Chillon 1

he main characters in THE SISTER QUEENS, Marguerite and Eleanor, may have been the daughters of the Count of Provence, but much of their real power and attraction as royal brides lay in another family connection. These remarkable 13th century women were related through their mother to the house of Savoy.  The Savoyards were celebrities in the High Middle ages—a family of considerable political and marital power, whose members were renowned for their personal attractiveness.  People wanted to be like the Savoyards, and people (even kings and popes) wanted to be seen with them.

Eleanor had a particularly close connection with her Uncle Peter, Count of Savoy.  In December of 1240 Peter arrived in England to advise and support his niece. Henry III of England took to Peter immediately and made much of him—eventually knighting him and granting Peter the Honor of Richmond.

From this point on Peter spent significant time in England, but ever a Savoyard, he did not sever his relationships with his native territory nor with his powerful brothers. Peter owned the legendary Chateau Chillon on the banks of Lake Geneva. He gained this stronghold—and with it control of the road from Burgundy to the Great Saint Bernard Pass and a fleet of ships on Lake Geneva—beginning in 1234 (when he and all the Savoyard brother’s met there upon the death of their father to negotiate a settlement which recognized Amadeus as the head of the house and allowed them to work together to the aggrandizement of all Savoyards rather than turning on each other and diminishing the house through infighting).

I first visited Chateau Chillon when I was 20 years old. It is a marvelously memorable fortress. Here today are some pictures of “Uncle Peter’s place” courtesy of my middle-child who (in her mother’s footsteps) was there today.Chillon 1Chillon 2Chillon 3Chillon 9Chillon 10Chillon 12Chillon 4Chillon 7Chillon 11

Today is the 5th anniversary of the release of my debut novel, The Sister Queens!
Milestone TSQ

Over the past 5 years, YOU, THE READERS, have shown the novel a lot of love! You’ve also given is some great reviews—80% of Amazon reviewers have awarded The Sister Queens a 4-star or 5-star rating—reviews like like this:

THE SISTER QUEENS is historic fiction at its absolute finest. . . . In all of its colorful prose, deep and eccentric characters, and historical brilliance, this book can be summed up with one word: phenomenal. Brava!

~ The Tulsa Book Review

At it’s core, THE SISTER QUEENS is a book about sisterhood—specifically the bond between Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence. . .

Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?”

On this special anniversary I hope that all of my readers know how much it means to me that you took Marguerite and Eleanor to your hearts. Thank you, from the bottom of mine!

To celebrate the day in grand style I am offering a Sister Queens GIVEAWAY–Five (5) copies of the book (one each to 5 separate winners). See the rafflecopter below to enterm and perhaps share the giveaway with a friend or two who have yet to make the acquaintance of Eleanor and Marguerite.

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Here we are, four days until Christmas. Personally, I am about to make one last run to pick up some missing gift items. How about you? Done for the season? Are you going to be giving books this year? Getting them?

Books were a go-to gift for me long before I wrote them. What’s changed is the excitement I feel when someone writes to tell me that they received one of my novels as a gift and loved it.  So I guess I get a second Christmas out of my involvement with writing.

If you have a friend or family member who enjoys historical fiction, please consider sharing Médicis Daughter or The Sister Queens with them.  Or share the video trailer below with your fellow historical-fiction aficionados.  They may thank you and I CERTAINLY will.

Nov 302016

Ho, ho, ho, ’tis the season for a HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY

Would you like to win SIGNED COPIES of both of my historical novels to give as gifts (or to enjoy yourself)? NOW IS YOUR CHANCE.

There are multiple ways to enter daily from now until MIDNIGHT on Friday DECEMBER 9th.  Here are a pair of videos you can share to earn a significant number of extra entries: A Hot Read for the Cold Weather or Celebrate Christmas with the Valois. But never fear, there are loads of other ways to enter as well!  GOOD LUCK ALL!!! 

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I am downsizing our gift-giving around here this year but that does NOT mean I am not buying books! SEVEN arrived this weekend alone. Some for stocking-stuffers, some to give friends who I think will enjoy them as much as I did.

In honor of CYBER MONDAY Barnes & Noble is running a 15% off your entire order promo (today only). The code is BNCYBER16 winter-ad-3

If you’d like to give a little Perinot this season, here are the brief descriptions and links for my titles at both B&N (use that coupon code!) and Amazon. Of course the novels are also available at your neighborhood bookstore!

MÉDICIS DAUGHTER (B&N) (AMAZON)

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

THE SISTER QUEENS (B&N) (AMAZON)

Like most sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor were rivals. They were also queens.

Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.

Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

A DAY OF FIRE (AMAZON)

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?

Long before Marguerite de Valois walked the halls of the Louvre, another Marguerite was Queen of France. And her sister, Eleanor, was Queen of England. If you enjoyed Médicis Daughter, I would like to introduce you to The Sister Queens, my debut novel from a few years back . . .

Today is Maundy Thursday.  The final Thursday before Easter, Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper—the event which established the Holy Eucharist.  Historically Maundy Thursday is associated with powerful figures washing the feet of the marginalized (a King might wash the feet of a pauper—see the stained-glass depiction below—and this year Pope Francis will wash the feet of a dozen refugees) as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Evidence of the rite of Pedilavium  (the Church’s term for this ceremonial foot washing) goes back to very ancient times and is considered a joyous rather than a solemn ceremony. The word “Maundy” comes from Latin for “command” and refers to Christ’s commandment to his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you.” st louis

I cannot say when or why exactly I became slightly fixated on this particular religious observance, but Maundy Thursday makes multiple appearances in my work.  It was included in the original draft of The Sister Queens (Louis, seen at the right, was a hugely penitent man who not only frequently washed the feet of the less fortunate but liked to eat the leftovers of meals consumed by his favorite leper). King Charles IX and Queen Catherine de Médicis observe the Lenten foot-washing tradition in Chapter 2 of Médicis Daughter.  An occasion that finds a teenage Margot in no very good mood:

“Why do you pout?” My brother sidles up to me where I stand, watching Charles and Mother receive basins and ewers from the Cardinal de Bourbon. Nearby, a collection of Troyes’s paupers—mostly women and children—sit on a long bench, prepared to be the objects of royal Lenten piety.

“I did not realize I would be left out of some of the grandest ceremonies of the journey.”

Yesterday the King made a magnificent Entry into Troyes—riding beneath a canopy supported by dignitaries past elaborate set pieces and stopping to hear recitations of poetry written for the occasion. The residents of the city, from the wealthiest to the urchins roaming its streets, were permitted to witness it all. I was not. It seems the women of the court, even the Valois women, are not included in the proceedings that constitute a Royal Entry.

As for What’s Next . . . I can tell you this, Chapter 4 of my latest novel begins with a mumbled, “Last Supper” and Maundy Thursday marks some very dramatic events.

Mar 312014

My good friend and “goddess of historical fiction” Kate Quinn tagged me in this cyclical blog tour (make sure you pop over to Kate’s blog and see her answers then follow the chain back for insight into the minds and work habits of other historical fiction luminaries like Christy English and Stephanie Dray).  Four questions designed to reveal how we do what we do—write books that is.  Answering is harder than you think (as is writing books) because most of us write as we breath—because we are compelled to.  And, unless called to account by questions such as these, we don’t think a lot about it.

1) What am I working on?

I am putting the finishing touches on “Daughter of de Médicis: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois” before handing it over to my agent for his input.  I consider the book a true bildungsroman, focusing on the psychological and moral growth of the enigmatic Marguerite de Valois from the point at which she comes to live with her brother Charles IX’s royal court as a young girl to the moment when she is transformed by a tremendous historical event (the Saint Barthlomew’s Day massacre in Paris) into an independent adult.  I’ve always been fascinated by Marguerite—daughter of a King, sister of three and wife of Henri IV.  Had she lived in England Marguerite would have ruled in her turn, but Salic law in France relegated her to the sidelines.  Her relationship with her powerful mother, Catherine de Medicis, is an important aspect of the novel.  Let’s face it, the mother-daughter relationship is always fraught with peril during the teen years, but imagine if your mother was Catherine de Medicis!

If you are interested in learning more about “Daughter of de Medicis” (including more cool sneak-peek quotes like the one below), it has its own Facebook page.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Every author’s voice is different.  I have mine.  You either like it or, perhaps, you do not.  But it is different from anyone else’s.  Beyond that I cannot opine because I make a conscious effort NOT to compare my work to the work of other historical novelists.  In writing as in life I find such behavior is not particularly productive.  More than that, it can lead to some pretty negative stuff/feelings.  I write for the joy of it.  I don’t view it as a competitive sport and I fear indulging in comparisons can too often lead to that.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write historical fiction because I love to read it.  Also because I am a bona fide history geek (have my BA in history) from a family of history geeks (my only sister is actually a Professor of History). When I was a child, I visited historical sites while other kids were at amusement parks.  I also grew up watching all those Masterpiece Theater costume dramas of classic literature, and ninety-nine percent of my favorite books were (are) set in the past.  So, historical fiction was a natural niche for me.  Since I studied French abroad, and I am a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, peré, both my first novel (“The Sister Queens”) and “Daughter of de Medicis” have French history at their centers.

4) How does your writing process work?

“School is my friend.”  I bet every parent out there who works at home can identify with that.  When my writing is going well, the hours between dropping off and picking up my son from school are devoted 100% to writing.  This can have some unfortunate side-effects—usually in the form of the plaintive cries of family members claiming they are, in fact, wearing their last pair of clean underwear.  To balance my various roles and not feel like a hamster on a wheel, I try to be fully present and in each given moment.  I try not to think “oh my god, you should be writing” when I am not.  That kind of thinking tends to just create a guilt-induced writer’s block when I finally sit down at the keyboard.  Oh and I don’t compare my daily word count to others—ever.  I am a “slow first draft” writer, but the first drafts I eventually produce tend to be close to ready to handover to my critique partners, agent or editor.  Finally my process involves weekly summits with a pair of fellow novelist whose work I adore and opinions I respect.  We work through problems and set goals—basically we keep each other on-track and honest in a profession that can, by virtue of its solitude, allow for a good deal of procrastination.

Well that’s all she wrote—or rather how she writes (with the “she” being “me).  My friend Nancy Bilyeau is up next.  On Monday, April 7th she will offer insight into her own creative process, a process that’s led to her gripping Sister Joanna Stafford series (“The Crown” and “The Chalice” with a third installment on the way).  Check back here next Monday March 31st, and I’ll link to her site so you can see what her answers are.

But not forever!  For a short time the Kindle version of The Sister Queens is bargain priced at $3.99. Now is the time to add the novel to your e-book library or recommend it to an e-book loving friend.

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?