Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DISCOMBOBULATION

Many writers I know talk about resolutions, about the New Year being a New Start. They seem to be re-energized by the turning of the calendar page and the fresh year unrolling before them.

Me? Not so much. At least, not this year.

Not that I’ve ever been good at resolutions. I’d make one, and some perverse little part of me would start rubbing its hands in glee, looking for a way to sabotage it. I’ve learned not to make hard-and-fast resolutions, and to never, ever, write them down.

Still, I do have a rough idea of what I’d like to accomplish during the year, at least writing wise.

For one thing, I’d like to finish the two novels I’ve started in two separate series. I like both series, and the characters who live in them, and I really want to find out what happens to them.

I’m also part of several bundles coming up this year, for which I promised to write short stories. (Have you heard of BundleRabbit? Great bundler—check them out.) And I keep coming up with good ideas for more short stories. There’s lots of work to do.

So… why can’t I buckle down and do it? Life rolls.

An instructor used to call major life changes, life rolls. Something you couldn’t avoid that would have an impact on your writing. The life roll could be good or bad, but it resulted in you not producing the number of words you were used to.

A life roll can be anything from a death in the family, to a wedding, a new baby, or building a house.

My friend recently relocated to a wonderful community by the sea. For over six months, pre- and post-move, she did very little writing. Life roll.

So, here I am, flitting from partly-finished novel to partly-finished novel, stopping along the way to jot down ideas for other novels I’d like to write. I start writing one short story only to abandon it and start work on another.

It’s discombobulating, but there’s no point in panicking. I’m going through a transition time (see my last post). Eventually my mind will settle and I’ll get back to normal.

And when I do, watch for more book launches. J


Monday, January 16, 2017

Virtual Friends Helping IRL

While reading SECONDS TO SUNRISE, my latest Black Ops: Automatik romantic suspense, Elizabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) book blogger at Cooking Up Romance (cookupromance.com) tweeted: “I realized while reading @Nico_Rosso's book that if I were hiding from hired killers, my online girlfriends would make excellent choices.”

I responded that the women of the online romance community were the inspiration for that aspect of the story. The circumstances are different for April Banks, but the way her friends help her is definitely the same. She is a war widow who, in order to pull herself from her sadness, created a website and forum for other war widows. It’s grown so large, including a having a financial option where the women can support each other, that it attracted the attention of hackers. If not for April’s hand written encryption, the sensitive financial and personal information of the widows would be exposed.

But it’s just a matter of time until the hackers break through, and April’s doing what she can to track them down. Once her efforts threaten the hackers, they send goons to convince her to stop. Neither the goons or April expect James Sant, former SAS soldier and current member of the underground Automatik network to be there to protect her. He thought he’d just be watching her for a few days until the hackers were caught, but he has to step in to fight off the goons.

Because April designed the security for her website, she’s the only one who can keep it intact and trace the hackers. James is forced to take her on the road and into the dangerous pursuit.

They’re not without their allies. James has the aid of the other former special ops soldiers of Automatik. April’s support comes from the other widows on her website forum. It’s the same kind of thing I’d seen on Twitter among the women in the romance community. Readers and writers come to each other’s aid. Sometimes it’s just a book recommendation, others it’s about promoting the latest release.

But the relationships go beyond that, and the emotional support the community shows each other is inspirational. People rally around others going through a hard time. Yes, it isn’t always perfect, and there is friction and areas where people misstep with each other, but I’ve seen more good than bad from it. These women are amazing, and they’re one of the big reasons I love working in this genre.

I’m wondering, do you have any examples of your online friends helping you IRL?

For more information on Seconds to Sunrise, visit my website.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Using Your Past to Build a Story

Under the Christmas tree, my hubby put a little white and green box. He is the family ancestry person and has done well with his family tree, but now wants to delve more into mine. Thus, the little white box. It is a DNA kit for one of the online ancestry sites.
DNA kit to analyze where my ancestors lived and to find links to others who have sent in their DNA.
 I picked up the box and started to unpack it, all the time thinking about how it could lead to interesting places. In our house, whenever we look back, we seem to find little mysteries that are fun to hunt out and solve. Hubby uncovered a direct ancestor who was one of three commissioners who started Texas A&M. Who knew? Pretty cool, eh? There just might be a good story in how creating the college came about.
Texas A&M in 1902
Then there is the ancestor from Georgia whose husband died in the Civil War. Oddly the husband left his estate to their infant daughter. Hmm. The wife was named as executor, but the grandparents had to put up a bond for the money (likely in confederate dollars). Within a year, the mother had married, moved to Mississippi, and drowned in the Mississippi River. So many possible stories or version of a tale could come from this. Did her mother perhaps have mental issues? Did she commit suicide, have an accident after finally finding love again, or was she drowned? And how did the daughter’s inheritance fit into the picture? The young daughter then lived with her stepfather who remarried and had more children. The girl lived with them to the legal age of sixteen. The next data we discovered on her showed her married that same year, and back in Georgia where her grandparents lived. What would it have been like for the daughter living with two step parents…perhaps one who may have been the cause of her mother’s demise? Or was it a simple case of the daughter not wanting to babysit younger step-siblings so fled at the first possible moment. And last, but not least, was there any money left for her to go back to…or was it all worthless after the war.

Several years ago, I also had fun with another mystery related to an old photo dug up by husband that related to one of his distance cousin. He gave me a photo of a lovely woman (cousin) standing with a dapper young man holding a round straw hat in front of a biplane. No one knew when or where the photo had been taken, what kind of biplane it was, or even why they were posing in front of it. Oh, I do love a mystery. With a online investigation leading to little info, I put a call out to aviation friends. Responses led to photo enhancement, which triggered the first clues. From then on, the internet uncovered a history with a great story and only a possible two-year window. Eventually I followed up with a trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space museum to get photos of a similar (but newer model) plane, and a few good guesses from aviation hubby filled in the blanks as to what the couple might be celebrating. We still don’t know everything, but the story related to the start of Airmail service and the first planes that flew it. You can read more about The Case of the Mysterious Biplane in another blog. Seems like this tale belongs to the past, but just this last week, my blog was discovered by a relative of the family that built the biplane. He is still a biplane enthusiast/pilot today, and I learned only one of these planes still exists. So many ways to build a story from that one photograph.
A biplane with a lovely couple likely from the 1920s. Who were they and why the photo?
An observant character might also see something that triggers a story. We were visiting our son at the Air Force Academy in Colorado years ago and took him to a local restaurant in an old train station downtown. I got talking about my great-grandfather who had been a tailor on one of the main streets in town. Later my son and I noticed the decorations on the old wall were posters of photographs from the city in the 1920s. Didn’t take long to find one with a sign that had great-grandpa’s name. Each of his great-grandkids have at least one or more of his tailor tools and now a copy of this photo I obtained from a city library archive. What if your character was left something from a past ancestor? What might it be and why?
Son in front of a photo of his great-great-grandfather's tailor shop he discovered on a restaurant wall.

Then there was a grandfather’s half-brother who had two children, both who went to hubby’s alma mater where we discovered their photos. We wondered why no one in the family had mentioned them before. After two years at the university, the younger brother joined the Army-Air Corps and died during the war. Again, with some investigation, Facebook, and email with military historians, the history of his life and time in a flying unit came to life…as did his heroic death. A unit history documented the mission when the cousin died. They were flying a bombing raid on a rail yard in Hungry when the plane was hit by flak and the pilot killed. As the flight engineer bailed out, he could see the co-pilot (hubby’s cousin) was still alive and flying the plane so the others could get out. Only the flight engineer survived to tell the relate the details. What a great story! What drove a young engineering student to go to war, learn to fly, and die in battle? Who did he leave behind?

Whether you write mysteries, thrillers, romance, or a mix, true life can create wonderful background for characters, give ideas for plots with plenty of twists, or even lay out family logistics for a novel. There is no better way to create a character’s blessings, heartbreaks, and mysteries than looking into your own past. Good hunting!

Friday, January 6, 2017

To Series or Not To Series...

by Janis Patterson

Yes, that is the question! And a fairly knotty one it is. There are those who say you can’t make money writing today unless you do a series. There are others who say that series are repetitive and creativity-killers. There are still others who bore easily and on the whole find series a great bore.

Then there are people like me who believe a little of all of the above. Of course, like the Red Queen I have been known to believe three impossible things before breakfast!

Seriously, I was never a fan of series since I outgrew my passion for Nancy Drew… though I still enjoy one of her books every now and then. As I bore easily, I always want something new, new people, new places, new situations… All of my novels since the beginning a couple of decades ago have been standalones with no crossover characters.

So why am I now writing not only one, but TWO series?

I have no idea.

I have always been a pantser who has characters walk in and start dictating to me instead of being one of those lucky ones who can outline stories and create personality sheets delineating each character in the book. They are creators; a lot of the time I feel more like a simple scribe.

My first series is about Flora Melkiot, an elderly widow of a jewelry store magnate who likes to live life just as she wants and is convinced that she could be good at anything if she just puts her mind to it. Usually she is, too, despite the fact that others regard her as a menace and a meddler. One police detective called her the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’

Flora first appeared as a minor character in EXERCISE IS MURDER. Once the book was finished and out, though, she refused to leave me alone and – Flora-like – she eventually got her way. Of course. Her new adventure is profiled in MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM, where after what she called a minor traffic accident (only a broken wrist) she has been put by her painfully conventional daughter into a rehab facility… against her will. Of course there are murders, and it’s a lovely romp. Her next book will be called MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE and set in Las Vegas and she is nagging me mercilessly to get started on it.

MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM released this week in ebook format at the four major retailers. There will be a paperback version available as well, as soon as I can get past some technical difficulties.

I can’t give in to Flora now, though, because I am halfway through a brand new series start called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. This is about a contract archaeologist named Dr. Rachel Petrie (no relation, as she has to tell everyone, to the famous turn-of-the-last-century Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie) who is currently on the dig of an old plantation house in Alabama. She is much less pushy than Flora, but she too is urging me none-too-gently to get her series going. As a contract archaeologist she can work anywhere, and I already have ideas for stories in Peru, Boston and Bavaria.

In addition to this I am contracted for a couple of romances as my Janis Susan May persona. These are standalones – at least, I think they are. With my demanding characters one can never be sure. Plus, a darling friend of mine is enthusiastically urging me to write my memoirs as I have led such a varied and 'interesting' life. I haven't told her yet that I can't do that because some of the statutes of limitations have yet to run out!

So many stories, so little time. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Being Healthy

This kinda ties in with Anne’s post about being healthier. I find I’m not able to separate my mental/emotional and physical health. They seem to be all blended together in an industrial sized Ninja. When I feel bad physically, emotionally I’m not so hot. I feel better physically this time of year because I have no allergy or asthma problems. I can get out and about easier and my sense of smell returns. Then about the third week of January it all goes to hell in a hand basket. Why? Where I live in Florida the pollen starts. Cedar first, then pine, the three different kinds of oak. And last, but not least, the palm pollen. It would be nice if they all did it at once, but noooo. They take turns. On occasion it has been so bad I see greenish yellow clouds drift by. Cars left out are covered each morning. Black cars glow eerily. Some years I am more sensitive to the pollen than others. Better living through modern chemistry is not an option for me as I’m super sensitive to many medications. Being outside just a few minutes can do me in. I can’t go out to walk and if I don’t walk I gain weight. No exercise and excess weight effects lung efficiency. If I don’t walk… Gah. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Since the first of December I’ve been working on the whole me feel better package. To get started on a feel better path I joined a group of like-minded people, (Eeep. I hate the image that conveys. Like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I’m not. I can’t have sugar) walking, and in hopes of reining in the allergies, eating differently. No, I still use utensils to take food from the plate to my mouth. I’m eating things that are supposed to be healthier.  I take local honey every day. And bee pollen. How they get bees to give up their pollen is still a mystery to me.
I do my best to eliminate grain from my diet as it causes joint inflammation. Yeah. Eliminating grain is not for sissies. No wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn or any products made from them. That includes some adult beverages. Sigh. 
Can only have grass fed beef. Sure. I’ll be getting a steak out of lay away in a couple of weeks. Organic chicken. I have to say I can taste the difference. I make a killer turkey meat loaf using the wild rice I can eat instead of bread crumbs. I’m one of those people who loves Brussel sprouts. And kale? Gotta say I love it also. In salads, mixed with quinoa, stir fried with crispy bacon pieces and hard boiled eggs.   
                                                In a soup with garbanzo beans. 

Speaking of beans have you had a black bean burger?  
Guess I'll find out if this helps with the allergies soon enough. I can say I'm enjoying my more varied menu.   
Hope this wasn’t too much TMI. Bottom line is, this year I’m hoping I’ll get relief from allergies without having to wear a rebreather each time I go outside.  If you have health challenges what are the things you do?
Be well.
Rita write suspense/thrillers and short stories. Visit her web home here 


Sunday, January 1, 2017

I SPY: The Write Balance


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.


TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...


The Write Balance



(The following is a repost of an older I SPY from 2013, but seeing as we're at the beginning of a brand new year, and my attention always turns to goals and what I want to improve in my life, I thought it might be good to revisit it. All of us here at NYUS wish you a very happy—and balanced—2017!)



The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that a balanced life is the key to happiness. This is true for writers as much as anybody else.

The needed amounts will vary among individuals, but when I analyze the balance (or lack thereof) in my life, I basically look at four realms that impact each other and often overlap. 


Physical

  • Regular Exercise Routine – 30 minutes a day seems to be the recommendation, including a combination of strength-building and aerobic activities. 
  • Diet – While I grew up with the “food pyramid,” my kids are learning about the “healthy plate.” A combination of the two seems to explain what is considered a balanced diet. Drinking water is always a great idea.  Eating plenty of plants is also recommended, and they say half your plate should be plant-related sources.
  • Sleep – While 7-8 hours a night seems to be the immediate answer to “how much sleep do I need,” the National Sleep Foundation says there are many individual and environmental factors that can affect this. For more information, follow this link.

Psychological/Emotional/Cognitive

  • Express yourself – i.e., don’t bury emotions. When emotions threaten to overwhelm, writers can naturally channel them into their writing, but when that isn’t so easy, we are a creative lot. Consider other creative outlets such as scrapbooking, journaling, painting, or dancing.
  • Challenge your brain – I may be biased, but it is my belief that writers use more of their brain, and more parts of their brain, more regularly, than anyone else. We have the ability to imagine and create at the same time we are analyzing grammar and sentence structure. We are amazing creatures.
  • Coping with rejection – Nobody enjoys being told they aren’t wanted, needed, or desired. The business of writing necessitates hearing these words on occasion. Finding a way to manage the stress of being told “no thanks” is the key to perseverance.
  • Comparing yourself to others – Writing is often a solitary profession, where sometimes it feels the only way to measure progress or gauge success is to look at the sales, readership, or awards of others. But writing is also an individual journey. Each author’s path to success is different, and we would do well to remember that when the temptation to compare arises.

Social

  • Family – While some people find safe harbor at home, others find family members might not be so supportive. As with any career, it’s sometimes difficult to balance the needs of spouses, children, pets, and extended family, but those same people can also bring a joy and satisfaction not found elsewhere.
  • Conferences, Writing Groups, and Critique Partners – Feeding the writer’s soul via gathering with other writers can be rejuvenating. As mentioned above, in such a solitary career, it’s important to find like-minded individuals with whom to share.
  • Get out and about (a.k.a., leave the writing cave) – Inspiration is often found from the real world, which is why you need to get out and do things. Step away from the computer and experience the world.
  • Get to know other people – This is another way of filling the creative well. Whether meeting new people, getting together with friends, or just interacting briefly with the barista at the local coffee shop, seeing other people reminds us what (or who!) we’re writing about. Inspiration for character abides in the real world.

Spiritual

  • Feeding your soul - Whatever suits your belief system - communing with nature (gardening, walking, etc.), meditating, prayer, church attendance – DO IT. It’s so easy to put these needs aside to squeeze in time for things that are more temporal, but your spiritual health is just as important as the other realms.


Disclaimer: There is rarely a time in our lives where all of these “boxes” are equal or proportionate. More likely, there is always going to be something out of whack. The key is to be in tune with your needs – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual – and adjust as needed.

How’s your balance? What things do you do to maintain happiness, and what things do you think you can change to work toward your own happy-ever-after?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. As a games hostess at Sea World, tutor, waitress, personal and family counselor, and high school counselor, she indulged her curiosity through sanctioned professions. Now, as a stay-at-home mom of three children, her passion for understanding the human race is satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and writer. She writes to reclaim her sanity. 

Connect with Anne Marie at her websiteFacebook page, or on Twitter.



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Friday, December 30, 2016

Romantic Suspense Holiday Giveaway WINNERS!

Yes, SIX glorious years of NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS, and none of us look a day older *wink*.

The HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY is now complete, and the winners are below. If you see your name there, please use the contact email provided, and claim your prize!

THANKS to everyone who took part, we had a fabulous response. It's very heartening to welcome friends old and new to the blog. We all have such fun here, we like to share it with you! :D.


PRIZE + the contact email / the winner:

$40 Amazon voucher (US or UK): / Contact Clare London / SHELLEY PHILLIPS

Free ebooks - PLEASE let your author know what format you'd like:
Anne Marie Becker - YOUR CHOICE of author's backlist / GHEORGHE RADU
Sandy Parks - UNDER THE RADAR / LINDA VILJOAN
Laura Carter - VENGEFUL LOVE: DECEPTION / KIA BUNBY
Nico Rosso - COUNTDOWN TO ZERO HOUR / ESHA BHATIA
Jean Harrington - THE DESIGN IS MURDER / ROSA NIETO
Clare London - 72 HOURS / LINDA RIMER-COMO
Cathy Perkins - SO ABOUT THE MONEY / JAN MCKAY
Kathy Ivan - DEADLY JUSTICE / CAROL SMITH
Marcelle Dube - GHOSTS OF MOROCCO / VALERIE TEMPLE
Julie Moffett - NO STRINGS ATTACHED / KATY KITCHIN
Maureen A Miller - MIST (kindle/nook) /  JACKIE DONADIC
Janis Patterson - MURDER IN DEATH'S WAITING ROOM / KATINA PRADO
Josh Lanyon -  ADRIEN ENGLISH series / LINDA BUZARD-MOFFITT
Dee J Adams - OUT OF THE BLUE / PAULA EADES






Looking Back at 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017


I’m not going to dwell on any of the negatives of 2016, but I do want to reflect on what went right, and what I want to improve in planning out my goals for next year.

Generally, I don’t make new year resolutions but I am a big believer in setting goals. These goals can be simple ones like finishing a rough draft of a new book outline in thirty days, or more expansive goals that require several years to accomplish, like becoming proficient in Photoshop (of course every time Adobe upgrades their software I feel like I’m starting over!)

For me, it helps to begin my plans for the next year by reviewing my goals for 2016: Finish book three of Gulf Coast Rescue series (not quite—still several thousand words short of that one); outline book four in the series (check, got that one done); create a writing schedule (yep, while I missed writing every day as planned, I certainly put in more consistent writing than the year before, so I’ll count that in the plus column); update my web site (oh boy, missed that one!); and learn more about social media (attended RWA workshops and Lynda.com online courses so I’ll give myself a plus but deduct points for lack of implementation!); attend several writing conferences (check: RWA National in San Diego, CA, Writer’s Police Academy in Green Bay, WI, and new for me was the NINC conference in St. Pete, FL).

Okay, not bad, but I see things I want to improve in 2017. So here are my goals for next year:
  • Write every day (yes, a repeat, but I’m not giving up on this one—I’m also including writing longhand, not just on my computer since that helps me write past blocks or play the “what if” game with plot changes).
  • Publish book three of my Gulf Coast Rescue series.
  • Complete the first draft of book four of my Gulf Coast Rescue series (I’m hoping to actually finish it in 2017, but I’ll leave that for my mid-year update).
  • Learn something new every week (I consider myself a life-long learner, but I want to become more rigorous and actually schedule my online training courses. If you’re not familiar with Lynda.com you might want to check them out—things like Photoshop, creating web pages, using social media, formatting e-books, and marketing are all available in short video segments you can view anytime you want. Available with monthly or annual subscriptions too).


  • Hit the road more. Hubby and I bought a small toy-hauler (for our motorcycles) with living quarters (when we evacuated from hurricane Matthew) and I want to travel and experience new places and people next year!
  • Attend several writing conferences (RWA National Conference in Orlando, FL and probably NINC and the Police Academy in Green Bay, WI—new for 2017: attend regional conferences, not just national ones).
  • Break my goals into monthly, weekly, and daily goals for better results. And make them SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).
  • Revise and update throughout the year!
Okay, those are my goals for 2017. Not all inclusive, but it gets me started on the right foot for a productive year. So what goals or accomplishments do you want to achieve next year? What did you accomplish in 2016?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The History of the Passport



These days, if you want to cross an international border, you need a passport. Possibly a visa, too, but most definitely a passport. Without that little book bearing a photo of you on your worst day, plus the details of your birth and so on, you can’t go anywhere outside your own country.
For a recent book, I wanted my hero to go from Britain to Italy in the eighteenth century. They didn’t have compulsory passports then, so how did the government know where to find people? How did a government track down a murderer if he fled his home country for another one?
The answer is, they didn’t.
However, passports are not a completely new option. While everyone didn’t have to have one, there were certain ways of ensuring safe passage. Passports were less a way of keeping tabs on a person, more of a way for the person to ensure their personal safety.
Letters of safe conduct could be obtained, and the higher the level, the better. There was no obligation to obey them, but if a King wrote a letter saying “This person is important,” then people usually took notice. And they would contact other people, to make sure the person bearing the letter was the right one, and the letter wasn’t forged. That was what seals were for.
In the middle ages, even traveling from city to city was a big undertaking. Most cities were surrounded by walls, and admittance was through designated gates. Without the right letters, or permissions, a person wouldn’t get in, or out again.
By the end of the sixteenth century, countries had gained pre-eminence over cities and city-states. But borders were still flexible, and countries like Italy and Germany were more a collection of states than bona fide countries. Passports were still not standardised. But they were understood, and a person with a letter of conduct was more likely to pass unhindered than an ordinary traveller. The word “passport” dates from the early sixteenth century, and more people were traveling and requiring safe conduct letters. From then until 1794, the Privy Council issued the letters. After that, it was the State Department.
They were still not compulsory, but by this time highly desirable.
People traveling would try to obtain a variety of letters, including letters of introduction. This would usually be from someone who the recipient knew personally. The system really began to come under strain with the advent of the railways. A person could race across a country in a day or two, and pass through to another before the credentials could be checked. More people took advantage of the travel system. During the last forty years of the nineteenth century, passports were abolished. Rather than keep up with modern technology, countries threw in the towel!
But when the First World War arrived, the need for passports emerged again. It was either that or let spies wander around whichever parts of the world they wanted to. The passport was back, and this time to stay.
In 1920, the first blue British passport arrived. It contained verbal descriptions as well as a photo, which must have been a bit traumatic! It only lasted for two years, unlike the present one that lasts for ten.
The passport has been continually updated, and at the time of writing, the current British passport is a red European one. I’m rushing to renew mine before it becomes a British blue one again! It does have stamps from the US, although many countries don’t bother with the stamp any more, which has taken even more of the glamour out of travel. Now, travel is a mundane, tedious experience if you’re lucky, and a traumatic one if you’re not! But the days of glamorous travel are long gone.
In the US, only a third of the populace owns a transport, which is exceedingly strange to this European, but there is a lot of the USA to see!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays from NYUS!


Happy Holidays!

We hope your season is merry and bright, and that 2017 brings you good health, great adventures,
and thrilling books.

Cheers!

Not Your Usual Suspects


Monday, December 19, 2016

Gingerbread Houses


This past weekend my husband and I held our annual holiday party.  To keep things interesting, each year we choose a theme for our party, usually a country or great city,  I'll cook up a vegetarian feast inspired by the theme while my husband constructs a gingerbread creation. In the spirit of the season,
I thought it'd be fun to share some of his gingerbread masterpieces.

One year we combined France and England. Here's Notre Dame with Big Ben from across the pond.

And I'm sure everyone recognizes this famous tower in the heart of Paris.

Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe

There's Whitehall Palace in London in the back, surrounded by a potpourri of traditional English desserts.


Here's the man himself, in a New York state of mind.



One year I was looking for a challenge and hit upon the bright idea of Colonial America. Here's the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg, compares pretty well with the original.
Gingerbread Governor's Palace
Here's the actual building. It's hard to tell then apart!

We've done several parties with Italy as the host country. Here's the Leaning Tower of Pisa, lean
included!


Sometimes my husband opts for a more stylized interpretation, as in this map of the boot of Italy.



By now you might have noticed the cyclists. An avid bike rider and fan of all things cycling, my husband always tries to include a few bikes in the mix.


Our theme isn't always limited to one place. One year we based our party on the medieval pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago.

El Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of St. James, St. James's Path, or simply The Way, the route travels through several countries, which are represented in this gingerbread diorama.

On the right the origin countries of Italy and  France are represented by the Colosseum and the Arc de Triomphe. On the far left stands Belem Tower in Portugal while the great Cathedral of St. James is firmly grounded in the center.


Here's a closeup of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
This year our theme was the lovely city of Quebec, the most European city of North America. For his gingerbread creation, there was only one choice: the beautiful Château Frontenac! 

The Château Frontenac in twilight



The Château Frontenac in gingerbread.
Though unique and uniquely beautiful, gingerbread was made for eating. Soon after the party, the demolition begins, with the neighborhood kids getting their fair share of the feast.

I enjoyed sharing one of our holiday traditions and would love to hear about some of yours!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Romantic Suspense/Mystery Holiday GIVEAWAY!

This month we celebrate SIX glorious years of NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS! Join in the celebrations with us, with a HUGE Giveaway!




We're offering 14 free ebooks from our fabulous authors PLUS a Grand Prize of a $40 Amazon voucher. That's FIFTEEN PRIZES in all!

And you can enter more than once through the Rafflecopter BELOW.

FOLLOW our blog - and our series of fun, fascinating and entertaining posts. =3 entries=

FOLLOW our authors through their mailing list =1 entry each=

or on Facebook =1 entry each=



Many thanks to all our followers over the last 6 years, and welcome to our new ones!
We'll announce the winners on the blog on 30 December.


  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 9, 2016

Best laid plans...

Well, by now I should have completed the fourth and final book in my BEYOND series, FOUR
WORLDS. Granted, this series is science fiction, but never fear, I am a romantic suspense author through and through. There is romance. There is suspense. It just happens to be on another planet. Of course, the main character is from North Carolina so that kind of brings it down to earth. :)



Anyway, I digress. As I said, I should be completing that book about now, but instead I have been sidelined by this monster.

Her name is Tink, but I simply call her, "The Mouth." She came home two weeks ago, and fortunately there have been great strides in that time. 





The first few nights I averaged about two hours of sleep. Music, TV, talk radio, stuffed animals...nothing worked to stem the nighttime crying. I was exhausted, and as soon as I tried to get some work done while she was napping...this is what would happen.

Then out of sheer desperation my husband downloaded an app that plays a music box lullaby on repeat. As soon as it came on her cries turned to little whimpers and then faded away completely. In less than two minutes she was asleep. Now, every night we listen to the music box and there is peace had by all.

I'm still working on the nipping/barking/whining during the day that sidelines me from getting my work done, but gosh, look at her. It's so hard not to just melt. 



Christmas will be a crazy one this year. I hope the family is patient. I hope my business associates are patient. I hope "The Mouth" is patient. And I hope you all have as awesome a holiday as I'm going to have!

Maureen
www.MaureenAMiller.com