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.

Last Day of the Sale!

Today, Sunday February 16th, is the last day to download a copy of Scattered Stones to your Kindle. This is the 2nd book in the Castle Keepers Series.

It takes place five years after Shadows in the Stone. Bronwyn Darrow has been searching for his adopted daughter, Isla of Maura, all this time and tonight, he plans to rescue her from the Tigh na Mare dungeon.

Pick up your copy here:

Enjoy

Scattered Stones: A Glimpse into Chapter 2

This weekend, Scattered Stones, book 2 in the epic fantasy series is free in the eBook form at Amazon. Here’s a glimpse at what you’ll read in Chapter 2, Scene 2.

From his perch in a majestic hemlock, Morrigan Fae of Moonsface watched Tigh na Mare warriors spill into the forest. The explosion that rocked the castle while the elf had discussed slaves with Lady Orenda Nassen was followed by a second blast.

Morrigan came as close to the action as he dared. Warriors passed beneath his position, running about as they collected and relayed information to their leader. Within minutes, Lady Orenda Nassen surveyed the escape route personally, halting below the hemlock as three warriors rushed into the clearing to share their discoveries.

“My Lady.” The first warrior bowed before Orenda. “I have identified the intruders.”

“Who were the thieves foolish enough to cross me?”

Morrigan reduced his rate of breathing, released excess air and enhanced the energy to the Cloaking Spell. Not even his scent could drift on the evening air. He relaxed his muscles and appeared to melt into the evergreen. His body slept save his ears and eyes.

“It was Elspeth’s Mercenaries, My Lady. I recognised Rhys and his mate Morwen. They took two prisoners: a middle-aged dwarf and a young hauflin.”

The low growl in Orenda’s voice reverberated through the forest. “Elspeth.” She clenched her fists. “That dwarf has now crossed the meekest of lines. It’s time to end her escapades.” She scowled at her warriors. “We begin the hunt immediately. Gather the required supplies and mounts for thirty warriors. Meet me at the castle wall in fifteen minutes. Go! Now!”

“Yes, My Lady.” The warrior dashed towards the castle.

Orenda surveyed the area, her eyes settling on the two remaining warriors. “We’ll take no prisoners but one: Elspeth. I have something special in mind for her.”

A hundred thoughts flooded Morrigan’s mind. Was the young hauflin prisoner Isla or the twenty-one-year-old? If Isla had escaped with Elspeth and if Orenda caught the group, she’d be killed. Although a skilled band, The Mercenaries were no match for the number of warriors on the hunt. Fortunately, they had a head-start, Elspeth’s fundamental strategy to a successful escape. Her notorious history for evading capture failed to help Morrigan. It made his task difficult, knowing he might never find The Mercenaries’ trail. His only comfort derived from knowing Elspeth commanded fairly and guarded her followers as if family. If Isla travelled with her, she’d gain her protection.

Shouts and screams echoed throughout the forest, and Orenda swung around to glare in the direction of the castle. In the limited light provided by the slither of moon, Morrigan saw the grimace on the woman’s face as she marched towards Tigh na Mare with the two warriors at her heels.

Pick up your copy here:

Enjoy

February is Fantasy Month

3-day Sale: Scattered Stones eBook is FREE

As we continue to celebrate February is Fantasy Month, the eBook Scattered Stones is free for three days, starting today (February 13th, 14th and 15th). The novel stars Bronwyn Darrow, Alaura of Niamh, Tam Mulryan and Kellyn Mulryan.

Description

Honour is nothing without the ones you love.

Five years. That’s how long Bronwyn Darrow has been searching for his daughter who is trapped in that elusive Blackvale Castle dungeon. He’s grown desperate during that time and when he learns she’s being transferred, he’s willing to sacrifice everything, including his honour, to rescue her.

If you love stories of adventure mixed with magic and romance set in archaic landscapes, you’ll love McGyver’s Scattered Stones. Unlike many fantasy novels, family plays a central part in this story, so be prepared for the hero to receive unwanted motherly advice.

Scattered Stones is the second book in the Castle Keepers epic fantasy series. It continues the adventures of the characters introduced in Shadows in the Stone and takes readers on a journey across Ath-o’Lea to find the young girl named Isla.

Pick up your copy here:

Enjoy

Growing a Garden in a Fantasy World

Tomatoes and chamomile from my garden.

I’ve read a lot about world building in fantasy lands. Of course, there’s systems to figure out: government, social classes, transportation, money…the list goes on. But for me, one of the most vital components in creating the Land of Ath-o’Lea was where its population got its food.

There’s the usual places: shops and markets in cities, towns and villages. Like in the old west, supply shops on the trail, where travellers stopped, picked up the necessities, usually food, and carried on, are also found in my stories. I call them keeps. Depending on location and how busy it is, there may be an inn, tavern or a place to camp on site.

Given the Land of Ath-o’Lea is in an archaic setting, it’s easy to surmise many inhabitants grow their food. Those in the city may be dependent on the supply chain, but all other areas possess some form of gardening. Not only does it fit into the world, I love gardening, so it gives me a chance to talk about it.

Continue reading “Growing a Garden in a Fantasy World”

Character Introduction: Bronwyn Darrow

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.

Continue reading “Character Introduction: Bronwyn Darrow”

Scattered Stones – The Prologue

Scattered Stones

The Castle Keepers: Book 2

Released May 6, 2016

Prologue

The ancient dwarf could find no mate to match her. The Elderkin say she searched all of Ath-o’Lea without finding him. A fierce storm struck, and she took refuge behind a rugged stone. For three days and nights, the storm raged on, ripping trees from the ground and hurling large branches into the air. The ancient dwarf kept dry, warm and safe in the crevice of the stone.

Continue reading “Scattered Stones – The Prologue”

Jack Somerled

Jack Somerled

Human, explorer, first appeared in chapter 09 of Scattered Stones

“Knavesmire!” The rough voice hacked the name as if it were phlegm.

Jack Somerled’s ears twitched, but his body remained relaxed as his fork poked a potato and lifted it to his mouth. From his corner seat in the tavern, he had a clear view of the scraggly group of mixed-raced men hoarded around a table slinging ale and feasting on plates of meat.

“If he avers to have journeyed there, he’s peddling featherless fletching.” The heavily bearded human chuckled.

“I stated not that he’d journeyed,” said a hauflin, “only that he’d seen it.”

Continue reading “Jack Somerled”

Lord Dirck Landis

Lord Dirck Landis

Human, lord of Aruam Castle, first appeared in chapter 05 of Shadows in the Stone

The door slammed and Lord Dirck Landis jumped from his chair to see who had entered. Two of his senior guards dragged a prisoner into the room and tossed him against the wall.

“My Lord,” Corporal Franklin motioned towards the tattered elf sprawled on the floor. “He is suspected of using magic within the town walls.”

“It was ignite powder!” the young man shouted. “Harmless!”

“Witnesses claim otherwise,” said the guard.

Continue reading “Lord Dirck Landis”

Kellyn Mulryan

Kellyn Mulryan

Dwarf, sword fighter, prisoner at Blackvale Castle, born Glen Tosh, first appeared in Scattered Stones.

“Stop!” shouted the guard. “You can’t go in there!”

Kellyn ignored the quackpod and kept running. As she drew water from the well in the courtyard, she had seen Merk cross the open balcony and enter his study. He had been absent from Blackvale Castle for several days, and this was the first opportunity to inform him of the tragedy that had occurred to his favourite prisoner.

She reached the door, flung it open and raced inside. Merk stood admiring a painting on the far wall. He glanced in her direction but remained silent.

Continue reading “Kellyn Mulryan”