"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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Return

I have been so neglectful...so much has happened, so many travels, since last I posted to this blog. I mean to be better. The easiest way to resume was to cross-post my latest from my Shaping The Facts  blog. So here's my very recent activity.... The Historical Novel Society is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. How fitting that the 2017 HNS conference was the largest and the best one yet--according to me, attending for my 4th time, and to those who have attended even more of them.

I arrived Wednesday evening. Author talk began early, because my very own first cousin, novelist Justin Evans happened to be in town on non-author business. His novels are A Good and Happy Child , and The White Devil, now in production as a feature film.

Cousins and novelists

He lives in Brooklyn. I live in New England. It's mad that we had to cross the entire North American continent to spend time together.

Thursday was my one day for Portland tourism. I visiting the International Rose Test Garden and the Oregon Zoo, both located in beautiful and extensive Washington Park. The day was perfect for outdoor activity. The roses were in full bloom and the zoo animals were lovely.

That evening the conference opened with a reception and Costume Contest. I did not compete in the contest, but I did wear an 18th century ballgown and lots of bling. There were some fantastic garments on display, and it was my first opportunity to see friends and new ones.

18th Century lady in 21st Century lift
The next day, Friday, I was on the Mixing it Up panel, discussing writing in multiple historical genres--romance, nonfiction articles, biography, etc. A great session, and good questions from our attendees.

With my Mixing it Up co-panellists
I had the opportunity to see parts of a variety of workshops--Truth in Fiction was excellent. Isobel Carr's historic fashion one, subtitled Clothing Before the Zipper, was a highlight. Alison Stuart covered Cavaliers & Roundheads: The Other Civil War.

Our luncheon speaker was Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Secret Chord, Year of Wonders, Caleb's Crossing, and more. So very inspiring.

I was also a reader of submitted manuscripts (2 pages only) at a Cold Reads session, with a pair of editors (Ana Michels of Sourcebooks and Lucia Macro, who was one of my editors at HarperCollins) who offered immediate feedback on the material. For me, reminiscent of my times in the recording booth when I narrated audio books and informational films, and did voice-over for radio adverts. We got through quite a lot of pages during that hour-long workshop.

The day concluded with Hooch Through History, a drinking through the centuries extravaganza organised, managed, and presented by Isobel Carr. We began our drinking journey through time with medieval mead, followed by port (prompting the immortal line, 'Real women drink red port...naked!'), then an 18th century gin cocktail (with a orangey non-junipery gin), then the dangerous, smoky-green absinthe (we were given an absinthe spoon to keep), and last of all a wet-dry martini from the Mad Men era. As you might imagine, we grew more raucous and giggly as the sampling progressed!

Gin cocktail, circa 1798

Saturday was quite busy from the start, and again I attended a variety of workshops. The day began with State of the State of Historical Fiction, a panel of agents and editors. As always, their acquisition tastes are individual, though some of their perceptions of the market meshed.

Agents & Editors on the HistFic market panel
Let's Do the Time Warp: Controlling the Chaos When Writing Different Eras (Stephanie Thornton, Kate Quinn, Heather Webb, C.W. Gortner) was a topic right up my street, having written 12 novels of the 17th, 18th, early 19th centuries--and now completing a 20th century novel before going backwards in time. My friends' insights were very encouraging and illuminating.

Our luncheon speaker was David Ebersoff, author of The Danish Girl. Another inspiring speaker who offered wonderful insights.

David Ebersoff
In the afternoon I attended The Audacity of Will, a small-group discussion of writing novels that feature Shakespeare and sat through some of Book Reviewers Tell All (with reviewers/bloggers Sarah Johnson who edits Historical Novels Review and posts at Reading the Past, Meg Westell of A Bookish Affair, and Jenny Toney Quinlan of Historial Editorial and Let them Read Books.

During the public Readers' Festival, I co-hostessed with Gillian Bagwell our themed historical 'Koffee  Klatch' on The Merry Monarch to the Four Georges. * * * For my promised list of period films, see below.

Late in the afternoon came the Booksigning. I did lots of table-hopping, visiting friends I hadn't yet seen or continuing conversations with those I had.

With conference Program Chair Leslie Carroll

With tablemate, my fellow author Kate Quinn
The closing banquet was in the evening--another occasion for dressing up. Australian author Kate Forsyth gave a delightfully entertaining rendition of the legend of Tam Lin--you could have heard a pin drop throughout her presentation.

With Leslie again, at the banquet

Me, Gillian Bagwell, Amanda McCabe

The final event was a Hellfire at HNS Masquerade Ball, with musicians, lessons in English Country Dance, and whist tables. I danced only one dance and continued my socialising, as time was growing short.

English Country Dancing
Parting from my fellow writers was a sweet sorrow--we were all quite eager to return to our projects. I hope so much to see everyone at HNS in 2019, and perhaps at the UK conference next year.

The next morning, Sunday, I boarded my flight back to Boston. I hadn't left the hotel since Thursday. It was a beautiful morning to fly out of Portland, with stunning views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood and other mountains.

Mount St. Helens

Mount Hood

Back home now with husband, dogs, and my own rose gardens, filled with knowledge and  inspiration, and ready to finish the current manuscript.

*** At our 17th/18th Century Koffee Klatch I promised to share my list of period films and television programmes. Not comprehensive at all, and in no particular order--just a batch that were top of mind when I compiled the list or outright faves that I wanted to share.

17thC/Stuart/Restoration/English Civil War/Louis XIV/etc.

Stage Beauty
The First Churchills
A Little Chaos
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Crucible
Forever Amber
Frenchman’s Creek
Witchfinder General
Tous les matins du monde
The Libertine
The Wicked Lady
The Three Musketeers
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Devil’s Whore
The New World
By the Sword Divided


The Scarlett Pimpernel
The Duchess
Amazing Grace
Jane Austen Novels
Barry Lyndon
The Mission
John Adams
Marie Antoinette (2 versions)
A Royal Affair
The Madness of King George
Vanity Fair
Lady Caroline Lamb
Catherine the Great
The Last of the Mohicans
A Tale of Two Cities
Jefferson in Paris

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Springtime Activities

At Easter I travelled to a part of the US where spring was fully unfurled and history is alive. It was a holiday rather than a research trip, but I had opportunities for book promotion.

Beautiful Savannah!

One of Savannah's many squares.

One of the city's many historic houses

Faux bois panelling in the dining room

Bonaventure Cemetery

Camellia  blossom

I've lately done more blogging at English Historical Fiction Writers than I've done here. Some links to the latest:

Mistress of More Variety: Actress Susanna Verbruggen

English Garden History: Spring Guide

Valentine's Day History

And I offered some book reviews on a book blogging site:

Author Margaret Porter’s Five Top Reads

Enjoying wild roses
Spring has come to New England, after a relatively mild winter. I've been quite busy in my gardens, where the bulbs and early flowers are blooming happily. And the birds are busy!

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!