Of Cats and Books and Christmas

We have some favorite Christmas books in this house, going back to when my daughters were pretty young and while my grandson was over for the Thanksgiving holidays recently, we got those books out and took turns reading them. It seems that cats, Christmas and books are something of a theme in our family.

I’d have to say one of my favorites is The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett. It’s a nice take on the Santa Claus/North Pole story and her illustrations are amazing. I could sit and study the pages for a long time, admiring all the tiny details she put in at the side margins. My nine year old grandson was not as patient, although he liked the story. He particularly liked the part where the reindeer got their antlers entangled and poor Teeka the Elf has to figure out how to fix the problem. (NOTE: the cat isn’t a main player in this story but there Is a cat…)

Then we read Tosca’s Christmas with Anne Mortimer’s beautiful cat illustrations (story by Matthew Sturgis). You have to feel for poor Tosca, tossed outside in the snow and ~ SPOILERS AHEAD ~ rescued by Santa, ending up by the fire with her very own mouse-shaped gift. (Hmmm, wonder what that might be LOL? No, it was a windup mousie…)

There’s the somewhat similar A Pussycat’s Christmas, by Margaret Wise Brown, again with illustrations by the incomparable Anne Mortimer.

And in the back of the bookcase we discovered The Kitten’s Secret, a VERY old, held-together-with-scotch-tape book from my childhood, which isn’t about Christmas…but now we think we know why I always said I’d never own an orange tabby cat. (Please don’t tell my adorable Jake, who everyone insists IS orange, not “cameo”!) The kitten of the title, Butter, was extremely mischievous throughout the entire book. I’m pretty sure my mother probably read all her adventures in a suitably disapproving tone, leaving me with the indelible impression that orange cats were quite a handful and to be avoided.

Our housecats were usually gray striped tabbies.

We didn’t even try reading Angelina’s Christmas to my grandson – he was anxious to return to watching “Brave” and “Dragon Riders of Berk” on his dvd player. But later I went back through the book by myself and savored the illustrations. We used to have a huge stack of Angelina Ballerina’s adventures but the Christmas story was our first…

I have a feeling my kittens will be fascinated by the Christmas tree and the ornaments and everything to do with the holiday. Fun times ahead! They may need Santa to intervene for them if they get too rambunctious LOL!

Does your family have favorite children’s books to read out loud together for this season?

My Top 10 Favorite Things at Disneyland – This Visit Anyway

We went to Disneyland recently, in honor of my birthday, and had a GREAT time…here were my top ten things from the day (in no special order):

1. Riding Buzz Lightyear with my grandson and blasting Zurg…

2. Soaring Over California, which is my alltime favorite ride EVER – closest I’ll ever be to flying without a plane, I’m sure….

3. It’s A Small World all refurbished for the holidays, with Disney characters added in and singing “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” along with that incredibly catchy theme song…

4. Bacon and asparagus shishkebobs in Adventureland – we kept going back for more…and MOAR….

5. The new Cars Land, including the Cars Town ride – so much fun!!!

6. Star Tours always (and the store at the end with its Star Wars action figures, Christmas ornaments and generally cool stuff…had to buy a couple of the action figures for my office…)

7. The dinosaurs dioramas on the train ride from TomorrowLand over to Main Street (sometimes the oldies are still the goodies)…

8. The parade and the fireworks…

9. Watching my family make themselves dizzy on the tea cups!

10. Indiana Jones ride – oh wait, that was closed…well, NEXT time!

What’s your favorite thing about going to Disneyland?  Or do you have a different favorite theme park?

Six Sentence Sunday – Back to Ancient Egypt

I’ve been missing my Ancient Egyptian paranormals while doing Science Fiction excerpts these past few weeks so here’s a selection from  WARRIOR OF THE NILE, about which I hope to have good news to share in the not too distant future! But for now, it’s an unpublished manuscript.

Khenet the warrior of the title, and Lady Tiya have just been through a meeting with the goddess Nepthys. Khenet was sent to wait in the outer courtyard while the goddess spoke to Tiya alone. Now the lady is rejoining the warrior:

Closing the door to the inner sanctum, the young woman paused for a moment, head down, hand clenched on the ivory handle.

Nephthys must have told you the details of just what our task entails. With a twinge of sympathy, Khenet scrutinized her face, gone pale under the kohl, rouge and malachite eye shadow. Not what you expected when you volunteered, I’ll wager. I wonder if she told you any more than I know, anything I should know. “Are you ready for your audience with Pharaoh?”

I LOVE and appreciate your comments….

Please go to http://sixsunday.com/ to find all the other great excerpts.

Thanksgiving Musings

First and foremost I’d like to say I’m thankful for my family, my Readers, my publisher, and the men and women of the U.S. military who protect us around the world (and their families) – Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually I gather up some interesting or funny quotes to write the holiday blog around but this year I thought I’d be clever and spell out my thanks – here’s the first attempt:

Thankful for:

Turkey dinner


America the Beautiful

Nile (since that’s where one of my book series is set)

Kin (Daughters, Brother, Aunts & Uncles, Cousins…)

Science (since I love Mars Rovers and I’m so happy Curiousity made it safely to Mars this year!)

Grandson (he’s nearly 10!)

Internet (twitter, Facebook, good friends around the globe)

Vitality (the closest I could come to saying grateful for my health)

Infinite….opportunity? bounty?


Gainful employment

Ummm, well maybe I should end with a few quotes after all LOL!

Forever on Thanksgiving Day
The heart will find the pathway home.
~Wilbur D. Nesbit

But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie;
Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin-pie!
~Margaret Junkin Preston

Coexistence:  what the farmer does with the turkey – until Thanksgiving.  ~Mike Connolly

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching.  Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.  ~Ted Allen

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday.  People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year.  And then discover once a year is way too often.  ~Johnny Carson

My needs are small
I buy them all
At the five and ten cent store
Oh, I’ve got plenty to be thankful for ~ Irving Berlin

Best wishes to you and your family!

Six Sentence Sunday – Embarking on a New SF Work In Progress

From a new Science Fiction WIP I’ve got going, set in the same universe as several of my other novels. (There will be romance LOL!) The first speaker is a Sectors Special Forces Captain, just arrived on this planet, along with one sergeant:

“This place has the feel of a riot about to happen,” Mike said, studying the market stalls in their immediate vicinity. “I’ve been watching the pair of old women selling fruit – they aren’t even bargaining – and the fish monger is basically giving his catch away.”

The sergeant rubbed a hand over his jaw. “Thought the situation report listed this place as peaceful?”

Leaning against the wall, Mike crossed his arms. “Background intelligence can be pretty misleading on an off limits world like this one.”

I LOVE and appreciate your comments….

Please go to http://sixsunday.com/ to find all the other great excerpts.

Answering Questions with the Crocodile God

Today being the 13th, I’m blogging over at Paranormal Romantics. I invited Sobek the Crocodile God, hero of my novella Priestess of the Nile, to answer some questions for inquiring minds.

We saved one question for here, to entice you to follow us over there LOL:

What is the quality you like most in a woman? (Sobek sips his beer for a moment.) A loving heart, which my Merys has – ask anyone, including her half sisters! You know, I love to listen to singing and there’s a set of lines from one of the oldest harper’s songs that seems appropriate here:

The waters flow north, the wind blows south,
and each man goes to his hour.
So, seize the day! Hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive,
you and your own true love;
Let not your heart be troubled
during your sojourn on earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
Put incense and sweet oil upon you,
garlanded flowers at your breast,
While the lady alive in your heart forever
delights as she sits beside you.
Grieve not your heart, whatever comes;
let sweet music play before you..
(VS sez: translated by J. L. Foster in “Echoes of Egyptian Voices”, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.)

Veterans Day Post – The Incredible Navajo Code Talkers

I like to think that the willingness of the American military to employ unusual tactics and unexpected strategies on occasion is one of our nation’s strengths. I’ve always been fascinated by the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II, partly because it was such a brilliant concept and also because they were so willing to go to war on behalf of the US with their special skill.  Earlier this month I saw that one of the few remaining code talkers had died, so I decided to write about this chapter of the War for my Veterans’ Day post, to honor the code talkers, as well as all the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our Nation’s freedom.

The basic story is pretty well known now, although a closely held secret for many years after World War II ended. Phillip Johnston, a WWI veteran, son of missionaries who lived on the Navajo lands and who was one of only 30 non-Navajo speakers of the language in the world at the time, suggested to the U.S. Marine Corps that a team of Navajo speakers could code, transmit and decode a message in their language faster than the code machines. Sure enough, the code talkers accomplished the task in 20 seconds while the machines took 30 minutes. That’s a significant time savings in the heat of battle!

Starting with 29 recruits who developed the code, the group eventually grew to several hundred (420 men, their website says), and played a hugely pivotal role in many battles in the South Pacific, including Iwo Jima. The code used Navajo words for the letters of the alphabet, as well as some specific terms such as the word “turtle” to mean a tank.

A few interesting facts I hadn’t known before I researched this story – the code talker idea actually originated in WWI, when a U. S. Army captain overheard several men in his unit conversing in Choctaw and realized he could use them to send and receive messages the enemy couldn’t understand. Knowing this history, prior to WWII, the Nazis sent anthropologists to learn Native American languages but the task proved to be too challenging. (Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes – this definitely reminded me of Indiana Jones.) Still, just in case, the Allies primarily deployed code talkers in the Pacific Theater, although there was a unit of Comanche code talkers at Normandy, who continued fighting in the European Theater after storming the beaches. Meskwaki code talkers operated in North Africa.

The Japanese did capture a Navajo soldier in the Pacific who was not a code talker and tried to force him to translate the coded messages; however, the code had been devised such that even a native speaker of the language would see it as gibberish unless they knew the key.

Here’s the photo gallery on the official website for the Navajo Code Talkers: http://www.navajocodetalkers.org/photos/

Someone I tweet with mentioned this past weekend that at a USMC birthday luncheon he heard a 91 year old Code Talker sing the Marine Corps hymn in Navajo – very VERY cool. Once a Marine, always a Marine…

Taking a moment to remember and honor not only the veterans in my own family, but all veterans and their families….thank you seems like a totally inadequate thing to say but it definitely comes from the heart.

Six Sentence Sunday – Science Fiction Happily Ever After

Still no word on whether the publisher considering this SF novel will be making an offer for it…but I realized I’d drifted into pubbing the entire book here in six sentence increments LOL! So I’ll leave the exact details of how Andi and the urabu fight the alien Betang for the book, whenever it sees the light of “published day”. To close out this series of Six Sentence Sundays, here’s a piece of the HEA and thanks to everyone for all the encouragement along the way!

Tom is speaking as the excerpt starts:

 “Does everything on this planet happen so fast? Ten days ago ago you were only an obscure name in a pre-mission briefing.”

“And now?”  She held her breath for his answer.

 He gave her that genuine smile, the one that reached and warmed his eyes as he said, “I can’t live without you.”

I LOVE and appreciate your comments….

Please go to http://sixsunday.com/ to find all the other great excerpts.

Character Interview – Genevieve, Duin & Belloc from STELLARNET PRINCE written by J L Hilton

Today it’s my pleasure to host Author J.L. Hilton and her three lively characters from the STELLARNET SERIES (latest book is STELLARNET PRINCE)    – Welcome to: Genevieve O’Riordan / J’ni Nagyx Duin (she has two names, human and Glinnish), Duin and Belloc!

I must mention J. L. has a number of fun and exciting giveaways going on in connection with this new Release, including copies of the book, so be sure to hop over to her Giveaways site!!!

First a very short blurb about the book: One rebel. One outcast. One blogger – who loves them both. In a universe where everything is on the Net, they must keep secrets that could tear their relationship and an alien world apart. Book two in the Stellarnet Series, following Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012).

What was your life like growing up?

DUIN: It was glorious! I was born in White River, in the Watershed area of Glin, where there were always fwap to eat but one too many garrablug. (Laughs) I could show you the scar where that one too many bit me. I had three fathers, two mothers, and

 Whish Nagyx Sala – the soul bound of the mother who gave birth to me, though he died when I was a nursling.

I had… (counts on fingers) twelve siblings. I think. Maybe more, but I left White River as soon as I could hunt and never returned. Blame Ullu. She made me want to stay in Willup W’Kuay. What about you, J’ni?

J’NI: I’m an only child. I grew up in old Chicago, on Earth. My father was a lawyer most of my life. He’s a judge now. My mother was – still is – involved in various political groups, foundations, charities and that sort of thing. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. My mother thinks that’s why I’m a difficult person now, because I wasn’t socialized properly in a daycare.

DUIN: Great Rain, J’ni, you are one of the least “difficult” humans I’ve ever encountered. Cressa is entirely wrong, on that account.

J’NI: She’s wrong about a lot of things, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. Belloc, do you want to talk about your childhood?

BELLOC: No. Should I?

DUIN: Of course not. Next question, please.

Before you met each other, what were your plans/hopes for the future?

DUIN: I aspired to nothing more than to see my children have more children while I hunted wallump and swam beyond the Last Wave a happy, free Glin, whose soul would return to my family again in the Great Rain. Then the Tikati came with their flame-throwers and water tankers. They destroyed my village and imprisoned my family. I found a way to leave Glin and went to Asteria Colony for aid.

J’NI: I went to Asteria Colony as a blogger for Interstellar News Corps. I had no idea Duin was there, but I knew there would be some interesting stories in such a remote place. I had a friend stationed in the military zone, and he emailed me about it. I discovered Duin in the Sector M market square.

DUIN: I used to stand on one of the sewer pipes and recite great political speeches from human history, mixed in with information about the oppression of my people. No one cared and I didn’t know what else to do, until J’ni washed up on my shore. Belloc, were you in the refugee camp on Wandalin, by then?

BELLOC: My only plans were to avoid drawing attention to myself, and to survive. Though I had little reason, after my mother died in a Tikati prison ship.

Do you have a motto or code you live by?

DUIN: Awah na glem! “For water and freedom!” It’s the motto of every Glin who resisted the Tikati invasion.

J’NI: I’ve always liked that quote about how evil only exists when good people do nothing. I will never sit by and do nothing, if I can help it.

BELLOC: I own J’ni my life. She is the only current that guides me.

What one thing would you take to a desert island?

DUIN: Well, water, obviously, if it’s a desert. I couldn’t survive in a desert without it.

J’NI: I think it’s more of a hypothetical question, to identify the thing you value most.

DUIN: I don’t value any one thing. Humanity’s illusions of ownership assume I would elevate things above love, freedom, water, you, Belloc, my people, my world? What a ridiculous question.

BELLOC: Assume there’s water, and J’ni and I are with you, and we can make slings and huts and hunt for food. What else would you want?

DUIN: Nothing at all. That’s sounds delightful. When can we leave?

BELLOC: I’d take Mysteria. That’s the best MMORPG on the Net.

J’NI: I’d take chocolate. That’s one thing I really missed when I was in the Glin refugee camp. Other than Duin, of course.

DUIN: I’ve never known you to lie, J’ni.

J’NI: I’m not lying. I did miss you.

DUIN: With our young, handsome husband as a distraction? You disappoint me, Belloc.

BELLOC: We weren’t married then. I didn’t think she’d be interested in me, when she shared the soul of the Elder of Long River, Hero of the Uprising and founder of the Freedom Council. I meant nothing to her.

J’NI: Yes, you did. You were my best friend, when I needed you most.

What are your future plans?

BELLOC: J’ni and I are having a human wedding ceremony on Asteria, and then all three of us are going to Earth.

J’NI: We’ll be stopping in India and then heading to the United States to meet President Hamilton and visit my parents.

DUIN: I intend to establish a Glin chancery within Washington, D.C., and continue strengthening Glin’s friendship with Earth. I’ve petitioned to join the U.N. and hopefully we’ll force the Tikati out of Glin, once and for all. I am indebted to the United States for the work we’ve done together so far, but I want to make sure an invasion will never occur again. Glin is still extremely vulnerable.

J’NI: Thank you for inviting us to your blog. Your readers can find out more about us on the Net at StellarnetSeries.com.

VS sez: Totally my pleasure and J. L. also makes the most phenomenal steampunk jewelry! But that’ll have to be another blog for another day…

Other links for catching up and keeping up with J. L. follow:

Author website: www.JLHilton.com
Stellarnet website: www.StellarnetSeries.com
Publisher website: www.CarinaPress.com
Buy link: http://www.StellarnetSeries.com/shop/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108263004687651404592/posts
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/J.L.Hilton.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorJLHilton
Tumblr: http://authorjlhilton.tumblr.com/
deviantART: http://jlhilton.deviantart.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5344538.J_L_Hilton


Meet the Author – Toni Anderson – DANGEROUS WATERS

It’s my pleasure today to host Author Toni Anderson, whose most recent book is DANGEROUS WATERS, out November 20th!

Please tell us a little about yourself: Firstly, thanks so much for having me here today, Veronica. I’m honored. I write Romantic Suspense novels and my fifth book is about to come out, Nov 20th. I’m a mom, wife, gardener, animal and nature lover. I’m a former Marine Biologist who now lives in the Canadian prairies (yeah—now that’s irony!).

 What prompted you to start writing? I was always a voracious reader. I think that feeds naturally into someone eventually wanting to write their own stories and expand their own ideas.

What’s the trait you most deplore in yourself? Insecurity. I try and ignore it as much as possible and just concentrate on all the things I can control. Some days it’s hard. A writer’s insecurity is part of the deal. “Is the book good enough?” “Will anyone read it?” “Do I even want anyone to read it?” I just tell myself I can’t control much of that and the only thing I can control is the writing. So I write the next book and go through the whole thing all over again J

What’s your favorite vacation? We don’t really do vacations. We tend to travel with work. I think the only vacation we’ve ever taken was about ten years ago when we took two weeks at the end of a work trip (for my husband) to Australia. We went to Northern Queensland and then the Red Center and Sydney. It was FANTASTIC and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Which word or phrase do you most overuse? Still, just, but, and. *pulls out hair* VS sez: The word “that” is my most overused!

What’s your most treasured possession? My wedding ring.

Do you have a personal motto? NO SURRENDER (another Springsteen tune) Actually the Anderson clan motto is STAND SURE. Very similar …


Favorite TV Show: THE GOOD WIFE

Favorite Movie: LOVE ACTUALLY

Cats or Dogs? DOGS

Favorite Flower: PANSIES

Tea or coffee: TEA

Boxers or Briefs: BOXERS

Sweet or spicy: BOTH

Morning person or evening person: NEITHER

Favorite food: PASTA

Favorite time of the year: SUMMER


What are you working on next? A follow up featuring a hero who first appears in DANGEROUS WATERS. It’s less of a mystery and more of a woman-in-jeopardy Romantic Suspense. It’ll be out next spring.

What one question do you want to ask your Readers today? What do you want in a Romantic Suspense story? Are you put off by graphic violence or sex?

Where can your Readers find you online? I have a website and Amazon Author Page with a list of current titles, a blog and Facebook Author Page for writing news. I also send out a very infrequent newsletter with special announcements. If you like dogs or weather talk there’s my personal Facebook page, and Twitter for up-to-the-minute nonsensical chatter. I’m also on Pinterest.

 Buy Links for book:

Pre-order (print, digital, audio) from Amazon USA or UK. Also, Canada, France, and Germany.

Also in print from Barnes & Noble (US) and McNally Robinson (Canada).