Suppose a part of Ancient Rome survived?

Suppose a part of Ancient Rome survived?

My writing friend Alison Morton explores just this. In her alternate thriller world, her 21st century Praetorian heroines survive kidnapping, betrayal and a vicious nemesis while using their Roman toughness and determination to save their beloved country. Too bad their love lives don’t run so smoothly…

How did Roma Nova come about?

In AD 395 Christian Roman emperor Theodosius was persecuting anybody who wouldn’t convert. A group of pagan senators and their families, retainers and friends trekked north, escaping from Italy and founded a their own colony in the mountains. As men fought to defend the new colony in unstable, dangerous times, women took over the social, political and economic roles. In the end, daughters as well as sons had to put on armor and carry weapons to defend their homeland and their way of life. Fighting danger side by side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s roles and status. Over the next sixteen centuries they became leaders in all parts of Roma Novan life.
In the 21st century, our heroines continue to serve the state, echoing Roman Republican virtues, speaking Latin and responding ‘robustly’ to challenges. And they always have the choice in their emotional life, marrying or not, but always pursuing their passions.
Alison has written four thrillers against this background – INCEPTIO,
PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO and AURELIA – and she tells me the fifth, INSURRECTIO, will be out in spring. The fans can’t wait! And I’m dying to read this myself.
In the meantime, the Roma Nova box set is out this month and contains the first three – nearly a thousand pages of action adventure and alternative historical thrills in three books with 140 five star reviews on Amazon between them.
INCEPTIO – the beginning: New Yorker Karen Brown is thrown into a new life in mysterious Roma Nova and fights to stay alive with a killer hunting her…
“Breathtaking action, suspense, political intrigue” – Russell Whitfield
“Grips like a vice.  Excellent pace, great dialogue and concept.” – Adrian Magson
PERFIDITAS – betrayal: Six years on, where betrayal and rebellion are in the air, threatening to topple Roma Nova and ruin Carina’s life.
“Sassy, intriguing, page-turning … Roma Nova is a fascinating, exotic world” –
Simon Scarrow
SUCCESSIO – the next generation: A mistake from the past threatens to destroy Roma Nova’s next generation.
“I thoroughly enjoyed this classy thriller, the third in Morton’s epic series set in
Roma Nova.”?– Caroline Sanderson in The Bookseller
Historical Novel Society indie Editor’s Choice Autumn 2014
The box set is on November 10 at a special price of $5.99 on Amazon, iBooksKobo and B&N

About Alison
Even before she pulled on her first set of fatigues, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve – all over the globe. She even wrote her history masters’ dissertation on women military!
Alison joined a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now… But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilization, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women. Now, she lives in France with her husband and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines.

10 More Tips for Historical Fiction Authors

Last year I threw together a list of 10 Tips for Aspiring Historical Fiction Authors. But to some extent or other, we’re all always aspiring, as I’ve never really known a writer who was satisfied. Now I’m back with ten more tips that might be helpful to you, or at least make you chuckle.

Here we go.

1. Think like a salesperson. If you’re writing the book of your heart because you want your mom and your kids to read it, and you don’t care if you only sell five copies, then ignore this tip. This is not for you. In fact, if you read this article, it will corrupt your soul. But if you’re aspiring to build a career in historical fiction, then you have to face an uncomfortable truth. Your book is a product. It’s a product you and/or your publisher have to sell. Which means that you have to start thinking about who your consumer is and what they want to buy. For example, I know that my audience is largely American. This means American-set historicals like America’s First Daughter have a built in reason for purchase. At least for now. There are trends in the market and I pay attention to them in deciding what to write. I still make sure that whatever subject I take on is one that I am passionate about. By all means, put aside a book if you’re not feeling it. But if you think like an artist and a salesperson, you can find the junction between your passion and what readers want.

Dog Telling Story

2. All the rules of fiction still apply. I once had a vicious slap-fight with good friend and brilliant historical fiction author Kate Quinn in the Panera where we go to write together. The bone of contention was that I was trying to shape a character arc for my narrator–a queen of ancient Briton–and Kate had the audacity to tell me, “Don’t worry. It’s historical fiction. The history books will tell you what happens.” Well, if you’re a prodigy like Kate Quinn, you can take a look at a pile of research and magically divine character arc, motivation, pacing, dialog and theme. She does it by instinct. Blindfolded. With one hand tied behind her back. She actually applies all the rules of good fiction-telling without even thinking about it. But for the rest of us mere mortals it’s not so easy. Because historical fiction is not just what happened. That’s a biographer’s job. Historical fiction has all the same rules as every other kind of genre fiction, in that characters must change, pacing must be compelling, dialog must advance plot, there must be a plot, etcetera. That’s hard to do, because people’s real lives seldom fall into the neat shape of a plot arc. Now, you might be lucky. You might be writing about a historical figure or time period that already falls into a perfect plot arc. But just telling us what happened and how a character felt about it isn’t really a story. At least it’s not a good story. For that, you have to edit out the boring parts or combine them with fascinating things that keep the reader going. You have to take a hammer and chisel to the facts and give it a shape! Historical writers who don’t do this give us a bad name.

3. Immerse yourself in your time period. Most of what you need to write your historical book will come out in the things you specifically research for it. But just as often, tidbits that you hadn’t anticipated–amazing factoids you wouldn’t have even thought to look for–come to you when you’re not expecting them. If, that is, you are open to the opportunity. How do you open yourself to the opportunity? You immerse yourself in the time period. Go talk to re-enactors. Visit the locations if you can. Make photo collages. Watch every movie set in your era. Listen to music that would’ve been popular. Go to museums. Wear clothing or jewelry or make-up that your characters might have worn. Cook and eat food they would have served. You could even visit the History Channel. (Seriously, it’s not all Nazis, trucks and the apocalypse.) In short, act like a person obsessed. Your family and your neighbors will think you’re exceedingly strange, but your fellow historical authors will immediately recognize you as one of the tribe.

4. Footnote your manuscript. What? That’s crazy talk!! I know. I love footnotes and would use them without prejudice, but in American historical fiction, footnotes are highly frowned upon. They interrupt the reading experience, they create hassles in formatting, and they add pages (and therefore expense) to your book. So don’t include them in the book. But use them in your manuscript. Why? Because there will come a time, years down the road, when someone challenges you on something like, say, whether or not hippos are really dangerous creatures. And you can just open up your manuscript and find that resource. It also comes in super handy when you need to write up your acknowledgments page, provide a list of recommended reading, and/or give credit where credit is due.

5. Make a timeline. So, my co-author, Laura Kamoie, has a near photographic memory. Tell her a date and she can spit out what happened. Meanwhile, I can barely remember my own phone number, and yet, I have excellent relational memory. That is to say, I can remember what happened before what, and with what consequence to the history of the world. This is one of the many ways in which we complement one another. But combining our strengths to actually make a visual timeline of every relevant historical event in America’s First Daughter, not to mention the dates that letters were sent, that visitors arrived, that people moved in and out of Monticello…it helped us see a pattern that we had never seen before, and to our knowledge no one else has remarked upon. We realized, to be specific, that a forgotten founding father, William Short, was in proximity to Jefferson’s daughter at nearly every crisis in her life. That was a discovery that helped us shape a story. And it’s one of the reasons I’m a huge advocate of Aeon Timeline, which is one of the best $40 I ever spent. Making a timeline that you can refer back to while you write your historical fiction will not only help you see patterns and solve mysteries, but it will also help you avoid embarrassing errors.

6. Be Humble. Because whether you use a timeline program or not, you will make embarrassing errors. Maybe not a lot. Maybe not at all, at first. But it is inevitable that it will happen. Whether an impossible grey squirrel makes it into your manuscript or your publisher manages to insert a typo in production, things go wrong. It’s only the end of the world if you set yourself up as some infallible and insufferable pedant. If you do, readers will delight in calling you out on your mistakes–even if they aren’t mistakes. There’s always somebody out there who thinks they’re More Expert Than Thou and will downrate your book because of it, and you pretty much have to just suck it up. But you can complain about it quietly to your author friends. And if you’re generally humble, they’ll commiserate with you. But if you’ve been that guy at the party who refuses to read a book because an author used a non-preferred spelling of your favorite historical figure’s name, they will snigger behind your back and feed the trolls.

7. Make a blooper file. Once you accept that you are mortal, can make mistakes, and are more likely to make them when you have a production schedule of one historical book a year…you can salve your ego, and smooth ruffled feathers amongst your readers, by creating a blooper page where you admit your mistakes. Sharon Kay Penman has one. Kate Quinn has one. I have one. You can point and laugh. It’s okay. I have thick skin.

8. Develop thick skin. If they’re any good, your critique partners are going to tear your story up with notes and corrections. Your editor is going to suggest changes. Some readers are going to hate your book. They might even hate it in haiku. Sometimes it’ll make you laugh. Sometimes it’ll make you wanna smash stuff. But keep a stiff upper lip if you can, because if you can find any kernel of truth in the criticism, it’ll help make you a better writer. (And if you can’t, it’ll help you identify the readers you are reaching, and the feedback you can ignore.) I once received some amazing advice from James Patrick Kelly that a professional writer has to hold two entirely contradictory beliefs in their head at the same time. The first? That the story I have just written is absolutely brilliant and special and worthy of being shared with the world. The second? That the story I have just written is crap. Somewhere in the cognitive dissonance we can find confidence in the brilliant parts of our stories without being too smug to improve our craft.

9. Rewriting is where the art is. I’m a very slow writer when it comes to historical fiction. And recently, I had a very harrowing and educational experience in the writing of a story for my forthcoming continuity, A YEAR OF RAVENS. With my back up against the wall of an impossible deadline, I began a mad, frantic dash to complete my story in four days. And when it was done, I was sure it was so horrible that I didn’t think I could ever look my author friends in the eye again if they ever read it. All I felt was shame, shame, shame for that first draft. But then, in the editing, I realized that I had given myself a lot to work with. I’d used the wrong words here and there, a lot of details had to be fixed, but the basic structure was as sound as I could have made it. I don’t recommend this sort of trial by fire to anyone, and I’m not sure if I could replicate it, but remember that if your first draft is a disaster, you don’t have to bow down to the shame nun, because there’s always revisions.

10. Make historical author friends. Boy, you’re going to need them. And not just to help you tweet your new book releases. Writing can be an immensely lonely profession. Historical fiction writing even more so, because nobody else understands historical writers. We freak out at strange things. We go on researching rampages declaring that we must know the color of the hibiscus that flowered in ancient Algeria two-thousand years ago or we can never finish this book. (Just me?) There are things in our search history that would get us arrested if we did not have fellow historical author friends to defend us with a cry of, “She had to look up How To Kill A Small Child And Get Away With It for her story. I’ve read the Advanced Review Copy!” Only a historical author friend can both adore your twelve page exploration of the architecture of an ancient temple and still tell you how to cut it in half. And only another historical fiction author can understand the love and labor that goes into the books of our genre.

Cover Reveal: ILLUSION by Lea Nolan

I don’t often post about YA/MG or fantasy on this blog, but in this case I’m doing both because I’ve read these books and they’re excellent. It’s cover reveal day for Illusion by Lea Nolan. This is the third book in The Hoodoo Apprentice Trilogy, and I am so excited because all three books are getting gorgeous new covers! Check it out!


Title: Illusion

Author Name: Lea Nolan

Release Day: October 5th

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal



About Illusion:

New school. Cross-country move. Broken heart. If only these were Emma Guthrie’s worst problems as the first day of her sophomore year dawns. Instead, she must battle a trio of enemies—human and spectral—who may or may not have joined forces against her. All while pretending to be over Cooper Beaumont, her ex-boyfriend and true love, to shield him from her arch-nemesis’s revenge.

Worse, when the fight escalates, Emma is tempted to use the black magic she’s always fought against, endangering her own soul. As her enemies close in, join forces, and fight with new and dark magic she’s never seen before, Emma must finally harness the power within her to fulfill an ancient prophecy, defeat a centuries-old evil, save her family, and reclaim the only boy she’s ever loved.


CONJURE: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Be careful what you search for…Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry–hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.But when a strange girl bent on revenge appears, demon dogs become a threat, and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before the last days of summer–and her friends–are lost forever.


ALLURE: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Worst. Summer. Ever. Emma Guthrie races to learn the hoodoo magic needed to break The Beaumont Curse before her marked boyfriend Cooper’s sixteenth birthday. But deep in the South Carolina Lowcountry, dark, mysterious forces encroach, conspiring to separate Emma and Cooper forever. When Cooper starts to change, turning cold and indifferent, Emma discovers that both his heart and body are marked for possession by competing but equally powerful adversaries. Desperate to save him, Emma and her twin brother, Jack, risk their lives to uncover the source of the black magic that has allured Cooper and holds him in its grip. Faced with the horror of a soul-eating boo hag, Emma and Jack must fight to resist its fiendish power to free Cooper long enough to join their strengths and face it together, before it destroys them all.

Exclusive Excerpt:

A screech echoes through the woods. The sound is like a nail scraped against tin and raises the tiny hairs on the back of my neck. It’s the unmistakable caw of a crow. Spinning, I search the dimness for the source. Before my eyes can focus, a glossy black shadow bursts through a sheet of Spanish moss draped on a nearby live oak.

Shrieking, I cover my head with my hands and duck, then dart toward the path that brought me here. The bird pursues, flapping its large wings and gaining ground fast. With a whoosh, it swoops from the sky and slams into me, sinking its talons into my arm. I scream, then thrash around, trying to knock it loose. Its spiky nails clamp deeper into my flesh.

“Get off her!” Cooper’s voice booms.

Tears, the very best kind, surge. I’ve never been so happy to have him near. “Help!” I lamely shake my arm again, but the psychotic bird hangs on.

Cooper’s feet pound against the dirt as he races toward me and my winged assailant. As he draws close, the crow squawks, then jams its beak into my scalp, yanking out a clump of hair.

Pain, brilliant yellow and blinding, flashes across my vision. I wail, overcome.

“Emma, duck.”

I drop to my knees. Something hard thumps against the bird, launching it into the air like a golf ball from a tee. Its piercing caw bounces across the clearing. As the bird soars into the moonlit sky, it attempts to beat its wings, but something’s wrong. Only one of its feathered sides extends. Midair the shiny black crow stalls then careens back toward the earth. Just as I’m sure it’s headed straight for us, the lame wing unfolds then beats furiously to avoid what is sure to be a deadly collision. Veering off, it follows a wobbly flight path toward the shadowy forest.

Cooper tosses a long, heavy stick onto the ground, then reaches for my hand and pulls me to my feet. “Are you okay?” His wide hands clutch my arms as his eyes search mine.

“I—I think so.” My voice shakes as I work to process all that’s happened in the last few minutes. My temperature drops as shock sets in. Was it real, or just an immensely screwed-up dream? One glance at the slick streak of blood dripping down my skin confirms my new wound, though I can’t tell how bad it is until I see it in the light.

Grabbing me close, he wraps his strong arms around my back. The heady scent of his Cooperness swirls around me, filling me with familiar warmth that heads off my shock. My thoughts zoom to the red stain that has likely already smeared his polo. “I’m bleeding.” I try to pull away.

“I know.” He grips me close, like he’s fallen from a ship and I’m the only life preserver.

“But it’ll get it on your shirt.” A tear streams down the side of my face.

He pulls away, just enough to meet my gaze. “Who cares about my shirt? I thought I lost you, Emmaline.” Brushing his thumb against my cheek, he wipes away the salty liquid.

“But you didn’t. You saved me.”

“I was almost too late.” His voice is breathy and so full of despair it nearly breaks my heart.


About Lea Nolan:

Lea Nolan Bio Pic 6-2012Lea Nolan is a USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance and YA. Her books for young adults feature bright heroines, crazy-hot heroes, diabolical plot twists, plus a dose of magic, a draft of romance, and a sprinkle of history. She also pens smart, witty contemporary stories for adults filled with head-swooning, heart-throbbing, sweep-you-off your feet romance. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, she loves the water far too much to live inland. With her heroically supportive husband and three clever children, she resides in Maryland where she scarfs down crab cakes whenever she gets the chance.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Newsletter


Enter Lea’s Giveaway!! Cover Reveal Giveaway-Grand Prize REVISED
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New Historical Book of the Month Club

Announcing a New

Historical Book a Month Club!

Good news, readers! I’ve decided to start a book of the month club exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. Now, I’m not Oprah. I can’t promise glittering commentary on every book. I can’t promise a publicity bump to every author I feature. I can’t give away free cars. But I can give away FREE BOOKS to my subscribers. Not only can I do it, but I’m going to do it. Every month!

So how is this going to work? Each month I’m going to choose a book to give away, and to talk about the next month. For example, in this very newsletter, I’m giving away Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Sally Hemings. (Read the rest of the newsletter to see if you’re the winner!) Then, in October, I’ll write up my thoughts on the book and make a space for my readers to talk about it too if they should so desire.

But there’s more…

Because every month you’ll also get the chance to win your choice of a slew of books (like the ones pictured above) just by spreading the word about the month’s selection and recruiting historical fiction loving friends to join. The more points you get, the more chances you have to win. If you want to win next month’s grand prize, click the button below!

Enter October’s Grand Prize Drawing