When I first saw a picture of the Giant Ficus Tree (Ficus benjamina) many years ago, I knew that tree grew in my fantasy world. I even knew it would entrap someone within its branches. Fast forward to Healing Stones, book 5 of the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series, and we find this tree growing in the first chapter.

Isla of Maura, McGuigan and Lyneth happen upon it on their way to Moonsface. Here’s the start of the scene. You’ll have to wait to see who is trapped in it.

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In Blade of Truth, 18-year-old Bronwyn Darrow convinces his mum to let him enlist in the Aruam Castle Army. She’s hesitant, but understands he doesn’t want to follow in his brothers’ or granddad’s footsteps.

Here’s a snippet from the short story. Details on where to find the eBook free for your Kindle below.

“Mum.” His voice sounded softer than he anticipated.

“Yes, dear,”

Blade of Truth book coverHis hands warmed and formed a cloud of moisture on the steel near where his fingers touched the fork. “Would you be upset if I didn’t become a wainwright with Joris and Calder?”

Maisie stopped washing the dishes. The skin on her face tightened. “Did you want to join your granddad making waggon wheels?”

“No.” His swallow hurt his throat.

“Do you plan on staying on at the bakery? We need another full-time worker. Our feet walk slower these days.”

“Mum.” Bronwyn left the table and leant on the counter next to her. “Mum, I want to enlist. It’s my only desire.”

“Bronwyn, you are so young.” His mother sighed. “Why don’t you wait until you’re older?”

“Would it make you happy if I waited?” He didn’t want to disappoint her. He loved her and respected her opinion.

“Being a soldier is dangerous work. As I’ve said before, I’d prefer it if you left the job to men more experienced.”

“I can’t become experienced unless I complete the training. No one can. I’m good with the sword, Mum. You know that. I practise every day. I’m strong and fast.”

“Bronwyn, I’m not certain how I would cope if you…”

“Mum, I’ve grown up. You can’t protect me forever.” He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head on her shoulder. “You taught me to always do what I believed in. I believe I can do this. It’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Maisie hugged him. “I know you are wise and strong. I know you would be the best soldier the castle ever had.”

A wave of relief consumed him. She’d finally agree to his trade choice.

“But you’re my baby.”

He rolled his eyes and endeavoured to defend his maturity, but she stopped him and continued her speech.

“Promise me one thing.” She gazed into his eyes as if to gather courage to grant his heart’s desire. “Promise me you will wait until the next waning moon to enlist. During this time, I want you to learn more about what is expected of a full-time soldier. I want you to think about the benefits and the drawbacks. Once this time passes,”—she paused, and he heard her swallow hard—, “if you still feel this is your calling, I will give you my blessing.”

He lifted her into the air and spun her around. “Thank you, Mum!” He set her down and hugged her tightly. “Thank you. I will not let you down. I gladly make the promise.”

This is the last day of the sale. Get your free copy of Blade of Truth for you Kindle here:

February is Fantasy Month

Blade of Truth book coverBronwyn’s 18 years old. He wants to be seen as an adult, but as the baby of the family, his family still treats him like a child. Here’s a snippet from Blade of Truth, the short story that exposes Bronwyn’s back story.

Bronwyn’s older sisters, Rhiannon and Loran, sat at the table eating. They worked as apprentices at the nearby dress shop and often talked about opening their own shop one day.

“After today, you won’t have time to play with your silly sword.” Rhiannon winked at Loran.

“You’ll have to work like the rest of us,” said Loran.

“My sword is mighty, not silly.” He frowned. “And I already work. Don’t I, Mum?” Every day, he stocked shelves and ran orders for the family’s shop.

Maisie guided the bacon and eggs from the pan to his plate. “Of course. He is my best helper.”

His sisters giggled.

Worker,” he corrected.

“That’s right, dear.” Maisie eyed her daughters. “He does more work around the shop than you two did. You were too busy ogling boys. You better hurry or you’ll be late. Ole Miss Purdy frowns on tardiness.”

Get your free copy of Blade of Truth for your Kindle here:

Sale runs for February 4th, 5th and 6th.

February is Fantasy Month

Blade of Truth book coverAs we continue to celebrate February is Fantasy Month, the eBook Blade of Truth is free for three days, starting today. The short story stars Bronwyn Darrow, who is an 18-year-old student who’s planning his final days in Study Class.

In it, we learn of Bronwyn’s obsession with the sword.

Bronwyn drew a soft brown rag along the blade of his short sword, wiping it one more time before sliding it into the leather scabbard. He savoured the weariness in his muscles after the vigorous workout. If permitted to do so, he would continue to practice in the backyard all day. The sensation created when the sword reached its apex, then whipped around as if a thousand horses pulled it, exhilarated him.

Description

Innocence is shattered when a young man falls victim to a horrible prank.

Youth and innocence still reside in Bronwyn Darrow.

When he attends a celebration with the girl he admires most, he’s elated but extremely nervous.

He hopes the night will be one they’ll never forget. Instead, he should have hoped for one easily forgotten.

Pick up your copy here:

Enjoy.

February is Fantasy Month

Destiny Governed their Lives is the story in which we learn a little Maskil history. I’ll let 17-year-old Catriona tell it from her perspective:

Destiny Governed their LivesThe founders had established the small town more than two hundred years beforehand, but the population was small compared to towns in the south. Catriona believed the war against the horrid wizard Lindrum had reduced the number of inhabitants and discouraged others from settling. Although the Lords of Maskil had won the battle, they hadn’t won the war. The constant threat of random attacks by Lindrum and his henchmen kept everyone on alert.

“That happened long before I was born,” mumbled Catriona as she made her way along Tintally Street. No one could honestly say Lindrum continued to threaten Maskil and its Aruam Castle. Though the man hadn’t been seen for more than sixty years, it didn’t matter. If a horse vanished, a building burnt or an inhabitant went missing, the citizens accused Lindrum.

When more severe crimes occurred, people spoke of the prophecy. The prophecy. Catriona chuckled. What a fantasy. A half-crazed man who claimed he’d been lost in Caverns of Confusion for fourteen years had delivered the dozen or so lines describing Maskil’s destiny. When he arrived in Maskil, he appeared as an old man though he declared himself to be only thirty-one.

A company of Aruam Castle soldiers had set out to find and explore the mysterious Caverns of Confusion, but no one found them. They didn’t appear on any map in the castle archives and no official records existed of travellers visiting them. Her father had viewed hundreds of maps and knew thousands of places, and he hadn’t heard of the caverns. Still, stories from long ago passed through the years by word of mouth told of explorers finding them.

They were also fantasy, made up to entertain and scare small children, thought Catriona.

Today is the LAST DAY the eBook will be free to download at Amazon. Find it here:

Enjoy.

Destiny Governed their LivesIn the short story Destiny Governed their Lives, Catriona Wheatcroft, an apprentice, has snatched a scroll from her teacher’s dwelling and is attempting to cast the Sight Visitation Spell. The recipe might sound easy, but if done incorrectly by an inexperienced hand, it could cause irreparable damage.

The Basic Recipe

  • Water
  • Oil of the green olive
  • Whole seed from yellow rattle grass (gives strength to the eyes and allows the caster to see the image clearly)
  • Eyebright (gives the eyes power to see)
  • Fennel (Aids in opening things)

A Snippet

The following is the passage detailing Catriona mixing the ingredients.

She paused and looked at the many dishes in front of her. If she mixed them correctly, she’d work her first worthy spell. Steadying her hand, she carefully picked up the oil of green olive and poured it into the wooden bowl. As the recipe instructed, she stirred three times with a wooden spurtle. This is like baking a cake.

mortar and pestleNext, she picked up the fennel. “Fennel ground to a rough powder using a white agate pestle in a clay mortar. Huh? What’s so special about crushing it with a stone? I’ll use the back of a spoon. That’ll do.”

She held the small dish in her hand and crushed the fennel root with the utensil. Once prepared, she admired her work. “Looks great.” She added this to the oil in the bowl.

For almost half an hour, she added, stirred and crushed the ingredients together in the proper order. She stared at the finished concoction. I hope this works. If it doesn’t, what a mess to clean up for nothing.

Today and tomorrow, the eBook is free to download at Amazon. Find it here:

Enjoy.

February is Fantasy Month

wizard hatWelcome to the 5th Annual February is Fantasy Month. Over the next 29 days, I will post several book promotions and discuss more fantasy-related topics than the rest of the year. So hold onto to your wizard’s hat, and let’s get things started.

To kick off this fantastical month, the first short story I wrote to introduce the Land of Ath-o’Lea, Destiny Governed their Lives, will be free for three days starting now. The eBook is available at:

Destiny Governed their LivesThis story introduces Catriona Wheatcroft. She’s a young girl, only 17 years old, living with her parents and two little brothers in a small dwelling in Maskil. She and her brother, Rod, age 15, are like most siblings: compatible until they disagree. As a big sister, she’s annoyed by her little brother, who always seems to be in the way.

The events in this story change Catriona’s life and sets her on the path to meet the characters who populate the Castle Keepers series.

Description

When a young woman casts a Sight Visitation Spell, it changes her life forever.

Catriona Wheatcroft is an apprentice who aspires to be an impressive sorceress.

When she discovers a scroll for a powerful spell, she hopes to prove to her teacher she is ready to take advanced lessons.

The spell is cast, and the unexpected brings tragedy to her life.

February is Fantasy Month

Last summer, I hiked the Jodrey Trail, Blomidon Park, Nova Scotia. The entire hike provided breathtaking scenery, but there was one section that stood out above the rest for reasons others in the hiking group wouldn’t understand. While I’d never been on this trail before, I had explored it in my imagination.

Jodrey Hiking Trail Blomidon

Setting the scene

The vegetation was lush. Tall trees provided a thick canopy that trapped cool moisture and reflected the heat from the scorching temperatures of the hot July day. It also provided the perfect micro-environment for ferns and mosses to grow. Inhaling filled me with the wonderful aromas of the forest.

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Origins

 

The name Bannock came from Scottish bread: bannock. There are sessions when I’m writing quickly, and I don’t have much time to search for a name because I want to ride the story wave. In this case, I think I may have been listening to Dean Brody’s Mountain Man and in it, he says he can make bannock.

BAM! The name of a village was born because it was as good as any I could find in that desperate moment.

 

The Land of Ath-o’Lea

 

We first hear of the village in Healing Stones. It lies along the trail between Moonsface and Inglenook. At the entry of the elf settlement is a sign post created from stone and a thick, carved log that reads: Welcome to Bannock, the hubbery of Knollton Mountain Range: Population 2,467.

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I recall years ago many realists complaining about fantasy stories in which people travelling by horseback ate stews and soups made from scratch over the fire. While I somewhat agreed with them, I didn’t fully agree with them. You see, I make soup all the time and while I’m not riding all day and building a fire to cook it, I know how to make it, and I’m certain it’s possible to do while travelling. All that’s required is the right circumstances.

A pot of soup feeds many mouths, and it doesn’t cost very much. All the goods (except one, the meat) can be carried without refrigeration and can remain edible for many days. The meat, however, will only last a few hours in hot weather unless it was first frozen and packed to keep it cold. On the other hand, meat is easily kept frozen for long-term storage when travelling in cold weather. Regardless of the weather, meat, such as rabbit, partridge or other animal, can be caught and cooked when needed.

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