I am presently hard at work on my latest novel The Many Beautiful Deaths of Miss Floretta Deliverance Hughes, which has been a far more difficult challenge than my first novel. The draft I am building now is actually my third attempt to tell this character’s story without becoming sidetracked by secondary characters or peripheral, historical weirdness. I am also hoping this time it will have some sort of actual plot. The struggle is real people.
The following is an extract from the chapter I am working on at this very moment which, for now, I have titled Bone Fires. It is a conversation between Floretta and Sergeant Fury, a cat-stodian of the dead. It’s a nice teaser and fairly indicative of the book’s style.
The accompanying illustration is by Elizabeth Snider aka The Sewing Artist
‘Well,’ Floretta hesitated to compose a thoughtful and (mostly) truthful answer to the Sergeant’s question. ‘I suppose I imagined more black.’
‘More black?’ The black cat arched an amused and inquisitive, whiskered eyebrow.
‘I certainly didn’t imagine you,’ she blurted out rudely.
‘Really?’ Fury pitched a tone of mock indignation. ‘A girl with a death wish and a passion for Egyptology never expected her afterlife to include a cat?’
‘Death wish?’ shrieked Floretta with genuine indignation. ‘Why, I never—
‘In the cellar of the vicarage with a knife,’ declared the cat, as if presenting evidence for the prosecution.
‘Dagger!’ countered Floretta.
‘A dagger with crumbs on the blade from slicing the morning’s bread.’
‘My resources were limited.’
‘You efforts to catch consumption by drinking nothing but milk for a month were rather entertaining,’ the cat continued.
‘I researched the topic thoroughly, I’ll have you—
‘But not nearly as amusing as your attempt to hang yourself with a dress.’
‘Christening gown!’ argued Floretta.
‘Death wish!’ accused Fury.
If he could have, she was certain the cat would have dramatically pointed a finger at her. She tossed her head to show him in no certain terms how offended she was by the case he had presented against her. In truth, she felt more than a little disconcerted as she realised this cat caretaker of the dead had clearly been watching her for some time.
‘Do you deny it?’ he demanded through narrowed feline eyes.
‘Categorically,’ Floretta declared. ‘I had no wish to die.’
‘No wish to—
‘I simply wished to make certain that, were I to die, my death would be neither messy nor ugly nor accidental.’
‘So, your suicide attempts were rehearsals?’
‘I like to think of them as…’ she paused again, trying to form just the right words to describe her forays into Beaux Arts Macabre. ‘Preliminary sketches of the sort which The Old Masters used when building their grand, artistic visions.’
‘Leonardo Dead Vinci,’ suggested the cat wryly.
‘Exactly,’ Floretta punctuated, deliberately ignoring his obvious overtone of sarcasm.