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30 Jun Boudin at Fifteen

boudinfifteen

 

It’s pure coincidence that Boudin and Cressie both celebrate their fifteenth birthdays this month. We adopted Cressie from Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue in 2002. In 2007 we lost our beloved Raffles,  and by the beginning of 2008 we were ready to rescue another beagle. Who should come along but Boudin, with several strikes against him—he was “too old” (seven, poor baby), heartworm-positive and with a ghastly ear infection, a confirmed cat-chaser (we had an elderly cat at the time) and an escape artist who’d already been returned by at last one adoptive home. Aww, Boo. I lost my heart from the moment I saw his picture. He came home with us on January 6, 2008.

 

He was a little frail from the heartworm treatment, but we “fed him up,” as my mother would have said, and within a few months he was officially heartworm negative. We solved the rest of his health issues. He turned out to be gentle and friendly with Bob, our geriatric kitty. He did escape a few times (and I have the extra gray hairs to show for it), but eventually he settled in. He is the most affectionate, sweetest-tempered fellow you can possibly imagine, and we love him dearly.

 

When he was first surrendered to animal control his age was given as “6 yrs 2 mos,” and counting back, that would have put his date of birth sometime in June 2001. We don’t know the actual day, so we assigned him June 30th. Happy birthday, Boudin Loukaniko. Every day’s a gift.

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01 Jun Cressie at Fifteen

cressie15

 

Cressie is the only one of our rescued beagles whose date of birth we actually know. There was some paperwork surrendered with her that pointed us to a vet in Edmonton, Alberta, and we talked to him, and learned details of her first year or so when we adopted her. And her date of birth was June 1, 2001, so today she’s fifteen.

 

Fifteen is a fine old age for a beagle lady, and despite her recent struggles with vestibular syndrome, our Miss Cress is doing very well. Her little face is white and many of her freckles have faded—Cressie was the model for Rinette Leslie’s freckled hound Seilie in The Flower Reader. Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be, either, but she still patrols the Squirrel Tree™ and the fences, and can cut loose with a high-pitched beagle bay or two when she catches the flick of a tail or a dash along the fencetop.

 

Happy birthday, Cressalinda Marie. Every day’s a gift.

 

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28 Mar The Red Lily Crown Goes to Russia

TRLC Russian Medium

 

Can anyone read Russian? I received these books but sadly can’t read the Russian myself. As best I can figure out with the help of Google Translate, the title is something like “Brilliant and Treacherous Medici.” It certainly fits. Heh. Anyway, if anyone can translate this more correctly, I would much appreciate it!

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29 Feb You Want Us to What?

Cressie n Boo

 

Seeing as how it’s Leap Day and everything, I thought I’d coax Cressie and Boo to leap for the camera. I even offered cookies. Above you see their response.

 

It’s rare enough to get a picture of the two of them together, so I guess I’ll have to settle for that. Boo’s in front, Cressie’s behind him. Both of them are doing well, and that’s worth a leap of my own.

 

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

 

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28 Jan Update on Cressie

cressiebasking

 

Our Cress is improving by leaps and bounds. I just took the snapshot above of her basking in the sunshine of our back yard, by the yucca plants. Thank goodness for it being a beautiful day!

 

She’s still a little stagger-y, particularly when she tries to do her “round-and-rounds” before lying down, but she’s eating, drinking, and walking pretty well. The anti-nausea medication is helping her a lot.

 

She says “Thank you!” and gives her patented Cressie snuggles to all her online friends who have wished her well!

 

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27 Jan Cressie Marie

Cressalinda Marie

 

When you were a kid, did your mother always call you by both your first name and your middle name when you were in trouble? Ours certainly did. And as the doggies are occasionally in trouble as well, they have to have middle names as well. Cressie’s turned out to be “Marie.” When she’s really been bad, she gets the whole thing–“Cressalinda Marie!”

 

However, our little Cress isn’t in trouble at the moment–she’s recovering from a terrifying attack of Canine Vestibular Disorder that struck her yesterday out of the blue. Remember when Boo had it last year? I suppose with two senior (first strike against them) beagles (second strike, as beagles seem to be particularly susceptible) in the house, it’s not surprising that it’s affected them both.

 

Anyway, Cressie had a terrible day yesterday. Fortunately I had all my journal notes for what we did with Boo, and so we managed to make her comfortable at last, and by evening got her drinking water and eating a little plain boiled rice. She’s still very stagger-y this morning, and although she’ll drink, she hasn’t been willing to eat anything yet. (I know, a beagle who won’t eat. Not something one sees very often.) I’m keeping her here with me, and hopefully her medication will kick in and she’ll be willing to eat a bit.

 

Poor Cressalinda Marie. It tears your heart out to see her staggering and falling. But at least we’ve been through it before with Boudin, and he’s muchly recovered. Plenty of fluids, good nursing care, and anti-nausea meds should help Cressie recover as well. Hang in there, little girl!

 

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10 Jan The Last Roses

The Last RosesFor the past three or four years, our roses have been dying. We had so many beautiful bushes—the Peace roses I carried when Jim and were married, the dazzling white Margaret Merril roses my dear mother (herself a Margaret) gave us as a gift, the perfect pink Queen Elizabeth tea roses, dozens of fragrant antique roses from David Austin Roses, even hedges of anonymous red roses—probably something called Knock Out roses—which came with the house. And all of them have been dying.

 

It seems we have been having a scourge of something called the rose rosette virus in North Texas. It’s been spreading since 1998, and seemed to strike us here in Coppell three or four years ago. There’s no help or cure for it—once your bushes are infected, they just die and that’s that. It’s best to pull them out before they spread the infection. And there’s no point in replanting more roses as long as the rose rosette virus is so ubiquitous.

 

These beauties—on the last green stem of one of the anonymous red plants—are the last of all the beautiful roses in our back yard. Once spring is here, perhaps we can find something different to plant. But I hope some day we can put in antique roses again, not only for their beauty but for their heavenly fragrances.

 

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08 Jan Starting from Scratch

starting-from-scratch

A lot has happened, and you know what? I’m just going to draw a line under it and start, as my dear mother used to say, from scratch.

 

I’ve put The Taste of Cloves aside for the moment. I will always love the sixteenth century—the Renaissance, that turning point between the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason—but fiction set in the sixteenth century seems to be “out” at the moment. Particularly if it’s set in England. More particularly if it involves Anne Boleyn in any way. So my dear Mary Talbot and her beautiful white hunting hounds and her anguished triangle with Harry Percy and Anne B. will have to simmer on the back burner for a while. What goes around comes around, and her time will come another day. Simmering often makes things better, after all.

 

In the meantime, I’m pecking away (another of my mother’s phrases) at a fabulous new project that’s not really like anything I’ve written before. Well, in a way I suppose it is, because I’ll always write about love and courage and beauty and the ultimate significance of the human spirit. But this has a contemporary setting (well, mostly contemporary—even the modern day always has underpinnings of history) and a distinctly Gothic flavor. It doesn’t have a title yet. We’ll see. I don’t have a lot of time to write these days, but I always have to have something to be working on. Something new. Something started from scratch.

 

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04 Jan Willow the Skate

Willow the Skate

 

In 1990 (yes, 1990) I bought a brand new Honda CRX. It was white with a blue interior, so I named it “Willow,” after the blue-and-white “Blue Willow” chinaware. Because of its shape, which reminded me of the clamp-on roller skates I’d worn as a wee girlie, that name was expanded to “Willow-the-Skate.”

 

And “Willow-the-Skate” he’s been, ever since.

 

I do tend to anthropomorphize my cars—they’ve all had names and genders. Willow was a boy. He was my constant companion through twenty-five years of my life—moves, job changes, my adoption of my dear Raffie (who rode in Willow-the-Skate many times, and hated it every time, poor little guy), writing books, getting married, writing more books. The picture above was taken in 2010, and Willow’s not looking too bad for a twenty-year-old, if I do say so myself.

 

Last week, though, poor little Willow finally gave up the ghost. I hadn’t been driving him enough, and his timing belt, it seems, just kind of quietly disintegrated in our Texas heat and rain. Jim went out and tried to start him, and kablooey—without his timing belt his pistons went every which way. (I don’t really know that much about cars, so bear with me. This is a much-simplified, second-hand explanation.) No way to fix his engine. A new engine would be prohibitively expensive, particularly for poor little twenty-five-year-old Willow.

 

I was crushed. The second half of 2015 hasn’t been one of my better half-years in general, and I am still surprised by how much losing Willow-the-Skate broke my heart.

 

Fortunately there are car fanciers who, well, fancy 1990 Honda CRXs. One of those fanciers has bought the undriveable, engine-less Willow and has the means to fix him and polish him as a sort of classic car. I will miss him so much, but I’m glad he will at least have a new owner who cares about him.

 

Vale, Willow-the-Skate. You were faithful and true through many journeys, and I will always remember you.

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20 Jun Father’s Day is Forever, Too

FathersDay

 

I love leafing back through ancient (well, not that ancient, but still) family scrapbooks. Here, for Father’s Day, is my own handsome father front and center, on my very first Father’s Day. (This series of pictures was actually taken in May of that year, but we’ll fudge a month and call it Father’s Day.)

 

Hats appear to have been a guys’ thing in our family, with my father in his smart fedora and my brother in his rakish tam. My beautiful young mother, meanwhile, is rocking her polka dots (she must have kept that dress for a long time, because I actually remember it) and me scrunching up my infant face in the sunlight, swathed in a fringed (and almost certainly hand-knitted, probably by a doting grandmother) baby blanket.

 

It must have been a cold May that year, because everyone is wearing coats!

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01 Jun To The End of Time for Everyone

If you’re on my email mailing list, of course, you received your link to this story last week. (Hint, hint—you can sign up for the list using the signup form at right.) Now, I’m publishing the link to “To The End of Time” for everyone!

 

totheendoftimeillus

 

Here’s my description of the story, which originally ran in My Weekly magazine in the UK last month, and which is set in the darkly fascinating world of The Red Lily Crown:

 

“History meets fairy tale—a powerful Medici grand duke arranges a marriage without the lady’s consent, and the lady turns the tables by setting her betrothed a seemingly impossible task.”

 

And here’s the link. It’s a PDF file, so you can see the beautiful artwork My Weekly commissioned to go with it. Zoom in on the PDF to adjust the size of the type.

 

“To The End of Time” by Elizabeth Loupas

 

Enjoy!

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29 May Skype and Daphne du Maurier

murderbythebook

Last night I had a terrific Skype session with the book group at Murder by the Book in Houston, one of my all-time-most-favorite independent bookstores. The group had read The Second Duchess and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca together, so they could compare and contrast. I was dazzled by this idea—me in the same breath as Daphne du Maurier!—and really enjoyed the Skyping and the questions.

 

I love Rebecca. I sneaked it from my parents’ bookshelf and read it for the first time when I was twelve or thirteen, and it embedded itself in my romantic little heart. The innocent unnamed heroine! The magnificent mansion, with all the luscious details of housekeeping and etiquette! I wanted to be the second Mrs. DeWinter so badly, not so much because of Maxim (although I do love dark-and-brooding), but because I wanted that house and that world and that way of life. It was reading Rebecca that started me off on one of my odder avocations, reading and collecting etiquette books and housekeeping books from the turn of the century. (That’s the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth—heh.)

 

I’ve never quite recovered. The Second Duchess was partly written as an homage to Rebecca, and I’ve always treasured C.S. Harris’s comment about it—”Rich in historical detail and all the dangerous grandeur of court life in Renaissance Italy. Think The Other Boleyn Girl meets Rebecca.”

 

Many many thanks to John Kwiatkowski at Murder by the Book for arranging this delightful Skype meeting!

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16 May “To the End of Time” in My Weekly

My Weekly

“To the End of Time” is featured in the current issue of My Weekly Magazine, on newsstands now in the UK. Pick up your issue today! Click the image of the magazine cover at left to get a glimpse of the layout in a flash animation showing a few pages of the issue, which is packed with the latest health, fashion and beauty advice, interviews with your favorite stars, readers’ inspiring stories, and of course short fiction!

 

“To the End of Time” is a lusciously romantic short story set in the world of The Red Lily Crown—the decadent sixteenth-century court of Francesco I de’ Medici. In it you’ll catch glimpses of some of the characters in the novel, and be introduced to a few new characters as well.

 

If you’re not in the UK, don’t worry. I’ll be sending a link to the story to my newsletter subscribers on May 25th. Sign up for my newsletter now—see the sign-up form in the sidebar right.

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13 May I am Curious (Red Lily)

femalefirstlogo

Does anyone else remember the Swedish film I am Curious (Yellow), which was a huge scandal back in the 60s? Anyway, I am also curious, as evidenced here in Female First:

 

Top Ten Reasons Why Writers (and Everybody) Should be Curious

 

I am fascinated by the many and varied “Top Ten” lists from authors in this section of Female First. So many strong, intelligent women (and a few men, just for leavening) with so many passionate interests!

 

And as a footnote, here’s a link that tells a little about the film I am Curious (Yellow), and also about its appearance in Mad Men (of course it would appear in Mad Men):

 

I am Curious (Yellow)

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10 May Mother’s Day is Forever

Family 7-4-49

 

My mother’s been gone since 2010, and I miss her every day. Here’s a throwback-Mother’s-Day snapshot (taken when my baby sister was just three months old) of my beautiful young mother, my stalwart father, my older brother and me. I do not look very happy about the whole picture-taking production! Clearly I was already developing my lifelong camera-phobia.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to you, dear Mother.

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07 May Cheers to The Red Lily Crown

Today is publication day for The Red Lily Crown in the UK! Cheers, me dear—fly free and give lots of people many lovely hours of escape and excitement!

 

Here’s our Cressie, who swears to me solemnly that she gives the book five cookies:

 

fivecookies

 

Could anyone doubt a face like that?? I also have to share this outtake, which shows a full-throated beagle AROOOO! of approval. If only I hadn’t cut off poor Cressie’s nose!

 

nonose

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02 May To The End of Time

totheendoftimeillus

Next Thursday, May 7th, is publication day in the UK for The Red Lily Crown. The books themselves are gorgeous, and today I have a new bit of news—on May 16th My Weekly magazine is going to publish a brand-new short story set in the Medici court and in the world of The Red Lily Crown. The story’s called “To the End of Time,” and here’s how I describe it:

 

“History meets fairy tale—a powerful Medici grand duke arranges a marriage without the lady’s consent, and the lady turns the tables by setting her betrothed a seemingly impossible task.”

 

As usual, My Weekly has produced the story with beautiful illustrations (a tiny snippet of which you can see at right) and the opportunity to win a free book! So if you’re in the UK, mark your calendar for May 16th and snap up My Weekly at your favorite shop!

 

Not in the UK? Well, My Weekly is generous with allowing the rights to the story to revert to me after they’ve published it. Newsletter subscribers will get the link first, so use the form below to sign up for my newsletter, and on May 25th I’ll send out a link to “To the End of Time” online!

 

 

 


 

 

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28 Apr Liar’s Bench

Liar's Bench by Kim Michele Richardson

I’ve known Kim Michele Richardson for quite a few years now—I love her Facebook feed with its gorgeous pictures and lovely stories of her family, her animals, and her beloved Kentucky countryside. I loved her amazing memoir, The Unbreakable Child. So I’ve been waiting impatiently for her first novel, called Liar’s Bench.

 

Well, Liar’s Bench was published today, so my wait is over. I’m trying not to inhale the book in huge gulps, because I want it to last. I love books like this, with such a strong sense of place that one can go there and sit a spell (even if really bad things happen there sometimes). Can you resist this?

 

“And in western Kentucky, a good cornerstone was the strength of any town, tale, or courtship just as sure as the bench’s weathered planks of oak and wrought-iron arms and legs cradling it were the support for its tale spinners and sinners.”

 

Tale spinners and sinners. Generations of them, over the course of a hundred years and more. I’m loving Liar’s Bench.

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27 Apr May 7th is the Day

The Red Lily Crown UK Books

 

This is the UK edition of The Red Lily Crown. I absolutely love these books—the bright scarlet and gold, the little pop of blue in the corner, the not-conventionally-pretty-but-interesting-looking cover model. I especially like the tiny historical detail of the ribbon wrapping Chiara’s braid.

 

Publication day in the UK and Australia is a week from Thursday, May 7th, and you can pre-order now. I can hardly wait!

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