Travel with Mona to St. Petersburg, Capital of the Tsars

For two whole centuries, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Currently the second largest city in Russia, it is recognized as Russia’s intellectual and cultural hub. When I spent a few days in 2002 on a business trip, St. Petersburg looked like a neglected city compared to Moscow. In July 2017, we stopped for two days as part of a Baltic Sea cruise and were stunned by the difference, the renovated buildings, the cleanliness of the streets, the wealth of flowers everywhere.

Our guide informed us that Putin was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), studied law at Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975, and took pride in renovating his city. Saint Petersburg, called the Venice of the North, because of its copious bridges and natural canals, mainly the Neva River, is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Hermitage on the Neva
A view on the Neva at sunset

After walking along the Nevetsky Avenue, we stopped in a salon de thé and enjoyed a lunch of toast with orange caviar and a cappuccino, then headed to visit the famous Hermitage, Winter Palace of the Russian tsars. The Hermitage hosts an art collection to rival the Louvre in Paris.

In front of the Hermitage or Winter Place of the tsars.

Entrance of the Hermitage

This former palace is steeped in splendor and opulence at every turn.

Peter the Great devised the blue prints of Peterhof Palace, its 300-acre park, and superb fountains to rival the grandeur of Versailles.

The fountains are activated at noon for fifteen minutes with a music show.

The Church of the Resurrection, also called Church of Savior on Spilled Blood is the other major attraction in St. Petersburg. Commissioned by tsar Alexander III in 1883, the church was meant to honor the assassination of his father, Alexander II, which explains the name “spilled blood.” This church resembles Moscow’s famous St. Basil’s Cathedral. The most magnificent component is the 7,500 square meter of mosaics inside the church, illustrating scenes from the Bible.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a landmark of St. Petersburg, built on the site of the old fortress, which marks the birthplace of the city. The Peter and Paul Cathedral symbolizes imperial Russia, since it once served as a burial site for the imperial family.

Inside St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the fortress.
The tomb of the last Romanof Tsar

There are so many beautiful churches in St. Petersburg, most of them with a colorful dome in gold, or other colors. We visited St. Isaac Church, Our Lady of Kazan, and so many more…

Just walking in the streets for hours and hours was so interesting. We also used the ultra modern underground metro to go from our hotel to downtown. Remember that in summer the sun sets at 11:30 pm. St. Petersburg is so far north that it experiences nearly 24 hours a day of sunlight from mid-May to mid-July. Even when the sun is down — for a couple of hours after midnight — the sky is white.

Russian metro
A bear for a pet?

You can’t visit Russia without attending a ballet performance or a traditional Russian folk dance in a real palace. During the intermission we mingled with the dancers a glass of vodka in hand.

I hope you enjoyed this quick visit to St. Petersburg.

To relax with a sweet Christmas romance, may I suggest my latest release, WEDDING PLANS, book 5 of the Love Plans Series.

New Release WEDDING PLANS A sweet Christmas story.
When dedicated Dr. Kent rescues a patient and is late for his own wedding, his fiancée greets him with tears, curses, and a slap. Fed up with her hysterics, Tyler cancels the wedding. The recovered patient intends to keep her handsome doctor. But the jilted bride goes out of her way to grab back her former fiancé.
Wedding Plans is part of the Love Plans Series.

New Release: SAILING AWAY PLANS: “A great love story and a second chance at a new life.”

New Release: DATING PLANS: Happiness finally seems within grasp for Matt and Brenda until the bullies in her daughter’s class pull her into their web again.

New Release RESCUE PLANS: Intense, emotional, sensual– Ariana fought hard to escape the slums and become a nurse. Captain Lopez taught her to conquer fear. Can he help her forget the scum from the past and win her trust?

Your Favorite Drink

For years, I would restrict myself to a light whiskey, a girlie drink as they call it, that has the right proportions of lemon juice; warming, floral bourbon; and sweet syrup to deliver a refreshing cocktail that’s neither too cloying nor too biting. Just what I needed to mingle around with a drink in hand.

American vodka

I learned to drink stronger stuff during my business trips to Belarus. Vodka, the typical Russian drink is not for the faint of heart. In the States, I’ve tried vodka diluted with orange juice and ice cubes, and found it too strong for my taste.

In Minsk, I experienced the burning effect of straight, unadulterated Belarusian vodka. When I landed in Minsk, Belarus, to work as the Program Manager of an American-Belarusian project of demilitarization that included refurbishing an analytical laboratory, I discovered that Belarusians can’t function without a bottle of vodka handy.

Belarusian vodka

During our delegation’s first meeting in the historical Hall of Officers, I presented a ten-minute summary of the project. Later an officer brought a bottle of vodka and small glasses, filled the shot glasses and distributed them. The Belarusian general raised his glass in a toast. “Welcome to Belarus. Moy drouk, my friends, I wish you a happy stay in my beautiful country. Na zdorovie. To your health.” Na zdorovie was the second Russian word I learned after Dobroye outroh, good morning.

The men emptied their glasses in one shot. I swallowed a first sip. A colonel laughed. “Let me show you how to drink vodka. One of us makes a toast. You raise your glass and you swallow it all at once. Bottoms up, as you Americans say.”

French vodka and Swedish vodka

The officer filled a second round and the general stood for another toast. “I propose a toast to the success of our joint project in Minsk.”

The men chorused, “Bottoms up.”

I raised my glass, then emptied half of my drink and brought my hand to my throat. I could swear it was on fire.

Waggling his finger, the officer chuckled. “You cheated. You left half the vodka in your glass. With each toast, you’ll get better.” Toasting with vodka became part of my job description.

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States, and 45% in Belarus (or up to 76%). Belarusians drink vodka to celebrate, to keep warm, to treat cough and sore throat. They use it in cooking and pastry. When I got sick during a trip to Minsk, they treated me with six shots of vodka. I fell asleep right away and awakened cured.

In remarks to U.K newspaper The Times, President Lukashenko encouraged citizens to drink vodka (unless working) and visit the sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. Thanks to their heavy drinking of vodka, only 152 people have contracted COVID-19 infections, with no deaths.

I wrote two books set in Belarus:

Allow me to present my new series, LOVE PLANS with three romance novels released in September and October.

Who’s Your Dream Lover?

Every author has a visual image of her characters in her head. If she finds the right words, her readers will see whom she sees, too.

Okay, that’s a perfect world. If books did it all, no one would ever go to the movies. Many times the visual I have in my head of a hero or villain is attached to someone I know or a celebrity. I have to admit, Blake Shelton was my inspiration for Benji, THE GREAT BIG FAIRY.

A younger Blake Shelton as Benji, The Great Big Fairy (time traveler).

I needed someone tall, blue-eyed, red-haired, and with dimples. Well, Blake Shelton is three out four…or four out of four if a box of Nice ‘N Easy is thrown in. And my Benji loves to sing. Would that make Blake a five out of four?

Pierce Brosnan as Marty Melbourne aka DANCES NAKED.

Pierce Brosnan’s rugged look here would be a great example of a 21st-century gentleman, stuck in the 18th-century backwoods, without access to a razor or a barber.

Do you have a movie star doppelganger to your book hero? Leave comments below. Maybe we share the same one.

The FIRST Cozy Mystery Box Set by The Authors’ Billboard!

Murder is to Die For

Four NEW stories

 

Writing Police Procedural

There are a lot of writers out there that enjoy writing police procedural, and romantic suspense in the crime world. I’m one of them, but I have the unique ability to write it with more knowledge than a lot of writers because I lived it first hand.

At the age of twenty-nine, I decided to go to the police academy. At the age of thirty, I not only graduated but landed a job as a police officer in a small township. When I first started there, they only had four full-time officers, and several part-time officers, but like most areas in our county, growth hit us, and we quickly expanded.

I worked the street for many years, driving thousands of miles, and responding to an array of emergencies. From noise complaints, animal issues, car crashes, medical calls, harassment, chasing Emu’s off the roadways, to domestics, shootings, assaults, and homicides.

I saw it all. Sometimes I would laugh after a call, sometimes I’d cry. Many times, the people I dealt with stayed with me for days, sometimes weeks after. A few of the incidents that I responded to have haunted me, even years later.

The strike of a match brings me back to an explosion. The sound of a little girl giggling reminds me of a child abuse case. Driving past an open window can remind me of crawling inside to check a woman for a pulse after she was shot. These are just some of my own personal PTSD issues.

In my final years as a police officer, I was an internationally certified Crime Scene Investigator and the first detective that our police department had ever had. I loved my job, thrived on it, but after a second serious concussion, I was no longer able to do the job safely or with the intensity that I once had.

But I use the memories to create stories that entertain and educate readers. One of the series that I write, The Twisted Love Serie is a super intense, crime drama with seriously twisted plots and dark romance that I write with a good friend of mine, Amy Manemann.

I have spent a lot of time focusing on the nitty-gritty aspects of the police work and keeping the intense timelines on track. The first two books, Love Lorn and Love Torn, are novellas and give you the back story to the two female detectives, Kali Mann and Evie Harper, that the 9 book series focuses on. Both of those books are FREE to readers!

Love Inked, the third book in the series, is the first full-length novel and when Kali and Evie come together as partners, things get a little out of control. This series is intense, dark, emotional, graphic, suspenseful, sexy (very sexy), and continues from one book to the next like episodes of your favorite television series!

Get Ready to get Twisted Love!

Love Lorn, Book 1, written by Amy Manemann

Love Torn, Book 2, Written by Stacy Eaton

Love Inked, Book 3, Eaton & Manemann

Love Drowned, Book 4, Eaton & Manemann

Love Carved, Book 5, Eaton & Manemann

Loved Trapped, Book 6, Eaton & Manemann (Oct 29th)

Loved Crossed, Book 7, Manemann & Eaton (June 2022)

Love Twisted, Book 8, Eaton & Manemann (August 2022)

Love Lies, Book 9, Eaton & Manemann (October 2022)