Monday, June 24, 2013

Aussie Road Trip Days #1 & #2

Posted by Maryde
WELCOME TO OUR AUSSIE and OVERSEAS VISITORS.     Please Join me in fun and adventure as we experience some Australian History.                                  

To the Left is Australia.
And below is the state of NSW.

 If you live in a LARGE country then you already know about the joy (or loathe)  of Road Trips.
 When DH and I travelled overseas, I spoke to many people in smaller countries and it came to my notice that lots of people think 4 hours on the road is an AWFUL long time. I mean, take Europe for instance, you can be in another country in under 2 hours drive, whilst here in NSW, to get from the East coast from - let's say - Sydney and drive West to Broken Hill, close to the boarder of South Australia (SA) it is approx 10 - 14hr drive. A good full day and a bit.
But Us Aussies love to go for a drive.
We can go 3- 4 hrs one way (maybe more) in a day just to visit a place and  then drive back home again the same afternoon or evening.
Previously on holidays, we have left a relatives home in Coloundra Qld, - 90kms North of Brisbane, at 8.30am and arrived home at 9pm that night. Even with the road works on the Pacific Highway, (all Aussies are nodding their head at this moment) <g> and it was a comfortable, easy trip.
Over the past 30 years my DH and I have travelled much of this great land. We've even driven to and from Perth-WA, twice.

Now I'm going to invite you to come along on *Our Journey's*, as we tour this lovely & diverse land and share some of it's wonderful sites. We will revisit old favorites and search for new & exciting destinations around this HUGE country and I'd like to share these travels with you.

As with the rest of the world, all through-out Australia you will find beautiful FREE or low-cost camping sites which are ideal if you are in a fully self-contained Caravan or Motorhome or even Tenting. There are 1000's of these spots, and we are going to check out as many of them as we can :)
Here I have plotted the route we took for this 7 Day trip. 
Along the way I'll share photos, some history and interesting snippets.
So settle in your armchair, put a bookmark on the page you're reading and come along for the ride.

Day #1 We couldn't have picked a worse day to begin travelling. In the morning, I went to my HunterRomanceWriter's group in Maitland, so it was a little  after Lunchtime before we could get away. We left the Central Coast under a torrential downpour of rain. I was skeptical that the weather was going to clear, but DH was certain the storm would break the further Nth and West, we drove.
 Turns out he was right - 3hrs later the sun poked it's way out from under grey clouds. It was late afternoon by the time we reached out first overnight stop at Burning Mountain and it was cool and clear. We pulled into the camping area to find 1/2 a dozen motor-homes already set up for the night. It's comforting to know that there are so many friendly people out there on the road, that you never feel quite alone. 
Because this trip was more of a reconnaissance mission, and we had planned roughly where we wanted to go in a limited amount of time. (always the way with holidays), unfortunately we never got to do the 5Km walk to actually SEE the Burning Mountain, which I wished we had, But it is on our Bucket List now :)

I did some research and found that the name of the Mountain is Mount Wingen, approx 224km north of Sydney. (That's about 160kms from the Central Coast).
The name comes from a smoldering coal seam running underground through the sandstone. Scientists estimate the fire has been burning for 6,000 years  and it is the oldest known coal fire. It is believed the smoke coming from the fire is volcanic in origin.

More info on Burning Mountain

Now depending on where you stay around the country, most areas have amenities - but not all FREE camping places do, so you have to check. But I did find the amenities varied from place to place. Some are the basic of *necessities* while others are a lot more modern and accommodating  But there several important traits they all had in common - they were clean, the locks worked and there was ALWAYS toilet paper!


Day 2 we left Burning Mountain and continued North on the New England Hwy. The day  dawned a beautiful fresh  and  clear and the road ahead was easy travelling.

We came to  Gravity Hill (click on the link and find out the unusual story of Gravity Hill) and turned off the steep winding road up to Moonbi Park Lookout. What an amazing picturesque View.                                                        

Travelling north,we passed through Tamworth and stopped off at Armidale for a cuppa and to gather fresh supplies. Then we drove on to Dumeresq Dam, about 5km just out of Armidale.
At the moment this camping ground has FREE camping status, but some of the locals said that will be changing soon. Although $12 per night (aprox) will still be a bargain for such a lovely spot.

 What a beautiful spot this turned out to be. I'd never been here before or even heard of it. There was an easy 3km walk around the dam. The dam wall is off limits to walk on as it may not be safe. There are supposedly Trout in the dam, but not a one graced my dinner plate, thank goodness for home made burgers and salad & Tim Tams for desert  :)


There were surprising little havens like this arched track and bridge crossing the creek. We spent 1 night and half the next day here. We moved on just after lunchtime.   Here is the Claytons Photo!
The photo you have to have when you don't want a Photo!  "SMILE!"

 I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some Australian Wildlife but believe it or not other than a few water fowl, they eluded my camera this time round.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Last of the Romanovs

Russian history has always been something of a blind spot for me, probably since I fainted during the film Nicholas and Alexandra (I’m just not good at people talking about blood  disorders like Haemophelia!) so my recent trip to Russia was an eye opener.

Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra and their five children - Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei
In St. Petersburg, the line of Tsars since Peter the Great are interred in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, a surprisingly modest church placed in the middle of the Peter and Paul fortress first constructed by Peter the Great. The question on the tip of my tongue to ask my guide as we entered the church was “What became of the remains of Nicholas II and his family?”.  I didn’t need to ask the question because there, in a little chapel in a corner of the church, are the remains of the last Tsar of Russia, his wife, children and family retainers, interred in July 1998.

My father’s ongoing interest in the fate of the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, Anastasia, rubbed off on me and I had read several books about the last days of the Romanovs.  I love a good mystery and the question as to whether the youngest daughter of the Tsar survived has one that intrigued me for years.

Tsar Nicholas II succeeded his father, the oppressive Alexander III in 1894. In his short reign, Russia went from being a major international power to economic and military collapse. His reign was marked by the violent oppression of any form of opposition to military disasters in the Russian Japanese wars and the first world war.  Following the October revolution of 1917, he was forced to abdicate and he and his family were imprisoned in the pleasant rural Alexander palace in Tsarkoye Selo (outside St. Petersburgh). Initially the British Government offered the family sanctuary but Nicholas’ cousin, George V vetoed the plan, believing Nicholas’ presence in Britain would provoke revolution in that country. 

The Tsar and his family in Tobolsk 1917
Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, their four daughters and their sickly son were moved deeper into Russia first to Tobolsk and then to Yekaterinburg where they were lodged in the house of the engineer Ipatiev. This house would infamously become known as the “House of Special Purpose”. There the family were kept on soldier’s rations. Their few remaining jewels were sewn into the girls’s clothing and they struggled to keep warm in the harsh climate. They sustained themselves with the belief that someone beyond the walls of the Ipatiev House would be plotting to release them while around them a civil war between the “soviet” forces and the loyal “White” Russians raged.

By May 1918 the White Russian forces had begun to prevail and  in view of the proximity of the enemy forces to Yekatrinburg and the threat of a plot to release the Tsar the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet made the decision to execute the Tsar whom they deemed (without trial) “guilty of countless, bloody, violent acts against the Russian people.”

The bullet ridden cellar of the Ipatiev House
On 17 July 1918, the Tsar, his wife, his children and their loyal servants were led down into the cellar of the Ipatiev House where an execution squad awaited them. The Tsar died first. The four girls, protected to some extent by the jewellery they wore in their clothing, survived the first hail of bullets but were bayoneted and stabbed to death. The bodies were taken by lorry to a disused mine where they were stripped, dismembered and burnt by fire and acid.

A few days later the town of Yekaterinburg was taken by the White Russian forces and an official enquiry launched. It concluded that the entire royal family and their servants died in the cellar of the Ipatiev House.

Anna Anderson
Many “pretenders” to be one or other of the slain family appeared in the years following but the most persistent was Anna Anderson.  In 1920 a young woman came forward claiming to be Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Tsar. In her biography she claims to have been wounded in the Ipatiev massacre and rescued by one of the Red Guard, named Tchaicovski. He carried her across Russia in farm cart to Romania where she bore him a son. She claimed Tchaicovski was killed in Bucharest and her son placed in an orphanage. Abandoned and in despair she threw herself into a canal in Berlin, revealing her “true” identity to the police sergeant who pulled her out. Superficially her claims had some credence…she was the right age, she had scars consistent with some sort of violent encounter and no papers.  Controversy over her claims raged for her lifetime and various Romanov family members were called in to interview her but contrary to films and plays she never met her ‘grandmother’ the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna. Anderson died in 1984, still claiming to be Anastasia.

The remains of the Romanov family were exhumed in 1991. They had actually been discovered many years earlier by an amateur archeologist but the discovery kept secret during the dying days of the Soviet government. DNA tests on the skeletons proved without doubt that they were the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, three of his daughters and the family servants. However the remains of the two missing children fuelled speculation that these two had, in fact, survived and there may be credence to Anderson’s claims.

In 2007, the remains of the boy, Alexei, and the fourth daughter (later identified as Maria) were discovered by accident, closing once and for all any claims that members of the Romanov family had survived the massacre. It is speculated that they were removed by their murderers from the mass grave of the rest of the family to obfuscate the number of bodies which could have led to an earlier identification.

Scientists working on the remains of the Romanov family

In the meantime DNA testing had been carried out on some samples of genetic material belonging to Anna Anderson and compared against the DNA of the Duke of Edinburgh (Lord Mountbatten was a first cousin of the Romanov children). There was no match. However there was a match to a Polish factory worker called Franziska Schanzkowska, a young woman who had been injured in a factory accident and with a history of mental illness. A story in itself.

The last two members of the Romanov family are still to be interred in the chapel of St. Catherine but soon they will all lie together – at peace at last.

My own photograph of the last resting place of Tsar Nicholas II, his family and loyal servants

For more reading: Click HERE

Alison Stuart is the author of the multi award nominated GATHER THE BONES, a "Downton Abbeyesque" ghost story set in 1923.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Winner of a Copy of BLOODLUST DENIED

A big thank you to everyone who popped by and helped celebrate the release of Bloodlust Denied last week :-)

I put all the names into the hat and my lovely son drew out the winner:



I'll be contacting you shortly! 

"I wanted to figure out what was going on and why the two had such fiery chemistry: their sex scenes (and they were frequent) leapt off the pages to tickle and entice in all the right places like a giant steam bath. The push/pull of the characters, their complete confusion about their attraction and their own thoughts added a level of enjoyment to the story."  4 Stars The Jeep Diva 

 Read Chapter One ~ Over 18s Only

“I was very happy when I read the blurb, as I am a fan of paranormal, erotica, and I love a good regency romance.  Phillips gave me all three, so how could I not be absolutely thrilled!“  4 Stars  Vampire Romance Books

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Dangerous Duke in Regency London ~ Bloodlust Denied

I’m delighted that my dark Regency romance, BLOODLUST DENIED, has hit the cyber shelves! I’d always wanted to write a Regency romance, but when I began this book I realised my hero Alexius was no ordinary duke.

He was a two thousand year old vampire, who had long ago cast aside his honor and buried his conscience. He took what he wanted and he wanted Morana.

It wasn’t quite what I’d planned for my hero but he was adamant that this was his story and I had to tell it. You don’t argue when a hero turns all Alpha on you :-)

But that was OK because I was sure that his Regency lady heroine would show him the error of his ways and redeem him. Except I soon discovered that far from being a frail human woman, Morana was a Maiden of Death and pledged to rid the world of vampires.

I loved researching the Regency era. There’s something irresistible about the social customs and etiquette of the period. One of my favorite scenes in both the BBC series and the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice is when Darcy and Elizabeth dance. The formality of the dance combined with the undercurrents of repressed sensuality is just magic.

In BLOODLUST DENIED I have a scene at an assembly where Alexius and Morana dance together. On the surface they portray the perfect Regency couple. But their body language tells another tale entirely. 

Tired of the thin-blooded aristocrats in 1815 London, Alexius yearns for better sport. He is drawn to a dark-haired seductress who shows no fear and refuses to obey his commands. Entranced by such novelty, he denies his bloodlust and decides to keep her to warm his bed.

 Immortal vampire hunter Morana has never mistaken her prey before, but the dark stranger mesmerizes her, enticing her to forget everything but the dangerous pleasure she finds in his arms.

Neither one can deny the pull of the other, but there is something beyond the lust—a recognition neither can put a name to. The past and present collide and unless they discover the truth behind the lies, Death will triumph once more.

Inside Scoop: Silk makes much softer shackles than iron, but is just as binding as our lovers engage in light BDSM sport with spanking and mild submission in this risqué Regency story.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave


This is the scene where Alexius first meets Morana. And yes, his final thought in this scene is ironic :-)

The refined garden square of St James faded into the distance, and the dank underbelly of London rolled over him like a fetid corpse. Whores called out to him, reached for him, their already dead eyes following him. But tonight they weren’t enough. Their polluted, weary blood offended his senses and revulsion skittered along his spine at the thought of slaking his hunger with any but the one he sought.

He turned into another dark alley, the stink of decay and despair wrapping around him in an unwelcome caress of death. But threaded through every beat of this misbegotten city her scent throbbed, rich, vibrant. Closer.

So close he could taste the sweetness, savor the texture, feel the thick luscious fluid as it pumped down his throat. Lust stirred deep in his groin, thickening his shaft and the haunting melody of a single violin scarcely penetrated the heavy thud of desire that pounded through his temples.

And then he saw her, captured in the flickering light of a single lantern. Long black hair cascaded down her back and slender arms arched above her head as her lithe body undulated to the exquisite strains of the violin.

She appeared oblivious to her captivated audience, and Alexius ignored the dozen or so drunken men gathered around her. They were of no consequence. This woman was his, and he intended to have her.

The intricate crescendo sank into his brain, pounding in tandem with escalating lust. The woman spun faster, heedless of the broken cobblestones, heedless of his deadly intent. Focused only on her own pleasure in the music, in the movement, in the sensuous cocoon she wove.

With dramatic flourish, the shadowy musician ended the solo, the final note echoing through the dark alley like the call from a lover long since forgotten. Yet still Alexius couldn’t move toward her, as if he was still enchanted by the magic eroticism of her dance.

She flung back her head, her wild hair framing her face, and looked directly at him. His heart, no longer a slumbering organ, slammed against his ribs, pulses escalating.

He hadn’t felt so alive in millennia.

Read Chapter One ~ Warning: Over 18s Only!


I have an e-copy of BLOODLUST DENIED to giveaway to one lucky commenter on this post! Just leave a comment or let me know one of your favorite scenes from a Regency book or movie.

The contest is open until the end of the week, when I will pick a winner and post here on the blog on Friday.