Friday, May 30, 2008

The Band Meme

I found this meme over at Heather's blog and decided to give it a go. Here's how it goes:

You are about to have your own band's CD cover. Follow these directions to the letter.

1. Click here for a Random article

The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. Click here for a Random quote

The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. Click here for a Random picture

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together.

The original meme is over at Mimi Writes if you want to grab the code. Consider this a tag if you want to play.

Cover art photo by Matt Abinante

Who is Ryan Craig?

Well, in my mind he looks like Jonas Armstrong from BBC's Robin Hood. We'll make him an East Coast musician from the Halifax area. Since I'm supposed to be in this band, I'll be back-up vocals to his lead vocals. We've also got a guitarist, a bass player, drums and keyboards. We've got a classic east coast sound - celtic-flavored rock with an alternative spin.

Let's make a dream band for Ryan Craig, shall we?

On back-up vocals - yours truly.

On lead guitar - Charlie A'Court.

On bass - Andy Patil

from Matt Mays and El Torpedo

On drums - Murray Downey

from The Carson Downey Band

On keyboards - Peter Elkas

from Joel Plaskett Emergency

I've decided to take this a little farther and make up a list of tracks that would be on the CD. After twenty years together, we're going a little nostalgic on this CD, re-doing the covers that were a staple of our early bar scene years. Enjoy!

Track list

1 - Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want - The Smiths

2 - Show Me - The Pretenders

3 - Behind The Wheel - Depeche Mode

4 - Tunnel of Love - Bruce Springsteen

5 - Only Happy When it Rains - Garbage

6 - I Can't Be With You - The Cranberries

7 - Don't Look Back - Fine Young Cannibals

8 - Love Street - The Doors

9 - It's Good to be King - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

10 - Dolly Dagger - Jimi Hendrix

11 - What You Need - INXS

12 - Milgram's 37 (we do what we're told) - Peter Gabriel

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 57 - 13 Reasons to Read Loyalists and Layabouts by Stephen Kimber

Once upon a time, twenty-three years ago actually, I worked as the daytime babysitter for Stephen and Jeannie Kimber. At the time he was a journalism professor at the University of King's College in Halifax, and together they also published a magazine called Cities. It was pure delight to work for the Kimber's. I loved their three children so much. It was such a rich time of my life.

We kept in touch over all these years, though it had been awhile since I'd seen everyone when I attended Stephen's book launch two weeks ago. Click here for our Time Warp.

The whole family was there except for the oldest son, who's on the west coast these days. Twenty-three years later, Stephen is still a professor at King's. Well, okay, now he's the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism. Whatever.

Since it was a book launch, I got my very own copy of Loyalists and Layabouts. Narrative nonfiction is Stephen's specialty, and opening the pages of this book is the type of thing H.G. Wells dreamed of when he wrote The Time Machine, but without actually disturbing the time continuum.

1 - Loyalists and Layabouts is a RandomHouse release and is his seventh publication. Stephen is also the author of:
Sailors, Slackers and Blind Pigs: Halifax at War
Not Guilty: The Trial of Gerald Regan
Flight 111: The Tragedy of the Swissair Crash
More Than Just Folks
Net Profits.

2 - Part of RandomHouse's Doubleday Canada imprint, Stephen's hardcover history book is part of a newer genre known as narrative nonfiction. "Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction," says Lee Gutkind, an author and editor who has helped to shape this genre from journalism into something with its own parameters.

3 - The first thing we encounter is the Dramatis Personae, where we see the names and descriptions of forty-one people whose stories beckon from the pages of the book. I don't know about you, but I think Dramatis Personae is so much cooler than List of Characters. And I suppose because each person profiled in the book was an actual - not fictional - person, they can't be considered 'characters.' They're most definitely an assortment of individuals who seem capable of rounding a corner and smacking right into the reader.

4 - The events of the book begin with the fall-out of the American Revolution. All those who'd remained loyal to Britain became instant pariahs in their rebel colonies. Mobs broke into fine homes bent on tarring and feathering, or riding the hated Tories on the 'rail'. Men formerly of means began meeting at secret and exclusive clubs. One group in particular began forming a plan to move a sizable number of Loyalists to the nearest British outpost on this side of the Atlantic.

5 - Nova Scotia in the early 1780's had expelled the French population a generation ago, resettling the Acadian farmland with New Englanders. The Loyalists who met at Roubalet's tavern called themselves the Port Roseway Associates and planned to sail an assortment of tradesmen and artisans to carve their ideal of what New York could have been out of the wilderness.

6 - Stephen uses the actual diary entries, memoirs or letters written by those who appear in the narrative. He peppers the quotes so effortlessly into the events, we can hear the actual voices of people like Sir Guy Carleton - General George Washington's British adversary. Carleton was in charge of British forces and met with Washington in this capacity to hammer out terms of British withdrawal from the newly minted United States of America. A particular sticking point were the Certificates of Freedom which Carleton granted to black Loyalists. These spelled out plainly that 'the said negro has hereby his Excellency Sir Guy Carleton's permission to go to Nova Scotia or wherever else he may think proper.'

"Washington had begun by reminding Carleton of the terms of Article 7 of the peace treaty, which forbade the British from 'carrying away any negroes.' Carleton responded [that] those Washington called slaves could no longer be considered the 'property' of anyone because they'd already been freed by British proclamation.

'No interpretation,' Carleton imperiously informed Washington, 'could be put on the articles [of the treaty] inconsistent with prior engagements binding the national honour which must be kept with all colours.' "

7 - Making the fateful decision to relocate to Shelburne speaks more of the desperate hopes of the refugees than any clear-headed thinking.

"There was no Shelburne in Shelburne. No one had even been sent ahead to survey the townsite or lay out the lots; Benjamin Marston and the other surveyors arrived just days ahead of the first 3000 clamouring refugees. Shelburne was an idea, an improbable dream of a new and better New York that would become 'an ornament to the British Empire,' a beacon of hope in a bleak time. But hope blinded them to the reality that their Mecca was nothing more than a spit of rocky shoreline bordered by impenetrable forest and icy water. The would-be settlers were selective too in who they listened to, selective even in what they heard. They heard the province's surveyor-general, for example, when he told them Shelburne offered 'the best situation in the province for trade, fishing and farming,' but they closed their ears when he qualified that with the fact that they should 'expect indifferent land in every part of the province.' "

8 - The full title of Stephen's book is Loyalists and Layabouts The Rapid Rise and Faster Fall of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, 1783-1792
For a Nova Scotian, the idea that Shelburne could ever have been considered as a rival to New York is roll-on-the-floor funny. The Shelburne of today has a population of 2000 people, while Halifax, the capital city is home to 373,000. Almost puny, when one considers today's New York City (8,214,000.)

But in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, Shelburne swelled from a few hardy souls to a population of 10,000. New York's population by 1790 was 33,000. We can perhaps forgive the heady days of Shelburne's boom town mentality when considering that it was already a third of the size of New York.

9 - I really, really love Stephen's ability to take a nebulous concept like 'free black settlement' and show us what it actually took to make a home there. Five of the people profiled in Loyalists and Layabouts are free blacks and former slaves who originally made their way to Shelburne but ultimately helped to found the nearby black settlement of Birchtown, named for Brigadier-General Samuel Birch. His signature appeared on the majority of Certificates of Freedom held by those who finally turned their labour to their own interests.

Today Birchtown is home to the Black Loyalist Heritage Society.

10 - Stephen really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"As one jaded loyalist soldier wrote in his diary, the colonists 'hoped that the emanations of the leaden George [a toppled statue] will make as deep impressions in the bodies of his red-coated and Tory the super-abundant emanations of the folly and pretended goodness of the real George have made upon their minds.'

The war for America had seemed to stutter into existence over the course of more than a dozen years as the legalistic feint and parry of British act and colonial resistance slowly but inexorably gave way to harsher measures on both sides. Had the tipping point been Lexington and Concord? Or had it come a few months later, in August 1775, when the British government ignored the Americans' Olive Branch Petition and issued its own Proclamation of Rebellion, declaring the American colonies in a state of 'open and avowed rebellion,' and calling on its subjects to 'withstand and suppress it.' Or had it actually come on July 4, 1776, the day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence?

For Benjamin Marston, Joseph Durfee, David George, and thousands of their fellow loyalist colonists, trying to determine when disagreement had turned to rebellion no longer mattered. The fact was that the Americans had now - symbolically, at least - toppled their king. And none of their lives would ever be the same again."

11 - Stephen follows a wide range of figures in his narrative, from David George, a freed slave who became a Baptist preacher, to Edward Winslow, a Mayflower descendent who petitioned Sir Guy Carleton for grants of land due to the British regiments on behalf of the men who had fought for the king. We meet Margaret Watson, a camp follower (army wife) whose first husband died in battle and who remarried his friend, a fellow captured soldier. And John Parr, Governor of Nova Scotia, a veteran of the Battle of Culloden in the Scottish highlands, a career soldier and eventual colonel promoted to Major of the Tower of London, and then on to the governorship of Nova Scotia.

12 - He has a Whatever Happened To... section at the close of the book, detailing the fates of fifteen of those we get to know throughout the course of the book.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"Benjamin Marston stood slack-jawed on the wharf, appalled at the parade of human misery before him: 'men and women, boys and girls all together, each as naked as God made them, saving a piece of coarse linen just to cover what nature most commonly dictates to human creatures to hide.' Each had a wooden identity tag around his or her neck. Benjamin had never seen a slave auction before and, watching now - wanting not to, but mesmerized by the awfulness of it all - he hoped he would never have to see such a thing again.

Benjamin was no stranger to slaves. His family had had a few of its own at Marston's Farm, and he encountered them in the finer homes of Halifax, too. But it was another thing entirely to watch human beings be sold in a marketplace.

For the first time, he tried to imagine what it would be like to be on the other side of slavery's lash. 'If the Misses B and L and S and G, with the young gentlemen of those families, should be torn from their country and carried into perpetual servitude, we should see and feel the atrociousness, the dreadfulness of the wrong. But as it is only Miss Yawyaw and Miss Pawpee and the young gentlemen Messrs. Quashee and Quomino, whose skins are black, whose hair stout and curled, whose noses flat and lips thick, why we think there can be no great harm in it.'

Boston King knew all about that which Benjamin Marston could only imagine. He had been born a slave but was now free - or as free as it was possible for a black man to be in America in these turbulent times. He was, initially at least, an almost accidental adherent to the king's cause, as were thousands of other black Loyalists. Sometime in 1780 his loyalty was put to the test.

Fifty horses! All of them stolen from the British army, probably a few at a time, and then hidden on this island by the traitorous militia officer who'd laid claim to Boston too!

So much had happened since yesterday morning when he had left the British camp to catch a few fish to fry for Captain Grey's breakfast. By the time he returned an hour or so later, his regiment had gone. Captain Lewes was in charge of the small band of Rocky Mount Militia the regular army had left behind to disband the camp. Two hours later, Boston and Lewes and the others set off together, ostensibly in search of the rest of the regiment.

But as they were marching, Lewes surprised Boston with an out-of-nowhere question. 'How will you like me to be your master,' he'd said, more a statement of fact than a question.

'But I'm Captain Grey's servant,' Boston answered, hoping he sounded less indignant than he felt.

'I have been long enough in the English service,' Lewes confided, 'and I'm determined to leave them.'

Leave them?
Desert was what he meant. Captain Lewes was going to turn his back on the British king, the same king who had given Boston King, a poor black slave from South Carolina, his freedom and his name. Boston King was indignant. And he let Captain Lewes know it.

But Lewes was not about to be criticized by an uppity coloured boy barely out of slavery. 'If you do not behave well,' he informed Boston sharply, 'I will put you in irons and give you a dozen stripes every morning!'

He was Grey's
servant, not his slave. It was an important distinction for Boston in this new and different world of freedom, but one he knew was lost on the traitorous Captain Lewes. So Boston bided his time, waiting for his chance to escape. It would come soon enough.

The morning after they'd left the British camp, Lewes had ordered Boston and a small boy to wade across to a nearby island and fetch him some horses. Boston soon discovered that the horses had been stolen from the British. When he and the boy brought them back to the captain, Lewes immediately mounted one and went off on his own. Which is when Boston slipped away, too. In the other direction. He had to find his regiment, inform Captain Grey that Lewes not only had deserted but also was the one who'd taken the king's horses. He hoped the British would believe the story that he, Boston King, a freed black man, a loyal subject of the king, had to tell them."

- Stephen Kimber, 2008

Join me next week for a review of Wylie Kinson's Law of Averages. Then I'll be featuring Resisting Command by Jennifer Leeland on June 12th, and Fox's Bride by Amy Ruttan on June 19th.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 50

Photo by Charles Barclay

A Black wood cutter at Shelburne, Nova Scotia - 1788
National Archives of Canada

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 50 - Romeo and Juliet

I was so happy to have a day all to myself on Saturday. I headed across the bridge to Halifax to catch the HD broadcast of the Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet, and it was total bliss.

Photo by Tristram Kenton

I'd heard of Tamara Rojo before (Juliet) but had never seen her dance until today. She's a Spaniard dancing for the English Royal Ballet company. She brought me to tears about four times, just her, her performance. Her technique is flawless and her acting is so true and passionate. Total bliss.

Photo by Bernardo Doral

But wait - it gets better. Her Romeo was Carlos Acosta, a Cuban dancing with the Royal Ballet. If you'd ever wondered to yourself whether male ballet dancers could be straight - and I assure you a great many are - one look at this panther/shapeshifter/man will cure you of that cliche. I heard quite a few women in the lobby saying, "Wasn't he something?" And he was. Strength, control, musicality, very passionate acting. He was something, all right.

So my post for the Poetry Train is the section of Shakespeare's play that closes the balcony scene. I've included a link to a segment of the performance I watched, along with the dancers talking about their roles as Romeo and Juliet. Enjoy!

From the Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet

This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!

O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?

The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine.

I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.

Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?

But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

Nurse calls within

I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
Anon, good nurse! Sweet Montague, be true.
Stay but a little, I will come again.

Exit, above

O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.
Being in night, all this is but a dream,
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.

- William Shakespeare, 1595

Click here to view video clip of Romeo and Juliet ballet

Friday, May 23, 2008

Six Things Meme

Leah Braemel tagged me for the Six Things Meme.

These are the rules:
Post them at the beginning. At the end of the post, tag 6 people and post their names, go to their blogs and leave a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

Onward, Ho...

This is somewhat similarish to the Five Things Meme I did last June. But I know there's at least six more things I can blog about.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

In 1998 I was one year away from moving back home to Nova Scotia but didn't know it yet. Many, many Maritimers move to Toronto, miss Nova Scotia like mad and move home. It's just a thing Maritimers do. Nowadays we also head out to the oilfields of Alberta - probably more so than Toronto these days.

I was quite convinced I would not be among the home-agains. I loved my life in Toronto, and was used to my constant homesickness for the east coast by then. I had a whole new family (my in-laws) to love, a wonderful group of tried-and-true friends, the Big City vibe I love so much, subways to ride, people to watch, culture coming out my ears. I was in heaven.

But then we lost Brad's Grandma Smith.

This is a Christmas Day at the Smith's photo taken in the early 1990's in Toronto.

Back row L to R: my husband Brad, sister-in-law Anna (the painter), Brad's brother and Anna's husband Ken, Brad's mom Joan, his dad David, and David's sister Auntie Pat
Front row L to R: me, my sister Michelle (then also living in Toronto but now returned to Nova Scotia), Brad's brother Jeff (the guest poet), and Grandma Smith

Three Smiths from this photo have now passed on: Brad's dad, Auntie Pat and Grandma Smith. Missed every day and always in our hearts.

And the woman for whose daughter I'd been the nanny discovered her mother had cancer. Quite suddenly the call to go home couldn't be stilled. Brad and I moved in with my gram so we could help my mom take care of her.

And we had eight irreplaceable years together.

This is Brad, Mom, me and Gram at her final birthday, Nov. 1st, 2007.

Love you, Gram.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list today?

- Try to gauge how I did on my interview yesterday by how the three managers on the interview panel behaved toward me today. No avoiding eye contact from anyone. That's got to be a good sign.

- Ask my co-worker whether or not we should ditch the empty bankers' boxes stashed under my desk. They make my manager squirrely. I was quite certain the answer would be 'no.'

The answer was 'no.'

- Boot it over to the theatre after work to buy a ticket for the ballet tomorrow. Hope they're not sold out...

- Watch episode 11 of BBC's Robin Hood, season 2. Ooo, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait.

- Post this meme.

3. Snacks I enjoy.

- Rolled Gold pretzels

- plain yogurt mixed with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries (super yum)

- Fig Newtons

- molasses cookies

- chocolate fudgsicles

4. Places I’ve lived, in no particular order.

- on a US Army base in Texas - born there, but my dad finished his active duty 3 months later.

- in Michigan, USA - my parents loaded up the white Volkswagen beetle they'd brought back from Germany and headed back to our families in Michigan, outside the Detroit area.

- in Nova Scotia, Canada - my parents decided to move back to Canada in 1971, where both families were actually from. Both sets of grandparents moved to Michigan in the 50's for work. But most of our family is Canadian. Returning to Nova Scotia actually returned me to the land of my Acadian ancestors.

- in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada - my first grown-up apartment in my brand-new, grown-up life. It was over a scuba diving shop, because my dad used to sell diving equipment to the owner, and when he dropped in to say hi, he found out they were renting the apartment upstairs. Talk about great timing.

This is a picture taken in 1986, my first year on my own, in my over-the-scuba-shop apartment. My cousin Julianne MacLean flew out to see me before I flew home for Christmas.

- in Toronto, Ontario, Canada - I moved in with the family I worked for as a nanny, and so began 13 fascinating and totally fulfilling years living in the Big City. Oh, how I loved it. Oh, how I miss it.

5. Things I would do if I were a billionaire.

- I already indulged my family in the Five Things Meme. So I would make sure my dream house had a dream home theatre, with squishy leather recliners in stadium seating.

- I would order every boxed DVD set I ever desired off the internet with my platinum credit card. Brad and I are currently a cash-only couple. Keeping life simple and interest-free - especially when there is no hope in heck that we could afford to keep a balance of over $20.00. Actually, this would be a dream-come-true for Brad, He Who Tracks Down Obscure Films. He could find them for me and I could kiss him when they arrived in the mail.

- I could attend the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto's own International Film Festival. Oh and don't forget the Atlantic Film Festival here in Halifax. As an all-inclusive delegate, of course.

- I would buy my dream car. A black Jag XJ6.

- I could get my engagement and wedding rings redone, at long, long last.

6. Peeps I want to know more about.

Miss Sniz
Shelley Munro

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 56 - 13 Reasons to Read The Hot Line by Cathryn Fox

Yes...about winning books...I've had quite a bit of luck winning copies of books at my local RWA chapter meetings. I've had amazing luck winning several books by Cathryn Fox, one of my more prolific chapter mates.

It all started with winning Making Waves, featuring her novella Liquid Dreams. Then I won Pleasure Prolonged, the sequel to Pleasure Control, which I won out of sequence - but no matter! And now The Hot Line. It's a burden, but one I bear willingly.

1 - The Hot Line is a New American Library release. It's an interlaced collection of three novellas weaving in and out of the impending nuptials of Cassie and Nick. He's a firefighter at Station 419, and Cassie's friends arrive in Chicago to celebrate her dream-come-true choice for a mate.

2 - Part of NAL's 18 and Up Heat imprint, Cathryn's story is contemporary adult erotica using frank language and adventurous situations.

3 - The first story is Fever. We meet Sara, who writes for the Trenton Gazette but dreams of writing for the glossy women's magazine Entice. Mitch is one of the firefighters who works with her friend's fiance. Will she turn their fantasy-fulfilling nights together into a spicy story that could turn her career dreams into reality?

4 - The second story is Siren. We meet Jenna, a lingerie designer who's much saucier with her sketchpad than she is in person. Until firefighter Dean joins his buddies at Cassie's place to catch the tail end of a private fashion show - and sees the designer modelling her own sexy creations.

5 - The third story is Flash Fire. We meet once-bitten-twice-shy chef Megan, who plays a one-on-one basketball game with Station 419 brother Brady. Winner gets the other for an hour - to do with whatever they like.

6 - Though each novella focuses on a different couple, the cast of wedding party members and firefighter buddies is present throughout. This keeps the reader solidly in the world of the Hot Line. Very much like a weekly TV drama where each episode contains all the familiar characters but focuses on a particular one for each episode.

7 - Sexual tension rises from this book like the shimmering air over a sweltering highway. Cathryn Fox's heroes smolder and burn for their women. And her female characters reach out for what they desire - mind-blowing sex with the men who answer the special phone down at the station.

8 - Cathryn's female characters dare to speak aloud the sort of sexual fantasies that women a generation ago could barely have admitted to themselves. Not only do they seek to make their fantasies come true, but in confiding to their sex partners, they create an intimacy that leads to emotional growth for all three couples.

9 - I really, really love Cathryn's wry wit, sprinkled liberally between passionate encounters. Here's Megan's first impression of Brady:

"Brady Wade. Lord, talk about sex appeal. The guy was smoking hot and had her hormones disco dancing in a way they'd never disco danced before."

10 - Cathryn really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

"After Brady dropped a soft kiss on her mouth, his stomach grumbled.

Megan chuckled, put her palms on his chest, and shoved lightly. 'Now that we've had dessert, I think we should have some breakfast.'

'Well, I guess I did promise you fine dining and even finer company.'

'Yeah, but you left out the part about fabulous sex.'

He chuckled. 'At Brady's Diner, sex is also served twenty-four hours a day.' He eased himself from the circle of her arms. 'You wait here, sweetheart. It would be my pleasure to serve you breakfast in bed.'

Megan's throat tightened. That considerate gesture did the weirdest things to her emotionally.

Looking sexy, warm, and rumpled, Brady climbed from the bed. He tugged on his jeans and disappeared through the door. Here was one hell of a guy, she thought.

After he left, it suddenly occured to her just how much she liked him. Did she really think she could keep her emotions under wrap with an amazing guy like him?

A guy who could easily be the poster boy for 'too good to be true', she reminded herself, yanking herself back from fairy tale land."

11 - Cathryn not only creates distinct POV voices for her female and male characters, but she does it times three. Sara is ambitious, Jenna wants to break out of her shell and Megan dares to hope all men aren't like her 'house hippo' ex-husband. Mitch protects his heart against feeling too deeply, Dean can see beneath the surface and Brady knows that the way to a chef's heart is through making sweet nothings for her to savour.

12 - As with all wonderful pairings, the couples in Cathryn's book want to find a way to make one another's dreams come true. The men of the Hot Line know how to leave their women melting with delicious pleasure. But Sara, Jenna and Megan want their heroes to fulfill their own fantasies. And they're definitely the women to do it.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"A while back, Mitch thought that he loved his ex-girlfriend and that she actually cared about him. But he quickly learned that like every other woman he'd been with, she merely wanted the fantasy. It was his dangerous, heroic job that attracted women, not the man beneath the uniform - a man who worked long hours and was away from home frequently. Since his last breakup, he'd finally learned to shut down emotionally, giving himself physically while keeping a cool, hardened exterior.

At the sudden thought of giving himself physically, his mind raced to Sara. She wanted the fantasy with him, he could tell. One night of hot lust while on vacation. He'd seen it in her eyes, read it in her every gesture.

Although Mitch was more than willing and capable of fulfilling Sara's wild firefighter fantasy, he'd been duly warned by Nick Cameron to keep his distance. Nick had cautioned him that Sara was a small-town girl who didn't delve into brief affairs. He'd asked Mitch to keep his distance because the last thing he wanted was to see one of Cassie's best friends hurt while in Chicago for the wedding.

Not only was Nick Mitch's coworker - he was also his friend. A friend who'd saved his ass a time or two in the line of duty.

Still he could lie in bed and fantasize about her, couldn't he? Imagining what it would be like to taste her mouth and her breasts. To have her climb over him.

The shrill of their special phone pulled him from his musings and helped marshal his thoughts. 'I got it.' Welcoming the distraction, he jumped to his feet and pushed away from the card table. Without haste, he made his way across the room.

Maybe tonight he'd take the call. Although it had been a long time since he'd participated in the Hot Line, perhaps a soft bed and an even softer woman would help take the edge off and get his mind off Sara.

When he glanced at the caller ID, his heart raced, his blood pressure soared. Everything in him reacted to the name displayed in the small glass window. Tension rose in him, urging him to answer the phone.

What was he supposed to do now?

He took a measured step back, but not far enough that he still couldn't reach it. If he wanted to. But he didn't want to. Okay, he wanted to, but he wasn't
going to.

He was not going to pick it up.

No way.

No how.

Walk away, Mitch. Just walk away.

Before he could stop himself, his fingers closed over the receiver and squeezed until his knuckles turned white.

Just then Dean poked his head around the corner. Grinning like the crazy, intuitive son of a bitch he was, he asked, 'You want me to get that?'

'I got it,' Mitch growled and ripped the phone from the cradle. He pressed it to his ear and said gruffly, 'Hello.'

Sara's soft, sexy voice sounded on the other end. 'Mitch?'


Forgoing pleasantries and getting right to the point, she said, 'My kitty stopped purring. I think it needs to be resuscitated.'

Sweet Mother of God! Mitch slapped his hand to his forehead and drew a steadying breath, working overtime to tamp down his roaring libido. He failed.

Lust ripped through him like a raging forest fire, making him tremble with pent-up need. He growled low in his throat, unable to tame the primal animal rising up inside him, crumbling his resolve to keep his distance. Despite knowing better, he had every intention of breathing life back into her kitty, over and over again, using every means possible, if he had to.

If she expected anything less, she'd called the wrong guy on the wrong night."

- Cathryn Fox - 2008

Join me next week for a completely different type of book review. Yes, I'm doing a 180 degree turn to review a non-fiction history book by Stephen Kimber. That's Loyalists and Layabouts.

And the following week I'll be reviewing Wylie Kinson's Bermuda-set romance Law of Averages.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 49

Photo by Paul Douglas

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 50 - Excerpt From My Vampire Story

Here's a second excerpt from my vampire story. It takes place shortly after this previous excerpt.

It's 577 AD, deep in the forest in Wales. Peredur has become a special sort of vampire, still learning what this purpose could be. We join him as he continues his training.

Peredur woke to Vellocatus and his summons to join him outside.

He followed his new brother into the cool night. Though all had ended well so far, he braced himself.

It was all so very confusing. This was a brotherhood of equals, protested Melnak at every turn. The others treated Melnak as a master merely for his longer experience in the brotherhood, nothing more.

Then why did Peredur get the increasing sense their looks of admiration were not the usual welcome for a new brother? As now, when Brude, Adalhard, Sigbjorn, Wladyslaw, even Melnak all stepped back as Peredur entered their midst.

Vellocatus turned and Peredur saw two heavy swords in his hands.

A wave of relief swept over him. Swords. He knew about those, at least. In fact, his hand fairly ached for the weight of it.

Vellocatus offered one, pommel upright. Peredur strode to take it, noticing out of the corner of his eye the others spreading out to encircle them. Peredur bowed slightly as he accepted the weapon.

'A little sparring,' Vellocatus promised, not smiling exactly.

Peredur did smile. He hefted the weapon several times and tossed it in a swift revolution, then caught it. It was a wonderful blade.

Vellocatus stalked out of Peredur’s range, watching him. Peredur initiated without warning. The blades rang out as he got a truer sense of the blade’s qualities.

Of course, Vellocatus got a telling indication of Peredur’s fighting style. No matter.

Vellocatus kept on the move, walking slowly to size things up. He made no advance until Peredur struck again. After a few parries they’d both seen all they needed to know.

Vellocatus lunged brilliantly. Peredur blocked it with an assured move. He waited again until Vellocatus thrust. Then he feinted and swung the sword in a powerful arc. His sword bit deeply into Vellocatus’ side.

Growling with pain, Vellocatus stepped out of the way, turning to thrust again. Peredur barely managed to deflect it.

A man could not have kept his feet as this vampire did. The scent of his brother’s blood filled the night air. It made Peredur hungry for another blow to hit its mark. He moved in aggressively, as he never would have done before.

Blades rang out, the two warriors moving in a slow dance. Vellocatus’ blood was very distracting. Peredur fought to pull his attention back to the Brigante’s attacks.

But blood glistened down Vellocatus’ tunic, dripping along his leggings to the grass beneath their feet. Peredur knew he must land another blow and do it soon.

How could this vampire fight with such power while bearing such a wound? Peredur forced himself to focus as Vellocatus increased his attack.

It must be the smell, the blood. The smell of it seemed to have the same effect on Vellocatus. A grimace of effort revealed the Brigante’s fangs had descended.

Peredur flicked his tongue to feel for his own. Both were there, sharp and hungry.

And it was that moment of distraction that slowed his turn away from a parry. Vellocatus thrust and his sword bit deep along Peredur’s hip. An angry hiss escaped him.

He bought some space to check the wound. Blood soaked his legging.

He fell upon Vellocatus like the fiend he’d become. Baring his teeth as he fought, the Brigante answered his snarls with his own. Peredur felt the pulses of the brethren surrounding them, like the shouts and encouragements of men.

The bout lasted until Melnak stopped it. Peredur bowed to Vellocatus before handing the sword to Brude. His brethren led him away to sit under a tree.

Adalhard and Brude took care of the blood that had spilled from Peredur’s wounds. Melnak cleaned the swords while Sigbjorn and Wladyslaw attended to Vellocatus.

The wounds stung but not as they should have done. They should have throbbed with the anguish of sliced muscle. Peredur kept his eye on Vellocatus as they rested. He was far too alert and robust for such blood loss. He supposed he appeared the same.

Melnak crouched beside him as the Frank and Brude finished with Peredur. 'A skilled fighter,' he remarked.

Peredur nodded.

'You show remarkable affinity to this life.'

Peredur looked around at the other brethren. All gazed at him with approval.

Sigbjorn spoke up. 'I could not bear the scent of the blood in my first bout,' the Norseman said wryly. 'I forgot about the swords and attacked with my fangs, needing to feed.'

Brude and Vellocatus chuckled in sympathy. Peredur remembered how the smell had intoxicated him, leading to the first slice across the hip.

'Who did you fight?' Peredur asked the Norseman.

'One who has since moved on. A Celt.'

Peredur saw the looks of reminiscence on several faces. He looked at Melnak and saw that his mentor knew his thoughts. 'You have cousins to meet next,' he said.

Peredur let his gaze roam from vampire to vampire. He felt different things from each of them. What he did not feel was a sense of brotherhood.

How could he? Even Melnak's gaze filled with wonder.

- Copyright - Julia Smith - 2008

Photo by guru13hr

Friday, May 16, 2008

Make a Wish Meme

The Teach tagged me with this meme way back in March, and I vowed I would figure out how to do the graphics so I could do this meme. Then I got tagged by Mimi Lennox for the Message in a Bottle Meme, and I persisted until I did my meme.

Now I'm ready for my second graphics meme! Here's how to do it:

1. Think about what it is that you want more than anything, what your heart's desire and fondest wish is, and what it is that you would wish for if you were to see the above wishing star flame across the night sky.

2. Right click and SAVE the blank graphic below.

3. Use a graphics program of your choice and place your wish on the picture.

4. Post the Make A Wish Meme and your wishing star on your blog along with these rules.

5. Tag as many people as you like so that there can be wishing stars all across the Blogosphere and ask them to please link back to Linda at Are We There Yet so that she can see what wishes others have made and share those wishes with others.

Here is my wish:

Now - who to tag?

Sandee at Comedy Plus
Sans Pantaloons
Thomma Lyn

Happy wishing!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 55 - 13 Reasons to Read You Had Me at Halo by Amanda Ashby

When it comes to winning books, I must admit I seem to live a charmed life. I've won numerous copies of new releases by members from my local RWA chapter, including the book I'll be reviewing for next week's Thursday Thirteen.

This wonderful trend continued when I became a blogger. I've won several promo contests, including this one for You Had Me at Halo, a recent release by New Zealand author Amanda Ashby. Her debut novel has been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, and I was only into the first 50 pages when it became obvious as to why .

1 - You Had Me at Halo is a New American Library release. I'd read an excerpt from it on Amanda's blog and was instantaneously hooked. Here's the part that snared me (as main character Holly looks down upon her own funeral):

"That was the problem with an open casket. It meant everyone’s last memories of her would be with a white puffy face, the wrong color lipstick and a dreadful polyester dress. They always said the camera added five pounds to you, but no one ever talked about how fattening embalming fluid was, did they?"

2 - Once I had the whole book to read, I had to stop reading it on the bus or else burst out in tears of laughter.

3 - Ms. Ashby's novel is part of NAL's 18 and Up Paranormal Romance category. We meet the heroine just after she's died, as she tries to adjust to her unexpected transition. The hero is one of her alive-and-well co-workers at Baker Colwell.

4 - Holly Evans had everything going for her. Recently promoted at 'the eleventh-most-benefit-friendly employer in the country', she'd been anxiously awaiting her fiance Todd's proposal after finding her honking big engagement ring in his closet. But slipping unconscious beneath the water while taking a bath threw a serious wrench into those plans.

5 - Vince Murphy works in the tech support department at Baker Colwell. Attending Holly's wedding would have been painful, since he always had a thing for her. But surviving her funeral is even more excruciating. Especially since he fainted. Now he could swear he hears Holly's voice in his head.

6 - Holly and Vince take 'mismatched couple' to a new level. Co-operation goes beyond critical when they find they're not merely in close quarters - but in a shared body.

7 - Holly's heavenly spiritual realigner gives her the chance to go back to earth to sort out her most pressing unresolved issues. He thinks he's found the perfect body to borrow for a two-day interval - Vince Murphy, who's due to depart for the afterlife himself. Holly's not thrilled with the gender switch but will make do out of desperation. What she's not prepared for is her discovery that the premises were not exactly vacated after all.

8 - The sexual tension builds slowly and steadily between the guffaws. Holly hasn't lost her feelings for her fiance at the story's beginning, and our knowledge of Vince's unrequited attraction for her gives a tugging bittersweetness to their romance.

9 - I really, really love Ms. Ashby's razor-sharp zingers, peppered throughout Holly's POV. She recalls first meeting her best friend Gemma: "They'd been friends ever since they'd both turned up on the first day at Baker Colwell wearing identical suits and black stilettos complete with little bow detailing."

10 - Ms. Ashby really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

" 'Are you okay?'

'I think so.' She gulped. 'I guess we just have to work on the assumption that nothing else could possibly go wrong?'

'Whenever they say that in the movies, it's just a link to the next disaster.'

'This is hardly a movie,' Holly reminded him as Vince dug into his pocket and paid the driver before opening the back door and getting out. 'And it's true. The day's almost over and we're back at the beginning, so how on earth could things possibly get worse?'

'Well, since that spiritual realigner guy of yours seems to be walking towards us, I'd say that was a good indication. I sure know my life takes a dive every time he's around.'

Holly felt sick as she realized Vince was right: here came Dr. Hill.
Oh, great."

11 - The writing style is filled with dark humor, which I love. Wonderfully specific detail not only grounds the story in the setting but reveals Holly's character as she observes and passes judgment on the people and things around her.

12 - There is never a question as to who's speaking - Holly or Vince - even as they share a body. Vince's POV is another character reveal, in obvious contrast to the Vince we've already been led to expect through Holly's previous arms' length opinions. His own observations of Holly's former fiance Todd act as a tonic for her starry-eyed perception of Baker Colwell's star associate.

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"Holly was perfectly still as she realized she had just figured out who had slipped her the pills. Good-bye, earthly issues and Level One. She knew all it would take was a little application and organization. Wait until she told Gemma about it.

Oh, and it made even more sense, because she specifically recalled that the morning she died - on the pretense of being nice - Tina had given Holly a cup of coffee when they'd been in the staff room. Even though at the time it had tasted perfectly normal, it was now obvious Tina had laced it with pills so Holly would be forced to cancel her presentation and perhaps risk getting demoted. It all added up so nicely.

She turned off her computer, tidied up her desk, and, out of habit, reached into the bottom drawer to grab her latest
Bride and Beauty magazine (in case she had problems sleeping) and headed for the elevator.

It wasn't until she was outside the building that she congratulated herself on being such a genius in working it out. Of course, she had always been clever. She thought back to
The Rich and the Restless, her favorite soap opera, where everyone was convinced Joanne and Carlos were going to get together, but Holly had been adamant Lee would win out in the end. And she had been right.

Being right was such a nice feeling, and she was still basking in it as she sat down at the nearby bus stop and searched Vince's pockets to find a cell phone to call Gemma.

It didn't take long to stab in her friend's number, but there was no answer, and Holly cursed. The sooner she got Tina's address, the sooner she could confront the girl and put a stop to the suicide rumors. Then tomorrow she could concentrate on clearing the air with Todd. Well, it wasn't her typical to-do list, but then, it wasn't a typical day.

'In fact, it's probably been the weirdest day of my life,' she muttered to herself as she drummed her fingers on the magazine.

'I'll say,' a disembodied voice replied.

'What? Who said that?' Holly jumped back to her feet again and spun around, only to see nothing except an empty street and a candy wrapper blowing in the breeze. Well, that was strange. And why did she suddenly feel so...

'What's going on?' the same voice demanded.

'That's what I'd like to know.' Holly tried to stay calm. After all, she was dead. Technically nothing bad could happen to her. Could it?

'Ideas would be welcome,' the voice continued with a hint of impatience.

'Who are you?' Holly croaked as she clutched at her throat. It almost sounded like the words were coming from inside her. But that was just impossible.

'I'm Vince; who are you? And more important, what the hell are you doing in my body?'

- Amanda Ashby, 2007

Join me next week when I review Cathryn Fox's The Hot Line. The following week I'll review Stephen Kimber's non-fiction book Loyalists and Layabouts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 48

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 49 - Ave Maria

The Madonna of The Roses
by William Adolphe Bourguereau

On Mother's Day I find myself thinking of the iconic symbol of motherhood, the Virgin Mary. Especially so because when my grandmother passed away five months ago, my mom and I said this prayer over her.

Hail Mary, full of grace
The Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Here's a breathtakingly gorgeous version of Schubert's Ave Maria, sung by Leontyne Price. Enjoy, and Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Tagged - I'm It! - 21

So, first, the rules:

a. Link to the person who tagged you. That's Christine d'Abo over at ...fantasies unleashed.
b. Post the rules on your blog. Et voila - the rules.
c. Write six random things about yourself.
d. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
e. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment at their blog.
f. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

1 - I'm trapped in Sherwood Forest - please don't rescue me!

My very favorite thing - a love triangle, between Sir Guy of Gisborne, Marion and Robin Hood.

Robin of Locksley played by Jonas Armstrong

Gisborne played by Richard Armitage

2 - I've been waiting 35 years for Prince Caspian to be released.

I'm nearly out of my mind! When it comes to waiting for movies to come out that I'm dying to see, I'm worse than a kid waiting for Christmas Eve.

This looks awesome.

Prince Caspian played by Ben Barnes

3 - I love swords. But not just any swords. I love medieval two-handed longswords wielded by hulking warriors.

Shown above is a replica William Wallace claymore sword.

This is a replica Viking sword.

4 - I love sword fights. Yeah, baby.

Gerard Butler as Beowulf in Beowulf and Grendel

Ciaran Hinds as Brian de Bois-Guilbert fights Steven Waddington as Ivanhoe in the 1997 miniseries Ivanhoe. This fight rocks.

Liam Neeson as Rob Roy fights Tim Roth as Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy
This sword fight is one of the best - if not the best.

5 - I love my large husband.

6 - I adore romantic paintings with knights and beautiful medieval maidens.

Like La Belle Dame Sans Merci by Frank Dicksee

And Chivalry, also by Frank Dicksee

And God Speed by Edmund Blair Leighton

And now - a-tagging I will go, a-tagging I will go...

No Nonsense Girl
The Teach

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 54 - 13 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

I'm taking a one-week break from my book review Thursday Thirteens. I had to get a writing submission ready for a competition which I passed in on Monday, on my lunch hour. That didn't give me enough time to read the book I won from Amanda Ashby - You Had Me at Halo.

I'll be reviewing that next week, however, so make sure to stop by and find out why it's been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award.

This week I'm featuring 13 of my favorite fictional romantic couples.

1 - King Leonidas and Queen Gorgo from 300

Click here for their YouTube video

2 - Ares and Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess

Click here for their video

3 - King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot from King Arthur
This is actually a tragic love triangle - oh, how I love tragic love triangles!

Click here for their video

4 - Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Click here for their video

5 - Brian de Bois-Guilbert and Rebecca of York from Ivanhoe

Click here for their video

6 - Captain Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot from Persuasion

Click here for their video

7 - Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

Click here for their video

8 - Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind

Click here for their video

9 - John Thornton and Margaret Hale from North and South

Click here for their video

10 - The Phantom and Christine Daae from The Phantom of the Opera

Click here for their video

11 - Anton Gorodestky and Svetlana Nazarova from Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

Click here for their video

12 - Wolverine and Phoenix from the X-Men trilogy

Click here for their video

13 - Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa from the Star Wars saga

Click here for their video