Reflections on 19 Years and a Wild Dream Achieved

Today is a momentous day for me. Not only does it mark the publication of my sixth book, Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale Book 3), and a single-volume compendium of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, it is also the end of an era. You see, 19 years ago Saturday is when I first heard Guinevere speak in my head. (Yeah, I’m one of those authors – wouldn’t have it any other way.) I tell the whole story in the Author’s Notes to Daughter of Destiny, the first book in the series, but for now suffice it to say she told me she wanted me to tell her story and that it would be unlike any written to date. I’ve always loved Arthurian legend, and Guinevere in particular, so I thought, “why not?” That afternoon when I got home from school (I was a sophomore in college at the time), I sat down at the computer in my dad’s bedroom and began to type the words Guinevere was saying in my head:
I am Guinevere. I was once a queen, a lover, a wife, a mother, a priestess, and a friend. But all those roles are lost to me now; to history, I am simply a seductress, a misbegotten woman set astray by the evils of lust. This is the image painted of me by subsequent generations, a story retold thousands of times. Yet, not one of those stories is correct. They were not there; they did not see through my eyes or feel my pain. My laughter was lost to them in the pages of history….
It goes on for a bit longer, but you get the idea. That prologue is mostly intact in the published version of Daughter of Destiny (though it was shortened a bit). I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote the first few chapters of the book (it was in the double digits for sure) as I learned to find my own voice as an author and developed a plot and style that was doing more than simply aping The Mists of Avalon (which was the book that inspired it). But somehow, Guinevere’s words remained. (Some of you know this story, so feel free to skip down if you have heard it before.) I never thought I would become a published author. For the next 10 years I played around with the book when I had free time from college, then grad school and my first two grownup jobs. But it was just a hobby. Then in 2008 I started taking my writing seriously. The catalyst? Twilight. (Shut up.) By that time I was about halfway through what would become Daughter of Destiny and realized I had something worth reading on my hands. At this point, I still thought the book would be one doorstop of a volume (which is why I’m publishing the compendium). Upon researching the publishing industry, I realized it would have to be trilogy. Fast forward another 10 years – past an agent, countless rejections (okay, I counted, it was like 40), three damn-near book deals with Big 5 publishers, self-publishing and three Book of the Year awards – and here we are, on the precipice of the final book being published. And I have to say I am very, very proud. It may have taken me two years to finish this book (much longer than I know my readers wanted to wait), but I think it was worth it. I set out to give Guinevere back her voice and give her the fair shake I never thought she had from other authors (at least the ones I had read). In my mind, she was a full-fledged woman with hopes, dreams and desires, not the one-dimensional adulteress we usually see. In order to show that I set out to tell her whole life story, not just the part that involves Arthur. That meant dreaming up a youth for her in Daughter and imagining her heading into old age in Mistress of Legend. I feel like I’ve told the best possible story I could and did as much as possible to redeem her from the stain of sin past literature has laid upon her. Apparently others think so as well. I sent an ARC of Mistress to my friend and fellow author Tyler Tichelaar so he could review it on his website. He liked it so much, I ended up using the opening of the review as a blurb on the cover. But the part that brought tears to my eyes was this line: “She has given back to Guinevere, an often overlooked and derided figure, her dignity and endowed her with a true personality.” Mission accomplished. Completing a trilogy is no small feat. There were years upon years where I wondered if I could do it and feared I could not. I remember burning with jealousy the day one of my friends completed her first series. But now all I feel is tremendous accomplishment and pride. I want to jump up and down and yell “I did it!  I did it! I did it! I did it!”
More than that, I feel like each book on the series got better as I grew as a writer. One of my biggest fears was that my story would end up like so many other trilogies and peter out or go totally off track in the last book. (Breaking Dawn, anyone?) In fact, I feel like this is the strongest book in the series, and early reviews are indicating the same. Now I face for the first time in nearly two decades a future without Guinevere. (Well, not totally. She’ll be one of the point of view characters in Isolde’s story whenever I get around to writing that.) I will  be forever grateful for all she as done for me. She was meant to get me started in my career, and I know she will gracefully cede the stage to the characters who come next. I just hope this trilogy is repayment enough.
PS – If you want to catch up, Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen are only $0.99 for a limited time… PPS – For those who know of my obsession with the band Kill Hannah, the reference in the title of this blog to “a wild dream achieved” comes from their song “Believer.”

The Once and Future Queen Wins Twice at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards

It’s contest season, and I’m thrilled to announce that The Once and Future Queen took home two awards at this year’s Next Generation Indie Book Awards! It won (in a tie) in the General Non-fiction category and is a finalist in the Historical Non-fiction category. They give out medals to both finalists and winners, so I will have a gold and silver to add to my collection!

I’m so happy that is book got recognition from my peers. I wrote it out of passion for Guinevere and to make a contribution to Arthurian scholarship, knowing it wouldn’t likely sell much because the topic is so niche. To have it honored gives me a great boost of confidence going into my next non-fiction books and is great reassurance I didn’t write this book for nothing. (We writers can be so insecure, you know.) Plus, it will be displayed at the American Library Association (ALA) Conference, which is huge.

My New Article on Guinevere on Medievalists.net

I’m thrilled to say my second article Medievalists.net is up! “Will the Real Guinevere Please Stand Up” is about the twin Guineveres, sometimes called The True and The False, which originated in the Welsh Triads and were expanded on in the Middle Ages by the Cistercian monks.

More information on this is available in my book The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend.

Hope you enjoy!

 

Huffington Post Article on the Women of Camelot

I’ve known for months that when Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur movie came out (as it does tomorrow in the US) I wanted to share some of the many books that have been written about Arthurian women. What I didn’t expect is to go on about the lack of movies about female Arthurian characters. Well, I’ve done both in this article in the Huffington Post! Happy reading! (And I hope you find another book you’d like to add to your list!)

 

Cover Reveal: Camelot’s Queen (Guinevere’s Tale Book 2)

I’m happy to announce that Camelot’s Queen, the highly-anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny, will be published in ebook and paperback on Tuesday, April 12 (audio book release date TBD). You can pre-order the Kindle version on Amazon and/or add it to your Goodreads list right now.

And, without further ado, here’s the cover and the back page copy…

Camelot's Queen eBook Cover Large

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.

This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but prepared to suffer its downfall as well.

Guinevere on the Home Page of Huffington Post Books!

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I am so proud to be able to say my article Why Guinevere Matters Now, is on the homepage of Huffington Post Books today! It’s the top story on the upper left.

As you can probably tell from the title of the article, my aim is to show why the character of Guinevere is relevant to a modern audience, especially women, and how looking at her story from a new perspective (as I do in my book) provides context to enable her to stand side by side with her famous husband, rather than in the shadow of scandal.

I’m going to go pet my computer screen now…

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Once Upon a Time Tackles Arthurian Legend & Guinevere

Queen_GuinevereThe minute I heard Guinevere and King Arthur were going to be a major story line on Once Upon a Time this season, I knew I had to watch it. I wasn’t so much curious about the way they’d handle the whole legend (I already didn’t like their Lancelot who was in season 2 when I was still watching – he was just, meh), as I was how they would handle Guinevere, for obvious reasons.

There was a really great quote about Guinevere being the true power behind Camelot – with which I wholly agree.

But beyond that? Historically accurate and true to the legend it is not. Inconsistent it is.  (Spoiler alert – stop reading if you don’t want to know details.)

Guinevere
Guinevere is a mixed bag as a character. She doesn’t do anything at all until episode 4, and even then the way she is portrayed varies within the episode. At first she seems docile, and then all of a sudden, Arthur has disappointed her with his alienating obsession one too many times and she’s in full on I’m-not-going-to-take-this-crap, I-can-solve-this-problem-myself mode. THIS is the kind of woman I want to see! She takes the initiative to find the object Arthur is obsessing over (don’t ask – it’s a McGuffin made up for the show), her determination so strong all poor Lancelot can do is trail behind and vow  to protect her. *snort* This woman doesn’t need a guardian, as she proves when she rescues him from a dark evil swarm of…something…bats?…magic? Whatever.

Guinevere is in sight of said McGuffin, but her access is blocked by Rumplestiltskin, who offers her magical sand from Avalon instead. This is where Guinevere becomes an imbecile, much like her legendary counterparts. Instead of being a clever woman and bargaining with him or at least TRYING to out-think or fight him, she ends up taking the sand, which is said to be able to “fix” anything. Later, when Arthur reveals he knows about her and Lancelot kissing and she threatens to leave him for Lancelot (she gets points for that), she falls for the old “magic sand in the face” trick. Suddenly, she’s docile, my-husband-is-wonderful Stepford Guinevere…and their marriage is “fixed.”

I get that this is magic and there may be some subtext in that the only way Arthur could control his wife is through magic, but it really made me want to bang my head against a wall. This show is famous for taking strong fairy tale women with agency (Snow, for example) and allowing magic to turn them into useless beings (Mary Margaret may be nice, but she’s not so bright). The only one who seems to have escaped that “curse” (pun intended) is the Evil Queen/Regina. I would have liked to have seen a consistently strong Guinevere from a show that at least, at times, has been the only thing in popular culture to showcase women with brains, beauty AND power.

As Rebecca Jane Stokes writes at Den of Geek, “While it’s refreshing and cool to be presented with a powerful incarnation of Guinevere (instead of a wet noodle in the center of a love triangle), they immediately zap her of any power courtesy of Gold’s red dust. The show is so scared of anything that might be perceived as being outre – LET Guinevere cheat on Lancelot! It’s a complicated story! One we’d watch!”

I find it telling that the other fairy tale woman in this episode is Merida from Brave. They did an AMAZING job with her. She was everything I wanted Guinevere to be: strong, courageous, kick-ass, not-going-to-back-down from her beliefs. I wonder why they felt like they should keep her agency, but not Guinevere’s? Maybe Brave is too recent a story for them to feel like they could cheat with it? I’m just happy someone was allowed to stay strong. Pray she remains that way.

(The actress that plays Merida looks so much like the character, it’s frightening. OUAT’s casting directors get props for that and for keeping diversity in mind with the Arthurian cast, although for me, it’s distracting because it doesn’t fit the legend. But at least this Guinevere isn’t a blonde!)

A Few Other Thoughts: King Arthur and Arthurian Legend
Most of the Arthurian story line is very medieval, even down to Camelot castle being modeled after

Were they even trying? Neuschwanstein castle on the left, OUTA's Camelot on the right.

Were they even trying? Neuschwanstein castle on the left, OUTA’s Camelot on the right.

Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, itself the model for the Disney castle (hello, Hollywood, there are beautiful castles in Spain, France and all over the British Isles you can use, too). And it doesn’t play well with traditional legend, but that show is known for twisting up the tales.

But the interesting thing to me is the writers seem to have taken a cue from older Arthurian legend for the character of Arthur. At first he seems to be the benevolent king that we’re used to, but then he reveals a dark side: he’s so obsessed with finding the McGuffin that he is nearly insane. This is a dark side rarely seen by those who don’t know the early legends. I’ve seen quite a few people online talk about how “stupid” or “unbelievable” a dark or possibly evil Arthur is, which proves they only know the whitewashed medieval version.

I haven’t watched episode 5 yet, but from the recaps I’ve read, it doesn’t seem to further this story line much. I only hope that once the magic Avalon dust wears off (sorry folks, there’s none of that in my books), we’ll have a strong Guinevere who can learn from Merida and take her rightful place in history and on our TV screens.

Do you watch Once Upon a Time? What are your thoughts? Do you think we’ll EVER see a strong Guinevere on screen?

Daughter of Destiny Presale + Preview of Book

I’m over the moon excited to announce that Daughter of Destiny is available on Amazon for pre-order! Click the button below to place your order now.

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The only version I can do pre-order for is Kindle, so if you’re looking for print, Nook, or other ebook format, you’ll have to wait until it comes out on January 1. 😦 If I could change that, I would. I’m auditioning narrators for the audio book now, so I’m hoping it will be ready by January 1 as well. 🙂

Even if you can’t pre-order, please go mark Daughter of Destiny as “want to read” on Goodreads, if you have an account there. And while you’re there, feel free to ask me a question about the book and I’ll answer it (within reason, of course). I’m very excited to finally be a Goodreads author! Be on the lookout over the next few months for giveaways there as well.

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One question for all of you: what price would you be willing to pay for a paperback from a new author? I’m looking for your input as I finalize my paperback price. I don’t want to undervalue my work, but I also don’t want to chase people away with a price that’s too high. My competition appears to price anywhere between $12-$15. What do you think? Please let me know in the comments below.

FREE SAMPLE
And…to entice you to buy the book (now or on January 1), here’s the back cover copy for the book, as well as the prologue. Chapter 1 is available for free if you sign up for my newsletter.

Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her.

In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

You may think you know the story of Guinevere, but you’ve never heard it like this: in her own words. Listen and you will hear the true story of Camelot and its queen.

Fans of Arthurian legend and the Mists of Avalon will love Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a historical fantasy trilogy that gives Guinevere back her voice and traces her life from an uncertain eleven year old girl to a wise queen in her fifth decade of life.

Sample

Prologue

I am Guinevere.

I was once a queen, a lover, a wife, a mother, a priestess, and a friend. But all those roles are lost to me now; to history, I am simply a seductress, a misbegotten woman set astray by the evils of lust.

This is the image painted of me by subsequent generations, a story retold thousands of times. Yet, not one of those stories is correct. They were not there; they did not see through my eyes or feel my pain. My laughter was lost to them in the pages of history.

I made the mistake of allowing the bards to write my song. Events become muddled as ink touches paper, and truth becomes malleable as wax under a flame. Good men are relegated to the pages of inequity, without even an honest epitaph to mark their graves.

Arthur and I were human, no more, no less, though people choose to see it differently. We loved, we argued, we struggled, all in the name of a dream, a dream never to be fulfilled. Camelot is what fed the fires that stirred us to do as we did. History calls it sin, but we simply called it life.

The complexity of living has a way of shielding one’s eyes from the implications of one’s role. That is left for others to flesh out, and they so often manipulate it to suit their own needs. To those god-awful religious, I have become a whore; Arthur the victim of a fallen Eve; Morgan, a satanic faerie sent to lead us all astray. To the royalty, we have become symbols of the dreams they failed to create and Arthur is the hero of a nation, whereas to me, he was simply a man. To the poor, we are but a legend, never flesh and blood, a haunting story to be retold in times of tribulation, if only to inspire the will to survive.

We were so much more than mute skeletons doomed to an eternity in dust and confusion. We were people with a desire for life, a life of peace that would be our downfall. Why no one can look back through the years and recognize the human frailty beneath our actions, I will never understand. Some say grace formed my path; others call it a curse. Whatever it was, I deserve to be able to bear witness before being condemned by men who never saw my face.

It ends now. I will take back my voice and speak the truth of what happened. So shall the lies be revealed and Camelot’s former glory restored. Grieve with me, grieve for me, but do not believe the lies which time would sell. All I ask is that mankind listen to my words, and then judge me on their merit.

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?