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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Long live the freezer!

Wednesday afternoon. After a morning spent cleaning the house, my sister and I ran some errands early in the afternoon. We passed along the supermarket, and bought everything we needed for our dinner. Or so we thought.

When it became time to start cooking, we came to the conclusion we had forgotten to buy the chicken filets for our Congolese chicken dish. Right - what to do? It was cold and damp outside, and neither of us felt like going out for a second time.

The only thing I could think of was look into our big freezer. We have a smaller one inside the kitchen, and a big one in our storage room. Luckily I dug up a box of frozen spaghetti sauce! And as we always have pasta in the cupboard, we could dine on a nice Spaghetti Bolognaise.

Btw, our spaghetti sauce includes fresh tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, ground meat, a good slush of red Italian wine, spices, and passata of tomato. We let it stew on the lowest pit of the fire for more than an hour, and then leave it for more hours aside the stove. I always think it tastes better when the sauce is more than one day old.

So you see it pays to prepare sauces and other dishes for more than one use. If we make stew, it is always for two or three servings. What we don't need the first night, goes into boxes and disappears into our freezer. And when you have to work late or don't feel like cooking, there is always something you only have to heat up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mad about London

If there is any city I'd love to live in, it's definitely London. I don't know how many times I've been to England's capital, but still I find things to discover. And then all the shows in the Westend... next to great shops and fine restaurants.

While we try to visit London as much as possible (we often take the train just to go and see a show in for instance the Royal Albert Hall or Covent Garden) it would be grand if we'd have the money to actually buy a place there and then spend about half the year there and the rest in our house here.

When I'm daydreaming, I dare go as far as look up which places are for sale. Some time ago, I came across a nice flat near Hyde Park, which met every demand. It only cost one million British pounds....
Well, there is no law against hoping you'd win Euro Millions, is there? And daydreaming can be so rewarding. Even when you don't win that lottery, you had the fun of figuring out what you'd do with the money.

Our next trip to London is coming up in good four weeks' time. This time we plan on staying only shortly in London, mainly to go dining in One-O-One (which is imo one of the best restaurants in London). Chef Pascal serves only the freshest food and the wine selection is more than excellent. The following day we'll travel along to Liverpool where we plan on seeing a show in the Empire Theatre. It's called Boogie Nights, and my sister absolutely wanted to see it because the Osmonds (at least three of the brothers) are acting in it.

The big advantage for us is that London is only two hours by train from Brussels, AND you arrive right in the center of town. We easily walk from St. Pancras to our hotel on the Strand. It only takes about  minutes. Another good thing is that the town center is not that really big and you can walk to every monument or museum, if you don't mind walking. The tube is easy as well, but may cost some if you use your Oyster card.

Well, I'm already looking forward to this short trip (which will be followed by another one not long afterwards). I want to do some shopping (London is a lot cheaper than Belgium for clothes and shoes) and perhaps pick up some ideas for books to buy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kim De Gelder Trial

Yesterday morning the long awaited for trial of Kim De Gelder started. Four years ago - yes people, it can take this long to bring criminals to justice here in Belgium - De Gelder murdered first of all an elderly woman who lived in the countryside and a few days later he gained entrance to a nursery and killed two babies, one carer and wounded more babies and women present. He always used a knife for his murders and went for the face and throat.

So who's this Kim De Gelder? He is a young fellow, only 19 or 20 when he committed his murders and he kept to himself. He hated his parents, who had spoilt him rotten and believed the world was against him.

At first look a harmless guy, but who knows what went on in his mind?

During the past four years his lawyer, Jaak Haentjes, tried to persuade the general opinion that De Gelder should be send to a mental hospital because 'he hears voices in his head'.

Now the trial has started. It is lead by a very capable chairman who soon got some truth out of De Gelder's mouth. Kim admitted freely he doesn't hear voices - he only said so because his lawyer told him so - and he did plan the murders very carefully. De Gelder also told he doesn't like his lawyer, but only took him because he could not get another one!

I've always known De Gelder knows what he did. He's a typical example of a youth who has gotten everything material but did not experience love from his parents and doesn't know what family life means. Unfortunately, in our society, more and more of such characters appear. Imo it's all due to lack of care from the parents. A child needs someone around, even if that means only one parent can go out working and the income will be less. But what does this mean when you raise happy children who don't lack for care and love?

Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Oscar goes to...

With the Oscar celebration of last night (yes people, for us here in Belgium the last of the Oscars were given away when we woke up) I had to think again of something of my trip to Kenya in 1981.

My sister and I had been on a safari for two weeks, and we had planned to end our trip with one more week in Mombasa. We stayed in a luxurious hotel (I almost fell down when I saw the room pricing - apparently we had got a room for more than 70% off) where everyone had his or her own waiter. The dinners were sumptuous affairs, and the people you met are now among the famous. We were befriended by a brother of Richard Branson, who was there with his wife and son (this one had an eye on my sister). Also friendly with us were the owners of an oil refinery on Cyprus and the big boss of Shell. Between brackets: there was an oil conference going on at that moment).

Now apart from all the nice people we met, I happened to meet 'John'. We were having coffee in the lounge, when suddenly a lanky American plopped down next to me, introducing himself by saying, 'Hi, I'm John'. From then on we called him like that. Everytime he saw me, he came over and it was apparent he wanted more than just talk to me. But I did not think a lot of him. He looked as if he sorely needed a bath in bleech water and his apparel could be better as well. He talked to me about him being in Kenya for over a year, exploring the possibilities of filming there. I did not believe a lot of what he said, but ....

Two or three years later, we saw a (delayed) broadcast of the Oscar celebration. And could you believe, when the producer of the best film came to the stage, we both recognized John!!! Well-dressed, not looking disheveled anymore.

I must admit I swore that moment. I could have had my chance to land a big time producer, one who could be interested of doing a film adaptation of my book about the Medici Diamonds. And then I'd write the script too and the Oscar would go to.... me! A nice dream, but I did not like John a lot. Shows how I am. I've turned down money more than once.

Anyway, if there is a director or producer among those who read this blog, they can always contact me! I truly believe my book would make a good film, full of action, adventure and romance. And I'd cast Johnny Depp as Cartouche, he's just right for it!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What's in your handbag?

A good question, as you never know what might turn up! Most women use their handbag as a sort of container to bring along anything they'd need.

Now my own handbag is rather an exception. There is really not much in it: my wallet with creditcards, bankcard, a bit of loose change; my identity papers, a handkerchief, a comb, my keys to the house and those of my classrooms, a pen to fill in my Keycard for the train, a Keycard, a calendar. That's about it. Oh yes, and when travelling by train I also add my Kindle. No makeup stuff, not even a lipstick. No mirror. I don't really care how I look, because I never leave the house looking as if just coming out of my bed. But I don't see the need for lipstick or fond de teint or whatever. I've been without makeup for over 50 years and I still don't have too many wrinkles and a very soft and supple skin.

But some of my friends keep lots of other stuff in their bags. There is one who keep toys for her grandchildren in it, and another one always has loads of candy to pick from.

The things you keep in your bag are supposed to tell something about your character. From the contents of mine, I should say I'm a pretty organized person, someone who doesn't need lots of trinkets. A no-nonsense person, someone who accepts life as it is.

So ladies, empty your bags and tell me what's in yours?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Gold Crucifix

We're heading back to the 16th century. In England, a civil war is tearing apart the country and families. In a rural village in Oxfordshire, vicar's daughter Rebecca Flint has to spend a lone night while her father is called to the sickbed of a parishoner. The weather is gruesome and the rain falls down in streams. Then comes a knocking on the door...

When at last Rebecca dares to open the door, she finds a group of Royalist asking for shelter. Out of pity with one of them who's wounded, she lets them in - and seals her fate by doing so.

Fourteen years later, young Sarah stands at her mother's grave. Crushed by sorrow - and the knowledge innkeeper Amos Jennings is not her real father. Having lost one parents, she longs to find out more about this mysterious father, apparently a nobleman who served the King's army.

But finding out who sired her is not easy. Even with the help of Lord Walter Carey - the son of the earl who used to live in the manor house outside of the village - she can't find any clues to the identity of her father. At long last she gives up hope, and settles on becoming the best housekeeper Linfield Grange ever had.

That is, until the younger brother of the earl comes calling. Assuming Sarah is his brother's mistress he becomes jealous and wants her for his own. He takes advantage of Sarah's innocence to lure her into his bed.

Richard wants to set up Sarah as his mistress, but he doesn't realize this is pure terror to her. Because the situation at the Grange becomes unbearable, Sarah runs off to London. Thre life is not easy either, but she manages to find some true friends, first at the inn where she goes working, and later on in the theatre, where she is given a chance to perform.

Now a famous actress - even one who has the King's favor - Sarah finally enjoys life. Only, one night when leaving the theatre she sees a face she recognizes... that of Richard.

Follows a tale of how true love at last vanquishes class and money - and to top it off, how Sarah at last meets her father.

The Gold Crucifix is a novel full of romance, history and adventure, set in England during the Civil War and Restoration. It can be bought from the publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press or from Amazon in both ebook format or paperback.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Untangling the Knot

Today I'd like to introduce you to Deanne Wilsted, author of the above mentioned work. Untangling the Knot is a sweet contemporary romance with some inspirational elements, available from Soul Mate Publishing.

Deanne is doing a Virtual Book Tour Blast with Goddess Fish Promotions to launch this novel, which was published on February 13th. For this occasion, Deanne will be awarding a $10 Amazon or GC (winner's choice) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $10 Amazon or GC (winner's choice) to a randomly drawn host. So don't forget to leave a comment!

Who is Deanne Wilsted? With an English teacher for a mom, she grew up reciting conjugation instead of nursery rhymes. Now, forty years later, she's sharing that special skill through her writing and her mothering. Her first book, a contemporary romance calle Betting Jessica, was released October 2011. As we mentioned before, her second book has been released only a few days ago. Deanne is currently marketing her third book for publication and writing her fourth, fifth and sixth while blogging about the crazy stuff she overhears while writing.

The author can be found on the web, through these links:

“I did what?”
Twenty-eight year old Gabriella Bessu is St. Therese’s meticulous wedding ceremony coordinator. So the fact that she has mistakenly signed her newest couple up for an annulment, rather than a wedding, sends her Catholic guilt into overdrive.
But who can blame her? The groom is gorgeous and his two kids tug at Gabriella’s heart in a way that overcomes all her best intentions. Before long she’s in over her head, fixing her mixed-up plans and helping the children and dad come to terms with their haunting grief for the mother and wife they lost years earlier.
Can Gabriella untangle her own fears and accept the messy life that God has handed them?
"Umm, Gabriella," Chloe said, "I don't think that's the plumber. It sounds like..."
The last thing Ryan had expected to see when he'd entered the cottage was Gabriella flat on her back in a puddle of water, inspecting the rear of the toilet. Chloe was holding a bucket and a sopping wet towel, and Peter was nowhere to be seen.
"Hi, Chloe," he said quickly. "Where's Peter?"
"Dad!" Peter came flying from another room and flung himself into Ryan's arms.
"RYAN?" Gabriealla yelled and quickly sat up. The thump of her head smacking the toilet bowl echoed around the tiny room.
"Ow," she cried. "Damn it! Ow, ow, ow."
Ryan grimaced. Gabriella sat on the wet floor, near tears, rubbing at the welt already forming on her forehead.
"I'm sorry," she said, clearly at the end of her rope. "I can't believe I said that in front of the kids. It's just, everything has gone wrong today."
She hung her head in her latp and began to cry for real.
Ryan had to hold back a smile. She looked so much like a wet cat. And, to top it off, she had yet to hear how wrong things had really gone with the day.
"Come on, now. It's not that bad," he finally said. "We'll get it all fixed. Don't worry."
Chloe's face lit up with an expression he hadn't seen in years. For a few moment at least he was back to being her superhero dad.

Interested? You can buy the book from Soul Mate Publishing, and here's also a link for a giveaway:



Thursday, February 21, 2013

I must have Asperger...

At least, according to what I heard on the radio this morning. I was listening to my usual Radio 2 and they have a program called Inspector De Caluwé. It's a program about finances, and about just anything else. This time there was talk about our crown prince Filip and the speaker suggested the prince has Asperger syndrome.

Why? Because he makes lists of the books he reads and has problems communicating to others. Well, if this qualifies for having this syndrome, I must have it as well, as so does my sister!

I also keep a book list on file and every time I read a book, I mark the list. Gives you an idea of what books you have (so you don't buy them double) and when was the last time you read any of those titles. Makes sense to me, but apparently not to others.

Also I don't like to seek the company of others when not necessary. Not because I don't like to talk to others (I'm a teacher, after all) but mostly just because I don't like their company. One of the disadvantages of being smarter than most. I suppose I just don't like spending time with people who don't have the same intelligence.

Makes this a person with Asperger? Well, if so, I don't feel I'm stranger than most and I certainly can function in society.

I think programs like this should be banned. They give people ideas, just like the internet does, and they are not necessarily the truth. I also heard about Dr. Google. Apparently lots of cancer patients don't ask advice from their doctor, but go googling their disease and get frightened by what they read.

What is your opinion?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cleopatra, Ceasar, Anthony and others

I suppose I've already mentioned that I was quite fascinated by Egypt when I was just a little girl - so far that I wanted to become an archeologist and dig up the biggest treasure trove ever found!

Well, I suppose some of that fascination has remained, since I like to read books about ancient Egypt. A recent discovery when browsing the Amazon kindle shop was Constance O'Banyon, who wrote four books about Egypt under the reign of Cleopatra.

I did not find a reference on the web, but as far as I know the books would have to be read in this order:
1. Lord of the Nile
2. Sword of Rome
3. Daughter of Egypt
4. Desert Prince

In the first book, we are introduced to the Tausrat family. Head of the family (and of a Bedouin tribe) is Ramtat, who is equally a general in the Roman army and befriended to Julius Ceasar. Woven through the romance between Ramtat and the mysterious Danaë (later on we learn she is a half sister of Cleopatra) is the history of this time, with all the intrigues around Ceasar and Cleopatra.  Welll worth a read, so I also bought the other books in this series.

The second book is about Ramtat's sister Adhania, who is a keen horse rider and who want to win a trophy reserved only for men. She meets and falls in love with Marcellus, another Roman general. Adhania goes to live in Rome and there she rescues a little girl from a miserable fate.

The girls she rescues, Thalia, is the central character in the third volume. Thalia is in fact heir to the throne of a far away island kingdom and she has to make choices she doesn't want to make between her duty to this country and the love for her adopted family?

The final book tells about Cleopatra's death. Also the Tausrat family has to leave Egypt and find refuge on Bal Forea, the island kingdom of Queen Thalia. There the eldest son grows up and when he reaches adulthood he wants to return to Egypt to secure his holdings and restore the rule over his Badari bedouins. Little does he know how much in danger his life will be, and how much his little friend of before will help him by her fidelity to his family...

 These books are well-written and read fluently. At least, I wanted to read them to the end to find out how it goes with the hero and heroine!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pictures from our recent trip to Switzerland

As promised, I was finally able to upload the pics from our trip to Scuol and I'm happy to share some of them with all of you.

When you've read the blog, you know we spent a week in the village of Scuol, situated in Unterengadin in Graubünden. It is quite a picturesque village, going back to the 17th century (some of the farm houses are dating back to the 1600's).

This is my sister, posing before one of these ancient houses, at one of the many squares with fountains. Also beautiful is the Evangelist church:

We visited some villages in the neigborhood, like Sent, Ftan and Ardez. They all are a bit like Scuol, but they also have their differences.

The picture above shows the ruins of a tower in the village of Ardez.

And this is the landscape when you are on the top of the mountain Motta Naluns, and make the descent into Ftan.

I hope you'll enjoy the pics and be sure this is a most lovely place for holidays, in winter as well as in summer!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nickie's Ten Questions to Robert Crais

This time, I'm bringing you an interview with crime author Robert Crais. Here are my questions and his answers:

Website from the National  Underwater and Marine Agency and Clive Cussler

1. When did you find out that you wanted to be a writer?

When I picked up a paperback copy of Raymond Chandler’s “The Little Sister” at a used bookstore and was absolutely blown away. I knew I wanted to write like that, too.

2. What was your family’s reaction about it? (Mine always used to laugh at my ambitions.)

Well, coming from a family of cops and hardhats, it certainly wasn’t the norm in my family. Their reception was luke-warm at best, so I started to write secretly.

(Don’t let anyone diminish your ambitions, Nickie!)

3. You wrote some excellent scripts for Hollywood. How did it feel, working for film and TV?

Thank you. Working for TV was fun and exciting, but I grew to feel I couldn’t express all of the ideas I wanted to write about because TV imposes too many limitations; it’s too confining. With books, there are limitless possibilities and freedoms available to the writer.

4. Afterwards, you started writing books. Elvis Cole is one of your characters. Are you an Elvis fan?

Elvis Cole? Of course. The King? You bet.

5. Did you have any difficulties in having your first book published?

“The Monkey’s Raincoat” was rejected nine times before it found a publisher.

6. How does it feel to have a former president (Bill Clinton) for fan?

Like a rock star!

7. Can you deal with criticism?

Why? Is there something you want to tell me? Yes, I can deal with criticism, it comes with the job.

8. You like backpacking. Can you tell us to which places you have gone?

Alaska, Montana, British Columbia, and Central California.

9. Being a gourmet cook, mind sharing your favorite dish with us?

Anything I’ve killed with my bare hands. Okay, okay, I have a fondness for Cajun food. I’m a Frenchman from South Louisiana, you know? I grew up on gumbo and jambalaya, red beans and rice, that kind of thing. I love it all.
10. Who is/are your own favorite writer(s)?

Raymond Chandler was probably the most influential, but I have no ‘favorite’. I read damn near everything and learned from damn near everything read.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Back home

Early this morning, we finally arrived home from our trip to Switzerland! We left the hotel on time to catch the 13.40 train to Landquart, and from there one to Zurich. We arrived well before time at the airport, but there it began to go wrong.

Our plane in Zurich left already too late, which made if difficult to catch the connection in Frankfurt. We got on the plane, but our luggage did not. As soon as we arrived in Zaventem, we noticed the two suitcases did not appear and we had to file a report. It was already after eleven pm, and it took time. There were more people before us in line, and only one guy at the office counter! Still, we had to laugh at what the guy before us told. Apparently he had left his car keys in the (lost) suitcase! How can you be so foolish? I always have my money, identity papers, credit cards and keys with me, as well as my medication.

The only thing I don't have right now is the charger to upload the pics to my computer. But we got a phone call some hour ago, and the suitcases will be brought home between 4 and 7 pm.

So probably tomorrow I can show you some pics of Scuol and environs. We have good ones, so you're in for a treat.

And tomorrow it's back to work. Not that I complain, but holidays are always nicer, right? This time we have six weeks to go before the Easter holidays begin. Already looking forward to that, as we go for some days to London and Liverpool at the start of this holiday.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Travel journal 4

All good things come to an end... Today is our last full day in Switzerland, because tomorrow we have to return home. But we can't complain: we had a very beautiful holiday here in Scuol.

Yesterday was sunny from the start. At breakfast we already saw the sun touching the tops of mounts Mot da Ri and Champatsch, and then slowly descending the mountain slopes until it reached the village. We bought a ticket for the train to Ardez, a village some kilometers away from Scuol. From there we walked towards Ftan, which I have already mentioned. It was a walk through snow and forest, along the slopes of mount Clunäs, aside deep gorges and valleys. Not for those who feel faint when they stare into the deep!

We lunched outside on a terrace in Ftan and relaxed in the sun which was really warm. Nothing more beautiful than snow and sun! After a hour or so we decided to continue our walk and descended more mountain into the village.

Because it was Valentine's Day, the menu at the hotel was a special one and we got all kinds of tasty gourmet food, including venison shot locally.

Today it was lightly snowing when we woke up, but it did not last very long. Around 10 am we could leave for a walk through the forest on the other side of the river Inn towards Pradella village. Nothing but some farmers living there, but a nice walk indeed. The path took us around the village and then back to Scuol. We had lunch in our hotel and then made a final walk to Vulpera, also on the overside of the river.

Tonight will be our last meal here at the hotel. We take a train to Zurich around noon tomorrow and we shall be home late in the evening. On Sunday or Monday I'lll probably have time to put up some pics we made here, to give you an idea of how beautiful a place this is.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Travel journal 3

Today was again a nice and sunny day. Yesterday it was snowing lightly, but you could come outside for a walk despite it. We walked along the river Inn which is especially nice in summer!

Today we took the gondola up the mountain (Motta Naluns) and began to descend in the direction of Prui (a ski station) and even lower the village of Ftan. There were masses of snow but still the walking was not too difficult. The locals here do their utmost best to maintain the footpaths and they are always in prime condition. We never even stumbled!

We lunched very nicely in a local restaurant in Ftan (rösti with smoked salmon) and then continued our walk down to Scuol. Again another hour and a half to reach the valley station of the gondola, where our hotel is conveniently situated as well.

We took a steam bath (pure paradise!) and are now enjoying a pint of the local lager!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Travel journal 2

Today the weather was less beautiful than yesterday. It was cloudy, with the expectation of snow to come. Luckily it did not snow as long as we were outside!

This morning we left the hotel to walk along the river Inn to a village called Sur-En (En being the name of the river). We walked partly through the forest and next to a langlauf trail, always following the river. We took lunch in Sur-En (the walk took about two hours) and then jumped on a bus to make the steep ride to Sent, another village in the neighborhood.

From there we walked down the mountain to Scuol village. It was rather steep at places and also rather icy. We do have spikes to put under our snow boots, but even with those spikes it was tricky to keep your balance at places.

Well, we did arrive without any problems and then returned to the hotel, where we relaxed in the steam bath and sauna.

Now waiting for lunch!

When we are back home, I'll post some pics of the places we've been to. I've been trying to search some on the web, but the free internet here is so slow it nearly doesn't work.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Travel journal 1

As promised, I've found the time to write just a few lines about our trip to Switzerland. Our plane yesterday morning left a bit too late, because three passengers who had checked in did not board the plane, and so their luggage had to be taken out of the containers. The flight itself went smoothly and we arrived in Zurich airport around 11.30 am. Because our luggage arrived very fast, we made it in time for our train of 12.12 pm to Zurich Hauptbahnhof and from there to Landquart and Scuol.

The hotel where we are staying is called Bellaval (which means 'beautiful valley' in the local language: rheto-roman). We got the room we normally occupy, as it is already the third time we stay here. We still had time for a walk into the village, and then it was time for supper. They have a very good cook here in the hotel, and all the meals are a delight.

This morning we woke up to a blue sky. After a hearty breakfast we went outside for a long walk. It was rather cold, but the sun did a lot of good! We've been walking nicely and afterwards enjoyed some time in the hotel wellness center. I especially like the infrared cabin and the steam bath.

Now we're waiting for the welcome drink, which always takes place on Sundays. Have to endure the looks of people who apparently haven't seen a laptop!!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting ready

Well, the suitcases are packed and we are now looking forward to some hours of rest (watching TV, do some reading, ...) before we retire to bed. Tomorrow morning the taxi will pick us up at 7 a.m. exactly to bring us to Zaventem airport.

I'm really looking forward to this trip, as we have deserved some rest after 5 weeks of teaching. I'll try to post a travel blog every now and then, and add some pictures of the places we've been to. No promises, however - you know how it goes when you are travelling!

We won't be the only ones leaving tomorrow. Already today lots of Belgians left for the wintersport area's and tomorrow even more will be leaving. It's been snowing profusely in the Alps, the same as here in our country. This morning it was quite dangerous on the roads, after the snow of yesterday evening.

So long!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Are you a cat or a dog person?

Just a few minutes ago, my sister and I were considering taking a cat again. We've had several cats when we were younger, but decided to not replace the last one (our Pluche). He looked exactly like this:

He was a sweet guy, but very temperamental and highly intelligent. For instance, if we had been on a trip and he was left with my grandmother, he would not look at us for days on our return. We were only forgiven after two or three days, and we knew it as he jumped up to give us a 'nose' kiss.

Also my mother used to have a cat as her pet. We never had a dog, although grandma apparently had one when she was a kid. She always told us her cat and dog used to sleep in the same basket.

So I'd qualify myself as a cat-person. I really like their independence and their way of making you aware of what they want. Our Pluche could be anywhere, but when I rode up the yard with my sacks of mussels, he turned up as by magic and would not leave the kitchen until he was fed at least one kilo of those mussels!

So while I prefer cats I don't know what I have that attracts dogs! Every dog I see wants to come to me, be it a little one or a very big and dangerous one. They tear at their leash and want to come to my knee, so that I can pet them. It works just the same way with little kids. Every kid I see laughs at me and would come to me, if allowed. I once was at an airport in some American town, and next to me sat a mother with her young son. Only two minutes later, the little guy already asked me if I could tell him a story - and according to his mother he even did not speak to her own mother, let alone to strangers!

What are you? Cat or dog person?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse...

Who doesn't know these famous lines by William Shakespeare? In his play, Richard the Third features as a tyrant and a murderer of innocent children.

Being fascinated by history, I became rather interested when I heard that a human skeleton was found on a construction site in Leicester and yesterday it was confirmed that the skeleton is that of the late Richard the Third.

I never could believe Shakespeare and other of his contemporaries told the truth about this monarch. After all, who writes history? Yes, those who are the conquerers. So naturally their views will be colored and not often a little. As far as I know, Richard was a man who loved his brother, king Edward the Fourth and had sworn to protect his young children - which he did. During his reign - he only became king because the marriage between Edward and Elizabeth Woodville was not quite legal. Still the bastard princes were cared for and nothing happened to them.

But once Henry Tudor became England's king, the rumor spread that the princes had been murdered in the Tower. And who would dare to dispute this view? If you did, also you would not live a long life... Tudor needed a reason to occupy England's throne. His marriage to the princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward IV, was not enough to  justify his claims. So why not paint the previous king as a bad man, who was capable of murdering his own nephews?

No, as far as I can see Richard was a decent man, and one who endured great pains (look at his backbone, how bent it is, which must have given him great pains to walk and ride a horse). Still he always lead his men into battle and endured the same hardships. Hopefully he will now be seen differently and some future history book will do him credit!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wind's Aria

Today I'd like to introduce you to Tessa Stockton, author of Wind's Aria. Tessa is doing a Super Book Blast Tour for her book with Goddess Fish Promotions.

A veteran of the performing arts and worldwide missions, Tessa Stockton also contributed as a writer/editor for ministry publications, ghostwriter for political content, and she headed a column on the topic of forgiveness. Today she writes romance and intrigue novels in a variety of genres. In addition to her fantasy romance, WIND’S ARIA, she’s the author of suspense/thriller, THE UNSPEAKABLE, political intrigue/romance, THE UNFORGIVABLE, and a literary short story, LOVE AND LULL, with more in the works.

The author shall be giving away a $50 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during this tour and her reviews tour. So don't forget to leave your comment when you visit!


Elected as the Songstress, Aria takes her place on the sacred platform to sing before every dawn. As long as she does so, peace and abundant life belong to her people. One morning, amidst a strange wind that brings with it a curse in its eerie howl, Aria loses her ability to make music. But the encroaching death that transpires isn’t her biggest tragedy. It’s that she adores the cause of her blunder, for he’s a magnificent winged creature who’s stolen more than her voice.
“Who are you?”
He pushed further back into the shadows as she strode closer. “Someone you need not know.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
When he didn’t answer, she sighed.
“What a strange, terrible day,” she mumbled. “Well, at least tell me your name . . .”
He stood, speechless, knowing he shouldn’t be there at all—conversing with a Meleyan—especially not their musical deliverer that he was set to doom the day after tomorrow.
A peculiar grumbling interrupted her insistence, to his relief.
“Sorry.” She patted her stomach. He could see, even in the blackened night, how her face turned a deeper shade of red than her hair. “I’ve forgotten to eat. I guess I’m hungrier than I realized.”
He plucked an apple from the tree he’d nearly become a part of and held it out to her. The girl approached tentatively. She reached for the fruit but recoiled when her fingers brushed his.
“Is touching me so horrible?” he asked.
Her jaw dropped open and her delicate brow furrowed. She inclined her head. “It . . . hurt.”
“How?” he asked, for her fingers felt good to him, soothing. Warm. He wanted to try again.
“I don’t know how to explain . . .”
“Hum.” Unsatisfied with the answer, he tossed the apple to her and watched as she crunched her teeth into it.
You can find the author here:
And buy the novel here:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Nickie's Ten Questions to Barbara Pierce

This time, I'm asking romance writer Barbara Pierce some questions... Curious what she'll answer? Then read my online interview.

1) Was it your dream to become a writer, or did you want to do something different as a child?
Actually, when I was four years old, I decided that I wanted to be an artist. At age six, I took my first art class with a local artist and I was hooked. Unless it was school-related, my writing was something I considered private. I didn’t even consider writing a book until I was in my late twenties.

2) Did you take any courses to help you become a better writer?
I took creative writing and literature classes in high school and college, but the classes were strictly for fun. At the time, I was focused more on drawing and painting.

3) Do you think it can be helpful to join writers/critique groups when you are an aspiring author?
Absolutely. This is how I started. I met several aspiring authors through America Online, and we eventually formed a private critique group. Over the years, their support and insight was invaluable. Out of our group of five, three of us went on to become published.

4) Did it take you long to find an agent?
My search took two years. It was a long process, because an agent’s response time varied from six weeks to six months.

5) Finally, your first book got published. How did you feel about that?
I was elated! I believed in my work, but selling that first story confirmed that I had taken my writing beyond a hobby.

6) How was the reception of this novel?
I thought for the most part, the book was very well received. Unfortunately, before A Desperate Game was release, Kensington discontinued the Zebra Splendor line so I didn’t get a chance to write the follow-up book, which would have been Kim Farrell’s story.

7) I can believe that not everyone likes what you write. How do you deal with criticism?

You’re right, you can’t please everyone. One reader’s favorite book of the year is another reader’s wall banger. That alone has taught me not to be reactive. Sure, criticism can sting, but I do my best to shake it off.

8) You have chosen the Regency period as your favorite. Any reason why you don't write about other periods in history?
It just worked out this way. I’m certainly open to exploring other time periods and subgenres. However, when I sold my first book in 2000, the historical market was shrinking. Many established historical authors had switched to other subgenres, and there were rumors that the market was dead. Publishers were still buying Regency historicals so it made sense to continue writing them. Since the English Regency is one of my favorite time periods, I was thrilled to have the chance to write both the Bedegrayne and Carlisle series.

9) What do you need in order to write well?
Organization. Once I’ve done my research for a book, I would be lost if I didn’t have my synopsis and character profiles within reach. Since most of my books are connected, I have a cheat sheet of facts so I know at a glance what I’ve revealed in earlier books.

10) Last question: what do you read yourself? Any favorites?
My reading ranges from non-fiction books for research to romance. I enjoy all the subgenres. Some of my personal favorites are: When Angels Fall by Meagan McKinney, Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart, Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey, The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning, and anything by Lorraine Heath.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Something to look forward to

This time, next week, I'm not in cold and dreary Dendermonde again, but in beautiful Scuol in Switzerland!

A taxi is going to pick us up early in the morning, to bring us to Zaventem airport in time to catch the flight to Zurich. We'll arrive there around 11 a.m. and knowing the Swiss efficiency, it will only take a couple of minutes to pick up our luggage and hurry towards the trains. We need to go to Zurich Hauptbahnhof to take a train to Lanquart there, and from Landquart one to Scuol. With a bit of luck, we'll arrive at our holiday destination around 3 p.m.

We'll be staying there for a week, and it will be a well-earned rest. Being a teacher simply can't be underestimated. It takes a lot of your energy and we only see those school holidays as recuperation.

And the holiday in Scuol is not the only one we can look forward to. Later this year we also go for a weekend to London and Liverpool, for another weekend to Cardiff, for an extended weekend to Amsterdam in Holland and for a week to Scotland.

So sure, it's beginning to itch! Only one more week...

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Medici Diamonds

Way back, in the early 1980's I came up with an idea for a novel. It should be a story spun around a necklace - in this story the Medici Diamonds. Supposed to bring evil to the one who's wearing them...

Around this idea I spun an entire story. That of Marguerite, the only daughter of an impoverished French count. When her father decides she must marry to finance the new roof of their castle in ruins, she balks at the idea of marrying an old man (Etienne is around 40, she is only 17). So she runs away, into a life of adventure.

With the help of her eldest brother's friend Claude she travels to Paris where she soon finds out how life goes. Claude cannot be trusted, so she runs away for a second time - only to land into a band of pickpockets and thieves. Here she get one true friend: Dominique, also known as Cartouche. The young Cartouche takes her into his protection but still he can't prevent Marguerite becomes entangled in a mystery around a dangerous man named Le Chevalier.

Ten years later. Marguerite is now married to Etienne (her first fiancé) and seems quite happy. But strange things happen lately. When Etienne is murdered, she realizes her own life may be in danger as well. She doesn't know whom to trust, until she meets this man who is shunned by society because he supposedly murdered his wife.

The diamond necklace weaves it malice through the entire storyline. Will Marguerite be strong enough to fight Fate and find true love at last?

All answers in The Medici Diamonds: Diamonds for the Devil.

For sale at and of course directly from the publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press.