Today my blog travels take me to Just One More Paragraph where I confess (oh heresy) that too much description in a historical novel (even of very lovely gowns) causes my eyes to glaze over.  How about you?

Come over, read my viewpoint on the effective uses of descriptive language in historical writing, and share yours.  While you’re there enter to win a copy of The Sister Queens.

Today is my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than with Amy Bruno at her marvelous blog Passages to the PastIn the first big interview of my official HFVB Tour I share the inspiration behind The Sister Queens and discuss some common misconceptions about 13th century women.

Come on over and get to know me better.  They’ll even be virtual cake in the form of a giveaway :)  Just don’t expect me to tell you my age.

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I end this penultimate week before my launch with a pair of reviews in blog-land.  The first at Dolce-Dolce and the second at Writer Writer Pants on Fire.  It is, I will admit, a balm for my pre-launch nerves to hear phrases like:

Kingly ambitions and sibling rivalry, love and lust all come into play between the pages, unfolding in a mesmerizing story about two Queens who were sisters above all else. 

and

The novel captures the nuances and intrigues of court life, as well as the excitement and danger of forbidden passions in the torrid Middle Eastfrom a fascinating feminine perspective.

spoken by people who are not my kith and kin.  Perhaps that bag I’ve prepared to wear over my head when I go to the grocery store will NOT be necessary.  At least this week.

When I became active on social media and started blogging I promised myself I was never going to use those tools to say “buy my book.”  I made this vow primarily because such direct shilling makes me profoundly uncomfortable when I am on the receiving end of it.

Now, with the launch of my debut novel. The Sister Queens, only 2-weeks away (March 6th), and knowing as I do how important it is to sell well in the two weeks after the book debuts there is a considerable amount of temptation to break my word.  As an individual who embraces “historical” values, however, I still believe “a man’s word is his bond” (ditto a woman’s word).  So what to do?  Make all the new friends I’ve made on twitter, facebook and through this website feel uncomfortable by hitting them up?  Or remain silent and possibly miss sales?

As I tend to do whenever faced with unpalatable choices, I’ve imagined a third option (darn creative types, always imagining things).  So today, and without breaking any promises, I am asking you to tell someone else to buy my book.  You don’t have to spend a dime of your own money on The Sister Queens if you don’t want to, but please consider suggesting or recommending it to someone else.

How, you may ask, can I do that when I’ve never read The Sister Queens?  Ah, but here’s the beauty of my suggestion—I didn’t specify WHO you should tell.  If you suspect, based on your virtual acquaintance with me, that I am only good for 140 character quips and I probably should have stuck to Twitter, then recommend The Sister Queens to your mother-in-law, that lady in the next cubicle at work who talks too loudly on her phone about matters of personal hygiene, or any other person you are not particularly crazy about.  Sale for me; revenge for you.

If, on the other hand, anything I’ve said in this forum or elsewhere has resonated with you or made you think, “that woman can write,” then please mention The Sister Queens to a friend.  It won’t cost you anything and you will be doing me a big favor.  Heck you might be doing your book-mad friend a favor too.

Two weeks until The Sister Queens’ publication date!!!

Today I officially dip my toe into the blogosphere in support of the launch of my debut.  Over the next weeks it will be hard to avoid me in the virtual world, as many gracious bloggers open up their personal space to me.

First up, a visit with my dear friend and fellow book-preggo Mindy McGinnis at her blog Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire.  And right out of the starting gate (as anyone who knows Mindy would expect) the SHIT has hit the fan.  To wit, Mindy subjects me to one of her “SHIT (Submission Hell – It’s True)” interviews.  Please drop by and find out about my personal journey on the way to securing my book deal.  My advice for those going out submission – never say yes (to an agent or a publisher) just to say yes, and keep lots of chocolate handy.

You know you LOVE historical fiction. And I know it too, or chances are you wouldn’t be hanging out at my website.

If you live in the metro Washington DC area here’s a chance to be surrounded by fellow historical-fiction devotees. The Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Historical Novel Society is holding its first official meeting on March 6th. The 6th is also launch day for The Sister Queens and that’s not a coincidence :)  There was some concern that if I wasn’t kept busy on release day I would sit at home obsessively checking my Amazon ranking. Many thanks to fellow authors Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray for saving me from that horrible fate.

So, if you are in the mood for good food and better company, become part of HNS Chesapeake Bay Chapter TODAY. Then join us on March 6th at Food & Wine in Bethesda, MD. Check here for details.

I prefer the Athenian lifestyle . . . too bad about the no-votes-for-women thing.

Feb 142012

Happy Valentines Day to all my amazing followers!
 

A sister is a gift.  Whether she is the mirror allowing us to see ourselves clearly when we’ve imagined we are somebody we are not, or whether she is a cautionary tale whose mistakes we act to avoid, our sisters shape us in profound ways.

Last week I shared how my sister gave me the gift of reinvention – reinvention as a writer.  Today, I am interested in hearing about your sister – specifically I want to know what positive gift or gifts she has given you.  I don’t mean that cashmere sweater she sent you for Christmas.  I want to know the good stuff — how she made you the person you are today, opened your eyes to something you might not have seen, or otherwise shaped you for the better.  The floor (or rather the comments section) is open.

And, in celebration of the fact that my novel, The Sister Queens, makes its debut one month from today I am going to make the sharing fun.  I will select two individuals from among those posting their comments (about their sister–see above) to this blog by midnight February 12th  and send each of them TWO (2) signed “advance-reader “copies of The Sister Queensone for themselves and one for their sister.  That means the winners will have  galleys of  The Sister Queens before anyone can purchase the novel.

Check this comment thread Monday, February 13th (one week from today) for names of the winners and instructions for those lucky two.  Bonne chance!

Whatever our personal relationship with our sisters one thing cannot be denied – they have shaped who we are.  They have given us a personality trait, an ambition, a talent, a tolerance that we would not have had but for knowing them.  They have given us a “gift”—even if, in some cases, at the time it was bestowed that gift may have seemed a burden not a blessing.

Next week I want to hear from you about the gifts your sisters have given you.  And, to encourage you to share (while celebrating the one-month-to-release mark for my novel), there will be giveaway involved.

But today I want to write about one of the gifts my sister gave me.  My sister gave me this writing career.  Yes, I know that with my debut novel just about to hit shelves it is a tad premature to declare that I have a “C”areer in writing.  Forgive me that for the moment.  What I am trying to say is my sister gave me permission to be a writer.  More than that she gave me a push.

Once upon a time I was a lawyer—an antitrust litigator to be precise, not that it matters really.  I’d wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little girl.  Dream realized (check).  I should have been happy.  I wasn’t.  I was casting about for something to be next.  Asking a question I hadn’t asked in a very long time, “what do I want to be when I grow up.”  I think that’s a much tougher question when you already ARE grown up.  So much of who you think you are is wrapped up in your professional success.  The idea of making a change is scary.  Major anxiety. Major.  I can’t do major anxiety without my sister.  I am betting over the years there have been times she has fervently wished that I could.  But if I am going to obsess, stress out, or break down I am going to call my sister.  Doubtless this particular existential crisis involved multiple calls (my sister really should have been getting combat pay), but I remember THE call.

“Writer” wasn’t on the table for “next job” consideration.  But what is or isn’t “on the table” doesn’t stop my sister (and I am betting it doesn’t stop yours either)  Sisters speak wisdom unexpectedly.

“I know you are making up a story right now in your head,” my sister said.  She was right of course and, because she knows me better than anyone, better than I know myself, I didn’t deny it.  “Whatever that story is,” she said, “pick up your dictaphone and start saying it out loud.”

My husband, children and I were leaving on a beach vacation, I took my dictaphone with me like my sister told me to.  I dictated scenes at the seaside.  Later, at home, I used the voice-activated feature to dictate while I washed floors.  Most infamously (at least in my family) I dictated a scene in the frozen food section of my local grocery store while a clerk looked suspiciously on (industrial spy anyone?).  The book that resulted from my sister’s words snagged my agent.  My agent found me my audience.

My sister was uniquely qualified to give me this gift (and my life as a writer is one of the greatest dream-come-true gifts of my life).  She knew I was a storyteller.  She’s a large part of the reason I became one.  As children we had a forty-five-minute walk to school (yes, one way but NOT uphill both ways).  I filled that time by weaving “continuing sagas” (the more sensational the better, I fear) for my travel companions.  I still remember a sci-fi tale of a color coded world, but the salient point here is that my sister alone (discounting our walking companions who went on to lives and places unknown) was privy to this side of me.  In school (high school and college) I was known as more of an essayist – and occasionally a poet – NOT one of those people who constantly wrote fiction and squirreled it away.  As I went on to be a mild-mannered (ha) lawyer nobody around me knew about the “other” Sophie.  I, myself, may even have temporarily forgotten my passion for storytelling.  But a sister never forgets.

So thank you sis.  In case I haven’t said it before, in case the dedication in my book didn’t make it clear—I owe you one.  A big one.