Looking at the Stars

This morning when I took Jake out at five am, the Southern sky was ablaze with stars. We don’t often see them here in the city because of cloud cover caused by high humidity and because of “light pollution.”  But this morning they were bright and clear and seemed so much closer to Earth than usual. I was reminded of that old quote from Oscar WIlde: “We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Mr. Wilde was well known for his excesses and this quote probably referred to being falling-down drunk, but taken in a larger context, it reminds me that almost everybody is struggling against hopelessness, fear, and worry. This is certainly the case among many writers I know. Hundreds of venerable magazines have shuttered their offices and turned fine writers onto the street. Publishing houses are trimming their lists and dropping great writers whose books have not made sales projections. It’s a rough time to be a writer.

Sum_Pleiades_Dec_2007_4_x_10_mins_each_2x2_RGB_ps_1_lowBut some people refuse to be beaten down by circumstances, and instead, are looking up at the stars, intent upon reaching a better future and the promise of happier days.Some authors have retreated from the stresses of traditional publishing to strike out on their own. A few are succeeding as self-publishing entrepreneurs, most are not. At least not yet. But dreams and goals are important. They give us a reason to wake up in the morning.

Whatever circumstances are discouraging you today, whatever burden seems too heavy to bear, I hope you will find encouragement in Mr. Wilde’s words, and that you will keep hoping and planning, and keep looking up at the stars.

Have Some Cake

Last week the dear husband and I went to east Texas to see my mom. It happened to be his birthday and she baked his favorite cake, a mandarin orange confection that’s light and sweet with just the right balance of tang from oranges and pineapple. It’s quick and easy and as we all get busier in the fall and there is less time to cook,  I thought you might like the recipe. Here goes:

Mom's mandarin orange cake

Mom’s mandarin orange cake

Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Preheat oven to 325.

Combine 1 box of yellow cake mix ( Mom uses Duncan Hines Butter recipe) with 1/4 cup oil, 1 medium can of mandarin oranges, juice and all, 3 eggs and one tsp vanilla. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or till the cake tests done.  COOL COMPLETELY before frosting.

For the frosting: Combine 1 medium carton of Cool Whip with 1 med can of crushed pineapple, juice and all, 1 package of vanilla pudding mix, and 1 tsp vanilla.OPTIONAL: another can of mandarin orange segments for garnish.

Frost the cake and decorate with additional orange segments if desired.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Enjoy.

Meet India Hartley

Last week, I shared my vision of my next hero, Philip SInclair. Today it’s his leading lady’s turn. My fictional character  India Hartley is based on Frances Ann “Fanny” Kemble– a real life  19th century stage actress who married a Georgia plantation owner in the 1830′s. Fanny was described as beautiful, talented and so popular that students at Harvard cut classes to attend her performances at theaters in Boston.

MV5BNzgwMDk1NTUxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTQxODY4Mg@@._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_AL_Theater life back then was a hard life marked by uncomfortable travel, bad food, unscrupulous managers and other hardships. I needed a heroine who was not only beautiful and talented but smart and tenacious, too. When I saw this photo of Willa Holland, formerly the most popular child model in the US, she looked very much as I imagined India as I was writing her story.

I hope you will look for India and Philip next year. For now, I’m gearing up for the release of A PROPER MARRIAGE next Tuesday, and for THE BRACELET in November. Exciting times ahead. I feel  lucky to be able to work at what I love–bringing the past to life through stories filled with history, mystery, and romance.

The Face of a Hero

I’ve been AWOL from this blog lately, thanks to multiple deadlines and an ongoing bout with a bad knee, but today I completed work on my novel for  2015 and finally have a day off. Not that the manuscript is ready to turn in–far from it. There are rewrites a-plenty that must be finished before November 1st, but it’s always a great feeling when the whole story is down on paper, and saved to the flash drive.

orlandobloom300Many of my colleagues choose a photo of their heroes to guide their writing, but I work in the opposite way. I begin with a general idea of my hero–age, profession, etc, but I like to get to know who he is before I lock myself in to his physical description.By the time I finish the story he has revealed more of himself to me.

For this new as yet untitled novel, the hero is a Savannah,  Georgia lawyer who defends my heroine on a murder charge. He owns a failing plantation on St Simon’s Island, and is attempting to revive the island by attracting a group of investors to build a resort there. But he’s hiding a tragic secret that comes to light as he defends my heroine. After spending almost a year researching and writing the story, I decided that this shot of  actor Orlando Bloom captured the essence of my fictional  19th century lawyer Philip Sinclair. Next week I’ll share a photo of my heroine.

Till then, happy reading!