Project Three Begins

Waitaminute, buster. Didn’t you just tell us you were starting Project Two a year ago? Didn’t your first book take four years to write?! Is this one of those flighty writer things, where you get distracted by a new project?

There’s more to it than that, which I’ll get to in a moment. Project Two has continued to move over the course of the last year, though 2020 was rather disruptive to my writing schedule and I haven’t made the progress I wanted. I’m still discovering the characters and I’m not as invested in them as I need to be, especially when compared to Tildy and co., with whom I spent four years. Admittedly, we’re still in early draft territory and there’s lots to uncover.

Here’s why I’m not worried that this will become an abandoned project that I’ll find in a dusty hard drive ten years from now. The Lost Royals series is a tale of two siblings. Project One is the completed Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen. Project Two follows her brother Samor on a similar but separate path a continent away. Project Three returns to Tildy.

That’s a lot of words to say, “Mike is writing two separate books series concurrently with a conjoined ending. It’s probably a stupidly ambitious endeavor fraught with complexity and peril.” Way to sell it, buddy!

Anyway….the intent is to allow Readers to choose how they want to experience the series. They could only read Tildy’s storyline, read Samor’s, or to go back and forth between them. As such, I don’t need to know everything that happens in Project Two before beginning number Three.

Back to the original question about this shift in focus being a ‘flighty writer thing’, yeah, there’s a bit of that. A lot of us are distracted by shiny new projects, which results in piles of unfinished manuscripts. I have a few of those myself.

It means I’m hedging my bets a little. You see, despite being a fledgling author, I do understand that stupidly ambitious endeavors projects that break norms, such as alternating books from character to character, are rare and harder to sell to agents, publishers, and readers (e.g. if JK Rowling had decided to write a book about Harry, then Hermione, and back to Harry). Novelty in a novel can be good…to a point. It’s quite possible my series won’t find life in the order I’ve envisioned. So three years ago, I started the outline for Tildy’s second book, and I’ve been adding bits as I worked on the other projects.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN – LED ZEPPELIN

Today, rather than struggling through my few precious writing hours, I decided to tap into Tildy’s energy to see where it might take me. I’m pleased to share the first-draft opening to Tildy Silverleaf and the Dungeon of the Dreadwyrm.

Chapter One – Winter in Dappledown

Tildy Silverleaf leaned on her elbows at her bedroom window, watching the golden leaves fall. The Garden of Dappledown usually glowed like an emerald treasure well into Nordt, the first month of Winter. However, Autumn had barely started when the verdant hollow had begun to fade into yellows and oranges and reds.

It worried her adoptive mother, a woman once known as the Night Witch of the Black Garden. She’d said she had expected it because something had begun to impact the garden’s growth two Springs before. That didn’t mean she could explain it, and for a person of magicks and wonder and mystery, the witch couldn’t rest with such an unanswered question upon her lips. She’d spent long hours contemplating the surrounding trees of the Forest of Eddlweld, finding nothing in the answers of falling leaves.

Tildy counted eleven remaining leaves on the nearest tree. One shuddered and began its gentle descent. She unfurled her silver wings from beneath a hidden flap in her dress and they beat in slow rhythm to match the leaf’s fall.

She sighed. She wasn’t bored – far from it! She’d recently acquired twelve new books, which she’d managed to scatter throughout the witch’s cottage in various states of attention. But she was rather lonely. Her mother had been gone some weeks, which wasn’t unusual, even if she had been departing more regularly since their return from Southershard the previous Spring. Their friend Fietha had also not brought supplies for more than a month, which meant Tildy was responsible for stocking the pantry and stormcloset with the provisions they couldn’t grow in Dappledown.

While those two people had been her entire world for nearly fourteen years, it was a third person whose company she desired. Marklin Barrowfell had accompanied her for most of her adventure to Southershard, the infamous last of the four Shard fortresses that guarded the lands of Empyrelia. They’d developed a close, wonderful friendship that had survived the sorcerous Lady Amaranth, the misunderstood Baron Stoneward who’d been transformed into the monstrous Sarsenith, and perhaps the greatest threat: Tildy’s eavesdropping on a private confession he was making to her mother about his depression.

Whatever romantic twitterpation they might have had to begin, it had transformed into something deeper: that of comrades-in-arms who have faced deadly perils and become as close as siblings, if not closer.

Even though Marklin lived about a fortnight’s walk from Dappledown, they’d seen each other regularly through the Spring and early Summer, usually meeting at a picnic spot halfway in between their homes. Sometimes they would recount their adventure, but more often than not, they’d just chat like old friends about anything and everything. Cross-legged in the shade of aspens green, she’d re-tell stories and histories from books she’d read, while he’d share news about the rebuilding of his village Grey’therton. And the warm breezes of the grasslands would listen to them.

She also chided him mercilessly for being unable to introduce her to his famous uncle and namesake, Ser Amarcus Barrowfell, a former member of the Sentinels Grand. He was a central character in one of her favorite books and she’d grown up daydreaming about his valiant deeds. He’d risen in her estimation after she learned he’d sought Marklin to adopt him after the death of his parents, though she still didn’t understand why he couldn’t visit the Garden of Dappledown during one of his sheriff’s treks. It certainly wasn’t for fear of the haunted Forest of Eddlweld that surrounded her home.

In Azjuul, the second month of Summer, Marklin had told her he would be accompanying his uncle on a journey west, but no, there wouldn’t be time for a visit. He also apologized in advance for missing her birthday on Midden Day, but promised a special gift upon his return in early Autumn.

She hadn’t heard from him since.

The Equinox was approaching – the midpoint of Autumn – and still there was no word. Tildy sighed again. She missed her friend and she was worried.

In the garden below, she heard a bustle in the southern hedgerow that could only be her mother returning. Not wanting to wait another minute for news, she squeezed through the open window and fluttered down into the garden on gossamer wings.

I’m pleased with this draft. It came effortlessly, which is a joy to experience. I loved returning to Tildy and her mother, the notorious Night Witch. In 700 words, I’ve revisited four characters, each with some backstory. It’s also got some world-building, character development, and a nice Led Zeppelin reference (same song, different lyric), which may or may not stay.

However, this is mostly exposition, and while it provides some essential highlights from the previous book, it’s a slow start. I’d like to get Readers invested immediately in some action. The mystery of Marklin’s absence helps, albeit still at a slow pace (BTW, that was a tough section to write – it’s the only section that I rewrote, and this represents the fourth version). Despite the pacing, most of the details are pretty tight. Each memory is a couple sentences, and the excerpt is only about a page and a half in Word. I’ve begun far worse. I made asked Trusted Reader #1 (my wife, a lit teacher and voracious wolf-reader) to give it a look and it’s not as exposition-y as I feared.

Where do I go from here? I’ll probably flesh out a couple chapters with Tildy, shifting my focus between Projects Two and Three. However, I don’t recommend this approach. It works for me because I’ve already been doing it in this series for five years: leaping from book to book to book, sometimes touching six books in a writing session. I share it as an example of how I continue to write, even when inspiration isn’t at hand. I encourage you to find your own methods to exercise your writing brain!

Good luck with your writing!

–Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2020