Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee Dos Santos

In Lisbon in 1755, a devastating earthquake changes the city forever. The months just before the event are the intriguing backdrop for Stephanie Renee Dos Santos’ vivid debut novel, Cut from the Earth. Closely examining the overlooked origin of the art of the figura de convite style of tilework, this richly detailed novel both arrests the reader with the sensory pleasures Dos Santos provides and compels the reader to continue on. A stunning blend of intriguing plot and lyrical language, this novel delights.

The figura de convite style of tilework,  life-sized, cut-out tiles of figures, welcomed visitors when they visited palaces, and were produced in the 18th and 19th centuries. They are only found in Portugal. Dos Santos says not much is known about the creator of the style, other than the initials PMP. Her novel imagines just who PMP was and what the creator’s life was like. The mere concept of the novel enthralled me, as I like mysteries, as I like the teasing out of things we have no way of knowing. I was not disappointed! 

Not only the artwork, but the tension between the Inquisition, the Catholic Church’s question to do away with any heresy against itself, and the Enlightenment, an attempt to bring reason and science to society, rather than being controlled by the Church, saturate the novel. It’s personified in the main character, Pêro Manuel Pires, a renowned Portuguese tilemaker, who is also dedicated to freeing slaves and hiring them in his tile factory. Unfortunately, this and the risqué designs of someone thought not worthy (avoiding a spoiler here!) of creating them brings Pires to the attention of the Inquisition, where his faith is questioned, and his livelihood and his very life are threatened.

Even the tragedy that strikes Lisbon is told with such force and detail it is as beautifully described as the tile making. Dos Santos immerses her reader into this world, both the time and place, knowing, like a good conductor, when to ask the horns for more, when to ask the woodwinds to back off. This novel is just stunning.

Interweaving charming scenes of family life with brutal scenes of the other side of society at that time, Dos Santos knows when to apply the pressure and when to relieve it. For instance, Pêro and his lovely daughters, Constanza and Isabela, view the display at a bakery shop: “Isabela lingered in front of a pastry shop, its pane filled with golden egg yolk custards and doughy delicacies of barriga de freiras, ‘belly of nuns.’” I find that so sweet and beautiful. The shops they pass are described in such gorgeous depth that you want to really be there. No, you think you are there.

The opening scene gives us this hint of cruelty: “Pêro glanced at his own right hand, to the stumped third and fourth finger, his mouth a tight white line.” We know this has been done to him, and we learn just how barbarously it was done.

When the earthquake strikes, it brings tragedy and leaves everything in jeopardy.

Combining rich historical facts and imagination where needed, Stephanie has created one of the most memorable books of the year, one I can’t wait to re-read. I long for the next installment.

Where Have All the Shipping Boxes Gone?

My REAL reason for writing this post is this amazing, perceptive, humbling review of Victorine by the fabulous Stephanie Renée dos Santos. “You get me; you really get me,” I wrote to her when she notified me that she had posted it.

Again, let me stress how generous and kind it is for people to review books. I met the amazing Stephanie over on Facebook in her group “Love of Art in Fiction,” where we discovered we have a common acquaintance. Small world. I enjoy her group so much.

So thank you, Stephanie. Thank you, thank you. I love it when the story of Victorine gets a boost. I want the whole world to know about her!

Oh, are the rest of you wondering about the title of this post?

I have SO much to say about purging our house and getting rid of carloads of stuff, me getting my shit together in general. (Maybe. Probably never going to completely do that. But I can try.) But I’m waiting until life slows down a tiny bit. (I’m in the middle of a career change. No, I haven’t stopped writing, but I have slowed my teaching to a drip and am happily in the book marketing world. (Not just my own books.)

Anyway, on this very rainy day I gathered three books I need to ship together to a contest. (Didn’t say I’d win, but you can’t win if you don’t enter.) I have mailers for books I send out to influencers, of course, and for autographed copies I mail out. But alas, while three books did technically fit into the mailer, it wouldn’t come close to sealing.

I wandered the house and garage looking for an Amazon box. While I spied a couple of smaller boxes in my writing room closet, that they have dates plastered all over them tells me that they are for records we are keeping, at least for the next seven years. Taxes, am I right?

Yes, I even ventured in my darling’s music room on the hunt for boxes. It’s so clean, so orderly. I am proud to say I have solved some of his organization problems, and he worked very hard on it. (Music equipment takes up space!) Maybe he’ll let me post a pic again after we’ve repainted. But what didn’t I find?

I did not find a box.

One of my favorite books as a child was My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes. My honey even bought me a copy a few years ago. I memorized it even before I could read, and my mom tried to gently explain to me that I didn’t really know how to read yet, but I had just heard her read it to me so many times that I knew it by heart. At four, I didn’t get the distinction.

Well, if we had any cats here (and we don’t), they would have been sorely at a loss for a box today, because I could find none.

That’s actually a very good thing. Too often either my writing room, hubby’s music room, or our (tiny) garage ends up littered with Amazon boxes. Not anymore. If we order something now, we promptly open it, break down the box, and put it in our recycle bin. This is partly because I spent a good hour breaking down and hauling off to the recycle bin a ton of boxes and cursing about how much I hated it as I did it recently. So we’re not going to get there again. It would have been a good practice to have done from the get-go, but creatives can be impulsive. We kinda pride ourselves on it. Now we pride ourselves on, apparently, having no used mailing supplies about.

Okay, truth be told I *did* save back the cardboard wrap that Barry’s latest comics came in, because he liked it so much and because I feel icky if I infantilize him and toss things behind his back. I trust that if he wants to keep it, he’ll find the right spot for it. Or, preferably, he will let it go when he’s ready. It’s not my business, even if I did tuck it into our partially full Bud Light box. (Those certainly won’t go to waste. And stop judging me on my beverage of choice. It’s not a good look on you.)

I want to tell you so, so much more about our house overhaul, but I need a couple of weeks. You’ll be here then, won’t you?

And once again, THANK YOU, STEPHANIE! Please, go support her post by reading her kind words.

Sneak peek — Stephanie’s quite the writer herself and she has a treat of an art-in-fiction novel,

Cut from the Earth, coming out in a few months. Trust me, you’ll hear more about it here. It’s wonderful!

Monet & Oscar: The Essence of Light

The fourth member of the quartet talking about our books on a webinar this Saturday, May 8, 2021 (register and learn more here), is Joe Byrd.

Joe Byrd’s debut novel, Monet & Oscar, is a sweet tale of an American soldier, Oscar Bonhomme, and his search for his father, a man his recently deceased mother has only hinted about. He knows his father was an artist, an Impressionist, but he has precious little else to go on.

When fate brings Oscar, a career gardener, the opportunity to become artist Claude Monet’s gardener through his mother’s friend, Georges Clémenceau, Oscar’s life blooms as profusely as does Monet’s garden.

Oscar, a man of great integrity and honor, wants so badly the regard of a man who is a most respected artist to him, but he wonders – could the man be even more than that to him? Could he be his father? Monet is in his declining years, and Oscar is his eyes on more than one occasion, helping him set up his canvases so they will be hit with just the right light. This seems a metaphor as well for Oscar opening Monet’s eyes to the possibility of their greater relationship – are they indeed father and son?

On a train to Paris, he meets and falls for Isabelle. Immediately after their brief rendezvous, however, she leaves him for America and plans to marry someone else for money, a man from a powerful family who can give her what she wants – her own art show in Chicago.

Oscar himself can’t seem to let go of his feelings for Isabelle, but when he meets the pregnant widow of a fellow soldier, he can’t help both wanting to protect her and being attracted to her, despite her unremitting feelings for her dead husband.

Fate steps in once again and tragedy cements his and Isabelle’s relationship in an unexpected way, despite the initial signs and Isabelle’s insistence that they will never be together again.

Not only does Oscar’s relationship with Monet become clear, but his future reveals itself.

Replete with twists, with lovely scenes that could be mini paintings themselves, Byrd leaves his reader both satisfied but also wanting to know more about his characters, in real life and in fiction. For those who love art and fiction, or who can’t get enough of Monet and his world, this is a don’t-miss novel.

And please pop over and see us this Saturday!

“If art is for us all and about us all, why isn’t it by us all?” — Victorine

Today’s blog stop takes us to Bookish Ramblings. The headline of this post is a quote from Victorine the reviewer pulled out. I thought it fitting for today. Please stop over and enter the book giveaway and leave a comment. And many thanks to Bookish Ramblings!

Book reviewers are so important to books! They are unpaid warriors who read for the sheer love of it and sometimes a free copy of a book. By the time they read it and review it, they’ve invested hours. I don’t take that lightly. So thanks to everyone who has reviewed my book thus far!

The Railway by Edouard Manet, featuring Victorine Meurent.

I posted the above painting because I said today’s stop, as in on a blog tour, as if on a whistle stop train tour…:-) Too punny?

Happy Palm Sunday!

Thanks to What’sHerName Podcast for mentioning Victorine‘s painting Palm Sunday today on social media. Where was my brain? (Reading Joan Didion essays and filling out a fellowship application, that’s where. Oh, and emailing the dearest friends. Wait, I feel a You’ve Got Mail reference coming on… “Don’t you love email?” Yes, yes I do.)

There are so many lovely observations to be made about this painting by Victorine Meurent, Edouard Manet’s favorite model — the subtle colors (some of my fav), the knowing-yet-innocent model, the composition…

I could go on, and maybe I should. Maybe I will, another time. But as it’s past seven and my dearest is waiting so we can choose a movie (small screen, but still), I won’t go on tonight.

But do tell me your thoughts on Palm Sunday. It was her first rediscovered painting, and I thought it would be the only example of hers I would have as I wrote about her. You can imagine with what care I studied it.

Enter a Giveaway! Two Wonderful Victorine Shout-Outs Today!

Thank you so much to two sweet souls for helping get out the word about Victorine Meurent. First up, my gratitude to Amy over at Locks, Hooks, and Books. Please read her marvelous review of my novel, Victorine, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway while you’re there.

Okay, I have to share a sneak peek of her heartfelt review: “I loved being transported back in time to mid nineteenth century Paris. The historical details were so fascinating and vivid, I felt like I was right there taking in all the sights of the city.” Thank you, Amy. That warms my author’s heart.

Over on Instagram, Crystal Z. Lee, author of the vivid, vibrant Love and Other Moods, posted a fabulous photo and review of Victorine. She said I can share them over here.

“I gravitate towards books that transport, and Victorine–a historical literary novel–takes readers to France in the 19th century. It’s the story of a trailblazing female artist who defied the conventions of her time.”


“We know the woman on the cover of this book, even if we aren’t familiar with her name, Victorine Meurent. Her face and body had been immortalized by artist Edouard Manet in his world famous paintings Olympia, The Picnic In Paris, etc. I took several western art history courses in college, and remember seeing Manet’s work at the #museedorsay on my numerous business trips to #Paris later on. In Olympia, the nude model’s gaze is arresting. She makes you want to know more about her. But at the time, a woman like her received scant respect nor recognition. Her modeling for #Manet made his works world famous, but history hardly paid any attention or credit to his muse. Until now.”


“This book is truly a treasure just for the fact that author Drema Drudge’s thorough research uncovered Victorine Meurent’s forgotten paintings, and one of them is published for the very first time in her book.”


“If Victorine had lived in today’s era, she would’ve been celebrated; she overcame the odds of poverty, war, sexism… and went from being an artist’s muse to an artist in her own right. But because of the times she lived in, she was shunned, shamed, vilified. Still, she unapologetically lived for her art, for her love and passions.”


“This gem of a novel is for art aficionados, history buffs, francophiles, and anybody looking for a riveting read on a forgotten heroine.”

Wow, thank you, Crystal. I’m incredibly grateful for both your review and the creative, beautifully composed photo. My heart is full.

Thanks to both of these bookish, kind women for getting the word out. I truly appreciate it!

P.S. If you want a free historical fiction story from me, join my newsletter and I’ll hook you up!

Enter the Giveaway! Stop #1 on my France Book tour

I agree with Stephanie over at Books Are Cool that books are, well, cool. And if you go over there and read the excellent review (I’m so touched) she gave Victorine, you can also see how to enter the book giveaway that runs for my whole France Book Tour.

Victorine by Drema Drudge

Here’s a snippet of her wonderful review:

“This book is a wonderful illustration of all that’s best about the historical fiction literary genre.
The author has obviously done an immense amount of research into the period, the world of the artist and the persons she portrays. It’s detailed, compelling, but never overwhelming.Victorine is a multifaceted, excellent book, equal parts absorbing, educational and inspirational.”

Bloggers are such wonderful, selfless people. I’m grateful to them all. Thank you, Stephanie!

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that TODAY is the official one-year anniversary of the release of Victorine. We have gone so many places virtually since then, and hope to go to more places in the “real” world in the coming year.

This date also marks the anniversary of Victorine Meurent’s death in 1927. When we set the release date, I didn’t make the connection.

It was (Is? My father has passed) also my parents’ anniversary. And, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Coincidentally, this date is also my hubby’s stepmother’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Mary!)

Anyway, thank you for being on this journey with me. Thank you for opening your arms to Victorine. Here’s to year two!

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436945

A Spotlight on Victorine

As the celebration of the one-year anniversary/ebook release of Victorine continues, I am grateful to DK Marley over at The Hist Fic Chickie for shining a light on artist Victorine Meurent today. This is in conjunction with my author takeover of The Historical Fiction Club today. If you’re not a member, please stop over and ask to be added so that you can join in on the games, the conversation, and the giveaways!

This Wednesday, March 17, my France Book Tour kicks off, where Victorine will be featured on several stops. I hope you’ll join in.

P.S. While the ebook of Victorine is not up yet, it will be within a few days. (If you’re reading this past the week of March 17, 2021, it probably is up. Let’s hope I remember to edit this after it is available.)

Jup, by Victorine Meurent. #Love!

Let the One-Year Anniversary Celebration of Victorine Begin!

Good morning! The sun is shining, I saw a gorgeous cardinal this morning, and I am thrilled to announce that on the Diary of an Eccentric blog you can enter to win one of two ecopies of Victorine! (Did I mention you will be able to buy your OWN ecopy very soon? More on that soon!) Many thanks to Anna for hosting me over on her excellent blog.

Thus begins the celebration of the one-year anniversary of Victorine being reborn! Victorine Meurent was an artist and the favorite model of Edouard Manet, something she’s most often remembered for. But with my research bringing to light paintings of her long supposed lost, gradually she’s coming back to Herstory and I am thrilled to be a part of that process.

I hope you will stay tuned and join us join me as other celebrations are revealed, including a blog tour with France Book Tours (schedule here) and a takeover of a Facebook group Starting Monday, The Historical Fiction Club. If you are on Facebook, consider joining me. If you’re not a member of the group, just request to be. There will be behind-the-scenes info about my book, fun games, and giveaways. I’m looking forward to it.

And my newsletter subscribers get an extra special opportunity. (Hint: it involves swag!!) What’s that, you’re not a subscriber? Let’s fix that now. (When you subscribe, you also get a FREE historical fiction story about artists Olga Meerson and Henri Matisse and their alleged affair.) Alleged or not, at the very least it was complicated.

This has been a challenging year for all new novels. You should have seen me crossing out book appearance after book appearance from my planner. But I can’t feel too sorry for myself. For one thing, others had it so much worse. And I had all of these wonderful people helping me get the word out. And I am, as always, grateful for you!

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436945

What’s Her Name? And NEWS!!

Y’all have to listen to this What’s Her Name? podcast interview featuring Victorine (and moi). It is so well done, featuring a virtual museum visit and a dialogue between friends Dr. Katie Nelson and Olivia Meikle interspersed with sound bites of my interview with Katie. She makes even me sound good!

To make it even better, the episode uses my husband, Barry’s, music in spots. (Remember that album he created for Victorine?)

And THEN the thing that maybe thrills my soul the most (maybe? IDK, I loved the whole episode…) first the magnificent hosts of HERstory on the Rocks created a classy, bespoke drink for Victorine, remember, last year?

Well now you can get…drumroll…the cross stitch pattern of Victorine Meurent! (I get no money from this pattern, btw. It goes to support the podcast’s projects. But I immediately bought the pattern and though I haven’t cross stitched in a very long time, I know what my next project is! I’ll add pictures when I’m done with it. I have some special plans for it!) The pattern was created by the talented Olivia Meikle. I’m so grateful for it! I feel every bit of attention and interaction Victorine Meurent can get she deserves.

I’m not sure if I did get around to sharing the drink recipe from HERstory on the Rocks over here. So since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon, here you go. (It’s a wonderful, mesmerizing green color.)

Recipe from Katie and Allie 

The Painted Lady
1.5 oz Gin
1/2 oz absinthe
juice from half a lime
top with Prosecco

Barry made them for us just before I was on their podcast and he recommends using a shaker to prep them in. (I like extra lime juice in mine, btw.) Warning: these are strong. I stopped at a few sips so I could keep a clear head during the episode. But it’s a beautiful green color, fitting for release day, which in addition to being the anniversary of Victorine’s death is also St. Patrick’s Day! 

Buy the cross stitch pattern on Etsy! I am posting the picture below — don’t you just love it?! It’s Victorine in the dress she wore in her self-portrait. I ADORE THIS!

Thanks so much, What’s Her Name?! You’re the greatest.

Now for the news I wanted to share! The ebook of Victorine is coming soon! Mid March is the goal — I’ll let you know when it’s officially available. So those of you who have been waiting for the ebook, it’s almost here!