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Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hope you are having a great week. Mine is not so fun, since I just got back from a lovely vacation in Santa Fe (eating green chile enchiladas, drinking margaritas, laying by the pool, looking at art…) and now have to settle down to work again. But it’s nice to be diving into a new book and thinking about blogs again. 🙂

When I was trying to find subjects for today’s post, I found out St. Hildegard of Bingen died September 17 in 1179. I’ve always thought she was a fascinating woman, and I love listening to CDs of music, so I thought we could take a quick look at her life (even though she is waaaayy earlier than Regency!)

Hildegard was born in (probably) 1098, the 10th child of a noble German family. Overcome with children, they gave her to the Church when she was 8, which proved to be a blessing in her life. She was highly educated for the times, learing reading, writing, and music as a child. She grew up into a composer, philosopher, writer, healer, and visionary (she was plagued by ill health all her life, and had mystic visions during her sicknesses). She was elected abbess of her community in 1136, and founded at least one other nunnery.

70 to 80 of her compositions survive, along with some of her books (the best known is probably Know The Way), a morality play called Play of the Virtues), and books about the healing properties of herbs. She corresponded with popes, emperors, and people like Bernard of Clairvaux, and went on long preaching tours beyond her abbey. When she died, the nuns of her community claimed to see two bars of light appear in the sky and cross over her room.

Of her visions, she wrote:

But I, though I saw and heard these things, refused to write for a long time through doubt and bad opinion and the diversity of human words, not with stubbornness but in the exercise of humility, until, laid low by the scourge of God, I fell upon a bed of sickness; then, compelled at last by many illnesses, and by the witness of a certain noble maiden of good conduct [the nun Richardis von Stade] and of that man whom I had secretly sought and found, as mentioned above, I set my hand to the writing. While I was doing it, I sensed, as I mentioned before, the deep profundity of scriptural exposition; and, raising myself from illness by the strength I received, I brought this work to a close – though just barely – in ten years. […] And I spoke and wrote these things not by the invention of my heart or that of any other person, but as by the secret mysteries of God I heard and received them in the heavenly places. And again I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me, ‘Cry out therefore, and write thus!

This is just a quick glimpse of her fascinating (and ahead of her time) life! I really like Fiona Maddocks’s biography Hildegard of Bingen: Woman of Her Age (2001). There are some great links to sources on this page and this one too…

Who are some of your heroines this week??

Me and Carolyn (double-nominated for the RITA; boo-ya!) at the RITA Awards:

So by now you are all pretty well aware that most of the Riskies went to Orlando for our National Conference.

This one features me, Carolyn and frequent Risky visitor Keira:

And me and Amanda (also nominated for the RITAs; do Riskies know how to represent, or what?)

Okay, so I cannot format a post to save my life. Whatever.

I am not here to talk about what happened last week, however, but what is about to happen tomorrow: My son and I head off for Minnesota for our annual two-week sojourn. Him to take sailing lessons, me to work and hang out by myself in a super-clean house (thanks, Aunt Mary!). So, of course, the most pressing and interesting part of packing is not what clothes to bring (my colors for this trip are black, brown and pink, if you’re wondering; in Orlando they were black and green), but what books to pack.

Two weeks! Free time! So much to read!

So here is what I’m thinking about:

Last week, Amanda recommended a book called Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him; it’s a contemporary book featuring a New York woman working in an art gallery (the title of the book is a painting the heroine sees). She said the writing reminded her of my writing, and it’s all witty and stuff.

I also heard that Elizabeth PetersAmelia Peabody mystery series was witty and wryly clever (like me!), so I got Crocodile On The Sandbank, the first book in the series.

I’ve got Ann Aguirre‘s Grimspace, a gritty SF/fantasy thingy that kinda defies description. Carolyn and I got to hang out with Ann a bit last week, and that spurs me to pick up her books, long on my bedside table.

Then there’s Loretta Chase‘s Last Night’s Scandal. Sigh. I’ve heard it’s great, and that’s no surprise, since Loretta is just such an incredible writer. Victorian-set (thanks to Myretta Robens for correcting me!), one of the few straight historicals I’m taking with me. I’m finding my taste right now is veering towards urban fantasy and paranormal. Although I also have . . .

Elizabeth Hoyt‘s Wicked Intentions, Georgian-set, I think, so there is another straight historical in the suitcase. I love Hoyt’s delicious prose, her characters are distinctive and spirited, but not annoyingly so.

And I’ve got the 12th book in Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files series, Changes. I love Harry Dresden. Not only that, Butcher has improved with each book, which is really remarkable, given how long the series has gone on. This one is urban detective fantasy, I guess. There are wizards and witches and vampires and stuff. Set in Chicago.

Meljean Brook‘s Demon Blood is also on the bedside table. Meljean writes complex, compelling books that require your full attention, so are perfect for vacations when you’re not likely to get too distracted.

None of these are definitely going into the bag, I won’t make the Final Decision until tomorrow. Plus, I also have to carry the books with me, since my checked luggage is already quite heavy, since my son and I are packing together. But I know that a few sore muscles are well worth having the perfect book while away, so I’ll likely pack too many and suffer (THREE of these are hardcovers, too! I kinda hate hardcovers). Seven books, two weeks. Think I better visit the TBR pile again; that might not be enough.

What’s been your favorite summer read so far? How many genres do you regularly read in?


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Posting late from a household full of angst. I’m off to the UK next week to attend the RNA conference, visit family and Chawton, and in between writing frantically and trying to wrap things up at work, finding things.

Now I firmly believe that there is an imp in my house that goes around moving things. Here’s my success rate of finding vital travel items:

  1. Fancy shoes. Second of pair found. Thrown into suitcase immediately to avoid imp action.
  2. Camera. Found. USB cable? Turned office upside down, called Fuji (“yes, we can get one to you in 7 to 14 business days”) and a local camera store who don’t have one but can provide me with something that may or may not be like a flash drive and may or may not work on a Mac. Husband went into his lair and found USB cable immediately, coiled and stowed safely since the huge snowstorm (February) when he’d downloaded pics.
  3. Talking of which … surge protector/convertor. Found.
  4. Yoga pants. I wasn’t intending to take them, but this was a bonus find.
  5. Collection of short-sleeved black t-shirts. Come on, imp, they were all I could find all winter long. Where are they now?

I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t have to pack something like this gorgeous late Georgian-early Victorian writing slope although my elderly laptop probably weighs about the same (full description here).

In addition, I don’t feel compelled to pack a huge traveling medicine chest just in case. Regency researcher Nancy Mayer has a great article on what the Regency lady might take on her travels here.

And here’s a deluxe traveling medicine chest taken by intrepid Cornish explorers Richard and John Lander when they discovered the sources of the Nile in the early 1830s. Lots of Epsom Salts because you can’t explore if you’re not regular.

And reading matter: I’m happy to report that I have acquired the huge, heavy third Stieg Larsson book for the long plane ride. (Did you see Nora Ephron’s very funny parody for the New Yorker?) It’s only that I’m too busy that I haven’t got into it yet.

Do you have any books you’re saving for travel or vacation this summer? Tell us about your summer reading and what you’ll be doing.

A Damned Good Contest is still open and awaiting your participation!

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I had a wonderful time in SF, between the totally awesome and inspiring Historical Writers’ Conference, dancing at the soiree, boning up on craft and research, meeting Riskies and friends. I’m still on an emotional high but after a week of running on adrenalin my body has *crashed*.

But there is no rest for the weary. My To Do List includes items like unpacking, mowing the lawn, cleaning the fish tank, identifying and removing anything that looks like a science experiment from the fridge, preparing materials to send to prospective new agents.

Somehow I will do it all but I really need a vacation!

Fortunately that’s the other thing on my plate this week: getting myself and the family ready for a trip. Soon we will be driving to Florida where my husband and I will deposit our darlings with their grandparents and go for a short 20th anniversary cruise. We’ve never cruised before but thought it would be fun to try. Four days of relaxation and fornication can’t fail! On the return trip, we’ll go more slowly, stopping to visit relatives and friends in Asheville, where we also plan to tour Biltmore House. Then we’ll visit Monticello on the way home. My kids are budding history geeks, so I expect they’ll enjoy the historic home tours as much as I will.

So this trip will be part sightseeing, part unwinding. If I were going on holiday during the Regency, I’d still want that sort of mix. Time and budget allowing (and of course it would, because in my Regency fantasy my husband would be worth ten thousand a year) we might go to the Continent for sightseeing and shopping. But I’d also be happy rambling around the Lake District or by the seaside.

Just imagine this scene from PERSUASION:

“They went to the sands, to watch the flowing of the tide, which a fine south-easterly breeze was bringing in with all the grandeur which so flat a shore admitted. They praised the morning; gloried in the sea; sympathized in the delight of the fresh-feeling breeze–and were silent…”

So how about you? Have you been on–or are you planning–any cool vacations this summer? What would be your fantasy Regency vacation? If anyone has cruised before, do you have any advice to share?

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