Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Fall and Happy Halloween!

Today, I'm offering some easy advice: Writers, don't forget Holidays and Seasons when you write.To get into the spirit, I'm sharing some of the pics I've amassed for Halloween.

Morgan Mandel

PS - The Christmas Season comes way too fast these days!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween in Miniature and Spooky Reads....

It's not too late to get in on my annual Halloween in Miniature posts at Candid Canine - each day also recommends a spooky read.

Go here for Day 1 of the party... (Each day is also linked to the other.)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

'Tis the Season by Margot Justes

I've always decorated for Halloween, and always had family and friends over for pizza. Things have not changed. Today is Pizza day.
It's been a tradition for many, many years I know what everyone likes, so the menu is simple. Most pizzas have to have sausage, as long as I order something with meat in it-I'm good.

My personal preference is thin extra crispy artichoke hearts and giardiniera combo. It is spicy and absolutely delicious. One local pizza place makes it to perfection, Good & Fresh Pizza Bakery.
I used to bake for Halloween, now Costco fills the void well. My baking starts at Thanksgiving. Time does have a way of catching up with us. Maybe once I retire I'll have a bit more of that elusive thing called 'time'. Somehow, I doubt it; the plan is to immerse myself in writing and prove to myself that I can succeed in this strange, wonderful and challenging business.

In the meantime there is one more rum recipe I want to share with you. Positively yummy and easy to make. It's all about easy.
Rum Balls:

2 1/2 cups of ground Vanilla wafers
5 1/2 cups of ground walnuts ( I use a food processor for both the wafers and nuts)

1 cup of honey
1 cup of rum (I use dark rum)

1 cup or as needed of powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients well. Let rest covered in bowl for a couple of hours. I've even left overnight.
Form into balls and roll in powdered sugar. ( I use a teaspoon to scoop out the mix)
Set on foil or plastic wrap and let dry a couple of hours, put on serving plate, sprinkle more powdered sugar on top and enjoy!

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath






Thursday, October 25, 2012

October's End! by DL Larson

By this time next week October will be gone and November will be here.  How did that happen?  This year is speeding faster than I can keep up!  Halloween is waiting, only a few days away.  Already many are celebrating this fun holiday.  This Friday our school has a special "Halloween Reading Night."  I've been asked to participate and I will, gladly.  I have a quick memory game to play using Halloween cards, a long list of holiday jokes and riddles and several age-appropriate books to read.  It should be a great evening, especially since my two youth librarians will be joining me.  We've decided to dress as gypsies.  We may even do some fortune-telling.

Next Wednesday I'll go trick-or-treating with my family.  Since we live in the country, we rarely have trick-or-treaters.  But that didn't stop me from buying a large bag of goodies. 

Quick after that comes Election time!  I encourage you to get out and vote.  Vote!  It's a right and a privilege.  There are folks in other countries who would love a chance to voice their opinion on how to run their country.  We may be facing many obstacles that seem larger than possible to fix, but we are a nation of people who can make things happen. 

The nasty campaign ads will soon stop.  Don't become discouraged by them.  Let them motivate you to search for some truths on your own.  If you watch one channel for news, explore another.  Read an article or two to brush up on what each candidate stands for, whether it be local or national.  Please take the time to be responsible, for it will take all of us to fight our way out of our economic quagmire.  Voting is a good place to start.  It means you have noted the mess we as a nation are in and want to be a part of getting back on track to the great America we all grew up in. 

I will not shirk my duty as an American citizen.  I will enjoy Halloween to its fullest!  And I will vote on November 6th!

May we all be stronger for doing our civic duty!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Leaf Piles

Ask someone what are their favorite things about Autumn and invariably one of their answers would be the colorful leaves. I'm right on board with that. It is looking beautiful around here these days. The air seems to literally glow in brilliant hues of gold, red, and orange. Living in a village designated as a "Tree City USA", there is no end to the vibrant colors around town. The fallen leaves even look beautiful covering the ground.

Another thing people might add to their list would be leaf piles evoking cozy images of children jumping into them and scattering the crunchy leaves everywhere. I most likely would include those on my list as well. However, what doesn't make the list is the raking of those leaf piles. And since I have no children, it's really more of a chore than an anticipated outcome.

I spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday wrangling leaves into piles in the yard. I started in the backyard with the rake. The sun was shining and the air was crisp but not too cold, (Perfect for working outdoors). I happily set about doing my task.

That lasted about fifteen minutes. It was about then that I realized how out-of-shape I really am when my back started to hurt and I could already feel blisters forming beneath my gloves. But I soldiered on. In the end I had four lovely leaf piles. (That will eventually need to be raked onto a tarp and dragged out to the curb, but that's a story for a different day.)

When I turned my attention to the parkway (We live on a corner, so there's a lot of ground to cover there...and covered it was, with the leaves from four trees.) my spirits definitely plummeted. I thought about giving up. And then I remembered the leaf blower in the garage. After fooling with cords (Three of them needed to be joined to give me enough length to work.) and cursing our decision to not get a gas powered one, I was ready to go. Once I got the hang of the blower, it really was kind of fun, although I did feel as if my whole body was vibrating by the time I was done. And, of course, I couldn't get the leaves to blow in nice, neat rows at the curb like the local landscape guys can, so I left them close to the curb and we'll rake them the last foot before our pick up day.

All in all, I was satisfied with a job well done. Of course looking out the window today, it seems like I didn't rake at all, but such is life this time of year. At least tackling it a little at a time won't make the end job so daunting.

Which is how I'm approaching the revisions on "This Feels Like Home". Little by little I'm chipping away. Eventually I'll have to look at the big picture, but for now taking scenes here and there that need wrangling is working fine.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

An Unexpected Blessing - a Thanksgiving novella - coming November 21

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chocolate and Rum by Margot Justes

My modem failed and I lost contact to the internet. I don’t have a smart phone, so communication has been difficult at best. If nothing else this has emphasized the need for a smart phone. I’m going to join the 21st century and put the smart phone on the agenda for next year.

In the meantime, I promised a recipe for fudge. Adding the rum was a huge success. I can confirm that rum and chocolate go well together. Very well.


½ cup of butter
1 large can of evaporated milk
2 oz bitter chocolate (I only use Ghirardelli chocolate)
20 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
3 ½ cups of sugar
12 oz dark chocolate
½ lb marshmallows
1 ½ tbsp Vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts (I use 2 cups)
1 ½ cups of raisins soaked in rum overnight

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar, stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, cook to a boil, about 5 minutes.
Turn off heat and add marshmallows, stir until melted, add the 3 types of chocolate, one at a time, stir until each is dissolved. Add vanilla and nuts, and raisin mixture and stir until everything is well blended.
Line a cookie sheet with saran wrap, extending the edges; pour the fudge into the cookie pan, spread evenly with knife or spatula.
Let dry for 2 days. Invert the fudge unto your counter, remove wrap and let dry for another 2 days. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe makes quite a bit of fudge, I cut it all up and store in a sealed plastic bag. My family loves the fudge; usually it doesn’t last very long. Makes a great gift too…

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
And coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hosting an Event! by DL Larson

My husband and I hosted a charity event last week on our farm. It took weeks to prepare, we had to empty out our shed and clean, clean, clean.  Keep in mind it is harvest time and our shed is usually full of machinery, tools and equipment used on a daily basis. Finding a place to put a bucket is one thing, finding a place for equipment bigger than a garage is quite another.  Plus, we are still in the throws of bringing in our crops.  Juggling things around took on a whole new meaning.  But we were happy to host this event.

The charity we belong to is called Food Resource Bank, a grassroots charity begun by farmers wanting to help other farmers around the world.  The premise is to give 'a hand up, not a handout.' Our local group is supported by 24 churches.  Everyone pitches in to help so all we really had to do was provide the place to hold our Harvest Celebration.  It is a fundraiser and a praise time all mixed together.

We were told to expect 400-600 people!  That meant we had to clear a field for parking, ideally a field close to the machine shed. Local FFA chapters would help direct traffic, while other groups would prepare the food for the free will luncheon and the many ministers worked on an uplifting service.  Those who love to sing came together in the community choir and had practiced several times in order to be ready to perform that day.  Other churches brought table decorations and donations to be raffled.  Local entrepreneurs and a few 4H chapters brought animals for display.  Others brought 'farm oriented' products like soap, wools, wheat weaving, cider pressing, straw making, to sell.  Combine and tractor rides are usually a big hit for our urban friends. Cysdales were expected to arrive and be a part of the task of moving people via a wagonride pulled by those magnificent animals.  A live band would play throughout the afternoon.  The day-long festivities would end with the annual pie auction.  Last year the pie auction brought in over $4,000!!!!

Set up was Friday afternoon.  Dozens of folks showed up to set up tables and chairs, bring in supplies needed to feed so many.  All was finally ready.

Saturday morning started out windy and fairly bright with low clouds looming closer every minute.  By 9:00 a light drizzle started.  The wind picked up. Disappointment hung on my heart.  I still hoped all our efforts would not be for naught.  If the rain could just hold back for a few hours.  But wishing did not make it so. 

Folks trickled in, then ran through the pouring rain to find shelter.  They kept coming.  I don't know what brought them out in such weather.  We didn't reach the 600 mark, but over 300 folks showed up for the worship service in a shed in the pouring rain.  The rain pelted down as we raised our voices up.  We all laughed that in a drought season that had worried so many we should be rained out on the day of our Harvest Celebration.  It reminded us all who is in control.

Combine rides were cancelled; the cysdales didn't leave their horse trailer but folks were not in a hurry to leave. In fact, more came for the lunch. Our numbers climbed to 400. The rain turned to drizzle.  Animals came out of trailers so folks could pet them. The kiddie tractor pull took place, the pumpkin carving, a well as other activities while the praise band played.  Over 200 stayed for the pie auction. Money was still made to support our cause. 

The same folks that set things up, helped take everything down.  The shed was cleared in less than an hour.  The day felt like a fuzzy dream.  But the pies on my table were a reminder of the commitment many had made to make this event meaningful.  My feet hurt from standing and talking all day to people who beleived in the same cause as I do.  Mud on the road told its own story about the hundreds of cars leaving our field and yard. 

My family and I collapsed with a lasagna dinner we had prepared the day before.  We ate pie for dessert.  We laughed that the rain had only enhanced our message to our mission of helping others around the world who have struggled with drought for years.  Farmers need rain to produce a good crop.  We all need water to survive.  And we learned how to host an event in the pouring rain.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

P.S.  If it were not for our son, Nick, this event might never have had a chance to succeed.  He cleared out our shed and made it look wonderful, all the while harvesting our crops.  Thank you, son.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting People to Like Me by Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel
I've decided to get some of my Facebook friends who are book friendly over to my author page, called Morgan's Books,  instead of my general page, so I've been sending out invites right and left and spreading the word.

I plan on doing more authorly stuff on my author page now, and more everyday life stuff on my regular page, although sometimes the two might intersect. The regular page is overcrowded anyway, with over 5,000 people, and I don't know which ones are really following and which aren't, so I can't remove any.

Here's my author page, if you care to do a Like over there:

See you on Facebook.

PS I'm also on Twitter: @MorganMandel

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dogs in books...

Today author Carlene Rae Dater talks about her mystery, THE COLORS OF DEATH, and the dog who plays a role in it. See details at Candid Canine.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Road Rally

Last night the hubby and I and some friends participated in a Road Rally through our church. You know, one of those events where you get a bunch of clues and have to drive around to find the right locations? Once there you have to either grab your designated ticket or take a picture of something specific with two of your team members in it. The last clue took you to the final destination and after-party for appetizers and drinks.

We had a blast! The outcome and subsequent rankings for the top three spots were dependendent on three things: your time, your mileage, and how many of the clues you figured out. Overall we wound up in fourth place out of twenty or so: not too bad, but just outside the margin of earning a trophy. But way over the margin of friends on another team who vowed to 'kick our butts' but didn't even finish in the top ten.

It was great to see the mix of people who came out: men, women, young, old. Team sizes varied: there were twos, fours, sixes. Everyone seemed to have a good time...and everyone was accounted for in the end!

All in all, it was a really fun way to spend a Saturday night. And the weather cooperated as well. It was supposed to rain (a lot!), but it held off until everything was over. (We did have one 'incident' with a forest preserve ranger, but that was kind of funny, too.)

Will I work a Road Rally into a book someday? Probably not, but who knows? It could be a fun way to hook the hero and heroine up and send them on a quest.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Coming November 21 - An Unexpected Blessing

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall by Margot Justes

Fall automatically means the start of the holiday season; at least to me. The golden, burgundy and gold foliage outside, the cloudy overcast sky, and the occasional rain drops add to the comfort of being home. Today is just such a day.  A perfect day to sit on the couch, sip a great cup of coffee and read that wonderful book.
I'm half way there, I do have that terrific cup of nectar, but instead of sitting on the couch I'm waiting for my kiddies to arrive. We're going to decorate for Halloween and bake cookies. That is also a perfect fall day.

In my last blog I mentioned a banana bread with rum raisins-the addition of rum worked really well-the bread was yummy. Below is the revised recipe.
Banana Bread:
½ cup cooking oil (I use extra virgin olive oil-but any oil will do)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs-beaten
5 ripe bananas-mashed
2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use any flour, but I love the nutty flavor of the whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup of raisins (soak raisins overnight in rum and pour everything into mixture. I use dark rum)

Beat oil and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs and banana pulp and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, milk and vanilla. Mix well and stir in nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3). I use a lasagna pan, cooks more evenly.
Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about an hour. Cool well before cutting.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath






Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Her Handyman Will Be Free Friday, Oct 12 and Sat, Oct 13

On my last post, I mentioned marking your calendars. If you haven't done so yet, and you enjoy reading romance, please mark your calendars for this coming Friday, Oct 12, and Saturday, Oct 13.

That's when my new novella, Her Handyman, will be offered free at Amazon! Its link is:

Even if you don't have a kindle, Amazon has an easy way for you to download for other formats, so don't hesitate to take advantage of this offer. 

Here's a link for easy downloading to your computer:

What it's about:
A novella length romantic comedy, with a dash of the serious. Longer than a short story, shorter than a full-length novel - just the right size for a busy reader!

Throw a crazy canine, a handyman, and a quirky artist together and you've got mayhem!

Who'd guess it's Jake, the handyman, who needs rescuing when he answers a call by the distraught artist, Zoe, to stop a toilet flood begun by her crazy canine, FuFu? 

Jake's engaged to a sexy, perfect woman, and she's even a great cook! There's no room in his life for a quirky, rich artist, who eats raw vegetables and probably can't even boil an egg -- or is there? Are Jake's perfect plans about to be disrupted?

If you do take advantage of the freebie, there's no obligation, but if you're so inclined, remember that authors love to get reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Nothing fancy, but one or two sentences about some aspect you liked about Her Handyman would make my day, and help my ranking!

Thanks a bunch!

Morgan Mandel
For all of Morgan's books, check out

Monday, October 8, 2012

'Tis the Season Boooooooo!

It's getting cooler and last night the frost literally was on the pumpkin.

 Halloween is coming!

 I love the colors, the bright orange dots in the fields... and the idea of what might lurk out there after dark.

 Loving scary stuff and getting scared, it seemed natural that I finally wrote a full-length Halloween-tinged book. GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie will come out next year. Probably the most fun I had writing in a while (never mind when it wasn't working, or the editing, etc.) See short synopsis at website.

 I hear that Acme babe Margo Justes is writing ---- a vampire book? That charming lady has a dark side?

 Ok, 'fess up - who else has a dark side? Share your spooky faves you like to read or re-read (I love re-reading Dracula and Salem's Lot). Working on any spooky stories or books? Please share!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Real Life Settings as Inspiration

I'm so excited! I just booked a cruise for my hubby and me to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary next year! We also took a cruise for our honeymoon, which makes this the perfect way to celebrate next year's 'milestone': almost like a trip down memory lane.

Our honeymoon ports of call almost fifteen years ago actually became the setting for Wild Wedding Weekend. Not only did I have first-hand experience with the places, which made my descriptions all the more authentic, but it kept me going with the plot. I knew I wanted to write a scene at each place my characters visited. It was a great way to keep moving forward and keep the pacing of the story. I had scenes off of the cruise ship as well, but a major part of the story stemmed from these visits.

I wonder what kind of inspiration I'll bring home this time? I can't wait to find out.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

An Unexpected Blessing, coming November 21 from The Wild Rose Press.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Nip in the Air by Margot Justes


There was a nip in the air last night; we had our first frost. The holiday season is upon us.
Our local Costco was selling Panettone, an aromatic yeast semi sweet cake filled with raisins and candied orange peel. I love anything orange peel-my favorite is dark chocolate covered orange peels; Marshall Field's used to have the best, but I digress.

Panettone is just a sign that the holidays are approaching, it is a traditional Italian holiday offering that has become popular here at home. I even see it for sale at the local grocery story. There is something very special about the scent of oranges and yeast dough that brings back memories from my youth.
During my young life in Poland, oranges were a rarity, a luxury, not available under normal circumstances throughout the year. In the winter time they became available, but not to any great extent. The scent of a freshly peeled orange has remained with me to this day. Those happy memories are few and far between. They are safe and uncomplicated memories. Maybe that is why I love orange peels and the holiday season.

We always decorated for Halloween, carved pumpkins, baked cookies and cakes that looked like witches. My daughter Solonge has continued the tradition. Next weekend the kiddies are going to help decorate, design their pumpkins and bake cookies. It is something I look forward to every year. I will post pictures of our efforts in my next blog.
I thought I'd share some favorite fall recipes this season. I'll start with a rather strange concoction.

Bake a spaghetti squash. I usually split it, season with pepper a dash of olive oil and cook until done. I don't use salt, but that is a personal preference. After squash is done, shred with fork to get that spaghetti look, and fill with chili. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve. I love the sweetness of the squash and the spicy acidic taste of the chili. I told you this was strange. I made chili last week, and bought the squash yesterday.
Guess what's for dinner tonight?

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Friday, October 5, 2012

Looking for a Ghost Story for the Family? By DL Larson

Each October I pull several "ghostly and haunting" type books to display on my shelves at the library.  The one that goes out regularly is called, The Old Willis Place,  A Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn.  The writing is superb and the premise is very different for these young characters, Diana who is 12, and her brother Georgie, 8. 

Diana and Georgie live in the woods on the farm of the Old Willis Estate.  They can not leave and they can not make friends with anyone.  It's one of the rules they have been given.  Yet a new caretaker and his daughter Lissa make the old rule seem dumb and unnecessary.  Lissa befriends Diana who has been lonely and longing for a companion.  They do the unthinkable ~ they enter the old Willis house.  Diana knows this will release more bad things, but she can't keep Lissa from exploring the once magnificent house.  The very house her folks used to work in before the bad thing happened.

Diana must convince Lissa to help her or more bad things will happen.  But Lisa doesn't believe in ghosts.  At least she didn't until she set in motion the very thing that could lead to Diana and Georgie's demise. 

If you are looking for a great story to read as a family, The Old Wills Place will not disappoint anyone.  It's intriguing, scary but not too scary, and opens the imagination to wonder if this could really happen.

The Old Willis Place is a quick read and will hold everyone's attention! 

Do you have any "haunting" books you like to read?  Share with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Working on Double History Maker

I don't post about politics here on this blog, but with all this political stuff going on, I thought up a new story which involves politics. The story won't support a particular party, but some of the details I'm including may cause some of you to chuckle.

So far, the working title is Double History Maker, but we'll see. Another idea might flash into my brain later on. I'm not sure if it will be part of the sequel, Blessing or Curse, in the Always Young trilogy or if it will stand on its own. That depends how many words it takes for me to tell this story. I won't know until it's done. You'll hear details here or at a designated area when it's almost ready. For now, I'm signing off to work on Double History Maker.

***Mark Oct 12 and 13 on your calendars, and next week I'll let you know why!

Morgan Mandel

Monday, October 1, 2012

New YA Book Coming - yes with zombies!

I wanted to share that I'll have a new YA book coming out next year from Intrigue Publishing. Here's the back blurb so far for GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie by C.A. Verstraete.

 Coming in 2013! 

Paranormal, sci-fi, romance, crime, YA

GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie by C.A. Verstraete

Life can suck when you're sixteen. It can suck even worse when you're not- quite- dead.

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Herrera Hayes faces every teenager's biggest nightmares: bad skin, bad hair, and worse . . . turning into one of the living dead.

Becca's life changes forever when her cousin Spence comes back to their small Wisconsin town carrying a deadly secret—he's becoming a zombie, a fate he shares with her through an accidental scratch.

The Z infection, however, has mutated, affecting younger persons like her, or those treated early enough, differently. Now she must cope with weird physical changes and habits no girl wants to be noticed for. Then she meets a good-looking part-Z like her and fears falling for him. After all, how can he, who shows hardly any Z symptoms, be interested in someone like her?

But time is running out... Becca needs his help as she and her cousin Carm search for their missing mothers and fight off hungry Zs.

Most of all, she needs to find something, anything, to stop this deadly transformation before it is forever too late...

(c) 2012 C. Verstraete/CAP