Monday, November 12, 2018

"Where do you get your ideas?" Part Deux

They kept walking and after a while the tension in Julia’s head eased and she could enjoy more of the sight of a Florida she hadn’t seen, the busy autumn world of returning northern birds and squabbling natives, staking their claims to the insects and nesting areas of the pinewoods. Washburn walked through the woods with confidence, but kept his rifle cradled in front of him. When she came up beside him, she saw his eyes were moving over the terrain, scanning it for danger. The trail was wider here and they could walk abreast rather than with Julia trailing behind.

--Smuggler's Bride 

Autumn is my favorite season for hiking in the Florida woods and I set out yesterday for an afternoon trek through San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, one of the last stands of mature forest in the state. If you've only visited Orlando or South Florida, this is a sight to see if you've ever wondered about "the other Florida."

Hiking is a good opportunity to think and clear my head, and I don't listen to podcasts or anything but birdsong as I trek along the trail. As I came through a stand of longleaf pine on the Yellow Trail I saw a white tailed deer, some lacy wildflowers, and I had a plot breakthrough for Book #9 (Working Title: Nicholas' Book). Three breakthroughs, actually, in quick succession.

For about two seconds I bemoaned my lack of notepad and pen and then it struck me: I had a computer in my pocket that makes phone calls. It also has a voice memo function! So I pulled out my iPhone and made my notes, then uploaded them to my Dropbox account for that book.

Truly, we live in amazing times. We can still enjoy a chunk of Florida that looks the same as it did when my characters trekked through it in the 1840s, and have access to 21st century tech that keeps me writing. What a time to be alive!

This is also a timely reminder that Smuggler's Bride is at Smashwords, 20% off through the end of the month!

Review: The Duke's Wager

The Duke's Wager The Duke's Wager by Edith Layton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel has long been one of my favorite Regencies and I re-read it at least once a year. The hero is unforgettable, the antagonist is wonderfully satisfying and the heroine is a woman doing her best to survive with nothing. The writing sings and the secondary characters stand out.

Ms. Layton was taken from us far too soon, but her novels are worth tracking down and reading not just for the pleasure of it, but for what amounts to a little master class in writing Regency romance. I highly recommend her work, but especially The Duke's Wager.

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Review: The Real Deal

The Real Deal The Real Deal by Lauren Blakely
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Snappy dialogue, fun characters, family dynamics and the fake boyfriend trope add up to a perfect weekend or beach read. The action is hot and the story satisfies, and sometimes that's exactly what you're looking for.

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Review: Last Night with the Earl

Last Night with the Earl Last Night with the Earl by Kelly Bowen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this tale of bullying, an artist who paints boudoir portraits, and a wounded war veteran dealing with his return home. Bowen is now on my auto-buy list as I catch up on her backlist, and I'm finding her stories satisfying. I especially liked the resolution of issues with secondary characters in this novel, the appearance of characters from other series' Bowen's written, and hope to see more of these characters advance to their own stories in the future.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Review: Archangel's Prophecy

Archangel's Prophecy Archangel's Prophecy by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a couple things an author can do to keep a long running series fresh. One is to introduce new and interesting characters, and Nalini Singh does that very well with both her Psy-Changeling and her Guild Hunter books.

The other is to raise the stakes on your protagonists. Archangel's Prophecy will leave some readers dissatisfied but only in the sense that they'll be anxious for the next installment, and that's a good thing. Keeping the tension ramped up helps with a series about near-immortal archangels, vampires, and the mortals who love them.

There are some world building details that niggle at me--if there's no organized Western religion as we know it, would these civilizations have developed so closely parallel to our own? And, what happened to the Native Americans? Were they never a part of this world?

But, 11 novels and some short stories/novellas in, the details don't keep me from enjoying the tale. I would recommend, as is usually the case with series of this length, that readers begin at the beginning with Angel's Blood.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Road Trip!

Today for the first time in months I opened the file for Book #9, [working title] FLORIDA GOLD. I'm 8K into the story and I surprised myself's pretty good. Huh.

Since WHAT THE PARROT SAW is now in early production stages I can get back to what I was working on before. However, one of the notes I have is to take a field trip to the coast to Faver-Dykes State Park and the Bulow Plantation Ruins. Now that the weather's cooled off and the mosquitoes have calmed down that kind of hiking around in the woods is a lot more attractive. Plus, I now have a Florida State Parks Annual Pass, so it's a win all around!
San Felasco Hammock State Park

Faver-Dykes is undergoing renovation until December so I have time to plan my road trip. Maybe I'll take a couple days and stay with friends on the coast. One of the things I love about my job, as it says in my bio, is taking a day off, putting the top down on the convertible, driving to the beach, and calling it research.

But this time it's for reals, even if there are still mojitos involved at the end of the day.[g]

Payne's Prairie State Park

Monday, October 29, 2018

Gator Country

More shots rang out, going wide of where Rand stood. He stuck his head around the tree and the smoke from [redacted] gun was enough to give Rand something to sight on, and get off a shot of his own before he ducked back. The muzzle flash compromised his night vision and he waited a moment before looking back around, in time to see a silhouette at the river edge—and a darker silhouette moving swiftly through the water.
“Get away from the river, there’s a gator coming after you!”
“You can’t fool me that way, Wash—”
A piercing shriek split the night, followed by a large splash.


This was a Sunday where I needed to get away from the 24-hour news and social media cycle of tragedy and politics. I headed out to my favorite city walking trail at Sweetwater Wetlands Park, where nature and the city meet through reclaimed wetlands. It was a perfect day for a trek and I was rolling along, enjoying the wildflowers and egrets, ibis, ducks and cranes in abundance.

As I came around a bend I saw a couple stopped on the path and didn't think anything of it until I moved beyond them, said "Whoa!" and came to a dead stop. Not more than 12 feet in front of me was a massive bull gator, sitting a few feet from the path, just sunning himself and enjoying the sunshine, as alligators do.

You can see in this picture how close he is to the path. The young man in the couple said, "He's just sitting there. I don't think he'll bother us if we walk past."

"I didn't grow up in Florida and live to be this old by second guessing gators," I said. "We don't know what's going through his tiny reptilian brain. He might be thinking, 'Nice day!' or he might be thinking 'Lunch!' but I do know one thing--gators can move much more quickly than you think they can."

I told them I was doubling back to the loop cut-through. They said they'd wait a while and see if the alligator moves on, and I said, "If I hear screams I'll know you cleared the path for me."

I doubled back and didn't hear screams, so I'm guessing it ended well all around. But this is a good reminder of a couple things: 1. A prudent hiker cedes right of way to the predators and 2. If you want to read more about our Florida wildlife, get Smuggler's Bride, 20% off and on sale now through the end of November at Smashwords!

Review: Dark Tide Rising

Dark Tide Rising Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this latest entry in the William Monk mysteries because of its focus on the men of the River Police. They're an interesting group, but one of them may have betrayed his comrades and Monk needs to figure out who the traitor is while focusing on their solving a kidnapping and murder.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Always a weener!

Regular readers of this blog may recall that Diva #Dachshund Dodi was entered in the Halloweener Derby last year, an annual fundraiser sponsored by Climb for Cancer Foundation.

Her performance was memorable. We practiced for weeks, racing up and down the hall at the squeak of her favorite ball. She was in top form, fighting trim. Comes the day of the race Dodi is weight matched against another doxie, I'm at the finish line with treats and toys to lure her, the announcer says "Go!" and they're off like a shot.

One dachshund, anyway.

Dodi sits on her furry little butt and looks around. People are yelling and laughing and I'm at the finish line calling, "C'mon, Dodi! Treats!" and she just sits there enjoying the view.

I must admit, it was mortifying. But I was willing to try again. We signed up for the race, began our training regimen (cue "Rocky" theme...) and I knew this year she'd bring home the gold. A year older, a year more mature, this was Dodi's time to shine.

We get to the races and people remembered her. They came up to me and said, "Maybe this year your pup will run." Not win, mind you, run.

But I tuned out the naysayers. Our race comes up, I pass Dodi off to the handlers, I go down to the finish line, the announcer says, "On your mark, get set....GO!" and they're off like a shot.

One dachshund, anyway.

Dodi gets up and starts walking out the gate at the back, ambling along the way her handler came in. I'm down at the finish line calling, "C'mon, Dodi! Treats! Treats!" and she completely ignores me because clearly, she has better things to do than run on command.

But I refuse to be mortified! My pup has a mind of her own! She marches to her own beat! She's a true dachshund.

She enjoyed her puppy ice cream, we visited with the other doxies and dogs and afterward stopped at a dog-friendly big box store. The convertible top was down on a glorious warm autumn afternoon and she rocked her doggy car seat, the one that raises her up so she can see all the action.

All in all, it was a day well spent. And, after all, it was for charity (and she got ice cream) so no one's complaining.

But as we say all too often in Gator Country...."Wait 'til next year!"

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake

"Possum hangin’ in the tree, Raccoon on the ground; Raccoon say, you stingy rat,Shake them ’simmons down!”
Julia paused in her singing and frowned down at the spoon stirring through the cake batter. “Possum hanging in the tree?” Where had that come from? “Goodness, I’m becoming countrified!”
She chuckled, looking out the kitchen window at the activity in the yard. Rand was doing the morning chores in preparation for their trip to the Iveys’ farm. For a moment she watched him as she stirred, indulging herself in a fantasy that theirs was a normal marriage, two people on the Florida frontier, making a new life together.
But it was as much a fantasy as singing raccoons.

If it's autumn in North Central Florida, it's persimmon time! They're starting to come into our farmers market, a little late this year because of our extra hot summer, but I snagged a few. These are still at the ripe but firm stage and may not make it to the cakes. I also like them sliced up over my breakfast cereal. However, the season is long enough that at some point there will be cake! 

In the meantime, here's my latest version of Julia's Persimmon Cake Recipe. I'm constantly tweaking it so observant readers of this blog may see slight variations from one year to another. All are tasty and easy, because that's the only baking I do. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you want to know more about why Julia's fretting over her marriage, read Smuggler's Bride, available in ebook and print from your favorite vendor.

Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. four or five very ripe Florida persimmons

½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

To get persimmon pulp: Take squishily ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients in large bowl

          2. Cream sugar and margarine, add eggs and pulp, blend well

          3. Fold into dry ingredients (don’t overmix), add nuts if desired

          3. Pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake one hour and 15 minutes (your oven may vary.)  Let cool on rack ten minutes, remove from pan. Freezes well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: Starless

Starless Starless by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

A lush, gender-bending retelling of the classic Hero's Journey in a fantasy world full of gods and gifts. Khai is a young warrior, honed for a life of service as a Shadow, paired at birth to the Princess Zariya as her protector. Khai's training begins in infancy and it isn't until puberty that the young Shadow learns the truth--she was born female, but raised as an "honorary boy".

It changes everything, and nothing. Even though there's never been a girl Shadow, Khai is ready to take on her/his responsibilities and learns that an evil presence created by the gods may destroy everything, including his/her beloved princess.

Carey has brought us lesbian heroines before in her Santa Olivia novels, and a bi-heroine in the acclaimed Kushiel series. This time she delves deep into classic high fantasy with a warrior and his/her love, a quest, and a band of brothers and sisters brought together to fulfill a prophecy. Excellently done with outstanding world building and a welcome diverse addition to the fantasy realm.

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