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 because....it'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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Monday, October 15, 2018

Review: Saga, Vol. 9

Saga, Vol. 9 Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've said it before, but it bears repeating: If you're not reading Saga, Vol. 9, you're not reading the finest graphic novel being published now. And the graphic novel format is perfect for this tale. The combination of art and text couldn't be duplicated in a standard novel, not the way it works here.

Start with Volume 1. Read SAGA. Be blown away.

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was fun to re-read this classic by two masters of fantasy. I'm looking forward to seeing the new series on Amazon Prime, but I'll also be intrigued to see how the cast and story is updated. For example, this book had many tongue-in-cheek references to the movie The Omen, and would likely shoot right over the heads of some modern viewers.

But it was still a fun read, and highly recommended.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I pulled this off the library "Sizzler" (Hot titles) shelf on a whim because I'd seen it on the bestseller lists for a long time, and because my son-in-law is from Shaker Heights.

It was an engrossing read. So many of the characters struck me as people I might have known, their lives and behavior all too familiar, and yet the story unfolded in a fashion that kept me turning pages late into the night. To me, this is the hardest type of novel to write well. A story of largely ordinary people who each have lives worthy of deeper exploration.

I understand now what the buzz is about and I'll check out more books by Ms. Ng.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Review: The Governess Game

The Governess Game The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Review: Circe

Circe Circe by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was a youngster, one of my favorite books was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. I still have my copy.

That's simply my way of saying that reading a re-telling of a classic tale from my youth is not only a pleasure, but to see the myth turned around to be woman empowered and turned away from the male POV is a very special pleasure indeed.

What we know of the witch Circe comes from the classic myth told by men, repeated in The Odyssey by Homer and passed down for generations from Odysseus' perspective. Now we get to hear the other story, the story of a powerful woman born of the gods who has to navigate her way through a world of petty Olympian personalities and mortals with limited ideas of what a woman can be. I found CIRCE to be engrossing, powerfully told, beautifully written and wonderful tale of a girl who doesn't fit in, so she makes her own place. I highly recommend it.

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