I have a book coming out in a month. Guess it’s high time I get a blurb up about it. You can find it here, or, you know, just move your eyes down the page a smidgen. Possibly scroll a bit. It’s down there, though, I promise.
For thousands of years, they have roamed the darkness, subsisting on the blood of men – the deraphs – though most people would only know them as vampires.
For thousands of years, they have been hunted, pursued in secret by scores of men who tried and failed to exterminate them.
For thousands of years, the fight has been fair.
Now, a group of North Atlantic hunters have discovered a weakness – the synjuments – a subspecies of humans with whom the deraphs share a mortal link. Far more vulnerable to attack, these innocents pose an imminent threat to the clan of Haydn, a thousand-year-old deraph whose unsettled history with Lilith poses its own pressing complications.
To prevent their extinction, Haydn and her clan are forced to take on a paradoxical assignment, as guardians of those they are inclined by their very natures to seduce and consume.
Kos lies not too far off the the western coast of Turkey. This isn’t a geography lesson. I may be the last person on Earth from whom anyone would want to take a geography lesson. I’m only telling you this because I took a ferry there from Bodrum once.
Well… last month, actually.
We spent the entire time in Kos Town, where we walked through ruins, gazed at the ocean, and ate super delicious ice cream cones and pastries that were pretty much Baklava sans nuts wrapped around layers of vanilla-cream goodness.
Kos is a rather stunning place, with its relics of the past and turquoise waters that bleed into deep blue.
Also, I wanted hard candy and they sold me really good hard candy.
Now, that’s some Flintstones-style tropical antiquity right there.
How you declare your eternal (you know, like at LEAST until next semester) commitment in Kos.
Nymphalum! Bwahaha. Back in the day, I would have spent all my time here.
Oooh… Pebbles in front, mountains in back.
Sunset from the balcony. We rose at an ungodly hour for this. Like seven.
You know even the poop chamber in this place had a view.
A little light prayer?
How about here? Prayer for everyone. (PS – Apparently everyone did love congregating here, on these curvy stairs, mainly to get their selfie on, because I waited forevah for this damn photo.)
Look at this street. LOOK at this street. That’s like thousands year old steps with hundreds year old buildings. Crumbling and flaking and falling into that general dilapidation where everything is still structurally sound, but way more awesome.
And now -
A Story About a Kos Cat
This Kos cat.
This Kos cat was an asshole.
Riley said, “Oh my goshness, this Kos cat has the mintiest green eyes I’ve ever seen. I must get a picture of this cat’s pretty eyes.”
This Kos cat said, “Fuck you. No paparazzi.”
“Hmmph,” Riley said. “Maybe this Kos cat just noticed something in the grass at the exact moment I snapped the photo. I’ll try again.”
“What did I say?” this Kos cat said.
“I’m going to get you, You Little Asshole!” Riley proclaimed. “Take that!”
Just wanted to share the news that Club Storyville has been named a finalist in the Rainbow Awards.
The book also received a couple of lovely honorable mentions that I took the liberty of copying below. If you prefer to see them amongst their honorable mention cohorts, you can find the original posting here – http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/4448412.html.
“This is an absolutely stunning historical piece set mostly in the shadow of World War II in which every action, every turn of phrase is believable for the time. The portrayal of both visible and invisible lines of segregation are depicted with anguished realism and the parallel, invisible struggles of LGBT people handled with painful accuracy. And while it’s a well-told story about these artificial social and legal lines between people, it’s also a very touching story about a young woman’s self-discovery and her slow realization that she’s much stronger than she’s been lead to believe.”
“Club Storyille is a very well written book. This author is very good at character development and I loved how she fleshed out the supporting characters. Wonderful job. The book started out a bit slow but when I got into it, I loved it and couldn’t put it down till I knew how it would end. I think that’s a great recommendation, don’t you? “
Now, if anyone’s in the mood for a little blog participation, tell me something cool that has happened to you lately. I think we’re all reading enough awful news these days. Let’s talk some happy stuff.
At the end of August, I popped by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. By both daylight and starlight, I stood in its towering shadow.
I walked through The Great Hall, took a stroll up Diagon Alley, made a visit to number four Privet Drive, caught sight of the Knight Bus, stood in the Ministry of Magic, got called into Dumbledore’s office, struggled in Potions, and chillaxed in the Gryffindor common room.
I had a butter beer. (Okay, so it was flat cream soda with a foamy layer of butterscotch cream on top, but still.)
I’m not going to go on too much about it. If you love the books, and you love the movies, and you feel a cozy kind of fit in J.K. Rowling’s world, you know what it meant to stand in these places, to get up close to these creatures, and to soak in all that magic.
Here are a few photos in no particular order and with very little commentary. If you love the movies, you know what they are, and if you don’t love the movies, you probably don’t care. (All photos get bigger. You just gotta click.)
As amazing as it is to walk the sets and stand among the props and creatures, there is really nothing that prepares you to walk through a door and look out over a 1:24 scale Hogwarts.
Here we are with this title that sounds so stereotypical, but, with Fringe and the Military Tattoo taking place while we were in Edinburgh, was actually quite literal. There were bagpipes. Many. Also hills. Those too were most literal. And some serious ass-busters.
Anyway Edinburgh… my haggis, what can I say? A smallish sort of city with organic restaurants and an organic grocery store right downtown, stunning architecture and narrow closes that sweep one back in time, tea and coffee down every street.
As for the detail of our days in the city, it’s largely been done. Most of our time in Edinburgh was spent traipsing about Fringe and stuffing our faces with scones. We did stop by the Edinburgh Book Festival, which, I hate to say, was a little disappointing. Not that their schedule of authors isn’t damn impressive. It is.
It’s just, for me, a book festival is about drumming up interest in books, authors, reading in general. The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is this incredible event that sprawls across the USC campus, welcoming everyone – everyday readers, casual readers, and passersby alike – and gives them plenty to put ears and eyeballs on with its amazing array of free events on multiple stages. With the reputation of Edinburgh’s book fest, I was expecting something to beat all. Situated in a small, gated park with a single entrance and filled with lines and tents for paid customers and very little to do for those who didn’t hold tickets, it felt very much like an event meant to exclude.
Shame, really. Though, it did make me appreciate the Times fest even more.
That minor glitch hardly detracts from Edinburgh, though, which, it turns out, is not only one of my favorite cities in the world, but a city I think I could actually live in. Like, for a while. And, if you know me at all, you know that’s saying something. Nothing profound. But something.
And now, some photographic evidence that I was there.
I have wanted to go to Edinburgh Fringe for so long, I kind of can’t believe I’ve actually done it. Even more, I can’t believe it was everything I expected it to be, plus some.
When Fringe is in Edinburgh, Fringe practically is Edinburgh. It’s everywhere, seeming to sprawl across the entire city. The sheer scope and layout of this festival was unfathomable to me before I was there. I’m not sure there was a room in the city not put to use.
I could live in a world of performers doing their own thing all the time. In fact, I’d sort of prefer it. Of course, that is not the world we live in. We live in a world of dollar signs and corporations. The realities of life are very narrow . It’s a rather small sliver of the world apportioned to pursuits of love.
Some people get to make careers of it. The lucky ones, we’ll call them. I’m not saying they’re not driven or talented or deserving. I’m not saying they didn’t work for it. If you have made it in any artistic industry, you have determination, at the very least. There are many talented people in the world, though, and for the vast majority of creators – those skilled musicians, talented wordsmiths, and fearless performers who hold nothing back, who put it all out there for public consumption, judgment, and sometimes ridicule – it sure as hell doesn’t pay. It truly is a labor of love.
For a month, in Edinburgh, one can pretend another world exists, a world in which those with creativity bursting out their very seams are revered for what they have to offer.
People who create for the sake of creating, not knowing if or when it will pay off, they are my people, and it was such a pleasure to spend time with them in Edinburgh.
Here’s a breakdown of what we saw during our days and nights of Fringe, with commentary –
Lizzy Mace’s “Overlooked”
This was the first thing we saw our first day in Edinburgh, and it was a very “me” comedy performance, that rare combination of comedy and heart. The show is set up as a series of short skits that showcase “overlooked” characters, including the fourth bear from Goldilocks and Emily Brontë’s lazy writing partner.
It’s right around the third skit, with the girl ‘left holding the coats at the end of the night’, that the veil wavers and you get a glimpse of the place from which this show stems, the universal desire to feel understood and appreciated. And that’s what makes it more than just a laugh.
Daphna Baram AKA MissD
This show, we saw the same day we saw Overlooked, and it was straight-up stand-up with Joan Rivers stylings. When we were watching this woman, I honestly thought a little TLC from Joan was just what she needed.
For me, the comedy here was spotty, but what was good was great. In the ‘making the audience extremely uncomfortable’ kind of way.
There were a couple of running themes that didn’t jive for me, but when you can joke about always wearing good lingerie in case you’re the victim of a suicide bombing, you have a unique perspective that you are damn brave to share with the world.
The Kitten Killers are a sketch comedy troupe who bill their show as similar to Smack the Pony. Upon reading this claim, and a few positive reviews, Shawna was all the fuck over this. Because Smack the Pony is, quite frankly, one of the greatest things to ever happen to the world.
While there were certainly some Smack the Pony-esque elements embedded within – running gags and comedy songs – they were neither on par with, nor different enough from, Smack the Pony to be memorable.
While most of the sketches had a funny element, they were largely miss, with one exception. A bridal bouquet toss with a slow-mo fight sequence was utterly brilliant.
What Does the Title Matter Anyway?
It was real luck that, while we were in attendance at Fringe, so was Colin Mochrie. When you get a chance to see Colin Mochrie improv live, you don’t pass that up. Plus, Greg Proops.
I laughed just as hard at this on stage as I do at its TV counterpart. Not that it has a TV counterpart, because that is totally trademarked and not at all the show they were doing. Even if the games were the same, and the title sort of sounds like Whose Line is it Anyway?
Blood at the Root
Every once in a while a piece of theater comes along that just blows me away. This was that kind of theater. The subject of racial injustice was far from novel. The scenes that dealt with people of different walks trying and failing to understand each other have been done with far greater subtlety.
The use of dance, the pure physicality in this production, however, is unsurpassed, and there was enough realness to bring me to tears multiple times.
Just a marvel of theater production that couldn’t have been timelier, given the events in Ferguson.
Before we made it to Edinburgh, we spent a couple of nights in London while Camden Fringe was underway. So, we got an early start with the play Pussy.
Now, I won’t say the script was flawless. It wasn’t. What I will say is this –
There are two types of drops on roller coasters. The ones that build suspense by ratcheting you slowly up a steep hill so you have plenty of time to utter all the expletives and Hail Marys you need, and the sudden ones that lie hidden in the darkness, or at the far side of a curve, so you can’t see them coming.
Magic, I find, happens where you least expect it. That’s the oldest magician’s trick, isn’t it? A little misdirection to divert the audience’s attention. “Look here! Look here!” the magician cries, because the sleight of hand is happening the other way, and where misdirection and craft meet – VOILA! – magic.
Travel can be like that sometimes. You hear about these amazing places, the ones that are advertised and make all the “Best of” and “Most Beautiful” lists. “I want to go there. I want to go there SO BAD!” That’s what you proclaim, and then you do, and sometimes they are everything they promised to be and sometimes not. Either way, though, you are anticipating the moment in a specific way – sort of like you know how the trick plays out – so, if it’s what you expected, you’re all, “Good job with that one,” but lack a sense of true amazement, because you were expecting wonderful and that’s what you got.
Or what you didn’t.
Though there are exceptions, for the most part you can end up only satisfied or disappointed. Awe doesn’t come when you anticipate it.
Awe is not knowing the trick at all, to be looking at the other hand with no expectation. Then, suddenly – BAM! – magic and you are blown clean away by it.
Like the winter before last when we had to go through Istanbul to get to Athens, and we stopped over for a night, and Istanbul was magic.
Or when we were in Italy last summer, and we stayed in Vicenza with plans for Verona and Venice, but discovered Soave.
Or just last month when we were searching for a place near Edinburgh so we could get back to Western Norway and finally go to Fringe, and we chanced upon a little town called Dunfermline.
A Town Called Dunfermline
History buffs, and people far better at geography, might already have heard of Dunfermline. I had not.
It is the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, and has close ties to a saint, Saint Margaret. A much-loved king and warrior, Robert the Bruce, is buried in the abbey there.
Now, Dunfermline is surely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s hardly a hotspot, and the night life is practically non-existent. Aside from a few pubs and a single club that I never saw anyone go in or out of, everything in the area where we were staying closed by 6 p.m., grocery stores included.
Dunfermline is simply a working village with a few things of note, just a half-hour train ride from Edinburgh. It’s a character made up of a thousand years of history, hallowed places, rugged terrain, sweeping vistas, pancakes and meat pies.
It’s such a character, it has earned a spot of honor in my next book, and is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been, on purpose or by chance.
Here are a few photos that attempt to showcase what made this place so surprisingly extraordinary.
Abbey Nave Entrance
Abbey Light Display
Abbot House Gate
We stayed in an apartment in the city center, and this was our view from the parking lot out back. That sunset is 100% legit coloring.
Sunset in Dunfermline
The Highland Games just happened to take place in Dunfermline while we were there. The best part was the announcer who was about a million years old and never held back his opinion.
“Well, you’ll see these athletes are better at some events than others.”
“That wasn’t her best one.”
“You can see the disappointment on his face.”
That kind of thing.
So, we watched people toss cabers and fling heavy weights in slightly dangerous fashions. Plus, there was this –
Seven Bagpipers Piping
And this –
Clann An Drumma
It rained both days of the Highland Games – it rained a lot of damn days in Scotland – so as we headed back through Pittencrieff Park toward our short-term place on the second afternoon, this happened.
That was kind of the thing about Dunfermline. Sometimes it was so suddenly lovely, it hardly seemed real.
A Ride Through the Fjords
Midway through our stay in Dunfermline, we popped back across the North Sea for a fjord experience. We’d wanted to go fjording when we were in Oslo back in June, but the Norway public transportation system was inconvenient to such desires. This time, we opted for the Norway in a Nutshell tour, which had us flying back into Oslo on a flight that left so late we missed all the trains and just barely made the last bus into the city center, where we had to walk further than we were supposed to, and didn’t get to our hotel until after two a.m.
Since we had to be on a train at eight the next morning, and at the station by seven-thirty to pick up the tickets, it was a shaky start, to say the least.
With a little determination and a lot of alarm clock, though, we made that early call and made it onto our five-hour train ride to Myrdal, where… wait for it… it snowed. In August. In the Northern Hemisphere. It was only spitting, but it was still snow. Now, I know this isn’t that special or interesting to some of your North-North-Northerners, but it was craziness for me, even if the ride up did take us past a glacier.
Just Before Snowfall in Myrdal
It was in Myrdal that we climbed aboard the Flam Railway, one of the steepest in the world, and somebody got very excited that, though they were using a modern engine, the cars were totally old school. For the next hour, we curved down the mountain, past this massive waterfall and these deep valleys, before pulling into Flam, where we ice creamed up and climbed aboard our fjord cruise.
Waterfall on Flam Railway
Now, I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t earn it – when we have the time, we typically hike these things – if it was our fellow passengers, or the overcast day, but, quite truthfully, I wasn’t all that moved by the fjords from the water. Don’t get me wrong, the sheer size and long stretch of them is impressive, but I was still ready for the two-and-a-half-hour cruise to be over after about an hour.
Of course, we did have the privilege of dealing with some “special cases”. You probably know “special cases”. These are the people who wait until the last minute to get on the boat because they have other things they would prefer to be doing, like having a second ice cream, then get on and pout because all the good spots are taken. I mean, why did no one leave good seats open for them? Why doesn’t anyone recognize their god-given superiority and relinquish their own seats for their very special butts?
In this case, the “special cases” were a Spanish couple who got on so last that there weren’t even two chairs left on the top level, let alone two together. The man proceeded to sit in the chair, as the woman scowled beside him. They argued. He got up and left her. I saw him reappear on the bottom level of the boat. She was so worried about where he was that she wasn’t even looking at the surrounding scenery as she tried to call him on her cell phone again and again. He finally came back up. Somewhere, they found another chair. They put their bags in them, but did not sit in them. They walked around instead. Then, after about an hour, they decided they did want to sit, but only by the side that was at the back of the boat, aka exactly where we were sitting.
It was at this point that said couple started continuously kicking the back of my chair until they finally made enough space for themselves to squeeze a chair in where it didn’t fit, a chair in which the woman slouched down and stared at the floor, while the man went for another walk, until he returned to take someone else’s seat while the person was up.
I should mention that this couple was in at least their late-30s, not teenagers.
So, yeah, it might have been the company.
But we did see this –
After the boat ride of frustration, we got on a bus that took us down a mountainous road with more waterfall craziness to the train station that would carry us on into Bergen.
The best part? When the same couple stepped into our car (because we are truly blessed) about a minute before the train was supposed to depart, realized there were no seats left together, argued again, ended up having to sit separately, and I got to watch the woman scowl all the way to Bergen.
Bergen, Norway is sort of a perfect little port town, and sort of not. It’s nice to look at, no doubt, with its harbor and its open-air seafood market and its neat old buildings. We got in on a Saturday night, though, hankering for a good meal at the Asian place we saw across the street. By the time we got checked in and ready to put food in our faces, thought, it was closed. It closed promptly at ten o’clock. Since there was nothing else right there, we walked into the main square, where too many places were closed too early and too many others were American chains. TGI Fridays taking up a prime spot, charging the equivalent of $35 for a burger? No, thank you very much.
Thank goodness, Bergen was far more welcoming by daylight, when everything was open and the waterfront was on display. We had only a few hours before our train back to Oslo, where we spent a ridiculous amount of money at Joe and the Juice the following day, before our return flight to Scotland. In that limited time, we walked along Bergen’s water’s edge, went through the old fort, ate fresh seafood and fruit, and climbed a big hill.
Bergen From Above
Sitting in Bergen that first night, after about eleven hours in total on trains, boats and buses was also the first time I ever experienced full-on dock rock. Which, unfortunately, I learned is not, in fact, a Norwegian musical styling.
Oh, and while we were in Oslo, we walked a different way and found two art installations.
Note the man standing on the wall.
Is this where we all pretend these are not giant boobs?
This is why we don’t plan our travel too far in advance. We are simply not a planning people. We tried to plan on saving money in Sevilla for the summer, so we could do our crazy spending in November and December, but (as you might recall from my previous post) that worked out for approximately the week it took to decide we were utterly dissatisfied (disgruntled?) with the living arrangement.
Hey, not being able to sleep is pretty much a deal-breaker.
So, our next month was spent in Málaga, which I didn’t have an opportunity to write about, given my more pressing writing, but I shall say all the pretty things about Málaga now.
Aside from that first week in our Málaga rental feeling like a damn paradise in comparison to our Seville place, Málaga was beautifully fitted to our lifestyle. Early to bed and early to rise and all that, but the truth of the matter is I am late to bed and late to rise. It’s a natural rhythm for me, and I like it just that way. So, the ability to get up and work twelve or thirteen hours ’til ten or eleven o’clock at night, then go out for dinner, a long walk and frozen yogurt at midnight? Don’t mind if I do. What a pleasure to have the convenience of things being open that late. Even if the hours for the grocery stores (and the selection) were… um… spotty, to say the least.
I had a lot of work to finish up during our time there, so my days were spent outside our mortal world. Nights in Málaga, however, were truly magical. There were many walks up the steep slope to the base of the castle that overlooks the sea, and one dedicated trip to the castle’s tippy-top. We spent a lot of time on the promenades along the waterfront, and went few nights without the best frozen yogurt in the entire world or the frozen bars just off the plaza. Unfortunately, due to someone’s work schedule (ahem), we went in nothing that was open in daylight only, which means a return trip is on the agenda.
Not that that’s a bad thing.
Castillo de Gibralfaro
Málaga Cathedral at Sunset
Noche de San Juan Parade
Málaga Train Station Empty at Night
I love this building so much.
We came in on a late train when we went back to get our stuff in Sevilla, and it happened to be the last train in, which is the only way I could ever have gotten an empty train station. So cool.
The cathedral at sunset looks exactly how it looked. Such perfect lighting.
That parade readying for Noche de San Juan took place the night of Shawna’s birthday, so she chose to believe they held it on her behalf. Speaking of Sevilla, which I did, three paragraphs ago, we did a day of sightseeing the day we went back to get our things.
Though Málaga was a rather lovely sort of place to be (aside from those grocery store hours/selection), realizing we could squeeze in a week someplace else before our transition to Scotland, we looked for another place to pop for a week.
Since I endure flight best when it doesn’t require more than one take off and landing in a day, we stuck to places with direct flights from Málaga with the hope we could train to our rental in Dunfermline from wherever we ended up. The solution to this equation turned out to be Brussels. Much like Oslo, Brussels was a place I had never given much thought, aside from the fact that I would kinda like to go everywhere, but, like Oslo, I was very glad to have ended up there by chance. The ever-present comic culture is truly captivating, the chocolate really is that good, and the frites… those frites… my God, it’s like pretty much straight-up lard poisoning, and yet… yet… we stuffed them in our faces almost everyday.
There were also multiple waffles.
On a contradictory note, we did eat incredibly well in Brussels when we weren’t eating animal-fat-fried fries, chocolate and cream covered waffles, just-out-of-the-oven chocolate brioche or straight up chocolate, thanks to my latest favorite food spot, Exki. Fresh, local wraps and soups and salads, oh my! Plus, they have these juices that are practically a religious experience. My favorite was raspberry and pear, pretty much everything right with the fruit kingdom. They also made perfect lattes, and apparently the first U.S. location just opened in New York in June. Because I must have done something karmically-satisfying.
We walked all over that damn city, up and down and all around. Honestly. We did not just eat.
Here’s some proof.
Mannekin Pis – or – La Pipi Mariachi
Protector at Parc du Cinquantenaire
Belgian Comic Strip Center
Piccaso-ist Church Window Ever Picassoed
Look! It’s an EXKI!
While spending our nights in Brussels, we also spent one crazy day visiting both Brugge and Gent. More proof.
Gent Ass Ad
If you would like to see more photos, you’ll find them at Brussels, Brugge and Gent. Password once again “bubbles”. There is also an album dedicated solely to Brussels street art – here. Just a few, but definitely worth a look.
All my books are $3.50 (USD), or the rough equivalent in other currencies, on Amazon and direct through Smashwords. Sorry, quick price changes don’t go into effect fast enough on affiliates like B&N and Apple, so if you need a format other than Kindle, you’ll have to buy through Smashwords.
I will stop the sale whenever I get up on July 27th, but you can count on these prices until at least 11:59 pm Pacific Time.
Before I tell you about my super exciting, ultra-awesome, one-day blowout sale situation, I must let you know that Black Forest: Magicks Rise is going to be delayed by a day. That’s right. One day. It will be up and available for purchase at Amazon and Smashwords on Wednesday, July 23rd.
The good news is, unless you are on absolute tenterhooks regarding the goings on in the Black Forest, I suspect you would choose to hold off on your purchase until a few days after the release anyway. Here’s why –
This Saturday, I turn 35. I once read 35 is the birthday when you officially become old. So, in honor of becoming old, I am holding a one-day sale of all things Riley LaShea. All my books (including Magicks Rise) will be $3.50 all day on July 26th. (I know it’s cheesy, just go with it.) At least, it will work out that way in Europe and the U.S. I will start the sale price the night before and return to normal pricing on Sunday, July 27th. I’m not sure how that works out for you other time zones, but trust there will be sale pricing some time around Saturday.
So, yeah, a small delay, but also a sale. So, if you have any of my books on your “To Read” list, Saturday is a good day to make that purchase.