Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber Monday sale

Books make great presents and in honor of Cyber Monday, several Diana Hunter and Mystic Shade titles are now on sale (and one CF Duprey title, too!).

EBOOKS

Use the codes below at Smashwords to download the ebook format of your choice and get 20% of each title. Great time to load up that Kindle before you give it as a gift!

If you're the recipient of an ebook reader this season, don't worry, the codes are good until December 27th, so can be used just after the holidays as well.

Diana's titles at 20% off:

Shooting Star - code JZ34Z
New York Moment - code ZG37U
Diamonds in the Snow - code SW45W
Table for Four - code BJ83C
and a special bonus, Tied to Home/Tied in Knots bundled - code XZ62X

Mystic Shade titles at 20% off:

Over My Enslaved Body - code TR88P (this book was banned by Amazon - too racy!)

CF Duprey title  20% off: Hardship and Hardtack - code LU44Y


PRINT BOOKS

Want to give someone a Diana Hunter book but he/she doesn't own an ebook reader? No problem - give an old-fashioned print book instead. Diana has the following titles in print:

Winter's Tales (Brand new! Contains 3 novellas)
Hardship and Hardtack (historical fiction; written by CF Duprey, one of Diana's names)

Don't forget, WINTER'S TALES goes on sale today, too. Whether in ebook or print form, snuggle up to these erotic romance stories guaranteed to keep you warm this season!


Play safe and purchase responsibly :)
Diana

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pre-order's now open for WINTER'S TALE

Cyber-Monday is coming - the online answer to Black Friday - and the best part is, you don't have to leave your home to order the presents you want to buy. Whether buying for your Great-Aunt Mabel or looking for something for your best friend and confidant, have I got something for you!

Okay, that sounds like I'm selling watches on the street corner while looking over my shoulder, waiting for my lookout to cry, "Cheese it, the cops!" It is, however, true. Come Monday, check out my books for some exciting sales.

You don't have to wait until Monday, however, to pre-order (on Amazon and SmashwordsWINTER'S TALES, my newest collection of stories all bundled together into one volume. Three hot stories for those cold winter's nights, each of them featuring characters to fall in love with and sex scenes to set your blood a' blazing.

First up is A Devil in Winter where poor Kevin "Devil" Winter kidnaps the younger, nosy sister of the woman he loves - and then discovers maybe he's been running after the wrong woman after all.

Then starts Winter Break, where Dr. Lynn Bintner, PhD. is sooo ready for the semester to end so she can have some time to herself before she discovers a long-lost love who promises to make her time so much more interesting.

And rounding out the trio comes 12 Days of Christmas Bondage, twelve stories of hot BDSM throughout the ages - from England before the American Revolution through the centuries. Join these men and women as they explore the boundaries of forbidden sex.

Want to get WINTER'S TALES in print to give as a present? You can do that, too - and you don't need to wait until Monday - it's available now!

Check back on Monday for some sweet Cyber Monday deals on my other books, too. In the meantime - pre-order your copy of WINTER'S TALES now!

Play safe,
Diana, who really hopes you'll forgive her poor attempts at being a huckster. Clearly she should not give up writing books as her abilities writing ad copy are...limited. :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

PRE-ORDER available for WINTER'S TALES

Now available for preorder from both Smashwords and Amazon,
Winter's Tales is a bundled collection of three novellas: A Devil in Winter, Winter Break, and 12 Days of Christmas Bondage, all together for the first time. What can I say? I like setting stories around the holidays. :)

Devil in Winter - Kevin doesn't plan to kidnap his ex's younger sister, but when he does, the sparks do fly! This title was previously published by Ellora's Cave.

Winter Break - Dr. Bintner's immersion in her work has left her little time for love - until an old flame shows up and rekindles their relationship.

12 Days of Christmas Bondage - Twelve snippets into bondage through the years - these twelve couples certainly show us how hot the holidays can be! (edited to add:) Each "chapter" is a story in, and of, itself. Together they make a full-length novel.

Print format coming soon so you can get one for a friend for the holidays. Mmm...winter and spice...perfect together!


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I know most Americans are consumed with the election today and, if you haven't already - GO VOTE! I did. And yes, that's my old jacket - its chilly here in the early morning hours in New York State and I grabbed the comfy, warm jacket over style. Doesn't matter what you look like - just go vote and let your voice be heard.

As always, play safe!

Diana

Sunday, October 09, 2016

What's Next?


A few weeks ago I wrote about my business decision to separate from Ellora's Cave and concentrate on self-publishing. Unfortunately, my fears proved founded. This week Ellora's Cave made the move to close its doors. As of December 31st, it will cease to exist.

Like many authors, I am, by nature, a solitary creature. An introvert, life is most comfortable when I'm home, surrounded by family and friends. The people at EC became friends of the second circle - Tina/Jaid, Patty, Raelene at first. Martha, Jenia, Rodney, CJ next. Going to the Romanticon conventions I met the authors who would become my Scribe sisters, both past and present: Lynn, Tara, Ruby, Cait, Ari, Tielle, Nikki, Jennifer, Titania. I sat beside Ann at booksignings and rubbed elbows with Lora, Cris, Wendy, Ashley, Kathy...so many authors there isn't space to name them all.

The past twelve years have been a most remarkable time because of my association with all these wonderful people.

Of course, all this begs the question: What next? I loved it when President Bartlett (West Wing) would ask that question. There is a finality to it that puts to rest the past while at the same time looks forward to the next challenge.

The answer? Well, that I'm still working on.

Self-publishing is one avenue, although it's gotten nearly impossible to get noticed with the flood of authors who have gone that route. Changing algorithms on many sites don't make it any easier and one (I'm looking at you, Amazon) wants authors to publish exclusively on their site in order to get any promotion or good algorithm. I'll go on the record here as to why I'm not exclusive anywhere: 1) It isn't fair to readers. Not everyone in the world reads their ebooks on a Kindle - and 2) I cannot support a monopoly. Amazon wants to be everything to everyone and, while that might be good for them, it isn't good for buyers to have only one place to shop.

Look for a new publisher is another option and one I've explored - and may continue to try. It's the publicity and distribution part I need. As it stands now, my books do not bring in new readers - and old readers already have all my books. As I prepare to re-release all my old titles, how do I get new readers to find them?

Of course, I could just walk away. Stop writing altogether. It's crossed my mind. Life would be simpler to move back into the world as "just" a reader - a consumer rather than a creator (to be honest, I've never stopped being a reader. Do you know how many good books there are out there????). I've tried that on for size this past six weeks. Haven't written a new story or met any new characters. I totally forgot to promote my First Friday Fiction yesterday. Why? Other pieces of my life have moved onto my calendar and I forgot.

So not writing would be a very easy transition to make. When I'm ninety, I can look back on my life and say, "I was a mid-list author in a small publishing company once." It's a good accomplishment and one I'd be happy with.

But it is also an option I won't take just yet. There are still stories to be told, characters who understand I just need some time to recharge before they'll be at me again, pestering, complaining, whining until I write them into existence. Besides which, I'm going to be at the Fall in Love with New England conference this week. It's a brand-new convention and I'm excited to be in on the ground floor. New readers to meet - new authors to explore, new adventures to experience.

But after that? 

I ain't got no clue. But you can bet it'll be an adventure. Life always is!

Play safe,
Diana


PS. I'll leave the Free Fiction Friday up until midnight tonight since I forgot to remind everyone. Read it while you can!

Monday, October 03, 2016

"How Am I Supposed to do That Again?"

As many long-time readers know, in my "spare" time, I teach Freshmen Composition at a local community college. Each semester I have my students choose an issue they want to chase down. They need to pick something that will keep their interest for the entire sixteen weeks since they'll be writing three major papers (and several smaller ones) on the issue. Often I choose an issue to explore as well.

Why? Not only do my papers serve as models to show them (with both good and not-so-good writing included - there's a huge emphasis on reflection in the course, so this gives them an opportunity to see what rewriting means), but it gives me an opportunity to do some formalized research into an area that interests me.

To that end, here is my first paper, a reflective essay on my issue for the year: the elderly and technology:

"How Am I Supposed to do That Again?"

As my mother-in-law, Nina, aged into her late seventies, she focused on two pastimes: reading romance novels and watching her crime shows on television. Because she was legally blind in one eye, she never got a driver's license. After her husband died, she became dependent on others for rides to the grocery store or to visit family. Hence, reading and watching TV became her escapes from loneliness.
Nina made the jump to the digital age of reading quite late in life. Dave, her eldest son, gave her a Kindle because her fading eyesight made reading the paperbacks she so carefully cataloged difficult to read. She loved it! She could make the font any size she wanted, so she cranked it up to a half-dozen words a page and read to her heart's content.
She couldn't figure out, however, how to buy books or how to download them from the library. Every week Dave would come visit, download a week's worth of books for her (seven of them, at least. She read a book a day) and she was set. Reading off the device was easy, downloading content? Not so much.
The television also became an issue for her. Gone were the days when there were only three channels and a knob to move between them. With the coming of cable, she had a hundred choices - and didn't watch 97% of them. The original three channels held most of the programming she wanted to see. But, because of that pesky lack of eyesight, she often pushed the wrong button on the remote and, instead of changing the channel, changed the setup from "TV" to "DVD" - and no matter how many times she was shown - she couldn't change it back.
Nina isn't alone in her inability to fully use today's technological advances. According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans over the age of sixty-five do not use the Internet for any purpose. While many reasons were given, 8% stated it "was too hard to use" (Anderson and Perrin).
Why is it, though, that so many of those past a certain age have trouble handling the changes in technology? The Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) grew up with vacuum tube radios and witnessed the birth of television (Fry)  . They oversaw the change in technology from those clunky tubes to printed circuit boards and solid state. Phones went from party lines to private ones and cars went from manual to automatic transmissions. They witnessed, participated in and heck, invented most of these technologies. So why so much trouble downloading a new book onto a Kindle?
Because change is hard. Moving out of our familiar paths causes stress and high levels of anxiety. According to Alvin Toffler, "change is the process by which the future invades our lives (Toffler, 1). The very word he uses, "invades", conjures up all sorts of scary images - we can feel our blood pressure rising just thinking about change.
Of course, the future can invade our lives in ways other than learning to use a new technology. Fast food franchises have become an ubiquitous part of our lives - it seems every small city has their collection. Towanda, Pennsylvania's first fast food restaurant was a Burger King built sometime in the 1970's, It wasn't fancy, but it was fast and the novelty of getting one's order of a burger and fries in mere minutes was something worth seeing.
In 1980 I became engaged to the man who would later become my husband. As a matter of course, I took Steven to Towanda to meet my Uncle Francis - a bachelor uncle who still lived in the family home on State Street. The Frawley family always considered itself lace-curtain Irish, which is to say they were English wannabes. Decorum was maintained - no matter what the circumstance. Conversation was never about trivial matters and small talk unimportant. Once the niceties are uttered ("How are you?" "I'm well, how are you?"), silence descended and the people gathered simply "set a spell" before parting ways.
I'm no longer sure who broached the subject of the midday meal first, but I do know it was my uncle who suggested trying out "that new restaurant over in North Towanda."
When questioned about the "new restaurant", he couldn't quite remember the name of it, but remembered it sells hamburgers. "King, something," he tells us.
Burger King. That new restaurant that's already been there for half a decade, at least. But then, Uncle Francis is in his early 70's, so I suppose a five-year span is a drop in the bucket to him.
He drives (another story entirely!) and parks beside the door to Burger King. The three of us troop in, my husband and I already knowing what we want from past visits to other versions of the franchise. But this is Uncle Francis' first time, so we expect him to head to the counter and read the menu hanging above.
Except he doesn't. He stands looking at the tables and booths as if waiting for something. It takes us a moment to realize he expects a waitress to seat us. My husband and I exchange a look and Steven points to the menu board. "We order here and then take it to a seat," he explains.
Casting a dubious look at what, to him, is a mass of written chaos, he finally presses at twenty-dollar bill into Steven's hand. "I'd like a cup of coffee and a hamburger." He turns to me and says, "Where do I sit?"
Hiding our indulgent grins at his discomfiture in a simple fast food place, Steven goes to order and I take him to a table. I gather napkins and ketchup for the fries and "set the table" as if this were the type of restaurant he's more familiar with. Steven returns with our food and we eat the same way we sat in the house - in silence.
Our visit that day lasts several hours and on the way home, we're both in agreement: Uncle Francis hated his trip to the "new restaurant." So you can imagine our surprise when, several months later, we make a return visit and the first thing he asks us (after the pleasantries, of course) is, "Are you going to take me to Burger King again? I really liked that hamburger."
Upon questioning, we discover he hadn't been since our last visit. Why? The ordering was too overwhelming. He'd found a new way that was too much for him. As Toffler would say, he'd reached his Future Shock moment.
And what is that? Future Shock is the stress or disorientation that occurs as a result to too much change too fast (Toffler, 2). For my mother-in-law, that was trying to download new books onto her Kindle or to keep the TV on the right setting. For my uncle, it was the newfangled restaurant, Burger King. For both, the future had invaded their lives and upended their abilities to handle what, to the younger generation, were simple tasks that we took for granted everyone knew how to do.

Except they didn't. The older generation has a difficult time in adapting to the fast pace of today's technological upgrades. Someday, I'll be the one stuck, unable to move past my own Future Shock moment and my children will exchange indulgent glances behind my back. I just hope they have patience for me every time I utter the words I heard so often from Nina: "How am I supposed to do that again?"

Works Cited


Anderson, Monica, and Andrew Perrin. "13% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet. Who Are          They?" Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 07 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Fry, Richard. "Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America's Largest Generation." Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Toffler, Alvin. "Introduction." Future Shock. New York: Bantam, 1970. 1-2. Print.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Promise for Now Available Again!



PROMISE FOR NOW, formerly a Quickie with Ellora's Cave Publishing, is once again available for purchase. Yay!

I had fun writing this one (okay, so I have fun writing them all. Otherwise, what would be the point?). Brian and Carol, the two protagonists are not based on any particular person, but their houses are. I have friends who used to live in the suburbs and, when visiting them one day, this story popped into my head. Inspiration can come from anywhere!

Click on the picture or use this link to read an excerpt or to purchase. Available in all formats!

Play safe,
Diana

PS. The rights of several of my books previously published by EC have returned to me. My goal is to republish one a month. Watch for a boxed set in November!  ~ Diana

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The obituary I should've written

My uncle died a week ago. I wrote the following because what I wrote for the paper was a bare summary. He deserves to have more of his story told.


For the past two and a half years I have been caretaker of my bachelor uncle. As a child, he was my favorite Frawley uncle because he paid attention to us kids. He listened to our five-year-old ramblings and talked to us as if we had something to contribute. He was full of fascinating facts about history and he lived in faraway New York City. He went to the World's Fair in 1964, taking pictures of the people and structures with his stereo-optic camera that created 3D slides. He loved technology and grew up with the changeover from vacuum tubes to solid state to microchips.

He moved back home because the technology changed, gave my my first touch-typing book and presented me with an album of Patty Duke songs, signed by her when he fixed her Dictaphone. To give his brothers and sisters a break, he would take us kids to the movies - in packs. We saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Barefoot Executive (yes, that's where I fell in love with Kurt Russell), and Camelot - the first movie I ever cried at. How could I not? When Lancelot brings his opponent back to life? Tears!

He moved away when my grandparents moved to Florida; the house in Rochester was torn down to make way for the expanded bus barns (the expansion destroyed a neighborhood) and most of us kids lost touch with him. Myself included. Even when he was downsized and he moved closer, we didn't see him except for holidays.

You see, as I grew older, I realized my uncle marched to the proverbial different drummer. Many considered him odd because he kept to himself, didn't make friends easily, would blurt out odd historical facts at random silences in the conversation. Only in these last years did I realize, after years of teaching in the classroom, that my uncle, if he were in school today, would be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism spectrum - probably with Asperger's.

Because he lived alone, it was a while before the family realized he was in difficulty. Financially he'd been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars, his health wasn't good because he didn't remember to take his medicines, and dementia had started its nasty creep. Living alone was no longer an option.

Geographically, I was the logical choice to take over his care. Besides which, I can be pretty bossy when needed (years of classroom management!). My husband and I talked it over and decided together that taking on his care was something we needed to do.

So we did. Uncle Larry told me the same story every time we passed over the Erie Canal - about the Towanda Canal that was built partly in response to Clinton's Ditch. He told me about Stephen Foster living in Towanda on more than one occasion. I didn't mind. Telling these stories helped him focus and were important to him. He was a staunch Republican and had fun goading me (a middle-of-the-road Democrat) with his conservative views. He followed the presidential race right up until the last two months of his life, when the dementia took over more often than not.

That part was hardest. The dementia. My husband and I took a trip to Ireland and Scotland and, the day we were traveling home, Uncle Larry was sent to the hospital with a raging UTI. He never really recovered after that. Thankfully, a nursing home in the next town over had a bed in their dementia ward and could take him in. The locked ward meant he wouldn't ramble away on us and his medical needs would be taken care of since he needed more care than his assisted living place (or I) could give.

The hardest part? Was going to see him there and seeing the blank look on his face when I visited. He didn't know who I was. If I could've appeared to him as the eleven-year-old he took to the movies, I think we would've been okay. But I've gray in my hair now and age has thickened my frame. There was no recognition in his eyes. He would never again tell me about the Towanda Canal or remind me that Stephen Foster spent time there. Our days of baiting each other about politics were done.

The ending of a life lived long is always bittersweet. Bitter because the person is gone from our lives and we are the poorer for it. Sweet because their pain has ended and their soul has moved on. Lawrence Frawley, Jr. died on September 4, 2016 and we buried him this past Friday. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New releases!

They're here!

Yes, I used the plural. Why? Read on...

As long-time readers, you know the Sizzling Scribes created the fictional town of Port Clef, Connecticut and then we wrote several stories set there. Each book has, at its core, the two wonderful ladies who run The Sweet Spot, the town's bakery/confectionery shop. My contribution to this series was Tied to Home, a novella where we meet Matt and Wiste, two used-to-be lovers who find each other again.


Upon a re-read of that novella, however, I discovered that Wiste's best friend, Emily, got short shrift. She appeared at the beginning of the book, then dropped out and is never heard from again. Poor Em! To make it up to her, I asked her to tell me her story - and she spoke volumes! In Tied in Knots we get to see, not only how things turned out for Matt and Wiste, but we get to meet Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a hunky relationship counselor who very much needs Emily's massage therapy.

Because the two books are related, Tied to Home needed a new cover. Many kudos to Lynn LaFleur for designing all three covers.

Three covers? But, Diana! You've only mentioned two books so far!

Oh! Did I forget to mention you can purchase these books bundled together? Since one is a sequel to the other, it made sense (to me, anyway) to offer both books in a bundle in both ebook and print formats. 


That's right! If you'd like a copy of these two books for your bookshelf, you can get them in a single print volume! Of course, you can also get the bundled set in ebook form as well. :)

So, a new cover on Tied to Home, a new release in Tied in Knots, and a bundled set that's available in both ebook and print. Whee!

PLEASE! Once you've read either (or both - or all!) the books, return to the site where you purchased it and leave a review. Good or bad. Reviews help authors get seen. 



Play safe!

Diana

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New release update

The current work-in-progress is coming along quite nicely and I thought you might like to see the cover. Lynn LaFleur designed both the cover for TIED IN KNOTS.

The story is set in Port Clef, Connecticut, the fictional seaside town created by the Sizzling Scribes. We had a lot of fun creating the town and the characters who reside there. Several of us have written books set in Port Clef. The Sweet Spot series is named after a bake shop/candy store in town that everyone loves. Or perhaps, it's more accurate to say, everyone loves the Jacqui and Jill, the co-owners. More than one life has been changed by those two ladies!



And that includes Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a relationship counselor new to Port Clef and Emily Eaves, a Port Clef native. When the good doctor pulls a muscle in his neck, his receptionist recommends a good massage therapist she knows - Emily. 

Except Emily has a past. A past named Stan, who is determined to pick things up with her where they left off. And he won't take no for an answer.

You may remember Emily from her brief appearance in TIED TO HOME. I've always thought she got short shrift in that book. To make it up to her, she now has a story of her own - and you can read an excerpt from the book here!

Since Tied in Knots is the sequel to Tied to Home, I asked Lynn to make a new cover for the first book - and I love how she "tied" them both together. Sunsets, love, rope...how could you go wrong?

TIED IN KNOTS releases August 30th. For my newsletter subscribers, watch for discounts for both these books in the next issue. If you're not yet a subscriber, use the link at the top of the page to sign up. Seekers get goodies! :)

Both books will be available in a boxed set as well as in print. All formats will be available on August 30th (God willin' an' the crick don' rise).


Saturday, July 23, 2016

A difficult post to make

Just did the totals for a friend who asked. Did you realize I have 14 titles with Ellora's Cave Publishing, 9 self-published titles and 4 more soon-to-be self published titles. As Mystic Shade I have 6 titles out and as CF Duprey, I have one Civil War historical. That makes 34 titles in twelve years as a published writer.

That was written one year ago today. Today’s stats are different. Today I have only five titles still with Ellora’s Cave, 13 self-published titles and 8 titles as Mystic shade. That makes 26 titles currently in publication.

You’ll notice the lower number of Ellora’s Cave titles. I’ve been struggling with going public about this for the past several months but have decided I need to let my readers know what’s happening.

Ellora’s Cave Publishing gave me my start as a published author. They took a chance on me, gave me an editor, and my career as a published author was born. In those early days, the first decade of a new century, optimism reigned. Erotic romance was hot and I sold well. Well enough that the sales encouraged me to keep writing. Hence the 34 titles mentioned above.

EC has had its share of public scandals and there have been a few missteps along the way, but it has always done me right. It’s a small press, so I got to know the women who ran the company and that was important to me. But more than once I heard the sage advice from several of those women, “Remember, EC is a company and, in the end, it will make decisions for the best of the company. You’re an author, make decisions best for you.”

Being an author means taking control of your writing, it means making the best decision for each manuscript regardless of sentimental attachment. And so, when Table for Four’s contract was up with EC, I chose to try this new venture at Amazon and Smashwords and self-publish it. That action was just the one needed to give an older title a good boost. It sold well in the first year and continues to sell a couple of copies every month.

This had been a successful experiment, so when Learning Curve also ran out of contract, based on my increase in sales for Table for Four, I chose to also take the rights back for that book and self-publish it. It also did well, although recent sales have tapered off.

Publishing is like any other business. You have to constantly stay abreast of trends and Ellora’s Cave tried to do so. They accepted other genre, tried an appeal to a different audience, held conventions for readers and authors to meet. Unfortunately, none of these things worked as well as hoped.

How do I know that? Because Ellora’s Cave stopped paying royalties.

Yes, you read that right. EC is still selling books, but not paying authors the royalties they are contracted for. The last month I received monies for was June 2015.

What does that mean? It means, for the past year Ellora’s Cave has sold my books and not paid me for them. Not one penny.

I’ve been patient. My optimism has buoyed me all this year. Every week I think, “This will be the week they pay me my back pay.” I check my sales on Novelrank (which tells me how many of my books have sold on Amazon) and I see that my books are still selling – but I’m not seeing any money from the sale of my books that Ellora’s Cave holds.

So I made the decision last week to take all my Ellora’s Cave books off my website. I cannot, in good conscience, continue to promote books that enrich others while my income has taken a huge hit. Ellora’s Cave is making decisions that are good for its business; I must make decisions that are good for mine.

This past week Ellora’s Cave sent me a reversion of rights notice for five of my titles. Three I’d asked for, the other two I did not. As of July 30th, those titles will revert to me. These, along with three others that reverted to me earlier in the spring (two of which I asked for, one of which I did not), are currently regarded as “out of print.”

That means, of those 34 titles I’ve written, only 26 of them are currently available for purchase. Ellora’s Cave still owns the rights to five of my titles, but I will no longer mention them by name. I expect I will not ever get a check from Ellora’s Cave again. My optimism has run out. I doubt I will ever get the back pay I am owed and I suspect the company I loved will soon be out of business.

It’s a Catch-22, really. To tell you to not buy my Ellora’s Cave books. If you don’t buy them, they’ll never have the money to pay me. But if you do buy them, well, the money is going to someone else. It’s the reason I have been silent for so long. I do not want to put them out of business, but, as that sage advice said, I have to make decisions based on what’s best for my business.

Over the next year, I will take time to reformat, re-edit, re-cover the eight titles that are currently out of print. My plan is to re-release one a month as self-published books. Promise for Now will release in September, Stitches in Time (featuring new content based on my recent trip to Ireland!) will release in October. A boxed set of books I’ve written with a winter theme will be released in November and will include one of the titles EC just gave me back as well as other previously published stories.

As for new work? Tied in Knots, the sequel to Tied to Home is nearly done. I’ve seen the cover and love it. My goal is to self-publish it before the end of August, so keep your eyes out!

I said in the beginning that this was a difficult post to write. Actually, it was the decision to go public about no longer promoting my Ellora’s Cave titles that was the hard part. EC took a chance on me, gave me a career, and I will not diss them because of it. Choosing to not promote the five books still with them is a decision based solely on my need to be paid for the work I have done.

This post is one of the few I will both write as a newsletter and then repost to my blog and to Facebook. I wish Ellora’s Cave well and truly hope they find their way out of the morass and back into the limelight. And not just so I get paid, but because these women have put their blood, sweat and tears into a business venture that requires constant change. They’ve launched the careers of dozens of authors and I thank them for it.

Thank you for listening and watch for the re-release of the following titles over the next year (all are currently out of print):

Secret Submission
Submission Revealed
Hooked
Cabin Fever
Writers Unblocked
Promise for Now (coming in September)
Stitches in Time (coming in October)
Devil in Winter (coming in November’s boxed set)

As always, play safe.

Diana


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - final thoughts

Final thoughts

Steven and Oscar in Dublin
On our last day in Scotland, we talked about the things we'd learned from this adventure. Some we already knew and the trip simply brought home the lesson more clearly. Others were brand-new learnings - like vocabulary. Oscar Wilde said (and I paraphrase) That the English and the Americans are two cultures separated by a common language.

And he's so right. No highways, but "motorways" or "divided carriageways". No waiting in lines, but keeping an orderly "queue". Several times I was asked if I wanted a "cuppa" (and I always said yes to tea) and we often went "straight on" when our GPS wanted us to follow the same road for a distance.

We learned some new Irish words as well. On the roadways, whenever you came to a curve (which was every 200 yards or so!), the word "Slow" was printed on the road's surface. On the particularly sharp curves, the words "VERY SLOW" appeared after the initial warning. And north of Galway, the words "Go Mall" were there instead. Didn't take but one curve to realize they meant "Slow your rear end down!"

Jupiter's Beard growing wild on a wall in
Killmallock
We learned that "failte" means Welcome and is pronounced falcha. That "cead mille failte" means a hundred thousand welcomes and that, when you get north of Galway, you better read Irish, because few of the road signs are in English. I'm very glad Amanda Bates turned me onto Duolingo - because I could read several of them!

We both learned that bed and breakfasts are better than hotels. This was one we already knew but have decided more firmly. And we now know that three nights in one place is better than two. In Scotland, where we had only two nights in each hotel, we found ourselves doing more driving and less experiencing. Staying put longer (four nights is probably even better, we'll have to give that a shot!) allows us to see more deeply, and we learned we prefer that over just a surface-level visit.

Culloden Moor
Steven learned how to drive on the left. The first half hour was the hardest but he said that, only in the last two days or so did he feel like he didn't have to be hyper alert every single second. That he could relax a little and just drive.

He also had a philosophical understanding that occurred. Standing on Culloden Moor, he was struck by the universality of suffering. That a battlefield in Scotland and a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania can have the same solemnity because of the blood spilt. It isn't only war, however, that creates the suffering. He got the same vibration in Pompeii. But during this trip, he started to put it all together.

As for me? I learned that I like haggis. Really! I would eat it again. I learned that I pack well. Could've done with swapping a short sleeve for another long-sleeved shirt but other than that? I think I've got this down.

Speaking of down, I now know I have to plan a down day every so often. About every five is a good number. And by "down day" I mean a day where nothing is on the agenda other than maybe a stroll (not even a walk - a stroll!) and reading a good book or having conversations in pubs with strangers.

Printed on the streets of Dublin to remind
tourists which way the traffic comes from!
I learned that being a passenger in a car driving in the left lane takes more than two weeks to get used to, even after Steven got comfortable.

I learned to bring paper maps. Lots and lots of paper maps.

And I learned, or rather re-learned, that I like traveling with Steven. He gives me good adventures, sometimes when I'm hesitant to take them. I like to allow room for serendipity and so does he; we make a good team.

I will close this reflection with the words neither of us will ever forget from our driving adventures in Ireland and Scotland, the words Steven heard me utter over and over again, usually in panic as the stone walls and hedges of the roadside came too near. But it makes a philosophical statement as well. And so...farewell and

"Watch yer left!"



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Days 15 & 16

Day 15 - Words of the Day: Solemn, Impulsive,

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland. On board were several students from Syracuse University who were returning from a semester abroad. Among them were several of Steven’s friends.

I knew our visit today to Lockerbie would be emotional; what I didn’t expect was that it would be emotional for me. I remember the night we heard the news – we were living in Waterloo, both finishing up our Master’s degrees. Up until that moment, every incident of terrorism was apart from us. It didn’t touch us in any personal way.

And then it did. We knew people who had died at the hands of terrorists. The world had shifted.

Such a place of peace...
The Garden of Remembrance is a beautiful place on top of a hill. The sun was out today and a breeze kept us from getting too warm. We met some two couples from Carlisle who remembered seeing the explosion and the resulting damage. They had been driving by and simply stopped to pay their respects. I’m not sure that they weren’t angels sent when we needed them.

There is a cottage at the entrance to the cemetery that gives the history of Lockerbie. It also houses the Book of Names, one page for each person who was killed. The docent inside told us a great deal about what happened on the ground and showed us a quilt that was made at the 20th anniversary to commemorate the event. It’s quite beautiful and holds a great deal of symbolism.

So a heavy morning. Very emotional for both of us.

Now remember, this is Steven’s day entirely. He gets to pick what happens next. I have to give him a huge shoutout and a big thank you for choosing to drive a bit further – we went to England!

Yep. We were only 20 miles or so from the border and there are no border crossings between Scotland and England, so we went on down the motorway with the intent to find a place for lunch. I mentioned that Hadrian’s Wall should be close by, so we put it into the GPS, found a nearby Roman fort and Steven said, “Let’s go!”

Hadrian's Wall where it meets the old Roman fort
So off we went, traveling on country lanes to find our way to this ancient fort that brought a certain poetry to our trip. Last year we started our trip in Rome and this year we ended our trip here with a visit to a wall and fort built by Romans.

The fort commands a wide view of the valleys on either side. Most of the structure doesn’t exist any more, just foundations. The wall is also far shorter than its original fifteen feet high. Over the years locals (and some not so local) took advantage of the already-quarried stones and used them to build their own houses and castles. Now it’s only four feet high – at least along the section we viewed today.

The escarpment that will one day
swallow the fort




And in another hundred or so years, the fort will be lost. There’s an escarpment that’s creeping closer and it’s expected to swallow the ruin sometime in the future. Glad we saw it when we did.


Took the scenic drive back to the hotel and stopped in a small town for lunch in a café that was tucked down a side street in a little alcove. Good lunch of ham and egg quiche (for me) and a hamburger (for Steven). Then back on the road and arrived at the hotel shortly after 5:00.

"Welcome to Scotland" sign
- might as well have been
going from one state to the next!
Early start tomorrow – our flight leaves Glasgow at 8:30 in the morning. Next stop, Toronto!


Day 16 - Flying home!

Got up at 4:30 this morning to be out of the hotel and on the road by five. No trouble getting to the airport in Glasgow although finding the key drop turned into a mini-adventure of its own.

Boarded and taxied for at least 20 minutes. How do I know that? 'Cause I glanced at my watch and promptly fell asleep. Woke up and asked Steven if we were airborne yet. Nope. Dozed a bit more and then woke up for the liftoft. Been awake ever since.

We passed over Greenland on our way home!
I will tell you, Toronto's Pearson airport is a LOT nicer to get through when you're not stuck in a wheelchair. No issues getting our bags (we checked them for the flight home. No hurries this time) or finding the car. Walked right to that puppy without hardly a hesitation. All we had to do was put the ticket in the machine on the way out, pay up and head for home.

Except I couldn't find the ticket. Steven thought I had it, I thought he had it. A frantic search of the car and all our bags yielded nothing. A girl drove past and backed up, wanting our spot. Steven told her we were looking for our parking slip and she said that, if we went to the ticket booth downstairs with our boarding passes from the first day, they'd charge from there.

Those I had. So we drove down, found the customer service area -- totally unmanned. Closed up with only two machines where you can put your card and pay in advance. BUT! Steven found a button to push for assistance. The woman on the other end was very kind and acted as if this happened every day. I suppose in an airport that size, it might.

Anyway, the charge was high, although still low enough that it made financial sense to fly out of Toronto instead of Rochester. We saved about $800 doing it this way.

Didn't turn my phone on until we crossed the border - which was very uneventful. That's always a good thing. When I turned it on, it lit up with a bunch of messages. Called my parents to let them know we were back and texted the kids to let them know we were on our way.

Stopped at Byrne Dairy to pick up milk (since we made sure we'd used up all we had before we left) and I switched to drive the last bit home. Why? Because I wanted Steven to be in the passenger side when we pulled in.

You see, unbeknownst to him, while we were away, the kids painted the garage as a Father's Day gift. At first when we pulled into the driveway, he thought what was different was the fact that the side garden had been cleaned out (which it had). Only on a second look did he realize the garage had a new coat of paint.

Now ready to collapse, although I'm trying to stay up as long as possible so the jet lag isn't bad. But it's now 8:30 PM Eastern and I've been up since 11:30 last night. So closing this adventure for the moment... Good night and love to all!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Day 14

Day 14 - Fort William, the Jacobite train and Loch Lomond -- ALL of Loch Lomond

The word for this morning and afternoon is Serendipity. 

The word for the evening is Frustration.

All Aboard!
No breakfast this morning; we needed to leave by 7:30 and, on Sundays, the hotel didn’t start serving until 8:00. We shrugged it off and headed out for Fort William and The Jacobite train – the very same train and route used for the Hogwarts Express in all the Harry Potter films. I’d gotten the tickets months ago. The first class seats (like the ones Harry and friends ride in) were sold out even then, but we got comfortable seats in what, in the US, would be called a dining car – two seats facing a shared table.

Steven got us hot chocolates as we waited for the train, and a shortbread covered in toffee to munch on. Soon we were on board, facing front, excited for the adventure we were about to take.

Barbara and me (in red and purple)
Because there are only the two of us and the train is sold out by this time, we knew we’d be facing two strangers. I’m pretty shy; thank goodness Steven isn’t. A couple about our age slid in across from us and within minutes we were gabbing away like old friends. Truly! They were wonderful people (she’s a librarian; he’s an accountant and a train fanatic – an anorak they are called; volunteers to wear those bulky coats and clock the trains to make sure they’re on time). At one point she and I were discussing various authors and I gave her my card.

Well. She got all flustered for several minutes. She’s read two of my books! I was floored. We had a great laugh about it and I signed the back of the card for her. We took a picture together, too. J

So it was a nice boost to my ego and cemented our friendship. From then on, the four of us chatted and took pictures of the scenery and had a great time. We separated in Mallaig for our hour and a half stay there, then met up again in seats on the opposite side of the train for the ride back to Fort William (this way now they were facing forward – and we got to see the views on the other side returning).

I loved the apparent chaos and colors of these nets!
Mallaig is a very small town on the Irish Sea side of Scotland. Its economy is mostly from tourists and the fishing boats. For lunch I had fresh prawns – the first time ever I’d eaten prawns. I always thought it was just another name for shrimp – but they’re smaller. They were wonderful. A lot of work to get to, but tasty to eat! Steven isn’t a seafood kind of guy, but he tried the Coronation Chicken – which had a sauce on it very different from anything he’d ever had before.

By the way, I need to go back and add to yesterday’s entry: at lunch yesterday in Inverness, I ordered haggis, neeps and tatties as an appetizer. It’s just a small portion of what is usually a larger meat. I’ve been wanting to try it, but didn’t want to order a whole portion and then not like it. So this was the perfect opportunity.

Suffice it to say, I LOVE haggis. It’s just sausage with some really cool spices. Neeps are mashed rutabagas and tatties are, of course, potatoes. If I could get it in the States, I’d have it a lot!

Back to today.

So we had a great time on the train. Serendipity came into play in our meeting two wonderful people and in getting to eat a new food (prawns and Coronation chicken). Next stop – East Kilbride and our hotel.

Loch Lomond
We did really well coming along the A82. Absolutely stunning scenery, including a beautiful glen, and then another and another and another. The rain had started but it only made them more beautiful, the mountain tops slowly being veiled by the lowering clouds. We stopped to take many pictures, none of which will do the sight justice.

About a half an hour from our hotel, we hit a stop. The road ahead was closed because of a fatal accident. This is a road that dips and turns as it follows the coastline of Loch Lohman – a road with very narrow lane and no shoulder on either side.

There was no clear detour, so we chose a direction at the road closed part and found a restaurant not too far down. Serendipity again – we’d been driving for two hours and here was food and a break when we needed it. Our waiter was a Chris Hemsworth look alike and wore a kilt. Yum! We stayed for an hour, hoping the detour would be open when we finished.

It wasn’t. The road had been closed since half one (1:30) and it was now nearly six. We can only imagine what they had to do to fix the road. Our prayers are with all those involved.

One part of a beautiful glen we discovered on the
eastern side of Loch Lomond
Of course, this meant our hotel was now a lot further away because we had to go down the other side of the loch. Now mind you, we were less than a mile from the southern end of the lake at the detour and going around meant going all the way back that winding road to the north end and coming back down through Stirling. Yes, that means we traveled all the way around the circumference of Loch Lomond. 

Once more we got to within a half an hour of our hotel and got a message that there was a traffic problem ahead. We decided to listen to her (female voice GPS) and followed the new detour. It added only five minutes to our trip, so we’re good. At this point we’re tired and having to work at finding the positive, but we’re managing.

And then she tells us to get off the motorway onto a ramp that doesn’t exist.

It USED to exist, but is currently under construction and is just a pile of dirt. We spend nearly an hour driving in circles trying to find our way to some spot that will get us moving in the right direction. By now Steven’s been driving for over three hours (thank goodness the sun sets late and while its raining, it isn’t dark) and the Word of the Day has changed to Frustrated. I think if we had to go around one more roundabout we were both going to be carsick.

Nerves were frayed, tempers short and the positive had been left at the last roundabout by the time we finally found the hotel. We got checked in, took our bags up through a serpentine maze of stairs, doors and turns for no reason, getting lost not once but twice trying to find the damn room.

But find it we did. In silence we entered. Steven took his bag over to his side of the bed and left it, dropping on the bed in exhaustion. I left my bag, kicked off my shoes and plopped next to him, intending to give him a hug and apologize for being snappish. But we made the mistake of looking each other in the eye and it was all over for both of us. The chuckled turned to unrestrained, uncontrollable laughter that didn’t stop until both of us had tears in our eyes and were gasping for breath.

Yes, it had been a crappy end to a beautiful start but heck! We were in freaking Scotland!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Days 12 & 13

Day 12 - Travel Day!


Elementary!
Left the hotel by taxi at 9:15. We’d originally planned to walk the 1.5 miles to the car rental but after yesterday’s half-marathon, we decided the taxi was the better option. Got to see the statue to Sherlock Holmes, which is a surprising thing to find in Edinburgh. But it stands near the spot where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born. It’s relatively new, having been erected in 1991 and stands right across the street from the car rental.

Some misunderstanding about what we’d ordered, however. The clerk didn’t have us down for a GPS unit or for extra insurance. When we’d made arrangements for this trip with Linda, we’d asked for both in both countries. Had it in Ireland, but it was left off the Scotland rental. Steven gave him the credit card and added both pieces. We’ll talk to Linda about it when we get back.

We ended up with an onboard GPS unit and for once I’m glad to have it. I haven’t been able to find a decent roadmap of Scotland and hoped Hertz would give us one as they did in Ireland, but no luck. Just what I printed out from Google before we left. So good on the GPS.

Camelot...or rather, Swamp Castle. Or is that Castle Anthrax?
No, wait! It's Castle Leoch!
Took an hour to get to Doune Castle and, once there, Steven giggled the entire time. This was a highlight for him. Why? Because it was the shooting location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the audio tour is narrated by Terry Jones. Lots of audio clips from the movie tossed in among the history of the actual castle. Built in the Middle Ages (around 1250) it is the oldest building we’ve visited on this occasion. Only the standing stones at Lough Gur are older.

This courtyard should look VERY familiar to
Outlander fans!
As for me, Doune Castle has a different movie connotation: it is the shooting location for Castle Leoch in the Outlander series. To make it even better, there are certain parts of the audio tour that have been added specially for the Outlander fans – read by Sam Heughan himself. So the castle was a hit with both of us. J

Back on the road again. Still two and a half hours away from our next hotel. Took a bit longer than that because of road construction and because the A9 is actually more like Rt. 15 used to be: a two-lane road interspersed between several divided highway sections. So lots of slowdowns and the constant checking to figure out what kind of a road we were on. And, like Ireland, the two-lane sections had little to no shoulders. So a slow ride north to Inverness.

But we arrived safely and are now in the Highlands! The hotel is pretty classy (but no upgrade this time) and we had dinner in their dining room this evening, mostly because we’re both too tired to get back in the car and drive into the city. Expensive and classy with nouveau cuisine. Interesting experience to have in the Highlands of Scotland.



Day 13 - a solemn start, a frustrating middle and an exhausted finish...

Inverness and environs day. We started out for Culloden Moor, not sure what we’d feel when we got there. This wasn’t our battle. We have no relatives who fought here, no nationalistic ties, not even much in the way of knowledge about the battle.

Culloden monument
But as we walked the battlefield, listening to the explanations on our audio guides, Steven came to understand just how ubiquitous war is – and how hallowed the ground becomes when the blood of so many seeps into it. We spent quite a bit of time comparing it to Gettysburg and our experiences there, where you can feel the dead still lurking on the field.

And the battle tactics weren’t all that different from Gettysburg, either. Pickett’s Charge was across an open expanse with no cover – and all uphill. Those who did manage to make it to the top were tired and not fighting at their best. The Jacobite Charge across Culloden Moor was long, with no cover and through bogs and water up to their knees. Highlanders came yelling all the way, expending energy they really needed to save for the actual fight. I spent a great deal of time wondering why they charged at all. The distance between the two armies was considerable. Why not wait for the British to come to them?

In any case, it was a moving experience and we left the battlefield with a new appreciation for peace.

cairns and one smaller one. Some may have been used for burials, but mostly they were for ceremonial purposes. The roof has long since caved in on all of them; archeologists have removed those caved-in rocks to allow examination of the insides. You can walk through the entrance “hall” into the inner chamber now.
One of the larger cairns
Clava Cairns was just a few miles down the road in a small dell. We had to take a rather winding single-lane road to get there, our narrowest yet, but Steven’s getting to be a pro at this. There are three large

Each cairn, once it was closed by the builders, had a ring of standing stones placed around the outside. One of these is cleft in two and is the inspiration for the stone Claire Beauchamp Randall steps through in Outlander. While Crag na Dun is fictitious, Clava Cairns is not and we took a lot of pictures.

Into the city of Inverness for exploration and lunch. By now it was nearly noon. The city is larger than I thought, probably about as big as Binghamton, NY (I had figured about Geneva size. Quite a difference.). We parked in a parking garage – another new driving experience for Steven! Exploring the city center on foot was far easier – and it upped my steps for the day (just over 10K for me today).

Every place we stopped in, however, was full with no tables available. It was after 1:30 before we found a place that had space. Steven asked the maître‘d why the crowd and he told us Rod Stewart was in town. He has a concert in Inverness tonight and people had come early to make a day of it.
After lunch, we headed down to Loch Ness. We really weren’t going to take one of those tourist-trap cruises, but the sun is shining for the first time since coming to Scotland and we couldn’t resist. Too nice a day to stay on shore.

Luck was with us and we went out with a pilot from the Loch Ness Project. This is a group that, since the late 1960’s, has investigated every sighting to determine if there is a monster or not in the lake. While he never said so, the pilot is pretty sure there is not. He even had a sighting himself that, twenty years later, they figured out using advanced methods of photography. It seems there is a formation the ducks make that, at times and in certain lights, can look like a serpentine monster with a humped back. But it’s just ducks.

Our only sunny day in Scotland. Hubby and I on
Loch Ness
And that we saw. A single duck came over to the boat to say hello. We called her/him Nessie and were satisfied we’d seen the “monster.” As I said, it was a gorgeous day to be out on the lake and we felt privileged to be taken out by such an authority (He’s done several dives deep into the lake with the project and knew a huge amount about the various natural phenomena that masquerade as Nessie).




The broom represents Culloden, the
stone is from Clava Cairns
By now we were ready to go back to the hotel and decompress. We saw a lot while here and tomorrow is another travel day. If we ever do this again, I’m going to stick with three nights in each place (at least) rather than two. Steven is painting – the broom is in full bloom here and is spectacular and I am journaling.

Oh! This is the furthest north we’re going this trip – I checked but it’s not the furthest north I’ve ever been (that honor still belongs to Fairbanks). However, the sun will set at 10:19 this evening and rise again tomorrow at 4:18 AM. While that sounds like six hours of darkness, it isn’t. The sky never gets totally dark. I’ve crossed two items off my list of Things to Do Before I Die: go to Ireland and see the sun not set. Yay!




Early bedtime tonight because tomorrow is Harry Potter Day!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Days 10 & 11

Day 10 - Goodbye, Ireland but hello, Scotland!

Sad day today – we had to say goodbye to Ireland. Truly, I loved our visit here. Our hosts, Mary and Tom, at Cnoc Breac have been wonderful and, remote as it is, there is a wildness about the Atlantic coast that speaks to both of us.

And yet, all is not lost. Today we also head for another country, another adventure! We left the B&B around 8:45 this morning and took the N59 back down to Galway. One of my concerns for this leg was getting through the city since, last time, it was congested with heavy traffic. But I needn’t have worried. Yes, we hit some traffic, but not nearly as bad as a few days ago.

Really the only original part of the
fort in Athlone.
We stopped in Athlone for two reasons: one to visit the castle and our primary reason: for lunch. Because it was just a bit before 11:00, we decided to visit the castle first and then eat.

I’m afraid it was a bit of disappointment. The round tower is still there, along with the battlements, but the displays inside didn’t tell the story I wanted to hear. Unlike the museum housing the Book of Kells, this display didn’t quite hit it.

And disappointed in lunch as well. We passed over half a dozen pubs – all closed. By this point it was noon, so we decided just to get back on the M6 and eat at the airport.

No trouble finding the Hertz drop-off point or the shuttle to take us to the terminal. We waited to eat until we got through security and had pizza on the other side (somehow we just couldn’t bring ourselves to eat at the huge Burger King). We were quite early for our flight, but I’m glad we had time to spare. No stress!

 Short flight – only a little over an hour. But we got off late by 15 minutes, so landed late.

And then it got…interesting.

No one with a placard with our name on it when we got through the maze that leads to the lobby (by the way, didn’t have to go through customs because we came from another European country. Yay on the speed, pouting because no Scottish stamp on my passport). We waited for several minutes, then Steven borrowed a phone from another driver awaiting passengers and called the number on our voucher.

He was told we were in the wrong place, that we had to go across to the car park. So we did. No one there with a placard, either. Back to a different waiting area. Steven called again and the person on the other end said she’d have the company call us direct. A few minutes later, his phone rang – we were close when we were in the car park. We just had to go around another corner and across several lanes of traffic to get to the booth where drivers were assigned.

Our fancy digs in Edinburgh!
But we’re here now and the doorman called us by name. We must be the last people to check in tonight. The woman at reception (whom I think is French) told us we’d gotten an upgrade and so we’re on a private floor and need to use our key in the elevator to get up here. The room is large, elegant and sinfully luxurious. Loving it!

Not doing anything else tonight. Long day. Tomorrow is the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat and whatever else we can cram in. We’re in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Day 11 - Edinburgh

It’s now 5:30 and I have logged over 20,000 steps. That’s ten miles. Steven has a few more than me because he went to the gym this morning and ran two kilometers on the treadmill. Silly him!

The breakfast at the hotel is a decent Continental breakfast with various Danishes, cold cereals, “lunch” meats, and toast. If you want something more, there’s a charge. After the past three days of Irish breakfasts, we decided we were fine with the Continental. An Irish breakfast, btw, consists of at least two slices of bacon (which resides in a middle ground between Canadian and American bacons – half is Canadian and half American), two or three links of pork sausage (which I didn’t like – too mushy in texture), a slice of black pudding and a slice of white pudding (I preferred the white over the black but the black wasn’t awful. Steven didn’t like either), a half of roasted tomato and a coddled egg (which is over easy in America). If you were keeping count, that’s four meats, a vegetable and an egg.

Clock on the Royal Mile -
notice the nearly-empty
street?
So you can see why we were ready for a lighter breakfast! We ate and headed out and up the Royal Mile. We’re near the bottom of it and, for those who don’t know, entirely uphill from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. And feels longer than a mile.

We knew we were early – it was only 8:30 – but we headed out anyway. It was actually fun, since mostly the only people out at that time were the delivery men (and women) and people on their way to work. Few tourists.

Steven by Mons Meg - that cannon is HUGE!
But we found those when we got to the Castle at the top. By now it was nearly 9:00 but they wouldn’t even let the queue form until 9:30. So we went in search of the Writer’s Museum, which we found tucked away in the Lady Stair’s Close, and which wasn’t open yet, either. Back to the top of the hill.

By now it was almost time, so we just waited. We were among the first in and boy, am I glad. We walked around, skipped the museums and looked at everything else, including the biggest cannon I’d ever seen. The Crown Jewels of Scotland are housed there and we ended up going into the exhibit from the end by accident. I’m glad we did, though. The story was told from the Stone of Destiny through the various iterations of the “Honors” as the jewels are called. By the time we reached the vault to see the actual items, we had a good idea of what they were and what they mean to Scotland.

Looking through the Lady Stair Close
to the Writer's Museum
Back to the Writer’s Museum for a visit. It’s free and dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. A lot of the first and third, not much for the second. But there was a third floor we didn’t get to, so he might’ve been up there. Again, spiral staircases that were narrow and steep. Coming down from the second floor was a big sign to watch for the “Thieves’ Step” or the “Burglar’s Step.” Homeowners deliberately made one step higher than all the others. Everyone in the family knew which one it was, burglars didn’t. Any thieves that broke in would, theoretically, trip on the uneven stair, making their presence known. Must’ve worked because several of the houses in the Old Town have them.




St. Giles - you can see it was a rainy day
Along the Royal Mile is St. Giles Cathedral. It’s a Presbyterian church that’s VERY old and absolutely beautiful. Still active today, it is open for visitors so we went in.

We wandered around admiring the architecture and some of the more modern liturgical art when I got a nosebleed. I get them now and again but I’m thinking this one was because I’m a Catholic in a Presbyterian church. J

There was a children’s choir practicing in the center opposite the pulpit. They were quite good and I sat to listen and Steven wandered a bit more. After a few minutes more of practice, they sang “How Can I Keep From Singing” in its entirety. With the gorgeous acoustics, the notes reverberated and amplified beautifully. What a treat!

The song ended and Steven came back to where I was sitting, a huge grin on his face. I thought it was about the music and it was, but not in the way I thought. He’d met one of the parents of the kids singing – turns out they’re a choir from a church in Texas on a European tour. They’d just gotten to Edinburgh and had a concert in a half an hour. But the best part? The man Steven spoke to, who was about our age, went to East High School. In Rochester, New York! He grew up in the Corn Hill area, though, so he was a product of the busing solution tried then to desegregate the schools.

Talk about a small world! To go five thousand miles and meet someone from my old neighborhood.

Time for lunch! Walked down the Royal Mile and bypassed several restaurants that offered full meals. We’re still thinking we need to eat lighter today. Found a place called the “Filling Station” – serving American food. Wings, hamburgers, and wraps along with club sandwiches. So yes, we ate an American lunch in Edinburgh, Scotland. And it was good.

Back to the hotel to regroup and drop off a package (I found a wool wrap for myself). Not there long before we were off to Arthur’s Seat.

Hard to believe you're in the middle of a city!
Arthur’s Seat is this hill that’s at the other end of the Old City of Edinburgh from the Castle. It’s behind Holyrood Palace and legend paints it as a possible place for Camelot (which, sorry Scotland, I don’t buy. But you’re entitled to wishful thinking). It’s an extinct volcano and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from getting to the top.

After a false start on the wrong path (that was far steeper than I could manage for long), we found the right one and started around the Salisbury Crags. Easy-peasy. We walked for ten minutes, though, and realized the final leg was going to be VERY steep. Steven’s stomach had started giving him rumblings, too, so we made the decision to say, “Today, this is far enough.”

The Abbey ruins at
Holyrood
Holyrood Palace, the Royal apartments when the Royals are in town, is at the base of the hill right beside the ruins of an old Abbey. There were two parts to see, the Queen’s Gallery and the Palace itself (including the ruins). The Gallery hosts special exhibits of paintings from the royal collection; currently they’re showing several Dutch Masters, including a Vermeer. Spent over an hour in there, partly because we happened on a tour group that was being given a special lecture on one of the paintings. Of course, we stood in the back and listened. He gave a marvelous critique of the painting by Pieter de Hooch and I wasn’t even bored!

From there we headed to the Palace. The King’s Rooms, the Queen’s Rooms, separated by the Gallery – all quite impressive. Today when the Royal Family visit, they stay on the third floor rather than the second, however, so these rooms are museum pieces. Except for the Gallery. This is still a functioning State Room (knighthoods are dispensed here, for example).

The highlight of the tour is visiting Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedroom. Good history told through the audio guide, so I was looking forward to it. But we got hung up in the Queen’s Bedroom below her chambers. The room kept filling, but the warden at the door wasn’t letting anyone through (Really. The docents are called wardens). We stood for nearly ten minutes before we were told to go back a different way to go up to the chamber.

When we got there, we realized why. Off behind the red ropes was a tourist with an icepack on her head. The stairs we didn’t take were a spiral staircase with uneven steps. I’m sure she tripped and hit her head. I felt her pain. She was in good hands, though and, with any luck, will only come away with an egg on her head and nothing broken!

Our guides on the pub crawl
Back to the hotel for a break before our pub crawl. Never been on one before. This was a performance as well as a move from pub to pub. We started at The Beehive, a pub just down the way from Robert Burn’s apartments when he lived in the city. Two guys, one taking on the role of the upper class, the other of the lower, telling the story of several famous Scottish writers. It was highly entertaining and we walked about two miles on the tour, plus a mile to it and a mile back. All together, I’ve walked about 12 miles today! No wonder I’m tired.