16 January 2014

Excerpt Thursday: Second Lisa (Book One) by V. Knox

This week, we're pleased to welcome author V. Knox with her latest novel, SECOND LISA, book one of a trilogy. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free copy of Second Lisa to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to answer the question below and leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.
Art History with a Twist of the Paranormal

A story of lost identities, missing paintings, and love carried over five centuries. A biography of Leonardo da Vinci, his forgotten sister, Lisabetta, and her lover Sandro Botticelli, brought to life through the mysteries of reincarnation and the powers of creativity. 

The rebirths of art and love, and the challenges and advantages of autism: the autistic and the artistic. Reincarnation or insanity? What if Veronica Lyons isn’t crazy, but madly inspired?

**An Excerpt from Second Lisa**

The Varnished Truth

The Manor House of Cloux, Amboise, France
April – 1519

It was the spring of 1519 and my brother still believed he could fly. As for me... I assumed my death had been complete; we were always a pair of  insatiable dreamers.
I sensed Leonardo’s transition was only a matter of days away, and that liberation from my portrait was similarly at hand, but I had forgotten the impassioned wish I’d painted on heaven’s door as if it was the mark of plague. ~ Lisabetta

* * * * *
The eyes of the ‘Mona Lisa’ are alive with memories and a new secret. From inside the painting, they follow the living with affection and compassion because waiting for a loved one to die is a peculiar mixture of guilt and relief.

Lisabetta had stopped aging after she died, but she calmly reflects how bizarre it is that the dead still have birthdays. Her portrait itself, is still a 'teenager' – painted seventeen years before when Leonardo had intended to abandon his paints forever, but had instead, in a burst of inspiration, immortalized his beloved sister forever.

For now, the innocent April when Lisabetta is 'forever fifty-years-old' and Leonardo turns sixty-seven, the French countryside of Amboise feels unbelievably sweet with the anticipation of heaven. One only has to gaze into the eyes of a divine portrait to discover the undeniable truth – that a master artist can capture the soul of a subject.

But after the creative fusion of artist and muse is spent, only great art remains truly immortal. Sometimes, however, it takes five-hundred years for the energy to cool.
Some artists break all the rules.
* * * * *
After my death, I had been delighted to discover the ability to revisit my younger years with ease, and I indulged myself by celebrating the joys of  my childhood, allowing them to eclipse the harsher years of poverty and abuse. I especially dared to imagine a blissful reunion with Sandro and the delight of seeing my daughter again, but most days I stayed focused on the task of keeping Leonardo happy. I bided where no time and all of time coexisted in a tapestry of memories and dreams. In many ways, Leonardo had been my first mother, but after I turned eleven, I returned the favor by mothering Leonardo for the rest of his life.

Leonardo’s last birthday prompted a spell of reminiscing within me. For his sixty-seventh year, my mind wandered as I lazed in my portrait’s landscape, ruminating over the events of my own life.

Not surprisingly, the lies loomed larger than the truths, but I was never sure of the truth anyway; I had the knack of justifying everything I did for our success.

I remained beside Leonardo in spirit form, to honor our extraordinary bond. ‘Till death parts us,’ was a hollow sentiment while one of us still breathed; beyond death was simply a necessary extension of our mutual pact to companion each other always – in all ways.

I remember my death as if it were a continuation of the account my mother, Caterina, used to tell of my birth. Her 'storyteller' voice enthralled me with its emotional power. She could deliver a story whole, offering it like a precious jewel. Caterina had been the first one to assure me that I was a special gift. Not from God – she was a non-believer when I was young, but as proof of love. She had wished on the stars for another lovechild to come, and I was the fruit of that heartfelt hope.

Her desire for my true father, Ser Piero da Vinci, never waned, but I was a secret – the second child, of their forbidden union. Leonardo may have been relatively transparent to the da Vinci family for his first few years, but I was permanently invisible to them, and because the rest of the world only acknowledged me when I was persistent, I learned to use a woman’s natural disguise of insignificance to my advantage.

Obscurity may be a double-edged gift, but to Leonardo, who had difficulty keeping his feet on the ground (literally as well as figuratively) I was always larger than life. He had wished for me too, and I came to believe that I had purposely been born in order to serve him.

Caterina taught me that an impassioned prayer carried power, and I made sure that I remained single-minded when I wished for anything. I never wished for small things; small things were easily accomplished through determination and cunning.

* * * * *

The shock of my death caused Leonardo to suffer a mild stroke – the first of three which left him increasingly disinclined to write or draw.

His young apprentice, Francesco Melzi (Cecco), was more like a devoted son than a pupil, and eventually he became Leonardo’s secretary and body servant. With our care, Leonardo adapted and thrived by living evermore separate from reality in his inner world where he was most comfortable.

It had been an obvious choice for me to remain earthbound for Leonardo’s sake – more like my maternal duty to turn my back on heaven and let its fragile portal close without me. Heaven would wait, I told myself, until Leonardo and I could leave together when his time came, and since I existed in a suspended state, it was not much of a hardship to endure a few years in-between worlds. The ‘Mona Lisa’ painting made it easier for me to stay, acting as a bridge between my real invisibility and Leonardo’s need to see me.

But reassuring Leonardo meant constantly pulling him away from the threshold of a grief that threatened to consume his joy for art and science. His immediate need eclipsed the call of my promising afterlife, no matter how tempting a prospect, but I never viewed this as self-sacrifice; it was love.

In his denial, Leonardo automatically substituted my portrait for the 'flesh-and-blood-me,' refusing to distinguish between the physical dimensions of life and the image he had painted of me. It became his habit to keep my likeness close, while I freely inhabited the land ‘escapes’ he had created for me.

Learn more about author V. Knox

Your chance to win starts now, by answering this question from the author: What portrait have you seen that looked back at you and seemed to speak? What did the figure say?

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