I'm delighted to welcome Morton Gray back to my blog. Apart from us both having books published last week, I've discovered we have another thing in common - a love of castles. Over to you, Morton!
Thank you for having me over on your blog, Tora. I was trying to think of a link between us and decided that it might be appropriate to talk about my love of castles. Why? Well you write wonderful historical novels with castles in them and the hero of my contemporary romantic suspense novel The Truth Lies Buried lives in a wooden castle which he built himself.
I developed a love of castles at a very early age. Captivated by the tales of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, I wandered around Tintagel Castle on holiday, convinced that I would be the one to find the lost sword Excalibur! I always wanted one of those tall veiled hats – a hennin – that medieval women wore and, of course, I have always fantasied about being rescued by a knight in shining armour.
When my eldest son was small, we used to attend battle re-enactments, many held in the grounds of castles. We went to a re-enactment of the battle of Hastings, other Saxon and Norman skirmishes and English Civil war battles too.
I’m not sure I could give you a definitive list of all of the castles I’ve visited, but these include: Powis, Dudley, Bridgnorth, Harlech, Croft, Conwy, Lindisfarne, Hastings, Bamburgh, Warkworth, Ludlow, Caernarfon, Criccieth, Ashby de la Zouch, Kenilworth, Barnard, Beaumaris, Berry Pomeroy, Berwick, Bowes, Dartmouth, Doon, Goodrich, Helmsley, Hartlebury, Harvington, Middleham, Nottingham, Plymouth, Richmond, Stokesay, Tintagel, Warwick, Windsor and that’s just off the top of my head.
Castle structures have always held a fascination for me. I love the turrets, the winding staircases and the enclosed walled living spaces. So when, at a descriptive writing workshop, I was asked to write about an advertising postcard for wooden garden buildings depicting a wooden castle in amongst trees, Tree Tops, the home of my hero Carver Rodgers in The Truth Lies Buried was born.
Here’s a short extract from the novel when my heroine, Jenny, comes across the castle:-
“At last, she spotted a building. She began to make her way towards it, squealing as an icy drop of water dripped from a branch down the back of her neck.
She stopped dead.
My goodness. Am I in a dream?
Jenny stood still, shocked at the wonder of the structure in front of her.
The building was a fairy-tale castle, made of wood, not stone. Nestled against two huge trees, it blended into its surroundings. There was a small clearing in front of the house, but the trees grew close around the other three sides. The bronze carpet of autumn leaves echoed the browns of the wood. She admired the symmetry of two turrets and two balconies. Glass in the upper arched windows sparkled in the bright sunlight that had appeared after the earlier rainstorm. Once again, she had the feeling of having stepped into an alternate reality.
Who lived in a house like this?
Walking up the wide staircase towards the front door, Jenny’s hand lingered on the silky-smooth banister. The smell of woodsmoke began to fill the air, drifting from further away into the trees. She admired an ornate heart, looking almost like lace rather than woodcarving and linking capital letters ‘C’ and ‘B’ above the doorway.
There was no response to her knock, but as the chainsaw had started up again and dominated the airwaves, she might have missed a shout from within. Her confidence began to wither away. She contemplated returning to her car and forgetting her new business venture altogether.
As the thought of running away surfaced, the memory of the anguish of the past few months hit her full force and she knew she couldn’t give in now, not when she was at last making progress. She had to move on from her mother’s death and make a new life for herself.
Back straight, head high, get on with it. The words, and the voice that echoed them in her head, were again her mother’s. It was one of her mum’s often used phrases. Her mother may physically be gone, but she lived on in Jenny’s head and Jenny supposed she always would.
With renewed determination, she went back down the steps and across the clearing, weaving through the trees in the direction of the overwhelming sound of the saw.
Another clearing lay ahead and she noticed a man moving. As she got closer, she could see he wore faded blue overalls, huge ear defenders and goggles. With movements reminiscent of a boxer trying to decide when to strike, he appeared to be sizing up a tree trunk propped up on the ground. The chainsaw purred in his hands and his body braced as he moved in and connected with the wood. Shavings rained through the air.
The howl of the saw began to make her head thud and her pulse race. Watching the man carving was like observing an intimate scene between lovers, as he shaped the log. There was something fascinating about the undulations of his back and his deliberate movements, as his strong arms handled the heavy saw like a paintbrush. She watched mesmerised as the shape of a bird began to emerge from the wooden block. The man ducked and dived, wielding the saw with obvious skill. Jenny’s best pair of smart shoes sank deeper into the muddy leaf mould as she waited patiently for him to notice her.
Suddenly, a huge grey dog leapt out of the undergrowth. The animal was as tall as Jenny when it jumped up, close enough for her to see flashes in his eyes. She backed against a tree, her heart in her mouth, stifling a scream. The dog circled around her, barking and snarling. Climbing out of harm’s way was impossible in her tight skirt, even if she could climb a tree. Enormous teeth came close to her face and saliva dripped from the animal’s jaws. Jenny clutched her handbag in front of her and stood as still as she could, given that she was shaking so violently. Scared of passing out, she closed her eyes and prayed for a miracle.
After what seemed a lifetime, during which she’d had plenty of time to imagine being eaten by the baying dog, the chainsaw silenced.
‘Wilf, away. Come here, you mangy beast.’
Jenny chanced opening her eyes. The dog retreated instantly in response to the man’s words. She sank down to the ground, her terror taking away all care for her suit.
The chainsaw man came towards her, removing his ear defenders as he walked. He took off his goggles, revealing slate grey eyes that showed concern, but maybe a hint of amusement too. Wood shavings coated his long curly hair.
‘Are you all right? I wasn’t expecting visitors.’
Jenny stuttered when she finally found her voice. ‘You w-weren’t ex-expecting me?’
‘But you rang me? Unless I have totally the wrong place.’ Her voice sounded much higher in pitch than normal.
A look of puzzlement passed across his features and then his whole body tensed.
‘You’re the cleaning lady. My brother-in-law, Kieron, said he’d rung you. I’d completely forgotten.’
Jenny attempted a smile, while she contemplated how she felt about being called a cleaning lady.
He took off a thick glove and extended his hand”
About The Truth Lies Buried
Two children in a police waiting room, two distressed mothers, a memory only half remembered …
When Jenny Simpson returns to the seaside town of Borteen, her childhood home, it’s for a less than happy reason. But it’s also a chance for her to start again.
A new job leads to her working for Carver Rodgers, a man who lives alone in a house that looks like it comes from the pages of a fairy tale – until you see the disaster zone inside …
As Jenny gets to know Carver she begins to unravel the sadness that has led to his chaotic existence. Gradually they realise they have something in common that is impossible to ignore – and it all links back to a meeting at a police station many years before.
Could the truth lie just beneath their feet?
Biography for Morton S. Gray
Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.
Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback and e-book.
Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book, paperback and audiobook from 12 March 2019.
Christmas at Borteen Bay was published in November 2018 and is Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother and local policeman Ethan Gibson as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.
Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.
You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on
Twitter - @MortonSGray, her Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/ and
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/
Purchasing links for The Truth Lies Buried at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press to publish my Welsh spy novel, Bound to Her Blood Enemy. I’ve just started the editing process, so I hope it won’t be too long before I have a release date and a cover to share with you.
Until then, I’ll leave you with this picture as a taster. It shows Hawkstone Follies in Shropshire, which is inspiration for the location of the opening chapters. This dramatic cliff just cries out for a castle, and I think it’s a terrible shame there isn’t one. That’s why in my story, I stuck a castle on top and called it Redcliff. Not an easy place to escape from, but that’s precisely what my heroine needs to do. It’s a good thing there’s a gorgeous spy in the offing…
Another castle features heavily in the story, but more on that another time.
My writing, research and any other randomness that seems like a good idea at the time.