A big welcome to Nancy Bell. Anyone who leaves a comment on today’s post will be eligible to win an e-book copy of her novel, A Step Sideways, pictured above.
So now, take it away, Nancy.
Good Morning, Everyone. Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Renee. In honour of St. George’s Day I’d like to introduce you to the second novel in my Cornwall Adventures series, A Step Sideways.
St. George was a knight who slayed dragons and Gort, the boy in A Step Sideways, has dragons of a different sort to slay. I have always felt a personal connection with St. George because my maternal grandmother was a St. George. The family line can be traced back to Brittany in France.
Who can think of knights and not think of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? I’ve always been enchanted by the legend of the chivalrous knights and those magnificent war horses. There are so many versions of the legend and the central belief that King Arthur sleeps waiting to answer the call of Britain in the hour of her greatest need. I do believe there is a kernel of truth in the persistent existence of the story. It has survived from the tenth century to this day. Some theories say King Arthur is a figurehead and actually represents more than one man. Others hold that he was an actual king and war leader and was born at Tintagel in Cornwall as the legends insist. There are also the stories of how the graves of Arthur and his queen were unearthed in Glastonbury Abbey in 1191. The Isle of Avalon which is well recognized as the present day Glastonbury Tor and surrounding high land is where the Lady of Lake, some say Morgen La Fey, Queen of the Fairies dwelt. It was she who took the mortally wounded Arthur to the Isle to stay until Britain should need him again. The legends wind around each other and contradict each other, but I believe at the centre there is a grain of truth.
Not far from the White Horse effigy in Oxfordshire, in the Vale of the White Horse, is St. George’s Hill where St. George is reputed to have killed the last dragon in Britain. The dragon’s blood stained the top of the hill and to this day there is a bare patch of earth where no grass will grow. [Insert from Renee: I grew up near there, and can personally attest to this.]
When I was writing A Step Sideways I needed Gort to be able to find confidence in himself and his ability to protect himself. Gort is an orphan who lives with his abusive uncle. As a result Gort is very shy, still has some issues with bed wetting and night terrors. To further hinder his social skills, he stutters when he is upset or excited. What better place to find himself , I reasoned, than as a member of King Arthur’s knights. Gort’s name is taken from the Tree Oghams, it is associated with the Ivy and the meaning of the Ivy is ‘search for self’. That is why I chose this particular name for my character.
Gort has a traumatic experience that allows him to leave his present body and travel back to a time when he was Gawain, one of Arthur’s knights. He is accompanied by his anam cara, his soul friend, GogMagog. Gog is a crystal stallion, one of those who waits in the crystal caves under the Tor for Britain’s call. The two become acquainted near the end of Laurel’s Miracle, the first book in The Cornwall Adventures. In his role as Gawain, Gort forgets his current troubles and immerses himself in Gawain’s identity.
As a Knight of the Round Table, Gawain is a strong protector of the innocent, he is well able to look after himself and those around him. Gog is with him in the form of his war stallion called Ailim. Ailim is also taken from the Tree Ogham and means Silver Fir. Ailim is Gawain’s supporter and his conscience. The stallion is also a scene stealer and has a very wicked sense of humour.
A lot of the action takes place in Cornwall, of course. Many real places are used, like St. Michael’s Mount in Mount’s Bay. Long ago, before the great earthquake of 1275 St. Michaels Mount was known as Kerreck Loos yn Koos which is Cornish for Grey Rock in the Woods. At one time in the ancient past it was not a tidal island but part of the mainland and surrounded by large trees. To support this fact, old stumps and tree trunks have been fished from the bay over the years. Out beyond Lands End lie the Isles of Scilly or the Scillies as they are sometimes referred to. These low sandy islands are thirty miles away and on a clear day you can see them as a smudge on the horizon from Lands End. Legend has it that once these were also part of the mainland. The low lying land was called Lyonesse and there are many references to Lyonesse in the old texts. The great earthquake of 1275 lowered the level of the land and flooded the area. Local fisherman claim that on days when the sea is rough you can hear the drowned church bells of Lyonesse tolling under the waves.
I chose to use this drowned land as the setting for A Step Sideways. In the book this is a gentle green land, overflowing with churches and grazing cattle and sheep. There is also a story about how Arthur’s queen was kidnapped and he has to rescue her. I have woven this into the story as well, most of the action with Gort as Gawain takes place as they struggle to discover where Gwenhyfar (whose name means White Shadow) is being held and how to rescue her. The rumoured love between the queen and Lancelot, Arthur’s most trusted companion, also plays into the plot. I have tried to weave legend with my own version of events in an attempt to give the reader a new angle on an old story. I hope I have succeeded and you enjoy the story.
A Step Sideways is available in both e-format and print version. You can obtain both from MuseItUp Publishing or Amazon.com. You can find me on Twitter at @emilypikkasso and on Facebook at Author Nancy M Bell. For tons more information about the meanings of the names in my books and other interesting things please visit my website http://nancymbell.ca. I love hearing from my readers. And remember: one lucky person who leaves a comment will receive a copy of A Step Sideways in e-book format.
Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Renee. It’s been wonderful visiting with your followers.
Nancy Marie Bell is a proud Albertan and lives near Balzac, Alberta with her husband and various critters. She is a member of The Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta. Nancy has numerous writing credits to her name, having three novels published and her work has been published in various magazines. She has also had her work recognized and honoured with various awards, and most recently, a silver medal in the Creative Writing category of the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games in 2013. She enjoys writing poetry and fiction and non-fiction.