Posts tagged with: travel

Love Letter to Ireland

I miss my homeland.

What, you might say? You miss Kentucky? The States? Your favorite McDonald’s and Diet Coke?

Nope, I’m talking about the land of 3/4 of my ancestors….Eire. Ireland. The Emerald Isle. My heart.

It’s been six years since my last visit. SIX YEARS! That is way too long, inexcusable considering I spent the first 2/3 of my life not even imagining I would ever visit. The budget is being cruel and alas, it will be a while yet before I return.

But I yearn for my ancestral home.Ireland 08 043

My first visit started out in a stunned state. We de-barked at Shannon Airport to a cold, cloudy, dreary landscape and I could only think “I spent thousands of dollars for THIS?”

Then we left the airport. Dear. God. In. Heaven. It was as if the spirit of the isle reached into my heart and soul and hugged me. As corny as it sounds, I knew I was home. It only got better from there. So here are some of the things I have been missing:

1. The earth. The sky. The rivers. The coast. The rocks. The birds. The flora, the fauna. The sheep. The sun as it breaks out over stone wall lined pastures after a soft rain. There is a richness to sol’s rays there that does NOT exist anywhere else. And the lakes! Blue is to bland a word to describe the beauty of the water. I’m not a hiker by nature but I tell you walking in the woods there? I knew…just KNEW that if I sat on a log I would become one with the earth. Ahem…I also firmly believed that if I looked under the right rhododendron bush, I’d find the King of the Fae :D

Ireland 08 063

2. The Irish spirit. Ya gotta admire a people so resilient. They meet their challenges and either beat the crap out of them or dance around them. The honor those who have gone before them, respect those who suffered and then thumb their noses at the cause. Every meal includes the potato in some form or fashion and one particular eatery in Killarney…seriously…served potaotes FIVE ways! Roasted, mashed, chips, boiled, added to pasta.

3. The history. Yeah, in the States you have to go through park gateways to see a lot of our infant past. In Ireland, you drive down the highway and past castles, cemeteries hundreds of years old, thatched cottages that invaders missed (Ha!). It’s just part of life there. Part of who and what the people, the land are. All of it right next door to a McDonald’s that serves the apple pie crusted in sugar with REAL clotted cream!

4. The people. Especially the musicians who play in the pubs. These people are transformed as they play ballads, jigs reels. They connect with another sphere of life as they play the fiddle, the bodrhan (my fav), pipes even spoons. I was only feet away watching an older guy play spoons with his eyes closed as he felt the life of the song. Oh and of course the black-haired, blue-eyed stone mason I oogled…er, watched at work on the Ring of Kerry. Momentous time that lead to the premise of my upcoming paranormal Guardian Isle series.

I could go on and on. While I can’t quite make it back right now, I always have the promise that, just like it has for an eternity, home will always be there for me.

What about you? Have you experienced anything similar in your travels? Have you been to Ireland and what do you miss?Ireland 08 014


Winner of 7 Nights from the U.K.!

BanditBootyThanks so much to everyone who went all posh and tea-drinking to help me celebrate the release of the U.K. edition of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED from Mills and Boon in London. I’m delighted now to announce that the winner of the book is:


Megan, can you please email me on anna @ with your snail mail details and I’ll get your lovely purple book off to you. Happy reading!

Going All British!

rogue britAhoy, my hearties! Feast your eyes on this purple beauty!

What’s that you say?

Is this a new release from Anna Campbell?

Hmm, the title sounds strangely familiar, yet I’ve never seen that handsome fellow and that blonde wench before. Who can they be?

Why, they’re the wicked and sexy Jonas Merrick and the brave and passionate Sidonie Forsythe from the first book in the Sons of Sin series, SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED. 

Sidonie, as you’ll notice, has had a bit of a makeover and is now a blonde, but I must say I love the tension between these two in this picture. You just know sparks are going to fly! 

Rogue from GCP siteIf you’re regular visitors to the lair, I don’t think it will be any surprise when I tell you that I’m a bit of an Anglophile (along the lines of the way that Bluebeard had a few marital issues!). But while my books have come out all over the world (we’re currently at 16 languages), I didn’t have a British publisher.

You can imagine my excitement last year when Harlequin Mills and Boon in London bought the first three Sons of Sin books for a range of European territories, including a U.K. release. Yay!

Now I’m delighted to announce for U.K. Bandita Buddies that Rogue came out as a Special Release in both print and e-book in Great Britain on 21st February. A week after Valentine’s Day strikes me as a lucky release day for a romance.

If you don’t live in the U.K., but you’d like one of these gorgeous purple books, you can order them post-free from the Book Depository: And I’m also giving one lucky person a chance to win their own lovely purple book at the end of this blog.

IMG_0012There’s a new blurb for the U.K. Rogue: 

‘I’m your payment, Mr Merrick.’

When notorious Jonas Merrick finds the wife of his greatest enemy up to her neck in debt to him, he offers her a bargain – she can work off the debt…in his bed. But Jonas is more than a little surprised when her innocent, naive sister arrives in her place, bravely offering herself to the scarred, brooding rake. Unexpectedly moved by young Sidonie’s beauty, innocence and wit, the ruthless loner finds her seduction a much more compelling prospect. Instead of a martyr in his bed, he wants seven days to make her come willingly.

IMG_0011But when the week is up and the world intrudes…will beauty claim her beast?

Works for me!

The U.K. version of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED is available at all good booksellers including:

Amazon UK

The Book Depository

Mills and Boon

You can read an excerpt here:

IMG_0009By the way, the photos illustrating this post are from my visit to Haddon Hall which is one of my favorite stately homes. It’s one of the most romantic places I’ve ever been – no wonder it pops up as the setting for so many historical shows, including the lovely BBC JANE EYRE featuring Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester.  When I visited in 2007, they had costumes from the series on show in the rooms where the scenes had been shot. A lovely touch!

If ever you’re in Derbyshire, don’t miss it.

BanditBootySo let’s stay British with our question today. If you’ve been to Great Britain, what were some of your favorite places and why? If you’d like to go to Great Britain, what would you especially like to see?

I’ve got a signed copy of a U.K. edition of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED up for grabs today for someone who comments. International giveaway. So good luck!

Five places I’d like to visit.

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. Two trips to Ohio and one to Atlanta, all since the first of June. Boy am I tired! How do baseball players, who have to travel every few days for weeks at a time survive it? This year I still have two more trips planned, one to North Carolina to attend a police academy for writers and one more home to see my mom in the fall.

All this traveling got me to thinking. Where would I like to travel if money were no option. So here’s my top five places:

ireland scotland cruise

 1. SCOTLAND. The land of my ancestors and lots of tall brawny Scotsmen. Yep. I’d like to walk the moors. Visit some castles. But mostly what I’d like to do is take a tape recorder with me, go into a pub and ask the people to tell me stories. See, I’m a lover of accents. Put me in a room with someone whose accent is different than mine and I guarantee I’ll come home talking like a native! You should hear me when I visit relatives in Tennessee! Drives Hubby crazy for weeks afterwards.





2. HAWAII. I’d want to stay in a fabulous hotel with great room service. Go to a luau. Tour the islands by boat. Walk on the beach at sunrise and again at sunset. This is Hubby’s dream vacation and I think I could love all the touristy things to do. 




3. NEW ENGLAND. Now don’t roll your eyes! I have several reasons for doing this. First and foremost, you met my friend Sandy Blair yesterday. I would love to visit her at her new home. The setting for my visit would have to be early fall. That way I could see the wonderful changes in the foliage. Then I’d force…er…ask Hubby to rent a car and head to Boston. There I could go to all the historic sites I’ve always wanted to see. (Am a huge American Revolution buff.) Then we could continue to drive south through the Appalachians to watch the trees change color.




4. NEW MEXICO. I’d love to go watch the hot air balloon races. We have one here in Texas, but nothing like the thousands of balloons that fill the skies in New Mexico. I’d love to visit the art area of Taos. There’s the painted mountains and the stacked rock formations of mesas throughout the area. Visit Santa Fe.




Tower-Bridge-England5. ENGLAND. I have several friends, including our own Anna Sugden who live in England. I would visit them, but mostly I’d do all the touristy history things. Tours, double decker bus rides, The Ferris Wheel. Go to all the places I’ve read about for years. 



So, where would you go, if money and time were no problem? Some place warm and beachy? Some place with mountains and trails? Touristy and historical? Resting pool side? Would you sit in a bar and record accents to take home with you?

Nicola Cornick Loves a Laird!

Nicola 4It’s always a pleasure to host historical romance star Nicola Cornick in the lair. Today Nicola is back with us to tell us about her latest book THE LADY AND THE LAIRD (oh, yummy, Scotsmen ahoy!) and also about some of her recent travels. If I’m good as this life, I think I’ll come back as Nicola’s suitcase. She always goes to the most wonderful places!

THE LADY AND THE LAIRD is making friends all over. Publishers Weekly recommended the book as one of the second chance at love romances to watch out for this year and RT Book Reviews said: “There are many delicious moments in the first of Cornick’s Scottish Brides series. The lively dialogue and sexy cat-and-mouse games (a little touch of Cyrano de Bergerac!) combine with poignancy and tenderness so readers become invested in the characters and their love story.”

Sounds delicious!

You can find out more about Nicola and her wonderful books on her website:

Nicola, welcome back to the lair. Congratulations on your new release for HQN, THE LADY AND THE LAIRD.  Can you tell us about this story?

Nicola 3Thank you so much! It’s great to be back in the Bandits’ lair. THE LADY AND THE LAIRD is the first book in my new Scottish Brides series.  I’m thrilled about the series because it’s set in the Regency period in the Highlands of Scotland, thus combining two of my favourite things!

Lady Lucy MacMorlan is the very proper daughter of a Duke but she has a very improper hobby; she writes erotic love letters on behalf of her brother Lachlan and his friends. When Lachlan elopes with the Marquis of Methven’s bride, Lucy is in big trouble because Robert Methven guesses that she is the real author of the letters and threatens to expose her secret and ruin her reputation.

Robert is also in trouble. He has to marry and beget an heir or his ancestral estates will be lost. Worse, a royal decree means that he can only marry a lady descended from a rival clan. Lucy is the obvious candidate but even though there is a chemistry between her and Robert from the start, she has sworn never to marry after losing her fiancé years before. Robert’s courtship of Lucy isn’t exactly conventional; there is a lot of the rugged highland laird in him and Lucy frequently points out to him that he needs to learn some refinement. I really enjoyed showing this ill-matched pair starting to recognise and respect each other’s strengths and falling in love.

Rugged Highland laird? Let me at him! What were the inspirations behind this book?

Nicola 2I’ve always wanted to write Regencies set in Scotland and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long! As you know, I love the Scottish scenery. I love the wildness of it, and the way you can reflect that in the characters and their story. Lucy in particular is a very well brought up and proper Regency young lady but there is another side to her, a wild side that she has never acknowledged before. Robert makes her confront that.

Nicola 1I was also hugely inspired by the tumultuous history of Fair Isle, an island off the north coast of Scotland. I drew on that a lot for the book.

Love the photos of Fair Isle you sent for the blog. What’s coming up next for you?

Book 2 in the Scottish Brides series, ONE NIGHT WITH A LAIRD, is out at the end of November. It’s the story of Lucy’s sister Mairi and Robert’s wicked cousin Jack. I’m currently writing book 3 CLAIMED BY THE LAIRD, which will be out next summer.

Scotsmen abound in Romancelandia (even from Sassenach writers like your good self). What do you think is the enduring appeal of a Scottish setting?

Nicola 5I’ve thought about this a lot (It’s no hardship to think long and deeply about men in kilts!) and talked to a lot of people about it. The Scottish hero is masculine and powerful, a real alpha, but he has a loyalty to his clan, his people, and that demonstrates that he also has a protective side.  He possesses other qualities we admire in our heroes too – honour, resourcefulness, independence, determination. He’s usually very physical and shows this through fighting for a cause he believes in. He’s the whole sexy, swashbuckling package!

In addition, there’s the appeal of the clan as family. In Scots Gaelic if you ask someone “where are you from?” the actual translation is: “Who are your people?” This goes to the heart of the whole idea of kinship for me.  I think the Scottish set romance is all about loyalty and belonging, about fighting for what is important to you and protecting your kin. I think that is a very appealing concept.

Are you noticing any particular trends in historical romance right now?

There’s been a lot of talk recently that the historical romance genre is either dying or already dead. I think this is an over-exaggeration and there are still some fabulous historical romances about and some great authors putting their unique twist on the genre. At the same time it feels as though the time is right for the genre to develop in new directions. Sometimes it can be difficult for authors to push change through. Established authors may want to try something different and take a few risks, but get vetoed by publishers who want to stick with tried and tested success. New authors may come up with fabulously fresh ideas, but then find it difficult to sell them.

Nicola 6I think it’s actually an exciting time. I’ve lots of fresh ideas I’m keen to explore in my writing and I’m also keen to see the direction others writers are going to take in the genre.

We love to hear about your travels here in the lair. It’s a little while since you last ventured into the Bandita cave – can you tell us about some of the interesting places you’ve visited lately?

Well, I went to Fair Isle last year to research the background for THE LADY AND THE LAIRD. When I say that it is the most remote inhabited island in the UK that sounds pretty tame  – I mean just how remote can the UK be? But in fact we’re talking miles off the north coast of Scotland sort of remote. You have to take three flights to get there with the planes getting smaller and smaller until you’re in one so small you’re in the co-pilot’s seat.  Our pilot was an ex-RAF Biggles type who was frightfully re-assuring to me as a nervous flyer. His pre-flight checks consisted of tugging on the wings to make sure they didn’t come off and kicking the wheels to make sure they weren’t flat. Then we were off and I swear he threw in some aerobatics just for fun.

Fair Isle feels like the end of the world – in a good way. It’s the most beautiful place, with huge cliffs and white sand beaches and masses of history from the Vikings to the wreck of a Spanish Armada ship to sea battles against French privateers during the Napoleonic Wars. I was in history heaven! And as if that wasn’t enough, there were ceilidhs in the evening where we enjoyed some fine Scottish dancing. I even came away with a genuine Fair Isle sweater. It was an amazing trip.

Lucky duck, visiting Fair Isle. It’s been on my list for a long time. Do you have a question for our Bandits and Bandita Buddies?

BanditBootyWhen it was time for us to leave Fair Isle a storm blew in, the planes were grounded and we were marooned for several days. Where would you like to be marooned – and with whom?

Thanks, Nicola, and all the best with THE LADY AND THE LAIRD.

Get commenting, people. Nicola has very generously offered a copy of THE LADY AND THE LAIRD to one of our visitors today (international). Good luck!

Jennifer St. George’s Honest Deception!

jsg 2Just lately I’ve been lucky enough to catch up in person a couple of times with one of my favorite people, talented Aussie romance author Jennifer St. George who lives a couple of hours south of me in glorious Byron Bay, Australia’s most easterly point. And now, lucky me and lucky you, we get to catch up with the lovely Jen here in the lair.

Jen’s here today to talk to us about her latest release, THE LOVE DECEPTION, which is available worldwide as an e-book.




jsg 1You can find out more about Jen and her glamorous, sexy stories on her website:

Jen blogs with the fun and clever Love Cats Downunder:

You can also follow her on Facebook:



And make sure you check out her first two books, THE CONVENIENT BRIDE and SEDUCING THE SECRET HEIRESS!

Phew! Plenty of chances to get to know our Jen!

Jennifer, welcome back to the lair. Congratulations on your new release for Destiny Romance, THE LOVE DECEPTION.  Can you tell us about this story?

THE LOVE DECEPTION is my third novel with Destiny Romance. It combines legal intrigue, courtroom drama and a dash of exotic Barbados.

jsg 3When Felicity Carter wakes up naked in a strange bed, she has no idea how she got there. And no recollection of meeting the gorgeous man calmly offering her breakfast. Felicity flees – hoping that their paths never cross again.
The last thing she expects is to discover that her mystery man is Damon Fullbright, partner at the law firm where Felicity has just started work – and her new boss!

Damon is appalled to find the out-of-control young woman he rescued has been hired to work on his team. Apart from anything else, he doesn’t need the distraction of a hot blonde with a barrel-full of issues. But one-by-one, Felicity blows all Damon’s preconceptions out of the water. When Felicity explosively reveals her dreadful secret, will he risk his reputation and trust her to discover the truth?

Sounds great. What were the inspirations behind this book?

jsg 5Through my various jobs, I’ve travelled extensively and would often wake up in a hotel in a foreign country and forget where I was.  In those first few seconds of waking, I’d always get a jolt of adrenaline and my brain would scream…where am I? Of course I’d quickly realize I was fine, in a hotel and had to get up and go to work. I wondered what it would be like if you woke up and had no idea where you were.

Felicity does just that at the beginning of the book. From that point on, her life is a rollercoaster ride in the search for truth, understanding and ultimately…love.

What’s coming up next for you?

My current hero is an IT guru working in central London. My heroine runs an orangutan sanctuary in Brunei. He lives a fast paced, stressful, inner-city, jetset lifestyle. Building his global business is his sole focus. She’s a wildlife warrior who thinks the hero represents everything that is wrong with the world – IT gadgets, expensive lifestyle and no connection with animals and the natural world. It creates wonderful conflict, which I’m loving. I’ve already cried a couple of times writing their story, so I hope I’m conveying this emotion on the page.

Ljsg 4ast time you visited in January, we were talking about your wonderful second release SEDUCING THE SECRET HEIRESS. You’ve now been published for nearly a year and I wonder if becoming a published author has offered any surprises along the way.

I was pretty excited at the recent Australian Romance Readers Convention when a reader came up and told me how much she loved my books, took a photo and then tweeted me! Hadn’t had that happen before. I did feel pretty special.

Having people review your work publicly is also something very new and at first I found it quite confronting. Fortunately most of the reviews I’ve received so far have been positive (thank goodness!!).

Your books feature fabulous exotic locations like Venice and Barbados. What are your favorite travel destinations? Can we expect to see any of these destinations in future books? 

I love walking and do at least one bush-walking holiday a year – usually up in Queensland’s Lamington National Park. jsg 7Two years ago I walked the Cinque Terra trail in Italy. This year I hiked the Tasmanian Overland Track. This 65km, six-day trek winds through places of extraordinary beauty. I walked with a company that’s been running guided walks for over twenty-years and they’ve built huts along the trail.  Huts mean hot meals, hot showers, warm cabins and chilled wine (I’m not much of a camper). All this delivered by young, fit guides who take care of everything. Food tastes, oh, so much better when you’ve trekked at least twelve kilometres and someone else has cooked. I’d love to feature the Tasmanian rainforest in a book.

Having lived in South America, I’m considering setting a book there. Perhaps Rio or Santiago. New York also appeals as a setting. I remember that thrilling feeling the first time I walked down Fifth Avenue. Just being in that city made me feel like anything was possible.

But my favourite destinations will probably always be in Europe.  I lived in Europe (mostly England) for seven years and just loved the history, architecture, different languages (I can speak a bit of Spanish and am currently learning French), the landscapes, the food and the fact you can travel a few hundred kilometres (or much less) and be in a completely different culture.

jsg 6My favourite cities are Prague, Seville, Salzburg, Bruges, Venice, Florence and of course, Paris.

What do you think makes a great romance hero?

Yes, lots of romance heroes are tall, dark and good-looking. But, I don’t think there’s a template for a great romantic hero.  He can be cute, blond and wayward; brilliant, serious with glasses or ripped, gorgeous and executive. As long as the heroine fancies the knickers (or Calvins) off him I generally find I’m on the right track. Sometimes on the surface my heroes appear to behave a little badly, but there is always a very strong motivation for doing so. However, he always respects the heroine and deep down is very, very kind.

Do you have a question for our Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation rolling?

I spend a lot of time thinking about what profession to give my characters. Felicity and Damon from THE LOVE DECEPTION are both lawyers. Are there any character’s professions you really love reading about? Are there any that you really don’t like or just didn’t suit the characters? Comment today for a chance to win a e-copy of THE LOVE DECEPTION (Amazon or iTunes).

BanditBootyThanks so much, Jen! Love the sound of the new book! Sounds like those two have a rocky road to love ahead of them.

Get commenting, people, to win the copy of THE LOVE DECEPTION!

Good for the Soul

IMG_3985Some 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.

IMG_3996To 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.

IMG_4036We 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!


A Style to Which I’d Like to Become Accustomed!

Chatsworth 1I 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.

Days of Rakes and Roses final-72In 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.

Chatsworth 2While 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?

Chatsworth 3This 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?

IMG_0039In 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!

Field Trips

file_27Today, 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?

Are We There Yet?

Do you lidreamstimefree_155123ke 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 really should stop reading right now.  Otherwise you might have a heart attack. That’s the disclaimer. Read on at your own risk.Allis Chalmer

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 tobacdreamstimefree_75775co, 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 mailboxmail 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

Next Page »