Leonardo Dead Vinci

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

 

flora‘Is this what you imagined your afterlife to be?’

‘Not exactly.’

‘Explain.’

‘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.

 

 

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My newly decorated writer’s space

Since I have reduced my teaching hours  this year in order to devote more time to my writing, I figured it was time I had a useful space in which to write other  than the dining table.  With some err….negotiation shall we say, I carved out a corner of my husband’s “man cave”.   Fine.  Not a corner.  Half the room.   Half is fair.

cornerThe centre piece of my corner is a fold out chair, in case I am up late and fall asleep writing and also to serve as a guest bed in case anyone doesn’t mind the chaos of our lives.  A laptop desk has been purchased but not yet assembled.  I made the quilt throw and lace cushion ages ago.  The wolf cushion, a gift for my eldest daughter Freya made by our Rock Star Quilter Gill Young, fits the space nicely and reminds me of my first novel.

A Shakespeare doll I purchased for my youngest daughter Juliet perches over my shoulder.

The jacket slung over the  door is one I made in high school and which became something of a legendary artifact among my teenage friends.   I wanted it in my space to remind me of the audience for which I write.  Beside it is a bag made for me by a friend.  I wanted to have as many hand-made and sentimental objects in my creative space.  The better to channel the creativity.

The painting is a compromise.  My husband loves it.  I hate it.  My back is generally turned to it.

cupboardAcross from my chair is a book shelf topped by an antique medicine cabinet given by my in-laws when they renovated their bathroom.  As with the corner of my space I tried to include as many hand made items as possible here.  On the top of the cabinet is a photograph staged by my eldest daughter, a poseable artist model and sugar paste prairie roses made by my friend Jo.

inside the cabinet, on the first shelf, a ceramic pot made by my mother holds my grandfather’s ashes.  Beside him are copies of my three favourite novels from my own Child/Young Adulthood.  Below that is an old clock, a reminder not to waste my time, a Union Jack/Yankee hybrid flag made for my 40th Birthday cake and a strange Lego thing my daughter keeps putting back in the cupboard each time I try to take it out.  On the bottom shelf is a candle, a clay Totoro whistle made by my childhood friend and fellow Anime fan Jamie Addams, and a heart cushion filled with lavender from my father’s garden to remind me that every story is really a love story.

Snuggled on either side of the cabinet are my writer’s notebooks, post-it notes for organsing plot and two reference books on Folklore.

notesFinally the bookshelf, filled with old games my husband refuses to part with, is covered with images and notes.  There is a very badly sketched map of the fictional town of Burly-the-Wath and the surrounding Burrdale area.  Some photographs, taken by myself or a family member, indicate settings for my novel.  Others are basically costume plots for characters.

Just outside of the room hangs a mirror for modelling gestures, poses and facial expressions.  Beside my chair a blank wall is papered with post-it notes  to keep the various plots, time lines and characters of four different time lines straight.

Now I just need a kettle, mini fridge, mini-bar, hot tub, masseuse…