Notes from the Edge of My Mind

Margaret McManis' blog

Granada, Spain and research for The Relic Hunters and the Santiago Knight.

May 092017

So our trip to Granada and Southern Spain has given me a lion's fountain overflowing with ideas for my third novel about the Relic Hunters. Describing the Alhambra has challenged many more able writers than myself down through the centuries. Images of the intricately molded facades surrounding the palace can be seen on many websites but to actually stand below them and gaze upwards into the starry ceiling is an experience that one will remember for a lifetime.

And let's not forget the sumptuous gardens that would make a Master Gardener envious. Yes, it was an adventure that will forge its way into my final novel about Rodrigo, Rene, Farid and Anne, but today I am eager to post a short section of the story leading up to one of the most exciting scenes in the novel. Working with an artist who is designing an action filled cover I began to realize how important images and exciting scenes are to a novel for young readers. The artist loved my battle scene and the sketches are going along well. I will be posting the cover here and on Author's Den along with the accompanying chapter in the future.

Stay tuned.


Finding Ima Hogg's travel journals was a historical goldmine.

Jun 222016

Last month I traveled to Austin for two reasons. First to continue my research on Ima Hogg and second to witness the Franklin Graham Decision America tour. Both were very successful adventures.

What I wanted to talk about today is the discovery of 18 of Ima Hogg's travel journals and the surprising facts that have given me even more information to fill in the blanks on my research to write about her travels around the world.

The first journal that interested me tremendously was the one where she writes of her adventures aboard the troop ship Arizona as it takes her and Governor Hogg to witness the annexation of Hawaii in 1898. After their arrival on Honolulu she and a friend named Kate are introduced to the king and queen of the island paradise. Later she writes on page 7 that 'if I could live any other place besides Texas, it would be Hawaii.'

I can only imagine how spectacular the island was one hundred fifty years ago when Ima viewed the tropical paradise and rode horses around the volcano.

My first MG historical novel in the 'Dear Texas' series is about Ima Hogg and her adventures with the famous Mollie Bailey circus. The family circus famous throughout the Southwest traveled to small Texas towns regaling country folks with their own brand of family entertainment. A few old timers in Montgomery even remember seeing the circus train coming down the tracks into town and Mollie Bailey welcoming citizens to her well appointed train car. Articles about her show appeared years ago in the Montgomery County News with details of her generosity and kindness to Civil War veterans and her adventures as a Civil War spy.

My second book in the series will follow Ima Hogg to Hawaii aboard the troop ship Arizona. The final book in the series about Ima will follow the plucky heroine all the way to Versailles to view the gardens where she will foil the plans of a couple of tulip thieves and begin to make plans for her own famous Bayou Bend Gardens in Houston.

The 'Dear Texas' series will include along with Ima Hogg, a series concerning the life of Birda Bailey, the daughter of Mollie Bailey and her many amazing circus adventures. The last Texas heroine in the series will be Cynthia Ann Parker, the mother of Quanah Parker.

I am hoping with this series young readers will come to understand that each of these young ladies had their own special brand of gumption and impacted our Texas heritage in a positive way.

New title for books-'The Relic Hunters.'

Jan 302016

This seemed like an appropriate title that would attract teen readers with the adventures of four young relic hunters during the dangerous events surrounding the Spanish Inquisition.

Two boys, Rodrigo and Farid and two girls-Rene and Anne work together to foil the evil Bishop Osorio and his minions from stealing relics from cathedrals in Aragon. They have the aid of Arturo, a local duke's son and also Crimino a dwarf with unusual talents.

A bit about the characters:

Rodrigo-is the squire of Martin de Arce, a Santiago knight. Rodrigo wants to someday become a horse trainer in the service of King Ferdinand but for the present is caught up in the adventure of locating and returning holy relics.

Rene-an orphan who is masquerading as a boy and works as a blacksmith. Her uncle, a minstrel, tries to make her play the dulcimer and sing to help him make money, but she has a talent for repairing armor and finds an ally with Rodrigo and his master, Martin.

Farid-Rodrigo's friend who travels on the pilgrimage with him to find the stolen relics. His father was a crusader to the Holy Land where he met the daughter of a caliph and secretly married. Farid is his son and although his father is dead, he has heard that his mother is alive and wishes to find her.

undefinedAnne-the daughter of Martin who was kidnapped as a child by her Jewish grandfather. When Martin is killed in battle he tasks Rodrigo to find her and give her his valuable codex that once belonged to Queen Isabella. Anne is known to as the 'Girl Who Draws Horses,' and her talent provides them with money and many valuable contacts.

Pictures of characters on Pinterest

El Doncel-the nobleman knight of Siguenza

Sep 152015


Sometime ago I mentioned the codex that El Doncel was reading but didn't reveal exactly what it might be. Well, to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, it was most likely the Bible as that volume was the one that most people learned to read from and although the clergy had a monopoly on most of the copies, the nobility, of which Martin de Arce was a member did own a copy or two. They were illuminated like many of the other expensive manuscripts and many were worth a king's ransom, being ornamented with gold leaf and precious jewels. But there is speculation that it might also have been a prayer book, which was used in Catholic services and could be small enough to be carried in a pocket. But since the pages are blank and El Doncel's lips are sealed we will just have to use our imaginations, which is exactly what I have done in my novel about his adventures with his squire Rodrigo. 

The illustration I have included was copied from the original image that is included in one of the first posts. My friend Kay Heavener, an art teacher did the honors and I am grateful for her talented pencil.

Journeying in the steps of a Hogg-Ima Hogg that is.

Jul 102015

Twelve years ago my first book about Ima Hogg of Texas was published after years of research and submissions to publishers. After researching the indomitable Texas heroine who was the daughter of the governor I became intrigued with her Texas mettle and adventurous spirit of travel in a time when single Victorian women rarely escaped the confines of their homes, much less boarded trains, planes and steamers to travel around the world to exotic locales.  

Thus began my personal travel odyssey to retrace her ambitious steps around the world. And this is where American Airlines came in.


In March of 2007 a wonderful flight on American took me to Paris, France to visit the famous Versailles gardens and stroll in the 100 year old steps of Miss Ima. Her gardens in Texas, now a part of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, were modeled after Versailles. Then in 2013 American helped me trace Ima's footsteps to Hawaii where the thirteen year old Texan meet Queen Liliuokalani and witnessed the annexation to the U.S. In April of this year I flew from Frankfurt to Amsterdam and on to Germany where Ima Hogg studied music and later founded the Houston Symphony.

My final Hogg bucket list will be to Egypt where Miss Ima rode a camel around the pyramids and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Ima excited to plan this next trip and know that American airlines will be a big part of it.


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