CSFF Blog Tour: Interview with Robert Treskillard, part 2

Here is the conclusion to my interview with Robert Treskillard, author of Merlin’s Blade and Merlin’s Shadow. To learn more about his works, visit the blog tour, or his profiles on Goodreads and Amazon.

What level of historical veracity did you aim to achieve?

Well … as highly accurate as I was able to write, given normal time constraints. Thankfully my mother had visited Britain in the 1970’s and had brought back a small truckload of old books, which she then gave to our family. This helped a lot, as did the internet, but I had to be oh so careful, as you can’t take anything for granted.

For instance, the Brits don’t have lightning bugs … they have glow worms! Every detail had to be carefully checked. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes (as Lars Walker has pointed out!), but the fact that the novel takes place 1500 years ago helps readers to give me a bit of charity. To be honest, we don’t know as much as we’d like to know about the era.

What sources did you use, for the history or the Arthurian legends?

For Arthurian legend, I read the original source texts, such as the Annales Cambriae, Nennius, Bede, Gildas, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Malory, and a small bit of Chrétien de Troyes. I’ve also relied quite a bit on many of the Welsh writings about Merlin and Arthur, including the poems Y Gododdin, and Pa Gur.

As it is with such lofty legends, though, there is much confusion, contradictions, and embellishments, and that is the beauty and also it’s bane. It does give me a lot of leeway, however, as I can pick and choose what parts of the legend I want to include.

I tend to eschew modern retellings of Merlin and Arthur, though, because I don’t want to taint my own writing. Sadly, I’ve even mostly avoided the BBC Merlin TV show for the same reason. This show came out after I had finished my first draft of MERLIN’S BLADE and thankfully brought a lot of interest to the genre. I almost wonder if I’d even be published if not for the TV shows success!

For general history, I used lots and lots of books, many of which are out of print. For more recent titles, here’s a sampling. I hope they’re all still in print!

* The Brendan Voyage, by Tim Severin
* Celtic Myths and Legends by T.W. Rolleston
* The World of King Arthur by Christopher Snyder
* Roman Scotland—Frontier Country, by David Breeze
* Following The Path—The MacCallum House by James O. St. Clair
* The Celts, by Frank Delaney
* The Celts, by T.G.E. Powell

There’s also an itty-bitty Celtic prayer book that I’ve lost track of that I wish I could reference here. These good people’s prayers are very inspirational and really give a feel for the beauty of their simple, rhythmic lives, and their reliance upon God.

Oh, and I also have a collection of Cornish, Gaelic, and Norse dictionaries to draw from, and that is a help beyond measure.

What’s with the wolves?

Aha! The wolves originally were to play only a small role in the blinding Merlin, but then their importance grew to the point that when the novel was submitted, Blink/Zondervan put a wolf on the cover. The funny thing is that after this was done they came back to me and asked for “more wolves” in the latter half of the novel. I obliged them!

Perhaps the single most important story about Merlin is his role in Arthur’s conception. How did you come to grips with that element of the legends, and how did that affect your story?

I don’t want to give anything away, but I answer that question satisfactorily in book two when the party visits Dintaga, which is known in the modern day as Tintagel, the fortress of Gorlas. This is where legend says Arthur was conceived. It will be interesting to see what you think of how I plucked that legend from the mists of time and gave it some neon running shoes.

You are one of the few – in fact, the only I can name – who has experienced the CSFF blog tour as both a blogger and an author. Now that you’ve seen the tour from both sides, what do you think?

Well, there have been other authors who’ve been part of the tour … Jill Williamson, for one, and also Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. Probably more. They were part of it as already published authors, however, so I suppose my story is a little different.

One thing that being on this side has helped me see is the importance of Amazon reviews. I always thought that my blog was the “important place” to put the review, and that Amazon was an “add on” if I had time—which I rarely did.

Now I know better. Yes, the blog is very, very important, but reviews on Amazon, BN.com, and ChristianBook.com, etc. can be critical to a book’s success.

When Michael Hyatt, the former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, wrote his first book, his goal was to have *40* reviews posted to Amazon the very first day the book was released. He now has over 340 reviews and is a New York Times Bestselling author.

For me … I just now received my 40th review, and it’s been six months!

Goodreads.com was also a sleeper to me. I never paid the site much attention, but have since learned of how critical that community can be to help get word out about a novel.

Also, I’m just thankful for everyon’e hard work to review my books and to promote speculative fiction in general. Being part of the tour as a reviewer is always fun, and being on this side is fun as well—but also humbling as I see people helping me out and sharing their thoughts on what worked and didn’t work in the novel.

Thank you!

CSFF Blog Tour: Interview with Robert Treskillard, part 1

This is the first half of my interview with Robert Treskillard, author of Merlin’s Blade and Merlin’s Shadow, books one and two in the Merlin Spiral. Enjoy!

How far back does your interest in King Arthur go?

When I was fourteen I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I fell in love with the concept of kingship, swords, and battles … and soon after that I encountered the lore of King Arthur and became fascinated with those particular legends.

These were just seeds, however, and I hardly read any fantasy at all after that for the next fifteen years.

Then I encountered Stephen Lawhead’s SONG OF ALBION series, and this opened my eyes to the merging of faith and fantasy. I quickly devoured just about everything else he had written … even his kids books! This, of course, included his historical treatment of the Arthurian legends, which renewed my interest.

Still … the longings for exploring these legends more deeply laid dormant in me for eleven more years until I began to ponder the question as to “why would someone thrust a sword into a stone?” It made sense to me why you would pull it out, but why was it there in the first place? Every Arthurian author had tackled this question, but none quite satisfied my wonder. Finally, in a burst of inspiration, I came up with the answer … “what if the stone was the enemy and you were trying to kill it?”

That single answer grew into The Merlin Spiral trilogy, as well as the follow on trilogy that’s still in the planning stage—The Pendragon Spiral.

In the Arthurian legends there is a wealth of fascinating and imaginatively powerful figures. Why, of all of them, did you pick Merlin to center your story around?

Not an editorial comment. Just humor.

I think because he was so enigmatic, and also because he is so often misunderstood. In the Welsh legends Merlin is a combination of prophet and slightly crazed seer—not a wizard with blue robes and a pointy hat.

Not only that, but many scholars think, based on the era, that Merlin and Arthur would have been Christians. That, too, is often misrepresented.

How did you change Merlin from the original stories and why?

Well, part of that was answered by the fact that I wanted to write the novels for a (primarily) young adult audience. Editorial norms dictated, then, that Merlin be young. So I made him 18 … on the verge of adulthood.

I also made him mostly blind—very reluctantly—but that was dictated by the story. I had an evil stone that needed to do something, so decided, based upon research, that people would worship it. Stones, among many other things, were often venerated by the ancient peoples, including the Celts. Thus I gave the stone the power to make the people who see it want to worship it. So what better way to make Merlin immune than to make him unable to see it?

This created no end of difficulty for a debut novelist, however, as I had to learn to write from Merlin’s perspective without relying very much on his sight, which is poor at best. This was good medicine for me, however, and stretched me as a writer.

Keep in mind, though, that in MERLIN’S BLADE I am planting a lot of very small seeds of the more familiar legends, and these will grow and mature as the series progresses.

Why did you choose to use the Druids?

Interesting question! In A.D. 477, the druids were in the unenviable position of having been ousted from religious control of Britain, as Christianity had recently taken root. So then, this is an era of real conflict and fodder for the novelist, providing a powerful backdrop for THE MERLINS SPIRAL.

I’ve had some complaints that I presented the druids as one-sided, but I would disagree with that assessment. Look at Trothek and Caygek for example. These are druids who disagree with Mórganthu and resist everything he is doing, even to the point of death.

What I am really showing is just one bad example in Mórganthu and his leadership … and then beyond that, the other druids are following him because of the enchantment of the Stone. Thus I am attributing the real source of evil to the stone and to that shadowy figure I call “The Voice”. There will be much more about him in book two.

Also, I try to help the reader sympathize with Mórganthu and understand his motivations, especially through what happens to his son, Anviv.

The rest of the interview will be posted tomorrow. Until then, here are some links to chew on:

Merlin’s Shadow on Amazon;

Robert Treskillard’s website;

Robert Treskillard’s blog (incidentally, this is where I got the “Merlin’s Spiral” graphic above);

and the blog tour:

CrossReads Book Blast: Becca Fisher’s Amish Christmas

TITLE: CrossReads Book Blast with Becca Fisher’s Amish Christmas Boxed Set

cover pic

Amish Christmas Boxed Set
By Becca Fisher

About the Book

Four different Amish Christmas stories, plus one bonus novella by Best Selling Amish author, Becca Fisher:

The Christmas Surprise

Joshua Zook and Sadie Miller have been dancing around their feelings for months. But just as Joshua works up the nerve to admit how much he cares for Sadie, he realizes that he may be too late to win Sadie’s heart.

The Christmas Miracle

William Bieler just wants a simple Amish Christmas. But with a newborn child at home, nothing is simple. When William’s wife falls ill however, it will take a miracle to save Christmas at the Bieler house.

The Christmas Performance

Emma Bieler is chosen to do a solo at the school holiday pageant. But a case of crippling stage fright strikes her just before she’s about to go onstage. What happens next will change Emma’s life forever.

The Christmas Gift

When Amish widow Hannah King remarries, her daughters do not take well to their new step father. But as the holidays approach, it’s make or break time to bring peace back into Hannah’s house.

Bonus novella: Clara Bieler’s Amish Christmas


becca fisherBecca Fisher

I’m Becca Fisher and I write sweet Amish romances featuring simple people with complex love lives. I’m devout in my faith, relish time with my family, and seek to bring joy to as many lives as possible. I would love to have you as a reader. God bless.

If you would like to be the first to know about my new books, join my mailing list here http://eepurl.com/s3WIT
Everyone that signs up for my mailing list will receive a Free copy of my “Complete Amish Romance Boxed Set.”

Follow Becca Fisher

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

CSFF Blog Tour: Merlin’s Shadow

For being such a little guy, Arthur has all kinds of people after him.

The High King, who is technically his uncle, wants to kill him. The Picts regard him as a bit of plunder. The arch-druid wishes to avenge a blood-grudge on him. And Atle … let’s not even go there.

All in all, they turn Merlin’s vow to protect and serve Arthur into quite a challenge. While the whole world seems to conspire to tear Arthur away from him, it also conspires against his happiness. From his mother’s loss, to his blindness, to his father’s death, to his disfiguring scars, from slavery to unaccountable hatred – well, should anyone wonder if Merlin loses himself in a storm of doubt and fear?

Merlin’s Shadow is the second book in the Merlin Spiral, and also the second book written by Robert Treskillard. Authors’ second books are usually better than their first, which is only to be expected. A little more curious, but also generally true, is that the second book in a series is better than the first. The Merlin Spiral follows this pattern.

The plot of this book was so well-woven, with loops and twists I hadn’t expected but which made sense. Dangers were alleviated and then replaced; often, curiously, what saved them from the present danger was the next danger. Merlin’s storyline was wonderfully balanced against his sister’s. At a few points they crossed, but usually they ran alongside each other, and in some way mirrored each other. I think both Merlin and his sister faced the same temptation in the end.

I enjoyed the blend of history and legend in Merlin’s Shadow. Both the fantastic parts and the historical parts were interesting, and they were tied together seamlessly. In addition, the many backgrounds were fascinating: the sea, snowy islands, the abandoned Roman wall, forests and valleys.

Thematically, this book dealt a lot with suffering and with those good things we so naturally and even rightly want. But we can see, through the characters’ decisions, how even good desires will lead us astray if we don’t give God His place above them.

The violence in Merlin’s Shadow was relatively small-scale (i.e., it usually involved only a few people, and not large battles). Still, the episodes were fairly frequent and, together with a few brutal images, made the book too grim. I think it would have been better for trimming some of the violence.

But that is the only caveat I have to offer. In everything else, Merlin’s Shadow impressed me. The story, the characters, the settings were all well-done. The spiritual themes were profound and flowed naturally from the story, and there was a lot of beauty in the writing itself. The Merlin Spiral is a compelling take on the Arthurian legends.

Last month Robert Treskillard gave me an interview for this blog tour, and I’m excited to share it. I’ll post it in two parts, tomorrow and the day after.

An addendum: I signed up for a CrossReads book blast, realizing only afterward that the date was squarely in the middle of this blog tour – something I’ve avoided before, since mixing a blog tour with a totally unrelated book blast violates my sense of order. But both are scheduled and so both will go ahead.

So if you come back to read Robert Treskillard on his Merlin series, and come upon a post about Amish Christmases, just enjoy the irony. I’m trying to.

A Call for Reviewers

After years of living out his adventures on the pages of SALT Magazine, Christian Holmes has entered the world of e-publishing. Two of his adventures are now available on Kindle Amazon: Inspection and Sweet Green Paper.

I am putting out a call for reviewers – for anyone who will, in exchange for a book, post a review on Goodreads or Amazon (preferably both). Review copies will be given in MOBI, e-Pub, or PDF.

The Adventures of Christian Holmes is a series of short detective stories, lighthearted and appropriate for younger audiences. If you are interested in reviewing one or both of these stories, e-mail me at info[at]shannonmcdermott.com. Please specify what format you would like, and where you plan to post your review.

Inspection (Adventures of Christian Holmes 1)

An interloper arrives at the CBI, claiming to be a data-collector from headquarters. Christian Holmes, together with Greg Belden, is assigned to help him.

As they work with the outsider, their doubts grow. Who is he, and what did he really come for?

More than one man will be tested, when inspection comes.

25 pages (estimated length)

Amazon page

Goodreads page

Sweet Green Paper (Adventures of Christian Holmes 2)

Christian Holmes is on the trail of a thief. It’s another day in the life of his private detective agency—until he’s shown a picture of the thief’s accomplice, and recognizes his own cousin.

So he partners with his cousin in pursuit of a thief and the more elusive truth. All sorts of lies are told, when the reward is sweet green paper.

Christian Holmes is a detective series, offering humor and moral themes.

33 pages (estimated length)

Amazon page

Goodreads page

Review: Catch a Robber

Skitter always was kind to Pibbin – talking with him, giving him beetle cookies, taking care of him after a bird pecked him. When – in an apparent case of mistaken identity – the rabbits held Skitter captive as a thief, and demanded the real thief and the stolen necklace before they would let her go – well, what was Pibbin to do?

The only thing a friend could. Catch a robber. Even, even if it takes him out of Friendship Bog and into Shadow Swamp.

Catch a Robber – the fourth Tale of Friendship Bog – is written by Gloria Repp. The book is 116 pages, and very nicely laid-out – with well-drawn illustrations, wide spacing, and a fairly large font. It’s sold for “Ages 8 and up”, and I think it’s ideal for children who are ready to stretch beyond picture books but for whom a full-length novel is still too daunting.

As in Trapped, the writing style is crisp, with few long sentences and probably no complicated ones. But the writing is skilled, and there are some lovely images and expressions. “Peeper-voices chimed like tiny bells in the bushes”; one passage had a snake that curled downward “like a smooth, shining ribbon,” and another that “arranged himself into a black coil and gazed at the rabbits with bright, hungry eyes.”

The story is good and the characters are excellent. Nisk, Keena, the shrews, the Big Red, Mee – all riveting, in their own way. (The bit with Mee was marvelous, building tension and intrigue through a fascinating character.) Gloria Repp excels with characters who are – how can I put this? – not quite normal. Nisk is good, I don’t doubt, and likeable as a character, but his mind is somewhere off the beaten the track.

It’s a little funny, on reflection, that among the main antagonists of this children’s book are rabbits. (Note that I don’t say villains; they’re not quite that.) But in the book itself, it completely works. I didn’t question it for a second, wasn’t drawn out of the story at all. In large part this is because Gloria Repp succeeds in framing the world as it is for her characters. To a little frog like Pibbin, rabbits are large and noisy and strong.

A word on the illustrations (done by Michael Swaim, I should note): They really are well-done, a very pleasant halfway point between a cartoon and realism. They are also appealing to children; I know because when I showed one of the Friendship Bog books to my youngest sister (four last month), she turned the pages, looking at the illustrations, and finally asked, “How do you read this thing?”

Catch a Robber is a superb children’s book – a good story with writing and characters adults can appreciate along with children. It’s also entirely wholesome, and I would recommend it to parents and teachers without reservation.

Catch a Robber is available on Amazon; to learn more about Gloria Repp and her work, visit her site.

I received a review copy of this book.

Interviews, Guest Posts, Giveaways, and Summer Leaves

The last two weeks have been busy for me. Just before Thanksgiving, I did an interview and a guest post. Just after Thanksgiving, I released a new e-book.

Yesterday evening, Homeschooling Teen Magazine released the interview; this morning, Sarah Holman posted the guest post up on Homeschool Authors.

In conjunction with these, I am running a free book promotion on Amazon. Today, and through tomorrow, Sweet Green Paper and The Last Heir are free on Kindle.

As for the e-book, I am happy to announce the release of Summer Leaves: A Story in Three Acts. It is the second book in the Sons of Tryas, with Beauty of the Lilies leading the way.

Ruark, Lord Heir fourth in line for the throne, and once first in line, came so close. Still, he missed it entirely. His brother reigned, and dreamed, and Ruark himself wandered, burning his restlessness on distant, wild planets.

Then the premier of the Assembly found him, with an offer to give him everything he ever wanted, at only a small cost to his soul.

In Summer Leaves, Shannon McDermott continues the story of the sons of Tryas, begun in Beauty of the Lilies.

Sold on Kindle Amazon; estimated length 67 pages; price $2.99.

To read the beginning of the book, go to Amazon and either “Look Inside” or download the sample.