Tag Archives: Publishing

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte: cover reveal!

I am proud and pleased to reveal the cover for my novel:


Here is the synopsis:

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

Our publication date is December 2. The book can be preordered here.


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Writing Historical Fiction: Mimicking Old Books

As I was waiting for the copy edit review of my novel, one of the people at my publishing house had an unusual suggestion for my book. She e-mailed me and said that she had been thinking about my story and wondering if I’d want to consider doing one of those old-fashioned, annotated TOCs (tables of contents) that used to be so popular in the 1800s. Her reasoning was that she thought all the chapters are so meaty (an evaluation I loved hearing!) that it might be fun to give the readers teasers about what’s coming.

My first thought was, What are you, psychic? You see, two of the 19th-century biographies of Betsy Bonaparte that I used for sources had just that kind of TOC.

My second thought was, No way. I don’t want to give away too much of the story.

But I reconsidered and decided to see if I could do it without including spoilers. It became like a word puzzle, . . . and I love word puzzles.

After I finished a version that I was happy with, I sent it to my editor to see what he thought. He agreed that it worked, so we decided to use it.

Here are the first few chapters:


Visiting a dying son — The seductive whirlpool of memory

Chapter I

Refugees from a revolution — An early loss — Snowball fights and arithmetic tests — Teasing Uncle Smith — Madame Lacomb’s school — Intriguing prophecy

Chapter II

The Belle of Baltimore — Dreaming of a brilliant match — Rumors about Napoleon — A Bonaparte in Baltimore — Their first encounter

Chapter III

A consummate flatterer — Quick wit and a sharp tongue — Aunt Nancy’s advice — The coquette and the guest of honor — “Destined never to part”

Chapter IV

A shocking discovery — The wedding of friends — Passion awakes — Seeking a brother’s advice — A father’s worry and a daughter’s plea


Filed under Writing Historical Fiction

Neil Diamond and the Search for a New Identity

Neil Diamond 2

Neil Diamond by Iris gerh, via Wikimedia Commons

Last night, I dreamed that Neil Diamond took my husband and me to a concert. Why Neil Diamond? Who knows. He was popular during my childhood and adolescence but was never one of my faves.

For whatever reason, that’s who my subconscious picked last night. We arrived at the venue for the concert, and it was like no place a concert has ever been held before: a maze of wholly unsuitable rooms. There were rooms like cavernous church basements filled with folding chairs. There were rooms like diners with narrow booths and tables in the open spaces. There was a storage room filled with boxes.  And all these rooms were laid out in this twisting, turning floor plan like the palace in the Poe story “The Masque of the Red Death.”

Concertgoers were everywhere. The place was absolutely packed, and shortly after we went inside and began to snake our way through the crowd to find our seats, we lost Neil Diamond. He scooted on ahead, able to walk more quickly because we were carrying coolers and stuff, and he wasn’t. And he was the only one of us who knew where we were supposed to sit.

I wanted to wait at the place where we’d lost him to see if he’d come back for us, but my husband was certain we could catch up, so we set out to find him. We walked through a room where people had been pushed back from the center and were seated behind ropes as if waiting for a parade. We saw a local musician we know sitting there, and I wanted to stop and ask if he and his wife had seen Neil Diamond go by, but my husband was hurrying on. We passed through one room with a whole mass of uninstalled toilets lined up in rows. Then we went through one of the diner-like rooms, and I had to crawl over people sitting in a booth to keep up.

We never did find Neil Diamond or our seats. But just as I woke up, I realized it didn’t matter. We were already inside the concert venue. We had arrived. Maybe we didn’t know our place yet, but we would find it.

And that, my friends, is what I think the dream was telling me. You see, Monday I sent the PDF proofs of my novel back to the publisher, and yesterday, I received an email telling me that the next and final set of proofs is already on its way back to me. My book is going to be for sale soon, probably in less than a month. Instead of feeling excited and happy, I’ve been nervous. What if no one hears of it? What if no one buys it? What if those who buy it hate it?

In other words, I have my ticket and I’ve been admitted into the arena of published novelists. I have arrived, but I still don’t know what my place will be. But maybe that doesn’t matter. At least I can always say (metaphorically) that I went to a concert with Neil Diamond.


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The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte: Progress Report

I’ve finally turned in every last piece of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte I need to send to production. The last two pieces to go were the table of contents and the back cover synopsis.

We have finalized the cover design. We did our interior design work weeks and weeks ago.

All the chapters have been poured. The designer says it’s looking good, and she has given me a page estimate. She’s also been sending me questions about the end matter. (I have to have a copyright page because of the real letters and documents I quote, plus I’ve included a bibliography of my main sources and a set of reader’s discussion questions.)

I haven’t heard yet what our projected publication date will be. However, the designer has been working much more quickly than I anticipated, and she’s supposed to send me PDFs of the book today or tomorrow.

I feel like I’m sledding down a hill, slightly out of control, with the wind rushing in my ears. Soon, very soon, I am going to be a published novelist. It still doesn’t seem real, but I guess the only thing to do at this stage is to enjoy the ride.


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Publishing: Working with Good People

I turned over the manuscript to the designer at the end of the day Friday. She and I have already made all the decisions abut the interior design, so she was able to start working on the layout first thing Saturday.

She e-mailed me mid morning to ask about a possible editorial mistake. In the second chapter, one character’s age was listed as “41” instead of the age being written out as all the other ages are. She asked if she should change it, and I said, “Yes, please.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have read this book, and it’s been through copy editing, yet the mistake still slipped through.


You would think I would feel really discouraged about that, but I’m not. Instead, my instantaneous reaction was gratitude. I count myself blessed to be working with a designer who would notice something like that. Not all do; it’s not their job. But this one did, so once again, I feel reassured that my baby is in very good hands.


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Preparing for Publication

Exciting news, at least for me. I just entered a new stage of getting The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte ready for publication.

Stage One occurred earlier this summer when my editor completed his first review of the manuscript. I spent a couple months this summer working on a revision, and then I sent it back to  the publisher on August 31.

In the meantime, the book designer and I have been emailing back and forth about the typeface, chapter openings, scene breaks, and cover design. All of those pieces are coming along well. I guess we could call that Stage Two, even though it overlapped  with Stage One.

Today, we begin Stage Three. The editor just sent me his copy edits for the first 100 pages of manuscript. He promises a steady stream of chapters throughout the coming week. I have to go through and review each of his suggested edits and make the final decisions.

Once I finish that, the manuscript will be out of my hands for a while as the layout / production work is done. Last, the designer and I will have two sets of proofs to review.

But that’s enough looking ahead. For now, I have plenty to do responding to the copy edits.


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