Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search that will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
It was always the older ones who felt the need to challenge the ancient gypsy traditions. The children who weren't yet adults, but who felt they were old enough to thwart authority and desire independence.
"I want lots of gold," said Milosh who had recently turned 17 years old--a man in his opinion. The oldest in the group, soon he would join the adults. "Teach me the spell to make me wealthy."
"You must be careful for what you wish, Milosh." As always, the choovihni was patient with her young pupils. "But I shall teach you the spell for attracting material goods." She sat in the shade of the tall elm with her full skirt spread out around her and waited until everyone was quiet and settled before continuing. "First, write down whatever it is you desire on a clean sheet of paper, then place the paper on a small square of green cloth. You must concentrate on it for a few minutes. That might be hard for you, Milosh," she teased. The other students laughed. They liked for Milosh to be put in his place. Just because he was the son of the Bandoleer, it didn't make him better than everyone else--even though he acted like it. And he played mean tricks on the younger ones who were too timid and afraid to say anything. "Try to visualize the object before you--the shape, texture, color. Feel pride in owning it, the pleasure you hope it will bring, what you will do with it." She looked at each of her students, making sure they understood. "Then hold the paper to your forehead and say three times: 'I have you, I hold you, I keep you.'
"Fold the paper into the green cloth and tie it with a length of red wool. Tie seven knots into the wool and as you tie each knot, say, 'You are mine, I own you.' Put the green cloth with the paper in a small box, and each day, for seven days, hold the box to your forehead and say three times, 'You are mine, I own you.' After you have done this, put the box away in the back of a drawer."
"Will I have lots of gold if I do that?" Milosh asked.
"It will bring success to those who are patient and deserving," Lyuba answered.
For the next several hours, Lyuba taught the children other spells: the spell using the power of trees, a ritual to cleanse the aura of their individual spaces, the spell for strength. When they got older, she would teach them the spells for attracting romance and for keeping a loyal lover. For now, however, she would teach only those things that were appropriate and what they could understand.
When the day's lessons were complete, and the elm's shadow once again lengthened, the parents came for their children. Concerned, Lyuba watched Milosh return to his hut alone. His chakra, that point of light indicating the heart, was dark and brown rather than green as it should be. Much was expected of the only son of the Bandoleer. He held promise, but he had much to learn. Unlike his father, he was impatient and quick to judge others. His focus was on material things, and he ignored what was important. There was also a darkness in his spirit; something that could be dangerous if not corrected.
He would go and prepare the paper, wrapped in green cloth and tied with a thread of red wool, and wish for much gold. He had not understood.
Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN.com gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
Originally from Carrollton, Illinois Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. Since that time her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in several publications including the AMERICAN POETRY ANTHOLOGY the SPARROWGRASS POETRY FORUM, THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF POETRY (Editor’s Choice Award), the NORTH CAROLINA CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE MAGAZINE, THE NEW EAST MAGAZINE, the RALEIGH (NC) NEWS AND OBSERVER, the ROCKY MOUNT (NC) SUNDAY TELEGRAM, DOG FANCY, BYLINE, TRUE STORY and THE CHRISTIAN RECORD. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in THE COSMIC UNICORN and CROSS TIME short story anthologies. Her essays, also written for adults, appear in THE CHRYSALIS READER the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, and A CUP OF COMFORT ANTHOLOGY by the Adams Media Corporation.
Her two middle-grade/young adult novels, LEILANI ZAN and GRANDMA JOCK AND CHRISTABELLE (James C. Winston Publishing Co.) were nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. SHYLA'S INITIATIVE (Crossquarter Publishing Group, 2002), a contemporary adult novel of fiction, received the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and received special recognition for literary merit by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. Ms. Casey’s novel THE COACH’S WIFE (ArcheBooks Publishing), a contemporary mystery, was listed as a Publisher’s Best Seller and was semifinalist of the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel. In 2007 her novel, THE HOUSE OF KANE (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a contemporary mystery, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and in December 2009 her novel, JUST LIKE FAMILY (Wandering Sage Publications), was launched by the 7-Eleven stores in St. Louis, Missouri. Her young adult novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES (Gauthier Publications), was released in March 2011 and considered for the Smithsonian’s Most Notable 2011 Books. It has also been selected by Amazon for its 2013 List of Best Books. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY (Strategic Media Books), a novel for adults, was released in March 2013 and received an IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction. It has also been listed as a “2013 Best Summer Read” by Conversations Live Radio and has been placed in nomination for a Pulitzer Award.
Ms. Casey is a frequent guest speaker at writers’ conferences and universities throughout the United States. She is former director, guest author, and panelist of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida; and for thirteen years she served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Florida. She held the position of Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 to 2003.
Ms. Casey is president of the Barbara Casey Agency. She represents clients nationally and internationally in fiction and nonfiction for adults. Her past and present professional associations are numerous and include being editorial consultant for The Jamaican Writers Circle in affiliation with the University of West Indies and Mico Teachers College in Kingston. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.