Clive S. Johnson's Blog

January 11, 2021

Chapter I of My Next Novel

For those who may be interested in my next novel, as yet unnamed, here's a taster in the form of its first chapter. Bear in mind, though, that it will almost certainly change as I work on the rest of the book:

1 FRESHEST OF MEADOW DAISIES

The two young Gaian Order brothers had stopped their string of laden pack ponies for a breather. The light, recycled cotton of their shabby tunics was sweat-stained a darker green in places. They’d chosen the usual spot: on the bank of a pool fed by a tumbling brook, up the path beside which they’d steadily been climbing; up through the woodland’s hot and humid air.

They’d set out earlier that morning from Bolton’s small but hectic harbour, there at the sun-baked northern head of the River Tonge’s estuary into Manchester Bay. They’d followed the river further north, the slanting mid-winter sun glinting back at them from the water of the rice fields set back from its bank. A tributary had then taken them off into the cooler shade of woodland to the west, beside which they’d continued their climb to the clough where they now sat, getting their breath back and swatting away the flies.

The peaty-brown brook threaded its swollen course down from the heave of a wooded Winter Hill to the northwest, although above them here, its narrow but deep cut in the rock of the hillside brought it rushing busily into the pool. The cooler air, and certainly the prospect of the steeper climb ahead, only went to keep the lads from their feet and their ponies’ heads bent to the thin grass of the clough.

“At least it ain’t pissing it down,” the slighter lad observed, as he made himself more comfortable. But his companion only grunted, lay back and closed his eyes.

“And, thank Gaia, they’d got our consignment of willow-bark tea in this time,” at which he picked up a small stone from beside him and threw it into the pool. Plop; but the swirling water quickly consumed its ripples.

“Do you reckon…” but something caught his eye. “What’s that, Winston?” and he pointed to the far side of the pool.

“What’s what, Denzel?” and Winston raised his head, following his fellow brother’s aim.

Something was drifting close past the pool’s far bank, slowly coming around in the circling current of the brook’s inflow. Denzel had already got to his feet, now standing at the edge, staring at what appeared to be a long log wrapped in frogspawn. But when it finally floated to their side, and he stretched out to grab it, it remained just beyond reach.

“Here,” Winston said, getting to his feet and offering his hand.

This time, leaning out against the anchor of Winston’s weight, and before the thing could drift too far, his fingertips finally snagged it. Its covering, though, felt nothing like any frogspawn he’d ever handled before; not as slimy and yielding; on the contrary: strangely firm and warm and dry.

It took some effort—slipping and sliding in the tepid mud at the edge of the pool—before they got the weighty thing out and onto the bank. And there it then lay, leaking water. The two lads sat back down, wiping sweat from their sun-blackened brows on the sleeves of their tunics, and mutely stared at whatever it was.

Certainly not a log, for it hadn’t felt rigid enough, bending during its manhandling in at least a couple of places. But as the water within slowly drained away, Denzel was sure he could make out the shape of a hand through its strange wrapping.

He turned a wary eye towards Winston.

“Can’t say I’ve ever seen owt like it before,” it prompted him to say.

“Hmm,” was all Denzel managed, before his curiosity sent his fingers exploring along its surface.

They came to an edge, one somehow firmly stuck down. But after a bit of probing, tugging and a final pull, a section noisily came away near one end. Some further digging, though, and more sounds of the bond tearing, suddenly revealed a mat of wet hair, at which Denzel sharply withdrew his hands.

“Uh,” he shivered. “It is a body,” and they both stood back, staring down at the thing.

“What’s a body doing being washed down this side of the hill?” Winston presently wondered, darting wary glances into the woods about them. “There ain’t been no serious fighting between thems in Bolton and Horwich for years. And we’re too far from Chorley. And what’s it wrapped up like that for? They’re usually stripped clean of everything.”

“Dunno.”

“So, what do we do now, then?”

“Dunno,” at which Denzel absently fingered the downy black hair of his nascent beard.

“You don’t reckon it’s going to be someone we know, do you?”

“Dunno.”

“Well, why don’t you ’ave a look and find out?”

“What? Me?”

“You found it.”

“But…” Denzel drew in a long breath. “All right, then.”

Far more gingerly this time, he painstakingly peeled back yet more of the wrapping, but then just knelt there, frowning over what he’d uncovered.

“Well?” Winston pressed. “Anyone we know?”

“Er… No. No, it’s not,” but then he whispered, “It’s a young lass.” When he came to tear his gaze away, he frowned at Winston, clearly puzzled. “But a young fair-skinned lass, who…who looks just as fresh as the freshest of any meadow daisy I’ve ever seen.”
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Published on January 11, 2021 06:32

January 9, 2021

Final Update on the Dica Series Revisions

Leiyatel's Embrace (The Dica Series, #1) by Clive S. Johnson Of Weft and Weave (The Dica Series, #2) by Clive S. Johnson Last True World (The Dica Series, #3) by Clive S. Johnson Cold Angel Days (The Dica Series, #4) by Clive S. Johnson An Artist's Eye (The Dica Series, #5) by Clive S. Johnson Starmaker Stella (The Dica Series, #6) by Clive S. Johnson From publishing revised versions of the first two volumes of the Dica Series (Leiyatel's Embrace and Of Weft and Weave) in 2019, the revised 3rd, 4th and 5th volumes (Last True World, Cold Angel Days and An Artist's Eye) in 2020, finally, the 6th and final volume (Starmaker Stella) has just been republished (January 2021). So, all six books of the series are now available in their revised forms, in e-book and paperback versions.

Click here to see all the Dica Series volumes and their latest covers on Amazon

I've also now started writing my next and 12th novel (title as yet undecided). With a mediaeval feel, it's actually set in Lancashire in England, some few hundred years into the future (as accurately as I can realistically predict the setting of such a time). I'm aiming for a blend of the speculative fiction/fantasy-cum-historical fiction genres of my previous books. I'll keep you updated on progress here.

Coming back to the Dica Series: I hope you get to enjoy the refreshed volumes, at least as much as I've enjoyed their writing and recent revisions. And remember to let me know, preferably with an Amazon review - short or long.
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Published on January 09, 2021 04:47

December 11, 2020

Latest Updates on the Dica Series Revisions

Leiyatel's Embrace (The Dica Series, #1) by Clive S. Johnson Of Weft and Weave (The Dica Series, #2) by Clive S. Johnson Last True World (The Dica Series, #3) by Clive S. Johnson Cold Angel Days (The Dica Series, #4) by Clive S. Johnson An Artist's Eye (The Dica Series, #5) by Clive S. Johnson Having published revised versions of the first two volumes of the Dica Series (Leiyatel's Embrace and Of Weft and Weave) in 2019, the revised 3rd volume, Last True World, was likewise republished early in 2020. By late this year, 2020, An Artist's Eye has been republished. So, the first five books of the series are all now available in their revised forms, in e-book and paperback versions.

Starmaker Stella (The Dica Series, #6) by Clive S. Johnson Work on the revised sixth and last volume, Starmaker Stella, along with minor changes to its cover, are well on the way - about 65% completed, and should be republished early in 2021.

Click here to see all the Dica Series volumes and their latest covers on Amazon

I've still also been kicking around a few ideas for my next book - back to the speculative fiction genre, in all likelihood. My historical fiction novels were fun to write, but there's just so much research involved that they take ages. A particular premise has recently been firming up in my mind, so, once I've finished the Dica Series revisions, maybe I'll pursue this to what will then become my twelfth book.

I hope you get to enjoy the refreshed Dica Series, at least as much as I've enjoyed its writing and recent revisions. And remember to let me know, preferably with an Amazon review - short or long.
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Published on December 11, 2020 08:08

July 11, 2020

Updates on the Dica Series Revisions

Leiyatel's Embrace (The Dica Series, #1) by Clive S. Johnson Of Weft and Weave (The Dica Series, #2) by Clive S. Johnson Last True World (The Dica Series, #3) by Clive S. Johnson Cold Angel Days (The Dica Series, #4) by Clive S. Johnson Having published revised versions of the first two volumes of the Dica Series (Leiyatel's Embrace and Of Weft and Weave) in 2019, the revised 3rd volume, Last True World, was likewise republished early in 2020.

The revised fourth volume, Cold Angel Days, along with minor changes to its cover, has now been republished.

Click here to see all the Dica Series volumes and their latest covers on Amazon

An Artist's Eye by Clive S. Johnson Starmaker Stella (The Dica Series, #6) by Clive S. Johnson Whilst waiting for the proof paperback copies of Cold Angel Days, I started on the revision of the fifth volume, An Artist's Eye, which is proving much more enjoyable - far fewer changes have so far been required. It just goes to show how an author improves over time!

In the meantime, I've been kicking around a few ideas for my next book - back to the speculative fiction genre, in all likelihood. My historical fiction novels were fun to write, but there's just so much research involved that they take ages. A particular premise has recently been firming up in my mind, so, once I've finished the Dica Series revisions, maybe I'll pursue this to what will then become my twelfth book.
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Published on July 11, 2020 16:36

May 29, 2020

Recent Activity

Recently - since summer last year - I’ve been heavily editing revised editions of my Dica Series books. The first two, Leiyatel’s Embrace & Of Weft and Weave, have already been completed and republished - including new covers. Currently, I’m a third of the way through Last True World, and thoroughly enjoying the process.

I’ve some ideas for new books, but wanted to get the Dica series to a standard I’ll be happy to have available - which I wasn’t before. The result of having learnt so much about writing since, I suppose.

How far I’ll need to go with the Dica revisions is uncertain; I’ve yet to reread Cold Angel Days and the rest. So, we’ll see.
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Published on May 29, 2020 12:31

February 11, 2018

My Eleventh and Latest Novel

After not far short of a year's research, at the beginning of 2018, I started writing my next novel. It'll be my eleventh book, the second historical fiction times-slip I'll have written.

The modern part is contemporary, the historical body in the late C16th, principally covering the events of what became known as the "Hesketh Plot" of late 1593 into early '94.

It's a fascinating historical event set in a most engrossing period of English history, only a decade before Queen Elizabeth I's long reign came to an end. An intriguing tale to which I intend doing full fictional but historically accurate justice.

A title offered itself from the copy on which my editor was working the other day: “An Handfull of England”; a quote lifted from one of the primary historical sources used in its research, this being an allusion to the county of Lancashire and its large number of gentry families secretly clinging-on to the Catholic Church after the English Reformation.

I'll keep those who may be interested in its progress updated here. So, as they say: "Watch this space".

~~~~~

On the 16th of January, 2019, I finished the first draft, all 54 chapters and 96.3k words. To say I'm pleased with the result would be a bit of an understatement. I then completed the read-through edit and it went off to my story editor and beta-reader on the 1st of February, 2019

The cover artwork for the Kindle version is complete, along with the synopsis, (see below). So, provided everything goes well, "An Handfull of England" - all 101k words of it, after the Historical Notes were added - should be published before the end of March.

~~~~~

Having been given the go-ahead by both my editors and beta-readers, the manuscript was finalised on the 7th of March, then formatted for paperback. This allowed the paperback cover artwork to be completed and both it and the book's contents were submitted on the 9th. The paperback proof copies have now been checked. In total, it's 434 pages in length, including a postscript Historical Notes section. Both the Kindle and paperback cover artwork are now finalised.

With a handful of manuscript changes as a result of the proof copy readings, the Kindle version has now been published. The paperback is also now available.

The Kindle version is priced at only 99p / 99c for the first week of its publication, so make sure you snap it up before it goes up to its full price of $3.99 after the weekend of 23/24 March .

~~~~~


The latest extract of chapters 1 and 2 follow on from the paperback cover image and synopsis below:



An Handfull of England paperback cover image

When hospital doctor Peter Buchanan goes through his case notes for his following morning’s clinic, he doesn’t expect to be transported back four hundred years. There, he becomes caught up in one of Tudor England’s most intriguing mysteries: a Catholic attempt to topple Queen Elizabeth that became known as “The Hesketh Plot”. Nor did he expect that the lives of those so long ago would become as real to him as those of the twenty-first century. So real that, after being returned to his own time, he’s determined to go back to the sixteenth century, to follow the fate brought down on those left in the plot’s wake.

Join Peter and become intimately immersed in the life of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange and fifth Earl of Derby. Follow him into a fascinating, twisting story involving major figures of the time such as: Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex; Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth; Margaret Stanley, Dowager Countess of Derby; Queen Elizabeth herself, and a wealth of characters all the way from Lathom House, the northern seat of power in Lancashire, to the Royal Court at Windsor Castle in the south.

The very last thing Peter suspected was that his slip through time would also bring him love, something he’d long since dismissed as a lost hope. A hope that would then be denied him by time itself. But Peter has always been stubborn, the more so when confronted by the seemingly impossible.


1 - A Matter of Seconds

Something caught Dr Peter Buchannan’s attention out of the corner of his eye. He looked up from his armchair, every muscle tensing.

Striding purposefully from the far corner of his lamp-lit lounge, towards the sofa across from him, came the figure of a man. Neither transparent nor wholly solid, the apparition ignored Peter, even when he shot to his feet, spilling papers to the floor.

By the time he’d noticed the man’s strange clothing, the lower half of his body was already passing through the upright cushions of the sofa, his sights seemingly fixed on the alcove beside the fireplace. Peter had got no further than his mouth dropping open when the man silently vanished through the wall, the whole event over in a matter of seconds.

A shiver ran down Peter’s spine, his stomach feeling strangely light, his mouth remaining open as he slowly sank back into the armchair.

“What the…” but then he noticed the medical reports and paperwork scattered on the floor at his feet. He gathered them up and sat back, then again stared at the empty alcove.

“My God,” he barely breathed out into the apartment’s now noticeably cold silence, a shiver returning to his back. “That can’t have happened. It just can’t have,” and his rational doctor’s mind quickly dismissed it as him having just nodded off for a moment.

“It must’ve been. I must’ve dreamt it, for there’s certainly no such things as ghosts.” But even in his own ears, his subsequent sharp laugh sounded feeble.

That, more than the apparent apparition itself, worried him the most: was the strain of his life as a hospital doctor becoming too much? Despite how much he loved it. Despite the purpose it gave to his life. Despite it having been all he’d ever wanted to do since childhood. Had his single-minded dedication brought him, at only thirty-one, to this? To seeing things? Things that just couldn’t be there.

Not for the first time in his life, he missed having someone close in whom he could confide.

“I wonder where you are now, Sophie, where in the world you might be.” For a moment, his apartment dissolved to a view through the woods, down to the glitter of a river as it swept by where she sat on its bank. The reflected light dappled her freckled face and glinted from her long lashes as she bent forward, towards what only she could see in the water.

Slowly, the image faded and he shook his head, looking down at last at the gathered notes in his hand. He put them back in order and searched through for the blood results he’d been checking.

“At the moment, my clinic tomorrow morning’s far more important, and I’ve still a lot to get through,” and with that, he finally dismissed the whole event. Before long, he’d once more become wholly engrossed in the plight of his patients, everything else, for their sakes, studiously put behind him.

It was late for Peter when he eventually got to bed, by then content he’d done enough preparation. But only as he drifted off did the strange experience come back to haunt him, yet this time as nothing more than a fleeting thought before he sank into sleep.



2 - An Assuredly Grateful England


The harbour was a riot of activity, goods being carried back and forth, men shouting, children running amok amongst it all. A high sun shone down strongly on Peter’s back, warming the close-fitting jacket he wore. He was making his way through the throng towards three men standing by the edge of the quay, one of whom stepped forward to meet him.

Only now did their clothing surprise him, as too did the forest of masts and rigging that rose up beyond the quay, and only then did he wonder where he was.

“William Stanley?” the man quietly and guardedly enquired, leaning in a little closer, to which Peter’s head seemed to nod of its own accord. “My master has sent strict instructions that thou art to refrain from addressing him by name, nor by his title. For the timbers of a ship have more ears than the bricks and stones of many a house. Be that understood?”

Again, Peter’s head nodded, and a vague memory of having before seen the style of clothing the man wore now drifted briefly into his thoughts.

“If thou wouldst follow me,” and the man led Peter toward the other two, still waiting by the quayside.

A scabbard briefly swung out from his escort’s side as he silently took them all from the quayside and down some stone steps to a waiting rowing boat. The craft was crammed with rough-looking men, three a side and each seemingly ready at his shipped oar.

When Peter was taken aboard, he noticed he too seemed to be wearing the same thick leggings, a short fold of unfamiliar clothing at his hip briefly snagging on a rowlock as he stepped across.

Soon, they were through the placid waters of the busy harbour and out into the glistening swell of the open sea, a sailing ship at anchor directly ahead bathed in bright sunlight. At the bottom edge of his vision, drawing his attention from the hypnotic action of the rowers before him, Peter noticed his leggings were now darkened by his own shadow.

We’re travelling north, away from the coast, he reasoned to himself. So, wherever we are, it must be a port on the north coast of somewhere. But everyone’s speech had so far been so hard to get his ear around that he’d been unable to place what language had been in use by the labourers ashore, and all those in the boat remained resolutely silent.

Once alongside the sailing ship, drawn up tight against its rigging-hung hull, Peter was soon clambering up the rungs towards the rail. Hands helped him over and onto the deck, where more sailors dallied here and there, keeping their distance, half an eye on their guest. Those who’d helped him aboard drew away themselves at a look from Peter’s escort.

“The captain’s cabin,” the man stated as he nodded astern.

Again, with none of his own volition, Peter pitched his way down the gently rolling deck and climbed a broad and steep ladder, up to a higher deck from which rose another huge mast. Going astern, he went in beneath a smaller deck above and fumbled his way down a dark passageway, drawn to its end by the dim light of an open doorway.

He stopped at its threshold, staring into a cramped cabin lit only by a long and low, gently bowed window across the extent of its far wall. Within lay a bunk upon one side, a chest of shallow drawers at the other, and a trunk in one corner. A narrow table took up much of the remaining space, a small bench on each side. At its head and facing Peter stood a chair, now occupied by a darkly silhouetted figure.

“Come, come into the light,” it cautiously commanded in a light but masculine voice, and Peter stepped into the cabin. “Ah, my good sir, ’tis a relief to see my secretary has delivered me the right man,” and he laughed, but without much mirth.

The unfamiliarity of his own voice, when it came, startled Peter: “My most esteemed… Er, sir, God give you good day.”

“I’m hoping so, sir, though I don’t take kindly to being ashipboard, although our crossing was slight—or so I was assured. If it would please you, sir, sit down here, beside me, so we may hold our words the privier.” The man opened a delicate hand out across the corner of the table, towards the far end of one of the benches, and where Peter went and sat.

Closer now, and in the silence that ensued, Peter could just make out the man’s long and narrow face, made the more so by his sharply pointed beard. His sallow complexion and heavily bagged doleful eyes, though, fought to be seen from within the shadow cast by the light from the window behind him. Only his light-brown and swept-back hair caught its light directly. It set aglow a shimmering halo about the man’s head.

“And to what, good sir,” William’s voice said, for Peter had now come to accept it as not his own, “may I ascribe your most courteous summons?” The man shuffled a little closer, resting his cultured hand confidently on the table top.

“I trust your travels within these our neighbouring countries are affording you a good measure of pleasure? And perhaps some illumination and a wider education?”

“Indeed, sir, they are. Though I must say: I find their papist ways somewhat of an affront that’s at times hard to swallow, now I’m more…cheek-by-jowl with them.”

“It seems to me that your being discharged from your service to Her Majesty’s embassy at the French King Henri’s court has delivered you some…some greater freedom, shall we say? In where your feet may take you, and to what knowing others there may have of your person and rank.”

“A most welcome benefit, that I can’t deny.”

“And where, I wonder, will your coming days find those feet taking you, eh, William? What will likely be there for the younger son of an earl that may arrest his interests? Can there be much to satisfy and thereby sate an astute mind such as yours?” He leant closer, across the corner of the table, his voice now barely audible.

“Eh, William Stanley, the second son of the fourth Earl of Derby? What prospect will there be then for you? And when, it has to be remembered, any attainments and ennoblement will still be forbidden you. And merely upon the whim of so cruel a mistress as time herself. Upon her fickle ordering of your own and your brother’s births.”

The man sat back, steepling his fingers against his narrow mouth, his shadowy eyes clearly attempting to read William’s features. William himself shifted on the bench but finally straightened his back and cleared his throat.

“Where, sir, are you driving with this?” at which a smile slowly spread across the man’s face.

“There’s a matter, William, that I have close to my own interests, the purpose of which I need not go into. But one that my own eyes—beyond any intelligence I may know of—tell me is to our mutual gain.” Again, he drew closer, his voice dropping even lower.

“You have a distant kinsman, a namesake who’s at large in these parts. One whose interests now clearly lie with King Philip of Spain and Pope Sixtus of Rome.”

“Do you mean the soldier, Sir William Stanley? My traitorous cousin?” William barked, at which the man clasped his arm and drew him nearer, keeping his voice this time to an emphatic whisper.

“Your brother, the cultured Lord Strange, he who has strongest claim of all in England to accession to the throne, has but two daughters as yet. Hence, he offers no direct heir to your father’s earldom other than himself.”

“His claim to the throne? His inheritance of the earldom afore me? What’re you suggesting, sir?”

“If your brother, Ferdinando, the good Lord Strange, were to be discovered actively pursuing his claim to the throne, and if the Catholics abroad were found to be helping him, well, what could then unfold, eh?”

“But my brother’s no Catholic. He does clear and regular observance unto the Protestant Church.”

“He does, indeed he does, as a mummer from his own company of players might enact his learned part in one of their plays. But none can vouch for what may truly be in Lord Strange’s heart—except, perhaps, his own blood brother. And perhaps said brother might, upon one day soon and when in easy discourse with a distant cousin, impart such secret knowledge unto that said distant cousin.”

“Whether it be true in word or not,” William mumbled, to which the man sat back, again steepling his fingers.

“I know there’s no love lost between the two of you. That you’ve long been at odds with each other. That your confluence has always and only ever could be but oil within water. So, I see no true hindrance to such a dissembling?”

“But—”

“And as for your brother’s likely agreeing to any such papist proposal: I know what’s been said of him abroad. That ‘though he were of no religion, should he find friends to decide a nearer estate to the throne, then it may be that he could be thus persuaded’. But, consider this: he’s clearly unsure about his faith; he’s also hardly cunning in politics; nor does he have experience in war. So, it strikes me he’d be the least right choice to rule England. Unmasking his plans would, therefore, be a most rightful conclusion, would it not?”

William remained still and silent for a long time, Peter all the while fervently wishing he could hear the man’s thoughts. Eventually, though, William did stir himself.

“I need to think more upon the matter.”

“You have, sir, until the tide turns in less than an hour. I’ve not Queen’s passport to leave England for today’s task and so cannot stay longer.”

At William’s further silence, the man suggested they could take bread and meat to fill that time, but William sat up straight, his hands firmly gripping the edge of the table.

“And no finger will point out my part in this?”

“No record is to be writ down of any of this matter, I assure you, sir. I, too, on my own part, have no desire of such. It must wholly be seen as but the papists abroad and your brother, Ferdinando’s, own doing.”

“Very well, sir, then you can have my answer forthwith. I will indeed seek out my cousin Sir William Stanley and gain his confidence, as you so wish. Whereupon, I will also endeavour to convince him that my brother would, with all certainty, look more than kindly upon any such advance on the part of his papist friends.” But William then sighed, heavily, and slowly shook his head. “And when such discourse does finally bear fruit, may God, in His gracious clemency, grant me forgiveness of my fraternal sin.”

“Rest assured, William, for by your deed a grateful England will long offer God its honouring prayers for such,” and the man placed a firm hand on William’s arm. A reassuring smile now shone full from his features, until a sustained and almighty screech filled the cabin and all abruptly fell into darkness.

Peter groaned and slipped his arm out from beneath his duvet, his fingers groping around on the bedside table for his alarm clock. Silence briefly filled his ears, until he shot bolt upright in bed, a startled look on his face.

“What the Hell?” came hissing, this time in his own voice, from between his dry lips.
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Published on February 11, 2018 15:52 Tags: hesketh, historical-fiction, next-novel, stanley, time-slip

May 3, 2017

First Chapter of My Latest Novel, "The Forebear's Candle"

The Forebears Candle Cover Kindle Blurb: "It’s 1976, and hippie student Colin and his new girlfriend, Kate, begin their life together during that heatwave summer. But something—or someone—intrudes into Colin’s mind and won’t go away. It leads them to unwind an extraordinary tale, taking them back to events some 500 years ago, to Jusuf, Rodrigo and Gwenna.

Who are they, though, and what is their link with Colin and Kate? And what’s the sinister mystery at the heart of their story that threatens the very existence of Colin and Kate’s own world?

A fresh and original time-slip novel of romance, revenge, religion, and redemption, where twentieth-century England’s North West and fifteenth-century Cornwall are unforgettably evoked with colour, richness and wit. If you like beautifully engrossing tales of mystery and intrigue, you will love The Forebear’s Candle.

Created by master storyteller Clive S. Johnson, author of Solem (Fantasy) and Beyond Ever Blue Skies (Science Fiction), and the six volumes of the Realm of Dica Series (Fantasy)."


Chapter 1 - First Two Phantasms

A long hot summer of drought, parched grass and stifling nights; it was 1976, the year Colin had met Kate, their first intoxicating year of young love.

They’d bumped into each other that February as he’d staggered, dressed in borrowed pyjamas and a little worse for wear, across a beer-swilled dance floor. It had been his first year at the University of Salford, her final at prestigious Manchester. Had it not been for the student charity event of the Pyjama Dance, they’d likely never have crossed paths.

But now, eight years later and sitting in the spare back bedroom of their first home together, Colin stared at the screen of his new micro-computer and remembered back to that memorable night.

Kate had eventually invited him back to her flat in her university’s student accommodation block. It happened to be within easy walking distance of the drunken debauchery into which the event had steadily descended, as apparently it always did.

When they’d entered the flat’s common room, they’d been met by the boisterous banter of Kate’s flatmates, into which welcoming company Colin had quickly been accepted.

They’d eventually found themselves the last in that room when everyone else had gone to bed. He should have arranged to meet her again and then left, gone back to his own halls of residence, but this had been the nineteen-seventies and the night somehow magical, one neither had wanted to end. The offer of staying over had come quite naturally, for by then the bud of friendship between them had already blossomed.

In Kate’s small room, sitting side by side on her narrow, unyielding bed, their coffees on a cluttered bedside cabinet, they’d talked on and on into the early hours of the morning about all manner of things. Things that before long revealed the lost halves each had seemingly found in the other.

The patient blink of the micro’s cursor brought Colin back to the present, reminded him he’d yet to come up with a title for the story he’d at last decided to get down on paper. But as yet, nothing had sprung to mind.

He looked out into the short back yard of their terraced house, down at the suffusion of white pyracantha flowers that hid most of its redbrick wall. Along its top ran dark, almost black coping stones, their colour prompting him to look down at his hand. Even at the memory, his pulse quickened at seeing another man’s skin.

“I wonder,” and he took down his dictionary from its shelf and laid it on the desk, beside the micro. “Noun,” he read, “Archaic. a person with dark skin [C15: see BLACK, MOOR]”. His fingers soon flitted across the keyboard, swiftly entering “My Blackamoor Other” before he smartly stabbed the return key a couple of times.

“There,” he told himself. “At least I’ve a working title.”

When he sat back to think, he couldn’t remember having properly noticed the mysterious object that first night in Kate’s room. Other things had been more engaging at the time. The longest drought in living memory had reached its height by the time he’d been drawn to have his first close look at the thing. He’d been sitting on the edge of Kate’s bed whilst she’d gone to make them some coffee, his hair tied back in a ponytail to keep his neck cool as he wilted in the night’s oppressive heat.

Standing on her bedside cabinet, it had been nothing more then than a hollow joss stick holder, bristling with spent slivers of wood like a small singed hedgehog with alopecia. About the size of a large apple, and crafted from a dark, weighty metal of some sort, it had stood on three clawed feet, its body peppered with holes.

Peering at their random pattern, he’d lit another joss stick without thinking, but it had been as he was jamming it into one of those holes that the first phantasm had taken him.

Confused then stunned, Colin found the dimly lit room had somehow given way to a bright, sunlit day. Even more disconcerting, his long, slender, almost translucently white-skinned hand had become large and dark-skinned. It clutched a broad wooden rail, below which swept a slow-swelling sea.

It hadn’t been so much this startlingly unexpected vision, for no doubt a few spliffs had been shared by then, but the immediacy of the conjured surroundings he still so vividly remembered. A warm, stiff, southerly breeze had tugged at the fabric of some loose garment he wore, flapping it about his partially bare legs, and beneath his soft boots rolled a hot, wooden, tar-stained deck. The air of that breeze had carried with it hints of spices, of sun-baked sands and dried salted fish, of latrine-fed alleys and the sweat of honest toil mixed with dishonest treachery. All things alien to his nineteen-seventies, northern-English mind, despite that unusual year’s parched Manchester summer.

A fleeting hallucination, he’d tried to tell himself. Probably just a bad score of dope. But it had happened again, a few days later when inserting yet another lit joss stick into the holder. That now familiar warm air had taken to it a gruff, Spanish-sounding voice.

“Jusuf al-Haddad?” it had called, unnerving Colin the more.

He’d hardly taken in the view of the sea before it spun away and a man appeared above him, looking down from over a dark wooden railing.

“Will you come up here onto the quarterdeck and meet my first mate, Rodrigo Fernandez?” the figure boomed, carrying an easy and clearly habitual authority. The man’s deeply tanned face remained immobile, as the rail beneath his hand, the mast at his back and its attendant rigging and sails all leisurely rolled from side to side against the cloud-marred blue of the sky beyond.

Colin was startled when his head nodded, then his foot seemed to jar down wide to one side at Jusuf’s first step. The queasiness swilling within his gut he was sure was also Jusuf’s. Then the almost sheer steps up to the deck above didn’t help, not with the sea’s oily swell so close beside and below. By the time the uphill walk across that upper deck had become a downhill stagger, Colin’s initial shock had tentatively given way to a perverse curiosity. He finally stood, unsteadily, looking down on the two shorter, now grinning men, hoping they’d make some sense of what was happening.

“It helps if you keep your eyes on the horizon,” said the man Colin somehow knew was the merchantman’s captain, who then turned to the man at his side. “Rodrigo, here, is prepared to offer you stowage in his own locker for your…” but he only waved his hand dismissively to one side. He drew in closer, his voice lower.

“We can’t have you tripping over your big land-lubber feet and smashing it—not before time, anyway. Now, can we? Your master ain’t paying me enough for that.”

Colin sensed Jusuf’s reluctance within himself as he staggered back a step, but the captain’s expression made it clear it had not been a request but a command. Then a loud rattle and clatter jolted Colin from the memory and he found himself blinking at the room’s central heating radiator that hung on the wall beneath the bedroom window.

Unsettled by the still vivid memory, even after all these years, Colin forced his thoughts to more prosaic matters: the heating system needed bleeding. He needed to buy a radiator key. Damn, he thought, but why don’t I ever remember when I’m near the hardware shop?

Turning back to the micro’s screen, he stared at the white cursor, still patiently blinking two lines below what he now recognised had been a well-chosen title. He blew out a long breath. “Well, that’s how it started, but how do I put it all into words? Into a story that’ll make some sense of it all, as Kate reckons it will.”

As he leant back in his chair, he clasped his hands behind his head and grimaced blindly up at the ceiling. “Had it lasted only as long as that sweltering summer?” Colin asked himself. “Just three short months of doubting my own sanity.”

Then he groaned, “It’s one thing putting together technical reports for work, but this looks like it’s going to be a whole different kettle of fish.” He opened one eye and peered at the waiting screen, willing the right words to appear as if by magic beneath those three stark title words.

But it had been a good eight years since that summer, since Jusuf had last said anything within his hearing. And Jusuf had proved to be a far more eloquent speaker than Colin ever could, and surely that was what his story needed. An eloquence to make some sense of the mystery it clearly held, and in which Colin was sure Kate’s joss stick holder somehow played a crucial part.

~~~~~

If you've liked what you've just read, and want to join Colin and Kate's adventure, just click on the cover below.

The Forebear's Candle by Clive S. Johnson
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Published on May 03, 2017 05:13 Tags: cornwall, historical-fiction, latest, mediaeval, mystery, new, religion, romance, time-slip

April 3, 2017

My Latest Novel: "The Forebear's Candle"

Having completed Beyond Ever Blue Skies and whilst waiting to publish it, I revisited an idea for a book that had been swimming around in my mind for a couple of years. Another Mystery, this time it’s a work of Historical Fiction largely set in Manchester during the 1970s and 80s, and in Cornwall during that time and the late C15th. It’s been so long in gestation because I kept coming up against a narrative problem as to how to make the two periods convincingly work together in a single story, each time admitting defeat and putting the idea back on the shelf.

An elegant solution came to me this time, and I’ve now completed its writing, some 71,000 words in total. The genre’s a bit of a departure for me, but the writing’s gone extremely well. What I anticipated, but failed to appreciate the enormity of, was the amount of research required: often two hours of reading for just a couple of sentences written! I can now see why the top authors in this genre employ professional researchers.

The e-book was published at the beginning of May, and the paperback is now also available. To say I'm pleased with the result would be a heavy understatement - I'm thrilled and somewhat awed by how it's turned out. A real "page-turner" and a wonderful tale that even took me by surprise. I know it will appeal to a much wider readership than my previous rather more niche works.

The Forebears Candle Cover Kindle

"It’s 1976, and hippie student Colin and his new girlfriend, Kate, begin their life together during that heatwave summer. But something—or someone—intrudes into Colin’s mind and won’t go away. It leads them to unwind an extraordinary tale, taking them back to events some 500 years ago, to Jusuf, Rodrigo and Gwenna.

Who are they, though, and what is their link with Colin and Kate? And what’s the sinister mystery at the heart of their story that threatens the very existence of Colin and Kate’s own world?

A fresh and original time-slip novel of romance, revenge, religion, and redemption, where twentieth-century England’s North West and fifteenth-century Cornwall are unforgettably evoked with colour, richness and wit. If you like beautifully engrossing tales of mystery and intrigue, you will love
The Forebear’s Candle.

Created by master storyteller Clive S. Johnson, author of Solem (Fantasy) and Beyond Ever Blue Skies (Science Fiction), and the six volumes of the Realm of Dica Series (Fantasy)."

<- Click the cover for more. The Forebear's Candle by Clive S. Johnson
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Published on April 03, 2017 09:32 Tags: historical-fiction, mediaeval, mystery, next-book, romance, time-slip