Thursday, September 29, 2022

32 Quotes from "Call of the Siren"

When we were getting ready to release Bryony back in 2011, my daughter Sarah (who did a lot of the marketing for me) suggested I pull thirty teaser quotes from the book that she could post on Facebook, one each day.

We did the same for the second book, Visagewhich is also part of the BryonySeries.

But for some reason, I never did the same for another book.

So now I am catching up.

Here is the synopsis and chapter headings for Call of the Siren, (the second book in the BryonySeries Limbo trilogy), followed by thirty-two quotes, one from each chapter.


Sue Bass is haunted by dreams of her father, who died in a boating accident before she was born, alluring dreams of water and song. But then a soft-spoken outside man with an inside plan comes to town, and Sue's sleepwalking fades, only to resurface with greater magnetism when he leaves. 
Two voices beckon. Which one will she heed?


Every fiber urged – now!

But she waited. She waited for the crescendo, and when it came, she jumped, just as his arms tightened around her.

And the melody swallowed them up, silencing its strains forever.


Chapter 1: Lullaby

In the beginning the world was without form and surrounded by darkness. But it stretched and pulled and took shape in the void and filled with warm water; and whooshing and pulsing appeared, and she rolled in the waters and the waters ran into her and out of her; and voices, high and deep, hovered over the gurgles and -lo! – a soft red glow. 

Chapter 2: Music or Madness. 

A touch on her arm.

A gentle, “Hey.”

Sue turned to touch and voice.


And found The Sandman crouching in front of her.

 Chapter 3: Town Mouse

Ma scowled and ground white cheese against silvery metal teeth. “’The hand that rocks the cradle!’ The hand that rocks the cradle!’ She whirled around and waved the grater, splatting cheese across the floor. “Look at your hands, Linda. Look at mine. You’ve rocked cradles. I’ve rocked Sue’s. I’ve worked. You’ve worked. But now we’re working as heads of our households.” She pointed to the door. “Look around this village. Why, the women now out-number the men three to one – or four to one - or more. I don’t see any man steppin’ up to fix it!”

Chapter 4: Country Mouse

Maudie’s disappearance, for Sue, crystallized why she loathed living at Fisher Farm, and why the very thought of staying forever filled her with unease. A resigned sadness hung in the farmhouse, and an undercurrent of quiet despair pervaded the landscape. Sue sensed it that day Ma had abandoned Sue at the farm. Sue couldn’t define it at the time; she only felt it. But the longer Sue stayed at Fisher Farm, the more she soaked up their misery, the way Uncle James, Auntie Maybelle, and, yes, even Mrs. Helsby had soaked it up and became part of the bleakness. Maybe that’s why Marigold “got with” the ‘hand. Maybe that’s why Maudie ran away – to escape the drab, gray hell of hopelessness.

Chapter 5: Water, Butter, and Wine

When Sue finally pulled herself up to the shore of endless high grasses and tall flowers of lemon yellow, chili red, and periwinkle waving in the breeze, she found a great heap of these naked fishermen, their skin shriveled on their bones, their sightless eyes gazing up at the moon, and the moon was a bloated blue head without a body, and the moon grinned back with inky lips

Chapter 6: Little Girl Lost

She loved Ailbe’s preaching. He spoke each word with a vitalizing conviction. It wasn’t that Pastor Demars didn’t believe his words or that Ailbe believed them more. But Ailbe preached from deep waters. The words flowed from him as naturally as water flowed from one part of the lake to another, because they were part of him. He didn’t prepare to preach. He simply preached. Ailbe was a walking, talking, living embodiment of faith – even as Ma walked, talked, and lived less. 

Chapter 7: The Lure of Their Eyes

But it wasn’t the uselessness of hypnotism that lay at the core of Sue’s refusal. She was afraid of what the hypnotism might uncover.

What if it pulled up impressions of him she’d wedged in her mind and sank into her heart. Like his crooked smile that always turned her belly to jelly. She loved him too much, missed him too much. His rejection hurt too much.

What if they pulled up him?


Chapter 8: Flames and Frost

The only reason why he didn’t trust her further was not to dirty her with the dirtiest parts of his life. The fact she might understand and accept those dirty parts played a role. He was dirty enough. And if she were dirty, he’d rather not know.

If she were dirty, she could not restore him.

Chapter 9: Even The Sparrow

But it was number three Sue had to serve, the smoker, and her heart dove when she saw him: lean, too lean, with a long thin face and a thick scar down his left cheek, auburn hair, hazel eyes, a crooked smile that turned her belly to jelly, and a confident and mocking demeanor. He wasn’t handsome, but that didn’t matter to Sue. As she drew closer on shaking legs, his voice rang out, “I had to seal the deal!” At the sound of his voice, the singing became very, very, very faint and nearly vanished as she set the plate in front of him, her hands trembling hard.

“Hey, Sam, she’s sweet on you!”

Chapter 10: Bewitched By Her Sweetness

And so, when the time seemed ripe, he invited her to dinner at Dr. Gothart’s house with a meal prepared by Dr. Gothart himself, for Dr. Gothart could never have survived as long as he had without knowing a culinary skill or two. She didn’t cringe at Dr. Gothart’s dark, narrow dining room, with its heavy wooden walls of cabinets and closets and recesses, lit only by the candles jammed in the cracks. She didn’t cringe at his lively recounting of the Ottoman-Hungarian wars, for which the conversation always turned when Dr. Gothart imbibed enough Bikavér. She didn’t cringe at the fire in Dr. Gothart’s eyes, the heat in his speech, and the maniacal way he licked his lips when he described in vivid detail the spilling of the Ottoman blood. She merely listened, rapt, over her wine glass, eyes of cool steam.

Chapter 11: House Calls

They discussed their findings with Dr. Gothart after dinner when he joined them in the parlor for brandy and conversation. Neta set aside her weaving and opened her notes, which attracted the interest of the cats, staring white cats, that gathered around her, perched over her, and hung by a paw or a tail from the chandeliers. A hint of copper tinged the air, copper, raw meat, and a very fine tobacco, for Dr. Gothart sat by the fire with his brandy and smoked with placid steadiness.

Chapter 12: Coin for the Passage

The west window next to the back door was propped open to allow the death stink out and coax fresh air in. The curtains wafted with the cool May breeze but, to Sue’s tired mind, they moved with the clamoring of the shades from the other side, urgently steering another soul into their midst.

Chapter 13: Plaintive Cries

Neta didn’t meet him at the door. Neta didn’t even have dinner ready. Where the fuck was she? No matter, he could find his own drink.

But he couldn’t. Every bottle of every spirit in every room of the house – gone. Fine. Fuck her.

He dropped to the carpet, opened his bag, and groped for the morphine.

Chapter 14: As Sharp as Spears

Sue burst into tears. Ghost Girl took Sue by the hand and helped her into the carriage, and then – they were clip-clopping away into the enchanted stay-away land of densely packed trees and their secrets, of sturdy trunks and leafy boughs, of spindly branches and snapping twigs, of musky, greenly scents and scampering mammals, of filtering lights and lacy shadows, of rustles, of whispers, of a hidden house where nothing dwelled except sadness and memories…

Ghost Girl smiled down at her.

The singing sang on…

Chapter 15: A Meadow Filled with Skeletons

Dr. Gothart. Where the fuck was he?

“What the fuck, Neta?” he’d asked when he’d stumbled back up from the basement.

Neta shrugged.

“Is he coming back?"

"I don’t think so.”

“The bastard. The dirty, fucking bastard.”

Every item, every documentation, in the subterranean laboratory was there and in its proper place, everything except Dr. Gothart. Had someone finally caught up to him, so he fled? And left Martin holding the bag? Well, like daughter, like father.

“Martin, hadn’t you ever wanted to up and disappear – forsake everything?”

“Yes,” Martin said. “Many times.”

He sighed a deeply troubled sigh and glanced at Neta, wondering if she sensed his turmoil. But, no, she serenely passed the weft thread over and under the warp threads with measured precision. 


Chapter 16: Gates of Horn and Ivory

Sue picked up the book, settled into a chair, drawing her legs up and under, and gazed out the window into the everlasting woods, sipping, thinking, watching the scene turn misty and gray, and riffling through the pages until Sue found the passage that always made her think of Sam, that always made her dream he would return and speak these words to her.

Chapter 17 Ask, and It Shall be Given You

She didn’t speak as the water heated, nor did Luther. She stood at the stove, back to him, and listened to the faint rumbling of the water as it went from cold to hot, her gaze falling from time to time at the dried golden buds peeking through the tea egg in the bottom of each chipped white cup. When the lid rattled, Sue poured the steaming water, releasing a whiff of apples and meadows, picked the cups up by their handles, and turned around. Luther sat at Pa’s table, picking a cuticle. 

Chapter 18: Seek, and Ye Shall Find 

Abruptly, he wiped his mouth and turned to her, and as his brown eyes met hers, Sue recalled the first night she saw into them, when she thought Luther was The Sandman. And she almost forgot now wasn’t then; she almost reached out to finger his sandpapery cheek. 

Chapter 19: Knock, and it Shall Be Opened Unto You

It’s not like Sue never saw a tree.

It’s not like Sue never saw a field.

It’s not like Sue never saw a road or a sky so blue or wide as it stretched across the expanse and sloped low to encase it.

But to behold a tree, a field, a road, the sky in a space so foreverly open and eternally free as Sue flew past them, and into them, and on and on and on – this was a quieting thrill that defied words; she doubted even Wheeler could find the right ones. Sue passed miles of land patched green with life and brown for the lack of it. She caught glimpses of stalks, low and tall, and whiffs of wild posies, and blurs of quick color, and an occasional rebel sapling, proudly standing where no other sapling dared to sink its roots, spreading its branches out and up as if to say, “Look at me! I’m a tree!” 

Chapter 20: The Stain No Storm Could Wash Away 

Their artist was the girl in the back corner, a slender young woman, no older than Sue, perhaps less, dressed in a shapeless white dress, really just a piece of cloth with a hole for her neck and a length of tattered rope tied around her waist, huddled on a small stool in the corner. She wore a white blindfold, and her very long, very fine blonde hair fell across her face as she bent over a large piece of embroidery, nimbly moving the needle in and out.

Chapter 21: A Stone and a Serpent

They sat on the weathered bench outside the little whitewashed chapel, scarcely bigger than outhouse, and shared crullers and coffee from the Ruisch Family Bakery with the motor robe from draped over their shoulders, all the while watching the sun rise from its cloudy horizon bed and stretch its warmth across the brisk new day.

“Cold?” Luther asked, reaching across Sue to pull the blanket tighter.

Sue shook her head.

But she had never felt such peace.

Chapter 22: Treading Water

Sue’s door was still open. But Sue’s home wasn’t empty. Briana and Fiona were there, with hot tea and blankets warmed by a ready fire, ready to blow warmth into her. So Sue sat naked in warmed blankets and sipped hot tea; and Caitlin shed her wet garments and sat naked in warmed blankets, also sipping hot tea; and Briana and Fiona sat near them, sipping hot tea and warming them with their care. They talked about nonsense; they talked about things that mattered. The light caught the rose tint of the flaxen hair on all three ministering spirits and lit their cherubic faces with a heavenly glow.

Chapter 23: Last Dream of my Soul

“You’re hiding,” she accused him. “You’re hiding from something.

“Maybe I am,” Sam agreed. “The world out there isn’t…nice."

“And I’m too crazy.”.

Sam looked out to the lake and took another drag.


Chapter 24: On Solid Ground

An advantage to living in Munsonville is no one questioned anything.

Chapter 25: Ideal – and Worthy of Envy

“You should have told me!”

Sam pulled back and stuffed himself away, asking, “Would you have married me?” as casually as Sue might ask a customer if he wanted more bread with his soup.

“I don’t know!”

“So maybe no??


“Well, I couldn’t take that chance. I had to seal the deal.”

“Seal the deal? Seal the deal? What am I, one of your shady transactions?”


“Well, you’re going to be out of a deal, buddy. I have grounds for an annulment. Fraud and inability to consummate the marriage. Wait and see. You can go fend for yourself.”

“You can’t get an annulment!”

“Yes, I can!”

“No, you  can’t. We’re not legally married. Hence, you can’t legally separate. We’re stuck with each other until death do us part.”

Chapter 26: Sue’s Diner

“So Alex Drake suggested we add an upstairs apartment to Sue’s Diner,” Sam said and then added with a crooked grin, “The vote was unanimous.”

“We’re not calling the diner Sue’s Diner. And we’re not becoming landlords, too.

“We are. I’ve already ordered the sign.”

“And we’re not becoming landlords.”

Chapter 27: In Dark Depths Lurking

Sue struggled to keep up with the orders, for, as Sue had predicted, Sam and his one good hand were little use in the kitchen. But he was outstanding at fraternizing with the customers and touting the food. Often when Sue swerved to see if the onions were sauteed, the sauce stirred, and the noodles boiled – small, but important tasks she relied on Sam to do – she only found an empty space where her husband once stood, along with charred onions, curdled milk, and mushy, nearly liquid, macaroni. Fuming, Sue would peek around the corner to find Sam hobbling about the dining room, greeting one and all as if he were Lord Barnes of Sue’s Diner. Or, even worse, she’d see him perched on a counter stool with yet another cigarette and another cup of coffee, regaling his seatmate with another bad joke. 

Chapter 28: The Abyss Beckons

“Sue’s Diner, eh?” Dr. Rothgard had asked the next time Sue met with him to explain Sam’s treat and inquire about Sam’s line of work. “I’ve heard about its wonderful food. I should stop in. It will give me a good reason to go back to Munsonville.”

“You’ve been to Munsonville?”

“Many times. My parents were friends with John Simons and frequent visitors to Simons Mansion when Bryony was alive.” He smiled, and his green eyes behind the dark-rimmed glassed glowed like a cat’s at night. “I know every inch of that mansion, that village.”

“Really? Then tell me this: why has John Simons never returned to his home?”

“But he does. All the time.”

“Well – then why hasn’t anyone seen him? Tell me that.”

“Maybe he doesn’t wish to be seen.”


He placed his hand on her shoulder. “Enjoy your visit with Sam. I’ll be in touch.”

Chapter 29: : No Breath of Wind, No Ripple of Water

They had scarcely moved past the diner, and hadn’t quite reached the first cabin, when Sue impulsively stopped short, so Sam did, too.



“Kiss me."


“Kiss me.”

Sam leaned down, and gently touched his lips to hers. But as he straightened, Sue pressed his hands onto her cheeks and held him in place. His hazel eyes questioned, wondered. But then he closed them, leaned harder on the cane, cupped the back of her head, and kissed her with “thrilling, soulful ecstasy,” while the waves lapped behind them, and the night wind whispered past them, and the moon shone golden high above them. 

Chapter 30: Ferry and Scythe

The cataracts crashed through her; water rushed into her mouth; and she sank, sank, sank below the turbulence; she floated through magenta and navy blue flowers with flaming red petals, and golden glittering fruit, and wavy green leaves and soft purple shadows…


A piercing cry rent the air, followed by staccato bursts: shrill, vociferous, and earsplitting. 

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