Happy National Read an Ebook Day

Did you know that today is National Read an eBook Day?

What’s that?  You didn’t know!  And you call yourself a reader. Tsk. Tsk.

I’m kidding. I just learned myself, about 15 minutes ago. We have exactly 5 minutes left with which to celebrate!

You may be thinking:

National Read an eBook Day… yet another one of those retail-driven, manufactured days of celebration,  like Valentine’s Day. Hurrah!”

Normally, I would agree. But unlike Valentine’s Day, (or VD, as I like to call it) I give my full support to this imaginary holiday. Any cause that promotes reading is absolutely A OK in my book (pun intended).

If you’ve never experienced the magic of reading an eBook (via tablet, desktop, laptop, mobile device… or what have you), you must do so! And soon. (I confess, it pained me a little to tell you that. I may have caused some long-dead literary figure to roll over in their crypt just by typing it, but it needed to be said.)

If you are an eBook newbie, there is no need for shame. You are not alone. I know people who are absolute wizards when it comes to using their iPhone, yet they have never once read a book on a device. For the technologically challenged, figuring out the features of an eReader can seem daunting. And then there’s the whole book snobbery factor to consider. The poo-pooing of electronic reading is a very common practice among hardcore book-wormy types. And believe me, I know of whom I speak.

It’s a well-known fact, particularly to those poor souls who’ve ever had the misfortune of helping me move, that I, Constance Keene am a true lover of real and proper books. Just two years ago if you were to tell me that someday eBook would become my primary reading source, I’d have called you a liar and a cad, and would have loudly advised you to lay off the absinthe. Today I cannot imagine not reading an eBook.

I’m not saying that I no longer have a love for reading the good old-fashioned way, but I must concede that eBooks are ridiculously practical and damned convenient! They have advantages that real books by their very nature, can never offer. For example, the promise of an exciting new read is (quite literally) right there at your fingertips, reachable with just a few clicks. Lazy boys and girls need never again leave the Lazy-Boy to pick up a book. Also, eBooks have the advantage of customization, offering adjustable content like text size and screen brightness. This alone was almost a big enough factor for me to try one out, since I live in a constant state of denial over my need for the most dreaded of all accouterments of the aged; a pair of bifocals.

Incidentally, eBook have also dramatically changed my relationship in bed. When my partner Aleister became more than just a teensy bit annoyed by the constant presence of my Itty-Bitty Book Light, I made the switch without hesitation. I still love to read old books, but when faced with a choice an old book or Aleister, I love old Aleister more.

So if you’ve never read an eBook, try it. You can always return it. Besides manufacturing holidays, retailers are also known for having excellent return policies.

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Happy Birthday, Oscar

As Oscar Wilde once said,


OK. You got me. Oscar never said anything remotely like that.

He did say “Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.”

Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde!

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Happy Birthday to Daphne Du Maurier

Young_Daphne_du_Maurier.jpgEnglish author & playwright Daphne du Maurier (AKA, Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning DBE) was born today on May 13, 1907, somewhere in London, England. She died on April 19, 1989 at the age of 82. What a long and exciting life she must have had!

Dame du Maurier was a female master of the macabre, something rare for a lady if you stop and think about it. Although much of her work probably falls under that classification of the Romance Novel,  I think it’s important to know that Romance meant something entirely different in her day. Try to imagine something less like those Harlequin Romance books with the shirtless, sweaty long-haired  “hunk” on cover, and instead just think of  romance in terms of something fantastical, meaning full of fantasy. Or just a work that is generally marvelous, or marvel-worthy in tone.

One obituarist wrote of Daphne du Maurier’s work*

Du Maurier was mistress of calculated irresolution. She did not want to put her readers’ minds at rest. She wanted her riddles to persist. She wanted the novels to continue to haunt us beyond their endings.” (* I’m a bit lazy today. That’s from Wikipedia, but it gets my point across.)

Dame Daphne had a knack for smacking readers right in the spook spot. Du Maurier’s stories and novels were certainly unconventional. They rarely feature a happy ending, and her obituarist was right… anything I’ve ever read has left me feeling moody, in a spooked-out spine-tingling state. Read most anything she’s written and I guarantee you’ll be left with the slightly unsettling feeling that you’ve just had a paranormal experience, and in such vivid terms that you won’t be sure the whole adventure was vicarious.

Alfred Hitchcock, another figure well-known for sparking up the spook factor, is largely responsible for how this great lady is remembered today. Mr. Hitchcock adapted two of her best and most well-known works into the films The Birds and Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier was a fantastical femme in her own right, but she sprung up from a wondrous gene pool as well. Her father was the actor Gerald du Maurier, and her grandfather was Victorian artist and writer George du Maurier.

I wonder what has become of Daphne du Maurier’s descendants. I think I’ll search for some of her spooky ancestral counterparts tonight. After all, it is Friday the 13th.

To conjure up your own spark of spook, you can read Rebecca online at archive.org.

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More Coffee

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Encouragement from a friend…


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Epigrams: Phrases & Philosophies for the Use of the Young

Here are some of my favorite Epigrams from King Oscar Wilde himself.

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Constance in Wonderland


Indeed, Alice. Indeed!

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If Cats Could Talk

Letters from A Cat, Circa 1879

Letters from A Cat, Circa 1879

Letters from a Cat

Published by her Mistress for the Benefit of all Cats
and the Amusement of Little Children

WRITTEN BY: Helen Hunt Jackson
PUBLISHED: 1879, Little Brown & Company – Boston

SYNOPSIS: With the help of her (obviously single) mistress, a Victorian kitty cat is moved to take pen to paper and share her thoughts.

Coming soon. Subscribe to the blog (at right) to be notified when it becomes available.

(Already a subscriber? Thank you. You’re fabulous! And not at all fat. Stop thinking things like that.)

Categories: Cats, Ebooks, Restored Classic Literature, Spinsters, Talking Animals, Victorian | Leave a comment

‘This Book Belongs to” Bookplate Freebie


Bookplate design of Divéky József, 1914

Are you the type of person who notices the “This Book Belongs to…” artwork found in old books?

These little ownership marker bookplates sometimes include the Latin phrase Ex Libris, which literally translates to “from/out of the books.”

I’ve always dreamed of one day having an Edwardian-esque library with bookshelves from floor to ceiling. You know the type. It must include one of those rolling ladders where you can hop on and gleefully slide around the parameter of the room. And most importantly, it has to be complete with a large collection of leather bound books, each one containing ornate label bookplates in varying designs that say “This Book Belongs to Constance Keene” inside. It’s the first purchase I will make when I hit the lottery (which will be never since I don’t play).

One of my favorite pastimes in my super exciting inner life is to wonder about the names listed in particular old books, and imagine what the people who owned them might have been like in real life.  Take this bookplate at right.

Let’s see… Nigel Winterbottom is a bookworm of the extreme sort. He’s in love with academia and reading, destined to be a forever bachelor because he will never find a companion who holds his interest the way that books do. He has little wire-framed glasses and has been prematurely bald since he was 11 years old.

Poor Nigel! I mustn’t judge. He was probably a very happy person, really. People aren’t bookends. We don’t have to always be in pairs. I mustn’t think too much of him or I’ll spend the rest of my Sunday evening rooting through my books for a librarian spinster companion to make his acquaintance. Like Vivian Lightbloom, for example. She would be perfect, by the way. But who has the time for such nonsense?

Well, I do. In spades right now. But it wouldn’t be prudent to spend it setting up imaginary lovelorn Victorians. Instead, maybe I’ll play the lottery so I finally can get my library.

Here are a few Bookplates I might use when I hit the jackpot.

(Just right click, save as to download.)

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Categories: Book Design, Bookplates, Ebooks, Restored Classic Literature | Leave a comment

The Topaz Story Book: Stories and Legends of Autumn, Halloween & Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Topaz Story Book


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The Lost Art of End Paper Design

End Paper Ephemera

Ahh, end papers… those beautiful patterns and illustrations that quite literally used to bookend stories in the books of days gone by. How I love them. Such a silly small thing, but such a big burst of happiness for me.

Like many other outstanding elements of graphic book design, end papers are quickly going the way of wind and ghost. Few eBooks include anything remotely like them, and I can’t seem to recollect any modern, non child-related printed book that has included them in the last decade or so. What a pity it is!

End Papers & Patten Freebies
As an ode to the lost art of end paper design, here are some vintage examples for you to download and use for personal projects. I’ve also mixed in some seamless patterns that I created on Colourlovers. Use for scrap projects, or maybe as tileable pattern backgrounds for your laptop, desktop, mobile phone or what have you.

I’m still in the process of uploading and crediting these, so if a particular image is from your site, please let me know and I’ll make sure to give you full credit and feature you on this site. If no credit is listed it means that they were found to be in the public domain, or due to my flighty nature I have mistakenly lost the original source. Please let me know if you find your images and would like credit or want it removed.


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A Curiouser & Curiouser Christmas

Did you know that there are only 35 days left until Christmas?!


My main man, Mr. Gingerbread

This annoying reminder is really for me.

Yes, Christmas is coming and this goose is already getting fat. The crux of my problem lies in my addiction to men, particularly those men made completely of gingerbread. These dapper little tasty bonhommes simply fling themselves into my basket when I walk down the grocery store aisle, and I am unable to stop myself from buying them and eating them up instantly.

Gingerbread men are at the top of My Favorite Things List (next to raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, of course). If you’re wondering what to buy for me this holiday season, there’s an idea for you. I’ve been told they make great gifts for other people too, but I’ve never been able to keep them around long enough to give them away.

Speaking of dapper little men, whiskers on kittens and presents

If you’re in need of a gift for an animal lover who also happens to adore Victoriana and graphic art, I have just the place for you on Etsy.

The shop is called Curious Portraits. The owner is Lisa Zandor, a multi-talented artist who offers…

“… a treasury of anthropomorphic animal portraits, food icons from the 1950’s and portraits of beloved childhood toys.”

Victorian Cat Lady and Cat Dandy Gentleman, AKA "Violet" & "Victor" from Curious Portraits.

Victorian Cat Lady & Gentleman from Curious Portraits

Treasury indeed! At Curious Portraits you can find exquisite note cards, coasters, portraits, jewelry and other “discerningly eccentric” works of art. You’ll see immediately why I love the place. Animals in clothes, reminiscent of that magical time known as (can you guess it?) the Victoria era? It’s all right up my cobble-stoned alley.

Last Christmas, I bought these two portraits (at left) for my partner Aleister. It’s our tradition to give each other gifts with animal couples. Nauseating? Perhaps, but it makes for a right purrrfect Christmas in our book. (The subjects are always called Violet and Victor. These are their Victorian counterparts.)

So many ideas for gifts from this shop! The mind reels. I’m in love with the portraits. I’ve featured some of my favorite in the gallery at the bottom of this page. Click on this link to go there on Etsy. And by the way, I’m not affiliated with Curious Portraits. They’re not my sponsor. I just love the designs. And last year the owner Lisa sent a personal note with my purchase, which I thought was delightful. Plus, it is the holidays and all, the time for spreading goodwill and cheer.

Honestly, I love giving gifts even more than receiving them. That’s not as selfless as it sounds. I take great pleasure in making someone happy, but more importantly I adore all the attention that comes from a job well done.

Now, get going with your Christmas shopping, especially your quest to secure a few hundred packs of Gingerbread men for yours truly, ASAP.

Yours truly,

Constance Keene

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