My attention seems to have shifted onto children’s stories. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending time getting Rory the Dragon and Princess Daisy ready for publication. Whatever the reason, though, my thoughts have gone back to Stanley, my misanthropic fairy, of whom more later, and a short novel I wrote for children many years ago. It’s called The Loch Ewe Mystery and it’s an adventure story. I entered it for the Kelpies Prize, awarded by Floris Books. It didn’t win but the publishers asked if they could keep the MS because it was a possible for their lists. In the end, nothing happened but that told me that it was worth hanging on to it.
It’s for and about kids but some of the events in the story are taken from my own experiences. An editor expressed doubts that anyone would ever build a sailing dinghy in a study. But that’s something I did and the characters here have the same anxieties as they wonder whether the finished article will be too big to get through the door. They also sail on Loch Ewe, which is one of my favourite places on earth. I spent many summers at cadet training camps there teaching sailing. We sailed 27 foot Montague whalers and it’s hard to convey the magic of sailing those lovely old boats surrounded by those wonderful mountains. I sailed through a shoal of mackerel and was caught in a squall like the one that hits them in the book, the only difference being that my dinghy was dismasted while theirs got to the island. That particular trip was the one where the friend who was crewing for me rediscovered religion – if only briefly.
Updating and rewriting it for publication now (on Kindle and soon in paperback) meant that I had to revise some of what I wrote to match a world in which mobile phones have made it almost impossible to cut people off from help, advice and the rest. At several stages in the adventure, access to a mobile would have resolved the difficulties very quickly so, while I acknowledge they exist, I make sure the adventure happens in an area where reception’s terrible. (Sorry if I’m maligning you, Ross-shire. Please forgive the poetic licence.)
As promised, back to Stanley. The interesting thing there (to me anyway) is that Joe’s ideas of how he’d draw him have made me rethink some aspects of him and invent others. I’ve grown to like the blue, dome-headed version a lot and now Joe’s adding accessories that suggest extra details and idiosyncrasies that need explaining. For instance, Joe liked the idea of him wearing football boots. That would never have occurred to me but now I face the challenge of finding out why that’s what he has on his feet. I’ve got a sketch of him in a Noel Coward type dressing gown and another where he’s wearing a bright flowery shirt and smoking a cigarette (obviously a no-no because of the cigarette but mainly because he’d NEVER wear a bright shirt, certainly not one with flowers on it).
We haven’t yet decided which publication route to take. I have to investigate whether it’s possible to format text and illustrations in a way that’s compatible with Kindle and other e-readers but, mostly, I want kids to have him in book form. It still seems to me the more natural way for them to enjoy stories. But then, I’m from the pre-computer age..