Novel excerpt

Annie in the factory – excerpt from the novel in progress

I threw out the first four chapters of the novel I’ve been working on for the past year because I realized I needed to start the story later, when the protagonist Annie and her younger sister Mavis arrive in Granville (later Vancouver).

Some of it may still appear in bits and pieces as flashback in the completed manuscript, or maybe it’ll just silently inform my own writing as the story progresses.

Here’s an excerpt from the novel in progress so you can get an idea about it.  It’s from a short scene that I turfed. 

The setting is in a wool mill in Bradford, 1883.


Annie looked out the window to see the crows flying past, their voices cutting a sharp note through the din of the machinery. Any songbirds that might have added a sweeter tone had long since abandoned Bradford after they’d started falling to the ground dead from the surpherous filth that spewed out of hundreds of factories all day long.

From down the row, the foreman’s gravelly voice broke her reverie and triumphed over the clanging and whirring of spindles and  steam engines.

“Here! Morag! What be the  meaning o’ this?” he said, and shoved a piece of cloth under the girl’s nose.

He stank of sweat and stale beer and they could all smell him long before he was could sneak up and give them a hard time. He was especially cruel to the new girls and enjoyed seeing them wither under the lash of his tongue and, when he deemed it necessary, the four-tailed whip called the cat.

But Bert seemed happiest keeping them all in a state of apprehension. Until he wanted them for his own pleasure. And he always did. It was just a matter of time.

“We canna be selling this crap,” he said. “Maybe you think if it’s not good enough I’ll let you keep it for yourself and you can be a fancy lady?” he sneered.

“Fix it right smartly or you’ll be shown the door. This is the third time this week you’ve been told and I will na say it again”.

Morag whimpered like a dog who’d been kicked, and hunched over her work as if it would protect her from the ugliness of it all. She was a thin girl, no more than 14, like Mavis, with dirty hair and filthy clothes. And she smelled of old pee and smoke just like the rest of them. 

Morag was a new girl, still mourning her mother’s  recent death. Out of the corner of her eye Annie could see her wiping her eyes from time to time throughout the day and she knew she’d been crying. She hadn’t yet built up a tough skin to withstand the likes of Bert. And he knew it. Like most of the girls there, Morag had come from a farm not far away, and her father had been a good one, only beating her when she needed to learn a lesson.

Bert smiled to himself. Yes – he liked them like this.  Easily rattled. He would be back.

Annie heard Bert’s footsteps coming her way and willed him to keep moving. But he stopped right behind her, watching as she worked her machines. She stiffened and bent to her work feeling him watching her. She shivered inwardly, remembering the way his hands ran over her like water, his lips covering her mouth so that she could hardly breathe.

She said a silent prayer and willed him to move on and pick on one of the other girls – anyone but Mavis.