Book Launch at Avid Reader Tower (Sacramento) on April 8th

An evening of treats, games, and conversation to celebrate The Tsarina’s Legacy! I would love to see you there:)

Friday April 8th, 7pm

Avid Reader at Tower

1600 Broadway, Sacramento, California 95818




Why I Love HNS Sacramento

Writing is a solitary business, so when you find a group of people who share your passion and understand the day-to-day grind of it: hold them close. I am fortunate to have this talented group in my life – the Sacramento branch of the Northern California Historical Novel Society. We meet for brunch one Saturday a month to chat, bond, and share our love of books. No matter how I feel going into a meeting, I always leave filled with gratitude and joy in my heart. Critique partners are invaluable, but it is equally rewarding to surround yourself with writers who are there solely for support and good cheer.IMG_0406

(Left to Right) Erika MacDonald, Ed Moore, Erika Mailman, Gini Grossenbacher, Erin Lindsay McCabe, Mark Wiederanders, Kathy Boyd Fellure, Antoinette May, Gina Mulligan, me, and Marcia Calvine

Cover Cafe Contest

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is a finalist in Cover Cafe’s annual contest in the avant garde category! You can see all the cool book covers and vote for Lisa Marie Pompilio’s gorgeous design through May 21st.

Time Management for Type B Personalities

Do you have enough time in the day to write? I don’t. At least, I didn’t.
I fantasize about life in a mythical paradise where writers write and painters paint and musicians…well, you get the idea. Other times, I fantasize about marrying a millionaire. Since my taste in men tends toward pretty and poor, that probably won’t happen. So I need to balance my writing with the craziness of keeping a full-time day job.
This past summer, despite long hours of sunlight, I felt like the walking dead. Writing is the activity most important to me, and yet I was devoting less and less time to actually doing it. Since I couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular that had changed, I decided to take a look at my average weekday. This is how it stacked up:
1. Alarm clock buzzes. Hand fumbles for snooze button. See time. Get ready in a mad dash.
2. Drive to work. Hit traffic. Work. Drive home from work. Hit traffic. Hate all people.
3. Arrive home. Mindlessly eat. Mindlessly entertain cat. Think about writing. Fantasize about a trip to Paris, Moscow, or Beijing. Feel very tired.
4. Try to exercise (to varying levels of success).
5. Turn on the television (success).
6. Decide to prepare lunch, assemble outfit, and write in the morning. Go to bed.
Snippets of time here and there: friends, family, fussing over men, spirituality, self-care, writing.
Something about my “life” routine needed to change.
What didn’t work, in my case, was endlessly re-arranging my daily schedule to make time for writing. Go to bed early and set the alarm for 5 am! (No.) Set the alarm later and stay up until 1 am! (No.) Write for 30 minutes during lunch! (Some luck there, but I missed bonding with co-workers over lunchtime walks.) Schedules are fantastic and do wonders for many writers. But I didn’t function well creatively when every hour of my life felt mercilessly scheduled.
What did work was taking a hard and critical look at the shape of my days. I wasn’t living the life I wanted. Furthermore, my day job wasn’t the culprit. I was. My ridiculous daily “to do” lists were overwhelming me. To avoid them, I spent my free time commuting, watching television, and fretting.
First step: I stopped making schedules and to do lists. I didn’t force myself to write when dead tired. I decided to be human and take some hours of the day to rest and recuperate. The world didn’t end.
Second step: I moved to an apartment closer to my job. The rent was more expensive, but I got an hour or more of my life back every day. When I stopped facing traffic congestion, I stopped hating all people.
Third step: I still watched NetFlix DVDs, but waited several months before hooking up my basic cable. (I gave in and had it reconnected when both Downton Abbey AND Sherlock returned this January. I’m not made of steel.) The time away from television changed my routine. I don’t automatically flop on my couch the second I get home and mindlessly flip channels. Instead, I go for walks. I watch giant black birds gather ominously at the trailhead at dusk. I listen to trains roll by or NPR or new music. I (gasp) call my parents. I buy and prepare good food.
When it comes to writing, I haven’t done away with structure completely. I scribble deadlines on my calendar and figure out how much time I need to devote to writing each week to make them. Even without a firm daily writing schedule, I write more and keep my deadlines, even when they’re self-imposed. I suspect it’s because I’m no longer drained and worn out. This feels like the life I wanted.

Contest #2

This one is really easy, guys! I am raffling off another copy of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar along with some cute matroyshka themed goodies. To enter, please leave a comment sharing your favorite historical novel, non-fiction book, or film. The contest will run through 11:59 PDT on Nov. 8th.

I’ll start things off with my answer and it’s a tie:
Nicholas and Alexandra
L.A. Confidential

Good luck!



Publication day!!! Would you like to win a copy of THE SECRET DAUGHTER OF THE TSAR and a little Russian swag? I am raffling off three copies of my book this week along with a few little goodies from me: modest, but cute;) Examples are pictured below. (And with a quick shout out to Evangeline’s in Old Sacramento!)

For your first chance to win-simply like my page over at Facebook or follow me on Twitter or Pinterest between now and 11:59 PST on October 29th.

(Congrats to Dallie, winner of the first giveaway!)

I’ll be hosting two more contests later this week. Details to come!


The Inner Critic and a Day on the Bay

I feel very fortunate to have been hosted today by the lovely ladies over at the Debutante Ball. Their topic for the week was the inner critic. This is a topic I know well. Only too well. Here’s the link (with a book giveaway):

Spent a wonderful afternoon with the Historical Novel Society Northern California learning about audio book recording and hearing great readings. With the BART strike on, traveled to the city the “old timey” way-via ferry.


Goodreads Group

I am really excited to host a Q&A via Goodreads from Oct. 20th – Oct. 22nd! Please join us to talk writing, research, publishing, and historical fiction.

Review from Valerie Cole

YA writer Valerie Cole was kind enough to leave this review of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar on her website this week:
Thanks, Valerie!
Just over two weeks to go…

For Your TBR Pile – Jennifer Laam The Secret Daughter of the Tsar
The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam

To be published: October 22nd
Thanks St. Martins, Jennifer Laam, and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I’ve written this unbiased review.

From GoodReads: A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.

Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica is an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles when she meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial Russian court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandra. After conceiving four daughters, the Empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanov’s treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer’s interest in her stems from his longstanding obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. Then as Veronica’s passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, the reader learns just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion.

Overall Review: Admittedly, I went into this read knowing I was out of my comfort zone. It was the first non-YA read of the year for me, as well as the very first historical–much less Russian historical–I’ve ever read. Jennifer Laam’s book did not let me down. She weaved her three main characters’ stories together seamlessly and I totally did not see this ending happening at all. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar was an awesome twisty-turny ride through the Romanov family tree.

Rating: 5 stars.

Writing: The prose was beautiful and definitely written from an author who not only knows her Russian history, but loves it as well. The story didn’t read like a history book and didn’t overwhelm me (coming into the read with little-to-no Russian knowledge). Jennifer made it easy for me as a reader to sink into the story and enjoy the ride through the different time periods with three different characters.

Characters: I went back a few times trying to decide which of the three characters I enjoyed most. While Lena was the oldest character (a servant from the imperial Russian court in 1902), I had a harder time connecting with her in the very beginning but fell in love with her strength and loyalty toward the end. Charlotte, a ballerina and mother trying to escape Paris during WWII, was my favorite character and won me over with her feistiness and bravery. And Veronica, a Russian history professor, rounded out the story with a wonderful and swoony romance with the man she thinks may be the true heir to the Russian throne.

Recommended For: anyone who has a love for historicals or a secret Romanov obsession. Anyone looking to read a modern day What If to a secret left behind in history books.
Valerie Cole at 6:00 AM

First copies!

My book baby arrived and even has a love note from my editor Vicki Lame at SMP!