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!)

 

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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!

HuffPoScreenShot 010415

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…

HuffPoScreenShot 010415 - full article

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? 

Meet My Main Character: Guinevere

I’ve been fortunate to be tagged twice in this blog hop, by Malcolm Noble and J.F. Ridgley (go learn about their main characters, I’ll wait.) Since I happen to have two books in flight right now, you’ll see this for two different main characters. Today, meet Guinevere, the main character of my Arthurian legend trilogy, which begins with Guinevere of Northgallis.

(On April 28, hop on over to Spellbound Scribes to meet Annabeth, the main character of my new romantic comedy.)

Jessica Brown Findlay is who I'd pick to play Guinevere.

Jessica Brown Findlay is who I’d pick to play Guinevere.

What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

Guinevere, daughter of Leodgrance, king of the kingdom of Gwynedd. She is a mythical character. Historians can’t prove whether or not King Arthur existed, so they definitely don’t know about her. If Arthur existed, chances are good he had a wife, but that her name was actually Guinevere is doubtful.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set in post-Roman Britain, approximately 490 – 530 AD for the whole trilogy. The first book takes you from spring 491 through autumn 496. Most of the action of the first book is in the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Dyfed, both in modern-day Wales, and also on Avalon, which I locate at Glastonbury Tor in Glastonbury.

What should we know about Guinevere?

Guinevere is not the subservient woman we see in many versions of Arthurian legend. She is a Celt and they had very progressive laws regarding women, who were powerful in their own right. Guinevere’s mother is of the Votadini tribe, which is in modern-day southern Scotland. In her lifetime, it was a buffer area between Britain and the Pictish tribes. The Votadini were a warrior people, so Guinevere was raised to be able wield a sword and govern a kingdom. She also has second sight, which runs in her family.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Guinevere’s first conflict is the appearance of her second sight. She doesn’t know how to control it, so she has the choice to join the priestesses of Avalon to be trained with them. She expected to live the normal life of a noblewoman, but this sets her life on a whole new path. Later, when she leaves Avalon, she finds that the world is rapidly abandoning her pagan faith for Christianity, so she must learn to balance the conflict of faiths in a time of great political upheaval.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Having been raised to know her own worth, she wants to be a strong leader like her mother and marry for love, rather than political gain.

When can we expect Guinevere of Northgallis to be published?

I don’t know. That’s out of my hands at the moment. Hopefully soon!

Who’s next in this blog hop?

This hop started with historical fiction writers, but I’m breaking the mold. Next up is the lovely Cassandra Page, who writes urban fantasy.

Do you have any questions about Guinevere or her story? Ask away in the comments below.

Provoking Thought on the Character of Guinevere

"Queen Guinevere" by  James Archer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Queen Guinevere” by James Archer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Some of you may remember a post I did a while back on “Guinevereian fiction,” i.e. Arthurian legend that’s focused on Guinevere. I came across this article from the Medievalists’ site and wanted to share in case any of you were interested. While, as you will see, there’s a lot I don’t agree with in this article, I’m happy anytime someone brings the role of Guinevere to the forefront of discussion in Arthurian legend, which is usually focused on the men.

Guinevere, the Superwoman of Contemporary Arthurian Fiction
By James Noble

(I have not read most of the books discussed, only The Mists of Avalon, Firelord and Beloved Exile. I’m purposely avoiding the others until I’m done with my own story. Noble summarizes each book, so you can make sense if his arguments even if you haven’t read the books.)

I’m all for celebrating a strong Guinevere and I agree with Noble’s assessment of the character in The Mists of Avalon. However, the use of the word “superwoman” in the article made me bristle. My first thought was the author is being pejorative in the use of the term. (Perhaps not, but that’s how it struck me.) Why, if a man raises children and rules his people, is he considered a hero, but when a woman does both (even if it is through the pen of a fiction writer), she has to be called “superwoman?” The term, to me, evokes a feeling that Guinevere is being over-characterized into something impossible, a comic book caricature, which I’m sure is not what Newman, Wooley or Miles intended in their novels.

The focus on motherhood/maternal instincts in this article doesn’t sit well with me, as that was never Guinevere’s sole function in Arthurian legend. The tradition of her being sterile or her children being stillborn is an old one (attributed in part to the need for Mordred, Arthur’s son/nephew to inherit the throne), a fact never mentioned by the author. Even in the medieval tales where Guinevere has little agency, she is more than a brood mare. She is a wife and mistress, an object of affection, if nothing else (not much better, but still). In the modern tales analyzed by Noble, she is also a queen. Why then, restrict the focus of such an essay to the traditional role of mother?

I take great offense to this statement made by Noble toward the end of the essay, “Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if it is not the mythology of the triple goddess that ultimately also gives shape to the trilogies by Newman,Woolley, and Miles, each of whom makes a point of affording her heroine a ‘maidenhood,’ a profound experience of motherhood, and what Malory would have been certain to describe as ‘a good ende’ as a wise woman.” Hello?! Putting aside the New Age triple-goddess reference, those are generally the three phases of life of any woman. Just as a man starts out as a boy, grows into a man and becomes (we hope) a wise old man, women’s lives follow the same pattern of girl, mother/adult woman (if she doesn’t have children), and wise woman. How else are you supposed to tell a life story? This is the same pattern followed in every biography (fiction or non-fiction) out there.

Perhaps he is reacting to the “happy ending” given to Guinevere in these books as a wise woman/healer. Why is it so wrong that the authors chose not to have her die young or end her life useless? That is their right. Personally, I don’t find that surprising coming from female authors who are writing for a modern audience. Part of writing stories like Guinevere’s is keeping your audience in mind, a group who I don’t think would take kindly to reading three books about a character only to have her wither away helplessly in the end.

If you can’t tell, it is attitudes like this that moved me to create my Guinevere, a 5th century Celtic woman, who like her ancestors, is a warrior, a priestess, mother, wife and many other roles. Though our historical evidence for warrior queens in the 4th and 5th century is lacking (as is almost all knowledge of that time), Celtic myth and what we know about Celtic culture gives us a solid basis on which to build the idea of a realistically strong Guinevere. This is not a “superwoman” who is in some way superhuman, but a woman of her time who used the opportunities life gave her to her advantage and prospered (or not) because of them. Guinevere is not above and beyond all womanhood; she is actually intimately accessible because she represents so much of the female experience.

So, what do you think of the article? Have you read any of the books analyzed? Do you agree or disagree with the author? Do you think I’m misinterpreting the article? (It’s always possible.) In your opinion, is it right for modern writers to try to make Guinevere into a strong woman or do you find that anachronistic? How do you think she should be portrayed?

F is for Fearsome Heroines

Recently, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on how today’s heroines aren’t afraid to kick a little ass. Well, that’s not how they phrased it, but you get the point. Gone are the days of damsels in distress and princesses who sit on their perfect rear ends waiting to be rescued.

Maybe it started with She-ra. I’d like to think so. Buffy definitely helped. But if you look at the shelves of your local bookstore or turn on the television, its clear women are coming into their own as heroines. From the katana wielding main character of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland vampire series to Snow on Once Upon a Time, wallflowers need not apply. (Sorry Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen proved you’re irrelevant.)

In talking about the new big screen versions of Snow White, CBS Sunday Morning notes, “Like every storybook heroine these days, she FIGHTS.” And they mean that literally – swords and all. Today’s heroines rescue themselves. Now that doesn’t mean they don’t need love or want someone to share the fight with, but like most modern women, they’re not waiting around for a man to complete them. They grab life with both hands and make of it what they desire.

That’s fine by me. That just means my heroine’s time has come. For reasons I can’t reveal until you read the book, my Guinevere can fight as well as any man, and she does. That’s one of the things that makes her different from the traditional portrayal of the character. She is not only physically strong, but smart and not afraid to express herself. (Although one could argue that was typical for a Celtic woman.) My Guinevere is in every way Arthur’s equal, a woman trained to sit beside her King on the throne or stand beside him as they lead their troops into battle. In many time periods – even a hundred years later – that would be anachronistic, but we’re fortunate that the Celts raised fearsome women. (Boudicca, Cartimandua, Maeve and Scathach are just a few examples from history and legend.)

Actress Aly Michalka at a Renfaire. She is the inspiration for a Saxon (sans bow and arrow) you’ll meet in book 2.

It’s time for strong female characters to serve as role models for young (and not so young) women. Even my female characters who don’t wield a sword know how to fight with their brains and their tongues. Morgan will best you in any verbal war and Isolde will out-strategize you before you know what hit you. That’s not to say my books are fueled on feminism. There are several female characters who fill more traditional roles (Elaine, Camille), but they are certainly more balanced with ones who will stand up for themselves than tradition usually dictates.

I know I’m not the first to infuse a little girl power into my books, and I hope I won’t be the last. I’m just proud to contribute to the growing trend of weapon-weilding heroines. IWA girls, this is for you!

What do you think of the new wave of strong heroines? Ladies, who do you most identify with in fiction today? What traditionally passive female roles would you like to see rewritten? And what other “F” topics do you suggest for future posts? (Clean ones, mind you.)