Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Kamarand

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist.

1. The Kamarand
As you see from the picture, The Kamarand was about unicorns. I wrote it on a typewriter (a Hermes baby) when I was thirteen or so. It wasn't my first book, but I think it was the first one I typed. Until recently I had the typescript...somewhere, but I lost it in the June 2016 floods, along with much of my 50-year-strong book collection and almost all my written records. That is part of the inspiration behind this blog, because if I don't write about it, it will be gone forever. I hadn't reread it in many years, (how was I to know?) so I'm writing about a memory from the 1970s.

I hatched the idea of The Kamarand when I was out riding my pony, Ras. I got no more than a couple of hundred metres from home on that ride and then the idea popped into my head. I turned Ras around and pelted home to capture the idea before it fled.

The storyline was something like this:
A girl named Jenny was given a pony for her birthday. He was a grey, and quite ordinary. At some point early in the story he revealed himself to her as the unicorn Kyalas, (KY-AL-ASS); a resident of the planet Nrocinu (OK... I WAS quite young) who was doing his 'kamarand', a unicorn's active service on Earth. This was a service undertaken by young unicorns in memory of their ancestor Kamarand, who was helped by a human.

Jenny, a farm child, was understandably curious, especially about the horn... or lack of it. Kyalas explained that unicorn horns were retractable (an idea I still find quite reasonable) like a cat's claws, and the forelock hid the base. Silver unicorns also appeared grey on Earth but I can't remember if they showed silver in moonlight.

Kyalas further explained that his sister Rinella and their brother Odyllicus were also kamaranding in the district. Rinella belonged to a boy called Peter whom Jenny knew slightly from school. Odyllicus, a somewhat waspish character and the eldest of the family, was with the twins Leanne and Paul.

Paul, as I recall, had a Polaroid camera which played some part in the proceedings.

The three unicorns managed to get together with the connivance of their child friends, and explained the purpose of the kamarand. They also revealed, sadly, that their youngest brother, Zaius (this was long before I ever saw the movie Planet of the Apes, so it WAS just a coincidental name) was lost on Earth, stuck in the guise of a pony because he had lost his horn and would be trapped forever.

One of the children, (Leanne? Paul?) found a vase in a junk shop. It was a silver cone-shape and when polished, it looked pretty special. It was intended as a gift for a parent (I think) but when the unicorns saw it they were overcome. It was, of course, Zaius's horn! Not only that but there was a verse (isn't there always?) to explain how to find the rest of him. It began:

If you would find a unicorn
A mythical beast with a silver horn...

and it went on to ask for difficult items. I think the items were tied to the letters in Zaius's name. Naturally, the children set out a'questing. One of the items was a hair from a zebra's tail, which was pretty improbable, but the kids knew of a pony whose name was Zebra because of her odd markings. (Was she a unicorn too? Can't remember.) They got a hair from her tail. Eventually, they assembled all the items in this lateral-thinking manner, and somehow got them together to summon Zaius.

It worked, and so the unicorn siblings were reunited. Jenny was afraid this meant she'd lose Kyalas, but he told her no; he was still kamaranding and would stay as long as she (I think?) believed in him.

Somehow Odyllicus arranged for Zaius to become a second pony for the twins, and all resolved happily.

So, that was The Kamarand. I had a ball writing it, and I wish I still had it. I did use the character names for a long short story called New World that was published in an educational magazine, but the storyline was different.

I sent The Kamarand off to a friendly publisher, who gave me a friendly rejection. Her comments included; "Are the children perhaps cast too much as supporting characters to the unicorns?" I suppose I did indeed find the unicorns more interesting than their human friends. I don't think I ever submitted the story elsewhere and to the best of my knowledge only this editor and my sister ever read it. (Maybe my parents did...)

So, of what possible interest is a piece of lost juvenilia? I think it is fun to think of because it shows much of the writer I was to become. I already had an interest in names (my unicorns were not called Moonlight, Una or Silver) and world-building (Nrocinu). I already loved constructing back stories (the kamarand) and slightly complex family histories and puzzles (my most recent book The Peacock's Pearl has this attribute 45+ years later!) and I already had a tendency to make animals important characters. I could already scan verse. I already had a perverse streak (or maybe subversive is the better word) in undermining the "accepted" mythos. Anyway, there is The Kamarand.

Was it any good? I honestly don't know. It was memorable... for me... and it helped to make me the person I am now.

PS: I have just discovered there is a band called NROCINU. Who'd ha' thought it? Also, I have something about the unicorn worlds in an early webpage at

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