"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

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hangin' It All Out There Quiz

I’m taking a break from some heavy, intensive writing. It's now starting to snow, which is really healthy for my Muse, and I'm eager to get back to the manuscript. I'd planned to blog about a particular character in this book, but I’m not quite ready. A while ago I nicked a bunch of questions from another blogger. I’ve tailored them a little and inevitably have given more than one answer to some questions. That’s the way I am.

WHAT TIME DID YOU GET UP THIS MORNING? Woke up--7.10 a.m. Got up--7.20 a.m. Complete consciousness restored (by caffeine)--7:46.


WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE T.V. SHOW? House. 24. My Name is Earl. Rescue Me (on hiatus)

RECENT BOOK YOU READ AND ENJOYED? The Little Balloonist by Linda Donn.



WHAT’S CURRENTLY YOUR MOST FAVOURITE MUSIC? W.A. Mozart. Round here it’s “all Mozart, all the time,” in honour of the big B.D. (see previous blog.)




WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE QUICK SNACK? Pitted dates or dried apricots

FAVOURITE SANDWICH? Prawn mayonnaise.

WHAT CHARACTERISTIC DO YOU MOST DESPISE? Insensitivity to others’ feelings, opinions, beliefs.

FAVOURITE ITEM OF CLOTHING? My faded cotton camp shirt with half the buttons missing. ‘Cause if I’m wearing it, it’s summer and I’m sitting on our dock.

IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD ON VACATION, WHERE WOULD YOU GO? It doesn’t matter what I say, because I’d get there via London. Which is probably my truest answer. But just for grins, I’ll say Paris.


WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY? When I was in grad school, friends took me out to a club. A local rock band (which included some of my friends and at least one member of R.E.M.) sang “Happy Birthday” just for me. And the other one would be the year my husband took me to New York and we stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria.

FAVOURITE SPECTATOR SPORT? Tennis or horseracing or show jumping.

GOAL YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF? To blog about my work-in-progress.

MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT PERSON? Neither. Used to be a night person, but now I like the daytime best. (I can party all night long still, though I don’t get the chance as often as I used to.)


Two canines.

Countless chipmunks.

WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE? A ballet dancer, an actress, a novelist. (Two out of three isn’t bad.)

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CANDY? Chocolate covered marzipan, or Kit Kat Editions with Mango & Passion Fruit filling (not available in the U.S., unfortunately.)

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER? The rose. Also, lily of the valley.


Valentine’s Day. I’ll spend the whole day with my true-love, and in the evening we'll see my totally-in-love-with-each-other parents. It'll be a love-fest for sure!


SMALL THINGS YOU REALLY ENJOY? Watching my dogs when they’re deeply sleeping, all curled up on the sofa next to me, on the floor, beside my chair, or on their beds. Lola’s yodel (when not cranked up at highest volume.) Listening to Shadow purr when I pet her. (Yes, I have a purring dog!) Laughing with my husband.

ANY NEW AND EXCITING NEWS TO SHARE? An adventurous book tour is coming up later this year. One that requires my passport.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Two hundred and fifty years ago today, a musical genius was born in this Salzburg townhouse.

My relationship with Mozart dates to my early piano studies, when (vastly simplified) Mozart tunes were my favourites. My teacher gave me a small bust of a composer at the end of each year, and my head of Mozart was the most beloved of them all.

I grew up in a home where classical music was the background and soundtrack to nearly every day. The extended family are music lovers. Music-related gifts abounded--instruments, sheet music, recordings.

I think I was about 10 years old when my Christmas present from my uncle/godfather was a double-disc recording of Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. I was too young too understand that a sergalio was a harem, or to know what a harem was, but I adored the voices and the music.

Though the film Amadeus is a fictional account of the practically nonexistent Mozart/Salieri rivalry, and while I had some issues with the casting, it ranks hight on my list of films worthy of viewing over and over.

Eventually Mozart found his way into my fiction. When I wrote a novel about a Regency-era opera dancer, I spent much time listening to and watching Così fan tutte, in which the heroine and her colleagues appear. It was an indulgence, researching a specific historic London performance of that opera.

Mozart the person--the child prodigy touring Europe's royal courts, the young man nursing his mother and grieving her loss as he struggled to build his reputation in Paris, the lover and admirer of the vocally talented Weber sisters, the naughty letter writer, the frustrated and ambitious court composer--is endlessly fascinating to me.

The relatively recent book Mozart's Women is at the pinnacle of my nonfiction to-be-read list. I'm particularly interested in its depiction of his widow Constanze, who single-handedly cemented his reputation and instigated the memorialising of Mozart. Or, as one music historian put it, "created the 'Mozart' industry in Salzburg." And elsewhere.

All around the world, and most especially in Austria, there are celebrations of this anniversary. Later this year, when I'm in Vienna (where he died and was buried in a pauper's grave), London, and elsewhere, I look forward to attending any events or concerts scheduled at the time of our visit.

Even as I enthusiasically join in the remembrances of this amazing man, I also puzzle over the way we slavishly acknowledge centenaries and other "big" anniversaries: 150, 200, 250, etc.

In my opinion Mozart's birthday should be celebrated with this sort of fanfare every year!

While I'm writing today, I'll be listening to the splendid sounds he created. Tonight, when I attend a party (in honour of a living person, not Mozart), privately I'll be partying on his behalf as well.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Snow Day!

After a January thaw that took temperatures near 60 degrees on Saturday, and eradicated most of our snow, winter decided it wasn't finished with us yet!

About 6 inches fell during the day. It's very beautiful.

Slept really late. Shovelled a path across the front deck. Got some writing done. Did other stuff. Drove to the city for an evening meeting and back again in time for the husband's phone call--he reported on his meetings in Washington, DC. Short trip: left yesterday, back again tomorrow.

Why does it always snow--a lot--when he's away?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do (Better?)

I'm such a "me, too" girl, it's pathetic.

The marvellous, talented, witty Adam Felber, son of the esteemed Edith, brother of frolicsome Susie, has posted a "lewd exhibition...of a post-pubescent female breast." In deliberate, one might even say flagrant violation of Internet anti-porn legislation.

Oooh, I used the "P" word. And now I can just hear my blog's hit-meter soaring!

In the course of my current scholarly and historical investigations, I've come across a pair of post-pubescent female breasts--not on the same female--that are worthy of display. In the interest of free speech and all that, I thought I'd share.




In bygone days, the attire and demeanor of the female portrait sitter were a none-too-subtle indication of her virtue, or lack thereof. As one might conclude from the looseness of their garments, these ladies had loose morals to match. The beauty in gold satin is a noblewoman of Charles II's court, notorious for her affairs. The dark-haired lady, an actress, became the mistress of Charles' cousin, a European prince.

I'm feeling terribly naughty. If the Feds come after me for this, I swear it's all Adam's fault.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dog Love

Fashion mags are an obsession. So are dogs. So when I read this quote from Shirley MacLaine in the newest issue of W, I was utterly fascinated.

If the dog is really a companion and sleeps in the same bed with you and you have the same dreams and the same thoughts, you become a dog. You put yourself into what that dog's feelings are. That's what I've done, and maybe that's what love is. I've never done that with a man--never had that sense of amalgamation. It's kind of a spiritual thing.

For the record, I definitely have that amalgamation with a man--my husband. But I know what she means about the dogs.

Although ours don't actually sleep in our bed. At night, they snooze on their round, well-stuffed dog nests. During the day, they nap on the floor.

I definitely dream about my dog/s (like two nights ago, as described in yesterday's blog.) The dogs of my past sometimes appear in my dreams.

Even if I don't sleep with the girls, I share my second most important space--the sofa in our downstairs sitting room (site of the big tv and other essential entertainment equipment, plus books.) When shopping for it, I wanted one that would suit me and my dogs. Had to be practical, comfortable, and large enough for all 3 of us at once. (The husband prefers his armchair.)

When I'm at home as much as I will be in coming weeks, and especially when the spouse is travelling the world, as he regularly does, I rely on my beasts for companionship. And they rely on me for hugs and cuddles--and food.

There's a fun dog quiz at Gone to the Dogs. You'll find the link to the quiz on the right sidebar. Enjoy, and do post your answers to "what kind of dog are you?" in my comments area!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Weird Weather Week and Weird Dream

In the week since I last blogged, I have seen the weather of at least 3 seasons. On Friday, the temperature was in the 50's and muggy.

Here's a shot of our "Full Wolf Moon".

And one of our backyard, with the mist rising off the rapidly melting snow.

On Sunday it was snowing. Then it got very, very cold. On Monday, all that water quickly froze, because it was about 8 degrees most of the day. (With a wind chill of -15!) Of course, I had to go out, and took a quick shot of the lake on my way past.

Today, it's raining--a lot. The mist is rising off the snow again. Shadow and Lola have figured out the best way to spend this damp day...napping!

Shadow gets up to stretch.

But in no time she's down again. A very big yawn!

Shadow appeared in a dream I had, night before last. I was attending a publishing event--it was a cocktail party and dinner in New York. A few other published authors were there, but mostly it was editors and executives. For reasons unknown, Shadow was there with me. As the evening program began, we all sat down at our assigned table. I was with a bunch of editors--some who'd edited me, and some whom hadn't but whom I know.

Shadow sat politely down by my chair, leaning her body against my right leg the way she always does, expecting that I will stroke her head. Which I did. Then I started slipping her some carrot sticks. Pretty soon, all the editors were doing it too.

Interpreting my dreams is a feat I seldom dare to attempt, and I come up blank on this one. I've already written Shadow into two of my books, one historical (published) and one contemporary (in progress). If there's an implicit message it, I assume it's something about not taking her with me on my next trip to New York. She was getting more attention from those editors than I was!

My writing plate is very full. I'm mulling over a couple of articles--due in early February. Also, I'm creating a schedule that will enable me to jump among projects yet still accomplish a lot on each one. Which would be a Good Thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Celebrity owl flew his perch sometime on Monday (his Day of Fame) and hasn't been seen since. We look forward to his return. As I've been out and about this week, people I meet have commented on his gorgeous photo in the newspaper.

Now that I don't spend so much of my free time owl-watching, my schedule has room for answering a couple of a couple of meme's. I was twice tagged by Teresa and due to one thing and another my response was delayed.

First Meme:

What were you doing ten years ago?
I'm the kind of compulsive sicko who will actually locate her Filofax from 1996 and look it up. Although I don't have anything written down for this specific day, I'm guessing I was nursing sore muscles, because I'd just had 2 days in a row of cross-country skiing lessons.

Also, I know for a fact that I was planning a new rose garden and simultaneously working on the outline for the novel that became The Proposal, my first long historical and a leap forward in my writing career. (The roses I planted that spring were eventually featured in the cover painting.)

It was an incredibly creative phase in my life.

What were you doing one year ago?
Again, I checked the datebook and this particular date was a blank...in fact, the entire week was. Which means I was constantly at home, busily writing chapters of my contemporary novel.

Five Snacks You Enjoy:
1. anything chocolate
2. anything almond
3. anything hazlenut
4. anything raspberry
5. fruit

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
1. "Sultans of Swing," Dire Straits
2. "Writing," Elton John
3. "Mr. Jones," Counting Crows
4. "Basket Case," Green Day
5. "I Saw a Bird Fly Away," Dar Williams

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
1. Increase my donation to the local library's building fund
2. Build a third bay onto our 2-car garage
3. Convert our attic loft to a second home library
4. Increase my pledge to my church
5. Give what's left to my husband

Five Bad Habits:
1. Cursing (I gave it up for Lent a year ago but sometimes I have a lapse)
2. Cursing (which I don't do as often as I used to)
3. Not tidying my office
4. Too often leaving my clothes lying on chairs, dressing table stool, side of jacuzzi tub, wherever I take them off
5. Cursing (only occasionally)

Five Things You Like Doing:
1. Reading
2. Thinking about Writing
3. Gardening
4. Sitting on our dock staring out at the mountains and lake
5. Finishing a manuscript

Five Things You Would Never Wear or Buy Again:
1. micro-mini skirt (never bought one, never will)
2. poncho (ditto)
3. hot curlers
4. high school gym uniform
5. betta fish

Five Favorite Toys:
1. My digicam
2. My Dana
3. My new Laptop
4. My new pump-action pepper mill
5. My Shower Bug shower radio

Second Meme:

10 Reading Secrets

1. I read War & Peace a long, long time ago, so it's not one of my Desert Island books.

2. I nearly always read the newspaper in section order.

3. I sometimes learn more interesting U.S. news in the London newspaper.

4. Magazines are my addiction.

5. I have almost as many U.K. magazine subscriptions as U.S. ones.

6. When travelling, I carry along a "plane book" (usually written by a friend or acquaintance) and purchase any other necessary reading material once I'm there.

7. I can still read French, though I hardly ever speak it any more.

8. I read lots of nonfiction, and of that nonfiction the vast majority is biographical.

9. I really, really like literary fiction. But not all of it.

10. I still read my own novels sometimes, to see how they hold up over time. And usually it feels like somebody else wrote them....

Monday, January 09, 2006

Celebrity Owl

Shakespeare is back in place this morning.

He's a celebrity now, because today's newspaper published his highly flattering photograph. Kind of weird, retrieving the paper that had his photo and carrying it past the famous bird himself, who loomed up there on his branch watching my every move.

Now that he's a Very Important Bird, he might be copping a little attitude.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Is this what owls do for a living?

That's the question my husband posed, after a day and night of owl-watching.

Shakespeare spent the entire night perched on his favourite hemlock branch. He was there at midnight, when we went to bed. (I pointed our giant flashlight on him to make sure.)

He was still there this morning, his feathers fluffed way out. It was snowing lightly. That's when I took the picture below.

As usual, he sat there calmly--until I flung the bread crumbs and cracked corn for the doves and bluejays and juncoes. He swept across the front yard to his oak tree perch. It was about 10:00 a.m. I went into the upstairs sitting room and took his picture as he was settling into place.

He remained in the oak tree till 3:30 p.m., napping most of the time. He then returned to the hemlock. And I took his picture again.

After a day of being almost entirely and inactive, he got livened up. He flew into the woods across the creek, and in the direction of the pond. He retuned to the hemlock. He soared past the house and into the forest behind the house. Later I saw him flying in between the trees.

Haven't seen him since darkness fell, but I keep checking. I have a feeling we'll see him again....

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Breakfast, Lunch & Tea with Owl

We were lingering over a late breakfast this morning, and our favourite radio program Wait Wait Don't Tell Me was just beginning. I saw something enormous flapping near the railing of our deck--the wingspan was several feet wide. Speechless, I had the presence of mind to shove my husband, and totally freaked him out. "What was that?" I finally manage to gasp.

We stepped outside and looked all around, but didn't see a thing. Then he glances towards the big hemlock and says, "It's that owl."

A few weeks ago, we had a morning visit from a barred owl, which spent about an hour hanging out and napping in our tall beech tree.

Well, he must've liked it around here--and hey, what's not to like?--because here he was again. This time, he spent 2 hours sitting around and napping. He didn't mind my going out on the deck to take his picture. He didn't mind my husband messing about with a very noisy snowblower.

I'd had a killer week, way too busy for somebody whose energy has been depleted by the Unidentified Disease from Hell. So it felt quite nice to sit at my dining room table, staring back into the wise, contemplative eyes of a barred owl for hours on end. From time to time I'd rouse myself to do a load of laundry, or pot up some passion flower seedlings, or head back onto the deck again to take a photo. He winked at me a lot. If I moved out of view and came back, he seemed quite pleased to see me again.

Leda had her swan. I've got my Owl. I think it's safe to say that we're developing a fairly intense relationship.

When he decided to move, he just hopped to another branch which enabled him to lean against the tree trunk and continue his napping and gazing around. I love the way he moves his head, slowly, precisely, exactly like a mechanical bird.

It's a gorgeous, sunny day, and the husband decided to take the dogs for their usual stroll round the neighbourhood. When they all scrambled out on the deck, the big bird just sat there, watching, unperturbed. Then, has the threesome moved down the driveway, he decided to that a change of position might be prudent. He flew across the front yard to the oak tree. It was a very sunny spot, so he decided to stay there for about an hour.

He has just, in the last five minutes, flown back to the hemlock.

I've sent one of my most awesome photos of my incredibly photogenic bird to the newspaper.

I'm headed upstairs to the sitting room now with a cup of tea, for some more meaningful eye contact.


The only meaningful eye contact happening was between the owl and his dinner.

Things got really exciting. From the sitting room we watched the owl, who swooped several times low over the snowy yard, from perch to perch.

A few minutes ago, he suddenly sailed down from his favourite hemlock branch towards our front steps. Briefly he sat there--we could look down upon him from the window above. Moles or voles have tunneled through the snowpack, and the tunnel outlets are right there at our front steps.

Next thing we knew, the owl was flying back to his hemlock branch with something dangling from his claws.

I dashed into the dining room to grab the big binoculars. I was able to focus only seconds before the owl gulped down the rodent he'd captured.

Honestly, it's like living in the middle a nature film here....

In the fading light, the owl is still clinging to his branch, looking a bit drowsy.

We've decided to call him Shakespeare. Because he's a "barred" owl. Get it?

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Where I come from, there's a tradition/superstition that whatever you do on New Year's Day, you'll be doing all the year long--so best to focus on things you truly enjoy! Today, therefore, I'm eating delicious meals, sipping exquisite beverages, writing magnificent prose, reading a captivating book, watching an outstanding film, and devoting myself to husband and canines.

And blogging!