I take to my writing desk on the first of each year to complete the correspondence that has lapsed between Christmas and New Year’s Day. As you must know, it is a terribly busy time–
<squawk!> Ratafia abounds! <squawk!>
–and invariably, my epistolary schedule suffers.
I have never, however, been required to draft my first letters of the year with such heavy heart. It is with great sadness that I write this letter — bidding you adieu. I–
<squawk!> AND ALBERT! <squawk!>
–and Albert, of course– we are simply devastated that we shall no longer have the pleasure of your regular company at Beaufetheringstone House. We recall with fondness the way you embraced your invitation to our little gatherings, introducing me immediately to “Regency whup-ass.” While I don’t use the term in general company, I have been known to ease it into conversation with Lord B when necessary.
<squawk!> Marriage requires compromise! <squawk!>
Aside from my own sorrow in missing out on your linguistic innovation, I know that your fellow authoresses–
<squawk!> The lessers! <squawk!>
–shall be devastated by your loss, as well. As they did not have a chance to bid you farewell in person at the last ball of 2012, I offered to pass along their written farewells here. You shall find them enclosed.
<squawk!> Peeker! <squawk!>
Of course, I had to be certain that these were the correct notes, and not for others on my correspondence list. From Miss Neville:
“Before I met Gaelen in person I thought she was clever, funny, a gorgeous writer, and beautiful. In real life I found all these things were true, plus she’s a tiny little thing. Tiny and fierce. She’s someone you’d want to have your back in a fight – and hope I always will. Gael, I’ll miss you chez Lady B.” – Miranda
Fierce, indeed. Surely those gentlemen wouldn’t keep your company if you could not handle them…as Misses Dare and Darby are keen to point out:
“Gaelen, it’s been a delight to mingle in the same ballroom! And your heroic guests, so imbued with warrior spirit have been an inspiration. I do hope you’ll return to visit often–and please do bring all your future heroes around, as well. It would be cruel to deprive us!” — Tessa
“All I know is that we are going to have to make a valiant effort to scrounge up enough handsome, brawling heroes to take the place of Gaelen’s Knight Brothers and Inferno boys. The Ballroom just will not be the same without you! – Sabrina
So many handsome men…and lovely legs. I’d like to see them all in kilts. Speaking of kilts:
“In the words of my forebears, Gaelen, May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And in the words of Bill and Ted, Party on, dude!
We will miss you. Visit often!” – Katharine
I do not know the William and Edward to whom she refers, but I would like to extend an invitation to them to join us in the ballroom at any time. I do like a party. On.
“Gael, you know I’ve been your biggest fan since your very first book, and I feel blessed to have had 18 months of hanging out with you and your fab characters! I will miss your hilarious comments, your clever turns of phrase, and your instant back-up when we need it. I don’t know how we’ll fill your dancing shoes…and hope you’ll come back and visit any time you have a yearning for lobster patties and time travel! Much much love, Sarah”
I confess, Miss Foley, I’ve had a chance to read all of your books in the past few months, and I must disagree with Miss MacLean. I believe I might be your biggest fan.
<squawk!> And I! <squawk!>
Albert quite likes them, too.
“I was so excited getting to know you on the blog, and you were a great mentor to help introduce a then-newbie like me to the art of the Ballroom. I will miss your constant good humor, and Lady B will be bereft if not for constant visits!” – Kate
Truth from Miss Noble. I haven’t any idea how we will all remain entertained without you. But, As ever, Miss Willig sees the silver lining in this tragic cloud.
“The only consolation for no longer having Gaelen’s wit and charm gracing the ballroom is that it will mean more of her books to enjoy!” – Lauren
Not simply consolation. More books are the only acceptable reason to decline my standing invitation, my dear.
We await them with equal parts excitement and melancholy.
Heliotrope, Lady B–
Your turn, Ballroomies – Give Gaelen your farewells in comments.
One commenter will receive a copy of one of Gael’s books — winner’s choice!
The other night, Lady B. had the most terrible dream. Right in the middle of one of her glittering soirees, Boney set off a frightful EMP blast, shorting out all electronics… ANACHRONISM ALERT, ANACHRONISM ALERT… Sorry, scratch that.
She dreamed that right in the middle of one of her glorious soirees, a strange new strain of plague escaped aboard a rat from a Carpathian cemetary, swept across Europe in minutes, and before the footman had finished making the rounds with the tray of lobster patties, the Zombie Apocalpyse was upon us.
The Ballroom instantly went into lockdown, readers, guests, authoresses, parrots and toucans alike, arming themselves for the fray with fishforks, cheese knives, their beaks, or the jagged edges of broken champagne bottles.
As the moaning hordes approached from the terrace, (we think they may be the non-readers of the world, the TV-Only Folk) Lord B shook off his brandy stupor quickly enough to order the French doors locked and bolted. Gentlemen rushed to pull the shutters closed and nailed them in place.
Even Monty had suddenly sobered up, shrugging off his flirting, (Lady B suspected it was only a dream at that point). Our valiant young rakehell was ready to fight to defend the ladies, not that they necessarily needed defending.
Indeed, Sarah had already equipped herself with the fire poker, and Miranda now produced a small pistol from her reticule, coolly checking the chamber.
Remember, aim for the head. Photo cred. by Eric Ingrum
Lauren had learned a few good moves with which to trick the devious foe, thanks to her extensive research for her Pink Carnation books. And Sabrina (unafraid of the hot stuff!) grabbed a fully lighted candelabra to ward off the mindless zoms.
Tessa fortunately had her Rita award with her (because hey if you won one, wouldn’t you carry it with you everywhere too?). Turns out a Rita is of just the right heft and weight for clobbering zombies that get too close.
Katharine was barking ordersnicely asking the maids to rush upstairs and make sure the bedchamber windows were secure. Kate Noble was wisely doing the same for the wine cellars. The Apocalypse might be upon us, but at least we were well stocked with an array of excellent vintages and more importantly had our friends with us.
I, meanwhile, had climbed up on the roof of Beaufetheringstone House to peer out over London and assess the situation, as I am wont to do. I rushed back down to report that White’s was overrun, Almack’s was a screeching slaughterhouse of undead debutantes and half-devoured dukes, and Parliament itself was under siege (at which news, a few guests had the dreadful manners to cheer, and Lady B duly harrumphed with disapproval in her sleep).
The zoms were hungry.
It was a horrible dream. Even for a supreme hostess like Lady B, the prospect of being locked up indefinitely with hundreds of her closest friends, waiting for flesh-eating zombies to storm the premises, was a test of even Her Ladyship’s love of pleasant company.
~ FORTUNATELY ~
Intense terror awoke Her Ladyship. She sat bolt upright in her duchess bed and, heart pounding, breathed a sigh of relief to find it was only a nightmare.
But then… came the gnawing recollection of something Gaelen had told her weeks ago. That 12/21/12 marked the End of the Mayan Calendar, and this date was now only NINE DAYS AWAY!!!
Which begs the question, Will This Wind…?
All right, so maybe 12/21 isn’t really going to be the End of the World. One could only hope–!
But it is an end for me, so it’s rather a sad announcement today. I’ve so enjoyed being a part of the Ballroom Blog for the past year and a half, but now that I’m writing in two genres, I realized I really must pare down my schedule a little. Buckle down on my work. I’ll still be around–underfoot!–and will remain a Ballroom Support Personnel, but I won’t be an official Ballroom author next year.
Since one of my first Ballroom Blog posts begam with Monty Python (Silly Walks) and An Ode to British Humour, it seems fitting to finish with them, too. Leave ‘em laughing, as they say. If you’re interested in being alerted when my next book comes out (August, 2013) please stop by my website and join my newsletter signup.
I want to thank Lady B. and Albert, Lord B. and Monty and his toucan, all of my fellow authoresses who have made participating in this blog such a joy, and many, many thanks to you wonderful readers who have come and befriended us here. I’ll miss you, but (in the immortal words of Puss in Boots/Shrek: “I must not cry!”) I will still be around to visit when I’m not writing, writing, writing. (If you want to get a hold of me, you can always email me thru my website or check my own blog there to see what I’m up to.)
Anyway, that’s the news. But enough of all this glum talk.
I had yet another reason for writing about the end of the world today. That’s because it’s a topic I ran into when I was writing my next book (the August 2013 release, My Notorious Gentleman, second to last Inferno Club book).
That book (Trevor’s story if you’re following the series) takes place in 1816, the Year Without A Summer. What happened is that a huge volcano called Tambora erupted in Indonesia and shot ash up 26 miles into the stratosphere, where it was high to get picked up by the trade winds and global wind currents. This eruption is estimated to have been the equivalent of 20 Hiroshima bombs!!! So the ash ended up blocking out the sun (partially) for the next year or so, as far away as Europe and even America.
Believe me, they thought it was going to be the end of the world then, too. Though the Industrial Revolution was underway, it was still an agrarian world, and this event killed crops across the planet–corn/oats being also the main fuel for their transportation, ie horses. They couldn’t feed their animals or themselves–just as 20 years of economy-killing wars were ending.
So, Lady B would not be such a stranger to dire times. It is nice to keep that in mind when the end of the world seems near. It helps keep it in perspective.
BTW my husband and co-writer of Middle Grade novels, Eric (the E. in E.G. Foley) teaches 7th-8th graders and he wants parents to know that the kids out there are scared about all this End of the World talk. So if you’ve got kids at home around that age where they don’t always tell you what they’re thinking, that’s what he’s hearing at school, so give ‘em a hug and let ‘em know the world’s not ending, if you haven’t already done so. But of course you probably already know that! Anyhoo…
My question for the day is, if the Mayans turned out to be right and the world WAS going to end 9 days from now, what would you do with your final days on earth? Hmm. I’ll have to ponder that myself, cuz I have no idea…!
Happy weekend, everyone! Well, if you find yourself with some time to relax, fix a cuppa your favorite brew and enjoy this virtual stroll through a Cotswold Village. If it does not induce wild cravings to go read Regency novels and/or Jane Austen, then nothing will. It looks like the setting for my next book, and when I came across it, I knew you’d enjoy it as much as I did, so I just had to share.
This is a lovely clip from a longer DVD by Vita Digital Productions. (They have many more that they make freely available on their website, follow link. In fact, I think I’ll be taking a stroll thru an Italian village next..!) ~ Enjoy! (PS–Don’t go away, more below…)
Also, before you go, let’s extend our recent November 11 Veteran’s Day salute to our stalwart British allies, who have been fighting alongside our guys and girls in the military throughout the current wars. Thank you to all the veterans and military families from all the allied countries for their sacrifice. May the upcoming holiday season be a time of peace for us all.
This video is from last year’s Festival of Remembrance held at Royal Albert Hall, an event to honor British veterans, sponsored annually by the Royal British Legion (which is England’s foremost charity for military veterans and familes.) For those unfamiliar with the song, it’s a classic WWI-era, British patriotic hymn called “I Vow To Thee, My Country.” Gives me chills every time…
So, what is everybody up to this weekend? I’m celebrating my birthday, (Nov. 16). Don’t bother asking how old. The answer remains the same: 29. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it–indefinitely, haha. Fortunately, you already know that I write fiction…
Another especially glittering night in the Ballroom, everyone wearing their finest. In autumn jewel tones, natch. Lady B is discreetly eyeing a young gentleman’s legs in very snug pantaloons when I drift over, waving my fan. I notice our Patroness has a particular gleam of pride in her eyes tonight. And I suspect I know why.
Gaelen: I trust you are pleased with my offering this evening, my dear.
Lady B: Indeed. Lady Halifax will be positively green with envy that our new guest came to my Ballroom instead of elsewhere today–ha! Another coup. But I suppose I have you to thank for it, Ms. Foley.
Gaelen: You certainly do! Ah, I jest. Anything for you, Lady B. It was rather clever of me. Why, she here comes now!
<Squawk! Who, then?>
Gaelen: Quiet, Albert! Only one of the most exciting new stars rising in the Regency firmament these days–our special guest of the day–Maya Rodale!
On Sale Now!
Welcome, Maya! ((air kisses, dahlings)) And congratulations on your wonderful new book, Seducing Mr. Knightly. (A November Top Pick from RT! from HarperCollins/Avon) We’re so happy to have you here. I understand both stars of the story will be dropping by tonight, as well?
Maya nods, and I do the formal intro’s betwixt the author and Her Ladyship.
Psst – Readers - While Her Ladyship is grilling Maya on the diverse topics on which she grills every new visitor, I wanted to tell you in an aside that Maya Rodale has also written a non-fiction book championing romance novels, which is another reason why we love aside from smashing talent and general adorable-ness. Check out the vid:
Gaelen: (I told you you’d like her! Well, it looks like I’d better save the poor girls from Lady B’s interrogation. Come with!) Grabbing your arm and dragging you about as I am wont to do.
We can hear the question Lady B is asking as we join the pair engrossed in conversation. I can see Maya has found favor in Her Ladyship’s eyes and that is something. Not that I’m the least bit surprised.
Lady B: And what is your favorite part of writing one of these books of yours, my dear?
Maya: Though perhaps I shouldn’t make such confessions on short acquaintance, I must admit that my favorite part of writing is turning in a manuscript and going to have my hair done by a handsome man at a fancy salon. Though lolling about at home, reigning as Queen over fictional worlds of my own creation is a close second.
Gaelen: Hear, hear. I’m all for lolling about and salon/spa days! Maya, you’ve written some nonfiction, as noted, and some shorter works, including a novella in an anthology with our own Katharine Ashe and
Miranda Neville, as well as another great favorite around here, Caroline Lindon, entitled ONCE UPON A BALLROOM. And obviously we love that title. But what you’re best known for is your marvelous Writing Girls Series. What’s it all about?
Maya: The Writing Girls series is an ode to some of my favorite things: scandal, tabloids, humorous heroines and seductive heroes. The novels feature four daring Regency-era ladies who write for the most popular newspaper in town—I do trust that Lady B is an avid reader of The London Weekly. Of course, the stories would not be complete without the dashing rogues who are in turns outraged and delighted (wink!) by the heroines.
Writing Girls author Maya Rodale
Gaelen: Gasp! Don’t look now, but here comes Annabelle, heroine of Seducing Mr. Knightly!I’m so excited to meet her. Shh, act natural.
Welcome, Annabelle! Well, I thought I had the coolest job in the world. But you get to tell people what to do all day! You’re an advice columnist! Is that the best gig on the planet or what?
Annabelle is beaming modestly.
Lady B: I’ll ask the questions here, Miss Foley. Now, then, let me have a look at you, gel. Hmm. Unrequited love. Very painful.
Annabelle: What? You know about that?
Gaelen: Annabelle, Lady B. knows all.
Lady B: Now then, Miss Swift, how in the world did you come to find yourself writing for The London Weekly, and what has you so fixated on your handsome employer?
Annabelle: Hello…What? I’m sorry but Mr. Knightly is just over there, leaning oh so seductively [Sighs]. There are two instances when I have displayed something like daring in my life. The first when I entered a contest and to my surprise, won the position of advice columnist for The London Weekly. The second instance occurred when I asked my readers on advice for how I might finally, oh finally, capture Mr. Knightly’s attentions. He’s always so intensely fixated upon the newspaper. Can you just imagine if he loved a woman with that intensity? [Sigh. Again.] I do…
Gaelen: Now that I see him, I can’t blame you one bit. Hubba…
Later that night: We find Lady B deep in conversation with Derek Knightly, the swoon-worthy hero of Maya’s book.
Lady B: And what what was the moment you finally opened your eyes and realized that Miss Swift was no ordinary girl?
Derek Knightly: Does Miss Swift seem different to you? [Gaze drops to Miss Swift’s rather low cut bodice]. I vow, she’s changing every day. I used to think of her as “the quiet one who doesn’t cause trouble” and now everywhere I turn…she’s TROUBLE. Tempting, maddening, taunting TROUBLE. But the day she fainted into my arms truly opened my eyes to her. I knew she feigned that faint, and I knew it was part of her ruse to seduce that “Nodock” as she referred to him in her column. But once I held her in my arms there was no turning back.
Annabelle comes over near Derek, smiling a little too much. He in turn gazes charmingly at her.
Gaelen: Ahem! I say, maybe we should test Annabelle’s Advice Columnist skills! That would be fun! Annabelle, what say you? Anyone have a question, problem??
Lady B: Ugh.
Gaelen: You have in one mind?
Lady B: No doubt you are all too familiar with my Problem. Everyone knows about…
Lady B: Right, then. Here’s my question for you column, gel. ‘Dear Annabelle, a young, ahem, gentleman of my acquaintance has a habit of rather wild behavior–
<Squawk! Bad nephew! He’s trouble! Rakehell!>
Lady B: Gaelen, who taught Albert how to say Rakehell?
Gaelen, guiltily: Ummm…..
Lady B: Never mind. Quiet, bird! As I was saying, how do I convince him that it is high time he settled down and took a wife?
Annabelle: How does one convince the sun not to rise or the seasons not to turn?! Trying to convince a wild rogue to settle down and marry is a daunting and may be an impossible task. However, if the gentleman becomes convinced the matter is his idea…well, just try to dissuade him of it then!
Gaelen, applauding: Nicely done, Miss Swift! And congratulations on the fake swoon, by the way. Brilliant! Quick thinking, too.
Maya: Dear readers! Any swooning occur in this ballroom? Tell me, would you ever dare to fake a faint?
Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a signed copy of Maya’s previous novel, The Tattooed Duke!
Shhhh It’s quiet in the Ballroom. We are sitting around in a candlelit circle telling ghost stories in ominous tones. Lady B. is clutching her Paisley shawl against her mouth as Monty endeavors to scare the ladies into fits of terror, in the hope that we will all go rushing into his arms like shivering helpless females. (Well, he can hope, anyway…)
Good Evening, Ballroom Friends, and Goodnight to those of you who are just settling into your coffins to avoid the new day’s sun.
Well, it’s Gaelen here, in an October mood…
The dark and brooding side of the Regency world is a flavor of historical romance that I love exploring in my stories, especially in my Inferno Club series.
For example, in my new release, My Scandalous Viscount, my heroine gets locked in the hidden labyrinth inside the Order’s headquarters, Dante House. She worries that she won’t be able to find her way out and could up as a bloodied ghost haunting the mansion by night. And then there’s the wax museum she visits later on in the story, an homage to Madame Taussaud’s ofLondon.
WHICH, by the way, now here’s a good, gothic, creepy “aside” for you.
Madame Taussaud was an art teacher to the little princesses inVersaillesat the French Revolution. You can imagine her dilemma as soon as the Revolution took place. See for yourself what happened to her…
But–with kudos aside to the hardest-working woman in wax sculpture–I digress.
Gothic elements also reared their dark, fearsome heads in my last book, #4 in this series, My Ruthless Prince. Our tortured-hero Drake lead readers down, down into the dark cavern-sanctuary inside a mountain that once served as a temple for the evil Prometheans. Dare I mention the dungeon he spends some time in, located in the bowels of the foreboding castle nearby?
The Inferno book with the most gothic elements, however, is My Dangerous Duke. In this one, hero Rohan actually owns a haunted castle, though he’d never admit aloud that he actually does believe the Gray Lady is real. Then, later, he and heroine Kate must venture into the fabled Alchemist’s Tomb, full of deadly clockwork traps and puzzles that require quick thinking if the pair intend to get out alive.
Did You Know… the English traditionally used turnips, not pumpkins, for their jack-o-lanterns on All Hallow’s Eve? Click the picture if you’d like St. Martha (Martha Stewart/photo cred) to teach you how to carve turnips for your own Old World style jacks.
Readers seem to relish these elements, and no wonder!Englandhas a great ghost-story tradition and a proud heritage of tales of the supernatural. Nearly every stately home in the National Trust claims at least one ghost. There are haunted shops, haunted squares, haunted churches, haunted libraries… Of course, my historical romances don’t contain any actual paranormal elements. They just have, at times, a spooky, ominous tone and I try to create an aura of palpable danger. But ultimately, like Mrs. Radcliffe, I like things to have a logical explanation.
(At least that’s the case in my adult writing. In my YA/Middle Grade series, the Gryphon Chronicles, co-written with my husband under our E.G. Foley pen name, ghosts, witches, and all sorts of spooky supernatural bits abound. One of my personal favorite passages in the Lost Heir, in fact, is where pickpocket Jake spends a night in jail and meets the Ghosts of Newgate Prison! He is able to see ghosts, y’see.)
Gaelen: Ah, here comes Lady B. now. Is story time over so soon?
Lady B: I should hope so. My awful nephew gave me palpitations of the heart with his bloody tale! He tells it much too gleefully. I’m not sure I approve.
Gaelen: But Lady B. the Sensational is all the rage, as I’m sure you are well aware, being in the first stare in all matters, yourself.
Lady B: True. But nevertheless, I have asked Lord B. to go round the house and check all the windows. I don’t want BATS or some other nasty questionable Creature of Darkness getting in. One can never be too careful.
Indeed. What about you, Fair Reader? Do you enjoy reading dark & spooky tales or watching movies/TV shows with supernatural elements?
Do you read Paranormal romance? And what about straight Horror novels/movies? I can’t do them, myself.
Harry Potter is about as dark as I care to go! I’ve tried to watch a few horror movies, but what happens to me is that I close my eyes at the bloody parts and then end up imagining something worse than what happens on screen, and then have nightmares about it! I prefer the kid version of spookiness, laced with humor. *g*
What’s the most terrifying movie you ever watched? Do you wish you hadn’t watched it?? And WHY do you think people want to be scared in their entertainment??
Happy Weekend, Ballroomies! First, I have some leftover business from my last post, Seducer & the Snoop, in the form of a winner of my giveaway contest. Woot!
BN100, please email me your full name and mailing addy ~ you’ve won a signed copy of My Scandalous Viscount! Huzzah!
NYTB! Aww yeah.
Another huzzah to Beau & Carissa for a fine showing on the NYT, USA Today and Bookscan bestseller lists this week and yes I’m going to crow about it. *g*But enough of all that! Lady B would not approve. (She is off today, in the genteel town of Bath having a spa day – of which I am wholly envious. She’ll be back Monday.)
Today I have some historical inspiration to share with you that came in handy while I was trying to visualize the opening scenes of my novel, which take place at Covent Garden Theatre. By dumb luck actually I happened across the “I Remember Nelson” miniseries on Netflix.
Historical purists, you will be in ecstasies.
Yes, it’s from 1982, but it’s a Masterpiece Theatre production from the BBC; the costumes are drop-dead gorgeous, the historical setting is so real, and the dialogue is excellent, especially the heart-wrenching arguments between the publicly celebrated but privately tormented war-hero Nelson and his wronged wife.
“Emma Hart (maiden name) in a Straw Hat” by George Romney
What plain, dutiful woman can compete with the likes ofthe ravishing and flamboyant Emma Hamilton, after all? It really makes you feel for this poor woman, the cheated-on wife. It’s a very flawed, human angle on the demigod Nelson that you wouldn’t normally think about.
Yes, he saved England by destroying Boney’s navy, but he was also an unrepentenant adulterer who even hints to his distraught wife that maybe they could do an open marriage…? (“Ew.”)
Speaking of flawed, our dear Lord Byron even has a cameo later in the series.
Part 1 opens with the clever device of a festive Pantomime show recapping the major life events of the Hero of the Day ~ and Horatio himself is in attendance, looking like he’s suffering a serious case of PTSD, poor man. This is just all good stuff. But the main reason I wanted to point you toward the miniseries is so you could check out the hustle and bustle of a night at the theatre, particularly the richness of lighting, scenery changes, costuming, voice warmups, and props and actors being hustled about by the director backstage.
Interior of the 2nd Covent Garden Theatre after the fire that destroyed Handel’s organ – not that organ, people, come on!!
Though it’s only a brief portion of Part 1 and hardly consequential to the plot, it is SO entertaining. It makes you feel like you’re really there in 1800 and shows you aspects of Regency life that you’d probably never think about unless you were writing about theatre folk. At least I didn’t think about them, since my opening scenes centered on action happening in the audience, not backstage.
Besides that, the auditorium pictured in the film is nothing so grand as Covent Garden, but nevertheless, it’s jolly good fun, as you can see below.
If you love Regency movies, you should definitely look it up on Netflix and it’s also available on Amazon in DVD or streaming video. I think you’d love it. Somebody put this segment of it up on Youtube, but the sound quality is bad – which is just as well, since the only kind of pirates we like around here are the swashbuckling kind. However, I wanted you to at least get a look at it and see how well worth your time it is. I found it extremely inspiring. Take a peek and make sure to turn up the volume, it’s very quiet ~ and Enjoy!
If they made a stage show based on the events of your life, would it be a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce? What would be the style/model of show you would tell the director to start with? Hmm…I think I might go with Lord of the Rings as the basic model to start for the Tale of Gaelen. Indeed, I have my suspicions that the whole short, jolly, fun-loving but fiesty Foley clan may have some Hobbit blood… What about you??
Dear Ballroomies, All September long, you have come along with us on a whirlwind tour of Choose Your Own Adventure month at the Ballroom. But today, I have designed a special tour for YOU. How well do you know your Ballroom authors? Carissa Portland, the “snoop” heroine of My Scandalous Viscount, is here to make some revelations about each of us. Wherever you see a Link below, it’ll take you to the Bio or revelant page of one of the Ballroom authors. You may get more than you bargained for! Enjoy!
* * * * *
Lady B: Miss Portland! We meet at last. I was so pleased when Gaelen sought an invitation for you to my Ballroom.
Carissa Portland, heroine of My Scandalous Viscount: My lady, it’s truly an honor.
Lady B: Well, as a niece of the Earl of Denbury, I knew you’d be most suitable for our gatherings. But I must confess, the real reason I was excited you were coming is because I hear you have a penchant for gossip to match my own.
Carissa: Gossip, my lady? Me? Never! On the contrary, I am a lady of information.
Lady B: Isn’t that the same thing?
Carissa: Not at all, ma’am. It’s all a matter of intent—what one means to do with the information one learns about others. ‘Gossip’ suggests an undertone of malice, don’t you think? Whereas ‘information’ is simply… well, knowing useful things about others.
Lady B (leaning nearer): Do you know anything useful about anyone here?
Carissa(with a slight gleam in her green eyes): Maybe.
Lady B: Oh, do tell!
Carissa: Well… since you are one of the most esteemed hostesses inLondon, I suppose you have a right to know more about your regular guests.
Lady B: You know something about my authoresses?
Carissa: A bit.
Lady B: Well?? Out with it, you marvelous sly thing!
Carissa: As you wish. (She scans the Ballroom, her painted fan half covering her face. Her gaze lingers on the cluster of authoresses hanging around the ratafia.)
Carissa: I happen to know that Katharine Ashe—
Lord Beauchamp: Hullo, ladies.
Carissa(nearly jumping out of her slippers, for unbeknownst to Lady B, he has discreetly pinched her arse when he sauntered up behind them): Don’t do that!
Lady B(looking like she might swoon): Lord Beauchamp!
Beau, with a bow: So nice to see you again, Heliotrope. You are radiant tonight.
Lady B: So charming!
Carissa:Don’t believe a word he says.
Beau: So what’s going on, then?
Lady B: Miss Portland was just about to share a few on-dits about my authoresses.
Beau: Really? (With a mocking twinkle in his sky-blue eyes.) Do tell.
Lady B: You were about to say something about Katharine Ashe? She’s right over there, my lord. (She nods toward Miss Ashe, who is beaming as certain readers say how much they enjoyed the book party for her new release.)
Beau: Ah, yes, isn’t she the lady with the smart crimson spectacles? Fetching creature…
Carissa smacks him. Must you ogle every female you see?
Beau, innocently: Who, me?
Carissa (slightly jealous): As I was saying, it might interest you to know that a major revelation has been made about Miss Ashe. It was even in the papers!
Lady B: Really? Nothing too scandalous, I hope!
Carissa (whispering): She leads a double life. It’s true.
Beau: Well, well, double life… a lady after my own heart.
Carissa: If you think that’s big, you should hear what I found out about Sarah MacLean.
Lady B’s eyes grow round. Don’t torment me!
Beau: You mean the fact that her mother was a spy for MI6?
Carissa gasps and turns to him. You know?
Beau: Of course. I read her dossier. We always know our own.
Lady B: What are you talking about?
Beau: She was stationed inParis for MI6 during the 60’s. I always knew that Sarah MacLean was good people… and must admit I’ve always had a weakness for redheads.
Red-haired Carissa gives him a reluctant smile at his pointed compliment, but at the same time, is beginning to see the difficulty in being courted by a spy.
While wondering how poor Lady Sarah ever got away with anything as a youngster, having a mother for a spy, she is unsure if she, in turn, will still be able to follow her various whims and impulses if her ongoing love/hate flirtation with Viscount Beauchamp becomes more serious.
And I’m rather sure it will. (You can read Chapter One of their story at www.gaelenfoley.com if you like!)
Lady B: It’s all too delicious! Come, what else do you know about our friends?
Carissa looks around discreetly: Well, Sabrina Darby started writing her first romance novel the day after her wedding.
Beau: Blazes! Really? Why, I don’t think even I ever inspired a women to write a whole novel after a night together, maybe a sonnet…
Lady B: Perhaps, knowledgeable as you are, Miss Portland, you could explain to me what the Californian contingent of authoresses (Sabrina, Tessa, and Kate N.) mean by a particular word they often utter. I believe it’s pronounced, “Dude.”
Lady B: More like, “duuuuude.” Is it French?
Beau: I hardly think so. And, er, pardon, but what is this California of which you speak?
Lady B: I’m not entirely sure. Some region of the American wilderness, I daresay. A strange, dry country where the earth quakes, but somehow our brave Sabrina Darby, Kate Noble and Tessa Dare have all managed to settle there.
Carissa: I hear it’s also the place where they make “movies,” which explains why Tessa Dare is not only a writer, but an up-and-coming “movie director.” Her films are not to be missed. (Click here to watch one of Tessa’s blockbusters. Seriously.) For what it’s worth, I also have reason to believe that Kate Noble’s favorite movie is a famous story of a horrible marauding shark called Jaws.
Lady B: That’s it! Just like that. Miss Portland, do you have any more tidbits on our friends?
Beau: Don’t encourage her, my lady. Carissa, why are you gossiping again?
Carissa: It’s not gossip! It’s just information.
Beau arches a brow, and once more, considers training her for a spy. Very well, my dear, what else have you got, then?
Carissa: Don’t look now, but that lady over there, in the fascinator?
Beau: Yes, nice hat. I love a lady who knows how to wear a hat.
Lady B: What? A lady at Oxford? I never heard of such a thing!
Carissa: I know, it’s very shocking. And by the way, she always gets lost because she spent every Geography class secretly reading romance novels instead of paying attention to her teacher. But if you think that’s surprising, consider this. That mild-mannered gentlewoman standing next to her—
Beau (giving our friend a smoldering once-over): Lauren Willig? Lovely…
Lady B smacks him with her fan. You’re as bad as Monty! Hush, now, you rake! Let her talk!
Beau: I can’t help it. I love women. All these blondes…
And we love our blond boys, too. Here’s a couple of possible Beau’s for your consideration and viewing pleasure…
Carissa: Perhaps it’s better if I don’t go into it—
Carissa: I see, so that’s the game you’re playing? (turning to me.) You go telling our private story about Beau and me to the whole world, and we’re not supposed to say a peep about you? That is hardly fair!
Lady B (perking up): What’s this?
Carissa: Well, one time, while she was writing our book, she came to a part where she sat in front of her computer crying like a baby—
Gaelen: That will do! Carissa, you are one of my favorite heroines, but you’d better watch your step. Don’t forget, I still control the Delete key.
Carissa: You wouldn’t!
Gaelen: Try me.
Beau: I see where I get my ruthlessness from. Delete key, indeed. Come along, darling. (Taking Carissa’s hand and tucking it through the crook of his elbow) You have worked your mischief quite enough for now. Besides, I have something better for your lips to do other than repeating gossip.
Carissa: It’s not gossip. How many times do I have to explain that?!
* * * * *
Well, Ballroom friends, I hope you’ve learned something you didn’t know before about your humble authoresses. It’s all true!
And to celebrate the release of Beau and Carissa’s story, MY SCANDALOUS VISCOUNT (on sale this week!) I’m giving away a signed (but not tearstained) copy of the book by random drawing to anyone who can tell us a good piece of funny/interesting/little known gossip—I mean “Information”—that we ought to know about YOU. *g* Don’t worry, nothing too incriminating. We just want to get to know everyone better! Thanks for being with us today. xo, Gaelen
White seems to be the color of the sennight. First snow and ghosts and bed sheets and togas, and now this. For — as I lean my aching head upon my palm and stroke Monty’s brow with my other hand (he has a wretched megrim, and who am I to deny comfort to a suffering lord? Hm?) while we all nurse the worst sort of post-toga party hangovers — I notice that the carriage is now winding its way between fabulously steep hills of verdant green speckled with sheep.
It’s raining — buckets. Here and there heavy grey clouds give way to taupe mists, but mostly the rain is pouring down. The sheep don’t seem to mind it, but honestly it’s a mess of a day weatherwise and . . . awfully familiar.
Wait. Can we . . . ? Is it possible that we’ve . . . ? Have we somehow driven into Wales?
Wales! My favorite place in the world!!
I shove Monty’s battered head aside (he got into trouble when the highwayman claimed that since he won the game of quarters we were playing with shots of Irish whiskey, he could choose whichever one of us he wished to carry away into the night, for which we all professed our undying gratitude to Monty while gnashing our teeth and rending our garments, figuratively speaking). I leap up from the recliner squabs and energetically rap on the coach’s ceiling.
“What on earth are you doing, Miss Ashe?” Lady B studies me through her lorgnette. The others are all asleep or in various stages of head-holding misery, except Miranda who apparently responded better to whiskey shots than the rest of us.
“Rapping on the coach ceiling so I can ask the coachman where we are.” Duh.
“You might ask me instead.”
“Oh. Well, I’ve seen loads of heroes do it in movies and I wanted to try it. So are we in Wales?”
(I hear “Home, home on the range!” warbled from the opposite seat. Perhaps Miranda wasn’t as tolerant of the whiskey as I thought.)
“We are,” Lady B confirms.
“We are! We are!” I rap harder on the ceiling. “We’ve got to stop!”
“Miss Ashe, control yourself.”
The coach is drawing to a halt and I open the door and throw down the steps before it even stops. The others are all gaping at me from inside (although in Monty’s case it might just be his split lip that’s giving him the appearance of gaping), but I don’t care. I’m here! In Wales!
I run out onto the muddy road and through a knee-high thatch of grass to the nearest stone fence. It stretches acres up a steep, emerald hill into the clouds.
“Um, Katharine?” Gaelen pokes her head out of the carriage. “Would you like an umbrella?”
“No, I’m fine!” Better than fine. I’m already soaked to the skin and my ankles are three inches deep in mud and I’ll never get the sheep poop out of the hem of my favorite rose-colored muslin, but I don’t care. I am in Wales again, the place I fell in love with three years ago and that inspired me to write How a Lady Weds a Rogue. Of the occasions I’ve been deliriously happy in my life, I count the two trips I’ve taken to Wales among the top.
Path from a little stone church down to the Wye
On my first journey there in 2009 my sister and I explored the north-western coast. A magical place of salty ocean breezes and towering medieval castles, of hidden moss-covered groves and picturesque villages, Gwynedd was heaven. I dreamed of writing a book set in the misty ruins of a castle there, and so I did. (In fact, more info to come on that book in a few weeks!)
But after that trip I wasn’t by any means finished with Wales. I longed to explore the south as well, to wend my way through the mountains and to travel the course of the River Wye, the most fashionable scenic jaunt for ladies and gentlemen taking a holiday from London in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In fact I sometimes wonder why there aren’t more Regencies featuring jaunts off to the pretty Wye — flanked by the austere ruins of medieval abbeys and intensely gorgeous green hills — when there are plenty of books set in Bath and Brighton. It’s a truly romantic setting.
The grand ruins of Tintern Abbey on the banks of the Wye River
But I’m a big hypocrite because my hero and heroine don’t travel the Wye River either. Their journey winds farther north, through the hills of Powys along the borders of Shropshire and Herefordshire, nearly all the way to Monmouthshire at the feet of the gloriously old and dark Brecon Beacons. It was there that I saw my first Mail Coach schedule affixed to a pub wall, giving me the idea for Diantha’s attempted escape in the middle of the night that lands her in a dark stable with an equally dark man. And it was there that I discovered a narrow valley so green and lush, so peaceful with its grazing sheep and fields of yellow wildflowers, that I–
I drag my attention away from the rain drenched hills. “Huh?”
Sabrina’s standing on the road next to the carriage, Lauren is descending the steps, umbrella in hand, and Kate’s head is now in the carriage doorway.
“Do you hear a strange noise?” Sabrina asks. “Like singing, maybe? Or chanting?”
I cock my ear into the downpour and then I hear it too. Rough male voices singing . . . ”Turkish Revelry”??? Naahh.
Then I hear it again.
. . . sailed upon the lonely, lonesome waters. Yes, he sailed upon the lonesome sea . . .
Let me be your pirate.
And I remember. It’s not yet September 25 and Diantha and Wyn aren’t yet technically on the road in Wales in this downpour. In fact it’s still Choose Your Own Adventure month at The Ballrom and on Thursday our readers chose . . . PIRATES!
“Everybody back in the carriage!” I shout, bounding toward them. “Now!”
It doesn’t make any sense, I know. Pirates don’t belong on the road in the middle of Wales (or really anywhere else on this journey). But if there’s one thing I know after writing four — count them, four — seafaring heroes, it’s that pirates in Regency historical romances never, ever do what you expect.
“What’s going on?” Sarah rubs the hangover out of her eyes.
“Pirates,” I mumble. “Of course.”
“I’ll thrash the blackguards!” Monty springs up. It takes four of us to push him back onto his seat.
I pound on the carriage ceiling. ”Go, please! Fast!”
The coachman is as good as guineas and the carriage jolts into action, throwing us all into a sorry heap.
“Monty, get your boot out of my underarm,” someone mutters as I untangle my limbs and skirts from authoresses and Lady B’s ostrich feathers. But we’re flying along the rainswept road already and I breathe a sigh of relief. I would have liked to hang around long enough to catch a glimpse of Diantha riding Wyn’s beautiful black thoroughbred, Wyn walking alongside, leading her through the downpour, through his homeland, taking her hand to hold when she offers it to him and . . .
But I’ll have to wait a few weeks for that, two weeks and a bit, during which anything, anything could happen on this wild trip back to London.
Where is your heaven-on-earth? What is the place you’ve been in the whole world that made you the happiest?
I’m sitting comfortably at a gilt-trimmed writing table set close to a window in my lovely little bedchamber in Lord and Lady B’s house in the country. I have my laptop before me and I’m writing very happily. Days like this, quiet, peaceful days spent only writing are few and far between and I’m pretty much in heaven.
The window overlooks a corner of the gardens as well as a marvelous stretch of green lawn where Monty, Tessa and Lauren seem to have struck up what looks like a triangular tennis game, sans net. They’re laughing a lot, especially Monty in that wonderfully vigorous manner of his, and occasionally my attention strays. Lauren lobs a nice one way over Monty’s head and crows in triumph, so I’ve got to assume it landed within the invisible bounds. I lean forward to push open the window and call out “Woot woot!”
That’s when I see it.
My heartbeat does an awful stumble and adrenaline kicks into my bloodstream.
The dog is sitting on the lawn not far from the game, but it’s not watching Lord Montague and my sister authoresses. It’s watching me. Like it’s been waiting there for me to notice it.
Which it has, of course.
My stomach goes zingy. I know why this dog is here.
A good dog always knows a good man.
And I am abruptly thrown into panic.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore dogs. Really a lot. And I adore this one especially a lot. He’s scruffy, no particular color to speak of, and limps along on three legs. But he has the wisest, kindest black eyes of any creature alive and he knows a good man when he meets one. (A very, very good man, in this case, even though that man has no idea he’s good.)
There’s only one reason this dog could possibly be here staring up at my window.
No. It’s too soon! We’ve only been here a month or so, haven’t we?
I click the date icon on my laptop. Holy cow! It’s September 3 already? How did that happen? Where did our lovely post-season sojourn in the country go?
But that’s not important, because now we’ve got to get back to town!
I snap shut my laptop, stuff it into my briefcase, and leap out of the chair. Dashing to the garderobe while grabbing my suitcase from a corner I shout out my open door.
“Sarah! Holy cow, holy cow, holy cow.” I stuff gowns and pelisses and intimate what-have-you’s into my bag. “Where is she? Her room’s just down the hall. Where is she?” I slam the suitcase closed. “Holycowholycowholycow. Saaarrrrraaaaahhhhhhh!!!”
“What?!” Sarah swings into the doorway, eyes wide. “Is the house on fire?!”
“No! Where’s Lady B?”
“Last I saw her she was scolding Monty about painting moustaches on that Gainsborough portrait of him as a child. But actually I think it may have been Miranda who did that. The moustaches had a German flair and—”
“Never mind! I’ll find her!” I shove the suitcase at her. “Can you please oh pretty please tell the coachman to get the traveling chaise ready and Lady B’s maid to pack her necessary things. I’ve got to get her back to town. Now!”
“What? Yes, but Kath—”
But I’m gone, racing down the hall, snatching open doors, swiftly scanning each room as I run. The library door is already open and I catch the Moustache Bandit deep in a comfy chair with her nose in a book.
“Miranda, have you seen Lady B?”
“Not since breakfast. She was feeding Albert steak and kippers from her own plate and I nearly had to leave the—”
Her words fade behind me as I rush along yet another corridor. This house is enormous. I’ll never find her!
I try more rooms. No Lady B! One door handle won’t budge. I try again but it’s locked fast. From behind it I hear muffled laughter and rustling and quite possibly the squeak of a bedframe. Aha! The newlyweds.
Felicitations to Kate on her recent nuptials!
“Kate!” I shout indelicately through the panel. “Have you seen Lady B?” But all I get in response is more muffled sounds. So I head off up the corridor anew. I’m pretty sure Kate and her new hubby haven’t seen anybody for days anyway.
I’m nearly out of rooms, though, and still no sign of Lady B! Rushing down I bump headlong into Sabrina at the foot of the stairs.
“Whoa. What’s the rush, Katharine?”
“I’ve got to find Lady B! Have you seen her?”
“Earlier this morning. She was heading outside with a basket, a pair of clipping sheers and a fabulously broad-brimmed straw hat. Who would have taken her for a lady gardener?”
“Thanks!” I turn away.
“By the way, I don’t suppose you know if the housekeeper might have some nifty trick for removing oil paint from muslin, do you?” She’s dabbing at a streak of brownish-black paint on her skirt and she’s got this thoroughly innocent I-haven’t-an-idea-as-to-how-paint-the-color-of-Monty’s-whiskers-got-on-my-skirt look in her eyes and I’m now thinking Miranda is totally innocent. Wait. I thought Sabrina was an art lover? But there’s no time for aesthetic ponderings now.
“Sorry, no. Gotta go!” I run out into the garden. Across the lawn Lauren seems to be chasing Monty with her tennis racket in circles around Tessa. I imagine the game is over?
I pick up speed on the path to the flower garden, wishing I were wearing my running shoes instead of these silly slippers (however totally pretty they are: yellow silk with red embroidered roses over the toes), and see Galen on the path to the right that leads off into the woods. She seems so peaceful as she strolls along, I hate to bother her.
“Gaelen!!! Have you seen Lady B out here?”
She looks at me like I’m crazy. I probably am, at least compared to Zen Master Foley. She points and I blow her a kiss then turn in that direction, swearing I’ll take up yoga or something meditational again. Just as soon as I—
There she is! A pretty little pathway lined with rose bushes stretches toward the lake and Lady B, gowned in the most wonderful concoction of lime and violet, is wearing peacock colored gardening gloves and clipping fall-blooming roses. A footman beside her is holding a flat basket and she’s layering the stems on it.
I hurl myself toward her and run into a bush.
“Miss Ashe, do show respect. Lord B’s great-grandmama planted these roses.”
“Oh, gosh. I’m sorry!” I pick a thorn out of my hip. “But, I’ve been looking all over for you. I didn’t realize it was today until a few minutes ago but now I’ve packed and Sarah’s called the carriage for us and—” I’m breathless and actually a little giddy now that I’ve found her. “That is— It’s September!”
Lady B’s gimlet eye studies me. “I daresay.”
“But you see we must get back to town! Without delay! Today!”
“Today, as you may witness, Miss Ashe, I am gardening.”
“I can see that!” I add in a mumble, “And frankly it comes as a bit of a surprise . . .”
I catch the footman grinning. Despite my panic I return his grin. Then I look at him a bit more closely. Good heavens, he’s handsome! Black-haired and dark-eyed with a sort of foreign, Mediterranean look about his really, really nice mouth and . . .
Wait. Just. One. Minute. This footman is way too familiar. But it can’t possibly be him. I mean, I haven’t even started writing his book. He can’t just—
I snap my attention back to the present and to another handsome, black-haired hero (who would, however, never disguise himself as a footman) and his book that comes out in three weeks which is why I’m here right now. Not nearly enough time! Ack!
“Listen, Lady B, you’ve got to get back to town now.” I quaver a bit beneath her stare. “Okay, at latest by the end of the week. We’ve got to write invitations and get everything ready, I tell you! It’s got to be a magnificent event. The event of the month, in fact!”
“My dear gel, do consider your delicate constitution.”
Delicate? I nearly snort. But Lady B folds her hands atop each other in an attitude of gentle patience now that I can’t help but appreciate at this moment. I was already panicking, and it isn’t every day I see a hero I haven’t even started writing yet disguised as a footman in Lady B’s garden. But Lady B really is a kind-hearted person, which is why I did the thing I did in How a Lady Weds a Roguethat has me panicking right now.
I take a deep breath. “We really haven’t much time, my lady.”
“We haven’t time for what, Miss Ashe?”
“To plan a ball. A very particular ball.”
“Dear gel, no one will be in town now to attend a ball. The idea is preposterous.”
“I know! The ball actually happens later in the fall when I assure you everybody’s in town, especially this year. But the book in which the ball happens comes out in three weeks and we’ve got to have a ball that day.”
She waves dismissively. “You authoresses and your insatiable need to celebrate book releases!” She sets her clippers to the stem of a giant pink rose.
Clearly she doesn’t understand. But she must hold that ball so it can happen in my book! It’s crucial. Why, without that ball, Diantha will think that Wyn— Oh! It’s too awful to even imagine!
How on earth am I going to get Lady B to rush to town now in time to throw a ball in three weeks? I’ll try anything you can think of!
Though it is the middle of a warm August afternoon, I have dragged Lady B. out for a constitutional…
Photo by Roz Sheffield
She is not altogether sure what’s going on, and frankly it’s a wonder that she trusts me after my last date as Ballroom hostess – Villains Day, you might recall.But she is well recovered from all that and since she has several hours before she must welcome the evening’s guests, she is intrigued by the ritual of a writer’s walk. I’ve agreed to take her along.
Lady B: So this is what you romantic, artsy types get up to in the middle of the afternoon, then, is it?
It is, say I.
We look the part. Regency ladies out for a stroll. Wide-brimmed straw bonnets. Printed muslin downs in pastel colors. (How did Regency people stay cool, anyway? Painted fans, linen underclothes, and drinks like Barley Water…read on for the recipe.)
All I know is that I am determined to enjoy every last drop of summer while it lasts. The slower pace of life. The tranquility of an afternoon in the shady green woods. It’s refreshing to the spirit, rejuvenating to the soul. It also happens to be wonderful for the creative faculties of the mind.
Lady B: How fortunate that writers can legitimately count relaxation among their daily duties. It’s almost as good as being the daughter of a duke.
It does help make up for all the years of rejection, I admit. *g*
But it’s true. This idle walking…or some other languid practice that my colleagues find useful (jogging, crafting, shopping?) is as important to the art as the historical research, the plotting, the revision.
Writers do have a grand tradition of taking walks, from the Bronte sisters striding across the windy moors, to Thoreau (or was it Emerson?) making his in-depth study of ant colonies at war.
There is a secret in it, I wager, though I’ll be dashed if I know what it is.
Photo By Brenda Starr
Perhaps it’s simply the sheer, decadent luxury of thinking of nothing at all—such bliss for the modern mind, especially the overactive imagination, the questing, ever-puzzling, insomniac, writer’s mind. Maybe no one knows exactly how it works, but watching the sky, smelling the scent of rich turf and the spring water, hearing the babbling brook and the birds—being wholly in the present moment—seems to be the best refreshment for that place inside of a writer that the story comes from.
For me, this is my renewal. I savor the restfulness, the stillness.
The gravel of the easy path crunches under my feet, as I escape the beating sun in the coolness and languor of thick woods. A hundred shades of green fill my eyes, countless textures. Birds twitter, unseen amid the branches.
A hawk soars against the clouds shapes glimpsed amid in the trees. I note the shelf moss growing off the sides of their weathered trunks here and there and half expect see a fairy standing atop one of these little horizontal outposts, midway down a towering poplar or an elm.
At my feet, meanwhile, a beetle trundles across the path ahead, steady and direct, carrying its shiny black shell. On both sides, the way is starred with tiny purple tiny flowers on tall stalks. Yellow bursts of tiny trumpets.
Photo credit Nancy Frost
A bee inspects a ragged white daisy with a yellow center. I go in search of some comfortable, unexpected garden seat, a mossy boulder near the babbling brook, or the crook of a big old tree-trunk where I could wedge myself and find a place to write, or read, or journal, or dream.
It’s more than picturesque. The peacefulness of this setting seeps into me, becomes me, and I do my best to pass it onto you. The lulling drone of crickets rises and falls on the heavy, humid air.
Butterflies in resplendent colors go crashing past, impossible creatures weaving feckless paths. The dragonfly zooms by much more purposefully and hovers, gone again in the blink of an eye, a whirring flash of blue. Here and there, a pale moth waits for evening.
Crunch, crunch, go my steps. I focus on the steady sound as my thoughts fade.
Then I notice the curious, smooth, brown dome of a beehive hung up high in the branches of a crabapple tree. Almost like parchment paper, wrapped and wrapped, desiccated. The ground at the feet of the tree is littered with hard, green fruit too sour for anyone but squirrels. Down the path fifty yards ahead, a deer glides by silently on long-legged steps, delicate as a whisper, it’s tapered ears twitching off flies. Its dappled hide helps it melt into the shadows and it’s gone.
There’s a rabbit that doesn’t bother running from me as it busily chews a blade of grass. Oddly, I take that as a compliment: I’m no threat.
I idle my way over a footbridge, the stream below strewn with gray rocks cloaked in luxurious green moss. Pussy willows cluster at the banks; water bugs skate across the surface. The gurgling stream is too inviting. I walk down to trail my fingers in the current, then all the more enchanted, step out of my flip-flops and kick up a small splash with my toes.
Photo by Fontplaydotcom
I take a deep, slow breath, reveling in the sense of well being. Wholeness. Then suddenly a snippet of dialogue unfurls across my mind like a banner. Plain as day it’s written. What my hero really feels, the thing he needs to say. It fills the hole in my tapestry where I didn’t even know something was still missing.
Where did that come from? Not from me. I was too busy over-thinking it. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your own way. It’s times like these when you need to take a walk. Then these little puzzles have a way of simply solving themselves.
Thanks for coming along on our walk. But I don’t imagine these kinds of experiences belong only to writers. Where do you go, what do you do when you need to clear your head? What helps? We’re taking suggestions to expand our own repertoire. Thanks for joining us today. Here, have a glass of chilled Barley Water, and here’s the recipe while we’re at it!
Barley Water, the Regency answer to lemonade, from REGENCY RECIPES by Marie-Pierre Moine and Antonia Williams, Arundel Press, 1995.
MAKE 2 PINTS
Juice and grated zest of two juicy unwaxed lemons
4 oz. pearl barley
2 oz. sugar
Bring to the boil two pints of water with the grated zest of lemons. Add the barley, sugar, and lemon juice and return to the boil. Reduce the heat a little and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Take off the heat, leave until cold, then strain through a muslin-lined sieve. Chill until needed and drink very cold.
(Note: Cheesecloth or even a sturdy coffee filter might suffice if you don’t have a muslin sieve.) I’m going to try this! Let me know if you do, too, and what you think of it!