Sunday, August 24, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 13


For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.


The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter Thirteen

The throbbing pain in her head was what awakened Zara. Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt thick inside of it. She sat up with a start, uncertain of her surroundings for a moment.
As she gazed about the strange room and its rich furnishings she had the feeling she’d just awakened into a dream, rather than out of one. It was a beautiful room. Oak paneling lined the walls, and the arched windows were segmented into long rectangular spears with points at each end. The sunlight shining through them made a rainbow of color on the carpeting and the gray stone fireplace opposite the window. Rich velvet hangings of deep red with yellow tassels framed the window. There was a fire in the fireplace, giving the room a welcome feel.
How often as a child she imagined waking to such splendor instead of the small gypsy wagon that had been her only shelter. Zara often daydreamed about what her life would have been like had her mother and father married. Her father was a wealthy man, a lord, she’d been told. Her mother loved him, despite the contempt held for the man by the rest of the tribe. Had Christopher Jennings decided to claim her as his own Zara might have come to view such lush surroundings as her birthright instead of a fanciful daydream. Alas, Zara was a bastard child by English standards and the offspring of a Gadje from her tribe’s point of view. An outcast to both worlds as each would claim she belonged to the other one.
She sat up gingerly. Her backside was still tender from her unfortunate fall yesterday. Oh, she’d done it up right, hadn’t she? Breaking a limb? It was the worst of luck. Now she was stranded here and that was the last thing she needed. Zara wanted to be far from this place, far from the huntsmen and the hounds and far from the gloom of the abbey. Staying here alone through the winter had been her plan but staying in a house full of servants would not work; this she knew. She was afraid of being arrested for trespassing in some wealthy lord’s home, accused of stealing from him and then who knew what other crimes they might tack on just for good measure. And so she had packed her meager satchel and fled before daylight yestermorn.
That was a stupid move. She thought, fuming as she lifted the covers and examined the odd contraption shackling her wounded foot. She’d never seen the likes of it, although she understood its purpose; to keep her foot in one position until the bones mended. It was the same concept used to brace a broken arm; a sturdy board and linens kept the limb immobile until it healed. She’d watched her grandmother set broken arms more than once in the gypsy camp, after a scuffle with angry townsfolk.
“Ssss.” She hissed and sank back on the mattress. Trying to move the limb brought sharp pain. Her eyes blurred for a moment and then fuzzy white shapes danced before them. Nausea rose. For a moment she feared she might retch. Panting slightly, she rolled her lips together, and tried to sit up. This time, she managed but her face was dampened by sweat from her efforts and she felt as if she’d just tried to pull a wagon herself instead of the horse.     
The door opened, and the freckled face girl entered. “Oh Miss, you’re awake.” The girl hurried to her side. “I’m sorry I had to leave you for a short time to help Annie in the kitchen. Oh here, let me help you.”
Unaccustomed to kind solicitation on her behalf, Zara could only stare at the girl with amazement as that one plumped the pillows behind her so she could sit more comfortably.
“I’d ask how you are this morning but I can see you’re in a terrible way.” The girl went on.
“What is this place?” Zara asked, feeling shaky and spent from just the effort to sit up. “And what is your name?”
“I’m Maggie, Miss. I forgot, you was so worked up from pain and what with your head bleeding yesterday and all. I understand if you don’t remember much.” Maggie’s blue eyes seemed huge. They took up most of her thin, narrow, freckled face. “Mr. St. John, the man who owns the Abbey, found you injured in the woods yesterday and brought you here. I wager you remember the doctor trying to fix yer leg, given the pain it caused. Are you hungry, Miss?”
“No.” If anything, she felt sick in her belly not hungry. “Thank you.” She added, grateful for the kind concern of the girl. “I do need to use the privy chair. How am I to--?”
She gestured to her wounded leg.
“I’ll bring it to you.” Maggie bobbed a curtsy and quickly crossed the room to the odd chair with a pot beneath the seat that served the purpose of an indoor privy.
Zara watched as the girl dragged the privy chair to the bedside. The widow Kendall had used what she called a ‘chamber pot’ when the weather was bad or if she had to relieve herself in the night. Zara’s grandmother used a chamber pot in the wagon at night in her later years instead of going into the woods to relieve herself. Even so, after a lifetime of not needing the so called necessary chair, Zara couldn’t help seeing it as a curiosity.  The Gadjas certainly liked their comforts.
Scrawny little Maggie had managed to drag the heavy, carved chair over next to the bed. It was like an ancient throne, a pissing chair!  Zara giggled, amused by her thoughts as the girl helped her up out of the bed and held her firmly about the waist with both arms. Zara placed her arms about the girl’s slender shoulders and was careful not to put her weight on her injured foot. With Maggie’s aid, she turned about to sit on the Gadje throne.
“I’ll leave you for a moment.” Maggie said and did just that.
The girl discreetly knocked moments later and came in to help Zara back into bed.
Zara allowed the young girl to wash her face and hands and brush out her hair. Maggie braided it for her with nimble fingers, chattering all the while as she did so. By the time they were finished Zara was exhausted and ready for another nap. She lay back on the pillows, feeling like a queen as she surveyed her surroundings and watched the girl bustle about the room.
Another knock on the door. Maggie went to answer it. The girl’s features changed from pleasant to somber, so before she even opened up her mouth to address the visitor, Zara knew it was the lord of the manor.

The tall, lean figure stepped into the room, appearing somewhat hesitant to approach Zara.
That was an odd feeling, to have a Gadje—no, an English man—hesitant to approach someone as insignificant as her. His hands were clasped behind his back as he approached the bed. “Good morning, Miss Jennings.” He said in a deep, rich voice that resonated deep within her. “I trust you are as comfortable as possible, considering your injuries.”
Zara didn’t know what to say. She nodded, unable to take her eyes off the man. Handsome didn’t do the fellow justice, in her mind. He was absolutely beautiful, in the masculine way. Dark russet hair surrounded his head in a bounty of waves, a natural crown of burnished red and brown. His eyes were like smoky diamonds, glittering beneath the ash gray depths. And his complexion, for an Englishman, was darker, tawny rather than the usual pasty white pallor she was accustomed to in the upper classes that rarely spent time in the sunshine.
“You look well.” He commented, offering a frugal smile. She knew better, after Maggie’s comment and her own study of herself. He was generous, and very gallant, as they said.
“Thank you.” She offered, surprised by the strain evident in her voice. “You have been a most gracious host, St. John.”
He studied her carefully, his alluring eyes capturing her and holding her prisoner. What was he thinking? Could he be wondering who she was? Did he suspect she was lying about her origins?  Zara felt a slow burn of panic start simmering in her belly. She resented feeling so helpless, unable to direct her own destiny due to her inability to walk. She couldn’t just get up and flee the manor if he caught her out in her deception. She might be able to escape inside the house via the secret passages, but even there with her injured foot, she’d have to limp along the dark passages and that could be dangerous.
“Have you had anything to eat yet?” St. John asked, still scrutinizing her with severity. “Have you been given pain medicine today? Dr. Mulleins left a bottle of Laudanum to that end.”
“She’s not eaten yet, sir. She just woke up.” Maggie intruded, relieving Zara of the effort to need to speak. “I’ll go get something for you, Miss.” She bobbed a quick curtsy to the room at large and fled before anyone could stop her.
“Maggie---“  St. John called after the girl’s retreating form but it was too late, the girl was gone. “Well then,” he turned back to Zara. “I apologize, Miss Jennings. I have no wish to bring scandal on your head. Be assured, my staff, though small, is very loyal. There should be no gossip regarding our situation here. In fact, I’ve ordered my staff to keep your presence here a secret from the outside world. You are safe, Miss Jennings, entirely safe, I assure you.”
“What . . . what situation is that?” She managed to say with difficulty. Was the sun going behind the clouds or was it merely her perception that the room was getting dim. 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Read a Romance Month: August 2104

This month is Read a Romance Month.  I'm excited and I'll tell you why. I've been reading romances for many years. I started young, around 20 years of age. I was swept up in the grandeur of the historical romance genre. 

Back then, I read Georgette Heyer, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Jennifer Blake. Kathleen Woodiwiss was my all time favorite, because she gave me such rich stories of lovers in another time. I not only got swept up in the romance, but also in the historical backdrop, the time in history the story was set in. I loved that most of her stories were in the late 18th century or early 19th.

My favorite read in 1982

I devoured romances.  Why, because it spoke to my heart. Amid the dirty dishes, dirty diapers of not one but two babies, and the daily grind of making a living, I could escape for a few hours each night in a book, be swept away, as they say, to another world. 

It was glamorous to read about beautiful heroines marrying rich lords, having lovely gowns, and servants to clean the house and empty the chamber pot. What's more, the heroes always seemed to come to some realization about their relationship to the heroine in a way my own young husband---and yours, never would!  Romance gave me hope, hope that it all would work out in the end. Hope that romance can endure, and be rekindled . . .

I kept reading romances, through the years. I read contemporary, gothic, paranormal, but my favorite stories today, some thirty years later, remain as historcial romance.  I'm proud to say, "Yes, I do read those kind of books!" when people turn up their noses at 'just romance' and cite reading something more literary as their normal fair. Go for it, Literary is usually dry and boring, and most of it is just stuff we were forced to read in High School or College and is touted as 'classic'. I'll take passion, love, emotion, humor and drama any time. I'm enjoying myself, immensely. It used to be that one had to hide their taste for romances because those were considered so cheesy, so empty and silly. 

Well, then came Nora Roberts.  Betcha those people who scoff at the romance genre don't make as much as that author, and guess what, her bread and butter that made her millions is ROMANCE! Yes, she's got a ton of books out, and voracious readers. So, somebody's buying those things. Hey, I'm one of them.  Romance reader and proud, how about you? 

Romance gives us hope. It uplifts us. The story of two people coming togther against all odds, choosing each other despite the dictates of family, job social position or a nation's history  (read my post on this)  Can True Love Change History?  is inspiring.

Today, I still read romance the most. Once in a while I'll read the latest horror or a historical fiction story. I always return to romance, because there is just something about that Happily Ever After at the end fo the book that satisfies me. Sure there is conflict, but in the end, I know that all will be right with the world, at least in the book I'm reading. There's hope in that.

My favorite authors today are Lisa Kleypas---absolutely love her Wallflower Series, and Her Hathaway Series. In the Wallflowers, we meet four unwed women in the 1840's. There is Annabelle, an English woman with no dowry, Evie, an Englishwoman with a dowry and interfering relations and a speech impediment. Then there are the Bowman sisters, American girls from New York: Lillian and Daisy. These girls are all sitting on the sidelines of every ball, watching as other young women are chosen by dance partners. They are rivals, as most women are in this time period when husband hunting. Nevertheless, these witty, fun, exuberant girls form an alliance, and embrace the title Wallflowers as a sort of secret club. They plan to help each other, one by one, find husbands.  So, there are four books in the series, one about each woman's quest to marry and find happily ever after. But the most wonderul part of this is the friendship of the four women, and how in each story, we get to see the other girls, not just the one featured. There is also a bonus story, see left, a Christmas story where the now married ladies try to help the Bowman sister's brother, Rafe, find true love. Magical. I love these stories. Thank you Lisa Kleypas for creating these characters. For more info on this delicious series, see post A Wallflower Christmas

Elizabeth Hoyt is another favorite. Her Maiden Lane series set in the Georgian ere England, and her Prince series.
The Maiden Lane series gives us a historical glimpse of characters that are not all lords and ladies. It starts with the first book, poor siblings trying to hold together an orphanage in the Gin Lane section of London, (the Slum area) in the early 18th century. The siblings are carrying on their parent's tradition, but barely scrapping along. There are six books in the series. And the most interesting part is that this series has a mix of classes, the rich do marry the poor, and that gives us hope. It's not all snooty balls and grand ladies, there are gritty scenes of street violence that are historically accurate and bring a different vision of London in the 18th century, that of the common folk. Gin distilleries, river pirates, theives, and the like. But there is also romance, that special spark that makes two people of very diverse backgrounds fall in love and come together against all odds. Love triumphs in the end. That is what makes romance such an uplifting read.
For more on Elizabeth Hoyt and her unusal series, read my post An interview with Elizabeth Hoyt

  These books have given me hours and hours of entertainment, and the stories stay with me long after I've finished them. We come to love the characters. So, go ahead, read a romance! It's Read a Romance Month, and we, as men and women, thrive on romance. It's part of our emotional make up to seek out love, to pair off and become a couple.

Over the years, romance, historical romance, has affected me deeply. I credit Kathleen Woodiwiss with giving me the love for history I have today, and that love of history made me go to college as an adult and earn a degree in history. I love the romance genre. It's given me warm memories and happy moments through my life. Read a Romance, you just might find the world is a brighter place when you finish that love story! 

Here's another dirty little secret. I not only read romance novels, I've dedicated my life to writing them!  Yes, I'm a historical romance author and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and WisRWA, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. If you are an a romance author seeking other writers to connect with, I highly suggest joining these writing groups.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Serialized Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse continued

For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.

St. John realizes he may not be the only werewolf in the neighborhood. Did he kill his wife, or did someone else. Those questions, however, will wait to be answered, as he decideds to take matters into his own hands to protect the girl who might just be his salvation. Is Zara the gypsy girl who can free Stephan St. John from The Gypsy's Curse?

Copyright Lily Silver, 2013

“Yes, I’ve considered the same thing.” Stephan acknowledged. Those suffering from the curse healed incredibly fast, so fast that they could be near death at one point, even appear dead, and be fully regenerated within hours, appearing to have no wounds whatsoever.
“Well, then. Why is this gypsy girl being accused of the crime?” Brisbane asked the obvious. “Seems damned unfair to damn a wee girl for such an atrocity when the curse was wrought over wrongs done to another gypsy lass. And those people over in Lexford Woods, they’re stirred up, wanting blood for blood, some wanting to burn her at the stake.”
“Yes, you do have a point, my good man.” Stephan pondered his valet’s keen observation. It was a very good point. A brutal twist of fate. “The prejudice against the Romany has existed for centuries. One cannot undo the superstitions of the uneducated in one lifetime. Still, they seem far too eager to damn the woman and exonerate the man found on the scene. Jasper Leeds?” Stephan murmured the name given him by the magistrate to himself. He sighed, rubbed his side where the wound he’d garnered last week still ached. He’d been cut deeply, nearly eviscerated by malicious claws. His speed in healing was all that saved him, of that he was certain.
“Do you believe this Miss Jennings is the gypsy girl they speak of, sir?”
Stephan didn’t answer at first. He pondered the possibility. It seemed a coincidence that a girl closely matching the description of the wanted woman had appeared practically on his doorstep. She claimed to be from the Indies. She could very well be, but . . . then again? There was something about her. A sad sense of resignation, a startling vulnerability that touched him in a way he couldn’t explain. He wanted to protect her. He needed to. It was as if their destinies--their very souls--were linked by some invisible force.
“I am not certain, Brisbane.” He answered at length. “If so, it hardly matters. I know and you know she was incapable of committing such an atrocity. If she wants to present herself to the world as Miss Sarah Jennings, we will not interfere. We will protect her, and support her in her disguise--if it is indeed a disguise. She was fleeing something. At first I thought it the nefarious uncle she alluded to when I found her. She is a female, alone and unprotected in this region. I will not throw her to mob. The curse of my ancestor compels me to protect her if she is of gypsy blood and hopefully, in doing so I can free myself of this nightmare existence.”
Brisbane nodded. His look said it all. He understood Stephan’s reasoning. If this woman was of gypsy blood then she might hold the key to setting Stephan free. And if so, it behooved them to protect her from the cruel mob who would pin the murder of an old woman on her merely because she was of gypsy descent.
“I’m going on the hunt.” Stephan announced. His blood would not be satisfied with reason. It would not cool under his intellectual assessments or his pledge to protect the innocent maid who had tumbled into his midst. Instead, his blood boiled and seethed, calling for something much more primitive than the logical arguments of the lawyer inside of him.
“Sir, do you intend to transform at will?”
“Yes. I need to hunt. If I don’t release the beast willingly the rage will overwhelm me when I least expect it and the beast will overpower me anyway. I’ll be back by dawn.”

The body was like the others.
Lord Graham stood over the mutilated mess that was once Dr. Mulleins, nauseated beyond his worst nightmare. This time, he made himself come to have a look instead of allowing the constable and his henchmen bring him a report. He felt ashamed after talking to St. John over in Westmoorland, ashamed of his eagerness to believe the uneducated masses regarding the killings. Superstition and myth, St. John had claimed, making it seem that the grisly murders were more exaggeration than anything.
Gagging, he placed a handkerchief over his face and and turned away from the pile of entrails strewn over the ground around the poor wretch. Dr. Mulleins was found alone in the woods by a farmer on the way to the village. His body was clawed and ripped open like a stuffed Christmas goose. The doctor had been called late to the cottage two miles out of town to help with a birth that had gone awry. The woman died, but the babe survived, so Graham had been told. Little comfort, with the town’s oldest and most venerated physician now a distant memory.
“My lord?” The blacksmith stepped close to the scene on light feet, a task Lord Graham would never have believed the burly man capable of. And yet, like the others, the blacksmith was afraid to come to close to the victim, lest he somehow incur the wrath of the creature that roamed these woods and took sport in hunting human prey. “Are you well, sir?”
“Mmmm-huh.” Graham murmured, turning away from the body with his hand, and the cloth pressed tight over his mouth and nose--the better to conquer the urge to retch in front of the others.
“Can we take the doctor’s body back to the village?” The blacksmith persisted. “Are you finished with the examination?”
Graham bobbed his head curtly and stepped through the layer of crisp, dried leaves. He held his breath as he moved across the crunching ground, praying he would make it to the road, where the air was sure to be less rank. He reached the dirt road and kept his back turned on the grisly scene, the better to regain control of his stomach. Exhaling in a spray of ghostly white breath, he gasped at the taste of fresh, clean November air filling his starved lungs.
The wagon was loaded with the deceased man. A tarp was hastily thrown over the body to hide the violence and gore from the women folk once they reached the village. For if anything was a certainty it was that the women would all stand around and gawk, waiting for the wagon to return with the dead man like a flock of restless crows. It was better to keep them ignorant of the truth for as long as possible. There was a killer in their midst. A cold blooded killer, but whether the guilty party was of human or animal origin was still to be determined.
St. John’s sarcastic jests echoed in his mind as he stood watching the cart bearing the dead man slowly plod down the tree lined road. The leaves had long since fallen from the trees. The stark black twisted branches reached up into the steel gray sky like the bent and crooked fingers of a wraith. The wind shuffled about him, disturbing the crisp brown leaves at long the road, reminding Lord Graham that death stalked these woods in the night. Death that defied all such jests from outsiders like St. John who clung to logic despite the old legends.
Each clop of the horse’s hooves could be heard for miles in the cold, stark landscape beneath the towering Fells of the Lake District. The valleys and the hills would make it easy for a rogue wolf or a rabid bear to hide during the day. The attacks, three of them now, seemed to happen in the darkness. And this land was so rugged it hardly made sense to set out a search party to find the beast. Lord Graham had no doubt this time, it wasn’t a gypsy girl who did this, no, it was some frenzied creature; but how did one arrest a myth or execute a legend?
As a representative of the law in these parts, he had a duty to maintain order, to assure the cottagers and simple townsfolk that evil could be punished, that there were no monsters waiting for them in the darkness. And yet, there were monsters. And it would soon be getting dark. 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2013