Would you believe that Queen Kleopatra’s highest self-definition was that of mother? Many will be surprised, but it is true that once she had children, her every choice was made to safeguard them—a son, Caesarion, with Julius Caesar, and a daughter, Kleopatra Selene, and two sons, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, with the love of her life, Mark Antony.
It’s been one of my life’s missions to present a multi-faceted portrait of this most powerful woman. Contrary to the popular trope that she was manipulative and power-hungry, in PHARAOH: Book II of my two-volume KLEOPATRA series, you’ll read of the deep love and devotion Kleopatra had for her children as well as for the country of Egypt. In fact, the Egyptian people referred to her as Mother Egypt, a fierce protector who would stop at nothing to ensure the safety of her children and her country, even if it meant putting herself in danger—indeed, losing her life. ... Read more.
For physical book lovers, PHARAOH will have its paperback debut early in 2023 (which is scarily soon!). Thanks to all who convinced me to produce a paperback version of KLEOPATRA, and special thanks to all who ordered it.
A few trees are down, but we now have a paperback edition of Kleopatra Book I: The Early Years.
I was surprised by the number of people who requested non-digital copies, so here they are, and the quality of printing is beyond expectation. They’re gorgeous and will make lovely holiday gifts. You can get a copy here.
And…we have a cover for Pharaoh: Book II of Kleopatra which chronicles the extremely tumultuous later years of the queen’s life as she goes to war to preserve her marriage and her kingdom.
One of the things I love most about these covers is that they are inspired by an authenticated bust of Kleopatra I saw on display for the first time in Rome in 2013. Thanks to genius book designer Maya Roman for her gorgeous renderings.
No, I’m not dead and not even slacking! I’ve been largely focused on developing projects for TV, exciting but invisible work until it comes to your screen. I can’t make announcements just yet (contractual) but please stay tuned. Fans of female forward fiction and history will not be disappointed.
MY BIG NEWS: I’ve reclaimed worldwide rights to my popular KLEOPATRA novel series and will reissue the books September 15, 2022. Based on my graduate studies and walking in the queen’s footsteps through Egypt, Greece, Rome, & Turkey—not to mention my passion for writing about women of power—these babies were ten years in the making.
KLEOPATRA BOOK I: THE EARLY YEARS. A murderous family. Blood in the streets. Betrayal. War. Exile. An untold story. Can a young princess survive? This is the story of how Kleopatra, against all odds, becomes, well, Kleopatra.
KLEOPATRA BOOK II: THE PHARAOH explores her two partnerships with Rome’s great warriors, restoring the queen’s true legacy as a beloved leader and political strategist, pursued by these men not just for her allure but for her intelligence, wealth, and power.
On a trip to Milan, I visited The Last Supper, which can only be seen by appointment and in small groups. After everyone had left the room, I remained, strangely drawn to the mural on the opposite wall, the Crucifixion scene by Giovanni Montorfano. In the lower right corner, witnessing the Crucifixion, are several Dominican nuns. This caught my eye, having been educated by the Dominicans in New Orleans. Who, I wondered, was the ghostly figure kneeling in prayer, virtually nestled in the skirts of the nuns?
While the rest of the mural is in fine condition, the figure of the kneeling woman has all but disappeared. Being someone who unearths women’s hidden history, I had to find out more. Upon further investigation, I discovered that it was Beatrice d’Este, the young wife of Ludovico, the infamous duke of Milan and Leonardo’s patron. I also found out that it was Leonardo who had painted Beatrice into Montorfano’s mural. Why?
More curious still, I visited the Trivulzian library in the Castello Sforzesca, but found that it was closed for renovation. I pounded on the door, finally getting a reluctant librarian to open it. In my pathetic, broken Italian, I announced that I was a novelist looking for information on Beatrice. No one in the library spoke English, and besides, did I not understand that they were closed? With some persistence, I found a sweet-faced librarian who spoke French and pleaded my case. With a bit of coaxing, she began to show me copies of exquisite miniatures of Beatrice and her children, as well as a bibliography that would be useful in finding out more about her fascinating, short life.
Duchess Beatrice d’Este of Milan
I found myself inexplicably moved by Beatrice’s tragic story. Later, while walking through the rooms of the Castello, I felt an eerie, chilling aliveness. I believe that all writers and journalists feel this heightened awareness when a nascent story begins to blossom within us. I dug deeper, trying to find if there was a personal connection between Beatrice and Leonardo, when I discovered that during his years in Milan, Leonardo painted not only Beatrice, the duke’s 15-year- old wife, but Isabella, Beatrice’s illustrious sister, who was the Peggy Guggenheim of her time and who was having a flirtation with the duke; Cecilia Gallerani, the duke’s 17-year-old mistress; and Lucrezia Crivelli, the duke’s later mistress. Imagine, I thought, all these women competing for supremacy in the duke’s heart, while Leonardo was charged with painting them. The poor artist! Leonardo’s troubles with the duke are well known. Didn’t he have enough on his hands without having to negotiate around the duke’s love life?
Portrait of Isabella d’Este Gonzaga of Mantua by Titian
I set out to find out everything I could about the Este sisters. I dug up books about their lives, mostly from the 19th century and long out of print. I read their letters, as well as letters by the courtiers of their time. I traversed northern Italy, visiting Ferrara, where they were born, and Mantua, where Isabella reigned as Marchesa. I visited the areas around Milan where Beatrice and Ludovico kept their “pleasure palaces.” I went to Venice, where both sisters came, one after the other, competing for the favor of the Doge and the Venetian Senate. By the time I came home, the story of these formidable women and their rivalries had started to write itself.