Crossing a Sea

We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better. 
C. JoyBell C. (author of poetry and literature books delving mainly into the mysterious, the philosophical and the esoteric.)

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I’ve been absent from blogging – both posting and visiting other blogs – for a little while. I’ve been busy working with my publisher and editor on getting the sequel to A House Near Luccoli ready for publication. Also, as the audience for my offerings has diminished, I decided to take a breather and step back in order to reevaluate this forum and ready myself to take it freshly into 2015.  I’m hoping that my next post will initiate its new direction.

That post is “in the oven” of my thoughts but not yet fully cooked.

For now, I’m excited to reveal the finished cover of To A Strange Somewhere Fled, which will very soon be released by All Things That Matter Press.

My appreciation to the readers of A House Near Luccoli who believed in my interpretation of the inimitable 17th century composer Alessandro Stradella, his world, music, associates, and the place of a fictional character like Donatella in a crucial part of his story. You encouraged me to continue with the sequel I had begun before A House Near Luccoli’s publication in 2012.

To A Strange Somewhere Fled has taken me forwards and backwards, my sources for information and inspiration regarding the novel’s main setting of Wroxton village and its Abbey in Oxfordshire, England demanding I investigate its history more thoroughly while allowing my experience of living there and some of the people I encountered to influence it.

After the sudden end to her collaboration
with the composer Alessandro Stradella,
Donatella moves from Genoa to join her parents
in a small village in Oxfordshire, England.

The gift of a sonnet, ‘stolen’ music, inexpressible secrets,
and an irrepressible spirit have stowed away on her journey.

Haunted by whispers and visions, angels and demons,
will she rise out of grief and aimlessness?
Her father’s friendship with the residents of Wroxton Abbey,
who are important figures in the court of Charles II,
offers new possibilities, especially,
as music and its masters—including the ‘divine’ Henry Purcell—
have not finished with her yet.

Below are a few pages of the opening chapter that will, hopefully, wet your appetite and make you hungry for more.

Please contact me here
to be included in an email list for notification of the novel’s release

To A Strange Somewhere front cover

Settling

Chapter One

 Wroxton, Oxfordshire, England, May 1682  

There was music in the house, not entirely imagined. Mama was playing the spinet and singing a little like Nonna, but with less exclamation than anticipation. She stopped as the clock in the front hall chimed half-past six, and called her husband and daughter to supper.

For the second time that day she insisted on more fatty meats than soggy vegetables accompanied by glazed breads and followed by sharp cheeses as well as a fruit tart layered with thick cream or a pudding made with raisins, cloves and dates. Such a heavy meal for late in the day, but Mama believed, as many Genoese did, the digestive powers were stronger during sleep.

She usually shrugged off the Captain complaining they spent too much on food. On that particular evening she implied it wasn’t enough. “Tomorrow we dine in style with the Baron.”

Was it the confinement of English rain and consolation of English suppers that changed her from being a woman worried over losing her looks and lover and willing to sacrifice for both into one who wouldn’t even give up a second and thicker slice of roast beef?

The Captain shook his head. “We’re not invited for eating, Julianna, but dancing and other nonsense.”

“Then I must satisfy myself beforehand.” Mama laughed as she wiped her wide mouth. “Leftovers.” Her hand waved over the table and landed on her daughter’s arm. “It seems Donata won’t have much.”

“Little bread … cheese,” Donatella struggled with three words as if they were ten.

“You should have some meat,” her mother spoke so it was just between them, “or your blood will thin.”

Donatella’s father raised another issue with his eyebrows.

“But Edward, I must for my girl to understand me. She’ll learn more English soon enough. Also, Lidia. Dear child. Why aren’t you dining with us? Since we can’t afford another servant, I won’t have her treated like one.”

The Captain didn’t react to his wife, but vaguely smiled at the little maid who needed something to do.

In his company Lidia was deaf and dumb and lowered her eyes, perhaps reminded of her own father lost at sea although he still lived on it.

She did glance at Donatella who was her confidant in feeling awkward and out of place. It wasn’t long since they had disembarked the cutter bringing more mail sacks than passengers from Calais, and stumbled tired and dirty into a weeping sky and welcome by Donatella’s mother. A friendly sailor was trusted with their trunks but not the cage purchased in Marseille, which Lidia carried until the Captain met them on the pier with a thin-wheeled wagon. He covered the cat cargo with his own coat, Mama’s Italian chatter compensating for his silence as they walked to the inn where they would catch the coach to London. A snowy stag on The White Hart’s whining sign encouraged him to finally say something, if only to quickly explain and wait for his wife to translate that ‘hart’ was an ancient term for a mature male deer. There wasn’t time to explore the castle presiding in falling clouds behind the town, but at least it was more distinct than on its chalky pedestal in a foggy first view from the channel. A few hours were enough to have an early dinner under low-timbered ceilings and near a brass laden fireplace, Mama devouring half a roasted chicken and a glass of port wine, the Captain savoring a minced-meat pie and kegged ale. Donatella and Lidia shared a platter of steamed oysters with the cats and each other, as though they hadn’t had enough of the sea.

If they had known how estranged they would soon be from it, the Captain wouldn’t have seemed irresponsible insisting on one last look at Dover’s harbor before the coach arrived with only ten minutes to spare for loading passengers inside, luggage on the back and hardier riders than they were on top.

Donatella and Lidia held the heavy carrier between them, Caprice and Bianchi quietly but pitifully complaining about their prolonged captivity. Mama sat next to Lidia and the Captain opposite her, a frail man and sizeable woman squeezing in to his side. Everyone was guarded, with limbs touching, body odors mixing and coughs possibly infectious. It didn’t help that Lidia, Mama and Donatella saying anything to each other pronounced them foreigners.

Fortunately, Donatella was next to the window and set her sight on stretches of woods and clusters of cottages, spired churches, the approach of towns and the clutter and curiosities of their streets, and even a cathedral where the couple got off and no one got on. The vacancy they left was just wide enough to allow the caged cats their own seating, but not for long. Before leaving Canterbury, the coach made another stop to pick up two musk-scented men who didn’t seem to notice the inconvenience they caused.

“Once we get to London, it will be easier,” the Captain said and Mama brought unsympathetic attention to them again. “The North brothers have offered their personal vehicle and driver to take us the rest of the way.”

They stayed overnight in Cheapside, the promised carriage arriving on time early the next morning. It made for a quicker and friendlier journey, and smoother, too. As the Captain pointed out, steel springs meant less bumps and jolts while glass windows fogged but didn’t leak.

A little over a week later the rain was still falling. Donatella lost track of the days since she had seen the sun.

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donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

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11 thoughts on “Crossing a Sea

  1. As you know, without a doubt, the only constant in life is change. I’m still waiting to get my paws on your first book. I hope it won’t be too much longer. It does sound delicious and Christine raved about it so that is good enough for me! 🙂 Léa

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  2. Oh what a brilliant taster Diane! I really can’t wait. I almost forgot this was an excerpt and was surprised when it ended. I was really into it picturing everything and everyone! Your writing is simply heaven 😊❤️ Xxx

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  3. Beyond fabulous, my dearest Diane! You know, I hope, just how thrilled I am for you and how impressed with your work (and your dedicated progress in it as well), and most especially with your deeply artistic spirit, I remain. Congratulations on this latest accomplishment!!!

    Kathryn

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    • Thank you, Kathryn! I appreciate your support and welcome your visits. Feeling rather lonely over here these days. 🙂 I hope to make a visit to your lovely blog soon. Time and tide … Hope all is well. Blessings. XO ❤

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