Sunday, January 31, 2010

Excerpt from "Indian Summer"

Set in 1739, "Indian Summer" explores the moral standards of the times. Young ladies were not allowed to be in the company of a man unless chaperoned. It was rare that a courting couple had any privacy. Girls especially were sheltered, and didn't know anything about making love until their wedding nights. In this scene, Gabriella asks her fiance, Manuel, some questions that have been troubling her.

Manuel could tell there was something on my mind, but he waited for me to bring it up in my own time. Instead he told me an amusing story of something that happened when he was a child. I don't remember what it was. I wasn't really paying attention, but trying to formulate my question. He reached the end of his story and chuckled, noticing I wasn't joining in.

"Gabriella."

His tone brought me out of my thoughts and I focused on him. He pointed between my eyes.

"The crinkle is back and the lips."

He made the exaggerated face as he had done before, but this time I didn't laugh. He lifted my chin with his finger.

"Talk to me, my sweet. You've something very important to ask and you don't know how. Shall I guess?"

I shrugged slightly, nodding, unable to look him in the eye. I could feel a lump growing in my throat and the tears burned in the corners of my eyes.

"This came upon you when I spoke to your brother, so I think I know what it deals with."

I blushed deeply, not looking him in the eyes.

"And if I know how your mind works and I think I do by now, you want to know if I'm as innocent of this union as you are."

He looked me in the eyes a moment. I blushed even more deeply and started to cry. He moved away from me a step or two, glancing at my father, turning back to me. He looked down and then back up, biting his lower lip as he always did when he was concentrating deeply on a subject.

"Do you want a pleasant lie to soothe you, or do you want the truth?" He handed me his handkerchief.

I took a shuddering breath. "The truth, please. I don't want there ever to be lies between us. I think I know the answer and I'll not be angry with you."

He wouldn't look at me. He gazed at the moon rising full and white above our heads. I knew what his answer would be, but I wanted to hear it from him. I hoped I would hold to my word and not be angry with him. My chest hurt with love and fear and unshed tears. I could hardly breathe while I waited.

He gazed upon a distant star, speaking so softly I could hardly hear him. It was if the night lost its sounds, his voice became crystal clear, all I could hear.

"I'm not innocent as you are, no, Mi Cariña. I've known the pleasures of the flesh. I have, in many ways, led a very bad life until now. I've over indulged in women, drink, gambling and other things I would rather forget. Perhaps it was being on my own here. I went a little wild." He stopped, facing me squarely this time.

"I promise you, however, since first I began to court you, there has been no one else in my life." He looked mortified by his confession. "But since your illness, when I thought I would lose you, I've not gambled and I've had wine only with my meals. I'm trying to be the man you deserve, Sweet Gabriella."

I held out both hands to him. He came toward me and took them in his own. "And what makes you think you aren't already?"

His smile was tinged with sadness. "You deserve a man who is true to you, not one who used to look at any woman he met as an object for his use. I fear, at one time in my youth, that's all I ever considered a woman to be."

I hugged him as if my life depended upon it. I didn't want a kiss, not then. All I wanted was to feel his arms around me, holding me, promising me his heart, his strength, his trust. I whispered into his chest.

"I love you so."

He stroked my hair and held me close. It was not like sometimes, that burning, aching feeling. I felt whole, complete, as if half of me had been missing for years and I hadn't known.

"I love you more than words can ever tell, Gabriella."

"And I love you with all my heart."

I don't know how long we stood there, I didn't care. All I wanted was for him to hold me. He spoke quietly to me again.

"So, do you forgive me my transgressions?"

I looked up at him with tears in my eyes. "Whatever transgressions you may have committed, that's between you and God. That you love me and you've honored me with the truth, that's enough. But if you must have my forgiveness, then I give it to you freely."

He held me away from him, gazing at me. A look of wonder filled his handsome face. "You're an incredible woman, do you know that? I've wanted to tell you this for so long, but didn't know how. We've had so little time alone. I thank God for providing this opportunity to us." He embraced me again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Exerpt from "Indian Summer"

My first novel, "Indian Summer", is an historical adventure/ romance. The main character, Gabriella Deza, tells her own story in her own voice. Though I experimented with other approaches, first person won out. Gabriella insisted upon being heard. The following is the first few pages of "Indian Summer"


The first rays of sun rose above the ocean, setting the waves afire. I gazed out my window, watching the town of St. Augustine awake. Sounds from the kitchen below blended with the calling of the men on the docks and the soldiers at the fort.

Tradesmen opened shops as women called to one another from their houses. Carpenters and stonecutters continued repairing the walls and buildings after the latest British attack. Seagulls called raucously along the shore waiting for whatever scraps got thrown to them, fighting over the merest, insignificant crumb. All these were comfortable sounds, mingling together into a familiar morning melody.

As my bedroom faces the ocean and hence the rising sun, I wake early, before any of my family, enjoying these last quiet moments. Yawning and stretching deliciously, I dressed and sat at my desk to compose a letter to my grandmother in England. I had not written anything but the date, 15 February, 1739, when the door to my room flew back connecting sharply with the wall, thus announcing the arrival of my little brother, the pest.

"Gabriella, play with me!" Marcos stood in the doorway of my room, play swords in hand, a look of petulant defiance on his face.

"Not now, Marcos," I replied, looking up from my desk. "I'm writing a letter. Swords are a boy's game. Go ask Tomas to play."

"No! I demand you play with me!" He yelled, stamping his little foot. "You will! Mamá!"

"All right, you spiteful, little wretch! I'll play with you for five minutes."

I played swords with him. The five minutes turned into thirty. The thirty turned into five and forty. I tried to be patient until he smacked me once too often with his sword because I wouldn't die every time he stabbed me. He set up a howling and wailing, bringing his nurse, his mother and finally Papa!

I knew I would be on dreadfully thin ice with Papa, but I found tears generally to be effective against him. My Grandmama Griffin always said, "When you need the upper hand over a man, cry. He'll give you anything if only you will cease!"

I burst into sudden, vehement tears. "Oh, Papa!" I cried before Marcos could speak. "Marcos hit me with his sword and he hurt me!"

This actually was the truth. I had a lump or two and bruises all over to prove it. I never lied outright to Papa. As a result, my father always believed me.

"Let me see, Bella."

He used his pet name for me, a good sign. I showed him the scarlet welt on my arm and the bruise growing on my shin.

Papa pressed gently on my arm. Although it didn't hurt badly, it was tender, so I cried bitterly, fresh tears splashing on his hands. He wore his concerned face. Raising his spectacles from his nose, he ruffled his thinning dark hair with his free hand. Sighing deeply, he straightened slowly.

"Marcos, come here." My brother hung back, afraid of Papa's tone of voice. "Marcos, come forward when I speak!"

Marcos looked at his mother, finding no help, he stepped forward, terrified.

"A gentleman doesn't hurt a lady. Do you understand?"

Marcos nodded, his lip trembling with suppressed tears. He bit his lip to keep from crying.

"You've hurt your sister, and she's a lady. You will apologize to her. If you want to play hard, you call Tomas or one of the other boys."

Marcos nodded again. Papa hugged him until he
stopped crying and spoke softly to him.

"Now, my son, you tell Bella how sorry you are that you hurt her and you promise it won't happen again."

Marcos snuffled twice, wiped his little, cherry red nose on Papa's proffered handkerchief and came over to me. He put his chubby little arms around my neck giving me a damp kiss.

"I'm ever so sorry I hurt you, Bella. I won't ever do it again, I promise!"

I hugged him close to me. Sometimes the insufferable little beast can be sweet. "I forgive you, Marcos. I know you will be more careful."

He went off for breakfast with his mother and nurse. Papa lingered as I went back to my desk.

"To whom are you writing, Bella?" He asked almost too casually.

"To Grandmama in London, Papa. I received a letter a few days ago."

He spoke in a casual way, which he often used to convey his deep concern. "What have you told her?"

I replied in all honesty. "I'm telling her about the picnic I had with Rosa and Melina."

I was bursting into an animated account when my father's preoccupied silence stopped me. The lack of my prattling roused him.

"I apologize, Bella."

A long pause followed. When he spoke again, he seemed tired and worried.

"It's hard for your stepmother here, Bella. She isn't strong, much as your little mother, God rest her. She suffers much from the climate. I'm taking her to her father's home in Jamaica for a few weeks. Perhaps she'll find it more suitable. At any rate, a sea voyage will do her good." He turned from me slightly. "I need to know that Marcos won't come to any harm while we are away." He paused again, awaiting a reply.

"Yes, Papa." I spoke with hesitation, not yet able to read my father's intentions.

"I know you girls don't like him very much, and perhaps that's my fault. An old man having a son after so many years, I indulge him. I'm asking you to care for him while we are away. Can you do that for me, Bella?" He turned worried, red rimmed eyes to me, his look imploring.

"I'll take great care of Marcos for you." How could I refuse?

"That's my angel!" His smile was broad, but tears crowded his eyes. "Bella, I'm almost afraid your stepmother will die in Jamaica. You may have found her difficult the last few years. But I know you've never wished nor treated her ill." He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I do love her so, Bella. The idea of losing her is just too much for me!" He began to cry.

"Oh, Papa!" I rushed to him, my arms around his neck. "You mustn't worry over anything, Papa. I'll take care of Marcos for you. But please, don't believe that Clara will die! Each day you must pray to our Blessed Mother for her son Jesus to heal Clara and make her well. Marcos and I will say a Rosary for her every day. I promise."

His tears subsided and I felt him relax. He even smiled slightly, ruffling my hair.
"You know, Bella, after my mother and yours died so close together, I lost faith in God and I didn't know why He punished me. When I met Clara, I knew I had been blessed with a second chance. I know now the Father wouldn't give me a second chance, only to steal it away. Thank you, Bella."

My father and stepmother left on the early tide the next morning. We stood on the dock, waving to them until their ship was out of sight. As it was a beautiful morning, Marcos and I went for a walk along the river, admiring the boats in the harbor and counting seagulls. That game lasted until Marcos tired of it and ran at the gulls, startling them into flight. Laughing and roaring, he ran after the frightened birds. They performed amazing antics trying to get away from the child. I watched with glee, holding my sides as the stays of my corset bit into my ribs.

Tempted beyond my ability to resist, I joined Marcos in his little game. I'm sure the townsfolk thought Governor Deza's two youngest children had completely lost their minds, but they ignored us. Giggling and breathless, we went back to the house, crossing the plaza by the market. The time with Marcos suddenly did not look quite so bleak.

I awoke one morning some weeks later, to find the house in a flurry of activity. The servants busily prepared for guests. Before leaving, Papa gave my sisters permission to have a party. I was too young to attend, but I always managed to stay up late and watch the ladies in their beautiful dresses and the young officers from the fort dancing. Soon I would be allowed to join them as my fifteenth birthday was in May.

That night, I watched the guests arrive. Among them, I saw Manuel Enriques, our father's aide-du-camp. Always a favorite with the ladies, he cut a rakish figure in his snug britches and close fitting jacket. His dark eyes were rimmed with black lashes. They smoldered like embers in his disarmingly handsome face. His long, wavy, dark hair was tied back with a ribbon that matched his coat. He danced with many ladies, favoring none and always seemed to be aware of the eyes upon him, for he moved with a grace few other men could muster.

I found myself watching him closely, not wanting to take my eyes from him. I think he sensed my perusal, because from time to time he glanced around as if looking for someone. Once or twice I thought he might have spotted me, but I ducked below the level of the window before he looked directly at me.

I noticed Irena was taking nearly every dance with
the same gentleman. He limped slightly when he walked, otherwise performed admirably on the dance floor. Irena had eyes only for him and he for her. I wondered who he was and determined to ask her the next day.

I remained in my hiding place until Ana, our housekeeper, bustled me off to bed, scolding dreadfully. Ana loves to fuss. I often think she isn't happy unless she's catching Marcos or me doing something she can scold us over.

The music and chatter kept me awake for some time as I imagined myself in a beautiful dress, on the arm of a handsome man. Closing my eyes, I could see Manuel's sharply chiseled profile. With this image in my mind, I fell into a happy slumber.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Excerpt from "Monica"

Monica Divine doesn't know what she wants out of life. She knows what she doesn't want, the life she's got. Her mother is a basket case who drove Monica's father away when she was a child. The only stable element in her life is her friend Billy. He's always been there to pick up the pieces. She considers him her best friend and it's never occurred to her that he ever be anything more. That is, not until she's nearly mugged and robbed trying to make a bank deposit for Billy's business. His concern is more than just friendly. Since Monica (or as Billy calls her, Red) is too wound up in her own woes to notice, he decides to make his position completely clear.

"What do you want me to say?"

"It's not what I want you to say. What do you want to say? What do you feel? Am I talking to myself?"

"I don't know what you want."

"What I want is to be the guy everyone thinks I am. I want to be your boyfriend. No, scratch that. I want to be your lover, Red. In fact, I want to be your husband. I love you and I want to marry you. I have for so long I can't even remember a time I didn't. You know why I didn't go to my senior prom?"

She shook her head.

"Because you couldn't go with me. You went with that jerk, what's his name?"

"Matt."

"Yeah. The guy who dumped you at the prom cause you wouldn't fuck him."

"I remember. I was there, you weren't."

"But who came and got you? Who held you and let you cry? Who wiped the tears and made a little of the hurt go away?"

"You did."

"Right the first time. Who's always there? Who always helps you put it back together and move on?"

"You do, Bill."

"I'm just asking for a shot, Red. I just want a chance for you to look at me and see who I am. I want to kiss you and have your knees go to jelly. I want to be the first man to make love to you and show you that there's one man in his world who can love you like you need. I am that man, Monica."

Monica blinked hard against the non-stop tears. Her eyes were itching and her head ached, but she had to give him an answer. Deep in her heart, she knew he was right. He always was where she was concerned. What could it hurt to give him what he asked? He always gave her whatever she asked of him and never demanded anything in return.

"Okay," she said, finding a smile under all the tears. "Okay, Bill."

"Okay, what?"

"You have your shot. You have your chance to prove to me that you're my man."

He laughed suddenly, a huge grin wreathing his features. "You're kidding, right? You really mean it?"

"Yeah," she smiled, wiping his tears. "I really mean it. You know me, I'm a flake. But if you can put up with me, you must see something that no one else does."

"Thank you. I won't let you down, Red."

"You never have before, Bill."

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Night Out With Friends

I don't remember exactly what inspired this scene. It might have been when I was trying to work my way through a plot. It took on a life of its own, which is what I always want my writing to do.

Half a dozen people sat around a green, cloth covered table playing cards. One of the women squinted past the smoke spiraling ceiling ward from the stub of a cigarette dangling from red painted lips.

"I have to kill her off," she tossed down a queen of hearts.

A bearded man picked it up, discarding a one eyed jack. "Why? Did she piss you off"

The others chuckled lightly as the game progressed.

"She's a nuisance. No one likes her."

Six heads bobbed in unison.

"So, how did you figure to do it?" A well dressed, handsome man said quietly.

"Stabbing," the woman replied, grinding the cigarette out.

"Stabbing's messy." A red haired woman wrinkled her nose.

"She's right," the well dressed man agreed.

"Is it premeditated or a crime of passion?" The bearded man wanted to know.

"Oh, it will be very well planned ahead of time."

"Knives are for crimes of passion," the well dressed man interjected.

"Shoot her," the redhead contributed.

"Then I have to dispose of the weapon. And the powder residue - dead giveaway."

"Do you want it to look like a murder?" A pretty blonde next to the redhead said.

"What do you mean?" The smoking woman lit another cigarette, inhaling deeply.

"Well, some contract killers use drugs to make it look like a heart attack. No one knows the difference. It's the same drug they give you when they work on you at the hospital, so it doesn't show up on a tox screen."

"What's the drug?"

"I don't remember. I saw it on TV."

"Hmm, have to research that."

"Set her house on fire," the bearded man said calmly.

"That doesn't look accidental."

"It does if she smokes in bed."

"Quit twenty years ago."

"Drunk driver killed in fatal crash," a dark haired man said enthusiastically, holding up his hands as if announcing a newspaper headline. Everyone groaned.

"Dammit, Barry! I just saw your hand," the bearded man complained.

They tossed in the cards.

"You never answered me," Barry reminded the smoker as she lit another cigarette.

"Quit smoking and drinking when her dad died."

"Does she have any vices?" The redhead looked alarmed.

"None."

"Why kill her off?" The bearded man asked.

"She's too damn nice!"

"An old lover returns, stabs her in the back for jilting him." Barry said.

"It's not a crime of passion."

"It's metaphorical. She stabbed him, so he's returning the favor."

"No, I don't think that would work, but it's an idea."

"How about a fatal fall?" The well dressed man asked. "Does she frequent tall buildings?"

The smoker shook her head. "Afraid of heights. I'm still liking the poison heart attack."

"Lots of research," the bearded man said. "How soon did you want to do it?"

"Sometime this week."

"Once she's dead, won't you have to solve it?" Asked the blonde.

"I hadn't thought of that."

"Tragic suicide," Barry said. "She leaves a pathetic suicide note. Badabing, wrapped up nice and neat."

The cigarette smoking woman stared at him in wonder. "You know, that might work!"

The others added to the idea, brainstorming incidents with enough tragedy for a soap opera. The table and people faded as the woman set down her cigarette. She was alone in her office, computer screen flickering gently in the half light. With renewed vigor, she hammered at the keys, putting her ideas down while they were still fresh. She finished the chapter with a smile, patting the screen fondly.

"Thank you," she said to her characters. Thanks to all of you."

I Love Dialogue from The Maker by Dellani

"If we agree," Wil stood looking at the far wall, not at his wife or the Sentience. "What guarantee do I have that they wo...