Friday, 21 August 2015

Brace Yourself... November is Coming

Okay, okay, I know. November is still more than two months away. But it's coming nonetheless, and across NaNoWriMoLand can be heard the NaNoWarrior's cry: "I have an idea!".

Well, I have an idea, anyway.

I'm still plugging away at "The Roadkeeper's Daughter", but haven't made much progress numbers-wise; much of what I've done has been a substantial reframing of the first few chapters. I felt that the initial event and character motivation were under-developed, so I've gone back and fixed that. It continues, and I've set myself the goal of writing four new chapters before NaNoWriMo begins.

"The Roadkeeper's Daughter" is set in a warm, dry place, with a wholly POC cast, eucalyptus trees on the hilltops and blue sky overhead, and a somewhat Arabic-inspired styling. My NaNo work for this year is a substantial shift, from the hot winds of Lynnar to the misty, cool Yorkshire Moors, or at least a fantasy version thereof. Echoes of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira in the late 500s/early 600s infuse this YA adventure.

Tentatively titled "The Fourth Princess Dances", it riffs off the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", although naturally it is an elven princess, not prince, who is sought across the underground lake. Sixteen-year-old protagonist Cyna (/k/-/igh/-/n/-/ə/) is largely sidelined in her parents' royal hall, due to her weak and unpredictable limbs and dislike of strong sunlight. Bored and lonely, she finds a passage into a cave beneath the fort, but what starts as a harmless adventure with the bewitching elf Melis soon turns dangerous. As both humans and elves arm themselves against the gathering threat from the north, will Cyna and Melis be able to broker peace between their people, or will their unsanctioned romance cause a war that neither side can afford to lose?
... I hate writing blurbs/teasers. That's one off the top of my head, but I'll no doubt tweak it as time goes on. Too many commas, as usual!

The inspiration for the location comes from two events I attended at Bolton Castle in Yorkshire. Although the castle itself is nearly a thousand years too young for this story, its position on the edge of the moors is perfect, and some of my experiences there have cast it in a somewhat mythical light. I first saw it before dawn, stepping out of a taxi from Darlington having taken the overnight coach from London; and as no one was awake to let me in, I spent the following two hours standing on the gravel outside, watching the sun gradually rise over the hills and valleys below. That event was cold and damp, going down in SCA history as "never again". The second event there, on a sunny June weekend, was much more pleasant; I spent much of it working down in the kitchen or drifting in solitude around the castle. In the evening most of us went to the villas down the road to relax; my friend S and I decided to walk back to the castle where we were staying at 1am. We didn't even have a torch, got lost in one field because we forgot which field we were in, got scratched by prickles, and frightened by sheep. Although this event was sunny, between the kitchens and the midnight walk my impression of Bolton Castle is overwhelmingly one of darkness, and it is from there that "The Fourth Princess Dances" begins.

I'll leave you now with a picture of something else entirely. This year I attended the entire SCA Ffair Rhaglen, at Raglan Castle in Wales. 10 nights under canvas, with a grass floor, is an adventure even in summer, but how irresistible does it look nonetheless?

If you can blazon my arms, you deserve to be able to
work out my SCA name. Have fun! Photo: CSF 2015


  1. The 12 Dancing Princess is one of my favorites! Partly because I read a version from my childhood library which had the most gorgeous silver and gold illustrations. :) I'd love to find it again, but the only way I'd recognize it is by seeing it.

  2. It was one of my favourites, too! Mine was the "Little Golden Book" version with Sheilah Beckett's odd, stylised yet glorious illustrations (here's an example:

    Oddly, unlike most stories I had as a child, I didn't name the princesses!