Thursday, May 31, 2012

Draculești: A Little History of My Novel In Progress

I have been working on my novel that I have long titled (subject to change, of course) Draculești, which has the meaning of "house" or "family of the dragon/devil", for quite some time. In the last few years I have been rewriting the novel from the previous draft, because quite frankly, it was dreadful. I've been using this story as practice to learn to write, and so far I can see how I have improved. It is one reason why it is taking me so long to finish it. Another reason I just need to sit down and write it.
Order Of The Dragon
My infatuation with 15th century Eastern Europe and the historical people of the era started way back when I was thirteen or fourteen, when I had first discovered my love of vampires, thanks to a friend of mine. Playing the Castlevania games on the Nintendo also contributed to my curiosity of the vampire/Dracula lore, and, if that weren't geeky enough, I started making crappily drawn and even more crappily written Captain N comics with my version of Alucard (Dracula's son) in them. I had read Dracula, I had read Carmilla, and then one day I went to search for more vampire works in the local Putnam Library. There, I found a book that I eventually bought from them, since I had been pretty much the only one who ever had checked it out, by the name of "In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends" by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. It was that little half torn up book where I learned that Dracula had actually existed by the name of Vlad Țepeș, or Vlad the Impaler, and that he was a fifteenth century prince of a little country in today's Romania called Walachia. I had decided then that I wanted to write a story, maybe 100 pages long, about the character Alucard, only I would change his name to his historical name Vlad, and write about his life before he turned into a vampire and after he had turned under the name Alucard until the time of which Bram Stoker's novel took place. Kind of like a prequel of Dracula, but focused on the son of Dracula instead. From then on I learned as much as I could about Vlad and his times, though it was quite difficult since the subject at the time was pretty obscure in the area of which I lived and the internet had yet to be as widely popular as it is now, so I scoured libraries for any information I could. It wasn't easy, and my early draft was proof of it, not just the writing but the history was way off. I wanted the historical stuff to be as accurate as I could make it. Then I bought a second book years later by the same authors, which was a much more informative update of their older 1970's published book, by the name of "Dracula: Prince of Many Faces, His Life and His Times". That was where I learned that Vlad the Impaler's son, Vlad, the main character of my novel, was actually his second born son, first with his wife Illona Szilágy, cousin to the king of Hungary, not his first born to an unknown mistress like was said in “In Search of Dracula”, which was Mihai, later known as Mihai cel Rău, Michael the Bad. (Did that make sense?) But since my story wouldn't work with Mihai, I decided to just stick with Vlad, and that's part of where the alternative history comes to play in my historical fantasy.

The quintessential mug shot of Vlad the Impaler.
Originally, the plan for the book was, first of all, to only be novella length. I beat that by about 130,000 words, plus the beginnings of two sequels! Second, the focus was not on Vlad the Impaler, but on his first born illegitimate son, Vlad, which has been kept despite learning he was his second born. The story started from the time he was abandoned by his father, left to die beside the river Argeș, and followed him through his life, to his death, and beyond the grave as a vampire to our present day. This is still the direction of which it is going, and even though the main plot points haven't changed since I first instigated the novel, everything else between point A to point Z has nearly completely changed, thus far. I still have much of the same characters as I had started out with, though now they have bigger roles and are more fleshed out, and I've introduced more characters which are becoming more essential to Vlad's life and his story than I had anticipated. Another reason why it is taking me so long to finish. Not just because of all the new research, but I'm ending up with more characters and subplots than I had expected! All of which is driving my story to go from being the original novella length to a full out series. There's a lot more to Vlad's life than I had thought.

So now a little bit about the story itself. The story of Vlad begins when, at the age of three, he is left to die beside the river at the foot of his father's mountain fortress during an escape from the Turkish army led by Radu cel Frumos, Vlad the Impaler's brother. The boy finds his way to a peasant home who then raise him for fourteen years. He returns to his father after hearing word of his campaign for the Walachian throne, and upon seeing how well-built of a man he has become, Vlad's father begins training him into a soldier. The training lasts only a week when Vlad the Impaler comes to the conclusion his son is not fit for his army and believes he would be better suited in the service of the king of Hungary. Though, when he and King Mátyás meet and learn more of one another, the two become friends and the king, though continues Vlad's training in becoming a soldier simply because every man needs to learn to fight, showers him with gifts and an apartment in his palace in Buda. Vlad's tenure there is cut when a proposal of marriage is sent to him posthumously by his father and a man he despises, István Báthory, to marry one of his nieces. Vlad is given a castle, villages, and a promise to be trained to properly rule his household. He comes to discover the true meaning of his marriage with the powerful Hungarian family is all for his blood link to the throne of Walachia, and that István plans to use him as a pawn to get it, though Vlad himself has no desire to acquire it. This is where I am currently with the novel. Beyond this, the story continues to where Vlad eventually returns to Buda, on the run from the Báthory's after his wife's death and steals his son from them who in the first place stole from him (got that?), and goes to the king who protects him and his newborn son with the condition he serves the king to whatever he desires of him. This is where I may have to end with the first book, and start the second, I believe. The word count to finish his life story before he turns will be too high for one book.

Detail of a painting of a romanticized image of King Mátyás Corvin of Hungary.

Eventually, Vlad and King Mátyás have a falling out with each other, the queen having to due with much of the blame. Vlad is beaten and then sent packing to Walachia where he is never to step foot back into Hungary again. Vlad goes to the one place of refuge he knows of, his father's now abandoned castle where he himself had once been abandoned, and where he finds an orphaned Bavarian boy with mystical talents by the name of Sypha. He cares for him as a son, doing for Sypha what his peasant family did for him, while his own son, Ladislas, has been handed over to the Báthory's by orders of the king. The king and Vlad reunite years later, much to the queen's displeasure, and mend their broken friendship just before the king's death. Vlad is allowed free range of Hungary once more, and when he goes to reunite with Ladislas, he is shunned and never sees him again. Vlad, with Sypha, spends the rest of his days in Walachia, reunites with a past love and then once again, his life and of those around him start another downward spiral.

Oh, but we cannot forget the character in the story that has throughout Vlad's life driven him to madness, melancholy, and despair. His first encounter with the creature he is understandably frightened, then delighted that a black wolf as big as a bear, with blue eyes that seemed to glow, and with a stench as if it had rolled in a pile of dead animals, would beg for its belly to be scratched. Later encounters he grows less fearful of the creature, until one morning on his trip to Buda he notices enormous wolf prints surrounding strange words scratched into the muddy river bank of the Olt. Eris Mihi. They were words he would later on in life discover their meaning. From the trees alongside the river he sees the wolf staring at him, grinning, then leaps over the vast river without so much as a splash. From then on Vlad is weary of the creature he often refers to as "demon wolf" or "hound of Hell" or simply his "nightmare", and the wolf itself continues to stalk him, killing the people he loves by drinking their blood and devouring their souls. His attempts to destroy the creature are to no avail. It has control over his mind and body, and he believes, after a time, the only way to stop it from killing any more of his loved ones is to kill himself, which it will not let him do. And always, leaving its mark, the words Eris Mihi.

So yes, this is the first part of my story in a nutshell. I hope to finish the first book by the end of this year, then the first draft of the second maybe by spring. Considering how slow a writer I am, it may be a bit of a hefty goal, but one I hope to accomplish. Then after the first one has been read by a beta or or two, I can start the query process afterward. Wish me luck!