0 0

31 Aug Crocodile Tears

I do love research. And language.

This morning I was writing along and I came to a moment when someone (the Ferrarese ambassador at Cosimo de’ Medici’s funeral, which will make perfect sense to readers of The Second Duchess) is weeping large crocodile tears. I assumed this was some kind of modern figure of speech and went to my beloved Online Etymology Dictionary to check on it. Imagine my surprise to learn that the concept of crocodiles crying false tears goes back to at least the ninth century, figured prominently in medieval bestiaries, was spread widely in English by the mysterious and possibly fictional explorer/adventurer “Sir John Mandeville” in the fourteenth century, and turns up in two Shakespearean plays (Othello and Henry VI, Part 2). So crocodile tears it is.

One of the great joys of writing is that there’s always something new and intriguing to learn.

0 0

08 Aug A Second Wife Named Camilla

One meets the most interesting (and sometimes heartbreaking) people around the fringes of history. Here, for example, is Camilla Martelli, the second wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first grand duke of Tuscany. But was she the grand duchess? No. Cosimo married her morganatically (meaning she didn’t get to share his title) and reluctantly, only because the Pope insisted he confess all his sins and regularize his life (Camilla had been his mistress for several years and borne him a daughter) before being elevated to the title of grand duke.

Poor Camilla. Cosimo’s grown children loathed her (she was younger than both Francesco and Isabella), considering her vulgar and grasping. If the dress she’s wearing in this portrait is any indication, she did have a rather gaudy taste in clothes and jewels. But to me she looks sad.

When Cosimo died in April 1574, the new grand duke Francesco immediately (the very same night!) sent Camilla to a convent called “Le Murate,” which means “the walled-in ones.” Needless to say, it was a prison for Camilla. Supposedly she made life for the actual nuns such a living hell with her hysterics that a few months later she was moved to a different convent with a somewhat less severe way of life—but imprisoned she remained, pretty much for the rest of her life. She was allowed out to attend the wedding of her daughter Virginia de’ Medici to Cesare d’Este (remember the “weedy little boys,” Duke Alfonso’s nephews, in The Second Duchess? Well, Cesare was one of them), and once again, briefly, toward the end of her life; she apparently could not help attempting to meddle in politics and was soon forced back into the convent, where she died in 1590.

One is left to wonder why Francesco treated his stepmother so harshly. There is a hint in a letter in the Medici Archive in Florence, which comments that in January 1576 Camilla gave up her property, including her jewels and the villa were she and Cosimo had been living, the Villa di Castello, to her eight-year-old daughter Virginia. For all practical purposes this gave the property back to the Medici, and this property, particularly the Villa di Castello, may have been at the bottom of it all. There must have been more hysterics when Camilla learned that even after giving up her property, she was to remain behind convent walls—forever.

0 0

15 Jul Life’s a Beach!

Please join me and dozens of your other favorite authors at the Writerspace Beach Party, tonight from 8pm ET to 11pm ET. I’ll be chatting live from 8-8:30pm ET, so come by and say hi!

Authors will be chatting and giving away tons of prizes—Kindles, autographed books, gift cards and more. I’m giving away a signed copy of The Flower Reader and some gorgeous color postcards. In fact, you can even have your choice of the US or UK editions!

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 Beach Party info page!

2 0

25 May Daphne du Maurier Awards

I’m delighted to announce that The Second Duchess is a finalist in the historical division of this year’s Daphne du Maurier Awards for excellence in mystery and suspense, presented by the Kiss of Death chapter of the Romance Writers of America.

The “Daphnes” will be presented at the “Death by Chocolate” Reception and Awards Ceremony, on the Thursday of the RWA Conference in July. Could there be a better way to die?

Congratulations and best of luck to all the finalists, published and unpublished!

0 0

22 May The Book Carriage

I have been absolutely flattened by a cluster of migraines over the past two or three weeks, so all I can do is mumble a plea for understanding.

I did have a little window of feeling human over the weekend, which I took full advantage of by going up to my favorite little bookstore in Roanoke, the Book Carriage. Their book club had been reading The Flower Reader for their most recent selection, and let me tell you, the book club members had great questions and really insightful comments. It was a wonderful afternoon.

They even had a sign on the sidewalk outside the store! I had to ask the Broadcasting Legend™ to take a picture, because I’ve never had my name written on a sign like this before. I love the dappled sunlight, and it was a great relief to my poor dazzled migraine-y eyes.



Here I am with, from left to right, Pat, the stellar book club coordinator; Brenda, a brilliant book club reader, and Angie Granados, the co-owner of The Book Carriage. Note the little bit of folded paper on the table—we drew names for one of the last of my pressed-flower bookmarks, and that was the winner (Pat! Congratulations!).


0 0

26 Apr Nostradamus and Me

Today I’m guest-posting over at Always with a Book, about Nostradamus, the quatrain that made him famous, and my own adventures in writing fictional secret quatrains in the style of Nostradamus for The Flower Reader. Come see, and find out why I describe Nostradamus as the of his day. (Hint: gossip about famous people and lots of blind items.)

There’s also a fabulous and thoughtful review of The Flower Reader by Deb Previte, the “Bookish Dame” (I do love that sobriquet), at A Bookish Libraria. Would love to see you there!

0 0

21 Apr The EmoCoaster

Some of my writer friends call it the “emocoaster”—the emotional rollercoaster. We all ride it sometimes. I seemed to have had a whole handful of tickets this past week, lurching from euphoric highs to abysmal lows and back again. And again. And again. And that’s really all I’ll say about that. Heh.

Among the wonderful things: my virtual book tour continued, with reviews and guest posts (some with giveways) at:

Let Them Read Books
So Many Books, So Little Time
Passages to the Past
The True Book Addict

Many thanks to these wonderful book bloggers for their reading, reviews and hospitality!

Flat Rinette also made some new stops around the country. I’d love it if you’d tuck your copy of the book in a fun or unusual place, snap a picture, and send it in—see details in the sidebar.

More touring coming up next week:

Monday, April 23: Review at A Bookish Libraria. (and no, there’s no ‘n’ on the end)

Tuesday, April 24: Review at Always with a Book.

Wednesday, April 25: Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

Thursday, April 26: Review at A Novel Affair, and a guest post on my adventures in writing fictional quatrains in the style of Nostradamus at Always with a Book.

Friday, April 27: Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages.

Whew! I’m stocking up on Rescue Remedy (dog people will know what I’m talking about) and I’ll see you there!

0 0

13 Apr Off to Houston

I’m flying down to Houston this afternoon for a signing at the wonderful Murder by the Book tomorrow. If you’re in Houston or the Houston area, please come see me—it’s at 1:00pm tomorrow, Saturday, afternoon. Nothing fancy or formal—I’ll just talk a little about floromancy and Nostradamus and Mary Queen of Scots, and hopefully get lots of questions and interaction. I like it when you talk better than when I talk. Heh.

I’ll also be giving away some of my beautiful pressed-flower bookmarks, with the floromancy meanings of the flowers written up to go with them.

There are quite a few murders in The Flower Reader and so I think Rinette will fit right in. I’ll have to take some “Flat Rinette” pictures of her hobnobbing with other mystery/thriller heroines.

A fun interview today over at Unabridged Chick. Who else would have gotten me to admit that my first piece of fiction was written from the point of view of a horse??

0 0

12 Apr Always a Hound

I’m guest posting today on the Owl Bookmark Blog, about dogs in sixteenth-century courts, Renaissance art, and of course historical fiction.

The Owl Bookmark Blog

Being a beagle lover (how would you ever have guessed?), my fictional doggies tend to be hounds—the pocket beagle puppies Tristo and Isa in The Second Duchess, and the loyal hunting hound Seilie with his melting eyes and freckled paws in The Flower Reader. Stop by and join the discussion about you favorite animals in fiction!