Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blog Hop: Christmas After the Priory

Hello and welcome to a special Christmas Day hop! Organized by Helen Hollick, more than 20 historical authors are sharing snippets of their work. Details about the hop and links to their wonderful stories are below.

My series of historical thrillers tell the story of Joanna Stafford, a Dominican novice struggling to survive the turbulent reign of Henry VIII. This excerpt comes from the second novel in my series, The Chalice. It is Christmas 1538. Sister Joanna and her fellow nuns and the friars have lost their home--Dartford Priory was demolished as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries--and they are trying to make new lives. It's difficult ... and it's dangerous.

And here is my snippet: some faith, some history, and some suspense - and a bit of romance too :)

The Chalice, Chapter 33:

At Mass on Christmas Day, there was not an empty seat to be found in Holy Trinity Church. The church had been stripped of its adornments, its beautiful images painted over, but something significant was added: long wooden pews. As Father William Mote told the story of Our Savior with as much vigor as he was capable of, I sat in a pew halfway down the middle of the church, next to Arthur and Sister Winifred, with Brother Edmund on the other side. We were no longer relegated to the chantries chapel.

But then there was the chain.

As Father William expounded, he stood next to it--a platform nailed to the altar and, attached to that platform by a long and heavy chain, the first English translation of the Great Bible, written by Myles Coverdale. "I am exhorted by Lord Privy Seal Cromwell to gently and charitably exhort you to read this Bible for yourselves," Father William announced to us two Sundays ago.

Ironically, the only parishioner  who made it his business to study Coverdale's Bible was Brother Edmund. "I do not fear the Scriptures and will not be corrupted by misinterpretation," Brother Edmund reassured Sister Eleanor, who begged him not to put himself at risk. Faulty translation from the Latin, leading to heretical belief, is what we Catholics feared. After a few days of reading, he commented, "Coverdale acquits himself well. He was an Augustinian, after all."

My problem was not with the book itself but the chain. Every time I looked at it, I feared I was being dragged back to London, to the court and prison and scaffold of King Henry VIII. As I listened to Father William's sermon, I put both my hands around my throat and closed my eyes.

When Mass was finished, Brother Edmund asked, "Sister Joanna, may I have your assistance in the infirmary for a short time?"

"Of course," I said. My little cousin Arthur, excited about the coming feast, skipped off with Sister Winifred. We had pooled our pence and purchased mutton so that Sister Winifred could make a mince pie.

Brother Edmund's small infirmary on the High Street, tidily kept and stocked with potions, pills, plasters and herbs, was empty. As Brother Edmund lit a small fire in the back, I thought it was doubtful that someone from town would require the services of an apothecary on Christmas Day.

"Sister Joanna, I must speak to you in confidence about something important," he said, gesturing to the stools set next to his oak work table.

"Yes, Brother?" My breath quickened. I wanted to be important to Brother Edmund.

He pulled his stool close to mine so that we were inches apart. I had not been alone with him since I reached for his hands in the calefactorium at Blackfriars, in London.

He said, "I must know if you have noticed anyone following you."

I drew back, surprised. "What do you mean?"

Running those hands through his ash-blond hair, he said, "I believe that someone watches me. I see a shadow in the doorway and turn--the shadow is gone. It could be anyone, not a man following me. But the last time it occurred, when I heard the footsteps, I slipped between two shops and waited. No one appeared for a very long time, and then it was the butcher and son. The man had been clever enough to know what I was doing and turned back."

I stared at Brother Edmund, struggling to take it all in.

"Are you absolutely sure that no one watches you?" he pressed.

"I cannot be sure, of course, but no, I've..." the words died in my throat as a most fearful speculation took hold.


And that is all for my blog hop!

Note: I traveled to London and Dartford to research my novels. I went inside the same Holy Trinity Church where the characters worshiped in the chapter you just read. The church was built in the year 1080 and still stands in Dartford:

Holy Trinity Church, Dartford

If you would like to read more about Joanna Stafford, please enter the giveaway contest for the first book in my series, The Crown. It was an Oprah magazine pick in 2012. The review said: "Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy and betrayal."

If you would like a free signed copy of The Crown, leave your name and email address in the comments below. The book can be shipped anywhere in North America.

Now, carry on with the Blog Hop, set to go on December 20th

1. Helen Hollick : “You are Cordially Invited to a Ball” (plus a giveaway prize) -  
2. Alison Morton : "Saturnalia surprise - a winter party tale”  (plus a giveaway prize) -
3. Andrea Zuvich : No Christmas For You! The Holiday Under Cromwell -
4. Ann Swinfen : Christmas 1586 – Burbage’s Company of Players Celebrates -
5. Anna Belfrage :  All I want for Christmas -
6. Carol Cooper : How To Be A Party Animal -
7. Clare Flynn :  A German American Christmas -
8. Debbie Young :  Good Christmas Housekeeping -
9. Derek Birks :  The Lord of Misrule - A Medieval Christmas Recipe for Trouble -
10. Edward James : An Accidental Virgin and An Uninvited Guest - and - 
11. Fenella J. Miller : Christmas on the Home front (plus a giveaway prize) -
12. J. L. Oakley :  Christmas Time in the Mountains 1907 (plus a giveaway prize) -
13. Jude Knight : Christmas at Avery Hall in the Year of Our Lord 1804 -
14. Julian Stockwin: Join the Party -  
15. Juliet Greenwood : Christmas 1914 on the Home Front (plus a giveaway) -
16. Lauren Johnson :  Farewell Advent, Christmas is come - Early Tudor Festive Feasts -
17. Lucienne Boyce :  A Victory Celebration -
18. Lindsay Downs: O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree
19. Nicola Moxey : The Feast of the Epiphany, 1182 -
20. Peter St John:  Dummy’s Birthday -
21. Regina Jeffers : Celebrating a Regency Christmas  (plus a giveaway prize) -
22. Richard Abbott : The Hunt – Feasting at Ugarit -
23. Saralee Etter : Christmas Pudding -- Part of the Christmas Feast -
24. Stephen Oram : Living in your dystopia: you need a festival of enhancement… (plus a giveaway prize) -
25. Suzanne Adair :The British Legion Parties Down for Yule 1780 -

Thank you for joining us 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"The Tapestry" Makes a Most Anticipated List of 2015

How nice to wake up on a Saturday morning and discover that The Tapestry made it onto Book Drunkard's 12 Day of Christmas List of Most Anticipated Books of 2015!

To read more on the two books selected, go here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Snipppet Sunday: The Tapestry

I learned about Snippet Sunday from author Kris Waldherr. It is a monthly meme organized by Stephanie Dray in which historical novelists share six-sentence snippets of their novels. Go to Stephanie's website to learn more about Stephanie and her fantastic and innovative new book A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, co-written with Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Ben Kane, E. Knight and Vicky Alvear Shecter.

And I encourage you to stop by Kris's blog Art and Words. The writing in her snippet, from a novel set in 1851, is exquisite!

As for my Snippet Sunday, it comes from the third novel in my trilogy set in Tudor England, The Tapestry, the opening of Chapter Six:

Catherine Howard always slept with a window open. We were so different in temperament, in interests, but that was a preference we had shared at Howard House, even in the icy cold.
This was a cloudless night, and so the moon's bath of light swam through the bedchamber. I was too troubled by the day's events to find rest. But she slept soundly, one of her arms thrown over her head. She was a different person when she slept. Some cynical, calculating adults look like innocent children when their eyes are closed, but Catherine was more childlike when awake.

And that's it! I hope you will be interested in reading more.... The Tapestry will be published by Simon & Schuster on March 24, 2015

From my box of advance galleys!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Day the Box Arrives...

I always get emotional when the box of Advance Reading Copies lands on my doorstep (or in my case, the apartment lobby mailbox).

I think that this cover is the most effective of the three, mingling beauty with menace. Very grateful to the art department of Touchstone Books!

Looking forward to hearing from my readers!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Mysterious Life & Horrific Death of Mary Jane Kelly

On November 9th, 1888, a 25-year-old woman known as Mary Jane Kelly was found murdered with incomprehensible savagery in her room at 13 Miller's Court, off Dorset Street, dubbed "the worst street in London.

In my post I explore the enigma of Mary, believed to be the last victim of Jack the Ripper...

Go here to read it:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

German Publisher Buys Rights to THE TAPESTRY!

Very excited to report that DTV is buying the third in my trilogy. Publication date not set yet.

November 3, 2014
International rights: Fiction German rights to Nancy Bilyeau's THE TAPESTRY, the third book in her Joanna Stafford series, again to DTV in Germany, by Sebastian Ritscher at Mohrbooks, on behalf of Heide Lange at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.

A part of THE TAPESTRY takes place in Germany, so this is important to me. Not many historical novels written by Americans take their characters to Germany, which is such a shame. It was a place of turmoil, beauty, revolutionary change...and magic.

As soon as I have a publication date, I will share it!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween: The Tudor Connection

By Nancy Bilyeau

I have a passion for 16th century England. My friends and family, not to mention my agent and editors, are accustomed to my obsession with the Tudorverse. Namely, that for me, all roads lead back to the family that ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Could it be possible that Halloween, one of my favorite days of the year, is also linked to the Tudors? 

Yes, it turns out, it could.

To read my blog on English Historical Fiction Authors, go to

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Charles Brandon: Fact and Fiction and Henry Cavill

By Nancy Bilyeau

There are few figures of the court of Henry VIII who carry more romantic baggage than Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, famously portrayed by Henry Cavill on the series The Tudors.

Read my blog post for English Historical Fiction Authors on the real Brandon. From before the battle of Bosworth to his marriage to the king's beautiful younger sister, I look at the facts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Missing My Friend, M.M. Bennetts

On December 11, 2011, I sent a Facebook friend request to a British writer named M.M. Bennetts with the following message: "You are the funniest person in our group. Please do me the honor of permitting Facebook friendship."

Her swift response: "Ha. Ha. Ha. Can't think what I've said. But yes, absolutely, delighted to."

And that was the beginning of it.

In December 2011 I was a woman with a debut novel one month away from publication. As we are all advised to do, I was writing a flurry of blog posts and meeting fellow authors in person and online. And enjoying myself. I loved writing my first post, one about Halloween in the Tudor era, for English Historical Fiction Authors, a group blog launched by author Debra Brown with the idea that each day a different person would post something on real history, either touched on in the research of a novel or simply of great interest.

Enter M.M.

As Debbie told me in an email: "It was in December. Things got behind with holidays, and I did not have enough posts. I invited British histfic authors from the Triberr group I was in to join, and that is when she came in. She said she could provide two or three posts if I needed them. 'Just ask,' she said. 'Anytime.' "

She was the perfect addition to the group and soon became one of its most active members. M.M. Bennetts, an accomplished author of two novels, Of Honest Fame and May 1812, was also a tireless researcher and editor and a book critic of many years with The Christian Science Monitor.

Or, as M.M. once put it to me: "I know I'll dig and dig until I get as close to the truth as possible, even if it means I annoy the hell out of everyone. And I don't care if people like me--I was too long a book critic to care about that."

You see, that was what I loved most about her. She was brilliant and talented and generous--and she had an edge. A wicked sense of humor and little tolerance for a "nincompetentpoop" or "wholly unintelligible drivel." We reviewed each other's books--mine Tudor thrillers and hers Napoleonic spy stories--and furiously promoted each other's blog posts on social media. And in 687 private Facebook messages over nearly three years (is this a record??), we would vent to each other about the difficulty of publishing novels. "The prob is at the minute over here, everything is World War I until I'm about to vomit. It's everybloodywhere." We swapped bits of hard-won experience and insight. There were a few tears but more often there were jokes, as in her priceless assessment: "The publishing industry is knee deep in horse muck. Only horse muck is good for roses and I'm not sure what they're good for."

I was a little intimidated by how many things she did well. She was a talented pianist. She was a horsewoman. She knew a lot about gardening. M.M. and I had in common a distaste for easy sentiment about historical figures. She had done years of research into Napoleon and knew about the havoc of his armies. She did not like the romanticizing of him, and she approved my similarly un-sentimental feeling toward Henry VIII.

I was nervous about my first bookstore reading, and she shot me useful advice in an email. Afterward I celebrated with her. No one was better than M.M. Bennetts at celebrating something going well for once.

On the bookstore reading: "The worst is one where no one comes. Ha ha. I once had a reading at a local shop and about an hour before really bad weather blew in and the heavens just opened and there were flash floods locally. So there I was with the bookshop owner and one friend who braved the deluge (and she was dripping...) So that was a bit tense, but you just have to laugh because there's nothing you can do about it. Though you do feel like a numpty with these stacks of books just sitting there. So chuffed it went well for you."

We kept nagging each other to visit. Only the Atlantic Ocean separated us! I'd traveled to London in the summer of 2011 to research The Chalice but I hadn't known M.M. then. When I pressed her to come to Florida for the June 2013 Historical Novel Society conference, she responded: "Me, on an airplane, with my claustrophobia? That's just not going to happen." Also: "June is the month in which Parnel sits her A-levels, has her final Speech Day, has her Leavers' Ball (parents invited) and sundry parties. You may have thought otherwise, but really, I'm just a high-end taxi service. So I have a better plan. You come here. For research for your next book. I could be nice and take you on the cakey tour!"

I wanted very much to visit, but finances wouldn't permit it. Still, we talked a lot about our agenda during my theoretical stay. I confided: "High tea is what has the power to bring me to tears."

M.M. responded: "Don't cry over it. That just ruins the tea. If you want high tea, we should go over to what used to be the family shack in Sparsholt. Now it's a posh hotel. Or there's a place down in Brockenhurst which does a fine high tea. Ginger Two has the best cake in Hampshire and that's in Winchester. Very homey--there's a pic of all the cake on my wall--the only pic. I have my priorities."

Of Honest Fame is a suspenseful and beautifully written novel. Read my review here: "A Regency Novel Like No Other." M.M. was doing an amazing job with her article writing and her editing of the EHFA anthology  Castles, Customs and Kings. But what about another novel, I asked?

"I want to--just as you say--have fun with writing again," she responded. "Enjoy my work, enjoy playing with the language and characters like a sculptor plays with clay. But there's this manic focus on numbers--how many books have you written and how many have you sold and it's all push, push, push, and no time for reflection--but at heart, books are about dreaming... which is just the opposite. So I don't know..."

This past March I received an email from M.M. that surprised and worried me: "I've been, er, fighting the big c for a few years now, am just about finished with a kind of big thing with radiotherapy to the head--they are also convinced I'm going to be fine, and I'm looking forward, but you know, I want my life back, and I want to get back in the saddle with my work."

She reassured me several times that she was getting better, suggesting I write a guest post for her blog on the Hermit of Dartford, but at the same time I noticed her witty and knowledgeable comments on the EHFA Facebook group were becoming less and less frequent.

My last email to my friend M.M. Bennetts was on August 9, alerting her to my blog post on the Hellfire Club in Medmenham Abbey: "I thought that if anyone would enjoy a bit of Georgian debauchery, it would be you!"

There was never a response. And then I knew. Yet when her daughter emailed me in that M.M. had died, peacefully, surrounded by family on August 25, I looked at the message on my phone in disbelief. I read it on the way out of my apartment building and found I couldn't get out the door. I sat in the corner of the lobby, facing the courtyard window, and I cried and cried.

I mourn her friendship, her knowledge, her warmth, her never-to-be-forgotten jokes. I wish with all my heart she'd written another novel. I hope people will find the fine ones she did write.

"We learn and we grow wise and we do it ourselves," she once emailed me.

M.M., I promise you I will try.

[This post originally appeared on English Historical Fiction Authors. To see the comments of other friends, go here.]

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Henry VIII: Victim of disease or Nero-like tyrant?

I reviewed two biographies of Henry VIII for the folks at These books put forward very different theories of what "went wrong" with the king after the age of 40.

My book review follows:

"On Christmas Eve, 1545, the man who had ruled England for 36 years, Henry VIII, appeared before Parliament. All assembled had expected Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley to address them before prorogation. But it was instead a morning for a king's speech.
Henry VIII did not arrive at Westminster with anything approaching speed or grace. Surpassing 300 pounds, the king suffered astoundingly poor health. He was plagued with severe headaches, constipation and recurrent fever. His foul-smelling, ulcerated legs could barely support him; he was sometimes carried around his luxuriously appointed palaces in a chair and lowered onto his unfortunate horse by a sort of crane..."

To continue, read the full review here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How a Book Editor Works: A conversation With Heather Lazare

My debut novel, The Crown, was brought out by Heather Lazare, an accomplished editor who has acquired historical novels by Michelle Moran, Julia Gregson and Stephanie Lehmann. Heather bought my second novel, The Chalice, and edited it along with my UK editors at Orion. And she acquired the third novel in my trilogy, The Tapestry. Working with her on these books was a great pleasure. Heather was thoughtful and insightful, with a passion for history and an eye for detail. Last year Heather shifted to the freelance world, but we've kept in touch. To my delight, she made time for this interview, in which I learned things about her I never dreamed of. 50 Shades of Gray?? LOL.

I know that at the beginning of your career you were in publishing but not working as an editor. What motivated you to head in that direction?

I started at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency in Del Mar, California. Sandy’s husband had been a professor of mine and my thesis advisor suggested I meet her. I had no idea what an agent did, but I learned very quickly. I spent quality time with the slush pile while I was there and I had the opportunity to edit a few manuscripts that were eventually submitted and sold to publishing houses. The thing is, I didn’t feel those manuscripts were “done.” I wanted to keep tinkering, to keep editing—I wanted to be on the receiving end of those manuscripts so I could make them even better. A few years later I ended up in New York and got a job as an Editorial Assistant at Crown (Random House).

What is the most satisfying aspect of being a book editor?
For me, it’s helping an author achieve the full potential of their book. I love giving feedback that will help change the quality of the work and that will take it to a level the author might not have been able to reach on his or her own.

When you were acquiring novels for Random House and Simon & Schuster, what sort of book would get you excited enough to make you take the submission to the group making the decision?
I know authors hear over and over again that the first page has to “grab” the reader, and this is so true. The books I fought for were ones that had me on page one—but then didn’t let up until the end. Whenever I read something with a voice that feels fresh and different and a plot I haven’t seen before, I’d get really excited. As I read, I’m always formulating the pitch in my head thinking, how would I describe this to my sister? What would make her want to pick up this book? I’m also always thinking about the authors I would compare this author to. That’s how so much of publishing works—when an editor goes into an editorial meeting and talks about something they want to acquire, they have to be able to give an elevator pitch that will compel a number of other people in the room to want to read the book too. Of course, the book then has to deliver on that pitch and excitement!

Did you ever feel sad about a book that got away and chart its progress elsewhere?
YES. I could tell a very long and tearful story, but I’ll simply say that I was an underbidder on the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Think what you want about those books, but they made people READ. I heard from a surprising number of people who read only a few books a year (yes, those people exist), that they had read the trilogy. Acquiring those would have certainly changed my career.

What is the secret to a good editor/writer relationship?
I think the best relationships are collaborations. It can be very lonely being an author and to get to share your work with someone who gets it just as much as you do, who loves your characters as much as you do, and who wants to see you succeed as much as you do, is a very special bond. I always tell my authors that it’s their book, not mine, so if I suggest a change they don’t agree with, they can push back. The editorial process is give and take and it’s best when the author and editor have open communication and are willing to be totally honest with each other.

How about agents, what is the optimal editor/agent relationship?
The best agents are advocates for their author in all things, but they also know when to concede. After an editor is finished editing, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to get the book through the publication process and at that point it’s not just the author/agent/editor relationship, there are now a lot more cooks in the kitchen and when the author/agent want something, it’s not always up to the editor to give it to them. It’s up to the agent to trust that the editor is doing the best job they can, always keeping the author and author’s work a priority.

You acquired some excellent historical fiction at the houses where you worked. What drew you to this genre in the first place?
Thanks, Nancy—you’re a lovely example of my fine taste ☺. I’d always been a fan of historical fiction and I was lucky enough to work for Allison McCabe when I started at Crown. She gave me Karleen Koen’s Dark Angels to read before I started working for her and I felt like Karleen was a revelation—why hadn’t I read her before? I learned so much from Allison, and I eventually took over the Jean Plaidy books we were reissuing—the brain child of a previous Crown editor, Rachel Kahan (now at William Morrow). I loved reissuing the Plaidy books and even appeared on a few of the covers (hiring a real model is expensive!). When Allison left, I inherited many of her authors and started to make my mark on the historical fiction world. Typically, editorial assistants work for two editors and the other editor I worked for had just published World War Z by Max Brooks, so my taste remains rather eclectic to this day.

What do you think of the trends in historical fiction in the last decade? It seems that there are three types: the novels with characters who are from history and are well known, the novels with imaginary characters from another time, and those that mix "real" with invented characters. Do you see strong futures for all three subgenres?
This is a great question and one I get asked often. I personally feel that a real person taken from history is a good idea, because it’s an easy sell for an editor—immediately the publicity and marketing team have the factual angle they can go after and if no one has written on the topic before, that’s an enticing hook. As to the imaginary characters from another time, I think these will continue to do well, specifically when that time period is linked to some little-known part of history—I’m thinking about books such as Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House and Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train. Novels like yours that mix real and imaginary characters also have long legs—again, you have the hook of the real time period, but when an author gives us a point of view the reader has never seen (a novice!), the approach stands out amongst the others on the shelf. For a while, I felt that the best historical novels were from the point of view of a woman, but then I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and was totally blown away.

As a freelance book editor, how is your job different from working on a staff?
Now I get to take on any project I like, and that’s a very welcome change. At publishing houses, I would sometimes read books that I loved but that I knew were too small—i.e. the audience wouldn’t be wide enough to warrant a big advance. There was a lot of pressure on us editors to buy only big books—which is a totally frightening aspect. I watched books that were bought as “big” (usually more than $500K advance) barely sell more than the debut paperback I was publishing, and yet the $500K acquisition was considered more important and therefore got a bigger budget. When I read something now and I like it, I get to work with the author no matter what the future of the book might be. Some authors come to me knowing they want to self-publish and others are hoping to get their manuscript in agent-ready shape, and I enjoy all aspects of the process.

What is your process on a book you've agreed to edit?
I like to begin by reading the first twenty pages and a synopsis of the book. By reading those I will know if it’s the kind of book with which I’ll connect and if so, I’ll schedule a call with the author. I like to speak to people before we work together so that we both know what we want out of the relationship. I want to hear what the author expects and I outline my process so that we’re clear up front. I then schedule the manuscript onto my editorial calendar. When it’s time to edit, I work on the electronic document in track changes (unless the writer prefers a hard copy). I read through once making a few notes but really just getting a sense of the story. In my second read I look for places to cut (if it’s running long) and I also look for things that might need to be strengthened: character, plot, pace. I then read through a third time and make any additional line edits that might be necessary. I make notes on a separate document during each read, then I go through that document and elaborate my notes; this becomes my editorial letter. I then set up an editorial call with the author before sending anything back. That phone call could be anywhere from one to three hours and the author and I talk about the book. I go over the editorial letter so the author isn’t surprised by any of my comments or thoughts and if there are places where I have questions, we talk it out and come up with possible solutions for the author to work on. I then send back the edited manuscript and editorial letter via email. After that, I’m available to the author if they need any help—clarification, brainstorming, etc. We can schedule another call or just go back and forth over email, whatever is easiest for the author.

What do you think of the trend of "hybrid" writers, those who write books for both publishing houses and publish themselves?
I think it’s ambitious and exciting. I know when I was working for publishing houses, this was an ongoing discussion. If the publishing house has paid an author an advance, they want to be sure that the book the author is writing for them is the priority, so publishers can be reluctant to let an author self-publish while under contract. If an author is savvy enough in the self-publishing world, I think it’s a great idea to publish a novella or a short story between publications in order to keep fans interested and enticed. Authors in the New Adult genre have really mastered this.

What can authors do to support the publication of their books, both those working for traditional publishers and indie authors?
There’s so much both kinds of authors can do, but I’ll just focus on my top recommendation for each.
For those published by traditional houses, I always recommend keeping some of your advance in order to supplement whatever the house is doing. A publishing house has marketing money set aside on every title, but it’s rare that there’s much advertising after the first 4 weeks on sale. I’d suggest that authors get a clear vision of the marketing plan—when the ads are starting/stopping, where they will be advertising—and then buy their own ads after the publishing house’s ads have stopped. Even getting feedback from the house regarding click throughs can be helpful, that way you can see if you want to advertise on the same sites or not.

For Indie authors, focusing on your core fans and getting early reads and reviews up on Goodreads and Amazon is necessary. Those reviews and being an active member of Goodreads will not only help your book, but it will help grow your Indie community.

How important is a cover to a book taking off?
Admit it. We ALL judge books by their covers. So yes, a cover is extremely important to a book being picked up at a bookstore, but it’s less important to a book taking off. Books take off because of what’s between their covers, not because of their covers, but a beautiful and enticing jacket helps. I don’t miss the cover process at all (I could write an entire post about the endlessness of it), and what authors need to remember is that it’s not advantageous to tell the entire story on the cover. In so many instances authors had a vision for the cover that was so literal to the book that every detail on the cover needed to perfectly reflect their narrative. Trying to tell the story on the cover is overly ambitious, so I always like to think about Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (not the move-tie-in, the original cover). What does that cover actually tell you about the book? Not a whole lot. It’s a yellow cover with the title embossed on a purple lozenge and three birds below that. I love the simplicity of this cover and the fact that it’s not trying to tell the entire story.

You are now a consultant as well as a freelance editor. What kind of guidance do you offer your clients besides the editing of the manuscript?
I do a number of different things and cater to the specific needs of the authors and their books—anything from helping pair them with an agent to giving advice about how to go about self-publishing. Getting an agent seems to be the most popular, so that process works like this: After I’ve worked with an author and feel their book is ready for an agent’s eyes, I come up with a list of agents I think would be a good fit. These are people who have been my contacts for years and so when I reach out to them and tell them I’ve been working with someone, they are usually eager to put the author’s manuscript on the top of their reading pile. I don’t submit for authors—I think it’s important that they start the agent process themselves so they can have a personal relationship with their agent from the start. I try to match make with agents I think will best respond to the author’s material. I never guarantee representation, though I won’t reach out to agents about an author unless I think their work is near ready for publication—it’s my reputation on the line, too, so I want to be sure I’m advocating for the very best manuscripts!

I sometimes work with authors who have an idea for a book but want to talk about how to flesh it out—or they have a few ideas and want to know which sounds the most viable. We have a phone call/Skype date and then I’m available for follow-up questions via email after.

Heather Lazare is an independent Editorial and Publishing Consultant who has worked for Random House and Simon & Schuster. She lives in Pacific Grove, CA with her husband and toddler son.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Tapestry

I am proud to share with you the cover of The Tapestry, the third book in the Joanna Stafford trilogy. The novel goes on sale March 24, 2015.

I think this cover truly represents the beauty and the darkness of Joanna's Tudor England world...

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Knights Templar: Fact and Fiction

I learned about the fiction of Dominic Selwood by reading a piece of riveting nonfiction--an article in the Daily Telegraph titled "How a Protestant Spin Machine Hid the Truth About the English Reformation." (Read it here.) In the nearly 10 years I've been researching England's break from Rome, the backdrop to my historical thrillers, I'd come to many of the same conclusions about Henry VIII and Cromwell's actual agenda as this writer. I "etroduced" myself on twitter, and soon learned that apart from being a historian and former criminal solicitor, Dominic too was writing fiction. His thriller, set in modern times, is called The Sword of Moses.

To read my interview with Dominic, go here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Medmenham Abbey: Heaven and Hell

In my blog post for English Historical Fiction Authors, I researched an abbey ruin like no other: Medmenham, a Cistercian community in Buckinghamshire.

Many people have vaguely heard of a Hellfire Club. The one most written about was formed by a rich English aristocrat, Sir Francis Dashwood, and met in the abbey he'd leased in the 18th century. He wanted privacy for his various misdeeds, whether just drunken silliness or actual depravity is up for debate.

Francis Dashwood, by Hogarth

But before it was a meeting place for the "Monks of Medmenham," it was an actual monastery, founded on lands granted by a very different sort of aristocrat, a medieval heiress. To learn about the history of this fascinating place, go here:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Mystery of the Bishop's Poisoner

I wrote a post for English Historical Fiction Authors about the strange and shocking death of a man condemned for poisoning those in the household of Bishop John Fisher, then one of Henry VIII's most formidable opponents in the struggle for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

John Fisher
To read my post, go here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to End a Novel

At last week's Thrillerfest, the annual conference for writers of suspense fiction, I was honored to moderate a panel called "Happily Ever After?" The topic: how to plan and write your book's ending. The members of my panel were authors Ben Lieberman, Chelsea Cain, Brenda Novak, Carla Neggers and Michael Sears.

Some of the authors knew the ending of their books before they wrote page one--others didn't know until the end who the bad guy was. It was a fascinating look inside their creative process.

To learn more, read the article on the panel written by Writer's Digest.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Plea of Catherine of Aragon

On June 21, 1529, Catherine of Aragón knelt before her husband in front of two cardinals and the nobility of England and begged him not to proceed with the annulment of their 20-year-long marriage.

Henry VIII informed his Spanish wife two years earlier that his conscience troubled him, that he believed their lack of male heirs proved that God was displeased by their union. In marrying Catherine, his older brother's widow, he claimed he violated Old Testament law.

Catherine, five years older than Henry VIII, was, quite simply, not having it. The proud daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón insisted her marriage was legally valid and refused to cooperate with her second husband's effort to annul the marriage. We can only assume that her discovery that King Henry was passionately in love with a younger woman of the court, a charismatic commoner named Anne Boleyn, hardened her resolve even further. Catherine and Henry had produced a daughter, the accomplished Princess Mary, and in eyes of the queen--as well as a significant portion of the nobility--Mary was a perfectly acceptable heiress to the throne.

Cardinal Campeggio eventually made his way to England to hear the case, along with English Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, in an ecclesiastical court held in Blackfriars, the magnificent priory of the Dominican friars in London. Blackfriars itself has long fascinated me. I set several chapters of my second novel The Chalice inside its walls. On a trip to London I spent hours trying to find a trace of it. (Read the blog post here.)

But for the purposes of this post, I'd like to pay tribute to Catherine's decision to kneel before Henry and beg for her marriage and her rights. The king was surprised, dismayed, and twice tried to raise her to her feet. She would not do so. She was determined to have her say.

Shakespeare re-created this moving and powerful scene in his play Henry VIII, which I saw performed in Central Park almost 20 years ago. The bard embellished historical record only slightly. What follows is quite close to what Catherine said, according to contemporary records:

Sir, I desire you do me right and justice;
And to bestow your pity on me: for
I am a most poor woman, and a stranger,
Born out of your dominions; having here
No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance
Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
In what have I offended you? what cause
Hath my behavior given to your displeasure,
That thus you should proceed to put me off,
And take your good grace from me?
Heaven witness,I have been to you a true and humble wife,
At all times to your will conformable;
Ever in fear to kindle your dislike,
Yea, subject to your countenance, glad or sorry
As I saw it inclined: when was the hour
I ever contradicted your desire,
Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends
Have I not strove to love, although I knew
He were mine enemy? what friend of mine
That had to him derived your anger, did I
Continue in my liking? nay, gave notice
He was from thence discharged. Sir, call to mind
That I have been your wife, in this obedience,
Upward of twenty years, and have been blest
With many children by you: if, in the course
And process of this time, you can report,
And prove it too, against mine honour aught,
My bond to wedlock, or my love and duty,
Against your sacred person, in God's name,
Turn me away; and let the foul'st contempt
Shut door upon me, and so give me up
To the sharp'st kind of justice. Please you sir,
The king, your father, was reputed for
A prince most prudent, of an excellent
And unmatch'd wit and judgment: Ferdinand,
My father, king of Spain, was reckon'd one
The wisest prince that there had reign'd by many
A year before: it is not to be question'd
That they had gather'd a wise council to them
Of every realm, that did debate this business,
Who deem'd our marriage lawful: wherefore I humbly
Beseech you, sir, to spare me, till I may
Be by my friends in Spain advised; whose counsel
I will implore: if not, i' the name of God,
Your pleasure be fulfill'd!

Of course it did not work. Henry VIII would not be deterred. Catherine was eventually banished from court and Henry married Anne Boleyn. Queen Catherine suffered anguish, depression and fear over her shattered marriage. Yet she never wavered. The queen died of a painful illness, abandoned, in January 1536.

I have been married 21 years to my husband, and, for that and many other reasons, I take a moment today to salute a woman who fought for her rights, her throne, and her daughter.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Letter From a Friar

I'm always thrilled to hear from someone in monastic orders now who has read one of my Tudor thrillers. Once in a while I receive an email from a reader who thinks the way I depict a nun's life is "wrong." But I don't hear that from a sister who has taken vows, or from a friar.

Friar Thom, a Franciscan, enjoyed reading about how the nuns and friars interacted in The Crown. I just heard from him about The Chalice and wanted so share it (he said it would be OK).

Greetings Nancy,

I finished The Chalice today and I have to say it was GREAT, SPECTACULAR, EXCITING !!! I bought the book last year when it was hot off the press. But I was asked to take a new assignment in Joliet, Illinois (outside Chicago) and didn't get around to breaking open my adventure.  I spent a great deal of time ending (and grieving) the old and welcoming the new.


As in The Crown I found myself totally lost in the book/adventure/journey. In fact on at least two occasions friars who passed by my room late in the evening, asked "who in the world were you talking to in your room so late - we didn't have guests did we?"  I had to confess Nancy, I was talking to the characters in the book. I do admit one evening even to yelling at Jacquard !!! You instill such life into everyone in the epic adventure.


I won't take up your time Nancy. I have read so many reviews from readers on line, who like myself  loved and praised your writings. Congratulations!!


Now we all can't wait for -The Covenant.


May our good God send many blessings upon you and your family Nancy, and in thanksgiving for his spirit which helps you to make history come alive for all of us...



(Friar) Thom Smith, OFM