Tag Archives: excerpt

… my hexed home & a short scene from Course of Mirrors …

My home was hexed lately, so it feels peaceful to light a first advent candle. I’m still exhausted after spending weeks without heating, editing while wrapped up in several layers of outlandish costumes and with revolving hot water bottles on my lap. Blissfully warm again, a relentlessly dripping kitchen tap drove me nuts. Unable to focus on editing, I diverted myself with sorting client notes for confidential shredding. Tap fixed, my printer stopped working, just when I intended to make my batch of Christmas cards. It’s become a time-consuming job to get things mended. Chuck it, is the general advice.

I feel a little like Ana in the scene below, who discards stuff in preparation for her amazing quest.

I’ll occasionally share short excerpts from my first novel here.

a short scene from chapter two

Nothing stirred the air, not a single bird sailed along the cliffs, as if nature held its breath. I had emptied the three chests in my tree house, hauled their contents down the ladder, sack by heavy sack. Once my heartbeat calmed, only the distant drone of cascading water broke the quiet, and the lone yelp of a dog from my father’s court further down the mountain. I glanced at the treasures scattered near a designated area of flat rocks and felt my fingers itch to reach out and sift the objects that held so many fond memories.

Instead, I laid strips of cord and cloth soaked in hemp oil into a star formation, building a grid of tinder and dry branches on top. On this base I arranged layer upon layer of books and stacked them like bricks to form a conical heap that grew shoulder-high. I had brought a box of candle-ends and a flask of strong spirit in case extra fuel was needed.

Next were my drawings of plants – patterned shades in rock and bark, sketches of fossils, crystals, flowers on frosted glass and cloud-shapes. Captured moments of happy absorption, bound to mould away if left. Whoever thought to search here for secrets of mine would be disappointed. One by one I folded the drawings into flute-like shapes and tucked them between book spines until the formation resembled a giant hedgehog.

Last my arabesques. I longed to unroll each linen sheet, wander barefoot into its maze and merge with the patterns turning under me like fluid gossamer. Contemplating one sheet, my first, I kicked off my sandals and followed the meandering lines of the labyrinth to its centre. I closed my eyes hoping to connect with Cara, seeking her assurance even though I knew she applauded my decision. I drifted into reverie, and shook myself out of it. Not today. The trance would not serve my purpose. Gathering the sheets into ripples like waves, I set them round the cone as if decorating a festive cake then stepped back.

All was ready, poised at the brink of destruction. Unbidden, the image of my father intruded, the familiar frown, questioning my sanity. The moment passed and was countered by a gentle – ‘you areremember’ – the voice of the luminous being that had risen from waters under the bridge to show me another world. I felt cleansed. My mind was clear.

Resolute, and chuckling to myself, I struck the back of my knife against a sharp edge of flint until the dry lichen and rabbit droppings in my tinderbox began to smoulder. A candle-end set to the trembling flame caught, and with it I ignited the exposed hemp cords around the pyre.

Wisps of smoke curled from the periphery of the mound. Tiny flames leapt from gap to dark gap between books. I expected a sudden flare but was pleased when the flickers settled into a slow burning. Simmering heat encircled the drawings and crinkled their edges. My arabesque sheets trapped the smoke, clinging and undulating, feathering up and down the pyre like wings.

My memory held a different blaze, not of pyres burning waste in the servants’ yards, but of those built by soldiers to dispose of plague-victims outside the walls of Father’s court – fires that hissed and roared skywards, grasping for more. This mound burned idly, radiating gentle heat, consuming itself. Drawings dropped like wilted leaves. The linen sheets dissolved while their ink-patterns endured like floating geometry. From its cradle of heat the tower burned from within while book spines and covers held their shape like ghostly shells. Lettering turned negative with titles visible: Humming Spheres, Lies of Time, Benedictions and Perils of Faith.

As the sun dropped below the western skyline, the chorus from within the pyre became a cabal of whispers. Each book was plump with air in its hollow, each single page defined in silvery grey. What sweet mystery held these forms in place? Was it my hesitation? I gently blew at a single spine. The whole skeletal mound collapsed to dust under my breath. A flurry of embers – and nothing left to gaze at but ash.

Stars emerged. I lay on my back and thought of Baba. The precious books, read over and over, had been her gifts to me. Deep down I knew she would forgive my reckless ritual of separation from a home that suffocated me and was based on a lie I could not fathom. I was hungry for truth and excitement as to what lay ahead. Secretly, before sunrise, I would descend the mountain from my mother’s mansion into Nimrich and follow the river, west. Tonight would be my last visit to Baba. We might never meet again.


Check out the novel here a truly immersive Christmas read.

Course of Mirrors, a multi-faceted, inspiring, magical, gripping, page-turning story with vivid characters. Great fun, with breath-taking scenery …



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… one more taster of ‘Shapers’ …

Engrossed in polishing the text of ‘Shapers,’ the latest idea for a post is as yet unwritten. To maintain my blogging rhythm, I thought I share another excerpt, leading on from … A taster of ‘Shapers’ … 

*    *    *

The underground lake

Gart pondered the word he hadn’t come across – misgivings …

‘You see yourself in others as through a broken glass,’ said Rat, alert to his puzzlement.

‘Not in Mesa I don’t,’ Gart was quick to say. ‘And Leo, I despise him. I know how his mind works. I’m nothing to him. He used me to gain power in Rhonda.’

Rat shook its pelt and scuttled ahead into the tunnel. ‘Come along, you’ve got to cross the lake. There lies an answer.’

Gart struggled to his feet, limbs stiff from what seemed endless hours on damp rock. He recalled Oruba talking of a junction with a slab in the middle – and a password. ‘Not so fast!’ he shouted. Stumbling, he fell flat on his face. The glower shot from his hand and rolled yards ahead, a little spot of light before the blackness of the tunnel beyond. He touched his nose, wet – blood. There was no pain, only numbness.

‘Don’t fret. It’s useful to be visibly injured when you attempt to cross the lake.’ The silhouette of Rat loomed like a giant keyhole from where Gart was spread on the ground. ‘Not far now, hurry.’

Gart wiped at the trickling blood with his sleeve and then crawled towards his glower. Not far was an understatement. He followed the tail of his guide along three more junctions before a square slab signalled the gateway to the underground lake. Now where was the password? He sampled his pockets for the scrap of paper. ‘Lost it, must have happened when I fell.’

‘Didn’t you memorise the code?’ Rat sounded alarmed.

‘I only glanced at it.’

‘Try a few words, as they come.’

Gart shook his head. ‘It was short, that’s all I know.’

‘This place is dangerous to loiter in,’ Rat twittered. ‘I’ll race back to see if I can find the note. Your light may attract unsavoury entities. Turn it off! Whatever happens, don’t give in to fear!’

He did as told. In the blackness Rat’s last word echoed – fear – it came, consumed his reason, a snake. Kill it – kill it – he heard his own voice demanding. A blazing sword, not his, swished through the air and severed his right hand. Gart screamed and a thousand screams returned from the walls around him. Something shone in the darkness and slithered towards his lone hand. Voices murmured close to his ear, faces crowded in, concerned, until one face loomed over him, erasing all others. It was the menacing sneer again, the bane of his life. Gart coiled up and clutched his knees, whimpering, ‘Leave me. Go away.’

‘Got it, got it.’ Rat jumped onto the switch of the glower light and dropped a crumpled note at Gart’s feet. ‘You saw him, didn’t you?’

‘Saw who?’ Gart said, wide-eyed, looking for his hand, surprised it was still attached to his arm.

‘Say it, now. It’s the code for opening the gateway. Say it loud.’ Gart straightened the note. Letters jiggled, foiling his comprehension.

‘Must do, must do. Get on with it!’ Rat chased its own tail in frustration.

Gart pressed the password through his lips – Batin. A grating noise emitted from the slab as it slid apart.

Bits, temple door - smallRat disappeared down steps hewn into the rock. ‘Quick. Not much time.’ The cavity below brought a whiff of cool air. An overhanging rock barred the way and Gart had to crouch low. He choked and his chest cramped in panic of being crushed. His muscles tightened, ungiving, like tough leather, and a stabbing pain in his shoulder made him cry out in pain. Fragments of a blurred shape drifted by, leaving a bitter smell, and then it was done. He stood upright. Taking a deep, long breath, Gart gaped at a cave towering high into a vast crystal vault. In the middle lay a body of water, motionless, like a sheet of glass. Tied to a jetty was a blue boat, and in it sat a hunched figure, a pale, wizened old man in rags that showed bits of brittle brocade. Too weak to raise his head, he turned his neck sidewise towards the presences and uttered a lament. ‘Have you come to lift the curse?’

It seemed impossible that this face terrified him earlier. The cruel dark eyes had changed into maudlin pools of tears. The sight disgusted Gart. Every fibre of his body twitched with a desire to drown the pitiful apparition.

‘I must leave you here, friend. Be careful now,’ said Rat.

*    *    *

I won’t give away the story, especially since the first book in the series still awaits the light of day. But I welcome feedback. Recent comments were precious gifts, thank you. All helps in the polishing.


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… A taster of ‘Shapers’ …

I’m in the process of editing ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors,’  my first novel, awaiting release this year. By no means the final edit-round of Shapers, any feedback to this sequence from chapter eight is appreciated. Gart was called Rufus in  Course of Mirrors. He re-appears in a future society. This is the beginning of a kind of night-sea-journey, where Gart is tested for a role he may or may not fulfil.

The tunnel

Having shut down his craft, Gart looked up to the late light falling into the cave. He felt dwarfed by its lofty height. A sliver of pale moon shone through a crescent-shaped opening in the roof. A glimmer in the rock before him caught his attention. Stepping close, he distinguished the carving of a spiralling maze. Intrigued, he tried to determine its flowing pattern towards the centre, but soon felt dizzy. His head was not right. Odd – it had not occurred to him to ask Oruba why he was sent on this underground journey. Rats, he thought, rats had consumed his mind when the tunnel was mentioned. Here was his chance to meet real rats. He had never questioned why Leo kept providing him with banned books on these creatures, instilling this obsession. Governors were not known to forge relationships of interest, or confer weighty authority onto their staff. Gart smiled to himself. Leo lacked influence, not just politically. He relied on him to exercise command over the Guardian army.

RAT - damballaproductions.deviantart.com

RAT – damballaproductions.deviantart.com

The entry to the tunnel was narrow but gradually opened out. He chose his steps with care. Not trusting the rough ground, he switched the glower’s setting from its sharp beam to diffused light. Deadly still and cool air enveloped him. Every now and then a section of steps lowered the path. There were bends where the tunnel narrowed only to expand again. After an endless straight stretch, a cairn rose like an apparition, its stones stacked up higher than his head, with a rock sticking out like a crooked finger pointing to the right. He strained his ears to identify a sound underlying the silence, a faint drone. And there was another sound, whisperings, behind his back. A shiver in his neck made him turn to cast the light of the glower along the walls – nothing. He loathed the dark. Was this really his choice, or had the black man lured him into this tunnel? Willing himself forward, he counted several cairns that looked alike until his map showed he had reached a halfway point. Dragging on, his linen sack with provisions got snagged by a jutting rock – food – the thought made his stomach growl.

He placed the glower on the ground, rested his back against the rock, and pulled a tin from the sack. It contained biscuits. Chewing relaxed him, and his taste buds declared: moreish. The water in the flask was fresh, with a hint of lemon. An acute sense of pleasure spread throughout his body. Every single cell was drunk with joy.

The sensation astounded him. He took his time over another biscuit, letting the crumbs melt slowly on his tongue, closing his eyes to savour each morsel. A bird – it could not be, not here – yet it was.  A bird sang sweet notes in the branches of a blossoming tree under which he sat and played with stones and shells. A round-faced woman appeared, with a warm smile, tousling his hair. She handed him … Gart’s eyes snapped open. Disorientated, he stared at the opposite wall. The rock glimmered as if alive with tiny creatures, shifting and heaving. Shapes emerged – a nose, a mouth, a beard – the features of a frightful man with a savage scowl. Gart flinched as piercing eyes fixed on him. He heard a voice pleading – his own – please don’t leave me here, don’t leave me in the dark, I’ll be good, please. He curled up and sobbed. He was alone, utterly alone, facing a black abyss. The only control left was to play dead.

He woke with a shudder and cold limbs. Dampness from the tunnel floor had seeped through his uniform. From the rim of his consciousness a sound returned, the drone under the silence, and, close to his ear, a squeak, and another squeak. Speckles of silver danced before him. Something moved in the dark, and then shot through the ring of light cast by the glower. The creature stopped in a shaded nook. Tiny eyes gleamed there. Gart had swift recognition. A rat! He carefully pushed his back up against the wall. Without losing sight of the rodent, his hand felt for another biscuit. ‘Curious? Are we?’ The rat had not moved an inch. Gart broke off a small crumb and tossed it to land just within the faint radius of light. The rat twitched its nose. ‘I might as well have some more myself. Manna from heaven, or hell, my friend, whatever, it’s not a taste one forgets.’

He grasped a truth. Oruba had laced the biscuits to animate his dull senses. His new friend liked the crumbs too, and demanded more. He never had a friend before. ‘I’ll call you friend.’ It was the best he could come up with, and it sounded sweet to his ears. In response, the rat seemed to grow in beauty and size. Such intelligent eyes, making him feel special. ‘You understand, don’t you? I’m offering you alliance. That’s a precious deal, for me anyway.’ Rat nodded. He was sure of it. ‘Tell me about the man buried in the walls here, who smells of death.’ A shot in the dark, but a pressing question on Gart’s mind.

‘He’s buried in you.’

‘Buried in me?’

‘You caught his hatred of the world. You must release him.’

Without warning, the drama of this man tore through Gart’s mind like a tree growing crooked in painful fast motion. A boy called Rufus was scarred by this twisting. He sensed that boy was him. No knowing when and where, the sensation was real, vivid. ‘He betrayed my birth right.’

‘He, too, was betrayed. He should have been king of Itaka. Then again, kingship is an inner state. Become king of yourself. Absolve your resentments, and become kin to a family of heart-species.’

This, Gart reasoned, was no rat talk. Whose voice was talking to him?

‘Look at me as a guardian to you, Guardian. Empty your heart of misgivings and what must be done will appear as clear as a diamond. You choose the shape of its setting.’

The image returned, of a garden, bird song in blossoming branches, a woman tousling his hair and handing him … it struck Gart that the Shapers knew more about him than he did.



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