Escape from the Past: The Duke's Wrath
by Annette Oppenlander
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel
Release Date: July 31st 2015
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he's sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn't realize that 1) He's been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player. 2) He’s playing the ultimate history game, transporting him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 hornets' nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
I leaned forward because all of a sudden my chest was killing me. I was stuck in a truck-sized vise, my ribs squeezing together, body compressing. My lungs throbbed and I couldn’t breathe, not even a little. My arms and legs felt numb. Do something, I thought. I pushed myself to stand. Something is wrong with the game, stop the game, my mind urged. But I couldn’t. Lights exploded behind my eyelids and I had to pay every shred of attention to the task of breathing.
It occurred to me that I was having a heart attack.
My mother’s face flashed by. I wanted to shout for her, but my lungs had quit for good, my tongue a rigid piece of meat. She’d find me in the morning dead on the carpet. My sight turned foggy then black. I was passing out. I sucked frantically and drew in a bit of air. Slowly with each breath the crushing
heaviness disappeared. Blinking away the haze, I wiped my sweaty forehead. I should make an appointment with the family doctor.
Something moved ahead. There at the edge of a clearing cowered the man in rags holding his right elbow. He trembled and now that I was closer, I saw blood dripping from his wrist.
The three riders had surrounded him, their blades pointing toward the man’s neck. One rider dismounted, his face shadowed by a half helmet and curled brownish beard, his hands covered by steel gauntlets like lizard scales. The other two sat motionless, waiting. I tried to get a better view of what the horsemen were doing when I looked down.
I stood on the root of an oak tree. Surely I imagined things.
But those were definitely my Nikes I’d forgotten to take off when I returned home. I moved my foot. Leaves crackled. A twig snapped. Something terrible had happened, something I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I blinked and looked to my right. Trees and undergrowth were losing themselves in the gloom. I remembered the mouse in my right hand, but when I lifted my arm, my fingers came up empty—except for the smear of something sticky on my palm. I was bleeding.
The bush next to me was covered in blood. Not mine, I realized with relief. Disgusted I wiped my shaking hands with a fistful of leaves and turned to look behind me. The woods stretched into darkness—shadows within shadows nearly black.
My room was gone.
Escape from the past: The Kid (Escape from the Past #2)
by Annette Oppenlander
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel
Release Date: February 26th 2016
Time-traveling gamer, Max, embarks on a harrowing journey through the Wild West of 1881! After a huge fight with his parents, Max tries to return to his love and his best friend, Bero, in medieval Germany. Instead he lands in 1881 New Mexico. Struggling to get his bearings and coming to terms with Dr. Stuler s evil computer game misleading him, he runs into Billy the Kid. To his amazement Billy isn t at all the ruthless killer history made him out to be. Trouble brews when a dying Warm Springs Apache gives Max a huge gold nugget to help his sister, Ela, escape from Fort Sumner. Shopping for supplies Max attracts the attention of ruthless bandits. Before Max can ask the Kid s help, he and Ela are forced to embark on a journey to find his imaginary goldmine. This is book 2 in the Escape from the Past trilogy."
The voice was deep and cold as the wind. Something hard and unyielding dug into my back. Maybe it was one of Werner’s men or had I run into Schwarzburg’s guards? But something felt wrong, something I couldn’t put my finger on.
Before I knew what to do, the ground shifted as several shadows rose around me.
“Wade, what is it?”
“Found us an intruder,” Wade said. “Showed up like a stray coyote.” For emphasis he shoved at my ribs. I suppressed a yelp as the pain spread to my stomach.
“You sleeping, Wade? Let someone walk in here like that.”
This voice was scratchy as a cheese grater with an Irish-sounding twang. A sudden light stung my eyes. One of the shadows had lit a match not five inches from my nose.
“Look at that. What is that?” the man with the Irish voice said.
“It’s a kid.”
I caught a glimpse of a reddish beard, a grimy bandana on the neck below and a leather vest. Definitely not Duke Schwarzburg or Werner. Wait a minute.
I gulped as new panic sucked away my air and turned my stomach. Though they spoke a weird dialect, these men spoke English. I understood them clearly.
I was nowhere near Hanstein.
I shook my head. It had to be the game. I’d been able to communicate with Bero and Juliana even though they spoke some kind of medieval German. What if they were speaking some other language entirely and it was all an illusion? What had Jimmy’s father done?
Escape from the Past: At Witches' End (Escape from the Past #3)
by Annette Oppenlander
Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Time-Travel, Action/Adventure
Release Date: November 25th 2016
When Max learns that Karl helped spring him from Schwarzburg’s dungeon during the first game, he feels obligated to return the favor. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but supposedly Max is the one who rescued Karl from Hanstein in 1473 and helped him return home.
With Karl’s programming help Max reluctantly agrees to enter the game a third time. At least he can visit his old friends and get cozy with Juliana while he’s at it. But two years is a long time in the Middle Ages. Something foul is in the air. Lord Werner is mysteriously absent and the new guards refuse Max entrance. Even Bero’s mother is terrified to see him. With no place to stay, Max soon finds himself on the run from Schwarzburg who hasn’t forgotten Max’s miraculous escape two years earlier.
When at last Max finagles a way into the castle, Bero is less than pleased to see him, Lady Clara is near death and Juliana is not meeting his eyes. Can Max sway his friends, help Karl and stay out of Schwarzburg’s clutches? And will he ultimately stop Dr. Stuler’s evil computer game?
This is the final book in the Escape from the Past trilogy.
I stepped to the door and knocked. Nothing. I knocked again.
Something stirred inside.
“It’s Max Nerds,” I said. It felt good to use my old name.
“Go away,” the voice said. That had to be Bero’s mother, but she sounded tired and very old.
“Please open the door. I’ve got some questions.”
“I’ll sit on your doorstep until you speak to me.”
The sound of feet shuffling through straw drew closer and I took a step back. Then the door moved just enough to show the mother’s face. Even in the last light of the evening I saw she’d aged a decade, her hair hung in grayish clumps, the shadows under her eyes dark with fatigue. That’s how Juliana would look one day.
“You must leave at once,” the mother whispered. “It is dangerous.”
I stepped closer. “What happened?”
The mother shook her head. “Leave before you bring us misfortune.”
“Can’t I come in for a minute?”
“Nay!” Surprisingly quickly the broad-shouldered woman stepped outside and scanned the path. I followed her gaze, but didn’t notice anything. The light was almost completely gone,
but I knew that the people of the Middle Ages saw much better in the dark.
“Please go,” the mother repeated.
“Tell me what happened here. The village…”
“Shh,” the mother said. “You hear that?”
“Someone is coming.” As quickly as she’d stepped outside, she disappeared and closed the door behind her. A chain rattled. Last time there hadn’t been one.
Then I froze.
From the direction of the Klausenhof, horses galloped my way. I snuck around the side of the shack toward the outhouse, climbed across the rickety fence and dropped to my knees. The pounding of hooves drew near, stopping in front of Bero’s hut.
“He was here a moment ago,” a voice said.
“Check the Haus,” another voice commanded. There was something cruel and cold about it that made me shiver. Deep down in the recesses of my mind it sounded familiar. I bent lower.
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for young adults and anyone who loves stories set in the past. 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."
In 2012 I visited the ruins of Castle Hanstein in Thuringia, Germany. It’s an amazing place high up on a mountaintop with breathtaking views of the valleys. As I walked through the old torn buildings the voices in my head began to chatter. I know how that sounds, but it was this conviction that I had to write about the castle.
Inside one of the rooms I read about a famous knight who’d lived there in the late 15th century and feuded with a duke over a beautiful woman. At the time I was often annoyed by my boys who are avid gamers and don’t mind spending all night in front of their computers. Somehow putting a gamer into the story made sense.
As soon as I returned to the U.S. I began to research the Hanstein family. Luckily I came across a thick tomb about the family annals that included Werner von Hanstein, family trees and annotations from city journals. That was the beginning of Max’s adventure into the past.