Remembering Mitteleuropa

I’m still locked in mortal combat with the current book, so I’m offering another classic travel blog: a riverboat cruise on the Danube.  Rivers were the interstates of the past, and so much of European civilization developed along the waterways.  How better to explore than in a boat holding maybe 150 friendly, intelligent passengers and serving lots of really good food?

Like a plot element, the idea of a riverboat cruise simmered in my lizard brain for years, and in 2006, I thought it was time to do a cruise in Southern France.  Except that all the French cruises were booked for the time slot we had, and we ended up cruising the Douro River in Northern Portugal. It was great.

This year, I decided it was time to book that French cruise.  Urp. Once again, Southern France along the Rhone was sold out.  Which is how we ended up cruising Danube Riverthe Danube.  Again, it was great—the Mayhem Consultant and I are easily amused, and any interesting new place will be fun.  (Update 2023: we’d booked a French riverboat cruise for autumn 2022, but for a variety of reasons we cancelled it. I think I’m doomed never to travel the French rivers!)


Our Danube cruise started with a three day pre-cruise extension in Prague, which isn’t on the Danube, but really, how could we go to Eastern Europe and not see Prague?  The city has been an intellectual and creative center for centuries, and under the blighting hand of five decades of Soviet rule, it was spared rapacious developers tearing down beautiful old buildings.

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Guest Author Amanda McCabe dishes on Paris, Jazz . . . and Love!

ManhattanHeiress2Andrea here, and today I'm delighted to welcome my good friend Amanda McCabe to the Word Wenches to dish about A Manhattan Heiress in Paris, her new historical romance set in the 1920s. (fluttery sigh.) Amanda and I met many moons ago when we were both writing traditional Regency romances for Signet. She had since branched out into a variety of fabulously interesting time periods . . . so without further ado, let's hear what she has to say about how history inspires her writing!

You’ve started in Regency romance but have also written in a number of other time periods—Renaissance, Elizabethan, Victorian, Gilded Age Edwardian and the 1920s! Tell us a little bit about what draws you to exploring different eras.
I admit, I’m Amanda and I’m a history junkie!!  I’ve always been fascinated by the past, ever since I found a stash of Jane Austen and various Gothic romances/Heyer titles on my grandmother’s bookshelf.  (she was a history/book junkie, too!).  One author she collected especially was Barbara Cartland, and while even as a ten year old I had scorn for her whispery, stammering, wide-eyed heroines, I loved the historical settings she used.  Elizabethan, Regency, Victorian India, the theatrical world, Monaco casinos, smugglers in Cornwall, she had a bit of everything, and talked about them in author’s notes I devoured.  They sent me to the library to find non-fiction works where I could learn more.  So, strangely, I owe my love of history to—Barbara Cartland!

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Adriatic Shores

IMG_0630Adriatic Shores

By Mary Jo

I've written about the first part of our Italy to Istanbul cruise, and now it's time for part two, visiting countries on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. 


First up was Croatia, a beautiful country with mountains and a long stretch of sea coast.  Dubrovnik is perhaps its best known city, and it's spectacular.  We visited several years ago so instead of touring the city, we visited places in the country.  Above is a view of Dubrovnik from a road above the town. You can see the round shape, the walled city, and the orange roofs. We visited several years ago.  On the right is a picture of one Dubrovnik  a steep gardened alleyof its steep, stepped streets. I loved all the greenery along the steps!


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Happy New Year!

XmasChampagneChristina here. Today is New Year’s Eve and we should all be having a party – champagne, canapés, a huge gathering of friends and lots of fun, music, dancing and laughter. Obviously, that won’t be the case this time and I’m guessing low-key celebrations will be the order of the day instead. Personally, I don’t mind. I’ve never really liked all the hype around this one day – the older I get, the faster it seems to come around and I’d rather not think about how it signifies the rapid passing of time! I just want to spend the evening with my family, perhaps eating and drinking something special, and quietly welcoming the new year.

In Sweden, people say “Gott Slut” to each other until midnight, when this changes to “Gott Nytt År”. “Gott Slut” basically means “Happy Ending”, which has always sounded a bit morbid to me, but it is meant to be taken in a good way, wishing friends and family a happy evening and end of the old year before the new one arrives. I don’t know if any other countries have similar greetings? If you’ve heard of any, please let me know!

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Mood Music

Christina here. Lots of authors seem to listen to music while they write in order to get in the right mood – sometimes the same song over and over again to inspire a particular scene they might be working on. Many of them have specific playlists for each book with one song per chapter, which they mention either on their blogs or at the start of their books so that readers can listen along with them. I can’t do that. I need silence in order to compose my thoughts and disappear into my own little world, and music would drag me out of it because when I listen to something I really like, I get lost in that instead.

ThorThat’s not to say I don’t find music inspiring. I do, but I like to listen to it before or after I write, not during the process. And I also love to watch music videos as some of them are mini stories in their own right and they can trigger plots or characters in my head. Today I thought I would share with you some of the songs, music and/or videos that I’ve found helpful while writing my Viking stories and the reasons why.

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