Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Author Interview and Spotlight with Emily Steward

Today I want to Welcome Emily Steward, the author of Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure, a middle grade fantasy novel. This book is awesome!

Title: Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure
Author: Emily A. Steward

Back Cover Blurb:

When 13 year-old Penelope Gilbert accidentally transforms into a stapler during math class, she’s sure she’s going crazy. But she’s not imagining the men in black suits now patrolling the halls at school, nor is she imagining the new substitute teacher who orders the class to take a special new test. A test that requires blood. Hunted for her powers, and torn from the life she knows, Penny is swept up into a world in the clouds where magic meets machine and pirates rule the sky.


A six-foot-tall arachnid hovered over them. One of the creature’s razor-sharp metal legs was raised to attack. The scream seemed to confuse it. It wasn’t much of a window, but it was long enough. She rolled to the side just as the beast’s leg smashed into the ground, leaving a deep hole behind. Crane turned to see what was happening. He let out a cry and fell back into Haldor.
“Guard your necks!” Penny shouted. A web shot out from another spider just behind the first, catching Crane around the ankle. It pulled him in faster than he could react. Another web shot toward Penny. She managed to deflect it with her sword. She could hear Chip hooting wildly from somewhere above, as if cheering them on.
“Haldor, these guys are metal, can’t you do something?” she cried.
“I’m trying, but I have to get closer.”
“Help!” Crane yelled from where he hung upside down from the spider’s back. Haldor jumped to his feet and ran at them, swinging his spear around. He let out a gasp as a spindly leg knocked him to the ground. Another rose up to make the kill. Penny leapt forward and chopped the leg in two with her sword before it could connect.
The metal shrapnel scattered onto the ground. Haldor took that moment to drive his spear into the soft underbelly of the animal. It let out a horrible shriek but only seemed to be angered more. It came at him again, foam dripping from his fangs, his glass eyes gleaming red like a hundred tiny traffic lights. Haldor fell back, losing his grip on the spear. The spider lunged just as Penny attacked it from behind, stabbing her blade deep within his thorax. She then swung around, looking for the spider who held Crane. She could see it skittering toward the forest.
“Come on!” she yelled to Haldor who was wriggling out from under the spider corpse. She ran to the spot where she saw the creature enter as Haldor hurried to catch up. She scrambled through the brush until she came to a stream. There she saw the spider. He was across the water under a large tree. Above him were several objects swinging in the breeze. It took her a moment to realize that they were rotting bodies strung up by their necks. Their unseeing eyes stared eerily into the darkness. Upon closer inspection, she saw that there were at least thirty of them. She wretched silently as she tried to think of a way for Crane to not become one of them. The spider was already trying to wrap a strand of webbing around his neck. A thought occurred to her. An outrageous, outlandish thought. I can do this, she assured herself. She tried to picture every last detail of her slain foe—every creepy crawling, hairy, shiny detail. Penny could feel the energy pulsing through her. Her hands were no longer her own. Her teeth had become fangs, and her eyes were the eyes of a killer.

Author Bio:

Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.

Social Media Links:

Buy Link: 

Author Interview:

What is the best thing for you about being a writer?
I love the ability to share the stories and ideas I have running through my head. It’s so cool to see a project come together, and a story form out of nothing. You also can’t beat the flexible hours!

What is the hardest thing for you about being a writer?
The hardest thing is finding the time to sit down and actually write and there are so many distractions when I finally do.

What genre/s do you write and what genre is your latest release?
I write primarily middle grade books. I’ve written a mystery/horror novel that I hope will be published in the near future and I’m also working on a realistic fiction book along the lines of a more contemporary Harriet the Spy. My latest release is my debut novel and it’s a middle grade fantasy called Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure. 

What essential things have you learned about writing in the last year?
That persistence does actually pay off! I’ve also learned the value of good writing buddies and critique groups. These have been so helpful. Some critiques may sting, but there is usually something you can learn from them… even if it’s how not to critique others.

Who is your favourite heroine from your books and why?
I would have to say Penny from my new release. She has a great imagination, a feisty spirit, and she has the awesome ability to morph into anything!

What type of hero do you like? Super alpha, wounded or somewhere in between? Or even something totally different? You could give an example from a movie or well-known book.
I’m not too familiar with these hero types. I do like a good antihero though as long as they aren’t too dark. A hero with some flaws is much more interesting and relatable like Captain Jack Sparrow. You never know quite what he’s going to do.

Tell us about your journey in writing this book.
Well, I first started writing it about ten years ago. I just decided to quit waiting for inspiration to strike, and start writing. The story looks a lot different now than that early draft, but it was effective because it got me out of my head and actually writing. I took some long breaks and took a few writing courses before I got back to it.

Tell us three quirky or interesting things about yourself.
1. Sometimes I wish I had the power to turn back time so that I could do something outrageous and funny and then take it back afterward.
2. When I was 8 or 9 I started a no girls allowed club. I said that I was a tomboy, so I let myself in.
3. When eating M&M's I have to eat an even amount at a time. Preferably the same color.

What rituals do you use to help you focus or get the words down on the page e.g. music or a snack?
I almost always have to leave the house and go to the library or a coffee shop. I just can’t concentrate when I can see things around me that need done. I actually love to eat sunflower seeds while writing, but sunflower seeds are not exactly an easy thing to eat in public without looking like a cow chewing my cud. Since I prefer to write in public, my methods kind of clash.

Mention something unique about your books and your writing style.
My books are a little eclectic. I feel like each one could have many sub genres. This is partially due to the fact that I don’t work well with an outline. So I may veer off a bit, but it all seems to work together in the end.

What book would you like to work on next?
I plan on diving into book two in my Penelope Gilbert series very soon. I already have a few chapters and a (very) loose outline.

Thank you for a fascinating interview. I love your "no girls" club idea! So funny!

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's Been a Long Time

Hi to my wonderful blog followers! I've certainly missed you.

It's been so long since I've blogged about anything other than promoting my writer friend's books. Since June, my life has turned upside down. Sometimes, life throws us a curveball. We're used to so many constants in our lives, but then suddenly they get swept out from under our feet and we have to find a new normal.

In June, I injured my knee quite badly that I had to have an operation a week later. After the operation, I wore a nasty, constrictive brace (with yucky velcro that poked me and gave me rashes and that kept falling down.) I used crutches for about three weeks and the brace for six weeks. I also had to visit the physiotherapist and do lots of boring and sometimes painful exercises. Finally, I'm mobile again but I still walk with a limp and get pain. But I'm relieved to be out of that brace!

About a week or two after the operation, my husband broke the news that he no longer loves me. It's complicated but he's divorcing me. This was a huge shock as I was totally in love with him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. So, in between breaking the news to our families who are devastated and just as shocked, and trying to work out how our lives are going to change, and working through the five stages of grief about ten times over already, I haven't been much in the blogging world.

I'm also concerned with the direction of my writing. My love of romance was inspired by my own personal love story. My hubby swept me off my feet many years ago and gave me a fairytale romance and a happy marriage (although in retrospect, I can see we had some issues). At the moment, I'm questioning everything - like the validity of our love and my whole concept of romance. I know the hurt is really raw and new so it's going to take time to find healing. But hey, what's it about life? The bad things often bring about good things and they open the doors for a new start. I've realised how much support I have in terms of friends and loved ones. I've also grown really close to God in this time and have started going back to church (despite my major issues with church in the past) and I'm opening up my heart to all the wonderful juicy life wisdom and maturity God is going to bring about in my life through this experience. Maybe I'll have more compassion for others. Possibly one day I can help someone else through a hard time too. I know I'll have lots of good fuel for my writing.

So, I stopped the romance I was in the middle of writing - I'd reached 39K. I started an urban fantasy novel which has just reached that point (about 40K) on Friday. This book has flowed so beautifully - I'm so grateful. The words have tumbled out. A lot of them have been connected to my own pain - the writing has been cathartic to me. That said, I'm not sure if urban fantasy is my new genre. I do think I'll write more, but I'm also keen on woman's fiction. I just can't think of writing pure romance at the moment. And I have a feeling it may not happen for a few years. It's presenting a huge challenge in terms of my writing persona. Everything about my writing image projected to the world is romance. I'm taking it one step at a time. I'd love to know what you think, whether you will still read my books if they're not romance.

But I do still have two romances coming out - the second edition of "Reminding Me of You" to come out probably in October with Clean Reads (this new edition is awesome if I may say so myself), and The Album 4 which will come out in September. I'm also very excited as I've been given an Elite Review for The Album 1 by Int'Dale magazine. Further news about this to follow...

Addendum or new development to this blog post:

Funny how after we post something on the blogosphere, we suddenly have an epiphany or we realise that maybe we want to take back what we've said or adjust it. I was thinking about no longer writing romance and I suddenly had this determination inside me to show the world that there is true romance out there and what it looks like. Sure, I may have just experienced the shattering of my romantic dreams and question the validity of my romance of the last twenty years. But that doesn't mean true romance doesn't exist. (Oh, and by the way, true romance isn't those tingles and happy feelings all the time - true romance is loving someone when you feel it or don't!) Sure, it really hurts that this romantic soul has suffered a broken heart. A part of me wants to crawl under a rock and say "poor me," but there's another shiny part inside my heart that says, "on no, there is true love out there. One day I'm going to find someone who loves me just for me. Someone who believes in love forever with me, who considers the vows sacred and precious even in the hard times." So, I'm going to write about this type of person. I'm going to continue to write romance. So, to the dragon of sadness and broken dreams, you're defeated. I'm going to slay you with my words! Wish me luck, fellow valiant knights!

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Dragon's Ring by Debra Daugherty

Today, I want to welcome Debra Daugherty with her new release, The Dragon's Ring. Look at the absolutely stunning cover!

Genre: Upper Middle Grade/YA romantic fantasy/fairy tale
Publisher: Clean Reads/Astraea Press
Release date: July 28, 2016


Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.

Book excerpt:

A loud, deafening roar pierced his eardrums, and he felt the ground beneath him shake. James whirled around and found himself face to face with the most ferocious creature he had ever seen.

He had never encountered a dragon before, but he had heard all the stories about them from other knights at the castle. Nothing he had been told prepared him for this sight.

An enormous and fierce green dragon with thick, scaly skin glared at him. The dragon, at least twenty feet tall, swished its long tail back and forth, and each time the tail hit the wall of the cave, the room shook. James noticed that the tail ended in a sharp point, just like a spear.

The dragon roared again, and flames spewed from its mouth, while huge puffs of smoke seeped out of its nostrils. When the dragon opened its mouth, James saw that its teeth were sharp and jagged. His legs trembled. He could hear his knees as they knocked together, and for a moment he thought he was going to faint.

As the dragon inched closer, James took a step back and then moved to the left. The dragon did the same. He dashed to the right and so did the dragon.

James decided to run and hide from the dragon until he could devise a plan on how to defeat it. He ran as hard and as fast as he could, but the dragon was right on his heels.

Deeper and deeper into the cavern James went until he could go no further. He had reached a dead end. There were no more tunnels to explore, and the dragon was blocking his only way out. James was trapped and the dragon knew it.

Buy links:

iTunes and B&N are coming
ISBN 978-1-62135-566-3

Author Bio:

Member: SCBWI
Springfield Scribes Writers Group

Debra Daugherty is from Central Illinois and is a member of SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She enjoys living in the country with her two dogs, a Chihuahua named CeCe, and a rescued American Stratford Terrier named Honey. Besides writing children stories, Debra loves to spend time with her family, travel, and browse through antique shops. Publishing credits include CALAMITY CAT, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, at www.CuriousWorld.com. She’s also had two short stories published in Guardian Angel Kids’e-zine, LET YOUR IMAGINATION SOAR! and THE MYSTERY OF THE GHOSTLY THIEF. In 2015 her children’s story, HEART OF STONE, won first place in the Litchfield Student Education Foundation’s writing contest.

Book trailer:

Links to online interviews:

Social Media Information:

Twitter - https://twitter.com/dmddeb  or @dmddeb
Storyfinds.com: https://storyfinds.com/book/18116/the-dragons-ring

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pre-order Iris Blobel's New Beginnings

The story is set in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, the most southern state in Australia. A most beautiful place. I went there a few years back and imagined how it would be to live in this city, how to adapt as a "non-local", and bit by bit I wrote the story of two sisters moving there.
Obviously, I added a little romance into the story as well – so I added Mark and Zach.
This is the second edition of NEW BEGINNINGS.
The story is now a bit sexier and has also received another edit.

Literary Chanteuse's review: "This author has a way of endearing her characters and it is easy to fall in love with them. An intriguing story with emotion, love and hope."
Sharon's review: "This was a very enjoyable read and it left me wanting just a little bit more. I highly recommend it."

"Other people have to fight battles in their life as well."

~~  New Beginnings ~~
(2nd Edition)
by Iris Blobel

♥♦♥  SYNOPSIS ♥♦♥

The chance to start life all over with the help of a stranger.

Twenty-two-year-old Sophie Levesque has been guardian to her eight-year-old sister Mia since their mother's death a few years ago, and it hasn't been easy. Luck comes their way when they inherit a small house in Hobart. Problem is, though, they don't know and have never heard of Clara Bellinger, the testator. Settling into their new life, Sophie is still afraid it's all a mistake.

Mark O'Connor, attorney in Hobart and the bearer of the good news for Sophie and Mia, curses himself for the lack of information about the testator. However, researching the questions gives him an opportunity to see Sophie again, and the more time he spends with the two, the more he realises that his life is missing something. And it's not his casual lover Linda.

But then there's Zach, Sophie's sexy neighbour from across the road… and a very good friend of Clara's.

Will unravelling the mystery unravel Sophie and Mark's promise of a future?


Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she met her husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only emerged recently, but now her laptop is a constant companion.

Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

Next to her job at a private school, she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.

Social Media Links:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Why Shopping in South Africa is Losing its Charm Fast

This blog post may not mean anything to my international followers, so you're welcome to move on.

These are the reasons why South African retailers need to catch a wake-up fast as online shopping is becoming way more appealing by the year. They're going to lose out on business and push customers away for the following reasons:

1. This is the ultimate turn-off to me - the harassment at the door going out of the shop.

Retailers are fighting against crime or theft. Yes, I know it's rife in our country, although come to think of it, does it really justify the way retailers treat their customers when they leave the shop? I don't care how much you lose in profits every month from shoplifters; you are losing my patronage by harassing me at the door!

We pay for our purchases at the till, which oftentimes is within metres of the exit and quite visible. We get given a bag with the store's logo on it to put our items in, then we get accosted by an aggressive and rather abrupt security person at the door who wants to check our slip against what's in our bag which holds our own personal stuff that we've just bought. Oftentimes, we may have slotted our slip back in our handbag or wallet and now we have to fish it out and wait for the person to rummage through our purchases to check that we didn't steal something in the short few steps between the cashier till and the door!

It reached a head when we were in Joburg a couple of months ago and bought some items at a large department store (which we were already disappointed with as they didn't have the things that we'd planned on getting). The long line of cashiers were directly by the door and as we'd just finished purchasing our items and the packer had put them in a bag, we headed to the door where a woman stood armed with a machine in her hand and piercing eyes, waiting to pounce upon us. We were in a hurry to travel back home after a tiring weekend and the security lady stopped us at the door and asked to scan our slip and check what was in our bag, which we could only have gotten from the long line of tills directly by the exit, so my husband said "no" and continued walking. She followed us! She ignored all the other people streaming out the shop to follow us to the car park. I felt so awkward, like some criminal because I'd bought something from their shop! I'd supported them and they were treating me like some thief. We walked to our car and she came storming after us, shouting "wait!" It was so embarrassing. She eventually caught up to us but by this time, my husband was so livid, he got into the car and started driving off, but I stayed behind to give the woman my slip. She stood scanning it for ages, like she deliberately wanted to annoy us. I don't know if they rescan every item that we buy. I have no idea. She didn't even check our package. All she wanted to do was rescan the till slip we'd been given. My husband was furious, as you can well imagine, and it didn't help him face the long journey home.

It truly is a humiliating process which makes honest patrons of a business feel abused as they exit the shop. Some places insist on just stamping your till slip as you go out the door and don't even bother to check what's in your bag. Tell me please, what is the purpose of this? Are they not able to tally their sales from the cash registers? Are their organisational systems so bad that they can't do simple business while making things unpleasant and tiresome for their customers?

2. The harassment at the door entering the shop!

Okay, this one doesn't bother me as much as I sometimes manage to slip by these ones without them noticing. But when you enter a shop here in South Africa, carrying a bag from another shop, you have to stop and wait for the security guy / lady at the door to tape the bag closed. Sometimes, they do it so stupidly, I'm sure it wouldn't deter a true thief anyway as it can be pulled open in a moment and other times, they tape up the bag so much that you can't get your stuff out once you reach home, so you have to cut or tear the bag open. What I don't understand is that I often carry my fabric bag in, which I use to carry purchased items from previous shops, but they don't stop me to check those. So, I could stash all manner of items from their shop into this, but they wouldn't know a thing. Really, are there not better ways to ensure shoplifters don't have a go than harassing your honest customers? Can't they plant cameras in the stores? Or hire people to walk around and watch people? Why do we have to work through these scowling individuals who make it hard to go in and out of the store?

3. Honestly, how do you pack your merchandise on the shelves and do you actually hire someone who has any notion of organisation and safety to do the job?

I'm shocked at the poor way things are packed on the shelves. Some stores are a real nightmare. Some clothing stores pack the racks so full that when you take one item off, the rest go tumbling down onto the floor.

And the way items are hung up or displayed is often not conducive to ease of choosing. I went to buy some bras yesterday. What a mission it was to try the different items on! They always make the straps ultra-tight to suit someone whose boobs hang up by their neck. They put these nasty security things on the items which sometimes make them impossible to open and try on. Now, let me not talk about the great disparity between different items of the same size. I had to try on so many bras and it took me ages to open them up to try on. Don't they realise that most, if not all women don't have boobs by their neck? Why don't they loosen the straps to make them "try-on-able?"

Grocery store shelves are so narrow and they stack two cans of baked beans or cat sardines or boxes on top of each other, so tightly so that you can't get them out without putting everything else in your hand down and manoeuvring and wriggling the item sideways and all manner of strange angles to get it out without knocking over the whole lot and denting the other cans in the process.

Sometimes the merchandise is put so high up that even someone six-feet tall would struggle to get it down without standing on a stool or ladder or calling someone from somewhere in the shop to get a ladder to bring it down. Yesterday, my husband and I went to a home store where we'd been given a voucher gift for our 20th wedding anniversary. What was meant as a pleasant, fun shopping experience, in certain ways became annoying. We were looking at buying new dinner plates so my husband wanted to look at a box of four plates. But they were so high up, that even on tiptoes, he couldn't reach them. Not to mention the risk of them being breakable. Then he found a set lower down (notice only one set) but he couldn't get them out the shelf as there was a lip on the top and bottom of the shelf, holding the item captive inside the shelf. With much manipulation and difficult manoeuvring, he eventually got it out. We also wanted to look at some other items but they were all boxed. They didn't leave a set out on display so we had to fiddle with the tape of a sealed box so as not to tear it, so we could look at the items inside. Then we had to seal it carefully afterwards. All the while, concerned a shop assistant would complain at us for opening something up.

Not to mention the many times things are put in dangerous and precarious places. My husband is also a safety officer and the things he's noticed in shops! Well, let's say - not very safe.

4. Cleaning is more important than the customer having a relaxed shopping experience.

Instead of arranging for shift workers to clean the shops after trading hours, cleaners do their job while we're in the shop. Sometimes, they stick up their "wet floors" sign and we have to avoid the section we need to go in or we promptly ignore the sign and walk there anyway. Other times, they get in our way with their mop and big bucket, making it hard to navigate the aisles. But the worst is when they get annoyed with the shopper for walking on their wet floor and huff and puff and roll their eyes at us because we just want to buy things from the shop to give them the sales they need to pay their employees (including cleaning lady herself.)

One day, a woman with some fancy floor-cleaning device stood staring at us in the one shop where I was looking at sale clothes on a rack. She gave us the beady eye, waiting for us to get out of there so she could push her machine past us. By the way, there was plenty of room for her machine, but for some reason, us being near her was an issue. We refused to budge. I was the shopper. I was the one who helped to pay her salary. What was her problem? I'm not sure what happened then, but she moved to park herself in the walkway and another customer wanted to walk past but she refused to budge. She kept this angry scowl on her face. Eventually the other lady got so angry with her and spewed a whole lot of words out at her. My husband and I couldn't believe how much the cleaning lady thought that she owned the floor space of the shop and that the customers were just an annoyance.

I'm truly disappointed about the state of retail in this country. I have to say some shops are a pleasure to shop at most of the time like the Pick 'n Pay down the road and Bargain Books and possibly some high-class shops in the big cities. But the big retailers who have large franchises and some of the little independent stores in our town need to catch a wake-up soon!

Why Vinegar is a Staple in my Home

Huh? What did you say? You may be wondering why I wrote such a weird thing in the title of this blog.

That's because I'm in the mood for blogging about random stuff for a while. Yes, I know I'm a romance writer, but I also have things to say about life which don't pertain to writing. Contrary to some opinions, writing isn't my whole life. I have quite a bit going on outside it.

This is why the simple, rather cheap and elemental product (vinegar) is now a staple in my home and why I always have a big bottle of it on hand:

1. It makes a great fabric softener which doesn't clog up my washing machine with those funny, waxy flaky things that stick to my lovely white clothes.

I have a top loader which is great for a family of five and for someone who hates washing things by hand and carting heavy, dripping clothes and blankets through my house to hang up outside. The machine can take a blanket or two in one load and spins a large amount of the moisture off first so I can take it outside to hang up without dripping all over the floor. But top loader's have a weakness - after a few months, horrible waxy, grey, gungy flakes suddenly spew out of somewhere and land up all over the load of washing. It's best to shake them off once the clothes are dry else they can smear all over the garments, making them look dirtier than they did before the wash. Then I discovered that you can use vinegar as a fabric softener instead of buying the expensive softener bottles at the store. I put about a quarter cup in, add a few drops of lavender oil inside to cut the strong vinegar smell and it makes the clothes soft and fluffy. It's cheap even with the lavender oil which lasts at least six months. And added bonus - I no longer get those flaky things.

2. It's great for cleaning bath rings.

Before I run a bath, I spray vinegar on the tub, then wipe clean with water. I bought a cheap spray bottle and filled it up with the acid. It does two things - helps get rid of residual dirt from the last bath or the kitty's paws or whatever happened to land up in there. And it balances the ph in the bath water, hence no yukky thrush which us ladies are prone to get when something is too alkaline. Store-bought bathroom cleaners are very alkaline which doesn't do well for our nether regions. Vinegar is great! Sure, it stinks the room out a little but soon the soap smells take over.

3. It's magic in baking.

Ever heard of using vinegar instead of eggs in a recipe? They basically work the same and you don't get to taste it against all that yummy sugar and butter, etc. So when you forgot to buy eggs or Aunt Lucy is allergic to them, you could always substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar for an egg. I'm also gluten intolerant but if I soak wheat flour in a one or two tablespoons of vinegar and milk or water for 12-24 hours, I can eat wheat bread and biscuits without any hassle to my tummy. Strange, I can have slices of this bread without a problem but I have a bit of flour in a store-bought gravy and I feel sick!

4. Vinegar truly is a marvel with cleaning things. My new discovery is freshening the dishwasher. I don't know about you, but I love my dishwasher. Being a family of five with three hungry teenagers and preferring home-cooked, balanced meals over take-outs and rushed, slopped-together food, we generate lots of dishes. On top of that, whenever I bake, I have to make a gluten-free version of it for myself. Unfortunately, my family hates gluten-free baked goodies, so I couldn't just make one kind. So, we have lots of dishes every day - piles in fact. Not that I bake every day, but you get the picture, I'm sure. So, the dishwasher is a godsend indeed. But after a while, it gets grungy inside and doesn't look sparkly and new and smell fresh anymore. Thanks to a wonderful blog I follow, I found a quick and easy way to get it looking and smelling like new. Simple - put a cup of vinegar in a glass jug on the top shelf of an empty dishwasher and do a normal, hot load. When you open up, the jug will be full to the brim of brownish water, but the machine will sparkle and shine and smell a whole lot better.

Oh, and it tastes wonderful on fried chips or in a salad dressing. Or even sweet and sour sauces.

Do you know any other helpful uses for plain old vinegar? I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spotlight and Review of Spellbound

Part of Your World
Where love is waiting just beyond the edge of what you can see.
When two world collide at the edge of the sea in a measure of desperation, a prince will bow before a commoner and a lost soul will be finally be found. Part of Your World - Where love is waiting just beyond the edge of what you can see.

A guardian can’t shine without the song of her ward.
Marian Spritz won’t gain guardian fairy status if she fails her summer school project. But when she hears a call for help—a song felt only by Glistens—she must choose between not letting her schoolwork and teammates suffer and protecting a ward who faces grave danger.

Can love heal all that’s broken? 
Life had been simple for vampire Jayden Blackwell until he met the runaway Emmaline Grey. One taste of her blood revealed that not only is she a fledgling vampire on the cusp of her transition, but she’s also his bondmate and the granddaughter of his family’s biggest enemy. Will family feuding keep them apart or is it Jayden who compromised Emma’s survival? 

Drops of Sunshine
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. -Buddha 
Working as lifeguard at a camp for the blind seems like the perfect escape for Nina. But a few perceptive kids can hear her thoughts. Can embracing her truth help her heal and reveal possibilities she never imagined? 

Feathers and Fireflies
Will you follow the fireflies?
Seventeen year old Rory of Vanora Village dreams of capturing the sacred summer solstice ritual of the animal shapeshifters with her trusty charcoal and parchment. But with only legends and tales to guide her, she cannot even convince her childhood friend, Lucas, that the ritual is real. On the night Rory follows the fireflies, she gets far more than she bargained for.

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Part of Your World
L.A. Starkey 
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L.A. Starkey is the author of the Soul Keeper Series, a supernatural young adult series, and The Liarus Detective Series, a supernatural middle grade series. 
She is a fulltime writer, and loves spending time with her family and reading a good book. With more ideas than one person should be allowed, she is blessed to have a muse that doesn't seem to take a vacation and more energy that one might consider healthy.
She writes under the following pen name:
Kate Thomas - NA/Adult Paranormal -- SEE Enchanted

Chess Desalls
Chess Desalls is the author of the YA time travel series, The Call to Search Everywhen. She's a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly classics and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction writing has led to academic and industry publications. She's also a contributing editor for her local writing club's monthly newsletter. The California Writers Club, South Bay branch, has awarded two of Chess' stories first place for best short fiction. When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys traveling and trying to stay in tune on her flute.

Kelly Hall 
Kelly Hall was born and raised in Southeast Texas, and lives in a small town just a stone's throw from the ghost road where her Light Keeper series is based. 
When she's not busy writing, or spending time with her husband and two sons, this self-proclaimed creative junkie dabbles in many different forms of art, including cake decorating and mixed media. 

Drops of Sunshine
Tricia Copeland
Tricia Copeland grew up in Georgia but now lives outside the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado with her husband, three kids, and multiple four legged and finned friends. An avid runner and paranormal fan, she also enjoys hiking, trivia, and Scrabble. You can connect with Tricia and other readers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her website, www.triciacopeland.com

Feathers and Fireflies
Melanie Rodriguez 
Melanie Rodriguez holds a BA in creative writing from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. She says she's been compelled to write stories dictated by the voices she's heard inside her head since she was a child, citing the story line of her debut book Child of Blackwen: An Artemis Ravenwing Novel as one of the main reasons she majored in creative writing. It's an epic work of high fantasy narrating the coming-of-age story of a young half-vampire, half-human creature known as a dhampir. A former New Yorker, Rodriguez is an avid reader and sports fan who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her overly excitable shepsky (a shepherd-husky mix), Shadow.


My Review of Spellbound

I was gifted a copy of this book to review. At first, I didn't think I'd finish the whole book before the date to post this, but I've managed to read most of it so I'm going to put my review up and update it as soon as I've completed the last story.


I haven't read many young adult novels. I chose to read this one as, particularly, the blurb of Drops of Sunshine fascinated me and I also like paranormal / fantasy novels. I did expect them to be romance based and I'm not sure why, but it doesn't matter that they all weren't - I still enjoyed the paranormal slant of each one.

The stories were fun to read and varied. Although shorter than full-length books, they had enough structure and plot to take me into their worlds and keep me gripped. I was a bit disappointed with the quality of editing as there were several grammar mistakes in the book. But the stories were good enough to keep this grammar nerd reading anyway. I have to say I did have a preference for two of the stories over the rest. I've decided to review each one separately as they really are so different in writing style. Although I had two favourites, each story was a good read and held their own special merit.

Story 1 - Part of Your World

I loved this story and it was one of my favourites. The sweetness of the writer permeated the story from the start and it kept me gripped. An interesting world was created in a short story. The romance, although not fully developed in the beginning, became more meaningful in the last part of the story. The characters were good and easy to sympathise with. It had a great easy-to-read writing style and feel to the story.

Story 2 - Glistens

I love fairy books so I did enjoy being taken into an unusual and unique fairy world in this story. The beginning was a bit disjointed and I struggled to know what was going on at times, but it improved as the story went on. There were some grammar issues that I couldn't help picking up. It was a great reading escape though. If this was intended to be a romance, I admit it failed, but as a paranormal young adult novella, it does well - plenty of adventure and interesting characters.

Story 3 - Tethered

This novella was a different take on the vampire theme and it's nice to come from a fresh angle. I enjoyed some of the characters in this story but not all. I thought the heroine was a bit whiny and spoilt at times but then she redeemed herself in the end. And so did some of the other characters. Sweet romance, but not as fully developed as I would have liked. The paranormal world-building was well-constructed and full of surprises with a satisfying ending.

Story 4 - Drops of Sunshine

I have to say this was my favourite story. The writing was of a high standard with great plot, pacing, dialogue, and characterisation. The story arc was well-developed with character arc, romance and plot. The writer took me into the character's head and I immediately sympathised with her and not only because I have a hard time opening up when I'm going through a hard time. This story really spoke to me personally and I enjoyed the romance too. I really wanted them to end up together and it was done realistically and sweetly. I loved the touches of paranormal placed in this book and also the life lessons the characters learned through the story.

Story 5 - Feathers and Fireflies

This was an enchanting story about animal shapeshifters and a young woman's quest to break free of her life while controlled by her abusive uncle. I enjoyed the depth to this story, the interesting characters and the fascinating world building. A great fantasy / paranormal read.

Four Stars or rather Eiffel Towers

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Things about Being Forty-five

Today, I'm in the mood for doing light and funny, so here goes.

I was just thinking about how I've changed over the years - some of the changes have been slow and some more immediate, but these are a few of the things about being forty-five:

1. Pet peeve - when a recipe talks down to me. I've been cooking and baking for years now. Please don't tell me to mix until well-combined or to sift the flour or to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to make sure all the mixture gets combined. I know, some people may need that, but really, you're just wasting my reading time and my cooking time. Simple is best for recipes! Sometimes I like figuring out how to do it myself with just the ingredients.

2. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I don't like to listen to an instructional / coaching / life wisdom video or follow a You Tube workout video (which I do often) by a twenty-year old. It sounds really arrogant and I would have been most upset twenty years ago if you'd said something like that. It's just, I want someone with experience if I'm going to learn something from them. It's so wrong, because I know they probably know more about yoga or whatever it is than I do, but still, I feel cheated, like I'm going to get half of the info.

3. Instead of waking up on a winter's morning shivery and cold, even with about three layers on, and wanting to cuddle up to hubby, the tables have turned. Now I want to kick off the blankets, don't often wear socks, and love it when he warms up his cold hands on my bare tummy. Maybe something to do with peri-menopause, I have no idea.

4. I care a lot less what people think of me. As a young twenty or thirty year old I was an intense people-pleaser. Now, I like to go my own way and if you don't like it, tough cookie! It's my life and I have one life to live and am about halfway through if I do well, so I'm going to look after this soul here. It's very liberating.

5. I don't get that broodiness I used to get when someone I knew had a baby. In my thirties I used to secretly wish a late accidental baby would be sprung upon us and I would get that soft bundle again to cuddle. I do not feel the same way anymore. I'm waiting for my grandchildren who I can hand back when they have colic or when I have something I need to do. I can't imagine sleepless nights anymore (I love my sleep) or buckets of nappies to wash (we did the towelling route and environmental me would probably go the same way again) and breast pumps, and puréeing food into a browny-green mush then trying to feed them to a reluctant baby. Or worst of all, labour pains and the horrible expectation of going through them for nine months.

6. I used to love high-impact aerobics and jogging to work myself towards a 10km race, now I'll stick to gentle yoga, thanks, where I get to relax, breathe and stretch in between working out my muscles. Even parkrun sucks and that's only 5km. I think that's more a fitness issue, but I prefer gentle walking now and using it to brainstorm my plots than pushing myself to get a best time.

7. Life is too short to stress about what's on my plate and whether I'm eating ultra-healthy. Dieting and food obsession can take over our lives and I'd rather think about other things. Food is fuel, not medicine.

8. Cleanliness is not next to godliness. Okay, I don't like to live in a dump and I keep my home relatively clean (with a maid to help once a week) but I'm not nearly obsessed about it being perfect like I used to. I can think of many more interesting things to do with my time. I remember reading a post on Facebook a couple of years ago where someone asked in a group how many times other people washed the bed linen. I was totally shocked by the answers. Most people said at least once a week and some said every day. I shuddered. I couldn't help making some comment about germo-phobes. Don't think it was taken too well. I'm probably really slack in this regard, but hey, who wants to spend their whole lives washing sheets? Sure, if you have a major allergy issue, it may be good (although I think ultra-cleanliness probably exacerbates these things) but I just can't wrap my head around washing my sheets every day! Imagine that when you have four beds in the house! One woman I read about in a magazine vacuums her mattresses and sheets every day. Heaven, help me.

9. Many of those things they pumped into me in religion aren't true and were made up by people wanting to control others. More and more, I see how man creates systems which harm people and don't help them and that we're a lot better off listening to common sense and gut feel than platitudes and rigid rules and bizarre guidelines. We're actually pretty smart, us humans - we just don't realise it.

10. Ditch fashion and fitting in. I'll dress how I like, thank you very much. I think I dropped that one years ago although even in the days when I felt compelled to follow the fashions, I was never particularly good at it. I've always been a hippie at heart.

11. Oh, and I nearly forgot - parents. They were mostly right all these years and I was wrong, but I was too blind to see it.

Anyone else changed since they've gotten older? I'd love to hear your things.