Escape from the Past: The Duke's Wrath
by Annette Oppenlander
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Crystal: Today I have the pleasure of hosting Annette Oppenlander. Welcome Annette! I'm so happy to have you here today. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
Annette: Hi, I’m excited to be here. A bit of background, I grew up in Germany and moved to the U.S. in 1987 where I met my husband. We’ve been married 28 years and have fraternal twins (24) and a son (27). Of course, I must mention my old mutt, Mocha, who insisted on being roommates in my home office.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?
Annette: From chapter two…
I heard more rustling. Louder now. Not from the men, but from the woods behind me. My knees buckled and I was vaguely aware of the thudding sound I’d made. I had to figure out what had just happened, retrace my steps. Where was my room? My mind churned as I scanned the ground for some sign of home, something familiar.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bearded thug turn his head. Ducking behind a hazelnut bush, I squinted through the leaves. The thug had raised his sword and stepped toward my hiding place.
I crouched lower, my ears filled with the pounding of my own heartbeat. Rough laughter came from the other two riders. Despite my panic I caught a glimpse of them poking their swords at the injured man’s shoulder. I smelled their stench—and the wounded man’s fear.
The bearded thug continued in my direction. Sunlight bounced off the edge of his blade. He took another step, scanning, listening. I forced my shaking body to be absolutely still. This had to be some kind of challenge in the game.
The man kept coming. Twenty feet. Everything about him looked menacing: his eyes the color of mud, his razor-sharp sword wide as a hand. Fifteen feet. I held my breath.
A scream rang out.
“Have mercy, My Lords,” the bleeding man cried. He was kneeling now, waiving his good arm in a pleading gesture. “I beg you,” he wailed.
I lowered my gaze. Somewhere I’d read that the white of a man’s eyes could give you away. Keeping my lids half-closed, I peeked through the leaves once more. The thug was ten feet away. Close up he looked worse, a brute with arms the size of my thighs, his chest covered in leather and wide as a barrel. Despite his size he had the soundless walk of a stalking animal. I watched with paralyzed fascination. Any second I’d be discovered, but all I managed was to shove my hands into my jeans pockets to keep them from trembling. It’s a computer game, my brain screamed. It’s real, my gut argued.
Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for “Escape from the Past: The Duke’s Wrath?”
Annette: In 2012 I visited the ruins of Castle Hanstein in Thuringia, Germany. It’s an amazing place high up on a mountaintop with breathtaking views of the valleys. As I walked through the old torn buildings the voices in my head began to chatter. I know how that sounds, but it was this conviction that I had to write about the castle. Inside one of the rooms I read about a famous knight who’d lived there in the late Middle Ages and feuded with a duke over a beautiful woman. At the time I was often annoyed by my boys who are avid gamers and don’t mind spending all night in front of their computers. Somehow putting a gamer into the story made sense.
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
Annette: I envision being a lifelong author. I love the process of writing, editing and researching. I love looking for new ideas and creating exciting stories. Book two in the trilogy, “Escape from the Past: The Kid” will be released in February 2016 and I just completed the third and last book. My next project will be about two teens surviving WW2 in Germany. It’s sort of a love story against the odds and based on true events/characters. I’m also still working on a story about a farm boy and his slave friend who are torn apart by the American Civil War.
Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?
Annette: I am very lucky that I don’t have to go to a job, so I sit in my home office with the door closed because I find noise of any kind distracting. I typically write in the morning, especially when I’m working on a first draft. This first creation is always the hardest, taking the most brainpower. Sometimes I only write a page, sometimes ten. I struggle most with first chapters because so much is set up in it. I’ve learned to just ‘slop’ it down initially without the editor sitting on my shoulder whispering criticism.
In the afternoons I edit and market.
Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?
Annette: Writing historical fiction requires a fair amount of research. I was lucky to find a collection of stories assembled by a Hanstein descendant. This book also contained a family tree and original entries from city annals. I also put much time into learning about the medieval way of life and the starkly contrasting experiences of peasants and lords.
One of the things I found fascinating is the use of spices in medieval dishes. To impress their guests, Lords imported expensive spices from the orient, including saffron, pepper and nutmeg. Cooks used them in such quantity that our present day tongues would be unable to tolerate the flavors. Many dishes were colored, meats mashed and shaped into sculptures, so no guest could tell what they were.
Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?
Annette: James Alexander Thom is my favorite historical fiction author. J.R.R. Tolkien is, of course, the master of storytelling. I’ve read the “Lord of the Rings” five or six times and still marvel at his craft. You’re hooked from page one. I love Stephen King’s “On Writing” because it’s not just dry instruction. King teaches you more of a feel for what works and tells it how it is. I think over the years many writers have inspired my writing. They all melded into my subconscious and out of it I pull my own stories.
Crystal: Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?
Annette: I may try my hands at ‘early reader’ children’s books and maybe one day a thriller. Right now I have two novels waiting to be written/finished and a couple more ideas. Whether I go through with a different genre may depend on how well these novels do and what new ideas spring up in the meantime.
Thank you very much for hosting me!
When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him into the actual past: anywhere and anytime. And 3) Survival is optional: To return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever.
Now Max is trapped in medieval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head. Especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister wannabe duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornet’s nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
GENRE: YA historical/sci-fi
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“Mutter, I brought someone.” Bero slumped on the bench, scanning the table. I stood unmoving. Two tallow lamps flickered in earthen pots, barely making a dent into the gloom. The thick mixture of smoke, dust and body odor was worse. Disgusted, I rubbed my nose. It didn’t do any good.
The left side of the ceiling hung so low that I easily touched it with my hand. The other half was hidden by dense smoke. A scrawny fire smoldered in a stone hearth along the back wall. In front of it stood a woman of indefinable age, stirring a cast-iron pot.
“You’re late,” she said without turning. “Next time we eat without you.”
“I told you she’s mad,” said the girl who’d been shelling beans earlier.
“Hush, Adela,” the mother shot back. I looked back and forth between them, struggling to follow the weird speech while identifying the smell emanating from the pot. Nothing came to mind. Despite the terrible stench in the house, my stomach gurgled in anticipation.
“Nay, I was late because of this lad,” Bero said. “He needs shelter for tonight.”
At last, the mother turned around. Even in the gloom I could tell that she was shocked, maybe scared, her eyes blackish pools in the haggard face. She carefully placed the ladle on a stone plate and stepped closer—her eyes now squinting, scrutinizing. I wanted to bolt. A disgusting odor enveloped me. While Bero smelled of earth and pigs, the woman reeked of sweat and something sour. I tried breathing shallow breaths, thinking I should just leave and sleep outside. But then I thought of the rustling in the woods, the evil riders wielding their swords— worse, how clueless I felt.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and traveling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
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