Posted by Susan Sey Jun 12 2013, 12:15 am in great lakes, Lake Superior, Susan Sey, travel, vacation
Some people are lucky enough to be born where they belong. Some people have to look for their place for years & years.
Some people get to live in that place that fills up their soul. Most of us just have to visit it from time to time.
Some of us get lots of places that feel like home. Some of us get only one.
Finding this place is like meeting your spouse. You see it, there’s this electric click & you think, “Mine.” ”Here.” ”This one.”
For me, that place is the north shore of Lake Superior.
I was well into my twenties when I discovered the north shore. This is ironic because I grew up in Michigan. The Great Lake State. I know my way around the HOMES. (That’s Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie & Superior, for those of you who didn’t grow up in or around the mitten.) And yet, I never saw Superior until I was an adult.
To be fair, Superior is up there. Way up there. A solid six hours or so from where I grew up. But one summer I got a wild hair to take a job at an outdoor and environmental education program in Minnesota’s arrow-head region–that little triangle of land wedged between Lake Superior and Canada.
I’ll never forget driving into Duluth, cresting that last hill & finding the lake waiting for me. It was vast and forbidding, and it sparkled like broken glass, the kind you know will cut you if you touch it but you just can’t help yourself. It was that exquisite combination of beautiful and dangerous that we all love so much when we spot it in a hero.
I fell in love with it like I fell in love with Mr. Sey. He took my hand on our first date, something inside me clicked & I thought, “Yep. This one.” I saw Lake Superior, something inside me clicked & I thought, “Yes. Here. Mine.” I’ve been back at least twice a year ever since. (On a semi-related note, I’ve also been happily married thirteen years this summer.)
It was a rainy fifty degrees as I packed up for our first camping trip of the year on Friday. We hit the campsite in the dark, set up our tent in the damp, and crashed out.
We woke up to this. A glorious, perfect, temperate, sunshiney Saturday, full of hiking and reading and digging and scrambling. Now I probably spent more time packing than I spent camping. And I know I spent more time doing laundry and unpacking afterwards. But I wouldn’t trade that glorious Saturday for anything. And why? Because when I left home I was tired. Cheerless. Weary. Empty. When I came home, I was full. It was enough. And sometimes enough is everything.
How about you? Is there some place that you return to again & again? A place that fills you up when you’re empty? Tell us about it!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jun 10 2013, 12:01 am in A Rake's Midnight Kiss, Anna Campbell, Chatsworth, Days of Rakes and Roses, e-books, England, Grand Central Forever Yours, historical romance, novellas, Regency, research, Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed, Sons of Sin, stately homes, travel
I don’t think it’s any secret to regular visitors to the lair (or to my website where I tend to salivate with embarrassing regularity – not a sentence I write every day!) that I LOVE old houses.
One of the really fun things about writing historical romance is designing houses to suit the aristocratic setting. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of big houses in England and Scotland.
You really don’t want to go with me – I dig and delve into every corner, I pester all the attendants, I try and get into the places you’re not supposed to go, and I tend to arrive at opening and then they have to drag me kicking and screaming out of the gates after closing.
I’ve got two Sons of Sin releases coming up soon – in July and late August this year. The first, an e-novella called DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES will get its day in the sun next month when I hold a launch party. The next A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT’S KISS (Richard Harmsworth’s story) will suffer an infamous lair launch in September.
In the meantime, I’m busy writing the third book in the series which will be Cam’s story. I’ve already had some lovely people telling me they’re looking forward to this and I must say it’s lovely seeing Mr. Control losing it when he falls in love with his very inconvenient bride!
Cam’s story isn’t out till 2014 so I thought I’d give you a bit of background to DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, the novella which comes out 2nd July from Grand Central Forever Yours. And in the process, I thought I’d share some luscious pictures of the house that features in that novella as well as in Cam’s story.
DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES is the story of Lady Lydia Rothermere, Cam’s very proper sister, and the childhood sweetheart she’s never been able to forget – yup, lovers reunited is pretty much the theme of this one.
While most of the action takes place in the very glamorous London season on 1826, it opens ten years earlier in a prologue set at the family seat of the Dukes of Sedgemoor, the very extravagant Fentonwyck in Derbyshire in the English Midlands.
A ducal seat in Derbyshire?
Could Fentonwyck possibly be based on the actual ducal seat in Derbyshire, Chatsworth, where the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire live?
Does Grumpy Cat scowl in the morning?
This gave me a lovely excuse to dig through my photos and research materials on Chatsworth which I was lucky enough to visit in 2007. And then an even better excuse to share some of the pictures with you.
It’s a glorious house and with justice called “the Palace of the Peaks” (it’s in the Peak District National Park). And the gardens are breathtaking.
Here’s a link to Chatsworth’s official site, just in case you want to join me in salivating!
No? I agree! Salivating is better done in privacy, isn’t it?
In my imagination, I’m actually living in Chatsworth right now (well, the Fentonwyck version of it anyway!). Because Cam’s story has a marriage of convenience theme, much of the action takes place in the glorious English countryside as Cam and his new bride, Penelope, wrestle with falling in love against their better judgement.
At least I’m having fun being on this wonderful estate. Too bad for my characters, although at least there’s quite a bit of bedroom action so there’s SOME fun involved, snicker. And check out this photo of the State Bedroom at Chatsworth!
If you were lying back and thinking of England here, you’d at least have a very nice ceiling to contemplate!
You can read the blurb and an excerpt for DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES here. And don’t forget to pick it up on 2nd July – it’s a bargain at only 99 cents!
So do you like old houses or modern houses? Have you been to Chatsworth? Do you have a favorite old house somewhere in the world? And should I write a four-poster into Cam’s story? That, of course, is the most important question! If there’s going to be much hanky panky, perhaps I should give it a suitably ducal setting!
Posted by Beth Andrews Mar 20 2013, 4:29 am in Beth Andrews, field trips, travel
Today, Big Sis (older daughter) is heading out bright and early to Gettysburg, PA for a field trip for her US Gov and Politics class. She and her classmates are very excited to get a chance to see the historic battlefields, take a ghost tour and visit the museums. This will be her last official school field trip which has me thinking of the field trips of my own youth.
Trip number one was to a local grocery store when I was in kindergarten. We toured the bakery and, I believe, got a cookie at the end of it all (yes, I’m all about the cookies *g*)
Trip number two was a few years later. In fourth grade, all kids in town go to Crook Farm, a local, historical landmark. We visited the original Crook family farmhouse, had a spelling bee in the school house, made candles and learned what life was like over one hundred and fifty years ago. Fun note: at the end of each summer, there’s a Crook Farm Country Fair and Old Time Country Music Festival held at Crook Farm. There are crafts, music, food and games for the kids. Lots of fun!
My last field trip was in sixth grade when all the patrols (most kids in town walked to school and the older kids helped them cross the busiest streets) in our town went to Washington, DC. I honestly don’t remember much about that trip except the long bus ride *g*
Only Son went on field trips to an amusement park (which I chaperoned. The joys of trying to keep six, twelve-year-old boys in line!) a sugarhouse to see how maple syrup is made and a fossil site.
Big Sis has taken excursions to a water park (I think that was supposed to be more fun than educational *g*) the zoo (chaperoned that one, too *g*) and the Corning Museum of Glass.
Little Sis went to a minor league baseball game (again, fun beats educational!) and to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Actually, I wouldn’t mind going to either of those museums! Hmm…maybe this summer I’ll take a couple of field trips on my own
Did you take any field trips while you were in school? What was your favorite one?
Posted by Cassondra Murray Feb 4 2013, 4:47 am in Cassondra Murray, Cassondra's blogs, Driving, The muse, The road, travel
Do you like to drive? I used to.
I’ve been driving for a long while . Longer than my age should allow.
Okay, so I figure the statute of limitations has run out on this by now so I’m going to say it right here in front of God and everybody.
I started driving a bit before the legal age in my state.
Let’s go back even further.
I knew how to drive when I was a wee little thing, because for any of you who don’t already know this, I grew up on a farm, and things are a little different on farms.
On the farm, if you’re going to help with anything beyond cleaning the house or mowing the yard, you need to be able to drive various pieces of equipment. You generally learn how as soon as you’re big enough to physically manage the machine.
Nobody ever made me help out on the farm. I guess it was the whole “Daddy’s Girl” thing combined with my intense love for the outdoors. If you gave me a choice of feeding cows or washing dishes, I’d be out of the house so fast you’d get friction burns if you stood within ten feet of the door.
Nobody ever encouraged me to drive either. The bottom line was that if my dad did it, I wanted to do it.
I wanted to know everything, and I wanted to know how to do everything.
I haven’t changed much in that way.
Okay…Social Services folks..you really should stop reading right now. Otherwise you might have a heart attack. That’s the disclaimer. Read on at your own risk.
I went everywhere with my dad, and I learned how to operate a vehicle by driving his tractor while I sat on his lap. If he was on the tractor, I was either sitting at the edge of the field where I could watch, following on foot as he ran the cultivators, or I was on the tractor with him, riding or driving.
I couldn’t reach the pedals or operate any of the controls, but sitting on his lap, I learned to steer that old Allis Chalmers down the lane and into the barn with just my hands on the wheel when I was barely five years old.
Farm kids learn fast because nobody tells our parents we can’t. By the time I was six my dad could set the speed and let me drive alone.
I still couldn’t reach the pedals but let’s just say he could move the lever on this tractor into its “forward LOW speed” notch, and this tractor would lose a race to a lazy, geriatric sloth.
He set the controls and let me steer at a slow crawl across a flat field while he climbed off the tractor, picked up the sticks of cut tobacco, and hefted them onto the wagon. He could get back to me easily, of course, if I had trouble.
By the time I was eight, I was driving the truck around the farm. I had to wait until I was eight because it took that long for me to reach the brake and the gas, and that was with me on the edge of the seat, stretching my entire body to get to the pedals. But making the truck go, stop, and steer was all you needed in a big grassy field.
We didn’t take family vacations, but when I was ten, I rode with my grandparents and my Uncle Willard to the gulf coast of Mississippi. I sat up front in the middle, and asked a lot of questions. Uncle Willard talked to me the whole way. He taught me how to drive on the interstate, merge safely, how to be courteous and move to the right if somebody was behind me, and a bunch of other skills for safe long-distance driving. I never forgot those early lessons. They made me a good driver.
Flash forward a bit and I was driving to the country store at the bottom of the hill way before I should have, and then to after-school functions at the high school…well…let’s just say early.
I turned sixteen, got my driver’s license the same day, and never looked back.
Cars, and driving, were fun for me.
A few years later, when I had to drive sixty interstate miles twice a day for my work, I learned that the quiet time during the drive was some of my best “alone time” and yielded some of my best creative ideas. I’ve written some of my best songs, solved problems in my books, had personal epiphanies and figured out my life philosophy all while I was driving.
I sometimes get a tiny little glitch in the mental processor when someone says to me, “I don’t drive.” Even though I realize that many, many people don’t drive, it takes me just a second to catch up. But my late mother-in-law never drove and did just fine. The first time I was ever in New York I was walking around the city and thought, “If I lived here, I wouldn’t need a car.”
And yet, I can’t imagine not being able to get in my own vehicle, with my own stuff all around me just the way I like it, and go.
Flash forward again, to 2006, when I needed extra money and started working for the US Postal Service. I was a rural mail carrier, which meant that no matter what, whether I was sick as a dog, the sky was dumping hail the size of dinner plates, or there was a three-inch sheet of ice coating the entire world, I had to drive in it.
No matter how many defensive driving courses, and no matter how much practice I’d had at driving on slick roads, as a mail carrier I had to actually deliver said mail, which meant I had to stop on the ice at each box to put the mail inside. Anybody who drives on ice knows that managing the stops..well, that’s the tricky part.
Driving became a chore. A demand. A necessary evil.
My route was 80 miles long and had more than 500 mailboxes every day. Even thought I was good at it, in bad weather I woke up dreading it. On those icy mornings I woke up fearing it. My job made me hate driving.
When you have something you enjoy and the life gets sucked out of it, I think that’s a sad thing.
Now we’re in 2013, and in more ways than I can count, I’m sort of “waking up” from that job as a mail carrier. Several of my friends deliver mail, and they absolutely love the job, but it wasn’t right for me. You can have the best job in the world, but it it’s wrong for you, somehow I think your soul starts to shrivel a little.
I’ve been driving of course, but even since I quit that job, when I face a long drive part of me goes “bleh.”
For the past three days I’ve had to drive an 80-mile round trip to a nearby town. As I climbed in the car to leave that town earlier this evening, I realized that I actually looked forward to the drive. Something reawakened and I enjoyed the time alone. I got to stare at the passing landscape, to think, to muse, and to tell myself the stories that hang around in the back of my mind, waiting for a quiet moment to whisper, “Hey! Over here! There’s a story over here!”
I have to drive to Atlanta this week, and for the first time in a lot of years, I’m looking forward to it. My journey will take four hours and I’ll go over a mountain, across wide, smooth lakes, and through the beautiful hills of southeast Tennessee.
I’ll have a basket full of my favorite cds in the floorboard and the radio to keep me company.
Or maybe I’ll let some of my characters ride up front with me and have their say. Some of these stories that are banging around in my head might come out to play a bit. Maybe even form into something new and different. The muse might have something it wants to tell me. Something I haven’t been able to hear because I’ve been too busy.
Maybe all I need to do is get quiet and drive for a while.
I can’t wait.
What about you, Bandits and Buddies?
Do you love to drive? Or would you prefer to let someone else do the driving?
Who taught you to drive? Did you learn in a Driver Education class in high school? Or from a family member?
What kind of car did you drive when you were learning?
How old were you when you took your test and got your license?
If you don’t drive, is there mass transit where you are? How do you get where you want to go?
Do you enjoy driving—or riding–on long trips?
Or would you rather hop a plane?
Do you have fond memories of road trips as a kid?
When you’re on the road, what do you do to keep yourself entertained—or if it’s late at night, what do you do to keep yourself awake?
If you’re a writer, do you work on your stories while you’re on the road?
Images by Cassondra Murray or from Dreamstime Free Photos
Posted by Joan Kayse Nov 13 2012, 12:58 am in pets Joan Kayse, travel
It’s true! Some people do travel with their pets including rodential types like hamsters.
The idea for this blog came from an article in our local paper. It talked about the who’s, the where’s, the why’s of traveling with your pet. Granted, the occasional gerbil, parrot or yes, snake is rare. But lots of people do travel with their dogs and cats.
(Shimmer to daydream imaging)
Is that our luggage?
“MeWOW, this place in incredible.” says Grayson, straining at the required harness as we rush to Terminal A.
“Yeah, yeah,” replies Joanie, batting away the fur flying out of Cricket’s regulation soft-sided travel case slung on her shoulder. Poor baby is easily stressed and will pull out fluffy chunks of fur. Dear Lord, please don’t let her be bald when we arrive at Suz’s house.
Grayson raises nose and sniffs. “What’s THAT smell?”
Joanie inhales and sighs “That’s Cinnabon, the human equivilent of catnip.”
Going through security is no picnic but Joanie and her baby cats finally arrive at the gate.
“Grayson! No! That plane is NOT a perch! Get down!!! Get off the wing!
What? No, it does fit under the seat, it does. I don’t care if the lady in A16 is allergic, I know my rights! Back off TSA, I’m going on vacation and these are my children…er, I mean they are LIKE my children.” Wipes hairball off taser. “We travel together. End of story.”
Three hours later, huddled in the cargo hold, staring at a bald Cricket and watching Grayson leap from suitcase to suitcase Joanie rethinks her decision.
Now granted, kitties PROBABLY don’t travel as well as many dogs but I tell you…when I’m out of town I MISS them with a passion! I would love to have them with me but recognize the impracticality of it. I mean, in none of the resources on how to travel with pets do they talk about LITTER BOXES! No cat is going to hold it that long.
My brother takes great care of them but I worry that they miss me. This image of Grayson looking longingly out the door is one I have plastered in my head. How will I ever go to Ireland again? How can I be gone THAT long?
There are car trips of course, and a good friend and her husband just traveled to the beach with their Springer spaniel Sadie and they had a great time but they don’t want to always go to the beach.
So what about ya’ll? Do you travel with your pets? Have you taken them on a plane? A train? An automobile? Got any stories or advice? Where do you think your pets would like to go on vacation?
What do you mean, it’ll be over the 50 lb. limit?
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 10 2012, 12:03 am in Anna Campbell, Australia, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, history, Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed, Sons of Sin, travel, writer's life
..for people who don’t live here! Especially if you’re from North America!
I’m a proud little Aussie gal!
Just now, I’m particularly proud (not for nationalistic reasons) because my seventh historical romance SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED recently hit the shelves.
In honor of all the 7s doing the rounds, I thought I’d pick out seven interesting facts about Australia that foreigners may find interesting.
So here are seven mostly obscure facts about my beloved homeland that you can use to dazzle the guests at your next barbecue:
7. Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the world’s driest continent. Perhaps that explains our dry sense of humor!
6. Australia is one of the few nations to send athletes to every modern summer Olympic Games. We’ve hosted the Olympics twice – in 1956 and 2000.
5. In World War II, we came very close to Japanese invasion (Darwin was bombed and there were Japanese submarines creating havoc in Sydney Harbor). Hundreds of thousands of American troops under the command of General MacArthur came to Australia to fight in the Pacific arena. So on behalf of my nation, a big thank you to the United States!
4. We had a series of gold rushes from the early 1850s through to about 1900, just in time for miners from San Francisco to hop on the nearest sailing ship and float across the Pacific to dig for the yellow stuff. The gold rushes established Australia’s prosperity and population – and when you look at the records, you’d be amazed how many Americans made the trip to our sunny shores!
3. We have some very strange animals (no, I’m not talking about the types who hang around our local pubs and clubs after midnight on a Saturday!). There are koalas and kangaroos and echidnas and wombats. I want to talk about the platypus here – this duck-billed, egg-laying mammal is so strange that when the first specimens reached London (stuffed, not live) in the early 19th century, the scientific community was convinced it was a hoax.
2. A couple of American slang terms have very different meanings in Australia, something which gives us great (and childish) amusement. In America, if you ‘root’ for someone, you’re cheering them on. In Australia, ‘root’ means intimate relations. And don’t start me on fanny pack! In some things, we’re two nations divided by a common language!
1. There’s a myth that we ride kangaroos down the main streets of our biggest cities. This is completely untrue. The kangaroos of Australia formed a union (the HEA – Hopping Entities of Australia – affiliated to the Transport Workers Union) in 1934 to object to this cruel and unusual treatment. Now the kangaroos ride the Aussies! There’s a whole underclass of people who work as Roo-shaws!
OK, not ALL those facts are 100% true. Can you tell which one? However, having read this post, even if you don’t come from my wide brown land, you may now consider yourselves honorary Aussies. Have a stubbie in your stubbies on the black stump outback of beyond in the never-never.
I’d love to know an interesting fact about where you live. And hey, it doesn’t even have to be true!
I’ve got a signed copy of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED available for one lucky commenter today. So get commenting, people. Or as we say in Oz, drag up a stump for your rump and have a chinwag, mate.
Posted by Anna Campbell Jun 7 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Beauty and the Beast, Blue Mountains, Category Romance, Defying her Desert Duty, Guests, Harlequin Presents Extra, Protected by the Prince, RT Reviewers Choice Award, Sydney, travel, Undone by His Touch, Write Touch Readers' Awards, writing life
by Anna Campbell
I’m delighted to welcome back lair favorite and fabulous writer Annie West who is here to tell us about her latest North American release UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH. UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH recently received a glowing review from RT Book Reviews magazine where they called it “an emotionally compelling read.”
Annie’s books are receiving accolades all over the place. At the recent RT Reviewers Choice Awards, her wonderful PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE was chosen as best Harlequin Presents Extra of 2011 and RAFE’S REDEMPTION recently placed in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Write Touch Readers Awards.
Congratulations, Annie! I’m not surprised. Your books are fantastic.
You can find out more about Annie and her books on her website: www.annie-west.com
You can also find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annie.west.9619
To buy a print copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, just click on the cover below.
Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/Undone-Touch-Harlequin-Presents-ebook/dp/B007BBVEJC/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338847220&sr=1-5
Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Undone-by-His-Touch-Annie-West/9780373528691
Welcome back, Annie. Congratulations on the North American release of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH, your latest Harlequin Presents Extra. Can you tell us about this story?
Hi, Anna, and thanks so much for having me back to visit the Bandits. I’m so pleased I haven’t worn out my welcome. I’m waving to Banditas and friends, and putting in my order for a long glass of bubbly if there’s one in the house.
UNDONE is about a scarred, reclusive hero whose main interest is in finding the woman he blames for his brother’s death. Declan is determined to wallow in regret and guilt until Chloe, his new housekeeper, drags him, protesting, to the realisation he’s not ready yet to give up on the world. In fact she makes him feel emotions he’d never expected to experience. She brings him hope. But Chloe’s no plaster saint. She’s got problems of her own and dealing with an anti-social boss is one of them. Until she sees beneath the surface to the man of integrity and honour who’s struggling to find a foothold in a world that’s changed around him.
Of course I had to make it interesting by ensuring each was the worst possible person for the other to fall in love with! That’s where the fun began – and the intensity and passion.
I had a ball writing this dark hero who eventually finds the light. I’ve been having fun lately, thinking of who I’d cast in the role of sexy but prickly recluse and I’m torn between Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman. I think either would be perfect as Declan.
Here’s the back cover copy:
Cast into a world of black, Declan Carstairs is a man in torment. Consumed by guilt, he sees no way out of the darkness his world has become. Only one thing drives him – finding the woman who caused his brother’s death, and the accident that took his sight.
Housekeeper Chloe Daniels refuses to pity her devastatingly gorgeous boss, but treating him as the strong, capable man he is soon proves dangerous. As Chloe falls deeper under Declan’s spell, awakened by his touch, she forgets all about the secret she keeps that may destroy them both…
I loved this book. I think it’s one of your best. What inspired you to write this story?
Maybe it’s your influence rubbing off on me, Anna – the fact that when I read your books I’m so often reading a Beauty and the Beast style story. Who knows? But I can tell you I had two ideas in my head for a long time. One was of a dark haired man with intense eyes and a bad attitude, who’d turned into a recluse after his brother’s death in a climbing accident. The other was of a love triangle between the brothers and a woman. The woman was rather shadowy but fortunately she came to life when I started to write. It just took me a couple of years to pull the various ideas together.
I should add that the settings were part of my inspiration for this book. I had vivid images in my head of both the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and of inner city Sydney too. I’ve sent through a couple of photos to share with this piece so you can see why the mountains in particular are one of my favorite places to visit. It’s a world heritage site – perfect for bushwalking, climbing and canyoning. But as well as that it’s a plateau studded with quaint villages and gorgeous gardens. It’s just perfect for visitors. I love to go there and pretend I’m fit by tackling one of the walks and then relaxing in a coffee shop or bookstore and feeling I’ve earned a treat.
By the way, thank you for sharing these beautiful photos. You need to add photography to your list of talents! Can you tell us about your next release?
I’d love to. Next cab off the rank is called DEFYING HER DESERT DUTY. It’s out in the U.K. in October but I’m waiting for news on the North American release. The title is a little misleading. Yes, the hero is from the Middle East, but most of the book is set in western Europe – principally France. And boy, did I have a wonderful time with that setting!
It’s a story that owes a lot to the Tristan and Iseult legend. The hero is sent to Paris to bring back the woman who’s been betrothed to the king, ready for a royal wedding. What he doesn’t expect is to fall for the king’s fiancée or to discover she’s falling for him too. Now that spells trouble! Add to that the fact that my hero is absolutely loyal (the king is like a father to him) and my heroine has strong reasons of her own for needing to go through with the royal wedding and the scene is set for drama and high emotion.
I’ve had a sneak peek at this book and it’s a classic Annie West. Romantic, dramatic, emotional, a real page turner. Readers will love it! Can you give us a sneak peek at what you’re currently working on?
I’ve just handed a book in to my editor. Superstitiously perhaps, I don’t want to say too much about it until I’ve had some editorial feedback, but I can tell you it’s a story with quite a twist. It features a very suave and self-assured Italian hero and a heroine who’s just starting her life again after the most horrendous ordeal. Lucy refuses to let anyone, especially a bossy businessman, dictate to her. Lots and lots of sparks in this one, but I hope, plenty of tenderness too.
We’ve had you as a guest so often on the Banditas and I don’t think I’ve ever asked you what you do when you aren’t writing. What sort of things do you like to do to refill the well?
I’m wary about admitting that I do anything other than write, since I don’t want that to get back to my editor. I’m trying to persuade her I’m glued to the computer, slaving over a hot story! Actually I am, most of the time. But as you say, it’s important to fill the well occasionally.
I count my visits to you, Anna, as one of my well-filling activities. Good company, good food, good wine and far too much chat, make for a wonderful time. They always leave me energised to tackle almost anything.
Actually that picture of us together is from a lunch out near when I live when you were up. Always lovely to see you. What else do you like to do?
Other than that, in my down time I like to do some of these:
Reading! Actually, I think you could put this down for my top 5 pastimes.
Walking, preferably in the bush (wilderness if you’re not in Australia) or by water.
Visiting new places (I’m dreaming about another Europe trip). If I can’t travel, then hearing about someone else’s trip or poring over maps and pictures of far away places is fantastic.
Cooking – not the just home and must get dinner organised cooking – that’s no treat. I mean cooking when you’re actually in the mood for pottering and trying something new, or tackling an old favorite. I love it when people ooh and ah over home made baklava for instance, and even better, when the family gets involved in the cooking with me.
Cross stitch. True to my recent resolution I’m trying to find time to get back into the sewing I haven’t touched for years.
Movies. Love them, particularly (yes, I know I’m predictable) if they leave me feeling good. Theatre fits in here too – a real treat.
Long bubble baths with a good book, especially if someone else is cooking dinner while I relax and soak in the tub.
Ooh, lots there to inspire new stories which is what we dedicated fans like to hear. Annie, is there anything you’d like to ask the Banditas and Bandita Buddies?
Since we’re talking about refilling the well, can you share your favorite activities that leave you relaxed and rejuvenated ready to tackle the daily grind? Is there one perfect experience that still makes you smile and feel better every time you think of it? Right now, my favorite perk me up experience is remembering a marvellous high tea at Claridges Hotel in London. So refined, so luxurious and so yum!
Thanks, Annie. Get commenting, people. There are two separate prizes today – a signed copy of UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH and a signed copy of Annie’s RT Reviewers Choice Award winner PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE. Great reading! Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, anya seton, Barbara Cartland, Dorothy Dunnett, Inspiration, Lorna Hill, Mary Stewart, reading, travel, Victoria Holt, writer's life
by Anna Campbell
I’ve always been a really enthusiastic reader, right from the first moment I worked out what those scratchy black marks on white paper meant. And I can’t tell you how many ways reading has influenced my life and the person I’ve become.
One of the big things reading has done is give me the desire to travel. All those tired, aching Visa bills from my wanderings can be blamed on the fact that I always have a book on the go – and usually more than one!
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I had a pretty idyllic childhood on an avocado farm on the Queensland coast. Now when I know how rotten a lot of kids have it, I’m enormously grateful. But at the time, it seemed that everything happened somewhere OTHER than Redland Bay. I wanted drama. I wanted glamour. I wanted adventure. Not much of any of those where I grew up.
So I fed my mania for romance and drama with my reading. And in the process, developed a list longer than the Great Wall of China (which is on the list) of places I’d love to see someday. Partly because foreign places have such alluring and interesting names. Who could resist wanting to visit places called Archangel or Umbria or Yokohama?
So far, I’ve knocked a serious number of those places off my list. Still lots to go if anyone wants to donate to my travel fund!
Today I thought I’d wander down Memory Lane (yet another place to visit!) and talk about some of the books that made me want to see the world.
The first book I’d like to talk about was a firm favorite when I was in late primary school. It’s called A DREAM OF SADLER’S WELLS and it’s about an aspiring ballerina called Veronica who has to leave London and her dance school to live with her cousins in the wilds of Northumberland. I was a ballet-mad kid so this was right up my alley. Not only that, it was funny and heartfelt and there was a lovely romance between Veronica and a boy called Sebastian. I still think Sebastian is one of the most romantic names out there!
It was the first of a series of ballet books from Lorna Hill and I read a lot of them but none really compared to ADOSW (Sadlers Wells was the headquarters of the Royal Ballet at the time, the 1940s and 1950s). I must have read that 100 times! Lorna Hill describes both glamorous London with its rich culture and history and the rugged beauty of the moors so beautifully, that both went to the top of my travel list. Not to mention the yen to see the Royal Ballet. I remember when I finally got to visit London in 1985, I went to see SWAN LAKE at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Definitely experienced a flashback to Veronica and her highjinks when I settled back to watch the performance!
Another writer who got me interested in an enormous number of places is the much-maligned Barbara Cartland. I must have read hundreds of her romances in late primary school and early high school. I think they’re wonderful for that age – they’re not too explicit and the historical detail is fascinating. The very first Barbara Cartland I ever read was snaffled from my grandmother’s library pile – LOVE UNDER FIRE. It featured an intrepid young Spanish girl who disguises herself as a boy and joins Wellington’s Army so she can get to England and safety. Hmm, interesting that the Regency was such an early subject of my reading, isn’t it? Not to mention dark and dangerous aristocratic English heroes!
Then I discovered really meaty historical romance with Anya Seton, an American who wrote meticulously researched and emotive novels about women in history. I suspect she might be out of fashion now but I adored those books in high school. Favorites were GREEN DARKNESS, based on Ightham Mote in Kent which I was lucky enough to visit in 2004, and above all KATHERINE. KATHERINE is the epic love story of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford and it brings the rich tapestry of medieval France and England to vivid life. Not to mention packing in oceans of romance and emotion. Just my cup of tea! I remember in 2004, I saw the real Katherine’s grave in Lincoln Cathedral and immediately I was swept back to my 13-year-old self for whom that book was an obsession.
About the same stage as I was reading Anya Seton, I discovered the wonderful romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart. Now that’s someone who REALLY inspired me to travel. Her descriptions of setting are unrivalled. I recently re-read MY BROTHER MICHAEL and WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT for a review that’s coming up on The Romance Dish on 24th May (check it out!). Mary S. can still take my breath away with her gorgeous writing about place. She engages every sense when she’s talking about Greece or Skye or the South of France. It’s really like being there in person.
Another author who made settings come alive in my starved imagination was Victoria Holt (who also wrote as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr). I think I can lay the start of the gothic tendency in my own writing very firmly at her feet. I devoured VH at about the same stage as I was reading Anya Seton and Mary Stewart. Interesting how these terrifically influential writers hit me all at the same time, isn’t it? The very first VH I read was a stormy romance called BRIDE OF PENDORRIC. After that, I devoured those books about innocent girls in the clutches of dangerous dark-hearted men – men who ended up saving them from even darker-hearted men who intended our heroines’ ruin and murder. Sigh. Great stuff!
The last of the books I want to talk about today when it comes to travel obsession was a slightly later crazeme. I must have been in my early 20s when I discovered the vivid historical world of Dorothy Dunnett. My obsession for the Lymond Chronicles (starting with THE GAME OF KINGS) set in 16th century Europe outshone all previous obsessions. My poor friends – they heard nothing except Francis Crawford for quite a while there!
Then when I traveled in Europe that first time in the mid-80s, I was seeing so much through the filter of Dorothy Dunnett’s wonderful tales. I’m yet to visit the Eastern Mediterranean or Russia but when I do, I’m positive that those Dorothy Dunnett books will still haunt everything I see. Now, that’s powerful writing!
So did any books influence your life? Have you read any of these authors? Any early reading that still resonates with your life today? Have you ever visited a place just because you read about it in a book? Let’s talk armchair travel today in the lair!
Posted by crocodesigns Aug 27 2011, 4:28 am in Aunty Cindy explains it all for you, Hawai'i, travel
posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
When an earthquake rattled the East Coast this week, it made me think about my own experiences with having “the earth move.” The DH and I are native Californians who have never lived anywhere but the Golden State. Given California’s reputation with regard to earthquakes, the two of us have lots of stories to tell about quakes, right?
DH has never been in a major earthquake, and the only one I was ever in happened when I was six-months-old (which hardly counts). In fact, these two old Californians had to go all the way to Hawaii to experience an earthquake first hand!
We are very lucky because we live where it is easy to find inexpensive deals to Hawaii. Such was the case one recent October when a travel agency we’ve often used offered a five day trip to Honolulu, and we decided to go for it. Our high rise hotel was in a GREAT location, across the street from the Honolulu Zoo and half a block from the beach. The views from our ninth story room were wonderful — we could see all the way to Diamond Head.
Sunday morning at 7 a.m. I was awakened from a sound sleep by the bed shaking. Thinking the DH had returned from his morning swim and was playing a game of ‘let’s wake up the slug’, I rolled over ready to yell at him but NO DH. Instead, I heard a very loud roar, while the bed and the room both started to sway!
I may have never been in an earthquake before but I KNEW what was happening. I threw some clothes on over my pajamas while the room continued to sway. Then I grabbed my umbrella (Did I mention it was pouring rain?) and RAN down all nine flights of stairs to the lobby!
I had a friend who was trapped in an elevator for four hours during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 so there was NO WAY I was getting in an elevator, though that stairwell was pretty icky. I’m just glad we weren’t on the eighteenth floor.
When I reached the lobby, huffing and puffing like a steam locomotive, I saw a lot of bleary-eyed people milling about. An emergency generator was already set up to run one elevator and some lights. Staff also had turned on a battery powered radio and I listened anxiously for about ten minutes for news of death, destruction, and… a tsunami!
All I heard was that one power grid had gone down and in doing so, had triggered overloads on all the power grids so electricity was out all over the island. Also, that the quake had been centered off the Big Island, not Oahu. And NO tsunami.
I couldn’t quite believe that last part, and worse — DH was still out there SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN! I walked out to the front sidewalk and peered through the sheets of rain. Finally, I decided if he didn’t show up in five more minutes, I’d go looking for him. Two minutes later he walked up, towel around his shoulders, dripping wet. He headed straight for the elevator and couldn’t understand why all those people were standing around in the lobby. When I mentioned THE EARTHQUAKE, he gave me a blank stare.
He hadn’t felt a thing!
Luckily the only consequence of the earthquake turned out to be no power in Honolulu for thirteen hours. Inconvenient, yes. No cooked food, no air conditioning, no running water above the third floor… But in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that bad! We spent most of the day sitting on the lanai of the Hawaiian Princess hotel, which was right on the beach and had a lovely breeze.
I give the highest kudos to the Honolulu police, who were out directing traffic within 30 minutes of the quake knocking out the power. Officers were stationed at every traffic light down the length of Waikiki, and they stayed until the power came back on at 8 P.M. As the electricity was restored to each high rise hotel along Waikiki, a cheer went up from the patrons inside. Ours was no exception.
By the time we flew home on Tuesday morning, everything on Oahu (the airport, the roadways, the tourist attractions) was running as smoothly as it had been before the quake hit.
So there you have my earthquake tale, now it’s your turn: Did you feel the quake this week? Have you been in another earthquake? If not, do you have a ‘wild weather’ experience you can share?
Posted by Trish Milburn Aug 15 2011, 4:04 am in history, travel, Trish Milburn
By Trish Milburn
One of my favorite school subjects has always been history, particularly American history. One of my minors in college was in History. So it’s no surprise that I love visiting historic sites be they homes, battlefields, roads, whatever.
Growing up in the South, you can almost pitch a rock in any direction and hit something that has a tie to the Civil War. Historic re-enactments almost always pit the blue against the gray. But one of my favorite periods in American History is actually Colonial/Revolution. So this summer when I had the opportunity to visit New England for the first time, I was mucho excited. I was going to see places that really helped to shape our country before it even became the United States of America.
There have been times when I’ve visited a place of such historical significance that it was surreal. I felt that way the first time I visited Washington, D.C., in high school. All those monuments, the Smithsonian, the White House — those were things that you just saw on the nightly news. Several years later, I took a driving trip out West and stopped at several points along the Oregon Trail in Nebraska and Wyoming. There are parts such as Windlass Hill in Western Nebraska where you can still see the ruts from the wagons that were headed west along the Oregon Trail. Fast forward to 2003 and my first trip to New York City. I had the same surreal feeling when I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
This summer, I experienced it again when I stopped at Minute Man National Historic Park outside of Boston. Here I walked along the road (pictured here) that Paul Revere rode down to warn the countryside that the British were coming. The park and the Battle Road commemorate the famous Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the beginning of the American Revolution. I stood in the middle of the road and was hit with an overwhelming sense of history.
The big destination for my trip, however, was Salem, Massachusetts, set of the infamous witch trials in 1692. I have a YA paranormal trilogy coming out next year, and books 2 and 3 take place in Salem, so I wanted to see it firsthand. I walked all over town, and you can tell how steeped the town is in its witch history. Museums dedicated to the witch trials, businesses with names like the Witch’s Brew Cafe, and visitors touring cemeteries. There’s also a memorial comprised of 20 carved stone benches. Each one lists the name of one of the victims of the trials, when they died and how they died. 19 people were hanged and one pressed to death as a result of the hysteria that had no basis.
In nearby Marblehead, I visited the grave of Wilmot Redd, the only person from Marblehead to be executed for being a witch.
Another must-see in Salem is a literary landmark. The famed House of the Seven Gables (pictured), made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne, sits overlooking the harbor.
They have a very nice tour that takes you through the circa 1668 house and showcases its history and construction. I happened to visit on Hawthorne’s birthday, so everyone was in a festive mood. Also on the property is Nathaniel Hawtorne’s birthplace and a nice gift shop where I just might have purchased some witch-themed novels and a very pretty pair of earrings.
Now I’m curious — do you enjoy visiting historical sites? If so, what kinds in particular? Have you ever visited a site where you really felt the history of the place? If so, where? And tell us about your favorite historic site.