Castles of Dreams – Ayla Nightshade (AFE Smith)

Many of you will recall the series “Castle of Dreams” that I ran a while ago, featuring many talented authors, and their own Castle of Dreams. Some were real, some from their books, and others were completely written new for this blog.

It was a great success, but, like many other things, there are only so many other authors that are prepared to write a piece on a castle.

This week however I have reinstated it for a very important reason. My friend and fellow author AFE Smith wrote a piece for the original series, and I’m delighted to welcome her back this week.

Why, you might ask…

Well, her first novel Darkhaven, which I had the honour of reading original excerpts from on the Harper Collins author community website “Authonomy” a while ago, is released by Harper Collins on 21st July 2015, if you can’t wait that long, then you can get it in e-book form from 2nd July 2015.


I’m absolutely thrilled for her, and anxiously await my pre-ordered copy through the post so I can read the final version.

So I’m honoured to welcome AFE Smith, and of course Ayla Nightshade to the Castle of Dreams:

Andrea ran a lovely series called Castle of Dreams here on her blog in 2013. In it, participating authors talked about their favourite castle – you can read my original post here. So when she suggested that I ask one of my characters to talk about what castles mean to them, I thought it was a great idea! Here’s Ayla Nightshade, one of the protagonists from my new book Darkhaven, to talk about her own castle of dreams.

I don’t live in a castle, not exactly. Darkhaven is a tower, a seven-sided tower with a central courtyard. And it’s more likely to give you nightmares than happy dreams. Blackstone has quite a sinister effect when a whole building is made out of it. I wouldn’t have thought anyone down in the city looks up at Darkhaven, here on the hill, and wishes they could live in it. In fact, I daresay they avert their eyes and thank the elements they don’t have to get too close. My father isn’t exactly known for his hospitality.

Still, castle or tower … it’s all the same, to the people outside it. They don’t realise that when I hear the word castle, I think of adventure and romance – the kind in all the stories my mother used to read me. Whereas Darkhaven … well, Darkhaven is the opposite of that. For me, Darkhaven is more like a prison than anything.

It wasn’t like that when my mother was alive. Oh, it was still dark and gloomy, with rooms that were too big for the human inhabitants and nothing of softness or comfort about it. Yet my mother filled the silences. She made even the austere walls of Darkhaven seem welcoming. I wouldn’t mind living here so much, if only she were still alive. But she’s gone, and without her, there’s no-one to talk my father out of his obsessions. He’s ashamed of me – of what I turn into – and until recently, he’s been determined to keep me hidden. Not that his new scheme is any better …

But let’s not discuss that.

The thing is, Darkhaven is my home. I don’t want to be anywhere else. I want to be here, only I want here to be different. So if you ask me to imagine my ideal castle – the one I daydream about – it is Darkhaven after all. Except it’s a Darkhaven that no longer exists. It’s a place from my past, a place that lives on only in memory, a place where my mother is still alive and my father can relate to me and my brother Myrren as people instead of a pair of disappointments. I find it sad that my dream is already in the past, because it means I have no hope of returning to it.

Still. Maybe the only perfect places are the ones we can never get to.

Thank You Ayla, that’s a wonderful piece, so evocative. If, like me, you can’t wait to know more, you can find out more aby following the links below to buy the book itself:


Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Harper Collins  


Barnes & Noble

Google Play



I think it’s time we found out a little more about Ayla’s creator, the wonderful AFE Smith,
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.

and yes, I do know what that secret is 🙂


Castle of Dreams – Week Ten

Good evening, and welcome back to the Castle of Dreams blog series, I hope the change in weather has inspired your own dreams!

This week sees the return of the wonderful Sophie E Tallis, author and illustrator of The Darkling Chronicles. Sophie is one of my favourite debut authors, and another fellow member of the wonderful Alliance of Worldbuilders – regular readers of this blog will recall her submission last week, which was a factual piece about her own Castles of Dreams

This week however I am delighted to be able to give you a preview of Book One of the Darkling Chronicles, White Mountain.

Chapter Fifteen: The Silent Watch     (Author’s Original Text)

 Wendya had had another restless night and woke early. Her room was cold. The city lay silent and pensive. She peeled back the bed sheets and wrapping herself in a beautifully embroidered quilt, she stepped over to the window. Opening the shutters she could feel the icy air against her skin. Her eyes were sore. She instinctively touched her face, and realised that she had been crying in her sleep.

The olive light outside, not yet dawn, seemed more welcoming than the empty darkness inside. Listening carefully she could just hear the rumblings of Gralen down the hall, his snoring echoing through the heavyset walls, bringing her a measure of comfort, amidst the strange surroundings. She opened the heavy latch on the door, being careful not to make a sound, and left the chamber. Beyond the narrow hall, which stretched the length of the guest wing, lay a series of corridors and stairs. With little direction she headed toward one of them. Feeling the roughness of the hewn stone steps beneath her bare feet, she followed the staircase down until it hit its first opening, a small landing which led to a low arched door and out onto the battlements. She pushed at the door and was suddenly in the chill of the open air.

            The crenellations rose and fell in reassuring uniformity, but it was the view Wendya was drawn to. The hills and plains stretched out in an endless blur of blues, violets and greys. Everything looked ordered and peaceful as if the coming storm were just a fleeting nightmare that would vanish with the sun. Wendya strolled along the parapet watching the dark immovable line of the distant mountains, their tops shrouded in mist, their feet plunged in shadow, disappearing amongst the dusky dales and foothills. She found a sheltered spot out of the wind and nestled between the battlements, the cold stone feeling unusually smooth and polished beneath her toes. She sighed heavily. Her heart ached at the danger they all faced…

As she let her mind drift she was suddenly aware of hundreds of shadowy grey figures moving in endless and soundless streams along the city walls above and below her. The ‘Silent Watch’ continued their vigil, each cloaked and keen eyed soldier a member of the city guard, each pair of eyes relentless and fixed on the skies and lands around.

Photo of Mount Cook aka White Mountain - Copy1

Sophie that was wonderful, Thank You so much!

To find out more about Sophie and her writing and her artwork, follow these links:


Author Blog:

Book FB Page:

Author FB page:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


Online Artwork:

See you next week!

Castle of Dreams – Week Nine

Good evening, and welcome back to the Castle of Dreams blog series, I hope the change in weather has inspired your own dreams!

This week I am delighted to welcome Sophie E Tallis, author and illustrator of The Darkling Chronicles. Sophie is one of my favourite debut authors, and another fellow member of the wonderful Alliance of Worldbuilders.

I feel really honoured actually, because Sophie has contributed two pieces – her own Castles of Dreams, and an excerpt from Book One of the Darkling Chronicles, White Mountain. I’m running these side by side, this week, with the change in the weather, I’m going to let Sophie tell you about her favourite “real” castles, in the hope it may inspire you to visit your own.

Over to you Sophie…

Ever since I was child I have loved dragons, trees and castles. I grew up in a small village but the local town was less than a 10 minute bike ride away and had its own castle, Thornbury Castle. Now as castles go it’s pretty new, built in 1511, and was built as more of a Tudor country home and status symbol than as a real fortified castle.

Wikipedia Image – Thornbury Castle

But. it marked my first foray and love of history and old buildings. I even did an A-Level History project on it! Now, it’s a rather posh hotel with its own vineyard and restaurant, which also serves a delicious afternoon cream tea in the turret room! As a kid, all plaits and scuffed knees, I used to cycle down and spend hours drawing its beautiful windows and twisted Tudor chimneys. A lovely way to spend a day! But, as beautiful as Thornbury Castle is, and even though it was certainly my ‘local castle’, there are two other castles which are far more dear to me and which I still find remarkably moving and profoundly magical every time I visit. I was about seven when I first went to Tintagel in Cornwall (built 1250, though earlier remains date back to 5th century). Even at that age, I was already aware of the legends of King Arthur, Merlin, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. I remember being sneaky and staying up late to watch John Boorman’s Excalibur on the TV, wow, what an impression THAT made! I bought Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana shortly afterwards and found myself immersed in my imaginary world of legend, quest and danger. I love Tintagel, despite all the tourist trappings, there is still a melancholia about the place, a reminder of high times lost long ago and the power of the pounding sea below. A truly wonderful place.

My other ‘castle love’ is the one I found for myself, quite unexpectedly, as I was travelling around on my own. As a teenager, as soon as I could drive, I had a habit of taking off for a few days and having mini-adventures on my own, escaping I guess. I’d always let the road take me where it wanted. I’d stay in tiny B&B places, (a lot of really grotty dives) and even slept in the car once (not recommended in a Citroen 2CV). It was on one of these trips that I found myself in Devon, on the northern fringes of Dartmoor and in what has to be one of the most glorious of ruins, Okehampton Castle (built around 1086). Apparently one of the most haunted places, it sits proudly defiant against the ravages of time, on a small hill (motte and bailey), with a beautiful stream skirting it’s southern flanks. It was a misty sort of day and as I walked up to the ruins, all I could hear was that Excalibur theme tune running through my head. THIS was a place for magic, mysticism, dark doings, heroic deeds, romance and danger. As ruinous as it is and as small, I just fell in love with it. This truly is a castle of dreams…

Inside Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle
Sophie that was wonderful. I can’t wait to read the extract from White Mountain next week!

To find out more about Sophie and her writing and her artwork, follow these links:


Author Blog:

Book FB Page:

Author FB page:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


Online Artwork:

See you next week!

Castle of Dreams – Week Eight

Hello again.  Firstly let me apologise for the slight hiatus in this series, “Worlds Apart – Leah” has been on tour, and in fact today is the very last day.

More about that in a separate post, as I’m sure you would like to hear from this week’s guest author.

This week I am delighted to welcome Kay Kauffman, a fellow member of the Alliance of Worldbuilders.  I asked Kay what she would like me to tell you all about her, and I quote:

“A geek to the core, I reside in the midst of a corn field with my husband & four kids, where I pen fantastical tales of twue wuv and procrastinate online.”

I don’t think that needs any further comment, do you? 😀

Kay’s piece comes from the world within her wonderful book The Lokana Chronicles, so without further delay, let’s go straight to it.


Eridani Tolhana wandered through the great palace, seeing it as if for the first time.  Though she had lived in the great walled city of Lokana all her life, everything suddenly felt new and different, and it was all Michael’s fault.

Nothing had felt right since he’d shown up.  His strange dress, his even stranger actions, and the way he somehow knew the secret language that only she and her mother understood made her uneasy right from the start.  But she couldn’t stop thinking about him; everything she saw seemed to remind her of him, making even her home feel…foreign.  It was no longer the comfortable place she had grown up knowing.

Michael’s face drifted through her thoughts as she meandered down the Grand Corridor, and she tried to block it out.  She didn’t want to think about him, especially not after the argument she’d had with her parents.  They’d forbidden her to see him again.  It had been centuries since a princess had been locked away in one of the dungeons in the old stone towers of the palace, but she wondered if her father would keep her there if she defied him in this.  What a silly rule, anyway, she scoffed silently.  The palace may be large, but I’m bound to run into him eventually, no matter how careful I am.  What then?  I can’t avoid him forever.

The painted eyes and stone faces of her ancestors watched her as she passed them by.  The hairs on the back of her neck rose to attention and she quickened her pace.  She hated the Grand Corridor with its memorial to all the rulers of old and avoided it whenever possible; why she had chosen to wander through it today when she didn’t have to was a mystery even to her.  The tapestried walls of any other room or hallway were far more welcoming, she thought, without the prying eyes of the dead watching her every move.

But as she left the Grand Corridor, her thoughts returned to Michael.  Specifically, her thoughts returned to the way his arms felt when they had been wrapped around her and how she hadn’t wanted him to let go of her.  Light spilled out into the hallway from the rooms beyond as she continued on toward the patio near the library.  Maybe some fresh air will help.

Eridani emerged a few moments later into a sunlit courtyard surrounded by flowers and trees.  She loved the palace gardens as much as her mother and grandfather before her and often sought the comfort of nature when something troubled her.  The flower fountain her mother had planted as a girl was one of her favorite features; she used to sit for hours inhaling the sweet scent of the roses as they waved back and forth in the summer breeze.

But today, the roses could not soothe her, and all the sunlight and blue sky in the world were not enough to rid her of the feeling that something very bad was about to happen.


Kay that was wonderful, Thank You.  I’ve always loved reading your work.

I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did – to read more about Kay and her work, take a look at these links here:






I look forward to talking to you all again soon.

Castle of Dreams – Week Seven

Hello again!

I hope you all enjoyed Lisa’s Timeless view of an Irish manor post last week?

This week I thought I should treat you all to my very own castle of dreams, or perhaps I should say Leah’s nightmares?

Kenilworth Castle is one of the most magnificent castle ruins in England. An English Heritage site, it combines renovated buildings as well as those left to ruin.

It once stood, surrounded by a man made lake, in an Estate covering over 4,000 acres of predominantly hunting grounds. Owned by many rich and powerful families it was also visited by Queen Elizabeth the First.

So, why is it special to me I hear you ask? Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to live here in Warwickshire for most of my life, and I have many fond memories of family walks, through the dark and brooding ruins, or the grounds with our pet Spaniel frolicking around us. The Boxing Day duck race, and Pooh sticks under the bridge are all part and parcel of the fun. Now it is home to Abbey Fields, one of the best sledging areas in the region when we are fortunate to have enough snow. My daughter is now the one building wonderful childhood memories of Kenilworth, as I hope generations will to come.

To find out more, take a look at their website

Anyone who knows the Castle and town will recognise it easily from my book, but, given that this blog is about dreams, I would like to share a small passage from Leah, showing an unknown side to this magnificent castle..

Worlds Apart – Leah.. An excerpt.

We were back at the castle, in one of my favourite spots with the huge old tree shielding the area from the worst of the elements, and the grass around it continually trying to defy any attempt at cultivation. I looked around, concerned that a member of the public would spot us. How on earth could I explain the appearance of my Mother to another human being? But as I looked at her, I realised that she had transformed, into the familiar body that I loved so much. Unless they knew, anyone watching us right now would simply see a mother and daughter enjoying the ruins together.

Or so I thought.

That is, until Mom walked behind the tree, pressing one of the iron support bolts in the ruins, she opened a doorway into the ruin that I had never seen, or at least never noticed before. As we entered I saw a steep flight of stairs descending in a spiral, and I followed my mother cautiously, wary both of where we were going and what was about to happen.

Although we passed a few more of the Seraphs, none seemed to either acknowledge or be concerned by our presence, and I couldn’t help wondering if the image of my mother that I could now see was some kind of projection – so that humans saw the human image, and Seraphs saw one of their own. I wasn’t going to get that answer quickly though, as we descended further into the darkness.

Finally, she led the way into a small room. Faint daylight streamed through a vent near to the ceiling, but it was not big enough to provide the light that filled the room. I looked around, at the light coloured, gothic style chairs and table. Every flat surface had glass globes standing on it, each one containing what I could only assume was a candle of some sort, as the entire ball was filled with golden light.

She gestured to one of the chairs, and reluctantly I sat down. The last thing I wanted right now was a simple cosy chat. I needed answers, not platitudes.

“Be patient, Leah, all in good time” came her response. I looked at her in surprise, I could have sworn that her mouth had not moved, and yet I’d heard her voice clearly.

“Stop fighting it Leah, you know what’s happening.” There it was again, and this time I knew that she hadn’t spoken, I’d been looking directly at her.

“How…what is happening?” I asked, attempting to follow her lead. She smiled at the attempt, despite the fact it had half been thought, the other half said.

“Take it slowly sweetheart, you’ve a lot of catching up to do. First I need you to drink this, it will help you to relax and access your powers. I shall then take us both on a journey so that you get your questions answered.” She responded.

Despite everything that had happened, and all that I had seen, I instinctively accepted the warm drink that she offered.

The scent of herbs filled my nostrils – I could detect rosemary, ginger, wild mint and a few others that I could not name. It was invigorating at the same time as calming. As I sipped, the warmth coursed through me, every nerve was awake, and yet I did not feel agitated. Instead I felt alive, more alert than I had ever felt before. I waited, expectantly, anticipating a story that revealed the truth. The reality was completely different.


Sorry folks, have to end it there, I can’t go spoiling the story now can I?

If you’ve enjoyed it so far, you can buy the book here:

UK and Europe


My website is here

Or you can follow me on Twitter ( @RoseWall15) and Facebook
Book Page
Author Page

If you’re reading this, you’ve already found my blog, so feel free to follow 🙂

I hope you have enjoyed sharing my Castle of Dreams. See you next week.

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:

Or email her at

Links to buy the books are here:


And of course here in the UK they can be found here:

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

Have Fun, everyone 🙂

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:


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


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

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 –
FaceBook –
Twitter –

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

Amazon US –

Amazon UK –

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.

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.


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 .

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.

Castle of Dreams – Week Two

Hello again.

This week we have a post from my friend and fellow author, the wonderful Katrina Anne Jack.  Kate is a founder member of the Alliance of Worldbuilders, and has been a great help to me personally in my writing.  I am honoured to have her as a guest post on this blog. This is how Kate describes hereself:

“My name is Katrina Anne Jack, but I’m known to all and sundry as Kate. I’ve been writing since I was about fourteen and have finally found my writing niche in urban fantasy fiction.”

Kate’s novel “The Silver Flute Trilogy – Land of Midnight Days” was published by Ecanus Publishing, and will also be released in hardback soon.  Find out more here:

Enough of the factual, let’s read Kate’s post – I know I’m looking forward to it!

From Castle to Town Hall.

I was born, and still live, in the city of Liverpool. Already a city of dreams, the metropolis is rife with musicians, artists and writers. I belong to the latter group and have sought and found constant inspiration from my native city.

 One of the best places for this is where, once upon a time, a castle stood, replaced by the magnificent town hall that now stands at the junction of Castle Street and Dale Street, its dome crowned by the beautiful statue of Britannia.

liverpool town hall

It isn’t hard to imagine what the castle itself might once have looked like, or to visualize its occupants. Originally constructed to protect King John’s new port of Liverpool, the castle stood on a plateau at the highest point in the city, guardian of all it surveyed. Somehow, when one stands and gazes up at the current building, a feeling arises that the shade of the castle still maintains its guardianship over the city.

liverpool castle

Although it no longer exists, the castle still gives me food for thought and a new insight into the place of my birth. So much has changed over the centuries, from medieval splendor to metropolitan grandeur. The thread that binds both eras together is, for me, the motivation to write, to provide fuel for my imagination and the ultimate gift of creation in its entire splendor.


Thank You Kate!

To find out more about her work, and Kate herself, follow her blog

Next week we will be joined by the spymaster herself, the lovely AFE Smith.

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