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15 Apr 2010 Thursday Book Quatrain

The Devil’s Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis:

Catherine de’ Medici always fascinates
As a Machiavellian queen and mother of three kings;
This tale follows the queen from i palazzi of Italy to les palais of France,
And suggests a startling reason for Catherine’s wickedness.

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12 Apr 2010 Arms and the Beagles

To whom do these lovely and mysterious arms belong? (No, not the Venus de Milo, silly.) Who is sitting on our couch playing with Cressie and Boo? Why, it’s Agent Diana, in town for a conference and here to spend some very intense time discussing The Silver Casket.

It was wonderful to meet Agent D. face-to-face for the first time. We devoured incredible prime steaks, exotic chocolates steeped in fruit and liqueurs; saganaki, spanokopita and tzatziki; and lovely cupcakes. Did we do anything but eat? Heh. Well, yes. We spent hours talking about The Silver Casket, books, The Second Duchess, books, the conference, books, promotion and bookstores, and oh yes—books.

Agent D. is now on her way back to New York after waving a sad goodbye to the beagle duo, and I’m on my way back to my hermitage to write up notes on everything we talked about…

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11 Apr 2010 Texas Mountain Laurel

What I saw on my walk today:

I would love to have some of this in our back yard. Trouble is, it has beautiful, shiny bright red seeds which are hallucinogenic (not surprisingly it’s also called the mescal bean tree) and very toxic. Not a good combination with two curious beagles who will eat anything!

But it’s so lovely. I’ll just have to appreciate it in other people’s yards.

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29 Mar 2010 Monday Book Quatrain

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland:

A girl on a tropical island will hear the prediction of a crown
But gain only France, a vicomte, children and unhappiness.
Revolution and Terror vividly evoked sweep a king and queen away.
A broken widow falls into the hands of an adventurer from Corsica.

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26 Mar 2010 An Astronomical Opportunity

Not many people have seen the planet Mercury. It’s easy to find Venus and Mars and Jupiter and even Saturn, but Mercury’s small and close to the sun and elusive. According to Renaissance gossip (and I do love Renaissance gossip) Copernicus himself never saw Mercury.

However! Now’s your chance! For the next couple of weeks Mercury and Venus will appear unusually close together (they’re actually on opposite sides of the sun, but stargazing is tricksy like that). Because Venus is one of the brightest objects in the night sky you can use it as a marker to help you find Mercury. Just look in the lower western sky about an hour after sunset. The brightest star you see? That will be Venus. Look down and to the right for Mercury. Have a pair of binoculars or a small telescope? Even better. They’ll appear closest together on April 3rd and 4th, and the conjunction will continue through about April 10th.

Why bother? Well, Mercury, the planet of communication, is going into retrograde again around the middle of April. Communication snafus, here we come. So at least this time we can look Mercury straight in the eye and say, “Not with my queries/submissions/revisions, you don’t.”

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24 Mar 2010 Dogless and Quiet

An unnaturally quiet day today—both dogs are at the vet’s for minor surgeries. No claws clicking on the quarry tile! No liquid dark eyes following every bite of food from plate to mouth! All will not be right with the world (as dear Mr. Browning’s Pippa would say) until the dogs are in the house again.

ETA: Dogs are home safely. Boo looks like a fighter who’s been in one too many fights (two skin tags removed from his face, so shaved patches and scabs), and Cressie looks like a Frankenstein-dog, with two BIG shaved patches and stitched-up incisions, one on the left side of her neck and the other on the right side of her shoulder. Everything was benign, thank goodness. Now to fight the battle of “No, Cressie, no scratching!” I wonder if there’s such a thing as a backwards Elizabethan collar that fits around a dog’s waist, to keep it from scratching with its back legs. Heh.

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22 Mar 2010 Book Monday


What I just finished reading (actually for the umpteenth time): my tattered, treasured copy of Zelda, Nancy Milford’s wonderful, terrible, mesmerizing biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. This is the book I return to whenever I’m struggling with my own writing—Zelda and Scott’s struggles are always so much more heartbreaking and heartrending than my own.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


What I’m going to read next: a crisp new copy of Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran. I loved Rome on HBO (Thirteeeeeeen!) and this looks like it pretty much picks up where Rome left off. I do wish they had kept Max Pirkis as Octavian. He’s certainly the Octavian I’m going to be visualizing as I read this.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

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21 Mar 2010 Spring? Where?

Today is the first day of Spring, tra-la. We woke up to this—an extremely unseasonable blanket of snow. Brrr! Boudin, a sensible Cajun doggie, refused to go out in the nasty cold wet stuff. Cressie, on the other hand, with her Canadian heritage, bounded out happily. Here you see her sniffing those special snow-enhanced smells. (We did eventually coax Mr. Boo out for a brief pit stop.)

On the far right, note the white tubs we put over our tender new rose plants to protect them from this outrage. At the top leftish-center, see the little chartreuse balsa-wood birdhouse the house wrens love so dearly, heaped with snow on top. Poor shivery wrens. Ah, the joys of spring at Casa Loupas.

Our pear trees have been denuded of their blossoms and look so sad I couldn’t even bear to take a picture of them. Who knows if they will have the heart to bloom again this year?

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19 Mar 2010 The Real Silver Casket

Am deep in sixteenth-century Scotland—want to join me? Here’s a link to photographs and details of the real silver casket which may (or may not, no one knows for sure, and of course the things no one knows for sure make the most delicious historical fiction) have held the “casket letters” which besmirched Queen Mary Stuart’s reputation forever.

Hamilton Palace : Treasures of the Palace : Lennoxlove

Where did the casket come from? What was its history before Queen Mary decided to use it to lock up her letters? (If she did.) If it’s fifteenth-century work, could the crossed F’s under a crown (if they were ever actually engraved on the casket, and not simply embroidered on the case) refer to Francois I instead of Francois II? Could its history have brought evil fortune to the queen? Could it even have been cursed? And if so, by whom?

So many questions to answer. Such fun!

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17 Mar 2010 Lucky January

Lucky St. Patrick’s Day news! NAL has moved the release date of The Second Duchess up by one month, so it will now make its debut in January 2011. Somehow that seems so much sooner than February 2011!

We readers all get book cards and book gift certificates for Christmas, right? So when you hit the bookstores in January with your Christmas book-buying booty, keep The Second Duchess in mind. And don’t worry—I’ll remind you again. Heh. Probably more than once.

And as for St. Patrick’s Day luck, well, I come from a long line of McConnells on my dear mother’s side. Sláinte!

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