Monday, August 31, 2009

Hottie Monday

I've been watching "The Inspector Lewis Mysteries" on Masterpiece Mysteries, and decided I rather like Laurence Fox, who has a sort of "tough intellectual" demeanor on the show. According to IMDB, he's the son of James Fox, husband of Billie Piper, and appeared in both Becoming Jane and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, though I don't remember him in either...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

This week's Heroine is an intriguing woman I just heard about (but I am definitely going to learn more!)--Judith Louise Gautier, whose birthday was last week (August 24, 1845--December 26, 1917). She was an author of "exotic novels" as well as non-fiction works on music, art, and the Far East, as well as the friend and/or lover of various artistic figures of her day.

Judith was the daughter of writer Theophile Gautier and Ernesta Grisi (sister of ballerina Carlotta Grisi), and in their home she was exposed from earliest childhood to an artistic and free-thinking circle. Some of her father's visitors were Banville, Flaubert, Goncourt, Baudelaire, Arsene Houssaye, and Gustave Dore. (Baudelaire nicknamed her "The hurricane," predicting she would "sink many"). For a time, her father helped out a Mandarin political refugee from China, Ding Dunling, which fostered her interest in Eastern culture.

She was encouraged in her own writings, and while still very young published her first article in Le Moniteur (which also published some of her poemns), a critique of Eureka's translation of Edgar Allen Poe. She also translated, copied, and adapted various books for publication, developing an expertise in the East, especially Japan.

She was also quite beautiful as well as being brainy, and had a wide range of admirers, including Victor Hugo and Richard Wagner. Hugo dedicated his poem "Ave, Dea: moriturus te salutat" to her ("Puisque vous etes belle et puisque je suis vieux"). She was also said to be one of Wagner's earliest admirers in France, and worked to make sure his music was discovered there. In 1866, she married Catulle Mendes (a writer and librettist--he wrote the libretto for Debussy's opera Roderique et Chimnen later in life). They traveled to visit the Wagners at Tribschen in 1869, and then again the following year.

In 1874, she separated from her husband (declaring he was neither a faithful husband nor a talented writer! She later married for a second time, to Pierro Lotti). By the time she attended the first Bayreuth festival, she was involved in an affair with composer Louis Benedictus, which did not discourage her ardent friendship with Wagner. It's unclear how far their relationship went physically, but it was quite passionate, including a clandestine correspondence until 1878, when Cosima Wagner discovered and burned many of the letters. Wagner saw her as a great muse, and she worked on many translations of his work into French, including the Parsifal libretto, writings on Wagnerian topics, and a 3-volume memoir.

She was a muse to many others, as well. Her portrait by John Singer Sargent, "A Gust of Wind," was painted in 1886-87, and sold at Sotheby's in 1997 for $1, 652, 000. (She had written a favorable review of his controversial Madame X)

She was the first female member of the Goncourt Academy. She died at Saint-Enogat, near Dinard, in 1917. I was able to find info on one biography, Judith Gautier: A Biography by Joanna Richardson (1987).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Portrait Friday

Today's Portrait Friday is a Valentine's Day card from Julia and Paul Child! (because I saw the movie Julie and Julia last week and loved it! It was tremendous fun. But do not go to the movies hungry, or it will be 2 hours of torture). I borrowed my mother's copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but am so far too intimidated to try any of the recipes. Is there a (somewhat) easy one to start with? I could do bouef bourginon, but I'm pretty sure I would get as far as "open the bottle of wine" and stop there.

I'm also thinking of taking a French pastry class next month...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

What I love today--summertime tomatoes from the garden! (Or the farmers' market, which is another thing I love). I have a small back yard, and in the summer I keep a corner of it for some vegetables. This year I put in 4 tomato plants, more than last year, but it's been so rainy and wet this season that they haven't done very well. (Plus there is a squirrel or possum that eats them at night! Abigail, the Scourge of Squirrels, can't patrol all the time).

But I've managed to get a few of the lovely, red, juicy tomatoes and used them in pasta and green salads (greens from that farmers' market!), and with mozzarella in a salad caprese. I love the earthy smell of them, the summer-y taste that is so unlike anemic winter supermarket tomatoes. These, along with fresh raspberries and peaches, are one of the best things of the season. When I was a kid, my grandmother (who had the greenest of green thumbs) kept an enormous garden and a small orchard, and I loved to go out there with her and pick veggies for dinner and fruit for pies. I've always lived in a city, except for visiting the grandparents, and the fact that you could pick something and eat it hours later was amazing to me! :) I don't have a gift for growing things, but I think about them when I pick my few tomatoes.

(CB I Hate Perfume has a scent called Memory of Kindness. The website says it's "The shinging green scent of tomato vines growing in the fresh earth of a country garden." I haven't tried it, but it sounds wonderful)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Riskies Tuesday

Over at the Riskies today, talking about the new cover (yay!), upcoming releases, and genre niches.

There are also updates on my website! Excerpts and historical info on The Winter Queen...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hottie Monday, Austen Edition

I decided to do a "Men of Austen" post for today's Hottie Monday, then realized it would contain at least 50 pics if I did that! So this is "Part One"--the men of Sense and Sensibility (bothe the new BBC version, and the Emma Thompson movie). Who is your favorite S&S hottie???

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

Today's heroine of the weekend is Italian Renaissance artist Lavinia Fontana, whose birthday falls on August 24! Fontana (August 24, 1552--August 11, 1614) was born in Bologna, the daughter of artist Prospero Fontana, who was her earliest teacher. (The few female artists of the time almost always had fathers or other close relatives who were artists, and thus were able to follow in the "family business").

Not a great deal is known about her early life. In 1577, she married Paolo Zappi and went on to have 11 children, though only 3 outlived her. Unusually, after her marriage she kept on with her painting to support the family and her husband took charge of the household. He also served as painting assistant to his wife, doing minor background elements like skies and draperies. (I would love to more about the family dynamics there!). They moved to Rome in 1603 at the invitation of Pope Clement VIII, where she prospered and gained many clients. She was elected into the Accademia di San Lucia of Rome (a rare honor for a woman) and died in that city in 1614.

Her earliest known painting, Monkey Child, (1575) is now lost, but another work from around the same time, Christ with the Symbols of the Passion, can be found in the El Paso Museum of Art. Though religious art reigned supreme in this period, she worked ina variety of genres, and gained the most renown and income in painting portraits of upper-class denizens of Bologna and Rome.

Over the years, some of her portraits were sometimes wrongly attributed to Guido Reni, including The Virgin lifting a veil from the sleeping infant Christ and The Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon. Her famous self-portrait still belongs to her descendant, Count Zappi of Imola. Only 32 of her signed and dated works are known today, though over 100 are documented from early sources.

Some good sources on Fontana's life, and the careers of women artists of the time, are:
C.P. Murphy, Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth Century Bologna
Whitney Chadwick, Women, Art, and Society
Anne Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550-1950

Friday, August 21, 2009

Portrait Friday

We have a slightly different Portrait Friday today, because August 21 is my parents' wedding anniversary! (I could say which year, but then they would have to kill me...) Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I'm so glad you got set set up on that date in high school.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things I Love Thursday

Last week, I said I wouldn't make Things I Love Thursday all about Alexander Skarsgard. I also promise I won't make it all about food and clothes, though those are 2 things I always love! (unfortunately, sometimes my love of the first makes the second not fit...) But this week I Love fall fashion.

I love summer fashion, too. There is definitely something to be said for putting on a cotton sundress and a pair of sandals and calling it a work outfit! But around this time of year, when the massive September magazines start landing on my doorstep and the evenings start getting cooler, I start thinking about putting away my white linen pants and getting out my jackets and long-sleeved dresses. I do love boots, tights, and pretty coats! And this fall promises lots of great colors like amethyst purple and pinkish-gray, as well as pretty new lipsticks at the Chanel and MAC counters. (Plus I can get out my cooler-weather perfumes! And Season 3 of Gossip Girl is coming...)

I started fall a bit early this weekend, getting a pedicure with a new bottle of polish from OPI's Espana collection ("Can You Tapas This?"). Even though I'm still wearing my cotton dresses, it's a bit of things to come...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yes or No?

Is this a long-lost portrait of Queen Mary Tudor? I came across this interesting article about the painting from Sawston Hall (which was burned after Mary found refuge there on her flight after the death of her brother, and which she promptly rebuilt for the family after being proclaimed Queen). I would be inclined to say it's not, just because it looks nothing like other portraits of her, but it's a fascinating question...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Riskies Tuesday

Over at Riskies today (you know the Tuesday drills!). Let us know which fashions you think are In or Out, and you could win a signed copy of the UK edition of To Catch a Rogue!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hottie Monday

I finally got around to seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince this weekend (I'm so behind on my movie-watching!), and I remembered when Daniel Radcliffe had those nudie pics from Equus last year. I thought "It's wrong to think Harry Potter is hot!" But if one is going to be a dirty old woman, one might as well just go with it on Hottie Monday...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Heroine of the Weekend

Next week, on August 19, it will be the birthday of Coco Chanel! That makes her the Heroine of the weekend.

Chanel was born August 19, 1883 in the poorhouse of the small town of Saumur, Maine-et-Loire, the second daughter of Jeanne Devolle and the traveling salesman Albert Chanel (her parents didn't marry until later that year, though she ended up with 5 siblings). When she was 12, her mother died of tuberculosis, leaving Coco to spend 7 years at the orphanage of the convent of Aubazine, where the nuns taught her to sew (and also taught her the power of black-and-white outfits!). At 18, she left the convent and took a job with a local tailor.

She soon met and started an affair with French playboy and millionaire Etienne Balsan, who supported her and indulged her "hobby" of designing and selling hats. She opened her first shop in 1913 in Paris. It soon went out of business, but Chanel wasn't discouraged. She met up with Balsan's (former) best friend Arthur "Boy" Capel, and fell in love with him (she would later say he was the one love of her life, despite later relationships with such men as the Duke of Westminster). He helped her open a second hat shop in Brittany, and her hats were soon worn by celebrated French actresses and singers, which gained her much publicity. She also introduced women's sportswear at a new boutique at Deauville, along with a new idea--women were supposed to dress for themselves, not for me. Out with hobble skirts and huge hats--in with jersey skirts and sweaters! Her look became the keynote of the 1920s and '30s.

In 1923, she said in a magazine interview, "Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." Even today, the epitome of luxury is a perfectly tailored Chanel jacket, a quilted bag and pair of ballet flats, and a bottle of Chanel No. 5 (introduced in 1921, and a bestseller ever since).

Coco Chanel died in Paris on January 10, 1971 in her private suite at the Ritz (where she had lived on and off since a rather ignominious period in World War II) and was buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Some great sources include:
Chanel: A Woman of Her Own, Axel Madsen
Chanel and Her World, Edmonde Charles-Roux
Different Like Coco, Elizabeth Matthews (a fun childrens' book with lovely illustrations!)

(There's also the movie Coco Avant Chanel, coming out soon, starring Audrey Tautou...)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Portrait Friday

John Singer Sargent, Ena and Betty, Daughters of Asher and Mrs. Wertheimer (I love that red dress!)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Office Supply Heaven

I have to confess--I have a strange, deep love for office supplies. I know, it's a terrible addiction, fed by blissful hours wandering around Staples and OfficeMax. File folders, post-it notes, colored pens, storage boxes--and I don't even need most of them!

Last weekend was tax-free on clothes and school supplies, so I trekked to Target (aka my favorite place in all the world) to stock up on my writing supplies for the year. I am what is known as a "pantser" (Carolyn Jewel had an excellent post on the difference between plotters and pantsers on her blog), I know my characters and have a vague sense of their situation when I sit down to start their story, but after that I go with the flow and let them show me what happens. This usually works out very well. I am completely unable to plot in detail ahead of time. I'm also unable to think creatively while typing. So my rough-draft method is a bit different.

I write the first draft in long-hand in notebooks from Target (mostly Hello Kitty or Disney Princesses, because they're fun, though sometimes I branch out. A couple years ago there were lots of "Pirates" notebooks. A friend bought me a Jonas Brothers notebook last week, though I'm not sure I can bring myself to use it...) This means I also get to buy lots of pens, colorful post-its, and a pretty pink pencil box! And then I type it up (cleaning it up as I go) and voila--a book.

What's your method??