Tag Archives: Black Opal Books

Jami Gray is here to talk about What Makes a Character Real?

Jami GrayOne of the best aspects of becoming a published writer is meeting other writers you would never have encountered otherwise. Even better is introducing them to my other friends. I met Jami through Black Opal Books, where we were some of the early authors. Jami has her own style, whether she’s writing kick butt heroines or wrangling husband, sons, and a very large dog.

Today she’s sharing insights into building real characters.

What Makes a Character Real?

One of the more interesting conundrums my critique group and I have pondered, is why do writers lean toward flawed characters?

Of course, me being me, I had to point out the only interesting character is one who is flawed. C’mon, no one likes reading about Perfect Polly and her Awesome, Astounding Life of Ease. Yet, can a writer hobble their character with too many flaws?

In my humble opinion, yep, we sure can. As a reader, I’ve encountered books where, when I hit the end, I needed some serious therapy. The character faced such overwhelming odds from themselves and their world that it was all I could do not to hand them a gun and just nod sadly.

As a writer, it’s a whole ‘nother set of problems. If your character doesn’t have a certain level of depth-psychologically speaking-giving them too many flaws or flaws that are not thought out, will lead you down a story path filled with frustrating dead-ends.

Our motley group of eight (because why have seven if you can do more?), has considered numerous challenges to place before our various protagonists, be it a solid box where magic can’t operate, a juice mixer that only works with certain souls, or a snowy day in New Orleans. The whole point of telling a story is to take your character, give them a few, significant hurdles, some hidden pits with stakes, and shiny pot of gold at the end of the wacky rainbow and see how they turn out. Are they better? Worse? A little more colorful or holey? It’s one of the more fun aspects of being a writer, coming up with some great challenges that utilize creative thinking to get around or under.

Yet the goal of these challenges is to shine a great, big spotlight on our character’s flaws (or give it a steroid shot). There is a fine balance a writer must navigate–creating a likable, flawed character a reader can connect with. That’s a great deal more difficult than it sounds.

As I’ve continued to develop my series and my characters, I discovered for my characters to gain a believable depth and become “real” to my readers, they must have characteristics readers can connect to. I’m not saying my readers are out there bedecked in leather and carrying sharp, pointy weapons with a commendable snarl on their faces (or maybe some of you do), but the concepts of self-doubt, trust, independence, finding your true strengths, accepting yourself, overcoming obstacles—those aspects have to ring true.

In my Kyn Kronicles, Raine McCord, my heroine in SHADOW’S EDGE and SHADOW’S SOUL, is a kick-ass, lethal woman, with quite a few hidden flaws (and some not-so- hidden). Even though she’s part of the Kyn (a collection of mythical races) and magic is a normal part of her life, she’s been forged by some very real trauma. Trauma that left some very lasting scars on who she is and how she deals with what life sends her way.

And she’s not the only character with a history. SHADOW’S MOON brings Xander, my female wolf shifter front and center. Quirky, strong and unique, she holds her own in a male dominated culture. However, underneath she faces hard learned insecurities—how to protect those you love, even when it’s not possible.

Writers write what they know so I’ve excavated my own experiences to ensure my characters become “real”. I must understand what drives my characters, what’s behind each of their decisions, and how will they handle the consequences of those decisions. If I don’t do that, I’ll end up with a very one-dimensional cast of characters.

Much like life, everything that happens to a person, every action, every reaction causes a chain reaction that echoes down the line. It may not be immediately, but it will come back and bring with it new and more demanding challenges. That’s what creating a believable world is about. You want your readers to keep reading, to find out what happens when…

I don’t have a magic formula or chart (especially since Math is not my forte) on how many flaws or how deep those flaws have to be for a character to work, but think about it. How boring is it if we aren’t challenged through out our life? Same with our characters. We’re picking up a book so we can jump into the most exciting point in a character’s life, therefore as writers, we must make sure that the challenges and flaws they must face will keep a reader hooked for the entire story. Readers (and I say this since I, too, read) want to see the main character emerge triumphant over evil and themselves at the story’s end. Or if not exactly where they should be, pretty darn close.

The only way to do that is to be true to who your characters are and how they react to others and with others.

What do you think? What about a character keeps you reading a story?

 * * * * *

Thanks Jami! Wow, lots to think about! Okay, I know you want to see how Jami puts all this into her books…show, don’t tell! And she really does show!

About Jami
Jami Gray grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border, and was adopted at the age of 14 to suddenly become 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. (Decision-making was not her forte at the time.) 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. Delving into the wild paranormal worlds where romance collides with suspense and Urban Fantasy is queen, manages to salvage her sanity. Or so we let her believe…


Shadow’s Edge: Book 1 of the Kyn Kronicles

Shadow’s Soul: Book 2 of the Kyn Kronicles, Paranormal Romance Winner of 2012 Shooting Star

Wrapped in Shadows (.5) part of Things That Go Bump For The Holidays—A Collection of Short Stories

Shadow’s Moon: Book 3 of the Kyn Kronicles, 2013 Golden Claddagh Finalist


Coming in July 11th, 2014 from Muse It Up Publishing:
Hunted by the Past: Book 1 of the PSY-IV Teams

And Fall 2014 brings Shadow’s Curse: Book 4 of the Kyn Kronicles.



You can find all the buy links at:

Kyn Kronicles

Psy IV

Blurb for Shadow’s Edge:
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.

When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

Blurb for    Shadow’s Soul
Some nightmares are born of love…

Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job. So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer.

The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand. Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo.

As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.

Blurb for Wrapped in Shadows:
The magic of the holidays can be hell…

Celebrations abound during the holidays, but this Christmas an engagement celebration goes horrifically wrong. What appears to be a simple murder/suicide hides a vicious surprise. The type of gift Raine and Gavin, elite member of the Kyn, didn’t want humans to unwrap, because revealing the monsters in the shadows isn’t the way to spread holiday cheer.

Blurb for   Shadow’s Moon
Even a wild heart can be broken…

A blonde, a brunette and a monster walk into a bar and all hell breaks loose.Shadows Moon Cover

It should have been the start of a bad joke, but days from a full moon Xander Cade, Tracker for the Northwest Motoki Pack, finds nothing funny about confronting an enraged Shifter in a crowded Portland nightclub filled with unsuspecting humans. The resulting carnage frays an already thin veil of secrecy shielding the supernatural Kyn community from public scrutiny, and ensures she can’t escape the one man she’s been determined to avoid, her Alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis. Dominating, protective and compelling, Warrick threatens her individuality like no other.

As the Northwest Alpha wolf, compromise isn’t in Warrick Vidis’s vocabulary, but when his reluctant mate, Xander Cade, refuses to leave off the hunt for a killer, he has no qualms using whoever or whatever necessary to protect her or his pack. A series of unusual deaths involving lone wolves, along with anonymous threats against him and his Pack, begin to jeopardize his normal steely control. Add in Xander’s continual reluctance to fully accept their Soul bond, and the line between intellect and instinct begins to blur, leaving him wondering if one woman’s love and acceptance will be enough to save both man and wolf.
As the danger escalates, threatening not just their Pack but those closest to them, Warrick and Xander must find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond or risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.
Blurb for Hunted by the Past:
Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past…

A reluctant psychic who can relive the past, a man well versed in keeping secrets, and a psychopathic killer enter a deadly game where the past determines the future.

Changing the past is an impossibility ex-Marine, Cynthia “Cyn” Arden, understands all too well. Struggling in the aftermath of a botched mission, which cost her two teammates, her military career, and a fledging relationship, she’s brought home by a panicked phone call. The psychic killer behind her nightmares has escaped military custody to hunt down the remaining teammates, one by one. Next on his murderous list–Cyn. Her only chance at survival is to master the psychic ability she’s spent years denying.

The killer’s game brings her face to face with the one person guaranteed to throw her off kilter—the unsettling and distracting man she left behind, Kayden Shaw. Once she believed he’d stand by her side, until he chose his job and his secrets over her. A choice that’s left the scars of the past etched deep on her mind and heart.

To survive this twisted game, Cyn must risk trusting her heart and accepting who and what she is, or lose not only her life, but the man she loves.


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Peeking At My Killer My Love

My Killer My Love, a story of ultimate sacrifice

My Killer My Love, a story of ultimate sacrifice

For other great excerpts, check out Sneak Peek Sunday


Again that smile decorated his face, this time tinged with an exasperation she could see without her glasses. He shook his head, and the auburn curls fell around his shoulders with more grace than her own silvery-blond hair ever managed.

“It means much more than that, but you do not seem prepared to listen at this time.”

He fell silent, standing very still by the fireplace. It was as though he sought to become one with the ancient stone and wood. Telling herself she was definitely hallucinating, she faded into sleep.

Once the woman slept, he moved more freely. With the stealthy tread of a stalking wolf, he searched the darkening rooms, letting his senses hunt for a specific location. He settled in a corner window seat, bathed by the moonlight inching its way toward her bed. Many puzzles existed here, and he knew he was not yet prepared to face them. He breathed deeply, then more slowly, his body becoming motionless. The atmosphere around him thickened, a silent wind lifting his hair away from his face then dying abruptly. After a long moment of hushed tension, he emitted a sound of exasperation. The answers had never come to him easily before, why should now be any different?

He studied the woman. Even in her sleep, her thoughts spoke to him in unclear muttering, a not unpleasant sensation. He wondered about the part he had been sent to play and knew the ending would not be as originally planned. He could no longer think of her as he had been instructed.

This small, fearful female had given him something he had forgotten existed. She had given him back his laughter. For that alone he would protect her beyond life.


My Killer My Love is available at AmazonBlack Opal BooksSmashwords

Happy Reading


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Biscuits and Jam and Love From the Kitchen

In Teach Me To Forget, Jonathan Merritt makes biscuits for Bethany’s first morning at his house, and has his mother’s jams on the table to add to the steaming, butter laden yummies.  Hang on I need a minute to process since biscuits are officially off my menu for the foreseeble future. Oh, the memories.  Okay, I’m fine now.

Feeding the people we care about is a time honored tradition.  Who doesn’t preen when their “secret family recipe for the best cookies EVER” is praised?  I know most of hospitality centers around food in one form or another though it has been a challenge when I’m avoiding certain beloved foods.  But taking up the challenge for substitutes can be fun.  So far there’s not much I’ve found to substitute for hot biscuits.  Or bagels.  But for a simple treat to take to a brunch, I’ve found almond/cheese sticks go extremely well with any sort of hummus and are a great cracker or toast substitute.

The original recipe came from Low Carb Diet Tips for Busy People

Mom’s Low Carb Bread Recipe (bread sticks)

1 8 ounce bag Sargento parmesan cheese

1 cup almond meal

2 small or one very large egg (I used two largish)

2 Tablespoons melted butter (salted or unsalted depending on your preference)

Optional: Garlic Salt to taste (or garlic powder)

Mix ingredients well and chill. You can keep the mix in the refrigerator until needed and only cook a few at a time. Roll small portions into ball and then into cheese sticks.* Bake in preheated 350 oven for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes if necessary. You can make them flat on top so you can turn them over to brown on both sides.  You’ll want to flip them when they brown slightly on the bottom, so you can brown both sides. Don’t overcook.

That’s the basic recipe. I’ve since made it with grated cheese of various kinds similar to parmesan and with powdered parmesan/parm blends.  All yummy-licious.   So far I haven’t been able to create the pretty breadsticks in the original recipe since I’m always so impatient, but I can make an oval thick cracker sort of treat.  And I cook them a lot longer, to get more crunch. Often I’ll turn the oven off to let them cool down and get crunchier. I’ve also pressed some of the mix into a glass pie dish for a larger round of crunch, which makes a great base for whatever your imagination can come up with, not limited to pizza!

I would share Jonathan’s family biscuit recipe but that would entail research that might lead me down the wrong path.Teach Me To Forget Black Opal Books  There’s more information about the book here Teach Me To Forget and it’s available through Amazon, Black Opal Books, B&N and all the usual sources.  Enjoy and if you have a recipe you want shared on Wednesdays come on over, I’ve got the Keurig all warmed up.



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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 @ www.debbiechristiana.com

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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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


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


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.

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


Barnes & Noble


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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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Who comes up with this stuff?

With Tom bedridden, we watch a lot of television. It’s not like we can dash into town, so we bring the outside world to us. Television being what it is, we see a lot of commercials. So when a new commercial aired, with the slogan “It’s the (fast food breakfast sandwich) of [fill in the blank]” We looked at each other and said “HUH?” Do they mean it’s cheap and tasteless? Really bad for our health? Highly overrated?
What WERE they thinking?
Then you have the commercials for male enhancement products. And aren’t those fun to be watching? You get to the cautions, one of which is to let your doctor know if you have blurred vision. Wasn’t it a mantra when we were younger “you do that, you’ll go blind?” Or was that for an earlier time than most remember?
What WERE they thinking?
Car insurance commercials. We’re going to buy insurance because a weird little rodent, excuse me reptile with an accent says it’s a good idea? Because a Neanderthal gets offended, or a pig squeals? Really? A snide talking baby is going to get me to invest money I don’t have?
And we’re supposed to believe getting a cut rate cell phone service immediately turns normal people into rude morons who think they can afford anything they want because they’re saving a few bucks each month?
Who comes up with these ideas and more to the point, who approves them? Even more to the point than that, who pays any attention to them?
I will give kudos to the silly extreme snowboarding truck. And whoever came up with the disclaimer of “overly dramatic dramatization” no doubt creates at warp speed.
Maybe writing makes me a bit too critical. Or maybe it’s because I write for adults and the commercials are geared toward?????


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