Check out my fiction -
Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Ninja Turtle Soup and Roasted Garlic

Looking at all the snow outside and hearing the forecast for New Year's Eve (Brrr!), I think soup is in order. This one is easy, fast, and you can either simmer it on the stove or toss it into the crockpot. And it's healthy, too. Oh, did I forget to mention it's delicious? This is one my kids, even the little ones, request. Except for one daughter, but she hates split peas.

The name came about years ago. Split pea soup is very economical. With less than $5 of ingredients, you can make a giant pot that will feed a large family. We're talking ten people at my house. It's also great for using up those bits that aren't quite enough for other recipes. Or for that ham bone from the Christmas ham. You saved it, didn't you? This recipe is almost worth buying another ham, cooking it, and saving the bone so you can make this soup. Ham is on sale this time of year. Stores are clearing out all that Christmas fluffery, including the hams. So go buy a bone-in ham roast. This soup is that good.

Oh, wait, I was talking about the name. My oldest was about four. I served the soup and she wouldn't eat it because it was green. So I told her it was made from ninja turtles. That did the trick. She and her siblings requested ninja turtle soup. It gives you super powers. Really.

Ninja Turtle Soup

1 12 oz bag dried green split peas
1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 ham bone, plus any ham that is still on the bone
1 t. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. ground black pepper

Put everything in a large pot. Add about 8 c. water, just enough to cover vegetables and most of the bone. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Add more water if it gets too thick. Stir occasionally so it doesn't burn on the bottom. After 1 hour, remove ham bone. Let cool for a few minutes. Remove meat and discard bone. Shred meat and add back into the soup. Cook for another 10 - 20 minutes, until vegetables are very soft and peas turn to mush. Stir, add salt if needed, and serve with croutons, crackers, toast, corn chips, or whatever you like.

Crock Pot version: Put everything in a large (4-5 quart) crockpot. Cook on high about 4 hours, low about 8 hours. Then remove the ham bone. After you add the meat back in, cover and cook at least 1 hour.


Substitute 1 lb bulk sausage for the ham. Brown, drain off grease, and add to soup.
Substitute 1 lb ground turkey for the ham. Add several strips of bacon, cooked and diced, for flavor if desired

Add whatever vegetables you have that need used:
That single raw potato - chop small and add
Old celery - slice thin and add
Green onions - substitute for the other onion, or use as a garnish
Cabbage - shred 1-2 c. cabbage. Stir in the last 15 minutes of cooking time
Bell peppers - chop and add the last 15 minutes of cooking time
Canned vegetables - stir in the last 15 minutes of cooking time - corn, green beans, etc.
Parsnips or jicama or other starchy vegetables - peel if needed, chop and add
Mushrooms - wash and slice 8 oz mushrooms, any variety
Garlic - smash a couple cloves and add with the onions, or add some roasted garlic

Feeling exotic? Try some other spices in the soup:
Mediterranean - add 1/2 t. each thyme, basil, rosemary
Indian - add 2 t. curry powder
Hot and spicy - add 1/2 t. cumin, 1/2 t. chili powder, and cayenne pepper to taste

And for a bonus recipe -

Roasted Garlic

Several heads of fresh garlic
Vegetable Oil

Slice tops from garlic heads, just until bulbs show. Remove excess paper from heads if desired. Place garlic heads, cut side up, in foil lined baking dish. Crimp foil to keep heads upright if needed. Drizzle oil over heads, about 1/2 t. per head. Bake at 350° F for 1 - 2 hours until heads are browned and bulbs are soft. Let cool for at least one hour. Remove bulbs from heads, squeezing usually works but it's messy. Use disposable gloves if you don't want your hands to smell like garlic for a week. Pack bulbs into clean glass jar. Add enough oil to cover. Screw lid on tightly and refrigerate for up to six months.

Use roasted garlic for making garlic bread, adding to soups or casseroles, mashing into potatoes, or anywhere else you like garlic. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of garlic and cuts the bitterness.

To make garlic butter - soften 1/2 c. real butter. Add 1/4 c. roasted garlic cloves (don't worry about adding the oil from the jar, it tastes good, too) and 1 t. salt. Mash with a fork until it is all squished together into a smooth paste. You can add 1 t. dried parsley for color if you want. Spread on French bread, toast under a broiler (watch it carefully, it burns very fast), and enjoy.

How about having garlic toast with Ninja Turtle Soup? Mmmm, now I'm hungry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How much would you pay?

I was really bored this weekend. I made this:

Yes, that is Cthulu. Yes, he is crocheted. And yes, he is covering a roll of toilet paper on the back of a toilet. The perfect bathroom accessory for just about anyone.

My question is, How much would YOU pay for one of these beauties? If I have enough interest, I'll make more and find a way to sell them to you.

Please leave your price quote in the comments section. One random commenter will win something, maybe even this lovely bathroom accessory if I have enough entries.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Reviews - 4 fun titles to try

I'm catching up on my reading, maybe. I just received a whole pile of new books. I set the goal of reviewing every book I finished this year, though, so here are the latest ones. Just for the legal whatever thingie, I don't make any money off these reviews. I get an occasional free copy of a book, but that's as far as it goes.

Secret Sisters by Tristi Pinkston

Ever wonder what the Relief Society presidency in a small town gets up to? This book explains it. Sort of. It's a fun, light-hearted mystery with no gore, swearing, or bloody corpses. Ida Mae is only trying to help a family in need. Let the hijinks ensue. Each new twist leads to even more outrageous behavior. I enjoyed the book. It's a sweet read with some very silly moments and engaging characters. If you're looking for a fun escape and don't mind the LDS references (no preaching in this book), Secret Sisters is a great choice.

Bride of Tranquility by Tracy S. Morris

Jake Coletrane, sheriff of the small town of Tranquility, just wants his wedding at the newly refurbished hotel to come off without a hitch. But with a UFO believers' convention the same weekend and all sorts of haunted encounters at the hotel, it doesn't seem like that is going to happen. One murder leads to another, and all of them are blamed on ghosts.

This book is like a mashup of Psych, Eureka, Ghost Whisperer, and Inspector Closeau. Wacky, weird, and very entertaining. Another great escape.

Dimensional Shift by Frances Pauli

I never knew hotel housekeeping could be so entertaining and dangerous. Chloe is happy to work at a tiny motel in a backwater resort town, even though it means tight budgeting and no work during the winter. She's ditched her life as a corporate stooge in the big city in exchange for peace, quiet, and the scent of pines. But her wacky neighbor, who believes in UFOs and alien abductions, may be more correct than anyone suspects. A stranger in a very nice designer suit offers Chloe a job at a hotel she can't resist, an interdimensional travel stop between worlds.

That's not the end of it, though. Chloe gets caught in the middle of a power bid bigger than anything she ever suspected. But who's telling the truth? And which side is right?

Dimensional Shift is another great book with plenty of quirky characters and interesting ideas. I'm seeing a trend here in my reading.

Child of Balance by Alice Gaines

Alice usually writes erotic romance, a genre I don't read, so when I won a book from her in a blog contest (those giveaways are addictive, go check out writer's blog and win some great books! I'll have to host a giveaway sometime on here, any suggestions?), she kindly offered to send me a copy of her fantasy book that was recently released. Child of Balance reads like a romance that doesn't know it's a romance. The story drew me in, capturing me in the strange world that was feudal/industrial Britain but wasn't. Arine works well as a sympathetic and strong heroine who just wants freedom and peace. The magic is mysterious, the setting intriguing, the characters are engaging. It's another great read.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bonus Recipes! Merry Christmas

My family had their annual Christmas potluck party last night. We did soup and salad. These two soups I made were a big hit. Here are the recipes, as best I can remember. I'm a dump and stir cook, dump it in and stir it until it looks right, so trying to remember what I put in gets to be a challenge. My husband once accused me of never being able to make the same dish twice, mostly because I couldn't remember how I changed the recipe. This should be pretty close. You may need to tweak the spices for your own personal taste.

Chicken Mushroom & Leek Soup

2 or 3 leeeks
2 T. butter
2 c. carrots, peeled & sliced
2 chicken breasts
1 t. oil
10 - 12 medium crimini mushrooms
1 t. curry powder
1/2 t. turmeric
2 t. lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 t. paprika
1/8 t. cayenne pepper powder

Trim roots and tops of stems from leeks, discard. Slice leeks in half lengthwise. Soak in large tub or sink of cold water for 10 - 15 minutes, rinse very well to remove all sand and dirt. Drain and slice crosswise into thin slices. Melt butter in large saucepan, add leeks, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes until leeks are tender. Add carrots and 4 - 6 c. water, enough to cover. Leave on low heat. Heat oil in frying pan over medium high heat, add chicken breasts. Cook until lightly browned and meat is mostly done. Cube chicken into bite size pieces, add to soup mixture. Wash mushrooms, slice, and add to soup. Add all spices and enough water to cover vegetables. Cover and cook on low 1 - 2 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Kale Soup

1/2 c. diced onion
3 - 4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 lb. ground turkey
4 - 5 medium potatoes, cubed, about 6 c.
4 - 5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced, about 3 c.
1 t. ground sage
1 t. rosemary leaves
1 t. thyme leaves
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. black pepper
2 t. salt
1 bunch kale

Cook bacon in frying pan until well-done (thick cut bacon won't always crisp, which is fine for this recipe). Remove and set on paper towels to drain. Add onion to bacon fat, cook until tender, about five minutes. Remove onion and place in large stock pot. Cook turkey in remaining bacon fat until meat is done, crumbling it into small pieces. Add turkey to pot with onion. Slice bacon into small bits, add to mixture. Add potatoes, carrots, and seasonings to pot. Add enough water to barely cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for 1 - 2 hours, until potatoes and carrots are soft. Wash kale and chop crosswise into strips. Add to soup, cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Jello Cookies

Or whatever you call them. These fun cookies use flavored gelatin, so go wild. Make them any flavor/color you want. I've run across several different versions of these, but this one has worked best for me. I made strawberry and lime for this Christmas picture. Ignore the sorry tree, it's my son's personal one he got from a Cub Scout leader years ago. It's a tradition for us to have hokey/dorky Christmas decorations. You should see the real tree. Wait, no you shouldn't. I'd be embarrassed.

Jello Cookies

3/4 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 3 oz. pkg. flavored gelatin
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
1 t. baking powder
3 to 3.5 c. flour

Heat oven to 400°. Cream butter, shortening, sugar, and gelatin until well blended and fluffy. Add vanilla, egg, and baking powder. Beat well. Stir in flour. If the dough is really sticky, add that extra half cup. It should be a soft dough, but not a really sticky one. If you're concerned, go ahead and bake one cookie. If it spreads too much, then add the extra flour. Scoop by Tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400° (you preheated the oven, right?) for 8 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let the cookies set up for 3-5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

Hint: Don't mix gelatin flavors in the same batch. Do separate batches.

I pulled out about 1/3 c. of the mix before I added flour and used 2/3 c. rice flour to make cookies for my wheat-allergic daughter. It worked quite well. That's why I'm not quite sure how much real flour it takes. So if you're gluten-intolerant, you can substitute rice flour (a little gritty but not bad) or your favorite flour blend.

Optional stuff to make them fancy: Dip the tops of the cookies into colored sugar, extra jello, or colored sprinkles (the ball kind) before baking. Talk about festive!

Enjoy the cookies. I think I'm going to find some grape and berry blue jello to try next...

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Night Before Christmas

*WARNING* If you're easily offended by people making fun of traditions, don't read this post. This is the version of the Night Before Christmas that had my kids snorting juice out their noses at the dinner table.

Lemme see, I think it was the night afore Christmas. The old wife and I had got all the kids tucked into the bed and we was fixing to do some Christmas celebratin', if you catch my drift, ceptin she started snoring to beat all. So I jest rolled over and shut my eyes.

Somethin landed on the roof with a sound louder than thunder. I grabbed up old Bessy and headed for the front porch. The hounds were a howlin under the porch. I stamped a few times, til the porch threatened to collapse and send me down with the hounds. "What in tarnation? Shet up, Old Blue!"

I didn't see nothin, so I stepped on down. There waren't no snow, cause it don't never snow here. It gets colder than all get out, but it don't never snow. Rain? Buckets of it, but not that night. The moon shone like a giant lightnin bug up in the sky. I turned to get a gander at my roof.

Some idjit parked a sleigh up there! One pulled by a bunch of deer. Stupidest thing I ever did lay eyes on. Them deer just looked at me, like they wuz where they belonged. Deer don't belong on no roof. I raised old Bessy and blasted the front three. They slid off the roof, draggin the rest with 'em. All eight deer landed in a pile, tangled up in the reins. I unloaded another couple buckshot into the mass until it quit twitchin. The sled landed with a big ole crackup. Make good kindlin, I suppose.

I pulled out my huntin knife and set to work on them deer. Bounty like that don't come along too often. I strung 'em up in the shed, then went back for the sleigh.

That's when I heard somebody banging around inside my house. "Fern?" I called, hoping it was just the wife changing her mind. She didn't answer. I snuck up on the door, Old Blue and the other hounds followin at my heels. I eased open the door, careful of the squeaky hinge.

A fat man in a red fur suit was playing in my underwear, hung to dry over the old stove. He was shoving stuff inside, all the while chucklin and a laughin fit to beat all.

"Hey! You! Stop messing with my clothes!" I raised old Bessy.

The fat man stopped. He turned around. "Have you been a good boy, then?"

I didn't want no perv in my house. I clobbered him with the butt end of old Bessy. He dropped like a rock. I dragged his sorry butt outside, rolling him off into the ravine. I had deer to skin.

I finally made it back inside afore the sun rose. Fern blinked her eyes.

"What did Santa bring?" she asked.

I stopped dead in my tracks. Well, too late now. "Lots of venison, sweetheart. Merry Christmas."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Spinach Salad

Guess what? It's National Eat Bacon Week! So in honor of that new holiday—

What do you mean it isn't a real holiday? It should be. Okay, I admit I just made it up. Bacon is one of the four basic food groups at my house. The others are chocolate, cold cereal, and granola bars.

Bacon can be healthy, if you add in enough other vegetables. Here's one of my kids' favorites with bacon.

Spinach Salad

1/2 c. red onion, sliced very thin
2 T. white vinegar

6 slices bacon
6 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c. roasted salted pecans, chopped
Poppy Seed Dressing (see below)

Put onion and vinegar in small bowl, set aside (if the onion is really mild you can skip this step). Cook bacon until crisp. Cool and crumble into small pieces. Arrange spinach on a large platter. Drain vinegar from onion. Top with cranberries, oranges, and onion. Serve with dressing.

Poppy Seed Dressing

3 limes
1 T. vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 T. poppy seeds

Grate the zest from the limes, you need about 2 t., then juice the limes. Measure 2 T. lime juice into a small mixing bowl. Add the zest, sugar, pepper, salt, and mustard. Beat with a mixer until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the oil, beating well after each addition. Dressing should thicken when you're adding the oil. Stir in poppy seeds. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. If it separates, just stir before serving.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review - The Sapphire Flute by Karen E. Hoover

The Sapphire Flute is the story of two young women who find their destiny the hard way. It's magic and save-the-world high fantasy with plenty of evil to go around. For Ember, it's a search for her father and her own magical gifts. For Kayla, it starts with guardianship of the magical Sapphire Flute. She itches to play the beautiful instrument but has promised not to. Ember's insistence on attending the mage trials leads to her kidnapping by agents of C'Tan, her aunt who wants the child dead. Kayla can't resist just blowing into the flute, enough to activate its magic and bring her to the attention of C'Tan herself, who wants the flute's magic for her own.

I enjoyed the book. I've read a lot of high fantasy. Though the world is not that different from many fantasies, Karen's twist on the quest story was unique. Her young women are women first. Many fantasies feature male protagonists and questers. Women usually play a secondary role. If they join the quest, they are hardened warriors with little femininity. Karen's girls aren't that way. Kayla is as frilly and sweet as they come. Ember is more of a tomboy, but still very much female. C'Tan, the evil witch of the story, is very feminine, too. The change was refreshing, although it made for some interesting dilemmas. Girls and women aren't the ones who long for quests, not the same way boys do. Karen manages to pull very believable motivations from her characters.

My only complaint is that the characters are supposed to be 16 and 17. They read more like 11 and 13, but it still works.

If you have a girl age 10+ who likes fantasy, magic, and save-the-world quests, this one is a winner. I give The Sapphire Flute a solid 4 stars. I'm also looking forward to the next book in the series, which says a lot for the story.

Thanks for sharing, Karen! And for those who care, I met Karen at a book signing and we traded books.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Cheer at a big Holiday book giveaway!

Want to win books? Check out the contest organized by my friend Darcia Helle. Lots and lots of free books and easy to enter. Come support the indie authors who donated their books to her giveaway. You can find anything to suit your tastes on the list.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Candy Cane Cookies

Here's my December cheer moment. These cookies are not those time-consuming, delectable butter cookie creations shaped like candy canes. These are my answer to all those candy canes lying around your house that no one will eat. It is also a great recipe for relieving stress and anger. And it tastes really good when you're done. Because they are chocolate chip cookies, nobody cares if they are lumpy and misshapen. So, don't stress. Not everything has to look perfect and tidy this month. You should see the way I'm wrapping presents this year. I'm letting the 7yo do it for me. I just need a lot more tape than normal...

Candy Cane Cookies

12-20 candy canes, any size but please don't mix the peppermint with the fruit. That's just plain nasty. Use one or the other.
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3 c. flour
1 c. chocolate chips, milk preferred this time

Unwrap all the candy canes and stuff them into a plastic bag. Don't use a ziploc or anything that seals tightly. Clean bread bags are great. Triple bag the bag with candy canes in it. Twist the top loosely to keep them from exploding out the top. Take a rolling pin and beat them into smithereens. Work out all that built-up aggression. You want nothing bigger than a chocolate chip when you're through. Set the candy cane remnants aside.

Heat oven to 375° F. Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together. Add eggs, soda, salt, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. Stir in flour, chocolate chips, and candy cane bits. Scoop dough by tablespoonfuls onto well greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 - 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool 1 - 2 minutes, then move to a cooling rack. Don't let them cool on the pan or you'll be sorry. Melted candy canes are not only VERY HOT but sticky and messy. They stick to cookie sheets when they set back up. Let the cookies cool at least 10 minutes before you eat them. Did I mention the candy cane bits will melt and get VERY HOT?

Have a great holiday. I'll have to post other traditional Christmas recipes as I remember them or my kids ask for them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday - Nestor Maronski, noted book critic, has disappeared!

Nestor Maronski has been abducted. While it doesn't surprise those of us familiar with his scathing reviews of independent authors or those who have met him personally, it has come as a shock to others who have never met the man.

I had an interview scheduled with writer Richard Jameson, but after his involvement with Nestor Maronski surfaced, I worried that he might back out. Instead, he answered more questions and even allowed me to interview his wife, Lily.

Richard Jameson, indie author of the book The Red Barn, joins us today on my blog.
Tell me, Richard, what prompted you to write your book?

‘The Red Barn’ means so much to me.  I was inspired to write it when my friend Dar Templeton told me he’d written a book.  He had a bit of success with it when he self-published, and it was looking as if he would get a publishing deal.  I’d always loved creative writing but had never seriously considered that I could write a novel.  Then one day, my wife was busy with our new-born daughter, and I was alone in my room.  I started to get the basic idea for a story.  I started writing and never looked back.

Tell us a bit about it.

It’s semi-autobiographical.  I based the main characters on myself and my wife.  A young couple moving to a new town when they got married.  They come across a derelict barn, not far from their house, and they hear rumours that the barn is haunted by the ghost of a man who was murdered there.  No one would go near the barn for fear of seeing the ghost.  Another rumour is that once a year, on Halloween, the ghost returns to seek out a victim and kill them.  It’s not far from the truth.  Lily and I used to live in a small town, and there was an unused church at the end of our road which was said to be haunted.  Every few months we would hear wailing sounds coming from inside, and no one was brave enough to go inside.  Until one day, the police were investigating a crime and searched the church.  They found many dead bodies in there, all in various states of decomposition... some had been lying there for years.  It was frightening.  We moved out of that town after we married so I don’t know what happened to that church, although I have heard that it was demolished.

Why self-publishing?

I had heard that these days, because it’s so hard to get a publishing contract with a mainstream publisher, it’s best to self-publish and then once you have kept a record of your sales, and have built up a following you can approach agents and publishers... they are most interested in investing in books that will sell well.

I know this may hurt but, your book is a total flop. In fact, I can't find it anywhere. Does this have anything to do with the review written by the noted literary critic Nestor Maronski?

Definitely.  It’s all because of his review.  He is influential.  The Post has massive circulation, and Nestor Maronski is very rich and knows a lot of people.  He can make or break an author.  I was shocked when I heard that he was going to review my book.  I was trying to avoid that because he had reviewed my friend Dar’s book ‘Day of The Vampire’ and given him 1 star.  Dar became suicidal over it.  I knew what a jerk Maronski is, so I didn’t want him to get anywhere near my book.

So why did you let Maronski review your book? Was it just chance or did he go looking for it? Did someone give it to him for review?

I didn't send him my book.  I deliberately avoided sending it to The Post.  I sent it to a couple of newspapers hoping for reviews.  It turns out that one of the directors at The Post, Sal Waters, also works on another magazine, The Literary Month, where I sent ‘The Red Barn’.  Sal sent me an email saying that he’d sent the book to Nestor Maronski for review.  I was so angry, but there was nothing I could do about it.

Nestor disappeared recently. You were named as a person of interest. In fact, he disappeared right after reviewing your book. Can you comment?

All I know is that he disappeared.  I saw him the night before, because I had a book signing at The Book Nook which was next door to the bar where Maronski always did his reviews.  I knew he was going to be reviewing my book, so I went in to speak to him.  My wife suggested it.  She said if I got to know him, gave him a signed copy of my book, he’d be less likely to write such a scathing review.  It didn’t work.  He still wrote the worst review ever.  The bastard.

What about your wife and daughter? Did you think of them before getting involved?

Involved?  What do you mean?  Are you trying to implicate me?  No.  You’ve got it all wrong.  I don’t know where you get your information, but I know nothing about Maronski’s disappearance.  Nothing.

You were seen arguing with Nestor at a bar the night before his first attack.

Arguing?  No.  I was talking to him.  We didn’t argue.  Journalists like to add something to make a story more interesting.  There were witnesses there.  The barman will tell you that Nestor was arguing with him... something about not putting any cherries in his brandy.  I had a very polite conversation with Nestor.

Be honest now, his review of your book was scathing. Surely you were angry at his brutal evisceration of your book?

I was angry, yes.

Angry enough to kill Nestor Maronski?

No.  I could never kill someone.  Even Nestor.  I will say this though, he deserves to die, and whoever has killed him has done us all a favour.

Oh?  So you know he was killed?

No.  I didn’t mean that.  I don’t know what’s happened to him.  But I mean, if he is dead he deserves it.

Share the juicy gossip, please. My lips are sealed. This interview is only going on my blog, which is read by only a handful of indie authors and personal friends. Tell us what really happened that night.

You promise it won’t go any further?

I promise.

Okay, I wasn’t involved with the initial attempt to kill Nestor, but I know who was.  I’m not telling you that.  I did get involved later... briefly.  Let’s just say a group of friends of mine who all had grudges against Nestor wanted him dead.  We did talk about the possibility of killing him.  But I realised that it wasn’t worth going through with it.  I have a wife and 3 year old daughter to think of.  I bailed out.  I have no idea what happened next.

Thank you, Richard, such an honest interview. You've really peaked my interest.

We also have the rare privilege of interviewing Mrs. Lily Jameson, wife of author Richard Jameson. Welcome, Lily. Can you tell us what it's like being married to an aspiring author?

He’s always writing.  All the time.  It’s his life.  Sometimes I wonder if it means more to him than Lacy and me.  He’d risk his life to get revenge for a bad review... even if that meant Lacy having to grow up without a dad.

What do you mean by ‘risk his life’.  Are you saying he was involved in Nestor Maronski’s disappearance?

No... no... of course not.  I was speaking metaphorically.  You get used to speaking in metaphors when you’re married to a writer.

What was the metaphor exactly? 

Can we change the subject, please?  It’s hard dealing with all the controversy surrounding Maronski’s disappearance.  Ever since Rich was implicated... he had to go to the police station take part in an ID parade, you know.  It was so hard.  We feel like people are pointing fingers at us because Rich was the last person to see Nestor Maronski before he was taken into hospital.  You have to understand, Rich works hard, his writing means the world to him... when he finished writing ‘The Red Barn’ he said to me that it was the culmination of his life's work. Not just as a writer, but as a human being.  That did make me wonder whether the writing meant more to him than me and Lacy.  I mean, surely having a child would mean more to him than writing a book?  Go figure, these writers live in a different world.  Sometimes I wish he would show as much passion to me as he does to the books he writes.

That sounds like a painful life. How do you cope?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Rich, and I know he loves me and Lacy.  Yes, it can be hard sometimes when all he talks about day and night is his writing, his books, the reviews, his writing sessions at the local library... I don’t mean to sound bitter.  I am 100% behind him and his writing.

So you have your own career that pays the bills at home. Does that affect your relationship at all?

I work hard.  And yes, I suppose I pay most of the bills.  But Rich has a day job, too.  He hates it though, and tells me that at every given opportunity.  Writing means everything to him.  He seems to be on a mission, driven to try to succeed in the publishing world.  I support him most of the time.  Of course, we do argue about how realistic it is...  Every now and them we have a major row and don’t speak to each other for a few days. 

Really, you can be honest here.

Okay, I’ve threatened to leave him a few times.  When he was writing ‘The Red Barn’ he used to shut himself away in his study for hours on end, hardly eating or sleeping.  He looked like one of the living dead, but he kept repeating that when the novel was published we’d be rich.  Of course, I knew that wasn’t a guarantee, but Rich didn’t seem to see failure as a possibility.  He said he knew that he would finally be recognised in the literary world.  He’d based the book on our relationship, which I found flattering at first until I read it and saw that the female protagonist was brutally murdered at the end of the book.  It does make me wonder where his mind is at sometimes.  But that said, I know that Richard is proud of his work and to fail is like a dagger in his heart.

So, Richard finally resorts to self-publishing. Reviews are initially good, then Nestor Maronski got his hands on the book. Were you hoping for a good review from him? Did you not know his reputation for skewering indie authors?

Of course we knew what Nestor Maronski was like, everyone knows... on Bestsellerrebound there was a whole group of indie authors who wanted him dead

Please continue.  What do you know about

Nothing, I know absolutely nothing... I just heard Rich mention something about a website that he’s heard about on the internet where indie writers talked about books.  Didn’t interest me at all, and Rich didn’t go on there either, he just heard about it.  He would never join anything like that... too busy writing.

So, what was your husband’s reaction when he heard that Nestor Maronski was going to review ‘The Red Barn’?

He was shocked to say the least.  He had sent the book to a couple of newspapers hoping for reviews, but had deliberately avoided sending it to The Post.  One of the directors at The Post, Sal Waters, also works on another magazine, The Literary Month, where Rich sent ‘The Red Barn’.  Sal must have decided that the book was more suited to The Post than the magazine.  He sent Rich an email saying that he’d sent the book to Nestor Maronski for review.  Rich almost fainted.  When I saw the email I told Rich he should try to get in touch with Nestor.  Everyone knows that Nestor frequents the bar next door to The Book Nook every Friday night.  I told Rich he should try to chat with Nestor, maybe give him a signed copy of his book. 

Why did you encourage your husband to do this?

I thought it was for the best.  I knew his world would be shattered if he got a 1 star review from Nestor Maronski.  Some of the things Nestor puts in his reviews can really cut deep.  He’s so influential.  I said to Rich that if Nestor could see the face behind the book, maybe he’d be a bit kinder in his review, when he knew he was dealing with a person’s feelings rather than just an inanimate object.  It didn’t work though, and I regret it now.  Somehow, when Rich went to see Nestor, it all became a bit more personal.

What do you mean ‘personal’? Are you saying Rich wanted revenge?

No... no, you’re putting words in my mouth.  By ‘personal’, I mean Rich was more offended by the review because he’d met Nestor... nothing more than that.

Okay, so when you and your husband read the review, what were your initial thoughts?

I wanted to kill Nestor.  I even said to Rich we should kill him...

Did your husband feel the same way?

Initially, yes.  But we would never have gone through with that.  I don’t think the rest of the group would have either, it was just words.

Who are the rest of the group?

Oh, did I say that?  You have to excuse me, my mind has been all over the place since Rich became a suspect in Nestor’s disappearance.  I was just speaking metaphorically again.

I know the police have asked you not to say anything, but what's the real scoop with Mr. Maronski's disappearance?

I only know what the police told me.  But if I’m honest, I hope the evil pig has gone to hell.  Obviously someone was brave enough to attempt what every indie author would love to do... kill Nestor.

So you do think he’s been murdered?

Er... as I say, I don’t know anything for sure... just that he’s disappeared.  I do hope he’s dead though.  Vile creature.

Anything else you want to add?

My husband is innocent.  He wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Well, I know he kills people in his books but he is a real softie.  I wish the police would leave him alone.

For more information on this investigation:

This t-shirt design was recently located uploaded to an online store. The alias links back to the infamous topic #777:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins

And a plug for a great holiday giveaway! Hundreds of books, lots of authors, lots of fun. Stop by and enter for your chance to win one of the fabulous books.

Now, on to the recipe. I've been chatting with a friend who lives in South Africa about the importance of pumpkin pie to Americans. She wanted to experience it, but had no access to pumpkins. Guess what? Butternut squash, banana squash, sweet potatoes or yams, acorn squash, pretty much any orange colored squash, can be substituted for pumpkin. They will have slightly different flavors and textures, but overall, can be exchanged freely between recipes. My kids really prefer butternut squash or yams instead of pumpkin in the pies.

To prepare fresh yams or any of the winter squash, like those listed, just scrub them to remove any surface dirt, jab with a fork a few times, then roast at 350° until they are tender. Yams take anywhere from an hour to two, depending on size. If you want, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds, then bake. If you turn them cut side down, they don't dry out. You can also put a tablespoon or so of butter into the seed cavity and bake them cut side up. Squash takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on thickness and size of pieces.

Take them out of the oven and let cool just long enough to handle, or longer if you prefer. Scoop out the insides and toss the peels. Now you have big buckets of squishy orange deliciousness. Serve it plain or with a bit of butter, salt, and pepper. Or use it in one of the recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Use 1 c. baked squash or yams in place of 1 c. canned pumpkin.

And canned yams? Ew. We tried them one year and no one would eat them. Buy them fresh and bake them if you can. The baked innards freeze quite nicely in freezer bags or containers. They'll keep for 6-9 months. Just thaw and use.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Muffins

2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1 c. cooked sweet potato
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. orange juice
2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen or dried

Cream sugar and eggs. Add salt, soda and spices. Cream until fluffy. Stir in sweet potato and oil. Add cranberries and flour. Stir just until mixed. Scoop into muffin cups. Bake at 400° 13-15 minutes for mini muffins, 18-20 minutes for regular muffins. Makes 2 dozen regular muffins, 5 dozen mini muffins. Use paper muffin liners, trust me, it makes life so much easier.

Substitutions (because that's what I'm all about when I cook):
Dried Cranberries - dried cherries, blueberries, currants, or other dried berries, chopped if necessary, semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts
Fresh Cranberries - fresh or bottled cherries, fresh or frozen blueberries, semi-sweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts
Cooked sweet potatoes or yams - cooked squash or pumpkin