Tag Archives: happy

Status Update – Windsor Castle

Apr 05, 2017

The castle itself is so huge that there really isn’t a way to get a single pic of the whole thing.

So for those who don’t know, I’m adventuring in London for a week, looking for story ideas, researching a few things I already know I’m going to write about, and generally enjoying being in my happy place. I would absolutely live in London—or anywhere in the UK, for that matter—if I could. But seeing as they don’t have a visa category that fits me, I’ll have to make due with visit.

And yesterday I visited Windsor Castle! For those who don’t know, Windsor Castle has been a continuous residence of the Royal Family for the past 900 years! It was actually started by William the Conqueror shortly after he took over. And when I say “started,” I mean that various parts of the complex have been built, destroyed, rebuilt, added to, refurbished, and expanded over hundreds of years. In fact, the latest edition to the castle was done in the 1990s. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

These are the old (old, old, old) Norman towers.

Or maybe not. Because I could talk about the magnificence of the design and decoration of the State Apartments or the incredibly art collection (I always get excited when I see very famous paintings in person, and there were very famous paintings that I knew on practically every wall of the place). I could talk about the Royal Family or the fact that Victoria and Albert lived there most of the time in their lives. But what I found most fascinating and what I really want to talk about is the fire of 1992.

I remember vividly when the castle burnt down. November 20, 1992. I have vivid images of aerial shots of one whole section of the castle in flames. But walking around inside of it, I was both curious about where the fire had been and what potentially was destroyed and how it could be that I wouldn’t obviously see all the damage.

Her Majesty’s personal entrance to the castle.

And that’s the cool story.

First of all, I learned how the fire started. It started in what was formerly a private chapel built for Queen Victoria. But the chapel was in an awkward location, and it got in the way of anyone trying to cross from the private apartments to the state apartments. What actually happened is that an ancient velvet curtain was standing too close to an old fashioned spotlight. It got too hot and WHOOMP! The whole thing went up. But not just that, because of the former structure of the roof, not only did the chapel ignite like kindling, it quickly spread all the way through the parts of the castle that were connected by the roof structure.

I think I remember stories of Prince Charles himself rushing to the scene and helping to rescue art and artifacts from the walls and rooms, but I can’t remember if that’s true. Anyhow, several of the larger rooms were massively damaged, including two large halls that adjoin what was the chapel. It’s a shame that I couldn’t take pictures of these rooms myself due to photography restrictions, because they would be really useful to illustrate the following stories…

So one of the rooms that sustained serious damage was the Grand Reception Hall. I took a picture of the picture of it in the Windsor Castle guide book that I bought. (Actually, all of these interior pics are from that guidebook). What you’re seeing is the restored room. The cool stories from this room are, first, the floor. That’s still the original floor, but with a twist. The floorboards were badly charred in the fire. So what did they do? Like a stain on a sofa, they flipped each board individually and put it back down in place. I thought that was awesome. The other story is that giant urn at the far end. It’s two tons and over six feet tall, so they couldn’t exactly haul it out of the room in the middle of the fire. The thing is, it’s made of malachite. And if you know anything about rocks (which I didn’t until the tour explained it), malachite doesn’t come in enormous slabs. So really, the urn is marble covered with a fine layer of malachite fit together like jigsaw pieces. Well, during the fire, the urn filled and doused with boiling water. So the adhesive holding the malachite to its base melted. All of the pieces flaked off in the days following the fire. They had to be reassembled piece by piece in the years of restoration that followed.

The other cool fire story is about St. George’s Hall, which is massive and beautiful. But for a historian, the story behind it is such an exciting insight into history that I was almost jumping up and down. See all that marvelous ceiling beamwork? Looks medieval, right? Nope. The entire ceiling was destroyed in the fire. There was a scary-sad picture of it looking like a burned out skeleton on the tour. So they reconstructed it. BUT, they did all the work in the medieval style with historical tools and erected it completely the way the original ceiling would have been made. And you may or may not be able to tell from this picture, but the texture and color of the wood is very, very different from the hundreds of years old ceilings you see in medieval buildings now. So for me, it totally informed on what these magnificent structures would have felt like when they were new…which is not the same as they feel now. I think places like Westminster Abbey (which I visited yesterday) and Winchester Cathedral (which I visited in 2010) would have felt much warmer and more vibrant than they do now.

But the coolest of the cool parts of the reconstructed castle is the brand new Lantern Lobby. This is where the fire started. Like I said, it was formerly Queen Victoria’s private chapel. But when it came time to rebuilt, they brought in architects to take a look and totally rethink what the space should be. This room is what they came up with. And the ceiling is incredible. But unlike St. George’s Hall, which was reconstructed in the medieval fashion, this ceiling and it’s vaulting was designed by computer! All of the angles and placement and calculations were designed specifically to draw the eye upward and to bring it together into an amazing, aesthetic harmony. And really, this pic doesn’t do justice to how perfectly that mission was accomplished. It’s so cool.

So those are just some of my observations about the castle. I have another really awesome story about St. George’s Chapel (which is bigger than the Cathedral in my hometown), where my man, Charles I, is buried. But I’ll tell that story in another blog post.

Status Update – Persistence

Mar 17, 2017

Woo hoo!

This one partially goes out to my fellow writers, but I hope a lot of what I’m about to share can help everyone in navigating the sometimes choppy waters of life. Because I had a REALLY good day yesterday, personally and professionally, and I owe it all to one thing: Persistence.

So career-wise, I had my very first 99 cent BookBub promo on one of the books from my Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Remarkable Bride. I wrote this book back in June of last year, but I have to say, it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve written. I had a lot of fun writing a portly hero with a heart of gold, his eight children, and the Englishwoman and former governess who travels west as a mail-order bride to marry him, mostly so she can wrangle his children. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue. Who would have thought that a non-traditionally handsome, non-alpha male hero would capture so many hearts?

But let’s go back and focus on the BookBub part of this whole equation. Readers, if you haven’t signed up for BookBub’s daily deals emails, you’re missing out. Because they send out a LOT of great stuff! And authors, yeah, I know. One reason those BookBub emails are so great is because they have a VERY stringent process for choosing which books to promote. They only accept a tiny fraction of books that are submitted. And it drives authors to despair. Because some of us submit over and over and over and get rejection after rejection.

Believe it or not, I was one of those rejected authors. True, I haven’t had trouble getting freebie BookBub promos, and I have a theory about that which I’ll share some other time. But up until yesterday, after about five years of trying, I’d never had a 99 cent deal. Okay, granted, I didn’t try super hard to get one up until the last year or so because my marketing strategy relied more on freebies. But I was turned down plenty of times before being accepted.

And when I was, it wasn’t for the category I applied for. They wanted to put me in a new category. I had to take a chance…and it paid off! I was on most retailer’s Top 100 charts, including #34 on Amazon, when I woke up this morning! But it didn’t just happen easy-peasy, lickety-split. Not only did getting to that spot involve a lot of persistence when it came to submitting for the BookBub deal, dude, His Remarkable Bride is, like, the 35th book I’ve published or something.

It’s easy to get down in the mouth when we see other people in our same field or with our same life circumstances succeeding in ways we want to but haven’t, whether that’s getting a BookBub promo, getting a promotion, or getting pregnant after dealing with infertility. I know that I am particularly susceptible to jealousy, and it’s something I’ve had to work on HARD for most of my life. But this is a story not just of persisting in applying for one particular promo. I feel like my entire career so far, my entire life, has been about persisting in improving my writing and making it as technically good, original, and emotional as possible. It’s been about persisting when I felt trapped in a corporate job with no way of getting out. It’s been persisting when I didn’t think I was going to have enough money to pay bills. And I’m sure I’ll have to continue to persist. My heart tells me that I might have to persist enough to fight to keep this life I love so much as external forces (like that money thing) try to chip away at it.

This is what really matters

Persistence is key! If you give up on your dreams at any point, not only is that a sadness, it becomes that much harder to jump back onto the tack of pursuing them once you feel inspired again. In a way, persistence is the antithesis of inspiration. Inspiration is a glorious high, but persistence is a plodding, sometimes miserable and unrewarding, daily task that you have to do, whether you feel like it or not. But I have an image that always comes to mind when I don’t feel like writing or marketing or doing anything besides lying on my couch covered in cats, playing games on my iPad. And of all things, it’s a football analogy. You have to move the ball forward. Every day, even if it’s just a single yard, you have to move the ball forward.

And as far as my personal life goes, it was an awesome day yesterday because I got to hang out with this guy all morning! It’s an even more awesome day when I get to hang out with him and his sister, but oh, my heart! My career could have fallen apart yesterday and I still would have counted it a great day because of him (and his mommy). Because that’s what’s really important in life.

Status Update – Status Quo

Mar 15, 2017

Yeah, I’ve been really lazy about updating my blog lately. After I made such a big noise about wanting to post more often here so I can avoid the turmoil of FB. Well, the only excuse I can give is that nothing really exciting has been going on in my world. And you know, sometimes it’s nice when there’s just nothing to report.

Except maybe that snowstorm yesterday. We were forecast to get 12-16 inches. In the end, I think we got about 5 inches of snow with about a quarter inch of ice on top of that. I’m lucky that I didn’t lose power, but I did wake up in the middle of the night last night (which is normal) and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about whether my car is frozen into its parking place, and the fact that I don’t have a shovel to dig it out. But looking out the window this morning, it looks like a couple cars that were in other parking spots had no trouble driving over the snow that was plowed against the backs of all of our cars.

See, that’s about as exciting as things have been lately. But for me, that’s actually a grand improvement. I think I’ve mentioned before that this has been a tough winter for me and my stress level. But in the last week or so, things have been looking up. I’ll admit, I started taking a bit of St. John’s Wart, which may or may be what’s contributing to the upward tick.

Kitten therapy or just having this grumpy old man yell at me to snap out of it?

Side Note: Back in the 90s, I worked for an herbalist at his health food store, and I learned a LOT about alternative medicine. I’m incredibly sensitive to pharmacology, if that’s the right way to say it, probably because Mom never gave us a lot of medicine when we were growing up. Not even aspirin. But then, we were really healthy and didn’t need it. Nowadays, I find that holistic medicine works just fine for me, even though it does nothing for other people. As my old boss taught me, that could be because my system hasn’t adapted to allopathic drugs. It could also be because he taught me which brands and preparations actually work and which are glorified grass clippings in capsules. The answer, by the way, is that liquid herbal preparations are a billion times more effective than capsules, and the brands Gaia Herbs and Herbalists & Alchemists are pretty much the most reliable brands on the markets.

But anyhow, the reason I mention this is because I’ve heard a lot of storied from friends of mine who have been having serious problems with depression this year. Like, VERY serious. It makes me grateful that my anxiety and depression is just annoying, and that I can handle it with herbs and kittens. My heart really goes out to those friends. And it makes me grateful that I’ve had nothing to report for a while. Sometimes smooth sailing and calm seas can be just what the doctor ordered.

Status Update – Get Outta Here!

Jan 29, 2017

So I was having a conversation with my friend and fellow writer, Laura L. Stapleton, yesterday about Canada. We’re both massive Canada-lovers, and given the choice, we’d both move to Nova Scotia in a heartbeat. The thing is, I’d move to London in a heartbeat too. Or maybe Hampshire, or France or Ireland or Australia. I haven’t been to those last three yet, but SOON! Yeah, Laura and I were saying that there should be mandatory quotas for traveling abroad. Americans gotta get outta here!

And I know, a lot of people have been ranting that they’re ready to move out of the US these days, but I can assure you that I’ve always wanted to move. I remember daydreaming about running away to England when I was a child. I think I must be part gypsy.

The funny thing is, I am also sort of starting to maybe think about buying an actual house instead of just renting. Although I don’t really like mowing or raking or shoveling or gardening or all of those things you have to do when you have a house. But the idea of having a place of my own is kinda appealing.

As long as I can spend about half of my time traveling abroad. Ha! I don’t know if I’ll ever make up my mind to definitely stay in one place or definitely travel. I think the only solution is to buy a house with an in-law apartment and hire my assistant, Julie, to live there. She says she’s totally on board with that plan, btw.

So here are some of my favorite pics of places outside of the US that I’ve been….

My first trip to England was in 2010. This is the Hampshire countryside, aka Jane Austen country! I loved it!

A couple years ago I went to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. I wish I’d taken more pics of things that weren’t the resort, because Nassau is fascinating place!

And yes, I’m a total nerd who drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a vacation in December! What you can’t tell from this pic is that it was 5 degrees. Farenheit! But beautiful!

London! London is my soul’s home. I would live there if I could. This is me and London, taken from The Eye of London. Magnificent!

 

What I Learned About Love From Bill Cosby

Aug 30, 2013

BillWhen you think of Bill Cosby, you might very well think of Jell-O Pudding Pops or Fat Albert or Temple University (if you’re from Philly) or even some of the most hysterical comedy routines of the last quarter of the 20th century. I’m sure you think about The Cosby Show. That’s certainly what comes to my mind. But along with that, indeed, because of The Cosby Show, when I think of Bill Cosby, I think of love.

About a month ago, I was out to dinner with my brother and sister-in-law. Kristine mentioned that she had never watched The Cosby Show. Stewart and I immediately launched into “Oh, you HAVE to watch it” and “It’s so good!” and “It’s the best tv show that has ever been produced”. We went on to relate our favorite Cosby moments to each other across the table: the time that Denise tried to make the shirt for Theo, Bill Cosby’s explanation to Theo, using Monopoly money, of how much life costs when you’re a young person living on your own, Sondra singing mopey songs when she broke up with Elvin, the episode guest-starring Danny Kaye. We remembered so much, even though we hadn’t watched the show in more than a decade.

Well, thanks to Amazon, that has changed. I’ve been watching The Cosby Show again from the beginning, and I tell you, my heart has grown about five sizes.

Bill Cosby was not only funny, he had (has) a unique kind of integrity that I don’t see on tv so much these days. The Cosby Show was firmly about family and for families. Lots of shows on the air today are about families, but Cosby was different. The kids could have attitude, yes, but they were not consistently rotten, nor were they smarter than the parents. Cliff and Clair Huxtable were not always right, but they were always the Mom and Dad, with capital letters. The show taught values in a way that I don’t see on tv now. It wasn’t preachy, it was so, so funny. But the humor didn’t come from wild or wacky situations, it came from the little things that we have all experienced in our own families and therefore identify with.

The Cosby Show was a great show, but for me the lesson of love goes much deeper than that. Continue reading