Sneak Peak “How to Train Your Knight”

Marcus was up and comfortably saddled before dawn the next day. When his wife appeared from out of the bathhouse, the sun had not yet appeared, but a soft yellow light had spread across the sky.

“Not a word from you.” He eyed Charles with suspicion. The stable lad responded with a wide-eyed nod, just as she ran across the green and into the church.

“I’ll be right back. Keep Midnight in readiness.” He dismounted and gave his disappointed horse a pat on the rump. Entering the stone abbey by the back door, he was surprised to land in the monk’s quarters. The sparse room held a table, a clay lamp, two pallets, a hearth, and some furs. James, kneeling quietly in prayer, stood slowly, frowned, and regarded him with a furrowed brow.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’d like to join the mass unseen.” Marcus held palms open and up.

“What’re you up to, Blackwell? I’m not sure we’re on the same side. Lady Ann has been like a daughter to me and the manner of your wedding pleased me not.”

“Truly?” He raised his eyebrows. “I’ve yet to even enter relations with her. I’m the one who should be affronted. She’s the one who’s dressed as a lad, running about like a wild hellcat. I’m merely watching out for her safety. How does the church allow it?”

James regarded him for a moment more and gave a quick nod. He led him down a narrow stone hallway to a pew set up behind the altar and out of view of the congregation. “Blessings upon you, my son. And good luck.”

NEW FROM BOOK 2 in Medieval Romance Series

If he lost his bet, nothing he had gained, would have value. What good was gold and land, without Merry by his side?

My Merry, my merry wife.
Down derry, down derry down.
The fairest of fair, my life.
Down derry, down derry down.
She wed me, she wed me,
but God’s blood won’t bed me.
Down derry, down, down, down.

She giggled. “Alright, Thomas, I have warned you.

Sir Thomas, he stole my heart.
Down derry, down derry pie.
He left me and did depart.
Down derry down derry pie.
He swears he won’t leave me,
But I can’t believe he.
Down derry, Cries my eyes.

They’d reached the men who followed and got into the mood as the sun glistened on the dew on the newest of spring green leaves. Jacob jumped into the next verse.

Oh madam how cruel are you?
Down derry, down derry down.
Sir Thomas, his balls are blue.
Down derry, down derry down.
You wed him, you wed him.
Make him merry and bed him
Down derry, Down down down.

The men roared with laughter, and Merry blushed a shade of red he’d never seen before. The youngest of his men managed to burst in with the next verse. He’d best do it well, if he ever wanted to become accepted as a knight. A brave lad.

A lady must disagree
Down derry, down derry down
And force a man upon his knees
Down derry, down derry down
But under her ire
Lights a mighty fire
Down derry, Down, down, down.

“Well said. Well said. Here here here.” Thomas joined the men as they lifted their shields and banged up them.

The lad gave Merry a wink. Surely she had won over the boy. In fact, all his men looked upon her with a gentleness he’d never known any of them to have. The verses went on for miles until they were all hoarse and out of rhymes. Thomas took on the last verse as was always his right. He slowed the song into a ballad and took the song, down to a lower pitch.

I had to go and trade afar.
Down derry, down derry down.
To make enough to earn a hearth.
Down derry, down derry down.
I beg thee, I beg thee,
Forgive me, my Merry.
Down derry, down, down, down.

How do people get ideas for books?

How do authors get ideas?

Oh my God, how do I shut them up?

For example, I went on motel retreat this weekend with a group of romance writers. Around midnight, the smoke alarm in the room next door went off for over twenty minutes, and then, blessed silence for twenty. Again it screeched for almost an hour, at which point people in the hotel began climbing down outside stairs.

At one point a young man, dressed only in hastily clad jeans, no shirt, ran down the stairs, and pounded one of the doors, “I just need to check on my parents.” He was rather geeky, and not overly attractive.

But in my author’s eyes, it was yet another what-if.

What if he had firmly cut abs, with a tattoo just below the belly button. What if the jeans hugged a firm butt? What if there were no parents and the girl of his dreams was outside, hugging her chest, dressed in just her thin silk pajamas. What then? Had they met before or was this a first encounter? Would he approach her or would their eyes just meet and stare appreciatively? Would they have one more chance encounter at breakfast, or jogging along the beach as the sun crept above the ocean’s horizon?

Maybe he was on leave, or just retired from the navy. Maybe she, a divorcee whose heart is hardened from men in general. Would they agree to have breakfast? Perhaps find some common ground? Why did they stop in this hotel, off season? Ah… maybe it’s because they both are going to stay the summer for temporary work.

A long, hot, hot summer.

Best Foot Forward

One thing that entering RWA contests did for me was make me focus on the first paragraph of my book. Don’t ignore that old adage ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression.’

Some writers may believe that a book should start at the beginning of the story. I say no. A book should start where the action has tension and interest. The rest is back story that can be filled in with a conversation.

Here are some examples. Tell me what you think.



Year of our Lord 1276

“By God, drag her down here! Naked if you must! Bread and water from now to eternity if you can’t!” Sir Marcus Blackwell slammed his fist on the well-worn table and the sound echoed back from every direction. Of all the bad luck. Forced into marriage with a foul-mouthed, murderous widow.

He clenched his teeth when the next bout of high-pitched screams and curses exploded from the floor above. Crashes, clanging, and banging followed. He cringed as the Lady Ann’s strident screaming rang throughout the stone manor and probably into the courtyard.


Here are other samples of a book starts:


Like a naked goddess, she arose from the top pool in the Roman bathhouse. Like Venus in a fountain, her melon breasts dripped with water and rosy nipples pointed where they met the cooler air. She took a linen from the ancient mosaic floor and dried herself inch by inch with her eyes closed.



The door chimes clanged and two large men, carrying a third, burst into the tea shop. Suzanne Burton jumped up and her freshly made coffee toppled onto her lap. Hot. Hot. Hot. She peeled off her scalding sweat pants and wiped her legs.

My First Cover. Share your feelings.

I opened up the email, with the subject matter, your cover art and held my breath.

First, for a split second, I couldn’t believe it. I must’ve jumped into an alternate universe, where I was a published writer. I closed my eyes and waited to be zapped back into my humdrum life as a software developer.

When it didn’t happen, I squealed like a little piggy. Weeeee! Squeeeee! Weeeee! Yup, I did, like a little kid jumping up and down on Easter morn with a basketful of jelly beans and chocolate.

Oh my God. What if no one likes it? Shivering, I bit my lower lip. What if I can’t really write and this is a horrible, horrible mistake. Take it back. I change my mind. Let me rewrite it just one more time. I’m sure I can do better.

What? Of course not. I’m so, so, sorry, you two. You’ve been through so much to arrive here; a forced marriage, the inquisition, and King Edward’s ever-watchful eye. You deserve this kiss in front of your keep. I wouldn’t take that away. Forgive me?

Maybe, eventually I will get some good reviews and you can make a guest appearance in book two. Then, perhaps, I could dare believe I am really a writer.

How much internal dialog is good?

Wow. The first day of Spring. Damn, I still have those two pounds to lose from Christmas. Wish I planted those crocuses last year, but then, the squirrels would just have them hidden all throughout the lawn. At least I’d see some signs of spring. What did my husband mention about Friday night? Did I feed the cats? When is their next vet visit? When is my dentist visit? Did I schedule a mammogram?

What if our characters spewed out all the stuff that goes on in their brains? I often wonder what that would be like. The plot would never proceed; the hero would no doubt go out and find a beer, and the evil protagonists would win out.

So how do we, the writer, decide what to give away of the minds rambling. From what I’ve heard, women are much different than men. We must have a thousand thoughts to their one, forcing the internal dialogs in my novels to be more one-sided.

I’ve tried to question men about what they think about. As a generalization, forgive me guys, their thoughts seem not to be so wrought with what-ifs. Apparently, a million years ago, that trait helped out in the survival of the species. I can just hear it now. His brain thinks, ugh, I go kill and find food.

Hers is much more. Does he like me? Will he feed me? Will he warm with me tonight? Maybe I should get some more tree branches, just in case. Will it smoke? What if the fire goes out? Who is that female and why does she have a warmer fur than mine. Who is her mate? Should I find some berries?

I digress. So. How much to add of the internal dialog? My first writing had very little and it was void, like watching a movie. After reading that critique, always the over-achiever, I made my characters blather incessantly. Ouch.

How much of internal dialog, as a reader, do you want to read? Do you think the amount of male dialog should match the female?

Help me out.


    Upcoming Events

    Going to be on HAG blogging on April 29th.

    Award Winning First Paragraphs of ‘How To Train Your Knight”

    How did I start winning Romance Writers of America contests? See below.

    Year of our Lord 1276

    “By God, drag her down here! Naked if you must!  Bread and water from now to eternity if you cannot!” Sir Marcus Blackwell slammed his fist on the well-worn table and the sound echoed back from every direction. Of all the bad luck. Forced into marriage with a foul-mouthed, murderous widow.

    He clenched his teeth when the next bout of high-pitched screams and curses exploded from the floor above. Crashes, clanging, and banging followed. Marcus cringed while Lady Ann’s strident screaming rang throughout the stone manor and probably into the courtyard.

    “He cannot steal my lands this easily. He shall live just long enough to rue this day. I shall never, ever, turn my people over to a blood-thirsty, gold-grabbing beast. I would rather be cursed to hell. Nay verily, I would rather marry the devil himself than see myself married to him.”

    Beast? He’d strangle the minstrel who’d taken his sword’s moniker and baptized him with that odious name. He was a holy crusader and deserving of respect. Crossing himself and counting to ten, he paced the dark hall lit by one weak torch. Shadows danced across dark tapestries, across a great hearth the size of several horses, and over enough tables to feed a small army. Thatch crunched under his boots releasing a perfume of lavender and grasses. He stopped for a respite of blessed silence.