Tuesday, December 01, 2015


Now that my newsletter readers know, I can announce it to the world, WINTER BREAK, my newest novella, is now on sale!

That's right. Followers of this blog know this story's story. After a second round of edits, Lynn and Tony's story is finally finished, formatted, and ready for you to read.

It was fun writing a story with (somewhat) older characters. These two are in their early forties and have a romantic, sexy, fun-filled past that now comes back to haunt them. Love rediscovered, though, can conquer the mistakes of their youth, right?

Buy links are here, as is an excerpt from the story.

Of course, if you've signed up for my newsletter, you already know there's a sale going on. Click here to get a 20% discount not only on WINTER BREAK, but on several other of my Christmas stories as well. And if you're not signed up for my newsletter (which goes out 4-6 times a year - no inbox spamming!), you can use the form below to subscribe and get these deals faster.

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Play safe, 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Just some news...

Deciding not to do NaNoWriMo this year turned out to be a good decision. Life has a way of taking unexpected turns, doesn't it? And sometimes decisions you make for one reason end up being the right one for very different ones.

WINTER BREAK was in edits at the beginning of the month and my second Sweet Spot book was half-written. The initial reasoning for not participating had to do with those two stories. A few days in, it had become obvious that the editing time and the writing time would conflict, so I bowed out of the annual, wonderful write-in that is NaNoWriMo.

And then an aneurysm burst in my brother's head and everything else took a backseat.

Editing is easier to do than writing when a crisis occurs. So WINTER BREAK will release before the end of the month, as promised. But the Sweet Spot story? I haven't written a word on it since November 9th, when the world turned sideways.

Mike's not doing as well as we'd hoped. The initial surgery to repair the aneurysm went well - he woke afterward and spoke with the nurses and the doctor in ICU. But a short time later, his brain swelled and they had to take him back into surgery. He hasn't been awake since.

Modern medicine is a true marvel. What they were able to do (and are doing) is nothing short of amazing. But hard decisions are coming on us and it's very difficult to be creative when they loom in one's thoughts.

The upshot? WINTER BREAK will be released in less than a week (Yay! A bright spot!!!), but the still-unnamed Sweet Spot story will be delayed until after the New Year. You'll like it, though. Remember Emily, Wiste's best friend who is her safety when Wiste does her self-bondage? She got short shrift in TIED TO HOME, so I decided she needed her own story. Good thing she meets a hunky psychiatrist who has only recently hung up his shingle in Port Clef...:)

Keep my brother in your thoughts and prayers, if'n you would. Thank you.

Play safe,

PS. A special treat for those of you who read this far. Click on any of the links above for a sneak peek at WINTER BREAK. :)

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Okay, so maybe not so much NaNoWriMo...

November starts with such good intentions. Write a novel, start to finish, in thirty days. It can be done. Did it last year. Can do it again this year, right?

Yeah. About that.

Last year's NaNoWriMo novel was an historical romance set in 1777 British-occupied New York City, entitled THE REVOLUTION OF CLARA SIMPSON*. I'd spent several weeks in October doing the research and, at the start of the month, already had the first chapter (more or less) written. While more research was necessary during November, the bulk of the time was devoted to writing.

Eliza Floyd is the best friend of Clara Simpson in last year's novel. I've wanted to tell her story, too, and thought this year's NaNoWriMo would be the perfect time to sit down and do it.

So, starting on November 1st, I pulled out the two paragraphs I'd written last year and set aside and let my fingers start creating, drawing a clear picture of Miss Floyd and her mother in a carriage as they left the city for safer environs.

Fifteen minutes later (after writing one hundred and fifty words), I needed to look up a detail about the family. Which, of course, led to delving deeper into the New York City culture of the time. And where, exactly, was their destination? I know I bookmarked a map that was very helpful last year...

Two hours passed and the story wasn't any further, the questions in my head that needed further research had quadrupled and it became quite clear that, if I wanted to complete a novel for NaNoWriMo, Eliza's story wasn't the one to tell.

I have another novel I'd been working on that I set aside when WINTER BREAK (a novella that will be released at the end of this month) came along. It's already 22,000 words long. Another 30K should finish it off. But then I couldn't count it as a NaNoWriMo novel. The goal is one novel, one month, 50,000 words.

What to do? What to do?

It's already the third day in and so far, I have nothing to show for it. With edits soon to be returned for WINTER BREAK, and a half-written novel started, it really makes more sense to abandon the noble NaNo goals and concentrate on those works-in-progress. This way, I'll have one new piece released just after Thanksgiving and another new novel ready for release just after Christmas.

All that means, no NaNoWriMo for me this year. The timing just doesn't work out.

Play safe!

*THE REVOLUTION OF CLARA SIMPSON is currently "in the queue" at two publishers. Thought going the traditional route might bring in a wider audience for my other books. Am losing patience, however. One company has had it since April and the other hasn't returned/acknowledged my query. If I hear nothing from either by Christmas, I'm going to self-publish it and not keep readers waiting any longer.

Hmmm...three books released in three months? I'd better get writing!

Friday, October 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo is coming!

So here I am, on the cusp of NaNoWriMo, trying to finish WINTER BREAK before November 1st so I can start fresh with something else on Sunday.

Why isn't WINTER BREAK finished yet, Hunter? You've had two full weeks to write one more scene. What's up?

The biggest reason is my daughter. I have two children; my son moved out over a year ago and married last May. My daughter, having graduated with a degree in theatre and loving Stage Management, hasn't been able to get anything full time and so has been living at home to save money. That's changed. She's now the full time Business Manager for two businesses - Water Gallery and Cafe and the West Main Kitchen in Waterloo, NY. The first is an art gallery, the second is a recently-renovated diner that will be opening VERY soon (menu tasting is tomorrow by invitation only and my husband and I snagged invites. Can't wait!).

The upshot of all this is that she's taken the apartment over the diner (and two doors down from the gallery) and has been moving out. We've painted her new kitchen, her new living room and her new bedroom (the bathroom was still in good shape), moved furniture - I have a garage back! (she's been collecting for quite some time) - and bought groceries. There is still a closet full of clothes to go through and a lot of childhood "stuff" to sort out, but we're almost done.

And that's what I've been doing instead of writing. It's both a fun and exciting time for her (and us) and a scary one as well. She's been on her own before, but I think this is it. Her last move out of our house, starting her own life. She's launched and I'm thrilled and saddened at the same time.

But NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. So today, I'm going to finish WINTER BREAK so I can send it out for another round of edits. Remember the no-conflict problem? Fixed!

I know, I know. Stop writing this post and get back to that story, Hunter!

Play safe!

edited to correct the name of the new restaurant and to add in the link

Sunday, October 11, 2015

No conflict? What???

What do you do when your story has no conflict?

This happened to me lately. I started the story WINTER BREAK as a Christmas Quickie for Ellora’s Cave. But I’m a pantser and the story, while set at Christmas, doesn’t contain the holiday as an integral part of the story (EC’s requirement). It also doesn’t have a lot of sex in it, which makes it more a traditional romance than an erotic one.

Finished, I sent the manuscript off to several of my Sizzling Scribes sisters for proofing/editing. I always ask them to be brutal, because I want the best story I can put out there. Many thanks to both TaraNina and Lynn LaFleur for their comments (and expertise at finding my typos!).

It was Tielle St. Clare, however, who pointed out (rightfully) that I had no real conflict in the story. It was a slice of life piece – which is fine if that’s what I meant, but she rather thought it wasn’t. You see, as a pantser, I discover the characters like to drop little clues, hints about their problems that they divulge rather early in the story. As the plot progresses, I take these clues and follow them, determining as I go which are important and which are not. In the re-write, I take out the false clues (unless I’m writing a mystery like SHOOTING STAR – those red herrings are there specifically to mislead you!).

Except in WINTER BREAK, I hadn’t done anything with the hints at something in the female protagonist’s past that might hinder a current relationship.

Now mind you, I knew what it was in my head. I knew the hero and heroine would have trouble because of it. It was all right there – the characters had told me fairly early on and then trusted me to deal with it later.

Except I hadn’t. And Tielle called me on it. This is why writers need editors!

So I’ve been rewriting the story. It’s gone from just over 10K to 14K in the past week as the conflict has come home to roost. Tara and Lynn think it needs another sex scene (grin) and it might get that as well. Haven’t decided yet. Will let the characters make their choices (although I have a sneaking suspicion what they’ll want!). If they do, it will probably end up closer to 18K by the time I’m done.

Writers need editors. Writers know the story too well to have an objective eye—we miss the obvious. Thank you to Tara, Lynn and Tielle for their editing help. I couldn’t do this without you sisters!

Play safe,


Sunday, October 04, 2015

NaNoWriMo in less than a month -- already?

Hard to believe NaNoWriMo will so soon be upon us. Seems like just yesterday we were furiously writing novels, grabbing every spare minute to write another section, another paragraph, another sentence. Anything to advance our word counts and get to the finish line: 50,000 words in a month.

NaNoWriMo is good because it forces one to take time and do what writer's do: write. As a retiree, it's all too easy to slip into lazy practices - I'll do one more load of laundry...dust the dining room...read this book - any excuse to avoid the BIC step (Butt In Chair). An event such as NaNoWriMo reminds us, if you want to write a book? You have to sit down and write a book.

Last year I worked on THE REVOLUTION OF CLARA SIMPSON, an historical romance. I'd started the research earlier and had some of it written before November. During NaNoWriMo, however, I added 52K to the story. When I finished it a few weeks later, the story ended up around 75K total. But for the November push, it would've taken a whole lot longer for me to get that puppy finished.

What happened to that manuscript, you ask? Let me tell you...

The book sprang from a conversation I'd had with C. J. Hollenbach, one of EC's original cover models. He's a sweetheart and, at the Romanticon convention, I remarked that he'd never graced the cover of any of my books. I told him I'd write one specifically for him, a book that would cry out for him as the cover model.

At one point, he was the model for Karen Hawkins' Her Master and Commander and I loved that picture of him. Dashing, handsome, romantic...yeah. I wanted to write that C.J., so I did. The Revolution of Clara Simpson.

But it didn't turn out to be an erotic romance. Historical romance, yes. Sweet romance, yes. Erotic romance? No so much.

That meant Ellora's Cave wasn't the right place for it. I could self-pub it (and still might!), but thought this might be the book to bring in a wider audience. So I sent it off to Carina Press.

Who promptly rejected it.

I sent it to Harlequin next. But, three months later, I contacted them again (since I hadn't heard from them aside from the initial auto-response) and asked if they were still interested. I got a very nice note in reply from Dieidra McCluskey, an Editorial Assistant, stating that their response time of 12 weeks is approximate and that my manuscript was being reviewed by their Historical Romance response team.

I haven't heard from them since. I suppose I'll send another email at the six-month period to see if I can goose it along, one way or the other. It's hard, having written a book that I know is good, to wait on others for a yay or nay, especially in this time of self-publishing when I could've had it out there already (let's face it, Mystic Shade wrote, edited and published two more books and I've written a Christmas story that's currently in edits in the time Harlequin has taken to decide!).

So I'll give them a courtesy email in another week, upon the six-month anniversary of my submitting it. I would very much like them to publish it, even though it means a smaller royalty for me (compared to self-publishing) because it means a wider distribution. More eyes on the book - and that's worth the trade-off. Why? Because that book will lead new readers to say, "I liked this. What else has she written?" And my entire backlist will get a boost.

So what's up for this year's NaNoWriMo? What book will I work on? Not sure yet. I have that fantasy I keep talking about and would love to get a chunk more written. But there is also a follow-up story to Clara Simpson's and I'm thinking I might like to give that a run. I have a few weeks yet to make my decision, thank goodness!

NaNoWriMo in less than a month - already. Have any ideas about what project you're going to work on?

Play safe,

Friday, September 18, 2015

Website updates and additions -- and a re-release!

Sometimes tweaks are needed to keep a website looking good. To that end, several changes have been made to the website.

First of all, you'll note the sidebar now contains only one book cover. The newest release will always be the "Featured Book" so you can find it easily. While it made sense to list the other covers when there were only a few, the longer the list became, the more ungainly it looked, making the front page way longer than people wanted to scroll through (but isn't that a wonderful problem to have? Too many books for a scroll list?!?).

The second change is to the "Published Works" page. You'll note the covers are there but (mostly) only the covers. Each picture links to a dedicated book page with purchasing info, an excerpt and reviews of the book. This allowed me to put up ALL my books, both those I've self-published and those published by Ellora's Cave, in a layout that is clean and easy to use.

There is also a complete list of books, as well as a downloadable PDF of the list.

The third change? The addition of an "About Me" page. This was fun to write! Spread out over many posts over many years, it seemed time to pull everything together in one spot. Be forewarned: it's long!

And finally - the newest re-release is Diamonds in the Snow. Originally written for the Diamond Studs anthology (containing stories by Ruby Storm and Ruth Kerce), this novella now stands on its own. It's available in all formats from Smashwords and in the Kindle-only format from Amazon. Click the link for an excerpt of this winter story!

Off to write a new story...

Play safe!

PS. If you find any missing links, please let me know. Amazon JUST went live, so those links on the Diamonds in the Snow page now work.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Reading notes

Like many New Year's resolutions, my intent to keep track of all the books I read this year has fallen to the wayside. In the past several months, I've read:

several of Diana Gabaldon's short stories that take place in the Outlander universe,
about a dozen romance novels in the Regency era, including Julia Quinn's Smyth-Smith series in its entirety,
and, most recently, a book called What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. It's this book that has moved me to write this post.

My Book Club is reading this as their first selection of the year (we're teachers and retired teachers, so we go by the school calendar), otherwise it may never have come up on my radar. Not knowing anything about it, I bought it (Kindle version) and read the first chapter. Imagine my surprise to discover its set at Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, NY - a place barely thirty miles from me! It takes, as its inspiration, the discovery of over 400 suitcases left behind by the inmates of the asylum. These suitcases were found after the Center closed and staff were going through old rooms and attics. Museums were contacted and the suitcases were saved. They're now housed at the Museum of DisABILITY in Buffalo, NY. There is also an online story of them.

So a wonderful premise with dual storylines: a high-school girl gets roped into helping to itemize these suitcases and the story of one of the inmates told in her point of view as to how she got sent there and what happened to her. I was excited to read this book.

(Warning: I'm stepping up onto my soapbox here!)

But the author's scholarship was sloppy and that pisses me off. In the modern-day story, she references real places (her description of Willard Psychiatric is spot-on), making mention of Geneva, NY and Romulus High School as well as making several references to Seneca Lake (the buildings overlook the longest and deepest of the Finger Lakes). HOWEVER, she makes up a fictional high school for the protagonist instead of using South Seneca, the actual school anyone in that area would've attended.

Her depictions of modern teenagers is also at fault, peppering the senior class of her fictitious school with stereotypes (the Queen Bee and her minions, primarily). The obligatory party on the beach, the kids who run the classrooms (none of the teachers seem to have any control over the students in the classroom - really? For one, hasn't this been done to death and for another -- really? Teachers don't take enough bashing but you need to make every single teacher ineffective and weak???).

So I had issues with the modern day story, but the story of the young woman who is sent to Willard in the 1920's also rang false. Willard was founded in the late 1860's as a humanist way of dealing with mental illness. People were taken from almshouses and poor houses and jails where they were treated abominably and brought to Willard, where the emphasis was on sunshine, fresh air, and healthy food. Yes, new techniques were tried, most of which we now know were ineffective at best, cruel at worst. But the emphasis was on curing the mental disease, not incarceration for no good reason, as the author implies.

Were there abuses? Probably. But the author used as one of her primary sources, the story of Nelly Bly and the reporting she'd done on the insane asylums near New York City in the late 1800's. Except Clara's story was set in the 1920's and 30's and considerable efforts had been spent making asylums a better place. And Willard was already a better place than most.

So yes, some Willard patients underwent insulin therapy and electroshock therapy. But I have a VERY hard time believing the character of Dr. Roach, who was guided only by his own self-interest. He might've worked as a character at a different asylum, but not at Willard.

What I think I'd rather read is one of her other source books: The Lives they Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny. But I want the hardcover of that one. The photographs by Lisa Rinzler look amazing.

Long story, short: I found the book filled with stereotypes in both storylines, with poor scholoarship on the part of the author and over-done plot points. Maybe if I hadn't had such high hopes for the book when I started I wouldn't have been so disappointed. Maybe if it didn't hit one of my major pet peeves about books that deal with real-life issues or places, I would be able to recommend this book, but I can't. It just ticked me off too much.

(stepping off my soapbox)

Play safe!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A milestone reached - and passed

One million published words, baby! One million words!

Actually, 1,269,800. That's published in books and stories words. It does not include any blog posts either here or as a guest author on anyone else's blog. It does not include any of my academic writing or letters to friends or posts to Facebook. Nor does it include the dozens upon dozens of stories I've started but not finished.

Nope. That's 1269.8K-- PUBLISHED -- in stories and books since September 2003. That was the month Secret Submission came out as an ebook and launched my career.

And I owe it all to my husband's comment years before that.

I'd been working on a fantasy novel for nearly two decades. I had scraps of it written on all sorts of paper (the back of bank notes, backs of receipts, pieces of cardboard from the paper pads that had run out of paper--whatever was at hand); these all were shoved into a folder in no particular order. In 1991, my daughter was not quite a year old and he looked at our finances (and my mental health) and said, "I don't think you need to get a summer job this year. Why don't you write that book instead?"

I kissed him. Hard. And a lot.

What happened between 1991 and 2003? I learned a lot about writing books. That first novel? The fantasy one (working title: Discoveries)? It's still on my computer at 95K and counting (and no, that number isn't in my one million + figure!). I made a lot of mistakes and to rewrite it would take a great deal of time. Time I'll get too one of these days. :)

I also had another child (who just got married!) and wrote Hardship and Hardtack, a Civil War historical fiction based on the real Lieutenant Richard Bassett and his brother, Erasmus (Rass). That book collected several rejection letters before I self-pubbed it when that option became available (that 68.6K is included in my grand total).

All-in-all, I have written and published 36 titles (short stories, novellas, novels and poems). There are at least 55 stories in my "story starts" file - ranging in length from a few hundred words, to ninety-five thousand. I've written writing workshops and hundreds of blog posts over the years. Maybe someday I'll count all those up, too. Today, however, I'm celebrating!

I broke the one million mark. Here's to the next million!

Play safe,

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What's next?

"What's next?"

I love that line from The West Wing. President Barlett's phrase to signal it was time to move onto the next item on the agenda.

And what's next on my agenda? I'm so glad you asked! 

A lot of projects got shoved to the side over the past two months as I wrote, edited and published the two HER MASTER’S VOICE books. Now that they’ve been released, those other projects now get their time in the limelight.

First up is the re-release of two books: Diamonds in the Snow and New York Moment. Both of these were published by Ellora’s Cave first, but their contracts ran out. Rather than have them sit on my computer, I’m re-releasing them with new covers.

Diamonds in the Snow has special meaning to me because that’s how I met Ruby Storm and Ruth Kerce, EC was looking to do a 2005 Valentine’s anthology and I applied to be one of the authors. The three of us were chosen and a lifetime friendship was born. Diamond Studs was fun to work on with these two wonderful ladies. We had so much fun, we went on to publish a Christmas anthology - Winter Studs - as well.

At one point we considered a Fourth of July offering, Service Studs, but EC was moving away from anthologies by that point. Both Ruth and I turned those novellas into full-length books. Ruth’s became  Hot on Her Trail and mine is Services Rendered. Ruby! We know you started yours – we’re waiting!!!

Look for Diamonds in the Snow and New York Moment in the next few months.

Next, I plan to get back to a new Port Clef story started before Her Master’s Voice barged in and took over. It doesn’t have a title yet, but is sitting on my computer with 20K+ words in it. In other words, over a third of the way finished. My goal is to have it done and published before Thanksgiving.

Of course, that puts it smack-dab in the middle of NaNoWriMo, and participating in that is a ton of fun. Last year’s story, The Revolution of Clara Simpson is still under consideration by Harlequin (I emailed at the 90-day period to ask about it and was told it is still in consideration. Keeping my fingers crossed that they pick it up). Who knows what this year’s writing challenge will bring?

So that’s where I am right now. Lots of stories in the hopper. Although, to be honest, there’s a scrapbooking table calling my name right now....

Play safe!

Friday, August 21, 2015

New release, as promised!

I told you this book would be out before the end of the week and I made my self-imposed deadline right on target.  HER MASTER'S VOICE (Book2) is now available on Amazon, Smashwords, and at A1AdultEbooks in all formats (well, except at Amazon where you can still buy only in the Kindle format -- silly Amazon!).

I started these two books on June 30th. Well, I started a book on June 30th. But it got towards the end of July and I realized these two had more story in them than just the one volume. They kept talking, so I kept writing. The result? 99,000+ words between the two volumes of hot sex, intriguing characters and some controversial topics.

Don't forget to leave a review on whatever site you buy the book from. Good, bad, indifferent, reviews drive the numbers, so the more, the merrier!

Play safe!

PS. If you want to check out Mystic's other books, she has her own page right here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sneak Peek

As you know, I wrote both of the HER MASTER'S VOICE books one right after the other. Originally intended to be a single book of about 55,000 words, the characters had far more to say (and do!) and just kept going. They wanted not one, but two books all to themselves. And, if Emma has her way, she's going to demand another in a couple of months, you watch!

Book 1 of HER MASTER'S VOICE is available in all formats from Smashwords and A1Adultebooks (where it is climbing the bestseller list. A few more sales and it'll reach silver status!!!). It is also available at Amazon, although we'll see how long that lasts. OVER MY ENSLAVED BODY is still banned, although some people seem to find it now and again. I think the page still exists, but you might have to go to Canada to buy it. :)

Book 2 of HMV is also complete as of last night. I'll wait a few days, read it through again for typos and wordsmithing, then publish it at the end of this week. Thought, however, you might enjoy seeing the cover. Obviously Mystic has a style to her covers, making them unmistakably hers. Diana's looking at redoing all her covers so they can be distinguished (branded) as hers as well. One of these days... :)

By the way, Book 2 can be read independent of Book 1, but if you're like me, you'll want to read them in order. It's my OCD coming to the fore. Gotta read from the start of a series straight through to the end. No jumping around for me!

Watch for HER MASTER'S VOICE, Book 2 -- Coming soon!

Play safe,

Thursday, August 13, 2015

New release!

HER MASTER'S VOICE (Book1) is now available at Smashwords and Amazon. This is a Mystic Shade title and please, be warned! It is not for the faint of heart. While there are elements of romance in it, it is primarily an erotica book, so there is lots and lots of sex. Lots of sex. Did I say it has sex in it? :)

HER MASTER'S VOICE introduces a new Dom into the world of slave traders. Malachi Montgomery works differently his best friend, Jake Kariola, but his goal is the same: to allow women the opportunity to shuck their worldly cares and enter a life of sexual slavery. His current slave-in-progress is Emma, a web designer who's looking for a way to serve her fellow man.

This was a fun story to write. I started writing this book on June 30th and completed it before the end of July. But these two characters had a lot (a LOT) more story to tell, so we kept going. Book 1 of this new series clocks in at 47,000 words and Book 2 currently stands at 49,000 before editing. FOr those of you following me on Facebook, the word counts I've been posting? Were for these two books.

What??? You're not following me on Facebook? Click the link in the top right corner and join the fun!

So, a whole new series of books that are very naughty, very sexy, very erotic. Just remember that Mystic likes to push the envelope and her stories contain BDSM activities taken about as far as they can go. You've been warned!

(NOTE: Jake Kariola, Malachi's best friend, has his own series. Over My Enslaved Body, Traitor Slave, Fully Owned and Training Two are all his.)

Excerpt? You want an excerpt? Oh, okay...What follows is a tame one, since Blogger would blow up if I posted a truly hot part of the book.

HER MASTER'S VOICE (Book 1 excerpt from Chapter 1)
by Mystic Shade
All Rights Reserved

Wearing nothing under her long coat but a latex bra and panties accompanied by a set of garters with stockings, and having remembered to put the panties outside the garters this time, Emma knocked on the door to the hotel room, desperately hoping she’d written the number right. She checked the paper in her palm once more. Room 311. Yes. Still, when Master Malachi opened the door, she gave a huge sigh of relief. She’d made it.
Her relief was short-lived, however, as he slid a blindfold over her eyes as she stood in the doorway, but not before she caught a glimpse of movement in the room. He pulled her inside, her high heels making her totter a bit, but she was sure she’d seen another person here with him. That couldn’t be right…he hadn’t said anything about bringing in other partners, although she’d confessed to a guilty fantasy involving multiple partners a few weeks ago…many partners and all of them men who wanted to use her for their own sexual gratification. He’d promised he’d make that dream come true. Someday.
Before Emma could get her bearings, he tugged the coat from her shoulders, effectively trapping her arms. The slip of paper floated to the floor as he spoke softly into her ear and she strained to listen.
“It is eleven o’clock, Saturday morning. Per our agreement, you are mine for the next twenty-four hours. Mine to play with, mine to command, mine to use and abuse.”
She nodded her assent, though nothing he said was phrased as a question. His hand groped her pussy, rubbing the latex into her slit. She moaned, her lips parting…and a ball gag pushed against her lips. Without thinking, she opened her mouth for it before realizing his hands were busy…who was gagging her so tightly? She tried to speak, but only garbled sounds came out around the rubber ball.
“Mine to use, mine to abuse.”
The mind-fuck already worked on her. “Abuse” – she loved that word. It implied so many naughty things he could do to her. They’d negotiated this, talked about it at length. Was it abuse if the action was consensual? She wanted her boundaries pushed—and pushed hard. At his hands she already knew she liked sensory play; a good flogging started her descent into subspace like nothing else. And being bound and helpless. Vulnerable. Open and unable to prevent him from doing whatever he wanted.
She leaned against his strong chest and a soft moan came from the back of her throat as he palmed her covered mound. Two weeks ago he’d asked if she’d ever thought about shaving her pussy and she had admitted to a higher than needed bikini cut, but hadn’t had the courage to go further. As a result, short brown hairs curled under the red latex. He pressed his hand against her mound, the pressure establishing his possession of her body as her mind wheeled. He assailed her senses before she was even four feet into the room. Her breath quickened around the gag when she realized again that another set of hands other than his touched her. She tried counting as fingers caressed her skin, ran over her breasts, her neck, then gathered her hair off her shoulders to twist into a rough ponytail. With her arms still tangled in the coat, she couldn’t stop them. But then again, with such wonderful twinges going off in her pussy, why would she want them to?
Her nipple rose to meet the finger that slipped under the latex to fondle the nub. Another moan, one she couldn’t suppress, filled her throat and her head tipped back. But her mouth was full of saliva she couldn’t swallow—the gag effectively trapped her tongue—and she tipped her head forward again, widening her lips in an effort to release the liquid.
“My slave.” Her Master’s palm on her cheek. She’d recognize that touch anywhere. His thumb ran over her cheekbone, claiming her face as his own. Pressing against his palm, she tried to let him know every part of her belonged to him. He pinched her lip, pulling it away from the gag and letting her drool.
“I own your mouth. You swallow—or don’t—at my whim.”
Emma’s knees felt weak and she gave him her mouth. It no longer belonged to her. It was his to play with, to use in any way he wanted.
Letting go of the self wasn’t something she could easily do. It took practice. A discipline of both mind and body. But over the past six months, she’d gotten better at it, more able to allow that letting go and, therefore, faster at letting it happen. And Master Malachi helped. She loved going into trance as he hypnotized her so he could speak to her subconscious. His words helped her strip away her inhibitions, her shyness, and society’s strictures regarding sexuality.
Still, losing the sense of self and moving into a state where she was no longer the center of her own being, took some time. His words, his actions, everything he did to her and for her, were steps to help her go deep inside, find the self, and release it.

Her face, her mouth—they were gone to her already today. They belonged to her Master and he would use them as he wanted. Two bodies shifted around her. Hands that were not his pressed against her breasts and she felt the rock-hard chest of someone behind her. Someone tall and muscular, similar to her Master, yet not him. Someone who smelled of soap and leather with strong, powerful hands that now slid down along her arms, holding them as her coat fell away and revealed her body to their eyes.

HER MASTER'S VOICE, now available at Amazon and Smashwords!

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Not dead...just writing

Sorry I haven't posted here much lately. Been working steadily on a new Mystic Shade title I hope to have out before the end of the week. HER MASTER'S VOICE is currently in edits and my goal is to finish them tomorrow. Then formatting, cover production and uploading!

I started writing this book June 30th and it was done in about three weeks. Well, the first draft, anyway. The characters, however, didn't want to stop talking and I've written another entire book with them since then. One more chapter and I think HER MASTER'S VOICE, Book 2 will be complete. Will have to remember to add Book 1 to the first cover (mock-up is already done).

These are Mystic Shade titles, though, make no mistake. Where Diana Hunter focuses on the romance of a relationship, Mystic is much more brutal. There's a reason her books are "for the shadier sides of our desires." Mystic's stories are dark, dangerous, and skirt the line (sometimes crossing right over it) of sense and propriety. They are dark fantasies, the ones we have that we would never, ever, admit to having. The heroines do not always consent, the heroes are not always nice. The Stockholm Syndrome is often in effect and both parties like it that way.

In fact, that's why I use two different pen names: to help readers differentiate between the two types of books. Not everyone likes dark fantasy. Some don't like happily-ever-after endings and others don't like historical fiction. It's all good. Life would be pretty boring if we all liked the same thing. So I use the different names to help readers know what they're going to get. Diana will always give you a happy ending, Mystic will always make you squirm (and CF Duprey will always write about the Civil War!).

So if you're a Mystic Shade fan, be on the lookout! I'll make an announcement (and post an excerpt) when the first book comes out later this week.

'Til then...Play safe!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Over at the Decadent Divas today

Check it out for a light-hearted look at A Day in the Life of a Romance Author. Thanks to Cait Miller for asking me to be their guest. :)

Play safe,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mystic Shade is at it again!

Two weeks ago, I started writing a new Mystic Shade novel, tentative title HER MASTER'S VOICE. If the RCA/Victor dog wasn't copyrighted, I'd put it on the cover. Usually, it takes me a couple of months to write the first draft of any book, no matter what genre. I'm a pantser, so I often don't write in order. I write as the story comes to me, stopping and going back to add or skipping forward and writing a scene I want to have happen, then writing a bridge between the current manuscript and the new piece.

This story, however, just kept coming. I've been writing an average of 3600 words a day, every day for the past 16 days for a total just over 61,000 words. I've decided it isn't one novel, it's two. Normally I'd stop, go back and edit the first novel, then complete the second. But the story's flowing and I don't want to stop it. So the creative process adopts and changes to fit the story. Who knew?

Just wanted you all to know why I haven't posted here in two weeks. :)

My husband and I are going back to Lancaster, PA for a few days and my goal is to have the second book nearly finished by then. My energies at the B&B will then be toward editing the first book with the goal of publishing it by early August. Yes, I did play around and have a cover already! No dog. :(

Yesterday was the seven-week mark for my broken leg. Doc says I can drive again-- Yay! We're in a transitional period - I wear the cast when I think I need to. At this point it seems to be for a few hours every other day. Overdid yesterday (of course), so cast on this morning.

Take care everyone...off to write!

Play safe,

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't rely on the Muse

A few days ago, I made a Facebook post about writing 4000+ words in just a few hours and made the off-hand comment that my Muse was with me. A former student wrote to say she hadn't seen her Muse in quite some time. We had a good conversation and I sincerely hope she can get her story moving again.

We writers are an independent lot. We write where we will, when we will, how we will. No one tells novelists what story they should write--it all comes out of our own imaginations. Yes, we get inspired by others' artworks,  music, even their stories. But our own creations are exactly that: our own creations to the point where writers compare themselves to God (don't believe me? Type "writer as god" into Google and you'll get 168 BILLION hits, give or take a few).

But there's a problem with being god-like: we don't have anyone else to blame when we can't be creative. "You're the god of your story! What do you mean, you don't know what happens next? Make it up!" We've all heard that well-meant advice from non-writers who don't understand the creative process. They don't understand that, sometimes, the ideas just aren't there.

Of course, sometimes writers don't understand that either.

And, because of our fierce independence, we don't realize that other writers have the same problem.

We've come up with ways to lay the blame, of course. Because, Heaven forbid it should be our fault. We'd lose our god-hood if we couldn't write, couldn't control the actions of our fictitious characters, characters who, in our minds, are real people. If it were our fault that we couldn't figure out what happened next or our fault that the words were clumsy and didn't say what we really meant--that would be a personal failure.

And no one likes to fail.

So we blame others. We say we have "writer's block" as if someone else built a wall between us and our imagination. Or we say the Muse has left us, as if our creativity lived outside us and had moved to someone else's house. We feel washed-up, weary, wrung out with worry--and sure that we never will write another word.

But writing is work. And all work is sometimes easy, sometimes hard. When I say hard, I'm not talking about all the procrastination tools we have to keep us from staring at that darn story that just won't move, I'm talking about the willpower to sit there and stare that page down and write something. Anything. You can cut it out later, but putting the butt in chair and forcing the fingers to type words isn't easy.

That's one way to get over the hump (another way of saying, "Not my fault. Someone put a speedbump in front of my creativity!"). Another is to walk away for a day or two. No longer! We set patterns in our lives, routines that keep us sane. Sitting down to write is part of a routine. Walk away from it for more than a few days and the routine is disrupted.

But that disruption can help. "Sharpen the saw" Steven Covey says. Go do something else and when you come back, you do so with a fresh mind. In that Facebook conversation, I suggested reading a book, doing crossword puzzles--keeping the mind engaged in some manner, but allowing the story to simmer on the back burner for a few days.

Both these methods work.

What doesn't work is throwing up your hands and saying, "My Muse has left me" and then doing nothing about it.

We are writers. We write. Period.

Play safe,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Of Healing Legs and Scrapbooking

The pile in the right corner is my yet-to-do pile
Been home for a bit now. What with being laid up somewhat - the Aircast allows for some walking but at such a slow pace it takes a VERY long time to get anywhere - I've decided to get right to putting everything in the scrapbook I'd bought before I left.

Let's face it: I'm nothing if not organized. While we often use the need to straighten, file, tidy up as a procrastination tool, the reality is, we think better when the space around us has some semblance of order to it. To that end, I bought two scrapbooks before we left - big ones with lots and lots of pages. I'd learned from putting together the books from our Alaska trip. That was thirteen days and had two parts: land and sea. This trip to Italy and Ireland had the same two components: Italy by sea and Ireland by land. But the Alaska trip took three regular-sized two-inch notebooks and not everything fit even then.

So big scrapbooks for me this time. I bought some Italy and Irish stickers from Michael's (my daughter works there, so I've been supporting her!) and set up my to-go folders for the trip before we left.

That's our itinerary in the left pocket; maps are behind it
To-go folders? I tried this for Alaska and it worked so well, I did it again. Take a pocket folder with the three fold-down clasps in the middle. Put in as many acid-free plastic sleeves as you have days of vacation (and an extra for other stuff). I used a red folder for Italy and a green one for Ireland. Inside the pockets I put maps, embassy information taped to the pocket, a copy of our passports and our pre-purchased tickets and reservation numbers. I also slid a copy of our itinerary into each folder.

Then, as we had fun and explored and played, the folder for that country became our bible. Each day had it's own sleeve for receipts, handouts, ticket stubs - anything we collected along the way. By the end of the week, Italy's folder was stuffed full, all of it already sorted by day.

For scrapbooking, this means everything is already organized! I printed out the first three days worth of pictures and put them with their respective sleeves. Now I can just take a day at a time and it's all set to go. No muss, no fuss. I will never travel without those folders again.

Vesuvio - such a handsome dragon!
My leg is doing well, although it gets sore now and then (okay more now than then). Doc's got me on ibuprophen and it works well enough. I like that it doesn't make me groggy and I can still (mostly) think. Still wearing the Aircast; have an appointment this Wednesday to see if I can get it off and go to a brace or if I have to wear it a while longer. At least I don't have to use Vesuvio anymore.

Who is Vesuvio? My cane, of course! The one Steven bought me in Pompeii. He's been, quite literally, my walking stick, my right hand, my helper and hasn't left my side for the past two weeks. Only yesterday did I put him with the other canes we've collected over the years. Independence worked well and I'll let him live in the corner now.

At Michael's, my daughter is in charge of all the Scrap-ins and Crop Nights they hold. Not many people have attended of late but I go to every one of them. Why not? A chance to spread out on really big tables and spend time being (somewhat) creative? What's not to like? The store makes out, too, because I've always forgotten something or need one more page of this or one more sticker of that...I'm always running our of photo splits or glue sticks and always losing the acid free thin-line marker I like for writing on the pages. Today she's holding a 6-hr long Scrap-In - and I'll be there! Will post some pictures of what I do on Facebook at the end of the day. You'll see why, in this area at least, I'm only (somewhat) creative. :)

Play safe!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Day 11 - Back in this Hemisphere at least!

This is a continuation of our attempts to get home from Barcelona, a city I wish I had more time in. What I saw of it on our bus ride from seaport to airport looked fascinating!

So, a lovely trip home, pampered, treated like royalty...and then, the Toronto Pierson Airport.

I took this picture of the Vatican on our 1st day
in Rome but didn't have room for it in my
post for that day. Put it here because its one of
my favorites and I didn't have a pic for
this post. :)
If they’d allowed us to just leave the airport once we had a wheelchair, we’d have been through customs and out in less than an hour. But they were short-staffed and insisted we be accompanied by someone (I don’t know, maybe they were worried we’d steal their chair?) and it took over two hours to get from the plane to the curb where we needed to pick up the hotel shuttle. Two hours!!! Constant hurry up and wait. Only 2 women to move over twenty people from several different flights. We finally gave them the slip and maanged to snag a porter after going through customs. Steven pushed me, the porter took our bags and used a shortcut to get to the shuttle. Movement!

Didn’t have to wait long for the shuttle – off to the hotel to pick up the car! We made potty stops, longer for me because the women's restroom was further away (of course) than the men's room. Steven got directions to get from the hotel to the QEW – I can get us home once we’re on that. 

Of course, we drove out of the hotel parking lot and promptly turned north instead of south (just give me rights and lefts at night when the sun’s down!). Turned around and had no trouble navigating to the QEW.

Except we needed gas. Picked an exit that didn’t have an easy off-easy on, of course. Drove around the docks of Hamilton for a bit until we found a gas station. Got directions back to the QEW and headed home.

Decided to take the Queenstown/Lewisburg bridge, thinking the traffic would be easier than going through Niagara Falls on a Saturday night. Turns out to be a good decision. Got to US Customs and the agent asked all the normal questions. Then he asked if we had a good trip, just being conversational as he waited for our passports to clear. Steven told him I’d broken my leg and that got his attention. He loved hearing that I broke it on the volcano and chuckled at the line one of the passengers onboard the Emerald Princess gave us: “She heard a rumble and ran.” J

The ride home was hard in that we were both exhausted. Called the kids to let them know we were three hours from home, not in Dublin like we were supposed to be. I'll be honest, it was upsetting that first day, to know we had to come home because of a single misstep. We shed our tears, but we’d made a promise to each other when we started that we’d only look for the positive. No complaining about anything, no matter what.

And we kept to that. Took some attitude adjustment last Monday, but we both got there about the same time (okay, maybe Steven got there first, but don’t tell him I said that!). We had a grand time, if not the time we expected to have. Ireland will still be there after my leg heals and we’ll appreciate it all the more. We’re seasoned travelers now and we kept ourselves awake on the ride home last night talking about what we’d do differently and what we did right (trip insurance? YES! Thank goodness we’d bought that!).

We came home and crashed, having been up for 27 hours with only the naps on the plane to keep us going. Neither of us wanted caffeine – we wanted to sleep once home. It was after 2:00 AM Eastern by this point and we'd been up since 5:00 AM the day before - Barcelona time. 

But here we are, home, filled with pictures and memories, and plans to do it all over again. Why not? 

Adventure awaits!

Play safe,

Day 11 - Barcelona and home...in style!

I'm breaking this into two posts because, well, it's me, folks. Life is always an adventure and why have a simple plane ride home when you can have complications to make it interesting? So....

We had to be up at 5:00 this morning to be ready for disembarkation at 6:05. Since we’d sent the bags down the night before, we only had out carry-on bags.

Of course, before we left, we had one more task to complete. Because of the pressure changes at the altitudes we’d be reaching on the plane, I needed to have a blood thinner. And since it was so early in the morning and everyone was getting off the ship, the medical staff was busy with other matters. Steven stepped up and said, “I’ll be glad to poke my wife!” The shot is given in the belly and he didn’t even hurt me. I know he was nervous about it, but he did well. Only a tiny little bruise where he jabbed the needle. J

Easy time off and collected our bags with no trouble. We were in the “Silver 1” group for the airport and there was only one Silver 1 bus, so no confusion there. Xavi, a Princess Cruise liaison from Barcelona, rode the bus with us to make sure everyone got to the right gate once at the airport. And this is where the problems began.

The second night of the trip, Steven had gone down to complain about the automatic door that kept banging against our stateroom wall and asked if it could be fastened open. A man at the desk said yes. An hour later (now past midnight), Steven got dressed and went down to complain again. This time a young woman was at the desk and she was quite distressed to find out we’d had to made a second request. The matter was swiftly dealt with and the doors remained open for the rest of the trip.

On Thursday, when we got new flights home but had already been assigned the Silver 1 group, Steven went to the desk to ask if the flight change meant a different disembarking group. The same guy at the desk said no, nothing would change. Even after Steven asked him if he needed to see our new flight number, the guy said, “No. Flight numbers don’t matter. You’re good.”

Sculpture outside of Barcelona port - sunrise
Well, Saturday morning at the Barcelona airport we found out just how incompetent the front desk clerk is. Got to Terminal 1 with the rest of the Silver group only to discover we were supposed to be at Terminal 3 for our flight. This is where Xavi became our savior. Wish I'd taken a picture of him but I was so concerned with missing flights, I didn't. :(

Xavi took the others into the terminal and got them situated, then came back for us. We had to wait for a shuttle for Terminal 3. Good thing we had plenty of time. It was a little after seven in the morning and our flight didn’t leave until a quarter to noon. He stayed and rode the shuttle to Terminal 3 with us, not leaving until we were handed off to a wheelchair attendant in the proper terminal. I will be sending Princess an email pointing out the lazy employee and highlighting Xavi, you can be assured of that!

Wheelchair bound people are a class unto themselves, I’ve discovered. Many people tended to talk over my head to Steven as if I weren’t there. This was particularly true of customs agents in every country. Others give pitying looks, looks that say, “I’m glad that’s not me!” that they think I don’t see.  Some make polite conversation and ask me what I did (the Aircast is HUGE and you can’t not see it) – those people are fun because I get great reactions when I tell them I broke it coming down Mt. Vesuvius.

A few talk directly to me. My favorite was the ticket agent in Genoa for the tour bus we took. He not only talked to me, he stepped down off the curb so he’d be closer to my height. When we got back to the dock after our hike from the drop-off point, he made sure to come over to me and ask how the trip had been and if I’d enjoyed it. The narrow sidewalk was filled with those waiting for the next tour and, of course, the wheelchair takes up a bit of room. The road was busy and not safe so when, at the end of the conversation he asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” Steven asked him if he could clear a path on the sidewalk.

He jumped right to it, walking in front of me and saying, “Scuse, coming through. Scuse, please step aside” all the way through the crowd. He was a cutie and if I were 20 years old and unmarried, I’d have had fun and done some flirting with him.

Waiting in the Barcelona airport
But back to the trip home. Because of my foot, I have to fly business class or better in order to keep it elevated on the flights. Besides, I think I mentioned this cast is HUGE? It won’t fit in the legroom space allotted for coach. Silver lining! But it also means we couldn’t get a direct flight home. Out of Barcelona, back to Rome, THEN to Toronto.

Alitalia for the entire trip, this time. The short hop (an hour and a half), didn’t have a place to put my foot up, but I had plenty of room to stretch it out as needed. Wore the cast the entire flight, adjusting the air in it as the pressure in the cabin changed. No big deal. Landed, was last on the plane, was last off the plane. Our next flight left at 3:15 PM and wheelchair services kept assuring me we’d get to the gate on time.

You know those stereotypical scenes of three Italian men all talking at the same time, gesturing wildly and speaking at full volume as if to drown out the other speakers? Where it seems nothing is getting done and that the three of them will soon come to blows? Yeah. I sat there and watched it happen as three of them tried to get the several of us in wheelchairs to the appropriate gates on time. We sat for a long time and I was convinced we were going to miss our connection because they couldn’t get their act together.

Finally, at 3:10, a young man was assigned to us to take us to the gate. He knows he has to hurry and I swear, he drove me through that airport like he was driving in Rome. Watch out pedestrians! Steven had to hustle to keep up with him. Swerving right around an old man who stopped in the middle of the atrium, left around a loose child, threading the needle through an existing line – I held on and grinned all the way. Wheee!

Got to the gate and they hadn’t even started boarding yet. Whew. He left me there and Steven and I watched as they loaded the plane. Okay. We’re getting the routine now. We’re good. We wait.

But as we’re waiting, we realize, this gate is at ground level. There is no plane outside. They’re putting people on shuttles and taking them out to the plane where they have to walk up the stairs to board. It’s okay, I can manage the stairs, but it’s going to take me some time. There is another woman, however, also in a wheelchair, who is quite old and frail who cannot make the stairs.

Off on another adventure! After the last shuttle leaves, we’re loaded onto a mini-shuttle and taken out to the plane. I’m looking at the steps and thinking, “Okay, I can do this” but the driver goes around to the other side. There’s a lift there. You know, the kind that you see lifting the shipping containers? Just a big X when it’s all the way up? The kind that shakes and rattles and you hold your breath that it won’t collapse? Yeah, that kind.

So we ride up like it’s the gantry of a rocket ship and walk across the open space to the door of the plane (which the attendant had to knock on for them to open. Cracked Steven up that we were knocking on the door of the plane!). We go in, turn left, and enter first class.

The set-up for our 7-course dinner
Oh, my. I’m not sure I can ever go back to coach. Not for long flights (this one was 9 hrs, 50 min.). Not only do they feed us an entire seven course meal on real plates with real silverware, we were offered several different wines, limoncello, amaretto (which I had) and, for our lunch, a seven course meal. I kept the menu we were presented. By the time they got to dessert over an hour later, I was stuffed and waved it away. A vanilla cake of some sort.

And then the seats. They recline so you are almost prone. Like a bed. And you get a decent pillow and a down comforter. Yes, a down comforter – or microfiber that feels like down. The lights are turned down, the shades are pulled and you can sleep. Really sleep. I managed two sessions, one short and one of an hour and a half. Steven slept straight for nearly two hours. It was only 7:00 PM Rome time, but we’d gotten up early, had several adventures and eaten a 7-course meal, so it wasn’t hard to be tired.

And when you couldn’t sleep? A real set of headphones (not earbuds) and a decent high-def screen with a wide menu of choices. I particularly liked the outside camera for take-off and landing. Haven’t ever seen those from the pilot’s point of view before. A little unnerving to see the land coming up so quickly and the runway still so far away!

Hot towels at frequent intervals, a traveling bag of toiletries for both of us – yeah, I could get used to traveling like this. I took off my cast, put up my feet and allowed myself to be pampered. What a wonderful flight home!

Play safe - part two, the Toronto airport, coming soon.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 10 - Toulon, France

Friday, June 5, 2015 – Toulon, France

Or rather, not Toulon. The ship is docked on the opposite side of the harbor from the city. We can see it out off the balcony, but you have to take a boat shuttle to get to it.

We’re perverse, however. It costs 20 Euros to take the shuttle (each!), so we’ve decided to explore the little seaside town on THIS side of the bay, La Seyne Sur Mer. The old quarter is about a 20 minute WALK from the ship and Steven has insisted I get in my chariot and he will take me to France. I’ve told him I don’t want him to hurt himself trying that, but he’s insistent.

French cobbles aren't any bigger
than Italian ones!
He rolled me along an unpaved pathway that runs along the shoreline and I managed to keep most of my teeth. Had to get up a few times because there was no ramp down the curb, but this area of France is like most parts of America: ramps at the ends of sidewalks to cross the streets. And EVERYONE stops as soon as a pedestrian puts foot to crosswalk. Pedestrians have the right of way here and the drivers aren’t even upset about it! Steven used me as a traffic light several times and each time, sure enough, the cars all stopped to let us cross.

It’s not even 9:00 in the morning and the bars are all open. We stopped at one, thinking it was a café, but it was a bar. Found one called “Le Colbert” but didn’t stop to take a picture of it.

Interesting hot chocolate - and wonderful pastries!
We wandered toward what we thought was the city center but it went uphill and after a bit, we stopped and turned around. Pushing me up the hill wasn’t going to be nearly as hard as taking me down the hill. We’d seen a patisserie down by the docks and decided to go back there to have something to eat. Steven went inside to get pastries and I tried to translate the menu on the wall. I did all right and figured out most of it, even though my French is VERY rusty.

He brought back a croissant for me and a lemon/apricot something for himself, along with two cups of hot chocolate. It tasted like baking chocolate in water, but they’d given us packets of sugar as well. Added a packet and a half and it was quite good! The croissant was, of course, wonderful. Steven kept sighing over his pastry, so I think he liked it.

Cours Louis Blanc early morning

We’d passed a street right by the patisserie that looked interesting, so we decided to go along it for a bit. It was a pedestrian way, bisected by single-lane, one-way streets. Very narrow and very shady. We got to a plaza with a tree-lined boulevard filled with vendors selling every kind of fruit and vegetable you could imagine. Mostly locals out doing their shopping. We’d found the quintessential France we’d hoped to find.

Of course, we had to go shopping. Bought some things for the kids; I wanted to get a scarf for Kate and Jenn but they were made in China and I said no. Steven bought himself some strawberries and just about had an orgasm when he ate them back on the ship.

By then I was tired and my foot was starting to ache in the cast so we headed back down the street towards the port. We made our turn and there was another pastry shop. Steven parked me at the side of the street and went in. He came out with a box tied with ribbon and said, “That’s for later, on the ship.” My lap was quite full now!

No troubles getting back to the ship. We stopped for glasses of water on the Lido deck and opened the box. He’d gotten two chocolate éclairs (chocolate fillings as well as chocolate on top) and two other somethings that look wonderful. We ate the éclairs while we had our water, then he wheeled me back to the stateroom.

He caved and went to the Internet café onboard and paid for a few minutes of Internet to confirm with Linda (our travel agent) that everything is set for getting home. It is. We’ll disembark tomorrow VERY early (6:05 AM) and be taken to the airport. Once there, we’ll go through customs and get to our gate. Our plane takes off for Rome at 11:45 AM. We then have a short layover before boarding the plane from Rome to Toronto, landing in Toronto at 7:45 PM (their time). But it will be later for us and we’ll decide about going right home or getting a place to stay when we get there.

The doc here has ordered a shot of a blood thinner for me for the flights. Says it will help keep the swelling down. We have business class tickets, up front with recliners, so I can keep my foot elevated. That means I’ll be able to take the boot off and rest my foot during the flight. Thank goodness for small favors! Okay, it’s a big favor, but I’m still grateful for it.

Right now (12:30 PM) Steven’s gone back into Toulon to explore a little more. He said he didn’t know exactly what he’d do – I told him to eat more pastries! J It’s funny, I expect him to come home today looking as French this afternoon as he did Italian yesterday.

Later –

Fell asleep this afternoon. Took a good 45 minute nap. So did Steven, although for less time. He came back from the town with more pastries (told ya!) and I had some wonderful chocolate mousse cake as a mid-afternoon snack.

We packed our bags and now have them outside our door to be picked up. At this point we’re checking all three to make getting through the airport easier. I’d like to keep my red bag with me just because all the souveniers are inside, but we might have to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Steven did some painting while here; those are packed in plastic bags and tucked inside his suitcase, again, crossing fingers they make it to Toronto.

Not much else to report. No dessert social tonight like on the Statendamm. Princess is nice, but we got spoiled with Holland America.

Going to be a long day tomorrow, so signing off now. Next stop – Barcelona!

Play safe and travel well!

Day 9 - Genoa and a wheelchair

Down to see the Doc first thing this morning. Filled out lots of insurance forms yesterday and Steven talked to Linda, our travel agent about what needs to be cancelled. Doc talked to Dr. Mark in Geneva and they’ve decided an Aircast is good to get me home. It’s a walking cast, sort of. Hurts to walk yet, but I took some ibuprophen and we’ll see what happens when it kicks in. Still need the cane to help take some of the weight off the foot.

Doesn’t change our plans to come home on Saturday. I want to see Ireland, but not this way. Would rather wait and see it later when I can walk unimpaired. Steven and I talked of the Stages of Grief over breakfast and realized we’d gone through most of them already. It isn’t always linear, so I still get a little emotional at times, but mostly? I’m good. I’m no longer angry at myself for being a klutz.

I mean, let’s put it in perspective. I didn’t break my leg tripping over a kitchen chair or because I stumbled in the garden. I broke my leg hiking on freaking Mount Vesuvius!!! I broke it while doing something fun, something wonderful. I broke it on an adventure.

tugboats in the Genoa harbor
Steven’s gone on a recon mission into Genoa, our port today. We’re docked at the Ponte Andrea Doria, which I hope is not a bad sign. If the roads/sidewalks are good, he’ll wheel me in so I can see at least a little more of the city than I can from the ship. But if they’re all cobbles like they were in Rome and much of Palermo, I’m staying put. No sense in rattling my teeth out, too.

12:30 pm

A building in Genoa - but you can see the efforts made to fix up
What a pleasant morning! Steven came back with a pamphlet for a bus tour that went around the city. About a 45 minute tour, it picked up right at the end of the dock and had a boot in which to store my wheelchair (yes, they use the English “boot” instead of the American “trunk”). So, I dressed (i.e. put my skirt on over my shorts) got in my chariot and away we went!

The tour was quite informative (and stuck to the route on the map!) and I took lots of pictures. It didn’t, however, drop us off at our dock, but at the entrance to the old city. No way was the wheelchair going to make those streets, so Steven wheeled me back to our dock – a distance of about a mile around the bay. There was one spot that had a hill going up and I got out and put that Aircast to good use. A handrail alongside helped and I climbed up the ramp myself. Was glad to sit again at the top, though.

Back on board we had pizza for lunch – I walked the 100 feet from our room to a table poolside and we met our nurse from the first day. She was thrilled to see me up with the Aircast and somewhat mobile. I say “somewhat” because a snail could beat me in a race right about now. I think we made the right decision in not going on to Ireland. Walking hurts some (4-5 on the pain scale; not excruciating, but not that pleasant, either) and we’d planned a LOT of walking in the Emerald Isle. Although we did have a nice poetry going: the Emerald Princess to the Emerald Isle. :)

This is a great example of tromp d'oil - that entire facade is painted!
Steven went back out in the afternoon and managed to get himself lost on purpose. He wanted to get off the main streets and see the “real” Genoa. And it isn’t hard to find your way back to the sea – just head down. In his explorations he managed to down two gelatos (melon and a deep, dark chocolate that was so dark it was almost black) and a cannoli. Ah, Italians do know how to make a good dessert!

He also spoke Italian most of the time. He didn’t have to say much, just speaking to shopkeepers, but he said he almost felt he could pass as a local. Not hard to believe. He’s tanned right up with our days here and with his hair short and all curly, he looks as Italian as the statues in the piazzas and the shopkeepers themselves. He feels at home here, and that makes me feel proud. He fits here.

I could fit here, too, but I’d always be the American. I’ve spoken some Italian with people and I’m pretty sure I have an American accent when I do. I have the sounds, I just don’t have the music.

But is okay – is an adventure!

 Play safe!