Thursday, December 20, 2012

No Place Like Home For the Holidays?

Hey all,

I'm back and just in time to talk about one of my favorite holidays--Christmas.  

While I hate the crowds, commercialism, and buying frenzy that seems to happen no matter how hard I try to avoid it, Christmas to me is about surrounding yourself with the holiday...with family and friends who are important.  Being thankful for what I have...for what God has given me.

I always decorate like a crazy woman and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to give gifts to the people I care about. Jonathon learned early on that trying to rein me in at Christmas time is like trying to hold sunshine in your hands.


But being overseas makes everything different.  1)  I don't have my Christmas decorations--so I had to go to IKEA and get a few things.  But I can't justify spending hundreds of euros on something I'm just going to leave behind, so I didn't get much.  So while the house is's not what I usually do.

2) The gift giving is curtailed BIG TIME.  My kids got gifts...already sent home with Jessaca when she was here, and I just sent out another box because I couldn't help myself.  LOL  They'll get a Christmas card as well.  Late, but I forgot to send it with the box.  So gifts will be given to our friends here at the circus and of course to my sweet baboo.  He'll be totally embarrassed as usual with the abundance.

But I can't get all I'd like because a) we can't carry it and b) unless it's awesomely wonderfully cool, it's hard to buy something you KNOW is just going into a box and sit for several years until we're done traveling.

So gift giving has changed too.

3)  The atmosphere is different.  Not being home with all the familiar sights and scents DOES make a big difference.  I can't pull out my crock pot and do my Christmas potpourri or spend hours in the kitchen making up all my favorite cookies, candies and breads.  That's a part of Christmas I can do a little here, but not what I would normally do.

4)  And finally, my family.  I miss them.  This is the third Christmas away from our children and it's the hardest part of all.  We went from EVERYONE being there to no one and that all by itself makes the holidays a lot harder for me.  No going to the Epcot Christmas with Jessaca or watching Muppet's Christmas with Jeramiah.  No making Christmas turkey with Jasiah or having pop gun fights first thing Christmas morning with the whole family.  *sigh*

But it was a choice we made to do our adventure and when we did, Jonathon and I decided we would have to make our new traditions.  It's easy to slip back into old habits and then be disappointed, but each year it gets a bit easier.  So now, instead of shopping at Walmart and Macy's, I go to Christmas Markets.  Instead of making my usual wassel, I've learned to make gluhwein.  And while I can still make traditional Christmas cookies, I've added German spiced gingerbread to my repertoire.

I've learned that being home for the holidays isn't a place...but an attitude.  Learning to embrace and enjoy where you are and what you're doing.  And since wherever Jonathon is...that IS my home, it's a lesson I'll gladly learn.

May your own Christmas be blessed with love, family, friends and laughter.  And may all your Christmas dreams come true!

Hugs to all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, December 16, 2012

So Have You Heard About the Internet In Berlin???

Hey everyone,

Another quick note to let you know I'm still alive.  The internet here in our Berlin residence is ridiculously bad, and the problem has NOT been rectified by the management. Jonathon has gone out and dealt with it on his own, so if all goes well (keep your fingers crossed) I'll be back online fully by Wednesday.  That means I should be able to get a blog up.  We'll see.  *sigh*

I'm sorry it's been so crazy, and I can only hope Hamburg is better. 

Have a great rest of our weekend as well as the first of your week.  I hope you are all enjoying the holidays!

Hugs to all!!!
CJ England

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Castles, Cuckoo Clocks and Crazy Kings

Hey all,

Finally I get to tell you about our Castle Trip.  With the really BAD internet here and Blogger doing it's normal weirdness, I haven't had a chance to tell you some of what we did.

It was a great trip and we REALLY enjoyed our time with Jessaca.  It went by too quickly and we didn't have nearly enough time to do all we wanted to.  But I suppose that's the way it is with vacations.  So much to little time.

But this time it wasn't just the journey or seeing the sights, though that was all awesome.  It was being able to spend time with our daughter.  She's my bestest girlfriend, and I've missed her so much.  I love knowing I can see her and it's as if we've never been apart.

We immediately went into kibitz mode and chatted until our voices dried up and called for mercy.  It was great!!!

The trip itself was so much fun.  We hit several places.  Amsterdam, the Romantic Road, Zurich, Fucking Austria (just to say we did), Paris and Cologne.  And a dozen places in between.  We saw castle ruins, medival towns, castles that had been restored to their original glory, churches, scenic waterways, forests and meadows, and beautiful, snow covered mountains.

We spent the first two days in Amsterdam so she could see all the sites we so much enjoyed.  We took her to our favorite castle there, Muiderslot, and on the way back to Dusseldorf, we stopped by a new castle, Het Loo.  And that was just the start of our castle touring.  Germany is almost as crowded with ruins as Ireland was!

We visited the castle in Mannheim, toured the ruins and fell in love with the town of Heidelberg.  We saw the castles in Johannisburg, Wertheim, and Wurzburg.  And that was just the first couple days.

We followed the Romantic Road through Germany, dipping in and out of small picturesque towns and wishing we were independently wealthy so we could spend more time in each of them.  We went back to Munich, this time to visit several of that cities castles, then we were off again to get our pictures taken with the sign of Fucking, Austria.  Just because we could.

We sighed over the beauty of the lake where Saint Bartholomew's Chapel sits and had snowball fights in the Tyrolean Alps.  And we spent almost two full days touring the castles of King Ludwig II. 

These I have to say were the highlights of the trip.  He may have been an odd duck, but Ludwig sure knew his architecture and artwork.  Each of the three castles we visited we outstanding.  No wonder Walt Disney chose one of them--Neuschwanstein--to be used as his signature castle in Disneyland.  And it's beauty also graced the big screen in the movie, Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

We spent two days in the Black Forest, showing Jessaca all the cute little towns and picking out our number one souvenir of Germany, a Cuckoo Clock.  It's my souvenir and Christmas gift all wrapped up into one.  LOL

Then it was on to Paris where we wandered the city, showing Jessaca the sights.  She LOVED it there, and I think she'll be planning another trip in her future!  We took her to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and a dozen other places.  I love Paris.  It's one of my favorite cities in Europe, and I think now it's Jessaca's too.

Then it was on to our last two stops...Aachen Germany, where we wandered the beautiful little medieval downtown and paid our respects to Charlemagne, who is buried in the Aachen Cathedral. Then, on our way home, we spent a day in Cologne, another picturesque German town with a lovely cathedral, waterway, fort and old town area.

We hated to get back to Dusseldorf, because we knew it was the end of not only our trip, but Jessaca's time with us.  It was so hard to say goodbye, and I cried for a whole day after she left.  I still tear up thinking about her.  

But it's not so long until I'll see her again.  We'll be heading to Florida to visit all our kids before we move to San Paulo, Brazil in South America.

And that's a whole 'nother story.  LOL

Until Sunday!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A New City---Berlin

Hey all,

Sorry about Thursday's blog.  I'm not sure what happened.  I had it set to go before I left, but for some reason it didn't post the text.  Just the title.  Sometimes I think Blogger hates me.  *sigh*

Not only that, the whole post disappeared.  Poof!  Right into cyberspace somewhere, so I get to start over.

**Double sigh**

Anyway, at the bottom of the post I'll announce the winner of the Castle Trip Contest and everyone who entered should receive a postcard sometime in the next month.  Depending on the mail.  LOL

But today's blog isn't about the trip.  I'll redo THAT one on a later date.  Today's blog is about my new city.  Berlin, Germany.  I've been out a couple of times since we've been here. (Been getting unpacked and I had edits on a plus size novel to work on.)  But so far, the area where we're staying is very close to most of the museums and beautiful churches and buildings that I want to visit. 

I walked around on Thursday a bit, just to clear my head, and I found some beautiful things.  The university is set in a building that looks like an old palace--have to do some research on that.  Then there is the Museum Island complex.  Five museums all in one area.  Beautiful buildings and area.

The Deutscher Dom--a big cathedral, and the smaller St. Hedwigs were two churches I wandered by.  There are more, but I forced myself to stay in the neighborhood for my first walk.  I did see the Christmas markets all being built.  Most of them open on Monday, so I'm champing at the bit to go see those.

Monuments are everywhere.  The Neue Wache (New Guard) memorial has the graves of the Unknown Soldier AND the Unknown Concentration Camp Prisoner.  It looks a bit like a smaller version of the Lincoln Memorial.  

What I found really interesting is there are placards stating information about the buildings in the area.  What they were used for throughout the years--even info about what the Nazis used them for.  At first I was a bit put off by that, but once I thought about it, I realized they weren't editorializing or commemorating that time of history, they were just reporting the facts.  So people could know and learn.  That I appreciated.

From our apartment window, we can see the dome of the Berliner Dom and the Funkturm Radio Tower on the right and the Tiergarten (big gianormus park) and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to the left.  Around the block is the Brandenburg Tor--once a gate between West and East Germany.

And on Thanksgiving night, after we ate our dinner, we walked the remains of part of the Berlin wall and talked about what we could be thankful for and the freedom we so often take for granted.

I've only been here a few days and I'm looking forward to seeing what the city offers.  I can't wait to see the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie and the Topography of Terror Museum.  The Second World War and that part of history is more Jonathon's forte, so I'm curious as to what I can learn about that time, not to mention the other attractions the city has to offer.  The churches, parks, zoo and theatres.  

But for now, I'm off to finish up some paperwork, then I may go out again and wander.  It's a gloomy day, but it's late November.  If I wait for sunshine, I'll be in San Paulo Brazil before that happens!

See you on Thursday with a rant and a smile!!!  And don't forget to scroll down to find the name of the winner of the contest!!!


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thanks to everyone who entered.   I loved all the comments!!!!

 The Grand prize winner is.....

<<<Jennifer Mathis>>>

Runner Up and winner of a


Congratulations, ladies.  Please send an email to to give me your snail mail address, as well as the address you want your free book sent to.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Midnight Seductions

Hey all,

Just a quick detour from our regularly scheduled programming.  

I'd totally forgotten that my Midnight Seductions group is having it's FIVE YEAR BIRTHDAY PARTY this weekend, and we're celebrating with a Blog Hop.

So, we'll push back the Caption Contest for another week.  That will give everyone a bit more time to enter.  For anyone interested in playing, go HERE for the rules and the beginning of the contest. Or see the last installment of photos to caption, HERE.

But today, in honor of our five year celebration, I have a blog about birthdays.  We all have them, so what exactly makes a birthday a day to remember?

According to Websters Dictionary, it means... a: the day of a person's birth, b : a day of origin, c : an anniversary of a birth.  But personally, I like Sammy Hagar's meaning best. 

Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.

I love that.  The idea of getting a fresh new start each and every year of your life.  To take what you've learned the year before and make it a starting point from that moment on.  To build on the ups and downs...the rights and wrongs and look toward the future.

At Midnight Seductions, we've come a long way in five years and I've enjoyed every minute of it.  We've built on what we've done and what we've learned together, and we've all benefited from each other's mistakes and triumphs.  I've not been as active this last year since I'm overseas, but the friends and professional relationships I've made will last a lifetime.

One of the best things about birthdays is getting presents, but the Midnight Seduction's Authors aren't the ones getting the gifts...we're going to give them.  On the Blog Hop, for all our fans, we're giving away the chance for a fantastic prize.


How awesome is that?

And it's easy for all of you to win this wonderful new ebook reader.  To find out how to enter, go to the Midnight Seductions Blog.  There you'll get all the deets, as well as find the other authors for the blog hop.

Some of the authors also have individual contests as well, and you enter them to be a part of the main contest.  How do you enter my individual contest?  Easy Peasy.  Only two things to do.

1.  Leave a comment below with your favorite birthday memory.  That's the EASY part.  

2.  Now the PEASY.  :-)  Join my Chat group.  (The link is below)  Send an email to the group introducing yourself.

That's it.  Do the above and you'll be entered!  For my individual contest, I'll pick a winner early next week and announce it on my upcoming Thursday blog.  And the prize for it?  Your choice of my latest release, Luck Be A Lady or my upcoming Christmas release, Frosty...The Real Man.  (If you have-or have pre-ordered one of the books already, send me the receipt and we'll find another of my books you don't have.)

So take the time and get to know a few new authors. 

Different genres, heat levels and styles, but sure to please.  And you might be the one who takes home the Grand Prize of a KINDLE FIRE. 

And that will be a BIG Happy Birthday to YOU!!!!

Good Luck and I look forward to hearing all your great birthday memories!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

 Follow Your Dreams

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 15, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - Last Thursday Pics

Hey all,

I've never been able to take a picture of my cat smirking, so this one just made my day!!!  Love the satisfied look on his face.  *snicker*


And now we have your very last chance to enter the blog contest.  You can go back to past blogs if you need to make up your five entries, but make sure you go over each other them carefully so you have everything you need to win the contest!!!

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  And this one, taken off the coast of Amsterdam, is a beautiful one to play with.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, November 11, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 3rd Sunday's Pics

Hey all,

This historical one is another of my faves.  I about fell over laughing, but that wouldn't have been ladylike.  LOL


Now, here we go with your next picture to work on.  This one has too many possibilities to count!  *grin*

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, November 8, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 3rd Thursday's Pics

Hey all,

I'm not sure why this one makes me laugh like a loon, but it does. ROTFL.  Hope it gives you the giggles, too!


Now, here we go with your next picture to work on.  I took this here in Dusseldorf.  See what you can come up with...

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, November 4, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 2nd Sunday's Pics

Hey all,

I love this one.  And since I used to bike ride on roads just like this back in Florida, I really can relate to this funny!  LOL


Now, here we go with your next picture to work on.  As a Trekkie, I couldn't help bringing in a Spock pic to play with. *grin*

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 2nd Thursday's Pics

Hey all,

All I can say about this picture is... *SIGH*  I adore Sean Connery.


Now, here we go with your next picture to work on.  This quiet, beautiful place is a perfect one to find a caption or quote for.

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, October 28, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 1st Sunday's Pics

Hey all,

This is one of my all time favorite funnies.  The look on the cat's face just cracks me up!  LOL


Now, here we go with your next picture to work on.  I'm sure you can come up with something hilarious for this one!  *grin*

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, October 25, 2012

CJ's Vaction Blog Contest - 1st Thursday's Pics


Hey all,

Hope you enjoyed your first funny!  I can't help but smile every time I see this one.


Now, here we go with your first picture to work on.  This one just screams for an inspiring quote. 

Remember you can do up to three captions/quotes per picture.  So get that brain a working!!!!  Need to see the rules again?  Check HERE for that.   Good luck and Have Fun!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh YEAH...It's My Vacation!!!!!

 No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.
-- Elbert Hubbard

Hey all,

As mentioned before, I'm heading out for vacation and the above quote pretty much says it all about how WE do our time away from home.  We'll pack it so full of fun and adventure, we'll be exhausted when we get back!  LOL

But just because I won't be around doesn't mean the blog will close down completely.  While I may not be here to kibitz with you, I've set blogs ahead of time so you'll have a bit of fun while I'm gone.

I'll even toss in a contest, just to keep you guys from getting too bored.

So each blog will be two-fold.  Something to make you smile, and a contest to keep you coming back for more.  Ready to see what I mean?  Here we go.

Simple, really, so you won't have much to do.  Below are the rules for CJ's Vacation Blog Contest...

1.  In each blog I will have a picture.  These are pictures I've either taken myself or received from someone online.  Some will be landscape, some, fantasy type, and some, a character, person or animal.

2.  To enter the contest, you must do the following things.  EACH ONE needs to happen or you won't be entered.

 a.  Take a good look at the picture.  Then, give it a caption.  This can be like an LOLcheeseburger type humorous caption, or you can do a famous quote.  Just make sure you acknowledge the author of the quote.

 b.  Write your caption/quote in the comments section available with each blog.  Also tell us why you chose the caption/quote.

 c.  You can submit up to three captions/quotes per picture.  Please put each one in a different comment box.  Each will be considered separately.

 d.  Send an email to with your snail mail address, full name, and email contact address after the first blog picture you caption, so I'll have you on record as entering the contest.

 e.  To be considered for entry, you MUST submit captions/quotes for a minimum of five pictures.  You can do them all, and those will be considered as well, but you have to do five to be entered in the contest.

 f.  All entries must be turned in by November 18th to be considered.  Anything coming in after that will be disqualified.

 g.  In each blog I will have a link back to this blog so you can review the rules if necessary.

*Note *  Want to be entered twice for every picture you do?  Then have a friend enter and complete the contest.  All they need to do is let me know in their first comment that you (YOUR NAME) sent them and you'll be gold.  And for each friend you bring to play, the number of entries go up.

Now, even if you don't consider yourself as creative, give it a shot anyway.  It's not the quality that counts here, but the willingness to try.  We all love to laugh or be inspired, so let's see what we all can come up with.

3.  When I'm back from vacation, I will go through the entries and use my Photoshop program to add your captions/quotes to the pics.  I will then post them on the blog, so all can see what you've come up with.  Some will also be shown on my chat list and FB page.

4.  Once that's done, I will put all the entries in a hat and choose two winners.  These will be chosen by November 30th, and the winners will be announced on December 2nd.

And what will you win?  How about this...

For everyone who enters as the rules require, you will receive a postcard from me, here in Germany.  A little something special to say thanks for being a reader.

The grand prize winner will win a special basket filled with German goodies.  Things I'll put together as Jonathon, Jessaca and I do our castle tour.  There will even be a few German Christmas treats, since Germany is so famous for it's holiday.  Plus, you will ALSO win my latest release, Luck Be a Lady, from MUSA publishing.  (If you've already purchased that story, send me a copy of your receipt and you can have your choice of another book)

And the runner-up winner will receive, a copy of my latest release, Luck Be a Lady, from MUSA publishing.  (If you've already purchased that story, send me a copy of your receipt and you can have your choice of another book)  Plus a small, something special gift from the Black Forest in Germany.

How does that sound?  Pretty good?  Cool!

So stand by!!!  It all starts next Thursday with one of my favorite pictures for you to work with.  Remember to follow the rules carefully.  Don't leave anything out and get disqualified.  It's not hard, and once you've started, I think we'll all have a blast.

So take care, and I'll see you back on the 18th of November.  God bless and love you all!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, October 18, 2012

God's Gift Is A Family

Hey all,

Two more blog posts and then I'm on vacation for a whole month!  WooHoo!  My daughter is coming to visit us and we'll be busy exploring and having a great time together.  It's been almost a year since we saw each other, so we're going to go hoarse yammering about the latest news.

It's hard to be away from my kids.  My son Jeramiah's birthday is today, and I can't hug him and wish him well.  (If you want to, go wish him Happy Birthday on his FB page.  You can embarrass him for me!  LOL

My other son, Jasiah, is having eye surgery at the end of the month, and I can't be there to hold his hand.  Sometimes, living the dream isn't all that it's cracked up to be.  *sigh*

But at least Jessaca is coming, so I can get a mommy fix.  She's not just my daughter, but a good friend, and we'll whisper and kibitz and do all the things that best friends do.  Jonathon will sigh and roll his eyes as we ogle hot guys, but he loves watching us together.  His two best girls, he calls us.

I can't wait.  I've been looking forward to this time for months.  Jessaca and I are enough alike, I can pretty much plan our time and she'll fall right in.  She'll add her own ideas, and for the most part, they'll dovetail right in with mine, and we'll have a blast.

I think I mentioned we're going to go on a castle tour.  We're heading out the week after she gets here and doing the Castle Road and the Romantic Road here in Germany.  We'll see as many castles as we can before we get bored, soak in the scenery, and once we've had our castle fix, we'll move on to the next phase of the trip.  

We especially looking forward to seeing Neuschwanstein Castle, which is what Walt Disney patterned his Sleeping Beauty Castle after.

We'll also go back into the Black Forest so she can see Triberg and some of those areas.  We're hoping the fall colors are still around so she can enjoy them.  Not a whole lot of autumn in Florida.  LOL  

Then we're heading to Paris for three days.  We're going to show her the sights, do Paris Disneyland and let her experience the magic of the city.  I can't wait to show her all the places we enjoyed.

We're also going to do a weekend in Amsterdam.  She really wants to visit, and it's only a couple of hours away from Dusseldorf, so we're heading there first thing.  There are a couple of castles there we can see as well.

So, as you can see, I'll be busy.  It won't be my whole family to hug and squeeze and call George, but I'll take it!!!!

But I don't want to leave y'all hanging, so I'm going to do something special for those weeks I'm gone.  A fun contest to keep you guys reading, and you'll win some fun prizes as well.  So, on Sunday I'll explain all the rules and get things started.  Okay?


So give your sons and daughters or other various and sundry family members a hug, and remember how special it is that you can do so.  Some of us have empty arms and can only give cyber hugs, even when our babies may need more.  Jessaca's hugs will have to last me until next March when we go home to visit between the tours of Europe and South America.  I plan on loading up on the hugs and kisses then. out!!!  Mommy's coming home!!!  

Until Sunday,


CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Travel Makes a Wise Man Better

~~~Meine Mama hat immer gesagt, das Leben ist wie eine Schachtel Pralinen, man weiƟ nie, was man kriegt~~~

Hey all,

The above quote is in German, and for those of you who don't speak the language, don't go translate it quite yet.  See if you can figure it out by the clues in this blog.  *smile*

As you all know, we moved from Zurich, Switzerland to Dusseldorf, Germany.  We rented a car for less than it cost to fly--even with the one way fee--because Jonathon had gotten to know the manager there at Europcar in Zurich, and he was able to make us a really great deal.  I'd much rather drive than fly--you see so much more of the country AND you don't have to deal with all the mess at the airports and customs.  

Plus, there is that all important aspect that you can find all kinds of amazing things on your way.  We call them distractions...things you see along the way that you 1) stop and explore immediately or 2) add to your already expansive Bucket List, to do later.   Depends on your time and inclination.  

On the way to Dusseldorf, we ran across this amazing church in the town of Limburg, Germany.  It sits above the town like a king on a throne and is the quintessential German-looking church.  Called the Cathedral of Saint George, it's distinctive yellow and brown gingerbread architecture can be seen for miles.  Absolutely gorgeous.  We couldn't stop, so it's added to our list to visit when our daughter comes for a visit.  She loves churches, too.

Finding something like this is like getting a box of chocolates for Christmas.  You open it up and you see all the yummy goodies inside, but you don't know what each one will taste like until you give it a try.

And that, my friends, in a nutshell, is what traveling is all about.

We never know what we're getting into.  It's exciting and scary and irritating, all at once.  For me, who loves to know her plans months in advance (except for writing where I NEVER know what I'm going to write until I dream it) this is quite a stretch.  I've learned not to expect much, so I'm usually happy with what we get.  Especially in a hotel room.

Will we have a big enough bed? (in China a double bed was considered HUGE)  Will we have a view or the city or a parking lot? (or the building next door--lovely *sigh*) Will there be enough room to move around or will the room be the size of a closet? (only Paris was small and it was still big enough to maneuver--carefully) Will we (please God, let it be so...) have a refrigerator and an ironing board?  

Simple things, yet important to daily living.

Then there is getting around in the city.  Will the public transportation systems be easy to navigate?  Will we be close by the city center or out in the boonies?  Near the circus tent or on the other side of town?  Will we have a grocery store nearby or will I be hoofing it or taking a tram?  Will Google map work properly or is it blocked?  (Here in Germany I can only use it for part of the public system--VERY irritating!!!)

Think of it this way.  You've moved your family to a new city.  That means you have to start from scratch, setting up your household.  You have to find schools, the best shops, how to get to work and where all the activities are.  Now multiply that times forty-three (the number of cities this show has been in since it's inception) and you'll have an idea of the challenge we go through each time we move.

Don't get me wrong.  The benefits are OUTSTANDING.  Where else can you travel on someone else's dime, see landmarks and famous sites all over the world and have a chance to do all those things on your bucket list?

And you never know exactly what the next day may have in store for you.  A scary thought for me at first, but it's just a way of life.

Who knew running away to join the circus would be so much fun?

Be back on Thursday with more fun!

PS...Have you figured out the quote? *VBG*

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are You Feeling Lucky?

Hey all,

It's been a while, but tomorrow I have another book being re-released.  This story is another of my favorites (I know I always say that), one I did way back when I first started writing professionally.  It's been revamped, restructured and expanded, and IMHO, is now a better book because of it.

It's one of my favorites not only because of the unusual premise and fun-loving secondary characters, but because it was the first book I ever really did on-site research for.  Let me share again how the book came to fruition.
Now as you know I only write books that take place in an area I've traveled to. (Even my Sci Fi and Fantasy books have a specific place that was used as a base.)  But Luck Be a Lady's destination was the first book I traveled to JUST because I wanted to write a story.

Where did the research actually take place.  Vegas?  Reno?  Atlantic City?  Maybe New Orleans?  Stay tuned and I'll tell you!!!

First off, the idea for the story came from a commercial.  It was one of those romantic, airy types where a gorgeous man in a tux is kissing a beautiful woman as the sun sets over the deck of a  ship. *sigh*  
As they murmur their love to each other, the camera pans out and you see it's not a cruise boat but one of the special nightly casino cruises.  Excitement fills the air as dealers spread out winning cards, and slot machines sing out the glad tidings that someone just won a huge pot.  The lovers kiss one last time before disappearing into the casino to see if their luck with the tables can match their luck with each other.

Well, that's all it took.  I dreamed about that commercial, and out of the dream emerged Lara, Justin and all the wonderful characters from Luck Be a Lady.

But I'm not a gambler.  My Nana (maternal grandmother) was, and she dragged me along to the casinos when I was old enough, but I hate playing the tables.  I don't like waste, and losing money is just too bloody wasteful for me.  LOL  Plus I've got that whole electricity thing going (remember I stop watches and cash registers and turn off lights), so I'm pretty sure the PTBs would frown on me spending much time near their machines.

Even with all that, Nana's love for the game was one of the reasons I wrote this story, and the book is dedicated in part to her.  Yet, the memories of Nana stuffing coins in a slot machine didn't help me when it came to making sure I described the rich ambiance and exuberance of a gambling cruise.  So I decided to go to the source.

Since we were living in Florida at the time, it was easy to sweet-talk Jonathon into a beautiful summer night cruise on a casino boat.  Especially since the one we chose was free.  Sterling Cruise lines did cruises most evenings.  The trips were four to five hours long and started and ended in Port Canaveral, Florida.  The cruise route took you out to international waters since that is where actual gambling can legally occur.

So we bought tickets, (Yeah, they were free, but you had to have them) put on our best duds and headed out for a fun-filled cruise.  I was really excited, looking forward to learning all the nuances for my story.  My sweet baboo was excited, because there was free food.

Did I mention neither of us gamble?

Anyway, once on board we explored the ship, had some drinks, and munched out on the buffet.  Not the best spread we'd ever seen, but it was filling.  (Made sure I changed that part in Luck Be a Lady.  Lara's guests WILL be impressed with their buffet choices.)  Then we listened to the band play and even did a little slow dancing.  *wink wink*

Then it was time to go to work.  Jonathon went back to listen to more music, and notebook in hand, I went to the casino to do my research.

Did I mention that casinos frown on people taking notes?

Yep.  I wasn't there for more than ten minutes before I was surrounded by big, strong security men.  Not the worst position I'd ever been in, but with my luck the smelly one named Bubba would be the one to strip-search me and demand the truth.

Luckily, in stepped in my hero.  Yes.  That's right.  There actually is a Justin Savage, and he turned out to be every bit the wonderful man I portrayed him to be.

His real name was Warren, and he was one of the floor bosses.  (He looked a little like Robert DeNero)  A foreign national who had worked on this type of vessel his whole adult life.  Once he heard my stammering story and peeked at my notes, he shooed security away.  He let me keep my notebook and escorted me back behind the VELVET ROPES (the inner sanctum) and became my mentor.  If I had a question, he answered it.  If I didn't understand something, he explained.  And he did all this while keeping an eagle eye on all the tables under his purview.

I had a wonderful time, gained a great deal of knowledge, and a lot of respect for the position of floor boss.  Those men and women have to be constantly on guard, making sure pit bosses, dealers and customers alike are acting fairly.  They are the ones who alert security when a problem develops, and they get to be the ones to hand out the big winnings if a guest hits the jackpot.

Warren was a great guy.  When his break came, he toured me around the rest of the ship answering questions and telling me about his life on the high seas.  He explained all about the legalities of cruise gambling and shared story after story about his time on board ship.When Jonathon came to find me at cruises' end, my sides ached from laughing so much at the different people Warren had met.  You'll see some of them in Luck Be A Lady.  They are some of the secondary characters.  I dedicated the book to Warren and even sent him a copy when it was published.  Sexy romance or not, he deserved to know he was my hero, if only for that one moment in time.

Sterling Cruises may not have cruises out of Port Canaveral any longer, but the night I spent researching on one of their ships is truly a highlight of my career.  I met the perfect hero for my book, enjoyed learning how the ship was run, plus I was able to spend a romantic evening with my husband. 

Not too shabby for a trip that was a tax write-off.   *VBG* 

And yes, as we sailed back into port, Jonathon and I replayed the scene from the commercial that started it all.  Another reason to love being a romance writer!!!!

Anyway, the book comes out either late tonight or tomorrow.  I believe THIS LINK should take you to where you can buy the book.  I'll check when it goes live and redo if necessary.  Keep an eye on my FB page or website for any update.
And as an added bonus, everyone who does purchase Luck Be a Lady, send me an email at  As a special thank you, I'll send you a beautiful post card from Germany!!!

Be back on Sunday with a glimpse into how I feel about moving from city to city while on tour with Cirque du Soleil! 


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams