Rowena Sudbury writes m/m romance and is published with Dreamspinner Press.

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Random Observations

I'm still not writing yet. I somehow roped myself into participating in an art show. (this is where you would insert the emoji with eyes and mouth wide open). In this show, I was given a blank table to design as I see fit. I've designed it by writing my favorite sections of The King's Tale on it. It took me two days to do the writing, and I realized how nerve wracking it will be to have this table sitting in a show, with hundreds of people milling by it reading it, and me standing there watching. It's one thing to write in the privacy of your home, and send the writing off into the world for people to love (or hate) without you watching...well, you get it.

The part I chose to write is where Dafydd descends upon Sir Edward's keep and lays siege. This was after it was discovered that Edward, one of Christopher's subjects, has been spreading word that Dafydd is weak. I like this scene because it shows Dafydd's strength. I always wished I could write more of the battle, but I was satisfied with how this turned out. All the writing part is done, what remains is the inside, or shelf, of the table where I will recreate the scene with plastic medieval soldiers! And! I got some decorative grass on Amazon, shipped from Wales to complete the scene. Super cool.

In any case, I've been having trouble sleeping lately, for various and sundry reasons. So, this is the observation I made...I probably shouldn't write sequels. The King's Tale is far and away my favorite work. The sequel, The King's Heart, was not as well received. I encountered some people discussing the books on an Amazon discussion board one time, and the comments ran the gamut from, "How could she destroy my favorite story?" to "In the sequel everyone jumps from one bed to another, Marged, Christopher, and Dafydd." I was so disheartened. Well, I was hurt and offended. The worst part is, however, I still have another book in the series, The King's Son. I'm doubting myself now as to whether or not I should write it.

The other example is Blue Moon and Red Sunset. Blue Moon was well received, Red Sunset...not so much. In fact, the other day I ran across a review of Red Sunset that basically said, "What's the point of this story?" So, for the record, I've ditched the idea to write the 3rd book in that series, Purple Dawn.

But...this brings me back to my dilemma....I'm guessing the idea of me writing sequels is a bad idea.

Still Kicking!

Hi all, I'm still here!

I am slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) getting around to writing again. As a warm up I'm writing in a paper journal, all my thoughts about my health battle. I thought it would be cathartic, but in reality it's just stressing me out.

Hopefully soon, I'll get back to story writing, but I can't promise when.

Real Life is Stranger than Fiction

Well, here I am, retired from my day job as an elementary school teacher. I guess one of these days I'll get someone to take a picture of me, one I can use for publicity. The reason I never have, aside from the one picture I took while I was bald, is that I was afraid a parent of one of my students would find out, and probably not be okay with their child's teacher writing erotica. I still may wait a bit, but one of these days.

As I mentioned the last time I felt inclined to write, I'm thinking about continuing The King's Trilogy. In fact, I did put a bit of time in on chapter one of the third book The King's Son. Prior to that though I re-read both The King's Tale and The King's Heart, to get myself back into the world of Lysnowydh. I started on the first book in late 2005, and the first edition was published in 2009. The second book, and the 2nd edition of the first book, were published in 2012. Although I knew the outcome of both stories, it was fun reading them again. Reading and criticizing, of course.

I've said before, I was asked to make a pretty major change to the ending of The King's Heart. The "event", taken in modern context, was pretty shocking. In medieval times, and considering King Christopher as a character, it was probably fine the way it was. But, it's in the past, and during this recent re-reading I came to accept the fact that I'd changed it.

The King's Heart received a fair amount of criticism. There were outright, no other way to put it than falsehoods, spread on some message boards. The removal of the "event" left a lot of unconnected scenes that were also criticized as now they were out of context. And, there were people who found it not believable. How could Dafydd, who had proven himself as a fierce warrior, be left as a sniveling coward who wouldn't leave the castle? Here is a small excerpt:

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This is just one example of how Dafydd is unwilling to leave the safety of the castle (I'm trying to get away from calling it "the keep"). Obviously he's reluctant to venture to Strasnedh, as that was the site of his torture at the hands of Warin. Later on he shows he's unwilling to even travel about the kingdom, let alone venture all the way to London. Each time Christopher is angered, each time Dafydd is saddened.

When I wrote that, I had no idea how true this would be for Dafydd. I think I questioned myself, would Dafydd really be that cowardly? Of course, I was building to Dafydd fleeing across the kingdom of Lysnowydh, Christopher in pursuit, to prove he wasn't a coward. But, I have a whole different take on it now.

Unfortunately, I've had to see first hand how much chronic illness (or in Dafydd's case, the long period of time where he recovered from Warin's torture) can make a person anxious. Especially anxious about leaving the safety of home. For a year and a half, I didn't travel anywhere. Sure, trips around town weren't that stressful, but get me even a few hours away from home base and I began to fret.

I'm fine now. All major issues have been dealt with for well over a year now. I should be free as a bird. Yet, we are planning a short trip in a few weeks. As part of our retirement gifts our coworkers gave us a gift certificate for our favorite romantic bed & breakfast. It's a fabulous place, and I know we'll have a good time. But, there is a part of me that just doesn't want to go away from the safety of my hometown. Much like Dafydd, needing the safety of home.

So, there you go....what I thought was simply fiction turned out to be truth.


Various and sundry

I'm still here!

Just checking in to say that in just about five weeks I will retire from my day job. I don't think this will sink in until it happens. Part of me thinks I can work for another couple of years, but most of me knows that it's time to step down.

This might be old news, but three years ago this month I was diagnosed with breast cancer. People find it hard to believe, but that was the easy part. Pathology revealed that there was a micro-invasive component of the tumor, so I underwent six months of chemotherapy. It was difficult, don't get me wrong, but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A month after chemo ended I started experiencing complications. Eventually I ended up in the emergency room. After a week's worth of tests I was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction, and a large mass in my abdomen. Unfortunately, the blood tests indicated a chance there was more cancer.

Five weeks after chemo ended I had a massive surgery. The tumor was benign, but I had part of my colon removed, and was left with an ileostomy. Since I was weakened by the chemo, as you can imagine, I did not heal well after this surgery. I went back to the ER twice, and spent a month in a rehabilitation hospital, and then received the unfortunate news that I needed more surgery. And then after that, even more surgery. Three major surgeries between March 27, 2014 and March 24, 2015.

Once all that was done it was back to reconstruction surgery. I'm glad to say that the last of those procedures was completed two weeks ago. It took me a while, but I finally realized...hey, I'm all done. Now it's just 6-monthly visits with the oncologist until I hit the magic five year mark.

As for my writing career...every three months I still get a royalty check, and it warms my heart. I know I've said this before, but I do intend to complete the King's Trilogy. With retirement on the horizon, it's more of a reality now than it ever has been. After that I'm not sure.

To close, I'd again like to thank all of you who have supported me during this trying journey. I don't venture out much these days, but it's good to know there are still people out there who care.


Just a small update...

I feel like it has been a long time since I've said anything at all. My last post is from over a year ago. I've been remiss. So, here is a small update on me.

After I finished my chemo treatments in February of 2014 I thought I'd start feeling better soon. Instead, I suffered with a year long bout with what I call the perfect storm. Existing issues that I'd had for a long time, but just lay dormant combined with the after effects of chemo. I had three major surgeries between March 27, 2014 and March 24, 2015. Needless to say, this zapped all my creativity.

I know I've said this before, but I was open about my breast cancer battle, but not so much the hell that occurred between March 2014 and March 2015. Suffice to say it was a long journey. I'm now back on track with breast reconstruction, just a few more procedures and I'm done with that.

Recently I spent some time looking at my notebooks, and I felt a spark. Within the next few weeks I plan to completely re-read both The King's Tale and The King's Heart. Sure, I know the stories, but there's something about experiencing them as a reader would that I think will urge me to begin on The King's Son, the final story in the trilogy.

In July there was a blue moon, and of course that sparked Brad and Scott. I had a bit of a set-back with that pair last year, and I'm not entirely sure their third story will ever be written. On the other had, Blue Moon did pretty well, Red Sunset did not, so I'm not sure how much interest there would be in Purple Dawn anyway.

So, that's my small update.

A Tale of Two Reviews

So far, I haven't figured out a way to talk about reviews without having people think I'm obsessing over them. I give up, if you want to think I'm still obsessing over what people think of my books I can't stop you. But I can say emphatically that I am not. Take that for what it's worth.

One thing my devastating recent illness did for me was to push a lot of the petty day to day parts of my life to the back burner. Prior to all these hospital stays and surgeries I did spend a lot of time worrying over little things. Reviews and book sales among those things of course. After the hell of the last three and a half months I've pretty much given up on worrying about things like that. Heck, I didn't even look at GoodReads for three months!

Recently I detected two reviews for free reads I have listed on GoodReads. This is my story of how one irked me, and the other one didn't.

Let's start with the irking one. "The Magic of Lammas" is still my bestseller, even though it's not for sale. It still stays on the first page of bestsellers at ARe (in the Medieval category), and currently is my only bestseller at Dreamspinner Press. I like the story, but you know I'm biased. I read a review that said it was a romantic and loving story, but the reviewer gave two stars because they didn't like the authentic language. This irks me because if you think it's "romantic and loving" ...and it's a FREE story for heaven's sake, why give it two stars? If the language bothered you that much then dump it in your trash, it didn't cost you anything.

The other review was for a really old story called "If." It was offered once, years ago, as part of the GLBT Bookshelf fundraiser. This reviewer gave it three stars, and at the end of the day I'll take three star reviews. In my opinion, they're good. The reviewer claims they don't like "cheating" stories, but this one they've read several times. This gave me pause because I didn't remember it being a cheating story. Then it clicked, one of the guys is pretty much an alcoholic, and he admits to sleeping around on occasion. Well, the story wasn't about the fact that he cheated as much as it was about the men coming to terms with each other. It was very gritty, at least I thought it was.

But that brings me to my point. "If" was about a topic the reviewer didn't like, but they enjoyed the story anyway and gave it the coveted three stars. "The Magic of Lammas" had one flaw, and even though the reviewer appeared to enjoy it they only rated two stars. Kind of sucks if you ask me.

I'll close with a story I may have related before, but bear with me. While I was writing The King's Tale I took a break to read a book for research. It was a historical novel set in Wales, and featured a little known king. As the story evolved there grew a romance between the king and his wife, and an unrequited romance (so it seemed) between the king's manservant and the king. I think it was one-sided on the servant's part, but it was fascinating, and I enjoyed the book. Until the last few pages when it all went to hell between the three main characters and two of them were killed in a fit of jealousy by the third. I'd spent so much time with these characters I felt like they were family, and I was distraught for several days over the way it ended. When I finally got around to rating it...I gave it three stars. In my heart I wanted to give it one star, how dare the author kill these characters?! But I realized that up until that point I'd enjoyed the story, and I didn't feel it was fair to rate it any lower than three. Especially since if they hadn't died I might have given it four or even five stars since that's how much I'd enjoyed it.

I know everyone isn't like me, but I wish there were more people out there like my three star "If" reviewer. Those are the readers I respect, open about biases but willing to evaluate in spite of them.

Another country heard from...

When I was young, that's what my mom would say when one of us piped in on a family discussion. So, here I am, piping in after what seems like a very long time.

I was very open about my struggle with breast cancer. I didn't mind sharing all the ins and outs, and ups and downs of getting diagnosed, having a mastectomy, and going through chemotherapy. It felt good for me to be sharing it somehow.

I finished my last round of chemo on February 21, and was declared in remission. I'll never be cured as the cancer got into my lymph nodes, so apparently there's always a chance it will come back. I felt great for a week, started to get back to feeling good again. And then, everything started to go downhill.

Although I was open about my breast cancer, I feel less inclined to be open about the roller coaster ride I've been on since the middle of March. Perhaps it's that I feel protective of myself. I'm convinced that what touched the whole nightmare off was the aftermath of chemo, starting with one of the more troublesome side effects and going forward into trying to recover from massive surgery a mere four weeks after chemo finished. My body just gave out and said, "no more, I can't do anything more now except make you worse." It was a classic case of what can go wrong will go wrong.

I'm not really better yet. I still have a few lingering nasties to deal with. I have little to no energy, but I am working with a physical therapist 3 times a week, and through that I'm able to do small things like go grocery shopping (did that this week for the first time since March). Of course, I have no stamina for writing, so again that will have to wait.

I have realized that I've let a few things lag that I'd intended to keep up with. First of all the "Wow" I was posting on Facebook. I was almost done with The King's Heart, and I suppose I can muster up the energy to finish that off. The other thing was the character journal entries for Brad and Scott. I finished Scott's, but still have to tackle Brad. Not sure if or when I'll get to that.

Insomnia fuels creativity, fatigue takes it away


[picture source: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-highwayman-alfred-noyes/prod9781420277753.html]

I had my chemo treatment yesterday. The good news is that I only have four left. I had 16 in total, four harsh ones, and twelve of these lighter ones. I will be done on February 21. Of course this doesn't mean that on February 22 I'll be back to normal, but at least I should start on the road to feeling better.

So one of the side effects of this particular chemo drug I'm on now is insomnia. I suffered through it until the doctor gave me a sleeping pill called Restoril (temazepam). I took it the last 2 times and it worked like a charm. Last night, not so much.

This brings me to "The Highwayman." This is one of my most favorite poems. I first encountered it in a collection of poetry for children, and my mom read it to me more than once until I took over reading it to myself. For one thing the poem is loaded with flowing metaphors, and other figurative language. But for another thing, it is one of the most beautiful historical romantic poems I've ever read.

I had copied the first stanza out last year when I was teaching 6th graders about metaphors. They all mostly rolled their eyes because not only do they "hate" to read, but they "hate" poetry, and they "hate" history. They're 6th graders after all. I showed the lines to this year's class, and got pretty much the same reaction.

And then I read the poem again, to myself because I thought I should preview it. There's death in the poem, and it turns out a "bad word"...

Once I'd finished it I immediately thought it would make a good story. A short story most likely. Well, last night as I couldn't sleep I envisioned part of it into a story. See, the highwayman in the poem is in love with the daughter of the innkeeper....but the stable boy is jealous and reports their scheduled clandestine meeting. So, I got to thinking, what if the highwayman wasn't really in love with the innkeeper's daughter, and hooked up with the stable boy instead?

Insomnia gave me the first scene between them, as well as a backstory for the stable boy.

Of course, insomnia gave me a bunch of Purple Dawn and inspiration for The King's Son....but my all-encompassing fatigue takes all of insomnia's inspiration away. Thank god for notebooks! I know that one day I'll be back to writing. And this story may see the light of day yet!