Risque Ladies of the 1880’s for Wednesday Whimsy

???????????????????????????????I thought since we had Queen Victoria herself last week, this week I’d do “R Is for Risque Ladies” as my ???????????????????????????????Wednesday Whimsy/A to Z Challenge post. I must hasten to add though that what was risque in the 1880’s, is pretty tame to our eyes.

I’m using Mae West quotes today although she’s obviously not from the 1880’s but the flavor is there…

“I didn’t discover curves; I only uncovered them.”

“Love thy neighbor – and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier.”

“I’ve been things and seen places.”

“If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning.”

“Cultivate your curves – they may be dangerous but they won’t be avoided.”

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????025This one to the left’s not very risque until you realize her skirt is hiked all the way up in front…oh my ;-)

And then there were the Bathing Beauty cards, usually associated with cigars or cigarettes….this lady below is smoking a cigar herself, in fact.


There were probably much racier cards in the 1880’s but those don’t show up in a price range I can afford, in the places I shop….sorry! These final two Bathing Beauties were advertising a shoe store, of all places….


No One’s Going to Make It WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Weekend Writing Warriors

WeWriWa buttonA fun way to sample new books and find new writers! Here’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…

(Last night was another ER trip, doing ok now, so just going to post something from WRECK, which was my first SFR….)

The luxury ship Nebula Dream has suffered a middle of the night catastrophe in space. My hero, Nick Jameson, has fought his way to the nearest lifeboat and found chaos. (SMT is the name of the shipping line.) Some creative editing and punctuation has occurred. I hope this is only eight sentences, kinda struggling with the medicines and a flu variation I picked up!

“Quiet down now,” he said, watching the people in the front row of the mob, getting eye contact, to personalize his commands, make them feel like responsible individuals, not a mindless, panicking herd.

The blaring sirens and recorded emergency warnings cut out, resumed briefly and then died away in a slowly fading gibber­ish. The lights in the corridor flickered, causing gasps here and there in the crowd.

“Are there any SMT officers or crew here?” Nick said.

Desperation, fear, and puzzlement on the faces in front of him, many sidelong glances, mute head shakes.


“All right, then, I’m Captain Jameson, Sectors Special Forces and I’m taking charge of this LB portal. You can’t all get into this LB –  no one’s going to make it off unless you keep your heads and we go about this calmly and quickly.”

Wreck-of-the-Nebula-DreamFinalMedThe Story
Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?


Q Is For Queen – Victoria That Is

???????????????????????????????Continuing with the A to Z challenge, when I came across this Victorian era trade card, I thought I had to have it. It’s entitled “Queen Victoria at Home – Balmoral Castle” and was one of a series of six from Clark’s Spool Thread. (The US entry in the series was Mrs. Grover Cleveland.) I didn’t make this a Wednesday Whimsy because I don’t think of “whimsy” when thinking of this Queen, do you?

Here are a few quotes from Her Majesty:

The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.

Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.

I feel sure that no girl would go to the altar if she knew all. (Veronica sez: I think that one has been pretty well disproven LOL.)

We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.

Actually, I like the version of Queen Victoria that was presented in the movie “The Young Victoria”, with Emily Blunt.young victoria

Can You Handle ALL The Apocalypses? End is Nigh and End Has Come

THEENDISNIGHI’ve mentioned here before how much I enjoy the End Of The World As We Know It (EOTWAWKI) branch of science fiction. I’ve talked about Alas, Babylon and  the TV shows “Jericho” and “The Walking Dead.”  Love the movies “Testament,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “World War Z,” “Contagion,” “Outbreak”  to name a few.

BIG fan of the genre.

So last week John Joseph Adams let me know about the exciting new trilogy of anthologies he’s edited with Hugh Howey – THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH, of which two volumes –  THE END IS NIGH and THE END IS NOW – have been issued. I read straight through both books and I am here to tell you this is a LOT of apocalypse goodness. The idea for the trilogy is that for the most part the same authors will be writing stories for each anthology, describing their apocalypse from the time right before the Big Bad happens, during the events, and then the aftermath. These books have everything  from your basic nuclear war and killer flu to aliens to comets, volcanoes, brown stars and advanced nanotechnology. There’s even one that will make you very afraid of bread mold. Very. Afraid.

Reading so much disaster and death over just a few days was a bit overwhelming. I probably should have paced myself but the stories were so good. I also couldn’t resist reading THE END IS NOW right away to see how things were turning out from the first installments in THE END IS NIGH. Some of the authors pick up the action in the second story literally right after the first story ends. Others tell the second portion of their apocalypse from the POV of someone else who was mentioned in the first story or who could have been in the same vicinity. And a couple of the stories are standalone (for now anyway, don’t know what will be in the third and final book). There were some twists I didn’t see coming (no spoilers from me), which kept the reading fresh.

I didn’t fall in love with every single story but that’s the beauty of an anthology – much to choose from.

Some of the stories which stand out in my memory, in no particular order:

Goodnight Moon and  Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet. Absolutely heart tugging.

Spores and Fruiting Bodies  by Seanan McGuire. There shall be no bread mold in my house. EVER. (Gets out the Lysol, starts scrubbing)

The Fifth Day of Deer Camp and The Sixth Day of Deer Camp by Scott Sigler. He gives the reader a twist that I never saw coming but loved. Can’t wait to see what transpires in the third installment, if there is one.

System Reset  by Tobias S. Buckell. I loved the two main characters in this, Charlie and Toto (not a dog) and was eagerly anticipating more about them in the second book but alas, no.

In The Air and In The Mountain by Hugh Howey. SO good, with a twist and then another even darker twist…I wish this was a full length novelThe End is Now because I was totally drawn into the story and the characters. Can’t WAIT for part three.

Enjoy The Moment by Jack McDevitt. Seemed like a set up for a super, classic EOTWAWKI story but no second installment so far.

I have to mention This Unkempt World Is Falling to Pieces and By The Hair of the Moon by Jamie Ford. The author created a very noir, very cool alternate reality for May 1910 and the return of a certain comet that we know as Halley’s here, known as “the Tramp” there. The world building included steampunk elements woven into the stories  and although these two connected tales weren’t among my top favorites, they stay with me. (I’m not usually much for noir but the setting tugged me in anyway.)

There were many other stories included in the two books, including a pair by Charlie Jane Anders that took aspects of current social media and Generation Z and extrapolated into a chilling but highly believable future….YMMV as to which ones really grab you and won’t let go. For me, apparently the bread mold is THE winner LOL. (It is a scary scary pair of stories.)

Another excellent aspect of these anthologies is the diversity of the characters in meaningful roles, which I very much appreciated.  Tananrive Due’s heroine Nayima in Removal Order and Herd Immunity is one outstanding example, and Jake Kerr’s couple Em and  Lynn in The Wedding are another.

So if you never get enough of reading apocalyptic tales with strong characters of all types, I recommend checking out the two anthologies. Me? I’m waiting with bated breath for the third one!

jericho skeet

Here’s a cast photo from the gone-but-not-forgotten “Jericho,” which I loved and which SO reminded me of Alas, Babylon in the early episodes.



Violets in the Snow for Weekend Writing Warriors

WeWriWa buttonA fun way to sample new books and find new writers! Here’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…

This week something totally different. For Valentine’s Day my Here Be Magic paranormal group wrote short stories around a heart-shaped box meme and here are the opening sentences from mine:

It was just a little heart-shaped china box, with one gorgeous violet painted on the lid. Every day as she walked past the window of Celia’s Closet on her way to work, Amy would check to see if the box was still there, nestled in the corner of the display. Sure, violets were her favorite flower, but something about the tiny container itself appealed to her.

                Celia’s store was crammed to the rafters with knick knacks, vintage clothing and fashion jewelry of every era, but Amy rarely allowed herself to venture inside. She never had extra money to spend and certainly not on decorative dust catchers. But yesterday at the diner someone had left her an unusually large tip and today Amy found herself turning to enter the enticing store without even thinking about it.

                “Did you come for the violet box?” asked Celia as soon as she saw who’d walked in.

                Stripping off her purple mittens, Amy did a doubletake, “How did you know?”

For my story, I did a riff on the legend of the King of Winter and a girl named Violet, which was a European variation on Hades and Persephone. Only 1800 words…..

heart shaped box(We put the resulting anthology up for free on Smashwords under our group pen name Hera B. Magic.)

Thank you , everyone, for all the good wishes last week on my medical situation. I’m sorry I couldn’t return comments but this week I’m going to do my best to get around to all the posts. Still adapting to the medications and side effects, but very grateful not to have had a stroke.

I wrote about my experience, mostly as a public service announcement on the symptoms of a possible stroke, because I had certainly never known before that suddenly going blind in one eye could be such a symptom. I didn’t have a stroke, thank goodness, but I was very VERY lucky.  “If You Suddenly Lose the Vision in One Eye”

Hugs to all the Weekend Writing Warriors!



If You Suddenly Lose Vision in One Eye

don’t continue with your grocery shopping, then drive yourself home, then take yourself to the emergency room. Call 911 immediately or have someone with you call them. Tell them you might be having a stroke.

A week ago now, I stopped off at the grocery store for three things – blueberries, bananas and a piece of salmon for dinner. Literally between one step and the next, I lost the vision in my right eye. There was no pain, no dizziness, no warning…just like someone had drawn a gray curtain in front of my eye. Vision in the left eye was still fine. It was nothing like the aura I sometimes get with migraines, which is a bunch of annoying squiggly little lines in the middle of my entire field of vision.

“That’s odd,” I said, as I kept walking toward the fish counter. I blinked hard, I tried rubbing my eye. No matter what I did, the vision remained gray in that eye. I got the fish, checked out, went to my car and drove home. My vision began to clear, slowly at first, then snapped back fine before I reached my condo. I’d been blind in one eye for fifteen to twenty minutes by then. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so calm. Or so dumb (driving with one eye not working???WTF?) I think the episode must have been affecting my thinking processes, or else I was in denial and/or shock. I also think that something that clears itself up and has no pain associated with it seems dangerously benign and safe to ignore.

Before I settled in to start some social media surfing, I did a little google searching on detached retina, because I have a friend who suffered one years ago. The medical advice websites did mention graying of vision as a symptom and said unequivocally to go to the nearest ER. Sort of grudgingly, I drove myself to the ER.  YES, I have now been admonished over and over how not-sensible that was and I’ll never do it again. What if I’d had a stroke on the freeway? Or lost vision in both eyes? Never even occurred to me that afternoon. I’m invincible, right?

Whoosh, I was seen by the triage nurse, no wait. That was nice, but odd since the ER as extremely busy that day….Ensconced in a bed, I saw probably every neurologist in the hospital over the next three days. Curiously enough that first few hours they didn’t seem very interested in my eye. They did a lot of listening to my neck, to the carotid arteries. They tested my reflexes…after an hour or two on Thursday, one of the wonderful doctors could tell I wasn’t understanding what was going on – naive me, I stubbornly thought the temporary loss of vision was my biggest problem –  and he explained I had most likely had amaurosis fugax - a piece of plaque in my neck had broken off and traveled to block my optic nerve. It’s evidently a classic symptom of carotid artery disease. VERY scary stuff. As I understand it with my layperson’s knowledge, I could have been having a stroke, or a stroke could have happened very shortly thereafter.  I could still have a stroke, except hopefully the new medicines I’ve been on for the last week will lower those odds.

I had three cat scans, two ultrasounds, and a full MRI, not to mention other tests. I’m a pin cushion but not complaining.

I’ve been joking that it took me to the second day before I started telling people I was an author and handing out my bookmarks (which I always have in my purse). I had a wonderful night nurse who was a younger, hotter version of Joe Manganiello and we joked about me doing research for my romance novels and he made sure I wasn’t terrified for my midnight MRI. But even though I can find the humor in any situation because that’s just me and how I copeit was scary and stressful and tense and and all kinds of other emotions. The fact that my most recent novel features a heroine who is blind seemed like an uncanny coincidence, let me tell you.

All the doctors, nurses and staff I came into contact with during my stay at the hospital were extremely professional, but also kind and caring. Kudos to Kaiser Permanente! I’m a huge fan…

My daughters rallied around and have been wonderful, my brother and my best friend as well…I’m back to work now, adjusting to the medicines and a lot of side effects. I’ve been told in no uncertain terms after a second trip to the ER on Sunday that I have to find a way to manage the side effects, short of bleeding, because my risk of stroke is so high right now. We won’t talk about the anxiety attacks and how I was afraid to even read for awhile because I was so terrified that gray curtain would drop over my vision again…as if the mere act of using my eyes was going to trigger it.

I did write a few hundred words on the ancient Egyptian WIP the other night, and it was lovely to feel the gears click and the writing happen, like it always does…but I’m taking it pretty easy on all the things right now.

The cats of course were highly disdainful when I returned home. How dare I abandon them for three days? (My daughters fed and petted them for me each day, no worries there.) Keanu gets over the snit in five minutes and Jake can sustain the hauteur for about half an hour before he MUST be petted.

So, public service announcement, know the symptoms of a stroke (from the National Stroke Association):

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes, or double vision.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

Call 911 if you have even ONE of these symptoms. Better a false alarm than a stroke. OK?

P is for Parasol on Wednesday Whimsy

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This week’s Wednesday Whimsy is all about the parasol….couldn’t find too many quotes about them, other than this one from author Anne Sexton, in a poem entitled “The Kite: “The parasol girls slept, sun-sitting their lovely years.”

When I interviewed steampunk author Gail Carriger for my USA Today/HEA column awhile ago, of course ???????????????????????????????she has written an entire series entitled The Parasol Protectorate. Here’s one quick Q&A from the interview:

Veronica: Which piece of steampunk “technology” in the series is your favorite invention and why?

Gail: I like the really silly ones. So I’d probably go for some of those in the Finishing School series, like Bumbersnoot (a steam-powered mechanical sausage dog), which are a bit more whimsical. In the Parasol Protectorate books, I’d have to choose Alexia’s third parasol, the one Biffy decorates. It’s the ultimate Swiss Army knife of parasols.

I don’t have any Victorian trade cards with parasols that multi-purpose, but some fun-to-look-at nonetheless. And I love the dress this lady to the right is wearing….

Humans weren’t the only creatures who needed parasols in the late 1800’s, as you can see from the cards below. (The one with the chickens reminds me of my author friend Pippa Jay, not because she writes terrific science fiction romance (although she does)  but because she keeps “chooks”, as she calls them, in her Colchester UK home.


I think the lady mouse on her “slow coach” with her leaf or flower petal parasol is very ???????????????????????????????endearing….I like the way she’s keeping her sang froid on that  less than secure perch!

And two more photos below, although it almost seems the couple has a beach umbrella rather than a parasol but it fits my theme (almost), so there you are!




Does He Have the Ring? MISSION TO MAHJUNDAR Weekend Writing Warriors

WeWriWa buttonA fun way to sample new books and find new writers! Here’s the link to the Weekend Writing Warriors central page, so you can visit all the participants sharing excerpts today…

Doing excerpts from Mission to Mahjundar, which has been Released and is now available… I’m going to give you one last excerpt from this novel, no spoilers because we know it’s a romance, hence there will be a very hardwon  Happily Ever After!

As captain of the battleship, Nikolai was authorized to perform ceremonies from christenings to weddings to funerals.

Mike stood in his blue dress uniform, grinning from ear to ear, at the far bulkhead, beneath the stunning vista of the galactic star fields projected by the ship’s AI.

Feeling a little foolish, as if he’d stepped from a recruiting holo since he was wearing a dress uniform, he was flanked by his best man, Johnny, who had never—to the best of Mike’s recollection—worn a dress uniform before.

And we’re both as nervous as we were on day one at the Academy and boot camp. Mike took a deep breath, hoping to calm the butterflies in his gut. This is worse than any mission behind enemy lines.  He nudged his best man in the ribs, “You’re sure you’ve got the ring?”

“For the tenth time, I’ve got the ring,” Johnny whispered,displaying the jewelry in question for a moment, before stowing it back in his pocket, “I won’t drop it.”

So you can imagine the rest of the scene playing out, with what I hope are some nice twists….I’ll have to move ton to excerpting something else next week.

I’m just home from three days in the hospital after  a sudden and very serious medical event so I may not make it around the loop this week. I’ll see how I’m doing…just didn’t want to leave the Weekend Warriors with no excerpt…

MissionToM2-FJM_High_Res_1800x2700The story:

An attempted assassination left Princess Shalira blind as a child and, now that she’s of marriageable age, her prospects are not good because of her disability. She’s resigned herself to an arranged marriage rather than face life under the thumb of her cold stepmother. But then she meets Mike Varone, a Sectors Special Forces officer sent to Mahjundar by the intergalactic government. After Mike saves Shalira from another assassination attempt, she arranges for him to escort her across the planet to her future husband. She’s already falling hard for the deadly offworlder and knows she should deny herself the temptation he represents, but taking Mike along to protect her is the only way she’ll live long enough to escape her ruthless stepmother.

Mike, for his part, resists his growing attraction to the princess; he has a mission on this planet and rescuing the vulnerable but brave princess isn’t it. No matter how much he wishes it could be.

But what should have been an easy trek through Mahjundar’s peaceful lands swiftly turns into an ambush with danger around every turn. Shalira’s marriage begins to seem less like an arranged union and more like yet another planned assassination. The more they work together to survive, the harder it becomes to stop themselves from falling in love. Caught in a race against time, can they escape the hostile forces hunting them and make it off the planet?

Amazon     Barnes & Noble   iTunes     All Romance eBooks     KOBO

As always, I love your comments and feedback. Even though this book is now published, the input helps for the future!



The Mysterious and Alluring Selkies

golden cityOver at USA Today Happily Ever After, I’m interviewing J. Kathleen Cheney today about her Golden City fantasy series, set in an HEAalternate world and featuring a dark murder mystery mixed up with magic. (Isn’t her cover gorgeous?) She selected 1902 Portugal as the site  for her stories, for  reasons she discusses in the HEA  column.  Her world of  sirens and selkies living amongst the non-magical folks is fascinating. Hop on over to read more about JKC and her novels.

The first time I encountered the legends of selkies was in the movie “Roan Inish,” which I happened to catch on TV one afternoon. I’m sorry to say but the whole concept of these immortal beings of the sea who were roan inishseals but could become human if they shed their coats wasn’t too clear to me even after watching the movie. Then in 2008 I read Virginia Kantra’s Sea Witch , first book in her  Children of the Sea series, and oh boy, I got the picture! I also loved the series because a lot of the action was set on an island off the coast of Maine and I have relatives who live on such an island, so I could really relate.

And of course there’s a selkie in the Anne McCaffrey Petaybee Series which I’m tempted to go reread right now, except for the fact I’m trying to finish writing my own next novel LOL.

I’m sure other people write about selkies – a search of Amazon turns up about 90 results without even refining the terms further – but for me, the fascination of JKC’s Portuguese setting and the addition of sirens and some other very interesting paranormal types make The Golden City series memorable.

Selkies or similar creatures appear in myth from Ireland to Iceland, which surprised me a bit, as after watching “Roan Inish” I thought they were all Irish! There are many many legends surrounding these beings and most times any romance between a human and a selkie in human form doesn’t seem too turn out too happily. Lots of rules…many “gotchas”…I like the one about a woman having to cry exactly seven tears into the ocean if she wants to have a handsome selkie man pay her a visit. On the other hand, I never liked the idea that a human man could keep a selkie woman for his wife by locking her sealskin away, which struck me as cruel and contrary to true love….the “dark Faerie Celtic vocal band” Pandora Celtica sum the entire situation up very well in this song “Sister Selkie”:

O is for Owls on Wednesday Whimsy

???????????????????????????????More Victorian 1800s trade cards from the collection today! They seem to have really loved owls in their advertising.

There was an entire series of these cards to the left, featuring the mother-in-law owl, who seemed to be perpetually disapproving, and then the two owls who were in love, plus random frogs.  I like this one the best ???????????????????????????????because even if the old lady owl doesn’t seem happy, the young lovers clearly are. Even the Moon, peeking out from behind the tree, seems ok with the romantic pair. The card was advertising Sweet Home Soap.

Here’s what Ernest Hemingway thought about the birds: “A serious writer is not to be confounded with a solemn writer. A serious writer may be a hawk or a buzzard or even a popinjay, but a solemn writer is always a bloody owl.” Okayyyyy…..

I like this proverb: “The owl of ignorance lays the egg of pride.” And also this Greek proverb: “The rabbits’ eye differs from that of the owl.” Yes, yes it does.???????????????????????????????

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, said: “Alone and warming his five wits, the white owl in the belfry sits.”

I’m quite bemused by the next card. The lady seems rather shocked by the owls. The owls are dressed for a party apparently, whereas she looks ready to turn in for the night. And I wish I had some of that Ladies’ Tonic, the sure cure all, just $1.00! Any why a huge blue and white vase?  Maybe I’m searching for too much deep meaning and sublimity in ads that are over 100 years old.

Tell me you don’t love this dress below! I think she’s supposed to be wearing a costume and is an Owl. And then of course there’s a thoroughly modern owl that I’m sure almost no one can forget!