I’ve returned to working on my novel about Italy. Took a wonderful webinar from The Book Doctors
, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, and it was so full of great tips for editing your novel, that I was itching to open the last draft. Their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published
, really is a must-have. It’s on my Kindle. And the BEST PART: if you buy a copy, The Book Doctors will give you a free 20-minute consultation on a subject of your choice. So grab a copy today!
Here are the first three pages of The Renaissance Club,
Chapter One. Temblors in Time.
If she could ask the great Renaissance sculptor Bernini one thing it would be, “If I were a piece of stone, how would you chisel me free?”
But May was a realist. Instead of fantasizing one more time about the subject of her master’s thesis, the way she did in her tiny office at the college, she stuffed a lipstick, blush, and water bottle into her backpack. She twisted the image of Bernini into a mental topknot and scrambled to get out of the hotel room into Rome before Darren emerged from the bathroom.
May picked up her notebook and tore out a page, scribbling with a skipping pen. Gone surfing. Start the Renaissance without me. Surfing was code for Alone Time. The shower was still going as she left the note on Darren’s pillow. She was unrepentant and unready to forgive the boyfriend who was taking her to Italy.
In the elevator, she loosely braided her hair and dabbed on makeup, admiring her large but bloodshot eyes in the tiny compact. Just before the doors opened, she remembered to zip up her jeans and adjust her loose silk top to show one purple strap. May cruised through the bar, grabbing an espresso and a roll, stepped through the revolving doors, and ran right into a tall man in a gray suit with a black coat draped around his shoulders.
She was about to apologize when he held out his hand.
“Hello,” he said. “Are you by any chance a member of The Renaissance Club?”
“Yes,” she said, wondering how, in the crush of people coming and going through the Grand Hotel’s entrance, he had guessed. “I’m May Gold, and I’m here to drink in the entire Renaissance. Especially everything by Bernini.”
“I’m George St. James, your guide in Italy.”
She shook his hand. As her fingers touched his soft, thin hand with its gold ring, the street wavered and the buildings shimmered. Noisy market stalls crowded the Baroque facades. Through the hubbub passed a small, decorated elephant. It was led by a gypsy woman in a red sari and was just like the elephant she had wanted to ride as a child, when she and her parents had visited India.
Startled, she let go of George’s hand. The street wobbled back into modernity, with pictures-taking tourists and darting Vespas. She was going to need more than one espresso to break through this brain fog.
“I’m pleased to meet you, May,” said George St. James. “I think you’ll enjoy Italy. Everyone does.”
Their guide to the Renaissance was middle-aged, with gray-streaked, wavy black hair. Assured. Relaxed. Although May was five-eight, he made her feel short. His olive skin, dark eyes, and uber-charming smile combined to give him a friendly but exotic look. She had expected a distinguished elder, based on Norman’s description.
“Are you always the first out?” George asked. He had a curly voice, rich as an actor’s, with an American accent.
“I must have been born five minutes early,” she said.
George gestured toward the bus idling at the curb. “Our bus is on time. That’s remarkable in Rome! It must be you. Today, everything will be five minutes early.”
She laughed and looked around. “And it will be twenty-five times more beautiful than I hoped. I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be. Unless I could be in the actual Renaissance.”
George St. James smiled. “Actual is such a relative term. How many are in your Renaissance Club?”
“We’re twelve. Thirteen, with the doctor.”
“A doctor? Is someone ill?”
“No, nobody’s sick. Dr. Iris is a friend of Norman’s wife. Norman just tacked her onto the tour. She hasn’t even studied the Renaissance.”
“I guess as president of your club, Norman has that prerogative.” The way he said “prerogative” ran up and down a musical scale.
As they stood there in a companionable silence, May closed her eyes and let herself drift. George was different than most academics, who were always sparring and vying, as Darren did even with her.
She realized that Darren wouldn’t find her note funny. Gone surfing in the Renaissance was her running joke. Gone surfing with Bernini, Gone surfing for coffee, she had a long litany and liked to text them to Darren, but he rarely sent back an “LOL.” Sometimes he seemed not just ten years older than she was, but a whole generation older.
She had to stop thinking about his reaction to her miscarriage two months ago. The look of relief on his face. Because every time she remembered, her heart plummeted. She didn’t want to know what she felt, and she shouldn’t be an ingrate. Darren might not want to have a child with her yet, but the man she had lived with for two years was paying for her to come on this fabulous art history tour.
She damped the anger and pulling out her notebook did her Gratitude Practice. But the pen skipped, so she took out her phone and typed.
Gratitude: Darren, Italy, Bernini! Today the master of the Renaissance will surround me. Bernini’s art, the face of Rome, ecstatic movies in stone. Passionate beauty.
She suddenly felt movement underfoot. “Hey, did you feel that?” she asked.
George smiled, showing small, even teeth. “A tiny earthquake. We’ve had several this morning. You must have a good sense of balance to have felt it.”
“Yes,” she said. “Yoga. And living in California. Are you our guide all the way through Italy?”
“Yes. Rome, Assisi, Siena, Florence, Venice. With a few gaps in time.”
Gaps in time—an odd phrase. She hoped Darren wouldn’t come out too soon. She wanted to get to know this interesting man who fell into gaps in time.
George pulled out a cigarette pack and removed a gold-banded smoke. He took out a gold lighter and offered her a cigarette. “Thanks, but I don’t smoke.”
“Do you mind if I do?”
“Not at all.”
He lit up with a small, bright gold lighter, inhaled deeply, and exhaled curlicues. Their shapes echoed the arching plumes of a Renaissance fountain across the street. He put the lighter into his pocket.
“What a beautiful lighter!” she said.
“It was made by Cartier. A gift from someone on one of my tours.”
May marveled that a tourist would so extravagantly thank a guide.