I’m thrilled to have historical, fantasy writer Sarah Woodbury as my guest today speaking about real Welsh heroes and giving away a free ecopy of her latest release. In my mind, Wales is the quiet country. I’m Welsh but don’t know very much about their history. So how about her new book? Well, here are some reviews:
“I just finished reading this book and loved it. I especially like reading about how the modern knowledge is slowly transforming medieval Wales/England. The plot and characters kept me engaged throughout. I would recommend this book and can’t wait to get the next one!”
“Sarah Woodbury once again manages to pull us into the dual lives of the characters we know, 21st century commoners who are 13th century royals/nobles, while at the same time enriching the world that she has created by expanding the role of secondary characters and seamlessly introducing new ones who undoubtedly will be adding to the ongoing saga.”
And don’t we all want to be the royals when we think back to medieval times? How is this newly released book doing on Amazon? Very well! Take a look:And now Sarah:
Writing Fantasy into Historical Fiction
Wales … snow covered mountains, deep lakes, hundreds of miles of coastline, and a long and brutal history of rebellion and conquest.
I love history and reading about history, but real history often ends badly for the heroes. Consequently, when a story involves a main character who dies an unpleasant and premature death, it can be difficult to craft a tale that is an enjoyable read. This is particularly true of books set in medieval Wales.
Few endings have had a greater impact on the progress—or lack thereof—of a country than the death in 1282 of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales.
With his death, King Edward I of England set about eliminating Welsh language, culture, and history to the best of his ability, even to the point of expunging any mention of the Welsh royal court from public documents. He took the crown, the piece of the true cross, and even the title, Prince of Wales, which from then on would be bestowed on the eldest son of the King of England.
My After Cilmeri series takes the ambush and murder of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, throws in some time travel, and asks what if? What if Llywelyn survived? And what might then happen to the two teenagers who save him?
Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
My problem is that I don’t want the story to stop where it does—with the death of the hero. The history and death of these great Welsh heroes are tales that desperately needed someone to rewrite them. Or at least I thought so.
And so I did.
Guardians of Time, the ninth book in the After Cilmeri series, was released on May 19, 2015.
BLURB: Christmas 1292.
Time travel has meant many things to Meg, David, and Anna over the years, but regardless of the circumstances, it has always been about saving lives: their own, their family members’, their friends’.
This time, it’s a combination of all three.
EXCERPT: Anna kept her eyes fixed on Math, whom she could see through the window as he stood outside the bus. His tousled black hair was wet from the rain, and she was noticing only now that she couldn’t do anything about it that it had grown longer than she usually let it. She reminded herself to give him a haircut when she came home.
Then she smiled at him, though she felt her eyes fill with tears as she did so.
Anna had said goodbye to her boys earlier, not wanting them here to witness whatever came next. Cadell had stood solemnly before Math as he’d explained that David was taking the adults to Avalon and that Cadell would need to protect his cousins in their parents’ absence. Bran knew she was taking a trip, which Anna did occasionally. Usually, it was to medical clinics in the region or to collect herbal remedies from across Britain, some of which were remarkably effective and rivaled—or even were better than—modern drugs. Unfortunately, none could address her mother’s cancer or Shane’s.
Lili and Bronwen had also remained behind with Arthur, Gwenllian, and the twins, none of whom needed to see what happened with the bus—whatever that might be.
It was already later in the afternoon than David had anticipated leaving. They were coming off a large Christmas feast in the hall at the university in Llangollen. The party had been for villagers, students, visiting scholars, and bus passengers alike, in lieu of any celebration up at the castle tomorrow. David was hoping that people, in general, wouldn’t mind that the feast had been held on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas Day.
The festivities had actually begun before noon, but while they’d intended to spend a couple of hours at the gathering, they hadn’t planned on it being nearly dark by the time they set out. This close to the solstice, the sun set at 3:30 in the afternoon. Yet Anna and Math hadn’t felt they could leave until the feast was well and truly over. At least none of them had to stay to clean up—one of the many perks of being part of the Welsh royal family.
Anna blinked back her tears again, and when they wouldn’t stay away, closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to the corners, willing herself to remain calm. She was about to face death for something she believed in. She was no more willing than David to leave the risk to others.
She opened her eyes to find Math right in front of her, this time inside the bus. He sat down next to her, fumbling with the unfamiliar seat belt buckle.
Anna gaped at him. “What—Math, no—you’re supposed to be regent in Papa’s absence.”
“You’re not glad to see me?”
“Of course I’m glad to see you.”
Math smirked. “So then don’t tell me to get off the bus. I’m coming with you.”
Math tsked through his teeth. “I asked you once if you would return to Avalon if you could, and you said you weren’t going anywhere without me. At the time, I told you that I had no intention of giving you a choice. What kind of husband would I be if I let you go alone now under these circumstances?”
Anna put her head on his shoulder while at the same time reaching for his hand. She didn’t know what to say, because of course she wanted him with her. But it was reckless and irresponsible of him. And yet, it was only as reckless and irresponsible as David and Papa were being.
Math patted her hand. As she straightened up again, she saw that he and Papa were gazing at each other.
“Did you speak with Goronwy about the change in plans?” Papa said.
“He told me to go. He knows what to do,” Math said.
Anna could see the man in question standing outside the bus, his arms folded across his chest and his mustache bristling even in the rain, which—typically for late December in Wales—had started to fall more heavily. Some years it snowed by late December, but not so far this year.
Math squeezed Anna’s hand where it rested on his thigh. “I’m looking forward to finally seeing what’s on the other side.”
“I am too.” David touched Jane’s shoulder. “I think it’s time.”
Shane and Jane’s husband, Carl, sat farther back in the bus with the other passengers. Even though this was David’s plan, everyone had loudly shouted down any notion that he should drive the bus. He’d never learned to drive properly, since he’d been just fourteen when they’d come to Wales ten years ago, and he had driven only a few times since then.
Anna would never have dared to suggest that driving a city bus into a cliff wall was beyond her brother. She wasn’t sure if anything was. But if he tipped the bus over before they reached the wall, it might not be enough danger to cause them to time travel, and then they’d be stuck trying to figure out a way to right it before returning to the beginning and going through the whole procedure again.
Nobody wanted that. Since Jane was the mechanic, and since they were traveling in large part for Shane’s benefit, she’d taken on the task.
“Yes, sir.” Jane started the engine, which roared to life and then settled into a well-oiled purr.
“Nice.” David straightened, resolve in every line of his body.
“Wait a minute!”
Anna shifted in her seat to look behind her, and her mouth fell open to see Bridget, a woman in her mid-twenties and the last person Anna would have expected to see rising to her feet and gathering her gear. Her red curly hair framed her face in its usual untamed mane, and her green eyes gazed stonily ahead at David.
Like everyone else who’d come to the Middle Ages on the Cardiff bus a year ago, it had taken time for Bridget to adjust to the medieval world. But as the year had progressed, she’d done better than most. Back in Avalon, Bridget had worked in a shop in Cardiff, and as with Callum, her arrival in the Middle Ages had clarified her purpose in a way the vicissitudes of modern life had not. She’d rejected the malaise of some of the other travelers her age, and made the best of a bad situation.
She’d come to the Middle Ages with little formal education, though Anna knew her to be intelligent and more well-read than many university graduates, thanks to her local library and the internet. Bridget had a strong working class background, which meant she’d connected with the regular English folk in Shrewsbury, Callum’s seat, better than Anna or Cassie ever could.
Her secret power was that she was a knitting aficionado, a skill that had been developed in the Middle East for luxury items in silk, cotton, or linen, but hadn’t yet reached much of Europe. Shortly after Christmas a year ago, Bridget had set up shop in Shrewsbury, which was the wool capitol of western England, using start-up funds given to her by Callum.
She’d begun producing knitted woolen products, among them hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters—one of which David was currently wearing. Before spring, she’d hired three employees, and by autumn, with demand growing by leaps and bounds, she’d employed ten.
What’s more, Callum had seen qualities in her that had been lost on her society in her old life and turned her shop into the clearing house for his spy network. Rather than having informants make the trek up to the castle to deliver news, thus revealing themselves to anyone who might wonder what business they could have with the earl, they now brought their news to Bridget. In turn, Bridget passed what she learned on to one of Callum’s lieutenants: Samuel, the sheriff of Shrewsbury; or Peter Cobb, his right-hand man. Or so she had done until today.
Bridget marched up to David. “What’s this about Mark coming back here with you?”
David glanced down the bus towards Mark Jones, the man in question. He was one of the former MI-5 agents who’d come with Anna and her mother on the bus from Cardiff and had found a place in the Middle Ages working for Callum. As Anna watched, Mark raised his shoulders in an elaborate shrug and mouthed the word, sorry.
David looked back to Bridget, hesitating before answering and clearly stalling so as to give himself time to figure out how to reply. Bridget kept her gaze fixed on him, and finally he said, “It was the only way to get him on the bus, short of handcuffing him to a rail.”
“You didn’t tell me I had that choice,” Bridget said.
Peter, who’d remained standing near David at the front of the bus, put out a hand to her shoulder. “It’s going be okay, Bridget—”
Bridget flailed out her right arm, smacking his hand away. “Don’t patronize me.”
Eyebrows in his hairline, his mouth forming a whoo, Peter put up both hands, palms out, and stepped back. “No, ma’am.”
That didn’t appease Bridget in the way Peter might have been hoping for because Bridget turned her glower on him. “I don’t suppose you’re staying either.”
Peter’s eyes shifted nervously towards David and then back to Bridget. “Er … no.”
Bridget swung back to David. “So why do I have to come at all?”
“I suppose, when it comes down to it, you don’t.” He cleared his throat. “But you have to be really sure this is what you want because I’m not doing this again. If you get off this bus, you’re living in the Middle Ages for the rest of your life.”
Bridget turned to look again at Peter. “Are you coming back for sure?”
Peter fell back on his military training, clasping his hands together behind his back and standing at parade rest. “Yes.”
“Do you promise?”
Peter looked at her warily. David’s eyes were flicking between the two of them, a slight smile on his lips, and then he shifted forward and lowered his voice. “Bridget, I will bring him home if it is at all possible for me to do so.”
Bridget chewed on her lower lip, studying Peter, who had the look of a man who knew that something was going on, but he wasn’t sure what that something was.
“What?” he finally said when she still hadn’t moved from her spot—about six inches from where he was standing.
By way of an answer, Bridget took the lapels of his coat in her fists, tugged on him so he had to bend towards her while she stood on tiptoe, and kissed him full on the mouth.
To his credit, Peter responded instantly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to him so he could return the kiss properly.
Everybody around them burst into laughter, even David, though he rolled his eyes at Anna when the kiss went on longer than a few seconds. Finally, Bridget and Peter let go of one another, moving apart enough for their gazes to meet.
Whatever Bridget saw in Peter’s eyes seemed to decide something for her, because she nodded, turned to David, and poked him in the chest with one finger. “Okay. I’m holding you to that.” Then she picked up her hat, gloves, and backpack from where she’d left them on a nearby seat, marched down the aisle to the back door, and left the bus.
Peter’s normally pale face had flushed all the way to the roots of his dark blond hair, which he still kept extremely short for ease of care, and his expression was stunned—probably not only at the kiss but also at Bridget’s subsequent departure.
“What just happened?” he said.
Grinning wildly, Darren clapped him on the shoulder. “If you don’t know the answer to that, my friend, you truly are a hopeless case.”
Callum gripped Peter’s upper arm. “You should get off the bus. Follow her.”
Peter glanced in the direction Bridget had gone and then cleaned the window of steam with his fist in order to peer through the glass. “Don’t you need me?”
“We could use you, it’s true,” Callum said.
“But do you really want to leave it like that?” Cassie said from behind him. “You want to be with her, right?”
“Of course, I do.” Peter straightened to look at Cassie. “I’d get off this bus in a heartbeat if—” He broke off, his eyes moving now to David’s face.
“If what?” David said.
Peter took in a breath. “If I didn’t feel obligated to you, sire.”
David shook his head. “For the last few hours, I’ve had a nagging feeling in my stomach about how few of us are remaining behind. I didn’t say anything because it would be unfair of me to ask anyone to sacrifice the opportunity to go home, but it would relieve my mind very much to know you were here holding the fort.”
Peter puffed out his cheeks and released a breath but didn’t answer.
“Speak, Peter,” Callum said.
Anna had spent enough time with Peter over the last year to know that the command was necessary. It wasn’t so much that his upper lip was British stiff. He was perfectly talkative when it came to work or an investigation he was conducting for Callum. But he was one of those men who had a particularly hard time conveying to anyone else what he was feeling. For him, showing no emotion and speaking little was ingrained.
He managed it this time, at least to Callum. “Yeah, I’ll stay. I’m glad to stay. I was dreading going back almost as much as Bridget, though I didn’t realize it until right now.” He turned to Darren. “Call my parents. Let them know I’m alive.”
“I’ll tell them you’re working undercover in Botswana,” Darren said.
Peter nodded. “That will make sense to them.” He blew out another breath and looked around at his friends. “Good luck.”
“The sooner you get off this bus,” David said, with a smile splitting his face, “the sooner we can get this show on the road.”
Peter followed the path Bridget had taken, and David hit the intercom so the people on the second level could hear him too.
“Folks, in a minute we’ll be on our way. Just as a reminder of what’s going to happen so nobody is surprised: the road winds down the hill, and then it will straighten out and head directly towards the bottom of the cliff. Jane’s going to get going as fast as this old bus can travel on a gravel road. We plan to hit the cliff wall at speed, and Jane has promised not to put her foot on the brake.” He cleared his throat. “I’d like everybody to fasten their seat belts. The ride might get a bit bumpy.”
He paused, releasing the button and studying the faces in front of him. Then he activated the intercom again. “If this doesn’t work, I’m sorry. It’s been an honor.”
And with that abrupt comment, he turned around and placed both hands on the dash in front of him.
Anna knew her brother. His voice had been thick with emotion there at the end, and he’d cut off any further speech because he didn’t want anyone else to know how he was feeling. As Jane shifted into first gear and started down the hill, Anna met her mother’s eyes. Mom was clutching Papa’s hand the same way Anna was holding Math’s.
They didn’t speak as the bus safely navigated the first two switchbacks, and then the bus started down the straight stretch, picking up speed and jostling everyone as it went. The bus wasn’t designed for gravel roads, even one hardened and smoothed as this one had been. Rain pounded on the roof and ran in rivulets down the windows, at a slant because the wind was whipping too and the bus was going fast.
“Mother of God,” Math said.
“I can’t let David do this alone.” Abruptly, Anna unbuckled her seatbelt and staggered towards the front of the bus. She steadied herself with one hand on the metal bar that ran from floor to ceiling behind the driver’s seat and grabbed for David’s arm with the other.
“Anna! What are you doing?” The tears were gone from David’s voice. Now he just sounded horrified.
“We started this together. We’re going to finish it the same way.” Anna glared at David, daring him to send her back to her seat.
“All right.” David brought his hand off the dash and clasped her left hand in his right. “Together.”
They both stared out the front window as the cliff rose up before them.
“David.” Jane’s voice was all fear and warning.
“Keep that pedal to the floor,” David ordered.
A hundred feet. Fifty feet. People in the back of the bus and on the upper level, where they had a better view, were openly screaming now. Some were praying. Anna was screaming on the inside, her breath caught so far up in her throat it was choking her. She glanced down at the speedometer, which was in kilometers per hour. It told her they were going a hundred.
And then Mom was behind them, wedging herself between her children, her arms wrapped around their waists. “I’m here, you two.” The cliff wall was right in front of them.
Twenty feet. Ten feet.
There was no stopping now, even if they wanted to. They were going to hit the wall. An irresistible force colliding with an immovable object.
“Eyes open!” David’s voice cracked.
Anna screamed as the front of the bus hit the stones of the cliff with a resounding crash—
But no, like the miracle it had always been and continued to be, instead of hitting the wall they went right through it, as if they were on a ghost bus and had become ghosts themselves. Anna could only guess what it looked like from the outside. For the first time, because she was determined to experience the traveling fully, she kept her eyes open wide as David had ordered. But the lights at the front of the bus shone into nothingness.
She clutched David’s hand, which she was still holding, felt her mom’s tight grip around her waist, and counted through the three seconds of blackness that surrounded the bus.
Then they were through to the other side—and the bus was screaming down a highway going the wrong way.
Horns blared from the two lanes of cars coming at them.
“Iesu Mawr!” Jane said, swearing fluently in Welsh as she swerved the bus to avoid the oncoming cars.
The bus’s windshield wipers flailed back and forth at high speed. It was snowing here instead of raining, with at least three or four inches already on the ground. Since the road wasn’t a true divided highway, the easiest thing for Jane to do should have been to veer into the far left lane, where cars were going in their direction, but a series of giant orange barrels barred the way. The road was under construction, and it looked to Anna as if it was being expanded into a four-lane divided highway. They were driving on the right side of the road, which of course was the wrong side for Wales.
Mom staggered away from the dash, bringing Anna with her. They collapsed into their seats, and Anna felt Math’s arms come around her waist and pull her close to him. She put her head into his chest, her whole body vibrating.
“We’re going to head right back to the Middle Ages if we don’t get off this road!” Callum had risen to his feet to stand by David, who was no longer leaning forward on the dash but had moved both hands to the metal pole behind Jane’s seat, which Anna had been holding.
“I’m trying!” An oncoming van forced Jane to careen the bus to the far right side of the road. Unfortunately, as was usual in Wales, the shoulder was about three inches wide with a stone wall buttressing it. On an American highway, they could have pulled off the road and stopped, even if they were facing the wrong way. Here, there was nowhere to go.
“As soon as you can.” David’s voice turned calm. While Callum stooped to look out the windshield, David stepped closer to Anna so he could bend forward to look out the side window of the bus above her head. “Hey, sis. Thanks.” He smiled at Anna and put out a hand to her. “It worked.”
She grasped his hand. “It did, you idiot. One more time.”
Amazon Int.: http://authl.it/B00TXZLX4U?d
Google Play: https://goo.gl/beZDZJ
My web page: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/
My Twitter code is: http://twitter.com/#!/SarahWoodbury
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahwoodburybooks