for the Dutch who was living in Antwerp.

Upon arriving back in London in 1667, Isabel was heavy in debt and despite a year of petitioning the King for payment, she was never paid for her work as a spy.  She went to debtor's prison at Newgate but was released shortly after when an unknown benefactor paid her debt.

Wise Woman
Determined to avoid going to prison again, Isabel called upon her experiences with African religion in Surinam and set herself up as a wise woman in London under the alias of "Madame Culebra."  During this time, she led a double life as Isabel Wilde, a wealthy widow and sister of the famous playwright Lucien Wilde, and Madam Culebra, a popular fortune teller who worked magic at the behest of some of the most prominent citizens in London.  She operated in extreme secrecy and her dual identity was only discovered after her death in 1689.

Her work as Madame Culebra led her to become involved in some of the most dangerous events of the time, most notably the mysterious death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey in 1678.

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Author's Note:  The painting in this post is actually of Aphra Behn, upon whom the character of Isabel Wilde is loosely based.