Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

OFFICIAL Press Release

Hey Everybody!

The official press release announcing the Extinction Biome: Invasion project can be found here on the Horror Underground website.

 Here's the link >>

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Extinction Biome Purchase Links


I am so very pleased to announce my involvement in Abaddon Book's EXTINCTION BIOME series!

Together with a co-author we've crafted the first book under an accumulative pen name, Addison Gunn, for this new hard military science fiction series which will release in monthly ebook novellas starting in February, then in a full paperback edition this June!

It's been an absolute BLAST to work with Abaddon on this exciting project - it has everything I love in a good sci-fi - explosions, conspiracies, plentiful battles and perilous situations, and creepy, deadly creatures...What more could you ask for? 


A thrilling new military SF series.

Four years in the military, training for a war that never happened, left Alexander Miller disillusioned and apathetic. Now, as second in command of COBALT, a corporate bodyguard unit for the biotech giant Schaeffer-Yeager, he’s little more than a glorified chauffeur to the wealthy elite. But times change.

A threat from the ancient past has reawakened, and like a Biblical plague it threatens to consume every ecosystem on Earth. Hordes of parasite-infected humans riot against the increasingly powerless authorities as vast fungal blooms destroy crops and terrifying beasts stalk city streets.

The last time this happened, T-Rex found itself on the menu. But mankind's got more than teeth – it's got guns. Miller and the men and women of COBALT are pressed into service to fight the onslaught, but they have no idea how cut-throat their corporate masters can be...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why Writers Should NOT Pre-Announce a Publishing Deal

Ok, I've got a confession to make.

A writing acquaintance of mine announced in a major trade publication that s/he was "working with" a specialized imprint of a major publishing house (who's name I am keeping to myself) on a book.

My first thought was initially, "YAY! Good for him/her!"

And then MONTHS went by and by happenstance, I thought, "Gee, I wonder when his/her book will release? I'd forgotten the release date listed in the trade mag."

So, I Googled the trade mag article (which came out this last spring) and there wasn't a publication date for the book in it. So, I checked Publisher's Marketplace, and there wasn't any record of the deal there either.


Now I've got my dander up.
So, I check the writer's agent's deals and the sale is not listed, and technically, neither is the writer even listed as the agent's client (which is actually not unusual, because agents and clients play musical chairs all the time and it's hard for the mags to keep up).

But, by now I'm totally confused.

As any traditionally published author will tell you: agents and publishers always warn the author not to announce any book deals until the contracts are executed, and the contracts (FYI), can take weeks, nay, sometimes MONTHS to fully execute - especially when there's a major publishing house involved who tend to have more bureaucracy than the smaller presses.

They always make the writers promise not to breathe a word until then, and the writers always cringe and cry and tell their best writer buddies under the blanket of top secrecy, and we wail, "Why? Why do they torture us by making us hold onto such WONDERFUL news?"

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS IS WHY.

The reason is because if word gets out, people will want to know specifics (like a release date), and if there is no record of the book deal anywhere - then YOU look bad (like you made it up or blabbed too soon) and that's bad, bad, bad for your career.

Like, no. Just don't do that.

So, remember, my writerly buddies, all those times I whined and complained about having to keep quiet about publishing deals for so long?



Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Dad was born in Denver Colorado in 1945. His father, an upholsterer by trade, had not served during World War Two because of a childhood injury that had left his arm bent. Dad's mother was a sales clerk at a yarn store in town.

Bobby, as Dad was called in his youth, was full of the dickens from a very early age. A tinkerer by nature, he would disassemble and reassemble every appliance in the house multiple times. He rigged his bedroom light to extinguish anytime someone laid on the bed, and he stock piled cables, cords, wires, circuit boards, and anything else he deemed interesting, stacking them in his closet so compactly his mother gave up trying to clean his room and left it a disaster.

At one point he had rigged an electric megaphone onto the front of his house and would heckle the neighbors and any cars that drove by - until the cops showed up at the front door asking him to stop. On several occasions, he hacked into the street's telephone wires and listened into the "Party Line" until a representative from the phone company came to their door.

Bobby was also a musician. He took accordion and piano lessons and was a natural performer. An extrovert at heart, Bobby loved to make people laugh. His favorite accordion song was "Lady of Spain" which involved him shaking the entire instrument against his chest in dramatic flair, all to give the illusion of vibrato.

At eighteen years old, Bobby (now Bob) was accepted into the electrical engineering program at the Colorado School of Mines, but as fate would have it, destiny had other plans.

Following a severe car accident, Bob was left with two broken legs, among other injuries, and his knees, which were already malformed and uncooperative, were now broken and bolted together with screws. Months of physical therapy and surgeries followed, and strapped by medical bills and lost hopes, Bob never attended the School of Mines, but instead, accepted a job demonstrating and selling electric organs at a local music store - putting to use his showmanship and charm.

At nineteen years old, a mutual friend introduced him to girl, a shy violinist who saw the moon and the stars in his gregarious charms, and Bob went home after the first date and told his mother he'd met the girl he was going to marry - and he was right.

Three months later, both a twenty years old, Bob married Donna. Donna was a book keeper at their neighborhood church, and an accomplished violinist who eventually taught lessons at the local music store.

They moved into a small apartment in Denver, where eventually Bob landed a job with NCR, repairing electric cash registers. After three years of marriage their first child was born, a daughter, Wendy.

More children followed. A boy, Allan, and two more daughters, Lorianne and Erin.

After repairing cash registers for several years, Bob moved the family to Ohio, where he taught classes for NCR technicians. He then accepted various positions in the technology profession, moving the family to Illinois, Pennsylvania, and California - each place bringing him further along the professional chain until he was head of customer service at an accounting software company.

When Bob retired, he and Donna moved to Washington State.

Ever true to himself, Bob remained a tinkerer his whole life. His houses were always equipped with a secret garage door opener so his kids could come and go throughout the day without assistance or keys. He rigged his mailbox with a motion-censored chime which rang indoors when the mail arrived. All his yard sprinkler systems were mechanized and timed. He was ready to accept any phone call from any of his grown kids, and friends, should they need advice on how to fix something.

He was quick with a joke, fast with a bottle of Scotch, and always willing to lend a helping hand, even when it was a detriment to himself.

He devoted hours of free time in service to his church. In his lifetime he'd served on almost every committee in the Presbyterian Church. From Finance, Property and Maintenance, Sunday School, fundraisers, plays, Session, Pastoral nominating committees - you name it, Bob served on it.

At his last church in Washington State, Bob served as Chairman in charge of the church's RV park and campground - fixing every leaky faucet, burnt and broken light fixture - to spearheading the permits and supervising the construction of a pavilion for the picnic area. It was his dream job, quite honestly.

At the end of August, 2015, at 70 years old, Bob was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and passed away four weeks later, surrounded by his family.

I know somewhere out in the ether Dad's sitting at a campfire, drinking Scotch, and cracking jokes.

I was lucky to have him as my father.
He'll be missed.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Paris Trip - Anne's Diary

Ahhh, Paris.
The city of love.
The city of art and splendor.
The freezing ass cold city of pushy tourists, pick-pocket warnings, and lines, lines, lines…

Paris Day One: Trip Day Seven

We arrived via the Chunnel after spending a week in London. Then, dragging four large bags out of the train, we lugged them through the crowded and chaotic Paris train station and immediately got lost.

The major problem? None of us speak French.
My youngest can make small talk, but she learned it phonetically and can't READ French, and although I took a DAY of linguistics in college before dropping the class, sadly, I did not learn how to decipher foreign languages perfectly.

Actual Quote: "I THINK that says, 'exit?'"

BTW - "Sortie" in French means "Exit." Just an FYI. I wish I'd known that in that train station.

We blindly followed the crowd. I found this EXTREMELY stressful.

I've been trampled TWICE in my life, both times in pushy crowds, and you put me in a crowded French train station, lugging a 50 lb. suitcase, two kids and a panicking husband, and you got me sweating bullets and trying not to have a panic attack. No joke.

In fact, I was so delirious that when I was approached by a gypsy taxi driver, I actually stopped and considered going with him. As any seasoned traveler, or any New Yorker will tell you, this (as my husband told me later), is the best way to end up murdered. Or, at the very least, mugged.

Thankfully, my husband dragged me away from the gypsy taxi driver, shaking his head at my pathetic traveling skills, and led us to the taxi line in the front of the station.

This is where my youngest, who is almost as paranoid as my husband, instructed me, my eldest, and any English speaking tourist within a mile radius, that we needed to put our purses over our shoulders, BACKWARDS, to avoid pick-pocketers because her French teacher at school had warned her to do that. To shut her up, we did. Consequently, we kept the bags this way the whole trip in Paris and never got pick-pocketed once, so in truth, it was good advice. <<<  highly recommended

After getting into a "Verified" taxi (you can tell by the red and green lights on the roofs of the cabs), we drove in hordes of traffic down winding, tiny roads, eventually to our hotel.

We stayed at the Pullman in Montepasse, which knowing nothing of Paris, seemed like a good idea at the time. We had a specific hotel budget set aside, but Paris proved to be so expensive, this was the best we could afford. This was not the best area. Although there were plenty of restaurants to chose from, and it was literally a block away from the underground station, there were adult sex shops all over (which led to interesting discussions with my children), lots and lots of traffic, and the restaurants (save two!) were mediocre if not horrible.

This was very disappointing. Here I'd heard that the food in Paris was the best in the world, and our first experience, which was dinner our first night, was really, really gross. For one, I'm highly allergic to cayenne pepper. Like, explosively so, as is my eldest. After checking into our hotel room (which was very nice and modern, and stylish) we went and found an open cafe and ate an "early" dinner (any dinner before 7 pm in Paris is considered early), and even though I had ordered roast chicken (which was dry), the chef had sprinkled cayenne pepper on the chicken skin and ALL OVER THE RIM of the plate as a garnish, and me and my eldest had to spend the first twenty minutes of our meal carefully brushing cayenne off the plate and onto the table - which was harder for her because she had a "Caesar" salad (which looked nothing like a Caesar salad) in a bowl, and it's really hard to remove garnish sprinkled around a bowl.

Anyway, we managed! Then, getting back to the hotel, we passed out and were asleep by 9 pm (as per usual).

Paris: Day Two - Day Eight of Trip

Rising at the crack of dawn, we made our way downstairs to the hotel buffet. This buffet, unlike the one in London, was not included in our vacation package, and we soon discovered, was not as good.

Runny scrambled eggs, funny tasting fruit, brown bananas the size of a thumb (not kidding), and pancakes as hard as rocks. The only saving grace were the baked goods. The croissants were splendid, as were the muffins, but my SoCal family used to fresh fruits and eggs for breakfast were in a bit of a tailspin - especially my husband when he found out the price of the buffet. For what it was, it was not worth it. We had not planned to have breakfast anywhere else during our stay in Paris, and had not researched anywhere else, and our restaurant experience the night before had been so dismal, it put us in a rather sour mood when we thought we might be stuck with that the whole week.

And I missed the English tea.

Anyway, we made our way to the underground station, stared at the maps for what seemed like an eternity and got on the train we believed was the correct one - but soon realized we had gotten on the wrong train and were headed in the wrong direction.

At the next stop, we attempted to hop off, but the doors at the next station didn't open automatically (like the ones in London), and the train took off again (taking us now TWO stations out of our way), before some kindly Parisian showed us that you had to push a button at the stations to open the doors.

Anyway, we got off the wrong train, went back to the map and finally found the right one, and because of this we ended up being a half hour later to the catacombs than we had planned.

The Catacombs

It opens at 10 am, and we'd heard from multiple friends that it was super duper crowded, so we thought we were being sneaky by arriving at 9 am and being the first in line. However, after our train debacle, we arrived at 9:30 and the line was already wrapped around the corner from the catacombs. Worst still, the temperatures had dipped from the mid-30s to the upper-20s and we soon discovered we had inadequately dressed for waiting in a long line. In total, we waited 2 HOURS, freezing our asses off. At one point my youngest burst into (frozen tears) and wailed that she couldn't feel her feet anymore. We then took turns walking the kids up and down the block to keep their circulation going as the other adult kept our place in line, and when we were just a few yards from the entrance, a young Italian couple decided to try and cut in line in front of us.

The first to notice that we'd lost our spot was my youngest, who was not about to give up her place in line after freezing her toes off, so we spent the next half hour inching our way back up in front of them, which unfortunately, made a problem for the people behind us, a young British couple on holiday who now had lost their spot to the invasive young Italians.

The British couple weren't about to put up with that, and they weren't about to do it the quiet way we had, so (God bless her) the British woman called out the young Italian couple, and even though I KNOW the Italian girl could speak English because she had laughed at a couple of our comments amongst each other while we had been talking in line, the girl pretended to not speak English at all, and then tried to cut in line behind the British couple (which apparently, they succeeded at because we later saw them inside the Catacombs).

Realizing we couldn't really fix the issue, we pressed on. Finally, we got to the front of the line, and thankfully, despite being told that the caves were colder than outside, they were actually warmer, and we were able to go through the tunnels comfortably (no audio tour, which I wonder if I should have because I can't read French and not all the informational plaques had English translations, and my Spanish is mediocre at best).

We took pictures, we looked at skulls, we asked each other lots of questions which we couldn't answer because none of us could read French and we hadn't done the audio tour, but regardless, we had a good time and purchased several souvenirs at the shop just outside the exit.

After the catacombs, we got lost (watch for a reoccurring theme) trying to find the closest underground station, and instead went into an Italian restaurant and ate soggy pizza. Afterwards, we took the wrong train AGAIN, trying to get to the Eiffel tower. We embraced the wrong train instead of repeating our panicked exit like last time, and went instead to see the church at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame

We arrived at the gorgeous church and immediately noticed a long, long line. Thankfully, the sun was out, and the temperature had improved slightly, and the line was moving at a steady clip. We waited only a half hour and once inside, took some amazing photos.

After Notre Dame, we found the Metro station and took the underground to the Eiffel tower.

Eiffel Tower

I had pre-purchased elevator tickets on-line, but because of the second train debacle, we'd missed our appointment time, but thankfully, the people working at the Eiffel tower took pity on us and let us use them anyway.

There were however, about a quarter of a million people on the second floor of the Eiffel tower along with us. You almost couldn't walk, it was THAT crowded. Wall to wall people. Not only that, every person but us seemed perfectly okay with PUSHING MY CHILDREN out of the way. One lady LITERALLY used her packages like a snow plow on me and my youngest, trying to cut in front of us as we waited for the elevator back down. More on that later...

Before that, however, we stood out on the balcony and took some amazing pictures, but the wind had picked up, and the sun was setting, and it was getting cold again, plus, my youngest was shriveling before my very eyes, so we took turns with them huddled in a tiny corner of the 2nd floor interior while the other of us went out onto the balcony to take pictures. Eventually, we coaxed the girls outside, took some hasty pics, then waited in line for AN HOUR to get back down - literally being pushed, and shoved, and GROPED (yes, an old lady pushed my ASS) while RUDE TOURISTS from other European countries (**cough Italy and Spain, I'm looking at you**) tried to plow their way to the front of the line, even if it was over the corpses of me and my family.

Perhaps, if we had arrived at opening, things would have been different, but I can say, aside from the red-eye flight, this was the 2ND WORST PART of the trip (waiting for that elevator).

Mind you, the pictures are great!
But wow. What a horrible group of people that was.
I spit in your general direction…

After that, I was in a big hurry to get back to the hotel.
But, yes - once again - we got lost on the way to the Metro - and a half hour later, freezing, cold, violated and exhausted, we made our way back and attempted to eat at the hotel restaurant only to find out it was CLOSED FOR THE WEEK (oy vey), and we had to once again venture out into the arctic in order to find food. We found a sushi place run by a Chinese couple with decent repast, (sandwiched between a movie theatre and a sex toy shop), and afterwards, went back to the room, showered, and collapsed by 10 pm.

Paris: Day Three - Day Nine of the Trip

Exhausted, homesick, slightly defeated, and a little ticked, we got dressed without much hurry, and picked and poked at our soggy scrambled eggs and rock pancakes at the hotel buffet the next morning.

The Louvre

I had pre-purchased tickets to the Louvre, one of the most famous museums in the world (if not THE most famous), and nobody but me wanted to go. I had to DRAG my family's butt there. My husband was convinced we should hire a hotel babysitter and leave the kids at the hotel, but I insisted we all go.

Without much drama on the Metro (thank God for small favors), we made it to the Louvre just in time to see the large, massive, catastrophically enormous line to get in.

As luck would have it, my husband had visited Paris a few years ago on a business trip, and knew of a "secret" way in (if you already have a ticket). Are you ready? Are you prepared to know the "secret" way in?

Across the street from the Louve there's an arch. If you face the Louvre, and go TO YOUR LEFT, there's an underground tunnel which takes you to the mall (the "Caurosel') which CONNECTS TO THE LOUVRE.

We walked through the mall and straight to the line to enter the first exhibit without having to wait more than a few minutes. <<<< highly recommended


We dragged the youngest through sculptures, ancient Egyptian exhibits, the Mona Lisa and many numerous other exhibits, and even took an hour to eat at the cafe (with only a twenty minute wait - we ate "early" at noon, and by the time we left the cafe, at 1:30, the line for the cafe was all the way down the hall).

And even though the youngest was miserable and moaned and complained for the first half of the visit, she was much better after lunch and managed to keep her protests to a minimum. She even got her picture taken with the Mona Lisa! (BTW, the crowds at the Mona Lisa exhibit must have been the same people from the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower, because WOW - PEOPLE ARE F*****G RUDE).

Despite that, the art at the Louvre is truly worth the trouble, the crowds, the everything.
We left at closing, found the Metro station (without getting lost! yahoo!!) and ate room service at the hotel, showered, and collapsed by 9 pm.

Paris Day Four: Trip Day Ten

Awaking early, but not at the crack of dawn, we braved the hotel buffet yet again, and then took the Metro (without getting lost!) to Disneyland, Paris.

We had pre-purchased tickets and arrived only one hour after opening, but it was still super super crowded.
Like, Disneyland US crowded during peak hours.
All those tourist sites which claim that Disneyland Paris is a great place to go because it's so much less crowded than any of the US parks? LIARS.

It was wall-to-wall pushy tourists - with kids! And cigarette smoke! And long, SLOW lines.
Line cutters had an absolute field day there. It was mayhem.

I think I am too polite for Europe. This is my conclusion.
I'm not pushy. I'm not rude. I'm not about to yell at anybody for cutting, and I'm not about to cut myself, so our family solution to this was for us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder - the four of us - creating what we called "The Tibbets Embargo" which blocked to whole width of the line, thus preventing anyone from cutting through.

This pissed off loads of would-be cutters, who gave us dirty looks and I'm fairly sure we got called a few nasty words - but regardless, we were able to go on a few of our favorite rides, despite how slow moving the lines were, and how utterly rude the other tourists had been.

On the plus side, I have always complained that the food at Disneyland, USA was horrible, and so much better at Disney World, and this proved true of Paris as well. We ate at a Steakhouse in Disneyland Paris that was far superior to any place we'd ever eaten in Anaheim, despite the fact our waiter didn't speak English very well, and couldn't understand that I was an American woman who wanted REGULAR Coke instead of Diet - even after I asked him, twice. Oh well. C'est la vie!

We stayed until one hour before closing, to avoid the mad rush to exit, took the train back (without incident), and crashed at the hotel at 11:30 pm.

This was the night our "neighbors" moved in. I think it was a couple on their honeymoon, and their bed abutted to the same wall as ours…if you catch my drift.

No problem!
I'd packed ear plugs (thank God!)

Paris: Day Five - Trip Day Eleven - New Year's Eve

Through an unfortunate bit of planning, I had booked the whole family for a private tour of Versailles the morning after our all-day excursion to Disneyland.

I really don't know what I was thinking.

It took everything short of cattle prods to get the kids out of bed the next morning, and because we didn't have time for anything else, we picked our way through the hotel buffet for breakfast (again!) and a tour guide came to pick us up directly from the hotel.

I highly recommend this! It was ridiculous expensive, like 500 Euros - but we were so exhausted, and the line to get into Versailles is so ridiculous (as every line in Paris seemed to be), that there was no other way we would have been able to see Versailles.

The tour guide took us, and two other people, (an Australian pair of newlyweds), directly to Versailles and gave us an audio tour, so we were able to walk through Versailles knowing exactly what we were looking at and it's significance.
Mind you, like the rest of Paris it was freakishly crowded.
At this point, however, we were either defeated or used to being treated like cattle, because it didn't seem as bad and we got through the tour, back to the tour guide and back to the hotel without any drama. What a treat!

As a defense mechanism against my rebelling children, my brave husband left us in the room to shower and lay around in our pajamas as he went back out into the cold and bought us pizzas. As luck would have it, right by our hotel was an EXCELLENT Italian restaurant called Pizza Roma and the pizza was by far, the most outstanding pizza I had ever had in my entire life.
Not even joking. I think it ruined me for other pizza forever.

We ate, lounged, acted very lazy, then got "dressed" for dinner at a small fish restaurant I'd found through Google and Open Table. Our reservation was for 7 pm, but when we arrived, we walked into the staff having dinner together and the place completely empty.

The staff was gracious and didn't make us wait outside in the cold. Instead, they set us up with a menu (all in French on a dry erase board, sitting on an easel) and finished their meal while we used Google translate to try and figure out what everything was.

Eventually, a waiter came by and translated it for us and then got us drinks. When it came time to order, however, the waiter didn't speak enough English to answer our questions, and we were given a second waiter, who could - at which point we found out that the first waiter had translated the menu very poorly, and we still had no idea what to order.

Finally, we guessed - seriously - we pointed and guessed - and then waited as food started to arrive.
It was incredibly good! By far, the best meal we had in Paris while we were there. I had some sort of white fish with a butter/caramelized onion mixture and I thought my mouth was going to melt away.
Excellent! Truly.

Originally, we had thought we'd take the Metro to the Eiffel tower to watch fireworks for New Years Eve, but we were so sick of crowds by this point, we decided to call it a night and went back to the hotel and went to sleep by 9 pm.

Paris Day Six - Trip Day Thirteen - New Years Day

My husband decided that morning he'd had enough of the hotel buffet, and after dragging the kids out of bed to get dressed, we used Google Maps (European roaming charges be damned!) to find a REAL Paris bakery, and low and behold, just a few blocks away, we found one open and feasted on quiche, croissants, macaroons, danishes, espresso and REAL English tea (at LAST!). WHAT A FIND!

We then hit the streets and the Metro (no getting lost anymore, we're pros at this point) and saw the Arc de Triumph, the Monteparrse cemetary, and the Sacre Couer (the sacred heart), an old Parisian monastery - along with every other foreign tourist in all of Europe. Navigating the crowds like pros, my daughters have mastered the art of shoving through crowds of people repeating, "Pardon," in French.

We get back to the hotel, pack, shower, and prepare to get up - LITERALLY - before dawn so we can take a taxi to the airport and fly home.

Paris: Day Seven - Day Fourteen of the Trip

We meet the taxi in the lobby, drive to the airport, walk almost directly through security, and now have to wait two hours before our flight takes off.

No problem, there's a cafe in the airport - we eat croissants and shop at the little kiosks and after our flight is delayed, we shrug and play video games on our phones. At this point, we don't even care what goes wrong, because wrong is the new normal.

Finally, our plane arrives, we board, watch movies non-stop for twelve hours, and wait, and wait, and wait for our luggage. Then we wait and wait and wait to get through a passport check. Then we wait and wait and wait to get through customs.

Finally, we get to our driver (we'd hired a car to pick us up), and he drives us home.
We shower, throw a mountain of dirty laundry onto the family room floor, eat fried chicken I buy from the grocery store, and we collapse at 8 pm.

In the end?

Still worth it.

The London Trip - Anne's Diary

My husband and I made a resolution for 2014. We were going to stop dumping our hard earned money into a house that will never be finished, and spend that money on trips with our daughters while they were young enough to still like us, but old enough to have flexible schedules.

We absolutely CRUSHED (in the best way possible), this resolution. We traveled to Washington State to visit family, went camping in Idaho, mountain-biking in Montana, played in a Thanksgiving snow storm in Connecticut, spent Christmas in London, and New Years in Paris.

Man, are we bushed...
Mind you, my master bathroom still has a shower the side of a casket, and there's a spot on the wall by the bathtub where the tile is broken and exposes the wire and paper behind it - but we TRAVELED.

After posting pictures on Facebook of our recent London/Paris trip, several of my FB friends have expressed interest in "Tips" because they themselves are traveling there within the next year. So, I thought the best way to do that was to chronicle my own trip, and people can take the advice where they may.

Flight to London: a direct Red Eye in Economy Class on a Saturday night = BAD IDEA

I'm 5'6" tall and I'm mostly legs. This is not meant as a brag, or any sort of effort to make myself sound desirable, I'm attempting to explain to you why sleeping on a plane for me is sheer horror. I propped myself up with a travel pillow, an eye mask, sound cancelling head sets, a blanket, AND an overdose of Benedryl, and I still slept like crap.

My husband, who is a back sleeper and was behind me with my youngest, did slightly better with the same set up. My youngest curled into a ball and passed out. My oldest, who is almost as tall as me, and has the same super long legs got so cold, uncomfortable, and miserable, she cried herself into a restless sleep out of exhaustion. This is also the kid who practically never cries at anything - so you can understand why I say this was probably the worst part of our trip.

Don't do this.

If you want advice on how to to fly to Europe, look elsewhere.
All I know is what NOT to do.

London: Day of Arrival

We arrived at around 4:30 pm London time. By the time we got our luggage (which thankfully, was all there!) and got through customs, it was 5:30 pm and already dark outside. We made our way to the taxi queue, hopped in and rode inside the tiniest little car which didn't even have a boot (a trunk). Just two seats, and two fold down benches which sat on top of the luggage.

We were too exhausted to care.
The driver was so entranced with a football (soccer) game on the radio, he forgot to turn on the meter. So when we arrived at the hotel, he apologized profusely and under-charged us. I know this because I had Googled rates and estimates before our arrival just so I knew what to expect. Anyhow, we arrived safely, checked in, got to our room and immediately went out in search of food.

Side Note: We splurged on the London hotel and stayed at The Landmark in Marylebone (pronounced Mar-le-bone). We had a breakfast buffet included, a large room with a sitting area, and two double beds (my daughters shared), and an incredibly polite and fantastic staff. I cannot recommend this hotel and area enough. It's right next to Baker Street if you're a Sherlock Holmes fan (more on that later), and next to two Tube stations - which comes in handy (more on that, too) and the food was FANTASTIC.

Our first dinner was at a pub called The Globe, near Baker Street. My youngest, who is a very very picky eater, had fried shrimp and chips (fries), and ate it all (yeah!), while my eldest and I had fish and chips (soooo good), and my husband had something else, which I can't seem to remember at the moment - but it was good. He also had a room temp beer, I had a glass of wine - and feeling very good and relaxed, we made our way back to the hotel, showered one at a time - and collapsed by 9 pm.

London Day Two:
I had pre-paid for tickets to The Tower of London. This was a Sunday, so it opened at 10 am. We woke at around 5:30 am and were unable to get back to sleep, so we all dressed and arrived at the breakfast buffet right at opening, which was 7 am. After eating a splendid breakfast with English tea (sooooo good), we walked to the tube station, studied the maps for what seemed like an eternity, but figured out how to get to the tower. We arrived around 9:00 am - so we walked around the area, and then got in line to pick up our tickets. We were one of the first fifty people inside.

I highly recommend this! (for reasons I'll get to later)

The first thing we hit was the torture chamber (you must understand, I write horror, so a lot of my trip was focused on the macabre - lucky for me my eldest is into it too, so we were having the times of our lives while the other two were only mildly interested), then we walked around the Traitor's gate, and gave ourselves a tour. We did not do an audio tour, and for this I'm actually grateful because I came to later regret audio tours, but - more on that later.

We saw the White Castle, the crown jewels, Henry the VIII's tournament armour (que crying jag #1), the exact location where Anne Boelyn was kept in the tower and where she was beheaded, and then every other nook and cranny of the Tower, and by noon, my kids started to complain. It was time to eat again and the Tower had become very very crowded - the main reason I was especially glad we'd arrived so early. <<< Highly recommended

So, we got in touch with a friend of ours who actually lives in London, and met up with him for lunch at a Ramen restaurant over the "London" bridge. Now, I call it the "London" (with quotes) bridge, because it's not actually called that, but if you see a picture of a bridge in London, this is the one they show. It goes right over the river Thames.

By now, my kids are starving, their feet already hurt, they're a little cold (it was in the mid-40's and we'd slightly under-dressed), but our buddy took us on a walking tour of the market places and back neighborhoods of London that lasted about a half hour, and was fascinating and gorgeous, but we were good and cranky by the time we arrived at the Ramen place.

We sat down, ate Ramen until we were stuffed (it was actually VERY good and my picky eater was quite content! I was expecting a bowl full of MSG and sodium like the Ramen you get here in the US, but it was positively delicious. Not too salty, all the ingredients were fresh, I was so so so happy).

Then our buddy escorted us to our next location, (which included a tutorial on the London tubes = very helpful!) and then we arrived at the British Library.

Inside the British Library (NOT the British museum) is a room called, "Treasures of the Library," inside there are actual hand-written manuscripts, notes, books and folios from Leonardo De Vinci, Michelangelo, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, ANNE BOELYN, and countless, countless others.

If you are not a "Literary" type, this might prove extremely boring to you. My youngest gave up, at this point, found a cushioned bench, sat down and started playing Frogger on her phone. My eldest found it interesting, but was more entertained by following me around and watching me cry.

Yes, I cried.

I got choked up at seeing Jane Austen's writing desk and hand-written manuscript of Persuasion (her best, and last book), started all out crying when I saw Beethoven's hand-written 6th Symphony score (if it had been the 7th I would have sobbed), and when I saw Anne Boelyn's hand-written note TO HENRY VIII I was wiping snot on my gloves and sniffing like a blubbering lunatic.

You must understand, as a former violinist in love with Beethoven, a writer in love with Jane Austen's Persuasion, and a history buff obsessed with beheaded queens - this was my mecca. This was my heaven.

I could have stayed and stared for hours, but our buddy had to make his way back home, and my husband and kids wanted to head to the hotel…So I peeled myself away and sniffled back through the tubes to Baker Street. The kids were so spent we rewarded them with a trip to McDonalds and ate the food in our hotel room, showered, and passed out by 9 pm (again).

London: Day Three

Yes, THE Stonehenge.

We dressed for the arctic because we had been a bit cold the first day in London, took the tubes to our pick up location, and hopped on a tour bus headed to Stonehenge.

Thank goodness we had the pre-thought to purchase sandwiches at a shop (<< highly recommended!) and bring them along. It's about an hour and a half bus trip (once you're done picking up all the other tourists), so it was a nice change to all the walking from the day before.

We drove past Buckingham palace on our way out of town, then drove through the English countryside on our way to Stonehenge.

Now, again - you must remember I'm a "literary" type. I put on the soundtrack to Jane Eyre and cried through the English countryside. Absolutely cried.

It's gorgeous, and breathtaking, and soo soo pretty, and it's also the setting for about 90% of my favorite books, Jane Eyre among them. Now, I could have booked a double tour and had the bus stop in Bath to visit the Jane Austen museum, but I'd already tortured my family with the British Library, so I skipped that, and took the Stonehenge Express straight to the pre-historic monument, including an audio tour.

Now, even though the bus had picked us up at 11:15 am, we didn't arrive until around 2 or 3 pm, and Stonehenge was packed, the sun was already starting to set, and it was FREEZING. Literally, freezing. The puddles were freaking frozen.

We'd worn tights and/or long johns (aka "woolies") under our jeans, long sleeved tee shirts, short sleeved shirts over that, a sweater or sweatshirt, a very warm jacket, hats, gloves and scarves, and we were still FREEZING.

We were so cold, in fact, my youngest immediately started to whither, and although I had paid for an audio tour, I soon realized that I knew all the information on the tour (I had researched Stonehenge extensively for Amulet Chronicles) - so I took charge of my youngest and we shivered and shuddered and I pretty much dragged her around the whole monument while my husband listened to his audio tour and my eldest took a billion pictures.

Don't get me wrong, it was incredible and I'm glad we went! But the weather did put a bit of a damper on the experience.

After we walked all the way around, we stopped by the shop and bought a few souvenirs, then hit the loo and made our way back to the bus.

The bus dropped us off in some weird part of town, but thanks to our tube tutorial the day before, we were able to navigate our way back to Baker Street. However, the majority of restaurants and shops close freaking early. Like by 6 pm they aren't taking any more customers. So we went back to the hotel and ordered room service (which was excellent!), showered and passed out by 9 pm (again).

London: Day Four - Christmas Eve

Our plan was to go to 221b Baker Street and see the Sherlock Holmes Museum right when it opened at 9:30 am, but for some odd reason our phone alarms did not wake us up, and we overslept.

It was 10 am when my youngest woke us up asking for food.
Since the free breakfast buffet closed at 11, we rushed to dressed, showed up with only a few minutes to spare, then ate in a hurry.

As we feared, the Sherlock Holmes museum line was almost all the way down the block, and since it was cold, and the wait was going to be for HOURS (no joke, they only let a few people into the flat at a time), we went for a walk through Regent Park. This was actually a good idea. << highly recommended

Not only did my youngest get to run around and feed ducks and sing silly Christmas songs at the top of her lungs and chase us with duck poo on the bottom of her boot, but my eldest, who has a growing obsession with photography, got some great pictures - and we were able to just hang out together - no lines, no museums, no hordes of rude line-cutting tourists. It was so pleasant.

Skipping lunch since we'd had such a late breakfast, we then took the tube to Cambridge and saw a matinee of MATILDA. I had pre-ordered these before our arrival. Having no idea what the musical was like, (I'd read the book and seen the movie, as had both my daughters), we went in not knowing what to expect and had a FANTASTIC time.

What a show! What a cast!
It was outstanding in all ways.

Having not thought ahead for dinner reservations, we were turned away from the first restaurant we entered in the vicinity of the theatre district (it was late, almost 6 by the time we'd left the theatre), we got very very lucky at a Mexican restaurant that let us in, and had delicious fajitas and tacos and homemade guacamole that was made right at the table. So, so good… I think it was called "Jamie's."

Anyway, we made our way back to the hotel via the tubes, showered, and passed out by 9 pm (again).

London: Day Five - Christmas Day

The girls woke early, and thankfully, I had thought ahead and packed a few presents for them to unwrap at the hotel. We then went to breakfast at the buffet, dressed for outdoors, and took a walking tour through London (all the tubes were closed!).

We flagged down a taxi and took it to see Westminster Abbey, then walked to Big Ben (they're right next door), the Parliament building, and then walked a few more blocks to see Buckingham Palace. Apparently, every other tourist in London had had the same thought we did, but once again we were lucky enough in that we got there early, and it was downright crowded and pushy by the time we left in the afternoon.

We flagged another taxi, and came back to the hotel, where the girls DEMANDED a day of relaxation. So we sat, watched movies on the "telly" then "dressed" for dinner at another hotel restaurant called "The Potting Shed" walking distance from ours, where we broke Christmas crackers, wore silly paper crowns, and had Beef Wellington for dinner. It was divine!

Then, walking back to the hotel, we watched more telly, showered, and stayed up to 10 pm. I know, we're wild, right?

London: Day Six - Boxing Day

Having nothing immediately planned for Boxing Day, we took our time getting dressed, went to the buffet, then walked to Hyde Park and considered going to the Winter Wonderland Fair. It had been on my agenda, actually. But loosely. After inspection, we saw that the rides all looked a bit roller coaster-ish, and very fair-like, and it was really, really, really, crowded. If we'd gotten up super early and had hit it first thing, it would have gone better, but as it was, we hadn't. So instead, we walked to a nearby movie theatre and saw the last Hobbit movie. This was a bit hit among the kids, honestly. My eldest is a Hobbit junkie, and it was nice to just go somewhere and sit and relax.

Afterwards, we took the tube back to Baker Street, but had a hard time finding any place open on Boxing Day, so we went back to the hotel and ordered room service again, which was no sacrifice, if you ask me. The food at the Landmark was excellent.

London: Day Seven

Departure day. This meant, dressing, packing, eating and walking (with luggage in-hand) to the tube station to take the Chunnel to Paris. In theory, this had sounded like a good idea. However, two adults and two kids (even older kids) lugging four large roller bags through the tubes did not prove to be that easy. First of all, there are lots of steps. Lots.

[UPDATE: I forgot to mention how we woke up super early and went to the Sherlock Holmes museum. If you should decide to go, at opening is the BEST time, as the line was super duper long and slow, and the flat itself, really isn't worth more than an hour's wait, in my humble opinion.]

Second of all, we had BIG suitcases and the youngest couldn't navigate the gaps and staircases very well, and it proved to be a bit of a hassle. But we managed! We got to the train station, bought some food for the train, then boarded, and ate our food (which was a good thing because the food provided had ham in it, and my youngest (because of her migraines) can't have anything cured, and I was so thrilled we'd bought her a sushi pack at the grocery store. PHEW! We got lucky).

Then - we arrived in PARIS.

To see the diary of my Paris trip go here: HERE