The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon – Ch. 5

Chapter 5: Write On, Geillis!

grimoire-of-geillis-goodmoonGeillis Goodmoon fairly skipped back from the post office, the parcel tucked under one arm. The order she’d placed three weeks ago, from that awesome little stationery shop downtown, had finally arrived!

At home, she tore the package open eagerly. The new fountain pen, a sleek black ‘demonstrator’ with its see-through barrel and piston filler, was just the thing for that new bottle of shadow-grey ink a-shimmer with silver sparkles. With it, she would fill her grimoire with moon observations, recipes, and all sorts of other witchy things.

With a growing collection of old-timey pens, Geillis had never used one with this type of filling mechanism. After reading the instructions – she always read instructions in case she irretrievably messed things up – she carefully unscrewed the barrel and dipped the nib into the squat glass bottle.

A sheaf of writing paper – nubby linen, size A5 – lay waiting. Geillis had never liked her own handwriting, but with the first strokes of glimmering grey on creamy white, felt transformed. Somehow, script flowed from nib to paper more smoothly – more articulately, more beautifully – with a proper pen in her hand.fine-wrting-instruments

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

“The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon” series & Geillis Goodmoon character © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

⇐ Missed the beginning of this series? Start here.
⇐ Read the previous installment, Chapter 4, here.
⇒ Watch for another installment of Geillis next week!


The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon – Ch. 4

Chapter 4: A Nose by Any Other Name

grimoire-of-geillis-goodmoonGeillis’ eyesight might not be very good (in fact, it was awful), but the witch had an excellent nose.

Except when it came to hybrid roses. To Geillis, those fancy flowers just smelled planty, just green. Old-time Rosa damascena, however – source of attar of roses, that ancient perfume – was a different story. When she sniffed that one, she thought she’d died and gone to the Otherworld.

Every once in a while, she’d get inspired to mess with her essential oils and concoct a new fragrance. Nothing with nasty chemicals, mind you. Just a few drops of e.o.’s in a carrier oil, a few adjustments to the blend, and voilà! She’d have a brand new, fabulously witchy scent with a twitch of her nose.

Today, it was a hippy-dippy type of smell she was looking for. Summer was coming, and she was feeling particularly bohemian. She visualized an album cover from Heart, one of her favourite bands – the one with the group dressed up like troubadours and gypsies.

There should be some roses in it, she thought. And a little lemon, to lighten things up. And the base note should be … patchouli. Definitely patchouli. Can’t be a gypsy without patchouli.

“Ugh!” she grimaced, shoving her eyedropper and the rollerball bottle aside. The tiny stillroom filled with a musky reek.

Too much patchouli.essential-oil-perfume

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

“The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon” series & Geillis Goodmoon character © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

⇐ Missed the beginning of this series? Start here.
⇐ Read the previous installment, Chapter 3, here.
⇒ Want more Geillis? Turn the page to Chapter 5.

Not Any More – Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Valerie J. Barrett

Friday night traffic conquered, and three weeks of supplies put away. It really was too hot for a cup of tea, but she’d earned one.

The cottage kitchen did, at least, catch the August breeze. Waiting for the kettle to boil, she stood fists on hips, surveying her domain and making a mental checklist of chores to be done.

The hand-me-down china needed sorting. And the cast-iron stove was in dire need of a polish.

In the still-shiny kettle, she glimpsed the face of the man who’d brought it here. The one who would no longer come to the lake.

“Not Any More”, a 100-word story © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

Thank you to our host, Rochelle, for choosing my photo as the story prompt this week! I took this picture at my family’s rustic, 108-year-old summer cottage, which is perched on a tiny island north of the city and has witnessed many generations of love and enjoyment.

It’s been a blast reading participants’ take on the photo! To join in the challenge to write a complete story of 100 words or less, click on Rochelle’s name above and follow the directions.

The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon – Ch. 3

Chapter 3: What’s in a Name?

grimoire-of-geillis-goodmoon“Is that your real name, Goodmoon?” asked a nosy and not-very-diplomatic acquaintance.

“Well, yeah,” Geillis replied. She’d been raised in the suburbs by very normal parents. Whyever did her friend think she’d do something as exotic as change her own surname? How does a person even go about doing that?

“It’s just … that name … it just sounds so made up,” the friend insisted. “So Hollywood.”

“‘Goodmoon’ goes back hundreds of years,” Geillis said. “Like, to the Middle Ages, or the Tudors or something. In England. That’s where my dad’s family comes from.”

“Huh,” the friend shrugged. “How do you know so much about them? Did you sign up for Ancestry or something?”

Geillis half-smiled to herself. Memories of long-ago lives flooded in like icy water, of women tied to a ducking chair, being lowered into a swift-flowing stream.

I know because I was there.fortune-teller-crystal-ball

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

“The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon” series & Geillis Goodmoon character © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

⇐ Missed the beginning of this series? Start here.
⇐ Read the previous installment, Chapter 2, here.
⇒ Want more Geillis? Turn the page to Chapter 4.

The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon – Ch. 2

Chapter 2: An Ye Harm None

grimoire-of-geillis-goodmoonGeillis Goodmoon had a bad temper. That is, people behaving badly – selfish people, stupid drivers, folks being mean – brought out the worst in her, and that’s when it was so hard to stay cool.

One time, after she’d been the innocent victim of a particularly upsetting episode of road rage (the guy nearly ran her off the road, then flipped her the bird and sped off, screaming horrid insults), she looked up how to curse enemies on Pinterest.

She was a regular user and enjoyed reading the how-tos, crafts and witchy stuff there, but she also knew the app, like 99% of the ’net, could be full of crap. What she saw, as she scrolled through the dangerous spells and harm-doing hexes, was not laughable – it was scary.

She logged out and turned off her phone. She was a better witch than that.spell-parchment-bottle

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

“The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon” series & Geillis Goodmoon character © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

⇐ Missed the beginning of this series? Start at Chapter 1.
⇒ Want more Geillis? Read Chapter 3 here.

The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon – Ch. 1

Chapter 1: An Ordinary Witch Called Geillis

grimoire-of-geillis-goodmoonGeillis Goodmoon always wanted to be a witch.

Well, she already was one … but she’d forever longed to be one of those skinny, beautiful witches with cascading auburn hair and green eyes. A Nicole Kidman type witch. A witch with long fingers to show off all those heavy silver rings, and a swan’s neck to hang her pentacle from. A lithe figure to wear plunging tees and flowy cotton maxis, like a gypsy.

For as long as she could remember, Geillis had been locked in a Battle Royale with her weight, and was a little on the plump side. She tried to pretend she was another Stevie Nicks, voluptuous but cute as a bohemian, but really she just felt dumpy. She cut her mouse-brown hair boyishly short (because she was too impatient to fuss) and dyed it a shade called “Autumn Auburn”. Someone had once told her she had steely eyes; they were a nice grey-blue, it was true – but she wasn’t sure she liked the “steely” part. And whenever she took off her thick spectacles to look prettier and more sophisticated, all she did was squint. Plus, glasses didn’t look right with the dangly owl earrings she was dying to wear.

With all her heart, she wished she could wave her yew-wood wand with a Potteresque flick and change everything. But she knew that would never work. That kind of parlour trick wasn’t real magick.witch-owl

• • • • • • • )O( • • • • • • •

“The Grimoire of Geillis Goodmoon” series & Geillis Goodmoon character © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

⇒ Want more Geillis? Read Chapter 2 here.

The House Between Tides

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine (Atria Paperback, 2016). Originally published 2014 in Great Britain as Bhalla Strand.

the-house-between-tidesHetty is a twenty-something Londoner who inherits a dilapidated house in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides from a relative. Steered by her ambitious boyfriend and a flashy developer, she plans to turn her inheritance into an ultramodern luxury resort — which can only be a boon, they assure her, to the local economy.

Trouble is, Hetty isn’t aware of just how broken down the old estate is, and how resistant the locals are to its redevelopment, until she does her own reconnaissance. Her arrival on the peaceful, sea-swept island is greeted with skepticism and contempt by the crofters who will lose their meagre but precious way of life – and the bad news just keeps coming. A grisly discovery under the decaying floorboards puts Hetty’s plans in doubt; at the same time, she’s determined to uncover the truth about the estate’s last, enigmatic owner, Theo Blake. Was Blake, a famous early 20th century artist – and Hetty’s distant kinsman – responsible for the tragedy?

Flashback to 1910: Theo brings his new bride, Beatrice, to Muirlan House, the family’s grand summer home. The island’s wild beauty – the air’s salty tang, lonely beaches, delicate wildflowers and exotic bird life – soon enthralls the young woman, and her naïve shyness gradually melts away. But there is a melancholy to the place that she can’t put her finger on – and her husband, twenty years her senior, grows inexplicably more remote with the passing of each long Hebridean day.

As Theo slips further away from her, the factor’s son grudgingly educates Beatrice on the landscape and the subtleties of estate management, but even he has a reserve that the young bride can’t seem to penetrate. What is it about this lonely place that casts such a mysterious and sad pall?

This is a story of juxtapositions. Just as the tide separates Muirlan House from the mainland each night, the scenes shift between the roaring ’20s and modern day, exposing the differences between generations, cultures and social classes. Period detail and lyrical descriptions of the Scottish landscape made me want to don a straw cloche and take a genteel picnic on the beach – just as much as my heart ached for the crofters eking out a living, in any century.

The author’s concise style and well-paced suspense kept me reading and wanting more of this part-mystery, part-historical romance. I will be on the lookout for Maine’s other works, including Women of the Dunes (2018), another Hebridean mystery with a Viking twist.

Curiosity Quotient:  ♦♦♦♦½◊

Desperado – Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Jean L. Hays

He’d never kept an emergency hat in the trunk, and drank his Evian only at the finest restaurants.

The SUV sat steaming in the Mojave sun some twenty-five miles back. The flimsy thong of one flip-flop had torn out a good five hours ago.

He tugged in desperation at a sleeve of his thin white vee neck. No use now. Once-pale city skin was baked crimson.

When a huddled town appeared, shimmering behind a wall of heat and sand, he ripped off his Ray-Bans – so retro they were fashionable again – to make sure.

Disappointment tasted bitter as dry desert dust.

“Desperado”, a 100-word story © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

Thank you to Rochelle for hosting Friday Fictioneers, a challenge to write a complete story in 100 words or less, based on a weekly photo prompt. To join in, click on her name and follow the directions.

The Silver Fox – Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Roger Bultot

“Come, girls!” barked Great-uncle Geoffrey, impatiently tapping his stick. A spry ninety-four, he led his young charges at an exhausting pace through the abbey cloister into a hall of gleaming display cases.

“Just time for the church silver – a particular specialty of mine – then it’s off to the club for tea!” The tired tourists groaned.

Later in his guest room, they made light-hearted fun of their host, tapping imperiously with an umbrella. One floorboard shifted, sounding oddly hollow. Intrigued, they carefully pried it up.

From the space underneath glimmered a staggering cache of church plate and ancient silver, cunningly pilfered.

“The Silver Fox”, a 100-word story © 2019 Valerie J. Barrett. All rights reserved.

Thank you to Rochelle for hosting Friday Fictioneers, a challenge to write a complete story in 100 words or less, based on a weekly photo prompt. To join in, click on her link and follow the directions.

How to be a Victorian

how-to-be-a-victorianHow to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman (Penguin Books, 2014)

If you were a nineteenth-century man or woman who decided to bant, what would you be doing?*

Many of you will be familiar with historian Ruth Goodman’s appearances in educational television documentaries such as Victorian Farm, Secrets of the Castle, Full Steam Ahead and several others. A specialist in British social history and an advisor to the Victoria & Albert Museum, Goodman, along with co-presenters, demonstrates what it was like to live and work in a period household, investigating everything from recipes, clothing and hygiene to customs, etiquette, labour and economics. I’ve enjoyed every one of these presentations, so it was with great pleasure that I dove into Goodman’s comprehensive book about life during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).

How to be a Victorian isn’t strictly a companion book to the TV series, although it does draw on Goodman’s considerable living history experience. It offers much more information than a few television episodes ever could, and I was fascinated – and exceedingly impressed – by the amount of detail on every page.

For example, did you know that mascara was originally a man’s product – a coloured wax for grooming moustaches? Or that some mill workers, partially deaf from the noisy environment, developed a silent language with exaggerated mouth movements, similar to lip-reading, to communicate? And that women’s corsets (some men wore them, too) weren’t breathlessly tight and deforming: they were worn comfortably snug to achieve good posture and a trim figure, and to provide much-needed back support when working. In fact, a Victorian lady without her corset would have felt disconcertingly bare and unsupported.

The book, which is illustrated by period photographs, drawings and advertisements, is laid out chronologically, discussing every aspect of a Victorian person’s day – no matter what class– from stepping out of bed onto an ice-cold floor to retiring after long hours of toil, business or leisure. Hygiene, dress, diet and exercise, work and education, health and medicine, recreation, sport and even sex are covered in fascinating detail. The lives of children aren’t forgotten here, nor are the attitudes, mores, social institutions, inventions and laws of the time. Goodman examines how perceptibly many of these changed over the six decades of Victoria’s reign.

Perhaps the most memorable and moving statement comes in the epilogue: “The Victorian era was a catastrophic time to be poor.” A few pennies a week could make all the difference between perpetual cold or comfort, nourishment or starvation, from the very poorest to those well up the social ladder. Unless you were the wealthiest upper class, you’d likely go to bed each night at least a little hungry, perhaps seriously malnourished. The preference for white bread was just one of several culprits causing nation-wide, generations-long hunger. By far the most common – and sometimes only – staple on which people lived (potatoes were the other), white bread was nutrient-poor and almost always adulterated by alum or chalk. It’s a testament to their toughness that, given these conditions, any Victorian managed to carry on and endure.

With such an intimate look into their lives, I felt as if I were right there in a sooty kitchen crowded with fourteen children, navigating murky, fog-filled streets by gaslight, playing a jolly game of croquet, or returning from the factory at noon for a dinner of suet pudding. I thought my decades-long addiction to public television and historical novels had given me a solid understanding of the Victorian era, but thanks to the author’s painstaking research and engaging style, I now know that I was wrong. The book is well-written and absorbing, and I couldn’t put it down.

*To bant, by the way, is to go on a diet. (Much like us, Victorians were supremely health-conscious, always on the lookout for the next “best thing” – and yes, some of them did need to trim the fat.) The term was coined in 1862 after one William Banting published his strict – and successful – slimming regime.

Ruth Goodman is also the author of How to be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life (2016) and How to Behave Badly in Elizabethan England: A Guide for Knaves, Fools, Harlots, Cuckolds, Drunkards, Liars, Thieves, and Braggarts (2018).

Curiosity Quotient:  ♦♦♦♦♦