Saturday, February 7, 2015

Romance and Chocolate

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and with it comes the time to celebrate romance. Although it's unknown where the exact origin of where the first Valentine festivity began, it's still a favorite holiday for many people. Especially for those who look forward to the gifts from a loved one. Say...a beautiful bouquet of flowers and large delicious box of chocolates.

Chocolates....yum.  When you bite into that scrumptious melt in the mouth chocolate do you ever think about where it came from? Probably not, but before Nestles, Hershey, See's and all those that followed you can thank the Olmecs from the Mexico area. They were the first who discovered the cacao bean to be a delicious treat.

The Mayans came later.  Mayans loved chocolate so much they wrote about the cacao on their stone tablets referred to as "the food of the gods".

The Aztecs, 1420-1520 used cacao as currency. It is written they fed chocolate to their human sacrifices before killing them. A last treat. Not exactly romantic.

Then when Conquistador Cortez was served a cacao drink by Aztec Montezuma in 1519, he loved it so much he took it home to Europe and the love of chocolate quickly spread through Europe.
What have you planned for your special Valentine Day? Since it falls during the week it might not be as easy as if it fell on a Saturday of Sunday, but you can still make it special. You can always do the old standby breakfast in bed.  If it's only a muffin and a glass of juice or a cup of coffee it can still be a nice surprise. Or a nice dinner for two even if you stop on the way home and pick up something.

If you have time and want to bake something special there's always a red velvet cake, or cherry pie. Perhaps cookies cut in the shape of hearts, or chocolate brownies. We bet your mouth is now watering for a yummy piece of chocolate, or maybe a chocolate covered strawberry. Now, that's a good idea, a chocolate covered strawberry. With a glass of bubbly champagne. That's always special. Scatter rose pedals across the bed. We might be getting a little carried away. How about just a nice card for your honey and some pretty flowers. Works for us. But we still want the chocolate.

Here's an easy recipe for a chocolate dessert.

Yummy Devil’s Food Toffee Trifle Recipe


Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 cup Kahlua (coffee-flavored, rum-based liqueur)
1-2 bags of small Heath candy bars (or 8 large Heath bars)
2 family size whipped topping

Bake Devil's Food cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan the day before you plan to serve the trifle.
After cake has cooled, cut it into squares about 1½ to 2 inches square.
Leaving cake (sliced up) in the pan, pour Kahlua all over the top of the cake, getting the liqueur down in-between the slices.
Cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator overnight.
Next day, 2-4 hours before serving time, assemble trifle in a large bowl or trifle dish as follows.
Layer of cake (one third of cake)
Layer of whipped topping
Layer of Heath bar 

Repeat above layers twice more but only put a light sprinkling of Heath Bar on the top when completing the last layer.

We shortened this recipe a bit but you can see all the directions along with pictures at:

Whatever you do we hope you have a wonderful day filled with romance and of course chocolate.

Tia Dani

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Publisher Unleashed! In Hawaii!

By Gail Roughton

Jude Pittman and I have a multi-faceted relationship.  She’s my publisher, my writing partner, my friend.  Our lives have the most fascinating mixture of similarities and differences.  The foremost difference is she’s West-Coast Canadian and I’m Deep-South American.  The foremost similarities are two-fold.  We’re both writers, and we’re both paralegals with extensive legal backgrounds who’ve spent more years in law offices than either of us care to admit.  Unlike many cyberspace friends, we’ve actually met.  That’s because Jude masterminded a wonderful ten-day vacation to Hawaii (specifically Maui—she’d been offered the use of a friend’s condo for two weeks) last April that included me and her daughter Roxanne, who’s also a Books We Love editor.  Roxanne’s also my editor because she refuses to let anybody else edit me.  I'm not sure if that's because she loves my books or because she's scared of what I might come up with unsupervised.  I protested that no, I couldn’t come.  And Jude refused to let me not go.  That’s not awkward phrasing.  That’s the literal truth.  She refused to let me not go.  It wasn’t just a vacation, it was a writer’s retreat.  An opportunity to brainstorm on our then in-process project, Sisters of Prophecy – Ursula.  Then my husband chimed in.  “You might not ever get the chance again!”  So I went.  Jude’s a steam rollin' jauggernaut, an immutable force of nature. Don’t believe me?  I can prove it.

Let me tell you an Hawaii story.  She'd booked us a tour, "The Road to Hana", which is a scenic highway along the coast of Maui, 30 miles or so, that takes three hours to drive. That's us over there in the picture, waiting for our tour bus to pick us up at the condo.  There's a reason it takes three hours to drive the Hana Road.  It has about 300 hairpin turns and 50+ single lane bridges where one side of traffic has to wait for the other side of traffic to come over.  Beautiful beyond belief with such stops as waterfalls, the legendary “Painted Forest”, pounding surf, black sand beaches and occasionally, absolutely hair-raising.  Check out the pictures scattered about this blog. Anyway, she booked the three of us for a tour on a 12 passenger van, the deluxe tour.  And the 12 passenger van picked us up at our condo.  The problem arose when the passenger van connected at a Mall where they were feeding us breakfast  with a big  bus, Greyhound size,  with 25 people taking the tour. And indicated that we were to get on it.  

Now, the guy driving the mini-van that picked us up was great, the guy driving the big bus wasn’t.  Let’s just say his people skills were challenged.  He wasn’t native Hawaiian, or even native American, and please note I didn’t capitalize the ‘n’ in native.  I don’t mean he wasn’t American Indian, I mean he wasn’t American.  Imagine, if you will, taking a tour of Maui with a running commentary delivered in the accents made famous by the movie “Fargo”.  This driver proceeded to "assign" seats because "we can't separate the newlyweds, now can we?"  In other words, he was splitting me, Jude and Roxanne up.  How did this play with our Jude?  Not. At. All.  She refused to get on the thing.  "If I'd wanted a Greyhound bus, I'd have booked a Greyhound bus. And I frankly don't give a damn about the newlyweds as I paid considerably extra for the deluxe tour."  

Needless to say, we exited the bus and Jude called the tour company.  The conversation proceeded as follows:  "I paid for the deluxe tour on the 12 passenger van with captain's seats, which is what picked us up.  I am NOT getting on a bus the size of a Greyhound with 25 passengers and assigned seating."  They put her through to the home office.  The original driver of the twelve-passenger van who picked us up waited, as did the other bus.  Roxanne and I just sat down on a planter curb in the parking lot to watch the show.  Like I said, we were with an immutable force of nature.  Jude went through the whole process again with the home office. This time she added that if they couldn’t accommodate us, she expected to be taken back to the condo and did not expect to be left in a Mall parking lot. She further advised there was no need to hold the other bus up because she was NOT getting on it and if they couldn't get it resolved, they needed to have someone take us back to our condo and she'd take it up through her law office when she got back home. The home office said they'd call us back.

Through all this, our original mini-van driver enjoyed himself hugely.  It was very obvious.  He loved it.  The tour company called back and said there’d been a mix-up due to the on-line booking.  (Though I have a private suspicion the fact that neither the deluxe van nor the Greyhound size were quite full as things were and the Greyhound would be completely full if the tours were consolidated, thus obviating the need to run the smaller bus at all, might have had more to do with it.) But to their credit, they rectified the situation quickly.  The big bus pulled off without us, and our charming driver of the mini-van pulled off with the nine people he'd picked up. Thus we enjoyed our own tour in the deluxe van.  With Captain's seats.  Jude sat down beside me and said "And that's why Books We Love has survived when so many other small presses haven't."

Indeed.  And that’s Jude Pittman for you.  It was a fabulous day, my personal favorite day of our entire Hawaiian vacation.  Our bus driver Ben was a native Hawaiian, very handsome, very charming.  He treated us like queens and thought Jude was the bomb.  At one of the stops I told him I was sorry he didn't get his day off but was really glad he was our driver.  He laughed and said he wasn't sorry at all, he got paid more for driving this van anyway. He further assured me Jude was one of the greatest characters he'd ever met.  And I do believe my southern accent made a big hit with him, too.  I’ve often found that most folks are fascinated with a southern accent and believe me, nobody I met in Hawaii had the least trouble peggin’ the approximate site of my birth.  All in all, it was a memorable day with memorable people, and Jude made certain to give the tour company and driver Ben a stellar review on their website. They deserved it.  They gave us a day of stories and memories the three of us will never forget.  But my favorite story of the whole day?  You read it here first, folks!

Oh, and as to how much actual writing we got done--well, let's just say we brainstormed a lot.  Jude and I can be found at and


Thursday, February 5, 2015

That's Egregious! by Jamie Hill

In preparing my blog post about reviews, I was looking for a word that meant something was both good and bad at the same time. (I still haven't put my finger on the word, so if you know what I'm trying to say, hit me up in the comments!) I stumbled upon egregious, which is such a fun word I had to look it up. 


1. extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant:
an egregious mistake; an egregious liar.
Synonyms: gross, outrageous, notorious, shocking
Egregious is also good for 11 points in Scrabble and 14 points in Words With Friends, bahaha
It's not really what I was after, though. Some reviews are certainly egregious. Some are just plain stinkers. Some are so wonderful they can leave an author floating on air for days.
When I first started writing, reviews were much harder to come by. There were a handful of review sites and they generally had a lengthy waiting list of books to be reviewed. At that time, the e-publishing world was just breaking loose and suddenly there were more books than any site could handle. 

Individuals with a love of reading and the ability to use Blogger discovered they could become reviewers, too, and many of my best reviews have come from these smaller sites and/or individuals. Many of them had a code, if a book was a stinker they'd just let it go and not post a really bad review. I appreciate them for doing that, because the bottom line is reviews are subjective. Purely subjective.

Some of the most popular books have gotten plenty of negative reviews, yet they've gone on to become movies, video games, action figures, etc., and earn the author millions. *sigh*

The past few years has shown a rise in the reader reviews at sites like Amazon. It's nice to allow readers to give their opinions, and I don't think there's an author out there who would criticize a genuinely thoughtful review. It might sting, but it might also bring up something for the author to keep in mind when writing the next book.

Family Secrets came out in 2006 the first time, and both of the main characters smoked. It wasn't as big of a deal ten years ago, but man, oh man, are people on me about that now. Many of the reader reviews mentioned how much they hated that Jack and Crystal both smoked. They were serious about it! (I got a little flack about the sex in the book. Okay, most of that was from my mom, but some from readers too. Yet the smoking seemed to be a much bigger concern.) In book two, my hero Brady started out as a smoker and quit by the end. And book three had no main characters who smoked. Zero. My mama didn't raise no dummy. (But I'm still a bit smuttier than she'd like.)
The negative side of Amazon reviews is that a 'reader' doesn't have to have read the book to post. I got one review on a book that's no longer available giving it one star because it was so short, the reader didn't even read it. *Blink* Excuse me?
Here's a couple of reviews for my novella On The Edge. It has several four and five star reviews like this one:  
"Surprisingly full story-line for such a short novella. I enjoyed this sweet romance with a good dose of suspense thrown in." 

Then there's a one star review that says:

"Hated it. Don't buy it. Worse published book ever. Don't buy this trash. Also very short......BAD. Big disappointment
I read a lot of books and this was the worst."
Her grammar aside, I believe there's a compliment in there somewhere. Amazon has over a million books published at this very moment. If mine is indeed the 'WORSE PUBLISHED BOOK EVER', I want a plaque somewhere with my name on it.

Seriously, what good does a review like that do? Does it tell you why she didn't like the book (which she probably got free on one of the book's promo days)? Does it say anything about the plot or the characters? Or does it, perhaps, say more about the reviewer, who chooses to hide behind the name 'Amazon Customer'. Original, gal. Creative.
My publisher has started a campaign that whenever she sees a nonsense review like the one above, she marks it as 'unhelpful'. This makes it drop lower in the list of reviews and lowers the reviewers 'helpful' percentage. It's not much, but it's something we can do to say that while opinions are subjective--stupid, unhelpful reviews don't have to be tolerated. An author needs to overlook them and move on. Or blog about them for a little comic relief. 
I'm still waiting for my plaque, by the way.
Find Family Secrets, On The Edge, my newest novel, Time To Kill, along with my other titles at Books We Love:

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Old London Bridge by Katherine Pym

Old London Bridge 1745
Old London Bridge was a world unto itself. Not considered London, it was a Liberty, or suburb. People were born, lived, married, and died there, some without stepping off the Bridge the whole of their lives. 

Built in the years between 1176-1209, began by King Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England, and finished during the reign of King John (who was forced to sign the Magna Carta), it was a massive structure that acted like a dam. It stood stalwart against heavy tides, ice during cold winters, and prevented invading ships to pass upriver. 
Ice Fair on Thames with Bridge in background
So strongly built, the Old London Bridge lasted 622 years before being pulled down in 1830's. The location of the current London Bridge is some 180 feet upriver from the old. 

It was a stone structure of 19 arches and a wooden drawbridge. Houses, shops, churches and other assorted buildings stood on the bridge. The anchors holding the bridge in place were called starlings. Massive and feet-like, they were comprised of broken stones and rubble. The starlings compressed the river flow into one-third of its width, causing the tides to rush through the arches like heavy waterfalls. The rush of water going out to sea could be as high as 6-8 feet, depending on the phase of the moon. 

It brought out the reckless, usually young men, to 'shoot the bridge'. Boats would gain speed and if the water wasn't too high wherein heads scraped the tops of the arches, or be drowned, they'd fly through and shoot out the other side, over London Pool. After a moment or two dangling above the Pool they'd drop like a rock to the water. Many died upon a wager, or from mishap by getting pulled into the fast current.

If one were lucky, the wherriman pulled his boat to the river's edge. His passenger got out to walk around the end of the bridge, where he'd catch another wherry in the Pool and finish his journey. 

The bridge had a row of houses on either side of its length with shops at road level. This made the actual road from London to Southwark no more than 12 feet across. Sources state there were about 140 shops at one time, the two story chapel of St Thomas a Becket, Nonesuch House, and the gatehouse (no name). The bridge, with its heavy flow of water, sported water-wheels, corn-mills, and on the London side the water works that supplied running water into surrounding houses. 

Heads on Pikes over London Bridge

Then, there was the gateway at the Southwark side where heads of traitors were displayed. The Keeper of the Heads had full managerial control over this section of the Bridge. He impaled newly removed heads on pikes, and tossed the old ones into the river. When the original bridge was pulled down, workers found skulls in the mud. 

Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction. While researching the Bridge, I came across the following: 

Sir Thomas More 
When King Henry VIII demanded Catholicism no longer be the favorite religion of the land, Sir Thomas More refused to follow his liege. As a result he was beheaded. His body was placed in a coffin and his head put on a pike above London Bridge. After the allowable time frame where the Keeper of the Heads knew seagulls had feasted and nothing should remain but putrid flesh and hollow eye sockets, Sir Thomas' daughter beseeched him not to throw her father's head in the river. Instead, she requested the Keeper give her the head so she may join it with the body, and they be interred together. 

The Keeper agreed, but was amazed when he removed the head. It remained pink and whole as if still alive... 

Reference: Old London Bridge, the Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe by Patricia Pierce, Headline Book Publishing, 2001. 

Monday, February 2, 2015



In colonial Australia the families of ex-convicts and poor Irish immigrants were often on the receiving end of an unfair English justice system, which favoured the rich and powerful.

Against this background, Ned Kelly, his brother Dan and their friends Steve Hart and Joe Byrne formed a gang and became bushrangers (outlaws). They were hated by the authorities but revered and aided by many ordinary folk who thought Ned Kelly had been persecuted and forced into crime.

On the 26th October 1878 at Stringybark Creek, the Kelly gang stumbled into a police ambush. They ended up shooting and killing three police troopers and wounding a fourth. After this there was a price on Ned Kelly’s head.

Desperate to catch the bushrangers the government of the time revived a medieval law that had been obsolete in England for centuries.  They called it the Felon’s Apprehension Act of 1878.

This Act enabled the Kelly gang to be proclaimed as outlaws.  It was one of the most serious laws parliament could evoke.  It authorized any person to shoot the proclaimed dead like wild beasts, without demand for surrender, or any process of arrest or trial.

 On the ninth of December 1878, the Kelly gang came out of hiding in the ranges to hold up the bank in Euroa, their first public appearance since the Stringybark Creek murders.  They made their way to a sheep ramch on the Faithful Creek to spend the night, having first locked up the manager and his men in the storeroom.  The next day after a hearty meal they rode away.

On the day of the tenth, at the exact time the Licensing Court was in session and the town's only policeman otherwise occupied, the Kelly gang robbed the bank. They got away with more than nineteen hundred pounds as well as thirty or so ounces of gold. 

After a siege at the Glenrowan hotel, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were killed when the hotel was set alight. Ned, who had escaped, returned to save his brother. By this time he had donned a heavy suit of armour made from sheets of iron. The only part of his body exposed were his arms and legs. Because the armour was so heavy, although it repelled bullets, it restricted his movements and the police were able to bring him down when they shot at his legs.

Ned Kelly was subsequently put on trial, found guilty and hanged in what is now known as the Old Melbourne Jail.

There are many myths and legends about Ned Kelly and his gang. For years it was whispered that Dan Kelly actually escaped the hotel at the height of the siege, before the hotel was set alight. Even though three charred bodies were later found in the ruins, one did not belong to Dan. Rumour has it that a catholic priest who went into the hotel before it was set on fire, to give the men the last rites, discovered that Dan wasn’t there, and that Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were already dead. Fact or fiction, the priest would never confirm it one way or the other.

The Old Melbourne Jail is now a tourist attraction and is open to the public and what a spooky place it is even in daylight.  Ned Kelly’s death mask is out on display and the scaffold still stands with the rope swinging over the trapdoor.

I visited there one day when I was researching one of my books.  The stone cells are small and icy cold, and there is an aura there that chilled me to the bone. At night time not a skerrick of light would come in through the tiny window up near the roof. Once the door of the cell was shut, I swear, you would have felt as if you had been entombed.

My novel, Savage Possession, is set during this period of time, and the Kelly gang have a cameo role in it.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

"How Much Did You Pay for That Rock?" by Shirley Martin

Product Details                                     
    Gems!  The word itself evokes images of beauty and mystery, and maybe even a bit of magic.
    Let's first differentiate between a gem and a gemstone. According to Webster's dictionary, a gem is anything prized for its beauty and value, especially if it's small and perfect for its kind.
    A gemstone is any mineral or petrified substance that can be cut and polished for setting into a piece of jewelry.
    Among other classifications, gemologists rank minerals according to their hardness, using the Mohs scale. (Named for an Austrian mineralogist.) The diamond is the hardest mineral at 10, and talc the softest at 1. A gemstone ranked much below 4 in hardness wouldn't be suitable for a ring because it could chip so easily.
    Let's begin with diamonds. A diamond may be a girl's best friend, but every friendship begins with getting acquainted. So here are four ways to determine the value of a diamond.
        1. Body color
        2. Degree of flawlessness
        3. Cut and proportion
        4. Carat weight
    Body color refers to how much yellow or brown tint is observable in the stone. It doesn't refer to the various colors of diamonds, such as pink, yellow or blue.
    Degree of flawlessness means just that: the flaws you may find in the diamond, whether observable to the naked eye or under magnification.
    The cut and proportion of the diamond are both very important and can determine whether a diamond will have fire and brilliance or will appear as a dull stone. And the number of facets, of course, will affect the cut. The most popular cut is the brilliant, although there are others, such as marquise, oval, and emerald cut.
    Carat refers to weight, not size. A carat is 1/5 of a gram. Carat shouldn't be confused with karat, which refers to gold quality. All other things being equal, the higher the carat weight, the more expensive the diamond. All gems are weighed in carats, except the pearl and the coral.
    Besides the diamond, other gemstones considered precious are the emerald, ruby, and sapphire. But really, all gemstones are considered precious by their owners.
    The finest emerald is a lovely grass green color. The May birthstone, it belongs to the beryl family, as does the aquamarine. The finest emeralds come from Columbia, although you'll find lovely emeralds from Brazil.
    The ruby and sapphire both belong to the corundum family. If it's blue, it's a sapphire. If it's red, it's a ruby. Complicating the issue, however, are the pretty pink sapphires you'll find on the market.
    The loveliest rubies come from Myanmar, formerly Burma and aptly called Burmese rubies. Because of the political situation in Myanmar, the U.S. government established an embargo against the Burmese ruby years ago. Today, no reputable jeweler will deal in the Burmese ruby, unless it's part of an estate sale. While the embargo is understandable, it's unfortunate because this ruby is a vivid, almost perfect spectral red, beautiful in its luster. It's the birthstone for July.
    It would be impossible to name all the semi-precious gemstones; the list is virtually endless. Still, it's worthwhile to name a few, all beautiful stones any woman would be proud to own. I'll list them alphabetically.
    Amethyst is the transparent purple variety of quartz, the most versatile of any of the gem families. The birthstone for February, it's relatively inexpensive.
    The garnet is one of the most exciting of the gem families. Often quite brilliant, it's available in many colors--green, red, yellow, orange--in every color except blue.
    Moonstone is another lovely gemstone, a member of the feldspar family. It's a transparent, milky white stone, and you can see an opalescent white or blue light within the stone's body. It's a popular stone for rings.
    And speaking of opals, no other gemstone arouses images of mystery and magic as does this beautiful stone. No other stone matches the opal in its array of very brilliant rainbow effects, all mixed up together. It's usually cut flat or as a cabochon (no facets) since it's already brilliant as is. Color is everything in the opal. This stone tends to dry and crack easily, so take good care of it. Australia produces especially prized opals, and it's the birthstone for October.
    The peridot is the birthstone for August. It's not especially brilliant, but its depth of green color appeals to many.
    Rhodochrosite is a pretty stone and is inexpensive. The colors range from red to almost white.
    The tourmaline is one of the most versatile of gem families.You can find it in every color. There's even a watermelon tourmaline,green on one side and red on the other. The red variety--the rubellite--is a deep pink and quite stunning.
    Turquoise--the "Turkish stone"--is the birthstone for December. Its finest color is an intense blue. Since much of it is found in the American southwest, you often see it in Indian made jewelry. Much of this jewelry is rather expensive.
    Most gemstones are mineral in origin. Organic gems come from plants and animals. One of these gems is amber. Prehistoric man prized this petrified tree sap, and today you can find beautiful jewelry ranging in color from yellow to deep brown. Its price won't break the bank.
    A string of pearls enhances just about any outfit. A fine natural or Oriental pearl is extremely rare and prohibitively expensive. Today, the pearl business centers almost entirely around the cultured pearl market. Cultured pearls are still "real" pearls. There is nothing fake or artificial about cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls are attractive, too, and less expensive.
    The list of semi-precious gems could go on and on, literally hundreds to choose from.
    I'd like to end this discussion with a few caveats. Always buy your gems from a reputable jeweler. If the price of a gem seems too good to be true, most likely it is. Always get an appraisal when you buy your gemstone.
    We all know how expensive costume jewelry can be. My own personal opinion is to stay with gems, unless the item of costume jewelry especially appeals to me. What you pay for, say, a necklace of fake tortoiseshell might buy you a pretty moonstone ring.
    Always take good care of your jewelry. If you own a pearl necklace, wear it often. Don't store it away in a dark drawer. Don't expose any opal piece to extreme cold. Pearls and diamonds require periodic cleaning.
    Your gems can be passed on from generation to generation. If necessary, be specific in your will, so that there's no question as to who gets Grandma's pearl necklace.
    And just think of the pleasure you're giving to future generations.  
Now, I'd be very happy if you'd check over my books at Books We Love. You can find me here: 
    You can order my books from the Books We Love site or from Amazon, here: 
I write historical, paranormal and fantasy romance, so there are bound to be books that would appeal to you.
All of my books are available electronically, and two are also in print. "Night Secrets" is a fantasy romance, and "Dream Weaver" is a time travel romance. Ask for them at your local bookstore.
Happy reading, everyone! 

Short Story - Maude, There's A Body - Janet Lane Walters

I began my career writing short stories but I don't write them any more. This is the last one I wrote and it took me more than two...