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Author Q&A: For the love of Regency

As a boy, Damon Blackbourne was banished for faults his father failed to beat out of him. But when his father and older brother die in a freak carriage accident, Damon returns home to manage the family estate and introduce his teenage sisters into society, hoping only to keep his family secrets hidden. He isn’t looking for friends or fellowship. But Lady Grace Mattersley might change his mind.

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The Demon Duke will be available online Monday

Today, please welcome author Margaret Locke to discuss her new book, The Demon Duke!

Congrats on your new book! This is your fourth novel, but the first in a new series, right?

Yes, it’s the first in my Put Up Your Dukes series, a Regency romance series without the magical elements present in my first three books. I’d still like to think the stories are quite magical in their own way, however!

For lovers of Regency romance, many of the terms and locales will be familiar, but even for those new to the genre, my hope is the story pulls you in and doesn’t let you go.

Should we read your first three books before this one?

Of course! Ha ha ha, just kidding.

A reader certainly doesn’t have to have read any of the Magic of Love titles to enjoy this romance; The Demon Duke stands alone. However, if people have read my first three books, especially book two – A Matter of Time – many characters will be familiar, as The Demon Duke’s heroine, Grace Mattersley, is the sister of A Matter of Time’s hero, Deveric Mattersley, Duke of Claremont.

I always love seeing some familiar faces with each story, while also getting to know a new hero or heroine. What’s it been like for you?

I love it! I’ve always loved romance series in which sidekicks from one book become the stars of future books. It invests me in the stories from the start, as I already feel acquainted with these people and therefore want to root for them. Plus, it’s fun to learn what characters from previous books are up to now.

As an author, however, ensuring that you get all details consistent across books can be challenging! I’ve created a master spreadsheet for just that purpose, but still managed to make a cousin to The Demon Duke’s hero, Damon Blackbourne, a cousin to Grace as well – until luckily a beta reader caught it. Oops!

Gotta love beta readers! You’ve described your genre as romantic comedy. Tell us about that.

Actually, that’s my descriptor predominantly for A Man of Character, rather than my other two, A Matter of Time and A Scandalous Matter, which are time travel romances (though they’ve got funny parts, too!).

A Man of Character gets the romantic comedy label because it’s not quite as traditional as many romances – and hopefully because it makes people laugh!

“Romantic comedy” in romance has become in many cases a code word for “chick lit” – a genre name that has somewhat fallen out of favor. It refers to stories, usually humorous or “light,” that include romance, yes, but also have jobs or friendships or other elements equally prominent in the story line. A Man of Character has all of that – and more than one possible hero, which is not common in “pure” romance. Hence, romantic comedy!

Do you have a favorite among your characters (or story lines)?

Ooh. Good question. I love A Matter of Time’s Eliza James, because she’s so fun – winsome, bubbly, exuberant. All character traits I see in my daughter and which I try to cultivate in myself.

As far as heroes, I love A Man of Character’s Ben Cooper because, well, he’s essentially my husband. But as for who has my heart and empathy? The Demon Duke’s Damon Blackbourne, hands down. Because I wrote him for my son. No spoilers here, but if readers read The Demon Duke’s author note, they’ll understand.

What was it like to return to the 1800s for this book?

Delightful and challenging at the same time.

Delightful, because I love the Regency period. Regency romance has always been my favorite, so many of the places, events, customs, and much of the terminology is long familiar.

But challenging, because now it’s on me to get those details correct. I’ve definitely learned it’s one thing to read historical romance, but quite another to write it. I’ve turned countless times to the Romance Writers of America’s The Beau Monde, a group of authors specializing in Regency romance, to ensure I’ve gotten the intricacies of titles right, among other things!

When you started your first novel, did you envision the series taking this direction and possibly reproducing into more series?

Nope.

I’d always planned on writing Regency romance, so it was quite the surprise when the first idea that popped in my head and wouldn’t let go was not only a contemporary romance, but also one with paranormal elements. Say what? But that’s how A Man of Character was born.

As I was drafting that story, however, I kept trying to figure out how the heck I was going to get from contemporary to Regency. I wanted to link the stories, because I love series, and so do readers. Enter time travel! Which, ironically, is a subgenre I’ve also loved throughout my romance-reading decades. It seemed a logical step. (I love Lynn Kurland’s time travel romances, and finally read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for the first time last year – after I wrote my own time travel books.)

When I sketched out details for A Matter of Time, I gave Deveric Mattersley a large family with the clear intention of writing stories for each of the siblings. I assumed they’d all be part of my Magic of Love series – until I realized including Regency romances with no magical elements in a series renowned for them simply wouldn’t work. I needed a new series – and Put Up Your Dukes was born.

However, not all Mattersley siblings are dukes or will marry dukes, so eventually I’ll need another series for the non-ducal stories. Plus, there are contemporary characters from A Man of Character and A Scandalous Matter who’ve been asking for stories, so again, I’ll need something for them that isn’t the Magic of Love moniker.

And hopefully I’ll manage to do this all in ways that make the series enjoyable (and standalone) in their own right, but also delight and tickle readers that choose to follow me through all of them!

Who are your favorite authors, and would you say they’ve influenced your writing and your chosen genre?

One hundred percent, they’ve influenced my writing and genre.

My top four are Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Sabrina Jeffries, Sarah MacLean. They’re some of the biggest names in Regency historical romance, and I only hope someday to write as well, and with as much wit, as they do. There are so many more – Erin Knightley, Tessa Dare, Grace Burrowes, Lisa Kleypas, Shana Galen. I could go on and on.

Julia Quinn is the author who brought me back to romance after a five-year hiatus (I had this silly notion that as a wife and mom to young children and as a woman in my thirties, it was time to give up my romance addiction. I was so wrong, and am glad I’ve recovered from that misguided notion.) I fell in love with her writing specifically for the witty banter and tension she infuses in each of her novels. Her Bridgerton series is much beloved, and for good reason.

I definitely think the elements I love most about romance – the deep emotionality, the witty banter – influence my own writing, because they’re the two markers I hope stamp my own style. I guess I’ll leave it to readers to tell me if I’ve succeeded.

What’s the most surprising question anyone’s ever asked you about your writing?

Hrm. I’m not sure – though I did have someone suggest once I should write a sequel to A Man of Character in which all of the main characters had aged, maybe gotten beer bellies, cheated on each other, or acquired a number of other less desirable traits. I thought it was quite an odd suggestion, considering I write romance. Let’s just say I’m not keeping that in mind.

What’s next for the series? Can we hope to see more familiar faces in the future?

Next up in the queue is The Legendary Duke, second in the Put Up Your Dukes series, which is a tale loosely based on the Arthurian legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. Its hero is the Duke of Cortleon, referenced briefly in The Demon Duke.

I also want to write the fourth in the Magic of Love series, tentatively titled A Delicate Matter, and then I’ve got The Once and Future Duke, The Irish Duke, and The Angel Duke to write for the Put Up Your Dukes series, plus A Matter of Chance, which is the story of Deveric Mattersley’s younger brother, Chance.

And then there’s The Boy Next Door, which is the story of Matthew Goodson’s sister, Taylor, from A Scandalous Matter. And I’ve one in mind for a key character from A Man of Character, and…and…

Yeah, I’m going to be busy for years. But that’s good, right?

Absolutely! And outside of novel writing, what’s next for you?

This summer I’m attending the Romance Writers of America conference for the first time! I’m super excited – and a bit nervous. I’ll get to see many of the rock stars of the genre and meet a number of authors face-to-face whom I’ve heretofore only met on social media.

I also have two signings coming up: The Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival on September 23, and The Virginia Writers Club Holiday Fest in Charlottesville in November. I’m looking for more opportunities like that – while also trying to balance personal life and personal needs. As are all women, right?


Margaret Locke Headshot

A lover of romance novels since the age of ten (don’t tell her mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen she’d write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning love stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first crush, this time as an author as well as a reader. Because love matters.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.

The Demon Duke is available for pre-order at Amazon.

Margaret Locke is on Facebook, GoodReads, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

For more info, visit http://margaretlocke.com.

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Author Q&A with Allison Garcia: ‘It takes power and courage to stand up and fight’

Today we have a special guest — fellow Virginia author and friend Allison Garcia, in the first of what I hope will be many author Q&As, from time to time, at this blog.

Allison K. Garcia

So tell us about yourself and your writing. What type of writing do you do?

I write Christian fiction. Inside this genre I’ve experimented with a variety of subgenres, including speculative, mystery/thriller, children’s fantasy, and Latino. I really feel called to write Latino Christian fiction, and my book, Vivir el Dream, will be coming out on Amazon mid-May. My other favorite is my children’s fantasy series, called Prince Miguel and His Journey Home.

When did your passion for writing begin?

I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. My first book, “My Future Car,” I wrote in 2nd or 3rd grade and included some pretty awesome pictures that still might be my current drawing level. It was revolutionary in its ideas about televisions and refrigerators in cars. Though the swimming pool car hasn’t made it to market yet, I think Honda might have stolen some of my ideas. 😉

You have a new book coming out. What’s it about?

Vivir el Dream is about an undocumented college student and her mother, trying to make their way in the world. It’s about their old and new struggles, the faith that keeps them going, and, of course, there’s a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

The subject matter is incredibly current to what Americans are (and have been) dealing with. Was it difficult to approach the subject of undocumented immigrants?

Not really. I really feel like God was calling me to write this book by putting people in my path who have been through similar situations that my main characters experienced. As my job as a counselor, I have heard some pretty rough stories on why people take the risk to cross the border undocumented, the traumas they’ve experienced in their countries of origin, their hopes for their children. I have also been to several Virginia Organizing events, including rallies for The Dream Act. The power and courage it takes to stand up and fight for justice is overwhelmingly inspiring. We have also had several people in my church get deported, so I’ve seen first-hand how it breaks up a family and how unwavering faith has allowed them to trust in God’s plan in the midst of chaos. That’s what impacted me the most.

What do you hope readers will take from Vivir el Dream?

I hope my book gets people wrapped up in the beauty of Mexican culture. I hope it helps people understand why people come here undocumented and why things need to change. I hope other Latinos find their voice in this book and see their people represented as strong, loving, faithful, invaluable members of American communities. And I hope it shows how trusting in God and holding onto your faith can get you through some horrible circumstances.

Though your book is in English, you also weave the Spanish language into dialogue and chapter titles. Could you tell us about that process?

I wanted to make it authentic. I’m bilingual so it came naturally. I have loads of Latino friends, plus my husband is Mexican, so I especially know a lot about Mexican culture. I wanted the dialogue to represent how intergenerational Latino families interact. Juanita, the mother, came as an older teenager but never went to school, so Spanish was her primary language, and I wanted it to be represented accurately. Linda, the college student, is bilingual but there would be times she would need to say things in Spanish so her mom would understand. The chapter titles are all Mexican songs or movies or phrases used in Latino communities. In the end, my editor advised me that the Spanish was too advanced for non-Spanish speaking audiences, so I’m adding in footnotes for my English-speaking peeps. It wasn’t until I started using footnotes that I noticed how much Spanish was in the book. 400 footnotes and counting!

You’ve written other books, too?

Oh my, yes. Many. In terms of readable ones, I’ve got 4 adult books and 6 books in a children’s fantasy series.

Prince Miguel is a children’s fantasy series that was inspired by a real life event, right?

Yes, it was based on events after my son’s birth. In the hospital, I started writing a story and things just progressed from there.

What was it like writing a baby (your son!) as a hero of his own book series?

Weird, at first, because babies can’t do much, and I wasn’t sure how to represent how strong he must be and the journey he had to go through. In the end, my friend, Josette (wink, wink!) helped me decide to use a spirit animal to show the journey. So when Prince Miguel awakens for his journey, he is a turtle.

How’s the series coming along? Do you have more books planned?

I have 6 out of 8 books written. The first book is close to being finished while the others are still in early editing mode. I plan to finish the last two during NaNoWriMo this year.

Many of your books were started during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — for which you volunteer as a Municipal Liaison. (As do I.) Would you share a little about your experience with NaNoWriMo?

Oh, man. I love it!  Previously it would take me years to write a book and I would be editing it the whole time and I was like a lone wolf. Then, I found NaNo and realized I wasn’t alone; there was an entire community of writers to help me through my writing journey. Plus I wrote a book in a month, so that’s pretty boss!

Have you noticed a difference between writing a novel during NaNoWriMo and writing during other months?

Haha, ever since I started NaNo I’ve only written during NaNo. The rest of the year is spent editing that book usually.

What’s next? Publication? More projects in the future?

Vivir el Dream is coming out mid-May. I have another Latino book, Finding Amor, that needs to be edited, plus the Prince Miguel books are nearly ready as well. So many choices! I’m also planning to translate Vivir El Dream into Spanish.

Which other authors do you like to read?

I love Barbara Kingsolver. I love classics like Jane Eyre, And Then There Were None, and Heart of Darkness. I love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m a sucker for diverse fiction, so I love Como Agua Para Chocolate and The Joy Luck Club and Beloved. So pretty much I’m all over the map.

How can people find out more about your writing?

I have a Facebook author page  (https://www.facebook.com/allisonkgarciaauthor/) where I announce my books that are coming out. You can also check out my blog (http://allisonkgarcia.wordpress.com), find me on twitter (@ATheWriter), or look out for Vivir el Dream on Amazon mid-May!

Allison K. García is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

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Power of choice, forgiveness at the heart of new novel by Margaret Locke

I’m excited to offer this book review of my friend Margaret Locke’s third novel. A romance author, she writes strong female leads who are hoping for a second chance at love — and in life. Enjoy!


In this third installment of the Magic of Love series, author Margaret Locke continues an epic adventure of love and time travel, made possible through the magic of writing. 

The cover of

The cover of “A Scandalous Matter,” by Margaret Locke

Having read Locke’s first two books, I think this is a fitting third chapter.

In the first one, A Man of Character, bookstore owner Catherine Schreiber discovers she has the power to write real life love connections when she realizes she’s been unknowingly dating men she wrote into existence years ago.

In the second book, A Matter of Time, Cat’s best friend Eliza James has a second chance at love when Cat writes her a love connection with a duke in 1812 England.

The third book, A Scandalous Matter, brings the story full circle by sending Eliza’s new sister-in-law Amara Mattersley to the bookshop to live with Cat and forge a new life for herself in 21st-century America.

Though it isn’t necessary to read the first two books before this one (each book can stand alone as its own story), I think it’s probably more fun reading them in order.

Amara, we learned in Book 2, is quite a spitfire, so it’s fun following her into the future (our present) and watching her discover the wonders of things like indoor plumbing and refrigeration.

But Amara doesn’t come to the future for its technological advances. She comes to escape the oppression of scandal that has ruined her chances at love and happiness in her own era. She wants independence, she wants an education previously reserved only for the men in her life, and most importantly she wants a second chance in a place where society’s cruel expectations aren’t (usually) as damning as they are in Georgian England.

Thankfully, Amara gets all she’s looking for and more as she finds a sympathetic friend in Cat, an unexpected love interest in university professor Matthew Goodson, and a new world of opportunity in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It’s a fun little story of love and independence — but its real magic is in how it actually achieves so much more than that.

This book offers a wonderful social commentary on the way things have — and maybe haven’t —  changed over the last 200 years, but I love its largely optimistic view on life and our seemingly infinite number of opportunities for forgiveness and the chance to make things right.

In the 1800s, Amara made one foolish choice to sleep with a man she thought was going to propose to her — who turned out to be married already — and for years afterward she was slut-shamed by her social circle. Even worse, she can’t forgive herself. But in 2016, Amara learns that mistakes don’t have to define us, and that women, though maybe not as equal to men in society’s view as they would like to be, can still in many ways “have it all.”

This offers a remarkable juxtaposition for the reader to experience through someone like Amara — a forward-thinking young woman who’s just escaped a world that viewed her as little more than property. While we in the 21st century can, reasonably, find ways to mourn how long it’s taken for women to make it this far — earning the right to vote in 1920, but still, nearly 100 years later, unable to secure equity in the workplace — Amara celebrates that here, in contemporary America, she has access to a world-class education; she can choose, without shame, whether or not to marry; and she can be master of her own future — whatever challenges life throws at her.

It’s a refreshing reminder of all we have accomplished, regardless of how far we might still have to go. But maybe most stunning of all is how this novel calls to action any woman who feels pigeonholed into one path in life because of the choices she’s made.

Tomorrow is a new day, Locke tells us through her characters. It may not feel like it now, but the sun will come up. And when it does, we all get to decide what we’re going to do next — who we’re going to be and how we might challenge ourselves on to greater things.

Because here in 2017, women can do anything.

But more importantly, they have the choice.


A Scandalous Matter, by Margaret Locke, is available at Amazon or at www.margaretlocke.com.

My rating: Five Stars

Full disclosure: Margaret Locke and I are members of the Shenandoah Valley Writers, and I was a beta reader for this book before it was published. She gave me a free unedited copy to read, and, in thanks, she also gave me a free published copy. However, I did purchase the Kindle edition. As a beta reader, I offered her edits and opinions I thought would help her in completing her book. After publication, I read the book a second time before reviewing it.

I am planning a second review for Goodreads and Amazon in the next couple days that focuses more on the plot and characters, and less on the book’s themes.

This review is my own opinion of a book that I realized, while attempting to write a review, deserved a deeper look at its themes of love and self-forgiveness, and its commentary on society. I had already, before beginning my review, planned on giving this book five stars based on its plot alone, as I felt this is the best of Locke’s books so far.

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Ten years I almost forgot

Usually when people who haven’t seen me in the long time ask what I’ve been up to, my answer is the same: Nothing.

Everything is the same, nothing has changed, this is my life.

But it’s not true.

I might not be where I expected to be by now, or have what I thought I’d have, but my life has been far from tedious, and it’s about time I admitted it. So, without much emphasis on details, here’s just a quick list of some of the things I might have forgotten to mention if you ever asked me what I’ve been doing since 2006. And after reading this, I hope you’ll make your own list — for your blog, for your Facebook page, or for yourself – just a reminder of all the little things in life worth remembering and celebrating!

latte

At Le Pain Quotidien, with my niece, in NYC

  • Bought a house
  • Started playing the old clarinet again
  • Photographed three weddings
  • Went to my 12-year high school reunion
  • Gave the sermon at church five times… with a sixth coming up soon
  • Took four overnight skiing trips — and didn’t die
  • Met my best friend
  • Ran a 5K
  • Wrote a 50,000-word novel in November — seven times
  • Performed the Verdi Requiem, Carmina Burana, and Bach’s St. John Passion with the Masterworks Chorus at Shepherd University
  • Was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding
  • Attended a Pakistani wedding reception
  • Become an aunt twice over
  • Took my husband’s niece on a “Christma-Birth-uation” road trip to NYC
  • Took another niece to the local premier of a 14-year-old writer/director’s horror movie
  • Saw Aerosmith and Hootie and the Blowfish in concert
  • Interviewed LeAnn Rimes over the phone and Candace Cameron Bure in person
  • Saw Phantom of the Opera twice at the Kennedy Center
  • Saw various other local stage productions
  • Traveled the entire East Coast, from Montreal to The Bahamas
  • Went tubing and kayaking on the Shenandoah River

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Wyoming in my mind

My husband and I are down to one working laptop and one semi-but-not-really-working desktop.

This generally doesn’t pose too many problems for us.  After all, we both have Droid Razrs.  But smartphones aren’t the best for writing novels, or for downloading 20th Century retro video games.

So Monday night when I wanted to work on my book and Ryan wanted to play Unreal Tournament, we had to pull out the ole marriage handbook and strike a compromise: I’d get the laptop until 8:30, and then I’d go watch Biggest Loser.

Normally it doesn’t take much to get to me crash on the couch downstairs in front of the TV for several hours.  On one hand there’s washing dishes or putting away laundry…on the other there’s my stockpile of Big Bang Theory episodes, followed by Once Upon a Time, Elementary, and SVU.  I know, right?  Why am I always the one taking one for the team?

But Monday night was different.  For one thing, I’d already watched all of those shows over the weekend (the ones that didn’t have a bye week, that is); for another, I couldn’t get my novel out of my head.  I might have been listening to Jillian Michaels lament the probability of going home early after the likely demise of her White Team, now down to one contestant, but really I was talking with Darby O’Dell in the forest of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, considering how to rewrite the scene that would come next, one of the many I’d tossed out in favor of a new, better-written(?) plot line.

Since reaching the end of this novel three summers ago, and actually thinking myself to have a readable manuscript, I have deleted half the book (eight chapters) and so far rewritten about seven.  I think there are another two chapters in there that will need to be rewritten from scratch too, but time will tell.

Really, not having the laptop to myself was not a good enough reason not to work on my book, but I let it be good enough as I chose reality TV over the reality of my life: That I’m a novelist who’s been editing her first complete book now for close to four years and frequently chooses almost anything to actually writing or editing.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the story, and Monday night was a perfect enough example of that.  My head was in the game, but my willpower was cooling its heels over on the sidelines planning out strategies while taking a breather with a gallon of Gatorade.  The reality of noveling is, it’s hard.  Even if you know what you’re going to write, it’s still more difficult than flipping through the index of your DVR and scanning through shows that have piled up over several months and that you still don’t want to watch but are considering anyway because you so desperately want to feel what you feel while writing your novel, only in an easier way.  The crux is that nothing will make you feel what you feel while writing your novel.  Movies and TV and other people’s books might come close; they might give you that fix for drama or comedy or heartbreak that’s similar to what you were looking to feel, like how Cadbury chocolate will do, if it’s easily accessible, even though what you really wanted was Hershey.

And that’s what ultimately made me turn down old Charlie’s Angels episodes that have been stewing on the DVR since the last time Cloo Network had a marathon sometime last summer, and instead work on my novel by hand.  By hand is even better, by the way.  It’s harder than typing and takes longer, but that’s what makes it the Cote d’Or of the writing experience.

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Fictionally historic

A week into National Novel Writing Month 2012, and I’m actually on task. This has to be a first for me, in my four years of experience.  Apparently the fifth time is the charm! It’s day eight, and I finished my writing session tonight unexpectedly when I realized I’d already passed today’s word goal to end at 13,398 words.

As I’ve been telling everyone who will listen, this year I’m writing a fantasy novel, but really I’m not.  There isn’t any magic in this story, and the only thing that makes it really count as fantasy is that, in the back story, dragons were something my characters’ ancestors had to contend with. Otherwise, this story of a princess whose kingdom is attacked by the enemy while she is away on a ritual tour of the allied kingdoms is nothing more than, what — historical fiction?  I’m not sure what to call a story that takes place in a fictional land in a medieval time setting that does not utilize fantastical elements. I feel like I should toss in a treacherous woodland creature simply for the simplicity of calling this fantasy.

At first, it was the mere presence of my main character, Elen, the middle princess, that caused my mind to scream “fantasy,” but later I realized how biased that is of me. In all ways other than that dragons once roamed the land of the princess’s continent, this world could be real (or maybe was once upon a time in Europe.) I researched authentic medieval-style names online to give my characters depth and christened them according to their strengths and weaknesses as adults, which is an author’s privilege. But other than that deviation from reality, my story is as real as I could make it while knowing as little as I do about medieval story lines.

So I guess my story is not really a fantasy novel — at least not yet — but if it isn’t, I am at a loss what to call it. I read online yesterday in a summary of “The Man in the Iron Mask,” that it was classified a historical epic, even though little to none of the story line has any basis in historical reality. The only truth seems to be that there once was a king of France named Louis XIV. That’s it. The rest is built upon a collection of fact and fiction all molded together into a story and assigned it the adjective “historical.” It might as well have taken place in Middle Earth.

So I have dragons in the back story of my novel. And Earth has dinosaurs in its past. Where does that leave my story?

An excerpt, just for fun:

“Halt,” said the tallest of the three.  “You there.”  Elen turned, frantic to close the few steps between her and the door, and reached it only half a breath later. Fitting through its opening proved to be more than impossible within the short amount of time she now had, and before she even could fit her head and right arm in through its access, a hand closed across her shoulder.

Yanked backwards off of her feet, she screamed, and the man who had seized her released her as, with a jerk, he spun her around to face him.  Trapped against the wooden wall of the building with the other two men closing in on her, she did all she could think to do in that instant, and she fell to the earth in a heap, wailing as she threw her arms across her face.

She had no idea if this would work.  It might sway a man of a kindly hearted nature to show concern for her, but after hearing what she had earlier, following the commander’s order to treat the people of the march with as much cruelty as the soldiers desired, she worried that her show would have little more effect than to excite three brutes who could not have cared less of her suffering.  Therefore, hers was not merely a show, but an actual illustration of her fears.  In her exhaustion and hunger, she could not have better painted a perfect match of her feelings if she had had all day to plan for it.

“There, there,” one man shocked her by saying, however removed is voice was from actual passion of speech.  “Get up, would you?  We mean you no harm.”

“Speak for yourself,” said another, Elen thought the one who earlier had misjudged girls of the Realm as weak.  He reached for her, jovially attempting to woo her toward falling for his advances, but she pulled away her arm and began rocking back and forth, praying for wisdom as the tears began matting her hair against her face.  Would her traveling cloak betray her?  Was it likely any other girl from the march or a nearby county would have had the wherewithal to throw on a cloak before attempting escape?

“Here now,” said the first man, who had spoken kindly following her collapse, “it’s all right.  I assure you no harm will come to you.”  He reached for her, ignoring her flinch as he adjusted his sword and placed both hands on her shoulders.  Before she could think how to stop him, he had pulled her to her feet and was running a finger across her forehead to clear it of hairs.  She continued to watch the ground, hoping to appear only fearful and humble than wishful of avoiding identification.  Perhaps he was used to women lowering their gaze in his presence, but he did not remark on her choice.  Instead, he ran the same finger down her face, past her ear, and secured it under her chin, which he raised until he could see her tear-streaked face.  She still refused eye contact.

“You’re a pretty one, are not you?” he said, with surprising gentility, considering his rude mates.  Coming from anyone else, the remark would have sounded to be spoken with a sneer, but instead it almost made her want to match his eyes—almost.  “What were you trying to do, sneaking past us like you did?”  His words were gentle yes, but laced with threats, and she dared not offer an answer that would enrage him.  She weighed the benefits of not answering at all but thought her continued silence might enrage him even more.

“I was hiding from the fire, sir.”

“Hiding,” he said, considering her a moment before continuing.  “Here, in this yard.”  She nodded infinitesimally, and he made a quick sweep of the area with his eyes.  “So you were listening to us talk and thought you would pass along what you had heard to your country men.”

“No, sir,” she said, thinking quickly.  “I only just awoke.  I must have….swooned.”  The other two men chuckled and backed away with clear indication that they no longer cared what she had to say.  “I had such hunger, you see.  I wanted only a bit of food.”

“I see,” said the man who now held her chin within the grip of two fingers and rested his other hand on her shoulder.  He swept his eyes over her clothing.  “You are dressed for flight.”

“When I heard the noise outside, I threw on my cloak; it was the first piece of clothing I could find.”  She was not helping her cause, she knew.  He did not believe her.  “My arms, you see; I am a leper.”  That did it.  He released her immediately and backed a good two feet away before glaring at her.

“Why didst not thee say something earlier?”

“I apologize, sir.”  She bowed her head, clutching the cloak more tightly around her.

“Be off with you,” he said.  She did not hesitate, turning back to the door and trying it a couple times before resigning herself to climbing inside.

“Revolting.”  The word followed her within, and she could not help but smile as she ran a hand over her brow to stall the formation of perspiration before her hand found her weary eyes.

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Novel writing month begins

There is both too much and not enough I can say about National Novel Writing Month. Considering this is my fifth year in a row, and I talk about NaNoWriMo often, it seems ironic that I now find it so difficult to write about it.

This is the first day of NaNoWriMo, and today I begin writing a novel in a month.

Last year I blogged about it every day of November; this year I vow not to do that. Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is challenge enough without adding another 20,000 into the mix.

Instead I’ll offer weekly updates, and this being the first day, I will simply say that so far I’m on task. In my fifth year as a NaNoWriMo participant, I’m leaping into a fantasy novel for the first time ever. I’m not sure I prepared enough for this, but that’s what’s so great about NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t matter. Less preparation is encouraged. The point is just to write, and that is what I shall do.

If you’re reading this and wondering what crazy language I’m speaking when I talk about NaNoWriMo, and would like to learn more, please head on over to www.nanowrimo.org. It’s not too late to sign up to write your own novel in a month! It’s free, and writers of all ages are welcome.

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