Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Just 13 days until THE VIRGIN'S SPY joins THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER in the wild!! For all my very kind readers who have made these last few months bright in times of trouble, enjoy this teaser scene between Anabel and Kit :)

     Anne Isabella, Princess of Wales, had learned from her earliest years that she could nearly always get her way. Not many people had the power to say no to the daughter of two reigning monarchs, and so nineteen-year-old Anabel, when she was being particularly honest with herself, admitted that she was a bit spoiled.
     The trouble was, one only tended to realize that when one didn’t get one’s way. As now, with Kit Courtenay staring her down in refusal.
     “What do you mean ‘no’?” she demanded. “I have appointed you my Master of Horse. It wasn’t a request.”
     “Unless you mean me to operate in chains, than I am telling you that I very kindly decline the appointment.”
     “What is wrong with you, Kit? You’ve been irritable and difficult for months.”
     “Because I have a mind of my own and a wish to do more with my life than follow you around and offer you compliments? ‘How lovely you are today, Your Highness,”” he said in deadly mimicry of court sycophants. “‘The very image of your royal mother, but is that a touch of Spanish flair in your dress?’”
     Anabel’s temper went from raging to white-hot in a moment. In a chilly tone reminiscent of her father’s Spanish hauteur, she said, “Long acquaintance does not give you the right to insult me to my face.”
     Most unusually, Kit did not immediately respond. Anabel was used to his ready tongue and the quick wits that could spin any conversation a dozen dizzying directions without warning. But in the last months, his irritability had been accompanied by these bouts of reflection before speech.
     Kit did not apologize; she had not expected him to. But he offered something of an explanation. “I am growing older, just as you are. I do not have a throne waiting for me, nor even a title. Stephen inherits my father’s riches. I must make my own path. And I would prefer to do it without undue favoritism.”
     “And what of due favoritism? Do you expect me to appoint strangers to serve in my household?”
     “I am not insensible of the great honour, Your Highness. But I have made other plans. The Earl of Leicester is bound for Dublin and has appointed me his secretary. I leave for Ireland in two weeks.”
     “You’re going to Ireland with Brandon Dudley? To be a secretary?” Anabel laughed in disbelief. “Why not at least go as part of Stephen’s forces?”
     “If I’m not going to accept your favours, Anabel, I’m hardly likely to go begging to my brother.”
     That at least sounded like the Kit she had always known—irreverent and occasionally insolent. Although Anabel was as close to the Courtenay children as anyone, the princess occasionally studied relationships as an outsider and wondered if the pleasures of siblings outweighed the resentments.
     “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you would reconsider?” There was a wistfulness to her plea she had not expected.
      His quick, rueful grin was answer in itself. “You’ll be happier with someone more biddable, Your Highness. You and I should only spend our days arguing.”
But those are the best parts of my days, Anabel thought forlornly. Arguing with you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Gold.

Gold for Children with Cancer. Those in treatment, those in remission, those who have survived and the too many who have not.

Childhood Cancer is not the only significant affliction of our family past and present, but it is--perhaps ironically--the simplest to talk about. Or, in my case, write about.

Seven years ago, I had four children between the ages of seven and fifteen. Three of those children lost a great deal of my time and attention that year of 2008. All four of my children lost a bit of their innocence. And what was gained?

Jake's life. Compassion. Empathy. An awareness of how the sweet and the bitter of life are much too entangled to ever separate.


     Monday, January 21, 2008 was a holiday, Martin Luther King Day. It was also the day I’d been dreading since the moment I heard the word cancer. (Did I ever hear the word cancer? Interesting, now that I think about it. Did any doctor use that generic word? I don’t think so. It was always specific. Always Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma.)
     I get the feeling I’m going to be digressing a lot while I write this.
     Hair should not have been one of my biggest concerns at this point. It had only been nineteen days since Jake’s diagnosis, nineteen days in which we’d been bombarded with information and emotions and experiences we’d never expected to have. What’s the big deal with hair?
     I’ll never forget the first bald child I saw in ICS at Primary Children’s. It was the day of Jake’s diagnosis, January 2nd. A Wednesday. I hadn’t slept since Monday night. Tuesday night was spent in two ERs and driving and waiting. We began Wednesday in the surgical unit expecting a biopsy later that day. By Wednesday afternoon we were officially part of the Immune-Compromised Service on the 4th floor. My husband drove up. I was, apparently, functioning enough that I still had to do things like drink and pee.
     I walked out of Jake’s room in the B-pod to get a drink and at the charge nurse’s desk there was a father with a little girl, maybe four or five, with a bright pink fabric headband on her bald head.
     I wept. Because no little girl should be bald. Because no child should lose their hair from toxic drugs. Because my son was a cancer child and someday soon, everyone would know it just by looking at him.
     I played it brave. We suggested to Jake that he preemptively shave, that he get a mohawk, that he choose a pattern to shave into the side of his head while he still could. He wouldn’t talk about it. He just said he’d wait.
     He didn’t have to wait long. By January 21st, he’d had one complete round of VAC in the hospital and two clinic visits for vincristine and d-actinomycin. How much damage could three treatments of chemo drugs do? I thought we’d have longer.
     Jake came to church on Sunday, January 20th, the first time since his diagnosis. His friends were delighted. They sat on the back row, all these brave, smart, handsome 11-year-old boys. As I finished music time, I walked to the back of the room. And then I heard voices: “Sister Andersen, look!”
     Jake had pulled out a clump of his hair.
     You know what I remember about those boys? That they thought it was cool. And I loved that. They weren’t afraid, or freaked out, or disgusted. They thought it was cool. So I swallowed and smiled and my heart broke one little bit more.
     Which brings us to January 21st. Thank goodness it was a holiday, because my husband was home. I couldn’t have done it alone. I didn’t want to do it at all. Jake’s friends wanted to shave their heads, too. I suggested we get everyone together for a party. When he said no, I suggested I take him to a salon. He said he wanted to be alone and he wanted me to do it.
     So I shaved my son’s head. His head of beautiful, straight, exceptionally thick hair. The only one of my children who had my dark hair. On the floor. Caught on towels. Drifting through the kitchen so that for the next week I’d see bits of it wafting in a draft.
     I don’t know how Jake felt. I can guess, in his desire for solitude, in his devout wish not to anticipate the moment, a hope that maybe it wouldn’t happen. Maybe time would turn back. Maybe none of this was really happening.
     His friends did shave their heads several weeks later during a scout activity. Jake was there and I think (thought it’s only a guess) that he felt a little more in control because he’d done it already and he was still functioning. Heaven knows he had precious little control of anything much; I couldn’t begrudge him what he did have.
     When I looked at that row of brave, smart, handsome, bald 11-year-old boys, I wept again. Because they saw Jake, and they didn’t flinch. He was a cancer child—but he was their friend first. I told them: “Someday you will have children, and when you do you will know how I feel about you today.”
     On the Friday of Jake’s first stay in the hospital, a little boy checked into the room across the hall. He was there for a follow-up stay, as Jake would be fourteen times in the coming months. As little as this boy was, he knew the drill. He’d already grabbed a tricycle and he walked around the halls without fear.
     On top of his bald head was a beautiful blue arrow edged in red, painted there by his mother.

     Did I think cancer child when I saw him? Yes. But only for a moment, and then I saw the child himself and knew that cancer wasn’t who he was, it was something he was doing. And he was doing it great. And I hoped, someday, we could say the same.

Monday, May 18, 2015


And the winners are . . .

Emily (Jake) Hutchings


Kristie Hanley


Sutton Carter


The li'l phat farm


And the two who also get an ARC of Virgin's Spy . . .

Hamish Patel

Mellifluolus Mommy

Thank you all! I had the best time reading your choices--and your description words :) I wanted to give a book to every single one of you.

Please send an email to :


1. Your name and address
2. Who you'd like the book signed for

I shall do my best to ensure the books reach you before the actual release date on May 26th :)

Now back to drafting book three . . .

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Virgin's Daughter Introductions and Giveaway!!!!

Fifteen days until THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER releases! Time to celebrate (and for celebrate--read panic.)

To distract myself from nerves--and the fact that the third Virgin's book is due in three weeks--It's Giveaway Time!!!!!

What's On Offer: I have 10 signed copies of The Virgin's Daughter up for grabs . . . and 2 luck(ier) winners will also get a signed ARC of the sequel, The Virgin's Spy :)

How To Win: comment on this post and tell us your favorite historical character (real or fictional) . . . and describe them in 3 words. To get you started, I've listed some of the characters in THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER below, with their own 3 word intros!

Lucette Courtenay (22, English): stubborn, brilliant, passionate

Stephen Courtenay (20, English): subtle, canny, dispassionate

Philippa Courtenay (18, English): bright, artless, uncanny

Christopher Courtenay (18, English): charming, lighthearted, kind

Anne Isabella (18, English/Spanish): brave, focused, willful

Nicolas LeClerc (31, French): quiet, thoughtful, deliberate

Julien LeClerc (29, French): subversive, reckless, romantic

When: Through Friday, May 15, at midnight (eastern)

I can't wait to share some new--and a few familiar--characters with you all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

After the Ides of March

How can it almost be spring?! There's still five feet of snow in my yard. Sigh.

My current life is:

Drafting book 3

Copyediting book 2

Publicity for Virgin's Daughter

Watching The Musketeers season 2

Reading . . . lots of stuff, like always :) My problem is that I binge re-read Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles during all the blizzards and both Dunnett herself and Francis Crawford tend to ruin me for other historical worlds (and, let's face it, fictional men.)

So I decided now was a good time to finally pick up a book that's been on my TBR shelf for years: THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR by Sharan Kay Penman. Penman is by far my favorite living writer of historical fiction, and very nearly as good, in my opinion, as Dorothy Dunnett. Next to The Lymond Chronicles, my favorite historical novel is HERE BE DRAGONS, about Llewellyn the Great of Wales and his English wife, Joanna.

THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR is the story of Edward IV, Richard III, and the last twenty years of the Wars of the Roses. With the mortal remains of King Richard being laid to rest this next week in Leicester, what better time to immerse myself in his story? Especially in the hands of a writer I trust.

And always, of course, My Family. Oldest son immersed in studying physics at the University of Washington and writing/performing beautiful music. Second son finishing his freshman year in public health/pre-med--and waiting to see where he will spend the next two years as a missionary for our church. Daughter studying hard  (AP U.S. history this year), learning to drive, and fending off friends who have decided they are in love with her. Youngest son registering for high school (eeeek!) and working hard on the perfect swoop of his hair across one eye.

I learned to write seriously when these kids were between the ages of ten and two. Writing with half of them at college and two teenagers at home should be simpler, right? In some ways. But, just like everything else in life, there are always benefits and drawbacks. Am I ever going to be able to write 9000 words in one day, like Sarah J. Maas? Not for the foreseeable future. But guess what I can do? I can write in fits and starts. My beginning trained me to write in journals, to write in school hallways, doctor's offices, late at night, in fifteen-minute increments between making dinner or giving baths or cleaning up disasters. There are times when longer periods of focus are required, but for the most part I can work however I have to.

That doesn't mean I won't appreciate it when my days belong more wholly to myself. Days (and nights) when my husband and I can do what we like without recognizing school hours or vacation weeks or having to shut doors :)

I may celebrate then by seeing how many hours straight I can write. Or, more likely, how many hours straight I can read. Either way, life will be good then.

How do I know that? Because life is good now.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Reading

Before January ends--and with ten-foot snowdrifts outside my door--I shall try to make up for my lack of  mini book reviews these last months with a spotlight on my reading statistics and favorite books of 2014.

Total Books Read: 138

Non-Fiction: 24

Historical Fiction: 36

YA Fiction: 17

Speculative Fiction: 30

Mystery Fiction: 44

(Don't try to make those numbers add up to 138--some books fit multiple categories.)

No huge surprises in the genre/category breakdowns. Every year, mystery fiction leads the field of what I read. My dream is to figure out how to write a sustainable, suspenseful mystery plot. The first two manuscripts I ever wrote were historical mysteries. I figure fate had a hand in landing me with Kate Miciak as my editor (after my first two editors left Random House), seeing as Kate is Mystery Editor Royalty. Lee Child, Elizabeth George, Laurie R. King, Susan Elia MacNeal, Alan Bradley . . . the list of writers she does/has edited is brilliant. Someday . . .

Historical fiction, not surprisingly, rose this year and YA went a little bit down. Clearly I am an eclectic reader. I do not have absolutes about what I will or won't read. Anytime I've thought, "Oh, that topic/character/genre isn't for me," I'm guaranteed to find an exception.

With that said, here's my highly eclectic and highly individual Top Ten (in no particular order):

1. STATION ELEVEN/Emily St. John Mandel

2. THE MARTIAN/Andy Weir

3. HEIR OF FIRE/Sarah J. Maas


5. WE WERE LIARS/E. Lockhart




9. WORDS OF RADIANCE/Brandon Sanderson


So, yes, I cheated on number ten, seeing as the series is eight books long. But, come on! It's Dorothy Dunnett! Just trust me :)

And just to narrow it slightly, my favorites in each genre/category I listed above:


Historical Fiction: Hands down, HOUSE OF NICCOLO


Speculative Fiction: STATION ELEVEN

Mystery Fiction: THE SECRET PLACE

Hope your 2014 in books was as satisfying as mine--and here's to an awesome 2015!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Writing Life/Family Life

"I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions . . .woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life or contemplative life or saintly life." 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A GIFT FROM THE SEA

I have no hope of being a saint, but at times I find myself sinking in the chaos of distractions and jealousy--Oh! I'm so bone-achingly jealous!--of younger writers, those with fewer family responsibilities, the kind of writers who can draft an entire book in the month of December.

What did I write in December? Less than 5000 words.

From jealousy follows doubt and self-criticism: I started too late. I was too lazy when young. If I had been more motivated and harder-working, I would have had a book published before I hit my forties. How many books will I never write now? Also, I'd be so much cuter at book events if I were fifteen or twenty years younger. No one cares about a writer who looks like--and is!--a suburban mom.

Then I take a deep breath. And I remember that December brought the only two weeks of the entire year when all my children were home, when I would wake in the morning wondering what we would do and went to bed at night secure that all my baby chicks were in one place.

And I also find the veins of gold that run through those twenty years of motherhood. What did I, personally, gain from writing seriously and publishing only after I'd had four children? (And I do mean personal! This is NOT, I repeat NOT, in any way a treatise on how any other writer in the world can or should live!)

I gained patience. Everything in publishing takes forever. So does potty-training. Four times.

I gained perspective. Before 2008, I received some rejections that so shook me so badly I teetered on the edge of quitting. And then my second son was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eleven. Ever since, no professional rejection could ever again have the power to break me. Ironically, only after I accepted that writing would never be the single most important thing in my life, was I free enough to write precisely as I liked and damn the consequences.

Do you like to be in control? So do I. Publishing is one long path of things NOT in a writer's control. You know what isn't in a mother's control? If your baby sleeps at night. If your toddler eats anything other than string cheese (you can put food in a child's mouth, but you cannot make her swallow!) If your pre-teen fights with her friends. If your child gets cancer. If more than one of your teens inherits your own major depressive disorder. You cannot make your child happy. You cannot make them not suffer. You cannot give them a perfect future. When they need you, they need you right that minute--whatever you happen to be doing.

Compared to that? Well, for me at least, it means that I am very much more Zen when it comes to things like reviews and how well my books are selling.

So December was not a stellar professional month for me. So what? We went out to dinner and movies, we baked cookies, we read poetry and biographies and personal letters on Christmas Eve. We laughed at the fact that I bought my oldest son The. Exact. Same. Book. I bought him for Christmas last year.

All that joy at the cost of four weeks of writing time? That's not such a bad trade-off.

(NOTE TO FAMILY: That is not a bad trade-off ONCE A YEAR. There is a reason I am spending January locked in my bedroom with my laptop. Feel free to interrupt me for fire, blood, or vomit. All other interruptions will be met with violence!)