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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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.

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