Sunday, September 11, 2016

The obituary I should've written

My uncle died a week ago. I wrote the following because what I wrote for the paper was a bare summary. He deserves to have more of his story told.

For the past two and a half years I have been caretaker of my bachelor uncle. As a child, he was my favorite Frawley uncle because he paid attention to us kids. He listened to our five-year-old ramblings and talked to us as if we had something to contribute. He was full of fascinating facts about history and he lived in faraway New York City. He went to the World's Fair in 1964, taking pictures of the people and structures with his stereo-optic camera that created 3D slides. He loved technology and grew up with the changeover from vacuum tubes to solid state to microchips.

He moved back home because the technology changed, gave my my first touch-typing book and presented me with an album of Patty Duke songs, signed by her when he fixed her Dictaphone. To give his brothers and sisters a break, he would take us kids to the movies - in packs. We saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Barefoot Executive (yes, that's where I fell in love with Kurt Russell), and Camelot - the first movie I ever cried at. How could I not? When Lancelot brings his opponent back to life? Tears!

He moved away when my grandparents moved to Florida; the house in Rochester was torn down to make way for the expanded bus barns (the expansion destroyed a neighborhood) and most of us kids lost touch with him. Myself included. Even when he was downsized and he moved closer, we didn't see him except for holidays.

You see, as I grew older, I realized my uncle marched to the proverbial different drummer. Many considered him odd because he kept to himself, didn't make friends easily, would blurt out odd historical facts at random silences in the conversation. Only in these last years did I realize, after years of teaching in the classroom, that my uncle, if he were in school today, would be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism spectrum - probably with Asperger's.

Because he lived alone, it was a while before the family realized he was in difficulty. Financially he'd been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars, his health wasn't good because he didn't remember to take his medicines, and dementia had started its nasty creep. Living alone was no longer an option.

Geographically, I was the logical choice to take over his care. Besides which, I can be pretty bossy when needed (years of classroom management!). My husband and I talked it over and decided together that taking on his care was something we needed to do.

So we did. Uncle Larry told me the same story every time we passed over the Erie Canal - about the Towanda Canal that was built partly in response to Clinton's Ditch. He told me about Stephen Foster living in Towanda on more than one occasion. I didn't mind. Telling these stories helped him focus and were important to him. He was a staunch Republican and had fun goading me (a middle-of-the-road Democrat) with his conservative views. He followed the presidential race right up until the last two months of his life, when the dementia took over more often than not.

That part was hardest. The dementia. My husband and I took a trip to Ireland and Scotland and, the day we were traveling home, Uncle Larry was sent to the hospital with a raging UTI. He never really recovered after that. Thankfully, a nursing home in the next town over had a bed in their dementia ward and could take him in. The locked ward meant he wouldn't ramble away on us and his medical needs would be taken care of since he needed more care than his assisted living place (or I) could give.

The hardest part? Was going to see him there and seeing the blank look on his face when I visited. He didn't know who I was. If I could've appeared to him as the eleven-year-old he took to the movies, I think we would've been okay. But I've gray in my hair now and age has thickened my frame. There was no recognition in his eyes. He would never again tell me about the Towanda Canal or remind me that Stephen Foster spent time there. Our days of baiting each other about politics were done.

The ending of a life lived long is always bittersweet. Bitter because the person is gone from our lives and we are the poorer for it. Sweet because their pain has ended and their soul has moved on. Lawrence Frawley, Jr. died on September 4, 2016 and we buried him this past Friday. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New releases!

They're here!

Yes, I used the plural. Why? Read on...

As long-time readers, you know the Sizzling Scribes created the fictional town of Port Clef, Connecticut and then we wrote several stories set there. Each book has, at its core, the two wonderful ladies who run The Sweet Spot, the town's bakery/confectionery shop. My contribution to this series was Tied to Home, a novella where we meet Matt and Wiste, two used-to-be lovers who find each other again.

Upon a re-read of that novella, however, I discovered that Wiste's best friend, Emily, got short shrift. She appeared at the beginning of the book, then dropped out and is never heard from again. Poor Em! To make it up to her, I asked her to tell me her story - and she spoke volumes! In Tied in Knots we get to see, not only how things turned out for Matt and Wiste, but we get to meet Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a hunky relationship counselor who very much needs Emily's massage therapy.

Because the two books are related, Tied to Home needed a new cover. Many kudos to Lynn LaFleur for designing all three covers.

Three covers? But, Diana! You've only mentioned two books so far!

Oh! Did I forget to mention you can purchase these books bundled together? Since one is a sequel to the other, it made sense (to me, anyway) to offer both books in a bundle in both ebook and print formats. 

That's right! If you'd like a copy of these two books for your bookshelf, you can get them in a single print volume! Of course, you can also get the bundled set in ebook form as well. :)

So, a new cover on Tied to Home, a new release in Tied in Knots, and a bundled set that's available in both ebook and print. Whee!

PLEASE! Once you've read either (or both - or all!) the books, return to the site where you purchased it and leave a review. Good or bad. Reviews help authors get seen. 

Play safe!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New release update

The current work-in-progress is coming along quite nicely and I thought you might like to see the cover. Lynn LaFleur designed both the cover for TIED IN KNOTS.

The story is set in Port Clef, Connecticut, the fictional seaside town created by the Sizzling Scribes. We had a lot of fun creating the town and the characters who reside there. Several of us have written books set in Port Clef. The Sweet Spot series is named after a bake shop/candy store in town that everyone loves. Or perhaps, it's more accurate to say, everyone loves the Jacqui and Jill, the co-owners. More than one life has been changed by those two ladies!

And that includes Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a relationship counselor new to Port Clef and Emily Eaves, a Port Clef native. When the good doctor pulls a muscle in his neck, his receptionist recommends a good massage therapist she knows - Emily. 

Except Emily has a past. A past named Stan, who is determined to pick things up with her where they left off. And he won't take no for an answer.

You may remember Emily from her brief appearance in TIED TO HOME. I've always thought she got short shrift in that book. To make it up to her, she now has a story of her own - and you can read an excerpt from the book here!

Since Tied in Knots is the sequel to Tied to Home, I asked Lynn to make a new cover for the first book - and I love how she "tied" them both together. Sunsets, love, could you go wrong?

TIED IN KNOTS releases August 30th. For my newsletter subscribers, watch for discounts for both these books in the next issue. If you're not yet a subscriber, use the link at the top of the page to sign up. Seekers get goodies! :)

Both books will be available in a boxed set as well as in print. All formats will be available on August 30th (God willin' an' the crick don' rise).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A difficult post to make

Just did the totals for a friend who asked. Did you realize I have 14 titles with Ellora's Cave Publishing, 9 self-published titles and 4 more soon-to-be self published titles. As Mystic Shade I have 6 titles out and as CF Duprey, I have one Civil War historical. That makes 34 titles in twelve years as a published writer.

That was written one year ago today. Today’s stats are different. Today I have only five titles still with Ellora’s Cave, 13 self-published titles and 8 titles as Mystic shade. That makes 26 titles currently in publication.

You’ll notice the lower number of Ellora’s Cave titles. I’ve been struggling with going public about this for the past several months but have decided I need to let my readers know what’s happening.

Ellora’s Cave Publishing gave me my start as a published author. They took a chance on me, gave me an editor, and my career as a published author was born. In those early days, the first decade of a new century, optimism reigned. Erotic romance was hot and I sold well. Well enough that the sales encouraged me to keep writing. Hence the 34 titles mentioned above.

EC has had its share of public scandals and there have been a few missteps along the way, but it has always done me right. It’s a small press, so I got to know the women who ran the company and that was important to me. But more than once I heard the sage advice from several of those women, “Remember, EC is a company and, in the end, it will make decisions for the best of the company. You’re an author, make decisions best for you.”

Being an author means taking control of your writing, it means making the best decision for each manuscript regardless of sentimental attachment. And so, when Table for Four’s contract was up with EC, I chose to try this new venture at Amazon and Smashwords and self-publish it. That action was just the one needed to give an older title a good boost. It sold well in the first year and continues to sell a couple of copies every month.

This had been a successful experiment, so when Learning Curve also ran out of contract, based on my increase in sales for Table for Four, I chose to also take the rights back for that book and self-publish it. It also did well, although recent sales have tapered off.

Publishing is like any other business. You have to constantly stay abreast of trends and Ellora’s Cave tried to do so. They accepted other genre, tried an appeal to a different audience, held conventions for readers and authors to meet. Unfortunately, none of these things worked as well as hoped.

How do I know that? Because Ellora’s Cave stopped paying royalties.

Yes, you read that right. EC is still selling books, but not paying authors the royalties they are contracted for. The last month I received monies for was June 2015.

What does that mean? It means, for the past year Ellora’s Cave has sold my books and not paid me for them. Not one penny.

I’ve been patient. My optimism has buoyed me all this year. Every week I think, “This will be the week they pay me my back pay.” I check my sales on Novelrank (which tells me how many of my books have sold on Amazon) and I see that my books are still selling – but I’m not seeing any money from the sale of my books that Ellora’s Cave holds.

So I made the decision last week to take all my Ellora’s Cave books off my website. I cannot, in good conscience, continue to promote books that enrich others while my income has taken a huge hit. Ellora’s Cave is making decisions that are good for its business; I must make decisions that are good for mine.

This past week Ellora’s Cave sent me a reversion of rights notice for five of my titles. Three I’d asked for, the other two I did not. As of July 30th, those titles will revert to me. These, along with three others that reverted to me earlier in the spring (two of which I asked for, one of which I did not), are currently regarded as “out of print.”

That means, of those 34 titles I’ve written, only 26 of them are currently available for purchase. Ellora’s Cave still owns the rights to five of my titles, but I will no longer mention them by name. I expect I will not ever get a check from Ellora’s Cave again. My optimism has run out. I doubt I will ever get the back pay I am owed and I suspect the company I loved will soon be out of business.

It’s a Catch-22, really. To tell you to not buy my Ellora’s Cave books. If you don’t buy them, they’ll never have the money to pay me. But if you do buy them, well, the money is going to someone else. It’s the reason I have been silent for so long. I do not want to put them out of business, but, as that sage advice said, I have to make decisions based on what’s best for my business.

Over the next year, I will take time to reformat, re-edit, re-cover the eight titles that are currently out of print. My plan is to re-release one a month as self-published books. Promise for Now will release in September, Stitches in Time (featuring new content based on my recent trip to Ireland!) will release in October. A boxed set of books I’ve written with a winter theme will be released in November and will include one of the titles EC just gave me back as well as other previously published stories.

As for new work? Tied in Knots, the sequel to Tied to Home is nearly done. I’ve seen the cover and love it. My goal is to self-publish it before the end of August, so keep your eyes out!

I said in the beginning that this was a difficult post to write. Actually, it was the decision to go public about no longer promoting my Ellora’s Cave titles that was the hard part. EC took a chance on me, gave me a career, and I will not diss them because of it. Choosing to not promote the five books still with them is a decision based solely on my need to be paid for the work I have done.

This post is one of the few I will both write as a newsletter and then repost to my blog and to Facebook. I wish Ellora’s Cave well and truly hope they find their way out of the morass and back into the limelight. And not just so I get paid, but because these women have put their blood, sweat and tears into a business venture that requires constant change. They’ve launched the careers of dozens of authors and I thank them for it.

Thank you for listening and watch for the re-release of the following titles over the next year (all are currently out of print):

Secret Submission
Submission Revealed
Cabin Fever
Writers Unblocked
Promise for Now (coming in September)
Stitches in Time (coming in October)
Devil in Winter (coming in November’s boxed set)

As always, play safe.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - final thoughts

Final thoughts

Steven and Oscar in Dublin
On our last day in Scotland, we talked about the things we'd learned from this adventure. Some we already knew and the trip simply brought home the lesson more clearly. Others were brand-new learnings - like vocabulary. Oscar Wilde said (and I paraphrase) That the English and the Americans are two cultures separated by a common language.

And he's so right. No highways, but "motorways" or "divided carriageways". No waiting in lines, but keeping an orderly "queue". Several times I was asked if I wanted a "cuppa" (and I always said yes to tea) and we often went "straight on" when our GPS wanted us to follow the same road for a distance.

We learned some new Irish words as well. On the roadways, whenever you came to a curve (which was every 200 yards or so!), the word "Slow" was printed on the road's surface. On the particularly sharp curves, the words "VERY SLOW" appeared after the initial warning. And north of Galway, the words "Go Mall" were there instead. Didn't take but one curve to realize they meant "Slow your rear end down!"

Jupiter's Beard growing wild on a wall in
We learned that "failte" means Welcome and is pronounced falcha. That "cead mille failte" means a hundred thousand welcomes and that, when you get north of Galway, you better read Irish, because few of the road signs are in English. I'm very glad Amanda Bates turned me onto Duolingo - because I could read several of them!

We both learned that bed and breakfasts are better than hotels. This was one we already knew but have decided more firmly. And we now know that three nights in one place is better than two. In Scotland, where we had only two nights in each hotel, we found ourselves doing more driving and less experiencing. Staying put longer (four nights is probably even better, we'll have to give that a shot!) allows us to see more deeply, and we learned we prefer that over just a surface-level visit.

Culloden Moor
Steven learned how to drive on the left. The first half hour was the hardest but he said that, only in the last two days or so did he feel like he didn't have to be hyper alert every single second. That he could relax a little and just drive.

He also had a philosophical understanding that occurred. Standing on Culloden Moor, he was struck by the universality of suffering. That a battlefield in Scotland and a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania can have the same solemnity because of the blood spilt. It isn't only war, however, that creates the suffering. He got the same vibration in Pompeii. But during this trip, he started to put it all together.

As for me? I learned that I like haggis. Really! I would eat it again. I learned that I pack well. Could've done with swapping a short sleeve for another long-sleeved shirt but other than that? I think I've got this down.

Speaking of down, I now know I have to plan a down day every so often. About every five is a good number. And by "down day" I mean a day where nothing is on the agenda other than maybe a stroll (not even a walk - a stroll!) and reading a good book or having conversations in pubs with strangers.

Printed on the streets of Dublin to remind
tourists which way the traffic comes from!
I learned that being a passenger in a car driving in the left lane takes more than two weeks to get used to, even after Steven got comfortable.

I learned to bring paper maps. Lots and lots of paper maps.

And I learned, or rather re-learned, that I like traveling with Steven. He gives me good adventures, sometimes when I'm hesitant to take them. I like to allow room for serendipity and so does he; we make a good team.

I will close this reflection with the words neither of us will ever forget from our driving adventures in Ireland and Scotland, the words Steven heard me utter over and over again, usually in panic as the stone walls and hedges of the roadside came too near. But it makes a philosophical statement as well. And so...farewell and

"Watch yer left!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Days 15 & 16

Day 15 - Words of the Day: Solemn, Impulsive,

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland. On board were several students from Syracuse University who were returning from a semester abroad. Among them were several of Steven’s friends.

I knew our visit today to Lockerbie would be emotional; what I didn’t expect was that it would be emotional for me. I remember the night we heard the news – we were living in Waterloo, both finishing up our Master’s degrees. Up until that moment, every incident of terrorism was apart from us. It didn’t touch us in any personal way.

And then it did. We knew people who had died at the hands of terrorists. The world had shifted.

Such a place of peace...
The Garden of Remembrance is a beautiful place on top of a hill. The sun was out today and a breeze kept us from getting too warm. We met some two couples from Carlisle who remembered seeing the explosion and the resulting damage. They had been driving by and simply stopped to pay their respects. I’m not sure that they weren’t angels sent when we needed them.

There is a cottage at the entrance to the cemetery that gives the history of Lockerbie. It also houses the Book of Names, one page for each person who was killed. The docent inside told us a great deal about what happened on the ground and showed us a quilt that was made at the 20th anniversary to commemorate the event. It’s quite beautiful and holds a great deal of symbolism.

So a heavy morning. Very emotional for both of us.

Now remember, this is Steven’s day entirely. He gets to pick what happens next. I have to give him a huge shoutout and a big thank you for choosing to drive a bit further – we went to England!

Yep. We were only 20 miles or so from the border and there are no border crossings between Scotland and England, so we went on down the motorway with the intent to find a place for lunch. I mentioned that Hadrian’s Wall should be close by, so we put it into the GPS, found a nearby Roman fort and Steven said, “Let’s go!”

Hadrian's Wall where it meets the old Roman fort
So off we went, traveling on country lanes to find our way to this ancient fort that brought a certain poetry to our trip. Last year we started our trip in Rome and this year we ended our trip here with a visit to a wall and fort built by Romans.

The fort commands a wide view of the valleys on either side. Most of the structure doesn’t exist any more, just foundations. The wall is also far shorter than its original fifteen feet high. Over the years locals (and some not so local) took advantage of the already-quarried stones and used them to build their own houses and castles. Now it’s only four feet high – at least along the section we viewed today.

The escarpment that will one day
swallow the fort

And in another hundred or so years, the fort will be lost. There’s an escarpment that’s creeping closer and it’s expected to swallow the ruin sometime in the future. Glad we saw it when we did.

Took the scenic drive back to the hotel and stopped in a small town for lunch in a café that was tucked down a side street in a little alcove. Good lunch of ham and egg quiche (for me) and a hamburger (for Steven). Then back on the road and arrived at the hotel shortly after 5:00.

"Welcome to Scotland" sign
- might as well have been
going from one state to the next!
Early start tomorrow – our flight leaves Glasgow at 8:30 in the morning. Next stop, Toronto!

Day 16 - Flying home!

Got up at 4:30 this morning to be out of the hotel and on the road by five. No trouble getting to the airport in Glasgow although finding the key drop turned into a mini-adventure of its own.

Boarded and taxied for at least 20 minutes. How do I know that? 'Cause I glanced at my watch and promptly fell asleep. Woke up and asked Steven if we were airborne yet. Nope. Dozed a bit more and then woke up for the liftoft. Been awake ever since.

We passed over Greenland on our way home!
I will tell you, Toronto's Pearson airport is a LOT nicer to get through when you're not stuck in a wheelchair. No issues getting our bags (we checked them for the flight home. No hurries this time) or finding the car. Walked right to that puppy without hardly a hesitation. All we had to do was put the ticket in the machine on the way out, pay up and head for home.

Except I couldn't find the ticket. Steven thought I had it, I thought he had it. A frantic search of the car and all our bags yielded nothing. A girl drove past and backed up, wanting our spot. Steven told her we were looking for our parking slip and she said that, if we went to the ticket booth downstairs with our boarding passes from the first day, they'd charge from there.

Those I had. So we drove down, found the customer service area -- totally unmanned. Closed up with only two machines where you can put your card and pay in advance. BUT! Steven found a button to push for assistance. The woman on the other end was very kind and acted as if this happened every day. I suppose in an airport that size, it might.

Anyway, the charge was high, although still low enough that it made financial sense to fly out of Toronto instead of Rochester. We saved about $800 doing it this way.

Didn't turn my phone on until we crossed the border - which was very uneventful. That's always a good thing. When I turned it on, it lit up with a bunch of messages. Called my parents to let them know we were back and texted the kids to let them know we were on our way.

Stopped at Byrne Dairy to pick up milk (since we made sure we'd used up all we had before we left) and I switched to drive the last bit home. Why? Because I wanted Steven to be in the passenger side when we pulled in.

You see, unbeknownst to him, while we were away, the kids painted the garage as a Father's Day gift. At first when we pulled into the driveway, he thought what was different was the fact that the side garden had been cleaned out (which it had). Only on a second look did he realize the garage had a new coat of paint.

Now ready to collapse, although I'm trying to stay up as long as possible so the jet lag isn't bad. But it's now 8:30 PM Eastern and I've been up since 11:30 last night. So closing this adventure for the moment... Good night and love to all!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ireland & Scotland - Day 14

Day 14 - Fort William, the Jacobite train and Loch Lomond -- ALL of Loch Lomond

The word for this morning and afternoon is Serendipity. 

The word for the evening is Frustration.

All Aboard!
No breakfast this morning; we needed to leave by 7:30 and, on Sundays, the hotel didn’t start serving until 8:00. We shrugged it off and headed out for Fort William and The Jacobite train – the very same train and route used for the Hogwarts Express in all the Harry Potter films. I’d gotten the tickets months ago. The first class seats (like the ones Harry and friends ride in) were sold out even then, but we got comfortable seats in what, in the US, would be called a dining car – two seats facing a shared table.

Steven got us hot chocolates as we waited for the train, and a shortbread covered in toffee to munch on. Soon we were on board, facing front, excited for the adventure we were about to take.

Barbara and me (in red and purple)
Because there are only the two of us and the train is sold out by this time, we knew we’d be facing two strangers. I’m pretty shy; thank goodness Steven isn’t. A couple about our age slid in across from us and within minutes we were gabbing away like old friends. Truly! They were wonderful people (she’s a librarian; he’s an accountant and a train fanatic – an anorak they are called; volunteers to wear those bulky coats and clock the trains to make sure they’re on time). At one point she and I were discussing various authors and I gave her my card.

Well. She got all flustered for several minutes. She’s read two of my books! I was floored. We had a great laugh about it and I signed the back of the card for her. We took a picture together, too. J

So it was a nice boost to my ego and cemented our friendship. From then on, the four of us chatted and took pictures of the scenery and had a great time. We separated in Mallaig for our hour and a half stay there, then met up again in seats on the opposite side of the train for the ride back to Fort William (this way now they were facing forward – and we got to see the views on the other side returning).

I loved the apparent chaos and colors of these nets!
Mallaig is a very small town on the Irish Sea side of Scotland. Its economy is mostly from tourists and the fishing boats. For lunch I had fresh prawns – the first time ever I’d eaten prawns. I always thought it was just another name for shrimp – but they’re smaller. They were wonderful. A lot of work to get to, but tasty to eat! Steven isn’t a seafood kind of guy, but he tried the Coronation Chicken – which had a sauce on it very different from anything he’d ever had before.

By the way, I need to go back and add to yesterday’s entry: at lunch yesterday in Inverness, I ordered haggis, neeps and tatties as an appetizer. It’s just a small portion of what is usually a larger meat. I’ve been wanting to try it, but didn’t want to order a whole portion and then not like it. So this was the perfect opportunity.

Suffice it to say, I LOVE haggis. It’s just sausage with some really cool spices. Neeps are mashed rutabagas and tatties are, of course, potatoes. If I could get it in the States, I’d have it a lot!

Back to today.

So we had a great time on the train. Serendipity came into play in our meeting two wonderful people and in getting to eat a new food (prawns and Coronation chicken). Next stop – East Kilbride and our hotel.

Loch Lomond
We did really well coming along the A82. Absolutely stunning scenery, including a beautiful glen, and then another and another and another. The rain had started but it only made them more beautiful, the mountain tops slowly being veiled by the lowering clouds. We stopped to take many pictures, none of which will do the sight justice.

About a half an hour from our hotel, we hit a stop. The road ahead was closed because of a fatal accident. This is a road that dips and turns as it follows the coastline of Loch Lohman – a road with very narrow lane and no shoulder on either side.

There was no clear detour, so we chose a direction at the road closed part and found a restaurant not too far down. Serendipity again – we’d been driving for two hours and here was food and a break when we needed it. Our waiter was a Chris Hemsworth look alike and wore a kilt. Yum! We stayed for an hour, hoping the detour would be open when we finished.

It wasn’t. The road had been closed since half one (1:30) and it was now nearly six. We can only imagine what they had to do to fix the road. Our prayers are with all those involved.

One part of a beautiful glen we discovered on the
eastern side of Loch Lomond
Of course, this meant our hotel was now a lot further away because we had to go down the other side of the loch. Now mind you, we were less than a mile from the southern end of the lake at the detour and going around meant going all the way back that winding road to the north end and coming back down through Stirling. Yes, that means we traveled all the way around the circumference of Loch Lomond. 

Once more we got to within a half an hour of our hotel and got a message that there was a traffic problem ahead. We decided to listen to her (female voice GPS) and followed the new detour. It added only five minutes to our trip, so we’re good. At this point we’re tired and having to work at finding the positive, but we’re managing.

And then she tells us to get off the motorway onto a ramp that doesn’t exist.

It USED to exist, but is currently under construction and is just a pile of dirt. We spend nearly an hour driving in circles trying to find our way to some spot that will get us moving in the right direction. By now Steven’s been driving for over three hours (thank goodness the sun sets late and while its raining, it isn’t dark) and the Word of the Day has changed to Frustrated. I think if we had to go around one more roundabout we were both going to be carsick.

Nerves were frayed, tempers short and the positive had been left at the last roundabout by the time we finally found the hotel. We got checked in, took our bags up through a serpentine maze of stairs, doors and turns for no reason, getting lost not once but twice trying to find the damn room.

But find it we did. In silence we entered. Steven took his bag over to his side of the bed and left it, dropping on the bed in exhaustion. I left my bag, kicked off my shoes and plopped next to him, intending to give him a hug and apologize for being snappish. But we made the mistake of looking each other in the eye and it was all over for both of us. The chuckled turned to unrestrained, uncontrollable laughter that didn’t stop until both of us had tears in our eyes and were gasping for breath.

Yes, it had been a crappy end to a beautiful start but heck! We were in freaking Scotland!!!