Monday, May 30, 2011

Two weeks to THE REVENANT -- Hapless Hearts Giveaway [NOW CLOSED]

First . . . on this Memorial Day my heartfelt thanks go out to all the men and women of the military who have sacrificed so much in their service to our country.

The second order of business is to announce the winner of last week's giveaway. The person who will receive copies of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and VILLETTE, plus swag, is . . .

April X!!!

And now on to the next giveaway . . . this week's theme is thwarted love, or what my husband alliteratively termed "hapless hearts"!

*Mini etymology lesson: hapless meaning "unfortunate," from Middle English "hap" > Old Norse "happ" luck, chance; akin to Old English "gehæp" fit, convenient. Hee!

What do I love about them?

I love stories in which the impediment to true love is something bigger and darker than a mere misunderstanding. Stories where, in an ideal world, the relationship would be strong, passionate and long-lasting . . . but in reality it just can't be. Perhaps it is a social or cultural taboo that gets in the way. Or maybe these two lovers can't be together without one of them losing something essential to them or compromising him or herself in a way that is unendurable. Take Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre (seen above in the 2011 film) -- SPOILER ALERT (???) -- they can't be married. Rochester offers an alternative, but Jane refuses to compromise herself. She would rather give him up than lose herself entirely. Thus, NEITHER can be happy. Bless their poor, hapless hearts!

What does it have to do with The Revenant?

There are several characters in The Revenant who fall for the wrong person; in some cases, these "hapless hearts" find themselves in danger. Our protagonist, Willie Hammond, is drawn almost against her will to Eli, a student at the Male Seminary. The attraction is doomed, however, because she is posing as a teacher and desperately needs the job in order to maintain her independence. Complicating matters is this -- the stronger her attraction grows, the less certain she is that Eli can be trusted. What is he hiding? Will learning his secrets lead her into danger?

What am I giving away?

VOYA called Maurissa Guibord's Warped "an entertaining and thought-provoking tale" and in a starred review School Library Journal raved that Guibord's "absorbing and mesmerizing read has it all—fantasy, romance, witchcraft, life-threatening situations, detective work, chase scenes, and a smattering of violence. Imaginative and compelling, it's impossible to put down." This story of two young lovers from very different places and times reminded me, in the best way, of Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor, only with a stronger fantasy spin (& for those of you who've read the book, WARPED offers all the romance without the nekkid bits). The chemistry between Tessa and Will is palpable -- they need to be together -- but how can they bridge their temporal divide? The super cool thing about the copy I'm offering is that Maurissa Guibord signed it specifically for this giveaway when we were together in Salem, MA. Yay!

In addition to Warped, I am offering Kristi Cook's Haven, a novel that would have worked perfectly for my boarding school giveaway (if not for a monstrous lapse on the part of my brain), but also fits the Hapless Hearts theme quite nicely. Booklist said this story of a girl who has visions in which she's fated to kill the boy she loves, "reads like a blend of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, the Twilight saga, and Lois Duncan’s thrillers, and it will find a wide audience among female fans of gothic novels." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books called it "seriously sexy." With its appealing heroine, gothic setting, romantic tension and paranormal mystery, this novel is sure to please!

The weekly giveaways are open to residents of North America only. International readers may still comment to enter the drawing for a finished copy of The Revenant.

How does one enter?

1. Leave a comment that includes a name and some way to contact you. This is really all you have to do to be entered for the weekly giveaway AND to put your name in the drawing for one of two finished copies of The Revenant. This isn't required, but I'd love for you to share in the comment your favorite "hapless hearts" (doomed or thwarted lovers -- and it's totally okay if they eventually overcome their obstacles and get together because that's the way I like it!).

2. If you'd like an extra entry, please tweet a link to this contest. Something like: Win copies of WARPED and HAVEN at @soniagensler's Two Weeks to THE REVENANT Giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/3k4goxb (Please let me know in the comments that you've tweeted -- a link would be fabulous!)

You have until 11:59 pm Saturday the 4th (CDT) to enter -- good luck!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A close one

Yesterday several dangerous tornados touched down in central Oklahoma. I learned new terms like debris ball, elephant trunk and maxi tornado. A few years ago the trendy term was "tornado vortex signature," but maybe they only use that when a funnel isn't performing as it should. (The weather reporters are GREAT at warning us about tornados. At the same time, you know they're having the time of their lives chasing those storms. They get really excited.)

At one point a maxi tornado was heading our way, but according to Steve it lifted and then touched down on the other side of town. Hmmm.

At least 13 people have died and many have lost their homes, so I don't mean to make light of the situation at all. But I did want you to know that we're okay. The worst thing that happened was my acid reflux flaring up big time as soon as the sirens went off.

Cedric and I spent some time in the coat closet. He was remarkably calm as he sat by my side, but his expression did verge into "freaked out" territory when the wind began to roar and the hail crashed against our windows. Of course I had my iPhone in the closet, so I documented the moment:



Lesson learned from this experience -- an interior closet is not going to protect us from a tornado that flattens houses. It may be time to invest in a garage tornado shelter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TV Tuesday -- So You Think You Can Dance

It returns on Thursday! Check out the latest news.

I mostly dislike reality competition shows, especially the ones in which "creative editing" ratchets up the tension in an obviously artificial way. But in this show, the tension is pretty legitimate -- and golly can these kids dance!

Here's one of my favorites from season 5 -- Jeanine and Brandon's Paso Doble.



(And yes, we did drive to Kansas City that year to see the tour.)

One of the best things about season 8 is that Mary Murphy returns. You know, I always liked her screaming!

Who's watching with me? This is the sort of show I love to discuss with friends.

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Three weeks to THE REVENANT -- Girls' School Giveaway! [NOW CLOSED]

FIRST, I must announce the winner from last week's Victorian Giveaway. The person who will receive a copy of THE VESPERTINE, plus swag, etc., is . . .

Dani Nguyen!!!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I really enjoyed the comments and recs about your favorite things about the Victorian period!

Now, on to the next giveaway . . . This week's theme is all about Girls' Schools!

What do I love about them?

Boarding schools have long been one of my bullet-proof kinks in fiction. As I've said before, you can't go wrong when you pile kids together in a faraway school and replace the parents with a small group of disgruntled teachers. As you might imagine, same-sex schools offer even more benefits, challenges and conflicts -- such a great setting for a story, if I do say so myself. ;)

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most schools for teen girls were meant to "finish" them, or prepare them for society. But later in the 19th century, school founders began to design more challenging courses of study for girls -- courses that were just as demanding as those intended for boys. At the time, it was a bit revolutionary to think that girls could handle such a cerebral challenge, but as we all know now, the girls proved they were more than up to the task!

*click photos for a larger view*


Above you see a group from a girls' school in Murfreesboro, TN. Kneeling second from the left is my great-grandmother, Clemie Shrader. I'm not certain if the girls were performing something (they are on a stage, after all), or if this was just an entertaining way of doing a class photo.

What do they have to do with The Revenant?

The novel's protagonist, Willie Hammond -- herself a student at a female academy in Tennessee -- steals an older girl's teaching credentials and runs away to Indian Territory, thinking to gain her independence. Expecting a simple Indian school, she instead finds a sophisticated institution teeming with wealthy, arrogant and highly educated Cherokee girls. Did I mention this school happens to be haunted?


Another theatrical pose, this time from the Cherokee Female Seminary. There are many photos of the Seminary girls staging tableau vivants for the camera. (They seemed particularly fond of reenacting the grisly assassination of Julius Caesar -- in the parlor!)

What am I giving away?

Turns out I couldn't find a very recent book set in a girls' school, but I'm very pleased to offer a fabulous story set in a Paris boarding school -- that's right, I'm talking about Anna and the French Kiss! Booklist said "Perkins’ debut, narrated in Anna’s likable, introspective voice, is an absorbing and enjoyable read that highlights how home can refer to someone, not just somewhere." In a starred review, Kirkus praises the book for surpassing "the usual chick-lit fare with smart dialogue, fresh characters and plenty of tingly interactions." I was utterly enchanted by this book -- it's beautifully written, funny, romantic, sexy . . . and it's set in Paris, one of my very favorite cities!
To sweeten the pot, I'm adding a novel that is actually set in a 19th century girls' school -- and is perhaps the mother of all Gothic girls' school stories -- Villette by Charlotte Brontë. This novel, a significant inspiration behind The Revenant, features a young woman who takes a teaching position in a place that seems very foreign and unwelcoming. And though there's not exactly a vengeful ghost in the story, Lucy Snowe is most certainly haunted. You'll have to read it to see what I mean! It's not an easy-breezy novel, but it's wonderfully Gothic and uniquely romantic.

The weekly giveaways are open to residents of North America only. International readers may still comment to enter the drawing for a finished copy of The Revenant.

How does one enter?

1. Leave a comment that includes a name and some way to contact you. This is really all you have to do to be entered for the weekly giveaway AND to put your name in the drawing for one of two finished copies of The Revenant. (Of course, I'd love for you to share a favorite novel or film set in a boarding school in your comment, but this is not required.)

2. If you'd like an extra entry, please tweet a link to this contest. Something like: Win a copy of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS at @soniagensler's Three Weeks to THE REVENANT Giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/3m8pe3b (Please let me know in the comments that you've tweeted -- a link would be fabulous!)

You have until 11:59 pm Saturday the 28th (CDT) to enter -- good luck!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Procrastination

Saw this at sjaejones' blog. I'm certainly guilty of the exploiting the tea break in my procrastinatory lapses.



I must have an especially feeble prefrontal cortex.

I've only seen one other Charlie McDonnell video, but I totally have a crush on him now. Even though he looks 12. (He's nearly 21, actually.)

[Cross-posted at Livejournal]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Favorite - San Francisco

**Don't forget my Victorian Giveaway, featuring a gorgeous hardcover of Saundra Mitchell's THE VESPERTINE. You have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to enter. Go here to learn more.

Earlier this week Steve attended a conference in San Francisco, and I gladly tagged along. Even with the wind, rain and gloom, I love this city!


On Monday I met Martha Flynn for tea at Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens. (Martha suggested this place before I got to San Fran. The menu was enticing, but it was her link to their tea porn blog that truly sealed the deal.) Martha ordered the Lapsang Souchong, "Zealously tarry, ancient and smoky. Delicious with milk and sugar" and I selected the Gui Fei Imperial Concubine, an Oolong described as "butterscotch and tree-ripened guava balanced with layers of wild rose, stewed cherries, and vanilla bean." (It was AMAZING. At least when I wasn't over-steeping it. Apparently the optimal steeping time is 20 seconds.) You can also see the cherry oat scones with Devonshire cream and preserves on the table.


But we didn't stop there. In addition to the scones we enjoyed the honeycomb, cheese and fruit platter, the ginger quinoa waffle and the squash dumplings. What a feast! And such good company!


Tuesday morning Steve and I set off on a long walk to Fisherman's Wharf. (If you know San Fran at all, you know this was a very hilly walk.) The closer we got to the water, the more the wind and rain battered us. Here we are posing in front of a distant blob that I can assure you is Alcatraz.


After that we poked around Pier 39 and gazed upon the sea lions. This group was napping most comfortably.


I admired this fellow's proud pose. Can anyone explain to me what the posturing is all about? I tried to get a photo of two sea lions posturing side by side, but my iPhone wasn't up to the task.


Then we walked back toward Chinatown, pausing for a moment to admire the crooked section of Lombard Street.

After restoring ourselves with dim sum, we returned to our hotel room and changed clothes for an afternoon of shopping, of which there is plenty to be had downtown. All in all, a great trip -- just wish I was having an easier time readjusting to Central time.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, May 16, 2011

Four weeks to THE REVENANT -- Victorian giveaway (NOW CLOSED)

Preliminary note #1: Apparently, I can't add. This is why I write books instead of being an accountant. Last week was actually five weeks until the release of The Revenant. I will endeavor to keep my figures straight from here on out!

Preliminary note #2: Before we get to this week's theme, I must announce the winner of Tessa Gratton's BLOOD MAGIC, as selected by Random.org. That lucky person is Jynn Morgan, who won by entering on Livejournal. Huzzah!

NOTE: The rest who entered are still in the running for the two finished copies of The Revenant -- these winners will be announced on the book's release date. FYI - if you comment on each week's post, that's five entries!

Now, without further ado . . . This week's theme is the Victorian period!

What do I love about it?

D.L. King asked me about this recently, and I had some trouble answering -- even though the Victorians idealized everything feminine, female empowerment outside of the domestic sphere was not much promoted. Still (and I'm cribbing my own response to D.L. here), there were women who worked around the rules, such as those who published novels, were professional artists or photographers, or who fought for educational reform and women’s suffrage. I'm particularly drawn to stories of Victorian ladies who flouted convention in small but effective ways, pursuing their passions without thoroughly forfeiting their social standing.

On a lighter note, I confess to loving the elaborate and often mystifying rules of social ettiquette in the Victorian period. Even the prudishness is interesting to me! The restrictions on physical intimacy between ladies and gentlemen work particularly well for romantic stories -- in this setting a mere kiss on the inside of a wrist becomes a transgressive and potentially swoon-worthy event. You gotta love that!


And the clothes! I'm so obsessed that I even joined my bestie Michelle Lunsford in dressing up for the Athenaeum Girls' School -- a summer program in which teen girls learn about young ladyhood in 1861 Columbia, Tennessee. Michelle teaches courses on the rituals of mourning (note her full mourning gear above) and afternoon tea.


There's something so seductively refined about negotiating the events of the day in a corset and hoop. It's almost as though the wide skirt creates a forcefield of awesome around your body -- you are literally untouchable in your elegance!

What does it have to do with The Revenant?

The novel is set in 1896 Indian Territory (what is now eastern Oklahoma), and though this may seem a far cry from Victorian England, the ladies of the Cherokee Female Seminary endeavored to embody the ideals of Victorian womanhood.


The Cherokee founders of the school envisioned the students having the same values and opportunities as wealthy students in east coast boarding schools. (The Cherokee Female Seminary was modeled after Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, after all.) Some scholars argue that when the school began to admit charity students from poorer homes, tension arose between the wealthy "progressive" students and their more "traditional" counterparts who weren't necessarily reared to emulate the Victorian ideal of womanhood. This tension became part of the conflict in The Revenant.

What am I giving away?

Dark and luxurious with rich, compelling characters and a perfect blend of the mysterious and the fantastic, Saundra Mitchell's THE VESPERTINE is Victorian gothic at its finest—at once evoking the lyricism of Bronte, the heart-pounding of Poe and a vivid, enticing voice that is entirely her own.

So sayeth Sarah MacLean, Author of The Season and 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, and I agree with every word of her praise. The Vespertine haunted me so much that I've already given one copy away, and now it seems the perfect fit for my Victorian giveaway! This story of a girl who experiences prophetic visions at twilight is so gorgeously written and lushly atmospheric that any fan of the Victorian period is sure to enjoy it. For more about The Vespertine, please see my review of the book at Book End Babes and my interview with Saundra here at my blog. The winner will receive the book, a matching bookmark and a signed bookplate, along with an assortment of Revenant and Elevensies swag.

The weekly giveaways are open to residents of North America only. International readers may still comment to enter the drawing for a finished copy of The Revenant.

How does one enter?

1. Leave a comment that includes a name and some way to contact you. This is really all you have to do to be entered for the weekly giveaway AND to put your name in the drawing for one of two finished copies of The Revenant. (Of course, I'd love for you to expound on your favorite things about the Victorian era in your comment, but this is not required.)

2. If you'd like an extra entry, please tweet a link to this contest. Something like: Win a copy of THE VESPERTINE at @soniagensler's Four Weeks to THE REVENANT Giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/3rpcopz

You have until 11:59 pm (CDT) Saturday the 21st to enter -- good luck!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Favorites - better late than never?

First off, there's still time to enter my "Six weeks to THE REVENANT" giveaway of BLOOD MAGIC. Check it out here. I won't be tabulating entries until Sunday morning, so do please enter. (If you don't win this time, you'll still be entered in the giveaway for a finished copy of THE REVENANT. And, of course, there will be more giveaways in the weeks leading up to its release.)

Okay, now for the favorites: Friends and Tea!

My longtime buddy and kindred spirit Michelle flew all the way from Nashville to visit me earlier this week.


We enjoyed a tea at The Victorian Tea Room in the quaint old town square of Guthrie.

On Tuesday we headed to Tulsa for a viewing of Jane Eyre (even better on the THIRD viewing), a visit to the gorgeous Phillbrook Museum of Art, and . . .


Tea with friends Brandi Barnett and Ange Brunner at the Dragonmoon Tea Company.


Here's a clearer view of Brandi and the tea tray -- equally delicious, are they not? ;) (OH, and that's our server Vladimir lurking in the background. He was lovely.)

We had a lovely time! Tea always makes gatherings more festive.

If only my launch party could be one huge tea party . . .

Happy weekend, everyone!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, May 9, 2011

Six weeks to THE REVENANT -- Gothic giveaway [NOW CLOSED]

The Revenant officially releases six weeks from tomorrow, and by golly, I feel like celebrating!

Gentle reader, I invite you to join me today and the next five Mondays as I share many of the inspirations behind the story. Each week I'll be giving away a recent YA novel that relates to that week's theme. Simply comment below to enter the drawing for that book.

**All those who comment over the next several weeks will also be entered to win one of two finished copies of The Revenant!

This week's theme: GOTHIC!

What do I love about it?

I adore the iconography and themes of Gothic -- the dreary, crumbling castles or mansions, the dark forests and desolate landscapes, the atmosphere of gloom and confusion, the very real threat of supernatural forces, and the general sense of foreboding and mystery. Why is this so cool to me? I think it boils down to how Gothic landscapes are often a projection of unresolved internal conflicts. Gothic showed us "the return of the repressed" long before Freud came along (just read any Poe story for an illustration of this). As my dear husband put it, "the surroundings give form to the monster within." So compelling! (Here is a really fun Glossary of Literary Gothic Terms, if you'd like to know more.)

What does it have to do with The Revenant?

The easy answer is that The Revenant is Gothic because it's a ghost story. But for me, the setting screamed "Gothic" before I even decided to write about a ghost.


In most Gothic novels the setting itself is a major character. This 1888 photo of students standing in front of the Cherokee Female Seminary gave me a jolt of inspiration with its aura of gloom. I realize that the B&W photography lends strongly to this atmosphere, but still . . . the leafless trees, the wrought-iron fence, the clock tower and turrets, not to mention the dark clothing and grim faces of the students -- all these strongly communicated "secrets" and "mystery" to me. I wanted to place an outsider -- a girl with dark secrets of her own -- within this context and see what sort of trouble I could brew!

What am I giving away?

A shiny hardcover of Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic, which will come to you as soon as it releases (May 24). I had the privilege of reading an ARC of this book, which I devoured in about two days. With its atmosphere of danger, dark secrets and barely repressed (& often wildly out-of-control) passions, I'm delighted to say that it fits the Gothic bill perfectly. However, it is not for the faint of heart -- consider the title, folks!

In addition, you will receive an assortment of Elevensies swag, including bookmarks and goodies for The Revenant. This giveaway is open to residents of North America only. (Don't worry -- there will be another international giveaway in the future!)

How does one enter?

1. Leave a comment that includes a name and some way to contact you. This is really all you have to do to be entered for the weekly giveaway AND to put your name in the drawing for one of two finished copies of The Revenant. (Of course, I'd love for you to expound on your personal Gothic favorites in your comment, but this is not required.)
2. If you'd like an extra entry, please tweet or facebook a link to this contest. Something along the lines of: Win a copy of BLOOD MAGIC at @soniagensler's Six Weeks to THE REVENANT Giveaway! http://tinyurl.com/5wbhkra

I wanted to make it simple, so that's it! Good luck and thanks for helping me celebrate!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Favorite -- writing buddies

This weekend is the OWFI conference, and the best thing about this is getting to spend time with my writing buddies!


Martha, Dee Dee, me, Brandi and Lisa. Just missing Kelly and Shel here -- I do believe we need a new group photo!

I owe a lot to these ladies -- I certainly would not have sold a book without their input and unfailing support. *sniffle*

In other news, next Tuesday will mark the SIX WEEK point until THE REVENANT is released. Look for a special blog post and giveaway on Monday!

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TV Tuesday -- Justified



I think it was during a NECRWA session entitled "Rule #87: Watch NCIS for a Master Class in Creating Characters" that someone mentioned the FX show JUSTIFIED in glowing terms. It brought to mind a very positive review from Entertainment Weekly that I'd read long ago. The review intrigued me, but at that time I just wasn't ready to jump on a show about a U.S. Marshall, even if it was based on characters and storylines created by Elmore Leonard. (I've always liked what Leonard has to say about writing.)

After the session, Kim Harrington mentioned that her mom was obsessed with JUSTIFIED and its star, Timothy Olyphant. That finally tipped the scales of my indecision -- I bought a couple of eps from iTunes to watch on the long plane ride from Boston to DFW.

Well.

I was hooked after the pilot.

What kept me from watching in the first place was this idea of a cowboy as a main character. Why did I think this would be a problem? I love strong, stoic men who use their words sparingly. Men who hide their man pain and anger behind dry humor and wry smiles. (Those of you who know me well are nodding -- in books/film/TV I never go for the blabby, idealistic ones who talk about feelings. I want the sarcastic and emotionally repressed guys who'd rather talk with their fists!)

Okay, back to the point - Turns out, Timothy Olyphant's Raylan Givens is exactly my type. He's all of the above, but also has a certain gentlemanly quality that is incredibly appealing. (In a strange way, he reminds me of Ben Fraser from Due South. Not quite so adorably nerdy, but there's the same quiet strength, attention to detail, gentlemanly manner, and, of course, the hat and boots.)

The villains on this show are captivating, too. No need for mustache twirling -- many of these guys are downright psychopaths, but at the same time they're extremely clever, charming and often sympathetic in their moments of vulnerability. Or they're just clever enough to get themselves in bigger trouble than they could have imagined, and it's fun to watch them self-destruct.

I'm not terribly interested in the current "love interest" (after four eps), but I won't complain too much when Raylan can't keep himself away from the woman he's been ordered not to mess with. :)

Anyone else watching?

[Cross-posted from Livejournal]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Salem photo recap

Left Boston at 3:40 yesterday and got home at 2 AM thanks to a stupid storm cell that decided to hang out north of Dallas all day and evening. (Actually, I think it's still hovering there.)

But I'm not here to grouse. I want to share some photos from Salem! (If you prefer to view this on Livejournal, go here.)

As I mentioned earlier, I joined Kim Harrington and Maurissa Guibord at the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America conference in Salem, MA this past weekend. I hope to share actual conference intel later this weekend, but this post is mostly a picspam. Yay!

(Click photos to embiggen.)


The Salem Inn is comprised of three separate buildings. I stayed at the Curwen House. My room had a creepy look to it, but if there was a presence there, it was entirely benign. Nothing spooky happened, and I'm mostly okay with that!


On Friday Kim and I visited the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and The Old Burying Point, the oldest cemetery in Salem and the second oldest in the country (started in 1637).


This was my favorite combination of carved skeleton/angel images.


For lunch Kim and I met up with Ellen and Christiana (+ Ellen's two youngest girls) for lunch at Capt's Waterfront Grill & Pub. I feel like I've known these ladies FOREVER, but this was the first time I'd actually met them in person. (I hope it's not the last!) Had a great time -- could have chatted with them all day long.

During our rambles around Salem, Kim and I ran across Salem's Vintage Photography and decided we HAD to get Maurissa to join us for a witchy photo shoot. Maurissa, being awesomely cool, agreed without hesitation.

You may remember the photo I posted on Friday. Well, there were scads of photos in all, and Kim posted the best ones on her Facebook author page for everyone in the world to see. I'll only share a sampling here:


I just love Kim's expression in this one, and Maurissa is doing such a nice job holding the crow. Can you tell what I'm holding? Probably not -- that blob is a black cat.


Crystal ball woo woo!


We're FLYING!


Now we're FALLING!
(This one cracks me up every time.)


"Witches? What are you talking about? We are very serious authors at a conference banquet."


Another serious author photo.


On Sunday, Kim kindly dropped me off at my friend Pam's house. Pam, along with her husband and daughter, treated me to a scrumptious tea before taking me to the airport. It was wonderful fun! I'm so looking forward to this summer when they come to Oxford for a visit -- can't wait to share all the delights with them.

What a weekend! Hope to get caught up on sleep today.

P.S. It was very interesting to watch Obama's statement + all the Osama Bin Laden reportage at the airport last night. If things had gone as planned, I probably would have been asleep and missed it all.