Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wednesday Prawns on the Barbie with Maggi Andersen

We’ve been dealing with serious cold winds here this week.  Had one day when the ‘lukis could all dash around for hours, otherwise it’s been put the dogs out, put the dogs in all day long.  How lucky Maggi is going to make brunch for us!

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Mona.

Hi everyone,

I raise my teacup to you. I’m an inveterate tea drinker and have tried many exotic brands. I’ve settled on Rooibos for the moment, which is a healthy alternative, because I drink a lot!

But for brunch why not a glass or two of Champagne and orange juice and throw a prawn on the barbie?

Celebrating the release of Murder in Devon, I’ve prepared a simple, tasty, pre-lunch snack of lemon grass prawn sticks.

We Australians enjoy a hot – normally dry climate – although we’ve had a lot of rain and flooding in the last year. And we spend a lot of time out of doors, camping or at the beach, where we whip something up on the barbeque. We love our seafood. This is a recipe which can be made on the Webber barbecue or in the oven at home. I like this one, because it’s quick and easy for when guests drop by. I’m not a keen cook these days, as my husband and I are empty nesters. I’d rather spend time at the computer.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Plus marketing time

Cooking time: Barbeque setting 2 to 4 minutes

 4 sticks lemon grass

12 king prawns, shelled, tails left on

 Marinade

1 cup olive oil

2 bird’s eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and grated

½ cup soy sauce

4 tablespoons fish sauce

 

Cut the lemon grass to make skewers. Skewer 3 prawns onto each stick.

Combine all the marinade ingredients.

Place skewered prawns into the marinade for ½ hour or more.

Cook on pre-heated grill for 2 minutes per side or until the flesh just turns white.

 We shall enjoy these with friends on our back verandah overlooking the stream at the bottom of the garden where wild ducks gather and a riotous flock of magnificent sulphur-crested cockatoos call from the trees. What could be nicer?

 Murder in Devon is out now at Black Opal Books

BLURB : 

She wants the truth, but it may cost her more than she thinks…

An ex-patriot-American living in England, magazine reporter Casey Rowan wakes to find one best friend murdered and another seriously injured. Casey is determined to find the killer, despite running afoul of the detective in charge of the case—a blue-eyed Scot named Rod Carlisle, who considers her a prime suspect. As Casey gets closer to the truth, losing her heart to the sexy cop isn’t the only thing she risks. Now her life is danger, too.

He wants her, but he may have to choose between love and duty…

Rod has no patience with civilians who interfere in police matters, even hot little numbers like Casey. Though he tries to keep things professional, Casey’s beauty and spunk are hard to resist. He warns her that what she’s doing is dangerous, but he only succeeds in alienating her. She refuses to listen and goes off on her own with disastrous results. Now Rod’s in a race to find the killer before the woman he loves becomes the next victim.

Website: Maggi Andersen Author

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Wednesday Brunch with Jami Gray

I spent the day in Santa Fe yesterday, unfortunately most of it trying to find the right county government building.  Sigh.  So no cookies but we’re having Chile Relleno with eggs for brunch, and I’ve picked up some (virtual) Sopapilla for Jami.  Sopas are a light dough that puffs up into a pillow when fried.  Yummm.  Not for Mona, but amazingly the Relleno are since they are green chilies stuffed with a bit of cheese and dipped into a whipped egg batter.  What could be more carb friendly?

So, on to our guest today.  Jami is a fellow Black Opal Books author.  Her tag line  is:  “Urban Fantasy where even the monsters fear what hides in the shadows. Come find me if you dare.”  Dang, wish I’d come up with something that catchy!  Her first book is Shadow’s Edge–more on that later, right now we’re going to hear about Jami’s furry third child.  No, not what you were thinking!

The Canine Equation

by Jami Gray 

(Enter small tornado) Okay, Mona, fair warning, you know I don’t cook unless it involves pushing buttons on a microwave or a phone so no nifty recipe from me, however some hot chocolate spiced with jalapeño wouldn’t be out of place.

(Big sigh as takes seat) Before others can ask, yes, I’m from down where the sun dries everything out to jerky and anything over 115 degrees is just hot, dry heat or not!  No, not hell, people, Arizona! (shaking head)

So the other day I went out into that big black hole of chaos known as Twitter, and fell into a discussion on dog purchasing.  This particular individual was considering an Irish Wolfhound.  Her other half was aiming for a Lab.  I told her to stick to her guns and go for the Wolfhound, but if she lost, she’d love having a Lab.  I can say that because I am the proud owner of an aqua phobic, floor supporting, 110 pound ball of loving devotion known as the Hellhound that moonlights as a Lab.

Long, long ago before the knight in slightly muddy armor and I were blessed with the Prankster Duo, we discussed our canine options.  He was all for a Rottweiler and I was leaning more towards the Irish Wolfhound camp.   Since neither of us were giving in, we tabled the conversation.

When the younger half of the Duo was about five, and the older one six, we decided it was time to add a four legged, tail wagging component to our family equation.  The knight had a co-worker who was looking for new homes for her last litter of AKC labs.  He brought home a picture of the group—two boys, three girls—ranging from the sun touched yellow to this beautiful cinnamon color.

We gathered the Duo and headed over to check out the last two pups—one girl, one boy.  Up till that point, the Duo were understandably cautious around dogs.  Let’s be honest, anything that can stand taller than you and cover your face in one wet swipe was not something you want to mess with.

On the journey over, we had a discussion about our hopefully soon-to-be addition.  The boys already had a name picked out—Stitch.  Didn’t matter if we went boy or girl, the name was a chosen and there was no wiggle room.   Upon arrival, we found out the girl had already chosen her new family so we met the last boy of the group.

It took, maybe, twenty seconds and not only was I head over heels in love, so was my Duo.  So enamored of the furball, I failed to take in the size of small dinner plate paws attached to the sweet, dorky tail wagging, kiss monster that would be coming home with us.  Arrangements were made and we had our newest family member.  Of course the Duo had one complaint at the time, they couldn’t understand why Stitch wasn’t blue.  (Yep, Disney had plastered the Lilo & Stitch movies everywhere!)

It’s been 7 ½ years since the hellhound came home and I can’t imagine what our family would be like without him.  Beyond the body checks that may mean certain paralyzing falls, he is a champion floor holder (the floors never even consider moving when he’s got them covered) and he’s the best foot warmer ever!  Plus, even though he and our pool tend not to see eye to eye, he has no problems providing life guard services when the boys are out swimming.  Even though he doesn’t trip up the stairs like he used to, he still manages to come up every night, stuffed paté in mouth (it’s not a real duck, promise!) and lay guard while we sleep.  The Prankster Duo has grown along side the Hellhound until he’s become our third furry son.  Every morning I’m reminded of why I’m so grateful the knight and I agreed to the canine addition.  I’m a firm believer that pets make you laugh more, love deeper, and show you the true meaning of selfless love.  Even if they aren’t blue!

Shadow’s Edge: Book 1 of the Kyn Kronicles is out now and Shadow’s Soul: Book 2 of the Kyn Kronicles hits shelves Summer 2012.

Website: www.JamiGray.com

Buy Link: www.BlackOpalBooks.com

Blogs: www.JamiGray.wordpress.com or www.7EvilDwarves.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jamigray.author

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/JamiGrayAuthor

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Wednesday Brunch with Liv Rancourt (Amy Caldwell)

I had hoped to have low carb meringues this morning, found a great recipe. Unfortunately when they say “put in a 350F oven, turn off, and leave overnight,” they don’t mean a counter top convection oven. I tossed out a gooey mess this morning. Sigh. It didn’t help that we had another snow, so the humidity was up.
We’re going to have hot cocoa today, made with heavy cream (low carb!), cocoa powder, with a dash of cinnamon and chili powder. Since the roads aren’t passable this morning I’ll splash some Lady Godiva into Amy’s mug, while she tells us about fitting life into her writing schedule. BTW the portrait and book cover artwork is by Amy’s sister, Liza Rancourt-Fennimore.

Juggling…
Once a friend asked me what was on my schedule for the weekend and I gave her the(rather long) list. When I was done, she said, “I see that you’ve got a typically Caldwellian weekend planned” (Caldwell being my married name). Turns out she coined a phrase, and ever since, when things are, well, normally busy, we refer to it as a Caldwellian day.
And since I’ve got two kids in middle school, things are often in a Caldwellian state. The kids go to different schools, ergo different schedules and vacation days. One plays soccer but the other changes sports with every season, which means navigating shifting practice schedules. They both study instruments and my daughter sings in a choir. Weekends are taken up with games and friends and you name it. Oh, and did I mention I work full time? And I’m a writer.
It’s that last thing that’s taking an increasingly large bite out of my schedule, especially with the release last month of my first book, A Vampire’s Deadly Delight. Now, when I’m not working or driving to lessons or practices, I’m at the laptop working on blog posts or one of the short stories I’ve got in the hopper or maybe the novel I’ve got cooking. My family is amazingly patient and supportive with all of this. Which is a good thing, because you’ll notice I haven’t yet mentioned housework. I’m not doing a whole lot of that kind of thing – too busy – and they’ve been very tolerant of our increasingly chaotic surroundings.
I haven’t mentioned cooking yet, either, except in terms of my novel. I’m more of a microwave goddess even when I do have a lot of time, but lately even that’s been a challenge. Fortunately, my husband does like to cook, and we’ve got the local pizza boys on speed-dial. There are times, though, that it falls to me, and when necessary, I go to http://www.allrecipes.com. I’ve had really good luck finding ideas for fast, easy, and yummy dinners. And easy. Did I say easy? Because that’s key if something’s going to survive the Caldwellian surge.
One recipe I came up with recently was for Salsa Chicken. You basically toss chicken breast in some taco seasoning, put them in a pan, dump salsa over top of them and bake. When they’re done, you put some sour cream and chopped avocado on them and you’re golden. Ready to go. Even I can do that. And it’s SO good. The kids have asked for it more than once. Here’s a link to the actual recipe, in case my description is too sketchy… http://allrecipes.com/recipe/salsa-chicken/detail.aspx
So the next time you’ve got a Caldwellian schedule going on, remember the Salsa Chicken recipe, and know too that your family may well be more flexible than you give them credit for. As long as the health inspector doesn’t show up, you’re probably fine.
Peace, Liv

Amy, thanks for stopping by
You can find A Vampire’s Deadly Delight at:

Black Opal Books

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

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I am No Hero

In the past few months people have told me how much they admire what I went through for my husband. They say I’m special, that I went above and beyond what most other people would do.  I try to correct them, but they insist on make something out of these past eight months.

Fact is, everything I did was to fulfill a promise, or maybe several promises.  We stood in front of John Smyser, a minister friend who played a wicked game of volleyball, and promised forever to each other. Including for better or worse, in sickness and in health. For burnt meals and missed laundry and shoes in the middle of the room. For TV football marathons and piles of books everywhere. I didn’t promise to obey, since I don’t like promising something I can’t fulfill.
And too much had to do with being angry. Angry with him for being casual about his health. Angry with his doctors for not listening when he said he lacked energy for the last year or so. After his successful surgery, when it could have been sunshine and smiles, the occasional poor hospital care infuriated me, but not as much as his lack of initiative. Always before after surgery he’d been eager to get up and moving, and could be found thumping around the hospital halls.
But nothing made me as angry as the doctors telling him bluntly he wasn’t going to make it, and he couldn’t go home to die since his wife (that would be me) couldn’t take care of him. Yes, I acknowledged his survival chances were slim, but why couldn’t he spend those last few days at home, and where did they get the idea I wasn’t competent? That anger carried me through three very good months, and a week of not so good.
Some of the anger has since died off but some will remain for a long while. I’m working hard to release it as we started a “goodbye tour” with a trip to a favorite high pass at a nearby mountain. The cutout he had made when he was a young teacher will be coming along on any trip where I have space. It’s pretty big, but in so many ways he was larger than life.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Hug those you love and forgive those who don’t love you.

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Wednesday Meet an Author Brunch with Scotch Shortbread and Bev Irwin

The traditional Scotch Shortbread was made with oat flour, which was much more available in Scotland, along with wonderful rich butter and a relatively small amount of sugar. My most successful shortbread has been made with Plugra, a super rich sweet butter (2 cups), oat flour (3 cups), and Turbinado sugar (one cup.) MIx together, press in a pan, bake at 300 degrees for about half an hour.

Since at the moment sugar and flour are on my no-no list, I can only imagine them with fondness, while we prepare for our brunch with Bev Irwin, YA author from Black Opal Books.  Bev is going to talk about what motivates her.

 

Hello, everyone. I hope you are all comfortable with a nice cup of coffee, or a hot pot of tea for all the tea totlers out there. We have Tim Horton’s here in Canada and I love their French Vanilla Capachino. So I’ll just grab a cup of that and sit back and tell you what inspires me to write.

The muse started visiting me when I was a young child. I liked to write poetry about flowers and nature. I had a poem published about daffodils when I was in grade three. I still love flowers and nature.

And that is why I love my property. I live on a lovely ravine lot in London, Ontario. I have a piece of the country right in the city.

My home is a hundred-year-old farm house, very plain, no character, but it is surrounded by trees. It was added to as the original owners enlarged their family. It even has a well in the basement, and four drains that run somewhere into the property. Not great with all the rain we had last year. My basement flooded four times. Luckily its too low to put a ceiling in so it’s never been finished. Only my craft materials, wool and some old furniture got damaged.

Imagine coming home and finding water up to the bottom step and the kitty litter boxes floating. Too bad my rubber boots were floating along with them. That water was COLD. No wonder my poor cat was meowing. He got stuck down there and he hasn’t graduated his swimming lessons yet.

To say the least, me and the cat are really (not!) looking forward to spring this year. At least we haven’t had a lot of snow this winter so we shouldn’t be having the big thaw we had last year. We’re praying the basement flooding will keep to a minimum.

But despite the basement flooding, I love this place. In the winter, when all the trees are bare, I can look out my bedroom window and see the pond at the bottom of the ravine.

I love water. Being a Scorpio, I come by my affinity for it naturally. So if I want inspiration, I sit on my deck and look at all the trees, flowers and flowering bushes in my backyard. I have a bar table where I sit with my papers, books, and laptop scattered around me. If I need more inspiration, I take my dog for a walk in the woods and along the water.

Where do you find your inspiration?

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Getting Ready For The Tomorrow, and the Rest Of My Life

As in today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Slowly moving onward. The bed and other equipment left on Monday, and the living room furniture is rearranged to something different. I’m looking at paint swatches and deciding which walls will be my canvas. Maybe I’ll just paint squares of different colors instead of making a decision.
In the meantime, tomorrow is Wednesday, meet a new author day. Bev Irwin, a fellow Black Opal Books author, will be with us.
Bev tells me she prefers French Vanilla Cappuccino from Tim Horton’s as her beverage. Hmmm, new one on me, isn’t Horton’s in Canada? Since we’re in New Mexico, I wonder if she’ll like Mona’s Mocha with a dash of Cinnamon Schnapps? Cocoa has been paired with chilies for a long time, and this is my girlie drink of choice, when I’m not dieting.
Since I am dieting, I’ll be drinking decaf, or green tea, or water, and I’ll have made the muffin that makes low carb possible for me. It’s called Muffin in a Minute, net carbs balance out, and it’s great with eggs.

MIM = Muffin in a Minute.

1t butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/4c flaxmeal
1 packet Splenda
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t baking powder

Mix together in a mug, microwave for 1 minute, voila! If it’s not quite done in a minute, continue in 20-30 second increments. You can then slice and toast. I’ve never added the Splenda or cinnamon, but I do drop in a pinch of cheese or some seasoned salt.
I think I’ll surprise Bev with some virtual Scotch shortbread. Quick, easy, and yummy. I’ll post that recipe tomorrow with Bev’s blog. In the meantime it’s back to the computer to work on the next book. Not a paranormal this time, but that paranormal is starting to knock at the door.

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Wednesday Brunch

You are all invited to a virtual brunch, to meet with authors you might never hear about. Today’s nosh will be store bought but next week we’ll have more time to plan, and I can post the recipe on Tuesdays. For now it will be carb free, but I can promise a LOT of yummy flavors.

Our guest this week is mystery writer Ryder Islington, who will be sharing her story of growing up writing, and the support she had from her wonderful husband. I forgot to ask if she wants coffee or tea, so we’ll be sipping hot cocoa today. Enjoy! Mona


The Creation Of A Mystery Writer

Doesn’t just make you crazy when a child get a case of the ‘whys’? It’s just one question after the other. I wasn’t allowed to do that as a child, at least not out loud. But I did crave knowledge and saw everything as a mystery.

Alas, life took its time teaching me that I could be a writer. And then it took some more time to teach me I could solve mysteries. Putting the two together took a lot more than just knowledge.

As a child, I loved to write and draw, but by the time I was a teen, there had been too much loss. I was brainwashed into believing I would never be anything, that I would never do anything. I had given up all those fanciful dreams and resigned myself to the perpetual cycle of marriage and children and staying home, powerless and unhappy.

Then I met someone who heard me speak a dream out loud. He drove me to the local college and walked me in to register. I was shaking in my boots, giving every excuse there could be for why this wouldn’t work. But he patiently led me to financial aid and to the counselor’s office.

I couldn’t believe it. They were going to find out I was just a poor, dumb girl and kick me out. That first quarter, I took English 101, where I was required to write essays and short stories. I took all of the classes they’d let me take in one quarter. I loved learning. And when that first report card came and I got straight A’s, landing on the Dean’s list, I was totally shocked. I actually had a brain! I devoured knowledge, but my imagination had gotten lost. I used the knowledge in the real world, going on to the University, and law school, and into law enforcement.

Years passed during which I learned forensics, and met every kind of criminal. When I left the department for a job that was a lot easier on my body, I found that there were times when I had nothing to do. By this time I had met a woman who became my best friend. She was a reader and reminded me of how much I loved to read and write as a kid. She and I started our own book club, and my imagination was ignited.

A month later I told my husband (that wonderful man who took me to college) that if I had a laptop, I thought maybe I could write. That week a man walked into the office where I worked and said he had a used laptop for sale. As soon as my hubby heard about it, he pulled out his savings and gave it to me.

It took another four years before I put the obvious together. I had an education and experience in criminal justice, yet I tried to write everything but. When I stumbled onto the idea of actually writing what I really knew, it was like one of Oprah’s light bulb moments. Hey, I never said I was smart.

My debut novel, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, took me a few years. Now I’m working on book two in the series, and my imagination has gone wild.
Now that I’ve found my place, I’ve learned so much about the art of writing, that I feel I can write in other genres and do well. All those stories I’ve held back on, I can now give voice to. Of course, they will have to wait until I get the Trey Fontaine Mysteries up and running. But stay tuned. Other authors learn to write two books a year, or more, and in different genres. I just have to get my process streamlined and then I’ll be ready to tackle those characters running around in my head. At least I hope they’re just characters.

Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery is receiving rave reviews from readers. http://www.ll-publications.com/ultimatejustice.html

The small town of Raven Bayou, Louisiana explodes as old money meets racial tension, and tortured children turn the table on abusive men. FBI Special Agent Trey Fontaine returns home to find the town turned upside down with mutilated bodies. Working with local homicide detectives, Trey is determined to get to the truth. A believer in empirical evidence, Trey ignores his instincts until he stares into the face of the impossible, and has to choose between what he wants to believe and the ugly truth.

A graduate of the University of California and former officer for a large sheriff’s department, RYDER ISLINGTON is now retired and doing what she loves: reading, writing, and gardening. She lives in Louisiana with her family, including a very large English Chocolate Lab, a very small Chinese pug, and a houseful of demanding cats. She can be contacted at RyderIslington@yahoo.com or visit her blog at http://ryderislington.wordpress.com

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