Monday, November 17, 2014

Gracie and the Peach Thieves - Part One

Hi, everyone. My name’s Gracie. Carol's a little busy, so she asked me to tell you a little bit about myself.

I was born thirty-two years ago in Fredericksburg, a small town in the Texas Hill Country about an hour and a half west of Austin. The town was established in 1846 by German settlers and named after King Frederick of Prussia. I grew up in a limestone house built not long after that date by one of my great, great and more grandfathers. Except each generation added on to it, so it’s now filled with all sorts of nooks and crannies perfect for afternoon daydreaming.

Of course I wasn't aware of any of that back then. I was the youngest of five children, with three brothers and a sister to keep up with. By the time I entered kindergarten, I knew the key players on the Cowboys, Longhorns, and Red Raiders teams. And the words to a whole lot of George Strait songs. I also knew how to throw a baseball and how to braid my hair.

When I was ten, my two oldest brothers were away at college, and my sister was a senior in high school. By the time my sophomore year in high school came along, I was the only one still at home. It was also the year I became an aunt for the first time. For a few years, I learned what life was like for an only child—the good and the bad.

Daddy worked as a handyman and generated more business than he could handle. All five of us—even Trinka, who is THE girliest girl ever—learned how to do all kinds of things to help him. He also made a pretty good living raising cattle and growing peaches.

Mama kept the peaches from the best trees. What we didn't eat, she turned into prizewinning cobbler and ice cream at the Gillespie County Fair. She still makes those two treats for a few of the priciest bed-and-breakfasts that now dot the local landscape.

The summer I was nine, Mama’s cobbler brought about my first attempt at solving a crime.

She’d sent me out to pick enough peaches to fill her cobbler basket. I’d climbed the tree and filled about half the basket when the voices of two men drifted up through the leaves.

Probably Daddy and Buster, the man who helped him with the peaches every year. I peeked out through the leaves.

The men were strangers. Each was carrying a stack of bushel baskets—not the kind Daddy used for market peaches. If they weren't helping Daddy and Buster, they were peach thieves.

I’d heard about those. Two or three farms got hit every year. Where were Petunia and Daisy? Our border collies were usually too alert for anyone to sneak up on our peaches unnoticed.

The men passed my tree and stopped at the next one. No! All the trees at this end of the row were Mama’s. And the men were too close for me to climb down and find Daddy. 

What should I do?

Want to know more?
How this story ends?
Who I really am?

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Cheese Spirits Are Here - Bring Crackers!

Guess who's visiting here this week? The lovely Crystal Collier!

We know Crystal loves cheese, so I checked my fridge.
   Monterey Jack
   Queso Fresco
   Sharp Cheddar
   And leftover cheesecake.
We're a cheezy bunch :)
Somewhere in there Crystal should get her fill. I hope.

I'm now handing the cheese over to Crystal

First of all, huge thanks, Carol, for inviting me here today!

With the release of my second novel, SOULLESS, I've come to realize that every book has its tricky aspects.

While writing a series that deals with time manipulation, I've come across my fair share of pitfalls. Ready to bend your brain?

Top Ten Troubles with Twisting Time

1. Memories: If you could step through time, you'd find yourself in a place where you remembered events that have yet to take place. Say, the Berlin wall coming down. The fall of the Roman empire. How would that mess with your interactions with others? 

2. Paradoxes: So he saved the day, but then the person he saved stepped through time and saved him. But, what if they didn't? Then the whole time stream would collapse, right?

3. Crossing paths with one's self or ancestors: What if you accidentally influenced your ancestor to take a different path? What if you accidentally (or intentionally) influenced yourself to take a different path? Does the current you cease to exist? 

4. Forgetting someone doesn't know you: When seeing someone you care about or met three years in the future, you might react on instinct. There's no denying the lighting up of your eyes when you recognize someone, but what if you slipped and went too far? 

5. Learning HOW to control time: Alexia has trouble with this. She even over shoots once. Almost to the detriment of those she's trying to help. Oops. Imagine if you overshot by a century or so? (Not saying my characters do that.)

6. Learning your limits: Does traveling through time have a cost?
Physical strain? 

7. Anachronisms: This is a fancy word for taking customs, events etc. to a time where they don't belong. How about a hand shake, a piece of history or governing aspect, a word that has yet to come into existence?

8. Food: It's no small secret that people have eaten differently throughout the ages. What if your stomach couldn't tolerate the current foods?

9. Sickness: Same as food. What if you didn't have the same immunity as 90% of the population, and contracted a common illness, and died?

10. Language/reading: Unless you're blessed with a Tardis, how on this holy earth are you supposed to communicate with people from a different era?

So if you ever come across an author staring into space with a pained expression on his/her face, now you know why. Give them a wedge of cheese, a pat on the shoulder, and assure them the world is not about to explode. They'll appreciate it. 

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

MOONLESS: Alexia must choose safety and an arranged marriage, or true love and being hunted by the Soulless every moonless night.

SOULLESS: When Alexia's wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power and risk losing everything.

Any brain benders you can add about time manipulation? Have you ever wanted to time travel, and if so, to when?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hot Scorpios with a Side of Peanut Butter

Scorpio, Topaz, and Chrysanthemum - all things belonging to November - astrological sign, birthstone, and birth flower.

Also, November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month, National Pepper Month, and National Good Nutrition Month. Hmmm...

Happy November!

This week I'm visiting Christine Rains and talking about CLUES. Check it out!

The new contest on my website is in full swing. This month my critique partner, Jan Christensen, is giving away one autographed copy of PERFECT VICTIM, the first book in her Paula Mitchell, P.I. series. Jan is also giving away a beautiful handmade bookmark - made by Jan herself! All you have to do to win is enter the contest on my website. Just click the WIN button at the top of my right sidebar, view the photo, read the short vignette, and answer the question. Everyone can play, but the winner will be chosen from US entrants only.

A few days after Sylvia Leominster is murdered, private investigator Paula Mitchell interviews Sylvia's fiancé in their small-town Rhode Island jail. Warren Wade's fingerprints are all over the murder weapon, he has no alibi, and Sylvia broke up with him the night she was killed. After another young woman friend of Sylvia's is bludgeoned to death, Paula is dismayed when the police keep Warren in jail. They claim the second murder could have been committed by a copy-cat and remind her Warren's fingerprints are still on the weapon that killed Sylvia.

Working with her best friend who often hires Paula to investigate cases and who is Warren’s lawyer, Paula searches for answers. Paula and her computer guru lover narrow down the suspects to the victim's friends. The group is led by a mesmeric young man with political ambitions. Paula doesn’t trust him, especially when she learns that all of Sylvia's friends have lied during her interviews. At the preliminary hearing, some answers begin to emerge. Paula zeros in on the killer and sees firsthand how friendship and loyalty can be used for personal gain. With Warren’s freedom on the line, she has to find a way to capture the real killer. But in doing so, she doesn't realize she’s putting herself and her own best friend in danger.

NEWS FLASH! The winner of Holly Sinclair's 365 NIGHTS from the Tiki Hut last week is: LEXA CAIN! Congratulations, Lexa, and Happy Cooking :)

Who's doing NaNo?

For the first time ever, I'm starting a project in November. Wasn't my original plan, but that's how it worked out. So that's my own personal NaNo-ish tale. However, I won't be working at NaNo speeds. Doing so would probably send my little raft right on around the bend.

I'm going to be working on all the pre-writing things that come with a new novel. You may not see as much of me on Facebook and Twitter this month, but I'll still be there - and here. In the meantime,

Monday, October 27, 2014

Buon Appetito!

Today I'm participating in Holly Sinclair's Foodie Blog Tour 2014. This is one of my favorite blog hops ever because it lets me share with you another of my passions, which is cooking.

Holly has published a lot of cookbooks! The one I chose is 365 NIGHTS. I've owned the print copy of this cookbook for a few years, and I love it.

One of the reasons I love it is the way it's organized. Complete dinners for every night of the year. I'm not nearly put together enough to follow it through for a full year, but if I were, we would enjoy a totally different dining experience every single night.

Another reason I like this book is there's a back-to-basics section that includes basic recipes like rice, mashed potatoes, etc., plus an excellent substitution list and other kitchen basics.

I asked Holly a few questions, and you'll see those down below with the photos. The questions don't match the photos, but it's a good spot to put them. What? This is the Tiki Hut, LOL!

My final choice of what to prepare came down to a yummy favorite - a Southwestern chicken dish called Santa Fe Chicken with Rice and Beans - and one of my all-time Italian favorites called Spaghetti alla Checca.

Spaghetti won because this dish is pretty, and it's sooooooo easy to make. Even if you don't like to cook, you can make this dish in 30 minutes or so, and your family and/or guests will think you've been hiding your foodie obsession. It's instant gourmet with no fuss, no muss.


Because alla checca is a raw sauce using fresh, uncooked ingredients.

This is a perfect dish to make on hot summer nights, but it's also wonderful in cooler times of the year to bring back the fresh summer tastes we all love. Plus there's a surprise in the preparation that will make you smile :)

So moving along, here's the recipe:
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 8 oz. whole-milk mozzarella, small diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sautepan until smoking hot. Immediately pour over the tomato mixture. When pasta is done, drain and add to the tomato mixture. Toss until well coated. Cover the bowl and let stand 2 minutes.

See? I wasn't kidding when I said EASY!

I halved the recipe because only Live-In Handyman and I were eating. And I used grape tomatoes cut in two instead of chopping larger ones. This is all you need.

Me: How long did it take you to compile the recipes and dinner combinations for 365 NIGHTS?

Holly: I would love to say just 365 days, but it's more like two years. Many of the recipes were already in my files, but others had to be adapted and tested.

If you think my oregano and thyme looked a little wicked, it's because they were already drying in the pots. But the fresh flavor was still there. Here is everything in the bowl. Looks like the Italian flag!

Me: What's your favorite thing to prepare for dinner, and is the recipe included in this book?

Holly: This tends to be seasonal. In the fall, I love to make soups and stews. My favorite is Minestrone Soup. It goes together so quick and eating it give me a nice energy boost. It is in the book.

Another thing about alla Checca is you can add your favorites like green onions, garlic, black or green olives. You can also add grilled chicken or sliced Italian sausage. Or whatever you wish. And you it with other forms of pasta such as farfalle or penne, etc. But here's how it looks served in bowls after following Holly's recipe. See how pretty!

Me: How did you learn to cook?

Holly: Trial and error. Lots of both.

Thank you, Holly, for such a great cookbook!

One commenter on this post will win a free digital copy of this cookbook. To enter, just leave a comment. If you want to leave a comment but don't want to enter, add "I hate food" to your comment. The winner will be announced on October 31st on Holly's blog.

365 Nights: Menus & Recipes for Every Night of the Year
You can put something different on your dinner table each night for an entire year! The meals in this book are easy to prepare, and they are balanced to provide a variety of taste sensations, ingredients, and nutrients. The flavors will appeal to your family and to dinner guests of all ages.
Cost: $19.95 print | $3.99 ebook

If you buy the print version of the book from Amazon, you get the digital version free.

Where to get it:
Amazon (print) []
Kindle []
Smashwords []
ibooks []
Barnes & Nobles []

Holly Sinclair, who goes by Southpaw on the Interwebs, finds cooking cathartic. The recipes she's created and collected grew into cookbooks. Holly's trying her hand at fiction and food seems to creep into most of her books.
Holly Sinclair Cookbooks, the website []
HR Sinclair, the blog []

Join Holly on the rest of her Blog Tour [], each stop features a different cookbook and a chance for a free ebook!

You can join in the fun by signing up for the End of Tour Foodie Blog Hop!
Talk about a fond food memory, describe your disasters in the kitchen, post your favorite recipe or pictures of food, or do anything food related. Sign up here. []

This is the last week to push the big WIN button at the top of my right sidebar for a chance to win Susan Swiderski's two books:
They will make fantastic Christmas gifts for readers on your list!