Happy Christmas from Webber’s Farm!
Hello everyone! Thanks so much to Nell for inviting me to come along and share my Advent greetings this month. I have the fire lit, candles burning and seasonal music playing; so settle in here with me to hear a bit about my novella Inheritance of Shadows and Christmas at Webber’s Farm. (It’s 99c in ebook and $1.99 in audio; plus I have a giveaway for you!)
Inheritance of Shadows is not a seasonal story per se, as it begins in the summer of 1919 when Matty and Rob return home to the farm from the trenches of the First World War. However, it plays out over the autumn and winter and finishes at Christmas. The happy ending is tied up with big slabs of Christmas cake in front of a roaring fire and being stuck on the sofa too full to move.
Webber’s Farm is based on my childhood memories of a local farm where a friend of my mother’s lived as a housekeeper for the farmers, who were two brothers and their cousin. Rob and Matty sort of slid in to residence sideways; they don’t really bear much relation to the old gentlemen—and they were very old by the time I knew them. However, the shape of the house is taken from my memories. I made up the yard and fields of the farm to go round it. It’s a comfortable, cosy sort of place with stacks of paperwork in the little room used as an office, a comfy faded sofa in the living room and a white-scrubbed kitchen table where the farm men come to take their meals with the family.
Is it idealised? Of course it is. There’s no central heating; it’s got a thatched roof that probably needs re-doing because everyone’s been away in France for four years and the weather hasn’t stopped raining in that time; and the yard is full of mud, which gives Matty the yips because he never, ever wants to have muddy feet again after four years in a trench.
The novella started off as a short story, The Gate, which was a freebie in 2017 to drum up interest in my first proper release in the Border Magic Universe. It’s complete in itself—or at least, I felt it was when I wrote it. But it also felt like the beginning of something and I couldn’t quite leave it alone, even as the Border Magic Universe expanded to six more books. Finally my pen fingers were twitching too much and I returned to it and expanded it in to Inheritance.
And…even after that, I couldn’t quite leave the farm alone. Taking Stock is set there in 1972, starring Laurie, Matty’s nephew. It doesn’t have any (much) magic in it; but the farm is central. And when I wrote The Fog of War last year, I picked up Dr Sylvia Marks, a minor character in Inheritance, and gave her a book of her own. Rob and Matty, and the farm, reappear to help her solve her own mystery.
From such small beginnings, Rob, Matty and the farm have grown and connected in my writing in a lot of different ways. And I think that sense of connection with my own idealised childhood idea of a ‘proper’ farmhouse is what drives that. I was delighted to be able to bring it all to life in audio with Callum Hale’s absolutely wonderful narration.
The Webber’s Farm Christmas is sprinkled with snow and is friendly and down to earth and full of good things to eat. There are chestnuts roasting on the hearth and they’ve dusted off the brandy bottle that rarely gets used—because they both prefer beer. There are boots and coats drying by the range in the kitchen because the animals still need seeing too even at Christmas. The dogs are dozing in their basket with one eye on the humans to work out whether anything interesting might be about to happen any time soon; and if not, whether anyone will drop any of the goose from their sandwiches and not realise.
Welcome to Webber’s Farm. If you don’t mind the odd magic spell gone wrong and a portal to another dimension, you’ll be very welcome to visit this Christmas.
Inheritance of Shadows
It’s 1919. Rob and Matty both return to Webber’s Farm from the trenches only to find Matty’s brother dying of an unknown illness. As Matty starts looking sicker and sicker, the answer to the illness seems to be in the esoteric books Arthur left strewn around the house.
It’s taken a decade and a war for Rob and Matty to admit they have feelings for each other. They are determined that nothing will part them. What is Rob prepared to sacrifice to save Matty’s life?
A stand-alone 35k word novella set in the Border Magic Universe.
Inheritance of Shadows is available as an ebook for 99c on all platforms and an audiobook for $1.99 at most non-Amazon place.
Buy Links: Ebook & Audiobook
If you want to listen to an excerpt here’s a link.
“What’s to be done, then?” Rob had asked one Sunday morning in early October as they were moving the churns of milk out to the block by the lane where the carter would pick them up to take to the station. “I don’t like the look of you, lad. And I don’t want you to go west like Arthur.” He obviously felt awkward bringing it up and had steeled himself to flank Matty with the question as they were working. Matty was getting tired more easily and he supposed that there was no hiding from Rob his diminished appetite and weight loss.
He launched the last of the churns up on to the platform and stepped back, taking his cap off, and wiping his brow with his sleeve. “I’m glad that’s done. I like giving Jimmy the Sunday off, but it all takes longer.”
“Jimmy’s wife’s got him painting the bedroom, he said. She took him out to buy the paint last weekend.” Rob allowed Matty to prevaricate, but as they turned back to walk up the drive, he had put his hand on Matty’s arm. “Matty. I’m serious.”
Matty shrugged his hand off gently. “I know you are. I don’t know. This was Arthur’s enterprise, not mine. I run a farm. He was the brains.”
Rob had looked at him long and hard. “Do you really think that?” he’d asked quietly. “Because you’re wrong. You might have chosen not to follow the same line as Arthur, but you and he have the same amount up here,” he tapped Matty’s head, “however you choose to use it. So, don’t give me any of that.” He had returned Matty’s solemn stare. “We’ll work it out. I promise you. I’ve waited more than a ten-year for you. I’m not losing you to this. Whatever it is.”
So, they kept on with the books.
Buy Links: Ebook & Audiobook
To win a copy of one of my Celtic Myth short stories, please leave Nell a comment recommending your all-time favourite seasonal story! I’ll come back on Christmas Eve and pick a winner with my Randomiser and email you. (My Randomiser is fifteen, grumpy, and can be bribed with chocolate to throw out a random number).
In the meantime there’s a free copy of An Irregular Arrangement, a free short story also set in Bradfield, when you sign up to my newsletter.
Happy Christmas everyone!
About A. L. Lester
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense, mostly. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, some poultry. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.
Facebook Group : Mastodon : Twitter : Newsletter (free story) : Website : Link-tree for everywhere else