The Habit of Being as if Never Before

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
~ Aristotle


How could I resist this quote for feeling better about repeating a post?

Well, it’s not exactly the same as before. Then what ever can be?


Autumn Crocuses

Autumn Crocuses in my garden in 2012



Now the light is more diffused, colors faded.

Autumn Crocus Cropped 2

Autumn Crocus in my garden two days ago


Another year of restlessness like standing still, growth from withdrawal and revealing in one way and another. 

Autumn Crocus 1 cropped

Autumn Crocus in my garden this morning, the first day of Autumn


Survival in the habit of being as if never before.

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

There is a memory here, planted moments before it was too late.

It’s not what it seems. These are not the spring variety, waking from frigid dreams, wooed by what is to come, green showing warily yet buds often opening too soon.

These are not flowers fraught with anticipation. They’ve already been revealed, lost their clothes in the crowd, withdrawn to regrow and regroup before winter. These latent lilies are a law unto themselves, having done it all before, bending this way and that, exploding unashamed into sunshine and tears, inviting their withering surroundings to dance before the mystery of dying.

For here is immortality.  Everywhere.  And so the generous age offered a handful of corms for drilling into years she might or might not have ahead, too deep to be forgotten.  


Writing note: The autumn crocus actually isn’t a crocus—it’s in the lily family (crocuses are in the iris family), flowering in the fall. Autumn crocuses send up their leaves in the spring but they die back by summer, the flower stalks rising and blooming quite indecently in fall. Some common names are: naked ladies and mysteria. Mine were given me many years ago by an older neighbor friend of my mom’s, Sue Drilling, a farmer’s wife, who was fiercely independent as well as extremely intelligent and artistic, living alone into her 80’s (no one knows for sure, as she would never tell her age…) in a large Frank Lloyd Wright style house where she had a very wild but wonderful perennial garden. The new owners have since dug it all up and replaced it too neatly with shrubs and lawns, less to care for and enjoy.

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.


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Forget Me Not

There is a flower in silence and motive that causes thoughts of interrupted solitude.

For a while, grand illusions grew out of its brightness and reach.

It might have been as beloved as bluebells, trembling stems and tiny flowers spread in a fragrant mist as far as the eye could see.

Such an easily admired effect. All was good. And understood. Azure waves in daylight, scented stars at night. An audience that wanted nothing more or less.

Until it was growing in less predictable ways and places. At least by those expecting it to always sparkle and sway the same.

I’ve known this self-seeding flower forever. It comes and goes, disappearing as it has to, reappearing where it will, not to anyone else’s design; perhaps, not even to its own.

Well, it knows better.

Controlling this flower is a challenge. Pull it out and throw it away; being perennial it will merely find new ground. Its vulnerability finds strength in escaping boundaries that other sorts obey.

Its roots have a habit of curiosity and continuity. Lost and found in shade and filtered sunlight, its leaves hold out for dew.

There is a rumor that God almost forgot this flower, but I have never believed it.  Another, closer to the truth, claims the weight of armor almost drowned a chance for it to speak its truth.

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

Myosotis (from the Greek: “mouse’s ear”, after the leaf) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Boraginaceae. In the northern hemisphere they are commonly called forget-me-nots. Illustration copyrighted 2015 by DM Denton


Not all were strangers, not the little myosotis stars bursting unforgettably through the dirt and grass.

“They always come up in legions, no matter how I thin them.”

Somehow she knew what her father was saying, feeling a return of pleasure when he gave her the bouquet he had made with a few tiny daisies, too.

~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled


donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.


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Highlighting The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

This week I’m highlighting a wonderful website that celebrates …

… classic women authors who wrote in the English language. Here you’ll find their words of wisdom for readers and writers. Enjoy their life stories and quotations; learn more about their books; read their advice on the writing life; and enjoy contemporary voices on the writing process.
Source: The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life

Literary Ladies Web Page Header-page0001 (2)

The site owner, Nava Atlas, has also published a book of the same name:



Nava was looking to add some more authors and has graciously allowed me to contribute overviews of a few of my favorites.

So far:

The English novelist and poet, Mary Webb (March 25, 1881 – October 8, 1927) whose writing reflected her strong ties to the countryside and people of her native Shropshire and who drew who drew on her pantheistic view of nature, fascination with folklore, innate sense of mysticism, consideration of the female experience, and empathy with the most vulnerable and stigmatized of earth’s creatures.
Read more …


and, also,

The Anglo-Italian, Christina Rossetti – one of the most enduring of Victorian poets … the youngest of four artistic and literary siblings … the most famous being the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her poetry and prose … used lyricism and symbolism to contemplate themes like earthly and divine love, nature, death, gender and sexuality, and drew inspiration from the Bible, folk stories and the lives of the saints.
Read more …


Drawing of Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Both will be included in my upcoming collection of three novellas about lesser-known/oft-neglected women writers. The third is Anne Brontë. Read more about her at The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life.

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

Drawing of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë

This work-in-progress is in its infancy. I’ve begun with Anne Brontë, and here’s a little taste from Without the Veil Between 

She pulled out a drawing begun some months before, Little Ouseburn Church most picturesque viewed from the other side of Ouse Gill Beck, its chancel encased by shrubby trees, a grassy bank sloping towards the stream, the mausoleum just out of sight. The Robinsons’ carriage was commandeered every Sunday to transport the family the nearly two miles to the church, immediately afterwards waiting to take them back to the Hall for dinner by half-past noon. Anne was included in and yet irrelevant to the Sunday ritual, the latter demonstrated by no one questioning her leather folder tucked under her arm or even thinking to refuse, as the Inghams would have, her request to stay behind to draw a while before returning on foot.

“You may do what you please, Miss Brontë,” Mrs. Robinson was famous for saying, “and I will tell Cook to put your dinner aside.”

“Aren’t you afraid to walk back alone?” Mary might wonder before her mother insisted she get into the carriage.

Anne was relieved she didn’t have to answer, for any explanation of her need for bucolic solitude would have implied dissatisfaction with the confines of her room at Thorpe Green, the subdued light through one slanted window waking her very early but, by late afternoon or in the evening, providing inadequate illumination for reading, writing or artwork. She took whatever time she could to be on her own out-of-doors, freed from capricious children and their equally unpredictable parents, the dissatisfaction of servants and repetitive duties, and, especially, the dreariness back stairs and dark corridors made almost unendurable. In contrast it was easy to put up with feeling too warm in the sun and too cool in the shade, watch for rain, hold her paper from curling in the wind, wave away thirsty gnats, and be distracted by birdsong and any of the creatures she could hear but not see or see without seeing, like the fish making little whirlpools of bubbles in the stream between her and the church that months later, having to resort to memory and imagination, she hoped to finish her detailed impression of.
Copyright 2015 by DM Denton


Little Ouseburn Church – Anne Brontë’s sketch and a recent photograph by Mick Armitage index

This collection is a long way from publication, but, if you enjoyed this sample and for those who may not know, I have two literary historical fictions available now – A House Near Luccoli and its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as well as two kindle short stories, The Library Next Door and The Snow White Gift, all published by All Things That Matter Press.

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.


Thank you for your visit!



Historical Fiction & Meaning with DM (Diane) Denton


Thank you to Stephanie Hopkins for hosting me on Layered Pages and allowing me to take part in her Historical Fiction and Meaning series! It certainly challenged me to be more conscious about writing in this genre. I hope you will read the entire interview, which will only take five minutes or so. As always, I am grateful for those who visit here and hope I offer posts for your enjoyment, but also give you something to think about, and, perhaps, open up new vistas for your reading and reflection.

Here’s an excerpt:

Why Historical Fiction?

In hindsight, my journey towards writing historical fiction began in my early teens when I developed an insatiable appetite for classic literature, period films and plays, and Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and traditional music. I’ve long had a fascination with the clothes, customs, social and political issues of the past, and I’m attracted to the lives of writers, artists, musicians, intellectuals, and innovators, but, also, ‘ordinary’ folk like gardeners and domestics. All in all, it’s more comfortable for me to write within a historical context; I feel I can reveal myself and still remain hidden. I can indulge my old-fashioned sensibilities yet still oblige my progressive tendencies, because history isn’t static, somewhere dead in time, but a life force for the present and future.

Originally posted on Layered Pages:

Diane Denton

I’d like to welcome DM (Diane) Denton to Layered pages to talk with me about the importance of Historical Fiction and why she chose this genre to write in. DM is a native of Western New York, is a writer and artist inspired by music, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit. Through observation and study, truth and imagination, she wanders into the past to discover stories of interest and meaning for the present, writing from her love of language, the nuances of story-telling, and the belief that what is left unsaid is the most affecting of all. Having first gone to the UK to study English literature and history at Wroxton College, an overseas campus of Farleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey, Diane remained in England for sixteen years surrounded by the quaint villages, beautiful hills, woods and fields of Oxfordshire’s countryside. She eventually returned to…

View original 1,474 more words

An Aside

Grass, it’s just grass,

I told myself

as I stopped

at the intersection

aside glancing

while waiting to pass through;

roadside grass,

fresh and soft,


fingers of the breeze

playing it

like strings on a harp


in arpeggios

running along with shadows,

disappearing into prickly patches

and secrets

(of being

just grass)

that I keep

as if

I know what they are.

Grass and Teasel cropped



donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.


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Thank you for your visit!

Music, Passionate Lyricism, and Small Strides

I make small strides. Perhaps I am really moving forward. Like the tortoise. Although, on frustrating days, I feel like the March hare (noted for its hare-graphicsfairy006bwleaping, boxing, and chasing in circles).

It was a struggle to get the Historical Novel Society to review my first published novel A House Near Luccoli. In the end, that review was a very good one and appeared on the HNS’ website, but not in their quarterly print Historical Novel Review magazine.

To A Strange Somewhere Fled has found a smoother path to a HNS review, which is now online and will appear in the August edition of the Historical Novel Review. Thank you to the HNR editor Sarah Johnson who has made this experience so much better the second time around. So there, in itself, is a little step forward that will, hopefully, lead to more readers of both novels.

The reviewer, fellow author Susan McDuffle, had not read A House Near Luccoli, but was able to appreciate the style and understand the essence of its sequel. I find that in itself a great compliment. A sequel really needs to be able to stand on its own as much as possible.

I need to be proud of my accomplishments, as should all who persevere and produce writing, art, or anything to the best of their ability with the intent of adding something positive to this often demoralizing world; especially when it involves endless hours, months, years, and times when giving up seems the more sane thing to do. I usually hide my struggles very well in my writing and pretty pictures; I don’t like to bare my soul directly or complain publicly; I don’t want to appear ungrateful for the blessings in my life. But I have had to deal with some issues lately, things that don’t allow for an easy inner peace, or, at least, challenge my ability to stay in a higher place despite hurt and disappointment weighing me down.

One of my greatest blessings is my editor/publisher Deb Harris of All Things That Matter Press; there isn’t any doubt that our professional and personal relationship has made me a much better writer, but, also, has continually heartened and strengthened me in all ways.  I hope she knows that I hold her in my heart everyday and return the unconditional and enduring love she offers me. She shared this quote with me recently (lions are so much in the consciousness right now, but the following words are almost the opposite of what the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz is told – or, perhaps, it is more a case of the circular motion – connectedness – of all things, which takes me back to that March hare analogy):

You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous. You cannot be loving if you are not courageous. You cannot be trusting if you are not courageous. You cannot enter into reality if you are not courageous. Hence courage comes first… and everything else follows. ~ Osho

Here is an excerpt from the Historical Novel Society’s review of To A Strange Somewhere Fled. Please follow the link to read it in its entirety, and, remember, writers need readers, and, when readers enjoy their work, reviews and recommendations to other readers.


Music and passionate lyricism inform this book. Denton’s style of writing is poetic and musical itself, perhaps at times challenging to readers used to a more straightforward narrative; the book lingers in the mind like some elusive and beautiful tune heard through open windows on a summer’s day. ~ read entire review …

Angel Cloud_pe 2

Portion of To A Strange Somewhere Fled Cover Illustration Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

DM Denton Book Launch Pages: Book trailers, Synopsis, Reviews, Buy Links, and more all in one place!

House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli



f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

 A Friendship with FlowersA Friendship with Flowers

The Music of Friends: Cadences and Temperaments

More historical perspectives of To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

The musical players

Keeping true to A House Near Luccoli, much of the foundation of this novel relies heavily on music as expression. The cadences and temperaments of compositions are reflected in Denton’s pacing as well as her confidently executed freedom of narrative … revelations are made, characters introduced, and emotions uncovered with unexpected swells and surges of expression.
~ from review by Casee Marie Clow, Literary Inklings

This plot is as much about music as Donatella’s first story, which covered the time when she was a copyist for Stradella, but in this novel Donatella’s role as a performer is emphasized … Denton writes with a lyrical style which swells, fades, and swells again, creating a perfect setting through its tone as much as its meticulous description. Her words pull her readers to 17th century England like music from that era.
~ from review by Steve Lindahl
, author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

the secrets and the rhythm within these pages lifts the reader to appreciate the subtle yet daring intricacies of music, passion and life in 17th century England.
~ from review by Martin Shone, author of Silence Happens and Being Human

What an inspired and informed imagination to portray the young Henry Purcell. The author’s descriptions of music, particular musicians, and musical performances make this book a work of art itself. To A Strange Somewhere Fled is a virtuoso performance.
~ from review by Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life and Covenant


The term “The Music of Friends” to describe chamber music (1550 to 1750, music characterized by the location of its performance: outdoors, on stage, in church, or in private quarters), was, per Wikipedia, first used by Richard Walthew in a lecture published in South Place Institute, London, in 1909.

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695)


Purcell by John Closterman

It was during my research for A House Near Luccoli that I came upon the claim, noted in the introduction to Purcell Studies edited by Curtis Price, that Henry Purcell had openly regretted Alessandro Stradella’s death and, because of the Italian’s “great merit as a musician”, forgiven his fatal indiscretions.  True or not, it stirred me to somehow bring the celebrated English composer into Donatella’s continuing story, and on reading Roger North’s assertion that the high point of his musical experience was entertaining the ‘divine’ Purcell, I was even more inspired to do so.

Henry Purcell was as obscure a figure as Stradella in terms of how little about his personal life was recorded. Despite his legacy of being a uniquely English composer, he enjoyed and sometimes emulated the Italian style. He met his end at a younger age than Stradella and in a way that left as much conjecture as to why. Was it chocolate poisoning, the result of pneumonia brought on by being locked out of his house by his wife after a night of drinking, or ‘just’ tuberculosis?

He came from a very musical family. His father, who died when Henry was a small child and his uncle, who became his guardian, were members of the Chapel Royal. His brother Daniel was also a composer. Henry had been a child chorister; his earliest known work was probably completed when he was ten or eleven.

The English maestro enters the pages of To A Strange Somewhere Fled at age twenty-four, already appreciated for his celebratory, church, theatrical, instrumental, and incidental music, and overcoming the constraints of the English language to write songs that perfectly complemented the poetry they were inspired by. In 1683 he was an organist for Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and about to publish his first collection and be appointed royal instrument keeper.

He was a man of sorrows as well as joy—of six children born to him and his wife, only two survived to adulthood—his copious creations defining him as the scarce accounts of his life never could.


The Italians

After the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, Italian composers and performers arrived in England to find a welcome and work, some in the court of Charles II where lively, lavish, and constantly evolving entertainment was encouraged, while others visited for brief or extended periods or settled into being employed in or outside of London in churches and theaters and for private concerts.


Charles II dancing at court. C.1660. Hieronymus Janssens (1624-93). Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2013

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (c.1645–c.1712)

calonatiIl Gobbo della Regina, the hunchback composer, violinist, and singer who initially made an appearance in A House Near Luccoli, was probably born in Milan but little is known of his early life. Lonati first made friends, music and trouble with Alessandro Stradella while both were in Rome under the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, and went to Genoa ahead of Stradella where he also preceded him as impresario of the Falconi Theater.

There is evidence that Lonati was in London—seen with a famous female singer—sometime between 1686 and1688.  Ordered out of Genoa after Stradella’s murder in February, 1682, and leaving gaps in his activities and whereabouts for some time afterwards, it’s conceivable he traveled to England before the visit made notable because of the company he kept. His abrupt intrusion on Donatella’s new life was, in the course of writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as much of a surprise to me as it was to her.


Pietro Reggio (1632 -1685) (I couldn’t find a portrait of him)

Pietro Reggio song set


There is much mystery surrounding the life of the “slovenly and ugly”, to quote diarist Samuel Pepys, composer, lutenist, and singer, Pietro Reggio, who was probably from Genoa as he was referred to as Pietro Reggio Genovese. He was employed in Stockholm by Queen Christina before her abdication and subsequent move to Rome where Stradella and Lonati encountered her. Eventually, Pietro traveled to France, and, if the inscription on his tombstone is accurate, to Spain and Germany. He had moved to England by 1664, where Pepys and another writer, John Evelyn, were entertained in very different ways by him. Whereas Pepys wasn’t overly impressed by “Seignor Pedro” who played the theorbo and sang Italian songs, Evelyn included Reggio’s singing in his description of the “rare music” he enjoyed after dinner one evening.

Reggio made his living in London for a time, performing and teaching, and also had associations in Oxford where he may have resided. His claim to fame is a collection of songs he published in 1680, mostly based on the verse of Abraham Cowley (1618 -1667) who was among the leading metaphysical poets of the 17th century.


Nicola Matteis (? – after 1714)

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola arrived in England after 1670, apparently not interested in royal service or public appearances, because, as Roger North also indicated, he might have to perform with amateurs.  Despite his resistance, his popularity grew in the 1670’s and 1680’s. He is given credit for having changed the manner of violin playing from the French to Italian style, publishing Ayres for the Violin that provided detailed bowing instructions and directions for tempo and ornamentation. Still, his compositions were difficult and many were discouraged in their efforts to play them. John Evelyn was among those who praised Matteis’ vigorous style that made his performances so memorable.


Various Italian, English, Scottish, and French Musicians

Bartholomeo Albrici (1634 – ?), a composer native to the seaport of Senigallia in the province of Ancona in central Italy, taught and played the harpsichord. He spent time in Sweden with his brother, Vincenzo in service to Queen Christina, and traveled with him and their singer sister Leonora (1640’s – 1700?) to London in 1662 where they all were involved in the King’s Musick. Leonora was married to Matthew Battaglia (1640? – 1687), a musician to the Duke of York, later James II. Giovanni Battista Draghi (ca. 1640 – 1708) was an Anglo-Italian composer and organist invited to London by Charles II to help establish an opera house. That project was unsuccessful, but Draghi (nicknamed “Drago”) found other ways to contribute to the music of the court and remained in England for the rest of his life.

Besides Henry Purcell, other English musicians make themselves known in To A Strange Somewhere Fled, including Henry Aldrich, church musician, Canon of Christ Church and eventually Vice-Chancellor of  Oxford University; Henrietta Bannister, wife of John Bannister “the elder” and music tutor to Princess Anne, daughter of James II; Robert Carr, viol player; Charles Coleman “the younger”, possibly a lutenist and theorbist; Thomas Eccles, a violinist who was said to have played in taverns; Thomas Farmer, violinist at the Duke’s theater in London and in service to Charles II and James II; William Gregory “the younger”, lyra viol player, composer and member of the King’s Musick and the Chapel Royal; William Husbands, organist at Christ Church, Oxford; and William Turner, composer and singer who served at Lincoln and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, the Chapel Royal and with the King’s Private Musick.

Paisable music 2


Also helping to add a flourish to the midsummer concert in To A Strange Somewhere Fled were Scottish composer and singer John Abell, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, whose English songs showed Italian influence; and French composer and recorder player, Jacques Paisable (“Peasable” as he was mockingly referred to), who performed at the Drury Lane Theater and married actress and singer Mary “Moll” Davis after she was dismissed as Charles II’s mistress—with a lavish pension and house as a parting gift—when the nubile Nell Gwyn came on the scene.



To A Strange Somewhere Fled cover back and front

Cover – back and front – illustrations by DM Denton


Master Purcell bowed to them all, the back of his wig matted and his coat creased, the ribbons undone on the bottom of his breeches, evidence of a mend here and there in his hose, and his ankles leaning out due to the wear on his shoes. As he straightened, his arms lifted until his hands were close together above his head, reminding Donatella of a priest celebrating the Eucharist, his congregation silent in preparation for the miracle they were about to receive.

~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled, published by All Things That Matter Press.
The scene: midsummer’s eve concert at Wroxton Abbey.


donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.


DM Denton Book Launch Pages: Book trailers, Synopsis, Reviews, Buy Links, and more all in one place!

House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli




f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

A Friendship with FlowersA Friendship with Flowers