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.

Examples?

  • 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!)

richard bremmer as skeldOK, peeps –

For those who’ve been following, you know that Odin’s End had won 1st place in its category – Mainstream With Strong Romantic Elements – in the Indiana Golden Opportunity 2009 contest. It went on to compete with the winners from the six categories for the title of “Best of the Best”

Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management was the category judge – and she requested the full manuscript. (Yay!)

Just got word that, while Odin’s End did not win the title of “Best of the Best” that it did receive another request for a full manuscript by Meredith Giordan of Berkley Publishing Group.

So – barbarian hotness does it again!

I’m dying of curiosity to see who did win – and I hope I can find an excerpt of their stuff somewhere! I got in touch with both Cathryn Pritchard and Barbara Binns (the 2nd and 3rd place winners in the MWSRE category), and they’re lovely and talented ladies, as you might guess.

Again, many thanks to all my readers – like Pat and Aelle – who put up with me and my fascination with barbarian hotness. And to Diana Cosby and the many lovely folks at DARA who are supportive of all of us struggling scribblers. Hugs, y’all!

viking shipFootball season is upon us – admittedly, my favorite time of year. I’m a die-hard, third-generation Washington Redskins fan (something few folk will admit to this season), and I have to wonder – without football, what did the poor Vikings do back in the day? How did they pass their time? Keep in mind I’m talking about real Vikings, not the Minnesota Vikings.

I had to research this for a scene in Odin’s End. It’s Julfest – the pagan celebration that was later engineered to coincide with Christmas.

Rorik has captured Adele and her monk buddies. Adele must pretend to be a volva – a seeress. She must now deliver Rorik’s war strategies disguised as prophecies. She does this for the first time in front of Sverre, the would-be king of Norway.

But it’s a festival, and there’s all kind of partying going on….

  • In one game, warriors passed a drinking horn around. Each warrior took a draught, and any warrior deemed to be drinking too “cautiously” was penalised and forced to drink more.
  • In other drinking games, warriors well into their cups competed to see who would take the most solemn oath, or who delivered the best toast, or who could perform best in a “comparison of men.” (Basically, who could brag about themselves the best or, alternately, who could insult someone else the best.)
  • The warriors played a form of hockey, where they pushed around a ball on ice. Both the infirm and the overly aggressive were prevented from playing.
  • Board games. Games such as tafl and skaktafl (chess) were immensely popular.
  • Storytelling was a big one, too. Chieftains employed skalds to entertain their guests with tales of the king’s victories, or with stories and legends of the gods, or with songs.

There are tons more, of course – and keep in mind that I’ve only covered games that Adele comments on during Julfest. She hasn’t been to a Viking wedding (yet) and she hasn’t seen the Easter and summer festivals. So she has a few surprises to witness….!

viking shipJust got the email off the Dallas Area Romance Authors loop.

Remember, Odin’s End took first place in its category, Mainstream with Strong Romantic Elements, as part of the Indiana Golden Opportunity 2009 contest!

Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management was the finalist judge in this category – and she requested my full manuscript!

Again, thanks a million to my readers and cheerleaders!! You know who you are – and I LUV you!!

So, the official results from the Indiana Golden Opportunity 2009!

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2009 IGO Contest.

The First Place Winners have advanced to the Best of the Best category, judged by Meredith Giordan of Berkley. That winner will be announced approximately November 20th.

Congratulations to all our finalists!
** indicates a full manuscript was requested by editor/agent
Garthia Anderson
IGO Contest Coordinator

HISTORICAL CATEGORY
1. The Soldier – Patricia Patton
2.  Love and the Heir – Patricia Patton
3.  The Yard Man Affair – Jill Stone

MAINSTREAM CATEGORY
1. Odin’s End** – Dawna Rand
2. The End at River’s Bend** – Cathryn Pritchard
3. Damaged Goods** – Barbara Binns

PARANORMAL CATEGORY
1. Darkness Dawns – Leslie Duvall
2. The Story Queen – Joe Fraser
3. In Like a Lion – Karin Shah

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE CATEGORY
1. Degrees of Death – Linda Lovely
2.  Dangerous Choices – Donna Meier
3.  Trail of Secrets – Greta MacEachern

SINGLE TITLE CATEGORY
1. Chocolate Kisses** – Kelli Zeiher Riley
2. Uncivilized – Meghan Murphy
3. Once Upon a Margarita – Heidi Luchterhand

YOUNG ADULT CATEGORY
1. Personal Demons – Lisa Desrochers
2. The Dead Guy Downstairs – Sheri Adkins
3. Seaside Sorcery – Laurel Wanrow

viking shieldYAY, peeps!!!!

Just got news that Odin’s End won first place in its category, Mainstream with Strong Romantic Elements, in Indiana’s Golden Opportunity 2009 contest!!! And the judge, Paige Wheeler, of Folio Literary Management, requested a full!

It now goes on to the Best of the Best competition, but I have to say, it’s already exceeded my wildest expectations!!!

Many thanks to my critique partners who read my stuff and endure despite the pain. Much LUV!!!!

I’ll post the formal results when they become available.

viking4As promised, here are the official results for the 4th Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, sponsored by the Southern Louisiana Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Odin’s End placed third in its category – Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. YAY! The results will be published in the local New Orleans paper. This thrills me to no end, because I never thought my name would appear in a newspaper in anything other than the obituaries or Most Wanted listings.

Much love to my many critiquers (who suffer in noble silence and put up with me), and to the Dallas Area Romance Authors. Y’all rock!!!

 

The Southern Louisiana Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, Inc. congratulates the winners of its 4th Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest:

Inspirational: 

 First Place                     Defending Hope by Dianne K Burns

Second Place                The Road to Love by Anne Wolfe

Third Place                   Murder on Ocean Drive by Gloria Ferguson

Honorable Mention      Light the Fire by Mary Manners

 Short Contemporary:

 First Place                     No Bull by Dee S. Knight

Second Place                The Perfect Holiday Mix by Wendy S. Marcus

Third Place                   Beauty and the Feast by Chana Alexander

Honorable Mention      A Thread of Shells by Lucy J. Dixon

 Single Title Contemporary:

 First Place                    Marryin’ the Librarian by Wendy Qualls

First Place (tie)            Murder, Curlers, and Canes by Arlene McFarlane

Second Place                Chasing Miracles by Linda Chubbuck

Third Place                   Courting Disaster by Ellie Kirkland

Honorable Mention      Worth Fighting For by La-Tessa Montgomery     

 Novel With Romantic Elements:

 First Place                    The Choice by Pamela Kopfler

Second Place                Tragic Choices—Far Off Voices by Margot Pleasants

Third Place                   Odin’s End by Dawna Rand

Honorable Mention      Wild Rodeo Nights by Sandy Sullivan

 Historical:

 First Place                     A Mad Passion by Laura Hirneisen

Second Place                The True Confessions of a Lady Novelist by Emily Becher

Third Place                   A Frenchman’s Secrets by Rhoda Fort

Honorable Mention      Thief by Night by Connie Queen

 Paranormal:

 First Place                    Rocky Mountain Howl by Kinsey W. Holley

Second Place                Intergalactic Brides Series: The Triple Bride by Dee S. Knight

Third Place                   Demon Soul by Christine Ashworth

Honorable Mention      A Vision of Death by Gretchen Stull, writing as Evelyn Grady

 Romantic Suspense:

 First Place                    From Baghdad With Love by Gail Zerrade

Second Place                The Light of Truth by Shelley M. Masog

Third Place                   Anytime Darlin’ by Julia Barrett

Honorable Mention      Saving Sarah by Robena Grant

 Winner of the Highest Overall Score resulted in a tie:

 No Bull by Dee S. Knight  

From Baghdad With Love by Gail Zerrade

In a recent discussion with a colleague, she  spoke of her finished manuscript and confessed, “I need to trim my novel.”Medieval Writing

And I responded, “Who says? Your critique partners?”

And she said, “Nearly everybody.”

Well, “everybody” is pretty consistent feedback, so I asked the dread question, “How long is it?”

“175,000 words.”

I spewed iced tea through my nose. Yup. To say she needed to “trim” would be like saying Chewbacca the Wookie needed hair remover.

So whoever thought that you could write 300 words and end up with a tool for the perfect final draft?

That’s what happened to me when I accepted my pal Christian Yorke’s “flash fiction” challenge. Generally, flash fiction is an extremely short story somewhere between 300 to 1000 words long. There doesn’t seem to be any real consensus to the length. Keep in mind that there are generally about 250 words to a page, and you see how short flash fiction can be!

I started writing, and my submission to Christian’s contest, Her Winning Smile, ended up right at 300 words. The punchline? I had started out at almost 900 – nearly three times the word count.  So what’s a girl to do?

Cut. Cut big time. Don’t fuss with the little trims here and there.

So, starting out with a 900-word draft, I ruthlessly razored it down. I got rid of entire “scenes” and some fave sentences. Why? They didn’t seem to fit, or were repetitious, or weren’t powerful enough. This got me to about 600 words.

Then I got picky. Is this word the perfect word? Can punctuation – rather than words – help me? Can I rephrase the sentence – and tighten it? It was like trimming a tree – I had taken out the big branches first, now I was “shaping” the little ones.

I reached my 300 words. Then I compared the original (handwritten, I might add) version, and my final.

I would never have believed it. The 300 words said more – and said it more powerfully – than its 900-word predecessor. At last I’d found it – the path to the perfect final draft.

  1. Write the first draft freely – don’t edit, don’t revise. Don’t worry about wordcount.
  2. Set it aside for some period of time (for my little piece, this was only a day).
  3. Come back to it. Set yourself a trim target – your final word count for the scene/chapter. Don’t be a puss! Be aggressive.
  4. Cut big. Eliminate digressions, repetition, and anything that slows the pace.
  5. Swear a little bit. Cry if needed.
  6. Trim it up. Tighten, rephrase, restructure, strengthen.
  7. Swear some more. Cry some more. Get a friend to hand you tissues if needed. But reach your trim target.
  8. Compare the two versions.
  9. Marvel at the honed final product. Marvel at the sloppy first draft.
  10. Stop sniveling and repeat steps 1-9 on other scenes/chapters.

No kidding – Christian’s competition provided me with the path to the perfect final draft. Thanks, friend. You have no idea how much I needed it!

Yes, but did they SPEND as much on their weddings as we do on ours?

Yes, but did they SPEND as much on their weddings as we do on ours?

OK, peeps –

As you know, in Odin’s End, our Viking hero Rorik captures Adele’s ship, killing the crew and taking her and her monk buddies captive. Obviously, not the most successful of blind dates.

Needless to say, these actions present some serious challenges to Rorik’s and Adele’s later romantic relationship. But there’s also another big challenge. OOPS – Rorik is betrothed. (He must have forgotten to mention it.)

So in researching betrothals, weddings, etc., I came across more wicked cool factoids about marriage in Viking society. Here you go:

  • The potential suitor had to start the negotiations; the father of the girl could never initiate his daughter’s marriage.
  • The woman was totally absent from the negotiations; in fact, frequently marriages were negotiated without the woman’s knowledge. Rarely did the couple meet before the wedding. And as for her approval? Irrelevant.
  • There were two levels of engagement, where the woman was either an “engaged woman” (festarkona) or a “promised woman” (heitkona). The promised woman had to wait for the suitor for 3 years, but after that she’d be available for other suitors.
  • A father couldn’t force his daughter to marry if she wanted to become a nun (OK – so if she can’t stand the guy, she can either marry him or become a nun. That’s one helluva choice!)
  • The marriage was considered legal if 6 witnesses saw the husband go to bed with the wife. (Think of all the weddings you’ve been to – is this something you’d REALLY want to see?)
  • However, this was preceded (thankfully) by a lavish banquet, and the partying lasted for days.
  • Divorce was easy to obtain, and this, combined with men being killed at sea or in battle, and women dying in childbirth, meant that a whole lot of weddings took place. (Wow – the Lifetime Channel could have a whole lot of those “Platinum Wedding” shows.)
  • Another little bit of trivia? The last Catholic bishop in Iceland, Jon Arason, had 6 known children with his acknowledge mistress. (I won’t bother to comment on this one.)

So yeah, Rorik has a problem. He’s betrothed. There are some real consequences if he breaks the engagement. (My, my. He’s offended a family’s honor. And what’re the consequences for that, in Viking culture?) And he’s considering it because of Adele, our heroine who really can’t stand him.

Hmmm….. what’s your average Viking guy going to do?

June 2017
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