Once Upon a Time Part 2

Last week I received many questions and comments about my childhood home,
so here’s a quick tour of the exterior of the house and the nearby road.

This is not the ornate iron gate that marked the entrance to my childhood home, but it’s very similar. I know it’s difficult to see the carved pineapple finials in this photo. Why did the owner select the pineapple as a symbol? Throughout history pineapples were a common symbol of hospitality. In Victorian times edible pineapples were a status symbol of prosperity, because the fruit was rare and hard to grow. Unfortunately, many of the Victorian architectural elements of my childhood home including the gate and finials were removed and sold after I returned to the United States. I can’t remember what symbol was carved on the finials. Maybe I was too busy swinging on the gate to pay attention.
This is not my childhood home, but this photo of a house next door shows a better view of the front. My childhood home is a quintuplet. It’s one of five remaining identical detached houses built in a row in 1898. Current owners of the houses are not allowed to alter the exteriors. I can’t visit my childhood home as often as I would like, but it’s comforting to know it will be there and look the same on the outside.
This is a view of the back of my childhood home. The photo was taken from the road behind the house. It’s hard to tell from this angle that the rear garden area is an entire block deep. To the immediate left is the back entrance gate. You can see the roof of a structure, which is a car garage. It’s built on the site of the demolished Victorian carriage house. The French doors, which once opened onto a terrace, and steps down to the garden, have been replaced by the windows on the lower right.
I took this photo from what Americans would call a second floor window inside my childhood home. In England it would be called the first floor window. You can see the “pink house” as I called it. Years later I discovered that the “pink house” had been converted from stables, which were at the rear of an estate. You can barely see the outline of the estate house on the hill behind the “pink house.” It’s the first house I saw whenever I walked through the front gates to the road.
When I was eight years old, I had to turn to the right by our front gate and walk down the street to a curved part of the road. There I would wait for the school bus. On the way I passed by a high baize green fence and large wooden gates. Elderly gentlemen would smile, tip their straw hats, and say, “Hullo, dearie.” Then they would open a tall, narrow door, which blocked my view of what was on the other side of the fence. Luckily in 2008 the gates were open, and I took this photo of the private lawn bowling and tennis club founded in the nineteenth century.
The driveway to the left is the entrance to the private lawn tennis and bowling club. The red letterbox was placed in this wall in 1912. How do I know? It’s stamped on the metal exterior. I danced and twirled next to this letter box as I waited for the school bus, which often didn’t arrive for an hour. My penchant for creating stories began with that letter box. I would imagine the people who might have posted their letters through its slot, the secrets they shared, and the identity of the people who received their letters.

We’ve reached the end of the tour. Next week I’ll feature the real mansion for lords and ladies, which is a few blocks away. In the meantime, please reply with comments or questions. I promise not to drop them in the letterbox.


Haley Whitehall and Nanette Littlestone
Haley and Nanette are terrific online editing partners, and I couldn’t feature one without the other. The three of us met by chance, but we’ve never met in person or talked on the phone.

We took back-to-back writing classes with expert instructor, Margie Lawson.* Deep-edits and dialogue cues and body language! Oh, my!  Fifty page lectures and questions and rewrites! Oh, ____! (Insert expletive of your choice.)

Due to Nanette and Haley’s support I survived what seemed like a yearlong slumber party. I don’t think I’ve caught up on my sleep, but I’d go through the experience again as long as they were my editing partners. I value their friendship and the fact that they appreciate my wacky emails.

These ladies have unique talents as writers, too. Here are their author bios in alphabetical order by first name.

Haley Whitehall is an Indie author who writes historical fiction set in the U.S. during the nineteenth century. She published her debut novel Living Half Free in February 2012. Her goal is to shed light on little-known history and as a result her out-of-the-box stories often feature an underdog. To find out more about Haley click here.

Nanette Littlestone is a freelance editor, author, graphic designer, and food lover. She has an affinity for words, relationships, ancient Rome, and Celtic things and places. Her upcoming novel, The Sacred Flameis book one in a women’s fiction trilogy, which explores the wonders and heartbreak of love from ancient Rome to 1940’s Ireland. To find out more about Nanette, click here.

*I hope to feature the fabulous Margie Lawson on this blog soon.

An Author By Any Other Name Would Not Be Me

I never liked my first and middle names. My mother named me after a movie star and doomed me to a life of people saying “Oh, like the actress!” What was she thinking? I guess the situation could have been worse. My mother could have named me after a shooting star. Imagine someone saying “Hi, Cysalist!” No one would be certain whether I was a disease or an insect casing.

I liked my maiden name until a new world leader emerged. He used the identical surname spelling but pronounced i differently. Some people argued that I had mispronounced my last name all my life. Really? To be fair not everyone disagreed. They asked if I was related to the world leader over and over and over.

Then I fell in love and married. Fortunately my husband’s surname had only one pronunciation. Unfortunately I encountered people who thought my new last name could be spelled correctly by omitting or adding various letters at whim. Maybe they thought they were on Wheel of Fortune and could buy a vowel.

So what does my name saga have to do with being an author? Everything. It’s why I wanted to have a pen name. I could choose my own name. Any name. I brainstormed lists and conducted polls, but the final decision was mine.

What did I do? I chose a name I  first heard when I lived in England.  I ignored the fact that Jillian is not an easy name to spell, but then what name is. I don’t mind that Jillian Michaels has the same first name. However, can I spin a wheel and win her abs, age, and height?

I didn’t want a middle name. An actress might have it. The surname Lark suits my affinity for carefree adventure and childhood obsession with chasing shore larks along the English coast. Lark also fits the light tone and spirited characters in my writing.

I can’t think of a better pen name for me. Recently a woman I didn’t know read my name tag and said, “You have the perfect name!” I don’t know if other people agree. If not, I can always blame my mother.

WARNING: The post you read is true. Some names have been omitted to protect the author. She’s innocent . . . this time.

The Writer Fairy

Artwork © Crystal Bannin  http://thequeenoftorts.blogspot.com/

Birth of the Writer Fairy

If you’re a writer, you wish there was a Writer Fairy. One who would appear when needed and say “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled writer yearning to breathe fresh, brilliant writing into this manuscript! How can I help?” Yes, I know. The only way to finish a manuscript is to sit down and write. But I can dream, can’t I?

When I searched for graphics for this website, I found a whimsical one from artist, Crystal Bannin at http://thequeenoftorts.blogspot.com/    Perfect! A fairy with words printed on her clothes and the gracious Crystal, who allowed me to use an image of her artwork entitled “Rachel.”  The Writer Fairy hatched like a Twitter egg into an avatar.

Then I had an epiphany. Writer Fairies do exist. They’re the wonderful writers, mentors, or other industry professionals we encounter on our journeys as readers and writers. Why not honor them?

Next week I’ll write about one of my personal Writer Fairies. HINT: I’ve already mentioned her on this site. Check the Writer Fairy of the Week blog to see if you guessed correctly.

In the meantime, please tell me about one of your Writer Fairies or ask a question about writing.

Once Upon A Time Part 1

Part 1

My passions for history, research, and England began when my family moved from the U.S. to this late Victorian era home near London. That’s me by the front door during a return visit in 2008, not me arriving at age eight. At least now I can reach the first row of stained glass without standing on tiptoe.

When I first viewed the ornate iron gates, front garden, and curved gravel drive I imagined I was a princess arriving at a mansion. The estate agent extolled the virtues of the Victorian furniture, William Morris wallpaper and rugs, carved marble fireplaces, French doors, and crystal chandeliers. It didn’t matter whom William Morris was or that I had only seen the ground floor. I was a princess living in a mansion.

After a week of exploring the maid’s quarters, glass-walled nursery, dumbwaiter, rear gardens, and carriage house, I ventured into the neighborhood. The family next door explained houses like ours were built for wealthy people like bankers, doctors, and architects. The real mansion for lords and ladies, not princesses, was a few blocks away.

I wasn’t disappointed then or now. My childhood home, neighborhood, and its residents inspire my writing. . Every time I visit this special place a part of me becomes that eight year old who believes she’s a princess and thinks every day is an HEA(Happily Ever After).

Which place(s) inspire your writing, research, or reading? Please share, ask a question, or leave a comment.

Ten Fun Facts I Don’t Know About Me

WARNING: This Post May Be Shorter Than It Appears.

I planned to write a Ten Fun Facts About Me post, but my weary brain preferred this version.

Ten Fun Facts I Don’t Know About Me*

*No computer or author malfunctions occurred during the making of this post. To quote the immortal, Ferris Bueller, “You’re still here? It’s over!”

OK, if you’re still here, you might as well do something. How would you fill in the list above?

Writer Fairy of the Week: Deb Sanders!

Deb was the first member of my RWA (Romance Writer’s of America) chapter to invite me to write at a coffee shop. I think my first newbie questions were  “Who is WIP?” and “Is head-hopping POV contagious?”

Deb smiled and answered questions for two hours without any attempt to escape through the nearest exit. To my amazement, she asked if I wanted to meet on a weekly basis. I had found my first Writer Fairy.

Despite two out-of-state moves, a full time job, and pursuing her writing career, Deb continues to smile and answer my questions. Actually I’m not sure if she’s smiling, but that’s how I prefer to imagine her. For all I know, she could be putting a Jillian-asked-another-question notch underneath her writing desk. In which case, she’s probably writing on the floor by now.

Without Deb my website wouldn’t have its beautiful lark header, and my business cards would be blank on one side. Worst of all, I wouldn’t have a wonderful friend and supporter of my writing career. Deb, you’re the best!

Deb writes romantic suspense and paranormal novels and published her first Indie book in November 2011. She is listed at #38 in the IReaderReview list of the TOP 50 INDIE AUTHORS for April 2012.

Learn more about Deb and what she’s up to by clicking HERE.

For more information about the Birth of the Writer Fairy or to ask a question about writing, go to the ASK the Writer Fairy blog.

J.K.Rowling, I’m Not So Different*

I’m a writer, too. When I was a child, I lived in England and played in the forest with my sister. I created a make-believe kingdom, wrote my first novel, and won an award for my writing. My first and last initials were the same as yours, and my family had a  light blue Ford Anglia.

jk_car© 2014 ClassicCars For Sale


OK, I realize you might doubt the truth of some or all of the statements above. I admit I am not a famous, published author earning huge, well-deserved royalties. The novel I wrote when I was eight years old only had four chapters, and the writing award I won was for a fire prevention slogan. Sadly, our Ford Anglia lacked the ability to fly.

Maybe I should rename this post “Six Degrees of Separation Which Have Nothing to Do with Kevin Bacon.”

*Thanks for the inspiration, Deb.