Friday, May 22, 2015

WHITE MAGIC ~ excerpt

And to follow RED MAGIC and BLACK MAGIC is WHITE MAGIC, which is still in progress.

The MAGIC COLOURS series will highlight a different sort of "magic" in each story. In WHITE MAGIC, we'll hear from young teen Charlize von Hagen, who is taken from Austria to England when her mother, Mina, who is Goran's twin, marries an English gentleman.
Red Magic
"My name is Charlize von Hagen. I live in England now. Sometimes I miss Austria where I went between two big houses. The first house was really Grandma’s, down in the green valley of the River Inn. The other, my favorite, was on the high mountain manor of Heldenberg.


We left because my mother got married. Lord Thomas is a nice man, an English gentleman, and because Mama wasn’t married before he came along, she was happier afterward because she was almost respectable again. You see, all her friends had turned against her when she had a baby - me - before she had a ring.


I was happy too, when she married Lord Thomas. At first, mostly because she was happy with him and then because I learned he understood me. He still does, although he sometimes also says I’m ‘wayward’ and that most people would have me beaten with a strap every day in hope it would make me act like a lady and not a “like a two-legged mastiff puppy.” He doesn’t spank anymore, although he did sometimes when I was younger. He hit especially hard the time I was playing with Mama’s spaniels and we ran into the maid so that she dropped and broke a very fine tea set. Mama says he doesn’t beat me because I act better now and because I am older and because he is a kind person. Besides, he thinks I can’t help myself because I am a little bit mad.




This is not rude of him. I am a little mad, because I see things and hear things that other people do not. I get scared sometimes about what I see and what I hear, those things that others can’t.  What’s scariest of all is when I try to escape from all of that and then realize I can’t, because the things I’m most scared of are “in my head” and part of me. That’s what Thomas, who is a doctor, understood about me. He said that it sometimes happened to him, too, after he’d spent years and years in the dreadful wars and 'seen too many terrible things'. 

He and my Mama, too, appreciate what I feel, but I don’t make them happy when I panic. My fear scares them as much as it scares me.


English people just say it’s all “Germany” where we are from, but that’s only the language. We are not Germans, anyway, my mother says, but Austrians, and so that makes us more refined. We  have an Emperor. All the Germans have is a lot of little bitty countries like Saxony,  Westfalia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hesse, Wurttemberg, Schleswig-Holstein, and also some cities that are ruled by archbishops. The land of the German-speakers is a patchwork.


My mother is very beautiful, a twin, and born into an old and noble Austrian family.... 
My baby nurse, Trudchen, remained at Heldenberg with my Aunt Birgit, who is like a sister to me because we were only born a week apart.  At first I really missed her terribly and cried whenever I thought about her. My Mama had taken care of both of us after my grandmother was killed in the great avalanche, the one which came during the year with no summer. Uncle Goran, Mama’s twin, still lives on the mountain. He stays there all the time now, although he too was once a handsome, brave soldier, in the wars with Napoleon for years and years, just like Lord Thomas.


But Uncle Goran has changed.
Black Magic


It’s not his fault, but now he’s Krampus sometimes and a stag sometimes. Mama says he can be any kind of animal he wants, or bits and pieces of several, all stuck together. Thomas says that’s what the ancient Greeks called a chimera. But Uncle Goran’s other selves are a black secret.



I’m really not supposed to talk about any of it. Sometimes, though, if I want to sound crazy to someone I don’t like, I talk about it anyway...

~~ Juliet Waldron
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Friday, May 15, 2015



To follow last week's excerpt from RED MAGIC, here's something from the sequel, BLACK MAGIC, a shape-shifter adventure, in the MAGIC COLOURS series.

Goran, a newborn at the end of RED MAGIC, is now a man grown, confronting a dangerous adversary, an sinister, predatory neighbor.


            Goran rode to the Raptor’s Nest like a mad man. Bem struggled to keep up. About a half mile from the place, in the hollow below the rise from which he and Thomas had surveyed the house just two weeks past, he drew up.

            “My Lord?” Bem, when he arrived, shouted over the blowing of his horse and the restless stamping of Turk.

            “I want you to take Turk and then ride like a wind out of hell back to Heldenberg House.”


            “Yes. You don’t need to be here. It’s going to be dangerous—more than you know.”

            “I’m your man, sir! I belong at your side.”

            “If I can’t deal with this by myself—you won’t be able to do much besides accompany me to death’s door. I want you safe and at the house, because someone will have to account for all this to my sister and to Lord Thomas. If I don’t return—everyone must clear out of there at once.”

            “I won’t be able to account for anything if I’m not present.”

            Scowling, Goran swung down. He handed Turk’s reins up to Bem.

            “Damn you! Do as I say! If the Count’s as powerful as I fear, he already knows we’re here.”
            “I swore to your sister I’d stick with you.”

            “Bem! Obey me!”

            Bem could only stare, for as he spoke, Goran’s long proud face started to flow. Horns white as bone, emerged from his high forehead. As the change began, both horses snorted, reared, and then plunged away from the fearsome chimera now taking shape.




            Bem was gone, clinging to his horse’s mane for dear life, now gone out of sight over the ridge. Turk had high-tailed away it even faster. Goran had stood and watched them go, sending feathers of terror to chase after them. He wanted to be certain that all were well away from The Raptor’s Nest before he entered. 


            No reason for any more deaths, except, perhaps, for mine, which is, the last ten years considered--probably overdue.


            For some reason, the thought calmed him. He could feel the horns retracting, his jaw and teeth returning to normal size. He had swollen inside his clothes and burst a button here and there, but after a few minutes, he was simply a man again, a gentleman in an old riding coat.


            It was as Goran von Hagen that he would enter the Count’s home.


            The Count probably realized that his new neighbor was more than he seemed, but there was no need to show it immediately. The Count liked games, liked to play with his victims before he killed!


            Well, Goran thought, two monsters can play at this game...

~~Juliet Waldron
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Friday, May 8, 2015

RED MAGIC ~ excerpt ~

Christoph's estate had the same name as the looming mountain upon whose shoulders it sat:  Heldenberg.  The surroundings were wild and the nearest town, the tiny village of Heldenruhe, was about seven miles away. 

          As the time of Cat's departure grew closer, Lady van Velsen seemed increasingly apprehensive.  She fussed and fussed over her daughter, insisting that she spend her days overlooking housekeeping in every detail, from kitchen to the linen closet.

          "A quick course?" Christoph teased when he discovered them at it.  He leaned across the gleaming table and lifted a fat, ripe strawberry from the basket in the center. After biting into it, he sent a nod of approval towards his mother‑in‑law. 

          "Herr Graf," said Lady von Velsen, drawing herself up very straight, "I have always done my best to instruct Caterina in the duties she would be expected to perform as a gentleman's wife.  I have tried persuasion and I have tried whippings.  Both, as you probably realize, to no avail."

          She looked so distressed that Cat felt she should say something. 

          "It's not Mama's fault, Graf von Hagen.  It's just as she says."

          For the first time she could see her mother's point of view.  In a few days she would be mistress of a large household and she knew next to nothing about how to manage it.

          "Housekeeping just wasn't as interesting to me as horses and‑‑"

          A ferocious look from her mother interrupted.

          "No apologies, please, from either of you ladies," von Hagen said with a smile.  "Especially from Lady Albertine who has been trying to plant on stony ground.  Let me assure you that I have a capable staff in residence.  They shall, I'm sure, continue to manage as they have in the past.  When my wife becomes interested, as I'm sure she will after a time, she can assert her own notions about housekeeping."

          He finished the small fruit and dropped the pit upon a plate which had been set next to the basket.  It was awful to Cat to see her proud and capable mother standing there, apparently so embarrassed on account of her.

          "Until she has some, though," Christoph said with a sudden grin, catching one of Caterina's long red braids and tugging, "she can climb trees and play with Star all day and nevertheless an adequate dinner will find it's way onto the table."

          "Oh, Caterina," her Mama said after Christoph, a fresh greengage in hand, had taken his leave.  "How on earth are you ever going to manage?"

          No servants from home would come along.  Christoph had insisted upon that, had been quite adamant that his own people could adequately attend them.

          This had upset Lady von Velsen.  She'd wanted to send one  of the older servants along to advise Caterina.  Of course, though none of them would have dared argue with their mistress, not one of them wanted to be exiled to Heldenberg either, especially with Caterina!  When the word about Graf von Hagen's decision went out, there was much rejoicing (albeit muted) in the servant's quarters.

    The afternoon before Cat was to leave, a summons came from her mother.  When she arrived at Lady von Velsen's room, she found it darkened.  Her mother was afflicted occasionally by migraine and the silent, dim room attested to just such an attack.

    "Oh, Mama," Cat whispered, approaching the bed.  "I'm sorry.  Is it very bad?"

    "Rather, my darling.  But don't you worry, it will pass."  Lady von Hagen was pale, prone, her dress loosened, her stays opened.  A maid beside the bed was wringing out a cloth in a basin of cold water.

    "Hanna, dear," Lady von Velsen addressed the servant, "please go out now, but don't go far.  I'll soon want you back again."

    As the girl curtsied and retreated, Cat stepped into her place.  "May I help, Mama?"

    "Yes, please.  Do as Hanna was doing while I talk to you.  It's a very serious talk too, Caterina, so please attend."

    There was a pause, a tinkle of water as Cat wrung out the cloth and applied it to her mother's white brow.  Finally her mother said, "There are a few last cautions I want to give you,  my angel, especially about your husband the Graf's housekeeping arrangements."

    "Yes, Mama."  Cat was demure, thinking it was going to be another lecture about lazy servants or counting the hams.

    "Caterina, as I believe you are aware, Christoph kept a mistress at Heldenberg for many years."

    "Yes, I know," Caterina shifted uncomfortably.  "Wili told me."

    "This spring when your husband returned to marry, he told your father and I that this lady had married another man, a captain in his regiment, and that she had gone to live in Vienna with her husband and their new baby.  But now, from something Uncle Rupert said to your father, I am not so sure that this is the case."

(Which cover do you like better?)

    "Gottesblut, Mama!  What?"  Cat dropped the cloth into the basin and stared at her mother with dismay.  "Surely you and Papa don't expect me to live under the same roof with a‑‑a‑‑concubine!" ...
~~Juliet Waldron
Read more about Caterina's journey from teen to wife in:
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Friday, May 1, 2015

MY MOZART / Excerpt for MAY DAY


She was moth to his flame...

...The forest was a living cathedral, the great columns bearing a roof of green. All the time we gradually ascended, following a path. In one place we forded a lively stream, balancing on mossy rocks that barely kept us above the chattering water.

Topping a final rise, we came at last upon the Waldhut. It sat in a small clearing, dwarfed by the biggest pine trees I had ever seen. Smoke trailed from the chimney and a fire also crackled out front, snapping sparks. From the greasy cloud rising from a blackened, steaming rock pile, I knew that a pig had already gone into the pit. There was another smell, too, the welcome fragrance of coffee.

Among the musicians and dancers were handymen and servants, all sharing in the cheerful equality of the day. As Barbara and I laid blankets at the edge of the clearing atop a thick blanket of pine needles, I spied, further back in the woods, a green tent. Stage shrieks emanated from it.

"Gott! The usual bawdy house atmosphere." Barbara took me by the arm and pulled me toward the fire. "You, Blumechen, are to stay far, far away from that tent."

The clearing had the look of an impromptu marketplace, with stacks of rugs and laden baskets. Three children suddenly bounded out the door of the summerhouse, pushing past like unruly dogs. Two boys and a girl, they wore bright lumpy peasant’s clothing.

Who did they remind me of, with their broad laughing faces and thick wild hair?

"Schikaneder's." Barbara answered my unspoken question. "Three different mothers, but look at them, alike as peas in a pod. He keeps a regular herd at some farm near Josephplatz."

Turks, I thought, weren't the only men to keep harems.

Going into the Waldhut with Barbara, we found a trestle table set with breads, butter, cheese and those expensive luxuries, coffee and sugar. With cups in hand we stood around the table with the Schacks, who were already inside eating. At last, in spite of the strong, sugary coffee and so many gay companions, I was sleepier than ever. Barbara and I, after looking at each other and yawning, agreed we couldn't keep our eyes open much longer.

Going into the yard, we collected our things and carried them to an area screened from the clearing by flowering trees. Here, close to the prone form of an ancient pine, we spread our blankets. Ferns and clusters of tiny white and lavender flowers dotted the ground. Barbara fussed at me to hurry and settle, but I spent time carefully finding a spot where the blanket wouldn't crush them.

"Shall I sing my little girl a lullaby?" Barbara leaned back against the fallen tree and kicked off her shoes.

"Yes if you please, Frau Gerl."

Behind us, the clearing grew quiet. There seemed to be a unanimous decision that it was time for a nap. While Barbara softly serenaded me with an old nursery song, I bunched up my shawl for a pillow. A root that felt like a big toe stuck into my side, so I moved my hips. The last conscious thought I had was that I'd never be able to fall asleep here...

I stood with a group of women among the pines. I could hear a bright tune, perfect for a romp, but my companions were still as statues. In their midst was a man, an angel of a man, a man I almost recognized.
Golden curls haloed his face and he wore a crown of laurel leaves, like Apollo. When he beckoned, one of my companions would rise and walk like a sleepwalker into his arms, where she would be embraced and kissed. Melting, the woman would crumple to the ground at his feet and remain there, eyes raised toward his shining face, apparently quite stricken with love..."

~~Juliet Waldron
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Friday, April 24, 2015

FreeBits--NIGHTINGALE/Chapter One


Klara ached all over, but perhaps the bitter draught of willow bark and hot water which she had just swallowed would subdue it. The aristocratic audience, which contained two princes of the Blood Royal, was one she did not dare refuse.

In the winter twilight, servants had been lighting ranks of candles set upon the chandeliers. The task completed, those tinkling balls of crystal and light were hoisted towards the ceiling. A glow fell over the white wigs and court clothes of the guests, who were seated in a half-circle around four string players and a gilded harpsichord.

The January afternoon was cold, and her maid, Liese had scolded. In the end, Klara resigned herself to wear a silver wig. Very often, in Max’s absence, she did not. This, of course, quickly set her apart from the other ladies, but Klara Silber's hair was her glory. Thick, lively, and the color of polished mahogany, it made a spectacular crown about her heart-shaped face. To atone for the absence of the required wig, her hairdresser would create a frenzy of curls. One auburn lock was often left loose to trail with lazy abandon over one shoulder. Today, however, she was simply too cold. Today she would gratefully accept the warmth that came with the wig.

The host of this English Tea, an elderly Baron, took Klara's hand into his white kid glove, ready to lead her to the harpsichord.

"You appear a little fatigued, Fraulein Silber. Please don't feel you must tax yourself too much on my account, especially when there is so much sickness about this winter. Perhaps just sing the poignant little piece by Kapellmeister Handel, the song of Queen Sheba, which the ladies love so much.”
The Baron, unlike so many others of high rank, was always considerate.

"I do feel somewhat tired, sir." Meeting his faded, benevolent gaze, Klara glossed her discomfort. "However, I would never wish to disappoint you, or your distinguished guests."

"I think there is little danger of that, Fraulein." He regarded her with a fatherly smile. "We wouldn't want you to be ill when your patron returns from his labors in Silesia. I'm sure that after the fighting and the long labors of his absence, Count Oettingen will often require the healing solace of your voice."

The Baron was simply making conversation, but Klara shivered.

Just the mention of Max!

Snow and continuing turmoil on the Prussian border had detained her patron, The Most Noble Maximilian von Oettingen.
Klara had been gratefully thanking every saint in the calendar that he had not yet returned....

~Juliet Waldron

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday FreeBits--"Angel's Flight," a Revolutionary War Adventure

 In Which Angelica Refuses the Villain:
“Give me back my locket, you monster!” The skin of her throat burned as if she’d been garroted. His first act, after dragging her up the stairs, had been to tear away the locket she always wore—the one with that last precious lock of ‘Bram’s fair hair.
“How foolish to carry a dead man over your heart!”

“Who dared to tell you that?”

“Money buys everything, my dear, don’t you know? But it doesn’t really matter, does it? You’ll not need this anymore. I’m the man in your future.”

Jamming the necklace into his pocket, Armistead came at her like a whirlwind. Angelica seized a chair and held it in front of herself, attempting to ward him off. He pinned her and the chair together against the wall. She was not certain how long they’d been trapped together in this mean little room.

“My descent,” she raged, gripping the ladder back for dear life, “is from the first Patroon. The insult you offer me will bring the wrath of every gentleman in this state—Tory or Rebel—down upon you.”

“Marriage with a gentleman of my stature is hardly an insult, miss. Wouldn’t you like to be presented at court? Think of that! I have a charming little house in London. You can go there as soon as our solemnities have been adequately...celebrated.” ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Confessions of a Weather Show Fan

I’m used to be a TV weather show fan. (I was going to say I am a weather buff, but on that side of things I’m a rank amateur, even after years of Meteorological TV.)  My knowledge of climate science remains based on The Little Golden Book of Weather that my Dad gave me when I was studying for a Girl Scouts’ badge.

While I remain devoted to PA Cable Network's Weather World Show, presented by dedicated Penn State Meteorology professors and grad students and showcased here:
I've also become fond of The Weather Channel.

I used to truly love The Weather Channel, but lately they are more The Disaster Channel. At first it was fun to see weathermen standing in their sturdy L.L. Bean gear facing down blizzards, floods and hurricanes, but, somehow, now, Bad Weather gets more than it's share of coverage. I suppose, I shouldn't crab. It's a simple fact that a hurricane or blizzard draws a  bigger viewing audience than a sunny day. Advertising, enticingly set before millions of eyes, (here in the wonderful world of capitalism) pays the bills. 

Sometimes--and this is--worse, weather reporting disappears and in its place we are offered "on topic" "Reality” shows. These so-called "Reality" (who are they kidding?) shows are way too like a Philip K. Dick story for me. I suffer, whenever I happen to catch a few minutes of such a show on TV, from a horrible prickle of oh, bloody hell--dystopia's actually happening!

At least Weather Scan still exists among my cable channels, with the original, wooden, low-Def Weather Channel format. Nothing is more perfectly meditative than ten solid minutes of staring at the ever-repeating local temperatures crawling endlessly below those lava-lamp blobs of green and pink that describe a bad day.  Rain showers crossing (and re-crossing) my local area are perfect. Without Weather Scan, I'd be forced to succumb to the beautiful but pointless Ambient channel offerings with their sadly unitary, boring soundtrack. 

And, besides, heck, I can't see the weather there...


~~Juliet Waldron