Today I am so pleased to welcome Rowan Speedwell to Joyfully Jay. Rowan has come to talk to us about her latest release, Bitterwood. She has also brought along a great tour wide giveaway. Please join me in giving Rowan a big welcome!

Bitterwood Tour Banner


Much of the story of Bitterwood is tied up with the Society for Creative Anachronism. This organization—which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year—was the brainchild of a group of Berkeley students and fantasy writers, who decided to throw a tournament in a backyard. It was such a success they decided to do it again, this time in a park, where they’d have more room. But they needed a name for their organization in order to reserve the park, so one of them came up with the above-mentioned title.

The tournaments kept happening. And the idea spread. Now there are more than 30,000 members (and countless others that ‘play’ with us without being official members) world-wide, in places as far flung as Australia, Alaska, and Abu Dhabi. There once was even a group on an aircraft carrier!

Those early members included well-known fantasy authors such as Diana Paxson (at whose home the first tournament took place) Marion Zimmer Bradley, Poul Anderson, and Robert Asprin.

There are presently 19 kingdoms in the SCA. I live in the Middle Kingdom.

While the focus has always been European history from 600 AD to 1600 AD, the SCA is not Euro-exclusive. Any culture that had interactions with Europeans during this period are open to exploration. Given that this time period includes the Era of Exploration, that means pretty much any human culture can be studied, as long as the time constraints are in place. For instance, we have Aztec, Japanese, Chinese, sub-Saharan African, Middle Eastern and other cultures rubbing elbows with Byzantine nobles and Elizabethan peasants. We’re all over the map, folks!

In my novel Illumination, Miles is an illuminator, a skill I learned about in the SCA. I’ve studied sewing and weaving, beadwork and woodwork, and even some archery. Other people study glass-blowing, armoring, blacksmithing, and animal husbandry. The level of scholarship is amazing, and it’s not unusual for filmmakers to consult with SCAdians on points of history and culture. Even the Lord of the Rings movies had SCAdians as consultants.

I dedicated Bitterwood to my friends in the SCA, because there literally would be no Bitterwood without them. So much of what went into the unseen backstory came from what I learned from them.

Fantasy isn’t just a matter of making stuff up. Things have to make sense. Things have to be grounded in reality, otherwise it just doesn’t feel real. There’s no suspension of disbelief. World-building is vital in fantasy. I’m lucky in having great sources to help with my world-building. I can only hope my words can do justice to their contributions.


BitterwoodOutrunning a winter storm in the north, Captain Faran of the King’s Guard leads his men and a young mage named Meric to shelter at Bitterwood Manor, the ancestral home of the Daenes. Faran and his troops have been searching for weeks for a mysterious, lion-like beast that reportedly haunts the uncharted northern woods. For Meric, finding that prophesied cat is a matter of life and death.

Though Faran is deeply focused on their mission, the enigmatic Joss Daene, Lord of Bitterwood, fascinates him. Strong and proud, Joss is everything Faran wants in a lover. More, if he were honest. But Joss belongs to Bitterwood, and Faran to his duty.

Together they will need to brave the oldest, darkest part of the Bitterwood in the coldest, deepest snows of winter to find the legendary cat. But time is running out—for Meric, for the kingdom, and for Faran and Joss’s fledgling love.


An unrepentant biblioholic, Rowan Speedwell spends half her time pretending to be a law librarian, half her time pretending to be a database manager, half her time pretending to be a fifteenth-century Aragonese noblewoman, half her time . . . wait a minute . . . Hmm. Well, one thing she doesn’t pretend to be is good at math. She is good at pretending, though.

In her copious spare time (hah) she does needlework, calligraphy and illumination, and makes jewelry. She has a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and lives in a Chicago suburb with the obligatory Writer’s Cat and way too many books.

Connect with Rowan:


To celebrate the release of Bitterwood, one lucky winner will receive a $15 Amazon Gift Card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 24, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win.  The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  • If you win, you must respond to my email within 48 hours or another winner may be chosen. Please make sure that your spam filter allows email from Joyfully Jay.
  • Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by Joyfully Jay.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize.
  • All book prizes are in electronic format unless otherwise specified.
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold Joyfully Jay harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest.  Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.
FILED UNDER: Giveaway, Guest Post
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