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11 Dec Advance Copies…

…of The Red Lily Crown have gone out, and we’ve been priveleged to receive some of the loveliest and most amazing comments in return. I can’t possibly express sufficient gratitude to the writers who’ve taken the time from their own busy lives to read and comment. Alphabetical thanks to the wonderful Nancy Bilyeau, Patricia Bracewell, Marina Fiorato, C.W. Gortner, Sophie Perinot, and Kate Quinn, all of whose books I myself have gobbled up and loved.

You can see what they had to say here, on the page for The Red Lily Crown. And if you haven’t already read their books, well, Christmas is coming! Books by all these fabulous authors are perfect additions to your gift lists.

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25 Nov Renaissance Roleplaying

It seems like an anachronism, but is it? Playacting and pretense are profoundly human activities—from Paleolithic peoples re-enacting hunts to modern players in online sites like Second Life.

My Francesco de’ Medici, the alchemist prince, is a roleplayer. The idea came to me when I looked at a painting called Il Laboratorio dell’ Alchimista by Giovanni Stradano, which was (and still is) in Francesco’s private studiolo. In the painting the master alchemist is surrounded by apprentices and workmen who are doing the actual work of alchemy. In the lower right corner, wearing a plain doublet and hose, his sleeves rolled up as he stirs a concoction under the alchemist’s direction, is a workman clearly painted to represent Francesco de’ Medici. Is this how Francesco saw himself, in his secret heart?

It could have been. (A historical novelist’s favorite words.) Here is my Francesco, describing his alter ego Franco:

 

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It was his own elaborate and deeply satisfying conceit, that he was a simple laborer named Franco. Franco worked every day with his hands, with minerals and acids, noble metals and glassworks and fine porcelains, and when the day was finished and he had no more work to do, he needed only to come home to his adoring and compliant little wife Bia, and she would tend to his every desire. Francesco, the prince—he had been the eldest, the heir, but even so he had never been the favorite, never been clever and charming and affable as his brothers and sisters had been. From the day of his mother’s death and his father’s descent into self-indulgence, his responsibilities had never ended. His wife, the emperor’s sister—she was pious and proud and never forgot who she was, not even when they came together in their interminable quest to beget an heir. It was all too much. It was so much easier to be Franco, even if it was only for a few hours.

 

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21 Nov The Girl with the Painted Face

boowithgirlCongratulations to Gabrielle Kimm on the publication day of her new novel, The Girl with the Painted Face! I was fortunate enough to receive a pre-publication review copy from the publishers, which is no small thing, considering that they’re in the UK and I’m in Texas.

Now Gaby is a dear friend, but even so—I adored this book. I love anything with a theatrical background (see “Playacting on Paper”) and The Girl with the Painted Face combines mystery, adventure, delicious romance and murder most foul, with sixteenth-century Italy and the gritty, colorful glamour of a traveling Commedia dell’ Arte troupe. It made me want to go try out for a play somewhere—once I’d finished the book, of course.

Boudin liked it excessively as well, as you can see—just look at the dreamy look on his face—and says his favorite character is little Ippo, the dog. Of course….

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12 Nov A Neat Touch with a Pick

The hero—well, the hero/anti-hero, as he definitely has his dark side—of The Red Lily Crown is Ruan Pencarrow of Milhyntall, a man who has taken a twisted path from the devastation of the Prayer Book Rebellion in Cornwall, to the opulent courts and dark laboratories of Francesco de’ Medici in Florence.

A student of Agricola’s work, Ruan represents the sciences of metallurgy and chemistry, which at the time of the story are just emerging from the chrysalis of ancient, magical alchemy. Although he does have his own touch of magic…

 

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“It is a sulphide of silver,” Ruan said. He took a small pick from his belt and tapped gently around the silver crystals. They fell into his hand like a cluster of hazelnuts from a tree. He put them into the mine master’s bag and extracted more samples, taking also some of the shining calcite that surrounded them.

“A neat touch you’ve got with that pick,” Ziegler said. “Not many great men will come down a shaft and into a tunnel, their ownselves.”

“I have had experience,” Ruan said. He did not specify what kind of experience, or when it had occurred, or what it had cost him…

 

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04 Nov The Red Lily Hounds

Of course I wouldn’t write a book without at least one hound in it! The Red Lily Crown has several, and it turns out they’re descended from Tristo and Isa, the “pocket beagles” in The Second Duchess. The hounds of The Red Lily Crown even merit a section of their own in the “Cast of Characters,” just so we can keep straight who’s descended from who.

 

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…Giovanna of Austria, now the grand duchess and first lady of the court, stood in solitary hauteur, with two of her small parti-colored hounds at her feet. They were the sire and dam to Donna Isabella’s Rina, Chiara had learned, and had been sent to the grand duchess some years ago by her sister Barbara, the Duchess of Ferrara…

 

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28 Oct Tests of Virginity

Just how does Chiara prove she’s a virgin? No, not in the way you might think. The tests actually used in the law courts of the sixteenth century are pretty amazing, and I swear I am not making them up. Of course, for the details you’ll have to wait for the book itself.

This is Prince Francesco speaking to Chiara…

 

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“Chiara Nerini, daughter of Carlo Nerini, bookseller and alchemist.”

Saints and angels. How had he found out her full name?

“Strip yourself. You will be naked for your testing.”

Her first thought was try to strip me and see how far you get. She thrust out her chin and actually opened her mouth to say it. Then she saw Magister Ruanno shake his head very slightly and caught her tongue before it ran away with her. Who cared if they saw her naked? She’d prove she was a virgin and then they wouldn’t dare touch her no matter how she flaunted herself, lest they sully her purity.

 

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Preorder The Red Lily Crown from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Books-a-Million, Google Play, and your favorite independent bookstore.

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24 Oct The Halloween Mash

halloween nightThis Sunday, October 27th, Writerspace is once again hosting one of their fabulous chat/giveaways, not surprisingly with a spooky Halloween theme. One of those pesky real-life commitments means I won’t be chatting this time, but I am offering two signed copies of The Flower Reader as my contribution to the many wonderful prizes.

Speaking of The Flower Reader—did you see the premiere of Reign last week on The CW? Are you going to watch it again this week? What did you think? The young Mary in The Flower Reader is two or three years older and has been through some major life changes. (I won’t specify what, just to avoid any spoilerage.) Will Reign‘s Mary experience the same changes? The show has enough of an alternate-history element that there’s no telling what they intend for their Mary, and if her life will run parallel to my Mary’s life or not.

To get back to the Writerspace Halloween Mash, the overall prizes include Kindles, autographed books from many of your favorite Writerspace writers, gift cards, and much more. You don’t have to be present to win, but you must be registered. To register, and for details on all participating authors and prizes, visit the Writerspace Halloween Mash site.

To chat with authors and readers (and the chats are always hilarious), just stop by Writerspace this Sunday, October 27th, from 8:00pm to 11:00pm ET.

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21 Oct The Alchemist Prince

We meet Francesco de’ Medici, the alchemist prince…

 

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He had a narrow, swarthy face with a high forehead, so high he had his cropped dark hair brushed forward—he was losing his hair, then. His eyes slanted downward, sensual, melancholic and secretive. Saints in the churches, painted on panels and murals, had halos of light around their heads and bodies; the prince seemed to have a tracing of darkness, as if he were standing in front of a prince-shaped hole that led into something terrible, and you could just catch glimpses of it when he moved….

 

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Preorder The Red Lily Crown from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, Books-a-Million, Google Play, and your favorite independent bookstore.

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