Congratulations to Marilee. Her new novel, Castle Ladyslipper, has been published by Awe-Struck Publishing.
*** Marilee has kindly offered a free book to one of those who comment here.
*** Marilee has kindly offered a free book to one of those who comment here.
Sue: Welcome to “Lauracea”, Marilee and congratulations on your novel’s release (now we’re both Awe-Struck authors). Tell us about Castle Ladyslipper and how you came to write it.
Marilee: I’d written short stories and poetry for a number of years. When I submitted a short story to a writing coach for critiquing, she said, “You should write a book.” Hmm, could I do that? I live in a fairly remote area where writers are as scarce as hen’s teeth. I knew I needed help, so I joined the Romance Writers of America and took advantage of their writing programs. I read dozens of books and fell in love with medieval romances. After a trip to the Lakes District of England, I found my setting. Writing the book was a struggle at first. After many false starts, I found my voice and began to enjoy the process.
Sue: Marilee, your literary grapes are certainly not green! You’ve had many novels published already: the Moon trilogy, the Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam to name just some. Which is your favorite novel and why?
Marilee: I was a teacher and counselor for many years. The book of my heart is The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam because it draws on my experiences during those years. Protagonist, Allegra Thome, teaches behavior-disordered teens. That’s the Bedlam part! Allegra is divorced and lives with her grandmother and aunt. The three of them sing karaoke at retirement homes, hence the rock and roll. It’s romantic suspense so, of course, I had to include Sloan, a hot DEA agent. It was such fun to write and I hope to write another book featuring Allegra.
Sue: Tell us a bit about your story to becoming a published author.
Marilee: I had just completed R & R Queen and was submitting it to a number of places. An editor for Kensington kept it for six months before rejecting it, but, in doing so, wrote me a personal note. She told me I had a natural voice for young adult fiction and to get busy and write one. Her note sent me down an entirely new path, one I had never considered. I started writing Moonstone and submitted five pages in a RWA contest. One of the judges was a publisher for Belle Books, a small independent publishing company. Months later, she hunted me down and said they were starting a new imprint called Bell Bridge and would love to see my book. Oops! It wasn’t done. I finished it, they bought it and gave me a five book contract for my series called Unbidden Magic. It was a very lucky break for me and brought a bit of unbidden magic into my life. I’ve just completed the fourth book. Eventually, I did sell The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam to a different company.
Sue: What is your favorite writing genre and how did you choose it?
Marilee: I love the writing process, so it’s hard for me to pick one genre. I have to say Allie Emerson, the teen protagonist in Moonstone, is my favorite character. I seem to have no problem channeling a teenage girl even though my own adolescence is long gone. Something about those years is permanently etched in my mind. I’ve started a book with a seventeen-year-old boy main character, Gabe Delgado, who finds a baby (undeniably his) on his front porch one Friday night. It has a paranormal twist along with the problems of being a teenage father trying to finish high school.
Sue: If Castle Ladyslipper was made into a movie, who would you like to play your main characters?
Marilee: I’m sure I’m dating myself, but Gwyneth Paltrow would be a perfect Emma and Russell Crowe, manly man that he is, would make a good Garrick. (Wow! I’d go and see it – I like Garrick already)
Sue: How do you structure your writing? Do you outline or wing it or a little of both?
Marilee: A little of both. Before I start a book, I write an extensive background for the main characters so I know how they’ll react in a given situation. When I start writing, I know how the book starts and how it ends. The rest becomes the journey and I allow the characters to take me along with them. When I get lost, I stop and outline a couple of chapters. Always, I ask myself, “Is this moving the story forward or are you just being self indulgent?” Sometimes, I end up with an entirely new character. This just happened in the last book I wrote. A new character emerged and I like her so much, she’ll be a major player in book #5.
Sue: Now your new book has been released, how do you plan to “promote” it?
Marilee: No major plans. Probably some guest blogs if the opportunity arises.
Sue: What’s up next for you? Is there any news on upcoming releases you would like to share?
Marilee: As previously mentioned, book #4 in the Unbidden Magic series will be published next summer. Number 5, the last in the series, will be set in Ireland. My husband and I plan to visit the Newgrange area north of Dublin so I can do research. (Faeries abound!) (And ghosts, I’ve been there…)
Sue: Could you share with us your Castle Ladyslipper blurb?
Marilee: When a chauvinistic knight lands in a castle full of women, somebody has to change!
Soldier of fortune Garrick of Hawkwood is ill prepared for the women of Castle Ladyslipper, especially its hostile mistress, Emma d’Arcy. Garrick is haunted by the spirit of Emma’s great-great grandmother, Rose, who brought on the curse plaguing Emma and her female relatives. Though clearly at odd, Emma and Garrick cannot deny the sultry heat rising between them. Liberally laced with humor, Castle Ladyslipper resonates with a timeless theme: love can flourish, even when sown in the rocky soil of misunderstanding.
Northern England, 1172
Garrick of Hawkwood smashed a fist against his saddle and uttered a vile curse. The wrong damn castle! He could almost hear the king’s hoot of laughter, hear the derisive words, “Try as I may, Hawkwood, each time I grant you a boon you manage to muck it up. First, Maud of Grimsby expires on your wedding night and now...”
“This isn’t Fairfield?” Garrick stared at the ancient porter who recoiled slightly at his tone.
“Course it is. Didn’t I just say?”
“No,” Garrick snapped. “You clearly said ‘Castle Ladyslipper.’”
The old man gave Garrick a toothless grin and made a vague gesture toward the square whitewashed keep.
“Did I indeed?” His eyes danced with secret delight. “’Tis a flower, y’know. A great many of them grow within our walls.”
Garrick groaned. Had Henry sent him to an asylum for lunatics? Was this some royal practical joke?
A trio of small girls darted out from behind the wall. The tallest of the three stepped forward and tugged at the porter’s tunic.
“You’re supposed to bid them enter.”
With a flourish, the porter bowed, waving Garrick and his men through the open portcullis.
“Follow us!” the girls called.
They hitched up their skirts and tore off though the grassy outer bailey, bony legs flashing white in a sea of green. As if on cue, the sun broke out from behind a thick curtain of clouds.
Garrick nudged Rufus into a trot. He shook his head at the condition of the crumbling barbican and followed the girls through the arched opening of the interior wall.
A kettle of eels, the king had called Fairfield. Marry d’Arcy’s widow, he’d ordered with an enigmatic smile, then look for snakes amongst the eels.
In a voice startlingly loud for such a small child, one of the girls shrieked as she ran, “Men! A full dozen of them! Come see! Come see!”
Garrick glanced over his shoulder at Roland, his master-at-arms. His friend had warned him to expect hostility. Dealing with the unknown is always risky, he’d added, especially when it involves women. To which Garrick had replied, “How difficult can one small woman be?”
Was it too early to gloat?
“They’ll soon be throwing flowers at our feet,” Garrick said with a grin.
Roland winked. “The day is young.”
Summoned by the child’s shrill cry, a flood of females poured into the bailey–sharp-eyed matrons, tiny tots, wrinkled crones, demure maidens–woman folk of every sort, size, shape and age. With growing apprehension, Garrick scanned the crowd. Nary a...
“Sir Garrick!” said his squire, Toby. “Where are the men-at-arms?”
Garrick shrugged. Where indeed? Other than archers visible in the parapets, Fairfield seemed woefully undermanned.
“This way, Sir Knight,” a smiling woman called out. The chattering crush parted to form a living aisle. At its head stood a tall, slender woman watching him approach, her face an unreadable mask.
Surely this could not be the Lady Helene, with manure-stained boots, bits of wool clinging to her kirtle and hair the color of summer honey bursting from a thick braid in a wild halo of curls! A huge wolfhound leaned against her leg, his sides vibrating with ominous growls.
As Garrick drew closer the woman glared, her hands curled into fists. A sullen-faced boy clutching a wooden sword pushed his way through the crowd and stood in front of her.
Garrick pulled Rufus to a stop in front of the woman. She flinched as his shadow fell across her face. He waited for words of welcome: words that never came.
Garrick dismounted and handed his helm to Toby, unable to look away from the woman’s strange glittering eyes. All at once, the heady scent of roses flooded his senses, and a wave of dizziness swept over him. His knees buckled. He grabbed Rufus’s saddle to keep from falling. Bloody hell! Was she some kind of a witch?
Thankfully, the powerful aroma and its debilitating effects left quickly. He took a deep breath to clear his head and reached into a saddlebag, fumbling for the document bearing the king’s seal. Why were his hands shaking?
Gathering his wits Garrick said, “I bring orders from the king.”
An enthusiastic “Ohhhh” rippled through the crowd. Silence from the woman. Was it possible she couldn’t speak?
“Tell her!” A woman spoke directly into his right ear. Garrick whirled toward the voice and came face to face with Roland.
His friend leaned forward on his mount. “Everything all right?” he murmured, looking tense. He wasn’t the only one.
Garrick gave a brief nod. Too long on the road. Aye, that’s it. Why else would he hear a disembodied voice? A hot meal and a soft bed would put things right.
He unrolled the parchment and cleared his throat. “I, Henry the Second of England, by the grace of God and the authority vested in me do hereby assign the hand of Lady Helene d’Arcy, widow of Matthew d’Arcy to my vassal, Sir Garrick of Hawkwood. Furthermore, I grant Sir Garrick guardianship of William d’Arcy, ward of the crown, until such time that he is deemed fit to undertake his responsibilities.”
Garrick paused and looked at the woman. She remained silent. Her dog continued to snarl. The boy stroked his wooden sword and glared.
“You are the Lady Helene?” Garrick prompted.
Finally, the woman spoke in a low, husky voice. “Nay, my stepmother has returned to France. You’ve made your journey for naught. Please feel free to sup with us and rest your horses before you begin your journey back. I’ll send my steward to see to your needs.”
She turned and walked toward the keep, the boy trailing behind. His duty complete, the dog disappeared into the crowd.
Garrick fumed at her abrupt dismissal. Who was this woman and why did she think she could flaunt the king’s orders? He covered the distance between them in two steps and caught her arm. With a gasp of outrage, she whirled to face him. He let his gaze trail over her features – her slanted green eyes, haughty nose and stubborn chin. “You have me at a disadvantage, my lady. Who are you?”
She tried to tug free of his grip. Failing, she stiffened. “I am Emma, daughter of Mathew d’Arcy.”
“Ah.” Garrick tried to hide his surprise. Why hadn’t the king told him of d’Arcy’s daughter?
Emma said, “I am mistress of Fairfield and guardian to my half-brother. ‘Tis what my father wanted.”
“The king’s orders clearly supersede those of your father,” Garrick told her. God’s teeth! Why did women make everything so difficult?
“And clearly, you cannot marry a woman who is not here,” she retorted. “Now, if you’ll release me, Sir, I have work to do.”
Despite the brave words, Garrick felt her tremble. A pulse pounded visibly in the hollow of her throat. Without a doubt, the lady had secrets.
Remembering what the priests had taught him–that women are basically large children and should be treated as such–he said slowly and with exaggerated patience, “We’ll talk soon. You’ll tell me exactly where to find the Lady Helene.”
As an afterthought he added, “You needn’t worry. I’ll see to everything now.”
She tensed in his grip. Her lashes fell but not before he saw the flash of anger in her eyes. He felt the heat of her skin through the coarse fabric of her gown and knew he should release her but was strangely reluctant to do so.
She looked up then and smiled, revealing even white teeth, a cold smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. Though she stared defiantly into Garrick’s eyes, she spoke to the boy by her side.
“Did you hear that, William? We are truly blessed. Hawkwood has arrived.” She fairly spat his name.
“Perhaps, Sir, you’d like to lend a hand with the sheep shearing. I’m sure a man such as you knows farm work is never done.”
Impertinent wench! Garrick ground his teeth and renewed his vow to be patient. He heard the creak of leather behind him; his men stirred in their saddles, unsure how to react to her jibe. Nervous titters rippled through the crowd of women. Now is not the time, but you‘ll pay for that, lady, Garrick thought.
His discomfort seemed to please her and her smile grew broader. Finally, she jerked free of his grip.
“Come, William,” she said, taking her brother by the hand. Head held high, she marched away, a queen in peasant’s clothing. The women broke ranks and hurried after her.
Garrick looked at Roland who rolled his eyes. “Welcome to Castle Ladyslipper.”
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Links to where Marilee and her books can be found:
Please visit Marilee's website at www.marileebrothers.com to learn more about her books.
Twitter Link: MarileeB@twitter.com