Sneak peek of sinister squirrels

Hello Everyone!

It’s certainly warm here. A little too warm, some might say. Although it could be worse. I am trying to enjoy the midsummer flowers as much as possible, given that there’s still a chemical toilet next door filling up the neighborhood with toxic fumes. So mostly I’ve been hiding out inside.

But that means I’ve had plenty of time to work on fun things like my new foray into hardcovers. “Fun” is maybe the wrong word, since I’ve mostly found it pretty frustrating, but I have to admit, there’s something deeply satisfying about seeing your work in hardcover.

Proof copies of The Breathing Sea I. I really thought one on the left was good to go–but no. It had to go through two more rounds of corrections before being allowed to be published on Amazon.

So that has taken up a lot of my time. It will be one of those things I will be very glad to have done, I’m sure of it. It’s also been really good to re-read the earlier books in the series as I prepare to start another round of revisions of The Singing Shore, the trilogy I started during NaNoWriMo last year and that I really, really want to publish this year. Or maybe next year. As usual, I had all these grandiose plans of glory, but the hard slog of actually revising and publishing a book is reminding me that you can’t hurry these things.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share another excerpt from The Singing Shore! This one with squirrels.

But first! The LGBT Paranormal & Fantasy Bookfair is still going strong! Check it out if you haven’t already.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/lgbtfantasyparanormaljuly/px00vgwj0d

Now for that excerpt. But first a little backstory. This particular section is from Part I of The Singing Shore. The heroine is Dasha from The Breathing Sea, now setting off on a mission to treat with the Rutsi (basically Swedes/Vikings). Her ship gets caught in a storm on the way over and they have to make land on the shore of Seumi (basically Finland). This is the moment when Dasha first discovers that there may be more going on than she originally suspected…

Without, I hope, too much of a spoiler, I’ll say that red squirrels play a big part. The recurring “red squirrel” motif in the stories is based on my own love of red squirrels. To my extreme delight, I even captured one on camera during a 2007 trip to Turku, a town in southwestern Finland.

To supplement my own slightly blurred pictures, I also created a Pinterest board full of red squirrels. Check it out–the pictures are truly adorable!

But in The Singing Shore squirrels seem to play a slightly more sinister role. Check out the excerpt below to find out more:

***

They found a small stream that was flowing off the bluff and into the beach only a few paces away from the encampment. Urho tested the water and nodded in satisfaction. Dasha tried not to squeal with joy at the thought of fresh water. They had casks of water on the ship, but it already tasted stale to her, and there wasn’t enough for proper washing, even if there had been a place to wash. This little waterfall coming down the bluff was only a trickle, but if they were going to be stuck here for several days, she could probably collect enough fresh water for a decent rinse, at least. She cupped her hands and caught a mouthful. It was crisp and clean, with a faint hint of earth and pine. Dasha thought it was the best water she had ever drunk.

Urho said something, pointing up the bluff face. Dasha guessed that he meant he was going to climb the bluff and explore the top of it, and he was suggesting that the rest of them stay behind. She was disappointed not to be invited to explore more, but she couldn’t blame him for wanting her to stay behind. She wasn’t the slowest or the weakest person in the world, but she could tell it would be a difficult scramble up the bluff, and she might tear her gown or fall and hurt herself, and then that would be a problem for everyone.

“Alik and I will search for wood for the fire along the bottom of the bluff,” she told him, making what she hoped were meaningful gestures as she did so.

He nodded as if he understood and approved. He said something to Anders Olafsson, nodding towards Dasha and Alik, probably telling him to stay with them. Anders Olafsson started to argue, then checked himself and said something that sounded like agreement. Urho gave a single sharp nod, signalling that the matter had been settled, then turned and put his hands on the granite of the bluff face, looking up in search of the best path to the top.

“What’s that!” Anders Olafsson cried in alarm.

Dasha looked to where he was pointing. It was just one tree among many at the top of the bluff. She squinted. Was there movement there? No, just the wind in the needles…no, wait, there was something there…a flash of red…

“It’s a squirrel,” she said in relief. “Just a squirrel!” Then, summoning up every ounce of her ability in Rutsi, she managed to come up with “Ekorn. Ekorn.

She thought that would reassure Anders Olaffson, but he looked even more alarmed than before. Even Urho, she thought, had a flash of worry cross his face before he suppressed it. He and Anders Olafsson held a brief but urgent conversation. At the end of it, Urho stepped away from the bluff, and motioned for them to return to the beach and the fire ring.

Dasha obeyed, confused. “Did you see anything?” she whispered to Alik as they walked back. “Anything other than a squirrel?”

He shook his head. “Just the flash of a squirel’s tail, Tsarinovna. And the only thing I heard was its chittering as it scolded us for disturbing it. Hardly reason to run back to the others, I’d think.”

“I know,” Dasha agreed. But Anders Olafsson and Urho were both striding away from the bluff as quickly as they could without actually breaking into a run. Urho looked back, saw that she and Alik had fallen behind, and gestured impatiently for them to catch up. Sharing a puzzled glance with Alik, she did.

***

What will those squirrels get up to? Stay tuned for more excerpts, and, of course, review copies! Meanwhile, if you want more of the animals in The Singing Shore, you can check out my Pinterest board. And don’t forget to visit the bookfair before it shuts down!

Happy reading,

E.P. Clark

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