Monthly Archives: April 2012

It’s Monday, time for Squid (really??) with Zrinka

I ended up having to drive to Amarillo yesterday–dog business–and fell asleep before I could get this up last night.  Just as well, I’m not sure if squid would be a brunch item.  Then again, who knows?  The fritule looks like it would be super yummy any time.  Welcome, Zrinka

I am delighted to be here today. My debut novel “Bonded by Crimson” has been released on January 28th, and it is available in all formats at Black Opal Books, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and All Romance eBooks 

Arroz negro (Squid with rice cooked in squid ink) ~ a Mediterranean delicacy

Serves 4
Cooking Time Prep time 10 mins, cook 1 hour 30 mins

Arroz negro

125 ml (½ cup)

olive oil

200 gm.

canned whole tomatoes

To taste:

white sugar

450 gm.

squid tubes, cleaned and sliced into   1cm rings


large onion, finely chopped


red capsicum, finely chopped

3 cloves

garlic, finely chopped

300 gm.

Calasparra rice

1 tbsp.

squid ink (see note)

60 ml (¼ cup)

white wine

1.5 litres (6 cups)

hot fish stock

½ cup (loosely packed)

flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely   chopped

To serve:

lemon wedges

2 cloves

garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp.

sherry vinegar


egg yolks

¼ tsp.

Dijon mustard

100 ml

extra-virgin olive oil

100 ml

vegetable oil


For alioli, combine garlic and   vinegar in a bowl, add egg yolks and mustard and whisk to combine. Combine   oils and gradually add oil mixture a drop at a time to egg yolk mixture,   whisking until a thick emulsion forms. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly   ground black pepper.


Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small   saucepan over medium heat, add tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20   minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground   black pepper and white sugar.


Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a   40cm-paella pan or large frying pan over high heat, add squid and sauté for   30 seconds or until just starting to colour. Remove and set aside. Add   remaining olive oil and cook onion and capsicum for 5 minutes or until   starting to colour, reduce heat to medium and cook for another 10 minutes or   until tender. Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes or until garlic is   soft. Add rice and stir to coat, add tomato and stir to combine.


Combine squid ink, wine and stock in   a jug and stir to dissolve ink, then add to rice mixture, reduce heat and   simmer, without stirring, shaking pan occasionally to loosen rice from base,   for 40 minutes or until rice is tender and stock is almost absorbed. Scatter   squid over rice and cook for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover with foil and   stand for 5 minutes. Scatter with parsley and serve with lemon wedges and   alioli to the side.

And for dessert, I present you – fritule, a traditional Dalmatian sweet that can be found on every Dalmatian table usually at Christmas or any day! Fritule (pronounced ‘freetooleh‘) are aromatic bite-sized dough balls, flavoured with lemon zest, orange zest, grape brandy (loza in Croatian) and/or dark rum, and sprinkled with icing sugar. Everyone has a winning recipe of their own, and this one is my mum’s tried and tested version! We made these together this summer. These days, whenever I go home, I use this as an opportunity to learn a new Croatian dish or sweet from my mum, and rediscover the good old familiar dishes.

SOURCE: Every Dalmatian mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min + the time the dough will take to rise

COOKING TIME: 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Croatian – Dalmatian

SERVES: Loads!


50 g of raisins, rinsed and soaked in warm water (this softens them)

1 kg of all-purpose flour

3 eggs

3 tbsp. sugar

2 sachets of vanilla sugar (or two tsp. of vanilla essence)

1 1/2 cube of fresh yeast (40 g), or 3 sachets of dried yeast

1 dl vegetable oil for the dough + more for frying

zest of 1 – 2 lemons

zest of 1 – 2 oranges

2 tbsp. dark rum (or loza, grape brandy, or why not both!)

warm water as necessary


1. Put the eggs, sugar, vanilla and vegetable oil in a bowl, and beat together with a wooden spoon for a little. Add lemon and orange zest, and raisins.

2.  If you are using dried yeast, mix in the yeast in one part of the flour. Then, add this to the eggs.  OR If you are using fresh yeast, melt the yeast in 2 dl warm water. Then add the yeast to the egg mixture, and then the flour.

3. Mix with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until the dough stops sticking to the wooden spoon.

4. Leave the dough to stand, until it almost doubles in size. The mixture is going to be warm, but it mustn’t be too warm otherwise it will ruin the yeast (says mum). If your pot/bowl is cold, put it in another bowl/pot filled with warm water. 

5.  Pour some oil in a pan – you need to have enough so that the fritule don’t touch the bottom of the pan when you add them to the oil. Heat the oil until fairly hot.

6. Dip a spoon in the oil. This will stop the dough from sticking to it. Then, take a bit of dough in your hand, squeeze it in your fist, and scoop off what comes out between the thumb and the index by using the spoon.

7. Put the dough ball into very hot oil. And repeat the process: dip the spoon into hot oil, then scoop the dough, then put the dough ball into hot oil. Fry until golden brown.

8. Turn the dough balls over. Start taking them out when they get this nice golden colour.

9.Take them out in batches and put on some tissue paper which will soak up some of the oil.

10. Put the fritule in a pan and cover with a lid to keep them a little warm.

11. Repeat the process until you use up all the dough. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving. Fritule don’t need to live in the fridge, and can last for a few days.

For pictured step-by-step instructions please go to:

In case black rice is not to your liking, I’d like to leave you now with a short excerpt from my novel, the dining scene. We love pizza, too.

Excerpt, Bonded by Crimson 

Though she longed to slip her arm around his waist, she sauntered forward in step with him. They crossed the bridge to Old Town and got their dinner from a little nook. Then they climbed the zigzagging stairs to the wide fortification that once kept invaders from entering the city. The thumping music from a nearby outdoor nightclub, The Garden, bounced off the stone walls.

Matthias scaled the seven foot tall outer wall to place their food on top then jumped back down. “I’ll give you the boost.”

With his back against the wall, he laced his fingers. “The technique is the same as it was in the medieval times. Grab onto my shoulders and climb. Trust me it’s easier if you do it barefoot. Pretend you are a corsair.”

Was he serious? He expected her to climb on his shoulders? “They were driven by desperation.”

He shrugged. “I’m starving. The smell of pizza makes me desperate enough.”

With her sandals in her hand, she scanned the fortification wall. “I haven’t climbed like this since I was a kid.”

When she hesitated, he said, “I can lift you.”

“No, I can do it.” She shoved her foot in his hands and took hold of his shoulders. “This is so very romantic.”

“It will be once you get up there. Ready?” His muscles flexed when she nodded. “One, two, up you go.”

He propelled her upwards so when she neared the top she narrowly avoided shoving her hands in the pizza sauce. This dining experience made her feel like a teenager again. Propped on her elbows, she burst into laughter, her feet dangling above his head. Good thing she decided against wearing the skirt. Though the way the stones scraped her thighs, she’d be lucky if her pants didn’t rip.

“Are you stuck?” he called. “Hang on, I’m coming.”

Like a cat, he scaled the wall again and grabbed her wrists, pulling her up. The lights of the bridge railing flickered to life and reflected on the surface of the calm sea.

“Look at the view.” He raised his arms as if to embrace the entire harbor. “And you doubted our vantage point would be romantic.” His fingers wrapped around her hand. “Come, sit next to me.”

She lowered to the cold stone wall. Twenty years of living in this city and she’d never seen the harbor lit as beautifully as tonight. “I don’t think I can ever get enough of this wonderful view.”

“Neither can I.” He smiled, yet he was looking at her instead of the harbor.

Her stomach knotted. No one had complimented her in years, and he’d said nice things to her for two nights in a row. She took a bite of pizza, but couldn’t pay attention to the taste. “Even after this acrobatic display?”

“Especially after that.” The dimples in his cheeks deepened. “How’s the pizza?”

“It’s good, but I’m not very hungry, I’m afraid.” She placed the slice on its carton and wrapped her fingers around the can of soda.

He tossed his crust at the garbage bin on the street. “Besides today’s incident, are you having a great vacation?”

“The best.” It was the truth. If he had taken his family to anywhere else in the world, she would have had a great time just because of his presence, but being home gave her vacation a nostalgic feeling. When the time to leave came, it would be that much harder. “How about you?”

“Wonderful.” He reached for her hand and enclosed it in between his palms. “I was called to hospital only once since we arrived.”

Curiosity sparked in her mind. “Why?”

“I work pro bono here, and they needed a plastic surgeon for an emergency facial reconstruction.”

She lowered her head. All of a sudden, she felt inadequate. He had worked while she slept in and enjoyed her lazy days of summer. “I planned to write, but I keep getting side-tracked.”

“Too many distractions in the city? I have a proposition for you.”

No, just one distraction. You. She raised an eyebrow. “I’m listening.”

“Would you like to be my guest before the boys’ visitation with Petar is over? The house on the island is air-conditioned. I promise I won’t bother you, and you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself.”

Blood rushed to her head. She wanted nothing more than to spend a few days alone with him on his island and forget about the civilization. No matter where in the world she went, thoughts of him would cloud her mind.

“We wouldn’t be cut off the world. There’s wireless internet connection, and I even have a television.”

“It sounds tempting, but I think we should give this dating thing at least one more try.”

“All right, how about tomorrow? Would you like to meet my friend?”

His friend? “I’d love to. Is he…like you?”

“Yes, he is immortal.” He chuckled. “You’ll see.”

She picked up a slice of pizza to hide her trembling hands, but she didn’t eat it. Tapping her foot to the beat from the club to distract herself proved futile. This city had its secrets, but she never expected them to involve immortals.




Love isn’t in the cards for her…

After her short failed marriage, Kate tries to rebuild her life and takes a position as a nanny to three small boys. She quickly grows to love them, but their father, terrifies her, while igniting a passion she didn’t know she possessed. Disturbed by his distant manner with his sons, Kate struggles to make him more involved in the boys’ daily lives. Her efforts are mysteriously supported by an entity that cannot really exist. Or can she? And if she does exist, is she really trying to help Kate, or just take over her body?

But when he deals the hand, all bets are off…

Six years after his beloved wife passed away, Matthias is still trying to become the father she wanted him to be. Not an easy task for a three-centuries-old immortal. His search for the ultimate nanny ends when Kate Rokov stumbles to his home and into his arms. The immediate attraction he feels for her seems like a betrayal of his dead wife, a love he’s harboured for over three hundred years. But when Kate is stalked by a deadly stranger, life he clung to in the past begins to crumble and break down. Can Matthias learn to trust and to love again in time to save his family from disaster, or will his stubborn pride destroy everything worth living for?


 Zrinka Jelic lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two children. A member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter Fantasy Futuristic &Paranormal, as well as Savvy Authors, she writes contemporary fiction—which leans toward the paranormal—and adds a pinch of history. Her characters come from all walks of life, and although she prefers red, romance comes in many colors. Given Jelic’s love for her native Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, her characters usually find themselves dealing with a fair amount of sunshine, but that’s about the only break they get. “Alas,” Jelic says, with a grin. “Some rain must fall in everyone’s life.”

Contact me @:

Find me on: Facebook Twitter

Watch the book trailer: Bonded by Crimson


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That Quiche

While I was in Southern California visiting with my sis in law, she gave me this great quiche recipe:


dozen eggs

pound bacon cooked and crumbled

one pound each jack and cheddar, shredded

two cans asparagus tips

sliced fresh mushrooms

SPRAY 12 X 9 pan.  Layer asparagus, cheese, bacon and mushrooms.  Beag eggs until frothy and pour over.  Bake at 350 for one hour

Okay, I do not eat canned asparagus.  Ick barf.  I love asparagus, raw or steamed or lightly tossed in a pan with some oil (or butter!)  Next time it’s on sale at the grocery I’ll try it roasted with olive oil.  Plus, living in New Mexico, I’m going to be adding green chilies to pretty much everything.  I’ve already gone through what I put up in October but we can get pretty darned good roasted and chopped frozen greens.

The last day I was visiting Gloria and I picked up bacon and eggs at Trader Joe’s.  They have a great no preservative bacon ends and pieces, lots of meat and wonderful flavor.  Plus a can of their green chilies–not much heat but a lot of flavor.  That made a super breakfast, along with onions and red bell pepper strips, cooked in olive oil, and young potatoes cooked in the bacon grease.  The potatoes were for Gloria’s family, I’m still no carb.  Super yummy breakfast, much less expensive than anywhere we could have gone out, and no need for anyone to dress up.

Of course I’m going to play with the recipe!  Didn’t have time to go into Albuquerque for Trader Joe’s, so I used the Oscar Mayer no preservative bacon (more expensive than TJs!)  And we have the luxury of those great frozen Hatch green chilies.  I had some wonderful New Zealand White Cheddar waiting to be shredded.

Getting hungry yet?  I only made half the recipe, and put it in my favorite blue ceramic dish.  Sadly one of the handles broke off but until I can get another one this size and this gorgeous color, I’ll keep using this one.  The recipe calls for layering the “fillings” then pouring on the eggs, but I thought I’d try adding more cheese to the top.  Hard to believe I had no mushrooms in the house, but I’ll save that for next time.  After I taste tested, I wrapped the rest up to go to Martha and Tim for dinner.  She had meetings all day and didn’t need to be thinking about cooking or going out.

So, is the low carb worth it?  Are my body values skewed after three months of meat, oils, butter, eggs?  For my quarterly check up on Thursday I had blood work done on Monday, so it would be as current as possible.  My blood sugar is 84, my cholesterol is better than it ever has been.  My doctor is grinning over a 35 pound weight loss in less than a year.  Yeah, I’d say it was worth it.  And it’s not like I’m depriving myself.  Last night was steamed and mashed cauliflower and chicken.  Yummy.

So far I haven’t written about anyone with a weight issue.  Maybe for the same reason I haven’t written about anyone in the dog world–it just hits a bit too close to home.  “Teach Me To Forget” is about a woman who has taken back her life, and answers to no one about her appearance.  I’ve uploaded the prologue onto the Teach Me To Forget page, but I’ll happily share the cover with you here.

Enjoy your quiche.


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NOT MY KID by Christine Hughes

I’m going to let Christine slide on the recipes, since this post touched a nerve deep inside.  My husband was a teacher in Southern California for over thirty years and dealt with far too many uninvolved parents.  For that matter most of our friends in SoCal were teachers and I just spent a weekend with them.  All of them would have revelled in knowing a parent like Christine.  So grab your favorite beverage (I’m drinking Sorrento coffee and contemplating breakfast) and enjoy.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a wonderful crustless quiche recipe I picked up this last weekend.

Take it away Christine.

Mom, Teacher and a Bowl of Cheerios – NOT MY KID!

Hey Mona! Thank you for having me! I’ve been wracking my brain figuring out what to share and since the topic of my son’s schoolwork is in the forefront of my head this past year, I felt maybe I could ramble a small “lecture” for those of us who may need it.

I was an English major in college. I taught English to students from 6th grade to 10th grade. I love to read. I love to write. I love to talk about books, I love to touch books and I love the fact I’ve written one about to be published. So with all this love of reading and writing, can you imagine how shocked I was when I found out that my first grader wasn’t progressing, as he should in those areas?

I had three reactions to his reading level when he started first grade. The first, I am ashamed to admit, was my selfish response – What are you talking about? He has to be good at it because I am (not my finest mom moment, I assure you so you can close your mouths now.) The second was my mom response – Not my child! Omygosh! Is going to stay back? (again, not a great response) My third response, and actually the most helpful, was my teacher response – What can we do? How can I help him? What methods are you using to gauge his level? And with that I called everyone I could at the school, my old teaching buddies, and set up meetings with whoever could help us.

As a teacher, I should have known that boys often progress in reading later than girls. I was able to see the light when I put my teacher hat on. Having been on the other side of the desk, I was familiar with a number of the strategies teachers use to increase reading flow and continuity. I was also familiar with many of the tools available in public schools – I was aware of my rights as a parent, the rights of my son’s teacher and approach what seemed like doom and gloom in a more positive manner.

My husband and I set up our kitchen with bulletin boards and white boards and got down to business. I knew everything we did needed to be as straightforward as we could make it. My son isn’t a fan of arts and crafts and all that so whatever we did to help him needed to be as logical as it could be. And as soon as I calmed down, lineated my thinking and focused, he grew less anxious and homework started being fun and you know what? Based on the methods used in his school, his ability to comprehend and his measure of fluency have increased by 14 points! (That’s phenomenal, by the way) So everyday we do homework, we celebrate the end of the “lesson” with a bowl of cereal complete with the spoon clinking “cheers” he loves.

I think my rambling point is that, as parents, we often look for who is to blame in terms of our child’s education. But remember, a teacher follows a prescribed curriculum and in this day and age of “teach to the test”, differentiated instruction is difficult.  Maybe if we all could wear a teacher hat for the day and realize that blaming instead of finding solutions is counterproductive. Because while we all respond with “not my kid!” we all need to realize that, “yeah, my kid” might be the truth.

Thanks Christine for the reminder–I don’t have children but I’ve had the “not MINE” reaction when my dog is the only one to “mark” the obstacles in Obedience.  Oops.  Christine’s “Torn” is coming out from Black Opal Books

MORE ABOUT CHRISTINE: A former Army brat, Christine Hughes moved quite often. She spent much of her time losing herself in books and creating stories about many of the people she’d met. Falling in love with literature was easy for her and she majored in English while attending college in New Jersey.

Not sure where her love of reading and writing fit, she became a middle school English teacher. After nine years of teaching others to appreciate literature, she decided to take the plunge and write her first novel. Now at home focusing on making writing her new career, she spends her time creating characters and plot points instead of grading papers.

Music has become an integral part of her writing process and without the proper play list, Hughes finds the words don’t flow. At least a few times a week she can be found at the local Barnes & Noble with her Mac and headphones working on her next novel. Her YA novel Torn will be released by Black Opal Books in June 2012.

3 Interesting Facts: 1. I  attended 13 different schools, including college, due to my family’s military relocations. 2.     I met my husband when I was 14. 3.     My favorite book of all time is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.


When Samantha’s father dies and she finds out he was an angel because of what he was protecting, she must join the fight between two groups of fallen angels, the Faithful and the Exiled, in a race to save humanity. In spite of the unforgivable betrayal of her best friend, the newly acknowledged love for her guardian angel, the face to face confrontation of the dark angel who killed her father and the growing need to allow darkness to take over her being, Samantha has been charged making the choice between fighting alongside the Faithful or succumbing to the darkness of the Exiled.



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Meet Alyssa Lyons

This is going to be FUN.  Alyssa writes Chick Mysteries.  She’s going to give us some insights into the Southern world.  Welcome, Alyssa!

Hi, I’m Alyssa Lyons. I write chick mysteries, think “Murder She Wrote” in high heels, specifically the Jordan Davis Mysteries.  So what is a chick mystery?   It’s an amateur sleuth who is young, hip and always finding a mystery to solve. While occasionally there is some blood, it isn’t overdone and usually happens off scene. However, when necessary Jordan will do what is needed to save her family and friends.

In Last Wishes, Jordan rides in on her motorcycle to solve the murder of a beloved client. Amateur or not, she soon discovers she is good at solving crimes, Southern style. What is Southern style? It’s being nosy, knowing everyone’s business, and recognizing that dark secrets are the lifeblood of Southern Society.

Like me, Jordan and Grayson “Gray” Trent live in Lynchburg, Virginia, better known as the City of Seven Hills. It was founded in 1796 by John Lynch when he built a ferry to cross the James River. You know what they say, location, location, location. Anyway, we are at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia. The two largest cities near us are Roanoke and Charlottesville, home of Monticello and the University of Virginia (UVA).

Modern Lynchburg epitomizes the dichotomy found in the South, and probably most of the world. It is a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, including your entire family tree. It is also a small city where everyone is invisible. I kind of like the invisible part when out digging for material for Jordan’s stories. Although, I do think Lynchburg takes this a step further than most.

First, I need to explain what happened to a friend of mine for you to fully understand why I’ve said this. Both sides of his family have lived here since the 1850s. One day he was asked by one of the grandé dames where he came from?

 Wise to the ways of Lynchburg, he answered that his family helped found the city. She nodded and asked where he was born. Ah, now you see where this is going. Bracing himself, he told her his parents were visiting in Washington D.C. when his mother went into labor. “So, you hail from Washington,” she said, sagely. Then with a patronizing smile and a pat his arm, she said, “That’s okay. We need new blood occasionally. It prevents inbreeding.”

I hope you will enjoy reading about Lynchburg and about Jordan and Gray as she solves crime Southern style and he attempts to keep her alive and out of jail.

Bye for now!Alyssa.

Alyssa Lyons Facebook

Alyssa Lyons Black Opal Books


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Wednesday Cappuccino and Biscotti with Debbie and Marc and Natalia

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, biscotti.  Little morsels of crunchy delight.  Debbie’s brought us a recipe for super yummy biscotti. I think I’ll just pour up a cappuccino and try one.  HI Debbie

Hi Mona, it’s so nice to be here with a fellow Black Opal author.  Thanks so much for having me.  Since Marc and Natalia, the hero and heroine in my novel, Twin Flames, are Italian and share a healthy Sicilian appetite, I thought we could partake in a cup of cappuccino and almond anise biscotti.  The literal translation of biscotti is “twice baked cookie” and one of my favorite recipes.


½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 tablespoon anise seed

3 eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ cup chopped almonds

Beat sugars and butter until well blended. Add anise seeds and eggs; blend well. Stir in flour and baking powder; mix well. Stir in almonds. Shape dough into two 10 x 1 inch rolls. Place rolls 4 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Flatten each to 2-inch width. Bake at 350 for 20-30 mins or until golden brown.  Cool completely.

Cut diagonally into ½ inch slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 6-10 minutes or until bottom begins to brown.  Turn and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes or until crisp.  Cool completely.

Store in tightly covered container for up to one month.  The anise flavor gets stronger with time.

I’d like to send a shout-out to my daughter Ellie. Today is her 17th birthday. Happy  Birthday, sweetie. I love you.

As well as celebrating her birthday this spring, we are getting ready for the prom.  The question I have been asking myself these last few weeks is, “When did the prom become a wedding?”  Things have certainly changed since my junior prom in 1978.

The most obvious difference is the fashions. We all (or some of us) remember the styles of the seventies. The dresses were flowered print and the tuxedos were powder blue. My daughter has a beautiful short, coral, strapless dress.  It’s fashionable but tasteful for her age.

In my day, I did my own hair, and my best friend and I did each other’s nails. We got dressed, posed for the obligatory pictures and drove off in my date’s father’s 1976 Crown Victoria. We thought we were all that.

Ellie has a hairdresser appointment and a mani and pedi scheduled.  She’ll be picked up by limousine.   It’s not a standard limo. It’s a beautifully plush limo bus complete with disco light hanging from the ceiling and lights flashing.  It’s fully stocked with ice and soda.

The venue she’ll be arriving at is a small aquarium on the coast of Connecticut.  Her date and she will dine and dance while the fish play and swim in the background. How cool is that?

My prom was at a restaurant’s banquet room. I remember my parents grumbling their prom was in the high school gym.  Times change.

My 35th High School reunion is just around the corner in 2014.  Maybe I’ll suggest a prom theme. We’ll get dolled up (my husband looks very handsome in a tuxedo) and we can rent a limo.  The bar will be stocked with something a little harder than soda.

Why should teenagers have all the fun?


 Debbie Christiana’s novel, Twin Flames is available through Black Opal Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

BLURB:She’d never met him before…or had she?

 The last thing forty-year old Natalia Santagario expected was to be sitting on a Manhattan barstool ogling a man she’s never met, but swears she knows.

 He didn’t know her at all…or did he?

The mysterious dark-haired woman at the end of the bar stops twenty-eight year old Marc Tremonti in his tracks. His head assures him she’s a stranger, but his heart tells him otherwise.

Together they embark on an adventure that will change their lives forever.

 Their attraction instant and enigmatic, they undergo past life regression and discover that, not only have they spent hundreds of lives together as lovers, Natalia holds the secret to Marc’s puzzling birthmark.

But what should have been a joyful reunion is complicated by a kind, albeit confused, almost ex-wife, a bout of temporary amnesia and a mischievous ghost from their past.

What else could possibly go wrong?

Bio:  Debbie Christiana would sit in her room as a little girl and write stories about ghosts, unexplained events and things that go bump in the night. She combined her love of the paranormal with her fascination of unusual love stories and decided to write paranormal romance.  Her novel, Twin Flames, was released in the summer of 2011 with Black Opal Books.  In February 2012, her short story, The Land of the Rising Sun, was one of ten included the anthology BITES: Ten Tales of Vampires.  Debbie is a member of RWA and Secretary of the Romance Writers of Connecticut and Lower New York.  She lives in Connecticut with her husband and three children.

Visit Debbie @

Twitter @DebChristiana

Debbie Christiani Facebook

“What is a soul? It’s like electricity – we don’t really know what it is, but it’s a force that can light up a room”

Ray Charles, 1930-2004  Pianist and Soul Musician


With a hot cup of coffee and a donut in hand, Natalia and her two friends boarded a train for the hour ride to New York City. Grand Central Terminal was jammed with people, most of whom were watching a holiday light show flashing onto the ceiling. Having seen it plenty of times, the three women worked their way through the massive crowd on to Forty-Second Street. After taking in the obligatory holiday sights, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and a quick stroll down Fifth Avenue, they were ready to move on. They hopped on the subway to Christopher Street in the Village to their favorite out of the way stores for a day of shopping.

“Nat, are you almost ready?” Ellie asked.

“Yeah, and I’m hungry.”

“Should we take Nat to that Italian restaurant we found last time?” Christine asked.

“Sure,” Ellie said. “Want to try it, Nat?”

“Do you both think with a name like Natalia Santagario I don’t get enough Italian food? I was hoping for a big juicy steak and bottle of red wine.”

“I guess we could have steak, but this place is really good. Plus all the waiters are cute.”

“You’re both married,” said Natalia.

“But you’re not,” Christine said, pointing a finger at her.

“Whatever. I don’t care. I’m starving. Let’s go.”

A crowded subway ride later, they arrived at Tremonti’s restaurant on West Fifty-Fourth Street.

Before they went inside, Natalia stopped her two friends. “Thank you,” she said. “I really needed this. I’m glad you kept harassing me about coming with you.”

“We told you so,” said Ellie with a smile.

As they entered the restaurant, they were swallowed by a crowd of shoppers, tourists, and people reveling in the holiday season. Sandwiched between her friends and the other hungry inhabitants of the restaurant, Natalia couldn’t help but notice the wonderful aromas swirling around the room. For a moment, she was a little girl in her grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment, having Sunday dinner.

As she inhaled once more, a strange sensation took hold of her. Her body temperature seemed to shoot to a hundred degrees. Sweat formed on her brow. Light headed, she could feel the color drain from her face.

“Nat, what’s wrong?” Christine asked, resting her hand on Natalia’s shoulder. “You look like you saw a ghost.”

No, I’m used to seeing ghosts. “I’m fine. It’s hot in here, that’s all. Let’s try to work our way to the bar so I can get some water.”

They started to push their way through the crowd when Natalia felt Ellie take her hand. “Hurry, those people are getting up,” she said, dragging Natalia behind her.

No sooner had they hopped up on their barstools than a young waiter appeared.

“What can I get you ladies this evening?”

“Hi,” said Natalia. “I would love a glass of wa—” She sat completely still, staring past the waiter.

“We’ll have three glasses of Merlot, please,” Christine chimed in. “Could you bring my friend some water? She isn’t feeling well.”

“Sure,” the young man said and left.

“Nat, what are you looking at?” Christine asked.

“The man over there making drinks,” she said, pointing to the side of the bar.

“Looking? Ogling is more like it,” scoffed Ellie. “She’s practically drooling.”

“I know him from somewhere,” Natalia said.

“His back is to us. You can’t see his face.”

“I don’t need to see his face.”

Having no logical answers to give them, Natalia ignored the rest of her friend’s questions and continued to watch the fascinating man behind the bar. He was tall with broad shoulders and dark curly hair. His sleeves were rolled up, his strong arms and hands visible. He was good at his job. Quickly dipping his hand in the ice and dropping the cubes into the glasses, he had three drinks made in a just few moments.

Then something changed.


“Hey, Marc. I need two Absolute Martinis and two Cosmos,” the older waiter said patting him on the back.

“Okay, give me a minute.”

Marc reached for Martini glasses on the shelf. The regular bartender couldn’t have picked a worse night to call in sick, although Marc didn’t mind helping out. It beat sitting home alone on a Saturday night, which had become customary as of late. He put the three drinks aside and started on the next order.

Getting four new glasses down, he suddenly felt warm and woozy. Leaning over, he reached into the ice with his right hand, relishing its coolness. He straightened abruptly and stopped what he was doing, as the same odd affliction he’d felt a month ago hit him once more. Within seconds, first his left, then his right shoulder burned as if hot coals were blistering his skin. He took a few deep breathes and the throbbing subsided a bit. Feeling startled, but not knowing why, his whole body twisted to the left knocking over the glasses.

Clutching a fistful of ice, he turned and gazed into the considerable crowd at the bar. What was he looking for? He didn’t have clue, but when he saw it, he would know. Of that, he was sure.

He moved in a near-full circle. Then he saw her. She had a bewildered expression on her face but an intense gleam in her eyes. He cocked his head and gave her a curious look, knowing she had been watching him.

As he walked toward her, the pain in his shoulders all but disappeared. Feeling his whole body relax, the ice fell out of his hand onto the floor, but he kept moving.

“Marc! What are you doing?” asked one of the servers. “Someone is going to slip on the ice.”

“Oh, sorry, I’ll get it in a minute,” Marc responded, never taking his eyes off the woman he was approaching.

When he reached his destination, he was at a loss at what to say. “Hi,” he said, unsure of himself. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but have we met before?”

When she hesitated, the woman beside her spoke. “You’ll have to excuse her. She’s not feeling well tonight. Nat, tell him you thought he looked familiar to you too.”

“I thought you reminded me of someone I knew. That’s all. My friend is overreacting. It was warm in here, and I was light-headed. I feel fine now.” She gave him a kind smile.

“Yes, it can get warm in here. Do I know you from school? I went here in the city.”

She looked amused. “Listen, hon. I’m a little older than you, don’t you think? I grew up in Connecticut.”

“I went to summer camp in Connecticut for two years.” Her words and smile put him at ease, and he felt confident and even a bit flirtatious. “You could have been my camp counselor. Maybe I didn’t appreciate you in your bikini when I was ten and you were…?”

“I don’t know. How many years ago were you ten?”

“Eighteen years ago.”


“Like I said maybe I didn’t appreciate you in your bikini when I was ten and you were…?”

“I was twenty-two when you were ten. And I did look good in a bikini back then,” she said with a smirk. “Sorry, I never worked as a camp counselor. Try again.”

“I will. You have me intrigued. Anyway, they say forty is the new thirty.”

“Does your wife know you flirt with all the women?”

He looked down at his wedding ring. “If it brings in good tips, she doesn’t mind,” he said, not knowing how his wife felt about much of anything lately.

“Good for her.”

“I’m Marcos, but please call me Marc,” he said, offering his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“I’m Natalia. Same here.”

The minute their hands met, a powerful shock traveled from his hand up his arm. He forced himself not to jump.

“Ouch!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry. It’s that time of the year I guess,” he said, concluding she received the same jolt.


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When I’m Not Being Mona

We all live multiple lives: partner, parent, worker, writer, club member.  Some of us go beyond the norm to become involved in completely disparate worlds.   Although I’ve written stories for years, long before I was an “author” I was involved in the complex world of purebred dogs.

I love all dogs, pedigreed or not, but my deepest admiration is for those dogs originally bred to hunt at  full speed.  Their grace and power caught my eye, and their personalities caught my heart.  For me, it has been the Saluki for over forty years.  Jobs changed, homes came and went, but always I had a Saluki by my side.  Tom and I met at a Saluki show, and we combined our doggy households when we married.  Eventually I wanted to go beyond raising, showing, loving my breed and give back some of the pleasure I found NOT ME!in dogs.  We worked in clubs, put on dog shows and other events, and set up booths at Pet Expos so people could learn  more about our breed.  When the time was right, I applied for approval to judge the Saluki.

Judging took me to Finland, Australia and New Zealand, as well as around the United States. I met many wonderful Salukis and fabulous people.  I both judged and (later) organized the American Saluki National.  It’s amazing to learn about the “other” worlds out there–cat shows, bird shows, chicken shows.  All of them organized and attended by people who are passionate about their own piece of the world.

You’d think I could write about the Dog World but I do have a problem finding much romance in this world.  Fun, yes.  Excitement, sometimes.  Also intrigue and some of the most convoluted stories ever heard.  Just not much room for romance, at least not yet. Now murders, that’s another matter.  Picture the first scene, a well hated dog fancier head down in a full Porta Potty.  Hmmmm, that does have possibilities!

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The Importance of a Sidekick with Fur

Jami’s back to visit, and she’s bringing some furry friends she’s met in books along to entertain us.  Irish Wolfhounds and Newfoundlands–I sure wouldn’t want that dog food bill.  Welcome, Jami!

In between the roller coaster ride of life that includes the small humans, a job that pays the bill, the spouse who’d like to be acknowledged occasionally, the walking floor rug, the demands of the very loud voices of the characters in mind demanding their little slice of attention, and the never ending day to day list of stuff that must be accomplished…I sneak in a book or two to read.  Just to get away from the previously stated long list.

Evan as I prepared for the awesome blog tour that is beginning with the most fantastic Mona and arranged by the gorgeous Gibby Jackson from Black Opal Books, I’ve been wracking my brains for blog topics.  Since Mona’s hosted me before and we share a love of canine creatures, I started to notice how many Urban Fantasies have started to include furry sidekicks who tread through magic and mayhem with their hero/heroine.  Just for amusement, I thought I’d list a few of my favorites.

Let’s start with my latest discovery-Oberon, the magnificent Irish Wolfhound.  This rising star enjoys sausages, beer, and movies as he keeps company with his slightly older (give or take a 1000 yrs.) companion, Atticus, who just happens to be a Druid living in Arizona in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  Not only does Oberon provide both the readers and Atticus a unique canine perspective on life, but he does occasionally help his companion fight off the odd god/goddess, demons, witches and Native American spirits that tend to cross their paths.  The added benefit? Oberon and Atticus can talk to each other, and some of these conversations will leave you on the ground in tears.  Oberon even comes up with some awesome words, such as “fetishistically”.  Just so you have a taste of Oberon, here’s a passage from Hexed:

Atticus—“You don’t offer werewolves treats if you want to keep all your appendages.  They think it’s undignified and degrading to be offered a treat.”

Oberon—“Well, the moon must have addled their brains when they were thinking that one through, because I don’t see a downside to treats.  Honestly, Atticus, it’s like they have no regard for the Canine Code.”

Atticus—“I beg your pardon?”

Oberon—“The Code. Has anyone taken the time to explain to them that treats are, by definition, a savory snack of succulence, appropriate at any time and for any occasion, with the possible exception of funerals?”

See—Oberon is a wise one, canny (yep, a pun!) and creative! All hail the Irish Wolfhound!

Our second hairy sidekick comes from Katie McAllister’s  Aisling Grey, Guardian novels.  Let me introduce Jim, a large, black Newfoundland, who just happens to also be a minor demon lord who loves to instigate things.  In You Slay Me when Aisling uses her new found (ha! Another pun!) ability to summon demon lords to assist with her dragon problems, she gets Jim. Here’s a taste of Jim’s personality.  To set our scene, he’s been summoned, Aisling is having a hard time equating a Newfie with a demon lord, even if it does talk.  After some disparaging comments on her currently living quarters (a 3 star hotel in Europe), Jim decides it’s time to deal with some basic challenges—like food and walkies.  The whole time, Jim pushes Aisling to her limits…

A mother and her two little kids strolled by, the woman pausing to say something harsh to me.  I had no idea what her problem was until I looked down to find Jim writhing in apparent agony, making the most tortured face a Newfie could possibly make.

I released Jim’s ear and patted it on the head as I told her, “Don’t pay any attention to it—it’s trying to drive me insane.”

“Sounds like a short trip,” Jim muttered just loud enough for me to hear as the woman snarled something in what I was willing to bet was gutter French before she stormed off.

“Oh, thank you so very much. Just make me look like the type of person who beats up on dogs!”

                “You held my ear hard,” Jim accused.

Ah yes, how many times have our treasured pooches done things we know were deliberate, just so we’d give in and they’d get what they want?  Add in being a demon lord and Aisling has her hands very full!

My last two sidekicks aren’t as verbally accomplished as Oberon and Jim, but they too play an important role in their stories.  Medea is a battle scarred cat who belongs to Mercy Thompson, the coyote shifter heroine of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, and Cagney and Lacie are half Siamese cats who share space with October Daye, our half-Fae heroine introduced by Seanen McGuire in her October Daye novels.

I’m not the biggest cat person (thank you, allergies!) but our feline companions are just as important as our canine ones.  Though neither Medea or Cagney and Lacie ever say anything, they are there to offer their silent support to their challenge weary heroines.  No matter how hard the day has been facing down vamps, the Lord of the Hunt, other Fae, werewolves or whatever the flavor of the day is—it’s nice to know you can come home and find solace as your cat curls into your lap.  They’ll even let you discuss, without interrupting, the pros and cons of continuing your current dangerous lifestyle.  All they demand is a little food and some attention.

Maybe that’s why furry companions are on the rise.  Everyone needs a de-stressor after a hard day. Someone who will listen without interrupting, sometimes offering a pithy comment or a piercing insight, all while providing an instant lap or foot warmer. What more could you ask for?


Growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, Jami Gray was adopted at the age of 14 and suddenly became the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and three minors-History, English, and Theater.  Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school) she completed a Masters in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix Oregon.


Now, years later, she’s back in the Southwest where  she’s outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars obsessed boys, one Star Wars obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab.  Writing is what saves her sanity.

  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.


You can find Jami at:
Buy Link:


Blogs:  or





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Wednesday Brunch with Josie Malone: Coffee, Donuts, Cowboys

Good Morning everyone.  Ready for a wicked wicked brunch?  I know I’m sorely tempted.  Shannon Kennedy, who writes as Josie Malone,  is sharing some family recipes for donut holes and Cowboy Coffee.  Yummmmmmmmmmm.  My early love was horses, so I’m living vicariously in many levels.  Hi Shannon!

Hi Mona,

Thanks for inviting me. I’m glad to be here and talk about horses…..

I grew up on a pony farm in Silver Lake, a community just outside of Everett, Washington. I say, “grew up” although we didn’t actually move to the farm until I was seven years old. I received my first pony, Star, as an Easter present that year. And I learned everything the hard way, i.e. how to feed carrots, how to avoid being kicked, how ponies see – and no, they don’t like mud puddles. Got that lesson by being bucked off into one and walking home looking like the Loch Ness Mud Monster – Star made it to the barn before I did.

Back in the 1960’s when I was growing up, people still did things the old-fashioned way. I learned to ride from the old cowboy who ran my 4-H club like a drill sergeant. His wife used to throw live firecrackers under our horses’ hooves to prepare us for the Fourth of July parade every year. The lecture went something like, “The safest place for you is in the saddle. You don’t want to bust your head like a watermelon on the city street when some dude does that to your horse.”

This was in the days before our horses were our “friends” and natural horsemanship meant you left your saddle in the tack-room and rode your horse on a grocery string hackamore. Yes, I can still do it, but I sure don’t let the kids I teach try that one. I also insist on equestrian helmets – another “new” innovation. So, when I wrote my western romance novels, I remembered those “good old days,” and tried to incorporate that traditional attitude into the books. If you think of horses as the equivalent of pickup trucks, you start to understand how cowboys viewed their working buddies.

Horses come in all shapes and sizes, especially at the family riding stable. It’s grown over the years and my mother and I are the only ones who work here now. And for me, writing has always provided an escape from every day responsibilities. While I didn’t know that it would take years before I sold my first romance, I wasn’t going to give up on the genre.  Now, I write mainstream western romance as Josie Malone. I write realistic young adult fiction under what the kids at the barn call, my real name, Shannon Kennedy The horse knowledge comes from what I learned on the family farm and now I create heroes who help my heroines save the day.  And yes, sometimes the baggage from fifty years of living plays a big part in my stories.

In the first western romance I did for BookStrand, A Man’s World, everybody raves about Missus Sims’ doughnuts or “bear sign” – yes, sign means what you think it does – “poop,” and Ma Sims as everyone calls her always takes offense at the description. The recipe I had for the doughnuts comes from the 1908 edition of the Fannie Farmer’s cookbook. It was the one my grandmother used and I always got to dump powdered sugar into a brown paper sack and put in the hot doughnuts and shake, shake, shake until the fresh doughnuts were covered with sugar.

And of course, then we got to eat them – my grandfather swore that he always needed a fresh pot of coffee to go with them or it didn’t count. He liked it when we made coffee in the tin camping coffee pot, but Grandma swore the electric percolator was just fine. And since it was “her” kitchen, that’s the way things were. If you decide to go with Grand-dad’s coffee, let it perk in the pot until it’s a dark brown – then you can dip the doughnuts.


Easier to make and more cakelike than yeast-leavened doughnuts, these doughnuts have a fine, creamy crumb. The temperature of the cooking oil is crucial, so use a frying (candy) thermometer.

½  cup milk                                         1 tablespoon butter, melted

½  cup granulated sugar                    1 ¾ cups white flour, approximately

2 teaspoons baking powder               Vegetable shortening or oil for frying

¼ teaspoon nutmeg                            Confectioners’ or powdered sugar
½  teaspoon salt                                 for dusting

1 egg, beaten

Mix the milk, granulated sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, egg, and butter in a large bowl. Add the flour gradually, using just enough so that the dough is firm enough to handle yet as soft as possible. Cover the dough and chill for about one hour. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a few minutes. Roll out about a ½ inch thick.

Cut with a doughnut cutter or sharp knife into 3-inch rounds, cutting out and saving the centers (which can also be fried). Place on a lightly floured piece of wax paper and let rest for about 5 minutes. Using a heavy pan and a thermometer, heat about 4 inches of shortening or oil to 360°F. Fry three or four doughnuts at a time, turning them with a fork or tongs when one side is browned and continuing to fry until brown all over. Drain on paper towels and dust with sugar.

(Mona’s note–I dragged Shannon away from barn duties to share the Cowboy Coffee recipe.  She says if we’re brave we can chance it)

COWBOY COFFEE (from 1908 Fannie Farmer Cookbook)

“Boiled” or Cowboy Coffee. To make coffee successfully using this old-style camping method, you shouldn’t boil the coffee; rather let it come just to the boil. Measure 2 level tablespoons of regular grind coffee for each cup desired into the bottom of a clean saucepan or an old-fashioned coffee pot and pour the required number of cups of cold water on top.

Add a pinch of salt and cover. Bring the coffee slowly to the boil and just as soon as the bubbles break through the crust, stir it and remove from the fire.  Crack an egg and mix it, crumpled-up shell and all, into the coffee grounds before pouring on the water. It

will help the grounds to settle. In either case one is apt to have a slightly muddy but good strong brew.

According to Cowboy Wisdom by Terry Hall:

“Just take a pound of coffee, add water, boil it for thirty minutes and throw a horse-shoe in. If the shoe sinks, add more coffee and start over.”

My newest book was a lot of fun to write because it’s a spin-off of the first western romance I did for BookStrand, A Man’s World. In that historical western romance, Trace Burdette masqueraded as a man, fooling everyone but new neighbor, ruggedly handsome Zebadiah Prescott. With their love on the line, they had to deal with the past and the outlaw who killed her grandfather and stalked her. By the time that A Woman’s Place begins, Trace and Zeb have been married for just over six months when renegades rob the bank she owns in the town of Junction City.

So, our hero, Rad Morgan, the marshal of Junction City sets off to capture the miscreants. Along the way, he meets his match, and Iraqi War veteran/homicide detective Beth Chambers takes no prisoners. She’ll fit right into 1888 Washington Territory. Of course, I had to figure out how to get a woman from 2012 to the Old West and why she was even there, but that was part of the adventure and the paranormal elements kept escalating.  Much to Rad’s initial dismay, Beth and Trace become fast friends.


Trailing a serial killer, Homicide Detective Beth Chambers is thrust into 1888 Washington Territory where she encounters injured Rad Morgan, a ruggedly handsome marshal who believes A Woman’s Place is behind her man. Now, Beth must save Rad’s life, apprehend the killer, and prove herself capable as a law officer.

Former soldier and survivor of Andersonville Prison Camp, Marshal Rad Morgan faces his toughest challenge in Beth Chambers, a determined woman from the future who’s never learned “her place.”  But when he is shot and left for dead, he must put himself in Beth’s hands if they both want to survive.

Can these two headstrong people put their pride aside and work together to find the deadly killer and stop him before he destroys this world and their future?  As they fight for justice, love helps them discover A Woman’s Place is what and where she chooses to make it.


As a child, I loved to dream away the days in an old cherry tree on my family’s pony farm. In my imagination, the tree became a beautiful Arabian stallion, a medieval castle and even a pirate ship. I got in trouble for making my little sisters walk the plank, but hey, they never broke any bones. On rainy days, I headed for my fort in the hayloft. While the rain thudded on the cedar shingled roof, I read books, eventually trading Carolyn Keene for Georgette Heyer. I used the setting of the pony farm for my second romance from BookStrand. The Daddy Spell is a finalist in the Colorado RWA Award of Excellence contest.

Today I live on the family ranch in the Cascade foothills of Washington State in what was once a summer vacation cabin. It’s been modernized and even has indoor plumbing – woo-hoo!  I share the cabin with my two cats, or maybe they share it with me.

I usually write at night after a long day on the ranch. Some days are longer and harder than others, but I still write from 8PM to 2AM, seven days a week. As a substitute school teacher, I love the school breaks but I’m just as busy, since there are 36 horses to look after, along with other assorted animals.

With all the critters on the ranch, I don’t have time for a husband. As for kids, I have to give back the ones who come to learn how to ride at the end of each day. Now, I’m teaching the kids and grandkids of the ones I taught way back when we started. I’ve had a lot of adventures over the years – and in my next 50 years, I plan to write all about them. I hope you enjoy reading about them!


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