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Author Interview – Pauline Holyoak

February 26, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

pauline

What inspired your latest novel? – I have written a trilogy and two children’s books. My trilogy, Merryweather Lodge, was inspired by my own experiences in a remote and mysterious little cottage near Stonehenge. This cottage was called Scotland Lodge and belonged to my aunt and uncle. We would spend our summer holidays there when I was a child. It was my fairy tale kingdom but it had a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland and was led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy. This wonderland and my childhood fantasies were the catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy. My published children’s book, Melanie Gets A Nanny, comes from my experiences as a professional Nanny. My soon-to-be published, children’s book, Carly’s Incredible Dream, comes from my childhood fantasies.                                                                        

How did you come up with the title? The real name of the cottage in my trilogy was Scotland Lodge. I didn’t want to use that name so I changed it to Merryweather Lodge. I thought it sounded cozy and quaint and a tad mysterious.   

lodge    2011_silver                                         

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? My protagonist, Emily Fletcher, has a message. She is an attractive, strong-willed young woman, who struggles with her self-image, volatile temper and bad habits. She’s a vegetarian and a progressive thinker. Like me, she likes her own space and often wanders into the country to ponder and seek solace from Mother Nature. She has always dreamt of living a simple life, in her aunts enchanting little cottage, with her gorgeous prince charming. Slowly, she learns how to conquer her fears, get in touch with her intuition, overcome her struggles, tame her temper and enhance her self-esteem.

How much of the book is realistic? My books are fiction, with an element of truth.

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? My characters are bits and pieces of the personalities and characteristics of myself, friends, relatives, acquaintances, the woman behind the counter, etc. And yes, they are based on events in my own life.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I do not have a blog anymore. Here is my website paulineholyoak.com You will find links to my social media sites on there.

merry

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a standalone? I am working on a standalone, paranormal, suspense novel. And, I have a middle grade book, Carly’s Incredible Dream, due to be released this spring.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? My reader’s favorite Merryweather Lodge character was my protagonist’s aunt, Auntie Em. She was, not only in her appearance but in her personality and idiosyncrasies, a mixture of my mother and grandmother. All their good parts blended into one.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? Actually, I write in a lot of different genres. My short stories range from, political lit to romance. My trilogy is paranormal suspense. I am now in the process of writing a paranormal romance. My children’s books cover a wide range of genres.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? Seat of the pants, for sure.

sacrfice

What is your best marketing tip? Keep a consistent online presence. And, hand out as many bookmarks, promo cards etc. as you can afford.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I think the internet, is the most powerful tool an author has. There are literally hundreds of sites that will promote ones book, some are free and some are very costly.  I blog, tweet, do online interviews, reviews, facebook and try to keep a consistent online presence. It can be extremely time consuming but I know it’s an important element in establishing my writing career.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS 

What age did you start writing stories/poems? As far back as I can remember the pen and paper have been my faithful companions and story telling my forte. As a child I was shy and reclusive. I lived in my inner world of fantasy and make-believe, preferring the company of Mother Nature and my imaginary friend, than that of other children. Often, I would sneak away from the mundane adult world, find a private retreat (usually behind the garden shed) and imagine. There in my own little sanctuary with tools in hand, I’d conjure up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters, then I’d read them to my imaginary friend. She was always ‘so’ attentive. LOL

Has your genre changed or stayed the same? I have always like to cover a wide range of genres.

What genre are you currently reading? Suspense.

Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Pleasure.

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? My muse.

Where is your favorite writing space? My office. It is my private domain, my retreat, with my favorite quotes, family pics and art work, created by my granddaughters, on the walls. No one is allowed in there but me! LOL

melanie

Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? No, but I’m thinking of starting one.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? Probably Steven King. I love his books and he always has such great advice. There are so many…

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would love to live part of the year in England. I was born and grew up there. I adore the English countryside. It is a smorgasbord for the artistically inclined.. I would have moved back there years ago, if it weren’t for my children and now, grandchildren.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? Oh yes. Dark chocolate and red wine. Yummy!!!

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Dark chocolate and red wine..LOL

Bio: 

About me – I grew in Southeast England, in a coal mining village lovingly nicknamed, “The place that time forgot.” Go to my website, click on ‘Articles’ and find out why.  I immigrated to Canada when I was 21 in search of adventure and a new life.  I currently live in Alberta with my adorable sheltie dog. I am the proud mother of two grown children and three adorable granddaughters’.

As far back as I can remember the pen and paper have been my faithful companions and story telling my forte. As a child I was shy and reclusive. I lived in my inner world of fantasy and make-believe, preferring the company of Mother Nature and my imaginary friend, than that of other children. Often, I would sneak away from the mundane adult world, find a private retreat (usually behind the garden shed) and imagine. There in my own little sanctuary with tools in hand, I’d conjure up all kinds of intriguing tales and colorful characters, then I’d read them to my imaginary friend. She was always ‘so’ attentive.  I remember writing a story in school; I must have been about 8 years old, at the time. It was about a rabbit and a hare, cousins I think, running away from home and getting into all kinds of mischief. I still remember my teacher’s reaction after she read it. She looked at me with a stern faced and asked, “Did you copy this?” “No, Miss Finn, I pleaded, “It just, came right out of my head.” “Hmmmm” she scoffed suspiciously. I was devastated but it never stopped me, I kept writing whatever, just, came out of my head. In my teen years my journal became my confident, revealing all my hidden secrets, private fantasies and wild, wild, notions within its pages. Later I started to write poems, articles and short stories, and pondered the thought of becoming a writer.

After I settled in Canada, I buried my dreams under layers of real life clutter. I chose a safe and practical career in child care, married and raised a family. But my creative spirit kept trying to dig its way out. I was asked to write articles and editorials for our local church. I taught a story time class at our local school, which lead me to writing a children’s book. I wrote an article about my husbands’ prestigious grandfather and sent it to our local newspaper. They printed it. I kept sending them articles, they kept printing them. I was surprised at the compliments I received from the editor and readers. It was evident to me then, that I had excavated my creative spirit.

I decided to take a comprehensive writing course to improve my technique. With help from a proficient and supportive tutor, who told me I had a gift, I began to cultivate my skill. My articles started to sell and I received an assignment from a major Canadian magazine. I have spent the past 25 years writing, articles, short stories and books. 

About my trilogy – Merryweather Lodge, was inspired by my own experiences in a remote and mysterious little cottage near Stonehenge. This cottage was called Scotland Lodge and belonged to my aunt and uncle. We would spend our summer holidays there when I was a child. It was my fairytale kingdom but it had a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge stayed with me, as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland and was led to concocting this story and writing this trilogy. This wonderland and my childhood fantasies were the catalyst for my writing career and the inspiration for my trilogy.

The first book in my Merryweather Lodge trilogy Merryweather Lodge – Ancient Revenge, was the Readers Favorite 2011 Silver Award Winner for paranormal fiction. Book two, Merryweather Lodge – Malevolent Spirit, was a Readers Favorite finalist. My first children’s book, Melanie Gets A Nanny, is about a strong willed young girl with a wild and wacky imagination. It is published by, Wee Creek Press.  I have just sighed a publishing contract for my second children’s book, Carly’s Incredible Dream.. Yay! Twenty five of my articles have been published.

Come visit me at my website. Check out my articles, bio, videos and links. www.paulineholyoak.com

 

 

Author Interview – C. A. Asbrey

October 19, 2018
mandyevebarnett


Author-Interview-Button

 

CA Asbrey

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It definitely lights a fire under me when I have a tale which wants to come out. I can sometime stay up until 3-4am if I have to finish a scene. At other times I can agonize over a phrase or sentence and before I know it the day has gone and I’ve only written a paragraph. I miss it when I can’t write.  

What is your writing Kryptonite

Emotional upset for sure. My last book took me a year to write as I was distracted by my husband being injured in an accident and my mother-in-law passing away from a long illness. I was very lucky to have a lovely mother-in-law. She is sorely missed.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

The Innocents

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I’ve met many wonderful people on this journey and I’ve found them to be an incredibly generous and open community. I’d really encourage new writers to reach out and make contact. Not only will you find that they share resources, but you’ll probably make all kinds of new friends too. There are too many to mention but Kit Prate and Joanie Chevalier deserve a special mention. Both have been so supportive and inspiring to a brand new writer and have gone the extra mile in helping me cross over so many barriers. Kit introduced me to her publisher after reading my work, and helped me out of the slush pile. Joanie helped to point me towards the various groups which help a new writer with marketing and publicity. Not only that but she actually made up some advertising material and told me to ‘get my swag on.’ I was being far too Scottish—reticent and unwilling to look like I was bragging by saying my book was good. Both ladies have been incredible and I can’t thank them enough. Read their books and you’ll soon see how lucky I was to be assisted by them.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is definitely meant to be part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’s plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

So far it’s been on editing. I’ve learned so much from every bit of feedback given to me and I they all go towards making me better writer. That said there’s been free advice from other writers. As a newcomer to the writing community I have found great generosity of spirit and so many people have shared some of their valuable time to help me. I’ll be very happy to pay that forward. On another note I have just spent some money on publicity. I’ve yet to see how that will work. That may be my new enthusiasm if it really pays off.   

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation. It’s useful for a writer to grasp that and be able to shift the dynamics in a scene through clever use of words.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Lol, maybe a giant sloth? Or one of those dogs or cats which go viral for bumping into glass doors or falling off things.

Innocent-As-Sin-CAAsbrey-Web

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

‘The Innocents’ has been written and re-written to death. It’s probably in about its tenth incarnation. The second book in the trilogy was launched on 26th July and the third is at the editing stage before being submitted for publication. I have numerous other mysteries plotted. It all depends on public demand on whether or not I continue the series or write them as standalone mysteries.

What does literary success look like to you?

 To have people read and enjoy my stories. I make no pretence at literary genius or at writing anything worthy. I write stories which I hope people will enjoy.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? 

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it. Everything which influences every aspect of the stories. Abigail’s ability to disguise herself and alter her accent is taken directly from reports on the skills of the original female Pinkerton, Kate Warne. The theatrical make up and wigs were also true to the period. Stage make up had been primitive earlier in the century, but better stage lighting revealed a need for far better make up techniques, products, and prosthetics. Greasepaint was invented in the 1860s by Ludwig Leichner, building on the work of Karl Freidrich Baudius (1796–1860) in the 1850s. Lighting also improved costumes and acting techniques. It drove a desire for more natural representations in every area, simply because people could see the stage more clearly. Crepe hair went out and quality wigs came in. Colors were mixed to mimic skin tones and classes in their application were popular in the acting profession. Latex wasn’t invented until 1920, but prior to that rubber was moulded or even applied to a light fabric backing. When it was the right shape it was expertly painted to look exactly like a nose, dewlap, bald cap, or any other body part. I even researched whether someone with as much hair as the average Victorian woman could wear a short wig. The answer came from a young woman who enjoys cosplay – and she explains online how to pleat her long thick hair and coil it flat under the cap before putting the short wig on. It absolutely IS possible. I was really surprised to find how many really strange crimes and mass murders from the past seem to have been forgotten by all but a few. The past is littered with remarkable characters; honest and dishonest. There are cross-dressers, madmen, greedy people, selfish people, arrogant people, and clever people on both sides of the law. I was also conscious of how often history repeats itself and how themes come up time and time again as history stratifies the same issues and concerns time and time again. I was also impressed by the dedication of a few clever people who worked to catch criminals and close down their attempts to cover their tracks.

How many hours a day/week do you write? 

I have no set timetable. I wish I was that organised. Some days I write into the wee small hours, other times I can be researching and go down the rabbit hole following some amazing character or story. In the end all of it is productive and results in a story though. The actual process of writing is only the end of a longer mechanism. The invention has to come first.

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him. It disturbed people who initially saw this as a straight romance, which it isn’t. 

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I only write mystery. I loved them right from the start because the reader can play along with the story. There are rules to writing a mystery, and the writer has to keep to them if the reader is to be able to play along. The story has to keep moving, all the clues need to be available and the plot needs to be convincing. The rules were set out in ‘The Detective Club’ which featured members such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterson, and E. C. Bentley. Not all the rules hold true today – for instance rule 5 states, “No Chinaman must figure in the story.” That I simply a ridiculous premise today. Agatha Christie broke rule 7 “The detective must not himself commit the crime” but they still provide a framework for the modern mystery writer. The method of murdering the victim must be a robust and feasible technique and not invented or spurious. The motive for murder in a whodunit should be personal, and not an act of war or part of a professional hit. That takes the killing into a different genre of writing. Many of the old rules say that a twin or a servant cannot be used as the murderer, but those rules have also been broken in modern writing and shown to be no longer relevant.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with this story and universe since 2008. It looks like I’m a slow developer. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

What inspires you?

Anything and everything. I can meet someone with an unusual name and I have to note it. I can read news story, read remarkable history, or find some amazing spy gadget. Somehow I piece them all together to form a mystery.  

How do you find or make time to write?

I found myself with enforced leisure after a serious accident.  Like many people I always wanted to write but life and family got in the way. I got hooked and wanted to get good enough to be taken seriously. I’m lucky to be in a position to dedicate time every day to writing. I look in awe at friends with families and job and wonder how they do it.   

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m editing the third of ‘The Innocents’ trilogy and have outlined some more mysteries I can have my characters solve if they are a success. I also have a completely separate mystery set in 19th century Edinburgh planned which I’m quite excited about starting.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Another mystery. No surprised there. I want to continue with the universe I created in ‘The Innocents’ as I think there are still a lot I can do with the characters. I also have a Gothic 19th century medical mystery set in Edinburgh in mind which is not related to that series.

Share a link to your author website.

Blog which includes things obscure and strange in the Victorian period     http://caasbrey.com/

Twitter  https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/

Facebook group for The Innocents Mystery Series 

 https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/?ref=br_rs

Link to book https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BMHFXSJ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_wTSSAb8J40Q9H

Bio:

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office.    

In that role she produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and wrote guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She was Media Trained, by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. She has also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

 

 

Writing Prompt Wednesday

February 14, 2018
mandyevebarnett


9781608636921

List a few phobias you have. When and how did you discover you had these?

rhino

My ‘phobia’s’ are rather bizarre to say the least. Firstly, as a child I had a recurring nightmare, which was so vivid I would wake with terrible stomach and back pain. The source was a rhino’s horn penetrating my body! In the dream I was at a fancy ‘garden’ party with marquees, waiters, lavish tables, musicians – the works. I was still young and attended with my parents. The setting was Africa on the boundary of the wilderness. (I was born in South Africa).

A rhino thundered towards the garden party scattering the guests in all directions, it also pierced through me as it exited the scene. I could feel the horn through my body and the jarring as the animal ran across the savanna. I could hear screams behind me as the guests realized my predicament. This is the moment I would wake up.

Many, many years later, when my daughter, a born animal whisper wanted to visit the rhino house at Longleat Safari Park, UK, I tried to get her to go on her own. Up to that point I couldn’t even look at a rhino photo images on the TV. She was insistent I went with her to stroke the animal. As we entered the rhino house my fear grew. My daughter went up to the rhino, who was leaning against the massive metal bars and patted it’s hide. She held my hand as I did the same. It’s hide is incredibly solid and rough and I was amazed at how it felt. This encounter lessened my childhood fear in a way I did not think possible. I can look at rhino’s now but still find I turn away when the images are of a charging bull rhino.

avalanche1

My second ‘phobia’ became apparent once I became a mother. The feelings of love and protection were (and are) so intense that I worry about my children’s safety and well-being. Even now when they are adult’s, I still worry about them (I am often teased because of it but the ‘cord’ is never cut – as we mother’s know only too well). Again I had recurring nightmares of this situation, which in a dreamscape is perfectly reasonable, of course. Bearing in mind at the time I was living in England and the situation was far from possible, the dreams were all too real to me.

Once again the dreams were vivid and I had the sensation of the bitter cold. Upon waking I would be shivering. The dream situated me with my two small children on a mountain side where an avalanche roared down towards us. I grabbed a child under each arm and ran to a rocky outcrop, where I held them tight under the overhang. As tonnes of snow poured over us I clung as tightly as I could to ensure each child was not ripped from my grasp.

Once the torrent ceased, we were buried in a capsule of snow and ice with a small pocket of space around us. As time passed, we became colder and colder and I understood I had to find a way to keep my children warm. (Now remember this is a dream and anything is possible in a dream!) I had the children put their feet and hands on my torso and that worked for a while but I could feel my extremities heat lessening. So the best way to keep the children warm was to put them ‘inside’ me where it was very warm. I cut my torso open and made the children crawl inside.

This is the moment I would wake up.

So now you have a glimpse at my psyche – how about you share too?

Writing Prompt Wednesday

January 17, 2018
mandyevebarnett


9781608636921

Have you done any research into your ancestors? What interesting surprises have you discovered?

One rather big surprise when researching my maternal ancestry was that my great, great grandfather was transported to Tasmania from Liverpool, England. At the tender age of fifteen he was convicted of stealing a piece of calico and sentence to seven years in Van Diemans Land.

Previously he had stolen two game cocks but had escaped punishment. Who knows what age he was then. The poor lad was on the transport ship, William for 127 days. Many did not survive the journey.

What is astonishing is that he made his way back to England at the age of 38, which was very unusual, most stayed after their sentence was complete (if they survived). But my great great grandfather, married a local girl in Tasmania and brought her back to England with their young daughter.

It shows an incredibly strong character and physical strength to endure.

Do you have an ancestor’s story to share?

 

Facebook Group Spotlight – Medieval Romance Novels. The Rython Kingdom…

November 28, 2016
mandyevebarnett


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Facebook Group – Medieval Romance Novels. https://www.facebook.com/groups/MedievalRomanceNovels/

On today’s post I am reflecting the post I put onto the above group with the added bonus of an excerpt. The novella is actually two stories in one, the story of Guillem’s adventure and the tale he relays to the King’s court.

Bio: Mandy Eve-Barnett resides in Alberta, Canada but is originally from England. She is a multi-genre author and freelance writer and lives and breathes the written word and creativity in all its forms. She is the Secretary of her local writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, and President of the Arts and Culture Council of Strathcona County.
Mandy publishes regularly on her blog – http://www.mandyevebarnett.com – where she has built a thriving writing community – sharing tips, news, interviews, and excerpts. She has published three children’s books and her adult novella, set in medieval England, The Rython Kingdom. She has also co-written a guide to memoir writing. Currently working on four manuscripts Mandy is never happier than writing and creating imaginary worlds.
Blog: http://www.mandyevebarnett.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/mandyevebarnett
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Mandyevebarnettcom/
Link to excerpt of The Rython Kingdom https://mandyevebarnett.com/my-adult-books/

Rython Altiusmwelsh-castle

Excerpt: 

The Rython Kingdom –  Chapter One

“He’s coming! He’s coming! Guillem Ruet is here!”

Guillem smiled at the group of children running beside his horse as he rode toward the castle’s drawbridge. Dirty and barefooted, these youngsters would not be lucky enough to hear his newest tale, first hand. That pleasure would be for the inner court alone. It was a strange and most complex tale and all the more mysterious for being made of a dream.

Shouts of his approach preceded him, thrown from one person to the next across the dirt track and woven among the shacks lining it. The summer heat had denuded the earth of moisture; dust swirled around his mount’s hooves, creating a cloak of fine grains behind them, shrouding rider and horse. Ahead, the King’s standards lay limp against their poles high above on the castle turrets; thin strips of coloured cloth obscuring the lion head emblem of the king. More children, and some adults, ran beside him, eager to witness this famed troubadour first hand. The talk among the courtiers and peasants alike had been of his arrival and little else for many weeks.

As Guillem entered under the portcullis, it brought back memories of returning from battle years previously. Conquering heroes were showered with flowers and rewarded with grand feasts and warmed by many a maid. Serving as a knight in his younger days, Guillem had been admired for his prowess in battle, but now he was even more revered as a troubadour. His tales of battles and faraway lands held audiences spell bound as he punctuated them with displays of swordsmanship and the exhibiting of combat scars. So popular was Guillem that a feast or festival without his presence was considered incomplete. Fierce competition between lords kept Guillem’s purse and belly full as he traveled from one borough to the next, shamelessly attending whomever paid the highest fee. His new life fulfilled his wander-lust. Being confined to one place filled him with dread as did faithfulness to just one maid. Why restrict yourself to one when there were so many to pick from – all willing to bed the famous knight and troubadour?

Word had reached him a month prior notifying him the king himself requested Guillem’s presence at court. It was an honor to be bestowed with such a command and Guillem did not hesitate to comply. Not dallying at Lord Suffolk’s seat; as was his usual habit. Normally, he would take advantage of the many benefits afforded him but, this time, he packed his saddlebags the very same night and set off toward the king’s domain at daybreak. Several requests for his presence had made it to his ears as he traveled but each was declined in favor of an audience at the king’s court. Once it was common knowledge the king had requested Guillem to speak, Guillem knew he would be able to use it to increase his fee.

Ahead of him now was the sovereign’s castle keep with sentries standing at both sides of a stairway leading up to massive oak doors. The excited crowd jostled for position to get closer to Guillem and perchance to touch him or his fine mount. A herald sounded his trumpet as Guillem dismounted. The shouts died away as all eyes centered on the keep’s massive doors. They slowly opened. All knees bent and heads bowed as the regal figure of King Henry was revealed, resplendent in deep purple robe and golden crown. With measured steps, King Henry descended the stone stairs.

“Welcome, Guillem Ruet, your reputation precedes you. My courtiers and subjects have talked of little else but your arrival for these many weeks. Come and drink ale with me. You must be weary from your journey.”

Guillem bowed deeply again then handed his horse’s reins to a saddle hand, who was fidgeting beside him. As the boy led his mount away, Guillem could hear the lad’s excited whisper to the surrounding crowd.

“Look, look, I have his horse to care for.”

Careful to remain a step behind, Guillem followed his King into the castle’s dark interior. The huge stone blocks prevented the heat of the outside world from entering. Guillem shivered involuntarily. I should have taken my cloak out of the saddlebag before releasing my horse into the care of the boy. Then another thought struck him and he turned to see his horse being led away on the far side of the courtyard – he had not secured the small box. He had promised a mysterious old man he would not let it leave his possession and now it was in the hands of a young stable lad.

“The fire will warm your bones, Guillem. Is something amiss? You seem anxious?”

“Thank you, Sire. I relinquished my cloak without thinking but I also forgot to retrieve a certain object.”

“Do not worry, Guillem. I will have your saddlebags brought to your room presently. If there is anything missing I shall deal with the culprit myself. But for now….” The King raised a hand to summon a serf, “Stephen, a robe for our guest.”

A young man appeared from the shadow of a stone column and presented Guillem with a thick woolen robe. Its heavy warmth felt pleasing. Serfs opened an inner door as the King approached and allowed the two men to enter the great hall. Long oak tables flanked the centre aisle below a raised platform where the King’s ornately carved table and throne stood. Following his sovereign’s lead, Guillem walked toward the roaring fire at the far side of the huge room. Its radiant heat was welcome in the cool interior of the castle.

“Sit with me, Guillem, you will soon warm. Bring ale, Stephen.”

“As you command, your majesty.”

The serf had moved so silently that Guillem jumped when he responded to his master’s command.

“Guillem, why do you start so?”

“Sorry, Sire – I was unaware of your serf’s presence; gave me a bit of a shock when he spoke.”

“Not so surprising, Guillem, we call him Silent Stephen. He seems to glide instead of walk, although to watch him you cannot see any difference from any other man’s stride.”

“Strange indeed, my Lord, is he born of a witch?”

“Actually no, Guillem, his mother was a maid to my mother. He has grown up within these walls and knows no other life than to live and serve here.”

***

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The Rython Kingdom is available as a print book at http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/retail/books/rython-kingdom

Also available as an ebook from all Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

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