Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

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

Process

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.
Variations

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.

Blurb
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.

Excerpt

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)
--Finally
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
By
Nadia Scrieva

BLURB  

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...   

Excerpt

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!”


AUTHOR INFORMATION

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
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/235351/


GIVEAWAY
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:   http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2014/02/book-blast-fathoms-of-forgiveness-by.html 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
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB
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?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Excerpt 
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.

http://violettarand.wordpress.com/

 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Violetta-Rand/578321415528848

https://twitter.com/ViolettaRand

CONTEST
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 .

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Illusion of Desire released!

The Illusion of Desire has been released!

I am very pleased to let everyone know that my latest mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series of Regency mysteries is finally available, at least if you have a Kindle or other ebook reader that can access Smashwords. I expect the paperback will follow soon, as well as distribution to BN.com for Nook readers and the iStore for Apple. It is always such a joy--and relief--to see a new book on the shelf.

The Illusion of Desire is the fourth book in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features a new inquiry agent, Captain Nicholas Ainsley. I plan to write another Pru and Knighton book for the series this summer, which will be the fifth in the overall series and the third for Pru and Knighton. They are going to Europe for their honeymoon and unfortunately, run into a great deal of trouble on the way.

Here is the blurb and a small excerpt from The Illusion of Desire.

Blurb
The war with Napoleon may be long over, but Captain Nicholas Ainsley is still feeling the effects in his
maimed left arm and need for justice. In a stroke of luck, he gains employment as an inquiry agent for the famous Second Sons Inquiry Agency, but his first case is a troubling one. The Earl of Taunton is killed and Nicholas soon finds not one but far too many suspects. On the night the earl died, a pair of thieves broke in and stole the jewel-encrusted murder weapon. Some believe the thieves killed Taunton during the robbery, however Nicholas uncovers others with even stronger motives for wanting the earl dead. Taunton had a penchant for provoking jealousy and rage in those around him and hiding his more illicit activities behind a series of illusions including his relationship with his supposed mistress, Kathryn Whitethorn-Litton.

Kathryn had excellent reasons to trade respectability for a tenuous place in the earl’s household. She believes her father’s death at Taunton’s country estate years ago was not the natural one the earl claimed.


Was Taunton’s murder related to that far older mystery, or was his stabbing an act of desperation? The riddle tests Nicholas’ mettle and his willingness to rip away the veils of illusion surrounding the earl’s life to reveal the truth.

Excerpt
In this scene, Captain Ainsley is questioning Kathryn Whitethorn-Litton, the murdered man's supposed mistress. While Kathryn was not in the house when the earl was killed, she was on a mission that she dare not reveal to the Captain.
-----
Kathryn laughed. “Why should they? No. They will not, and I will not give you their names. Why are you questioning me?”

“Please, I beg your indulgence. Let me confirm, then, that the last time you claim to have seen Lord Taunton was last night at nine p.m.?” Captain Ainsley asked.

“Yes, of course. Ask Harry if you don’t wish to bother Lord Taunton. He can confirm that I have told you the truth. He and Taunton spend a great deal of time together. If you wish to know who spent the evening with Taunton, you must ask Harry.”

“I have spoken with Mr. Silsbury. He indicated he heard a woman speaking with Lord Taunton late—sometime after midnight, I believe.”

“He could have been requesting water for a bath.” She shrugged. “Did Harry say he heard me?”

“Yes. He indicated it was your voice.”

“How could he? I was not here at midnight.” She sighed and felt the stirrings of impatience. “If you are concerned about this matter, then you must ask Lord Taunton. He can surely tell you what you want to know and identify the woman he spoke to last night. Although I am quite sure he was simply asking a maid for some everyday item like a towel or fresh soap. It is not unheard of, you know.”

A few moments of silence followed this, and once again her confusion stirred. Why did he persist in asking her about Lord Taunton?

“You must realize, surely…” His words trailed off. He studied her, a speculative gleam in his brown eyes.
More and more, she had the feeling that she was unaware of something terrible. There was some fact she ought to be aware of and yet she was not. What had happened while she accompanied Mary Dudley? The sensation of missing a critical point grew almost unbearable. Her fingers twisted together in her lap, stiff and damp.


“Lord Taunton is no longer in a position to answer my questions.” Captain Ainsley leaned forward, his right hand gripping his knee. “He died last night.”
------

I hope you enjoyed the small snippet. If you are interested, here are the links for the book on Smashwords and Amazon:

Thanks and have a great week!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How did they do that - Bread

Making Bread
If you're like me, you love making bread but it never seems to live up to your expectations. You follow the directions, knead it, and do everything right. It rises beautifully and looks great when you take it out of the oven. It tastes good, too, while it's warm. But by the next day, it seems to have gained a pound or two in weight and is hard and/or dry.

At least, that has been my experience until lately. I've been experimenting, though, to make my bread as moist and light on the inside and chewy or crusty on the outside like good bakery bread. And I've had a couple of breakthroughs that I wanted to share.

The first thing I was did was to buy some books on bread making. There are a lot of good books out there and the ones that particularly interested me were those about "no knead" bread. And in a fit of nostalgia around Christmas time, I also got some sourdough starter. Those two things are related in a very important way--just wait. :)

The "gist" of the information in the books that was different than most of the standard bread recipes we all follow from the bags of flour or general cookbooks was the use of a "starter." It can be called barm (as in some books) or starter or whatever you want to call it. As I read all the books, I realized it boiled down to creating a soupy mass that for all intents and purposes was a lot like sourdough starter. It is basically unbleached flour, water, and yeast (either the yeast you get at the store or in the case of sourdough, wild yeast) left to sit and bubble overnight.

That was one piece of the puzzle.

The second piece was using the dough hooks on my standard mixer to knead the bread. I had been kneading by hand because I love doing it. but that meant I ended up adding too much flour in my attempts to keep it from sticking to my work surface and my hands. By using the mixer to do the dirty work, I didn't need to add any more flour during kneading. (I could also use the time freed up by not manually kneading to clean up the kitchen.)

Once I added the use of a starter/barm plus my stand mixer to knead, all of a sudden I could make rolls as light as a dream and crispy-crusted artisan bread that was moist and delicious on the inside. The loaves shown above were from a standard sourdough bread recipe courtesy of Sir Arthur Flour company. The only thing I changed in the recipe was that I substituted 3/4 c. of wheat germ for 3/4 c. of flour.

The flavor is outstanding and what is interesting to me is that it tastes much closer to "bakery bread" than the standard bread recipes I've found on flour packages. There is much rich flavor with more depth, even if you don't use wheat germ.

Personally, I can't imagine baking bread anymore without either using a starter I create from commercially available yeast or from my sourdough starter (it will most likely be the sourdough starter). The difference in the quality of the bread is just amazing.

My next step will be to create a "pseudo bread oven" by cooking my bread in one of my cast iron dutch ovens.

One last thing to add before I move on to the status of my career as a writer: yesterday I had a doctor's appointment. I was sure she was going to yell at me about my triglycerides because I've been eating so much homemade bread lately. In fact, I baked two fruitcakes, two huge almond danish "wreaths" and lots of other stuff over the holidays. My triglycerides were DOWN. Yes, down. And I contribute that to two things: homemade bread and my habit of eating herring a few times a week. I'm becoming convinced that commercial bread is evil.

Writing
I've been working diligently on a new Second Sons Regency mystery called, "The Illusion of Desire." I had hoped to get it released early in 2014--I still have hopes of that--but it won't be in January. Maybe late February or early March.

In addition to editing that book, I've been writing a new paranormal suspense although a name is still up in the air. "Out of Time" or "Timeless" or something along those lines. I'm only on chapter three so far and it's much lighter in tone than your traditional suspense. Maybe without realizing it I'm creating a new "cozy suspense" genre.

When I finish writing that, I'll be working on the next Second Sons mystery featuring Pru and Knighton in "A Honeymoon with Death." The two are on their honeymoon when they run into trouble--and murder--in Europe. The previous Pru and Knighton, "The Dead Man's View" is doing pretty well so I'd like to get another book with the two sleuths written and published this year. Lots to do, lots to do.

Hope everyone is enjoying the start to a brand new year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays 2013


Best Wishes for a Warm and Wonderful Holiday Season!
This year has been a "learning experience" for me since I made the move to retire from my "day job" and become a full-time writer.

 I've been busy with new Regency mysteries as well as contemporary mysteries set in my home state of North Carolina. The nice folks at Highland Press have accepted two novellas from me and I hope they will be out soon. The first is a Regency romance, The Thief, and the second is a western romance, The Lady and the Cowboy. I really hope folks enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing them. They are novellas, which means they are a little shorter than my usual novels, but around the holiday season, everyone is so busy that maybe the shorter length will be good.

The rough drafts for several other manuscripts are going through the editing phase, including a contemporary mystery, a Regency mystery, and even a horror story.  It's not the "blood and gore" type of horror story--it's more of a southern ghost story. Writing a horror story was a change of pace for me, but probably a natural progression because of my love of gothics/gothic mysteries.

Speaking of gothics, if you are interested, you can sign up for my mailing list. (There is a link in the sidebar to this blog.) Folks who sign up this month will get a Smashwords code to enable you to download a copy of my holiday gothic Regency, Christmas Spirit: Stranded by a blizzard, Eve and her mother seek shelter at a nearby manor, little knowing a murderer has struck once and lies in wait for the next victim.

When I'm not writing, I've been busy kayaking around Nelson Bay with my Jack Russell Terrier, Daisy. She seems to love it as much as I do and was absolutely fascinated this summer by a pair of Osprey that nested on one of the channel markers.

We also now have a greenhouse that my husband built over our water pump when the pump house fell apart. This week, I'll be ordering some lettuce and radishes so that we can have salads this winter. I'm also going to put in a few pots of herbs so I can have fresh basil, parsley and other herbs to add to our food since I've been doing a lot more cooking lately.

Your gardening catalogs are probably starting to arrive already and I'd love to know what you are planning on planting this year! In addition to my green house crops, I'm hoping to plant tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and basil at a minimum. I'm always curious to know what interesting things others are growing and how they are doing.

As for the holidays -- if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive, thoughtful, and tasty holiday gift, you might try fruitcake. I'm a fan of Alton Brown's (from Good Eats) although many of his recipes don't work too well for us. He does have an absolutely fabulous recipe for fruitcake, though, that may make you love it even if you've had "bad fruitcake" experiences in the past. It's really easy and I actually got all of the ingredients at our super Wal-Mart, which tells you that there are no weird ingredients included that you can't find anywhere. Except for the booze (rum and brandy) of course. :)

If you are interested, here is a link to his recipe: Free Range Fruitcake. I highly recommend it. Oh--I should mention that I did not have a 10" loaf pan as suggested in the recipe, so I used a bundt cake pan and it came out beautifully, so that is an option. It even bakes in about the same time as the loaf would have, so it's all good, as they say.

Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

Amy

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Another day, another recipe

Writing Life
As most of you already realize, there was a delay in the release of The Dead Man's View, the sequel to The Vital Principle, featuring Prudence Barnard and Knighton Gaunt. This time, it's not Pru is not searching to exonerate herself, she's trying to exonerate her dead cousin. She's convinced he did not kill himself and doesn't deserve to have his body beheaded and buried at the crossroads as a suicide. So she calls on her dear friend, Knighton Gaunt, to help her expose the murderer.

While the book's release is late (now set at the first week of October), I
hope it will be well worth the wait.

On to Yummy Stuff
Are any of you trying to reduce carbs? I know I am, simply because as I age, it is getting harder and harder for me to eat them without getting an upset stomach. Since I also have problems with legumes like soy and beans, it can sometimes be a challenge.

But, I've developed a relatively quick breakfast which gives me energy to tackle the morning and is filling enough to get me through to dinnertime with perhaps just a bit of smoked trout to make it past 2:00PM when I start to feel hungry.

I keep a bag of mixed veggies in the freezer and all I do is:
Microwave a cup of mixed veggies for about 4 minutes while I chop up about 1/4 c. of onion.
Saute the onion in olive oil until the veggies are "nuked" and then dump the veggies into the pan.

Take an egg (or two if you're really hungry, but there will probably be enough to share...) and scramble it and then add it to the pan. When it's done, turn off the heat and add about 1/2 c. of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix until the cheese is melted and then dump it out on your plate.

I love topping it with a few spoonfuls of salsa, too. Where's the picture, you ask? Well...it's not the most beautiful concoction on earth so you'll have to use your imagination. :)

Of course, you can really vary this. If I have brown rice or quinoa left over, I add that to the veggies in the pan and don't use any cheese and then sprinkle in some soy sauce. It makes a "quickie" fried rice that is delicious for breakfast.

However, that's really not the recipe I wanted to share today. We've pretty much given up beef (except for the occasional hamburger) and replaced it with venison. I find it more digestible and much more delicate in flavor with a lot less fat. The lack of fat, however, does mean it can be tough if you don't know how to cook it.

Here is a terrific recipe for venison, and if you prefer beef, I bet it would work for that, too! In fact, I think it would work for a lot of different meats and particularly those that are tough.

Roast Venison
 Clean up a venison roast to remove any silver skin or fat. Rub it with a bit of pepper. (I don't use salt, but if you do, you can also add about 1/4 tsp of salt and rub that in.)

Wrap the roast in bacon strips, making sure that all the meat is covered. (You'll remove the bacon to serve.)

Slip the bacon-wrapped roast into an oven bag and place in a shallow backing pan.

Pour red wine (we like Burgundy, but Bordeaux is good, too) into the bag so that it covers the meat until it is about 1/2 to 3/4 covered.

Add 2 bay leaves, 5 cloves (whole cloves), 4-6 black pepper corns, and 4-5 juniper berries.

Close the bag with the tie and cut 2 or 3 tiny holes into the bag on top to let it vent a bit.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours (or until the meat is very tender).

When the meat done...

Melt 3 TBSP butter in a pan. Add one minced onion and cook until the onion is golden. Add cleaned, cut up mushrooms (I use about 1 - 2 cups) and saute until the mushrooms are almost cooked (about 10 minutes).

Remove the meat from the oven and pour the contents of the bag through a strainer into the pan with the onions and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Mix a few tsp. of cornstarch into about 1/2 c. of red wine and add that to thicken the onion/mushroom sauce. It will take about 2 - 3 minutes over med/med-high heat.

Serve the meat with mashed potatoes and the sauce. A side salad goes very well with this to make a very easy and yet elegant dinner!

Bon appetite!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cadence of Gypsies




THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES

By
Barbara Casey

BLURB:  

Three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina's purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus located in Raleigh, North Carolina, so they can't cause any more problems ("expressions of creativity") for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted – a search that will take them into the mystical world of gypsy tradition and magic, more exciting and dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES – Excerpt

"Ouch!  You're standing on my fingers!"  This from the petite girl with a long, blond ponytail, wearing a nightgown, most of which was pulled up between her legs and tied into a knot at her waist to keep it from getting tangled on the limb where she was perched.   Somewhere above her the sound of a saw and splintering wood filled the darkness followed by a stream of profanity repeated in several foreign languages for emphasis.

"It doesn't look right.  It's supposed to have a rim and a dent."  Clinging to a 12-foot ladder as she pointed the flashlight first this way and then that, the heavy-set girl wearing a nightshirt buttoned at the neck offered this with a slight lisp.

The girl with the blond ponytail giggled.

"What do you mean--dent?!  Let me see that picture."  The tall black girl completely hidden aimed her flashlight toward the magazine that was being thrust upwards through the thick branches in her direction.

"And the top is supposed to be rounded--like a button mushroom," the girl in the nightshirt added, the word "mushroom" sounding more like "muthroom."

"That's because it's circumcised," supplied the girl with the ponytail, from which she removed a small twig and a handful of leaves.

"Shekoo, baboo!”  More profanity.  “Okay.  I know what to do."  The tall black girl disappeared back into the upper-most branches of the tall plant that was more tree than bush.  After several additional minutes, the sawing, crunching, and clipping sounds finally gave way to the more gentle sounds of tiny snips.  And then, silence.

"That's it; everybody down."

The petite girl, with the magazine that had been overlooked in the last confiscation and now wedged firmly under her armpit, started the perilous descent first since she was nearest to the ground, followed by the tall girl.  The girl in the nightshirt eased her way down the ladder juggling pruning shears, a hand saw, and scissors.  Once on the ground, the three girls stood back to admire their work.

"That is one honkin' Peni erecti," said the tall girl causing a fresh explosion of giggles.  "Let's get out of here."  After quickly rolling down the legs of her pajama bottoms, the tall girl grabbed one end of the ladder and, along with her two friends, lugged it and the other tools back to the shed that housed lawn maintenance equipment.  Task accomplished, they returned to their rooms, and to their individual beds, careful not to disturb the other dorm residents, the floor monitors, their suitemates and, most importantly, their slumbering dorm mother, Ms. Larkins.  Within minutes, they fell into a deep, peaceful sleep--the sleep of innocent angels.


It would soon be light; and Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women would start another day.


 AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Originally from Carrollton, Illinois, Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. Since that time her award-winning articles, short stories, and poetry for adults have appeared in several publications including the AMERICAN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, the SPARROWGRASS POETRY FORUM, THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF POETRY (Editor’s Choice Award), the NORTH CAROLINA CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE MAGAZINE, THE NEW EAST MAGAZINE, the RALEIGH (NC) NEWS AND OBSERVER, the ROCKY MOUNT (NC) SUNDAY TELEGRAM, DOG FANCY, BYLINE, TRUE STORY and THE CHRISTIAN RECORD. A thirty-minute television special which Ms. Casey wrote and coordinated was broadcast on WRAL, Channel 5, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Casey's award-winning science fiction short stories for adults are featured in THE COSMIC UNICORN and CROSS TIME short story anthologies. Her essays, also written for adults, appear in THE CHRYSALIS READER, the international literary journal of the Swedenborg Foundation, and A CUP OF COMFORT ANTHOLOGY by the Adams Media Corporation.

Her two middle-grade/young adult novels, LEILANI ZAN and GRANDMA JOCK AND CHRISTABELLE (James C. Winston Publishing Co.) were nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary AwardSHYLA'S INITIATIVE (Crossquarter Publishing Group, 2002), a contemporary adult novel of fiction, received the 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and received special recognition for literary merit by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. Ms. Casey’s novel THE COACH’S WIFE (ArcheBooks Publishing), a contemporary mystery, was listed as a Publisher’s Best Seller and was semifinalist of the Dana Award for Outstanding Novel. In 2007 her novel, THE HOUSE OF KANE (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a contemporary mystery, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination, and in December 2009 her novel, JUST LIKE FAMILY (Wandering Sage Publications), was launched by the
7-Eleven stores in St. Louis, Missouri. Her young adult novel, THE CADENCE OF GYPSIES (Gauthier Publications), was released in March 2011 and considered for the Smithsonian’s Most Notable 2011 Books.  It has also been selected by Amazon for its 2013 List of Best Books.  THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY (Strategic Media Books), a novel for adults, was released in March 2013 and received an IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction.  It has also been listed as a “2013 Best Summer Read” by Conversations Live Radio and has been placed in nomination for a Pulitzer Award.

Ms. Casey is a frequent guest speaker at writers’ conferences and universities throughout the United States. She is former director, guest author, and panelist of BookFest of the Palm Beaches, Florida; and for thirteen years she served as judge for the Pathfinder Literary Awards in Florida.  She held the position of Florida Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators from 1991 to 2003.

Ms. Casey is president of the Barbara Casey Agency. She represents clients nationally and internationally in fiction and nonfiction for adults. Her past and present professional associations are numerous and include being editorial consultant for The Jamaican Writers Circle in affiliation with the University of West Indies and Mico Teachers College in Kingston. She also received special recognition for her editorial work on the English translations of Albanian children’s stories.

LINKS

 PRIZE

Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon or BN.com gift card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so be sure to leave a comment! If you follow the blog tour and leave comments at each stop, your chances of winning will increase.





Sunday, August 25, 2013

Long and Short Reviews 6th Anniversary Bash


Long and Short Reviews (LASR) is having a huge 6th Anniversary Bash!

LASR is celebrating its 6th anniversary with authors from all kinds of genres including romance and mystery/suspense. The bash will run from August 26 – 30, 2013 and there are all kinds of fun things as well as fantastic prizes, so I hope you'll check it out.

In addition to books, author swag, LASR promo items and various publisher gift certificates, LASR will be giving away four $100 Amazon/BN Gift Cards, and several smaller Amazon/BN Gift Cards. 

I'm one of the participating authors, along with nearly 100 others, so I really hope you will participate. LASR grilled the authors with all kinds of questions and there are all kinds of blog posts featuring our answers. Many are downright hilarious, so you may get a laugh or two as well as the opportunity to win a fabulous gift card. 

To participate:
Any time from Aug 26 - 30, 2013, you can click on this link:   http://www.longandshortreviews.com/category/guest-blogs/

 

Don't forget to have fun. You might even discover a new favorite author.
Enjoy!
Amy
http://www.amycorwin.com