Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fiction: She Told Me She Loved Me

By Tracy Ward

She told me she loved me. Leaning in to me, crinoline to crinoline, Violetta stroked the small of my back flashing that mischievous smile. I suppose she wished me to say that I loved her and perhaps I did though I'd never admit as much. Her lips were so close to mine as we huddled amidst the throng of people gathered in Mr. Taylor's dance hall. The music played ferociously while I scanned the room for a suitable dance partner. When she leaned in I expected her to tell me some devilish tidbit about someone else close by. The way her eyes widened at the sight of me I thought for sure she had been itching to let me in on a scandalous secret.

We were close friends, her and I. Though we had just become acquainted, we'd spent much of the previous weeks together strolling the park and giggling like unmarried women do when there is nothing else to fill their days. She knew I had my cap set on Mr. Tydesdale and so why she wished to complicate matters thus was beyond comprehension.

“Do you think he'll come?” I asked, pushing her recent confession from my mind.

Her smile slipped away somewhat and she hesitated. I pressed on, not willing to show my distaste for her, at least not in a public house.

She avoided me for a few days following that incident. I can not say I was upset. It was better that she stayed away. Mr. Tydsdale had called at the house once and, as it was, I was free to accept his invite for a stroll. Four days after the dance, she sent me flowers. Red Tulips they were, arranged in a glass vase. There was a card with nothing but a V scrolled on it in what was clearly created by a feminine hand. I hid the card from Mother and pretended they came from Mr. Tydsdale, hoping their existence would never come up in a conversation with him present.

I wanted, with all my heart, to shred those blossoms to pieces and shove them down the privy but Mother watched me, waiting for me to dote upon them exclaiming how lovely they were. They lived for six days in their prominent spot on the mantle, a constant reminder that another woman was pining for me.

I accepted a invitation to Maybelle's house for a garden party. Maybelle and I are not good friends, though she has a lovely garden and some delicious brothers. Imagine my shock when I found Violetta there, looking like the cat who eat a canary. I tried to avoid her but couldn't. She watched me, rather openly I might add, as the afternoon progressed. Finally I resolved to speak to her.

With lemonade in hand, I cornered her in the farthest section of the yard near the potting shed. Making sure we were not seen, I dropped my placid smile. She reached for my hand but I slapped hers away, nearly spilling the lemonade in my other hand. “Stop it!” I yelled. “You can not continue doing this.”

“I can't help it,” she said, with a girlish laugh. “You are all I can think about—”
“No, you can not. I forbid it!”

She bit her lower lip then, and sent her gaze to the ground between us. I thought she would cry then, the reality of what I had said hitting her like a runaway horse and carriage. She didn't though. I saw her let out a breath and raise her eyes to meet mine. “You love me too,” she said, “I know you do.”

She kissed me then. As her lips pressed into mine, I dropped the crystal glass holding my lemonade and tried to push her away. I touched her shoulders with my gloved hands to push her from me, but found her too intent and demanding. Her tongue teased mine and I relented for the briefest of moments. I did not want her kiss, you understand, nor did I encourage it. She held me close and wrapped her arms around me just like a man would.

When she finally pulled away, that devilish smile shining brightly, I slapped her. My gloved hand did little to send the point home and when I tried to slap her with my other hand she grabbed it and we struggled. She was at an advantage and I found myself falling backwards into the bushes. She fell on top of me then and in between my kicks and attempts at pushing her away, I saw that amazingly decadent smile.
It all happened so fast. We were kissing and touching each other all over, enjoying that moment when nothing else mattered. She said she loved me again, whispering it in my ear as we fooled around.

“I love you too,” I answered softly, brushing the tendrils of hair from her face. For however long we were there, hidden amongst the bushes, Maybelle's garden party taking place all around us, we were together, in love and not caring.

After a length, my senses returned. My giddy smile faded and I sat up. I was adjusting my hat, repositioning it's pin when Violetta reached out to me, tracing the form of my waist and hips with her pointed finger. “What's the matter?” she asked, a drunk laugh accenting her lust.

“Do not touch me!” I commanded. I pulled myself up, aware that my white dress looked a wreck. She was the devil I decided. That day, I knew, she would never let me go with another. Shakily, I made my way back to the party, plastering a forced smile to my face as I mingled, all the while wishing for the end to the wretched day. I had been seduced, I decided. Seduced and wooed by the devil intent on securing my soul.

Shortly after I invited her for tea. While we engaged in small talk, I expected her to tell me her tea tasted bitter but she didn't. She accepted two cupfuls from me, never suspecting a thing. I had never done anything like that before and I wasn't sure what to expect. We parted merrily. She kissed my cheek in the standard fashion before wiggling her fingers in goodbye. As she walked down the steps toward the street I almost regretted doing what I did. It was too late then.

Mother told me the next morning at breakfast that Violetta was dead.
“Positively dreadful,” she said, “She fell ill so suddenly. How did she seem when she was here yesterday?”

I shrugged. “Right as rain.”

I knew I had done the right thing. She would have ruined everything. She was going to ruin us all.

So you see, Detective, I simply had no choice because I am suppose to marry Mr. Tydsdale.

Please note this is a work of fiction and in no way does it depict my opinions or feelings regarding same sex relationships or people who partake in them. This is more of a commentary on how society can box us into expected roles

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Honey, should I be worried?

I know a little too much about arsenic. I have conducted extensive research into early autopsy techniques and even found myself drooling over a 100 year old embalming kit the other day (I'm still thinking about it).

When I decided my protagonist was going to be a Victorian surgeon, I knew there would be many times when I would need to describe dead bodies, bloody scenes, internal organs and, of course, the myriad of ways Victorians "off'd" each other. To be honest, nothing thrills me more. The writing part is only half the fun. I find just as much enjoyment out of reading everything I can about the Victorian era, especially when it comes to medicine, crime and the seedy underbelly that was once a major part of London life.

Lately I have been living, breathing and dreaming this stuff so it surprises me when other writers I know tell me "I hope you are doing you research because there are readers out there who will rip you to shreds." I really want to be indignant towards them. Of course I am researching this crap! What heck do you think I am doing? Pulling it out of my ass while hoping no one notices?

I can't blame them though. I don't really give off a (Jack the) Ripper-ologist vibe. I'm the mild mannered former reporter pecking at my keyboard. I don't talk about my work with... well anyone really. The few times when I ventured to read my work at a writer's meeting left me with sideways glances and perhaps a few less points on the 'respectability scale*'.

Thankfully no one bothers me too much and I am pretty much left to my own imaginary world of depravity and murder. Every once in a while though I can see the look on my husband's face when he finds my notebook open to a page of scribbles outlining methods of arsenic poisoning and how someone might avoid its detection. I am waiting for the day when he places a gentle hand on my arm and asks, "Honey, should I be worried?"

* I made that up. I'm a novelist, what do you expect?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Behind the Photos

The photos featured on my blog were the results of a trip we took in 2008 to the colonial town of Salem, Massachusetts. Five days in October introduced us to the world where the devil seemed to roam everywhere and everyone was pointing fingers at those around them. It is a scary time in history both here in North America and in Europe where women and men were routinely burned or hanged for suspicions of witch craft.

Salem is known around the world for the part it played in the witch hunt hysteria. Travelers from all over come to part take in the mock trials while costumed actors assume the roles of historical figures. The small town plays host to innumerable people visiting the witch museums and attending annual parties commemorating the hellish deeds once perpetrated there. It has become a carnival atmosphere in some ways, especially around Halloween, when society is more inclined to speak of witches and warlocks.

During our visit, we toured The House of Seven Gables where Nathaniel Hawthorne set his most famed literary work. We were led around the house by a theatrically trained interpreter who lent a stellar dramatic flare to the place and really gave us a feel for the home and its previous inhabitants. Hawthorne despised his heritage and familial connection to Salem's sordid past and changed the spelling of his surname to give greater distance between him and his grandfather John Hathorne, who was magistrate and interrogator during the Witch Trials.

In the heart of Salem is an colonial cemetery (pictured above), bearing the names of people from the past. I spent quite a bit of time there snapping pictures and getting a feel for the place. Nathaniel Hawthorne was known to frequent the graveyard when he wanted time to think. His love interest, and later wife, Sophia Peabody lived with her family nearby so some speculate that they enjoyed secret trysts there.

Salem and much of New England has a spectacular connection to the old world, unlike any other place in America. The connections I felt to the people who once lived there and the early buildings constructed there was amazing. I believe spirits still roam, enveloping places with their energy, good or bad, leaving it tainted forever more. Salem is one of these places, marred by the hysterical energy that was once the Salem Witch Trials.

Our modern day fascination with the witch hunts of old stem from fears within ourselves. Would we have been one of the accused, tormented for being different and targeted for our land? Or would we have been an accuser, saving ourselves from suspicion by pointing the fingers at others? There is a third option too, the ones powerless to do anything but watched as accusations flew, terrified that they would be next. I have often asked myself, what would I have done?

Thank goodness I will never know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Write? You mean I have to actually write something?

I have a bright shiny blog to promote my exploits as an aspiring writer. Okay now what?

I'm not really that daft (slightly so, but certainly not THAT daft). My plan is to post excerpts, book reviews and interesting writing or reading things I find. I will write a bit about how I feel about the projects I am working on and what is getting done, or not, depending.

I use to write literary fiction but found the genre far too subjective, elitist and, to be blunt, a bit boring. I shifted into romance, not because I actually read romances, you see. I had learned it is a very lucrative portion of the publishing industry. I was under the distinct impression that one could follow a simple formula to finish a 50,000 word manuscript and follow the corset-strewn yellow brick road to publishing. Not exactly. My stories were far too complex compared to the standard guy meets girl prototype. They involved too many characters and did not have enough sex. Well then...I'll just take my prudish-self elsewhere.

I only recently started to delve into the mystery world when I realized it was a genre that could keep my interest and feed my soul.

By this time I had written one partial literary fiction novel, two complete romance novels and a partial modern mystery that just was not coming together. In addition, I also had 60 rejection letters addressed to yours truly. What's a girl to do? I ditched them all, started from scratch and came up with Peter Ainsley, a Victorian surgeon who specializes in the dead and dying.


This is more like it. Corpses, body parts, murderers and mystery.