Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Rabbit is Free

Release Day -- Yesterday

I finally released the rabbit. Couldn't write about it until today. I guess I got more attached than I thought I would. Anyway, I couldn't think about him yesterday without crying.

Anyway, we did a soft release, which means early in the morning, I took the rabbit's cage up to an area near our pond that has a lot of cover, some trees, and some good grass. I've seen rabbits up there on the wildlife camera we have, so I figure it is a good area. And it is only a few yards away from where we think the rabbit's nest was.

So, I placed the cage near some thickets and walked away. Well, not really. The rabbit didn't want to get out, and I couldn't resist saying goodbye, so I picked him up and gave his soft ears a final rubbing (he loved that) and placed him back in his cage to let him make the decision, himself, about when he wanted to leave.

Later that afternoon, I checked the area and there was no sign of him. But I left the cage there overnight in case he wanted to get back inside. I doubt he did, but at least he had the choice.

I guess that's it. I hope he finds other rabbits and has a good life. It's hard to think of him out there, alone. I keep thinking about all the hawks, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, snakes, feral dogs and cats, and other critters out there who would find him a tasty snack. And I can't for the life of me understand how people can abandon pets out in the country (they abandon them at our mailbox all the time because they think the area is just agricultural fields), not thinking about the starvation and terrors their pet will face.

At least I know the rabbit is back where he belongs and will probably find a mate (or two) and hopefully thrive. I'm hoping for the best.

It was a wonderful experience even if it does make me cry a little now that he's on his own. Wish him luck!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Chicken Tractor for Rabbits

I used to raise chickens (and probably will do so again in the future) and was always interested in the chicken tractors which is basically a chicken house you can move around your yard to let the chickens browse fresh/different areas of your yard.

Well, as my past blogs have mentioned, we have this baby rabbit we're trying to raise until it gets old enough to release. And because I have no intention of becoming a rehabber, I wanted something for the rabbit to use that gave him slightly more room than the pet carrier we are using as his home, and which could be placed outside for him to get acclimated to the weather and natural environment.

Because he'll probably be released in 2 weeks, I also didn't want to buy some elaborate rabbit hutch.

The Rabbit Tractor

The rabbit running around the rabbit tractor

Detail on the door. I cut a panel for the door itself and cut around the latch so that it could be open and shut, but the mesh still goes to the ground to keep the rabbit safe inside.

Another view of the rabbit tractor, showing the cardboard box for the rabbit. The rabbit is just outside the cardboard box.

I built the rabbit tractor after I remembered we had an old wire kennel for our Jack Russell Terrier.  I removed the bottom tray, revealing a pretty much open bottom that would let grasses and clover come through to be available to the rabbit. Except the bars were too far apart to keep a small rabbit safe and enclosed. So I got some hardware cloth and wrapped it around the cage and secured it with wire where the rabbit could reach and plastic zip-ties where he couldn't reach. I carefully attached panels to the doors so I could still open the doors.

I also put in a small cardboard box and scrap of fabric for a little hutch where he could go and sleep/be protected.

And now the bunny can spend a few hours outside and collect his own food, while still being safe inside his "hutch."

Turned out that he was afraid of the wide-open spaces (no wonder, really) so I took a few linen towels and drapped the hutch to give him some shade, privacy, and a sense of security. It seems to be working fine.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Update to Rabbit Rescue

The rabbit rescue continues, and The Little Squirt is now sending us out into the yard searching for appetizing greens to fill his little bowl. I can't believe he's managed to survive a week in our care. We weren't able to find any rehabbers to take it and could never find the rabbit's nest to put the baby back. So we're stuck with him for a couple more weeks until he is old enough to be released.

So far, his favorite food is clover, followed by young dandelion shoots and purslane. He likes new leaves, old leaves--not so much. The bad news is that he likes me, and whenever I put my hand in his cage to put in some food, he nuzzles my hand and wants to come out and sit in my lap (where he simply goes to sleep). He's not supposed to like me. He's supposed to be afraid of me so that he will survive when we release him.

But from what I understand, he'll soon be afraid me of, too, it's just a matter of time.

Anyway, I wanted to let folks know that The Little Squirt is still alive and seems to be thriving. So far, so good.

And, on the book front, A Stolen Rose, a traditional Regency, has been released and is now available.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Poor Little Bunny

I was hesitant to write about our little orphan, but he's made it for almost 5 days so maybe this won't jinx the whole thing.

So, last Friday, I was walking the dogs when my little Jack Russel stopped in the middle of the road. I went back and, well, she had a bunny in her mouth. I made her drop it, and the poor little thing appeared to be unharmed except for being in shock.

My husband and I took the dogs and scoured the entire place, looking for the rabbit burrow to put the bunny back, because it hadn't even opened its eyes yet. Baby bunnies have a very low survival rate if you take them away from the rest of the litter, and I didn't want the poor little thing to die. No luck, although we searched and kept trying to get the dogs to show us where the bunnies were.

Finally, we had to give up for the night and take the poor thing home. We called a bunch of rehabbers because you're not supposed to keep wild animals, and I wanted to give the thing a chance. No luck. You see, 90% of orphaned bunnies die. Most of the rehabbers had too many other animals and didn't want a baby bunny that was sure to die.

We looked again on Saturday for the burrow. We even tried to find someone who had domestic rabbits with a litter, hoping to slip the baby in with the others. Mammas are great about accepting "strangers."

No luck. So we found the bunny org and because my husband is a wildlife biologist, we looked up rabbits in his literature. Between all the sources, we decided that goat's milk for puppies/kittens plus a bit of heavy cream (8 parts goat's milk to 1 part cream) warmed up would do it. So I went to the Seed & Feed and got goat's milk and a tiny feeding bottle, then got some cream. We prepared everything the way you do for a human baby and fed the beast.

Bunny likes the milk mixture a little on the warm side, but at least he ate. And I rubbed his bottom as recommended to get him to pee and poop, although he seems perfectly capable of pooping on his own because there were droppings in the bucket where he lived in a nest of microfiber rags.

Oh, we kept him in a big bucket hung from the rafters to keep the dogs and cat away from him. It worked for the first night. Unfortunately, he jumped out the second night and roamed around our living room all night. Oops. Fortunately, none of her animals found him. And although he was cold, we fed him and got a cat carrier for him. And I took one of those horseshoe shaped pads you heat up in the microwave for for shoulder/neck muscles and put that in the cat carrier to keep him warm.(Heat lamps are too dehydrating.)

We were trying to mimic his natural environment, which means no heat lamps or anything like that, but a gentle source of warmth like that pad did the trick. He likes it, but frequently hops away from it if he gets too hot And although we were feeding it twice a day, 1.5 tsp (approx), since the mamma rabbit only visits the den rarely to feed her kits (evening and morning) to avoid leaving a scent trail that might lead predators to the den, we did feed our kit a extra time after his "adventure" on our floor, so he got breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So far, (we found him Friday and it is now Tuesday) he seems to be doing okay. We don't mess with him except when I take him out to feed him. Sunday, I started adding probiotics to his bottle in preparation to moving him to greens. Baby rabbits have sterile digestive systems and normally eat their mamma's night poop to get the right flora in their bellies, but we have no mamma, so we're using probiotics.

He started opening his eyes Sunday night and Monday. Today, his eyes are pretty well open and his ears are twitching and upright. That means he's close to being ready to start on greens collected from the yard. He's also getting more nervous of me, which is great, because he needs to be afraid of humans and everything else out there when we release him in 2 - 3 more weeks.

I hope he continues to thrive. We're doing the best we can. I'd like him to be in that 10% of bunnies who do manage to live long enough to be released, and I hope I haven't just jinxed him by writing this. He's a tough little bugger and obviously wants to survive. Today, I'm going to sprout some oat and alfalfa seeds I got for sprouting (I eat a lot of sprouts, myself) as well as sorrel, clover, plantain, sumac, and other goodies I collect around our property. That should give him a variety of things to try as we move him to his normal veggie diet.

I'll update this as he progresses. Let's hope the update(s) don't include a bunny funeral. I can't quite believe he's made it this long after everything that has happened to him. I wish we could have convinced a rehabber to take him (they are all volunteers, unpaid, and overwhelmed this time of year). I'm always afraid I'm going to find him cold and stiff in the cat carrier.

I'm also hesitant to name him because, that also seems like tempting fate, but I think of him as The Little Squirt. And The Little Squirt really wants to live. He's been through a lot and is still hanging in there.

Finally, I don't mean to "pollute" this with crass talk of books, but September/October are exciting months for me. A Lady in Hiding is out, and both A Stolen Rose and Her Vampire Bodyguard will be out in October. So what with The Little Squirt and writing, this fall has been really busy so far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What I've Been Up To

What have you done for me, lately?

Sorry, I couldn't resist writing that as if folks wanted to know. Anyway, you might well ask what I've been doing.

I've been writing. And I've got several new books published this month and over the next couple of months. And I'm developing plans for a couple of new series, as well. And here they are.

A Lady in Hiding

A Lady in Hiding (previously published as The Bricklayer's Helper) has been re-edited and was just released this month. I got the germ of an idea for this book from an article I read about a girl who was orphaned and instead of living on the street, she disguised herself as a boy and went to work at a series of jobs, including a bricklayer's helper and a footboy, before her identity was discovered and she exchanged her trousers for a dress.

Of course, A Lady in Hiding is entirely a work of fiction, but sometimes readers ask me where I get my ideas, and in this case, that true story is where I got the idea.
A Lady in Hiding - Available now!

 A tragic case of arson sends Sarah into hiding to escape the terrible fate of her family. She works as a common laborer, and is safe for thirteen years, until she receives an ominous note. The killer has caught up with her. Despite her disguise, she is once again in danger from a man determined to silence all echoes from the past.

William, an inquiry agent, is consumed with curiosity when he meets Sarah, and one look into her gray eyes has him hooked. Even though the evidence is scanty after so many years, he promises to assist her, unaware how events will challenge him as both a man of honor and an investigator.

When a second attempt is made on Sarah's life, William is forced to follow a treacherous path through the twisted, dark past. And his growing attraction to the independent woman proves just as dangerous. He needs a clear head to sift through the ashes of the old tragedy, with its hints of corruption stretching back to the Napoleonic wars and reaching into the highest levels of Society. Above all, he must protect Sarah, regardless of personal cost.

Love must find a way to bring the two together and thwart a desperate arsonist, or the last survivor of the long-ago fire will die.

A Stolen Rose - Available for Pre-Order now at $0.99

When the Earl of Wraysbury rescues a young woman from a carriage accident, he can't resist her laughing eyes and wry sense of humor, even though their families have been locked in a feud for generations.

Anemone may be achingly lonely but she's loyal to her family. When she wakes up after an accident in the strong arms of a handsome stranger, she's immediately drawn to him, and appalled  when  she discovers he's her family's sworn enemy, the Earl of Wraysbury.

Neither Anemone nor the earl is prepared for the flaring attraction they feel, or for the escalation of the war between their families when a 40-year-old mystery triggers accusations of murder. Loyalty and the threat of a dangerous duel are destined to tear the lonely lovers apart unless they are willing to defy their families and take a chance on love. 

Regency Romantic Mysteries Boxed Set - Available November 1

A boxed set containing The Unwanted Heiress, A Lady in Hiding, and The Earl's Masquerade with a bonus book, Love, The Critic, will be available November 1. This set has the first three of the Archer Family Regency Romances and will be $4.99, which is much cheaper than buying the individual books.

Her Vampire Bodyguard - Available December 1

Her Vampire Bodyguard (previously published as Vampire Protector) will be available December 1.

Gwen can't afford to trust anyone. She has a horrifying secret only half-remembered. But she knows she's not the young woman she appears, and her nights are filled with terrifying nightmares. Her tenuous peace is shattered when a mysterious letter arrives, hinting that someone knows her secrets and driving her to uncover the truth at her long-abandoned home.

But she doesn't go alone.

Although frightening secrets plague John, he has a duty to protect Gwen from the unknown dangers surrounding her. She seems unaware that there is an artifact in her old house that others will kill for, so he's determined to accompany her when she returns home.

Unfortunately, their seemingly casual visit unleashes an ancient evil that threatens them both. Despite their growing love, they soon realize that if don't learn to trust each other and face their deepest fears, they will die.

Only trust and their growing love can give them the strength to overcome the ancient evil waiting for them in the shadows of their past. 

Future Series

Once all those books hit the streets, I have a mystery, Time, that will come out in 2016, and then I will start on a new series of romantic cosy mysteries featuring the Harmony sisters. Oh, that doesn't mean there won't be any more Second Sons Regency mysteries or Archer family Regency romances. In fact, I'm writing another Archer family Regency romance, Fencing for Ladies, right now. But I am also working on the Harmony sisters.

What is so special about the Harmony sisters? Well, each of the sisters will have her own story (and romance) and they manage to solve some puzzling murders in the small town of Peyton, NC. The sisters run a business called Total Harmony that is a lifestyle center helping people outfit their homes and themselves to bring harmony back into their lives. The concept that colors, decorating styles, scents and event cosmetics can be brought into harmony to improve a person's mood, and therefore, life. Kind of Feng Shui mixed with color theory and scents.

I've gotten into a lot of DIY (do it yourself) projects lately, including developing my own sourdough starter to bake all my own bread, pickling, and more recently, making my own hair rinse, cold cream, and face cream. I like having more control over the ingredients and freshness, and I've seen minor improvements in my own life through these efforts.

For those interested in having more control and like small DIY projects, here is a face cream I use and really like. I had some small red spots/scars on my forehead and this cream has really helped me with those spots. It is a little oily at first because it takes longer for the skin to drink it in, but as I am older, I find I'm okay with that because of the sense of accomplishment, control, and skin improvements I'm seeing.

Mature Skin Face Cream

2 Tbsp Almond base oil
2 tsp Rose Hip Seed base oil
1 1/2 tsp Beeswax
1 Tbsp distilled water
Contents of 1 vitamin E capsule
10 drops Rosemary essential oil *
5 drops Carrot essential oil *
10 drops Neroli essential oil *

* Essential oils are optional, but these 3 are good for mature skin, so I tend to use them. And I like the way it smells, particularly the rosemary. I use rosemary a lot.

In a large glass measuring cup, put the base oils and beeswax. Microwave in 30 sec increments (about 1 min, 30 sec) until the beeswax melts. In a different small bowl, microwave the water for about 30 secs.

Let the oil/beeswax cool a little (until the glass container is warm to the touch, but not hot) and using a wire whisk, whisk the warm water into the oils. Whisk for about 3 minutes, until a creamy, pale yellow cream forms. Pierce the vitamin E capsule and squish the contents into the cream. Add the essential oils (if using), and continue whisking for another 4 minutes or so. The cream should be thick and a little shiny.

Scrape the cream into a very clean glass container (I use the canning jars meant for baby food).

This makes quite a bit and generally lasts me more than 1 month, so I keep it in a small refrigerator, along with my collection of base and essential oils. That way, it stays good for several months. It will last about 1 month without refrigeration, though.

To use: you don't need much, and you may wish to rub it between your hands and then apply to your face and throat. (I prefer just to massage it into my neck and face.) You don't need much. A little dab will do you (to re-use that old ad phrase.)

So that's one of my recipes that will be appearing in the Harmony sisters mystery books. Stay tuned--there is a lot coming up.


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Malice Domestic 2015 and Dark Shadows

Just got back from the wonderful writers and readers conference, Malice Domestic, held in Silver Spring, MD. What a great conference--lots of fun--and a lot of wonderful writers to meet and discover. I didn't do any sessions this year, I went strictly as a reader, but I sure attended a lot of interesting sessions about mysteries, such as police procedurals, British historical mysteries, and even humor in mysteries. That last one, humor in mysteries, featured a moderator I couldn't wait to meet: Kathryn Leigh Scott. For those who find the name oddly familiar, well, she played Maggie Evans/Josette in the original Dark Shadows.

Although I've meet a lot of famous authors or famous people, there are only two who ever meant something to me.

Back in the 80's, I was wandering around the gardens behind the Governor's Palace in historic Williamsburg when low and behold, I saw someone I instantly recognized: Isaac Asimov. I couldn't believe it. I was so amazed and in awe that about all I could do was to introduce myself and mumble, "I've read every book you've ever written!" He was so kind and gracious, even though I'm sure the last thing he wanted was to be accosted while trying to enjoy the formal gardens. To this day, I wish I had had my wits about me and had taken his picture.

For years, I felt he was the only meaningful famous person I'd ever met.
Until the Malice Domestic conference.

I attended the session on humor in mysteries specifically because I saw that Kathryn Leigh Scott was to be the moderator.  And I wasn't disappointed. It was a great session and even better, I got to listen to "Maggie Evan's" lovely voice again.

Despite all the years since Dark Shadows was on the air, she hasn't really changed. She's still just as beautiful as she was as Maggie Evans, although her hair is a bit lighter (her picture is on the right). And what was really interesting was that Kathryn Leigh Scott was just as warm and kind as her character had been all those years ago. What a nice lady.

The other authors seemed like a lot of fun, too, and I had to laugh when one of them, in talking about how she includes humorous elements, mentioned an incident that had happened to her in real life. Seems she was vacationing in a a remote cabin in the woods when a snake dropped down from the ceiling to land next to her. Surprise, surprise.

I didn't raise my hand, but I could top that story. I live in a log home every day and can't tell you how many snakes I've had to remove. Thank goodness my husband has snake tongs. Rat snakes, particularly young ones, love to climb and seem to particularly love log homes and cabins. I suspect that that is what dropped in on the author.

A few years back, I got up early to go to work and glanced over at my sewing machine in the corner of my bedroom. After one look, I shook my husband's shoulder to wake him up.

"Sorry to wake you, honey, but there's a snake trying to use my sewing machine. Can you remove it? I have to take a shower and get to work," I said.

You see, I didn't want the snake to escape, hide in the house, and then later show up in some inconvenient place. Like our bed.

And then there was the cow I found munching the grass around our mailbox. And the barracuda in the middle of our road, sixty miles inland from the coast.

Yeah. Lots of stories.

People have no idea what it's like to live in the country.

Anyway, after the Malice Domestic session (picture on the left), I got on my Kindle and bought the first book in a series Kathryn L. Scott is writing (the Jinx series). The first book is called Down and Out in Beverly Heels and I enjoyed it a great deal--I read it in two days. While most of it is written in present tense, I forced myself to overlook that (I loathe present tense--it throws me right out of the story) and I enjoyed the story about a mature actress struggling to get her career and life back on track after her husband takes her for everything she's got and then disappears.

Ouch. I can only hope Kathryn wasn't writing from personal experience. :)

Although the mystery is less of a who-done-it than a humorous, caper story where the hapless heroine tries to find her husband to see if he's really alive or dead. A few people die along the way and the ending has a nice surprise, so it does have mystery elements. Above all, it works, at least it did for me.

So...the conference was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it to mystery readers and writers. It's not too big and a lot of really interesting people usually show up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Honeymoon with Death is released

The latest Second Sons Inquiry Agency Regency mystery series is out: Honeymoon with Death! This is the fifth book in the Regency mystery series and the third featuring Prudence Barnard and Knighton Gaunt. For those interested in Pru and Knighton, the previous two books were:
The Vital Principle
Dead Man's View

The books don't have to be read in order, but That is the "proper order" for those interested.

Since I'm snowed in at the moment and am suffering from writer's block with the book I'm currently writing, I figured now would be a good time to tell everyone about the book.

On their honeymoon trip through Europe, Prudence and Knighton Gaunt take a brief excursion to see the triple falls on the river Velino on their way to Rome, little knowing the chain of events this will precipitate.

The couple sends their own carriage and servants on to Rome to reserve rooms and joins a small group of travelers in a hired coach. Unfortunately, before the group reaches the triple cascade, their carriage breaks down on a remote road. A band of ruffians ambushes them, and their only safety seems to lie in a ramshackle, old inn reputed to be haunted.

The party of travelers spends one night only to discover one of their group dead the next morning. The body lies in a ravine near the area where they were attacked, casting suspicion on the bandits.

But why had the passenger returned to such a dangerous spot in the middle of the night, and why was the victim wearing another traveler’s cloak?

As Knighton and Pru investigate, they discover the other travelers were not all the strangers they seemed to be. Mistaken identity, revenge, envy, and frustrated love vie as motives, and Knighton is pushed to desperation when Pru disappears as well. He must use every ounce of logic and intelligence to find her—and identify the killer--before there is another death on the road to Rome.


In this excerpt, the carriage Pru, Knighton, and several other passengers are riding within suffers a terrifying accident on a treacherous mountain road. None of them realize that their difficulties are only the start of even more trouble.

A loud crack shuddered through the coach. The vehicle lurched to the right and then tilted abruptly. Pru would have fallen to the floor if she had not caught her husband’s strong, outstretched hand. Mrs. Ruberry was thrown forward and only the lieutenant’s outstretched hands kept her from landing in his lap.

Through the open windows next to Pru, a terrifying view of a mountainside scattered with sharp rocks, ravines, and dark pine trees slanted down toward a misty valley below. It was a dizzying and frightening sight as they teetered on the very edge of a long drop down to scattered boulders and rubble.

“I’m falling!” Miss Demaretti screamed as she cast a frightened glance out Pru’s window and threw her arms around Mrs. Ruberry. “We must escape, Violet, the carriage is slipping—I can feel us falling!”

“No one is going to fall,” Knighton said curtly as he fumbled with the carriage’s only door next to Pru.

When he opened it, the door swung out loosely over the abyss, showing only a narrow edge of the road immediately under the carriage. A bare six inches of ground lay between them and disaster.
Pru hooked her right arm through the window to keep from falling out and held on to Mrs. Ruberry’s shoulder with her left. “Is there any room to climb out?” Her voice sounded breathless, and she sucked in a sharp gasp when there was another crack.

Her breath caught in her throat. The carriage tilted alarmingly toward the ravine, top-heavy as it was with baggage. She could hear thumps and slithering from the roof as the two men who had been forced to rid atop due to the already overcrowded interior scrambled to hold on.

“Yes,” her husband grunted as he caught the edge of the door for support before leaning out a few inches. “There is just enough room if we are careful. You men, shift your weight toward the opposite side when I climb out. I will assist the ladies to exit first.” He glanced apologetically at Pru.

She nodded quickly, knowing what he needed from her. “I’ll help Miss Demaretti and Mrs. Ruberry and then follow them.”

Knighton depended upon her to keep her head and help the others. If only she felt as calm as he sounded. She turned her head away from the window, ignoring the pull of the terrifying ravine. Her weight, combined with that of the other men, would provide stabilization while Miss Demaretti and the somewhat portly Mrs. Ruberry scrambled out.

The carriage shook. Rocks cascaded down the mountainside, dislodged by the carriage. The coachman spoke sharply to the horses in an attempt to control the frightened animals. Every movement made the coach shudder and created another cascade of rubble.

Knighton as he climbed out and clung to the door and coach fender. The two other men quickly slid toward the opposite side as the conveyance trembled and groaned.

A few rocks from the verge rolled over the edge, clicking and rattling their way down the hill. The noise went on and on, and they all froze, listening with tense faces until the sounds of the tumbling stones faded away.

“Come, Miss Demaretti, you must go first.” Pru stretched her arm across the trembling body of Mrs. Ruberry to catch hold of Miss Demaretti’s wrist.

“Careful!” Mrs. Ruberry’s shrill voice cut through the tension, immobilizing the others in the coach.

“You’ll send us all down the mountain to our deaths!” She twisted as if to push her way past Pru’s arm, but when she caught her glance, the older woman thrust her hand against her charge’s back and literally pushed her toward the door.

“Excuse me, Miss,” Captain Marshall said apologetically as he braced Miss Demaretti with his hands around her waist and lifted her through the door. He held on to her until Knighton caught her and eased her around the rear of the coach to the road.

The conveyance swayed as the weight shifted, and another shower of stones bounced over the side.
In a state of panic, Mrs. Ruberry climbed past Pru, elbowing her aside and nearly kicking her in the face in her haste to follow the girl out. Knighton caught her and ignored her wild words as he swung her around the fender and pushed her onto the road next to Miss Demaretti.

Without the plump woman’s weight, the coach wallowed and lurched, sending more and more rocks down into the ravine. The narrow edge of the road crumbled under the broken wheel. The coach leaned further over the ravine. The horses, restive and terrified by the sounds, snorted and whinnied, jerking the conveyance even more, despite the driver’s attempts to calm them and keep the vehicle stable.

Pru squeezed her eyes shut. Despite her efforts to remain calm, her mind feverishly flashed terrifying images of the coach tilting over the edge. Tumbling and crashing against the rocks, they would be smashed into pieces and scattered over the scree at the base, like so many crushed porcelain dolls amidst the wooden debris of the coach. She clutched one of the leather straps as the conveyance shifted again.

If you are interested, here is the link for the book on Amazon, followed by my web page which has links to other sources for the book.
Honeymoon with Death on Amazon
Honeymoon with Death web page

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Honeycomb Sourdough Biscuits

I'm not a great chef or anything, but sometimes even the most mediocre cook comes up with a recipe worth sharing. This one is actually "adapted" from GRIT Magazine's special baking issue they put out a while back. It included a great section on sourdough and since I'm a sourdough fanatic, (I have had well, digestive problems all my life to put it nicely, and eating sourdough fixed me up perfectly. I wish I'd discovered this simple solution sooner.) I made almost all the recipes. They were all excellent, and I really liked the biscuit one because it was quick and used a cast iron pan. I have a large collection of cast iron and use it almost exclusively except when I need a non-reactive pan for something.

The only problem was that the recipe in the magazine made too many biscuits for me and my husband, even eating leftovers the next day or so.

So the first thing I did was to cut the recipe in half. That worked okay, but in the days that followed, I made a few other changes. One change came about because the only honey I had was some really good honey with the comb in the bottle.

I also developed this because I wasn't using my sourdough starter every day and yet didn't always want to keep it in the refrigerator. And I'm cheap and didn't want to keep throwing away starter. Since the sourdough helps me digestive-wise, I found that making biscuits everyday used enough starter to keep it going on my counter without wasting it, and it gives us good biscuits for breakfast.

Anyway, here is the recipe. It makes about 9 biscuits and you finally have a use for that small cast iron skillet that you thought was only good for frying an egg. That's the one that is  6.5" but 8" will also work. NOTE: I've never tried this in a pan other than cast iron and I don't think it would come out as well in plain aluminum or glass.

This recipe takes about an hour, all told, when you count in collecting the ingredients, mixing, rising, and baking.

Honeycomb Sourdough Biscuits
1 cup of sourdough starter
1 cup of flour
1 Tbsp of very cold butter cut into pea-sized chunks
1 tsp (generous tsp) of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (you can add more if you like them a little saltier)
2 tsp honey with a bit of comb scrapings

1 Tbsp melted butter


NOTES - Sourdough - This is a variable. If you keep your starter on the "thick" side (like puffy, risen dough) then you may need to add a teaspoon or so of water. The recipe depends upon the sourdough starter for moisture. You should be able to work in all the flour--it will be a very stiff dough--but if you can't, your sourdough starter may simply be too "thick" so a small bit of extra water may help.

Honeycomb - If you scrap your teaspoon over the honeycomb as you get the honey out of the jar, you'll get little bits of the comb. We find that this gives the biscuits a bit of a chewiness and extra honey flavor that we really like. You don't have to do this, but we really like it. You may like less honey in your biscuits or no honeycomb scrapings.

Butter - You can use either salted or unsalted. The salted butter will make it less sweet and more like a biscuit. The unsalted will bring out the honey notes and make a sweeter biscuit. Using margarine isn't worth it (in my humble opinion). The flavor and crumb just aren't the same.

Ingredients - The measurements are not exact. In fact, I just use a regular spoon and sprinkle in what I think looks good for the baking powder, salt, butter, and honey. The recipe is VERY forgiving so you can get a little sloppy with the measurements and it will still come out well. I also tend to use an exceedingly generous cup of sourdough starter, fed or unfed.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. You don't have to use this order of ingredients, but I find it makes mixing easier. In a small to medium mixing bowl, add the cup of sourdough starter, 1/2 of the flour, sprinkle in the baking powder, salt, butter, and honey, kind of distributing it over the surface. Then put in the rest of the flour.
  3. Mix just until the flour is incorporated. It will not be smooth and it will be stiff.
  4. Using a spoon or scoop, place egg-sized biscuits into the cast iron skillet. The sides of the biscuits should touch. You'll probably get about 9 biscuits or so.
  5. Drizzle the melted butter over the biscuits.
  6. Let rise for at least ten minutes in a warm place. Anywhere from ten to twenty minutes is good. There will just be a slight rise, but enough to "fill in" the spaces in the skillet.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven until the tops of the biscuits are brown. We like them brown because it gives them a crunchy crust, but technically, you can take them out when they are only slightly brown to get a more moist, tender biscuit.

These biscuits can also be made with whole wheat and wheat germ as follows:
Instead of the 1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour, use:
1/2 c. unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat

If you want to add wheat germ, too, put 2 Tbsp of wheat germ into your 1/2 cup measuring cup and then fill it the rest of the way with the whole wheat flour.

The whole wheat and wheat germ combination is actually my favorite way to make these biscuits as the whole wheat goes really well with the honey. In fact, that is the kind of biscuit that is in the picture.

If you want your biscuits to look smoother, you can shape them a bit (not too much as it will melt the bits of butter) and smooth them into egg shapes before putting them in the skillet. I prefer not to mess with them too much and I like the crinkly/crunchy top.

Another variation
You can also add about 1/2 tsp of honey to the melted butter which you drizzle over the biscuits before baking. This gives them extra sweetness.

I made the mistake, once, of baking them far too long. This made them very crunchy, but oddly enough, my husband really liked those as a snack. ha, ha. They were almost like big, round crackers.

So like I said, this recipe is very, VERY forgiving even if you over-bake them.

I imagine you can add just about anything you want to them, as well. Raisins are great and make them more "breakfast-y" and almost like scones. Dried berries are also great.

If you have any left the next day, you can put them in the microwave for up to 30 seconds to make them soft and warm.

There you are: Honeycomb Sourdough Biscuits. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Month of Judgment

It's here!

Month of Judgment  is available as a pre-release on Amazon Kindle for the low price of $0.99. It will go up to $3.99 when it is released on Sep 25, 2014, so be sure to take advantage of the lower price if you're interested.

This is a bit of a departure for me since it is a paranormal suspense/horror, but sometimes you're just compelled to write a particular book. It's not one of those blood-and-gore dripping all over the place so it might best be described as a paranormal suspense.

The swamp seems peaceful until two women encounter an ancient mystery and discover they are not entirely alone...

As the Carolina swamp heat cools with the approach of autumn, an ancient evil stirs among the cypress. Drifting through the shadows cast by the twisted trees, it awaits the feckless and unwary. Those who elect to ignore the legends do so at their peril and are rarely seen--alive--again. 

Unaware of the mystery surrounding the swamp, Emily Anderson is desperate for a change. A tragic series of events has left her alone and aching with sorrow over the deaths of her husband, son, and daughter-in-law. Her home no longer feels like the refuge it once was, and the fleeting shadows and ghosts of the family she lost darken the empty rooms and haunt her sleep. When a friend suggests a camping trip, Emily jumps at the chance to get away for a few days and relax. 

Unfortunately, neither woman realizes that November is the wrong time to enter the swamp. Something awaits them, a power beyond imagination that haunts the woods, and unless they can unravel the mystery and escape, they may become just two more names on the list of the missing.


A flicker in my peripheral vision made me straighten, my pulse quickening. A smile stretched my mouth after a heart-stopping, sudden pulse of joy. I rubbed my arms again, skin prickling from a frigid blast of air. My heart raced with anticipation like it had when I raced down the stairs on Christmas morning.

“Alicia?” I bent forward to get to my feet. “Alicia?” My thoughts stuttered and stalled.

I stared into the hallway, wilting. The flash of white had only been a random gleam of light, not a glimpse of Alicia walking by, wearing her favorite white jeans. I rubbed warmth back into my bare arms.

Alicia was dead, too. How could I forget?

We’d never bonded, never really gotten along, but her loss made the house emptier and cold. If nothing else, I missed her lazy sarcasm and the clacking sound of her leather-soled shoes on our wooden floor.

Only fools work and my momma didn’t raise no fool. I could still hear her voice.

I rubbed my palm over my forearm, trying to wipe away my goose bumps as I sagged onto the sofa. My eyes burned from crying and lack of sleep. The enervating weight of apathy pressed closer, and I struggled to push away the too-familiar sensation. I didn’t want to waste another day, staring at nothing, waiting for nothing. I took a deep breath and stood up.

Wood creaked directly overhead, the sound coming from the baby’s room.

I paused and tilted my head, listening. Nothing but silence. I rubbed my tired eyes. The noise had been normal, just one of the regular sounds the house made as it settled under the late fall sunshine.

Or had it been something different?

Thanks and I hope you enjoyed the brief teaser. Have a great week!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Prices

I've been reading a lot of discussions about book pricing lately and like every other person out there, I have an opinion and a mouth, too (a different and perhaps more polite orifice than the one usually referenced in these kinds of statement, ha, ha). My opinion is that, like any other product you'd care to mention, pricing is in a constant state of flux.

So...what do I really think?
How to I decide on a pricing strategy if I independently publish (self-publish) my book?

I should state first that concerns about pricing doesn't show a lack of experience--even veteran authors who decide to self-publish their backlist have to go through the trauma of deciding on prices and periodically reviewing/revising them. It is a very real concern and no one--including publishers--have a really good handle on yet. Even big publishers are playing around with pricing and have different strategies depending upon author name, genre, etc.

For example, one well-known publisher recently released most of Georgette Heyer's books (originally published in the first half of the 20th century), with an introductory price of $2.99. Then the publisher raised the prices, some to almost $9.00. Now, prices vary on those books from $2.99 to almost $9.00, with a few periodically showing up as free.

So you can see that even publishers are experimenting with price.

And to make matters more complicated, there are a lot of readers like myself who absolutely WILL pass up books because of price. I generally will not buy a book above $4.99 at all, unless it is something I require for work (rare) or a reference book. And I don't buy a lot of books above $3.99. I have to really, really want the book at $4.99 to buy it. Those account for maybe 1 book every few months versus several books at $3.99 or less. I simply can't afford to feed my reading habit if I buy books that cost more. That's why I also used to go to used book stores and libraries. And I still look for specific books (e.g. classics like "Rebecca") for free, if I can find them for my electronic library.

However, I follow trends on marketing and what others are pricing their books at in several markets. Here is what I've seen:
Most authors decide on an overall strategy for the types of books they write, something like this:
$.99 for short stories up to 10,000 words
$1.99 for novellas from 10,000 through 50,000 words
$2.99 for novels that range from 50,000 (e.g. a Harlequin-length category romance) through 75,000
$3.99 for long novels that range from 75,000 on up
---Some folks go higher, e.g. $4.99 and up, when their particular genre supports that price or they have a wide audience. A quick survey of other books in a specific genre may provide a clue about the "sweet spot" for independently published or self-published books.

For authors with series, here is what I've seen:
$2.99 For the FIRST book in the series, when no other books are available yet (or $3.99 is popular, too)
$.99 Drop the price of the FIRST book in the series to $.99 when the second book comes out
$2.99 or $3.99 for the second and subsequent books in the series (some go as high as $4.99 before sales drop off, but usually after the series is better established)
PERMA-FREE (Oh, my goodness!) You can drop the price of the FIRST book in the series to free when there are three or more books in that series available, as an alternative to $.99. This cycles in/out and authors often adjust this as part of promotional activities. It is also useful to build up reviews as part of promotional activities with the idea that the money will be made on the subsequent books if you have a good "read-through" rate (I made that up as a term to account for people who get the first book and then buy subsequent ones in the series).

Free vs $.99 for the first book in a series swings back and forth as far as effectiveness, so folks tend to manipulate that as necessary. Right now, so many are set to $.99 that the price point is becoming less effective. The pendulum is swinging back to perma-free. That will then work for a few months before it becomes less effective again and prices for the first book in a series will swing back up to $.99.

Or we may see some other changes.

That is certainly a strategy that seems to work for series pricing, but there are some caveats:
1) It works best if the first three books come out with no more than one month between releases. The quicker the other books in the series are released, the better.
2) Read-through and sales/earnings are best if there is a cliffhanger at the end of each book in the series, forcing the reader to pick up the next one. Note that this ticklish. It can backfire if the subsequent books aren't available because it irritates readers. Also, it assumes that you DO wrap up the main story's arc and that the cliff-hanger-ish part is a minor sub-plot or even a the start of a new plot/new story arc. You really have to be careful because a lot of readers totally loathe cliffhangers and books that don't have a "real ending." (I know I dropped Jordan's series because I got tired of long books with no resolutions and a seemingly endless series. I'm not a big fan of cliffhangers and often decide to stop reading after the first book. I don't think I'm completely unique in that.)

So there are a lot of strategies. Also keep in mind that some companies that want your price to end in $.99 so you'll have to take that into consideration. It means $3.99 versus $3.49, for example. And for me, I find that readers like the slightly odd $3.49 because it "feels" cheaper than the more common $3.99 and is a little different, making it look less like one of the herd. A little more thought went into it. A lot of folks now equate $2.99 with self-published and perhaps a lack of skill, although some publishers are now releasing old books (like those Heyer books I mentioned) at that price, which is helping erase that stigma.

That's why, though, many authors are going to $3.99 or even $4.99--it can sometimes make readers believe it is a higher quality product. But it can backfire when you have a reader like me, who honestly looks for bargains AND READS THEM (I don't buy stuff I don't want just because it's free or cheap). I won't buy a book at $4.99 if I have the least concern that I may not like it. But I'm more likely to take a chance on a new author at a lower price.

It is much more difficult if you write books that "stand alone" and are not in a series. Then, using the simpler pricing strategy of basing price on the length of the book may work best. Then you can change the price for various promotions, e.g. free or $.99 for a few days or week to build up reviews and get some momentum going.

Psychological games. Ha, ha.

Many successful authors recommend playing with price until you find the sweet spot where you're selling a nice number and still making a comfortable profit.

Remember: You can always change the price. Nothing is permanent.

One last note: do an informal survey of the books in the genre your book fits within and see what the range is. That also helps. You don't want to be at the upper range of price unless you're already so famous that people will buy your books no matter what they cost. :) Likewise, only use prices in the lowest range for specific purposes, like the first book in a series or a special promotion.

Hope that helps someone. I also hope to hear from readers. What prices make you buy a book? Do you equate price with quality?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wonderful Long Weekend

Everyone needs a few days off--and it's sad to see so many people forgoing time off in order to get just a few more things done at work. So, for mental health reasons ;) my husband and I took last weekend off and went up to Sea Level, near Beaufort, NC.

I'm so glad we went.

We packed up all the dogs and drove to the coast. The weather was just about perfect: nicely cool and sunny. (Cool is important to me these days as I'm plagued by hot flashes which are a lot worse than they sound. Ha, ha. I know you're laughing, but believe me, they are no joke and I totally dread the summer.)

The first thing we did was to get the martin house up. I cleaned it two weeks ago, so it was all ready, but I needed my husband's muscles to get it in place. We were so pleased when the very next day, two males and a female started buzzing the house. The day after that, we saw over a dozen birds checking out our house and our neighbor's. Last year we had almost full occupancy and this year, I'm hoping the offspring come back, along with their parents, to fill all the holes.

We just love our Purple Martins--they are so cheerful and the house is visible from our bedroom. One of my favorite things is to wake up to the chirping of Purple Martins swooping through the yard, scooping up mosquitoes. They are our prime mosquito control mechanism.

One of my neighbors told me that she had heard that some folks in Sea Level had also had Painted Buntings
at their feeders! That is a little far north, but I know they are in Wilmington so maybe they are working their way up the coast. I put up a feeder because that's one bird I somehow have never managed to see. I'm really hoping that this summer, I can see some interesting guests at the feeder. The picture at the right is a Painted Bunting, and the photo was taken by Ralph Barrera. Isn't it a beautiful bird? It is so colorful that it almost looks fake.

Wish me luck in my quest to see my first Painted Bunting.

And, as I mentioned, we took our dogs and the little beasts begged for us to go on a boat ride, so we took a swing through Salter's Creek into Core Sound. The dogs had an absolute blast and so did we. It was a perfect day to be out on the water.

I was surprised when even our Jack Russell Terrier, Daisy, took to the water with our lab and chessie, just like she was born to it. And she had a blast riding at the bow of the boat with Molly, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The two dogs are inseparable. Daisy is constantly following Molly around, trying to emulate her. The "big dog," Rowdy, our lab, just kind of does his own thing, but we were glad to see him enjoying himself, as well. He's getting older and has hip problems, but when it comes to boats and wading out in the ocean, he thinks he's still a pup.

 Going back to birds, while we were out boating, we saw several long strings of diving ducks. My husband and I counted over 700. Some of the ducks we saw included scoters and scaup. I also saw a number of grebes, mergansers, and herons along the shoreline, as well as the osprey that normally nests on one of the channel markers in Nelson Bay (Daisy and I kayaked there last summer to watch the osprey and I hope we can do the same this year.)

The loons are unfortunately gone.

Now that we are home again, I'm getting my feeders prepped for the hummingbirds as they are sure to show up soon. Our Fed Ex and UPS delivery folks have been asking us about the "hummers" as we normally have literally swarms of them during the summer. Some years there are so many of them that you take your life in your own hands just to come up on the porch where the feeders are. They are not afraid of anyone or anything and will swoop at you to keep you away from the feeders if you annoy them too much.

So--if you've been putting off taking a few days off--stop it. Take a couple of days to relax and get back in touch with the natural world around you. You won't regret it.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fathoms of Forgiveness

Today we have author Nadia Scrieva here with her latest book, Fathoms of Forgiveness.

Fathoms of Forgiveness
Nadia Scrieva


Meet the brave and fearless Visola; a woman unlike any you've ever encountered. Her wit and humor take her through the darkest of dangers with a smile always on her face--and her smile only grows larger as the odds become more impossible. With no concern for her own safety, Visola dives headfirst into the throes of battle to protect the people and country she loves, even if it means facing her worst enemy--the one man who can get inside her head and break her down like no other: her own husband...   


When Visola awoke, she realized with a start that she was not alone. The warmth of another body so close to hers had made her sticky and uncomfortable, and she was quite sure that it was not a puppy cuddled up against her back. No, as advertised, it was one of Aazuria’s half-naked, well-muscled, exotic men indigenous to the Southern Continent. She groaned, and slammed her elbow backwards into the man’s stomach, shoving him away from her with disgust. He hit the floor with a loud crash and an oof as the wind was knocked out of him. At least I have a story to tell Sionna when we get home, she thought to herself. She snuggled back down happily between the sheets. Then it occurred to her that she was no longer on the beach.

He hit the floor? Visola frowned and opened her eyes. She saw the wooden patterning of her bedroom wall on the ship. This confused her as she had not remembered returning to the boat. She had brought a Yawkyawk man back to the ship? What had she been thinking? What about Aazuria? Visola was reminded of the fact that she should never party, because she always partied too hard. Was it really worth ruining days or weeks of her life over one night of pleasure? Pleasure that she could not even remember, for that matter.

The man she had accidentally shoved off her bed made a grunting noise. She turned over to face him, and propped herself up on her elbow so that she could speak to him in sign language.

“Please leave my room immediately,” she told him. Even as she commanded this, she observed his features and physique. He was wearing trousers, but unclothed from the waist up; she was surprised by her evidently impressive subconscious taste. She kept her face stern, and did not betray that she found his appearance pleasing. “I was drugged last night, and I apologize for anything I said or did, but I do not remember any of it, and I did not mean any of it. You must leave immediately or I will employ force to remove you from my quarters.”

The man rubbed his head where he had hit it on the floor. “God almighty, are you always this grumpy in the morning?”

“I am not gru…” Visola froze. He had spoken in English. With a thick British accent. She noticed his fair skin and precisely groomed black hair which was swept back into a small curled tail. “You are not a Yawkyawk man,” she said slowly.

“No,” he said, yawning.

“You’re King Kyrosed’s new advisor.”

He nodded, closing his eyes and stretching sleepily. “I tried to explain that to you last night, but you were convinced that I was a bird.”

“You swine!” she yelled. She pounced on the man, and punched him in the face viciously. “You scoundrel!”

“Now hold on a moment,” he said, grabbing her wrists. He was surprised to find that he could not easily subdue her. “You’re being a tad judgmental.”

Visola straddled him and forced his hands above his head, pinning them there with one hand before punching him in the face again. “I was delirious! I was drugged! I expect you to know better—you are civilized!”


Nadia Scrieva lives in Toronto, Canada with no husband, no kids, and no pets. She does own a very attractive houseplant which she occasionally remembers to water between her all-consuming writing marathons.

Contact Information

Fathoms of Forgiveness 
Purchase Links

Nadia is giving away a box set of the Sacred Breath Series or the box set of Thirty Minutes to Heartbreak to a randomly drawn commenter during her blog tour. To increase your chances of winning, please follow the tour and leave comments. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

Tour dates can be found at: so be sure to stop by.

Good luck and have fun!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blind Mercy by Violetta Rand

We're lucky to have Violetta Rand with us today to share a bit about her latest book, "Blind Mercy". Enjoy!

Blind Mercy
by Violetta Rand

The Sigurdsson family legacy continues…

A woman who prayed for a hero…

Orphaned at a young age, Rachelle Fiennes prayed for a hero to rescue her from her tragic life in England. When her only kinsman goes missing after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Rachelle braves the aftermath of the battlefield to find him.

A man who lost everything…

Damned by the gods for surviving the bloodiest defeat in Norse history, Jarl Tyr Sigurdsson is still determined to get home. Hiding until nightfall so he can escape to his ship, his dangerous endeavor is disrupted when he’s accidently discovered by a beautiful Saxon.

Brought together by war, Rachelle and Tyr face many obstacles. Can sworn enemies find peace through love, or will fate be cruel?

Cursed witch. Things were much easier in Norway. Without giving it another thought, Tyr lowered his weapon, then grabbed a fistful of his captive’s hair. He’d give in to her dimwitted request to pacify her, but not without satisfying his own need for revenge. “Horse. Food,” he demanded.

“I’d rather die than betray my country—” the criminal started.

In response, Tyr thumped his head. He sank down, shaking and whining.

Sick with rage, Tyr stared at Rachelle. “This situation is ripe for trouble.” His only concern should be for his own survival.

 She addressed her countryman. “If you refuse him, he’ll cut your heart out.”

For a noblewoman, she had a way with words. Tyr nearly laughed out loud at the absurdity of what came out of her mouth. He’d learned something important about her though. Either she’d experienced more violence than any woman should or she was as frigid as an ice shelf. Regardless, her warning changed the Saxon’s mind.

The man pointed at his camp. “There are horses and food over there.”

With a twist of an earlobe, Tyr forced him to his feet. Tyr harbored a special hatred for rapists. If he couldn’t disembowel the bastard, he’d find another way to make him suffer. It didn’t take long. A grin spread across Tyr’s face as he framed the man’s punishment in his mind. Tyr would tie a noose around his neck, loop the rope over a high branch, and make him sit astride a horse with his hands tied behind his back. If the drukkin moved, he’d hang himself.

AUTHOR Bio and Links

Violetta Rand holds a bachelor's degree in Environmental Policy and a master's degree in Environmental Management. Serving as an environmental scientist in the state of Alaska for over seven years, she enjoys the privilege of traveling to remote places few people have the opportunity to see.

 Violetta has been "in love" with writing since childhood. Struck with an entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, at five, she wrote short stories illustrated by her best friend and sold them in her neighborhood. The only thing she loves more than writing is her wonderful relationship with her husband, Jeff. She enjoys outdoor activities, reading whatever she can get her hands on, music, and losing herself in the ancient worlds she enjoys bringing to life in the pages of her stories.

Click on the following Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win a $50 Amazon/BN gift card:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to follow the tour and leave comments. The more you comment, the better your chance of winning the gift card. At the end of the tour, one randomly chosen commenter will win the gift card. You can find the rest of the tour dates at the Goddess Fish page: Goddess Fish Blind Mercy Tour .