About admin

Judy Ferro is author of the Karolus Chronicles, a series of coming-of-age novels set in the court of Charlemagne during the 8th Century AD. Her writings have also appeared in several anthologies, including An Eclectic Collage and Hauntings from the Snake River Plain. A former teacher and Idaho native, she has two daughters and four granddaughters living in the Pacific Northwest.

Boogie Boarding

Gary 1953aThis piece from 1965 is one of the earliest pieces I wrote.  I wanted it to be the beginning of a novel featuring Gary, but this much took me days and days to write.  I never wrote more.  (I don’t have a picture of the 20-year-old Gary I knew–he’s 12 -14 in this one.)
The wind lashed Gary’s face, making his nose tingle and pinning his eyelids back, leaving his eyes stinging and exposed.  He leaned back, leading with his legs against the driving wind.  Every pore, every cell, abraded by grit and water and coolness, felt alive.Gary savored the feeling almost as much as he savored the power.  He controlled the rope, raising, lowering, pulling left, then right.  His body cut the air, created the wind.On an impulse, he bent his knees and, pushing down with his right foot, tilted the plywood 4 x 8 beneath him until it creased the canal’s silted bottom.  A spray of water tickled his sunburnt back as he leaned far right, swapping his view of brown fields and sky for that of whizzing water.

He’d swerved foolishly near the bank—and he loved the shouts from the banks almost as much as the feeling of recklessness.  He turned barely in time to miss the left bank.  Ahead was the bridge that signaled the end of the run where the car on the ditch road, the car pulling the rope, would stop.  Before the board lost momentum, Gary tumbled into the chilly water and, with a broad sweep of his arms, propelled himself toward the flat land by the bridge foundation.

The car halted and two boys, clad only in swim trunks, slid out the driver’s door.  Tommy stopped to untie the knot around the passenger side doorpost, while Jerry ran through the fringe of brush to the bank and started pulling wet rope and board toward him.

As Gary surfaced—his wind-lashed body numbed and soothed by the water—he laughed for the sheer joy of it.  He felt good.

The board caught on the weeds downstream.  Jerry cursed, but relaxed and waited for the current to pull it away from the shore.  Then he pulled again.  When the board snagged a second time he yelled, “Gar—fix the damn board.”

“Shove it,” Gary taunted, even as he swam toward the board.  Then, impishly, he caught the rope, yanked Jerry off-balance, and pulled his sputtering cousin into the muddy water.

“Ratzafrenchy!” Jerry screamed.

“Hey, watch it!  Ladies present,” As Gary shouted, he stood in the shallow water, dropped his trunks and tucked his penis between his legs.

“Oh, la, la!” Tommy raced down the bank and leaped into the water.

“She’s mine, she’s mine,” Jerry shouted.  In mock battle he tackled Tommy’s legs, sending them both sprawling into more mud than water.

When their thrashing slowed, Gary swam to the opposite bank, scrambled through stickers and brush, and ran upstream.  Jerry and Tommy raced after him and, as Gary dove into the shallow water, followed him without pause.  Gary lead them across the canal, out of the water around the car, down to the bridge and into the water once more.

Finally, out of breath from laughter, Gary stopped, bent nearly doubled, and breathed, just breathed.

Good times like this didn’t happen every day—not any more.  Years ago, as kids visiting Grandma’s homestead, they had swam together all the time—and taken their whippings together when a parent caught them in the canal.  Back then they could run for miles through sagebush taller than they were without seeing anyone.  Losing one another—and then finding them—was part of the fun.

They’d learned to smoke together too—and caught some of that sagebrush on fire.  They knew enough to stay and fight the blaze, to say nothing as fathers and uncles finally put the last flame out, and to run like hell once the grownups turned from the smoldering ashes.

They had hidden in the sagebrush, their hearts stopping with every bird call or whisper of wind, until the sun slipped westward, pulling the heat with it.  Then, hungry and tired they had chosen to take a whipping rather than spend a cold night in the dark—a hungry cold night at that.

Now that they all had cars to pay for and girl friends and jobs, good times like this were precious.

Later, with board, rope, sand, wet clothes, and tired bodies packed in and around Jerry’s car, they sat, reluctant to let the day end.  “Let’s go to my place for a beer,” Jerry said.

“Let’s make that some beer,” Gary said.  “Stop at the beverage store on 10th.”  They laughed again.

From his place in the back seat, Gary watched Jerry guide the car from the canal road onto the highway, watched him crane his neck from side to side, tighten his hands on the wheel, and turn into the commuter traffic.  Funny, he thought, how they all drove alike—fast, with confidence and caution.  Probably no one he’d rather ride with than Jerry or Tom.  Except when Jerry was drunk–and he wasn’t doing that again.

Gary studied the two smooth-cheeked blonds in the front seat and wondered why he didn’t ever feel he was different. Being Italian and swarthy wasn’t bad but the missing jawbone on the left side was all some people saw of him.  Someday he’d get the money to get something done about it.  Someday.  Tonight, he’d have some beer.

Report on the Giveaway Weekend for Nine Best Poems

Cover2b

It’s time to report on the free week-end for Nine Best Poems by Judy Ferro.

Sixty-eight Kindle copies were downloaded and two PDF’s sent to people who didn’t want to add Kindle to their systems.  (I had sent out six PDF’s as advance copies.)  Two downloads were from Amazon-India and one each from the U.K. and Canada!

The poems received four highly favorable reviews.

Judy Ferro, Author now has 10 new Facebook fans.

And there were two downloads of Agnes—an outcome I had not anticipated at all.

Another unforeseen result–Sunday afternoon I totally redesigned the cover.  I started the weekend happy with the cover, but after seeing 15+ posts, it seemed totally boring.  The new cover needs some work—I’m still learning the technology–but I think it conveys the light nature of the book better.

What I’d like to add to that list is a number of readers dug poems out of drawers and published them through Kindle.  I won’t know if I’ve inspired others unless they tell me, but I am hoping some are looking over their poems and wondering how much work it would be.

While the results were nowhere near the 2100 downloads for Garth Wright’s Broken Things when it was a giveaway, they are all positives that would not have happened otherwise.

Garth suggested that Nine Best Poems didn’t reach greater numbers because poetry is not a hot-selling item—or even a hot giveaway item.  He pointed out that only poems by Edgar Alan Poe were downloaded from Amazon more frequently that weekend.  Really?  What about Emily Dickenson and Virginia Wolff and Shakespeare?  (Of course, they didn’t publicize a giveaway weekend on Facebook!)

I put five posts on my personal FB page, ten on my author page and two on Idaho Authors’s Community—a group of 50+ authors who hold book signings together.  I saw about ten shares.  Two positive posts—one reporting the great review from Lamos and one pointing out it was easier to hawk free items than paid ones—reached twice as many viewers as the others.

I didn’t make Amazon’s list of the day’s 100 top giveaway.  That’s right—Amazon has a DAILY list featuring 100 giveaways.  That couldn’t have happened with print copies.  We have really entered a new age of publishing.  We may have no more authors making a living from writing than we did when the only route to the public was a handful of print publishers, but readers do have a lot more choices.

Three on-line sites featured Nine Best Poems—Book Goodies, Free and Discounted Books, and Free-book Dude.  The last was a one-hour listing starting at 6 p.m.  I noted that Pixel of Ink and E-Books Habit listed only three books each and Bargain E-Book Hunter, only five.  Hey, if I didn’t make Amazon’s top 100, I could hardly hope to make someone’s top five!

In mid-September I’ll push Two for the Show, a play that takes place in “once upon a time.”  I may discount it to 98 cents rather than have a giveaway weekend. Then I can invest my imagined profits in a paid listing on a website for one day and ads on FB for one day.

Marketing resembles driving in that I’m not good at it, but no one is offering to do it for me!

Promoting a Free E-Book

Nine Best Poems1. (989x1280)        One amazing development since the onset of e-books is the popularity of free books.  One might expect readers to like giveaways, but the authors?

They have their reasons.

There are now more than 24 newletters or blogs that list free e-books.  Authors can get on-line publicity for giving away a digital download that costs them nothing.

That’s the reasoning, but I have reservations.  I don’t worry about those who might have paid for my book and now won’t.  No, I worry about those that have paid and will feel a cheated to learn they didn’t have to.

But what if it works?  Two new writers in the area claim to be making good money off books after a free offer.  They’re talking quit-the-day-job “good money. “

So I decided to publish Nine Best Poems just to give it away.  Yes, it’s listed on Amazon at $1.98, but anyone can get it absolutely free July 20 and 21 on Amazon.  The book contains my best poems—nine of them—with illustrations from www.clipart.com.   (A one-week subscription giving me permission to use images in print cost $13.95.)

From Garth Wright, a sci-fi author from Buhl, I learned that Author Marketing Club has links to the sites that provide notices of e-book giveaways.

I was ready to begin.

Ready, that is, if I could find a way to tell Amazon we were going to give my books away.  Kindle Direct Publishing flouts these promotions as a reason to publish through them,  but I explored every nook, cranny and link at http://authorcentral.amazon.com  without finding that elusive check box. Then Jane Freund, Boise author and publisher, showed me http://www.kdp.amazon.com –I had an account there, with check boxes, that fed off my Author Central account.

Once Amazon agreed that the giveaway is going to happen, I tackled that list of 24 newsletters and blogs.

I soon learned that most aren’t looking to feature a 25-page self-published poetry books.  Who would have figured?  Some will mention only books over a certain length; others, only kids’ books or Christian romance books.  Some don’t even recognize poetry as a genre—I told them Nine Best Poems was a humor book.

Some sites say they will feature only books of quality UNLESS you paid them $5, or $10, or even $15; in which case, you were guaranteed space and the readers would never know that anything but your breathless poetry or prose had earned the posting.

Several sites require that a book have three reviews on Amazon and a rating of four stars or above.  Others wanted a real review, the kind in magazines for librarians.

A few sites wanted notices 14 days in advance of the free promotion.  One, however, wouldn’t accept a listing until the day the book was available free.

Most wanted authors to sign up to receive their publication. So that’s one more thing I will be learning.  How will receiving 12 daily e-newsletters about free books affect my productivity as a writer?  Can I keep the fact that there are thousands of writers vying for readers’ attention from discouraging me?  .

Learning is what art–and life–is all about.

The Theme is the “Moral of the Story”

aesop

Picture from www.booksshouldbefree.com

 

Aesop’s fables are short, easy to read, and end with a moral.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  “Union gives strength.”  “Necessity is the mother of invention.” “Little by little does the trick.”  (See all at www.aesopfables.com.)

It’s amazing to think that these short lessons are 2,000 years old.   It’s great to have kids read them just for the insights that fact brings.  Good storytelling endures.   And the world may have changed in two millennia, but people haven’t.

Reading the fables is a good way to introduce the idea that stories have a theme.  You can start by trying to guess the moral to a new fable and move on to attaching morals to fairy tales and movies that the kids know.

The theme of “The Three Little Pigs” is as obvious as those of the fables.  “Hard work pays off.”  Others are subtler.  “Hansel and Gretel” has really two themes: one dealing with the witch and the other with the stepmother.   They are similar though, something like “Wit and teamwork can overcome evil” for the witch and “All bad things come to an end” for the stepmother.   Apparently, it is okay to destroy a witch, but you must outlast a stepmother.

Picking a theme for “The Three Bears” is challenging.   Some jokingly suggest that the tale says “It’s all right to enter a strange house and try things out,” or “Kids can get away with things that would get you or me thrown in jail.”  I prefer “Creatures are more alike than appearances suggest,” but I’ve heard others as plausible.

Does every author build their book around a theme?  Yes and no.  The author doesn’t have to be aware of a theme, it just happens when he or she selects an ending.  A lot of kids’ literature has the same theme: “Be true and work hard and you will win the beauty contest/ball game/race and get the boy/girl of your dreams.”   Kids who aren’t exposed to more variety may “grow out” of reading fiction and feel it’s childish and irrelevant to real life.

In both my novels, Desiderata and Agnes, young women are thrust into lives not of their choosing and resolve to make the most of their lot.  I’ve had girls tell me that they like that ending better than any other book they’ve read; I’ve had women tell me they were disappointed that things didn’t work out better.  I think the girls appreciate they can adapt to trying circumstances; the women, mothers all, want an ending they’d like for their daughters.

Savvy, by Ingrid Law, has a wonderful theme:  “We all have unique gifts that we have to discover, control, and use.”  It’s something I really believe in.  I’d love to use it for a book one day.

 

Writers Must Learn a Lot!

Nine Best Poems1. (989x1280)I am grateful to have the opportunities to learn fun skills during this time of life.  Some weeks I seem to vegetate and not care if I finish anything.  This week I published two e-books.

Here are some of the things I learned this week.

  • How to upload e-books with images.  Although artwork and color make print books more expensive, they don’t add to the cost of e-books.
  • That one must reload the entire book to correct entering the title wrong (and that Amazon answers Author Central calls quickly).
  • That I can make myself reformat a 70-page book when necessary..
  • That downloaded data files are less apt to crash a program if you hit the “extract all files” button first.
  • How to open a google doc all the way so others can enter data (thank you, Brian Perkins).
  •  That new software does make extracting an image from its background so easy that I can do it.
  • That ciipart.com is fun and can make creating e-book covers a snap.
  • How to access the two blog sites that will get the most results when promoting free books (thank you, Garth Wright)
  • How a professional must feel when one has an editorial due and nothing to say.

Of course, I also discovered some things I don’t know.

  • How to get the correct formatting to show up on an I-phone or i-book.
  • How to format a cast list with names against one margin and description against the other for an e-book.
  • How to change margins for an entire book when Word indicates it has done so but has changed nothing.

I love life as an author in control of producing my own books. And it is great to be a member of the Idaho Authors’ Community and have the help and friendship of forty other authors facing the same challenges.

Now if I just had time to write!

 

 

 

 

The GiverWhy Read?

Ever had a kid tell you half-defiantly, “I don’t read”?  I’ve even had one who said, “I can read all right, but I won’t do it.”

Maybe they know we love challenges–they do bring rewards.  One new non-reader ended up finishing three books in his first two weeks–non-fiction books with lots of pictures.  My librarian knew boys.

One year, I had entire classes embrace reading.  While a teacher was on medical leave, I got students who could not spell–and most did not or could not read well.  For them, I chose Lois Lowry’s The Giver, a tale of a future without pain–no cold weather, no childbirth, no dead end careers, no old age. The cost was no excitement, no choices, and euthanasia.   Well, these kids hadn’t known there were books that you had to argue with!

When we were done, I gave them six choices for their next book.  They choose the darkest, Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic, a story of a Jewish girl inside a Nazi death camp.  They wanted to feel.

When kids learn in order to get a great job someday, it restricts their interests. These are the greater gifts from reading.

1.  LEARN TO MAKE LIFE CHOICES.
Analyze character’s actions–would you have done the same thing?  Would you have risked death to hide Anne Frank in your home?  Would you have accepted your aunt’s reasons for marrying a humorless Puritan?  Would you have stayed with the plane or tried to walk out?

2. KNOW THAT, WHATEVER YOUR SITUATION, OTHERS HAVE FACED IT.
Pain is bad enough, but it’s harder to cope if you believe life is singling you out for ill treatment. So the kids at school make fun of your shoes, you can’t hit a basket with a bat, much less a ball, and your getting weary of hiding your mom’s alcoholism from the world. You are not alone. Others have survived–and grown–from such challenges.

3. LEARN TO UNDERSTAND PAIN AND PEOPLE’S REACTIONS TO IT
Before you suffer great pain, books can help you learn what causes it and how sufferers cope. What would it be like to lose a parent or a leg? How would it feel to be trapped in a avalanche or lost in a blizzard? What if your parents’ divorce or your brother takes his anger out on you? It happens. And people have not one reaction, but a string of them–and authors write of them.

We must endure much more than we can imagine–but we can be strong, at least sometimes, and learn to forgive ourselves for the others.

The Idaho Sting, chapter 2

Okay, this sounds like a whole different book–a technique I haven’t tried before.
Chapter 2.

               Kim could hardly sit in her desk.  The fifth-grade’s annual “Start a Business” assignment and  the new teacher had let them choose their own teams!  None of that careful mixing that Mrs. Snodgrass had done.  Mrs. Bailey had had the class elect five leaders and then had let the leaders take turns picking team members.  That stupid Jeff had every stupid jerk in the class on his team—and Kim had the best and brightest on hers.  All girls, of course.  Girls always ended up doing all the work, so why include any guys?
               Carefully, Kim started writing the notes.  “After school—my place, Kim.”  Anita and Wendy had cell phones, but the teachers took them if they saw them in class.  But paper notes?  Well, this was class business. 

               Kim did text her mother to tell her that Lori, Anita, Wendy and Olivia were coming to the house after school.  Her mother—a landscape architect– was probably off measuring someone’s yard.  Kim was pretty much on her own the first weeks of April—her dad wouldn’t come up for air until all his clients’ taxes were filed April 15, and half the town wanted her mom to help them get started on their yards.  Not that having classmates over was a problem—that was another advantage of having an all-girl team.
               Tonight they would decide on their project.  Once that step was out of the way, they could all get to work.

               “We could babysit,” Anita said, her big brown eyes serious.
               Wendy groaned.  “The last two years the babysitters came in dead last.”
               “Are you sure?  They were always busy,” Anita countered.
               “Yea, my sister’s friend Liz was on last year’s team.  They found out that the year before had started discounts for repeat customers.  They ended up getting nearly nothing after the fourth night’s work.”
               “Well, we won’t give discounts,” Anita suggested.
               “You know, we can’t legally babysit—not until we’re twelve,” said Lori.
               Anita and Kim laughed.  “This is Idaho,” Kim said. 
               “And teams have done it every year,” said Anita.
               Lori laughed too, but added, “But not one with our parents.”
               The girls were quiet then.  They had no doubt their parents had to be the most law-abiding in town.  When you edit the newspaper or run the local hospital or take care of other people’s money, you care about public opinion.
               After a while, Kim said, “Maybe a raffle.”
               “Team three is holding a raffle,” said Lori.
               Everyone nodded.  Lori’s twin brother was on team three.
               Kim brightened, “Yard work.  Mom could let us know who needs stuff planted.”
               “And they’d choose us?” asked Olivia. 
               Silence again.  Kim had tried to run a rototiller; it seemed to have a mind of its own.  She surveyed the girls.  Anita, with the serious eyes and long brown hair, was the smartest kid in the school.  Lori, the tomboy with the pixie cut, would try anything.  Olivia, tall and bony and blond, was practical and funny.  And Wendy, a classic beauty who used makeup already, was the richest girl in town.  How could this group not come up with a killer idea? 
               “We could hold yard sales for people,” said Lori, and all the girls started babbling at once.  Yard sales were something they knew how to do—and something they loved.

The Idaho Sting

This is a comedy.mystery with several fifth graders as characters, but the opening….Well, it is a cop story.  

Chapter 1.

               Even in the dim light, Craig recognized the trio entering the warehouse—tall thin kid, short squat man old enough to be his father,  and the bearded one, all in matching Nitrogen sunglasses.  He and Kip had bought a Springfield 9mm from them not long ago that had no past—never bought, stolen,  or used in a crime.  A gun they could have sold on e-bay or Craig’s list. 

               Well, stranger things had happened.

               Still, Craig hung back, studying the three.  This time the gun was a prize—an assault rifle, an expensive Wilson M-4 with a 100-round clip.  A mounted clip.  Craig reached for Kip, but already his partner was walking forward, a big smile on his face.

               “Wow, that’s something I’d like to own myself.”

               A volley of shots barked harshly as bullets ripped first into the wall and then into Kip. 

               Instinctively, Craig reached out to keep his partner from falling and, then—just as instinctively—held the man up as a shield, feeling the bullets drumming into Kip’s slack body as Craig stumbled his way to shelter behind the counter.

               Then the backup crew entered. 

               In seconds it was over.  The bearded gunman was dead.  His two companions lay face down on the concrete floor. 

               And, behind the counter, Craig helplessly tried to stop the blood seeping from the flesh that moments ago had been his partner.  Somehow knowing that Kip had died in the first seconds, even knowing the man would have willingly died to save Craig’s life, didn’t help.  What kind of coward shields behind his partner? 

               He heard the sirens, shut his eyes, and leaned against the counter.  This would play out as it would play out.  He had to ride it through.  Later, he would think, but not now.              

               They pried Kip’s body from his arms.  Even when aware that he still gripped his partner, Craig was unable to let go; every limb, every muscle, every cell fought to keep the man close.  When the body left, Craig sat back and cried–not manly tearing up, but an unearthly wailing. 

               Craig let them pull him onto his feet, but fought when they pushed him to a gurney.  “I’m not hit,” he said.  “I’m not hit.  I’m not hit.”

               Four men pinned him to the gurney. “It’s not your body we’re worried about,” a voice growled.  “You are F-ing mad.”

               Mad.  Craig chuckled as they strapped him to the gurney.  Mad.  Oh, god, what he wouldn’t give to be completely out of his mind.

One for the Money, Two for the Show

Act III, Scene 5

(During the ball.  In front of the curtain.  LEA runs in, stage left.  Looks around. Bursts into tears. Looks up as though she might speak to the audience.  Cries louder.  MARKUS enters, moves to comfort her, stops short of touching her.)

MARKUS: I can’t blame you for being angry.  I..Stefan and I..have been deceitful and you’ve suffered for it.  I really expected you to return to Ritter House after a few days.  I never imagined you’d spend the summer without shelter and food.  I am so sorry.  (Waits.)

LEA: (Looks at Markus.  Shakes head.) You really don’t understand.

MARKUS: I understand that you have walked for weeks, that you have had to sleep on the ground and beg for food.  I will never forgive myself.

LEA: (Laughs.) You think I cry because of what happened weeks—or even days—ago?  (Stops.  Looks as though she might weep again.)  Markus, I loved being on the road.  I loved seeing people—children and old women, mothers and field laborers and cart drivers—tired and worn and happy.  Happy because we were there.

MARKUS: But you’re very upset.

LEA: Do I get to go wandering next summer—or the summer after that?  No.  In there (points toward the music)–that’s the rest of my life. (Begins weeping again.)

MARKUS: What do you.. 

LEA: Just let me be.

(MARKUS starts to touch LEA, stops, turns and exits stage right.)

LEA: (To audience) So there is no Lanzo.  I’m in love with an actor’s role, a charade, a man who really does not exist.
(STEFAN enters; LEA does not notice.)
  Everyone knew Lanzo.  Everyone loved him.  And he doesn’t exist.

STEFAN: I mourn for Lanzo also.  (LEA stares at him.)  While my brother lived, I was allowed to roam.  I spent longer and longer on the road.  Then I became heir, and it was forbidden.  (Chuckle)  My father will never forgive me for this summer but I had to have a few more weeks of freedom.  (Looks at Lea.)  Lanzo still exists though, Lea.  (Hits chest.) In here.

LEA: You were so happy in the ball.  I saw you, smiling and humming.

STEFAN: (Chuckles.) I was so happy to see Lea being Lea.  I was hoping you’d start singing.
Gunda has captured Ulrich’s heart,
Hey li lee, li lee lo,
(LEA joins in.)
Fitting 21 cows on a cupid’s dart,
Hey li lee, li lee lo.
(BOTH laugh. STEFAN hugs LEA to him.)

STEFAN:  Could you imagine Gunda’s face?  (Releases LEA.)  Responsibility—how I hate it.
   But I have to go back now, you know—go back and behave.

LEA:  (Sighs.)  If you must, you must.

(STEFAN takes LEA’s hand as the curtain opens.  Together they join the dancers at the ball. When the music ends, ALL join hands for a bow.  Lights dim.)

One for the Money, Two for the Show

Act III, Scene 4

(In the ballroom.  MUSICIANS are in the background.  GUESTS mingle and converse.  ELIZABETH and DIANA, KARL and KARL’S MOMMA, ULRICH and GUNDA, MARKUS and STEFAN are all on stage. Jugglers, mimes and others may entertain between conversations.)

(Spotlight on DIANA and ELIZABETH, stage right front.)

DIANA:  Markus sounded as though everything is going to be the same as before Lea left.  The marriage to Lanzo will be anulled and Lea will come back to Ritter House.

ELIZABETH:  Markus cannot expecting everything to be the same—not with Lea and Karina under the same roof.

DIANA:  I wonder if Lea has changed?  I will just die if she’s boring.

ELISABETH: I wonder…a summer of hardships had to change her.

(Spotlight on KARL and KARL’S MOMMA, stage left front.)

KARL’S MOMMA: A boat!  I can’t believe you said “a boat.”  What have I done to deserve a simpleton for a son?

KARL:  But Momma….

KARL’S MOMMA: Maybe it’s all for the better.  I imagine a summer of peasant life has silenced that shrew’s tongue.

KARL: But Momma..

KARL’S MOMMA: Well, she should appreciate you more now. (Straightens Karl’s collar.)

KARL: But, Momma, I don’t like Lea.

KARL’S MOMMA: So?  You like villas and horses and cattle, don’t you? 

KARL:  (Sighs) Yes, Momma.

(Spotlight on Karina, center front.)

KARINA: Why did I ever listen to Markus?  We’ll get Lea married, he said.  She’ll be out of the house by Christmas, he said.  You alone will be mistress of Ritter House, he said.  Well, now all I hear is “Poor Lea, she has been hungry.” “Poor Lea, she has walked for weeks.”  Well, I’m poor Lea’d out!” 

(Spotlight on ULRICH and GUNDA,  left of KARINA at center front.)

GUNDA:  I’ve heard that Lea is coming to the ball.

ULRICH: I’m sure you’re looking forward to seeing her.

GUNDA.  Hmph.  I’ve heard that Markus is having her marriage annulled.

ULRICH:  Really?

GUNDA: (Eyes ULRICH carefully)  Strange you didn’t know.  I’ve heard that you and Markus have come to agreement about her dowry. 

ULRICH: Me?  You know I’m devoted to you.

GUNDA: (Takes off a ring and gives it to Ulrich) I’d love to see her rejected once more.

ULRICH:  (Eyes ring, then puts it in a pocket) As good as done, my dear.

(MARKUS and LEA enter stage right.  DIANA and ELISABETH rush to her.)

ELISABETH:  Lea!

DIANA:  (Throws arms around LEA)  We’ve missed you so much!

ELISABETH: You’re moving back to Ritter House?

DIANA:  And living with dear, sweet Karina.

ELISABETH: Diana.  Don’t goad her.

LEA:  I’ve missed Karina. 

MARKUS: And Karina’s so relieved to know we’ve found our Lea.

(KARINA approaches, takes MARKUS’s arm and eyes Lea.)

KARINA: As you said, Markus, Lea looks well.

LEA:  Why thank you, Karina.  You look well yourself. 

KARINA:  What do you mean by that? 

LEA: Why, just that marriage seems to agree with you.

KARINA: Well, remember, I am mistress of Ritter House now.

MARKUS: And looking forward to having Lea come to visit.

KARINA:  Yes, visit.  I’d love to help you plan a real wedding, dear.

LEA:  How nice of you, Karina.

DIANA: (To Elisabeth) It’s worse than I feared.

ELISABETH: She did seem to let Karina walk right over her.

(ALL move to center.  KARL approaches.)

KARL:  Lea.  Momma told me to say how glad we are to see you.

LEA:  Why, thank you, Karl.

KARL:  Momma said your hardships have probably tamed your tongue.

LEA:  So kind of her to think of me.

KARL: Momma says that later I have to ask you to dance.

LEA:  I’ll look forward to it.

KARL:  Really?  I’ll tell Momma.  (Returns to stage left)

DIANA: (To Elisabeth) Oh, no!

ELISABETH:  It won’t last.  It just can’t.

(DIANA, ELISABETH and LEA move left toward GUNDA and ULRICH.  KARINA holds MARKUS back and talks to him seriously.)

ULRICH:  Lea, how lovely you look.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you looking more lovely.

LEA:  How nice of you to say so.

ULRICH: It’s nice to have you back.  We’ve missed you.

LEA:  Lovely of you to say so.

ULRICH:  Markus and I will be talking tomorrow.

LEA:  You are interested in marriage then?

ULRICH:  Of course, my dearest.

LEA:  So nice to hear you say that.

ULRICH:  And so lovely to hear you say that.

LEA: So lovely..(Pauses.  Looks at Ulrich. Shrieks.)  I sound like a bit of puffery.  (Points at Ulrich.)  You two-faced, spineless, money-grubbing excuse for a man.  You deserve (points to Gunda) that pompous, pretentious Gorgon.

   (ALL turn to watch.  Some horrified.  Some amused.)

   And, Karl, (hesitates until she sees him) are you ever going to muzzle your mother?  I’d rather scrub every floor in this house than dance with you.

    And, Karina (turns toward her), you silly and insecure and you…you..you deserve my dullard brother.

(ALL gasp.)

STEFAN:  And me, my sweet?

(LEA turns.  STEFAN hums “Greensleeves.”  LEA’s eyes grow big and she runs off stage right.  Lights dim.)