Friday Snippet #34

In the middle of an awesome blog giveaway, while writing guest posts, and studying how to market my books, my father called and asked me why I didn’t post a snippet last Friday. I forgot. So, in his honor, here is a piece from a novel set between Rome, Seattle, and Pantelleria. I’ve been rewriting this manuscript for the last four years, and hopefully soon I’ll decide it’s finally ready to be sent to my editor.

Mare, Mare...

From Her Book:

One day, after lunch, I noticed that Giulia had left pencils and papers by the stone bench facing the sunflowers’ row.

“Do you still paint?” I asked. We were drinking espresso under the pergola.

“I come here mostly to paint. I’ll show you my latest drawings.” Giulia went inside only to reappear a moment later with a thick stack of papers. “Here, take a look.”

I leafed through the drawings, mostly black and white representation of the view from the house, a few of them architectonic details of the dammuso itself. A column, the archway, terracotta vases. “They’re beautiful.”

“Pantelleria is beautiful.”

“Do you still paint?” she repeated the question for me.

“Not like I used to.” My eyes went to the capers flowers cascading from the trellis, their alien shapes begging to be sketched.

“Let’s do it.” As if reading my mind, Giulia passed me colored pencils and paper.

We spent the rest of the day walking around, looking for objects to immortalize. The night came and I had filled several sketch pads with prickly pears cacti and bright yellow broom fields.

The morning after, Giulia found me in the kitchen, still drawing. The first light of dawn had woken me up and I had gone downstairs for a cup of espresso. The sea framed by the wooden window was picture perfect. “I had to draw this.” I smiled at her.

“What do you think about touring the island on my Vespa? There’s plenty of interesting spots.” Giulia went to the moka to fill her cup.

“At one condition.”

“Which is?” She turned to look at me.

“Only if you let me drive.”

“All yours.” Giulia tilted her head toward the dusty-pink Vespa anchored to the wall just outside the kitchen door.

I removed the chain and the rusty lock and straddled the seat. “Are you coming?”

Giulia got a bite out of a succulent persimmon, wiped her mouth on a napkin, and followed me outside. “Let’s get off of the beaten path.” She sat behind me and we left. “I’ll show you a place where tourists never venture.”

“Cool.” I followed her direction and drove the Vespa unhurriedly, toward a winding road that looked more suited for goats than wheels. “Are you sure?”

“Park here and we’ll go down by foot,” Giulia instructed me.

I stopped the Vespa under a tree and I secured it to its trunk.

“Be careful where you walk, the gravel on the road is treacherous.”

She hadn’t finished saying it that my flat-soled espadrilles slid on the gravel and I fell on my butt. Giulia looked at me and started laughing. “Care to help me?” I couldn’t help to laugh all along. It felt good.

Friday Snippet #34

Friday Snippet #33

Gaia OcchioToday, the sun is shining and I went for a 2 hours walk with Nero. More of a slow procession than a real stroll, but he was in the mood for sniffing at the same leaf for more than it was appropriate and I had my kindle with me. All in all, it was a success. As I feel it was the rest of this eventful week.

For this Friday’s snippet, I have decided to post a small excerpt from the original version of Linda of the Night.  As I said in a previous post, Linda’s tale was written as a bedtime story a father narrated to his daughter in my fantasy, Magical Glasses. Erratic at best, Magical Glasses was my first Nanowrimo project. I finished it at 56k words and never looked back at it. Until I remembered the story of the ugly girl who lived isolated from the rest of the world because of her hideousness. This is how Linda’s tale was introduced:

“Today, I was walking through a dusty street crowded with stalls selling all sorts of things, when I saw an old, older than old, ancient lady with a face full of wrinkles, so many of them that it looked like she had a spider web on her face. She looked at me and asked if I wanted to hear a story.” Dad paused to let Luce make her usual comments.

“And you said yes.” Luce laughed.

“And I said no!” Dad laughed too and then waited for her reply.

“Why?” Luce seized one rosette without noticing. Mom caressed her hand to relax her fingers.

“Because you should never say yes the first time a bruja offers you something. They always, always, want something back from you.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I asked her directly what she wanted for the story, and then I said yes.” Dad loved the dramatic pauses and sometimes Mom complained out loud he overused them, but Luce could never have enough.

“What did she ask that you said yes?” Luce mangled another rosette. This time Mom let her be.

“The ancient bruja asked me to tell her a story in exchange for her tale.”

“What story?”

“I told her the story of when I saw you for the first time. I described the joy I felt when you held my finger with your little hand. I told her that I’d travel to the end of the world for you.”

“What did she say?”

“She said that a love so big deserved a gift.”

“What gift?”

“She told me the most beautiful story…”

Friday Snippet #33

Linda of the Night: a sweet short story

Copertina Finale Amazon

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.

My first short story is out. Linda of the Night, is a sweet, fairytale-style love story. It’s a piece I wrote—in a shorter and more children’s book prose version—during my first Nanowrimo and it was part of a longer novel. Originally, Linda’s tale was narrated by a father to his daughter as a bedtime story. The whole 56k words project was soon forgotten, but there was something about this character, at the time nameless, that made me think of resurrecting her story more than once. Eventually, I did.

Linda of the Night: a sweet short story

Friday Snippet #31

The sun is shining upon this small stretch of Northwest. I’ve been dieting and exercising the whole week and I didn’t have a single headache. I haven’t checked my weight on the scale—according to the app I’m using, I’ll be three pound less in two years anyway—but I do feel lighter. Since the day promises to get better, after lunch, I’ll go out for a walk with Nero.

From X:

Allegra was already out of breath and looked at the steep climb with dread.

“To the right!” Julius pulled her out of the path and they fell on the ground and were swallowed by the tall grass. “Stay low.”

Heart pummeling against her ribcage, she kept her eyes on the brown dirt. “What is it?” Then she cleared her nose and the scent of the looters reached her nostrils. They were coming from the Royal Palace, but still on top of the hill. She was scared, but didn’t want her aura to show it. She forced her lungs to work and breathed in and out a few times before saying, “Did I tell you lately how thankful I am I got paired with an unseer?”

He squeezed her hand. “Of course you are.” If he had said out loud, “Good try,” it wouldn’t have been clearer.

The looters were descending, running toward them, but apart from the noise their shoes stomping on the ground made, no words were spoken. It was unsettling.

Julius pulled her closer to him. “They won’t find us.”

She smiled against his shirt at his attempt of calming her. A small pebble pocked her right tight and she focused on the discomfort rapidly morphing into pain. The ache grounded her in the moment and didn’t let her think of what would happen if the looters saw them.

“The grass is tall enough to cover us,” he whispered in her ear.

The sound of approaching steps made her heart skip several beats.

Friday Snippet #31

Friday Snippet #30

Here we are again. The fog is finally gone. It rained. In the attempt of keeping the headaches under control, I started a new exercise regime and I’m checking the daily calories intake. Still alive. My productivity isn’t back to normal, but I’m working on that.

From X:

Her nose caught a scent she didn’t like. “We can’t stay here.”

“Where to?”

“Out.” She pulled him out of the bed and a moment later they were already downstairs, having mindlessly run through the bedroom where they had slept, Clarissa’s bedroom, the hallway, and the stairs.

They were at the main door, when Julius stopped her. He brought one finger to his mouth and then pointed it at the shadows dancing behind the opaque glass composing the door panels.

At the same time, the smell she had barely perceived a few minutes earlier became too strong to ignore and Allegra gagged. She stepped back, her lungs burning and her heart racing. She looked right and left, but when he shook his head, she turned toward the large window overlooking the gardens.

“Yes.” Julius squeezed her hand and they ran to the back of the room.

Allegra was lowering the handle of the back door, when she heard the sound of the main door being forced.

“There must be a treasure inside.” A muffled voice. A crack.

Julius propelled her outside and then tore through the garden, only to stop a few minutes later behind a tall bush. “Looters.”

She had already reached that conclusion. Julius’s house was going to be violated as hers had been. She couldn’t help two tears to escape her control, but was fast in drying her eyes. The sound of broken glasses reached them and Julius startled. She resisted the urge of looking back at the house to see what was happening and looked straight ahead instead. The Royal Palace dominated the view on top of the hill. “Not sure where else to go.” So many questions unanswered and no time to think about anything.

He nodded and she moved forward.

Friday Snippet #30

Friday Snippet #29

The fog is descending upon the houses outside my window. And it’s freezing cold. I don’t think Nero and I will go for a walk after all. Good news is my desk faces a big window. Also, it’s my mom’s birthday today. Have a wonderful 70th birthday, Mom. Love you.

From X:

“I was worried for you.” Julius moved the few steps from the wall to the bed and then sat on its edge, without coming any closer to her.

It wasn’t right. Touching for them was a necessity regulated by guide-and-guided code of conduct. Allegra felt his warmth and longed to reach out and take his hand, but she didn’t, which only increased the awkwardness. “Thank you.” Her voice came out too low.

But he had heard. “Of course.”

Of course he’s worried about me? Or what? “Couldn’t you sleep?”

“No. Do you mind if I stay with you for a while?”

She finally outstretched her hand and found his closer than she expected. “Can you help me relax?”

“Of course.” He moved on the bed to lie side by side with her, his head on the pillow, only a few inches from hers.

It wasn’t the first time they slept on the same bed. Before exams, they used to quiz each other the whole night. Sometimes, they did it just to prove they could without being caught. A few times, Allegra had asked him, like now, if he could ease her tension. Yet, now it was different.

She felt his gentle invasion at the edge of her thoughts. Spring and singing birds. The scent of washed linens drying outside. Warm breeze playing with her hair. Her eyes closed and she let him in.

“Something’s wrong.”

Words echoed in her head.

“Wake up.”

She turned the other side.

“Allegra!”

Hands turned her over.

“Smell the air.”

The request was repeated twice before she managed to open one eye and find Julius sitting on her bed. Memories of a few hours earlier rushed in. “What’s going on?” But she had already activated her senses. “I can’t feel her.” Clarissa’s smell was gone. She inhaled deeply and then shook her head. “I can’t feel any of them.”

Friday Snippet #29

First Unofficial Reviews for The Prince’s Day Out!

My illustrated fairytale has already gathered several endorsement by important people in WP_001648the children’s book world. Two wonderful gentlekids, O. and R., were recently looking at one of my painted pumpkins and exclaimed, “It’s from The Prince’s Day Out!” It felt good to have my art recognized by two young readers.  

Also recently, my niece Marisa, who is studying psychology, was asked to write an essay on a children’s book and she chose The Prince’s Day Out. I was touched by what she had to say about it.

Here is a translated excerpt from Marisa’s essay:

Monica dedicates her fairytale to her children asking them, “Don’t ever stop dreaming”.

Thanks to this short story we can learn and understand fundamental values like hope, love between family members , and the determination to overcome obstacles…

Life is not always beautiful and easy as it looks. Unfortunately, bad things can happen and we have to react, to find the strength within ourselves to go forward, because if we really want to achieve something we must fight and never lose hope. Because life is a continuous challenge…

Thanks to this fairy tale we can understand how important it is to stimulate and develop our imagination, to be mentally more flexible, and imagine better worlds. We are reminded of the importance of a loving and supportive family, but also of the importance of  never lose hope!

It is said … “Dreams are wishes …” But we have to fight for our dreams, for what we believe, and do not let our dreams dry like tears on our pillows. We must try to make them a reality so that we earn our happiness…

Isn’t this the most amazing review, or what? And she’s barely 14!

First Unofficial Reviews for The Prince’s Day Out!

Friday Snippet #28

Days fly by. Lots accomplished, but nothing to show apart from a variegated production of didls. In other and exciting—for me—news, I have a brand new workstation! Also, outside it’s frigid but sunny.

From X. Allegra interacts some more with Julius and his family:

“Why didn’t you leave?” Allegra asked Julius’s father.

“I can’t leave the King alone, and Caterina and the kids didn’t want to listen to reason. I gave the staff permission to leave, but Chef insisted she wouldn’t abandon us. So, here we are.” Carolus’s eyes went back to the mansion.

Only then, Allegra noticed how far into the gardens they had walked. The lights spilling out from the majestic windows illuminated the immediate surroundings, but ahead of her it was barely possible to make out the silhouettes of the topiary. She shivered.

“Let’s go back inside.” Carolus took off his jacket and draped it on her shoulders.

She accepted with a thanks without explaining she wasn’t cold. The darkness swallowing the night had frightened her. Not for the first time, the thought that Julius could only see a black canvas if left alone made her feel hollow.

They walked back to the house in silence. Not a sound interrupting their thoughts.

“Is it cold outside?” Clarissa was at her side as soon as they entered, one hand on hers to steer her away from the glass door and her father. “Come to the fireplace.”

Julius, who was still talking to his mother, excused himself and without faltering reached for Clarissa still looking at her. “You look pale.”

His sister immediately lowered her eyes and Allegra repressed a gasp. Julius had breached one of the unspoken rules among unseers. The act of looking at someone to talk to someone else was considered one of the worst faux passes. He had never done that. He wasn’t the type to forget about social dictates.

And he didn’t seem to realize what he had done. “You look distressed.”

“It was cold outside,” Allegra lied.

Julius left Clarissa and took Allegra’s hand in his. She couldn’t help to glance at the girl and see she was trying to disappear into the background.

His fingers circled her wrist in response to her pulling away.

Friday Snippet #28

Friday Snippet #27

After Nanowrimo, the trip to Italy, publishing my fairytale, and the Christmas holidays, I’m slowly getting my routine back. Journey to the City of Men is under revision and I should be done with it shortly. Then it will be placed in the capable hands of my trusted beta readers. Then, re-writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, copyrighting, publishing, marketing… head spinning, hiding under a rock, etc. Rinse and repeat.

Anyway, Allegra and Julius are still at his parents’ and she has a tête-à-tête with his father. From X:

“Care for a stroll outside?” Carolus took her arm under his in a paternal gesture. “In all of this… we’ve forgotten to enjoy the little things, haven’t we?”

Allegra didn’t answer since she didn’t know what ‘all of this’ meant and looked back at Julius who was several steps behind and engaged in conversation with his mother.

“Shall we?” Carolus gently tugged her and she followed his lead.

Nobody else did and she found herself with the Right Hand of the king all alone, without knowing what was the protocol with a person of his station.

“Allegra, may I call you Allegra?” He looked at her from his considerable height.

She nodded, taken by surprise.

“Good. Allegra, I heard you didn’t find your family…”

She nodded again.

“I wish I could tell you what happened to them, but the truth is I know little.”

There was only one thing Allegra wanted to know. “Are they alive?”

Carolus didn’t answer right away. “If they escaped soon enough, they might be.”

“What do you know, sir?” Little knowledge was preferable to not knowing at all.

“The Malady is something that affects our brains—” Carolus caressed his chin with his free hand. “It makes people see things.”

“What kind of things?” The image of the terrorized boy they had met outside her house came back to her.

“Haunting things. Worse than nightmares.” Carolus’s voice wavered. “People commit suicides to stop seeing those things.”

“What is it?” The boy’s eyes were vacant, but Julius had seen through him and she had felt the horror he had experienced. “How are people infected?”

“We don’t know. That’s why cities are walled and exed. We’re trying everything in our power to stop the Malady from spreading.”

“Why wasn’t Cartaghena walled?”

Friday Snippet #27

Must Post Something Today!

Pink Paradise InkedHow apropos, it is a Friday. Last week, after writing  a lengthy snippet, I didn’t publish it. Not sure why. X is now 11k and I’m still having fun with it. Maybe it will be my  first serial? Stay tuned.

From X. Allegra has just met Julius’s family and they’re now having a moment of playful respite with his two brothers and sister:

“Can I change the scenery?” Clarissa had her hands on a remote control and was already pushing buttons before one of the brothers could reply. The luminosity in the room changed and the placid sound of waves washing over pebbles came seemingly out of nowhere. “Much better.”

Allegra looked at the ceiling where lazy clouds were floating over a cerulean sky. She could have sworn a marine breeze had carried to her nostrils a tangy flavor. As if to answer her question, a seagull’s cry echoed in the distance.

“I prefer the sound of rain and a moodier setting.” Julius was looking at her.

Allegra knew because Andres who still held his brother was staring at her. She felt a strange satisfaction in the knowledge Julius was truly looking at her. It was new. And then she realized what he had just said and wished they were alone. The memory of a picnic came back to her. It had happened only a few days before the whole madness of the Malady started. The world was a different place then. Boring, always the same, never exciting. It was the end of the quarter, all the finals done, and the weather was terrible. The sun had shone through the whole time they were confined inside to study, and now was freezing and incessantly raining. Allegra felt caged and her mood was affecting both of them. After a few days of listening to her complaints, Julius had enough and organized an outing of sort. He said he wanted to go for a walk and led her to the Winter Garden. If Allegra closed her eyes, she could still hear the sound of the rain hitting the glass walls of the conservatory enclosing the Winter Garden. They had spent the whole afternoon lying on the floor on a plush carpet, their eyes to the ceiling, talking of the silliest things. To this day, the aroma of tangerines was connected to that afternoon. “Me too.”

Must Post Something Today!