Sunday, November 17, 2013

Accession Day! And Excerpt

(November 17 is the anniversary of the accession to the throne of Elizabeth I, in 1558!  The moment at Hatfield House, when she heard her sister Queen Mary had died and she herself was now queen, must have been filled with relief and bittersweet joy.  I loved recreating it for the last scene of my book Murder at Hatfield House!  I am posting it here, with the info on whodunnit taken out...)

Suddenly there was a commotion in the corridor outside their sitting room, and the sound of swift, light footsteps and the rustle of skirts.
Kate barely had time to rise to her feet before the door swung open and Elizabeth stood there. She was dressed in somber dark green, her red hair bound up in a gold knit caul. Kate Ashley, long the princess's governess and Mistress of Robes, who had been separated from Elizabeth since the Wyatt Rebellion and her incarceration in the Tower, but who was now returned to Hatfield, hurried after her to wrap a shawl around her shoulders.
“Indeed it is a warm day, Kate,” Elizabeth said. “We must not waste such a treasure after all the cold rain. Come walk with us in the garden.”
“I thank you, Your Grace, but I really should stay with my father,” Kate said.
“Nonsense,” Matthew said heartily. “You need exercise, my dear, and I need to get on with my work. I shall do very well here for a few hours.”
Kate studied him uncertainly, but he did seem well settled-in for the afternoon. And she would have to face Elizabeth sometime soon.
“Very well,” she said. “But send Peg for me at once if you have any need of me.”
“We will not go far,” Elizabeth said.
Kate took up her cloak, her old dark brown one this time and not the fine blue one ruined with blood, and followed Elizabeth out to the gardens. In the foyer, just at the base of the grand staircase, Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth's surveyor and most trusted secretary, sat at a hastily-arranged desk, busily writing out lists and documents. He had arrived just as the queen's officers left, the greatest sign yet of vast changes to come.
Elizabeth led them briskly along the pathways, Kat Ashley and a few other ladies following, but the princess was much lighter of foot then them. She took Kate's hand and drew her along, and soon they were far ahead pf the others, beyond the formal pathways and near a grove of old oak trees on the slope of a hill.
From there the red bricks of the house gleamed in the amber sunlight, warm and welcoming. A maid shook a rug out of an open window, and a dog barked. Everything looked so calm, so peaceful, as if nothing terrible had ever happened in such a beautiful place.
“Has your arm healed, Kate?” Elizabeth asked.
“Very well, Your Grace. Lady Pope's poultices worked wonders. I think there will only be a small scar.”
“Aye. Tis better to hide the scars inside, where others can't see them.”
Elizabeth paused to lean back against the tree, narrowing her eyes as she stared off over the empty fields. She twisted her pearl and ruby ring around her finger. “Your father is right, you know. You cannot blame yourself for what happened.”
Kate closed her eyes against the rush of pain. She had gone over and over those words in her own head and still she had no solution, no solace. “I should have seen it was ---- all along. I let my feelings of friendship blind me.”
“You did not.... I have been playing this dangerous game since I was three. I didn't see what -- intended. But I am only one person, Kate, as are you. A great change is coming very soon, and when it does I will need many people around me to be my eyes and ears. People I can trust.”
Kate shivered. She wanted so much to be one of those so trusted, but how could she? She wasn't sure she could even trust herself. “People such as Cecil and Mistress Ashley?”
“Aye, of course them. They have been loyal to me since I was a child. But also you. I shall need you to come with me as well.”
“But I failed you, Your Grace! I did not stop ---- when I should have.”
“You never failed me. In fact, you proved your worth. It is your great kindness I need now, Kate. Your sweetness and your steadfastness. Real kindness is rare in this world. You care about people, truly care about them, and that draws them close to you. It persuades them to confide in you, as no one ever would with a queen. And you can go places where I cannot, like kitchens and playhouses. Aye, I shall assuredly need you close to me.”
Kate turned Elizabeth's words over in her mind, along with everything that had happened since Lord Braceton stormed into Hatfield. She remembered what ---- had said, that Kate could never match the cruelty of those who sought to play games of crowns. But her heart was harder now, and her trust was cracked. She would surely never be so easily deceived again.
But maybe Elizabeth was also right, and kindness could be an asset and a weapon in itself. Perhaps, with time, she could learn to use it to protect the people she loved.
Like in music, it took many disparate strands to make a coherent whole, to make a beautiful madrigal.
“I only know one thing now, Your Grace,” she said. “I will serve you however you require, for as long as you need me.”
Elizabeth gave a strangely sad smile. “My sweet Kate. I hope you shall never regret those words, for I shall certainly hold you to them.”
One of the other ladies came dashing up the slope of the hill, the breeze threatening to sweep her cap from her head. “My lady! My lady, riders are approaching.”
Elizabeth turned and shielded her eyes with her hand. Kate peered over her shoulder to see it was indeed a large party of riders thundering through the gates, throwing up clouds of dirt. As they came closer, Kate could see that the leaders were men she recognized from court, the powerful earls of Pembroke and Arundel.
Elizabeth's face turned white and her hand trembled, but she stood very still as they galloped nearer. At the foot of the hill, Lord Arundel drew in his horse and slid to his feet. Out of breath, he climbed the hill to kneel before the unmoving Elizabeth.
“Your Majesty,” he gasped. “I bring tidings from London.”
He held up his hand, and on his gloved palm gleamed the coronation ring. The large ruby stone that never left a monarch's hand until they were dead. He did not even need to say anything else.
“This is the Lord's doing,” Elizabeth said, quietly but strongly. “And it is marvelous in our eyes.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another giveaway....

The holidays are all about giving, right???  Well, that and reading, at least around my house.  (I love curling up under the quilt my grandmother made, with a peppermint patty drink and a good holiday story to make the cold outside go away!).  Today at the Risky Regencies, I am giving away a download of my new novella, A Very Tudor Christmas!!!  Leave a comment on the blog for a chance to win...

Risky Regencies

Friday, November 08, 2013

Happy Birthday, Musee de Louvre!

While looking for post topics for today, I found out that today is the anniversary of the opening of the Louvre as a public museum in 1793. Since I visited there on my recent trip (and got hopelessly lost in their majorly twisty corridors, but that’s another story…), I thought it would be fun to find out more about its development from palace to vast museum! (FYI, the Louvre contains more than 380,000 objects, ranging from the 6th century BC to the 19th century, with 35,000 on display in more than 650,000 square feet. It averages 15,000 visitors a day, and employs more than 2000. In 1986, with the completion of the Musee d’Orsay, objects from after 1848 were moved there and the collection was split)

The Louvre started in the 12th century, as a fortress built by Phillipe II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible in below-ground galleries. The building was then extended several times, until in 1674 Louis XIV moved his court to the Palace of Versailles, leaving the Louvre mainly as a place to display some of the royal collections. During the Revolution, the National Assembly decreed the former palace a museum of the people (“a place for bringing together monuments of the arts and sciences”). It opened with an exhibit of 537 paintings, most of them seized from royal and Church property.
The public was given free access three days a week, but the building was closed in 1796 due to “structural deficiencies,” and not re-opened until 1801, with displays now arranged chronologically and organized with new columns and lighting.

Under Napoleon, the collections expanded greatly, thanks to works sent back from Egypt, Spain, Austria, Holland, and Italy. After his defeat at Waterloo, many former owners sought their return, which the Louvre’s administrators were, er, reluctant to comply with. In response, many of the restored foreign powers sent diplomats to seek out these works and secure their return. (An echo of this was seen just before World War II, when, on August 27, 1939, a long truck convoy left Paris taking countless objects and paintings to new hiding spots. By December, the museum was entirely cleared except for items too heavy or “insignificant” to be moved. In 1945, the art came back).

The Louvre is best known for objects such as the Venus de Milo, Nike of Samothrace, the Apollo Belvedere, Michelangelo’s “Slaves” sculptures, David’s Coronation of Napoleon (I stood in front of this for a long time studying the gowns!), Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, and of course Mona Lisa.
Some good sources to read more about the Louvre are Andrew McClellan’s Inventing the Louvre; Bette Wynn Oliver’s From Royal to National: The Louvre Museum and the Bibliotheque National; and Alain Nave’s Treasures of the Louvre.

What are some of your favorite museums, or works of art? What would you do if you were lost in the Louvre???

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Giveaway Time!


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Running from Scandal by Amanda McCabe



          Running from Scandal


          by Amanda McCabe


            Giveaway ends November 12, 2013.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Penny For The Guy

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everyone!  We don’t really celebrate Bonfire Night here in the US (though we really, really should!  Just because it’s fun to go around chanting “Remember, remember the 5th of November…” if nothing else.)  I think I can probably find some leftover 4th of July sparklers tonight, though, and raise a glass to the Guy.
Guy Fawkes, of course, commemorates a failed Catholic uprising in 1605, where Fawkes, a small-time country gentryman, and 12 co-conspirators decided to blow up Parliament by storing gunpowder in tunnels under the palace and sending James I, his court and counselors sky-high.  It fizzled (ha!), and people lit celebratory bonfires around the city.  The day became an official holiday, often the focus of anti-Catholic bigotry and fervor, but now I guess it’s mostly an excuse to drink and light bonfires.  Sounds fun, though!
According to the History Timeline site:

After the plot was revealed, Londoners began lighting celebratory bonfires, and in January 1606 an act of Parliament designated November 5 as a day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day festivities soon spread as far as the American colonies, where they became known as Pope Day. In keeping with the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time, British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic would burn an effigy of the pope. That tradition completely died out in the United States by the 19th century, whereas in Britain Guy Fawkes Day became a time to get together with friends and family, set off fireworks, light bonfires, attend parades and burn effigies of Fawkes. Children traditionally wheeled around their effigies demanding a “penny for the Guy” (a similar custom to Halloween trick-or-treating) and imploring crowds to “remember, remember the fifth of November.”
Guy Fawkes himself, meanwhile, has undergone something of a makeover. Once known as a notorious traitor, he is now portrayed in some circles as a revolutionary hero, largely due to the influence of the 1980s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” and the 2005 movie of the same name, which depicted a protagonist who wore a Guy Fawkes mask while battling a future fascist government in Britain. Guy Fawkes masks even cropped up at Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and elsewhere. “Every generation reinvents Guy Fawkes to suit their needs,” explained historian William B. Robison of Southeastern Louisiana University. “But Fawkes was just one of the flunkies. It really should be Robert Catesby Day.

Since it’s raining here today, thus not helpful for lighting fires, I guess I will settle in to working on the WIP and re-watching last night’s episode of Sleepy Hollow!  It’s good to be back at the Riskies and getting back onto a semi-normal routine…
What are you doing for Bonfire Night???

Friday, November 01, 2013

Catching Up!

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I was here!  But now the move is (almost) complete, the books are on their shelves again, and Halloween (my favorite holiday of the year!) is gone.  Now time to burrow in for the winter and get some Serious Writing done.

To celebrate the start of the holiday season, I am dipping my toe into the self-pub pool with a Christmas novella!  "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" originally appeared in 2003, in the anthology "Regency Christmas IX", and I am so excited to get it out there again, with a lovely new cover....

It's just on Amazon at the moment, (link here!) but am working on getting it on Nook asap...