The Swithen Book 4 Status Report!

Greetings friends—

It occurred to me that it’s been a while since any of you have heard from me, and that I should reach out and let you know what’s going on. What’s going on is: I’m hard at work on The Swithen Book 4!

The reason that I was able to get Books 1-3 out in just over a year is that… I didn’t have a job! I had all day (when I wasn’t looking for work) to devote to them, and I am very grateful for that time. Now I have a full-time job (and have also emigrated from the US to Canada), I have to snatch time as best I can to write. Mostly, I get up at 6am every day in order to get a good 90 minutes in before work, and I also try to grab any other time I can get, which has led to a pretty splintered writing process, which we’ll get to later.

Taking time for the first trilogy to take hold
Truth is, I had always planned for there to be a bit of a longer break between the first three books of The Swithen and Book 4. The main reason is that Book 4 will be the beginning of the Arthur story, and it really, REALLY has to be great. Which means I need to take the time and effort to make it that way. I am fine with that, because it gives me an opportunity to really try to get The Swithen Books 1-3 out there and garner a lot of readers for the series before we launch into Arthur’s childhood, and begin the main thrust of the overall series.

Luckily (and very gratifyingly) for me, it seems to be working. The series is slowly garnering great reviews, noting two things that really make me happy: 1) When readers finish one, they want to go on to the next, and 2) They’re recommending it to friends. One of the unexpected pleasures of independently publishing a series like this is that reviews come out of nowhere and without any warning, and it’s a great experience to wake up to discover that someone I don’t even know has posted a positive review, especially when they reinforce what I’m trying to do with the series, which is make the actual legends come to life and be vivid, relatable and compelling. These user reviews are hugely motivating and very much appreciated by me, so if you’ve read one, please take the time to post a review online and/or tell a friend about it. I thank you and will continue to thank you! They’re also incredibly helpful in keeping me motivated to continue writing!

Looking forward to Book 4
Now as for Book 4… this is going to cover Arthur’s childhood until he pulls the sword from the stone. This one (and Book 5) is going to be unique in the series because there is almost nothing in the legends covering this period. The legend goes from the death of Uther directly to Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, so 98% of Book 4 is going to be entirely original, made up by me. If you think that Merlin mentors Arthur as a child… well, that’s actually from T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, not from the actual Arthurian legend (a testament to how very influential that novel and movie was). So the good thing—and also the terrifyingly daunting thing—for me is that I have free reign to create the novel from scratch, and almost no restrictions on where it should go or what should be included.

New novel, new writing process
Because of this, and because of my job and lack of time to write, my writing process on this one has been very different from the other three. Each novel thus far has had a quite variable process, but this one is the strangest thus far. The main difference is that I am writing the story non-sequentially. It will once again have four parts, and I know the point I want to reach at the end of each part, so what I’ve been doing is just writing scenes where they are needed and where I feel like writing them, regardless of where they fall within the sequential narrative. This has allowed me to create with a more organic feel and get to know the characters before I write their major scenes, and to give the whole thing a much looser flow than the other books in the series.

Another difference in my process with this one is that I am doing a lot of dictation. My overall writing method is to get something—anything—down, and then use that as a base to revise and shape it into what I want, and get it up to the quality that I want. For me, the real action of writing is in the revising, so my goal is to just get something down, no matter how rough, because then I have something and can shape it until I’m happy. So on this one, given my time restraints, the first draft in many cases has been dictated into transcribing software, allowing me to get the overall shape of most scenes, and the book as a whole, down in very rough form. Right now, I have over 400 typewritten pages in very rough form, and what I’m doing in the early morning is to just go through and do the first pass, turning those rough scenes into composed prose, knowing that in the future I’ll circle through again as many times as necessary to get the novel up to snuff.

What’s coming in Book 4?
So, what can you expect? The first thing you’ll notice about the novel (when it’s finally released, probably early or mid-2020) is that it has a wildly different tone. It is much more relaxed, sweet and lyrical. It’s also very much a novel about one small family and their relationships. This is a novel of childhood, and we’re with Arthur and his adoptive family in a rural town, with lots of boyish explorations of the forest and surrounding fields. We get to know his adoptive family in intimate detail, with big parts for his foster father and a very large part for his adoptive mother—another woman who barely receives mention in the actual legend. Here she will be a quite big and influential presence (and she’ll be staying on through the next few books, too).

But the most well-known and lingering character we’ll meet is Arthur’s adoptive brother Kay. Those who know the legends know that Kay will be an important and ever-present character right up until the final book, and the formative moments of his life-long relationship with Arthur (as well as his somewhat pugnacious personality) will be laid out here. And as for Arthur… well, you’ll see, but I will say that it’s very fun and exciting for me to begin to compose the character of the man who I will be staying with through the next 22 novels, taking him through adolescence, to adulthood, into middle age and right up until his death. There are some other surprises, big and small, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.

So that’s it for now… if you’re following the series, I am very thankful to you, and hope that you continue to enjoy the novels as they come. Again, any review or recommendation to a friend that you make is hugely helpful and motivating to me, and helps ensure the continuation of the series. Thanks again and be well!

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