Selected Works

Historical Fiction
Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others' path during Pompeii's fiery end.
Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance's most notorious family, three outsiders must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power.
The Borgia family begins its legendary rise, chronicled by an innocent girl who finds herself drawn into their dangerous web.
The lives of an ambitious soldier, a patrician heiress and a future emperor fatefully intersect.
The Year of Four Emperors - and four very different women struggling to survive
A brilliant and paranoid Emperor, a wary and passionate slave girl – who will survive?

Ave Historia: An irreverent look at historical fiction today: books trends, historical tidbits, and random tangents

Cosmopolitan: Special Renaissance Edition!

May 27, 2013

Tags: the serpent and the pearl, cosmopolitan

Since my next book is moving from ancient Rome to Renaissance Rome, it's time for some Renaissance-themed blog posts! Starting with something fun for the weekend: a circa-1492 edition of Cosmopolitan. Because why not?

Plenty of mentions here of my heroine from the upcoming The Serpent and the Pearl, Giulia Farnese, and all her various Borgia companions . . .


On the cover: GIULIA FARNESE: The Pope's Mistress Spills Her Secrets

Furred gown (price upon request). Paris hat with plume (price upon request). Pearl earrings (on loan from Vatican treasury). To get Giulia's subtle-but-sexy look, try kohl in Botticelli Blue and lip rouge in Raphael Red, and luminescent skin powder in Da Vinci Diamond. (Use actual diamond dust for extra glow.) Hair: wear a pearled snood for this sophisticated look, or just let those gorgeous golden waves hang all the way to your feet! Don't have floor-length hair? Try Giulia's secret weapon: a weekly mask rubbed into the scalp to encourage fast growth. (Details page 88) You'll have those locks down around your knees in no time!

Cosmo News
35 Hot Sheet
Trends we're buzzing about! Are dagged sleeves here to stay?
44 Sexy vs. Skanky
Botticelli's Venus—he left her naked, but should he have painted a dress on her? You decide!
56 The Real Story: A Nun Escapes The Convent
Why she risked everything to break her holy vows

Trust us—you don't want to know what the penalty is for running away from a convent.

62 Confessions
She lied to her confessor about sleeping with a condottiere!
64 Guys Spill: The Little White Lies They Tell You
He promised to marry her—but forgot to mention that he's a priest!
66 Beauty Evolution: Lucrezia Borgia's Style Progression
Our Pope's little princess is all grown up! Lucrezia Borgia trades her pastel frocks and girlish slippers for daring necklines and (gasp!) towering stilt clogs! Get this look for less than 300 ducats.

Lucrezia likes hers a full ten inches tall! Scandalous, but good for keeping skirts out of the mud!

Cover Story
69 The Bride of Christ
Lean in close for some girl talk with Christendom's most notorious woman! Giulia Farnese spills to Cosmo about that famous floor-length hair, not to mention Pope Alexander VI, her surprising friendships with his children, and the five things you should never tell your guy (even if he's the Pope!)

The question only Cosmo would dare to ask: does having the Pope as your BF damn you to hell, or is the Holy Father's absolution the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card? Read her answer here!

Fun Fearless Fashion
74 In-Style Indian
In honor of our recent discovery of a new continent, everything this season is coming up native! Fringes, beads, and leather equals hot, hot, hot—all plundered cheap and chic from the New World! (Allow six months for trans-oceanic shipping.)
75 10 Steals at the Piazza
Bargain-price accessories at the Piazza Navona—replica silver saint's medals, every possible saint guaranteed!
78 Not Your Mother's Snood
Pearls and spangles put a sexy spin on the old-married-woman hairnet!

Cosmo Look
86 Beauty News
Crownless sun-hats allow you to sun your hair and keep that skin white—genius!
88 His Picks
Gentlemen prefer blondes, so wash your hair in Giulia Farnese's special saffron and cinnabar rinse
92 Beauty Q&A
Use our special bean-flour and pigeon-dropping face mask to tighten and tone!
93 Wiggin' Out?
Four wig styles that flatter everyone

Guy Watch
102 Stud Meter

Cesare Borgia hits the top! We can't get enough of this scary-but-sexy bad boy who makes a bishop's robes look so damn hawt. Meet his companions in . . .
104 Deadly Dreamboats
Henchman-in-chief Michelotto has stone-cold killer eyes and the abs to match, but don't overlook the latest addition to the Borgia stable of assassins: smart-mouth Leonello. Sure, this little man's only up to your shoulder, but we hear he's got wicked knives, and a wicked tongue to match!
10 The Other Borgia Boys
Cesare's younger brother Juan has a wife, but who cares? She's in Spain, and he's looking for a new mistress! And don't neglect little brother Joffre—his memoir “Growing Up Borgia” comes out this year!

Juan Borgia: ok, so he has a reputation for rape, murder and killing stray dogs. But who can resist a guy in a plumed helmet?

107 Bad Hair Days Around The Papal States
Come on, priests—we know church law mandates tonsures, but shaving the crown of your head is so not sexy. Keep it minimal like Cesare Borgia with a short patch at the top, and let your curls go wild!

Love and Lust
110 21 Relationship Tips From Venice's Most Successful Courtesans
You can't be seen associating with these women, so we did the research for you.

You won't believe her Tip #19!

112 Arranged Marriages: Getting It Right
Learn to love the man your parents picked for you
116 Ask Him Anything
Will your husband mind if you breast-feed your baby? Yes! Remember, ladies, he needs heirs, so he'll want you pregnant again as soon as possible.
121 He Slept With A Courtesan—Does It Count As Cheating?
First question: did she give him the French pox?

You, Even Better
138 How To Be An Artist's Muse
Botticelli's famous Primavera dishes tips on posing nude, holding still, and dealing with the artistic temperament. Everlasting artistic fame will be yours in no time!

Getting a crick in your neck during those long modeling sessions - occupational hazard!

139 6 Tips To A Perfect Basse-Danse
Just remember to keep your back stiff during this classic after-dinner dance—but don't be afraid to show a flash of ankle in the turns. So daring!
142 How To Be Noticed In Church
Everybody knows men scout for future brides during Mass—with these subtle-but-sexy tips, you'll be engaged by the time the Offertory comes around!

Health Check
150 The Cosmo Health Report: Your Sexual Health
Here's the real truth about the French Pox, and how to spot the bad boys who have it. (Hint: avoid men with rotting noses.)
154 Cosmo Gyno
The new birth control: half a Neapolitan lime, and you won't believe what we tell you to do with it! (Just don't tell your hubby.)
155 Your Body
Ten exercises to keep that waist tiny, even after the tenth childbirth!

Need To Know
161 Bull Through
Our fail-safe guide to the bullfights our Spanish Pope has made so trendy. Impress your man with your bull-fight know-how the next time he takes you to an afternoon of bloodshed!

Cesare Borgia bullfights for fun - and he can take a bull's head off in one stroke! Now that's sexy.

Fun and Fearless
164 The Naughtiest Thing I've Ever Done
Lucrezia Borgia hired courtesans to entertain at her wedding—and they picked up chestnuts off the floor with their what?
166 Are You There, Sancha?
Sexy Sancha of Aragon might be married to little Joffre Borgia, but this sexpot Borgia daughter-in-law moonlights as our resident bad-girl columnist! This issue, she spills on papal conclaves, world domination papal-style . . . and just what she thinks of all these Borgia incest rumors.

Cosmo Life
170 Weekend
Lent is just around the corner, but you know what comes first: Carnival! Get in the spirit by putting on a mask (Giulia Farnese likes a unicorn mask) and running wild through the city!

Go ahead, make out with a masked stranger - you can always atone once Lent begins!

172 You and Him
Men may like floor-length hair, but it sure gets tangled around everything whenever you and your man get frisky. Pause your sexy time long enough to make a quick braid.
178 At Your Place: Carmelina's Cena
Giulia Farnese's private chef is a woman who knows her business. Copy her menu for Lucrezia Borgia's (first) wedding banquet, and impress your guests with an all-sweets buffet: miniature tourtes of caravella pears and summer strawberries, honeyed pastry stars stuffed with blood orange segments, sugared violets and apple blossoms, creamy swans with candied almond feathers . . . yum!
181 Healthy Sexy Strong
Muscle tone is so not sexy—here's how we keep you looking soft all over

Cosmo Astrologer
188 Your priest disapproves of astrology, but we won't tell!
A bad month for Taurus (don't fall for a sweet-talking artist who swears he'll make you famous if you only take off your clothes!) but a good month for Sagittarius (a rich suitor is waiting just around the corner with a marriage proposal. Already married? Then the proposal will come for your twelve-year-old daughter!)

It's never too early to settle her future!

Red-Hot Read
192 Swoony Sonnets
You'll sigh for Petrarch's latest dreamy lyrics—and just who is this mysterious golden lady he calls his Laura?

Cosmo Quiz
193 The Three Female Fates: Nun, Wife, or Whore. Which Are You?
Mostly A's: nun. Let's hope you look good in veils.

Mostly B's: wife. But wives can be sexy too! Just ditch the bad hat.

Mostly C's: Courtesan! Get yourself a sexy dress and start charging by the hour!

Hope you enjoyed this special Renaissance edition of Cosmopolitan. Next up: Renaissance Maxim!

Guest Blogger: A Navy Man Talks About Memorial Day

May 24, 2013

Tags: memorial day

Good afternoon, everyone. Or good morning, good evening, whenever you are reading this.

Regular followers of my wife's blog have noticed that she has a soft spot for military men. This works out pretty well for me, being a proud US Navy Petty Officer First Class; we define ourselves as so bad-ass that when we wake up in the morning and our feet hit the floor, the devil himself looks up and say, "Oh, s**t, they're awake." We think highly of ourselves, but it's not entirely unearned. After all, every US Navy Chief alive wouldn't exist if not for us, and US Navy Chiefs, as everyone knows, were created by God himself to take care of the things that He couldn't.

My wife's soft spot for military men usually results in a Memorial Day blog post that jerks tears from your heart. Kate's understanding of the demands, the almost overwhelming burden of military service, is beyond compare. She understands the Cost, capital C. However, this year, she let me take the helm for her Memorial Day post.

I'm not as eloquent as she is. I don't have the tools or the vocabulary or the experience to lay out words in such a heart-rending way that people sit still for a contemplative moment and think, ".......WOW." That skill, I am afraid, is beyond me. However, what I can do is speak about Memorial Day, and why I would submit that people should take a contemplative moment or two themselves: remember those who have served, those who have lost and been lost, those who have stood at the front. Those rough souls have a unique perspective lacking in much of the populace, and it is that perspective I wish to provide. For what is Memorial Day if not a day of remembrance? Granted, it's a day for family, a day for friends, for BBQ, for relaxation, and for celebrating the start of summer. But........the blunt fact is that the origin of Memorial Day is sacrifice. Sacrifice of life, sacrifice of limb, sacrifice of peace and tranquility and sanity. It's the sacrifice of everyone who has gone before, everyone who has stood nearest to that deep line in the sand and proclaimed, "This far, and no further.”

So here I am with my soapbox. Not out of intent to shame, nor intent to incite guilt, nor attempts to tug at heart-strings, but a simple intent to provide perspective. It is the view from the Other Side.

I have lost. My father. My best friend. Shipmates. Partners. Strangers without names.

My father served in the Army 82nd Airborn Division. He was drafted into Vietnam, and served his time in that quiet Hell known as Alaska. He served honorably for his term, and then was honorably discharged. He was lost almost 3 years ago of natural causes. For him and his honorable service, I lift my glass.

Several years ago, while underway on a destroyer, my best friend hanged himself during the night. The reasons were asked. Hands were wrung. Everyone had an idea. I was one of the last people to speak with him - and the simple truth, from what I knew, was that stress of his particular situation proved too much. The service asks everything of you. Absolutely everything, and some cannot flex accordingly. For those that can't flex, the cost can be, in horrific fashion, fatal. For him and his honorable service, I lift my glass.

I've had friends die. I've been in position under fire. I've almost kissed Death on the mouth so many times I've lost count. Not all of them were because of the service, I'll admit. But a lot were. On several occasions, my shipmates and I have charged into traffic to save dying men, as a matter of duty. And unfortunately, most of the time we failed. But that is the fundamental tenet of military service: you give your all. Flat out. No brakes. Even if it appears hopeless, you Give. Your. All. And for many, that includes their lives.'s my point. If you know someone who has served, look them in the eye, don't say a word, and (symbolically, if you need to), raise a glass. Because Memorial Day is a day to remember the most noble and honorable sacrifices of those who have served, and are serving. Yes, there is BBQ. Yes, there is a celebration of summer. Yes, there are pools and games and joy and delighted screams from children encountering water far too cold for their liking. But the quiet truth behind the thin veneer of constructed glee that we enjoy on a long weekend, is the fact that the this day would not exist if not for sacrifices of those gone before. We stand, this Country stands, on the honor and sacrifice of those rough souls standing watch, who, when asked the cost they would be willing to pay, calmly replied, "Sir, any and all." I would not have them forgotten, and neither should you. I leave you with the immortal words of William Henley, as I see describing Those In Service:

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

And as my beloved wife has mentioned in previous years, we will both take a moment on Memorial Day to raise a glass, and offer the toast: "To the fallen. Our Honored Dead."

Frederick Book Festival and Signing!

May 15, 2013

Tags: frederick book festival, stephanie dray, sophie perinot, author signing

Here's a shout-out to those of you in northeastern Maryland and southeastern PA--I will be appearing with my marvelous friends-and-colleagues Sophie Perinot and Stephanie Dray at the FREDERICK BOOK FESTIVAL this coming weekend (Saturday, May 18th). Our panel on "Prejudice and Preconceptions - What you think you know about historical women" (at 11 a.m.) always brings down the house. Come out and see us!

And if you're busy on Saturday, stop by Barnes & Noble at the FSK Mall on Friday, May 17, 2013 from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM. I'll be there for a signing with lots of other wonderful authors and friends!

Romantic Times Convention: The Recap

May 10, 2013

Tags: romantic times convention

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” One could say the same for the Romantic Times Convention: a jam-packed five days in Kansas City where thousands of the writers, editors, agents, and readers of romance came together to learn, listen, and of course gossip. I've attended the Historical Novel Society Conference before, but this was my very first RT, and (gulp) I was also a speaker. There were shenanigans galore, and for some of the scandals, I'm sworn to silence – but there's plenty that's printable, and here it is!


6:10 a.m. There are some people who manage to travel chic, but I am not one of them. Forget chic Louis Vuitton carry-ons or even matching Samsonites; I'm hauling a tattered faux-Coach tote from my college days, a neon floral gym bag circa 1987, and a massive black and yellow sports bag that could hold every hockey stick the Boston Bruins own. Given the fact that said black-and-yellow bag is missing both wheels, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn it was used to bash a goalie's head in during the last Bruins-Maple Leafs scrum.

8:23 a.m. My deep ingrained displeasure at having to rise at What The **** O'Clock is off-set by the fact that my pal and fellow author-of-the-ancient-world Stephanie Dray has agreed to fly out to RT with me in adjoining airplane seats. Stephanie is a marvelous traveling companion; even with a massive tote over one arm and a boarding pass clutched in hand she has the air of one being borne along on her journeys by slave-borne barge.

10:48 a.m. Get two authors together on an airplane with nothing to do but talk shop, and the facts start to fly—after an hour's breathless natter over the airline peanuts about the building of Monticello, the guerilla tactics of Tacfarinas, and the common poisons and antidotes used in Imperial Rome, the man in the seat ahead finally turns around and fixes us with a certain wary interest. “Just what is it that you ladies do?” After assuaging his fears that we are not in fact planning real murders, only fictional ones, we manage to brainstorm and plot a book each. If we're this productive on the return journey, we'll probably have sample chapters and a full outline prepped for our respective agents.

1:05 p.m. The hotel is massive, connected to the world outside with glass walkways, and the conference is already in full swing. I barely have a chance to dump my bags before I'm subsumed into a mass of new friends. Over quick burgers at the hotel pub, I commiserate with Jeannie Lin, who writes T'ang dynasty romance. “Concubinage is underestimated as a happily-ever-after,” she says thoughtfully. Where else in the world would you hear that and not be fazed?

3:47 p.m. I'm late for my very first workshop: “How To Work With Your Publisher on Publicity and Marketing.” Sourcebooks puts on a marvelous talk, but everything is overshadowed by meeting yet two more new friends, fellow HF authors Christy English and Donna Russo Morin. We've bonded through Facebook and have been dying to meet face to face—and Christy turns out to be a southern-born charmer with a curtain of brunette hair and a beaming oft-repeated exclamation of “You're so sweet!” while Donna is a vibrant Italian hugger-and-kisser in leopard pumps. I'm somewhat proud of my own ability to walk in 4-inch heels but Donna has me beat by a Florentine mile: the woman wasn't just born in stilettos; I think she was born with spike-heeled feet like Angelina Jolie in “Beowulf.”

5 p.m. “Using Theme To Strengthen Your Brand.” Stephanie's speaking at this one, and I haul Donna and Christy along for the fun. It's one of the best talks of the conference: Stephanie is joined by Norah-Roberts-To-Be Laura Kaye, and Queen-of-the-Highland-Warriors Eliza Knight for a thought-provoking talk on theme that produces its share of “Eureka!” moments in the audience. “Everything I write has the same theme!” Christy exclaims midway through. “How did I not realize that?” I'm stuck on what my overall theme could possibly be; Stephanie offers a suggestion of “Karma's a bitch.” I think she may be onto something there.

6:31 p.m. Dinner at an Italian restaurant with Donna, Christy, and Stephanie. Prosecco flows. Secrets are exchanged. Also much swearing over recent trends in historical book covers.

8:37 p.m. E.L. James is supposedly here, but under an assumed name. Resolve to keep my eyes peeled.

9:14 p.m. Christopher Gortner and I meet up and fall on each other with happy cries of joy—we hit it off at the San Diego HNS conference, but haven't met face-to-face since. Not only is he the best dinner companion on earth—he's got more one-liners than Rupert Everett in an Oscar Wilde play—but we're both writing Borgia books. We trade plot details happily: his “Borgia's Daughter” focuses on Lucrezia, and my “Serpent and the Pearl” takes a wider angle on the Borgia Pope's mistress Giulia Farnese, so we've managed to cover the same era without stepping on each other's hems. Excellent.

10:02 p.m. Do I really want to go to the Ellora's Cave Disco-Themed Cocktail Party bash? Is Christopher giving me an imperious stare? Looks like I'm going to the Ellora's Cave Disco-Themed Cocktail Party.

10:36 p.m. Oh dear God. Six male dancers get up for a bump-and-grind routine to “Stayin' Alive,” wearing unbuttoned sequin shirts and white spandex bell-bottoms so tight that, in the words of Robin Williams, you can tell what religion the men are. Brain bleach, brain bleach!

10:41 p.m. “Stayin' Alive” gives way to something else from “Saturday Night Fever,” as the gyrating continues. “Clearly the only thing to do,” Christopher counsels between fits of laughter, “is to take pictures and send to your husband with the caption `Missing you, honey!'” Two flutes of Prosecco later, this seems like an excellent idea.

12:09 a.m. Slide into bed with a sore stomach from laughing so much. Am wakened an hour later by a text from the hubby: a pic of him and the Navy cadre from his division, all dressed in drag and holding skirts up to show hairy legs. “Missing you, too.” Well played, sir.


8:30 a.m. I notice that the only event scheduled before eleven is the breakfast for inspirational romance authors. I think inspirational clean-living sort are going to be the ONLY ones at this conference up that early.

2 p.m. Lobby Posse reunion! At the Historical Novel Society in San Diego, the stars aligned to throw six or seven women together in the lobby for shop-talk and insta-bonding. I was lucky enough to be one of those ladies (along with Sophie Perinot, Michelle Moran, Teralyn Pilgrim, DeAnn Smith, and Marci Jefferson) and we've none of us lost touch since. This is a rare opportunity to catch up with DeAnn, a KC native, and bless her, she was even able to set up a quick interview for me on KCTV. As Christy English would say, “You're so sweet!” I even manage to sound reasonably coherent. Thanks again, DeAnn!
(I'm in the video on the lower left)

2:45 p.m. Christopher and his agent present a sensational panel on self-marketing. Twitter; blog ads; Goodreads; Facebook; nothing is overlooked. I take copious notes. Let it be known: C.W. Gortner is not only the king of insightful fictional portraits of historical bad girls; he is the king of marketing.

4 p.m. I'm signed up for the e-book Expo signing. As one of my Goodreads blog followers once wondered, exactly how does one sign an e-book? I'm not exactly sure, and I'm not sure anyone else is either. But I sit here gamely, and hey, somebody does ask me to sign their Kindle.

6:10 p.m. Fast dinner with the new posse. More swearing about covers, more dark secrets—and we plan to invade the 30th anniversary RT Formal Ball this evening en masse. We all try to persuade Donna to unearth her Three Musketeers costume, the one with the tabard and the thigh boots.

8:42 p.m. An evening of mad primping, followed by a dash to the ball. I'm going va-va-voom with something strapless, scarlet, and very Liz Taylor. Christopher has fabulous Italian leather shoes, Stephanie sports a 20's feathered headdress and a long Audrey Hepburn cigarette holder, and Donna may have decided against wearing her Musketeer tabard, but she flashes an Angelina “leg” pose when we stop for pix. We are one fabulous bunch, if I do say so myself.

9:39 p.m. Why is it that so many parties decide that the moment of greatest merriment among the guests is EXACTLY the time to stop for a 90 minute speech? Jay Gatsby would not approve. Fortunately, we're all at a table in the back where we continue to drink champagne, eat chocolate, and dish. We argue about whether Plantagenet history is more of a minefield for the fans or the writers, and whether anyone reads American-set HF anymore at all. Christopher withstands all my blandishments, blackmails, and bribery for a hint on his next project, damn him.

10:46 p.m. Trail upstairs at last to watch TV in my pj's and pearls. Donna has raved about the show “Vikings,” in particular its hero - ”eyes like blue lasers!” - so I give it a try. Donna's right about the lasers; Travis Fimmel is one tasty Viking, even with his hair strapped into a tight ponytail braid that could easily make him look like a really muscular prep-school girl.

Travis Fimmel: my RT date

11:59 p.m. When you get a midnight text imploring you to head out for an emergency group bitch session on the Worst Publisher Ever, as well as the real story on whether E.L. James is at the conference or not—you pack up and go. This part stays in the Cone of Silence.


Noon I take a long morning to prep for my one speaking gig: a panel with Donna, Christy, and Christopher titled “The Hottest Sex In History.” Are those butterflies? Why yes, they are.

1:15 p.m. Piteous pic sent from the spouse: him and the dog, both looking sad. Aww, my boys are missing me.

3:45 p.m. “The Hottest Sex in History” is scheduled opposite a vampire meet-and-greet, so attendance is light, but we ham it up and have a great time. “What's the raciest tidbit you've ever found in your research?” asks Christopher's agent Jennifer Weltz, who is moderating. I relate a bit of real-life banter where a medieval courtier teased a lady when she asserted that women like herself did not have hair upon their bodies like men did, even in intimate places: “Certainly not; grass would never grow on such a well-beaten path.” Ouch.

5:13 p.m. Third time back at that Italian restaurant. The waiters know us all by name by now; they have Donna's prosecco ready to go, and the waiter is writing “chicken marsala” before I can form the words.

7:42 p.m. Ok, the real story on E.L. James? She came to the conference under an assumed name to support a writer friend, but blew her cover almost immediately by standing up at a panel in which her books were mentioned, and getting huffy with the moderator because she didn't like what they were saying. I don't know about you, but if I could buy an island in the Caymans with my last royalty check, I wouldn't be getting huffy about anything.

9:51 p.m. Have resolved that I am going to make this an early night: pj's, hotel room, maybe a little more “Vikings.” So naturally I'm up till 1:15 a.m talking shop with Christopher and Stephanie, who are meeting for the first time and hitting it off famously. Screw it; I'll sleep later.


9:15 a.m. Wake up looking like I spent the night under a collapsed building. Shriek at reflection in mirror; reach for concealer. It's the giant book fair this morning: three hours of signing and selling. Knowing me I will walk out with an armload of new books, even though I'm the one who's supposed to be selling them.

10 a.m. Is that Mary Jo Putney sitting right next to me? Why, yes it is. She could not be nicer; signing for her legions of fans, she steers them gently my direction—and in between the fans, we gab. “I like a book hero with real problems,” she says, and points to two of her latest. “This one's an alcoholic and this one's nearly feral from solitary confinement.” I point at two of mine. “This one's an inarticulate killing machine, and, well, this one's just kind of a jerk.” We trade books: her feral ex-prisoner for my inarticulate killing machine.

2:13 p.m. And yes, I am walking out with a stack of books. Text the husband: “Need another bookshelf.” Get a text back: “Running out of walls.”

2:17 p.m. Meet a darling teenage girl in the line who has brought a suitcase full of books to be signed by all her favorite authors, and is mourning the fact that three hours wasn't enough to get to them all. I ask who she missed; she takes a gander at my name tag and says, “Well, for one, you!” I end up signing for her in the checkout line.

3:45 p.m. Eliza Knight, a friend from the local Maryland writers group. She looks cheerful but a trifle haggard—as well she might, considering she is the mother of three who can turn out six books a year. “I don't know how she does it” doesn't even begin to cover this woman's work ethic. She ends up dragging me, and Donna as well, to a Hunky Highlanders panel where we listen to Scottish ghost stories while sipping Scotch whiskey and sampling haggis. Not bad (the haggis).

9pm Harlequin Dance Party! Donna can not only walk around all day in those fabulous leopard-skin stilettos of hers; she can dance all night in them. She has all the cover models salivating. When I'm too tired to dance, I flop down with Christy and we talk Princess Alais of France, one of Christy's book heroines and historical co-star in the epic Katharine Hepburn movie “Lion in Winter.” Was Alais seduced by Henry II, or vice versa? Christy thinks Alais went for him. “He's charming! He's handsome! He was the king! And,” Christy adds, “we know he didn't wear riding gloves. Who could resist a king who has working-man calluses?” Good point.

12:09 a.m. And it's another late night for me! Laura Kaye dishes details on the Cinema Craptastique event; where an epically bad movie is picked for viewing with hilarious voiceover. Stephanie volunteers a howler of a horror movie called “Bad Sheep” for next year's event, and Christopher contributes a campy old vampire flick. Who knew he could do such a dead-on parody of Marlene Dietrich? “Are you hungry, daaaaahlings?”


3:55 The conference is done; Stephanie and I fly out in the evening. But we squeeze in one last farewell coffee with Christopher, and an epic barbecue lunch with Lobby Posse pal DeAnn. I'm 90% convinced this is the same barbecue joint where Kevin Spacey plots world domination in “House of Cards.” And how can Kevin Spacey make such an ominous prop out of a bottle of barbecue sauce?

6:15 Stephanie and I board our plane over-caffeinated and exhausted, finely tuned to a state somewhere between Zen and stoned. I say something vague about our flight connection in Atlanta and she stares at me for a moment. “Was that English?” Me: (thinking seriously): “Possibly not. In my sleep I speak French, and currently I'm three-quarters asleep.” (True story about the French.)

10:55 p.m. Both Zen and exhaustion are replaced with fury as airline screw-ups causes us to miss our connecting flight. Neither of us will be arriving home until at least one-thirty in the morning. It's not wise to upset historical fiction authors. Know this, you apathetic, chinless, pimpled cretins in the Customer Service Department of AirTran, and know it well: you will all turn up in Stephanie's and my next books, and you will be crucified along the Appian Way.

1:47 a.m. And I'm home. The hubby is asleep. The dog is asleep. The conference is over.

There you have it, in a nutshell: the 2013 Romantic Times Convention. I anticipated the fun panels, the useful discussions, the industry tips—but what gets me every time about these writer conventions is the strange and wonderful zaniness of the people who write for a living. We work alone, curled up on our couches or at our desks, engaged in the solitary process of stringing one word after another. Put us all together in one room for a change—people who all give the same knowing nods when somebody exclaims, “Don't you just hate it when you get a historically inaccurate dress on your cover?”-- and we party like nobody's business. A few more days of this, and Kansas City might have been burning like Rome.

Next year's RT is already set for New Orleans. I confidently predict shenanigans, madness—and fun.