empress of the seven hills

A Gift For My Readers

I have been hugely touched by the good wishes, the prayers, and the wonderful support coming in from readers after my house fire of two weeks ago. It’s been a rollercoaster two weeks, but the Overseas Gladiator and I are fighting our way back to normality: burns healing, belongings recovered, progress made slowly but surely on our half-ruined house. I have the best readers, friends, and fans in the world, and I wish I could give you something back.

Fortunately, I can. Sometimes the fates line up like that.

It’s just a hair under two weeks till Lady of the Eternal City is released, and around this time, I’ll usually release the coming book’s first chapter as a sneak preview. This time I’ve gone one better: not only are you getting a teaser excerpt from LEC’s first chapter, you’re getting three bonus stories not included in the book.

LEC has been the book from hell for many reasons–some books are just problem babies while others are angel–and one of my early plot snarls came from the fact that I started the story too early in the timeline. I wanted to pick up right where Empress of the Seven Hills left off–with Vix wrestling with the impossible choice of killing his best friend; with Titus wondering if an executioner was coming for him; with Sabina in an ever-developing condition. But I ended up scrapping my original start and opening a year after the events of Empress of the Seven Hills, as Hadrian makes his long-awaited entry into Rome as Emperor. It was the right choice, but there were scenes on the cutting-room floor that I always regretted losing. And they made three self-contained little stories all on their own, so I realized I could bundle them together here: three prequel stories taking place in that missing year between Empress of the Seven Hills and Lady of the Eternal City.

“Blood”
Battered warrior Vix has always been Hadrian’s bitter enemy, and he vows that will never change, even when he is made Praetorian Guard and Imperial watchdog. But with his family’s lives on the line, Vix faces a bitter choice: kill a friend, or serve a foe?

“Omen”
Mild, scholarly Titus might once have been favored as Imperial heir, but he never wanted the throne. All he desires is peace in the arms of his new bride–but the jealous Hadrian has other ideas. A horror of bloodshed and violence interrupts Titus’s wedding night, and the man of peace finds a choice at sword-point: honor and death, or betrayal and a cell?

“Prophecy”
Elegant, elusive Sabina is desperate to escape the bleak future that awaits her as Hadrian’s Empress, and even more desperate to conceal the secret growing in her own body. But when she begs a famous seer for a glimpse into her future, she receives an astonishing vision of the Eternal City under Hadrian’s rule, and the new Empress must choose: her own freedom, or the glory of Rome?

Three former friends find new futures in blood, omen, and prophecy. Three prequel vignettes to “Lady of the Eternal City, in an exclusive e-release titled The Three Fates.

The Three Fates is available for FREE download on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, Scribd, and Page Foundry. It is available on Amazon Kindle at 0.99, which was the lowest possible price option. The Three Fates is NOT available in print, since this is an e-release only–and there is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Lady of the Eternal City tucked in the back.

I hope you enjoy it–and again, thank you. Thank you all.

Empress of the Seven Hills: The Movie

Chris Hemsworth turned 29 not long ago, and I’d like to offer him a belated birthday present: the starring role of the upcoming movie of my latest book, “Empress of the Seven Hills!”

Sigh – if only. The fact is, I doubt HBO will be burning up my phone line anytime soon with offers to turn Empress of the Seven Hills into a star-studded 7-season miniseries a la “Game of Thrones.” Historical movies are hideously expensive to make, what with all those costumed extras and elaborate battle scenes and CGI Colosseum fights, and even if I did get a movie offer, writers never get casting approval. “Empress of the Seven Hills” could get turned into a C-grade borderline porno with Fabio in nipple rings as Vix, and I’d have no power to stop it.

But it’s always fun to dream – so here is my ideal cast for “Empress of the Seven Hills!” (Blog reprint from My Book, The Movie, by kind permission of blogger extraordinaire Marshal who has also hosted me on Writers Read and Coffee With A Canine.)

CAST

Vix: My brash and abrasive soldier hero is the hardest to cast. For one thing, he starts the book out as a swaggering boy of nineteen, and ends as a capable war hero of thirty-three. But I’ll go with Chris Hemsworth–in “The Avengers” he showed humor, charisma, and swagger just like Vix, and in “Snow White and the Huntsman” he proved he could swing a blade with serious heft.

Sabina: Emma Watson would be perfect for my intelligent, reticent, and just-a-bit-mysterious heroine. Playing a senator’s daughter with a yen for adventure, Ms. Watson would get to dress up and dine with emperors, or go grunge to hunker down with legionaries, all with equal aplomb. Plus rock a pixie cut.

 

Hadrian: for Sabina’s husband and the book’s villain, I’ll pick Wentworth Miller. His stint in “Prison Break” showed him as charming and intelligent, his good looks hiding a serpentine mind and a cool, detached ruthlessness–perfect for Hadrian.

 

Titus: Vix’s unlikely best friend is a shy over-educated patrician boy who grows into confident man-to-be-reckoned-with, and I can think of no one better than Zach Gilford. As the teenage quarterback in “Friday Night Lights” he showed both sweetness and steel beneath a gawky inarticulate surface.

 

Emperor Trajan: the confident, charismatic man’s-man emperor of Rome, beloved by all and especially by Vix who is his protege. Put Harrison Ford in a breastplate, and we’re done.

 

Empress Plotina: with a name like that, you know Trajan’s wife will be a scheming villainness. Michelle Forbes would be perfect; handsome but cold.

 

Mirah: Vix’s fiery Jewish wife with the red hair? Emma Stone.

 

Senator Marcus Norbanus: Gabriel Byrne would be perfect for Sabina’s intellectual senator father

 

Faustina: Sabina’s little sister, who grows up into a beauty and sets her sights on the shy Titus for a future husband. Jessica Brown Findlay plays an identical type in “Downton Abbey” as an earl’s spirited rebel daughter who uses beauty, charm, wit, and everything else in her arsenal to make sure she gets her own way. Just like Faustina.

 

Now for funding. HBO, are you listening?

Trailers for THE HUNTRESS & THE ALICE NETWORK!