Sunday, August 31, 2008

The deals are piling in...

Anyone read Spanish or Portuguese?

Brazilian rights to Sherry Jones's THE JEWEL OF MEDINA and A'ISHA AND ALI, to Luciana Villas-boas at Editora Record, by Natasha Kern at Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

Spanish rights to Sherry Jones's THE JEWEL OF MEDINA, to Lucia Luengo at Ediciones B, in a very nice deal, for publication in early spring 2009, by Natasha Kern at the Natasha Kern Literary Agency.

Here are some others from Publishers Marketplace over the last two months.

Ellen Horan's 31 BOND STREET, interweaving fiction with actual events surrounding the infamous murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell and the subsequent trial of his housekeeper and lover Emma Cunningham, a historical narrative that blends romance, politics, greed and sexual intrigue, set against the background of bustling, corrupt New York City, four years before the Civil War, to Jonathan Burnham and Claire Wachtel at Harper, in a major deal, for seven figures, in a pre-empt, for two books, by Marly Rusoff at Marly Rusoff & Associates.

Oxford-born Claire Letemendia's debut THE BEST OF MEN, a historical novel in the vein of THE DRESSLODGER and AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST, set in 17th Century England and Spain, introducing the a nobly born mercenary, spy and cardsharp who, having lost both his honor and faith in mankind, uncovers a plot to kill Charles I and is drawn against his will into helping the one last political figure he respects, to McClelland & Stewart, by Sam Hiyate at The Rights Factory.

The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden author Kate Morton's THE DISTANT HOURS, a historical mystery of wartime romance, broken promises and almost-forgotten secrets, to Maria Rejt at Pan Macmillan, in a major deal, in a two-book deal, by Julia Lee at Allen & Unwin.

Michelle Cameron's SHIRA OF ASHKENAZ, about the daughter of one illustrious rabbi and then wife of another, following three generations of the heroine's family as they move from Falaise to Paris and then to Rothenberg, amidst the growing anti-semitism of 13th century Europe, to Maggie Crawford at Pocket, for publication in fall 2009, by Judith Riven at Judith Riven Literary Agent (world). [edited to correct title]

Leila Meacham's ROSES, Spanning the 20th century, following three generations of Texans in a small town dominated by founding families who control the timber and cotton industries and whose deceits, secrets and tragedies are a part of the town's history, to Deb Futter at Grand Central, for publication in January 2010, by David McCormick at McCormick & Williams Literary Agency.

And from Publishers Weekly:

Adam Schell's Tomato Rhapsody: a Tale of Love, Lust, and Forbidden Fruit sold to Kate Miciak and Nita Taublib at Bantam, in a pre-empt, via Laurie Fox at Linda Chester. The debut novel, set in 16th-century Tuscany with a Romeo & Juliet-style love story, is based on the true story of a Jewish man on Columbus's second voyage who brings the tomato from the New World to Italy.
Also, for those interested in my reusable cover art gallery, people have been spotting additional examples and sending them to me at the rate of one or two a week. Take a look for a creative interpretation of Flaming June and yet another reuse of the "bed in the water" image.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A sidenote on Medina

I read this morning via GalleyCat that, because of Random House's decision not to publish The Jewel of Medina, the Langum Charitable Trust will not be accepting any Random House novels for consideration for either of its prizes until Jewel finds a publisher.

The press release is here. (Does this include Jewel's publication in Denmark, I wonder? It's not clear.)

Jewel wouldn't have been eligible for their historical fiction prize, which is open only to novels with American settings (self- and subsidy-published books excluded). Kurt Andersen's Heyday, from Random House, won the $1000 prize for 2007. There are very few literary prizes just for historical fiction, and the Langum Prize goes far in increasing visibility for the genre; I'm appreciative of its existence.

However, I disagree with the decision to penalize Random House's other historical novelists for a corporate decision they had nothing to do with. Not only would this eliminate, as GalleyCat points out, David Liss's The Whiskey Rebels, David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife, and Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore's Blindspot from consideration, but also Karl Iagnemma's The Expeditions (from Dial) and Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief (Delacorte) -- both of which have been receiving excellent reviews. There are other Random House novels that fit the prize criteria as well.

While I don't agree with RH's decision regarding Jewel, I don't feel that this blacklisting is a particularly laudable or appropriate form of protest.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More new stuff

It took a few days to gather all this information, but I've finally gotten the HNS forthcoming books page for 2009 started, with titles through next May. The Editors' Choice reviews for August's print HNR are online now, too, as are all of the reviews for August's HNR Online. I still don't have the ToC for the print issue typed in; it's a big job, and after all the posting I've done lately, my wrists are tired! HNS members should be getting their August issue this week or next.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A visual preview of the winter season, part 2

Here's a preview of some more historical novels scheduled to come out in winter and spring; same disclaimers apply as last time. For corrections, leave a comment or send me an email, and I'll update the page. I'm still working on the corresponding listing for the HNS forthcoming books page, which will be more comprehensive. In the meanwhile, enjoy!

Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar returns in a third installment of the Mistress of the Art of Death series. This time she's at Glastonbury Abbey, investigating whether bones found there in 1176 are really those of Arthur and Guinevere. Putnam, February.

Grace Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Edward IV, has the ideal position at court to listen and learn about Perkin Warbeck, the man claiming to be her half-brother. Grace is a shadowy historical character, mentioned in passing as being present at Elizabeth Wydville's funeral. Ah, now we know where the title comes from! Touchstone, March.

From an expert on Japanese culture (Lebra was the first woman to receive a PhD in Japanese history in the US), a new novel about a 19th century Japanese woman who builds the largest sake empire in the country during an era when women were forbidden to do business. Avon A, February.

Higgs returns to her trademark Scottish settings with a retelling of the Old Testament story of Ruth, set against the backdrop of 1745 Edinburgh. Her novel Thorn in My Heart, the first novel in her earlier Scottish trilogy, retells the Leah-Jacob-Rachel triangle in the Scottish lowlands of the 1780s, and is one of my all-time favorites. WaterBrook, March.

You know the Jane Austen craze has gotten serious when a novelist as distinguished as McCullough joins the party. This P&P sequel promises something different from the usual Regency romance theme: "a look at the seamy underside of British life in the early 19th century" and a chance to see what may have happened to Elizabeth Bennet's plain and nerdy sister, Mary. Simon & Schuster, December.

A literary thriller about the secret double life of Charles Dickens, which may reveal the truth behind his unfinished final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, as recounted by his friend, writer Wilkie Collins. (Thanks to John for mentioning this novel in the comments last time.) Little Brown, February.

A historical thriller detailing the adventures of a penniless orphan in Renaissance Venice. Read the article from Forbes Online detailing how Newmark garnered online buzz for her self-published book, which was later sold to Simon & Schuster in a major deal. The previous title was Bones of the Dead, and some hopeful person is selling the original IUniverse edition for $199.00 on Amazon, if you really want to read it now. Atria, December.

"A poignant family saga set against the backdrop of the Great Irish Starvation," tracing the Irish-American experience from Galway Bay in Ireland to the frontier town of Chicago, written by a descendant of survivors of the famine. From Grand Central, February.

A novel illustrating the birth of Islam, written by a Hollywood screenwriter, as seen from the viewpoint of the Prophet's young wife, Aisha. I reported this deal, along with the one for Sherry Jones's A'isha, Beloved of Muhammad (later retitled), to little fanfare back in September 2007. Per the official word received via Galleycat, Simon & Schuster has "no intention to change [its] publishing plans" following the Jewel of Medina controversy. That's as it should be, imnsho. From Atria/S&S, April.

A mix of family saga, satire, and magical realism spanning five generations of Chinese women, beginning in the 1950s, described as "one of the foremost works of Chinese literature of the 20th century." Atria International, February.

A biographical novel of Jane Popyncourt, a member of the royal court of Henry VIII and mistress to the Duc de Longueville. I know I've said I'm tired of the Tudors, but I'll read this one, as it focuses on historical figures who are unfamiliar to me - and I've enjoyed her other novels. The author is Kathy Lynn Emerson writing under a pseudonym, of sorts. Pocket, February.

A sweeping story of Jamaican slavery in the tradition of Beloved, says the publisher, focusing on a young slave woman on a sugar plantation at the turn of the 19th century who may either be the key or the weak link in other women's plans for a slave revolt. Riverhead, February.

A very different retelling of the Tristan and Isolde legend, with Isolde as daughter of Mordred and granddaughter of Morgan le Fay. First in a new Arthurian fantasy trilogy. Touchstone, May.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book done.

Eighteen months, 2750 citations/annotations, and 244,000 words after I began working on my manuscript in February 2007, Historical Fiction II: A Guide to the Genre is finished. It''ll be available next spring, as far as I'm aware.

If you hear a thud in the next couple of days, it's me collapsing after carting the manuscript over to UPS. I've just printed it out and am going through it page-by-page, creating the table of contents and making note of unfamiliar words for the style sheet.

Anyway, I'm feeling a little numb and disorganized, but there are a couple other things I should mention before I forget.

We're soliciting speakers for the next Historical Novel Society conference, to be held June 12-14, 2009, in Schaumburg, IL. The link goes to our proposal form. If you're already on one of the HNS email lists, you'll already know about this, but the Board wants to get the word out as widely as possible.

Vanessa from Arrow Books (UK) recently commented on an old Jean Plaidy-related post from Oct 2006, as follows, with some news you might find interesting:

Defenders of the Faith and The Scarlet Cloak (along with the Lucrezia Borgia novels Madonna of the Seven Hills and Light on Lucrezia) in June 2009. We'll also be reissuing the last six titles in the Plantagenet series in the same year.
I bought Defenders about ten years ago from an eBay seller, paying around $35. I haven't read it yet. Maybe I should have waited?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A visual preview of the winter season

Some publishers have begun to release information on their Winter 2009 titles. Most don't have cover art available yet, at least not publicly, but these are the ones I've come across so far. All of these images were taken from publishers' online catalogs or Amazon, and are subject to change. You'll remember what happened with Devil's Brood.

For some, all I could find were b/w images. Leave a comment if you come across newer versions of these covers. In the meanwhile, enjoy.

The story of Delia Chandler, a Southern girl who marries into the British aristocracy, following her from pre-WWII England to British-occupied Egypt. Broadway, March; to be published in the UK by HarperCollins as A Dangerous Desire.

From Revell in March, inspirational biographical fiction about King David's first wife, book 1 in a series.

Mythological novel about "Deirdre, the Irish Helen of Troy, whose beauty ignited a bloody war between two medieval Irish kingdoms" (Publishers Marketplace). From Bantam Spectra in February, from the author of the Dalriada Trilogy set in Roman-era Scotland.

A female perspective on the American Revolution, not a subject you normally get to read about (and for me, different = good). From Berkley in April, from the author of Midwife of the Blue Ridge.

Frank Lloyd Wright, through the eyes of four women who loved him (not just Mamah Cheney, for readers who remember Nancy Horan's take on that aspect of his life). Viking, February.

The story of Caterina, a fifteen-year-old girl who in 1452 gave birth to an illegitimate son named Leonardo in the city of Vinci. January, from NAL. In the endpapers of Mademoiselle Boleyn, it was mentioned this would be Robin Maxwell's next novel.

Biographical novel of Anne Whateley, betrothed to Will Shakespeare just days before he was forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway. Putnam, February.

Did anyone else enjoy Margaret Lawrence's Hannah Trevor mystery series, three novels set in post-Revolutionary Maine, as much as I did? There was a sequel, The Iceweaver (2001), featuring Hannah's deaf daughter Jennet, more a literary novel than a mystery. I believe Roanoke is her first novel since then. It's described by the publisher, Bantam Dell, as a literary suspense novel about the lost colony of Roanoke and a charismatic spy sent to the Americas. Out in February. The glittery cover makes it look like more like historical fantasy.

Publishers Marketplace described this last fall as "a historical novel set in Hong Kong, at the outbreak of WWII, and 10 years after, following two love affairs linked by the events of the war." From Viking, January.

Per Publishers Marketplace, the original (working) title was "The Battle of Teutoberg Forest," which was accurate if uninspired. Fans of the period will recognize the new title, but will anyone else? Either way, it's an attention-grabber. From St. Martin's, April. (b/w image)

From the author of Moloka'i, which got a rave review in HNR some time ago, a new novel about a "young immigrant bride in a ramshackle town that becomes a great modern city." Set in Honolulu beginning in 1914. St. Martin's, March (b/w image).

An imagined life of Eve, the first woman, inspired by the Genesis account and Mesopotamian history. February, Delacorte.

Historical fantasy from the author of Black Ships, which I highly recommend. "Charmian is Cleopatra's half sister, daughter of Pharaoh and a woman of the harem. She shares with her a grace and a terrible burden -- to be the Hand of Isis Incarnate in Egypt's most desperate hour." From Orbit next March.

Two years ago, Publishers Marketplace described this as "first in series of historical thrillers in which the painter Gustav Klimt is fingered as the murderer of five young Viennese girls, but ... the trail actually leads directly to the gates of the Hofberg itself." January from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's (b/w image).

Repackaged edition of the first novel (originally Berkley, 2003) in Diana Norman's Makepeace Burke trilogy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston and Georgian London, now that Norman's finally getting the recognition she deserves for her Ariana Franklin novels. Out in March from Berkley. Now might we have reissues of Fitzempress' Law and Shores of Darkness, please?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Book review: Barbara Wood's Woman of a Thousand Secrets

Wood, Barbara. Woman of a Thousand Secrets. NY: St. Martin's Griffin, Sept. 2008. 483pp. $13.95, trade pb, 978-0-312-36369-7.

Reviewed for LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program (it's not out until next month).

In Barbara Wood’s colorful followup to Daughter of the Sun (2007), an “island girl” from pre-Columbian times sets out on a quest which takes her from the burgeoning metropolis at Mayapan to the rainforest jungles of Tikal (modern-day Guatemala) and finally westward to the Mexican interior.

Twenty-one years ago, an elderly couple living on Pearl Island, off the Cuban coast, took in a baby they found floating in a waterproof basket. Although tall, light-skinned Tonina enjoys swimming through the island’s gentle lagoons and is beloved by her adoptive grandparents, local men find her unattractive and are humiliated by her success in pearl diving. It becomes clear she’ll never fit into their society, so her grandmother, Guama, invents a story about her husband’s illness as a way of convincing her to leave voluntarily. Landing on a deserted beach after jealous rivals attack her party’s canoe, Tonina gathers up her travel pack containing food, medicine, coconut face paint, and a mysterious glass goblet and marches inland in search of the red healing flower that will cure her grandfather. During her adventure, she encounters many people, places, and customs she finds unfamiliar and exotic. Her search assumes near-religious proportions to the followers she attracts, among whom are the trader One Eye, a crafty dwarf, and H’meen, a young healer aged before her time. But none becomes as important to Tonina as Kaan, a ballplayer of common birth who disdains his outsider origins to gain acceptance by the Mayans. Kaan’s own sacred pilgrimage is destined to separate them eventually, yet he’s honor-bound to accompany her at first. There’s also an egomaniacal villain, of course, though he’s not nearly as well-rounded as the other characters.

Tonina’s journey immerses readers in the diverse cultures of the place and period, and the plot develops organically out of Wood’s vividly rendered settings. The historical detail is woven smoothly into the story, for the most part. Some commentary meant to provide external context is distracting: for example, we’re told that in the land of the goblet’s origin, it’s the Year of Our Lord 1323, and that the islanders’ lives will change irrevocably 200 years hence. Because many such examples occur early on, the novel takes a little while to settle into, but it’s a fascinating journey from that point forward. Readers who picture pre-Columbian Mexico merely as a land of bloodthirsty sacrifices and magnificent stone ruins will see both of these, but will also discover much about politics, religious ceremonies, clothing, roads, dwellings, calendars, even sports. Wood makes clear that many different ethnic groups populated the region, though some shared a language or other customs. Many plot twists are completely unexpected; Tonina’s mission alters slightly at several points in the narrative. Some events can’t be explained by traditional Western reasoning, but feel appropriate to the setting. The novel has plenty of lively humor, too, particularly in a certain hammock scene.

An absorbing, immensely enjoyable fictional travelogue through the lush scenery and multifaceted civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica, with, perhaps, room left for a sequel.