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?

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.”

TDG_PROMO_3

Happy almost summer! The Duke’s Gambit has been out in the world for two weeks. Do share your thoughts about it, here, or on the Google+ Group, or on GoodReads or other platforms.

I’ll be celebrating it’s release with a launch party at Book Passage in Sausalito (a new space for them and a new location for me) this Saturday, June 2, at 5:00 pm. We’ll have wine and cheese and other treats, 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 on Book Passage’s website and note in the comments that you would like it personalized on June 2nd.

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

Cheers,

Tracy

TracyMel5.15.18

My birthday dinner at Salishan on the Oregon coast

 

Midwinter Intrigue is out in the world! I’m so excited to hear what readers think of Malcolm and Mélanie’s holiday adventures. As you’ll have seen from the description, Midwinter Intrigue finds the Rannochs leaving their exile in Italy and traveling to Dunmykel, the Rannoch estate in the Scottish Highlands, at the news that Malcolm’s grandfather, the Duke of Strathdon, is dangerously ill.

I based Dunmykel largely on Dunrobin Castle, the family seat of the Dukes of Sutherland, though Dunrobin is somewhat further south,  not too far from Arbroath, on the coast of what was Forfarshire in 1818 and is now called Angus. There I am above, many years ago, by one of Dunrobin’s staircases, on the research trip on which I first dreamed up Dunmykel.

Below is the castle in June, very different, Malcolm thinks on his arrival, from the barren December landscape.

 

 

And here are some images of the gardens that inspired Arabella Rannoch’s gardens. Malcolm thinks how he can name every plant, even though he is seeing them in winter.

 

 

Malcolm, Mélanie, and their friends and family go through these gates from the sea on a December night.

 

 

And climb these steps to the house.

 

 

Though Dunmykel was largely inspired by Dunrobin, Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire was another major inspiration.

 

 

I’ll be sharing more pictures in the coming days. Meanwhile, do let me know what you think of Midwinter Intrigue! We’ll be starting a discussion of the novella tomorrow on the Google+ Group.

 

Cheers,

Tracy

GDMelTracy

Mélanie and I had a great time at the Gilded Deceit Launch Party at Book Passage on Saturday! Thanks to everyone who came – for those who couldn’t make it, here’s a photo diary that captures some special moments from the day.

GDHair

Mélanie and I started the day getting our hair done

 

GDMEldoor

Excited to find Mummy’s name!

GDMeltable

Helping set up the reception

GDMelFlowers

Note the beautiful flowers!

GDTracytalking

Mélanie helping me answer questions – she asked the first one!

GDBarbaraBonnie

With my high school English teacher and Bonnie (aka “Auntie Bonnie” to Mel) my friend since high school

GDAlexMiriam

With our wonderful friends Alex and Miriam

GDJohanna

With our wonderful event host Johanna – she is fabulous and Book Passage is so great at welcoming authors!

GDdinner

Celebrating at dinner

GDTracyMeldinner

Enjoying dinner with Mélanie

GDNightcap

A late toast to close out a lovely day!

The Gilded Deceit Launch Party is almost here! This Saturday, June 3, at 4:00 pm, at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA. I’ll be reading from and talking about Gilded Deceit, taking questions, and signing books. We’ll have wine, sparkling water, and light hors d’oeuvres. It should be a really fun afternoon. Do stop by if you’re in the area – you can read more details here. If you can’t make it but would like a signed copy, you can contact Book Passage and arrange it, and I’ll personalize the book on Saturday. Mélanie and I were thrilled to see Gilded Deceit on display when we stopped by the store last week. Book Passage is a great place, so supportive of writers!

Meanwhile, if you’ve read Gilded Deceit, do share your thoughts here or on the Google+ Group (and on other social media if you feel like it).

Now I need to figure out what to wear Saturday…

Cheers,

Tracy

GD promo 3

Gilded Deceit is out, both as an ebook on all platforms and a trade paperback. So excited to have the Rannochs’ Lake Como adventures out in the world. Do share your impressions, either here or on the Google+ Group where we have a lively discussion going (and are very friendly to lurkers and new members!).

Gilded Deceit’s release coincided with my birthday, which I celebrated with Mélanie and friends in Oregon. I’ve been gleaning inspiration for the Rannochs’ next adventures at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival – particularly fun to see a wonderful Henry IV Part I, which is the play in which Malcolm and David met Simon and Oliver in an Oxford production when they were undergraduates.

Cheers,

Tracy

Birthday2017

GDPromo1

It’s finally here! Gilded Deceit will be out tomorrow, May 15! So excited for it to be in readers hands and to be able to discuss it.

Here’s another glimpse of a piece of furniture that could be in the Rannochs’ villa, a beautiful Venetian secretary desk c. 1730-35 from the Metropolitan Museum. It might be in Malcolm’s study –  a good place to lock away pieces on evidence or some of the much-sought after papers that feature in the story…

Villafurniture

 

 

Just ten days until the release of Gilded Deceit! This table we saw at the Metropolitan Museum on our recent visit could be on the terrace at Malcolm’s villa in Italy. The villa, which Malcolm inherited from Arabella, was built in the late 16th century and would contain furniture from a variety of eras. This table is from Farnese Palace by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola c. 1565-1573.