Friday, September 14, 2012

Ye Olde Caves of Nottingham by Sharon Ledwith

Today I am thrilled to welcome to the blog Sharon Ledwith, author of The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis from Euterpe Books, the YA/MG imprint of Musa Publishing.  Sharon is here with us today to celebrate Euterpe's Back to School Extravaganza week.

In getting to know Sharon, I've discovered that she's a writer after my own heart, sharing my love of research and a draw to the older myths and folklore.  I love the fascinating information she gleaned on the caves of Nottingham, perhaps because there's some striking similarities between them and the caves and underground cities of Cappadocia, Turkey, that I'm using in one of my stories.

So, please welcome Sharon to the blog, and I hope you enjoy learning more about this hidden gem of Nottingham's history.


In my middle-grade/young adult time travel book, TheLast Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, my feisty group of adolescent characters’ first mission lands them in England in 1214 where they must find a young Robin Hood and his merry band of teens. Legend has it that one of Robin Hood’s haunts (besides the famous Sherwood Forest) was the village of Nottingham.

When I undertook the meticulous research needed to craft my novel, I came across an interesting fact about Nottingham I had never known: beneath the houses, shops, and offices of Nottingham are hundreds of caves. My eyes bugged and imagination went into overdrive, while I gathered fact after fact about the Nottingham caves. In truth, it was a little like panning for gold nuggets.

The end result of the information I gleaned is woven into my story, but I’d like to share some other interesting facts about these not-so-famous caves:

  • The earliest written record of Nottingham’s caves comes from a Welsh monk called Asser who when writing about Nottingham in 868 referred to the town as Tig Guocobauc, meaning house or place of caves in British. 
  • Nottingham has more man-made caves than anywhere else in Britain.
  • The exposed cliff of the sandstone outcrop made this an obvious place for the early citizens of Nottingham to make their home. The occupants of these cave houses were generally poor and the caves were known as pauper holes.   
  •  Each cave is unique and created for a specific purpose; some even have elaborate carvings, pillars and staircases.  
  • The softness of Nottingham’s sandstone makes it easy to excavate with hand tools, and the structural stability means that excavated caves are safe to use, even with buildings above them.
  •  Throughout the medieval period Nottingham continued to grow and prosper, becoming a centre for trades such as wool manufacture, tanning, malting, alabaster carving and pottery production.  A number of these activities were undertaken in Nottingham’s caves.
  •  Sandstone caves maintain a constant temperature of around 14 degrees Celsius/ 57.2 Fahrenheit and therefore made excellent cellars for the storage of ale.  
  • At the start of the Second World War new caves were excavated and old ones reused to act as Air Raid shelters. 

Believe it or not, few people in Nottingham are aware of this labyrinth, and fewer still have visited them. Unfortunately, in these modern times, a significant number of caves have been filled in with cement or bricked up, with others disappearing through natural collapse. There’s a special project underway called the Nottingham Caves Survey which hopes to survey and document all the caves under Nottingham, and bring awareness to this unique historical resource. I invite you to take a virtual tour if you dare:

Susan here -- Thanks Sharon so much for sharing some of your research with us.

To celebrate our Back to School Extravaganza, Euterpe Books is giving away one copy of Sharon's ebook, plus Sharon has offered a prize package that includes a signed paperback novel of The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, a trading card, two wristbands (adult and youth size), and an Ionic Power wrist watch.  To enter, all you need to do is comment before Sunday evening.  I'll draw a winner for the book and the prize package on Sunday night (9/16) at 7 pm EST Extended to Monday night (9/17) at 10 pm EST!

We'd love to hear about your research.  What's some interesting tidbits you've uncovered researching for a story?  Or, has your research ever inspired you into a whole new story than what you had planned?

When 13-year-old Amanda Sault and her annoying classmates are caught in a food fight at school, they're given a choice: suspension or yard duty. The decision is a no-brainer. Their two-week crash course in landscaping leads to the discovery of a weathered stone arch in the overgrown back yard. The arch isn't a forgotten lawn ornament but an ancient time portal from the lost continent of Atlantis.

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers--legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial--Amanda and her classmates are sent on an adventure of a lifetime. Can they find the young Robin Hood and his merry band of teens? If they don't, then history itself may be turned upside down.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, kayaking, time with family and friends, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Neville Longbottom - The Perfect Foil

From time to time on this blog, I've looked at various Harry Potter characters and analyzed which archetype they fit.  Harry, we know is the hero.  Fluffy serves as a Threshold Guardian.  Fred and George are Tricksters.  JK Rowling uses many Heralds throughout the series.  And Snape is the perfect Anti-Hero.

But it wasn't until a writer in the last workshop I presented at Savvy Authors asked me what Neville's role was that I realized he was the perfect Foil.  The role of a Foil is to contrast and compare with another character in order to show similarities and distinctions.  Neville provides this service for Harry.

'The odd thing is, Harry,' [Dumbledore] said softly, 'that it may not have meant you at all. Sybil's prophecy could have applied to two wizard boys, born at the end of July that year, both of whom had parents in the Order of the Phoenix, both sets of parents having narrowly escaped Voldemort three times. One, of course was you. The other was Neville Longbottom.' (OotP, p. 37)

Born on the second to last day of July, orphaned emotionally if not physically by Voldemort, and brought up by a grandmother who is not exactly the warm, mothering type, Neville is just a shade off of Harry's own journey.  But whereas Harry quickly finds his place on a broom and the Quidditch pitch, Neville, with his self-doubt, lack of coordination, and memory problems has a harder time finding his way.

For the first 3 books, Neville serves primarily as a contrast to Harry, essentially making Harry look better, but also occasionally showing him up.  Neville is the only one that stands up to Harry, Ron, and Hermione at the end of PS/SS when they are about to go it alone again, breaking all kinds of rules, and losing more points for Gryffindor.

It is in Goblet of Fire, due to the duplicitous help of Pseudo Mad-Eye that Neville's strength and knowledge comes more into the limelight as his knowledge of magical plants helps Harry triumph in the second Tri-Wizard challenge.  His character truly starts to shine in OotP where he is one of the first to state his loyalty to Harry after the Daily Prophet's smear campaign.  Neville becomes an important member of Dumbledore's Army, remaining the last student standing besides Harry in the battle at the Ministry.

And, of course, who can forget that it was Neville who sliced the head off Voldemort's last remaining Horcrux by beheading Nagini with Gryffindor's own sword?  A sword he won by standing up all alone to Voldemort's flaming attack and refusing to join Voldemort's side -- just as Harry did in his first year.  Neville has gone from being a lost, unpopular child, falling off his broomstick, to being "The Man," the one who stayed at Hogwarts and defied the Death Eater's regime, learning the full secrets of the Room of Requirement, and thus providing an entry port for Harry into the final battle.

Neville was an excellent Foil, but one who did not exist merely to define the hero.  JK Rowling gave this foil his own hero's quest, which while secondary to the series' protagonist's, still left his fans cheering.

Have you written a Foil into your story? What aspects of your protagonist did your Foil serve to compare and contrast?

Also, please join me Friday for a special blog post from Sharon Ledwith, author of The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, from Euterpe Books.  Euterpe is celebrating our Back to School Extravaganza this week with a blog fest, free books, and a special book club package giveaway.  As part of this celebration, I'm also blogging today at Jami Gold's place with a post on Small Publishers: Tips for Success.  Hope you will join our fun!

(Check Out JK Rowling's Newest Release -- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child here!)