A few words from author friend Mary Cunningham:
“To kick off the release of Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle, I ran a contest to name your favorite character in the Cynthia’s Attic Series. And, guess who won? None other than Veronika! The prize is to be cast as a character in Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest (working title). She’s anxious to read how her character is developing, so here’s a short excerpt. Not too much. Don’t want to give away any of the mystery, but I hope you’ll enjoy a snippet of the latest Cynthia’s Attic adventure with Cynthia, Gus and Veronika.”
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In trying to escape the boring summer of 1964, Cynthia and Gus, adventurous twelve-year-old best friends, discover a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that her family has possessed for three generations. The trunk has magical powers that allows them to travel through time solving mysteries and having adventures with their ancestors.
In the latest story, Cynthia and Gus journey to a small town in France to search for clues as to why all the mysteries solved in previous adventures are unraveling. In the village of Beauvais, they see a woman, Amelia, the girls first spotted making beignets in New Orleans (Curse of the Bayou: Book Three). Amelia runs a small pastry shop in town and her young daughter, Veronika, helps out when she can.
Veronika offers to show Cynthia and Gus an old monastery-school building where they might search for clues to solve this latest mystery.
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Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest – Excerpt: Chapter Five
I couldn’t argue that mother and daughter appeared as different as night and day. Amelia towered over us and her hair and eyes were the same color as the dark chocolate fudge my dad made every Christmas.
Veronika sensed my confusion and explained, “Maman claims I’m the image of my Grand-mère Colette, my papa’s mother. “She was born in the south of France, but claimed Irish ancestry, which must explain my blonde hair and freckles.”
I was quick to point out our common ground. “I take after my grandmother, too. And, Cynthia is the image of her great-aunt, Belle, so we all bear resemblance to one relative or another.”
“Aunt Belle lives in France,” Cynthia added. “In fact, we just came from her cottage.”
Veronika stopped walking and asked, “Really? Does she live close by?”
I held my breath while my friend answered since we never knew for sure where Aunt Belle lived except that her home was somewhere outside Paris.
“She lives in the countryside, outside Paris, but the village is so small I’m not sure it even has a name.”
“That’s quite possible. Many villages have no formal designation, but are known by a landmark or by the name of the original inhabitants,” Veronika said.
I sighed with relief when she continued to lead us past dozens of small shops and didn’t press for more information. Few of the stores contents were distinguishable, but one displayed candles in the window and another had baskets of fresh and fruit at the front entrance. One thing they had in common were “closed” signs displayed in each window. Despite my disappointment at not being able to investigate and sample more delicious food, we had to continue the mission.
Our pace quickened and we soon reached the outskirts of town.
“We’re here,” Veronika announced. “Big and solemn-looking, isn’t it?”
I couldn’t dispute that. The three-story, stone building, complete with bell tower, gave the appearance of a church rather than a school.
“It used to be a monastery,” Veronika answered, as if reading my mind. “I love the creaky wood floors, although it’s harder to sneak into class when I’m late for school. Would you like to go inside? The doors are open all summer.”
“Sure, why not?” It couldn’t look more depressing on the inside than the old elementary school Cynthia and I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade. To reinforce how old, my grandmother, Bess, went to high school there! During school, the janitor had a full-time job keeping wax on the worn wood floors and the principal spent winter months banging on the old furnace coaxing it to heat the three-story building.
Veronika led us through the massive double doors into a marble hallway. While the age of the building was apparent, the sounds from our footsteps echoed off huge wooden beams giving me a strange sense of historical significance and purpose. I could almost see monks in long robes roaming the hallways centuries before.
“This way!” Our new friend ran down the hallway, her laughter contrasting with the somber interior of the school. “There is supposed to be a secret passage somewhere near the tower stairs. I’ve never seen it, but my friend, Bridget swears it’s there, but I’m not sure how much to believe since she also swears her brother is a werewolf.” Veronika laughed. “I don’t think he is, but…he does have unusually long canine teeth.”
Cynthia laughed along with Veronika, but I didn’t find talk of werewolves the least bit funny. Ever since screaming and hiding my eyes through Wolf Man at the Dream Movie Theatre, I’ve imagined hairy, fanged faces staring in through my bedroom window! “She’s kidding, right?”
“Probably.” Veronika grinned. “Her older brother, François, is quiet and a little eccentric, but, other than extra long teeth, he doesn’t appear at all wolf-like.”
I paled and Cynthia snickered. “She’s teasing you, Gus. You’ll fall for anything.”
“Ha! I know she’s kidding.” Or is she? A shadow passed over Veronika’s face, but the moment I blinked it was gone and her sunny smile returned. Still, a shiver moved up my spine.
We ran up the stairs to the second floor and encountered a long hallway of closed doors—classrooms, I presumed. Veronika walked ahead, jiggling doorknobs criss-crossing from right to left, but everything was locked tight.
“Nothing so far.” She called over her shoulder. “I’m afraid Bridget teased about the secret passage, too.”
I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. All this talk of werewolves had me on edge, but our only recourse is finding clues to fix the mess that’s been created, or many people will to suffer. Aunt Belle, Beau, Cynthia’s whole family! Not to mention the effect on my family, particularly my grandma, Bess and me. One thing certain; we wouldn’t escape unscathed.
I couldn’t determine if my dark mood played tricks on my or if another shadow passed directly above me, but by the time I looked up, I saw nothing but the ornately sculpted ceiling.
Mary Cunningham is the author of award winning ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. Her children’s mystery series is inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic. After realizing that the dream takes place in the home of her childhood friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began.
She is also co-writer of the humor-filled, women’s lifestyle book, “Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF),” along with published stories, “Ghost Light” and “Christmas Daisy,” A Cynthia’s Attic short story.