Monday, March 9, 2020

Once Upon a Time in San Rimini


(AKA: The Story Behind the Royal Scandals: San Rimini Series)

Once upon a time, I worked as a freelance writer for several magazines. In my off hours, I wrote two romantic suspense novels and submitted them to publishers. The feedback was positive overall and the commentary from publishers boiled down to, “we like your writing, you create believable characters, and the emotions feel real, but…” There was the same “but” each time. The publishers enjoyed the romance, but weren’t completely sold on the suspense elements in those two manuscripts.

I decided to scrap those two stories and go back to the drawing board. I wanted to write a larger than life story that played to my strengths. I was toying with ideas one morning in front of the television when a royal wedding aired. I kept flipping between wedding coverage and a story about families fleeing a war zone. The contrast between the grandeur of the wedding and the desperation of the refugees made me wonder what would happen if a member of the royal family fell for a relief worker.

Could two people from such different backgrounds make a relationship work? How would they navigate living a private versus a public life? What could they learn from each other? What would their friends and families think?

(And isn’t it interesting to watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle negotiate those same issues today?)

From that idea, Going to the Castle was born, as was the fictional country of San Rimini. I’d traveled along the French Riviera and through Italy and knew I could create a fascinating, realistic kingdom in that part of the world, one with a rich history.

The manuscript was named a Golden Heart award finalist by the Romance Writers of America. I was offered a contract on its first submission and it soon became my first published novel. To quote Monty Python, there was much rejoicing. Three more San Rimini books followed: The Prince’s Tutor, The Knight’s Kiss, and Falling for Prince Federico. I was thrilled when The Knight’s Kiss won a number of awards, including the coveted RITA for best short contemporary romance. (It’s never a bad day when you get to share a stage with Nora Roberts, Kristin Hannah, and Lisa Kleypas.)

I had plans for one more San Rimini book, To Kiss a King, but within days of being offered a contract, my publisher was sold to another company. The usual corporate upheaval ensued, and I decided to table the project for a time when I knew it would not become a victim of departmental realignments.

When I began writing the Royal Scandals series, set in fictional Sarcaccia, I had the San Rimini stories firmly in mind. The two kingdoms exist in the same world, and I knew that—due to the aforementioned publisher upheaval—the San Rimini books would soon revert to my control. So as I wrote about Sarcaccia, I dropped in little bits about San Rimini. I also started plotting a book that would bring the two kingdoms together: Fit for a Queen.

When the San Rimini books officially became mine again, I dove into writing Fit for a Queen. (Note: As I was writing, my DC/Marvel fan husband kept referring to the manuscript as The Big Crossover Event in a voice suited for a TV ad. I kept reminding him that my story stands on its own and that few comic-inspired crossovers do. Many crossover discussions ensued.)

Then, rather than simply republish the four original San Rimini books, I gave each story a full rewrite and expanded them. I knew that for most Royal Scandals readers, these would be completely new stories. I wanted the reading experience to feel seamless. I was also able to put the series in audio for the first time. Hollis McCarthy, who narrates the original Royal Scandals series, also narrates Royal Scandals: San Rimini. Her performance blows me away every time I listen.

After that, I finally had the opportunity to dig into the story I’d been compelled to set aside, To Kiss a King. There’s something special about writing a story that isn’t often told. To Kiss a King features the push/pull of public versus private lives and the struggle of weighing duty against desire, which factors in many of my stories. However, it also follows a later in life romance with a special set of challenges. Can a man known worldwide as a romantic icon truly fall in love with someone else? Would a woman at the pinnacle of her career risk it all for that relationship?

Going back to San Rimini has been a joy for me. I love the diTalora family and their world. I hope you do, too.

San Rimini - Original Series

San Rimini - New Series

Friday, February 14, 2020

Fit for a Queen - Available Now!




It's here! Fit for a Queen, the first book in the Royal Scandals: San Rimini series, is available for sale at retailers worldwide.

This is a story of second chance romance, the battle of living a public life versus a private one, and the power of chasing your dreams.

Here’s the info from the back cover:

She holds the secrets of a queen. He’s been hired to watch her.

Daniela D’Ambrosio is the most trusted employee of Sarcaccia’s Queen Fabrizia, managing the queen’s schedule and ensuring she never makes a misstep in public. But when Fabrizia sends Daniela to organize the belongings of San Rimini’s late queen for a charity auction, Daniela finds a locked closet full of treasure, a suspicious king, and an attractive handyman who seems strangely familiar.

Following a harrowing stint in the military, Royce Dekker now runs his own security firm in San Rimini. When he goes undercover to safeguard the late queen’s possessions, Royce learns that the woman organizing the auction project is none other than Daniela D’Ambrosio, the stunning beauty who’s fueled his late-night fantasies ever since their stolen night under the stars.

When Daniela recognizes Royce, she realizes there is more to the palace job than she was told. But can she trust the sexy man standing guard over her as she works? Or will Royce discover that Daniela also has secrets to uncover?

For an excerpt and behind the scenes info, check out the Fit for a Queen page at nicoleburnham.com. Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy reading!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fit for a Queen in Three Days

 

Only THREE DAYS until the release of an all-new Royal Scandals novel, Fit for a Queen! This story takes place in the beautiful Adriatic country of San Rimini, where you'll find a woman on a mission, a man undercover, and a king with secrets. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Daniela D’Ambrosio and Royce Dekker’s surprise romance.

You can read an excerpt and go behind the scenes here, or check out the Fit for a Queen inspiration board on Pinterest.

If you haven’t preordered your copy, do it now! In the meantime, here’s the back cover copy.

She holds the secrets of a queen. He’s been hired to watch her.

Daniela D’Ambrosio is the most trusted employee of Sarcaccia’s Queen Fabrizia, managing the queen’s schedule and ensuring she never makes a misstep in public. But when Fabrizia sends Daniela to organize the belongings of San Rimini’s late queen for a charity auction, Daniela finds a locked closet full of treasure, a suspicious king, and an attractive handyman who seems strangely familiar.
 
Following a harrowing stint in the military, Royce Dekker now runs his own security firm in San Rimini. When he goes undercover to safeguard the late queen’s possessions, Royce learns that the woman organizing the auction project is none other than Daniela D’Ambrosio, the stunning beauty who’s fueled his late-night fantasies ever since their stolen night under the stars.

When Daniela recognizes Royce, she realizes there is more to the palace job than she was told. But can she trust the sexy man standing guard over her as she works? Or will Royce discover that Daniela also has secrets to uncover?

---

Next month, look for another Royal Scandals: San Rimini novel, Going to the Castle. It’s available for preorder now and hits stores this St. Patrick’s Day.



Saturday, February 8, 2020

Oscar Predictions 2020




 The Oscars are here! If you haven’t seen many (or any) of this year’s films, you'll need a cheat sheet for your office pool or Sunday night Academy Awards party. I win my pool more often than not and it’s a rare year when I don’t finish in the top three. If you are staring at your ballot in confusion, copy mine. I won't tell.

Need a printable PDF of the 2020 Academy Award categories and nominees? Entertainment Weekly has one here, or you can use use this one from Variety.

Ready to start circling your winners? Here are my predictions:

Best Picture:
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

There’s talk for The Irishman, but wow…did it feel long, which will cost the film votes. This is a contest between 1917, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (both of which won Best Picture Golden Globes, in Drama and in Musical/Comedy respectively), and Parasite, which has swept the international awards and has earned raves worldwide. Though I haven’t yet seen Parasite—it’s on my must-see list—my personal pick between 1917 and Once Upon a Time would be 1917. I loved its depth of emotion and single-shot style, which made me feel like I was weaving through the trenches and left dangerously exposed in No Man’s Land right along with the main characters. But man…Hollywood loves to analyze and laugh at itself, and that’s Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood.

I’ve flip-flopped endlessly on this category. Since the Academy went to ten nominees in this category, it's tougher to predict the winner, and the statue hasn’t gone to a frontrunner as often as it has in the past (hello, Moonlight.) This year, the frontrunner is 1917. The spoiler would be Parasite. I’m going to take what shouldn’t be a risk, but feels like one given recent Academy history: 1917.

But I'll note: my husband picked Parasite.

Actor In A Leading Role
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

This is a category jam-packed with talent, but it’s Joaquin Phoenix’s year.

Actor In A Supporting Role
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Loved, loved Brad Pitt in this. Give him the statue and expect a fun yet heartfelt speech. 

Trivia game answer of the night: Pitt is the only nominee in this category who doesn’t already have a statue in an acting category (though he does have one as a producer on 12 Years a Slave.)
 
Actress In A Leading Role
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saorise Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Last year, Vegas had Glenn Close as the heavy favorite, but Olivia Colman walked away with the man of gold (yes, I called it!) This year, I’m going with the favorite: Renée Zellweger. She became Judy Garland. If you feel like picking a spoiler, Scarlett Johannson is your best choice, but I wouldn’t.

Actress In A Supporting Role
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

This is where I must mention that I desperately want to see Jojo Rabbit, but it isn’t playing near me. Every time I see a trailer, I laugh. It looks amazing and the reviews for Johansson’s performance are phenomenal. But this is a lock for Laura Dern. She’s swept all the earlier awards in this category.

Directing
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho, Parasite

This is a tough category. There’s a lot of love for Tarantino amongst Academy members and Parasite’s success has garnered a lot of attention for Bong Joon Ho’s work. But Mendes won the Directors’ Guild Award and the Golden Globe. I’m going with Mendes. If you’re in the mood to make a spoiler-ish pick, it’d be Bong Joon Ho.

Animated Feature Film
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Easy peasy.

Documentary Feature
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Friends recommended I see American Factory long before awards season, and I almost never hear raves for documentaries that soon after their release. American Factory is my pick.

Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence
Leaning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

I’m picking this on the title alone, which is what I suspect a sizeable number of Academy voters do. If another title rocks your world, go with it.

Cinematography
Rodrigo Prieto, The Irishman
Lawrence Sher, Joker
Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse
Roger Deakins, 1917
Robert Richardson, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

1917’s cinematography brought viewers right into wartime France’s bombed out villages and smoky, muddy trenches. It made this film powerful and memorable. I’m picking Deakins.

Costume Design
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Hollywood loves to give this award to a period piece like Little Women. While I adore the look of Jojo Rabbit, I’m making a safety pick here.

Film Editing
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

This is a category I consider too close to call. Since I have to, I’m picking Parasite. The other strong possibility: Ford v Ferrari.

International Feature Film/Foreign Language Film
Corpus Christi, Poland
Honeyland, North Macedonia
Les Miséables, France
Pain and Glory, Spain
Parasite, South Korea

Lock.

Music, Original Score
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m partial to Little Women’s Alexandre Desplat, whose original score for Girl With a Pearl Earring is in heavy rotation on my playlist of writing background music. However, Iceland’s Hildur Gudnadóttir won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice for her work on Joker. She’s my pick.

Music, Original Song
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You,” Breakthrough
“Into the Unknown,” Frozen II
“Stand Up,” Harriet

While “Into the Unknown” has a good shot, I’m betting Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s name recognition take this one home.

Production Design
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

This is a tough call between World War I and 1969 Hollywood. In this category, I’m betting on the nostalgic recreation of Hollywood, which managed to evoke both its grit and its glamour.

Visual Effects
Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I think this will be a tight race between The Irishman, with its reverse aging technology, and 1917. I’m going WWI.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and Nicole Kidman inhabited their roles in part due to the excellent work of the makeup and hairstyling teams on Bombshell. It’s my choice here.

Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Sound Mixing
Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Action movies like Fury Road, which won six Academy Awards including statues for visual effects and production design, make me think that Ford v Ferrari has a serious shot here. Revving engines, quick cuts, and squealing tires will do that. But I’m going for the bombs and earth-shaking trench collapses of 1917. Sound has the power to elicit emotion, and in 1917 it was wildly effective.

Writing, Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

Greta Gerwig is a favorite for her unique and highly respected interpretation of Little Women, but Hollywood (and writers) love to reward the offbeat. This year, that’s Jojo Rabbit, a wild satire of Hitler youth.

Writing, Original Screenplay
Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite

I’ve raved to friends about how much I love the screenplay for Knives Out. It’s a fabulous, entertaining movie (really, go see it.) But sadly, it won't win. Hollywood pundits argue that the statue should go to Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. I’m going with Parasite, which picked up the BAFTA.

Short Film, Animated
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Short Film, Live Action
Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

I’m going on gut instinct and brief glimpses with these picks. I’m more confident in Hair Love than in my choice of The Neighbors’ Window, though. Oddsmakers keep shifting between The Neighbors’ Window and Brotherhood. Frankly, I like the concept of Nefta Football Club, a French film that’s more lighthearted than the rest of the pack, but lighthearted rarely wins Oscar in this category.

Aside from the winners, I predict that: 1) Idina Menzel will bring down the house with her Original Song performance; 2) viewers will be shocked—shocked!—that Renée Zellweger sounds Texan; and 3) the In Memoriam presentation will get a massive cheer for Kirk Douglas, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 103. He more than earned one.

Now it’s your turn. What are your predictions? Which movies have you seen and enjoyed? Any that were nominated that made you shake your head? Comment away!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Coming Soon: Fit for a Queen


The countdown is on! Only seven days remain until the release of an all-new Royal Scandals novel, Fit for a Queen

Better news: it is the first of six Royal Scandals novels releasing this year.

Fit for a Queen offers all the elements you love about the series: family secrets, romantic nights under the stars, and an abundance of happy feels. It also introduces a new royal family, the diTalora family of San Rimini, who are longtime friends of Sarcaccia’s royal Barrali family.

Fit for a Queen will be available worldwide in ebook, print, and audio. Click HERE to be directed to your favorite retailer.

Want a preview? Here's the back cover copy:

She holds the secrets of a queen. He’s been hired to watch her.

Daniela D’Ambrosio is the most trusted employee of Sarcaccia’s Queen Fabrizia, managing the queen’s schedule and ensuring she never makes a misstep in public. But when Fabrizia sends Daniela to organize the belongings of San Rimini’s late queen for a charity auction, Daniela finds a locked closet full of treasure, a suspicious king, and an attractive handyman who seems strangely familiar.

Following a harrowing stint in the military, Royce Dekker now runs his own security firm in San Rimini. When he goes undercover to safeguard the late queen’s possessions, Royce learns that the woman organizing the auction project is none other than Daniela D’Ambrosio, the stunning beauty who’s fueled his late-night fantasies ever since their stolen night under the stars.

When Daniela recognizes Royce, she realizes there is more to the palace job than she was told. But can she trust the sexy man standing guard over her as she works? Or will Royce discover that Daniela also has secrets to uncover?

I can’t wait to hear what you think of Royce and Daniela’s story. In the meantime, keep your eyes out for Behind the Scenes info, which will be posted to my website shortly. In the coming days, I’ll also share the Pinterest board I used while writing the story.

Happy reading!

----

PS: As with all Royal Scandals titles, Fit for a Queen will be available in libraries around the world in ebook, print, and audio editions thanks to international distributors such as Overdrive, Baker & Taylor, and Hoopla. If you don't see it at your local branch, ask for it!