Summer of History (1)

One of the best things about being a historical novelist is connecting with other writers in the genre, getting to know their work and then introducing them to you–my readers and friends.  That’s why I am in love with the event I am announcing today: THE SUMMER OF HISTORY GIVEAWAY.

Not only do you have the chance to win my novel Medicis Daughter (if it is not already in your collection), you have the opportunity to win books and prizes (including a colossal $100 gift card) from 18 other top writers of historical fiction. What could be better than new books just in time to let you kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy the warm weather with a great book. Nothing.

Entry is simple. Just follow the link and Pick five books that you’d like to win!

Last week I offered a peek between the covers of the upcoming “A Day of Fire” and challenged readers to match the stories therein with the authors contributing to the volume.  Today, I offer another set of illustrated quotes along with full disclosure of who wrote what.  Come along for a guided tour of the novel-in-six parts which releases three weeks from today:

It all begins with a son–Vicky Alvear Shecter’s story “The Son” to be exact, about a young man who is looking for love in the proverbial wrong places while also trying to hang on to the good opinion of his famous uncle, Admiral Pliny.  In bustling Pompeii he meets a whore named Prima–a woman readers will come to know better in Stephanie Dray’s tale.

While Caecilius is sneaking around the city on pleasure bent, Aemilia the heroine of my story–THE HEIRESS–is counting down the days to her wedding.  Betrothed to her father’s best friend she knows her duty, but also her heart which lies elsewhere in the keeping of a handsome young artist.

While Faustus prowls the Villa of the Mysteries looking for his Aemilia, author Ben Kane’s Lucius Satrius Rufus–title character in  THE SOLDIER–has a hangover and massive load of debt to manage.  Can a win by the gladiator he owns straighten things out?

Senator Marcus Norbanus in Kate Quinn’s THE SENATOR has his own problems–among them an aging body and a waning will to live. He is in Pompeii on official business when he has a run in with Caecilius’ whore Prima.

While he is recovering from his encounter with the jug, young mother-to-be Julilla, heroine of E. Knight’s THE MOTHER, is on her way by litter to her friend Aemilia’s house to help her dress for her wedding.  A journey she does not complete.

Who will survive and who perish? Readers will have to wait for Stephanie Dray’s THE WHORE to know for certain. There they will reconnect with Prima and spend time with her rosy, blonde and good-natured sister Capella a woman called to serve the Goddess Isis.

Intrigued? Mark your calendars for November 4th.  A DAY OF FIRE: A NOVEL OF POMPEII will be available in e-book and paperback.  Currently it can be pre-ordered in the e-book format.

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Oct 072014

Today we are precisely FOUR WEEKS away from the Launch of “A Day of Fire,” the high-concept novel-in-six-parts that I’ve written with Ben Kane, Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, Eliza Knight and Vicky Alvear Shecter.  The novel is already available for pre-order at Amazon, but in honor of the countdown to release, I’d like to share some lovely illustrated quotes to give you a taste of the tales the volume contains.

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.

Visit “A Day of Fire’s” Facebook page to learn how you could win the book by correctly identifying which author wrote which quote.

I am getting all FIRED UP! The “A Day of Fire” cover is here, and my co-authors and I hope you’ll agree that it is hot, hot, HOT!

A Day of Fire: A Novel 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 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–Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Eliza Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter,and I–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?

For those who don’t already know I wrote “The Heiress” for this fantastic  “novel in six parts.” In my story, spirited Aemilia is horrified by her betrothal to her father’s friend, Sabinus, a staid man with an obsessive interest in mechanical engineering and geology. Indulging in a clandestine flirtation with a handsome young artist restoring frescoes at her family’s villa, Aemilia pays scant attention to her future husband, or his scientific prognostications of doom for the city of Pompeii. When Vesuvius begins to erupt, however, Aemilia sees Sabinus in a new light—but is it too late?

 “A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii” releases on November 4, 2014.  Can’t wait to have the book in your hot-little-hands? DON’T—make a date with destiny, and make sure you receive your copy immediately by pre-ordering “A Day of Fire.”

Or enter below to WIN a copy of “A Day of Fire”

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A number of you have been asking me “what’s next, Sophie?”  With great pride and pleasure I announce that THIS is next:

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii 

Prepare to take a leap back in time with me to 79 AD, when 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 A Day of Fire will tell their stories. The book is a high-concept piece—a  novel in six parts by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Eliza Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear-Shecter, and yours truly.  We will bring you overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, gladiators and heiresses, villains and heroes who cross and recross paths during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for posterity?

My story—The Heiress’s Tale—will lead the collection.  So mark your calendars!  A Day of Fire releases on November 1, 2014. 

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.

I’ve been so excited for publication of Kate Quinn’s “The Lion and the Rose,” which tells the story of the infamous Borgia family like you’ve never heard it before!  And yesterday was “L” Day  (that’s Launch Day for the uninitiated) at last.  I am fortunate enough to be part of a launch-day triumvirate with Kate and Stephanie Dray–a troika of  historical fiction writers dedicated to the premise that no author should be permitted to check her Amazon rankings on the day her book comes out and that a sumptuous lunch is the best preventative.  So yesterday I was a lady-who-lunches rather than a lady who writes, abandoning myself to good company and good food and celebrating Kate and this new novel.  So I guess I should show and tell a bit.  Here’s the cover and the scoop:

LR final cover

Synopsis:

From the national bestselling author of The Serpent and the Pearl comes the continuing saga of the ruthless family that holds all of Rome in its grasp, and the three outsiders thrust into their twisted web of blood and deceit . . .

As the cherished concubine of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, Giulia Farnese has Rome at her feet. But after narrowly escaping a sinister captor, she realizes that the danger she faces is far from over—and now, it threatens from within. The Holy City of Rome is still under Alexander’s thrall, but enemies of the Borgias are starting to circle. In need of trusted allies, Giulia turns to her sharp-tongued bodyguard, Leonello, and her fiery cook and confidante, Carmelina.

Caught in the deadly world of the Renaissance’s most notorious family, Giulia, Leonello, and Carmelina must decide if they will flee the dangerous dream of power. But as the shadows of murder and corruption rise through the Vatican, they must learn who to trust when every face wears a mask . . .

Some Review Quotes to Tempt you Further:

“Quinn creates memorable and authentic characters who embrace the aura of the era, and still speak to the modern reader’s sensibilitity. Beyond these remarkable people there are lush backdrops, fascinating historical details, and everything from espionage to murder, passion and piety. Quinn makes history accessible and unforgettable with her storytelling.” ~RT Book Reviews

“Beautifully written, and a topic that will open some eyes about the Borgias.” ~Romance Reviews Today

AND an Excerpt

“This is all terribly anticlimactic,” I complained to my mistress. “Captured by enemy forces, and where are the dungeons? The torturers? The chains? At the very least, you should have been sold into the harem of a Moorish merchant prince. That would be a story worth telling.” I hurt too badly to laugh at my own joke, so I gave a shallow sigh instead. “There is no literary scope in spending a few nights drinking French wine with French generals, listening to French compliments, then being escorted back to Rome in luxury.”

“I think it was a trifle more harrowing than that.” Giulia Farnese looked across the carriage at the bandages wrapping my chest and shoulder and hip, the splints a French surgeon had strapped to my broken fingers, the black bruises that covered nearly every visible inch of my flesh like splotches of pitch. “How is the pain, Leonello? And don’t just grit your teeth at me stoically, please.”

“Why, it’s a very splendid pain,” I said airily. “We’ve gotten to know each other very well, really—perhaps I shall give it a name and keep it for a pet when this is all over.” I had been beaten to a pulp by French pike-men, for daring to defend my mistress when French scouts descended like wolves on her traveling party as she made her way toward the Holy City. More precisely, I’d been beaten to a pulp because I’d killed three French pike-men and wounded two more before they brought me down, and such men do not like to be humiliated by a man like me.

I am a dwarf, you see. The kind you see in motley at fairs, juggling wooden balls, only I do not juggle and never have. I have the short bowed legs and the oversized head and the broad torso of my kind, but I also have uncommon skill at throwing knives. I can core a man’s throat like an apple at ten paces, and it was for that skill I was hired as bodyguard to Giulia Farnese, the Pope’s golden mistress. If she’d had a strapping youth for a guard, the French would have killed him at once—enemies fasten first on strapping youths when they look for those who might prove a threat. No one bothers to notice the dwarf.

Not until I kill them, and then it’s too late.

So if that has you itching to read more.  Here are a couple of links where you can buy The Lion and the Rose.

While I was baking up a storm and wrapping gifts for friends and family I received a couple of very special year-end presents.  The Sister Queens made several  “best of” lists” (in addition to the list at Let Them Read Books  mentioned in a previous post).

I am exceedingly flattered that The True Book Addict, has my debut keeping company with books by the likes of C.W. Gortner, Hilary Mantel and my good friend Nancy Bilyeau. Holly’s list at Bippity Boppity Book lets me rub elbows with Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon (wow).  Book Drunkard’s “Top 12”  and Tanzinite’s Castle Full of Books  both also have me in very august company.   I am  thrilled that Kate Quinn, author of a brilliant trilogy set in ancient Rome that I personally devoured, also picked The Sister Queens as one of her 2012 favorites and Space Station Mir named me as one of her “Top Ten New-To-Me Authors for 2012.”  Finally, I feel very privileged that The Sister Queens made two of the “personal favorites” 2012 lists at Romantic Historical Lovers—Meagan’s and Jenny’s. 

Not so sound like The Count from Sesame Street, but by my reckoning that makes nine favorites lists  I am gobsmacked and grateful. Thank you to the book bloggers who did me such honor and thank you to all the readers who embraced my first novel so warmly!

Books are what I AM dreaming of for Christmas! Shown here from left to right: The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau on Kindle, Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn, Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, and The Sister Queens by yours truly.

I am pleased to announce that I will be a presenting author at this year’s Baltimore Book Festival.  If you love books and live within driving distance of Charm City you owe it to yourself to participate in this celebration of all things literary.  The Baltimore Book Festival is jam-packed with opportunities to meet authors, learn about the genres that interest you, and (for writers) improve your craft.  During the course of three days more than 200 authors will appear on eight stages.

Here are the practical details:

Dates: September 28, 29 and 30, 2012

Hours: Friday and Saturday, 12-8pm and Sunday, 12-7pm

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, in historic Mount Vernon Place (the closest landmark is The Walters Art Museum, located at 600 North Charles Street, 21201)

Admission: The Baltimore Book Festival is 100% FREE!

I hope to see lots of fellow historical fiction devotees (both readers and writers) at the festival.  If you are interested in meeting me, hearing me speak, and/or getting your copy of The Sister Queens signed, here is my personal schedule:

Friday, September 28th

I will be attending the “Author Meet and Greet” in the Maryland Romance Writer’s tent at NOON (12:00 p.m.)

At 1:00 p.m. I will be on the Maryland Romance Writer’s Stage discussing “Getting the Courage to Write.”  Thinking of writing as a second career?  Always dreamed of being an author? I and my fellow panelists will be providing tips for making the transformation.  Come prepared with questions!

Saturday, September 29th

I will be participating in THREE exciting  panels on Saturday (again, all on the Maryland Romance Writers Stage)

First, at 1:00 p.m., I’ll be sharing the stage with a collection of fantastic authors, including historical novelists Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray, for a discussion of what defines women’s fiction and how it differs from romance.  We will also be offering readings from our latest works and giving things away.

At 4:50 p.m. I will be participating in a panel called “Trends and Readings in Historical Fiction.”  Interested in where historical fiction is headed next (new time periods, the exploration of lesser-known figures)?  Then you won’t want to miss this presentation.

Finally, at 5:45 p.m. I have the opportunity to close out my festival participation with my FAVORITE presentation — Sex and Historical Fiction Novelists.  Is there a trend towards more sex in straight historical fiction these days? What role can sex scenes play effectively in historical novels?  What preconceptions do we, as readers and writers, have about the sexuality of the past, that may not stand up to historical reality?  This panel, which also features the amazing Stephanie Dray (Lily of the Nile, Song of the Nile) and Kate Quinn (Mistress of Rome, Daughters of Rome, Empress of the Seven Hills), rocked the house (or rather the Barnes & Noble) in Northern Virginia in April. If you missed it then you will not want to miss it now.  All three of us will have something to giveaway at the discussion’s end.

Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn & me the last time we discussed "Sex and the Historical Novelist"

(Click here for the full schedule at the Maryland Romance Writers Stage – some SUPER historical fiction, women’s fiction and romance writing talent will be featured)

Hope I’ve tempted you to mark your calendar!  I can’t wait to see you!