Friday, May 31, 2013

May Wrap-Up

It's that time again...the end of another month. Summer is coming! *jumping up and down* 

Before I get too excited, I should probably recap May. I started out fairly strong, but then fizzled over the long Memorial Day weekend. *shrugs* I'm disappointed, but not distraught. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. That said, I'm determined to get back on track in June.

Here's what I did this month:


~ Thanks to my brilliant CP, Natalie, I'm now an official user of Dropbox. It's a breeze to use. It makes exchanging critiques super easy. And it provides another way for me to backup my WIPs.

~ I added 25 random fun facts about me to my bio page. To read them, click on the "Meet Jena" tab at the top of this page.

~ I'm still working on revisions to chapter one of my Highlander novella. Gah, I'm such a slow writer! I did manage to hit the halfway mark, though, and I really like the changes I made. I hope Nat likes them too. I think hope she will. After all, I took her advice and added more action to the scene.

~ I served as a judge for the Young Adult category of the Celtic Heart's annual Golden Claddagh contest. It was my first time judging a contest. I enjoyed the process, mostly because I like to critique but also because Natalie was the Young Adult category coordinator.   


~ My dear friend came through surgery and is now cancer free! Her recovery is going well, which makes me very happy.

~ My hubby participated in his first ever road bike race. While he danced on the pedals, I stood at the finish line to cheer him on and snap photos. It was fun. 

~ The hubby and I joined cycling fans at our local velodrome to watch the track races. Our favorite American pro cyclist, Tyler Farrar, was in attendance. We got to see him race and meet him face-to-face. It was a-maz-ing!

~ I received a jury summons. I've been summoned before, years ago. It wasn't an enjoyable experience. The selection process is agonizingly long; it's difficult to sit there for hours on end. The chairs are uncomfortable. People are grumpy. I intend to read and outline to pass the time. I hope it goes by quickly.

~ I read 3.5 books this month. All of them were YA novels. I'm due to read an historical romance soon. I attempted to read one a few weeks ago, but couldn't get past the first chapter. I hate when that happens. 

How was your month? Did you do anything fun? Did you see any good movies? Did you read many books or meet your writing goals? Do share!
Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cover Swoon Sunday: Land of Shining Water Series

I saw the cover art for the Land of Shining Water series by Tracie Peterson in RT Book Reviews, and fell in love. The colors, landscapes, and models featured on the covers of this inspirational historical romance series are so striking.

What do you think about these covers?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fun Fact Saturday: Scottish Targes

Saturdays are for fun and random facts. One of the fun aspects of writing historical romance is the research. Recently, I spent some time reading about Scottish targes. Here's what I discovered:


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From the early 17th century until the Battle of Culloden in 1746, the Scottish Highlander's main means of defense in battle was his targe. After the disastrous defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden the carrying of the targe would have been banned and many would have been destroyed, or put to other uses. Those that remained have intricate patterns and are well decorated, indicating that they could have originally belonged to important people.

Targes were generally, but not always round shields between 18 inches and 21 inches in diameter. The inside of the targe was formed from two very thin flat wooden boards, layered, with the grain of each layer at right angles to the former. They were fixed together with small wooden pegs, creating a form of plywood. The front was covered with a tough cowhide which was often decorated with embossed celtic-style patterns. This was affixed to the wood with many brass (or in some cases silver) nails. Occasionally, brass plates were also fixed to the face for strength as well as decoration.

 The Cross Targe was designed and crafted by Mike Pruette.
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Some targes had center bosses of brass and a few of these could accept a long steel spike which screwed into a small “puddle” of lead that was fixed into the wood under the boss. When not in use, the spike could be unscrewed and placed in a sheath on the back of the targe. A Highlander armed with a broadsword in one hand, dagger in the other and a spiked targe on his arm would have been a formidable enemy in close combat.

Courtesy of
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: Highlander Betrayed

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Guardians of the Targe, Book 1
- Laurin Wittig
- Historical Romance

- Montlake Romance
Expected Pub Date - August 6, 2013

Deep in the rugged Scottish countryside lies the Highland Targe, an ancient relic that, along with its Guardian, shields the heart of the Highlands.
For centuries, the MacAlpin clan has watched over the Targe, but Lady Elspet, the current Guardian, is gravely ill. Her niece Rowan MacGregor, the rock of the family, is doing everything she can to hold her clan together when she meets Nicholas fitz Hugh.

Handsome and charming, Nicholas quickly joins clan life—yet he is not what he seems. A cunning spy, Nicholas is charged by the king of England with stealing the Targe, part of a plot to break the Scottish rebellion.

Despite his loyalty to the king, Nicholas finds himself falling for beautiful Rowan. When Lady Elspet’s health worsens and the Guardianship is in question, Nicholas must choose between the king’s will and his own. Can he betray his king and mission? Or will he turn on the woman he loves and the family he has come to care for?

Why the heck haven't I read a romance by Laurin Wittig?!?! I love Highlanders! Well, I'm definitely going to read this novel. It's my kind of book. =)

 -- Book blurb courtesy of author's website --
Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cover Swoon Sunday: Bad Taste in Boys

So I finally got around to reading Bad Taste in Boys. It's a fun, hilarious YA zombie novel by Carrie Harris. I'm enjoying it very much. The science nerd heroine is refreshing and spunky. There's lots of excitement. But my favorite part of the book is the cover.

Based on this cover I thought the book would be chock full of sexy high school drama. It's not. Lips do play a part in the story, though I'm not sure what the sugar crystals have to do with them. But I don't care. I like the sugared lips. They're so pretty and pink.   

What do you think about this cover? Does it make you swoon?
Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fun Fact Saturday: The Execution of Anne Boleyn

Recently, I started a new blog post called "Fun Fact Saturday". It's a way to share the random and interesting historical facts I come across while researching my WIPs. 


 Photo Source:

Most people know that Anne Boleyn was executed on May 19, 1536, one day after the executions of her brother, George Boleyn, and the other four mean accused of treason. But what many people don't realize is that her execution was actually scheduled for May 18th at 9am.

It is said that Anne prepared for her execution by praying into the early hours with her almoner and then taking communion with Kingston just before dawn on the 18th.  Kingston confirms that she swore twice on the holy sacrament, once before taking it and once after, that she was innocent and he reported this to Cromwell:-

“This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should her speak as touching her innocency always to be clear.”
Anne also arranged for the £20 that the King had given her to be given out in alms to the people and then she prepared herself and waited for 9am – we can only imagine her thoughts and how she must have prayed.


Sir William Kingston returned not to walk Anne to the scaffold, and to her death, but to bring news that her execution was delayed until noon because the executioner had been delayed. Was this true or was Henry VIII being cruel to his wife?

Some historians believe that her execution was actually delayed because a crowd of Anne’s supporters had gathered and because Henry VIII was still waiting for Archbishop Cranmer to finalise the annulment of Henry and Anne’s marriage and the illegitimacy of Elizabeth. To ready yoursef to die and then be told you’ve got another 3 hours’ wait must have been awful, but all Anne said was:-

“Master Kingston, I hear say that I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry there for, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain. I have heard say the executioner was very good and I have a little neck.”
and then she laughed.

A Further Postponement

After three hours of what must have been complete hell on earth, Anne Boleyn was told that her execution had again been delayed because the Calais swordsman had still not arrived. Kingston confirmed that her execution would take place on the following morning at 9am. 

We know from Kingston’s reports to Thomas Cromwell that, contrary to belief, Anne Boleyn had many supporters in London and that Kingston was worried about the growing unrest and a possible breach of the Tower’s security. Kingston recommended that the execution time be kept secret and Cromwell may well have delayed her execution in the hope that her supporters would disperse.


A Marriage Over

On the 18th of May, an ecclesiastical court convened by Archbishop Cranmer confirmed that the marriage of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn was null and void because of “certain just, true and lawful impediments unknown at the making and since that time confessed by the Lady Anne”. The issue of the marriage, Princess Elizabeth, was made illegitimate but Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry was not reinstated and Henry VIII now had no legitimate children as heirs to his throne.
The ecclesiastical court also issued a dispensation allowing  Henry VIII to marry his new love, Jane Seymour, even though his great grandmother and her grandmother were cousins. Preparations then began for the Royal wedding.

Anne sent Henry VIII another message through one of the Privy Chamber:-

“Commend me to his Majesty, and tell him that he has ever been constant in his career of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a Queen; and now that he has no higher degree of honour left, he gives my innocence the crown of martyrdom as a saint in heaven.”

How could a man, who had once loved this young woman so much that he pursued her relentlessly for seven years and broke with Rome on her account, let her go to the scaffold so cruelly and needlessly? How can love and passion turn to such hate? Who can know the mind of Henry at this time?

 Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, The Tudors (2007-2010)

The next day the awful wait was finally over and Anne Boleyn met her fate on the Tower green. It is reported that her head was taken off by one stroke of the sword and cannons fired, to announce her death. 

This was a tragic end for an incredibly influential Queen of England, a woman who was framed and murdered by politicians and a tyrannical king who would let nothing and nobody stand in his way. Within 24 hours of Anne Boleyn's execution, Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane Seymour.

Courtesy of The Anne Boleyn Files
Friday, May 17, 2013

My Friday Love (8)

Happy Friday!

My Friday Love is a weekly meme, which spotlights the things you loved during the past week.

The Great Gatsby. I took my mom to see The Great Gatsby on Mother's Day. We're both big Baz Luhrmann fans, and I adore Leonardo DiCaprio. My mom and I both loved the movieeven more than the Robert Redford version. Everything in this Gatsby is bigger, brighter, and noisier. Everything is drenched in gorgeous color. Baz has such a talent for dazzling the eye and drawing you into a scene with spectacular visuals, stunning costumes, and rockin' music. 

All of the performances in The Great Gatsby are terrific. My mom and I were quite impressed with Joel Edgerton who plays Tom Buchanan. But the star of the movie is Leo as Jay Gatsby. He's boyish and sweet. He's sexy and secretive. He's self-assured and magnificent. He's vulnerable and shattered.

Leo truly shines in this role. I highly recommend the movie.

Body Butter. This week I bought myself some I Love Coconut & Cream Body Butter, which I discovered at Fred Meyer. The body butter comes in a bunch of different fragrances, like Vanilla & Ice Cream, Raspberry & Blackberry, Mango & Papaya, and Lemons & Limes.

The Coconut & Cream butter is super creamy and smells divinejust like the beach! I will definitely buy this brand again. I love it!

What are you loving this week?
Saturday, May 11, 2013

Fun Fact Saturday: The Paris Time Capsule Apartment

I'm a hopeless Francophile who dreams of Paris. So when I saw this article on The Paris Time Capsule Apartment, I got very excited. This Parisian apartment left untouched for over 70 years was discovered in the quartier of Pigalle a few summers ago. Time to unlock the vault...

The owner of this apartment, Mrs. De Florian left Paris just before the rumblings of World War II broke out in Europe. She closed up her shutters and left for the South of France, never to return to the city again. Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91. It was only when her heirs enlisted professionals to make an inventory of the Parisian apartment she left behind, that this time capsule was finally unlocked.

The team that had the honor of opening what must have been a very stiff old lock for the first time in 70 years, likened the experience to ‘stumbling into the castle of sleeping beauty’. The smell of dust, the cobwebs, the silence, was overwhelming; a once in a lifetime experience.

There is a further twist to the story. In the apartment a painting of familiar style was discovered of a beautiful woman in pink. One of the inventory team members suspected this might be a very important piece of treasure. Along with the painting, they also found stacks of old love letters tied with colored ribbon.

With some expert historical opinion, the ribbon-bound love letters were quickly recognized as the calling card of none other than Giovanni Boldini, one of Paris’ most important painters of the Belle Époque. The painting was his. The beautiful woman pictured in the painting was Mrs. de Florian’s grand-mother, Marthe de Florian, a beautiful French actress and socialite of the Belle Époque. She was Boldini’s muse. And, despite him being a married man, she was also his lover. The art world went a bit nutty for the whole story and the painting was later sold for $3 million at auction.

What's intriguing about this story is not so much the discovered painting and the revelation of a love affair between a great Italian painter and the beautiful actress in an enchanting era, but more the story of Mrs. de Florian and why she stayed away from Paris for so long.

What kept her away even after the war? Was she running away from someone or something other than the Nazis? For all those decades, her rent on the elegant apartment in a flourishing city had been faithfully paid, but it was left to freeze in time. 

It all sounds like the perfect mystery…

via The Telegraph, photos by GETTY.
Friday, May 10, 2013

First Line Friday: The Other Life

Happy Friday! 
I get excited about great first lines. It gives me a little thrill when I open up a book and the very first sentence I read hooks me. I want that first line to pull me into the story and make me want to keep reading.
I made run to the library this week and checked out several books. One of them is The Other Life, a YA zombie novel by Susanne Winnacker. I like the first line a lot. Here it is:
"3 years, 1 month, 1 week, and 6 days since I'd seen daylight."
This first like is really quite terrific--even more so if you haven't read the book blurb and know nothing about the story. It immediately had me wondering what the heck was going on and wanting to know more. And that's exactly what a great first line should do. 

What do you think?  Does this first line hook you?    
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday: To Sin With A Viking

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Forbidden Vikings, Book 1
Author - Michelle Willingham
- Historical Romance

Publisher - Harlequin Historical
Expected Pub Date - July 23, 2013 in print
August 1 in e-book

Caragh O Brannon defended herself bravely when the enemy landed--only, now she finds herself alone with one very angry Viking...

Styr Hardrata sailed to Ireland intending to trade, never expecting to find himself held captive in chains by a beautiful Irish maiden.

The fiercely handsome warrior both terrifies and allures Caragh, but he is forbidden territory.  He is the enemy...and he is married.  Yet Styr harbors a secret that just might set them both free...

A must-read for Viking fans!

 -- Book blur courtesy of author's website --
Monday, May 6, 2013


In 1952, in an effort to firm up a flabby industry, National Corset Week was declared in Britain.  Over one thousand store windows were filled with mannequins wearing corsets.

 Illustration by Mauro Scali, Esquire, 1952
Photo Source: -

Corset sales were constricted in the '20s by free-flowing flapper fashions.  In 1947, Dior's "New Look" called for a nipped-in waist, and the corset enjoyed a brief resurregence as a waist-cincher.

 Black Corset, circa 1952
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Merry Widow advertisement, 1952
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Actress Lana Turner in the Merry Widow
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But by the 1950's, most women had abandoned the corset for the pantie girdle.
Caprice Girdle advertisement, 1955
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Perma Lift ads, 1952
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Made of stretchable "lastex" with satin panels, the girdle was less than perfect: it rolled up if not held down by stockings attached to its suspender-like hooks. 

 -- Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger --
Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cover Swoon Sunday: Duke of Midnight

It's been awhile since I swooned over a cover. And then I saw the Duke of Midnight, book six of the Maiden Lane Series by Elizabeth Hoyt, which is due to be released this fall.

 Front cover and stepback.

Soooo swoon-worthy, don't you think?! I love the almost-kiss and the gorgeous emerald gown. The stepback presents an equally stunning image. It shows off the fancy details of Georgian dress and the shirtless hero to perfection.   

What do you think about the cover and stepback art?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fun Fact Saturday: Lyle's Golden Syrup

I love random facts. So I've decided to dedicate Saturdays to all of the random fun, interesting, sometimes weird and useless facts I come across while researching for my WIPs. 


1881. Abram Lyle, a successful Scottish businessman set about constructing a sugar refinery on the banks of the river Thames with his three sons. The company became known as Abram Lyle & Sons. And so began the story of one of the world’s oldest and best loved brands. 

1883. From working in the sugar business, Lyle noticed that the sugar cane refining process produces a treacly sort of syrup, which could be further refined. The result was a delicious preserve and sweetener for cooking. He started selling small quantities of “Goldie” from wooden casks to his employees and local customers. 

1884. Word spread quickly that the syrup was delicious and soon Lyle was selling a ton a week! He replaced the wooden casks with “Lyle's Golden Syrup” dispensers, and they soon began to appear on the shelves of grocery stores all over London. It was only a matter of months before the tin, as we know it today, started to be used.

1904. The "lion and bees" tin was registered as Lyle's trademark. The design comes from Abram Lyle's religious beliefs: it's a reference to a story told in the Old Testament, in which Samson killed a lion, then saw that bees had formed a honeycomb in the lion's carcass. The bible references Samson's words that also feature on the tin "Out of the strong came forth sweetness". The logo and design remain unchanged today.

1914. During WWI, metal was in desperately short supply, as all available material was being used for the war effort.  So for the duration of the War, the "tin" was made from thick cardboard--the first big change to the packaging in nearly 30 years of production.
1921. The descendents of Henry Tate & Sons and Abram Lyle & Sons merged the two businesses into one company: Tate & Lyle was born. Henry Tate and Abram Lyle probably never met, despite operating refineries less than two miles apart in East London.

1922. Golden Syrup became so popular that Lyle's even supplied it to the King of England. As a result they were entitled to include a "Royal Warrant" on the tin--a symbol to show that Lyle's was an official supplier to the Royal Family. The Warrant has proudly remained there ever since.

2007. Lyle's distinctive was confirmed by The Guinness World Records as the world's oldest brand. The famous Golden Syrup tin is a familiar sight in British kitchens. 

-- Courtesy of; Photo sources: Flickr--

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Releases

The month of May is chock full of good things. It's National Strawberry Month, believe it or not. It's Cinco de Mayo, a great excuse to drink a margarita. It's time to watch the Kentucky Derby, the show of horses and hats. It's Mother's Day, so don't forget about mom. It's Memorial Day, a day to remember the men and women who died while in service. The long weekend is a nice time to hang with family and friends, have a picnic, eat a hot dog and corn on the cob.

A new month also means new book releases. Funds are limited in my household these days, so my hubby and I decided that we're not going to buy any more books until Christmas. Oh, the torture!!! Thankfully this new no-book-buying rule doesn't apply to 99 cent e-books. *claps vigorously*

Anyway, no visits to the bookstore mean more visits to the library—which isn't a bad thing because my local library is so darn gorgeous. Here is the book I want to buy check out this month:


Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris -- May 7

This is the final Sookie Stackhouse novel. I've read all of the books in the series and can't wait to find out how everything wraps up. 

What's on your must-read list this month?