Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Cruise Piccies

A few more piccies from my March cruise to the Caribbean...

This shot was taken on Barbados, and yes that is the DH in his best tourist outfit.

Of all the islands we visited on this cruise, Barbados was unique in a couple of aspects. First of all, it was the only coral island we visited. If you look at a map of the West Indies, the islands are spread in a semi-circle and are all volcanic. Barbados is outside that ring of islands and is a coral atoll.

The second unique thing about Barbados was that, unlike the other islands who had several different countries rule them at various points in their history, Barbados was always under British rule. They take great pride in their long British history and have built and named buildings and landmarks after similar ones in England. The DH is standing in front of the Barbados Houses of Parliament, patterned after the larger and more famous ones in London.

This fellow on the very tall pair of stilts is on St. Croix and he was amazingly agile on those things! This character is called a Moko Jumbie and is a mixture from African folklore and some original Caribbean imagination. Such stilt walkers are permanent fixtures in most parades and festivals on St. Croix and a few of the other islands.

I've read that sometimes Moko Jumbies were used to frighten children into good behavior -- as in "if you aren't a good boy/girl, the Moko Jumbie will get you!" YIKES! Gotta tell ya, that would have probably worked on me. But in other versions, Moko Jumbies chase the evil spirits away. I like the latter version much better.

This beautiful black sand beach is on Grenada, one of my favorite stops on the cruise. Isn't that water gorgeous? The only other black sand beach I've ever seen (at least this up close and personal) was on the Big Island of Hawaii. In both cases, the black sand was the result of the years of erosion of nearby flows of lava.

Grenada is called The Spice Island because they grow a lot of nutmeg, cinnamon (which is actually tree bark) and tamarind here. All over the island people were selling incredible fragrant necklaces made of spices and flowers.

The interior of Grenada was largely one big lush, tropical rain forest. At one of the stops on our 'across the island' tour, I spotted this wise little monkey sitting placidly in the tree watching all the tourists.

That's it for this batch, but I'll put up pictures of the two Dutch islands, Curacao and Aruba, which were the final two stops on our itinerary.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contest Reminder

Just wanted to give everyone a quick reminder that you still have time to enter my contest to WIN the ARC of The Wild Irish Sea.

All you have to do to win the ARC, a $10 gift certificate to Amazon and some chocolate is send
me proof that you've purchased The Wild Sight or The Treasures of Venice or answer three easy questions about one of them. I'll even give you the questions here to save you a step:

For The Wild Sight:
1. What are Donovan and Rylie's middle names?
2. What is the name of the facility where Dermot O'Shea lives?
3. What is the name of the city where Rylie goes alone to meet Sybil Gallagher?

For The Treasures of Venice:
1. What is Keirnan's middle name?
2. What is the name of the Venetian district where Kathleen has an apartment?
3. What is the name (first and last) of Fredo Rosso's mistress?

Just send me an email with your answers to either set of questions and you'll be eligible to win! I'll choose a name at random from all the entries on May 4, 2010.

The fine print: Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years or older to enter. No prize substitution permitted. Odds of winning are determined by number of entrants. This contest is subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

National Library Week

Here in the US, this past week was National Library Week (April 11 -- 17) and their theme for this year was:
Communities Thrive @ Your Library

What I didn't know was that National Library Week has been celebrated since 1958. WOW! A tradition ALMOST as olde as me!

Public and school libraries all have a very special place in my heart because I spent a lot of time in them when I was growing up. During the school year, at least once a week (and usually more often) you could find me somewhere in the stacks of books with my nose stuck in a book. I'd go before school started, after school (if the bus was late) and just about any other time I was allowed inside. Whenever we had 'free time' at the library (which happened every couple of weeks or so) you would find me rushing in the door first!

During the summer, the public library was a real haven. In a place that often reached 100 degrees in July and August, our house did not have air conditioning. The library did! My mother would take me, my sister and brother to the library every other week and I was in HEAVEN! The place was cool and filled with books. What more could you possibly want?!

Our nearest public library was in a grand old building with marble columns in front and wide stone steps with curving marble bannisters that my sister and brother would slide down over and over. Not me! I was inside picking out books to take home and read! Bless my mother, she would let me check out as many as I could carry because she knew I really would read them all! The library had a summer reading program and every year I was allowed to participate (1st -- 6th grade) I won some kind of prize for the large number of books I read.

Yes, I was a hopeless BOOK GEEK!

Yes, I still am.

No, I DO NOT CARE and I never did! I wear my geek badge proudly.

One of the biggest thrills for me, since seeing my books in print, is knowing they are in libraries all across the country.

Do you have any library stories to share?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Caribbean Piccies -- St. Lucia

As promised, I'm posting a few piccies from our recent Caribbean cruise.

Even though it was very hot and humid every day, we still had a very fun time and enjoyed visiting all the different islands.

One of my favorite stops was the island of St. Lucia. As you can see from this photo taken on a hilltop, it is mountainous with some spectacular views! And yes, the water all over the Caribbean is that beautiful turquoise color!

We made a visit to a banana plantation on St. Lucia, and found it to be very interesting. These blue plastic bags are placed over the stalks of growing bananas to protect them from insects. Also another interesting thing to note is that each banana plant produces only one stalk of fruit. The whole operation is very labor intensive, and made me appreciate my sliced bananas at breakfast much more than I had in the past.

One of the most distinctive features on St. Lucia is a pair of mountain peaks called the Pitons. Here they are in the distance with a small fishing village in the foreground. Actually, the one in the center of the picture is Petit Piton and is quite a bit smaller than Gran Piton, which is behind it.

Like almost all of the islands in the West Indies, St. Lucia is volcanic in origin, and the Pitons are the remains of an old volcano. They are right at the edge of the ocean, and reminded me of Morro Rock here in California, which was also an ancient volcanic plug.

Our tour group drove down into this village and took a couple of speed boats to a lovely beach located between the Pitons. It was great and the water was almost as warm as a bath!

I'll stop for now, but promise to post more piccies of some of the other islands we visited in a few days.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

WIN An ARC of The Wild Irish Sea!


My lovely publicist managed to scare up an additional Advance Review Copy of The Wild Irish Sea and I've decided to have a contest to give it away to one of my loyal readers. And just to sweeten the prize package a wee bit, I'll throw in a $10 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, and some chocolates!

What could be better?!?! You'll be able to read The Wild Irish Sea two months before it is on the shelves. You can also buy another great read or two, and you'll have the romance reader's staple -- CHOCOLATE!

So how do you get all these lovely goodies?

Very simple! Just send me proof of purchase.

If you purchased a copy of either The Wild Sight or The Treasures of Venice, snail mail me copies of your receipt (to the address on my website). Or you can email me a copy of your invoice if you ordered it online (minus your personal info, of course). Or you can even take a picture of your receipt and email it to me. Just prove to me in some way that you bought a copy of one of my books and you'll be in the drawing to win the ARC, gift certificate, and chocolate!

You can email me via my website: (link is on the sidebar) or my personal account at cindymm18 AT gmail DOT com. The contest will run for this month and I'll announce the winner the first week of May.

VERY IMPORTANT P.S. -- If you are like Aunty and can't find your receipt, email me and I'll send you 3 easy questions to answer about either The Wild Sight or The Treasures of Venice. Answer correctly and you're entered!