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.

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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.

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

Alaura of Niamh

In short: hauflin/human; female; long dark-blonde hair; brown eyes; born in North Ridge, Petra, and currently living in Maskil; sorceress/healer; at the start of Shadows in the Stone, she was Catriona Wheatcroft’s apprentice.

Family and Teen Years

The Pledge short storyAlaura is the youngest child and only daughter of Niamh M’Egan (human) and Rasnil Egan (hauflin). She has five brothers, including Pym and Benjamin M’Egan. She grew up in the mountainous region of Petra and loved to explore nature with her brother Pym, who is only three seasons older than her.

We first meet Alaura, age 18, in The Pledge where her life changed forever. With Pym’s help, she fled North Ridge and safely reached Maskil where she began a new life.

In the opening scene of Shadows in the Stone, she helps Catriona as she assists Maura of Ealasaid to give birth to Isla of Maura. Before Maura passes into the Plane of Peace, Alaura gives Her Word to protect Isla. This bounds her forever to the child.

Where I Found Her Name

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverThe original name for this character was Anna of Niamh (pronounced ‘neev’). Niamh is an ancient Celtic name that was originally a term used for a goddess. It means bright or radiant. In Irish Mythology, she is the daughter of the sea god Manannan, and she was known as “Niamh of the Golden Hair”, a beautiful princess riding on a white horse. In Shadows in the Stone, Alaura rides Clover, a Haflinger pony with a red-chestnut coat and a flaxen mane and tail.

Wanting a more interesting name to go with Niamh, I searched for months. When I saw Alaura, I knew that was the name of this magical being.

History in Real Life

Alaura was not part of the original cast from the novel written in the mid-80s. She was discovered in the rewrites that took place in the late 1990s. I needed a female lead to challenge Bronwyn Darrow, and she proved herself worthy.

Role in Novels

Alaura played a major part in Shadows in the Stone as well as in Scattered Stones. Since Revelation Stones focusses on Isla, Alaura will have a much smaller role.

From Pixabay

She’s a confident woman who possesses unique magical abilities she won’t fully understand until they mature. She is faithful to those she loves and calls friend. Bronwyn thinks she’s the most beautiful woman who ever walked the Land of Ath-o’Lea, but his brother Joris thinks she’s “pretty by hauflin standards, but her human features dulled her beauty. She appeared too delicate for his liking, and her reserve manner told him she’d be a boring date.”

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

Farlan Burkenshaw

In short: Human; male; rich brown hair; blue eyes; born Unknown; currently living at Maskil; started as a private with Aruam Castle when introduced in Shadows in the Stone; by the end of the novel, he was Sergeant Burkenshaw; loves to eat dried pumpkin seeds.

Family and Teen Years

Artist LeightonFarlan was raised in the Maskil Orphanage. He doesn’t remember his parents, but he remembers his older sister Saraline. She taught him about magic in the twilight.

When Bronwyn started out on his dangerous journey, Farlan told him, “At the orphanage, Saraline would take me outside in the morning light and tell me stories about our mom. I don’t remember her, but my sister did. Our mother died a few short years after my birth. My sister told me magic danced in the twilight. She told me to look to it for strength. The last day I saw her, before her new parents took her away, she led me outside before the sun rose. She told me all the hope one needed could be found in the twilight. Each new day I hope I’ll find her. And now, I’ll also hope you and Isla will return.”

He added, “Don’t ever give up hope. It’ll keep you alive when the odds are against you. Every sunrise, I want you to renew yourself. Think of it as a fresh beginning where the events of yesterday can be soothed in the twilight. There is power we don’t understand in the air when it isn’t dark yet is not yet light. I’ve felt it many times. It’s as if fairies are flirting with the air we breathe, poking us with needles to see if we’re still alive. Breathe it in. Let it wash away your fears.”

Where I Found His Name

I struggled to find a good strong name for this character. He was new to me, and I didn’t know his history and inner spirit. I wanted him to have a long last name, and that was found first. His first name changed many times until I came across Farlan. It reminded me of my cousin’s name, Farley. Farley is outgoing with a healthy spirit, the same as Farlan. The name stuck, and years later, it still works for me.

History in Real Life

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverFarlan in all sense of the word was an orphan, a boy who showed up without a past looking for a task to perform. He wasn’t part of the original cast gathered in my teens, so he was a stranger to me. Bronwyn needed a best friend at the castle, and when he met Farlan, the two got along as if brothers. It was a perfect match.

When Isla showed up, Farlan took on the big brother role. Together they go on many adventures, get into trouble and pick on each other as siblings do.

His Future

Farlan plays a major role in the first half of Shadows in the Stone, almost giving his life for Isla. Although he wants to continue on the quest, his injuries prevent him and he returns to the castle. In Scattered Stones, he plays only a minor role. Given that Revelation Stones focusses on Isla and her adventures away from Aruam Castle, I am unsure of how much screen time Farlan will get. I have a feeling he’ll show up—oh, that’s right; he does—but it’s in a minor role.

The future holds many surprises for Farlan, ones he’ll be happy and not so happy to receive.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing to introduce characters from the Castle Keepers fantasy series. It started last week with Bronwyn Darrow. This week, it’s the sorceress Catriona.

Catriona Wheatcroft

In short: Human; female; born in Maskil and currently living on Horizon Lane in Maskil; sorceress; at the start of Shadows in the Stone, she had several apprentices working under her, including Alaura of Niamh.

Family and Teen Years

Destiny Governed their LivesCatriona is the oldest child of Kathleen and Emerson Wheatcroft. She has two younger brothers, Jimmy and Rod. Since she was a young teen, she loved playing with magic. Although she strives to be a great sorceress, a dreadful mistake when she was 17 years old caused her family a great heartbreak.

We first meet Catriona, age 17, in Destiny Governed their Lives where we learn about the worst day in her life. Crushed by events in this story, her parents move their family to Wandsworth. However, Catriona remained in Maskil, both because it is her home and because she could not bear to face her parents after the tragedy she brought to her family.

Shadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyverIn Shadows in the Stone, we meet her in the opening scene. She and Alaura are assisting Maura of Ealasaid to give birth to Isla of Maura. Although she plays a minor part in this novel, as well as the second one, Scattered Stones, Catriona will shine in future books. She has an uncanny ability to see things others miss, and her insight shared in Shadows in the Stone will prove valuable in the chaotic years to come.

For those who have read Destiny Governed their Lives, fear not; she will redeem herself.

Her goal is to be a well-respected sorceress, one who the Lords of Aruam Castle seek for consultation. She’s a trustworthy person, who often doubts herself, though she works to hide this insecurity. Her home is cluttered with things that often have no purpose, but she loves to surround herself with beautiful things and items that might come in handy. She has no faith in stone magic and believes rocks make better paper weights.

Vignette #2 is a moment in Catriona’s day between Shadows in the Stone and Scattered Stones. Readers will get a glimpse into what happened to her at the inquest that took place in book 1.

History in Real Life

magicCatriona originally went by Lyrehc and was based on someone who travelled with the Warriors – the same group a certain hauflin thief ran with (see story here). Although she was somewhat intelligent, she had a clumsy way about her and often ‘fell into’ trouble for no reason other than she made a stupid mistake or a wrong turn. She often dragged the group down with her, and it always led to another adventure.

Although she is slightly boring in Shadows in the Stone, I believe she is a fun character to write. She’ll reveal more of this in the upcoming novels.

My Castle Keepers series has grown immensely since I published the first book in the series on May 6, 2012. Shadows in the Stone introduced readers to several main characters and a host of supporting characters. Although most of them are ingrained in my brain, it might be difficult for readers to keep up with who’s who.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. There are dozens of characters.
  2. I’m a distracted writer who doesn’t release a book every year (that’s going to change right now).

To refresh the minds of readers and to give new readers a place to refer to, I’ve decided to show case one character a week. In addition to explaining their role in the series, I’ll add additional information, such as where I found their name.

Bronwyn Darrow

In short: Dwarf, male, born and living in Maskil, swordsman, at the start of Shadows in the Stone, he was a corporal with the Aruam Castle guard.

(more…)

What is Patreon? I wondered about this myself until I came across an introductory video that explained it. A long time ago, nobility and aristocrats gained access to artists’ work by financially becoming part of their community. This meant painters had time to create wonderful works of art, musicians could eat while they mastered an instrument, and writers could write those wonderful novels of old and still pay the bills.

The aristocrats and nobility of history no longer exist, but that doesn’t mean what they started is lost. Anyone can take on their role as art patron and join an artist’s community to gain access to awesome stuff.

That’s where Patreon comes in. It connects the art patron with the artist.

On my author page at Patreon, I share scenes from the third book in the Castle Keepers series Revelation Stones (1 scene each Tuesday), articles on my research for the books, short pieces of writing exercises and never-before-published vignettes. There’s also the opportunity to name a character in the book.

My goals are simple: I want to write more and get my books into the hands of readers.

Join me on my journey by visiting my Patreon author page where I am creating traditional fantasy stories.