Welcome to my 2018 Brains To Books Convention Post! I am exciting to be highlighting my historical thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane, which follows the career of a female poison assassin in Tudor England.
B2BCyCon runs April 6-8. Readers can participate in the convention by:
And thank you to all who voted in the cover wars! Apricots and Wolfsbane won both the historical fiction and thriller cover wars!
Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane
Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin of murder, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.
At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge against her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.
With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrayals are just beginning.
My B2BCyCon Virtual Interview
1. Describe your main character in one or two sentences.
Facing with the choice between the convent or marriage, Lavinia Maud claims independence in Tudor England by employing poisons as an assassin. She balances her morbid career with faith believing confession erases her sin.
2. Which one word would you use to describe your antagonist? Now which word would your antagonist use to describe themselves?
My protagonist is an anti-hero which makes this question interesting.
Antagonist #1 is the magistrate she loves but who could never understand Lavinia’s murderous desires. He is honorable and would describe himself thusly.
Antagonist #2 is the Priest who refuses to hear her further confessions. He is conflicted but believes himself to be righteous.
Lavinia’s patrons serve as several more antagonists. They are vindictive but believe their actions are self-justified.
And then there are the antagonists that no one suspects.
3. What’s the worst thing your main character has done?
The reader would say murder but Lavinia begs to differ.
4. What is the one part of your book that you, as the author, like best?
I love how my book ends and no on e has yet told me they saw the ending coming. I love every time someone tells me it is original. The ending actually inspired the rest of the book. In order to not give spoilers, feel free to DM me on Twitter or contact me through my website and I’ll tell you more after you’ve read it 🙂
Excerpt from Apricots and Wolfsbane
The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.
With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.
I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.
My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.
Murder just never got old.
The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.
The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.
Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.
I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.
After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.
Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.
I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my emotions on the job. No matter the circumstance, I learned to remain calm and reason through any dilemma. That night was no different.
Grabbing the corpse’s wrist in one hand, I pulled on the metal band with all my strength. Still, the damn ring did not move, even with my heel braced against his chest. But through the sound of my grunting, the unexpected scratching of a nearby rat interrupted my efforts.
The rodent stood tall on his hind legs, observing the entertainment outside his hole in the floorboard. What else could I do except laugh in amusement? There was something poetic about the meager creature being the singular witness to the growing farce, while beyond the chamber door, an entire brothel remained unaware.
But their ignorance would not last for long.
By God’s nails, I was not going to degrade myself to play tug of war with a corpse, nor disgrace my spit to serve as lubrication. I retrieved the dagger from my boot and sawed through the bone of the blasted digit. In contrast, his purse strings cut with ease and the contained sum gave me confidence the proprietor would retain his promised discretion. Eager to depart, I cleansed the ring with the pure decanter of mead and left the contaminated gloves on the table.
I threw the finger to the rat.
Thank you to my genre leads, A.F. Stewart and Richard White for all of their support and time with B2BCyCon.