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"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Publication Day: Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr

Now available in print and all digital formats, my latest novel.

I'm a guest on the Reading the Past blog for a release day interview about the book, the writing process, and my focus on biographical historical fiction: Reading the Past Interview with Margaret Porter.

Here is the book trailer--

Purchase buttons for online retailers--

And I'm sponsoring a Rafflecopter giveaway--

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Beautiful Invention Gift Package Giveaway on Rafflecopter

To mark the official October 16th release of  Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr, I'm sponsoring a Rafflecopter giveaway from October 9-29.

Hedy was notable for wearing pearls--necklaces, bracelets, earrings, which are featured in many of her films and a majority of the glamour portraits of her created by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.

In a fan magazine
Making friends during her War Bond Tour
For this sweepstakes, I've sourced a 3-strand pearl necklace similar to one she often wore. The necklace is 19 inches in total length. The pearls are genuine, and large.

GOOD LUCK to all entrants!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hedy Lamarr returns to London: UK launch for BEAUTIFUL INVENTION

In 1937, Hedy Kiesler Mandl escaped from her husband and her beloved city of Vienna. She travelled first to Paris, and then crossed the Channel to England. In London, she checked into the Regency Palace Hotel, a few steps from Piccadilly Circus. At the time, it was the largest hotel in Europe--and quite luxurious.

Over time it grew increasingly rundown and even disreputable, but it remained a hotel until 2006, when the site was developed. Some of the original facade is intact.

The former Regent Palace Hotel in Piccadilly

Hedy returns to the hotel she occupied in 1937

Very little is left of the splendid interiors, but the site of the Atlantic Bar & Grill now houses Brasserie Zédel, and its Art Deco décor is restored to its former glory. On the day of the UK launch of Beautiful Invention, I was there for a celebratory lunch.

Entrance to the brasserie

Hedy probably dined here, when it was the hotel restaurant

Champagne on UK launch date

The celebration continued throughout the week, culminating at Fischer's in Marylebone, an Austrian restaurant. My meal there consisted of cuisine that Hedy knew and loved: wienderschitzel and Sacher torte!


Sacher torte, so named for Vienna's famous Hotel Sacher

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Beautiful Invention Goodreads Giveaway 12-22 September, 2018

You can enter to win one of 5 pre-publication autographed copies of Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr. The contest is open to US readers (sorry, GR won't allow international entries.)

Pre-Launch Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Beautiful Invention by Margaret  Porter

Beautiful Invention

by Margaret Porter

Giveaway ends September 22, 2018.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, August 27, 2018

When Hedy Was News: Press Accounts for August

2 August 1938

Charles Boyer & Hedy in Algiers

11 August 1942

Hedy and her co-inventor, composer/musician George Antheil, are awarded a  United States Patent for their Secret Communication System. The basis for wifi, satnav, and more.

Hedy & George Antheil

15 August 1938

Hedy loved ice cream

Hedy in Ecstasy--lying down!

Lying down again

And again!


22 August 1940

23 August 1941

Dorothy Kilgallen decides that a change in Hedy's hairstyle for H. M. Pulham, Esq. is newsworthy.

27 August 1939


Friday, August 17, 2018

Beautiful Invention Pre-launch happenings

For those who use a Kindle for reading books, or use the app on their tablet or phone, Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr is available for pre-order.
 Promo items arrive daily. ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) have gone out to reviewers and press.

On Twitter, I've been posting 1930s-40s news items about Hedy to correspond to #OTD (On This Day).

Bookstore appearances are being scheduled.

I do hope reader anticipation about the release is building. I know mine is!


Monday, July 9, 2018

Beatuful Invention: Cover Reveal Blog Tour

I invite you to follow the Beautiful Invention Cover Reveal Blog Tour sponsored by Amy at HFVBT.

Much more information is on the way in coming weeks and months before the October 16 release. Needless to say, I'm extremely excited!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Closing out 2017

Autumn of this year returned me to England. I covered a fair amount of ground, from Windsor to a Somerset village to Bath to London. Overall, this visit was more personal in nature--meaning there was a minimum of research connected to future novels.

The garden seat in Somerset

The village church
At Evensong in Bath Abbey

My only professional activities were book promotions related to A Pledge of Better Times at Hampton Court Palace, an event at Hatchard's in Piccadilly, and a meet-up with our many friends at the London Historians' monthly pub gathering,

Posing with the novel's inspiration, protagonist, & cover girl 
With London Historians--I'm a Founder Member!
With historian Charles Spencer--a Beauclerk descendant

We had an unusually warm autumn in New England, a protracted season for roses and for foliage. It was a quiet American Thanksgiving--I'm not very good at it, having spent so many of them in England!

The Christmas festivities began early in December with the cutting of our tree on a mountaintop, and the annual performance of Handel's Messiah. Lots of parties--but of course my favourite is the annual Caroling Party we host for friends and neighbours, with local musicians accompanying us. It snowed on the night, so walking the white streets, singing joyfully, with the flakes falling, was quite magical!

Musicians at our Caroling Party

The New Year will bring a great deal of travel. But before I begin jetting around, I must finish a manuscript, And then start the next novel!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: The Curious World of Samuel Pepys & John Evelyn

The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn
by Margaret Willes
Yale University Press, 2017

In this exceptional study of the two most notable 17th century diarists, Margaret Willes admirably presents their fascinating friendship, its origins and depth, their mutual interests, many encounters, and most importantly, their shared curiosity. Chapter by chapter she explores with illustrative detail their many connections, not only with one another but also the greatest minds and talents and powers of their era. These two men regularly encountered King Charles II and his successors, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke—whose passion for scientific inquiry, we learn, led him to smoke cannabis imported from Mauritius. Through their commentary on political events, filtered through personal experience, Pepys and Evelyn have documented a remarkable era populated with agents as well as the victims of change.


John Evelyn
The men’s diaries are illuminated in a way that clearly delineates the authors' contrasting natures, proclivities, and pursuits. The book’s first section delves into their pre-diary histories and the formative years of scholarship. Evelyn, the product of a landed and wealthy family, attended Oxford’s Bailliol and spent the Civil War years in Europe, finding his future wife Mary in an English household in Paris. Pepys, a London tailor’s son, was educated at St. Paul’s School in London and matriculated at Magdalene, Cambridge, and afterwards assumed a clerkship from which he rose to a great height. Unlike Evelyn’s bride, Pepys’s brought no money to the marriage. Samuel and Elizabeth did not enjoy the same match of minds enjoyed by John and Mary.


With the Restoration, both Evelyn and Pepys commence their diaries in earnest. Pepys’s record continued for the next nine years, through plague, fire, and wars, and his various roles in the Navy Office and the Admiralty, reviving it in more succinct form later in life. Evelyn’s diary extended to 1706, concluding only shortly before his death.

Samuel Pepys

That the two men respected one another and enjoyed each other’s company is evident. That their tastes and personalities different is equally clear. Pepys had a passion for music, ‘the thing in the world that I love most,' playing several instruments, and chased women, especially actresses. Evelyn was no musician, and his admiration of females was more cerebral or spiritual. He was a gardener, a garden writer and designer. Pepys was not, although he commented upon ones he visited with, as Willes points out, more objectivity than the practitioner Evelyn, a more subjective critic. Both were active members of the Royal Society. Despite never presenting a paper, Pepys served as its president, putting his famed managerial skills to good use. Evelyn declined the offer when presented, but continued his close involvement.

Their habits were the usual ones common to prominent men of their day—coffee drinking, dining, shopping, collecting, and reading. Their love of books was another strong tie binding them, and Pepys in particular names the London booksellers and printers from whom he acquired his many volumes, now residing at his alma mater. Both demonstrated an improving spirit with regard to the women in their lives. Pepys provided musical instruction for his wife Elizabeth, and Evelyn ensured that his daughters Elizabeth, Mary (a clever writer) and Susana (an artist) were well educated, teaching them Greek and Latin himself.

At his death in 1703, Pepys left behind—inadvertently, it seems—an unedited diary, brimming with immediate and lively and highly revealing (i.e. sexually incriminating) incidents. In contrast, the self-aware and cautious Evelyn edited his own diary, which he carefully preserved to inform future generations. We are fortunate to have both, and in her enlightening and informative history, Margaret Willes adds colour and context to this surprising friendship between two men who together experienced crucial decades in England’s history. A must-read for those attracted by any and all aspects of the vibrant 17th century.


The Great Fire of London


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What Happened at #HNS2017

The Historical Novel Society is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. How fitting that the 2017 HNS conference was the largest and the best one yet--according to me, attending for my 4th time, and to those who have attended even more of them.

I arrived Wednesday evening. Author talk began early, because my very own first cousin, novelist Justin Evans happened to be in town on non-author business. His novels are A Good and Happy Child , and The White Devil, now in production as a feature film.

Cousins and novelists

He lives in Brooklyn. I live in New England. It's mad that we had to cross the entire North American continent to spend time together.

Thursday was my one day for Portland tourism. I visited the International Rose Test Garden and the Oregon Zoo, both located in beautiful and extensive Washington Park. The day was perfect for outdoor activity. The roses were in full bloom and the zoo animals were lovely. (You must scroll past flowers and creatures to get to the conference content in this post!)

That evening the conference opened with a reception and Costume Contest. I did not compete in the contest, but I did wear an 18th century ballgown and lots of bling. There were some fantastic garments on display, and it was my first opportunity to see friends and new ones.

18th Century lady in 21st Century lift

The next day, Friday, I was on the Mixing it Up panel, discussing writing in multiple historical genres--romance, nonfiction articles, biography, etc. Susan Higginbotham was our moderator, and I was joined by Kris Waldherr and Aimie K. Runyon. A great session, and good questions from our attendees.

With my Mixing it Up co-panellists

I had the opportunity to see parts of a variety of workshops--Truth in Fiction was excellent and thought-provoking. Isobel Carr's historic fashion presentation, subtitled Clothing Before the Zipper, was a highlight. Alison Stuart covered Cavaliers & Roundheads: The Other Civil War.

Our luncheon speaker was Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Secret Chord, Year of Wonders, Caleb's Crossing, and more. So very inspiring.

I was also a reader of submitted manuscripts (2 pages only) at a Cold Reads session, with a pair of editors (Ana Michels of Sourcebooks and Lucia Macro, who was one of my editors at HarperCollins) who offered immediate feedback on the material. For me, reminiscent of my times in the recording booth when I narrated audio books and informational films, and did voice-over for radio adverts. We got through quite a lot of pages during that hour-long workshop.

The day concluded with Hooch Through History, a drinking through the centuries extravaganza organised, managed, and presented by Isobel Carr. We began our drinking journey through time with medieval mead, followed by port (prompting the immortal line, 'Real women drink red port...naked!'), then an 18th century gin cocktail (with a orangey non-junipery gin), then the dangerous, smoky-green absinthe (we were given an absinthe spoon to keep), and last of all a wet-dry martini from the Mad Men era. As you might imagine, we grew more raucous and giggly as the sampling progressed!

Gin cocktail, circa 1798

Saturday was quite busy from the start, and again I attended a variety of workshops. The day began with State of the State of Historical Fiction, a panel of agents and editors. As always, their acquisition tastes are individual, though some of their perceptions of the market meshed.

Agents & Editors on the HistFic market panel

Let's Do the Time Warp: Controlling the Chaos When Writing Different Eras (Stephanie Thornton, Kate Quinn, Heather Webb, C.W. Gortner) was a topic right up my street, having written 12 novels of the 17th, 18th, early 19th centuries--and now completing a 20th century novel before going backwards in time. My friends' insights were very encouraging and illuminating.

Our luncheon speaker was David Ebersoff, author of The Danish Girl. Another inspiring speaker who offered wonderful insights.

David Ebersoff

In the afternoon I attended The Audacity of Will, a small-group discussion of writing novels that feature Shakespeare, with Mary Sharratt and Stephanie Cowell and other. I also sat through some of Book Reviewers Tell All (with reviewers/bloggers Sarah Johnson who edits Historical Novels Review and posts at Reading the Past, Meg Westell of A Bookish Affair, and Jenny Toney Quinlan of Historial Editorial and Let them Read Books.)

During the public Readers' Festival, I co-hostessed with Gillian Bagwell our themed historical 'Koffee  Klatch' on The Merry Monarch to the Four Georges. * * * For my promised list of period films, see below.

Late in the afternoon came the Booksigning. I did lots of table-hopping, visiting friends I hadn't yet seen or continuing conversations with those I had.

With conference Program Chair Leslie Carroll

With tablemate, my fellow author Kate Quinn
The closing banquet was in the evening--another occasion for dressing up. Australian author Kate Forsyth gave a delightfully entertaining rendition of the legend of Tam Lin--you could have heard a pin drop throughout her presentation.

With Leslie again, at the banquet

Me, Gillian Bagwell, Amanda McCabe

The final event was a Hellfire at HNS Masquerade Ball, with musicians, lessons in English Country Dance, and whist tables. I danced only one dance and continued my socialising, as time was growing short.

English Country Dancing
Incognitas--with author Diana Mathur

Parting from my fellow writers was a sweet sorrow--we were all quite eager to return to our projects. I hope so much to see everyone at HNS in 2019, and perhaps at the UK conference next year.

The next morning, Sunday, I boarded my flight back to Boston. I hadn't left the hotel since Thursday. It was a beautiful morning to fly out of Portland, with stunning views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood and other mountains.

Mount St. Helens

Mount Hood

Back home now with husband, dogs, and my own rose gardens, I'm overflowing with knowledge and  inspiration, and ready to finish the current manuscript.

*** At our 17th/18th Century Koffee Klatch I promised to share my list of period films and television programmes. Not comprehensive at all, and in no particular order--just a batch that were top of mind when I compiled the list or outright faves that I wanted to share.

17thC/Stuart/Restoration/English Civil War/Louis XIV/etc.

Stage Beauty
The First Churchills
A Little Chaos
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Crucible
Forever Amber
Frenchman’s Creek
Witchfinder General
Tous les matins du monde
The Libertine
The Wicked Lady
The Three Musketeers
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Devil’s Whore
The New World
By the Sword Divided


The Scarlett Pimpernel
The Duchess
Amazing Grace
Jane Austen Novels
Barry Lyndon
The Mission
John Adams
Marie Antoinette (2 versions)
A Royal Affair
The Madness of King George
Vanity Fair
Lady Caroline Lamb
Catherine the Great
The Last of the Mohicans
A Tale of Two Cities
Jefferson in Paris