Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Inspiration Behind The Stolen Jewel

My web serial, The Stolen Jewel, is a medieval-esque fantasy romance. However, it is based on a historical event. About six weeks ago, I was reading an article about Philip II of France who had three wives and one that got away. My curiosity was definitely engaged when I read that the woman who was originally meant to be Philip II’s third queen was “carried off in an ambush” by a count.

In 1195, the Count of Geneva sent his daughter by convoy to France for her wedding to Philip II. Count Thomas of Savoy ambushed the party and stole Margaret/Marguerite away. He married her and used the defense that Philip II had yet to be divorced form his second queen to keep from being taken to task. The marriage between Thomas and Marguerite resulted in fourteen or fifteen children so I assume the match was agreeable to the girl. It probably helped that Thomas was 17/18 when he carried her away from a marriage to 30-year-old Philip since she was probably about 16. Thomas was young, dashing, and both rash and cunning enough to get away with the stunt. 😉 Thomas and Marguerite became the grandparents of four queen consorts through one of their daughters, including the queens of France and England.

Naturally, I wished I could find more information about the count and his stolen bride, which wasn’t available. I also wondered what would have happened if Philip had been more invested in fetching his stolen bride or if he were actually the count’s  king. Ronan happily rose to the challenge although I decided it would take more than a count to defy his own king and made him a duke. The ambush needed gryphons because that was one of the coolest ways to ambush someone I could think of (yes, I will pick some factors based on the coolness). 😉 And I decided the king needed to be a true villain in order to make this more than a man scorned who doesn’t know how to lose gracefully. Mauger has the worst traits of the medieval kings, a true despot, and he is NOT going to let Etain go just because she’s now married to another man, especially when the man in question is Ronan.

Whether Ronan and Etain have a happy ending remains to be seen, of course. The tale of Thomas and Marguerite of Savoy has been an excellent reminder of how much story fodder can be found in history for more than the historical fiction genre. 😀 The Stolen Jewel will continue to explore what happens when a noble is bold enough to steal the king’s intended in the upcoming episodes posted every Sunday.

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Why I Write Fantasy

Last week I had a heavy topic on my mind. This week I want to do something lighter. I want to talk about something that brings me joy-my writing and why I choose to write fantasy.

Two months ago, I talked about writing being my calling, which I do feel strongly that it is, but today I want to talk about the other reasons I write and specifically in the fantasy genre.

Reason #1: I have an overactive imagination

Of course, most fiction writers I know do, especially those of us who write in the fantasy genre. It has been said that the best way to prompt a writer is with two little words: What if? As a fantasy writer, I tend to look a situation or a event or sentence and I ask “What if this included a gryphon? Or what if Werewolves weren’t the only shapeshifters around and things are more complicated than they appear in most stories/movies? What if they were Centaurs?”

Reason #2: I love to read fantasy…

Therefore, I want to read the sort of fantasy I enjoy best and when I ran out of published stories that I enjoyed, I wrote my own. 😉 Writing what you love is even more important than writing what you know. If you love what you write, you won’t mind contributing the hours to research, planning, rewrites (oh so many drafts), and everything else that goes on behind the scenes to create a book because you want to present the best version you can instead of simply wanting it be over. Although, when editing and revision comes around, you will still have days (or weeks or longer O.o) when you are utterly sick of your book. But when you write what you love, you want to come back to it and put a few more polishing touches on it. It’s not just a chore or a job. It’s something you care about and it is a part of you that you dare to share with other people.

Reason #3: I love the way fantasy can look at hard situations without being too close to home

Everyone knows that fiction allows both the author and the reader to look at situations, hard situations that go along with our messy world, through a different perspective. But fiction that is set in a recognizable era or place can often run the gambit of stepping on too many toes or being considered as slander and libel. Fantasy adds additional buffers, taking away the accusatory finger (real or imagined) or permitting changes to the established history. These buffers allow authors to prompt their readers to consider real life parallels, to achieve the goal of making readers think, without making them feel preached at or attacked. For example, in my series The Therian Way, the issue of prejudice, racism, and interracial marriage is handled through the more exotic lens of Therians and Elves. It’s not particularly prominent in Tiger’s Paw but it gains more focus later on due to some of the series subplots. Other fantasy novels written by Christians deal with religious persecution. Others tackle the harder topics, the dark side of human life, even if the characters aren’t Human. Fantasy is not bound by history or the established record, even in historical and urban fantasy because fantasy writers look at “What if.”

Reason #4: Fantasy is capable of making the fantastic human

Some people might see this reason as an oxymoron but it’s not really. The heart of a good story isn’t just the plot or the world-building. The real heart of a good story are the characters and the readers’ ability to connect with them. Fantasy, no matter what form the characters are given, still rests on basic human emotions and feelings. Readers want to care about the characters, especially if they are heroes. Fantasy is not about making characters and races so fantastic, so inhuman that there is nothing for the reader to relate to, it is about making a world, a situation, a race that is relatable to some degree-love of family, love of God, fighting for freedom, making sacrifices for someone you love, taking a stand for what is right even when the odds are against you-so that the fantasy is not only a new experience that shows a different world or views our world through a different lens but it binds the reader to at least one character, makes them care about the character and the story.

Reason #5: Fantasy is what flows best from my pen

It’s as simple as that. When starting out as a writer, I experimented with the different genres: historical, contemporary and historical romance, mystery. But the stories never got far until I started my first fantasy novel. That was the one I finished and that was the one that confirmed fantasy was the genre I worked best in. No matter which subgenre of fantasy, urban, medieval, romance, epic, my stories take flight and I enjoy the task of writing them most. I have learned that it is not enough to do what is popular or the ‘it’ genre of the month or year. You have to truly love what you do and the genre you write in.

Book Review Wednesday – The King of Anavrea

The King of Anavrea (The Theodoric Saga Book 2) by Rachal Rossano

Amazon Book Description:

A reluctant king, a blind queen, and a marriage that sparked a rebellion…

Ireic Theodoric, King of Anavrea, constantly battles with his council over who will run the country. When the council insists on a treaty with Sardmara, he agrees. However, the treaty quickly becomes an arranged marriage. Ireic offers up himself for the sake of Anavrea. But after he signs, no princess appears.

Lirth Parnan, only daughter of the king of Sardmara, survives alone in a cold, damp tower room. Baron Tor kidnapped her in an attempt to control her father. No one came to claim her. She suspects her father considers her flawed beyond use in his political games. After five years of waiting, her hope of rescue wanes with her health.

After Ireic fights his way into Lirth’s tower, he realizes the depths of her father’s deception. Instead of being an answer to his problems, Lirth creates new ones. The council will not accept her as queen, but Ireic has sworn an oath that he will marry her. His choice could cost him his throne, perhaps his life.

Another of Rachel Rossano’s books, which I picked up because of how much I enjoyed Wren and Duty. I also picked it up because it’s another medieval-esque fantasy romance dealing with an arranged marriage.

Plot – Grade A

I really enjoyed the intrigue in this book. While the romance is important, there is a significant amount of political intrigue occurring due to Ieric and Lirth’s arranged marriage. I thought the twists were well-handled and the dual plot lines melded together well. I was able to follow the plots when they diverged and came back together and the ending tied things up nicely while also opening the door for the next book in the series. This is the second book in the series but the stories stand well on their own with the callbacks to the previous book being woven in without bogging down the pacing or feeling that everything is being retold.

Content – Grade A

There is no language in this book. The crassest it becomes is when the “pure bloodline” fanatics accuse Lirth of being baseborn and call her a wench and sorceress. They also refer to her as being deformed due to her blindness. There is violence and one of the bad guys asks a woman if she enjoys being roughed up but nothing is gratuitous and usually takes place off-screen.

The romance is very sweet in this book. Even though the arranged marriage angle could easily cross the line depending on how it’s written, that is not a factor here. There are kisses and Ieric refers to sharing his bed with his wife but that’s it. Although one time Lirth is walked in on by a male messenger when she is not properly dressed, she’s in her undergarments (stays and shift), and the situation is understandably awkward for her. While Lirth is blind and must rely on touch to see Ieric, the descriptions never come close to being overly sensual. It is all very sweet.

The spiritual content in this book is far more front and center then it was in The Crown of Anavrea due to one character being on a journey to choosing to believe in the Kurios. While the spiritual content and its Christian influence is far more prominent, it didn’t feel like the author was preaching or bashing you over the head with the Gospel. Significantly, a character who is a follower of Kurious and His Son makes the conscious decision to hold back after the searcher doesn’t give the most enthusiastic response. The similarities between Christianity and the religious beliefs present in the book are also addressed in an author’s note by the author. I thought Rossano did an excellent job of presenting the Gospel message in the context of her fantasy world and without making it feel forced or like the searcher was just a caricature who had to come to believe in the Kurios for the sake of allegory. I also appreciated the way she didn’t just present the Gospel message but tackled the hard question of “Why would a God who knows all and controls all make or, rather, allow His followers to suffer?”

Technical – Grade A-

The book was very well-written. The challenge of writing a blind character as a POV character was pulled off quite well. It’s not often that I see a blind character providing the POV, unless an omniscient narrator is in control. I can count the books with blind narrators I’ve read on one hand. But there aren’t any gaffs where sight is used when it shouldn’t be; instead, Lirth relies on touch, smell, and hearing to paint the picture of her surroundings and the people she encounters. What impressed me is that I never felt a disconnect with her.

However, while this book is free of typical typos, there were quite a few missing words, dropped letters occurred once or twice, and sometimes part of a phrase was missing. There was also a place where it was obvious an edit occurred but part of the previous version was left behind. It’s possible that it was simply the kindle version I downloaded where these errors occurred, though. There was also one place where Ieric referred to being crowned for a year but everywhere else it’s been three years. That was a little confusing due to the scene.

Final Grade – A or 5 Stars

Overall, I enjoyed The King of Anavrea and I eagerly await the next time we return to The Theodoric Saga. I loved the unconventional heroine and how her relationship develops with the hero in the midst of political intrigue and the difficulties of being a less than perfect royal. I also enjoyed the spiritual aspect of this story and how realistically it was woven into the plot without being a hand wave or in the reader’s face. There were more technical errors this time than what I usually see with Rossano’s work but not to the point of truly detracting from the story, although some editors might twitch in certain places. I would recommend this book for fans of clean, sweet romance in a Christian medieval-esque fantasy and those who enjoy fantasy with political intrigue and a strong Christian message. Recommended for reader ages 15 and up.

The King of Anavrea is available through Kindle, iTunes, and paperback.

Next Week: Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Serial Sunday: The Stolen Jewel – Episode Three

The Stolen Jewel

An Episodic Medieval Fantasy Romance

by

Kimberly A. Rogers

This is the third episode in The Stolen Jewel. Read from the beginning here.

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Chapter Three

The Monster she knew or the laughing madman who stole her. What sort of choice was that? A simple one he claimed but she knew better. She was the one who would have to live with the decision. She was the one who knew the people the consequences of her decision would fall upon. “What of my father?”

Duke Ronan looked down at her, amusement still crinkling his eyes, and shrugged. “I’m certain he’ll be more than willing to return you to Mauger.”

Etain clenched her hands into fists then blushed as he raised an eyebrow and lightly squeezed her wrists. She had forgotten he was holding onto her. Still, she permitted frost to enter her voice as she raised her chin. “It is very easy for you to make such a jest. It was not your lands and people that Mauger threatened to burn and enslave if I attempted to flee this marriage.”

“Mauger will not carry out his threat if your father can convince him that he had no foreknowledge of my actions, which he did not. And that whining weasel Mauger keeps as his enforcer will have no choice but to attest that you were not taken until after the caravan had left Haderyn’s borders.” The duke bent his knees, dropping just far enough so they could look each other in the eyes. “This is your choice, my lady. I will not make it for you. And your father is not here to push your hand.”

Her choice. Etain looked away from his intense gaze. Her choice. She scanned the courtyard below. Most of the people, humans and gryphons alike, were watching them, watching her. What had he told them? Did they know that he meant to take her as wife? Or were they simply watching to see what his captive would do? Her father would demand she surrender to Sir Grimbol and his master. But . . . her father was not here. And if he were stronger, he would not have surrendered her to Mauger or, at least, he would have given her the chance to run.

She studied Ronan again. Mad fool, yes, but he had dared to defy Mauger. He had dared to defy the Monster of Cymru in one of the most blatant ways possible. She still was unsure of whether that made him brave or completely insane. Her choice. For once, it would truly be her choice about the direction her life took from this moment forward. It could also be her doom. But could it be worse than the doom that awaited her as the wife of the Monster of Cymru?

Etain looked up, searching Ronan’s eyes. They still crinkled with that hint of humor that vexed her so but now she looked deeper. She searched for the signs that would give away his cruelty, his malice, his lust for power and women, but there was none. His brown eyes didn’t show her everything but she could see beyond the humor an eagerness of some type and something stronger, something that was missing even from her father’s gaze. She could not find a word to give to that elusive trait but somehow she knew that he would not be the abuser Mauger was known to be . . . could she trust Ronan?

Perhaps, which was more than she could trust other men who would have dared to steal her away or even the man he had stolen her from. And for now that was enough. Etain uncurled her fingers, allowing them to rest on his wrists, no longer resisting. She nodded once. “I choose you.”

He grinned. “Excellent.” Then he turned to the gryphons and raised his arm. The magnificent creatures stepped back as he shouted, “Filbert!”

Etain flinched slightly, resisting the urge to cover her ears in case he decided to bellow again. But then she was distracted by the shuffling figure emerging from the shadows—the simple grey surcoat of Shaddai’s priests was too short for the lanky frame of its wearer and ended just below his knobby knees, his legs looked rather like twigs covered in matted dark brown moss and his broad feet were shod in worn leather sandals. The priest cleared his throat, drawing her attention from his scrawny frame to his face. Large eyes stared back at her, so wide that he looked startled but she suspected his rheumy blue eyes wore an expression of constant surprise. His mouth was thin and puckered, his nose was long and hooked at the end, while his ears stuck out and his dark hair had receded so his forehead seemed overly long. He offered a jerky bow that reminded her of a hunting stork. “Your grace?”

Ronan released one of her wrists but kept a firm hold of the other. “Come here, Filbert. The lady has given her consent. We will wed.”

Filbert blinked. His rheumy eyes turned to Etain, staring wildly. His large Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Her? When?”

“Now, Filbert.” The duke grinned, far too cheerful for a man whose own people were questioning his decision. “I’ll even ask Corydon to take you up for a brief tour of the citadel.”

The gryphon tiercel let out a loud screech that made the priest jump as though he were attempting to take flight or perhaps a child had pulled on his strings all at once. Etain could not help but think that neither the priest nor the gryphon was particularly pleased by Ronan’s offer. Filbert tugged at his surcoat, looking around wildly before his gaze once more returned to Etain. He looked her over, no doubt taking in her disheveled appearance, the rain had lightened to a steady drizzle but she probably still appeared half-drowned. “Perhaps the lady should change into-”

“Nonsense!” Ronan shouted jovially as he slapped the priest on the back of his shoulder with such force that the man bobbed awkwardly and flapped one arm to regain his balance. “None of this delaying and silly primping. We are simple, honest folk at heart. And this wedding shan’t be delayed a moment longer. There are witnesses aplenty and the sooner we complete the vows, the sooner we can seek shelter from the storm.”

The priest darted another nervous glance at Etain. She willed herself to present a strong and willing front. None could know that her knees quaked and threatened to give out as she allowed herself to wonder if she had made the right choice. She licked her lips then nodded. “Please. Let it be done without delay.”

She glanced at Ronan. This was her choice. She had given him her word when she chose him. She would not shirk it now. He was nodding to something the priest was saying but then he abruptly turned to her, the wide boyish grin from before back on his face. Then his grip on her wrist slid down so he gently cradled her hand in his, callouses making his touch rough but the pressure was light and would leave no hint of a bruise. “People of Aelwyd, hear me! This day I, Ronan of the house of Brynmor, do stand before you and in the sight of Shaddai to take as wife Etain of the house of Lugh.”

Her pulse was pounding so loudly that it became a dull roaring in her ears. She heard nothing that the priest said but everything Ronan said was as clear as if he were etching it onto her heart. Brown eyes held her gaze, amusement and something else flickering in their depths, as he rumbled, “Before Shaddai, I pledge to take you, Etain, as my wife. Through plenty and famine, joy and sorrow, sacrifice and reward, I will stand with you and in front of you as your shield. No harm will I allow to befall you if it is in my power to prevent it. I will give you my children, my lands, my every possession . . .” There was a pause but then he continued, completing the traditional vow, “and my heart.”

“My lady?” The priest’s voice squeaked a little, jarring her attention back to him and to the fact it was now her turn to pledge her life, her everything, to the strange man before her. He bobbed his head. “Repeat after me.”

Etain’s attention returned to the duke. His mouth was still curved by a lingering hint of the grin that made her want to smile back at him. She licked her lips then squared her shoulders and raised her chin, trying to look taller. Her voice was surprisingly steady as she recited the vows. “Before Shaddai, I pledge to take you, Ronan, as my husband. Through plenty and famine, joy and sorrow, sacrifice and reward, I will stand by your side. I shall keep your confidences and protect that which you entrust to my care—your lands, your possessions, your children, and your heart.”

“What is pledged before Shaddai may not be broken by any being. His blessings and grace shine down upon this marriage, may it bloom in love, prosperity, and children, and may the prosperity of your marriage spread to Aelwyd.”

She had done it. She had joined herself for life to the madman who dared to steal her away from that miserable caravan. Ronan’s grip on her hand tightened as he tugged her the scant step between them. His free hand touched the corner of her jaw and traced its line to her chin, making a shiver skitter down her spine. Fingers curling around her chin, he pushed until she titled her head back and then he captured her mouth in a kiss.

For a moment, just one thrilling moment, she lost herself to the kiss. But then the roaring of the crowd intruded on her senses, grating against her ears, and she stepped back, a fiery blush creeping up her neck and cheeks. Ronan maintained his grip on her hand, though. Her husband raised his free hand once more then shouted, “The feast has been laid in the hall. Let us enter and celebrate the return of our missing people and the arrival of my bride!”

The shouts climbed to a new deafening level as the gryphons added their own shrieks of delight. Ronan flashed her that grin of his and then he led her past the priest and across the walkway to a sturdy door too small for the gryphons to use. As they entered the corridor, Etain tried to keep track of the path her new husband chose but soon admitted defeat. Eventually they came to another door but when Ronan opened it, she gasped in unbidden delight at the sight of the large tub waiting only feet from the door. Steam rose in lazy plumes bearing the promise of the soothing embrace only a good bath could provide.

“I hope this means you will forgive me for making you stand in the rain for our wedding, my lady.”

Etain jumped then blushed. “My lord, I-”

“Ronan. We are married now, after all, and there’s no need to stand ceremony.”

“I didn’t know you knew how to stand on ceremony.”

As soon as the impulsive words slipped free, Etain wished them back. But Ronan tilted his head back and let out a hearty bark of laughter. “Oh yes, I think we’ll get on very well.” He grinned at her then bowed. “My lady, if you will forgive me, I must attempt to make myself look somewhat less disreputable before I return to your side. Clothes have been laid out for you once you have finished with your bath.”

He handed her a large key and then strode past the tub and the large bed beyond it to slip through a smaller door. It must have led to an antechamber since she caught the glimpse of a smaller tub before he pushed the door shut. Etain stared at the door until her stomach rumbled a complaint and she set her trembling fingers to undoing the laces of her soaked clothing. The tub and a change of clothes would set her physical appearance to rights. She was not so certain of what would straighten out the tangle of emotions she now felt within her breast. What path would her choice lead her down?

The Stolen Jewel Copyright © 2015 Kimberly A. Rogers and kimberlyrogerscfwriter.wordpress.com blog. All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Illustration: “Stitching the Standard” by Edmund Leighton, 1911.