BLOG

0 0

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…

 

READ MORE
0 0

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….

READ MORE
0 0

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…

 

READ MORE
0 0

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.

READ MORE
0 0

13 Feb 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!

READ MORE
0 0

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.

READ MORE
0 0

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.

READ MORE
0 0

31 Jan Does Tempus Really Fugit?

sunclock

 

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!

READ MORE
0 0

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.

READ MORE