"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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas to All!

From Me

And Jewel & Ruth

And Diana the Duchess

It has been quite a long time since the last blog post. I've been extremely busy, as usual, with book-related activities, volunteer work with the diocese, and travel to the UK. While there I returned to Berkeley Castle, which I've visited numerous times in the past.

 On this occasion my purpose was very specific. The family very generously allowed me to view and photograph these portraits of the First Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, the primary characters in A Pledge of Better Times, painted slightly later than the action of the novel.

We had a few days in lovely, familiar Clifton and Bristol, then on to Bath to meet a historian friend and see two Georgian-themed exhibits--one on naughty ladies of the era, the other on costume.

From there we headed to Windsor, to re-visit sites connected with the Beauclerks. I was granted permission to enter the private chapel in which the Duchess is buried, in St. George's Chapel, pictured here. It was an emotional and wonderful experience.

 On to London, for the usual round of visits with friends, Christmas shopping, excellent dinners, a play (Shakespeare in Love, adapted from the film for stage performance), and museums. I did some research in the Manuscripts Room at the British Library and spent an afternoon at Kensington Palace, which features in the novel. I had some wonderful strolls through the parks--the weather was excellent!

At the Ritz

London was looking very Christmas-y. 

The staircase at Fortnum & Mason.

Looking up and down from the mezzanine.

Santa in one of Selfridges' windows.

A Britain-themed Christmas Tree in the Selfridges Christmas Department.

And back at home, our own tree, which we cut at a local farm the weekend after Thanksgiving. (After a huge snowstorm!)

2015 will bring the publication of a novel, quite a lot of travel, plenty of writing, and I sincerely hope more blogging than I've managed in the past 12 months!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More About My Book:

I've inaugurated a Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch and promotional campaign for A Pledge of Better Times. There's background information about the novel, plus a little film showing the locations where I did research.

A Pledge of Better Times on Kickstarter

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Return

After a glorious summer, I now return to blogging in the autumn of the year.

I've had quite a busy time in recent months...a few batches of houseguests, additional home improvement and renovation, intermittent gardening, time at the lake, socialising with friends and neighbours and family, finishing up my novel--and preparing it for the press.

Here is the completed cover art for A Pledge of Better Times. It will be released in print and as an ebook in April 2015. More information will be forthcoming, you may be sure! For now I'll simply say that the lady on the cover is one of the book's main characters. And H.M. the Queen and the Royal Collection very generously granted a licence so that she might grace the cover of my novel. The original portrait hangs in Hampton Court Palace, where I've frequently visited it.

One reason for the delay in blogging was the dread of having to write a "catch up" post, when so much has been happening. So I'm keeping it to a few photos only--some roses, some dogs, some lake scenes. I hope that will suffice!

The last one was taken a little while ago, as I stood on the dock looking up at the hillside.

I look forward to blogging again soon. Nice to be back!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring & Summer Scenes

A chilly spring with below-normal temperatures allowed for lots and lots of outdoor gardening. Last week we completed our first year of ownership of the "new" house. One of the greatest joys it provides is the garden space! I enlarged several of the existing raised beds and filled them with more perennials and [peonies and roses. I've now got 50 roses, which is about two-thirds what I had at the Lodge. The ones planted last year are thriving, covered with buds, and starting to bloom in earnest.



Foxgloves--biennial, so I had to re-plant

Iris sibirica--came with the house!

These columbines have spread a lot since being planted last year

The peonies

Though we aren't quite at the Solstice yet, spring has given way to summer. And with the change in season, I can take a break from watching and weeding the gardens at the lake cottage! Where we--and the dogs--can go down to the dock to watch passing boats and ducks and beautiful sunsets!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blog Hop: Meet My Main Character

I was invited by the talented and gorgeous Donna Russo Morin to participate in the blog hop about main characters.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
The character I’ve chosen is Oriana Julian, professionally known as Ana St Albans. She is a fictional illegitimate daughter of a historic person—the Third Duke of St. Albans, who fathered more than one child outside of his childless marriage. This also makes her a direct descendant of actress Nell Gwyn and King Charles II of England. Consequently she's the great-granddaughter of the protagonists of my work in progress, a biographical novel about the first Duke and Duchess of St Albans.

2. When and where is the story set?
The story takes place in 1799 mostly in London, the Isle of Man, Liverpool, Newmarket, and the Cheshire countryside. Nearly all the characters are historic people—actress Harriot Mellon, impresario Michael Kelly, Sir Joseph Banks. And Oriana’s cousins, the Duke of St. Albans and his heir.

 3. What should we know about him/her?
Oriana, daughter of a singer, was trained from childhood to follow in her mother’s profession. After studying with Italian music masters she returned to London to establish herself as a performer. Lack of success and the desire to escape her demanding profession she eloped, but her soldier husband’s death and her mother’s illness forced her return to the stage. She performs at Vauxhall Gardens and other popular venues, and sometimes accompanies herself on the mandolin. Her aristocratic cousins regard her very much as a member of the family. Like them--and her ancestor Charles II--she's a racing enthusiast.

Oriana's house in London's Soho Square.

 4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Escaping to the Isle of Man for a quiet holiday, Oriana encounters Sir Darius Corlett a wealthy mine owner. Sensitive about her scandalous past, she uses her married rather than her professional name. Dare not only discovers her identity but also follows her to London, she’s torn by the demands of her career and the desires of her lover. Compounding her difficulties is the jealousy of her most devoted admirer, a nobleman who just might matrimony on his mind…

The beautiful Isle of Man...one of my favourite places in the world!

5. What is the personal goal of the character?
She yearns to overcome past scandals and achieve prima donna status at the Opera House. And her love affair with the bold and ardent Manxman complicates matters considerably!

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Improper Advances is a published novel, available in a revised digital edition as well as out-of-print hardcover and paperback editions and some foreign languages. It can be previewed and purchased for your e-reader at:

Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

I've tagged two authors who will post about their main characters on May 7th.

Danelle Harmon
Laura Purcell
On the Isle of Man

Monday, April 21, 2014


My beautiful jasmine plant is blooming indoors, scenting the entire second floor of the house. I've had it for many years now, the plant began as a slip of a cutting from the jasmine twining up the side of my parents' house. I re-visited that mother plant at the end of March.
It wasn't blooming at that time, but other beautiful spring blossoms were in evidence.
Yoshino Cherry Trees (the Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing)
We returned home to find far too much snow still on the ground, followed by some rather harsh late spring weather. We even had snowfall--very light--as recently as last week!
But the ground is well-thawed now, not a speck of snow to be seen, and today I planted 4 new rose bushes, 3 climbers and a floribunda. I've got 4 more to go. I'm having some of my raised beds enlarged and combined, so lots of new space to fill with roses and perennials!
The crocuses are blooming, so are these lovely miniature irises. The hyacinths and daffodils are showing buds. Spring is springing--at last!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Maple Sugaring--with Sheep!

I visited the farm with the sugar house that we've been going to for many years during sugaring season. The weather has been unseasonably cold and the maple syrup makers are hoping that it will run long, given that it's late. This past weekend was Maple Sugar Weekend when the sugar houses are open to the public with special events. I was otherwise occupied, so today I went up to the Ridge to see what I could see. And found a crowd of school children getting a lesson in syrup-making!

The sugar house.

The condenser.

Fuel for the condenser.

The product!

More products!

Truck with sap barrel.

The main reason I visit this farm instead of the multitude of others is, of course, the animals. Sugar season and lambing season coincide!

I love touching sheep. This ewe came right up and begged for a pat!

The cattle.

My favourite cow--black and white, of course. Like my dogs!

Sap collection at a different farm.

And collection system at yet another farm farther along the road.

When I say it's been "unseasonably cold," I mean it has been in the single digits or even below zero overnight, which is highly, highly unusual for late March. Daytime temperatures have bare broken freezing on most days. Fortunately a warm-up is on the forecast. And, in case I doubted that spring would ever come, I actually spotted a sign of summer--a daylily is starting to wake up from its long winter sleep!