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Exquisite St. Julian's Cathedral - Le Mans

Writers – are you prepared to meet fabulous people?  And no, I don’t mean meeting Oprah (although that would be cool, too!)

 What I mean is, you meet people every day who are truly awesome. But do you know just how great they really are?

Y’all know that I hoofed it to France and Norway at Christmas to research Odin’s End.  My visit included a trip to Le Mans, France (yes, home of the auto race) and after a jaw-dropping visit to the Plantagenet City and  St. Julian’s Cathedral, I was ready for lunch.

That’s when I wandered into the Tourist Office. I was hunting for info on a good place to eat. I got the information (and the pizza and crepes were divine) when I noticed that the office happened to be running an exhibit on the city’s Viking invasions (now tell me – how opportune was that??). But more importantly, I met Pierre Poirrier, this incredibly nice guy who works at the tourist office.

I gave Pierre my business card, and I told him about Odin’s End. And I gushed over Le Mans, the Plantagenet City, St. Julian’s and the exhibit. Because I had to. They were fabulous.

But Pierre has been beyond fabulous. I got an email from him a couple of weeks ago. “Hey, we have some new documents in English and we thought you might like them!” So Pierre sends them my way, and included in the envelope were these incredible postcards of St. Julian’s Cathedral. When I say “incredible”, this means “frameworthy.” And they meant the world because they were images of the “Angels and Demons” light show at the cathedral. I had desperately tried to capture these pictures, but my camera just couldn’t deliver.

I am so grateful to Pierre and the other folks in Le Mans. They remembered me, and they remembered Odin’s End. Pierre, you’re the best! When I sell that story, we’ll schedule a booksigning in the Plantagenet City.

So I have some wonderful new pics – and new memories – of Le Mans.

But go there for yourself. The city – and its people – are worth the trip.

Click here to see the postcards Pierre sent me.

More pictures of Le Mans are listed on the left, including St. Julian’s,  L’Epau Abbey, and the Viking invasion.

The Lights of St. Julian's

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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.

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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.
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Now, some of you may say, “Fourth place? Fourth place? Dawna, that reeks.” Au contraire, naysayers…
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First, Odin’s End is not romance – and because it wasn’t a historical romance, I put it in the Contemporary Single Title category.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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!
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A special congrats to my pal, Keli Gwyn, for her 1st place win in the Historical category for Violets and Violins. Go, girl!
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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!

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.

Le Mans - The Viking Invasion Continues

OK – so I’m finally getting back into the groove of things. Which means I’ve finally loaded a chunk of the photos from my research trip to Flickr.

For the globally impaired, just a reminder that I visited Fontevraud Abbey, Saumur, LeMans and its Plantagenet City to research Adele’s world, which is France of the 1180s.

I also visited Trondheim, Norway to learn about medieval Nidaros (Trondheim’s name, back in the day) and the Viking age.

Wanna see the pics? Look to the page index on the left. Look for the pages that say “NEW!” All of those have pics loaded. Just click to the page – it tells a little about the trip and contains relevant links to museums and websites…and the Flickr page containing that day’s pics! YAY!

Feel free to use any of the pictures – just please mention that they were taken by Dawna Rand as research for Odin’s End. Preesh!

St. Julian's Cathedral - Le Mans

Trondheim Norway

Beautiful Trondheim

Whoops, I think I forgot to mention it, but I had entered Odin’s End in the West Houston RWA’s 2010 Emily Contest – and it finaled! Barbarian Hotness does it again.

Final placement will be announced in February. Anyhoos, the finalists:

2010 Emily Finalists

Single Title Finalists

  • UNOPENED DREAMS by Jan Aldridge
  • GETTING LUCKY by Katie Graykowski
  • DEAR PRUDENCE by Ann James
  • MURDER, CURLERS, AND CANES by Arlene McFarlane
  • CLAIMING ANNIE’S HEART by Judythe Morgan**
  • ODIN’S END by Dawna Rand

Paranormal Finalists

  • DARKNESS DAWNS by Leslie D. Duvall
  • TIGER PRINCESS by Amber Finitzer
  • WARRIOR by Allison Leake
  • INNER EYE by Michelle Miller
  • BLOOD BORN by Kylie Short

Historical Finalists

  • THE DEVIL MY CARE – RACHEL by Elisa Beatty
  • VIOLETS AND VIOLINS – ELENORA by Keli Gwyn
  • GUARDIAN – GARETH by Patricia Patton
  • SECRET – NICK by Patricia Patton
  • THE LAST WOMAN by Karen Stuyck

Contemporary Series Finalists

  • REDEMPTION by Nancy Evertz
  • HIS DARK PAST by Rebecca Sampson
  • GRAVE SECRETS by Linda Trout

Anyhoos – I’m so excited! As always, thanks to my readers – Pat and Aelle – and cheerleaders – Diana Cosby and Pam and all of the Dallas Area Romance Authors. Long may Barbarian Hotness reign!

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.

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

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