Reader Letter from The Crusader’s Kiss

The Crusader's Kiss, #3 in the Champions of St Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixDear Reader;

One of the most interesting things about writing stories all the time—and one thing that frequently surprises people who aren’t writers—is that I don’t always know how the story is going to work out. Some stories seem to have an energy of their own, and with those books, I feel like the last one to know what’s going to happen. Bartholomew and Anna’s book is just such a story. I knew Bartholomew had a secret. I guessed that Anna had a grudge. I believed that they would have to work together to see everything resolved, but couldn’t see how it would happen. They seemed too different to me, yet their dialogue showed the energy of attraction right from the outset.

I knew the book would be set in England, so I began to compile images for my storyboard on Pinterest that were evocative of medieval England. Quickly, I saw a theme in the pictures that I was choosing: they reminded me of the Robin Hood story. As I delved deeper, I saw that there were similarities between that story and Bartholomew’s history, but even more interesting, I discovered (or rediscovered) that the true story behind that of Robin Hood is believed by some scholars to be almost concurrent with the story of the Champions of Saint Euphemia. (As is often the case, there are several possibilities for the basis of the legend in truth, and there are other scholars who insist that the legend has no basis in truth whatsoever.) I enjoyed using elements of the legend in this story.

It was easy to see that Anna would be the leader of the thief in the woods, just because of her rebellious nature. Does she have a justification for seeing herself as a leader? I love how her disregard for the laws of the nobility contrasted with Bartholomew’s respect for justice and order. What a wonderful time I’ve had with this pair: the woman who accepts no authority and the man who must learn to assert his own. I hope you enjoy their story as well.

The Crusader's Handfast, #5 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixOne of the other projects I’m enjoying is the writing of Duncan and Radegunde’s story, The Crusader’s Handfast, which is being published in monthly installments between December 2015 and May 2016. I had thought that the arrival of Gaston and Ysmaine at Châmont-sur-Maine would be part of Bartholomew’s story, but it really wasn’t. Whose story was it? When I saw that Radegunde had an eye for Duncan, I knew. Like so many servants, this pair know a great deal more about their knights and ladies than those nobles realize, and they also work to ensure that their lords and ladies win their happy endings. The reader letter for The Crusader’s Handfast is on my blog, so you can read a bit more about how this story evolved. It will be published as a complete book in both print and digital formats in July 2016.

Also, the Champions are being produced in audiobooks, just a little bit later than their publication in digital and print editions. The entire series is being narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, and he’s doing a wonderful job. As of this writing, The Crusader’s Bride is available in audio. Check my website for links and updates on that process.

As always, please follow my blog or subscribe to my monthly newsletter to keep up to date on all the news. The newsletter contains advance notice of most sales on my books, as well as chances to win audiobooks, cover reveals and updated news of releases. You can also choose which news you’d like to receive, in case you don’t read in all of the same sub-genres in which I write.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best,

Reader Letter from The Crusader’s Handfast

The Crusader's Handfast, #5 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixDear Reader;

One of the fun things about writing the Champions of Saint Euphemia series has been following the entangled threads of the story. Each character has witnessed different elements of the adventure and knows different things, and I’ve enjoyed pulling all those perspectives together. It soon became clear, though, that there were some story elements that were missing from all of the books, and that those were likely scenes you’d want to see. What actually happens when Gaston and Ysmaine arrive at his inherited holding? What has Millard done and how is all resolved?

More importantly, whose story would include these details? Ysmaine and Gaston had already found their happily-ever-after before arriving at Gaston’s inherited estate. The option of an extended epilogue didn’t appeal to me. I had thought Bartholomew might witness events there, but he really is itching to get back to the estate he should have inherited to set all to rights. (Plus, it’s high time he met Anna.) Who would show us this side of the story?

I watch movies when I’m trying to solve plot riddles, and invariably they’re movies I’ve seen many times before. I watch and knit and my thoughts wander a bit, in search of solutions. I was watching Gosford Park, which I enjoy because the servants know so much about their employers, yet their employers for the most part are oblivious to this, when the penny dropped. Servants are secret-keepers! Who knows more about Valeroy and local gossip than Ysmaine? Her maid Radegunde, of course. In the first scene I wrote from her point of view in this new project, I learned that Radegunde was very interested in Duncan, the man-at-arms in service to Fergus.

That’s when I realized this series would have a fifth book. The Crusader’s Handfast begins in Paris, after the reliquary has been safely delivered to the Paris Temple, and features the romance of Radegunde and Duncan. Their story involves the revelation of secrets, and the resolution of hidden conflicts. I like that these two ensure the futures of their respective employers from behind the scenes, and I also like that Radegunde’s cheerfulness is so restorative for Duncan. In a way, their resilience and pragmatism makes them two of a kind, but their fates are not entirely their own. Are they star-crossed lovers? Or will the course of love run true? You’ll need to keep reading to find out.

Just to try something different, this story is being published in monthly instalments, beginning in November. The whole book will be available for purchase in both print and digital formats in July 2016. It’s available for pre-order at some portals now.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best,

Reader Letter from The Crusader’s Heart

The Crusader's Heart by Claire Delacroix, a medieval romance and #2 in the Champions of Saint Euphemia series.Dear Reader;

With The Crusader’s Heart, the quest of our company of knights, started in The Crusader’s Bride, continues. This is Wulfe and Christina’s story, and it begins in Venice, when this pair meets. At first, they seem to be complete opposites—a knight upholding justice and a courtesan who is paid for pleasure—but it quickly becomes apparent that these two have a great deal in common. They are both alone in the world and have learned to make the most of what few opportunities come their way. They’re both pretty stubborn, but only a determined woman could change Wulfe’s thinking about anything—and only a man who will not be diverted from his course could win Christina’s reluctant heart. Neither of them is particularly optimistic, but love, as we’ll see, will change that.

 We met Wulfe and Christina in Gaston and Ysmaine’s book, but their situations seemed simple in The Crusader’s Heart, and we didn’t see their thoughts behind their reactions in that story. It’s been wonderful for me to explore their characters, convictions, and history more thoroughly.

I always enjoy characters who tell stories, especially if their choices illuminate something of their own truth: Christina certainly does that with her tales of the saints’ lives. There is a small discrepancy to acknowledge here, though. The closest written source I could find for Christina’s stories is Jacobus de Voragine’s The Golden Legend, a medieval bestseller but one that was not compiled until the thirteenth century. Jacobus was born around 1230 and died in 1298, which means his volume was not available to Christina in 1187. Jacobus wrote down stories that were well known, however, so I’m assuming that Christina heard the same or similar oral versions of these tales. I’ve also taken a small liberty with the assignment of saints days in the calendar—although the story of the Seven Sleepers was well known in the west (recounted in the sixth century by Gregory of Tours and included in the History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon in the eighth century), it is not clear that these saints were assigned a feast day before the Roman Martyrology was compiled in 1582. I think they’re worth an exception, though, especially as their assigned feast day falls within the chronology of the story. This is a story that originated in the Muslim world: it is known as ‘the companions of the cave’ and is recounted in the Qu’ran. The story of the men escaping religious persecution and sleeping for centuries was adopted by Christians, as well as one very popular during the Crusades. You can see that there are few differences between Leila’s and Christina’s versions. I like how this exemplifies the exchanges and influences between the two cultures in this era, and also that it makes a nice metaphor for Christina and Wulfe’s new beginnings. The relics of the Seven Sleepers were moved to Marseille during the Crusades and became part of the treasury of the Abbey of Saint Victor.

With The Crusader’s Heart, the story of the knights’ journey becomes more dimensional, as we see scenes and situations from the perspective of other characters. This continues in book #3, The Crusader’s Kiss, as Bartholomew returns home to avenge his family and regain his rightful legacy. It won’t be a simple task, and he’ll need the help of a most unexpected ally. Meanwhile, Fergus will continue his journey north to Scotland, a tale to be recounted in book #4, The Crusader’s Vow. What will happen to the Templar treasure? You’ll have to read on to find out!

I’m enjoying the challenge of writing this series and hope you are enjoying it as well. I’ve created Pinterest boards for these books, primarily for my own inspiration, although you might also enjoy checking them out—there’s one for the series overall, then individual boards for each book. You can find my Pinterest page right here.

Look for Bartholomew’s book, The Crusader’s Kiss, in January 2016, and Fergus’s book, The Crusader’s Vow, in April 2016. Both books are available for pre-order at some portals. All four books are being produced in audio, as well. Please check my website to listen to the audition by Tim Gerard Reynolds and for news of those releases.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best,

Reader Letter from The Crusader’s Bride

The Crusader's Bride, a medieval romance by Claire DelacroixDear Reader;

Welcome to a new medieval adventure! Beginning a new series is always exciting for me, and this one is particularly so. I love the medieval era and particularly the twelfth century, so it’s been wonderful to revisit this period. I’ve also been thinking for a while about a linked series following a company of knights on a quest, with each knight finding not just adventure but true love along the way. This series begins in Jerusalem, where our knights are given the task of delivering a precious relic to Paris. We journey with them to Venice and then to Paris, the supposed end of their mission. While this is the end of Gaston’s part in the mission, it’s not the end of the story for the other knights. One knight, Wulfe, will continue in pursuit of the villain, to see justice done. Another knight, Fergus, will secretly take custody of the treasure to see it secured near his home in Scotland.

These stories also intersect and overlap, a structure that intrigues me. For example, Gaston meets and marries Ysmaine in Jerusalem, at the beginning of the quest and the beginning of book #1, The Crusader’s Bride. We also meet Christina in this first book, shortly after Wulfe meets her, but we don’t witness the adventure that compels them to become reluctant allies. That night is the beginning of The Crusader’s Heart, book #2 in the series. Similarly, neither Gaston nor Ysmaine know what the squires are arguing about, much less why Bartholomew settles the dispute, but we’ll learn more about that in a subsequent story. I’m quite enjoying the challenge of showing discussions and incidents from different points of view and hope you enjoy it, too. By the end of The Crusader’s Vow, book #4, all of your questions should be answered!

I had originally planned for these stories to be linked novellas, but Gaston and Ysmaine insisted that their story be a full length book. So it is and so will the others be. These books will be published at three month intervals, so you can expect Wulfe’s book in October 2015, Bartholomew’s in January 2016 and Fergus’ in April 2016. The additional books are available for pre-order at some portals now.

And finally, a confession: I’ve taken some poetic license with this series, with two details in particular. Saint Euphemia was a virgin and a martyr who died in AD 303 in Chalcedon. Her relics were subsequently scattered. It was rumored that the Templars possessed the precious relic of her head, and there are accounts in the trials of the Templars (from later centuries) of them worshiping a head. Although there is no absolute evidence that this head was that of Euphemia—and that relic has not been located—I decided to make it so. Also, the tunnel in Acre does exist and was discovered only recently. It is believed to have been built by the Templars and to date from the years after Acre was reclaimed from the Saracens. I decided, for the sake of Gaston and Ysmaine, that it might have been under construction before the city was lost.

In other news, my historical romances are being produced in audio editions. Right now, all of the Jewels of Kinfairlie series is available in audio, as well as The Rogue. The True Love Brides are in production and all four titles should be available in audio by the end of 2015. Then we’ll go back and finish the Rogues of Ravensmuir. As well as going back, the audio editions are going forward: The Champions of Saint Euphemia is starting in audio production too, with the goal of having each book available in audio just a few months after the initial release.

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

All my best,

Reader Letter for Firestorm Forever

Firestorm Forever, A Dragonfire Novel and paranormal romance by Deborah CookeDear Reader;

And so we come to the final book in the Dragonfire cycle of paranormal romances. Sloane’s story has been a gleam in my eye from the very inception of this series: I always knew his firestorm would be the last one of the Dragon’s Tail Wars, because it had to be the Apothecary of the Pyr who healed the earth. This book is longer than other titles in the series, as there were more details to resolve. Conveniently for me, the end of the Dragon’s Tail node of the moon is marked by three lunar eclipses in relatively quick succession, so there are three firestorms in Firestorm Forever and a slightly different structure to the book to accommodate that. Many of you have written to me to express your wish that the series continue, but all wars must come to an end.

All species, however, do not.

Dragonfire was always intended to be a finite cycle of books, with somewhere between ten and twelve titles in all (Firestorm Forever brings us to eleven books, a short story, and three novellas, as well as the spin-off YA trilogy, the Dragon Diaries) but it was never intended to be the sum of my writing about dragon shape shifter heroes. There are more dragons in my future and in yours! I had been planning to step back in time next, to witness the extermination that left Erik so distrustful of humans, the evolution of Slayers and the discovery of the Dragon’s Egg. This trilogy of paranormal historical romances called DragonKnight have been pushed back in my schedule, though—in writing Firestorm Forever, more Pyr caught my imagination and their stories jumped the queue. You’ll meet a new villain in this book, as well as learn more about Theo, the current leader of the Dragon Legion, who is the reason I’ve been distracted. There’s an excerpt at the end of this book for Hot Blooded, the first book in my upcoming contemporary paranormal series DragonFate.

There also is a companion volume to the Dragonfire series in the works: Here Be Dragons: The Dragonfire Companion will be published in November 2015. Here Be Dragons will be available in both print and digital formats, and there are digital pre-order links available at some portals already. As usual, the book is discounted for pre-orders.

In addition, my alter ego, Claire Delacroix, is beginning a new medieval romance series this summer called the Champions of Saint Euphemia. This is a four-book series following a group of knights on their return from crusade—they’ve been entrusted with a parcel to deliver to Paris but quickly discover that someone wants it badly enough to kill to possess it. They find unexpected adventure on this journey, as well as danger, love, and romance. I hope you’ll join me for their quest. I’ve tucked an excerpt into the back of this book from the first story, The Crusader’s Bride, just in case you like knights as much as you like dragon shifter heroes.

Until next time, I hope you have lots of good books to read.

All my best,

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