The Looking-Glass House Preview

 

Since the release date of my novel The Red King has been announced (2 December if you missed it) I’ve been hard at work on the other books of the series. Together the three books relate the adventures of Alice Liddell (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and Dorothy Gale (from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) as they fight supernatural forces in Edwardian London. Actually, the third book, The Looking-Glass House, is set in World War One. I thought today I would give you an excerpt from that Work In Progress.

Release dates for all three books of the series are as follows:

The Red King: 2 December 2014

An Unkindness of Ravens: 1 December 2015

The Looking-Glass House: 6 December 2016.

All are to be published by Permuted Press.

Here’s the extract:

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A drop falls from an oar blade, splashes a coronet of tiny droplets across the still water below. Another, and another, and then the oar dips back under and stirs and splashes as the man using the oar leans back and propels the boat forward with another sweep.

In the boat, which bears the name ‘Elsie’s Boat’ in rough letters on the stern, five figures:

At the bow, hauling on an oar, a skinny man in a striped jacket, a straw boater on his head, his feet on either side of a picnic basket. The others call him Dodo. In the centre of the boat, also clad in appropriate boating attire, another man, not so skinny, older, pulling stroke. Mr Duckworth. At his feet are two girls, in neatly pressed frocks, the younger one wide-eyed and sucking her thumb, which every so often is unceremoniously hauled from her mouth by her older sister beside her. Lorina and Edith. In the stern, coxing the boat with an occasional lazy tug at the tiller, a third girl, mid-way in age between the other two, with long golden hair. Alice, aged seven.

Scented rushes glide by and for a moment Alice is tempted to steer towards them, to snuffle in the cloying aroma, but she keeps a steady line, for she knows neither of the rowers can see where they are going, and depend on her.

Lorina dips a finger into the water and eyes Dodo at the bow.

‘Tell us a story,’ she says, keeping her finger trailing through the green water. ‘It’s still forever to Godstow.’

‘It’s not half a mile,’ says Alice. ‘I know, because I’m steering.’

‘Half a mile is forever,’ says little Edith, and emphasises the point by putting her thumb back into her mouth.

‘A story?’ says Dodo, and smiles because these girls are always wanting stories, and it’s such a strain to make them up. ‘Well, once there were three sisters, and their names were…’

‘You told that one already!’ cries Alice. ‘Elsie meant a new story.’

‘I thought you didn’t want a story at all,’ says Lorina.

Alice gazes out over the river. Long Vacation is so much more fun that beastly school. She hates having to stand in front of the class and recite lessons. If only she could think of stories of her own, she could write them down. But Lorina is the one with imagination; she is always reading. Alice tries to read as little as possible.

‘Stories are fun when they’re told to you,’ says Alice. ‘It’s too much trouble to think up my own.’

‘You have no imagination,’ says Lorina.

‘What’s that mean?’ asks Edith, shifting in the bottom of the boat. She doesn’t much care how far it is to Godstow, or whether a story is forthcoming or not. As long as her sisters bicker that is entertainment enough.

‘It means she can’t think of things,’ says Lorina, flicking a few drops of water in Alice’s face. Alice squeals and pokes her tongue out.

‘Charming,’ says Duckworth, and glances over his shoulder at Dodo, who is staring intently at Alice.

‘Yes, she is,’ says Dodo, and Duckworth notices the fire in his eyes and wonders if his friend’s interest in Alice is quite one that an older man should be showing a seven year old girl.

‘Tell us a story…please,’ continues Lorina.

‘All right,’ says Dodo. ‘And since you claim she has no imagination, I’ll tell you a story about Alice and how great her imagination can be if she tries.’

‘I want to be in the story too!’ says Edith. ‘It’s not fair Alice gets her own story.’

‘All right. You’ll all be in it. But you have to look hard, because you may be in disguise.’

‘Hooray!’ squeals Edith. ‘I like disguises!’

Dodo begins: ‘Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank…’

‘Which sister?’ interjects Edith.

‘Shh!’ hisses Lorina. ‘He’s telling the story.’

‘Her sister was reading a book without any pictures or conversations…’

‘That’s Lorina!’ cries Edith. ‘She reads boring things!’

‘If you don’t keep quiet,’ says Lorina, giving her sister a pinch. ‘I’ll sit on your head.’

‘So Alice thought she’d make a daisy chain…’

Alice leans back in the cushioned seat and grips the tiller. Godstow is looming around the next bend, and she hopes Dodo finishes the story before they reach it. As he talks she watches the corners of his mouth that every so often break into a smile when her gaze lifts to his eyes.

If you would like any further information about the series, called The Jabberwocky Book, visit my website at http://www.russellproctor.com or contact me directly at russellproctor6@gmail.com. I love hearing from readers.

Russell Proctor

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Introducing…Kindra Sowder

One of the best things about being a writer is interacting with other writers. Today, I’m turning my blog over to Kindra Sowder, who is a fellow Permuted Press author. Permuted Press is a publishing company in the United States which has undergone a lot of transformation recently and has engaged a swag of talented people to write books for them. Kindra is one of these. I’m looking forward to the release of her book ‘Follow the Ashes” in the near future.

So here, she is: Kindra Sowder in her own write:

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Granted, I may not have an actual release date for my first book “Follow the Ashes: Part 1 of the Executioner Trilogy,” but that won’t stop me from spreading the word. I have been working on this for ten years and it went from a partnership with very campy humor, and a five part story to what is now. It is one of the best up and coming urban fantasy series that will have you on the edge of your seat and a knife in your heart. It is tragedy, love, loss, and destruction.

All the campy humor is gone, the partnership is history, and the story has evolved to its three parts, much better self. Now it will be published by Permuted Press, the same publisher who I have the pleasure of working with amazing author Russell Proctor with. A real up and comer. So, you guys might be wondering what it’s about. Well, here is a brief synopsis below. I also have another work being published by Permuted Press, but this is the one I am the most excited about. Here you go guys! Enjoy!

Synopsis:

There is a Gypsy legend of a woman called the Executioner. She is the one who will take on the night and all of the creatures within its dark depths. Robin is this woman and along with her partner Elizabeth, who is a very talented witch, they will fight the darkness. According to this Gypsy legend, they are destined to take their places as the leaders of an army to fight the forces of darkness in the apocalypse. This is the beginning of their journey to that very moment. Robin encounters a man who Elizabeth has foreseen who will forever change her life, but he isn’t quite human. On her way home from this shadowy encounter with this mysterious man she comes across something else in the lonely death of a cemetery. At this moment, little does she know who this creature is who she has witnessed crawling from a small crater in the ground, covered in soot and it is up to them to stop her, no matter what the cost.

And here is an excerpt just for you guys to get you hooked, to become part of the following:

I was swiftly taken through our home and my eyes were able to drift open long enough for me to see our kitchen doorway as I was laid on the kitchen island. I felt very large, warm hands on me that rolled me onto my side. One hand moved to my shoulder and gave a reassuring squeeze as I heard rummaging through a cabinet. I knew what was coming. A holy water shower, followed by a silver nitrate shot. This was going to hurt.

I heard glass moving around and knew Beth had found the bottles of holy water. I was already shaking because I knew what was coming. I had experienced this pain before. We both had, but she wasn’t the one who had almost burned the house down because of it.

Fear gripped me and my eyes shot open and met his. Beth laid a glass syringe and an amber glass bottle on the corner of the island next to the three bottles of holy water it would take for the process. She glanced at me when her eyes met mine I saw pity and concern. She knew exactly what I was about to endure, and she felt sorry for me. I half expected her not to be able to do it herself, but as she picked up one bottle of holy water she removed the lid and gave me a reassuring look. I turned onto my stomach and gripped both side of the island, and braced myself for what was going to happen next.

Beth held the bottle over the wounds and hesitated. I could see her arm shaking as well. She didn’t want to do this, but she had to. If she didn’t, I was going to turn and they would be my first victims. I’d kill myself before I let that happen. I would not be one of the monsters.

I looked her directly in the eyes and nodded, giving her the okay. It had to be done. I gripped the counter even harder and squeezed my eyes shut, holding my breath. Every muscle in my body tensed up, and she hadn’t even poured anything yet. Then I felt the first sting as a few drops landed on my skin, and I gripped the edges of the counter even harder. Those few drops weren’t as bad as the barrage of acid that was about to be poured onto me.

A river of holy water touched my skin and sizzled. I felt like acid was being poured onto me and I was able to stifle a few screams. The river stopped, and then another started. I couldn’t stop it this time. Screams of agony ripped through the air and filled every corner of the house. There was no way to fight it. It stopped again. I opened my eyes and Beth was standing there, holding the bottle but not daring to pour anymore. I gave her another nod and closed my eyes. She then poured the whole bottle and then moved onto bottle number two, then three. I was sweating and soaking wet and could barely breathe by the time that was done. Now came the worst part. The syringe full of silver nitrate.

I slowly sat up, wincing, and put my arm out, rolling up my sleeve so she could get to the veins at the bend of my elbow. She touched the very tip of the glass syringe to my skin, looked me in the eyes, and pushed it into the vein right at the surface. I cringed, but held still. I knew once she pushed the plunger down I wouldn’t be as retrained. The man grabbed my shoulders from behind.

She pushed the plunger all the way down and at first everything was okay, then I felt a sensation was starting to build. My veins were on fire and as the burning grew, a glow began in the center of my chest and began to spread through those veins. The pain grew with it. I couldn’t hold it back. My head rolled back and I shrieked, a demonic scream being released with it.

The pain was unbearable and my body felt as if it was on fire and I went limp. My vision went black, but I was still aware of what was happening. The man picked me up and I could hear Beth directing him on where to go. As he laid me on what I could only assume was a bed I felt the coolness of the sheets, which was more than welcome as far as I was concerned. I wandered off into unconsciousness again, and everything was gone.

Author Links:

http://kindrasowder-insidemymind.blogspot.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kmkinnaman

https://twitter.com/KindraKinnaman

 

 

 

 

The Red King Characters 1

I’m writing a book series, ‘The Jabberwocky Book’ about the grown-up adventures of Alice Liddell from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Dorothy Gale from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, fighting supernatural forces in Edwardian London.

The first volume is titled ‘The Red King’ and is due out later this year.

The second is ‘An Unkindness of Ravens’, and the third will be ‘The Looking-Glass War’.

All three will be horror/fantasy adventures of the two girls – with Alice all grown up and married. They are assisted by the son of Inspector Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I thought I would introduce you to some of the characters from the book. Today, we have our two chief protagonists, Alice and Dorothy.

Alice is now 45 years old, married and living a respectable life in London society. Unfortunately, her dreams won’t let her forget the fantastic adventures she had as a little girl. Except now, they are nightmares.

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Dorothy is still just a teenager, fresh from two adventures in the Land of Oz, but realising that Edwardian society in England can be just as peculiar and dangerous to a simple farm girl from Kansas.

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Look for more about the series in later posts.

Russell Proctor http://www.russellproctor.com

Alice in Wonderland v The Red King

I am in the process of writing a new horror/fantasy series, The Jabberwocky Book. It’s a mash-up featuring Alice Liddell from Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz.

London is being stalked by a supernatural serial killer from Alice’s past, the Red King she met in Looking-Glass Land (Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There). Only our intrepid heroines can stop him, aided by the son of Inspector Lestrade from the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Reaction to the first book, The Red King, has been very positive. I am now writing the second in the series, titled An Unkindness of Ravens. The third volume, tying up the whole story, is to be called The Looking-Glass War.

I thought I might publish the first two chapters of The Red King here, to give a taste of what is to come.

The Red King should be out later this year. Keep watching!

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The Queen is dead.

 Long live the King.

The Red King smiled at his wife’s corpse as her blood made a widening pool on the floor. A good kill: he had spared the Queen too much suffering, just a quick thrust through her heart with the Bandersnatch knife. Best to do the deed quickly; he at least owed her that.

Through the tower window, from out of the Forest of Forget, came the clash of metal and the thud of battle-horses’ hooves as the Knights hurried towards the castle.
Curse them! They would know the Red Queen was dead; all the Land would tremble at her passing. The animals in the forest would know, the creatures on the river would know, as would the people in the towns scattered across the chessboard fields. But he was ahead of them all. His escape was ready.
He left the corpse where it was, crossed the room to a thick tapestry on one wall and quickly pulled it aside. Behind was a disused fireplace with a mirror hung above it. A shiver passed through him as the temperature in the room suddenly dropped. He gripped the edges of the Looking-Glass, long crooked fingers wrapped far around the wooden frame, and stared at his reflection for a moment, smiling. He had been asleep too long – for an age and more. This was a good day, the best day. No more sharing the throne, no more chess game. No more Queen.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, waiting for the last few seconds of the last ten years to run out. The timing was so delicate, so fine…
Under his fingers, the Looking-Glass’s wooden frame shivered for a moment, and was still. The sign.
The King opened his eyes and looked deeply into the mirror. His reflection blurred and faded, colours swirled and shifted, coalesced again to form the drawing room of a comfortable house. His image was nowhere to be seen; the glass reflected neither the throne room, nor the tapestries on the walls. The Looking-Glass’s surface was cold, very cold – there were only a few moments to act. The other side of the mirror waited, but it would not wait for long.
Something behind him – a bright flash of light? He turned his head, but there was no one else alive in the room. Three loud explosions like thunder, in quick succession, filled the air around him. Then silence.
He tensed, suddenly afraid. Had the Knights arrived already? Were they pounding the castle with cannons? But no, that was not possible; the sounds must have been in his head. It was nerves; fear; adrenalin from the murder of his wife playing tricks on him. Fear was irrational, something felt by weaklings, not Kings.
He smiled and faced the Looking-Glass again. It was time to pass through…
Yet still he paused: was this right? Was it the way? While the Knights were in the forest surrounding the castle all was safe, for there they could not remember anything. The trees sucked away memory, drinking it through their roots, using it to confound those wandering beneath them. Even their own names were lost. But when the Knights eventually emerged from beneath the brooding trees they would remember their quest. Then mercy would remain the one thing still forgotten.
He glanced back again at the body of the Queen, at her open, staring eyes: so blue, so deeply, brightly blue – he had never noticed their lustre before. But she was quite dead. Yes, escape through the Looking-Glass was the right thing to do, the only thing. There was no ruling the Land now. The Knights would see the deed and rip out his heart for what had been done to the Queen.

But they would be too late: the Looking-Glass was ready, and once the King passed through, the Knights could not follow. Let the silly creatures hunt all they liked. Now, he was free, and ready to begin again.
He used a chair to climb onto the mantelpiece of the large fireplace over which the Looking-Glass hung, took a deep breath, and stepped through. A moment of darkness as realities collided, a moment of disorientation as his body adjusted to being in a new universe, and he was there. No problem at all – a child could do it.
Once, long ago, a child had.
A room in a house surrounded him now instead of the castle. Richly furnished, with dark blue wallpaper; a fireplace filled with black, cold ashes; a heavy panelled door, ornately carved. Early dawn peeked through the curtains. So this was the world on the other side of the Looking-Glass. The King climbed down from the mantelpiece.
Sudden weakness hit him. His legs were unable to support his weight. Somehow, form and substance vanished here. He grabbed the corner of the fireplace and rocked slightly. An effect of the transition between worlds, perhaps. Life-force drained away.

He looked at his hands. They were transparent. He was becoming a ghost, fading away to nothing. Panic hit him. He turned back to the Looking-Glass, but it was already too late; its power was gone in the transference. There was no return that way, not yet, not until the power built up again in ten years’ time.
The King’s body faded, washed out, until just a shadow remained, an outline of darkness on the carpet, the wan sunlight through the window the only illumination to give any sign of his reality. Was this how forms existed in the other world? It was not right, not the way it should be.
Suddenly, the door opened. He swung to face it, white teeth bared in a snarl, one hand reaching for the Bandersnatch knife in his belt. But his scowl turned to open-mouthed astonishment.
It was her! Older, taller, but there was no mistake – the same long blond hair, the same pale face: the girl in his dreams, the Yellow Child, the one who had dared to become a queen. She stopped with one hand on the doorknob, the other hand holding a lighted candle, looking into the room.
The King drew the knife silently from its sheath, but it, too, was merely a thing of shadow. The blade that just a few minutes ago had sliced between the ribs of the Red Queen could do this woman no harm. He groped backwards towards a small table on which a heavy vase sat, but his hand went through it. Like the rest of him, like the knife, it was as insubstantial as a wraith’s.
The woman stood, peering into the room, the candle held high. Then she saw his faint ghostly outline, made more definite by the candlelight. She could see him: a dim, blurred shape. But there was enough form yet left to define the face and the robes and the crown on his head. They were familiar, coming back to her memory after many years.
Their eyes met for a fraction of a second, and she nodded slowly.
‘You,’ she mouthed silently, and glanced at the drawn knife in his hand. But still she did not move or try to protect herself.
He screamed, a howl of anger and frustration and defiance, but no sound reached the woman. His mist-like body could not distort the air enough to be heard. The Yellow Child just stood and glared back at his mutely howling face. He rushed towards her, and at the last moment she flinched, holding the candle up between them. As his face came close to hers, he took on a more solid form. There was a moment when he might have been corporeal enough to grab her, to ask what was happening, why he was a ghost…

…Alice woke, body twisted under the bedclothes, one arm held up as if to ward off a blow. The bedroom was in darkness, just a thin stream of moonlight leaking through the thick curtains. On the dressing table, a clock ticked loudly: four o’clock in the morning.
She sat up as the last shreds of the nightmare fell away, ran a hand through her long blonde hair and sighed out a breath. Then she rose and crossed to the window. The curtains were slightly drawn. Outside, London lay in the quiet of dawn, still asleep, unaware. Alice remembered her vision.
He was here, the Red King. But why? Why, after all these years, could the Land not remain just a dream? The time was right: ten years. Ten years since the Looking-Glass had last spat out something from the ragged edges of the mind…
Softly, in the darkness of the bedroom, Alice began to cry.

2

There were new worlds everywhere, Dorothy Gale decided. New worlds to go with a new century.
Most strange were the worlds next door, the ones that lay only a few days’ travel away. You didn’t arrive by riding a cyclone or even falling down a rabbit hole, but by boarding a ship and spending a few uneventful days at sea. She stood outside Waterloo railway station and stared about her at the swarm of London, capital of the Old World: as far from Kansas as it was possible to be, she reckoned, without actually going back again. Wonders were nothing new, of course, but even the Emerald City’s grandeur had a rival in this seething metropolis.
Dorothy was used to arriving in a new land unceremoniously, dumped there with no resources; the last time had been by shipwreck with only a hen for company. But this was somehow more disconcerting, arriving with a suitcase borrowed from her cousin and a few other pieces of luggage that Aunt Em had insisted she would need. The train journey from Kansas to New York, the voyage across the Atlantic, another rail trip from Dover where the great ocean liner had docked: it had been an interesting four weeks. But it was not how she was used to travelling at all. Even though it was the way everyone else travelled – the way, indeed, one was meant to travel – it somehow felt wrong.
‘Miss Gale?’
A tall man stood beside her. He was middle-aged, dressed in pin-striped trousers and black jacket, a thin moustache across his upper lip which literally looked like it had been drawn there. She backed away from him a step or two, hugging her handbag close to her chest.
‘I am Cartwright,’ said the man. He attempted to smile, but in Cartwright’s case this was never more than a sucking in of his upper lip so that his moustache disappeared. He nodded self-consciously. ‘Mrs Hargreaves’ butler. I presume you are Miss Dorothy Gale?’
Dorothy nodded. She had never met a butler before: not, at least, a private one to an English person. She had seen pictures of them, and had noticed several valets and maids travelling with their employers on the ship. But a real-life butler who actually came to pick her up at the station – that was another new experience in this new world.
For his part, Cartwright surveyed the young girl dubiously. He was not an expert on young girls, or females of any sort for that matter. The girl’s freckles and bright expression indicated nothing to his mind other than a fairly gormless naivety. The plain blue travelling dress likewise hinted at simple tastes and modest means. The red braids – well, best just to ignore them completely.
‘It is my duty to escort you to Mrs Hargreaves’ home,’ said Cartwright, sallying forth despite his doubts. ‘She sends her apologies that she is unable to meet you in person, and that you had to find your own way from Dover.’
‘Thank you, Mr Cartwright.’ Dorothy found her voice at last, and performed a curtsey.
‘Please, Miss Gale, call me Cartwright. No “mister” is needed.’ The girl was from America, after all. Kansas, apparently. From what he had heard of the place, they had no sense of class at all, no bearing, as his father would have said. Kansas was part of the Corn Belt, whatever that was. Full of farmers, no doubt, all decked out in overalls with pitchforks in their gnarled but honest hands. It sounded ghastly. He performed his sucked-in smile again, the moustache re-appearing afterwards like a moist caterpillar. ‘And I assure you that it is not necessary to curtsey to me.’
‘I didn’t know if I should do that,’ she said. ‘You bein’ my first butler an’ all.’
He sighed patiently. ‘You’re a guest. A curtsey is inappropriate.’ He turned to her suitcase. ‘Is this your luggage? Permit me to obtain the services of a boy who can assist us with that. And we’ll need a growler.’
‘A what?’
‘A cab big enough to take your luggage. The omnibus will be too crowded. Please wait here.’ He strode off, leaving a faint whiff of moral indignation in the air.
A few minutes later he returned with a small but brawny lad in tow and a Clarence cab drawn up ready to receive them. The boy helped the cabbie to load Dorothy’s luggage onto the growler and took the coin Cartwright handed him.
They rattled along in silence for a while, Cartwright staring out of the window with all the aloofness Dorothy had heard they should possess. She shuffled her feet and fidgeted with her purse. Eventually she could stand it no longer.
‘Have you been workin’ with Mrs Hargreaves long?’ she asked.
There was a moment’s pause as Cartwright considered the dangers of entering into idle conversation with a guest.
‘Two years,’ he replied eventually. ‘Mister Hargreaves was good enough to take me in. Now, please refrain from talking. I’ve been asked to acquaint you with certain rules before you meet my employer. So be patient and listen attentively.’
Dorothy had briefly been to school, where she had learned the basics of reading and writing, until Uncle Henry could no longer afford to send her. The teacher had acted just like Cartwright, and said the same sort of things. It had annoyed her then, too.
The butler reached into a breast pocket and extracted a carefully folded piece of paper and a pencil. Dorothy could see lines of meticulous script. Cartwright cleared his throat.
‘Number one,’ he read. ‘On no account –.’
‘Excuse me,’ said Dorothy politely, ‘but are these Mrs Hargreaves’ rules?’
The child would apparently continue to ask questions, despite his enjoinment to sit still and be quiet. How odd. ‘Not all of them. Some are mine. Number one –.’
‘Which ones are yours and which are hers?’
‘Number one. On no account are you to enter the cellar.’ He made a small, neat tick next to that item on the list. ‘Number two –.’
‘Why would I want to go into the cellar?’
They crossed the Thames on Westminster Bridge and headed for Trafalgar Square, then onto Mayfair. Some rows of houses on either side momentarily distracted Dorothy, who gazed out at the identical buildings, all attached to each other, surrounded by high steel railings. What a strange way to live. And so little grass or trees anywhere. Again she thought with a touch of nostalgia about the tiny one-roomed farmhouse she used to share with her Aunt and Uncle. That was odd – she had never felt sentimental about that rickety old shack before. It was far away now, of course, carried off by a tornado.
‘Number two…’
But Dorothy was only half listening as she continued to look at the city passing by. There were quite a few rules Cartwright was reading out, mostly about her not going to places in Mrs Hargreaves’ house that Cartwright did not want her going, times of meals and so forth. It sounded like an enormous house. After the first dozen mundane regulations, however, there were a couple more peculiar ones.
‘Number thirteen,’ said Cartwright, turning the page over. ‘On no account are you to play chess or cards, or request to do so. Do you have any chess sets or cards in your luggage?’
‘Don’t play either of them. Uncle Henry plays cards occasionally, but Aunt Em gets mad if she finds out. She reckons he loses too much money.’
‘I am not interested in your family’s distractions. I am interested in you.’
‘I can understand Mrs Hargreaves not likin’ cards or chess. But why can’t I play ’em if I want to?’
Answering foolish questions was none of Cartwright’s concern, particularly questions to which he did not know the answer. Mrs Hargreaves had forbidden chess and cards – that was reason enough in that weird household. He ticked number thirteen a little more firmly than the others.
‘Number fourteen. Mrs Hargreaves serves tea at four-fifteen each Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoon. You will be prompt in attendance as Darjeeling is not pleasant lukewarm. Besides, she often has ladies in attendance who don’t like waiting for guests.’
Dorothy refrained from asking what Darjeeling was.
He double-checked both sides of the paper, made sure that each item on the list had a tick beside it, folded it and slipped it back into his pocket. Another job done. ‘Any questions?’ he asked.
‘I’m allowed to ask questions now?’ she asked.
‘Of course.’
‘In that case, Mr Cartwright, I don’t have any.’
The butler sighed heavily and gazed out of the window for the first time since the journey began, sucking in his moustache thoughtfully. Then he let it out again with a dull pop of wet lips. Dorothy only just prevented herself from laughing.
The rest of the ride continued in silence.

My Early Writings and Other Embarrassing Confessions

 

I haven’t posted anything for a while, as I’ve been hard at work writing the first draft of my new novel, The Red King. For more information about it, and an excerpt of the first chapter, go to my website http://www.russellproctor.com/.

What I want to tell you about here is my writing process and my early attempts as a teenager to write. Because sometimes I like to embarrass myself, okay?

Quite frankly, this is the fastest I have ever produced a first draft. I’ve been trying to write 1,000 words a day of The Red King, which I haven’t quite achieved, but it has been at least a goal to try and move things along.

My last two books, Days of Iron and Plato’s Cave, both took years to write. Literally. Days of Iron was started when I was just seventeen. I wrote a few thousand words (by hand) and thought it was load of rubbish and put it aside. Thankfully I never throw that sort of thing out, and years later I took it out again. What prompted that resurrection was 9/11.

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Days of Iron is about terrorism 400 years in the future. But it wasn’t always. It started out as a book about a future society that keeps its citizens under surveillance rather like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. After 9/11, I thought it might work better (and be more contemporary) as a book about terrorism, so I started writing it again and managed to finish it. It had its critics. There is a scene with a suicide bomber in it and an editor I had look over the book suggested that it might be “too close to home” and I should delete that scene. Thankfully, I didn’t.

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Plato’s Cave began as a result of a lecture I attended at university about the allegory of the cave that Plato discusses in his book The Republic. I was fascinated by the concept and started writing a story based on the idea. It, too, was judged rubbish after a few thousand words and relegated to the filing cabinet. After Days of Iron was published, I was looking for something else to write, and pulled Plato’s Cave out of the cave. It was still crap, but crap with potential, so I completely re-jigged the story, took out some of the quite frankly stupid stylistic experiments, and managed to finish it, too, in record time (well, record for me).

I have attempted other books, like all authors, and have a filing cabinet full of seminal works. Almost all are total crap. I still have the manuscripts, however. My early teens were filled with efforts to write copy-cat fantasy stories based on J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis – but I guess most fantasy/SF writers had teenage years like that, emulating the giants. Two that I remember (and occasionally read to remind myself what a totally untalented wanker I was) were The Horsemen of the Wind (wanker title – sounds like a story about a troop of cavalry on a ration of baked beans and cabbage!) and The Grey Swordsman (better title, although still not good, and generally better story). Both were initially hand-written, but The Grey Swordsman was eventually typed up on a manual typewriter by me over the course of an entire school holidays. It remains unfinished – the last chapter concludes at the end of the cataclysmic battle between titanic armies of demons and dragon-riding warriors over a literally bottomless chasm, but the resolution breaks off in mid sword-stroke, as it were.

The Horsemen of the Wind, written earlier in time, had a half-written sequel, The Quest of Linhir, which actually had some attempts at characterisation, unusual for teenager-written action-adventure fantasy stories. The fact that every character in the book, including the female ones, acted like a teenage boy was beside the point. I was making an effort.

The Horsemen of the Wind was about two teenagers (boy and girl, although their names kept changing throughout) who are transported by some mysterious means (mysterious to me, too) to another world where they meet the only survivor of the Sheerdawn, the eponymous Horsemen, who have been wiped out by an invading army of totally non-scary warriors from a distant land. The teens help the survivor, whose name also changes practically from one page to the next, to warn a neighbouring country that they are the next for the chop from the invaders. There are two major battles, which said teens somehow manage to survive despite having absolutely no ability to fight at all and they stay there afterwards to live happily ever after until the sequel. In the first draft, they return home to our world, but I thought that was too neat an ending.

The Grey Swordsman was set entirely in a fantasy world that consisted of a series of ‘islands’ that were actually the tops of mountains rising out of a bottomless abyss that extended forever. In this story, the hero , the Grey Swordsman, inherits the title from his father, who is too old for the job of guarding The Sword (I was really good at inventing names back then) which had a legendary history of having one been a set of chains that bound an evil monster. The original Swordsman stole the chains and forged them into a sword to defeat an enemy attacking his country at the time. The Sword was then passed down father to son. The hero of this story is called upon by the ruling gods of the world to return The Sword as it is now needed once more because the original monster the chains were keeping in check has returned in the form of a black flame. So he sets off to return it and ends up having to defeat the flame himself with the help of a good-looking witch (who he actually has sex with in one chapter – racy stuff when you’re sixteen) and a rather unfunny bit of comic relief in the form of a wandering minstrel (whom he doesn’t have sex with).

Legendary stuff.

Of course, there have been other attempts by me to write books. Some of them are ideas I keep on the back burner as I may return to them one day. Phosphorus is set in a clockwork universe. Born and Become is a story about a race of time-travellers engaged in a civil war. I’d like to write the story of my climb up Mt Kilimanjaro (I really did that) and the safari through Africa that followed it. That one would be called Up, Down and Sideways.

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But I need to get back to The Red King now. Set in Edwardian London, a serial killer is causing fear and panic through the streets and only two people stand in his way – Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He doesn’t stand a chance!

– Russell Proctor www.russellproctor.com