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Behind The Scenes: King's Warrior

Time to drag you behind the scenes!   

I wanted to show you some storytelling decisions that go into writing a book, and show you how real-life research can fuel a story.

This one's about King's Warrior.

First, a little backstory on the story.

Originally, King's Warrior was part of an anthology of connected stories, & mine was kicking things off, so I knew I wanted something big and exciting for all the other stories to reference.

The theme for the anthology was a ‘captured' theme.  

The stories were all going to be connected via this theme,  all have Celtic heroes, and all were going to have a jeweled dagger running through them.  The SAME jeweled dagger. And yet, the stories were going to span hundreds of years.

Since my story was appearing first in the anthology, I wanted to set up a compelling, exciting ‘story’ for the dagger that the other authors were going to be working with.

I knew I wanted to set it during the 2nd Crusade, with King Richard the Lionheart and all that crazy jazz. Lots of potential for drama, but where to focus…and get my dagger??

Assassination, of course. Of a Crusader king. By ANOTHER Crusader king.  Amiright??

The History

Okay, so what REALLY happened?

In 1192, Conrad of Montferrat,  Marquis of Montferrat (Northern Italy) and one of the leading crusaders, was elected King of Jerusalem by the other crusader leaders, although he’d ruled as de facto king as a result of his marriage to the heiress to the crown, Queen Isabella, in late 1190.

(I'm not even going to go into that crazy, convoluted history, but it's worth a look!)

Anyhow, England’s King Richard was pretty unhappy about this bonhomie among the other crusading leaders. Richard didn't want Conrad to be king: he wanted someone else.

In fact, Richard had lobbied hard for one of his own vassals to be elected king.  More specifically, one of his troublesome vassals, in the even more troublesome duchy of Poitou, Guy of Lusignan.  But Guy wasn't a popular…well, guy.  He wasn't brave, he wasn't honorable, and he wasn't really a very good fighter.  Also, he was a right arse. I suspect no one in the entire world actually liked Guy. 

But Richard was extremely motivated to hoist his independent-minded, belligerent vassal off on the Holy Lands where he would trouble Richard no more. 

Alas, the English king's candidate was outvoted by the other crusader kings.

I’ll go out on a limb and say this wasn’t something the strong-willed Richard appreciated. 

(Of note: Richard really, really, really did not want Guy returning home to bother him, so at this point, he SOLD Guy the lordship of Cyprus (where he could still be called ‘king') to keep him away from Poitou. Ha.) 

Everything seems good, right? 

Richard got rid of his troublesome vassal, plus some money into the bargain.

Conrad, who was a courageous fighter & leader and respected by everyone, would get the kingship. Happy days ahead in the land of fighting.

Then tragedy–or opportunity–struck. 

The Murder

Two days before he was to be crowned, Conrad was assassinated by, well, two Assassins.  As in, the real-life Assassins. They'd been disguised as monks and had infiltrated the grounds for awhile before they struck. Conrad was basically hacked up in the gardens.

The Assassins fled. One was killed, but one was caught alive.  And guess what?

Under torture, he claimed King Richard contracted them for the kill.

Whaat??   Yup.

Medieval crazy sauce.

Whether or not King Richard was actually involved in the assassination, and whether that involvement was direct or indirect, no one knew. 

A lot of people believed it.  And the rumors spread throughout Europe, driven in large part by the French king’s enthusiastic support of them.

Oh how King Philippe wanted Richard to have done this deed. Or at least be thought to have done it. It would make his take-over of England so much easier.

Because that's what Philippe was planning, of course. He'd already hie-tailed it out of the Holy Lands, and he was conspiring actively with Richard's younger brother, Prince John. (Yes, the one who became the evil King John of so many truths & legends).

So, did Richard plot for the assassination of a king?  It was never proven, but it was a compelling enough rumor that the king was required to submit proof that he hadn't been involved at one point. (A hard thing to do, but there you have it.)

(Second parenthetical: I'm not going into this crazy backstory either, of King Richard's travels home from Jerusalem et al, but omg, the drama!!!  Another day, another post.)

But whether he did or didn't conspire, all you need for Story is plausibility, and this was intrigue I couldn't ignore: King Richard accused of conspiring to commit regicide and assassinate another king.

But I still needed my dagger…

Fortunately, history provided that too.

The Dagger

What you need to know about the Assassins was they really like daggers. Like, a lot. They used them as weapons, but they also used them as threat.

They were legendary for sneaking into the tents of political opponents at night and leaving behind one of their daggers and a note, right next to the leader they’d stood beside, undetected, in the dark.

The message was clear, but in case it wasn’t, they often followed up more overtly. 

For instance, one of their exploits: In 1092, upon his coronation, the new sultan of the Seljuk empire rebuffed a Hashashin ambassador. Bad idea.

One morning soon after, he woke up to find a dagger plunged into the ground beside his bed. Terrified, he didn’t say anything about it–who wants to announce a weakness like that?  A little while later, a messenger from the Assassins arrived, saying, “Did I not wish the sultan well, that the dagger which was struck in the hard ground would have been planted on your soft breast.”

Gotcha. That one was pretty effective.  For decades after, there was a ceasefire between the Seljuks and the Nizari.

Guess what this gave me? My dagger for King's Warrior! 

The Proof

The way I saw it was…King Richard's involvement in the murder was never proven.

But what if it could have been??

What if this dagger, specially constructed and engraved with runes that implicated the king, boasting the king's very own ruby in its hilt, was used in the assassination.  It would be an unavoidable message to Richard, and the world.

The Story

I had my story!

An Irish warrior, once bodyguard to the king, on the run, with a dagger that was (or was not??) used in the assassination of Conrad, hunted by noblemen and kings who'll stop at nothing to get him and his contraband.

The Romance

Our hero is desperate, cornered…dangerous.  He'll do anything to accomplish his mission.  Even kidnap an innocent merchant woman and use her as camouflage to escape.

The drama hurts, yes?  :)

If you've read King's Warrior, I hope you loved it, If you haven't, go check it out!

If you like big adventure and hot romance, you'll love King's Warrior because it has a charming, dangerous Irish hero who finds the love of his life on the mission of a lifetime.
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Behind The Scenes: Writing King's Warrior

Thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peek behind the scenes at the writing of King's Warrior, which just released last week. 

His plan was heartless, ruthless, and simple. Until he met her.

My plan for this story was simple, too.  (Not so much ruthless, but then I'm not an Irish warrior….)

I wanted to write a story where the hero exploits the heroine while appearing to help her, a story that would set up the new series I was starting, Renegade Lords.

I originally wrote King’s Warrior (originally titled The King’s Outlaw) for an anthology with three other author friends, Eliza Knight, Vonda Sinclair, and Jennifer Haymore, Captured by a Celtic Warrior (out of print now).  It was terrific working with these ladies, and if you haven’t checked out their stories, do!

The theme for our Captured anthology was, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘captured.’  All the stories were also going to have a jeweled dagger running through them.  The same jeweled dagger. And yet, the stories were going to span hundreds of years.

Since my story was appearing first in the anthology, I  knew I wanted to set up a compelling, exciting ‘story’ for the dagger that the other authors were going to be working with.  But I also had to keep the storyline relatively tight, because these were all novellas—no sprawling 400 pg epics here!  And of course, it had to be über-sexy. All within a ‘captured’ theme.

I wrote and wrote, but kept writing around the story, until I wrote what is now the opening scene with Tadhg, the Irish hero of our story. He’s on the docks in a grubby little French seaport, trying to get out of town before he’s captured by the villain, and, boom, the story took off.

I really loved the challenge of this story, and when it came together, it came together fast and tight. Really fun!

But that was only half of it. Because as I wrote, the story morphed and grew (of course!) and kept getting longer. This hero had a backstory, a big one, with complicated relationships that were going to yanked brought back to the forefront and tested.

Clearly this was not a novella.  And so not all of it could make it into the anthology version. But I knew Tadhg (pronounced /tie-g/) needed to have his story told.  As did Magdalena, his simple, innocent heroine, who, Tadhg is about to find out, has the heart of a lion.

King’s Warrior is their story, in a full, single title release, with loads of adventure and scorching hot passion.

Travel to medieval France & England and get a taste of the Holy Lands with King Richard the Lionheart. Visit a sea town shrouded in darkness and corruption, sneak into hidden caves, and get snowbound in a firelit cottage with no one but a dangerous outlaw and the way he’s looking at you, firelight glinting in his eye… (Yes, there is snowbound-ness!)

I hope you love it.  Let me know; I love to hear from readers!

Have fun in there! 

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Research Madness

As I switch over to a WordPress site, I was looking back on the old blog, hosted on Blogger, & I realized I haven't shared any of my research madness with you for awhile.   What the heck…

Here's a cool research tidbit from the writing of THE KING'S OUTLAW, in my USA Today® bestselling anthology CAPTURED BY A CELTIC WARRIOR.

There’s a jeweled dagger running though all four of the stories in the anthology, and since my story was appearing first, I wanted to set up a compelling, exciting tale for the dagger all the girls would be using.

I knew I wanted to set THE KING’S OUTLAW during the Second Crusade–you know, King Richard the Lion-Heart, THE LION IN WINTER period? (Tangent: Who else loves that movie??)

Anyhow, as I started my research, seeking an exciting dagger story, I came across the Hashashin, the real, original Assassins.

The Assassins were part of a Nizari sect of Islam that formed in 11th century, lead by the “Old Man of the Mountain,” whose headquarters was Alamut Castle (“Eagle's Nest”) near what is now modern-day Tehran.

View from Alamut Castle

 

They were a military order, but conducted high-level espionage and political murders through one class of their order, the “fida'i.” These young men were highly trained in many arts and skills, from combat to linguistics to all manner of espionage techniques.

Although they did conduct highly public murders of high-ranking figures, they often worked covertly, in secret and quiet. They would assimilate into the towns and worlds around their targets, sometimes for months on end, and were immensely fond of daggers, sometimes poisoned, both as weapon and as threat.

Assassination of Nizamal-Mulk by a Hashshashin

 

One of many stories of their exploits: In 1092, the new sultan of the Seljuk empire, upon coronation, rebuffed a Hashashin (Assassin) ambassador.

Oops. Bad idea.

The sultan woke up one morning soon after with a dagger thrust into the ground beside his bed. He didn't say anything about it–who wants to announce a weakness like that??– but a little while later, a messenger from the Assassins arrived, saying, “Did I not wish the sultan well that the dagger which was struck in the hard ground would have been planted on your soft breast.”

Oky-doky then. Interestingly, decades of a ceasefire ensued after this incident.

Saladin, the Christian Crusaders most worthy opponent, was repeatedly targeted by the Assassins, and finally came to terms with them. Crusader leaders did the same. And Prince Edward, later to become King Edward I of England, was wounded by an Assassin's poisoned dagger in 1271 while crusading.

You can see why I started getting excited. What an amazing, dramatic real-life dagger story.

But wait, there's more!

In 1192, the period of THE KING'S OUTLAW, the Assassins attacked and killed the crusader prince Conrad of Montferrat, in a public garden, when surrounded by his guards, three days before his coronation as the King of Jerusalem.

Whoa. Story-time.

But wait…there's more! Rumors swirled that King Richard the Lionheart of England was the one who hired them to do the deed.

What??

Sold. I'll buy the knife. This was exactly what I needed for THE KING'S OUTLAW.

A perfect, organic, dramatic background for the dagger in the Captured by a Celtic Warrior anthology.  I seized it.

Or rather, Tadhg O'Malley, my hard-core warrior, rather questionable hero seized it.  Took it and ran.  Now powerful, dangerous men are hunting him down, and he'll do anything to complete his mission.  Anything at all.

Kidnap an innocent merchant.  Use her.  Play her for a fool.  Ignite a raging passion.  Take her against a wall, with her begging for more.  Run away with her.  Then be forced to decide, in the end, if he has what it takes to protect her, against all the odds, at the cost of his mission,  his life, and the very throne of England.

The other stories in the anthology are by Eliza Knight, Vonda Sinclair, & Jennifer Haymore. 

Want to read more about the dagger and Tadhg, and all the other hard heroes and the women they fall for??  Check it out all on vendors now!

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