One week ago today I began a book writing journey. For me this isn’t that abnormal. I am already presently working on an e-book adaption of one of my blog posts. I have also worked on a bit o’ fiction that has haunted my mind for close to ten years now. I also have had numerous ideas for books and have sketched many of them out in outline form to see if anything was there. But nothing has ever crossed the finish line in this space for me.
The reasons for this are many and varied. I could blame it on my personality type. ENTP. Look it up. It says in the definition of this personality type something to this effect “Taylor Holmes cannot finish a book. It’s impossible. He is capable of crafting clever ideas that would make amazing books, and he is capable of outlining them in detail, but he is not capable of actually writing them down completely. It WON’T happen. Take our word for it.” Ok so maybe that’s what I hear more so than what it actually says, but you get the idea.
A Completely Selfish Blog Post
So this particular blog post isn’t really for you at all. So if you are reading this you have to leave. Hehe. Ok, so actually I’ve co-opted you for my own selfish desires. You have been forced into a contractual obligation just by opening this page. Funny, you were just randomly clicking about a moment ago and next thing you know you are locked in to some silly contractual agreement? What is that about?
Well, let me explain. This page is where I plan to detail out my progress. And I’ve even posted the Prologue and the first chapter even at the bottom of this post. But I will also detail out word counts and chapter completions. So, every single person that swings through this page (even unwittingly) will be another up vote into my subconscious to motivate me to continue writing and hopefully towards the larger goal of completing the story. I don’t really care if the story is published or even seen by the larger world. I care more about getting to the end and progressing the book to its natural conclusion. And that is why your help is desired. So, if you are feeling charitable, post a comment of encouragement. A comment will mean even more to me than a visit, and thus even more fuel to progress the book even further. So, tell your friends to swing through and increase the hit count on this page. And in so doing your encouragement will have a definite effect I am sure.
A Book Writing Journey Begins
So what exactly is this book anyway you ask? What book writing am I encouraging by just being here? Hopefully it’s nothing I object to too strongly!! Well, nine days ago while reading Redwall to my son I had this rather annoying thought. (August 22, 2012 if you are interested in keeping track.). And the thought was, “I could totally write a book like this.” But I wasn’t serious. I was more thinking, there should be more books like these. Redwall was a perfect book age for my two older kids and I just thought – I wonder if there are more just like it? So I went looking – but didn’t really come up with any. (I am sure you guys will list them all out for me here – but at that point I didn’t see a ton of them jumping out at me.). When I didn’t find a whole big pile I thought, ‘Self, we could totally do this… We just need an idea and a bit of elbow grease.’
The Genesis of a Book
So in about 5 minutes I crafted an idea. And about five minutes after that I started.
As a general overview, it is about a raccoon that is heading to the war in a medieval like island state. War between the Pikes and the Maces has been ongoing for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s become just a fact of life. But on his way to the front he gets pulled into an adventure he never saw coming… And it may actually lead to the cessation of hostilities. Just maybe. (Look, I do not have my marketing material crap together yet! I thought the idea up a week ago. Cut me a break, I know that summary is really quite bad. But the story is weaving together nicely so far, so there’s that.).
I’ve taken to calling it The Paladin’s Pendant as a working title anyway. And over the past week I have managed to complete roughly 20,000 words. And basically six and a half chapters of a planned 21. I guess in one week that is a lot – but looking at here on the page, like that, in black and white, it really does seem dreadfully few. I’ve been getting up between 4 and 5 and writing for several hours before work, at lunch and again at night before bed sometime around midnight or one. I normally don’t sleep much at all, but more than the four hours a night I have been doing. Five or six is significantly more than 4! Hehe. So the pace will slow down, it has to. But even if the pace cuts in half I could be done in a month or better. But I’m foisting the guilt of motivation on the number of people coming through this page. So if it halts it’s on you!! Hahah.
Heck. If I’m done in a year I’ll be ok with that as long as its done. The sooner the better, but done is the finish line I’m aiming for. If I had a brain I’d turn this into a kick starter and take donations to fuel it forward. But publication is a secondary goal. Once the story I want to tell is down I’ll do a couple of edit run throughs and then see what’s there. But done is the goal. Done.
The Paladin’s Pendant Progress Update
The Paladin’s Pendant – unfinished
Word Count: 43,420
Manuscript Pages: 215 pages
Prologue – complete
Book 1 – complete
Chapter 1 – The Call To Arms – complete (8/25)
Chapter 2 – A Quarry Pursued – complete (8/26)
Chapter 3 – A Play For The King – complete (8/27)
Chapter 4 – The Blue Forest of Mace – complete (8/29)
Chapter 5 – A Daring Rescue – complete (8/30)
Chapter 6 – The Eleven Pools of Onyx – complete (9/2)
Chapter 7 – The Snow Cliff Communes – complete (9/4)
Book 2 – complete
Chapter 8 – Back at the Front – complete (9/6)
Chapter 9 – A Plan is Hatched – complete (9/6)
Chapter 10 – Chaos at the Front – complete (9/8)
Chapter 11 – Twirl Begins the Search – complete (9/11)
Chapter 12 – A Poetic Formula – complete (9/11)
Chapter 13 – The Race Begins – complete (9/11)
Chapter 14 – A Surprise Encounter – complete (9/13)
Book 3 – unfinished
Chapter 15 – complete (9/20)
Chapter 16 – complete (9/25)
Chapter 17 – unfinished
Chapter 18 – unfinished
Chapter 19 – unfinished
Chapter 20 – unfinished
Chapter 21 – unfinished
Epilogue – unfinished
The writing continues to go well as of 9/11. Over the last three days I spent a great proportion of my time plotting the path to the end. To do so I had to outline in specific detail the last chapter in order to understand the missing pieces that still needed to be interwoven together. I also found that new characters would be needed to carry the leads through the middle a bit. And so the pace has slowed some. But overall 36,000 words in 18 days isn’t bad. Definitely well on pace for a NaNoWriMo submission. (If I’d only started November 1!) Definitely wasn’t my goal to write 2,000 words a day on average. I just don’t want to have the fire go out before I’m done with the stupid thing. I actually think the pace will increase a bit, now that have a better idea of the work through the middle section and the plot points aligned. But we shall see.
And sure enough, not more than a day and a half later I have 8,000 words written. I can see how the middle hump of a novel is the most difficult to write as it is so very difficult to bridge from the excitement of the opening pages through to the back pages of the novel. Making a bridge and a plan really turned the slow progress around. I generally knew where I was going, but I didn’t specifically know. And crystallizing the details of the end of the book really created clarity around what needed to happen in the middle.
As it stands right now I’ve written 40,000 words plus or minus. 60,000 is my goal and I am well on target for that with each chapter coming in at 3,000 words a piece. (If I were to do it over again, I don’t think I would have made the chapters quite so long and made more of them instead. But you live and learn.) So when will this monstrosity of a kid’s book be done? Well, Book 2 should be done by tomorrow I would think. And then there is 21,000 worth of words to lay to paper after that. I’ve averaged 2,300 words a day so far. But I’m thinking with my current schedule, (going to a tech conference in Texas next week) I definitely think I can pull off a chapter a day if there are no more unforeseen chaos. Which there could be. I just don’t know. But the plot looks on target for the end right now anyway. We’ll see.
Rough Cut Prologue & Chapter One
So, I’ve drop in the unedited prologue and chapter 1 of The Paladin’s Pendant below. It’ll give you a feel for generally where I am headed with it. You’ll get the idea anyway. If you have questions or if anything is unclear feel free to ask in the comments.
Chatter was a racoon born on the coldest day of the coldest month in the coldest year in memory. The litter was 7 strong, filled with plump and hearty little ones. But Chatter was small, and his parents gave him little hope of making it to the morning. The wind raged and the snow sped its way to the ground at an ever faster rate.
Their good family friend Dr. Kite, the Mole had already come and gone. He had done what he could to help Chatter pull through. But he too, if asked, would not have been hopeful at all. Not only was this the coldest winter in recorded history, but they also found themselves in the middle of the longest prolongued outbreak of war ever known. Shelter was scarce and food was even more hard to come by. Disease had settled into the countryside and even the healthiest of animals found it difficult to find a way to make it to spring.
Mr. and Mrs. Chatterly tucked the mewing racoons in after feeding them and stood by the brood and prayed they all made it to morning. Mr. Chatterly coughed a bit as he prayed and wiped his mouth with a hankerchief. Mrs. Chatterly put her arm around her husband and helped him adjust his sliding spectacles back up onto his face properly.
“Its a blessing. It is always a blessing to be given little additions to the family.” Mr. Chatterly coughed again as he continued on. “We will just have to leave it to the Lord, come what may.” He blew his nose into his kerchief and wiped his brow. He gave a furtive glance in Mrs. Chatterlies direction and then wished he hadn’t. Mrs. Chatterly had tears running down her face and it caused him to tear up as well. And the one thing Mr. Chatterly disliked even more than porridge was crying.
“It will work out” Mrs. Chatterly eeked out between sniffles. “I know it will.” Mr. Chatterly nodded in agreement and began to prod his wife of many years to bed.
Later that night, as the snow continued to fall and the wind continued to pummel the small cottage, a dark black shape pressed itself up against the side of the home. The shape moved as if it was listening for something, but in that extreme wind it couldn’t have been hearing much. With a single fluid motion the shape had popped the lock on the window and slid it slightly ajar. Reaching its long and spindly arms through the opening the shape grabbed a key off the wall and then retreated from the window.
In another moment the dark figure was around to the front of the small cottage and through the door. Quietly tripping the latch and turning the key the door was replaced in its place before any of the occupants of the house were any the wiser. In the darkness of the house the shape completely disappeared as it slid closer to the back bedroom.
As it approached the sleeping newborn racoons it stopped for a moment and stared. It cocked its ear to listen as the eyes soaked in the little racoons before him. A slight chuckle jolted out of the dark shadow, and then was quickly stifled. The midnight darkness of the room and the black shroud slowly began to shift in hue. A small ember of a light began to radiate from the closed hands of the interloper. At first the light was hardly perceivable. But then it slipped from between the figures fingers a pinkish brilliant yellow. The hands worked harder to enclose and entrap the light – but the light would have none of that.
With the sound of fire reacting to wet wood – the light began to pop and hiss as it grew brighter. Eventually the visitor could contain it no longer and the light snapped out of his hands and launched into the air. The popping and hissing stream circled near the ceiling several times and then plunged into the crib where the racoons lay. Warm radiance of heat filled the entire room and the little raccoons shuffled this way and that with the slight disturbance. The shape shook his head several times and then quietly tipped his hat and then slipped out of the house the same way he’d come in.
Chapter 1 – The Call To Arms
The Chatterly brothers fidgeted, and scurried about the open field this way and that. Here went Stripe, the biggest of the brood, diving on an unsuspecting Glyph who was until that moment engrossed in a book. And then there was Fin, who fell over laughing at the scene in front of him. Each one was arrayed in all the clothes they owned that kept them through each long, harsh winter. A patchwork of colors and patterns. Their cloaks reworked and restitched, their colors mismatched. Each one supported an enormous pack across their backs. And each one beneath the laughter really was quite worried… for the mandatory enlistment day had arrived.
The Mace King, King Tread, had decreed that all male animals that had reached the age of accountability – were required to join the army and head to the front. The Island of Colors had been locked in battle as long as anyone could remember and the cost to the animals of the island was quite tragic. Curfews and strict laws kept the populace in check. Soaring taxes helped support the war’s exorbitant costs. And mandatory enlistments stripped the populace of their sons at an early age.
Chatter held back to one side and watched as the troop parade began their procession into town. Every single month the army would swing through to take yet another group of vibrant young animals as the new enlistees would replace those recently lost at the front. And as they passed, they checked the rolls in order to determine who needed to join them in the long standing noble fight. Obviously the four Chatterly boys would jump into the fray and distinguish themselves in battle. The Chatterlies had always been scrappers and they never ran from a fight. They saw the war no differently and were all looking forward to making a dent where they could.
Well… all of them accept for Chat. It wasn’t that Chat was afraid of going to battle front to do his part. But he did have higher hopes than disappearing at the front never to be heard from again like so many he’d heard about before him. His brothers seemed keen and so Chat wouldn’t begrudged them this. And yet, it felt as though there ought to be more to life than this – a short and pointless life spent for what?
Chat continued watching as the others ran to join the long lines of animals marching in procession. They filled out paperwork quickly and wordlessly while Mr. and Mrs. Chatterly watched on. Once the issues of bureaucracy were settled the three raccoons turned and waved and ran to the back of the line. Chat was soon at his parent’s side, wrapping an arm around each one. He looked closely into each of their eyes as if to memorize something. Then he walked over to his sisters which were giggling and playing amongst the elderberry bushes. He swiped up a handful of berries and began to pelt each one indiscriminately. This brought peals of laughter and more giggles as the barrage was returned and Chat had to duck for cover. Chat sad his goodbyes then without saying a thing. He smiled to Lilly which she replied to in kind. And he threw a laugh at Buttercup – who barked back a laugh that was all her own. To Rose he held her hand and grinned. And with a hair tussling for each he turned and headed for his new life.
Mr. Chatterly called out to Chat and said “Be safe my son. But most of all, don’t let the muse of greatness pull you into anything too dangerous. You have a life here to return to remember.” Mrs. Chatterly smiled up at her husband and then out at her son. Chat called out across the field, “You know me too well father! Oh don’t worry, I will be back before two shakes of a lamb’s tail!” And with that he disappeared into the formation.
Two weeks later after extensive weapons training and even more extensive marching the Chatterly boys were officially commissioned into the Royal Army of Mace. The boys were beknighted and christened as normal by dying their fur a light shade of blue. No one knew exactly why this was done or who first started it. But all members of Mace’s official army sported a splotch of baby blue fur covering their head. And in turn the Pikes displayed red dyed hair. And in this way the Island of Colors continued its storied traditions.
A few nights later, the Chatterly boys sat huddled around a fire as they ate together after starting their long march to the front. Already they had begin to miss the warmth and familiar environs of their home. The novelty of joining the army was already wearing thin as each one had aches and pains from the journey that day. The other animals included them into their circle without much effort at all. The army was used to seeing new faces come and go and they had welcomed the four boys immediately. Now that they had more than a few days of marching and training under their belts they were as thick as thieves.
Here was a boar who told of life at the front and the terrible food. And there was a rabbit that told of a long night’s watch on sentry duty. And there was a fiddle playing otter who explained that he’d actually never seen the people they were fighting before. But the otter explained that he understood Pikes to be terrible foe with huge pointy fangs. An evil race of dark foes that wanted nothing more than to take their children and their homes without a thought. And there was a crane, who actually had gone on a flight mission over the front once, and had almost been shot down by a flaming arrow.
“Did you see them though?” jumped in Chat. “I mean, beg your pardon Mr. Crane sir – but…”
“The name’s Flip.” said the crane.
“Chatter Chatterly. Pleased to meet you.” answered Chat. Chat coughed and took a swig of water and then continued “but while your were flying over the front did you see what they looked like? The Pikes I mean.”
Flip responded, “You want to know if they have red eyes? And sharp fangs like all the stories? You curious if all the stories are true?” Chat bowed his head a bit and just continued listening. “I have seen them, their red eyes and the red dyed hair. But otherwise they aren’t that different from you and me. I may be unique in that I didn’t find them that different from you and me, the ones I’ve encountered anyway. But what do I know? Mr. Otter here may well be right – they may actually want to steal our souls. You never can be to sure.” At this the tune Otter was playing hitched a bit, righted itself and continued on.
Later that night, the moon shown brightly across the sky and the stars glistened like diamonds on velvet. Chat stared up into the sky as he thought about the recent change of events in his life. Only a day ago he spent his days working on the garden patch with his siblings and parents. He knew that wouldn’t last forever, but now that he was away from home he couldn’t believe it was true. As he lay there thinking, and just like that Chat sensed someone close by. It wasn’t a sound that heard as much as it was awareness.
Chat slid out of his makeshift bed and grabbed his throwing dagger from his pack and his staff. He then skittered over to Flip who was lying on his back and snoring lightly. “Wake up Flip. Flip – wake up” said Chat.
“Wah? Um, who’s that? Who’s there?” exclaimed Flip only slightly rousing at all.
“Shhhh, be quiet Flip.” said Chat as he tried to cover the crane’s beak before he woke the entire camp. “I’ve heard something. I think we should check it out.” pleaded Chat.
“Oh alright, alright honey” said the still sleeping crane. “I’ll go and get fish for dinner in a minute – just give me one more minute.” If Chat hadn’t been so frightened he would have laughed aloud. But right now Chat knew he needed someone else to join him in checking out who might be there.
The presence stepped into the camp.
Chat stood stock still. Then dropped to his haunches. Chat smacked Flip in the back of the head. Flip was now definitely wide awake and alert. Seconds after Chat woke him finally, he was up and out in alert crouching position. In a flash Flip swatted at the boar sleeping to his left and hissed “Wake up Bam. Something’s inside the sentry position.” And with that Bam was awake and quickly grunting as he readied to Flip’s side.
“What direction?” the crane whispered inquisitively.
The raccoon pointed northward as he listened intently for anything. His highly sensitive ears began picking up movement in the shrubs coming around to the east and his index finger swept to the right as they kept pace with the shuffling noise.
“To the air Flip – Chat and I will flush them out.” Bam hissed. With that Flip pumped twice and was gone. “Sweep around to the right Chat, I’ll sweep around the left. Meet in the middle. Go.” And just like that Chat pushed himself into the bushes by himself, wondering what he’d gotten himself into all of a sudden. Quietly he stalked forward in and out of the underbrush doing his best to not make a sound. Bam on the other hand was anything but quiet as he charged forward.
A moment later Chat burst through the undergrowth into a clearing. Bam snapped through several branches as he came through on the other side of the clearing. And Flip slipped through the canopy to land in the center. And standing there, opposite them all was the surprise of Chat’s young life. Crouched there in a defensive position holding a staff and at the ready to pounce at any second was a female raccoon. She was the most beautiful raccoon he’d ever seen. Minus the splash of red that indicated she was a Pike that is. The one thing that really caught his attention was that her eyes were the most radiant pink. Deep, bright pools that shown in the moonlight.
And like that, she vanished into the bushes behind her.
There you have it, chapter 1. Thanks for up voting my subconscious into writing more!