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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

The Next Project: Something Secret, Different, and Fabulous!

June 6, 2014

Tags: a day of fire, pompeii, stephanie dray, ben kane, eliza knight, sophie perinot, vicky alvear shecter

Some of you may have heard me hint over the past few months about a fabulous secret project coming up after "Lady of the Eternal City." Secret no longer--here are the deets.

It's a collaboration between six authors of historical fiction. All about the fall of Pompeii.

Everything began on my last release day, when Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot dropped by in their standard Release Day effort to keep me distracted from my Amazon Sales Ranking by any means up to and including handcuffs. At some point over the champagne, somebody mused "We should write a book TOGETHER. Not just a collection of stories; a book-in-three parts. Romance authors do it all the time, why not historical fiction authors?"

Six months and eight billion emails later, we had a subject - the last days of Pompeii - and a lineup of contributing authors. Six authors, not three; representing all shades and flavors of historical fiction from guts-and-glory star Ben Kane to historical YA phenom Vicky Alvear Shecter; historical family drama expert Sophie Perinot and historical fantasy maven Stephanie Dray and romance-bestseller-turned-historical novelist Eliza Knight.

At the end of 2014, we will be excited to bring you A Day of Fire: Stories of Pompeii.

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 escaped the mountain's wrath, some died as heroes . . . and these are their stories.

A boy who loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets.
An heiress dreading her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary staking his future on a gladiator bout destined to be fatally interrupted.
A crippled senator whose only chance of escape lies with a beautiful tomboy on horseback.
A young mother faced with an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore looking for redemption and resurrection as the town is buried.

A novel in six parts, overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross paths during Pompeii's fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?


My Writing Process

March 24, 2014

Tags: stephanie dray, christy english, sophie perinot, writing process

If there's any TV show I get a kick out of, it's “Castle.” Nathan Fillion plays a bestselling novelist, and to watch him you'd think a writer's life is all red-carpet events, research trips to exotic and dangerous places, and the occasional hour or two of staring pensively at a spiral-bound notebook. No writer I know has ever worked that way—just take a look through this cyclical blog tour “My Writing Process.” Christy English tagged Stephanie Dray with the four questions below, and Stephanie in turn tagged me—and among all our answers, you won't find a single a red-carpet event or a spiral-bound notebook!


1) What am I working on?
I'm working on the long-awaited sequel to “Empress of the Seven Hills,” which is titled “Lady of the Eternal City” and will be released March 2015. This has been the book from hell, but it's also been hugely rewarding. I'm revisiting my rough-edged Roman legionary Vix, who is caught in a tangled triangle with Hadrian, the brilliant and sinister Emperor of Rome, and Hadrian's elegant wife Sabina who is both the love and the bane of Vix's life. Throw in poison, plotting, rebellion, a trip down the Nile and the building of Hadrian's wall, and you have yourself a wild ride!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My books will make you laugh. A lot of historical fiction has gotten very serious lately—all these moody princesses and grim battlefield epics! And I love books like that, but history can be zany, absurd, and wonderfully whacky as well as deadly serious. And I like showing my readers the fun side.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Search me—I'm not sure we can ever figure out exactly why we are fascinated by the things that grip us body and soul. For me, it's always been the past. Maybe because of my mother's degree in ancient and medieval history, which had me watching “I, Claudius” instead of Disney cartoons, and listening agog to bedtime stories of Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon rather than the Billy Goats Gruff crossing the troll bridge. But historical fiction is always where I gravitated.

4) How does your writing process work?
The two key ingredients for me are black coffee and a black dog. The coffee keeps me alert through the seven hours or so I'm sitting at my laptop (I work longer hours at this than I ever did at an office cubicle). And the little black dog at my side gets me off the laptop, insisting not so gently that I take him for his morning stroll—and that's where I do some of my best thinking. It's good for a writer to unplug, get away from the Facebook updates and the editor emails and online researching. And somehow, my mind always manages to wander usefully while my feet are moving—I can come back from an hour of romping with the dog in the snow, and I'll have solved that plotting problem that was giving me headaches an hour ago.

My friend Sophie Perinot has agreed to answer the same questions for me—I love hearing how other writers work (and I'm betting no red-carpet events or spiral-bound notebooks for her, either!) Check back here next Monday March 31st, and I'll link to her site so you can see what her answers are.

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!

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!


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!

Tag! You're It!

April 13, 2012

Tags: author tag, empress of the seven hills, sophie perinot

I've been tagged by my friend and fellow author Sophie Perinot ("The Sister Queens") for something she calls Author Tag. I'm always keen for weekend fun, so let's see if I can figure this out:

1. Go to the 77th page of my latest book.

2. Count down 7 lines.

3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow, and post them as a teaser.

4. Tag 7 other authors.


Okay, page 77 of "Empress of the Seven Hills" . . . counting down . . . aha. A scene where a Roman senator and his wife (some of you who read "Mistress of Rome" might remember Marcus and Calpurnia!) are preparing to have Emperor Trajan to the house for dinner, and are watched with considerable amusement by bodyguard Vix:

***

"I don't see what all this fuss is," Senator Norbanus said mildly, looking up from his scrolls at his madly rushing wife. "Emperor Trajan is a soldier; he's easy to entertain - put a slab of meat on his plate and enough beer in his mug, and he's happy."

"But Empress Plotina notices everything," Lady Calpurnia groaned, "and I won't have her wrinkling her long nose at my housekeeping." Very heavy under her swollen belly now, Calpurnia went lumbering about the house trailing lists and menus and worried slaves - even the daughter of the house was pressed into service, and I saw Sabina down in the kitchens with her hair tied up in a rag and a smudge of flour on her chin, wrestling gamely with a lump of bread dough. "Show me," she said, watching the cook's expert hands pummeling and punching. "How interesting."

I hid a grin because she'd said the same thing to me last week, in exactly the same tone of voice, when I showed her something under the blankets (never mind what).

***

Now, let's see who else I can tag on Facebook . . . Happy Friday 13th; you're it!

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.

The Inevitable Top Ten List, 2012 Edition

February 1, 2012

Tags: top ten list, madame tussaud, michelle moran, queen without a crown, fiona buckley, the painted veil, somerset maugham, the queen's vow, c.w. gortner, fear, michael grant, the edwardians, vita sackville-west, the iliad, homer, the golden lily, richelle mead, the sister queens, sophie perinot, four sisters all queens, sherry jones

It's February 1st, so here you go: the other half of that mandated pair of yearly blog posts that starts with 10 Best Books I Read Last Year, and ends with 10 Hotly Anticipated Reads of This Year. It's going to be a good year for reading! Here, in no particular order, are the ten books that top my list for 2012, some of which have been around for a long time, others of which will be released at some point over the next eleven months.

1.“Madame Tussaud” by Michelle Moran.
This one came out last year, and I heard such great things about it that I didn't dare pick it up. I've got deadlines to meet, and the last thing I needed was a spicy, decadent read about the French Revolution including a heroine who passes her day making wax death masks. But I can't wait to plunge into Michelle's new French world, having spent so much time in her versions of ancient Egypt and Rome.

2.“Queen Without A Crown” by Fiona Buckley
Finally, a new Ursula Blanchard mystery! I've read and enjoyed all of Buckley's novels about the resourceful Ursula, lady-in-waiting and sometime spy for Elizabeth I. What sets this series of mysteries apart is the authenticity of the opinions expressed by the 16th century characters. Ursula is no striding 21st century miss, but a real woman of her time who struggles to balance her duties to Queen, country, husband, daughter, conscience, and God. “Queen Without A Crown” will apparently throw Ursula into the thick of yet another Mary Stuart plot against the Queen – here's hoping she takes some time off from intrigue and finally, finally gives in to all this passion she's been repressing, for at least four books, for her sweet and steady manservant.

3.“The Painted Veil” by Somerset Maugham
“Moon and Sixpence” and “The Razor's Edge” are two of my favorite reads ever, so how is it I have not read “The Painted Veil” yet? I have no idea, but I'm determined to follow Maugham's idealistic hero and his frivolous erring wife on their journey to China this year, come what may.

4.“The Queen's Vow” by C.W. Gortner
There aren't too many books I would agree to give a blurb too before I had even read them. But if C.W. Gortner told me his next book was titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” I'd know two things: a) it would involve queens, intrigue, sex, betrayal, and the machinations of power, and b) I would not be able to put it down. His forthcoming tome on Isabella of Castile, I predict with confidence, will be no different.

5.“Fear” by Michael Grant
Here's one YA dystopia series that is a lot of fun: think X-Men crossed with Stephen King's “Under the Dome.” But Grant's teenage heroes and anti-heroes, increasingly isolated in their bubble away from adults, are forced to grapple with weighty adult issues like self-government, war, cannibalism, racism, starvation, and religious mania as well as the more usual YA themes of romance and growing pains. The result is addictive story-telling, and thank the gods, the next installment is coming out the same day as my third book. Instead of obsessively checking and re-checking my Amazon rankings, I'll be head-down in the FAYZ with Michael Grant & Co.

6.“The Edwardians” by Vita Sackville-West
I'm in serious “Downton Abbey” withdrawal, and my Anglophile mother assures me that “The Edwardians” will be just the ticket: a big multi-generational English family drama that obviously served as the model for all these “Upstairs, Downstairs” spinoffs. High tea, huge hats, saucy parlormaids and crusty dowagers – I'm there.

7.“The Iliad” by Homer
Yet another classic I haven't for some unfathomable reason gotten around to reading yet. I can quote the entire plot of the Iliad and even some direct passages, but I've yet to plow through the whole thing start to finish. Hector, tamer of horses, here I come.

8.“The Golden Lily” by Richelle Mead
My guilty pleasure read. I'm not really a fan of YA vampire fiction, but I gobble up Mead's work. Maybe it's the humor, maybe it's the politics, maybe it's her intelligent and fiery heroines who buck the trend by not being Mary Sues. But I can't wait for this one.

9.and 10. “The Sister Queens” by Sophie Perinot, and “Four Sisters, All Queens” by Sherry Jones
I'm listing these two together, not only because I know the authors, but because their books about the same historical figures are being released just a few months apart. The four daughters of the Count of Provence were all beauties who managed to bag kings for husbands: Sophie's “Sister Queens” focuses on the sibling rivalry and friendship between the eldest two, respectively queens of France and England, and Sherry's “Four Sisters, All Queens” brings in the younger two as well with their kingdoms of Germany and Sicily. I can't wait to see the two contrasting takes on a very interesting family. Not to mention sister drama that isn't about the Boleyn family.

So there's my reading list for 2012, or at least the start of it. What are you looking forward to reading this year?