Two Neat Things Today!

One is that I have a book signing in Winchester VA on this coming Saturday, August 27th from 11 am to 1 pm at


the Winchester Book Gallery! It’s such a fine store – I’m   really excited!

The other is that today I put the finishing touches on my story about Charlemagne (probably your ancestor and, yes, mine). It took a lot of digging around to accomplish the research I needed, but I think I’ve got a good story in hand. Charlemagne is a controversial character, but love him or hate him, he certainly had a lot of impact on Western history. Personalizing him was a bit tricky at first, but it ‘got legs and ran’ after a while.

Charlemagne is one of a varied cast of characters in Rule! – a set of family stories that tracks the origin and growth of the British Empire through personal experiences. Rule! is set to publish in January, so I need to keep writing!



How can a dedicated British career military officer in Victorian times deal after the fact with the stresses and losses of a five-month siege?  In the winter of 1857, Robert Patrick Anderson struggled mightily to get past physical depletion, personal loss and emotional trauma from enduring the Siege of Lucknow. He had to, before he could rebuild his family and and resume his career.

“Lucknow”reconstructs the personal struggle of  one man among the many, Indian and British, who suffered during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. This is a true story about one of the sons of John and Mary Alison Anderson, of the story “St. Helena”. You’ll find an excerpt of “St. Helena” on the Rule! page of this site.

Writing this story involved a lot of research into the Sieges of Lucknow and Cawnpore, Sikh religious and philosophical tenets,  the Rebellion of 1857, London in 1858 and much more. It was fascinating to research, but very hard to write! Personalizing human responses in the “stiff upper lip” culture that typified Victorian times was hard to do. But we know that war is a nasty business and it always has been, and those who suffer through it pay on many levels.

“Lucknow” is in first draft now, and will be part of Rule!, Vol II of Helena’s Stories, which is coming out in January, 2017.

Photo of Helena


My scanner and computer have finally decided to reconcile!  I’m happy for them, and much happier for me. Now, I’m able to get this photo of my mom, Helena, into a file. That is something I’ve wanted  to do for a long time.  Here it is!

Mom was responsible for all the stories I’m working on these days, which is why I started my ‘serious’ writing  with the novel A Perfect Plan. We both liked Catherine Nelson and George Matcham, and saw a story there. The next book, working title Rule!, will be short stories of the 10th through 19th Century in England, Europe and ‘the East’. All are connected in some way with Great Britain and its development. If you go to the Menu button in the upper right hand corner of this page, you’ll find more about Helena’s Stories, and more about the books of the Britannia series.

Not Agnes’ Scones Recipe

Here’s a nice recipe for scones, which uses a food processor. Agnes (of A Perfect Plan) would have loved to have this recipe and loved having an oven with a thermostat, a freezer and a food processor, too!


Freeze a stick of butter until it’s pretty hard (15 – 20 minutes).  Leave it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

Line a cookie sheet (parchment or a silicone liner both work. I think waxed paper  – with the waxed side down – would, too, but I haven’t tried it).

Preheat oven to about 400

Set up a cooling rack with a sheet under it (for cooling and glazing).


In your food processor bowl, put

2 cups flour

1/4-1/2 cup sugar (per your taste and if you’re adding in dried fruit or other sweet food )

about 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt (per your taste and also whether the butter is salted)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

a little bit of orange or lemon zest (if you want)

Pulsethese ingredients a few times to mix them well

Cut into small cubes

1 stick butter, frozen (if you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the frozen butter on a coarse grater or cut it into tiny pieces. Work fast!))

Put the butter into the flour mix and pulse (if you don’t have a food processor, work with your hands or two forks) until it’s pretty well blended, with small bits of butter still visible. Work as quickly as you can so the butter doesn’t get too blended into the flour mix.


1/2 cup sour  cream (or 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup plain yoghurt)

1 egg

1/2 cup of whatever dried fruit you might like to add, chopped if necessary. Consider the add-ins and the the scones flavorings: orange zest with dried cranberries is a great combination (with lemon glaze, though, unless you have pretty sour oranges). Lemon zest and dried blueberries, with lemon glaze is also terrific.

Pulse until it forms a cohesive dough, which will be sticky. If you don’t have a food processor, mix and then lightly knead the dough.

Flour a work space, and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands and pat the dough a circle that’s about a  half inch thick.

Flour a metal scraper or a knife,  and cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Place them on the lined baking sheet at least 1″ apart..

Bake at 400 degrees for about 17 or 18 minutes, until just starting to brown.

Remove from the pan and set them on the cooling rack.

 To glaze 

Mix with a fork (and then maybe a whisk) until smooth and free of lumps

1¼ cups confectioner’s sugar

Abt ¼ cup lemon juice, or milk (if you’re using milk, you might want to put in a pinch of salt and a bit of vanilla extract)

 Drizzle glaze over the scones. Let sit about ½ hour for the glaze to set.

 These are best (I think) at room temp. Enjoy!

Kitty’s Shrewsbury Cakes Recipe

IMG_0394In Chapter I of A Perfect Plan, Kitty Nelson makes Shrewsbury cakes from her own recipe to serve their guests: her cousin Edmund Howman and his friend, George Matcham. Years later, Matcham brings her some spices from India and  suggests cardamom as an additional flavor for her Shrewsbury cakes.

I was curious about these cookies, so experimented with several recipes and ended up with one of my own, which baked up well.

Mine is a refrigerator cookie, which of course was not an option for Kitty in 1780. If you want to be more authentic, increase the amount of flour to make a rolled cookie. These are lightly spiced and have an interesting, subtle, slightly fruity flavor and a light, rather crisp texture. If you use standard sugar to top them, it will make a very light glaze. Coarse sanding sugar gives you a more pebbly surface and a shinier, crisper glaze, which I think is more interesting.

Kitty’s Shrewsbury Cakes


2 1/2 cups of flour,   1 cup of butter,   3/4 cup of sugar,   2 small eggs (or 1 large, plus 1 tablespoon water),  3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (George Matcham’s suggestion – a very nice addition!), a dash of rosewater (if you have it; it is traditional in these) or a tiny amount of fresh grated orange or lemon zest, sanding sugar or regular crystal sugar, small pieces of candied orange or lemon peel (or mixed).

Cream the butter and beat in the 3/4 cup sugar, then beat in the eggs (or egg and water), the rosewater or grated zest. When well beaten and light, add the flour, cinnamon and  cardamom and stir well. You will have a very soft dough. Chill it for about 1/2 hour to firm it up.

Line cookie sheets.

Put a few tablespoons of the sanding sugar or plain sugar in a shallow dish.

For refrigerator cookies… Roll the dough into a cylinder in waxed paper, and put back in the fridge to chill thoroughly (may an hour or two, or overnight if you want). Unwrap and slice the still-cold dough in about 1/4″ slices, dip one surface in the sugar and place (2″ apart) on a baking sheet.

For rolled cookies… I suggest you use your favorite rolled cookie recipe to get the proportions of flour to butter to eggs that suits you, leaning toward the buttery side, and chill  the dough thoroughly (1-2 hours) before rolling out about 1/4″ thick and cutting it. Dust the tops with sugar and place (2″ apart) on a baking sheet.

Press a small piece of candied fruit rind into the center of each cookie.

Bake at 350 for 10-14 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Let sit in the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool. Store in a tightly covered tin. This makes about 40 cookies.

I am not a professional chef, and am not fussy about my recipes, so use your discretion about quantities and cooking time and temperature to suit your tastes and your oven. We like these Shrewsbury cakes though, and hope you will, too!





Files – square, round, and non –

With my first book coming out soon, I have been very busy with writing, editing, re-writing, and all of that type of work for most of my time during the past month. I also had a novel to read for our book club (Leviathan Wakes: a fantastic book!). There has, as well, been a lot of work for the Chorale: concerts (such fun concerts!), a fund raiser, a covered dish dinner and numerous Board matters. I still have Chorale thank-you notes to write and a newsletter to produce, as well needing to write an item for my writer’s group. The time from late April to now has been very rich, but pretty crazy.

This has taken a real toll on my never-very-good housekeeping. Skip still likes sandwiches, thank heavens, and I’m pulling clean clothes out of the dryer each day and putting dirty ones right into the washing machine, then running it when I can. Of, course, this requires emptying what’s left from the dryer, and putting things away (hah!)… We will not discuss the shape my floors are in.

I feel the way I felt when I was working full time, with a 45 minute commute each way, and had a toddler running around the house.

When I had an similarly busy month last November, I needed to clear my desk. I put all my “do something with this” paperwork into one of those square plastic milk crate box things and set it under that same desk, sincerely believing that I’d surely get that dealt with in a month or so. Nope.

This morning, I took apart the pile of stuff which has sat in my “square file” for a full six months. I kept about 3 items and tore the rest up into little pieces and put them in the “round file”. This was good for my soul. It (isolating and disposing of irrelevant stuff) is an activity I highly recommend, even if it takes a six month hiatus to do.

This is retirement? I always sort of thought that retirement was when I could pull all my loose ends together and be able to live (for a while, at least) in an environment I actually controlled. Now, I have to face the reality that what makes my life chaotic is internal: it’s my nature.

Maybe that’s OK, maybe it isn’t, but I have to go empty the dishwasher now and plant tomatoes (haven’t gotten that done yet, either). I really want to get back to the story I was working on. And hang up the new bird feeders and go for a walk…. ooh, look, a chicken!

I still have that milk crate… empty now. What can I fit in it?

Happy start of summer!

Progress: Cover and Formatting!

Today, I set up the cover for A Perfect Plan and made arrangements to have someone much better experienced than I am take on the formatting task (various e-publishers have different formatting requirements). A big relief, in both cases! So, we’re coming along. Yay!

As a somewhat introverted type, I love to visualize producing a book as a straight line process. It’s just me sitting in the kitchen at my messy desk with my little dog sleeping on the floor nearby. Just me and Word hammering out a story. Nope.

There are a lot of people who have roles in the process: my wonderful Mr. Osborne, who puts up with and encourages me; my writers’ group friends, who are so helpful and encouraging and have such good suggestions; my long-suffering friends and family who have endured reading countless revisions; our dog who doesn’t get enough attention (that’s what she’ll tell you) and our cat, who feels inadequately worshiped (ditto).

I’d like to think it’s in a good cause.

Now, I’m going to set up a page about A Perfect Plan, and one for the next book I’m working on. No-one is reading this yet, because I haven’t gotten the word out that I have a site. Guess I’d better start doing that, too! Cheers!



This is my first post on my first site. Wow!

…and I don’t quite know what I’m doing! Being a writer today involves much more than just writing, and that ‘much more,’ for me, means learning quite a lot about media. So, now my task is establishing my on-line presence.

Hi. I’m Carolyn Osborne, and I like to write about people: their feelings, reactions and relationships. I also love to research and then write about history, particularly taken from a personal perspective.

I am very excited to be in the process of formatting my first book: A Perfect Plan. I intend to publish it this summer as an ebook, and maybe a few copies in print as well. It’s an historical romance about a wonderful, real-life couple, my 5G grandparents: Catherine Nelson and George Matcham, in Norfolk, England in the 1780’s. I have been working on this and other family stories for fourteen years, and I especially love these characters and have had a great time making their history into a personal experience. I’m excited and a bit nervous about releasing the story to public view, but I’m gonna do it!