Tea Basket & Cocktail Basket

I've been busy lately writing and putting together different baskets to donate to various silent auctions. Over the next few weeks, I will highlight some of the fun baskets that I've been working on. The latest one that I put together was for a Mardi Gras silent auction at my church. I decided to do a tea and reading basket with goodies including a copy of my first Harlequin Historical Engagement of Convenience, tea, a mug, chocolate, a coffee scented candle in a tiny cup, a scone recipe with an attached tea pot cookie cutter and some fancy hand lotion just for fun.

Another basket I helped put together is one you can bid on! Fellow writer Melissa Cutler and I have created a cocktail gift basket. We donated it to the Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. This is a great on-line event in which authors donate items, critiques and all sorts of great things to help raise money for diabetes research. If you've never heard of this event, please check it out by clicking on the picture below. The auctions begins May 1, 2014 but you can preview the hundreds of items donated by some of your favorite authors.

Tax Day History

Tax day is nearly upon us. If you haven’t already fired up the Turbo Tax software, then you have some homework to do this weekend. While you’re slogging through numerous forms more complicated than quantum physics, take heart, our tax system is much better, and far more forgiving than the ancient methods. Today, I’m going to give a very, very quick and dirty history of ancient civilization and medieval English taxation.
If you were living in the ancient world, you would be squeezed not by Rome or Thebes directly but by “tax-farmers”. Men who’d bid to obtain the office and whose job it was to make you pay. These men were loathed across the ancient world because if they came up short, they were required to make up the difference themselves. Since they were not usually from the ruling classes, they didn’t have the social clout to make the rich pay. As a result, they tended to squeeze every last denarii out of the middle class and the poor. Later in the empire, the office of tax collector became hereditary, so some people were bound by birth to be the most unpopular person on the block. When the Roman Empire finally collapsed in 480 AD, the knowledge, learning and complex civil service of Rome disappeared, but taxes remained.

Under the Anglo-Saxons, land was taxed and the proceeds paid to the king. When the Vikings showed up, the money was used to either fight them or pay them to go away (the “Danegeld”).  Once the Normans arrived, William the Conqueror instructed his men to find out what everyone owned and how much they owed him. Thus, the famous, or should I say infamous, Domesday Book was compiled. Landowners were taxed based on how much land they held, but, if they were friends with the king, the king could grant them exemptions. As time went by, too many exemptions meant too little tax money, and the monarch started getting testy. The testiest monarch was King John, but his nobles weren’t having it. They rose up and forced him to sign the Magna Carta which forced the king to get permission from the nobles before he could raise taxes.

So, when you’re filling out your 1040 this weekend, be thankful the Vikings aren’t at your door, King John isn’t seizing your land, and you weren’t born into a tax collecting family in ancient Rome.

If you're getting a rebate this year, why not splurge on a book? My latest Regency romance,  Rescued from Ruin is now available! Reading is a fun way to take your mind off of taxes.

Rescued from Ruin by Georgie Lee

In the eyes of the ton Cecelia Thompson is a wealthy widow, in reality she has barely a penny to her name. Randall Cheltenham, Marquess of Falconbridge, seems to offer a safe haven, but how can she trust the man who has hurt her before — and who seems to have only become darker with the passing of time?

Rescued from Ruin in now available!

Happy April everyone. Here in SoCal, it is a wet April 1st, which is great because we need the rain. I was out getting plants in the ground this weekend in anticipation of the showers.

Despite the dreary day, I'm excited because today is release day for Rescued from Ruin, my second Regency era novel with Harlequin Historical. If you have a moment, I would love it if you could check out my book by following one of the links below. I hope everyone has a great first week of April!

What the ton doesn't know... 

During the years since Randall Cheltenham, Marquess of Falconbridge, last saw Cecelia Thompson, he has turned into a dissolute rake. Catching sight of her now, bittersweet memories threaten to shatter his carefully constructed fa├žade. 

Although in the eyes of the ton Cecelia is a wealthy widow, in reality she has barely a penny to her name. Randall seems to offer a safe haven, but how can she trust a man who has hurt her before and who seems to have only become darker with the passing of time? 

Early American Women

In advance of the April 1st release of Rescued from Ruin, my next Harlequin Historical, I wanted to share with you some of the great books I read to help me research the heroine, Cecelia Thompson. Rescued from Ruin is set in 1816 London and Cecelia is a widow from Virginia who is denied her inheritance by her stepson. She returns to England, where she was born, to try and settle her cousin and herself while trying to keep her poverty a secret. In order for me to understand what her life in America would have been like, and how American law and practice might allow her stepson to deny her an inheritance, I read the following books.

Mistress of Riverdale: The Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert 1795-1821 Edited by Margaret Law Callcott

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady

Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolly Madison by Richard N. Cote

Two of the three books deal with America's early first ladies. However, before they were first ladies, they were the wives and daughters of landowners and had to deal with the day to day running of large plantations. The Dolly Madison biography also gave me insight into how the War of 1812 impacted American women's lives. In Rescued from Ruin, part of Cecelia's decision to return to England is the hostile receptions she, as a British born woman, receives from other plantation families after the British burned Washington D.C.

What I gleamed from the first two books was that making a will was a necessity that people tended to put off until the last minute. Many times people waited too long and died intestate. Without a will, things got messy and caused no end of troubles for the heirs. In a time when it was easy for the most minor of illnesses to turn deadly, I was surprised to read about how reluctant people were to put their affairs in order. Then, like now, people didn't want to face the prospect of their mortality. Although the law was on the widow's side, the rural nature of the early American south made it difficult for heirs to make sure the law was enforced.

If you like history, I encourage you to check out any of these three books. They offer fascinating looks into a period of American history that is often overlooked. While you're at it, please check out Rescued from Ruin for a chance to see how I incorporated research into the fictional narrative.

Beware the Ides of March.

And the ides of just about any other month. The ancient Romans were a superstitious lot, with more bad days than you could shake a rabbit’s foot at. Augers constantly read the signs and sent emperors running for safety by interpreting everything from thunderstorms to bull entrails. However, the Romans also knew how to party and they loved a good holiday. They enjoyed them so much, they were constantly declaring new ones to celebrate a military victory or appease angry foreign gods. In any given year, there were more holidays than workdays and with so many days off, it’s a wonder there were enough people around to keep the empire running.

Emperor Augustus was said to be one of the most superstitious of all Roman leaders. He barely got up in the morning without having his auger check to see which way the birds were flying or if lightning planned to strike. I don’t blame him for being cautious. Julius Caesar had lots of warning from oracles before he headed off to the senate on that fateful March day, but did he listen? No, and look how things turned out for him.

Many ancient Roman superstitious customs are still with us today. Blessing someone after they sneeze is a holdover from ancient Rome. So is the belief that a black cat crossing your path will bring bad luck.  Wearing a veil was a must for ancient Roman brides since it was thought to protect her from evil spirits. June, named after the goddess of marriage Juno, is still considered one of the luckiest times to wed. Thankfully, the Roman custom of checking pig entrails to decide the best day to hold the wedding has fallen out of favor.

So, as you prepare for March 15, do you part to avoid bad luck. Party a little to appease a few deities, check your horoscope, step over the threshold with your left foot, and if you accidentally stumble on the way out the door, call in sick. You don’t want to risk having a Julius Caesar kind of day. Also, if you get a chance, please check out my ancient Rome novella, Mask of the Gladiator. It is a tale of love, lust and intrigue during the last days of Emperor Caligula.

Have a seat.

Once in a while I come across a little gem like this chair. It's from a high school from the 1960s, if not earlier and was unwanted by the previous owner. The result? I snagged it for free. It was a steal considering how much a chair like this sells for at Pottery Barn.

My original intention was to sand it and stain in. I started to sand it, but between book deadlines and the difficulty of getting into the crevices to get rid of the stubborn mid-century stain, I never finished it.

The chair sat in my garage for a year, forgotten until I decided that I was tired of seeing it looking so neglected. That's when I decided to finally finish this project. I applied two coats of my favorite black paint with a sponge so the grain would come through, cleaned the grime out of the original wheels and finished the chair. 

She's quite lovely now, isn't she.

The Last Bookstore

Last week, I had the chance to visit a unique bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. 

The Last Bookstore is an interesting mix of Barnes & Noble meets a used record store meets a used bookstore. Housed in an old bank building, the second floor, called the Labyrinth, contains a vast collection of used books all priced at $1. I was like a kid in a candy store as I combed through the shelves looking for unique research books.

The sheer amount of books available for a great price isn't the only thing amazing about The Last Bookstore. Around every corner of the Labyrinth are whimsical displays to temp a curious reader.

 Books are stacked to create windows or tunnels.

 An old vault is used to house the paranormal books.

Hidden rooms behind bookcases and a whole room with used books arranged by color are just some of the fun waiting for unsuspecting readers.


 If you get a chance to visit Los Angeles, I highly recommend checking out this store. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time to peruse the shelves to find your treasure of a book.
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