Yes, I finished camp and got back last week, but I was too busy with the Question of the Month and the Beach Reads Giveaway to update you then.
As you know from my postcards, the target was to finish Book 7 and start book 8 in the Princelings series, which at the start of Camp I thought would be the last. I quickly worked out that I had far too much ground to cover, so Book 8 continues the saga. Book 10 will finish it and Book 9 will bring together a number of short stories filling in details via different protagonists. I’m looking forward to revealing those to you piece by piece over the next few years!
So, I finished Willoughby the Narrator, which currently stands at 54,700 words, which is a little long for an MG book, but about the same as Lost City (book 3). If the structure is right, it’ll be fine, and as it covers three periods of Willoughby’s life, I think it’s digestible. It’s narrated by Willoughby, but he quickly adopts the Realms’ vernacular, so unlike book 4, I’m not trying to do it in US spellings. It crosses a lot of ground covered in the previous books, and for series readers who like tracking cross-references – well, you’ll love it. I really enjoyed getting Willoughby’s snapshots of events and weaving some of his stories into the narrative. It finishes only about a year after Bravo Victor (book 6), which is one of the things that was giving me trouble in the planning. It does take the saga on quite a way, but there’s still a huge gap between then and the final book.
That’s where The Princelings of the North come in. Take an event from near the end of Willoughby, coupled with a pair of princelings that have only been in younger MG short chapter stories up till now, mix with a message in a bottle, and let loose … Dylan and Dougall. It was a concept I’d thought of, then dropped, and I realised that it was a good idea all the time – once I’d worked out a good story for them, not just how we get from the end of Willoughby to the start of book 10. I wrote enough of it (coupled with the finishing of Willoughby) to pass my Camp Nano target on July 28th (60k words), but kept on because I’d got over halfway, and it was starting to flow a bit better. This one features Dylan, Dougall and also Kevin, with occasional brief trips to events at the Kings’ Council, so multiple points of view, and in the edit I’ll have to sort out whether I’m shifting too much between Dylan, Dougall and Kevin in the same scene. But I’m happy with how it’s gone, pleased to have picked up some threads planted long, long ago, and all I’m going to say about those is that I’ve cross-checked facts in the earlier books 1,2,5,6 and 7!
So now to get into editing mode. With completed drafts of the revised The Perihelix, (Viridian system book 1) and book 2 Curved Space to Corsair, then the Princelings series Willoughby the Narrator and The Princelings of the North, I think I have enough to keep myself, two editors and any beta readers who’d like to stand up and be counted very busy. And my Princelings cover designer is already on the case.
If you’d like to beta read any of them, leave a message in the comments below 🙂
And here’s a small snippet from The Princelings of the North.
Dylan and Dougall have decided to follow the map they found (in X marks the spot)
It was low tide, although Dylan reckoned they’d only have an hour or so before it turned. They’d need to leave before then, anyway, if they were to get home before dark. He’d never explored this castle before, simply because it was in such a wet place. The road flooded at high tide, and was squidgy at other times, although no worse than one of the many bogs he was so adept at crossing.
He and Dougall stood in front of the castle gates, wondering who had barred them, and whether there was anything inside they shouldn’t let out.
“Hello!” called Dylan, after a few minutes. “Is there anybody there? Anybody inside?”
He waited. Then he looked at Dougall. Dougall shrugged. “Try again.”
“Helloo-oo! My name’s Dylan. I found your map.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” whispered Dougall.
It was Dylan’s turn to shrug. “Why not? There’s nobody here, anyway. Should we try opening the door?”
“Hello.” It was a faint sound, but it was definitely a voice from inside the castle, and somewhere above them.
“There,” said Dougall, pointing up to the second floor window. A white nose appeared, accompanied by what looked like gold or ginger hair, although in the shadows it was hard to tell.
“Do you want to let us in?” called Dylan.
The nose disappeared. It took a long while for the person to make sounds on the other side of the door, but eventually they heard some scuffles and mumbles. The funny window at the side turned a little.
“We can speak through here,” the person inside said. “it’s used for passing things into and out of the castle safely. I tried getting in it myself, but I couldn’t get outside.”
“Can’t you undo the door?” Dylan asked.
“No. There’s no lock. It’s blocked somehow, I can’t get the gate to budge.”
“Well, it’s got a great timber beam across it this side, that’s why. Hang on. Dougall, you get that side and when I say ‘heave’ you push upwards on it.” Dougall nodded and got into position while Dylan grabbed hold of the other end and put his shoulder underneath it. “One, two, three— heave.”
The beam shot into the air out of the ratchet it had been sitting in, bounced on the causeway and fell into the creek.
“Do you think we should pull it out?” Dougall looked at the beam, end on in the mud, assessing the problem.
“No, just open the gates. Here we go.” Dylan pushed the gate and it opened into the castle. “Hello.”
“Oh, my goodness, you’ve done it. I thought I was going to die. How did you find me?”
The stranger sat on the floor, just looking up at the open door in wonder.
“I found your map. In the bottle. Very clever of you. When did you send it?”
“My map? Oh yes. My last hope. I must have thrown it out… about the time the geese left.”
“Gosh, that’s over a month ago.”
“Yes, probably. I’m sorry. Have you anything to eat? I’m starving. That was when my food ran out. The villagers or whoever it was stopped giving me any.”
“You haven’t had anything to eat for a month?” Dougall couldn’t believe anyone could live that long without food. “Have a biscuit,” he added, nobly bringing out one of his own.
“And would you like some blackberry juice,” Dylan said, bringing out his bottle. Then he and his brother sat down in the archway with the prisoner and laid out their picnic, what they hadn’t eaten on the way, and shared it with him.
“What’s your name?” asked Dougall, after the stranger had eaten two biscuits and an apple, savouring every nibble.
“And why are you here?” asked Dylan.
“My uncle left me here. Said we were going to have a holiday and then left me here, locked in.”
“That’s not very nice,” said Dougall.
“Yeah, I’ve got an uncle who’d like to do that to me.” Dylan sounded bitter.
Kevin ignored the sentiment and drank from the blackberry juice bottle. “You don’t know how wonderful this tastes.”
“Yes, food always tastes wonderful when you’ve gone without,” Dougall said. Kevin gave him a sharp look, mainly since Dougall didn’t look as if he’d ever gone without food.
“So when did he leave you here?”
“In the spring. Said we were having a spring and summer holiday. Flew me here in a flying machine. Landed over there. Came down to look at the castle, locked me in, said the villagers would bring food, and left me. Never saw him again. Oh, I saw him fly off.”
“What have you been doing since then?”
“Thinking about my life and how stupid I’ve been, mainly. In between trying to find a way out, wondering if I could swim for it, drawing a map or three, one of which you must have found. Oh, I’m very glad you found it and thank you for rescuing me,” he added, changing his tone of voice.
“You’re welcome,” said Dylan automatically.
(c) 2016 J M Pett