Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm reading A KNIGHT'S VENGEANCE by Catherine Kean

First, I have to say that as a medieval author myself, I love this book. I really like it when a medieval author does serious research before writing a story set in a specific place at a specific time. I love the words she uses, the well plotted story and the sizzling romantic tension.

Awards for A Knight’s Vengeance:

* Finalist, Historical Category, Georgia Romance Writers’ 2007 Maggie Awards for Published Romance Novelists
* Second Place, Historical Category, Lake Country Romance Writers’ 2007 Barclay Gold Contest
* Third Place, Historical Category, Volusia Romance Writers’ 2007 Laurel Wreath Contest

Here is the link to get this book in kindle:

And here is the blurb:

A quest for revenge . . .

Geoffrey de Lanceau is a knight, the son of the man who once ruled Wode. His noble sire died, however, branded as a traitor. But never will Geoffrey believe his father betrayed the king, and swears vengeance against the man who brought his sire down in a siege to take over Wode.

A quest for love . . .

Lady Elizabeth Brackendale dreamed of marrying for love, but is promised by her father to a lecherous old baron. Then she is abducted and held for ransom by a scarred, tormented rogue who turns out to be the very knight who has sworn vengeance against her father.

A quest for truth . . .

The threads of deception sewn eighteen years ago bind the past and present. Only by Geoffrey and Elizabeth championing their forbidden love can the truth - and the terrible lies - be revealed about . . .

This book is the first of a series. I can't wait to read them all.

Check out Catherine Kean other stories on her website at:

Posted by Vijaya Schartz
Swords, Romance with a Kick

Friday, June 15, 2012


The reviews keep pouring for PRINCESS of BRETAGNE. This one is a 4-ribbon from Romance Junkies. it says:

“Her attention to the harsh conditions of this violent time period is spot on, and starting with a brutal Viking raid caught my attention immediately. She brings the world of Pressine to life with vivid details of daily life, clothing, customs, manners, Celtic history and the conflict between the early Christian church and the old pagan beliefs of the goddess.

This story is filled with action and danger and there are many interesting secondary characters that help drive the plot forward. I particularly like Gwenvael, Pressine’s brother, who has extensive scenes in his own viewpoint scattered throughout. Look for the just released, PAGAN QUEEN, to continue the saga of these two lovers.”

You can read the entire review at:

This review certainly made my day.

Vijaya Schartz
Swords, Blasters, Romance with a Kick
Vijaya on Amazon:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who Do I Write For?

Who do you write for?  In the days before ebooks and self-publishing became a valid business enterprise, the answer to that question would be either "INSERT NAME OF PUBLISHING HOUSE HERE" or "I'm not published yet".  Now the answer is not so clear-cut.

I just released Sass Meets Class, a sweet romance set in Arizona Territory.  It is different from my other books in almost every respect and there is a reason which I will get to soon.  First, however, I want to mention what got me thinking about this.

In trying to promote Sass Meets Class, I've been doing some interviews.  This is a pretty thought-provoking activity.  I had to think about when I wrote it (2001) and why I wrote it (coming up) and what inspired me (visiting Arizona).  Where did the characters come from (hell if I know).

Obviously, since I am putting my work out there for purchase, I hope that readers will give my books a try, be happy with what they read, and come back for more.  However, Sass Meets Class is so different from the others that I'm wondering whether readers will feel bamboozled if this is the first of my creations they've picked up and they then go on to one of my spicier, edgier medieval books, Unbidden or Redeemed.

OK, blah blah blah, why did you make Sass Meets Class so different?  

Because I wrote it with a specific publisher in mind.  I had a pitch meeting with an Avalon editor at the 2001 RWA Convention knowing full well they published only sweet, clean romance.  She asked for a full manuscript and I wrote it.  A very long time later it was rejected for having too much stuff about English nobility.  Fair enough.

There is much discussion in the author world right now about traditional versus self-publishing.  I won't even attempt to address the business aspects of it because I am a noob.  I do remember, over a decade later, how challenging I found it to write within the confines of someone else's rules.  Don't get me wrong, I am fond of Sass Meets Class or I would not have released it.  I revisited the manuscript twice before letting it loose in the cyber-world and enjoyed the revision process both times.  However, in this new publishing world of ours, we self-pubbed authors enjoy creative freedom.  Since Avalon didn't buy it, I could easily have dropped in some stronger language and a wedding night scene to make it seam with the heat level in earlier books.  Why didn't I?   I think for these characters in this setting, two impassioned kisses is enough.  I also like that romance lovers of any age, sex, and sensitivity will enjoy Sass Meets Class as it stands.  In a way, it is a marketing experiment to see if clean American historical romance is more palatable to the market than my Carolingian noblemen.

See, there I go with the nobility again....

In the end, with no publisher to tell me different, I have to write for myself with my reader in mind.  Nothing makes me happier as a writer than when other people enjoy my stories.  Perhaps the best way to bring them alive for other people is to make my characters and their challenges ring true for me.

What do you think, readers and writers?  How far from the expected creative road can an author go before you feel you've been led down a false path?

Friday, June 8, 2012

More books by Laurel O'Donnell

The Lady and The Falconer:

With her father at war and her step-mother ruling the castle with disinterest, Lady Solace Farindale protects her people the best she can. When a neighboring lord lays siege to the castle, a threat on the lady’s life is discovered. She turns to a man she can’t resist, and puts her trust in a stranger who has captured her heart. Will she discover the secret this man holds before it is too late?

Tormented by guilt and a tragic past, Logan Grey has gained access to the castle disguised as a falconer. With only revenge on his mind, he has no time for the feisty beauty who has caught his eye. In a twist of fate, and a deadly betrayal, Logan must risk his life for the lady who ignited a passion more perilous than war.

Can love reign in a place where only hate ruled?

The Lady and The Falconer buy link

Midnight Shadow

Raised on the adventurous stories of the Midnight Shadow, Lady Bria Delaney longs to wield a sword and fight against tyranny. When the unjust rules of a neighboring lord terrorize her friends, she dons the mask and cloak of her childhood hero to right the wrongs and save them from oppression. After encountering Lord Knowles, she is stunned to find her fierce attraction to the very enemy she has secretly promised to destroy.

Accustomed to victory at tournament, Terran Knowles lives a life of luxury and ease. When he returns home and finds his coin has dwindled, he must turn to an old betrothal and its dowry to keep his coffers full. Adding to his financial woes, a thief known as the Midnight Shadow strikes his land at night, stealing his coin. His intended betrothed is a headstrong, beautiful woman who immediately intrigues him. Torn between the woman he longs to trust and the outlaw he has vowed to hang, Terran vows to find the truth.

Will the Midnight Shadow triumph over oppression? Can the heat of passion overcome the chill of suspicion? Will a legendary hero find love in the arms of her hated enemy?
Midnight Shadow Buy link

Champion of the Heart

Fox Mercer watches in horror as his father, a noble knight, is stripped of his lands and banished into disgrace. Fox is soon abandoned by his former noble friends, including his best friend Jordan Ruvane. Feeling betrayed, his life takes a darker path. Fox turns to a life of crime, hiding in the decaying ruins of a haunted castle with his gang of thieves.

Lady Jordan Ruvane hides a dark secret from her childhood, a secret that will threaten the lives of everyone she holds dear. As she comes of marrying age, her father announces a tournament in her honor. The winner of the tournament will earn the right to claim Jordan as his bride. A mysterious champion clad in black armor enters the tournament, but he is after much more than just the Lady’s hand in marriage.

What happens next will change the lives of Fox Mercer and Jordan Ruvane forever. Can Fox conquer the secrets of the past and truly become the champion of his lady’s heart?

Champion of the Heart Buy link

Find more about Laurel O'Donnell and her books on her website at:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Getting a Handle on Religious Belief in the Medieval Mindset

In a secular age it can be difficult to comprehend the extent to which religious belief once informed every aspect of life. Yet it’s a vital consideration when writing about the medieval era. In England and in Europe the Catholic Church was all-powerful. It influenced everything from baptismal names to what food could be eaten when and even the days on which one could and could not have sex. Faith was embedded in the culture and in the daily lives of the people. It was also, largely, unquestioned. Common people were illiterate and superstitious. Indeed, many noblemen could barely write their own names. Heaven and hell were not abstract concepts but real places. What one did in life would be weighed in the balance after death and there would be a reckoning. Sin was everywhere. The Devil set traps for the unwary. Miracles were seen to happen.

To create credible heroes and heroines in medieval romance it’s essential to address this. Otherwise the result is little more than a cast of contemporary characters in fancy dress. Achieving character credibility is easier said than done. We’re hundreds of years away from the truth. Besides which, education and opportunity have changed lives in ways that would have been unimaginable to our medieval counterparts. For the writer, getting into the medieval mindset and understanding the significance of religion on individual motivation is a continual exercise of the imagination, backed up by careful research. Visiting historic sites can offer real insights too.

Carcassonne, Languedoc
One of the most memorable for me came while on a recent trip to France. I was visiting Languedoc to undertake some research for a new series of stories. Quite apart from being scenically stunning the whole region is steeped in history: it was the centre of Catharism, an alternative religious view regarded as a heresy by the Catholic Church. When the Church attempted to quash this idea, the region erupted in open rebellion. This clash of religious ideologies resulted in one the bloodiest and most brutal religious repressions of the age.

In order to start my research I based myself in Carcassonne, truly a medieval novelist’s dream offering numerous insights into the past. It’s also an ideal location from which to travel further afield and visit other Cathar fortresses such as Lastours, Puilaurens, Peyreperteuse, Montségur and Quéribus.  Even by today’s standards they are remote. Existing roads are narrow and winding. Directions are not always of the best. However, when you do eventually arrive it’s hard not be impressed. These places are spectacular, standing like great stone eyries on impossible pinnacles of rock. The ascent is often perilous and requires stamina, a head for heights and considerable determination, but the end is worth the effort involved.
Standing on the ramparts at Quéribus is like standing on the top of the world. The views are stunning. A stronger defensive position would be hard to imagine. The time and effort required to build such a structure is mind-boggling. There were no roads as we know them today so transporting men and materials and supplies overland would have been a logistical nightmare. Even bringing everything round by sea and then by land would have been a massive challenge. Nevertheless, the fortress was built anyway. That begs the question, why? What threat was so great as to require such a degree of protection? Virtually the same problems would have existed for an invader. Who in their right mind would even contemplate attacking such a place? Why would they? How would they? After all, it would take years, cost a fortune and exact a heavy toll in lives.

Answering those questions starts to provide a handle on the strength of religious conviction and the extent of religious intolerance in late 12th and early 13thCentury France. Time, cost and human lives were no obstacle to the Church in its determination to crush the Cathar heresy that challenged its power. The sheer magnitude of the task was no deterrent. Nor was it hard to recruit soldiers to the cause. All across Northern France noblemen and commoners flocked to the papal banner. The thought of loot would undoubtedly have been an added draw for some, but uppermost in mind was the need to defend the true faith and root out the evil of heresy. It was accomplished with ruthless efficiency and a degree of political cynicism that was remarkable even by the standard of the time. Prior to the sack of Béziers in 1209, the Abbot of Citeaux was asked how the soldiers were to distinguish between the innocent Catholic population of the town and the heretic Cathars. The Abbot allegedly replied, “Kill them all. God will know his own.” The population, estimated to have been between 10,000 – 14,000 people, was duly massacred. Few, if any, of those who carried out the deed doubted that they were doing God’s work and would earn a place in heaven.

This is the mindset that the novelist must get to grips with and which must inform the characters’ motivations. It also has to appear natural and effortless. As I said, it’s no easy feat.
Joanna Fulford

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Bride and the Brute. Free medieval read by Laurel O'Donnell

The Bride and the Brute - A free novella by Laurel O'Donnell

Jayce Cullen has been fighting her fear of thunder and lightning ever since she was a child, but nothing could have prepared her for the fury of her new husband. Feeling deceived and betrayed into a loveless marriage, Lord Reese Harrington wants nothing to do with his new wife. Trapped in a marriage with no escape, the beautiful young bride must battle the demons of her husband’s past and hope that she can weather the storm his brutish behavior unleashes.

The Bride and the Brute buy link

Visit Laurel's website for more about her novels at: