Books Emerge from Research

grimshaw_battersea_bridgeI am spinning wheels on the current Unexpected Magic work in process, which means I’m diving deep into research mode, looking for a way out of the corner I’ve written myself into. Having started my career by driving librarians crazy with inter-library loans attempting to dig out esoteric information, I am always amazed by the enormous amount of material to be found on-line today. I treasure a map I bought in London back before internet days showing me when particular areas were built and giving me all the lovely street names. Today, I can go online and get an interactive map like this where I can zoom up on any area for street names, then broaden to see how my characters will travel from Mayfair to Battersea. And I can find famous paintings of the bridge itself, which was reported to be extremely rickety at the time I’m writing about. (see painting above)

And then I can dive into detailed descriptions of 18th century Battersea and learn things like this: On the site of Bolingbroke-house was erected, about two years ago (1797), a horizontal air-mill of a new construction, and of very large dimensions: the shape of the dome or case which contains the moveable machine (fn. 45), is that of a truncated cone; …having just space to turn round within it: the extremities of this machine are called floats, as in the wheel of a water-mill; …there are ninety-six floats, and the same number of shutters in the dome, which, when open, admit, even when there is little wind, a sufficient current of air to turn the machine, and, by a particular contrivance, shut when the wind is so violent as to endanger the structure. This mill, at its first erection, was used for preparing of oil; it is now used as a corn-mill, and is occupied by Messrs. Hodgson and Co.

Recognize the Hodgson? I refuse to dive down the bunny trail to see if it’s any relation to the items we find in our grocery store now. I need to get back to work. I’m so easily distracted! If anyone else hunts down that history, let me know, will you?

PS: Okay, I dived deeper and found this absolutely fabulous visual map of the Thames riverbank in 1829! Have fun!


Music Soothes the Soul

BBconcertWhen I was too young to know better, I fell in love with the Beach Boys and their California rock music. I swear, my daughter was born singing “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Maybe all that surf music was the reason we gravitated to the west coast. So when what is left of the group played in the Arts Center at Costa Mesa, it only seemed fitting to see the band that started it all. 

A blast from the past is just what is needed to make us feel young again. We rocked with an segerstrom concert hallaudience of all ages, talked to people who’d known the original group when they were growing up, and thoroughly enjoyed the talented musicians who have taken up the music with as much verve and expertise as I remembered from my first concert in another millennium.

And we learned more about this fabulous concert venue. I love the snail shell architecture and the wonderfully cozy balcony seating where there’s room to dance! The concert hall is part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, an amazing complex for celebrating dance, theater, and music.

Do you have the opportunity to enjoy the arts? How often do you take it?

Find Your Dream

Edownton abbeyver since I was a little kid in snowy Kentucky, I watched the Rose Parade on TV and vowed one day I would live in sunny California and see the parade.

Two and a half years ago, I made part of that dream happen when we moved to southern California. Two years ago, we saw the Rose Parade from the bleachers. That wasn’t enough. It’s hard to really see the floats from the side of the road.dragon

Today, we got to walk right up to the floats and admire the amazingly creative artistry involved in building them. What is even more astonishing is that California has been in a drought for four years, and flowers are in short supply. The designers had to use dry grasses, leaves, bark, and any other natural substance at hand to create the floats.

dragons neckWe took a million pictures, minimum! Here’s a detail of the dragon float. I know the bands and the costumed characters are a wonderful, exciting part of the parade–but it’s the flowers and sunshine that lit my dark childhood days. I wish I lived closer so I could be part of the wonder of creating these marvelous floats!


Are you creating dreams to work toward? Tell me!

Tasmanian Devils

koalaI just spent the last few weeks in Australia—another check off my bucket list! We met our son there and spent a big part of our time touring Tasmania. We visited a wildlife sanctuary where we could feed kangaroos and visit with koalas and gorgeous cockatoos (one was a hundred years old!). To our dismay, as we continued our journey, we learned many of the animals—including the kangaroos and kangarootasmanian devilTasmanian Devils—in the sanctuary are basically roadkill in the countryside.

But we also visited with Anne Gracie  (Hi, Anne!), traveled anneandmepart of the Great Ocean Road on the mainland, and saw koalas hanging from the trees in the wild.

If you could, what country would you visit?


To show our gratitude to our fabulous readers this holiday season, we’ve teamed up with over 50 fantastic romance authors, including Claudia Dane, Grace Burrowes, and Jennifer Ashley to give away more than 35 historical holiday romances, and a $100 gift card to one lucky winner.

Enter the contest by clicking here:


Vintage London

One of my many frustrations in researching Regency England is the difficulty of picturing 1812 against what I can see in the 21st century. The photo is of Big Ben in 2015. For the fun of it, here are some montages of London in the early years of BigBenphotography. Those of you who are familiar with today’s London will see a lot that’s familiar. Do these kind of images help you picture what we write about in our novels?

Street life in Victorian London


Regency City Town Homes

My historical romances tend to be set in rural areas, because it’s so much simpler to push the characters together with limited surroundings–and besides, I love the georgian townhousessprawling estates! Until I actually went to London and visited some of the town houses, I had images of spacious London homes too. Reality isn’t as fun.

The image here is actually Dublin because I couldn’t ferret one out of my files for London that didn’t contain shopping on the bottom floor. But this is what the older sections of London would look like. Mayfair–where most of our Regency character reside in the new houses–might have larger residences, but only for the wealthy.

Now imagine my busy marquess entertaining his political friends, housing his brothers and his sons, and throwing a new wife into the mix. Can we say “crowded”? What’s the smallest house you’ve ever lived in?



Romantic Travel–Not

Where have you traveled recently and how did you go?

I’m flying again soon. Once upon a time, I looked forward to a few hours of comfort, reading and anticipating my visit with family and friends. These days, I have to anxiously prepare myself for torture.

I hunt down seat cushions–because airline seats are too pitifully thin for comfort. I have to determine if I’ll be within reach of food at any convenient time–because airlines serve only pretzels on short domestic flights–and they’ve arranged it so they’re ALL short domestic flights. I have to remember to print out boarding passes and make certain I wear socks so I don’t walk barefoot through TSA. But worst of all is the time involved.

Once upon a time I could arrive for a 9 AM flight at 8:30 and breeze right through. Now, I have to leave home at 5:30 AM so I’m there by 7 AM so I can stand in lines for that 9 AM flight. And then I have to buy breakfast and probably lunch, because I cannot get a direct flight anywhere, even though I live by one of the largest airports in the world. Or because of it, perhaps. So I’ll be dumped in Dallas or Denver and have to run to make a connection.

So that short journey from a nearby airport, straight across to the town I used to visit in one short stop, now involves driving hours to a larger airport because the nearby one only goes locally. It involves two flights across the country. It lands an hour and a half from the town I actually want to visit, which means the added expense of a rental car. Instead of a four hour cross-country flight, I now spend twelve hours reaching my destination.

Modern convenience at its worst! Thank goodness for my iPad and my e-books because I have to carry on my clothes and have no room for books. Although I should give praise that I don’t have to travel by rocking coach and belching steamship as my characters do. I’m thinking  those Star Trek transporters are more romantic!



“CVG Terminal 2 Baggage Claim” by Scott Brenner – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Western Romance

indianWhen I first started writing, I was told to “write what I know.” That advice made for fascinating research since I could dive into local libraries and museums and dredge up tons of material.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot marketable about Western Kentucky, and my imagination wandered in the direction of the books I was reading. At the time, western romances were popular, and my characters kept going west.

So, now I’m in the west, if California counts. Most people think it’s a separate planet, but we have a wealth of western history here. In a few months, I hope to release a few of my older western historical romances. But for now, I’m having a great time visiting my dreams. I just attended the “Romantica” indian2Spanish Days Fiesta in Santa Barbara and saw the most gorgeous horses (can you see another blog forming?), refurbished stagecoaches and carriages, and costumes you can only imagine.

Do you enjoy parades? What kind, may I ask? I love a good parade!

Experimentation Encouraged

Scilly Travels

Scilly Travels

Because I’m incapable of leaving anything alone, I’ve just moved my writing blog to my website — makes sense to have everything in one place, doesn’t it?

Here’s my first attempt — a shot from the gorgeous botanical garden on the Scilly Isles, which may sound like a Monty Python sketch because yes, Scilly is pronounced silly.

This post comes under the category of “Things We Learn with Travel.” To our utter amazement, we learned while traveling last month that the Scilly Islands, which are just off the southern coast of chilly England–actually have a Mediterranean climate. The garden was chock full of the same plants I grow at my home in Southern California!

I don’t recommend thinking of moving there immediately, though. The islands are isolated and the kids have to board at school during the week and sail home for the weekends. Grocery shopping must be fun! But a tropical island right off England– now my brain is whirling with historical romance ideas!

Have you ever been to Scilly? Or just been silly?