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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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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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