Winterbloom – new extract

Shaman and daughter
Shaman and daughter

Winterbloom is coming along nicely, and I have now passed the 125,000 word mark, despite some rather fierce inflight editing.

Our heroes (?) have now made it to Earth and are about to cause a modest amount of havoc in 1920’s Bath. I’m having to bone up on such luminaries as Dr Dee, John Wood the Elder, and William Beckford.

As usual, the scope of the plot is nothing if not over-ambitious. Not one but three parallel worlds, plus a certain amount of bucketing about in the underground. I would like to get a Citroen camionette into the story, but I don’t think they existed in 1921, and the fantastic elements of the plot need to be anchored in reality where possible.

I should also add that I’m not going to blow up Bath Abbey, or the Roman Baths, or any other well-known-for-not-having-exploded landmarks. But there may be a certain bit of dramatic license involving a well-known archaeological site.

In the mean time, Stephen has been paginating Children of the Shaman, and we are hoping to produce a paperback edition in the not-too-distant future. This will feature cover art by Truenotdreams Design, and will be printed by Createspace.

Right, that’s enough maundering on (to quote a friend)!

Here is an extract from Chapter 2 of Winterbloom, The Night Visitors:
It was the middle of the night. Yuste Grebenshikov woke and sat bolt upright in bed, her husband snoring beside her. They did not have electricity in the country, so she snapped her fingers to make a flame and slipped out of bed, padding across the bare wood floor to the desk where she kept her papers. She lit a candle and blew out the flame that had barely singed her fingertips. Here on the desktop were her journal, a pen with a new nib, and an inkwell. Yuste sat down at the desk and began to write, dipping her pen in the ink now and again as she wrote. An idea had occurred to her on the verge of sleep, and she wanted to write it down before it slipped her mind. Thoughts, like words, were so easily lost, and in her present position, any small clue could be vital. She inscribed the words ‘Pomegranate Seed. Daughter of the Goddess.’

Yuste paused. She knew about Goddesses. She had even met one, because her nature entailed moving between real and magical realms. Her view of reality was always tinged with an awareness of other worlds that she could not see; that she had to shut out. She was able to see the dead and, if she was unlucky, they would come to the back door asking to be admitted.

Yuste had grown up between worlds. When she was a child, her mother had been so frightened of her offspring’s strange behaviour that she had taken Yuste and her twin brother to the big city to see a famous man, a foreigner with a dark face who wore what appeared to be silk pyjamas, and sat on the floor rather than behind a desk. Yuste’s mother had entered the room, holding a child by either hand, and the guru had risen to meet them; he was only floating about an inch above the floor. Yuste’s brother had laughed out loud, and so had she; their mother sighed because they did everything together, could not be separated, and would not speak.

The guru had gazed at the small, black-eyed children who stared up at him, suddenly solemn. Their mother was small too, her hair concealed by a bonnet, and she wore a dark-coloured spencer over a plain calico dress. The guru had conducted their mother to a chair, and called up a servant to make tea. Then he had sat down cross-legged on the rug, watching the children to see what they would do.

They stood hand in hand, staring at him. He could see that they were small for their age; they were immaculately dressed, the little girl in white lawn, and her brother in breeches and a black jacket.

‘Well,’ said the guru, ‘what is to be done?’

Their mother leaned forward. ‘What do you think is the matter, sir?’

‘You must prepare yourself for a shock, Madame,’ said the guru. ‘I think you have twin shamans. And they will be powerful.’

The children looked round as their mother gasped. They saw her dismay.

‘A shaman – what is that?’ she said.

‘They have powers that we – ordinary mortals – do not. In little children, these powers are weak, but they will grow. In Cine and Inde, my home, they have been known of for some centuries, but in your part of the world they are much less common. In recent years, after the ending of the Great Cold, more have started to be born, which is why my masters sent me here to found a school.’

‘How can you tell?’ said their mother.

‘The signs are subtle. The children are small, and as you say, they do not speak. That is because they can talk to each other without opening their mouths. They can hear each other’s thoughts. And they have a faint aura that can only be detected with special lenses – theirs is a pretty blue.’

‘But it must be dangerous,’ said mother. ‘What sort of powers do they have?’

‘They will make lightning with their hands. They will heal sickness and wounds. And they will travel from this world into the next, and all the other worlds. Already they can see things to which we are blind. If they could only tell us, who knows what they would say.’

Yuste’s mother had covered her eyes with a gloved hand.

‘I am afraid,’ she said. ‘We are Wanderers, and can be persecuted. And now this!’

The guru smiled at the children, who were looking solemn.

‘I think your children will be able to look after themselves,’ he said.

Yuste recalled vividly the most recent occasion when she had been troubled by insomnia. It had been the day after the Winter Solstice, when Wanderers were accustomed to celebrate the Candle Feast, one of the most important celebrations of the year. On that night, in the coldest part of the year, Yuste had been unable to sleep. She had been troubled by ruminations about the present and the past, worrying in turn about her mother, her niece and her business, which was being neglected while she and Boris lingered in the countryside. In the end, she had risen from her bed and crept downstairs to the kitchen, opening the stove to rekindle the fire. She put on her slippers, for the quarry tiles on the kitchen floor were cold, and considered walking up to the headland to look at the sea, something she was accustomed to doing when she could not sleep.

It was then that someone had knocked, twice, on the back door. All the hairs stood up on the back of Yuste’s neck, and she shivered. She did not know what time of night it was, but midnight had passed, and people seldom came to the house after sunset. If she had not been a shaman, Yuste would have left the door bolted shut and waited for the visitor – if there were a visitor – to leave. As it was, she padded from the kitchen to the back door and started to unlock it, wondering who had decided to disturb them at this late hour. When the door swung open, her heart skipped a beat, and then she was disappointed; there seemed to be nobody there. She was about to close the door, when something made her step over the threshold and look out.