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.


B is for Brainstorming

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono,
I'm a writer. One of the things we do is called brainstorming. It's the process of throwing stuff out, asking what if and why, and figuring out what all happens in the story.

I do most of my brainstorming online, since my writing buddies all live in other states. My bestest buddy, Winter Austin, is so much fun to brainstorm with. We think alike, create alike, and plot alike.

Last fall I got to do some in-person for the first time in far too long, and had a blast. Stayed up till two a.m. helping a friend figure out a character's motivation.


A is for Acheron

I randomly decided to do an A to Z blog challenge for the month of April. My theme is things and places I love. The intent is to give readers a peek into what makes me tick and what my life is made up of outside my writing.

In March of last year my bestest writing buddy and friend beat me over the head until I read Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Three weeks later when I was done with The League series she started beating at me to read Dark-Hunter. I finally did in June.

And it was love at first sight! I fell HARD for Acheron. To me he is everything I love about a good hero. Tragic past, heart of gold, doesn't let his past rule his future.

Not to mention he's 6'8", and an Atlantean god. I've always had a thing for Atlantis, and at 5'7" myself I'm not exactly short. I like looking up at men, instead of being practically eye level.

To show you how far my love of this guy goes, I discovered a couple weeks ago in the Menyon Cafe Press store there's a phone cover for my phone with Ash's symbol on it. I'm getting it...