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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:




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!



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02 May 2015 To The End of Time


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….