Sandra Gulland

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Notes on (surviving) the writing life

Welcome to my blog on writing and the writing life. I also blog on research subjects at Baroque Explorations.

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On the healing power of community, plot puzzles and painting — plus Sundae links for writers, time travellers, Sun King fans, and just about anyone

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Last Tuesday morning there was a terrible tragedy in our peaceful part of the world: an enraged man, recently out on parole, sought out and murdered three of his former girlfriends. Our community is so small that everyone knows someone who knew one of the victims or even the killer. It is hard to comprehend such a loss … impossible to comprehend such rage.

It is also impossible to comprehend a “justice” system that allows a repeat violent offender out on parole without providing any protection whatsoever for the women he’d already abused and threatened.

There was a beautiful vigil for the three on Friday night: it helps to share tears with hundreds (and hundreds) of others.

{Photos posted on-line by the Ottawa Sun.}

I am officially Lost in Plot. Will I ever emerge? I’m not so sure! When I’m not puzzling, I’m painting, or weeding, or reading (Lila), or avoiding getting to taxes. :-(

Here is a painting I finished this week, inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook.



My Sundry Sundae delectable links for the week:


Links for writers …

Different Types of Plot in Fiction, by Kate Forsyth. An interesting summary.

Writing a novel: 8 writing tips from Ursula K. Le Guin. Very practical!

More on the Sun King this week … 

Louis XIV: What France’s Sun King did for art. He was a cultured man.

Links for time travellers …

• The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman (beginning in 1807). It’s wonderful to see the Net used to publish such invaluable historical work. “Just before tea time Miss Simms, the daughter of a farmer near Miss Pyne’s, sent her a brace of beautiful partridges.” Don’t you just love it?

Links for just about anyone …

• I’ve been reading Marian Schembari’s blogs for some time. She has an honest vitality and sense of humour that is very engaging. I originally read her because she wrote very astutely about promotion and social media. Now I’ll read whatever she writes. I’m always happy to see a new post by her. Here’s a recent one: My recipe for $800 cupcakes.

Have a great week.

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September 27, 2015 @ 3:52 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Confessions of a bookaholic


I devour Bookmarks magazine whenever it comes out. The magazine covers recent publications in a range of genres, and gives an excellent summary of the major reviews.

I read it cover-to-cover pencil in hand, marking the titles that interest me. Then I go to my computer and download a free Kindle sample of each book to my ebook reader.

This is rather like browsing books in a bookstore. I check each title out, and buy the books that hook me—print editions for the half of the year we are in Canada, (mostly) digital editions for the six months we live in Mexico.

This inevitably leads to book overload. In little over one month, we will be packing up, closing up, locking up, and flying from Canada to our second home in Mexico. I will need to decide which books go with me, and which ones stay. This is not easy for a bookaholic, much less a writer of historical fiction.

As it is, I have many, many unread books: books I will never read, books I am reading, books I intend to read soon. I certainly do not need more. I remind myself of this as I’m downloading samples of:

  • Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont;
  • Re Jane by Patricia Park;
  • The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño;
  • The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard;
  • The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendetta Vida;
  • The Rocks by Peter Nichols;
  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli;
  • The Millionaire and the Bard by Andrea Mays;
  • The Sea by John Banville.

You see what I mean? Where can I sign up for Bookaholics Anonymous?


September 24, 2015 @ 1:31 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Mice, explosions and a big bear — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, Napoleonistas & Sun King fans

We had little more excitement this week than we cared for!


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{A cloudy NY offered wonderful photo opportunities. I especially enjoyed catching the suggestive night window dressing moment on the Highline.}

After a wonderful trip to NY to see our son, we arrived home in good time on Tuesday, only to be overwhelmed by the sickening smell of dead mouse wafting throughout the house. We quickly threw down our suitcases, opened all windows and doors and set five fans blowing.

Shortly after, the power went out (but not because of the fans), and shortly after that there was a terrifying series of extremely loud explosions. I found out what I do in such a case: I run in and out of the house trembling. (Handy to know: there’s an explosion in my next YA about Hortense.) We thought it must have been the meter, triggered somehow by our new electrical furnace.

It was 6:00 by this time. We were afraid to use our generator under the circumstances, so we set out all the candles and flashlights, the land-line telephone, and closed the windows and doors since we wouldn’t have heat for the night. By then we’d thought better of staying. Instead, we’d have a quick dinner while there was still light, then pack up and move to our cabin on a lake. It was in a state of disruption due to work being done on it, but at least it had electricity, toilets and a Net connection. Who knew how long we would be without power at the house? In the morning we would contact the furnace and electrical companies.

The next morning, the furnace turned out not to be the villain, but the dead mouse was found. (Yes!) Then the electricity crew came out. A transformer on the telephone pole 100 ft. from our house had exploded. Why, we don’t know. It had been a calm, cloudless day.

The power was going to be out at the house for some time, so we packed up more gear and returned to the cabin, where—groan—we discovered that the power had gone out due to a problem in a village some distance from us.

So: back to the house, having since learned that we could safely use the generator.

We returned to a house littered with open suitcases, dirty dishes, candles and fans—but blessedly odour-free.

That evening, however, a friend encountered a very large bear at the top of our driveway. I was waiting for her not 25 feet away.

TMI? I just had to share.

It’s a pleasure to get back to what might be considered Normal Life. However, there are two things I should put on my To Do List every day, for inevitably they have to be dealt with:

  • 1 hour: puzzle out why Net/computer/software isn’t working.
  • ½ hour: search for something I’ve misplaced.

Here was my To Do List for today:

  • 1 hr. exercise
  • 2 hrs. puzzle out plot
  • 1 hr. Skype French lesson
  • chat with our son & daughter
  • ½ hour weeding
  • 1 hr. taxes
  • ½ hr. watercolour painting
  • blog post

I am down to the last one: this blog post. It helps to wake at 4:00 with a compelling idea on how to tackle the plot revision. (More on that later.)

My Sundry Sundae delectable links for this week:


Links for writers …

3 Simple Prewriting Strategies.

The Units of Story: The Sequence. There is a lot to learn in this series from

Links for Napoleonistas people with a sick sense of humour …

• Okay, this is a little sick: Napoleonistas as well as parents will be understandably offended by this account of how Napoleon died, as told by stinking drunk kids. (The Drunk History series is rather amusing.)

Links for Sun King enthusiasts …

• There has been quite a bit again this week on the Sun King because September 1st was the 300th anniversary of his death. Here is a big treat for you all: The King Who Invented Ballet, a wonderful BBC documentary on how Louis XIV invented ballet. At the end of the video is the ballet. Heavenly! (Note: if for some reason you can’t watch this video here, you can watch it on YouTube.)

• Accompany this with a Forbes article: How Ballet Can Make You A Better Leader.

Have a great week!

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September 20, 2015 @ 8:21 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Despair & elation in the Creative Cauldron — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers & Sun King enthusiasts

Another whirlwind week. Is there any other kind? We’re leaving for NY today—a five-day visit with our son.

I’d told my editor and agent that I would have the revised first section of the WIP to them before I left, and I’ve been working toward that deadline.

Meeting a deadline—a commitment to send out—invariably entails many sleepless nights, which creates a certain frenetic heat. The creative cauldron, I think of it. 

At the beginning of this period, I had lost faith the work and, worse, lost faith in my ability to write at all. Despair! As I worked on the MS, I was also composing, at the same time, a draft of a resignation letter.

In the heat of the cauldron, however, I began making big changes, revising the pages over and over again. By D-Day, the day to send—which was only the day before yesterday—I was, miraculously, actually pleased with the work.

And off it went, without that letter of resignation. I had gone from despair to elation in a matter of days.

Now: time for a holiday!

This week’s delicious Sundae Sundries


Links for writers & other creatives …

Nine Secrets to Successfully Completing that Elusive First Draft. Or that elusive fifth draft, for that matter. :-( This is a very good article.

• The most popular article in my Flipboard magazine this week, not surprisingly, was: Rude awakening: three essential rules for writing good sex. This is a helpful article.

• This is funny: Free Blurbs for Your Book!

• I love this: How Reading (and Writing) Obituaries Can Improve Your Fiction.

9 Creativity Tips You Can Learn from Geniuses. Many good suggestions!

Links for Sun King enthusiastists …

There is quite a bit on the Net right now on the Sun King because of the 300th anniversary of his death on September 1. Here are a few I like:

• Louis XIV: The Sun King & the Arts.

• How Ballet Can Make You A Better Leader.

Louis XIV: What France’s Sun King did for art. 

This post launches a wonderful Wallace Collection series on the Sun King.

One thing I always think about with respect to the Sun King’s death is how his wife, Madame Maintenon, left at the very end; she wasn’t by his side when he passed. This has been interpreted by some as heartlessness, but my feeling—entirely subjective—is that we don’t understand life without pain killers. The presence of loved ones can make it harder for the dying to “let go.” Leaving would be considered a mercy.


On that somber note: have a great week!

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September 10, 2015 @ 1:07 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Tech challenges, a happy toddler & a Twitter surge — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers & travellers, both virtual and real

Readers of this blog — I <3 you! — will already know that I went to a painting worship last Sunday, given by the talented Joyce Burkholder. It got me all revved up! I’m painting a bit every day, mostly following YouTube videos. (Awesome.) I love it. 

What I don’t love is that I can’t figure out how to share photos of paintings with you here. Our rural Net connection is never great—especially on week-ends—and our bandwidth is limited, so I’m putting off syncing my enormous photo library to iCloud. Which means, basically, that photos I take with my iPhone do not end up on my computer. Yes, I emailed them to myself…but they never showed up. And that’s another story. 

Not fair sharing my Tech headaches with you! Everyone suffers. 

And besides, I have a nicer photo to share, one I came upon recently, one that is already on my computer. This is granddaughter Kiki at our daughter’s wedding at the end of May. Such pride and joy!


{Photo by the wonderful Danielle Blancher of Toronto.}

It has been a week of highs and lows. Early in the week I learned that writer and friend Paul Kropp died. So sad. Such a shock! 

I also learned that an on-line interview of me had been posted to Jane Friedman’s blog. 

I’m very pleased with this interview. It is a rare pleasure to be interviewed by someone who has dug deep and asks interesting and pertinent questions. I like that the questions focus on the broader issues having to do with publishing in general. 

Jane Friedman has an enormous following—there was quite a flurry of attention on Twitter. Nice

And through all this, I write … It is coming along. 

This week’s delicious Sundae Sundries

(Is is a coincidence that I’ve developed an unrolling passion for ice cream this summer?)



Links for writers  …

• One of these days, I will emerge from my plot maze. In the meantime, I grab onto every life raft within reach. (I know, mangled metaphors.) Julianna Baggot is a wonderful writer — I interviewed her here and here some time ago — and her own plot analysis tool is intriguing. 

Be aware when research and prep become a crutch. At some point, you need to actually start WRITING. Indeed! That said, I read a research text late one night. The information gave me what I needed to finally write the scenes. 

• I’ve been listening to a new Elizabeth Gilbert podcast: Magic Lessons. It’s a run-up to a book she has coming out at the end of September: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I’m enjoying the podcast and I’ve ordered the book. :-) 

Links for all us time-travellers …

5 Creepy Victorian Fads. I do believe this stuff. 

High tech tools used to understand medieval manuscripts.

A link for real travellers … 

For a More Creative Brain, Travel

Have a great week!

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August 30, 2015 @ 9:12 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

In memory of Paul Kropp (1948 – 2015)

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I learned late last night that author Paul Kropp died. I’m stunned. He was four years younger than I am, still in his 60s. Too young!

He was always so vibrant, so full of wit and heart and life that it’s impossible to imagine that he is no more. He was a wonderful writer. He wrote over sixty books, ran a publishing company, taught, travelled—and always, always, had time for a friend. 

He’d been diagnosed with cancer only two months before. He posted a funny political clip to Facebook five days before he died. (The photo above is from his Facebook page.) My heart goes out to his family, his wife Lori, his three sons, his grandchildren, his wide network of friends. Everyone is simply shocked, without doubt. 

He was/is—oh, these painful past tenses!—so very dear to my heart, someone I worked closely with for decades. He was the creator and primary author of Series Canada and Series 2000, more popularly known then as “the Paul Kropp” books. 

The books were “High/Low”—High Interest, Low Vocabulary—aimed to lure reluctant teen readers into the magical realm of fiction. (And succeeded.) I was the free-lance editor hired by the publisher to make it happen. This was 1978, and I was pregnant with my first child when we were introduced at Collier Macmillan’s offices in Toronto. “Six months?” he said, taking in my profile. Exactly. 

Together we published about eight books a year: scheduling became a fine art! In the first letter I got from him (this was before email—imagine), he included a detailed schedule for the year ahead. I wrote back that we were going to get along very, very well. And we did. 

He became a good friend to me and my husband. We saw him and his family in Toronto, Mexico and Italy. After my husband and I moved to the country, he made visits from time to time with his boys. Funny, wise and witty, he was always a pleasure to be around. 

I learned so much from him. 

In his last email to me at the end of March, he wrote, with respect to the work we had done together decades before:

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.

How poignant, especially now. 

Thank you, Paul, for everything

Paul’s obituary notice in the Toronto Globe & Mail today, concluded:

“A memorial service will be held on September 1st at 11:00 a.m. at Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street East, Toronto. Those wishing to commemorate Paul’s life in some way are invited to make a donation to Metropolitan United Church or the Canadian Cancer Society and to vote NDP in the coming election.”

The last words are perfect. I can just hear his effervescent chuckle. 

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August 26, 2015 @ 4:12 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Watercolour therapy, #BuzzFeed, spies & faux letters — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, readers & other dreamers

What a surprise! “13 Brilliant Authors You Probably Didn’t Know Are Canadian” C’est moi, #3, and on BuzzFeed, no less. 

Buzz Buzz

I’m posting this on Saturday, because I will be going to a watercolour workshop tomorrow, given by Joyce Burkholder.

I enjoy learning about brushes, paints and paper, colour and line. I’ve taken over a table at home, and poke away at a painting off and on all day, usually following an instruction video on YouTube. This is my latest, following this on-line lesson by Matt Palmer. 


Painting is a lovely thing to do between spells of writing and research. For me, right now, it’s all about learning technique and how to use the tools. (And, I must say, learning patience, as well.)  You can see all my paintings my website page.

I’ve been researching (and writing about) the daily routine at Hortense’s school in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. I was excited to discover Lettres de deux jeunes amis, which I took at face value, as letters between girls, one a student at Madame Campan’s second school in Ecouen. I was dismayed to learn that they’re fiction … yet written by Madame Campan, so in fact they are still of great value to me, because she would correctly describe how her school was run. 

This week’s delicious Sundae Sundries



Links for writers & other creatives …

• I love Amanda Hocking’s board on Pinterest: Writing Tips & Tricks & Other Helpful Advice. And, while you’re on Pinterest, check out my own board: Tools & Toys for Writers.

• One of the items on Amanda Hocking’s Pinterest board (see link above) caught my eye: Writers: Get Into the Writing Mood With This Free Online Tool.

Too cool! AudioSparx is a music site for film-makers, but it’s free for writers, who only want to listen. Click mood upper right, and click on the emotion of the scene you wish to write. (Ignore the occasional “review” word popping up.)

I just clicked on “Canned Monkeys” track in Hectic, but soon I’ll be switching to something in Confrontational as I prepare to write a scene in the WIP. This is fun, but it is also seriously effective. 

Links for perpetual students …

• Readers of this blog know that I’m a Coursera enthusiast. I’ve just signed up for Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, because playing piano is one of Hortense’s many talents.

• For fans of Historical Fiction, this is a great course: Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction. Coursera courses are free, and once signed up you may watch the lectures at your leisure. 

Links for readers …

• Poor Doris Lessing! M15 spies followed writer Doris Lessing for more than 20 years. They even came with her on vacation. 

Have a great week!

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August 22, 2015 @ 5:16 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Overcoming resistance: the first stage of the writing process

Staircase, early 18th century Hortense playing

One would think that after over 30 years writing and 5 novels published, I would be more accustomed to overcoming resistance to writing. 


Once past the first draft and into revision, I will do virtually anything to avoid actually writing a new scene: dishes, laundry, FaceBook, mail, research, weeding, filing, and even (gasp) taxes. 

And now: blogging—for I am writing this instead of writing the #%$ scene! 

Ok, enough of this: I’ll check in back here in 1 hour to report. 

43 minutes later …

… and I’ve yet to even set the timer. I think of all the hard-working writers with day jobs, burning the night-oil, and here I am with a day ahead, writing not a word. Instead? I fell into the Net: FaceBook, Kickstarter (where, by the way, I did contribute to a worthy documentary about Emily Dickenson). 

Now, the timer. Sheesh. 

1 hour later …

OK: 1 hour accomplished, and it wasn’t even all that painful.

I’m working on a section incorporating a lot of the research I’ve been doing this week into the daily life of Madame Campan’s boarding school for girls. (Hence the photo: these are the actual stairs.) It’s awkward—like force-feeding a narrative with details—and these scenes will need to be revised many, many times so that they doesn’t feel stuffed.

At the same time, it’s rather fun seeing this boarding school come to life. I’ve recently discovered what time the bells rang, the dining-hall procedures, bed times and all that. Punishments and rewards. How clothing was labeled and when linens were changed and feet washed. Exam schedules, etc. etc. etc.

(How much of this will stay in the novel? That remains to be seen. You can kill a story with TMI.)

Small steps

The truth is that small steps work wonders. I could have said: OK, write for only 15 minutes, and that would have opened it up. It’s always that first hurdle. 

Now: to exercise … groan!

What do you do to motivate yourself? What works for you

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August 21, 2015 @ 5:04 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

An island, a bookclub & writing muddles — plus Sundae Sundries: links for writers, readers & other creatives

We returned Monday from a weekend with my daughter and her family at their new home on Amherst Island.

IMG_1504IMG_1515IMG_1529{Rural mailboxes; DH disappearing into the lighthouse on their property; Kiki in the outfit she picked out for her mom’s birthday dinner.}

On Wednesday I met with members of Bonnechere Books, a local book club, in the most charming setting possible:


They had wonderful questions to ask about The Shadow Queen, which they’d all just read. In talking about the evolution of that novel, I realized how fanciful it is—and questioned whether or not I wasn’t being too literal in writing Hortense’s story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about James Patterson’s MasterClass, which I mentioned last week. In editing a manuscript, he writes at the top of chapters that aren’t working: BE THERE. That’s a good rule of thumb throughout the fiction-writing process.

“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself.” —Parker Palmer, in his Naropa Unviersity commencement address. (From the wonderful blog Brain Pickings.)

Here are my Sundae Sundries … this time mostly for writers. These were popular articles in my Flipboard “magazine” this week.


Links for writers & other creatives …

The Little Known Secret to Pixar’s Creative Success. Take heart! “Every idea starts out as an ugly baby.”

The 5 Things Productive Writers do Differently.

• An Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk: Your elusive creative genius. I’ve been listening to her new podcast series, Magic Lessons, coaching creatives. I like it.

• We all knew this, but it’s shocking nonetheless: Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name.

• I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi! (@inkyelbows) Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I’m Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day.

Links for all book lovers …

• A post I linked to on Facebook got a lot of comment. The subject: our love for the smell of books. When I worked as an editor in publishing, I relished the smell of a newly-printed book. Google “books smell” and you will find quite a lot on this subject. Here are two:

Where Does the Smell of Old Books Come From?

3  Reasons Why Booknerds Love the Smell of Books

Have a great week!


August 16, 2015 @ 6:00 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics


DH and I are visiting our daughter and her family at their beautiful new home on Amherst Island. (The photo above was taken on the ferryboat over and tweaked with the SnapSeed app.)

As well, inspired by the James Patterson MasterClass linked to below, I’ve (finally!) tackled my WIP outline again.

Here is my week in delectable links ….


Links for writers …

• I gobbled up this MasterClass course on writing by James Patterson. It was worth the price of admission. I’m not likely ever to be a reader of James Patterson novels, but I came away with a great deal of respect for him and his work.

• Here is literary writer Joyce Maynard’s account of taking James Patterson’s class: An Accomplished Writer Takes a ‘MasterClass’ from a Gargantuan Selling Writer. I agree!

• Readers of this blog will no doubt notice some of my ADHD tendencies. I know I’m not alone! The ADHD Guide to Writing.

• Because of said “tendencies,” no doubt, I am inspired by this image of the working desk of Robert Olen Butler (the author of one of the best books on writing, From Where You Dream).

  For both writers and readers …

• A great Paris Review interview with feisty writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

• Also on Ursula K. Le Guin: On ‘Starting Late’ as a writer. On this theme (am I feeling my age?): You’re never too old to write your first novel—especially at 40.

Links for flâneurs through history …

• Jane Austen’s reading list. Charmed to see Conduct Literature for Women on this list.

Link for Napoleonistas …

• Napoleon, Josephine and a giant bill for Cologne.

Have a great week!



August 10, 2015 @ 6:57 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

Reading Reading

This week was especially speedy! I gave a reading at the Bonnechere Author’s Festival on Wednesday night, and on Friday the “children” and grandchildren arrived and a long weekend of festivities began!

Here is my week in delectable links ….


Links for writers …

• I got sidetracked—as I do—looking into scriptwriting software, and bought Final Draft on sale. I doubt that I will ever write a script, but this software offers interesting structure techniques that intrigue me.

• Exploring script templates, I found one on creating character that I like very much. I especially like considering your character’s “humanizing trait.”

•  7 Ways Writing a Screenplay is Different That Writing a Novel.

How To Write a Screenplay: The 5 Step Process.

The Heartfelt, Unpublishable, Captivating, Shallow, Sound, Abandoned, Reclaimed, Worthless, Most Excellent Potential Novel, by Tom Bentley. I related to this account in a rather painful way! :-(

For both writers and readers …

• The line-up for the 2016 San Miguel Writers’ Conference looks awesome! It’s from February 10-16, the perfect time of year to get a break from winter in sunny Mexico. Go for it! You will not regret it.

Links for flâneurs through history …

• Medieval Urine Wheels. Just what you always wanted.

• Inspired by a Two Nerdy History Girls blog post on Etiquette for the Victorian Gentleman, I read The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.

• The ‘Natural Beauty’ Ideal of the Regency.

Link for Napoleonistas …

Napoleon, Josephine and a giant bill for Cologne. Not everything in this article is accurate, in my opinion, but there are interesting details I like quite a lot.

Have a great week!

View of the lake at our cabin :-)




August 2, 2015 @ 10:30 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, historians & other romantics

Another lovely week. Summer is flying by.

Here is my week in delectable links ….


Links for writers …

 • Writing workflow—an infographic

• Another writer/artist (I’m keeping track!): Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Original Watercolors for The Little Prince.


J. K. Rowling’s Spreadsheet Shows How She Wrote Harry Potter.

Links for flâneurs through history …

The Experience of Growing Up in Medieval Society.

Medical recipes in the 18th century.

The New & Complete Newgate Calendar, or Villainy Displayed in all its Branches. Irresistible.

Link for Napoleonistas …

What Napoleon’s hat tells us about the power of branding.

My news …

• I’m stoked about this rave review of The Shadow Queen!

• I’m also proud to have been included in the Raynes Illumination exhibit, which includes photographs of 50 Canadian writers.

• I’m giving a talk this Wednesday for the Bonnechere Authors Festival. If you’re close-by, come!

Have a great week!


July 26, 2015 @ 8:57 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, publishers, historians & other romantics

Ah, a week gone by already? Such a lovely week it was. I hope you enjoy these links as much as I did.


Links for writers …

Revision is tough! I take strength seeing the messy revised pages of the greats. Here is a page from Jane Austen’s Persuasion:


• It’s interesting to read a transcript of the edits she made.

Balzac’s astonishing output is discouraging! Forty novels? I forget. He was fuelled by coffee, debt and a compulsive need for luxury goods. So interesting!

Habits of Highly Effective Writers: Balzac

Did Balzac Really Drink 50 Cups of Coffee a Day?

The Coffee Pot That Fueled Honoré de Balzac’s Coffee Addiction

As readers of my blog know, I’ve begun to dabble in art—which was, in fact, my first love. I’m starting to notice writers who also paint or draw.


Links for flâneurs through history …

I needed an 18th century desert to play a role in the WIP. Internet to the rescue! Here are some delightful links for those of you with a sweet tooth (i.e. everyone):

Conceits, Comfits, & Creams: More on 18th Century Desserts

• The free e-book of The Complete Confectioner: Or, The Whole Art of Confectionary Made Easy, published in 1807. Delightful and delectable!

I also fell down the rabbit hole of research into quills, and paper, and ink. I do love this stuff!

Letter Writing in Jane Austen’s Time: Quills and Correspondence. Fascinating.

A link for romantics …

Emblems of Love, in Four Languages: Dedicated to the Ladys (1683). This is a wonderful website.

Have a great week!


July 19, 2015 @ 8:47 pmBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

The XYZ of listening to Podcasts

listening to podcasts

I love to listen to a podcast while exercising, doing chores or driving. I’ve become an enthusiast of a number. (See the ones I recommend below.)  A friend who is new to the technology asked me how to go about subscribing to one. For those of you who are also new to it, here goes:

Podcasts are like radio broadcasts that you can listen to any time you wish.

Most podcasts are free. Think of them as the new radio. You can listen to them on any device that has apps (i.e. a smart phone or tablet) or on your computer.

To listen on your computer:

  • Download the iTunes application and go to the iTunes store.
  • Google “podcasts”—a number of sites will come up.

To listen on your cell phone or tablet:

First, get the Podcasts app:

  • Go to the App Store app.
  • Click “Explore” at the bottom.
  • Type “Podcasts” in the search box (upper right).
  • Download.

Open the Podcasts app and search (upper right) for the podcast you are looking for.

  • Click on it.
  • Click “Subscribe.”

And that’s it. Once subscribed, when you go to the Podcasts app, click on “My Podcasts” bottom left, and there you go.

I highly recommend:

Recommended podcasts. Recommended podcasts Recommended podcasts

WTF  Edgy, X-rated. Marc Maron is a no-holds-bar comedian, often interviewing comedians in his garage. Fun! Be sure to check out episode #613, his interview of Barack Obama (which is not X-rated). Another great one is the #604 interview of NPR interviewer Terry Gross.

BOOK REVIEW (THE NEW YORK TIMES) Fantastic interviews with authors and reviewers. It’s a wonderful way to keep up-to-date on new publications.

WRITERS & COMPANY (CBC RADIO) Eleanor Wachtel is an amazing interviewer of literary authors from around the world.

THIS AMERICAN LIFE  Great journalism, both thought-provoking and entertaining.

SERIAL  Investigative journalism which took the world by storm. So compelling! Be sure to start at the beginning.

Are you already a podcast subscriber? Which ones do you enjoy?


July 13, 2015 @ 9:57 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment

Sundae Sundries: links of interest to readers, writers, publishers, historians & other procrastinators

Summer has turn glorious and I procrastinate from working on Draft 5 by ducking out to the garden. I’m reading Wayson Choy’s Not Yet; a Memoir of Living and Almost Dying: so very good! I heard him speak this week: mystical.


Links for writers …

On Writing & Publishing, & Everything In-Between. My very own Flipboard magazine. A popular article this week was:

How Publishers Make Decisions About What to Publish: The Book P&L. This article is by Jane Friedman, who knows the business inside and out.

Links for flâneurs through history …

Medical Advice About Bathing in 1813

Medical recipes in the 18th century

Greengrocer, the ca 1819 James Pollard

Dining in July 1815


The Diaries of Miss Fanny Chapman. Delicious!

Links for Napoleonistas …

Napoleon’s escape ship found off Cape York

Links for all us Procrastinators … 

Structured Procrastination: Do Less, Deceive Yourself, And Succeed Long-Term.

Links for self-publishers … 

4 Ways to Create an ePub eBook

Demystifying Keywords, Categories, and Themes for Amazon Indie Authors

Have a great week!


July 12, 2015 @ 8:27 amBe the first to comment! | Leave a Comment