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

How You Can Help Make Daughter of Destiny Success

daughter-of-destiny-ebook-cover-iAs many of you know, today is publication day for Daughter of Destiny! The buy links are on that page in case you wish to do so. The only glitch so far is that print isn’t showing up on Barnes & Noble (not sure why), so if you’d like to get a print copy, I recommend going through Amazon.

Now that the book is out into the wild, here are a few things you can do to help make it successful:

  1. Buy it – It doesn’t matter to me whether you buy print or ebook (or audio when it comes out). I’m just happy you are interested. It’s available pretty much everywhere online, both in the US and internationally. Imgram should be trying to get it into mainstream bookstores and I’ll work on getting it into indie bookstores later this year.
  2. Leave a review –  Reviews are SO important for authors, especially indies, because they give us credibility and certain avenues of promotion aren’t open (Bookbub, certain Amazon algorithms, etc.) until we have a certain number of reviews. Of course, we all prefer glowing reviews, but please be honest. Amazon and Goodreads are probably best, but please leave a review wherever you like. (FYI, Amazon is cracking down on friends/family reviews, so you may not want to mention it if we know each other…just a thought.)
  3. Tell your friends – Word of mouth is still the best tool any author has. If you liked it, please tell everyone you know in person, on social media and however else you can!
  4. Ask your local library to acquire it – Most libraries have online forms where you can suggest a purchase, but you may need to go in person and ask them to buy it. I know from experience that libraries are usually very open to buying patron requests. And as a lifelong library patron, I can’t tell you what it would mean to me to see it on the shelf!
  5. Ask for it at your indie bookstore – I’m listed in the Ingram catalog of books, so any indie bookstore should be able to purchase Daughter of Destiny for you.
  6. Suggest it to your book club – I LOVE book clubs and am happy to visit yours in person (if I can) or via Skype. I have a whole page dedicated to book club resources, so please keep me in mind.
  7. Share photos – Take pictures of yourself and/or your friends/family/book club reading Daughter of Destiny and send them to me. And if you see the book in the wild (in the library, on a bookstore shelf, etc.) please snap a pic and let me know. I’ll start a section on my website as soon as I get the first photo and I will share them on Instagram and other social media, crediting you.
  8. Follow me on social media – On the top right are links to my social media accounts. I’d love to have you as a follower! If you see something that you like, please comment on it or pass it on (RT, share, etc.)
  9. Have fun! – This should probably be #1. I want everyone to enjoy reading my books, so I hope you have the time of your life while you read them. I know I did while I wrote them!

I’m sure I’m missing something. What am I missing? How do you plan to share the love?

And thank you all for your constant support. I couldn’t do this without you!

Memorial Stones & the Un-happily Ever After of Arthurian Legend

The Vanora Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Vanora Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Arthurian legend is one type of folk tale that certainly does not end with “and they lived happily ever after.” In fact, it’s unclear exactly what happened to our favorite characters after the battle of Camlann.* In the most familiar versions (though not all), Arthur and Mordred are killed in the battle. Guinevere enters a convent to live out her days in penitence, and Lancelot becomes a monk. Sometimes, the two lovers meet one last time, while in other stories, Lancelot is called to the side of the dying Guinevere, but arrives too late and dies of a broken heart.

What then, are we to make of the mysterious carved stones that bear their names? Are they more a part of folk legend than truth? Or did Guinevere and Lancelot seek refuge in Scotland there after the battle? Was Tristan real? Or perhaps some of the theorists are correct and they were all from the area to begin with. We likely will never know the truth. But the stones do make for some thought provoking reading.

Guinevere
According to one interpretation of a Pictish carved stone found in a Highland area called Meigle, after Guinevere was kidnapped and released from the clutches of Mordred (in this version, he’s a Pict), Arthur had her executed by ordering her torn apart by wild animals (dogs or lions, depending on who is telling the tale). Supposedly, the stone, called the Vanora stone (Vanora being a version of Guinevere) marks where she is buried and tells the story of her death.

Lancelot
And Lancelot? There is a stone for him in Scotland, too. At least I know I read about one, but of course, I can’t find where I read it. It’s possible that I’m making it up, I don’t think I am. One thread of legend associates Lancelot with the name/area of Angus, which is something that shows up in my third Guinevere book. If any of you happen to know what stone I’m thinking of, please let me know in the comments. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t find it!

Tristan

The Tristan Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Tristan Stone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Depending on the version of the story, Tristan may have been killed by King Mark for having an affair with Isolde, or he may have died in Brittany of a broken heart, thinking Isolde no longer loved him. Either way, his body was brought back to Cornwall, or he was buried there. A 1,500 year old stone in Cornwall near the town of Fowey that memorializes a man named Drustans who is believed to be connected with a possible historical or mythological inspiration for Tristan.

Arthur
Lest you think I forgot about the Once and Future King, I’ll just mention here that there are hundreds of places across England, Wales, and Scotland supposedly associated with King Arthur. The most famous, is of course, the “grave” at Glastonbury Abbey, which has been almost certainly proven as a hoax. (Here’s the latest article.)

*In some versions of the legends, Guinevere is dead long before Camlann, either from disease or by Arthur’s own hand. In others, she helps Mordred in his bid for the throne and therefore must be punished by Arthur. 

Sources
http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/meigle/meiglestones/
http://arthurianscotland.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/vanoras-stone/#more-76
http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/history/sites/tristan-stone.htm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-34908894
http://www.electricscotland.com/history/lancelot.htm

What do you think about the memorial stones? I think they are likely an outcropping of legend, but that’s just me.

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?

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.

What’s New in My World

My latest pride and joy, both purchased from Etsy. This hangs over my fireplace as a reminder that I can to anything I get my mind to. I bought a 3rd frame to display a future book-related accomplishment.

This hangs over my fireplace as a reminder that I can to anything I get my mind to. I bought a 3rd frame to display a future book-related accomplishment. (Both from Etsy.)

In lieu of a full on post this week, I thought I’d just give you guys a quick update on what’s been going on in my world:

  1. I’m still recovering and re-entering the real world from my blissful week at Hedgebrook and I’m exhausted (anyone else feeling this way, too, or is it just me?), hence the update post.
  2. I’m editing a book I haven’t talked much about here because it’s not historical. It’s a contemporary romantic comedy. It’s not something I ever thought I’d write, but love it to death. I had a ball writing it and am actually having fun editing it, which is a first for me; I usually loathe editing. I’m hoping that’s a good sign and that everyone who reads it will have fun with it, too.
  3. No updates on Guinevere, other than to say that book 3 is on hold for a bit while I focus on something new. Publication is totally out of my hands, so I’ll let you know when I know something more. I know many of you are anxious it to read it. Believe me, I’m anxious to see it go out into the world! If I had my way, it would come out tomorrow.
  4. About that new book: I’m taking on my second favorite English legend: Robin Hood. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and my agent is very excited about it. I can’t share plot details yet, so I’ll be sharing research with you as I get into it. I’ve never dug into the legend beyond what we all know as part of pop culture, so we’ll be learning together, which I think is exciting. I’m hoping to start writing this new book by May 1.
  5. I have a few more Arthurian/Celtic things to share, so they’ll pop up from time to time. Never fear.
  6. I’m going to start reviewing books for the women in fantasy group Sirens in April. My first review will be Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor, which is the final book in the trilogy that began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Be on the lookout for that, plus other reviews I’m doing for the Historical Novel Society, and maybe even some books I read just because I want to.

I feel like there’s more, but that’s all I can think of. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about what the next few months will bring.

Question for all of you: I’m curious about your thoughts on genre cross over. Would you read a romantic comedy I wrote even though I’m primarily a historical fiction/fantasy writer? Does that matter to you as long as the story is good? I’m just wondering what people think. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

And if you have any other questions, or if anyone knows of good Robin Hood resources, please comment and I’ll answer.

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?