The results of the Triskele Books‘ Words with Jam First Page Competition 2016 are in – I’m delighted to tell you that I was shortlisted! As you can imagine, this is a huge morale boost at what has been a difficult time, and enormously encouraging. I am doing my best to move my writing career from an entirely non-fiction environment (and a very niche one at that) into a more balanced future that allows me to do the kind of writing that I love.
Many thanks to the team at Triskele Books, to the judge Piers Alexander, and of course many congratulations to the winner Annie Walmsley, and the runners-up Vanessa Savage and Andrew Broadfoot, whose entries can be seen on the Words with Jam site.
But I suppose that leaves you with a question: what did I submit to gain this recognition? I’ve been working away on an idea for a fantasy series for a long, long time. The central character underwent a radical change recently and in fact, I had only just ‘nailed’ the revised first chapter and an outline of the first book when the Words with Jam competition popped up. What better way, thought I, to find out whether the idea is worth pursuing than to present it to an objective judge?
Well, you can make up your own mind. Here’s what I submitted. The first page of Barik’s Blades, volume 1 of the many Barik stories I am planning.
Barik’s Blades: First Page, Chapter 1
Barik’s dark eyes scanned the imposing sentries outside Field Marshal Prince Giani’s door. “Shiny,” he muttered to himself, “very shiny”. He could feel their gaze following him as he paced slowly back and forth along the marble-tiled corridor, his faded green cloak and scuffed brown boots in sharp contrast to the gilded tracery, rich purple cloaks and polished black leather of the young men. He’d managed to get most of the rust off his old-fashioned mail shirt, and had even bathed and trimmed his tangled beard for the occasion, but compared to the gleaming breastplates and helmets of the palace guards, he looked like a peasant, and he knew it. For their part, the men opposite were trying to reconcile the name they had heard with the limping, dowdy figure before them.
This was Barik? They could hardly conceal their disappointment.
Barik turned his back on the guards and gazed out of one of the tall windows, taking in the view of the city below. From this vantage point, the roofs marched almost to the horizon, punctuated by tall towers and columns of smoke and steam from the industrial sites scattered here and there, blacksmiths and alchemists and laundries and bakeries and smokehouses, all serving the teeming life of the living, throbbing capital.
He hated it. Too many people. Too much noise. And it stank, a rank mixture of human filth and tanneries and dyers and slaughterhouses and fishmongers and strange, sharp, chemical smells and the general stench of far too many people in far too little space. The tall buildings unnerved him, some rising far higher than the single- or two-storey provincial houses he was used to, with the mere sight of the temples and towers leaving him queasy and giddy.
Barik was a man of the country, of hill and mountain and river and stream, of forest and wood and field and farm. A man of the soil. A man of open spaces. The city was claustrophobic, overwhelming. Worst of all, you couldn’t see your enemy coming, with every twisted alleyway and side street and teeming tavern or packed public square an assassin’s dream. Dirty, crowded and dangerous, there was no place for honour here.
And then there was the politics…
Barik’s thoughts were interrupted by the creaking of the huge door’s hinges, the guards crashing to salute and voices spilling into the corridor.
© Henry Hyde 2016
Before you say anything, no, the book isn’t finished yet – but being shortlisted has really given me a shove in the right direction! So thanks again to Triskele (which includes the wonderful Jill “JJ” Marsh and Jane “JD” Dixon Smith, as talented a designer as she is a writer) and Piers, and I hope to see you all at the Triskele Litfest 2016, a grand day out to be sure.