A new novel – A Race to Splendor

July 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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San Fransisco after the QuakeFor those of you who have traveled to San Francisco (and those of us lucky enough to live in the Bay Area), the building on the left is actually a familiar landmark:  the fabled Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill.

However, look closely…this is a vintage photograph from shortly after the catastrophic 1906 San Francico earthquake and firestorm that left some 250,000 San Franciscans homeless and living in the Presidio for up to two-and-a-half years, first in tents, and later in what came to be know as “earthquake shacks” — one room wooden structures that were marginally larger than outhouses!

My son bought me this image several years ago when I had been in the middle of writing my new historical novel A Race to Splendor. As you can see, the hotel itself–three days away from its official opening in April, 1906–survived the quake very well, on the outside, at least.  The brutal fire ripped through the interior, virtually melting everything in its wake, including the spectacular Tiffany atrium in the lobby.  Some of the floors fell  seven feet, and the structure was basically an empty shell, and an extremely challenging engineering project to put to rights.

The story of how the hotel was restored “reads like a novel” and so I wrote one!  The famous New York architect, Stanford White, initially won the commission, but then a very bad thing happened to him (if you don’t know your early 20th c. history, you’ll just have to read the book when it debuts in April, 2011, from Sourcebooks-Landmark on the 105th anniversary of the quake!), and Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, inherited the restoration job.

A Race to Splendor focuses on the whirlwind competition between hotels to get up-and-running by the first anniversary of the quake in April, 1907 to prove to the world that the City by the Bay would rise from the ashes, putting-to-lie those who said  she was like “Pompeii, never to rise again….”
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How I Became a “Scot-O-Maniac”

July 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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My passion for Scottish history and culture began in my mid-thirties.  I was then working as a reporter and commentator for ABC Radio and TV in Los Angeles and was handed  the assignment of covering the International Gathering of the Clans which brought members of the Scottish Diaspora from all over the world to Edinburgh.   As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, both my husband and I are of Scottish-American heritage (Here we are on a moor at the Lord Hamilton shooting estate in Glen Affric, the Scottish Highlands).  Between us are the family names of McCullough, McGann, McAlister, Alexander, Bell, Harris and Hunter in our family tree. Read more

The Idea for a Novel Comes From…

July 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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I was originally drawn to the real life character of Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon (seen with her son in a painting hanging in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery) , because my aforementioned great- grandmother, Elfie McCullough–who lived to be 96–claimed that our McCulloughs from the Lowlands of Scotland were related to the Maxwells of Monreith through marriage a few generations before Jane Maxwell was born.  Later I came across an article about her life as the “Match-making Duchess” and was very intrigued that I might be related to such a fascinating historical figure. Sadly, after five years of research, I was never able to prove I was her direct descendant, but the odd thing is, we look rather alike: dark hair, hazel eyes, and a similar bone structure! Read more

My Favorite Authors

July 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ciji ReadingI’m often asked to name a selection of my favorite authors.

Well, anyone who knows me can tick them off quickly: Daphne du Maurier and Anya Seton, but I love Jane Austen, of course, along with Rosamund Pilcher, and a new novelist I’ve discovered who writes Regency mysteries, Tasha Alexander.

I also love Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series set in the early 20th century, and of course, I love the Sourcebooks/Landmark’s reissuing of the Georgette Heyer legacy.  I have to read a lot of nonfiction for the work I do in that genre, so there is no greater pleasure in life, as far as I’m concerned, than to curl up with a juicy historical that sweeps me out of my ordinary day and into the past.  I am so grateful that this genre appears to be experiencing a marked resurgence of reader interest! Read more

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