Glaston Chronicles Young adult books
Looking for literary inspiration from everyday life!
I’ve been hard at work on the third book in the Glaston Chronicles series, The Sword of Glaston, this year, but there have still been quite a few interruptions. I was hoping that this volume would be available for Christmas, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way, and so now publication will have to wait until next year.
Overall, perhaps that’s for the best, as the way things developed with the book, I realised that I would need a follow-up volume to complete the “medieval” theme, so in a sense this book is the first of two linked volumes dealing with the Battle of Bosworth and its aftermath.
As I detailed in my last newsletter, I tend to take a hybrid approach in planning and writing the books – that is I have an overall plan, but I also try and leave things flexible enough so that new ideas which arise can be incorporated in the text.
Sometimes these new ideas come from something I have written which leads on to a new idea. But they can also come from outside influences, which is what happened with me during the summer.
There is a sort of parallel storyline in the book. The main characters, Matt, Luke and Annie, have gone back in time to search for their cousin, Theo, who is in real danger. I needed to find some way that Theo, who is located many miles away from them, could become aware that they were actually looking for him. Obviously, that’s difficult in medieval times, when there were no telephones, etc.
The solution came when I was out for a walk one day near a local cemetery which is close to the strangely named Hobgoblin wood. There are large fir trees on both sides of the road nearby, and crows nest in them. One day last summer, some of the crows started to dive bomb me and attack me as I came near the trees. They would fly in very close and just miss my head and then zoom off again, while making a terrific racket.
At first it was a bit alarming, because they are quite big birds, but I realised that they were doing it for a reason, most probably that it was the end of the breeding/nurturing season, and they were protecting the young birds. I should mention that I have been walking in the same place almost daily for nearly ten years, but nothing like that had ever happened before. But equally, we did have an unusually hot summer, which may have affected them in some way.
Anyway, this dive bombing went on for quite a few days, but I was determined not to be put off my daily walk!
And then one day it occurred to me that I could use this idea of birds attacking people in the book. As with the second book, the Dark Tower, there is some emphasis on the dangers of the occult in this volume, and eventually, I worked out a scenario, in which Theo meets up with a certain character who has occult skills, and it is through this character, and by means of witchcraft, that two ravens are sent to keep watch on Matt, Luke and Annie. And through witchcraft Theo is able to see, through the eyes of the ravens, that his cousins are concerned for him and looking for him.
So I suppose the moral of the story is that when you are engaged in writing a story you need to be on the lookout for incidents from everyday life which you can use to enhance your story and make it more effective.
Overall, I have also found it interesting that occult themes, and their dangers, seem to be assuming a much larger part in the stories than I had expected. I started off with the idea of having adventure stories with Catholic themes what would appeal to young people, but somehow the dangers of the occult seem to have wormed their way into the books, so we will just have to see where it all ends up!
Certainly, the Roman empire was awash with interest in the occult, and in many respects the battle with that was one of the biggest the early Church had to face in creating a Christian society. And as our society becomes more and more pagan, so interest in the occult will grow, and so the Church must once again confront that threat.
And in case you think that this is something that sensible people couldn’t possibly get mixed up in, it was sobering for me, at least, to read that Iceland’s first pagan temple in 1000 years is in the process of being built – a temple dedicated to the old Norse gods, Thor, Odin and the rest of them. And in fact, paganism is Iceland’s fastest growing religion, and more temples are planned. A temple dedicated to Odin was complete in Denmark in 2016.
So we ignore return of paganism and the occult at our peril.
As I previously mentioned, my progress on the Glaston Chronicles Young adult books was interrupted by all the work that had to be done regarding the WAF England and Wales Fatima Statue and Relics Visitation programme last year.
So I am now back at work on the series, on the third book, which deals with the heroes going back to the Middle Ages.
The approach I adopt in planning each book and indeed the series as a whole is a hybrid one, which I think is probably what most people do. That is, it’s a hybrid between planning everything out in advance, in detail, and alternatively, waiting and hoping that inspiration will strike as you are actually writing or typing out the text.
The writers who take these approaches are known as either “plotters” or “pantsers” – a plotter being someone who plans/plots out the details of their novel before they start to write, while a pantser – to use an analogy from the early days of flying – is a writer who flies/writes by the “seat of their pants”. That is, they do little or no planning and rely on the inspiration of the moment – making it up as they go along in the hope that all will turn out well.
The advantage of planning everything in advance is that you have a definite outline to work from – the disadvantage is that it can become something of a strait jacket – you are tied down to a particular plot even if you come up with something new. Plus you are not necessarily tuned it to any new ideas which come along, as mentally you are tied to a particular plan.
The advantage of being a “pantser” on the other hand, is that you can come up with some brilliant scenes and characters and ideas, but you may run into the sand when your plot actually goes nowhere – so you can waste a lot of time having to redo your text.
Probably, in practise, most writers are a little bit of both, and I certainly am. I like to have a definite outline so I know roughly where the story is going, but I also like to leave open the possibility of being inspired with new ideas so as to improve the story and characters.
And in practise for me, I have found that it is very difficult to plan out in advance exactly how things will work out with the story, as one idea or character seems to lead to other thoughts and ideas which can then be incorporated into the final book.
As an example of this, while recently working on the third volume, which deals with life in England in the fifteenth century, as the story developed the main characters, Matt, Luke and Annie, who have joined up with a company of soldiers making their way to the Battle of Bosworth, which took place in August 1485, arrive at a medieval abbey.
As a way of adding “local colour” I wanted them to have an encounter with some pilgrims on their way to Glastonbury, and so wrote in an episode where they meet them as they are leaving the abbey. I also wanted to do this was because going on pilgrimage was a very important part of medieval life, and so it’s something that’s useful for readers to know.
So that was fine, but then the thought struck me that I could tie in this meeting with other aspects of the story, one of which included having a Knights Hospitaller veteran of the Siege of Rhodes, which took place in 1480, as the chaplain of the company.
Bearing in mind that it is best, if possible, not to clutter things up with too many characters in a scene, I cut down the pilgrim group to just one, a man who was also a Knights Hospitaller veteran and who knew the chaplain from their service together in the Mediterranean.
That has the advantage of making the meeting more personal and intimate, and thus more memorable and interesting for the reader.
Then I realised that I could tie in this meeting with other aspects of the story which I had already established as having happened at Glastonbury abbey, that is the main characters discovering the effigy of a Knight, who had taken part in the Crusades and been to the Holy Land, in the Lady Chapel there.
You will need to eventually read the book to see how it all fits together, but for me it shows the wisdom of the hybrid plotter/panster approach – now I just need to pray for more inspiration!
I am hoping that this third book in the Glaston Chronicles series will be available later this year, and in any event, the previous two books are still available. You can see details about them here:
If anyone would like to help me by reading the first draft of the third book, when it’s ready, please get in touch – I have found it very useful to get feedback from readers.