Is evil born or made?
Seas of Snow is a story of broken trust and shattered dreams. Of consequences. Of a life lifted and liberated by poetry. Of a life haunted by darkness and lived in fear.
This is the tale of Gracie Scott, who becomes fascinated by the work of Rainer Maria Rilke and delights in his words for guidance and succour. But when her psychopath uncle Joe enters her life, is poetry enough?
Alternating between contemporary North Tyneside and around the time of World War Two, Seas of Snow dances through time, backwards and forwards between the literary reveries and troubles of the young girl, and the old woman of today, frail and isolated in a nursing home.
Seas of Snow is a bleak psychological thriller about trust and betrayal told with a distinctive and complex narrative voice.
Its low, guttural kraaa pierced the air and echoed into nothingness.
Powdered whiteness bleached the horizon.
A silver sun hung low in the sky.
Something glinted on the ground, discarded in the snow.
The chill of a wing’s breath swooped past.
A trace of something lingered on the breeze.
Chapter One - Claws
She could still feel the retching stench of his presence. Soap suds were melting away around her, softly.
The cold water shivered into her.
His darkness had breathed into the room and the ash-treacle-bitter foulness of him enveloped her small, white form.
He had reached down and seared her skin with his touch. She looked down and tucked her chin onto her knees.
Of course, the picture she presented to the world was a mask. What choice did she have?
Outside, the view was hazy through the spray. Splashes of green and grey. The odd moment of purple or yellow.
Her heart was beginning to beat with that familiar anxiety. Inside, she knew she just had to get through it. Again. Deep breaths.
There was a straggly set of daffodils squatting in a white china vase downstairs. The formica gleamed. A scent of polish lingering in the air. It was a house that looked like one of those dream homes you saw on pictures. But this wasn’t what anyone could call a home. Wasn’t home meant to mean something warm and inviting? Safe and cosy. Hearth and heart. Home, sweet home.
This house was a dream that never was. More like a pristine laboratory of hate.
The daffodils caught the sunlight in a cheery yellowness. She bowed down and smelled them. Strangely chemical rather than floral.
“You ready, then?” he asked.
She looked up, nodded.
The man wore a long black coat and a long, stern face. He had slightly raised eyebrows, as if questioning.
Her mother’s brother.
She couldn’t bring herself to call him uncle – that would have been as much a lie as calling this house a home.
She collected her things and walked through the door he held open for her. The cold rain lingered on her cheeks and clung to her eyelashes. Her soft hair began to feel damp.
Joe had been in her life for the last seven years. He turned up when she was five. She remembered how it happened.
It was bath time. School was still a novelty in those days and it had been a day of painting and sunshine. Mam was sloshing the water around and the warm water felt delicious.
The doorbell rang. Mam hurriedly gathered her up out of the bath and wrapped a rough, peach towel around her. She gave her a little kiss and said she would be back in a minute. Won’t be long, pet.
Then, a gasp which became a kind of squeal. Like an animal, but Mam.
She peeked her head around the banisters and looked down. A man was standing in the doorway. Mam was clasping her hands to her mouth, though it was hard to tell if it was shock or joy or something else.
The man came inside and tentatively held Mam with both hands around her arms. There was murmuring – she couldn’t hear what was being said... then another exclamation.
“Gracie, come and meet your uncle!” her mother called.
Still wrapped in the rough, peach towel, Gracie toddled down the stairs. She eyed the man.
He looked at her. She was about as sweet and precious and lovely as an angel. Her blond curls were damp about the neck.
“Give your Uncle Joe a kiss, pet”.
He swooped her up, a tiny towelled-up bundle, and his raspy, scratchy stubble itched her skin.
She smelt like lemons.
Gracie had never heard of an uncle before. But then again, you don’t know everything when you’re five.
Dear Seas of Snow supporter,
As the Summer sky greys and whites into a bleak, rainy day, it seems a good time to write to you again. The sound track is breezes whispering through the leaves of my garden and some classic Ella Fitzgerald; the view is white rose petals whirring in eddies through the green.
It's been an exciting few weeks. The cover art for the book has been finalised - and a publication…
In my spare time over the coming few weeks, I am putting together the finishing touches for what will be my inaugural lecture at the brilliant, award-winning University of Huddersfield. Earlier in the year, I received the immense honour of becoming their Visiting Professor of Media, Strategy and Communications. My home faculty is the School of Music, Humanities and Media.
I've been trying to…
The news is still sinking in. It's been more than a week now since we reached 100% - and on the one hand I feel dizzy with excitement. On the other, real life rolls on and it's been back to work after a short break - and a busy week that took me to Leeds on day one and Edinburgh on day two.
Several people have been asking me about how I find the time to write. The truth is, I'm writing in my head…
So now we move from waiting in the wings to the full glare of the stage. Exciting and daunting in equal measure.
I'd like to thank everyone who has supported Seas of Snow and helped me get to this extraordinary place. I am so deeply humbled by and appreciative of you and the generosity you have shown. Thank you.
I'm abroad at the moment surrounded by mountains and the chill of the September…
It feels a little like being backstage in a production, waiting for the curtains to rise. You can hear the murmur of anticipation from the wings. But you don't know what the reception will be like. Whether the performance will do justice to your vision.
Or in the gallery making a TV show, watching the clock ticking down and feeling the adrenalin course through the veins. That buzz of excitement…
These people are helping to fund Seas of Snow.