I’m Giving Away a Box of Royalty-Themed Romance Novels!

Daughter of Destiny is part of this month’s Ever After Box, and I’m celebrating by giving one away!

July is all about kings and queens, princes and princesses. Give yourself the ROYAL treatment with great romantic reads featuring royalty past and present along with themed gifts that will make you feel like queen (or king) for a day. This month features books and goodies from Vanessa Kelly, Jennifer Faye, Gwen Hayes, me, and more.

You can enter just by commenting to let me know you are interested. I’m taking entries through end of day Tuesday, July 18. Then I will use a randomizer to pick a winner and will announce it here. If you win, I’ll send you the promo code, which is good through July 31.

Good luck and thanks for your support!

PS – You can also buy this month’s Ever After Box here. And if you still haven’t purchased Daughter of Destiny, it will be on sale for $0.99 July 21-25 to celebrate the book having an international BookBub ad on July 24!

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Quick Book Updates

In the summer, this is what editing looks like. This is me trying to figure out what needs to change in Mistress of Legend.

I’m thankful to finally be back to writing on a regular basis. I seem to have fits and starts this year, which I guess is normal, given that I write in between conferences and day job.

Speaking of conferences, don’t forget that I’ll be at Gateway Con June 16-17 in St. Louis and the Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland, Oregon, June 23-24. I’m speaking and signing/selling books at both, so please come and say hello! I’ve just been added to a third panel at the HNS conference, “Putting the Her in History,” with two of my favorites, Patricia Bracewell and Mary Sharratt! Here’s the full information: https://nicoleevelina.com/events/. (Make sure you look at both the reader and writer sections of the page.)

I’ve had some new projects pop up, so I wanted to give you a rundown of where everything stands:

The Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend (non-fiction)
I spent the early part of this year researching for my first non-fiction book, which traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere from her Celtic roots to today. I started writing on it in April, but then other things came up. But I’m back at it at a steady clip now. I was hoping for a summer release, but now it’s looking more like end of the year.

Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale Book 3) (historical fantasy)
I know all of you are eagerly awaiting this book, and frankly, so am I. Guinevere and Morgan have been talking to me a bit, but not as much as I want them to, so things are going slower than I would like. I have re-read my first draft and while it’s not as bad as I thought it was, it still needs work. I have a revision outline and am doing some additional research, which should be finished in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to start writing in earnest on it over the long Fourth of July weekend. I was hoping to have this out by the end of the year, but now I think it will likely be early 2018.

But the book does have a cover! Members of the Guardians of Endangered Stories (my street team) have seen it, so if you can’t wait, please join! Everyone else will get to see it when we get closer to the book’s release.

Untitled Non-Fiction 
Ever since I started researching Victoria Woodhull, I have come to realize how much feminism means to me. There are so many great stories of women who have gone against the grain of their society and fought for our rights. I am considering writing a biographical historical fiction of another of them, but I also want to examine what feminism has meant in the United States since the birth of our nation and where the movement might be going, especially in our current political climate.

We know for sure there have been three waves in the movement, each with their own inciting event, primary cause, public figures and cultural shifts. The first was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when women fought for the right to vote. The second was from the 1960s – 1980s, when women fought for equal rights, equal pay, an end to sexual harassment and other causes. The third began in the 1990s and encompasses a variety of topics from slut shaming to contraception and more. Just in a little bit of reading, I’ve learned that the waves are more similar than one might think at first glance. I would also argue that we are currently in the beginning of a fourth wave, spurred on by the 2016 presidential election and its fallout.

This is a passion project that I am just beginning to outline and research. I know it is going to take several years and it won’t take the place of my fiction writing. I need something to work on when the characters aren’t talking, so this is my ongoing project.

My Top 5 Biggest Pet Peeves in Books

*Rubs hands together in a maniacal manner* This week’s blog challenge is going to be fun. Anyone who knows me knows I have pet peeves about a lot of things, and given that I read 70-100 books a year, I have several that relate to books. Here are my top 5:

  1. “If I only knew…” – I don’t see this one as much as I used to, but it’s when the writer takes the easy lazy way out instead of actually working to put foreshadowing into their story. “If I’d only known then how wrong I was.” Really? Why don’t you try showing us both scenes and letting us, as readers who have brains, draw that conclusion? It’s just a sign that the writer either doesn’t know any other way to build suspense/a sense of dread or that he/she is too lazy to bother to put in the work. It immediately knocks at least one star off the final rating for me and raises my blood pressure. If it happens multiple times in a book, I’ll stop reading.
  2. Characters that are too stupid to live (TSTL) – Most common in romance and YA books, this is a thing that really should be allowed to die out. Please, please, please give your characters common sense. Even if they are vapid – some people just are – give them a sense of self-preservation. I mean, hasn’t everyone seen enough movies/TV by now to know not to reveal to the killer that you’re going to go to the police, especially before you do it? Sadly, the majority of TSTL characters I’ve encountered have been women. Really, we face enough discrimination without the help of this type of character. Usually the TSTL reveal happens because the author needs the character to do something, rather than it being something they would naturally do, so it hits a false note with readers. I think this is lazy character development. It’s fine in a first draft, but before the book is published, the author should take the time to go in and make the action make sense in the context of the world he/she has built.
  3. Second book syndrome – You know this one. It’s when a series, usually a trilogy, has a pretty much pointless second book that serves only as a bridge to the third book. I read one recently that could have been summed up in at most a chapter or two at the beginning of the next book. I won’t name it because I love the author and was shocked to see she’d produced such a waste of time book. “Lady of Avalon” is the classic example for me, which I will cite only because they author is dead. Both “The Forrest House” and “The Mists of Avalon” were fantastic. “Lady of Avalon” felt like an excuse to get the Forest House characters (or their descendants) to where she wanted them to be in Mists.
  4. Weak third books in trilogies – I say this as I’m working on the third book of my Guinevere trilogy, praying I don’t fall victim to this myself. It’s when the first two books in a trilogy are great and you can’t wait to read the last one, only to find yourself thinking “WTF? Did you just not know what to do with the book?” I think some of it can be blamed on the deadline pressures traditionally published authors are under, but some of it likely comes from a lack of clear vision/planning for the whole series. There are some cases in which traditionally published authors have contracts extended and are surprised by having to come up with material for another book, but that doesn’t explain most instances. Either way, there’s no call for a weak final book.
  5. Books that don’t seem to have a point –  There are whole books that I’ve read where I’ve finished it said, “And the point of this was…?” I feel like every story should at least impart to you an idea, an inkling of why the story was told or at least what story was being told. I have read several (sadly, most are literary fiction – it and I do not get along) where I couldn’t tell you what the story was about. It was just a bunch of talking. Or a series of visits between two people. What were they talking about? I have no idea. Nothing of consequence. Think of Waiting for Godot. I’d love someone to tell me what that play was about. Same idea.

*Steps down off of soapbox with a muttered prayer she is never guilty of any of these offenses*

What are your biggest pet peeves in books?

5 Favorite Movies Inspired by Books

So I’m a few days late with the weekly blog challenge post. Whoops.

Last week’s topic was Favorite Movies Inspired by Books. I had to think about this one for a while because the book really is usually better than the movie. But there are the rare occasions where the movie is better, or is at least good. These are five I like:

  1. The Adjustment Bureau – This is hands down one of my favorite movies of all time! I liked it so much, I wanted more, which is how I found it is loosely based on a Phillip K. Dick story called “The Adjustment Team.” If I ever did the Kindle Worlds thing were I wrote in someone else’s copyrighted world, this would be on the top of my list (the movie world, not the short story)! I loved the intersection of reality and spirituality in this movie, the tug between free will and fate/God’s plan. I’ve had plenty of experiences in life that feel like “someone” has intervened, so I can totally relate to this storyline. Plus, Emily Blunt. She’s one of my favorite actresses.
  2. Queen of the Damned – Maybe it’s because Lestat is my ideal fantasy man in this movie – a rockstar vampire – or maybe it’s because he ends up with a pretty redhead, but damn do I like the movie better than the book! The two are really so different that they may as well be unrelated stories. The heroine of the movie, Jessie, is actually only in the book for like two seconds and then she dies. So that makes the movie seem like fan fiction if you compare the storylines. But I can never see that movie enough.
  3. The Haunting (1999) – I feel like such a bad fangirl admitting I’ve never read the source material by Shirley Jackson (whose writing I love) for this movie. But I have seen the original movie, which is actually much, much better. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the overly CGI’ed 1999 version because I stayed in the castle it was filmed in (Harlaxton Manor, in Grantham, England – which is also where Alex in Been Searching for You gets his last name) about a month after they filmed. They still had set pieces and the security guard told us all about the filming. I was obsessed with Catherine Zeta Jones at the time, so I was in heaven. We even got to take home a set souvenir. I have a wardrobe tag that says “photo double – Nell” with the woman’s name (I’ve checked the credits; it’s legit) and my friend got the padlock they used to chain the gates shut, which features very prominently in a few shots of the film. I really think the movie could have been great had they not felt the need to show you the ghost at the end. Up until then, the movie scared the crap out of me. Oh – and Harlaxton really IS haunted. We didn’t know it until after we were there, but several of us had experiences. BTW – if you like The Haunting, be sure to check out Scary Movie 2, which is a spoof of it (and oddly enough, Kathleen Robertson, my ideal Mia from Been Searching for You, plays the Catherine Zeta Jones role in this movie – this is where I got the inspiration for how Mia physically looks). Another one of my favorite movies!
  4. PS I Love You – I admit, I’ve never read the book, and I’ve been told not to, since I am in love with the movie. It’s got all the essential elements of an amazing love story to me. I mean, how can you not love a guy who cared enough to help his widow grieve his own death and eventually move on with her life? Subconsciously, I think this was a bit of inspiration for Annabeth’s letters in Been Searching for You. And he’s played by Gerard Butler. Yummy!
  5. The Princess Bride – I HATED the book, but the movie is one of my favorites. I can pretty much recite it from beginning to end. What did I not like about the book? Well, without giving anything away, it’s much more gritty and realistic than the fairy tale nature of the movie. It also has a “Lady or the Tiger” type ending which leaves the Happily Ever After (HEA) open to interpretation. No, no, no, and no! Wesley and Buttercup live HEA and that is all there is to it! No ruining my childhood romantic fantasies with your intellectualism, William Goldman!

What are some of your favorite movies that are based on books? Have you seen any of the ones I listed? What do you think of them?


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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!)

 

In Celebration of Indie Authors

I am giving this short speech today at the St. Louis County and St. Louis City libraries as part of Indie Author Day. I wanted all of you who couldn’t join us to be able to read it as well. I hope you enjoy it. Learn more about my speaking engagements

self-e_indieauthorday_logo_tshirt-01-e1462823856596When I was invited to be part of Indie Author Day, I was honored and humbled. I’m very proud to be an independent author and to be part of the first ever national day celebrating our work and our achievements. Our community has grown tremendously in the last five years, and now the books we produce rival – and in some cases outsell – those released through traditional means.

I want to be clear that I have nothing against the traditional publishing industry. I may even still join it in the future, but it isn’t what is right for me as an artist at this moment in my career. And that’s what being an indie is all about: taking control of your writing, your career, and the myriad decisions that go into it. We are no longer the ugly step-children who couldn’t make it traditionally; we are the entrepreneurs who chose to go our own way.

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 we are doing as indie authors. We may cross traditional genre boundaries, write about subjects or in time periods that aren’t considered marketable, or simply want to do things on our own schedule. Whatever our reasons, we are producing our art without so much as a by your leave. We have something to say and aren’t waiting for anyone to give us a stage; we are building our own.

Now, being an indie author isn’t without its challenges. In declaring ourselves free of traditional constraints, we also take on the burden of being our own patrons, financing our cover art, editing, production and marketing. We take the financial risk that our work may not find an audience – or at least not enough of one to recover what we’ve invested. But such is the curse of every small business owner, from freelancers and flower shops to barbers and bakeries. We take a leap of faith that with enough hard work and a bit of luck, we will somehow make it.

We also face the seemingly impossible task of making ourselves known in a world where a new book is published every five minutes on Amazon, which is already home to 3.4 million books. But somehow, we still manage to find our audience – no matter how large or small. Whether we use Facebook ads, make book trailers or go the route of hand-selling and attending conferences or speaking engagements – we get out there and let people know we are here and why they should be interested in what we have to say.

Really, that is a challenge for every author, whether indie or traditional. But as indies, we have to do it ourselves, or if we’re lucky, with the help of a publicist. Without the endorsement of a big publishing house, we rely on the help of our tribe, other authors and readers whose loyalty we’ve gained, to provide endorsements of our work. They are our support system, our lifeline in times of crisis and uncertainty, and they can be a connection to new readers.

As indies, we may be perceived as being in this alone, but that is far from the truth. We have a vibrant, supportive community that is more generous than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve found genuine well-wishes even from people who have written about the exact same subject as I have. In the corporate world, we’d be considered competitors, but I’m coming to realize that here we are really allies. Whether we share resources, write guest posts together or just silently cheer one another on, it is that support that buoys us and keeps us going in and ever-changing industry that doesn’t really know what to do with us.

We’ve broken the traditional paradigm and that scares a lot of people. I say let them be scared; we aren’t. You know who else wasn’t afraid to try something new? Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Ben Franklin. Madame Curie. Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. The Wright Brothers. And we can’t forget the Founding Fathers of our country. Without them we wouldn’t have iPhones, PCs, eyeglasses, X-rays, light bulbs, cars, airplanes or an independent nation – things we now take for granted. While few of us are on that grand of a scale, without us, the publishing world would be lacking in richness, diversity and, our readers would be still be searching for our stories.

It is the independent spirit of the publishing entrepreneur we gather to celebrate today. In the last five years, we’ve gone from being tentative explorers of the brave new world of ebooks to producing top quality work that makes the bestseller lists. Some of members of our community have even become breakout stars – such as Courtney Milan, Colleen Hoover, Bella Andre, Hugh Howey, and many others – authors who regularly outsell those who are traditionally published. We’ve done this through discipline and professionalism, by writing outstanding books, and applying business acumen to our work – for this is no mere hobby; this is our job, regardless of whether we have another that pays the bills.

With the rapid advancement of technology and gradual acceptance of our legitimacy as real authors, in another five years – even in one year – who knows where we can be. We may well be the new norm. How we get there is up to you and me, the indie authors of America. I, for one, am proud to celebrate us and our accomplishments – past, present and future – today.

My Books Available in Stores & On New Site

I’m happy to say that if you live in LA or near Bellingham, Washington, you can now purchase my books from two physical book stores!

rippedboddiceThe Ripped Bodice – Los Angeles, CA
You may remember that I was a proud Kickstarter backer for the opening of this romance-only bookstore. (I sponsored a shelf.) Now, they are selling Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, Been Searching for You and Madame Presidentess (once it’s published), both in-store and online. 

Village Books – Bellingham, WA
A perk of being one of the top five bestsellers at the Chanticleer Author’s Conference is that Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen are now for sale in their store. Been Searching for You and Madame Presidentess (pre-order) are available on their website.

Books by the Bay

Ireadbooks.com
This is a new site by the folks behind Serious Reading. Daughter of Destiny and Been Searching for You are available for free on this site. Yes, you read that right. You can download them for free and I get paid for every download. I will eventually add my other books as well.

More to Come, and You Can Help!
As soon as I get some time to talk with my local indie book store owners, you’ll be seeing my books on shelves here in St. Louis and hopefully Chicago as well. I’ve also been told of a book store in Glastonbury, England that is interested; I need to follow up on that one. Not bad for an indie author who just published her first book on January 1!

Are there book stores in your area you’d like to see carry my books? If so, let me know. You asking them is always a big help, but if I know where you like to shop, I will contact them as well. Together, we can get books on shelves all over the world!

My First Radio Interview

Speak up talk radioQuick update on something I think you may want to know about. I was on Speak Up Talk Radio today and you can listen to my interview. It was my very first radio interview, so I think it went pretty well.

If you are a writer, I highly recommend checking them out. Pat, the host, regularly hosts authors of all ilks. The only cost is a $25 donation to charity, the pillowcase project, which sends handmade, one-of-a kind pillowcases to homeless Veteran shelters and women’s shelters. To me, that’s well worth it.

[Guest Post] The Long Road to a Debut Historical Novel by Jeannine Atkins

Photo1LITTLE-WOMAN-webGrowing up, I liked to read books about ordinary girls doing things like fighting with or forgiving their sisters, but set in the past. Cooking in pots over fires or slogging through snow to reach wells or cold horses seemed thrilling. I started with an orange-covered series called “Childhoods of Famous Americans,” which were then shelved with biographies, though their use of dialogue and other fictional elements have convinced some librarians to put them elsewhere. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about Little Houses in woods or on prairies, another series that has made a similar shift to the fiction sections. I’m happy to browse for what I want, which remains books based on real girls and women who are full of dreams.

I found such a girl in one of the first fat books I cracked open. Many years ago, Little Women’s Jo March — huddled in a chilly garret penning plays and stories — gave me my first inkling that a girl could grow up to be a writer. My curiosity about other women writers stuck and carried me through college. I was unsatisfied with most reading lists, but scanned the stacks for books by women who’d been forgotten. I wrote some papers about them, and while I kept a scholarly tone, felt as if I were playing dress-up, again immersed in history.

The challenges and triumphs of women who came before me kept me good company as I wrote some stories that were published and two novels that weren’t. After I became a mom and read to my daughter, I found myself happily back with once-cherished books and the mother of the co-president of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan Club. The girls made posters (“Laura rocks! Ma rules!”) and wore old dresses to bake cornbread. Reminded of how life-changing children’s books can be, I put away my novels about angsty adults to write books for the young. I published picture books about paleontologist Mary Anning and religious reformer Anne Hutchinson, and collections about women explorers and pioneers in air and space.

No one should write history who doesn’t love doing research, and some of that is rereading books you once adored. I came back to Little Women, but what got inside me most this time was the half-hidden story of the youngest sister. In the novel, Amy March gives up art when she realizes she might not become great. In real life, May Alcott stuck with her paints.

I believed this real person who tried to balance art and love deserved more attention. Children and teens are a wonderful audience, but I wanted the girl I first met in Little Women to step out as fully adult, finding her way through or around traps and temptations and reveling in romance, too. For Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott, I circled back to writing for adults who may find May’s struggles familiar, though they took place more than 150 years ago. Could May find a true love, in a period, after the Civil War, when eligible men seemed scarce? Could she keep making art in a time when women painters were rarely taken seriously? I loved exploring those questions, and finding a way to let another woman step out from the shadows of the past.

To learn more about Jeannine Atkins’s books about girls and women in history, please visit her website at www.Jeannineatkins.com.

Do you have any questions or comments for Jeannine? She’ll be around checking out the comments.