Over at Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books, there's an interview with me that's part of the build-up to the 2013 Historical Novel Society conference in St. Petersburg, Florida next month. So check it out, and is you can come and join writers and readers and lovers of historical fiction! You can find the interview here. Enjoy!
Today on Amazon Kindle - THE MASTER OF VERONA is just $0.99! Get your copy before midnight CST!
Based on a single line from Romeo & Juliet, David Blixt explores the origin of the Capulet-Montague feud. But that's just the backdrop to a sweeping story with thrills, intrigue, battles, romance, betrayals - everything you want from a novel. Dive in and lose yourself in this rich world of 14th century Italy!
On April 9th, Sordelet Ink is proudly releasing a paperback version of VOICE OF THE FALCONER, the long-awaited sequel to THE MASTER OF VERONA.
Here's a sneak-peak at the paperback cover:
From the back cover:
Italy, 1325. Eight years after the tumultuous events of THE MASTER OF VERONA, Pietro Alaghieri is living as an exile in Ravenna, enduring the loss of his famous father while secretly raising Cesco, the bastard heir to Verona's prince, Cangrande della Scala.
But when word of Cangrande's death reaches him, Pietro must race to Verona to prevent Cesco's rivals from usurping his rightful place. Willful and brilliant, Cesco is determined not to be anyone's pawn, defying even the stars. And far behind the scenes is a mastermind pulling the strings, one who stands to lose - or gain - the most.
Born from Shakespeare's Italian plays, this novel explores the danger, deceit, and deviltry of early Renaissance Italy, and the terrible choices one must make just to stay alive.
"David Blixt is one of the masters of historical fiction. Dramatic, vivid, superbly researched, VOICE OF THE FALCONER captures Renaissance Italy in all its heady glamour and lethal intrigue. This is a novel to savor - and then read again!" - C.W. Gortner, author of THE QUEEN'S VOW and THE TUDOR CONSPIRACY
The first of many giveaways sponsored by AuthorBuzz! Of the over fifty people who entered, here are the five lucky winners of a free digital copy of Her Majesty's Will (chosen out of a hat by my children):
& Nannine D.
Thank you all for entering! I hope your interest carries you on into picking up a copy of your own - only $2.99! And keep an eye out, both on AuthorBuzz and right here, for more free books. For example, all this week Origin Of The Feud, my collection of essays on Romeo & Juliet, is FREE on Kindle. And tomorrow we have a special one-day only promotion of my first novel, The Master Of Verona. So much to offer, and so many to share these with! Thanks, everyone!
Thanks to the wonderful Rob McLean for bringing to life an image I've had in my head for over two years. Thanks to Paul Metreyeon for taking the photo. Thanks to Elizabeth MacDougald for the dress. The model shall remain nameless until I have permission from his mother.
April 23rd - HER MAJESTY'S WILL - a novel of Will Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe, and the Babington Plot.
Before he was famous, he was a fugitive.
Before he wrote of base humanity, he lived it.
Before he was the Bard of Avon, he was a spy.
A very poor spy.
England, 1586. Swept up in the skirts of a mysterious stranger, Will Shakespeare becomes entangled in a deadly and hilarious misadventure as he accidentally uncovers the Babington Plot, an attempt to murder Queen Elizabeth herself. Aided by the mercurial wit of Kit Marlowe, Will enters London for the first time, chased by rebels, spies, his own government, his past, and a bear.
Through it all he demonstrates his loyalty and genius, proving himself to be - HER MAJESTY'S WILL.
Home again after a whirlwind tour on the East Coast with my friend, Director Rick Sordelet. He helmed our reading on Monday night of EVE OF IDES, my play about Caesar and Brutus the night before the assassination. It was honestly a smashing success, beyond my dreams. In the talkback, Rick pointed out that 90% of directing is casting. With Ed Gero as Caesar, Grant Aleksander as Brutus, Mike Rossmy as Antony, Bob Hock as Varro, and Arthur Lazalde as the Servant, the cast was out of this world. The wry gravitas of Gero was perfectly counterpointed by the Atticus Finch-like integrety of Aleksander.
Part of the joy for me was hearing the laughs. I've written a piece that is so wordy - one audience member described it as almost a radio-play - that I was afraid there wouldn't be room for laughter. But man, did Ed and Grant find the rhythm I had in my head. The best laughs were the ironic ones, with the crowd darkly amused at Caesar's sardonic take on politics. There aren't jokes in the play - all the humor comes from the characters. It was great to hear it there.
Another delight was the talkback itself. It was clear that the full house were fully engaged in the script, with great questions and comments. I agreed with everything said, right down to the flaws still in the script - things that only shake out with live actors and real audiences to react off of. There was talk of history and stark tone shifts, Shakespeare versus Dante, and trusting the audience to make intuitive leaps. One young man was especially amazed that I didn't set out to write a modern polemic, that the parallels to modern politics were just there. But it's true - I was writing a play about Caesar and Brutus. That they reflect our current state is terrifying, and I was certainly aware of the confluence. But plays are about character, and there are few characters more fascinating than Caesar and Brutus.
I owe huge thanks to Bonnie Monte, the Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey for inviting us into her space and giving us the honor of kicking off their 50th season. Associate AD Joe Discher was fantastic, hanging with us for our five hours of rehearsal and giving voice to ideas on how to make the stage smoother.
But the guy to whom I owe the biggest ovation is Rick Sordelet, the director of the piece. The whole reading wouldn't have happened without him. Last fall, when it was originally scheduled, he had a sudden conflict, and I decided I'd rather postpone the reading than lose him at the helm. He's the man with the vision for bringing this play to the stage. I sometimes think he sees it more clearly than I do - clearly his casting choices were spot on. The only one of the cast I knew previously was Ed Gero, and I hadn't even considered him for Caesar. The moment Rick said his name I said, "Wow. Of course." And he was right.
We've already had meetings and are talking with other companies about holding more readings, garnering more interest and gaining steam. I'm honestly surprised at the level of interest, but it seems that Caesar and Brutus aren't played out yet - far from it. Walking around anonymously at intermission, I heard two comments repeated time and again: "It's really good!" and "I sure am learning a lot." Both make me glow.
I'll have more soon about the books (38 days and counting, folks!). The rest of this month is about editing - FORTUNE'S FOOL, HER MAJESTY'S WILL, COLOSSUS, and the rest. But before any of that, I'm diving into EVE OF IDES one more time to make some tweaks while they're still fresh in my head. Fitting - fixing the EVE OF IDES on the Ides themselves.
I was asked to jot down a few thought's for next week's reading of EVE OF IDES at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I may turn this into something more at a later date - there's so much to say about Shakespeare's portrayal of Brutus - but here's the one-page version. Enjoy!
The historian Plutarch tells us the night before he was assassinated, Caius Julius Caesar attended a dinner party. Also in attendance were his nephew Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and the leader of the regicidal assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus.
It’s hard to think of any historical figure more redeemed with the stroke of a playwright’s pen than Brutus. Before Shakespeare’s play, he lived in an icy lake at the bottom of Hell. Dante gave Lucifer three mouths, allowing the Devil to chew forever history’s greatest betrayers: Judas Iscariot, Caius Cassius, and Brutus. Right through the Renaissance, Brutus was a villain, a treasonous coward who killed perhaps the greatest military and political leader the world had ever known.
Yet in an act of brazen daring, Shakespeare makes Brutus into a hero.
We all agree that it’s Brutus’ story. For a play named THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JULIUS CAESAR, it’s astonishing how little of Caesar there actually is — no Consulship, no pirate ship, no Gaul, no Civil War, no Pompey, no Cleopatra. We pick up at the end of the dictatorship, mere days before his death. Alas, Caesar was far too successful in his life to be made into a tragic hero. So Shakespeare, in his brilliance, turns 1600 years of history on its head, transforming Caesar into a half-deaf epileptic narcissist and instead making his play about Brutus, the honorable man.
If there is one great fault in Shakespeare's JULIUS CAESAR, it is the lack of interaction between Brutus and Caesar themselves. Shakespeare's audience was much more knowledgeable about Roman history, so he could take for granted that the nuances would be understood. Today we are not informed of the great and twisted personal relationship these men had, we do not know why Brutus repeatedly says he loves Caesar, nor do we see how they got to the point where murder is necessary, where Brutus believes that it indeed “must be by his death.”
EVE OF IDES explores that relationship, both before and after death. The first act records the events of that fateful dinner the night before the Ides. The second act is a scene hinted at in Shakespeare's play, but never staged – the second appearance of Caesar's ghost to Brutus.
Thanks to Rick and Bonnie for making this happen, and thanks to the cast for tackling what is a very word-dense script.
(Disclaimer – any similarity to modern politics is purely coincidental - and scary as hell)
This news should be sad - many will find it so - but to me, at this point, it's a relief. The publishing rights to my second Mercutio book, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, are mine again. St. Martin's Press and I have parted ways.
It was an amicable parting, though a little bewildering, as the history will show. In December 2006, SMP bought the rights to the sequel to THE MASTER OF VERONA, which was coming out the following summer. I had a delivery date of March 15, 2007 (the Ides of March - I should have known). I got it in a week late, but complete and ready to roll.
And then nothing. MV landed with lots of praise, and just enough sales to make SMP their money back. Certainly it was no blockbuster, and released the same week as the last Harry Potter, with no publicity, that seems to have been by design. Then SMP published a release date for FALCONER of December 2008, but there was no movement. It never left my editor's desk. Clearly someone read it, because a synopsis was published. But the manuscript was never edited, never proofed, never scored. Promises were made, and broken. Deadlines were set, and broken. The release date kept changing, kicked down the road - June 2009, December 2009, June 2010. A cover was even released - the first time I saw it was on Amazon, and I downloaded it for my files (it is a lovely cover). And yet from my editor, silence. Literally years of silence.
At the start of 2008 I got a new agent, and he and I sat down and charted my course. He wanted a big, epic novel, something on a grand scale. That novel, IN THE SHADOW OF COLOSSUS, is now complete. But with FALCONER still lingering out there, uncertain and indeterminate, we were uncomfortable. So last December, three years after the signing of the contract, we asked for the rights back. The response we got was positive, and generous. But still the process took six months. When I got the final papers last week, I cannot tell you how relieved I was. The book, and the series, is mine again.
And now FALCONER will go into a drawer. The adventures, trials, and tribulations of Pietro Alaghieri, Cangrande della Scala, Mariotto and Antonio, Antonia Alaghieri, Katerina della Scala, and young Cesco, will remain my secret for years to come. I'll focus on other books, other plots and other characters, until I find a publisher as passionate about this series as I am.
I will always be grateful to SMP for publishing THE MASTER OF VERONA, and both sad and bewildered as to why our relationship ended. But I'm glad it's over. I have too many stories to tell to waste time waiting and wondering why.
You have no idea how sorry I am to all the fans who've been looking forward to the publication of FALCONER. I wrote the first draft of it in 2002, so my longing to have it out there is now eight years old. I can only say, all good things come to those who wait.
Meanwhile, this is a celebration. This liberation paves the way forward for many things. So cheer for me, and start getting excited for Rome in the time of emperors, and Judea just before the Fall of the Temple.
Ah, how time flies. We're a week out from closing the show (for now), bringing an end to my DC soujourn. But what a couple of months. Since last I wrote, I've met Jane Seymour, James Keach, James Cromwell, and Linda Carter. Christopher Hitchins and Rahm Emmanuel have both been to see the show, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg as well. Several familiar faces have appeared out of nowhere, having seen the show. I've been to a number of museums and sites, soaking up the city while ever working on the plays and novels that are on my plate.
But mostly I've been playing with the cast, both on and off-stage. The first time we did the show, I was a new father, and so raced home each night. But my family returned to Chicago a month ago, leaving me on my own - depressing, but it allows me to join my other displaced castmates in the time-honored joys of cast-bonding - heading to the pub post-show. My birthday was an alcohol-soaked, Chinese-food driven, sunrise-watching, two show day, involving several castmates, four Mexicans, a Portugeuse, and a mess of oysters.
In a week I'll be home again, and diving back into work on the Roman novel. But DC has been very kind to me. Lots of new friends, reunited with many old ones, lots of good work, and an epic show. I was out with Stacy the other night, and I told him - truthfully - that this production of LEAR is the defining one for the generation. Which is why we're not saying goodbye, but rather, "See you again soon."
I feel the same way about DC. It's been very welcoming, and I've found myself entirely comfortable here. I hope to return someday. So to the capitol I say, "See you again soon."