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Trondheim Cathedral
Vikings Rule the World – Or They Should, Anyway

As y’all know, I really do think Vikings should have ruled the world.

Since I don’t have history on my side, I was thrilled to get word from Lorena Streeter from the Central Florida Romance Writers that Odin’s End has finaled in the 2010 Touch of Magic contest.
I actually served as one of the judges (not my own category, before you ask) and lemme tell ya, competition is stiff. I also forgot that I entered the contest… another story altogether!
So this list of finalists is from the Central Florida RWA site. Many thanks to the folks of the Dallas Area Romance Authors (unfailing cheerleaders, all), Diana Cosby for her unswerving devotion and chocolate torte, and the wonderful folks of the Norsefolk_2 Yahoo! group who keep Viking traditions alive.
Thanks, everybody – and I look forward to seeing all of us fine finalists in print!

TOM 2010 Finalists

Central Florida Romance Writers is pleased to announce the finalists in the
2010 Touch of Magic contest. Thanks to all the entrants, and to all the
judges whose hard work make this contest a success every year. The list is
in alpha order-we’ll announce placements in June after the final round of

Congratulations to:

Historical finalists

  • Jennifer Beane: Promises
  • Sue Webb: Scenting Scandal
  • Kayla Westra: Lady Knight

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements finalists

  • Dawna Rand: Odin’s End
  • Bobbye Terry: Coming to Climax
  • Sandra Tilley: Call Me Cinderella

Paranormal finalists

  • Tamara Hughes: Bewitching the Beast
  • Christal Murphy: Awaken the Dragon
  • Dawn Wolzein, w/a Dawn Marie Hamilton: Sea Panther

Romantic Suspense finalists

  • Jan Jackson: Runaway
  • Jean Mason: Buried in Plain Sight
  • Anna Sugden: Past, Imperfect

Short Contemporary finalists

  • Dani Collins: His Majesty’s Inappropriate Mistress
  • Brenda Hammond: Owe My Love
  • Cindy Taylor: A Family of Her Own

Single Title finalists

  • Stephanie Faris: The Get Him System
  • Dale Mayer: Hide-n-Go Seek
  • Robin Weaver: Book Learning

Young Adult finalists

  • Peter Andrews: Dream Crafters
  • Tracy St. Hilaire: Fifteen Forever
  • Bec Sampson: Alli’s Playground

Viking Ship at Hogmanay


Well, just got word that Odin’s End – my little tale of the last throes of the Vikings – has finaled in the Mainstream with Strong Romantic Elements category of the Central Florida Romance Writers Touch of Magic Contest.

Barbarian hotness does it again!

Final placement is still TBD.

The irony? I was a judge in that contest for another category. LOL!!!

More on that as it becomes available. But until then, I’ll be presenting my first workshop for the Dallas Area Romance Authors called The Art of Extroversion: Get Seen, Get Noticed, Get Results.

Nobody ever believes me when I tell them – but I’m horribly shy. So I’m hoping a few people show up, and that I won’t be talking to an empty room. I’m already bribing my friends to try and get them to put in an appearance.

I can guarantee that there will be prizes, raffles, chocolate and other assorted goodies. Remember, DARA meets at the Holiday Inn Express in Richardson, Texas, at 9.30 a.m. on the fourth saturday of the month.

See you there!

Criticism… or PRAISE??

As y’all may know, Odin’s End has enjoyed reasonable success in its contests. And I’m inordinately, pathetically grateful to the many folks who have taken the time to act as contest judges. Now that I’ve judged a contest myself, I know how time-consuming a quality judging effort can be.

But I think few people (entrants or judges) talk about the mind-blowing contradictions contest results can contain. I subscribe to David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants  (which, if you don’t subscribe, click the link and get on this bandwagon). David has recently written a series on criticism – specifically, how to evaluate it and maximize its utility.
The bottom line? Whether criticism or praise, use it as best you can to improve your story.
So – here are some of the comments from judges of Odin’s End. Note the contradictory nature… and be afraid. Or not.
Here goes:
One judge: “First person POV is extremely difficult to sell in the romance category, so I would seriously reconsider this. The plot felt fairly contrived to me and I had a hard time getting into the world of the time period.” (Dawna’s note: Interestingly, Odin’s End was entered in the mainstream – not romance – category of this particular contest.)
Another judge: “I must confess, I don’t read historical novels. What impressed me the most was how skillfully you used words from that era in such a way that I understood what the heck was going on.”
Yet another: “It grabbed my interest and never let go. Your characters are multifaceted and sympathetic, and your pacing is on target.”
But another? “The pacing was extremely slow. Readers want to see action in the story, not just hear about it.”
The bottom line? As author, I’ve got some decisions to make. Which critiques do I accept? Which do I dismiss? Questions I ask myself daily as I complete Odin’s End and begin work on its revisions.
And is the criticism harder to take? Or the praise? Often it seems like it’s neither one – but the contradiction between the two – that’s the greatest challenge of all.
Patricia Kay
Patricia Kay

As you know, I drove down to Houston for the West Houston RWA’s 2010 Emily Awards . I was told that the West Houston ladies would “take good care of us” during the special Emily presentation, and they were right.

One of the speakers was USA Today best-selling author Patricia Kay, author of more than 48 novels of romance and women’s fiction. 4 million copies of her novels have been published in 18 countries.
Patricia was speaking on “The Emotional Connection”. While I won’t get into the details of her presentation (take one of her great writing classes for those), she mentioned a few jaw-dropping points that made me sit up and take notice. And they’re ones that too many authors forget.
This genius is all hers (and none of mine). Anyway, here goes:
  • It’s not about what happens on the page – it’s about what happens in the reader’s heart and mind. Think about movies or TV – men watch sports to experience jubilation, excitement, etc. And as for reality TV like American Idol? It’s about people’s hopes and dreams.
  • People read fiction in order to feel– to experience emotions in the context of safety. To cry their eyes out, yet know they are safe. To experience fear, without experiencing actual harm.
  • If you leave the reader without emotional impact, you will leave the reader unsatisfied. There must be an emotional payoff – and in order for a payoff to occur, there must be an emotional investment to begin with.
  • If a reader is involved in a book, they forget about whether or not the author is a good craftsman. (About POV errors, about adverbs, etc.) This is what you must strive to do – make your readers care, make them emotionally invested.

Hmm. Something to think about, no?


Viking attack

The NEW Viking Invasion!

OK, peeps – just back from Houston, where the extremely wonderful folks from the West Houston RWA hosted the awards for their 2010 Emily Contest.


Odin’s End took 4th place in the Contemporary Single Title category. And I also got a request for a full synopsis from Frances Jalet-Miller of Grand Central Publishing.
Now, some of you may say, “Fourth place? Fourth place? Dawna, that reeks.” Au contraire, naysayers…
First, Odin’s End is not romance – and because it wasn’t a historical romance, I put it in the Contemporary Single Title category.
Second, as y’all know, Odin’s End isn’t contemporary – it’s historical fiction! And still I put it in the Contemporary Single Title category.
So our little tale of the heretic’s daughter captured by Vikings ended up placing in a category where it really didn’t belong. SWEET! I am so grateful to Jo Anne, one of the judges of Odin’s End, who approached me just to say how much she loved reading it and that I needed to let her know when it was published. That just sent delicious writing chills down my spine! Thanks for the LUV, Jo Anne!
And, because of our little tale of barbarian hotness, the folks at the West Houston RWA have decided to create a separate category in next year’s contest which would accommodate women’s fiction! Pat O’Dea Rosen – one of the coordinators for my category – delivered this awesome news!
Many thanks to the wonderful members of West Houston RWA. Special love to Pat, Diane Holmes, Lara Chapman, “Montana Lani”, the judges, and everybody else who worked so hard to give us a wonderful contest and award experience. Truly, if you’re looking for a GREAT contest, go for the Emily!
A special congrats to my pal, Keli Gwyn, for her 1st place win in the Historical category for Violets and Violins. Go, girl!
And over the next days, I’ll post some of my notes from our two presenters, Sam Havens and Patricia Kay, who autographed her book for me!
Contest Judging

What Kind of Judge Will I Be?

So after a few experiences as a contestant, I’ll be a judge in my next writing contest!

Scary, huh?
The irony is that this contest – which I’ll refer to as the Desperate for Feedback 2010 contest – was one that I almost entered myself. I’ll even be judging the category that I would have entered!
OK – maybe me being a judge isn’t so odd. After all, I taught high school English for years. And it’s no wonder that so many teachers buy in bulk from the liquor store.
And I’ve also been a contestant. I’ve gotten flaming criticisms and thoughtful suggestions.
I’ve also seen the best – and worst – of critique groups. I’ve gotten tips for how to speed up action scenes, and the odd comment of  “Maybe you’re not ready to take your writing to the next level.”
So with these experiences, what kind of judge will I be?
The same kind of teacher I tried to be to my students:
  • Thoughtful – Real people bundled off their dreams – their manuscripts – packaged in hope. And I’m the recipient. The least I can do is reward their serious effort with a thoughtful read and considerate commentary.
  • Kind – Too often, people flaunt their rudeness and try to package it as “my opinion” as in “Well, I’m entitled to my opinion” or “This writer needs to hear an honest opinion.” Guess what? You can have an honest opinion without being an absolute ass. Try it sometime.
  • Encouraging – I taught students whose stoned parents didn’t care if they came home. Yet they would turn in painfully rendered sentences on crumpled paper, and they would smile because they were turning in their best effort. No, their arcane spelling and questionable grammar didn’t earn an “A”. But I could always find something they honestly did well. And I tried to build on this.
  • Fair – As a teacher, I couldn’t let my personal tastes, my tongue-lashing I took from some kid’s parent, or the fact that I hated 7am classes affect my grading. And I don’t buy the argument that a judge’s bad day or bad attitude should impact their scoring. Because when you review somebody’s work, you owe the writer your unbiased effort.  Period.

I’ve got a total of 80 pages to read, and when I was a teacher, I used to do this in a day. But I’ll take all the time I need for this contest, even if it takes until the March deadline.

Because I’ve still got some contests to enter myself.

And I know what kind of judge I want.

Christmas on the Champs Elysees

First, I’ve uploaded even more pics from the research trip (taking me a while, I know, but y’all – I had 900 pictures!!!!) So have at – remember that any page on the left that says “NEW” has the uploaded pics. Luv y’all!! So I flew from Oslo to Paris at 6:00 a.m., which was horrible in so many ways. First, because I was leaving Norway; second, because it was so early; and third, because it was so early, I didn’t get to give my keys back to the Avis Car Hunk at the rental desk.

Truly, it sucks.

So the new batch of pics is from Oslo and Paris (See? The Champs Elysees at Christmas is one of them) so go check them out!

OK – down to business. Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever ordered or picked out a book, riveted by what sounds to be  a gripping tale. And you sit down to read – having carved out valuable time so you can make it through the whole book – and guess what?

Yup – you guessed it. The story fails in every way imaginable. And you sit there thinking “If only…” with a list for the author of what he or she could have done that would have made the story deliver on its promise to the reader.

And that’s what it’s all about, right? As a writer, you must deliver on your promise to the reader.

So what book was it? I won’t tell! But let’s just say that as someone who writes about Vikings, I picked up this book and nearly went into cardiac arrest. Wow! This person’s Viking tale sounded so definitive, so overwhelmingly gripping, would there be any room for mine?

The bottom line was what I got of reading the book, and what it meant for Odin’s End:

  1. Your protagonist must be sympathetic. This is basic knowledge for all writers, that to some degree, the protagonist must be someone we can sympathize with. Yet the heroine in the book I was reading seemed so inept, snotty, and 1-dimensional that I couldn’t find any reason that she shouldn’t die at the hands of the Vikings. In fact, I hoped for it. So there. And I have to remember to keep Adele sympathetic throughout Odin’s End. I have her making a few extremely bold choices. Will my readers sympathize with her – and accept them?
  2. Description should never outstrip dialogue or action. This one’s another basic writing tenet. What the characters are saying and doing should never get lost in the author’s description of a forest or field or whatever. Yet I found myself skipping several pages at a time in this recent read, because the author went on about the forest, or the bridge, or the trees. Now, I also have a world to build in Odin’s End – most modern readers have no concept of what happened in the Middle Ages in Norway. So I still have to build my world. But I can’t spend pages and pages on meaningless description. My characters have to live the happenings, and talk about them.
  3. Subplots should add to the story, and the story’s resolution. Now this is one that I think most beginning writers (like me!) have trouble with. But my disappointment flowed when I realized this well-established author had trouble with it, too. There were several subplots introduced. So how were they resolved? Well, the heroine just left everything behind and moved somewhere else. Well, shit. I wish I could do that – just move away and have all the messy crap in life disappear. So the subplots (which, by the way, I didn’t think added to the story all that much to begin with) just vanished with the heroine’s departure. As a reader, I didn’t buy it. And as a writer? For Odin’s End, I have to make sure I circle back and tie up the loose ends. Now, I’ll be leaving some loose ends deliberately, and I think that’s OK. But I think I need to resolve most subplots to the reader’s satisfaction by the end of the book.

So – for my writing friends – it’s nice that you take writing classes.

But I challenge you – pick up a book. One you love – or one you hate. What makes the story one that you love? What particularly works? And then look at the book you hate. What parts do you skip over? Why? Do you throw your hands up in the air at characters you’re supposed to sympathize with?

And then look at your own work… and take it from there.

viking ship

Le Mans celebrates its Viking invasions

So I’m back from my research trip, as my Facebook fam already knows. In 12 days, I visited Fontevraud, Saumur, Le Mans, and Paris (all in France, for my US-bound readers) as well as Oslo and Trondheim (in Norway, for the globally impaired).

If you remember, some naysayers scoffed at the trip. So, were they right? Should I have invested the time in Wikipedia instead?

No way. The trip was one of my all-time best decisions.

So what exactly did I learn? The main thing is that you’ll find all kinds of unexpected things – things you won’t find on Wikipedia, in books, or surfing endless Google images. Embrace these unexpected findings – and use them to build richer characters and a more sophisticated story.


  • Fontevraud Abbey (Adele’s home) – had windowless cells where disobedient nuns were locked for days or months – until some of the nuns went mad. Thanks to Zoe Wozniak at Fontevraud Abbey for the private tour of these – normally closed to the public! Think our disobedient Adele might have spent some time in one?
  • The Loire Valley (near Fontevraud) – people lived in caves during the middle ages! Some of these caves were dug out by monks quarrying stone for nearby abbeys. Adele would have passed these on her way to Le Mans. Marie-Laure Cormier of Bouvet-Ladubay wines guided me through caves that are now part of their winery!
  • St. Julian’s Cathedral (in Le Mans) – would have been an imposing sight even in Adele’s day. Since she is nearly burned by a mob in Le Mans… why not have this happen at the cathedral? And as you can see from the Viking ship Christmas lights, today Le Mans celebrates its Viking invasions! Thanks to the folks at the Le Mans tourist office in Plantagenet City.

As for Norway – where to begin? I fell in love with that country in a way previously reserved only for my Corvette convertible. And it wasn’t just because of the Norwegian hunk at the Avis counter in Oslo, either (although folks – Barbarian Hotness lives!). The land was exotic, numbingly cold with a savage beauty that I contrasted with France – I saw it just as Adele would have. And I met fantastic people there (in addition to the Avis car rental hunk) who showed me the wildness – and sophistication – of Rorik’s home. And this deserves a posting all its own.

So over the next several days, I’ll be posting pics and info from the travels. I hope I said it often enough while I was there – but to all of you who braved cold and snow to answer my questions and share with me your expertise, I’m so grateful!

And to all of you writing about some far away land? Go. Go see it.

And embrace what you find.

Trondheim Norway

Trondheim, Beautiful Norway

As many of you might know, I’m headed off to Fontevraud Abbey in France (where Adele grew up) and to Trondheim, Norway (Rorik’s home and site of much of the action in Odin’s End.

So it’s a research trip for me – much longed for, much debated, but now with a few requests for full manuscripts, definitely much needed. I’ve done about as much as I can with my books and research articles and emails, and need to talk to a few experts at Fontevraud, Sverresborg, and Nidaros Cathedral.

I got a huge surprise when I shared my intentions with a few folks. One person laughed and said, “It’ll be funny if you do all that and then don’t sell the book.”

Excuse me? I was totally shocked that someone would actually say this, rather than the more enthusiastic “Go for it!” or “I’m happy for you!” But OK – if you look at it from a strictly business sense, then maybe they have a point. But this is more than just “business” to me.

I’ve managed to do a lot of traveling – I’ve gazed up in amazement at the Brandenburg Gate, I’ve laughed with and kissed kilted strangers on New Years’ Eve in Edinburgh, I’ve attended the millenium proms in London and drunk gluhwein in Hanover. I’ve been buffeted by winter winds on the shore of Loch Ness, and I’ve stood staring at the lights glimmering above the water in Amsterdam. And I’ve  – well, seen and done so many more wonderful things that I don’t have the space to tell you.

The thing is – with each of these, I met amazing, fascinating people, each of whom were on an amazing, fascinating journey of their own. And with each trip, with each new person I talked to, my world got bigger.

So – perhaps my detractor is right. I might take this research trip, learn a lot about my subject, and still never sell Odin’s End. Entirely possible, though I’m working my ass off to create a different reality.

But regardless, I’ll take my trip. I’ll see incredible places, and talk to even more amazing people – and I’ll be a better person for it.

So for each of you who might ever doubt, who might calculate the time and the money and waver – go where your writing takes you. Widen your world.

Folks,Viking Ship

I wanted to pit Odin’s End against other categories and even published authors. So I submitted it to the RWA NOLA Stars Suzannah 2009 contest. And Odin’s End has finaled – out of 100 entries, it was in the top SIX!!! Final placement TBD. Here we go:

Congratulations to the 2009 Suzannah Contest Finalists

  • The Gavel’s Echo by Anne-Marie Carroll (Romantic Suspense)
  • My Shackled Marquess by Rhea Ference (Historical)
  • Night Walker by Lisa Kessler (Paranormal)
  • Betrothed by Alyssia Kirkhart (Historical)
  • Odin’s End by Dawna Rand (Novel with Romantic Elements)
  • A Very Patient Man by Susan Shellabarger w/a Susan Sabin (Historical)

The Suzannah Contest pits unpublished and published writers all up against one another. We have no categories separating them. We’re just looking for the best all around. We had a 100 entries this year and these six were the cream of our crop. All of our finalists this year are unpublished writers! Congrats to you all!

Good Luck in the finals.

Suzannah Contest Coordinating Crew

Again, many thanks to my readers, Aelle and Pat, and to some wonderful writer friends who’ve provided me invaluable advice and encouragement. (One of them is Diana Cosby – all around wonderful person!)

July 2018
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The World of Odin's End