Today I have the immense pleasure of hosting author Fiona Paul as part of her Canadian blog tour for Belladonna. I absolutely loved Venom so I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this tour. Be sure to keep reading for your chance to see an exerpted scene from main character Cass's journey from Venice to Florence and to find out more about the book and the author.
Fiona: Happy Saturday! Today I'm starting with an exclusive excerpted scene taken from Cass's journey from Venice to Florence:
They had broken down near a crossroads, but both streets were completely bare of traffic. Open meadows stretched around ten, with tree-covered hills off in the distance.
Marco cursed. "And only an hour outside of Florence."
The driver knelt beside the fallen axle. "We can't move on until the damage is repaired."
Just then, Cass heard a howl from the trees. She turned toward the noise and saw a pack of wild dogs across the field—four of them in total, slinking around the periphery of the tall grass.
"Marco," she said, her throat tightening. "Dogs."
Marco turned. "They won't bother us, Signorina Cassandra," he said. "We're too many. Dogs are cowards."
The largest dog lowered its haunches to the ground, and the others followed its lead. But Cass couldn't shake the feeling they were watching her.
She stared back, not wanting to appear afraid, until the rhythmic drumming of hoofbeats drew her attention. A carriage was approaching from the direction of Florence. She watched the cloud of dust draw near, realizing it wasn't a carriage after all. It was an old wooden cart pulled by a short, squat horse. Two men in leather doublets were perched on the back of the cart, their boots dangling almost to the ground. Another man straddled the horse. When he spotted the disabled carriage, he slowed the horse to a walk and pulled up near the side of the road. Cass headed toward them to see if they could offer assistance. Too late, she realized what the cart was carrying.
She stopped right in the middle of the road, hugging her arms around her waist. The scene brought her back to the night she had discovered Falco's secret. But these men weren't robbing graces. Apparently, they were going to dig them.
The two men in leather doublets jumped off the back of the cart with their shovels and traipsed across the field. One of them pounded a wooden cross into the ground while the other began to dig. The third hovered close to the cart, glancing occasionally at the linen-wrapped bodies, as though he thought they might walk away.
Cass wondered why they would be taken so far outside of the city to be buried. Curiosity outweighed her fear, and she started across the road again. Madalena followed her.
"Be careful." The man—the driver—positioned himself between the girls and the cart.
Cass glanced down at his hands. He wore a plain silver band around his thumb. "Are they…infected?" A ripple of fear moved through her. Luca's own father had contracted the plague from one of his servants. He had died in less than a week.
"Oh, they are infected all right," the man said. "With the Devil's own affliction."
Cass struggled to understand his thick Florentine accent, but she was pretty sure she had heard him right. She leaned back from the bundle. With one hand, the man delicately parted the burial shrouds around the first body's face. The dead girl looked like her, with freckled skin and auburn hair.
And she and a brick jammed into her mouth.
"They are vampires," he said grimly.
Fiona: I picked this passage to highlight for four reasons:
1. It is creepy and awesome!
2. Seeding is important. Everything from the dogs to the girl with the brick in her mouth will become important again later, and it's more believable to readers if they see these things woven into the narrative, not just inserted for the first time where the plot demands them.
3. When it comes to travel, less is more. Editor's notes: Unless something relevant happens on the trip—as is the case here—best not to subject readers to endless descriptions of carriages, boats, seas, roads, mountains, hotels, etc. (Who, me?) Actually she said it nicer than that, but the meaning was clear :)
4. Never discount any random factoid you come across while researching, especially if you are writing a trilogy. A Paper Lantern intern discovered this cool article while putting together some information about Renaissance Venice:
"Probably not useful," she said, "but interesting." This article became the basis for major plot point in Belladonna and that intern went on to become an editor and then leave to do even greater things. (She's currently a superhero). Thanks, B!
About the book:
Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he's arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass's life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose--the only evidence that will prove he's innocent.So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirées and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Oder's eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.
About the author:
Fiona Paul is a writer and registered nurse from St. Louis, MO.
If you missed it yesterday, be sure to check Read My Breath Away for a deleted and annotated scene from Belladonna. And if you want more, be sure to check out Book Nerd Canada on Monday for a special interview!