Today we welcome Samantha Priestley to talk about her fifth novel, "A Bad Winter". She'll tell us a bit about it, and has awesomely given us a nice, juicy excerpt (which most definitely made ME want to buy the book!) So, with no further ado, here is Samantha! (Bow, flourish, dramatically exit stage left...)
A Bad Winter is my fifth book and my first ghost story, and it all started with a snippet of a local story from the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. When I read about the murder of a young woman in 1760 in Hill Head House in Bradwell, which is no longer standing, and the strange events that followed, the idea for the book began. The book runs between 1760 and modern day, telling the story of what happened to Sarah Vernon and the people of the village, and what happens to Lorraine when the events of 1760 meet with her own life today. It’s about love and what it drives us to do, the power of belief, and of course, ghosts!
Here’s the opening of the book, hope you like it, leave a comment or ask a question below and I’ll get back to you x
Sometime in the 1760s this happened in Derbyshire
The snow had fallen the day before and tonight, a slow wind curling in the valley, all about was frozen. Sarah approached the house, pulling at her skirts as a cold branch snagged her from behind. The branch held on for the briefest moment, brittle claws tugging, but lost its fight as Sarah pulled herself free. Only the light from a shaded moon helped her forward.
Her feet slid on humps of frozen snow. She could feel the places his feet had walked earlier in the day, the warmth from the roots of his body melting curves in the frozen ground, and hers, making ice bump like the clods of earth in the top field. Sarah tried to figure the path in front of her, but her feet lost their way a couple of times and the soles of her shoes failed and slipped on the blackness of the ice.
She saw the front door of the house open, yellow light behind his bulky form as he stepped out. She heard him speak to the dog and a whistle fly from his lips as the dog jumped and ran in the cold night.
Sarah stopped dead and waited, her arms slightly apart from her body to steady herself. The door closed and Joseph walked quickly away from the house.
It was the dog who found her first. Bess’s warm nose snorting breath forward in the dark, her brown eyes shining as she caught the scent of Sarah waiting down by the bush. The dog leapt at the girl, her hind legs skitting on the frozen ground, her front paws up and muddying Sarah’s clothes. Sarah put her fingers to the place behind Bess’s ears and rubbed them like lumps of butter in flour.
“Bess,” she whispered. “My girl, yer know me, alright, don’t yer?”
Joseph was only three strides behind the dog and he came upon them like he was the deceived and they were the lovers.
“Bess!” he said, and he yanked the dog away from Sarah. Then he stood himself tall and looked down on the girl. “Sarah,” he said. “Tis a cold night.”
“Aye, that it is,” she replied, a smile beginning, “But I’m the one to warm yer on this cold night, Joseph.”
She saw something enter his eyes then, like she often did. Sarah encouraged herself to mistake it for emotion, a shift under his skin, a heat in his body, which he could never turn away from. But it was more animal than anything Sarah had ever seen in Bess’s eyes.
Joseph turned Sarah away from him, the top of her head resting beneath his breastbone, and urged her into the wooded area behind his house. It meant them turning back towards the solid stone house, smoke like a wisp of hair from the chimney, the light from the fire inside golden on the windows. Then away to the right they moved, away to the trees. Sarah giggled. Joseph’s arm fitted around her waist, his other hand up under her skirts. He had her by a tree, neither the house below them nor the path above them visible from where they stood. Her skirts high around her waist, Joseph’s breath hot by her face. A quick fumbling with his clothes and she felt herself lifted a little more.
Bess began to bark, frosted leaves brittle beneath her set paws. Bits of bark from the tree fell to the ground around Sarah’s back.
When she felt Joseph’s body relax against her and his shoulders slump, Sarah opened her eyes. Through the pattern of the trees she could see, up on the top of the hill, the shape of cattle slow in the cold evening, black against the winter sky. They hardly moved at all, their bulky forms meandering like streams. She lifted her head slightly and above she saw the moon, shimmering beneath the clouds like its own reflection on water. The cattle shifted in the corner of her eye, the moon bright on her face, and she thought she saw a different form flit behind the animals up on the hill. But it was gone, if it was there at all. Joseph removed his body and Sarah fell to a standing position by the tree, her clothes ruffling against her legs as they dropped back into place.
Joseph stood back, fastening his clothes again. He bent, his face taut, and he grabbed at a lump of frozen snow on the ground, holding it in his fist, so cold it burned. He threw it with such force it made Sarah flinch, though it wasn’t aimed in her direction. She could feel all his frustration and aggression exiting his body with that one angry action. He threw it at a space between the trees to his right and watched for just a second as it scattered and hit the ground in lumps. Then he looked at her. “There’s trouble.” he said. “Standing right there and looking like Sarah Vernon. There’s trouble alright.”
“I’ll be no trouble to you Joseph.” she said.
“This shunt go on.” he said. “We ‘ave the devil in us when we do this.”
“And yet it does go on.” she said.
He looked to the side, away from her face, and watched the dog sniffing
amongst the icy leaves. He moved suddenly, like he always did, without a moment for Sarah to complain. “’Ere Bess!” he said, and he walked back down towards the house.