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A picture of the new print edition of Castle of the Wolf
Today I come to you with all kinds of bookish news: I’m currently knee-deep into the production of new print editions of all of my books. (It kind of hit me when I was preparing  Eagle’s Honor: Ravished, which I have entered into the RITAs, for print that very few of my novels were actually available as paperbacks. So it was definitely beyond time to remedy that situation.) Moreover, a few weeks ago, I also discovered how to create drop caps in MS Word and since then I’ve been on a roll. As you can see from the picture above. 🙂

For the print edition of Castle of the Wolf, my Beauty & the Beast story, in which a young woman inherits a mysterious castle in the Black Forest, I chose a set of initial letters that reminded me of old fairy tale books. I thought that was quite fitting since fairy tales play a very important role in the story.

So this is the good part. However, overall Sandra’s Adventures in Print Publishing didn’t go quite that smoothly. The grumpy dude on the cover? He’s orange. “But, Sandy,” you might say, “he is not orange in that picture above.” Yeah. I know. I applied a number of filters to that picture above because I didn’t want to inflict his glow-in-the-dark color on anyone. So if you’d like to get a nice new edition of Castle, please wait a few days. I’m currently fixing it. (I just hope he doesn’t turn out to look like a zombie this time around.) (That’s what living in a run-down castle does to you: turns you into a zombie!)

But what *did* turn out really nicely is the frontispiece (see? I’m really on a roll here! hehe!): I did include a sketch of the Kastelburg in Waldkirch, upon which the castle in my novel is (partly) based. Here is a picture of the frontispiece in the making:

A sketch of the Kastelburg in Waldkirch Annnnnnd in other bookish news, my grumpy centurion, whom I mentioned in my last post about doing portraits, is going to hit bookshelves this Friday. I so enjoyed telling Caius & Lucius’ story. I fell in love with these two when I first wrote them as secondary characters into Eagle’s Honor: Ravished, which is set ten years after The Centurion’s Choice, and I knew from almost the start that I very much wanted to tell their story as well.

Teaser image for The Centurion's Choice by Sandra SchwabFor me, one of the great joys of writing the Eagle’s Honor series is that has expanded into an exploration of family relations across several generations as well as an exploration of family stories. Family stories formed an important part of my growing up – my paternal grandmother in particular liked telling me stories about the time when my father and his sisters were little, and sometimes also about the time when she was a young woman. And above my parents’ dining table there’s a huge collage of family pictures going back as far as the 1890s. So my own experiences of how people in my family talked about their past and about people from past generations I’ve never met, very much informed the way I have been approaching the stories the Florius family share.

I love imagining what kind of stories members of the Florius family would share about past generations and what kind of things would be passed from one generation to the next. And also imagine what sort of circumstances would interrupt this chain of oral traditions; in how far memories might change over time. For me, it’s a really nice way to link these stories that set apart several decades. (And of course, I hope readers will enjoy these links, too!)

Teaser image for The Centurion's Choice, by Sandra SchwabBut, of course, these family stories just form a tiny part of the background for The Centurion’s Choice, which at its heart is a enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story. With a very grumpy centurion. 🙂 (Watching those grumpy guys fall in love is always such great fun, isn’t it?) So without further ado, here’s the blurb for the novella. I will add buy links on Friday, when the book comes out.

It’s 178 AD, and barbarian tribes once again threaten the borders of the Roman Empire. To make matters worse, Lucius’ promotion in his auxiliary cohort has been denied, and instead the governor has appointed a moody, mean-tempered Roman to become the new centurion of the Septem Gallorum. And, incidentally, to trample all over Lucius’ ambitions.

Tall and burly, Centurion Caius Florius Corvus might be way too good-looking for Lucius’ peace of mind, but the man has also made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t trust Lucius as his second-in-command. Yet as they are swept into war and each has to shoulder his responsibilities, a reluctant respect begins to grow between them, which soon grows into friendship — and, perhaps, more?

Sandra Schwab, Castle of the Wolf Teaser image
Last month I re-released Castle of the Wolf, a novel that was originally published back in 2007. It is a gothic romance — well, at least, it was planned as one, only then the lady with the sturdy boots turned up in the story and stomped all the gothicness to dust. Quite… eh… literally.

In the best gothic tradition, Castle isn’t set in England, but in southern Germany — in the Black Forest, to be exact, the place where I spent my primary school years and a place that is drenched in stories and covered with deep, dark woods. And quite a few castle (ruins).

Kastelburg in Waldkirch

The Kastelburg in Waldkirch. I spent my primary school years in this little town, & the town & castle were the inspiration for the main setting in Castle of the Wolf

Upon her father’s death, my heroine surprisingly inherits one such castle upon the condition that she marry the son of its former owner. Alas, that son turns out to be a super-grumpy dude, who does his very best to make Cissy leave the castle again. Enter rats, bats, a mouse skeleton (hey, it’s a gothic romance, there needs to be a skeleton, right?), and a bunch of very mysterious gargoyles. Oh, and there’s a very intriguing deck of (erotic transformation) cards too. In other words, my heroine has her work cut out for her if she wants to unravel the secrets of the castle.

One of the main themes of the novel is hinted at when Cissy is still in England and is packing her bags:

Cissy carefully wrapped one of her tea dresses around her copy of the Lyrical Ballads  so the leather-bound volume would come to no harm in the travel chest during her journey. […]

“I cannot imagine what you want to do in Baden.” Wood creaked as her brother George shifted on the chair. “There is nothing for you there.”

There is nothing for me here. For a moment, Cissy had to close her eyes. Then she shook her head and busied herself with wrapping her book and putting it away. “I am going to have a castle.” Just imagine: a castle. Like a princess. She took up another tome.

“And marry a man you have never seen in your life.” Suddenly George sounded aggressive. “How our dear father could have come up with such a harebrained scheme is quite beyond me, I swear!”

Distracted, Cissy frowned and rubbed a thumb over a scratch in the blue leather cover of her book of German fairy tales, a present from her father for her nineteenth birthday. With her forefinger she traced the golden lettering: Kinder- und Hausmärchen gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm.

Castle of the Wolf is a story about stories: it’s stuffed full of references to fairy tales, local legends, and to modern popular literature. While Cissy travels to the Black Forest by steamboat down the Rhine, she hears the grizly legend of the Mouse Tower of Bingen (evil bishop eaten up by mice), and later on Fenris, the grumpy hero, provides for a nice Austen / Bridget Jones moment: “For somebody called Fenris to strut around like a snarling demon wolf was just as ridiculous as, say, for somebody called Darcy to refuse to dance at an assembly.” I also couldn’t resist putting a German copy of Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms (Helle Barden) into the castle library.

However, the most significant body of reference is formed by works of British and German Romanticism. I mean, when you have a grumpy hero and a completely exasperated heroine, you just have to reference Byron’s Byronic heroes, right? (Or rather, let the heroine reference them.) (She has never liked Byron’s Pirate and thinks Fenris’ sulking around the castle is a tad too melodramtic.) In addition, the German setting allowed me to refer to all my favorite German literary fairy tales, first and foremost Ludwig Tieck’s “Eckbert the Fair” (no happy ending, alas) with the enchanting song about woodsolitude sung by a magical bird:

Brings joy to me
Now and tomorrow
What joy to me,

In the course of Castle of the Wolf, Cissy also reads one of my favorite literary novels in German, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr. The first two volumes of the novel were published in 1819 and 20; Hoffmann died before he could begin working on the third volume. In a way, it is fitting the novel remained a fragment, for it is told in fragments: it is the autobiography of the (rather conceited) Tomcat Murr, who rips apart an older book to have paper to write on and as blotting paper. This older book is another biography, that of the bandmaster Kreisler, and at first it seems that these two stories don’t have anything to do with each other, but they become more and more intertwined. The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr was clearly a writing experiment for Hoffmann, a fun project where he created something very innovative and very intriguing.

cover Castle of the WolfSo in other words, my own novel, Castle of the Wolf, is a declaration of love for stories and for reading and for seeing the world through the lens of fiction.

If you would like to accompany Cissy on her journey to the Black Forest, grab a copy of Castle at the following retailers:


Happy reading!

I’ve kept thinking about our discussion last week’s post about Prinnyworld vs. the real Regency, also about news I had that a particular publisher was looking for “dark” stories, and it’s led me to wonder what dark means to different people.

“Dark” requires torture, but what sort?

The first darker books I read were some of Mary Jo Putney’s, stories like PETALS IN THE STORM (heroine raped by the men who just killed her father) and THE RAKE (alcoholic hero). Later, I discovered Laura Kinsale, whose stories are usually dark: FLOWERS FROM THE STORM (hero a stroke victim put into an insane asylum), SHADOWHEART (hero raised by his father to be an assassin). What some authors do to their poor characters…

My own darkest book was LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, the dark elements being the grim reality of the lives of foundlings and the bad first marriages of the hero and heroine. I put in a lot of lighter elements, though, this is “Little League” dark compared to Putney or Kinsale.

So there’s the sort of “Real World Dark” that draws upon real world elements, like poverty or war or sexual abuse. Things we still read about in the news.

My other darker book was SAVING LORD VERWOOD, in which it seemed everyone wanted to kill the hero. It was dark in a Gothic sort of way: deranged villain, eerie setting (north coast of Cornwall, where there are so many cliffs to throw people over). Despite the attempted murder plot, this book felt lighter to me than LDM. I think “Gothic Dark” is somehow less grim than “Real World Dark”, just because these elements are further removed from our lives and everyday news.

Then “Gothic Dark” shades over into “Paranormal Dark”, which often taps into the angst of the accursed and those who love them. My favorite paranormal Regency is Karen Harbaugh’s THE VAMPIRE VISCOUNT. This sort of story provides a delicious roller-coaster of emotion, a thrilling touch of horror. It’s so different from our ordinary lives that I think it is more escapist.

There end my musings… These flavor categories are just for fun, and I don’t mean to imply any of them is better or worse than the others. What do you think? Have I missed some flavors? Do you have favorites? Which authors do dark better than anyone else?

LADY DEARING’S MASQUERADE, Golden Quill Best Historical Romance!

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