Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Scotland Trip -- Day 1 in Edinburgh

Well, I've been home not quite a week, but its taken me this long to get back into some semblance of normalcy after being away for about 9 days.

My dear friend, Andrea and I, went on a lovely voyage to Scotland! It was a fun, adventurous experience, and I'm going to share with you all my pics from each day we were there!

We took an overnight flight, landing in Edinburgh Saturday morning. Having slept a few hours, and being pumped full of tea and adrenaline, we grabbed our rental car and hit the road. (Forgot to add this--when I got into the car, I totally freaked! There was no D for Drive!!! Had to have the guy come over to show me that A was the slot to put the gear in. A for Automatic! LOL, it was looking pretty precarious before that!) After nearly going into a round-about the wrong direction, and making a 36-point turn after turning into a parking lot on the wrong side, we finally made it to our first stop--Edinburgh Castle.

Here is a pic I took near the parking area looking up at the castle. At this point adrenaline was still pumping, but the thought of climbing up made our legs a little weak...

The walkway from the parking lot to the castle is called--Castle Terrace.

Another view of the castle from the walking path.

See the whole in the wall? I zoomed in on this. This could have two uses--a toilet, or a spot to drop boiling water or oil on enemies. I was certainly glad to be a visitor in this era.

A view of the castle from below. Can you imagine warriors climbing these rocks? It was incredibly steep. If they fell, they would most likely not survive. We were amazed by this, because in truth, men did climb this mountain and take possession of the castle during the War for Scottish Independence.

We finally made it to the top. This is a view of the town below, mountains and water in the distance. Just a beautiful, amazing sight. My breath was taken away (not just from the climb).

This is me outside the gate to the castle. I'm looking a little worse for wear after traveling over twelve hours, but I'm still super excited to be there!

A statue of William Wallace outside the castle gate.

A statue of Robert the Bruce outside the gate. We studied the for several minutes before realizing the one with the crown was the Bruce.

I love doors and this one was nearly twice as tall as me!

Through the gate, I had to take a pic of the portcullis, but you can barely see it. Lots of visitors that day!

This is the Scottish National War Museum. It had beautiful stained glass and looked like a castle himself.

The great hall. Look at that amazing ceiling.

A closer look at the hearth, some suits of armor, and a doorway that would have led the king or noble away from the great hall.

Queen Mary's chair

Figures of Robert the Bruce being crowned.

In addition to loving doors, I also love stairs :)

The front figures are Queen Mary being prepared to be crowned at 9 months of age. The figure in the back is Mary grown up--it said she was nearly six feet tall as an adult! An imposing woman, no wonder her cousin Elizabeth was afraid of her.

Yes, we did have to climb into the boxes to take pics, lol

This fascinated me! A cemetery for soldier dogs.
After leaving Edinburgh, I didn't take any more pictures... We had a three hour drive north to Inverness where we'd rented a flat, and believe me delirium was starting to set in as well as darkness. We took a tour through the Blair Castle area at night in search of a bathroom--no rest stops or gas stations to be found. However, we did discover a 20-pence toilet! And we were lucky to have a 20-pence coin! The town was eerily quiet and empty. Not a soul in sight. A little creepy.

We arrived at our rented flat around 8:30 that night, and then drove for another hour -- passing the same Chinese take-out 6 times--before we found a Tesco to buy some food. We were too exhausted to eat out as we'd been awake for over 24 hours with just a little nap. I was so excited they had a ready-made Moroccan cous-cous and vegetable samosas. Yum! Not exactly Scottish, but food music to this vegetarian's ears. Oh, and we met a very handsome young lad who topped-up our UK cell minutes, and then asked us why on earth we'd ever travel to Scotland on holiday. He thought we should be somewhere warm. But honestly, the weather was better than where we'd come from.  Both of us passed out on the big cushy chairs in our living room, and we slept until 11:30 the following day, lol! I haven't slept in that late since college!

Will post more pics of our second day of adventuring, tomorrow!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Release! Notorious Woman!

Happy release day to my alter ego, Annabelle Weston! Today the 3rd book in the Desert Heat series released!
Kate has a bad reputation. Since her pa’s murder, she’s been a whip-wielding, ball-busting hellcat, determined to prove she can run a ranch just as well as any man. Then her little sister goes and hires a new foreman—a foreman who makes Kate tingle in places she shouldn’t be tingling, not if she wants to keep up a tough fa├žade. When Jake takes liberties by kissing her—never mind where he kisses her—she clocks him in the chin then hopes he’ll kiss her some more. What’s happening to her?
Jake isn’t just at the ranch to help run the place. He made a bet he could tame Kate, a bet that would give him the money he needs for his own piece of land. He never expected her to be so ornery…or taste so sweet. And he never expected to like her more when she’s cantankerous. Unfortunately, it’s a bet he can’t afford to lose, even though he’s already lost his heart.
Inside Scoop: This historical romp is a sexy Western take on The Taming of the Shrew.
Copyright © ANNABELLE WESTON, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
About a quarter mile from the gate, he came upon a farmhouse, what appeared to be a bunkhouse on the left and a shed for a farrier on the right. Both could use a coat of fresh stucco. As Jake rode up to the house, he came to the conclusion these ladies were over their pretty little heads.
A chicken coop listed to one side. A few chickens scratched the dry earth. He doubted they laid a decent egg to breakfast on. The first winter storm would most likely knock the coop over. No self-respecting coyote would have any trouble breaking in and helping himself to a not-so-plump chicken dinner.
There was a good-sized barn with an empty corral behind it. Beyond the corral, a pasture where livestock should be grazing. He frowned. The girls had no idea how to run a ranch and obviously that idiot of a foreman who had worked for their pa didn’t either. Nobody had done a lick of work in a long time. Damn good thing he’d come along when he did. He’d fix the place right up.
Whoa there, boy! What was he doing? Thinking like that would have him trying to make a permanent home out of Crowley ranch. That wasn’t how it was going to be. He was going to win this wager and then get on to Texas where the real cattlemen lived. In his pocket would be a fat purse—enough to buy his own place.
Best to keep his goal in mind, else he’d wind up draining his blood and sweat on this spread with nothing to show for his effort.
Kate Crowley came out on her porch carrying a lit coal-oil lamp as the sun was about to set. She wore riding clothes and a hat. Thankfully, he didn’t see any whip or other weapon.
A gust of wind whipped her loose hair and reddened her cheeks. He had to admit she made a picture of Western country womanhood any man would be itching to come home to. The fact that for a split-second he thought of coming home to her disturbed him greatly.
Her eyes met his and he couldn’t help but notice taut nipples beneath her blouse. Jake sucked in a breath, his own body reacting with sudden lust. She drew a wool shawl tighter around her shoulders. It hugged her curves and gave the impression of vulnerability. She appeared sturdy enough, he reckoned, but there was no mistaking she was holding her own against a stacked deck.
“You found us,” she said kindly. In the dying light, Jake could see the gratitude reflected in her eyes.
“Yes ma’am.” Jake tipped his hat. He couldn’t afford to be sorry for her plight. Like he’d told the boys at the saloon, her dilemma wasn’t his concern. In six weeks, he’d be a man of means. Most likely, the sisters would be on their way back East, where ladies belonged. “You here to check on my sobriety?”
“Do I need to?”
He chuckled. She gave as good as she got.
“Come with me,” she said and stepped down from her perch. “I’ll show you where to put your gear.”
Like a general who’d just given orders, she marched off, her head high. He couldn’t help but watch the sway of her hips. No matter how much she tried to be one of the boys, this woman had virtues no man could ignore.
Resolve twitched his lips as he pictured her walking like that without any clothes on. Her ass would sway and dimple with each step. He imagined the curve of her bottom as he held her. Damn if he didn’t wonder what she’d be like underneath him. Would her fire scorch him?
His cock grew hard, pressing uncomfortably against his denim. He adjusted his stance, giving himself a chance to settle down.
Jake led Rascal to the bunkhouse where Kate stood waiting by the open door. She went inside, hung the lantern on a wooden peg and set the bedding on the nearest bunk. Her hands lingered a moment on the rough mattress, and seeing her bent over like that, Jake had the urge to come up behind her and press his aching cock against the curve of her buttocks.
Clearing his throat, hoping to gain some control of his lust, he asked, “Where are the other wranglers?” Jake poked his head inside.
“There aren’t any others,” she said, furrowing her forehead.
He raised a brow. She had to be joking. “You hired me to be a foreman. You mean to tell me I’m the only hombre working here?”
Her lips pressed together as she watched him, almost as if she was annoyed that he would question her. But question her he would. This was not the job he’d agreed to. Foreman was one thing. Doing the job of a dozen wranglers wasn’t.
“You’re our only employee. We can’t afford to hire any more help right now.”
“How in the heck do you expect to get the considerable amount of work that needs doing finished by the time winter rolls in?” He stared hard at her. “Which will be sooner than you think.”
Kate stepped forward, her shoulders pulled back, breasts pushed tight against her blouse. The intent he knew was to appear taller, stronger, but instead she looked hotter than hell and had him thinking of hauling her into his arms to feel the softness pressed against him. “I intend to do my share of the work. My sister too.”
Jake let out a whistle. “You must be joshing. I can’t bring cows down from these hills with a couple of women.”
Her eyes glowed in the lamplight. “That’s exactly what we are going to do, Mr. Madden. Are you telling me you’re not able to do the job?”
Jake pushed his hat back on his head. Was she questioning his abilities? He didn’t like what he saw but he wasn’t going to back down with so much at stake.
“I didn’t think so.” She rested her hands on her hips. Ample, curving hips. “You can put your horse in the barn.”
“No thanks. He’ll do fine in the corral. No use spoiling him.”
“Suit yourself.”
When she brushed past him, heat encompassed him. Instinctively Jake reached out, stopping her. She glanced up at him, fire filling her eyes. He breathed deep. She smelled of flowers, sugar. Gripping a tendril of her loose hair, he twirled it around his fingers.
“What are you doing?” Her voice was soft, husky, giving away that she was more affected by his simple touch than her words showed.
What was he doing? He wanted to kiss her. To touch her.
Instead Jake shook his head, pulling himself from whatever spell had overtaken him. He blinked a few times, dropping his hand to his side.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Castle of the Week: Bishop's Castle

Welcome back to another castle of the week! This week's castle is Bishop's Castle in Colorado (USA) and is presented to you by Joan Maze! Enjoy!


by Joan Maze
Yes, Colorado has a castle, a replica of a medieval structure that is still in progress, one called “The craziest castle in Colorado” by Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

As he indicated, one could easily miss the castle except for the cars parked at the side of the scenic highway in the San Gabriel National Forest. Some years ago, when visiting my sister in Colorado, we took one of our many tours of the area, and this one brought us by Bishop’s Castle.

We didn’t visit the castle as, I believe, they weren’t taking visitors at the time, but we stopped and I peered into the forest, trying to see the castle. I did see the very top peeking through the dense woods, and it fueled my imagination and tickled my senses.

The castle is open daily, year-round, but during daylight hours only. Admission is free, but donations are requested. The castle is located less than an hour’s drive from Pueblo. Information is available at www.bishopcastle.org under “Visiting the Castle.” Further details can be obtained by calling 1-719-485-3040.
According to the reporter:

            Made of native stone that castle builder Jim Bishop extracted (by permit) from adjacent national forest land, the castle features intricate wrought-iron bridges and walkways that cling to its towers. Bishop Castle is decorated with stained-glass windows along its front wall; a metallic dragon's neck and head jut from the apex of the castle's great hall. The dragon, made from recycled metal hospital trays, shoots fire from its gaping maw with the aid of a burner from a hot air balloon. The castle's fireplace vents through the dragon's nose, expelling smoke from the beast's nostrils.
This unique castle in “cowboy country” was, and still is, being constructed by one man. At the age of 15, Mr. Bishop purchased the 2 ½ acres for $1,250. Started as a family cabin in June of 1969, the structure grew to the castle visitors see today. As the reporter said,
            Fearless children clamber up its concrete steps and along the wrought-iron balconies. Their more inhibited parents move cautiously behind them, marveling at the craftsmanship of the hand-laid stone and metal work, including a basket-style lift that runs on a track from the ground up to the castle's great hall level.
Originally planned as a getaway to be in the mountains, hunting, fishing, climbing, etc., it was originally a family project, but Jim Bishop’s father quit the project in 1971 and Jim continued on. He and his family live in Pueblo.
            Because he used stone to build the initial cabin ("We were too poor to buy conventional building materials," he said), passers-by said it resembled a castle. So he decided that's what it would be and kept going. In 1971, Mr. Bishop's father, Willard, quit the project, and Jim Bishop has done pretty much all the work since, a point of some contention.
            "It is Jim, and only Jim, who has built the castle," reads the Frequently Asked Questions page at the castle's Web site, www.bishopcastle.org. On a water tank in the oldest corner of the castle, Mr. Bishop has scrawled a note explaining that his father helped with that part only. "Jim Bishop has constr. [sic] (by hand) everything else!"

            At one time Mr. Bishop allowed others to lend a hand here and there, but he had bad experiences with unskilled laborers getting in his way.
Following are photographs of this amazing castle, which I hope one day to be able to visit. My imagination has now conjured up a suspense/mystery of a woman fleeing for her life who comes upon the castle. But is there additional danger there?
Joan K. Maze
Writing as J. K. Maze