It feels really good to have my medieval fantasy Last of the Gifted series completed now, and available as Spirit Sight (Book 1), Water Sight (Book 2), and the Last of the Gifted omnibus editions. I’m also happy to have it available in eBook, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover formats. It was my passion project for the past 15 years, and it’s great to see it “out there.”
But this time of year, I always think about how the series began. I came upon the idea by chance, during a family trip to Wales. We were visiting a small castle called Dolwyddelan, known to have been built and used by the Welsh princes in the 13thCentury. Placards set around the castle provided a self-guided tour into the history of that castle and the fall of independent Wales in 1282-3. Then I walked up the stairs to the wall walk, and looked out over the landscape. I started wondering what it must have been like for them. It’s kind of a cozy little castle, you know, and I suddenly had this sense of what it would be like to be surrounded by thousands of the well-armed English forces. Before long, I was reading more about it, discovering the story of the last true Prince of Wales, and the fall of the House of Aberffraw after his death. For more about Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, and his mysterious death on this date in history, check out my blog article: December 11, 1282: Who killed Llywelyn, the last Prince of Wales?
It surprises me a little that I have spent so much time combing history books for these novels. During my early years as a cub reporter back on the Moose Jaw Times Herald, I thought of “This date in history…” as the most dreaded assignment of the work week. I would rather be out chasing fire trucks and combing the back alleys for more exciting news stories. Instead, I had to head for the dusty archive room, and pull the oversized tomes down off the shelf. These huge red-leather-bound books housed the fragile pages of the old broad-leaf newspapers, which we had to flip carefully for exciting headlines from the past. (And hope there weren’t retractions the next day because of errors in the printed page — which happen more frequently than you might think, and certainly more often than any reporter wants to see!)
With the passage of time, I can think of those tomes more fondly, especially as the newspaper industry fully digitizes and the idea of paper archives fades into the past. On a recent trip to Prince Albert to give a writing workshop, I discovered that those archive rooms still exist, caught in a transitional world of their own. Thanks to Prince Albert Daily Herald reporter Jason Kerr, I was treated to a tour of the old “digs” where I had worked as the courts-and-correctional-institutes reporter in 1989-1990. The dusty tomes are still there, all but forgotten on shelves in the basement.
This was a special research trip for me, because my newest novel is set in a community newspaper faced with this transition from a once-vibrant and respected past to the struggling present. The main character is a 17-year-old intern, hired because of her photographic talent to snap photos and videos for the newspaper’s new community website. But she has a compelling reason to brave the now-abandoned newspaper archives, haunted as it is by the grim reality of the past and the horrors of her present.
Strange the places our writing takes us. And it’s time to get back to it, and begin the journey of this new novel that promises to pull me further into my own struggles to understand the intersection of the past with the present. For a very different take on that day, check out this link to Jason’s article about my trip to Prince Albert: https://paherald.sk.ca/2021/11/26/regina-writer-all-business-on-return-to-prince-albert/
What do you remember about your first job? What’s the creepiest thing that happened to you as an intern? Leave a comment below.