Category Archives: Palace of Scoundrels

Why I Wrote It: Palace of Scoundrels

This is the second blog post where I do a deep dive into the backstory of each of my books. Why, you may ask? Well, because the beautiful and talented Liana Brooks made the following brilliant comment: “Being an author is being in a fandom of one. The whole point of writing the book and publishing is getting more people in your fandom.” I want to get you all excited about my imaginary friends and interested in plating with them, so I’m going to explain how exactly they wound up on the page.

Palace of Scoundrels — “What do you mean, series?”

I already posted about how I, the writer who loathed the LOTR books and didn’t enjoy fantasy in general, wound up writing a fantasy romance. To say that I was surprised by the success of Empress of Storms is an understatement — I was shocked shitless, if I’m being brutally honest.

I was even more shocked when all of those lovely, lovely people who bought Empress all started asking the same question: “So, where’s the next installment in the series?”

Buh … wha … I … series?

It was laughable, truly, because I didn’t DO fantasy. Except, oops, I did — I’d just proved that with Empress, tra la. Talk about being hoist upon one’s own petard. Worse, Empress was always meant to be a one-off, so I never really bothered to work out things like geography, politics, religion, social strata, how exactly magic works, different countries, languages, etc. — all the things you kinda have to know if you’re writing a series and want it to remain consistent.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of continuing the story of Danaë and Matthias, because let’s face it, there was always going to be more there. They had internal disputes to deal with, threats of war, they still had to produce heirs for both countries, there was the whole issue of Luna’s parentage and the fact that she was an astoundingly powerful Aeris mage, etc. So yeah, there really was lots of stuff to work with in the twinned countries of Ypres and Hellas.

Which is how I sat down and wondered, “Okay, then — what would be the biggest problem for a pair of newlyweds whom everyone assumes don’t see each other more than twice a year?” The answer, of course, is pregnancy. According to the terms of the treaty that led to their marriage, Danaë is supposed to provide heirs for both the throne of Hellas and the throne of Ypres. Now, my happy couple have that nifty magic mirror that allows them to spend nights together and they were certainly working on the whole “Let’s beget heirs” thing, hur hur, but that didn’t change the fact that if Danaë got pregnant outside of the time she was supposedly visiting Ypres or Matthias was visiting Hellas, all kinds of political problems would follow because said magic mirror is only known to a select few.

Which is how Prince Marcus of Illium, briefly mentioned in Empress, came back to the scene. Marcus is a fourth son who knows he has no shot at the throne (and frankly doesn’t want it), so he spends his days entertaining himself by being a spymaster. My goal with Marcus was to create a clever, snarky, politically adept nobleman with a curiously rigorous moral code, even if other people didn’t see it that way. After being accused of his eldest brother’s attempted poisoning, he has to go on the run by smuggling himself and his body servant Roylus in with his grandmother’s retinue on a visit to Hellas. Et voila, we have our handsome troublemaker in Danaë’s palace (hence the title), which then opens a big ol’ can of worms — Danaë now has to deal with both Illium (which wants its wayward prince back) and the exceedingly clever Dowager Queen Atilia, who thinks that slipping Marcus into Danaë’s bed in order to produce an heir for the Ypresian throne is just the best idea ever because it gives her a hold on Danaë.

Robert James-Collier May 2014 (cropped)But that only covered matters in Hellas — I also had Ypres to deal with. Making Matthias jealous of the handsome young prince, while apropos for a romance, also seemed too easy, somehow, so I wanted to throw an additional problem in his lap. Since he’s still consolidating his power after the attempted coup by his late sister-in-law Margot, I decided to give him a big political headache in the form of internal strife between Ypresian noble families.

Now, I’m going to be bluntly honest here and admit that I mentally cast all of my characters because I’m a frustrated screenwriter, and I’d been watching Downton Abbey during this time and liked the chemistry between Robert James-Collier’s Barrow and Jessica Brown Findlay’s Sibyl Crawley during the WWI episodes. For some reason they made me think of Hades and Persephone, which led to my creation of the brooding Lord Tomas Villiers and the sunny Lady Sibeal Le Clerq (okay, maybe I just liked the idea of James-Collier being all cranky and stalking around in black leather and furs). Unlike my Greek gods, however, Tomas and Sibeal are very much in love despite the machinations of Sibeal’s mother to marry her off to a rich nobleman’s heir in order to clear a massive debt. So now I had the big problem facing Matthias — how to let the lovebirds stay together without triggering a potential civil war between three powerful families.

This is also the point where Sibeal’s older sister Amelie, a powerful Terra mage and the original bride-to-be until she told the boor where to shove it, made her appearance and begged for royal help in saving her sister from being married to an asshole. I had no idea how to resolve this until it hit me — legally, all titles in Ypres belong to the crown and are held by noble families with the crown’s permission, and a title cannot be passed to someone outside of the direct line of succession without crown approval (my world, my rules). But if Maman decided to pull an extremely subtle fast one and marry Sibeal off to a rich boor by promising that his family would inherit the Le Clerqs’ province upon Maman’s death, that would 1) run counter to Ypresian law, 2) give Matthias the wedge he needed to stop the wedding, and 3) prompt Matthias and Tomas to come up with a way to help her pay off her debt. At which point my clever lawyer Alain LaPorte made his entrance and advised the king on how exactly to pull all of this off, Amelie shows up to request a royal assist, and everyone races off to Lierdhe to stop Sibeal from having to marry the schmo.

With all the plot points in place, it was “write it like you stole it” time. Which I did, with Matthias getting his noble lovebirds married off and Danaë managing to smuggle Marcus out of her kingdom without incurring the wrath of the Illian military. She even wound up pregnant in the end and it coincided with Matthias’s visit to Hellaspont so there would be no question about paternity, all of which wrapped up the book nicely. Even better, Alain and Amelie unexpectedly set off sparks in my head (probably because I mentally cast James Spader and Michelle Dockery — as I described it to my editor, it was “Lady Mary Crawley goes head to head with Alan Shore and hijinks ensue). I had to put them to one side while I finished Palace of Scoundrels, but when it came time to write Book Three in the series they came roaring back and demanded that I tell their story.

To find out how that happened, stay tuned for my next “Why I Wrote It” post.

Want a free fantasy romance ebook? Did I mention it’s FREE? FREEEEEEEE…

And you don’t have to enter a contest, register, sign up for a mailing list, or do anything complicated, I promise. See, with Lady of Thorns projected to come out in early September I need to start my promo now, and part of that is garnering more reviews on book 2 in the series, Palace of Scoundrels. And the absolute best way to get those? Is to give out free ARCs to lovely people like you.

So, if you ping me here and say, “Hey, Nic, sweetie, honey, sugar lips, how about you shoot me a copy of Palace of Scoundrels in X format, please,” I will cheerfully email you a copy in your requested format, along with instructions on how to email it to yourself and get it on your Kindle if you need help with that. All I ask is that you write an honest review of the book — and yeah, if you didn’t like it, put that in the review. I did say I wanted honest reviews, after all.

And in case you forgot the premise of the book:

Kidnapping, poison, and sex — oh, my!

Spring has sprung in the island kingdom of Hellas, but with no signs of an occupant for the royal nursery Queen Danaë is starting to worry about her own fertility. Her concerns aren’t helped by the arrival of the legendarily conniving Dowager Queen Atilia of Illium–or the woman’s handsome grandson Prince Marcus, on the run after being accused of poisoning his older brother.

In the neighboring kingdom of Ypres, Danaë’s royal husband Matthias is dealing with dangerous family politics and a wolfish duke who has kidnapped a young noblewoman for immoral purposes. Or has he? Can Matthias ward off the threat of civil war, outwit his relatives, and deal with a charming rival in his wife’s own palace?

Or as I like it put it, Arrested Development meets Game of Thrones! Thank you for your support!

It’s time to pull on my Big Writer Panties

degreeofresistancecoverDegree of Resistance has now been out for a shade over a week, and the bulk of my wonderful ARC readers have left reviews (thank you all, *mwah*). I have requests out to a slew of reviewers, advertising going on at various locations, and I’m in the process of getting my media pack out to various bloggers who are kind enough to host my stuff.

And so far … yeah, the sales are perhaps a touch disappointing. The folks who have read the book so far say it’s hella good (and these people have no reason to blow smoke up my ass. If I’d produced something crappy, they would’ve told me). So what that confirms is that my marketing plan is not optimal and I have to come up with a better method of getting Evie and Ben’s story out in front of readers who love smokin’ cyborg romance.

To that end, the lovely and talented Cecilia Tan (my first editor and now my cherished colleague) was kind enough to spend an hour on Skype with me on Thursday going over various battle plans and ways to promote DoR. Some of them, I must admit, had simply never occurred to me but seem obvious in retrospect (e.g. find ways to write blogs posts that will appeal to girl geek-slanted publications such as The Daily Dot and io9, since a significant proportion of my SFR-loving readers will be found there). Others will require careful use of SEO terms to boost exposure, creative use of graphics, or just plain throwing money at the problem. As I am a poor but honest writer who is still paying off the costs of Wild Wicked Weekend (Tl;dr I had a frigging ball and sold more books than last year)  I’m hoping to keep this last method down to a minimum, at least until the end of the month. I still want to try submitting Empress of Storms to BookBub, but I need to save up for that as well, plus I have to wait until I’m past the 90 day limit on sales prices (since it was on sale along with Palace of Scoundrels in December, that should take effect later this month).

So goes the life of a modern hybrid author. Still the best job I’ve ever had, though.

The State of the Writer

As of an hour ago I finished the Weasel Word edit on Degree of Resistance. I am going to do a final read through this morning (what I refer to as the gloss pass), then compile the file for Amazon and upload. As of tomorrow it’s pretty much locked in place, so all I have to do then generate the ARC copies for my advance readers and focus on advertising, whee! I have to admit I am very pumped about this book — all of my betas have been very positive about it, and one even said it’s the best thing I’ve written to date. I also realized that it’s my seventh full-length novel, which is kinda cool now that I think about it. I Are A Writer!

Getting the ebook locked in also means I can get this place clean before heading down to San Antonio next week for Wild Wicked Weekend. I’ll have print copies of Empress of Storms and Palace of Scoundrels available — I was hoping to have copies of Degree as well, but I don’t think I can get them shipped in time, boo!


By the by, we’re having a release day party on Facebook starting at 7:00 PM CST, and among other things I’ll be giving away a brand-new Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet with 32GB of memory, as well as Amazon and Starbucks GCs and custom jewelry, so make sure you stop by for the festivities.

Lord, it’s Sunday night already

NotEnoughCaffeineI honestly don’t know where this weekend went to. Well, no, I do — it went into sending out copies of Degree of Resistance to my beta readers, finalizing the cover for DoR, setting up pre-sales at Amazon (available here if you’re of a mind to pick it up for 99¢ before it goes up to $3.99 on release day), cleaning my utter sty of an office (whereupon I discovered that one of my furry darlings peed in my office closet, which required me to move everything off the floor so that I could attend the stain with the portable rug cleaner and some Nature’s Miracle, whee…), doing laundry, attending a meeting at the local Democrats office, having coffee with one of my beta readers who reassured me that she was enjoying the story so far (and she will tell me if I’m screwing up), adding DoR here to the Bookshelf, creating ads and doing promo on social media, and formatting the DoR ebook. I’m going to hold off on doing the print version until I have all of the other edits done, but in the meantime I can get the print version of Palace of Scoundrels finally done and published, which would be nice seeing as it was released in, oh, late October.

Yeah, well, we were kind of busy around that time.

Anyhoo, yeah, the weekend kinda got away from me and I still need to put all the laundry away, pay bills, and finish cleaning the office (aren’t you envious of my glamorous life?). But by God I’m going to hit the ground running tomorrow, especially since I don’t have to start Round Three of edits on DoR until Wednesday (I swear to God I actually have a schedule this time), and that means I can continue to edit the alternate history mystery starring Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll that’s been languishing on my hard drive for the last three years and get it ready for release on 2/28.

Two books released in one month. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

A Christmas Sale!


Which has much less Darren McGavin than A Christmas Story, but bear with me. In the spirit of the year (and because all of us need a bit of a lift right now) I’m putting both Two Thrones books on sale for 99¢ until New Year’s Eve. So if you’re new to the joint kingdoms of Hellas and Ypres, this is the perfect chance to check them out.

Empress of Storms

Palace of Scoundrels

Mid Week Tease: Palace of Scoundrels #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Yeah I sort of screwed up last week by not posting because I had told myself to set up a post since I was going to be busy traveling to Ontario for the Evernight writers’ retreat … and promptly forgot to make the post. My bad. So in apology, have a longer teaser from my new MF fantasy romance Palace of Scoundrels (Two Thrones Book 2). This teaser features Lord Tomas Villiers, the Winter Wolf and protector of the northern border of Ypres, and his beloved Lady Sibeal de Clerq, who’s been engaged to someone else against her will. They’re hoping that King Matthias can do something about that; in the meantime, Sibeal is hiding with Tomas at his hunting lodge, and being in such close confines is making things … difficult.

Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Spring has sprung in the island kingdom of Hellas, but with no signs of an occupant for the royal nursery Queen Danaë is starting to worry about her own fertility. Her concerns aren’t helped by the arrival of the legendarily conniving Dowager Queen Atilia of Illium–or the woman’s handsome grandson Prince Marcus, on the run after being accused of poisoning his older brother.

In the neighboring kingdom of Ypres, Danaë’s royal husband Matthias is dealing with dangerous family politics and a wolfish duke who has kidnapped a young noblewoman for immoral purposes. Or has he? Can Matthias ward off the threat of civil war, outwit his relatives, and deal with a charming rival in his wife’s own palace?

palaceofscoundrelsfinalTomas Villiers was used to sleeping rough while on patrols with the cavalry. He prided himself on being able to catnap in a downpour with nothing but a woolen cloak for shelter.

And yet, in a wide, comfortable bed made up with the finest linen and softest blankets, he couldn’t get to sleep. Too comfortable, belike. I’d feel better if I bedded down in front of the fire.

Or out in the fields. Or anywhere other than this hunting lodge. Then again, where he truly wanted to sleep was his own bed in Wolf’s Den, with his legally wedded wife curled up in his arms and his men stationed on the battlements to repel any intruders. But that was looking more and more like an impossibility, if he insisted on Sibeal as his wife.

He’d known taking her from Riens was madness, but it was madness she had shared with him willingly. Her frustration and fear that her mother would force her to marry Clement Reynard served as a spur to grab her and ride hell for leather away from Lierdhe. She had assumed they were riding north for Kelles, but he knew it would be the first place the Lierdhe men at arms would look for him, assuming her maid was questioned and revealed who her mistress was meeting. Sibeal swore that the girl knew nothing, but Tomas wasn’t about to risk it.

Instead, they made for his family’s hunting lodge in the hills north of Mons. He had paused only long enough to send one of his men with a message to Kaarsen telling him to send servants and guards to the lodge. Afterwards they’d ridden through the night, only stopping to change horses at an inn with an attached stable. Poor Sibeal was almost falling out of her saddle with weariness by the time they reached the lush hill country and the lodge.

The first day, it was easy enough to forget that she was staying in the room across from his—they were both exhausted and sleep was far more demanding than anything else. The servants and men from Wolf’s Den arrived the next day. Tomas busied himself with dispersing the guards around the lodge while Sibeal declared herself fit for chatelaine duties and spent the afternoon planning meals and a cleaning schedule with the maid and cook.

As they settled into a routine, waiting for Kaarsen to approach the king and make his request for a visit, Tomas became more aware of Sibeal’s presence in the lodge. Traces of her scent hung in the hallway between their bedrooms, an enticing fragrance of rose and jasmine that seemed to emanate from her skin. He started listening for the sound of her voice, wanting to hear her discussing matters with the servants, or singing to herself as she found little tasks to do.

And every time she appeared, he had to fight the urge to sweep her into his arms, carry her off to his bedroom, strip the gown from her sweetly curved body and make love to her for the rest of the day. He knew full well she shared the same frustration, judging from the longing looks she would give him over a meal or across the great room.

But his beautiful little bride-to-be had the passionate nature of her people and kept discussing what she wanted in whispered little asides and hints. He had been forced to retire to his room more than once, there to shove his trousers down and take himself in hand, quickly stroking his aching cock. And always he imagined Sibeal naked and breathless underneath him, white fingers digging into his back, perspiration beading her beautiful face as she begged him for more.

Finally he would spurt over his fingers, the abrupt release of pressure in his balls followed by a momentary relief and a deep-seated discomfort that he refused to acknowledge as shame. Not so much that he was forced to relieve himself, he told himself, but that he was doing it so damned quickly, like a boy barely into manhood. I am Duke of Kelles, and I will show restraint, dammit.

Even if it killed him.

Finally, Kaarsen had sent word that King Matthias would be arriving for the requested visit. Instead of solving matters as Tomas had hoped, he made things even worse by admitting that he couldn’t order Lady de Clerq to lift that damned spell of barrenness. Knowing that Sibeal couldn’t get pregnant made her even more damnably desirable, ironic as it seemed. He could get up, go into her room, and spend the rest of the night learning how to make her moan his name, and there would be no wagging tongues after the birth of his heir. Except that he had promised the king that he wouldn’t take her virginity, and a Villiers’s word was adamantine.

A low rumble of thunder sounded overhead. The storm that had been threatening that afternoon was finally making an appearance. Good. Maybe it’ll soothe me enough so that I can sleep.

The sound of his chamber door creaking open was almost lost in another roll of thunder. Still, Tomas heard it and sat up, reaching for the dagger he always kept under his pillow. “Who’s there?” he demanded.

“It’s me,” a feminine voice whispered. “Did I wake you?”

Every muscle in his body went slack with relief. He peered at the shape revealed by a flash of lightning. “Sibeal? Sweetheart, what are you doing in here?”

“The lightning woke me up,” she said. He felt the mattress sink as she climbed in beside him. “Can I stay with you?”

“I—” And she was in his arms, snuggling close. By all the gods, how did she manage that so quickly? “Sibeal,” he said, trying to edge his lower body away from her so that she wouldn’t know he was naked under the covers, “this is improper. You need to go back to your own room.”

He could only see her outline in the dimness, but he imagined her smiling up at him, eyes sparkling with mischief. “But I don’t want to. It’s cold and drafty in there, and I’ll be warm in here with you.” Her small hand spread out on his chest. “You don’t want me to fall ill, do you?”

He captured her hand in his own. It felt soft and warm. “You’re dreadful at making excuses, do you know that?”

“I know.” He felt more than heard her sigh. “I wanted to know what it was like to lie in your arms one time. It may be the only opportunity I get.”

Despair and fury made his gut roil. “Don’t say that, sweetheart. It’s not over yet,” he said. “I won’t let you marry Reynard, I swear it.”

“If the king orders it, what will you do? Give up your dukedom and run away with me? You know you can’t do that—you owe it to your people to stay.” She laughed, the sound soft and sad. “And even if we did run away, I still wouldn’t be able to have children. And I want them so, Tomas.”

“I know.” He held her close, frustrated by his inability to protect her. “Let me go talk to your mother, explain how we both feel—”

She shook her head. “You didn’t see her when I told her I couldn’t marry Clement. It was as if every bit of love and light had gone out of her. She frightened me, Tomas. I don’t know what else she would have done to me if I’d stayed.”

Tomas kissed her temple. “I can’t lose you, sweetheart. I’ll make this right somehow.”

The warm body in his arms clutched him tight for a moment. “You may not be able to. And if you can’t, this may be the only night we have together.” She raised her head and lightning flashed outside, allowing him a split second to see the tear tracks on her face. “If I can’t spend the rest of my life with you, then give me this night with you. Let me have a memory I can treasure for the rest of my days.”

He fought the sudden, overwhelming urge to turn her onto her back and make fierce love to her. “Sibeal, I promised the king—”

“That you wouldn’t take my maidenhead, I know.” She touched his mouth, tracing his lips. “But there are other things we can do.”

He ground his teeth. Already he was starting to harden, and twisted further away to hide that fact. “I’m begging you, sweetheart, don’t do this to me. I can’t touch you and not want to … to take you.”

“You’ll have me,” she soothed. “We just can’t do that one thing. I won’t leave you aching, I promise.” Before he could stop her she’d shifted across him, straddling his naked thighs. The soft curls at the junction of her thighs brushed his heated flesh in the movement and he bit back a groan.

“Trust me,” she murmured, stretching forward to kiss him. With a sour thump, he realized that she was right, this might be the only night they had together if the king couldn’t help them. Gods damn me, but I need her too much.

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Weekend? What means this word, weekend?

I have literally spent the last four hours working on promo — filling out interviews, giving feedback on other people’s posts for #SexySnippets, checking numbers, tweaking tag lines, and prepping ads. Even Ramón came over, kissed my head, and said, “This writing dodge doesn’t really give you a day off, does it?” When the late Sir Pterry Pratchett told me that half of every pro writer’s day is full of nothing but paperwork, I had a hard time believing it. Now I see just how right he was.
Still better than my old job, though, so I’ve got that going for me.

Also, four days after release I finally have the perfect tag line for Palace of Scoundrels: “Kidnapping, poison, and sex–oh, my!” Yeah, well, it made me giggle. And speaking of Palace, I’m running a little contest on Amazon and giving away ten copies of the book for free — no purchase necessary, all you have to do is follow me on Amazon to enter. To enter, head here — — and best of luck!

Palace of Scoundrels is live!


After a brief hiccup in regard to SEO terms (you try to input a book cleanly while playing with a rod and reel toy to entertain a loud orange cat, I dare you), the Big River finally came through as of this afternoon, which means the deliciously sexy sequel to Empress of Storms and book #2 in my Two Thrones series is now available from Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords. I’ll be loading the print version to CreateSpace this weekend, but in the meantime I’m making promo images and indulging myself in a Dragonslayer, the awesome drink I had at Medieval Times. My version is made from half a cup of Talenti mango sorbet, chilled water (you can use soda water if you like), and a shot of Malibu rum. SO damn good.

Anything else? Okay. I’m gonna go sleep now. Yay!

Houston, we have liftoff!

I pulled the trigger and the Palace of Scoundrels file and cover are now at Amazon awaiting approval. I’ll post links here as soon as I get them. I’m currently setting up the Smashwords and ARe files, and again, links when they’re live. For those of you who prefer to hold a book in your hands, the print version will be up at CreateSpace by this weekend.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak of the cover. Enjoy!