Tag Archives: Dawn of the Sentinel

What Inspires Your Writing? by Richard Blackburn (YA paranormal time travel author)

Today’s author guest blog is byDAWN OF THE SENTINEL COVER Lachesis Publishing author Richard Blackburn. Richard has written a three-book YA time travel/adventure series for Lachesis Publishing, called Guardians of the Gate, featuring a university student who travels back to Medieval England only to discover she has some amazing powers she never knew she had. Book 1 is Dawn of the Sentinel. Book 2, Return of the Sentinel, will be out soon.

What induced me to be a writer? I mentioned in my last submission to this blog, that my father was a great story teller. I remember one time I was sitting by the fire with my older brother and sister, listening to a scary story about a Bugane, the big, nasty creature that lives in the caves to the south of the Isle of Man. Nobody has seen one of these beasts and lived to tell the tale, but in winter storms you can hear it moaning as the wind whistles through the caves in the south of the Island. When it was time to go to bed, I was the youngest, so I had to go first. In those days, there were none of the modern light switches that let you switch it on downstairs and off upstairs. It was either on or off, and our family couldn’t afford to leave lights on. So I was the shivering little figure climbing the stairs on my own in the dark. And that’s when I heard the Bugane. It was on the landing above where my room was, shuffling along and muttering as it went. I was a scaredy-cat kid and I knew I was done for, but then I came over all cold. I clenched my fists and thought, uncharacteristically, ‘If I’m gone, I’ll do my best to take you with me.’ So I crept up the rest of the stairs and when the shuffling footsteps were just around the corner to me, I jumped out. ‘Yaaaa’ I shouted but immediately realized it was my grandmother. She was on her way to the bathroom, carrying a full bed pan. Well, I got into trouble for the wee on the wall and the wee on the ceiling, but she didn’t get into trouble for sounding like a Bugane and frightening me. That’s when I decided that if ever wrote stories, it wouldn’t always be the grown-ups who’d win! And it gave me an early insight into the power of story telling.

A few words about my writing: I’d been making up stories for my own children for years and later for my granddaughter. I didn’t consciously decide to become a writer. It was when I was making up yet another yarn that it came to me. I realized that this was the story I’d like to make into a book. The last fiction I had written was in school, forty years ago. I’d worked for the government for a long time and I wondered if this had crushed any writing skills I might have had before. So I took a short course in creative writing and was encouraged by my success. I’d been told never to have family members as beta readers but my daughters are very objective and my wife has never been reluctant to criticize me, so I asked them to read the first couple of chapters. I felt very vulnerable. This was from my heart and I felt if they hooted with laughter, I’d never lay finger on keyboard creatively again. But they were happy to be brutally honest and after I’d explained the meaning of ‘constructive’ criticism, we did well as a team. So, now I had a number of decisions to make. I’d invented the original story for children, but I lifted the age group slightly. The subject matter, then, had to be acceptable to teenagers. I personally don’t like swearing, so I was happy to keep that out of the book. I also know nothing at all about romance, so that was out as well. By this time I realized that these decisions had made the book more acceptable for school libraries. In Australia we have reading competitions in most states, and any book included in the reading list had a distinct advantage for sales. So I included this as part of my decision base for when I was mulling over the direction of the plot. Another decision concerned historical accuracy. My books are set in the first half of the fourteenth century, and things were a lot different then. I could either gloss over facts and concentrate on general description of the action, or put a lot of research into letting my readers see how things actually were. I’d even seen TV programs supposedly about these times, including phrases like, ‘I suppose it’s just not your cup of tea’ and the way Hollywood portrayed Henry VIII was hugely inaccurate. And I’d been around so many castles, I knew that forks were not used in England at that time, that potatoes, tomatoes and green beans hadn’t arrived from South America or pumpkin and turkeys from North America. I found out that the word ‘thug’ couldn’t be used because the Thuggi religion was only discovered in India in the late 1700s and that the Irish sheriff, Mr. Lynch, didn’t hang his own son without a trial until much later than the period I was interested in, thus making the word ‘lynched’ unusable. And, yes, it did take a lot longer to write the story, but I enjoyed the research. So those are a few of the factors I found I had to decide on my way to writing my first book.

And the rewards in writing: Before my first book was published, I was worried. What if people didn’t like it? I’d written a blurb that said how good the story was, but was that false pretenses? If people paid good money for my book and didn’t like it, I’d be devastated. I should have had more faith in my publisher, of course. It wouldn’t have gotten this far if it had been that bad. But I’m a worrier and didn’t think of that. Once my first book had been published, I started using my weekends to do book-signings. I had a vast poster made of the cover picture and on my table I set out my chainmail vest and helmet (my wife won’t trust me with a sword!) and copies of the book. I had a short blurb rehearsed for general enquiries (‘what’s the book about’) and a longer version for people who displayed more specific interest. I didn’t sit down but stood and smiled and said ‘hello’ to thousands of people. And it worked. And because I’d written the book the way I did, with no swearing, romance or sexual content, I’d had it (and eventually all three books) included in the New South Wales Premier’s Reading Challenge for high schools. This was a huge advantage in Australia. It was after the second book was published that I had people coming back for more. I was interviewed on TV and featured in newspapers quite a few times. I visited high schools and gave talks on writing, and this was incredibly rewarding. I was getting back far more than I’d put into it, not money wise (no way!) but in finding that I’d given people such enjoyment.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow us on twitter.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Lachesis Publishing, PARANORMAL, TIME TRAVEL, writing, writing craft, writing your book, YA, YA PARANORMAL, YA Time Travel, YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Sneak Peek Monday: Dawn of the Sentinel by Richard Blackburn (YA time travel)

DAWN OF THE SENTINEL COVERToday’s sneak peek is from the YA time travel Dawn of the Sentinel by Richard Blackburn (book 1 in the Guardians of the Gate trilogy).

What It’s About:

Jenny has no idea what it means when she stumbles through a magical “gate” at Stonehenge and travels back to the year 1347. She has no idea that the “old lady” who travels back with her is actually a sorceress protector, and a Guardian of the Gate. Most shocking of all, she has no idea that she has powers of her own just waiting to be discovered.

Gwenelda, the Guardian, intends to hide Jenny in the safety of a secret cave until the next time warp, but fate works against them, and Jenny is thrust into the society of the time. She disguises herself as a young man in order to protect herself, but when she discovers a sinister plot master-minded by a former Guardian named Rudigor, who has turned to the dark side—it becomes a race against time as Jenny tries to stop the sorcerer, and rush back to Stonehenge to get back to her own time.

EXCERPT:

Jenny started to tremble. She remembered her last glimpse of Stonehenge. In that flash of lightning she’d seen a dark liquid running from the slab above her head. She looked down at where it had splashed onto her arms. They were stained with blood.

“You saw what was on the altar stone?” the old woman whispered sympathetically.

“Yes,” Jenny answered in a quavering voice. “A . . . a human sacrifice.”

Despite the warning to keep silent, Jenny had to whisper the obvious questions.

“Who are you? What have you done to me?’’

In reply the old woman leaned her face close to Jenny’s ear.

“My name is Gwenelda. I’m one of the Sentinels who guard the time warp, what the ancients called The Gate. And all I did was to try to stop you from standing near that stone,” she whispered, more resigned now than angry. “You were on the actual site of the ancient Druid altar. I’ve guarded it for centuries during the few brief seconds each year it becomes a gateway into the past. But hush!”

As they listened, they could hear sounds of the men searching nearby. Someone prodded the thicket where they were hiding with a stave, but Jenny had curled into a tight ball, her arms protecting her head. She knew that if she made a sound, it would be her last, so she kept absolutely silent.

After a few minutes the searchers moved on.

“Those fools are trying to act like Druids, hoping to stumble upon the secrets of our ancient sect. It’s a dangerous business, though. The Church will burn them at the stake as heretics if they’re caught, so they’ll kill anybody who witnesses their secret meetings. Now they know we’re here, they’ll be desperate to find us.”

Trying not to rustle the leaves of the bush, the old woman looked out carefully.

“When they’re searching on the far side of the columns, we’ll have to run to the ditch over there,” she said, pointing to the opposite edge of the ruins.

Jenny felt as though she’d just been through one round in the boxing ring with Muhammad Ali and was in no shape for even the shortest sprint. Fit though she was, her mental condition had taken a considerable battering, but when Gwenelda croaked urgently for her to run, she somehow found the strength. The memory of her first, close look into the dead eyes of the pagan victim spurred her on. She threw herself the last few feet into the ditch.

“Well done,” Gwenelda whispered.

Jenny couldn’t imagine how the old woman got there first, but she didn’t really care.

“Can I say something now?” she pleaded weakly.

“Not yet,” Gwenelda said. “We’ve got to get well away from here. We can relax later, when we’re sure we’re not being followed, but even then we must stay alert. We have to avoid human contact like the plague. I’m going to take you to a cave I know. It’s nearly a day’s walk from here, but you can hide there until I can return you to your own century. So up you get. The coast is clear. We must get away.”

Twenty minutes later they were able to slacken the pace and walk side by side.

“Please tell me what happened,” Jenny begged. “I’m sure I’ll be of more use to you if I know what’s going on.”

“All right. I’ll tell you the little you need to know for now and when we reach safety, I’ll fill you in on the rest.”

Jenny could hear in her companion’s voice the coldness of a seriously dangerous situation. As they followed the winding path across the lonely moors, Gwenelda told her a story so incredible that, had Jenny not been physically involved, she would never have believed it.

“There are a few places on the face of the Earth where it’s possible to walk through time into the past,” the old woman explained. “They only occur on significant occasions and in very special places. The Egyptian Pyramids, the Easter Island statues, and the Inca temples are just a few of them. Oh, and Stonehenge of course.

“Not many people these days would know how to invoke the magic to travel through time, but in Stonehenge it’s different. Every year the words of the ancient incantations are chanted exactly when the time warp occurs—at dawn on the mid-summer solstice.

“But modern Druids don’t know what they’re doing. It’s just by chance today that the right words were said at the right time. That was the command for The Gate to open at the site of the original Druid altar . . . and you fell into it.”

Jenny was still puzzled so Gwenelda continued to explain.

“If you look at any really old painting of the ’Henge you’ll see that the columns used to be scattered all over the place. It was in Victorian times the authorities took it upon themselves to put the stones in an order they thought was right—but they were wrong. The real place for the altar was exactly where you were standing.

“When I couldn’t get there in time to move you away, I had to come with you, not just to help you, but to preserve the past. So now I’ll have the pleasure of your company until The Gate next opens, the hallowed eve of All Saints Day. That’s in about four month’s time.”

“Four months! You must be joking. I can’t—”

Once again Gwenelda had to silence her unwilling companion.

“Keep your voice down!” she whispered furiously. “We may appear to be alone, but you can never tell. Things aren’t as bad as they might sound, but I can’t explain now. We’ve a long walk ahead of us, so we’d better get a move on. It would be dangerous for two women to be found out alone after nightfall . . . particularly here and now.”

Before they continued, however, Gwenelda seemed to find one spark of amusement in their plight.

“By the way, Jenny,” she said with mock dignity. “Welcome to the year 1347.”

Like what you’ve read? You can get your copy of Dawn of the Sentinel right here at Lachesis Publishing.

You can also purchase it at other online stores including Amazon.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow us on twitter.

Leave a comment

Filed under ACTION ADVENTURE, Lachesis Publishing, TIME TRAVEL, YA, YA PARANORMAL, YA Time Travel