Nightlights available at independent bookstores in WA

Humanities Washington

Humanities Washington Anthology of Northwest Writers - "Night Lights"

Night Lights, Humanities Washington’s collection of eclectic and entertaining short stories by 21 Northwest authors, is now available at and the following independent bookstores!

The Cat Burglar

Mid December already! Where have we been? To California and back again–Stanford is such a beautiful campus and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sarum Seminar evening (I could relax–Emma was talking): A Great Good Place for Books IS a great good place for books in Oakland; San Francisco–what can I say, a fabulous city, and City Lights is another great bookstore; Bouchercon was fun. The weather for the trip was absolutely perfect, warm and sunny. Since our return Emma’s kept us in England and the Low Countries with Joan of Kent, right here in our office.

I wanted to plug a book to which I contributed a story “The Cat Burglar”–all proceeds go to Humanities Washington: Nightlights: Stories and Essays from Northwest Authors
Every year 5 writers are invited to read an original story (10 minutes reading time max) at the Bedtime Stories fundraising dinner for Humanities Washington. The theme changes each year.

My invitation came 7 years ago as I was departing to spend some time with my mom in what proved to be her final illness. Visiting her in the hospital, I’d told her I was trying to come up with an idea for a very short story around the theme, In the Wee Hours. As I sat with her and my niece and nephew one afternoon, she asked me to tell her something really silly–“Cheer me up!” So I proceeded to tell, with lots of sound effects, the saga of the cat burglar who’d been taunting my household for almost a year. By the time I was finished we were all laughing and wiping our eyes, and all three encouraged me to just write up that story, just as I’d told it, for the event. So it’s a very special story for me. Mom died before I presented it that autumn–but she would have been so proud–it brought down the house–my comedy debut!

It’s an amazing collection–a few of the contributors whose names you’ll recognize are Tom Robbins, August Wilson, Charles Johnson, Tess Gallagher, Rebecca Brown.

Getting Real With History in Novels

I love the idea of sharing a blog with you, Emma. Now to see how the reality feels.

First, an update on my appearance at Bouchercon in San Francisco this coming week–my panel is at 3:00 pm Friday:

Writing historical crime fiction. How accurate do you have to be?
Oline Cogdill (M), Rebecca Cantrell, Candace Robb, Roger Hudson, Caroline Todd,
Charles Todd
Room: Seacliff C

Neither I nor anyone else on the panel understands the title, but we hope you’ll engage us in some great discussion.

And if you’re in the Bay area this week but not going to Bouchercon (well, even if you are)–come see Emma read from The King’s Mistress and talk about Alice Perrers at A Great Good Place for Books, in Oakland, on Wednesday evening (13 Oct) at 7:00 pm.

* * * * *

I had intended to play with some of the ideas Emma and I came up with while brainstorming the Sarum Seminar talk: On Second Thought: Reconsidering the Reputations of Alice Perrers and Joan of Kent , but suddenly the talk’s just a few days away and I’m tidying up loose ends.

And, by the way, here’s another chance to see Emma and me–at Stanford University this coming Tuesday, the 12th (busy week):

For now, I wanted to post a comment on one of Emma’s earlier posts and my response–not everyone reads comments. I’ll expand on this later.

A reader (Mary Beth) wrote:

Your new blog is a timely find for me, as I just finished reading “The King’s Bishop ” and found your portrayal of Alice in this book quite fascinating.

How was the experience of writing/researching “The King’s Mistress” compared to Alice of the Owen Archer series?  Do you feel that she is a different woman from the character of your earlier series?  Or was the new book a chance to indulge in a desire to dig deeper and deeper into someone who just intrigued you and deserved a new understanding?

I mean, do you recognize the Alice of your earlier books as the same Alice in your new book?  (Which I just now found out about by reading this blog- great!  I’ll have to get it!)

I replied in the comments:

I remember with what fun I used Alice Perrers in The Lady Chapel, but by the time I wrote The King’s Bishop I was taking her more seriously. It’s been a while since I reread that book, but I do know I was already feeling far more empathy for her than I had in TLC—she was no longer just Thoresby’s nemesis. It was during a long tour for the book in the UK that I began to question the standard story of her life—it seemed more and more implausible to me as I explained it to audiences. So, yes, in The King’s Mistress I present a very different Alice, brought to life through years of pondering and presenting papers at academic conferences to entice fellow historians to share the snippets they’d collected. It’s been a fascinating and rewarding journey, leading to a new set of books in which I’m reconsidering reputations.

Emma and I both have much more to say about this. Stay tuned!


A Warm Welcome

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to my fellow blogger on A Writer’s Retreat (and the reason for renaming this blog), Candace Robb. Candace is the creator of my favorite medieval man, Owen Archer, and the woman I’d love to grow into as I age into wisdom, Magda Digby. While I’m on requests, I’d love to know what happened to Margaret Kerr once she accepted her gift of Sight….

Candace and I share a great deal–house, husband, cats, bodies–but we enjoy thinking and writing as separate entities. Keeps us fresh, keeps us on our toes.

Welcome, Candace! I look forward to your first post.

Edward of Woodstock’s tower in Geronde estuary

Serendipity–I am working on Joan of Kent, married at one point in her life, and most famously, to Edward of Woodstock, in modern times known as the Black Prince (NOT in the 14th century). Yesterday I was doing my usual dawdle around the web before getting down to work when I happened on this story. Fascinating! I’ve highlighted in boldface the paragraph that explains the connection.

A new island in the Gironde estuary waters between Royan and the lighthouse of Cordouan
The ‘mystery island’ created by cyclone Klaus in the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Photograph: Couillaud Pascal/Sud-Ouest/Maxppp

In the early morning of 23 January 2009, the most powerful hurricane-force storm to hit France in a decade came howling in from the Bay of Biscay.

With wind speeds of up to 125mph, cyclone Klaus struck land at the point of the estuary of the river Gironde, near Bordeaux, then charged south-east to Spain and across the Mediterranean to Italy. It left 26 people dead, flattened forests and power lines and caused massive destruction of buildings and roads.

But it also left behind an extraordinary creation at the very point where its devastation began, causing the townsfolk of Royan, a fishing port situated at the mouth of the Gironde, to rub their eyes in disbelief.

Seven miles out to sea, along the frontier between the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary, an island had risen out of the boiling waters. It had a surface area of 11 acres above the highest sea level, and a base of some 250 acres at low tide. Locals soon called it “l’île mystérieuse” – the mysterious island – after the novel by Jules Verne.

“What is so remarkable about this new island, apart from its sudden apparition, is that it has since remained intact in what is often a very violent, hostile sea environment,” said Guy Estève, a retired local geomorphologist. “It could well become a permanent feature.”

The nature of its apparition was all the more fantastic given that it emerged close to the location of the lost island of Cordouan, once home to the Tower of the Black Prince, a legacy of English occupation during the 100 Years’ war. Inhabited from Roman times until the late Middle Ages, Corduan disappeared below the waves after the erosion of its limestone rock. France’s oldest lighthouse, completed in 1611 to replace Edward of Woodstock’s tower, now stands at the site.

Situated one mile east of the lighthouse, created amid Klaus’s fury from submerged sand and sediment, the new island quickly attracted scientific interest, offering a unique opportunity to study the creation and development of its ecosystem.

See the entire article here: