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.

Darkhaven

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:

Darkhaven:

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  

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

ITunes

Kobo

I think it’s time we found out a little more about Ayla’s creator, the wonderful AFE Smith,
Anna
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 🙂

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Summer Reading Challenge – Week Nine

Firstly, an apology from me, as I’ve been away so this latest blog is slightly late…

This week is Michel Prince…

Summer Reads Blog Tour – Week Nine
Michel Prince

Week nine in the Summer Blogs Tour is here and I’m hoping you’ve been enjoying meeting new faces and trying new reads. It’s time to welcome Michel to my blog tour, another friend I met through Authonomy when we were all just newbies starting out. You won’t want to miss out on her reads list and her own books. Check them out if you’re a romance junkie like me, you won’t be disappointed!

Michel Prince is an author who graduated with a bachelor degree in History and Political Science. Michel writes new adult and adult paranormal romance as well as contemporary romance.
With characters yelling “It’s my turn damn it!!!” She tries to explain to them that alas, she can only type a hundred and twenty words a minute and they will have wait their turn. She knows eventually they find their way out of her head and to her fingertips and she looks forward to sharing them with you.
When Michel can suppress the voices in her head she can be found at a scouting event or cheering for her son in a variety of sports. She would like to thank her family for always being in her corner and especially her husband for supporting her every dream and never letting her give up.

Michel has been awarded Elite Status with Rebel Ink Press in 2013, the service award for her local RWA chapter Midwest Fiction Writers and is a Pro member of RWA. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, son, cat and new puppy.

One Last Rodeo

Betsy Flynn’s star is rising as she serves as the color sports reporter for the local CBS affiliate. Her focus, knowledge and high heels have become a staple along every sideline in Minneapolis, but a rodeo has come to Minnesota and this Texas transplant will have to go back to her roots.
Five years ago pick-up man JT Long chose his best friend’s rodeo career over the love of his life, Betsy.J As JT’s rodeo shows up in Northern Minnesota he quickly realizes his chances of winning Betsy back are getting slim as he learns he only has one last rodeo to win her heart.
*Break out the fireworks and get ready to kick off your summer with this HOT new collection of stories. One Last Rodeo is part of the Red Hot and BOOM multi-author series (stands alone for reading enjoyment).

Buy Links:
Shared Redemption
Former slave Nye ended his life in 1859 after losing his love. The angel Gabriel has offered Nye a chance at redemption by hunting demons as a member of the Frozen. With less than seven years left until his salvation, Nye is staying on the straight and narrow – until a woman gets caught in the crossfire during a demon hunt.

After receiving devastating news, Kiriana Kladshon moves across the country, only to get caught up in the world of The Frozen. Nye and Kiriana are pulled into an attraction neither can control. Will it be their ultimate demise or their greatest salvation?

Damarion, is leading a group of female demons on a mission. During his punishment on Earth, Damarion learns of dangers within his coven trying to stop him from returning to his love, still trapped in Hell and A love he was so sure was true…
Buy Links
Chrysalis
In the annals of dysfunctional families, the Chisholm’s are working their way to the top. Drug abuse, an unwed mother with multiple fathers, and the questionable cash flow for the ‘pretty one’. All this from a seemingly normal, two parent middle class family. But were the choices truly made of their free will?
Bad choices are a Chisholm family trait, one that confounds the youngest child, Ellie, who’s trying to separate herself by making smart decisions. And falling for Oscar Jeffreys, the hottest guy at school, would be number one on the list of Chisholm family disasters. Yet the crazy part is it’s not a one sided attraction. Somehow Ellie has caught Oscar Jeffreys’ eye. Sure she could see the barriers between them. Race, age, popularity. They were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But a demon set to destroy her family? She can’t see that.
Oscar provides security and acceptance Ellie never imagined she deserved. As the passion of first love grows, Ellie honestly believes she has a chance to beat the odds and live a happy, normal life. Then her world collapses around her. With the help of a guardian angel, Ellie learns of a world that has unknowingly surrounded her for years. And she’ll have to find strength buried deep inside to save not only her future, but flush out and stop the demon in her midst.
Ellie will have to learn that sometimes the hardest lesson about growing up is accepting that you’re worth more.
Buy Links
Take a look at Michel’s Goodreads book recommendations for the tour here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7921060?shelf=summer-reading-blog-2014

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Writing can be an isolating business…

Writing can be an isolating business…

A friend posted this blog yesterday, and it really made me think.

I’m an introvert, which is something many writers share.  There may a connection between the creative imagination and the way the brain works that leads us in that direction who know?

But as humans we need social experience and contact.  When I started writing Leah I didn’t tell a soul – not even my Husband or Parents, yet my Mom had always told me even as a little girl that I should write.  

Why?  Fear – of being ridiculed, of having expectations laid at my door that would stifle the creativity and cause too my pressure.  Those that know me in the professional world would be surprised at that – I work hard, and thrive under a certain type of pressure, but that is just it – that is work.  Writing is part of me, and a part that very few people get to see.

When I won my publishing contract I finally found the nerve to tell those closest to me, I’d told my husband after writing 25,000 words, to explain that it wasn’t really my paid job that was keeping me at the computer at all hours.  I told my parents and my sister when I won the competition, and they were delighted for me, and on the day Leah finally came out I “went public” including in the dreaded playground where my daughter goes to school…

My family were hugely supportive, my cousins ordered copies online and read it, my parents, both of them, read and claim to love it, despite it being YA/NA.  One of my daughters friends is probably my biggest fan, having read it now NINE times – despite only being 9.  My husband however has never read it, and probably never will.  He hates anything connected to the Paranormal, so I guess I need to excuse him, but yes it still hurts, and makes me find it difficult to justify another expense on something writing related.  Our nephew even wrote a brilliant piece of music, named “Leah” for use exclusively to market the book – the introduction is now part of the book trailer, which you can find on my website.

So, what right do I have to empathise and associate with Tricia’s comments?  There are people who have never once mentioned to me about the book, no congratulations or even acknowledgment of this achievement.  If I heard that a friend, family member or even colleague had just achieved something, I would offer my honest congratulations – achievement is a wonderful thing, and we are all different, so regardless of what it is, if it is something they worked hard to do, it deserves congratulations!  I associate with Tricia’s comments though because I now dread having to admit that Book Two isn’t ready to be released yet, and it is so difficult to explain why I struggle to write at the moment, when Leah came so easily.  That’s sharing too much of myself, and what’s going on with me for comfort.

You see, amongst friends there has been a change, rather than the usual catching up conversation you have – in my experience there are now two questions that people start a conversation with the “why are you still working, surely you got paid a huge amount now your a published author” type of question, and the inevitable “when is the next one coming out”.  People will avoid me because they don’t quite know what to say, they find it “funny” that I write Fantasy, and see it as immature and easy (!).  Others avoid me because writing is also their own dream, and jealousy is driving a wedge between us.

To an introvert who values her few friends and her family deeply, anything that drives a wedge, or is the cause of ridicule, or just puts pressure on what was a good relationship, is likely to cause further withdrawal, leading to further isolation.  Many of my friends are online, and have been made during the writing journey, and can completely associate with the experiences I’ve had, yet even to these I’ve struggled to be able to explain, and therefore start to withdraw from.

One of the things that really struck a chord with me though in Tricia’s piece here was the expectations that go with it.  In general, people only really hear about the multi million sellers, or the author that got a six figure advance.  Those stories are so far and few, that’s why they are news, but the perception is that this is the norm.  Therefore, if you are published and not living that lifestyle then you must be a failure.

As many of you will know, there was no huge advance – or advance of any kind.  Statisticians claim that 95% of published books receive no advance, so I am in very good company there.   Leah was published by a small independent publisher who, to this day, has never paid me a penny (or cent) of what I am owed.  Yet, I know how many paperbacks family bought – my Mum proudly ordered and posted to aunts and uncles to start with!  I also know from rankings that the ebook sold too, so I should have earned something by now.  As Tricia says, when there is no visible payoff to all the work that goes into writing and marketing that novel, people begin to question, and resent the time dedicated to it.

Leah is no longer under contract to that company.  We parted ways at the end of 2013, and it is now being released elsewhere, however the experience has left me feeling used, and cynical about the whole thing, which is a death knell to creativity.

But, I wrote a book that was considered good enough to win a competition for a publishing contract – and that people have since bought and enjoyed.  I have people genuinely ask me when they can read the next one, which means that something must be right in the first one, doesn’t it?

So why do I feel as though I’m letting people down?  As though I’m the failure?  Not one single member of my family or closest friends has said it to me, although there have been the “it needs to wait until next month, or a few months” comments when I want to buy something, but there is a voice in the back of my head repeating it like a stuck tape, and that is destructive.

We are our own hardest taskmaster and critic – that is certainly true of me anyway, but I have love and support from those closest to me, most of the time anyway, and my heart and love goes to those who are struggling along this path without it.

 

Where does the time go? An apology…

I’ve realised I’ve been neglecting you guys of late, and for that I am really sorry.  There’s no real excuse for it either, other than the pressures of the real world…

Life has been pretty hectic lately, with work and family life conspiring to keep me distracted from this blog, and my writing.

However, I thought it was time to share the news I’ve been harbouring for a few weeks now…

My book, Leah, Book One of the Worlds Apart Series, is no longer published by Taylor Street Books.  Instead, as of later today, it is published by Rose Wall Publications 🙂

The Kindle version will be available to download later today, but as it has had a major new redesign, and a fantastic cover (which I’m giving you a sneak peak of below), it could be a few weeks before the new paperback is out.

I’m offering signed copies to advance orders though, so if you’d like one, send me a message through my webpage and I’ll let you know the details.

This is a hugely exciting time for us, and I hope you’ll enjoy what is to come.

Here’s the new cover image – what do you think?

Image

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:

Website: http://thedarklingchronicles.weebly.com/

Author Blog: http://www.sophieetallis.wordpress.com/

Book FB Page: http://www.facebook.com/FantasyEpic

Author FB page: http://www.facebook.com/sophie.e.tallis

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountain-Darkling-Chronicles-Sophie-Tallis/dp/1908208090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351168547&sr=8-1

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Darkling-Chronicles-Sophie-Tallis/dp/1908208090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351168662&sr=8-1&keywords=White+Mountain+%28Darkling+Chronicles%29

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SophieETallis

Online Artwork: http://tollam.deviantart.com/

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:

Website: http://thedarklingchronicles.weebly.com/

Author Blog: http://www.sophieetallis.wordpress.com/

Book FB Page: http://www.facebook.com/FantasyEpic

Author FB page: http://www.facebook.com/sophie.e.tallis

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mountain-Darkling-Chronicles-Sophie-Tallis/dp/1908208090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351168547&sr=8-1

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Darkling-Chronicles-Sophie-Tallis/dp/1908208090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351168662&sr=8-1&keywords=White+Mountain+%28Darkling+Chronicles%29

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SophieETallis

Online Artwork: http://tollam.deviantart.com/

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:

Blog: http://suddenlytheyalldied.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorkaykauffman

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kaysielynn

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kaylkauffman

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/kaykauffman

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?

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

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