Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Virgin's Daughter Snippet

It's Christmas time! And my book is done! And my big boys are coming home in ten days! Christmas is my favorite holiday because I. Love. Giving. Gifts. 

And now I have readers to whom I can give gifts! Yesterday I made public my inspiration board for The Virgin's Daughter on Pinterest. And today I'm offering up one of my favorite scenes from the book. Very early on in the drafting of this story, I knew I had wonderful flirtation between my are-they-or-aren't-they possible lovers. Even before I started drafting, while doing revisions on The Boleyn Reckoning, the two of them were speaking to each other in my head. At one point I believe I tweeted, "Stop flirting at each other! It's not your turn yet." 

In the scene below, Julien has found Lucie in a tavern at a French inn. The lines I bolded are the earliest exchange I ever heard in my head between the two of them. Happy Christmas :)

     She never got the chance. On her next quick peek to the corner, Julien was looking straight at her, horror writ large on his face.
     She at least managed to meet him on her feet, stepping away from the table so hurriedly that she upset her chair. Julien reached her in five strides and gripped her arm above the elbow.
     “Hey, now!” One of the merchants she’d been talking to protested. “Hands off, she was here first.”
     Julien glared down at him and slowly, through the haze of drink, the man recognized the lord of the manor. Julien’s cultured voice didn’t hurt, either. “I think I’ll exercise my droit de seigneur,” he said cuttingly, and pulled Lucette after him out the tavern door.
     “What do you think you’re doing?” She pulled her arm away and turned on him, half-furious and half-humiliated in the inn yard.
     “You’re welcome,” Julien said with elaborate insult. “Those men do not care who your father is, all they saw was a likely wench who was in way over her head.”
     With her arm free, Lucette reached behind her back and, with a practiced move, had her dagger out and in Julien’s face before he could insult her further. “I know what I’m doing,” she said clearly, hating that her head felt so fuzzy. “I was not over my head.”
     He eyed the tip of the dagger, eyes nearly crossed, then smiled that seductive, mocking grin of his youth that she’d hated. “Where, Lucie mine, did you learn to wield a dagger so handily?”
     Without moving it away, she said, “My father does not trust men with his daughters. He required us to be able to defend ourselves.” From somewhere below the fuzziness of her brain and the sinking hollow of her stomach, she realized she’d used the word father.
     “A wise man,” Julien said.
     “A dangerous man.” Finally she let the dagger drop, her hand feeling suddenly too heavy to hold up. “And don’t worry about the tavern, those men didn’t know me, they thought I was . . .” She hesitated over the description.
     He smiled grimly. “You think you can disguise your nature with a little paint and none-too-clean skirts? Not in a thousand lifetimes could you ever pass for a . . .” It was his turn to hesitate, as though unsure how to proceed, which Lucette found amusing considering his Paris reputation.
     “A whore,” she said it for him. “Men will say things around a whore that they won’t around a lady.”
     “Damn right they will, and not a word of it do you want to hear. If my father finds out where you were—”
    “He’d be angry.”
    “He’d be furious! But if your father knew? Your extremely dangerous father that makes his daughters carry daggers? If [he] hears of this he will hunt me the length and breadth of Europe and string me up like a dog!”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My Only Daughter . . .

. . . is sixteen today.

In her honor (and because my book is due before the workday starts in New York tomorrow and I don't have the emotional ability to write something new), I am posting a list I made for her twelfth birthday to read at a sixth-grade class party. With a few contemporary comments.

Love you, Emma Cate!

Twelve Things You Should Know About Emma



  1. Emma would rather read than eat. Or sleep. Or possibly even breathe.
  2. Emma is the most enthusiastic writer I know. And I know a lot of writers. She’s got motivation, she’s got persistence, she’s got a million ideas, and she’s got a voice that’s all hers.
  3. Emma will tell you that she’s lived in the same house her entire life. That is not actually true. We didn’t move into our house in Saratoga Springs until she was ten weeks old. So she’s lived here her entire life—minus ten weeks. (UPDATE: now she has lived in Massachusetts for more than three years. So two houses, minus ten weeks.)
  4. Emma embraces weirdness.
  5. Don’t mess with Harry Potter around Emma. (UPDATE: Still true.)
  6. Or Percy Jackson. (UPDATE: Or Maze Runner.)
  7. Or Artemis Fowl. (UPDATE: Or Agents of Shield. Or Once upon a Time. Or about a dozen other things.)
  8. Every summer for the last three years (WHICH MEANT 2008-2010), Emma has spent a week at Camp Hobe. No doubt you’ve heard her talk about it. It’s one of the good things that came out of her brother’s cancer . . . going to a camp where other kids her age either have cancer or have a sibling that has. Plus, the cute cute counselors don’t hurt.
  9. Last I heard, Emma’s dream is to live in Portland when she grows up so she can go to Powell’s bookstore often. (Yes, she is definitely my daughter.) She also dreams of owning a multi-story restored building in which the first floor is a bakery, the second and third floors are living quarters, and the top floor is a writer’s retreat. (UPDATE: For Portland, read Europe. Not sure about the bakery, though she did make her own brownie cupcakes for her birthday.)
  10. Emma is never, ever apathetic. She is fierce in her emotions. Sometimes that is fabulous . . . and sometimes her brothers run for cover.
  11.  She has three brothers: Matt is a senior in high school, Jake is a freshman, and Spencer is in Mrs. Zito’s class down the hall. Emma used to ask when she would have a sister, but she doesn’t anymore. She has learned to appreciate the wardrobe benefits of being the only girl.
  12.  Emma is our only daughter for one simple reason: Because she’s the best there is. Opinionated and curious and passionate—a believer in dreams and an idealist who wants to do something real in the world. (STILL TRUE!)


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Summer Books I Loved

FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL/Sheri Fink
An account of Hurricane Katrina at one New Orleans hospital. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion: an avalanche of weather, weak infrastructure, poor planning, and traumatized decision-making.

THE ASSASSIN'S BLADE/Sarah J. Maas
If you follow me on Twitter, you know how I adore the Throne of Glass series--epic fantasy with a fierce and damaged YA heroine. This book comprises several novellas set prior to Caelena's introduction in The Throne of Glass, showing her rise and fall as Adarlan's star assassin.

THE OUTCAST DEAD/Elly Griffiths
One of my favorite mystery series right now is this one featuring forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway. This story weaves together a possible Victorian murderess whose bones may have been unearthed with the contemporary death and abduction of local children. The title comes from an Anglican service held yearly in London in memory of those buried in mass paupers' graves.

A DARK AND TWISTED TIDE/Sharon Bolton
Another favorite series is Bolton's featuring Lacey Flint. Now working with the River Police rather than homicide, Lacey is drawn back into murder when she finds a body in the Thames. Was it left for her to find? How is it connected to the cases of young foreign women being smuggled into England? And could undercover detective Mark Joesbury be a suspect?

WE WERE LIARS/E. Lockhart
A slim but powerful YA novel about loss and friendship and first love. Cadence spends every summer on the Sinclair family's private island with her cousins and, eventually, a friend who might become more. As the three adult daughters quarrel with and over their aging father and his estate, the teens draw tightly together. Except for one summer--one that Cadence cannot remember. After two years of debilitating pain and migraines, Cadence returns to the island to piece together what happened.

NEVER LET ME GO/Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were raised at Hailsham, a somewhat idyllic childhood at a beautiful school in the English countryside. From the beginning, Ishiguro lets the reader know not all is right with the children or their lives now--I would call this a literary dystopian novel. As Kathy moves between her life today and remembering Hailsham, the reader falls into a seductive story of what it means to be human.

A THOUSAND LIVES/Julia Scheere
The story of the Jonestown massacre, beginning with Jim Jones's meteoric rise in Indiana to the beginnings of his paranoia and brutal control in California. Scheere tells many smaller stories of the individuals and families caught in the web of Jonestown and, though a reader knows how it all ends, it's still a tense experience akin to watching a horror film and wanting to scream, "Look behind you!"

WHERE'D YOU GO, BERNADETTE?/Maria Semple
On my bookshelf for over a year--now I'm wondering why I waited so long. This is the story of Bernadette, once a noted architect, who disappears from her Seattle home leaving her husband and daughter to wonder what happened. Fifteen-year-old Bea tries to find her mother by piecing together emails, old articles, official documents and secret correspondence between her mother and a virtual assistant in India. Wonderfully comic and moving story of one girl's search to understand the secrets adults keep.

HERETICS AND HEROES/Thomas Cahill
The subtitle says it all: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World. Cahill writes the Hinges of History series, of which this is the latest, exploring those periods in time which changed the course of the world as we know it. Particularly apt for me as I am writing my new trilogy set in the 1580s, as the Renaissance and Reformation began to reap their rewards.

THE UNICORN HUNT and TO LIE WITH LIONS/Dorothy Dunnett
I am obsessed with Dorothy Dunnet's historical sagas. I started the House of Niccolo series a little diffidently, confident that it could never replace The Lymond Chronicles in my heart. Well, it doesn't replace it--but it wonderfully, magically, stands beside it. In books 5 and 6, Nicolas's plots in 1470's Europe reach their apogee as he schemes against his vengeful wife and sets Scotland on a collision course with history. I am now halfway through the 8th and final book in the series . . . and find myself reading slowly because I don't want it to end. I suspect when I finish I will pick up The Game of Kings and read The Lymond Chronicles once more too sooth my broken heart.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Childhood Cancer Awareness

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Unless, of course, you're a family touched by childhood cancer, in which case every month, every week, every day is shaped by a level of awareness no one wants but yet manages to provide significant blessings along the way. For those who do not live with that awareness, I'm posting something I wrote in late September 2008, just as Jake came off treatment. 



And Then . . .


There was me trying to decide what to write next.

It's been two weeks since his last chemo. He's had his blood draws for that period and his counts are good. On Monday the 27th he has a CT scan and MRI and we'll go to clinic the next day to meet with Dr. Afify for the final time. But not really--because, of course, we don't get to just walk out and pretend this all never happened. There will be scans and exams and probably worrisome moments aplenty over the next five years until Jake is officially declared cured. And I don't think I'm quite ready for all that. I'm still contemplating switching into that gear and wondering what life will look like then.

In the meantime, I've had a copy of Newsweek in my inbox for several weeks waiting for me to do this post. It's the September 15 issue and it has a story entitled WE FOUGHT CANCER . . . AND CANCER WON.

In 1971 (two years after I was born), Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act which was supposed to make cancer curable. Instead, almost forty years later, cancer is poised to overtake cardiovascular disease as America's number one killer.

There has been, as Newsweek put it, "a lot of elegant science . . . [but] studies of the mechanisms leading to cancer and efforts to control cancer often seemed to inhabit separate worlds . . . Indeed, it is possible (and common) for cancer researchers to achieve extraordinary acclaim and success . . . without ever helping a single patient gain a single extra day of life."

Why? On the NCI website, one can read that "the biology of the more than 100 types of cancers has proven far more complex than imagined [in 1971]." Cancer is smart. Send a drug up against it, and the cancer cells will develop around it. Like bacteria, cancer cells are constantly learning and mutating.

Metastasis is the greatest enemy. Metastatic cells, those that break off from the original tumor and grow elsewhere in the body, are responsible for 90 percent of cancer deaths. You want to know the really scary thing? There's no way to be certain that you're not leaving metastatic cells behind after treatment. Radiation killed the tumor in Jake's sinus. Forty-two weeks of chemotherapy have killed off any microscopic cells left behind. We hope. But the truth is, there's no way to tell.

The overall mortality rate from cancer has fallen 7.5 percent since 1971. In 1991, 215 out of every 100,000 Americans died of cancer. In 2005, it was 184 out of 100,00. Progress, but slow. Consider that deaths from cardiovascular disease have fallen by 70 percent in the same time period.

However, there's a brighter statistic. Fifty years ago, pediatric cancer was an almost certain death sentence (children with leukemia in the 1940s rarely lived longer than 3 months). Today, 80 percent of pediatric cancer patients live to be adults.

80 percent.

Why? Because pediatric oncologists banded together. With fewer patients, they reached out across the country for advice and help. The Children's Oncology Group (COG) has standardized treatment plans for pediatric patients. At times, 80 percent of children with a particular cancer are enrolled in the same clinical trial (Jake is part of a clinical trial)--it's long been less than 1 percent for adults. Rather than focus on new biological pathways, pediatric oncologists took the weapons they had and learned how to use them in new ways. And along the way, they saved the lives of countless children.

Only they're not countless to their parents.

Bravo. And thank you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In Memoriam


Dee Floyd Andersen

April 9, 1931--June 27, 2014



 Dee and Frances Wedding Day
January 1951



Andersen Family 1987 (the year after I met the youngest, Chris)



With Chris's Family on our wedding day
April 1992



Andersen Family 1992



Thanksgiving at Golden Corral
(what happens when you have more than 50 people for Thanksgiving!)



Andersen Family 2005
(minus eldest son, Allen--you get left out when you live in Hong Kong!)




Dee and Frances 2006
(the remains of the family farm where Frances grew up)



Dad, Allen (oldest), and Chris (youngest)
2006



Dancing with Spencer
2006



Thanksgiving Gardens with Emma
2005



With cancer-buddy Jake 
2011



Matthew's graduation
2011



"Please go away!" 
Alaska Cruise 2011



We are richer for loving you.
The world is poorer for losing you. 
We'll do you proud :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

April & May Books I Loved

PRINCE OF SHADOWS/Rachel Caine
A YA historical inspired by Romeo and Juliet, the titular Prince is Benvolio who finds himself in deep when his cousin falls for the wrong girl and Benvolio himself meets Rosalind. A wonderful, in-depth world with a touch of paranormal and the ability to make you weep for almost every single character. Highly recommended.

I REMEMBER YOU/Yrsa Sigurdordottir
I'm a sucker for haunted house stories, and this Icelandic one is a gem. In an isolated village (naturally) three friends set to work renovating a house. With little experience and not enough preparation, things soon go badly. And that's before the haunting begins . . . Meanwhile, across the fjord, a doctor discovers a recently-deceased woman was obsessed with his own missing son. The two strands eventually come together for a chillingly good story.

SO MUCH FOR THAT/Lionel Shriver
Shriver is not an easy writer. For the first three-quarters of this book, I was convinced I hated it. And yet, I kept reading. And the last quarter fully rewarded me. Shep Knacker has finally accumulated the money needed for his lifelong dream of retiring to a small and simple life. But then his wife is diagnosed with cancer. As she deteriorates and their money vanishes into health care, Shep's friend, Jackson, is spiraling into his own circle of debt and depression trying to keep his severely-disabled daughter alive. Shriver is always provocative and in-your-face, but the elegy of Glynis dying at the end was so beautiful and poignant that I suppose I'll never be able to decide if I loved or hated this book.

THE BRONTES/Juliet Barker
A biography of the most famous siblings of the 19th century, Barker goes in-depth to not only each child's talents, but how their relationships in and outside their family shaped and twisted them. The outlines of the tale are familiar--Charlotte the only survivor of six children (losing Branwell, Emily, and Anne within less than a year), marrying in her late thirties, and dying likely as a consequence of a complicated pregnancy. If you're a fan, this is a great biography, especially in adding depth to the sometimes-villain of the classic tale, their father, Patrick.

ALIAS GRACE/Margaret Atwood
A re-read for me of one my favorite Atwood novels. Fifteen years after Grace Marks was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper, Simon Jordan has come to study the famous prisoner in order to jump start his medical career in what will become the field of psychology. The two of them often seem to be at cross-purposes, but eventually Grace tells her story. The twist to this novel is that Grace Marks was a real woman, 16 years old when she was convicted and spent almost thirty years in prison before having her sentence commuted and vanishing from the record. Atwood weaves an  entirely plausible and moving story that, even in the end, leaves the reader undecided about the depth of Grace's involvement in the murders.

SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT and ANY OTHER NAME/Craig Johnson
The first title is a novella featuring Walt Longmire, featuring a wild winter-rescue in an ancient plane and an injured girl whose life depends on them. Like everything Johnson writes, almost elegaic in its beauty and emotion. ANY OTHER NAME is the newest novel in the Longmire series, in which Walt is asked by old friend Lucian to investigate the suicide of a neighboring county's detective. Walt is soon mired in the cold cases of three missing women that the detective was investigating and someone wants him off the trail. Add in the time pressure of his first grandchild about to be born in Philadelphia, not to mention Wyoming blizzards, and Walt has his hands full. Always a winner.

THE ORPHAN MASTER'S SON/Adam Johnson
Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, Jonson's novel of North Korea deserves every accolade it's won. Pak Jun Do is raised an orphan and then plucked into digging tunnels. Having survived that, he is selected to become a professional kidnapper, and then to sail with North Korean fishing boats as an intelligence officer. In love from afar with a legendary actress, Jun Do eventually takes on the most dangerous role of all trying to preserve beauty and love from a regime that wants only to crush everything. Absolutely recommended.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Brothers

All my words are being sucked up by revisions/copy edits on the new book. but I cannot overlook the two critical events of this past week. On June 23, Jake started college. And on June 25, Matt turned twenty-one. 

"How have you come to this . . . to such a place as this?" (That would sound better if Hugh Jackman were singing it."

So here you go--my first two boys through the years :)



Matthew in a rare shot from his first year without casts. (He was born with club feet, for those who didn't know him then.)



Jake in possibly my favorite picture of myself ever :) 




With Matt on our favorite beach park in Seattle. 




Jake in all his bald, chubby glory :)




First Christmas as brothers (1996)




Matt was always so responsible (1996)




Shortly before Emma joined the brothers' club (1998)




At Disney World (2001)




Near Buckingham Palace (2004)




Masai Mara visit in Kenya (2006)




Matthew Nicholas



Jacob Bentley


What a wonderful life we've had with these two! Happy birthday, happy college, and we can't wait until you come home for a visit :)