Friday, December 30, 2011

2011--A Good Year

It's interesting how much of what one perceives about whether a year is "good" or "bad" depends on one's personal circumstances, but that's only normal.

2011 was a good year for me, but I'll look globally as well.  In 2011 we saw dictators toppled and baby-steps toward democracy in the Middle East.  Young people and old channeled outrage at the status quo and began Occupying various cities.  If nothing else, it raised the level of dialog over the current state of the economy, which I find to be a civic virtue.  People need to become active and motivated to make change, whether it's at the ballot box or on the barricades.

Most of the troops are home from Iraq after a long, drawn out conflict. This is a very good thing indeed.

It was a good year for me personally and professionally.  Sea Change was published to glowing reviews and some delightful fan letters.  My backlist continues to do well.  This was the year that I saw huge growth in ebook sales of my novels as more and more readers discover the ease and convenience of various ereaders (just a reminder--all my books come in a variety of formats, including Kindle).  I have a completed manuscript for my next novel,  Castaway Dreams, and I'm hard at work on my seventh novel, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby (and yes, I can pretty much assure you that will not be the publication title, but it's fun saying it.). In addition, Sea Change is a 2011 CAPA nominee for historical romance.

I was a program participant at Boskone, a regional SF convention in Boston, and will be there again this year,  I was also a program participant at the World SF Convention (Worldcon) in Reno, Nevada, and plan to attend Worldcon in Chicago (Chicon 7) and DSC (Deep South Con) this summer.

It was also a good year personally.  We're enjoying fine health, my husband is golfing more and getting out of the office, we took some wonderful trips, and my adult sons are living close enough to each other to spend time together.  One son got his master's degree from Harvard (I cannot say that often enough) and a great job, the other son received a fellowship to do a year of seminary study and is enjoying that.

My dachshund is hanging in there at 13 years, still rockin' the neighborhood on walkies.

No hurricanes attacked us.  My camellias are blooming.  Life is good.

Here's wishing you and yours all the best in 2012.  May this coming year bring you much contentment, and great reading pleasure with a pirate novel or two.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Guest Blogging on Regency Florida

I'm guest blogging over at "The Regency World of Author Lesley-Anne McLeod" on Dec. 30 (Friday).  If you'd like to learn a bit about what was going on in Florida during the Regency period, drop on by.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Just popping in to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Here in Florida we don our festive tropical shirts rather than reindeer decorated sweaters, but  the lights on the neighborhood houses still twinkle brightly even if there's no snow to reflect them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Avoiding Fashion Disasters

I worry about this in my writing, but not in real life.  One of the best things about being a full time writer is working in a tropical shirt with flamingos, shorts and a pair of sandals.

When I'm writing though I want to make sure I have my wardrobe scenes correctly done.  One of the things that distracted me from full enjoyment of the classic Lawrence Olivier, Greer Garson Pride and Prejudice was the dressing of the women in styles more suited to the 1840s than the beginning of the 19th C.: More Romantic than Classical.  Interestingly, Wikipedia says that was a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers, who wanted more elaborate costumes than those of Austen's era.

Today I was working on a piece where the heroine, who's traveling to England aboard a pirate ship in 1818, receives a pelisse from the captain because her clothing is too tropical in weight for the North Atlantic.  Captain St. Armand has a touch of the metrosexual about him and knows his fashions. I consulted Cunnington's comprehensive guide on English women's dress in the 19th C. to keep it period accurate, though I may have taken a liberty or two since I needed to work the previously mentioned pink satin into it:


It was at the end of one of those lessons that Sails came looking for her. He was older than the other sailors, with a deep scar pitting his cheek and pulling up his eyelid, but nimble fingers and sinewy arms from years of wrestling canvas and hemp into shape.

“I have your jacket here, Miss. Captain St. Armand said to bring it to you as it’s blowin’ up stiff in the next day or two.”

He unwrapped a length of worn, but clean cotton in the late afternoon sun. Inside was a pelisse, longer than the jackets the men wore and bearing no resemblance to their utilitarian gear. It was sapphire silk brocade shot with gold threads, and lined with the pink satin. Golden buttons rimmed with seed pearls fastened the front, and the collar was deep.

Lydia stared at it, speechless. It was a garment fit for a princess, not a governess. Sails did not look at her as he pointed out the features.

“See, the brocade would have been scratchy up around your face and neck, so that’s why the captain gave me the beaver pelt to line it for you.”

“Beaver?” she asked dumbly. There was fur on the jacket, deep rich, brown fur. She put her hand out to stroke it, and it was kitten soft beneath her fingertips. It was the same fur as the captain’s pillow and it made her think of how that pillow must feel against bare skin.

“We got those pelts off of a Canadian who traded to us and saved himself a trip to England for his efforts.”

“Mr. Sails, it is lovely, but—“

“If you reject it, you will make poor Sails feel miserable,” said a low voice in her ear. “Look at how much effort he put into your jacket. That hideous cap, however, is completely wrong for this ensemble. You need a bonnet made in England, Miss Burke, something in plush to set this garment off.”

Lydia turned to look at St. Armand, but he was looking down at the fabric spread out for her view, the brocade glowing in the mellow light.

“The pink works well for a lining and if you had a fabric rose or two adorning your bonnet it would add to the appearance. But only if the roses are on the crown, far enough from your face not to make you look sallow.”

He leaned over and swooped up the garment, and while Lydia stood as still and dumb as a wooden puppet he took his jacket off of her and helped her slip her arms into the new pelisse, the satin sliding over the rough wool of her gray dress. Then he turned her toward him, raising the fur collar to frame her face.

“I approve, Sails. You’ve done a masterful job on Miss Burke’s gear.”

So when I pick up this scene tomorrow I've got my heroine in a garment that's going to point out to her, once again, how drab her life is without a pirate bringing a little color (and a touch of decadent luxury) into her existence.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Amber Quill Press authors chatting at Yahoo Groups

All day Friday, December 9, Amber Quill Press authors will be chatting at Beth Wylde's group, posting excerpts, answering questions and doing giveaways.  AQP publishes not only the best in historical romance (including all of my novels), but a wide range of digital and print editions featuring protagonists of all persuasions: M/F, M/M, F/F and more.  There's erotica, mystery, romance, sf and fantasy to name a few of their genres.  Stop on by, say "Hi!", ask questions of the authors and check out the contests.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"A Date Which Will Live in Infamy"

Every American of my parents' generation could tell you where he or she was on December 7, 1941.  The attack on Pearl Harbor was seared into the collective consciousness.

My father was at Pearl.  He was serving as a seaman, 2C aboard the USS West Virginia (picture below), had been there since November, 1940.  He never talked much about his war experiences, though he somewhat casually mentioned swimming to safety from the sinking ship.  He served in the Pacific, mostly aboard the USS Bennington after it was commissioned.  He occasionally mentioned some of the places he saw, and told amusing stories of what happened when newbies crossed the equator for the first time and were inducted into the Court of King Neptune, a time-honored tradition sea tradition.

I knew he'd been awarded a Purple Heart for being wounded in action, but I never knew he'd received a Bronze Star until his death.  Sometimes he'd get out his bosun's pipe and do calls if we asked nicely.

During the War Dad came home and married his high school sweetheart in 1944, then returned to his ship.  I have a picture of them across the hall from where I'm writing this, my mom lovely in yards of white satin, my dad tall and proud in his dress blues.  After the war he came home, went to work, raised us after my mom died young, and would have been puzzled if I'd said he was a hero.

But he was a hero.  So here's to all the heroes, men and women, who served in the war.  It's been 70 years since Pearl Harbor, and many of them, like my father, are gone, but we haven't forgotten them.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A crewman came in with a broken arm to be set, but the remaining injuries were minor ones, and the men's spirits were high. She learned the reason when Captain Fletcher came in, freshly washed and wearing a clean shirt. He looked good enough to lick, blast him.
"Doctor! You will not believe what that ship was hauling."
"Jewels? Gold?"
"Almost as good as! Ripe gold! Here, catch."
He tossed a sphere to her and she grabbed it one handed out of the air. It was a fruit, its nubby skin mottled but whole, the fragrance rising up to her nostrils even over the scent of blood and medicine.
"Casks and casks of oranges! This cargo will fetch a fortune in New York, Doctor."
--Sea Change

My little orange tree produced eight beautiful pieces of fruit this year.  I'm so proud of it!  It will yield more fruit as it gets larger, but there's nothing quite like eating a fresh orange off the tree, sunwarmed and sweet.  It's especially nice this time of year because it's a reminder of when oranges were the crop Florida sent up by boat and train to the frozen north, and an orange in a Christmas stocking was a special treat for a boy or girl.

I hope your holidays are filled with fragrance and lusciousness, and maybe a Florida orange or two.

Monday, November 28, 2011

These are the times that try (our) souls...

Does this sound familiar?

"The Congress have met in a bad temper...grumbling at everything in order to avert the responsibility which they have incurred in refusing to provide the solid foundation for revenue and relying on loans.  They have suffered the specie to go out of the country, adopted a halfway system of taxation...and yet expect the war to be carried on with energy."

Could have been an analysis of the failure of the current Congress to act, but it was actually written in a letter to President Madison during the War of 1812.  The only part I took out was about the establishment of a national bank, the rest of it was true then as now.

The material is from the excellent 1812--The Navy's War by George C. Daughan.  I recommend the book to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of why this war helped establish the United States as the strong country it is today, and is especially pertinent as we prepare to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, from 2012-2015.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

By request, here's the recipe for my Thanksgiving Pecan Cranberry bread.  It's non-dairy and freezes well.  It's also yummy.


Preheat oven to 350F, grease and flour a loaf pan

2 cups flour
1 Tbl. baking powder
1/2 tea. baking soda
1/2 tea. salt
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tea. ground cinnamon
1/4 tea. nutmeg
Optional: Hearty pinch each of ground ginger, cardamon, allspice, cloves
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil

Combine 1st 7 ingredients (and optional spices) in a large bowl.  Stir in pecans and cranberries.  Make a well in the center of mixture.

Combine egg, applesauce and oil; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.

Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.  Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

May You Live in Interesting--and Healthy--Times

I was watching Boardwalk Empire this week and knew based on a previous episode's foreshadowing that a character had infantile paralysis--polio.  Polio was a constant fear in the lives of my parents growing up, and in their raising of us, up until the time that we stood in long lines at our schools to get doses of the oral vaccine.  Imagine what that meant to our mothers.  I can't.  I can't imagine the fear of a summer where every crowd might carry disease, where going to the lake was a cause for fear of contagion.  An elderly neighbor died recently, a gentleman who'd had polio as a child, recovered, but then in old age had a recurrence of the symptoms of weakness in his legs and other issues.  It was a slice of 20th century life carried through into a 21st century age of medical advances.

When I was researching Sea Change and my next novel, [working title] Castaway Dreams, I studied medical practices and beliefs of the early 19th century.  It gave me a renewed appreciation of the germ theory of disease, and clean running water, and antibiotics, and mosquito eradication programs to prevent yellow fever and malaria.  We live in amazing times, but I also developed a great deal of respect for the doctors of the 19th century who did they best they could with the tools and knowledge they had.

I look forward to a day where we will have vaccines against cancer and cures for AIDS.  During this week of Thanksgiving, I'm grateful to all of the hard working men and women who help to better our lives, and especially to those researchers of the past who ensured that I would never spend a summer fearing my children's exposure to polio. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's more of Florida than you think

I spent the weekend with friends at St. George Island in the Panhandle.  While it was too cold for swimming (at least for us natives--I did see tourists in the water), I walked along the powdery-white sand and enjoyed amazing sunsets and star filled skies.

We traveled up on backroads through some of the state's most beautiful scenery, part of the trip taking us through Apalachicola National Forest and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  This is the Florida so many tourists never see--the hardwood swamps and pine and oak forests, the rivers and springs, the salt marshes that support an amazing variety of wildlife.  You can keep South Beach, this is my favorite part of the state!  I love driving the backroads and stopping to stretch my legs in tiny towns like Sopchoppy and Carabelle and Fort White.  Each one is unique and has its own history that makes it special and worth a detour from the interstate. Recently I was out with a friend, to whom I'd promised a drive in the convertible and lunch after she finished chemo.  As I turned off on a back road she asked me if I knew where I was going.

"Not really," I said, "But  that's one of the good things about living on a peninsula.  I know if I drive for a while I'm either going to hit water or Georgia, and then I'll know where I am."

For the record, we didn't get lost and had a lovely lunch.

I also got to see a bit of downtown Apalachicola this weekend, a city I can now cross off my Florida "to do" list.  Pensacola is still on the list, a city that was the capitol of West Florida and next to St. Augustine one of our richest historical sites.  There's a lot of territory I haven't covered in my own back yard, and I may have to put the top down on the convertible and take a research road trip this winter.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank you

Thank you.  Thank you to my father, who was at Pearl Harbor, and my father-in-law, who was at Normandy Beach, and my brother who served in Viet Nam, and my other brothers who also served their country, and the neighbor boy who used to babysit for us and went to Iraq as a marine, and all the men and women who've served over our nation's history.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, USMC!

“I just want to keep you from trying anything suicidal. I seem to remember a cutter officer back in ’41 who walked into a tavern full of navy men in Key West, telling them they were nothing but ‘goatbuggering marines.’ It wasn’t the goat buggering that bothered them, they were sailors after all, but when you called them marines…”

--Smuggler's Bride

Unlike my characters in Smuggler's Bride, I've got nothing against the marines.  I want to take a moment to wish the USMC a happy birthday as they mark 236 years of fighting for the United States from the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Thank you!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Stephen Decatur, Steampunk hero!

During the War of 1812 US Naval hero Commodore Stephen Decatur was blockaded by the British and couldn't take his ships (including the frigate United States) out to sea.  According to historian George C. Daughan (1812-The Navy's War), Decatur was captivated by steam engineer Robert Fulton's inventions and his writings on torpedoes and submarines.  Fulton came to New London, CT where the Brits had Decatur bottled up, and wanted to try an invention he called an underwater cannon against the RN ships.  Decatur was all for this, but the experiment never came off.

Attempts had been made previously to harass the British with a bomb in a boat, and a submarine similar to the Turtle used during the Revolutionary War.  The Brits were offended by Decatur's use of "infernal machines" and threatened countermeasures if more attempts were made to destroy their vessels with exploding devices.

Decatur did eventually get back out to sea, but in January, 1815 he had to strike his colors when the USN President was severely damaged in a fight with HMS Endymion.  The war had officially ended in December, but no one on this side of the Atlantic had yet gotten the word.  Many Americans know the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war ended, but there were plenty of other sorties which did not have to occur, a situation that became a plot point in Sea Change where a pivotal sea battle takes place in February, 1815.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

No, really.  No editor would let you get away with it.  I'm reading the entertaining history 1812--The Navy's War by George C. Daughan and I come across this:

"Broke's task force...consisted of...the 64-gun battleship Africa (Captain John Bastard)...."

Fiction writers can sometimes get away with giving characters names that leap out at the reader, like Sabatini's Captain Peter Blood and Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Death Wimsey, but I would never dare write a novel with Captain Bastard at the helm. "Captain Sinister", yes.  After all, that's Morgan Roberts' nom de guerre.  But Captain Bastard?  Think of the poor men under his command.  Maybe they cracked a smile or sniggered--once--before the floggings began until morale was restored.

"You think your captain's tough?  Ours is a right Bastard!"

Anyway, I'll let y'all know if I run across more interesting tidbits.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Women at Sea

I was asked about my research on cross-dressing women sailors during our Sizzling Book Club chat of Sea Change last night at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  It was co-sponsored by All Romance eBooks and we had a lot of fun, so I want to thank Sarah at Smart Bitches and the folks at All Romance for pulling it together.  If you missed the chat, click on the link and you can replay it at your leisure.

First of all, I owe a debt to Suzanne Stark for her wonderful history, Female Tars.  It is fascinating and entertaining.  As I point out in the introduction to Sea Change, Stark says there were 20 known cases of women serving in the Royal Navy and Marines at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.  There were likely more whose identities were never discovered.

One of those women was the seaman known as "William Brown", a black woman who served for at least 12 years during the Napoleonic Wars.  According to Stark, a London newspaper account of 1815 had this to say about Brown:

"Among the crew of the Queen Charlotte, 110 guns,...a female the name of William Brown. [She] has served for some time as the captain of the foretop, highly to the satisfaction of the officers."

Being captain of the foretop was no small thing.  She had to be agile, unafraid of heights, able to work in all weather, leading the other sailors in the crew.  The topmen's job was one of the most dangerous aboard ship since they took in the sails high above while the deck pitched below them.  It was especially hazardous during storms, and many topmen fell to their death.

After her sex was discovered, Brown re-entered the service aboard her old ship.  A good topman was a treasure to a captain, regardless of sex.  In 1816 Brown was transferred to the Bombay, and lost to history.

Other books readers may find interesting:

Women Sailors and Sailors' Women, an Untold Maritime History by David Cordingly.

She Captains--Heroines and Hellions of the Sea--Joan Druett

Hen Frigate--Joan Druett

Petticoat Whalers--Whaling Wives at Sea--Joan Druett

Flying Cloud--The True Story of America's Most Famous Sailing Ship and the Woman who Navigated Her--by David Shaw

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and All Romance eBooks chat for Sea Change is this Wednesday, October 26 at 9 p.m. EDT.  There will be a link at Smart Bitches.  If you'd like to prep for the talk, you can follow the discussions of cross-dressing as a romance novel theme here.

In addition, Amber Quill Press is the featured publisher through October at All Romance, so all of my books there have a 25% rebate this month.  You can buy Sea Change and stock up on the backlist as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, USN!

I wasn't online on October 13, but I wanted to give a belated birthday salute to the United States Navy.  I've got some naval history in my own background.  My late father was at Pearl Harbor on the USS West Virginia on December 7, 1941, and went on to serve in the Pacific until after the end of the war, earning a Bronze Star and other commendations. I had the pleasure of researching some of the USN history for my novels, especially for Captain Sinister's Lady. 

If you'd like to learn more about the early days of the USN, I highly recommend Ian Toll's excellent history, Six Frigates.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PBS and The War of 1812

Just finished watching PBS' War of 1812.  I thought it would be a mini-series, but it was just the one episode.  After all, it was a short war.  Nonetheless, they packed a whole war into that episode.  Since I've always concentrated on the naval battles and what was happening in Florida, it was nice to learn more about what was happening along the Canadian border.

Oh, and for my Canadian friends?  I now know Laura Secord is not famous for bringing chocolate to the wilderness.  My mistake.  Hey, go easy on me! I still know more Canadian history than 98% of my countrymen!

There was passing mention of the Baltimore privateers, but really, you can get a lot more background on them by reading Sea Change (and I wish you would).  There is discussion of how The Star Spangled Banner rallied Americans, and that too is a plot point in Sea Change.

While the program itself isn't long, there are some lovely links at PBS.Org to give you more information on some of the issues mentioned in the War of 1812 documentary.  I'm enjoying the additional information, and I'm glad my PBS contributions help support quality and informative programs like this one.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The War of 1812, aka The 2nd War of American Independence, is coming to PBS.  Check your local listings, our PBS station in N. Florida airs it Monday at 9 p.m.

Sea Change is set during this pivotal moment in American history. I enjoyed doing the research for this book because I learned so much, especially about the role American privateers played in winning victories for the young nation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Awesome giveaway at SBTB!

There is a "Holy Cow, what a pile of amazing!" giveaway at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to celebrate the publication of Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels (hereafter known as #EIKAL).

EIKAL is by SmartBitch Sarah, and culls the wisdom of Romancelandia, including input from yours truly.  But the giveaway!  That's the big news!  You win a massive basket with enough goodies to keep you reading on a desert island for months and months when you're not dealing with the adorable demands of Ramon, your cabana boy (Ramon not included.  And you have to bring your own cabana).  There are books (including The Bride and the Buccaneer), ereaders, special artwork and a SIGNED NORA ROBERTS BOBBLEHEAD!

I think my own head just exploded from it all.

Check out SBTB for details, follow the links, and if you're not already a fan of SB Sarah, you should be.  After all, in addition to being a very funny and smart lady, she's hosting me for the October Sizzling Book Read of Sea Change at SBTB later this month.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Hot news for cool times! 

Sea Change is the October Sizzling Book Club pick at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books!  They're also giving away a chance at print copies of Sea Change if you leave a comment on your favorite pirate romance. But wait, there's more!  In partnership with All Romance ebooks, you can buy digital copies of Sea Change for 50% off after rebate!  More details to follow, but enter now to win your own copy of Sea Change, and join us for the Sizzling Book Club discussion later this month.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Naming characters is tough.  I recall a reviewer complaining because of the similarity of names between Julius and Justin in Pirate's Price, so I've tried to be sensitive to it in subsequent novels.

When I typed in the name today of a heroine from a previous novel, I realized I'd best go back and change the heroine's name from my WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby, so I wouldn't confuse myself. Then the name I picked turned out to be similar to that of Daphne in my as-yet-unpublished Castaway Dreams. So I changed it again, and sounded it out to be sure it was alliterative and appropriate to time, place and class.

The new heroine from the WIP: Lydia Burke.  I tried saying it aloud, looked at it in print, verified that I do not have any heroines whose names begin with "L", nor major secondary characters named Lydia, and it all works.  Phew!  Thank goodness for Find&Replace!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By request, here's the recipe for persimmon cake.  I'm waiting for my persimmons to get nice and ripe, and I may try adjusting the baking to 1 hr. at 350F since I'm using a newer oven than the last time I tried this. 

Persimmon Cake
From Smuggler's Bride by Darlene Marshall

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small very ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans

To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. cream sugar and margarine, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

2. pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake 1.25 hours.  Let cool ten minutes, remove from pan.

Freezes well.

Crocks of preserves and pickled tomatoes, cucumbers, and relishes shone in the sun. Her persimmon cakes were added to the pile. While once Julia might have wondered who could consume so much food at one sitting, she’d seen the Crackers sit down to their victuals and knew the food would be little more than a memory by the time the day was done.

It's almost time for persimmon cake, so I'm off to the farmers market. You can read more about this tasty treat in Smuggler's Bride, and comment here if you want the recipe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper, much folded and creased.
“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, Doctor, titled ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry’. Look here–‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’. That’s America, Charley! I won’t ask you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune. Charley listened, her head cocked to the side.
"I know that tune–I heard it in the inn where I waited to board the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven’, is it not? I recall the people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed miserably.”
“Maybe it’s a song best attempted while drinking for the full effect. But I’m told it is now popular in Baltimore with lyrics based on Mr. Key’s poem–‘And the rockets’ red glare…’ .”
Charley snickered as his voice strained through the notes.
“That tune will never catch on, Captain.”


Charley was wrong.  The tune and Mr. Keys' poem caught on, and today is the anniversary of the writing of The Star Spangled Banner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“But take heart, men, just as your countrymen did! America cannot be frightened into submission!” He waved a paper. “I have here the account of the battle of Baltimore and the glorious defense of Fort McHenry! The nation still stands strong, boys, and will never bow to tyrants! A cheer for the United States of America, and an extra ration of rum tonight for its gallant heroes!”

The men threw their hats into the air while cheering, “Huzzah for the United States!”

Today is the anniversary of the bombardment of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812.  For over 25 hours British warships rained fire down on the American fort. Out of it came a renewed commitment to America's freedom, and a national anthem.

I may raise a glass myself tonight to honor our nation's gallant defenders, then and now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


This morning I realized I was doing the same thing as I did on that morning 10 years ago.  I was walking the dog around the neighborhood on a glorious September day.  In 2001 my neighbor came out of her house and said, "You'll want to turn on your TV when you get home.  A plane crashed into the World Trade Center."

None of us will forget that moment.  It is seared in our memories as much as President Kennedy's assassination was when I was a child, and Pearl Harbor was for my parents. There's not much I can say today that has not been said before, and said better by others.  I can offer this:  Ten years ago we were filled with horror over what we witnessed.  But in the years since September 11, 2001, I have seen many wonderful things--children grown, graduations, weddings, births, a spirit of volunteerism, and a continuing belief that we are capable of making our country great, if each of us is committed to the ideals that are America.

September 11, 2011 is an anniversary, but it is also a starting point, a point a which we can take stock and ask ourselves what we can do to honor those whose lives were lost, and make America better tomorrow than it is today.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

     Amanda hummed to herself as she worked. It was wonderfully satisfying, doing what she loved, and she was confident of her product’s success. Judith and Sarah were telling their friends about the “marvelous creams, used in England for years by all the court ladies!” and Madame Bernard reported eager customers were inquiring as to the availability of Brooke’s products, responding to the discreet sign in the shop window.
     The soap equipment was ordered, and the initial contacts made with the vendors she would need to work with in Savannah. A city the size of St. Augustine would have access to olive and coconut oil, and enough waste fat from animal slaughtering for her to set up with local vendors there. If necessary, she could start out as the first Amanda started her soap business-trading the finished product for the fats used in households. She wrinkled her nose. Soapmaking was a smelly, messy, dangerous undertaking. Many of the fine ladies who used the finished product had no idea of what truly was involved in making each pretty little ball or bar.
     Amanda had modified a few of her closely guarded recipes to use the new techniques of the Frenchman Chevreul, and the results were encouraging, better product and cheaper to manufacture. As she filled her pots, she daydreamed about vast factories springing up across America, all making Brooke Soap for everyone.


 Today is Labor Day in the US, a day when we honor the hardworking women and men who keep our country prosperous, and if they're soapmakers like Amanda, clean and fragrant.  Enjoy your holiday, pack up your white shoes, and take a moment to savor the end of summer while you pause from your labors with a good book or two.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

I'm putting together a basket to donate to the Lawton Chiles Gala, named for our late, great Florida governor, "Walkin' Lawton" Chiles.  There's a silent auction and I thought this would work: a "Getaway in a Basket".  It'll have two signed novels (Sea Change and The Bride and the Buccaneer), a scented candle, two gourmet chocolate bars and packets of bath salts.  Here's the copy:


"After a hard day of campaigning for your US House seat or picketing the governor's mansion, you need a break.  Turn off the phone, shut the door, and curl up with a nice, relaxing bath and a novel with pirates, privateers, romance, adventure, dashing heroes, daring heroines and a guaranteed happy ending, all from award-winning romance novelist Darlene Marshall."

So what do you think?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

When they were all assembled, he looked out over the assortment of Yankee privateers and their British doctor and said, “Men, I have news from home.”

He waited for the murmurs to die down.

“I received correspondence on St. Martin that I wish to share with you. Last August, while we were at sea fighting for the rights of sailors and free Americans, the British burned our nation’s capitol, Washington City.”

Now the mutters from the men were angry as they shifted their feet and looked at one another. The Americans had burned York in Canada, and Great Britain might be justified in saying it’s tit for tat to burn the Americans’ capitol, but Charley just scratched her ear and wisely refrained from pointing that out.

Today is the anniversary of the burning of Washington, DC and the White House in 1814.  But I don't think we can blame the Brits for the earthquake.