It is not often I come across a book that gets me in from the very first chapter; I don't expect it to happen that way and give a book due time to pique my interest. Joshua Grasso's The Astrologer's Portrait was one of those rare gem's that hooked me from the getgo... with his whimsical narration and charming story telling, it engenders everything that got me into fantasy in the first place. Imagine my excitement when I heard his new book, The Winged Turban was available to read on Kindle, Sept 14th. Therefore, I could not resist inviting him back to my blog to showcase his latest work which has already received rave reviews on Inkitt.com.
Beatrice is the victim of an arranged match to the Duke of Saffredento, who hastily abandons her to an estate full of forgotten traditions and curses. When the portrait of a strange woman begins turning up in the house, she summons the great sorcerer, Hildigrim Blackbeard, to investigate. The portrait, it seems, has traveled through time to find her—and bring her back by any means necessary. For she can no longer be Beatrice of Saffredento, but a young woman who died two-hundred years ago and must be reborn through the magic of an Enchanted Circle. But no one in recorded history has ever conjured such a Circle, though quite a few have gone mad in the attempt...
What readers are already saying....
"I was hooked by the narrative voice, which is an enjoyable and often humorous pressence.""This absorbing story is creepy enough to make you fear for the protagonist, and has enough twists to keep you reading."
"'The Winged Turban' had my skin crawling.""Brilliantly Atmospheric"
An excerpt to give you a small taste...
Beatrice found a suitable place for the portrait where she could easily lie in bed and see her, but could also flip to the other side and forget she existed. In the small hours of the night, she wavered between fear and fascination. Not that she entertained the slightest belief in the supernatural. No, the artist had simply copied some portrait he glimpsed in a gallery, or even one of his rival’s creations. What did concern her was the sitter’s identity. Clearly she was somebody, or had been, in some drawing room in decades’ past. What concerned her even more were the eyes. They never turned away from her. Why had the painter depicted them in this way, not looking just to the left or right, but directly, boldly, at the viewer? At her?
She turned over and willed herself to sleep. Beatrice had long since become accustomed to the sounds of the estate. What at first kept her awake became almost soothing, or at least predictable in its rhythmic convulsions. Tonight, however, the estate was silent. Nothing moved or spoke. Servants seemed entirely absent from the hallways. Thoughts raced in her head, daring her to turn around and look at it again, just to make sure. To make sure of what? That it was still there? Of course it’s still there, she told herself. Where else would it go? Paintings exist for the pleasure of their owners. They only have what life, what meaning, we give them. The poor woman, whoever she was, is dead and buried; no painter, not even Signor Fabrizio, could restore her to life.
At some point these thoughts merged into dreams. Most of them involved sitting for a portrait, though in the latest one she was completely alone. The painter had vanished. For whatever reason, she remained standing, terrified to move a muscle. Yes, something was watching, inspecting her with the eye of a connoisseur. Days passed as did the hope that someone would relieve her. At length she realized, I’m not waiting to be painted, I am the painting—I’m in it now, being stared at. I’ll never leave. She screamed but nothing came out, the cries silent behind her smile. Cold, wet terror swept over her as her limbs refused to move, her eyes to blink, her mouth to open. Her last thought before waking was can a painting die? Or must it live on, a work of untroubled beauty, forever?
Her heart beat so loudly she wanted to stuff it under her pillow before it woke the servants. Sweat ran down her forehead as she stared through the darkness. Stars gleamed out the window. Just a dream—too much excitement. What did she expect? Months of total isolation before the artist’s arrival…she naturally projected her fears and desires onto the painting. In a sense, she had created it. As she slowly came to, details of the room fell into place: the end table, the curtains, a chair in the corner. Now all she had to do was look at it. Once I see it, I’ll know and understand. Then I can go back to sleep. She blinked and squinted, waiting for the vision to appear. Didn’t I hang it over the end table, in perfect line of sight with the bed? That seemed right, though in her scrambled state she couldn’t be sure. Her eyes scanned the wall for the familiar outline which never emerged.
She slowly crawled over the bed for a candle. Opening the tinder box, she laboriously—clumsily—conjured a spark and ignited the wick. A small blue flame shot up, but gradually subsided into a duller yellow. The Duchess raised it toward the wall, the feeble light groping over object after object. Finally she reached the spot where she knew the painting would be. She could see it in her mind, remember hanging it on that very spot. It wasn’t there. Her mouth went dry at the prospect before her. It must have fallen. She lowered the light toward the floor, inch by inch, terrified to do it too quickly. Clawing through the night, the candle revealed her clogs, overturned just as she kicked them off...a scrap of paper, possibly from her cousin’s latest letter...and nothing else.
She screamed until a parade of servants appeared at her door, half-dressed and wide-eyed with terror. Without words she gesticulated to the wall but couldn’t bear to look at it again. A young servant ran from the room in tears. Another, older woman, knelt to the Beatrice’s side and took her hand.
“Bad dreams, my lady, it’s nothing to fear,” she whispered.
“The painting!” she finally gasped. “Where is it?”
“Why, it’s right where you left it, don’t you remember?”
“Remember!” she shrieked. “Of course I do, I hung it there—right on the wall! It’s gone!”
“My lady…we saw you come down hours ago. You moved it.”
“I….moved it?” she said, barely breathing.
“Yes, you swept through the hallway carrying the painting,” the servant nodded, feigning a smile. “Didn’t say a word to any of us…and hung it right in the Great Hall.”
Beatrice shook her head violently from side to side. She did not—she had not! She had never left the bed. Surely she would have remembered getting up in utter darkness and hanging a portrait! That portrait!
“Naturally we wondered at your doing it at so late an hour,” the servant continued, soothingly. “But it’s not our business to question, and you did seem so determined. All the great ladies have their whims and fancies, and though we lower folk struggle to understand them, it usually makes sense in the end. Now come, a little rest…”
Beatrice shot up and ran past them, down the hallway, down the stairs and literally flung herself into the Great Hall. And there it was: hung in the very position of her husband’s great ancestor, staring down at her with knowing, intimate eyes. For the first time, however, she saw something else inside them. A threat. I’ve come to take my place in the house.
From the Author...
I was born in Mineola, NY, but actually grew up as a Southerner in Atlanta, GA and Tulsa, OK. I've spent all of my adult life writing, and used this passion for writing--and reading, as the two are inextricably related in my mind--to fuel myself through three degrees, getting my Ph.D. in British Literature in 2006. I've been a professor of English at a small university in Oklahoma ever since, teaching many of the books I grew up loving, as well as many I've discovered along the way. I've written at least 6 novels, most of them since finishing grad school, though only three are currently (self) published on Amazon: The Count of the Living Death, The Astrologer's Portrait, and most recently, The Winged Turban.
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