Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"Torn From Him By Death" Part 6 (Mini Blog-Series)

Part 6:
As the years passed, crossing the wide ocean to luxuriate in the glamour of Parisian salons, thriving in the intellectual furor sweeping over the Queen of Enlightened Europe—cultured ambassador from the backwoods of Virginia—Thomas would still feel the pull of her death, the sorrow, dulled with time, biting in the most unexpected of moments.  Her memory awakened poignantly by an Angel of Art and Music, he would be haunted by Martha Wayles Skelton’s shadow, when Maria Cosway breathed fresh life into his Heart, reviving his romantic sentiments.  
And when he could no longer deny his desire for a woman who would represent the antithesis of everything he worshipped of the gentler sex, Thomas Jefferson would indeed learn, he was borne to lose everything he loved.  Defiant little Scottish doctress, trained absurdly in a profession whose rigors better fit the rational minds of men, he would find himself in conflicted torment, drawn to a passion of mind and body—Spirit.  Following her own impassioned ideals, her keen intellect would challenge his deepest held convictions, resurrecting his faith to serve, once more, the Promise of a brighter Tomorrow.
Midnight ebbed, first shades of pink and violet dusting low, gray clouds hanging over forested hills to the east.
Staring into the licking flames, Thomas stood abruptly, determination commanding his motions. 
He thrust the bundled letters, as one, into the fire, clenching his jaw so hard, the muscle spasmed, stifling the pained sound seeking to escape. 
Anguish was bile in his gut, deeper twist of despair, something in him dying as the sheaves caught, embers fraying the edges. 
He kept his eyes fastened on the devouring flames.
Before the space of five minutes passed, momentary sputtering, a miniature fountain of sparks and light, the bundle dissolved, banking into cinders.   
All the years of their love, visible to world—endearments, small pleasures, hopes and unfulfilled promises, regrets and recriminations—a pile of black ashes scattered by the elusive breeze of the flames.
A union of sacred faith binding two hearts together, would only, and forever after, be preserved in lines upon a single sheet of paper, folded around a glossy, auburn curl, he twined lovingly, between his fingers.
Beyond the Shades and Dust…
He shook his head, staring hard, unflinching, upon the scintillating logs.  Warmed by the heat, he lowered himself back into the reed-framed chair.
He knew what she asked of him, one last wish before her passing.  In his grief, he might find solace, little though it may be, in seeing to the care and attention of his surviving children. 
Sacred charges--if nothing else had come out of the nightmarish encounter, awash in shameful lust, union with a memory of the Dead, it was how much his daughters needed him. 
He was all they had left—connection to a woman they would scarce remember as the years fled, one after another, and his daughters took on the responsibilities of womanhood, each in her turn. 
From somewhere in the shadows beyond the fire’s light, a soft wind stirred, voice of the Otherworld, just perceptible to his audible sense. 
Fire burns, words a fading music drifting through the room.
Fire cleanses.
Fire, Bright Seer, births the World anew…
Golden light spilled across the window casement, sun cresting the horizon, dawning upon a new day.


The End!


I hope you enjoyed this mini-series story.  I look forward to bringing you more great short stories/series in the near future.  Again, many thanks to Miss Bonnie for the contribution!  

You can visit Bonnie at one of her two blogs below:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"So You Want to Write a Gothic Novel?" Guest Post by Gothic Romance Author, Jane Godman

If you like your romance with a dash of horror and you enjoy a creepily ever after ending, then chances are that, like me, you’re a fan of the gothic genre. But what is that exactly?

I write Shivers for Harlequin and they are actively seeking more stories in this series. So how do you write a good gothic? Is there a formula? Well there are certainly elements that can be applied to all good gothics.

1. Atmosphere
This is the key to the gothic. Poetic, gloomy language sets the scene. The atmosphere must be lush, decadent, beautiful, yet horrifying. Contrasting light and shade are key elements. The shadows are stronger, but the light is allowed to filter through.

2. Setting
The setting is another character in a gothic. It is often a remote building, possibly of medieval origin, for example a castle, abbey or crumbling manor house.

Think wild mysterious landscapes, bleak moors, hard to reach islands or deep, inaccessible valleys. Enclosed or claustrophobic spaces are also symbolic in gothic writing, crypts, passageways, caves, dungeons, secret rooms, dark towers, cloisters...

3. The Male Protagonist
Ah, our hero. Or anti-hero, in the case of the gothics (think Rochester). He may have inherited powers or status, so he might be titled or talented. He is likely to be solitary or egocentric. His personality will be deeply flawed and he could well be obsessive. We may get a sense of duality, or even that there is a doppleganger. He may attract yet repulse our heroine, and the sensual elements he brings to the story can be overt or implied.

4. The Female Protagonist
Our heroine has grown up since the days of Jane Eyre! Traditionally, she was a trembling victim, frail, passive and naïve, who was subjected to grotesque acts by a superior will. Now, however, she is likely to be strong and feisty. She may well have many of the same characteristics as the male protagonist. And she will fight back!

5. Dark Secrets
Secrets are the lynchpin of most gothic novels. Generally, they are so dark and insurmountable that they spell doom for the main characters and make their lives unbearably difficult.

6. Death and violence
This can be explicit or implied. Often it is the threat of something horrific rather than the reality of it which gives the gothic its unique atmosphere. Think clanking chains or ghostly footsteps rather than axe-wielding serial killers.

7. Incest
Yes, it’s taboo, but not in the gothic. It’s a familiar theme in these novels and adds to the tortured, twisted secrets that must remain forever hidden. If it’s not incestuous it should at least be forbidden.

8. Haunting
Houses, belongings, demonic possession. You name it, if it can be haunted it will be and should be at some point in gothic literature. Reincarnation is a popular theme.

9. Curiosity
We all know it kills cats and it’s likely to kill our heroine too if she’s not careful. Picture our heroine in her flimsy gown, nervous but determined as she enters the forbidden abandoned wing, or tiptoes down the stairs to the dungeons, climbs the ladder to the attic full of cobwebs and moth-eaten furnishings, running from the house in terror toward the clifftop… We’ve all seen those scenes in horror films. We’ve all shouted at the screen “Don’t go into the attic!” and shivered with a combination of pleasure and terror when our heroine ignores us. Bless her.

10. Ignorance (is bliss)
Knowledge is power, that much is true. But Jane Eyre would not have worked well as a story if Mr Rochester had said at the outset, “There’s something I need to tell you about my first wife…” (that statement applies equally well to Maxim de Winter in Rebecca and many other gothic heroes).

11. Remoteness
The castle is always on an isolated clifftop, the mansion at the end of a long, winding drive, the island inaccessible unless by the weekly cargo plane.

12. Omens and portents
Symbols and signs steer our charactersand, of course, usalong a specific path. But are we being deliberately misled?

13. Obsession
Desire, lust hatred, revenge, family. Any or all of the above may lead to an obsessive character who is ripe for a role in a gothic story.

14. Mental illness
If you are writing a modern gothic your treatment of these issues will be very different to those of writers of historical gothics. We tend to be slightly more sympathetic these days.

15. Sensuality
Finally, let’s talk about sex. In the traditional gothics, it was implied. These characters misbehaved in more ways than one, but they tended to do it behind closed doors. In the ‘new gothics’ the sensuality that was hinted at in the past is more explicit. Readers will get an erotic shiver down their spine as well as a spooky one!

Now, obviously, if you sat down tomorrow and wrote a novel which included all of the above elements things you would:
a) end up tearing your own hair out as you tried to keep track of your plot
b) use up all of your best ideas in one burst of wild gothic energy and never write another word
c) re-write The castle of Otranto by Hugh Walpole

But, if you are serious about writing gothics (and for my sake and that of my fellow gothic fans, I hope you are), then I’d urge you to think about including some of these elements in your novel.

Good luck! I look forward to reading all of this gothic gorgeousness very soon.



@JaneGodman   

(If you enjoyed this article, you are going to be just delighted with my up-coming interview and review of Godman's EShivers release coming in early June!)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review of "Darkening Around Me" and Interview with Barbara J. Hancock

Published:  2013
Setting:  Modern

A ghostly white face materialized out of thorny shadows and I instinctively held up my hands in defense.  It took seconds to realize the face belonged to a life-sized statue.  It took longer before that seemed to matter to the instinctive fear that raised the hair on the back of my neck and kicked my pulse into rapid overdrive.  

Even as I forced my hands down at my sides, the vine-covered marble unnerved me.  It was a woman.  The patina of age and the effects of weather didn't hide her expression of grief and fear.  The wear made her tears seem ancient and ageless and never ending.

I swallowed and stepped closer.  I didn't want to.  For some reason, I couldn't experience the slightly embarrassed relief a person usually feels when they've been startled or frightened by something that turns out to be ordinary or mundane.

The statue still scared me.

Her eyes were moisture-filled and wide.  Her mouth was slightly open, as if at any second she might beg for help or scream.

A step on the path behind me caused me to spin.  My breathing hadn't recovered.  Now it hitched in a sudden intake that hurt my chest.

Nothing.

Only the stirring wilderness of leaves all around and the occasional gasping sigh of a wilted petal as it fell.

My eyes, though, had adjusted to the artificial night created by the overgrown and neglected garden.  Now I saw them.  Face after face slowly revealing themselves to my wide peering eyes.

There were dozens of statues.  All of women.  All with horrible expressions- pain, shock, grief- forever frozen and on display.  The garden seemed to hold a perpetual funeral in its leafy embrace...

Samantha Knox is recovering from an attack that nearly ended her life.  One day she was a vivacious, hopeful young woman who relished in jewelry-making with her aunt and the next she was fighting for her life after a vicious stabbing, and learning to live with her scars (both physically and mentally).

In a bold act to reclaim her life and accept her battle scars, Samantha employs renowned artist Mike O'Keefe to sculpt a marble statue in her nude image.  However, in doing so, this requires the brave deed of Sam traveling to a remote mansion as a live-in-residence for one week while O'Keefe works his mastery.

O'Keefe, handsome and lithe as he appears, is all but a reclusive eccentric who has shut himself inside his gothic mansion replica.  He travels the halls a haunted man, his every move and devotion monitored by the ghostly eye of The Thornleigh Bride.  Legend has it that the bride has haunted the mansion for decades, unwilling to relinquish her desperate hold on the artist for fear her story will never be told...

At first Samantha is able to dismiss the footsteps she hears, as well as the events that befall her as mere coincidence, yet apparitions are much harder to apply logistics to.  In the meantime, her sitting sessions with O'Keefe are nothing if not brazen.  She finds her body reacting to the strong, lean hands of the sculptor in ways it never has.  But the closer Sam comes to relinquishing her fears at the hands of a man she is inadvertently falling in love with, the harder the ghost bride seems to clutch at  the darkened rooms of Thornleigh mansion.

Then one afternoon as Sam is jogging along the beach, she stumbles upon an old withered clapboard beach house where O'Keefe's cook resides.  The cook is dazed, stuffing a doll...and speaks absently of the unknown.  Smothering of filth and mold, Sam is horrified to see she is standing in a room filled with hundreds of stuffed porcelain dolls...all with the same empty expression, one haunted replica after another...all damaged by water and mold in one huge, shelved heap.  It is then she realizes that Thornleigh is haunted, through and through...but what torments the ghost to the point that she has to pour her mourning across the old house and into it's every inhabitant?

As Sam falls more deeply to the affectionate charms of O'Keefe, she also finds herself falling into the story of a haunted bride, a bride scorned, a bride murdered in a selfish act of hatred and betrayal...and Sam is playing a firsthand role at the edge of a cliff, where the ghost drags her with icy, ashen fingers...

Will she survive to tell the story, or will she again fall victim to a ruthless crime, albeit supernatural and unbelievable?

This was the very first book I read in the Harlequin EShivers attempt at reviving the original vintage gothic, and let me tell you, I was NOT left wanting with this read.  Barbara weaves a fantastic tale of mystery in the guise of an artist haunted by a ghost.  She gives an unbelievable devotion to imagery so fantastic that you'll find yourselves hovering in the mists of the weeping statue garden, every one of them trapped by time and anguish.  I was haunted, yet horrified and drawn in by the tale of the dollmaker/cook in the clapboard shack.  The mystery is so enmeshed in  gothic elements of the old style that you'll feel you've picked up a masterpiece from the 60's.  The passion that ignites between O'Keefe and Sam will not leave you wanting, either.  And the tragic story of Thornelighs ghost is not one you'll soon forget.  I was also surprised and appreciative how brave the heroine was in this story, as well as the haunting attractiveness of the hero.  This is just one fantastic book that I could not put down!  Thus, the timeless gothic romance has been reborn! 

Rating:  5 Stars 

In addition to being superbly talented, the wonderful Barbara J. Hancock is also a generous spirit, as she's taken the time out of her busy schedule to indulge me with an interview!   Enjoy!


Stacy:  Let's begin by talking about your writing career. I know you have written extensively in the genres of romance and paranormal romance, and you are a beloved Harlequin author as well. How far back does your writing career date? When did you publish your first book? And, roughly, how many books have you penned to date?

Barbara:  I sold my first full length book to Samhain Publishing in 2008. I sold my first novella to Harlequin for their Nocturne Bites line that same year. These sales came about around two years after I started seriously sending submissions to publishers. I've been writing my entire life dating back to the time I could scribble with a crayon! But it wasn't until my twins went to school that I began to pursue publication as a career instead of a now and then hobby. I think I have fourteen or fifteen books currently available.

Stacy:  Fifteen books in a matter of five years or so…impressive!  Of all your books (and I did a quick amazon search), the paranormal and supernatural really stand out for me. What do you feel first captivated your interest in paranormal romance? Were there any definitive books, authors, or movies that inspired you to weave your own wonderful tales of suspense and romance?

Barbara:  For as long as I can remember, I've loved ghost stories, gothic and supernatural elements. It might come from the mountain tradition of eerie tales from where I grew up in Virginia. Hauntings are a big part of our history. And it's common to have this or that relative get "fey" feelings about things. My mother once called me in the middle of the night because she swore someone saying my name woke her from a sound sleep. Did we question her logic? No. My husband and I rose from bed to check on the children and the house. It might be a Scotch-Irish thing. It might be a southern thing. But paranormal is somewhat normal to me!

Stacy: I can totally relate to that, I live along the Appalachians and these old hills are full of folklore!  Now, as a poet, I know that a lot of my poetry and my unique writing style was developed, in part, out of my admiration and interest in the unique styles of other poets. Do you have a favorite gothic/paranormal author/book? Do you feel these authors/books have proved influential in your own writing style and genre?

Barbara:  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I read it when I was a young girl and it was a gateway book for me. It led me to the gothic romance genre. I was always struck by the idea of the heroine saving the hero. Because that's what Jane did. Though she wasn't physically strong, she was strong in ways that were very inspiring to me. After Jane, I devoured Victoria Holt and Barbara Michaels as a teen. People seem to focus on the heroine in jeopardy when they think of gothic romance, but it's her ability to get herself out of jeopardy that draws me to the genre and makes it my favorite!

Stacy:  Jane Eyre was actually the very first gothic romance I ever read! In my quest to find books similar to Eyre, I was sent to the gothic romance section of the public library…and the rest was history!  But I wanted to speak for a few moments on the new E-Shivers Harlequin series. You have been included in both of the new box set releases that began just this past winter. For those who read the blog and might not understand, define for us the mission behind the E-Shivers series. And, as I'm sure a lot of us fans are, I am curious as to whether Harlequin intends to make this a long-standing series, or perhaps just some temporary releases? I have always enjoyed the Intrigue line of romantic suspense and am really hoping that Shivers becomes a mainstay as well!

Barbara:  I'm very excited about the response to the new Harlequin EShivers line and we are all furiously working on upcoming releases! I have several more coming this year and plans are in the works for more after that. Of course, it will all depend on the readers. As the new Digital First Series for Harlequin, Harlequin E has its "ear to the ground" for what readers want. My friend, Jane Godman, who also writes for Shivers, is working on a Harlequin E Intrigue Noir series that sounds fantastic.

Stacy:  And speaking of the E-Shivers series, as you can see, I just completed (and thoroughly enjoyed) your new release Darkening Around Me. I was hoping E-Shivers would stand up to its promise to resurrect (if you will) the vintage gothic and I have not been disappointed! When reading your book, I fell in love with the dark details, particularly the little shabby cabin with all the creepy dolls, and of the huge assortment of statues that seemed to be almost grotesque. You wrote with such intimate detail of these things, I was wondering, where do the ideas come from? I know if I were to write even one book, I would probably exhaust whatever gothic elements I had knapsacked away in the far corners of my mind. How do you, as a writer, feel that you regenerate so many new ideas and storylines for all the different paranormal stories you write with such great detail?

Barbara:  Sometimes I feel that I've been storing up all these beautiful and eerie gothic details for my whole life. Much of it comes from family…once my cousin spent a summer photographing historic cemeteries…but much of it comes from how I see the world…dark and dangerous, but also so lovely that it makes me ache. But I'll go back to family…I was raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where everyone had a ghost in the attic and kids often went the long way 'round the avoid crumbling abandoned farm houses. It's just in my blood to see something that whispers in the slow, creaking sway of a rusty child's swing.

Stacy:  I really loved the heroine in Darkening Around Me.  Unlike many of the females portrayed in the vintage-type storyline, Samantha was strong and resilient. She also had a quick wit about her. Do you oftentimes have a hard time putting your female heroine characters in vulnerable situations? Do you ever get attached to a character and want to turn events in their favor, rather than have them struggle through trials and hardships?

Barbara:  But, you see, I'm in charge of the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel! And it's so much sweeter for a character to reach the light after she's braved the darkest shadows.

Stacy:  I was pleasantly surprised by how well your heroine handled herself…and that is a lovely take on the characterization of female heroine characters…yes, they are vulnerable but they are strong enough to outwit the peril they so willingly place themselves in.  Okay, so I also realize you have published gothic romances in the second, and third, shivers boxed sets. I have not yet had the chance to read them just yet. Can you tell us a little about each book?

Barbara:  In Silent is the House, Grief-stricken Angelica Peters finally visits Allen House, the crumbling mansion she once stood to inherit. She’s immediately drawn to the new heir—the family lawyer whose unearthly obsession  soon has her questioning reality… is it her he desires or is he only fascinated by her resemblence to the tragic apparition that haunts the estate?

The unexplained is commonplace and everyone fears the dark in SCARLET FALLS.

A secluded hamlet ablaze in autumn splendor, Scarlet Falls is seemingly an idyllic manifestation of the New England countryside…  But Trinity Chadwick knows better.  The town is undeniably beautiful, but haunted to its very core.  For Trinity there has been no escape from the specter of the girl in the blue dress.  Her laughter still rides on the mist of the town’s eerie lake. And tragedy always follows in its wake.

Constant vigilance against malevolent forces have worn Trinity down driving her back to the last place on earth she ever expected to step foot again.  Hillhaven—her childhood home.  Only to encounter Samuel Creed.  The last man she ever expected to confront.  A long-ago kiss of life kindled an obsession at once sensual and macabre.  Trinity is tortured by the memory of her warm lips against his cold ones as she saved him. Or was he forever damned, after all?  Trinity finds Creed is as tempting as ever, a man she can neither forget nor entirely trust.

Stacy:   I can’t wait to review the new releases! I always love learning about the lives of writers. Barbara, can you share with us some of your other hobbies and creative pursuits, aside from writing? Oftentimes I think we, as readers and fans, forget that our favorite writers are also people with their own lives and interests beyond books and writing. What are some of yours?

Barbara:  I'm the mother of three boys who are avid naturalists like their father. So even though I'm more comfortable in a sunny office looking out the window, I often find myself in a canoe or on a hiking trail! When I'm not huffing and puffing after my active family, I'm an avid reader so even when I'm not writing I'm spending my time with words. I also love classic movies, all things historical and vintage and Pinterest!

Stacy: I also am a fan of the old classic horror movies and vintage books!  I know I've become a quick fan of yours in the past months.  As I'm sure many of your fans are also eager to know:  can we expect more books from you in the Shivers Series? Are you currently working on anything that hasn't yet been released (or planned for an imminent release date)?

Barbara:  The biggest news for me is Scarlet Falls. It will be my first open ended series with more and more books to come set in a town that's lovely but haunted by evil deeds from long ago. The Girl in Blue is the first to be followed by Forget Me Not. And I'm currently working on the third. Each novella will have its own couple with a fully resolved romance but they will all be linked together by the town's mysteries. It's an ambitious project and one I'm relishing!

Soon to come will be a Scarlet Falls section on my author website to keep readers fully updated!

Stacy:   You are one busy lady!  And lastly...as a professional writer, yourself, what is one piece of advice you would offer to an aspiring writer of gothic or supernatural romance?

Barbara:  Believe. Oh, I don't mean believe in the supernatural, although that doesn't hurt;) Believe in yourself. Believe in your story and your characters. Believe that there's an editor out there who will love what you send them. Keep believing…even when you encounter no. Always believe "yes" is around the next corner!


Stacy:  What an elegant way of inspiration…to believe in the ability of one’s own work perhaps is the only magic we need!  Barbara, thank you so much for devoting a little bit of your time to the interview and to the blog here, and I can’t wait to read more of your work!


You can read more from Barbara and learn of new releases at her personal website:

http://www.barbarajhancock.com/

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Torn From Him By Death" Part 5 (Blog Mini-Series)

Part 5:
 “Papa?” the small, quavering voice reached him from the border of the trees.  “Papa, come back out of the rain,” the entreaty chilling him.
He raised himself back to his heels, slowly, muck soaking into his ruined breeches, peering into the gloom of the grove.
Martha,” gruff, spoken on a shuddering breath—gods, what had she witnessed on this unholy night? “Marth—“, he couldn’t say that name again, without crumbling inside. “Patsy, how-how long have you been out here?”
Peering past the darkness, the storm beginning to drive itself off, north and east, he just barely made out her girlish form, covered by a drenched night gown.
I don’t know,” she admitted, raising her light voice, so he might hear her through the rain.  
Shadows concealed the fear, wariness he was sure pinched his daughter’s face, as she emerged from the knot of trees, crossing the distance to where he knelt by her mother’s cold grave.
I saw you in her bedroom.  I called out to you when you climbed out the window, but you couldn’t hear me, so I followed you.  I lost you in-in the rain,” she explained through chattering teeth.  
Her feet, clad only in house-slippers, squelched in wet grass, as she neared him. 
Then, I heard you above the storm.” Too dark to make out the cast of her eyes, he could see the way she slowed, hesitant it seemed, to come any nearer her mother’s tomb.
She was shivering from cold and wet, her mud-splattered chemise the only protection against a high, brisk gale, left in the wake of the weakening storm.
His eldest daughter, all of ten years old—she was as tattered looking as he must have been to her eyes.
Graveyards, even familial ones, were not places frequented by anyone in their right minds, especially not on storm-ridden nights, and most especially, not by young girls. 
Martha Jefferson, his eldest daughter, bearing the namesake of her departed mother, afraid to lose her father, and fear being stronger than all the slaves’ tales of morbid, evil zombies, carnivorous ghosts that wandered these lost places, rightfully forbidden to the living, she had braved the night and elements.
You shouldn’t be out here,” he admonished, rough past a constricted throat, realizing the inanity of such a remark even as she scolded:
Neither should you.” Her tone took his breath away, hearing in the young girl’s words an echo of his wife’s tart-tongued rejoinders.
Prescient child, she was still too young, too innocent to understand the passion with which he had clasped the earth to him, upon her mother’s grave.  Her mother’s name—her name—on his lips, shaped in a voice dredged with sorrow and yearning.
Loss.   
That, she understood.  Sensing somehow, to mention what she had witnessed in half-shadow—whipping, thrashing branches, drowned in rain and thunder—would stand to embarrass him, or worse, send him back into another cascade of rage and grief.
Come, Papa, or we’ll both catch cold.”  Her small hands, frigid, held the warmth of the living when she folded them around one of his larger, sturdy palms.
He felt her gentle tug.
Thomas delayed for a moment longer, remained kneeling in the gullied earth, before his wife’s grave.
The night was deeper now, the rain softened to a dreary mist.  He was soaked through to the bone, feet numb in water-logged shoes. 
His free hand on the marble—she had felt so real…
Madness…
His lips brushed the cold, wet stone once. 
Goodbye, Dearest,” his whispered, parting prayer.
And let his daughter lead him away from that grave.
It was no accident she would come to be his constant companion as she grew to adulthood.  That fact was the central axis of her life.  It would color the misery of her marriage, when she become a wife and mother herself, never able to esteem her husband as she adored her father. 
Clearing skies were lit by the moon, bright coin in the dark, wind-swept heavens. 
Father followed daughter, a peculiar of juxtaposition of childlike compliance. 
Up the path from the shelter of trees rimming the family cemetery, they ascended a small hillock, opening to a pasture, passing before the crags and brush at its south border.  Pale reflection of moonbeam against a white portico, pallor of the Great House peaked through the trees, conducting them out to the trimmed lawn, into the comforting ambience of home and hearth.
Later, after his daughter had been cajoled into a fresh nightgown, drying her hair by the fire, sent back to the security of her warm bed, he sat, himself, in front of a blazing hearth. 
A wool blanket covered him, draped across shoulders. 
Gray eyes somber, wistful, reflected the warm glow of the fire, letters of a decade piled in his lap.  They had been tenderly sorted, opened, re-opened, read and wept over in the weeks since her death.
His mind quieter now, the torment of his restless, storming grief, like the weather outside, somehow subsided, leaving in its void, an emptiness he would learn to bury beneath cultivated reserve. 

Thomas Jefferson would never be completely free of the severed ache in his heart—Angel, sacred guardian of his home, sacrosanct in love and memory.  

(The Grand Finale) Part 6 Coming Soon!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Torn From Him By Death" Part 4 (Mini Blog-Series)

Part 4:
Chieftain, Winter King, Radiant Brow, Poet, Bard, Bright Seer-the Raven watched from its lofty perch, hidden up in the branches.  
How many Names, the guise of a Soul, transmigrating through different Ages, different Lives?  All-Father had followed this one long, known him, and named him—Bright Seer
Time in the Raven’s perception--the Void of its other eye directed upon the storming skies--was a net of silver split by a spectra of parallel webs, deep well of the spiraling Universe, bridged by Middle Earth, spanning the vast eternity to the infinite stars, fabric of life, essence of the atomic and tangible. 
New World, new Men—old arrogance of mortals, deluded by grandeur, Dreams shaped of greed and gain, rather than Poetry and Science. 
They had long ago, grown deaf to the Language of the Trees, another thread woven into the coruscation of existence.   Severed from that Truth, they crawled through their Epochs, blind babes graced with occasional flares of Genius, Inspiration drunk from the Well, fathomless Pool over which He had hung millennia upon millennia past, imbibing of sacred Mead.  
Thomas never opened his eyes, letting urge govern action, lost in the remembrance of his lips circling her belly, fingers, palms spread wide, wandering over thighs and up, caressing between her breasts, about to follow the direction of his mouth, the sweet softness found in that place of a woman’s moist arousal.  The musk of lovemaking drove primordial impulse, as he slid up, over her, seeking to enter—
Harsh, grating, a Raven’s caw shattered the illusion of passion drowning the man’s sense.
He retched, suddenly immersed in the odor of decaying, rotten flesh, sensation of seeping slime, serpents, roaches and worms crawling over his limbs and body.  He was suffocating in a swamp, cesspit of dung and decomposing meat, prone in the earth, overcome by terror as he gagged again, eyes flying open, to darkness and the tempest tossed night, fingers buried in dirt, face plastered with wet mud, before his wife’s tombstone.
The Raven’s cackle broke, scathing into the grip of Illusion, hauled him back into the beating storm. 
He recoiled onto hands and knees, eyes glancing about the dark clearing.  Horrified, disoriented by the drenching, lightening tossed gale, hearing the Raven crow through the confused shadows and buffeting wind.  
Against flashing skies, he caught sight of the creature’s gloomy outline, taking wing into the wild night, its screech slicing through his mind, obliterating any last remnant of mirage.
Rain drops pierced like icy blades into his flesh, torn shirt, ripped breeches evidence of a flight he had no memory of, skin bruised, stinging where twigs and thorns cut, and stone gashed deep.
Contorted images, half-remembrance of her laughter, summoning him into the night, he felt only rising disgust at the desire bloomed in his groin, now ebbing in the wake of his loss, trying to piece coherence out of fragmented obscenity.
Fingers came to his face, wiping absently at the dirt caked into his beard, full from weeks of neglect in shaving.  Leaning back onto his heels, bereft, he remained in the mire edging the slab of white marble. 
His hair was matted, wet and hopelessly tangled with bracken from the foliage he had wrestled through, on his crazed passage over field and forest track.  
Madness…
Overcome by equal parts exposure and fear, Thomas Jefferson, on his knees in the squalling night, before the grave of his dead wife, couldn’t control the shaking engulfing his hands, his body.
Madness—had been a trait of his mother’s side, the intemperate, inbred Randolphs. 
Hands fell into his lap, curling fingers in palms, shivering violently. 
Never, in all his life, shy of his fourth decade, guided by intellect and philosophical reason, had he believed himself susceptible to such an overpowering, insatiable insanity. 
He reached out with a shaking hand, seeking touch in the darkness.   The night still brewed with rain, distant bursts of thunder, storm-heads beginning to thin, chased across the face of the moon, lightening whipping the looming heavens. 
His fingers contacted frigid marble, guiding him in the dark, as he crawled atop the slick stone, forehead bowed in misery, upon her grave-head.
Martha—”
Tear-choked, the wordless cry which followed welled from the depths of his heart, cast from his lungs, speared against God and Fate, all of his anger, his sorrow, shorn by the cold, ceaseless wind. 
Sightless in the night, he traced the etching, torn from him in death, feeling his tears flow beneath shuttered lids, a last sob wrenched from his throat.

Oh God, how I miss you.  Please, please don’t leave me here.  I cannot face the coming years without—

Part 5 Coming Soon!

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