Thursday, March 22, 2012

Toni V. Sweeney, The King's Swordswoman





AUTHOR:  Toni V. Sweeney
BOOK TITLE: The King’s Swordswoman
PUBLISHER:  Clasas Act Books
(available in trade, pdf, Ebook, and Mobi)

Tell me a little about your book.

The King’s Swordswoman is the first novel in a 3-part series, The Lovers of Leonesse.  Leonesse is the capitol city of Purdha, a mythical kingdom, and the series chronicles the stories of 3 sets of lovers who influence the city’s development:  a king and his wife; two members of a flying squad called the Mothmen; and an earlier king’s bastard son and the princess he marries.

This particular novel is about the vicomte-palatine Crispin du Lance and his bodyguard, the woman warrior, Janel Redhu.

Crispin is an invalid who has only been seen by his subjects once and has left his sickbed twice.  Janel is the soldier hired to care for him, and the story revolves around her trying to protect him from an overthrow by his brothers, and what happens when places him in his enemy’s hands.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?

I guess I just wanted to write something a little different in the romance line.  We’ve all read the story of the bodyguard who falls in love with the woman he’s hired to protect.  She’s endangered, kidnapped, or whatever.  He rescues her.  They fall in love but fight against it, then in the last chapter, decide they can make a go of it after all…and HEA.

Well, I got to thinking…what if it was a female bodyguard and the person she was hired to protect was a male, but not a full-bodied he-man, but a shy, protected, invalid.  A man so sickly he wasn’t expected to live.  He’s never even been alone with a woman and suddenly, this young, vibrant swordswoman comes into his life, determined to protect him no matter what.  And when he’s endangered, she thinks she actually causes his death, what happens then? 

I reversed their roles completely…and the novel was the result.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I write full-time.  Up in the morning; write until noon.  Stop for lunch, then back at it again until dinnertime.  Unless there’s meetings, doctor’s appointments, or such to tend to.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

The day my mother put a pencil in my hand and taught me how to spell C*A*T.  (I think I was 5.)

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?

The idea that they’ve just read a pretty good story and where can they find the next one?

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?

I myself write sci-fi and fantasy, with a contemporary thrown in now and then.  Some of my novels can’t be truly classified as “romances” because they don’t really end happily and the romance is actually secondary to the theme of the story, which is usually adventure.  I like to call my novels “romans” like the songs the wandering minstrels used to tell because they’re adventure tales with romance thrown in.  I leave the regular romances to my alter ego, Icy Snow Blackstone.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

Making myself sit down and write the story.  I’ve been doing this for  a quarter of a century now, and I get impatient to get the story into an objective form sometimes.  I find myself wishing I could just think it and the computer would pick up my brain waves and translate it into a document.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.

Not this one, not a bit.  At least, I can’t think of the last time I was hired to protect someone from assassination.  Some of the others have little bits and pieces of experiences tucked into them, though.

How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
 Janel is young, beautiful, red-haired, and in fantastic shape.  I’m 70, still fairly blonde, and we won’t even discuss my shape!

What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

I researched the type of armor someone from this period (which is roughly equal to the early Norman Conquest), compared it to other types of armor from earlier andlater periods, then chose which type my soldiers were going to wear.  I studied the types of swords they used.  I also went into some detail of how their clothes looked, as well as the original spellings of some of the garments.  I also looked up various noble titles, to determine which were allowed to rule a kingdom without be called “king.”

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?

Not necessarily bother me, but sometimes it gets difficult to keep either a fight scene or a bedroom scene from becoming repetitious.  Nothing worse than a particularly bloody sword fight or a graphic sexual encounter and suddenly I think,  “Wait a minute!  Didn’t I just write this same thing in such-and-such a book a few months ago?  Oops!”

What about your book makes it special?

Oh, I don’t know…unless it’s that most of them seem to start off following the standard romance formula and then suddenly---boom!---they’re going off the beaten path and heading out on a twisty-turning trail and breaking a few rules.  Format-wise, they’re well-edited, and the spelling and grammar is as word-perfect as I can make it.

What is your marketing plan?

The usual, at least I consider it usual.  Postings on GoodReads, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and various writers’ loops of which I’m a member.  Icy Snow and I both have websites, so we post covers, buy links, reviews of the books, and synopses there.  I also do trailers.  And of course, there’s good ol’ word-of-mouth …

Where can people learn more about you and your work?

At any of the places below:

                        http://www.icysnowblackstone.com/
Twitter:  @tonivsweeney

Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?

Only one:  get started and don’t give up!

What’s in the future for you?

I have approximately eight novels scheduled for release this year, and just signed a contract for a 5-book series, so I’m set for 2013, also.



Blurb of  The King’s Swordswoman

The King is dead; How Long will the New King Live?
Invalid Crispin of Leonesse isn’t expected to long survive his coronation…and then Swordswoman Janel Redhu becomes his bodyguard.

Smothered by the Queen Mother and his Physician, Crispin is an odd combination of feeble body, rebellious spirit, and frightened child, but in spite of that, king and guard have become close friends.  When Janel overhears what she thinks is a conspiracy by Crispin’s brothers to seize the Throne, she does the only thing she can. 

She carries her sovereign to safety in the neutral country of Sudelain.

When the two runaways come across an enemy scouting party, Janel believes Crispin is killed, and lets herself be captured as punishment for failing to protect him.  What follows is a tale of suffering and love as a boy transforms into manhood and a young woman helps him meet his planned destiny.


Excerpt:

At first, I thought we had walked into a library.  There were books everywhere, the walls lined with shelves on which they were stacked.  To our right, a door opened into another room.  In front of the closest bookcase, a table held a chess board and pieces, other gameboards piled upon it.  At the other end of the room, a high-arched, mullioned window let in bright sunlight.

On the opposite side of the room stood a large four-poster bedstead, its headboard against the wall.  It was swathed so thickly in translucent draperies its occupant was little more than a faceless figure.  Two people stood beside the bed, Prince Carel and the Queen Mother, both painted and draped in the heaviest of mourning.
           
 “So you’ve finally arrived,” Carel greeted his brother brusquely.  He flicked a glance at me.  “And is this the Lady Comaunder’s choice?”  He sounded as if he couldn’t believe it.
           
 “Linus, who is this person?” Lady Mathilde didn’t give her next-to-youngest a chance to answer his brother.  She was a small woman, even shorter than I, now plump with middle age— dumpy, to be truthful—and her voluminous gown with its flowing sleeves making her look even more squat and fat.  I could see she’d probably been very comely when she was His Majesty’s bride, and that determined  little  chin and her bright eyes were probably two of the features catching his eye.  Now, however, there was too much willfulness in her expression and her eyes appeared small and cruel.  Perhaps king’s consorts become that way over time.  All I know is I felt whatever she was thinking didn’t bode well for me.

“This is the soldier Comaunder Mariah sent to guard Crispin,” Carel answered for Linus.

“He seems young.”  Standing, she bustled over to me, peering into my face.  Shewas shortsighted also, it seemed.  I forced myself not to back away.  Abruptly, she recoiled.  “Carel, this is a girl!”

“Astute of you to notice, Mother.” Carel’s didn’t attempt to keep his answer respectful.  That made me frown.  Truly, the Royal offspring weren’t acting as I thought they should.  Certainly they weren’t deporting themselves as they did on the battlefield.  There, they were calm and collected.  At the moment, both seemed merely testy, spiteful children.  Still, grief  affected men in different  ways.  I hoped that was all it was.
Comaunder Mariah’s daughter, as a matter of fact,” he went on.

Lady Mathilde stared at her eldest, plainly upset, more than a little angry.  Something was wrong, and it appeared to do with my gender. 

“She can’t guard His Majesty,” she stated, in a don’t-argue-with-me tone.

“Why not?”  Linus spoke up, doing just that.  There was so much belligerence  in those two words I hoped I wasn’t about to witness a family row.

“She’s a female—” Lady Mathilde began, giving him a glare saying much about a son daring to question his mother’s opinions.

“So?” Carel interrupted.  Not letting his mother finish a sentence earned him a scowl.

“Crispin’s guard has to be with him every minute of the day and night.  This girl can’t possibly sleep in the same room with His Majesty.  It wouldn’t be proper.”

“Janel’s a devotee of the Goddess, Madame.” Carel’s reply was clipped as if attempting to control his anger.  A faint rose fragrance hovered in the air.  “DeOsse requires chastity of her followers.  You needn’t worry about her climbing into bed with him.”

That earned him a shocked look.  Both from Mathilde and myself.  Linus stifled a chuckle.

“She’s too young, Carel.  Your brother requires assistance in bathing and other…necessities.  Perhaps if she were more mature…  It’s common knowledge young women are susceptible to the sight of bare male bodies, even one as frail as your brother’s…”

At this point, I had to bit my lip to stifle my own laughter.  Great DeOsse! She thinks I’ll have designs on the King?  On that sickly creature?  If I were going to break my vows, it’d certainly be for someone in better health than he.  Carel or Linus or…  Better end that thought right now.

“Stop this, Madame.” Carel’s snort said it all.  “Janel Redhu’s no danger to anyone except those who might harm His Majesty.  She’s a soldier first and a female second.”

“She can’t guard him constantly.” She wasn’t going to give up.  “S-she’ll be indisposed…during…uh…female Times.”

“I’ve spoken to the Royal Leech about that.” Carel’s reply was calm though he avoided both his mother’s gaze and my own.  The rose scent was stronger now.  I could tell Mathilde smelled it also, from the way her nostrils quivered.  “He assures me Followers are blessed with a lack of…that physical property.  Until they are released from their vows.”
Carel might be calm but I felt my own cheeks reddening.  I studied the floor.  Linus fixed an equally interested gaze on the ceiling.

“Nevertheless—”

“Nevertheless, nothing!  I asked the Commander for her best soldier and Janel is her choice.  She stays.”

There was a sigh and a creaking of the leather straps supporting the mattress.  A sleepy murmur, sudden movement from the bed, a body straightening and rolling over.

“M-Mother?”  The voice was so shaky and hollow it sounded like an old man rather than a seventeen-year-old boy.

“Yes, my angel.”  Mathilde was distracted from further argument as she rushed back to the bedside.  She leaned into the draperies, reaching toward the vague figure lying there, assisting His Majesty in sitting upright.  Once he was settled and propped on several pillows, she straightened.

“W-we have a v-visitor?”  It was asked breathlessly.  Crispin sounded as if he’d run a race and couldn’t get his wind.  Oh, Goddess, and he stutters, too.  I felt my heart dip with pity.  He leaned forward slightly.  “Who are you, s-soldier?”

“The guard sent from Sword Squad—” Carel began.

I started to supply my name.

“—a female,” Mathilde didn’t let either of us finish.  “I’ve told him she isn’t acceptable.”

Oh no.  She’s going to talk him out of it.  Now I understood Linus’ earlier remark. For some reason, the Queen Mother didn’t want her son to have a guard.  I imagined she had enough influence with him to have me sent away.  Well, that’d be no reflection on me or my abilities, but it would be an insult.  To myself as well as to the Lady Commander my mother for her choice.

“Why not?” It was the whining query of a child being told he couldn’t do something.

“See?  Even His Majesty sees there’s no problem,” Carel pointed out, not trying to hide how this pleased him.

Mathilde ignored him, turning back to the bed.  “Because your guard must be here at all times.  Think about that.  You don’t want a female here while you’re being bathed, do you?  Seeing you naked?  Or watching you relieve yourself into a chamber?”

She emphasized those last words as if this were a crime of the highest order.  Crispin cringed.  There was no other way to describe the sudden movement the figure behind the draperies made.

 “She wouldn’t look…” His voice went up so quickly it became a squeak.  There was a loud gulp as he attempted to return it to a more kingly timbre.  The shadowy head turned in his elder brother’s direction.  “Carel, s-surely she wouldn’t…”           

“Of course not.”  Where Carel was short with his mother, his tone with his brother was quieter.  Matter-of-fact, but slightly pacifying as if he were speaking to someone much, much younger.  “Whenever you’re being bathed, Janel will turn her back.  And she’ll never be in your company when you perform your other functions.  Will you, Prive?” He directed this last question at me so suddenly I nearly jumped.

“C-certainly not, Sire.”  It was the first time I’d been addressed directly since entering the room and I grimaced at that brief tremble in my voice.   I hoped no one thought I was mocking my king’s stammer.  “I swear His Majesty’ll have privacy.”

“Let me remind you, Madame,” Carel went on, pressing the point.  “If Prive Redhu’s sent away, the Lady Commander’s next choice may be her son, Marius.  You do remember Marius, Mother?”

At mention of my brother’s name, Lady Mathilde shuddered.  There was no other way to describe the visible frisson going through that overweight little body.  She muttered something.  It sounded like “She wouldn’t dare.”

What the hell does that mean?

“Come closer, Prive.” A hand wavered through the draperies.  It was waxen-pale, large but bony, almost as white as the lawn sleeve covering it.  The arm shook slightly as it extended, beckoning.  “What are your orders concerning us?”

Before Lady Mathilde could object, I stepped forward and seized Crispin’s hand. It was as chill as a piece of alabaster, not like a living thing at all.  Dropping to one knee, I pressed the cold fingers to my forehead.

“I’m to protect you, Your Majesty, and keep your enemies at bay.”

The hand withdrew, pulling me to my feet as it disappeared back inside the sanctuary of the bed.  “Then it’s all right.  She can s-stay, Mother.” 

“But—”  Mathilde wasn’t going to give up so easily.

“His Majesty has spoken, Madame,” Carel pointed out, and the finality in his own voice also held triumph.  Got another one past her, it seemed to say.  I was beginning to wonder just how much filial devotion there actually was between Mathilde and her sons.  Not much that I could see.





4 comments:

  1. Love the concept of the woman saving the man. Sounds like a great book.

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  2. It's time for the girl's to shine! LOVED the excerpt. I can't wait to read this book--so different and the voice is so fresh.

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  3. Toni, I like a take charge woman like you. Your stories always shine.

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  4. Like Joylene said, I like the concept of the woman saving the man. CONGRATS on all your upcoming book releases for 2012 and 2013!

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