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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Familiar places in books/film/tv

First of all, I must stress (once more) that I like to travel and see places - as many as possible. And I also like to read (a lot).

So whenever I'm reading a book, or watch a film or a series on tv, it's ever so nice when the action takes place somewhere you are familiar with. When the hero/heroine walks along a street, you'll know where they are heading.

I like this feeling. Reading/watching then brings back the memories of the town/region you visited - even if it was many years ago.

That's how it works for me. When reading the novels of Peter Robinson (or watching the DCI Banks series on tv) I know how Laphroag (Bank's favorite drink) tastes (I quite like the peat in it) and I've been around Leeds, saw the Dales.

Sometimes reading about a place also makes us visit there. That way we once were in Hyannis and Newport. And last summer we were in Visby (Sweden) because we watched some episodes from Maria Wern.

What about you?

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Pawn

Please welcome Skye Warren, author of The Pawn. This novel is a contemporary romance available as of today. Skye is doing a book blast tour and will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour. Please use the following link to place your comment:


The price of survival…

Gabriel Miller swept into my life like a storm. He tore down my father with cold retribution, leaving him penniless in a hospital bed. I quit my private all-girl’s college to take care of the only family I have left.

There’s one way to save our house, one thing I have left of value.

My virginity.

A forbidden auction…

Gabriel appears at every turn. He seems to take pleasure in watching me fall. Other times he’s the only kindness in a brutal underworld.

Except he’s playing a deeper game than I know. Every move brings us together, every secret rips us apart. And when the final piece is played, only one of us can be left standing.

THE PAWN is a full-length contemporary novel from New York Times bestselling author Skye Warren about revenge and seduction in the game of love.


A sense of familiarity fills the space between us even though I know we haven’t met. This man is a stranger, but he looks at me as if he wants to know me. He looks at me as if he already does. There’s an intensity to his eyes when they sweep over my face, as firm and as telling as a touch. 

“I need…” A thud against my ribs as I think about all the things I need—a rewind button. One person in the city who doesn’t hate me by name alone. “I need a loan.”

He gives me a slow perusal, from the nervous slide of my tongue along my lips to the high neckline of my dress. I tried to dress professionally—a black cowl-necked sweater and pencil skirt. His strange amber gaze unbuttons my coat, pulls away the expensive cotton, tears off the cotton fabric of my bra and panties. He sees right through me, and I shiver as a ripple of awareness runs over my skin.

I’ve met a million men in my life. Shaken hands. Smiled. I’ve never felt as seen through as I do right now. Never felt like someone has turned me inside out, every dark secret exposed to the harsh light. He sees my weaknesses, and from the cruel set of his mouth, he likes them.

His lids lower. “And what do you have for collateral?”

Nothing except my word. That wouldn’t be worth anything if he knew my name.

Author bio and links

Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.

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It'll be a cold, cold night...

I know, it's only morning right now, but I bet lots of kids are already eagerly awaiting the coming night. Because then Sinterklaas (who became Santa Claus in the USA) and his faithful servant Piet undertake their voyage over the roofs of the houses to drop presents through the chimneys. Most kids will harldly sleep because they want to find out what the good saint has brought them. Do you know, you can even send messages to the saint. Belgian Post is a willing partner. They even put the 'right' address for Sinterklaas on the red mailboxes...

Of course all of this is a tradition, and an old one. It dates back to times when houses had chimneys and a hearth. You won't find a lot of them anymore in modern housing. And the good man has a servant. Now there comes some controversy, especially in Holland. Some groups claims Piet is a slave, a black man who has a white master. Problem, problem! Did you know they even have protest marches for and against Piet? But ask any kid, and they'll tell you faithfully that Piet is black because he has to climb down the chimney. So he is just a servant, not a slave.

Temperatures will drop tonight. For Flanders they predict -3° Celsius, and for the north of Holland even lower temperatures. The holy man will have to dress warmly!

Just a moment ago, they interviewed some kids at the radio. I had to laugh when a little boy earnestly said: "Sinterklaas is an old man, he was born in Spain many years ago. Won't he find it difficult to walk over those roofs at his age?' Cute, eh?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Home-made chile con carne

The greatest part of this afternoon we spent preparing a big pot of chili con carne. We like to eat this, so we make a bunch every year and then freeze it into portions. Quite tasty, if I say so myself.

What do you need? Well, for a big pot (we can eat 7-8 times from it) you use 4 big onions, garlic, 0,5 l of light ale, 1,5 dl dry white wine, 4 cans of red beans, 400 gr of smoked bacon, 500 gr prime beef, 500 gr of minced meat (beef preferably), a mixture of spices (cumin, chili, cayenne pepper, pepper and salt), 0,5 l  stock of chicken, 1l of tomato passata, olive oil.

You start by frying the bacon. Once it is done, take it out of the pot and then fry the minced meat and the chopped steak. After fryine a bit, take everything out of the pot again. Then add some more olive oil and glaze the chopped onion. Pour the white wine over it. Once glazy enough, add the meat, fill up with stock and add half of the spices plus the beer. Let cook slowly for about 45 minutes. Then add the rest of the spices and the red beans. It needs another half hour to be ready.

You can already eat it then, but it's even better when you let it rest for a day at a cool place (like a cellar) and then only eat it afterwards.

Time consuming, but you can do it when the weather is not that nice and you can't go outside anyway... And then you'll have chili for more than once, so you can take it out the freezer when you are pressed for time.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nickie's Ten Questions to Simon Wood

Author of The One That Got Away, the Aidy Westlake series and his upcoming thriller, Deceptive Practices - winner of The Anthony Award

Described as “a dark demented angel” by author Ken Bruen, Simon Wood has built a reputation for concocting wild and dangerous thrillers that would have given Hitchcock nightmares.  His writing takes an even darker and stranger turn as Simon Janus, his horror fiction identity.  Having been a petrochemical engineer, racecar driver, pilot and private investigator, it’s not surprising he sees the world a little differently.  Originally from England, he lives in Northern California with his wife, Julie, and a menagerie of rescued animals.

A couple of days ago, I had the occasion of asking some question to Simon. I've read some of his novels and can vow they are super-thrilling - the type of book you can't put down as you need to find out how it ends.

1) Can you tell us in short how you came to writing novels?
I moved to the US in 1998 and I couldn’t work because I didn’t have a work permit at the time.  It was the first time in my life where I had nothing to do—no job, no classes—so I indulged a flight of fancy and decided to write.  I blame my writing career on the US Immigration Service because if it weren’t for them dragging their feet, I would have written a word. 

2) What's the main reason you chose to write thrillers?
They always tell writers to write what you know but you also have to write what you love to read.  I love horror, thrillers, crime and mystery so it was pretty obvious what genre I had to go into.

3) Was the first story you finished ever published?
Yes, but it wasn’t the first story get published.  Before I embarked on a novel, I wrote short stories as part of a self imposed apprenticeship.  I wrote three stories over a month and I wrote them with really knowing what I was doing.  The first story was somewhere in the region of 15,000 words and way too long.  I spent three months rewriting this story (and the others) eventually slashing two thirds of it.  It picked up a lot rejections and I kept honing it until someone accepted it.  It ended up being my 20 or so published short story and a good year after my first published piece.  If I’m being honest, when I look on it now, it’s a little derivative.  My first novel published was the first novel I wrote though.

4) Most writers have a love-hate relationship with their editor. You too?
Not really.  I have an engineering background and none of my designs made it to manufacture unless it got passed a ‘checker’ and an ‘approver’.  I have to have feedback before I’m comfortable with releasing it.  I’m lucky enough to have an editor who I’ve worked on multiple books with.  The only editing experience I didn’t like was when I had three editors working on a book at the same time.  Differing opinions made rewriting frustrating.   I wouldn’t want that situation again.

5) How do you react when a reader tells you he/she doesn't like your book?
I can’t say it isn’t wounding but it’s okay.  The thing about books is that it’s all subjective.  No two people will see the book the same way.  If someone doesn’t like the book it could because it hits too close to home or they can’t relate to the subject matter or it’s not their genre or my style doesn’t meet their taste, etc.  Being a writer has taught me a lot about human nature.

6) Can you describe the feeling when you receive an award for your writing?
Embarrassed.  I didn’t think I would win.  I was convinced of it.  Then they called my name and thought, “Oh crap.” 

7) Is there a reason you went to live in the United States?
My wife is American so one of us had to move to the other person’s country.  On paper, it was easier for me to move to the US than it was for her to move the UK.

8) What's in the pipeline for the future?
SAVING GRACE, The follow-up to PAYING THE PIPER, comes out next year which will followed by THE NEVERWAS MAN.  I am working away on the next Aidy Westlake book and developing ZoĆ« Sutton from THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY into a series.

9) How important are your readers to you?
Very. I wouldn’t have a career without them.  The day I lose sight of that is the day I have to stop writing.

10) Which authors do you read yourself, or admire?
The writers who've had the biggest influence on me are Raymond Chandler, Roald Dahl, Bill Bryson, Reginald Hill and James Herbert.  I love Jeffery Deaver and David Morrell’s short fiction.  I read around 50 books a year so I’m reading a lot of people’s work that I’ve long admired and in many cases, I get to call them friends.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wired Rogue

Come and meet author Toby Neal today. Toby is launching Wired Rogue, a mystery/police procedural available as of November 25th. The author is doing a virtual blurb blitz tour which runs November 28th-December 16th.

Toby Neal will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, Please us the following link:


‘Wired in’ to her computers, MMA-fighting tech agent Sophie Ang has been content in her clean, cool tech lab, where she chases criminals online, continuing a dance in the dark with the enigmatic vigilante known as the Ghost. Tumultuous changes from without and within eject her from her agency cocoon to the front lines, where she finds herself in partnership with a brilliant, overbearing, larger-than-life ex-Special Forces operative, Jake Dunn. They climb walls, dodge bullets, kidnap children and dig up bodies for a case that might cost her life—and has already taken her badge.


Children shouldn’t be treated as slaves. Anger tightened Special Agent Sophie Ang's hands as she adjusted the binoculars a little more to focus in on ten kids of various ages, bent over in a water-filled patch of land planted in the deep green, heart-shaped leaves of the Hawaiian kalo. They wore bathing suits and palm frond hats as they worked in the hot sun, an adult supervising from the shade of a nearby palm tree.

Taro farming was back-breaking work, and it looked like the Society of Light cult was using their shortest members to work with the submerged tubers. Sophie’s partner in the operation, Ken Yamada, shifted restlessly beside her in their camouflage surveillance tent on a rise of ground across the river from the compound. “Ten is more children than we were told about.” he murmured.

“We have to locate the two targets,” Sophie said, for the benefit of their SAC, Waxman, monitoring through their comms. “Can’t identify the children positively yet.” The homemade hats hid the red blond hair the children’s mother had told the agents to look for. Sophie widened her scan, and took in the rest of the cult's property.

Author bio and links

Social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. 
Neal is the author of more than twenty novels in the mystery, romance and young adult genres, including the twelve-book USA Today bestselling, award-winning Lei Crime Series. This police procedural mystery series centers on Leilani “Lei” Matsumoto Texeira, a multicultural detective with issues, her dog Keiki, and her love interest, Stevens, as they solve a range of complicated crimes in the Hawaiian Islands. 

The Lei Crime Series has sold over a million books since its debut in December of 2011, and in 2015, Amazon launched the Lei Crime Kindle World, which allows authors to build licensed fan fiction upon Neal’s characters. There are close to fifty fan fiction spinoff works in the World currently. 

Neal is a 2016 Independent Publisher Book (“IPPY”) winner for Best Mystery/Thriller for Rip Tides and in 2015 for Twisted Vine. She’s a Notable Indie 2016 Winner, 2015 National Indie Excellence® awards winner, Best Multicultural Novel winner for Torch Ginger, and many more.

Outside of counseling work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, swimming, gardening, photography and hiking.

Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @tobywneal
Facebook: Toby Neal Books 
Instagram: Tobyneal0
Google+: Toby Neal
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Clever ideas can bring a lot of success

And heaven knows, I wish I'd ever had one!

Sometimes you see something launched - an idea, so simple, so clever - and you think: why haven't I thought of that???

Examples galore. One of my former colleagues invented a football game and won a lot of money by marketing it. Of course, he's a computer geek. I don't have such skills.

A few years ago, there was a show on tv where people could present an idea and the winner's was marketed. The winner was a woman who invented 'speculaaspasta' - a bread spread made of what we call speculaas (and is some sort of gingerbread). Most people put their piece of speculaas into their coffee before eating it, so this woman thought 'why not make a spread out of it'? She won the competition, but soon afterwards a big holding company (Lotus) bought the idea from her and is now marketing it worldwide. I would have asked for a percentage...

A ex-student of mine, Rembert Van Cauwenbergh, has launched a company with a friend. They have created AddMyBerry. The idea is also quite simple: they sell t-shirts and whatever with a print. But you can scan the QR-code of the print with your smartphone. For instance, when you buy a t-shirt from The Jane (2star restaurant of Sergio Herman in Antwerp) you scan the print and then you'll see a film where Sergio is preparing a meal, you can see sphere images from the restaurant, etc. They started out quite small, but now they are expanding. They also have selling points in the US and are now conquering New York.

All of this is quite clever, right?