Wednesday, 31 December 2008

While you're down there...

Normal service will be resumed in the New Year when I have recovered. I forsee a slew of steamy excerpts from my new collection Dark Enchantment - out January 8th! - order it now!

In the meantime, do you think that when Burne-Jones painted Pan and Psyche in 1874 he had any idea how suggestive of oral sex it looked?

Or is it just me?

Monday, 29 December 2008

Eyecandy Monday

Limited access to the Net this week - but I can still do Eyecandy!

I do have a habit of chopping the heads off my eyecandy blokes. This is not because I have a fetish for decapitation, or a need to objectify men (I can see them as sex objects with their faces on just fine, thanks), but because I have very particular and idiosyncratic tastes in male faces. The wrong face (too young - generally anything below 30 - too bland, too Twink, or Matthew McConaughey) totally turns me off. In fact most of my parameters are not even verbally definable. This gentleman just had the Wrong Eyes. Sorry, mate.

Friday, 26 December 2008

2008 in the rearview mirror

This is one of my favourite pictures of the many posted to Lust Bites last year. I thought he deserved another airing.

This is the best book I bought - a big art coffee-table book about The Orientalists, by Kristian Davies. (I did not pay that ridiculous 2nd-hand price!)

2008 was a terrible year for movies in my opinion - there were a lot of okay-not-bad ones (The Dark Knight, The Day the Earth Stood Still etc) but few that I really loved. Eloise Pasteur, friend and cinema-buddy, has a pretty full list of the films we saw together here. My top 5 favourites (and see how different our opinions are!) were (ranked by how enthusiastic I was after seeing them, not by their value as art):

The best new song I heard all year was this one:

The TV series I was happiest to discover was:

2008 was also sadly the year we lost our beautiful Forest to cancer. Still missed.

Here's to 2009...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Eyecandy Monday

"Where did that snowball go?"

New Black Lace author Charlotte Stein has just started up a blog of her own. She already has a short story in Lust at First Bite and more coming up in 2009 in the Seduction and Liaisons anthologies. I think she's incredibly talented and her writing is thoroughly entertaining, so even though this is a really busy time of year please do pop on over and say Hello and lend her your support!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Wishing you all a Merry Yule!

It's the Longest Night tonight ... make the most of it!

(And if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, why not stay up and see the dawn in for Midsummer?)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

"Grave of the Fireflies" - DVD review

As the credits rolled on this film I said to Mr Ashbless, "You know you didn't have to watch it all the way through."

"Yes I did," he said, slightly muffled behind his damp sleeve: "I couldn't believe that even a Japanese anime would spend an hour and a half showing you a small child starving to death."

Well now he does.

Grave of the Fireflies, much like When the Wind Blows, is an animated film that uses loveable cartoon characters to very gently tackle the unspeakably awful. You shouldn't be under any illusion that it's going to have a happy ending: the film starts with the ghost of a boy in cadet uniform telling you "This is where I died." You then see his death-scene (he starves in what appears to be a railway station), and cleaners root through his belongings and find a sweetie tin which they throw out into the grass, where bone-shards spill out of the tin. Among the fireflies that are a recurring motif of the picture, the ghost of a 5-year old girl rises up and joins her brother, smiling. Roll titles.

At least the ghosts appear to be happy.

The rest of the film is an extended flashback. Set in Japan right at the end of WW2, it is about two children, teenaged Seita and his little sister Setsuko. Their father is in the Imperial Navy, their mother is burned during the firebombing of Kobe and dies of her wounds. Seita tries his best to look after his sister, but in a country gripped by famine where even family members turn on them, she and then he inevitably succumb to malnutrition.

There's a much fuller description of the plot and context, and the firefly symbolism, over at Wikipedia.

This is a beautiful but bleak film. Very much in the same style as the gentle fantasy My Neighbour Totoro (released by Studio Ghibli at the same time) it shares a semi-rural Japanese setting, terrific animation and characters so sweet even my childproof heart was melted. The scenery is just beautiful, and even the horror is underplayed and veiled by the children's natural innocence and optimism.

This movie is yet another attempt to remind us all that every war causes indescribable suffering to the innocent on both sides. Do we really need to be told this again? Yes, unfortunately: over and over and over.

Absolutely recommended, but NOT for children.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


This is Eric Stoltz, currently "starring" as Miles in my short story The High Ground - first draft has been completed, and it should be prepped and subbed to Black Lace this week for their Affair anthology.

Yes, a hot ginger bloke ... (first seen and fancied by me in The Prophecy, which is btw full of wonderfully scary angels.)

Got an iPhone or an iPod Touch?

You can now download smutty books to it to read on the go, through Lexcycle Stanza - including my novel Wildwood, which is published by All Romance eBooks.

Just go into the Stanza app on your iPhone/iPod Touch.Punch the "Online Catalog" tab. Press the "plus sign" at the bottom right hand corner of the screen and type in the name "All Romance eBooks" and then add this url beneath it
Now press the "save button" on the top right hand corner of the screen.
You should then see an "All Romance eBooks" tab under "Online Catalog". Press the "All Romance eBooks" tab. You will now be able to download and read excerpts from the catalog. At the end of the excerpt is a link to purchase. Once you go through the purchase sequence, you should select the ePub version. Voila, instant book on your iPhone/iPod Touch!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Eyecandy Monday

These pictures were sent to me by Mathilde Madden and I was so grateful I just had to share. Unsettling, aren't they? - but ooh...
They're from some fashion photoshoot, believe it or not. A little bit impractical for everyday wear in my opinion, but very fetching.

And don't forget it's Man Candy Monday every Monday over at Erotica Cover Watch (and links beyond).

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Oh Bokhara

Anyone keeping an eye on my wordcount in the sidebar at right might have noticed that my WIP novel Heart of Flame has stalled this month at 60,000 words. That's because I have 3 short stories to write this month for various anthologies. I've actually written and subbed 2 (one to Cleis, one to Ravenous Romance) already and the big one (6000 words) for Black Lace is about half-done. If I can get that out of the way I'll only have one 6K story to write in January.

Not that I'm going to get it finished today (my in-laws are coming round) or tomorrow (2 sets of friends to visit). But there is a faint chance I'll get back to my poor novel for Xmas. Sod presents - I just want time to write!

So in the meantime I have stranded my hero and heroine in ancient Bokhara, as pictured, in the hands of an evil vizier. Is there any other sort, you might wonder?

And having researched Bukhara (modern spelling), Uzbekistan is now on my holiday wish-list!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

News - and Book Giveaway

Nice things. Nasty things. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster week on the writing front. Luckily the nice things are more important than the nasty ones.

First, I've signed a contract with Cleis Press for my short story Scorched, which is to appear in the anthology Playing with Fire: taboo erotica in April 2009. The anthology's theme isn't smoking (I don't think that's taboo. Yet.): it's couples who get up to things that push or break the boundaries of their relationship. That's certainly the theme of my story, which is all about a woman who is carrying on with the flat-mate behind her boyfriend's back - and what happens when he finds out.

Secondly, there's a really nice review of Wildwood over at writer Saskia Walker's blog. (Oh, and thereby hangs a tale...)

And thirdly, my author copies of Dark Enchantment have just been delivered. This collection of my paranormal and fantasy short stories is out in the UK in January (and the US two months later) but YOU CAN WIN A COPY NOW. How? Go over to Nikki Magennis' blog where she's interviewing me this week as part of her "writing that touches" series, and leave a comment on the post. A winner will be picked at random.

Good luck!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Eyecandy Monday

Lust Bites has finished. This is the first Monday in two years (barring holidays) I haven't gone straight to my computer on waking, just to check everything has loaded okay.

Now, sitting here watching the tumbleweed blowing through my Inbox, I know what the sound of virtual silence is.

My feelings are mixed. I am immensely proud of what we achieved over two years - I don't think we ever missed a scheduled post (though sometimes only by the skins of our teeth!) and I think it was a great magazine blog. I am hugely grateful for all the new doors it opened for me, for the talented people I met (including the ones I had stand-up rows with) and for the netfriends I made. I am very sad that it is over now.

And I am deeply deeply relieved. Running Lust Bites, even as part of a big team, was way more tiring than it looks from the outside. Take Olivia Knight's final post for exmple: it took her 5 hours to write and she was up till 2am. That's at the extreme end ... but it's not off the scale. The Frenzy post I did the day before took me 3 hours to collate.

Now I've got all this extra time on my hands. Let's hope I don't waste it all playing Spider Solitaire. There are other blogs to visit, other people's terrific erotica to read. And oh yeah ... writing to be getting on with.

I'd better go do some!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Birthday Post 2008

It was my birthday this week - and it snowed! I realise this might not mean much to those of you who live in the US, say, but believe me here in Land of Mud it's a big deal. A quarter-inch of white frozen stuff and we have multiple pile-ups on the roads, blocked motorways, cancelled trains and newscasters spouting doom.

Pictured in the remnants of the snow is a birthday present from a friend of mine: another lovely repro prehistoric goddess for my collection. This one's from the Cyclades in Greece.

Last year for my birthday I took a look back over the previous year just to check that I had been doing new stuff, taking in new experiences and achieving things. It seems particularly appropriate to do it again this year because today is the very last day of the Lust Bites collective blog. From now on I'm on my own...

So this year I:
  • Put a picture of my bare butt on the internet.
  • Visted Norway, Belgium, the Isle of Man, Syria and Jordan.
  • Got 3 stories published by Cleis Press.
  • Nearly got arrested for antiques smuggling by the Jordanian police.
  • Got into the Best Women's Erotica collection.
  • Was called "supremely talented" by Violet Blue (Okay, I'll shut up about it now, I promise).
  • Realised I had a serious kink for minotaurs.
  • Attended a sex expo and bought a dress I cannot wear in public.
  • Spent some time in conversation with a spanking-porn star.
  • Tried out a number of things I'm not talking about, but believe me they will eventually find their way into stories in one guise or another ... Life may not begin at 40 but mine certainly got its second wind at that point.
  • Was asked to write a romance novel.
  • Successfully fostered a couple of dogs.
  • Bought a house-plant that has not died (yet).
Not bad, eh?
Wonder what next year has in store...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Best Women's Erotica 2009

Out THIS WEEK in the US and in the UK (though you have to wait until Thursday if you are British) - Best Women's Erotica 2009! This annual collection is edited by the glorious Violet Blue and I am soooo proud to be included.

I haven't had my author's copy yet so all I can promise is that it contains my archaeological story Ritual Space plus stories by 20 other authors.

Yay yay yay!
And look - you can find the whole of Violet's introduction to the book (with a sexual meditation on the Persephone myth that is very close to my own heart) right here - she calls me "supremely talented"!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Eyecandy Monday

In other December news, there is a lovely review of Lust At First Bite up at Dark Angel Reviews. Several writers are singled out for attention, and it includes lines like:
I haven’t read anything by Janine Ashbless that I haven’t liked. She’s a wonderful writer, no matter what the plot or characters are like.

Watch out - my head's swelling so much I won't be able to get my woolly hat on!
Overall the vampire anthology gets a whacking big 5 pixies (for quality of the book) and 5 restraints (for being mega-hot). Thank you Dark Angels!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Little known facts:

#1 - Greyhounds eat birdseed.

Heart of Flame update ... my heroine has just solved a problem by doing something I didn't expect, don't approve of and will cause me logistical problems further down the line. *sigh*

Characters - they're as bad as greyhounds!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

"Erotica 2008"

Yes, I did spend Saturday at the Erotica 2008 expo, in London. And I had a great time. But I can't give you a proper report - because they wouldn't let people take cameras into the hall. This was particularly stupid because they weren't confiscating phones, and who nowadays* has a cellphone that doesn't include a camera?

I was a bit surprised at myself really. It's amazing what 2 years of Lust Bites will do to someone: 2 years ago I could have imagined myself standing on the moon as easily as pictured myself attending a major sex-themed public event!

Erotica 2008 is basically a giant shopping trip with entertainment on the side (There was a repeating burlesque and circus skills floorshow staged by Torture Garden, which is a club with a funny name so stop worrying). The hall at Olympia is crammed with stalls selling, well ... Corsets and Boots. That's what you notice at first: you've never seen so many beautiful beautiful corsets in one place. There's a lot of Goth clothing on offer: cloaks, black lace dresses etc. There's also a distinct crossover into the LARPing world: leather armour abounds and people in costume included a gladiator and a lovely faun on sprung legs whom I reckon I must have already seen in a muddy field somewhere.

There are loads of sex toys (and DVDs, and furniture, and artwork) on sale too, of course, which were fun to try out. Especially the seriously expensive ones, heh heh heh. My hand (my hand!) had been subjected by the end of the day to lube, cuffing, electric shocks, several vibes and being stuffed into a number of artificial vaginas.

And there are shoes. Thousands of shoes all with crippling heels. Even I, who haven't much interest in footware, was smitten by the thigh-high crosslaced scarlet boots with the black tribal motifs (a snip at £700).

Yes, it's not a place to find a bargain. Entry was £30 a head to start with (£30 A HEAD!!) which is exorbitant ... but does make sense. It's priced to keep the casual or unfriendly public out. Inside, all was laid-back and entirely female-friendly.

But I won't be able to show you a picture of the faun. I can't wow you with the boots. I can't show you the distinctly underdressed lady who demonstrated body-jewellery to us. I can't demonstrate why I was quite impressed by Buck Angel's caberet performance. And I'm not showing you the nifty little dress I bought...

Yes, we spent way too much money. I'm still wincing. But it was fun. I totally recommend it even for the shyest shopper. Just don't blame me if the red shopping mist descends and your credit card melts!

* Apart from me, of course.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Oh Knickers!

I went into a berserk knicker-buying frenzy this week.

Yes, I've chucked out my old ones en masse. The ones that had gone grey. The ones that were too tight. The ones that were horribly baggy. The ones with the nasty little moth-holes. The ones that had stood staunch dull service for years and years - Oh, I just hate throwing things out.

Then I went and bought a new lot; colourful and lacy. Of course, being a total skinflint what I actually did was grab everything off the Sale rail in TK Max and make a sortie into Tescos (20% off), so they are last season's unfashionable knickers, but that is a step forward believe me. Though I'm peeved to find that my size-16 arse apparently counts as "extra large." Bah.

Anyway, with the money I saved I'm off today to Erotica 2008, the big annual expo in London. Yeah, I've surprised myself too!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Jordan #2 - Petra

Okay, it's nearly safe to come out ... this is the last set of my holiday photos. I've just about finished the laundry mountain too. Today's pictures are all from Petra, in Jordan.

Petra is justifiably famous, of course. Everyone who's seen the Indiana Jones film has seen the Siq ...

And the first incredible glimpse of the "Treasury" at the end.

But however incredible you think Petra is going to be ... it's more overwhelming than that. It's HUGE, for a start. We had 2 full days exploring the site. The "Treasury" is just the first thing you find - and it's not a treasury, it's a tomb. They're all tombs: hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them cut from the rock walls of the hidden valleys beyond. And 80% of the site is still awaiting excavation!

Most of them are sort of apartment-sized...

... but some of them are bloody enormous.

And the rock is candy-striped sandstone. The photo above gives the best idea of the colour of some of it (my other photos have come out a bit bleached).

This is a picture of our group ascending to the High Place of Sacrifice. It gives a faint idea of the extraordinary mountainscape that cradles the site, cutting it off from the world.

This is the sacrificial altar on the hilltop - approx 1000 years old.

Here's some cute goats - not for sacrifice. The Bedouin Arabs living in the Petra tombs were turfed out in order to save it for tourism/archaeology ... and in return they were (rightly) given the rights to make a living out of the place. So the whole site is scattered with handicraft stalls, and camel and donkey rides, making Petra a not unappealing cross between a necropolis and a market bazaar.

Just don't go buying souvenirs that look too convincing. My knock-off copies of antique artifacts got confiscated at Jordan airport!

And here is the not-recommeded route out of Petra. Three of us decided to leave not via the main Siq but by another little wadi which almost no one ever uses. As we walked it got narrower and narrower and narrower ... and I took this photo approximately at the point where it occured to me that if it rained on the hills overhead we were dead. Dead dead. We'd have been flushed out like toilet paper from a lavatory.

It was a hearts-in-our-mouths trek ... but we were lucky and it didn't rain until that evening.

I *heart* Petra.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Eyecandy Monday

To kick off my first ever Eyecandy Monday (many more to follow, I hope - girls as well as boys) here's Logan McCree. I love the tattoos.
He's the star of this very interesting looking DVD:

It's my birthday coming up soon ... Anyone?

Can you guess what he's doing in this picture?

*happy sigh*

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Blood of the Martyrs - an excerpt

Blogger willing, the above clip is Gerard Butler's audition for the role of Dracula. I can tell you, if I'd been that red-headed casting assistant (instead of just being a red-headed smutwriter), I would have come right there and then. Those eyes...

Anyway, this is all in aid of celebrating the publication of the vampire erotica anthology Lust at First Bite (nearly sold out at Amazon as I write this!). I've already posted a little snippet of my story The Blood of the Martyrs over at Lust Bites, but here's another exerpt:

St Aronne, a centuries-old vampire searching for redemption, has come to confess to Emily that he has killed her lover Paolo.

Then I was back in my own body, and I was pressed against Aronne, my heart hammering, my mouth sticky, my body full of fire and my mind reeling.

‘Did you see Him?’ he whispered, easing my head back from his throat. His body was all muscle under Paolo’s stolen clothes, every inch hot and hard. I’d had my teeth sunk in his neck; I glimpsed bloody half-circles on his pallid skin. ‘Did you see the face of God?’

I tried to clear my throat. I could feel his very obvious sexual arousal. The feeding had excited him: my vulnerable body pressed to his, prey to predator, almost asking for death.

‘Yes?’ he urged, and I nodded. Because I did understand. I understood how his tainted blood, an alchemical mix of psychotropic substances, could convince a medieval believer that they had seen God. What other explanation would they understand?

‘I cannot,’ he groaned. ‘My blood is a gift for mankind, but not for me. You are blessed, Emily.’

I wondered which was worse; lying to a saint, or lying to a vampire. The visions had shaken me, moved me, filled me with heat and awe, but they had not convinced me. These days we no longer believe that spiritual enlightenment can be found in hallucinogens.

‘Your blood, though…’ His fingers were gentle on my throat, stroking the pulse, even as the lift of his lips betrayed the tips of his teeth. ‘Tithe me a little, Emily. I have starved for nine centuries.’

My eyes widened.

‘I will not hurt you.’

Yes, I thought: like an alcoholic will stop at only one glass. But I couldn’t resist his need, and not just because he was physically so much stronger. The charged particles of the vision were still pouring through my body. My limbs felt heavy, my heart pounded thick and fast, my skin fizzed with the chemical memory. And he was holding me still, close against him. My unhinged mind could not respond to something so overwhelming, so my body was left to its own instinctive responses: terror and submission. I lifted my chin.

Gratitude lit his eyes, momentarily holding hunger at bay. He shook his head. ‘Too much.’ He slipped the buttons of my pyjama top instead, one at a time like a lover, until he was able to bare my shoulder. ‘Here.’

I nodded, certain he did not need my permission. He stooped to my shoulder. His mouth was hot.

The first wave was sharp, pure pain, the second euphoria. It was like when the Professor laid me over his knee and smacked my bare cheeks as hard as he could, until bottom and hand alike were burning with heat. It was pain, but it was good pain. It made my heart race. It made me soar. It made me open up like a blossom of sensation. I suddenly realised that my panties were sopping wet and had been since I came round from my visionary journey, that my sex was heavy and hot and my breasts tingling with need. I groaned out loud.

Aronne’s hands tightened on my hips. I pushed up into him. And again I felt the insistent jut of his erection.

Slowly he withdrew his mouth so he could look me in the eye. His lips were dark with blood. Holding his gaze, I reached between my breasts and slipped the remaining buttons, opening the pyjama top, revealing my flushed breasts. My nipples were engorged and hard. Paolo had enjoyed putting sprung paper-clips on those deceptively fragile points, then playing with them until I begged for release.

‘Bite those,’ I whispered, shaking

For those interested in the writing process, I've also added a new page of notes on this story to my website. (Go onto the main page with all the pictures of the book covers, scroll down nearly to the bottom to "Lust at First Bite", then click on Author's Comments.)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Jordan #1

More of my recent holiday snaps ... this time from Jordan.

This taken in the Crusader castle of Kerak, base of the truly vile Reynald de Chatillon. I just think it's a nice picture.

This is a valley that goes down to the Dead Sea.

It's a markedly different country to Syria. For a start, until the 1940s barely anyone lived there: the current population is an astounding 80% immigrants from conflict areas in the Middle East - Palestine, Kuwait, Iraq. Secondly, having no oil (and very little water) but a stable and cordial relationship with the West, this Muslim country is desperately hawking itself to American/Christian tourists as part of the Holy Land tourist trail (which, not being a Christian, made my skin crawl a bit). These two factors mean that it is comparatively expensive (it's the only place I've ever been where you can't buy a single postcard, only batches, and you never receive small change) and somewhat lacking in a sense of place: it does have the air of being a load of tourist traps slung together in a patch of desert.

On the mitigating side, the tourist traps are right at the top of any "see before you die" list.

I'm leaving Petra until my last post ... but these two photos were taken during our Jeep Safari into the Wadi Rum, an astonishingly beautiful place.

A couple of artifacts from Amman museum. For me the museums were some of the highlights of this holiday, but Amman was the only one in which were were allowed to take photos, sadly. This is one of the Jericho Skulls (Neolithic) - I got very excited about that.

I also get excited about obscure goddess statues. This is Al-Uzza ("the Mightiest One"), worshipped by the Nabateans among others. Oddly enough, I've seen this same distinctive non-anthropomorphic representation of a deity used in a modern shrine to Kali, in India. In fact here it is:

No idea if there's any connection!

Next: Petra. However amazing you think it is, it's better ...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Monday, 10 November 2008

November Publications

It's sort of snuck up on me while I was away on holiday, but Frenzy: 60 stories of sudden sex is out now and available for purchase - though, I believe, only in the US. It hasn't appeared on Amazon UK yet.

I'm afraid I can't tell you much about the contents because my contributor copy is still in the post! So I don't even know the full author lineup. All I know is that there are 60 stories, all short (couple of thousand words max) and to the point, including my Pirate Treasure, and stories from the delectable Nikki Magennis, Jeremy Edwards, Craig J Sorensen,Teresa Noelle Roberts and Donna George Storey among, presumably, many others.

For those driven to suicidal despair by the frustration of not being able to order Frenzy from a UK source, there is of course always Lust at First Bite, the all-vampire erotica collection - which is out now in the UK (US readers will have to wait until January). Console yourself with 15 tales of blood-sucking undead hotties (uh ... coldies?) including my The Blood of the Martyrs.

I'll think I'll probably run an excerpt next week...

The Bad News: Some fuckoid has cloned my e-mail address and is using it to spam people. I know this because as of 8th November I started to get spam from myself. I want to issue a general and ongoing apology to any recipient, but I don't know how it happened and there's nothing I can do to stop it. Even changing my contact e-mail to a new one won't stop the trash arriving from the old.

To the person who did this: I hope your dick drops off.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Syria #2

Further photos from my recent holiday in the, ahem, Axis of Evil.

This is the imposing gateway to the citadel at Aleppo. I don't think the Crusaders ever managed to sack this one, and you can see why.
The waterwheels at Hama - used since the 15th century for drawing water from the river to supply the city and fields.

This boulder is all that's left of the 18m high pillar of St Simeon Stylites, winner of the Hubristic Self-Mutilating Religious Knob-End Award for a record 36 years running in the 5th Century. He spent that time on top of his pillar because he wanted some privacy from his hordes of adoring fans, to be alone with God. Quite how that was compatible with being on public display 24 hrs a day, including while taking a dump, is beyond me. And he hated women - to the extent that he wouldn't even allow his mother to come see him in case he had distracting thoughts ... which says rather more about the contents of his mind than anything else.

But he had a nice view.

This is the famous Krac Des Chevaliers - Mr Ashbless was in 7th heaven!

This is an unflattering photo of me in an (intentionally) unflattering mosque-smock. Just call me Gandalf.

This is the courtyard of the Great Mosque in Damascus. Shiny.

Just in case you need to know, it is reputed to be the place Jesus will re-appear upon his Second Coming, and from here will lead the battle against the Anti-Christ. It is most famous for its beautiful gilded mosaics of trees and buildings all around the walls. Like this:

This is inside the mosque. The green glowing kiosk is the Shrine of the Head of St John the Baptist.

This is the Damascus souk by night - note the old Roman archway. The souk in Damascus is a pleasure to walk around - not alarmingly labyrinthine or medieval in feel (try Fez for that) but relaxed and urbane and interesting.

Next: over the border into Jordan...