Praise for Mistress of Legend from the BookLife Prize Committee

Contests are interesting beasts. Like reviews, how well you do (or don’t) depends on the fit of your book with the judges. I’ve entered all of my fiction to-date in the BookLife Prize (which is sponsored by Publisher’s Weekly, but separate from its reviews.) Until now, Been Searching for You is the only one they liked and even it failed to move on beyond the first round – just barely. They took the top 10 books and it was 11.

I received the critic’s report today for Mistress of Legend. The overall score likely won’t be high enough to advance it to the next round, but I’m really proud of what the critic had to say about it. I think it’s interesting that he/she calls it a mystery and psychological thriller and compares Guinevere to Beowulf – totally not what I intended, but it if works for the reader, that’s all I care about. I’m proud to be in that company!

Assessment:

Plot: This book offers a cleverly crafted, suspenseful tale spun from Celtic mythology. Though many plotlines are drawn together in this Arthurian mystery, Evelina interweaves each line neatly, careful to not leave any strand loose.

Prose: With its eloquent style and lush imagery, the work retains the rich, earthy tones of an Old English epic. Evelina’s work boasts a careful interplay between riveting legends and modern sensibilities and will appeal to a broad range of readers.

Originality: Though inspired by ancient storytellers, Evelina transforms a murky, two-dimensional tale of kingdoms and conquest into a three-dimensional, psychological thriller with a pertinent feminist sentiment.

Character Development: The ferocity of female strength and skill present within Evelina’s work allows passage for protagonist Guinevere to be seen as a female Beowulf-archetype. However, like Beowulf, Guinevere’s strength is so palpable that she sometimes borders on two-dimensionality.

Score:

  • Plot/Idea: 9
  • Originality: 8
  • Prose: 8
  • Character/Execution: 8
  • Overall: 8.25

I noticed that you can re-enter any book from previous years as long as it doesn’t make it to the semi-final round. I may try that in the future, but maybe not.

Publication Day for Mistress of Legend and The Guinevere’s Tale Boxed Set

It’s here! It’s here! It’s here! I am soooooooooo excited for you find out how Guinevere’s story ends. I LOVE this book and am so proud of how it turned out. I hope you feel the same way.

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The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy (Boxed Set) Release Schedule

Due to production delays and differences in the way retailers handle final files, when you can get the boxed set (which is really a single volume of all three books) will vary. To the best of my knowledge, here is when it should be available on the various sites:

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Please link them back to this page for Mistress of Legend: https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/historical-fiction/mistress-of-legend-book-3/

Or this page for the boxed set: https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/historical-fiction/guineveres-tale-box-set/

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Thank you all so much for your support!

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?”
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.”

Mistress of Legend Short-Listed for Chaucer Award

You read that right! Mistress of Legend doesn’t even come out for 22 more days, and it’s already on its way to its first award! It has been short-listed for the Chaucer Award for historical fiction talking place prior to 1750 by Chanticleer Reviews.

I’m especially honored to be on the list with my friend, the amazing writer Anna Belfrage, who is shortlisted for not one, but two novels! And there’s another Arthurian book on the list. I hope this is the beginning of trend!

Presales for Mistress of Legend and Guinevere’s Tale Boxed Set

Mistress of Legend
We are less than two months out from the publication of Mistress of Legend, the final book in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy! That means you can pre-order the ebook now.

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Guinevere’s Tale
Also available for pre-order is The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, which is all three books (Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen and Mistress of Legend) in one volume. This version holds a special place in my heart because it is how I always pictured the story being published. Fair warning: it’s looking like it will be close to 1,000 pages!

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Print books and ebooks on Google Play will be available for both books on September 15 when the books are published.

More Good News and a Little Bad News on the Book Front

What a roller-coaster of a week! In addition to winning my third Book of the Year designation, I’ve had some ups and downs:

Those of you who follow me on social media, specifically Facebook, may be aware that the Historical Writer’s of America Conference that I was due to attend and teach at was canceled less than a week before the event. This made me every unhappy.

Putting everything else aside, it meant that I was not able to conduct my research for the Rose Ferron biography. However, I have not given up. I have flight credits that will pay for me to visit Rhode Island another time. The foundation is working on opening a “domestic chapel” and display of Rose’s possessions, so I hope to be able to attend the opening and blessing of that, which is estimated for late this year or early next.

BUT, I also have two more pieces of good news:

  1. The Once and Future Queen received a 4.5-star Crowned-Heart review in the June issue of InD’Tale magazine! They called it “a powerful analysis of Guinevere…[that] does not read like a regular history book.” This honor also means it is automatically nominated for the RONE Awards next year.
  2. Mistress of Legend is done! It still needs to be edited, proofread and laid out in book format, but it is finished at 97,000 words. (That is significantly shorter than Camelot’s Queen, but slightly longer than Daughter of Destiny.) There is nothing sweeter to a writer (other than perhaps holding a finished copy of a book in your hands for the first time) than typing those two precious little words: THE END. I was really surprised and pleased by some of the twists and turns it took, and I think you will be too. September 15 can’t get here soon enough!

Mistress of Legend Cover Reveal and Publication Date

I sent this out to my newsletter subscribers and Street Team members last week, but totally forgot to post it here!

Mistress of Legend, the final book in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, will be published September 15 – exactly 19 years to the day when Guinevere first spoke in my head and I started writing the prologue of Daughter of Destiny. (Which is still in tact, minus one paragraph BTW.) Here’s the back cover copy:

Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth.

Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.

In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.

Pre-order print and ebook

  

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo pre-orders will be available in July.

Audiobook
Right now I don’t know if audio will be available at the same time or slightly after print and ebook. I need to work that out with my narrator.

Guinevere’s Tale Box Set
I will also be releasing all three books in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy in a box set on September 15, both as an ebook and a huge print book. Cover, ordering info and details to come.

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.

Publication Announcement!

Image purchased from Dreamstime

Image purchased from Dreamstime

This is the blog post I’ve been waiting four years to write. I’m excited to announce that you will be seeing four (maybe even five) books from me in 2016!

That’s because I’ve made the decision to become an independent author. I’m even in the process of setting up my own company, which will be my publication house.

Here’s the publication schedule:

  1. Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 1) – January 1
  2. Camelot’s Queen (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 2) – March 23
  3. Been Searching for You (formerly He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) – May 23
  4. Madame Presidentess – July 25

And if the stars align, I’d love to have Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale: Book 3) published by the end of 2016, but that may be a bit ambitious, so I’m not making any promises yet.

All of these books will be available in e-book, print and audio formats. (Audio may come later than the others, depending on the production schedule. I’ll keep you updated.)

These books are the beginning of three series that I’ll continue in years to come:

  1. Arthurian Legend – Obviously, this includes the three Guinevere’s Tale books, but I also plan to write Tristan and Isolde’s story (Isolde demanded it when she walked into my head all those years ago), as well as several novellas. I’m also planning a companion book that tells you more about the details of my Arthurian world – you know, all the stuff that didn’t fit into the books.
  2. Love in the Windy CityBeen Searching for You was supposed to be a standalone novel. However, my beta readers immediately came back and demanded more, as have several contest judges. I’m pretty sure that there will be two more books in this series. I don’t want to give away more than that until all of you get to read it and tell me if you agree there’s more to Annabeth and Alex’s story (and Miles, Mia, and Nick).
  3. Heroines of the 19th CenturyMadame Presidentess (about Victoria Woodhull) is the first of four books about three feisty, mostly unknown, real-life women of the 19th century. Victoria was the first female to run for President in the United States. Another woman I will write about was a Morman with dreams of a new life in California, who unexpectedly became involved with Indians in the Wild West (I think her story will be two books). The other is a French woman who made a certain brand of high-end wine a household name in a time when women simply did not work. Though they are from vastly different worlds, none of these ladies lived the traditional role set out for women of their time and the world is better for it.

Which one will I focus on once the third Guinevere book is out? I have no idea. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I have 22 books floating around in my head, so it will really be up to the muse and the characters what comes next. Well, that and how all of you react to the books once you can read them.

As many of you know, this has been a long journey with many ups and downs, and I want to make sure you know how grateful I am for all of you sticking with me, whether you’ve been here from the beginning or are just hopping on for the ride. I plan to keep you apprised of every step in the process and will give additional information as soon as I can. Look for cover reveals, early sample chapters, giveaways and more as publication dates approach.

Eventually I’ll get to the fun stuff like scheduling book signings and virtual tours (hope to get to meet some of you via Skype!), but right now I’m working on securing a cover designer, map illustrator (for the Guinevere books) and editor. Plus learning everything I can about self publishing. Before long it will be time to firm up the audio deal. Every day brings a new challenge, but it’s something I am having so much fun learning. For me, this is a career and a business, so I want to get it right.

Curious as to why I chose to self-publish? Find out my reasoning on Thursday, August 28, over at Spellbound Scribes.

Are you excited that my books will finally be out there? Which one(s) are you most looking forward to? Anything in particular you want to see in terms of marketing?