Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Thank you, Marcie, for hosting me today on To Read or Not To Read. I appreciate the opportunity to give your readers a sneak peek at The Kure, and to provide a little background of the story.
Some of the most interesting questions and comments I’ve received about The Kure have to do with the inspiration for the book. My intention was to base The Kure on a derivation—or interpretation—of fact. So when I started researching background material, I found myself in the unusually fortuitous position of finding an incredible wealth of history, folklore, and legend. Frankly, I wasn’t ready for what I found.
Disturbing? That’s an understatement. I found myself rewriting the ritual several times, trying to tone down its graphic nature. But with each diluted draft, I felt like I was cheating—as if I were describing a fatal car accident as a slight mechanical mishap, ignoring the loss, the victims, and the struggle to adapt to a life that was changed forever.
So here’s the bottom line: The ancient book containing the ritual—The Kure—was a representation of actual demonic healing texts used by practitioners of the dark arts during that time period. The ritual itself, and the scene in the barn when Sarah combines the two spells to release the Kure’s power, are based on the recorded beliefs and practices of the “virgin cure” —the medieval concept of having sexually-based contact with a female virgin to cure the afflicted from all manner of disease.
There’s lots more information for those who want to dig a bit deeper, but as the old adage warns, “be careful what you look for, you may not like what you find!”
Here’s an excerpt:
Lucius Harwell leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk. He stared intently at John, the same way he might appraise a horse at auction, trying to judge his stamina and strength. “There would be . . . conditions.” Harwell set his fingers on his temples. “Very. Specific. Conditions.”
John nodded, hoping the subtle gesture would convey the appropriate reservations, and if necessary, warrant later forgiveness.
The doctor looked to the very back of his office, scanning the entire space from corner to corner, as if wanting to make certain no one else could hear. “First, you’ll have to promise me you won’t delay the bleeding because of what I tell you, or hold out false hope based on some old witches’ tale.”
Harwell’s expression grew even more solemn. It was evident John’s answer was not what he hoped to hear. Realizing his patient was not going to relent, he rose from his chair and, shaking his head, walked to the front window. As he looked out over the eerily deserted street, the sun caught half his face, splitting his features into light and dark.
“Second, you must understand the old cures often required the one in need to cast away their good name and to denounce all things holy and pure.”
This time Harwell didn’t look directly at John, but simply paused, offering him an opportunity to speak. But John remained silent, hoping his passive consent would be enough.
“And third,” the doctor continued, “you would have to promise on your very life never to disclose the existence of these books or to speak of what is contained on their pages.”
John cleared his throat. “I agree.”
Lucius Harwell straightened, crossed his arms, and then looked down. John wondered if the doctor was reconsidering, preparing to change his mind. But Harwell said nothing as he reached out and slowly lowered the window shade. Seemingly oblivious to the unmistakable tremble in his hand, he secured the privacy bolt on the office door. Then with slow, determined steps, he walked to the back of the room and paused in front of a wide, ornately carved bookcase. Sinking to one knee, he scanned the umber leather bindings on the bottom shelf, finally resting his hand on one of the larger volumes. Swiping his thumb back and forth across the spine, he wiped away the dust, as if to be certain of his choice.
Untouched for years, the natural oils in the book’s cover had formed a bond with the adjacent bindings. Bringing both hands to the task, the doctor finally forced the covers to separate with a loud crack. John waited, expecting him to rise and return to his desk, but Harwell remained on the floor, continuing to remove additional books until the shelf was nearly empty.
As the doctor’s arm disappeared into the vacant space, John could see Harwell was reaching beyond the back of the bookcase and into the wall itself. He heard him muttering, cursing under his breath as he fumbled with something inside the hidden cavity, trying to maneuver it out through the narrow opening.
“I’ve got it,” the doctor grumbled as he slowly held up a tattered cloth pouch. Brushing away the dirt and cobwebs, he set to work on the knotted drawstrings. But as large portions of the bag began to separate, he simply pulled the material apart, releasing a bound manuscript from the rotting fibers.
Carrying it with outstretched arms, the doctor moved to the single window at the back of the office, pushed open the glass, and raised the book above the ledge. Taking a quick breath, he blew hard, shooting a mixture of cobwebs and rat droppings into the rear alley. Leaving a swirling haze in his wake, he returned to his desk, where he pushed the loose papers off to the side and carefully set the crimson-cased volume in the very center of the space.
Although still covered with a layer of dust, John could see the book’s blood-red binding was ornately stamped with strange markings, the front cover finely tooled with a border of scrolls and flourishes. In the very center, a single word served as its title:
While the main part of the cover appeared to be bound with the familiar cowhide common to the rest of the doctor’s library, the outer trim was thinner and nearly transparent. John wondered if the material had been taken not from an animal, but from a different kind of donor.
The doctor scooted his chair back and sat, his full attention seemingly captured by the elaborately detailed cover.
“Are you sure, John?” Harwell asked without looking up. “Are you absolutely sure you want to know this?”
He could hear it in the doctor’s voice—a final chance to turn back, to reconsider his decision to ignore the possible penalties of both law and Church. John answered without hesitation. “Yes. Please.”
Lucius Harwell raised his glazed eyes. “Come over here and lay your hand on the book.”
It seemed like a strange request. John could only assume the doctor wanted him to make some kind of symbolic gesture, acknowledging that his demand to learn from the forbidden script had made him a willing accomplice in breaking the sacred bond of secrecy.
As he placed his palm on the leather—if that’s what it was—John took a closer look at the extravagant design now framing his hand. What he had originally assumed to be symbols were actually bizarre and grotesque figures—creatures clearly not human. Some were portrayed in agony and suffering, while others were shown coupled with naked female forms. Even more sinister was the feel of the book—icy cold, like a solid block of frozen stone.
Here’s a brief synopsis of The Kure:
John Tyler, a young man in his early twenties, awakens to find a ghastly affliction taking over his body. When the village doctor offers the conventional, and potentially disfiguring, treatment as the only cure, John tenaciously convinces the doctor to reveal an alternative remedy—a forbidden ritual contained within an ancient manuscript called the Kure.
Although initially rejecting the vile and sinister rite, John realizes, too late, that the ritual is more than a faded promise scrawled on a page of crumbling paper. And as cure quickly becomes curse, the demonic text unleashes a dark power that drives him to consider the unthinkable—a depraved and wicked act requiring the corruption of an innocent soul.
Ultimately, John must choose between his desperate need to arrest the plague that is destroying his body, and the virtue of the woman he loves, knowing the wrong decision could cost him his life.
The Kure is Available Now
in Kindle eBook on Amazon for only $.99
Jaye Frances has generously offered to giveaway an ecopy of The Kure for the Kindle. Please fill out the form below to enter. You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
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