We are delighted to be coming back to two stores very soon. It was great to meet so many dragon fans and we’re hoping to meet many more. Do call in and say hi.
If you’ve drawn any dragon pictures or coloured any of the cover pictures we gave out last time, do bring them along and show us. We’ll probably be jealous of your drawing abilities!
We have arranged:
Saturday January 31 – Edinburgh: Kinnaird Park Borders 11am onwards
Wednesday February 18 – Newcastle: Silverlink Retail Park Borders 10am onwards
And just in case you were thinking you could ignore the Lothian dragons, here is a quote from JRR Tolkein who wrote Lord of the Rings:
“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
Some of you live right near where Scordril is set – so whatever you do, don’t ignore that fact! Then you’ll be prepared if you meet any – as Morris and Flick did.
I saw a bumper edition of The Beano annual in a bookshop yesterday while we were doing an author book signing (they had billed us as “singing” but we thought better of it!).
The amazing thing was, this guy sat there, right behind us and read the whole thing. Then left it on the table and sauntered off!
Anyway, this brilliant British comic has been going for simply ages and is still popular. So it was natural that in 1950, Flick, our lead girl in Scordril, would collect her copy from her father’s shop in Traprain village even while camping at the foot of Traprain Law and meeting up with the Lothian dragons.
I’m not sure what it is about Dennis the Menace and Roger the Dodger (who are still in the 2009 issues), but here are a few facts about The Beano you may like to know.
1 The present Beano website is at www.beanotown.com
2 Its title means roughly A Good Time (according to Wikipedia)
3 The first issue was dated 30 July 1938, so it was well established by the time Flick was reading it
4 A copy of that first issue was sold in 2004 for £12,100…
5 You can find pictures of the covers over the years here
If you have a look here, you’ll find that the summer of 1950 was a time of change in the comic (this was when Flick was keeping Morris awake at night by reading her Beano with the light of a torch). Old favourites were dropped and some new characters arrived. I wonder what she thought of that? They even changed its name from The Beano Comic to The Beano – phew, at least we got that right! – but people can’t have minded much because in the 1950s circulation was nearly two million. That’s a lot of readers, whether in tents or in houses.
Every story promises the reader something right at the beginning. A long time ago, I read in a good book about writing that there were in fact two promises: the emotional one that makes us feel something, and the intellectual one that makes us think.
1. Here is our emotional promise for Scordril: if you read this book, you will feel fascinated, curious, entertained and scared. Sometimes all at the same time as you get to know the characters.
How does this show on the first page?
We start straight in with dragons keeping watch when an injured dragon arrives. Fascinated? Curious? Entertained? Scordril gets immediately angry at the risk the visiting dragon has taken – he was NOT hidden behind a magecloud. Are we scared there’s going to be trouble? Alarmed something has made the youngster take this risk? Scordril is!
2. Making an intellectual promise to the reader sounds a bit erudite! But this is simply this: we will show you there is a different and more interesting world running parallel to the one you know. So you’ll see our own world from a different perspective. It’s meant to make you think!
How does this show on the first page?
Well, we mention Musselburgh, the River Esk and overgrounders (humans) right up front – and surely anyone would think: hang on, those are real places… There are dragons there? You will never look at those locations again with the same eyes, we promise.
Of course, writing a story is not a mechanical exercise, but we hope we have developed our promises in the middle part of the story, and delivered on them by the end. You’re the judges.
You can read the first page here if you want to check it out.
A Lothian myth
Actually, it’s probably genuine history, but the various retellings of the story of Loth and Thenew led us to treat it as myth.
In some versions, this is about Thenaw (with an “a”). daughter of King Loth or Lleuddun, who ruled in the Haddington region of Scotland. She was supposedly made pregnant by Owain mab Urien (whoever he was!) and thrown off Traprain Law by her angry dad. She survived the fall, drifted in a coracle across the River Forth, made it to Culross and gave birth to St Kentigern. Other sources tell us that Loth’s daughter was Thenew (the spelling we decided to use) and that Loth himself was leader of the Votadani and gave his name to the Lothians. All grist to the mill, so to speak.
Anyway, we knew that dragons lived there too, so they had to appear in the story. And we also needed a good yarn at the point where the reader thinks everything is going well, just before the blackest and most dangerous moment.
So we tweaked the story and began like this (Njortin, Dragonmaster of Traprain, is speaking):
“Glows past, there was an overgrounder named Loth, a powerful overgrounder who ruled as king over others of his kind, and over all the lands around our layr. Over everywhere we hunted, then and now. Even down to the sea itself. Lands that the overgrounders came to name Lothian after him. And he ruled from here at Traprain, living upon the very top of the Law, high above our heads…”
I won’t spoil your fun by telling you the whole story – if you don’t already own a copy of Scordril, you can find one at our main website.
Oh – and a happy new year to everyone who drops by.