This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Maisie Darrow.

Maisie Darrow

In short: Dwarf, female, born Rhunestone Castle on The Headlands of Mar, living at Maskil, mate to Gavin Darrow, maiden name Kintale, owns and operates Forest Bakery and Herbs Shop with mate, six children (3 boys, 3 girls): Calder, Molly, Joris, Loran, Rhiannon and Bronwyn, several grandchildren.

Family and Teen Years

Not much has been revealed about Maisie’s parents and siblings, but I feel there is a big story to tell there. She named her youngest son after her brother, Bronwyn. She and Gaven met in Glen Tosh, fell in love and united there. Soon after, they moved to Maskil where they set up their shop and raised a family.

Like all mums, she’s protective of her flock. Although she was busy with her shop, she paid special attention to her children, attention that will be revealed in later novels. Now that they are adults, she’s still an intricate part of their lives, particularly Bronwyn’s. She doesn’t hesitate to give motherly advice, and she also knows how to wheedle information from him as can be seen when he returns to Maskil after being gone a long time.

He swallowed hard. His mum had a way of getting him to talk and here in the bedroom, after his waking, was when she usually weaselled the truth from his lips. To protect Alaura, he couldn’t tell anyone where she was or that he had made contact with her. But here, under his mum’s scrutiny, he found it impossible to hide anything.

Her motherly advice on love appears now and again. Here she is giving it to Bronwyn in Scattered Stones:

“You get only one chance, you know.” She leant back and breathed deeply. “It’s why I pursued your dad. As bashful and tenacious as he was, I knew him to be the one. It was far from painless, but you can’t forsake those who touch your heart like no other.”

Her greatest joy comes from her family and like all mothers, she loves to feed them:

His mum gazed around the table. She enjoyed this most of all: gathering the family for the evening ration. It was the time to share their lives, the joys and the disappointments. She had often said it was the occasion to renew the family bond and for each to gather strength to carry on. He believed that now. One day he wanted to bring his family to the table and continue the tradition. When his mum’s eyes met his, he smiled. She returned the smile and a peaceful expression eased the lines in her cheeks.kitchen

Where I Found her Name

Would you believe from our miniature donkey? That’s right; our donkey’s name is Maisie.

History in Real Life

Maisie was not a part of the original story. However, by the time I revised that story written during my teen years, I was a mother. Through Maisie, I was able to guide Bronwyn in life.

I’ve been told that one thing that sets my epic fantasy stories apart from others is the family aspect. Most of the heroes in fantasy novels are orphans, and if not orphaned, they are estranged from their family, many not knowing who their parents are.

I can only assume the importance I place on family overflowed into my stories. It’s about time a hero had a loving, caring mum who’s there to patch up broken arms, make him cookies and to give unwanted motherly advice. After all, there are often only two women in a man’s life that can get him to do things he doesn’t want to do: his mum and his mate. Bronwyn needs both these women.

My interest in genealogy also played a part, and is why the Darrow and Mulryan family tree will be explored in the Castle Keepers series.

Role in Novels

Maisie pops in and out of the story in every novel, except perhaps in Revelation Stones. She’s there when a mum is needed. As I mentioned above, I believe Maisie has a wonderful story to tell, and this will be told in a future novel.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Sawney Cronin.

Sawney Cronin

In short: Dwarf, male, brown hair, brown eyes, born at Maskil, junior corporal with Aruam Castle, scout.

Family and Teen Years

The only part about family revealed in Shadows in the Stone is that Sawney has a younger brother. He sympathies with Bronwyn when Isla is kidnapped, and says he knows if his little brother, who is around Isla’s age, was taken, he’d take every risk to find him. No doubt, Sawney’s parents are living in Maskil, and he has more than one sibling.

Insider Tip: Sawney’s little brother was mentioned here not to connect Sawney with Bronwyn, but to bring the boy into the story. I don’t know what his name will be but look for him in Healing Stones. He’s going to do some bad before he does some good.

Sawney is a typical dwarf, went to Study Hall, completed his courses, tried a few trades, then enlisted with Aruam Castle because he has a sense of adventure. He’s dedicated to friends and family.

Where I Found his Name

Sawney was not part of the original cast in the novel written in my youth, but I added him because I wanted a few friendly faces on guard at the castle, ones Bronwyn could trust and ones readers would become familiar with over time.

In a search for names, I came across it, liked it, found it unique and assigned it to this quiet character. The last name, Cronin, was a name I liked at first, but I’m not a fan of it now. I wished I had picked a better one for this character who, unbeknownst to me at the time, has a bigger part in this epic tale than I first imagined.

Role in Novels

Sawney began as a private in Shadows in the Stone, and we see him promoted to junior corporal in chapter 10. He becomes more prominent when called on as a scout to track Isla’s kidnappers. He gets seriously injured when the dragon attacks and returns to the castle. Unlike the others in the group, he calls Bronwyn ‘Sarg’ instead of ‘Sergeant’…unless it’s official business.

Sawney appears in Vignette #9 where we see he’s made a special friend, Willow. Whether this grows into something more, you won’t know until Revelation Stones is released.

Sawney appears in Scattered Stones where “an intricate copper-coloured conch laced into leather decorated his scabbard belt.” He plays an intricate, silent part in the series, so I think he’ll be around for some time.

Insider Tip: Project M involves Willow, so Sawney might show up…but I’m only 5,000 words in, so I’m unsure what ground will be covered.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing, editing and formatting lately. So much so, I’ve neglected other areas of my life, but…laundry will always be waiting for me, and dishes will eventually get washed and snow will cover the long grass soon enough.

I have many things in the works, so I thought I’d make record of them here.

2nd Edition of Shadows in the Stone

Many might ask, why a 2nd edition?

The answers are simple and complex. Here are several:

  • I’ve grown immensely as a writer since 2012, when the book was first
    Shadows in the Stone 2nd edition

    2nd Edition Cover

    released. I’d like to show off these new skills by improving the reader’s experience.

  • I didn’t include a character list in the back of the book, and I’ve had several requests for one.
  • The print version of the 1st edition had smaller text, and I wanted to enlarge it slightly to improve the reader’s experience. The 2nd edition also has a prettier layout, which is more appealing to the eye.
  • The cover for the 1st edition was okay, but the 2nd edition cover is amazing.
  • The second book in the series, Scattered Stones, is several thousand words longer, which bumped it up to a more comfortable 6 inches wide by 9 inches tall book. Shadows was 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches. I wanted all books in the series to be 6×9.

Revelation Stones Progress

The long-awaited 3rd book in the Castle Keepers series, Revelation Stones, is scheduled for release in May 2019. It is more than 32,000 words written, but I have a long way to go to see ‘the end’. It will finish off around 140,000 words.

My goal is to write about 50,000 of this in November during NaNoWriMo. I’ll provide updates on my progress here.

Project M – A New Series

Well, not really a new series, but…I’ll explain further when the project nears the end.

Project M stemmed from a writing assignment by my writers’ group. We were challenged to write a complete story between September 2018 and June 2019 following the basic acts (Act I, Act II, Act III) of story telling. We could choose to write a short story or novella, but I chose a full novel.

Brainstorming for ideas brought me to Willow, a character who first appears in Junior Corporal Sawney Cronin’s vignette. Digging further into this woman’s background, I found an interesting story that ties into the ancient dwarf legend told in Glen Tosh. This story begged to be written.

This series will not take flight for a few years as I want three books written before they are released. They will reveal many secrets behind the stories in the Castle Keepers series, so it is best to wait and avoid spoilers. This will have a series name of its own but will be a branch off the Castle Keepers series.

I am supposed to write 400 words a day of this story. In three days, I have 2218 words.

Word Count Updates

I will put updates of my word counts for both novels – Revelation Stones and Project M – in the right margin.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Isla of Maura.

Isla of Maura

In short: Hauflin; female; large brown eyes, long brown hair, born in Maskil; child; in the opening scene of Shadows in the Stone, her mother gives birth to her.

Family and Teen Years

Isla is the daughter of Maura of Ealasaid and Keiron Ruckle. Although few people know, a twin brother was also born that night. He was sent away to be raised by foster parents in North Ridge. Maura died shortly after giving birth to the twins. Plans were made for Isla to also be sent to North Ridge but her das intervened, and she spent the first five years of her life under Keiron’s abusive care.

Isla of Maura hauflin

When she was five, she became Bronwyn Darrow’s ward. What started as reluctant circumstances, turned into a loving das and daughter relationship. To end their arguments/discussions on a happy note, one will ask, “Do you forgive me?” The other will reply, “Like a sprite does the moon for shining so bright.”

When she was five, she met Liam Jenkins, a hauflin a year older than her. They became best friends.

Hauflins call their mothers meeme and their fathers das.

When Isla was born, Catriona gave her a small medallion with five blue stones imbedded it. Keiron promptly sold it. Her twin brother also got one.

Where I Found Her Name

I found Isla after an exhaustive search for the perfect name for this young girl. When I saw it, I instantly knew it was the right one. I loved it so much, I gave the name to my female sheep 7 1/2 years ago. It is pronounced with the long I, as if you were to say island. And that’s exactly what the name means: island. It is fitting for this young hauflin because for a large chunk of the series, Isla feels like an island, alone and unable to bridge the shore.

When she drank the potion and transformed into a marmoset, Bronwyn called her Button…because she was as cute as a button. Farlan calls her Little Sprite, and Sanderson calls her a young sprite. She calls him Sandy.

History in Real Life

Isla was part of the original cast that ran with the Warriors back when Bronwyn Darrow was simply known as Argon. She was a hauflin thief and loved being sneaky. She prided herself in being able to break in to strongholds and escape without detection. She was the spokesperson for the group and often talked them out of conflict more than talked them into it.

She was a free spirits soul who went where the wind blew her, and she was loyal to her companions and would easily risk her life to save them.

Role in Novels

Shadows in the Stone 2nd edition

2nd Edition Cover

Isla plays a major role in Shadows in the Stone. She is a smart, observant girl who loves to explore and feels at home in the forest. Since her earliest years, she’s been fascinated with stones, and by the time she becomes Bronwyn’s ward, she has a small collection. She enjoys fashioning the stones into necklaces, of which she shares with her family and friends.

In the first book, she is instrumental in bringing Bronwyn and Alaura together.

Isla plays a minor role in Scattered Stones even though the story is focussed on finding her. She jumps into the spot light again in Revelation Stones where she tries to find her way after enduring five years in a prison.

The first two paragraphs in Revelation Stones finds her here:

The cool evening air brushed loose strands of Isla’s brown hair from her face. The breeze caressed her skin, slipped down her neck and into her cotton shirt. The dark material had seen better days, but it provided basic protection against the elements. Not that it mattered. She tolerated the weather as she tolerated living.

Isla steeled her jaw as she surveyed Blackvale Castle from her perch in the embrasure, her back pressed against the cold stone of a merlon. She had been in almost every nook and cranny, every room on every floor, including many restricted areas, and every passageway that twisted both beneath and within the bulking, sinister structure. The black stone walls rose from the ground as if fangs from a ferocious monster, seizing anything and anyone in its grasp.

Hidden Secret: Maura’s name spelt backwards is the name of a famous castle in this series.

In the Land of Ath-o’Lea, there are six seasons that make up one succession. In general, the seasons correspond to the northern hemisphere months as such: Wintertide (January/February), Spring of Leaf (March/April), Springan (May/June), Sumortide (July/August), Harvest (September/October) and Forstig (November/December).

The longest day of the year is called Sumortide Solstice. The shortest day of the year is Wintertide Solstice.

winter

Wintertide in the Land of Ath-o’Lea

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. This week, it’s Zipporah Sanderson.

Zipporah Sanderson

In short: Human; male; tall, broad shoulders, black bushy eyebrows, brown hair that is greying at the sides, currently living in Aruam Castle, captain of the guard; a fair fighter in his younger years.

Family and Teen Years

Sanderson Captain of the GuardSanderson, as he is referred to by his men, was born and raised in Maskil. When he was a young man, he was saved by a guard from Aruam Castle. This inspired him to enlist. He learned the sword quickly, and those in charge saw his potential.

In the books, there is no mention of family in Sanderson’s life. That doesn’t mean he has none. It means only that it has yet to be revealed. Obviously, he had parents, and I’m guessing he had siblings, too. I’m sure they’ll show up in future novels.

As for a love interest, there appears to be none. However, I will leave you this exchange between Sanderson and Bronwyn from Shadows in the Stone:

Shadows in the Stone 2nd edition“I figured as much,” Sanderson said. “When a man looks at a woman as you did the night Alaura walked in to meet with the lords, he loses all control of his senses. It’s as if his blood catches fire and every time she comes near, she adds tinder to keep the flames rising. I tried to douse the flame but knew it was like trying to extinguish a conflagration with drunken spit.”

Bronwyn swallowed hard. It sounded as if the captain of the guard once had a fire for a woman, one that burnt out of control.

…and this scene involving Bronwyn, Sanderson and Beathas of Ailsa in Scattered Stones:

“Sorry to interrupt your battle games, boys,”—Beathas flung her chin in the air and considered Bronwyn through narrow eyes—“but the moment of resolution has arrived.”

“On what matter?” Sanderson folded his arms across his chest and stared down at the short hauflin.

“This doesn’t concern you.” She stepped closer to Bronwyn. “Are you to claim what you most desire or let it slip through your hands like that man?” She flicked her fingers at Sanderson.

He swallowed hard. What had Sanderson most desired and lost?

Where I Found His Name

I don’t rightly remember. They came to me in pieces. Sanderson sounded like a good army name and, well, Zipporah was something different that wouldn’t be used except in unique times.

History in Real Life

Sanderson didn’t appear in the original Shadows in the Stone story written in my teens. However, during the rewrite, I needed someone at the helm, so he was conceived. When the story opens, he has served for almost 30 years.

Role in Novels

castleSanderson is often the thorn in Bronwyn’s side. He tries to mould the young dwarf into the perfect guard, but Bronwyn doesn’t always heed his advice. However, Bronwyn trusts Sanderson more than any other superior.

Sanderson has a soft spot for Isla, who calls him Sandy and draws pictures of him. There is often a subtle exchange of wisdom between the two.

He appears in Shadows in the Stone and Scattered Stones but not Revelation Stones. He is the biggest fan and caretaker of the castle, and his priority is protecting the castle. Read into that what you will.

I have an inkling that Sanderson will not live to see book 10, but who knows. My inklings have been wrong in the past.

*Images gathered from Pixabay.com.

That’s right; it’s my birthday today, and to celebrate, I made all three of my Castle Keepers Tale stories available for FREE.

The Castle Keepers Tale series is short stories involving a character from the main books of the Castle Keepers series. They are stand-alone stories that took place before Shadows in the Stone and provide back story for these characters, revealing the pain or tragedy that set them on their course in life. Through these stories, readers can better understand the characters and appreciate a little more of why they act as they do. We are all products of our past and pivotal events shape us into who we are.

To date, I have stories for Catriona Wheatcroft, Bronwyn Darrow and Alaura of Niamh. Pick up the eBook today – the only day of the sale.

Catriona Wheatcroft

Destiny Governed their LDestiny Governed their Livesives

Catriona Wheatcroft is a young, ambitious 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.

 

Bronwyn Darrow

Blade of Truth book coverBlade of Truth

Youth and innocence still reside in Bronwyn. 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.

 

Alaura of Niamh

The Pledge short storyThe Pledge

Alaura doesn’t want to grow up too fast. She’d rather seek adventures and dream of all the places she might travel. When she arrives home one evening and learns her future is in someone else’s hands, her desperation takes her down a deadly path.