Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why the Second Edition?

Guest Post: Dawnflight

What I did after my summer vacation

Or, “Why the Second Edition?”

This year marks the release—14 years after its original publication by Sonnet Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster—of what I officially term the second edition of Dawnflight.

In this age of instant gratification and DIY publishing, fans wonder why I took the trouble to make such substantial changes to what was already an award-winning, critically acclaimed novel to warrant labeling it a new edition. The answer lies rooted in the maze of my psyche.

I am, and always have been, a chronic overachiever.

There. The secret is out! I feel much better now. Thanks for letting me share it with you.

Oh… you want to know why. Quite right; I did promise you the why.

A late addition to Dawnflight’s first edition featured “Pictish” language terms I invented, based upon Scottish Gaelic, to convey key concepts of my characters’ world. So far, so good. But keep in mind I was performing that research in the late 1990s, before the Internet became the repository for everything under the sun and beyond, and I had bumped up against the deadline for submitting the final draft for publication. For the Pictish terms requiring a plural form, I simply slapped on an “s.” Bzzzt—wrong! Thank you for playing. That’s an Anglo-Saxon construct, not a Gaelic one.

No one else seemed to notice…but I never forgot.

Flash-forward to the summer of 2012, when I made the decision to self-publish Dawnflight’s sequels. While waiting for professional editorial input on the first sequel, Morning’s Journey, I decided to dive back into Scottish Gaelic to figure out how to generate the correct plural forms of my terms. The deeper I dove, the more immersed I became; I began to see linguistic patterns that I could mine to create new endearments and epithets for my characters to use toward each other. As summer blazed into autumn, these patterns led me to study Irish Gaelic, Old Welsh, and Old English, where I discovered to my chronic overachieving delight that I could invent entire sets of idiomatic terminology for my characters of the various races to describe themselves and each other. Even their pantheons gained new deities from this trove of linguistic knowledge I had acquired.

I like to believe that J. R. R. Tolkien—the second “R” of which I employ for the name of a minor character in homage to Professor Tolkien’s academic contributions to the English literary landscape—would have been proud.

Ah yes, before I forget…I ramped up the sex, too.

Read, dream, and enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Love For Indie Authors: Interview with Gyan from Dawnflight by Kim Headlee

from Dawnflight by Kim Headlee

Today we have Gyan with us to answer some questions.  Thanks for stopping by and let's begin!

What is the meaning of your name and banner?

I am Gyanhumara nic Hymar, daughter of Hymar and her consort, Ogryvan. My mother, whose name means “song,” named me her “rarest song,” for I was fated before birth to be the only daughter she would ever bear. Those who do not ken the Caledonach tongue call me by many other names: Vennevria ... Guanhumara ... Ganora … Gwenhwyfar ... Guenevara ... Guinevere. I am none of those women.

I am Gyanhumara.

The banner under which I fight is not my own but my clan's: Na Calamaig h’Argaillanaich, which is called in your tongue the Doves of Argyll. Our storytellers tell us of Clan Argyll’s first exalted heir-bearer, who lived countless generations ago. Argaillean was fierce and strong and true to her name, which means “our tempest.” For her valiant battle against those first despised Ròmanach invaders she chose the doves, for they are the fastest of birds and the strongest for their size. Argaillean and her army had to be fast and strong to defeat the Ròmanaich. She chose two doves to show unity between her and her consort, between her and her clan, and between her clan and Caledon. The silver on the banner represents the natural coloring of doves, but Argaillean also chose it in defiance of the Ròmanaich, who prize silver for their finest armor and adornments. The midnight blue field against which the Doves of Argyll fly represents the vast eternal realm of the Old Ones…or Heaven, as I have learned to call it.

I also proudly fight under the Scarlet Dragon of Arthur the Pendragon, but I shall defer to him for the explanation of its meaning, if he so chooses to share it with you.

Do you feel that you have lived up to it?

I am not certain that I understand your question. My father taught me to always perform my best, regardless of the circumstances. Sometimes my best effort is good enough, and sometimes it is not. If there is any shame to be felt in failure, it is from not putting forth my best effort. Thus far, I have yet to feel the sting of that shame…except, perhaps, in the choices I have made in dealing with Urien, the man who has become my enemy. I fervently pray those choices will not bring harm upon my people or my consort’s, though I fear it may happen someday.

Your position to choose a consort placed a large responsibility on your shoulders. At any point did you wish it never fell to you?

I was born to be the Exalted Heir-Bearer of Clan Argyll. Thus I have been trained for this sacred duty my entire life. Does a lion wish it had never been born a lion? There may come a day when I might regret having to wear the mantle of this responsibility, but it is not this day.

Where do you believe your independent nature came from? Do you feel losing your birth mother when you were born fostered that independence?

To my everlasting sorrow, I shall never know what my life might have been like had Hymar lived to guide me through my childhood. Nor can I begin to guess. Guessing is for those who are unwilling to let the past be past.

If I act, as you say, in an independent fashion, it is most likely because I learned to think for myself, to form judgments upon my observations of situations and make decisions accordingly. My father bequeathed this skill to me by allowing me from the cradle to make my own choices—good as well as bad—and learn from them. I feel blessed that my consort also bestows this freedom upon me, though these days I must exercise especial care in my choices, for their consequences might yet prove to be widespread indeed.

What thoughts ran through your mind while you were in captivity?

It must be difficult to imagine the depth of the disgust, the rage, the powerlessness, the loathing, the uncertainty—and, yes, the fear—of being imprisoned by one’s enemy unless one has experienced it firsthand. I did not trust the Scáthinaich. Even though my captor had promised that no harm would come to my person, this did nothing to alleviate my fear, though for pride’s sake I did my best to bury it. I feared for Morghe’s safety too, despite there being no love betwixt us. No woman deserves such a fate.

All of those thoughts built and built, like floodwaters behind a dam, threatening to drive me mad from the strain of holding it all in…until the face of my rescuer, the man I love to the core of my being, appeared over the edge of the ridge where I was being held prisoner. The sight of Arthur’s face at that precise moment, I think, did more to propel us toward our shared destiny than all of our previous encounters combined. But I was too engrossed with reveling in the glory of his presence to care about destiny that day, I can assure you.

You experience a religious conversion in the part of your story that you shared with us. How do you foresee that affecting your future?

Recall that I spoke to you of my choices and the consequences thereof. Here is yet another example. While I am no seer, I do know that I must tread carefully among the men who control the spiritual destiny of my clan. They possess the power to strip me of my rank and my life. I would be a liar to claim that I seldom consider this possibility…or that I do not fear it. And yet in the next breath I tell myself that I must not fear, for such a thing cannot come to pass unless the One God so decrees it. If this happens, then I must trust that it is for the greater good and accept my fate willingly, in spite of my misgivings and fears.
But I do pray that it shall never happen.

What advice can you give future warriors faced with decisions torn between loyalty and love?

One is loyal because one loves, deeply and without reservation. How can there be a sundering betwixt the two?And if a sundering of loyalty does occur, then perhaps the love was never present from the start.

There are future generations who may say you were only a myth. How would you respond to them?

Your word myth is unknown to me.The Caledonaich have stories, and we have tales. The latter—which the Ròmanaich call fables—are invented to convey lessons and concepts for the purpose of teaching our children while entertaining them too. In these lessons we include tales of the Old Ones, though by Caledonach law only priests are permitted to utter the sacred tales. Our storytellers, trained from birth to possess vast unerring memories, are charged with the duty of preserving the stories of clan lore: births and deaths, marriages and annulments, battles and alliances, times of poverty and times of prosperity. The stories are passed from one storyteller to the next, with no variant of even the smallest word, such that the deeds they describe ring just as true today as they did on the day they occurred, many generations before.

My deeds have begun to be added to Storyteller Reuel’s collection, as they will continue to do until the day my death-lament is sung. One day, Reuel will pass them to his successor, and so on. For as long as even one Caledonach storyteller lives, my true story will be spoken.

On the day that even one person conceives the belief that I never did exist, whether it be one generation hence or many—on that dark day, be it from Heaven or from Hell, I shall sing the death-lament for my people.

Those are all the questions we have today.  Thank you for stopping by!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stories Make Us Greater

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Sgeulachd ni sinn na’s mò
Caledonian proverb
“Stories make us greater.” 

Stories entertain us. Stories enlighten us. Stories challenge and frighten us. Stories take us places we have never been and show us people we have never known. Stories reinforce our beliefs; stories teach us to respect our neighbors’ beliefs. Stories remind us of the past, that we may be wary of the future. Stories reveal to us our familiar world in unfamiliar ways. Stories prompt us to grow and adapt and evolve.

Stories make us greater.

One of the greatest stories in the history of literature involves a man with a vision to unite his people against all who would strive to plunder and destroy their way of life. This man was blessed with staunch allies and cursed with bitter rivals. This man sought neither glory nor accolades, though he would win both through his battlefield victories. This man sought no bedchamber conquests, though no shortage of women would offer themselves to him. In the secret depths of his soul, this man sought only the one woman who could help him usher his vision for a united land into reality.

For centuries, literature has named this man Arthur.

For decades, I have named the woman Gyanhumara.

Their courage, their wisdom, their mistakes, their strength, and their love would forge the destiny of their world.

Their story makes us greater.

Title: Dawnflight
Series: The Dragon's Dove Chronicles, Book 1
Author: Kim Headlee
Publisher: Lucky Bat Books
Description: Gyanhumara “Gyan” nic Hymar is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien map Dumarec, a son of her clan’s deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon’s conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything...perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.

Arthur map Uther is the bastard son of two worlds, Roman by his father and Brytoni by his mother. Denied hereditary rulership by the elders of Chieftainess Ygraine’s clan, Arthur has followed Uther’s path to become Dux Britanniarum, the Pendragon: supreme commander of the northern Brytoni army. The Caledonians, Scots, Saxons, and Angles keep him too busy to dwell upon his loneliness...most of the time.

When Gyan and Arthur meet, each recognize within the other their soul’s mate. The treaty has preserved Gyan’s ancient right to marry any man, providing he is a Brytoni nobleman—but Arthur does not qualify. And the ambitious Urien, Arthur’s greatest political rival, shall not be so easily denied. If Gyan and Arthur cannot prevent Urien from plunging the Caledonians and Brytons back into war, their love will be doomed to remain unfulfilled forever.

Purchase the book: - Paperback / Kindle / Audiobook
Barnes and Noble - Paperback and Nook
iTunes - Ebook / Audiobook

Follow the Tour:
1. May 13th Release Day Diva - Interview
2. May 14th The Caffeinated Diva Reads - Review
3. May 15th Blissfull Book Reviews
4. May 16th Nikkis Book Corner - Review
5. May 17th Bibliophiles Thoughts On Books - Review
6. May 20th Book Boyfriend Reviews
7. May 21st Katie Foley - Review
8. May 22nd The Crafty Cauldron - Excerpt
9. May 23rd Identity Discovery - Guest Post
10. May 24th Crystals Out There - Review
11. May 27th Bethann Masarik - Guest Post

This book tour is brought to you by Release Day Diva

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Strong Woman

A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter.

A strong woman is both soft and powerful. She is both practical and spiritual.

A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world.

Men—and women, alas—who are not secure in their own selves fear and despise and revile strong women. This should not be so, and yet it is, to the detriment of all. This has been occurring for millennia: look at Hatshepsut, Cleopatra VII, Elizabeth I... and Guinevere.

This is the foundation of my collection of novels called The Dragon's Dove Chronicles, aimed at the redemption of Guinevere's reputation, which has suffered brutally for more than fifteen hundred years. To begin this process, more than 25 years ago, I gave her a new name: Gyanhumara, which she calls in her language "Rarest Song."

And Gyan's life is indeed a song, by turns jaunty and lilting and mournful and prayerful and joyous. Read about (or listen to) its beginnings in DAWNFLIGHT. The second verse is now available in MORNING'S JOURNEY. Gyan's song weaves through the background of the third novel in the series, now being written: RAGING SEA, which concentrates upon the story of Angusel (Lancelot) and his struggle to claim his place within Gyan's world.

Embrace the strong woman. Love her, cherish her, respect her... and forgive her. She is not perfect, but she will enrich your world in ways you have never dreamed possible.

Monday, August 12, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Doom of Camelot (anthology); Ed. James Lowder

Having studied the Arthurian Legends for more than three decades, I delight in discovering new twists on the timeless tales, and The Doom of Camelot contains many enjoyable surprises. As its title implies, the anthology presents 16 original takes on the fabled kingdom's downfall.
Book: James Lowder, editor, The Doom of Camelot The answers offered by authors Mike Ashley, India Edgehill, Phyllis Ann Karr and others range from the clash of faiths and ideals to the pervasive yet subtle flaws in Camelot's concept. Settings transport the reader from Dark Age squalor to medieval opulence. The tones and styles vary just as widely, from a clever Tennyson-esque "Idle" poem dedicated to Alfred E. Neuman to a novelette-length encapsulation of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur written from the viewpoints of 15 major and semi-major characters.

Not a fan of Malory remakes, I found the novelette, "Avilion," to be my least favorite of the collection. The author draws heavily upon stock character profiles without adding new insights into their personalities or motives. But you might find this piece a help if you need to cram for a Medieval Lit exam.

Otherwise, you'll find several other gourmet delicacies at this literary smorgasbord. Feast upon the tale of the Mordred invented to ease everyone's spirits after the Grail Quest -- an innocent jest that goes horribly wrong. Take a deep draught from the Grail, manifested in two mysterious ladies wielding the power to control time itself. Thoughtfully chew upon the vignette of a pregnant peasant woman whose life changes when a knight dies in her field after the battle of Camlann. The 320-page banquet offers something to please even the most discerning palate.

The Doom of Camelot represents the first in a planned series of annual Arthurian anthologies by Green Knight Press. Just as well. For, much like Chinese food, in an hour you'll be hungry for more.

(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Willows on the Windrush by Doris Elaine Fell

If you prefer your romances so steamy that the pages blister your fingers, then read no further. If you enjoy being preached at (which seems to be the norm in inspirational fiction), then keep surfing. Willows on the Windrush performs neither function.
Book: Doris Elaine Fell, Willows on the WindrushThank God.

Thirty-year-old Sydney Barrington possesses everything: beauty, intelligence, wealth, suitors lined up around the block, and a promising career as CEO of her late father's defense contracting corporation. Yet the father-shaped hole in her heart silently mocks her worldly success.

The unexpected inheritance of Broadshire Manor in England's picturesque Cotswolds district jars Syd from her routine. But something seems decidedly amiss when the executor insists that the manor must be sold to settle the deceased's debts, and that Syd need not trouble herself to travel to England to effect the transaction.

The lawyer may as well have unfurled a scarlet hanky. The indomitable Sydney bulls her way across the Pond to investigate the matter firsthand. She arrives to find the quaint hamlet of Stow-on-the-Woodland, over which Broadshire Manor presides, deceptively quiet. The shady solicitor and his tourism plans for Broadshire drop to the bottom of Syd's priorities as she discovers war orphans, elderly invalids, a convoluted line of succession for the manor and a nest of IRA sympathizers.

To say nothing of the dashing but anguished English Harrier pilot, who must overcome his personal demons before he can even contemplate bestowing his affections on anyone else.

Does "love conquer all" in Willows on the Windrush? Well, not exactly -- and that's exactly why I like this book. Sure, the guy gets the girl. No spoiler there; it wouldn't be a romance otherwise. But their path to happiness lurches through plenty of thorny issues and ambiguities. In that respect, Fell's work comes closer to portraying real life than many romance authors. For that, I enthusiastically applaud her.

From a technical standpoint, I thought some of the flashbacks could have been handled a bit more smoothly, especially since the book set off some -- but not all -- of the flashbacks in italics. Also, I would have preferred a clearer explanation of how Sydney became the designated heiress, since the inheritance doesn't make sense once all the facts come to light. 

However, if your definition of a good read includes intrigue and drama, with well-drawn characters whose faith -- or lack thereof -- drives their actions and decisions without being preachy, then I invite you to spread your picnic blanket under the Willows on the Windrush for a pleasant diversion.

(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Wild Machines by Mary Gentle

You know the ancient adage: don't judge a book by its cover. This especially applies to The Wild Machines. Its attractive cover depicts the bold and beautiful warrior-woman, Ash, silvery tresses streaming as she drives a chariot across the pyramid-studded Egyptian sands. 
Book: Mary Gentle, The Wild Machines While the Ferae Natura Machinae, "the Wild Machines," wield their influence across Europe from this exotic locale, Ash never travels there in this book. Her mercenary company would have been forced to eat the horses long before leaving France. For the armies of the Visigoth Empire have smashed Europe's resistance, plunging the conquered lands into unnatural night. Famine, pestilence and despair abound.

Only Burgundy, cultural and military diadem of Europe, struggles to stand fast, battered but unbeaten, still basking in the sun's warmth. The beleaguered duchy's fate lies in the hands of its ruler, Duke Charles, critically wounded and trapped behind the walls of Dijon while the Visigoth legions blight the surrounding countryside under the leadership of the Faris, Ash's twin sister. Like Ash, the Faris hears the Ferae Natura Machinae, the mysterious and dreaded machinery that seeks the extermination of humankind. Unlike Ash, she heeds them.

Fresh from the horrors of Carthage, and the apocalyptic seductions of the Wild Machines, Ash must decide whether to lead her men to near-certain doom in an attempt to lift Dijon's siege. For if the great city falls, and Duke Charles dies, humanity will descend into eternal darkness.

Don't judge this book by its grandiose back-cover synopsis, either. The cover, front and back, functions as a tapestry thrown over the filth. And I'm not just referring to the profanity, which averages one word in every hundred. War's gruesome details explode across almost every page.

But never let it be said that I don't give credit where it's due. The constant bloody barrage makes Gentle's work unique in the fantasy genre. Usually, the hero's quest can be described as a series of conversations, punctuated at two or three critical junctures by a battle. The Wild Machines presents the exact opposite: a couple of key conversations interspersed among the battles as Ash quests for the answer to why Burgundy remains the only region still blessed by the sun. In my opinion, this inverted structure weakens the plot.

"Why Burgundy?" Ash repeatedly asks. "Who cares?" I respond, my mind's eye glazed from the imagined carnage. But if endless blood and guts and vulgarity float your literary boat, then my opinion won't stop you from reading this installment -- and I'd be too battle-fatigued to argue with you, anyway.

(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: True Devotion by Dee Henderson

Ideally, a reader should learn something from a book -- even an escapist fiction novel. From True Devotion I learned less about Navy SEAL operations and the power of love and faith over grief and guilt than about my own reading preferences.
Book: Alan Gordon, Thirteenth night Lifeguard Kelly Jacobs, widow of a SEAL killed in action three years prior to the story's opening, decides it's high time to begin moving past her grief. Only one hitch: she comes to this decision in the middle of the open ocean in a riptide current beside the teen she swam out to rescue, with darkness and hypothermia descending fast.

Enter Lieutenant Joe "Bear" Baker, her late husband's platoon leader and best friend, and Kelly's self-appointed knight in shining armor. Since SEALs protect their own, especially the widows, Joe and his team assist the Coast Guard search and rescue effort. Naturally, he arrives in the nick of time to pluck Kelly and the teen from the ocean. Kelly remains awake just long enough to recognize her rescuer and offer him a groggy "I love you."

Those three unexpected yet heartfelt words send Kelly and Joe into an emotional tailspin during the ensuing weeks as they explore their burgeoning feelings against the challenging backdrop of grief, survivor's guilt and backsliding faith. Add to the mix one ardent admirer -- Charles, the wealthy, widowed father of the teen Kelly risked her life to save. More closely bound than initial appearances indicate, the three adults become ensnared in a web of espionage, vendetta and betrayal -- a lethal combination even love finds difficult to conquer.

A "suspense" story generally keeps the reader guessing about the villain's plans and motives until the denouement. A "thriller" may leave the detective in the dark for a long time, but the author reveals everything to the reader along the way. While reading True Devotion (which by those definitions falls into the "thriller" category), I realized that I much prefer a suspense plot. I relish trying to figure out whodunnit and why. In this book Henderson gives the reader maybe half a page between dropping a clue and clarifying its meaning, thus ratcheting up the predictability factor and diminishing overall enjoyment.

The novel's structure also struck me as problematic. The plot seesawed between the present and the past, revealed through several flashbacks from both Kelly and Joe's viewpoints. Such pace-killing temporal shifts caused me to wonder whether the author would have been better advised to open the story with the death of Kelly's husband and express the dark emotional issues firsthand.

However, if you don't mind the flashbacks or having the mystery elements explained on the fly, then you could do a whole lot worse than read this book. Sometimes love needs a hefty dose of renewed faith to help it vanquish the obstacles looming in its path, the truest reminder True Devotion can offer.

(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)