Tag Archives: medieval

Book Review: ‘Knight Blindness’ by Chris Karlsen

knight

Knight Blindness is the third installment in Karlsen’s The Knights in Time series. I have read the first two books and, as always, the author doesn’t disappoint.

The story begins at the Battle of Poitiers, France, in 1356. English knight Stephen Palmer charges into battle when he is suddenly struck by the enemy. In that instant, he plummets through time and when he wakes up, wounded and confused, he finds himself in a hospital in 2013. Not only that, but blind due to his wound. His manner of speaking, questions and claims force people to believe that he’s mad.

In a twist of fate, old friends of his who have also secretly traveled through time before, from earlier books, come to help. They assign him a tutor to help him adjust to the modern world: beautiful and warm-hearted Esme Crippen who, unfortunately, thinks Stephen adorable but also mad.

But unbeknown to Stephen, the man who struck him, French knight Roger Marchant, was also sucked into the vortex and ripped through time…and he has his own agenda and will stop at nothing to hunt his enemy down and bring him back to 1356.

This was a thoroughly entertaining and compelling read. Romance, adventure, intrigue, mystery and a touch of humor await you in Knight Blindness. With her close attention to historical detail, Karlsen brings the story to life. Stephen is a riveting hero, brave, loyal and stubborn, yet with a vulnerable, sensitive side; Esme is as sympathetic as heroines go, and I had fun watching their romance evolve. Roger is a character not many will like, but Karlsen gave him some redeeming qualities as well, making him a more complex and realistic villain. I should mention that although this is third in a series, it is also a standalone book, and the author does a good job in providing some light backstory that doesn’t get overwhelming. If you’re a fan of time-travel and historical romance, you’ll want to add this one to your shelf.

Purchase from Amazon.

Visit the author’s website.

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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Award-winning fantasy trilogy STONEWISER available FREE on Kindle – get your copies!

Dear Romantic Fantasy Fans,

Here it is, Folks! Dora Machado’s entire Stonewiser award-winning fantasy trilogy, published by Mermaid Press, FREE on Kindle.

WHEN?  Starting today, from Saturday August 31 to Monday September 2

To get your free download NOW from the Kindle store, click on each title below. It’s as simple as that!

stonewiser-theheartofthestone-156x240Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone 


Winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for best Debut Novel

Finalist for 2009 Foreword Book of the Year Award for SFF

Between truth and deception, between justice and abuse, a stonewiser stands alone with the stones. Or so begins the stonewiser’s oath. But what happens when a rebellious stonewiser discovers that lies have tainted the stone tales?

In a world devastated by the rot’s widespread destruction, only the tales preserved in the stones can uphold the truth and defend the Goodlands. In this world, stone truth is valued above anyone’s word, and stonewisers are the only ones capable of retrieving the tales from the stones, the only link between past and present, order and chaos.

Sariah is the most gifted stonewiser of her generation, but her talent does not atone for her shortcomings. A survivor of the Guild’s brutal training, she is curious, willful and disobedient. Yet not even Sariah is prepared for what she finds when she steals into the Guild’s Sacred Vaults: A mayhem of lies and intrigues that shatters her world.

Hunted, persecuted, and betrayed, Sariah must make an unlikely alliance with Kael, a cynical rebel leader pledged to a mysterious quest of his own. The fate of their dying world depends on their courage to overcome centuries of hatred and distrust. But not even the grueling journey has prepared them for what they are about to discover. Because nothing is really as it seems, and the truth is more intricate and devastating than they ever suspected…. 

————————————————-

9780979968242 (2)Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone

Winner of the 2010 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Gold Medal for SF/F

Finalist for the 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Award for SF/F

Sariah’s reward for revealing the stone truth: a death sentence.

The executioners have arrived and Sariah, the most powerful and controversial stonewiser of her generation, has been judged and condemned to death. For the last few months, Sariah has been hiding in the Rotten Domain, trying to find the elusive tale capable of uniting a divided people teetering on the brink of a catastrophic war. As she is dragged to the nets, where an eel rave has been stirred to maximize her execution’s gruesome spectacle, Sariah knows she cannot escape her sentence. She is guilty of the crimes for which she’s been condemned and no one, not even Kael, the Domain’s foremost rebel leader, can save her from the executioners’ righteous justice.

But Kael is more than just a formidable warrior; he is also a cunning strategist and Sariah’s steadfast lover. Risking all he has, he bargains with the greedy executioners, bribing them into delaying Sariah’s execution, buying her precious time and a last chance to realize the mysterious legacy that the stones have imposed on her. The agreement is hardly a reprieve. It encourages a mob to hunt Sariah for ransom, banishing her from the Rotten Domain and imposing heavy fines on anyone who tries to help her. Worse, it requires her to wear an irremovable, mysterious bracelet. If she doesn’t return to the executioners with the tale in hand when the allotted time expires, Kael and his kin will be ruined and the bracelet will kill her.

Hunted by the executioners, the Guild and the Shield, Sariah and Kael embark on a desperate search. Their journey will take them to the depths of the Rotten Domain, where Sariah must wise a guiding beam out of the wild tale stored in a stone-carved game. The beam will lead them through the warring Goodlands—where the rot is on the move—to the land beyond the Bastions, where a zealous people guard an ancient stone that could hold the key to their search. Along the way, Sariah and Kael must overcome deadly traps, torture, heartbreak, agonizing defeat and devastating losses in a desperate attempt to avoid war and answer the mysterious call of the stone. 

————————————————-

9780979968259Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone

 

Winner of the 2012 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Silver Medal for SF/F

Finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award for SF/F

“Do you know why the stones grieve?” the woman said to Kael. “Not for a soul, I’ll tell you that much. The stones don’t grieve for the passing of a lowly woman or the madness of a smitten man. They don’t mourn death, or lost love, or broken dreams, or loneliness or despair. Yet you will make them wail. For you, the stones will weep.”

In their most perilous adventure yet, Sariah, the rogue stonewiser who stunned the world by discovering lies in the stones and defying the all-powerful Guild, and Kael, the rebel leader who against all odds loves her, must find a stolen child, the only one capable of setting rule upon chaos, preserving the future of stonewising, and defeating the rot ravaging the land. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The coveted child they seek is said to be an abomination. He is also their son.

It’s a daunting challenge. Their child is in the hands of a deceitful enemy who has fled to a mysterious ruler, a rival deity with unfathomable powers pledged to destroy the goddess and eradicate stonewising from the world. Worse yet, the land is engulfed in strife, the rot is spreading faster than ever, and Kael is haunted by a malevolent curse compelling him to kill the woman he loves.

In a dangerous journey fraught with shocking twists, Sariah and Kael must do more than defeat their foes, unravel the mystifying forces vying to control their lives, and discover the mysteries of ages past. They must challenge the stones, defy the goddess and confront their cursed fates. Because only by embracing their destinies do they stand a chance to save their child and their world.

 

For those of you audio book lovers, the first book in the series, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is now available from Audible. Be sure to check it out!

————————————————-

Dora Tapestry 1 June 2013 (480x640)About Dora Machado

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel,The Curse Giver, from Twilight Times Books, available July 2013. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue.

After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind’s adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats. Visit her atwww.DoraMachado.com.

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Dora Machado’s Stonewiser award-winning fantasy trilogy to be available FREE on Kindle

Dear Romantic Fantasy Fans,

Mark your calendars!

For the first time ever and for a limited time, Dora Machado’s entire Stonewiser award-winning fantasy trilogy, published by Mermaid Press, will be available FREE on Kindle.

WHEN? From Saturday August 31 to Monday September 2

stonewiser-theheartofthestone-156x240

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Stonewiser%3A%20The%20Heart%20of%20the%20Stone

Winner of the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for best Debut Novel

Finalist for 2009 Foreword Book of the Year Award for SFF

Between truth and deception, between justice and abuse, a stonewiser stands alone with the stones. Or so begins the stonewiser’s oath. But what happens when a rebellious stonewiser discovers that lies have tainted the stone tales?

In a world devastated by the rot’s widespread destruction, only the tales preserved in the stones can uphold the truth and defend the Goodlands. In this world, stone truth is valued above anyone’s word, and stonewisers are the only ones capable of retrieving the tales from the stones, the only link between past and present, order and chaos.

Sariah is the most gifted stonewiser of her generation, but her talent does not atone for her shortcomings. A survivor of the Guild’s brutal training, she is curious, willful and disobedient. Yet not even Sariah is prepared for what she finds when she steals into the Guild’s Sacred Vaults: A mayhem of lies and intrigues that shatters her world.

Hunted, persecuted, and betrayed, Sariah must make an unlikely alliance with Kael, a cynical rebel leader pledged to a mysterious quest of his own. The fate of their dying world depends on their courage to overcome centuries of hatred and distrust. But not even the grueling journey has prepared them for what they are about to discover. Because nothing is really as it seems, and the truth is more intricate and devastating than they ever suspected….

————————————————-

9780979968242 (2)Stonewiser: The Call of the Stone

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Stonewiser%3A+The+Call+of+the+Stone&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AStonewiser%3A+The+Call+of+the+Stone

Winner of the 2010 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Gold Medal for SF/F

Finalist for the 2010 ForeWord Book of the Year Award for SF/F

Sariah’s reward for revealing the stone truth: a death sentence.

The executioners have arrived and Sariah, the most powerful and controversial stonewiser of her generation, has been judged and condemned to death. For the last few months, Sariah has been hiding in the Rotten Domain, trying to find the elusive tale capable of uniting a divided people teetering on the brink of a catastrophic war. As she is dragged to the nets, where an eel rave has been stirred to maximize her execution’s gruesome spectacle, Sariah knows she cannot escape her sentence. She is guilty of the crimes for which she’s been condemned and no one, not even Kael, the Domain’s foremost rebel leader, can save her from the executioners’ righteous justice.

But Kael is more than just a formidable warrior; he is also a cunning strategist and Sariah’s steadfast lover. Risking all he has, he bargains with the greedy executioners, bribing them into delaying Sariah’s execution, buying her precious time and a last chance to realize the mysterious legacy that the stones have imposed on her. The agreement is hardly a reprieve. It encourages a mob to hunt Sariah for ransom, banishing her from the Rotten Domain and imposing heavy fines on anyone who tries to help her. Worse, it requires her to wear an irremovable, mysterious bracelet. If she doesn’t return to the executioners with the tale in hand when the allotted time expires, Kael and his kin will be ruined and the bracelet will kill her.

Hunted by the executioners, the Guild and the Shield, Sariah and Kael embark on a desperate search. Their journey will take them to the depths of the Rotten Domain, where Sariah must wise a guiding beam out of the wild tale stored in a stone-carved game. The beam will lead them through the warring Goodlands—where the rot is on the move—to the land beyond the Bastions, where a zealous people guard an ancient stone that could hold the key to their search. Along the way, Sariah and Kael must overcome deadly traps, torture, heartbreak, agonizing defeat and devastating losses in a desperate attempt to avoid war and answer the mysterious call of the stone.

————————————————-

9780979968259Stonewiser: The Lament of the Stone

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Stonewiser%3A+The+Lament+of+the+Stone&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3AStonewiser%3A+The+Lament+of+the+Stone

Winner of the 2012 Independent Publisher (IPPY) Silver Medal for SF/F

Finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award for SF/F

“Do you know why the stones grieve?” the woman said to Kael. “Not for a soul, I’ll tell you that much. The stones don’t grieve for the passing of a lowly woman or the madness of a smitten man. They don’t mourn death, or lost love, or broken dreams, or loneliness or despair. Yet you will make them wail. For you, the stones will weep.”

In their most perilous adventure yet, Sariah, the rogue stonewiser who stunned the world by discovering lies in the stones and defying the all-powerful Guild, and Kael, the rebel leader who against all odds loves her, must find a stolen child, the only one capable of setting rule upon chaos, preserving the future of stonewising, and defeating the rot ravaging the land. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The coveted child they seek is said to be an abomination. He is also their son.

It’s a daunting challenge. Their child is in the hands of a deceitful enemy who has fled to a mysterious ruler, a rival deity with unfathomable powers pledged to destroy the goddess and eradicate stonewising from the world. Worse yet, the land is engulfed in strife, the rot is spreading faster than ever, and Kael is haunted by a malevolent curse compelling him to kill the woman he loves.

In a dangerous journey fraught with shocking twists, Sariah and Kael must do more than defeat their foes, unravel the mystifying forces vying to control their lives, and discover the mysteries of ages past. They must challenge the stones, defy the goddess and confront their cursed fates. Because only by embracing their destinies do they stand a chance to save their child and their world.

For those of you audio book lovers, the first book in the series, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is now available from Audible. Be sure to check it out!

————————————————-

Dora Tapestry 1 June 2013 (480x640)About Dora Machado

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, from Twilight Times Books, available July 2013. She is one of the few Latinas exploring her heritage and her world through the epic fantasy genre today. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a love for history, and a taste for Merengue.

After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazing readers who share in her mind’s adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats. Visit her at www.DoraMachado.com.

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Why I Love (and Write) Historical Fiction

We have a special guest today!  Laura Vosika, author of the historical fiction novel, Blue Bells of Scotland, is here to talk about why she loves to write historical fiction!

WHY I LOVE (AND WRITE) HISTORICAL FICTION

by Laura Vosika

“There was no better way to understand life than to live it—if not through your own life, then through another’s.”

I recently read this quote in a Ted Dekker book.  This, to me, says it well. I have long been fascinated by people, personalities, and human nature, how and why people interact, and how they live the lives they are given. History and fiction are two great ways to watch these things in action, and combining them makes it even better.

I find history fascinating now. It’s a bit like fiction coming to life, hearing wonderful stories of dramatic events and powerful characters, and knowing it’s all real. Unfortunately, many people—including me—found history a dull collection of facts and dates in school. Even in college, I remember only one professor who really pushed beyond the facts to see the humanity and personalities of the historical actors.  And this, to me, is the beauty of historical fiction: it brings history to life.  Few people are interested in facts and dates. Most people are interested in stories, fascinating people, and great adventures, and these elements are common to both history and fiction.

A typical history class says: Robert Bruce led the Scottish troops against the English at Bannockburn on the 23rd and 24th of June, 1314. Do you care? Will you remember the name, battle, or date in two hours, let alone two years?

Instead, add sights, sounds, emotions, smells—these bring the man to life, as he should be, as he was, not as a dry fact.  Put yourself in Bruce’s place on the hot, summer day of June 23, 1314: in the last 10 years, you have gone from your own noble castles, high status, and royal positions under Edward Longshanks, king of England, to hunted fugitive-king living in the wilderness; from fugitive to guerrilla fighter casting off the traditions of ‘chivalrous’ warfare which certainly would have cost your life and those of your friends and countrymen. You have lived hard and fought hard, and spent years trying to calm the brash hand of your own brother, who has now forced you into the one thing you rigorously avoided—pitched battle against a much greater army. Your wife, daughter, and sister are all imprisoned in England. You have not seen them in years, and they may die as a result of your actions today.  How do you feel so far?

Now, feel the weight of your chain mail, and the heat of the sun blistering through it. Feel the sweat dripping down your back. Look at your men, few in number and ill-equipped compared to the coming behemoth; your close friends who may die: Clansmen from the Highlands and lowlands; Angus Og, Lord of the Isles, with his Islemen in their saffron tunics, who have fought so loyally on their galleys in the western Isles; James Douglas, soft spoken and gentle with his friends, but known to the English these last 8 years as a bogeyman with whom to frighten their children.

Look out across the land you have chosen for battle. Its narrow entrance and spit of dry land will limit Edward II’s ability to throw the whole weight of his great army against you. The marshy ground will slow the fearsome charge of England’s mighty warhorses—against which you have only ponies. You arrived early; you prepared the ground well with murder pits and four-pointed caltrops. You have spent weeks drilling your men to fight in schiltrons—circles of hundreds of spears all pointing outward—that will allow your foot soldiers to take on mounted cavalry. You have carried the relics of Scotland’s greatest saints and implored their prayers to God on your behalf.  You have done everything you can to even the odds against an army three, even four times the size of your own.

But will it be enough?

What is Robert Bruce feeling as the midsummer sun beats down on his chain mail? Is he thinking of the men behind him, the army before him, his wife and daughter far away, whether he’ll be alive or dead tomorrow? This is a real man. He hurt and bled like any of us; he felt love and fear like any of us. What would you do in his place? What would you say to the men waiting behind you, willing to die at your side, on your word? What does Bruce say?

The sights, sounds, smells, and emotions of real stories: they help us to experience it as it was, and to learn from it, in a way we don’t learn from a list of facts.

It was through historical fiction that I first began to understand and appreciate history, to discover the exciting stories in it, and learn something about the way the world and people work, from those who have gone before. It is through the human faces and emotions that I best continue to understand history. This is why I also love to write historical fiction. As a writer, I go even deeper, digging into the layers of causes, reasons, personalities, and how the smallest actions lead to defining moments, to change the course of nations and lives.

When we learn these things, we become wiser, and live our lives better, and that, to me, is the fascination of historical fiction.

Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast.

She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on harp, piano, winds, and brass.

Laura is the mother of 7 boys and 2 girls, and lives in Minnesota.

Her latest book is Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy.

You can visit her website at www.bluebellstrilogy.com.

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Guest Blogger: Castle in the Forest by Historical Fiction Author Laura Vosika


We have a special guest today. Laura Voskia, author of the historical fiction novel, Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy (Gabriel’s Horn Publishing) , is here to tell us about one of the many castles she has visited. Enjoy!

Castle in the Forest

by Laura Vosika

With over 3,000 castles in Scotland—that’s one for about every hundred square miles—it is unlikely I’ll ever be able to visit them all. But during my two week trip to Scotland in 2008, I visited 13, a castle almost every day. Several of those stand out as favorites, ones I hope to go back to, but one in particular captured my heart and imagination.

It is isn’t the oldest or largest. It has nothing as fascinating as Dunvegan’s Fairy Flag. It lacks the history of Stirling. In fact, very little is written about its history. Even with detailed descriptions of its structure, articles on it are a scant few paragraphs, at best. Still, if I could fly back to Scotland today, I would go straight to Finlarig Castle in Killin.

Maybe the attraction, for me was in the way I found it. While my husband and I were staying at the hostel in Killin, the manager there—full of great stories and advice about places to see—told us to look for it on our walk around Loch Tay. He warned us to watch for a small path. I watched all too well, and discovered a dirt track six inches wide pushing through the foliage of a small copse. We followed it and burst into a clearing in the forest, in which rose the gray stone ruins of a castle and mausoleum, overgrown by ivy and woodland. We hadn’t seen anyone else on our walk. The clearing was empty and silent. It felt as mysterious and wonderful as the children discovering the ruins of Cair Paravel in The Chronicles of Narnia.

My husband and I spent a good long time exploring the castle ruins. The structure stands three stories high in places, while the walls are completely gone in others. We walked through the arched entrance, into a tower—and out the other side into what might have been the courtyard, now overgrown and with a tree springing up in the middle of it. We climbed the faint remains of stairs, to fragments of the second floor, and descended into dim recesses that, I later learned, had been cellars and kitchens. We never did find the beheading pit the manager told us to look for. (And I later read that the ‘beheading pit’ was really only a cistern to gather rain water!)

The grounds also feature a mausoleum, very complete on the outside, and with the entrance so overrun with years of dirt and debris that you must climb up and squeeze through what’s left of the opening, near the top of the arch. As a result, exploring the inside of the mausoleum means walking close to where the ceiling would have been. Nearby are a pair of lichen-covered Celtic crosses, the graves of Lord and Lady Campbell, that, though dating only to the 1920’s, give the place even more of an ancient and mysterious feel.

As we left Finlarig, the opposite way from which we entered, we discovered the ‘small’ road we were supposed to have found: a five foot wide tar-topped road, complete with large signs giving dire warnings about the danger of getting too near Castle Finlarig: Do not climb on the structure! Do not go near the structure! The structure may collapse!

I most likely would have heeded those signs. I’m comfortable in my un-extreme world of piano, harp and teaching music lessons to 8-year-olds. Which is why I’m really glad I didn’t see those signs! There was something wonderful about exploring these isolated and abandoned ruins.

Perhaps my attraction to Finlarig was that very isolation and abandonment. We were alone. I think had we stayed longer, we would have continued to be alone, a unique experience among the many castles we visited. It allowed us to feel the atmosphere in a way that’s not possible with hundreds of tourists crowding the place. There were no placards to explain or reveal. I think that left the imagination free to roam, to look at the place as it is now, and all the ways it might have once been, to create possible histories and lives.

Whatever the reason, as much as I loved the elegant beauty of Linlithgow, the wax statues of Eileen Donan, the twisting passages of Doune, as much as I would try to return to each of them and more, Finlarig holds a special place in my heart.

Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast.

She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on harp, piano, winds, and brass.

Laura is the mother of 7 boys and 2 girls, and lives in Minnesota.

Her latest book is Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy.

You can visit her website at www.bluebellstrilogy.com.

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Interview with Laura Vosika, author of ‘Blue Bells of Scotland’

Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast.

She earned a degree in music, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, music teacher, band director, and instructor in private music lessons on harp, piano, winds, and brass.

Laura is the mother of 7 boys and 2 girls, and lives in Minnesota.

Her latest book is Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy.

You can visit her website at www.bluebellstrilogy.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Laura. Can you tell us what your latest book, Blue Bells of Scotland, is about?

Blue Bells of Scotland is a time travel and historic adventure, about two men, polar opposites but for their looks and love of music. When they both spend the night at the top of the same castle tower, they wake up in the wrong centuries, caught in one another’s lives.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Shawn is a modern-day musical phenomenon, who wears accusations of self-centeredness like a badge of honor. He drinks, gambles, lies, and cheats on his girlfriend. Niall is a sharp contrast, a devout medieval Highland warrior, the epitome of responsibility. The fate of Scotland rests on his shoulders.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I came across a character in a Diana Gabaldon book saying that writers are like cannibals: they take bits and pieces of all their friends and make a stew out of them. I pull characters out of my imagination, but often realize later that I have used parts of several people to make up one character. At other times, I ‘borrow’ traits from people: a certain way of laughing, a depth in the eyes, a turn of phrase, a combination of clothes.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I’m usually aware of the plot before I start, but I’m more aware of the themes. With Blue Bells of Scotland, I had a basic plot, which involved only Shawn. But Niall had other plans, and the book changed quite a bit from the original concept.

Q: Your book is set in Inverness and Bannockburn in Scotland. Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular?

I chose Bannockburn because that’s the location of the battle which is the backdrop for the medieval half of the story. However, Niall needed to make a long journey prior to the battle, so I researched castles some ways away, from which he might travel. In addition, his castle had to be close enough to a city where an American orchestra might play, that its members might visit that castle on their days off. Inverness, with Castle Urquhart nearby, fit those requirements, so Inverness and Eden Court Theatre entered the story.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes and no. Niall’s life, into which Shawn steps, is governed by the war with England. Shawn’s physical discomfort as he hikes Scotland’s mountains, the dangers he faces from English soldiers, and the outrage of others at his behavior—all the things that lead to him changing—are things that could not have happened in his twenty-first century American life. But there are many times and places that have physical challenges, dangers, war, and different outlooks. I could have written a similar story in many settings. What really led me to Scotland was the title of the folk song, whose themes of noble banners and streaming deeds I wanted to include in the story.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

Page 69 happens to be the last of a chapter, so there are only a couple of paragraphs! But Niall, the medieval warrior, has recently woken up in the 21st Century. He is suffering from severe infection, the result of an arrow wound, and thinks maybe he’s suffering delirium. From his chambers three stories up, he’s seen Shawn’s girlfriend and a man walking on the shore below. With his dagger drawn, he heads down to the shore to find out from them why his castle is deserted and half-broken down.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Crashing into a boulder at the foot of the hill, he leaned in, scooped the other man over his shoulder with strength he’d never had, and ran, jarring the monk with each step. The town appeared ahead. A more beautiful sight he’d never seen! Already, his chest heaved for air. His legs screamed for mercy. He couldn’t look back. A stitch ripped through his side. Shapes formed ahead as he closed in: crowds! His salvation!
The merry sounds of a festival reached out to him. He pushed himself, Brother David’s abused body slamming into his back, his moans filling his ears, and reached the edge of the throng.

Jugglers in harlequin clothing danced around him, spinning balls in the air. He gripped Brother David’s legs, batting at the jugglers with his free hand, fought his way through to a booth laden with vegetables.

“Turnips, tasty turnips!” bawled an old woman, grabbing his sleeve. He spun his head, searching for Allene. Now there were more stalls, musicians strolling the street, a man with a monkey. He reached the outlying buildings of the town, his head twisting side to side, hunting for a hiding place.

“Your fortune for a penny,” cried a scarved woman in front of a painted gypsy caravan.

“Breads, buns, rolls!” bellowed a fat man draped in white.

Shawn pushed through a gaggle of giggling children. Brother David grew heavier. Shawn’s legs trembled under the weight. Stone houses and merchants’ stalls rose around him.

“Fruits!” a young girl shrilled in his ear, snatching at his sleeve. “Five a penny!”

He took another step, twisted to peer down a dank alley for a hiding place.

An acrobatic team strolled by on their hands, pointy shoes waving in his face. A boy led a string of ponies, brushing against him, making him stumble. The smell of cheeses and fruits and meat and animals filled the air. Shawn spun, the weight of the monk on his shoulder growing; seeking sanctuary. People called and laughed. Colors spun in and out. His legs weakened under Brother David’s weight.

“Alms!” cried a toothless beggar, stretching a bony hand from among rags.

His knee buckled. He grabbed a stone wall to steady himself.

Something gripped his elbow. He spun, yanking his arm back….

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Laura. We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!



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