Karen Duvall is the next guest blogger in my New Adult guest blog series. She’s giving away an autographed copy of Knight’s Curse to one lucky commenter today. She’s here to discuss our current favorite topic, New Adult fiction, and also her Knight’s Curse series, which features a young, modern-day female knight who’s lived a sheltered life and who is faced with some of those immense and formative decisions that make us who we are as adults.

Darkest Knight is the second book in the Knight's Curse series
Darkest Knight is the 2nd book in the Knight’s Curse series

Betwixt and Between by Karen Duvall

I love that the New Adult category of fiction has actually become a genre. Those early years of adulthood are special, and I remember mine well. As far as formative years go, I think those were more formative for many of us than our adolescence. At least they were for me.

My new adulthood years created solid memories I think about often. Not all are good, but even the bad ones held a powerful lesson that helped mold me into who I am today. I think that’s why this genre appeals to me so much. My experiences and how I felt going through them are still clear in my mind. And I often talk about them on my blog. I still have more college sky diving memories to share.

When I wrote my urban fantasy novel, Knight’s Curse, I created a character in her early twenties who’d been forced to lead a sheltered life. Chalice had grown up as an indentured thief for a powerful sorcerer, and though well educated during her internment, she was socially inept. Through the course of the novel she learns what it’s like to have friends and family, to care about the needs of others and about herself, and to fall in love. She learns that life, when you have one, really is worth living.

I almost made Knight’s Curse a YA novel, but high school wouldn’t have been a good fit for Chalice. The story starts with her abduction, then I skip over the part about her coming of age and go to her arrival there. Now it’s time to be an adult, as scary as that is, and to take charge of her life after having lived under the thumb of her master for so long. She’s desperate for freedom, and her quest to free herself of a curse that would change her into a monster becomes a journey of self-discovery. Chalice tore my heart out for over three hundred and fifty pages, but it was well worth the agony; for her, and for me.

Karen's giving away a signed copy of the first book in her series today
Karen’s giving away a signed copy of the first book in her series today

Excerpt from Knight’s Curse

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I’d see them coming long before they hurt me. I would hear them, too. Maybe even smell them. My abilities came in handy at times.

But today they were more like a curse.

Through a cracked and filthy window, I watched two jeeps filled with soldiers carrying machine guns park on a hill above the monastery. They wore military camouflage that hardly camouflaged them at all. From the way they slouched off into the olive trees, I knew they believed themselves unseen, except that I had seen them quite well. I noted each stitch on their clothing, every whisker on their unshaven faces, even the color of their bootlaces.

I blinked behind thick sunglasses that shielded my sensitive eyes from the harsh midsummer sun. It was nearing dusk so my eyes didn’t hurt as much. I had just turned thirteen and was now able to see better in the dark than in daylight. I preferred the night anyway. It was quieter after the sun went down.

My family of Maronite monks kept me away from the Lebanese villagers who stared and gossiped about the way I looked. The local kids who should have been my friends threw rocks at me, and even when they whispered behind my back, I could still hear them. I could hear a bee leave its hive from a mile away.

I should have told Brother Thomas about the soldiers, but I had trouble pulling myself away from the window. I felt like a hooked fish, the bait my own insatiable curiosity. Just a few more minutes. What harm could there be in that?

Two civilian-looking men stayed behind with the jeeps. My keen eyes zeroed in on the taller one, blond and blue-eyed, who stood beside a ruined pillar of an ancient structure that had once been part of a heathen temple. I saw the man’s anger as he swatted at biting flies that buzzed too close to his face, his mouth moving with words I couldn’t hear while wearing my earplugs. So I took them out.

“Damn vile country,” he spat, his English carrying the cadence of a Brit like the monk who had taught me this language. Addressing the pudgy man beside him, he added, “The bitch will pay, I promise you that.”

I winced at the words, but not because of their meaning, which made no sense to me. It was his loud voice that bit through my skull and vibrated painfully between my ears. I struggled to separate his voice from other noises nearby, like the buzzing flies, the rustling olive trees, the bleating goats in the courtyard. Head aching, I concentrated, focusing only on the words that took shape inside my mind.

“Faisal, radio the men. Make sure they’re in position.”

The man he had called Faisal wore a striped hijab and, when he nodded, the turban of fabric wobbled on his head like one of Cook’s moghlie puddings.

Something wasn’t right. A warning bell chimed inside my head, but I ignored it. I was too mesmerized by the Englishman walking down the rocky path toward our chapel.

He held himself with confidence, not crouched in wariness like the men dressed as soldiers. This one didn’t try to hide. Brother Thomas must be expecting him.

I replaced my earplugs and inhaled deeply through pinched nostrils, hoping to catch a muted whiff of the foreigner, but he was too far away. If I removed the swimmer’s noseclips I always wore, I’d be assaulted by the myriad smells outside. I’d wait for him to come closer so I could identify the scents on his clothes and body. That would tell me what I needed to know.

He stepped through groping fingers of long shadows and skirted the scaffolds that leaned against decaying chapel walls. He scowled up at a tent of heavy canvas that replaced large portions of the missing roof. A small goat trotted in front of him, and he kicked at it, brushing at his crisply ironed slacks as if they’d become soiled.

I scrambled down off the crate I’d used to reach the window, and crept barefoot along the uneven floor of a hallway leading to the chapel. A thick wooden door stood slightly ajar, and I knelt beside it, peering through a two-inch gap to watch.

More About Knight’s Curse

A skilled knife fighter since the age of nine, Chalice knows what it’s like to live life on the edge–precariously balanced between the dark and the light. But the time has come to choose. The evil sorcerer who kidnapped her over a decade ago requires her superhuman senses to steal a precious magical artifact…or she must suffer the consequences.Desperate to break the curse that enslaves her, Chalice agrees. But it is only with the help of Aydin–her noble warrior-protector–that she will risk venturing beyond the veil to discover the origins of her power. Only for him will she dare to fully embrace her awesome talents. For a deadly duel is at hand, and Chalice alone will have to decide between freedom…and the love of her life.

Where to buy:

More About Karen

Karen Duvall
Karen Duvall

Karen Duvall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She’s an award winning author published with Harlequin Luna and is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy series.

Karen just published a novella that appears in Luna’s ‘TIL THE WORLD ENDS anthology that was released just last month. Her story features an NA heroine with an ability that can help heal a dying world. The other two novellas in the collection are by Julie Kagawa and Ann Aguirre.

Where to find Karen online:

So, what about you? Do you think the New Adult years (ages 18-25) are more formative than adolescence? What sort of life altering decisions did you face during your late teens and early twenties? Anything you’d want to go back and do over? Or are you happy with how things turned out? Does the idea of reading about characters that face these sort of decisions appeal to you? How about when the story takes place in a fantasy world? (Sounds great to me! 😉) Comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of KNIGHT’S CURSE. Thanks for guest blogging today, Karen!