Friday, August 17, 2018

Cool 19th Century Places to Visit: Osterley Park

Full disclosure: the list of “places Regina wants to visit next time she goes to England” only gets longer with each Regency I write. When I was researching for Never Envy an Earl, I wanted Gregory, the hero, to have a wonderful country estate, which he helped design. That’s when I stumbled upon the perfect model: Osterley Park.

Osterley Park is an estate to the west of London. It was built (okay, remodeled) for the Child family, which founded Child’s Bank, by the incomparable Robert Adam. Now, you may have seen a ceiling here, a room there designed by this amazing architect, but the entire house was his canvas in this case, and it shows.

While dubbed a Georgian structure (it was finished in the late 1700s), the turrets at each corner remind me of a castle. I love the entrance, up a set of broad steps and through ionic columns into a central courtyard.

Inside, the rooms are all richly decorated, with fanciful plasterwork, old masters framed with yards of gilt, tapestry on wall and chair, and so much gold!

The Childs didn’t enjoy the house long before it passed into the hands of a granddaughter who married George Villiers, fifth earl of Jersey. His wife would become the famous Lady Jersey, a doyen of society and one of the patronesses of Almack’s.

Osterley Park is currently operated by the National Trust. It can be reached easily by bus, train, or underground. Learn more at the park's website.  

Photo credit for Osterley Park in spring: Mark Percy

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Blast from the Past: A Bandalore by Any Other Name

I'm off wandering the wilds of Iceland with my DH and will be back next week to report on our travels. In the meanwhile, here's a Blast from the Past about a different type of pastime. See you soon!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that historical research is probably the most fun you can have with your corset on.

I was doing research on Eton in the early nineteenth century a week or so ago, and was on the website Open Library reading a book called “A History of Eton College 1440-1910” by Sir H. C. Maxwell Lyte, and happened to skim over this passage:

Among the minor games popular at Eton at this period and for some time afterwards was that of bandalores. A bandalore was a disc of box-wood, with a deep groove in its outer edge, round which a string was coiled, and the art was to send it flying through the air, unwinding the string as it went, and by giving a jerk at a particular moment to bring the disc back again to the hand, recoiling the string on its return journey. Michael Hicks Beach writing to his mother in his sixteenth year says:— “I have three excellent bandylores and did throw one of them out (which has a string about four feet and a half long), one hundred and fifty-nine times without missing.”

I thought about that for a moment, trying to picture just what this bandalore “game” was...and then it hit me.

It was a yo-yo. They were playing with yo-yos in the late 18th century!

So I did a little more digging...and found this image, from a French fashion plate from 1791, along with the following information: The most common French word for Yo-yo at the time was "Emigrette", but it is called the "Joujou de Normandie" in a caption to a version of this image which was included in Albert Charles Auguste Racinet's Le Costume Historique (1888), a monumental six-volume work on costume (alas, the cheapest set I could find on-line was in the $3000 range!) "Joujou", by the way, means "toy", and has nothing to do with the etymology of the word "yo-yo", which is from a Philippine language...but it's an interesting coincidence, isn't it?

So there you go. Who knew that one of the hot toys for both boys and girls in 1790s Europe was the yo-yo?

Historical research rocks!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Worth a Drum Roll: New Publisher!

[No guesses on where Marissa has gone? You know you want to try. Come on! It sounds very cold, but is very cool! 😊]

Many of you know that, since my beloved Love Inspired line closed, I have been on the hunt for a new publisher. I will continue to publish the Fortune’s Brides series largely on my own, with a novella coming out in October and the next full-length book, Never Vie for a Viscount, coming in November.

I am also delighted and excited to report that I have accepted a three-book deal with Revell!

Now, publishers often seem less well known than the authors they publish. You might recognize such names as Irene Hannon, Amanda Cabot, Lynette Eason, and Jan Drexler. (If you haven’t heard of Rachel Fordham yet, you will!) 

You might also recognize some of their beautiful covers.

My books will be historical romances set around the early days of our national parks (late 1800s). The first features a determined young lady photographer who wrangles a spot on a Corps of Engineers survey of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 1871, only to discover the leader of the expedition is the love she once left behind. A Scenic Beauty (title tentative) is scheduled for publication in October 2019.

I haven’t decided on the other two parks to be featured, though I am leaning toward Yellowstone and my own Mt. Rainier.

Any suggestions? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Quiz: Where is Marissa Going?

Today’s post is an abbreviated one, because I’m presently scurrying around folding and packing and otherwise getting ready to get on a airplane later on this evening. I’ll be gone ten days, so next week’s post will be a “blast from the past” while I’m off gallivanting with my DH. This trip is our belated 30th anniversary celebration (because we’ve now been married 31+ years!) but well worth the wait.

Where are we going? We’re going to—

Hmm. Nope. Not gonna make it easy. You’re going to have to take a quiz to figure out where we’re headed, partly because it's a fascinating place and partly because I'm a tease. 😉 

Are you ready? Here it goes...
  • This place is one of the breeding grounds of a well-known type of bird sometimes called the ‘sea parrot.’
  • The name of a certain location in this place, Geysir, has become the word for all other places of a similar type.
  • The language spoken here still bears a strong resemblance to its early medieval form.
  • One of the world’s oldest Parliaments, the Althing, dating to the tenth century AD, meets here.
  • This place is one of the two locations on earth where you can see the meeting of two tectonic plates above the surface of the earth.
  • There are no mosquitoes here!
Any guesses?

I'll be back the week after next with lots of pictures of my mystery location...see you then!  😘

Friday, August 3, 2018

Between Silk and Sand is Excerpt.

I'm still dancing round the room (well, metaphorically anyway) over the release of Between Silk and Sand, just released on Tuesday from Book View Cafe. 

While I've posted a first chapter sneak-peek sample of Between Silk and Sand on my website, I thought it would be fun to give our dear NineteenTeen readers a further sneak-peek into the that occurs at a pivotal point in the story. Enjoy!

* * * 

Talnith slunk in, carrying their saddlebags. “This is an inn?” she sniffed, dropping into a chair. “Don’t see no kitchen. Do the Day-hans cook their food?”
Saraid looked around the room. The walls appeared to be of baked mud, smoothed and polished and red in the lantern light. Hangings made of dyed string knotted into elaborate patterns decorated the walls, and carved beams supported the high, rounded roof. It was foreign but attractive in a spare, simple way. “Things are done differently in different places, Talnith. I expect the kitchen is elsewhere so that it doesn’t get too hot in here during the day.”
“A clever observation,” said a voice, “which happens to be correct.”
Saraid managed not to visibly jump—probably because she was too tired to do so—and turned. A man dressed in Adaihan robes, his hood drawn partly across his face, leaned against the door the innkeeper’s wife had vanished through, though far back enough that she couldn’t get a good look at him. “It seemed to make sense,” she replied.
The man inclined his head, then stepped into the room from the shadowed doorway. He was tall, much taller than the innkeeper. “And yes, the Adaihans do cook,” he said to Talnith. “This inn is known for its good food.”
Talnith looked at him appraisingly. “How would you be knowin’ that, then? Are you the cook here? And what do the Day-hans eat, anyway? Sand and rocks?”
He laughed. “No, I’m not the cook. And they don’t eat sand. Adaihan cooking makes use of plants and animals that can survive in the desert. Sheep and goats can live here, so expect to see them on your plates.”
His accent was different, crisper, though with a trace of the Adaihan vowels she’d heard in the speech of the innkeeper and his wife. Was he the traveler occupying the other room? Whoever he was, chatting with a stranger hardly seemed proper. “I am sure whatever we’re served will be quite edible, Talnith. Thank you,” she said to the man, trying to sound pleasantly dismissive.
He turned toward her. Saraid got an uncomfortable feeling that he found her amusing. She’d mentally scolded Captain Zamas for nearly calling her “Your Highness” a few minutes ago, and now here she was, acting like one. She took a deep breath and said, “Pardon me if I was ungracious, but it has been a long ride. Won’t you sit with us?”
“My thanks.” The man sat in the chair across from her, putting back his hood as he did.
Oh. Whatever she had expected him to look like, it hadn’t included bright gold hair worn long and a little shaggy, curling around his ears, and the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. His skin was dark, the weathered tan of someone who had spent years in the bright, hot sun. Not that he seemed very old. Somewhere in his twenties, a few years older than she. His brows and eyelashes were the same gold as his hair, and his smile was open and sunny despite the lines around his eyes and forehead that somehow seemed older than the rest of him.
Next to her Talnith sat up straighter. “So tell me more about this Day-han food,” she said, pouting her lips in a way that probably was supposed to be enticing. “How good is it?”
“Very good indeed, though it can vary depending on local customs.” Saraid caught a twinkle in the young man’s eyes as he looked at them. “I’ve heard that some Adaihan women down south by the Nolorish border make soup by putting a live hainsh-fowl and several hatsuan peppers in a kettle of water and setting it out in the sun at midday, so that by nightfall it’s nicely simmered.”
Saraid tried to match his solemn tone. “It gets that hot down there, does it?”
He glanced at her sideways, and the twinkle deepened. “It does. Though if your fowl is large, you’re best putting it out earlier, right after you rise in the morning.”
“Ah.” Saraid nodded. “Of course. I should have guessed as much.”
Talnith shot her a suspicious look, then turned back to the young man. “That’s just plain nasty. What about the feathers and all?”
“Oh, the feathers dissolve into the broth, thanks to the peppers. They give it a distinctive flavor, so it’s said,” the young man replied. “And the feet stew up nicely, so that they’re quite tender. The mothers save them for their teething babies to chew on.”
Saraid just managed not to giggle. Talnith looked queasy. “That ain’t true…is it?”
The innkeeper’s wife came back into the room, carrying a large pitcher and cups of glazed red clay. She paused when she saw the man, then set her tray on the table and bowed, looking anxious. “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to wake you—”
“Water! I thought I’d never see it again!” Talnith nearly lunged across the table for the pitcher. She poured herself a cup and gulped it down, then another.
“Cold palm-mint tea, actually.” The man took the pitcher from her, poured a cup, and handed it to Saraid, glancing quizzically at Talnith as he did. “Thirsty, were you?”
“We was dyin’ of it,” Talnith said dramatically, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. “Old Captain Stick-up-the-Pants got us lost when we was hiding from those Day—” She broke off into a grunt as Saraid kicked her foot.
“We were somewhat delayed and running low on water,” Saraid said blandly. “Talnith, when you’ve drunk your fill, could you bring our packs to our room?” Where later on maybe Captain Zamas could fit her with a muzzle. Pox it, she’d warned Talnith about watching what she said! The fewer details anyone learned about them, the better. And double poxes on her for ruining the silly conversation they’d been having with him. She hadn’t had such fun in weeks.
Talnith glowered but didn’t dare argue. “Yes’m,” she said, and chugged down a last cup of the tea, then followed the innkeeper’s wife through the door.
Saraid glanced at the young man. His liveliness seemed to have left the room with Talnith; now he was pouring himself some tea, staring at the cup with a concentration that the simple act didn’t seem to require. Was he thinking about what Talnith had just said?
She leaned back against her chair and closed her eyes as she sipped her tea. Maybe if she drank it slowly, instead of slurping it down the way she really wanted to, the man would think that Talnith had been exaggerating. What had he said it was? Palm-mint? Whatever it was, it was delicious—cool and fresh, like the essence of green. If the Adaihans had created this, they probably did know a thing or two about food.
When she opened her eyes again, she saw that the young man was gazing at her with a thoughtful frown on his face. His eyes really were an amazing shade of blue, weren’t they? Or was their intensity just due to the contrast with his tanned skin? Maybe—but they looked as though they were used to looking into far distances and had absorbed the hue of a wide cloudless sky.
Then she realized that they were staring at each other.
“I should go see that Talnith is all right.” She scrambled to her feet, suddenly afraid. By Keranieth, she’d been ready to drown in those eyes, and he’d been ready to let her. “We’ve been riding all night, and she’s, um, a little…”
He stood up as well. “I think I know what you mean,” he said, making a wry face, and she felt absurdly pleased. And then wanted to slap herself. They were anonymous travelers in a tiny, out-of-the-way oasis in the Adaiha. He’d more than likely be gone by nightfall, and she’d never see him again.
“Good ni—or, er, good morning, I suppose.” The inversion of night and day was starting to get to her.
He smiled. “Sleep well and peacefully.”
She hurried through the door and ran full tilt into the innkeeper’s wife, who listened to her stammered apologies with a bemused expression on her gentle face and showed her to her room. Talnith was already stretched out on a pallet on the floor. Saraid wasn’t at all troubled by her sudden, ostentatious snores as she tiptoed past. The last thing she wanted now was conversation with Talnith.
A bowl of gently steaming water, strewn with fragrant herbs, had been set on a small table. Saraid gratefully washed her face and hands and collapsed onto the bed, not even bothering to unbraid her hair. As she slid into sleep, she could still see in her mind’s eye blue eyes gazing into hers.

* * *

Between Silk and Sand is available from Book View CafeKobo, Barnes and Noble, ibooks
Amazon, Smashwords, and GooglePlay and can easily be ordered in print from your favorite local bookstore.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Between Silk and Sand is Here!

It’s release day for my new YA fantasy, Between Silk and Sand!

You’ve seen the bee-yoo-ti-ful cover...

You’ve read the back cover blurb...and the excerpt on my website...

You’ve seen the video...

Now you can finally read it! Between Silk and Sand is now available directly from Book View Café in both MOBI and EPUB formats and also from Kobo, ibooks, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, GooglePlay, and Smashwords. Or you can order it in print from your local bookstore (or buy it online too, for that matter.) It’s receiving some lovely reviews on Goodreads and was rated 4 ½stars with a Crowned Heart of Excellence by InD’tale Magazine, which called it “a fantasy lover’s treasure!

I'm so happy this book is finally out in the world; it's one that's close to my heart--I love these characters dearly! I hope you'll check it out and give it a try--and let me know what you think if you do! 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dateline: Denver, Part 2

Oh, what a lovely time we had at the conference! I quite agree with Marissa that the best part of conference is spending time together. Sometimes we attended workshops as a pair; sometimes we divided and conquered, sharing notes with each other afterward.

Two special moments involved tea.

The first was the Beau Monde mini-conference. As we have mentioned, the Beau Monde Chapter of Romance Writers of AmericaTM  promotes excellence in romantic fiction set primarily in the Regency period (1811-1820). Marissa and I are both members. The workshops on travel, Bow Street, rebellious ladies, and inheritances were excellent, as was the keynote by fabulous author Cheryl Bolen. And after all that information and inspiration, we were treated to tea, followed by an elegant soiree in the evening crowned by the announcement of the winners of the Royal Ascot contest. This contest highlights up-and-coming authors. Remember the name of Lesli Lent. I predict you’ll be reading great books from her soon.

Friday, Marissa and I had the honor of being invited to tea by the incomparable John Charles, reviewer extraordinaire. We joined the likes of Kristan Higgins, Jane Porter, Evelyn Richardson, and Elizabeth Boyle for a splendid tea at the Brown Palace Hotel. This Italian Renaissance-style hotel in downtown Denver opened in 1892 and was one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels then and now. Tea was served with delicious treats, on the traditional three-tiered tray. Because I have food allergies, the hostess brought me my own plate. The conversation, my dears, was as delightful as the company and the fare.

And then we returned to the less rarefied but much beloved air of our homes, our families, and our books. Stay tuned next week for a very special announcement on the last from Marissa. Two words: awesome story!