The King's Mistress is coming!

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for My Name Is A'yen! Proceed with caution.

You have been warned. :)

I'm starting edits on The King's Mistress this next week, and I'm very excited about it. The book is going to be so much better once I'm done with them.

The book has had this title since the very beginning. I started it two days after I finished the first draft of My Name Is A'yen. The title is significant in the A'yen's Legacy universe.

At the end of the first book A'yen finds out his family line, through his father, is the long-lost royal family. It's a cosmic shift in his identity and changes the way he looks at his past. He's not quite sure he's up for it and fears losing who he is in order to be who the Lokmane need him to be.

So he's a future king. And he's owned by his wife, because the Lokmane are still enslaved when the novel opens. Fae is, literally, the king's mistress. This one explores her character a little more, though A'yen is still the one running the show. You'll learn more about her background, what her family is like, and meet her half-brothers.

In this one you also meet Da'Ro, another Me like Na'var in My Name Is A'yen. Ro borders on being an antihero and I had so much fun writing him and doing things I'd never done before. Along the way he stole my heart, and I hope he steals yours too. He's a broken man searching for a reason to live. He's lost everything and everyone who's ever cared about him, and the list was small to begin with. He's hated and feared by other Lokmane, and for good reason. He's the most dangerous kind of Me--a mind-hopper.

What is a mind-hopper? Well, to find that out you'll have to read the book when it comes out.


My Fall TV schedule

It's been two years since I added a new show to my weekly fall TV schedule. The last new one was Once Upon A Time a few weeks into season two. Thank you, Netflix!

I've been with Criminal Minds since the beginning, and The Big Bang Theory since season two. I watch NCIS: LA off and on. Never miss The Walking Dead or Doctor Who.

This year I've added THREE. Yes, three. Forever, Arrow, and The Flash.

Season one of Arrow I watched on Netflix back in the spring, recorded the re-runs of season two, and jumped in with season three. I'd been hearing good things about it since the beginning, but finally got on board when I found out John Barrowman would be a regular in season three. Since I have a major crush on him it was a no-brainer.

I love the 90's cartoon Justice League Flash, so when I found out CW was spinning him off for his own show I was all OMG! Must watch. Two episodes in and I'm enjoying it.

The final one I started watching for nothing but eye candy reasons. Forever, starring Ioan Gruffudd. My sister and I have had crushes on him since the very first A&E Horatio Hornblower movie in 1998.

There's nothing all that original about Forever. It's light science fiction mixed with crime drama. Ioan's character, Dr. Henry Morgan, died one night about 200 years ago and came back to life. Every time he dies he comes back and he's trying to figure out why. He's a medical examiner in New York City right now, but he's been every kind of medical doctor one can imagine. Including working in a tuberculosis sanitorium at the turn of the century.

What I love about the show is the sense of hope in it. And the wonderful, deep, rich characters. Every episode is infused with hope and Henry learning how to live again. He's been obsessed with death for so long, and lost so many friends, he has a tendency to only see the negative.

Another cool thing is he's been in New York City before, at least three times. In the 1880's, 1920's, and 1950's. So far in every episode there's been some kind of flashback thread to NYC in one of his previous times there. There's also a running thread with something having happened to a woman he met during WW2, married, and she seems to have disappeared at some point.

Unfortunately, I don't have high hopes of it lasting more than a season. If we're lucky to get that much. Because it's so full of hope. Which is sad, because the world we live in needs more hope.


In Defense of Styxx and Male Rape Victims

I'm finally inhaling Styxx, the 23rd book in the Dark-Hunter series. I knew it was going to be intense and dark. But wow. I still wasn't prepared for everything Styxx was put through.

But why am I blogging about it? One reason. Some of the reviews I've seen on Goodreads. 

Styxx was unfortunate enough to attract the attention of Apollo. In the Dark-Hunter world Apollo is a total ass who deserves to be gutted over and over and over, exactly the way he gutted Acheron. Heck, make it his never-ending punishment. We also learn just how twisted and depraved Styxx and Ash's uncle Estes was. His death was too easy on him. We already hated him for what he'd done to Ash.

In some ways Styxx's life was worse than Ash's. A lot of what was done to Ash he has no real memory of, and he at least had one person in his human family who kind of loved him. Styxx didn't even have that much. I wasn't a huge fan of Ryssa in Acheron, and seeing her in Styxx makes me want to slap her into another galaxy. She deserved to die in Apollymi's fit of rage.

Styxx is a soldier. A broken, wounded soldier suffering from PTSD. He's also a rape victim. This quote from a Goodreads review made me SO MAD.
On the GLBTQ fail--It was totally offensive to make the openly gay character Estes into the stereotyped depraved sex fiend. To make it worse, the god Apollo was just sadistic on top of his explicit attraction for Styxx. Both characters could have been handled in a more nuanced way, especially in light of the fact that not everyone wanted a piece of Styxx's ass (figuratively as well as literally)
Why did this piss me off? Estes and Apollo are NOT gay! It does come out in the book Estes prefers boys, but that doesn't make a man gay. This quoted reviewer is not alone in believing Sherri has done a disservice to the gay community.

She hasn't. This reviewer, and others like her, have done a disservice to male rape victims.

Estes and Apollo are users and abusers. They think every single being alive is beneath them and exists solely as a tool for their pleasure. Particularly Apollo. They are not gay. They are despicable creatures who deserve the rage of Apollymi and Bethany. And Ash too.

Male-on-male rape is NOT about someone being portrayed as gay. It's about power, control, and domination. It's about destroying the victim and making him feel worthless, helpless, and trapped. Just like Styxx feels.

This attitude I'm seeing in some of the reviews is a major major major contributor to male rape victims feeling like they have no voice. No one has any idea what the numbers are like for male rape victims, because most men never report. The few who do never get justice, are ostracized by those who find out, and become more lost than they were before.

And who are the people who are most vocal about it being impossible for a man to be raped and saying they're lying? Women, particularly of the feminist variety. Don't believe me? Check out some of the stuff at Toy Soldiers. Particularly the This Is What It Looks Like page. If what you see doesn't break your heart, you're as callous as Estes and Apollo.

Sherri made a bold move in portraying Styxx the way she did. And I applaud her for it. She used a massively popular series to showcase a pervasive problem in American society and give these wounded men a voice in fiction. What Styxx deals with is what male rape victims deal with. The shame, the not wanting anyone to know, the thoughts that if anyone ever found out they'd be mocked and ridiculed for not being able to protect themselves. And that's exactly what happens to far too many victims.

Thank you, Sherri, for writing Styxx. Thank you for giving a voice to these hurting men. Thank you for being brave enough to confront this evil head-on and show the world what it does to the victims.


My Name Is A'yen: Blog tour stops and giveaway!

A'yen has hit the real world! People are reading him, and I hope falling in love with him.

Here's all the buy links:

Barnes and Noble
Google Play

The blog tour kicks off this afternoon at 2 pm Central with a Coffee Time Romance release party. From there A'yen and I will be making eleven other stops.

There's a giveaway for a necklace, pictured below. The colors, blue and green, are important in the novel. Blue for A'yen's eyes, and green for his markings. I'll be talking more about the markings in the last stop on the blog tour.

And here's the pretty necklace. Made it myself. Yes, I'm multi-talented like that. I like it so much I'm going to make me one.

Here's the list of tour stops. You can bookmark it and come back every day, or watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds for the links.


Five Facts About Restless in Peaceville by Pippa Jay

I'm very happy to be hosting fellow SFR author Pippa Jay today, as she talks about her new release Restless in Peaceville. What's the book about you ask? Read on!

Welcome to Peaceville, population 2067 and rising...from the grave...Luke Chester has had enough. He’s the school geek, the girls laugh at him, he’s lost his dead-end job at the pizza place, and in the midst of the world’s messiest divorce his parents don’t even know he exists. An overdose of his mom’s tranquilizers and a stomach full of whiskey should solve all his problems...

But they don’t. Instead, Luke finds himself booted out of the afterlife for not dying a natural death, with nowhere to go but back to his recently vacated corpse and reality. How the hell is he going to pass for one of the living without someone trying to blow his brains out for being one of the undead?

And it just gets worse. He’s got to fight his own desperate craving to consume the living, evade the weird supernatural hunter who’s having a field day with the new undeads rising, and there’s this creepy black shadow following him around. Add to that the distraction of female fellow undead Annabelle burning to avenge her own murder, and clearly there’s no rest for the wicked. Jeez, all he wanted to do was R.I.P.

1. Peaceville is based on the real life Louisiana town of Arnaudville. When I first started researching a setting for RIP, I wanted a town with a population of about 2000, so not too big but enough that it would be possible for my two main characters not to have met or know everything about the place they live. Finding several towns ending in 'ville' also enabled me to come up with a suitable name to keep the original idea of RIP for the title.

2. It's the first time I've used Google maps to virtually explore a real life setting, instead of just making places up. I wandered along Route 31, checking out the local shops and houses, the road surface, what the surrounding landscape looked like etc. I almost felt like a film director checking out a location for a shoot! I also looked at a lot of the local businesses—restaurants, shops, the church and graveyard, even the undertakers and a care home.

3. My research involved Catholicism, voodoo, zombies, Cajun food and language, the price of a burger and fries, Louisiana real estate, luxury US cars, local wildlife and plants, holidays and zombie walks. I think I clocked up the most hours of research on this story, probably reading more than what I ended up writing, but I'm not convinced it's a complete replacement for actually going to a place and experiencing it. I'll be interested to see if anyone local or more knowledgeable picks me up on any flaws.

4. Luke was named after my eldest's boyfriend at the time of writing. Not deliberately - I just heard the name a lot, and it stuck. That, and possibly having a childhood crush on a certain Luke Skywalker. I chose Annabelle for my heroine mostly because I had Luke saying a line about her being trés belle (it mean 'very beautiful' in French, and in Cajun).

5. Restless In Peaceville was written as part of NaNoWriMo in November 2013...and if I hadn't had a request for the full after entering five pages in a Breathless Press critique, I would have put it away in a virtual drawer never to see the light of day! I had the idea over the summer, and resisted writing it because I just didn't think I could do zombies. But I couldn't move on to anything else either while it was in my head. So I did NaNoWriMo as a way to clear it out of my mind, never expecting it to be published. Just goes to show what I know about publishing...

So what's the strangest place you've ever had to research, or what was the weirdest thing you've ever found out in the process?

Rachel's answer: I think the strangest thing I've ever researched was when I was writing my historical romance and needed to know how a mule-powered cotton gin worked. I spent days combing through Google Books looking for descriptions, and finally found a video of a steam-powered one that had been restored. Man that sucker is loud! I've researched tons of random stuff for various writing projects, but this one stands out as one of the more memorable.

You can also buy the book at the following places:
Lycaon Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Add it to your Goodreads TBR here.

You can also sign up for Pippa's no-spam newsletter to get updated on the latest releases, giveaways and special offers. Exclusive snippets and stories coming soon! http://pippajay.blogspot.co.uk/p/newsletter-signup.html

Keep scrolling for the giveaway! It's a $5 gift card for Lycaon Press and a super cute heart shaped zombie brain necklace.

Author Bio: After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres.

She’s also a double SFR Galaxy Award winner, been a finalist in the Heart of Denver RWA Aspen Gold Contest (3rd place), and the GCC RWA Silken Sands Star Awards (2nd place). You can stalk her at her website http://pippajay.co.uk, or at her blog http://pippajay.blogspot.co.uk, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

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Crush Wednesday: Tom Selleck

When it comes to romance, and general TV watching too, I'm all about the hero. I don't watch/read stuff for a heroine. Except Wonder Woman, but come one. Wonder Woman! I look for books, TV shows, and movies with strong male characters. I've always been this way.

Crush Wednesday will be a running feature and I plan to share actors and characters with my lovely readers. Sometimes I crush on an actor, and other times I crush on a character the actor portrays. Not to mention all the book men I'm in love with.

I'm starting Crush Wednesday with my first crush, Tom Selleck. Yup, Tom Selleck. As Magnum. I own the whole show and it's one of my absolute favorite things ever made.

Magnum is a complete character. Backstory wound, running love story, friends who will help him no matter what.

One of my great-aunts met him once, when she went to visit her daughter who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Another one of my dearest friends was in the Navy in the 80's, stationed in Hawaii while the show was filming, and she found out where he went running every morning. So she could go too. She saw him a couple times, but never worked up the nerve to say anything.

My parents have been to Hawaii twice. Every single clothing store you go in, you're told "Tom Selleck bought his shirts here." I have no idea where he really bought them, but I do have a couple from Hilo Hattie's.

Tom has grown no less fine as he's aged. He's up there with Sean Connery in "gets hotter as he gets older" category.


How many books do you read?

I'm a writer. I pay attention to what's going on in my industry, how technology is changing how we read, and I find reading habit studies interesting. Last week I stumbled across an article in Slate (probably via the Publisher's Weekly daily email) about the death of e-readers.

Why did this catch my attention? Because Barnes and Noble is finally spinning Nook off into its own division, like they've been saying they're going to do for at least two years now. I own a Nook. In fact, I'm on my second one. Bought a Simple Touch on Black Friday when it was half off and I love it.

Anyway, back to the Slate article. It notes how sales of e-readers are starting to decline and makes reference to several tech writers who are starting to say the e-reader is in its death throes. Smart phones and tablets are changing how we do everything, including reading. But not necessarily to the benefit of readers or authors, or brain development and cognitive skills.

I have an e-reader for one reason: I don't like reading books on a computer screen. Or on my phone, or on a tablet screen. I work on computers all day, whether I'm writing, goofing off on Facebook, email, or doing actual work for my job. When I go to bed I don't want to be staring at yet another backlit screen. Not to mention backlit screen use after dark can wreak havoc with my brain's ability to shut down for sleep. And I'm not alone in this.

But what really caught my interest in the article was the reference to this survey from 2012. It found that readers who own e-readers read, on average, 24 books per year, while those who don't own an e-reader read on average 15 books per year. That got me wondering. How many books have I read so far this year? Since I have a Goodreads shelf called Read In 2014, it was easy to find out.

My total so far this year? 29. Don't believe me? If you have a Goodreads account go look.The shelf says 27, but that's because one of the books shelved is a boxed set of three books. And yes, I've been doing a lot of binge reading this year. It's my favorite way to read. I love series, and when I get hooked on one I have to read them ALL.

And I can say with certainty having a Nook has led me to buying more books. I bought 90% of the Dark-Hunter series in ebook last year when they were on sale for the release of Styxx. Styxx was #23. I've also discovered new authors from picking up freebies, like Elisabeth Naughton. 

How many books have YOU read this year?


Coming Soon: My Name Is A'yen

My last post here shared some of the journey I've been on the last five years. This one's going to share some more, and there's a HUGE announcement involved.

I've been dabbling in writing all my life, creating characters, spending thousands of hours playing with them in my head. I created a huge family who lived in the Colorado Rockies, and shared them with a friend and my sister. The friend had characters, too, and my sister made some up. We spent hours playing with these characters whenever we were together, and we'd even write letters to each other as our various fictional friends. It was loads of fun.

For a couple years I wrote fan fiction with my sister and published it online at one of the main hubs for this fandom. Then I started writing fan fiction in another fandom and exploring the backstory of characters whose backgrounds were unknown. Eventually my interest in it petered out. But at the same time I got a new job as a tour guide at a plantation and there was downtime. I needed something to keep me occupied that wouldn't get me in trouble. So I turned to my O'Connor friends, the huge family, to keep me company. I have hundreds of pages of college ruled notebook paper filled front and back with pieces of their lives.

In 2007 I joined my first writers organization and began learning how to structure a novel and be a better writer. We were encouraged to pick one genre, so I settled on historical romance. A few years went by, the events of my last post happened, and I ended up abandoning it for science fiction romance.

I've been on the submission trail with A'yen for two years. He's been sent to four publishers and an agent. All have said no. I tried to go back to my more traditional-friendly series, Slipstream, and couldn't. Though it wasn't for lack of trying!

The HUGE announcement is I've decided it's time to start self-publishing A'yen's Legacy. It's time to send him out into the big wide world and hope readers love him as much as I do. I'm hoping to have the first one, My Name Is A'yen, out in September, with the second and third to follow in January and April of next year. I'm hard at work on number four, and number five is written already.

I'm also starting a newsletter list, since Facebook is being so stingy with how many people it shows Page posts to. If you want to stay up to date and make sure you never miss anything, like my Facebook page and sign up for the newsletter. I promise I won't be emailing all the time, and it's not likely to ever be more than once a month.


Five Years

Five years ago today I was getting ready for my wedding. I thought I was embarking on the greatest adventure of my life and I couldn't wait to get it started. Had I know then what would start in one short month I might not have walked down the aisle that night.

Eleven months later my happily ever after was dead. He wasn't a prince. He wasn't even a good man. He so thoroughly hoodwinked my entire family that my parents were having a hard time believing all the stuff I was telling them he had done. Even after I called the police on him and returned home, it took some time before it all sunk in that I hadn't been making it up, misreading things because of cultural differences, or imagining things to be worse than they were.

1400 miles are between us, so I never have to worry about running into him. I've severed all ties with him and his family.

Four years ago today I was curled up with my sister having a Lost In Space marathon and pointedly ignoring the ex and his parents who were trying to call me. What should have been my first wedding anniversary was instead my sister being her awesome self and giving me something else to think about.

My words were gone. I went from someone who wrote every day to someone who was dying to write but could not get a single word out. In any form. Fiction, journaling, shorts, random scenes. You name it, it was all locked inside me. NOTHING would come out, except a very angry letter to my ex in-laws that I never mailed.

Three years ago today my words had finally come back after spending a month with my grandmother helping her after she broke her femur. I would sit on her couch in the afternoons and play with my characters, tell her about the novel I was writing, and enjoy the all-encompassing peace that came with being around my beautiful grandmother. We buried her two days before I found out the divorce was final, but she knew it was coming. And more importantly she knew I was okay and once again embracing life.

In September 2011, at a writer's conference in St. Louis, I pitched my almost finished historical romance to two agents. Both of whom asked for the full, because "I've never seen this." Every submitting writer alive dreams of hearing "I've never seen this." One of my friends was right there when I came out of the first appointment and we hugged and jumped up and down. I was trying so hard not to cry right there in the hall. Not from sadness like the previous eighteen months, but from pure joy. It was rinse repeat the next day with my second appointment, more jumping up and down, more hugging, more celebrating, more sharing it with all my friends who had walked with me every step of my dark journey from dying inside to words pouring out of me once more.

Both agents ultimately said no, because they didn't think they could sell it, but both loved my voice and encouraged me to keep at it and come back with something easier to place. The rejection from one of them was so beautiful it didn't hurt at all. As I discovered two months later rejections from them was part of God's plan, because I didn't just change genres, I changed markets. From Christian to general.

Two years ago tonight I had a dream. I dreamed about a humanoid alien walking through a forest, saying one word over and over and over. It turned out to be his name. A'yen. His story was similar to the historical stuff I'd been immersed in, and let me play with themes I love, interracial relationships and the value of life. Except in A'yen's case it's interspecies. I wrote out a quick back cover type blurb while I ate breakfast on May 17th, 2012, did my work for the day, opened a new document and titled it My Name Is A'yen.

Eighty-six days later I had a completed 95,000 word novel in a genre I didn't know existed. Science fiction romance. My crit partner devoured it as fast as I churned it out, which was damn fast. She celebrated every milestone with me because she knew what all I had been through. She loves the story almost as much as I do.

One year ago today I found out I was still in the running at the Harper Voyager open call for their new digital first line. Ultimately they said no, but it was just what I needed to hear on just the right day.

What's my news today? I've written four novels in two years. FOUR NOVELS IN TWO YEARS. All over 95,000 words. I still can't quite believe what I've done. Still can't quite believe how dreams I'd never seriously entertained prior to the explosion of my marriage have become the driving force of my life and I know I'm doing what I'm supposed to do at this stage in my life. It's an amazing feeling.

May 16th is no longer the anniversary of a marriage that never stood a chance. It's no longer a reminder of the most painful time of my life. It's A'yen's anniversary. It's the dawning of the next chapter of my life. It's the day marking the beginning of exploring who I am as a writer and discovering a genre that gives me the freedom to write romance exactly how I want to write it.

I'm hoping the next five years are even better.


Z is for Zoe

I've saved the best for last, and it's a picture heavy post. I'm a cat mom, and my baby is a half-crazed calico named Zoe. She'll be eight next month and keeps me very entertained. As I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon she's in the front flowerbed drinking out of the bird bath.

She's adorable, but not very bright. Poor thing can get stuck in a tree faster than you can say bob's your uncle. She misses me when I leave, sometimes wants to go to work with me, and one of her favorite places to sleep is snuggled up with me.

When I got her when she was about six weeks old she could sit in the palm of my hand. Now she weights 12 pounds...

She was not impressed with all the snow we had this year. Almost six inches!

Guarding us from the Weeping Angel afghan. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Conked out on Mommy's legs.
 Never know where something interesting might be hiding.
 I found her in the bathroom one day making love to a washrag...
When she was younger one of her favorite places to play was in the tub. After it had been used and was still damp. She grew out of it.
 Playing with Aisling the Beast Cat. Aisling is half Zoe's size and definitely the alpha.
 The first week I had her! Such a cute little thing. She'd crawl up my covers and play with my toes at night between the sheet and my quilt.


Y is for Your Love, Oh Lord

I've been a Third Day fan for over a decade now. At a particularly horrible time in my life four years ago this song, sung in a church on a Sunday morning, was a lifeline. A God-hug, if you will. I held on to it for dear life for weeks.

And now I share it with anyone who stops here. Need a God-hug? Watch the video.


X is for Xiamara

I racked my brain looking for X. Then it hit me: Simi! Her real name is Xiamara, with starts with an X.

You might be asking who is Simi? I'm going to tell you. For A I did Acheron, the leader of the Dark-Hunters created by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Simi is his protector/bonded demon/daughter. She's something like 14,000 years old. Except her species ages at the rate of about one human year for every 1,000 years of her life.

She never goes anywhere without her BBQ sauce, which she pours on *everything* she eats. I do mean everything, even ice cream.

When she's not disguised as a human she's a dragon tattoo on Acheron. And she can move in tattoo form, which she sometimes does to try and get Ash to shiver or look ridiculous. When she knows he's upset and she has to be in tattoo form she'll cover his whole chest in her version of a tattoo hug. It's really sweet.

Sherri says someday Simi may get her own book. In the meantime she's everybody's favorite spoiled rotten demon.


W is for Within Temptation

Within Temptation
In May 2012 I abruptly switched from writing inspirational historical romance to general market science fiction romance. I know. Talk about a HUGE switch. But it's been the best decision I ever made. I went from one finished novel prior to the switch, to closing in on four finished in just two years. All over 95,000 words long.

My muse decided it needed music, so I defaulted to my perennial favorites Nickelback and Evanescence, and built a Pandora station. The station introduced me to the Dutch goth symphonic rock band Within Temptation.

The picture is for cover art for The Heart of Everything, the first album I heard any of their stuff from. There are several songs on it that are closely related to my A'yen's Legacy space opera series.

I told my crit partner to listen to them and we both fell in love. Their album The Unforgiving fits the book my crit partner was writing at the time, which came out back in November (Revenge by Winter Austin, third in her Degrees of Darkness series).

In December the first single off their new album came out. Once again, love at first listen. I bought the new album, Hydra, one week ago. The extended version. With 18 tracks.

Want to know what they sound like? Here's their official YouTube channel. I recommend The Hand of Sorrow from The Heart of Everything, A Shot In The Dark from The Unforgiving, and What About Us? from Hyrda.


V is for Victorian

By Jo Naylor (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I love all things Victorian. Clothes, hair, houses, furniture, fabrics, novels. I'm really not picky. My dream house is a Queen Anne with a painted lady color scheme and done in either period antiques, or reproductions.

This Queen Anne was built in 1896 and is in Fairfield, Iowa. It has everything typical of the Queen Anne style. Round area on the porch, tower room, loads of gingerbread trim, and dormers.

By Rebecca Palmer (Brooklyn Museum) [see page for license],
via Wikimedia Commons

I also love Victorian crazy quilts, and this is a really good one. It's so crazy! There's all kinds of embroidery on it that doesn't really show up in the picture.


U is for Unleash The Night

I've been wracking my brain for a month trying to come up with something for U. Finally, on Sunday afternoon as I was typing this up it hit me: check your books! So I did. And found Unleash The Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the ninth Dark-Hunter book and fourth Were-Hunter book.

I'm a die-hard Dark-Hunter fan. They're amazing books and Sherri is an amazing writer. I've never been much into werewolves, but give me a book about a werecat and I'm all over it.

This one is about a werecat, Wren Tigarian. Yes, he's a tiger. Actually he's a tiger/snow leopard cross. Which is considered an abomination in the Were-Hunter world. Snow leopards also have a tendency to go stark-raving mad. Wren can take the form of a tiger or a snow leopard.

Wren is blond, has dreadlocks, and for the first eight DH books says maybe ten words. To his pet monkey, or Nick Gautier. To see him fall in love and find out what all his backstory was, was amazing. I fell for Wren the moment he showed up.

But he's not my favorite Were-Hunter. He's my second favorite. My ultimate favorite is Ravyn, a Were-Hunter cat turned Dark-Hunter and stationed in Seattle.


T is for Tsarskoye Selo

Alex Florstein [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0  or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons
Yeah, you're probably noticing a theme by now. I really do love all things Russian, and the height of Russian imperial architecture in the late 17th century through the end of the 18th century.

Tsarskoye Selo, known during Communist days as the town of Pushkin, was the summer residence of the tsars. There are two MASSIVE palaces out there, the Alexander and Catherine palaces, and acres and acres of landscaped gardens. It was built by Peter the Great and Empress Elizabeth. There are other royal residences out there, too, but they haven't been as well preserved as Alexander and Catherine.

The Catherine Palace is home of the famous Amber Room, a room done from floor to ceiling in panels of amber. The Nazis looted the original panels and they've never been found. The ones in there now are reproductions.


S is for Saints

By New Orleans Saints.Kalel2007
 at en.wikipedia [Public domain],
from Wikimedia Commons
I thought about doing Star Trek, then decided not to. See, I'm somewhat of a closet football fan. And I live in Louisiana, so of course it's the Saints all the way.

People outside the Gulf coast don't really understand how much the Saints mean to this state, especially post-Katrina. The 2006 season breathed life back into a city still fighting to survive. The team made it to the NFC championship game for the very first time.

Three years later it was the Super Bowl for the first time. And we won! I was living on Long Island at the time and had no fellow fans to celebrate with. I called home during the last five minutes of the game just to have some kind of connection to home. I will never forget Tracy Porter's interception and 96-yard touchdown run.

So I present the video of the interception.


R is for Russia

[Public domain or CC-BY-SA-2.0
 via Wikimedia Commons
I've had a thing for Russia for almost as long as I can remember. It started when I was around 12 and read a series of books called The Russians, by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. Set in the twilight of the tsarist Russia, everything about the series fascinated me. The books followed the Fedorcenko family, and a maid named Anna who eventually marries the oldest Fedorcenko son.

It follows the characters from the mid 1880's, through the assassination of Alexander III, Nicholas's coronation, the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the Revolution, and one of Anna and Sergei's sons having to flee the country. Judith did a sort of follow up series set during WW2 that finished the Fedorcenko story.

While reading these books my grandmother wanted to go to the Palaces of St. Petersburg exhibit in Jackson, MS. So we took her. While there my fascination became an obsession.

For the first time EVER Russia sent actual tsarist-era treasures outside the country. All as a thank you to the University of Mississippi for sending medicine a few years before. They even recreated the blue-tiled fireplace/stoves that heated every room of the Catherine Palace. One of Nicholas's army uniforms was there as well. He was a very little man.

When I left the exhibit I knew this country and its history had worked its way into my blood. And it's still there. 90% of my non-fiction is about Russia. And I don't stick to the ever-popular Nicholas and Alexandra. There is SO MUCH MORE to Russian history than that.
By Petar Milošević
or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square in Moscow is probably one of the most iconic images of Russia. For good reason, too. The onion domes are gorgeous, and designed to keep snow from building up on the roof.

Someday I'm going to go and see St. Petersburg for myself. Hopefully Moscow, too. But if I have to choose one I pick St. Petersburg.


Q is for Quilts

I love quilts. There's so much variety in the patterns and colors you can put together. I've had quilts on my bed for years and much prefer them to comforters.

My favorite pattern is the Double Wedding Ring, as shown here. This quilt is on my bed, and unfortunately is not handmade. I bought it. Favorite pattern AND favorite color scheme? Yes please!

I've participated in making a quilt entirely by hand. Queen sized no less. It was an Irish Chain pattern and a lot of fun. It's on my sister's bed.

Quilting is a very old artform, dating back over a thousand years. Women of all social classes did it. Scraps and worn out clothing/sheets/drapes were saved to turn into quilts. Some patterns came about because that's the only way the scraps could be fit together. Others were designed and published in ladies magazines.

Then there's Victorian crazy quilts, which are a whole 'nother thing, and a lot of fun to look at. There's no pattern to them, no color scheme. Just random bits of fabric sewn together and decorated with embroidery.


P is for Purple

So, by now you may have noticed a theme. I have a thing for purple. More of an obsession, really. My blog theme is purple. My browser is purple. The windows border and task bar on my laptop is purple. The sticker on the lid of my laptop is purple. The journal I wrote out my alphabet list in is purple, and I wrote it with purple ink. My current laptop wallpaper is purple themed watercolor irises. The silk irises on my desk are purple. My favorite bath towel is purple.

The quilt on my bed is purple. My Nook cover is purple. My laptop sleeve is purple. Half my clothes are purple. My desk accessories are purple. My earbuds are purple. Heck, for a little while I even had a purple car! A Chevy Equinox. Sadly I no longer have it. I loved that car.

Since Gmail rolled out custom themes where we can set our own pictures, my Gmail background is now lavender irises.

Once, in a fortune cookie, I got the best fortune ever. "Focus on the color purple today. It will bring you luck."


O is for Orchids

My other favorite flower is the orchid. There's so much variety in the species, and thanks to creative breeding SO MANY COLORS!

I want to grow them, but so far I haven't managed to keep the easiest kind alive due to lack of a good place to put it. They need a certain kind of light, and I haven't found the magic spot in the house yet. Ah well, one of these days I'll find it! And then look out, orchid growing here I com.

Until then I content myself with silk ones. And by having a character in my A'yen's Legacy series grow them.


N is for Nebulas

I write science fiction romance. I also have a thing for nebulas. They're so incredible to look at, and two imaginary ones feature prominently in my A'yen's Legacy series. Which is unpublished, but making the rounds. If a publisher doesn't bite I plan to self-pub it once I have the money to do it right.

My Pinterest board of Cool Space Stuff is mostly nebulas, with a few galaxies and stunning shots of the Milky Way for variety. The wallpaper on my Galaxy phone is a composite image of the Orion nebula that is probably the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen online. It's available as a Chrome theme too, but the way the colors are done makes reading what my tabs are impossible. *le sigh*

The Horse Head nebula is another pretty one, and the Rosette nebula is just plain cool.


M is for Mermaids

If I could be any mythical creature I'd be a mermaid. It started when I was six and saw Disney's The Little Mermaid. I love the original story, too.

As I've grown up, my love of mermaids has expanded into the realm of fantasy art, and one artist in particular. Selina Fenech, an Australian fantasy artist. Her mermaids are AMAZING!!!! The mermaid featured in this post is the one that made me fall in love with her mermaids.

I'm a fan of her in general, but her mermaids are pretty special.


L is for Louisiana

I live in Louisiana, and it's finally spring! We had a really cold winter, and almost six inches of snow spread over two and a half weeks. To put the snow in perspective: The last time we had that much snow (not ice or frozen rain, but SNOW) it was barely the 20th century.

In honor of spring finally arriving and sticking around I offer a tour of my yard. Spring in bloom, Louisiana style!
Clematis vine out front. Bloom on the right opened today, bloom on the left is about done.

Azaleas! The flower most associated with the South. We have two colors in our yard, fuchsia and hot pink.

Joseph's Coat climbing rose. The blooms change color as they age. It's very pretty.

Bridal wreath bush behind the pool.

Irises!! By the time this goes up the rain will probably have beaten them down, so I cut some blooms and brought them inside. Funny story about these irises. When we dug them up at my Mimi's house almost twenty years ago they were purple. When they bloomed next they had turned white... And they've been white ever since.

Wild violets. Past their prime, but still pretty. There's a huge patch of them outside one of the back bedrooms.

And there you have it, the beauty of a Louisiana yard in the spring.


K is for Knitting

Cross-stitch is not my only craft, though it is my favorite. I also knit.

This is a sock I'm working on. Been working on it for awhile now, because I don't knit as often as I do cross-stitch. The yarn is a cotton-bamboo blend and SO SOFT!!

I mostly taught myself how to knit, and my favorite reference book is called Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller. I'm working my way toward doing lace knitting, because I have a thing for lace. When I crochet it tends to be doilies and things like that.

Yes, I crochet too. My Mimi taught me how when I was 11.


J is for Jonah

 Last October I became an aunt for the first time. And my nephew's name is Jonah!

I took these at Wizard World New Orleans in February, when he was four months. He's six months old now and has the biggest eyes. He ate real food for the first time Wednesday.

For those who don't know, he's wearing a very geeky bib.
He was all tuckered out!


I is for Irises

 Irises are my favorite flower. For most of my life I didn't have a favorite. Then one day irises became the most beautiful flower I've ever seen.

These are some pictures my sister took especially for me when she was in Rocamadour, France in May, 2012. At the Sleeping Beauty chalet.

Sleeping Beauty also happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales.

For Christmas 2012 my sis made a calendar featuring the iris pictures she took for me.


H is for Hans Christian Andersen

By Thora Hallager (1821-1884) [Public domain]
 via Wikimedia Commons
Hans Christian Andersen is my favorite fairy tale writer. The Little Mermaid and The Steadfast Tin Soldier are my favorites.

He lived in Denmark, born in 1805 and died in 1875. He's most famous for The Little Mermaid, which Disney adapted to the beloved movie in 1989. It was the last animated movie produced where Walt had been involved in the concept.

He also wrote The Emperor's New Clothes, also adapted into a Disney movie called The Emperor's New Groove. One of my favorites.

His life was as tragic as the tales he wrote. He never married, and had a thing for falling in love with women he couldn't have. Including Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.

He also wrote The Snow Queen, the story Frozen is based on. And The Little Match Girl, which is one of the saddest things I've ever read. Disney did a short of it and for the life of me I can't remember which movie DVD extras they stuck it in.

I also love The Wild Swans, the story of a twelve princes and their one sister. An evil stepmother cursed the princes to be swans, and tried to kill their sister. They rescue her, then at sunset they become her beloved brothers she thought dead. She finds out how to turn them into humans again, and almost loses her life in the process. It's a beautiful story about the power of sibling relationships.

Thumbelina is another favorite, and who doesn't know The Princess And The Pea and The Ugly Duckling?


G is for Gettysburg

I love history. When I had the chance to go to Gettysburg, I did it. And it was amazing. Our dream family vacation when I was a kid was to drive up to DC and hit as many Civil War battlefields as we could, ending our trek with a stop at Gettysburg.

We never got to do it as a family. My parents were with me for this in January of 2010.

This is the field Pickett charged across. Standing there with my dad looking at all we could think was "what the hell was he thinking charging across this field in broad daylight into a fortified position?" No wonder it was a slaughter.

If I'm remembering right this is the view from the top of Little Round Top. There was fierce fighting down here.

We spent all day driving through the park, seeing as much as we could and getting out to look at everything and imagine the battle unfolding.


F is for Fountains

By A.Savin (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Not just any fountain. The fountains at Peterhof, in St. Petersburg, Russia. They are INCREDIBLE. Why, you ask? Because they don't use pumps. Every single fountain on the grounds is supplied water by gravity and elevation drops. Some of them designed by Peter the Great himself. He wanted this place to be yet another masterpiece, and each tsar after him added to the grandeur.

Russia in general, and St. Petersburg in particular, is one place I want to see before I die. Preferably while I'm still young enough to do all the walking required to see the beauty of the city and its architecture.



D is for Drew--Nancy Drew

Yes, I'm cheating a little, but I was drawing a blank! I'm not a dog person...

I am a Nancy Drew person, however, and a charter member of the Nancy Drew Sleuths. I'm a collector of Nancy Drew, though I sadly haven't been able to add to my collection for several years now and it's all packed up.

This picture is a tiny tiny example of how many ND's I own. The shelf at the bottom of the picture is more ND's.

This is my Nancy Drew purse, that I carry with pride several months out of the year. It's ten years old and starting to show wear with the plastic covering coming loose at the seams. :( I have a matching tote bag for it.

In addition to Nancy Drew I collect Judy Bolton and The Hardy Boys.


C is for Counted Cross Stitch

 I'm a crafty person, and I love doing counted cross-stitch. This is what I do when I'm watching TV. My Mamaw Smith taught me how to do it when I was eight. I also like to do baby samplers for friends, and I'm working on one for my nephew right now.

This one is called Queen Mermaid. She hangs over my desk. The designer is Mirabilia, which is one of my favorite designers. She does the most beautiful mermaids and ladies in big dresses.

This one is St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, done in blues by Dimples Designs. It hangs over my bed. The fabric is hand-dyed, and I wanted the cathedral to look like it was floating in a sunset. There are sparkly threads woven into the fabric itself and I love the effect.

Unfortunately Terence of Dimples is no longer designing. Thankfully, I have all my favorite charts of his.
This is my monster project I'm itching to work on again, called White Nights in St. Petersburg, by Chatelaine. Martina of Chatelaine is famous in stitching circles for her mandala gardens, and this is one of them. Lots of beads, sparkly threads, silk thread, and I learn a new special embroidery stitch with every new part. She divides the charts into twelve parts, one part a month for a whole year, and that's how I bought mine. This is eight and a half parts done.