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20 Jun 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 “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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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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23 Apr 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015 …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 2015 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 2015 Today We Have Chocolate

valentine-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 2015 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 2015 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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