It’s been a long summer and a surprisingly intense one. Since mid-July, I’ve redrafted Resistance and written and polished a novella-length ghost story, A Frost of Cares. I submitted both last week, so watch this space. It’s also been a little sobering. Without really intending to, I’ve worked a lot of twelve-hour days and six day weeks, and let an awful lot which wasn’t the sheer act of writing slip past me. I’m back to school next week, so will have to cut back, but it’s left me aware of just how easy it is to slip into unhealthy work patterns.
This week, I’ve been trying to catch up on a lot of other bits and pieces, including sprucing up my website a little (each book now has a page of its own). I’ve done some walking this summer, but kept putting trips off to, er, do more redrafting.
So, have a taster, firstly from A Frost of Cares, in which historian Luke arrives at Eelmoor Hall, where he’ll be working on the archive and encountering an angry girl who has been missing for a very, very long time:
Inside, the foyer had that odd mixture of institutional function and faded grandeur that seems to characterize old schools and posh hotels. It was dark, but lights came on as I moved forward, triggered by some motion sensor somewhere, and I was able to follow signs to the library, the lights rising and fading as I walked. I stopped for a moment at the bottom of a stairway, wondering whether it was a short cut to my room or whether I should just carry straight on and find the way through the library.
I must have stood still too long for the motion sensors because the lights went off. It was dark, country dark not London dark, with no lights outside to shine through the windows, and suddenly the big house seemed even vaster and colder. I could hear a faint rattling in the wall, a distant electronic hum from somewhere, a creak of floorboards upstairs, all the normal sounds of an old and empty building.
And, as you sometimes do in old buildings, I suddenly felt that I wasn’t alone. I thought that someone else was there in the darkness, breathing in perfect time with me, so close that I could have reached out and touched them. I startled and the lights came back on.
I was alone, of course, in an empty hallway filled with blank noticeboards. It had just been my imagination.
This, on the other hand, is an outtake from Resistance. All you need to know is that Tarn and his younger brother Hal don’t always get on. Here Hal pops by the Court of Shells for a visit (vaguely spoilery for Reawakening:
Halsarr landed on its roof, a great expanse of rounded stones. He could imagine how pleasant it would be to stretch out here, on a quiet day, and soak up the blazing heat of the sun. It felt good here, though he knew already that only the heat of the sun would warm him. The desert was loved, but there would be no nourishment for him in that fondness.
He felt it when others emerged onto the roof and swung his head down and round to greet them. “Tarnamell.”
“Halsarr,” his brother said formally. He was wearing his human shell, the same one he had always favored, a hulking mass of muscle, blond elflocks and ferocity that disguised the fact that the mind behind the face was ancient and cunning and powerful beyond the comprehension of humankind.
“Still trying to make barbarian splendour look good on you?” Halsarr inquired, pulling his lips back from his teeth in a vast sneer. “You are already stronger, more powerful, and considerably louder than most of humankind. Adding physical intimidation as well does seem a little like overkill.”
“You haven’t changed,” Tarnamell remarked.
“Nor you,” Halsarr returned. “Unfortunately.”
“You could change form,” Tarnamell suggested. “Then I could show you how much or little I have changed.”
“Oh,” Halsarr said. “Was that a threat? How charming.” He was beginning to enjoy himself.
Tarnamell grinned at him, showing his teeth. “Or I could change. Fancy you can outfly me, brother?”
The spirit behind him, who had been listening with an appreciative grin, chuckled. This must be the Desert God of Alagard. He was pretty, which was no surprise. Tarnamell had always had a weakness for shiny things. Slyly, Alagard remarked, “I’m not convinced the roof could hold you both. You’ll just have to settle your differences without violence.”
“Shame,” Tarnamell muttered. “I always want to hit him.”
“I, however, am a pacifist.”
“By which he means he is an idiot.”
“Education changes more than war.”
Tarnamell’s glare was getting more and more irritable. “Yet war defeated the Shadow. Twice.”
“And who cleaned up the mess afterwards?” Halsarr asked.
“There,” said Alagard, “he has a point.” He winked at Halsarr. “Now, if I was to change allegiances to someone civilised, how much of a tantrum do you think Tarn here would throw?”
“Tantrum?” Tarnamell growled, seizing Alagard’s arm and jerking him close. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Well,” Alagard mused, pursing his lips as if there wasn’t a very irritated dragon looming over him, “he seems to have much nicer manners, and they do say doctors have good hands.”
Halsarr intervened. “Alas, friend desert, I already have a heart for my hoard. I suspect, though, that you would not seriously contemplate any offer from me.”
“He’d better not,” Tarnamell grumbled, but looked mollified when Alagard slung his arm around his waist. “And who gave you permission to call him friend?”
“I choose my own friends,” Alagard pointed out.
In the same moment, Halsarr snapped, “You do not govern me, eldest brother.”
“Nobody respects me,” Tarnamell grumbled.
“Poor unloved dragon,” Alagard said.
And, to finish up, since one of this was one of the other things I let slip this summer, here’s the last of the photos from my trip to Cornwall at Easter. There’s not much to say to explain these, since I spent my last day in Cornwall at the Eden Project, which is just beautiful and unique. I’d love to go back in summer, but it was still stunning in spring. Although the rainforest was amazing, my favourite section was the Mediterranean dome, with its rows and rows of tulips.