Of Weddings and Arrows

0002Susan here, with a two-fer: two backlist ebook releases,
and two behind-the-scenes stories about them.

, two of my classic Scottish medieval romances, are now available in ebook! They're freshly edited and redesigned with gorgeous covers by Kim
Killion (scroll down to see how pretty!). The “Maiden” series has an official series title — “Celtic Nights: Lady of Legend I, II and III.” The third book – THE
SWORD MAIDEN – will be available soon as well.
Each novel in the trilogy was inspired by Celtic legends. 

SusanKing_TheStoneMaiden200THE STONE MAIDEN
is one of those personally meaningful books -– I wrote it through the ordeal of an sudden family tragedy, and the writing became
one of those rare instances in an author’s life where the creative experience is
transcendant and healing. A tidbit of historical fact inspired the story, set
in 12th century Scotland—a Highland girl must wed a Norman
knight by order of the king–yet these two willful characters refuse to give in. Long ago, land was offered to Norman knights to attract their
military strength, and foreign knights came up for land and Scottish
brides, founding new clans with French roots, such as Fraser (my own
heritage). A few foreign knights adopted the names of their
Scottish brides.

What would happen, I wondered, if Norman honor met Highland stubbornness? That’s the premise of THE STONE MAIDEN. Alainna MacLaren, a stonecarver, is the last hope of her diminished Highland clan—and the man she marries must take the clan's name before it vanishes. But the king orders Sebastien le Bret, a hardened Norman knight, to marry the lady–and there is no way he will ever give up his name for hers. Both are fiercely proud and passionate, and both must discover that love is its own legacy. I particularly love this story for lots of reasons.

Last year, something truly wonderful happened: two dear friends of my son were planning their wedding—and asked if they
could borrow the wedding scene in THE STONE MAIDEN for their own
Celtic-style ceremony. They incorporated
the wedding verses in the book (based on ancient Celtic
poetry) –- and they also did a handfasting with a rope braided in the harvest
colors of their wedding theme. I was so happy to witness these two special ones getting
married, and thrilled to see my wedding scene come to life. Here are the verses from The Stone Maiden, and a couple of photos from Kate and
Drew’s beautiful wedding:

Wed-00225  Alainna came toward Sebastien, then stepped to her left and walked around him in a
circle, brushing behind him, circling in front, and again, twice more, until
she stood before him. He held out his hands and she offered hers, joining left
to left, right to right, so their arms made a crossed loop like an interlaced design. They stood, gazes steady
upon one another. . . She
clung to his hands, drew a breath, and began: 

shade you are in summer

shelter you are in winter

rock you are

fortress you are

A shield you are about me
cherish you

help you

enfold you

promise you.

Wed-00234. . . Sebastien drew a breath,
overcome. He knew what to say, but he had not known until this moment that he would say it with such conviction. The poem that came to him was
not the one he had learned that morning, but one the bard had recited a few
nights ago.  Somehow it seemed perfect.


found in the garden

jewel, my love

eye like a star

lip like a berry

voice like a harp.

found in the meadow

bright-eyed maiden

eye like a star

cheek like a rose

kiss like honey.

is done," he whispered.  "So be
it." His 
heart leapt in a
new pattern, and he was caught in its infinite turning.

you, Drew and Kate, for giving the verses true meaning!)


SusanKing_TheSwanMaiden200The second book in the series “Celtic Nights: Lady of
Legend II” is based on the legend of a swan maiden, set in the 14th century—it’s a sequel to Laird of the Wind, a tale of the Scottish
rebellion. Juliana Lindsay, cousin to the hero of Laird, is an archer among forest rebels, captured by the
English—and Gawain Avenel is the English knight who risks his life for the
beautiful freedom fighter who turns out to be somewhat of a handful — not only is she a crack shot, but swans do whatever she wants.

There’s a fun story behind the research for this book,
which I've mentioned in a previous post here on Word Wenches – the author as arrow-catcher. 

Sometimes stacks of history books or open links through
Google are just not enough to complete the research for a book. We all bring
something more to the work than what we glean from research—and though, thanks
to graduate years in art history, I can research the heck out of anything, sometimes
we just gotta roll up our sleeves and experience something before we put it on the page. For THE SWAN MAIDEN, I wanted the hero to catch an arrow in mid-flight. I couldn’t find
any sources about it, but wanted to be sure it could be done. I thought it would be very cool for the hero to catch an arrow in the instant before
it struck the heroine.

One evening I was telling my husband about my
arrow-catching idea, and one of our sons (now a black belt) looked up from his
homework and said, "Sensei can do that." Sensei was his karate
instructor. What??A phone call to the sensei confirmed it,
and he offered to teach me how to do it myself. Umm, okay.

ArrowshandArrow catching is a lot harder than it looks. Trust me. It’s
definitely one of those Don’t Ever Try This At Home or Anywhere things.
Seriously. Unless you have an expert teaching you how to do it, and there
aren’t many of those out there, it's not something to mess with.

My husband and I showed up, and at first Sensei tossed a bo (a wooden staff) toward us to catch in one hand, out to the side. We progressed to hand-tossed
arrows, and then to blunt arrow shafts released from a bow a few feet away. Thunk, grab, oh hey, that’s easy, even I, a myopic writer, could do it.

Then he got out the REAL bow, and the REAL arrows.
And he backed up about thirty feet.

There’s nothing quite like facing a tenth-degree black belt, an ex-Marine, a massive towering guy, as he raises a real nasty looking bow nocked
with a very sharp arrow – and aims it straight at you. “Don’t worry,” says
he, “I’m not going to shoot you.” Right, cuz I’m not moving.

SusancatchingarrowHe let the arrow go. It zoomed right past me, though I
snatched for it. He released another. Zooooooopp. A blur. Another. Zzzzzzip.
Missed that—and with the next one, I touched feathers!  Zzzzzzzzzzzip.  More feathers! Then I reached out and grabbed the shaft smack in the middle. After that, I caught them consistently. The secret is in the timing, and senses on alert, a bit of coordination, a little courage, and making sure to listen for the release more than watch the thing. 

My husband, I have to admit, caught an arrow on the
first try. Argh! But I walked out of the dojo that day with a great research
experience—and a feeling of achievement that I hadn't expected. And Sensei was
so pleased (and found it so very amusing) that he asked me to demonstrate it
at dojo parties. Yup—we took it on the road. Here’s a photo – that's little ol' me by the Christmas tree. I caught that arrow too.    

The third book in the series, THE SWORD MAIDEN, will be out soon–and that has an amazing cover too, that I can't wait to share!

Have you been to a Celtic wedding, or had one yourself? Have you ever caught an arrow, or thought about it?  (I know, those questions are SO related, right!) — comments and thoughts welcome! I'll be giving away a print copy of the original paperback of THE STONE MAIDEN or THE SWAN MAIDEN (winner's choice) to one lucky commenter! 



When Wenches Wed

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

As the Wench newsletter said, in April the Mayhem Consultant and I finally got around to getting married.  Since there was so much interest, I hijacked this date so I could tell you a bit more and show you some pictures.

Our aim was to have a ceremony that was classy but relaxed.  I have a friend who broke up with her fiancé three times between engagement and wedding.  She was an artist and a perfectionist, and I’m sure the wedding was perfect (I didn’t know her then, so I didn’t get to see).  But who needs that much stress?  Besides, they ended up getting divorced—those three break-ups must have meant something.  <g>

Our philosophy was that there are many good choices and no perfect ones, so once we found something we liked, we went for it. 


Finding the venue was easy—just a few miles away is a gorgeous building designed as an English manor house, with some elements copied from Warwick Castle.  The MC says it was built by a bootlegger who later gave it to an order of nuns in an attempt to expiate some of his many sins.  I am not sure about this—the official history of the building is much tamer. 

But whatever its past, the Castle at Maryvale, on the campus of a private Catholic girls’ school, is stunning, and so very, very right for a historical romance writer!

Picture 377

Despite my being a romance author, I’m not all of that romantic day to day.  But who could resist the image of floating down this staircase in something glamorous?

Winegwen8Even as a little girl, I never fantasized getting married in a sumptuous white gown—white was never my color.  But I love dark reds and burgundies, so I thought it would be fun to have a medieval style gown made in that color range.   So—I did.  I also went for the matching cape, which swept gracefully behind me.  (The result if either The Scarlet Woman or Little Red Riding Hood. <G>)

Another reason to have a proper wedding is because my two nieces had been hoping for someone in the family to get married so they could be flower girls.  By the time we got around to it, the older was junior bridesmaid size.  Aren’t Marielle and Caroline gorgeous?  Caroline looks just like my heroine, Lady Victoria Mansfield, aka “Tory.”

(All three of our gowns were made by Belinda Berry of Romantic Threads.  She specializes in marvelous historical garments.  She also made my necklace.)

 We wanted music to match the setting–baroque and classical works like Bach and Handel and Pachelbel and Mouret.  We were lucky to find the Raphael Flute and Strings Trio, which was perfect for this occasion.  Picture 124

Food matters, too.  Good food and good company make an occasion.  The good company was the friends we've accumulated over the years. 

Picture 092

For the food, Maryvale had only two approved caterers, both very good, so we went with the one that really blew us away.  Chief regret: not enough leftovers. <G>

20--Cake close-upCakes, like gowns, are the subject of much interest.  Our local gourmet grocer is considered one of the top bakers in Central Maryland, so we hopped over for a tasting (by the way, this tasting business in GREAT!  I never heard of it before planning this wedding), and made the mistake of starting with samples of their famous buttercream on pound cake.  Everything after that, both at this store and the other bakery we sampled, paled by comparison.  The taste was rich and yes, sumptuous, but not too sweet. 

We tossed in a bit of medieval looking design, and the caterer served the slices with real whipped cream and fresh berries.  Yummmmmmmmm!


Needless to say, all the Wenches and Whipmistress Sherrie were invited, but given the vast distances ("the sun never sets on the Wench Empire!" <g>), not everyone could come.  Pat and Susan were my bridesmaids, and Joanna was able to come, along with several of my non-Wench writer friends.  Note that the Elusive Susan managed to be least in sight when this picture was taken. <g> Pat, MJP, and Joanna are in the middle:


It really was a lovely time, and friends from many different parts of our lives mingled wonderfully even though they'd never met.  In the end, we got what we wanted–a wonderful party with friends and family where everyone seemed to be having a good time.  (Photographs taken by Shantel Mitchell and Edward Hawkins.)

Leaving the hall

When we were in Australia several years ago, a Ozzie writer suggested a line from "Gigi" that she thought suited us.  I liked it so much that I had it printed on the back of the program:

"Some people get married at first.

Others get married at last."

Toast!And a good time was had by all!  If you'd like to share some of your own wedding memories, please do. 

Mary Jo, not feeling all that different for being married.  And no, I am not changing my name!