Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveway...

Starting today, the Harlequin Historical Authors are hosting an on-line giveaway, as we did last year. There will be daily prizes and a chance to win a Grand Prize of a Kindle/Kindle Fire - the actual prize depends on your location. The button below takes you through to the live Calendar and the rules.   Today, it is Michelle Willingham's day.  Click on the button below to find out more...

Participating Authors

November 29 - Michelle Willingham
November 30 - Elizabeth Rolls
December 1 - Charlene Sands
December 2 - Diane Gaston
December 3 - Annie Burrows
December 5 - Elaine Golden
December 6 - Barbara Monajem
December 7 - Michelle Styles
December 8 - Deborah Hale
December 9 - Marguerite Kaye
December 10 - Lynna Banning
December 12 - Carol Townend
December 13 - Blythe Gifford
December 14 - Julia Justiss
December 15 - Terri Brisbin
December 16 - Ann Lethbridge
December 17 - Bronwyn Scott
December 19 - Sarah Mallory
December 20 - Kate Bridges
December 21 - Amanda McCabe
December 22 - Jeannie Lin
December 23 - Grand Prize Drawing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude and Connections

Earlier this month, I was at an annual writers’ retreat, a highlight of my year. While there are always new attendees, many of us have been sharing this week at this place for several years. One of the cherished rituals is the “drawing of the cards,” in which Luna author Robin Owens offers us a deck of Cheryl Richardson Self-Care cards so we can choose one, or more, as a theme for the week.
I always close my eyes and draw, letting the Muse make my selection. The cards I got this year: Gratitude and Connection.
This is the month for Gratitude, of course, but the second card made me think specifically about all the connections for which I am thankful.

First, and foremost, my connection with readers. For each of you who has, or will, read my books, I am extremely grateful. I sincerely hope that something in the stories speaks to you and that in reading, you’ll be led closer to your own Happy Ending.
Second, my connections to other writers. Writing is a solitary business. Most days, I sit alone with the keyboard, flashing curser, and my doubts. This annual week on the beach sharing space with fellow travelers gives me hope and courage. (And assures me that I’m not the only one who lives in alternate worlds on a daily basis.) Harlequin Historical author Terri Brisbin was also there and we had a great visit, comparing notes on writing.
Third, my connection to history. If I did not write history, I would still read it. And if I did not write history, I don’t know what I would write. History inspires me, intrigues me, ignites my curiosity. Truth is, I don’t get any ideas that are NOT historical. In my stories, I can walk around in history, live vicariously, and convey the humanity that unites us across the centuries. And if I spark a reader to explore further based on one of my stories, nothing could be better.
Finally, I am grateful for my connection to the Muse, the mystery that all writers confront. Steven Pressfield, screenwriter, novelist, and non-fiction writer, says he prays to the Muse each day before beginning work. Any writer knows that, solitary a calling as we have, we are never really alone, at least, if we are lucky.
We have many, many connections to be grateful for.
How about you? What connections are you grateful for during this season of giving thanks?
p.s. Coming a week from today: the Second Annual Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveaway! More than three weeks of fun and prizes, including a Grand Prize Kindle Fire. Check back for details!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Regency Toys

In the book I'm writing now, there is a scene set in Hamley's Toy Shop, the original one in High Holborn, London. So I've been researching Regency toys today. Dolls and tin soldiers and spinning tops and sets of skittles--as many toys available in the Regency as I can find.

Which reminded me of a game I photographed at a museum in Nottingham in 2005. Dated 1819, it was a game called "Changeable Ladies" published by R. Ackermann in London.

The game consisted of cards which can be put together to create different ladies' faces. The images on the cards were similar to the faces on Ackermann fashion prints of the period.

I could well imagine a little girl in the Regency spending hours putting the cards together in various ways, creating new faces with new eyes, noses, mouths, and clothing. Then when she was called to her dinner, I could see her carefully putting the cards away in their little wooden box.

When I was a little girl, I loved drawing fashionable ladies or playing with paper dolls. I also loved puzzles, so I'm sure I would have adored the Changeable Ladies.

Did you play with paper dolls when you were a child? Did (or do) you like puzzles? What was your favorite toy?

Keep watching this space and your Harlequin Historical authors' websites. We have another exciting Holiday contest coming up very soon. A terrific Grand Prize and lots of other prizes, a prize every day!

In the meantime you can always enter my website contest, going on right now, but hurry! Today is the last day for the first giveaway in my contest.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Strawberry Hill Gothic...

Horace Walpole had his summer villa built between 1748 and 1790. Here, his love of the medieval is made manifest in every wall and window. The picture below shows you the house - or should it be castle? - as you approach it from the road.

I love the turret, it has a Norman look to it.

Above is what is called the 'Prior's Garden' complete with gothic arches. Stawberry Hill has recently been restored so you can see much of the building as Horace Walpole might have expected it to be seen. Walpole wanted visitors to Strawberry Hill to have a theatrical experience and the mood shifts dramatically as the tour progresses. Walpole's fascination with the medieval can be seen at every turn. Here, a heraldic beast masquerades as a newel post on the stairs...

The ceiling of the library is rich with pictures of knights and heraldic devices...

And below is the most splendid room of all, the Gallery. The design for the ceiling is taken from a side aisle in Westminster Abbey, and the restoration team have restored it using real gold leaf. Wool and silk damask wallcoverings have been specially made to match the originals.

Strawberry Hill is exactly as you might imagine a small palace to be. But it is not just somewhere to enjoy looking at gothic revival. Horace Walpole was so inspired by his 'castle' that he wrote what has come to be seen as the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. He said that the novel was 'an attempt to blend the ancient and the modern.' A description which seems to fit the house too.

Do you like the idea of a medieval romance that blends both the ancient and the modern? How much history do you like? Do you prefer your romances to be solidly grounded in history? And how do you feel about time-shift novels?