Or, better yet, how this new story series captured me...
For those of you who've journeyed through the White Road Chronicle series, like me, you may have been wondering... so what's next?
For several months, I wasn't sure, so I kept writing romance stories for my small Michigan lakeside town of Madison Creek. They are fun to write. People liked them. I like writing them. But I longed for the fantastical worlds I enjoyed while writing White Road.
So, about a month ago, I was relaxing one Saturday afternoon, watching TV... I'm not even sure what was on, but am sure it was some LOTR's binge showing. I still enjoy watching them again and again when I need my fantasy fix. =D
Anyway, my mind started drifting off to that place a writer's mind often drifts off too.... Wondering Land, is what I call it.
I wonder if...
I wonder what...
I wonder who...
I wonder when...
I wonder where I put my glasses, why can't I keep up with those stupid things?
Yeah, wonderings like that.
That Saturday, I wondered why...
Why had I not been able to come up with a solid idea for a new fantasy series?
I'd had readers asking...when would I write more?
What was next?
What if you...???
Nothing was jelling for me.
I spoke to a writer friend about this while we were at lunch. I love writing whimsical, enchanting stories. The romances are fun, but I love fantasy stories. Always have.
She said, "Come on, Jackie, if you really wanted to, you could make something up. You could make it happen."
"Yeah," I answered, "I could. But I don't want to force a story. It never ends well when I force something."
I chose to wait and write what stories I felt the Lord had given me to write.
You see, I believe all ideas ultimately come from him. You ask what a writer's muse is? He is my muse. Whatever gifts I have at storytelling comes from Him. I believe that and claim that with all my heart.
So, I suppose, what I was waiting on, was for Him to inspire the next fantasy story for me to write.
He didn't let me down.
Old Tales That Inspire New Tales
That was it. Mind you, I have a really thick book that supposedly has all the stories.
But they're not numbered!!
Of course, when a direct thought hits me like that one did, I listen. So I got out a pen and started numbering the stories. All the way to 75... for good measure.
There are actually 211 in all. Does anyone want to take a guess on how I know?
So I opened the book to story number 72. The Handless Maiden.
"Oh, well this sounds delightful, great call," was my actual response. And yes, I even rolled my eyes before I started reading.
I wish I could say I was totally amazed and astounded by the story.
Matter-of-fact, as the author's name implies, it was quite a GRIM tale.
I stared down at the story, then said, "Well that was... not delightful in the least. She loses her hands for goodness sake! Yeah, it worked out in the end. And from the tales I've read, I have to say it was the most... spiritual, I suppose."
The debilitated girl often asks God for help and He sends her help, time and again. And she did have a pure heart, which is what saves her. But...
I slammed the book closed, not even knowing what to do with something like that. My stories are lighthearted. Kind of humorous and quirky. This was not any of those things. Not at all.
There were no notes made, as I usually do when a story hits me. There was no story, far as I was concerned. I was not interested in writing about a girl who has her hands chopped off. Yuck! No thanks.
And I pushed it out of my mind.
Yeah, I can be stubborn like that. Despite all the things I've been through with the Lord.
Good thing He's patient and merciful. =)
And determined to have His way.
Because that night, around 3 or 4 am, I woke up. Like wide awake woke up. The kind of wide awake waking up that happens when a story hits me and I really need to pay attention.
As I lay there in bed, wishing my mind would settle back down so I could get some sleep, my "story box" (that place where all my stories are filed away) was filling up with all the possibilities that Handless Maiden story had to offer.
"The story is told in three acts," I was hearing. "So you'll write it in three books. Not as long as the White Road books, but one continuous story thread that will kind of follow the story."
Except there was more. Oh, so much more!
Then the characters began forming.
I saw a ruler called a Regent who oversee's a portion of land in Alburnium given to him by King Shaydon. He's newly appointed to his position and has to visit all the towns in his jurisdiction in an attempt to get to know them. Oh, and to make amends for the failures and wrongs his father had done before him.
Regent Leonard of the House of Lion (sound familiar?) came into make-believe existence. Leon doesn't understand why Issah appointed him to lead the Province of Rodonal after his father's negligence and poor conduct. But Issah doesn't waver in his decision and provides him with an adviser who will teach and instruct as Leon takes on his new responsibility.
So, with the Elderad Riyah at his side, along with a few good, and not so good men, Leon embarks on his tour. But trouble rises up quickly when the Elderad's ways of handing the problems they encounter are often risky and often conflict with how things are usually done in the Province.
Then, the young Maiden, whose story inspired all this, began to form. Her name is Kardia and she is a gifted Sano (Healer/mender). Her father foolishly traded her to a Sorcerer for riches. Unfortunately, he didn't realize the deception until it was too late. But Kardia, who is good at heart, trusts her parents to figure out a way to rescue her from the contract made on her life. At least, until all the gold they received in the deal becomes the most important thing to them. Kardia realizes she must figure out a way to save herself . Her only remaining hope comes down to the upcoming visit from the Regent.
In the Handless Maiden story, the bad guy was either the devil or a wizard... depending on which version you read. Well, where there's light, there's darkness lurking in the hidden places. So the story presented a whole league of bad guys.
One stood out for this story. A young, dark-haired boy emerged, an outcast half-breed who has powers he doesn't know how to control yet. He is the servant-apprentice for the powerful Sorcerer, Fajer who belongs to the Order of the Brethren. Fajer is sure the young mage, he calls Grunt, will be a great advantage in his plans to take over the Province that borders his Brethren's hidden fortress. But first, he must find a way to learn the truth about the young man's hidden lineage.
Grunt knows from experience that he needs to guard his linage and keep it protected if he wishes to further his own plans to grow in power.
I gave up on sleep...
About 5 am, my mind was buzzing like an electrical current with all this. The possibilities! I can go back to Alburnium!! This series would take place at an earlier time in the history of the land. There would be a few familiar faces, but this series will have all new characters. And the land is a different place than what Alyra and her friends lived through.
I bolted out of bed that Sunday morning, grabbed several sheets of paper and started making notes. All three titles came to me. Blood & Water- book one. Silver and Light- book two. Gold and Fire- book three.
Not only the titles, but I had a decent idea of what the covers should look like. I'm going to share the first one with you today. I love when stories come to me with such clarity! Amazing.
Need I say it was a long, but thrilling day?
By time I made it to church, tired but excited, I sat with a big smile on my face, my mind still buzzing with the story idea developing. I tried to listen to the sermon but couldn't stop making more notes on my phone. You know, once a story hits, it's like a river dam breaking the spilled water that doesn't stop until emptied.
Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing more here, and in my newsletter Castle's Story World, about this book series.
For now, I wanted to share with you how the newest series came to be. Will there be more fairy tale retellings? I have a feeling there can be.
Next time I post, my map should be finished and ready to share, along with a fun, short story that I'll be giving away free to my newsletter subscribers.
I'm super excited about this project. I hope you will be, too.
So stay tuned for more to come. Preview chapters, character introductions, and freebie gifts for you to check out. For now, if you're as excited about this as I am, I wanted to let you know Blood & Water is on Pre-order. I'm hoping to release it by the end of May. That's my goal.
For now, the introductory price is only $2.99, but that'll be going up when the book goes live. So order your copy now while it's on sale. And keep checking back here for more information in the weeks to come.
Blessings and peace,
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.