I hope you’re having a great May. It’s been surprisingly cool here. That has not prevented the pollen from being released in enormous quantities. I like to think it’s giving my voice a sexy, throaty quality. I suspect it’s actually just making me sound hoarse.
I’ve got a jam-packed newsletter today, so I’ll get right down to business. First of all, The Midnight Land I: The Flightis about to come off of its current price of free. If you want to snaffle it before it goes back up to full price at the end of the month, the universal link is here.
And as always, reviews of any of my books are much appreciated! I’m planning a big promo soon of the first book in the summer-themed trilogy The Dreaming Land, so if you’ve already read it and you feel moved to leave a review, that would be particularly welcome 🙂 If you haven’t read it yet, it will be free starting in June (if I can get the mighty Zon gods to cooperate), so keep an eye out for that email!
Now for that promised excerpt of The Singing Shore, my current work in progress. But first a little backstory.
Most of The Singing Shore is set in a place heavily based on Finland, and is inspired by my own trips to Finland. This particular excerpt shows the main character, Dasha, traveling on foot through an Arctic landscape near something like the North Sea. This was based loosely on my own hiking trip in 2010 in Finnish Lapland. In the excerpt below, Dasha and her companions travel past a mountain called Korkeamäki, literally “High Hill” in Finnish (my Finnish names are not very inventive). Korkeamäki is very similar to Saana Fell, a high hill in Northwestern Finnish Lapland that was sacred to the Sami people.
It’s a rough walk for Dasha and her companions through a harsh but beautiful landscape. That, too, is based on my own experience: the Kalottireitti trail we were one was some of the roughest going I’ve ever experienced–but we were rewarded with sweeping, Lord of the Rings-style vistas.
So with the proper setting firmly in mind, here’s that excerpt from The Singing Shore:
Part II, Chapter 33, Scene 2:
They walked past Korkeamäki all day, its looming presence both a comfort and an obscure threat of…what? The presence of great magic, Dasha decided. The promise of a power greater than any they themselves would ever wield, a brooding presence that hung over the land.
At one point Dasha asked if they should go to it, perhaps climb it, in order to gain more magic for themselves. But Tuulikki shook her head and said no, the magic of Korkeamäki was wild and unpredictable. She had gone up it once, she said, when she first began her training as a sorceress. She had climbed to the top and spent the night there, praying to the gods and spirits of the place to grant her the power she deserved, and take from her any power she had gained through unfair means, anything she had not earned herself. All novice sorceresses did. Those that were worthy came down the next morning with access to their power. Some were granted more power than they had originally been judged to have. But those that were unworthy had their power diminished, or taken away entirely. Some never back back at all.
“What happens to them?” Dasha asked with fascinated horror.
“The spirits take them away. Or the wolves or bears,” Tuulikki said. “I have always believed it was wolves or bears. We have great brown bears here, and sometimes, in winter, the great white ice bears cross the frozen sea and roam our lands, hunting our reindeer—and us, if we are not careful.”
Dasha looked around in alarm, but saw no signs of any bears at all, let alone ice bears. There were a few small drifts of snow on the North side of the larger boulders they passed, and as the afternoon wore on and they slowly walked past Korkeamäki, she saw that the North side of it was dotted with patches of ice and snow. She shivered and pulled her cloak around herself tightly.
She was expecting a cold night camped out in the middle of the rocky plain they were crossing, but in the late afternoon they came to a small hut, set just off the road.
“This is the main way between Vanhakylä and Taikakylä,” Tuulikki said. “People often travel between the two. There are huts along the way.”
The hut was a primitive affair, just four walls, a roof, a floor, a simple hearth, and a couple of built-in benches that could be used for sitting on, cooking on, or sleeping on. But it was vastly better than Dasha had been expecting, so to her eyes it was as good as a palace.
They lit a fire in the hearth and ate a simple but hot supper. Then they went to bed. Tuulikki had declared that setting a watch would do them little good, so they all went to bed at the same time, Urho on one bench and Dasha and Tuulikki on the other.
Dasha had the side of the bench closest to the wall. This gave her ample opportunity to realize that, while sleeping in the hut was vastly preferable to being out in the open air, the hut walls were still only loosely chinked. Cold air, smelling of snow and salt, came creeping in through the cracks, chilling her face with the cold of winter, even though it was still only early autumn. She wrapped herself up as warmly as she could, but the cold drafts still managed to sneak their way in around her neck. It took a long time, and many changes of position, before she was finally able to find a position that was warm enough to allow her to fall asleep.
So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed it.
Until next time,