Last week I teased the first not-quite 500 words of my daughter’s and my second book, THE LAST FAERIE GODMOTHER. The idea is to present various drafts of this as time goes on, as sort of an archeological core sample of its evolution.
I invited comments, and received quite a few (thank you!), both positive and negative, and many offered advice. But overwhelmingly, people wanted clarification of what was going on. So I guess 500 words wasn’t quite enough. Therefore I am going to present a little more of the chapter, to the point where I answer many of your questions. I realize I risk boring you with passages that are too long, but I expect you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t interested, so here we go. (As before, the all-important first 250 words are a slightly different color.)
Chapter One: Secrets
My arrow struck the goblin right between the eyes. He vanished like a popped balloon filled with smoke and glitter.
Three more of the short scaly green beasties darted out from behind the trees, braver as a group. They raised their axes and bared sharp piranha teeth, then at some unspoken signal ran right for me, screaming and taunting: “Die, Princess!”
Stupid goblins. They always clumped together like that, making a nice fat target. I stood my ground and fired two arrows, one right after the other. My nymph magic gave me a tiny bit of influence over the wood, so I barely had to aim. Two more clouds of green smoke drifted away in the cool breeze.
The last goblin halted in his tracks, alone and uncertain, and dropped his weapon as he prepared to flee. But before he could turn to run, I took two quick steps and swung my fist hard at his chin. Why waste an arrow?
That made four down.
The eerie silence of the dark woods didn’t fool me; more attackers waited for me and my elf-made bow. They always did. I listened for wing-beats in case the sprites were flocking, but I heard nothing from the branches above. So I knelt in the mossy leaves and pretended to tie my bootlace.
When I heard the loud crunch of snapping twigs I smiled. A small giant, maybe. Or a troll. This was getting too easy.
Still kneeling, I eased my bow off my shoulder and slowly reached for an arrow. Then I stood and spun toward the sound, nocking my arrow and drawing it with a single swift motion. An ogre stood five feet away, rotting teeth bared and a massive tree branch gripped in both hands above his shaggy head.
I froze, my arrow pointed directly between his bushy eyebrows. It was Mr. Perrault, my Emissary to the Ogres, my court advisor, and my friend. “This isn’t funny!” I shouted to the forest. “The ogre-born are my allies. I earned their respect and they accepted me as their princess.”
“Bah! Who needs a princess when ze pot is on ze boil? We are hungry.” He lumbered closer, licking his lips. “Twelve years old is the perfect age for cooking.”
I let the bowstring go slack and lowered my bow. This is stupid. I wasn’t going to play Faye’s game.
With a grunt, the ogre swung the club down toward my head and I squeezed my eyes shut.
The illusion of the bow in my hand and the dark forest around me dissolved – along with Mr. Perrault. The afternoon sun lit my face and the sounds of distant sawing and hammering rushed in. I opened my eyes to find myself in the middle of our large back yard bordered by trees on three sides, and wearing my new winter coat and jeans. My knee was wet where I’d knelt in the snow, and my sneakers were soaked.
Faye O’Quinn, my chief advisor on the Seelie Court, took a deep breath as she recovered from her taxing faerie magic. She looked up at me from where she sat, in a patio chair in the shade of the main house.
“You would have let him kill you, Princess?” She raised a delicate eyebrow and brushed a strand of long auburn hair from her pale, perfect face. “Not the best way to preserve your reign, I must say.”
“No, Faye,” I huffed. “Mr. Perrault may have ogre blood, but he would never hurt me.” I stared the part-faerie in the eye. “That was a dirty trick, testing my loyalty.”
“It is not your loyalty I question, Princess. Ogres are untrustworthy, no matter what they promise. I want you to be prepared for that.”
“Cheese, Faye, it’s not like I’m ever going to have to fight a real ogre or goblin. They’re all gone, right? I stomped through the snow toward our new home, catching the smirk on my mom’s face where she was kneeling, planting winter flowers in one of the built-in wooden planters. “What are you laughing at?” I asked her.
Mom straightened and tried to hide her smile. “I’m very proud of you, Catherine. I must admit, Faye’s training has really improved your reflexes, and your magic is coming along nicely.”
“But?” I raised an eyebrow.
She tilted her head. “But don’t you think punching that goblin in the face was a tiny bit … unprincess-like?”
“Mother. Punching a goblin in the face was what made me Princess of the Fae-born in the first place, remember?”
The fae-born were all that were left of the fae – faeries, elves, gnomes, and so on – after they had mixed with humans and blended in hundreds of years ago. Now they all looked pretty much like everyone else, unless you had the ability to spot them like I did. Most of the friendly fae-born were ruled by the Seelie Court, which I’d re-formed as my first act as Princess. The fae-born choose me to be their princess last summer because I had royal blood … and because I’d broken the other candidate’s nose.
Mom gave me her best Mother-of-the-Princess look. “Well I don’t think punching people sets a good example, Catherine. The fae-born all look up to you, now.”
I rolled my eyes.
Some of you may notice I took your advice. Thank you.
The challenge here, of course, it to give enough back story from the first book to bring new readers up to speed, but not so much that it creates a huge info-dump. There’s a delicate balance between boring your loyal readers and losing new readers. I’ve also got to fill in what has happened since the end of the last book, which technically counts as MORE back story. And, of course, how do I introduce to new readers all of the familiar characters and their relationship to the story and to the hero?
If I haven’t said it before: writing is hard.