Monday, February 28, 2011

Royal Romance + European Vacations = Meet Author Melissa McClone

Yep, you got it right today it's all about royalty, romance and European vacations.  Author, Melissa McClone has a little bit of each to talk about as she stops by on the last day of her virtual tour marking the release of her latest book, "Expecting Royal Twins".    Here's a chance to meet the author of that rather intriguing title and get a fun look at a few moments in her life.   Leave a comment and I'm sure Melissa will respond.  And, there's a double benefit to commenting,  Melissa will be making a random draw for a $20 gift certificate to one lucky commenter.  

Today, instead of an interview, I asked Melissa to write a post about a trip that changed her.  On the last day of an exhausting tour, I thought she'd more than likely had enough interviews and in my world, after books, there's nothing better than travel, virtual or otherwise. So here's Melissa's take on the statement, life hasn't been quite the same since...

Welcome Melissa!

Life Hasn't Been Quite the Same Since... I Backpacked Through Europe 

 I was twenty-one.  It was nine days after my college graduation.  I was off to spend six weeks backpacking through Europe with my passport, a Eurail Pass, a camera, a Let's Go travel guide and an American Express card to be used only in case of emergency.

My parents wouldn't allow me to go alone so I teamed up with a friend I knew from marching band.  We decided on what countries to visit.  Our goal was to see as much as we could in the time we had.  We had a checklist to make sure we didn't miss a thing.

England amazed me, both London and side trips to Bath, Oxford, Stonehenge and Leeds Castle.  More than once, I felt as if I'd stepped back in time.  I'll never forget the Beefeater who guided us through the Tower of London.  History came alive.

I had so many things to check off my list, but when I page through my travel journal, it's not those incredible places I've written the most about.  It's the people.  A former roommate who was competing at Wimbledon.  The family we stayed with in Kensington Garden.  And Gerry.  A friend of a friend who took us under his wings and showed us around London.

Gerry had been a tour guide.  He gave us the names of places to go on our journey.  He was a few years older, light years wiser (not to mention really handsome) and knew what two twenty-one year olds didn't.  This wasn't just a checklist kind of trip.  Meeting people on our travels was so much fun.

He suggested we modify our ambitious itinerary, spend more time at each place and not wear ourselves out with a non-stop rush of blink-and-you-miss-it-experiences.  We were young, but not stupid.  We crossed out Capri before we left England.

We headed across the English Channel to Paris.  We traveled to Cannes.  Wherever we went, we met people.  In Nice, we hung out with a guy who not only gave me money when I didn't have enough francs to buy lunch, but also handed us little Canadian flags to pin on our backpacks.

Rome came next--the Vatican, the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain.  When I set off on my own to attend Mass, a group of gypsies accosted me.  Talk about frightening.  Until a  man ran across the street and rescued me.  I have lasting images of the grandeur and significance of the historic places we saw in Rome, yet the actions  of a kind stranger really made an impression on me.

In Italy, we bumped into more people we knew from school or recognized from our travels.  I never expected that to happen so far away from home.  I was there to see stuff--old, grand buildings, museums, things I'd read about in my history books--not meet people and build friendships.

A train ride took us to Florence with its spectacular art and architecture.  Side trips included Sienna, the perfect setting for a historical movie, and Pisa, where the leaning tower was smaller than I expected.  I also fell in love...with Festiva Gelato.

In Switzerland, we followed Gerry's advice and slowed down even more.  We made Interlaken our home base as we explored Switzerland and waited for the weather to clear so we could go up the Jungfrau.  That was a checklist item, but an important one.

Since we were no longer on an if-this-is-Tuesday-it-must-be-Rome itinerary, we had time to hang out.  Friendships blossomed.  Plans to travel together or meet up in another country were made.  Tips on where to stay and eat, what to do and where we should avoid were exchanged.

When the weather cleared, we realized our wait had provided us with more than a perfect bluebird day for the Jungfrau.  Gerry had been right.  Seeing the major attractions each place had to offer was great, but slowing down in our travels allowed us to get to know a town and make connections...friends.

In my journal, I wrote about the many places we visited, the numerous stairs we climbed and the delicious food we ate.  But in London, I wrote about the people, too.  I'm amazed by the detail I gathered about those people, and my joy at unexpectedly bumping into them again.  Nothing beats the burst of warmth seeing a familiar smiling face brings when you're far away from home, even if you've only seen that face once while ordering the chocolate mousse gelato in Florence.

It took me traveling halfway across the globe to realize how small the world truly was.  And how important a casual exchange with a stranger could turn out to be.


Suddenly a Princess...

It's not every day that a tall, dark, handsome prince strides into your workshop and announces he's your husband!  Mechanic Izzy nearly drops her wrench.  Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that she'd become a princess!

Independent Izzy struggles with exchanging her oil-stained overalls for silken gowns, let alone becoming responsible for an entire country!  Yet her attraction to Prince Niko tempts her further into the fairy tale.  And then two small surprises change all the rules of the game...

Read an excerpt from Melissa's new book "Expecting Royal Twins" by clicking here.

You can read more about Melissa by checking out her website at:

Don't forget, Melissa is giving away a prize to one lucky commenter who will win a $20 gift certificate from 

Thanks Melissa for taking us along on your European trek and for a peek at what looks like a great read! 


Virtual Book Tour

Tomorrow - March 1 - Melissa McClone will be here on her book tour.   Stop by and meet the author 
and find out about her latest book.  Melissa will be giving away a $20 gift certificate 
to one randomly drawn commenter. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Chocolate Hearts Are Melting

An illusion of melting.
Another "Hollywood" snow day.

It's hard to believe Valentine's Day is long over.  Or for that matter that the golf courses are set to open in Saskatchewan in less than six weeks.  Has anyone told my neighbourhood friend Mr. Snowman that his time is limited?
I know this morning's temperature at -10C is balmy in comparison to what we've had.  But that's a long way from springtime temperatures. 

It's been a strange year with more what I call "Hollywood Snow" than I could keep track of.  Usually those big fat flakes are rare.  This year, they were the norm.  There is no need to take the stairs into the backyard from the deck, snow has removed any need for stairs.  There's a small mountain range in the back yard.  But mountains of snow or not, while the five foot blanket of snow and ice that covers the front lawn has the appearance of a long term stay, I know I'll soon be wading through slush and soupy puddles of water as the "Hollywood snow" disappears like it never existed.

It's still a white world outside.
In a way I'll be sad to see winter go.  And I'll be the first to say that I can't believe I wrote that line.  Except, that winter is a great time to get things done.  All those projects that you said you would do but didn't because it was just too nice out to remain indoors another minute longer.  Not a problem when the thermometer slides to -25 C and stays there or worse, slides to new records into the land of scary cold.    In the dark of winter when daylight begins after eight in the morning and ends by five at night, that's when renovation projects, cleaning projects, streamlining projects and books are written.  Wait, books - sorry, what was I thinking?  That's a year-round project.

What I won't miss, long nights and short days.  Biting my nails as hubby climbs up on the roof for the second trip that week to shovel off snow before vents are plugged and the weight of the snow causes more problems.  Feeling my face freeze as the wind chill hits -40C. 

What I will miss - the refreshing mist of snowflakes on your skin.  The beauty of a winter wonderland under a brilliant prairie sky, that's crisp, cold and fresh and all yours because it's just too cold for anyone sane to be outside.  And the ability to close the door, retreat from the world and read a good book without one bit of guilt that the yard work needs to be done.

But those days are coming to an end quickly.   The days are already noticeably longer.  The dog has forgotten he's ten and his running around like a hyped up puppy and my allergies are starting to kick in - and that is the first indication that spring is not that far away. 


March 1 - Melissa McClone will be here on her book tour.   Stop by and meet the author 
and find out about her latest book.  Melissa will be giving away a $20 gift certificate 
to one randomly drawn commenter. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Kindle Made My Day

So the other day I was at the doctor.  Not an event I look forward to even when it's something as simple as getting standard test results.  There's always the possibility of bad news.  I mean no one knows for sure and being an eternal optimist, I still have that slight streak of  pessimism that asks what if?  So after running through the reasons why I couldn't go.  It's too cold - nope, been that way since sometime in November.  Too much snow -  nope, it hasn't snowed in a week.  So running out of excuses I bundled up and headed out.

Let me tell you right now that a vet's office wins hands down over a doctor's office as far as being a place of interest.  A doctor's office finds everyone too well behaved.  There is no barking, whining, slobbering or growling.  Not even a slight baring of teeth or a sly attempt to pee on the plants.  No one attacks another patient, snarls, bites or even scratches.  And no one is relegated to a kennel for bad behaviour.  Good thing I brought the Kindle.

But while I'm going on about the vet's office.  Here's one more tidbit.  What do you say when the vet opens the door to the examination room without knocking?  "Shouldn't you have knocked, one of us might be naked?"

But back to the doctor's office, an event that made me a walking advertisement for both the Kindle and Ken Follett's latest book.  I'll be addressing my commission on that later.

I expected the usual wait so being deep in the world of Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants" I thought I'd get in some reading time in the waiting room.  So I settled in to read.  Russian soldiers had just foiled the police but before I can carry on and discover what might happen next in this tension laden scene I hear:  "Is that a Kindle?  I've never seen one." 

And there's a whoosh in the seat next to me as the receptionist makes herself comfortable.  So the remainder of my wait involved showing her the intricacies of the e-reader.  Which I was glad to do.  She loved the idea of ordering a book anywhere, right there if she wanted.  But what I think really sold her was the adjustable print.  Here I can only shrug my shoulders - I don't know why.  I'm sure most e-readers have adjustable print.  But that aside, by the time I was done, she was off to get her own.  Not that I'm promoting Kindle.  Although, I do love mine.  I love the thought of having a library on hand and being able to buy a book anywhere.  But I still love my print books just a little bit more.  

So, my deed to Amazon done, it was time to see the doctor.  Meanwhile, the soldiers are still hanging somewhere in limbo in "Fall of Giants".   I had to wait until I got home to find out what happened to them.  And even then it was a while before supper and other sundries were finally cleared away and the soldiers could reassert themselves in my reality.   But back to the doctor.   He took one look at the e-reader in my hand and wanted to know what I was reading.  When I mentioned "Fall of Giants" it led to a discussion about Ken Follett's writing and migrated to the joys of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings".  Definitely much more interesting than my lack of medical issues.

One little device turned a visit to the doctor into a fairly interesting event.  I mean I got to talk books and that's always good. But the clincher on how Kindle made my day was something the receptionist said, "I don't read much.  Maybe this will get me going."

And I thought I was going to quietly read while I waited!  Books and readers are everywhere.  Have you tripped on any lately?

What about tripping on new authors?  Stop by on by March 1 for a chance to meet a writer and maybe discover a new book.   I'm featuring Melissa McClone who has a new book out, "Expecting Royal Twins!"


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't Call Me Shirley

Just the other day a friend asked if I had read a particular book.  The question was by e-mail so no answer was immediately required.  And no, I hadn't read the book.  And the title didn't convince me that I wanted to.  But then she mentioned that the heroine reminded her of me.  So now I'm curious.  Will this book give me an insight into what she really thinks of me?

Sigh, as if I shouldn't know after all these years - we won't mention how many.  I believe we still quibble about that.  It's give or take a year or two but when you talk decades what does one year or three really matter?

So back to the question, I remind her of a fictional character in a book, could this be flattering? 
Luckily, Amazon satisfied my immediate curiosity with a free chapter sample.  So I happily delved in. 

The heroine is eleven!!

What was my good friend saying? - that I'm young at heart?


I read on.  Surely there's a mistake.   Although, maybe it's here that we enter with Lesley Nielsen's timeworn joke - "and don't call me Shirley."
Okay, I digress.   What do I have in common with a precocious chemistry addicted eleven year old bent on poisoning her sister through methods that can only be called diabolically brilliant?   That question dangles.  But the story - let me say I will be buying the book.  It is just that beautifully written.  Although whether it is a YA or just a well written book geared to youth obsessed adults, I can't tell you but this writer on a first novel has sold me. 

Okay, I must reveal, the book - drumroll...

Now in regards to my similarity with the heroine, I'm still on the fence about that.  The closest I get to murder and mayhem is between the pages of a book.  Although my friend did say that, age and interests aside,  the personality of the character reminded her of me.  We'll just shrug and leave it at that.  In the meantime, her comment sparked my curiosity and led me to discover an author and that made it all worthwhile.

Has fiction brushed your reality lately?  


Monday, February 7, 2011

Snow In My Socks

Who knows what is hidden beneath this snowbank.
Today is that day in the long winter months when you just want to stand on a snowbank and scream enough is enough.  Put more mildly, it's surely the doldrums of winter.  I can think of no better term for it.  In fact I can hardly think of any term at all.  My mind is in a freeze frame.  Maybe that's what had me tweeting about the temperature in Siberia only this morning.  Somehow the thought that it was somewhere around -35C made our piddly -25C feel better.  But it's not just the cold, it's the snow, the extra clothes performance, the grinding and grating vehicles.  Wait was that the vehicle or someone's joints?  I thought once that it is too bad that the laws of nature didn't follow the rule that snow comes and goes with the holiday season.  
Enough Snow Already - Christmas is Over

But no such luck, winter is lacing up it's Sorrels and kicking into high gear.   It becomes difficult to visualize my hero sweating under a tropical sun while I'm kicking snow out of my socks.  Is this the true test of the imagination?  I remember Stephen King's "The Shining", didn't Jack do his best work while snowed in?  Wait, I think that little experiment drove Jack over the edge.  

So how do you drive the doldrums of winter away?  A good book, friends, a movie?