Carole Cummings, DSPP's Genre Talk, J Tullos Hennig

DSPP Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and J Tullos Hennig

DSP Publications

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest edition of Genre Talk. Today DSP Publications author J Tullos Hennig—Historical Fantasy maven of the Books of the Wode series—has agreed to come and take the helm, and give us a historical perspective on Romance. (Romance. On Genre Talk! I know, right?!) So if any of you have ever wondered about the origins of Romance as a genre, and its various permutations over the years, buckle up—or, rather, unrip those bodices—and read on!


ROMANCE—12th Century Style
J Tullos Hennig


When I first pitched this particular idea to Our Fair & Fearless Leader (a.k.a. Genre Talk Co-ordinator Carole Cummings) she blinked at me. Said, “You’re going to talk about Romance for Genre Talk? You.”

Yes, I said. Why not?

At the time we were kvetching about the modern, (and bloody foolish, let’s just say it) notion that if a book or movie doesn’t open with the equivalence of a car chase and shootout, then ‘nothing’s happening’. We were coming up with examples, both written and filmed, where there was no shootout equivalent, but to say nothing was happening was just, well, wrong. The Lion in Winter (the original with Hepburn and O’Toole) was mentioned as a masterpiece of dialogue and in-depth characterization.

(And let’s get this out of the way right now… if you say to either of us that The Lion In Winter is one of those movies in which ‘nothing happens’, then you’d better duck. Seriously. Because there was a ton of happenings in that movie; those characters, that dialogue, and people who staged it told an amazing story.)

All asides aside, I mentioned to the FFL that watching this movie so long ago was the beginning of my fascination and admiration for Eleanor of Aquitaine and the early Plantagenets. And since Eleanor plays a minor, if rather influential, role in the upcoming Wode trilogy (including in the newest offering, Winterwode, now available from DSP Publications… and yes, that is a shameless plug, why?) then I can, in fact, talk about the modern genre of Romance, because Eleanor was instrumental in its invention.

This can be argued, certainly. Not only because everything to do with history will have many fiery-eyed historians fencing over it, believe me, but also this:

Either Eleanor did us an amazing service by breaking societal expectations and, through her patronisation of the arts, further arm a burgeoning cultural revolution based on secular ideals, reason, and the individuated journey, complete with personal sacrifice and fulfillment…

Or an overly idealistic woman, who had been thwarted once too often by society, her marriage partners, fate, and her own biology, decided to spearhead an idealised and over-entitled bit of claptrap that has spawned such things as Disney princesses and the oft-horrific ideal that if we don’t have a “Happily Ever After” then we have somehow failed as human beings.

(Neither argument is quite true, though I will admit subscribing to either theory on alternate Thursdays. ) ;)

But either way Eleanor, a powerful, amazing, and intelligent woman no matter how you parse it, is arguably the one who enabled a lasting portal into the ideal of modern romance.

A little context, first. Contrary to popular belief, life in the early Middle Ages wasn’t all about the “nasty, brutish and short”, and neither were its people. The years circa 1100-1250 A.C.E. are also known as the ‘12th Century Renaissance’. There was an upsurge of the sciences, particularly in the Middle East. Cross-culturalism was a fact, despite—and in some ways, due to—religious war and crusade. Expressions of the arts were in high esteem about this time, not only in the Middle East but Western Europe, with writers, musicians and poets—particularly the trouvère and the troubadour—thriving from high courts to tavern hearths.

And those expressions were changing. Before, they were articulated through the means of the Epic, or chanson de geste, such as The Song of Roland, or the vast amount of Matter of _____ (fill in the blank with some country’s name). They were focused on a hero—usually larger than life, with massive thews and equally-as-massive entitlement, real and imagined—and that hero’s involvement with societal, national and familial doings. Robin Hood began life in this vein; one of his major introductory tales is called A Gest of Robyn Hode.

The mediaeval Romance, on the other hand, had as its focus the individual and interior struggles of that hero. Take The Tale of Gamelyn (I’ve certainly taken it and ran!), which is classified as a Romance. There is no ‘romance’ in it—at least not the way modern audiences would describe it. The only mention that remotely resembles a lover is an unnamed wife he receives at the story’s end complete with his inheritance, therefore more prize than anything. But it is a Romance, by all the definitions of its time: it is a character study, a rather violent journey of an individual (Gamelyn) from dispossession into his own. It’s one of the original Cinderella-type stories, in fact (and without the nasty subtext of ‘just be a ‘good girl’ and take it, and you’ll get that prince’).

The original definition of the Romance could therefore be perceived in two words: character development.

This is where it gets a bit more tangly. From that surge of interest in the individual came interest in all the things that make up an individual: the interior strengths and weaknesses that come along with food, fighting and fornication. Learning was valued. Accepted values were more and more being questioned. The weather cooperated, too; the fire-blasted North had mostly recovered from the Norman Conquest, and pastures and crops waxed abundant. As did the people. All classes were living at a higher standard than before, so there was also the very real problem of lots of children. Territorial children. Daughters raised to manage their dower with iron fingers in velvet gloves, and sons who were raised to fight, covered in iron and leather with no velvet whatsoever. A bunch of bully boys with meat cleavers and pig stickers were, literally, terrorizing the country.

Kids those days!

The religious institutions came up with one answer: send ‘em on Crusade. Scorn nature and kill the godless infidels. But there was another answer, and it came from more secular means. Celebrate nature—in its place, mind—and perhaps nick some of the least offensive ideas from the godless infidels.

(Because, really, they weren’t that much more open-minded than a lot of folks today. Think more Team Bernard of Clairvaux vs. Team Peter Abelard.)

Yet despite what you might have gleaned from the musical Camelot, it wasn’t a King named Arthur who instituted the concepts of chivalry, May revels and ‘knights picking flowers’. It wasn’t even a man. The fiń amor or ‘courtly love’, in which the ideals of love for love’s sake were transliterated into a complex code of service to the object of love—be it unrequited amor, or open expressions of passion—were championed by a woman. Eleanor of Aquitaine. In fact, the court she held and inhabited in Poitiers, during the longest of her varied estrangements from her husband Henry II, was significant in its patronage of one of the original purveyors of the written Arthurian sagas—and likely fully imbibed Arthur and his Table with a concept of chivalry that would inhabit ages to come.

Also interesting is how the cult of the Virgin took possession of the hearts and minds of 12th century individuals. This is part of the conceptualisation of Marion into the outlaw ballads… and actually deserves its own lengthy discussion. Whilst it is easy to look back upon this cult/phenomenon with feminist ire (I’m quite guilty), it also speaks to the very real problem of an affluent society seeking ways to control the rampages of its more powerful citizens. Cast one’s less powerful members into a mould of inviolability, and give the ones in power something to defend and worship…

Therein, of course, lies a problem. Not only from the fact that the poor and anyone considered ‘the other’ are outside this set of protections, but the effects of such. Whilst Romance in its original meaning possesses the natural focus upon character and the individual journey, it also—with the Courts of Love—puts forth another ‘spin’: an ideal lifted above reality, based on longing for the unattainable.

By Church and State channelling an ‘angry young knight’s’ impulses toward Protect instead of Plunder, it also relegated the object of desire to just that: an object. A fantasy, pleasant but ultimately unattainable. A game, where the rules can nibble your ear or bite your arse.

Perhaps the Courts of Love was based on something as simple as Eleanor, thwarted of too many ambitions, having the very real desire to be cherished. We all do, in one form or another. Many of us, regardless of gender, even fancy the notion of being placed on a pedestal.

But the actuality of that pedestal has its drawbacks, many of them quite serious. Which is what I ultimately find fascinating.

So, yes, I can talk about Romance, despite the fact that readers will not find a modern genre romance in my books, but rather more old-fashioned notions of such. If you, like me, fancy the ‘more mediaeval’ definition of Romance-as-character-development, with an individuated journey of interior cogitations, personal struggles and sacrifice, within an oft-brutal lens of nature and reality… well then, you might fancy the Wode books.

For not only Robyn, Marion and Gamelyn are there, but so is Eleanor.

In fact, The Lion in Winter is perhaps a primo example of good, old-fashioned Mediaeval Romance.

Pax~ JTH


tna-dspp--j tullos hennig for 10-14Robyn Hood is the undisputed ruler of the wild, green Wode. Reunited with his sister Marion and his lover Gamelyn, Robyn and his band of outlaws seek to raise the Ceugant—the magical trine of the Old Religion—against the tyranny of Church and Crown. Yet their forest kingdom is roiling with conflict. Marion has been made welcome, but old shackles and new fears hamper her true promise. Gamelyn is torn between oaths of heart and head—and the outlaws never let him forget he was but recently Guy of Gisbourne, defrocked Templar and Robyn’s fiercest enemy.

When a lone traveler is waylaid on the road, a common occurrence quickly proves uncommon. Knight and Maiden, Archer and Men, all are conscripted to aid a Queen’s—and ultimately a King’s—ransom. For beneath winter’s chill is awakening the deepest of magics, and there are those who seek the power of Robyn Hood and his Shire Wode for their own ends.

Winterwode, along with the rest of the Wode series, is available now from DSP Publications, Amazon, and most other retail outlets.

You can follow JTH via her website, Facebook and/or Tumblr.


Now aren’t you glad your bodice was snug and secure? ;)

Many thanks to J Tullos Hennig for being here, and to Lisa and the crew at The Novel Approach Reviews for giving us a venue in which to talk about such fascinating subjects.

Next time on Genre Talk, Lissa Kasey will be here to talk about her new Fantasy/Paranormal release Evolution: Genesis. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you then!

A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Hi, fellow book hoarders, and welcome to another sneak peek at what we have in store for you in the week ahead, as I’m feverishly preparing for the trip to San Diego and GayRomLit 2015. I hope to see so many of you there. And I hope you’ll stop me and say hello. We’ll have coffee and chat books. :-D

Here’s what awaits!


Monday – Kicking off our week, we’re hosting author Rebecca Cohen on her Summer Season blog tour

We’ll also have author Hayden Thorne with us today to chat about the final book in the Masks series, The Porcelain Carnival

Tuesday – Today begins with Rick R. Reed when he stops by to talk a bit about the re-release of his book Tricks

We’ll also have author Charlie Cochrane with us on the tour for the latest book in the Cambridge Mysteries series, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs

Wednesday – Author Rachel Sparks joins us today on the tour for her new novel Giving Love a Chance

We’ll also be joined by J Tullos Hennig and Carole Cummings in another installment of DSPP’s Genre Talk

Thursday – Today we’ll be hosting author Jo Ramsey to chat about Work Boots and Tees, the latest installment in the Harmony Ink Young Adult series Deep Secrets and Hope

We’ll also be featuring a cover reveal today for Volume 8 of Daron’s Guitar Chronicles by author Cecilia Tan

Friday – Finally, to close out the week, we’ll have author Silvia Violet joining us on the tour for her newest novel Unexpected Engagement

And Perie Wolford will be joining us as well, on the tour for his new book Lights


And that does it for another week. Until next time, happy reading!

Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk, J Tullos Hennig

DSP Publications Presents: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and J Tullos Hennig

DSP Publications

GENRE TALK with Carole Cummings

Hullo, everyone! Lisa and the gang at TNA have kindly agreed to allow me to come natter once or twice a month about genre fiction within the LGBT spectrum, so I’ll be dragging the DSPP authors along with me to answer a few questions and talk about their genres and their books. Continue reading

Dreamspinner Press, J Tullos Hennig

J Tullos Hennig Has Taken A Break From Writing To Stop In For A Chat. She’s Also Brought Gifts!

TNA: Hi, J, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? Hobbies, interests, odds and ends, things that make you, you.

JTH: Well, first I want to thank you for having me on your blog; you are a gracious and lovely host!

Hm. The main thing that makes me, me? The writing. Always there, no less a part of me than my heart beating, really. My amazing spouse has been in my heart only 17 years less than the writing, and we have terrific children and grandchildren. The rest is perhaps odd with a lot of ends as of late. I recently retired from being a professional equestrian of over 30 years. Spouse and I have been archery enthusiasts off and on, more off lately so the island deer are probably safe. I’ve danced since childhood, teach bellydance and, before my knees started giving me fits, was a regular performer in restaurants and at Ren Faires. Our house is empty of dog presence for the first time in… oh… forever, so I’m looking, particularly if anyone has a nice borzoi…

TNA: Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?

JTH: I should have to say Hail to the Three Marys: Mary Renault, Mary O’Hara, and Mary Stewart. Very different, but alike in that their command of language, emotions and imagery is superb; their work, even the lighter fare, I can read over and over again. Parke Godwin, who by sublime example taught me two things: it’s all right to write thick, evocative prose, and that craft is neither quick nor easy. James Goldman–anyone who can write dialogue like The Lion in Winter needs to be emulated, and often! Poe. Felix Salton. L.M. Montgomery. Virginia Woolf. Robert Graves. And Ray Bradbury, who has never made the mistake of equalling short with shallow or undemanding.

TNA: Who would you say is your biggest real-life influence? Was there someone who encouraged your love of writing?

JTH: Quite the opposite, actually. My writing was not taken seriously when I was younger. But it doesn’t have to quash you; honestly, it can be one hell of a crucible. Particularly if the muse refuses to be cast out. ;)

And things change as you get older. You find kindred spirits. My spouse has always been, in his own way, a steadfast support. There was one incident I really remember in school, where I was writing a scene and doodling pictures of it instead of paying attention. My scribblings got confiscated in front of everyone and I was mortified. The teacher came up to me after class and handed it back. Said it sounded really good and she hoped I’d finish it… I was gobsmacked. It was the beginning of being informed: “You do know you really can do this, don’t you?” Another teacher suggested I think about getting published. That was a rather surreal (and often uncomfortable) introduction, not to having a voice because I was determined to have that, but to having one’s voice really heard. Validation, sure, but even more a conversation. I still have a lot of work that is only known to the wall or the fetishes perched on my desk shelves. But the storyteller in my spirit has always been kind of insistent about, well, telling the story.

TNA: Have you always written fantasy?

JTH: I would have to say that most of my writing has had a fantastical element to it. Even my Historical novels (like Greenwode and Shirewode) tend to have a bit of faery dust layered on the chronicled facts. Contemporary is not my gig, really, but some years back I did write a contemporary fantasy with which a screenwriter friend came this close to a movie option for us. I’ve also done my share of non-fiction articles, mostly about equestrian sport, writing and dance.

I guess my sweet spot writing-wise is that mythic, interstitial something best called Speculative, residing in some other time with a liberal dollop of the far-out.

TNA: What is it about writing in that particular sub-genre that appeals to you most?

JTH: The subtext of subversion. Taking a serious left turn along societal norms and mores, questioning what beautiful and terrible things make a world while observing what the inhabitants of that world make of it. So many books–even ones that should be subversive–are relentlessly set in the expectations of the Now we live in, and so many people are fixed in an idea/l of reality that simply is not the only one. The book that makes me think, that pushes me out of my own vistas?–that’s a book I will remember and re-read for a long time. And I hope to achieve the same with every book I write.

TNA: In your books Greenwode, and now Shirewode, you’ve blended the legend of Robin Hood with Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Tale of Gamelyn”. How did you come up with the idea to bring these two legends and two characters together into a series?

JTH: Oh, now you’ve put the cat in with the canaries… Firstly, I have to squee over the fact that you know who Gamelyn is! Secondly, I could talk about thematic and lit and history aspects all the day, so just edit me with a meat axe if I start to geek out. ;)

So, Robyn and Gamelyn… It was quite organic, truly. Rather like separate vines trailing out and catching on whatever they touch, and before you realise it there’s this entire connected system. Robyn had been lurking in my subconscious for just, well, forever, and there were other outlaws that I read about and ultimately became fascinated by. Robyn, like all real leaders, is so strongly defined by those who follow him–his Merry Band–so I was looking for ones to fill the communal dynamic. And I have a huge gooey centre when it comes to secondary characters. The ‘Merries’ are fascinating, particularly Little John, who in many of the ballads is basically co-leader and Robyn’s reality check. There’s this whole homosocial dynamic going on that the addition of a female–usually Marion–can both emphasise and contradict. But there were other outlaws informing and peripheral to Robyn’s legend: Foulke fitz Waryn, Adam Bell, and a whole plethora that you just have to be an Medieval Lit geek to know. And there was Gamelyn. The more I read about Gamelyn, the more intriguing it got. Gamelyn is tied in so many subterranean ways to the Robin Hood legend, and before I knew it those stealthy creeper-vines had caught me up and twined me in.

See, Greenwode originally began over thirty years ago as a trilogy that was on the verge of contract with an SFF publisher. Then that publisher died and a lot of things that were going to happen didn’t. It was a run of very, very bad luck on so many fronts. In that first incarnation, Gamelyn was there, but merely on the periphery, a knight who came to Robyn to help him regain his lands. It’s a major part of the RH legend, and also was conversant with “Tale of Gamelyn” insofar that Gamelyn regained his inheritance. He and Robyn weren’t lovers in the original Greenwode, though there was the mythic Holly/Ivy/Oak triad scenario that runs so strongly through Greenwode and Shirewode now. Marion wasn’t Rob’s sister, either; the original was much more along the usual romantic storyline. I ended up putting the manuscript into the bottom of my file cabinet and didn’t look at it again. But the story just wouldn’t leave me alone, the connections with Robyn and Gamelyn wouldn’t be shrugged off, it just kept morphing and changing in my subconscious. It just flat needed a better writer than I was then. My original rubric of Holly King/Oak King rivalling for the Ivy Maid was all still there, but now with this absolutely fascinating (to me, anyway) layer of the two Kings being lovers as well as rivals. It’s the mythic/social/personal triumvirate of terror! Who could resist detangling all these things twining together? Not me.

Gah, I’ll belt up now. I did warn you.

TNA: How many hours of research would you say has gone into the writing of this series?

JTH: Wow. I don’t think I could calculate it. This legend and period in history has been a lifelong passion, gathering bits here and there. When I try to calculate all the research from the first time around with Greenwode, including trips into Robyn’s home territory… as well as the past several years, since research never stops… it’s rather obsessive, actually. I love doing research and will cop to being a bit hardcore about it, but also try to not take myself too seriously over it. History was chronicled by conquerors, after all. This is fiction. Sometimes Fact has to be sloughed away because it just don’t work with what Story demands, and for me, Story trumps everything. But it is a fine tightrope to walk.

So I guess the answer would be less ‘hours’ and more like ‘years’. ;)

TNA: Religion (Christianity vs. Paganism) is the fulcrum upon which all the conflict between Rob and Gamelyn rests. My feeling, after reading Greenwode, was that Christianity comes off as a very real villain, standing in the way of Rob and Gamelyn’s happiness. How much did your own beliefs influence your telling of the story?

JTH: Belief is a fascinating word, isn’t it? Even by saying ‘I believe’ conjures an implied focus and assumption of knowledge. It is inevitable, isn’t it?–what experiences a writer possesses–or doesn’t–will influence what we write, and the assumptions made therein will naturally speak more to those who’ve endured something like.

Yet my focus also has to be subordinate to what the characters are experiencing. As a writer, I need to honour their internal workings–which are often not entirely the same as my own. There’s a disconnect that is very important, despite that our characters are also very much an inexplicable part of us. It seems to me that if we as writers don’t have both strong connection and necessary detachment, the stories we’re telling will in consequence bear little, if any, resonance outward.

Given that, the narrators of Greenwode are young and see things very much in black and white so, yes, the Church gets rather a hard shake. I say hard instead of unfair, because too many horrible things have been done in the name of religion–most often by people who take good teachings and twist them to fit their own prejudices. I think the enculturation of faith is massively important, particularly in this timeframe. It’s all about power, isn’t it?–having it, or lacking it. Class warfare and religious intolerance have historically gone hand in hand. Tolerance is a bit more difficult when one’s survival is under siege–not impossible, certainly, but difficult. I do sincerely hope it comes across that the pains of enculturation go both ways in the Wode books. There is a subtext to be gleaned from the supporting characters’ actions, a glimmer of reality through the naïve cracks of the main characters’ PoV. The take home villain is not necessarily meant to be a particular faith, but what things, fair or foul, people do with faith. How they bind themselves in blind obedience to a One Truth. The problem being, of course, that there are so many truths.

TNA: Did Rob and/or Gamelyn give you fits as you were writing, not wanting to cooperate with where you saw their story going?

JTH: Of course! But I’ve found, when characters are particularly non-compliant, it’s often my fault, not theirs. I’ve stopped paying attention, gone off the rails somehow. The characters usually know best. I might be convinced I see the story unfolding–yet I might be wrong.

There’s an odd discipline within the act of just letting go–and its hard. But it seems to me respect must be given to the story that needs to be told. We just need to be… present for it. There’s this mix of terror and joy and trepidation going in, and the hope that your skills are equal to the task… and sometimes they’re not–so you wait, because eventually, you will mature. If, of course, you’re open to it. And the fits that come are part of it. Kind of like raising toddlers, eh? Except taller, with serious weaponry.

How is it that all my characters are so deedy with sharp objects? Well, I’ve the upper hand in this much: if they off me, who’ll tell their story? Ha!

TNA: Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a favorite? If so, who and why?

JTH: It’s very hard to pick favourites, because I tend to empathise with all of them–even the antagonists–for such differing reasons… it’s that old saw, ‘apples and oranges’. But I do have a squishy place in my heart for supporting characters. They sneak in and demand their due whilst you’re in awash in brain storms over the main protagonists’ issues… and those supporting characters are the ones who usually end up knocking me arse over tit at how mercilessly they make you care for them. The stablelad John did that, in Greenwode. I thought him a mere walk-on, but he showed me, just took over who he was, and why. And I love the animals. They have their own strong personalities, too. Diamant (Gamelyn’s charger) was a favourite. And there’s another animal familiar/favourite you’ll meet in Shirewode.

TNA: Do you have an all-time favorite literary character? If so, who and why?

JTH: Um… Robin Hood? :)

TNA: If you could sit down to dinner with one person, past or present, who would it be, and what’s the one question you’d love to ask that person?

JTH: It came to me that Hypatia would be just as much a geeky bookworm as myself, involved as she was with the library of Alexandria. I would ask her what it was like, to be surrounded by all of those ancient histories, to be able to just reach out and touch them…

But I don’t think I would want to ask her what it was like to watch all that beautiful knowledge wiped out by narrow-minded zealots.

TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?

JTH: Well, I did just write ‘The End’ on my newest novel, so I can share that. Wild Indigo is the first in what I hope will be a Speculative Fiction series. It’s set in a Bronze Age type society where shamanism is all but forbidden, and deals with what happens when a young male of the chieftain’s clan hits maturity and starts showing signs of elemental possession. There’ll be some invading aliens and genetic engineering thrown in the mix, too. ;) It’s not based on the usual Fantasy dynamic of western European culture. Not that I don’t love that dynamic–the Wode books are proof of that–but there are many others left wanting.

TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?

JTH: I’m still learning to navigate the social media thing, but I do have a website that lists most of the important bits:

–And a blog that I’m still moving into and attempting to master (though I think it’s more mastering me), mostly musings about stories and telling them:

–And I have a Facebook page:

I welcome email correspondence from readers and do my best to answer questions.

Of course, if I’m in the middle of a writing jag, I will likely be absent from all of the above. Nobody should take that personally.

TNA: Would you like share an excerpt from Greenwode or Shirewode with us?

JTH: Of course! How about Shirewode?


Robyn didn’t go hunting. Instead of taking down some hapless game—their larder was stocked well enough, anyway—he ended up taking out some aggression on scrap of cloth hung against a tree.

Considerable archery practice—at sheriff’s men as well as target clouts—had rehabilitated his left arm to nigh his old skill. He felt a man—his own man—again. The old monster of a Welsh longbow that had lain sleeping in Cernun’s care was at his back again, her spirit submitting gladly instead of struggling and besting him. The feel of nigh three ells of yew giving to his push and sighing at his pull like a satisfied lover was, sometimes, better than sex.

And this release had its own satisfactions.

Right now, he was imagining a ginger-haired hillock of heartbreak at the end of that release. The arrows sang, hit and hummed, one after the other, deadly accuracy and economy.

I thought you were dead, you Motherless sod. John told me they’d sent you to war, and we all know the odds of a young soldier surviving… it sounds all of danger and hot glory to fight for king and country, only our king is a Norman who refuses to even speak our tongue, so how much would he value our Mother’s sons?

Another three arrows, lining up, one next to the other and the other.

So long… years of it… first Marion then you, ripped from me, always wondering how and why, never feeling whole… the pain there but not… like Arthur, with his missing arm aching in the damp.

Two, in-between the three, a finger-length upward. Then four below, two fingers down. The clout was edged with Gilbert’s goose- and peacock-fletched arrows.

Had Gamelyn… felt it? Could it even be possible he had not?

Robyn stalked over to the tree and pulled his arrows from the clout. Several of them had pierced altogether deep; he tugged the clout away and tossed it aside. Working the bodkins from the rough bark, he exhaled a soft, healing benison, saw the white-blue sparks dancing about the trunk and knew the apology had been accepted.

Not for the first time, he wondered what the world had been like when everyone could see these things, could feel and sense the other realities hovering just beneath this one. For surely it depended upon the day whether he himself thought such a possibility either wondrous or one flaming mad.

Realized, suddenly, the tree he had spitted then caressed was an oak.

Always the slap with the kiss….

Memory ripped at its old, festering scab once more, so merciless that it made his knees wobble. Robyn clutched at the tree, found tears, sudden and hot, filling his eyes.

Found the demand burning through his mind: Why didna you tell me?

The answer, when it came, was slow, almost as if the Horned Lord was spending his thoughts in aimless drift through the trees. There was nothing to tell.

Nowt to—”

He was dead to us. Beyond my reach.

The sense of it trickled through, cooled Robyn’s outrage as swift as it had risen. “And now… he is not.”

Now, he has returned.

“Will he come?” He didn’t dare hope—didn’t want hope—but it warbled through the words, nonetheless.

He will not be able to resist. There was a dark, eerie satisfaction in the words, telling Robyn the Horned Lord had spent much energy into the wait.

A wait that, until this moment, Robyn had not recognized he’d had.

He is not the lad you knew.

“Neither am I,” he whispered. “I’m not sure I know me, most days.”

Summer has returned to our land, my own. We must make sure, you and I, it cannot leave again. However that must be.

There was a threat beneath the words, stirring resentment in Robyn’s belly. “I was told he didna mean—”

It does not matter. He was cause for betrayal and would do so again in a heart’s beat. He has turned his face from me. From you. The tynged that would swirl about him is foreign, dangerous.

“But I felt—”

He is your rival. You forget that at your peril. You played well, but you lost, little pwca. Do not presume you can game so recklessly again.

As the consciousness faded from his own, warning, Robyn smiled.

“What else, o my lord, does your pwca do?”




Dreamspinner Press, J Tullos Hennig

J Tullos Hennig’s “Shirewode” Is Nothing Less Than Perfection

“Love is the burning point of life, and since all life is sorrowful, so is love. The stronger the love, the more the pain. Love itself is pain, you might say—the pain of being truly alive.” ― Joseph Campbell

I love when the books I read come to life in my imagination, not in a way that I can relate to and incorporate into any sort of tangible, real-world definition. These are the books that I don’t merely read but experience, the books that transport me to another place and time, to another realm that can only exist on the page but which come to life in the mind’s eye, like a moving picture of sights and sounds, scents and colors. These are the books that linger on the taste buds as you savor the words the author uses to bind together the threads of legend. There are some books that become unforgettable, characters who become beloved, books that make a mark and leave an impression behind, and J Tullos Hennig’s Shirewode is one of those books. It is the continuing saga of Rob of Loxley, his sister Marion, and Gamelyn Boundys de Blyth…

And yet it is not, because the characters in this novel are not the ones I left behind in Greenwode. They are made new by the deception and vengeance and cruelty that has transformed them like the phoenix risen from the ashes of destruction, and their story is one of survival and of sacrifice. The call to action has been heard, and now, through this journey of heroes, we must wait for the ultimate boon.

Rob of Loxley is no longer. He now carries the mantle of Robyn Hood, the Hooded One, the Horned Lord; he is the king of the Shire Wode; he is an outlaw, the leader of a band of outlaws who steal from the rich to give to the poor; he mourns the loss of what was, feels what is, dreams of what may be. He is the hunter who will become the hunted, branded the usurper, the thief of a power he has not earned.

Gamelyn is gone, in spirit if not body. He has become a holy warrior of the White Christ, a Knight Templar who has turned to the barren deserts to wage war against the infidels, or perhaps for the infidels, depending upon which side one fights and in which god one believes. The boy who loved Rob of Loxley, the boy who hated himself for loving Rob of Loxley, no longer exists. He has become Guy de Gisbourne and he is an assassin, the assassin who will become hunter, sharp as the blade he wields, his skills honed on pain and the whetstone of unintentional betrayal, on the loss of the love he so desperately didn’t want to feel.

Marion is lost not in body but in mind. She has been groomed by the enemy to turn away from her heathen ways and to serve the one true Christ. Rob has been left for dead, Gamelyn has been spirited away…not that she remembers because the Lady’s voice and Marion’s memories of the past have gone silent as the grave, and she is being held by a mortal enemy disguised in a cloak of false virtue and self-righteous authority.

Robyn, Guy, and Marion—they are the trinity. They are the three—the Horned Lord, the Oakbrother, and the Lady—the Winterking, the Summerlord, and the Maiden—back to back, nothing will stand against them. But that doesn’t mean the fight will be without danger or consequence. There are enemies without and discord within. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. How does that apply to enemies and lovers? The stronger the love, the more the pain. Shirewode is both love and pain. It is a slow walk through a quiet forest. It is a tumultuous tumble through danger and deception. It is heart-stopping action. It is a love story for which I hope there can be a happy ending.

Epic is such an overused word, but that’s what this series is. It is bigger than the confines of the page. It is grand and glorious and a feast for anyone who loves the mythological adventure of heroes and heroines, enemies and villains, the battle of good and evil, the tales of those who know that without endings there can be no beginnings. Just as without beginnings, there can be no journey, no trials, no foes to best, no need for heroes, nothing to fight for and nothing to gain. J. Tullos Hennig’s storytelling is dense with imagery and lush with the obvious love of the legends around which her artistry pays perfect compliment.

The Wode series, without a doubt, is well on its way to making my list of Top Picks for 2013.

**Be sure to check back tomorrow, as J Tullos Hennig will be our guest, and there’ll be a giveaway!**

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Shirewode here:

Dreamspinner Press, J Tullos Hennig

J Tullos Hennig’s “Greenwode” Hits The Bullseye

“What can an eternity of damnation matter to someone who has felt, if only for a second, the infinity of delight?” ― Charles Baudelaire

What is Greenwode? Let me tell you, that’s likely the easiest of all the questions to answer among the many loose threads left unwoven into the tapestry of this series at the moment.

Greenwode is legend. It is epic storytelling. It is fantasy and history. It is religion and spirituality. It is a world in which faith is a weapon, faith is a tool, faith is the enemy, and faith is the last vestige of hope…when there seems nothing left to hope for. Greenwode is the beginning of a tale in which war is being waged, a battle between the new and the old religions, between Christianity and Paganism; there is Heaven, there is Hell, and the battlefield for the soul is being fought on Mother Earth.

Greenwode is a legend of the old magick on the brink of extinction in the land of disbelievers. Righteousness is waging war in the land of other-believers; the followers of the White Christ hold court and pass judgment on the practitioners of an ancient mythology. It is the place where the forest is the Paradise and outside that Eden is persecution. It is a place where the blind followers corrupt love, warping beauty into shame.

This novel is the blending of the legend of Robin Hood and The Tale of Gamelyn. It is a tale of love and honor, of duty and dogma, of fear and temptation. Of sacrifice. It is the story in which Rob of Loxley, a young man inextricably woven into the fabric of his beliefs, must decide whether Gamelyn is his rival or his lover, or if he is both rival and lover.

This is a story of forbidden love and unintentional betrayal in a place where dreams and visions are the foreshadowing of the reality that is to come. Can the future be altered once it is Seen, or is what has been foretold the only path to the inevitable end? Though, in this case, The End is only The Beginning.

If you love epic fantasy, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. J Tullos Hennig’s writing is nothing less than eloquent, her storytelling nothing less than stellar. This is the sort of book that makes me fall in love with words and language all over again. It’s a story that drew me in from page one and didn’t cut me loose, even when there were no more words left to read.

The book ends in a cliffhanger, one that promises no small amount of pain and heartache to come. This long and winding journey has only just got underway, where it will take me next I can only guess, but one thing I do know for sure is that I will be right there along with Rob, Gamelyn, and Marion every step of the way.

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Greenwode (The Wode, Book 1) here: