About my novel-in-progress

Scale model of Peveril/Peak Castle in Derbyshire, England, where some of my novel's action takes place.

Scale model of Peveril/Peak Castle in Derbyshire, England, where some of my novel’s action takes place.

OVERVIEW:

My novel is a three-volume historical fiction set in Medieval England (the 13th century).

(I’ve long had titles I thought were perfect for both the series and each book within it.  More and more, though, I’m questioning their fit.  As such, for now, my work will remain untitled.)

THE PLOT:

In 13th century England, a low-ranked lady with shrewd political and household management skills takes a secret job with a baron helping smooth his succession as a means of escaping her abusive father and securing a husband.

(Past blog posts containing additional information that may or may not still apply found here and here and here.)

SUB-GENRES:

Women’s fiction; political; slight hints of fantasy (related to the unnatural phenomena people believed in during the medieval times); not a capital-R Romance novel, although it does contain some romantic elements

PROGRESS:

The first draft of all three books is complete.  I’m currently revising the first book in preparation for future submission.

VISUAL INSPIRATION:

The Hostage, by Edmund Leighton (1852-1922).  Not the eponymous subject of the painting itself, but rather the woman in the background with her head covered; the one staring directly at the viewer.

EXCERPT:

Lord Edward Terrin slowly closed the gap between us, his eyes never leaving me.

“I don’t still frighten you do I, Lady Aline?” he asked.  “Of course, every lord expects some fear—and much obedience—from all the vassals beneath him.  But I was certain you understood that as a person, albeit a person with two different colored eyes, I mean you no harm.  Especially since I want you to work for me.”

“What I want is for you to work solely for me.”

“Work for—?”  I broke off, shaking my head.  He was right in part: despite being alone with him in a garden, defenseless in the dead of nighttime, his eyes had since become the most menacing aspect of the situation.  “Do I not already work for my lord through my efforts as the lady of Peak Castle?  Don’t all vassals of Calderham work for my lord in all their varied capacities?”

“You all work for my father, the baron.  What I want is for you to work solely for me.”

I spread my hands, at a loss.  “Doing what?”

Lord Edward fell silent.  He bent to retrieve the floral chaplet I’d dropped and began twisting it around in his hands.

“Lady, are you aware that my father is on his deathbed?” he eventually asked.  Another cloud drifted overtop the moon as he spoke.  Once again, his face withdrew into shadows, causing his words to arise, rather appropriately, like a voice from beyond the grave.

“I am aware of Lord Terrin’s imminent departure,” I replied.

“And do you know what happens after that?”

“After that, my lord will succeed Lord Terrin as his rightful heir and become the new baron of Calderham.”

The moon returned and lit the white of the flowers and Lord Edward’s hands as he continued to worry at the chaplet.  “After that,” he said, his demeanor grim, “‘my lord’ is legally entitled to lay claim to his father’s lands, and if nothing else, to succeed him in name upon paying my relief to the earl.

“But do you know what else sometimes happens when a lord dies?  Sometimes it steels the hearts of his rivals—some of them legitimate but all of them opportunistic—who then set their sights upon his heir.  They would slice up that heir’s inheritance like meat from a spit if they could, if not each devour the entire haunch himself.  And that’s without one’s father being a usurper.”

I clapped my hands to my mouth.  “There are other claimants to parts of Calderham?”

Lord Edward just looked at me, both his eyes dark with disbelief.

“I mean besides the obvious,” I amended.

Lord Edward sighed.  “His vehemence notwithstanding, the Baron of Bradford is probably the least prepared person to move against me right now.  My father’s ruinous campaign in Normandy, as well as ongoing raids of Bradford’s lands by the lords of Wentham and Balceter, have seen to that.  You do know about Calderham’s alliance with Wentham and Balceter?  You should; it was your father who came up with the idea, and who conducted the early negotiations to assess its feasibility.”

“In truth, my lord, the idea of a northern alliance to help keep Bradford at bay belonged to me.”  My first official act as Peak’s lady of the household had been to persuade Sir Ellis to put the suggestion to Sir Gérard, who in turn communicated it to Lord Terrin.  My second act had been to oversee all of Sir Ellis’s meetings at Peak with the two intractable and genuinely intimidating northern lords.

“There!  You see?”  Lord Edward shook the chaplet in one fist as if it had tried to argue with him.  “I was right to inquire about this with you.  You possess the very skills and attributes I require.  I’ll succeed my father; of that I’m certain.  But who’s to say how much of Calderham will remain for me to rule over when I do?”

“But who are these other, less beleaguered competitors of my lord’s, plotting to seize his lands as we speak?”

Back near the garden’s entrance, from within one of the fruit trees, an owl echoed a high-pitched, shortened version of my query.

“That, Lady Aline, is what I want you to tell me.  Identify all my potential rivals and assist me in eliminating them.  Make me the baron of all of Calderham, at all costs.  Do this for me, and I’ll reward you in the manner of your choosing.  Anything—” Lord Edward paused and proffered my chaplet back to me, “—except for the crown of a baroness.”

It was my turn to fall silent, a desire to examine Lord Edward’s offer more closely warring against the instinct to reject it as a grand jape.  He didn’t look to be jesting, though.  Nor could I envisage such sport with someone he’d only just met under nowhere near the best of circumstances.

“How am I supposed to do that?” I asked.  “How could I possibly figure out who in all the county represents a threat to my lord’s inheritance?”

“Who am I to instruct you in matters not unlike those you already deal with on a daily basis?  I doubt I even know half of what you ladies do to keep a man’s holdings intact.  What I do know, however, is that you’re the lady of Peak Castle, so that makes you one of the best.”

~

(Image source #1 – J.G. Noelle, #2, and #3)

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14 thoughts on “About my novel-in-progress

  1. I love the sound of this. I have a fantasy project that also incorporates political and romance elements, and it’s pretty close to the same time period, but set in an entirely constructed world.

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    • I started off in a constructed fantasy world as well but ultimately switched when I realized, 10 reference on medieval England in, my story was about to become the most historically faithful “fantasy” novel ever! 🙄

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  2. I’m smiling at your scale model. I’d love to hold in my hands the location of my work-in-progress. I have maps and photos. Maybe I will see what some clay will do…

    You write that you are superstitious, yet your novel is set in the 13th century. I’m laughing kindly.

    I like this format for describing your novel, and how you used it. “the incompatible tasks of putting him on his throne and obtaining some measure of freedom for herself require equally cunning strategies.” grabs my attention and whets my appetite.

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    • That model exists at the site of what remains of the actual castle, and was a brilliant find, as I’ve actually zoomed in on the picture and used it as a sort of blueprint for describing key events that occur at the castle in my story.

      Yes, I can be superstitious, so to me it seems only proper I write about a society and people that were as well. I can delve into that mindset easily, I think. I’m glad that your appetite is whetted! 🙂

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  3. I made the opposite choice – the novel’s current draft goes up on my blog, a new scene every Tuesday. It is truly scary sometimes. Readers have been kind.

    As I approach the end of Book 1, a slew of questions descends, with the most important one being, ‘but the story isn’t finished!’ It has been the object of much recent worry how to finish Book 1 – and still move into the next Book. I didn’t think enough about that when I started serializing.

    Fortunately, I’m ahead of readers (by a bit), and I know exactly where we’re going (though the how keeps surprising me), so I figure I may just have to start serializing Book 2 as soon as 1 is finished.

    And it’s gotten so long! When I’m finished, Gone With the Wind and Pride’s Children will be about the same length. I never even thought about that at the beginning. I keep asking people to tell me where it’s flabby, so I can cut – and getting NO help.

    Good luck on your project – and remember many serialized first books serve as introductions to the whole set – if people like your writing, they can move on to the rest; if they don’t, they’ve invested nothing but a bit of time. Works for readers and writers – because the writers don’t then have unhappy customers leaving bad reviews.

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    • I know alll about stories that end up longer than one’s original expectations. My “two” books (originally it was only supposed to be one) has since grown into three, which is the book I’m currently working on. It is so much that the tale grew in the telling, for I outlined all the major plot points including the ending beforehand; I just had no concept of how many words would took to expand that outlined point into an actual scene. I’m still not sure I do.

      Thankfully, this third book WILL be the last one, and I truly am closing in on the end this. If I were to serialize my novel, I’d definitely want to have it completed beforehand. I wouldn’t do well at all with the pressure of trying to stay ahead of readers.

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  4. It’s a story that I’d certainly read, though it will deserve a lot of time and attention. There’s not too much of either these days. Through this piece of dialogue I’m already getting a good sense of these two characters. Quality writing Janna.

    Funny, my first thought was to equate the name ‘Terrin’ with the Jersey surname ‘Therin’. The latter is pronounced in the French manner – I imagine Terrin is pronounced the English way?

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    • Thank you, Roy. I appreciate your ongoing encouragement. You are right about a scarcity of time and attention nowadays. But ultimately, I have to write the book I’m inspired to write, however long that takes, and hopefully others will also find it worth their time.

      Yes, Terrin is pronounced the English way. It is, as part of the story, an anglicized corruption of “Terrain” (pronounced the French way) dating back from the Norman Conquest some 140 years earlier.

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