Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Knightmare by Deborah Valentine (Excerpt, Guest Post)

France, 1209: A Knight Templar riding through an eerie forest is suddenly attacked by an assassin as a man and woman watch from a distant hillside. When his death seems certain, the woman takes up a sword...
Present, Formula 1 race, Magny Cours: Observed by the very same couple, Conor Westfield, a career-obsessed Scottish driver, is in a horrible racing accident. Miraculously, he survives what seemed to be certain death.
As he is recovering from his injuries Conor’s childhood nightmare recurs, a strange jumble of terrifying images that feel more like memories than dreams. Can it be mere coincidence that the very next morning he is informed a mysterious woman with whom he had very brief affair has died and left him as her heir? But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair. Dogged by a niggling feeling of déjà vu, Conor travels to Amsterdam to identify the body. At her home he finds an illuminated book that transports him back in time, to a woman he left behind and a life lived in the shadow of a tragedy that cries out across 800 years for resolution.
Weaving history with the present, fact with fantasy, The Knightmare is an unforgettable story of angels and alchemy, betrayal and sacrifice, and a truly extraordinary love.
Deborah Valentine

Deborah Valentine is a British author, editor and screenwriter who once lived in California but far preferred the British weather and fled to London, where she has resided for many years. She is the author of three books published by Victor Gollancz Ltd in the UK, and Bantam and Avon in the US. Unorthodox Methods was the first in the series, followed by A Collector of Photographs and the Ireland-based Fine Distinctions. A Collector of Photographs was short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe, a Shamus, a Macavity and an Anthony Boucher award. Fine Distinctions was also short-listed for an Edgar. They featured the characters of former California sheriff Kevin Bryce and artist Katharine Craig, charting their turbulent romance amid murder and mayhem. They are soon to be available as eBooks on the Orion imprint The Murder Room. With the publication of THE KNIGHTMARE she has embarked on a new series of books with a supernatural edge. 
For more visit her website or THE KNIGHTMARE  Facebook page. She is a Goodreads author.

Here is the Amazon link for a preview:

The Knightmare Excerpt
Rhyswr made his first honest effort to move, to see better, to be nearer, to know whether what he saw was what it was. In doing so the blanket fell showing his body wrapped shoulder to feet in leaves and vines and fresh forest herbs, with flowers threaded throughout. He stopped and gawped at himself then at her, whose complexion was now most certainly flesh.
“Shaken or stirred, my lord Templar, which is it?”
“Amazed,” he said, wonderingly, for it was a work of art. “What have you done to me?”
“Used nature as your bandage, for these are specially chosen plants and herbs to renew your health. As I told you, I am interested in healing and have made a study of it.”
“This is truly a marvel. But do you know it works, or am I just a fanciful experiment?”
She answered drily, “I do have some experience in these things, my lord. I did not crawl out from under a rock at yesterday’s evensong.”
“I never said such a thing,” he responded, puzzled at her defensiveness for he was all admiration, tempered a little by doubt, true. But it appeared it was only the doubt that drew her response. “Truly, Mercedes. It is just so strange—what is that creature doing in here?”
At her feet sat a lynx who lifted his nose inquisitively at the change of tone. She answered, “This ‘creature’ has been watching over you and has hardly left your bedside. I entreat you, speak of him with more respect elsewise he will not like you so well.”
“Not like me so well? Mercedes, he is a wild animal and belongs in the forest, not strutting inside the castle walls much less at…” he paused, puckering at the sour taste of the truth, “a sickbed,” he finished, struggling with his bonds.
“Be still,” said Mercedes softly. She moved her hand across her face; a gentle motion yet afterwards his limbs refused to obey his commands.
“He is as tame as can be. When first we brought you here, he licked your wounds. Do you not know animals have the power to heal?”
Licked my wounds! I’m surprised you did not go ahead and offer me as supper. Perhaps I am his rejected supper. Did he find my meat not sweet enough and you were stuck with my still breathing carcass? Perhaps you marinate me even now in herbs for a midnight feast. My lady Mercedes, you try my patience!”
“How extraordinary, I was not aware you had any.”
copyright © 2013 Deborah Valentine

Guest Post
Animal Obsessions
It is inevitable – and right – that the things a writer cares about are reflected in their stories. Their own world view lurks on every page, even in the thoughts of the villain. Anyone who has read my stories knows they are, in most cases, peopled (for lack of a better word) by animals. They often play a pivotal role. Silvestris, the lynx in THE KNIGHTMARE, is no exception.
Am I mushy? Touchy-feely?A sentimentalist? No one who knows me will recognise me in any of those descriptions. I sometimes fear (please God, let it be irrationally) that my personality may swerve dangerously close to Hugh Laurie’s character in ‘House’. However... I am a believer. A believer in the power of animals to heal – although not necessarily by physically licking someone’s wounds as Silvestris does. I believe in their power to engage. Also, I believe it’s a good idea to have an animal in your life and, perhaps oddly for a writer, a relationship with someone where words don’t get in the way. Someone whom you relate to on an instinctive level. It makes you use more than your intellect; it means you become aware of body language, exercise your emotional intelligence. They can’t communicate verbally, so they make us aware of subtleties in behaviour.
Going into a story with an ‘agenda’ is never a good idea. The storyteller is there to entertain. If you want to write a political diatribe, well, go into politics and bore us all silly. But as a writer what you believe in should infuse every page. The distinguished American novelist Stanley Elkin once said to a group of us rapt students: “Never be afraid of your obsessions.” The reason? Because they’re good for you, they’re good for the audience, no subject matter is exhausted in one story. There is always something to be explored. What he was encouraging us to do was ‘just get on with it’. It doesn’t matter if it’s love, or anger, or social diversity, or gender diversity... explore it in your work. Tell a story in your effort to get to the bottom of it. No doubt, you probably never will but have fun doing it! And take us as the audience on a truly great ride!
One of the most effective books ever written was BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell. She simply chronicled the life of a particular horse through its lifetime. The result? It inspired a whole anti-cruelty movement. Think there ought to be more female central characters? Then write a story with one that makes us want to read about her. You don’t write? Then buy such a book and make it a bestseller. Perhaps THE HUNGER GAMES is a good example of this. Is there a specific group of people you think is the victim of prejudice? Then make sure your writing doesn’t bang on about prejudice, but show this group as a natural part of society and it will lend acceptance to the fact it is.
Animals aren’t my sole focus when I tell stories, obviously. But I do think they’re an integral part of people’s lives and their intelligence – and their importance – should be respected. I hope in every story I tell, that’s evident.
Silvestris, as it turns out, is a bit of a hero. Why should humans corner the market?

I would like to thank Deborah Valentine for appearing on My Life. One Story at a Time. and for the lovely guest post. Be sure to check out her book on Amazon.
Purchase The Knightmare on Amazon

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