Sneak Peek Sunday

Welcome to “Sneak Peek Sunday,” when writers share six paragraphs of their work. Today’s snippet is taken from my work-in-progress, tentatively entitled SCATTERED SEEDS.

But first, a bit of backstory:

It’s 1755 and Edward McConnell is facing poverty. Leaving his debts unpaid, he flees Ireland with his son, Henry. In this scene, they board a brig called The Charming Hannah, bound for Philadelphia. Enjoy!


Henry was unprepared for the chaos in steerage, which reeked of the smoke and vinegar used to fumigate and clean it. Passengers shimmied past one another with their meager belongings, choosing berths among the tiers lining the sides of the brig, one atop the other. Each berth barely accommodated two people, but families of six were squeezing into them with everything they’d brought on board. They had little headroom; a man could not sit upright, and even in the center aisle, the tall had to stoop to avoid hitting their heads on the deck beams. The brig’s sway rocked the lanterns hanging above the tables and benches jamming the aisle.

“We’ll find our way frae here, sir,” Edward said at Thomas’s back. “I’ll trouble ye no mair.”

Thomas turned to face them. “I suppose I’d best be on my way. Sarah will be awaiting word.” He nodded and smiled. “She’ll be in a state, I’d wager. I’ll see to her.”

Edward said to Henry, “Stay here,” and walked a few paces away with Thomas. He placed a hand on the younger man’s shoulder and muttered something that included Sarah’s name. Thomas nodded his understanding, patted Edward on the back, and was gone.

“Come,” Edward said to Henry, “we need to find a place to lay our heads.”

As they searched for a free berth, the odor of humanity overpowered the scent of vinegar. Babies and women wailed. A man hunched over his lap and recited the “Our Father.” Families huddled together in their berths. There was no laughter, no joyful anticipation of a great adventure, only fear and sorrow.

As Henry searched for unoccupied space, he was struck by the condition of his own people. Their eyes peered from hollows in their grimy faces. Neck tendons were ropey and raised, and knuckles and knees prominent. The brig’s main cargo seemed to be desperation. He could see nothing charming about Hannah, nothing at all.

Current word count stands at 101,000 with about 10,000 to go before I take a chainsaw to it. Feel free to visit me at:  www.juliedoherty.com Now go see what the other writers are up to. Shoo! http://sneak-peek-sunday.blogspot.com/2014/03/april-6.html

Fiction That's Plaid to the Bone

Posted in Writing
13 comments on “Sneak Peek Sunday
  1. Rosemary fried says:

    Tell me more.

  2. I have ancestors who came over from Prussia. Although I’ve found their names on the ship’s manifest for their journey, I have none of the details about their travel. Too often the past appears as little more than names and dates. Thank you for bringing this moment in history alive for your readers.

  3. Delynn Royer says:

    Great peek, Julie! There are some hard times ahead and I feel for Henry. I took a night train in Europe once – a compartment with two other women in the dead of summer. Windows were locked, air conditioning didn’t work (ditto the toilets), and I could barely move crammed into a skinny middle berth. It was a long night. That’s nothing compared to what some of our ancestors endured!

    • squaresails says:

      Delynn, thanks for stopping by. Your train trip sounds less than enjoyable. I hope the scenery was worth it. Yes, Henry is about to endure some hard times, and things don’t get much better when they reach Philadelphia. The mid-18th century presented our immigrating ancestors with some tough times indeed. We take so much for granted today.

  4. Vicki Locey says:

    Great sneak peek! I love the tone of that excerpt!

  5. Rosemary fried says:

    One can only imagine the desperation that forced our ancestors to get aboard a ship and suffer filth , disease, and degradation in order to make a better life. If the choice was to leave and maybe die, or stay and surely die, there is no choice, is there? God bless them!

    • squaresails says:

      I think that’s it exactly – we can only envision it, and I’ll be our worst imaginings aren’t even close. Life in the homeland must have been wretched indeed if folks were desperate enough to indenture themselves in exchange for the “pleasure” of an 8-week confinement in a bucket of slop.

  6. Very good peek. No Hannah doesnt seem so charming

  7. Harliqueen says:

    Oh, I definitely want to read more. But wow, 101,000… wow 😀

show us some love by adding a comment