RESEARCH: Once Upon a Time Part 5

I’m glad you’re here for our tour of the grounds and outbuildings near the mansion.

My family and I had picnics near this round pond, which was part of a priory in the 17th century. I heard many local tales about an 18th century woman who saved a child from drowning in the pond. Later the woman was convicted of crimes and transported to Australia. Hmm! I wonder why I was already interested in rule breakers when I was a child.

© 2009 Paranoid from Suffolk

This 17th century ice house is near the round pond. It was built from brick and covered with an earth mound. The interior is about 30 feet deep. Whenever the pond froze, workers would cut blocks of ice and pack them into the vaulted space between layers of straw. Even in the hottest weather, the melted snow cooled the wine and kept the food fresh. How are we supposed to get a better look when the entrance is locked?

I enjoy coming here on a weekday, because the park is not crowded. The place is my kingdom. Sorry, it’s the princess in me.

I should have warned you. This park, which is located in the middle of a neighborhood near the center of town, is about 83 acres or 33 Hectares. It’s not the 100 acre woods of Christopher Robin, but you can get lost. That’s not good, because it gets dark early in this part of the world and the gates are locked in the evening. Thank goodness the hero of my next manuscript knows how to pick a lock.

It’s a sunny October morning, not night, in this photo. We’re deep in the Wildlife Reserve. I played in the thick brambles and pretended I was Maid Marian hiding with Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.

Unfortunately this area is no longer home to spotted deer; but over 100 species of birds, plants, and animals can be found here now. Oh yes, and an occasional princess.

I’m sorry this photo is dark. I still don’t know the history of the small cottage near the center of the photo. Maybe the caretaker lived here. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic place for a historical romance author / princess to live and write humorous novels about heroes and heroines who circumvent the laws and rules of Society in Victorian England? If only I knew someone like that. And had the key.

It would take several days to explore everything. There are several outbuildings, tennis courts, a croquet lawn, and a bowling green in the park. This building is an art gallery, which was added to the rear of the mansion. You might want to view the paintings by two of my favorite British landscape painters, Thomas Gainesborough and John Constable.

Thanks for joining me. This visit is the last part of the Once Upon a Time series. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the places, which inspired my passions for writing, research, and England. In the future, the majority of posts in this category will include research directly related to my current manuscript(s).

© 2012 All rights to change my mind are reserved.

Writer Whisperer of the Week: Gary Brandt

You’re not in the wrong place. This week Gary Brandt is my first male honoree. Being the princess that I am, I’ve proclaimed him Writer Whisperer of the Week.

I used to meet with Gary and other writers from our local RWA chapter. Sometimes he and I were the only ones who came. We critiqued each other’s work, but I know he helped me more than I helped him.

Gary is terrific at catching detailed errors in logic, which frankly is not how my brain works. Having access to his male writer’s point of view is invaluable. I also love reading his stories and have three favorite ones I want to share.

“Hot Link” is a short story about a lawyer, who Googles his name and sees a link to another man with the same name. When the lawyer clicks on the link, he becomes the other man. I’m ready to pay money to see this story at the movie theater, and I bet I’m not alone. Gary, what are you waiting for? Pitch and sell it!

One of These Nights is a WIP (Work in Progress). It’s a paranormal novel with a twist. The hero is a hairdresser in a small town, which is invaded by the Devil and his half human daughter. Gary, please watch Zombieland and finish this novel.

Gary and I like the same movies, even the ones that weren’t big box office hits. I was excited and apprehensive when he told me about Bourne Beginning. It’s the prequel to the other books and movies in the series. The novel covers Jason Bourne’s life before Treadstone and his previous and current relationship with Nicky Parsons. Gary has my permission to finish this novel, too, with one condition. DO NOT KILL NICKY PARSONS! The princess has spoken.

Here’s a list of Gary’s works, which are an interesting mix of science fiction and romance.

Short Stories – Only If You Catch Me, Hot Link, A Christmas With Spirit (2nd place winner in the Lockhart Eugene Clark Library Contest), Just Your Thoughts; Maybe Not, Chooser of the Slain, Dancin’ in the Moonlight

Novels – Trashcan Baby and The Solerian Connection series: Book 1 Solerian Waterfall, Book 2 The Hybrid Robotic Automobile, Book 3 Solerian Honeymoon, Book 4 The Rescues (WIP)

Other WIP – One of These Nights and Bourne Beginning


Gary doesn’t have a website yet. If you’re a literary agent, editor, or movie producer interested in Gary’s writing, send an email to this site. I’ll forward it to him. What are you waiting for?

Not Quite Ten Things You Never Knew About Me

  1. On a field trip I left the group and stood next to Prince Charles without permission.
  2. I had a crush on him. I was eight years old. What did I know?
  3. The first time my family was invited to a British family’s home for dinner, I fed my steak and kidney pie to the large fern plant behind me.
  4. I always went with my father to pick up lunch on Saturdays. I loved fish n’ chips. Did you know you can rewrap the newspaper, and no one knows you sneaked a bite except the people waiting in line behind you?
  5. Whenever my father played golf, I went with him. He gave me a large striped umbrella and told me to jump up and down in the heather, so he could find the golf balls and me. One time another golfer paid me to find his golf ball. I didn’t jump up and down until I hid the coin in my pocket.
  6. My school bus was a fancy British touring coach with plush velvet seats. There was a military policeman on the bus, and I had a crush on him, too. Sorry, Prince Charles. I was eight years old.
  7. The bus driver listened to popular music on the radio. I sang along and waved at strangers passing by.
  8. One day I had to stay on the bus for two hours, because an undetonated World War II bomb was found near the road. I watched from the window of the bus. Shouldn’t I have been where I couldn’t see the bomb?
  9. At the time I never asked why a military policeman was on the bus. I was eight years old. Remember? Years later I asked my father. He said the military policeman was there to prevent the kids from doing anything embarrassing or upsetting. He was glad I never did. What happens in England stays in England, right?

    What are some things most people don’t know about you?

Once Upon a Time Part 4

© 2011julesfoto
I’m still overwhelmed when I visit Christchurch Mansion in England and enter the Great Hall with its black and white tiled floor. I came here several times a week as a child, and I still have the guidebook I purchased with my allowance. Back then the sole curator let me wander wherever I wanted when he was busy giving a tour. Visitors awaiting the next tour often assumed I was his daughter.
   I would glance at this witch’s chair or dunking chair used to prevent wicked women from telling lies and blasphemy. I decided to keep my mouth closed. I never corrected visitors’ misconceptions about who I was and never explained to the curator why so many visitors commented on how lovely his daughter was. He thought they knew her from contact with his wife or the local schoolchildren.
I desperately wanted to enter this formal library. I loved the period furnishings from the desk to the clock to the globes. Insert your favorite 18th century heroine and/or hero here. I did.
  The 17th century flocked wallpaper darkened this room, but the effect transported me to the period of candles and firelight. I must confess I knocked the museum ropes over once, because I was leaning too close.
  These detailed 16th century panels once lined the devotional closet of a lady and were moved to the mansion in 1924. The panels on the bottom were my favorite, because I loved flowers. I would sit on the floor, so I could see the details. Since I wasn’t sure what devotional meant, I fantasized about having a fancy closet like this one and not sharing it with my sister.
  Victorian era toys were secured behind glass doors. Why didn’t the curator leave the key on a nearby hook rather than in his pocket?
  The china was displayed on a table in the servant’s hall. Perhaps that’s why I’m fond of blue and white china.
Below stairs servants worked 18 hours a day or more washing, drying, and pressing clothing and linens in this room. I didn’t worry about chores like that. My mother was home doing the laundry.
The kitchen was lined with cabinets and shelves for china, silver, and cookware. Where were the cook and food when I was hungry? Or at least a Cadbury chocolate bar?Join me for a virtual picnic and a tour of the mansion outbuildings and grounds next week. Be sure to BYOF, Bring Your Own Food.

As Clear as Jupiter in the Spring

“Since the return from her stay on the moon,
She listens like spring and talks like June.”

Excerpt from “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” released and sung by Train ©2001
Songwriters: Pat Monahan/Scott Michael Underwood/ Robert S. Hotchkiss

Don’t get me wrong, I like this song. It sounds great, but what do those two lines really mean? In fact, I’d be happy to know what just one line means.

Oh, yeah. “She listens like spring and talks like June.” The last words of each line rhyme. The words evoke pleasant images, but are they good enough?  Ah, where have we writers heard that question before? And how many times? If you’re a constant editor like me, probably a whole galaxy worth.

So how do you deal with word selection? A thesaurus, roulette wheel, or typing “Insert clever word(s) here.” Please tell me by leaving a comment.

Meanwhile I’ll ponder that 1980’s Irish Spring commercial about their soap being as fresh as a country road in Ireland after a spring rain.

That is mud, isn’t it?

P.S. If you’re a Train fan, you might want to go online to view their upcoming events.

WRITER FAIRY OF THE WEEK: Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Laurie and I have never met in person although our dust bunnies probably have. Neither of us likes housecleaning.

I met Laurie through one of her terrific online courses. Besides learning how to write an effective synopsis, I loved experiencing the special way Laurie encouraged the other writers and me. She prefers live and lively classes, so she can provide in depth and personal instruction. Me, too!

In case you were wondering about Laurie’s writing credentials, she’s one of a few writers who have ever beat out Nora Roberts for a writing award, Romantic Times’ Best of the Year. Don’t miss your chance to take one of her classes soon! Here’s a list of the next three classes.



August 6th-31st BLURBING YOUR BOOK


To find out more about Laurie and details for her workshops, click here.

Laurie, thanks for your continued interest in my writing and for the thing I’m not supposed to mention until next year! I hope my dust bunnies don’t find out. They can’t keep a secret even though I make them sit in the corner.

RESEARCH: Once Upon a Time Part 3

We’ve passed the red letterbox from Part 2 last week and are on our way to the “real” mansion for lords and ladies. We won’t dally as long as I did as a child, but here are some of the places that piqued my curiosity.


I was enthralled with visions of being invited inside these homes for tea or . . .


living behind ivy covered walls or bright colored doors.

© 2010 by Simon K.

I imagined fighting the smuggler who once owned this Georgian public house or the ghostly inhabitants who supposedly haunted it at night.  Even the church with its graveyard didn’t deter me. In my stories I was invincible.

© 2009 Sophie Sampson

Don’t worry! We’re almost to the main entrance to the mansion with its pineapple finials and wrought iron gate.  I promise not to swing on it this time, so you can see the red brick Tudor mansion.

©2004 Roland Shaw

Sorry. I’m afraid Elizabeth I, Charles II, and Prince Albert beat us here by over 150 years. From the 16th to 19th century the original E-shaped building, grounds, and ownership changed. No lords lived here, but quite a few ladies did. However, several viscounts and a reverend resided in the mansion until a local brewery owner purchased the property. In the late nineteenth century he deeded the mansion and land to the town for public use and preservation.

Sorry, I’m late and have to rush home. Unfortunately my mother doesn’t think I’m invincible. Meet me here next week, and we’ll go inside the mansion.

LARK’S EYE VIEW: Two Week’s Notice or What Do My Site Stats Mean

Dear Visitors,

I officially activated my site on the 17th of April, and I found myself checking the site stats daily. OK, more than once a day. I wanted to see who noticed my site during the previous 2 weeks.

I’m fascinated by the fact that I can click and have instant access to statistics, a subject I abhorred in school. I’m still learning about the significance of clicks, referrers, search engines, and pingbacks. Maybe I’ll be stat savvy someday.

However, I do understand that my site averaged 100 views a day for the 14-day period. The highest number of views (206) occurred on the first day. A friend told me those numbers were good. I’m just glad people visited my site.

The majority of views came from the U.S., which isn’t surprising, nor were the over 50 views from the U.K. and Canada. However, I’m not sure what led to the 7 views from France. If you know, please contact me.

Regardless of where you live or when you visited, I’m thrilled you did. Hopefully you’ll return often. Please leave a comment next time, so I can learn more about you and what you think.

I promise to reply promptly rather than look at stats. However, I might have to remove the peanut butter from my eyeglasses first.

Thank you and merci!

Writer Fairy of the Week: Sue Morrow

I met Sue at the YMCA a few years ago. It was about time! We had previously lived in two other places at the same time going through identical life experiences without bumping into each other. We’re the exception to the small town rule about everyone knows everything about everyone.

Sue and I finish each other’s sentences and “read” each other’s thoughts. That’s not too unusual for close friends except those connections were instantaneous. Sue calls me on the phone at the exact moment I’m calling her or vice versa.

The adventures we share are sometimes bizarre but always fun. Who doesn’t want a bird flying inside their car, a waitress sitting in their booth while they eat, or a movie projector exploding five minutes before the film ends?

Many of my writer friends say their non-writer friends don’t understand what it’s like to be a writer. Sue isn’t a writer, but she understands and supports my writing life. Without my asking, Sue brings groceries, mails packages, and anything else I need when I have a deadline. She doesn’t get angry if days or weeks go by without one of our adventures.

I know how fortunate I am to have Sue in my life. That’s why she’s my Writer Fairy every day. Sue, thanks for being you and for being my friend!

Sue and I are going to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie the third week in May. You might want to go some other time.