I pride myself in writing a book with unique elements you don't see (or see very little of) in other fantasy romance books.
First of all, what is The War Queen about? 300 years ago, the people dethroned their king and queen to prevent another tyranny. Now instead, the people nominate a State Head every three years and Altarn is the first female to hold the position. She’s used to tolerating the biases of men but Kaelin, the State Head of his territory, has declared her incompetent and has even, according to Altarn, threatened to steal her land – she believes he wants to make himself king. Believing she must “dethrone” Kaelin, Altarn rides to her last ally to ask for aid in the war against Kaelin she knows is coming. But in her absence an army launches an attack… and it’s not Kaelin’s.
Taking advantage of the startling situation, Kaelin kidnaps Altarn so he can take her land without her in the way. Soon realizing he needs her help to fight this army instead, he releases her and, since Altarn’s army is too small to win the war alone, she is forced to accept his help, but payment for his help will be her land. No one believes Kaelin is secretly trying to make himself king, so after the battle is won, alone in her knowledge and lacking allies, Altarn must become the War Queen of legend to dethrone another king… though she unexpectedly dethrones his heart instead.
SO WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER FANTASY ROMANCES?
1- This is a clean romance (no sex - not even the "behind closed doors" sex. Period. It doesn't happen - no petting, no nudity). You might feel this is not unique, but consider for a moment our reality...it is 2016. I picked up a young adult novel - a romance - and these teenagers engaged in sex. Why are authors writing books about teenagers engaging in sex being normal? And the world wonders why we have a growing rate of teenage pregnancies.
Anyway, off my soap box. There is no sex in The War Queen, yet it is a romance. So how did I write a sexless romance? Here's my secret: sex does not make a romance. Passion makes a romance, and you can have passion without sex. If you write it well, the readers will feel the passion without seeing it.
I am not ashamed to hold to my core values about waiting to have sex until after marriage and keeping it sacred within the bedroom and not aired in books or TV.
2- The War Queen is a romance, but it is also fantasy. Staged in a made-up world, my heroine and hero engage in a battle. The unique part about this battle, is my weapon system and the method to deploy them. I call this weapon the "shorn" and those who wield the shorn are called "shredders". A shorn comes in a pair and is a wing-shaped blade, serrated on the outside. It looks something like this:
With the shorn it's not so simple to charge forward and slash and slice like you might a sword. No. The shorn's effectiveness comes when a long, single line of shredders stand shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the cue of 500 violins behind them to dance.
This dance is strategic, and all shredders know it. When the cue in the music is given, the shredders draw their shorns and "dance" in sync against the front line of the enemy. Would you like to see what this looks like? Play the link to the song I provided and read a passage taken out of The War Queen while you do so:
Listen to this song:
While you read this excerpt taken from The War Queen:
A nervous violin player fidgeted close to Altarn, pacing in small movements about his area, clenching his instrument and bow in his gloved hands as if he might use them as a weapon.
“Eldic.” Altarn’s voice slashed through the cold dark.
The violinist looked up.
The lad nodded as if on instinct instead of willingness. Altarn could almost hear his bones scream in protest as he set the instrument under his chin and the bow against the strings. The first draw on the bow sang shakily, giving away the nervousness of the player. But the cold sound sliced through the air like a blade, reaching wide and far in the weightless silence of the falling snow.
The reverse pull on the bow brought a sound more confident, and Altarn relaxed her shoulders, having not realized their tension.
The music bloomed as the player soaked in its power, and he dipped and plunged to the intensities of each pitch. The song cried through the cold with a haunting strength, absorbed by her soldiers who shifted and squared shoulders, feeding off the pleasant distraction from the fear beating in their ears.
At her signal, the boy played the command for the archers. A shower of arrows burst from the cliff in a falling storm of daggers. Even with the dim moonlight she couldn’t tell how many Foreigners the arrows felled. Two more volleys followed. The army was closer, so close in Altarn’s tunnel vision that she swore she could reach out and touch them.
The player transitioned smoothly into a quicker pace with distinct turns in the chord. The violinists, flutists, and drummers mingling below with the army replied.
They started out of tune with late players finally joining in—the new volunteers. But they caught on quickly enough for Altarn’s anxious satisfaction.
She looked at Kaelin to see what he thought of it, but his head was already in motion as if trying to catch the sound, to dissect it, because the song caused something to stir within the soldiers that no battle cry could do.
The Foreigners lurched forward.
“Draw!” Altarn shouted unnecessarily, barely able to pinch the creep of fear invading her heart.
The player changed the tune. The sound echoed within the formation. A distant hiss joined the song as shredders unshouldered their shorns. Shredders stepped forward as dual wielders stepped back.
Altarn looked beyond their heads to see if the switching of weapons to the vanguard had any effect on the Foreigners. It did. Their advancing line stopped.
“Rush in line, start on cue.”
The player communicated this through the song to the players ahead. The song made three jumps. On the third jump, the shredders lurched forward as one.
The front line of the Foreigners turned around and ran.
Altarn could not hear the whinny of escaping horses or the shout of officers that must be spitting fire upon their fleeing troops. But it didn’t matter. Five paces and the shredders converged on the vanguard. The scream of metal echoed back to her on the hilltop. Her viewpoint showed Huilian’s army succumbing to the first strike; there was too much flying metal they were not prepared for.
The fact that most of them were turned around helped. Their frontline established once again, they set their shields but the teeth on the edge of the shorns pushed them aside. In a deadly dance, the shredders whirled in sync like a daggered whirlwind.
3-Another thing I made unique to The War Queen is I did not make my hero handsome. Not unique you argue? Please look at every Hollywood male star and every romance book you've ever read. Are all the men not handsome/perfect in every way? Certainly I'm not the first to break this ideal, but think upon a book or a movie where the hero is not handsome. Did you find one? Maybe. But for that one there are 30 others where the hero is handsome.
I could spend three pages explaining why I made my hero NOT handsome, but I'll let you choose for yourself if you want to read about it by going to this BLOG.
My hero is introduced to you in this passage:
His sleeveless shirt, in typical Ruid fashion, showed off their trademark tattoo of smoking ribbons up his right arm. The tall neck of the shirt buttoned around his throat and the sharp angles on his face and hard muscle on his naked arms testified to his time in soldiery.
He’d been on the road for a while, because the thick chunks of copper-brown hair in disarray about his skull matched a dusty goatee and several days’ worth of stubble under his chin. A crooked nose from an old break added to the handful of years he had over her. Altarn’s hackles prickled as he came close enough for her to see his eyes were blue.
If you think that passage described him as handsome, that is up to you. As the reader, you have a right to understand the story as you want. But note I did not write it that way.
FINAL NOTE: Don't think you can have a romance without sex? Do you consider violins in battle as being too strange to be effective? Doubt my heroine can fall in love with my hero because he's not physically appealing? Read The War Queen and judge for yourself and comment your feelings on this blog. No fear. I love talking with readers about all the good, the bad, and the ugly. Especially the ugly!