Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cheryl Carpinello: The Magic of King Arthur


A Shining welcome to tween author Cheryl Carpinello, who writes adventures based on the King Arthur legends. Cheryl is celebrating the release of her second book, Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom, and she’ll be giving away not only an e-copy of The King's Ransom, but also a paperback copy of her first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend. Be sure to leave your contact information when you comment!

Great to have you visiting the Plain, Cheryl. We have lots to talk about. Why not start by telling us why you love to write for kids?

As of May 31st, I am once again a retired high school English teacher. I’m afraid I’m one of those people who do not do retirement well. Working with kids is a passion I have never lost. I regularly conduct Medieval Writing Workshops for local elementary/middle schools and for the Colorado Girl Scouts. We explore writing and reading, and it is fulfilling to see young students excited about writing and reading. It seems I'm not the only one who loves Medieval Times and the King Arthur Legend. The kids thoroughly enjoy writing their own medieval stories complete with dragons, wizards, unicorns, and knights. In fact, my junior English class this year jumped at the chance to write their own medieval story!
I also write a blog, Carpinello’s Writing Pages, where I review children’s books and host other children’s authors when I can. With teaching full time this year, I’ve gotten a bit behind.
Why Arthurian Legend? There are so many other genres out there.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table never seem to lose their appeal to readers of all ages. When I talk about the Medieval Times with kids and adults, the talk centers around the exploits of the knights, heroes like King Arthur and Lancelot, and magic and Merlyn. I wanted to use the appeal of King Arthur to encourage young kids to read more and to believe that they could write. I always come away from a school visit believing that I have helped the students relate better to their writing, and hopefully, ignited a little spark in the reluctant readers to pick up a book. It is so important to hook kids early to make them lifelong readers and writers.
You’re clearly a lifelong reader. What type of books do you like to read?
My husband says I read what no one else reads! To an extent that’s true. I love mythology, legend, ancient civilizations (particularly Ancient Egypt), non-fiction adventure, biographies of people like Queen Noor of Jordan and Zahi Hawass, action and intrigue. Some of my favorite books are Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
Tell us how you came to write Guinevere and the Young Knights.
I enjoy writing, but I’m not always writing. Coming from the teaching profession, I learned to bide my time as far as my writing goes. For years during the school year, I barely had time for reading, let alone writing.
My first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, took five years to bring from idea to publication. Readers can buy it in paperback or eBook. It introduces young readers to the timeless King Arthur Legend and Guinevere the girl as she struggles with growing up and fulfilling her destiny. I wanted to give young readers an understanding of the girl Guinevere, how she is like them today. Everyone has to grow up; everyone has unpleasant choices to make; and regardless of when we are born or how old we are, we don't always get our way. And when that happens, we have to accept it and move on.
My second book, Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom, took two years to write and get accepted. It was released May 25, 2012 by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada. It is currently available in eBook format. In it, three young friends team up in a knight’s quest to save their friend. I’m excited about Young Knights, as it gives me the lead-in to write a series of books around these and other young knight characters.
Sounds like you’ll be writing for a long, long time. How do you get your writing ideas from initial concept to final story?
Once I get an idea for a story, I write out an outline. It’s not overly detailed, just an overview of the entire story. Then I spend several days doing what I tell my students is brainwork. I just think about what I’ve outlined, the possible characters, the storyline, conflicts, etc. I then go back to the outline and fill in some of the missing pieces. I do more brainwork and then finalize the outline. Once that is done, I start writing. I like to write the entire story without making any editorial changes. Once the story is done, I go back over my outline and see how the two fit or don’t fit together. Then it is editing and revision time. I generally go over a work three or four times, in addition to letting my editing partner have a go of it. Before I submit my work anywhere, I have a professional editor read and edit the manuscript.
One thing I’ve learned as an English teacher is that a writer cannot edit their own work enough. And then when you think you’ve got it perfect, it needs to have a different set of eyes go over it. Even then, there will still be errors. You just hope that those will be unnoticed by most readers.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Outside of spending time with my family, I love to travel. I even spent twelve years working nights after school for a major airline so that we could literally travel the world. My husband and I have been all over the United States, especially in the fall to catch college football games. Las Vegas has to be my favorite city. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there! We traveled several times to Mexico and the Caribbean, and spent two weeks on our own in Egypt. There is a place I would love to return and explore more. Our next big trip will be next spring to England and Wales. I just have to see the birthplace of King Arthur!
I’m amazed you haven’t already been there, you describe the scenery so well. What’s next in your writing? Are you working on a new story?
My current work-in-progress takes my readers out of Medieval England and back to Ancient Egypt. It will be a mystery for tweens and will introduce readers to a famous boy pharaoh. I’m also doing brainwork on a sequel to Guinevere. I’ve had several readers ask me what becomes of Guinevere’s friend Cedwyn, so I’m working on a storyline there. And, somewhere soon, I’m going to do another Young Knights. Enough to keep me busy for a few years!
We hope so, Cheryl. All right, time for a sneak peek at Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom. But first, let’s read a little of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.

BLURB for Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend:
At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history… She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted—all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage.

For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits.

However, the wizard Merlyn—her teacher and friend—knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.

EXCERPT:
Guinevere stared into the shadows along the edge of the forest. She could hear Cedwyn shifting from foot to foot beside her, unable to stand still. She sighed, the bow made of sturdy pine in her hand growing heavier. Her thirteenth Birth Day was in a few days, but she wasn’t excited. Birth Days were supposed to be fun, but not this year. Not for her, not for a princess.

She frowned as Cedwyn adjusted the leather quiver of arrows on his back again. Sometimes, like today, her patience with the seven-year-old was short.

"Guin'ver?"

"Hush!"

"But ..."

"Hush!"

Guinevere stamped her boot on the ground. Her displeasure clearly showing on her lightly tanned face, she turned to him.

"Cedwyn," she snapped. "What is so important that you can’t be quiet?"

"I'm hungry, and the bottoms of my trousers are wet. Can’t we go back to the castle?" His face showed his confusion at her tone.

Guinevere realized that she should not have directed her anger at Cedwyn. It wasn’t his fault. Glancing down at her own clothes, she saw the bottom of her green ankle-length tunic wet with the morning dew. Her stomach chose that moment to issue forth with a small rumbling, but one that Cedwyn heard. He started giggling and then clamped his small hand over his mouth. But he was too late.

"How are we ever going to shoot a rabbit with all this noise?" Guinevere asked. Then she reached down and tousled his blond hair to let him know that she was not serious and as an apology for her crossness. "Let's try for just ten minutes longer. Then if we find nothing, we'll go back. Is that all right?"

Cedwyn shook his head, not wanting to make any further noise.

The English summer sun had barely reached above the far hills when they had first arrived at the edge of the forest. Now, it was well on its way in its climb toward the dinner hour, and they hadn't even had a proper breakfast yet. Cedwyn’s mum was sure to be upset that they had been gone so long.

"Come on," he whispered. "The only creatures we've seen moving have been badgers and Cornish hens. We could of had five bloody hens by now."

"I told you, it's good luck to bag a rabbit on the eve of your thirteenth Birth Day," Guinevere informed him.

Cedwyn studied her face, unsure if she was telling the truth or not. Then his blue eyes widened, and he grabbed her arm as she turned to continue hunting. "Wait a minute! You promised to help me bag a rabbit on the eve of my tenth Birth Day. You said that was lucky!"

Guinevere turned to him, her balled fists on her slim hips. "You need to listen closer when I talk to you. I explained the difference between boys and girls. Boys have to seek luck on the eve of their tenth and fifteenth Birth Days. Since girls are naturally luckier than boys, they only have to seek luck once, on the eve of their thirteenth Birth Days."

Cedwyn eyed her suspiciously, and then his eyes lit up.

"But I thought that the eve was the night before. Your Birth Day isn't until the day after tomorrow."

"That's true, but the eve of something can also be anytime close to the day."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I am! Otherwise, what would happen if the day before I didn't get a rabbit? This way there are more chances to get one. Now, let's go. I'm sure I saw movement at the edge of the forest earlier." She didn’t mention to him that she needed lots of luck.
Cedwyn obediently followed her, mumbling to himself. "We're still running out of time."

They hadn’t gone far when Cedwyn thought of something else.

"Guin’?"

She turned suddenly, her long brown braid whipping about. "Shh! You will scare the rabbits away!"

"But you also promised to teach me how to hunt with a bow and arrow once you are thirteen."

"Yes, but if you don’t stop your chatter, I won’t. Do you understand?" Cedwyn nodded. "Then let's go."

Cedwyn followed, a smile highlighting his chubby cheeks. He then promptly ran into the back of Guinevere who had abruptly stopped.

"Wha..." A hand clamped down over his mouth followed by an angry "Shh!"

Cedwyn moved quietly up to her side, his seven-year old frame about half the size of Guinevere. She looked down at him, excitement making her brown eyes sparkle in the midmorning light. Her lips formed the word "Look." His blue eyes followed her outstretched arm.

There, just past the edge of the forest where the wild grasses grew—movement. He concentrated on the spot. Then the tall green stalks moved again, betraying the presence of something beneath.

"How can you tell if it's really a rabbit?" he asked softly.

"See how the stalks move forward a bit and then part?" Cedwyn nodded. "Well, the forward movement of the stalks is the rabbit testing out the goodness of the food. And then where the grasses part—that is—when the rabbit stops and starts feeding," Guinevere said, her pride in her knowledge showing. "Hand me an arrow." She held out her hand as Cedwyn pulled an arrow from the small leather quiver on his back.

Very carefully, her heart pounding, Guinevere nocked the arrow and steadily drew the bow string back. Taking a deep breath to steady her arms, she let the arrow loose. She watched the spin of the feathers as the arrow sped to its target.

Suddenly a horrendous cry filled the air. Guinevere and Cedwyn jumped into each other's arms. Then they knelt down on the ground and covered their ears as the shrill cry continued to make their ears ring.

"Wh...what is that?" Cedwyn whispered.

Guinevere shook her head in reply.

Then they heard a different sound. Something was crashing through the grasses and thickets. Slowly they inched their way up to peek above the grass. There, crashing and charging around the thickets, was the biggest wild boar they had ever seen.

Cedwyn looked at Guinevere. "Ain't that your arrow sticking in its side?"

She nodded, almost appearing disinterested, but really in shock that she had hit anything. For a few moments, they watched as the boar first ran in one direction and then another in what appeared to be a crazed pattern. But Guinevere recognized the pattern: the boar was searching for its hunters.

"Come on," she said, grabbing his hand. "We have to get out of here now!"

"Why?"

But then Cedwyn had his answer. The boar roared in anger. The ground trembled under their feet. Both he and Guinevere turned in the direction of the noise. The boar spotted them and barreled straight for them. It had found the culprits responsible for the arrow in its side.

"Run!" Guinevere said, no longer quiet.

Cedwyn needed no further urging. He took off with Guinevere close behind him. The thunderous crashing of the boar through the grasses and scrub brush vibrated through every part of their bodies.

Guinevere chanced a look behind her and realized that the boar was gaining on them. She glanced around. There off to the right was a tree that Cedwyn could climb to get up out of danger. He was the slower of them although they were each running faster than they ever had before. At the same time that Guinevere reached for Cedwyn's shoulder, she heard a thud, and her hand closed around nothing. Cedwyn cried out as he hit the ground after tripping over a root.

She reached down to help him up, but his foot was stuck solid. Seeing the boar thunder closer, Guinevere looked around. If she made enough noise, she could get the boar to follow her into the edge of the forest. That would give Cedwyn time to get loose and up the tree.

"I'll lead the boar into the forest. Get yourself free and then head for that tree." Cedwyn looked in the direction Guinevere pointed. "Get up in it as far as you can go and hang on until I let you know it’s safe to come down. All right?"

Cedwyn nodded, his blue eyes wide with fear.

"Stay down and be still until you hear from me. Then be quick!"

He nodded again.

Guinevere jumped up and shouted, "Halloo boar! Here I am. Come and get me!" She waved her arms, diverting the boar's attention to her. Once spotted, she turned and ran, stopping only to see if the boar was following. One look told her it was, and, if possible, it was coming faster. "Cedwyn! Now!" Guinevere shouted, and then she ran for the safety of the trees.

Behind her, the boar charged blindly toward her. Thundering through the grasses and scrub brush, it focused only on reaching the creature responsible for its pain. Behind them, Cedwyn frantically dug and pulled on the root to free his foot.

"Guin’ver! I can't get my foot loose!"

"You have to! Try harder! Pull harder!"

Cedwyn dug and pulled some more until he felt his foot start to loosen. When he finally pulled free, he stood up and looked around. He spotted the boar in the distance still charging after Guinevere. With the boar heading toward the forest, Cedwyn ran for the tree. Grabbing branches, he pulled himself up until he was too high for the boar to reach.

"I'm in the tree!" Cedwyn yelled. Guinevere waved her hand and continued running.

Once inside the trees, she had to stop to let her eyes adjust to the darkness. She waited, the sounds of the boar growing louder. Finally, she could just make out a faint trail running parallel to the forest edge. Off she ran down the path, her eyes looking for some place to hide so that the boar would run past her.

Up ahead she saw a pine tree. Finding the last bit of speed inside of her, she reached the tree and jumped. Her hands grasped a low branch, and she started to pull herself up.

Before she could get a good hold, the whole tree shook. Guinevere screamed and struggled to hold on. As she grabbed tighter, she realized that if the boar succeeded in shaking her down, she wouldn’t have her thirteenth Birth Day. She didn’t know which would be worse: the boar or turning thirteen.
* * * * *
BLURB for Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom:
In medieval Wales, eleven-year-old Prince Gavin, thirteen-year-old orphan Philip, and fifteen-year-old blacksmith's apprentice Bryan are brought together in friendship by one they callthe Wild Man. When an advisor to the king is killed and a jewelled medallion is stolen from the king’s treasury, the Wild Man is accused of the theft and murder.

Filled with disbelief at the arrest of the Wild Man, the three friends embark upon a knight’s quest to save their friend’s life. To succeed, the three must confront their fears and insecurities, and one of them will have to disclose the biggest secret of all.

Join Gavin, Philip, and Bryan on their quest and share the adventures that await them in the land of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

EXCERPT:
Gavin bounded down the keep steps, eager to discover the cause of the cacophony echoing through the tower. The snorting and whinnying of horses competed with the voices of knights calling to each other across the courtyard. He stuffed his green tunic into his black breeches as he ran. In too much of a hurry to comb his hair, Gavin tried to smooth the brown cowlick with his fingers.

As the youngest prince of Pembroke Castle, Gavin dutifully attended his daily lessons. As a page, he was learning to handle a sword in battle and take care of the weapons, equipment, and horses of the knights. Soon to be a squire, he worried about how he would act in battle. Well, not exactly in battle. Squires tended the knights’ horses and guarded the supplies while they fought. The unspoken rule of warfare stated that squires couldn’t be put in danger. However, others in the castle had talked about the times the enemy had sent warriors behind the fighting to attack the supply line. Squires who hadn’t run away had been injured or killed.

Gavin worried about disgracing his family and the crown, worried that he would be scared enough to run or worse, get injured or killed.

The simple truth was, he was afraid.

Burying those thoughts, Gavin burst into the bailey courtyard amassed with horses and knights milling about. Dust swirled, choking the air, causing him to cough and sneeze. He recognized his older brother Robert across the chaotic courtyard and raised his hand in salute. Robert led his black gelding over and handed Gavin the reins.

"Hi, Gav." Robert tousled Gavin’s hair.

"What’s happening? Where are you going?"

"Someone broke into the throne room last night and stole the King’s Ransom..."

Gavin gasped. The medallion was made of gold and embedded with emeralds so dark the jewels looked black except in the sunlight. Then the deep green sparkled lighter and reminded him of the first blades of grass pushing up through the dark earth in the spring. The tremendous weight of the medallion required him to use both hands when holding it.

Stories passed down said that a traitor over the channel had used it to force a king to ransom his kingdom. To be in possession of it meant to be in possession of power. Many men wanted that power. Gavin’s grandfather’s grandfather had found it as a young man during the siege of a French castle. Though only seventeen, that prince had recognized its importance and had risked his life to bring it home. To protect his find, he’d spent the night in a storeroom listening to the screams of the defeated forces and the drunken laughter of the victors. He’d presented it to his father, and it had been in the possession of the King of Pembroke Castle ever since.

"...and killed one of our men," Robert finished, breaking into his thoughts.

"Who?"

"Aldred."

An image of the thin, wiry man appeared in Gavin’s mind. It wasn’t pleasant. Aldred had managed the estate and castle’s daily needs and also watched over the treasury. That meant that he frequented the throne room. Invariably he was with the king when Gavin needed to talk to his father. It bothered him that Aldred shared the private conversations he had with his father, always made him feel unimportant. But his father would be upset at his death.

"As soon as Father gets here, we’re going hunting. Man-hunting."

"Might I go along as your squire?" Gavin asked.

Robert seemed to see the hesitation Gavin knew was etched on his face. "Not this time, Gav. You’ll get your chance to join us soon enough. And Gavin..." Robert paused. His body stiffened as he spotted the king making his way through the crowd on his black stallion. "You’ll do well."

He mounted his horse and held out a hand. Gavin handed him the reins and watched as Robert joined their father, King Wallace.

"You know your father’s rule," a soft voice behind Gavin said.

Gavin glanced up at the tall, slender figure now standing beside him. Most days, Queen Katherine didn’t look old enough to be his mother. But today, the sadness of Aldred’s death had left its mark. He had learned that events that affected his father had the same effect on his mother. Her green eyes, which usually sparkled with laughter, held traces of tears. A frown replaced her usual bright smile as she watched her husband and two oldest sons prepare to leave.

Gavin was startled to see the grey streaks running through her brown hair. He hadn’t noticed that she was getting older.

"You’ll be twelve in a few days. Then you’ll be made Robert’s squire. It’s tradition, and your father is firm on tradition. You must wait until then." She put her arm around Gavin and squeezed his shoulders.

Gavin nodded. Together they watched through the dust as the troop of knights, with the king at their head, rode through the gate, out across the moat, and into the forest.

As much as he longed to be with them, he couldn’t forget his fears.
* * * * *

About Cheryl Carpinello:
I have taught high school English for nearly twenty years. My husband and I are both Colorado natives. We have two children, a boy and a girl, who happened to get engaged in the same summer and then both got married the following summer. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I even used to find the books my parents would get me for Christmas and read a few pages before my parents wrapped them. While I wrote some when I was young, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I actually started to write stories.
* * * * *
Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend / Available from

Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom / Available from

24 comments:

  1. I'm glad to see young readers getting a great exposure to history through your books and especially this timeless story. Good luck!

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    1. Miriam, I agree. We need to nurture young readers, and Cheryl is grabbing the bull by the horns, more power to her. Her books sound great for older readers too!

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  2. I think there's always an eternal fascination with King Arthur and his knights. Lord knows, I've always had one. A perfect combination of perfection and imperfection, reality and fantasy, ideals and reality -- wonderful for all readers but especially for the young.

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    1. Hi Gail. Thanks for stopping by. I am fascinated with the draw of Arthurian legend on the human spirit.
      Cheryl

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    2. Gail, King Arthur is a classic for a reason. Cheryl picked a winner to engage young readers.

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  3. Thanks for stopping by Miriam. I've been excited by the response of kids to the stories.

    Cheryl

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  4. Wow, Cheryl - your books sound great. I also write for the MG/tween and I also worked in the school system. Those kids do tend to get under your skin! I wish you much success with your books.

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    1. Penny, writers like you and Cheryl do so much to capture the imaginations of young readers, a miracle in this age of the internet and computer games. Keep writing!

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  5. Thanks, Penny. I've seen a couple of your books. They look fascinating!

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  6. I like this blog. I'm now a follower.

    Hi Cheryl! I like writing MG and tween. Both of your books sound really interesting. I'm going to add them to my TBR book list.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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  7. Thanks, Susanne. We need to get together to share reviews, etc. And you're right. Pat produces a great blog!

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  8. Great blog Pat...It's always a pleasure dropping in. Cheryl this is the sort of book I loved to read as a child. Grew up on mediaeval adventure. I look forward to reading these. Congratulations.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Rosalie. Don't you wish Cheryl was writing when we were kids?

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  9. Thanks, Rosalie. I love these also, maybe even more now.

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  10. Wonderful post, very intriguing. I'm looking forward to reading The King's Ransom. The Arthurian legend is fascinating and this sounds like a great twist on the tale.

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    1. Conda, I agree, the books are very intriguing. I too look forward to reading them.

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  11. Hi Conda, Can't wait to hear what you think of The King's Ransom. Thanks for stopping by.
    Cheryl

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  12. Cheryl, I've thoroughly enjoyed your post and its blurbs and excerpt. What a wonderful introduction to the old tales for today's kids! As the Irish say, a bed in heaven to you, ma'am :-)

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  13. It's so much fun to escape to the days of King Arthur. This sounds like a fascinating story for young and old. Best wishes on your new release.

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  14. Sounds like some good stories!

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  15. Thank you JQ and Cheryl. Appreciate you stopping by and acquainting yourselves with my stories.

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  16. Pat, Thank you so much for hosting me. I enjoyed it.

    Also, I love Irish saying!

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  17. Congratulations to Miriam Newman, winner of a paperback copy of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, and to Cheryl, who has won an e-copy of Young Knights of the Round Table: The King's Ransom. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to support Cheryl Carpinello and her inspiring work.

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