Probably a good time to mention that the seventh novel in the series is almost out for preorder, for release in June.
More news on that soon.
Then there’s other writing happening. The next Captain Arlon Stoddard novel Tramp Steamers has been copyedited and proofed and we’re looking at scheduling that for October, though the next Karnish River Navigations novel Rorqual Saitu is complete, just awaiting those edits. We were hoping to have that out in August, but we might switch those around.
And then with the day-to-day writing, I’m deep in the heart of a new book which started out as, I thought in my naivety, a short story that might break 5000 words (think twenty pages) and is now somewhere north of 30,000 words. Yes, it will be another novel. This is good news for fans of my Morgenfeld Saga, on which nothing has happened for a few years (busy with other series as you see above) – the new book is tentatively titled The Wintermas Paintings and might even be out before the end of the next year.
At the risk of extending that naivety, I thought I’d pop in the draft of Chapter One below for any who might be interested. This is raw, remember, not tinkered with, not copyedited, not even proofed. But it might still give a feel for where this book is going.
Art not final – just an ai version of what it thinks of Morgenfeld’s Tower of Bats.
The Wintermas Paintings
Despite the size of the space, the air in the old cavernous hall was musty and damp and thick.
Jason Trone shivered, pressed up to one of the windows. The glass was cold, and from somewhere came angry bellows.
Someone shouting his name.
Far off for now. He had a moment.
Jason sat on a low wooden bench seat. It was hard and had once been polished to a fine shine. The lustre was long gone, and the vanish was cracked and pitted and discolored. Probably oak, with a strong grain and a few knots. The legs were still strong.
Lying on the bench were the spoils of his plunder. Trinkets and baubles mostly. Two iron necklaces with gold plating that was already wearing off. Some glass sapphires and emeralds set in brass brooches. The pins on two were snapped. A pair of pearl earrings that might have been genuine, but they wouldn’t fetch much.
He scooped them back into his soft leather satchel. It had been a gift from his grandmother and wouldn’t she be disappointed now with the use he was putting it to.
The windows behind stood thirty feet high. They hadn’t been cleaned in decades. A dust patina lay across them, and bright green lichens spread on some of the panes, with darker green mosses looking lush and vibrant in edges and corners of the framing.
Jason wiped at one of the windows, removing just enough dust to be able to see through. The next part of the building stood about forty feet away, and he was about level with the edge of the roof. There were rows of windows, leading down three, no four, stories. The brickwork was festooned with dead vines, as if someone had cut the poor plant off at the roots.
An orange cat strolled along the parapet–the building’s walls rose higher than the roof, so there were gutterings hidden behind. The cat stopped and turned to lick at its side, stripes showing and tail flicking.
If Jason could get around to where the cat was now, then that would give him more options. The question was how to reach it.
Looking over the hall again, Jason marveled. It would have been quite impressive back in its day.
The vaults of the ceiling was a good forty feet from the wooden floor. The remains of chandelliers hung, sad and drooping.
Across from the windows there was a long mezzanine balcony, rather than a wall. Stiff plaster pillars still showing signs of their original gilding held the floor in place, and the railing was complex and twisted. Probably wrought iron. It had once been painted white, but now the only remaining paint was a few chips, and rust showed.
Perhaps it had been a ball room, or even a throne room. Perhaps there had been huge thick woollen curtains over the windows and where he sat now had been occupied by a stage. There might have been performances held of Crespin’s The Draper’s Revenge, or any number of Peart’s complicated plays. Or chamber quartet shows.
Jason closed his eyes a moment, imagining the hall filled with chairs, the audience chattering away until a master of ceremonies stood at the stage front and cleared their throat.
Another bellow from the distance brought him out of his reverie.
What he hadn’t figured on, when he began fleeing with his purloined jewelery, was getting chased by constabulary with the mindset of zealots. That, with finding his escape route blocked, had thrown him into disarray.
Probably shouldn’t have even taken this moment to catch his breath.
Jason scooped the pauper’s jewels back into his satchel. One missed and fell to the floor. One of the faux-sapphire brooches. It glass jewel glinted with a fabulous blue.
With a quiet curse, Jason slipped off the bench and reached around for the jewel. An big black spider scuttled away. Jason caught a glimpse of its tunneled web, leading back from a hole beneath the window framing.
As he stood, he heard another bellow.
“Jason Trone! Stay right where you are.”
The voice echoed around the hall.
Turning, Jason saw a hefty officer just at the entry door at the far end.. Dressed in a dark blue uniform with gold buttons and brocades. His hat was slightly askew and his mustache was thick.
Another officer came up behind him. A woman. Smaller, with narrowed eyes and an angry mouth.
“Stay right there,” the male officer said. “You’re nicked.”
Jason tucked the flap of his satchel in.
“Don’t think about it son.” The officer took another step.
Jason slung the satchel over his shoulder.
“Get on your knees,” the female officer said, coming around, drawing her baton.
Jason ran. He sprinted right at one of the old plaster pillars.