Mister Woodreeve’s Reflection is now 50% funded – half way there at last! The novel has eighty supporters, including my first real girlfriend, three of my cousins, and lots of my dear local friends and neighbours. I’m so grateful to all of them. But now we only have four weeks until the deadline on 9 May. That’s why I’m asking for your help.
Here’s a sneak preview of the scene where the Forster family first meet the mysterious Mister Woodreeve. To find out what happens to them – and to have your name in the e-book as a literary patron – do visit the Unbound Books website where you’ll find a short video, the first chapter to read, and details of how to support the project (just Google ‘Mister Woodreeve’).
Assuming we can reach the funding target, the book will be edited, typeset and proof-read – followed by an e-book launch in Hexham – to which all supporters will be invited. Then if the e-book is successful a printed version will follow.
If you’ve already pledged – many thanks again! If not, I do hope you’ll be able to make a pledge before the 9 May deadline to help Mister Woodreeve’s Reflection see the light of day.
[Now for the sneak preview….]
Helen spun round when she heard the deep voice.
'Welcome! Welcome to you all! I wondered when you’d find the cottage. Come and see the garden.’
Standing beside the oak tree was an old man with short grey hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. She was startled and made no move. He stepped forward and beckoned her across the bridge with a bony hand.
‘Do come over, all of you,’ he said, looking beyond her to Keith and the children. ‘You have my personal permission to pass beyond the green bridge.’
As she walked towards him, Helen saw he was tall, over six foot, thin and wiry, but his face was almost free of lines.
‘Hello,’ she said. It still felt as if they were trespassing. ‘I’m Helen. This is my husband Keith, and our children – Emma and Jonathan and Ben.’
As each of them stepped off the bridge, he shook hands, smiling and looking closely into their faces, particularly Jonathan and Ben, with their matching T-shirts and shorts. Helen noticed his muscled forearms, and the veins standing out on scarred hands. By the time each of them had walked across the bridge and been introduced, she couldn’t guess his age at all.
‘Well now, how about some tea and biscuits to finish off your picnic?’
He put his sunhat back on and turned towards the cottage. They looked at each other for a moment, then followed him. Helen wondered if this was his gardening kit – the faded check shirt, old jeans and battered leather boots – or what he wore all the time. He opened a wooden gate at the stone wall. A straight path led between vegetable beds, neat rows of carrots and parsnips and potatoes, staked peas and beans.
‘Shut the east gate behind you please,’ he called back to Keith. ‘It helps keep the rabbits out.’
Helen found herself on a stone terrace in front of the cottage. The tall man waved them towards six Windsor chairs, set in a circle around a low table.
‘Do sit down, all of you, the kettle’s just boiled.’
He disappeared into the cottage and brought out a large teapot – a deep duck-egg blue with a bamboo handle – and four white mugs, orange squash for the boys, and a plate of chocolate biscuits. Inviting Helen to pour the tea, he offered the biscuits round and sat down with them in the circle, gazing from face to face.
Helen felt she had to speak first. ‘It’s very kind of you…. entertaining strangers like this. We don’t even know your name.’
‘Most people call me….’ He paused for a moment, looking at the twins. ‘My name is Matthew. Most people call me Matthew the Woodreeve.’
‘What’s a woodreeve?’ asked Jonathan and Ben, in perfect unison.
Matthew’s eyes widened as he grinned at them. ‘Well…. there aren’t many left. Long ago, a woodreeve looked after the forest, felling trees and preparing timber for building or furniture. But he cared for the trees, too, like a nurseryman tending plants, making sure they were well and happy and had enough light.’
Emma leaned forward and asked quietly, ‘If there aren’t any woodreeves left, why is your house called Woodreeve’s Cottage?’
Matthew turned to her with a smile. ‘Ah…. that’s a long story….’
[But to read the story which the mysterious Matthew tells them – and to discover his identity – we need enough kind people to pledge their support, and so to launch Mister Woodreeve’s Reflection, down the slipway and out into the wide world.]
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