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Archive for April, 2013

Recipe: Tasty Pumpkin Salad

Pumpkin Salad

Pumpkin Salad

Ingredients

· pumpkin, diced in bite-size cubes

· cumin seeds

· cooking oil

· feta cheese

· chopped red onion

· olives, black or green

· can of cooked chickpeas

· green beans, sliced

· vinaigrette dressing [balsamic is really good]

Directions

1. Sprinkle the cumin seeds and oil on the pumpkin and roast in the oven until browned and cooked. Place cooked pumpkin in a large bowl.

2. Slice the onion and add to the pumpkin.

3. Add the drained chickpeas and olives to the pumpkin.

4. Boil the green beans until cooked and add to the pumpkin.

5. Cube feta and add.

6. Dress with vinaigrette, toss lightly and serve either hot or cold.

7. Vary the quantities of each ingredient above to suit the number of diners. Use lemon juice as an alternative to vinaigrette. Balsamic vinaigrette works nicely with this salad. Serve as either a salad or a side dish.

Shelley’s notes:

1. Substitute some of the pumpkin for potato or kumara (sweet potato). Sometimes I also bake small onions and cloves of garlic as well, which is very tasty.

2. This is a great dish for vegetarians or it can be used as a salad or side dish for meat-eaters.

Thirteen Facts About Pigs

Thursday Thirteen

Since many of my discussions with my sister this week have centered on farming and animals I thought I’d do a TT on pigs.

Thirteen Facts About Pigs

Pig, Royal Easter Show, Sydney

1. The domestic pig are descendants of the wild boars of Europe and Africa.

2. Male pigs are called boars. Female pigs are called sows. Baby pigs are called piglets. A group of pigs is a herd.

3. Pigs are highly intelligent and can be taught tricks. Remember the movie, Babe?

4. Pigs can be very dangerous, especially wild pigs, and they’re very speedy when they want to be. Just ask my sister!

5. Some pigs have curly tails while others have straight tales.

6. The valves from pig hearts are used to replace damaged ones in humans.

7. Pigs have an excellent sense of smell. They’re expert at finding truffles.

8. Pigs live for 9 – 15 years, although some of the sows my father owns are much older  (around 20)

9. Pigs are very clean animals in that they don’t soil their sleeping areas or where they eat.

10. Sows bear 8 – 12 piglets in a litter and can have two litters a year.

11. Pigs can get sunburned (especially pink pigs) and require shelter from the sun.

12. Pigs don’t have sweat glands, and they wallow in mud to cool down.

13. Pigs make good pets, but a prospective owner should definitely do their research first.

Do you like bacon for breakfast? Crispy or not?

My answer: No, ’cause I eat a mainly vegetarian diet. I do like the smell of bacon cooking though. Hubby likes bacon but not crispy.

ANZAC Day

Tomorrow it’s ANZAC day (25 April) where New Zealand and Australia remember those who fell at Gallipoli during World War 1.

A few years ago, Mr. Munro and I visited ANZAC Cove and Chunuk Bair in Turkey. We walked from ANZAC Cove up to Chunuk Bair. It was sweltering hot and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top. We didn’t have packs. We didn’t have people shooting at us. I don’t know how the soldiers managed during the heat of battle.

Every year they hold a special service at ANZAC Cove where Australians, New Zealanders and the Turkish people remember.

Here are a few photos. (They’re scanned so the quality isn’t as good as it could be)

Trenches_ANZAC Cove

This is taken from Chunuk Bair and is of the view out toward ANZAC Cove. You can see the trenches in the foreground.

Chunuk Bair

This is the New Zealand memorial.

ANZAC Cove 

This is ANZAC Cove (click to enlarge photo)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen, written in September 1914

Please take a moment to remember the fallen from past battles. Without their sacrifices our lives would be very different.

When Author Promo Goes Over The Top

Author Cathy Yardley has an excellent post about Selling Books (without being an asshat). She says nobody wants to badger readers — but “if we want to sell books, what else can we do?”  Right? Read the rest of her article here.

I have to say, from my own observations, that my twitter stream is full of “buy me” type posts. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of editing, and now I’ve started working on a new book. Not terribly interesting to read or tweet about. When that happens I like to retweet a couple of posts that I’ve found interesting for some reason or another. Some days it is hard to find a decent post to RT amongst all the white noise of “like me”, “buy me”, “RT me” or “do—” (insert relevant item in the blank area).

On days like this, I shake my head, give up and get back to my current WIP. If anything, I seem to be doing less and less when it comes to promotion and focusing on my next book instead. I thought my sales might drop away because of the lack of promotion, but in truth, my royalties seem to be better than ever. Who knew?

I’m not saying writers shouldn’t do promotion, but maybe think a little harder before you add to the white noise online. Seek to entertain rather than demand attention, and I think you might have a better shot at getting your book noticed.

What do you think?

Thirteen Favorite Animal Encounters

Thursday Thirteen

Regular visitors to my blog will know how much I enjoy travel. When the travel is combined with seeing animals in their natural habitat, I’m there because there is something very special about viewing animals on their home turf.

Here are some of my favorite animal encounters:

Thirteen Favorite and Memorable Animal Encounters

1. Camel – I like camels, and I’ve met quite a few during my travels through the Middle East and Asia, but my favorite meeting was in Egypt. We met up with a herd of camels consisting of mothers and juveniles. Once we mounted our camels, we ambled along with the rest of the herd. It was fun and relaxing. This juvenile camel was very curious and wanted to investigate me at close quarters.

Shell's Camel, Egypt 

2. Giraffe – During a visit to Kenya we visited a giraffe reserve, not far from Nairobi. There you can feed the giraffes and observe them at close quarters. I’ll never forget their abrasive tongues and the feel of giraffe slobber. It was a fun visit!

Giraffe_nairobi

3. Whale – I’ve been whale watching in lots of different locations including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Alaska and Maine. These huge creatures are majestic, and it’s always thrilling to see them in person. This photo of a sperm whale was taken near Kaikoura in New Zealand.

Sperm Whale

4. Baboon – We stayed in cabins in Uganda, and they had a small shop where they sold chocolate including Mars bars. The local kids selling slingshots at the gate should have clued us in. Those baboons went around in gangs, and the animals actually mugged some of the people in our group and stole their Mars bars.

5. Dolphin – I went for a day trip from Auckland to dolphin watch. Once we found the dolphins we spent ages watching them play and surf the bow water.

6. Alpaca – These guys just have so much character. I’d love to own one of these. I guess I need to get some land first.

ChattyAlpaca

7. Moose – Hubby and I came across a queue of cars when we were driving through the Grand Teton area. They had stopped to check out this bull moose that was calmly grazing while tourists clicked photos.

GrandTeton_moose

8. Rhino – When we visited Chitwan National Park in Nepal, we were privileged to see this rhino and baby. It was worth crawling out of our beds early in the morning.

Rhino & baby, Chitwan National Park

9. Snake – We don’t have snakes in New Zealand so any encounter is memorable. Hubby was playing a round of golf on Lindeman Island, which is in the Whitsunday group in Australia. We’d been told there were no snakes on the island. Someone should have told the snake I almost stood on while striding down the fairway! I started looking where I was walking after that.

10. Takahe – It was thought the takahe, one of New Zealand’s native flightless birds was extinct but they were rediscovered in 1945. They’re still very endangered, and are now mostly on offshore islands, which are pest free.

Takahe

11. Elephants – we’ve seen elephants in Africa and also in Asia. They’re such cool creatures. This photo of the baby elephant was taken in Kenya.

Baby elephant, kenya

12. Panda – We visited China two years ago. I wanted  to walk on the Great Wall, see the terracotta soldiers and visit the panda. Not only did I see the panda, I got to hold one. The money raised from tourists goes back into the care and research of pandas. It was worth every dollar.

Panda Shelley

13. Gorilla – My number one animal encounter was with gorillas in Rwanda. I cannot begin to express how magical this was but can still feel the awe and excitement as I watched these animals in the wild. I have an essay about our gorilla encounter on my website.

Gorilla, Rwanda

Do you have a memorable animal encounter to share?

Sorrel Thyme’s Chocolate Bath Salts

Today I’m taking Sorrel Thyme, the heroine from Biding His Thyme, and setting off on a road trip to visit Rachel Firasek. We’re talking a little about herbs and spices since that’s Sorrel’s occupation, and we have an easy recipe to make Chocolate Bath Salts.

In other news, I’ve received a gorgeous cover for Past Regrets, my upcoming release from Samhain Publishing. I’ll share it with you next week.

I’m currently working on two projects: a follow-up story to Past Regrets and I’m doing a read through of a historical story that I hope to sub in a few weeks.

What are you up to at present?

Slow Cooker: Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

The other night I tried this new recipe for a chocolate pudding. It is from Allyson Gofton’s Slow, a book of recipes for a slow cooker or crockpot. I’ve adapted it slightly for my own purposes.

Self-Saucing Chocolate Pudding

Self Sauce Choc Pudding

Ingredients:

3 cups of self-raising flour (I only had plain flour, so I added 3 teaspoons of baking powder)

1/4 cup cocoa

100 grams/7 tablespoons/3.5 ounces butter

1 cup sugar

2 cups milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Chocolate sauce:

3 1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup dark rum or coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

Method:

1. Pre-heat your slow cooker on low.

2. Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and rub in the butter. (I always grate my butter instead of rubbing it in).

3. Add the sugar and combine.

4. Make a well in the center. Beat the milk, eggs and vanilla and mix into the dry ingredients.

5. Pour the boiling water, the rum/liqueur, sugar and cocoa into the slow cooker. Mix together until incorporated.

6. Spoon the batter into the liquid and cover with lid.

7. Cook on high for one hour then switch to low and cook for another hour.

Shelley’s Notes:

1. This pudding is large and serves eight. There are only two of us so we supplied pudding for the neighbors and everything worked out nicely.

2. We served ours with yoghurt, but cream or ice cream would work just as well.

3. This is excellent comfort food on a cold winter’s night.

4. It was yummy!

5. I’m sorry the photos didn’t turn out as well as I hoped. It was quite late and there was no natural light left.

Choc Pudding in Slow Cooker

 

What is your favorite dessert to have during winter?

Thirteen Facts about Terriers

Thursday Thirteen

Bella, our dog is a Jack Russell, and our first dog Scotty was a fox terrier. Both came from the Humane Society and were of mixed parentage i.e. they both have a mystery element in their background. Hubby and I like terriers because they’re small and intelligent with big personalities.

Thirteen Facts About Terriers

1. Most breeds of terriers were developed in Great Britain.

2. They were bred to catch rats, rabbits, foxes and badgers (larger terriers). They hunted both above and under ground.

3. They’re excellent for vermin control. Scotty was a champion mouser, and if any came inside she sniffed them out. I was the one who stood on a chair.

4. Terriers range in size. Our fox terrier was fine boned while Bella is a sturdy wee thing. You know when she plops on your lap.

5. The term terrier is latin and it means earth.

6. 26 types of terriers are recognized in the US.

7. Terriers are brave and confident and make great watchdogs.

8. They’re also stubborn!

9. Sometimes their bravery gets them in trouble since they won’t back down, even if the other dog is much bigger.

10. Terriers are intelligent.

11. They like to keep very busy and get bored if left alone with some sort of activity. The boredom tips over into chewing and digging.

12. They might be small, but they need a lot of exercise. I always get tired before Bella starts lagging.

13. They’re personality plus.

Bella cooling off during mid-summer

Puppy Porn!

Are you a dog person? If so, what breed do you prefer?

Homemade Granola

Granola

I saw this recipe to make granola and thought I’d try it out. The end result was delicious, and I will definitely make it again.

Homemade Granola

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)

1/4 cup wheatgerm

1 cup of your favorite nuts, roughly chopped (I used walnuts, pecan and almonds)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large egg whites

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Method:

1. Preheat the oven 150C/300F

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (apart from the cranberries)

3. Add the maple syrup and the olive oil and mix thoroughly

4. Whisk the egg whites until frothy

5. Stir the egg whites into the granola and combine well

6. Place the granola on a lined tray and spread it evenly

7. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes until the granola is golden brown and it’s dry to the touch

8. Cool then break the granola into clusters

9. Add the cranberries and combine carefully

Shelley’s comments

1. Don’t chop the nuts too small because they might burn.

2. I didn’t add as much salt as the recipe said.

3. If you don’t like cranberries, replace with the dried fruit of your choice.

4. Watch your granola carefully because you want it golden brown, not burnt!

5. I like my granola with yoghurt and sometimes make a yoghurt parfait, which is delicious.

Yoghurt Parfait

In this parfait, I’ve layered thick Greek yoghurt with raspberry coulis and topped with a sprinkling of granola. Perfect for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

What is your favorite thing to eat for a lazy weekend breakfast?

Serials and Other Things with Susannah Sandlin

Storm Force Virtual Book Tour

Today I’d like to welcome Susannah Sandlin. She’s in the process of writing a paranormal serial, so I was excited to chat with her about the process. Note – there’s a giveaway at the end of the post. Comment on this post to go into the draw. Over to Susannah!

1. Who is Susannah Sandlin?

Well, the “original” Susannah Sandlin was my gggg-grandmother, who traveled by wagon from South Carolina to the Alabama wilderness in the early 1800s. So I like to think I’m a bit like her, because I figure she was a tough cookie. I’m a focused workaholic who spends my days editing a university magazine and my nights writing fantasy. I’d like to say I’m a world-traveling, jet-setting glamour-puss, but actually I’m a smartass, geeky homebody. Sigh. But after almost fifteen years in New Orleans, I do have a wacky side…and a preoccupation with alligators.

2. Your book Storm Force is available in serial format with a later release date for the full novel. What made you decide to serialize Storm Force, and what differences did you find during the writing of your story?

It’s more different than I imagined when I took it on. I originally proposed Storm Force as a novel, but my publisher had started experimenting with some serial novels in the romantic suspense genre and thought I’d be a good candidate to try a paranormal serial. To write a serial novel, an author has to write fast, hit tight deadlines, and write fairly clean copy that doesn’t need much revision.

The biggest difference from a writing standpoint is in the plotting. I normally plot out a book beginning with chapter one and continuing through to the end. With the serial, I had to plot out nine “episodes” of from 8,000-10,000 words each, with each episode ending at a point of high tension. Kind of like a TV series that has an ongoing story and ends each week with a bit of a cliffhanger.

3. Did you experience any particular challenges while writing your serial installments? Any tricks or tips to pass on to other writers?

Set a daily word count and do your best to stick to it, because there’s no time to make up those lost words and the schedule is brutal. I don’t think a pantser could write a serial without going crazy because there’s no going back to fix anything. The book goes straight from me to copyediting to publishing in only a week or two. Episode Three released this week, and I just turned in Episode Five, so the first part of the book is in readers’ hands while I’m still writing the middle and end.

On the one hand, it’s really cool to read people’s comments on the discussion boards or on review sites because I’m able to see which characters they’re resonating with. So if a lot of people were reacting negatively to a character, for example, I could decide to kill him off, or take him in a different direction. It’s like a “living novel” in that sense, and probably as close as the reader’s ever going to get to being inside a writer’s head and influencing where a book goes.

4. You write dark paranormal stories. Do you do anything special to get in a dark mood?

LOL. No, my mind just seems to go there—I think I take out my day-job frustrations on my characters! I spend a lot of time THINKING about the story before I ever start writing—part of that plotting process. And even with an outline, before I begin writing each new scene I go through what I have planned and think: How can I make it darker? How can I raise the stakes? I play out different scenarios in my head to figure out how I want to craft each chapter.

5. What do you think makes a dark paranormal story? i.e. what are the ingredients of a good dark paranormal?

I think the stakes have to be very, very high in a dark paranormal—either in setting or character, or (preferably) both. In Storm Force, a terrorist bombing in Houston has killed a lot of people, the Texas governor is either dead or missing, and there’s a credible threat of a repeat in New Orleans in two weeks. (Oh yeah, and there’s a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.) So our combined human-shapeshifter team has to work fast and, of course, they get in WAY over their heads by falling into the middle of a big paranormal power play. On a personal level, the hero, Kell, is a human Army Ranger coming off a back injury who needs to prove he’s still got the chops for active duty, and the heroine, Mori, is being forced by her family to marry a man twice her age that she hates—and she’s being framed for the bombing. So there’s a lot at stake, and the consequences of failure are dire.

6. What does your writing space look like, and is there any particular thing you must have or do before you begin a writing session?

I have an office at home where I do most of my writing. It’s on the second floor of the house, so I’m away from everyone and everything. I work on a 17-inch laptop and use a big square oak game table as my desk. The room has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves along one entire wall next to my desk, so I keep reference books within easy reach. I write to music except on first draft. Right now, I’m listening to a song by French-Canadian singer-songwriter David Jalbert called “Notre Histoire.”

7. Do you have a question for visitors to help them interact with you?

I love to chat with readers! This is, as far as I know, the first paranormal romance to be published as a serial (and as a regular novel on July 9)—so I’m curious as to what people think of the idea of being able to influence the story and read it very soon after it’s created? Or would you wait until all nine episodes were available to start reading?

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment, and a winner will be chosen on April 12 to win either a copy of Storm Force or their choice of one of the Penton Legacy novels (print, digital or audio). International entries welcome.

Storm ForceStorm Force

Omega Force #1

Susannah Sandlin

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Date of Publication: March 19, 2013, in serial form for Kindle; July 9, 2013, in print, digital, and audio.

ISBN: 978-1477807576

ASIN: B00BI0M8OM

Word Count: approx. 90,000

Amazon

Book Description:

As leader of the elite counter-terrorism team Omega Force, former army ranger Jack “Kell” Kellison is always focused on getting the job done. So when a Houston high-rise is bombed and the governor killed or missing, Kell’s mission is clear: infiltrate the group suspected of the bombing and neutralize the threat by any means necessary. But once Kell meets beautiful chief suspect Mori Chastaine, he realizes there’s more to this case than meets the eye. And more to Mori than any man—any human man—could imagine.

Mori Chastaine is running out of options. Suspected for a crime she didn’t commit, forced into a marriage she doesn’t want, she sees no escape—until Kell walks through her door. A lifetime hiding her true nature warns her Kell might not be who he seems. But he could be the only one able to help save more innocent humans from becoming pawns in an ancient paranormal power play. If Mori reveals her secret, will Kell join her fight? Or will she become his next target?

Short Excerpt

Kell spotted the bird as soon as its wingtips cleared the edge of the cypress stand at the eastern rim of Bayou Cote Blanche. For a moment, he indulged a hope it might be a hawk in search of fish, or a pelican, or a cormorant, or a fucking giant mutant hummingbird.

Anything but an eagle.

“It’s her.” At the sound of his voice, Gator raised his spotted head and focused sharp, mismatched eyes on the horizon, barking furiously in his Catahoula big-dog voice, usually reserved for alligators and swamp rats.

Kell had been sitting on the porch of his cabin at Cote Blanche since Nik’s phone call from New Orleans two hours ago, waiting to see who’d arrive first—the man or the bird.

Should’ve known it would be the freakazoid eagle with the deceptively sweet name of Robin. He’d come to think of her as Razorblade Robin. Nik would have to rent a boat in Jeanerette and navigate the serpentine waterways of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp to get here. Razorblade Robin could just sprout feathers and soar.

The midday sun glinted off the glossy reddish-brown wings of the golden eagle as it swooped over the smooth, murky water of the bayou and landed with a harsh caw at the end of his dock. Gator rose to his feet and looked up at Kell, asking permission to chase.

“Sorry, buddy. You don’t want to mess with that one. She can take you.” Hell, she could take both of them.

Kell took a final look at the pile of papers he’d been reading—notes about his team’s new assignment. Mostly, he’d been studying the photo on top of the stack. The woman, Emory Chastaine, an environmental activist well known in tree-hugger circles, had been photographed from a distance with a telephoto lens that gave the image a grainy feel, made worse by his generator-powered printer. But he could tell she was tall, athletic-looking in a t-shirt and jeans, shoulder-length blond hair, pretty in an all-American kind of way.

Not his image of a terrorist. Which made her even more dangerous.

Gator sprang off the porch as the eagle strutted down the dock toward them. He approached the bird in a crouch, his growls echoing off the still water. Damn dog never did listen worth a flip. Kell leaned back in his chair to watch the show. With a screech and a blur of feathers seconds before Gator reached her, the eagle morphed into a petite, waifish brunette.

Make that a naked, waifish brunette with a snark-tastic attitude who arched an eyebrow when Kell’s vicious watchdog turn into a slobbering, tail-wagging fool, jumping up and down so vigorously his black and white spots seemed to blur. You’d think the hound saw birds turn into people every day.

If Gator went the crotch-sniffing route, Kell might have to die of pure humiliation.

Not like the naked bird-woman came as any big surprise. He reached for the t-shirt he’d thrown across the other porch chair and tossed it to her as she approached, Gator dancing around her legs. “Put this on.”

Robin Ashton, five-foot-nothing of shapeshifter and the tracker for Kell’s new Omega Force team, caught the shirt and used it to wipe the sweat off her face. “It’s like a sauna out here. Pretty, though, if you’re into the primordial.”

She turned to study the bayou, a minor niche in the massive Atchafalaya basin, and Kell made it a point to keep his eyes away from her ass. It wasn’t that he wanted to look at it, exactly, but he was a guy, and it was right in front of him.

Susannah SandlinAbout the Author:

Susannah Sandlin is the author of paranormal romance set in the Deep South, where there are always things that go bump in the night. A journalist by day, Susannah grew up in Alabama reading the gothic novels of Susan Howatch and the horror fantasy of Stephen King. (Um…it is fantasy, right?) The combination of Howatch and King probably explains a lot. Currently a resident of Auburn, Alabama, Susannah has also lived in Illinois, Texas, California, and Louisiana.

Website: http://www.susannahsandlin.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/susannahsandlin

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/susannahsandlin

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5828129.Susannah_Sandlin

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781612183541

New Episode Release Schedule for Storm Force

March 19–episode 1

March 26–episode 2

April 2–episode 3

April 9–episode 4

April 16–episode 5

April 23–episode 6

April 30–episode 7

May 7–episode 8

May 14–episode 9

The release date for the complete book is July 9.



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