15 Years of Guinevere

15th anniversary Guinevere

Warrior

Today is a very special day for me. It’s the 15th anniversary of when I wrote the first words to the Guinevere trilogy.  It’s interesting to me that in the 57 million revisions it’s gone through since then (including at least one almost total rewrite and several partial rewrites), the opening line and most of the prologue haven’t changed. I think that’s because when Guinevere came to me, she told me exactly how the series was to be set up, in words that resonate with meaning even over time.

I’m planning to recount the tale of how the book came to be in the author’s notes of the first novel, but wanted to share it with you here first. (Chances are good this is a longer version than what will end up in the notes, anyway.)

Guinevere came into my head in September 1999, when I was a junior in college. I had read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon the winter before and, really disliking her portrayal of Guinevere, sought out other books that portrayed her as a main character. I read Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which deals with her life after Arthur’s death. Though I didn’t think this storyline probable, it got me wondering happened to Guinevere before and after her life with Arthur – usually you only read about the stuff in between.

Priestess

Priestess

I can still remember the moment Guinevere first took up residence in my head. I was sitting in a quiet stone walkway on an otherwise unremarkable morning of the fall semester when she told me she had a story to tell, one different from anything anyone else has said. It was in that moment we struck a bargain and I decided to write my own version. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. This never really was my story; it’s always been Guinevere’s. She’s been calling the shots from the very first word.

Her basic command was this: Her reputation has been ruined by generations of storytellers who have reduced her to a wanton temptress, taking away her agency as a woman and a queen. My duty was to restore her to her former glory. (No pressure.) But it’s a challenge I happily accepted.

I thought it was only going to be one book. I outlined it that way, with three parts. But by the time I got to the end of the first “part,” I realized it was as long as an average novel. That was my wakeup call – the moment I realized this could be something real, something more than a hobby. I started researching publishing, querying, and started this blog. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lover

Lover

So many years later, with two of the books finished (at least until an editor gets a hold of them) and the third with a solid first draft complete, it’s hard to believe it all started out so simply. I guess most dreams do.

While I still can’t share the book with you, I can promise that you will see it eventually. It may be later than we all desire, and may come about in a way that no one expects, but it will happen. All I ask is that you hang in there with me, or should I say, us. Guinevere is still here and she’s just as adamant that her story be told today as she was 15 years ago. It’s a story the world needs to hear.

What are you most interested in reading about when the Guinevere books finally are published? 

Finding Hope in Tragedy

Nicole Evelina:

My September posting at Spellbound Scribes.

Originally posted on Spellbound Scribes:

Image used with permission (as given on site) from http://robwebster.net/2011/08/15/9-11resources/

Image used with permission (as given on site) from http://robwebster.net/2011/08/15/9-11resources/

Normally I try to avoid 9/11 coverage like the plague because I simply don’t want to be reminded of that dark day in our country’s history. But this year, an incredible book called A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner has made me finally face my feelings about what happened 13 years ago. I’m not finished reading it yet, but this tale of two women – separated by a century, yet bound together by loss (one on 9/11) and a mysterious marigold scarf – is teaching me that hope can come even from the bleakest of tragedies, that new beginnings can spring from death.

I was fortunate to not be directly or in any way closely affected by the events of that day. I don’t know anyone who was there or who lost someone. I can’t begin to imagine what…

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Researching Historical Fiction: Dark Ages vs. Victorian America

I’m in the middle of Mount Researchmore again (this time for a histfic I hope to have ready to sell by spring). This is my first one that’s near to modern history (set in the mid-late 1800s in the U.S.) and I’m noticing what a different experience it is to be researching history that would have been in living memory of my great-grandmother (too bad I didn’t know her).

I got my start researching British Celtic history and myth around the years 400-550 AD for my Guinevere series. There really isn’t a lot of history for that time. We have some archaeological evidence, a few written records that may or may not be accurate, and mythology to rely on. That’s about it. The rest of my research came from traditional sources of Arthurian legend and modern theories, which no matter how good they are, are at their best still educated guesses. Which is all a fancy way of saying I had to make up a lot.

Contrast that with the new book I’m researching, for which I have a biography (fanciful as it is) written during the main character’s life, a biography (vengeful as it is) written after her death by a woman with a grudge and around eight or so modern biographies. Plus, this woman was a sensation for her time, so there are countless newspaper clippings, records of trials she was involved in, plus her own writings and speeches. So there is no dearth of material here. I’m just shocked that she’s been all but written out of the history books (the reasons for that are interesting and I intend to talk about them here once I can reveal who I’m writing about.)

Writers have an instinctual connection to our characters; we somehow know them – their motivations, their tendencies, their proclivities –  as soon as they become real for us. (Maybe it’s because they live in our heads and become part of us.) But to get to know a character through her own words is an incredible thing, so much more satisfying, both for me as a writer, and I strongly believe, for her as a person who wishes to have her story told. (I’m a big believer that characters chose their writers.) Getting to add to that the perceptions of those who knew her and those who tried to sensationalize or vilify her brings her to life all the more. Plus, this time there are actual photos of all the people involved. (Yes, I’m still playing casting director and matching actors to the actual people.) In many ways, this feels more like I’m really bringing history to life, even though my Celtic stories are just as much history as this tale of Victorian America.

So far I feel like this book is almost plotting itself as her life was crazier than any soap opera I could create.In fact, I could easily write a trilogy on her, but I’m choosing to focus on the apex of her career, leaving her early days as back story and her later life to those who want to research it. As I’m researching, I’m thinking “yes, that’s a definite scene” or “I have to make sure to include this.” I think once I type up my notes into a sort of “bible” on her life, I’ll ready to write. That’s not to say I won’t have to use my imagination to fill in the blanks, but knowing I can use her actual words, actions and bring to life the places she really inhabited is such a gratifying feeling.

My heart is still most in ancient history (I have no idea why – maybe it’s because it feels like magic was real back then), but I can see possibly finding the more modern stuff easier to write. I’ll be curious to see how I feel once I complete my two more modern tales. (I actually have a third idea in mind, but that one may wait a bit.)

I always thought I was only going to cover ancient history, but I’m finding that modernity holds just as many mysteries, just as many heroines that may otherwise be muted by the passage of time. I’ve always seen my role as a historical fiction writer to rescue people from being lost to history by telling their stories and now I know there are many, many more centuries of endangered stories out there to tell than I previously thought. Well, I won’t be bored!

What do you prefer in your historical fiction – when the writer has to use more imagination or when events are drawn from well-documented history? Why? If you’re a history buff, what do you prefer to study, the mysterious parts of history or what is better known? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Book Giveaway Winners

giveaway-winnersThank you so much to everyone who entered and/or promoted by 35th birthday book giveaway contest. And thank you for the birthday wishes. You are all wonderful!

I used rafflecopter to pick the winners and here they are (Each of you got your first choice. I’m so glad it worked out that way!):

  • Emma (Words and Peace) won Group 5 (the second historical fiction pack)
  • Susan won Group 6 (the third historical fiction pack)
  • Lyra won Group 1 (the fantasy pack)
  • Nikola won Group 4 (the first historical fiction pack)
  • Christina won Group 3 (the chick lit/romance pack)
  • Petra won Group 2 (the mystery pack)
  • Dominka won Group 7 (the non-fiction pack)

Thank you all again for entering. I’ll be contacting you shortly about shipping. And even if you didn’t win, stay tuned because you never know when I’ll decide to give away something else. (I’ve already got another one in mind when a future book of mine comes out…)

Giving Away 35 Books for My 35th Birthday

I realized a few days ago that there are more books in my house than I have room for, thanks to my own book addiction and also to the advanced reading copies (ARCs) I get for reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

In honor of my 35th birthday today, I’m giving away 35 books. I tried to group them into logical categories, so that means seven people will win packs of five books. Here’s what you could win:

Fantasy pack

Fantasy pack

Group 1: Fantasy

  1. The Falconer by Elizabeth May
  2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Book 3 of a trilogy) by Laini Taylor (personalized to me, but autographed)
  3. Netherworld by Lisa Morton
  4. The Water Witch (Fairwick Chronicles #2) by Juliet Dark
  5. Longinus by Steven Maines (personalized to a stranger, but autographed)
Mystery pack

Mystery pack

Group 2: Mystery

  1. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austin mystery) (ARC)
  2. Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood (A Phryne Fisher mystery)
  3. The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigurd
  5. Heat Wave by Richard Castle (audio book)
Chick lit/romance pack

Chick lit/romance pack

Group 3: Chick Lit/Romance

  1. Living Single by Holly Chamberlin
  2. Once Upon a Kiss by Jayne Fresina (ARC)
  3. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. The Quilted Hearts Omnibus by Mona Hodgson
  5. Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham
Historical Fiction Pack 1

Historical Fiction Pack 1

Group 4: Historical Fiction (Group 1)

  1. Boudicca: Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott
  2. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
  3. Perfiditas by Allison Morton
  4. The Amber Treasure by Richard Denning
  5. The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
Historical Fiction Pack 2

Historical Fiction Pack 2

Group 5: Historical Fiction (Group 2)

  1. Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George
  2. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George
  3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  4. Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
  5. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
Historical Fiction Pack 3

Historical Fiction Pack 3

Group 6: Historical Fiction (Group 3)

  1. The Virgin’s Lover by Phillippa Gregory
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  3. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
  4. The King’s Daughter by Barbra Kyle
  5. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Non-fiction Pack

Non-fiction Pack

Group 7: Non-Fiction

  1. The Druids by Ronald Hutton
  2. The Mysteries of Avalon by August Hunt
  3. The Celts by Jean Markale
  4. Christianity and Paganism in the 4th – 8th Centuries by Ramsey MacMullen
  5. The Rise of Western Christendom by Peter Brown

Some of these books are brand new, some are gently used only by me, and some came from book fairs but are in good condition. All you have to do to win one group is complete the Rafflecopter link. (You’ll tell me your order of preference of the groups in the comments below, but you have to use the Rafflecopter for your entry to count.) There are more ways to get additional entries there, too. I’m keeping the contest open for a week, so you have plenty of time to enter. I’ll announce winners here sometime after September 3. Good luck!

PS – My goal is to be able to give away my own books next year!

Click here to enter Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

save the dateIf you’re looking for a great end-of-summer read, I’ve got one for you. Mary Kay Andrews’ novel Save the Date is light, fun and downright infectious. (I LOVED this book!)

Florist Cara Kryzik is trying to keep her business afloat while recovering from a painful divorce and helping nervous brides have the most beautiful big day possible. She doesn’t believe in love anymore, but that doesn’t mean her clients shouldn’t have their happily ever after. While the bills and IOUs (especially to the bank of daddy) pile up, she finds out she’s got celebrity-grade competition for a wedding that could make or break her, on top of a complicated blooming romance with Jack Finnerty, a guy she met in soap-opera like circumstances. But when both of their exs return and the bride of the golden wedding goes missing, Kara realizes she may have to sacrifice everything she holds dear to pull things together.

Save the Date is definitely going on my Best Books of 2014 list. It doesn’t take long for the characters to feel like friends, or to become addicted to finding out what happens next. While some of the conflict is a bit contrived (but show me a love story that doesn’t have some of that), the relationship between the characters and the spot on southern wit make even those pages a pleasure to read. Plus, Andrews’ lush detail actually had me wishing I could open up my own little floral shop, and I don’t know the first thing about horticulture! It’s a fun world to get lost in, and that’s all I require of light women’s fiction.

I’m usually a historical fiction or fantasy reader, but I picked up this one (on audio) because I thought I’d read about it somewhere and my library had it available. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. In tone, it reminds me a lot of my own book, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Neither book will change the world, but they are both happy, funny and charming. And sometimes, especially amid life’s craziness, that’s exactly what we need.

Does anyone have any recommendations similar to this book? I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the author’s books, but I’d love to find more authors like her. Please let me know your favorite light women’s fiction, chick-lit or romance (not too graphic, please) books below.

Pinterest, Pandora and Inspiration

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

I had the good fortune to attend Deb Harkness’ book signing last week at my local library. During her Q&A session, someone asked who she pictured as the main characters. She gave a very PR-positive answer that she drew bits and pieces from different people and wouldn’t reveal who they were until such time as one or more of the component people are cast. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want any actor have to face the “but Deb said she envisioned so and so” question.

I get that and I totally respect that. I think Deb is doing the exact right thing. The only thing is, I don’t function that way. As many of you know, I tend to write my characters with a certain actor or actress in mind because it helps me envision the specifics of vocal inflection, facial expression or gestures. These things in turn, help me craft more layered, realistic characters. I can certainly write a character without an actor in mind (I was in book 3 of the Guinevere trilogy before I finally found a Guinevere), but when I do find that right person, there’s a special little extra “click” in my brain. It’s hard to explain.

I know not everyone works this way. And I certainly want my readers to envision the characters however they like. The people I “cast” are just the inspiration; sometimes it’s the way they look or a certain quality to their acting that I’ve seen that helps me unlock or convey a quality of a character. That they helped me in no way means that they are the only person who could ever play the role. But I also don’t think I can be cagey about who inspires the characters. Heck, I have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to my characters, so it’s not something I try to hide.

My point is that I don’t know how well I would write without Pinterest or Pandora for inspiration. On Pinterest I have boards for books I’ve written, am writing and have yet to truly conceive beyond the most basic notion. Some are secret if they would make the topic too obvious, but most are public because I believe we draw inspiration from one another. For example, some of my favorite bits of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, were inspired by objects or quotes I found on Pinterest. Annabeth’s boyfriend, Victor, came to life thanks to a photo of a model whose identity I still don’t know.  I never know where I will find inspiration, and truly look forward to a daily trolling of the boards, just waiting for something to tug at my subconscious and say “Hey, I’m going to be important.”

As I write this, I’m listening to a station I created on Pandora while I was writing He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Because I listen to audio books in the car, I very rarely listen to the radio. That means Pandora is my way of being exposed to new music, whether it’s at home while I’m writing or at work. While I was cleaning out the freezer earlier (I lead such a glamorous life), it served up a song I’ve never heard before that is perfect for the wedding scene if when HLMHMN gets a sequel (it’s a standalone, but I have ideas for two possible sequels). Then a few minutes later, it handed me “Glitter in the Air” by Pink, which is totally perfect for Annabeth’s POV where the next book would start. Some of my favorite scenes from the first book were inspired by or complemented by music that Pandora gave me.

I really don’t know what I would do without these two resources. Obviously, I have an imagination and I use it, but getting the little nudges from the muse through electronic means is something unique to this period in history and I intend to use them to the fullest. As a reader, I know I love being able to see what an author was imagining/listening to when he or she wrote a book. Even if it doesn’t match what I envisioned, it gives me an insight to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have. And that’s my goal in being candid about my visual and musical picks with all of you. If I someday am advised to change that, I guess I’ll do what I have to, but until then, you have an all-access pass into my creative brain, which I hope you enjoy and I hope it makes you all the more excited for the day the books are released.

What do you think about authors sharing their inspirations online? Do you want to know who they cast as characters or do you prefer to make your own choices? What about playlists – do you find them interesting or helpful? What else would you like to know about my books? I’m open to any suggestions you have for seeing into my world (although I can’t usually share excerpts).