Arthurian Non-Fiction

Publication date: November 21, 2017

Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level.

Formats: ebook, paperback,
Publisher: Lawson Gartner publishing
ISBN: 

  • 978-0-9967632-2-6 (print)
  • 978-0-9967632-3-3 (ebook)
Advertisements

Indie Author Day 2017 Speech

Once again this year, I was invited by a local library to speak on Indie Author Day. I was asked to speak about self-publishing and I wanted to share my speech here since not everyone was able to attend. Hope you enjoy.

I always thought I would be a traditionally published author. I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on self-publishing. I thought it was only for people who couldn’t make it with the big publishers in New York and was, therefore, inferior. Unfortunately, that’s a stigma that remains today. I said I would never do it. I’ve learned never to say never because I will end up doing exactly that. (I also said I would never blog and I’ve been doing that for six years now.)

Who Am I and Why Should You Listen to Me?

I’ll give you a short version of my history as a writer so that you can see how I came to have such an about-face of opinion. I started taking my writing seriously in 2008. Once I figured out that if you wanted to be published traditionally you had to get an agent, I started querying them. It took me two years and nearly 40 rejections to get my agent. I was with her for about two years. She was great at first and Daughter of Destiny did well on submission – it went to acquisitions three times at major houses – but no one made an offer, either because I was new or they didn’t know how to market Arthurian legend. Around the time my second book went on submission, my agent basically stopped doing her job for all her clients. When she wasn’t receptive to my suggestions for a better working relationship, I left her because I could see she wasn’t long for the industry. Not long after I began querying other agents, she stopped being an agent. I had a lot of interest in my next book, Madame Presidentess, but no offers. I wanted to have it published before the 2016 election, so there was a limited amount of time for me get representation because traditional publishing takes so long. At the same time – this was summer of 2015 – the industry was changing and I was beginning to see more indie success stories, both among my author friends and in the press, so I started opening my mind and investigating. In August of that year – on my birthday – I decided I would give it a go since most of my books had already been shopped, at least somewhat, so I had nothing to lose.

The Traditional Punishing Industry Today

Sadly, I’m not alone in getting SO close to traditional deal and then deciding I’d be better off doing it myself. That’s the thing: because publishers no longer want to nurture careers – they are only interested in the next best seller or at least what they think will be the next big thing – they are taking fewer and fewer risks with new authors or unusual subject matter (or in the case of historical fiction, time periods and places that don’t have a long history of strong sales). And because of that, agents have to be more selective in who they choose to represent, so it is getting harder and harder to break into traditional publishing if you’re not already a household name in some other way, like being a reality or Youtube star.

But despite this, there are still many valid reasons to try to break in. There is a greater chance of fame and riches with a traditional house, and foreign rights, movie deals, and other subsidiary rights are easier to exploit. Then there is the advance, where someone pays you for your writing, rather than you paying the cost of publishing, which is a clear financial advantage. Plus, there is validation in having a major publisher say your work is worthy, and there’s a lingering cache to being able to say you’re traditionally published. Some authors have no desire to be marketers and business people – all the additional things that come along with being an indie author. For those who want to just focus on writing, traditional publishing is likely the right path

However, there are disadvantages to being traditionally published as well. For one, you as the author have little to no control. Some houses will edit your book with an agenda in mind and even though it’s your story, you’ll have to change it how they want if you want it published. Most authors, with the exception of the really successful ones, also have no control over their book cover and varying degrees of control over the back cover copy, so they may or may not actually reflect the book inside. Traditional publishing is notoriously slow, and that limits the number of books traditionally published authors can publish. This is why many use pen names, so they can publish more books faster. In addition, royalty rates are very low, around 10%-12% and it is hard to earn out an advance. Finally, an author under contract at a traditional house faces constant instability and uncertainty. If your books don’t sell enough, your editor leaves, or the imprint goes in a different direction, you can be dropped. Lines and imprints can close. A friend of mine had that happen and lost three book deals in one day. And contracts can be canceled as well.

The Independent Publishing Industry Today

On the other hand, being an indie author brings with it great stability and control. You won’t drop you or cancel your contract. You can publish what you want, as fast as you want, without worrying about having to wait or change your name. For example, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in the traditional publishing realm because I like to tell the stories of unknown women. Traditional publishers want marquee names. I also love Dark Age history, but traditional publishing only wants post-1066 time periods, unless its Greek or Roman, an concentrates most heavily on Tudor, Regency and WWI and WWII periods. Being my own boss allows me to publish where my heart is, rather than writing to trends that seem arbitrary. This is very important because the love and passion you have for a project shows up in your writing, as does the lack thereof. Publishing myself also allows me to ensure the book cover, back cover copy and all other details are exactly as I envision them and actually relate to the book. In addition, our royalty rates are often much higher than those in traditional contracts, up to 70%-90%. There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious is that we don’t have to pay a publisher and agent first.

But there are down sides to self publishing as well, and it’s best to go into it with your eyes wide open. Just as with traditional publishing, unless you are one of the few lucky flukes out there, you aren’t likely to get rich. The financial outlay is one of the biggest deterrents to self publishing. If you do it right, it will be a significant investment. I, for one, have yet to make a profit and I’ve been doing this for two years with modest sales. However, if you view that up-front cost as an investment in your company and your future – just as if you were opening a bakery or a flower shop – it is more bearable.

The other big downside is lack of visibility. Without a major publishing house behind you, it is very, very hard to stand out from the crowd. According to The Book Industry Study Group (BISG),  more than 4 million books are published each year, 2.8 million of which are in English. That’s a LOT of competition. But, there’s nothing saying that if you were traditionally published you wouldn’t have to face the same situation. Unless your book is one the house anticipates being a big hit of the season – one of maybe 10 out of the hundreds of books published each quarter – you will have to do most of your own marketing. There is a general rule among traditionally published authors that a writer should save a percentage of their advance, anywhere from 10% to 90% depending on how much they got, for marketing. The bottom line is that no matter how you’re published, your book won’t be a success unless you work hard to make it so.

What Indie Authors Can Do to Be a Success

But the good news is, there are many things  authors can do to become a success, and indie authors have even more control than their traditional counterparts. One of the biggest advantages we have is that we control the price of our books. That means we can set the price based on what our competitors are selling for, can price adjust if we see the marketing changing or sales are slow, and we can have sales anytime we want – all without asking for permission and fighting a bureaucracy. This gives us tremendous power in the marketplace. We can also sell and market however we see fit, without having to worry about possible conflicts or contract restraints. Blog tours, guest blogs, articles, advertisements, social media, public appearances are all completely within our control. It is up to us how big or small we take things.

I have five requests for anyone thinking of becoming an indie author  – things that, if everyone who self-published did them the stigma associated with our manner of publishing would dry up very quickly.

  • Have your work professionally edited – no matter who you are, even if you are an editor by day or know someone who is really good at it, you need a fresh set of eyes to evaluate your work. There are inconsistencies, dropped plot lines, missing characters and spelling and grammar errors that you are too close to your work to see. The goal of indie authors should be to produce books that are indistinguishable from traditionally published works.
  • Use a professional cover designer – We like to use the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but we all do it. Studies show that you have 10 seconds to capture a reader with your cover and book description. If a book cover appears homemade, we will judge the contents as inferior. That is the last thing that any author wants. Many people skimp here because they want to save money, but this is a mistake. Keep in mind that just because you or your child or grandchild or neighbor have some Photoshop skills does not mean you know how to effectively design a book cover. There is a science and entire hidden language to book covers that professionals know and that avid readers perceive. The fonts, images and placement are all done very carefully. For example, in romance, the heat level of a book is indicated by the way the characters are clothed and interact, as well as the colors used. You can get an idea of the language of your genre by looking at best-selling covers in your genre for the common elements; they work for a reason.
  • If you’re aiming to become a career author, treat it like a job – There is nothing wrong with self-publishing to have a book available for family or even just your own enjoyment, but here I’m talking to those who want to make being an author their career. You’ve heard the phrase “dress for the job you want rather than the one you have.” The same goes for how you view your job as an author and how much effort you put into it. Some people are lucky enough to write full-time, whether they are retired or just don’t have to work. Many of them put in at least as many hours as those of us who work office jobs, sometimes more. But no matter what your situation is, you can be professional about it, and regardless of how much or little time you have, your number one duty as a professional author is to write. If all you have is an hour a day, or weekends or vacation days, use that time to devote to your business. That is the only way to success. The more of us who act like professionals, the higher esteem in which we will be held.
  • Join professional groups for indie authors – No one writes or markets a book alone. In that regard “self-publishing” is a misnomer. The best way to keep up with the changes in the industry, learn best practices and get your questions answered is to join groups like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). They are relatively inexpensive and incredibly valuable. Also don’t forget your genre associations and professional associations for all published authors like Novelists, Inc. and The Author’s Guild. Plus your local writer’s groups: here locally a few that accept authors of all genres include: St. Louis Author’s Guild, Missouri Writer’s Guild, and Saturday Writers.
  • Join groups like Self-e that are aiming to promote the best of the best of self published books – There are many groups out there fighting to showcase the best of indie publishing. This being Indie Author Day, I want to give a plug to our sponsors, Self-E. Library Journal, one of the most respected names in publishing, is the sponsor of this program, which  connects indie author’s books with libraries and readers. It is free to submit your book for their consideration. Right now they are actively seeking adult and young adult fiction. They are also accepting nonfiction, poetry and children’s submissions, but are still working on plans for when they will begin actively reviewing those genres. When you submit your book, it will become part of your state collection, which means it is available to libraries all over your state. If your book is selected as a Self-E Select book, which means it is one of the best of all self-published books, you will be entered into their national Self-E select catalog, and be eligible for a review in Library Journal, which is right up there with Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus in terms of industry endorsements. All of my novels are Self-E Select designated and Daughter of Destiny was reviewed positively by Library Journal. Self-E also helps you connect with your local community, which is the best way to begin building your reputation as an author. In addition, they have an annual contest to select the best indie books in certain genres. If you are a speaker, you can also join their ambassador program, whereby if you’re selected, you’ll have the opportunity to speak and sell your books at events like this.

Looking to the Future

This is both an exciting and scary time to be an author. The industry is in flux and that can be frightening, especially because no one knows what will change from one day to the next or what the future will bring. But it is also extremely exciting because we have more options than ever before, especially as indies. With success stories like The Martian, 50 Shades of Gray and authors like Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre and Hugh Howey, we have proven that indie publishers mean business and we are here to stay.

There really is nothing you can’t do as an indie author if you put your mind to it. It might take a little extra work, but why not make your dreams come true on your own terms? Audio books, illustrated companion guides, foreign translations, stage or screen adaptations, aren’t only the realm of the traditionally published anymore. And if you decide indie isn’t right for you, there’s no reason you can’t go back to the traditional route or become a hybrid author who publishes both traditionally and independently. The flexibility is part of what makes being an indie author so great.

In her novel The Light of Paris, Eleanor Brown writes that the surrealist artists of post-WWI Paris were “making space for themselves without waiting for someone to give them permission.” That is exactly what indie authors are doing now. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be an indie author and represent such a diverse and thriving community. I say with full confidence that we are the future. I hope you will join me.

Award-winning Historical Fiction, Romantic Comedy and Non-Fiction

Writing Strong Women Since 1999.

I began writing what would become the first Guinevere novel in September of 1999. That book took me over a decade to complete. The others have gone faster (Been Searching for You took only two months), but what hasn’t changed is my passion for what I do and for making sure my books are ones I would be proud to have any woman (and her daughters) read.

I started out as a historical fiction writer, and that will always be my first love, but I’ve recently branched out into contemporary romance/women’s fiction and non-fiction, too. It wasn’t a conscious choice. When a character comes to me and asks me to tell her story or an idea insists on being explored, I can’t resist.

No matter the time period or the genre, I believe in writing about strong women. They may be able to wield a sword, use magic or simply stand firm to what they believe in. History has had enough passive, docile women. It’s time for new role models to have their say.

Published Novels

Non-Fiction

 

Cover Reveal: The Once and Future Queen

The Once and Future Queen will be out in November (exact date TBD). I’m thrilled to share the cover and back page copy with you! Depending on when I know the publication date, I may or may not do pre-orders. I’ll let you know at that time.

I hope you are as excited for this book as I am!

Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon
took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Nicole Evelina has spent more than 15 years studying Arthurian legend. She is also a feminist known for her fictional portrayals of strong historical and legendary women, including Guinevere. Now, she combines these two passions to examine the effect of changing times and attitudes on the character of Guinevere in a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level.

[Guest Post] The Reincarnation of Jo March: Writing Strong Women in Historical Fiction by Steve Wiegenstein

Please welcome my special guest today, historical fiction author Steve Wiegenstein. He’s a good friend, fellow Missourian and a fun drinking partner! I love this essay. I hope you do too.

Photo credit: Kaci Smart

In an earlier post on this blog, Nicole writes about the challenges of portraying strong women in proper historical context, responding to some recent articles and speeches by Hilary Mantel and others. I’d like to echo some of her thoughts and add my own perspective.

Perhaps the greatest gift I have been given in my writing life was to have been raised by and among strong, intelligent women. My mother, aunts, grandmother, and “neighbor ladies,” (to use the regional generic) were people with clear opinions, broad knowledge, and a profound sense of right and wrong.

Only from the perspective of later life have I come to understand the obstacles they dealt with. When my mother was born, the Nineteenth Amendment was less than three years old, marital rape was still an unheard-of legal concept, and women made up only about one-fifth of the workforce. A “strong woman,” pretty much by definition, was trouble.

The farther back in history we look, the more dispiriting the story becomes. From witch-burnings to marriage laws to the simple daily grind of being seen by those in power as something less than human, the lives of women through the ages were characterized by disempowerment and oppression.

And yet . . .

As a novelist, the prospect of writing story after story about disempowerment and oppression is so dreary. So it’s understandable that writers look for that prototypical “strong female lead character” that publishers, agents, and readers prize. There are a lot of legitimate ways to do this, none of which are wrong.

We look for the exceptional women who have gained historical fame—Elizabeth I, Madame de Stael, Catherine the Great. We search out the exceptional women who deserved more fame than they received in their time, like Sophie Scholl, Mary Katharine Goddard or Nicole’s own Victoria Woodhull. Or we step into the realm of the mythical and semi-mythical, to the Amazons, Valkyries, or other women of legend.

But there’s another tack I’d recommend, and it’s the one I have chosen in my work. Rather than look among the famous or near-famous, I think there’s plenty of drama in the everyday struggle itself. When I think of great American characters, Jo March certainly comes to mind, and although she is not a character in a historical novel (the events of Little Women are nearly contemporaneous with its publication), I think she points the way for us.

What do we remember about Jo? For me, it’s her wide range of emotions, the vividness of her portrayal, and the determination with which she deals with the challenges of life as they confront her. In other words, she is a character with whom we can “relate.” Before Jo is the model of a strong female lead, she is a vibrant human being trying to find her way in a world that underestimates and sometimes thwarts her. Characters like her can be found throughout history and in our own family stories, women who strove to accomplish their goals, whether great or small. As we search for ways to bring those strong female characters into our fiction without violating the realities of history, a good place to start is in the diaries and journals, the stories and jokes, of ordinary people who are anything but ordinary.

Steve Wiegenstein’s most recent novel is THE LANGUAGE OF TREES (Blank Slate Press).

Note from Nicole: Steve’s new book came out September 26. You can order it here.

Book Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

I am SO not a math and science person, but I think The Other Einstein may well end up as my favorite book of 2017. I remember seeing it reviewed in the New York Times when it first came out, but because I don’t give a hoot about science, I didn’t read it. I was afraid it would go over my head. (There is a little science in there I didn’t understand, but it is not at all overwhelming.) Over the next year or so it kept showing up in various places and when it appeared in the “People Also Bought” section on the Amazon pages for my books, I knew I had to read it. I wanted to know what readers (and Amazon’s algorithm) thought the books have in common.

As it turns out, that was identifiable right away. Not only is it about a strong historical woman whose story really hasn’t been told, the tone or “voice” of the book strongly matched my own. That is a hard thing to qualify, so you may just have to go with me on that idea. But I was hooked immediately and knew this was going to be the tale of my kind of woman: intelligent, determined and unwilling to let anyone or anything stand in her way.

The story opens with the early education and formative family years of Mileva Maric, an unusually smart Serbian woman, for whom no marriage is expected because a deformed hip has left her with a limp. Because of this, her father sees fit to encourage her love of school and studying, especially science. He even goes so far as to move the family to help her become one of only a handful of women who study at the Zurich Polytechnic university. During her first year of study – she is the only female physics student in her section – she makes a pact with one of her female roommates that they will eschew men and embark upon a life dedicated to study and science.

As we know from the title, that’s not what happens. A charming Mr. Einstein enters her life and everything changes. After years of her fending off his advances and a prolonged courtship due to money issues, Albert promises to build a life with Mileva based in intellectual discussion, shared science and joint experiments – the very thing of which she has always dreamed.

I won’t ruin the plot by telling you what happens, but I will say this: the very same things that made Einstein charming in the beginning make him a royal asshole as the story progresses. I can’t tell you the number of times I said out loud while reading this book, “You are such a dick.” Kudos to Marie Benedict for being able to create such a complex character that I was drawn in by him, only to be betrayed right alongside Mileva.

I wish Mileva would have fought back more. That is the one thing I wish was different in this book and about her character. She was so smart, so strong in many other ways, but Albert was her weakness. There were many times when I said to her, “why are you still taking this?” (I listened to the book on audio, so it wasn’t quite as weird to talk back to the character.) I would have told him off and gotten out of the relationship at the first hint of trouble. But then again, I’m a 21st century girl (great, now I’m singing “21st Century Digital Boy” by Bad Religion) who was raised on a healthy dose of feminism and the message that I can do anything I want and not to let anyone stop me. I’m sure being a woman in Serbia in the early 1900s, raised on the idea that your role in life is to keep house and have children would have given me a totally different mindset. As an author, I know Marie Benedict was being true to the time period, but it frustrated me as a reader.

And maybe that is not a bad thing. The fact that she elicited such strong emotion from me is testament to the author’s talent. I know I will never look at a picture of Einstein again within inwardly (and maybe outwardly) grumbling. I can’t even hear/read his name without shuddering now, given that he takes great pains in the book to remind Mileva that Einstein means “one stone” and point out that when they married they became one. You’ll have to read the book to see how that gets used against her. What Albert did to Mileva is appalling and puts her squarely in the ranks of some of history’s most royally-screwed women. If this book is to be believed (and it IS fiction, so Marie Benedict has had no shortage of controversy from readers/reviewers) Mileva was robbed of an honor that would have firmly emblazoned her name in history, among many other slights.

I can’t fathom why this book wasn’t a runaway bestseller. That is perhaps the highest praise I can give a book, and its author. I will definitely be reading Marie’s other books as she writes them. I only hope they all uncover stories like Mileva’s. They may be rough on the emotions, but they are stories that need to be told.

PS – Interesting side note: Marie Benedict has written three other books under the name Heather Terrell, The ChrysalisThe Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare. I read one of them a long time ago and HATED it. HATED IT! She has come a long way. (No, I’m not telling you which one.) But I plan to read the other two now.

Updates: Awards, New Booksellers and More!

1) I found out last night that both Been Searching for You (long contemporary) and Camelot’s Queen (mainstream with romantic elements) finaled in the Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Contest! That’s an RWA contest hosted by the Ancient City Romance Writers chapter.

2) A few days ago, Madame Presidentess was named an Honorable Mention in the Reader’s Favorite book awards in the fiction – historical personage category. It may not be a win, but it is still and honor (no pun intended), and it puts me in the company of Anna Belfrage, who blurbed both of the Guinevere books. She also received an Honorable Mention and a second book of hers was a finalist. That is the kind of company I want to keep!

3) I am hard at work on beta reader edits to The Once and Future Queen. I’m hoping for a late October release, but it may end up being early November. I will let you know for sure once my editor and proofreader have seen the book.

4) If you’re in St. Louis/St. Charles, Missouri, be sure to stop at Main Street Books. They are now selling all of my books!

I should have news on Madame Presidentess audio soon, so stay tuned for that…

Twitter Chat Recap

If you missed the Twitter chat I did last week, you’re in luck. They’ve storified it and given me permission to re-blog it.

Here’s the link to the full chat or you can click on the image below. Hope you enjoy!

Join Me Tonight for a Twitter Chat!

I’m doing a twitter chat tonight from 7-8 p.m. CST on strong female characters in history and I’d love to hear from you!

Visit Strong Women Write to learn more! #StrongWomenWrite