My forthcoming art-related historical novel is Cut From the Earth…
In the Year of Our Lord 1755, Portuguese tile maker, Piloto Manuel Pires is committed to freeing slaves and hiring them in his tile factory, a promise rife with problems. He harbors a secret tile designer, whose ongoing innovations of the the figura de convite, an invitation figure, puts the shop’s works in demand by Lisbon’s elite and at odds with a Jesuit priest. When a commission destined for the Amazon jungle must be altered, and an omen is disregarded, the shop plummets into struggle. While the Inquisition controls church and state, and bears down upon the diverse population with its cruel grip.Then on November 1, All Saints Day, with the city’s populace at church, disasters strike: earthquake, tidal waves, mass fire. Piloto’s life is forever changed as is his shop, tile making, as Portugal find itself forced into a New Age.
Cut From the Earth, the story of a Portuguese tile maker who risks everything to save slaves and escape The Great Lisbon Earthquake that ushers in a New Age.
“A jolt shot through Piloto’s body, ejecting the tile from his hand. It shattered. He dropped the iron-tongs. They clattered upon the ground. Barrels of chalky glazes shook, their thick soups boiling over their rims, mixing paddles churning. The viscous substances ebbed and flowed: manganese-browns, copper-greens, cobalt-blues, iron-oxide oranges, creating an amalgam of colors on the floor.
Rolling pins fell off counters, and ricocheted end-on-end before congregating in a pile, next to the vats. Dried goat balls the size of peaches vaulted to the floor, paint squirting out their nozzle ends. Buckets of paintbrushes careened, the brushes scattering like plucked feathers. Work pedestals spun. Small glass jars of pigments vibrated across tabletops; others wobbled off, exploding. Water spilled from barrel containers, housing gooey slip used to join clay pieces, and formed puddles on the floor’s uneven low spots. The holding tank of white iron-oxide cracked down the front, its contents oozed out. Stacks of clay blocks toppled, hitting the floor with loud thuds. Pails of wires, paddles, anvils, and ribs shimmered off back shelves, while the shelves themselves threatened to topple.
Piloto dashed from spot to spot, arms outstretched, catching items and picking up others. He filled his arms.
The earth heaved again, a second more severe shock, a violent undulating ocean wave.
Overhead, the drying racks collasped, sending bone dry tiles to the lattice floor. Splinters of dried clay rained down, covering him in a fine dust.
The trembling unlatched the kiln’s fire door. Hot embers jumped from their earthen cave. Wisps of smoke spiraled. He sprinted to the coals, kicking them back in, dropping all that he’d gathered. Quickly, he relatched the door.
Coughing, he rushed to the front windows of the shop, tripping on the crumpled drapery laying below them.
There was a loud groan from outside. An explosion.
The planked walls of the Fabrica Santa María gave and flexed.
Before him, the two-story building broke into four large blocks and caved in.The ground convulsed beneath his feet, as star-shaped cracks burst across the floor like shots from a pistol — stars mimicking the shop’s pentagram tile designs.
Piloto looked above the front doorway, where they kept their statue of Saint Anthony on a shelf. In slow motion, the ceramic saint teetered then launched off its mount, head first, breaking into two even halves, right down the middle, right where a man’s heart would be; one half held the book of purity, the other the infant Jesus.
He dove for the front door, hurled it open, and ran out as boxes of knives and fluting tools plunged to the floor, puncturing bags of salt, calcium, and silica.
Trapped citizens begged for help. Their cries floated on the cascading particles invading his hair and ears. A chill. A surge of energy. His heart throbbed. Then silence. It enveloped him.
He turned in the direction of home.
Before his eyes, images of his wife, his two girls waiting for him at Saint Anthony’s Chapel.
He needed to get there.
Piles of debris blocked the streets. He scrambled on hands and knees.
Some people ambled about, others clawed and scurried. Shrieked.
Where was the sun? The early morning’s clear blue sky?
In the haze, he slowed, and then stopped. A sharp well-defined clarity entered his mind. He was late and had forgotten his bag with his church clothes. Paulinha will be upset with me for arriving in my work clothes, but I am late; she’ll understand…”
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