Grace A. Johnson
PAH Anniversary Week (Day 4: Deleted Scenes)
Not every story is perfect. Not every first line draws you in. Not every character or scene turns out just right. Sometimes you have to make changes. Sometimes you have to start all over. And then sometimes, you get the epic opportunity to share everything that went wrong and never made it into your finished work!
Today, I'm sharing three different things--a SALE, deleted scenes, and alternate chapters. First things first, today marks the only week that Prisoner at Heart will be available for a discount on Amazon!!!! Unfortunately, I was unable to mark down the price of the paperback, but the Kindle version is now $3.99 instead of $5.99! (Trust me, it doesn't get much better than this...aside from a giveaway, maybe, but that's a treat for another day...)
Y'all tell your friends and family and grab YOUR e-copy of Prisoner at Heart anytime between NOW and October 31st!
Take a sneak peek inside while you're at it!
Readers--and future readers--be sure to click the FOLLOW button on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or BookBub (and Pinterest too!) to be updated on new releases, what I'm reading, etc--and don't forget to leave a review! Reviews are without a doubt the best way to support an author--especially an indie one like myself--that you love!
Now, on to the fun stuff...
On Tuesday, I intend to share the behind-the-scenes thought process that went on as I struggled with some of these chapters/scenes and how some of my outlining went, but today I want y'all to read what didn't make it into the book--my attempts at finding Crimson's voice, the original first chapter, and more!
I’d written about 7 chapters while writing/editing Held Captive. I struggled with a beginning, with Julius, with scene arrangement, and with Crimson. So, I laid these scenes and chapters aside, then pulled from them later once I sat down in May to write. I have multiple scenes of my introduction of Crimson, each of them failures, and below is the one I’d nearly settled on before I had scraped it all and started with a prologue, a first chapter with Rina, and then waiting to introduce Crimson’s POV until her voice really needed to be heard. It worked out perfectly, if you ask me.
Meet...the original Chapter 1. (First scene is in Julius's POV, while the second is in Crimson's.)
And miss her I did. Ten years and eight months had done absolutely nothing to ease the pain. In a way, I didn’t want the pain to ease. It was better to feel it, to revel in it. Because with every step, every reminder of my loss, my hate grew stronger.
The day was coming. I just knew it.
A lady’s breeze whistled through the sails of the Rogue Maiden, sending the chill of winter through the oppressive heat of the sun that shone down upon me from where it hung in the sky at its zenith. Winters had always seemed colder on board this ship than anywhere else, the wind more biting, the air more frigid, the deck cooler. But not this year.
This year a warmth wrapped around me like the blazes of a fire in a passing snowstorm. My own storm was finally passing, making way for the sun, the brightness of spring. The day was coming.
I lifted myself up over the railing of the quarterdeck, swinging my right leg over before the left. A jolt of pain shot up from my foot, compliments of Wilde himself. But the pain wasn’t as sharp as it once had been. It had dulled, dimmed, leaving only an ache in its wake. Unlike the pain, still just as deep and burning as ever, that resided in that far place inside me.
It had been almost two months since we had left New York. Two months since I had last heard word of my sister. She had married, of all things. And someone, I thought, had said something about a duke...or had it been an earl? I wasn’t quite sure, but I had hardly believed my ears when I’d heard Rina’s name. She was alive, just as Wilde had hoped.
And somewhere out there, watching and waiting.
“Ye’re awful deep in thought t’day, Jules.”
The voice, too familiar for me to ignore, broke through my mind, sending my thoughts crashing into the ocean. I turned my head to find a pair of icy blue eyes the color of the frosty Arctic sea gazing back at me, a hint of mirth within their depths.
“I’ve got a lot to think about.” I bit back a sigh, motioning for Crimson to settle in beside me.
She all but laughed as her long legs swung over the railing. Her shoulder brushed against mine, her cropped red curls bouncing in the air around her face like wire springs when she tilted her head back. “Aye, tha’ ye do!” she exclaimed, one side of her mouth quirking up in a half-smile.
Despite her façade of cheer, I knew last night’s episode was still etched deeply in her mind. I feared that her storm, unlike mine, would never pass. But at least she could awake with peace in the morning, knowing her future was secure. I didn’t have that luxury.
Crimson nudged my arm, jolting me out of my thoughts. Her once smiling eyes looked at me with sorrow. “Don’ worry none, Jules.” Her tone was laced with more doubt than conviction, and her gaze sought out the waves beneath us. “It’ll all be over soon.”
The words were spoken on a sigh, leaving me with the familiar feeling of a dark storm brewing up ahead.
* * *
Soon. The word itself seemed an eternity away. How many years had I merely sat here awaiting the arrival of the dreaded day? Ten years. A whole decade of my life spent watching, waiting, wishing that Da would give up his stupid quest for revenge and return to good, honest pirating. That he would quit putting his life—our lives—on the line to sate his thirst for vengeance.
Obviously my wish had not come true.
I heaved a sigh, the sickening feeling of dread returning to my stomach. The churning within me matched the rocking of Da’s ship on the waves of the Atlantic, tossing me to and fro between life and death. If only I could be struck down before the day came, before I would have to watch as Julius’s heart was ripped in two once again.
Before I would have to watch my own father die.
A hand moved to rest on my shoulder, the strength emanating from Julius’s very presence steeling my muscles and calming the storm inside. I leaned over, slipping an arm around his waist and laying my head against his arm.
And suddenly, we were eleven again. Young and innocent and sharing each other’s pain. Julius was alone and afraid and I was in search of company and we were both at our worst. We had made quite a pair. In fact, we still did. He’d lost his father, his hope, his future. I’d lost my baby, my joy, my life.
We were both broken and bleeding. We would both never be the same. We couldn’t. Not with this large, gaping hole inside our very souls, created by one man who had thrust us all into a life of consequences. The effect of his one action that had hurt hundreds.
At times like these, when I thought of the man, a surge of hatred rose. One that consumed Da. One that had brought us here. But I knew better than to latch onto the tantalizing thread of anger that dangled before me. For rather than pull me up, it would lower me down, let me drown in the deep, stormy waters of death.
Perhaps that was why I was still here, by Julius’s side. Because we had both refused to give in, to hate each other for something we could not control. Because he was the only one who understood me, and I him. He was like the brother Tomas could never be, the friend I’d never had.
Even though he was a Blackstone.
I jerked my head up, finding the dark brown eyes that sought mine. The anguish within their depths was so familiar that it caused my heart to ache. If only I could fix it.
But none of us could. Or else we wouldn’t be here now.
He exhaled, his rough hand slipping from my bare shoulder and grasping my hand. “Look.” His gaze locked on the sea before us, on the white upon the horizon.
My heart stopped, my breath hitching in my chest. “We’re here.”
So, uh, yeah. Y'all can see why I didn't stick with this. I jumped right into two people you'd never met and into a lot of action with no forewarning. But I didn't realize that until later, so I kept on trucking for the time and churned out about half of the second chapter.
Meet...the original second chapter. Technically, not much changed on this account. It's still Elliot's POV and still about the reveal of Rina's pregnancy, but the circumstances in this scene below were a lot less realistic than they are in Prisoner at Heart now.
I ruffled little Elliot’s blond hair, grinning as my son shoved his thumb into his mouth and leaned into my side, a thin arm wrapping around my leg. The child, only eighteen months old, didn’t belong on a ship, let alone a pirate ship, and yet I couldn’t imagine my life without him with me. It was my son that kept me going, that kept me from drowning in the grief that still hadn’t left me in the year and a half that Mary had been gone. And it was Elliot Jr that made me smile despite the fact everyone around me was frowning.
Rina stepped forward, her arms folded over her chest in that domineering manner of hers, her one eye glistening in green. Well, it couldn’t be bad news, then. Except the deep frown on her lips seemed to counter the glitter in her gaze. She glanced down at Ellie and smiled, something I had rarely seen her do until she had married Xavier. That man had changed her, I had to say. Or perhaps it was that God of hers.
When she had called the crew together only moments ago, every man had come rushing to the quarterdeck. That was Rina, with the crew at her beck and call. How she managed it, I would never know. But I did know that she had gotten her captain skills from her father—or rather, her uncle, as she had revealed to me a few months ago. For a woman, she had the commanding voice that struck fear into men’s hearts, the intimidating air that made her seem even taller than she already was, and the leadership skills that had made her captain and kept her there for the past ten and a half years. No one dared to defy her, not even that husband of hers.
But she did have me worrying.
“Men,” she began, a smile in her voice, “it turns out that in five months we’ll have a new addition to the crew come on board.” She paused for a moment, likely watching each man’s expression, waiting for anyone to question her.
From somewhere within the crowd, Terry moaned. “Don’t tell me you got another cousin to coddle!”
Rina shook her head, but not before her young cousin, twelve-year-old Richard shouted out his objection. “She does not coddle me, Terrence,” he said in that cultured English tone of his that told of his noble birth.
Terry rolled his eyes at the young lord. “Then why don’t she letcha fight like a man?”
Before Rich could reply, Rina held up a hand to silence the boys. “Terrence, I swore not to let any harm befall Richard. That’s why I don’t let him fight. And as for my announcement that was so rudely interrupted, I’m going to have a baby.”
Silence fell on the crowd of men at the declaration, but there was no silence in my mind. Rina was with child? The very idea seemed wrong. Not Blackie, not the stern captain, not the female pirate I had known almost all my life. It was a big enough surprise that she was married, a crazy enough of a change that she had turned to privateering. But pregnant? I couldn’t believe it.
Yet as she leaned against the railing of the quarterdeck with a smirk and straightened her tricorn, I could almost see it. Almost. Perhaps because I had seen her with Ellie, rocking him to sleep, feeding him oranges, telling him stories. But the image of her laying on her bed, screaming as she struggled to push, sweat dripping from her brow, her skin pale and her eyes lifeless slithered into my mind like a venomous snake. A snake that had bit me once before, that I had never recovered from.
A pair of bright blue eyes appeared in my mind, and the woman on the bed went from Rina to Mary. No. I couldn’t let that happen again. I couldn’t lose another woman, another person I loved, to childbirth.
But before I could manage to say something, to tell Rina that she ought to return to her father’s home in London, the sound of her footsteps made their way to my ears. She sent a hand on my shoulder in a reassuring gesture, one that seemed to say more than words could. Yet she spoke anyway.
“I understand your concern, Elliot, but I won’t be hearing of it. I’m stronger than she was. And this time, I am prepared. We’ll port just in time for the birthing, I promise.” She bumped her fist against my shoulder as she had always done when we were younger, sent me a smile, then weaved through the crowd to where Keaton stood across the deck.
Leaving me to my thoughts. She was right; she was stronger than Mary had been. With more experience with the sea and a determination that would never waver. She was too stubborn to let childbirth kill her.
In the end, I introduce these characters, from Elliot to Billy, Terry, and Cousin Richard (not to mention Rina's twins) much better than I tried to up here. I never made it any farther after this, because it didn't seem right. That's when I scrapped it and wrote the first and second chapter still in Prisoner at Heart. (I do have a deleted scene for how that first chapter would have began that I'll share in just a minute.) The only thing that changed with those was Rina and Xavier's interaction at the end of Chapter 1.
At first, I'd had Xavier learn that Rina was pregnant and have absolutely no I'm-a-new-father-and-my-wife-is-a-pirate-and-she's-been-pregnant-for-four-months-and-never-told-me-because-she-wants-to-keep-plundering-ships-like-a-person-with-no-common-sense freak out scene.
Then I realized that was totally unrealistic and instead threw in some drama and arguing.
Before I did that, however, I wrote five more chapters, in which I had a different Crimson-intro scene in each one. I would share all of those, but, uh, that's a lot. Crimson was difficult.
Back to Chapter 1...before I contrived the idea of Rina being overtaken by anticipation at the prospect of plundering a French merchant, I had a simple--and boring--scene that went a little something like this:
My eyes slid shut, blocking out the view of endless azure waves crashing over each other. A lady’s breeze blew through the sails of my ship, whistling with pride, with confidence. The thick canvases flapped their own song of certainty, of assurance in knowing that through it all, they would remain strong.
I had learned that lesson myself many a time over the past four and a half months, ever since that one moment which had forever changed my life. I knew now that I had strength. Strength to wrestle with yesterday’s pain, to weather today’s storm, and to look past a shrouded tomorrow and see the sun peeking through behind the clouds.
It was not a fear nor a truth I struggled with, being or feeling weak. In fact, I was most always overly confident and never needed a pat of encouragement on my back. But the harsh realities of life had caught up with me not too long ago, and I realized that even the strongest of warriors could face weakness, temptation, pain.
Now there was a feeling I was accustomed to. So much so, I believed, that it had become almost welcomed. Of course, that was not to say I enjoyed it. But when the fears, the uncontrollable and unusual sense of weakness, came upon me, it was easier to run and hide within my little closet of pain. To revel in the darkness of hurting and not once reach out into the light for healing.
There was I struggling, reaching out. I had lived in darkness for so long that when the light broke through, warm and blinding, I longed only to turn away. But I knew better than to run from what would only further pursue me until the day I at last relented. Fortunate enough for me, I had already relented. The light could shower its white rays upon me, and despite my instincts, I could no longer turn away.
But somewhere deep inside, I would want to. Because it was that way in which I was born. In darkness.
My eyes opened, slowly regaining focus upon the vast ocean before me. The dark blue depths splashed a welcoming wave up at me, splattering me with the frigid dampness of the winter sea.
Swiping a water droplet out of my vision, I flicked the salty drop back into its home, returning the greeting.
The ocean heaved, rocking my ship with each crashing wave.
I held up an innocent hand. “Good morning to you as well,” I replied, only realizing once the words had left my lips that I was speaking to the sea.
Either I was dafter than I’d thought, or my current condition was addling my brain.
“Ah, a good morning it is indeed.”
The deep voice echoed across the ship, familiar and yet not. I blinked, once, twice, uncertain as to if I had actually heard what I thought I’d heard. Surely the ocean, the emotionless, soulless, lifeless water, had not spoken in return!
Then arms, thick with strength, wound around my waist, pulling me into a warm embrace.
Totally not fun. At all. You see now why I began Chapter 1 with "The ship was slowly coming into view, and anticipation seemed to take over me."
Once I completed 7 chapters of horribleness, I scraped them, went back, wrote the prologue that introduces Julius's POV, then drew from certain scenes in those seven chapters to create the fight scene between Rina and Wilde, the revelation of her pregnancy, and Crimson's introduction, etc.
Speaking of Crimson...I had tried so many times to get her right. I would always throw her in as soon as I could, usually in the first or third chapter. Well, once I got my mind right, I realized that she didn't need to be in the story so soon. Of course, you meet Crimson in Chapter 3, in Julius' POV, but you don't get a glimpse inside of Crimson's head until Chapter 6, when Wilde drops dead.
That scene originally looked like this: I couldn’t breathe. It felt as though a stone had lodged itself in my throat, choking all the life out of me. The world around me disappeared, blurring the lines of reality and fantasy. The sound of rain pounding against the deck of Blackie’s ship slowly faded away, replaced by a sharp scream. A trembling hand clamped over my mouth, and I tasted blood and tears and sweat and rain. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He lay there against the deck, blood gushing from his chest, pooling around him and dragging him down, deep down into the darkest of deaths. Not one muscle moved. The metallic scent of blood and the stench of gunpowder and smoke hovered over him like vultures, eating at his flesh before flying away with the last of his life.
My eyes scanned the ship, searching for the source of the gunshot. Who had done it? Who had killed my father?
The fighting had ceased, and every man turned to face Captain Timothy Wilde, the man who laid sprawled out on the deck, as dead as Maverick Blackstone himself. Tomas stood unmoving across from me, his cutlass at his feet, his eyes shut. I could make out Scarlette’s form behind him, her vibrant green skirt swishing against her older brother’s long legs. Her small white hands clung to his muscled arms as though holding on for dear life. And I knew she was.
My father’s crew all stood stunned, their weapons having dropped to the ground. Even Blackie’s crew of ‘round about a hundred men wore shocked expressions, as if they doubted anyone could actually have put an end to Captain Wilde.
I knew this day would come. I had expected it, had dreaded it for years. How could Da have thought that Blackie would’ve remained a weak girl, incapable of avenging her father’s death? How could he have figured fifty-three men could defeat one hundred of the most experienced and violent pirates in the Seven Seas?
How could he have expected to live?
How could he have marched onto the battlefield, leaving Tomas, Scar, and I to whatever fate befell us? We were now at the mercy of Rina Blackstone herself. We would die, every last one of us.
My gaze then found a man who stood, pistol in hand, triumph glistening in the brown eyes he turned my way. Not one flicker of remorse, apology, sympathy was evident in his gaze. Julius lowered the pistol and looked away, the set to his shoulders revealing to me that he was proud of what he had done.
Anger consumed me, and, shaking with fury, I charged at him. I would make him pay!
But as soon as my feet reached him, a strong hand reached out and grabbed my arm, dragging me away from my father’s killer. I turned my head, expecting to find Tomas or even Lefty behind me, but my gaze collided with an unfamiliar green one the color of a forest at dusk. The man jerked me away from Julius, trapping me against his chest with a pair of thick arms.
A sob tore at my throat as I wrestled against the man, but no matter how much I clawed and kicked at him, he remained still and as solid as a mountain. Tears welled in my eyes, begging to be released, but I had vowed to remain strong. But now I made a new promise. I would have my revenge, no matter what it took.
When I finally gave up on bringing Crimson in early and rewrote the first 7 chapters, I actually found her voice. Y'all will find out how all of that came about on Tuesday, but for now I'll close with the Chapter 6 and Crimson scene that actually made the cut.
A cloud of smoke arose from the body as it toppled with a resounding thud onto the deck. Following the sound was naught but silence. Dead silence. Every soul refused to breath. Every wave refused to crash. The sky refused to thunder. My own heart refused to beat.
My throat constricted, bringing the sob that pushed against my lips for freedom to an abrupt and bitter end. Like the body sprawled out upon the wooden deck, arms and legs limp, still as death but for the blood gushing from the wound in his chest.
It had happened.
It was over.
Then the rain began pour down yet again, thunder clapping in the distance as bright bolts of lightning rented the sky. My chest heaved, my lungs drawing in breath. Breaths tainted by the familiar metallic scent of blood, the stench of gunpowder and smoke. Sights and sounds broke through my hazy vision, bringing back into focus what I’d lost only moments ago.
Men sheathed their cutlasses, backed away from their opponents. Inched closer to the body. Tomas stood unmoving across from me, his cutlass at his feet, his eyes shut. I could make out Scarlette’s form behind him, her vibrant green skirt swishing against her older brother’s long legs. Her small white hands clung to his muscled arms as though holding on for dear life. And I knew she was.
For now was the end.
Our father was dead.
Dead. The word reverberated through me, sending waves of shock coursing through my blood. Rough fingers rose to my mouth, stifled the screams and cries I shouldn’t release. Flaming hot moisture stung my eyes, and I struggled to blink back the tears as I steeled my buckling knees.
I had known this storm would come. Had awaited it, even. Ever since that fateful day so long ago when Da had stepped upon this very deck and Jules had stepped upon ours.
But I hadn’t known it would end like this.
I’d known that my friendship—or whatever it was—with Julius would end. I’d known that the simple peace of mind I’d retained for so long would finally slip away. I’d known that I would suffer. Suffer pain. Loss. Rejection. Because this day would’ve ended Blackie’s life.
But it hadn’t.
Because she still stood there. And Da didn’t. He would never stand again.
And it was all his fault.
My gaze switched to the figure only a few yards away, and all the tears immediately fled. There he was, pistol still poised in the air, shoulders straight, back erect. Head cocked, ready to aim. To release. To kill.
There would be murder in his eyes. I knew it. I’d seen it before. The glint that turned chocolate irises into black holes. The ferocity that hardened every line of his face. The readiness that held his head high, chin up. The bloodlust that made his mouth quirk up at the corner, just slightly, but enough that anyone would know that he was enjoying it.
And I knew that if I took a couple steps forward, moved to face him, that I’d see the murder. And it would be colder than ice. Sharper than steel. Black as night.
Because that’s what he was. A Blackstone.
I charged. Not really knowing what I was doing. Not truly certain it was the best thing to do. But ready. No matter what. Because he was a Blackstone, and he’d get what he deserved.
Even if it broke my own blasted heart in the process.
On my father’s dead body, I would make him pay!
But at the very moment my feet reached him, a hand reached out, fingers grasping my upper arm. Tightening. Dragging me away from my father’s killer. I looked back, half expecting to find Tomas or even Lefty there, but instead my gaze collided with an unfamiliar green one the color of a forest at dusk and just as dangerous. The man jerked me away from Julius, trapping me against his chest with a pair of thick arms.
Instinct caused me to wrench against him, the feet that left the deck distributing kick after kick to the man’s shins. I kicked. I clawed. I punched.
But he remained still.
And then the tears came.
For all that Crimson Wilde put me through, in the end she had the easiest voice for me to write. I could have written the entire book in her POV (point-of-view) and never stopped to even eat. She came so natural for me. Rina's voice may be part of me, but I had to consider every word I use when I write in her voice and let's just say that she "talks" very slowly. Crimson, on the other hand, came so smooth, and so did Elliot. I really miss those guys, so I'm hoping to bring them back in Bound and Determined. What do y'all think? Do you want to see Crimson and Elliot again? Who else do you hope makes an appearance in Bound and Determined? Let me know in the comments AND, don't forget, Prisoner at Heart is ON SALE on Amazon for $3.99 for one week and one week ONLY!
Excerpts from Prisoner at Heart: Copyright © 2019 Grace Ann Johnson