Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

Archive for the category “About: Veiled Iron”

Lookin’ For Love in All the Wrong Places

I feel like the theme song for this blog could be “Lookin’ For Love in All the Wrong Places,” since I tend to gravitate toward unusual places for romance. I read and love romance novels of course, but there’s something very satisfying about starting a movie or book and finding romance where you least expect it. Maybe that’s something like real life.

When I was in middle school and high school I had about a million crushes, one right after another, some at the same time (I know, like just about everyone else) but it wasn’t until I got asked out by a guy I hadn’t even noticed that I got my first boyfriend. That’s not always how it works of course, but you can certainly try too hard (my dad says I get that tendency from him).

Since that’s how I was, I’m often suspicious of female characters (especially teens) who say they don’t want a boyfriend, or aren’t looking for love. I know these people exist, but I always catch myself going “really? not even a little bit? Not even an eensie little bit?”

That’s why it’s (perhaps) ironic that I created a main character (Layla inVeiled Iron) who has no romance on her radar. Here’s my defense: she’s such a tomboy, in such a male-dominated society that I just couldn’t see her any other way. Half the girls in her school already think she’s a tramp for playing on the siegeball team with all those boys–she’d only make her reputation worse by flirting with someone. Besides, in her world, women get married at 16-17, and their marriage is the kind that existed in most societies in the history of the world (the wife is the man’s property). With that in mind, I can’t see her–an athlete–being anxious to draw the amorous attention of boys.

But of course, she is a girl, and she does have all those teenage hormones and emotions bumping around inside her. A nice mix of conflict, no? 🙂


*Michelle climbs back onto the face of the earth.* Whew, quite a tumble I took there wasn’t it? I haven’t posted anything new since July?? And I’ve read so many books I should review, too.

Here’s what’s coming in the next few weeks: review of the TV show “Farscape,” review of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (yes, I was living under a rock after falling off the face of the earth, so it’s taken me awhile to get on board with the book everyone and their senile uncle has read) and a Grammar Nazi post (really, she should rename herself the Spelling Nazi, because that’s all she really harps on. *ouch* Okay, she just smacked me for finishing that sentence with a preposition. And she’s seething over this entire paragraph. Heh.)

On other news, I’ve finished the major revisions to Veiled Iron and have begun querying. I’m planning on entering a few contests, and resuming work on Broadway High (for those of you keeping track, that’s the YA musical novel). My fanfiction story is finished, and several lovely readers from that experience have volunteered to read Veiled Iron for me and give me some feedback. Yay 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!


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Fragment Friday!

It’s that time again. 🙂  Today, we’re highlighting an exchange between Layla and one of her teachers, Ama Istani.


Layla couldn’t think of a worst day to have a poetry examination. Even in the best circumstances, her attempts to construct original verse stumbled to an inglorious finish. Today, with her thoughts tuned toward siegeball practice that afternoon, her poetry more closely resembled unpeeled potatoes jammed through a cheese grinder. She bit her thumb beneath her veil.

Outside, the day was glorious. Cool breezes fragrant with hypsis and trumpet flower blew through the classroom. The topic was the sea, but she knew she and her fellow students were supposed to write about love—romantic love. Sometimes, she wondered if women were ever supposed to write about anything else. She was heartily sick of crafting metaphors for a subject she knew nothing about.

Oh she loved plenty—she loved her father, siegeball, her friends. She loved the sea, too, so if this assignment was about just any type of love, it wouldn’t be so difficult.

The shrill blast of a zurna rang throughout the academy. Layla scribbled one last line below her stanza.

“Pens down, ladies.” Ama Istani plucked the pen out of Layla’s hand and laid it on the desk. “I’ll grade these drafts, and then we’ll revise our poems first thing next week, once you’ve had time to gain a fresh perspective on the subject matter. For tomorrow, read the next four chapters in A Dream of Blue Fire, and be prepared to speak on them.”

The ama opened the door and waited for the students to file out, collecting their poems as they went. Layla checked the fasteners on her veil, wondering if she’d have time to stop by her room before changing for practice. Absently, she handed Ama Istani the paper in her hand and walked past.

“I do not tease myself into believing literature is your best subject, Layla bar Avran, but I do expect a bit more focus.”

Layla whirled back to her literature teacher, her mouth open. “I—I was focusing.”

Beneath an artful arrangement of wavy dark hair, Ama Istani’s brows lowered. “I attend siegeball games, bar Avran. I have seen you focus. Do not insult me by claiming this was anything like that.”

“Yes, Ama.” She turned to go, but an impulse turned her back. “Why do we always write about love?”

The Ama peered at her for a moment. “Should we write about something else?”

Layla knew better than to shrink before that forbidding gaze. Ama Istani could be as cruel or as fair as a student expected her to be. “I might do better with a subject I know more about.”

At that, the ama chuckled and waved Layla from her classroom. “No one writes poetry about siegeball. You’ll have to make do with love.”

Fragment Friday (nearly missed it, didn’t I?)

Enjoy 🙂   [Background: Layla and Sanjar have gone horseback riding.]

Carefully, Layla sneaked a glance at Sanjar. His hips rolled with the horse, as fluid as breathing. The reins hung limp from his hand. She recalled Jiro’s comment the night before. “Is it true, Bahadorens think they can ride through anything?”

A smile quirked the corners of his mouth. “That’s because we can. Anything but sandstorms.” He could be distant, and the intensity she often saw in his eyes made him a little intimidating, but when he smiled like that, Layla wondered why he didn’t do it more often.

She urged Kiraz into an easy gallop. “Let’s go a little faster.”

Sanjar picked up his pace. “Not much more,” he called, “there could be rabbit holes.”

Of course. She didn’t want to lame her horse trying to prove something.

The wind plastered her veil to her face, playing among the loose waves of hair beneath her braids. Sanjar pulled even. He caught her eyes, and a smile so mischievous it stole her breath broke across his face. He surged ahead, laughing at her shriek of frustration. ‘Not much faster’ her eye!

“Hie!” Layla let Kiraz loose. The mare leaped into her stride, gaining ground on Sanjar with exhilarating speed. The grass whipped by in a blur. She raced into the lead just as a pair of quail burst up out of the grass.

Kiraz screamed. She kicked into a thundering gallop across Sanjar’s path.

Wind stung Layla’s eyes. Her veil sucked into her nose and mouth, sliding to whip across her vision. She clawed at the fabric. The wild pace jarred her bones. She couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe. Each bounce slipped her farther off the center of her saddle. She tried turning Kiraz’s head by pulling the right-hand rein, but the animal barreled on. Tears blurred the last of her vision. One more slip, and death would catch her.

Fragment Friday!

Time for my first-ever Fragment Friday! Every Friday I’ll share an excerpt from Veiled Iron. Please feel free to comment, complain, critique, whatever 🙂 It’s all helpful.

A few words of introduction–Sanjar sneaked into the stands a few pages earlier to watch his new siegeball team practice. Only Layla and his “basinmate” Jiro know he’s come to play on their team, and Sanjar thinks the player he sees wearing a mask must be a guy from one of the desert nomad tribes. He’s very impressed with “Mask’s” ability to run and catch the ball. Master Kemal is their siegeball master (head coach).

Sanjar had seen enough. He rose from his seat and ducked through the exit, grabbing the handrail to swing himself down the wide, spiraling stairs. The door at the bottom swung open with a screech, and all motion on the field stuttered to a halt. Seventy pairs of eyes swept his way.

Read more…

The Olympics and Siegeball

I have a media-related review due next week, so to prep for it, I’m watching the Olympics. In a nutshell, I swing back and forth on watching them…like when they’re on, I’m INVOLVED. But when the TV’s off, I’m kind of meh about turning them on. I’m going to explore some of the reasons for that in the article, but the reason I’m blogging about this is because the Olympics are one of the chief inspirations for the role siegeball plays in the world of Veiled Iron. Although the Olympics are supposed to promote peace and togetherness, they often boil down to a non-violent way to go at it with other countries, to prove one country’s superiority to the other.

So I tried taking that concept back a few centuries, using my favorite sport (football, a NON-Olympic sport) and creating an empire that allows its underling states to decide disputes by playing spoils games. This increases siegeball’s importance (it’s no longer “just a game”) and heightens the stakes for the participants. I love drama and real danger in the books I read, and I didn’t want my “football book” to be any different.

That isn’t to say football isn’t dangerous…the violent collisions can lead to catastrophic injury and death. But in the Tarishan Empire a man who sets foot on the siegeball field risks more than life, limb and a chance at a Super Bowl ring. He risks the existence of his people.

The Checklist: Updated

I just realized I didn’t update my checklist after I finished the items on it. The following items have been checked off:

  • rewritten the intro
  • regularized the names
  • regularized the terms
  • written a preliminary query

On another post, I added that I wanted to incorporate dancing into the latter part of the book, so that will lead off the new version of the checklist:

  • incorporate dancing nearer to end
  • read book out loud from cover to cover (must wait till Brian is out of the house, so he doesn’t find me weirder than he already does
  • do a dedicated pass for romance elements

Let’s get those out of the way first, and then I’ll work on the next items on Alexandra’s list.

Snowed in & dreaming

I’m in a bit of a netherworld right now…waiting for some feedback on Veiled Iron before I induce the Heavy Edit, complete with all the different passes I blogged about a month ago. My query is also kind of in a limbo stage (I’m scheduled to get some critiques on that toward the end of the month). So what’s a writer to do when there are 2+ feet of snow on the ground outside, continuing blizzard conditions, and my mind wants to create? Why, come up with the idea for the next novel, of course.

Looks like this one will be my version of Little Women–my deviation from all the fantasy and high adventure to write what I know. And what I know is a small high school in the valley of Virginia where cheerleaders are ignored and the annual musical rules the school.

This won’t be Disney’s High School Musical. This will be about what happens after auditions divide the stars from the chorus line: the escalating expectations from one year to the next, the tears, broken toes and power tools, paint that smells like rotting eggs, and the endless hours of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2…” There are power trips, intrigues, romances sparked and allies lost, costumes finished at 3 am, falling sets, and directors laughing so hard they lose bladder control–WHEN they aren’t threatening to cancel the show altogether. Welcome to Broadway, Virginia.

And of course, it’ll be a romance. Sound like fun? I hope it will be 🙂

Starting with a backstory and why I’m replacing it.

Veiled Iron starts with Layla’s memories of her fifth birthday, the day her father offered to teach her to play siegeball. It’s a great introduction to the setting, the culture, and the game–but as most agents or editors will tell you, starting with a backstory is a no-no. It’s helpful for you, the writer to know the backstory, but for catching and keeping a reader’s interest, it’s best to start right into the story, distilling details from that history as you go along.

Yeah, rules are made to be broken, but as a writer, I’m no different from any of the others out there trying to write something that will sell. The temptation to believe this backstory is the exception is so strong that I think it needs to go.

So today I started the new intro. We’ll see where it goes!

What is Siegeball?

Siegeball is football (the American kind) repurposed for an empire who uses it to settle disputes within its borders. My concept is that in this world’s history, siegeball/football in its earliest beginnings was a simulation for war (with different waves of attack, different positions representing the specialties one might find in an army, a degree of controlled violence, etc) and that over time, the simulation evolved into a highly ritualized, rule-bound sport.

Is it a coincidence that this game evolved into the exact rule structure one finds in the modern NFL? Sure, but that’s no more a problem than any other parallel situation in speculative fiction.

Positions on a football team and their siegeball counterparts:

  • quarterback = lancer
  • running back = ram
  • offensive line = vanguard
  • wide receiver = receiver
  • tight end = flanker
  • fullback = shield
  • defensive line = wall line
  • linebacker = linebacker
  • safety = safety
  • cornerback = rearguard
  • kicker = kicker
  • punter = punter

As you can tell, not everything changed. I left some anchor words for those who are already familiar with football terms–usually words that just flat-out made sense or that seemed like it would be overkill to change.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I’d really appreciate it!

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