Cousins O’Dwyer Discussion thread








The battle is over!  This is the place to discuss The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy from Dark Witch to Shadow Spell to Blood Magick.  

Some starter questions:

Did one of the books stand out for you more that the others?
What did you think of the careful crafting of the battles?
How often did you refer to Nora’s travelogues from Ireland while reading the books?

Please add any thoughts or questions of your own.  And remember that spoilers may occur.



Saturday, soup and a visit

I post a lot of photos from signings or RWA or various trips, but mainly Nora is a soul most content at home.  And over this pretty fall weekend, before the rush of release week and a signing next Saturday, she had (what appears to me) to have a perfect balance of things she loves.  She sent photos and some text, so settle in and see what she was up to.  ~Laura

Fall and winter say soup-making (and eating) to me. Weekends, when I’m lucky, give me time to play in the kitchen so that’s where I spent most of my Saturday. By early afternoon I had a big pot of three bean photo 2 (1)and ham soup simmering. Yum. 

Right after I had the soup simmering, I had a visitor. My oldest grandson came by to hang with Nana. Visits from young boys to Nana’s should always involve cookies. My young baker decided on chocolate cookies, and did a fine job with the batter–we both sampled it to be sure it was worthy.


While the dough chilled, we walked outside so I could cut some of the last of the season’s flowers–still some bright spots in my garden–and bring that reminder of summer indoors. Then we baked, frosted, and my boy did the taste test. Thoroughly approved!

 photo 2 photo 4

Life can often be crowded and busy and demanding. A lovely Saturday of soup and cookie making, a pretty mixed bouquet from the garden and a few hours with an adorable and happy young boy is a gift.


My advice. Grab some time for yourself now and then. Make some soup, eat some cookie dough, put some flowers in a vase. If you don’t have an adorable young boy to share a Saturday with, maybe you can rent one. I guarantee you’ll end the day with a smile.


The view from the desk

Nora’s back at work but she sent me this photo and note to share with you all.  How does the season look outside your window? ~Laura

I hate to see summer end. I miss my garden when the frosts come. But there’s a lot to be said for fall, the smoky scent of it on air gone just a bit crisp, the way the sun hits the changing colors of the leaves. Even as I write this photoI’m watching the wind kick, and those leaves whirl in the air. There’s a difference in the sound of the wind in fall than in summer. Do you hear it?

The fact is, I love the view out my office window in every season. I think I missed the peak of color here while I was in New York, but it’s still pretty special. So I thought I’d share this afternoon’s view with you.



What’s In A Name

In a recent Facebook thread, we had considerable speculation–and some insistence–regarding Roarke’s full name. Several posters stated Roarke was named Patrick Michael Roarke, Jr after his father.

Absolutely not.

Let me repeat, be perfectly clear. Roarke was not named after his father. This man is, and never was anyone’s junior.

He’s Roarke. Just Roarke. That’s more than enough.

Some readers feel I hinted in Portrait that Roarke was named after his father. Actually I hinted at another name entirely. But while he carries the name Roarke from his father, that’s it. Just it. No other name. I simply didn’t give him one, for the very specific reason I saw Roarke. And we agreed that’s all he wanted or needed.

If readers find it fun or interesting to add a name on for themselves, that’s fine. It’s the magic of reading. You, in a very real way, create your own image.

I’ve had questions regarding Stella–what’s her REAL name. My reaction runs to: What does it matter? Whatever the name on her birth certificate, she was a horrible person. The name doesn’t change what she was. Her name means nothing.

In Concealed In Death, I revealed Mavis’s birth name. It mattered–what really mattered was why she changed it, and how and why she picked the name she did. Who she became. That’s, for me, what a name can say about a character.

What Roarke’s name says, for me, is strong, individual, confident and just a little mysterious. That’s who he is–and that’s who he’ll always be.

Names matter. Richard Troy and Stella didn’t give Eve a name. She wasn’t a person to them. Officials named her. She became Eve Dallas–and the name fits. Strong again, focused, a woman determined to stand for victims, and never to be one again.

Roarke’s single name is all he needs. It’s who he is–who he made himself. He took that single name, the last name of the father who abused him–and made it matter, made it his and his alone. Giving him more, in my opinion, detracts from his evolution.

So feel free to speculate, it’s your story while you’re reading. But he’ll always be Roarke.


Festive in Death teasers

Ok, gang, First, you should all be grateful that I kept at the unpacking and organizing and got my hands on my copy of Festive in Death. (I know I am.) Second, I’ll be posting some teasers and bits of info about Festive here over the next few days.  No real spoilers because I think the plot is more fun when you discover things for yourself.

Teaser 1:

Everyone’s favorite young street vendor is back and helps Eve out — a lot.  He’s had a good year, made some changes to his business and shows Eve the results of the favor she did for him the previous December.  And since someone will ask, his grandmother is well but doesn’t appear on page.

Oh, and Eve makes a deal with her personal devil on gift wrapping.

More tomorrow.

Teaser 2 (added on 9/4/14)

Today some one liners:

Homicide detectives like holidays too.

We learn a little more about the future of the building in Concealed.

Eve learns a little more about her home and the rooms inside.

And we learn a different approach to Dickie Berenski courtesy of the new forensic anthropologist.

Teaser 3 (added on 9/5/14)

As someone reminded me, yesterday was only four points, not five.  Math and I are not friends.

– Feeney finds time to see Eve the day before the party to give her his gift.  It’s a fine, loving, Eve/Feeney uncomfortable moment. And the moment extends a bit when Eve brings the gift home.

– Roarke re-affirms his love with brand new descriptions of how he’d deal with Eve should she ever stray.

– Eve tries to wiggle out of her deal with the devil, but ultimately can’t.  But not before we see an area of the home that’s nearly mythical and yet fully equipped for work.

– It appears running a homicide squad prepares a person to deal with warring florists and designers.

– Finally a bit of a follow up on characters from Thankless — and more gifts — is all part of the party run up.

– And it’s a pretty damn good party.





Ireland Day 14 — Drawing to a close

A brilliantly bright day, and the warmest yet for the gang’s bike ride. I do pilates for about an hour, then decide it’s much too pretty to stay inside.

While I do see people in shirtsleeves, I’m happy in my sweater, and walk in the sun for awhile before choosing a different path through the woods.

Just as beautiful–how can you go wrong?–and I hear the doves again, and other birds I can’t identify. The light’s quieter here, as it should be, but beams through to shine against moss and big, lacy ferns.

I hear something, and head toward it, reminding myself the way back is now behind me rather than to my left. I see I’ve walked in the direction of the stables, and there’s a horse and rider. Through the trees, down the slope, I can just see them cantering by.

Walk closer and while I’m hidden by the trees, see a girl on a bay going around a ring. I think at first she’s having a lesson, but decide no, the bay is. She’s taking him through his paces, walk, trot, canter, trot, using tongue clicks. I’m sure there’s knees and heels in there, too, but he responds to her clicks, changes his gait pretty and smooth each time.

Walk back and on, hear the bells jingling and look for the hawk. I don’t see one, but hear the voices of the falconer and the guest on the walk–and the guest’s delight when the hawk comes to glove.

When I finally come out I think how I’ll miss these woods. But that just means I have to come back one day.

Text Kat and learn they’re still riding, so I walk a little more, then go in and settle down to work. I get a nice chunk in before the gang’s back. Kat and Jason and I go to the tea room–scones!–and BW heads to his massage.

It’s nice to sit at the window table with the sun shining.

Then it’s back to work for a bit more.

And our last watching of Tumble!

The nasty cold that’s cycled through Kat and Bruce decides it’s my turn. It’s not horrible–yet–so I take some meds, walk down to the village for dinner. I get tea and soup. We’d hoped for music, but they have a DJ tonight, and that’s not what we had in mind.

So it’s an early night. Probably best as the cold’s hanging on.

Patchy sleep that turned into a coma this morning so I was still in bed when BW left for breakfast. Kat–sweet girl–brought me tea, and BW brought me my morning bacon. More meds on a cloudy morning, and I’ll face the organizing and packing. But I’ll face it with my views of the lake, so that’s a pretty good deal.


BW’s photos from the bike trip.


Fresh salmon.


Kat and Jason at the doorway to Guinness Tower.


Cong Abbey


Ireland Day 13 — A trip out and a walk in the woods

More sun as we head out to drive around our big lake. Lough Corrib isn’t just the biggest lake in Ireland, it has to be one of the prettiest. Today it’s like a mirror, shining and still, and as we round it, all those marvelous islands come into view–more, I’m told than there are days in the year. There’s one, sloping up to a flat rise. Jason comments it would be a hell of a spot for a house. Imagine it, Living on the lake, surrounded by those views–the garden you could have! Isolated, sure, but wow.


Lough Corrib. Photo by BW.

There are a couple inhabited, but for land conservation, no more houses can be built. It’s wise, as there’s a purity here that could be too easily spoiled.

Hills and fields–sheep who’ve escaped the fence and have their colorful butts right out in the road. And the mountains rise up, green and rocky, worn smooth by time and weather. Horses on hillsides, cows cropping.

Lots of coaches out today, and it’s a little wild having those big buses coming at us on the winding roads, with hedgerows hard on the other side.

We’re bound for Oughterand and Aughnamure Castle just outside it. The ride takes us around the north side of Corrib, through the mountains, in and out of villages where we skirt Joyce Country.

I admire some of his work, but has anyone every read Ulysses all the way through?

Oughterand is big and bustling, and there we stop for diesel before driving on.

The car park for the castle is beside a field bordered by a stone fence. A Connemara pony crops there, busily. He–and it IS a he as he’s considerably well hung–never raises his head as we park, gather what we want and set out on the path. There’s a big black cow doing the same in an adjoining field, and the river on the other side. It’s lovely, streaming over rocks, snaking around, dotted here and there with lily pads with trees climbing up the far bank.

The path climbs, too, gives us views of the big keep, winds around to show off the single ancient yew remaining. They’d harvested all the rest, it seems, for wagon wheels, bows.

The castle dates back to about 1490, and they’ve preserved and restored much of the walls, the keep, a central watch tower.

Two dogs lay in the sun at the entrance, as disinterested as the cow and pony.

Here is a good spot for fortification, with the river on three sides. It’s a large green space, bordered by the stone walls. What had been a banquet hall is a field now as the structure was taken by the river. At one time it held a trap door where unwelcome guests were dropped down.

I like the watch tower, and think it reminds me of a dovecote, and indeed when I go in, read the history, it was used as one after the corner towers were built. I like the squat shape and domed roof.

Into the keep, read up on the history–long and colorful. Up the tight winding stairs to study the murder hole and imagine archers standing there, picking off invaders below who’d gotten that far inside. Look through arrow slits, and clearly see how they’d held off invaders for so long.

Up again, decide I wouldn’t have enjoyed using the garderobe–or being anywhere on watch below. Up, tight, skinny stairs with a rope for a banister.

There’s a secret prison, a claustrophobic space behind a wall where it’s believed prisoners were tossed to slowly starve to death. Maybe the quick death out the trap door would’ve been preferred.

You can see how they lived, always preparing for war, raising cattle, making weapons, spinning wool, holding banquets. Even in such a lovely spot, it had to be a very hard life.

We’re WAY up, it’s been deceptive stopping on every floor–and the height gives me that flutter in the belly. So down I go again.

We start back, and I want to see these plants across the road. A flowering vine that leaves something like mutant rose hips. Huge, they look like cherry tomatoes from a distance.And I notice one of the cottages has a sprinkler going. Seriously? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sprinkler running in Ireland, and though it’s been wonderfully clear, we’ve had a bit of rain every day.

In any case, the gardens are pretty.

We travel back, detour into a pretty little community to follow the signs for a candlemaker. Kat and I go in the little cottage–and honestly, I wanted to get my hands on the shopkeeper’s dooryard. It’s the first I’ve seen so overgrown, more weeds than flowers and flowers needing deadheading and tending. Still I find a couple things in the little shop–and if my mother were still here, I’d have bought more as there were many she’d have loved, painted with flowers or butterflies.

On back to Oughterand, and when I spy a shop selling footballer jerseys BW pulls over to let me and Jason out while he and Kat find a place to park.

The shop has everything. A fun, cluttered place. More grandkid gifts, a little this, a little that–a new hat for BW, some bits and bobs. Some wandering to other shops while BW scouts out a place for lunch.

It’s a nice big pub, and a good time for a glass of wine, some soup for me. A lovely little hour while Kat looks up our birth trees in a little book she bought. I’m an ivy tree, which I like quite a bit.

Then it’s the pretty ride back, the mountains going to hills, the hills to fields, and the lake shining.

We’re going to rest up, and I should organize things, but I want a walk. It’s too blue and clear to sit inside.

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Where Nora went in. Photo by NR.

Out I go, choose a direction at random, and go by the Carpet Garden, up the steps, down the wide path. And into the woods. The path is too pretty to resist, and I think I won’t go far as my sense of direction is decent but not stellar. But it’s go gorgeous and green and full of quiet and soft, soft light.

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Toll barrier. Photo by NR

I have to be careful to keep myself oriented, but follow a path, come to a big tree with a long branch across the road like a toll barrier. I think about it, and as I’ve brought a glass of wine, pour a few drops for the toll, then duck under.

It’s wonderful here, a lovely place to wander. I hear doves cooing madly and the wind surfing through the trees, and nothing else. I consider going back, but go on instead. There may not be such a perfect day left for a walk like this.

There’s magic here. For those who don’t believe, that’s a shame, but for me it’s clear and strong, as true as the scent of the pines and earth. Carpets of moss, tangled brambles, glorious trees and that silken-soft light.

Carpets of moss.  Photo by NR.

Carpets of moss. Photo by NR.

The moss and time has put faces on some of the trees. You almost expect them to speak as you pass by. The pictures I take along the way won’t be wonderful, but they’ll remind me of my walk.

I’ve seen no one, heard no one the whole time I’ve wandered through. Just the doves and the wind.

Tree with a face. Photo by NR

Tree with a face. Photo by NR

When I come out I spook a man walking his little girl on the wide path outside the woods. I hear him tell her, laughing, his accent American, that it freaked him out. I can imagine it, hearing something coming out of the deep woods on a quiet evening.

Back in, and onto dinner. A light one at what’s become our table in The Dungeon. We go out the back door after the meal, walk around.

The lake is a silver platter, smooth and shining. The castle a magnificent silhouette against the sky, lights glowing in the windows.

Magic.  Photo by NR

Magic. Photo by NR

Another blue day this morning. The gang may hire bikes and take a ride. I may work, may take another walk. It’s nice to have these last couple of days to do whatever strikes.



Ireland Day 12 — Saddle up

A damp start with a cool, thin rain, but we decide we want a walk before our ride, so out we go. We’re rewarded by the sight of a flower-decked carriage pulled by two Clydesdales–or they looked like it to me. The liveried driver and footman hold the horses as a couple of eager photographers take picture of the lovely bride and her handsome groom.

We head off, across the bridge, take the path that leads to what became for me Sorcha’s cabin. The woods are gorgeous here, and the gloomy light adds to it all. Though the big downed tree is gone, the cabin stands at it did, vine-covered beside the path. It’s easy for me to see Sorcha making magic here, teaching her children, waiting for her man, sacrificing herself in her attempt to defeat Cabhan.

There are fuchsias growing wild with their bold red drops just outside. I can see where she’s buried, imagine the bluebells.

We walk on, down to the water with its view of the castle, and a little rowboat pulled to shore.

And up the path again, into the woods. A new path for me, huge trees and slim ones, downed ones in a tangle all blanketed with moss, and an old stone wall, moss-covered.

Then a massive, stunning, magic tree. It looks as if several trees have joined at the trunk, grown up and up and up, spreading dozens of branches. It reminds me of a Tree of Life, and needs its place in a story. I doubt any pictures we took can capture it.

Imagine what it’s seen, what it knows.

It’s a wonderful walk, an enchantment of woods and moss and brambles. We do see a couple people–one pair with two dogs, a black Lab and his little companion who remind me of the pair of dogs BW and I saw before who joyfully splashed in the river. Later a mother with her little girl, the girl heroically trying to peddle her little bike on the rough path. It seems she’s only just had the training wheels off. They join their family, the father with a baby in a backpack, and two more girls.

It’s light and shadow, greens, so many greens and rich browns, and so quiet you barely hear the birds calling.

We come out again, and there’s the carriage. The bride and groom are out for pictures. Her dress is gorgeous. A princess of a dress, with a long, long, long tulle veil. She works to settle the full white skirt over the crinoline cage beneath, and I get a glimpse of her shoes. Fabulous! She wears a sparkling tiara over short, dark hair. The perfect bride for a castle.

We leave them to continue our walk over to the stables.

Apollo, the horse BW rode last time, has his head out the stall door–but isn’t interested in being greeted. The one next to him–I think she was Millie–is more than interested, especially in BW and Jason–actually bumps her head against BW’s back when he’s talking to me as if to say: Hey, how about me?photo 4sm

She wants to be petted, wants attention, nibbles on their shoulders, cranes her head out. She allows me to pet her, but is much more interested in Jason, all but laying her head on his shoulder.

Inside is the little stable dog Tingle, a small dynamo with a small stick he drops at our feet. I throw it into the dirt ring, and with a quick bark he flies after, kicking up dust. Runs back, drops the stick. It’s a game we all know.

Jason throws it for him again and again as we fill out forms, change into our boots.

After a short wait, our horses are brought out. Apollo for BW again–and when BW checked my travelogue from last visit, it seems I had Spruce then as well. Jason’s on Willow, Kat on Aladdin. Fiona, our guide is up on Puffin, who she says can be a problem, but is being trained as a lead horse.

It’s good to be in the saddle again, and after a couple of testing turns around the ring, we’re out the side door.

Spruce is a sturdy, sweet-natured Connemara, a gray who’s nearly white. He tailgates Puffin, and Fiona tells me that’s fine as Puffin likes to know he’s there. Willow, however, demands personal space and walks well behind. It seems Aladdin  was a carriage horse in his youth, so he’s a slow, plodding one. And Apollo is content bringing up the rear.

It’s a lovely, relaxed ride–for me anyway. Willow, it seems, is an opportunist and will try to eat at every step. Apollo enjoys snacking, but will walk as he does. Willow prefers to stop, so Jason’s pulling his head up regularly while Kat’s urging Aladdin on.

Then it’s into the woods, and it’s a fresh experience to travel through them on a horse. The sun’s come out, and the light’s dappling through the trees, shining here and there. We pause now and then to let the others catch up while Fiona tells me how she grew up on a farm, riding her little pony bareback. She’ll call out to the other horses now and then: Come on, boys! Walk on, boys! Or calling each by name if they’re lagging.

By another moss-covered stone wall, through wood where the trees are slim so the light showers in, and through thicker ones with deep shadows.

Someone’s on a hawk walk and we ride under the bird while it looks down from his high perch.

Out into more open, by another hawk–what a sight to see while riding. Along the river, through the tall trees, by fields where Fiona tells me her Puffin and the cow at the fence are not friends. And a lovely house with a beautiful garden. There are chickens behind, and once when they were let out to roam a bit, Puffin was struck with fear. WHAT are THEY????

Fiona shows me the field where Spruce and I think it’s Willow spend their nights, and tells me Spruce loves the brambles and berries, and is often purple around the mouth every morning.

He’s sweet, and being 19 knows his job, so I’m able to look everywhere as we ride, relax.

Around the path, by the Quiet Man house, and aiming back for the stables. Spruce has backed off Puffin somewhat at this point–after Puffin farted directly in his face. There’s some grass, and Willow sees a golden opportunity, slyly veers off the path to snack–the others behind see this as an invitation.

Once that’s sorted out we walk on.

It’s back to the ring to dismount, to give Spruce some strokes and praise. The other horses greeted us loudly on our return, calling out from their stalls. And Tingle is right there with a new stick.

We walk back for a little snack in the tea room, then everyone has a rest for a bit. I put my feet up and check mail, fiddle, read a bit.

And it’s time to go down to the village for dinner. BW points out the little boat flying pink balloons coming toward our shore. We all look out our bedroom window to watch. I think it must be another bride.

And when we leave to drive down, there’s a woman in a pretty white dress.

We head to Ryan’s for a meal, and it’s just right. Warm and dry, easy service, good food.

The sky’s still glowing some, with a few stars out when we get back.

Slept like a rock until nine!

Must get myself dressed as BW’s already back from breakfast and the plans include driving to the other side of the lake and an old fortress with a secret prison.




Ireland Day 11 — Out and about and what should Nora spy in a store?

A little morning shower, then sun so the view out my parlor window is all green and blue with puffs and streaks of white clouds. Pretty as it gets.

Jason and Kat want a walk to the village, and I’m with them. It’s warm enough I can go with a vest rather than a jacket. I realize, damn it, I forgot my Fitbit. Kat points out now it’s like I’m not walking at all.

Feels good anyway, and we’re heading down the steep street for some shopping. We never get quite enough! Kat’s after wool, and I’m after whatever catches my eye–still in gift mode. We do well, all around, start back up for some of the other shops–might as well hit them all again. The newish one-Lily’s, I think it’s called–has a little pottery dish in blue. It’s small, and has appealed to me every time I’ve gone in. That’s for me, and will sit somewhere in my living room and remind me of Cong and the shop and the pretty shopkeeper.

Up the street, around the corner, into another. I buy a wool cap my oldest granddaughter will either think lame or adorable. And there Kat spots the shopkeeper has Shadow Spell on her little counter. I’m ridiculously thrilled by this. Someone right in Cong is reading a book I set in Cong and around it.

When we comment, she asks if we’re reading it, too. I tell her I wrote it, and we have a nice, happy chat. She’s enjoying it, likes reading about her own home, and says the woods are indeed magic there, and I found it. I’m wonderfully pleased.

If that’s not happy enough, we backtrack a bit as I want more sodas for the room. Into a deli/butcher shop where the woman behind the counter is bright and cheerful, all but singing as we talk. She spies the ring I’m wearing, and oohs over it, wants a closer look. She loves sparkly things, she tells us. She’s a magpie. I have to laugh as I often say the same about myself. So I tell her I know: Oh, it’s shiny! I must have it for my nest.

We talk awhile–where we’re from, where we’re staying and so on. It comes out we’ve been before, and I say when J&K were with us last time we were younger then.

The butcher comes out, just as bright and cheerful. Ah, we were all younger just yesterday. It’s a happy shop, one I’d frequent regularly if I lived in the village.

We go on up, veer into the abbey where men are working on the stone.

It’s a good walk, down and back, productive, fun. When Ashford comes into view, we see two men, high, high up, an extension ladder braced against a high tower. One’s already up on it, and the other starts the climb.

You couldn’t pay me enough!

Jason tells me how he once caught on fire up a ladder in a theater replacing a light. It’s a story a mother doesn’t want to hear until well after the fact. Up the ladder, and the lamp he’s screwing in starts getting warm. He uses his shirt to protect his hand, and as he does, the shirt starts smoking. Then there’s some flame with it. Says he thinks: Huh, I’m on fire. So he’s thumping at his shirt up there, heading down. Just a smallish burn hole in the shirt, he tells me, and he kept it a long while to remind himself not to do the stupid.

The gang is going on the boat trip around Corrib, and I’m giving that a pass. Odds are I’d be sick, so why chance it. And it gives me time to work. It’s so pretty out! A good day to be on the water. At one point, I thought I’d rather be sitting on the chaise in the bedroom with someone else’s book, but I stick with it.

It’s nice to be away in my head to frigid January in NYC, dealing with murder, then look out at the sun and the blue.

When I’m done, I take my tablet over to a chair, sit to check my mail. Seconds later BW walks in. Perfect timing.

They had a brilliant time. He swears the ride was smooth as silk and I’d’ve handled it. That’s a big maybe, and in any case I got solid work in. They have entertainment on the boat, a man playing the Irish accordian–who did the same in the film The Quiet Man. He plays, he sings, he tells jokes. BW loved it.

When we meet up for dinner in The Dungeon, Kat has a brochure on the island where they stopped and walked about. There’s an ogham stone I would have liked to see, a graveyard, and ruins.

She tells me the ride was mostly smooth, though there was a rocky patch in there.

I go for the bellini again–lovely–and we have a fine dinner. Still, there’s dessert. This time we split only two between us, as we’re pretty full up. The berries are so fresh I’m surprised they don’t pop.

An early night as now BW isn’t feeling quite the thing.

But he’s off to breakfast now, much better after a good night’s sleep. And the sun’s bright and pretty over the water. It’s the horses we’re after today, and we’ll have a ride this afternoon. A workout for me first, as other than the walk to the village and back, I mostly sat on my arse all day.



BW with the hound guarding the gates of Ashford.


12th century altar at Inchaqoill Monastery. Photo by BW.


Kat and the onboard entertainment. Photo by BW.