Over the past year many people have asked for a sequel to Walk This World. Even a year later I'm still getting reviews, requests, and threats from people who want me to continue the story. Until last month I never had any definite plans to do this. It wasn't that I didn't want to. The two main things that stopped me were 1) I was trying to focus solely on my career, and 2) I didn't have any ideas for a follow up story that I thought were worthy. Also, and I feel kind of stupid saying this but you guys deserve the truth, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to replicate the success of the first story if I created a sequel. You might remember from my author's notes that I'm trying to make a living as a writer. I've been told that fanfiction is unprofessional, but I have always treated it as an exercise in writing which I believe has helped me to find my own voice and hone my skills in character development and dialogue. Over the past year, however, I started to see things in a light that was a little bit different. I started to look back at the response that I got to this story whenever one of my novels or stories was rejected by a publisher or agency (which was at least four times every month) and it reminded me that there were people out there who did like my style and who did want to read what I wrote. I think in the back of my mind I was afraid of doing something in a sequel that would negate the response I got to Walk This World which I was using as my rock.
Recently, however, several things happened to change my way of thinking. I got a rejection letter from a publisher for someone else's novel instead of my own, I received indisputable evidence that an agency I've sent several of my novels to did not even bother reading them, and I added up receipts for postage from the last year and found that it amounted to over one hundred dollars, to which I have absolutely nothing to show for.
So I've decided to change things up. The traditional/"professional"/"right" way of doing things doesn't seem to be working so I went back to the drawing board and came up with my own way. I've burnt a lot of bridges and built a few new ones and I've come to the decision that, to increase my chances of succeeding, I could stand to do a few more exercises in writing. Luckily, I came up with a few good ideas while I was alternately raging and moping. I hope that you will enjoy the sequel to Walk This World as much as its predecessor. In the areas where it is lacking I hope you will inform me so that I can improve my writing skills. Thank you all for your continued support. With that, I give you the preview chapter of Across The Worlds.
"She looked back over her shoulder once as she stepped toward the door to her world. Her crystal blue eyes were filled with such regret as they locked on Prince Telmarine's that he actually raised a hand to reach for her. But before the prince could draw breath to voice a protest Queen Susanna had vanished, like mist in the sunlight, and her three siblings with her. Murmurs arose from the crowd, more regretful than astonished now that they'd witnessed this feat for the second time, but Prince Telmarine heard them not at all.
"He watched as other humans crossed over into the world of the Kings and Queens of old, barely noticing the number of those who left or the faces of those who he'd known his whole life but would never see again. Even though she was lost to him now the beautiful visage of Queen Susanna remained in his mind and haunted his thoughts. For years to come Prince Telmarine would continue to see her face in his dreams – dreams in which true love still seemed possible."
Caspian looked up from his book and smiled at the assembled audience – it wasn't as easy as he expected. Sad memories made it hard enough, but the half dozen young women in the front two rows who were crying made it nearly impossible.
"I'll leave you with that for tonight," he told them. "I'm sure you'd much rather read it for yourselves than sit here and listen to me all evening. Thank you all for coming out this evening and for your interest in my newest book. I hope you all enjoy The Dawn Treader's Quest –"
"Mr. Casp!" cried one of his devoted fans who attended every one of signings and lectures that she possibly could. "Will Queen Susanna be returning to Narnia in this book?"
Caspian shook his head. "Sadly no. She –"
"Well then does Prince Telmarine journey to our world then? Do they finally get to be together?"
Caspian smiled again – it was easier this time than the last. "I don't want to spoil this book or its forthcoming sequels. I'll only say this – I believe in happy endings. Ultimately, that is. Most things worth having in this world, or any world for that matter, aren't easy to get, but in the end they're worth any pain it took to get them."
"That's not an answer," the young woman protested.
Professor Kirke chose that moment to intervene, much to Caspian's relief. "That's as much an answer as you'll get tonight, I'm afraid," he said, stepping forward to put a hand on Caspian's shoulder. "Mr. Casp has answered as many questions as he could and, as usual, we've run over."
Caspian glanced at the clock on the bookstore wall and winced. They had run over – forty-seven minutes over to be exact. "Sorry, Professor," he said immediately.
"Not at all, son," Professor Kirke told him, "but we do need to be closing up."
It took another twenty minutes and another two dozen questions for the audience to clear out. Thankfully no one else seemed to want the plots of future novels spoiled for them. The inquiries were more run of the mill questions that Caspian received often and had easy answers prepared for.
"Will Edmund Pevensie be co-authoring anymore books with you in the future?"
"So Lucinda and Edwin return to Narnia in this book?"
"Is it true that your characters are based on you and your friends?"
Caspian answered the questions good naturedly, letting his fans know that he and Edmund were already working on the next book together, assuring them that Lucinda and Edwin made their appearance in the very first chapter, and smiling cryptically as he told them most stories had some basis of truth in them.
"Thank you for coming, Caspian," Professor Kirke told him after they'd seen their last guest out. "We did very good business tonight – we always do when you come by."
"There's no better place to release my new book than at my old friend's bookstore," Caspian said as he straightened a shelf of books that had fallen askew.
"Except perhaps at a bookstore in London," Professor Kirke said wryly. "You'd draw about five times the number of people there."
"I try to stay focused on what's important," Caspian said, "and there isn't much that's more important than helping out a friend."
The professor regarded him warmly. "You're a good man, Caspian."
"I try," Caspian said seriously and hesitated for a moment, "Do you think Daniel thinks I am too?"
Professor Kirke raised a curious eyebrow. "Of course he does. Daniel Pevensie loves you as much as his own children and sees you as another son."
"I hope – I mean I . . ." Caspian seemed unusually nervous. The professor waited patiently for the younger looking man to sort out his thoughts. "I've been thinking," Caspian said finally, "of making it official. Well, I mean everyone knows that I . . . I've spoken with Daniel of it before and he's never given any indication that he minded, but next time I see him I intend to ask his permission –"
"Don't act so nervous, son," the professor said, unable to keep a straight face. "You know he'll give it. There's not a sane man alive who wouldn't want his daughter married off to a fine young man like you."
"Young?" Caspian asked ironically.
"You know what I mean," the professor said. "So, have you chosen a ring yet?"
"I have." Caspian frowned as though something had just occurred to him. "Do you suppose I should ask Peter and Edmund for their permission too? Might they be upset –"
"Boy," Professor Kirke said, unable to keep a slightly incredulous note out of his voice, "you've led armies, fought monsters, dueled witches, and died twice, yet you're scared how three men who already see you as family are going to react when you ask permission to do right by their sister?"
Caspian gave a nervous laugh. "Sorry. I can't help it."
Professor Kirke shook his head and motioned Caspian to the door. "Go on home," he said, pressing the key to his cottage into Caspian's hand. "Let yourself in – I'll be along shortly."
"You're sure there's nothing I can do to help you close up?" Caspian asked, even as the professor was pushing him out the door.
"I'm sure. There's only a bit of paperwork I need to take care of – no sense in both of us staying here for that," the professor told him. "Go on – and for God's sake don't lose any sleep worrying over how the Pevenises are going to feel about you marrying Susan."
And just like that Caspian found himself outside the bookstore, on the street.
It was a cold night but the moon was full and the sky was cloudless, so despite the temperature Caspian decided to take his time walking the short distance to the professor's cottage. He hadn't taken more than three steps away from the bookstore's door, however, when a shadow detached itself from the wall and moved to block his path.
Caspian let a hand fall to the dagger concealed beneath his coat. The man who stood before him didn't appear particularly threatening but there was something offsetting about him – something that put Caspian on edge without him quite knowing why. The man appeared to be in his fifties but had the eyes of someone who'd seen more years than his body showed. That was a look that Caspian was quite familiar with – Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, even Caspian himself all had that look, though Caspian saw it much more often in his four friends. In them it showed itself as a sort of serene wisdom, out of place in children or adults as young as they appeared to be, but by no means menacing. This man had a certain coldness about him – a darkness of sorts, as though every shadow he'd ever walked through still had some claim on his soul.
"Good evening," the man said to Caspian. There was nothing in his voice to suggest that he meant Caspian any harm but the greeting did not put Caspian at ease.
"Good evening," he returned, politely, but didn't let his guard down for a moment.
"I attended your reading, Mr. Casp," the man said, "though you might not have seen me inside."
"I'm afraid I didn't."
"I was near the back," the man said. "I heard everything you said just fine though. I find your work to be quite fascinating."
"Thank you, Mr. . . ?"
"Crowley," the man told him. "Aleister Crowley. Is my name known to you, Mr. Casp?"
Caspian shook his head even as he wracked his brain. "I'm afraid not. Should it be?"
"Well, if it were it might have saved me a bit of an explanation," Crowley told him, "but no matter . . ."
"An explanation of what?" Caspian asked warily.
Crowley's smile sent a cold shiver down Caspian's spine. "An explanation of just why I believe that everything in your books actually happened."
End of Chapter One
Across The Worlds will be posted as a separate story in early July. Chapters One and Two will both be posted on the same day.