;Got Gothic? I do. I have loved Gothic romance stories since I was a teen. I loved the old Dracula movies, and I fell in love with Louis in Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
I'm currently completing my own Gothic Romance featuring a feisty Gothic Photographer and a Vampire. It's been fun, and challenging.
Here is an excerpt from my upcoming release: Strictly Gothic, Copyright Lily Silver 2017
Light was slowly being devoured by the encroaching shadows.
It was Serena’s favorite time of day: twilight. A time for reflection and renewal as the last few rays of sunlight gasped and sputtered beneath the ominous grip of the night.
Serena leaned against the red jeep parked on the cracked tar road in the remote Louisiana woods. She inhaled the crisp October air, reveling in the cool caress of night as it filled her lungs. Twilight whispered seductive promises as scant tendrils of mist curled around the rows of ancient stones.
The moon was rising over the trees. The moon made Serena feel energized, empowered. She was almost finished with her three month shoot of abandoned cemeteries in the Old South. And then she would have to come up with a new subject capture with her camera.
She surveyed the eerie landscape, searching for anything unusual in the historic site. Hallowed Horror, her most recent body of work, received awards and ecstatic reviews in the art world after the exhibition last Halloween. Gothic imagery was in her blood and it showed in her portfolio. Serena couldn’t do warm, fuzzy and sunny if her life depended on it. For her life was all about danger, seduction, and intrigue.
It paid well. In college as a photography undergrad, Serena quickly learned that safe, warm fuzzy pictures didn’t gain photographers entrance into the elusive, high paying and ultra-critical art world. Oh, cute babies and smiling brides could land a girl a job in a local portrait studio, but it didn’t win you invitations to exhibit your body of work at the Chicago Art Institute.
The other alternative, magazine photography was equally unappealing. The thought of cranking out thousands of images of smiling people in restaurants, in parks, or in business suits posed in corporate situations in order to fulfill an assignment turned her stomach. Mind-numbing. She had enough of that scene in college while working as the staff photographer for the university newspaper. It was the same dreck every week. The faces might change, but the assignments were so much dead wood.
Dead. Now there was something she could get excited about. Death seduced her.
And that was how she’d found her muse. In today’s art market, images had to be edgy, scintillating, and different to gain recognition. It was how Serena’s photography studio, Strictly Gothic, had gained her a solid reputation as a Gothic photographer.
“Where do you want the Strobes?” Damien, her apprentice, asked.
Serena scanned the grey surroundings. The flash strobes needed to be positioned off camera but the cables to the light sources needed to be close enough to her during the shoot so she could tweak the metered settings if needed. It wasn’t something she could leave to an assistant as the fine balance of light and dark that could only be achieved through intuition. Her eyes came to rest on the sunken, moss encrusted low stone wall three feet to the left of her tripod. “Over there, prop the case against that wall, with the strobe control console opened for easy access.”
Damien hefted the heavy strobe light on his muscular shoulders and hurried to do her bidding. Not too hard on the eyes, she thought, watching as Damien meandered around the scattered gravestones to the wall she’d indicated. Too bad Damien was just a kid. He was barely twenty, with a mop of spiky black hair and a dog collar on his neck. He wore black eyeliner around his chocolate warm eyes. He had a ring in his lip and a stud in his nose. Serena didn’t mind body piercings, but she drew the line at mouth hardware. Definitely a turn off.
Damien was an undergrad student who signed on to be her personal assistant for the fall semester. An exuberant Goth, but a kid just the same, much as the sweet boy tried to insinuate he’d not mind assisting her in other ways. She agreed to take him under her wing as a favor to Sarah, her mentor. Sarah had been instrumental in helping Serena launch her photography career. At twenty eight, Serena hardly found such spring pups intriguing. The sun had fled the darkening landscape. Serena pulled herself from the Jeep Cherokee she’d been leaning against and took position in front of the tripod holding her Leica. She removed the lens cap and surveyed the eerie scene unfolding before her. Perfect. The light of the moon caressed the glistening white stones as the luminous orb rose in the black velvet sky. The full moon would give just enough light to illuminate the sinister image on silver gel.
She would shoot a few preliminary shots with her digital camera as she waited for the moon to rise to that exact point she wanted to capture in black and white film. The mausoleum was breathtaking, framed by twisted, angst ridden angels poised on either side of the arched entrance. The green tile roof reaching up to the sky had a European feel. Resting atop the roof was a medieval spire. Whoever built this had been old world, probably eastern European.
She’d been shocked to discover a Gothic revival mausoleum existed in America. Gothic revival architecture had been all the rage in England during the latter years of the eighteenth century and for a couple of decades into the nineteenth. It was a period that spawned Mary Shelly, the creator of Frankenstein and Ann Radcliffe, the first woman writers to embrace the Gothic romance genre and make it popular two centuries before Anne Rice.
In America during that same period, men were fighting to gain a nation’s independence, not building romantic monuments to a by-gone era in history.
Snap, click. Serena came to life. The lens was her only reality as she moved between the three tripods set up in a semi-circle at strategic places near the tomb and captured the swiftly changing scene. The fog was thickening, winding sultry fingers about the angel’s bare feet, along the stone path leading to her center tripod holding the expensive Leica.
Serena froze, her finger posed over the shutter cable. Was that a figure lingering beneath the tree behind the mausoleum? Click—click—click—click. Full landscape shot, including the lonely tree. She moved swiftly to the next camera, another film camera, her backup and turned the lens toward the tree. Click—click-click. She adjusted the focus of the zoom lens and shot several more close ups in quick succession.
The tall, lean figure lingered before her eyes, and then it was suddenly gone.
She’d caught a few spirits over the years without intending to. She wasn’t aware of them when she took the shots but once she developed the film, she’d find a shadow that had an eerie resemblance to a human being in the frame. Ghosts weren’t transparent white fog, like in the movies. They were like black shadows, dark impressions on an otherwise normal film negative or digital capture. This one had been a man, a cloaked figure leaning against the tree. Serena would swear it was the same spirit who had been following her for weeks, appearing in various cemeteries where she shot her images.
Serena frowned as she looked through the viewfinder. Sure enough, he was gone.