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 🙂


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?


Do you love paranormal books?

If you do, then is the site for you. Despite their name, they feature a huge range of the best paranormal fiction on the market.

Today, they’re featuring “Worlds Apart: Leah”, and have an exclusive interview both with the author (yes, me 🙂 ), as well as Leah herself.

Take a look here

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!

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