Monday, June 30, 2014


For our anniversary, my husband and I went to Charleston for a short vacation. (It was so, so hot.)  But we drank lots of fluids and bought city-wide museum passes.

Interestingly, Charleston has more protected and preserved buildings than any city in the world, except Rome. Of course, the reason is that when the rest of the world was modernizing, Charleston was too poor. And by the time the city and its residents became flush again, tourism had become hot. So the city has some wonderful examples of architecture. 

Here are some examples. 

The French Huguenot church. Sadly, most of the churches weren't open to tourists.

The Aiken-Rhett house, the "backyard"of an in-town plantation. 

The Nathaniel Russell house. Very modest exterior belying a breath-taking interior, including a three story free-flying spiral staircase. Unfortunately, the residences don't allowed photos indoors. 

Middleton Place plantation. This live oak is 800 to 1000 years old.

Slave chapel at Middleton Place

Drayton Hall. This plantation had amazing docents.
They knew their history and they knew how to tell a story.

Drayton Hall. This plantation allowed some photography. The plantation house is unrestored, which means they haven't brought it back to its former glory. Instead, you see the house as it aged during the years--it tells a fascinating story. And it reminds you how transitory wealth, power and shiny status symbols are.

One last photo. In Charleston, even the alleys are picturesque.
So now we're home again and my creative tank is refilled. Time to write.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Will Write for Books

The other day, I got an email from Publisher’s Weekly and Crown Publishing (a division of Random House) asking me to join their “Blogging for Books” program. At first I was suspicious. There had to be a catch. A major publishing periodical and publishing house were willing to give me free books in exchange for an honest review? I scoured the program, looking for a catch. And I couldn’t find one. They really wanted to give me free books in exchange for honest reviews. What’s more, I could choose the books I wanted to read in either hardback or e-copy. And after I write and post my reviews on their site, I can request a new book. Pinch me, this is a dream come true.

After registering, I went through the list of books in genres that I’m interested in. I chose fiction in the young adult, literary, mystery, women’s, and suspense genres. My first book is The Accident by Chris Pavone. It’s a suspense novel set in Copenhagen and Zurich and the main characters are a writer, literary agent, and a CIA operative. Yep, it’s literary crack. And I'm addicted.

I should have the book in seven days since I opted for the hardcover. And when I review the books, I'll be sharing it on this blog too.

Blogging For Books

Monday, June 16, 2014

Eden to Amazon

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made up stories. I’d sit in an airport and make up stories about the people that walked by. As I drove past houses, particularly interesting ones, I’d make up stories about the people who live inside. The most poignant stories were always about the people with neglected gardens.

As I’d drive or walk by a house with a neglected garden, I looked to see whether the bones of an excellent garden where underneath the weeds. I’d look for specimen plants—exotic creatures that take special nurture. I’d spy out meandering foot paths or artfully planted foundation plants. And, of course, if I spied out the bones beneath the neglect, the story I told myself would become tragic. Often, it would run like this. A dear woman (all woman who garden are wise, aesthetic souls) planted and cared for a lovely garden. One day, disease or death struck. And now her husband can’t bear to be out weeding and mulching because it reminds him of her. And now the garden lies in disarray—a physical reminder of love lost. (Yes, my younger daydreams were melodramatic.)

Now that I am older and wiser, I know the truth because my garden has gone from Edenic to Amazonian. (Okay, it was never Edenic, but this is my blog post so I’m allowed a little creative license.) And the cause of the neglect isn’t debilitating disease or death or even a bad case of the flu…it’s writing deadlines. When you’re looking for passive voice, mixed metaphors, etc., there isn’t time to trim the roses or weed the Bermuda. (I tried Roundup, but it must’ve rained before the poison dried. Grumble, grumble.)

In any case, Screwing Up Alexandria is now pubbed, and I’m out in the garden with shears and shovels (yes, some of the weeds are that big). And soon I’ll banish the Amazonian takeover. But, I am a little wistful because I’m wondering how many other writers who drive by my house are going to have their tragic stories ruined. Sorry.

(Okay, so please tell me that I’m not the only one who makes up stories about gardens.)

Yeah, okay, so this isn't my garden. It's one of the gardens at Versailles.
But a girl can dream, right?

Friday, June 13, 2014

How Much Money Can You Pay for an Ugly House?

On Saturday mornings, my husband and I have a tradition. We go to the Wall Street Journal online and check out the real estate section, especially the “House of the Week” section. Some of the houses are beautiful. Some…not so much.

Occasionally, a real loser will pop up. And I say, “Look, honey, if we had fifteen million dollars, we could buy a horrifically ugly home.” He says, “We could always sell it.” I say, “But really, who would buy it? And then, we’d have to pay taxes on the affront to architecture and good taste.”

Then, we drink our coffee and look at the next house.  And I smile and think, “Ah, what a blessing to have a house that costs only 1% of the overpriced piece of junk. And ours is cute to boot.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Screwing Up Alexandria!

Screwing Up Alexandria is here! Click here to buy it.

Book three of the Screwing Up Time series is now live on Amazon. It went live late Wednesday night—two hours after I uploaded it, which was amazing.

Even more amazing, yesterday a writing friend emailed me a screen shot and said, “Have you seen this?” I hadn’t. Screwing Up Alexandria was #1 in sales in one of its categories.

I’m excited to see how sales go today.

Here’s the cover art and book blurb.

Time traveling has never brought Mark Montgomery anything but grief. And then, things get worse.

When Mark comes home from Babylon with a coded tablet, he never dreams someone would be willing to kill to get it. But they are.  So Mark and Miranda kidnap an ancient cryptographer named Nin and take her to the Library of Alexandria to decipher it.

The search for the truth of the tablet takes all of them to the most dangerous time on earth. And when Nin ends up on an altar surrounded by blood-thirsty crowds, only Mark can save her. And he's blind.

Also, A. B. Keuser interviewed me about Screwing Up Alexandria. Read the interview here.