Tuesday, February 19, 2013

So far so good!

Hello lovely people!

Here at Dax Central I am working very hard on the edit of Part 2 of The Legend Of Pope Joan which is set in Athens. And I am pleased to tell you that it should be available in approximately three weeks time.

I have been thrilled to bits with the sales and feedback for Part 1. I must admit that I was a little nervous about the comments I would get about this new novel because it is so different from After The Night. Writing 'QueerFic' rather than 'LesFic' is a bit risky because it crosses boundaries that some readers are not prepared to explore. However, so far so good on the reviews - although it is not 'pure LesFic' many of the same people who liked After The Night have said that they love Joan's story so far. And in addition, I have found new readers too - some who have particular interest in Pope Joan as a 'disputed historical figure' and others who aren't particularly into romantic fiction but love stories about strong lesbian/queer women.

Here is a review by author and journalist Kieran York which I am particularly proud of:

The new novel by Rachel Dax is an ambitious three-part story. To start - Dax is an excellent storyteller. That fact was realized by reading her first book, After the Night, which was released in 2010. So being captivated by the writing style in her latest work isn't a surprise. It is filled with intrigue and excitement that rapidly and deftly move the story.

In Part 1, the life of a thirteen-year old Joan is dramatized in believable way. Dax brings the character of Joan together beautifully. She grows to be an intelligent, wise, and kind young woman. Because of the atrocities against women that occurred during the Dark Ages, being born female was treacherous. Joan knew she wouldn't be free to study in libraries, nor could she be devoted to the religion she revered.

Joan's education could not be continued unless she simulated being a male. She had a yearning for knowledge that was worth the perilous decision to disguise her gender. Escaping the confines of being a woman meant she needed to learn 'maleness.' Because of fear she might be recognized - incognito, she would need to relocate. It required she and her companion, Michael, flee from their homeland.

Their journey is filled with suspense. Within the corrupt, violent nineth century, danger was around every corner. Luckily, Joan and Michael met another traveler - an entertainer named Amadeus. He assisted them as their path repeatedly crossed with scheming villains.

The character development of the trio is brought alive with marvelous dialogue. They take the reader with them on the travel toward their destination of Athens. As they trek toward the seminary, Joan's wisdom and courage increases with each adventure.

The story of Pope Joan is often called legend, fiction, and historicized folklore. Many versions have been told, dismissed, retold, and so on. If it is urban legend, so be it. This is a terrific, believable read.

This is a story made credible by a plethora of incredibly accurate research. The reader is placed inside the story's time and place with enthralling protagonists. The superb, informative and interesting description paints the picture of a place you can reside while reading.

Dax fleshes the story out, and keeps it unraveling smoothly. It may be a fictional depiction of a female pope either cheated by history, or exalted by rumor. Either way, this version is fascinating. I found it riveting and I highly recommend it.

This well-crafted beginning will be followed by Part 2, and Part 3. And I'm one reader who will be looking forward to them.

One of the best moments, was a few days after publication of Part 1 when I found Joan at the top of the Amazon UK list for books about 'Popes' - this made me chuckle a lot... particularly when you look which category she's listed in next :-D

With the resignation of Pope Benedict last week, the world has been talking a lot about who will next sit on the Throne of St Peter and many a person has said with a wry smile that it should be a woman. If I could resurrect Joan and transport her to the 21st Century I would do so immediately!

If you haven't read The Legend Of Pope Joan, Part 1. Frankia yet. Here are the links:

So what can you look forward to in The Legend Of Pope Joan, Part 2. Athens? Well... Joan starts to grow up and embrace what it really means to live as a man for good and deal with the hard work that entails as well the plethora of benefits. She works diligently to look, think and 'feel' like a man - as simply being a 'woman in disguise' would be too dangerous and doomed to failure. Although this process is challenging, her overarching desire to be a scholar and eventually a teacher at the seminary seems undisputed even by God and the sacrifice of her femininity seems more than worth it. But then she meets a young woman called Thea and every decision she has made thus far is called into question...

Watch this space for Part 2!


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A 'She-Pope' is born...

Hello lovely people :-)

Happy New Year! I hope that 2013 is a great one for all of us. I got off to a fantastic start by releasing the first part of my Pope Joan story just a few days ago. What started out as a play, turned into a novel, which turned into a trilogy! Little did I know that it would become such a massive project, but it has been such a wonderful experience writing it. The research has been so fascinating - a whole period of history that I knew almost nothing about has been opened up to me and Joan herself is like a real person now - someone who I think about and wonder about almost obsessively.

In fact I have to confess, I am totally in love with her. I even found myself posting this 'Ode To Pope Joan' on my Facebook Wall, whilst I was writing part 3, where she really comes into her own!

I am obsessed with you…
I wake up in the night thinking about you
Questioning what is going on in your mind
Asking what are the deepest reaches of your soul

I carry you in my heart and feel your heartbeat right next to mine
I walk and you are with me
I sleep and you fill up my dreams
I find myself crying your tears and trembling with your anger

I love you and I want you in all your manifestations
I feel your energy electrify me and make me feel like I too can change the world
You exist for me more clearly than any other being in the world
Yet you are the fiction in my head and the words I type with my fingers
You are Pope Joan, my Pope Joan.

Just a touch besotted...

Book 1 is called 'The Legend Of Pope Joan, Part 1. Frankia' - here are the links:

And here is a short extract from chapter 2 of part 1 to whet your appetite:

On reaching the orchard at the far end of the village, she slowed down and once out of sight, grabbed a large stick and began thrashing the ground. “Why? Why? Why?” she shouted, as she whacked the thickets angrily. She was making such a racket that she did not notice the young man approaching her from the left.
“Hello, Pickle! What’s gotten into you?” he asked. It was Michael, her favourite person after her father. He was carrying a large basket of apples in one arm and a small wooden ladder under the other. But the sight of him did not cheer her up, even though she had not seen him for a while. Instead of her usual hug, she gave him a shove. “Don’t call me ‘Pickle’ or I’ll pickle you!” she snapped.
Michael swayed a little but she had not hurt him. “Sorry, Pickle – I shall never call you Pickle again!” he giggled.
This time she pushed him with more force and he dropped the basket, scattering the apples on the ground before regaining his balance. “Do not jest with me, Michael – I am not in the mood.”
 “Good heavens, Joan! What’s the matter with you? I’ve never seen you in such a bad humour.”
She looked at his concern and instantly felt guilty and shocked by her actions. Tears welled up and she rubbed his chest where she had shoved him. “Sorry, please forgive me, I… I…”
“What, Joan? What is it?”
“It’s… It’s just… I wish I’d been born a boy!”
“Why? You’re the most interesting girl I’ve ever met! Your mind is as sharp as a meat cleaver and you could outsmart the Pope in three moves!”
 “But that’s the problem! They won’t let me. They won’t allow me to be who I am. They don’t want me to read books or discuss the Credo. They want me to sweep floors and suckle babies. By this time next year, I’ll be chained to a man and no doubt be with child too.”
 “Oh, Pickle! I hadn’t thought that far ahead. But you don’t have to marry. Why not become a nun?”
 “They don’t want me to do that either. They say it isn’t safe. You know how many times the Abbey in Mainz has been ransacked. If I go there, I’ll end up bearing the infant of a Barbarian instead. Besides, nuns are boring. All they do is pray all day and grow vegetables. There’s hardly a book in the convent.”
 “Well, maybe they’ll find you a husband who’ll let you study too - someone who likes arguing with you about God as much as I do.”
For the first time in nearly eight weeks, Joan felt a glimmer of hope. She’d been praying and praying for the Lord to guide her and now a possibility occurred to her. She looked at Michael through new eyes.  “Michael… could you… could we…?”
But Michael put down the small ladder and placed his hands on her arms, shaking his head. “Pickle, I’m sorry… but I won’t be getting married… I’m going away…”
Alarm sounded throughout her body. He was her best friend and now that she had lost her father’s devotion, Michael was the only one left who understood her. “Away? When? Where? How? But you can’t!”
“I have to go. I am being sent… My father has arranged it. I… offended… I offended one of the monks… by accident… I made a mistake…”
“They’re sending you away because you offended a monk? But that’s ridiculous. Can you not just apologise?”
 “It was a serious offence… They want me to leave. And besides, I want to dedicate my life to God. As soon as Harvest has been celebrated, I am going to Athens to train as a priest and I intend to take a vow of celibacy too. It is better that way.”
 “But that’s less than a week away! You can’t go. You’re my only friend. I’ll be barren without you.”
 “And you’ll be barren with me. I cannot marry, Joan. It would not be wise for me, or for you. You are my eternal friend but I shall not insult you by taking you as a wife.”
 “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I don’t want to marry you anyway. I just thought for a moment that there might be an answer to this nightmare.”
“Trust me, Joan. You’re not even fourteen so you probably haven’t felt it yet. But soon you will have needs that I cannot fulfil… You will want a husband who can… will… Aargh! Just believe me when I say that I would make you miserable. Once you get to sixteen like me, you’ll understand why it’s important to get it right.”
 “If you are talking about wanting babies then don’t worry – I don’t! I’ve already had enough babies around to last me a life time.”
 “I’m sorry Joan, but I have to leave. You will meet a man who can give you what I cannot and you will be happy.”
“No I won’t! It is true, what they say. Women are cursed for all eternity. You have no idea how blessed you are by being a man.”
Michael looked away sadly and stared deep into the orchard as he spoke. “I’m not sure how much of a blessing it was in my case…”
Joan shook her head. She could not understand for one moment why Michael might have thought being a woman would have been a blessing for him. It did not make any sense. He had everything she wanted - a future in the Church without question or obstacle. He was even getting to leave on a huge adventure to one of the greatest seats of learning in Christendom. However, his melancholic look moved her, so she went over and put her hand through his arm. “I just wish I could come with you…”
Michael hugged her and then held both of her hands and looked at her kindly. “Oh, Pickle. So do I. You have no idea how scared I am about leaving this place alone or how much I shall miss you. You’re my only friend…”
 “If I were a boy, I would be right by your side…”
She looked at the ground, tears falling gently and a sense of hopelessness pervading her entire being. She remained like that for several moments until she realised that Michael was staring at her curiously. “Pickle, pull back your hair and let me look properly at your face,” he asked.
Joan was puzzled, but obeyed.
“Turn sideways and let me look at you,” he ordered, and again, she followed his command. “Now hold up your arms.”
This time she was impatient. “Why, what do you want of me?
“Just do it, Pickle. I think I may have found a solution.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Hold up your arms!”
She stared at him crossly but he did not relent.
“Hold back your hair again… that’s it. Yes! Yes! That’s it!!” He shouted in delight, grabbing her arms and trying to dance with her.
But Joan would not be moved. She had no idea what had come over him. “What, Michael? You’re confusing me!”
“Joan. You can come to Athens with me.”
“We’ll disguise you as a boy. You could train to be a priest like me. We could go together.”
For a fleeting instant, Joan felt hope dart through her body, but it was immediately replaced with shock. “Have you gone stark raving mad? How can I possibly pretend to be a boy?”
“Joan, your cheeks are chiselled and your profile strong. If we cut off that mane, you would look just like a boy. I can hardly see your breasts even from the side and a priest’s robes are generous in folds. Joan, you could do this! You could study the scriptures and one day become a priest.”
Imagining this made her excited and a great joy sprang up from the very foundation of her being, but soon she was again overcome with doubt, then terror. She shuddered as she spoke. “No, Michael, I couldn’t. What if I were discovered? They’d stone me to death. And besides, it would be a great sin. Does it not say in Deuteronomy chapter twenty-two verse five that ‘A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God’? I would burn in hell for all eternity. I cannot possibly do this.”
“Ah, yes. Deuteronomy and Leviticus. I know those scriptures well… how different my life might be without them…”
Joan was aghast. “Michael, you insult the word of the Lord! You should be ashamed of yourself! I will speak no more about this with you. We are soiled and shamed by such contemplation. I shall leave now before we offend our Heavenly Father yet more! Let’s meet at the Harvest Festival in Mainz before you leave, and then I shall risk the Barbarians and join the nunnery – it is the only solution. God will protect me if I trust in Him enough.”
Joan put her hand over his mouth. “No ‘buts’, Michael. We cannot speak of this again. Let’s pretend we never discussed it.”
“Very well. But I still think it’s a good idea,” he said, bending down to tend the overturned basket and handing her an apple whilst swiftly gathering up the rest. She had no desire to eat it yet so put it in her pocket for later. Then she turned on her heel, without saying goodbye, leaving him staring after her. Her whole body had turned to pins and needles and she could barely walk in a straight line. No! I must not think on it… she said to herself as she imagined being disguised as a boy. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not purge the sinful vision from her mind and so started running fiercely towards her house, hoping to distract herself from the flame that had lit up inside her.

Part 1 is available on Amazon Kindle either to buy to keep or to borrow from the Kindle Lending Library for free. Part 2 will follow shortly and by late Spring, Part 3 should also be out.

I hope very much that you will enjoy this adventure. Many thanks in advance for taking the time to read it.



Look forward to hearing your thoughts and reading your reviews!

Many thanks