Thursday, May 28, 2015

THE MASTER PASSION ~~ Excerpt for BEA week


THE MASTER PASSION ~ Chapter One, West Indies Boyhood
This Founding Father was not born to the purple, like the others.

 


Sharing a sick feeling, Alex and Jamie Hamilton stood on barefoot tiptoe and peeked through flimsy wooden louvers, all that separated the rooms of their small West Indian house. Both boys were red-heads, but there the resemblance ended. Eleven year old James was well-grown and strong. Alexander, seven in January, was delicate, fast-moving and nervous, like a freckled bird.

“An idiot would have known not to trust him.” The beautiful dark eyes of their mother flashed. Rachel faced her husband, a slight man of aristocratic feature, who wore a white linen suit. Like him, it had seen better days. His wife’s tone was challenging, her arms akimbo. Her stays, containing a generous bosom, rose and fell.

 “I—I—took him for a gentleman.” Father sputtered, attempting to fall back upon a long ago mislaid dignity. “He gave me his word.”

“His word!? Which means bloody nothing! How many times did I tell you what was going to happen? How many times?”

“Shut your mouth, woman!”

A sharp crack sounded as he slapped her. Rachel, hair spilling from beneath her cap, staggered backwards. From the kitchen came the fearful keening of Esther, their mother’s oldest slave.

“There’s naught canna be dune noo!" James Hamilton, his long face flushed, roared the words. Scots surfaced whenever he was angry.

“Yes, nothing to be done. As usual.” A livid mark glowed upon Rachel’s face, but she, with absolute disregard for consequences, righted herself and finished what she had to say.

“This time Lytton’s going to let you go. And if you can’t even manage to hold a job with my kinfolk, where will you get another? What are we supposed to live on? Air?”

In spite of the fact that it was winter on the island, the best weather of the entire year, Alexander shuddered. Distilled fear slid along his spine.

How many times in his short life had he watched this scene replayed? Listened to Mama shout Papa’s failures, watched as his father, humiliated and enraged, used his fists to silence her?

A business deal gone bad! Money lost….

Will we move again?

Every change of residence, from Alexander’s birthplace on cloudy Nevis, to St. Kitts, and from there to St. Croix, had carried them to smaller houses and meaner streets. The carriage, the two bay horses and the slaves who tended them, were only a memory.

Mama was shrieking now, about loans and due dates, things which she declared “any fool” could understand. Frozen, knowing what would surely come, Alexander watched as his father, crossing the room in two quick strides, caught his mother by the shoulders.

With the strength of rage, he threw her like a rag doll. She struck the wall so violently the flimsy house shook. Small emerald lizards stalking the mosquitoes drawn by candlelight, vanished into shadow.

Silenced at last, Rachel crumpled to the floor, sobbing. Her once gay calico dress, muted by many, many launderings, lapped her. The under shift, always scrubbed to a sea-foam white, drifted from beneath.

James Hamilton, breathing hard, blind with rage, tore open the door and strode past his cowering, terrified sons. For the last time, Alexander saw his beloved father’s face, a sweating mask of fear.

 

* * *

 

“Come on, boys. Out of there.”

A candle shone in the balmy West Indies night. The voice wasn’t unkind, just drunk and hurried. From outside came the bell-chorus of an untold host of peepers.

Alex and Jamie, in shirts too ragged to wear during the day, had been asleep in the only bed. There was a mattress filled with palm fronds in the next room upon the floor, but this time of year scorpions came in. When Mama hadn’t returned, they’d decided to sleep in the greater safety of her bed.

Jamie groaned, sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The Captain of the Guards, Mr. Egan, leaned over. He breathed rum and seemed unsteady. Behind him, supporting herself on the door frame, was Mama. She was, Alexander noted with a thrill of disgust, bare-shouldered, her cap removed, her shining dark hair loosened.

“Out, boys,” she echoed. “Esther said she’d beat your mattress and lay it out after supper. What are you doing in here?”

Neither boy replied. She didn’t want an answer. What she wanted was for them to leave. Tomorrow she’d give them a scolding, but not tonight. At the moment there were other, more important things on her mind.

“Here, young fellow.” Egan, muscles rippling beneath his shirt, handed Jamie the candle. Obediently, Jamie took it. Their rooms were, after all, rented space in the front of his house.

“Use this to look if you’re worried something’s in your bed. Your Ma and I won’t be needing it.”

He threw a grin at Rachel, who was restlessly tossing a dark curl over a pale shoulder. Mrs. Lavien or Mrs. Hamilton—whichever name she used now that she was living alone with her sons on St. Croix—was almost thirty, but she still turned heads whenever she passed along Christiansted’s bustling main street. Anticipation caused the captain to deliver a slap on the rear to speed the smaller boy along.

“Don’t you touch me!” Alex spun and glared, his thin face white under coppery curls.

Jamie grabbed a handful of his brother’s shirt. “Oh, come on, Alex!” He dragged his slight brother through the door. “The captain didn’t mean anything.”

Alexander was wide awake now, his eyes blazing blue fire. The distant echo of surf, the sighing palms, the intoxicating fragrance of Lady of the Night that climbed in profusion over the house, held no power to still his pounding heart.

Grinning, Egan stepped back, threw an arm that was infuriatingly proprietary around his mother.

“Yes. Don’t start,” Rachel cautioned. “Just mind your own business and go back to sleep.” Her dark eyes turned toward Egan. One hand moved easily across his chest, taking in the feel of hard flesh beneath. Alexander wanted to kill them both.

“If you and Jamie slept where you were supposed to, this wouldn’t happen.”

“Come on, woman.” Egan terminated the conversation, pulling her playfully through the door into the darkness.

“The little brats.” Their mother was heard to sigh when the door closed. “I swear they do it on purpose.”

In the next room, the boys busied themselves in a thorough inspection of their mattress. Satisfied at last about the absence of scorpions, they extinguished the candle and lay down together. From over the transom came whispered laughter and the sound of the captain’s boots dropping to the floor.

In the soft darkness, beside his now stolidly motionless brother, Alexander crammed fingers tightly into his ears. Tears pooled against his cheek.

“Oh, Papa,” he whispered into the night. “Papa, please come back...”

 ~~Juliet Waldron
Find my other historicals--fantasy and otherwise--at:  
and The Master Passion at:
 
 




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.

 

Truly!

 

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

BLACK MAGIC


#frifreebits


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.”

            “What?”

            “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
 
See all my historical novels at
 
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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:
 RED MAGIC
 
 
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Friday, May 1, 2015

MY MOZART / Excerpt for MAY DAY





#frifreebits

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
MY MOZART:
 
 
 
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