She’ll Live Forever

Palermo youth_gnuckx - Version 2

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing next month

Saturday, March 26, 1870

“Someone put table salt instead of sugar into Mima’s tea,” Loffredo said, “so I expect she will be healthy and cooking the next time we visit the baron.”

“It figures,” Rosa said, entering the room. “She can’t cook, so she’ll live forever. I wish Umbrello were here,” she said, taking her place at the table.

Serafina smiled. “He’ll be here tomorrow, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him.”

After dinner, Serafina, Loffredo, Rosa, and Vicenzu lingered over strong coffee and dessert, discussing what they needed to do with the results of the tests while they waited for Teo and Totò to return from practice. Serafina told them about her meeting with Genoveffa and about the provisions of her trust. “I gave her a full account of our visit, and still she is not concerned with the danger to her person.”

“Of course not, she’s a nun,” Rosa said.

“But she wants her mother’s killer brought to justice.” Serafina told them about the passage she’d read in one of the notebooks, her fear that something “dark and sinister” was happening.

Photo: Palermo youth. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.

What Adriana Saw

Sailing in a sea of red_by CyboRoZ

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing soon

Her task accomplished, Serafina went to the window once again and gazed at the ornamental pools, the cork tree, the gazebo, the harbor in the distance.

“Is your favorite still the gazebo?” she asked Rosa, resting against the wall.

She answered in the affirmative, then pointed to a bench near the high grass. “What’s that—mist?”

Serafina looked. “More substantial than that. I believe it’s someone sitting outside, but who could it be? Oh, for the baron’s telescope—remind me to buy one when I get home.”

As they stared, the figure rose, her dark hair piled on top of her head, the gown, slightly outmoded. The figure drifted toward the gazebo, swinging her hips in a slightly exaggerated way.

Rosa looked at Serafina, a hand held to her mouth.

“Oh, Madonna!” Serafina exclaimed. “Is that what Adriana saw? And she thinks the woman is her mother, her mother who would never leave her.” Something squeezed inside her.

They watched as the figure glided past the gazebo.

Photo: Sailing in a sea of red. Credit: CyboRoZ (Flickr), Creative Commons

David Gaughran

Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation, Archway Publishing, contracting one of the most disreputable players in the business to run the show: Author Solutions.

We’ll get to that distasteful link-up in a second, but first let’s have a look at what Simon & Schuster are offering prospective customers (i.e. writers).

Fiction packages start at $1,999 and go up to $14,999. If you have written a business book, prices are saucier again: $2,999 to $24,999.

While the upper end of the pricing spectrum is obviously shocking, some of you might think that $1,999 isn’t too bad if you are getting a proper edit and a decent cover.

Not so fast.

That price tag doesn’t include any real editing, just an assessment which – according to their own website – is “not a replacement” for editorial services but “a preliminary diagnostic tool.”

But what if you need proper editing?…

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You Don’t Like the Ride?

Cefalu_by rongorongo

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing soon

Thursday, March 24, 1870

Serafina noticed clouds massing in the distance. “What do you do when it rains?” she asked della Trabia, after her breathing returned to normal, raising her voice over the clatter. She slid to one side on the hard seat and clung to the rail.

“Me? I have my own horse. As for the rain, we’ve been lucky the past four, five years. Seldom rains in the spring, I know, but we’ve been having a wet one this year, good soaking rains, then it goes dry for weeks at a time. Don’t know about the grain, but the citrus trees like it. Lately when the rain comes, it’s sudden and fierce, so I’ve learned it’s best to keep a slicker in the pack.”

They were silent for a time as the trap pitched and rolled.

Breaking the mood, he spoke, shouting over the braying mule and the creaking wood. “Don’t use this trap much, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment—we’re using all the carts in the field—can’t use the carriage on these paths. Our busy time now, picking, bagging the citrus, pruning some of the trees, cleaning up after ourselves.” He turned around and saw them clinging to the side handles. “You don’t like the ride?”

“It’s fine,” Rosa said, gritting her teeth. “Almost as good as a peasant cart.” She whispered to Serafina, “He’s driving us in this contraption on purpose, the rotter.”

At one point, Serafina knocked into Rosa, both almost tumbling onto the floor, but soon she adjusted to the motion and found her mind wandering. If Serafina were honest with herself, della Trabia would have charmed her a few years ago with his gorgeous eyes and his confident stride. True, they owed their lives to his fearless dispatch of the bandits this morning, but today he amused her, nothing more. She was amazed at how much her life had changed in such a short time and couldn’t help comparing him with Loffredo, who was taller than their guide and certainly more polished than della Trabia, possessing a cleansing, almost magnetic, certainly a noble demeanor and a sense of culture, too. Discarding her ruminations of a few minutes ago, she longed for him, right now, right this minute, but she had a job to do and steeled her resolve, turning her mind to the reason she and Rosa were here—finding the baroness’s killer.

Photo: Cefalu. Credit: by rongorongo (Flickr), Creative Commons.

Women Wearing Black Shawls

Cefalu_600_by Mike Jack

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing soon

Thursday, March 24, 1870

Serafina spun her glass around to the ship. Splinters of bright sun glinted off the waves and the metal hull of the Caterina Bella as the crew hoisted the gangplank while men untied the ropes and threw them over the side. Serafina forgot everything around her and leaned against the railing, feeling again the mysterious pull of the ship’s power and might. Like Etna, it held her momentarily in its thrall until she shook herself, heard the screaming of gulls, saw the water begin to churn, and watched the baron wave to someone on deck, perhaps the captain. A few passengers were on deck, signaling to their loved ones on the pier. There was movement and shouting from the crowd. Women wearing black shawls held linen to their eyes and children jumped up and down. Serafina felt the ghost of grief tugging her heart as the ship’s horn let out three mournful blasts and tugboats heaved hard against the steamer, pushing the massive hulk away from the pier and out to sea.

Photo: Cefalu. Credit: Mike Jack (Flickr), Creative Commons.

That Old Ghost

Hotel San Domenico, Taormina_600_by gnuckx

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing soon

Saturday, March 26, 1870

The image of her mother invaded Serafina’s thoughts, and she wondered why the ghost of Maddalena chose such an inappropriate moment to appear. She was contrary, Serafina’s mother, and not at all helpful—not in life, not in death—not giving Serafina so much as a hint during this case. That old ghost could have told her the name of the mastermind, could have stopped the conspirators in their tracks. But no, she was having none of it, probably lolling about on some fat cloud, wrinkling her nose and agreeing with the madam. After all, it was Carmela they were talking about, Carmela the first-born granddaughter, perfect in the eyes of Maddalena. Lost in the past, Serafina pictured her mother doting on Carmela, singing her perfection, Carmela with skin as soft as spring blossoms and as clear as goat’s milk. Serafina blinked hard. She never could do anything right as far as her mother was concerned. True, tonight she’d failed to see Carmela’s disappointment—her brains and charm and youth—but she didn’t have time for all this right now, she must concentrate on capturing the killers.

Photo: Hotel San Domenico, Taormina. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons

How Can You Not See It?

etna from the air_med600_by gnuckx

Excerpt from Death In Bagheria, publishing next month

Thursday, March 24, 1870

“As I was saying, it can be delightful here, especially a little later in the spring and summer, after working the dining room all night long, carrying trays and platters and whatnots up and down the stairs. And at night when the stars cover the heavens, oh my!” She pointed to the gargantuan mass in the east. “And you can see the fires of Etna and hear the ghost of Empedocles wail.”

“Who?” Rosa asked.

“Empedocles, ma’am. He jumped into the volcano.”

“Whatever for?”

The maid shrugged.

“Look at it, the mountain with its peak in the clouds. Can’t you see the fire coming from its maw?” Serafina asked.

Rosa shook her head.

Lina held her arm straight and still, gesturing toward the volcano’s mouth.

“How can you not see it? It’s that huge mountain right in front of us, grey black at the base, a few houses running up its side, white around its peak, smoke and fiery ash spitting out of its mouth!” Once again, as she described it to Rosa, Serafina felt herself drawn to Etna’s power and unpredictable rage. Slowly she led her friend closer to the edge, her arm rigid, her finger pointing to the view, the madam shaking her head, Serafina straining to show her what only a blind person could fail to see, unaware of how close they’d come to the railing. “Can’t you see the spurts of fire?” Serafina asked.

Photo: Mount Etna from the air. Credit: gnuckx (Flickr), Creative Commons.