I feel excited, because a first cover design idea for ‘Shapers,’ the sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors’ has arrived. I like it a lot, though more ideas are worked on. My son found a wonderful designer, Rachel, who also likes my writing … a bonus. Not yet, but sometime soon I’ll post a cover reveal. The manuscript is presently being formatted by Matador/Troubador, a high-quality self-publishing imprint. I’m too old to wait months on end for agents or publishers to respond to queries. It’s their loss.
In Shapers, time is a bridge that Ana, Mesa and Cara traverse towards the realisation they are a triple soul existing in different places. They each have an urgent task to mend relationships across parallel epochs. As they gradually come to encounter each other so they must explore the myth of past, present, future.
From the prologue … The underground community of Shapers – scientists with a mystical bent – take subtle actions in a time of political tyranny. Their shape-shifting Oracle, Cassia, can call earthlings from any time or space into the present when a catalyst is needed …
In AD 2450, Cassia calls back Mesa from a future time to alleviate a crisis in Rhonda. Mesa is an agent of the Ypocs, a genetically-enhanced species. Answering the call, Mesa uses her intuitive powers for a double task of assisting the survival of Rhondeans and Shapers and of exploring the origins of her tribe of Ypocs to find clues about why time slows down in her tribe’s utopian world.
I thought I treat my readers to a segment from the first chapter of Shapers …
“Wake up.” I nudged Luke, alerting him to the pale mist pouring over the rim of the sea, like the kind that swirls up when warm milk hits a cold pail.
Luke rubbed his eyes and frowned. “I don’t like the silence,” he said, peeling himself from the sailcloth covers of the small lifeboat Captain Jacko Ponto had granted us as sleeping quarters, since all cabins were taken at the time of our late booking.
We were sailing under three square-rigged masts towards the Western Isles. For weeks, since leaving Itaka, our journey on board the impressive Engrail had been favoured by lively currents. This morning, water stretched deadly calm like liquid silver, a novel and beautiful surprise which also struck me as ominous. The stifling air mystified everyone on board. Sails hung slack. Sailors assembled and stared vacantly across the waters that lay flat and deceptively serene. Luke joined them.
The sailors had tolerated Luke’s interest in their acrobatic feats, but they did not permit him to climb the riggings, to trim or adjust sails. He kept fit by practising martial arts, while I became the ship’s mascot. Elevated on coils of rope, with paper and charcoal in my lap, I drafted impressions of Luke, which were blurred with recollected gestures of his twin, Rufus, who burdened my conscience. I churned out sketch after sketch of fellow travellers, men perched on masts pencilled into the sky, and glittering currents and blustering sails.
Luke and I counted time by the ascending sounds from the ship’s bell, until eight rings called for the watch to change. Last night, as every night, we had cuddled together in our snug lifeboat under the gleaming fabric of stars, into which we wove our dreams. Salty breezes flavoured stories we shared, secrets that troubled our lives.
Today I pondered our reckless exit from Rusk towards open horizons, spurned by the mysterious quest proposed by Cassia, the prophetess, as Luke called her now, and, as it turned out, the Oracle of the Shapers, a secret organisation that endured across time. Cassia once told me: You are the bridge, Ana.
My musings were broken by the noisy splutter of an emergency engine, which promptly ceased to function. Luke returned. “Sailors grumble, they’re called below deck and use oars,” he said. The monotonous creaking of oars did nothing to lift our mood. Passengers wandered aimlessly, gaping in vain to distinguish sea from sky, which had blended together into grey mist. Soon people congregated in groups where plenty of rum was shared. Cheering each other with rude songs, shrill enough to chase ghosts away, some people tumbled into each other’s arms as if a puppeteer had tangled up the strings.
I escaped to our lifeboat, to re-read my latest journal entries of Cara, my soul companion. Luke stayed nearby, keeping watch. He thought Cara, whose messages I transcribed into my journal, was a reverie. I had omitted to mention that she lived in a time alien to ours, centuries ahead. When I grew up lonely at Katun Court and sensed the deep wrong in my family, Cara spoke frequently as a voice moving through my head. But once the world unravelled during my river journey between Nimrich and Katun provinces, her presence became sporadic. A few days ago I chose to initiate contact by addressing a message to her. To my delight, she responded. Sentences appeared as if written on air, fragments of events, which I recorded in my journal. Cara’s journey had assumed an uncanny resonance with my own:
I thought I had lost you, Ana. Like you, I accompany a lover on a quest. Let me tell you about us. Your Luke is my Dillon. We are crossing the Atlantic by plane to America. Four weeks from now they’ll elect a new president. From my window seat I watch Canada’s lakes far below – pink mirrors strewn among purple damask. We have been chasing the sunset for hours, bound for Washington D.C., with a stopover in New York to change planes.
An icy wind greets us. I wear a coat sewn by hand from a charcoal-coloured blanket, trimmed with blue velvet. I could be a successful designer instead of a poor seeker with expedient philosophies, such as money obstructs the spiritual quest. My coat has rustic elegance but scarcely keeps out the fierce cold of Capitol Hill. Our charming escort delivers us to one of our hosts. My limbs quiver like frosted leaves. It is Christmas Eve.
We have a festive lunch with students who share this spacious house beyond George Town. Our host’s mother is old and ailing. The door to her room beyond the hall of the dining room is permanently open. From her bed she listens to our table talk. Imagine – all of a sudden she sits bolt upright and points a finger at us. ‘You don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to do anything. They were the first words God yelled out loud when he made the universe.’ With that she slumps back into her pillows. Some of our party smile, knowingly, others gaze absentmindedly at the white turkey slices on their plates, adorned with glaringly red cranberry sauce and green sprouts. While our chatter about spiritual matters resumes, I ponder whether the ultimate clue to our search has possibly just come from the ancient woman across the hall. But it can’t be that simple.
The scenes and places Cara described felt alien, but the incident with the old woman made me laugh and lifted my spirits over conditions on the Engrail:
Dillon avoids talking about his quest. Yet our eccentric status, partial to the arcane path of the fool, and our credentials, arouse curiosity. As Dillon elegantly steers the table conversation away from us, we end up listening with growing amazement to a rapid succession of expositions – on Crazy Wisdom versions of Buddhism, Gurdjieff, Tantra, Zen, Kundalini, Agni Yoga, Theosophy and various Sufi paths. Everyone in this house follows a different teaching. America has supermarkets for everything, including exotic tastes of the divine.
But let’s assume you know deep inside something that does not correspond to what is accepted as possible. Should you express your truth it would be ridiculed. On Boxing Day we meet the main host we came to see. Imagine someone of high standing in society who radiates authenticity and talks with natural ease about experiences you tend to doubt you ever had; imagine that someone drops the end of his cigar into your half-empty coffee cup to jolt you from one dream into another. This someone is our host.
Here’s some feedback re: ‘Course of Mirrors,’ the prequel, on my website:
Among excerpts from ‘Shapers,’ a random one, a time-jump to 1970s Derrynane: https://courseofmirrors.com/excerpts/
I’ve not yet mastered the fancy new design features of WordPress, so any high-lightened links will lead you away from this post, and you need to backtrack to return to this site.