YOUNG DRACULA / YOUNG MONSTERS
YOUNG WIZARDS / YOUNG BLACKBEARD
I hold the US text rights for these four books.
Wilfred the Bold
I'm sure you've heard of Count Dracula, the terrifying vampire who could turn himself into a bat at will. The creepy cove who always dressed in black and preferred a neckful of warm blood to a mug of milky tea any day.
Yes, everyone's heard of him.
But how many of us know what he was like when young? Before he grew tall, slicked his hair back, and started hanging round graveyards?
Very few! And why?
Because until now the story of young Dracula has been a closely-guarded secret. A secret that I (a very nosy writer) have uncovered. Before I start this secret story, however, you must be told something of life at Castle Dracula before the lad was born.
Pay attention now. This bit's important.
In a remote corner of Transylvania there were once two rival vampires. One was Count Dracula, the other Baron Gertler. The Count and the Baron lived in tall black castles on opposite sides of the valley. Far below, between the two castles, there was a village. Every night, very late, village bloodmen (the Transylvanian version of milkmen) rode up to the castles with a supply of fresh blood for the Count and the Baron. The bloodmen collected the stuff personally, a tot from everyone in the village between the ages of ten and eighty. The villagers had no choice in this, it was an old law: give blood freely or the vampire lords would come for it themselves, and take it from the neck, which was painful.
Now Baron Gertler and Count Dracula were the last of their line. Neither of them had children to follow in their bloody footsteps. But one year the Count brought home a wife, and the following year Countess Dracula gave birth to a son, whom they called Wilfred. When he heard that the Draculas had an heir the Baron became so jealous that he turned himself into a gigantic bat, flew to the castle across the valley, and tore the babe from his mother's arms while the Count was clipping his toenails in the bathroom.
The distressed Countess rushed to the window to save her beloved son but, reaching for him, leaned out too far and tumbled to her death far below.
His wife's long-winded (and very boring) scream brought the Count from the bathroom in haste. Realising what had happened he ground his pointed teeth in fury, then turned himself into a bat and went after the Baron. The Baron escaped, but the Count managed to save baby Wilfred, and some nights later he snuck into Castle Gertler before the Baron was up and hammered a stake through his mean old heart.
Twelve years had passed since all this happened. Count Dracula was now half the vampire he was back then. He had arthritis, for one thing, and piles for another. The villagers no longer feared him and the bloodmen no longer delivered, so that he had to content himself with the blood of small animals, such as rats, that scampered around the castle.
One dark and miserable midnight, the old Count stood gazing out from his battlements. On the hill across the valley stood the crumbling ruin of Castle Gertler, uninhabited since the Baron's death.
'Ah, those were the nights,' the Count sighed, harking back with a tear in his eye.
He missed the old life. Missed having a real enemy. Missed being young enough to go out for a neck or two of human blood when the fancy took him. There wasn't even anyone to talk to. No one that counted anyway. No use talking to Wilfred. They had nothing in common, nothing at all.
'A great disappointment, that boy,' the Count murmured.
'Did you say something, Father?'
The Count started. He'd thought he was alone. Wilfred stood in the shadow of his cloak.
'Oh, it's you,' he snapped. 'What do you want?'
Wilfred had come up to the battlements to see if his father was all right. He worried about the old vampire. The Count hardly said a word to him any more. This bothered Wilfred, who was a sensitive lad.
'I was wondering if you'd like a bowl of toad and tomato soup, Father.'
The Count scowled. 'No, Wilfred, I do not want soup. I want blood, gently warmed, bit of froth on top, no sugar. If you had any consideration for your poor old father you'd go down to the village, haul a peasant out of bed, and drain his blood into a jug for me.'
'But Father, I hate doing that, you know I do.'
'To think,' the Count said bitterly. 'One day you'll be head of the House of Dracula. I can't bear to contemplate it. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if the first thing you do when I'm turned to dust is put up pretty curtains and polish the brass. You're not a vampire, Wilfred, you're a wimpire!'
Wilfred was stung by these harsh words. He so wanted to be like all the Draculas before him. Was it his fault that he was different? He went down to his room and climbed into his coffin, where, after tossing and turning sadly for a while, he eventually fell asleep.
Wilfred had always had trouble keeping awake at night – another thing that disappointed his father. The Count was a traditionalist. He believed that vampires should sleep during the day and be up all night, pacing the floor, sipping the red stuff, playing with the pet bats.
The good thing about sleeping at night, from Wilfred's point of view, was the dreams. Night dreams were sweeter than day dreams. Tonight, for instance, he dreamed that he didn't have to live in a draughty old castle and file his teeth before going to coffin. In the dream he didn't feel guilty about preferring milk to blood. He had a cow all of his own, from which, lying beneath it in the straw and dung, he could drink fresh warm milk to his heart's content. In this wonderful dream he ran through open fields in very broad daylight, singing at the top of his voice, and sunlight didn't make him cry out in pain the moment it touched his skin, as it would in real life. In the dream he was the Wilfred he longed to be.
But when he woke the dream vanished, the castle gloomed about him once more, and the Count's unkind remark came back to him:
'You're not a vampire, Wilfred, you're a wimpire.'
Wilfred sighed – 'I so want Father to be proud of me' – and resolved there and then to venture out into the world and prove that he was a true vampire after all.
He waited indoors all the long day, hiding from the sunlight which would do him no good at all. Then, as weary night fell yet again, the heir to the noble House of Dracula slipped out of the castle carrying a jug to bring back his father's favorite tipple. Wolves howled in the distance as he descended Garlic Hill. Wilfred trembled, but on he went, down and down into the valley.
He had no idea that his life was about to change – forever.
HERE'S THE OPENING CHAPTER OF YOUNG DRACULA AND CHAPTER ONE AND PART OF CHAPTER TWO OF YOUNG BLACKBEARD.
EMAIL ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE EXTRACTS FROM YOUNG MONSTERS AND/OR YOUNG WIZARDS.
There was once a bold and terrible pirate known as Blackbeard, who plundered the ships of the Caribbean. He is said to have taken fourteen wives, shot his first mate to make his crew fear him, and forced some of his captives to eat their own ears. Nasty stuff, but whoever heard of a nice pirate?
Blackbeard wasn't his real name, of course. At the time of his birth and for some years afterwards he did not have a beard of any colour, so calling him Blackbeard wouldn't have been very bright. His true name was Edward Teach.
Teach was born in Bristol in the 1680s. Very little is known about his childhood other than that he went to sea at an early age, but as it happens, I know something about young Blackbeard that you won't find in any history books, or even on the Internet. How? Because my next-door-neighbour is a direct descendant of Blackbeard the Pirate's half-sister Mildred, and he has in his possession an old sea chest that's been passed down in his family. A chest which contains documents that tell of Mildred's infamous half-brother's early sea voyages.
This is the story of one of those voyages.
Have you ever been sick? I don't mean unwell, or off school, or anything as ordinary as that. I mean sick-sick. Throwing-up sick. Hanging-over-the-toilet sick and thinking there can't possibly be any more sick inside you. Well, that's the kind of sick young Edward Teach was on his third voyage with the famous pirate Tudor Honeycombe on his ship The Salty Blighter.
You see, Edward hadn't yet got what's called his 'sea legs'. When you have your sea legs you can stand upright on deck and not rush to the side of the ship every time it rises on a wave. Oh, how the pirates laughed when Edward did that!
Edward Teach was the ship's cabin boy. The cabin boy's job was to wait on the men and clear up after them. He had to organise the rum breaks and wipe the dinner plates with a greasy rag after they'd finished eating and burping. It wasn't a great job, but it was what every cabin boy did on a pirate ship.
It was a Pirate Rule that a boy must do four voyages before he was promoted to deck boy. Deck boys didn't have to bring the rum or wipe the plates. They had to clear up the huge piles of vomit the pirates spewed because they drank too much rum and empty fourteen buckets of sewage a day. Edward looked forward to the day he was promoted.
You might be interested to hear some other Pirate Rules. Here are four of them.
1: Everyone on a pirate ship has to look like a pirate at all times and say 'Ah-harr' and 'Avast, ye swabs,' at least once a day.
2. Every morning, before breakfast, a pirate must spit at the ship's flag (the Skull and Crossbones) and beat his chest like a gorilla.
3: No pirate can change his clothes or wash during a voyage.
4: If any ships are spotted on the horizon they must be chased and boarded.
5: Boarded ships must be sunk as soon as everyone on them is either killed, put in a leaky boat far from land, or made to walk the plank over a shark.
(Yes, I know that's five Rules, and you know it's five Rules, but pirates can't count that high.)
Edward sometimes wished his grown-up shipmates weren't so unkind to everyone, but he knew that if he said such a thing he would be thrown over the side before he could say 'Hey, I'm sorry, all right?' He couldn't afford to lose this job. There was so little work back in Bristol for someone as young as he, with no qualifications and bad teeth.
OK, that's the background. Now let's get to the story. Next chapter.
Chapter Two (part)
One morning, the crew of The Salty Blighter woke to find that they had entered a fog so thick and dark that nothing could be seen in any direction. Captain Honeycombe ordered the sails to be lowered so the ship would come to a halt.
'Too risky to go on blindly,' he said. 'Might be another vessel in this fog and we don't want to bump into it.'
The crew settled down to wait for the fog to clear. For all that day and the following night they waited, but when they woke on the second morning it was as thick as ever.
'It could be a permanent fog,' the first mate said to the captain. 'We might be sitting here till the flesh drops off our bones.'
The first mate's name was Tobias Tobias, but he liked to be called TT because Tobias Tobias was such a stupid name. The captain considered TT's words.
'Very well,' said he. 'We'll go on, but cautiously.'
So the sails were raised again, and a small breeze filled them, and the ship moved steadily forward – but not far, for almost at once there was a great grinding sound and the vessel shuddered to a halt. The Salty Blighter had struck rocks in the shallow waters of an island.
'You berk!' the captain said, slapping his mate's left ear. The reason he slapped TT's left ear was that he'd lost his right one years ago. Pretty careless, you might think, but it wasn't his fault. He lost it in a fight with one of his ex-wives. She bit it off.
As it happened, TT wasn't wrong about the fog being permanent. Fog clung to this island like chewing gum to the sole of a 21st century shoe. It never went away, whatever the month or weather. Strong sunlight couldn't penetrate it, high temperatures couldn't dissolve it, furious winds couldn't huff it away, heavy rains couldn't soak through it.
But shrouded in fog or not, an island was an island and the crew had been at sea for a long time. They'd been looking forward to walking on dry land again, and here it was. It was the thought of this that caused one of the men gathered on the foggy deck to suggest something.
'How about an extra tot of rum all round to celebrate us hitting dry land, Cap'n?'
The captain peered through the fog. 'Who said that?' he growled.
The man who had spoken gulped. When the captain growled it was impossible to know that sort of mood he was in. Sometimes his growl was followed by a laugh. Other times it was followed by an order to give a man twenty lashes with the cat o' nine-tails or hang him by his big toes from the yard-arm. So the pirate stepped further back into the fog and put someone else in front of him: young Edward Teach.
'It was the boy,' the man said.
'It didn't sound like him,' the captain said suspiciously.
'I think his voice is breaking,' the man replied. He leaned close to Edward. 'Deny it was you and you're in trouble,' he whispered.
This is the story of Count Dracula as a boy. A boy who prefers milk to blood and never really likes sleeping in a coffin. But then he meets Smirk, who likes to go hunting at night, and has never felt right as a farmer's son...
Welcome to Dr Ffelix Ffurter's School for Young Monsters. New boy Lon is about to have a bolt fitted through his neck like all his classmates, and learn that his dad had good reason to call him a 'young monster'.
Brin and Arlo are two ordinary twins. Or so they think. But today they are eleven years and six months old - the day they learn that they aren't ordinary at all but very special. That they are, in fact, wizards with very great powers.
Young Edward Teach doesn't have what it takes to be a pirate. He gets seasick, can't stand rum, and wishes his shipmates weren't so nasty. But things are about the change, thanks to a dead parrot and a buried treasure chest...