Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Excerpt from "Esme's Amulet"

Some of you may be wondering why there are no CSFF blog tour posts this month. There's a simple explanation. Review copies for the October selection arrived on Saturday. (I almost backed my car into the mail truck as it careened into my driveway.) The October tour will start next week, the first week of November.

I don't have much to post right now because I'm busy reading, finishing the novel I had already begun and starting the one that arrived on Saturday. What's freaky is that both novels reference the same quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet. So, in lieu of posting about the work of someone else, here's a teaser from "Esme's Amulet," which appears in the October-November-December print issue of Golden Visions Magazine, available in paper or pdf. I love the cover art for this edition.

This excerpt picks up with Esme at a village market, desperately trying to sell a goat that has been eating her mother's prized vegetables.

Esme asked every passerby if they wanted a goat. Her cheeks ached from smiling. A few acknowledged her as they hurried to some urgent appointment, but most brushed past, and to the one man who showed an interest, Gertrude stomped her front hooves and lowered her head to butt him.

"Mother will cook you as sure as the sun sets if I take you home. And I'll get a whipping. Do you want to be eaten?"

Gertrude stared at her with placid eyes then bleated.

"I'll take your goat, miss."

Esme spun around urgently, searching for the owner of that female voice, fearful lest the buyer vanish and suspicious, after so much failure, of her own senses.

"Over here, lassie." Directly behind her, an old woman, whom Esme assumed to be a harmless though likely shrewd widow, sat in the shade of her stall selling trinkets. On her head she wore a red cloth wrapped multiple times like a turban. A smile softened the severity of her thin, wrinkled face, and her raised eyebrows questioned, inviting conversation. Esme jerked Gertrude in the stall's direction, and to her great surprise, the goat followed willingly.

"Did you say you want to buy my goat?"

"Well now. Buy is a strong word, but I'll trade you something for her."

Something worth five ducats ought to be just as good. She scanned the bronze chains, buckles, brooches, and bracelets displayed on the stall's wooden counter, grayed and softened from years of rain and sun. An oval-shaped brooch with a single garnet embedded in the middle with interlocking vines etched around the border caught her eye. How grown up she felt to be bartering. "That brooch is nice."

"Yes, it is, my sweet, but is that all you want for your goat?"

"My mother told me to bring home," she paused, then announced firmly, "six ducats."

"Six? I should say that goat's worth no more than three. She's got a sour temperament."

"She's skittish from the crowd."

"I have something that would be perfect for you." The old woman retrieved from her apron pocket a gleaming, gold-colored pendant strung on a leather cord. "What do you say to this?"

Esme admired the pendant as it swung hypnotically beneath the woman's hand. At the charm's center, a green stone, its surface a myriad of interlocking planes, each reflecting light at a different angle, captured her attention. She noted the five garnets embedded in a ring around the stone with runes in between and beyond those fought snakes and vines with each snake swallowing the tail of another while the vines coiled tightly around the scaly bodies. But to the stone her eyes returned, always retreating to the stone after forays among the red gems and writhing snakes.

The woman snatched the pendant away, replacing it in her pocket where it jangled, settling among coins. Faltering as dizziness overcame her, Esme placed her hand on the stall to catch herself.

"So what do you say? My charm for your goat. And it's more than just a pretty trinket. It's an amulet. Those runes ward off evil in all its slippery forms. Seems an even trade though I suspect you're getting the better bargain."

1 comment:

  1. Way to pick an engaging excerpt! I wish there were more, but I suppose that's the point. You set the scene and solidify the characters skillfully in this piece.