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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from readers.