My Shaker book, The Blessed, is on e-book sale at 99 cents or less for a limited time. When the less than a dollar price disappears, the e-book will still be available for a reduced price for a week or so. So if you e-read and have ever considered giving one of my Shaker books a try, you might consider The Blessed starring one of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to create. Lacey Bishop Palmer.
Tonight I thought it might be fun for you to see how Lacey came to life for me before I actually started writing her story. So here’s what I wrote about her as I was getting to know her prior to typing Chapter 1.
Lacey Bishop Palmer
What does Lacey look like? Lacey has always thought she was plain. Thin as a stick. Not big as a minute. But with energy enough for three. Miss Mona said Lacey didn’t know how to sit still and enjoy. One of the first verses Miss Mona taught Lacey was the “Be still and know that I am God” one in hopes she might teach Lacey how to be still. But Lacey went right to the heart of the verse and asked Miss Mona if the Lord wasn’t meaning something besides moving your body. That the stillness was in the mind. Lacey says she can still her mind. Just not her body. So then Miss Mona tells her about Mary and Martha and Lazarus and how Jesus says a woman should be like Mary, not Martha. And Lacey says that there better be some Marthas around or the houses are going to get in a shape and everybody is liable to go hungry.
Of course, maybe not when Jesus was around. He could feed people whether anybody cooked or not. Miss Mona has told the story of the little boy’s lunch feeding five thousand often enough. It was one of her favorites. But Lacey didn’t figure she’d better depend on any miracles filling the pots on their table and it was a sure thing the Preacher wasn’t going to be happy if he came home and found the cook stove cold and Lacey sitting in a chair being still and open to the Lord. Wasn’t the Lord powerful enough to poke himself right into her thoughts while she was stirring up the cook stove fire and peeling potatoes? Sometimes having a body’s hands busy made thinking on important things even easier. Didn’t she believe that, Miss Mona? But of course Miss Mona wasn’t able to do all those things. She had to be still. She got all out of breath and woozy on top of it if she moved very much. That’s why Lacey was there. To help Miss Mona and keep house.
Lacey’s pa was 25 when she was born and 33 when her mother died of the fever. He married the Widow Jackson the next year. Little sister Junie was five and Lacey was nine. There were times Lacey wasn’t sure she’d see ten. The new wife pretended she liked Lacey and Junie until after the wedding and then neither of them could do a thing to suit her.
The Widow Jackson didn’t take to her new stepdaughters. Thought Lacey unruly and lacking in every way. She wasn’t quite as hard on Junie, but she didn’t waste any kindness on her either. Junie, still mourning for her mother, couldn’t bear up under their stepmother’s mean ways and was either silent as a stone or crying and mewling like a sick cat. Lacey did the best she could to protect Junie, but heartsick is the worst kind of sick. Lacey knows about that.
Her mother had told her about being heartsick once after she lost her baby boy and spent some months doing nothing much but staring off at a wall. She’d just begun to pull out of that when the fever took her. Lacey thought her mother might have beat the fever except that she’d got so weakened down from the heartsick time that the fever got a better hold on her. So Lacey decides that’s one thing she’ll never let happen to her. No heartsickness for her. If it comes along she’ll just chase it right on out the door with her old broom the way she did that rat that kept coming around to steal the hickory nuts she and Junie picked up out in the woods. And how she’d like to use it to chase off the Widow Jackson.
Anytime they got close to the widow, she was liable to smack them or hit them over the head with whatever she had in her hand like they were varmints after her corn cakes. After she hit poor little Junie with an iron skillet and nearly knocked her silly, Lacey guessed her pa figured something had to be done. He took Junie back to their mother’s sister in Virginia, but Aunt Peg couldn’t take both Junie and Lacey. For a while Lacey just stayed out of the widow’s way and shadowed her pa in the fields. It wasn’t a bad time. She and her pa got along. He didn’t say much, but then neither did she. Talking out loud had a way of getting a body into trouble.
But then the widow came up in the family way and told Lacey’s Pa straight out that it was either Lacey or her. Lacey overheard her. Her pa didn’t cave in to the widow right away, but the creases between his eyes got so deep they looked like corn furrows. So after a week or two of the widow’s evil eye and her pa looking heartsick, she told her pa that she was probably old enough to hire out to somebody. She didn’t want the heartsickness to weaken him down till any old fever might take him off the way it had her mother. So she told him she figured hiring out would be a lot safer than hanging around the house with winter coming on. The preacher’s wife was ailing and the church ladies had been having to go do up her work. Lacey could do that and still see her pa on Sundays most of the time.
So Lacey moved into the preacher’s house. The household chores aren’t bad since Miss Mona had water run to the house from the spring some time back. One of the church men did it for nothing. Of course there’s still the slop jars to empty and the garden to pick but the church people come and plant it and do a good bit of the tending. Mostly what Lacey has to do is sit with Miss Mona. And stay away from Preacher Elwood. She doesn’t like the way he sometimes eyes her as if she’s got sin popping out of her pores and as if that’s a sin he might like to give a try. Not that she’d mention such a thing to Miss Mona or any other living soul, but it makes her mighty uncomfortable.
Do You Like Lacey?
That’s just some of the pre-writing I did to help Lacey spring to life in my imagination. Some of Lacey’s background made it into her book, The Blessed. Most of it didn’t. Lacey was a great character. Actually, it’s only because of her that I decided to do more Shaker stories after I’d written the first three. She just kept nudging me to tell her story. I hope if you’ve read The Blessed, you enjoyed getting to know Lacey and if you haven’t, that you might someday. Check your favorite e-book site or you can download The Blessed at the links below. Remember the price can change without notice so always double check they book is still at the low price before you hit the enter button.
Maybe next post, I’ll tell you why I titled the book The Blessed. Or maybe you’ve read the book and already know and you can tell me.
Is Lacey a character you would want to get to know better?