Friday, April 26, 2013

When Life Moved at a Slower Pace

While researching immigrant populations in London the other day, I stumbled across this rather fascinating (and short) film clip showing traffic on Blackfriars Bridge in 1896. That's 70+ years after the end of the Regency period, but it's still a good reminder of just how slow life was in the days before the adoption of the automobile. Many of the wagons are only moving at the same pace as the walkers.

And wouldn't you like to know what is in the newspaper that boy is walking along reading?

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Original Black Cat

The black cat in What Darkness Brings is inspired by this guy:

Huckleberry is a cat with serious attitude. He's big and beautiful and very smart, and he knows it. By the time he was six months old, we had to change all the old lever-type door handles in the house because he'd figured out how to open them. If this were a perfect world, Huckleberry would be an only cat. But this isn't a perfect world, which makes Huck cranky.

He likes to pretend he's not loving; he won't jump up in your lap and ask for pets, and if you pick him up, he'll tolerate it for about a minute, max, before he squirms and wants down. If you want pets, you need to go to him--preferably when he's in his tower, or on a pile of freshly laundered bedding. That is, after all, the proper way to show the worship he thinks is his due.

But the truth is, Huckleberry is secretly a very affectionate cat. He follows me from room to room, all day long, curling up nearby while I work. He especially loves to sit on the sofa beside me while I play my guitar--actually, that's the only time he will sit on the sofa beside anyone.

He really, really hates it when I go away for any length of time. Once I went to Morocco for three weeks and came home to found him ratty and half dead; he'd refused to eat, drink, or bathe while I was gone, despite the fact that Danielle and Steve were home with him. When I go up to the lake for a week of intensive writing, Huckleberry goes with me--not only because he's company and he loves it up there, but because he's miserable if I don't take him.

Will the black cat be back in Why Kings Confess? What do you think?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Garden of Roses

One of my passions is old roses. I dream of tearing down my neighbors' houses and filling the resultant empty lots with roses (note to neighbors: it's nothing personal). New Orleans isn't the best place in the world to grow roses, but the warmth that nurtures vulnerable varieties does help make up for the blackspot and balling and the other problems caused by our humidity and heavy rains and hurricanes.

This isn't the most glorious spring I've seen, but spring is always lovely. If I had to pick a favorite rose, it would be this one: Souvenir de la Malmaison. I love the scent, the color, the buds, the open, knotty blooms, the name, the history, the endless blooming, the polite, mannerly growth... I just love this rose.

But this one--Sombreuil, a climber--comes a close second. It climbs up one of the pillars to my gallery, and also splays across the back wall (I didn't mean to buy two; one came disguised as something else, but I didn't really mind).

I also love Prosperity, another climber, entwined with a lemon tree next to the fish pond. It blooms its heart out all year, and smells heavenly. (It also helped pull the fence down in Hurricane Isaac).

And then there's Lamarque, growing up the back pillar to the screened-in gallery (home of Whiskies and Nora).

As you can see, I'm partial to peach, pink, blush, and white; Steve loves red. I let him bring in a few, although I fuss and groan over every one. Space is so precious, and there are so many more roses I'd love to have. At last count, we had seventy, which is ridiculous because we don't have that big of a yard and we have two massive oak trees (hence my coveting of my neighbors' yards). And of course, roses aren't the only things I grow. At the moment, the columbines are lovely...

I could go on and on like this. I love my garden. When I get stuck in the writing of a book, I go outside and work in my garden, or just walk around and breathe. It always helps. I call it garden therapy.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


I hope y'all don't see this as unmercifully teasing, since I know the book is still eleven months away from release, but I thought you might like a peek at the first chapter of Why Kings Confess, book number nine in the Sebastian St. Cyr series.

Chapter 1

St. Katharine’s, East London
Thursday, 21 January 1813

Paul Gibson lurched down the dark, narrow lane, his face raw from the cold, his fingers numb. There were times when he wandered these alleyways lost in brightly-hued reveries of opium-induced euphoria. But not tonight. Tonight, Gibson clenched his jaw and tried to focus on the tap-tap of his wooden leg on the icy cobbles, the reedy wail of a babe carried on the night wind—anything that might distract his mind from the restless, hungering need that drenched his thin frame with sweat and tormented him with ghosts of what could be.

When he first noticed the woman, he thought her an apparition, a mirage of gray wool and velvet lying crumpled beside the entrance to a fetid passageway. But as he drew nearer, he saw pale flesh and the gleaming dark wetness of blood, and knew she was only too real.

He drew up sharply, the dank, briny air of the nearby Thames rasping in his throat. Cat’s Hole, they called this narrow lane, a refuge for thieves, prostitutes and all the desperate, dispossessed of England and beyond. He could feel his heart pounding; the stars glittered like shards of broken glass in the thin slice of cold black sky visible between the looming rooftops above. He hesitated perhaps longer than he should have. But he was a surgeon, his life dedicated to the care of others.

He pushed himself forward again.

She lay curled half on her side, one hand flung out palm up, eyes closed. He hunkered down awkwardly beside her, fingertips searching for a pulse in her slim neck. Her face was delicately boned and framed by a riot of long, flame-red hair, her lashes dark and thick against the pale flesh of her smooth cheeks, her lips purple-blue with cold. Or death.

But at his touch, her eyelids fluttered open, her chest jerking on a sob and a broken, whispered prayer. “Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, Priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs…”

“It’s all right; I’m here to help you,” he said gently, wondering if she could even understand him. ”Where are you hurt?”

The entire side of her head, he now saw, was matted with blood. Wide-eyed and frightened, she fastened her gaze on him. Then her focus slid away to where the black mouth of the passage yawned beside them. “Damion…” Her hand jerked up to clutch his sleeve. “Is he all right?”

Gibson followed her gaze. The man’s body was more difficult to discern, a dark, motionless mass deep in the shadows. Gibson shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Her grip on his arm twisted convulsively. “Go to him. Please.”

Nodding, Gibson surged upright, staggering slightly as his wooden peg took his weight and the phantom pains of a long-gone limb ripped through him.

The passage reeked of rot and excrement and the familiar coppery stench of spilled blood. The man lay sprawled on his back beside a pile of broken hogsheads and crates. It was with difficulty that Gibson picked out the once snowy-white folds of a cravat, the silken sheen of what had been a fine waistcoat but was now a blood-soaked mess, horribly ripped.

“Tell me,” said the woman. “Tell me he lives.”

But Gibson could only stare at the body before him. The man’s eyes were wide and sightless, his handsome young face pallid, his outflung arms stiffening in the cold. Someone had hacked open the corpse’s chest with a ruthless savagery that spoke of rage tinged with madness. And where the heart should have been gaped only an open cavity.

Bloody and empty.