I had never even considered writing novels for children until I took an online course, Writing Story Books for Children. I thought you have to be up with all the latest things children were into, their language and preoccupations, and the latest trends. However, what that course taught me, above all else, was that children still love fantasy stories — and they never go out of fashion or off trend. My first attempt at a children’s story was a 1,000 word tale for a competition (see below), which turned into what is currently a 2-book series but with the potential for more stories to be added to it. My second is the one I’m working on actively at the moment.
The first Grail Maiden book was written as a first draft in just twelve days at the end of November 2015, as part of a final push to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in just one month. It tells the story of 12-year-old Aelwen, daughter of a Prince, whose world is changed forever when she finds the engraved slab that seals the cave where the druid Merllyn lies in an enchanted sleep. To free him, her friend, Derwen the Bard must create a girl/woman out of flowers; but when the druid is awoken, their troubles are just beginning.
Aelwen’s soul must be reconciled with that of her hated brother, if the tribe is to survive the onslaught of invasion to come. To ensure this happens, a new Grail Quest must be instigated. Merllyn’s partner, the goddess Nimue, causes the king to be magically wounded in order to set things in motion. Only the Grail can heal the King. The weather turns damp and misty, crops begin to fail, and Aelwen’s family and friends are threatened by strife from within the kingdom and without.
Aelwen little knows, when she begins her Bardic training, that she and her family will need to share in the Grail Quest in order to heal the King and the Land. All she knows is that she will do her best – but will it be good enough?
The story includes the retelling of several of the Welsh myths, including the ancient story of Bloddeuedd, the Woman of Flowers. Translations from the original can be found in the Mabinogion, but here is my version, told by Derwen the Bard.
I have other fantasy novels in progress, notably a two-book children’s series called The Secret Magicians, which I have finished drafting and am in the process of editing. I’ve tested this series with a couple of child readers, both of whom have absolutely loved it, so I have high hopes for it when it’s published. It was sparked by a short story I wrote for the Swanwick Festival competition 2014. It’s called The Secret Magicians, and it’s available here on the site, and also in a collection of short children’s stories by the Tunbridge Wells Writers Group, on Smashwords; but it went off at a bit of a tangent when I started to expand it, and became:
The Secret Magicians, Book 1
The Flight to Safety
Jack Skipper, aged 10, discovers one day in the marketplace that he has a talent for Magic, but there’s a problem. If the authorities find him, they will take him to be a Magician, fighting in their endless wars. Thankfully, he is discovered by Mrs Ermine, a kindly woman who offers to teach him how to use his talent safely, and for good.
But his stay with her is cut short by disturbing news – the war is coming to them, and they need to move to safety. A plan is formed, and Jack’s party is the first to leave, heading for a safe house in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the monastery where they are to meet the others is under threat from goblins, and inhabited by dwarves, with whom they make friends. As the others leave in one big group, evicted from their home by soldiers who want it for a barracks, Jack and his friends must help the dwarves to defeat the goblins, and find out why they are attacking.
Conjuring images to frighten the goblins seems to help, but on capturing two of their attackers, they discover that this is only the beginning. The Talasian Empire, whom their government is fighting, has plans to crush their country quickly – starting in the mountains!
The Secret Magicians, Book 2
How to Stop a War
The first challenge is to stop the goblins taking over the monastery. The second is to bring the others to safety. The third is to stop the war.
No pressure, then! Can Jack and his friends accomplish all their goals, and prevent a lot of unnecessary deaths?
Teaming up with the dwarves, it turns out, was only the start. As the struggle progresses, giant eagles, elves and a goddess join in the fight. But to actually prevent the war from reaching their shores, they need to discover who is behind it and persuade him to change his plans.
Jack’s talent for Magic is already highly developed, after the journey to the mountains. But can he stretch his skills even further and sneak into the mind of the powerful Magician they are up against? Better yet, can he make friends with him?
Another children’s novel I’ve started is provisionally titled Girl-Boy-Girl, and stars Imperial Princess Lin Fow Yat, whose problem is that she’s the wrong gender to inherit her father’s throne. But he’s told his people he has a son. Can she rule the Empire and still be herself?