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Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Please Welcome Author KELLI STANLEY!

 

Kelli was featured here sometime back, but since then she's had a LOT going on. Kelli will spring into March with us and fill us in on what she's been up to since her last visit!

 

Welcome to the Official Website of Kelli Stanley, Crime Fiction Writer

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Kelli Stanley is an award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Kelli earned a Master’s Degree in Classics, loves jazz, old movies, battered fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies. She is walked daily by a Springer Spaniel named Bertie. She credits Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett and Thomas Hardy as some of her major influences.

Kelli’s second novel, the San Francisco-setCITY OF DRAGONS, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur on February 2, 2010 to overwhelming critical acclaim.

 

 

CITY OF DRAGONS explodes the tensions of 1940 San Francisco like fireworks at the Chinese New Year Parade. First of a hard-hitting new thriller series, it introduces the unforgettable protagonist Miranda Corbie—ex-escort and now private investigator.

The novel opens in a February of 70 years ago, in a Golden Gate city as familiar as a postcard. A young Japanese numbers runner is murdered in Chinatown during New Year and a fundraising festival for China war relief. The cops and the brass want Eddie Takahashi forgotten, swept away. A casualty of the Sino-Japanese War. A legacy of Nanking.

But Miranda saw him die … and she’ll do whatever it takes to discover the truth.

“Children’s Day”, a short story prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS and set during the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco, was published in the top-notch International Thriller Writer’s anthology, FIRST THRILLS, on June 22, 2010.

CITY OF SECRETS, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, will be published in the summer or fall of 2011.

Next up is THE CURSE-MAKER—the highly-anticipated sequel to Kelli’s debut “Roman noir” novel NOX DORMIENDA. THE CURSE MAKER will be released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur on February 1, 2011.

Kelli’s debut book, NOX DORMIENDA (A Long Night for Sleeping) (Five Star; July, 2008), was a Writer’s Digest Notable Debut, won the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and was a Macavity Award finalist.

NOX DORMIENDA broke new genre ground as the first “Roman noir”, a pun on its unique combination of Chandler-esqe hardboiled style and rich historical texture. The City and County of San Francisco awarded Kelli a Certificate of Honor for her creation of the new subgenre.

Kelli is always working … more Miranda Corbie novels, more “Roman noir”, and a contemporary thriller. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, International Thriller Writers, Private Eye Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers.

For rights queries, please contact Kimberley Cameron.
For CITY OF DRAGONS or THE CURSE-MAKER publicity, please contact Sarah Melnyk, Senior Publicist atMinotaur.
For all other publicity questions, please email publicist (at) kellistanley.com.

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

From Kelli's website:  http://kellistanley.com/


MORE OF THE STORY

 

She laughs easily, is a double Gemini, a Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and her favorite colors are blue and green. And Kelli Stanley has been writing a long time.

Her first noir (a play) was produced at the tender age of seven. She played the starring role in the crime melodrama for her third-grade class, precociously breaking gender boundaries as a Jimmy Cagney-like gangster. “No grapefruits were used in the production!” she laughs. “From what I remember, it involved a French love interest named Madeline and ended with the anti-hero’s death in a dark alley.”

 

In the many years since her precocious literary experiment, Kelli’s done a variety of things: the list includes acting, the start-up and operation of a successful retail business with her mom (a comic book/pop culture store), screenplay writing, living in Italy and traveling through Europe, learning Latin and Greek, and earning a B.A. in Art History and Classics and a Master’s Degree in Classics. Eventually, she decided—at long last—to embrace the life inside her … to become a crime fiction writer.

Where she grew up might have something to do with her eclectic nature and Renaissance woman background. An only child, she moved with her parents from her native Washington State to northern Florida, the Colorado Rocky Mountains to San Jose, California (early Silicon Valley), and finally settled on forty acres in the rugged, rural north—northern Mendocino county.

Kelli lived in Mendocino and attended school in Southern Humboldt, riding thirty miles to school every morning, in addition to helping her parents with a business venture … a horse-back riding stable. “[Humboldt County is] one of the last bastions of wilderness in California—there’s actually a stretch of coast line called ‘The Lost Coast’—when we operated a riding stable with the State Park system, my father took people on horseback tours through the country, and he had to blaze his own trails.”

 

Eel River near Fortuna, CA

 

During Kelli’s adolescence, animals outnumbered people in her everyday environment. She grew up with redwood trees, which she credits with giving her a sense of perspective. And she grew up without a telephone or the PG&E grid. “There was none of the technology we take for granted—light switches, heater controls. Even the water had to be pumped from a spring, about a quarter mile down a steep hillside. I know it sounds like some sort of fable, but I really did study by a kerosene lamp. Our heat was a wood stove. It’s not that we abandoned the modern world—we had a gas generator and a color television. We just didn’t rely on the technology. We were independent of it, which is a great feeling.”

Kelli claims the experience gave her a sense of focus, creativity and a sympathetic ear to the rhythm of nature, which she’s never lost. But she’s also never lost the rhythm of the city, which she’s heard since her first play.

By the time she graduated from high school, she’d read “everything from Defoe to Dickens.” She’d done some acting, and chose to major in Drama at the University of Dallas. UD offered a large, competitive scholarship, and a semester in Italy program, which decided her. She spent a semester in Italy before concluding that she missed California, and returned closer to home.

She moved to San Francisco, where she attended San Francisco State, discovered Classics—which had always been a strong interest—“since reading D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths when I was in second grade”—and is where she now lives, happily ensconced in writing and a long-time relationship.

She spent several years in the retail business of comic books, writing for trade magazines, appearing inEntrepreneur magazine, and earning a coveted spot on the DC National Retailer’s Board. “And I still love comic books!” she adds. “Batman was always my particular totem. Those were happy years. I’m always really touched when someone I knew when they were twelve recognizes me from the store. I have to do instant age progression! It’s a great thing to be a good part of someone’s childhood … or any happy memory.”

 

John's Grill in San Francisco

 

Kelli never lost her love of acting, and credits a few years writing screenplays with honing her dialog abilities. She decided to take the plunge into novel-writing while still in graduate school, and soon found representation and publication for her first novel, a combination of classical education and abiding love for hardboiled and noir. In the acknowledgments to NOX DORMIENDA, Kelli credits reading Raymond Chandler with teaching her how to write, and cites Hammett, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Woolrich, Hardy, and Steinbeck as other strong influences.

Since then, NOX DORMIENDA has enjoyed outstanding success, particularly for a debut small press book. It won the prestigious Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award in 2009, was a finalist for a Macavity (Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery Award), and San Francisco awarded Kelli a Certificate of Honor for her creation of “Roman noir.”

Kelli has realized a dream by her move to a major publisher—Thomas Dunne/Minotaur—with her second series, set in 1940 and featuring female P.I. Miranda Corbie. CITY OF DRAGONS was published on February 2, 2010, to rave reviews and reached #2 on the IMBA Bestseller list.

“Children’s Day,” a short story prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, was published in June, in the International Thriller Writers anthology FIRST THRILLS: HIGH-OCTANE STORIES FROM THE HOTTEST THRILLER AUTHORS. Seeing her story included alongside heroes like Ken Bruen and Lee Child was an incredible highpoint for Kelli.

THE CURSE-MAKER, the long-awaited sequel to NOX DORMIENDA, will be published by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur Books on February 1, 2011, and Kelli has now come full circle—two series with a major publisher, and she hopes both will be successful enough to continue far into the future.

 

Kelli's Dog Bertie (a Springer Spaniel)

Bertie begging for a treat

Kelli is currently working on prequels, sequels and a contemporary, stand-alone thriller set in Humboldt County, California. She loves to hear from readers, and invites you to email her at kelli (at) kellistanley.com or use the form on the Contact page.

Kelli is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Private Eye Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers. She considers herself a very lucky woman.

For rights queries, please contact Kimberley Cameron.
For CITY OF DRAGONS and THE CURSE-MAKER publicity, please contact Sarah Melnyk, Senior Publicist atMinotaur. For all other publicity-related questions, please email publicist (at) kellistanley.com.

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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How many books and stories have you written?

NOX DORMIENDA was the first novel I ever tried to write. CITY OF DRAGONS is the third book I wrote and the second to be published. I’m currently completing my fourth novel, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS(title: CITY OF SECRETS), which will be published in 2011.

My Roman Noir series comprises NOX (published July, 2008) and THE CURSE-MAKER (February 1st, 2011).

Miranda Corbie—the protagonist of CITY OF DRAGONS—also stars in “Children’s Day”, a short story in the International Thriller Writer’s anthology FIRST THRILLS (June 22, 2010, Tor/Forge).

I wrote “Convivium”, a short story prequel to NOX in 2008, which was web published on the respected e-zine Hardluck Stories and nominated for a Spinetingler Award.

Do you write series only, or are you interested in stand-alones?

While I’m extraordinarily lucky to have two series launching with Thomas Dunne/Minotaur Books—and hope to continue both for a long, long time to come!—I’m also interested in writing non-series books … including a stand-alone thriller set in Humboldt County, and a graphic novel mini-series.

How long have you been writing? How long did it take you to get published?

I started writing seriously—meaning with an eye to pursue publication—while I was in graduate school for a Master’s Degree in Classics. I wrote NOX DORMIENDA in about a year. It took me about a year after I finished it and acquired an agent to find a publisher. But I’ve written all kinds of things—limericks, sonnets, screenplays, translations, essays, scholarly articles, etc.—throughout my life.

Will you ever write a contemporary-set novel or story?

The answer to that is hopefully! While I definitely have a passion for history—particularly the eras I write about, in addition to the English Renaissance and certain other places and times—I’d like to set a thriller in the contemporary world (albeit in the unique environment of rural northern California).

Do you use real people in your books and stories?

Because I’ve thus far written books based in history—Roman Britain in the first century AD and 1940 San Francisco—I both mention and use historical personages from the period I write in, as well as real places and locales. In CITY OF DRAGONS, most of the businesses mentioned were real … as are the phone numbers mentioned in the novel.

I like to layer authenticity in my research, really transport readers to a place and time, and this level of detail—and use of actual places, events and people—both helps me to achieve my goals and inspires me while I’m writing.

Your debut novel was called the first “Roman Noir” and CITY OF DRAGONS is set in the classic noir era and San Francisco, a city made famous by Dashiell Hammett. What draws you to this sort of style? Do you consider yourself a noir author?

No simple answer to that one. I was born with a noir gene, I guess—I’ve loved both the era of American culture (1920s-40s) and the style and genre literally since I was a kid. Part of the attraction is due to the fact that I’m a Romantic—and essentially, that’s what hardboiled and noir writing is … a Romantic distillation of and reaction to urban and cultural angst, distilled into a style that varied from Hammett’s terse declarative statements to more florid and lyrical styles.

And with film noir, of course, the idea of seeing poetry in a rainy, neon-drenched street … quintessentially Romantic. I adore film as a communication medium—it’s an enormous influence on both what I write and the visual style of my writing.

Also, some of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century wrote within the hardboiled/noir genres, and I think you are still accorded more room for both literary scope and social commentary if you write in these subgenres.

Noir has been a supreme creative influence on me … though my writing doesn’t fit the common paradigm of noir as being either hopeless or even fatalistic. Noir is both a content and a style—in literature as in film.

Who are your specific influences?

I read constantly growing up. Everything from comic books to Chaucer. And I’ve watched too many good and great films to count. My opinion is that everything you read or absorb influences you in ways you can’t and don’t realize … writing is such an act of the subconscious, that you really don’t know how the poem you read in the sixth grade is going to bubble up and effect you!

Consciously, though, Raymond Chandler, Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, Ross McDonald—and John Steinbeck, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Ray Bradbury—are some of the heaviest American influences on my work. I grew up with British literature—Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Dickens—and also read a lot of poetry, which has been a huge influence.

What did you do before you became a published author?

I was in college for a long time … changed my major from Drama (I intended to become an actress after high school) to Film to English to Classics. I lived and studied in Florence and Rome during the 1980s. I worked as a trail guide for my parents (they owned a riding stable), an employment counselor and an advertising sales person (my biggest sale was to an escort service). I was co-owner of a comic book/pop culture store with my family. And I still work part-time at a university.

Where did you grow up?

Washington State, Florida, Colorado, San Jose, California, and Humboldt County, California. I attended college in Dallas, Texas, and also lived in Florence and Rome.

How did it feel to win an award for your first book?

I felt like I was going to faint. Or at least, how I imagine that feels … friends thought I’d keel over on the spot! I was and am truly humbled by being nominated for the Bruce Alexander Award for my first book, and was incredibly shocked to actually win.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

The community. The crime-fiction community is an amazing, brilliant, generous, and supportive group of people, and the sense of belonging I feel is one I’ve never had anywhere before. Writing itself is completely exhilarating, but it’s a solitary act … and for me, comes alive when I’m able to share the experience with friends, colleagues and readers.

What organizations are you a member of?

Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, Private Eye Writers of America, International Association of Crime Writers, Historical Novel Society.

Why do you wear a hat? How many fedoras do you own?

For my first book, my author’s photo was shot in a film noir style, and I wanted to dress for the part. I collect fedoras—and have always loved vintage hats—and wore a 1940s grey Paramount wide brim for the photo. At my first major conference (Bouchercon 2007 in Anchorage), I was getting together with friends I’d met only online, so I decided to wear a fedora—making it easier for them to find me in a crowded room. From then on, it became a trademark!

As for how many fedoras … I don’t know exactly! Most of them are vintage. Past twenty, I lost count.

How did you learn to write? Any advice for pre-published writers?

The best advice I could give anyone who wants to learn to do anything is to keep at it. Don’t judge your progress according to anyone else … everyone has their own path. Believe in yourself! For writers in particular, I think reading truly great books is the only school you truly need.

And join an organization like Sisters in Crime or MWA or ITW—every writer needs a support system, and all the collective wisdom and knowledge about the publishing industry is found in these wonderful organizations. Invest the time in yourself—you can do it!

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

 

 

The Curse-Maker 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CITY OF DRAGONS is named a 
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist!

 

 

 

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TiggerBear
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Hello welcome Ms Stanley!:smileyvery-happy:

 

Humboldt county.. oo lots of material there.:smileywink:

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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

 

 

Nox Dormienda 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Arcturus the half-Roman doctor and occasional problem-solver -- has seen much in his thirty-three years. He is Agricola's doctor and friend. And Agricola is the governor of Britannia. On a frozen December afternoon, he learns the governor is in trouble. The Emperor Domitian has sent a spy to Britannia -- a spy carrying papers demanding Agricola's resignation. It doesn't make Arcturus any warmer to know that the spy, Vibius Maecenas, is betrothed to the woman who brings him the story. The woman -- Gwyna -- is as unforgettable as her information.

 

When Arcturus sends his freedman Bilicho to follow her, he finds himself, hours later, in an underground temple, staring at a shapeless hulk on top of the altar. It's the trussed body of Maecenas, with a gaping hole in place of a throat. If Arcturus doesn't find out who murdered him and why, Domitian might think the governor is responsible. The dead Maecenas will ignite a civil war, one hot enough to thaw the ice in frozen Britannia.

 

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[ Edited ]

 

 

City of Dragons 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

 

February, 1940. In San Francisco's Chinatown, fireworks explode as the city celebrates Chinese New Year with a Rice Bowl Party, a three day-and-night carnival designed to raise money and support for China war relief. Miranda Corbie is a 33-year-old private investigator who stumbles upon the fatally shot body of Eddie Takahashi. The Chamber of Commerce wants it covered up. The cops acquiesce.

 

All Miranda wants is justice--whatever it costs. From Chinatown tenements, to a tattered tailor's shop in Little Osaka, to a high-class bordello draped in Southern Gothic, she shakes down the city--her city--seeking the truth. An outstanding series debut.

 

Book Prizes – Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

 

MYSTERY THRILLER
Finalists
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

 

 

The Curse-Maker 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

 

When Roman physician Arcturus and his stunning wife Gwyna arrive at Bath for a holiday, a dead body is floating in the sacred spring. It turns out that the murdered man is a curse maker whose curses actually come true, and as murder follows murder, it looks like there’s now a curse on Arcturus.

 

An exciting and exotic look at the sideshow world of fake healers, ghost-raisers and medicine men, The Curse-Maker is the story of a spa town where people go to heal. . . only to wind up dead. And it takes the doctor protagonist on a dark road—into Roman cemeteries, silver mines, underground water tunnels, and the twisted mind of a killer bent on revenge.

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

CHAPTER ONE

 

The man was floating, serene, tunic swirling in the undulating waves like clouds against a blue sky. His mouth was open. He was dead.

I looked back toward Gwyna. She was kneeling in the saddle like a circus acrobat, struggling to see what was going on. At least she seemed focused. Not the aimless woman, the lost wife I’d brought here, hoping to find the woman I loved.

Voices rose from the crowd, agitated.

“Pollution! In our town! The council must—”

“Why doesn’t someone do something? Where’s Papirius?”

“How dare he do this to the goddess? To us?”

They shoved forward, scrambling for a closer look, taking me with them. Another voice, calmer than the rest.

“Can someone help me pull him up?”

The crowd was stiff with excitement, and I pushed my way through. I was stiff, and not so excited, but I was there, even if it was early in the morning after a long trip, and I was just trying to get some goddamn directions.

*   *   *

The reservoir was seven, maybe eight feet deep, filled from the famous Sacred Spring of the famous goddess Sulis. From the look of the pipes, it dispersed the famous hot water to the famous baths, just to the south. Everything in Aquae Sulis was famous.

Female faces were lining the three windows of the main bath building, staring down with horrified pleasure. The corpse bobbed against the wall, mouth still open, looking just as shocked. He danced and waved, making a low, slushing thud, held upright by a hemp rope secured under his arms and tied to a balustrade. I could see what the heat and the water had already done to his skin.

A young man with arms like Hercules was trying to unwind the rope and haul up the body. I grabbed the end of the rope.

“Go ahead and try it. I’ll anchor.”

He eyed me up and down with doubt. I planted my feet, and maybe something about my jaw made him start to unwind the damn rope. The mob stepped back half a foot.

Every time he pulled, I took up the slack. The dead man himself couldn’t weigh too much—he was on the small side—but the water made him heavy. The sun peeked over the golden limestone of the buildings, throwing a lurid yellow light on the water.

The corpse was near the top of the reservoir, and I grabbed enough rope to get it right on the balustrade.

“Move, damn you! Give him some room!”

The crowd inched backward while the body spread out, halfway on the pavement. Magic water dripped, making small magic rivers on the smooth pavement stone. I elbowed through a fat man with a wig and a slack-jawed servant girl, joining the young man with the big arms.

Now we had to touch him, and hope his skin wouldn’t flake off like cooked fish. Together we dragged him fully on the pavement, nearly intact. The herd hushed for a moment, making the squelches and squeaks of the corpse all the more audible.

Three men pushed toward the front, gawkers parting with a rustle. They all looked the same: neat, tidy, proper provincial business- and councilmen, togas too big and minds too small. A fat one in the middle seemed to be the leader.

“Yes—thank you, Drusius, thank you. How—how unfortunate.” One of the others cleared his throat, staring down with eyes as watery as the corpse.

The big one continued. “Don’t, er, touch him here, please. Philo is coming. Philo will, er, take it—take him—away.”

I stood up straighter, surreptitiously massaging my sore hip. “I don’t know who or what Philo is, but this man needs to be looked at now. And here.”

A titter or two. A couple of gasps. The three glanced at each other. The one with the fish eyes was older than the rest and looked to the fat one for guidance. The middle one blended in with the pale yellow rock.

Big Belly puffed like a peacock. “Lucius Valerius Philo is the most respectedmedicus in Aquae Sulis—and a member of the council. Who are you?”

I was tired. Saddle weary. Provincial towns always make me itch, even if everything is famous and the waters can raise the dead.

“I don’t give a damn if he’s the doctor for Domitian’s prick. I’m a medicus, and I’m examining this man. Now.”

A murmur ran through the crowd. The rope was too wet to lynch me with, and besides—no one ever wanted to touch a dead body. Hercules—or Drusius—took a step near me. There was support in the stance. And respect.

I knelt down. The dead man was about my age, maybe a little older, thirty-five to forty. Short, fairly muscular, but getting soft even before the water. Arms and face tan, but his legs never saw the light of day. They were dotted with freckles, like some kind of exotic mushroom.

The gown was cheap linen, white when Homer was young. Imitation Egyptian that might impress old ladies who liked exotic Eastern cults, if they were half-blind and wholly gullible. Bathing sandals were still on his feet. The crowd was getting closer again. I could almost feel Big Belly breathing on me.

“Give him some room!”

Drusius was answered with a low, throaty chuckle. Not from Big Belly. Feminine. Very feminine. The crowd made room for the woman who made it. I looked up.

Riding hard on forty, red-haired, and everything she shouldn’t be, but what most men would want her to be. The kind of woman who always made her own way, in life or out of bed. She reminded me of Dionysia, my youthful indiscretion.

“Well, well, Drusius. It is Drusius, isn’t it? I’ve seen you hauling stone for your father, I believe. For dedications.” She peered down at the corpse and suddenly knelt next to me, a puff of sandalwood drifting up from underneath her dress.

“I promise I won’t crowd the doctor,” she whispered.

A loud squawk erupted from the back of the growing mob. Big Belly and Fish Eye were whispering to each other, and finally another voice—thin, whining, male—reached the front line, audible over the rustle of sweaty bodies and hushed conversation.

“Sulpicia? Sulpicia? Ah—there you are. What—what the hell is that?”

I didn’t bother to answer or look up. I’d continued, letting Sulpicia and her pet idiot distract the onlookers for me. The man had been dead anywhere from eight to twelve hours. There wasn’t much water in his mouth or lungs, and the red, engorged face and the two thumb-sized bruises by his windpipe confirmed he hadn’t drowned in seven feet of water.

Something glinted from the open mouth, and I noticed his cheeks were bulging. I reached in and pinched with two fingers, drawing it out while everyone looked at Sulpicia and pictured her naked. Her boyfriend suddenly realized there was a corpse dripping water on his toga hem and yelped.

“That’s—isn’t that the curse-writer, the scribe—”

“Rufus Bibax.”

I looked at the corpse again and noticed a faint tinge of red in his hair. Not much of a rufus. I stood up. The voice that identified him expressed authority. I wanted to see who it belonged to.

Standing next to a coiffed Roman in a gaudy toga was a middle-aged bald man. His expensively plain tunic was made louder by a heavy gold necklace. Priest was written all over him. Big Belly and the other two crowded close, giving me baleful looks when they weren’t staring at Sulpicia’s nipples.

The priest plastered a tight smile on his face. “I am Sextus Papirius Super. Head priest of the Temple of Sulis Minerva. I understand you’re a doctor.”

I stared at him. “Julius Alpinius Classicianus Favonianus. I’m the governor’s doctor, as a matter of fact.”

The murmur spread, growing progressively louder, until it broke against the edges of the crowd like a ripple on the water. He raised an eyebrow. “It’s very good of you to, er, help us with this unfortunate—incident. As this is holy ground—”

“Not any more, it ain’t!” Rough voice, croaking from the back. Laughter. The priest continued, his color rising. “As this is holy ground, we will have to remove the body at once and clean the spring.”

A tall man was making his way to the front. Almost exactly my height, handsome, distinguished. Maybe fifteen years older. The throng made way for him, some grabbing at him as though he were the featured gladiator. He exuded warmth and charisma. I didn’t like him.

He stepped forward, glanced at the priest. Papirius nodded his head in my direction. “The governor’s medicus, Philo. Julius Alpinius Classicianus Favonianus.”

His strong, lean faced creased with what looked like a genuine smile of welcome. “Favonianus. Of course, I’ve heard of you. You’re also known as Arcturus, I believe. We’re very lucky you’re here.” He reached out and grasped my arm. “Philo—one of the many doctors in Aquae Sulis.”

Modest, too. Big Belly grumbled, “We asked him to wait for you, Lucius.”

Philo shook his head, the gray in his temples glistening in the sun. “You have a much better doctor here.”

“Are you here on business, Favonianus?” The priest asked it as if there wasn’t a corpse between us.

“Actually, no. A holiday for my wife and me.”

I felt Sulpicia raise her eyebrows.

“Well, then perhaps you wouldn’t mind if Philo…”

I looked at the dapper doctor. He seemed competent enough, if a little disgusting in his perfection. I shrugged. “Be my guest.”

The young stonecutter—Drusius—stared at me, his thick eyebrows furrowed. What the hell did he want me to do? Fight over the dead body of Rufus Bibax? I’d been asked very politely to mind my own goddamn business, and I intended to do just that.

Philo smiled apologetically. “Please come by and see me. We’ll talk. Where are you staying?”

“The governor’s villa.”

The murmur went around again. I didn’t want to spoil it by asking where the hell the villa might be.

Papirius crooked a finger at two slaves, who ran up with a litter chair for the corpse, then started making priestly noises. “Please disperse, good people. The spring shall be emptied. Sulis will renew life, just as she has seen fit to take this one. Sulis will—”

I was heading out of the mob, and eyes—some friendly, some not, all curious—were following me. I turned around. “Sulis had nothing to do with it.”

Papirius and Philo looked at me, the priest irritated, the doctor curious.

“What did you say?” asked Papirius.

“I said Sulis had nothing to do with it. That man was strangled and thrown in your pool. Murdered—and the murderer left behind a little note.”

I held out my hand. In the palm was a small piece of lead, very thinly hammered and square cut. On it was inscribed one word: Ultor. The Avenger.

*   *   *

Gwyna looked disappointed, which dumbfounded me. I’d done what I thought would please her—avoided getting involved. I’d even avoided Sulpicia, which was no easy task because she kept getting in my way. I climbed back on Nimbus, looking around at the small-pored golden limestone of the buildings. It reminded me of Gwyna’s hair, and was safer to look at than she was.

The wealthy owned long, low villas close to the temple and baths, or in the hills above, to the northwest of the town nearer the small fort. Somewhere among them was Agricola’s. Gwyna asked me: “Did you find out where the villa is?”

I turned red and she gave me a pitying look. Another market square up ahead. I nudged Nimbus, who obligingly trotted forward—the one female in the family who tolerated me—and dismounted at the nearest shop, a gemmarius around the corner from the oversized temple area.

A tattered sign boasted that Tiberius Natta offered an assortment of carved gemstones, set and unset. He was a swarthy man with gray hair, short and stocky. Used a cane, though he couldn’t have been sixty yet. An assistant, another dark man in his late thirties, came forward to answer my question.

Seems Agricola’s villa was right up the street, on a little hill overlooking the temple area. I thanked them, and told Gwyna while I climbed back on Nimbus.

She nodded, avoiding my eyes. Once we could see the villa from the road, I pointed it out, and we started the climb up the path to where it perched, low and inviting, with a superb view of the temple and the river. The silence was broken by the morning song of birds and the sound of the horses’ hooves stepping on the fragile rock.

We rounded a corner, and the house was in front of us. Large, with a detached stable, private bath, and a small attempt at a vineyard. The terraced gardens were full of lavender, Gwyna’s favorite scent.

Suddenly, she asked: “Why didn’t you stay?”

I must have looked as stupid as I felt, because she said it again.

“Why didn’t you stay?”

“I don’t understand. Stay where?”

“At the pool. Why didn’t you stay with the body? Why did you let those other men take it away?”

I dismounted and came around and offered a hand, which she ignored, springing lightly to the ground herself.

“Gwyna, we’re here to relax. And to take care of you, and—and to fix things. Why the hell should I have insisted?”

She stared at me, holding Pluto’s reins as he tried to get a bite of hollyhock while Nimbus gave him a withering look.

“Because it was the right thing to do. It happened for a reason, that we came into town and you were there when that poor man was discovered. Besides, I don’t need anybody to ‘take care of me.’ ”

She flounced ahead, jerking Pluto’s nose away from the flowers.

*   *   *

The slaves were the best kind: invisible, accommodating, unquestioning. Everything was ready for an extended holiday for the newlyweds. Except the newlyweds themselves.

Gwyna busied herself with the servants, a vast improvement from the apathy of home. I watched her moving around in her riding breeches, until she got tired of me blocking the way and ordered me into the triclinium. The cook served a delicious lunch of sheep’s milk cheese—much creamier than we get in Londinium—figs, olives, and snails cooked in garlic.

Gwyna didn’t eat, though she came in to make sure the wine was poured correctly. She said: “Why don’t you bathe, Arcturus? You touched a dead man, didn’t you?”

Clipped and chilly. I headed for the villa’s bath and the warmth of Agricola’scaldarium.

After a good rubdown by a strapping Pannonian named Ligur, I started to relax in spite of myself. Ligur was shaving me when Gwyna walked in. She saw me, stopped, turned to leave.

“Wait—what—where are you going?”

The shrug was elaborate. “Your face needs a shave. I see you’re already taken care of.”

She was dressed in a modest bathing tunic, different from the more revealing breast band and short skirt she normally wore, and left before I could say anything else. I wondered again what happened to the woman I married less than a year before.

I dressed for dinner. I could hear her in the caldarium and imagined the slave girl massaging her with oil. That should be my job.

Thinking about it meant either another trip to the frigidarium or a brisk walk, so I left for the garden, where I could breathe again. A breeze from the hills carried the sweet scent of roses, mixed with lavender, and ruffled my hair.

The governor’s villa in Aquae Sulis. A goddamn beautiful spot to be miserable in.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Kelli Stanley

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

[ Edited ]
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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

There's a video interview with Kelli here: 

http://www.spinetinglermag.com/2010/03/30/interview-kelli-stanley/

 

Kelli is on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/kellistanley

 

And she's on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/kelli_stanley

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Please give KELLI STANLEY a big B&N welcome!

 

Author
Kelli_Stanley
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Thank you, TiggerBear! :smileyhappy:

 

I'm checking in just a mite early, but will be around all day tomorrow ...

 

Yes, Humboldt has a uniquely beautiful environment, a fascinating history and a personal connection with my family, so I'm looking forward to setting my first contemporary thriller there. :smileyhappy:

 

Thanks again for stopping by!

 

Kelli


Kelli Stanley
CITY OF SECRETS - "One of crime's most arresting heroines" - Library Journal (starred review)
CITY OF DRAGONS - Macavity Award Winner (Sue Feder Historical Mystery)
www.kellistanley.com
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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

[ Edited ]

*waves madly* Hi Kelli!

 

I'm just about to go off-computer for awhile (treadmill time!), so I'm glad I spotted you here! I'm looking forward to your visit. Your books always seem to be up for awards - congratulations!!

 

More tomorrow - see you then!

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TiggerBear
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

 

Humboldt County  Ever see the movie?

 

Author
Kelli_Stanley
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Registered: ‎05-14-2009
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

Thank you so much for the warm welcome, Becke!! :smileyvery-happy: It's great to be back at the B&N community!!

 

I'll be checking back throughout the day tomorrow, and am happy to answer any questions anyone might have about books, writing, noir, publishing, history, curses, or pretty much anything else! :smileywink:

 

Thanks for having me, and see you all tomorrow!!

 

Kelli


Kelli Stanley
CITY OF SECRETS - "One of crime's most arresting heroines" - Library Journal (starred review)
CITY OF DRAGONS - Macavity Award Winner (Sue Feder Historical Mystery)
www.kellistanley.com
Author
Kelli_Stanley
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Registered: ‎05-14-2009
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Re: Please Welcome Author Kelli Stanley!

No!! I had no idea!! But thank you--it's going to the top of my Netflix queue!! :smileyhappy:

 

Kelli

 


Kelli Stanley
CITY OF SECRETS - "One of crime's most arresting heroines" - Library Journal (starred review)
CITY OF DRAGONS - Macavity Award Winner (Sue Feder Historical Mystery)
www.kellistanley.com