LADY LAZARUS is here! Read the Prologue…
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Here’s the beginning of the book. Hope you enjoy it!
JULY, 1945, Paris
I damned my soul in the summer of 1939. I did it for the noblest reasons, the best ones – to save the people I loved; to make a terrible wrong turn right. But still I am tormented by the thought that my sins overwhelmed my intentions and turned my noble sacrifices to dust even as I made them. Only time will tell if my desperate measures, in the end, were justified.
In my mind, that final summer is saturated with golden sunlight. My beloved home – gilded Budapest, the Paris on the Danube – glittered brilliantly in the sun, even blighted as it was by the stain of fascism. The cafés still buzzed with energy, the city still throbbed at night. My Budapest still lived.
And I felt at home there like no other place I have lived before or since. To me, a girl of only twenty, Budapest was the culmination of a life’s dream of freedom. My family, originally from the northern mountain town of Tokaj, was drawn to Budapest’s brilliant light at the end of the nineteenth century, and my father, a wine trader, eventually made his fortune.
Not even the depredations of Bela Kun’s Bolshevik regime in 1919, followed by the genial fascist toad, that hypocrite Regent Horthy, not even an army of their small-minded followers could destroy the restless creativity of the city. I knew it was dangerous to be a Jew. But I had one secret advantage, and I clung to it for dear life.
I was a Lazarus. And the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter.
The city teemed with magical folk, living alongside the pure mortals. Vampires, dryads, dwarves, other, hidden, immortal beings – and the adepts, the sorcerers, necromancers, and witches. As for me, I am a Lazarus witch. My power is passed from mother to daughter, and has been so conveyed since time out of mind.
My mother, bless her vanished soul, tried her best to teach me the Lazarus creed and how to use the power I inherited, and the dangers such a power brings, but I was born rebellious. And when she died suddenly, my training was still unfinished. I preferred to haunt the cafes, debate Communism and literary theory with half-starved poets living on weak tea and rum balls, indulge in mad affairs of the mind and heart that in the end led absolutely nowhere. In short, I was a young fool, but a happy one.
The trouble crept up on all of us, a shadow that lengthened over everything we knew. Horthy’s regime was dreadful, but after the disaster of Bela Kun, we all believed we could survive the Regent. So we, the Jews, kept our heads down and worked. And we, the witches, kept to our creed, respected the destructive potential of our powers and invoked them rarely. We told ourselves useful lies, that the trouble would soon pass. And a fragile balance held.
Such a state, balanced on lies, could not sustain itself for long. Despite this, when the end came, none of us was ready.
And now I hold my breath, my pen hovers over the paper before I write. How can I explain to you, a stranger, what has happened to me? At this pause in my earthly trials, I do not know which is better: to press forward and leave the past to die, or to commit my strange tale to paper.
Well I know the power of words. In many instances, I am the only witness, the only one still living who knows of the great-hearted sacrifices of those who are now gone, the only one who can now remember. So: I write this story not to glorify the living, but to honor the dead.
The summer of ’39 is seared into my mind, and lives on forever unchanged in my memory. Hitler had not yet invaded Poland, war had not yet exploded the world I had known into irredeemable shards. I was still a girl, the future still lay before me, indefinable, infinite with possibility.
I was still kissing-close to the people I loved most in the entire world. And simple love matters more than magic, treasure, or even the promise of eternal life. It is for love that I now set this strange tale into words.
Remember this as you read on, for though my story has its triumphs, in the end it has always come back to two fundamental questions:
Who do you love?
Do you seek the darkness or the light?