As an author, thoughts and ideas tumble about in your head whirling about until one day a story comes out.
Such was the case of my Christmas story called Warming Winter’s Heart which is in the Dragonblade anthology, Stars Are Brightly Shining.
Although Christmas is summer in Australia, one of the traditions we have is to watch the several different versions of A Christmas Carol including two with Alstair Sims, the classic 1951 version and this animated one.
Another poignant story which has remained with me since childhood is Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Match Girl.
Christmas is a time when heaven and earth touch.
On the one hand we have the joy, warmth and celebration – the angels of heaven rejoicing; on the other the very human foibles, faults and miseries. Never is the contrast so stark than at Christmas.
That’s how I ended up writing Warming Winter’s Heart. Set 30 or so years before Charles Dicken’s classic, I wanted to evoke a sense of the social reform which was growing at the time where the growing middle class, socially conscious entrepreneurs and passionate religious folk drawing public attention to important public reform.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bringing together my King’s Rogues in from Cornwall to the heart of London and introduce you to a character who will appear as a supporting character in my next full length King’s Rogues book, called Spy Another Day which is now with my editor.
Warming Winter’s Heart is in the Dragonblade Publishing anthology Stars Are Brightly Shining. Here’s an excerpt:
Julian heard the sound of singing before he could make out the words. As they drew nearer, he spotted the singers, a rather rag-tag group wearing working men’s clothes. Now he could hear the carol clearly.
God rest you merry, Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born upon this Day.
To save poor souls from Satan’s power,
Which long time had gone astray.
Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.
A crowd had gathered to listen. Lady Abigail urged the party closer together, warning the ladies that cutpurses favored those distracted by entertainments.
Others, including one tall, older man dressed in priest’s vestments, were handing out pamphlets. Julian found one pressed into his hand.
Call on Parliament now
To Enact reforms to end
Open your hearts
Open your minds
Save children from Exploitation!
He turned it over. On the reverse was a reprint from this morning’s article in The Argus. The Nightingale’s by-line was prominent.
He looked up once more and spotted her – the woman from last night.
She was several yards away but there was no mistaking her. There was something about a close brush with death which sharpened the faculties.
Today, however, she wore clothing more in keeping with the elevated station he’d suspected she owned. Her attire was well-made but not ostentatious, a maroon-colored pelisse over a forest green dress. A matching hat framed her face, and her fair complexion served as a canvas to finely drawn features.
Muttering his excuses, Julian disengaged himself from his party and headed in her direction.
If there was any doubt about her identity, it was vanquished when a young boy abandoned a group of his friends and ran back to this woman. It was the child he’s rescued last night
The choir continued to sing.
How did he feel about seeing the woman again? Julian wasn’t sure. Was he angry at her? In an odd way, he supposed he was. While she had apologized at the time, he couldn’t help a measure of annoyance at her disappearance. Was it merely the result of a satisfaction denied him to remonstrate against her carelessness and inattention?
Or was there something more?
At first, she did not see him approach, but as the choir reached the chorus, she turned his way.
Recognition was instant. Julian waited for the woman to pretend the acknowledgement was an error, but she did not. She rested a hand on the child’s head and waited for him to join her.
“Lucas,” she said softly, attracting the child’s attention. “Remember the gentleman who saved you last night? I think it would be right for you to thank him properly.”
Large blue eyes in a chubby face looked up at him directly. All of a sudden, Julian felt a large and as gormless as Gulliver among the Lilliputians.