Castle of Dreams – Week Six

Doesn’t time fly? I can’t believe it is Friday again already!

Things have been very wintery here in Warwickshire recently. School closed early last Friday, and was shut all day on Monday, so my daughter had a lot of fun playing in it all. Not so much fun for me driving to work in it, but it is still beautiful.

I wonder what Leah would have made of Kenilworth Castle having to close because of the snow? How would she have accessed the portals when she couldn’t get into the grounds? Well, you just might have to read Book Two to find the answer to that one…

Back to the blog series. This week I am delighted to welcome my friend Lisa Wiedmeier, author of the successful Timeless Series. Now I openly admit to being a sufferer of CAtTS – that’s Chronic Addiction to Timeless Series for those of you that don’t know, and I’m delighted that the piece Lisa has given me is an extract from her latest Novella, which was released shortly before Christmas, and was written with another Alliance member Sam Dogra. In the passage below, the three brothers Callon, Colt and Daniel arrive back to the family manor in Ireland.

Lisa Wiedmeier lives in Idaho with her loving husband, two sons and crazy dog Mandi. She has tamed the wilderness of her imagination and has released two of her eight novels in her Timeless Series, with a ninth book upcoming and a new novel The Gate also in the works.

Fated, Excerpt Chapter Six

It was a long, quiet drive to the O’Shea estate. Callon had been silent, his eyes closed as he sat in the front. Both Daniel and I hadn’t attempted to make conversation since leaving the airport, unsure of what was going through his head. He had been gone a very long time, but even then I knew how powerful memories could be.

Especially Callon’s.

By the time we entered the gates, a small patch of sunshine had slipped through the clouds. I tensed, waiting for the short-lived jolt of the enchantment to hit me, but oddly it never did.  I can’t feel the enchantment anymore. Has it weakened that much?

Daniel kept quiet, concentrating on driving. I frowned. He’d sounded so desperate over the phone, begging us to come over as soon as we could. I had to wonder what he’d been up to in our absence.

The manor loomed, its aged exterior drab and lifeless. Even with the vines trimmed back, the trees pruned and the marble fountain spotless, the place had no vibrancy. It was an old forgotten building, filled with a chilling emptiness, and not at all the warm, welcoming house I’d grown up in. How Daniel had been able to stay here all these years was a mystery to me. That would have to change, though, and I knew Cheyenne would help with that. Her loving spirit would lift the dark grief that had plagued our house, and we could start everything afresh. Sure, we’d have to protect her and limit her freedoms, but she wouldn’t be lonely. And maybe at last we could leave the past where it belonged and move on.

Callon remained quiet as Daniel parked the car in the front turnabout. Without a second glance he opened the door and stepped out onto the gravel. I followed, joining him next to the massive fountain. The trickle of flowing water was soothing, and I caught a small chip at the bottom of the stone. It brought on a grin. That had happened a while ago, when Callon and I had had a wrestling match to prove who was strongest. Somehow he’d still beaten me, though I’d had the last laugh when I’d pushed him into the water. Dad had been less than pleased…

“I’ve been getting the place completely renovated,” Daniel said, nodding to the front door. “Should still feel like home, though.”
Callon nodded slowly. His silence unnerved me. Back during those horrible years after Dad’s death, he’d been exactly like this. And he was always so unreadable. You could never tell what was going through his mind. That had proven almost fatal that night when Daniel and I had found him in his room, unconscious. I definitely didn’t want to go through any of that again.

As Callon stood there, staring, I clasped his shoulder.
“You okay?” Callon didn’t answer right away. Eventually he sighed.
I’ll be alright. Give me a minute.  I nodded and let my arm drop. I could only imagine what was going on inside his head. He’d vowed to never set foot here again, to lock away the guilt and sorrow that had almost drowned him. Now he’d returned, the head of the O’Shea household and leader of the Consilador, and had to face those darkest moments once more. I didn’t envy the amount of responsibility he had to bear. I just hoped it wouldn’t be too much.

Suddenly Callon strode towards the door, his back straight and shoulders squared.  “Let’s do this,” he said.

Daniel and I nodded at each other, then followed in his step.  Callon pushed the black door open, and the comforting scent of wood and citrus brushed past. The place seemed in good condition. I dropped my bag near the staircase and looked around. There were new carpets and dressers, but some of the original paintings and mirrors were still around. The chandelier hadn’t changed, either, although it had electric lights instead of candles.
“You’ve done a good job, Daniel,” I said.

“Well, Ryan did most of it,” Daniel admitted. “I mostly set things up for Cheyenne’s arrival.”
“Oh?” Callon asked, inspecting the fireplace. A new grate had been fitted and the charred bricks replaced.
“Of course!” Daniel pointed towards the sitting room. “I got stuff for her room, and even pulled down the instruments from storage and had the piano tuned. She’ll love that.”

Callon muttered something to himself, but I didn’t quite catch it. He continued to wander around, as if to re-orientate himself. Daniel and I followed, unsure of what to expect. He seemed alright so far. At any rate he’d dropped the teasing routine, which was a relief. It really didn’t suit him.
Daniel walked ahead, leading us to the kitchen.

“The builders are almost done with the remodeling here, too,” he said, gesturing to the black granite worktops and silver cabinets.

“Wow, looks sleek,” I said; I remembered when we had the oak wood look.

“It was pretty bad,” Daniel said, leaning on a worktop. “We still had the workbench and coal pit. Kinda out of place next to the microwave and fridge. So they’ve installed a new oven, an eight-hob gas cooker, and replaced the cast iron stuff with stainless steel.”

“You’ve lived here in the last twenty years, and you never thought to get this sorted out before?” Callon asked.

Daniel rubbed the back of his neck.

“Well, I lived on take-outs most of the time,” he said. “Didn’t really think to get the place modernized. Aside from the microwave, of course.”

Callon sighed. “At least it’s done,” he said. He stepped towards the terrace doors. “Now then, care to tell me how you destroyed the enchantment?”

I blinked. Where had that come from?

Daniel paled.
“I-I didn’t…”

“Daniel, don’t lie.”

“But I didn’t mean to!” Daniel protested. “It was an accident, I just…”

Callon held up his hand, and Daniel fell quiet.

“I don’t really care about your excuses,” he said. His voice was level. “The enchantment can only be broken by one of our family’s blood, and last I checked, you were the only O’Shea here.”

Daniel gulped.

“I’m sorry Callon, I was only trying to take some of the burden off you. You’ve been under so much stress and I know you never wanted to come back, so…”
Callon stepped forward and held Daniel’s shoulders, in an almost fatherly manner.

“Sometimes good intentions lead to the gravest mistakes,” he said. “I’m guessing you found the book?”

###

The sun had yet to rise as I walked behind Callon, heading towards the lake. Daniel was in step behind me, yawning, though I could sense his nervousness. It had been five days since we’d arrived—five days of wrestling non-stop with my chaotic emotions—and Callon had finally discovered how to recreate the enchantment. If this worked, we could rebook our return flight to Idaho tomorrow, and I’d be back with Cheyenne within twenty-four hours.

Failure wasn’t an option.

We reached the lake’s edge, the crystal cold water lapping at the bank. Callon halted, and turned back to the manor.

“This will do fine,” he said. “Stand in front of me and make a triangle.”

Daniel and I did as we were told. I stood to Callon’s right, Daniel to his left.

“Raise your right hand and place it on top of mine,” Callon said.

He extended his arm, his palm facing up. His Consilador ring lay loose in his hand. I pressed mine on top, feeling the metal pinch my skin, while Daniel added his. Callon adjusted his grip, so all three of us had contact with the ring.

“Keep this position and don’t break it,” Callon ordered. “No matter what you see or hear, you must never let go. Is that clear?”

Daniel and I exchanged a puzzled glance.

“What should we expect?” I asked.

Callon sighed.

“I’m not too sure, but you might sense things that aren’t here,” he said.

“Whatever happens, don’t lose contact with the ring. Try and think of something to focus your mind, it’ll help you not become distracted.”
Daniel nodded and closed his eyes. Sighing, I followed suit. I decided to think about the song Cheyenne liked to hum when she did her homework.

Slowly, I felt the ring grow warm. Despite the temptation I didn’t open my eyes, concentrating on the melody. The warmth became stronger, so strong it almost scalded my palm, but I didn’t budge. I felt Daniel’s grip tense, and Callon’s fingers tightened, keeping us together.

A low moan ran through my ears, and I clenched my teeth. It started off quiet and faint, before increasing in pitch. Then it turned to an ear-piercing shriek, and I couldn’t stop myself daring to sneak a look.

I gasped. A racing whirlwind surrounded us, tearing through the lake and forest. The waves rose high, twisting, before smacking back down again in a rush of bubbles and foam. The trees bent close to breaking-point, threatened to be de-rooted from the spot. Between the shadows and cloud I could just about make out the manor, though I couldn’t see what was happening around it.

As I continued to watch the spinning tornado, shapes began to appear inside it. First they were animal-like with claws and teeth, and then they became more human with arms and legs. It was horrifying to look at, but I stood my ground.

Next thing I knew, I felt something cold creep around my neck and chest. Icy tendrils had wrapped around me, trying to pull me into the vortex. I dug my heels into the grass. No way! I wasn’t going anywhere. Their grip tensed, but I was too strong an anchor.

Then a voice whispered in my ear,
“Let go, Colt.”

My eyes widened. That was Cheyenne! But no, impossible, she wasn’t here…

“Don’t fight it,” Cheyenne’s voice cooed. “Just let go and come with me.”
“Where are you?” I called out.
“If you stop fighting, I can show you.”
“But I can’t, my brothers…”
“Leave them, you don’t need them anymore. I promise we’ll be together, forever…”
My muscles began to relax, and I felt my hand pull away from the ring.
“Yes…come to me…”
The voice turned to a dark hiss, and my eyes widened. Wait, this was a trick! I renewed my grip over Callon’s hand, and the voice began to choke.
“No! C-Come…with…”

Suddenly Callon was shouting, his voice clear against the howling wind.

“We, the last of the O’Sheas, pledge mind, body and soul to these lands, as have our ancestors before us. Protect these grounds, and we promise our children will renew the vow for every generation!”

As he spoke, the tendrils slipped away. The heat from the ring lessened, and then the whirlwind ceased. The trees returned to their upright position, and the lake waters calmed, the dawn light sparkling off the waves. A shiver ran down my spine, and my eyes lit up. That feeling…the enchantment was back!

Grinning, I looked to Daniel. He seemed alright, though he did look a bit spooked. He must’ve experience the same thing. Callon, though, wasn’t moving. His eyes were closed, and his grip on the ring was iron.

“Callon?” I pulled my hand free and touched his arm. Callon groaned and stumbled, and I had to grab him before he hit the ground. “Callon! What happened?”

Callon mumbled; he was groggy all of a sudden. As I helped him stand, Daniel’s breathing hitched.

“Look, look!”

My eyes snapped ahead. A tall figure stood a little way ahead of us, watching carefully. He raised his head, revealing a smiling, bearded face, and deep blue eyes.

“Well done,” he whispered, before he vanished.

“Wait!” Daniel cried. “Dad!”

He jumped to the place where the man had been standing, but it was empty. It was as if he’d turned to smoke. I couldn’t believe it. That man, no, Dad, had been right here with us…how could that be? He’d been dead for so long!

“What’re you staring at?” Callon muttered. He seemed a bit more awake now.

“Did you see the man?” I asked. “He looked just like…”

“I didn’t see anything,” Callon interrupted. “Never mind, we’ve done it. The enchantment has been reborn. We should head back.”

He shook off my arm and started to walk back to the manor as if nothing had happened.

“Callon, tell us what’s going on!” Daniel snapped, hurrying to keep up. “Why did Dad appear?”

Callon stopped, his eyes intent on the fountain.

“He didn’t appear,” he said, his eyes narrowed. “It was an illusion.”

“So you did see him,” I commented.

Callon sighed.

“Alright, you’ve got me there. I wasn’t expecting it, you know,” he admitted.

“All I could go on was what Marilyn and William had written. They were the couple who originally created the enchantment. They said it tested their deepest fears and longings. But once they’d overcome that, they had their courage acknowledged.”

“Oh!” Daniel’s eyes brightened. “Is that why I thought I heard your voice, yelling at me for being weak, and that I should just give up?”

Callon tensed.

“Most likely,” he said. “What about you, Colt?”

I slid my hands into my pockets.

“I heard a voice making promises and asking me to let go, too,” I said. “Couldn’t really tell who it was, though.”

Callon frowned. He knew I was lying.

“And you, Callon?” Daniel asked.

“I heard Dad blaming me for his death,” Callon answered. “He tried to get me to let go, too. But we made it.” He managed a smile. “I guess glimpsing him once again was our reward.”

“Yeah,” I said. “He’s proud of us, I know it.”

Callon and Daniel nodded.

“Well, we should rest up,” Callon said. “We’ve got a long journey tomorrow.”

“What? Can’t we leave today?” I asked. “It’s still so early.”

“We can’t leave for twenty-four hours,” Callon explained. “Not until the enchantment has stabilized.” He poked my chest. “We’ve already been away a week. Another day is not going to make much difference.”

My teeth clenched, but I knew I couldn’t say anything. Damn it, all this waiting was driving me insane. Whoever said absence makes the heart grow fonder was definitely on the right track.

I couldn’t wait to be back on that plane.

###

 

Darn it Lisa, I’m going to have to read all three again now just to keep me going until Daylight comes out!

To find out more about Lisa, her books, and her crazy dog Mandi, you can find here in these locations:

Blog website: http://lisawiedmeier.com/Home_Page.php
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/TimelessSeriesNovels

Or email her at timelessseriesnovels@hotmail.com

Links to buy the books are here:

target=”_blank”>http://www.amazon.com/Cheyenne-Timeless-Novel-ebook/dp/B005CLHGQS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311038477&sr=8-1
Promises: http://www.amazon.com/Promises-Timeless-Series-Novel-ebook/dp/B0085C2O2C/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1
Fated: http://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Series-Novella-Companion-ebook/dp/B00AIA3LKS/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1

And of course here in the UK they can be found here:
Fated: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Timeless-Series-Novella-Companion-ebook/dp/B00AIA3LKS/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1
Promises: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Promises-Timeless-Series-Novel-ebook/dp/B0085C2O2C/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1
Cheyenne: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cheyenne-Timeless-Series-Novel-ebook/dp/B005CLHGQS/ref=pd_sim_kinc_2

Next week we have the wonderful author of White Mountain, Book One of The Darkling Chronicle, Sophie E Tallis….

Have Fun, everyone 🙂

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Castle of Dreams – Week Five

Hello again, and welcome back to my series Castle of Dreams.

My own Kenilworth Castle, the home of my magical world within worlds, and Leah’s refuge, is looking wonderful in this wintery weather.  Seeing it in the several inches of snow we’ve had,  it looks incredibly peaceful  – but it can also be a dark, gloomy place, especially during a thunderstorm.

In an attempt to highlight the beauty and drama of castles, I have asked fellow authors to submit pieces to this series – we’ve already heard from Paul Freeman, Katrina Anne Jack, AFE Smith, and Lindsey Parsons, all with very different views on castles from very different perspectives.

This week we have Will Macmillan Jones, author of the Banned Underground series, writing from his snowbound home where I believe today there is over a foot of snow!

Will Macmillan Jones live in Wales, a lovely green, verdant land with a rich cultural heritage.  He does his best to support this heritage by drinking the local beer and shouting loud encouragement whenever International Rugby is on the TV.  A fifty something lover of blues, rock and jazz he has just fulfilled a lifetime ambition by filling an entire wall of his home office with (full) bookcases.

 

Castles of Dreams

 

 Castles have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father had just finished a history degree before WW2 broke out, and so every holiday we ever took at some point included a trip to a castle.

 

 I’ve stood on ruinous Tintagel’s ramparts, looking down at the angry seas below and imagined Ygraine waiting for her lover, Uther, whilst the wind flecked her hair with salt spray.  I’ve scaled the heights of MaidenCastle, and marvelled at the sheer determination of Vespasian’s troops to assault such a strong place against desperate men fighting for their homes and their liberty. 

 

 I’ve visited stately Warwick Castle, now more a genteel home and museum rather than a place for fighting men to lay their heads, and seen The Tower of London: still imbued with the grim aura of its time as a place of power, pain and execution. My close friend was married in a ceremony at Castell Coch, a Folly whose ability to withstand a siege by three men and a dog would be non existent, yet whose romantic allure is self evident.

 

 This story is both still more romantic than Castell Coch, and yet tinged with a very Celtic sadness.  Close to where I now live lies Dryslwyn Castle.  It’s almost perfect.  Driving to the castle you leave an ancient pathway beside the river Tywi (now a ‘B’ class road) drive along a narrow lane across the remains of a railway line -a victim of that rabid destroyer of the railways, Doctor Beeching whose very name should be cursed for all eternity- and there opens before you an idyll.  A wide, river mead stretching from the forested rise at Dynefor to the East, and reaching the drowsing, ancient and myth haunted town of Caermyrddyn to the West.  Beyond the fields the ground rises to meet the Roman Road to their garrison at Moridunum.  And immediately before your gaze, growing from the banks of the wide but gentle river, there rises a lone hill crowned with the ruins of the castle.

 

 Dryslwyn is a rarity amongst castles.  Most were built by the all-conquering Norman barons, or by King Edward and his successors to help hold the lands they had seized by force.  Dryslwyn was built by Welsh lords, to protect the lands and the peoples they and their ancestors had ruled from earlier times.  Not a fortress built to intimidate, to overawe and control, but to welcome and serve and protect.  Standing in the remains of the gatehouse, even an aging unfit guy (like me!) could throw a tennis ball across the whole length of the castle wards, and out across the hillside to roll down to the river.

 

 Of course ultimately the fortress was put to the test, and a few hundred welsh archers and villagers failed to defend their strong place against a force 11000 strong, raised by the English Senechal of Carmarthen and collected together from as far away as Chester and the Marches.  Stormed, slighted, dismantled, the castle drifted from history.

 

 Go there now on a summer day and you can take your ease on the green slopes cropped close by the friendly sheep.  Sit where countless other poets, writers and dreamers have paused, and feast your eyes on the crystal blue waters of the river Tywi as they drift past on their way from the hills to the waters of Carmarthenshire Bay.  Feel the strong sense of ancient purpose still lingering, drifting like the rooks who nest in the hills across the river.  Warmth, kindliness and succour to a weary traveller survive in the very bones of this hill, and the ancient stones are generous in their welcome.  No haughty reception here from frowning barbican, no warlike aura persists to awe and chill.  Just the gentle sounds of the sheep grazing as they did on these same slopes a thousand years ago reflect the real history of these lands of ours, of which we are such a little part.

 

 Dryslwyn dreams in the sunshine

 

Thank you Will, that was inspiring.  I went to University at the then University of Wales, Aberystwyth, (now independent from the U of W) and this piece has made me a little nostalgic for the wonderful mountains and scenery…

 

To find out more about Will and his writing, see the links below.

His major comic fantasy series, released by Safkhet Publishing, can be found at:

www.thebannedunderground.com

 

and information on his other work and stuff in general at :

http://www.willmacmillanjones.weebly.com

www.thebannedunderground.com

 

and information on his other work and stuff in general at :

http://www.willmacmillanjones.weebly.com

Next week I am hoping, timescales permitting, to feature a piece from a friend and fellow author from “across the pond”. 

What other authors/castles would you like to see featured?  Comments below, and I may even ask you to write your own guest piece!

Castle of Dreams – Week Four

Hello again, and welcome back to my series Castle of Dream. As you know, my book, “Worlds Apart – Leah” features the fantastic Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire (yes it is real!).

Leah of course suffers from terrifying nightmares, that somehow seem to travel into reality too, but Castles are not all doom and gloom, are they?

In answer to that question I asked fellow authors to submit pieces to this series – we’ve already heard from the fantastic Paul Freeman, Katrina Anne Jack and AFE Smith, all with very different views on castles from very different perspectives.

This week we have the lovely Lindsey Parsons, who also hails from this beautiful county of Warwickshire, where my books are based, and I still live.

Lindsey J Parsons was born in Stratford upon Avon and grew up in nearby Solihull. She now lives in a crumbly old farm house in a small village in Warwickshire with her three children and an assortment of animal friends. She enjoys reading, writing, horseback riding, archery and looking after the numerous animals that live with her.
Lindsey started writing in 2009, on a complete whim and completed ‘Vortex’ her first novel and the first book in a trilogy called Return of The Effra, eighteen months later. She is now working on the second book ‘Wicked Game’. She has also completed a handful of short stories which have been included in three anthologies.

Without further ado, I shall hand you over to Lindsey, and her Castle of Dreams:

Shrilan Castle

When Andrea asked me to write a post about castles I immediately thought of one of the castles in my novel Vortex. So my guest post for Andrea’s Castle of Dreams Series is about Shrilan Castle.
Castles are just great aren’t they? Growing up we had some great family holidays, my parents loved sightseeing and would look up any local places of interest everywhere we went. Some of my most favourite memories are of visiting castles, they fascinated me. I’d wander off exploring and trying to envisage what they were like before they became ruins. I always dreamed of living in a large medieval castle and I would pretend that they were my castles and imagine I was living there myself.
As a child I loved to like to make up stories and adventures that I was part of and in each and every adventure I lived in a great big castle. This dream castle wasn’t the ruined sort we had visited around the country, but a big shiny new one, with large turrets, a massive hall for feasts and miles of corridors, battlements and grounds. I would picture myself riding out over the drawbridge, off on another adventure.
So when I needed a home for my characters in Vortex I thought of my dream castle and I gave it to Etienne, ruler of Penrithen to live in.
Etienne Shrilan escaped to the country of Penrithen on The Isle of Trees, with his baby sister, two hundred and fifty years ago, after his family were murdered during the Great War that ravaged the vast lands. He settled in the town of Penrith and took it upon himself to rebuild the ruined castle in the heart of the town.
At that time Penrithen was leaderless and the few inhabitants that hadn’t fled the country lived in fear of marauders and raiding parties from neighbouring Camlain. So with the help of the few people left in Penrith, he rebuilt the castle on a very grand scale, so everyone would have a safe refuge when they needed it.
Etienne, being a powerful magus and a larger than life flamboyant character, soon attracted a lot of attention. He became well known as an honest and trustworthy person who would stand up for and protect his friends and neighbours. People from the surrounding countryside started moving to live in safety inside the walls of the castle. They renamed it Shrilan Castle after Etienne and the town soon became known as Shrilanna.
Before long the Penrithian people started looking to Etienne for leadership and elected him as their ruler. He formed a force known as The Penrithian Guards, whose job it was to protect the town from raids by thieves and invaders. In order to accommodate these guards Etienne expanded the castle more and more, until it became a massive landmark.
Shrilan Castle stands on a small hill, two thirds of the way down a wide valley and surrounded on all sides by hills and mountains. It is encircled by a high wall topped with battlements and a deep moat that’s fed from a stream that runs through the valley. Most of the town is contained inside the walls, but it has become such a popular place to live that houses now have to be built outside the walls as there is very little spare space left inside.
The castle itself is built around a great hall. The hall has a high ceiling and a row of large stained glass windows to each side wall. A massive fire place is situated on the right of the enormous oak doors and a small stage is usually positioned to the left to accommodate musicians and performers during the many feasts and celebrations are regularly held there.
Apart from accommodation for Etienne, his family and guests, the castle also houses the barracks for the guards, an extensive stable block, training facilities, offices and a dungeon.
Of course every great castle needs a dragon too, but maybe I should save that story for another post!

Thank you Lindsey, that was wonderful – and I love the idea of dragons at castles too. Hmm might think about that one some more!

To find out more about Lindsey’s work, and her novel “Vortex”, follow these links:

Blog – http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/
FaceBook – http://www.facebook.com/lindseyjparsons
Twitter – https://twitter.com/lindseyjparsons

And to read more of her writing, her books can be found here:

Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Vortex-Return-The-Effra-ebook/dp/B008D4PRTE/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1350494069&sr=1-1

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vortex-Return-Effra-1-ebook/dp/B008D4PRTE/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350494190&sr=1-1

Next week I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Will Macmillan Jones so see you soon.

Castle of Dreams – Week Three

Welcome to Week Three of my series. This week I am welcoming a very special person, and as yet unpublished author, AFE Smith, who I met through the wonderful Alliance of Worldbuilders. http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com

AFE tells you more about herself at the end of this piece, so I’m going to hand over to her straight away:

Castle of Dreams
Most people pick their university for its academic record, its sporting/musical/dramatic achievements or the convenience of its location. I picked mine for its castle.

To understand this, you also have to understand that as an eighteen year old applying for degree courses, I was far less interested in my continued academic career than I was in my magnum opus: a three-hundred-thousand-word fantasy epic, stuffed with every cliché imaginable, that I was fondly convinced would be a runaway bestseller. This masterpiece was, quite naturally, full of castles. I’d walked the walls of Warwick, roamed the passageways of Sudeley and Berkeley. I’d wandered through the ruins of Raglan and Goodrich and Tintagel, imagining them back to life and populating them with my own characters. My writing was brimming with crenellations.

As a result of all this, it didn’t seem that important to actually visit any of my prospective university towns before signing up. I simply chose the place that fit best with the fantastic scenes running through my imagination – and that place was Durham. Why? Because of this.

Durham

Now, as it happens, Durham University has an excellent reputation in all kinds of fields – which was lucky for me. Because what had caught my eye was that the members of one particular Durham college actually got to live in Durham Castle. Not only that, but they got to eat in its medieval dining hall. Wearing gowns. Add an enchanted ceiling and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked straight into Hogwarts. Beside these wondrous facts, little details like the quality of the teaching paled into insignificance. So I applied, and the following year saw me trundling off to Durham to live out my dream.

You’re probably expecting this tale to end with a moral: the importance of knowing the difference between fantasy and reality, perhaps. And by rights, I daresay it should. In a universe that only rewards those who make sensible plans, I’d be full of regrets round about now. But the truth is, I loved every minute of my time at university. I loved the subjects I studied. I loved the people I met. Most of all, I loved the year I spent living in the keep of Durham Castle. I even got to climb up to the roof from time to time*, gaze out across the landscape with a breeze stirring my hair, and pretend I was a heroic character on the brink of an epic adventure. And though my writing may have matured since then, and my castles evolved into something far less generic, the memory of what it was like to have my very own crenellations remains.

So if there’s any moral here at all, it’s this: sometimes it’s OK to chase your dreams, even the most flyaway. Because sometimes, a castle in the air can become reality.

* Under the guise of raising the college flag, which was my job at the time. Of course, that lent itself to all kinds of imaginings as well. One word: pirates.

A.F.E. Smith is the author of several fantasy novels in various stages of completion, all of which include castles, towers and/or ruins. She still likes to pose on battlements from time to time, especially with the wind blowing through her hair (because everyone knows it looks cooler that way). To find out more visit her website at http://www.afesmith.com .

Thank You AFE, and actually I think your reasons for choosing your University were very similar to my own – in my case it was a setting with mountains behind and the sea in front – and no, I don’t regret it either!

Don’t forget to return next week to read another fantastic author’s view of a Castle of Dreams.

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