Archives

Tags

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

Happy Release Day! A Day of Fire: a novel of Pompeii

November 4, 2014

Tags: a day of fire, pompeii, stephanie dray, ben kane, eliza knight, Sophie Perinot, Vicky Alvear Shecter, release day, blog tour

It was on another Release Day that "A Day of Fire" was first conceived, the champagne-fueled brainchild of myself, Stephanie Dray, and Sophie Perinot. We were having a celebratory lunch in honor of my latest Borgia book, and swapping idle ideas for future projects. "Continuities," Stephanie mused, and was met with blank looks. "Basically, a novel in four parts, written by four authors, or however many are working together. Romance authors do it all the time."

"Why haven't historical fiction authors jumped in?" Sophie wondered. "We could pick a historical event and go to town! What event?"

"Sinking of the Titanic? Downton Abbey tie-in . . ."

"Field of the Cloth of Gold? Tudor tie-in . . ."

"Destruction of Pompeii . . . ?"

Eyes gleamed. And this project was born.

It's been a wild, sometimes rocky, always exhilarating ride. Our original trio was swiftly joined by three more musketeers. I screwed up the nerve to approach Ben Kane, whose work I adore (after being wowed by the gorgeous mayhem he wreaked with the Spartacus legend, I knew he could tear the top off a mountain in style). Vicky Alvear Shecter already had a hit YA HF novel in the works about Pompeii ("Curses and Smoke," highly recommended!) but didn't mind revisiting the lava fields with us. And self-pub goddess E. Knight joined the Good Ship Pompeii and firmly took the tiller, steering the rest of us self-pub newbies through the waters of the Indie Ocean.

I am uniquely proud of what I and my five co-authors have put together in "A Day of Fire." I think, frankly, that it's awesome. Some of that was planned (the careful plotting we did to interweave characters; the careful research into the latest Pompeii archaeological findings), and some of it wasn't (how did we get such a perfect cross-section of Roman society in our protagonists? Sheer luck). But we worked hard, and it was worth every moment.

And at long last, our story about the final days of Pompeii is available in e-book and print!

“This truly is the finest book I have read this year, an emotional roller-coaster that educates while it entertains. Its impact will stay with me for quite some time.” ~Parmenion Books

“Despite knowing what happens in Pompeii and to the majority of its citizens, A Day of Fire is a book full of suspense, fear, and unexpected bravery.” ~Ageless Pages

“I can’t praise this book highly enough. It’s a rattling good tale of disaster, death, resolution and rebirth.” ~Dodging Arrows

“I LOVED this! The writing style, the choice of stories told, the evolution of characters, the drama. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.” ~The Maiden’s Court

"Each one of these authors deserves a huge amount of praise for putting this impressive piece of art together.” ~Steven McKay

DESCRIPTION:

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

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. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

Buy Now:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads




Virtual Potluck, Part II!

February 10, 2014

Tags: blog tour, the lion and the rose, the serpent and the pearl, inn at the crossroads, long past remembered, little white apron, heather webb, outlander kitchen, island vittles, taking on magazines

I'm a foodie at heart—you can always count on there being delicious food in my books. (And the best part about fictional food? Zero calories!) My Borgia duology “The Serpent and the Pearl” and “The Lion and the Rose” has the most mouth-watering food out of anything I've written, because one of my heroines is a chef: Carmelina, a tart-tongued girl with near-magical skill in the kitchen, who has the job as maestra di cucina for the Borgia Pope's mistress.

Serving under her is teenage apprentice Bartolomeo Scappi, a historical figure who will grow up and become one of the greatest cooks of the Renaissance—his cookbook is still in print today! Now, it's a curious thing that most of the world's mega-chefs tend to be men, but ask any of them how they learned to cook, and it's always a female name that comes out. (Most usually “Mom” or “Grandma.”) So when I leafed through Bartolomeo Scappi's cookbook, I asked myself “Who taught him all this?” And the answer presented itself: “I'll bet it was a woman.”

Fortunately we know very little about Bartolomeo's beginnings, when he was born, or where he trained, so I was free to invent Carmelina as the girl who teaches the greatest culinary genius of the Renaissance everything he knows. When these two get together in a kitchen, sparks fly, knives are sometimes hurled, and magic happens—along with a lot of great food!

When “The Serpent and the Pearl” was released, I put together a virtual pot-luck with six fabulous food bloggers who combed the book for recipes and trooped off to their kitchens. The results were mouth-watering, and I know we had to host a re-match for “The Lion and the Rose.” Today I'm joined by Theresa from Outlander Kitchen and Island Vittles, who cooks from Diana Gabaldon's fabulous Scottish saga; Chelsea from Inn At The Crossroads, who recently co-authored a fabulous cookbook based on "Game of Thrones" recipes; Christiane from Taking On Magazines, who cooks her way through the likes of "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Bon Appetit" utterly undaunted; Lori from Little White Apron who is a pro chef as well as a blogger extraordinaire; Deana from Lost Past Remembered who recreates food from myriad centuries gone by; and Heather Webb from Between The Sheets who took time off from her
recent smash-hit novel on Empress Josephine to indulge her foodie hobby.

And today, we're all posting our results! Recipes included.

Inn At The Crossroads: the Roman-style tenderloin Bartolomeo makes when Carmelina's stuck in a convent with the Pope's daughter Lucrezia.

Island Vittles: the candied nuts which all the Borgias are constantly snacking on as they plot. And as a bonus? The fried tubers from the New World, which feature heavily in a scene my readers have taken to calling simply “the aphrodisiac potato scene.”

Little White Apron: the salad of blood orange, fennel, and olives served to the Duke of Gandia, and the beef en brochette served at a very illicit Vatican party.

Lost Past Remembered: the fish pie flavored with oranges, nutmeg and dates which Bartolomeo whips up after changing Carmelina's menu behind her back (and boy, does he get in trouble for that!)

Taking On Magazines did TWO posts! The venison in cream and brandy sauce served after Juan Borgia's latest hunt, and the tortellini with basil and parsley filling with which Bartolomeo hopes to woo Carmelina.

Between The Sheets: the endives stuffed with cheese and drizzled in olive oil which are served at the Menagerie Masquerade Ball, and the pastries layered with honey and blood oranges on which Lucrezia nibbles while waiting for a divorce.

As for me, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled a recipe from Chapter 17 of “The Lion and the Rose:" a walnut and pecorino cheese tourte Carmelina muses on to keep herself sane during a dull period stuck in a convent.

From the book:

"Three eggs, whisked together with a mixture three parts sugar to two parts strawberry honey," I recited aloud as I swept the convent courtyard. "Add two cheeses, a soft sheep's milk cheese and a very fresh pecorino cheese from Pienza, and then a double handful finely chopped walnuts . . ." The lay sisters were supposed to recite their prayers as they went about their work--a rosary, or perhaps an Act of Contrition if they were feeling guilty about anything. I recited recipes.

This is a recipe I got from a little volume of Vatican recipes through the ages, and supposedly dates from the days of Pope Pius II. Given that a handful of walnuts and a hunk of cheese are just about my favorite snack of all time, I was intrigued by the idea of putting them together in a pie, and dying to tackle this for the virtual potluck! I made a few modifications to the ingredients--Wegman's does not carry strawberry honey--but the result is still delicious: a sort of early-Renaissance version of a classic cheesecake. The texture is identical, and the flavor mild and nutty, the saltiness of the pecorino melting into the honey and sugar. If you would like a bolder flavor, dust the top of your tourte with cinnamon instead of powdered sugar. The perfect holiday dessert for that one family member who isn't big on sweets.

Serves 12 -- Prep time 30 minutes -- Cooking time 55 minutes, plus at least 2 hours for chilling

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 1/3 cup very fresh grated pecorino cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped
12 egg whites, whipped stiff (to avoid the mess of breaking 12 eggs, just use those egg whites that come in cartons for low-fat omelets)
Whole walnuts and powdered sugar or cinnamon, for garnish
Pre-made pie shell or short-crust pastry of your choice

1. Whipping egg whites into peaks takes both time and muscle if done by hand. If you don't have a hunky kitchen apprentice with arms like a god (Carmelina does), then use a stand mixer and get your egg whites beating with a whisk attachment as you prepare the rest of the pie. If you do have a hunky kitchen apprentice with arms like a god, what on earth are you doing in the kitchen?

2. Make your pie-crust if you are making from scratch (use a pre-made shell if you're low on time). Either way, pop the crust into the oven at 325 degrees and do a pre-bake for a few minutes, so you don't end up with a soggy bottom crust once filling is added.

3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and honey in a large bowl.

4. Gradually add the pecorino cheese, ricotta, flour, and chopped walnuts, and blend together. When egg whites have been whisked stiff, add bit by bit to the walnut and cheese mixture, and blend.

5. Give mixture one final stir (the nuts will want to sink to the bottom) and then pour into pie shell. There will be enough for two pies.

6. Bake 55 minutes at 325 degrees, checking frequently toward the end. You want a nice golden top, not a burned blistered pie.

7. Let cool, sift with powdered sugar, and decorate with whole walnuts. Chill thoroughly before eating.

******************************************************************************

Be sure to check in on the others for some more great recipes! And as for the food bloggers who kicked in on this project - Theresa, Lori, Heather, Christiane, Chelsea, and Deana - thank you all so much!

10 Tips For Living With A Writer

January 31, 2014

Tags: guest blog, blog tour, writerspace, the lion and the rose

I really cackled when I wrote this guest post for Writerspace. I am sad to say that every single one of these examples is drawn from life, either mine or one of my writer pals'. Including Tip #1:

"Do not get freaked by your spouse’s Google search his­tory when it pops up things like “tes­ti­cle ampu­ta­tion tech­niques” or “how to kill a child and get away with it.” It’s all just research."

To read the rest, click here!



Guest Blog: Borgia Madness

January 23, 2014

Tags: guest blog, blog tour, the reading frenzy

More guest blogging today, over on The Reading Frenzy! Topic? Why I write about the Borgias, which Borgia I'd most like to meet, and all the crazy things that make them tick:

"I couldn't suppress a giggle when I wrote Giulia tearing her beautiful hair in frustration at yet another papal family crisis and crying out, `Maybe there's a REASON Popes aren't supposed to have families!' She's got a point there—Pope Francis today has quite enough to do without having to manage four children and a girlfriend!"

Though wouldn't it be interesting if he did?

For more, click here!





Top Ten Book Boyfriends

January 22, 2014

Tags: blog tour, the lion and the rose

Guest blogging today over on Love Romance Passion, and they've got a great topic: list your top ten fictional heroes. Well, I was reading historical fiction long before I was ever writing it, and there were plenty of historical hunks who will always be on my list of fictional BFs. Like #6:

"Horatio Hornblower from C.S. Forester's Hornblower series. Moody melancholy men might be frustrating to date in real life, but between the pages, Horatio Hornblower is totally worth it: a brilliant naval commander who thinks nothing of taking on four French warships single-handedly, but worries compulsively (and adorably) about his uncontrollable hair and his cheap shoe-buckles when going to dinner at his lady love's."

For more, click here! And who's your favorite fictional date for a night in?

Happy Release Day!

January 7, 2014

Tags: the lion and the rose, blog tour, release day

For the fifth time in my life, I can type the words “I have a book coming out today!” Usually I'm a nervous wreck on release days--I haunt my Amazon page looking for that first all-important review, and my fingernails are gone before the book's been out 24 hours. But you know what? This time around, I'm just plain excited. Because I'm uniquely proud of "The Lion and the Rose." I think it's the best thing I've ever written, and here's five reasons why:

1. Two kick-ass heroines. I love my two leading ladies in this book, because they really come into their own. Giulia Farnese started as a naive, happy-go-lucky golden girl, and Carmelina started as a prickly cook with a secret, but by this book they've matured into women who aren't afraid to fight for the life they want, and reach for the love they want. And when the rigid Renaissance world they live in says they can't have those things, they say "Screw that."

2. An unconventional hero. I've written a lot of tough-guy warrior heroes, but Leonello is different. He's a dwarf, and that means he's spent his life being kicked around by a world that thinks he's a freak. But he refuses to let it define him. He's every bit as much of a tough guy as any of my gladiators or centurions, and this is the book where he kicks some serious butt. Often in novels, dwarves get stuck as somebody's side-kick or jester--the role to which real-life dwarves were often relegated in times past. This dwarf informed me in no uncertain terms that he wanted center stage.

3. A new hero. I've got a brand-new guy preparing to enter the limelight in this book, and I think he'll sweep you off your feet.

4. Pay-off. When "The Serpent and the Pearl" came out, there were reviews that said it felt like a set-up novel. In a way, it was--and this is the pay-off. A killer was introduced, and now he gets caught. Love struck like a thunderbolt, and now it gets requited. The Borgias rise to power, and now they begin their fall. It all happens here.

5. There's a scene which all my beta readers called "the aphrodisiac potato scene." Enough said. :D

I hope you enjoy "The Lion and the Rose" as much as I enjoyed writing it. For my release day, I'm off to lunch with perpetual launch day buddies Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot, who have permission as always to use anything up to and including handcuffs to keep me from my Amazon page. There will be champagne, and there will be laughter, just as there was on my previous four launch days. And as ever, I have to give thanks to the world and to my readers that I am lucky enough to do this for a living!

Meet The Heroine II: A Chef Contemplating Murder

January 3, 2014

Tags: character q&a, the lion and the rose, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

My secondary heroine from “The Serpent and the Pearl” is usually very tough to track down—as a working girl (cook to the Borgia Pope!) she's always on the move and on the job. But now she's at loose ends, and consented to be interviewed!

Carmelina: Ask as many questions as you want. As long as we're held captive here, I haven't got anything to cook.

Me: You know how many readers accused you of ruining their diets?

Carmelina: Diet? What's that?

Me: It's when people swear off butter or cream or pasta—

Carmelina: Why would anybody ever do that? Swear off pasta? Pasta is delicious!

Me: Well, it's fattening. People stop eating it so they can be thinner.

Her: Who wants to be thin? My mistress Giulia Farnese is the most renowned beauty in Rome, and she's a solid size 14 in your sizing charts.

Me: Jesus, I wish I lived in the Renaissance.

Her: No, you don't. I'm the best cook in Rome, and I don't even get paid for it because I'm a woman.

Me: Fair point. So, how are you faring in captivity?

Her: Madonna Giulia has managed to keep the French from raping us all, God bless her. If she can hold them off a few more days, the Pope should have us all ransomed and home. Can't be soon enough for me.

Me: Leonello said that you—

Her: That little bastard talked about me?

Me: A little. He said he knows things about you . . .

Carmelina: How dare he!

Me: Look, I'm your creator. Believe me, I already know all your secrets. What people really want to know is this—are you really planning to poison Leonello before he outs you? Because you were looking pretty determined . . .

Ok, Carmelina just stomped out. Looks like you'll have to wait till tomorrow to see if she put hemlock in our hero's wine or not!


Meet The Hero: A Dangerous Dwarf On His Deathbed . . .

January 3, 2014

Tags: character q&a, the lion and the rose, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

My “Lion and the Rose” hero is still flat on his back on a stretcher, but he consented to an interview. :D


Leonello: Consented, hah. You cornered me, woman. It's not exactly like I can run away when I'm full of broken bones.

Me: Yes, I'm sorry about that.

Leonello: Nothing to do with you. I'm a bodyguard and I defended my charge, simple as that. My own decision, I assure you.

Me: Well, I am your creator—

Leonello: As if you ever made me do anything I didn't want to do.

Me: Fair point. How are you feeling?

Leonello: Like a French army stamped all over me. Which it did. I'm probably dying.

Me: Surely not—

Leonello: If the blood loss doesn't kill me, the cook probably will. She hates me.

Me: What did you do to her?

Leonello: Carmelina? I know a few things about her that could make life very uncomfortable. I may have rubbed it in, when I pointed that out.

Me: Was that entirely necessary?

Leonello: Just because I am small does not mean I am cute, kind, or cuddly.

Me: No, it certainly doesn't. Not only do you have a tongue like a razor, you kick a surprising amount of butt for a person of reduced height—

Leonello: Dwarf. Call it what it is.

Me: We're more politically correct in this century.

Leonello: Dio, I don't even want to know what that is. Am I done now?


Meet The Heroine: The Pope's Mistress In Captivity

January 3, 2014

Tags: character q&a, the lion and the rose, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

“The Lion and the Rose: a novel of the Borgias” releases in just three days! Usually I'm nervous for my release days, but this time around I just can't wait. Because this book is sequel to “The Serpent and the Pearl,” which came out last August and ended on just a leetle bit of a cliffhanger, and I'm delighted that this time around, I didn't have to leave my readers hanging for too long. (I really am sorry, “Empress of the Seven Hills” fans.)

And my three main characters of “Serpent and the Pearl” were all in a very tight spot on the last page—captured by the French army, with their lives very literally on the line! Over the next few days I'll be interviewing each of my characters here on my blog as a promo. Today let's welcome Giulia Farnese, mistress to the Borgia Pope and currently a French captive when she got waylaid by an invading army on her way home from a family visit . . .

Giulia: Do you have any of that stuff called chocolate which you introduced me to at our last interview? You left me in a very bad place, sticking me with the French between books, and frankly if a girl ever earned an out-of-her-century treat, it's me.

Me: Yes, of course. Try a Snicker's bar, you'll love it.

Giulia: Thank you. I always eat when I'm being held hostage.

Me: I truly am sorry about leaving you in enemy hands for five months . . .

Giulia: Oh, that's all right. It's not as long as five months in my world. “Snickers,” why is it called that? Nothing to snicker about, being a French captive. They're pigs.

Me: Are they really?

Giulia: Well, they've been relatively nice once they realized what Rodrigo—

Me: Can you tell the readers who that is, for the ones who didn't read the first book?

Giulia: Rodrigo Borgia. His Holiness, Pope Alexander VI. I'm his mistress.

Me: Wow. Our current pope, um—well, he's a little different. I don't really know what would happen if he came out and told the world “Hi, I have a twenty-two year old girlfriend with floor-length hair.”

Giulia: Maybe he'd be more relaxed. It's a very tiring job, being Pope.

Me: Well, anyway. The French?

Giulia: They've been relatively nice to me once they realized what the Holy Father would pay to get me back.

Me: So you're going home?

Giulia: On page 1. God knows if it'll be in time to save my bodyguard, though. Leonello, his name is, and he nearly killed himself protecting me—the French beat him so badly. I'm making them pay for it.

Me: How?

Giulia: I've acted like an utter haughty bitch ever since they captured me. I'm normally quite an easy-going sort of person, but I've been complaining and pitching fits for that French general ever since he laid hands on me. He'll be quite glad to see the back of me, I assure you.

Me: Sounds like you have things well in hand, then. Good luck, Giulia!

Giulia: Can you do me a favor? Pray for my bodyguard. I'm going to be all right—I just want to get home to Rodrigo, who isn't nearly as frightening as people seem to think all the Borgias are. But I really don't know if Leonello's going to live or not.

Me: I could tell you, but that would spoil the surprise. Thanks for dropping by!



The Page 69 Test

October 4, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, page 69 test

By the time this posts, I'll be in Bermuda on the first vacation out of the US that I've had in four years - to Bermuda, where I was four years ago on my honeymoon! But I've got a guest blog post scheduled on Campaign For The American Reader, this one "the Page 69 Test." Namely, what would any reader think, if they opened your book to page 69?

Anybody who did that that for "The Serpent and the Pearl" would probably think "Why's this chick talking to a severed hand?" Or maybe they'd think they wandered into an Addams Family spin-off. Who knows? But to read more, click here!


The Too-Beautiful Heroine: Blah, Blah, Snore

September 25, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, enchanted by josephine

Guest blogging over at Enchanted by Josephine/HF Book Muse today! Topic? One of my pet peeve cliches in historical fiction:

"So here's a pet peeve of mine when it comes to books: I'm tired of drop-dead gorgeous heroines. I have nothing against attractive characters in books, mind you. We watch movies in part to enjoy the sight of pretty people, after all, and books have a similar escapism. But too often in bad books, we have to wade through a lot of repetitive rhapsodizing about the heroine's flawless profile and perfect skin, and she can never enter a room without every man in it falling with a thud at her feet. In real life, beauty that spectacular is rare—so why does it have to be so common in books?"

(Wish fulfillment, anyone?)

To read the rest, click here! And be sure to check back tomorrow, because Lucy's doing a review and giveaway (thank you, Lucy!)

Guest Post: Writers Read

September 24, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, writers read

Busy week! I've got the Baltimore Book Festival this Friday - come see me at the Maryland Romance Writers tent for a panel on the ins and outs of writing historical fiction! (1pm sharp; see you there.)

And today, I'm over at Writers Read, talking for a nice of pace not about my own book, but about other people's. What's on my reading list? Tudor spies, Venetian glass, Elizabeth Bennet, and nanobots. Yep, that's how I roll.

For titles (and these are some great titles), click here!

A Virtual Potluck!

September 16, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, inn at the crossroads, long past remembered, little white apron, heather webb, outlander kitchen, island vittles, taking on magazines

I don't know about you, but I adore food blogs. I've got an entire list that I drool over follow. And the fun part is how food and books are mixing these days: food bloggers are hitting the pages, cooking favorite recipes out of food-heavy books and blogging about it.

So when I wrote my own food-heavy book, I knew I had to at least try to set up a virtual pot-luck. I never dreamed the result would be so mouth-watering: six fabulous food-bloggers dove into "The Serpent and the Pearl" in search of recipes. Theresa from Outlander Kitchen and Island Vittles, who cooks from Diana Gabaldon's fabulous Scottish saga; Chelsea from Inn At The Crossroads, who recently co-authored a fabulous cookbook based on "Game of Thrones" recipes; Christiane from Taking On Magazines, who cooks her way through the likes of "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Bon Appetit" utterly undaunted; Lori from Little White Apron who is a pro chef as well as a blogger extraordinaire; Deana from Long Past Remembered who recreates food from myriad centuries gone by; and Heather Webb from Between The Sheets who took time off from her upcoming debut novel on Empress Josephine to indulge her foodie hobby.

And today, we're all posting our results! Recipes included.

Inn At The Crossroads - The crostata of summer peaches that Carmelina is making when Juan Borgia decides to make a pass at her. (Big mistake: cooks always have cleavers on hand.)

Island Vittles - The tourte of sweet cheese and Genovese onions that Carmelina cooks for Giulia's wedding feast.

Little White Apron - The baked apples that Carmelina serves Giulia the morning after her wedding, and the capon with garlic, coriander and white wine that is her favorite chicken recipe.

Long Past Remembered - The shoulder of wild boar that Carmelina ponders serving a visiting archbishop.

Taking On Magazines - The sugared biscotti that form a staple munchie throughout the book, and the elderflower fritters Giulia tries to make (and ends up nearly destroying Carmelina's kitchen)

Between The Sheets - The asparagus zuppa and the zabaglione which Carmelina's apprentice Bartolomeo whips up on a country trip to impress her.

As for me, I donned my sous chef apron and did a lot of "Oui, chef" fetching and carrying from the fridge as my husband (he's the culinary genius of the family) tackled a recipe from Chapter 2 of The Serpent and the Pearl:

Hot Sops With Cherries

From the book:
It's a bit tricky, knowing what to send up to the bride's chamber the morning after her wedding . . . If you hear giggling and whispering through the door, you send up something light than can be eaten by two, preferably fed to each other with the fingers while making a great deal of mess that can be kissed away with more giggles. A hot sop with morello cherries works well--strips of butter-fried bread and a dipping sauce of cherries and sugared wine always goes down a treat with hungry young lovers.

This is a recipe I got direct from that classic Renaissance cookbook "L'Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi." Hot sops are a dish that has gone out of fashion in the modern era: toasted bread with some kind of dipping sauce that could be meat-based or fruit-based; sweet or savory. It was a popular Renaissance snack, and a staple food for those who had trouble eating (the old, the ill, the very young). Happily, this dish is just as delicious in the 21st century for gourmets of any age. The cherries are both sweet and spicy, and the bread fries up crisp and mouth-watering. Carmelina is right: this is a dish to be shared between two, with kisses in between bites.

Serves 2 -- Prep: 15 minutes

1 can cherries in water (NOT cherry pie filling)
4 slices good fresh-baked artisan bread
1 cup red wine
Butter
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Butter the bread slices on both sides, and fry in a skillet over medium heat, flipping once. Set aside.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Drain the cherries and add to a medium saucepan (we improvised with a wok) and add the wine plus 4 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until liquid reduces down to thick syrupy texture, adding more sugar or spices to taste.

4. Serve in a bowl with fried bread for dipping. Messy in the best possible way!

**********************

Be sure to check in on the others for some more great recipes! And as for the food bloggers who kicked in on this project - Lori, Heather, Christiane, Chelsea, Deana, and especially Theresa who was chief in helping put the whole thing together - thank you all so much!





Cooking From The Book: Peaches In Grappa

September 8, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, mystery lovers kitchen

For today's guest blog, I'm over at Mystery Lovers Kitchen - and they challenged me to cook a dish out of my own book! Challenge accepted: the hubby and I donned aprons and whipped up the peaches in grappa dish that Giulia Farnese eats at her wedding. And let me say, it came out delicious. Peaches are in season, and this dish makes a fabulous finish to any summer dinner menu.

Want the recipe? Click here!

7 Authors To Wreck Your Diet

September 5, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, writerspace

If there's a constant I keep hearing in the reviews for "The Serpent and the Pearl," it's "This book made me so hungry!"

And I'm delighted. Because bibliophiles do things differently - it's authors who ruin our diets, not fast food commercials. And over on Writerspace today, I'm guest blogging about a list of authors whose books can be counted on to ruin your diet, my diet, anybody's diet. First on the list? George R.R. Martin:

"The guy known by embit­tered fans as `the fat bas­tard' cer­tainly knows his food. Maybe he’s prepar­ing to slaugh­ter a fic­tional bride­groom at his own wed­ding feast, but Mar­tin is always happy to slow down first and tell you what’s on the table: roast herons, sweet­corn frit­ters, swan poached in saf­fron and peaches, soup with mush­rooms and but­tered snails, and pigeon pie with lemon cream. At least the poor bride­groom died well fed. (Want the cook book? There’s an offi­cial ver­sion fea­tur­ing a for­ward from Mar­tin him­self: The Feast of Ice and Fire.)"

If that's not enough to get you to click here to read the rest, how about this? Most of the authors listed come with companion cookbooks if you feel like tackling some fabulous fictional food in your own kitchen!

So Two Blondes Walk Into A Book . . . And Meet Two More Blondes

August 30, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, marci jefferson, the girl on the golden coin

It was a case of the blonde leading the blonde when I sat down with my friend and fellow author Marci Jefferson for a Q&A: not only do the two of us belong to the fair-haired demographic, but so do our book heroines! My Giulia Farnese had gold hair down to the floor, and Marci's Frances Stewart is the girl with the golden hair in the golden dress on the golden coin in Marci's forthcoming debut novel. So in between all the other Q&A talk on self-editing and Borgia gossip, we traded a Renaissance recipe for lightening hair - straight from Caterina Sforza, yet another famous blonde!

Me: Some of the Renaissance cosmetics recipes I found are absolutely vile, like a face mask that calls for dove entrails. Others, like a rinse for blondifying hair which was made out of saffron, cinnabar, and sulphur, sound a bit nicer. Renaissance ladies were all mad for fair hair, so a favorite girls-day-out back then was to head up to the rooftop and put on big-brimmed crownless sun hats so you could spread your hair out under the sun to bleach it, but still keep your skin white!

To read the rest, click here!

Talking Bull with Sarah Bower

August 23, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, q&a, sarah bower

I had a bit of a fan-girl moment when I met Sarah Bower (well, virtually met through email). Her "Sins of the House of Borgia" was one of the first Borgia novels I read, a lush and gorgeous evocation of the Renaissance with a twist ending that sucker-punched me right in the gut. I was more than delighted to do a Q&A with Sarah for the Historical Novel Society website. I have to say, any resolve we may have had to keep this interview solemn and professional swiftly crumpled in the assault of our mutual enthusiasm!

Sarah: I never imagined the Borgia Pope as much of a reader – too busy talking!

Me: Definitely. A blogger on my blog tour asked me a fun question – if the Borgias could have used social media, what would they use? And I immediately saw Rodrigo Borgia on Twitter, thumb-tapping away on his iPhone between papal meetings: “College of Cardinals has no idea what just hit them” at his @IamPope handle!

Sarah: That’s fabulous! And I can imagine Lucrezia posting photos of her kids on Facebook, and really wishing those selfies she took at Borgia orgies weren’t still doing the rounds elsewhere on the net . . .

Me: What an image. “Me at the Banquet of Chestnuts – lolz!”

To read the rest, click here!

And remember - I'm down at The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore tomorrow evening, talking Borgia rumors and more fun stuff. Come join me for champagne and chocolate!

The Serpent and the Pearl: The Cookbook

August 20, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, food challenge, Cupcake Muffin

Pretty much all the reviews for "Serpent and Pearl" agree on one thing: this book will make you hungry. I aim to make you hungrier, and I'm enlisting a slew of food bloggers to help me. Sara over at Cupcake Muffin is first on board to make a recipe straight from the book: a spit-roasted capon with lime which my chef heroine recommends for the papal conclave. ("The cavities of birds are excellent for passing bribe offers back and forth.")

I cooked this myself, adapting the recipe from a Renaissance-era cookbook before passing it on to Sara, and I assure you it's delicious! Get the recipe here, and enter the giveaway too.

The Crimes and Redemption of the Borgia Pope

August 15, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, romantic times book review

Romantic Times Book Reviews had a doozy of a question for me: name the worst AND the best things about the Borgia papacy. A question I found fascinating, because even after you discard the rumors that aren't strictly provable (incest! poison!) you're still left with a puzzling conundrum: one of the most worldly popes who ever sat the throne of St. Peter's, who scandalized his flock yet still did some very good things for them.

Just imagine the media blowback if our new Pope Francis announced, "Hey, I've got a girlfriend. And she's 18." Well, Pope Alexander VI made no bones about it - here's a (non-poisoned) taste from my guest post at RT Book Reviews:

"Sexually insatiable as a younger man (he hosted famous debauches known as `garden parties'), Rodrigo Borgia didn't slow down once he became Pope. He openly kept a mistress 40 years his junior, who was nicknamed `The Bride of Christ.'

To read the rest, click here!

Inside The Writers' Study . . .

August 14, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, donna russo morin

A fun Q&A this time around, and with one of my dear friends Donna Russo Morin. Not only does Donna have more fabulous leopard-print stilettos than Angelina Jolie, but she writes fun and fast-paced Renaissance romps - she was number 1 on the list as a reader when I went to the Renaissance to write, too!

And she's got fun questions here, taken from the famous "Inside the Actors' Studio" series. Purpose? "To expose aspects of a personality with short but intrinsically revealing questions." (You can find all kinds of actors doing this on YouTube--Daniel Radcliffe's answers are a hoot!) Not sure I'm as funny as Harry Potter, but here's a taste with the first two questions . . .

"What is your favorite word?"
Can I have two? “Check enclosed,” to borrow a bon mot from Dorothy Parker.

"What is your least favorite word?"
`Mew.' I read a book where a character mewed with passion, and it scarred me for life.

For more, click here!

Older Men, Younger Women: The Historical Dilemma

August 13, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, passages to the past

I'm guest blogging over at one of my favorite book blogs today - Passages to the Past. And the topic? The dilemma of how to write around age differences in historical fiction, or rather, how my teenage crush on Sean Connery helped me understand how a teenage Giulia Farnese could hop into bed with the 40 years older Rodrigo Borgia:

"For idle fantasy, men have it all over boys. When Sean Connery from “First Knight” picks you up for the evening, you know he won't show up driving his mother's mini-van littered with fast-food wrappers. When Colin Firth from “Pride and Prejudice” invites you out to eat, you know he doesn't mean a 99 cent Frosty and a small fries at Wendy's. If Liam Neeson from from “Rob Roy” gives you a present, it wouldn't be a mixed-tape of grunge bands you've never heard of. There's no awkward pauses in the conversation because Jeremy Irons from “The Man in the Iron Mask” knows how to carry on intelligent discussions and not just stare at your chest, and there's no fumbling on the doorstep because Sean Bean from the Richard Sharpe series most assuredly knows how to kiss you goodnight without getting saliva on your chin."

To read the rest, click here - and don't forget to enter the giveaway!


Would The Borgia Family Be On Facebook Or Twitter?

August 8, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, the reading frenzy

I'm chatting with Debbie over at The Reading Frenzy today, and she had some great questions! Including my favorite: "If the Borgias could use social media, would they prefer Facebook or Twitter." My answer:

"Lucrezia Borgia is just a teenage girl during “The Serpent and the Pearl,” so she'd be a Facebook junkie: `OMG, just saw portrait of Prince of Aragon; he's like Henry Cavill gorge!!! Fingers crossed this betrothal goes through!!!` And my heroine Giulia Farnese, papal mistress and the most fashionable woman of the Renaissance, would be a Pintarest girl: `Here's the hairstyle I wore to Mass last Sunday; you need six strands of pearls and five feet of hair.' 300,000 women have repinned this!”

To read the rest, click here. And don't forget - I'm showing up at the Writerspace Reader's Chat Room at 9pm ET tonight for the Berkley Jove Author Chat, so drop by to say hi or ask a question if you feel so inclined!

Wife, Nun, or Whore: The Three Fates

August 7, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, queen anne boleyn

I'm joining the Berkley Jove author chat tomorrow night! Drop by the Writerspace Reader's Chat Room at 9pm ET if you've got a question for me, or would just like to say hello.

I'm also over on the Queen Anne Boleyn site today, talking about the three fates for Renaissance women: wife, nun, and whore. How much do you know about how each variety of woman led her life? A snippet . . .

"Women born to the respectable but not ruling classes, like my heroine Giulia Farnese, simply didn’t go anywhere. Unmarried girls were kept firmly sequestered in the house to guard their virtue; the only place they might go to see and be seen was church. Even after marriage, Renaissance matrons were expected to keep to their own households, their lives a round of domestic duties, the occasional family party, and of course, more church. And that’s if you were lucky enough to get married in the first place—if you weren’t, your life was nothing but church."

To read the rest, click here!




The Blog Tour Begins!

August 5, 2013

Tags: blog tour, the serpent and the pearl, flicks and food

Night gathers, and so my blog tour begins. It shall not end until my death.

Okay, maybe it only FEELS that way when you're trying to make sure you're prepared. :D

Publication day for my new book "The Serpent and the Pearl" isn't until tomorrow, but my blog tour has already begun. I'm very excited to be visiting some new blogs as well as returning to some favorites. I'll be updating here, so check in if you want to follow me around the blogosphere.

Today I'm over on Flicks and Food today, talking about Renaissance food, my fiery heroine who would totally win Top Chef if she wasn't six hundred years too early, and the aphrodisiac menu she creates which gets a certain Borgia bad boy's heart racing.

To read, click here!

Meet The Heroine II: Trying To Interview A Busy Chef

August 3, 2013

Tags: character q&a, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

My secondary heroine from “The Serpent and the Pearl” proved to be a bit hard to track down . . . in fact, I had to run her to earth in her kitchens, where she's up to her elbows in a bowl of flour.

Her: Look, I don't know about this interview business. I have a dinner for twenty to get on the table.

Me: Just a few lines for the readers? Your name, what it is that you do—

Her: My name is Carmelina Mangano, and I'm the best cook in Rome.

Me: You are?

Carmelina: Yes. They say a woman can't be maestro di cucina, not professionally, but I was hired to cook for the household of Giulia Farnese, the Pope's mistress. I've fed the Pope Himself, and half the illustrious people of Rome—I've carved my own place in the world with nothing more than the skill in my hands, and I'm proud of it. Hand me that bowl, will you?

Me: What are you making?

Carmelina: Elderflower fritters. Giulia Farnese eats them by the basketful; she's a cook's dream to feed. Loves food, eats everything, pays on time.

Me: Any bad parts about working for the Borgias?

Carmelina: That little bodyguard Cesare Borgia hired for Madonna Giulia. Leonello. He's a devil.

Me: Because he's a dwarf?

Carmelina: No, because he's dangerous. And because he asks too many questions.

Me: Questions about what?

Carmelina (glowers): Hand me the butter, will you? These fritters need to go into the frying pan.

Me: Of course. Now, I have to ask—maybe it's one of those things you don't want to talk about, but what is that horrible shriveled up thing on the spice rack?

Carmelina: It's a holy relic—the hand of my patron saint, the most blessed Santa Marta.

Me: You keep a mummified hand in your kitchen?

Carmelina: Of course. Santa Marta is the patron saint of all cooks. She prepared a meal for Our Lord while Mary and all the apostles were busy sitting at the feet of Christ.

Me: And for that she got made the patron saint of cooks?

Carmelina: Why not? Maybe Our Lord was happy to get a home-cooked meal for once, rather than everybody just looking at Him to provide all the food by transforming loaves and fishes. Besides, somebody had to get dinner going while everybody else sat around worshipping at His feet. I'll bet not one of those apostles helped Santa Marta with the dishes, either.

Me: You know, I think you're probably right.

Carmelina: Of course I'm right, I'm the best cook in Rome. Now, not to throw you out of my kitchen, but I've got to pay attention while these fritters fry. And if I burn them up because I'm answering questions, I'll fry up your gizzard in white wine and coriander, and serve that to Madonna Giulia instead.

Me: I'm going, I'm going!


Meet The Hero: A Dangerous Dwarf Gets Interviewed

August 2, 2013

Tags: character q&a, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

My “Serpent and the Pearl” hero is a reclusive sort, but I dragged him to my blog today for an interview. :D


Me: Why don't you introduce yourself for the readers?

Him: My name is Leonello. (Props his boots up on my desk unasked)

Me: Leonello what?

Leonello: I'm distinctive enough that I don't need a last name.

Me: You are distinctive, I must say. Dark hair, hazel eyes, about thirty years old, a sarcastic expression—

Leonello: Are we going to ignore the elephant in the room? I'm a dwarf.

Me: True, you are. How has your stature affected your life?

Leonello: I've managed so far not to get stomped to death by drunks, or have to take a job as a jester for layabout Renaissance lords. I count myself a success.

Me: What is it you do for a living?

Leonello: I used to be a card-sharp. Sit down at a game of primiera with me, and I will be very happy to relieve you of your money. But I don't have to play cards for a living anymore.

Me: What is it you do now?

Leonello: The Pope's son Cesare Borgia hired me. I'm to be a bodyguard for his father's mistress.

Me: Aren't you—wait, the Pope has a mistress?

Leonello: Why, doesn't your current pope have one?

Me: Definitely not. Um, aren't you a little atypical, as a choice for a bodyguard?

Leonello: Because I'm short? You can go ahead and say it.

Me: Ok, because you're short.

Leonello: I may be short, but I'm dangerous. I throw knives.

Me: How well can you throw knives?

Leonello: I could put a blade through each of your eyes at ten paces, before you could blink your lids shut.

Me: Don't demonstrate, please.

Leonello: Wouldn't dream of it. I love being underestimated. Everybody underestimates a dwarf.

Me: I think Tyrion Lannister said something very similar on “Game of Thrones.”

Leonello: Now you're being lazy. Just because we're both dwarves doesn't mean I have anything else in common with Tyrion Lannister.

Me: What's the principal difference between the two of you, then?

Leonello: He wants to be liked, and he tries to make people laugh. That's fine; it works for him. I don't care if I'm liked, and I'm nobody's jester, and that works for me.

Me: Are you always this sarcastic?

Leonello: You know I am. You invented me.

Me: Yes, but you're not allowed to be sarcastic to me. I created you; you're supposed to be nice to me.

Leonello: Dio. Am I done now?

Meet The Heroine: Giulia Farnese Gets Interviewed

August 1, 2013

Tags: character q&a, the serpent and the pearl, blog tour

“The Serpent and the Pearl: a novel of the Borgias” releases in just five days! (I'd bite my fingernails, but I don't have any left.) I've been lucky enough to get some wonderful early reviews—the Historical Novel Society reviewers had this to say about my narrators: “Three compelling characters weave a tangled trajectory through the life and politics of 15th-century Rome. Carmelina’s sharp tongue, Leonello’s caustic wit, and Giulia’s unconditional good humor in the face of danger play off each other beautifully to create another riveting novel from Kate Quinn.”

Want to meet these three very-compelling but very-different folks? Over the next few days I'll be interviewing each of my characters here on my blog as a promo. Today let's welcome Giulia Farnese, who was more than happy to drop by and tell you a little about herself!


Me: Lovely to have you here, Giulia.

Giulia: Thank you for inviting me. Do you have anything to nibble? I've never been interviewed before and it's making me nervous, and I always eat when I'm nervous.

Me: You don't know about chocolate, do you? That's a little after your time. Here, try this.

Giulia: “Reese's Pieces” what's that? Holy Virgin, they taste heavenly. Can I have the recipe for my cook? Her name's Carmelina, and she's an absolute gem.

Me: She's not going to be able to do much if chocolate isn't invented yet. Let's have your full name, for the readers.

Giulia: Right, sorry. I'm Giulia Farnese, but nobody calls me that anymore. I'm either “Giulia La Bella,” which is very nice; or “the Venus of the Vatican,” which is sort of nice; or “The Bride of Christ” which isn't nice at all. I have a sneaking suspicion my bodyguard Leonello came up with that one, since he finds it so side-splittingly funny.

Me: Why do they call you that?

Giulia: Well, Giulia la Bella comes from the fact that I have floor-length hair. I don't really think I'm much prettier than anybody else, but I do have this hair that comes down to the floor, and everybody seems to think it's terribly romantic. I don't know why; it takes forever to wash and even longer to dry, and it's always getting tangled around everything. I don't know about you, but I don't call that very romantic.

Me: What I meant was, readers might like to know why you're called the Bride of Christ.

Giulia: It might be a reference to the Holy Father.

Me: You mean the Pope? The former Cardinal Borgia? Who is he to you?

Giulia: (demurely) He's my mother-in-law's cousin.

Me: So you're married?

Giulia: It's complicated.

Me: How complicated?

Giulia: How long do you have? We'll be here all day before I've even finished telling you how strange the wedding night was.

Me: Just tell me about the Pope then. People say he's paying court to you . . .

Giulia: Do you have any more of those Piece of Reese things?

Me: Reeses Pieces. Now, about the Pope—

Giulia: You know, you have hair the same color as mine. And two feet of hair is much more sensible than five feet. I'll bet yours doesn't choke you when you sleep.

Me: All right, keep your secrets!

Giulia: All will be revealed August 6. Are you sure chocolate hasn't been invented yet in my time?

Me: Sorry. I wrote about you, but I can't change history for you.

Giulia: That's too bad. Do come visit again. And bring more chocolate! I always eat when I'm visiting.

Q&A with the Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner!

June 20, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, pittsburgh examiner

Ten fun questions in a Q&A with Kayla Posney, the Pittsburgh Historical Fiction Examiner. Kayla's got some fun questions like "What 5 historical figures do you invite to dinner?" (Depends if I want a good party or a bloodbath!)

To find out who made my historical guest list, click here! And thanks again to Kayla for interviewing me!

Blog Tour Week 4: Coffee With A Canine (or in my case, a Caesar)

April 27, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, q&a, coffee with a canine

Something sweet and silly for the weekend: the fun blog Coffee with a Canine, where I got invited to talk about my dog. Something I can never resist!

Click here to find out how a mixed-breed rescue pup has become an Outer Mongolian Temple Dog named after a Roman dictator.

Blog Tour Week 4: Writers Read (no, seriously, they do)

April 25, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, writers read, sophie perinot, robert harris, jeffrey eugenides, somerset maugham, michael grant

What do writers read? That's Marshal's question over on "Writers Read," and it's a good 'un. As a historical fiction writer, it's probably no surprise that I read a lot of HF. But I try to dip into other genres too, in the spirit of expanding my horizons, and that's why my current reading list doesn't just have HF on it, but classics, thrillers, and YA dystopias . . .


Click here to find out!


Blog Tour Week 4: Q&A

April 23, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, q&a, heather webb

I met Heather Web at last year's Historical Novel Society Conference - she was such a delightful dinner companion that I couldn't resist her invitation for a Q&A on her blog! And she's got interesting questions too - forget "Where do you get your ideas?" Heather asked me what my favorite vices are that get me through the bad times. My answer?

Click here to find out!




Sex, Lies, and History: A Literary Threesome

April 18, 2012

Tags: book signing, blog tour, stephanie dray, sophie perinot, empress of the seven hills

Coming this Saturday: panel discussion and book signing for three historical fiction authors: Stephanie Dray, Sophie Perinot, and myself. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. Stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a great time!

Here are the details:

Date: Saturday, April 21st
Time: 1-3 p.m.
Location: Barnes & Noble, Spectrum Center, 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190



Hope I see you there!

Blog Tour Week 3: A Chat with C.W. Gortner

April 17, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, historical boys, c.w. gortner

I'm over at C.W. Gortner's blog "Historical Boys" today for another Q&A - only by now, I'm a bit tired of talking about myself! Christopher is a friend of mine, and rather than do the standard interview, he and I ended up in a conversation about everything under the sun: our respective books (his "Queen's Vow" about Isabella of Castile comes out in June), our dream casting if HBO ever offers either of us a mini-series, and what's good, what's bad, and what's controversial about writing historical fiction.

Click here to read our convo!

Blog Tour Week 3: Across the Pond

April 16, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, Q&A, the secret writer

I'm hopping over the water today for my first UK-based blog - a Q&A with Calum at "The Secret Writer." Calum had some great questions, like asking what made me decide to write historical fiction in the first place - but I can't promise my answers are always serious.

"Female characters in historical books get to wear much better clothes than modern heroines. I'd much rather be describing a silk stola or a Renaissance kirtle than some appalling tunic-and-jeggings combination."


Come on over to England to read the rest! And Calum, thanks again for having me.


Blog Tour Week 2: My First Interview! Want to find out what my next book is about?

April 12, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, judith starkston, Q&A

Judith Starkston wrote my first and fabulous blogger review for "Empress of the Seven Hills," and I was delighted when she also invited me over to her blog for a Q&A! She has some great questions, like whether it was harder to find lasting romance in ancient Rome than in the modern day. Plus, there's a sneak preview on what I'm writing about in my next book!

Hint: not ancient Rome.

To find out, click on over to Judith's blog! Judith, thanks so much for having me.






Blog Tour Week 2: Roman Architecture, or "A Big Marble Excuse Note To Take Over Your Country"

April 11, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, muse in the fog

Svea is hosting me over at Muse in the Fog today as her guest blogger - thanks, Svea! Topic of the day is Roman architecture and its political uses:

"Politicians sometimes curried votes by paying a bathhouse's entrance fees for a day: “Come get a free massage and beauty treatment at the Baths of Trajan, and don't forget to vote for Mitt Romney!” Frankly I think this is an idea that needs to be revived; I have no intention of voting for Mitt Romney, but I'd be happy to let him pay for my pedicures."

Plunge into The Fog to read the rest and enter the giveaway for a free copy of "Empress of the Seven Hills!"

Blog Tour Week 2: Maybe I Should Just Give Up And Write YA

April 10, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, historical fiction connection

I'm guest blogging at the Historical Fiction Connection today, and my topic is the eternal dilemma all HF authors face, the one that occasionally has me pondering a career switch to YA dystopia where I wouldn't have to face the following problems:

1.How to make my character likeable even when they have some historically-accurate-but-distasteful opinions from their time period such as “Hey, I think slavery's just fine, want to go out and shop for a masseuse?”
2.How to ramp up the story's suspense for a historical figure when the reader already knows, thanks to Wikipedia, the history books, or the latest Showtime TV sensation, exactly what happened to them.


Head over to the Historical Fiction Connection to read the rest and enter the giveaway.

Blog Tour Week 2: Women In Ancient Rome Had It Better Than You Think

April 9, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, the maiden's court

Happy Easter everybody! Grab a chocolate bunny and come to court with me - that's not traffic court, but The Maiden's Court, another of my favorite book blogs, run by the delightful Heather who I was lucky enough to meet at last year's Historical Novel Society Conference. I'm Heather's guest blogger today - the topic? Perception vs. Reality about what it meant to be a woman in ancient Rome:

"A Roman woman's marriage vows gave her considerable flexibility. If a 19th century woman wanted to escape a bad marriage to a cheating husband, she was out of luck unless she could prove her husband had not only cheated on her but compounded his offense by beating her, abandoning her, or going insane. All a 1st century Roman wife had to do to get rid of the jerk she married was move out of his house."

Come on over to the Maiden's Court to read the rest and enter the giveaway. And thanks for having me to court, Heather!

Blog Tour Day 4: A Day In The Life Of A Writer, And Boy Does Hollywood Get It Wrong

April 6, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, peeking between the pages

TGIF, everybody, and for weekend reading, here's my last guest post of the week. I'm over at Darlene's wonderful blog Peeking Between the Pages today, talking about what a typical day in the life of a writer looks like, and why it's not as glamorous as Hollywood thinks:

"If there’s any TV show I get a kick out of, it’s `Castle' starring Nathan Fillion. He plays a bestselling crime novelist, and frankly, Hollywood’s idea of a writer’s daily schedule cracks me up every time. Nathan Fillion spends all his time running around solving crimes, attending red-carpet premieres of the movies made from his books, and playing poker with James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, and all his other New York Times bestseller buddies. Very rarely is he ever seen writing – just staring pensively at his laptop screen right before the murderer bursts in with a gun."

Come on over to Peeking Between the Pages to read the rest - and yes, there's a giveaway.

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Darlene!

Blog Tour Day 3: HFAA (Historical Fiction Addicts, Anonymous)

April 5, 2012

Tags: blog tour, empress of the seven hills, tanzanite's castle

Day 3 of my blog tour - it's been great to talk to so many readers online. Today I'm over at "Tanzanite's Castle," with a guest post on the books and movies that first got me hooked on that drug known as historical fiction. Number 4 - the movie "Last of the Mohicans."

"Something about the combination of sweeping scenery, haunting music, violent battles between European soldiers and Indian tribes, and passionate love story between an Indian warrior and a courageous English miss just stabbed me through the gut. Still does."

Fellow HF addicts, come on over to Daphne's castle (thanks for having me, Daphne!) to read the rest and share your gateway drug - you might win a free copy of "Empress of the Seven Hills" in the giveaway!


Blog Tour Day 2: Sexuality in Rome, and How It Would Give Mitt Romney A Heart Attack

April 4, 2012

Tags: blog tour, passages to the past, empress of the seven hills

Day 2 of my blog tour, and today I head over to Passages of the Past - one of my favorite book blogs, and Amy has been kind enough to let me be her guest blogger. My topic: sexuality in ancient Rome, and why the GOP would fall over in a dead faint. A sneak peek . . .

"With all the heated debate going on right now about gay marriage, there's been a great deal of revisionist history. Pundits and politicians cry out for a return to the ways of the past, when men only slept with women and marriage was sacred and inviolable. This might have held true for some eras of the past, but certainly not all . . . I can tell you now that if Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney were suddenly transported back to A.D. 102, as undivorced heterosexual men they would find themselves in the distinct minority. "

Click here to read more! Amy is also hosting a giveaway; two copies of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK) to be given out!

Publication Day!

April 3, 2012

Tags: blog tour, luxury reading, empress of the seven hills

My third book Empress of the Seven Hills is finally out! You'd think this whole process would get easier, but nope: I'm still gnawing my nails and pacing. Fortunately I have learned a few things since Mistress of Rome was first published and I nearly drove myself crazy sitting around waiting for that first review to pop up. I now know enough to keep myself away from my Amazon sales ranking (ok, almost), have another book on hand to read for distraction (thank you, Elizabeth Loupas, for publishing "The Flower Reader" today), and most important of all - drink lots of champagne with a husband and some dear friends who are under firm instruction to keep me away from my computer should my willpower falter.

It's also the kickoff of my blog tour, and the lovely Vera has been kind enough to have me over to her blog "Luxury Reading" for a guest post. A sneak preview:

“Funny,” my husband commented when he read through my first draft. “Your hero Vix is a lot like me.”

Me: “No, he’s not!”

Husband: (raising an eyebrow) “So it’s a complete coincidence that both your husband and your fictional hero are left-handed and quick with a sword, have freckles and a short temper, snore like a chain-saw, can’t sit still without one foot jittering, get easily irritated with idiots, turn to putty when one particular muscle under the left shoulder blade is massaged, are in the military, and have a habit of pissing off superior officers?”


Click here to read more! Vera is also hosting a giveaway, so be sure to enter to win a free copy of Empress of the Seven Hills (titled Empress of Rome in the UK).

Book Signing and Blog Tour!

March 28, 2012

Tags: book signing, blog tour, stephanie dray, sophie perinot, empress of the seven hills

Under a week till publication day for “Empress of the Seven Hills.” Who's nervous? Well, me. This might be my third go-round, but somehow this never gets any less nerve-racking.

Fortunately, I've got company for my first in-person event this time. Mark your calendars – a historical fiction triple threat is set to hit the Washington DC metro area on April 21st!

Book Signing and Discussion

The marvelous Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot will be joining me for an appearance at Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA. God knows what we'll end up talking about, but the three of us know how to have fun. If you're a fan of Stephanie's whip-smart series on Cleopatra's daughter Selene (“Lily of the Nile” and “Song of the Nile”) or Sophie's cracking debut novel on the medieval version of the Middleton sisters (“The Sister Queens”), stop by to get a book signed, ask a question, or just say hi. I promise you it will be a wild time!

Barnes & Noble
1851 Fountain Drive
Reston, Virginia
April 21st, 1-3pm


As soon as pub day hits I'll also be hopping aboard a two-week whirlwind of a blog tour, guest blogging on everything from sexual mores in ancient Rome to the various books and movies that first turned me into a historical fiction junkie. If you'd like to follow me around the web for a few laughs and a chance at a free book (giveaways galore!) then see below.

April 3rd – Luxury Reading blog
http://luxuryreading.com/
Topic of the day: What really happens when you end up putting your husband in a book by accident?

April 4th – Passages to the Past
http://www.passagestothepast.com/
Topic of the day: Why Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would have a heart attack if they ended up in ancient Rome.

April 5th – Tanzanite's Castle
http://shelfandstuff.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: The books that got me hooked on historical fiction; what are yours?

April 6th – Peeking Between the Pages
http://www.peekingbetweenthepages.com/
Topic of the day: A typical day in a writer's life, and it's NOTHING like “Castle”

April 9th – The Maiden's Court
http://themaidenscourt.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: How women in ancient Rome managed to get what they wanted despite all the laws against it.

April 10th – Historical Fiction Connection
http://www.hf-connection.com/
Topic of the day: How to make historical characters a) interesting, when your readers can jump on Wikipedia to find out what happens to them, and b) sympathetic, when they have a documented historical taste for bear-baiting and slavery.

April 11th – Muse in the Fog
http://muse-in-the-fog.blogspot.com/
Topic of the day: still undecided. Hey, I'm a bit behind on my blog posts!

April 12th – Judith Starkston Book Blog
http://www.judithstarkston.com/
Q&A: Sample question: which of my characters would I choose to be, if I had a chance?”

April 13th – Historical Boys
http://historicalboys.blogspot.com/
Q&A: C.W. Gortner and I chat about everything from dream movie adaptations to the eternal dilemma of historical fiction novelists.

April 16th – The Secret Writer Blog
http://www.thesecretwriterblog.blogspot.com/
Q&A: Find out why I have a fridge door full of Post-It notes with jottings like “Headless Romans in York?”

April 21st – Enchanted by Josephine
http://enchantedbyjosephine.blogspot.com/
Q&A: Who knows what she'll ask, but Lucy always has great questions!


A huge thank you to all the book bloggers, reviewers, and readers who have invited me onto their blogs! I can't wait to get started. Who's nervous?

Well, still me.

Thank God, Not Another "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"

July 7, 2011

Tags: blog tour, fantasy book review

I'm at "Fantasy Book Review" today, doing a Q&A with Snjezana who (thank God) has some wonderfully original questions. There's only so many answers to give to "Where did you get your ideas?" so it's lovely that Snjezana had a different take.

Click here to read!

Do We All Have the Time Machine Fantasy?

June 16, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, all things historical fiction

Tomorrow I'm off for a weekend at the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego, where I'm looking forward to discussions on topics like "Keeping A Series Fresh" and "Historical Fiction and the Fantastic." Great fun; the the hard part is going to be keeping my jaw off the floor when I walk past big names like Diana Gabaldon and Margaret George. Please, please, don't let me drool too much. :D I'm attending the HNS conference strictly as a starstruck guest, but I did get pulled into the big book signing, so if you happen to be attending the conference, look for me between 5-6pm on Saturday June 18th.

First, however, I am guest blogging over at Taylor's blog "All Things Historical Fiction." Today's topic is - if you had a time machine, what would be your top five historical eras to visit? Number Four on my list:

"Gilded Age New York. I'd like to be one of those American heiresses I was always sighing over in Edith Wharton novels, heading off to Europe in an ocean liner with ninety new dresses by Worth, intent on bagging myself an English lord. If I can marry a duke like Nan St. George did in The Buccaneers, I may just take a look around my Cornish castle and my coronetted stationery marked “Katharine, Duchess of Tintagel,” and decide not to come home."

For the rest, read here!


Birth Control, Roman Food, and the Red Sox

June 6, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, mistress of rome, empress of the seven hills

Guest blogging again today! And this time I've got a Q&A with Stephanie Thornton over on her blog, where the motto is "Well behaved women rarely make history." Today's questions cover ancient-era birth control, the Red Sox, and some really disgusting Roman food. A snippet:

"Rabid fans, beer in the stands, `We’re #1!' chants and those guys who show up at the stadium in team-color face paint – ancient Rome is probably to blame for the modern sports team. Only in Roman sports, people died a lot more frequently. A tradition I could completely support as long as it only applies to the New York Yankees . . ."

To read the rest, click here!

5 Life Lessons from Historical Romance

May 24, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, romcon

I'm doing the guest blogger thing again today, and this time it's on RomCon - "Where Romance Rules." Today's topic of discussion: 5 lessons to be learned from historical romance novels, and how my heroines in "Daughters of Rome" use these rules to negotiate life:

Life Lesson #2: To facilitate your love life, acquire at least one unsympathetic relative. You’ll need someone who can be counted on to throw up roadblocks in your romantic road to bliss. Unsympathetic fathers are a classic; grasping uncles also good; meddling aunts or cousins who are after your inheritance can also work in a pinch.

For more, click here!

Blog Tour: Marriage and Divorce, Roman Style

April 22, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, enchanted by josephine

For the last day of my blog tour, I'm over at "Enchanted By Josephine" with a post on Roman style marriage and divorce - rather different than we do it nowadays . . .

"Roman wedding vows were simple; a recitation that began `Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia.' Much better than these dreadful personalized vows that start with “You are the rock in my stormy sea” and only get worse. The priest follows up with a sacrifice for good luck, a sow or maybe a goose. I'm not really in favor of dead animals, but at least it wouldn't put me to sleep the way the inevitable reading from Corinthians does. And after the wedding banquet, the bride gets to light the fire in her new home for the first time – and toss the wedding torch to the unmarried girls in the crowd; the one who catches it will be the next bride. If you're the bride and you want to really nail that one slacker bridesmaid, I'm betting you could do a lot more damage throwing a torch at her than a bouquet."

For the rest, click here.

And a big thank you to everybody who followed me around on my blog tour - and to all the bloggers nice enough to have me!

Blog Tour: Over The Edge

April 20, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, over the edge book reviews

I'm at "Over the Edge Book Reviews" today, doing a Q&A with Christine who (thank God) has some wonderfully original questions. There's only so many answers to give to "Where did you get your ideas?" so it's lovely that Christine wanted to know things like "What's the most interesting thing you ever learned by Googling yourself?" and "What fictional hero would you want to hang out with?" My answer to that last one:

"C.S. Forester's Captain Horatio Hornblower. I first read the Hornblower series at about nine years old, and I had such a crush on the moody swashbuckling Horatio that I was completely ruined for boys my own age. Not one boy in my fourth grade class had sunk a Spanish warship, escaped a French firing squad in a rowboat, or battled four enemy two-deckers to a standstill – I was so disappointed."

For the rest of the Q&A, click here. And thanks for having me, Christine!

Blog Tour: Let's Go Brit

April 19, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, british weekly

Giving the guest blogger thing a rest today as I head over to British Weekly. I've got a Q&A there, covering everything from why "Daughters of Rome" is unlikely ever to become a movie, to what the hell my shorthand notes mean:

"My shorthand makes perfect sense to me, but anyone from the outside would assume I went completely nuts, like Russell Crowe finding imaginary codes in the newspaper in `A Beautiful Mind.' Fortunately my husband was very good about it all, merely inquiring mildly from time to time why there was a Post-It with ‘Google headless Romans York’ on our fridge.”

Click here to read more!

Blog Tour: Sex and the City (of Rome)

April 18, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, sex and the city, historical fiction connection

I admit it - I love "Sex and the City." I treated myself to a marathon after turning in Daughters of Rome, and I started to see certain similarities between the TV show about four girls from New York, and my book about four girls from Rome. So when "Historical Fiction Connection" invited me over today to guest blog, I decided to make a category by category comparison . . .

The Romantic Escapades

"Carrie and the girls managed, over many seasons and two movies, to rack up four marriages, one divorce, three children, and countless lovers. I'm sorry, but my heroine and her posse have them beat with eleven marriages, six divorces, eight children, and countless lovers. Those racy Romans . . ."

To read more, click here!



Blog Tour: Don't Mess With the Empress

April 17, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, historical boys, c.w. gortner

Now this is a weekend treat: I got to wake up to a rave review for Daughters of Rome from none other than C.W. Gortner, whose marvelous Confessions of Catherine de'Medici was one of my favorite reads of the year. Chris was also nice enough to have me as a guest on his blog "Historical Boys," and we agreed on a topic that fascinates us both: women in power. A sample . . .

"No matter what kind of power she wielded behind the scenes, Augustus's empress Livia was smart enough to present herself publicly as a simple Roman matron; Augustus was constantly bragging that his wife wasn't too proud to weave his tunics with her own hands, Empress or no. (I always picture Livia getting up from her desk full of official dispatches when she heard guests coming, weaving exactly two bands of cloth until they went away again, and then going right back to work while the servants finish the weaving.)"

For more - and for Chris's fabulous review - click here!

Blog Tour: Did they have "Vogue" in ancient Rome?

April 15, 2011

Tags: daughters of rome, blog tour, the maiden's court

A brand new blog for me today: I'm over at "The Maiden's Court" where Heather asked me all about Roman fashion. I say, let's bring it back:

"The Roman ideal of female beauty is something I wouldn't mind seeing brought back on modern magazine covers. Thin, tan, and toned? You'd be told to eat some more stuffed dormice, stay out of the sun, and for Jupiter's sake get rid of those leg muscles before people mistake you for a slave girl. Soft, tan-free, and voluptuous was the ideal Roman look – and speaking as a girl who's always looked more Joan from 'Mad Men' than Blair from 'Gossip Girl,' the Roman way is a look I can get behind."

For more, click here. And thanks to Heather for having me.

A Two For One Special

April 13, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, historically obsessed, tanzanite's castle full of books

A two-for-one special today as I pop up on two different blogs: Daphne's "Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books" and Lizzy's "Historically Obsessed." For Daphne I've got a post on the four men who starred in the Year of Four Emperors - a cranky old man, a metrosexual party boy, a rabid sports fan, and an EveryDad; read here for more details. And for Lizzy I've got a post - ok, maybe a rant - on the perils of writing historical fiction while on a diet: "Obsessed with Roman food? Scratch that. While writing my historical fiction novel Daughters of Rome, I was obsessed with any food, because I wasn't getting any. I was on a diet while writing the second half of the book, and it was a form of torture I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy." Read here to continue!



Blog Tour Continued

April 12, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, muse in the fog

Hmm, I'm not sure if this is Day 6 of my blog tour, since it's the sixth day I'm a guest for another blogger, or Day 9 since it's been three days since the last blog post. Whatever. You can see why I'm a writer and not a mathmatician.

Anyway, Svea over on "Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog" has been nice enough to give me her blog space today. My guest topic: if I have four heroines in "Daughters of Rome," then which one is the most like me. Answer: all of them. A sample . . .

"Marcella is my second heroine, and she's a lot like me: an antisocial booklover who would rather be writing up in her study than partying any day of the week. Marcella was not a stretch for me to write. And we share something else besides a passion for scribbling – an hourglass figure, which is a great inconvenience to a smart girl. It's hard to be taken seriously as a brain when you're over a C-cup. “Contrary to popular opinion, breasts do not preclude a brain,” Marcella tartly informs a man in "Daughters of Rome" who is surprised to find she has actual ideas. I remember telling a boy in high school the same thing."

For more, click Click here. And thanks to Svea for having me.

Blog Tour: Day 5

April 8, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, luxury reading

Day 5 of my blog tour, and the last one until after the weekend. Today I'm over at "Luxury Reading," with a guest post on that ever-popular question "Where does your inspiration come from?" Plus their standard question - what is your ultimate luxury? My answer -

"My ultimate luxury is the glass of Yellowtail chardonnay I pour for myself after a full day of writing, as I turn on the Red Sox game and sink into a dilapidated chaise so obscenely comfortable I’ve nicknamed it the Sybaritic Chair. A glass of wine after 6,000 words worth of new chapter, as I watch Big Papi swagger up to the plate with the game on the line . . . ahhh."

Click here to read more! They're also posting a giveaway, so be sure to enter for a free copy of Daughters of Rome.

Blog Tour: Day 4

April 7, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, Booking Mama

Day 4 of my blog tour - it's been great to talk to so many readers online. Today I'm over at "Booking Mama," with a guest post on a few of the things I wish I'd known when my first book came out. Tip #3:

"For the love of God, hide all negative reviews from friends and family. My mother nearly gave herself a stroke last year when she read Mistress of Rome's first one-star review; she was still fuming about it days after I'd forgotten the whole thing. As for my husband . . . well, I had one Amazon reviewer who complained that “some friend of the author's wrote snide comments all over my review; how unprofessional; I will never read this author's work again if this is how I am treated!” Listen, don't blame me – you're lucky you got away with a few snarky comments, because my husband was so mad he wanted to punch you in the nose."

Click here to read more! Julie at "Booking Mama" has also been kind enough to post a giveaway, as well as lovely review of Daughters of Rome here. Thanks Julie!

Blog Tour: Day 3

April 6, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome

Day 3 of my blog tour - so far I'm managing to keep everybody and their blogs straight. Today I'm over on Darlene's blog "Peeking Between the Pages" - one of my favorites! Darlene is hosting a giveaway for a free copy of "Daughters of Rome," so be sure to sign up, and has been kind enough to let me be her guest blogger for today. My topic: what happens when a modern 21st century girl takes a time machine back to 1st century Rome? A sneak peek . . .

"Miss 21st Century is pleased to look around her and realize that Roman women clearly don't hit the gym to stay beautiful. The desired look here is less Elena from `The Vampire Diaries' and more Joan from `Mad Men:' voluptuous, white-skinned, and muscle-free. And the men are even better: clean-shaven and short-haired is in for Roman men, so no moody goatee boys or wannabe musician-types who think a soul patch is the height of fashion."

Click here to read more!

Publication Day

April 5, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, passages to the past

My second book Daughters of Rome is finally out! Since this is my second trip around the block, I know a few more things now than I did last year, when I spent Mistress of Rome's pub date anxiously refreshing my Amazon page to catch that first review. This year I know enough to keep myself away from the computer (ok, almost), have another book on hand to read for distraction(thank you, Michael Grant, for publishing the fourth book in the "Gone" series today), and most important of all - drink lots of champagne.

It's also Day 2 of my blog tour, and the lovely Amy has been kind enough to have me over to her blog "Passages To The Past" for a guest interview. A sneak preview:

"The Year of Four Emperors - it’s an instantly fascinating combination of words to any bored history student looking desperately for passion and bloodshed between all the dry lists of dates and treaties."

Click here to read more! Amy is also hosting a giveaway, so be sure to enter to win a free copy of Daughters of Rome.

Blog Tour: Day 1

April 4, 2011

Tags: blog tour, daughters of rome, marjolein book blog


Publication day for my new book "Daughters of Rome" isn't until tomorrow, but my blog tour has already begun! I'm very excited to be visiting some new blogs as well as returning to some favorites, either as a guest blogger or for an author interview. I'll be updating daily here, so check in if you want to follow me around the blogosphere.

I'm starting off my blog tour with the lovely Marjolein Book Blog. Marjolein has a great review of "Daughters of Rome," and invited me to be a guest blogger as well. My topic: Young Adult Historical Fiction. A teaser . . .

"One of the first things that drew me to historical fiction was my envious realization that kids and teenagers in other eras actually got to do stuff. I might be stuck in middle school, bored senseless by my algebra homework, the biggest crisis of my day being how to cover up a zit. But in a historical fiction novel, I was old enough for anything!"

To read more, click over to Marjolein's book blog here!