"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Old Year, New Year

It proved difficult to carry on blogging here, in the midst of book touring, travels, and history blogging at my own Shaping the Facts as well as at the group blog English Historical Fiction Authors.
Since I last posted, I've:
Visited more bookstores.
Travelled to the UK, taking in Liverpool, Manchester, and London as I traced the footsteps of new characters. As usual, I spent time with friends--and a direct descendant of Diana and Charles from A Pledge of Better Times--attended a fantastic play set in the world of 18th century theatre (just like my next book), and visited a great number of museums and art galleries.
Waiting for a train
Merseyside Love Locks in Liverpool
Mrs Gaskell's Writing Desk, Manchester
Costume Gallery, Manchester
St Martin in the Field, London
Wonderful production!
 Celebrated Thanksgiving with our English friend, who joined us for an American feast day.
The stuffed turkey roll
 Hosted a Christmas Carolling party for neighbours and friends.
The Musicians
Some of our 30 party guests
 Enjoyed a beautiful--but not White--Christmas.
The Tree
The Girls
Welcomed the First Real Snowfall. And subsequent ones.
First Snow.
Second Snow.
Third Snow--yesterday.

It has been a remarkably un-snowy start to 2016.
The big news in our region is the First in the Nation Presidential Primary. We are besieged by candidates and campaign volunteers...until Tuesday night, when the voting results are announced and the whole political circus moves on to other states. This happens every four years. It can be fun, and exciting, but by the time it concludes we are very relieved!
I intend to resume personal blogging, and hope to turn up more often here than in these many months past. No promises. But I will try!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Historical Fiction & Meaning

The Layered Pages blog is hosting a series of interview on this topic. My contribution is posted today, including what I do, how I do it, as well as my thoughts about the genre and its readership.

Margaret Porter on Historical Fiction & Meaning

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back on the Blog

Yes, it has been quite a long time away from this blog. After the launch of A Pledge of Better Times I was extremely busy with book promotion and a blog tour that lasted about 3 weeks--great fun, but so time-consuming!

As well, I participated in several book signings:

In late June into July, I attended the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church as a deputy representing my diocese. I was in Salt Lake City for 13 days! I was chairing a committee, and the entire experience was rewarding and inspiring. It was also the 230th Anniversary of the House of Deputies, which was celebrated with great enthusiasm! And the next Presiding Bishop of the church was elected.

When at home, I have been thoroughly enjoying my gardens--when I tend the roses and perennials that grew in the 17th century, I think of Diana de Vere and Queen Mary, and their mutual love of flowers.


I've been thrilled with reviews for A Pledge of Better Times, most recently the one in Publishers Weekly. You can read it here.

Between now and my next UK trip, I shall be finishing a novel (I hope) that is a bit of a departure for me, before resuming my next historical biographical novel. I'm spending plenty of time at the lake cottage with the dogs and the hummingbirds, writing.

I hope you are having a pleasant summer as well!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Authors in Bloom Blog Hop & Giveaway

Dianne Venetta_AIB Logo_2015
++++ Winner! Congratulations to commenter cchant! Your prize, the 2 novels, will be on the way to you this week!

This has been a historically long and harsh winter in the Northeast part of the United States. It was a similar season of snow and hibernation that inspired my novel The Proposal, featuring a female botanical artist and landscape designer in the late 18th century.

Usually at this time of year I travel to a warmer part of the country, or to England, seeking an early (for me) taste of springtime.  I recently returned…my head crammed with memories of blooming bulbs and azaleas and dogwood and wisteria.

I arrived home to the welcome sight of crocus shoots springing up from the ground—a sign of many more good things to come. In due time I shall have narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells, tulips, fritillaries, iris, peonies,  lilacs, rhododendrons, passion flower, clematis, columbine, sweetpea, pansies, foxglove, astilbe, anemone, lupine.

And the great show I impatiently await all year—my roses!

I am genetically inclined to grow roses. My mother grows them. So did my father’s father, and I cherish my childhood memories of wandering through roses of brightly coloured blooms almost as large as my head.

The roses that appear in my fiction are the oldest of all varieties: gallica, alba, damask, centifolia. These have appeared in art through the centuries. I grow the lush Bourbon roses developed in the 19th century, mostly by the French. I have China and rugose rose hybrids. And I rely upon the hybrids from David Austin that mimic the ancient flowers, in shape and scent, but have the advantage of re-blooming until the late frost arrives to put the plants to sleep again.
My rose regimen is fairly simple. I fertilise in spring, applying compost. As the leaf buds begin to sprout, I selectively trim the repeat-bloomers—my David Austins and the rugosas. I usually cut the branches back by 1/3 or in some cases as much as ½, unless I’m using them as climbers and then I mostly remove dead portions. For the once-blooming antique roses, I give them a very line trim to shape them, as they bloom on old wood. If they require downsizing, I do it after their bloom time is finished.

A couple of years ago I moved house, leaving behind many roses but transplanting a good number to the new location. And of course, I added many more that year. And last year. And as I write this, I await delivery of this year’s purchases!

This is what I found in my garden when I returned from my travels--signs of spring at last!

In support of the Authors in Bloom 4th Annual Blog Hop, and to celebrate the recent re-issue of The Proposal and the launch of A Pledge of Better Times. I am giving away a copy of each title--so 2 winners will receive a book. To enter, leave a comment with the name of your favourite flower.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Sale Now!

Something both old and new! The re-launch of The Proposal in paperback and ebook, with a splendid new cover!

This is a tale of dark intrigue, blazing passion--and a glorious garden.

Available in trade-size paperback in the US and in the UK. And in other countries.

Available as an Ebook from

Buy The Proposal for your Amazon Kindle Buy The Proposal for your Amazon UK Kindle
Buy The Proposal for your Barnes & Noble NookBuy The Proposal from Kobo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Proposal

I'm delighted that The Proposal, previously published in hardcover, paperback, large-print, and various foreign languages, will be re-issued on March 17.

The cover design is fantastic! The photograph of the castle--my inspiration for the setting--is one I took a few months ago. The photograph of me in the castle gardens was taken by my husband.

More information to follow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

Ruth & Jewel, the Love Dogs, somehow went shopping for Valentine's candy.
And the Duchess is appropriately decked out for the day as well!

Hope you're having a lovely and loving Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Death of King Charles II

The precise cause of His Majesty's death, which occurred on 6 Februrary, 1685, is uncertain.

What is known is that on he suffered an apoplectic attack on the morning of 2 February. This date is considered the birthday of mistress Nell Gwyn, mother of his son Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans--who at that time was nearly fifteen years old. Although the young duke spent much of his adolescence in Paris, where he was educated, he happened to be in England at that time and was present as his father lay dying at Whitehall Palace.

The king had slept badly and on waking on the morning of the 6th was "pale as ashes." At the time he was suffering from a sore on his legs, and the royal doctors had come to his rooms to change the dressing. Rather than joining them, Charles returned to his bedchamber. His speech was somewhat impaired. He took a glass of sherry and, still in his nightgown, prepared to be shaved.

Before the razor was applied, barber could begin, he let out what was later described as "the most dreadfulest shriek" and fell back unconscious into his barber's arm.

All the usual 17th century medical applications were attempted--bleeding, blisters--and perhaps it was the agony they produced that revived the king. He asked to see the Queen. The doctors continued torturing the patient with potions containing cantharides, vitriol, sal ammoniac, and one containing spirits of human skull.

Occasionally he would rally, but finally succumbed to another convulsion followed by a fever. Word of his decline was spreading beyond the palace walls.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was so great that many people assumed that the king had been poisoned. Sir Charles Lyttelton reported "his disease being, as is supposed, has fallen upon his lungs which makes him labour to breathe." Some modern authorities speculate that he was a victim of a kidney complaint, resulting in uraemia. Others propose that many hours he spent in his laboratory led to some form of chemical poisoning. The onset of his complaint was characterised by an epileptic seizure, which apparently affected brain function. The original post-mortem was destroyed when Whitehall Palace burned to the ground in 1697. A copy quoted in the British Medical Journal is inconclusive, as the autopsies of that era were less sophisticated than those of today.

Whatever felled the king, in his final hours he was surrounded by doctors, clerics, and family members. At that time a royal death, like a royal birth, was extremely public. Those in attendance included, at intervals, Queen Catherine of Braganza, various royal mistress (thought Nell Gwyn was excluded from the sickroom), and the royal bastards--though not the Duke of Monmouth, who was living in exile at the Dutch court of his cousins, Prince William and Princess Mary of Orange.

King Charles famously remembered the Duchess of Portsmouth--the Frenchwoman, Louise de Kerouaille. He charged his brother (and successor) James, Duke of York, not to let "poor Nelly" starve and requested that he care for her son and ensure that his mother didn't spoil him.

It was to young Charles Beauclerk that the king gave a memento of his own father. While still lucid, he asked that a gold and carnelian ring be taken from his hand and given to his illegitimate son. Charles I wore the ring when he arrived at the scaffold with Bishop Juxon (later Archbishop of Canterbury.) Before his execution he presented it to the bishop, who later delivered it to Charles II. The ring is set with an intaglio depicting Charles I in the guise of a Roman Emperor, wearing armour, and the closed back is decorated with coloured enamel. This memento of two Stuart kings remains in the possession of the Beauclerk family.

The king's deathbed conversion to Catholicism was achieved by Father Huddleston, who had been with Charles at the battle of Worcester. When he entered the sickroom through a secret door, Charles supposedly greeted him with the words, "You who have saved my body are now come to save my soul." After making his confession, he received the sacrament, and Huddleston read the prayers for the dying.

At six o'clock in the morning of 6 February, the king asked that the curtains be drawn back so he could see the dawn breaking one last time. He also requested the winding of his clock. After that his speech failed him, and by ten o'clock he had fallen into a coma. He died between eleven-thirty and noon, aged fifty-five.

The King saw one more sunrise lighten the sky before he slept, never to wake again. By midday Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans, was no longer the son of a living monarch.

                                                             A Pledge of Better Times