Answers to Secrets: Another Fan Letter

Robbie said,

I am ready for the next book about the Elizabethan England and the Rookskill sequel and I am so excited on these books. I hope they will be as good as The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

Hi Robbie!

Thank you so very much for writing me. I’m delighted that you liked THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE! And I’m working very hard to write books at least as good – if not better.

Please keep watching, and I’ll make announcements about the new books here.

Answers to Secrets: A Wonderful Comment

Robbie wrote to say: “I loved this book. I picked it to read for a story book talk.This book is one of my top 3 favs.”

Hi Robbie!

I’m sorry it took me so long to reply, but thank you SO much!! I love the fact that it’s one of your top 3.
Stay tuned – I’m working on a new story now that will be out in about a year. This one is set in an alternate Elizabethan England. (And still working on a possible ROOKSKILL sequel, too.)
All best wishes, Janet Fox

Answers To Secrets: A Sequel?

Hi all! I have a new question from a reader:

Ben asks:

A real page turner! Love the setting! Is there going to be a sequel? I just read Rookskill Castle and I am anxious to find out what happens.

Hi Ben! – Thank you!! I am working on a second Rookskill book but it won’t be out for a while. I do have another book coming out in 2018 called THE LAST TRUE KNIGHT, which is set in an alternative Elizabethan England.

But the possible sequel to Rookskill Castle? Hang on! I’ll give you a hint about a few things that happen…the magister makes an even greater appearance; we meet a new character, a Jewish boy who is a refugee from Nazi Germany; and the Lady returns but not in the way you might expect.

I hope that will tide you over for now, and thanks so much for writing!

 

 

 

Fun News For Rookskill Fans

For fans of THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, I’ve got some fun news to report.

First, CHARMED CHILDREN has been shortlisted for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2017 awards. This is a terrific honor, and I’m among some amazing authors.

And second, I’ve been selected as a Spirit of Texas Reading Program middle school author for 2017, which means that libraries in Texas will have access to extended materials prepared for middle school readers, all about CHARMED CHILDREN. And if you live in Texas, I’ll be there to visit schools!

Thanks to all of you who have loved this book and helped its success.

The Haunted Castles of Scotland

What is it about castles, especially the ancient castles of the British Isles? I love them, and so, it seems, do many of you. Here’s my guess as to why they are fascinating: they’re big and elaborate; they’re old and so have plenty of interesting history; and many of them are apparently haunted.castle

As I researched haunted Scottish castles I discovered a couple of interesting things. First, many (many) are haunted by someone described as a “Green Lady” (“Gray Ladies” are also a presence, but many more green – maybe for reasons I’ll come to.) Second, many are also associated with children. Naturally, both of these bear on THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

At Ethie Castle, near Arbroath, guests have heard the cries of a child at night, accompanied by the sound of a wheeled toy being pulled across the floor. The Green Lady of Dunstaffnage teases and plays with the living children of the castle. After a female skeleton was unearthed behind a wall in Fyvie, a Green Lady began to haunt the castle; she might be the late Dame Lillian Drummond, who was starved to death in 1601 by her husband (nice guy.) At Crathes Castle near Aberdeen, a Green Lady often appears near one of the fireplaces. She picks up an infant, and then they vanish together.

Sometimes Green Ladies are thought to be Gruagach, who are common household spirits often associated with children, and not associated with anything evil. The typical Gruagach is a brownie, the household helper said to inhabit every home (read more about them here.)

Green Lady ghosts are only seen in parts of the United Kingdom, and nowhere else. They are described as slender young women in flowing green gowns with long golden hair. In some cases, they appear as protectors by local farmers, who cite stories of Green Ladies herding their animals to safety during storms or border raids. Many times they are associated with water. Legend has it that a Green Lady will arrive at a croft dripping wet during a storm and ask to be admitted, and when they are admitted they become the protector of that croft. The Dunstaffnage Green Lady and the Green Lady of Fyvie have also been thought to be Glaistig – a being that could be benign or a vengeful ghost. Glaistigs also have a water association.Dunrobin Castle

The water association of these spirits is not surprising given Scotland’s many lochs, rivers, burns, and rills, the frequent rains, and the ocean on all sides. I wonder whether the green in Green Lady is a reference to water, and maybe also to the watery aspect of a ghost.

I’ve experienced a couple of haunted moments myself – one when many years ago I visited southern England and stayed in a hotel that was once a small castle in Devonshire, and was associated with my mother’s family. My mother and I shared a room and were convinced we were visited during the night. Perhaps it was a Green Lady, for she was very benign, and was visiting a mother and her child – maybe even her distant relatives!

Have you ever had any ghostly experiences, or visited any haunted castles?

Answers to Secrets: Hidden Passages

Cassidy asked this question:

If Kat’s dream about her hand was real, is the secret passage next to the fireplace in her room real?

I love the book! Your book moved to FIRST place! I am thankful that you wrote this book and my mom is now reading it because I thought it was GREAT.

Hi Cassidy!

Thank you SO much for loving my book and for sharing it with your mom. I hope she likes it, too.

Yes, the secret passages are all real. If you ever visit a castle in Scotland or England, you may find hidden passages are quite common. Usually they were used for the maids to get around quickly. Or sometimes they were used to hide in times of danger.

But in Rookskill, I believe there are many more passages there than the norm. Somewhere in the castle’s history, someone needed many hidden passages.

Maybe I should write about that – what do you think?

Answers to Secrets: Kat and the Magister

I have a question about Kat and the magister:

From Lyn

Sequel?

Our heroine is so clever. She knows her hand is from the magister. Why doesn’t she make the connection between the Lady and magister?

My daughter and I both love your book. Thank you for your work!

Hi Lyn!

Thanks so much for your note! I am working on a sequel, and hoping that my publisher will say yes soon.

That’s a great question about Kat and the magister. Of course, when he “fixes” her hand, she’s not really consciously aware, and forgets the incident soon after (that’s part of the spell). So I imagine that she can’t make the connection because the magister is not really on her mind.

However…since you asked about a sequel…I will be bringing the magister back and Kat will definitely come to know him. And I won’t spoil the fun for you.

Thanks so much again and so happy you both love the book!

Answer to Secrets: Peter and Kat

My first question, about the relationship between Peter and Kat in THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

From Hannah:

My question is, 

Is Peter afraid of Kat too much to be her friend? It says in the book, that Peter thought she was scary (well that her hand was) but still I would like to know if they still like each other :0) 
-Thanks for taking the time to read this!

I love the book. I read all the time so sometimes I can be picky about the books I read, but this one is amazing!! I love how you manage to combine WORLD WAR 2 with black magic. And I like how a group of kids come together to defeat the enemy, I just love teamwork! I like how the end leaves you expecting another adventure. I’m trying to get my family to read this book!

Hi Hannah!

Thank you so much for you thoughts – I’m so happy you liked the book so much! I loved combining the war with the magic, too.

Peter really likes Kat, and will always be her friend. And if there’s another book (I’m hoping), they will become even better friends. But Kat does have flaws, and I think it’s an important part of friendship to learn how to accept others despite their flaws. I think there will be more about that in their future. I’m betting there are lots of adventures ahead for the two of them together.

I hope this answers your question, and that everyone in your family enjoys the book, too!

Inside Plato’s Cave

Plato

Plato

In The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, Kat and her fellow students at the Rookskill Castle Children’s Academy in the fictional burg of Craig on the coast of Scotland are taught by instructors brought in by the Lady of the manor. Their English instructor, Miss Gumble, has them study the Allegory of Plato’s Cave. This instruction turns out to be a lifesaver. (How? I’ll let you discover that.)

What is the allegory?

Plato founded his famous Academy in an Athens grove in 387 BC in order to informally tutor those intellectuals who wished to discuss philosophy and the sciences. Socrates was his mentor, having conducted his own school (the Lyceum) before being put to death after charges of corrupting the youth of Athens. Plato continued Socrates’ tradition of oral argument and debate; Plato’s most famous student was Aristotle. Plato wrote his treatise, The Republic, as a way to elucidate societal behavior and in particular the notion of justice. Our democratic ideals descend from Plato’s arguments.

PlatoOne of his most famous arguments in favor of thoughtful pursuit of knowledge is the allegory of the cave.

Plato argues that the world is divided into two realms: the visible, and the intelligible (which we can only grasp in our minds). In the allegory of the cave, he suggests that people are like prisoners chained from birth in a cave and unable to turn their heads. They can only see the wall of the cave before them, and behind them is a wall along which puppeteers can walk. A fire casts shadows of the puppets on the cave wall.

Those prisoners in the cave believe that the shadows are reality. When they are freed from their chains by education they discover they’ve been seeing only shadows of copies of reality, and not reality itself.

Plato questions the notion of reality in this allegory. Even more importantly, he suggests that those who can leave the cave – see the full scale of reality through the gift of education – must take this knowledge back to those who haven’t yet left the cave. Knowledge should be the goal of all of us, through education and realization.

Academy

Plato’s Academy

I really believe that knowledge and education are the foundations of a rich, full life. Plato’s allegory works for me, just as it does for my character, Kat.

Lady Macbeth

Macbeth AndBanquo-Witches

Macbeth and Banquo confront the witches

One of the reviewers of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle pointed out that a chief character in the novel is “a tragic figure, almost a Lady Macbeth”. You might or might not remember Shakespeare’s tragedy, so here’s a bit of background that may explain why I love that comparison so much. (Note: I’m deliberately not naming my “tragic figure” in this post, so that you can discover who it is for yourself.)

Macbeth is a Scots general who receives the prediction that he will one day become king of Scotland. He’s set upon his deadly path by three witches who can foretell the future but who also use their power to play with human emotions. His ambition drives him to commit acts of murder, first of the current king, and then of many followers and allies and presumptive heirs and their children, including his compatriot Banquo, until Macbeth himself is undone.

Macbeth is goaded to action by his wife, who will stop at nothing to see her husband become and remain king, her ambitions initially outstripping his. But as the story unfolds the Lady is torn by guilt and driven toward madness – sleepwalking and obsessively washing the blood from her hands – until she finally commits suicide.

Lady Macbeth

The sleepwalking Lady Macbeth

 Macbeth has always been one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. It’s a creepy horror tale set in Scotland and rich with magic and mystery. Shakespeare uses phrases that echo nursery rhymes or fairy tales, reminding the audience that behind the story is longing for a child and heir: “Open locks, whoever knocks”; “The Thane of Fife had a wife”. There’s little doubt that Macbeth and his Lady love one another, maybe too well.

As I drafted The Charmed Children, I struggled with my “tragic figure”. She’s an antagonist, yes, but she must also be multilayered and multifaceted, not flat. I had to give her a backstory that would make her at least understandable, if not sympathetic. It is, in part, her longing for a child that drives her terrible behavior.

MacbethThus the comparison with Lady Macbeth is such an honor, for Lady Macbeth is a character who inspires compassion even while her actions are horrific.