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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….

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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.

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21 Nov The Girl with the Painted Face

boowithgirlCongratulations to Gabrielle Kimm on the publication day of her new novel, The Girl with the Painted Face! I was fortunate enough to receive a pre-publication review copy from the publishers, which is no small thing, considering that they’re in the UK and I’m in Texas.

Now Gaby is a dear friend, but even so—I adored this book. I love anything with a theatrical background (see “Playacting on Paper”) and The Girl with the Painted Face combines mystery, adventure, delicious romance and murder most foul, with sixteenth-century Italy and the gritty, colorful glamour of a traveling Commedia dell’ Arte troupe. It made me want to go try out for a play somewhere—once I’d finished the book, of course.

Boudin liked it excessively as well, as you can see—just look at the dreamy look on his face—and says his favorite character is little Ippo, the dog. Of course….

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14 Feb What Better Valentine’s Day Treat?

The mass-market edition of The Flower Reader is being released today in the UK. Thrilling adventure, high romance, and exquisite flowers—it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! If you’re in the UK, check Tesco or W.H. Smith’s, or order online.

Cressie loves The Flower Reader!

Cressie says, “It’s delicious for reading in bed. If your ears are long enough (like mine), it’s perfect for ear-draping. I give it five cookies. No, six! Maybe seven? Please?”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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21 Sep An Evening in Kenai

Last night I had a truly delightful Skype meeting with the Kenai Library Community Book Club, in Kenai, Alaska—they’d been reading The Flower Reader.

I always learn something when I sit in with readers. One of the book club members pointed out that Nico seems to get younger as the story progresses, and although it wasn’t conscious on my part, it’s true. As Nico slowly allows his true self to emerge from his facades, deceptions and masquerades, he does seem to get younger—we see the real Nico at last, like a peacock (of course a peacock, being Nico) chick emerging from its shell.

At one point, Cressie happily jumped up on my lap and joined in the conversation. She wanted to make sure everyone knew that she was the inspiration for Seilie’s freckled paws.

Many thanks for the invitation to the Kenai Library Community Book Club, and to Reilly Becker of the Library staff for making the arrangements!

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12 Apr Always a Hound

I’m guest posting today on the Owl Bookmark Blog, about dogs in sixteenth-century courts, Renaissance art, and of course historical fiction.

The Owl Bookmark Blog

Being a beagle lover (how would you ever have guessed?), my fictional doggies tend to be hounds—the pocket beagle puppies Tristo and Isa in The Second Duchess, and the loyal hunting hound Seilie with his melting eyes and freckled paws in The Flower Reader. Stop by and join the discussion about you favorite animals in fiction!

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03 Apr Novels and Puppies


So today’s the day. The Flower Reader goes out into the big wild world.

Writers feel all kinds of strange things when their books are released. Pride, sure, and apprehension, and vulnerability, and hope, and moments of joy, and middle-of-the-night, it’s-too-late-now sinking moments of oh, no, I should have written that part this way and not that way.

But mostly I feel—I don’t know—helplessness. Empty-handedness. That puppy has sneaked out the door and you can offer it all the Milkbones you want—you’re never going to get it back. It’s on its own and it doesn’t belong to you anymore. In fact, it’s suddenly all grown up and not the cute fuzzy puppy you’ve been used to as you pored over it and petted it and brushed its silky fur—it’s a great big spotted dog with teeth and claws and—floppy ears? But wait, you didn’t mean for it to have floppy ears! Where did the floppy ears come from?

Too bad. If people see floppy ears, floppy ears there are.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of people like floppy ears.

It’s just—not what you thought it would be. You write a book and you love it and think it’s yours, and then somehow it gets away from you and becomes this self-sufficient wild thing, hiding in the cucumber vines and foraging for its own food. It may still have your tags on its collar (“Hi! My name is The Flower Reader! If you find me, please call xxx-xxxx. Reward!”) but don’t be fooled. It’s not yours any more.

I’ll post the winners of the bookmarks tomorrow! The Broadcasting Legend™ is out today and I need his magic touch to do the drawing.

A lovely kickoff review by Melissa, the Avid Reader, at Confessions of an Avid Reader!

I am guest-blogging today at Julianne Douglas’s Writing the Renaissance. Do you like your historical fiction with fictional characters, or without? There are pros and cons to both sides…

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23 Jan A Silent House

The doggies are spending the day at the Canine Health Club, Day Surgery Center and Spa (aka the vet’s) to get their teeth cleaned, claws clipped, bloodwork done, and other delights. They got no breakfast this morning, and they were NOT amused. Hopefully all will go well and they will be home by dinnertime. But the house is unnaturally quiet without them. And how will I get my cardio without getting up to let them in and out a couple of thousand times a day?

I am presently re-acquainting myself with the third-person viewpoint. I’d never written anything in first person until I wrote The Second Duchess, and I found I really loved the sense of seeing and feeling and touching and tasting right along with Barbara and Lucrezia, and also with my beloved Rinette in The Flower Reader. But The Alchemist Prince is turning out to be a different animal altogether. There’s so much happening to so many fascinating people that there’s no way one (or even two or three) characters can be present for all of it. And I want it all—I can’t bear to leave any of it out…

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01 Jan Freckled Paws and Hoppin’ Jim


Kalo Podariko! (“Happy First Foot,” the Greek wish for a happy new year.) The first foot over our threshold this morning (as it is pretty much every morning) was a freckled beagle paw belonging to our Miss Cress. I love her freckles—I’ve given her freckled paws to Seilie, Rinette’s little hound in The Flower Reader. Since Cressie is a typically beagle “merry little hound,” I think she’ll bring us happiness in the year to come.

Living in Texas as we do, we’re also supposed to eat black-eyed peas for luck on New Year’s day—the dish is called “Hoppin’ John,” the etymology of which is obscure. Sadly, the Broadcasting Legend™ and I don’t really like black-eyed peas. Heresy, I know. What we’ve done is create our own version, which we call “Hoppin’ Jim.” Heh. It’s a sort of bean soup made with ordinary white beans and the bone from the Christmas ham, and it is delicious. I’d post a recipe, but none of the things Jim cooks actually have recipes. He’d say something like, “Well, you take the ham bone and put in the beans and some other stuff and simmer it all afternoon.” Right.

I like vegetables—shredded carrots and greens of some sort—in my Hoppin’ Jim, but I have to add those separately so as not to sully the purity of the original.

Warmest new year wishes to all, and God bless us every one.

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22 Nov Fascination


Haven’t posted a beagle picture for a while! Here are Cressie (left–note the white crescent on her rear end that gives her her name) and Boudin, intent on some adventure happening in the front yard. We’ve had enormous geckos this year–not sure if it’s the hot dry summer or what, but I’ve seen lizards the size of squirrels running up the trees. (Well, maybe that’s a teensy exaggeration. But really big lizards.) That may have been what fascinated them so.

In other fascinating news–The Second Duchess is in the finals for the 2011 Goodreads Choice Award for historical fiction! I am amazed and excited and thrilled and so happy. If you feel moved to vote, go here.


Vote now for your favorite books!

Cressie and Boo thank you!

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14 Sep The Dark Enquiry

Well, Boudin does have cherry eye in his right eye, unfortunately–but it’s a mild case and the vet showed me how to massage his eye (through the lids, of course, with the eye closed) to coax the third eyelid back into place. We also have some eyedrops that are supposed to help. As you can see, Boo is not letting a little thing like cherry eye interfere with his reading.



I loved The Dark Enquiry, the fifth adventure of Lady Julia Grey (now Lady Julia Brisbane, of course), by Deanna Raybourn. Not only do we get to spend more time with Lady Julia herself, her deliciously enigmatic husband Nicholas Brisbane, and her eccentric family–we get to delve into the Victorian craze for spiritualism, with side trips to a gypsy camp (and what you will learn there will astound you!)  and the intricacies of Her Majesty’s secret intelligence offices. Muchly recommended!



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10 Sep Choosing a Winner

Sadly, Boudin is on injured reserve this morning, with an inflamed nictitating membrane (the third eyelid) in his right eye. He has an appointment with the aptly-named Dr. Clawson at ten, and we’re hoping it’s just a passing thing. Beagles are prone to something called cherry eye, which is more serious. So fingers crossed for our Boo!

Cressie, however, happily took up the slack as a lone honorary wolf. Here’s how it worked: since we had five commenters, I laid out five kibbles in a row.



I then manned (womaned?) the camera as the Broadcasting Legend™ carefully positioned Cressie in the exact center of the row, about five feet away. He then released the wolf beagle and I snapped the picture.



She made a beeline for Kibble Number Two, so Liz Michalski, as the second commenter, you are our winner! You will be hearing from Dee.

Thanks to everyone who visited and commented, and all our best to Dee Garretson and Wolf Storm.



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15 Jun Crossed Beagle Paws

When I want to wish someone particularly good luck, I wish them “crossed beagle paws” (because of course we have copious beagle paws in the Loupas household). The other day I saw Boudin lounging in the dining room with his front paws crossed like a Victorian gentlemen’s (a Victorian gentleman’s limbs, of course, not paws, but the attitude is certainly there), and I managed to grab the camera in time to take one shot before he rolled his eyes at me and moved.

So next time I tell you I have beagle paws crossed for you, you’ll know just what I’m thinking.

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02 Apr Saturday News

May I just say that I love The Flower Reader? I love Rinette Leslie, so fragile and so ferocious, so different from Duchess Barbara (although I love Duchess Barbara too). I love Nicolas de Clerac:

I turned my head, and there I saw the queen’s advisor and secretary Nicolas de Clerac, costumed as Urania, the muse of astronomy, his white silk tunic and gathered mantle embroidered with scattered silver globes and compasses. There were blue and silver streaks of paint around his eyes. All the same, he did not look foolish or mischievous as the other gentlemen did; woman’s costume or no, if I had met him alone in a dark place I would have been afraid of him.

I love Mary Stuart, eighteen years old, already once a widow, French to her elegant and privileged and mercurial fingertips, glimmering so briefly against the dark background of Scotland’s grim and inflexible Reformation.

Ahem. Well, enough about The Flower Reader for now. Mark your calendars for April 2012!

Many wonderful reviews and interviews for The Second Duchess. Writer Unboxed, Coffee and a Book Chick, Tartitude (this is part II, which I’m highlighting because of the granddaughterly wonderfulness, but check out part I as well, via the link in the first paragraph), Realm Lovejoy’s Blog Realm (and check out her wonderful sketch of Duchess Barbara), Reading the Past, Sia McKye’s Over Coffee, and Theresa de Valence’s Reviews by TdV, just to list a few. I am following the excellent advice to avoid commenting on reviews of one’s own work, but I would like to say here that I am so grateful to everyone who read and reviewed and commented in any way on The Second Duchess.

In April and May, look for endcaps at Barnes and Noble featuring Showtime’s The Borgias—among the books in the displays you’ll find The Second Duchess. Alfonso, of course, was Lucrezia Borgia’s grandson and the last Borgia duke. If you subscribe to Showtime, watch for the Barnes and Noble spot featuring their fabulous trip-to-Rome sweepstakes—you might just catch a glimpse (a tiny glimpse, but still) of The Second Duchess’s cover.

If you’re a Goodreads member, consider joining the Goodreads group “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book.” The Second Duchess is one of their two featured books of the month for April, and there should be an excellent, no-holds-barred discussion.

Link of the Week: Thorn from Jesus’ Crucifixion Crown goes on Display at the British Museum. This particularly fascinates me because the thorn (wherever it might have actually come from) is wrapped in a strand of Mary Queen of Scots’ pearls. How did it come to be connected with the pearls? Did she do it herself? Did someone else do it after her execution? One could write a whole story around this intriguing relic.

And finally, the good news of the week: Rosie, one of the two “Booksigning Beagles” from my Second Duchess signing at Murder by the Book, has found her forever home! In fact, she and her litter-sister Portia were adopted together, so they will not be separated. I will update you all on Dulcie, the other darling Booksigning Beagle, when I have more news.

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23 Mar I’m Here, Really…

…I’m just so wrapped up in finishing The Flower Reader that I’m trying to stay offline as much as possible. Here are some pictures from my wonderful signing at Houston’s Murder by the Book, to round out the month until I can take a breath and really write a coherent post.

Books and beagles--I am in heaven!

I love talking about the sixteenth century, Ferrara, Barbara and Alfonso! Ask me anything!

Readers are the best!

Little Dulcie is a star!

Baby Rosie is a star, too!

I had to snuggle Dulcie.

Rosie--that wonderful clean-puppy smell!

When you share an event with beagle puppies, you find out who has the real fans!

Thank you for coming! Buy lots of books! And adopt us, please!

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04 Mar In the Wild!

Well, the day finally came. The Second Duchess was released on March 1st, and is now in the wild at bookstores everywhere. I still don’t quite believe it.

I’m posting a day early this week because later this morning I’m off to Houston for an appearance at the iconic Murder by the Book. If you’re in Houston, please stop by! It’s a great day for MBTB, with authors Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison at 6pm, Sarwat Chadda and Rachel Hawkins at 3pm, and me (plus a melting-eyed bevy of adoptable beagles, courtesy of Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue) at 1pm. There is method in the beagle-rescue madness, because both of ours were adopted from HBHR, and of course there are two Elizabethan pocket beagles playing featured roles in The Second Duchess.

On the release day itself, March 1st, The Book Carriage in Roanoke hosted a wonderful party and gave The Second Duchess a fabulous send-off. I was very nervous, but the first question was “What’s your book about?” and I started talking about the sixteenth century and Ferrara and the Este and Barbara of Austria and Robert Browning, and they pretty much had to bring out the hook to get me to stop. Heh. Here’s a picture:

I’ll check back in when we get home with all the details and more pictures, and some fabulous links.

And don’t forget that this is Red Cross Month! Check the main Writers for the Red Cross page for daily blog posts, auctions, and book giveaways (including The Second Duchess) for donations.

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26 Feb Winners!

I tried to get the beagles to help me choose the winners of the signed ARCs of The Second Duchess, but as we like to say around Casa Loupas, they have no “reposable thumbs.” So although I logged in to the trusty random number generator site, poor Boudin still struggled with the keyboard.

However! With a little help from Mama, the selection of the random numbers was successful, and the winners are:

Theresa de Valence
Mari Bonomi

Congratulations! I will be writing to you both so you can send me your snail-mail addresses.

I will also send a signed postcard (which is not only very pretty but works perfectly as a bookmark) to anyone who asks. Yes, international requests are welcome. Just drop me an email with your mailing address… my email address is under the “Contact” tab above.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and those of you who are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area… I’d love to meet you in person at the book launch party this Tuesday, March 1, at The Book Carriage, 304 North Oak Street, Roanoke, Texas.

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22 Jan List of the Week

  • Excerpt-a-ganza! The first chapter of The Second Duchess is now available here.
  • The Second Duchess‘s giveaway at Goodreads continues! Sign up! And check back here for an international giveaway of a couple of advance reader copies. I think I’m going to wait until the Goodreads giveaway gets to 1,000 entries, so sign up now.
  • Cressie News: all bandages, cones, and protective collars are off. She is once again romping free in the back yard and doing her Snoopy dance under the Squirrel Tree. I think we can declare her officially healed, and we are so grateful for all the good thoughts and prayers you sent her way.
  • Congratulations to Karen Harper on Down River’s nomination for the 2011 Mary Higgins Clark Award, announced with the Edgar nominations this past week and presented each year by the Mystery Writers of America.
  • Writing-related link of the week: Jan O’Hara’s Tartitude. Great reviews, thoughtful essays on the writing life, and really good comments. Get your vitamin C every day!
  • Fun link of the week: All-Star Puzzles. Fun and free! I particularly like the mini-crostics and the picture puzzles. My way of starting my day.
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15 Jan Giveaways!

As some of you might have seen already, I now have beautiful cover flats for The Second Duchess—a sample of the cover, back and front, as it is printed and before it’s bound onto the book. Each step in the process is a shock of “Omigosh, this is really happening.” I also have a huge carton of gorgeous four-color postcards and if you’d like one with a personal note (plus a few to hand out to your friends, of course), just email me at eloupas (at) gmail (dot) com with your address. They’re like bookmarks on steroids!

The giveaway of The Second Duchess at Goodreads is now live. Click to sign up—there are twenty-five copies up for grabs. This particular giveaway is US only, but in a couple of weeks I’m going to host a giveaway here which will be international. So stay tuned.

And you can now read the first chapter of The Second Duchess by clicking the “The Second Duchess” tab above and then clicking the link at the beginning of the text.

Cressie is continuing to heal well—the vet has signed off on her for now and our main task is to keep her from licking at the delicate (and itchy) scar tissue.

Writers’ link of the week: the Shrinking Violets. I love this blog and this group of people. This past week we’ve been choosing a word for our year to come, and my choice was “perseverance.” What would your choice be?

Fun link of the week: the Daily Digital. It’s the adventures of two handsome beagle boys and their “hard-working domestic help.” Heh. Laurie Kramer is a long-time friend of mine and we’ve laughed and cried over our beloved hounds for a good many years now. Her pictures are wonderful, her sense of humor is wry, and her followers’ comments often hilarious. Stop by and say hello!

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08 Jan The Flower Reader

My Scotland book has its final title at last: The Flower Reader. This was one of my top choices and I’m delighted—I think it’s intriguing and unusual, and it puts the spotlight right where it belongs, on my heroine Rinette Leslie, the girl who can read the future in flowers. I’ll probably have more to say about The Flower Reader next week.

Cressie is doing beautifully. She had another follow-up vet visit on Wednesday and Dr. Clawson (such an appropriate name for a vet!) pronounced her a champion healer. She’s still wearing her plastic bag (an invention of my own, of which I’m justly proud) and probably will be for another week at least, just to let the healing progress past the itchy stage. Here she is, “in the bag” and oh-so-bored with it all:

Boudin has been feeling quite left out, and so here’s a wonderful new picture of him as well, snapped by the Broadcasting Legend™:

In Second Duchess news, there’s a giveaway slated to start on January 15th on Goodreads. Twenty-five copies up for grabs! So mark your calendars to enter. And anyone in the Houston, Texas area—put a big red “X” on March 5th, because at 1:00 on that Saturday afternoon I’ll be signing at Houston’s iconic Murder by the Book bookstore.

My Link o’ the Week for writers: StoryFix from Larry Brooks. As Larry says in his subtitle: “Get it written, get it right, get it published.” A great resource, packed with energizing information.

My Link o’ the Week for historical fun: The page on Lochleven Castle in the Douglas Archives. I particularly like the sketch of what Lochleven Island would have looked like in the mid-1560s at the time of my story—the island today is much larger because the level of the loch has lowered. Lochleven! Just the word is embroidered with history and romance…