Thursday, January 21, 2016


by Annette Oppenlander

When fifteen-year old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realize that 1) He’s been secretly chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game,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.

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.



-What inspired you to become a writer?

Becoming a writer/author was a process that took several years. In the beginning–the late 90s–I wrote children’s stories for early readers. I didn’t know anything about writing for children, the market nor the submission process, so this went nowhere. In 2002 I interviewed my parents about their lives during WWII in Germany which led to a number of short stories. I didn’t really imagine writing a novel, let alone several, I merely wanted to preserve the memories for my family.

But I became aware how much I enjoy the writing process. How I felt while I did it. I worked for a PR agency and did lots of business related writing. I’d go home at night and write some more, spent my weekends writing fiction. I grew more and more invested, took classes, read books on craft, attended conferences and joined a critique group. In 2009 I attended a short story class at Indiana University and that’s when the light bulb turned on fully. I’ve known ever since that writing is my passion and I must do it even if publication is light years away.

-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?

I’d clamp shut my nose and visit Castle Hanstein in the Middle Ages, hang out with the Lords of Hanstein in the great hall, see how they cook food in the kitchen, and maybe watch a knighting or squire ceremony. I’d ask a bunch of questions about politics and get a feel for what medieval life was really like.

-Give us a fun or interesting fact you learned researching this book.

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 go up in flames. Many dishes were colored, meats mashed and shaped into sculptures, so no guest could tell what they were. The wealthier lords had “show” dishes, elaborate sculptures to adorn the table and not meant for human consumption.

-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks and pizza with?

I’d chose Werner von Hanstein, the charismatic knight who feuded with Duke Schwarzburg over a beautiful woman. He lived in the late Middle Ages so I don’t know what he would’ve thought about a modern bar or eating pizza. But he was a crusader and visited Jerusalem, so he must’ve been a somewhat worldly guy. I would’ve loved to ask him about his outlook on life, how he enjoyed living in a castle, his affair with Lady Clara and getting along with his brother, Lame Hans. He probably would’ve been amazed I’d write a book about him 500 years later.

-If you could go back in time and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d tell myself to be more patient and set aside doubt. I think all writers, even the most gifted ones, have doubts whether their next project is any good. But while we may struggle with doubt about our ability to craft a compelling story, in the end, we must continue writing. Many people give up too early because doubt overtakes them. I’d tell myself to believe in my work and put in the time and energy, confident that I’d succeed in the end. I’d tell myself to follow my passion.

-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?

That would be horror. Watching horror or even a tense thriller affects me physically. I don’t watch zombies or chainsaw murderers or anything that is bloody or super scary because I get nightmares. Somehow I can’t keep the separation between what’s happening in the movie and where I am. It feels like I’m right in the middle of the story. Somehow my brain seems to be unable to understand the difference. I fret and I sweat. Why put myself through that if it gives me unpleasant feelings. I neither watch such shows or read books in the genre and nor do I want to imagine these horrific scenarios.


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.”

Find her online:

-Twitter @aoppenlander

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Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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-Kit ‘N Kabookle posts on Twitter @desantismt. Tag me for retweets.

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  1. Hello, thank you so much for hosting me! I'll be around today to answer your questions.

  2. Really enjoyed your comments. This was an exciting excerpt.

  3. Enjoyed the excerpt and the interview, sounds like a great book, thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow! This book sounds amazing! Thank you for the great post and contest!

  5. What is your favorite biography?

  6. Enjoyed reading your interview, thank you!

  7. I really enjoyed the trailer. Thank you for sharing!