Monday, 30 December 2013

Wenches of Words Guest Post: Dress for Success in 2014...

Dress Has Always Been My Strongest Suit NOT
 by Nancy DiMauro

Something strange happened to me when I turned 40. I became a girl. I was that Tom-boy on the school playground, who when forced to wear a skirt by her mother snuck a pair of shorts under it. After all, I couldn’t play on the monkey bars in a skirt. Now could I?

I didn’t experiment with makeup in high school. I was too busy running off to ride a horse, or three. My standard high school outfit was army surplus camo pants, a black t-shirt and ratty sneakers. Hey, it was the 80s. But I’m sure something in my mother died every day I went out of the house like that.

By law school, I’d learned the benefit of a little black dress and a few good suits. But my style was still a diamond in the rough. That started changing when I turned 40.

Why 40? I’m not sure, but maybe it’s because your forties is a magical decade. After all 42 is the answer to THE question. Sorry. I digress. Anyway, I finally had the money to buy shoes in those department stores where I bought my suits. There seems to be an unfortunate rule in shoe fashion. The more expensive the shoe the more comfortable it is. Spending all day in a set of heels became something to look forward to and not a torture.

Now I that had really cute shoes, I needed better clothes. At 42 (see, I told you that number was the answer to THE question), I hired a professional fashion consultant to take me from well-dressed to stunning and polished. Girlfriend, if you want to take your look from lukewarm to sizzle you need to call Annette Harris and her company, Harris Image Works.

Given the discovery of my inner girl there’s probably little surprise that one of my short stories focused on fashion turned deadly. The idea for Best Dressed and Obsessed (included in the Shots at Redemption collection) came from a computer glitch. I participated in Liberty Hall’s weekly writing prompt. One week a computer error made me receive the word “array” rather than the actual prompt. I hit a blank wall. So, I typed “array” into my word processor and hit the synonym button. The second group of words related to “dress.” I had the first half of a Medea myth retelling by the end of that hour. Best Dressed and Obsessed won an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest.

And none of it would have happened without the perfect little dress.

To read excerpts from Nancy DiMauro's Musa Publishing books, please click HERE.

Learn more about Nancy DiMauro and her impressive work on her website Falcons Fables and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Tween the Weekends: Favorite Christmas Story Ever…

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge’s name was good upon ’change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.
Love those first lines in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Dead as a doornail really sticks out in my mind. Dickens sure had a way with words! And believe it or not, Charles Dickens wrote the classic Christmas tale as a novella—something I never knew. In fact, I decided to read A Christmas Carol for the first time a few years ago. I knew the story like the back of my hand, and most movies based on the book were true to form. But there’s nothing like reading the actual script written by an author’s hand. Though the language was a little archaic, it still didn’t take away from the magic of the story.

For many historians, the success of A Christmas Carol directly redefined the modern Western conception of Christmas and its sentiments, in effect creating the modern version of the holiday itself. Charles Dickens wrote four more novellas with a Christmas theme after the great success of A Christmas Carol, which was published in 1843: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man. Hey, when you’re on a roll, you don’t want to disappoint your readers!
As this is a Tween the Weekends post, I thought I’d share the movie trailer of one of the most recent family oriented versions of A Christmas Carol produced by Disney in 2009. Love Jim Carrey’s take on Ebenezer Scrooge!

Since it’s Christmas Day, and the Ghost of Christmas Present is probably hanging around, I thought I’d share that I have a free short story available for download only through Musa Publishing until the end of December. It’s called The Terrible, Mighty Crystal and features a teenage portrayal of Shu-Tu, the old, cross-eyed seer from the prequel of The Last Timekeepers series, Legend of the Timekeepers. Here’s the tagline and blurb:
There is the known and the unknown. And then there is the unknowable.

A rumor around Atlantis whispers that the mighty crystal has the power of resurrection. Fourteen-year-old Shu-Tu believes this to be true and will do whatever it takes to bring her father back from the dead. Recruiting two trustworthy classmates, and with the help of her beloved teacher Thoth, Shu-Tu sets out to change her father’s fate, and right a wrong.
Instructed to meet Thoth at his grotto, Shu-Tu and her friends are forced to flee underground, and must follow the maze of passages to find another way out. There, they come across a baboon-headed human hybrid possessing a rare firestone—one of six harvested from the mighty crystal—which has the power to restore life. Shu-Tu agrees to play the hybrid’s bizarre game to win the firestone, knowing that if she loses, she loses her father forever.

Wishing you and your families a very safe and happy holiday season, and a prosperous 2014! I thought I’d leave you with Charles Dickens’s preface to A Christmas Carol:
“I have endeavoured in this ghostly little book, to raise the ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

Their faithful friend and servant,
Charles Dickens
December 1843

Monday, 23 December 2013

Guest Post: Susan Lodge's No Fuss Fruitcake...

Christmas is but a short time away and no British home will be without fruit cake. Many people prepare this holiday treat months in advance, but in our hurried world not too many of us have that luxury. Here is a quick and easy recipe I hope you enjoy. Top the finished cake with a little brandy a day or so before you sprinkle on the icing sugar. Your guests will love it.
No Fuss Fruit Cake
120g/4oz plain flour
120g/4oz self-raising flour
225ml/8 oz Water
1 tsp. mixed spice
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 beaten eggs
120g/4oz margarine
170g/6oz sugar
400g/14oz mixed dried fruit or any combination of sultanas, currants, raisins, glace cherries, mixed peel. Whatever you have handy!

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C/ Gas Mark 4.

Line a 7 inch (18cm) square or 8 inch (20cm) round cake tin with 2 layers of greaseproof paper.

Combine margarine, water, sugar, dried fruit, bicarbonate of soda, and mixed spice in a saucepan over moderate heat. Bring to the boil and simmer for one minute.

Pour into mixing bowl and cool thoroughly. It is important to let the mixture cool before adding the eggs.

Add sifted flour and eggs and mix well.

Pour into prepared tin and bake for one to one and a quarter hours. You may need to put a sheet of greaseproof or brown paper over the tin to prevent top browning too much. Cake is ready when an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

Dust with sifted icing sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar) and ENJOY.

While the cake is baking, how about a romantic contemporary by Susan Lodge to fill in the time?
What is it about men in breeches? Shona finds out her dream man turns out to be not at all what she expected.

When a man in tight buff breeches examines her with his quizzing glass and calls her Miss Bennet, Shona fears the Regency themed ball is going to be as awful as she predicted. But then she is introduced to the gorgeous Nick who ticks every box for her perfect man.

As Shona looks forward to her first date with Nick, her happiness is marred by some disturbing observations around her flat. She doesn’t usually leave her blind rolled down that far, and she never keeps her bunny slippers tidily by the bed. And what is the man in the buff breeches doing lurking on the street outside?

As both men pursue her, Shona finds one makes her body quiver with desire, the other itch with annoyance. Then the men finally confront each other, and her life turns into a nightmare. Can her judgment regarding the male species really be so seriously flawed?

To read an excerpt from The Man in the Buff Breeches, please click HERE.

To read excerpts from the other books by Susan Lodge, please click HERE.

Susan Lodge’s first publication was a story for a UK national woman’s magazine. Heady with this breakthrough, she went on to write her first novel Only a Hero Will Do. She loves writing contemporary and historical romance, usually with a large dose of humour. After working in several cities including London and Bristol, she moved down to the Hampshire coast to raise her family.

Once asked the most important piece of advice she had been given in pursuit of publication, Susan answered - The only difference between the unpublished writer and the published writer is the fact that the published writer didn't give up.

Catch up with Susan on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Wenches of Words Full-Day Feast for the Holidays...

Breakfast is served with Marci Boudreaux:

Widow Carrie Gable, the heroine in Unforgettable You, has taken over the role of caregiver for her ailing mother-in-law Doreen. Determined the keep the woman in her family home for as long as possible, Carrie has agreed to board several movie stars who are filming in her small town. Though resentful of the demands placed upon her, Carrie does her best to abide by the wishes of her guests, even when she finds them over the top.

When health conscious starlet Juliet Ramirez insists that her hostess stop tempting her with fried meat and eggs at breakfast, Carrie agrees but refuses to remove her signature pancakes off the menu because, as she insists, serving breakfast without pancakes goes against everything she’s ever learned about being a good hostess.

Carrie’s Best Ever Homemade Pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
2 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
5 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

Liquid Ingredients:
2 ½ cups milk
2 ½ tsp. white vinegar
2 eggs
6 tbsp. melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Fresh fruit can be added if desired. Frozen fruit can change the texture of the batter, fresh is better.

Mix vinegar and milk together and set aside for five minutes to sour. (2 ½ C buttermilk can be used in place of soured milk.)

Whisk dry ingredients together into large bowl.

In separate bowl, mix eggs, soured milk, and vanilla.

Slowly mix in cooled melted butter.

Add liquid mixture to dry mixture and whisk until combined. Fold in fruit if desired.

Pour ¼ cup portions onto hot griddle lightly coated with cooking spray. Flip with spatula once edges brown.

Serve hot with your favorite syrup.

Check out the trailer for Unforgettable You HERE.

Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website.

Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Ham and Broccoli Roll-Ups for Lunch from Sara Daniel:

These are so easy I commissioned my nine-year-old to make them when she wanted to cook dinner for the family to give me a break. (Yes, she can be absolutely adorable when she wants to be, and yes, I still supervised the chopping and the oven.) These roll-ups also make a wonderful appetizer for holiday parties.
Ham and Broccoli Roll-Ups

2 cups chopped broccoli
2 tbsp. parsley flakes
2 tbsp. margarine/butter softened
1 ½ cups shredded Colby-jack/cheddar cheese
2 cups ham chopped
2 (8-roll) cans crescent dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook and drain broccoli.

In a large mixing bowl, combine parsley and margarine. Add cheese, broccoli and ham. Mix. Set aside.

Grease a round pizza pan. (A rectangle cookie sheet works too.) Separate the crescent roll dough into the pre-cut triangles. Arrange triangles around the outer edge of the pan, points hanging over the outside of the pan, bases overlapping. If you have more rolls than the pan will hold, you can use the remaining rolls to make a small inside circle as shown in the picture.

Spoon ham filling evenly over the bases of the triangles. Fold points of triangles over the filling and tuck under the bases toward the center of the pan.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Learn more about Sara Daniel on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Be sure to subscribe to Sara’s newsletter for updates on her latest books and contests.

Sam Cheever dishes up a Super Family Supper:

IMG_7837_120x180 I use thin sliced chicken breast for this recipe, but you can also butterfly and pound whole chicken breasts to ¼ inch thick. 

Chicken with Tomatoes and Basil

5 medium plum tomatoes, diced and seeded
¼ cup packed, fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves sliced or pounded thin (approximately 2 lbs.)

Combine tomatoes, basil, half the oil, vinegar, and garlic in a bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown 3 minutes, or until golden and nearly cooked through, in half the remaining oil. Flip and cook another 2 minutes on the other side. (Cook half at a time and keep the rest warm in a 200°F oven.)

Serve with sweet potatoes mashed with milk and Parmesan cheese. Arrange the chicken on a plate with a scoop of mashed sweet potatoes and spoon a generous amount of the tomato mixture and juice over the top. Delicious and pretty!

Sam Cheever writes mainstream romantic suspense and fantasy, all heat levels; and Declan Sands for M/M romantic suspense and fantasy. Her books are fast paced and fun loving. Not one of them will solve a single world problem, but you definitely won’t be bored while reading them!

Sam’s published work includes 40+ works of young adult, romantic suspense, and fantasy/paranormal. Her books have won the Dream Realm Award for fantasy, been nominated and/or won several CAPAs, were nominated for Best of 2010 with LRC and The Romance Reviews, and won eCataromance’s Reviewer’s Choice award. She is published with Ellora’s Cave, both Romantica and Blush; Changeling Press; Electric Prose Publications (her own imprint), Musa Publishing, and Red Rose Publishing.

She lives on a hobby farm in Indiana with 13 dogs, 2 horses, and one husband.

Learn more about Sam Cheever on her blog Eclectic Insights. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. You can also find Sam on Goodreads.

Monday, 16 December 2013

In the Limelight with Middle Grade Author Mikey Brooks...

Welcome to the Official Blog Tour of:
Book Two in The Dream Keeper Chronicles

A thrilling fantasy-adventure series for middle-grade reader!

Don't forget to check out the GIVEAWAY
at the bottom of this page for a chance
to win one of over 30 prizes! 


Interview with Mikey Brooks:

1.     How long have you been writing, Mikey?
I started writing when I was about twelve. At the time I lived with my grandparents in a rural town in Missouri. Our nearest neighbor was about a mile away and the farm house was surrounded by dense, dark woods. Those woods served as the backdrop of many stories. 

2.      Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write The Dreamstone?
The idea for The Dreamstone came about as I was writing the ending to The Dream Keeper. There was this hidden side plot that kept creeping to the surface as I was writing book 1. By the time I wrote the last chapter of The Dream Keeper I had the whole story outlined in my head for the second book. Originally the idea came as I was trying to fall asleep. I was wishing there was someone who could just escort me to Dreams…seconds later, there was Gladamyr (the dream keeper).

3.      What sets The Dreamstone apart from other books in the same genre?
I had a hard time getting a publisher to first pick up this book because it is so different from other books in its genre. Reviewers have compared it to the action of Percy Jackson and the magic of Fablehaven, but the story is not like them. It’s a story of self-discovery and finding the courage to stand up for who you are. The magic and action are just there to move the story along.  

4.      As an author, Mikey, what is your writing process?
I first start with an idea. Now it can be anywhere from a cool scene or a concept I want to explorer. I then create a rough outline of the plot. Then I try and find the best characters to fill that story. Sometimes the characters come first—Gladamyr was one of those. The rest just seem to find their way in. I then set to it. I write chronologically. I have skipped over stuff and gone back but that always proved to mess the story up later on. So I’m an outliner.

5.      How long did it take for you to start and finish The Dreamstone?
It’s funny when I am asked this. The first book took me almost 3 years to write. I was going to school full-time as well as working full-time. It got bits and pieces along the way. After I had finished writing that I started on book 2, The Dreamstone. It took me a little over a month to write out the first draft. I then had it sit there as I queried agents and editors for The Dream Keeper. It sat there too long. I am excited to have it out.

6.      Do you have any advice for other writers, Mikey?
Never, ever give up! Know that what you have is a gift—a gift to tell a story is indeed a form of magic.

7.     What’s next for Mikey Brooks the author?
More and more books. The final installment in The Dream Keeper Chronicles, The Dream Makers, will come out in summer 2014. I have a standalone Narnian tale, The Stone of Valhalla, coming out in the spring as well as a picture book I wrote with my wife, ABC Adventures: Cooking with Kids. There are others in the wings waiting to hit the stage but so far that’s all I have scheduled. I love to write for kids and as long they keep reading I’ll keep writing.

8.      Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?
I’d have to say the 17 century. I’ve always loved Alexandre Dumas and his tales of swordfights and noble brotherhood. I think kids would love to see the age of Musketeers and swashbuckling action. There is so much you could explore in a time period like that. Especially if a girl was involved; the roles of men and women were so different back then. Would our heroin have to disguise herself as a boy to get the respect of the other musketeers? It would be a fun adventure.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I am excited to announce the release of book two in middle-grade fantasy series THE DREAMSTONE. It is an action-packed adventure with a toe in both the real world and the fantastic. 


Dorothy called it Oz, 
Alice called it Wonderland, 
but Nightmares call it HOME. 

When Parker’s mom is dreamnapped by the wicked Mab, it is up to him and Kaelyn to save her. When they return to Dreams, they discover Mab isn’t their only problem. Gladamyr has lost his powers and the only way to get them back is to become what he fears the most—a nightmare.

In Book 1, The Dream Keeper, Parker and Kaelyn discovered that Dreams was a real place that everyone visits while they sleep. An evil nightmare named Fyren took control of the gateway to that world. Parker and Kaelyn teamed up with Gladamyr, the only dream keeper to escape capture by Fyren, and together they save Dreams from Fyren’s rule. After the defeat of Fyren the children return to Awake to find Mab, Fyren’s next in command, has dreamnapped Parker’s mom. 

The story continues in Book 2, The Dreamstone, as the children return to Dreams to save Parker’s mom. Finding her, however, is not their only problem. Mab has waged a war on the Crossing and has sent an army of dragons to bring it down, nightmares have been released from prison, and Gladamyr has lost his powers to shape-shift. Parker, Kaelyn, and Gladamyr must once again defy all odds to set things right and save Parker’s mom before it’s too late.    

“The Dreamstone, by Mikey Brooks, is a wild stallion of a story: fast, thrilling, and unpredictable. I was hooked in chapter one. If he can snare the attention of an old reader like me, he’ll have kids sneaking this one into class underneath their text books…If this one isn’t a kid-pleaser, I don’t know what is.” –Michelle Isenhoff, author of the Divided Decade Trilogy and the Taylor Davis Series.

“This really is a cracking novel. Action-packed and spellbinding!”—Cas Peace, author of The Artisans of Albia series.

"If you like the Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, or the Harry Potter series, you'll love this!" –An Amazon Reviewer.

Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC ADVENTURES: MAGICAL CREATURES and BEAN’S DRAGONS as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series THE DREAM KEEPER CHRONICLES. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator and cover designer. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at:
Now Available in Audiobook!


Hardback: 978-1-939993-22-9, Paperback: 978-1-939993-23-6, eBook: 978-1-939993-24-3

Hardback: $19.95, Paperback: $12.99, EBook: $2.99.


10 winners will receive a gift bag with numerous signed books marks, 
collector cards, wrists bands, and a handmade dream key necklace.

Paperback Books:

Can You Survive? Treasure Island, by Blake Hoena

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer, by Lisa Cole Orchard

Color of Freedom, by Michelle Athearn Isenhoff

Explorer X-Alpha, by Lm Preston

Gangsterland, by Ansha Kotyk

Cycles, by Lois Brown
Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury, by L.R.W Lee
Princess Kandake, by Stephanie Jefferson
Weight of the Crown, by Stephanie Jefferson
Arrow of the Mist, by Christina Mercer
Cassidy Jones, by Elise Stokes
The Seventh Attendant, by Elise Stokes
Curse at Zala Manor, by BBH McChiller
The Curse of the Double Digits, by Lynn Kelley
Into the Forest and Down the Tower, by Ann T. Bugg
Off to Camp and Discovering Art, by Ann T. Bugg
Agency, by Shantal Hiatt
Psyched, by Juli Caldwell
Ragesong, by J.R. Simmons

Secret Sisters Club, by Monique Bucheger
Trouble Blows West, by Monique Bucheger
The Alien Mind, by Virginia Jennings
The Last Time Keepers, by Sharon Ledwith
Frogs & Toads, by Stacy Lynn Carroll
Nexus Point, by Jaleta Clegg
Warrior Beautiful, by Wendy Knight
Shahira and the Flying Elfs, by Anna del C Dye (PDF)

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