Another gorgeous day. We head out late morning for the walk to Palazzo Strozzi where there’s a Renaissance exhibit. First we’re going to change money at the bank on the corner. You can only go in through a tube-like door one at a time–and you can’t take any sort of bag. Once we figure that out, I go in only to find they don’t change money there.
But it was an interesting and surreal experience.
Along the way to the palace we spot a fruit and vegetable stall. It’s tucked into a kind of dead end along one of the narrow roads.
The colors are so incredible. I swear the strawberries didn’t look real, they were so deliciously red. Plump tomatoes, zucchini with the wonderful flowers still attached. Kat hadn’t seen damsons before–we had a tree in the yard where I grew up. So she buys a couple to try. I’d have done the same if I hadn’t just eaten a huge plum from the hotel fruit basket.
We walk on, with BW navigating with the map, across piazzas, down little streets–and there’s a shop with the most adorable baby clothes. Hand knit, crochets embroidery. The sweetest dress for my youngest granddaughter, Quinn, and the cutest little hooded sweater/jacket for her twin, Colby. Incredible workmanship, so very special.
We realize we need stamps after we spot a post office, so Jason and Kat go in to deal with it, and I wander the stalls outside. Score another Christmas present.
On we go, and BW winds us around to the Strozzi. The entrance leads to a wide, interior courtyard with a cafe. Lots of people sitting on benches in the cool. We check our bags, get our tickets, and start through the exhibit.
Amazing art. 14-1500, but there’s a stone bust from the second century. Lots of Donatello–bronzes, marbles, wood, terra cotta. Religious and classical heroic figures, and just out there. Not behind glass. I see Donatella’s St. George and the Dragon. Fantastic. A grinning boy with a hole at the end of his penis–he was a fountain. Peeing fountains, the plaque tells us were very popular.
I suppose the amusement factor for such things is, was and will be part of the human condition.
Many, many Madonnas with Child–and she always seems to be holding Jesus on her left arm. Jason imagines she had a gun of steel on that arm.
I love the ones where she’s cuddling him and they both look so happy.
It’s absolutely wonderful, from the sculptures to the paintings, all displayed in big, airy rooms with benches for those who want to sit and absorb.
At the end of the exhibit there’s a long table set up with tiles of stone, wood, leather, marble, bronze. You’re invited to sit, touch, consider the textures, what you prefer. You can fill out a postcard with a drawing or thoughts on your feelings. They’ve displayed many, and I enjoy looking through them.
Back out we go, and wander toward the Duomo, decide to have lunch–a lovely salad for me with a dressing of melted gorganzola. Delicious!
I see more girls/women with black tights or leggings under their dresses. WHY??? It’s not only hot but if it’s fashionable it’s still unattractive–and just silly when the temps are in the 90s.
It’s nice to sit, eat, drink, talk–and have the little mists of cool water trickle down now and then from the awning to cool us off.
Kat spots a woman with a bundle of scarves, and one is simply beautiful. The sale is done over the rail between the trattoria and the piazza. Nice work!
As the line for the small tour of the Duomo isn’t long, we go for it. Takes us little time to get in, and I remember so well from my first visit here how lovely it is. The intense colors of the stained glass, the stunning painted ceiling over the main altar area. It’s a reverent space despite the wandering tourists, but I think as reverent toward art and architecture as religion.
Once we’re done, we hit the gelateria across the piazza. Mint for me today–glorious, refreshing, with those little chunks of chocolate to add a touch of rich.
Another belt stall as Kat’s buying gifts, then the men are tired of us. LOL. As we’ve another stop to make–a return to a shop–they head back to the hotel, and Kat and I clean house!
I think I bagged nine more Christmas gifts which basically covers all my girl pals–and the proprietor, who has no English–is so sweet. Kat finds a fabulous bag for her laptop.
We haul it all back where I find BW asleep on the couch.
Tomorrow the Uffizi–and tonight I think very casual and easy again.
We enjoyed a bella notte at a trattoria in the piazza near the hotel. Gorgeous warm evening, cheerful outdoor seating. The piazza’s busy still, and three young boys hover around a bench sketching the big church. Future Da Vincis perhaps.
As we gear up for Nora’s travelogues from Florence, here’s a belated recap of the Turn the Page 18th Anniversary Weekend — a busy three days that led directly to the RWA annual conference for Nora (and me).
The weekend started with Nora’s final first pitch for the Hagerstown Suns who will be moving to Virginia next year. We have a great shot of Nora on the mound, courtesy of Bruce Wilder’s friend, Richard Dougan.
The first order of business on Saturday was a sit down in the courtyard of Inn BoonsBoro for a radio interview with Jane Cowan of the Australian Broadcast Company that aired on July 23 (click here for the interview). Some readers on Facebook asked why they sat so far apart and it was because Nora sat by the microphone and they filmed the interview.
Then it was onto the signing. The line was around the corner when the staff at Turn the Page opened the door at 10. The stellar lineup of authors included Kristan Higgins, Deanna Raybourn, Mary Blayney, Laura Kaye and Kathryn O’Sullivan. They chatted with readers, signed books and had a fabulous time during the four-hour event, including the corporate entertainment photo shoot.
One of my jobs during a signing is to take photos of anyone who would like to pose with Nora. Here are a couple from Saturday:
Amanda (with Nora) is a regular at TTP events. She’s currently battling colon cancer and reads a Nora book at every treatment. Her nurses now know to ask about which Nora she’s reading!
Donna (left) and Neva (right) are another set of pals who love to come to the events. I’ll probably take their photo in September too!
Lora comes to nearly every Turn the Page event and this time she won a door prize (signed by JD herself).
Jessie (right) brought her mom Becky (who was thrilled to meet Nora!) for the weekend.
Sunday was the first Fall Into A Brunch with Nora event at Dan’s Restaurant & Taphouse. Seventy readers took up every available seat to enjoy a delicious meal and great conversations about books. They also raised over $1000 for the Discovery Station in Hagerstown by vying for one of the four gift baskets on display.
Nora and I stopped at every table to chat and for photos, then everyone went out on Main Street for the official group shot.
Three Quick Questions (3QQ) is an ongoing feature at Fall Into the Story that highlights some of the authors scheduled to join Nora at a Turn the Page signing. This week, we’ll meet three authors who will be at the Turn the Page’s 18th Anniversary signing on July 13 from noon – 2 pm.
Mary Blayney recently completed her Pennistan series for Bantam with One More Kiss, the fifth story about the Duke Meryon’s unconventional siblings. After writing two books for Silhouette in the late 1980s, Mary has focused on one of her favorite times in history — England’s Regency. She’s even brought the Regency to the novellas she writes for the annual anthologies with JD Robb. Her six novellas have the continuing element of Poppy’s Coin, a magic coin that changes the lives of everyone who wishes on it, whether they know they are wishing on a magic coin or not.
When she’s not writing, Mary is an experienced and inveterate traveler. Next week she’ll travel to Atlanta with Nora for the 2013 Romance Writers of America conference where they will join over 450 writers at the annual Readers for Life Literacy signing. But one of Mary’s favorite places to visit is Inn Boonsboro where she’s been frequent and welcome guest since 2009.
Onto the questions:
1. One More Kiss is the last book in a long line of stories about the Pennistan family. Each book needs it’s own particular type of research, but overall what was it like to return to the world and characters you created.? And was there something new you learned as you wrote about Jess and Beatrice?
After five books going back to Derbyshire to see the Pennistans is like checking in with old friends. I love the chance to think about and explore how their marriages have changed them and how the three brothers and one sister appear to the newcomer, Beatrice. But there was a long road to that final epilogue. Along the way it was tremendous fun to do my version of a Regency house party where more than one relationship is explored and where that perennial secondary character William Bendasbrook finally found his own happily ever after.
Something new I learned? No doubt about it. The secret behind the brilliance of Rembrandt’s drawings fascinated me and the way Jess used it to explain his love for Beatrice was like icing on the cake, an idea that came out as though I was channeling his thoughts.
2. This fall you are reteaming with JD Robb, Ruth Ryan Langan, Mary Kay McComas and newcomer Elaine Fox for the Mirror, Mirror anthology coming in late September. The stories all take their cues from fairy tales — what can you tell us about yours?
“If Wishes Were Horses” in the MIRROR MIRROR anthology is a riff on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Yes, set in the Regency and yes the magic coin is an essential part of the story as it has been in all my novellas. Goldi is the maid Martha Stepp and the “Three Bears” is Sgt Jack Tresbere, a soon to retire infantry aid looking for someone with whom to share life’s next adventure. Jack and Martha get off to a rocky start when he realizes that she is the woman sleeping in his major’s bed the night he and the major arrive at Craig’s Castle
3. You’ve been a frequent guest at Inn Boonsboro since it opened in January 2009. Do you have a favorite room? And what is the ONE thing you recommend a first-time guest do while they are at the Inn?
It’s hard to pick a favorite room. All the beds are fabulous so it’s impossible to pick using that as criteria. I love Eve and Roarke. I do believe it has the best bathroom configuration. And I love the lighting, the covered grey button and the Galahad pillow. Of all of them it’s the one where I feel like Eve and Roarke are in the room next door. But then Elizabeth and Darcy has access to the fabulous front balcony where you can watch Boonsboro pass by and the most comfortable of reading chairs. No, I have never seen the ghost, not any of them. I think they understand that while I totally accept their existence I have no need to actually meet any of them.
My biggest recommendation is to treat the Inn like home. To ask for anything you need or want and not to miss the chance to talk with other guest at the wine and cheese service You’ll be amazed at how much you have in common. Yes I’m aware that’s TWO things and not ONE.
If you would like a signed copy of Mary’s books, just click on one of the links to Turn the Page, place an order and the fabulous TTP staff will make sure Mary signs them before she finishes up on Saturday.
And if you have any questions for Mary, post them here and I’ll be sure to ask her, then post the answers in the recap of the signing weekend (scheduled for the evening of July 14).
Three Quick Questions (3QQ) is a new, ongoing feature at Fall Into the Story that highlights some of the authors scheduled to join Nora at a Turn the Page signing. This week, we’ll meet three authors who will be at the July 13 signing (Turn the Page’s 18th anniversary signing) from noon – 2 pm.
Deanna Raybourn is a New York Times best-selling author whose Lady Julia Grey series tells the stories of Victorian sleuth Lady Julia and her enigmatic partner, private enquiry agent Nicholas Brisbane. The series has been a reader favorite since the first book, Silent in the Grave, was released in late 2007. (You can include one Nora Roberts among those readers!) Silent in the Grave won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements
A Spear of Summer Grass, Deanna’s latest book, is set in 1923 Kenya where (after the uproar brought on by her latest exploits in Paris), Delilah Drummond is exiled to her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.
This is Deanna’s third visit to a TTP signing and we are delighted to welcome her back. Now, onto the questions.
1. You had a long career writing before you were first published. Then your first book, Silent in the Grave, won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, beating one Nora Roberts’ High Noon. How did you feel when you heard that Nora said if she had to lose, she was delighted that Silent in the Grave was the winner because she loved that book?
It was honestly one of the most phenomenal compliments I’ve ever received. I wrote for fourteen years before I got published, and I collected a lot of rejection letters. To go from that little bubble of isolation to someone like Nora Roberts knowing my name was surreal. I was shocked and delighted that she’d read the book, and even more excited that she liked it. She was just so enthusiastic and so gracious about my work—I realized she was not just a wildly successful writer but also a fabulous role model. To cheerlead newcomers in your field shows tremendous grace. I joke that I want to be her when I grow up, but it’s not really a joke!
2. When you go back to add another story to a series such as the Lady Julia Grey books do you immediately feel welcomed back into her world or do you have to take the time to re-transition?
At this point I’ve written more than half a million words in the Julia series, so it’s always like coming home to pick up her story again. It is an absolute luxury to be able to spend so much time with the same core group of characters—especially characters I’m so fond of. It took me two years to write the first book in the series, years I happily spent researching and world-building. The effort I put in at the beginning means I can just supplement with additional reading as I go along, adding even more detail and color to their late-Victorian world. Of course, the difficulty now is in making sure I don’t contradict myself throughout the series. It would be disastrously easy to forget a character’s eye color or how I killed them off!
3. Your current book, A Spear of Summer Grass, is positively modern as it’s set in 1923, compared the Victorian era of the Lady Julia Grey books. What were the most interesting differences in writing about a woman living in the small British community in Africa during the roaring 20s compared to a woman like Lady Julia who had to wear a heck of a lot more clothes? Or were there more similarities than one might think?
There was tremendous freedom in writing about Delilah Drummond, not only because she’s a woman of the 1920s but also because she is a particularly liberated sort of woman. Julia pushes the boundaries of acceptable behavior for 1890 at times, but she gets away with it because she is wealthy, titled, and from a notoriously eccentric family. (And if you are at all familiar with historical eccentrics of the English aristocracy, you know Julia is actually quite tame!) Delilah is a cat of an entirely different color. She has also had a privileged upbringing, but while Julia was the petted darling of a large family, Delilah has been essentially rootless. Her mother is dotingly neglectful, her father dead. In part to remedy the lack of a structured family life, Delilah lives large, doing exactly as she pleases—with whomever she pleases. She is a force of nature, damaged and self-absorbed, but also vital and dynamic and incredibly courageous. What they have in common is that they are both women pushing against the restrictions and expectations of their times—it just so happens that their times were very different.
Where else can you find Deanna other than Turn the Page this Saturday? Take your pick of fun: on her delectably delicious blog, on her Facebook page or on Twitter, where she waxes eloquent about many, many things from style, to research to the Tour de France.
If you would like a signed copy of Deanna’s books, just click on one of the links to Turn the Page, place an order and the fabulous TTP staff will make sure Deanna finishes up on Saturday.
And if you have any questions for Deanna, post them here and I’ll be sure to ask her, then post the answers in the recap of the signing weekend (scheduled for the evening of July 14).
Thanks for your patience everyone. The Thankless in Death excerpt is finally up! (Just click on excerpt).
Thankless in Death will be released on September 17, 2013.