Monday, 26 December 2016

Relax and Spice up your Holidays...

The holidays are here! Kids have big smiles, and adults are gearing up for parties with their neighbors or loved ones. The anticipation of being with family and friends deserves a festive appetizer. So, juice up your taste buds and dive into my easy to make spicy dip.

Family Fiesta Dip

250g package of cream cheese (soft)

1 tbsp. margarine

½ cup of mayonnaise

1 small jar of salsa (vegetable chunk style)

1 medium red pepper, finely chopped

1 medium green pepper, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

3 green onions, finely chopped

1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I prefer the nacho or tex-mex brand)

1 bag of Tortilla chips

MIX cream cheese, margarine, and mayonnaise until smooth. Spread in a medium-sized dish with edges to prevent spill over.

COVER with salsa – not too much so it’s not runny.

LAYER as follows: chopped red pepper, chopped green pepper, chopped tomato, chopped green onions, and then top with shredded cheese.

REFRIGERATE before serving. Serve with tortilla chips (and napkins).

While you’re waiting for the Family Fiesta Dip to set, why not kick back on the couch by the fire or wherever you’re enjoying your holidays and take a trip back into time with The Last Timekeepers time travel series. Season Greetings and Happy New Year to all my readers and followers! Cheers!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Author Sharon Bidwell gets into the Holiday Spirit with her #Free Christmas Download...

A new series set after the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Web of Fear follows the adventures of Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart spanning the four years from when he was a colonel in the Scots Guards to his
promotion to brigadier and head of the UK branch of UNIT. Candy Jar Books brings additional life to Lethbridge-Stewart, fully licensed by the executor of the Haisman Literary Estate, Hannah Haisman, and endorsed by Henry Lincoln. Whilst the series is not restricted to Young Adult fiction its intention is to maintain that family-friendly feel balancing the classic with a sense of modernity, suitable for almost all.

To get a feel for the series, visit Candy Jar Books offers and drop down to the bottom of the page for this year’s Christmas free download.


Candy Jar Books is pleased to announce its latest brand new free story!

The Wishing Bazaar by Sharon Bidwell will be sent out to all subscription customers, and those who pre-order the forthcoming novel, Blood of Atlantis by Simon A Forward.

Sharon Bidwell was born in London on New Year’s Eve. She has been writing professionally for
many years, with her first short story receiving praise for being “strong on characterisation, and quite literary, in terms of style”. Her work has appeared steadily in both print and electronic publications, such as Midnight Street, Aoife’s Kiss, Night To Dawn, and  Radgepacket. She was propelled into the universe of Steampunk as one of the writers for Space: 1899 & Beyond, winning the approval of series creator and award-winning game designer, Frank Chadwick. She wrote three books in the series, one of which was co-authored with editor (and writer) Andy Frankham-Allen. The Wishing Bazaar is her first piece of Doctor Who related fiction.

Range Editor Andy Frankham-Allen says: “I first met Sharon via the wonderful world of social media back in, I think, 2009. I was very impressed with her work, and soon enlisted her for my Space: 1889 & Beyond series. Her work ethic was proven to me when a novella fell through at the last minute and she agreed to co-author a replacement with me – which we did, in only two weeks! Sharon’s first drafts are often better than a lot of published works out there, and from the off I told her that I would get her writing for the Lethbridge-Stewart series. She resisted for all of five minutes.”

Sharon says: “I've written for and with Andy before with great success, so I was not entirely surprised when he got in contact about his latest project. For one thing, he'd been 'hinting' for some time that he wanted to rope me in and Andy isn't someone who understands no as an answer. Whenever I hear from Andy, I never know whether to cheer or groan. All those who write novels for well-known television shows now have my utmost respect. Some find it easy; for others the experience feels difficult and involves a lot of angst. I'm one of those worriers. Despite the responsibility, Andy has dragged me into incredible worlds and stories that are part of history and there's no way not to be grateful for that. Invariably the experience of writing for Lethbridge-Stewart was, for me, daunting, exciting, fun, and adventurous…a bit like the character himself.”

Shaun Russell, head of publishing at Candy Jar, says: “Sharon was an unknown quantity for me, but I knew that Andy had worked with her before, so I was more than happy to see what she’d come up with. Having read her short story, and looked up her other work, I now believe she’s going to be a wonderful addition to our stable of authors on this series.”

This story is set between Times Squared and Blood of Atlantis.

Blurb: Back from New York, Lethbridge-Stewart is investigating one of the strangest cases that has come across his desk yet. Wishes are coming true, and if there’s one thing Lethbridge-Stewart still doesn’t believe in it’s magic. But what if he’s wrong?

The cover of The Wishing Bazaar is by regular cover artist, Richard Young. Richard says: “I adore
working with Candy Jar, and their cover briefs are always so specific, but this one was rather ambiguous as there were several elements that I could have used on the cover. I decided to concentrate on the alien of the piece. One passage of the story mentioned its burning eyes. Using a combination of traditional drawing and then colourisation in Photoshop (to really get the blazing eyes right), this is what I came up with. And I'm pleased to say everyone loved it.”

The Wishing Bazaar will be sent out to every person who pre-orders Blood of Atlantis (as a single book, or as part of our bundle/subscription offers).

Blood of Atlantis can be pre-ordered individually, or as part of the Series 3 Bundle (both UK and overseas), which includes the previous novel, Times Squared by Rick Cross, and the forthcoming novel, Mind of Stone by Iain McLaughlin, or the subscription deal for those wishing to get six books for the price of five.

Candy Jar is pleased to announce that the subscription offer is now being extended to international customers. Please see for more details.

Candy Jar is also offering a special promotion for its online customers. Buy Blood of Atlantis for £8.99 and get Times Squared for £5. This promotion also applies to six other Candy Jar titles. Please see for more details.

Monday, 19 December 2016

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!

Since it’s less than a week before Christmas, I thought I’d share the movie trailer of my favorite version of A Christmas Carol starring British actor Alastair Sim made in 1951. Love Mr. Sim’s take on Ebenezer Scrooge, he’s truly an original!

Wishing you and your families a very safe and happy holiday season, and a prosperous 2017! 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, 12 December 2016

Tis the Season to go Dutch…

You sure work up an appetite fighting fascism, saving the world, and helping out the Dutch Resistance. In my newest time travel adventure, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, my characters got to taste some of basic Dutch food such as cheese, bread, and fish (herring) stew. Yum. It’s too bad the time travelers didn’t get to check out some of the must-try Dutch treats while they were in Amsterdam during 1942, but they had bigger fish to fry, and a Timekeeper mission to complete. So, I thought I’d compile a list of some Dutch goodies in case you ever get a chance to visit the Netherlands.

Stamppot: One of the best known Dutch dishes is stamppot, an old-style Dutch dish. It is made of mashed potatoes mixed with one or more vegetables like kale, carrots, endive or sauerkraut. Stamppot is traditionally served during the winter and enjoyed best with rookworst (smoked sausage).

Broodje kroket: The ‘kroket’ is a deep fried roll with meat ragout inside, covered in breadcrumbs. The original Dutch ‘kroket’ is made from beef or veal, but there are many different flavors like chicken satay, shrimps, goulash or even a vegetarian ‘kroket’. You can eat a ‘kroket’ as a snack, but most of the time they are served on sliced white bread or hamburger buns with mustard on the side—even fancy restaurants serve them. Caution: the ‘kroket’ can be extremely hot inside.

Bitterballen: Translated as bitter balls When you go for drinks or visit a birthday party it is most likely that these little, round, often dangerously hot snacks are served.  They are battered in a crunchy breadcrumb coating and filled with a gooey mixture of chopped beef, beef broth, flour, butter, herbs and spices. They are typically served with mustard for dipping. The red-white-and-blue flag is also nearly mandatory while serving them!

Stroopwafel: This delicious chewy cookie the stroopwafel—translated as a syrup waffle—was first made in the town of Gouda in the Netherlands during the 18th century. In fact, until 1870 stroopwafels were made only in Gouda and there were about 100 bakeries selling these treats in that city alone. This sweet waffle made from two thin layers of batter with a sticky syrup filling in the middle. They can be purchased in packages at nearly every grocery store and bakery in the Netherlands, as well as freshly made at street stands at markets and festivals.

And this food choice somehow made me cringe…

Fries (Patatje Oorlog): While fries are popular in nearly every corner of the world, in the Netherlands they eat them with everything on it. And with everything they mean Patatje Oorlog (Fries like War). Fries with peanut butter, sauce, ketchup, mayo, onions and if you wish, you can put curry on it too! Um…I think I’ll stick to gravy or ketchup.

These treats are just a sampling of what the Dutch have to offer. So why not try something a little different and go Dutch for the upcoming holiday season? Do any of these foods whet your appetite? If so, which ones? What other ethnic foods do you savor for the holidays? I would love to know, so please share in the comments below! Cheers and happy holidays!

Monday, 5 December 2016

World War Books for Tweens and Teens…

While at a book fair with my publisher, Mirror World Publishing, a man with his two tween daughters visited our table to peruse our books. We showed the girls a couple of series directed toward their age group, including my series The Last Timekeepers. When I mentioned that Book Two took place during World War Two, the father perked up immediately. His grandfather had fought in WW2, and I passed along that my grandfather fought in WW1. He shared that he wanted his girls to learn as much as they could about the World Wars, especially the sacrifices many soldiers made during those wars. Dad ended up buying my book, which truly made my night, but prompted me to think: What books have been written to teach our children about what the people went through during those two world wars? So, I did a little digging and came up with these six gems for tweens and teens which would make wonderful gifts for the upcoming holiday season:

Charlie Wilcox by Sharon E. McKay

Charlie Wilcox, a Newfoundlander, is interested in one thing only: going to sea, just like his father and uncles. He'll make his family proud. His parents have different plans for him, however: they want him to go to university. Humiliated, Charlie sets out to prove he can measure up to the men in his family, and stows away on a sealing ship. It's only when they are far out to sea, and he is discovered, that he realizes he's on a troopship bound for France!

Alone in Europe, he manages as best he can. He finds a regiment of fellow Newfoundlanders, and because he's too young to fight he works as a stretcher bearer instead. The trenches along the front lines of the Somme are no place for anyone, but especially for a kid, and it's very hard not to be afraid. Especially on the morning of July 1, 1916, when Charlie's friends are ordered out of their trenches and over the top, and the German guns are waiting for them...

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

Night Flyers (Mysteries Through Time) by Elizabeth McDavid Jones

In 1918, caring for her family's homing pigeons while her father is away fighting in World War I, twelve-year-old Pam comes to suspect that a mysterious stranger in her small North Carolina town is a German spy.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.
But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes
Florence, Italy, 1944: The city is under heavy Nazi occupation, but for thirteen-year-old Paolo, war is a long and boring wait. Too young to fight for the resistance, yet desperate for action and adventure, he sneaks out each night to ride his bicycle along the darkened city streets. For Paolo, the risk is thrilling.
But when he is accosted by Partisans―covert members of the anti-Nazi movement―thrilling quickly becomes dangerous as Paolo and his family are thrust into a terrifying and impossible situation. Finally at the center of the action, Paolo must figure out once and for all whether he has what it takes to truly be a hero.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.

In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.

In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
Those are only a smattering of what books are out there on World War One and World War Two for tweens. Some of these books I’ve heard of, others I haven’t. Some have even been made into movies. I don’t think this generation will ever know what the veterans and victims of the two world wars went through, but by creating an emotional response in a young reader, it’s a step in the right direction to connect them with the brave men and women who served and sacrificed during those terrible wars.