Thursday, January 12, 2017

Homeschooling Mom and Author Mom Lea Doue...

The first homeschooling-parent-author I want to introduce you to this year is Lea Doue. Let's get to know her a little better...

1    How long have you been homeschooling?

I’ve been homeschooling since my youngest son (I have two) started Kindergarten, and he’s in Grade 6 now. So seven years.

2       How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling stories (to myself, mostly) since I was a child. In university, I majored in English with a minor in journalism, because minoring in creative writing didn’t seem practical. I did NOT want to be a teacher. Now I’m teaching my own kids and writing creatively. I’ve been working on my current series for almost three years.

3       What gave you the writing bug?

I have no idea. I’ve always loved to read, and later write, but I rarely showed anyone my stories. Approaching  a “significant” birthday milestone a few years ago spurred me to finally get serious and put something out there. I was no longer (quite as) scared of what people might think.

4       Do you remember the first story you wrote?

The first I remember as a “proper” story was about a girl who discovered pink-and-red animals who lived under a rainbow. A ladybug and a jaguar, in particular.

5       What type of books do you write?

I’m writing a fairytale-inspired fantasy series . The first book is loosely based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the plan is for all of the sisters to get their own story.

6       How do you find time to write?

My boys occupy themselves in the afternoons for a couple of hours, and I also write after they’re in bed and some on weekends.

7       Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I love the whole process of writing and editing. Blurbs and marketing are not my favorites, though. Oh, and titles. Titles are ha-a-a-ard.

8      Do your kids help with your creative process or give you ideas?

Both my boys have amazing imaginations. I’d love for them to write down their own stories someday.

     What is the single most significant thing you can tell us about your writing career?

That probably changes from week to week. I think finding people who enjoy my stories as much as I do is amazing. I’m no longer writing in a bubble

      Can you tell us about a character in your current work in progress?

I’m currently working on book three in The Firethorn Chronicles series. This will be Melantha’s story. She’s the fourth princess, the oldest of a set of twins, and she’s been longing all her life to strike out on her own and cross the boundary lines she sees on all the maps in the palace. She wears boots underneath her dresses, likes to practice sword fighting (but stinks at it), and is an expert dagger thrower.


Click cover to go to Amazon
The crown is her strength. The crown is her weakness.

Princess Lily, the eldest of twelve sisters and heir to a mighty kingdom, desperately seeks a break from her mother's matchmaking. Tradition forbids marriage with the man Lily loves, so she would rather rule alone than marry someone who only wants the crown.

Fleeing an overzealous suitor, Lily stumbles into a secret underground kingdom where she and her sisters encounter a mysterious sorcerer-prince and become entangled in a curse that threatens the safety of her family and her people. Lily can free them, but the price for freedom may be more than she's willing to pay.

The Firethorn Crown, a re-imagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, is the first novel in The Firethorn Chronicles, a series inspired by fairy tales and other classic stories. Follow the sisters on their adventures in a land where sorcery is feared, women can rule, and dragons fly.


Chapter One

            Ballgowns and mazes don't mix.
            Lily tiptoed down the center of the gravel path, pinching overgrown branches out of her way, listening for footsteps, broken twigs, whispering leaves; anything to warn of pursuit. She winced at every rock and root under her silk slippers. Her boots would have been noisier, but more practical. Too bad she hadn't had time to change.
            The junction ahead led to the exit. It wasn't the shortest path, but it had the most escape routes. Bunching layers of peach taffeta in her hands, she stepped over a large root and edged past an alcove cut into the firethorn hedge, home to a life-sized weeping lady draped in blackberry brambles heavy with fruit.
            At the midway point in the passageway, a glint caught her eye from among the leaves ahead. She crept a few more yards and saw the source, nestled deep among the branches: a mirror.
            The gilt-framed intruder would have looked at home on top of her dressing table. Frowning, she glanced at the sky. Afternoon sun scrabbled through the overgrown canopy, falling at the wrong angle to hit the object. She stepped closer. Untrimmed branches surrounded the mirror, as if it had rested there for some time, but her reflection stared back, unmarred by dust or grime. She tucked a strand of shadow-dark hair behind her ear, and then gasped, holding her breath.
            Leaning in close enough to feel the prickle of leaves on her cheek, she exhaled through pursed lips and stared over her reflection's shoulder. The mirror was strange enough, but the image reflected behind her chilled her inside. A passageway, dark as midnight, stretched into the shadows, a misty circle of light shining from its depths.
            She spun around, her heart pounding, to find the unkempt firethorn wall staring back at her. She looked in the mirror again. There. A dark path led to a part of the maze she had never seen. She turned again, but still saw no opening in the hedge. There was no explanation and no time for guesses. Neylan might know something, spending as much time as she did in the gardens. Right now, Lily needed to get out.
            Before she'd taken a half-dozen steps, a scream, short and high-pitched, burst through the calm. Coral, or maybe Gwen. She stilled, trying to pinpoint the location. Sounds carried strangely among the leaves, but it had come from the direction of the exit. A flurry of honeysucklers erupted from that corner, confirming her guess. The walnut-sized dragons swooped low and disappeared deeper into the maze, their dark-green hides blending with the foliage. Her sisters knew the passageways as well as she did, and one of them had almost escaped. Eben knew the passageways, too. And today, he was the one to elude.
            He had the advantage. What chance did twelve princesses in rustling ballgowns have against a dragon-soldier-turned-royal-guard?
            She nudged a large rock out of her way and inched towards the junction. The wind was on Eben's side, still and listening. Junia and Ivy had kept away from the murky interior, stationing themselves at the entrance and exit, but two less skirts didn't make for much less noise.
            As the eldest, Lily should have set a better example and stayed with them, but she couldn't say no to the littles on their birthday. Eben liked to point out that Ruby and Wren were hardly little anymore—next year their age would be equal to the number of princesses in the family—but he hadn't said no, either. He could have spent his day off fishing or reading.
            She gripped her skirts tighter. She had little hope of reaching the exit before he found her, but she could at least keep her gown clean. Mother hadn't finished their portrait, yet.
            A blue blur sped by the opening ahead.
            Her sister Azure.
            Lily dropped her skirts and backtracked quickly. Azure moved fast by definition, so that didn't mean anything, but she was going the wrong way. Eben was close. Lily jumped over the root and ran, her gown sighing against branches, a quivering beacon. Hopefully, Eben wouldn't notice.
            She'd almost reached the junction when she heard a voice up ahead. She stopped, her skirts swirling around her legs. A man's voice muttered curses against the spiderwebs and shadows.
            Drat! The girls had let Lord Runson into the maze. And he was close. Not the-other-side-of-the-hedge close, but around-the-corner close. She had nowhere to go. The nearest alcove held the Weeping Lady. Not even Melantha could have squeezed behind it, especially in a ballgown. Okay. Turn around and run? Or pretend she was out for a stroll, and meet him head on?
            Runson cursed again, something about velvet and thorns.
            Right. Run.
            If Runson didn't speed up, she would make it to the junction she'd first been aiming for with seconds to spare. She'd rather let Eben catch her and lose the game. Except, in her haste, she misjudged the height of the root in the path and landed flat on her elbows, the rest of her body grinding dirt into the peach gown. Mother would have to paint it clean.
At least her hair stayed up. Resting her forehead on her palms, she took a deep breath and exhaled forcefully. No point in being quiet now. Her toe throbbed, and her elbows burned. She had hoped to avoid Runson for at least one day during the Dragon Festival. That was one reason she'd played the twins' game. No one came into the Weaver's Maze. Even the gardeners avoided it as much as possible. She should have been safe here.
            She hoped Eben was nearby.
            Recently-polished boots appeared, dusty toes pointed at her ear. Runson could move quietly when he wanted.
            She pushed up and sat back on her heels. “Lord Runson.” She spoke louder than usual, hoping the girls or Eben would hear. She couldn't suppress a shiver at the thought of being alone with Runson for longer than it took to exchange greetings.
            Before she regained her feet, he took her hands and pulled her up into his chest with a thump. Goosebumps raced up her arms. She tried to back away, but only managed a less-uncomfortable nearness by straightening her elbows.
            “Lily,” he said. “You've hurt yourself.” Runson had perfected the light, friendly tone years ago, when learning to deal with courtiers, merchants, and guild leaders. But she knew better. His narrowed eyes gave him away. He was put out after struggling through the maze. Why was he here?
            “It's just a little dirt.” Her elbows throbbed. They might be bleeding, but he couldn't see them, so she said nothing. She wiggled her fingers, indicating he could let them go now, but he ignored the unspoken request. Subtlety never had worked with him.
            “Running away?” His dark eyes wouldn't let her go, either. Her gaze moved up to the mass of blond waves atop his head, his pale eyebrows, his smiling mouth with the full bottom lip. How long had it been since she'd noticed his lips? He really was much too close. His lips curved more, but the smile didn't reach his eyes.
            “Just trying to find my sisters. They're all in here. In the maze.” Her thoughts stuttered at his nearness. He'd never dared touch her beyond offering his arm, placing a kiss on her fingertips, or a light hand on her waist at a ball.
            All these years, she'd thought his eyes black, but they were deeply blue.
            “You've hurt your hands.”
            “Just dirt.” How articulate. Hazel would roll her eyes. No, Hazel would want to roll her eyes. Where were the girls? Muffled voices and the hiss and scritch of skirts against leaves told her at least a couple of them still struggled through the hedges. Someone should have been here by now.
            She tugged against Runson's grip. He reached into his pocket, allowing one of her hands to slip free.
            “We can't let the heir to the throne go home dirty.” He brushed debris from her palms with a handkerchief, keeping one wrist or the other tightly caged in his fingers. She shivered, both from the relief of being free from his gaze and from the tickle of the silk against her skin. He pocketed the handkerchief, curved an arm around her waist, and pulled her close, laying their joined hands over his heart. Unsure what to do with her free hand, she rested her fist at her collarbone.
            “How long have we known each other, Lily?” His grasp was warm. Confident.
            He knew the answer, and she feared the ultimate question he had in mind. His family was powerful. Rich. Confident.
            “All our lives, Lord Runson.” She emphasized his title, disliking the familiarity he'd adopted lately, without her permission. Her neck ached from the uncomfortable angle needed to keep eye contact with him, but she refused to turn away. The heavy braids on top of her head pulled at their pins. “I really should find my sisters. They'll be worried.”
            “Isn't the whole point of the game to run away? Cat and Mouse?” He'd never needed to practice the petulant tone. “You've been toying with me all year, Lily, and I've finally gotten you alone for a few minutes. I'll have my say. You can't run from me forever.” His grip tightened, and she took a step back. He moved with her, as if in a dance. What was taking Eben and the girls so long?
            “I've watched you for years,” Runson said. “I've wanted you for years.” His gaze roamed over her face, down as far as it could, given how close he held her, and back up again.
            Her face warmed. Ridiculous ballgown.
            “I'm tired of waiting. Your twenty-first birthday has come and gone, and it's past time for you to follow tradition and name your future husband.” His little-boy-wants-a-new-pony voice was in full force. “You know we'll be a good match. You're just too proud to admit it. Stop waiting for a prince to come sweep you away, and see what's right in front of you.” He raised her fingers to his lips.
            She squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away from his arrogance. He had no doubts about the outcome of this pursuit. None that he would admit to. She waited for the brush of his lips, sure that he would let her go after his speech and little show of affection. If not, her thick skirts would hinder her from aiming her knee with purpose, but she fully intended to kick his shins and run. She wasn't prepared for the wet tickle on the backs of her fingers. She gasped and opened her eyes wide to see Runson licking her. And smirking.
            “Stop that!” She wrinkled her nose and smacked her palm onto his cheek, pushing his face away, but she still couldn't free her trapped hand. She needed to wash both hands soon. There was too much Runson on them.
            He chuckled and said, “Answer me, Lily.”
            “You haven't asked a question.” She squirmed, pushing against his chest. For such a lanky fellow, he was surprisingly strong. She hadn't ruled out the shin kick, yet.
            “You know what I want.” Still grinning, he shook his head as if she was missing something obvious. “Your father gave me his blessing. Does that mean nothing to you?”
            She pulled her fist back to her collarbone, suddenly cold. She hadn't trusted him for years. His expression was earnest, but he had to be wrong. Father would never give his blessing for a union with Runson or his family. He'd never liked their tendency to play dirty. She covered her mouth with her hand and breathed in and out, a few short breaths. Either way, she had no intention of attaching herself to this . . . this . . . spoiled boy.
            Enough with diplomacy and being polite.
            She took a deep breath and screamed in his face, long and loud. “Snake!”
            The honeysucklers startled again, rising in a cloud and making a tight circle before settling.           Runson released her and backed up a step. Finally. She had hoped for more space than that and backed up a few steps herself, aware that the offensive root lay behind her somewhere. She could hear one of the girls thrashing through the maze now, calling her name.
            “I'm here!” she said. “By the Weeping Lady!” She crossed her arms, worried that he might grab them again.
            Runson's mouth now matched his eyes. “No one else will ever want you, Lily. Not you. I'm the only one who sees past the crown, past the title.”
            Not that old story again. She'd believed him, once upon a time, but she'd outgrown his lies. Mostly.
            Eben and Melantha ran around the corner behind him. Melantha's hair swung past her waist in a copper braid. She'd drawn one of her daggers—as useless against a real snake as it would be against Runson. She'd never get away with an “accidental” stabbing.
            Runson huffed and turned in their direction, forcing a smile.
            “Princess Melantha.” He greeted Lily's third sister with a slight dip of his chin and a tense jaw. He didn't acknowledge Eben.
            Melantha barely glanced at Runson. She walked right up to Lily, shaking her head and raising her eyebrows in question, lips pressed into a thin line. She wanted to know what her sister and Runson were doing in the maze together, but she would have to wait for the answer.
            “Are you okay, Li—Your Highness?” Eben's face was composed, his voice even, but she saw the tension in his mouth. His wide lips were nowhere near as shapely as Runson's, and she'd never been happier to see them.
            He placed himself between her and Runson and took in her appearance, pausing at her dusty skirts and bloody elbows.
            She dropped her arms to her sides and took a deep breath, lowering her shoulders. “I'm fine.” Her voice cracked, and she cleared her throat. Her gaze flitted to Runson. “And Lord Runson is leaving.”
            “There's dirt on your dress, and your elbows are bleeding.” Melantha had stowed her dagger wherever it was she kept it in a ballgown.
            “I said I'm fine.”
            Eben balled his fists and scowled. “Did he lay a hand on you? I can have him arrested.”   
            Eben was making threats? “We should get back.”    
            “As the princess said, I'm leaving.” Runson bowed low to Lily, ignoring Melantha. “Enjoy your . . . game.” He bumped into Eben's shoulder as he passed and strode down the path, stepping easily over the root. He didn't notice the mirror, and probably wouldn't have thought it odd if he had.
            Eben stepped aside for the girls, his gaze fixed on Runson until he disappeared around the corner that should have taken Lily safely to the exit. “He's going the wrong way.”
            “Let him.”
            “I can't believe you let Lord Runny find you.” Melantha set a fast pace towards the entrance, unbraiding her hair as she bounded ahead.
            Lily fell behind, watching for more roots.
            “Eben found everyone except me and Azure,” Melantha called over her shoulder. “I think she made it out. And Coral found a mirror. Never seen it before.”
            The mirror. Lily stumbled, and Eben reached out to steady her, letting go of her arm as soon as she regained her balance. “Thanks,” she mumbled, wondering if Coral had seen the misty pathway in the mirror.
            “She spooked when you yelled 'snake'.” Melantha walked backwards, shaking her hair out and grinning. “I'll have to remember that one. Meet you at the start!” She turned and disappeared around the corner.
            Lily sighed. Melantha already had at least a dozen names for Lord Runny. Runson. She had to be careful not to slip and call him one of them in public. She slowed, and Eben kept pace. “Did you let the twins win?”
             “No. They quit.” He moved a branch aside for her. “They're demanding a new game once the 'interference' is gone.”
            That wasn't likely to happen. Mother wanted to finish their portrait today.
            They reached a room in the maze, a place where the passageway opened to form a large, four-way junction. The gardeners had lingered here, trimming the firethorn hedge back, until the space almost resembled the square it should be, even pruning the crimson roses that cascaded down the dried-up fountain at the center. She settled on a cracked marble bench and shook pebbles out of her slippers.
            “This was a bad idea.” Eben stalked around, studying the area, on duty even when he wasn't. “He's been trying to get you alone for days. I shouldn't have let you come in here.”
            “Let me.” She squinted up at him. All the sunlight that had been missing in the narrow passageways poured into the clearing. She'd thought Eben understood her need to get away from the palace. “You're not on duty right now, and you couldn't stop me, anyway.”
            He clenched his jaw, but didn't respond.
            Of course. She was the crown princess, and he was a royal guard, and she'd just slapped him with it. And possibly implied that she'd wanted to have a private run-in with Runson. Sighing, she stood and entered the passageway nearest the bench.
            Why was everyone trying to tell her what to do lately? Even Father. She thought he was the exception, but after what Runson said, she wasn't so sure. Since her birthday almost three months ago, she suspected the entire kingdom of laying wagers on when she would announce her betrothed. Her future husband and co-heir to the crown. The man she would share the rest of her life with. The romantics were rooting for the third and final ball of the Dragon Festival, less than a week away. No wonder Runson followed her into the maze, despite his fear of spiders.
            She glanced over her shoulder at Eben, who followed three steps behind. She would have liked to walk side-by-side with him.
            She spotted movement behind him. He took in her expression and spun, hand on his dagger.         Melantha's jade dress blended so well with the leaves and shadows that she seemed to be all freckled arms and face and copper hair weaving down the passageway, somehow managing to evade most of the grasping branches.
            “I'm lost.”
            Lily's eyebrows shot up. Eben's drew down.
            “I'm not kidding.” Melantha paced in the narrow passageway, elbows cupped in her hands, staring at the ground as if trying to read the map she had drawn long ago.
            A map Lily hadn't needed in years.


  1. Thanks so much for having me! It was fun!

  2. A "significant" birthday pushed me into writing as well. Like you, Lea, I am amazed that readers enjoy what I write. No bubble for us!

    I love your book's cover. Wow.