Dungeons and Dragons Inspired “Shadows in the Stone”

My love for fantasy started when I was a child. I had always loved magical things, fairies and worlds of wonder. While I may not have understood this when I was really young, by the time I was 13 years old, I knew I wanted to learn more and if I could, experience some of the magic.

My path to better understanding magical worlds began at that age because I started playing a role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons. A leader in our neighbourhood had played and became our dungeon master. He was perfect for the role.

Stumbling my way through my first campaigns, I learned about different races (human, dwarf, elf, hauflin [halfling in this game] ) and their attributes and shortcomings. I learned about casting spells, magical items and magic in general. At first, I read the dungeon master’s copy of Dungeon Masters Guide, then I bought my own to keep as a reference and so I could read it at home. I studied this book and what went into this game as much if not more than the subjects at school. In fact, I recall one day when our dungeon master walked into the Lounge of the Boys and Girls club, found me and few other members studying his books, and said, “If you guys put this much effort into studying for school, you’d all get 100s.”

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The Magic of Stones: Personal History

Isla of Maura, one of the main characters in the Castle Keepers series, has an attraction to stones. When the energy in a stone calls to her, she picks it up and carries it until she finds the person who needs it.

This character trait came from my own curiosity and habit of gathering stones. My interest in stones has walked with me all my life; it is so strong that when I was 14 years old, I stole a stone that had caught my eye. I know: who steals rocks?

The odd circumstances around this theft has stayed on my mind for almost four decades. You see, that day, my father and I were driving in his truck, perhaps going to the general store in Spanish Ship Bay, when he pulled into the driveway of the long white building along the harbour that used to be a restaurant at times. I believe it was called the Lighthouse Restaurant in the early 80s.

Anyways, at this time, the restaurant had closed, and an older man I did not know occupied it. Perhaps my father knew him since this was the area where he had been born and raised. It was summer. We walked in and my eyes drank in the boxes filled with various types of rocks. While my father and the man chatted, I walked around ogling the rocks. Some were undisturbed, as if recently plucked from the ground and put into the box. Others were polished smooth. Some where cut into shapes.

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Magic in 2021

Over the past week, I’ve been re-reading the first several chapters I’d written for Within the Myst, book 2 in the Mystical epic fantasy series. Since I have been writing non-fantasy for the past eight months, it took my brain a few days to switch into the fantasy mode.

To help make the transfer from contemporary stories to fantasy easier, I dove into subjects that align with fantasy. One of those topics was the energy around stones. If you’ve ready the books in the Castle Keepers series, you know I strongly suggest the stones gifted by Isla of Maura have magical qualities.

This journey led me to a few blogs I’d never visited and to topics I’d either not researched extensively or ones I hadn’t uncovered before. One of those blogs was The Magical World of G. Michael Vasey. Gary is the author of more than 40 books and writes about metaphysics, paranormal and magic, amongst other things.

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Cranberries: the little berry for every season

Readers of this blog know I love cranberries. It’s a berry for every season, and it’s made it into my books on more than one occasion. Bronwyn Darrow, one of the main characters in the Castle Keepers series, shares this love for the berry. In my fantasy series, I call them fenberries.

When Bronwyn travels along a mountain range in the fall with Alaura, Tam and Kellyn, he picks a sack of the tart red berries. Not long afterwards, Kelly, who often made fun of his love for the berry, catches a turkey and cooks it over a fire and calls on him to share the sauce he’s made with the berry.

Here’s the scene.

Scattered Stones

Book 2 in the Castle Keepers Series

The following morning, they came upon the river flowing south. Without a word, they headed north on a faint trail. With rations running low, they hunted as they travelled and enjoyed feasting on the pheasant and partridge they killed.

Late one afternoon, Kellyn spotted a turkey in the bush and leapt from the saddle to give chase. Ten minutes later, she strutted back to the others, beaming and holding up her catch. That night, as Kellyn sliced huge pieces of the roasted bird, she eyed Bronwyn.

“Hey, Mr. Fenberry, don’t be selfish with that spread. This is the only time anyone should eat those tart berries.”

He had been picking fenberries whenever he found a patch and had gathered several sacks. The coolness of the season drove out the green worms and made the red berries pop with flavour. He plopped a generous serving onto everyone’s plate. When he filled his mouth with the sauce, he shook from its tartness. The sensation made him crave more.

As he lay back against his ruck sack and stared into the late evening sky, he tried to think of a better meal with better friends but couldn’t. His objective hadn’t been reached when he entered Tigh na Mare, but he couldn’t complain about the outcome.

Cranberry Sauce

Sauce, jam or spread, which ever you call it, is so simple to make, I wonder why everyone doesn’t make it fresh for their turkey dinners and sandwiches. Here’s the recipe.

Dump two cups of cranberries in a pot with 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer on low for 35 minutes or so. If it’s too tarty for your taste buds, add a wee bit more sugar. I simmer it until most of the berries have popped and the consistency is that of a jam. I don’t like it too smooth. I want to be able to see the berries within the sauce. Bottle this up, let it cool and toss it in the fridge. That’s it. Enjoy.

Another Use for Cranberries

If I want a thin cranberry sauce to drizzle over something, such as ice cream, I add more water than called for to the above recipe. I simmer the berries until they’ve just about popped, but there’s still juice in the pot. Then I drain off some of that juice, leaving behind enough to turn the berries into jam. If the juice is not sweet enough, I add a bit of sugar.

Taking this sweet sauce, I’ve added more water to make a drink for myself. Sometimes I’ve added a few raspberries or a shot of apple juice.

This juice is what Olive made for John in Northern Survival to give him a boost after falling ill. In the novel, she sweetened it with honey. I’ve done that, too.

Here’s the scene that mentions it.

Northern Survival

John rested his hand on his stomach. For the first time in days, he felt satisfied. While he had slept away yesterday, Olive had caught eight trout, four of which they ate for supper and four they saved for breakfast. She’d also found a patch of cranberries and cooked them to make a thick drink she sweetened with honey. He drank this eagerly. She’d made enough to fill his water bottle, and he sipped on that instead of water. The liquid, more like a syrup, excited his taste buds; it was almost as good as coffee.

She had also tended to his feet, washing them, applying ointment and ensuring they were warm and dry while he slept. When he woke this morning, he was shocked to find the nail on his big toe gone. The only benefit was most of the pain went with it. Before he put on clean socks and dry hiking boots, she applied cream and bandages to keep the blisters from chafing. Starting on the trail, he felt almost as good as their first day in the woods. A day’s rest was exactly what he needed to rejuvenate his energy.

99-cent Sale

This week, Northern Survival is on sale for $4.00 off. It’s exclusively at Amazon.

Kindle Unlimited members read it for free.

“Shadows in the Stone” Exclusively at Amazon

Shadows in the Stone epic fantasyIn early October, the first book in the Castle Keepers series Shadows in the Stone became available to read for free by Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited members.

The first draft of Shadows in the Stone was written when I was sixteen, back in the mid-80s while listening to what is known today as Classic Rock. I was in high school and once homework was done and tossed aside, I pulled out my coil-bound notebook and wrote the story in pencil.

Pencil gave me the option pen didn’t: to erase words and complete paragraphs if I didn’t like what I’d written. I’d sit on my bed late into the night when a scene grabbed me and write long past midnight. I was hooked.

The story had been written from every character’s perspective and the details I used to describe them was similar to filling out a character sheet in a Dungeons & Dragons game. You knew their exact height, eye and hair colour and weight. One of the main characters was Argon (known today as Bronwyn). Alaura was originally Anna. Isla of Maura was originally Durania. Where did I get that? Have you ever listened to Duran Duran?

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Healing Stones: Last Day of the Sale

Today is the last day to take advantage of grabbing your eBook copy of Healing Stones, book 4 of the Castle Keepers series, for 99 cents. Tomorrow, it will return to its regular price of $2.99.

First Scene Teaser

Moonsface Awaits

 

THE SUN HAD BEEN up for more than three hours, yet it had hidden behind billowy white clouds much of that time, stealing heat from the land and casting much of it in shadow. The cool temperature forced Isla of Maura to pull her jacket from her saddle bag. She didn’t bother buttoning it; it was a warm day with a chill that would depart as soon as the sun peeked from behind the clouds. She’d be warmer if she did something other than stand next to the cold firepit and listen to McGuigan and Lyneth argue about the best route into Moonsface.

The obvious way, the one that took them directly into the large village on Blue Myst River, was the one McGuigan wanted to take, but Lyneth, who had been to Moonsface many times, insisted they take the narrow path around the collection of knolls. It’d add at least an hour to their travel time. Isla didn’t care which course they took; she wanted to mount her two-bit horse she’d bought with money earned from tedious work and get moving. If they argued for another ten minutes, they’d have already travelled halfway through the long way.

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Healing Stones: eBook 99-cent Sale

The eBook for Healing Stones, book 4 in the Castle Keepers series continues.

A good man isn’t down until everyone who matters has lost hope.

Isla of Maura hasn’t seen Liam Jenkins for six years, since they pledged to unite. Her thoughts often drift to him and not long ago, his thoughts invaded hers. She sets out to find him, but the man she finds is far from the one in her childhood memories, and the secrets he keeps threaten her life and the lives of her travelling companions.

If you love stories of adventure mixed with magic and romance set in archaic landscapes, you’ll love McGyver’s Healing Stones. Unlike many fantasy novels, family plays a central role in this story, so be prepared for the hero to have her heart strings plucked by the song of home.

Healing Stones is the 4th book in the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. It picks up the story of Isla and Liam where her kidnapping and the murder of his das tore them apart.

Get your copy today at Amazon:

Book Launch

eBook Sale and My Favourite Scene

My favourite scene in Healing Stones is found in Chapter 28.  It’s from Liam Jenkins’ perspective. He and Jack enter Mystical Paragons to acquire a unique item.

Mystical Paragons is an unusual shop inspired by one I entered almost two decades ago in Digby, Nova Scotia. The atmosphere in the little shop by the waterfront was dimly lit, had brightly-coloured items and unusual things I had never seen before.

Here’s a snippet of my favourite scene.

The 99-cent eBook sale runs from May 14th until May 20th. Get your copy now at Amazon:

Book Launch and Sale

Today is the day. I am launching Healing Stones, book 4 in the Castle Keepers series. To celebrate, I’m putting it on sale for 99 cents for one week. The regular price is $2.99.

Healing Stones picks up about four moons after Revelation Stones ended. It begins with Isla of Maura, McGuigan Mulryan and Lyneth about to enter Moonsface. They are on their way to Wandsworth to find Isla’s childhood friend, Liam Jenkins, the boy she pledge to unite.

Continue the adventure through the Land of Ath-o’Lea by picking up the eBook now at Amazon.

 

Book Launch

 

Kitchens of Old Often Had Herbs Growing in the Window

Before supermarkets and corner stores provided the bulk of the food, humans grew their own in the backyard. Many also grew herbs to enhance the taste of their baked and cooked goods. Although times have changed, I keep several pots of herbs on the kitchen windowsill to use in soups, scrambled eggs and other dishes. It’s fast, convenient and inexpensive.

herbs

Given that the Castle Keepers series takes place in an archaic time, it’s no surprise potted herbs grace the windowsills of many homes, including that of Alaura of Niamh and Bronwyn Darrow.

When Liam Jenkins visits, he makes note of this.

Chapter 13, Scene 2

“Liam.” Alaura nodded her head towards the kitchen. “Let’s allow them to talk. I’ll get you a drink of water.”

He lifted Isla by the hips and squeezed past her to follow Alaura down the short hall. The compact, eat-in kitchen was perfect for a small family: two parents, two kids. It was similar to his dwelling when he was young. It even had a pot of herbs on the windowsill. He pushed the memories from his mind; he didn’t want to think about that time.

Alaura poured a glass of water from a pitcher kept near the back door and offered it to him.

“Thank you.” He took a sip and remembered the flavour of Maskil water. It tasted sweet compared to that in Wandsworth.

“It’s good to see you well.” She leant against the countertop, and her gaze swept around the kitchen.

“I was surprised when Isla told me you were livings here.” He took another drink. “I thought you’d have moved to Petra or another place.”

“I like Maskil.”

“And Bronwyn.”

“I can’t deny that.”

“I thought you were only friends, but Isla knew. She told me so, but I didn’t believe her. I mean, you pushed him into the lake.”

She laughed. “She’s perceptive, and that was an accident.”

“She is. It’s like she can read my mind.”

“She knows your history?”

He shrugged. “She knows me. She trusts me.”

“She still likes you?”

“I still like her.”