Monday, May 31, 2010

Through the Opera Glasses - 59 - May Art Show - The Prodigal Son's Return

Last month I was prompted to put this art show up on my Sidebar Art Gallery because of the third piece, The Prodigal Son in Modern Life: The Return by James Tissot. I have that one in my Scorpius picture file, which I gather like a storyboard. I grab lots of images from the web that put me in the middle of my story, and I have a picture file for all of my stories.

I also have several physical collages of my stories because my writers' group does collage workshops every now and then. I love doing them.

I was drawn to the art inspired by the Prodigal Son's story because of the dynamic between the father and son. Particularly for Scorpius, who isn't a Prodigal sort in any way, but who longs for his father because he was abandoned and never claimed.

In my Weekend Writer's Retreat serial fiction, this longing for a father figure finds refuge in his falconer master, Richolf.

Detail from The Prodigal Son by Duane Michals

Prodigal son sketch by Charlie Mackesy

The Prodigal Son in Modern Life: The Return by James Tissot

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Guercino

The Return of The Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni

The Return of the Prodigal Son by J-L Stapleaux

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

The Prodigal's Return by Edward John Poynter

The Prodigal Son by Edward Stott

Wylie Kinson says Even the ones that didn't catch my eye on the first scroll through, I found myself going back and staring at them until they touched something deeper.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 154 - Ozymandias

Since my head is wrapped around my Scorpius tale at the moment, this poem came to mind as I've been plotting out the political intrigues of Scorpius' world.

This has been a favorite poem of mine since I first read it in elementary school. Enjoy!


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

For more poetry, Ride the Poetry Train!

Naquillity says Great choice for the train.

Travis Cody says Oddly enough, I knew bits of this poem but had never read all of it.

Stan Ski says Words and picture fit nicely.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 9

Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' back story.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood back story of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 9

Great drops of blood as big as Scorpius’ palm smeared the floor. Richolf made his way to a chair. The other lay overturned beside the table.

“Fetch some water,” he said, fumbling for the cloth around his neck, pressing it to his eye.

Scorpius stood there, his gaze unseeing. His pulse fluttered beneath his skin. How he wished Nurse could walk through the door and set things to rights.

He remembered the morning when Mirko had walked along the high stone wall. A boy from a well-placed family, he’d never paid heed to their watchers’ threats or warnings. A slip, a fall and his head had split open. But Nurse had been there to sort through all the blood and push aside the crying.

Glancing at his master, Scorpius saw how quickly the neck cloth reddened.

There was a clay jug of water on the sideboard. He heaved it onto the table as Richolf mumbled something about thread. Scorpius entered his master’s bed chamber, ignoring the strangeness of it, and didn’t leave until he’d found the needle and thread in a drawer.

He held the looking glass as Richolf took up the grim task of sewing up his own wound. “One day you’ll join us on the hunt,” he said, carefully pulling the thread taut. Fresh blood trickled over his brow, winding down his cheek to drip from his jaw.

“But I can’t bring you along before you’re ready. Dragons are one thing.” Richolf’s gaze left the looking glass and focused on Scorpius. “The nobles are quite another.”

So many questions tangled themselves around Scorpius’ tongue. But he bit them all back, for his master did not offer anything more. Only scrounged up cloths and a bucket so they could sop up the blood from the floor.

The body of the nobleman lay where it had fallen in the clearing before the cottage. Scorpius snuck glances at it, grateful to be this far away from a corpse.

Richolf gazed off now and then, listening. Scorpius didn’t know if he should dread anyone arriving, or be grateful to have the body claimed. But no one came. Not until the next morning.

This time, when Richolf made that abrupt gesture, Scorpius not only stayed behind in the empty cottage, he slipped into the shadows even as he watched his master open the door to face them.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Ann Pino says I sure hope no one is in trouble!

Alice Audrey says I'd love to hear what the nobles had to say. Is it nobles at the end coming for the body?

Travis Cody says This section contains a fascinating commentary on the social structure in this world. One will be wary of dragons as a matter of course. But one must be even more careful to understand one's place in the world.

Friday, May 28, 2010

5 on Friday - Set 16

For today's 5 on Friday, I'd like to share five songs by Garbage, an alternative band that appeals to my badass side.

For more great tune-age, head over to Trav's Thoughts.

1 - Lick the Pavement

I learn to bribe
I learn to say please
Oh, won't you
Lick the pavement for me?

I like you best
When you're on your knees

- Erickson / Manson / Marker / Vig, 1998

2 - I'm Only Happy When it Rains

I'm only happy when it rains
I'm only happy when it's complicated
And though I know you can't appreciate it
I'm only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down on me

- Erickson / Manson / Marker / Vig, 1995

CLICK HERE to watch the clip

3 - Hammering in My Head

Sweat it all out
Sweat it all out
With your bedroom eyes
And your baby pouts

Sweat it all out
In our electric storms
And our shifting sands
Our candy jars
And our sticky hands

- Erickson / Manson / Marker / Vig, 1998

4 - Special

Do you have an opinion?
A mind of your own
I thought you were special
I thought you should know

But I've run out of patience
I've run out of comments
I'm tired of the violence
I couldn't care less

- Erickson / Manson / Marker / Vig, 1998

5 - You Look So Fine

You look so fine
I want to
Break your heart
And give you mine
You're taking me over

It's so insane
You've got me
Tethered and chained
I hear your name
And I'm falling over

Knocked down
Cried out
Been down
Just to find out
I'm through
Living for you

- Erickson / Manson / Marker / Vig, 1998

Jamie says Okay nothing like a touch of Domination with a tinge of S & M on the side to start the Friday of a long weekend. :-)

Linda says I do believe that Jamie said it perfectly! This is what I love about this meme, it gives me a chance to listen to music that I may not have heard otherwise and broaden my horizons a little each week.

Mary says Oh Julia, I like them!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 160 - 13 Questions For Pamela Callow, Author of Damaged

It's my very great pleasure to introduce Pamela Callow, a fellow writer from Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. Her debut novel releases next week, and Pam is a perpetual motion machine these days!

1 - You're currently in the midst of a whirlwind promo tour - how is that going?

It's pretty exciting to be attending Book Expo America in NYC. I'm doing three signings of Damaged, as well as a podcast interview.

Then I head to Toronto, where I am on a thriller panel at the Bloody Words conference with Linwood Barclay and Rick Mofina (amongst others), and will be one of their ten Mystery Cafe authors. My publisher has invited me to tour their offices in Toronto, where I will be signing Damaged for their staff. I'm looking forward to meeting the production team behind Damaged. They have worked incredibly hard on the book.

Then home to Halifax to do an interview with Starr Dobson on Live at Five on June 1. Can't wait for Damaged's Halifax launch on June 3rd at The Carleton. I will also be a guest speaker at the Halifax Club's literary luncheon on June 11th. I have a signing in the works with Halifax Chapters, date to be finalized.

A few weeks later I return to NYC as one of the International Thriller Writers' Debut Authors, and will sign my book after the Debut Authors Breakfast at Thrillerfest 2010.

2 - Wow, Pam - I'm getting jet lagged, just hearing about it! As a debut author, did you imagine how much of your attention would have to go towards promotion?

Well, I'd heard rumours that it would consume a lot of time ... the challenge is to juggle it.

Because I have four books coming out in the next two years, I've just finished the line edits on Indefensible (January 2011), and am working on the first draft of Tattooed (Summer, 2011), while launching Damaged. I've been very lucky that my publisher has a publicist overseeing my book, and I have a wonderful local publicist who is helping me with all the media activity in the Maritimes.

3Your publisher, MIRA Books, has really gotten behind you as far as promoting Damaged. But how much of your own strategy, time and effort has gone into this first stab at a book launch?

It's definitely a two way street.

Just after I sold Damaged to MIRA, I read an article on thriller author Barry Eisler's blog that really resonated with me. He spoke about how a debut author has to prove to their publisher that they are worth the investment of those in-demand publisher promotional dollars. He also spoke about how the publisher is really the debut author's client. Having come from a client-service career, I understood his message.

So I worked very hard to prove to my publisher that their investment in me would yield results. One of those areas was attending various conferences. It was there I met several authors who ultimately gave Damaged some wonderful endorsements.

4What role would you say writer’s conferences have had in Damaged’s journey to store shelves?

Writer's conferences have had a huge impact on my career. I met my editor, Valerie Gray, at the Surrey International Writers' Conference, where I successfully pitched Damaged! As I mentioned, I also met a number of authors at conferences who generously provided quotes.

5Damaged is a bit of a hybrid book – part bio-medical thriller, part legal thriller, with a healthy dose of romantic elements thrown in. You’re also part of several different writers’ associations. How do you think this has impacted Damaged?

I think the hybrid nature of the book is a reflection of the diversity of things that interest me. I read broadly. I think that a good book has universal elements that cross all genres. Thus, when I wrote Damaged, I wrote a story that satisfied me on an intellectual and emotional level.

Writing organizations helped me learn the craft of novel-writing - obviously having a huge impact in writing Damaged! They've also given me a wonderful network of friends. Writing can be lonely.

6As someone who has been admitted to the bar, your ease with creating a legal atmosphere can be regarded as ‘writing what you know’. What inspiration did you use for the bio-medical aspects of your story?

The biomedical aspect of Damaged was inspired by an actual US criminal case. But I didn't want to write a fictionalized account of it. I used it as a springboard for a thriller novel, putting an ordinary woman in the lead, adding some twists, and creating a second, intertwining plot.

7Damaged is only the first of a series featuring your main character, Kate Lange. What can we look forward to, and when do they come out?

Indefensible, the second book of the series, comes out in January 2011. The book takes place only four months after the events of Damaged. Kate is dealing with post-traumatic stress, her law firm is re-building itself after the hits it took in Damaged - and her managing partner is under suspicion of murdering his ex-wife. Indefensible explores the impact of a wrongful accusation on an accused, on the victims, on the family.

The third book of the series, Tattooed, comes out in Summer 2011. It takes place ten months after Indefensible, and combines both a cold case and serial murder. I'm introducing a tattoo artist named Kenzie Sloane to the series, and am excited about her! She's very much Kate's alter-ego. The research has been fascinating.

The fourth book is still in the works, so stay tuned. It is slated for publication in June 2012.

8Is Kate someone you would enjoy spending time with? How about Randall Barrett?

I call Kate my everywoman superwoman - she struggles with her career, her house is messy, she was just adopted by an abandoned husky and she can't afford to hire a plumber.

She has a dry sense of humour, is quite courageous, but due to an event when she was a teenager, she struggles with close connections. When Damaged opens, we learn that Kate is still dealing with a bitter break-up, partly due to her inability to trust. This is her journey, and as the series develops we see Kate learn how to open up to the people who come into her life. Yeah, I like her .

Randall Barrett, on the other hand, is a man who has risen to the top of his profession through his intellect, his charisma and his drive. He is ruthless and ambitious.

He's the kind of guy that you can't help but want - although you know how dangerous and possibly self-destructive that would be. I'd like to hang out with Randall Barrett on his sailboat, or when he's working in his garden, because that's when he is able to let the forces that drive him take a break.

9How difficult was it to write a dark character?

It's difficult. I found it especially draining to write the antagonist's character in Indefensible. You have to go to a very dark place. And then snap out of it to make supper for your kids.

10Were you surprised by the critical response you’ve been getting so far? And about the enthusiasm of the quotes you’ve had from authors like James Rollins, Rick Mofina and Linwood Barclay?

Of course, I'm surprised - and delighted - when reviews are positive. I never assume that every reviewer will love - or even like - my book. Creative efforts are by their nature subjective. Thus, so is their measure.

Regarding the quotes from James Rollins, Rick Mofina and Linwood Barclay, I was thrilled by them. I have such great admiration for each of them. They are all authors at the top of their craft. For them to be willing to put their name on a quote about my book is a huge compliment.

11What is your typical writer’s day like? Or is there such a thing?

I do have a schedule. I've had one for years, in fact.

Once my kids get to school and the dog is walked, I sit down at my computer. I catch up on emails while the coffee is brewing. Then, depending which stage of a book I'm working on, I either unplug the internet so I can write, or I conduct research and plot out my book, or I edit. I work until the school day ends.

Then I do my mom thing.

Then I start working again around 8 p.m. Since I sold Damaged, I work every weekend.

12Have you altered your approach to writing over the years, or do you stand by a tried-and-true method that works for you?

I do more upfront plotting, for two reasons: one, I need to know how the story will develop so I don't write myself into a box; and two, my deadlines are so short that I can't afford the time involved in fixing a massive mistake.

That means I do a number of interviews with various police, forensic and subject matter experts while I am working on a proposal.

Then I send it to my editor. I get her feedback, then I write a more extensive proposal so we both are comfortable with the development of the book, then I write the book.

13Now that ‘get published’ has been ticked off your list, what are three things you’ve dreamed of doing and would like to try?

1. Being the creative consultant on a TV series or movie
2. Living in another country and/or travelling around the world
3. Exchanging vows with my husband on a private Caribbean beach, with my family and my dog present.

Thank you so much, Pam, for dropping by A Piece of My Mind. Here's a look at the book trailer for Damaged:

Heidi Hamburg says Counting down one week to launch! Pam, with all the promo going on, at least you don't have time to get nervous!

Lilly Cain says What a fantastic interview! Pam, you are driven by the creative force within. Congratulations on your growing success!

Jill Conyers says Enjoyed the interview. As an avid reader I enjoy hearing about the behind the scenes of books.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 151

Jennifer Leeland says Gorgeous!! Especially the blue ones!!!

Janet says Um, when did you say you and your family are coming to work on mine?

Anne MacFarlane says Julia, your garden looks lovely. Those pink tulips are beautiful.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 153 - On Account of My Loneliness

Perhaps because I've been writing about Scorpius for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I thought about this piece of journal writing by my grandfather.

It's written on a piece of notepaper and was in amongst a box of photographs. My grandfather was a portrait photographer, so there are loads of pictures, but hardly any memories written out like this. Something to treasure.

In the first shot shown below, he's the teenager in the center of the picture, returned from a day hunting and fishing with friends or cousins, perhaps a mixture of both.

The second photo shows his parents, along with Grandpa's oldest brother. Grandpa's mother Arthemise died when he was only six, and he was farmed out to relatives following the loss of his mom.

He grew up in an Acadian community in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, so a reference to 'Joseph à Jim' means 'Joseph, son of Jim'.

For today's Poetry Train, I'm returning to the found poetry format which I did all last year. I'm using Grandpa's journal snippet to fashion this poem.

On Account of My Loneliness

After Mother died

After Mother died
Went to live at Joseph à Jim

At Joseph à Jim, after...

Met this woman
Who went to live there
At Joseph à Jim

She lived there
After I left

I left from there
On account of my loneliness

- Charles Doucet

Naquillity says These are the truest treasures. The ones where you can use old photographs like these and write poetry, pulling from the past.

Sheila says Oh so true, the truest treasures. I loved to watch my grandmother's old eyes as she looked at a faded photograph and told a story.

Travis says So often I see a bit of prose and the rhythm of the language just begs to be re-ordered into a poem.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 8

Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' back story.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood back story of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 8

Scorpius nearly ran for the cottage once he finished cleaning the mews, out back. How could he stop himself from looking up, always up? It might be swooping down even now.

But the falcons must be fed and attended to. The birds were not Richolf’s but the nobles’. This cottage and their positions here were tied to the nearby estate as closely as the falcons were tethered to Richolf when he took them out for the hunt.

Rounding the corner, Scorpius pulled up short at the sight of three mounts grazing beneath the trees at the edge of the clearing. The last time a visiting hunting party had descended upon the cottage, his master had told him to keep out of sight. Scorpius resolved to make up for his previous error, even if that meant staying out here where he did not want to be.

It didn’t help that raised voices from the cottage made the mounts’ ears prick forward. Scorpius settled himself under a dense sweep of branches just as a tumble of men poured out through the door.

He choked back the gasp in his throat. Two of the lords looked ready to kill each other, rolling over the dusty ground as if they weren’t wearing velvets and brocade. A third nobleman hovered just out of range, sword drawn.

Scorpius’ heartbeat slowed to an icy sludge as the fight rose in pitch. When Richolf appeared at the doorway, relief flared inside Scorpius, only to dash to bits when his master faltered and sank to his knees.

He almost betrayed himself. He almost parted the screen of leaves and branches, nearly clambered to his master’s side. But a cry gurgled up from the throat of one of the fighters. Scorpius crouched still and silent.

The third nobleman with the sword strode over to the victor, stretching his hand out to be clasped. The lord regained his feet, taking weary steps away from his opponent as the sword plunged neatly through the fallen man’s ribcage.

Scorpius clamped a hand over his mouth. The disheveled lord made his way to Richolf, who remained kneeling and bowed low. Scorpius couldn’t make out what was being said, only saw his master shake his head vigorously.

The sword-wielding lord closed in on his master. Scorpius bit down on his lip so hard it bled.

With a vicious kick, the lord sent Richolf sprawling in the dirt. His master choked with it as a boot planted itself in the center of his back.

“Swear it,” the fighting lord said.

His master coughed and spit. “I swear, my lord.”

The boot kicked Richolf in the ribs. His master writhed but made no sound. With no further glance at the falconer or the body they’d left behind, the noblemen climbed into their saddles and cantered off.

Scrambling to his feet, Scorpius burst from his hiding place, hurling himself beside his master who turned his face away.

“Help me inside,” was all he said.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Ann Pino says Wow, sounds like some kind of political intrigue is going on, and Richolf is an inadvertent victim. That's one's lot in an oligarchy, I guess, if one isn't lucky enough to be born into the upper caste.

Janet says OMG - at first I thought Richolf had been stabbed! I, like Scorpius, had my lip clenched between my teeth.

Jennie Marsland says Yikes, the plot thickens! You had me on the edge of my seat.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

5 on Friday - Set 15

My love of world music brings me to today's set.

I realize I've been drawn to the sounds of other cultures for my whole life. I adore listening to people speak in other languages - just adore it. That's why I can't bear to listen to an English-dubbed foreign film. No sir. No way, no how. I need to hear the original actor's voice, his emotions, his phrasing - everything.

When I was a kid and listened rapturously to my Nutcracker full-length album, I loved the Arabian dance and Russian dance best.

And so it goes. I'm constantly drawn to pop music collaborations with world music. For today's 5 on Friday, I'm featuring two songs that embrace India, one that reaches out to Bulgaria, one that joins with Algeria and one that melds a Latin feel with a Russian Gypsy traditional folk tune.

To check out more great tunes, drop by Travis' blog at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - Within You Without You - The Beatles

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you

- George Harrison, 1967

2 - Rocket's Tail - Kate Bush with Trio Bulgarka

And dressed as a rocket on Waterloo Bridge
Nobody seems to see me
Then with the fuse in my hand
And now
Shooting into the night

And still as a rocket I land in the river
Was it me said you were crazy?

I put on my cloudiest suit
Size 5 lightening boots
Cause I am a rocket on fire
Look at me go with my tail on fire

- Kate Bush, 1989

3 - Desert Rose - Sting with Cheb Mami

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand

I dream of rain
I lift my gaze to empty skies above
I close my eyes
This rare perfume is the sweet intoxication of her love

- Sting, 1999

4 - La Isla Bonita / Lela Pala Tute - Madonna with Eugene Hutz and Sergey Ryabtsev from Gogol Bordello

I want to be
Where the sun warms the sky
When it's time for siesta
You can watch them go by

Beautiful faces
No cares in this world
Where a girl loves a boy
And a boy loves a girl

- Bruce Gaitsch/Madonna/Patrick Leonard/Susan Leonard, 1987
- performed at Live Earth, 2007

Lela lela lela
Lela pala tute
Del balla late

Lela lela lela
Lela pala tute
Jas kana medess
Medess anda latay


Get her, get her, get her
Get her for yourself

And then, when you die
You'll die for her

- Traditional Gypsy song, performed at Live Earth, 2007

5 - Chiggy Wiggy - Kylie Minogue with Akshay Kumar

Every man who ever sees me
Wants to hold my hand
And be the one to get me
To say, oh, I do

They swear eternal undying devotion
Yes, they swear that they will
Love me forever, love me true

But I don't need a shining star
And I don't want to be rescued
No, neither frog nor charming prince
Nor my summers barbequed

- Abbas Tyrewala, 2009

Naquility says Before hearing Chiggy Wiggy by Kylie Minogue I was going to say Desert Rose was my favorite of the five here. Can't say that now. I love Chiggy Wiggy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 159 - 13 Reasons to Read Sweetest Little Sin by Christine Wells

Well, here it is - time to announce the winner of our book giveaway from last week's Q & A with Christine Wells.

Here's what Christine asked A Piece of My Mind readers:

Julia, there's one more special treat - I've got a signed copy of Sweetest Little Sin to give away to someone who answers the question:

What is your creative talent or hobby? If you don't have one, what creative talent would you like to have?

Using the Random Number Generator at, from the commenters who answered Christine's question, we have a winner!

Cassondra - come on down!

She said:


I've been TRYING to do something creative very nearly from the cradle, and I've tried a bunch of different stuff. I dunno that I've even gotten good at anything. :0/ And I've certainly NOT mastered anything. I've tried painting, and I still love that - trying to get better at watercolor - and songwriting, which I think I'm actually best at, and a ton of other stuff from landscape design (in which I have a degree) to macrame (which I was very intense about in the 8th grade).

Obviously born to create something, Cassondra! Please email me at with your snail mail address, and Christine will send Sweetest Little Sin your way.

And now...on to the book review.

1 - I first came upon this fictional couple when they appeared as the secondary love interest in The Dangerous Duke. Here's what I wrote about them in that book review:

Christine includes a very charged secondary romance between Lyle's sister, Louisa and his fellow Home Office operative, Jardine. Lyle and Jardine have been rivals as well as working together as spies for the security of the country. Their relationship circles like arena combatants, and the romance between Lyle's sister and Jardine is just as edgy.

2 - Who are these characters who set their own story in motion by popular demand?

Louisa is the sister of the newly-minted Duke of Lyle - and an unexpected duke, at that. Having scraped by on the edges of polite society following the earlier death of their father, Louisa and her brother were thrust to the forefront of the ton upon the recent deaths of the heirs to the title and fortune. This puts Louisa in the fairytale position of being a spinsterly age with eligible suitors suddenly vying for her hand.

3 - The Marquis of Jardine appears to lounge in caustic idleness, but is well-known to the sordid underbelly of society. Not because he's an unrepentent rake. No - Jardine is an operative serving England's Home Office in the deadly game of espionage.

4 - Here's a taste of their relationship from The Dangerous Duke :

" 'My dear Louisa. All alone?'

The unwelcome voice jerked her out of her thoughts. She turned swiftly, and an even more unwelcome figure stood there in all his dark-edged masculine glory.

Smiling at her, rot him. Jardine had the most devilishly attractive smile.

Too late, a voice inside her whispered. You are lost.

Louisa forced her tongue to work. She managed to say in her usual, calm way, 'The family is from home this evening. But I'm sure the butler told you that at the door.'

He inclined his head. 'Yes, I believe he mentioned some such, but I wasn't attending. The mere sound of your name obliterates all else from my mind.'

She scowled. 'I've been unwell, if you must know. In fact, it's very likely an infectious complaint, so you'd best leave me before you catch it.'

He strode forward and took her chin in his hand. Slowly, Jardine turned her face to the light with a deft, delicate touch as if he were an expert examining fine porcelain.

She stared into his face with its angular lines and dark velvet eyes. The spoiled, rich, beautiful mouth that begged to be

It took every ounce of her will to resist the standing invitation of that mouth. She batted his hand away and stepped back. 'Your concern is touching but unnecessary.' "

5 - No wonder readers everywhere couldn't stop thinking about Louisa and Jardine, even after Kate and Max found their happily ever after. This is how Christine describes their journey from secondary characters to hero and heroine of their own book:

"I expected a few people to complain that Jardine and Louisa's romance wasn't resolved in The Dangerous Duke and I was prepared to do a novella or a free short story to give Louisa and Jardine their happily ever after.

Funnily enough, I didn't get complaints at all, but I did receive an amazing number of requests for their story. I was thrilled when my editor agreed to let me do a novel-length sequel."

6 - Sweetest Little Sin picks up the main conflict between Louisa and Jardine where it left off. The two are inexorably drawn to one another, though Louisa rejects the lethal nature of his line of work, and Jardine fights to keep her out of his enemies' clutches, men who will make her suffer to get to him.

7 - Being a huge fan of Spooks / MI-5, I completely lost myself in the Regency version of the cat-and-mouse spy game running throughout this novel. Jardine is spectacularly yummy as he doles out grief to the villains of the piece. What I really love is the way Louisa rises to the occasion. She confronts terrifying situations with an inner fear but a cool outer demeanor that makes Jardine adore her even more.

8 - Louisa realizes something rather life-renewing when she's enlisted by Faulkner, the puppet master from the Home Office, to engage in spy work for him. An initial desire to enrage Jardine gives way to a hands-on appreciation for the life-and-death work in which her lover engages, and which has always been a sore point between them. I really enjoyed the scenes where Louisa blossoms into a formidable rookie agent.

9 - Christine sets the tension level quite high for the action/suspense scenes in Sweetest Little Sin. When danger looms, just as in Spooks / MI-5, where a main character can suddenly get caught in an explosion, just because Louisa and Jardine are the hero and heroine of a romance novel doesn't let them off the hook.

10 - Christine really knows how to end each chapter with suspense. Like this, for example:

"That night, Louisa couldn't sleep. The fragment of a message haunted her, tormented her even as it tempted.

She was done with Jardine. Moreover, he'd told her plainly she meant nothing to him. Why couldn't her idiotic heart remember that?

He wanted to meet. Why? Was it a test? Did he risk this meeting to see whether she would still come running, like a dog to heel? She rubbed a hand over her face, pressed her closed eyelids with her fingertips, willing herself not to succumb to useless tears.

She sat curled on the window seat for hours, deep into the night. Forced herself to consider the peremptory summons from every angle, calmly, dispassionately.

And couldn't think of a single reason, beyond a nagging curiosity and her unbearable longing to see him, why she should go.

Unfolding her long body from the cushioned embrasure, Louisa carried a candle over to her escritoire and set it in the carved holder.

Her mouth firmed in determination, she took out the card Faulkner had given her and drew a piece of writing paper toward her.

Dipping her pen in ink, she composed a short note.

I accept."

11 - Romantic Times gives Sweetest Little Sin a 4 1/2 stars Top Pick review:

"With a clever, pulse-pounding spy thriller Wells completely enthralls readers. Not only is the suspense high, but the surprising plot twists and nonstop action will keep you turning the pages with bated breath. Once you start reading, don't plan on doing anything else."

- Kathe Robin

12 - Beyond the James-Bond-meets-Jane-Austin aspects (to quote Christine,) for me the true strength of this novel is the incredible love story that evolves between two well-matched adversaries/lovers. The inner turmoil that drives each one of them has a refreshing sophistication which I really enjoyed. It fills their scenes together with true pathos. And you know I love me some of that.

13 - I leave you with an another excerpt. Enjoy!

"She cleared her throat. 'I must go. We cannot afford to be seen together like this.'

She tried to sidle around him, but he caught her arm in a firm, inescapable grip.

He didn't hurt her, but she winced anyway. His touch was torture. It was bliss.

'Why did you come here, Louisa? You are not meeting someone?'

'Is it likely I'd arrange to meet anyone, much less in this locale?'

Jardine let go of her and shrugged. 'I'm not altogether certain I know what is likely that you would do anymore, Louisa. I'm not sure I know you.'

She remained silent.

'Your betrothal to Radleigh.' He spread his hands. 'That, I did not expect. What are you doing here? Isn't your future husband satisfying you?'

Before she could stop herself, her hand flew up to slap his face. But his reflexes were daggar sharp. He easily deflected the move, brushed her hand aside as if it were a fly. Moved closer with purposeful intent etched over his patrician features.

Louisa started backward, a hand on the table to steady herself. 'If it becomes known that you and I were here like this, there'll be a scandal.'

'It won't become known.' His fingertips feathered her cheek.

She shivered. Anticipation coiled tightly in her chest. 'Don't. I don't want you to -'

He lowered his head to capture her earlobe in his teeth.

Ohh. He knew that always drove her to madness."

- Christine Wells, 2010

Janet says Well, I knew I needed to read this book when Christine was here last week, but after that Thursday Thirteen I have moved it up on my TBR list. Sounds great.

Brenda ND says Oh, this sounds like a really good read. Thanks Julia. :)

Christine Wells says Jardine and Louisa have loved one another for years, but they could not have lived together happily without going through all the pain I put them through in Sweetest Little Sin. Yes, I'm a cruel, cruel author who loves to torture her characters!

Wordless Wednesday - 150

Auntie E says What a peaceful looking place. Sometimes the woods are the best place to think.

Naquility says It looks so peaceful there. It's good to see not all forests are destroyed by human interactions.

Akelamalu says How lovely to live close to somewhere so beautiful. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Through the Opera Glasses - 58 - Never Give Up

You may know I've had a wonderful run of great luck in winning blog contests. I have had untold packages arrive at my house in the four years I've been blogging, all from fellow bloggers who have offered prizes on their blogs.

A little while ago, I received How I Got Published from Claudia at On a Limb With Claudia.

It's a really inspirational collection of stories from published writers on what it took for them personally to finally hold their books in their hands.

I'd like to share this passage with you, written by one of the editors of the book, Ray White:

"Never surrender, never give up, never quit. Those aren't just words to get published by; they're words to live by.

Less than one percent of writers get published in book-length fiction or nonfiction. Now I am absolutely, positively making these statistics up (though I did extrapolate them from all those agent Web sites where they claim to reject 99 percent of all submissions.)

As Yoda said, 'Do, or do not. There is no try.'

Let rejection roll off your back and even go so far as to see each rejection as another step toward success."

Janet says Thanks for sharing that today, Julia! Great inspiration.

Anne MacFarlane says Great post this morning, Julia. I know I'll only stop trying when I'm dead. Not even then really, because I've left instructions for my kids to shop those MSs around.

Ms Snarky Pants says I'll never stop writing, but one day I may just stop trying to get published. It's too degrading. LOL

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 152 - A Nod to Casey at the Bat, Sidney Crosby Style


My mom, my husband and I were riveted to every game Sidney Crosby played, heading into this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Even though my departed dad was obviously rooting for his adored Montreal Canadiens from the Other Side, everyone in this house was pulling for the Pens.

So last Tuesday night, here in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia - where a sign greets visitors as 'Home of Sidney Crosby' - this was the lament that rang out after the Pittsburgh Penguins' Game 7 defeat.

I'm Not Watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Oh, somewhere in this favored land
The sun is shining bright

The band is playing somewhere
And somewhere hearts are light

And somewhere men are laughing
And somewhere children shout

But there is no joy in Cole Harbour
Mighty Sidney was shut out

- Original poem by Ernest Thayer / Last stanza parodied for today's Poetry Train

- Photo by Dave Sanford

Akelamalu says Oh shame. :(

Jennie Marsland says I find it hard to cheer against Sid, but I really would like to see a Canadian team take the Stanley Cup again.

Travis says I lament with you now, and shall lament with you even more if Kobe and my Lakers fall short of a second straight NBA championship.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 7

Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' back story.

For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood back story of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 7

Panic nearly drove him to scramble away.

Unnatural stillness gripped the forest as the dragon reappeared above the tips of the trees. Scorpius lay immobile, as did whomever lay beside him under the rock ledge.

There was nothing to do but hold his breath, flattening himself till he matched the rock, staring in horrified fascination as the creature glided closer. Scorpius shook, though his trembling made his teeth chatter. Surely the dragon would hear such a racket.

Two strong hands settled over his shoulders. One touch and Scorpius knew who it was under this ledge with him. He quieted as the enormous wingspan blocked everything from view, then left only clear sky in its wake.

His master held him steady. From a skewed vantage point he could see the pillar rock, recoiling in his mind from images of himself trying to reach it as he’d been ordered to do. When the dragon swooped low to settle itself upon the pillar, a gasp lodged painfully in Scorpius' throat.

Leathery wings stretched and retracted. The long, narrow head shook back and forth. Then a blood-curdling screech sliced through the valley.

Richolf held him tighter, as though his master knew the terror of his memories, though Scorpius had never told him any of it. Sharp stones dug into his hip, but there was no question of adjusting position. The dragon’s perch atop the rock gave it a perfect view, its exceptional sight geared toward detecting motion.

All morning and well past noon, the dragon kept them hostage under their ledge. It finally dove in a spectacular rush upon a forest titan, spearing the unfortunate animal with its sword-like claws. With three flaps of those hideous wings, the dragon with its writhing meal finally flew out of sight.

Richolf held Scorpius there as they waited for any sign that the creature would return. He felt safe with his master’s hands grounding him. The strength that flowed into Scorpius kept the remembered screams of his nightmares from bubbling to the surface.

Late afternoon sun carved shadows across the valley when Richolf nudged Scorpius out from beneath the ledge. Shouldering his hunting bag, his master inhaled carefully, searching for any signs of the dragon that might carry on the wind.

With a quick jerk of the head, Richolf gave the order to strike out for their cottage. Scorpius filed in behind him, using every ounce of self control to refrain from reaching for his master’s hand.

© Julia Smith, 2010

Janet says Wow, Julia - there's so much in this instalment. Scorpius' desire to hold his master's hand (a very nice touch to an already amazing scene)

Travis says I know that this is background for Scorpius, and you have created a rich and full character. But Richolf's presence is also not to be ignored.

Calico Crazy says Great installment, I really felt like I was there under the ledge with them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

I'm blogging at Popculturedivas - Scroll down for 5 on Friday

Join me at Popculturedivas for Shakepearan Idol Soliloquy-Off.

To be or not to be... Who says it best? You be the judge.

5 on Friday - Set 14

For today's 5 on Friday, I'm showcasing Great Big Sea in honour of lead singer Alan Doyle. His first film opens today - Robin Hood!

Great Big Sea hails from Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost province.

For more tunes, visit Travis at Trav's Thoughts.

1 - The Old Black Rum

Well I'd drink to the Father
Or the Holy Ghost
Kneeling at the altar
Of my nightly post

And I'll raise a glass
Not the first or last
Come join me in this toast

- Great Big Sea

2 - Ordinary Day

I’ve got a smile on my face, I’ve got four walls around me
The sun in the sky, the water surrounds me
I’ll win now but sometimes I’ll lose
I’ve been battered, but I’ll never bruise, it’s not so bad

And I say way-hey-hey, it’s just an ordinary day
And it’s all your state of mind
At the end of the day, you’ve just got to say
It’s all right

- Great Big Sea

3 - Run Runaway

I like black and white
Dream in black and white
You like black and white
Run runaway

See chameleon lying there in the sun
All things to everyone
Run runaway

- Slade

4 - When I'm Up (I Can't Get Down)

The night is just beginning
And then it comes on strong
It comes on strong, and I am lifted
I am lifted, I am lifted!

When I'm up I can't get down
Can't get down, can't get level
When I'm up I can't get down
Get my feet back on the ground

- Great Big Sea

5 - End of the World

It's the end of the world as we know it,
and I feel fine

- Great Big Sea

Jamie says I just love groups that know how to get an audience going. These guys are great.

Janet says Love Great Big Sea, Julia. From the moment I heard them years ago - love, love, love them!

Travis says I actually knew a couple of those tunes. This is a fun group!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thursday Thirteen - 158 - 13 Questions For Christine Wells, Author of Sweetest Little Sin - And a Book Giveaway!

Hi Julia! Thanks so much for having me on your blog today.

1 - If the Twilight series could be described as The Notebook meets Dracula, how would you describe Sweetest Little Sin?

I'd describe it as James meets Jane (James Bond and Jane Austen, that is!)

2 - Christine - that is brilliant.

We first meet Jardine and Louisa as secondary characters in The Dangerous Duke. Were you expecting the reader reaction to this couple?

I expected a few people to complain that Jardine and Louisa's romance wasn't resolved in The Dangerous Duke and I was prepared to do a novella or a free short story to give Louisa and Jardine their happily ever after.

Funnily enough, I didn't get complaints at all, but I did receive an amazing number of requests for their story. I was thrilled when my editor agreed to let me do a novel-length sequel.

I specifically singled them out in my review of The Dangerous Duke!

3 - Louisa is self-described as being not much of a beauty. But of course to Jardine she is one - and more. Is it difficult to write a non-glamorous heroine in the romance genre?

Louisa finds it rather bemusing that despite her ordinary looks, Jardine still thinks she's stunning and he's convinced that every man who looks at her twice wants her.

I loved writing Louisa because she was such a strong character. Her lack of glamour in the looks department didn't bother me at all.

4 - Jardine verges on being cruel at times. How did you manage to bring out the hero lurking inside him?

Well, he's never cruel to Louisa, except when he's trying to save her by pushing her away. I think that's the key, that he puts her interests first, no matter what.

He's ruthless, but I love it when men are ruthless in pursuit of a worthy goal. I always think that is the kind of man it takes to fight true evil.

5 - Is there a fictional character you've written who carries a lot of Christine Wells inside?

Short answer - No! I find writing characters is a bit like acting. You don the skin of whoever you're playing - writing - at that particular time.

Of course, some of my values and opinions must creep through but I don't think any of my characters are like me. How boring for the reader that would be!

6 - Which character was the hardest for you to get a solid handle upon?

The villain in Sweetest Little Sin, Radleigh, wasn't easy. It's difficult to make secondary characters three-dimensional as you have less air-time to give them. Plus, he was one sick puppy, so he wasn't easy for me to write.

7 - Which has been your most challenging book to write, so far?

They are all challenging! I think the only one I can say really flew along was Wicked Little Game. But each story presents its own challenges.

I don't think you ever stop learning and feeling like you're reinventing the wheel. It's what makes writing novels so interesting... and painful!

8 - Do you have a critique partner? If so, do you meet face to face? Or do you work online with one another?

I used to critique a lot but my critique partners and I got published at around the same time and it became difficult to co-ordinate around deadlines.

Denise Rossetti, who writes wonderful fantasy romance for Berkley and erotica for Ellora's Cave, is a CP who mainly helps me with plotting these days. We get together every now and then, face to face, as she lives in my town and she grills me about my characters and story. I'm an auditory learner so I find it helps to talk out problems with Denise.

Then Anna Campbell, who writes utterly compelling dark and sexy historicals for Avon, usually does a complete read-through critique of the full manuscript before I send it to my editor and vice versa. This seems to work well.

9 - How would you say juggling writing and motherhood differs from juggling another sort of career with parenthood?

I'm lucky that writing is more flexible than many other kinds of job. You do have to be more disciplined, though, because it's so easy to let all the domestic responsibilities eat into your writing time.

Those who have jobs outside the home at least get to leave their children in someone else's care while they do their work. If you write and stay at home, you don't have that luxury. You have to do double time and it can be very hard to focus, especially with babies and small children who don't understand the blood or fire rule!

This year is the first time I've had my younger child at kindergarten two days a week, so I now have some uninterrupted writing time. Yippee!

10 - Do you have any tips on keeping social life temptations from wreaking havoc with your contract deadlines?

Become a hermit. It works for me!

Seriously, I have the 'no vacancy' sign up when it comes to friends. I say no to anything that doesn't involve close, dear friends.

Unfortunately, that means I don't hang with the school mothers for coffee after school drop-off or go to my husband's work functions unless he really wants me to be there. A lot of acquaintances have fallen by the wayside but that's the price you pay. When my boys are both in school, I'll have more time for a social life.

11 - Do you have any other creative outlets besides writing fiction?

I love cooking, especially baking. I'm not sure if that's terribly creative as I do tend to follow recipes, but it's the closest I get.

I'd love to take painting lessons one day. I have very little natural aptitude but I'd like to learn.

12 - If you could have a fantasy dinner with any three writers, living or dead, and ask them about their creative processes, who would they be?

Dorothy Parker
Georgette Heyer
Jane Austen

I think somehow these ladies would disdain to discuss their processes, but it's my fantasy, isn't it?

13 - When did you realize that it was not only possible to be a published author, but that it was in your grasp?

That's a good question and I'm not sure I know the answer. I think perhaps it was when I had a request for the full of the first manuscript I wrote (which is now under the bed). Until then, I wasn't sure if what I was writing was like a 'real book'.

LOL! That's great to hear for those of us still polishing things off to send away.

Joining the Romance Writers of Australia was a huge boost. Reading about everyone's 'call stories' there was tremendously inspiring. I thought if they could do it, so could I!

I'm a member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, and the support there is indescribable.

Julia, there's one more special treat - I've got a signed copy of Sweetest Little Sin to give away to someone who answers the question:

What is your creative talent or hobby? If you don't have one, what creative talent would you like to have?

Can't wait to read everyone's answers. Thank you so much for stopping by, Christine!

Cheers - thanks for having me!

Remember to join me next week when I review Sweetest Little Sin and announce the winner of the giveaway.

Denise Rosetti says As for creative hobbies - apart from driving a certain critique partner insane by being difficult about her plots - I'm a first class knitter.

Bev Petterson says Enjoyed the interview, Christine and congratulations on Sweetest Little Sin!

Julianne MacLean says The book looks wonderful! Today - drum roll please - I am going outside to plant some shrubs. I see Julia falling out of her chair, cuz she knows how much I hate gardening.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - 149

Digital Flower Pictures says The colors are working.

Nursie in Pink says Nothing like a good kilt!

Julia@Easy Eco To Go says Great shot!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Poetry Train Monday - 151 - The Best is Yet to Come

For today's Poetry Train, I'm dedicating a song to my nephew Jake and his new bride, Gracie, who got married over the weekend.

Once upon a time, there was a sweet little nephew who was the ring bearer at my wedding.

Fast forward a few years, and our hero - descended from a long line of Incredibly Handsome Men - grew to manhood.

Like all heroes in every story, Jake at first Refused the Call of handsomeness.

But heroes are destined to Seize the Sword.

Jake Crossed the Threshold to serve in the US Airforce.

Jake's Hero's Journey ultimately brought him face to face with The Goddess.

Finally accepting his fate and stepping up to join his family legacy of Incredible Handsomeness, Jake Crossed the Return Threshold by transforming into Mr. & Mrs.

Jake and Gracie - this one is for you:

The Best is Yet to Come

Out of the tree of life
I just picked me a plum
You came along
And everything started in to hum
Still, it's a real good bet
The best is yet to come

The best is yet to come
And babe, won't that be fine?
You think you've seen the sun
But you ain't seen it shine

Wait till the warm-up's underway
Wait till our lips have met
Wait till you see that sunshine day
You ain't seen nothin yet

The best is yet to come
And babe, won't it be fine?
The best is yet to come
Come the day you're mine

Come the day you're mine
I'm gonna teach you to fly
We've only tasted the wine
We're gonna drain the cup dry

Wait till your charms are right
For these arms to surround
You think you've flown before
But baby, you ain't left the ground

Wait till you're locked in my embrace
Wait till I draw you near
Wait till you see that sunshine place
Ain't nothin like it here

The best is yet to come
And babe, won't it be fine?
The best is yet to come
Come the day you're mine

Come the day you're mine
And you're gonna be mine

- Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman, 1964

Akelamalu says Oh a lovely story - wonderful! He is very handsome and she's beautiful - what a lovely couple. :)

Alice Audrey says From ring bearer to groom. Time sure flies.

Julianne MacLean says Handsome, yes - and his bride is gorgeous! Congrats to the happy couple!