Saturday, April 30, 2011

Victoria Holt was born Eleanor Alice Burford on 1 September 1906 near London. Eleanor left her readers and fans an amazing legacy of written material. She's best know for her pens names "Victoria Holt" and "Jean Plaidy." Today, I though I'd take a look at the reminder of her writing career, and how her writing has resonated with authors today.

Before Eleanor picked up her pen, she went to business college and studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. She even worked in a jewelry store. In her early twenties, she married George Percival Hibbert and discovered that married life gave her the freedom to writer.

Eleanor's literary heroes included the Bröntes, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo. Her earliest work stems from the 1930. She wrote nine novels which focused on a serious psychological study of contemporary life. The novels were not published and she was told to write something that was "saleable" – romantic fiction.

Eleanor's first novel was published in 1941 under her maiden name. She generally wrote contemporaries under this name. Her many pen names include: Elbur Ford, Katthleen Kallow, Ellalice Tate, and Phillipa Carr. Her least known pen name is Anna Percival which used for just one novel.

She took pleasure in collecting dusty old books, reading them, and then interpreting the narratives. Despite her wealth, writing consumed Eleanor. She had a modern flat overlooking Hyde Park where she did the majority of her writing. She had a place she rented in Sandwich and furnished gothic style, but this was too distracting to her writing so she went back to her apartment in London.

Gothic literature, including romantic gothic that she wrote under her pen name, "Victoria Holt," has events that on the surface appear supernatural origins, but upon investigation they have very natural causes. Eleanor once experienced a premonition that deeply affected her. At 1:20 am on 17 DEC 1983, she dreamed of a violent explosion nearby. Exactly 12 hours later, it occurred next to Harrods and was set off by the IRA.

Eleanor wrote 183 books in all. Her stories have influenced a new generations of authors. I'd like to thank the following authors for sharing their thoughts on how Victoria Holt made an impact with them.

I hope you've enjoyed this 3 part series on Eleanor's Burford Hibbet's life.

From Maggie Toussaint
Author of "Muddy Waters"

Victoria Holt was one of the first “grown-up” authors I discovered. After my parents separated, my mom moved us 40 miles away to a coastal island. That first summer was incredibly lonely, but it was just a short walk to the library. There were two librarians and they say that I’d read all the young adult books (though it wasn’t called that then). Since I had read many of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books multiple times, one librarian went over and pulled a Victoria Holt from the adult section as a suggestion. I walked back on the beach to our rented cottage and spent the rest of the day reading that book. The next day I was back for more.

VH wrote beautiful scenery, and I ended up armchair traveling to places like Greece and Italy. Her genre, I believe, was called suspense. There was usually two men, one good, one out for his own personal gain, and one bewildered but intrepid heroine. I so identified with her lead characters. Here I am years later and those are still the types of story I love best, ones with an element of mystery and danger, along with a smidge of romance.

I went on to read other writers like VH, but she really stood out like a sentinel beacon in my early teen years, guiding me past the emotional turbulence of my life into her safe harbor where a happy ending was guaranteed.

From Maggi Andersen
Author of The Reluctant Marquess

I discovered Victoria Holt through my mother who loved her books. I came to love them too and read them voraciously along with Mary Stewart, Daphne Du Maurier and Georgette Heyer. As well as wonderful characters, these authors were superb at world creation. Du Maurier and Holt both had a great love of Cornwall. That part of the English coast with all its history fascinated me and I had to visit it although it was years before I did. The inspiration for my Victorian romance, Night Garden -- set in an ancient abbey in Cornwall with touches of the Gothic, came from those author's books: Holt's Mistress of Mellyn, Bride of Pendorric, Menfreya and Du Maurier's Rebecca. Night Garden was also influenced by a mysterious night scene painted by my mother, who was an award-winning artist. A woman in a red dress stands at the lighted doorway of a cottage looking out at the moonlit garden. I have to mention Rosamunde Pilcher another English writer who set her books in Cornwall, like the famous Nancherrow. As I'm sure you are aware, Holt published under other pseudonyms in other genres, but her writings as Victoria Holt were my favorite. A quote from Holt: Never regret. It it's good it's wonderful. If it's bad it's experience.

Vonnie Davis,
Author of Storm's Interlude -15 JUL
w/Wild Rose Press

I was a teenager when I plucked my first Victoria Holt novel from the library shelf. Even then—then being 1966—I was a voracious reader. After the first couple pages of Mistress of Mellyn, I was drawn in for the emotional ride of Holt’s novel. Classic themes: young headstrong nanny, ignored willful child, handsome aloof father and Lord of the manor, a dead wife—and a secret. All these threads were woven intricately into a lovely English tapestry. So much so, that I became interested in all things English. Over the next ten years I read every Victoria Holt novel I could get my hands on. She taught me romance. She taught me the thrill of gleaning emotions from the printed page. Thank you, Victoria.

Lisa Lickel
Author, website:

OH my goodness – I found Victoria and some of her incarnations when I was in junior high, and still pick up a book of hers now and again. It was taking a vacation to exotic lands, Cornwall and England and Australia. Bride of Pendorric and the Shivering Sands were particular favorites. She introduced me to delicious and passionate romance with such delicacy, always with a bit of mystery and danger. I loved her stories. Of course her own life was so mysterious too, like Agatha Christie. I think those early books influenced the way I like to write, always a little twist, a little of the exotic and, of course, romance.

Carolyn Smith w/a Caroline Clemmons
Caroline Clemmons writes Romance and Adventure

I discovered Victoria Holt after I graduated from Nancy Drew. I knew nothing about genre and thought she was pure mystery. I loved her books and read each one I could find, and continued reading those and books by her other pen names. She had a great style.

Stephanie Burkhart
Author of "The Count's Lair"

I discovered Victoria Holt as a teenager. I loved her novels. I loved the heroine, the dark hero, the dark settings and secrets! What was the secret? Reading Victoria Holt stimulated me. I loved to close my eyes and imagine. That's was Victoria Holt did for me. She made me imagine. In my paranormal writing today I weave in exotic settings and secrets. What's a good paranormal without secrets?


I fell in love with Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart (the author, not the queen) in the 1960's. I never read any Jean Plaidy books, but I love Victoria Holt's gothic romances. I think that's why I write paranormal romance (ghost stories, not vampires, werewolves etc.) In all but one Victoria Holt/Mary Stewart novel, none of the ghosts were real. When I began writing, I decided, if I'm going to write paranormal (formally known as gothic) romance, my ghosts would be real.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Welcome Guest Author - Felicity Heaton

I’m Felicity Heaton and I’m here today as part of my year-long Paranormal Pandemonium 2011 Blog Tour. Steph kindly invited me to come and share an excerpt of Hunter’s Moon, a werewolf/vampire romance novel in my Vampires Realm series with you all. Thanks for having me here today and if any readers have any comments or questions, please feel free to voice them and I’ll answer them as soon as possible.

Hunter’s Moon
F E Heaton

The horror of the night he failed to save his werewolf pack from the cruelty of their vampire masters has haunted Nicolae for one hundred years, driving him deep into the Canadian wilderness in search of peace. That peace is threatened when unfamiliar hunters and the scent of blood lead him to a beautiful woman and a hard decision—face his past and help her or risk losing everyone he cares about again.

Bearing a heart filled with grief and with vengeance on her mind, Tatyana is intent on killing the hunters she’s tracking and returning to her vampire bloodline, but her plan didn’t include being shot with poisoned arrows or rescued by a glowering alpha werewolf who stirs forbidden hunger in her.

When the hunters make their move, will Nicolae be able to stop them before it’s too late? Will he be able to overcome the darkness in his heart and embrace his desire for a vampire? And can Tatyana face her fears and risk her life for the sake of forbidden love?

Read the official excerpt or find out where to buy:

Tatyana winced as she attempted to sit up on the bed in the corner of the cramped room. Her stomach ached and growled at the enticing scent of blood. She tried to move towards the smell but pain burned in waves radiating from her side, stealing what little strength she had, and she collapsed back onto the bed. Her insides twisted with hunger, mouth watering at the thought of feeding, and her fangs itched to descend. She could taste it on her tongue.

The man stared at her. Werewolf. She had bitten him. Her memories were hazy, but she couldn’t forget the way he tasted. Her gaze flickered to the right side of his chest. She had scratched him too.

The scent of fresh blood lingered on him.

Not his blood. Nothing as strong as that. It was a strange smell—subtle and buttery.

“Animal blood, I’m afraid.” He held his left hand up and she went to look at it but her gaze caught on the rifle over his right shoulder. She hadn’t noticed it before. The black strap melted into his thick shirt. His fingers grasped it tightly. Her gaze shifted to his face.

Black messy strands of hair caressed his forehead, brushing his jetty eyebrows and making him look like some sort of wild animal when combined with his bright honey brown eyes. There was hunger in them that she had seen before in the eyes of the werewolves at her bloodline’s mansion. It was as though he was looking at her with his wolf eyes, not his human ones. A predator.

That made her the prey.

She didn’t like that one bit.

There was an unmistakable Eastern European note to his accent. Not a local werewolf. Where had he come from? Was she in danger with him?

What had made her wonder such a thing?

The thought had bubbled up from nowhere, driven by instinct and the way her senses reacted to him, speaking of him as a threat. She tried to convince herself that it was only her injuries and current vulnerable state that was making her feel he was a danger to her but it plagued her, telling her to protect herself before it was too late. The man before her was strong, vicious by nature, and could easily overpower her. She had witnessed the savage brutality a male werewolf was capable of and she didn’t want to be on the receiving end of an attack by him.

Tatyana berated herself for thinking in such a backward way, presuming he would hurt her just because he was a werewolf. She knew better than to label him as a killer, one only interested in eradicating her kind. She knew werewolves. They were as violent as her kind, but they didn’t kill without cause and he had no reason to hurt her. Besides, he had given her a valid reason to trust him.

He had saved her and had bound her wounds.

Although, she had bitten him. Was that reason enough? Was that why he was looking at her with hard eyes and his lips compressed into a thin line? The dark feelings between vampires and werewolves were mutual. The two species had never been close, often warring with each other in a fight for dominance that had ended with the enslavement of hundreds of his kind by hers. But he had saved her. And as payment for his kindness, she had bitten and clawed him. If she told him that she hadn’t been in control of herself, that the need for blood and to survive had been so strong that it had forced her to react in order to save herself, would it soften the anger in his eyes?

The muscles in his jaw tensed.

“I made a deal with the timber wolf pack. A deer in exchange for you.” A flicker of disgust crossed his face and his tone hardened, any trace of warmth gone from it. “I thought you were human. I made a mistake. I think they got the better deal.”

That cut her, but she refused to let it show. He wasn’t like the werewolves at her bloodline’s home after all. They had been civil to her, and she had even built a tentative friendship with the ones she had known for most of her life. Or as close to a friendship as the law allowed.

Tatyana looked away when he placed the rifle down on the couch and toed his heavy boots off, leaving them on the rug. He crouched in front of the fire and her gaze crept back to him against her will. It was difficult to see him when she was lying down. She tried to move and pain blazed up her right side. She drew in a sharp wheezing breath and closed her eyes.

“I would keep still, if I were you,” he said, voice dead and cold. “I’m surprised you’re already awake.”

Why, because of the wounds and the poison? Tatyana looked down at the bandages wrapped tightly around her waist and left shoulder. As he stoked the fire, the room brightened and she realised that the dark marks on the white material weren’t blood. They were black.

She knew only one liquid that colour.

He had drugged her.

She sat up sharply, hissed as pain tore through her, and clutched her side. Panic pushed her on. She had to get away. He was going to kill her. He had come with a rifle and hadn’t expected her to be awake. He had intended to shoot her while she had been unconscious.

The werewolf sighed and came over to her. Tatyana stared up the full height of him as he towered over her, broad and imposing, his face half in shadow.

She growled and her fangs sharpened, her claws extending. Her senses locked on him. He was stronger than she was but she wasn’t going to give up easily. Deep aching waves of pain pulsed along her bones and nerves, stripping away the strength that had flooded her at the thought of being under threat, and she struggled to retain her true form. They were overwhelming, crushing what little energy she had and dulling her senses. Her vision wavered and fangs receded, and she barely clung to consciousness. Her eyes met his and she silently accepted her defeat. She wasn’t strong enough to fight him.

His light brown irises turned golden in the firelight. Had she been mistaken earlier and this was his wolf side showing through? His eyes were beautiful but they looked like death to her. She glanced at his neck where she had bitten him and her eyes widened when she saw the faint lines of scarring around his throat.

A compound werewolf?

Out here?

A thousand tiny needles pricked down her spine.

He really was going to kill her.

Tatyana tried to back away, grimacing as every part of her burned, but there was no escape. He grabbed her ankle, yanked it so she landed flat on her back on the bed and pressed his bloodstained left hand down on her shoulder, pinning her to the mattress. The force of it kept her still but only because she could sense how strong he was now that he was touching her skin on skin. She was no match for him. She wouldn’t be even at full strength. He could butcher her if he wanted to.

She closed her eyes, not wanting to see her end when it came.

Read the official excerpt or find out where to buy:

Felicity Heaton is a romance author writing as both Felicity Heaton and F E Heaton. She is passionate about penning paranormal tales full of vampires, witches, werewolves, angels and shape-shifters, and has been interested in all things preternatural and fantastical since she was just a child. Her other passion is science-fiction and she likes nothing more than to immerse herself in a whole new universe and the amazing species therein. She used to while away days at school and college dreaming of vampires, werewolves and witches, or being lost in space, and used to while away evenings watching movies about them or reading gothic horror stories, science-fiction and romances.

Having tried her hand at various romance genres, it was only natural for her to turn her focus back to the paranormal, fantasy and science-fiction worlds she enjoys so much. She loves to write seductive, sexy and strong vampires, werewolves, witches, angels and alien species. The worlds she often dreams up for them are vicious, dark and dangerous, reflecting aspects of the heroines and heroes, but her characters also love deeply, laugh, cry and feel every emotion as keenly as anyone does. She makes no excuses for the darkness surrounding them, especially the paranormal creatures, and says that this is their world. She’s just honoured to write down their adventures.

If you want to know more about me, or want to get in touch, you can find me at the following places:
My website:
Vampires Realm series website:
My blog:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Enjoy a slice of German Choc. Cake & a tasty excerpt...

Welcome to the Desert Breeze Birthday Blog Tour. Enjoy a slice of rich German chocolate cake and a tasty excerpt with my post.

First, I just want to say "Happy 2 year Anniversary!!" to Desert Breeze.

It's been a heck of a ride for me with some amazing coincidences. In August 2009, I started shopping around for publishers for my paranormal romance. The one I wanted to go with never got back to me. I waited about three weeks and then queried Desert Breeze. Gail said she liked the premise, but she wanted it in the 3rd person. I agreed and a contract was born. Then, about a week after I signed the contract, the other publisher I queried replied to me. They apologized profusely saying there was a glitch with Yahoo and they didn't get their emails over a two-week period. They were interested and said send the manuscript. Too late, I'd signed with Desert Breeze. (This other company has a great reputation and we all know Yahoo can be YaHell at times so I totally believed them when they said there was a glitch with the email.) Coincidence #1.

Coincidence #2 – Gail lived in the same town I did – Castaic, CA!

Castaic is a small little town just north of LA and Santa Clarita. The population is small. How uncanny was that?

Once I got to talking with Gail coincidence #3 popped up: She had lived most of her life in New Hampshire! I grew up in NH! Meeting Gail was like meeting a kindred spirit. She understands my New England sensibilities, my work ethic, and "New England heartiness." She understands my sarcasm and sense of humor. It was then and there I felt as if God wanted us to meet and wanted me at Desert Breeze.

And yes, while Desert Breeze embraces "sweet" romance, I'm a sucker for a good old-fashioned romantic love scene which most of my stories includes. And I don't apologize for that. –wink--

Meeting Jenifer Ranieri was like finding the cherry on top. I absolutely love Jen's laughter and her sense of humor warms my heart. Her intuition is amazing and her graphic eye is "spot on." I've worked with her in November 2009 & 2010 during National Novel Writing Month and she made the challenge worth the effort.

I love Jen's covers. She's brought my paranormal vision alive in ways I couldn't imagine. Every cover is art, including my latest release which I'm excited about: The Count's Lair.

The Count's Lair is the story of Count Anton Varga and Lady Amelia Andrássy. It's set in Hungary in 1901. Anton has a secret. Can Amelia accept him for the man he is?

5 Stars, Long & Short Reviews
5 Stars, Author Tami Dee, author of the Mists of Time series
5 Stars. Sherry Fowler

Leave a comment on my blog today and I'll pick a winner to receive a PDF of Moonlight Sonata, the prequel to the Count's Lair along with the ARC of The Count's Lair.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Amelia surveyed the compact room. A double bed rested against the side wall, next to a small door. On the opposite side of the bed was a nightstand. Across from it, next to the fireplace, was a dresser, along with a mirror and another small door.

Anton walked toward the door on the other side of the bed. "This is the washroom, and a small closet is over there."

Amelia nodded. Anton placed her vase of flowers on the dresser. She went to the window and looked out. It faced the Danube and the parliament building.

"What a nice view," she whispered.

He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, pressing his chest against her back. "That's why I chose it for you. The view is magnificent."

His seductive voice and intimate touch made her insides grow warm. She loved to feel the full length of his hard body against hers. They didn't say anything for several minutes. Then he slowly turned her in his arms and kissed her.

She molded her body to his, threading her fingers through his hair, pulling him toward her. She needed to feel him. His sweet tongue pierced the warm barrier of her mouth, and she gladly allowed him to explore. Uncomfortable warmth pooled inside her and slowly radiated out to her arms and legs.

"I've missed this," he whispered between deep kisses.

"So have I."

He trailed his honey wet lips down her neck. "I've dreamed of you, Amelia. I've dreamed of you running your hands over my body--"

She placed her hands against his cheeks and broke contact with his mouth to look into his eyes, recalling her earlier thoughts about turning him into a mess. "You want me to touch you? More intimately?"

He said nothing, only his eyes, now a deep sapphire blue, expressed his desire. She placed her hands on his white shirt and slid them under his dinner jacket. He wiggled his shoulders, and the garment dropped to the floor. Then she wrapped her hands around his neck, undid his tie, and placed it on the dresser.

He put his hands on her waist, drawing her closer. She started at the top button on his shirt and unfastened them. Her fingers fumbled on the third or fourth one, and he placed his hands over hers, helping to guide her. When she finished, his white shirt hung loosely over his shoulders.

Don't forget to visit my Book Trailer:


Don't forget to visit Regina Andrew's blog tomorrow on the Desert Breeze Birthday Blog Tour and on 30 APRIL, share your birthday wishes with Desert Breeze on their blog at: Http://

Leave a comment on any of the birthday blog tour stops including today and on the DB Blog 30 April. A grand prize winner will be chosen on 1 MAY to receive a GC to Amazon.

Regina's blog can be found at:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Author Series -Q&A with Author Rhonda Lee Carver

STEPH: I'd like to welcome Author Rhonda Lee Carver to the blog today.

Rhonda, How long have you been writing?

RHONDA: Through the years I’ve played around with writing. I’d write something by hand and put it away. Two years ago I decided it was time to take the big plunge and dedicate myself full-time. I haven’t regretted it once.

STEPH: What genres do you write? Do you prefer a certain genre?

RHONDA: I am a romantic at heart. I write western, suspense, erotica and paranormal—all with a love story.

STEPH: What attracts you to writing romance?

RHONDA: When I was 13 I picked up my first romance novel, a Harlequin, and read it from cover to end in one sitting. I was hooked. I knew what my calling was; it just took me a few years to find the path.

STEPH: Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

RHONDA: A movie, a song, a vacation…you name it. There’s something about my mind and one sentence can trigger a while storyline. If I meet someone and they’re wearing a certain style of clothing, have a specific job or an accent, I can conjure up a character with that one trait. But what really motivates me? Laying in bed and my thoughts travel and I think up scenarios and situations. There are times when I will toss and turn, fighting sleep, until I get up and write the idea into words. That’s when I am most creative.

STEPH: Do you have any marketing tips to share with other writers?

RHONDA: Eer…uhh…let me see. I’m probably the worse marketer you’ll ever come across. Seriously. But if I had to give any advice I would say research how other writers are marketing. Take what works and put your own twist on it. For instance—blogging is huge. In this market, though, everyone is blogging. You’ve got to be creative and make it original. And you must be committed.

STEPH: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

RHONDA: Join a critique group…not just any…but one that trades projects frequently, has a good balance of published and non-published writers and has a group of people who don’t mind being honest—even when it hurts.

STEPH: Do you own an ebook reader? If so, which one.

RHONDA: Yikes, I don’t know if I should admit this or not since I’m an eBook writer, but I don’t. It is on my list of “purchases.” When it comes time I will love to ask for advice on which to buy.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the place where you live in.

RHONDA: Ohio. Heard of it? We’re know as “The Heart of it All.” Or, Farmland Central. Miles and miles of hills, cows, barns, and…hmm…just plain country. I live close enough to the city so if I want a taste of glamour it’s only an hour away, but at heart, I’m a small-town girl.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

RHONDA: Panster. Plotting?!?! What is that?

STEPH; How important is setting to a story?

RHONDA: If you do your job at setting a scene readers are going to want to jump on the first plane just to check it out. For me, although I love to travel, it’s just not practical. And if you’re writing about a real place, readers want it to be accurate. Although I have written about real locations, it’s only when I’ve had the pleasure of visiting that I’ll use it as a setting. Otherwise, I love being creative and create my own town—I take a little of what I know and mix it with a lot of imagination.

Second Chance Cowboy excerpt:

Carly squeezed her hands into fists. “My poor husband. How difficult it is for him to manage his inflated ego and keep his zipper closed.”

“We’re divorced, remember?” His voice reeked of sarcasm.

She groaned in irritation. Her pulse pounded in her ears like the beating of a drum. Her claws were showing.

Chance didn’t blink an eye as he gazed at her across the room. “Honey, I can keep my pants zipped just fine. Problem is, you can’t keep your fingers off my zipper.”

Carly’s palm itched to slap him. “We live in a small town, Chance. How do you think it’s possible we haven’t run into each other more than three times in the last two years?”

She cocked her chin. “Let me fill you in. I’ve done everything in my power to keep from bumping into you. Do you realize how difficult it is to plan my schedule weeks in advance so I don’t have to see you? Is that a description of a woman who can’t keep her fingers off your zipper?”

“No, more like a woman who’s afraid she’ll forget what screwed up our marriage in the first place, realize she’s made a huge mistake and get her ass back home.”

“Humph, fat chance that’ll ever happen.” She fumbled with the sheet in irritation and gave her hair a toss over one shoulder.
Damn, he did have a point, although she’d never admit it to him.

“Yeah, right, Carly, because you can’t ever forgive and forget, can you? You think you’re the only one who has lost, don’t you?” His eyes became steely pools of green. His voice turned low and controlled. “I lost Devon, too. He was my son--our son. How long are you going to keep blaming me for his death?”

Carly swallowed the painful lump in her constricted throat. “I don’t blame you.”

“Could have fooled me.”

“We both know why I left.”

“We do?” His bitter laugh split the air with its razor-sharp intensity. “I know you want to hold on to the belief that I am the bad guy who drove you away, but isn’t it time you took half the responsibility for the failure of our marriage?” A trace of compassion softened his expression. He tugged on his shirt and finger-combed his hair.

“It wasn’t my fault you cheated.” Once she said it, she wanted to yank the words back. Too late, just like their relationship.
“You’re a broken record, sweetheart. It’s not worth denying the accusation any longer. Maybe eventually you’ll believe your words and feel justified in leaving. Devon died, Carly. He’s gone and we can’t change the truth. One of us needed to make the decision to let him go and I made it. I held out hope you’d eventually find a sliver of forgiveness in your cold heart. I guess I was wrong.”

The old wound broke open and her lungs emptied of oxygen. She wanted to lash out at him, tell him to go to hell, but the words didn’t come. Instead, she whispered, “I’m going to the bathroom. When I get back I want you gone.”

“Carly, you’ve become an expert at sucking all the joy out of your life and pushing away anyone who reaches out to you. You’re living in a self-made prison, founded on guilt and pain, and there is no key to unlock the cell door.”

Facebook/Author Page!/pages/Rhonda-Lee-Carver-Author/155568577811615


I hope everyone will check out my new blog. Each week I do Sex-Recipe Monday, Tuesday Author Interviews, and Friday Author Blog Specials. In between I throw in my blogs.

Delaney’s Sunrise will be released June 20th, 2011 with

Blurb for Delaney’s

Dee met Jacob’s brother, Abe Delaney, and knew she’d made a mistake by agreeing to marry Jacob. Sometimes an attraction is too hard to deny, but Dee and Abe resist temptation. Jacob has a secret and when he tells Dee that he is having an affair with a man. He pleads with Dee to keep his secret. Jacob is killed in a car accident soon after. Dee wants to tell Abe the truth about Jacob, but she is bound by a promise even after Jacob’s death. Abe was overwhelmed in guilt that he’d loved his brother’s girl and withdraws within himself. Jacob’s will is read and Abe is floored. Jacob had left his half of the family farm to Dee. This was all the excuse he needed to sink further into his anger and bitterness toward Dee. Hurt, Dee leaves the farm, but now, years later, she returns. Can Dee and Abe work out their conflict regarding the farm? How will they handle the attraction that is still lingering between them, now stronger than ever? Jacob’s past lover views Dee as a threat and he will go to any means necessary to protect his reputable place in society—including murder.


Rhonda is a full-time romance author and a freelance editor. She enjoys writing contemporary, paranormal, suspense, and erotica. Her specialty is bad-ass heroes (charcoal hair, copper eyes, and heart of gold) and smart and sassy heroines. And her favorite subject is…men in military uniform. They make the perfect hero.

Reading her first romance novel at age thirteen, Rhonda was hooked. Her talent of bringing interesting characters to print and shaping happy endings are not only a passion of hers, but a dream career. She thinks the love between hero and heroine should be so steamy that it melts the ink off the pages.

If she’s not at her computer crafting a story, Rhonda enjoys reading romance, hanging out with her loved ones, or watching a movie that either pushes her to tears or has her rolling with laughter…and preferably both.

She lives in Ohio where she is a mother by day and a sensual writer by night. She has too many pets to name but has a place in her heart for each of them.

She believes everyone deserves romance in their life—one page at a time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Part 2 of my Victoria Holt Series - The Jean Plaidy Novels

The Jean Plaidy Novels
By: Stephanie Burkhart

Part 2 of my 3 part series about Victoria Holt.

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience." – Victoria Holt.

The Queen of Gothic Romance was Victoria Holt. Her stories were populated with secrets, spooky castles/manors, heroines in distress, and 19th Century locales. Through the 1960-1980's she revitalized the gothic romance. Victoria Holt, however was a pen name for Eleanor Hibbert, and while it was her most famous pen name which earned her the most money, I believe Eleanor found the most enjoyment and fulfillment with the Jean Plaidy pen name.

My Own Personal Experience with Jean Plaidy

I had read Victoria Holt in high school, (1982-86) and at the time, I got my fix at the local library. I loved the Manchester, NH library with its open rooms. Then I joined the Army in 1986 and went to Germany for my first assignment.

In July 1988, I discovered my first Jean Plaidy book. I was sent a "care package" and Queen in Waiting was in it. It's the story of George II and Caroline of Ansbach. I took the book to Berlin with me, devouring it on the duty train.

I LOVED this book. To this day, it is one of my favorites. George and Caroline's romantic love story touched a chord in me. Fairytales do come true and while George II was not perfect, what I loved about Plaidy was that she made George II deliciously human and sympathetic, and I, as a reader, appreciated that. When I got back to the states, I went on a hunt for Jean Plaidy books. I simply could not get enough of her wonderful historicals that wove fiction and truth so effortlessly.

Author Jean Plaidy

During World War II, Eleanor Hibbets and her husband lived in Cornwall near a secluded yet picturesque beach called – Plaidy. The beach inspired Eleanor's new pen name: Jean Plaidy.

Her first Jean Plaidy novel was "Together They Ride" in 1945! It was set in the 18th century about Cornish smugglers. It was well written, but not very successful.

Plaidy's next novel was "Beyond the Blue Mountains" and established the relationship between her and her publisher, Robert Hale which would last until her passing in 1993. "Beyond the Blue Mountains" was over 500 pages and was rejected by several publishers before it was published in 1958. It spanned 3 generations of women and began in the mid-18th century.

Over the course of the next 15 years, Plaidy turned her attention to bringing history to life. Her earlier stories involved Jane Shore (Edward IV's mistress, I believe), Katherine Parr, (Henry VIII's 6th wife) and Henry VIII's sisters, Mary and Margaret.

Plaidy's career reached its height between 1960-70's, and she became one of Britain's most popular and accomplished authors. While fictionalized history, her novels were methodically and carefully researched. She loved reading dusty old history books and putting scenes into her words, making them vivid and exciting.

Eleanor described her writing as "pure entertainment," but she believed it was nicer to be read than to receive reviews.

One article in the Sunday Times summed up her success as such: "Jean Plaidy, by skillful blending of superb storytelling and meticulous attention to authenticity of detail and depth of characterization, has become one of the county's most widely read novelists."

For me, looking back, this is exactly why I enjoy Plaidy's novels.

The bulk of Plaidy's historical works is extensive. From 1967-1971 she wrote the Georgian Saga (which I've read) and in the 1970's she wrote the Plantagenet Saga (15 books! I've read most) and in the 1980's she wrote the Queens of England, which I've enjoyed.

So how historically correct was Plaidy? Very. She researched her writing well and if she mentioned a little known fact in her novels, then there was a historical basis for it. One of the most fascinating little tidbits I read? In "The Queen's Secret" about Henry V and Katherine of Valois, Plaidy mentions that a fortune teller told Henry V if his son was born at Windsor Castle then his son would live long, but lose everything Henry V won. If his son was NOT born at Windsor Castle, he would not live long, but would hold onto what Henry had won. Henry V believed this down to his bones and when Katherine was pregnant, sought out her reassurances often that she would not have their children at Windsor Castle. Katherine's favorite castle however, was Windsor Castle. She firmly intended to honor her husband's request not to have the child at Windsor, but stayed too long. A winter storm struck, and she had the child at Windsor. When Henry V was told, he fell to his knees and wept. He died 8 months later.

His son, Henry VI, was haunted by what we now know was schizophrenia. He lived long, but lost everything Henry V had won in battle.

You rarely find this depth of research in other historical novels.

Starting in 1952, Plaidy published 2 novels a year, but in 1981, raised her output to 3 novels a year. In 1983, Eleanor was in her late 70's. Her last Plaidy novel was "William's Wife" about Queen Mary II, which was released in 1992.

Do you have a favorite Jean Plaidy book? What drew you to Eleanor's Jean Plaidy pen name?

NEXT: Part 3 of 3: Eleanor Hibbets other pen names and her legacy.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Guest Author Series -Q&A with Author Theresa Stillwagon

Theresa is a fellow author with me at Desert Breeze and has a release out this month, "Saving Pale Moon." She's here today to talk about her story. Welcome, Theresa.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

THERESA: I started way back in my teens. I remember I started writing a historical set in the West. I wrote it long hand and never finished it. All I remember about it was the beginning. She was on a train, thinking about why she was on the train. I didn't write 'the end' on a book until the mid1980s.

STEPH: What attracts you to romance writing?

THERESA: I've always read them. Romances are empowering. The main characters go through so many things, but they always manage to resolve them and get their happy ever after. Real life isn't always that way.

STEPH: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

THERESA: I find my inspiration everywhere I look. I can sit in a restaurant and watch people and come up with characters, or a possible plot. LIstening to people, watching tv, and reading have given me ideals. Once I even dreamed a major scene and I built a story around it.

But I think my inspiration comes mostly from the secondary characters of my finished books. Just about everyone of them has at least one person screaming at me to write their story.

STEPH: Tell us a little about Saving Pale Moon.

THERESA: Jessica Callaway isn’t happy. Maybe meeting her birth mother now would be a good thing.

And it would be if only for her brother.

Blake Hunter doesn’t trust her. Why is she here now, after finding out about Abby twenty years ago? She does look like his adopted mother, but he plans on keeping a cool head until the verifying blood tests are done.

Jessie senses his distrust, but she is still way too aware of him. The mere sound of his voice sets her on edge. When her birth mother tells her Blake is adopted, she relaxes her guard and decides to enjoy her time in Texas . With all the horses surrounding her, especially Pale Moon, she’s in heaven.

Unfortunately Blake isn’t as accepting as the other Hunters.

Has she done the right thing coming to Texas ? Or has Jessie made the biggest mistake of her life?

STEPH: How long did it take to write?

THERESA: I had the ideal for this book for a long while before I actually started writing it. I've lived with these sisters for about fifteen years. I let them go when I couldn't sell the original first book to the series. Jessie stayed in my head all those years so I finally sat down and started writing her story. I don't remember the actually date, but I finished it way back in 2007. It went through a lot of changes since then.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the story?

THERESA: No, not really. I did do some research on dude ranches and horses.

STEPH: What's the theme of Saving Pale Moon?

THERESA: I think it letting go and learning how to trust.

STEPH: Cast the characters? Who are the leads for Saving Pale Moon?

THERESA: Jessie Callaway is the heroine. She needs to find answers to question her adopted parents can't help her with so she decides to meet her birth mother. Life hasn't been treating her well lately. More than just possible health problems have convinced her to come to the ranch.

Blake Hunter is her birth mother's adopted son. He doesn't believe her reasoning for coming to the ranch now, when things are looking up for the Hunters. He doesn't want to get involved with her because he thinks he's like his abusive birth father. This is the main reason he doesn't want to trust her.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

THERESA: Right now I live in Georgia. My husband and I just moved here half a year or so ago, but I love the area. We live in an RV, in a campground in Savannah. The city is beautiful with a lot of history. We haven't really had a chance to see much of it yet but we plan on taking one of the bus tours of the city. And I'd love to do a ghost tour.

STEPH: Do you have an ebook reader? If so, which one?

THERESA: No, not yet. My birthday is coming up in May so I'm hoping my husband will get me a Kindle. I do so want one. It'll be so much easier curling up with an ebook reader. Right now I have to read all my books on the laptop.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

THERESA: The kitchen table. We live in an RV so we have very limited space.


Theresa Stillwagon has been writing most of her life. Since one of her teachers praised a poem she wrote for a class assignment, she's been putting words together in the hopes of seeing them in print. Not caring if anyone other than herself ever read them. Her dream came to reality in 2008 when she signed her first writing contract. She's now just signed her fourth one, the first story in a series of five called The Sisters Callaway.

A former resident of the state of Ohio, Theresa now lives in her RV in the sunny city of Savannah, Georgia, with her husband of twenty-eight years and her two cats, Fred and Barney. She's currently searching for a job while hard at work working on the next installment of The Sisters Callaway series.

You can find more out about her by visiting her website at


Thursday, April 14, 2011

California Thursday -The Lighthouse at San Luis Obispo

Lighthouse Series #5
By: Stephanie Burkhart

San Luis Obispo is on the central coast of California. It's very nice country, rural, picturesque, and San Simeon, where the Hearst castle is, isn't that far away. It's been 9 years since I've been out that way and for me it's about a 4 hour drive north of Castaic on U.S. Rte 101.

In 1867 President Andrew Johnson issued an executive order to have the lighthouse built. At the time, the land was called Port Harford. It would take 10 years before a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives for the construction of the lighthouse. Meanwhile, a pier had been constructed on the land in 1864. This was a 540 foot pier. In 1878, a tidal wave struck the area and washed this pier out to sea. During low tide, you can still see the pilings of the old pier from the Availa Pier that is now there.

As I research these lighthouses for my series, I discover there's always a story behind the house. It was 1888 and still no lighthouse had been built at Port Harford. A passenger and cargo steam ship called "The Queen of the Pacific" was traveling the harbor around 2 am. It was dark and the captain misjudged his clearance. The ship was 500 feet away from the pier when it sunk in 22 feet of water. Thankfully, most of the ship was still above water and no lives were lost. The ship eventually refloated but it was argued that had there been a light, the ship would have safely made it to the pier.

Construction on the lighthouse began in 1889. The lighthouse was finished in 1890. Amazing what a shipwreck can do, isn't it?

In 1893, the kerosene lamp was replaced with an electric one.

During World War II, a radio listening station was built in front of the lighthouse.

In 1961, the Coast Guard pushed the original double building over the cliff using a bulldozer and replaced the structure with a more modern one.

In 1969, the Fresnel lens was retired. An automated electric light was installed. Note: A Fresnel lens design allows the construction of lenses of large aperture and short focal length without the mass and volume of material that would be required by a lens of conventional design. Compared to conventional bulky lenses, the Fresnel lens is much thinner, larger, and flatter, and captures more oblique light from a light source, thus allowing lighthouses to be visible over much greater distances.

In 1974, the lighthouse was closed and in 1976, the Fresnel lens went to stay in the San Luis Obispo Country Historical Society. The station has since been restored and opened to the public. The Fresnel lens was returned to the lighthouse for the public to see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Author Series -Q&A with Author Sarah Grimm

I'd like to welcome author Sarah Grimm to the blog today. Sarah is the author of "Not Without Risk," a romantic suspense set in San Diego. I just recently read her book and LOVED it!


STEPH: Sarah, thank you for visiting Romance Under the Moonlight. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

SARAH: Thanks for having me here today, Steph. Let’s see, I live in West Michigan with my husband, two teenaged sons, three miniature schnauzers, and a guinea pig named Lilly. Recently I went from being a stay-at-home mom who kept the books for my husband’s business, to working full time as an Office Manager/Bookkeeper.

STEPH: How long have you been writing?

SARAH I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have notebooks filled with poems, story ideas, and partial chapters from as far back as age five. Yes, thanks to my older sister, I could read and write by age five. And I did. I read everything I could get my hands on, usually re-writing the story in my head as I went.

STEPH: What attracts you to romance writing?

SARAH: I’m a romantic—a die hard romantic. I believe in love, not just as a fundamental part of human relationships, but as a force that really can heal emotional scars. I truly believe there is someone for everyone—the person they are meant to find.
Their other half. Their soul mate. So it makes sense that I chose to write about two people finding each other, falling in love, foiling the villain and living happily-ever-after.

STEPH: What genres of romance do you prefer to write?

SARAH: I write romantic suspense—stories where the romance and the suspense play an equal part—and also contemporary romance, with a bit of suspense woven in. I’ve tried to write without any danger or suspense, but can’t seem to do it. No matter my plans when I begin a story, before I know it, one of my characters is facing an enemy that wants them dead.

STEPH: Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

SARAH: From everyday life: The stories I read, the music I listen to. Even conversations I overhear while grocery shopping or sitting at the DMV.

STEPH: Not Without Risk is a Nominee for Book of the Year with LASR! Congrats. Can you tell us a little about it?

SARAH: Thanks. Not Without Risk was the first time I saw down and wrote a book from the beginning to the end, so it will always have a special place in my heart. As you can imagine, I’m absolutely thrilled by the great reviews it’s received, even more so when I learned of the nomination from LASR. I didn’t win, but came in third behind Toni Blake and Jill Shalvis respectively. Pretty good for a debut author, I thought.

Not Without Risk is a romantic suspense with a wounded hero—the story of Sergeant Justin Harrison, who returns to his job as a San Diego homicide detective after six months of medical leave. Determined to prove he’s fit for active duty, he doesn’t need the self-doubt that plagues him, or his growing feelings for the leggy brunette who is at the center of his homicide investigation.

STEPH: How long did it take to write Not Without Risk?

SARAH: I have at least four different, completed versions of the book, a couple from when I called it by a completely different name. I wrote it, set it aside, went back and rewrote it from the beginning, then set it aside…well, you get the idea. I have no idea how long it took before I was satisfied with it. A long time. ☺

STEPH: How important was setting? Have you been to San Diego?

SARAH: The setting isn’t really important beyond the fact that it’s so far away from Boston, where Paige grew up. Any city in California would have worked. I chose San Diego because of its beauty and history. Have I been there? Unfortunately, no, but the next time I’m in LA visiting my brother, I plan to go.

STEPH: Did you do a lot of research for Not Without Risk?

SARAH: I didn’t do any research for Not Without Risk specifically. It was all things I’ve learned over the years of reading both fiction and non-fiction. Wait, I guess I did quiz a security system installer to make certain what I wanted to do with Paige’s system was feasible.

STEPH: Cast the movie! Who plays the leads Justin &Paige?

SARAH: Paige is easy, from the first draft of the story, I've always pictured Angie Harmon as Paige. I changed her hair and eye color, but the height, build and smile...all Paige.

Justin, hmm…that’s a tough one. I guess I’d have to pick Joe Manganiello.

STEPH: Do you own an ebook reader? If so, which one?

SARAH: I have a first generation Amazon Kindle that I love. Until a few weeks ago I had no plans to upgrade to a newer e-reader, then I saw a special on e-readers and discovered that Barnes and Noble has plans to add Apps to their Nook color. I want one!

STEPH: Do you have an advice for aspiring authors?

SARAH: Don’t let anything keep you from achieving your dream. Anything is possible when you want it badly enough.

STEPH: For fun: Monet, Picasso, or Renoir?

SARAH: Monet.

Sarah's Next Book:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday - What I'm reading: Not Without Risk by Sarah Grimm

I thought I'd share my recent book review for "Not Without Risk," by Sarah Grimm. I LOVED this book. It had everything - romance, heat, sexual tension, a compelling plot, and a twist you wouldn't expect. Tomorrow, Sarah will be with us for a guest interview.



Book Review for: Not Without Risk
Written by: Sarah Grimm
Wild Rose Press
ISBN: 978-1-601-54-634-0
244 pages
5 Stars

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

Grimm crafts an edge-of-your seat romantic suspense with "Not Without Risk." Photographer Paige Conroy finds an old friend, Leroy St. John, dead in a hotel room. Unknown to her, she's opened up a can of worms. Can Detective Justin Harrison keep her safe?

Set in present day San Diego, CA, Grimm puts the reader right into the action when detective Justin Harrison and his partner are called out to the scene of a murder. As he investigates, he learns the victim, St. John, is a cop from back East. A local photographer, Paige Conroy, found the body. When Justin meets Paige, the sparks fly.

Justin and Paige acknowledge their physical attraction, but each have emotional hang-ups. The danger increases when Paige is sent an email with pictures of her apartment – taken at night when she was sleeping. Spooked, Paige goes to the police – and Justin.

Justin is determined to put the clues together, but remains stymied. When Paige's classic car is blown up, Justin throws professional caution to the wind and insists Paige stay with him for her safety. Justin's partner, Allan, is concerned Justin is blurring the lines between his job and his heart.

Paige holds the key to cracking the case, but can Justin solve it before he loses his heart – and his objectivity?

Grimm's writing is sharp. The plot is tight with several twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes.

Grimm engages the reader immediately, placing them in the scene with Justin. The dialogue is crisp. The descriptions are spot on, never lingering, and there's the perfect blend to set the scenes.

Both Justin and Paige are compelling characters. Paige has been hurt before. She was once engaged to a police officer who put the job before her. Her fiancé died performing his job, and Paige is reluctant to commit to Justin emotionally. She's uncertain if Justin is worth the risk.

Justin is deeply committed to his job. Unfortunately, he received a bullet wound while off duty and the effects of the injury are still lingering. Justin's never really let a woman into his life. The danger Paige faces easily brings out all his protective instincts, yet letting Paige into his heart is not without risk.

The novel is sophisticated for romance readers. Grimm's love scenes are sensual, full of heat, and capture the intense connection between Paige and Justin.

"Not Without Risk" is a heart pounding suspense that does not disappoint.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Excerpt Monday - The Wolf's Torment

Note: This is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, "The Wolf's Torment" which will be released by Desert Breeze 1 MAY. It may vary upon publication.

The set up: In this scene, Theresa's father, wants to give Mihai "the son-in-law" talk - witch style.


Theresa stood and grinned at hearing her father's voice. He walked over, arms extended, and she ran into his burly embrace. He parted from her, gripping his hands on her upper arms. There was no mistaking thepride in his eyes. "You look wonderful."

"Papa! That must have been the fifth time you said that."

"Oh, let me be proud of my little girl. Now, when is your honeymoon?"

"We leave tomorrow morning."

"So soon?"


Theresa's father looked up from her and then at Mihai. "I must talk with your husband. You don't mind if I take him aside, do you?"

"You're not going to scold him, are you?"
A playful spark danced in her father's eyes. "No, I'm just going to threaten him. If he doesn't treat you right--"

"Oh, Papa! No threats."

Her father chuckled. Mihai gestured toward the door. "We can talk in the study."


"It will be fine, Theresa. I had the same talk with Victoria's husband."

Theresa sighed.

"I'll keep you company," said Sonia. "I'm sure my father had the same talk with Viktor."

"Thank you."

Mihai squeezed Theresa's hand and escorted her father outside of the ballroom. Edward and Victoria joined them. Theresa's father looked at him. "I asked them to join us." When he opened the door to his study, Mihai found Beatrice sitting in a chair, waiting for them. He didn't know if he should be worried, insulted or flattered. Why did Theresa's whole family have to be here?

"Would you like a drink?" Mihai asked.

"No, I want to get right to business."
Mihai gestured for him to take the couch. Theresa's father sat down. Edward and Victoria sat next to him. Beatrice stayed in her chair. Mihai grabbed a spare chair from a corner and joined the circle.

Theresa's father steepled his fingers. "I often wondered what happened to Esmeralda. She had such promise and her father was reckless with her future."

"You knew my mother?"

"Yes, I knew Esmeralda Vacay."

Mihai's heart leapt. What luck! His bride's father had known his mother, but of course, he would -- he was a witch. "What do you mean, her father was reckless?"

"He wanted revenge for a minor insult and promised Esmeralda into service to Hecuba and her coven. Esmeralda refused to go and disappeared. I learned years later through Count Brancoveanu that she married into Moldavia's royal house."

"Hecuba?" questioned Mihai. The witch who killed his mother!

Theresa's father looked at him, his expression serious. "Hecuba isn't your problem. The wolf in your house is."

"Viktor." Mihai drew in a breath. Viktor wasn't the same man he knew in London. Mihai's heart went out to his friend as he struggled with to hold onto his caring and kind nature.

"Beatrice told me what occurred and that you and your sister received lessons from her."

"She has been a good teacher."

"Good. You'll need to keep learning and practicing on your own. Beatrice must accompany us back to Austria. When I can, I'll spare her for a visit or two, but you must be diligent or the wolf will ruin your house."

"Viktor would do no such thing."

"Yes, he will. He is a wolf. He wants two things -- blood and sex. This feral need will consume his human body, and when it does, he will plot against you, purposely hurt you, and eventually try to kill you."


Theresa's father snapped to his feet. "You indignant boy! Do not presume to dictate to me how Viktor will behave. I know the wolf mentality and every man succumbs to the feral nature."

Mihai stood as well, unsure of how to react, but convinced the elder witch was very serious and he needed to be serious as well. "Tell me what to do."

"I sense reluctant acceptance coming from you, but you must not be reluctant to act when the time comes. Not only that, but the situation is complicated by Theresa's ignorance."

"Why did you raise her not to know her talents?" asked Mihai.

"I foresaw her future at birth and it dictated she must be ignorant of her heritage. If she ever practices witchcraft, she faces death."

"Death?" A wave of apprehension threaded through him. He'd wanted to explore witchcraft with her. What did her father mean?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

California Saturday - The Santa Barbara Zoo Snooze

Meeting before the Snooze at Longboards

I very rarely have a chance to hang out with my son on Cub Scouts events. Usually, with my schedule, I'm working during the times of the meeting or I have to watch our younger guy, Joe. This time around, the Santa Barbara Zoo Snooze was being held during vacation week and Gramme was able to watch Joe, so I had a chance to accompany Andrew (who is a Bear Scout) and my husband on the Santa Barbara Zoo Snooze.

The Zoo Snooze was held 2-3 APR 2011 at the Santa Barbara zoo. What is it? From the website:

Our adventure starts in the evening when you set up camp on a lawn next to the lion exhibit or in our heated, indoor classroom. Then our instructors lead your group through a series of exciting, hands-on educational activities including up-close animal encounters and behind-the-scenes explorations. An evening snack is also provided.

In the morning, your group will enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast, another up-close animal encounter with one of our zookeepers, a train ride, and creating a special breakfast treat for one of our Zoo animals. At the conclusion of our program, you are welcome to explore the Zoo with your group on your own to see all of your favorite animals in the light of day!


Feeding the giraffes

I can't say enough wonderful things about the Snooze! Our day started at Longboards in Santa Barbara. We met up with a couple of families from Andrew's den and had dinner at the restaurant on the wharf there in Santa Barbara. For me, what I LOVE about Santa Barbara is that it's about an hour's travel north of where we live, but it's quiet, low key, and there's plenty to do and see. It makes a great day trip if you just want to get out. I really enjoyed getting out and just visiting with the other cub scout adults in Andrew's den.

The day was a bit overcast and misty, but it wasn't anything that we couldn't adjust to. I loved the view of the ocean and the seacoast from the wharf.

After we ate, we headed off to the zoo. We got there a little early and waited in the parking lot for the majority of the pack to show up. Andrew belongs to Cub Scout Pack 40 out of Santa Clarita, CA. At 6:30 pm we were let into the zoo and led to the little knoll near the lions. There we set up our tents. Our tent was a little small, but we did fit a queen size air mattress in it.

While my husband put most of the tent up, Andrew and I helped a little. After our gear was in the tent we were broken down into 4 groups. If anything, my only unhappiness with the zoo snooze was that it was a bit of a hike to the bathrooms. LOL!!

Stephanie, our guide, with "Rosy Boa."

We had a great instructor/guide. Her name was Stephanie and she was very knowledgeable. Our first stop: Feeding the giraffes.

The zoo has 3 giraffes. Selma is about 20 years old (human years). Then there's Audrey, 3 years, and when they got Audrey last year, she had a surprise for them - she was pregnant. Baby Daniel is now 6 months old and he's a cutie. Giraffes have really funky tongues - purple and slimy, the better to eat vegetation with.

The sun was setting and there was a light mist when the giraffe feeding was done. Stephanie took us for a behind the scenes look at the zoo. Our first stop: The animal hospital.

At the animal hospital, we learned the animals get their yearly checkups there. Only two animals in the zoo don't – the elephants and the giraffes. We had to wipe our feet on antibacterial stuff before we went in. After that we went to the animal kitchen.

The animals eat a variety of food including cat food, dog food, red meats, chex mix and oatmeal.

After our tour of the kitchen we went to the BE room. I can't quite remember what BE stood for "Behavioral Environment?" possibly, but every animal needs to be stimulated intellectually, and the BE room had a lot of things in it including scents, old tennis shoes, and cardboard. In essence, the BE room had a lot of toys in it.

After the BE, Stephanie took us to the "Ewww" exhibits were we saw a lot of creepy, crawly things. She even brought out a rosy boa, a type of snake, for us to pet and check out.

When we finished visiting with "Rosy" we had a popcorn snack near the elephants. The ambience was cool, but we were downwind of bird poop. ☹

Stanley, the bird.

Stephanie was a great guide. She interacted well with the kids and was able to answer all our questions.

The evening finished, we retired to our tents. It was around 10:00 pm. Our tent was a little cozy and it did mist while we were sleeping. At 4 am, the lions gave us a wake up call with a couple of roars, but I was so tired I went right back to sleep.

7 am we got our zoo snooze official wake up call. It was still overcast, but no mist. We packed up, brought our gear to the truck and it was time for breakfast.

Breakfast was fab – pancakes, coffee, bacon, sausage, oj. I enjoyed it. And I was hungry. Being 40 something and all, I just don't have the same energy I had when I was 20 something and the breakfast hit the spot.

After breakfast I got a couple of zoo snooze t-shirts for the boys in the gift shop, and then we went to the elephant pen to come up with a BE for the elephants. We hid food in boxes and all around their pen. It was really cool. If anything, though, I thought it was a small space for them. There were two elephants, Suzie and Little Mac. I think the bigger of the one weighed in at about 8,900 pounds!

We also visited with Stanley, the bird. I can't remember what type of bird he was, but he wasn't an owl. Stanley was very friendly, but he trainer said he was a little lazy. It was a amazing just how well he blended in with a tree.

BE for the Elephants

We had a train ride around the zoo. The best part was chugging past the lions. The male lion was on his back – paw on his stomach – sleeping. The bum! LOL!!

After the elephants we were released from the snooze and checked out the gorilla. When we left we hit up Rusty's Pizza near the wharf before heading home.

I had a great time. Andrew & my husband did, too. If you ever get a chance to check out a similar-like program with your zoo or get a chance to do it in Santa Barbara, I highly recommend it. It's a great learning experience outside of the classroom. Kids and adults will both have a great time.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

California thursday - Ronald Reagan's Presidental Library

By: Stephanie Burkhart

Just a couple of weeks ago, I took my 8-year-old son, Andrew, to the Reagan Presidential library. I have to admit it was a real treat – not only to have presidential library in my backyard, but the Reagan library. He was president when I was coming of age. He inspired America to believe in itself again. He was president when I joined the Army and I was proud to serve for him.

Reagan's library is located in Simi Valley, CA. Construction began in 1998 and it was dedicated on 4 NOV 1991. (I was married on 14 NOV!) Interesting historical note: Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush were present when the library was dedicated.

The Reagan library has some cool exhibits including Reagan's early years in Dixon, IL, his career in film, and his time as California's governor in the 1960's.

What struck me, especially with the governor's exhibit, was that Reagan faced the same challenges that California faces now. California was in debt and facing an energy crisis. By the time he left office, California had made some hard decisions and was on the road to recovery.

What resonated with me, however, was the Cold War displays. There is a piece of the Berlin Wall on the grounds. I had been to Berlin and even have pieces of the wall myself. I saw the wall before it fell. I had a front row seat to the end of the Cold War in Nov 1989 as I was stationed in Germany when East Germans stormed the wall. I can still hear Reagan's voice. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
The most impressive exhibit is Air Force One, the Boeing 707 aircraft which carried Reagan and many other presidents around the world. It was retired in 2011 and transported to the library in pieces. The exhibit began showing in 2005.

Currently, Air Force One rests on pedestals 25 feet above the ground and you can walk through the plane, acquiring a feel for presidential travel.

The Reagan library is still an active place. In 2008, it hosted the GOP presidential debates. President Reagan was laid to rest on the grounds against a view that embodies the love and affinity he felt for California and the west.

Does anyone want to share their thoughts and impression of the Reagan years?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Excerpt Monday - A Polish Heart

Blurb: When Darrin falls for his beautiful Polish interpreter, will Sophia's faith give him his heart back?
The Set up: Darrin and Sophia are finishing dinner at a local restaurant.

The waiter came and Darrin gave him his credit card.

"I'd invite you shopping with us, but I'm afraid you have a lot of work to do."

Darrin frowned. He did, but he hated to miss the opportunity to learn about the Easter basket and go shopping for it.
"Why don't you join us for mass on Palm Sunday?"

"Really? A mass? I haven't been in months. I'd need a confession."

"Do you want me to ask Father William if it would be permissible for me to translate for him? He takes confessions on Saturday afternoons."

"All right."

"You can work in the morning. I'll call you in the afternoon. Do you mind taking the metro again?"

"That's fine."

"What if he can't take your confession?" asked Sofia.

"I'll still go to mass with you, but I'd like to be able to receive the Eucharist."

Her smile widened, warming his heart.

"I would like that. I'll do my best to help get you a confession."

The waiter returned and Darrin signed the bill. They left. Sofia's car was parked in front of her house. The car ride back to his hotel was silent. She'd given him a lot to think about. How did he want to live his life? Falsely, trying to meet his parents' expectations? Or did he want to let his heart breathe? He was twenty-nine. Wasn't he entitled to let himself follow his own course? He had a good job, a nice apartment – he just had to live the way he wanted. And he had to guard his heart, turn away dishonesty and keep his eyes firmly on the path ahead, as the rest of the verse advised.

Sofia pulled up to the front of the hotel and put the car in park. Darrin turned to face her. The fringes of her lashes cast shadows on her cheeks, softening her expression. He reached out and gently took her hand in his. Her touch sent warm tendrils of desire through him. With the other hand, he cupped her cheek. She closed her eyes, and drew in a sharp breath before opening them again.

Lightly, he rubbed his thumb against her jaw.
"May I kiss you?" His voice was low and husky.


He leaned forward, his lips feather light, touching hers with tantalizing persuasion until she opened up to him. He kept the kiss slow, thoughtful, enjoying the hints of berries and currants that lingered from the malbec. He pulled away gently.
"That was nice," she whispered.
"Call me tomorrow."
"I will."
Darrin opened the door and stepped out. He waved to Sofia and she waved back as she drove away.

Darrin went to his room and revisited his luggage, removing his travel Bible from an inner pocket. He always took it with him, just in case. Opening it up, he went to the book of Proverbs, sat up against the headboard of the bed, and began to read.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

History Saturday - Victoria Holt, Part 1

Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.
Victoria Holt


By: Stephanie Burkhart

One of the first authors I read as a teenager that left a resonating impression with me was Victoria Holt. And while I sheepishly admit that I can't remember my first Victoria Holt novel, I recall that I loved the ambience of her novels, the gothic settings, the spooky mansions, and the clever heroine. These elements of storytelling echo in my own paranormal romances.

So who was Victoria Holt? Enjoy this first part of a three part series.

Victoria Holt was a pen name for Eleanor Alice Burford. She was born on 1 September 1906 near London. Young Eleanor claimed to have inherited her love of reading from her father, Joseph Burford.

Eleanor loved London and considered herself lucky to have lived there. As a young woman, she went to business college and studied shorthand, typewriting, and languages. She also worked for a jeweler.

In her early 20's, Eleanor married George Hibbert. Married life gave her the freedom to follow her writing.

In 1961, Eleanor created the Victoria Holt pen name. Her first novel as Holt was "Mistress of Mellyn." Her intention was to revive the once popular genre of gothic romance. Very deliberately, she set her stories in gloomy old manors and usually in the 19th century. Most of Holt's gothic romances are told in the first person by the heroine who is usually a governess or a ladies companion.

What made Eleanor stand out is that she carefully researched these novels to capture a certain degree of authenticity. The Victoria Holt pen name was her biggest money earner.

Despite her wealth, Eleanor lived a simple life. Her only hobby was generally to take a 2-3 month cruise in the winter. Typically, she wrote 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, beginning at 7:30 am. She usually had finished 5,00 words by noon. In the afternoon, she personally replied to fan letters. It's amazing to believe that Eleanor never had a chance to use a word processing computer program and that she typed her novels on typewriters!

Eleanor loved her writing, even taking her typewriter on her cruises. She died 18 JAN 1993 while on a cruise ship during her winter vacation.

Next: Eleanor's early novels and Jean Plaidy.

Question: Do you remember the first Victoria Holt novel you read? Do you have a favorite?