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23 Apr Boudin and his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days

Boudin with crossed paws--not posed, I swear!

I’ve been mostly over on my Facebook page for the last week or so, writing about our dear old almost-fourteen-year-old beagle boy Boudin and his terrifyingly sudden bout with idiopathic vestibular syndrome. You can read all about it over there:


My Facebook Page


He’s doing better now, thank goodness. Boo is my go-to guy whenever I offer “crossed beagle paws” for good luck, and so we’re all crossing our fingers, paws, and whatever we’ve got that he continues to improve.

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05 Apr Easter Bonnets

Easter Bonnets

Happy Easter! Christos Anesti, for the Greek side of the family!


I suppose this picture belongs on a #TBT Throwback Thursday post, but I found myself thinking of it today, and so dug it out of one of my scrapbooks. It is, of course, my sister Barb and me one Easter morning when we were girls. I remember that cotton shirtwaist dress—it was pale pink. Note the correct (!) white gloves and crescent-shaped flower hat, which was almost more like a headband. I don’t remember Barb’s outfit, so perhaps she will have to chime in to tell us what color it was.


I was probably twelve or thirteen here, which means Barb would have been nine or ten. (We’re now pretty much exactly the same height.) We’re standing in our little side yard along Logan Street. Yes, I think it’s quite all right to have #TBT pictures whether it’s Thursday or not!

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26 Mar The Missing Earls

Arms of the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, Mary Talbot's father

…and a few missing Countesses as well.


Renovations to Sheffield Cathedral have turned up the intriguing fact that the bodies of the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot (arms at right, and also see below regarding Talbot Hounds) and a number of his family members/descendants, are not in the crypt where they’re supposed to be. There’s more detail here:


Mystery of the Missing Earls


And if you’ll take the more breathless speculations with several large grains of salt, here you’ll find a list of the missing bodies, as well as some pictures of the fourth Earl’s effigy, flanked by his two countesses (also see below):


Mystery of the Missing Coffins


I am particularly interested in this because I am interested in Mary, Countess of Northumberland, who was born Mary Talbot, the daughter of the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury (by his first wife). She’s not a particularly famous figure in glittering, Tudor-headlined sixteenth century England, but her arranged and desperately unhappy marriage, and her shocking (for the time) attempt to escape it, could have prevented Anne Boleyn’s marriage to Henry VIII, and thereby changed the course of history.


There’s very little known of her from primary sources, but what an incredible story can be imagined, given what we do know. And elusive as she is, it’s only apt that her earthly remains appear to have vanished into thin air…


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15 Mar Ides of March

First Bouquet

They warned my mother to beware the Ides of March, but (brave woman) she went ahead and had me anyway. My mother and my best friend, all through the long years of her life.


This picture, though, is about my father. Somewhere he conceived the romantic notion (so I guess I come by my own romantic notions legitimately) that he should be the first man to send his daughter flowers. So this rosebud with its now-fragile paper lace and silky ribbon was delivered to the hospital nursery with the accompanying card. Fortunately my mother saved it, and now here it is, many years later, pressed and tucked away in one of my many scrapbooks.


We had mince pie yesterday for Pi Day, and I have a perfectly gorgeous chocolate mini-cake (bigger than a cupcake, but not as big as a whole layer cake) for my birthday candles later today. At this rate, I’m going to have to work in extra exercise and no sweets for the rest of the month! But it will be so worth it…


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10 Mar Talbot Hounds

Talbot Dog

Sometimes perfect bits of history just fall into one’s lap. You all know, of course, how I always like to have a beagle or two (or three or four) in my books. Well, while looking through images from Sheffield Cathedral this morning (more about that later), I came across a connection between the Earls of Shrewsbury and an extinct breed of hunting dog called the talbot.


The Talbot in Wikipedia


As the family name of the Earls of Shrewsbury was Talbot, it was, of course, a perfect match. The first Earl of Shrewsbury was pictured presenting a book to Queen Margaret of Anjou, accompanied by a talbot.


The Talbot Goes to Court


And the coat of arms of the House of Talbot features two talbots as supporters. The effigy of George Talbot, the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury (more about him later, too), shows him with a wife on either side (obviously he was married to them sequentially and not in the cozy simultaneity of the effigy) and a faithful talbot at his feet.


The Talbot, Faithful unto Death


The talbot was a white scent hound with long soft ears, quite beagle-like in appearance (although if I let our beagles’ claws grow as long as the claws in the drawing above, our vet would have my hide), and may very well be an ancestor of our modern beagles. There are beagles described as “lemon and white,” which are white with very pale russet markings, and sometimes, particularly as puppies, can appear almost pure white.


I think you’ll be able to count on meeting some talbots (and a modern beagle as well) in The Taste of Cloves….

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04 Mar …And What the Inspiration Hath Wrought

© The British Library Board

Image © The British Library Board

Last week I posted about the Felbrigge Psalter, and how it inspired part of my new book in progress. Here’s a tiny snippet incorporating part of what that inspiration produced:



What will become of the book when I am gone? I have no daughter to leave it to. Ah, well, the direct line of mother-to-daughter has been broken before, and will be broken again, and the book will go on. It is not the blood that counts, but the fact that we have all been women, from the first of us to the last. We have all added something, words from those of us who could write, drawings from those unlettered, pressed herbs and flowers, stains and spatters from long-ago batters and sauces, ground grains of spices sifted into the paper itself. The book was a psalter at first, the Little Hours of the Virgin bound in embroidered linen three hundred years ago and more. Now the original pages have been mostly scraped and overwritten and new pages sewn and pasted in and interleaved. It has become a book about tasting, about cookery and herbalism and women’s magic. What are the Little Hours of the Virgin, after all, but ancient women’s magic?



I’m fretting about the rhyming “spatters” and “batters,” but so far I haven’t been able to come up with a suitable word to replace one or the other. The speaker here, by the way, is on her deathbed in 1572, which is why she describes the book as being three hundred years old.


There’s much more, of course. The working title for this book is The Taste of Cloves, and it has a contemporary storyline woven in with the historical storyline, which is a first for me. But somehow it just happened. Inspiration is funny that way…


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21 Feb Inspiration

Felbrigge Psalter


You just never know when something is going to drop a seed into your subconscious, and then when you least expect it, burst forth with an idea. For example, a while ago I came across some articles on a 13th-century psalter with an embroidered cover, which is in fact the oldest known English embroidery on a book. The book still exists, in the British Library. Here are some more details:


The Felbrigge Psalter


What if, though, such a book had not found its way into a museum, but had instead been passed down secretly from woman to woman. lovingly preserved, added to and un-written and re-written through the centuries? What if…


Well, there are more what-ifs. Lots of them. Next week sometime I’ll post an actual snippet from my work-in-progress, describing my fictional version of the Felbrigge Psalter.

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13 Feb Today We Have Chocolate



Because even if today is Friday the Thirteenth, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!


I’m writing about love, sex, power, and chocolate in the Renaissance today on Sia McKye’s popular blog, “Over Coffee.” Love, sex and power abounded in the sixteenth century, as of course they have in every age of humanity, but chocolate, not so much. So let’s all be especially grateful for our Valentine choccies.


Today We Have Chocolate


See you there!

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10 Feb Books Can Be Characters, Too

Photo Credit: Sandwich Town Council.

Photo Credit: Sandwich Town Council.

A central “character” in the new novel I’m working on is a 700-year-old psalter/scrapbook that has been passed down lovingly and carefully through twenty-four generations of (not always related) women. So you can imagine my fascination and delight to read this morning that researchers have found a 700-year-old copy of the Magna Carta stuck in a Victorian scrapbook in the county of Kent, England. So papers, and by extension even a whole book, can survive (if in a somewhat tattered condition) for hundreds of years outside museums! This lovely, quirky story has made my day.


Amazing! Original Magna Carta Copy Found in Scrapbook


Will share more about my own wonderful old (fictional) book later on.

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05 Feb The Mighty Huntress

Cressie and the Squirrel


I just spent a good twenty minutes watching Cressie creep across the back yard one coyote-like step at a time, with her eyes utterly fixed on an insouciant squirrel perched on the fence. I didn’t dare open the door for fear of scaring the squirrel away, so I shot this through the window. I swear, you could see that thought bubble over her head.


Needless to say, the squirrel got away, as they all do. Well, most of them. She’s actually caught two over the course of her thirteen years, and each time, as dear Miss Rossetti says, the birthday of her life was come. So she lives in endless hope (Cressie, not Christina Rossetti), bless her little beagle heart.

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31 Jan Does Tempus Really Fugit?



Fascinating article about a new book by philosopher Brad Skow of MIT, describing something called the “Block Theory” of time. Muchly simplified, the idea is that we (and everyone and everything else) exist scattered in time, with the “spotlight” of our concept of “present” moving from one moment to the next but with all moments, past, present, and future, existing all at once in the fabric of spacetime.


Does Time Pass?


The fact that I’m interested in theories of time that allow the past and present to co-exist is a big hint that what I’m working on combines the past and the present!

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24 Jan Old Favorites

Old FriendsHave been re-reading old favorites for the past few weeks. This fascinating study:


Favorite TV Reruns May Have Restorative Powers, says UB Researcher


…does ramble on and on about television, but if you keep reading you’ll come to the phrase “re-read a favorite book.” Yes! I’ve always felt that re-reading old favorites made me feel better, and now there’s scientific proof!


Here’s a snippet from a lovely comfort book:


“I realized at that moment, more strongly than hitherto, how fantastic, even macabre, was my presence amongst them, unseen, unborn, a freak in time, witness to events that had happened centuries past, unremembered, unrecorded, and I wondered how it was that standing here on the steps, watching yet invisible, I could feel myself involved, troubled, by these loves and deaths.” —Daphne du Maurier,
The House on the Strand.

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15 Oct Open Link to The Chimera Jewel


Now free for everyone—the short story originally published in My Weekly magazine, and set in the world of The Second Duchess!


“The Chimera Jewel” by Elizabeth Loupas


Here’s the thumbnail sketch My Weekly used to describe the story: “In sixteenth-century Ferrara, a magnificent jewel empowers two very different women—an ardent young girl and a dignified duchess whose love is no less passionate for being carefully restrained…”


This is a PDF file, which includes the beautiful artwork My Weekly commissioned for the story. Remember you can click the “+” icon to increase the size of the image and the type. Don’t have a PDF reader? You can download Adobe Reader free:


Adobe Reader


Subscribers to my mailing list received a link to this story last week, so if you want early dibs on special content in the future, be sure to subscribe by clicking the link above to my “Contact” page.


Many thanks to My Weekly for permission to republish the story and the art. Everyone enjoy!

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18 Aug A Delivery by the Royal Mail!

I received a package today via the Royal Mail, which was exciting enough in itself! But inside was a copy of last week’s issue of My Weekly Magazine, with “The Chimera Jewel” inside:




My Weekly does such a beautiful job of laying out stories with luscious, evocative artwork. I am thrilled that my story featuring Barbara and Alfonso from The Second Duchess found such a wonderful home.


Remember, sign up for my newsletter to get the first information on where you will eventually be able to read “The Chimera Jewel” online!




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07 Aug The Chimera Jewel

Love, says Duke Alfonso to his duchess Barbara of Austria in The Second Duchess, is a chimera of poets and adulteresses.


And in a new short story called “The Chimera Jewel,” which I’ve written exclusively for My Weekly magazine, Alfonso presents Barbara with a particularly meaningful gift:


                In the box there was a jewel, encircled with diamonds and sapphires, depicting a graceful but clearly mythological beast fashioned in gold and embellished with more precious stones. It had the forequarters of a lioness, the head of a horned goat rearing from its back, and a snake for a tail.

                “A chimera,” I said. A mythological beast, yes, but also a symbol of something that could exist only in the imagination….


It was a wonderful experience to enter the world of sixteenth-century Ferrara again, the color and excitement of the Berlingaccio revels, and the endlessly fascinating relationship between Duke Alfonso and Duchess Barbara. So mannered and cool on the surface, yet burning with fire and ice underneath. The chimera jewel is Alfonso’s way of saying “I love you” to his second duchess—something he would never “stoop” (as dear Mr. Browning puts it) to say in so many words.


What does Barbara do with the jewel?


Well, that’s the story. :)


Buy this week’s copy of My Weekly and read “The Chimera Jewel” for yourself. You’ll also be offered a chance to win the UK mass-market paperback edition of The Second Duchess.


Not in the UK? Well, My Weekly is generous with allowing the rights to the story to eventually revert to me. Use the form below to sign up for my newsletter, and one day soon I’ll send out a link to “The Chimera Jewel” online!




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11 May Mother’s Day 2014

Mother's Day 1947

It was Mother’s Day 1947. In those days (gulp) taking pictures was a rarer and more formal thing. Someone (my father? My grandfather?) lined up the women of the family for a snapshot with fourteen-month-old me in my beautiful young mother’s arms. I don’t remember it, of course–not even the enormous sunbonnet. Can you imagine putting something like that on a toddler today?


Left to right, my paternal grandmother Elizabeth Schroeder Gross (I’m named for her, although that’s a story in itself), my aunt Margaret Gross Paugh, me, my dear dear mother Margaret Fleming Gross (to whom The Flower Reader is dedicated), and my maternal grandmother Bonnie Otto Fleming. Bonnie’s real name was “Bonnalynn”–one has to wonder where that came from, as she was born in 1887. But her mother’s name was Margaret Roxanne Landers, so perhaps a penchant for fanciful names ran in the family. In any case, she herself hated “Bonnalynn” and called herself “Bonnie.” but I loved it and always thought that if I were ever fortunate enough to have a daughter of my own (which I’m not, alas) I’d name her “Bonnalynn.”


Perhaps one day there will be a “Bonnalynn” in a book….


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09 May The Women of the Medici

Wife, mistress, sister and cousin of a powerful and alchemy-obsessed Grand Duke… an alchemical soror mystica and a grandmother with the eyes of a revolutionary… the women take center stage in The Red Lily Crown. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t a few powerful men in the background as well. Here’s a lovely review from the Pittsburgh Examiner:


History, fiction, sex, scandal, schemes, and alchemy all combine to make up one of the best historical fictions novels of 2014!


Read the entire review here!


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27 Apr Now Pinning The Red Lily Crown!

I’ve started a Pinterest board called “Travels with Chiara,” for pictures of The Red Lily Crown in the wild. I’d love to have any kind of pictures–your copy of the book in your favorite reading place, your copy of the book with your pet or pets (I especially love pet pictures, of course), copies of the book in bookstores and libraries and wherever you go. You can post a link in the comments, or send your pictures to me at travels (at) elizabethloupas (dot) com.


I’m looking forward to Chiara’s travels around the world!