It's Book Release Day!!!! Woo hooo!!! It never gets old. (Bee's knees all around)
Books, Tea, and Other Obsessions
An historical author shares her obsessions with books, tea, chocolate, wine, and whatever takes her fancy!
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Book Release Day!!!
It's Book Release Day!!!! Woo hooo!!! It never gets old. (Bee's knees all around)
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
A Manahttan Heiress in Paris is debuting next week!!! I can't believe it! Let's take a sneak peek. (It's snowing here AGAIN, so I'm escaping into a Seine-side picnic with Jack and Eliza...)
She slipped on a pair of tinted glasses against the bright day and turned toward the patisserie on the corner to find some macarons. She passed cafes, waiters sweeping the pavements outside as a few morning customers lingered over coffees, ladies rushing past in their stylish suits and summer dresses, their feathered hats, children chasing dogs and rolling their hoops toward the gardens, the elegant, pale stone houses dotted with bright flower boxes rising up above her toward the clear turquoise sky. She caught a glimpse of herself in one of the windows, and barely recognized herself in her new striped dress, the smile on her lips she couldn’t suppress. It felt like something new, something strange and wonderful, was just beyond the touch of her fingertips now.
When she came out with her macarons in their neat little, beribboned box, she glimpsed Jack waiting at the end of the street, carrying a bottle of wine. He also wore tinted glasses, and his new gray suit that fit so well over his gorgeous shoulders, flowers in the crook of one arm. For a moment, he looked so distant, so far-away from her, a beautiful mirage. She couldn’t breathe as she stopped just to look at him, couldn’t walk even a step, she was so stunned by him all over again.
He turned his head and saw her, and a smile burst across his face as he removed his glasses. He waved and started toward her, and Eliza felt as if she was suddenly launched into the sun. She rushed toward him, and impulsively went up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
He stiffened a tiny bit, his gaze darting over her head, and she shivered as she stepped back. She suddenly felt terribly embarrassed by her need to kiss him, be near him. “Did I do something wrong?” she asked.
He gave her a gentle smile. “You never could, bird girl. It’s just—it’s such a crowd here…”
“Oh.” Like a cold wave of water washing over her, she remembered how some people at home would have reacted to seeing her touch him there on the street, the trouble they might have gotten into. She glanced around, and just saw people hurrying past them, not even looking at them. One couple even kissed under a signpost at the end of the street, entwined around each other. “But this is Paris! Look at all the couples pretending they’re the only ones in the whole world. Like those people over there!” She waved toward the kissing couple. “I do think they are just about to consummate their wedding vows…”
Jack laughed, and the sweet, lilting, light sound made her relax and smile again. “You’re right. Paris is a new beginning, oui?”
“Oui, bien sur, monsieur,” she agreed firmly.
“And these are for you.” He handed you the bouquet he held, fragrant dark pink roses and white lilacs bound with a creamy ribbon. “They smell a bit like your perfume.” He took the heavy basket from her, tucking his wine inside.
“Do they?” she said in delight, taking a deep breath of the velvety petals. She could hardly believe the thought that he considered her, even remembered her perfume, when they weren’t together.
“Shall we? We need to find the perfect spot along the river, I think.” He held out his hand to her.
Eliza stared down at it, feeling the largeness, the momentousness, of that gesture. She slid her fingers into his, and they closed around her, warm and safe.
Such a tiny, tiny thing, one hand in another on a sunny day. Just for a second, it felt as if the world tilted on its axis, the sky slashing overhead, the river cresting. Then it all settled into absolute perfection.
“Shall we find that spot, then?” she said. “I’m absolutely famished! The lady at the boulangerie said if we walk this way, we can find the best view of Notre-Dame.”
They went down the side street, past toy shops and milliners and book stalls, past concierges staring out their doorways, and at the end climbed down slippery stone steps to the cobbled walkway along the river, still holding hands. They talked of music and art, of Paris museums they wanted to see, and laughed at small boys dashing past with their toy boats, all perfectly ordinary, perfectly wonderful. Eliza wished every day could be just like that.
Along the Seine, they did find a spot with a view of the cathedral, bridges sparkling in the sunlight, artists with their easels capturing the scene. Jack spread out the blanket and poured glasses of the sunset-pink rose wine as Eliza dished out the delicacies she’d spent the morning gathering in the shops. She tucked one of her new roses behind her ear, just under the narrow brim of her white straw hat, and pinned the other to his suit lapel. It was quite a lovely excuse to touch him again.
“Salut,” she said, clinking her glass to his.
“Salut.” He leaned back and studied the sun-lit stones of the cathedral, a small smile on his lips. It made Eliza’s heart warm to see him so relaxed, so happy, in that moment. “Have you ever seen anything so glorious in your life, Eliza?”
Only you, she thought. She tilted back her face to let the sun wash over her, listening to the echo of laughter on the water, the bark of dogs, the ringing of church bells and the splash of waves as a bateau glided past on the water. She dangled her feet over the edge of the embankment, and popped a bit of glorious, gooey cheese into her mouth. “Never. I could never have imagined my life would be—this. If today was a song, what do you think it would be?”
Sunday, March 19, 2023
I've been in a whirl this week, fnishing edits on one book, starting a new WIP, getting ready to promote a new release (A Manhattan Heiress in Paris, March 28!!). In the meantime, here are a few fun tidbits to entertain...
Inside the billion dollar effort to clean up the Seine
Bookstores are a "recession proof" business
The world of the Parisian salons
Rare early letter from Jane Austen to her sister goes up for sale
Notre-Dame Cathedral will open in early 2024
Dole Whips Will Soon Be at Your Grocery Store!
7 Pre-Raphaelite Works by Elizabeth Siddall
Explore Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul virtually
Monday, March 13, 2023
(a re-visit of an old Risky Regencies post of mine! In case you wonder about my process which isn't much of a process because I am disorganized...)
My Writing Process
1) Find an Idea
The question most non-writers ask writers seems to be “How do you get your ideas?” I always have to answer “I have no clue.” Maybe it comes from a painting or a movie, or something I read in a non-fiction book. All I know is I seem to have a lot of them–ideas, that is. They all go into an “idea notebook” to be brought out and expanded on later. Also, I seem to start with characters who need a plot rather than a plot that needs characters.
2) Okay, I have my idea! Now, I have to buy research books–a total neccessity, of course. And I have to track down research books I already own, because they could be anywhere in the house. Or the garage. I find lots of books I forgot I had, which means I have to sit down on the floor and read through them, dust them, look at pictures, and jot down new ideas I find from them. Eventually, though, I do get to step 3…
3) I write a short synopsis of the story. I’m not much of a “plotter”–I have a writer friend who starts out by writing a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline, but I can’t do this. I have no idea what will be happening in chapter twenty at this point. But publishers do like to see what the story will be about, so the short synopsis gets written. I organize my research notes and start the rough draft.
4) I write my rough drafts in longhand in Hello Kitty notebooks I buy at Target. This means a trip to Target, of course. Once the vital notebooks are procured, I may go over to look at shoes. And makeup. And purses. And the pet supply aisle. Then I buy some Choxie Coffee Toffee bars to sustain me through the writing to come. And maybe a copy of Vogue. For breaks, you know.
5) Now I get to work (really!). I usually write sitting on my bed, surrounded by those research books, cats, and empty Choxie boxes. Like Diane, I give myself about 4-5 months per book. But I have my “day job,” and thus have to make the most out of all my writing time. This means no email, Go Fug Yourself, or Orlandobloom.com. Usually. Well, not more than once an hour.
6) It takes me about 100 pages to really get to know the characters and their story, to see where it’s going. Then I start typing the chapters to send to my critique partners. I may do a little revising at this point, but usually I just print up their comments and jot down notes for any changes I notice are needed, and then I press ahead. The whole longhand-to-computer thing helps me see where I’ve been repetitive or lost some continuity. The problem is that sometimes I can’t read my own handwriting! (Oh, and I write the story in linear fashion. No doing up scenes and connecting then later, as I’ve heard Gabaldon does. My mind just doesn’t work that way!)
7) End of rough draft! I type The End, send to the cp’s, and put it out of my mind for a few days. By this time, I have a pretty dire case of ‘writer’s butt’ from all that Choxie (I have to have something to soothe me after dealing with stubborn characters who do NOT want to do what they’re told!). I go to more yoga classes and run on the treadmill a lot, thinking back over the story in my mind. This helps me see where some of the problems are, and also helps me fit back into my jeans.
8) I get the manuscript out and polish, revise, and send it off. I worry about it, and then try to get onto the next story! The Lure of the Other is always strong by this point, and I’m eager to start a new book. The next story is still shiny and new, full of hope, unlike the tattered, battered one that has just ended. I head to the bookstore for more research books, and then back to Target…
Saturday, March 04, 2023
Adults are rediscovering the joys of ballet (I took ballet for years and years when I was younger, and bought myself a portable barre and found online classes during covid lockdowns! It's been amazing)
Woman completes aim to sample a scone at every National Trust property (my dream job!)
Victorian widows and governesses
The Louvre has put its entire collection online free
Indie bookstores benefit your local economy
The famous country houses of literature
Tips for finding high-quality bargain wines (my sommelier husband says this is great!)
39 movies that will transport you to Paris
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Drinks With Friends
(I just went last night to a favorite speakeasy-style bar here---Tonic, if you're ever in Santa Fe!--and remembered one of my favorite writing experiences ever, a collaboration between 4 friends who met every Friday for a cocktail and book talk. I miss them soooo much since I moved away! But here is a repeat of an old post about our books....
As my readers will know, I range among many different time periods in my writing–Regency, Elizabethan, Renaissance, etc. One of my very favorite time periods (especially with the Downton mania of the last few years!) is the Edwardian/WWI/1920s era. It’s very reminiscent of the Regency in many ways (warfare, fast-moving societal changes, not to mention amazing clothes…), but I’ve only been able to write one 1920s story in the past (Girl With the Beaded Mask), but all that changed a few months ago.
I have 3 great writer friends I get to see (almost) every Friday night, at 4:30 happy hour on the dot, at the Martini Lounge a few miles from my house. This is an amazing place, said to have been a speakeasy in the 1920s (though when I was a kid, it was my grandfather’s favorite donut shop, where I could eat as many chocolate pastries as I wanted while he talked to his old-man friends about farming!). Now it’s an elegant bar/steakhouse, with velvet booths, dim lighting, jazz music, and an astonishing array of cocktails. Kathy L Wheeler, Alicia Dean, Krysta Scott, and I meet to talk over what we’re writing, and one eveing we had the brilliant idea–why didn’t we write something together! Set at the Martini Lounge! So 4 girls from the 1920s had their beginnings in 4 connected novellas that have now been launched out into the world. Much like our 4 heroines left their English homes for new lives in NYC….
I wondered what those 4 heroines–Lady Jessica (an earl’s daughter who would rather be a journalist than dance at deb balls), Lady Meggie (her schoolfriend, who would rather sing in a jazz band and seek fame and fortune than dance at deb balls), Eliza (a maidservant who fled a lecherous employer–only to find herself in an even worse jam on the streets of NY), and Charlotte (Jess and Meggie’s shy friend, who finds the strength to flee an arranged marriage and follow her own dreams), would drink when they meet at the Martini Lounge’s 1920s counterpart Club 501?
Alicia Dean says Eliza’s drink choice is easy–a Fallen Angel!
Shake all ingredients (except cherry) with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with the cherry and serve.
Kathy L Wheeler chose Meggie’s–a Virgin Mary (since Meggie is a singer, she doesn’t drink much on the job–but that doesn’t count for after hours!)
4 oz tomato juice, 1 dash lemon juice, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 drops tabasco
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Add tomato juice, then the rest of the ingredients. Stir and garnish with a wedge of lime.
I found out that one of my favorite (modern day) drinks, a French 75, was also very popular in the 1920s!!! (even with one of the models for Lady Jessica, Nancy Mitford), so I decided Jess could drink that…
1 oz. gin
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Brut Champagne or a dry sparkling white wine
Lemon twist, to garnish
Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass. Top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve.
And for Charli, who has dreams of opening her own bakery, a caramel apple martini!
2 parts Schnapps, butterscotch, 2 parts Sour Apple Pucker, 1 part vodka. Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
We are so excited to have these stories out in the world!!! To one commenter today, we’ll give copies of the stories (either e-book or, in a few weeks, hard copies), plus a Martini Club 4 cocktail glass for mixing up your own favorite cocktails. Do you have a favorite drink? Any special happy-hour rituals with friends??
In the meantime, here's some reading....
Why winter is the best season for reading
American Girl's new "historical" doll is from the 1990s, and I now feel The Old
7 of Audrey Hepburn's best Givenchy moments on-screen
A restored 18th century Spitalfields townhouse
The history of Queen's Mary's crown (soon to be seen again!)
The most transformative period dramas to escape into
Sunday, February 19, 2023
(I've started posting a few excerpts from A Manhattan Heiress in Paris, and here is a fun one! Meeting Zelda Fitzgerald...)
Excerpt (at a swanky Paris Salon)
Chloe led them further into the room, nodding at Hemingway, who paused in boxing with a small, cringing man to wave at them. Eliza took a gulp of her cocktail to keep from laughing.
“The Murphys, American compatriots of yours, so delightful! Gerald and Sara. Quite the leaders of society now.” Chloe waved at a handsome couple who held court near the window, the golden-haired woman dressed in a draped white chiffon gown with long ropes of pearls around her neck. “ And with them is Madame Goncharova, but be careful, she will try to read your palm. And Ernest, I’m sure you’ve met him, everyone has.”
“Yes, at Shakespeare and Company.” Eliza watched Hem as he tried to box with a wide-eyed, cringing, skinny man.
Chloe frowned. “He had better not break that vase, it’s seventeenth century. Ah, and here is another belle Americaine! Ma chere madame, over here. This is Elizabeth Van Hoeven, madame, and Eliza this is Zelda Fitzgerald. You will quite like her, Eliza. Now, my handsome monsieur, do let me steal you away. I have another friend here who plays the trumpet…”
She took Jack firmly by the arm and led him away, as he tossed a pleading glance back at Eliza. But there was no resisting the comtesse. Eliza gave him a little wave and a grin before she turned to the petite, chocolate-box pretty blonde woman in a stunning, petal-pink tulle gown, the woman she had glimpsed at the Club d’Or.
“Hi, there!” Zelda said in a loamy, rich Southern accent. She left her empty glass on a footman’s tray and took a full one with a flirtatious grin. “I think I’ve seen you before, at the Club d’Or? So you’re American, too? How’d you wash up here?”
“I’m studying music at the Conservatoire,” Eliza answered, almost too dazzled by this vibrant vision of blonde waves and pink ruffles.
Zelda made a little moue of her rose-painted bow lips. “You lucky-ducky. I used to want to be a dancer. Or maybe a writer. Now I just keep a journal and drink. I’m good at that.” She held up the sparkling golden cocktail. “You need another, too! Been in Paris long, then?”
“A few weeks. I’m from New York.”
Zelda laughed, a ripple of silvery bells. “I lived in New York, too! Kicked out of all the best hotels, so we had to come here. That’s my fella over there.” She pointed at a man who was talking to Hem on the other side of the crowded salon, a tall, polished-gold man who seemed to match her perfectly. Eliza remembered him from the Club d’Or, staggering around drunkenly, but he seemed all right tonight, nodding and talking seriously. “I’m Zelda.”
Eliza suddenly remembered seeing her photo in the newspapers in New York, she and her husband the stars of a crowd Eliza’s mother would never let her meet. They had indeed been thrown out of hotels—and swam in fountains, rode atop taxis, spun for hours in revolving doors. Zelda looked prettier than those grainy black and white images, with a vitality and sparkle no still photo could capture. Eliza was very envious of such an adventurous life, even if it did sound exhausting. “Zelda Fitzgerald? Who lived at the Plaza?”
“That’s me! And my man is Scott. Watch out if he has another drink, he’s no fun at all after two. You here with a guy, too?”
“Yes, Jack Coleman. Over there with the comtesse.” Eliza pointed out Jack, suddenly unsure. Zelda was clearly Southern, after all.
But she just laughed. “Now that’s a fella who’s the cat’s meow! Look at those cheekbones. My daddy would just die right dead with an apoplexy if he saw that. He’s a judge, in Alabama. He didn’t want me marrying Scott just because he’s a Yankee.”
“I think my father would, too. He’s an attorney in Manhattan, but mostly his job is just being a Knickerbocker gentleman.”
“Well, who cares about our parents when a fella looks like that! Is he a writer?”
“Musician. He plays at the Club d’Or.”
Zelda sighed wistfully, and reached for another cocktail. “You are one lucky dame. Getting to do whatever you want. Come on, have another drinkie, let’s get Olga to read our palms!”
National Trust showcases recycled fashion
February 16--birth of Princess (later Queen) Mary Tudor
Meet the oldest dog! (a 30 year old Very Good Boy!)
Notre Dame restoration reveals lost medieval burials
Most transportive historical dramas to watch for Valentine's Day (a bit late, but still some great movies for anytime!)
A look back at Harlem Renaissance Fashions
On writing desire in the Regency yearsShakespeare's best and worst couples (according to Folger Shakespeare Library)