Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spoil of War: An Arthurian Saga by Phoenix Sullivan

Spoil of War: An Arthurian Saga
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"SPOIL OF WAR is a fascinating account of early Britain; a gripping tale of lust, love and the horrors of ancient warfare. Beautifully written, filled with myriad period details and compelling characters, it takes you deep into the heart of a brutal era - and into the nature of feminine honor, feminine courage. I was enthralled." - Jennifer Blake, NY Times Bestselling Author

Elsbeth of Olmsbury desires nothing beyond helping her father run his dukedom - until the duke's forces are overwhelmed, his castle torched and Elsbeth seized for the invading king's personal spoil. Expecting the same abuse as the other surviving women of her house, Elsbeth instead finds the king, Leodegrance, treating her with a civility that belies his flagrant desire for her. A desire that will have her his consort in Cameliard once he can convince her rank and duty alone forced his hand against her father.

But Elsbeth is not so easily won. There is the matter of Leodegrance gifting his steward with an unwilling young handmaid from Elsbeth's household. Of his marriage of convenience to his Byzantine queen. And of his plans to subjugate more of Britain's citadels and unite the wild isle under Roman rule.

If Elsbeth can't find her tangled way to forgiveness with the king - or escape the dark designs and perverse desires of Uther Pendragon, enemy to them both - then a legend of Camelot may never be conceived, never be born, and never change history forever ...

112,000 words; about 440 pages.


Over the years, Phoenix Sullivan's short stories have been published under her real name in various pro anthologies and magazines. Marion Zimmer Bradley (Mists of Avalon) was her first editor. In the corporate world, Phoenix was a professional writer and editor for 23 years. Before that, she was a registered veterinary technician, working with small animal clinics and wildlife rehab centers. She now takes care of an array of beasties on her small farm in North Texas.


With bruising suddenness, Leodegrance whirled, pulling Elsbeth fiercely to him. He bent his neck, swept back her hair, and took her throat in his mouth. His hands clutched at her back, drawing her as near as their garments would allow.

“I could force you to submit.”

“You could.”

With a shuddering breath he released her. As quickly as he had taken her, she was free. He paced the room with long strides and measured breath. An angry lion schooling himself to patience. She breathed in the scent of him — ­mead and sweat and musk. The fire in the middle of her being spread. A demanding flame.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

Her laugh was sharp, shrill. “You could ask me that after what you’ve done to me?”

“But you want me. You want —”

“I want to be free.”

He caught her again, crushed his lips to hers. She responded, unable to help herself, unable to resist. “Your body knows. One night, Lady.”

He was warm beneath her hands. Warm and tense, hard and leanly muscled. Indeed her body did know. It ached for him, would draw him down into it if she surrendered her will for even a moment.

She held tight. The hands that of themselves had caught at his neck and shoulder she used to push away from him.

“By God, Lady, you would refuse a king?”

“I would refuse a murderer.”

“That was war. It’s what you do in battle.”

“Then war is murder.”

“And every man’s son a murderer, then. Look about you, Lady. Who is clean enough to share your bed?”

“Then let my bed go unshared until I die.”

He shook his head. “Passion runs too high in you. You couldn’t live by the vows of Christ’s brides.”

“For this one night I shall. Leave me.”

His jaw twitched, and for a moment Elsbeth thought he would hit her for her haughtiness. His right fist clenched once, unclenched slowly.

“I shall have you. By my life and crown and kingdom I swear I shall have you!”

“And by your honor you will not. That was the oath that you first swore.”

Leodegrance’s anger rose. So did his hand. Elsbeth saw it, refused to cower beneath the blow that must accompany it.

“Damnation!” The hand closed around the base of a golden candlestick. Only Elsbeth’s widened eyes betrayed her fear. The candlestick flew, crashing against the far wall.

Two strides and the king was at the door. It opened before he could touch the latch and Ector, in splendid naked wrath, burst in, his sword high before him. His gaze swept in the king, the room, Elsbeth all in the space of a heartbeat. The blade fell a fraction. “My Liege, all is well?”

Leodegrance scowled. “All is not well. God’s greatest mistake was to give women wit and the will to use it.”

Interview with Phoenix Sullivan

What will readers like about your book?
Many of my readers have fallen in love with the heroine, Elsbeth. The story is told from her point of view only and it's easy to bond with her as she struggles to grow beyond the circumstances war has forced upon her and, ultimately, to find the capacity to love in a dark and uncompromising time.

Why did you self publish?
In a way, I think Spoil of War is a poster child for the right reasons to self-publish. The manuscript made the rounds among agents and traditional publishers, and the overall reaction was that the writing was great and the story engrossing ("I literally couldn't put it down," one agent told me) but, ultimately, it wasn't marketable through traditional channels. I was asked to either revise it to lose some of the emphasis on romance or to pump up the romance and incorporate the POV of a “hawt” hero to match contemporary conventions. In either case, the resulting book would not have been this one.

I think readers will read books that don't fit comfortably on a specific genre shelf if those books are well-written and well-formatted and include the themes and emotions, characters and situations that readers love. Through no fault of traditional publishing – it is a business after all – readers aren't given that range of options in the traditional publishing space.

Having industry professionals express enthusiasm for Spoil of War validated that it's a professional-quality book, so I was confident I wasn't going to be insulting any readers by putting it out myself.

What inspired you to write this particular story?
Well, I have a Masters in English with a concentration in Medieval Studies, as well as a minor in European history. I was also involved for several years with the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group dedicated to recreating the Middle Ages – if not exactly how it was, how it should have been. It's no wonder the Arthurian legend has always been a favorite of mine! I wanted to create something that wasn't simply a reboot of the legend but that added texture and context to the canon. Some of the characters here you'll know, but many of them are new, so it gave me the opportunity to offer the excitement of discovery within a not-quite-unfamiliar tale.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and this book sounds plain amazing. I have only just started reading it, and I am hooked. Great stuff!!!