I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Linnea Tanner. Today, Linnea shares her creative journey and new release, Skull’s Vengenance.
What is the sweetest thing someone has done for you?
I went on a riverboard cruise on the Mississippi River with my elderly mother and sister. My mother tired easily so we arranged a wheelchair for her to get around. She knew I had my eye on a white casual jacket as we browsed the gift shop on board. After lunch, she would rest in her room while my sister and I did other activities. One afternoon, I was alarmed not to find my mother in the cabin when I returned. After searching about thirty minutes, I finally found her with a big smile as she shuffled down the corridor, carrying the white jacket in her arms.
Two months later, she had a stroke and could not travel afterward. I’ll always remember my last venture with my mother and the big smile on her face when she surprised me with her gift.
How would you spend ten thousand bucks?
I would like to travel overseas to do more research, which I’ve not done since the pandemic.
Where do you get your best ideas?
Sometimes, when I’m driving by myself, ideas come into my head about how to resolve an issue in a plot or to devise a twist. In addition, I write my first draft by hand because creative ideas flow more easily and I don’t have the temptation to edit.
What comes first, the plot or characters?
Main characters in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series have lived in my head since childhood and evolved during my adulthood as I faced challenges in my life. A warrior queen, Catrin was inspired by the Amazons in Greek mythology and actual Celtic warrior queens. Her love interest, Marcellus, is inspired by the legacy of Mark Antony and Cleopatra but with a Celtic twist.
However, most of my secondary characters come to life as I incorporate them in the plot. They insist that I tell their stories as I develop the plot. For example, I introduced Marrock’s deadliest assassin, Gawain, in Skull’s Vengeance as one of the formidable enemies whom Catrin has to overcome. As I wrote scenes with Gawain, he kept insisting that he had scruples and questioned orders to kill defenseless victims. I began to embrace this smart-mouthed, defiant character and thus developed a bigger role for him in the series. He will continue into the next book, Dragon’s Anvil, and will have a major role in a turning point for Catrin. I’ve considered doing a separate series that provides Gawain’s back story and the various missions he has undertaken as an assassin.
Ultimately, readers must first engage with the characters before they are willing to invest the time to read their stories.
What does your main character do that makes him/her special.
At the beginning of the Curse of Clansmen and King series, Catrin is the youngest teen daughter of King Amren of the Cantiaci tribal kingdom in Britannia. Her father has arranged for her to be trained as a warrior. Her greatest strength is that she is loyal to those she loves. However, she is torn between her duty to her people and her growing love for a Roman hostage, Marcellus, under her charge. Though Catrin appears vulnerable and blinded by love for Marcellus, she is nonetheless resilient and will fight with bravery without hesitation to protect her kingdom.
Catrin has learned a dark secret about herself that could lead to her people’s success or their downfall. The former queen cast a curse on King Amren at the time of her execution for treason. She foretold King Amren’s future queen would beget a daughter who would rise as a raven and join her son, Marrock, to overthrow him. To her dismay, Catrin learns she is the raven foretold in the curse. She has an unnatural connection to a raven spirit that has shown her how to change the future by reweaving life threads on the Wall of Lives. But she can’t predict how changing the future will impact other events. The raven guide has also shown Catrin how to shapeshift and summon dark forces of nature, but she can’t always control her magical abilities.
At the beginning of Skull’s Vengeance, Catrin has survived slavery in the Roman legion and in the gladiatorial games in Gaul (modern-day France). Freed by Marcellus, Catrin is determined to return home in Britannia and strike vengeance again her evil half-brother, Marrock, who mercilessly beheaded her parents and eldest sister.
A Celtic warrior queen must do the impossible—defeat her sorcerer half-brother and claim the throne. But to do so, she must learn how to strike vengeance from her father’s skull.
AS FORETOLD BY HER FATHER in a vision, Catrin has become a battle-hardened warrior after her trials in the Roman legion and gladiatorial games. She must return to Britannia and pull the cursed dagger out of the serpent’s stone to fulfill her destiny. Only then can she unleash the vengeance from the ancient druids to destroy her evil half-brother, the powerful sorcerer, King Marrock. Always two steps ahead and seemingly unstoppable, Marrock can summon destructive natural forces to crush any rival trying to stop him and has charged his deadliest assassin to bring back Catrin’s head.
To have the slightest chance of beating Marrock, Catrin must forge alliances with former enemies, but she needs someone she can trust. Her only option is to seek military aid from Marcellus—her secret Roman husband. They rekindle their burning passion, but he is playing a deadly game in the political firestorm of the Julio-Claudian dynasty to support Catrin’s cause.
Ultimately, in order to defeat Marrock, Catrin must align herself with a dark druidess and learn how to summon forces from skulls to exact vengeance. But can she and Marcellus outmaneuver political enemies from Rome and Britannia in their quest to vanquish Marrock?
Chapter 1 Portals to the Otherworld
Antonii Villa in Gaul, Eve of Samhain, 31 October, 27 AD
Exasperated, Catrin drew in a sharp breath. Then, she considered Trystan’s impassioned plea to meet with two of her most hated enemies. Recalling how her father had respected his second-in-command’s advice, she reluctantly conceded and squeezed her legs against her horse’s flanks to move toward the campfire’s glow.
The night’s chill mysteriously transformed into an embracing warmth as they neared a roaring fire with a black cauldron hanging over it. Sitting behind the crimson flames were two obscured figures.
“Welcome, Apollo’s Raven,” a woman’s deep voice intoned. “Come to our fire. Join us in the dance of souls.”
Though Catrin hesitated to join them, the fire’s radiance mesmerized her, luring her closer to the orange flames. She dismounted and handed the reins to Trystan, who quietly remained with the horses as she sat down on a fallen log near the roaring campfire.
“Drink the magic from the cauldron,” the woman offered. “It empowers all who partake with the knowledge of mystical mysteries from the ancient druids.”
“I already have that power,” Catrin proclaimed, trepidatious that perhaps Rhan had dropped hallucinogenic ingredients into the bubbling mixture. Thick steam flowed over the cauldron’s edge and down its metal surface in a thick, greenish fog.
“We know, my love, but you have only had a taste,” Rhan replied in a hypnotic voice. “You do not know how to control this dark magic. But we do.”
Suddenly light-headed from the smoky fumes emanating from the cauldron, Catrin struggled to maintain her wits. “Once before you said this, when you tried to trick me into revealing how I can travel to the Otherworld.”
“Believe me, this is no trick,” Rhan said soothingly. “I’ve seen your father’s spirit wander the top of cliffs, near a dagger embedded in a serpent stone. It is the blade on which my curse was etched.”
“I sense the curse has altered again, but I can’t see how the etched wording has changed on the blade,” Myrddin interjected. “You must help us solve the riddle of how the dagger got there.”
Catrin inhaled sharply, realizing Myrddin and Rhan had discovered the location of the dagger she had thrust into the stone. The image of her running away from the Romans played in her mind, and her thoughts transformed into words.
“After the final battle, I tried to escape the Romans, but…but there was nowhere to go, except jump off the white cliffs. At that moment, I chose to die rather than be captured.”
Rhan rose to her feet, walked around the fire, and sat next to Catrin. “But you didn’t die, did you?” she said, touching Catrin’s arm.
“No. A riderless horse galloped to me, stopping in front of me. My father suddenly appeared and told me not to jump,” Catrin disclosed, reliving the supernatural moment in her mind. “I couldn’t believe my eyes that Father was there. I knew Marrock had beheaded him. Yet, I felt his essence and his love radiate into me.”
Tears swelled in Catrin’s eyes as remorse that she had been unable to save her family from Marrock’s brutality overwhelmed her. She swallowed down a sob before continuing her story.
“Father told me to lift the cursed dagger toward the sky. To my amazement, sunlight flashed through the dark clouds, almost blinding me. He then ordered, ‘Thrust the dagger into the serpent stone that I create.’ What I saw next was not a vision. It was real.”
Catrin grimaced as she recalled the burning pain she’d felt as she’d held the hilt of the dagger.
“The blade turned orange, as if it had been taken out of a furnace. Father’s spirit burst apart into gold dust and melted into the blade’s etching. Serpents massed together on the ground. The venom dripping from their fangs hardened into stone. Somehow, I was able to push the dagger into the hard rock, like it was butter. And, and…”
“And what, my dear?” Rhan pressed.
Catrin’s voice cracked. “I was collared by the Romans and put on a warship.”
Author Bio and Links
Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include “Apollo’s Raven” (Book 1), “Dagger’s Destiny” (Book 2), “Amulet’s Rapture” (Book 3), and “Skull’s Vengeance” (Book 4). She has also released the historical fiction short story, “Two Faces of Janus.”
A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Linnea Tanner is offering a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a lucky winner in a Rafflecopter giveaway. Find out more here.
Follow Linnea on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.