Super excited to see MÉDICIS DAUGHTER on this list of “Books About Epic Rivalries,” especially alongside books by some authors I personally love. https://media.bookbub.com/blog/2017/03/27/historical-fiction-books-about-rivalries/

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March 6th is a good day for debuts.  One hundred and sixty years ago today (March 6, 1853)   La Traviata premiered at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.  One year ago today (March 6, 2012) my debut novel, The Sister Queens, hit shelves.  Auspicious.  And while I never expect to be as popular as Verdi, I’ve been overwhelmed by the generous responses of critics and the kind and often moving responses of readers.  Thanks all! 

Readers—Visit my Sister Queens Facebook page for instructions on how to get one of twenty signed bookplates (there are still a few left) for your copy of The Sister Queens.

Writer friends — The day after its premiere Giuseppe Verdi worried that La Traviata was a failure so EVERYBODY has artistic angst.  Have faith in your work and its ability to find an audience.

Finally, for those who haven’t tried The Sister Queens yet — I believe that Amazon still has the book on sale for $6 a copy (limit 2).  Wouldn’t now be an excellent time to add it to your TBR pile?

I  might rather be Eleanor with her faithful Henry, but when it comes to the sort of on-fire, head-over-heels love usually associated with Valentines Day, Marguerite and Jean carry the day.

 

I am very pleased to announce that The Sister Queens is a TOP PICKS of 2012 for historical fiction at Let Them Read Books (and in the august company of CW Gortner and Robin Maxwell no less).  See which books made Jenny’s list for historical fiction, historical romance and historical fantasy and enter to WIN a title of your choice as part of the “Historical Holiday Blog Hop”.

I’ve been thinking about the power of clothing.

I do this a lot because I am both a) rather strangely obsessed with historical clothing and b) profoundly dissatisfied with how we dress in modern times.  Look around you – almost nobody looks spiffy.  Rather, nearly everyone looks like they thought they would be spending the day lolling about on the floor of a college dorm room ( even the 50 year old executives on the metro on “casual Friday”) or like they’ve been under the weather so they never quite got out of their sweats.

My son at 6 in a suit modeled on one owned by the Duc d'Anjou and made with fabric remnants from the Vatican

It used to be that clothes reflected a person’s status.  Sumptuary laws made certain that only those at the top of the pecking order were allowed to wear certain materials.  You knew a king when you saw one.  I am not advocating a return to class-distinction by wardrobe.  By no means.  But who would have predicted when dress was democratized that a race to the bottom would begin?  Yet today, after hundreds of years during which tradesmen and later the middle class tried to dress up a socio-economic level (or two),  people willingly leave their homes in such a slovenly state that, but for their hygiene and the fact they have their teeth, they could pass for peasants.

All this “casual” dress is done in the name of comfort, but there is no reason in the world why nice, properly pressed clothing can’t be comfortable.  And if it is not as comfortable as just throwing on any old rumpled thing, isn’t personal pride worth a modicum of sacrifice?

Yesterday over at Steampunk.com there was a discussion of the 2013 Prada Fall/Winter line.  They were, of course, interested in the steampunkiness of the collection but I saw lots of historical references in the garments.  I was struck by just how good the models all looked—even Willem Dafoe who has looked slightly seedy and decrepit for years.  They look powerful, confident, sharp and generally more attractive then when you see them in modern clothing (go ahead, Google Gary Oldman and compare an image of him in street clothing to those of him in the Prada).  This confirmed something I’ve suspected for a long time—almost everyone looks better “dressed-up” (as in properly, neatly and relatively formally attired).

If you want further proof compare pictures from people in your own life  when they look “thrown together” with those where they are “sharply dressed.”  I mean there is a reason we tend to put on more formal clothing for auspicious occasions—we want to look our best.  You didn’t wear flip flops, sweats and a tee-shirt for your wedding right? (please, PLEASE tell me you didn’t).  To illustrate my point, here are two pictures of the same young man (a daughter’s boyfriend).  In the first he is dressed in typical college wear, in the other in a vintage bespoke 1939 tailcoat.  Not close is it?

 

I concede (though it gives me no pleasure) that the days of dressing for dinner are past, and that going back to styles which require the assistance of a valet or ladies maid is out of the question.  But surely it is not too late to bring back pride in personal appearance and the idea that different clothing is appropriate for different settings (work vs. cutting your lawn)?

Maybe what we really need is this fellow.  Is he rude in this sketch—yes.  Is it meant to be funny—of course.  But have we all seen people dressed like this and thought they were “a turd”—I sure have.

I’ve been tagged by author, Erika Robuck, whose novel Hemingway’s Girl will be out this September  with NAL (same imprint as The Sister Queens).   To play the game, she instructed me to do the following:

1. Go to the 77th page of my latest book (or wip – author’s choice).

2. Count down 7 lines.

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

4. Tag 7 other authors.

In this scene from The Sister Queens, Eleanor of Provence’s brother-in-law, the Earl Richard, returns to the English royal court furious over the secret marriage of his sister to Simon de Montfort.  The Earl confronts King Henry III during court festivities, interrupting Eleanor and Henry while they are dancing.   Without further ado, here are seven sentences (or thereabouts) from the 77th page of The Sister Queens:

Her welfare?  If that is all that worries you, be done.  Lady Montfort is quite abundantly happy with her situation.”  For the first time Henry looks in my direction.  “Is that not so Eleanor?  Our sister writes to the Queen glowingly of her new husband.”

“This is not a fanciful troubadour’s romance!  It is a royal marriage!  It ought not to be managed by women.”

My Uncle, silent himself, gives me a meaningful look, warning me to hold my tongue.

Now, I’ll tag 7  brilliant authors to give us teasers of their own:

1. Kate Quinn

2. Nancy Bilyeau

3. Elizabeth Loupas

4. Erin Cashman

5. Mindy McGinnis

6. Stephanie Dray

7. Lydia Netzer

Visit their websites in the next few days to get a peek into their latest work and discover who they’ll tag in turn.  Nothing like a little game to start the weekend.

Apr 032012

Happy 4-Week Birthday to my beloved book-baby.  Since you are an inanimate object, Mommy gets the cupcake (chocolate please) 😉

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.

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.