The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle – Preview

My next novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle (out from Viking 3/15/16), is a middle grade mystery that’s part fantasy, part historical fiction. It’s set in Scotland in 1940, although it also contains a parallel story in a much earlier timeline. I thought it would be fun to run a series of blog posts on both the historical context of the novel, and the setting itself, as well as some of the fantasy aspects of the story.charmed

Here are some of the topics I’m hoping to cover in upcoming posts, all of which play a role in the story:

  • the London Blitz and other aspects of the early years of World War 2
  • some early history of Scotland, plus landscape, mythology, culture
  • spies, U-boats, enigma machines
  • mechanical clocks, mathematical algorithms
  • chatelaines

These are just a few of the possible subjects. For this post, I’d like to give you a small taste of the story. Plus…I’m running a SWAG giveaway!

First, a little teaser from the novel:

Kat stepped forward, hesitant. She unclasped the chatelaine and held it up. The three items—pen, scissors, thimble—swayed as they dangled from her fingers.

 Aunt Margaret leaned toward Kat, her lips close to Kat’s ear, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “It’s quite magical, you know.”

 “I’m sorry?” Kat whispered back. “Did you say magical?” Oh, goodness. Kat saw worry in the set of Mum’s face.

 Aunt Margaret straigcharmedhtened. “Yes, my dear. I shall explain. But do remember this: be careful with magic.” She fixed her eyes on Kat’s. “Do you hear me, Katherine? Magic is tricky. There is always a price to pay for its use.”

If you’d like more, and you haven’t already subscribed to this blog or my newsletter, there’s a longer excerpt waiting for you as a gift for subscribing.

Now to the giveaway! If you pre-order a copy of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle from my local indie, Country Bookshelf, you’ll receive*

  • a signed/personalized copy of the book
  • a necklace with charm (*while supplies last; one per customer)
  • a rook temporary tattoo

You can also preorder the book from your own indie, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble; the giveaway is only through Country Bookshelf. (But watch this space…there will be more giveaways as pub date draws near!)

In my next post I’ll talk about the early war years of World War 2 in England, including the London Blitz.

Kent Davis and A RIDDLE IN RUBY

I’m so pleased today to welcome my friend – and critique partner – Kent Davis. Kent’s debut middle grade novel, A RIDDLE IN RUBY, is out now and is a terrific page-turner, imaginative and loads of fun.

Here’s the description from his publisher, Greenwillow Books: “Ruby Teach, daughter of a smuggler and pirate, has been learning how to swindle and steal and pick the most complex locks for as long as she can remember. But a collision with aristocratic young lord Athen sends her spinning into chaos. Little did she know that her whole life has been spent in hiding from nefarious secret societies and the Royal Navy . . . who are both now on her trail. In this debut middle grade adventure, Kent Davis weaves a rip-roaring tale through an alternate colonial Philadelphia. A world where alchemy—that peculiar mix of magic and science—has fueled the industrial revolution. With this highly original setting, a cast of fully rounded characters and rapid-fire, funny dialogue, A Riddle in Ruby will call to mind fantasy greats like Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.”cover A RIDDLE IN RUBY

And now, here’s Kent!

You’ve created a fascinating world. I know you were inspired by an image that popped into your head. Can you describe it, and tell us a bit about how it guided your research and the direction of the book?

Sure! Well, believe it or not, this all started out with that image: a girl in a tricorne hat in a barrel with metal ostrich legs. Not the most heroic image, I’ll grant you. But it stuck with me and eventually I had to investigate. I mean, that picture would just not shut up! So from there I wound my way into an alternate history Colonial America (tricorne); a brave, impatient, apprentice thief full of pluck and gumption (girl), and magic that sums up as high-end chemistry that you can give a nudge with your personal mojo (ostrich legs): cobalt gearbeasts, alchemical automatons, living purple goo. You know, standard kind of stuff.

Ruby is a great character, very three-dimensional. Do you have any favorite ways of getting into your characters – any techniques that help your process?

Thank you! I do, actually. My professional training is as an actor and improviser, so a big part of my process is creating extremely difficult emotional or physical obstacles, then plopping the character down in the middle of the troubles, plopping myself into their head as an observer, and then just watching how the heck they’re going to try to get out of this one. To your point about three dimensions, I love characters that fail before they succeed. Failure is how we learn to fly, and the more spectacular failure, the better!Kent

This plot really moves. Is that fast-paced plotting something that comes naturally to you or is that a result of revision? Do you tend to cut more or add more – or both? And…are you a pantser or a plotter.

I have to cut! I think the original manuscript to the published version is lighter to the tune of about 20%. More than that, though, I try to think of each chapter as a mini-play, and momentum is as important to me on that narrower level as much as it is in the grand scheme. My goal is to hopefully end each of those little plays in a way that propels the reader forward!

I’m so happy that Kent came by! Here’s where you can find a copy of his book: Country Bookshelf, Amazon




FAITHFUL and the Yellowstone Volcano


Beneath my fingers, the ground was alive. It rumbled, creaked, and groaned - with each spray, the earth heaved. And as I sat there helpless and trembling myself, I began to sense the rhythm of it, just as the sea had a rhythm that I knew. I geyser … [Continue reading]

The Wild, Wild West

on the Grand Tour

"Four men straddled the road, barring our way. They wore scarves that covered their faces except for their eyes; they carried what looked like long sticks. I shook, trying to clear my head of confusion. Four horses, tied to a nearby tree, whinnied … [Continue reading]