Happy summer (or almost summer)! The Westminster Intrigue has been out for a couple of weeks. So exciting to have it out in the world and to be able to talk about it with readers. On that note, my daughter Mélanie and I are excited to invite you to a virtual book party to celebrate its launch on Thursday, June 24, at 5:00 pm Pacific Time/8:00 pm Eastern. We are thrilled that the lovely and multi-talented Lauren Willig, one of my best friends and favorites writers and an honorary aunt to Mélanie, will be our special guest.

Lauren and I have been friends for years, and though she now writes amazing stand alone novels, we have had many conversations about the fun and challenges of writing about Napoleonic spies as she wrote her fabulous Pink Carnation series. We also share the fun and challenges of writing a parents of young children (I have a wonderful memory of talking writing in her New York apartment with our then-toddler daughters playing on the carpet and then falling asleep in our laps. Also of a very fun visit to the Children’s Museum at the New York Historical Society – good to start hands-on research early!

The Westminster Intrigue Book Party is free and open to all, but it will be on Zoom, so you need to register in advance so I can send you the link. You can sign up here or email me (tracy@tracygrant.org).

Lauren and I will be chatting about books and writing and taking questions from the audience. You can also submit your questions in the comments below or by emailing me at tracy@tracygrant.org. Feel free to ask questions about The Westminster Intrigue or either of our books or writing in general.

Since the book party coincides with happy hour on the West Coast and after-dinner drinks on the East Coast, I’ve come up with a Westminster Intrigue cocktail for the occasion:

  • 1 part gin
  • 2 parts rosé sparkling wine
  • 1/2 part Aperol
  • 1/2 part Bruto Americano

Pour over ice in a wine glass. Watch for hidden codes in the bubbles.

For a nonalcoholic version, my daughter Mélanie suggests blood orange Italian soda with a dash of grenadine.

Mélanie wants readers of Talea’s Mysteries to know she will be posting more soon, now we are getting through the flurry of the Westminster Intrigue release.

Mélanie and I also both recently got to do our first joint interview on the #MomsWritersClub YouTube channel. It was so much fun! Do check out all their videos – they are great, full of fascinating insights into writing – and parenting!

Hope to see you on June 24th!

xx Tracy & Mélanie

                                                             Previously on Talea’s Mysteries

“I thought you were gone. Where you, Diamond?”

“I have my ways.’

“She’s hiding something, and I’m going to find out what.”

Part 3

Diamond said, “Come on, come on, Talea.”

Talea said, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”

While Talea and Diamond were chopping down trees, at Talea’s 5th tree she heard a noise coming from inside the tree. She felt the tree and it turned out the trunk was made of iron painted brown and there was a secret compartment in the tree. Talea opened the secret compartment and there was a small box inside. Talea took the box and closed the compartment before Diamond saw her. Talea wandered if it had anything to do with her family.

Talea said to Diamond, “I think we have enough wood now.”

Diamond said, “Ok. we’ll head back home.”

Late at night Talea laid awake in bed wondering what was inside the box.

Talea got up and opened the box. It was a note and a locket, Talea read the note and it said:

Dear Talea,It’s your mom. If you’re reading this you need to know I found out who the traitor is.

Talea said, “What?

She is Diamond. Be carefu.l I don’t know why she would ever hurt us or the

Kingdom. 1 more thing. I am alive. How do you think I planted this note?

Talea said, “Mom’s alive?”

                                                               To be continued

photo by Piece of Heart Photography

On U.S. Mothers’ Day weekend, it seems a good time to revisit an article I first posted in July 2012. At the end of the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It (based on the novel by Allison Pearson) the Greg Kinnear character describes his wife (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) as “a juggler.” Words which I found very apropos of my own life nine years ago when I first wrote this post, when my own Mélanie was a baby, and still find apropos today. The words are also apropos for Mélanie Rannoch, Kitty, Cordelia, Laura, and Lady Frances in the about-to-be-released The Westminster Intrigue, which sees Mélanie and Kitty on a mission that ends in a knife fight and coming home to check on their children (for that matter Malcolm and Julien are too – fatherhood is also the art of juggling), Mélanie interviewing suspects while she watches the children play in the Berkeley Square garden, Cordelia hosting a ball while trying to be part of the investigation and parent Livia and Drusilla, Lady Frances getting up early the day after the ball (very unusual for Frances!) thanks to the twins.

I wrote nine years ago that I’m very fortunate that my own Mélanie’s temperament and my own schedule make iteasier than I had anticipated to keep up with my writing schedule while being a mom. But it is a juggling act, I said then, whether that means balancing a baby against my shoulder or nursing while I type one-handed, spooning applesauce while I brainstorm with writer friends, doing a book reading aware on the edge of my consciousness of some tiny squeaks as a friend walks with Mel at the back of the room, holding her asleep in my lap on the red eye while I edit on my iPad, having lunch with my agent and editor with Mel asleep in her carrier beside me.

Today the juggling also involves my job at the Merola Opera Program. As well as taking breaks during precious evening and weekend writing time for “mummy daughter time” . One busy Sunday as I finishing Westminster Intrigue I took a couple of hours off for Mélanie to have a play date and all of us to go swimming, and in the end I realized the break was good for me as well as her and got just as much done as if I’d been at the computer all day – because if I had been, I’d have spent a certain amount of time staring into space or scrolling through social media while my brain searched for the next coherent thought.

I think it’s fortunate that my writing process has always involved lots of thinking and mulling time. I wrote in the original post nine years ago about talking with Veronica Wolff, a wonderful writer, fabulous mom, and great friend, about how we can both only write so many words before before inevitably we need to ponder how to handle a transition, a plot development, an upcoming scene (it’s amazing how something as simple as getting a character into or out of the room can stymie one). And a lot of this mulling is subconscious, so I often find I can work through whatever writing issue is plaguing me during a break with Mélanie. It also can play well with having a second job. By the time I get to an evening of writing, some issues have sorted themselves in my subconscious while spending the day at my other job.

Of course some things fall by the wayside – I said that nine years ago and it’s still true today. I don’t blog nearly as much – I hope to get back to it. Nine years ago, I said some days I don’t look at social media at all and then there are other days when I find the one thing I can accomplish while tending to a fussing baby is updating Facebook and Twitter (fairly easy to do one-handed). Now it’s Instagram too and if all I get to is a social media post it’s because I had a late meeting and then spent the evening with Mélanie. (Since COVID, posting a photo every day has become a routine, because it gives me a reason to get moderately dressed up and do my hair and makeup 🙂 Nine years ago I wrote that that some nights I wonder how writing a book with a baby can seem entirely do-able but fixing dinner with one can seem an insurmountable challenge. Fixing dinner is easier now- and my daughter helps -it’s a fun activity to share. And as for my house – well, my friends can attest that I was inclined to let housework go when on a deadline even pre-Mélanie :-). And that hasn’t changed much in nine years :-).

There are days when I feel I’m not getting anything done – that was true then and now. But I have written a book and novella every year since Mélanie born. Even the days when I only write a few hundred words add up over the course of a week or a month. Averaging around 1,000 words a day, most days, works pretty well and is doable – even if those words are sometimes written between midnight and 2:00 am. Snatching moments to write is key. I started my new novella on Thursday night while sitting in the car with Mélanie waiting for the wonderful San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows drive-in concert to start while Mélanie watched Carmen Sandiego on my phone (like me she loves spy stories).

When I wrote nine years ago I had just visited the Stanford campus with friends and I showed Mélanie where Mummy was an undergrad. We went to the History Department, where I learned so much that helps me as an historical novelist. But thinking back to those days of balancing classes, rehearsals, an honors thesis, my first novel (which I was co-writing my mom while in school), I realized that the art of juggling is something else I took away from my university years.

Now Mélanie is writing her own stories, which entails a different sort of juggling – finding time when she can have the computer (those are good moments to clean the house). Having watched me write since she was born, she is wonderfully supportive and understanding. The night I was finishing the Westminster Intrigue copy edits she offered encouragement, helped with proofreading (she caught a misnumbered chapter), and shared her precious York mints to keep me going. Writing is so much more fun with her!

How do you balance different elements of your life, whether it’s writing or parenthood or other elements?

                                                                                                     Previously on Talea’s mysteries

Talea couldn’t sleep.

Talea went on a hike to calm down.

Mom!?

Part 5

Talea said, “I can’t believe you’re alive, Mom!”

Myoura said,”I can’t believe you’re here Talea!”

Talea said, “Wait, have you been here all these years?”

Myoura said, “Yes, I’ve been waiting here for you to come all these years. I’m so happy!”

Talea said, “I’m happy too!”

Talea said, “I can’t wait for you to see my home!”

Three hours later Talea said, “We’re almost there. Wait, I forgot something. Diamond lives with me,”

Myoura yelled, “WHAT!!!!!!”

Crows crowed and many flew out of the trees.

Talea said, “I know it’s surprising, but she moved in before I learned—well, you know.”

Myoura said, “OF COURSE I KNOW! HOW CAN YOU STILL LIVE WITH HER!?”

Talea said, “I can’t kick her out, she would get suspicious! Listen, all we need to do is keep Diamond from seeing you, easy-peesy-lemon-squeezy.”

Myoura said, “Fine, but I won’t be able to hide forever.”

Diamond said, “Talea, where are you?”

Talea said to Myoura, “Quick hide!”

Diamond said, “Talea, there you are, where were you?”

Talea said, while panicking, “I was taking a morning walk.”

Diamond said, “Oh well, that makes sense, but why didn’t you tell me before you left?”

Myoura sneezed.

Diamond said, “What was that?”

Talea said, “Achoo! Sorry, that was me, just the winter cold brrrr.”

Diamond said, “Well then, let’s get home before we both catch a cold.”

Talea whispered to Myoura, “Follow me.”

Myoura nodded.

Five minutes later, back home, Diamond said, “I’m going to get some berries. B.R.B.”

Talea said, “Bye, sis, see you soon.”

Once Diamond left Talea said, “It’s safe, you can come out now. Hi, Mom.”

Myoura said, “Hi, Talea! What’s for dinner?”

Talea said, “Berries.”

Myoura said, “Yum!”

Two hours later, Talea and Myoura were talking when Diamond came back. Talea said, “Hide! Oh hi, Diamond!”

Diamond said, “Hi, sis, now let’s start the fire and cook these berries.”

Ten minutes later, Talea said, “They look yummy. I’ll get some water”

Diamond said, “Bye, sis.”

A minute or so later, Diamond said, “What’s this? It’s Talea’s diary I shouldn’t read this, but no, but ok, I’ll just read a page.”

Dear diary

Today was amazing turns out mom’s alive! This is the happiest day of my life!

Talea said, “Diamond?”

Diamond quickly put the book under her bed.

“What are you doing?” said Talea

Diamond said, panicked, “Nothing.”

Talea said, “Oh, well, I got the water.”

Diamond said, “Great! So how’s your day been?”

Talea said, “Good, how’s your day been?”

Diamond said, “Good,”

Just before bed, Talea said “Where’s my diary, oh well, I’ll look for it in the morning.”

The next morning, Talea yawned, then said, “Morning, Diamond.”

Diamond said, “Morning? Oh no, I’ve been up all night!”

Talea said, “Well, then you get some more rest and I’ll get breakfast, ok?”

Diamond said, while yawning, “Ok.”

Talea said, “Good.’

Diamond said. “Well, while she’s gone, I should think about what was in her diary. Now I need to figure out if Talea’s on to me or not. To figure out more I’ll read more of her diary

Dear diary

Our Aunt Pearl may visit but haven’t told Diamond yet.

Diamond said, “Well, that’s no help. I’ll read anther page.”

Dear diary

Today I found an iron tree with a secret compartment and there was a chest in it. Tonight I couldn’t sleep. I’ve decided to open the chest. Inside was a note and locket, which had a painting of my family, and the note said that Mom’s alive and that Diamond was the traitor.

Diamond said, “She knows.”

                                                                                                                        To be continued

                                                               Previously on Talea’s mysteries

The tree was made of iron.

Talea laid awake.

Mom’s alive?

Part 4

Talea said, while pacing, “Ok, let’s think about this. Mom’s alive according to Mom, and Diamond is the traitor. Whew, I think my brain is going to explode.”

Diamond said tiredly and while yawning, “Talea? What are you doing up?”

Talea said, “Ummmm……..I was getting a cup of water.”

Diamond said, “Oh, ok,” while yawing. “I’m going back to bed,” yawn.

Diamond lied back down.

Talea went back to bed too. She rolled on her side and quickly fell asleep.

But even though she was somewhat happy, because her mother was still alive, she still had a nightmare.

Talea was 5 again and she was running through the forest. She saw her mom and happily said “Mommy!” She was running to her mom when suddenly Diamond came and Talea’s mom fell off a cliff. Talea said, “MOMMYYYYYYYY!!!!!!”

Talea started to cry when suddenly Diamond pushed Talea off the cliff. As she fell she saw an evil smile on Diamond’s face

Talea then woke up. While breathing fast, she looked outside. Talea decided to go on a hike on the mountains. After walking 10 miles, it was getting bright out. In the horizon’s light, Talea saw a cave and a campfire. Then someone walked out of the cave. Talea said, “Who are you?”

“Talea? I thought you were gone. I’m so happy to see you!” the stranger said happily.

Talea said, “Do I know you?”

Myhrora said, “Don’t you recognize me? I’m Myhrora.”

Talea said, “Wait Myhrora was my…hoh! Wait, are you?” Talea started to smile. “Mom!”

Myhrora said, “Talea! I’m so happy to see you!” while hugging her.

Talea said, “I got your note.”

                                                                       To be continued

Here is Part 2 of Mélanie Grant’s Talea’s Mysteries.

                                                Previously on Talea’s Mysteries

“What’s that rustling in the bushes?’

“Something must be following me.”

“Sis?” “Talea?”

Part 2

Talea said, “I thought you were gone. Where were you, Diamond?”

Diamond said “I was living in the forest. Where were you?”

Talea said, “Here.”

Diamond said, “Your place is nice.”

Talea said,”So where have you been living Diamond?”

“Well, kinda everywhere. I never really settled down anywhere.”

Talea said, “Well now you can settle down here.”

Diamond said, “Really, thank you!”

Talea said, “I’ll get wood, vines, feathers, and wool for your bed.”

Next morning Diamond woke up to the smell of breakfast. “You’re awake all ready?” said Diamond.

Talea said, “Ya, I’m surprised you weren’t awake earlier.”

Diamond said, “But its 8:00.”

Talea said, “I woke up an hour ago. I have to. I have to shear the sheep, milk the cows, collect berries, collect wood, and do it all before dinner, and every weekend gather coal and iron. Anyway, breakfast?”

Diamond said, “Sure, wow. This is great!”

Talea said, “So I’ve been needing to ask you something.”

Diamond said, “Ok, what do you want to know?”

Talea said, “I want to know how you survived all this time with no home.”

Diamond said, “Ummm………. I have my ways.”

Talea said, “Oh ok,” while thinking She’s hiding something – what?

Diamond said, “We should go and chop down a few trees now to build a 4th wall and doors.”

Talea said, “Ok hmm…….. “

As Diamond walked away, Talea said, “She’s hiding something, and I’m going to find out what.”

My daughter Mélanie is writing her first book. We are going to create a page for her on this site to post her stories, but for now she is going to share them here, one part at at time.

Here is the first part of Taleea’s Mysteries by Mélanie Cordelia Grant.

Once upon a time there was a princess named Taleea who lived in a beautiful castle. But one day, they discovered a traitor among them, and the castle was stormed. Taleea’s family was killed. As she ran into the forest, she saw a blur.

10 years later.

 Taleaa was watching a bear to find out what berries were safe to eat. When the bear left, she picked the rest of the berries on the bush that the bear picked berries from. She went back to her cave home because it was getting dark. When she got back, she started a fire to stay warm. She heard some rustling in the bushes. Then she quickly put out the fire so that the animal wouldn’t notice her. She got out her spear. She said, “Who’s there?”

She looked in the bushes, but there was nothing there. She started the fire back up and went to bed. The next morning, she heard something again. It was clear something was stalking her. She went to go get more berries and water. Then she saw a blur by the stream. And said, “Who’s there? I know there’s someone out there. Show yourself.”

She looked very carefully. She didn’t find anyone, but she did find footprints. She knew something was watching her.

One night when she came back to her cave home, there was someone in her home. Her sister was in her home..Taleea said, “Sis?”

Her sister Diamond quickly replied, “Taleea?”

To be continued

Hi! It’s a long time, since I’ve posted, and our world is such a different place. In the chaos of the past few weeks – canceled plans, learning to wear masks, learning how to use FaceTime and Zoom, worrying about friends and family – finishing up The Tavistock Plot has helped keep me sane. And now, on May 14, Malcolm and Mélanie Rannoch’s latest adventure will be out in the world. I can’t wait to be able to talk about it with readers (though of course it’s always a bit nerve-wracking waiting for responses).

The Tavistock Plot takes its name from the fictional Tavistock Theatre managed by Simon Tanner, where Mélanie Rannoch’s first play is premiering in the book. As I mentioned to friends at a Zoom birthday party tonight, it was both poignant and exhilarating to be working on a story set in the theatre when so many theatres are dark. This week started with the Merola Opera Program, where I work in the non-novelist part of my life, announcing the cancellation of our 2020 training program and festival season. It ended this evening with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where my daughter Mélanie and I go three times a year, announcing the cancellation of their fall season (after the spring and summer had already been cancelled). At a time when so many of my singer and actor friends are unable to perform, I am so grateful that writing is one art form that is not limited by quarantine. I’ve been reading excerpts from it on video on social media which you can find on my Facebook page. I’m already plotting next fall’s Rannoch novella, and the novel after that…

How are you coping in these challenging times? What are you finding to keep you going? My daughter Mélanie and I are making up stories and I’m reading Pride and Prejudice out loud to her. We’re having movie nights and learning that Zoom works for group playdates as well as meetings. We’re both expanding our cooking repertoire (we love risotto). With spring, we’re enjoying our yard (where we are in the picture above, with Mélanie’s first toy and constant companion Guena). We both love chances to connect with people. And I’m excited that The Tavistock Plot will soon give me the opportunity to do so.

Stay safe!

Tracy

IMG_3885

Birthday and GLENISTER PAPERS publication day dinner at Alchemy in Ashland, Oregon, 15 May, 2019

Happy almost summer! THE GLENISTER PAPERS has been out in the world for two weeks. Do share your thoughts about it, here, or on the the Goodreads Group or other platforms.

I’ll be celebrating it’s release with a launch party at Book Passage in Sausalito this Sunday, June 2, at 4:00 pm. We’ll have wine and cheese and other treats, as well as snacks for kids, and I’ll be reading from and talking about the book and signing copies.

If you can’t make it but would like a personalized, signed copy, you can order one from Book Passage (800) 999-7909) and tell them you would like it personalized on June 2nd.

We’re also going to livestream the talk and q&a on my Facebook page. You can either watch live at 4:00 pm PST or check the page for the video later. If you have questions you’d like me to answer, email me or post them here, and I’ll add them to the questions at the event.

I’ll be sure to post pictures after the launch!

Cheers,

Tracy

TracyMelMGF2018

At the 2018 Merola Grand Finale. Photo: Kristen Loken

Happy Fall! I’ve been busy writing, being a mom, working at Merola (there above are Mélanie and I at the Merola Grand Finale, photo by the amazing Kristen Loken), and haven’t been posting enough. But one result of that writing is the The Darlington Letters, a novella that continues the Rannoch series were The Duke’s Gambit left off, is now up for pre-order. It will be released November 14. It included a teaser for the next full length novel, The Glenister Papers, which will be out in May 2019.

I’m really excited to have a new story out in the world. Meanwhile here are a couple of out takes that didn’t make it into The Duke’s Gambit.

The first is a scene between Malcolm and Addison, which I didn’t include because getting Addison and Blanca back from Italy in the time allotted proved too complicated.

Addison shook out a black cashmere coat. “Your cravats are sadly in want of starching, but that’s easily done. Your coats are in reasonably decent order, but as long as we’re in London, we might as well order you a new one from Hobbs. Boots too.”
Malcolm studied his valet. “Addison, we won’t—”

“Be here long? All the more reason to attend to it while we can. We ordered from the Continent once or twice, but it much better when they can tailor them on you in person.”
“Addison, for God’s sake, we have—“
“More important things to think about? I won’t argue with that.” Addison folded the black coat. “It doesn’t mean we don’t have time for the coats.” He twitched a sleeve smooth. “I know the pressures you’re under. I’m concerned about Mrs. Thirle myself. I can scarcely imagine how difficult it must before for you. It won’t take much of your time. I can handle the rest.”
Malcolm got up and went to pour two glasses of whisky. “You should spend the time we have here with your family.”
“I will.” Addison met Malcolm’s gaze as he accepted a glass of whisky. “But you of all people should understand about the need to keep busy.”

 

The second I cut from a longer scene between Laura and Raoul. Part of what’s below remained in the published book, but I cut the last part because I think it can oversimplify to say that a current relationship, however strong, renders prior relationships less important. I’m curious about what other’s think.

Laura put her hands on his chest. “There’s something else to report about the League.” She kept her voice as conversational as possible. “One of their members approached me today.”

She told him about Sir Lucius Brandon, as succinctly and with as little drama as possible. Raoul listened without interruption, his gaze steady on her face, but his brows drew together.

“I got you into this.”

“Not this,” Laura said. “I got entangled with the League on my own. I’m rather insulted they know me so little they think there’s the least chance they could turn me against you. Or convince me they could or would protect you.”

“They’re desperate.”

“Which could be an advantage.”

“Or could make them more dangerous.”

“We’ve always known the League were a potential threat.”

“But they hadn’t verbalized it this directly.” He pulled her to him again, his chin on her hair. “I don’t think I could survive anything happening to you.”

“That’s nonsense,” Laura said, voice muffled by his cravat. “You know you could survive anything if you had to. And you’d have to, for the children.”

“There are different definitions of survive. I’d find a way to go on.”

Laura pulled her head back to look up at him. “And I hope you’d be happy again.”

He put his hand against the side of her face. “One doesn’t find this again, my darling.”

She looked into his gaze. The gaze of a man shaken, perhaps more than he had thought possible. Which in turn shook her.

“You’d like to fling my past in my face?” he said. “I don’t deny the other bonds I’ve formed. I don’t deny their strength. This is different, Laura. This, what we’ve built. We’ve been playing for keeps from the first. Even before we—I—admitted it.”

She slid her arms round him. “For me as well. And of course I also hope it never comes to pass. I feel the same way when you’re gone. I know I can’t completely deny the risks. I trust you’re taking every precaution. I trust you. I trust you trust me.”

“You know I do, sweetheart. It doesn’t make the terror go away.”

“It’s part of the lives we lead.”

He gave a bleak smile and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “That’s my Laura. Throwing my own words back at me.”