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Archive for July, 2011

Savory Biscuits: Sesame Crackers

There’s nothing nicer than sitting down with a glass of wine and a few nibbles on a Saturday afternoon, so I thought I’d try my hand at making some crackers. This recipe is taken from Allyson Gofton’s The Great New Zealand Baking Book. These crackers are fairly low in fat, which counteracts a delicious topping!

Sesame Crackers

Sesame Crackers
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
½ cup chilled water

Put the flours, salt and baking soda into a food processor. Toast the sesame seeds in the butter until lightly golden and add to flour mix. Mix the yoghurt and water together and with the motor running pour the liquid down the feed tube. Process until the mixture forms a soft ball of dough.

Sesame Crackers

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly. Cover with a clean towel and stand for 10 minutes.
Roll the dough out very thinly. Cut into preferred shapes and place on a greased tray. Prick the crackers all over with a fork.

Sesame Crackers

Bake at 180C for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a cake rack. Store in an airtight container.

Sesame Crackers

Shelley’s notes:
Our crackers weren’t rolled thinly enough. Next time I’d roll them much thinner.
We added poppy seeds to ours as well. You could add just about any type of seeds or herbs. I think ground black pepper or rosemary might be nice.
We had salmon and cream cheese plus olive tapenade on our crackers

Promotion Secrets with Author Maria Zannini

My special guest today is author, Maria Zannini who recently self-published a paranormal romance called The Devil to Pay. Maria has been out on the virtual road with the Indie Roadshow where she tells writers about her self-publishing journey and the things she’s learned along the way. Today Maria is talking about promotion, which I know is something many writers struggle with and don’t enjoy. Over to Maria…

The Indie Roadshow

Psst. Do you want to know the secret to good promotion? You might be surprised when I tell you because it’s been in front of you the whole time.

Ready for it?

You have to find the reader, rather than wait for him to find you. And when you do find him you have to talk to your reader and keep him engaged.

Book promotion is time consuming, expensive, and there are no guarantees that your efforts will bear fruit. But a lot of your labor can be cut in half if you focus on the reader and what S/HE needs.

Think about yourself as a reader. You just finished a fantastic book from a new-to-you author and you decide to Google the author to learn more about her. When you reach her blog, all you find are advertisements for more books. It feels like a bit of letdown, doesn’t it?

To attract the reader your best bet is to go to his haunts. And when it comes to indie publishing most of those avid readers will be found at book blogs, reading forums, book clubs, and book outlets (like Amazon).

Most of these outlets are free to you, though some might require asking for an invitation to appear. Others, like Goodreads and Shelfari welcome you as long as you keep the pimping low-key.

And there’s still room for legitimate advertising. LASR (Long and Short Reviews) and The Romance Studio are two I’ve used. Both offer low-priced packages and get a ton of traffic.

Here are a list of options for you to consider that are either low cost or no cost.

Buy advertising packages at a book-centric web sites. (Make sure they get a lot of traffic.)
• LASR (Long and Short Reviews)
• The Romance Studio
Coffee Time Romance
• All Romance ebooks

Share yourself
• Guest blogging. Double your mileage and blog at places where you’re lesser known.
• Forums, such as Kindleboards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, and genre-specific forums

Talk to book bloggers about:
• Reviews
• Interviews
• Guest posts

Give your book away
Liz Fichera had a marvelous idea when she gave away her arc for Craving Perfect to ten people who would agree to review it. With an indie book, there are no limitations on how many books you can give away. Be generous. Word of mouth is priceless.

Go where the readers are like:

Finally, don’t leave out television and radio. It might be difficult to nab a guest spot, but if you have a small station locally, you’ll reach an audience you might not otherwise find.

It’s scary to put yourself out there because you don’t always know how you’ll be received, but if you’ve written the best book you can, all that’s left is to be the kind of author people want to know.

And I’ll tell you my personal secret for promoting myself. I comment on many different blogs. Not a ‘hi, I like your site’ comment, but something personal and thoughtful. If you leave short and intriguing comments, I promise you, people will follow you back.


I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil to Pay

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

Thursday Thirteen

I have author, Miranda Neville visiting me today. She’s celebrating the release of her historical romance, The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, which is out at Avon on July 26. Her heroine, Celia is taming a dandy, among other things. Please welcome Miranda and read on to learn about Celia…

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

1. The hero starts out needing a good kick in the behind. Tarquin Compton is London’s social leader, famous for his fine figure, perfect dress, and poisonously witty tongue. Someone needs to take him down a peg, or three.

2. Celia Seaton is the woman to do it. He ruined her marriage prospects and she’s angry.

3. When she finds him the wilderness, having lost his memory and most of his clothes, she tells him his name is Terence Fish and they are betrothed.

4. Tarquin isn’t pleased, but “Terence” turns out to be a different guy than she expected: kind, brave, amusing – and really hot.

5. In fact he’s just the man to help her escape across the moors, pursued by the villains who kidnapped her.

6. Tarquin happens to have a naughty novel with him, which Celia finds highly educational. And you know what happens when a man and a woman spend several days alone together. There’s a reason they used to have chaperones.

7. They fall in love.

8. Tarquin gets his memory back and the real trouble starts. He goes back to being the rude dandy she hates so much. Or does he? Perhaps he’s changed.

9. A house party in a ducal mansion provides opportunities for late night corridor prowling.

10. We find out why Tarquin became the way he is – and how he discovers the socially unacceptable Celia is the woman he wants and needs.

11. We learn what Celia’s kidnappers want – and how it relates to the shameful secrets of her past.

12. We meet the villains, some more desperate – and more villainous – than others and learn how our intrepid hero and heroine foil them (of course) as true love overcomes all obstacles (of course)

13. The thirteenth point I leave up to you. What would you like to know?

The Amourous Education of Celia Seaton Blurb:

Being kidnapped teaches Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life

Never disrobe in front of a gentleman … unless his request comes at gunpoint.

If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.

If offered an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.

Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.

Purchase The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

To learn more about Miranda and her books visit her website.

CONTEST: Miranda is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card to one commenter during her blog tour. The winner will be drawn at the conclusion of Miranda’s tour. For full details and more chances to win follow the VBT for The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

In Search of The Sun!

It’s winter here in New Zealand, and I’m looking out the window at the rain. I could do with some sun! This photo was taken on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. Hubby and I were sitting at our favorite bar on the beach, drinks in hand and people watching, when I saw this cute little boy.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

If you’re spending time in the sun today, tell me about it. Let me pretend it’s warm and summery here in New Zealand…

Easy Homemade Chocolate Bath Salts

Chocolate Bath SaltsChocolate Bath Salts

Here’s a very easy recipe for homemade Chocolate Bath Salts. Maybe a good school holiday project for children?

Chocolate Bath Salts

1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup sea salt or kosher salt (coarse grain)
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp oil (almond, olive or sunflower will work)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a clean bowl. Add the vanilla extract and oil. Mix well to ensure oil is completely blended. Transfer to small clean jars or cello bags and close tightly. Sprinkle 1 – 2 spoonfuls in your bathtub, lie back in the water and relax.

* I added some baking soda to my mix to make my bath salts fizzy.
* I also omitted the vanilla extract and added 5 drops of peppermint essential oil.
* I gave jars to family members for Christmas.
* The Epsom salts and sea salt is good for soothing sore muscles and aches and pains.
* Make sure you read the recipe properly. My chocolate salts were a bit more chocolately than they should be because I put 3 Tablespoons of cocoa instead of 3 teaspoons. Duh!

Tempting Double Pea Curry

I’ve made this new-to-me recipe for Double Pea Curry twice now. The recipe comes from The Best of Annabel Langbein, Great Food for Busy Lives by New Zealander Annabel Langbein. It’s a vegetarian recipe and is quick and easy to make. This is a perfect dish for me to make when I’ve had a busy day and want something tasty for dinner because the ingredients are usually found in my pantry.

Double Pea Curry

Double Pea Curry

1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 cinnamon quills
3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 x 300g (10.1 oz) cans of chickpeas
1 diced red pepper (capsicum)
400g (14oz) can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 cup green peas, thawed if frozen
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped toasted cashews
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the garlic, spices and tomato paste for 30 seconds.
Add the chickpeas, red pepper, tomatoes, peas, salt and pepper.
Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add water if the mixture appears too dry – it should be moist but not sloppy by the end of cooking.
Mix in the cashews and coriander.
Serves 4 – 6

Shelley’s notes:
I halved the recipe.
I decided to add chopped onion, which I fried off with the spices.
I didn’t worry too much about precise measurements for the chickpeas and tomatoes, adding one can of each. It all worked out in the end.
Ms. Langbein notes that this recipe freezes well.

Rituals, Yams & Pentecost Island

During our recent holiday we were lucky enough to stop off at Pentecost Island. It’s a mountainous island, which is covered with lush green trees.

Each year between April and June, the men in the southern part of the island jump 20 to 30 meters from tall, very rickety looking towers with vines tied to their feet. The ritual is believed to ensure a good yam harvest and is also used to show acceptance into manhood.

On the day we visited Pentecost, it was very hot and humid. The adult men chanted while several young boys climbed the tower and prepared to jump. Medical staff from the cruise ship were on hand in case of injuries. Below the tower is an area of tilled soil and the vines must be carefully tied, the length judged so that when the man/boy land dives, his hair will just touch the soil. The ritual cannot be performed too early in the year because the vines aren’t elastic enough to bear weight.

I watched two land dives and couldn’t watch any more. It was the creaks and groans of the vines that I didn’t like. The sounds raised the hairs at the back of my neck. There was the creak and then a thump when the diver hit the ground. The first young boy was obviously winded because he took a while to get to his feet. An older man whisked him up and the crowd cheered. I heard later that some of the young boys jumped twice. In my opinion they must have rattled their brains the first time. I can think of better ways to ensure a good yam harvest. Manure, anyone?

Pentecost Island

Here’s a photo of the tower. As I mentioned, it doesn’t look very strong. There are actually people standing on the tower, getting ready to jump, but it’s difficult to see them. I refused to walk any closer to get a good photo. The land diving wasn’t my cup of tea!

It’s said that AJ Hackett got the idea of bungee jumping after hearing about the land divers.

What do you think of this ritual for ensuring a good crop?

Writing A Book With Another Author

I’d like to welcome Mina Carter and Bethany J Barnes who are celebrating the release of their Sci-fi Erotic Romance, Taming the Wildcat, which was released by Summerhouse Publishing earlier this month. Please give them a warm welcome and make sure you take the time to enter their contest. Over to BJ and Mina…

Hi all *waves madly* I’d like to thank Shelley for hosting BJ and I today. We promise not to break anything, or scare anyone off (maybe)!

Mina: Today we’re going to be talking about co-authoring. Personally, I love co-authoring. Writing can be a very solitary activity (just ask any author’s family). Very often I can hole up for weeks at a time with my laptop and a host of notebooks, snarling at anyone who tries to disturb my writing time and eating a year’s supply of chocolate. (I’ve always maintained I’m in shape. Round is a shape, right?)

Co-authoring alleviates the loneliness that comes with the writing territory. I talk themes, motivations and plot to my husband and he gives me a blank look. The same can be said for my friends, until I’m reduced to muttering to myself and people look at me as though I’m mad. Unless they know me, then they already KNOW I’m mad.

Anyway…co-authors. Finding a person to write with is like an epiphany (or at the very least a damn good chocolate sundae). Suddenly you have a person who will not only listen whilst you rabbit on about your newest shiny plot with all its characters and their subplots but…they actually talk back. Far from avoiding eye contact and making a break for the door, they make comments, ask questions and add to the plot.

From navigating your own course through the choppy world of the first draft, where you have to fight awkward characters, writers block and plot issues, you have back up :D Someone to work through a scene with, help you with that trouble sentence, slap you when you’ve used the same word twenty times in the last two paragraphs (you laugh, I’m good at that one!).

Mina: BJ and I spend hours writing together over the somewhat clunky medium of skype. We each take a character and write primarily for that person. I’m a plotter, so we tend to have a plot worked out in advance (after we’ve hunted and pinned down a couple of the ever present plot bunnies) and then we write over the course of a couple of weeks.

BJ: I don’t talk to my husband about writing. He’s very analytical and has no imagination (unless it involves ways for him to be the goofy and annoying). He also doesn’t read. Not he can’t read, he chooses not to. He’d rather wait for a movie if a book sounds interesting. The most I can get out of him is for him to keep me supplied with Coca-Cola (I don’t drink coffee. I know! The lifeblood of authors the world round and I don’t drink it. Coke is my caffeine of choice), Doritos and chocolate in various forms.

Co-authoring is something rather new to me. I can thank and blame Mina for setting my feet on that path in the first place. We met and became friends through a mutual friend (waves spastically to Nic). When Mina found out I was writing a book, we started talking about it and she became interested in hearing more about it. She offered to become my crit partner and from then on, we talked about each other’s writing. Finding someone to be able to talk about characters and plots with was incredible. Someone as crazy (and sometimes crazier) as I was about writing and great characters? Awesome! She also started telling me about another form of writing she was involved in. Star Trek based RPG (role playing game). She had several characters that I became interested in and eventually, as with all of her writing, I was hooked.

Writing on the sims was the first time I had ever written with anyone else. I totally blame her for getting me hooked on the sims. Writing with others was FUN! When it ended up that the character I created sounded like she’d be a good match for one of Mina’s characters’ sons, the mother of all plot bunnies reared its head. Pretty soon, we were talking about what they’d be like together. That’s how Roz and Summer came to life. From the amount of story that was quickly filling up our heads about them, we knew that we had to write about them in a book so we could explore their characters in ways we couldn’t on the sim. Hehehehe…that translates into sex as well as character development. We didn’t want to limit their interactions when it came to how they met.

Now, co-authoring is one of my favorite things to do, even though I’m still learning as I go along. Writing with Mina is an absolute adventure and joy. I’m very blessed that she took me under her wing and showed me the ropes on how to write with another person. We’re still getting ambushed on a daily basis by rabid plot bunnies that keep telling us about this couple or that one. So far we’ve got more bunnies than we have time to write, but we’ll get around to writing more in the Sargosian Chronicles soon.

We just have to shoot or stomp on the plot bunnies that keep popping up when we’re trying to focus on current projects or they’d take over. I don’t know who I’m kidding here…they took over a while ago. Between them and the muses (for me the characters become the muse and let me tell you they are very vocal about how they should be written or what they would or wouldn’t do), I’ve had to embrace the insanity. I’ve always been crazy, but this is an all new level of coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs!

Disclaimer: No plot bunnies were harmed in the making of this post. *snickers* No…really. They are all safe and sound…for now.

Thank you so much Shelley, for letting us stop by so we could blog about co-authoring. Seriously, if anyone could see what goes into our Skype chats besides our writing, they’d wonder if we were drinking whacky juice or taking some mind altering pharmaceuticals. We aren’t, by the way…we just have that much fun together.

I’ve often wondered, before I did this myself, how people wrote books together. I always wondered how they meshed their ideas together. Now I know and hopefully, we’ve explained it a bit for your readers.

Mina CarterMina Carter was born and raised in Middle Earth (otherwise known as the Midlands, England). After a slew of careers ranging from logistics to land-surveying she can now be found in the wilds of Leicestershire with her husband and young daughter…the true boss of the family.

Suffering the curse of eternal curiosity Mina never tires of learning new skills which has led to Aromatherapy, Corsetry, Chain-maille making, Welding, Canoeing, Shooting, and pole-dancing to name but a few. A veteran Star Trek RPGer, she’s run both games and groups of games but now finds her home in Bravo Fleet,one of the internet’s oldest Star Trek simm groups.

She juggles being a mum, working full time and writing, tossing another ball in the air with her cover artwork. For Mina, writing time is the wee hours of the morning before anyone wakes up and starts making demands, or any spare minute that can be begged, bought or conned.

Her first stories were penned at age 11, when she used a stationery set meant for Christmas thank you letters to write stories instead. More recently, she wrote for her own amusement and to save on outrageous monthly book bills. Now she’s totally addicted and needs her daily writing fix or heads roll! To learn more about Mina’s books visit her website.

BJ BarnesA fiery-tempered stay at home mom by day, Bethany J. Barnes is really a superhero in disguise. Equally at home creating fantastical worlds and the men and women who inhabit them or driving armed across county to collect a hot male (her gorgeous horse, Tristan), she’ll happily wrestle rattlesnakes, rescue baby owls or perform strenuous casting tests for male leads in her stories. An active RPGer, B.J. is equally happy writing hot paranormal or steamy sci-fi and is the mainstay of many online games. An accomplished photographer, B.J.’s specialties are concert and equine photography. She’s dabbled in wedding photography, but has no patience for Bridezillas.

PS – She’s been known to shoot a bumble bee hovering in midair. Not a lady to be messed with! To learn more about Bethany’s books visit her website.

Mina and Bethany are giving away a $10 Amazon voucher to one commenter during their tour. Increase your chances of winning by following their tour.

Taming the Wildcat


Fresh out of a disciplinary that almost ruined her career and landed her in jail, Summer King is out for a much needed night on the town…or bar district in her local space station. It seems this King girl can’t stay out of trouble though, causing a bar brawl within minutes of her arrival.

Roz Taren is a mercenary, leader of the Wildcats, and a man who knows what he wants. Right now, that’s the pretty girl in the purple dress. Rescuing her from the unwanted attentions of a bunch of drunks lands her right in his bed for the hottest weeked he’s ever experienced.

Then she’s recalled and Roz discovers his little firebird is a fleet pilot aka insane crazy with a side of total fruitloop. Fleet pilots live fast, die young and leave legends behind. When he recieves word her ship is lost with all hands, Roz must bury her along with his heart.

Only this firebird isn’t your garden variety. This bird is a Phoenix…one out to tame a Wildcat.

Purchase Taming the Wildcat

Delicious Orange Muffins

Orange Muffins

This is a new recipe that I tried this week. It comes from The Best of Annabel Langbein, Great Food For Busy Lives. The muffins have an intense orange flavor and would be perfect for a breakfast or brunch. They’re unusual because the entire orange, including peel, is used in the recipe. I know – I had to read the recipe twice before I really believed I had to put the peel in as well as the flesh of the orange.

Orange Muffins

1 orange, preferably an organic one
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup orange juice
1 egg
120 g butter, melted (1 stick of butter)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).

Cut the whole, unpeeled orange into chunks and remove the pips. Puree in a blender. Add the raisins, orange juice, egg and melted butter and blitz briefly to combine.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar.

Add the liquid mixture and gently fold in until evenly combined. Don’t beat or overmix.

Spoon into greased muffin pans (I used muffin paper cases) and bake for 15 minutes or until risen and cooked through.

The recipe makes 12 small or 10 medium muffins.

Shelley’s notes:
I like cranberries, so I replaced the raisins and used cranberries instead
The cooking time will be less if you use a fan bake oven. I cooked mine for 12 minutes.

Verdict: Will I make these again? Heck, yeah. They were delicious!