Bloodstone Castle stands sentinel on the shores of the Ligurian Sea. Secreted somewhere in its dungeons is an ancient Roman treasure of immense value.***
Contessa Morena of Bloodstone Castle possesses a mysterious bloodstone pendant, the only proof the treasure exists. Since childhood, she has been promised in marriage to Duke Ernesto of Savona. Ernesto is a desperate man, a gambler who has lost his family's fortune, a man who resorts to murder, not once, not twice, but three times to keep from paying his debts and to hide his dirty secret. Marriage to the lovely Morena will make the treasure his and restore his power and desperate circumstances.
After the brutal murder of his father, Duke Amoro of Genoa swears two oaths. The first is to avenge his father's death. The second is to honour his father's dying wish and wed Morena of Bloodstone Castle and end the violent feud with between their two families. He severs his affair with his mistress, Laria, and departs for Bloodstone Castle to propose to Morena. But Morena refuses to marry him.
Her life thrown into chaos, Morena must choose between obligation and honour, truth and lies, good and evil. She must honour the betrothal her father arranged with Ernesto. Amoro continues to try to convince Morena otherwise.
So what does a typical writing day look like for you?
I usually spend my mornings tidying up and doing a little housework. Then I check email, check on my critique group, and sometimes update my blogs or write a book review. Then I write or research in the afternoon and evening. I usually go to bed around 9 P.M. and read for an hour or so.
What inspired you to become a writer?
The desire to write developed when I came across information on the Battle of the Moro River in World War II in Italy which occurred on my mother's vineyards. Their village was brutalized, their friends were killed, and they survived by hiding out in a cave for eight months after their home was blow up by the Germans. Their story of survival inspired me to write.
What draws you to the medieval era and Italy?
I am the eldest daughter of Italian immigrants who came to Canada in the late 1950s. From a very young age, I fell in love with Italy, its history, its beauty, its culture. I indulge my yearning for my Italian roots by researching and writing about Italy. As a child, I read every fairy tale book in my library several times over, year after year. I loved reading about princesses, queens, kings, knights. I have carried that with me all my life except that now I read and write medieval era novels.
What's the hardest part of writing, for you?
It takes a great deal of energy to be creative. And it takes several re-writes before I deem a chapter good enough to progress to the next. I change and fix almost constantly. Many author friends tell me to just write and not worry about polishing and editing until after one is finished their first draft. I'm too much of a perfectionist to take that advice, so writing takes me a little longer than most.
And the easiest part of writing?
I find editing and polishing the easiest. Once I have written the bones of a particular chapter, I love going back over it to add sights, smells, descriptions, reactions, details. That's when the scene really comes alive for me.
The cold claws of death reached for Vittoria Monterossa, Contessa of Portovenere. In a childbed in the highest tower of Bloodstone Castle, her lifeblood waned. Despite the warm blaze from the hearth, Vittoria shivered. With much toil, she birthed the babe. A hive of activity surrounded her and the small cradle.
"Please, let me see," she pleaded.
"We must bathe and swaddle the child first, my lady," the midwife declared as she exchanged bloodied towels for fresh ones.
Vittoria could not see it, but she sensed the warm dampness of the ominous crimson stain, dark as midnight, that crept across the bed linens.
Fear lived in every cranny of the old midwife's wrinkled face as she worked to quell the incessant bleeding. She threw another blood-drenched cloth onto a growing pile in the corner. An attendant scurried over with a stack of fresh linens.
Two noblewomen, shocked to silence, stared at Vittoria. One reached for the babe, and set the mite into Vittoria's arms. The other woman stared unmoving as if afraid.
To Vittoria, only the bundle in her arms mattered. The daughter, for whom she laboured so long, suckled at her breast. She pulled the child close and inhaled sweet scent. Vittoria savoured a moment she knew would not last.
"How cruel for destiny to deny you a mother," Vittoria whispered. Tears flooded her eyes. She looked down to memorize the child's features. Vittoria ran a hand over the delicate pink face and dark threads of hair and heaved a forlorn sigh. The tiny baby would never remember the warm caress of a mother's touch. That knowledge left a bitter edge to these sweet final moments together.
Vittoria removed a golden necklace upon which hung a large bloodstone pendant encircled by gold filigree. Peculiar flecks of reddish brown that resembled splatters of blood blighted the large green gemstone.
The midwife gasped. "My lady, don't remove the amulet. Its powers will quell the blood."
Vittoria shook her head. She knew her fate. Not even the bloodstone could alter the eminent. Perhaps it lost its powers. No one in the room dared to argue. Her hands trembled. Vittoria draped the necklace over her daughter's tiny head and neck. The bauble looked immense against the baby's diminutive chest. She turned the familiar pendant around and ran her fingers across the ancient Roman writing on the back. Faded and worn from years of wear, the words remained discernible. Vittoria reached out for her dearest and oldest maidservant and read the words aloud.
Redder than the rose,
Whiter than the lilies,
Fairer than everything,
All will glory in thee.
"A mountain's worth of significance," Vittoria whispered. She paused to recover her energy. "For generations, my family handed the amulet down from mother to daughter."
The maidservant gave Vittoria's hand a squeeze.
"A mysterious legend decrees the jewel originated from a Roman treasure casket buried somewhere beneath Bloodstone Castle – a treasure many searched for, but none discovered. In childhood, I searched, but failed."
Desperate to convey a lifetime of love into the little soul, Vittoria leaned forward, and pressed her lips to her child's forehead. "Tell my daughter this."
With tearful eyes, the maidservant nodded.
Vittoria breathed a sigh of relief.
Time lingered then stopped altogether. Nothing mattered except the power of her love in this final farewell. At last, Vittoria pulled away and let her head sink back upon the lace-trimmed pillow.
The midwife lifted the child. The noblewomen crossed themselves. Vittoria's eyes fluttered. The room grew dark. Her body weakened with every breath. Tell my husband - her name is Morena. He must love her enough for both of us."
Her chest rose one last time.
You can win a copy of BLOODSTONE CASTLE. Simply leave a comment or question for Mirella. We'll draw a random commenter next Sunday, so be sure to check back and see who's won. Good luck!