Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Way Home...

Looking for the way home
after you have been a Traveler isn't easy
outside of events,
how smoke and dreams
your pursuit of a Walt Disney life seems


Maybe the Past stands alone...

"Many dreams I have dreamed
That are all now gone.
The world, mirrored in a dark pool,
How unearthly it shone!"

And now home is a wishing gate
winding its magic around our heart
with hope and memories
we never stray far from
an image of our fate..

Ref: Binyon, The Way Home Para. 1      
Image: English Home

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Search of Beauty...

"Of blest and unblest?"

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow             sharper.        
W.B. Yeats.            


Look upward..

Beauty can be a quiet meditation.


It can lie in the stillness

of our heart.


"I wouldn’t follow my wildest dreams,
but I couldn’t say the misuse was improbable.
To the next phase in my elegant maneuver."


"What are those of the known but to ascend and enter the unknown?" 

It can lie in the words we arrange for ourselves...

In the things we wonder about.

our dreams...

Are these not like Portals?

"The shadows of us fall away,
 Opening portals within ourselves,
 The joy of us, the song,
 Fills us together."

References for Poems..

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Guss E.
John Ashbery
Rachael Burch

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Salute to Film Noir.

"You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow."
 From: "To Have And Have Not."

With the recent death of Lauren Bacall,  the last of the real Stars of Film Noir, for me are gone.
If you  ever saw her in "The Big Sleep" or "Key Largo,"she epitomized the best of the Women of that  genre. With her sexy, throaty, hard as nails, approach to  men and life, she gave as good as she got.  Her femme fatalle character, left, nail marks on Humphrey Bogart, and their lines made cinematic history.

Ballin Mundson: Look your best, my beautiful. This will be the casino's first glimpse of you.
[He kisses her]
Gilda: I'll look my very best, Ballin.
[Looks at Johnny]
Gilda: I want all the hired help to approve of me. Glad to have met you, Mr. Farrell.
Ballin Mundson: His name is Johnny, Gilda.
Gilda: Oh, I'm sorry. Johnny is such a hard name to remember and so easy to forget.
[In a breathy voice]
Gilda: Johnny. There. See you later, Mr. Farrell.                                               

Film Noir means literally (the black film). It was developed during and after the World War II years. American Movies, such as Phantom Lady, Laura, or the Blue Dahlia,, offset the genial musicals and happy endings of films, like Pin Up, with Betty Grable or Moon over Miami, with Alice Faye.  They were the yin and yang for theater goers.  The War years fueled Noir with it's tense, anxious, plots, filled with suspicion and too often unhappy endings.

The films built by dark tone and mood. The men were hard boiled, cynical and disillusioned. They encountered a beautiful,double-dealing, seductive, Woman either before a murder or right after. Look at the character, Johnny, played by Glenn Ford. This is a scene between him and Rita  Hayworth in Gilda with its typical hard edged lines. (above)

Walter Neff: "Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?"

The Plots were complex with undertones and flash backs. The witty, acerbic dialogue, and characters move it  forward. The Movie often unfolds in a maze, with a brooding disillusioned ending. Double Indemnity starring Fred MacMurray (above) is worth taking time to enjoy- for example.

I don't know what enthralls us about these wonderful, timely, Movies. I can only say People like myself love them. I am not alone- there are plenty of Collectors. Maybe it's the combination of clothes and hard-boiled Men and Dames.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I received an invitation to join the Blog hop from Rebeca Schiller. She and I met on the Writer Unboxed Facebook group. We share a love of writing and of politics.

I've recently gone back to blogging. I thought it would be fun to write about slices of history.With an M.A. in the subject it's hard for me not to still have an avid interest, but when I started writing the creative side of me craved fiction- not just any fiction, but mystery and set in quaint little towns with an amateur sleuth. I hope you know where I am going with this, because it surprised me as much as anybody. I thought I would write great tomes of history.

What am I currently working on?
I am writing a mystery series set in a southern town during the years prior to World War II and continuing through 1945.
I had always been fascinated with the year 1939, so it seemed a good start. My heroine who is a nervous, good- hearted soul, seems the last person to solve murders. In fact they had to be forced on her. All Clemmie wants is to find room and board without holding out a can for donations. What she ends up with is a body.

Another major character is an old boyfriend she refused to marry. Charlie is the Sheriff in the small town of Tuscumbia. He is an unmarried, older man dealing with a old maid sleuth. Still nothing deters him.  He is determined to find a killer so he enters the world of Pentecostal religion.

A cast of smaller characters.

I sing opera.

Her alcoholic Landlady who was a traveler and a great beauty in the Belle Epoque days of Paris. She is forever singing opera. But  a fierce champion of freedom she reminds her Neighbors women wore no underclothing in the 1920's not just today.

I sing opera too.

Her Parrot who loves dogs.


Why do I write what I write?

I enjoy mystery, sleuths that come in and solve things all while baking apple pie. Not that my Sleuth does very well at that art. She does however excel at reading people. I love humor within the page and I like to eat while I read so I abhor too much gore. But writing in this era also gives me the chance to research 1939 and the World War II Era as the series progresses. I like the social movement, the clothes, the hair, the movies what don't I like? Even though historically it was a hard decade with lots of rationing and anxiety about War.

How does my individual writing process work?

I sit down and write. I simply begin with a what if? Then I let my  main character do a lot of the work. She is in the middle of  finding a body. What would her reaction be? I ask a lot of questions while I am letting the words flow. I should point out the words don't always come easy and some days I know they are rubbish. Pure junk.   I really can't seem to do it any other way because I have a hard time writing and sticking to outlines. So I let the WIP flow until about page 100. At that point I usually need to sit down and see how this will wrap up. It's not perfect and the first draft will certainly need editing. But it seems to be the way I work best.

Thanks to Rebeca Schiller for tagging me. You can reach her here.


I now tag:
Maggie Secara Author

Twitter: @MaggiRos)

Monday, July 28, 2014

The blue doors of Paris..

Doors are a portal to our dreams.
If only knew what was on the other side...we think.

But this blue I’m compelled to glorify—
it’s not robin’s egg, navy, or indigo;
it’s a shade that should be named “devastation blue,”
the excruciating, lacerative blue of today’s sky
whose incandescence suggests
that its nearest blood kin is neither
violet nor emerald,
but gold—this blue must be
gold’s daughter,
the flame inside the flood,
the flood inside the wind,
the wind inside the flame.

Open wide the blue door in front of me
That portal to the sea and to the mountains beyond
On terraces carved from the salt kissed air
Where I will sit until the sun gives birth to the stars
I gather up my papers
Tussled by the evening breeze
The ink dries quickly
And my songs rest quietly upon the page
My friends and I we chat until it is a bit to cold for comfort

Maybe they are a source
   of creativity.


    But how will
    we ever know

    unless we have
    the courage to
    open them? 

References "Another Poem on Blue" Weekly Hubris and
"The Blue Door (A Poem)

Saturday, July 12, 2014


We have created Art around them celebrating their grace. We have written poetry...listen to the words of William Butler Yeats from the Wild Swans at Coole.... 

 'The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,                               
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
 The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?"





We have celebrated Kings feeding them.

RENAISSANCE TAPESTRY 15TH CENTURY The Lohengrin legend. Young Duke Elias, Charles the Bold of Burgundy, feeding the swans. From Flanders.










 We have given them a wild mysticism.

References: William Morris at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Wawel Castle Cracow Poland. Leda and the Swan Flemish medieval tapestry unkown source.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Robe à la française..


During the middle of the eighteenth century, a style became popular in France and adopted by the fashion conscious elite. It became known as the robe à la française in France, the mantua in England. According to Madeline Delpierre, that was due to a French engraver by the name of Hubert Gravelot. He had returned from England after twenty years to France and published a series of fashion plates that aided the popularity of the style.

It became very fashionable particularly at Court. The gown had a panel in the middle of the back that went from neck to hem in one piece. The panel had pleats at the top and waist which flowed freely into the skirt. At the front the skirt was detached to the bodice forming a point slightly below the waist opening to reveal a separate stomacher.

The painted silk gown (above) revealed the presence of a plant gum binder and four colors were used for the palette: red and brown lake, prussian blue and gamboge. These details identify the dress as most likely European. Details given are England, material either Dutch or German.

But what did it look like on...(see left).

Ref. The Fashionable Past: a blog of costume and design.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

                                                  I am enchanted by an Automaton....

David Roentgen (1743--1807) took his royal patron by surprise when he delivered this beautiful automaton to King Louis XVI for his queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1784. The cabinetry for this piece is very much a neoclassical masterwork, and the mechanism behind it is truly extraordinary: the figure strikes the strings in perfect rhythm with two small metal hammers held in her hands, which move with great precision.

This object is from Musée des arts et métiers de Paris....

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Maria Grace has very kindly allowed me to share her wonderful article on Townhouses. I find them fascinating as I hope you do too.

Make Yourself at Home in a Georgian Town House

by Maria Grace

Terrace Homes facing the street in Ashbourn
Terrace houses dominated the London landscape during the Regency. Almost the entire London population, rich and poor alike, lived in a version of the terrace house. The term terrace was borrowed from garden terraces and described streets of houses with uniform fronts  that present a single elevation to the street.

The design of these houses varied little regardless of their location. Though the exterior facades might feature local stone or brick, stucco or fancy ornamentation, the essential structures remained uniform. 

Although primarily designed as residences, Georgian terraces built along main urban thoroughfares often incorporated ground-floor shops with residences in the upper stories.    

History of Terrace Houses

Historic Town home
The Great Fire of London in 1666 brought about the first of a series of Building Acts (1667, 1707, 1709 and 1774). These acts established building requirements intended to reduce the risk of fire spreading. Although they pertained to London architecture specifically, they  influenced building style in many other cities.

The initial 1667 Act required brick or stone to be used for all external and party walls, eliminating the typical timber fronts of the Tudor and early Stuart houses. The 1707 Act eliminated thick timber cornices. The 1709 Act required window frames be set back behind the building line. The 1774 Act required the use of stone or brick, specified street width, the size and layout of the houses, floor to ceiling heights and controlled decoration on facades even more rigidly. It also divided terrace houses into four classes. 

At the bottom of the scale, fourth rate houses, were those built in large numbers by speculative developers from the late eighteenth century in response to industrial development in towns like Liverpool and Manchester. These houses were often built back-to-back in tiny yards pressed behind street frontages, standing in yards and courts, apart from easy street access. They  were worth less than £150 per year in rent and occupied less than 350 square feet of land, often standing only three stories instead of four.

First, Second and Fourth rate Town Homes
In stark contrast, some of the wealthiest people in the country occupied palatial, first rate terraced houses in prestigious locales like Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.

First rate houses faced streets and lanes, were worth over £850 per year in ground rent and occupied over 900 square feet of ground space. Keep in mind, these houses usually had four stories, plus a basement so they were frequently more than 4500 square feet on the inside. 

Second rate houses faced streets, notable lanes, and the River Thames. They were worth between £350 and £850 in ground rent and had an exterior foot print of 500-900 square feet.

Third rate houses faced principal streets, rented for £150-£300 and occupied 350-500 square feet ground space.

Terrace House Design

Floor plan of very large Belgravian town home, from The Gentleman's House.
Whatever the size of the terrace house, the general floor plan was consistent. Each floor would have one room at the back and one at the front with a passage and staircase at one side. The rooms were sometimes divided into smaller units, in some cases separated by folding doors that could create a larger open space when the occasion called for it.This approach to creating larger rooms was shunned in the country where manor houses did not have the same building restrictions, but considered good planning in the city.


All except the poorest houses had basements where most of the service rooms would be located. Primary access to these rooms would be through an open area in front with steps leading down to it. The open area would give light to the kitchen windows and might open onto storage vaults under the pavement. Small wells around the house allowed for windows to light other subterranean rooms including back staircases and household offices.

A warren of offices might be housed in the basement. These rooms might include
  •  the scullery-a small room for washing and storing dishes and kitchen equipment)
  • pantry and larder for food storage
  • butler's pantry and quarters
  • safe, and cleaning-room for the silver
  • housekeeper's-office;
  • still-room for drying and preparing foods and herbs for storage, medicinal formulations, soap, ect
  • servants'-hall where servants might eat and socialize
  • a wine-cellar
  • closet for beer; 
  • laundry and housemaid's-closet for linen storage
  • quarters for housekeeper, cook and possibly men-servants
  • vaults for coals and dust
Even in the largest of houses not all these rooms might be present and if present, they could be very small, packed tightly into the limited basement space.

A lift, also called a dumbwaiter, might be employed to bring food and other items up from the basement to the principle floors of the house. The lift could be located in a back stair well rather than opening directly into a room of the house.

Ground Floor

The best rooms in a townhouse were on the ground and first floor and faced the back of the house, away from the dirt and noise of the street. These included drawing rooms, parlors and dining rooms.

Drawing rooms were a place near the front door for accessibility in greeting visitors. The women of the house and their female guests would also use the drawing room as a place to retreat after dinner, so they would be near the dining room as well. Drawing rooms were often the most elaborately decorated room in the house and usually very feminine in style. 

The more modestly appointed parlor was a private room for the family’s enjoyment.This room might be on either the ground or first floor.

In large houses, the ground floor might also house an entrance hall, cloak-room, storage closet, and library or office. These would be more likely to face the street side of the house since guests would not spend time in those rooms.

The First Floor

The first floor contained large rooms for entertaining. These rooms might be used for card playing, parlor games and dancing. Large or folding doors might connect smaller rooms so that they could be opened to create larger spaces.  Principle bedrooms might also occupy this floor, usually located in the front (street side) of the house. 

Furnishings and other decor on this floor would be the most elaborate and expensive in the house, positioned to impress visitors.

The Second Floor

The more modest second floor featured secondary bedrooms for children, or perhaps a lodgers or guests. The rooms on this floor would be more simply decorated than those on lower floors. Older and perhaps unwanted furniture would often find its way into the upper stories. Bathing rooms, closets and linen storage rooms for both cleaned and soiled lines might also be located on this floor.

The Attic

The rooms on the highest floor were reserved for servants, who often used beds that were let down from the wall like murphy beds. Nursery suites and storage rooms might also be located here. These rooms were cheaply painted and furnished with little or no decoration.


Large town homes could also include outbuildings behind the house. Stables and carriage houses might also feature quarters for coachmen and grooms for the horses.Third and fourth rate terrace homes were unlike to have outbuildings.

Even though there was a great deal of similarity between the terraced homes, the differences were important reflections of the wealth and status of the occupants of these home.


Characteristics of the Georgian Town House
The Ideal House
Kerr, Robert. The Gentleman's House (1871, 3ed.)
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen and Food. Hambledon (1995)
Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. Harry N. Abrams (2002)
London Architecture
Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Phaidon Press Limited (2000)
Sabor, Peter (editor). The Cambridge Edition of the Juvenilia. Cambridge University Press (2006)
Spencer-Churchill, Henrietta. Classic Georgian Style. Collins & Brown (1997)
Summerson, John. Georgian London. Yale University Press (2003) Town Houses
Yorke, Trevor. Georgian & Regency Houses Explained. Countryside Books (2007)
Yorke, Trevor. Regency House Styles. Countryside Books (2013)  


 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy and All the Appearance of Goodness and Twelfth Night at LongbournClick here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Louis de Rouvroy, Duc de Saint-Simon

Louis de Rouvroy, Duc de Saint-Simon was born Jan. 15, 1675 to Claude Duc de Saint-Simon, Peer of France, and his second wife Charlotte de l'Aubepine. His Mother stimulated in him a desire to make his way in the world and to acquire some value of his own. In 1691 while studying philosophy and learning to ride at an academy at Rocheford he noted that all the other young men of his age had been called to the siege of Mons. He determined to put the matter before his Father and  enter the Musketeers. It has been mentioned that the Memoirs he wrote from his years in battle and at Court were written at the Family's main Castle La Ferté-Vidame.. The home had been bought by his Father (Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon) shortly after being awarded his Dukedom. This is generally conceded to be the period after the fall of La Rochelle around 1629.

The Memoirs of Louis de Rouvroy, Duc de Saint-Simon, constituted a primary source (one of several) I relied on while writing my mystery set in the Court of Louis XIV. Most of the Court are mentioned in these writings. While working one day, I came upon an unusual mention of an incident that would fit perfectly into my work at some point. I will let St. Simon tell it...

"Two days after the defeated garrison had marched out, the King went to Dinant, to join the ladies, with whom he returned to Versailles. I had hoped that Monseigneur would finish the campaign, and that I should be with him, and it was not without regret that I returned towards Paris. On the way a little circumstance happened. One of our halting-places was Marienburgh, where we camped for the night. I had become united in friendship with Comte de Coetquen, who was in the same company with myself. He was well instructed and full of wit; was exceedingly rich, and even more idle than rich. That evening he had invited several of us to supper in his tent. I went there early, and found him stretched out upon his bed, from which I dislodged him playfully and laid myself down in his place, several of our officers standing by. Coetquen, sporting with me in return, took his gun, which he thought to be unloaded, and pointed it at me. But to our great surprise the weapon went off. Fortunately for me, I was at that moment lying flat upon the bed. Three balls passed just above my head, and then just above the heads of our two tutors, who were walking outside the tent. Coetquen fainted at thought of the mischief he might have done, and we had all the pains in the world to bring him to himself again. Indeed, he did not thoroughly recover for several days. I relate this as a lesson which ought to teach us never to play with fire-arms.

The poor lad,—to finish at once all that concerns him,—did not long survive this incident. He entered the King's regiment, and when just upon the point of joining it in the following spring, came to me and said he had had his fortune told by a woman named Du Perehoir, who practised her trade secretly at Paris, and that she had predicted he would be soon drowned. I rated him soundly for indulging a curiosity so dangerous and so foolish. A few days after he set out for Amiens. He found another fortune-teller there, a man, who made the same prediction. In marching afterwards with the regiment of the King to join the army, he wished to water his horse in the Escaut, and was drowned there, in the presence of the whole regiment, without it being possible to give him any aid. I felt extreme regret for his loss, which for his friends and his family was irreparable."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Johan J. Agrell - Six sonatas for harpsichord solo, Op. 2 (1748)

Meet My Main Character, by Marilyn Watson

I am delighted to have been tagged in a series called, “Meet My Main Character.” It is the brain child of my host Debra Brown who is the Administrator of English Historical Fiction Authors and our Host. Although I have written Blog pieces before, I stuck to historical figures or vainglorious deeds. There is no end to them thank heavens, for those of us that love history and never tire of it. Research has me following it down each rabbit hole. This works out very nicely for Historical Fiction. It’s important to include rich details of actual events.

You can read my excerpt here which I have been working on like mad. It’s very different from the mysteries I write set in the 1930's and still in its early stages, so this is just a taste of things to come.

This is set in the Court of Louis XIV with all its twists and turns. There was so much to choose from in the wealth of material I could have read for years. I chose to start with the Memoirs of Madame de Montespan as she had so many little tidbits to share. I found her utterly fascinating...charming and ruthless. I had to tuck her into my Fiction. She is one of my inspirations, so I include her Portrait. How could it be otherwise?

1) What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

My main Character is fictional although set in actual events. Louise de Mortemart is a very distant Cousin of Madame de Montespan, favorite Mistress of Louis XIV at this time. The Marquise and the Court of Versailles are very real.

2) When and where is the story set?

The Story is primarily set around Versailles during the year 1680. But the beginning opens in 1677 with a series of murders directly in Paris.

3) What should we know about her?

Louise is a distant Cousin of the illustrious branch of the de Rochechouart de Mortemart family and a very poor one at that. Due to misfortune with no hopes of a well-connected Marriage she is sent to amend that by ingratiating herself to the King. As a distant relative she hopes to please Athénaïs, Marquis de Montespan during her stay. She may be enticed to introduce her to the King who would take an interest in her and give her a dowry. It had been known to happen.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

She is asked to perform a task that on the surface appears simple. Go to a certain Lady and pick up a love potion... that is all the rage in Paris at the time. She is unaware that the dealer of herbs and love potions is also performing little favors that include poison. “Not until she arrives at the home of Madame, that is, and then it becomes apparent there are some horrible things going on.”

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

In the beginning Louise hopes to repair the poverty of her family. However once she is caught at the home of a poisoner, picking up a love potion, she is then hunted by his Agent. She desperately tries not to get caught up in the web of events.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Poison is a Woman’s Game, and you can read more here.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?

Tentatively, at the end of the year. I am writing furiously.