Romans, Vikings, alternate history, ancient North American, Native Americans

 

This is the book that began with the idea of Romans and  Vikings in North America, a pagan fertility ritual, and a heroine named after Black Canary. :)

It starts 9:45 a.m. EST!

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Dinah of Seneca by Corrina Lawson, alternate history, Romans, Vikings

Dinah of Seneca is now available in ebook form at Amazon, B&N, and my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, for $2.99.

This is great news for me for many reasons. And now I’m going to plead to you to give the book a chance at the lower price and why you should. :)

It’s my first very sale and thus, it holds an incredibly special place in my heart. It’s a book with a premise so unusual I had been told it would never sell at all. And it’s inspired by two disparate but favorite stories of mine, Birds of Prey from DC Comics (writers Chuck Dixon & Gail Simone) and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan SF series.

The unusual premise?

The Roman Empire of this tenth century stretches from Russia in the East to a new continent in the West. But a new continent brings new threats to their rule. The Roman garrison in Seneca, located in modern-day New York, lacks the supplies and men needed to defeat an alliance of native Mahicans and immigrant Vikings.
Dinah, a former slave trained in espionage, had hoped Seneca would be the start of a new life. Instead, she’d pulled back into war. If Seneca is to survive, Dinah must reconcile her allegiance to Rome with her chance to create her own destiny in the New World with Gerhard, the Viking Chief.

Yes, I put Romans in North America, after extending their Empire an additional 500 years. This idea has been rolling around in my head every since I was a teenager and read S.P. Somtow’s Aquila series, in which a Sioux chief continually outwitted a Roman governor. A new Aquila story was one of the joys of getting Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in the mailbox when I was growing up.

And..Vikings? Well, they had been in the New World even in reality. I just moved them south a little bit.

Why? Because there are a fascinating contrast. Romans are a very patriarchal, rigid society, and Vikings were far more democratic and equal between the genders than is generally realized. Add to that the matriarchal society of the Native Americans, who had mixed with my wandering Viking raiders, and the cultural contrasts and conflicts offered a huge canvas for me as a writer.

And it’s a nice parallel to Britain around 500 A.D. as the leftover Romans, invading Saxons, and Celtic tribes vied for supremacy. Yes, it occurred to me I could riff on the Arthurian myth in some ways.

But that’s just the background. It’s the character of Dinah who I adore and who sometimes breaks my heart.

Dinah was named after Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary) of DC Comics, because I loved her mix of strength and connection to family. My Dinah begins the book lost and alone. She’s escaped slavery to create a new life for herself but she hasn’t truly escaped the past, as she pins her hopes on belonging to the man who helped her escape, Tabor, the local Roman commander. But Tabor is her patron, not her love, and Dinah soon finds out to truly belong somewhere, she had to reject the society she hoped to join.

Dinah is physically brave but emotionally terrified because she’s never had a true home and wants one so badly.

Then there’s Gerhard, the sometimes sullen Viking chief who decides Dinah was sent by his gods to be with him. He has good reasons for thinking the gods have done exactly this but he’s patient enough to let events play out and prove to Dinah that he’s right. Or maybe that’s just his excuse for falling in love with her after she spies on his camp.  Gerhard is somewhat of a mystery to me. He never gets a point of view and I’m sure he likes it that way.

That’s where Bujold’s stories come in because another idea behind this was “What if two Aral Vorkosigans existed in the same place but on opposite sides?” And that’s where the Roman Tabor and the Viking Gerhard come in. Enemies? Allies? Can they trust each other?

Dinah and Gerhard’s love story was a joy to write because neither of them rely on words. It’s all actions and when they commit, it’s solid and unyielding, even if it takes time and fightings through a literal army for each other to cement that commitment.

Also, I got to write a big old-fashioned medieval battle with Romans, Vikings and Native Americans involved, made some stuff blow up, delved a bit into ancient steampunk with the somewhat more advanced Roman technology, and there’s a moment near the end that surprised and delighted me, a calvary arriving just in time thing that I didn’t even know was coming and I love every time I re-read it. Oh, and there is a somewhat R/X rated fertility ritual scene that I should either warn or encourage you to read. :)

So, those are all the reasons why I love the story.

I cannot guarantee you’ll love reading it–I actually hate making a book sales pitch saying “it’s awesome, you’ll love it,” because reader taste is so very individual. But I hope you’ll give it a try, especially for $2.99. I feel such dedication to these characters and I would love to see them reach a wider audience because they deserve it.

Oh, and I have two upcoming comic stories set in the Seneca universe. One will be out in May,  features Tabor, and takes place after the events of the book.  You can see the first page below! So the Seneca-verse lives and will continue to live, either in novel or comic form. (The second book is Eagle of Seneca, details on my book page on this site.)

The second comic story is a prequel to the book and details how Dinah & Tabor ended up exiled from Europe and in the new world. No stuff blowing up there but I did manage a pitched battle and a little bit of nasty knife-work. :)  I can’t wait to see the pages on that.

 

This is the sequel to Dinah of Seneca, set in the same alternate universe where the Roman Empire survived to colonize North America. This one takes place mostly on ancient Manhattan:

Born under a comet, Sky of the Lenape Wolf Clan tries to live up to the destiny prophesied for her, but
so far she can’t understand what the gods want. When Ceti, an engineer from the Roman colony of
Mannahatta, literally falls at her feet, Sky sees this as a sign and claims him.

Ceti is charged with protecting Mannahatta from an invasion. The Emperor has sent his Imperial Fleet to bring the breakaway colony back under his control, and Ceti sees a new test glider as the key to victory—until it crashes and forever changes his fate.

Love may be enough for Ceti and Sky to overcome their personal differences. But forging their two peoples into a force to fight the Imperial Fleet means risking all, including their hearts. Will it be enough?

*******************

For those that read Dinah, many familiar faces appear. For those of you that read Freya’s Gift, well, fifteen years have passed and it seems at least one of those conceived in that story is ready to begin his journey.

And for fun:

Yes, my favorite Roman General is back in this book too….

If There Was Movie, Tabor Would So Be Russell Crowe

It’s a fairly long interview but I start with talking about my geeky self. And why my getting angry led to writing and then selling Dinah of Seneca.

She asks good questions. :) Also, there’s even a photo of me. That I kinda like.

Make with the clicky!

 

Yes, I have to put this over in my review page but I wanted to share it here too because, well, I like praise.

Dinah of Seneca reviewed over at Scribblerworks.

And, yes, later today will come the second part of Lee Child. I got distracted by stuff, including my birthday….

When you sign books at the annual Romance Writers of America Literacy Signing, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t be the center of attention unless you’re a New York Times bestselling author.

It’s 500 authors or so in one huge convention room for two hours.

It’s loud and the lines to buy books are long and intense. So my goal for the night was to basically chat up the friends that came by to say “hi” and sell a book or two of Dinah of Seneca.

The night exceeded my expectations.

Highlights:

1. An incredibly nice woman named Gabriela who sought out *me* amongst the whole slew of author to say hello, get information on how to buy Freya’s Gift for her Kindle and buy Dinah of Seneca. Thanks, Gabriela, you are awesomesauce.

2. The best t-shirt of the night: “Lead me not into temptation…especially into bookstores.”

3. My friend Jill, who I want to be when I grew up, took a photo of me before the signing and it came out nice! A photo of me that I like. :) Once she gets it uploaded, I’ll add it to this post. It’s got my official sign and everything. Heh.

4. I realized that sitting is a lot less stressful than walking around buying books. There’s no pressure. Plus, nice RWA volunteers bring you free water.

5. Writing personal notes when signing books is fun. Squee!

6. I was going to head down to the signing with a cleverly disguised rum & coke. My roommates talked me out of it, even though I pointed out it would take the edge off my nerves. :)

Then I got down to the signing and found bestselling author Eileen Dreyer sipping a glass of white wine. Clearly, I had the right instinct on this. :)

7. An entire family came to see the author sitting next to me. This reader had driven forty-five with her husband and two little kids to meet her favorite writer and get her books signed, which was just so cool. She had the cutest little boy who I provided with Hershey kisses when he seemed to get bored. He has such a polite “thank you.”

In short, I sold a few books, chatted with a lot of friends, met a bunch of very cool readers, and a good time was had by all.  And RWA raised over $62,000 for literacy charities.

This morning, I went to a breakfast sponsored by the publisher of Freya’s Gift, Samhain, and met a couple of SF romance/writers readers. I told one of Samhain’s representatives that they should do graphic novels. She said “Troublemaker!” (In a nice way.)

This afternoon is a keynote luncheon with speaker Nora Roberts, and then workshops, including one by Lee Child and Suze Brockmann, and then it’s a dinner with friends at the cool Italian place in the resort.

Friday, I have to pitch. Always fun. :)

Note: We’re in Orlando, on Disney property. I hit the Land of Mouse Tuesday, including the Tower of Terror, but I’ll probably write about that on my personal blog & for Geek Dad.

I’ve also added the link to my review page but I wanted to make a separate post about the review because it’s my first for Dinah of Seneca and the reviewer really got the story, which thrilled me to no end.

Quote:

“Final Verdict: I think, given that many of us like our action mixed with a bit of romance and vice versa, this is a book with a wide appeal to fandom in particular. It’s well-researched, well-written, and enjoyable; classics geeks will like the setting and structure, but it’s not so specific that anyone else will feel shut out. It took me about two chapters to get into it, but after that I kept coming back to it whenever I had a spare moment, and I finished it over the course of a weekend which for me is pretty good. ”

The review did send pondering again about what exactly what genre my stories belong in.

I think Dinah of Seneca and Freya’s Gift are both alternate history romance, though the short story has much less action. Okay, much less physical action. Okay, wait, much less action involving *steel* swords and battles. :)

Basically, I wrote exactly the kind of romance I enjoy reading. But I have the feeling what I write is not what people envision when they hear the word “romance.” I was talking to an agent at a conference a couple of months ago and she said what I write falls into the gray category where it would likely not be on the romance shelves but, like Lois McMaster Bujold and Linnea Sinclair, it would be in the SF/F shelves in a bookstore.

It’s not an issue right now because the novella is an ebook and Dinah of Seneca won’t get mass distribution from my small press publisher. But it does confirm to me that I write in that gray area that I call relationship stories–though I can say right now that I can’t stand to write an unhappy ending.

I can write tense stories where bad things happen but I’m not going to write an out and out tragedy. It’s just not in me.

I want some hope in what I read. And I can’t write a story without some hope in it.

*Aside on the reviewer: Dr. Who & Torchwood fans should check out the rest of copperbadge’s livejournal. It has some great, great posts.

The Cherry Forum is hosting a book club discussion for Dinah of Seneca beginning on July 15.

Come join us if you can!

When I joined the Cherry yahoo group years ago, I didn’t expect to find such wonderful, awesome people, including  Jenny (Jennifer  Crusie–The Cherry) and I’m just honored that the mods at the Forums want to feature my book.

It seems very surreal. I know, I keep saying that. But all of this publishing stuff does feel that way. :)

25 Days to go until publication!

************************
“Tabor, do you understand what you are asking? You want me to sneak into the camp of an enemy I know nothing about, evaluate their
strength, and report back, all in a single night? On terrain I know nothing about?”

He smiled. “Yes.”

***********************

I could have sworn I posted Dinah’s first chapter somewhere but apparently while I’ve posted the first meeting of Dinah and Gerhard, and a glimpse of the Roman Commander, Tabor, I neglected Dinah herself.

So here it is.

**************************

Chapter One

The New England of a different timeline than our own, circa 950 A.D.

The ring must be perfect.

It had taken over a year for her work to attract the elder Seneca’s attention. If he was pleased with this signet ring for his grandson and eventual heir, it would be the beginning of a long and valuable patronage. She’d finally have enough coin to stand on her own. Enough, maybe, to begin a family.

Dinah bent her head lower, determined to finish today. The eagle’s wing feathers had to be just right, wispy enough to suggest flight, thick enough to suggest power.

Her wooden door swung open so hard it smacked against the far wall. She glanced up and saw a Roman soldier in her doorframe, blocking the rays of the setting sun.

“Centurion, I told you the jewels for your bracelet would not be here until next week.” She went back to her work, not wanting to lose focus at this stage of the engraving.

“I care not for a bracelet.” The soldier stepped inside.

Her head snapped up. This was not the over- eager centurion.

“Licinius?”

The big engineer wore his full on-duty uniform, including the chest plate. In his wake stood his young assistant, Ceti, also in uniform.

“Commander Tabor summons you, Dinah,” Licinius said. His face and his voice had no emotion at all.

No. She took a deep breath as her stomach began to swirl with acid. “I don’t understand. What has happened?”

She kept her voice clear and unwavering, even while fear crept throughout her body. Never show weakness. She’d learned that a long time ago.

“You don’t need to know. You simply need to obey,” Licinius said.

She curled her hand around the ring. “I’m not Tabor’s soldier, I’m not under his orders, and I have work to finish.” Gods, Tabor, you cannot truly need me. You cannot truly be asking this of me, to become less again now that I’ve worked so hard to become more.

Tabor finally had the damned Legion he’d pleaded for to defeat the Mahicans who’d been harassing the settlement. There was nothing she could do that the soldiers could not do better.

“Dinah, I do not have time to spar with you,” Licinius said, his voice strained. “He said fetch you, your skills are needed.”

Ceti, Licinius’ assistant, placed his hand on the hilt of his gladius. She scowled, wishing for a knife in her hand for the first time in over a year. Licinius waved Ceti back, took off his helmet, and placed it under his arm.

“Tabor is your patron. You owe him duty,” Licinius said, his voice gentler. “Do not make me use force.”

No more a slave but she still wasn’t free.

“I’m not—” Not what I was. “Licinius, no. Tell Tabor it’s been too long. I’m out of practice, my old skills are useless to him.” She slapped her palm on her granite anvil. Her bowl of acid, needed to etch the design into the ring, almost tipped over.

“Tabor obviously disagrees,” Licinius said.

Ceti drew his gladius and the sound of the blade scraping the scabbard echoed around her home. Oh, yes, that would make her surrender, a soldier who didn’t even know how to draw his sword properly.

“Ceti, don’t be an idiot.” Licinius removed his hands from her worktable. “I will allow you time to put your tools away, Dinah. Then we go.”

She looked up to her loft bed. A real bed, with a real mattress, the first she’d ever owned. “Licinius, you know what this could cost me.” She stepped off her stool.

He leaned toward her, his clean breath flowing over her face. “I know. I am sorry for it. I will be sorrier if you refuse and I have to hurt you.”

If he could hurt her. Once, she could have taken him down within seconds, despite his size. She stepped back and gathered the ring and her tools together, making each move deliberate, buying more time, yet giving Licinius a reason to think she was cooperating.

A weapon, she needed a weapon. Ducking her head, she looked around her home. But there was no salvation to be had from the shelves of raw stones to her left, her woven chair by the fire, and the hanging oil lanterns near the door. She closed her hand around the bowl of acid. Scar Licinius. Far too cruel. He’d been more than kind to her. Besides, it was Tabor who’d ordered this.

“Hurry,” Licinius said.

“You could tell Tabor I was not here,” she whispered, fearful that Ceti might overhear.

Licinius put his helmet back on, the crest brushing the top of her roof. He shook his head. “I cannot. Just as you cannot forget your debt to Tabor. If not for him, you would not be here at all.”

That was simple truth. She closed her eyes and shuddered. All the fight, all the dreams, all her hopes faded from her body. “As you command.” “As Tabor commands.” Licinius shook his head again and turned to Ceti. “Sheathe your weapon, boy, and wait outside.” The boy took a long look at her, as if trying to figure out what was going on, then followed orders.

Just like she was.

She put her tools away in the drawer of her worktable. She pressed a section of the table leg with her foot. A hidden compartment popped open and she slipped the ring inside. Maybe this would not take too long, maybe she would get back to it, soon.

And maybe Augustus himself would come down from his place with the gods to make things right with the Empire that he’d founded.

Meaning, no chance at all.

She retrieved her cloak from a hook in the corner, taking a moment to place her palm flat on the stained glass window, letting the chill on the glass seep into her hand. In her dreams, a crib holding a healthy child sat under the window, the babe looking up to glorious multi-colored light. A child to care for, to be loved, and never to be sold, as her parents had sold her.

Turning, she tied her woolen cloak around her neck, feeling for the handle of her hidden knife. She pulled the hood of the cloak over her head as she stepped through the doorway.

Full dark had fallen.