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18 May Shortstop Slides In to Home


This is the newest addition to our pack. He’s eight years old and came to us from DFW Beagle Buddies beagle rescue.


He originally had a different name, but for me it was too close to “Booster,” one of our favorite nicknames for our beloved Boudin. It hurt me every time I called him by it. We had immediately begun to call him “Shorty” because his legs are considerably shorter than Cressie’s, and when he chose the baseball from our (rather extensive) collection of doggie toys, he instantly became “Shortstop.” He seems to like it, because he’s made himself right at home.



(The scratches on the leather behind him were made by Boudin, who loved to roll on his back on the sofa, propelling himself from side to side with his hind legs. I wouldn’t polish them away for anything.)


Cressie has made it clear to him that she is the doyenne of the household and sweet-tempered Shorty has deferred to her completely, so they have their pack order well sorted out. I’ve been cooking fresh food for our Cress, as she had begun refusing the vet’s special prescription food for doggies with kidney failure. She loves it—she gobbles it up and licks the dish sparklingly clean. It’s still one day at a time for our little old lady, but at least she’s happy, has more energy, and looks forward to her mealtimes again.


Now I just have to figure out a way to work a short-legged, sweet-faced tri-color hound into my new work-in-progress…

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04 Mar Exelauno Day

Many years ago (gulp), the professor who was my advisor for my undergrad honors thesis was a classics man, and it was from him that I learned that March 4th was “Exelauno Day,” in that “Exelauno” more or less means “March forth!” in Latin.



Cressie, however, clearly doesn’t feel like marching forth anywhere. It’s kind of chilly today and I don’t blame her. However, this picture shows clearly where her name came from—the white crescent-shaped mark on her hindquarters.


I don’t feel much like marching forth, either, but I must. Forward…


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20 Feb Our Boo

Boudin Loukaniko

June 30, 2001  –  February 20, 2017


We lost our dear old Boo today.


I can’t really write more, right now. Godspeed, Boo.


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06 Feb Still Begging After All These Years


This is what I see whenever I cook, bake, or have anything to do with food in the kitchen. We may be struggling with kidney failure (Cressie, on the left), congestive heart failure (Boudin, on the right), blindness and deafness (both of them, bless them), but those beagle noses never give up.


Every day’s a gift.


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01 Jan Hello, 2017



Happy New Year! Or as the Broadcasting Legend™ would say, “Kala Podariko,” or “Happy First Foot!” Cressie was our first-foot this year, which is only right, as she is the happiest, most light-hearted and fortunate of creatures, despite her great age and serious health issues. Bless you, little freckle-pawed Cress. Every day’s a gift.


Boudin, of course, was right behind her.


We’re expecting great things from you, 2017. Don’t disappoint us!



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30 Jun Boudin at Fifteen



It’s pure coincidence that Boudin and Cressie both celebrate their fifteenth birthdays this month. We adopted Cressie from Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue in 2002. In 2007 we lost our beloved Raffles,  and by the beginning of 2008 we were ready to rescue another beagle. Who should come along but Boudin, with several strikes against him—he was “too old” (seven, poor baby), heartworm-positive and with a ghastly ear infection, a confirmed cat-chaser (we had an elderly cat at the time) and an escape artist who’d already been returned by at last one adoptive home. Aww, Boo. I lost my heart from the moment I saw his picture. He came home with us on January 6, 2008.


He was a little frail from the heartworm treatment, but we “fed him up,” as my mother would have said, and within a few months he was officially heartworm negative. We solved the rest of his health issues. He turned out to be gentle and friendly with Bob, our geriatric kitty. He did escape a few times (and I have the extra gray hairs to show for it), but eventually he settled in. He is the most affectionate, sweetest-tempered fellow you can possibly imagine, and we love him dearly.


When he was first surrendered to animal control his age was given as “6 yrs 2 mos,” and counting back, that would have put his date of birth sometime in June 2001. We don’t know the actual day, so we assigned him June 30th. Happy birthday, Boudin Loukaniko. Every day’s a gift.

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01 Jun Cressie at Fifteen



Cressie is the only one of our rescued beagles whose date of birth we actually know. There was some paperwork surrendered with her that pointed us to a vet in Edmonton, Alberta, and we talked to him, and learned details of her first year or so when we adopted her. And her date of birth was June 1, 2001, so today she’s fifteen.


Fifteen is a fine old age for a beagle lady, and despite her recent struggles with vestibular syndrome, our Miss Cress is doing very well. Her little face is white and many of her freckles have faded—Cressie was the model for Rinette Leslie’s freckled hound Seilie in The Flower Reader. Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be, either, but she still patrols the Squirrel Tree™ and the fences, and can cut loose with a high-pitched beagle bay or two when she catches the flick of a tail or a dash along the fencetop.


Happy birthday, Cressalinda Marie. Every day’s a gift.


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29 Feb You Want Us to What?

Cressie n Boo


Seeing as how it’s Leap Day and everything, I thought I’d coax Cressie and Boo to leap for the camera. I even offered cookies. Above you see their response.


It’s rare enough to get a picture of the two of them together, so I guess I’ll have to settle for that. Boo’s in front, Cressie’s behind him. Both of them are doing well, and that’s worth a leap of my own.


Happy Leap Day, everyone!


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28 Jan Update on Cressie



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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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:




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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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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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…