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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter

I'd like to wish you all a Happy Easter! Here in Belgium the weather is not too great (sunny but cold), but that does mean that the children will be able to look for easter eggs outside (last year they melted, as the temperature was 19°C).


Yes, here the Easter Bells bring chocolate eggs! Early in the morning, when everybody is in church, the Easter Bells fly over, and leave a rain of chocolate goodies. I remember how nice it was to go looking for eggs in your garden, look under all the leaves and between the grass, with your basket on your arm...

I won't be posting for a couple of days, as I'm going away on a short trip. I'll tell you more once we return.



Happy Easter!

Friday, March 29, 2013

How people think about teachers

When you ask just anyone in the street what teachers do, the answer will inevitably be : "They have lots of holidays" - ergo, we don't work.

I'd like to invite anyone to come and teach only one week - I'll even give them a class in ASO (which will only include students who want to go to university or college). They are (between brackets) the most easy to work with (myself, I prefer BSO, although harder these guys are honest and once they accept you, you have no trouble with them).

When someone who's never taught a class would try to do the job, most of them will quit after only one day. Because teaching is not only about transfering knowledge to others, but also being a pyscholigist, a parent, a nurse or doctor, ... We combine many abilities under our caps. Also, the young ones have changed with the times. They don't readily listen to you anymore, they don't sit with their arms crossed behind their desks and are no longer afraid to speak their mind.

I still like being in the class after all of these years (more than 35 already) and I know I'll be able to cope with the demands of the job until I'm 65.

But we are being discriminated. For instance, when you want to compete in a contest and you can win a trip abroad, it'll be a trip outside of the school holidays. And planes and hotels are much more expensive during these periods as well. That's why I don't want to travel to the USA anymore. I don't want to pay 1,000 € for a return ticket when the same ticket will only cost 350-400 € in other periods.I can't see the reason behind it, unless earning lots of money on the backs of people who have no other choice. The fuel will cost the same in March as in July, right? Same goes for hotel rooms. Why must they be cheaper in the 'low season'?

Well, I won't complain anymore. At least the train tickets remain the same price in whatever period. I just thought of this because I heard in the news that thousands of parents with children have already left on holiday because the tickets are cheaper before Easter.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Haversham Legacy

If you are in for a good 'ol fashioned tale full of adventure, then you'll find it in The Haversham Legacy.


In this novel set in the late seventeenth century, the events start when the Marquis of Haversham - a man of forty, never married - falls in love with the beautiful Lady Claire, who could easily be his daughter, if not his granddaughter. This causes quite a stir, especially with the man who considered himself the sole heir of the title and fortune of Haversham.

Not aware of the threathening danger, the marquis marries and soon becomes the father of a baby girl named Justine. But then some of his farms light up in flames and the culprits are nowhere to be found. Together with some neighbors, Lord James set out to find who did this - and runs into a trap. This faul deed causes his death.

A widow, Lady Claire is grateful for the help she receives from her husband's cousin George, now the new Lord Haversham. He helps her sort out the legacy, but to his surprise finds out that James has set the full amount of his moneys and lands not bound to the title on his daughter Justine. She'll receive the legacy when she becomes twenty-five years of age, or when she marries.

Eventually, despite her parents' misgivings, Claire and George marry and his appears a good stepfather for Justine. When returning from a visit to her parents in London, the coach carrying Claire, her daughter and her maid, falls prey to highwaymen. Shots are fired, and the coach turns over. Claire dies in the crash, as well as her maid and the coacher.

Only little Justine survives the crash, being protected by her mother's body. Her faint cries are heard by Jack, who rides the forest at nights and is better known as Black Jack the highwayman. He finds the baby, recognizes her and understanding the danger, takes her along to his sister's home where she is raised as his own daughter.

While Justine grows up in anonymity, new people arrive in the neighborhood. A young lordling, his wife and young son. It is Nigel, the boy, who is the only one to learn about the foul deeds committed in the past years. But he is discovered and now his own life is also in danger...

The story then moves on to several years later, where a pirate captain accepts two nem members to his crew. Little does he know they have secrets to hide, and they sure don't know what brought him to the seven seas.

If you are getting interested, you'll have to find out how the story develops when reading. But be assured there will be a good ending. Justice is served and love conquers anything, as in all good stories!

You can buy the novel from the publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press (www.roguephoenixpress.com) or from Amazon, in both paperback as ebook format.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our national sport: cheating the taxman!

When you live in a country where a hardworking person is taxed 56% of his monthly income, it's no wonder they'll try their best at cheating the taxman in any way possible. Because, on top of this monthy amount we already pay, we still run the chance of getting taxed after the end of the calendar year - well, some people get money back, but they are not many!


We all pay 'in black' when we have the possibility, and we just 'forget' to mention we have done renovations, for instance. Because when you do renovations to your house or flat, you come into a higher category of taxing. You also pay 21% of VAT of work you are having done.

Yes, Belgians are extremely clever when it comes to taxes, but sometimes you can be too clever...

A few wiseguys thought they found THE way of avoiding to pay a lot of taxes! They own a company which produces calculators and cash registers. They are very advanced in their field, and not so long ago they claimed to have manufactured the only cash register which made it impossible to evade taxes...

They sold their new cash register to lots of restaurants, bars, shops, ... But what they did  not make public was that their salesmen told their clients how to cheat effectively with this new toy. It was just a way of getting into the software program, and then you could easily let 'disappear' 180 € of the 200 you received. All in the pocket, the taxman would not ask any questions.

Of course, such schemes don't last forerver. Also the tax service has become computer-aware and have their own division that tries to fight fraude. Their people discovered the scam and now the owners of this company have been arrested. And in the near future, lots of restaurants, shops etc. may expect a visit from the taxing services...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Music of the 70's and the 80's

Although I have a rather wide taste in music (I must confess I only dislike one genre, namely jazz), I still go for the music of the seventies and the eighties when pop music is being considered.

When I was a teenager, I was wild about The Sweet and was ever so glad I could be present at one of their do's at a coastal resort. Just as well, because the following week the band was banned from appearing in Belgium...


I even wrote a novel in which John Connolly appeared.... Fan adoration can go far!

After that, I got into a period where I truly like Slade. The music was a bit harder, but I got into the beat nevertheless. Years later, we saw Slade in a concert and it was so nice to see the public still went wild.


Then I did not have one peticular favorite singer or band (I became a member of the Bay City Rollers fanclub... and my walls were full of posters, my favorite one that of Red Bone because I had a like for Indians, or should I say Native Americans?). But then I became quite fond of the music of Queen, while my sister went more for the Bee Gees.


Around the same time I also became a big fan of Mud. Les Gray and company. We went to all the concerts the band gave in Belgium, and we always managed to be in the front row. Les and the others knew us by sight and always greeted us. They also paused to chat with us and naturally we had their signatures. Our local TV station VRT ofteUn filmed us because of our home-made t-shirts with a big MUD on it!


The good thing is, the radiio still plays these old songs nearly every day. They also have a yearly top-80  or top-100 of the best songs of these periods, and most of the time "Bohemian Rhapsody' is number one... Well, 'Tiger Feet' still score high as well, as most Bee Gee songs.

Guess you're getting more nostalgic when you grow older, right? That's why we have booked tickets to go and see 'Boogie Nights' in the UK next week.  I'll tell more about it in a future blog.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Mother, Our Fathers

Those of you who can watch German TV (ZDF) have been able to see a wonderful story about World War II. The German title is "Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter" and it tells the story of five friends during the second world war. What makes this 3-part TV drama unique, is that it is made by Germans and tell the true story of what happened during this war. It is not so long ago some Germans denied the killing of Jews and other facts...


Wilhelm and Friedhelm are two brothers who live in Berlin. The story starts on the evening before both brothers have go to war. They meet up with their friends Greta (a barmaid who wants to become a singer like Marlène Dietrich), Charlotte -Charlie - who wantst to be a nurse, and Viktor, the son of Jewish dressmakers. Little do they know what the future has in store for them!



At first Friedhelm does not see the relevance of war and Wilhelm is always the one to call him to duty. Charlie lands in a field hospital and soon sees what war does to others. Greta sees her dream come true but it will cost her some... She has to befriend a German officer in a high position and does not realize he only uses her. Viktor tries to get away, but is caught and send to Auschwitz. Under way to the death camp he can escape with a young Polish girl.

All of these friends will find out that war is an ugly thing. Wilhelm doesn't want to fight anymore, he gives up but instead of being killed he's sent off to the fighting in Russia. Friedhelm becomes harder and more cynical. Charlotte loses all her innocence. Greta at last finds out the true nature of her lover...  Viktor suffers a lot.

I don't know if this series will be broadcasted in other countries with subtitles or adaptation, but if it happens, I can recommend watching it. I understand German as I have lived in this country for four years, and also spent lots of ski holidays in Austria and Switzerland.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Global warming?

Scientist have been telling us for ages that the earth is warming up. There would be changes to what we know now. More concrete: for our parts it would mean that the lower parts of Belgium would be under water and the rest of the country should have a climate like they now have in the Mediterranean. (I suppose nobody here would mind a lot, as they have sunshine from April to October and also nice warm temperatures.) It could be like this:


But when we woke up this morning, this is how it looked like:


Can you believe that? It has never been so cold before in my lifetime. According to the news, the last time it was this cold and it snowed, was in March 1952. For the umptieth time we had to get out our snowshovels and get the pavements free of snow. I even did not have a snowshovel until a year or so ago.

The last few years, we have had extremely cold winters and practically nothing of summer. Last year we only had one weekend with high temperatures (and that was at the end of May). For the rest: clouds, rain, low temperatures. Also the previous summer was not worth mentioning.

So is this global warming? I'd rather think we're heading for another Ice Age. I'm sorry we have already booked a summer trip to Scotland, otherwise I'd be looking to book a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Kafee Klatsj

For those who don't speak Flemish this title will look more than strange, right? Do you have any idea what it refers to?

It refers to a good old Flemish tradition. What do you do on a Saturday afternoon, when the weather is as miserable as it is now (yuk, snow at the end of March!)? Well, every Flemish female (and male, for that is changing too) will go into a tearoom for a coffee (kafee) and a talk (klatsj) with friends and relatives.

These tearooms are typical Flemish and you can not only drink coffee or tea there, they also sell beer (and as you all know we have hundreds, if not thousands, sorts of beer here in Belgium). And you can have pancakes, waffles or 'patisserie' too. To give you an idea of all these goodies, I've looked for some fitting images. Don't get hungry!!!

We fill our pancakes with all sorts of sweet stuff, like vanilla icecream, chocolate, whipped cream, sweet cherries, apples with cinammon, banana, pear, ...) On our waffels we just put sugar or whipped cream. And of course, the 'patisserie' comes in all sorts of forms. On the picture you see the typical tartelettes with strawberries, and something called 'chouke', it's a dough filled with cream.





Also my sister and I went to our favorite tearoom Valentino and had pancakes with 'advocaat' (=eggnog). Yum, yum, along with a cup of good espresso.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Nickie's Ten Questions to Luc Deflo

Just like everybody, I have my own favorite writers. Some of them are gracious enough to answer my questions, and I want to share these with friends and visitors.

Luc Deflo is a Belgian writer of crime fiction. He is very successful in Belgium and the Netherlands, where he has a series of best-selling novels up to now, with detectives Dirk Deleu and Nadia Mendonk as the lead characters. Unfortunately his books are only available in these parts, and some other European countries. Luc hopes to find a publisher in the U.K. or the U.S.A. soon.
I got to know Luc by accident. I picked up one of his books in the library, and it was a real page-turner! I then found another book, which was even better. I sent some e-mails to Luc, telling him how much I appreciated his books, and since then we have kept in contact.
Luc was also so kind enough to come to my school twice. He spent an entire afternoon answering students' questions and the kids appreciated this very much! They were very enthusiastic about it. Afterwards Luc and I had a drink and a long chat, and this resulted in our friendship.

Elizabeth George's website


 And now, here are my interview questions:

1. Is Luc Deflo your real name?

Yes, it is.

2. When did you start writing?

I’ve always written and I also like to read a lot. My first book was actually an autobiography, which I wrote when I was at high school. Alas, it was never published. Then I wrote a play for the stage.

3. How do you work as a writer?

As I read a lot, I get lots of information from newspapers and magazines. Not so long ago, I was reading an article about a serial killer in the US, who travelled from state to state and very nearly escaped getting caught. I thought: "Hey, this is a nice idea! Why not bring the action to Flanders?" And so I did, and wrote Naked Souls. I often work like this.

4. Are you a full time writer, or do you have another job?
I work as a consultant for the KBC bank. A year ago, I took a sabbatical in which I did a lot of writing. Now I have returned to work half-time, as I like my job and I can travel a lot Besides, writing books, even bestsellers, doesn’t make you rich in Flanders.
5. Do you have a favourite book or writer?

Not exactly. I’ll read a book to the end when I like it. Otherwise, I just put it aside.


6. Do you like it when your fans write to you or e-mail you?
I love it! I appreciate it a lot and I will always answer.


7. How do you handle criticism?

To be honest, the first time that a critic wrote a negative report on Naked Souls I felt devastated. It really hurt. But now I’ve learned to live with it. When some people don’t like what I write, so be it.

8. Why is the action always take place in Mechelen?

I was born in Mechelen. To most people, it is just a quiet provincial town where nothing special happens at night. Portraying it as a place where murder is ordinary was an idea that appealed to me a lot. The Mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers, (who’s a good friend of mine) always asks me why I tell people that Mechelen is a dangerous town. I guess he’s afraid that people are going to believe it, even though he makes such an effort to have a safe town.

(Note from Nickie: Mechelen is one of the historical towns of Flanders, halfway between Antwerp and Brussels.)

9. Are the characters in your books real? Are they based on people you know?

No, they are truly fictive. I must admit however that my detective, Dirk Deleu, has some of my characteristics. When I describe his physical appearance, you can picture me as well. And sometimes he thinks like me. But, I must tell you that I use real names in my books! A lot of my friends and acquaintances spontaneously ask me if they can figure in one of the stories. Guess what, there is even a waiting-list!

10. What are your future plans?

I’ve completed two more books. In number five I return to the open ending in Naked Souls. There the serial killer escaped to France. A lot of readers asked me what happened with the man. Would he always escape justice? So I decided to bring him back in this book. I’m also working on the film scenario of Naked Souls, of which the film rights were sold to one of Belgium’s most renowned producers. With a friend I have written a TV-drama in ten parts, which I’m hoping to be able to sell soon. It’s about child abuse and corrupt policticians.



(Note of Nickie: this series is called Cell 5 and is among his better work).




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stefanie Plum

Having just finished the latest Stefanie Plum mystery by Janet Evanovich, I feel like writing a little piece about this hilarious series.

I don't quite remember when I read my first Stefanie Plum mystery (One For the Money). It must have been a long time ago, as my grandmother was still living and one day she brought home this book from the library. All afternoon long she sat there reading and laughing aloud. When she had finished with the book, both my mother and I wanted to read it as well. Of course, this was in the Dutch translation, but that is not important.


What amused all of us most were the antics of Grandma Mazur, and especially when she shoots a chicken in the butt with her .45!

After that first book, I read all the Plum mysteries (in English) and keep re-reading them. After all, it's so nice to read about a person who's so chaotic and plots where just anything happens...

Stefanie lives in New Jersey, in Trenton. She is divorced and out of a job (after having done some very peculiar ones). Her cousin Vinnie then offers her a job as bond enforcer... Can you just picture this? In her endeavours to catch the naughty ones, she's helped by Lula, a ex-hooker. And of course also her old boyfriend Joe Morelli - now a hot cop - can't refrain from helping out Stefanie. But another character comes into sight: Ranger, the mysterious guy who used to be Special Forces and who also attracts Stefanie. She really can't choose between Morelli and Ranger, and Janet keeps the reader guessing at how it will end.



I truly admire Janet Evanovich for being able to make each new book as good or even better than the previous one and I truly hope she continues this series for a long time to come!

I haven't seen the film yet, but willl certainly one of the coming months.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How safe are our savings?

Picture this: you work hard all of your life, you try to keep your expenses in balance and you manage to put aside a certain percentage of these wages for later.



This is what most Flemings do. They are hardworking and want to leave their children and grandchildren a nice bonus to get them started in life. Most parents pay a quarter of the price of a house, just because they've been saving all of their lives.

Now the Cypriotic government plans on taxing the savings of every inhabitant. It's still in debate whether they'll manage or not, but anyway it causes a lot of protest. And it is a dangerous precedent. If they pull this trough, who is to say whether not any goverment will want to do this? Think of Spain, Italy, Greece... They all are in financial difficulties and Europe (=Angela Merkel) doesn't want to give away any more support money. These countries will have to make sacrifices.

But others may also become inspired. If you know that we Belgians have more than 240 billion Euro in savings accounts, it would be a dream for our government to tax us all 6% on it and in one instant they'll be free of debt! They'd even have money to spare.

Now I think this is going too far. You get almost nothing of interest on your savings. And then you'd have to pay extra on it? I think not!

So I'm ever so glad to say I don't have much savings anymore. I used to have a big amount put aside, but it's long gone. I paid for two renovations to my house, had a new kitchen fitted, renovated the bathroom, did the garden, fixed the roofs, ... And the rest of the money goes to trips. If you spend almost everything, you got something for it and they're not able to take that away.

I consider my house of my biggest saving account. I'm the owner, I don't own anything to the bank anymore. It's better than a pension plan.

What do you think of this?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Love (really) Never Dies

Good news for those who love the musical theatre! It's just been announced that Lloyd-Webber's Love Never Dies is not to die a silent death. Early 2014 a UK Tour will start and theatres have already been booked. If the show is succesful on tour, it will return to London and most likely to North America and parts of Europe.


I had the chance of seeing this show twice in 2010, the year it was first performed in London. The first time was in April, with Tam Mutu as the Phantom and Sierra Boggess as Christine. The second time was in August, and this time the Phantom was played by Ramin Karimloo. Oh boy! When he sang 'Till I hear you sing again' the entire auditorium got the goosebumps! What a voice this guy has! And also Sierra is very good as Christine. When she sang the role of Christine in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Phantom of the Opera, I equally got the goosebumps when she sang.

I always thought the show was great, and I don't understand what the critics found fault with. Did they not understand the story?

It's all about the jealousy Meg Giry has for Christine. At first they were friends, but soon she finds out Eric only wants Christine. Even when her mother and she help Eric escape the furious crowd in the Paris Opera House and find him passage to America, and do everything to help him find his way there (among which paving the way by sleeping with rich businessmen), he stilll only thinks of getting Christine back into his life.

No wonder Meg feels hurt. She also knows her voice is not as good as that of Christine. All these factors lead her to kidnap Christine's (and Eric's) little son and in the end she shoots Christine. But the show ends on a positive note: Gustav finally accepts Eric as this father and even gets him to put off his mask...

I'll certainly go and see the show once more when it's on tour (most English towns are not too far off for us) and I hope they'll ask Ramin once more to play Phantom.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shetland

Last week, BBC1 aired Shetland, a two-part tv-drama based on the book Red Bones by Ann Cleeves.


Now I already was a fan of Ann Cleeves, after having seen the first episode of Vera (detective Vera Stanhope) and afterwards having read the five books which feature detective Stanhope. As most books of British crime authors, they are well written and worth reading. Also pyschologically underbuilt with care for the characters and plot.

I had not yet read the Shetland Quartet (contrary to the title, there are already five books in this series) but after seeing the film on BBC I quickly ordered those novels to add to my collection.

Head character in these books is detective Jimmy Perez (played by Douglas Henshall) who originally lived on the Shetland Islands, then moved away and returned when he is widowed, with his stepdaughter. There are not many people living on these isles, but they certainly are not averse to crime! The film we saw is based on the third novel in the series, Red Bones, and is the story of two families with a feud started during World War II.

The Shetland boatsmen ferry Norse fugitives and agents across the sea, and when one of them meets the wife of a farmer and falls in love with her, the problems start. The Norwegian guy disappears, and only one person know how... Years later, a corpse is found during an archeological dig and the bones tell their story. Two new murders follow and Perez needs to to his utmost to prevent more crime.

Something to watch out for!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Do you also feel the need for change?

Most of the time, I'm quite satisfied with my looks and my figure. I try to live as healthy as possible, without neglecting the good things in life, such as a glass of wine and a piece of dark chocolate every now and then...

Also, I must accept I'm getting older so I know I can't dress like a teenager any longer. But nevertheless, there are times when I feel like a bit of change might be okay. Like changing my hairstyle.

Now that's quite difficult when you have (very) short hair, like mine. Oh, I admit, it's easy to maintain. I only need to wash it and let it dry on the air. Ten minutes will do for that. Brush my fingers through it, and I'm ready to go.

However, when you are invited to a fashionable do you want to look your best. So I'm thinking of getting one or two wigs, so that I can change my hairstyle without having to let my hair grow and color it.


What do you think of this? Or I might go for the next one:



Also apply makeup - which I normally never do! - and varnish my nails, next to wearing a stylish dress (I got myself a Donna Karan, which looks stunning) and high heels. No, not superhigh, but high enough to make my legs somewhat longer.

Well, every girl want to feel like a princess on occasion, don't you agree?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Social security in debate

Some time ago, our national newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws (The Latest News) made an inquiry about how the Fleming thinks about social security.

To its surprise, more than 40% of those interviewed think that social security should not be for everyone. First of all, I need to explain about our system. We all pay for social security. It is automatically withdrawn from our wages, which amount up to 50% of our monthly income. If you have 2,500 Euro in your pocket, you earned about 5,000 in reality. The goverment withdraws taxes and social security. For the rest, we only have to pay some extra 100 Euro to our national health service. This will cover all the costs when you need to go to hospital etc. So you don't really have to pay a lot when visiting a doctor or a dentist; most is covered by social security.

But nowadays people begin to think this is not so evident anymore. A lot of them think that those who deliberately harm their health don't have a right to free services. When you are a heavy smoker and you have a lung disease, you should pay for it completely out of your pocket. Or when you are a heavy drinker and your kidneys don't work properly, it's your own fault and you should pay for it.

Now I can go along these lines. I've known people who had drunk themselves half dead each day and suffered from a bad liver and kidneys. When the doctor told them to stop drinking, they continued and then needed new organs. Well, I would oblige them to pay for those, and then only when those organs were not needed by people who did nothing to suffer from a disease.

But I do think it goes too far when those people interviewed also claim that young people should take precedence when organs become available. If there is a heart, it should go to someone of 30 instead of 60. I can't agree with that (and no, not because I'm in my fifties too). I think this organ should go to the person who has been on the waiting list for the longest time and who is the best match.

What is your take on this?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dylan's Song

Today, author P.M. Terrell is doing a Super Book Blast Tour, with Goddess Fish Promotions. To celebrate this occasions, the author is awarding a Celtic Key Necklace identical to the one Dylan gives to Vicki in Dylan's Song to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So don’t forget to leave your comment!
 
P.M.Terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 16 books. Vicki's Key, one of the first books in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, was one of five finalists in the 2012 International Book Awards (Mystery/Suspense) and 2012 USA Best Book Awards (Mystery/Suspense.) River Passage, an historical work based on her ancestor's migration to Fort Nashborough in 1779-1780, won the 2010 Best Fiction & Drama Award. The Nashville (TN) Metropolitan Government Archives determined it to be so historically accurate that they entered the original manuscript into their Archives for future researchers and historians.

Prior to becoming a full-time author in 2002, terrell founded and operated two computer companies in the Washington, DC area. Her clients included the United States Secret Service, CIA, Department of Defense and federal and local law enforcement. Her specialty is in the areas of computer crime and computer intelligence. Her experience in these areas have greatly influenced her books' plots.

She is the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, whose slogan is "Buy a Book and Stop a Crook" and whose mission is to raise awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. She founded Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair, an annual event to raise money to increase literacy and reduce crime.



For more information on Book 'Em North Carolina, visit www.bookemnc.org and www.bookemnc.blogspot.com.

P.M.Terrell's website is www.pmterrell.com and her blog is www.pmterrell.blogspot.com.

She can be found on Twitter @pmterrell


 

Book blurb:

Dylan Maguire returns to his native Ireland with psychic spy Vicki Boyd. Their mission: to locate and extract a CIA Agent who disappeared in Dublin while on the trail of a known terrorist. But when Dylan receives word that his grandmother is dying, he is plunged into a past he thought he’d left behind forever. His mission and the dark secrets he’d sought to keep hidden begin to merge into an underworld that could cost him his life. He must now confront his past demons and the real reason he left Ireland—while Vicki harbors a secret of her own.

Suspense Magazine says, “P.M.Terrell’s writing is powerfully written and masterfully suspenseful; you have to hang on for the ride of your life.” Midwest Book Review says the Black Swamp Mysteries series is “page-turning action, unforgettable characters, breathtaking descriptions and unexpected plot twists.” And syndicated reviewer Marcia Freespirit says the series is “riveting, spell-binding, sexy and intense!”


Extract from this new novel:

“Why are you so adamant about not going back?” Vicki said. “I don’t understand.”

He strode to the back door. With his hand almost on the knob, he stopped abruptly and turned around to face them. “The flight is a hundred hours long.”

“It’s six hours,” Sam said.

“I’ll have jet lag for weeks!”

“Two days, tops.” Sam’s voice was becoming quizzical.

“Are you afraid of flying?” Vicki asked.

“No!” he bellowed. He opened the kitchen door. “The weather there is atrocious!”

“I can’t believe you’re acting like this is such an inconvenience for you!” Vicki shouted.

“In me whole life,” he said as if he hadn’t heard her, “it’s rained once.” He held up his finger. “One time!”

“Really?” Vicki said. “Once?”

“And it’s lasted for thirty years!” With that, he marched outside and slammed the door behind him.

Vicki and Sam stared at the door for a long moment without speaking. Then she turned to him. “I’m at a loss here.”

He continued staring at the kitchen door as if he hadn’t heard her.

“Do you know why he doesn’t want to see Ireland again?” Vicki asked.

“He can’t refuse a mission,” Sam said quietly. “You can’t pick and choose your missions in this line of work.”

Vicki turned to stand directly in front of him.

“Do you know,” she said in a stronger voice, “why he doesn’t want to see Ireland again?”

He looked at her as if seeing her for the first time.

“You know, don’t you?”

He looked away from her. His eyes roamed the kitchen as though he was searching for something. Vicki stood her ground until he said, “No. I have my suspicions; that’s all.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Art of Change

Another author takes the stand today. May I introduce you to Kelly Andria, who wrote The Art of Change.  This book is a contemporary romance and is available now.

Kelly Andria is the pen name of two very close friends who decided to write a story to make people laugh. The two authors, although different in many ways and viewpoints, have a lot in common. Both Greek Americans coming from conservative vibrant families, they learned to speak and act as they believe. Fair but always kind. Their passion for art, food and romance led them to become authors of a comedy that redefines the “boy meets girl” norm.  The wacky one of the group knew that they had the stories in them. The other half quickly became convinced as their quirky characters took shape and form and gained a voice of their own.


For the release of this novel, the two friends are doing a Super Book Blast Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, which takes place on March 14th.  For this reason, they are awarding a $25.00 GC for either Barnes and Noble or Amazon, winner's choice, to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.


The more comments you leave, the higher your chances on winning this fine prize!

 
Book Blurb:

Gallery owner Nellie, a giving yet neurotic New Yorker, brings together a mismatched cast of characters in the opening of Ryan Whittaker’s debut, a phallic show. Little does she know that she is setting the scene for odd and unpredictable relationships, much like Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream. The frenzied, magical mix-up is an outrageous farce with a deep moral message: there is a RIGHT place for everyone in this world and love and friendship cement us in it.

The Art of Change is a funny, smooth reading romance, which deals with bridging differences in gender,  education,  social milieu, in an insane but pragmatic, modern fairytale, set in New York City. The twists of the plot are written without an ounce of cynicism but simply acknowledging that life is neither here nor there, neither black or white and all can be dealt with in real friendship and love.


Excerpt:

Monroe Burton looked at the art show invitation on his dresser. Ryan Whittaker: The Manhunt: The Elusive State of Happiness.

He didn’t know whether it was the age of the artist—a brash twenty-eight years— or the forthright sexual innuendo of the title placed above the painting of the phallic symbol in chiaroscuro that aroused his curiosity. An artist with an eye for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary . . . isolating and bringing it to another level of meaning. Voyeurism with humor. Instantly, he decided to attend.

“I’m so tired of installations, photography, video and performance art, ad nauseam—enough! I need paintings. I am definitely ending my gallery tour with this show tonight,” he told himself.

In addition to the immediate interest sparked by this exhibit, Monroe had a soft spot for the gallery owner, Nellie Adams, a forty-something recent divorcée who had opened her own gallery, 911, despite all odds. Judging from her previous shows, it was clear she promoted budding artists, controversial views, and outsiders, irrespective of profit and possibility.

Nellie reminded him of older times, when art used to be ART and not another commodity or a way of exhibiting wealth and power. Over the last thirty years, the majority of art had become tied to social causes and issues. It had become so complicated. But, hey, he thought, if that’s what sells . . .

Yet how exhausting and uninspiring it is for an art critic to review works such as the latest he had seen and simply refused to write up: a woman between two huge pieces of Styrofoam toast, a human slice of salami, supposedly symbolizing the pressure and subordination of the female by the male, the family, and career. He was drained, tired, and weary of reviewing works he thought were less than junk. He had kept his standards high, his views fresh, and the art world appreciated his precise dissections and fair criticism. Even if the readers sometimes didn’t agree with the review, they would always enjoy it!

Monroe picked up the elegant card and turned it over in his hand.

Now, global art . . . maybe? Tonight he wanted to unveil an artist who moved within realms like bioengineering or human issues—like AIDS! Now there was an idea: sex awareness with a twist. Yes, this young man from Oregon just might be sending this message. It was something Monroe wanted to believe.

Buy Links:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Russian Dolls

Today the author in the spotlight is Cristelle Comby, who wrote Russian Dolls. The novel is an adult mystery and is available now. Because Cristelle is doing a Virtual Book Blast Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, she is giving away an autographed print copy of Russian Dolls to one lucky commenter. So don't hesitate to visit as often as possible and don't forget to leave your comment!

So who's Cristelle Comby?

The authr was born and raised in the French speaking area of Switzerland, somewhere between Geneva and Lausanne, where she still resides.

Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and televion dramas, her English is fluent.

She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

Russian Dolls is her first new-adult novel, and she's hard at work on the next titles in the series.

You can learn more about Cristelle at www.cristelle-comby.com



You can learn more about  the  novel here:
 
Alexandra Neve is a student at University College London whose world suddenly falls apart. When her best friend jumps from the university’s rooftop, she can’t stop herself from asking, ‘Why?’ The police rule her friend’s death a suicide and for them the case is closed — so whom can she turn to for help?

Sometimes the person you need the most is the one you least expect to find, and in this case it’s none other than Ashford Egan, a blind middle-aged history professor, who’s more willing than most to listen to what she has to say.

Neve and Egan are as different as they come. She’s restless, careless at times, and fearless when the need arises, while he’s almost the complete opposite: a deep thinker with an analytical mind, a highly rational and collected individual.

As they enter the violent world of the Russian mafia, they must overcome their differences and learn to work together. It’s their only chance if they want to survive.
 
 


And to close, here's an extract of Russian Dolls
 
Life, death. Two concepts, two words. You don’t think about them unless you’re forced to. You take the first for granted and try to forget the second.

 
You get on with your life, worry about meaningless things and you simply stop thinking about death, even though you see it every day on the telly, in the papers you read.

 
So long as it’s happening to others, you continue to go on with this comforting lie that says it’s never going to happen to you. The Reaper won’t come anywhere near you — until the day he does.

 
It could be a car crash, it could be a stroke. Or it could be your best friend jumping from the rooftop of the university you both attend. And suddenly you remember that death is very real and there’s no way of knowing who is going to be called next. You’re forced to face the frailty of life and accept your own mortality.

 
My best friend recently passed away and I almost died twice myself in the past couple of weeks. My name is Alexandra Neve. I’m a student who used to live in a reassuring bubble. It burst, and now I finally see the world for what it truly is.


Monday, March 11, 2013

DCI Banks

The last few months and weeks I've been reading through the entire series of Peter Robinson's DCI Banks novels.


Robinson was born in England and lived for a long time in Yorkshire, but he has now moved to Canada. If I remember well, he lives in Toronto now. He's won prizes for his novels and ITV already filmed a few of them. The first episodes were broadcasted last year.

Because I liked the series, I bought one book, and then another... until I had all of them (to date). The last book in the series was published in January of this year.

Who's DCI Banks? In the first book, Alan Banks is the happily married husband of Sandra (or so he thinks) and the father of a boy and a girl. We learn that the family moved from London to Eastvale, Yorkshire because Banks nearly had a burn-out in his previous job. Now he is the DCI of a quiet area, where not so much crime occurs. Wrong thinking! Soon he's faced with his first big murder case.

Also already in the first novel we learn that the marriage of Alan and Sandra is not so great either. Sandra wants more of a life of her own, and she takes a parttime job in an art gallery and also becomes member of a photo club. We soon see how they gradually drift apart, especially when a new and female officer, Annie Cabbot, comes to join their force. Banks is immediately drawn to her, while on the other hand profiler Jenny Fuller feels attracted to him...

In the course of the series - which, by the way, becomes better and better with each new book - we see how Alan and Sandra finally get a divorce, Banks has a short fling with Annie and becomes single once more.

We also learn how Banks still has to cope with guilt. Guilt about cases he could not solve, friends he feels he betrayed. When he was fifteen, his mate Grahm disappears. Only in many books later Graham's body is found. Alan knew about a man who attacked young boys, but he was afraid to tell anyone about it because he was supposed to be at school. He also feels guilty because his college friend died of an overdose.

Banks is a very likeable character and Robinson is a master in describing how he feels. The psychology of these novels is also superb.

I've become a big fan and I can certainly recommend these books to anyone who loves a good crime story!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ford Genk

Everyone knows the automobile industry has no more future. Here in Belgium the factories are mainly assembly lines. They make the cars with parts provided. But each year less cars are sold - we don't have one anymore and use instead our bike or the public transport - and our workmen are expensive.


So the big companies, like Ford, close down those factories in our country. First there was Renault Vilvoorde, and now it's Ford Genk. Thousand or more people will lose their job. Now I do think this is bad, but what gets my hair on end is the fact these workers keep protesting for more and more. They are promised they can work until 2014, but instead they stand picket and let nobody enter the factory. Instead of using this extra year to put aside a monetary reserve.

They will probably not be long out of a job. The government will help them find another one. Also good, I think, but I wish they'd do this for everyone. If you work in a small company, and it closes down, nobody will do anything extra for you. Nor will you receive a big bonus, like the one which is promised to the Ford workers.

That I don't find right. If anyone loses his or her job, they can go to the unemployment office and apply for aid. But those automobile workers get extra bonusses which will keep them comfortable for a long time. And people just don't see it.

The newspapers are full of articles about the closure of Ford. But nobody said anything when over 3,000 teachers were put out of work. This happened in the 1980's. A minister of education had decided to build more schools and thus employ more teachers. But his successor thought this was too expensive and closed down those new schools. Not one article in the newspapers - of course, teachers don't work, it is thought, they only have lots of holidays! Yes, that is true, but I invite everybody to come and stand in the classroom for just two weeks. You'll know then you need that holiday, and also that teaching demands lots of preparation and correcting. Both my sister and I were out of work for a long time in that period. We did not get a compensation from the goverment. They did not even try to find us another job.

So I can't really show sympathy for those Ford workers. We have also had bad times and we survived. They will also do this, even if it means moving places to find another job.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Men in kilt

Perhaps I've already mentioned we are making a trip to Scotland this coming July? Well, as we had some time on our hands, we thought of checking out what we could do while being there.

To our surprise, we saw that the Highland Games were being organized while we are in Scotland. So we immediately booked a trip to one of these. A whole day of watching fine Scotsmen - in kilt - doing all kind of power games, like tree-throwing. Mix that with the sound of pipes and a wee dram of single malt and you have a day that can't be spoiled!


And admit, a man in a skirt has something... And I do know what they wear beneath those kilts. My sister once had a boyfriend who was a Scot and she learned from experience. Must be why so many romance authors choose Scotland as the backdrop of their novels. Karen Hawkins often publishes pics of sexy Scots on Sunday (you must visit The Goddess Blogs, they are always funny).

When I was a teenager, it was fashion to wear plaid. But I could not find a Scottish kilt in one of our local shops, not even in Antwerp, where we often went shopping. It was only when I was on holiday in England that I found a kilt in one of those Scottish stores. I've worn it for a long time, until the thread was too bare.

Do you fancy a man in kilt? I certainly do - a nice strong one, who could carry me around like a sack of potatoes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Love in Provence

Today I'd like to introduce you to William Auch, author of the novel Love in Provence. This is a contemporary romance, available now.

William is a physician residing in Sacramento, California (where I once stayed a summer long, residing with a guest family).

When he is not seeing patients, William writes, studies French, and travels the world. Right now he's doing a Virtual Book Blast Tour with Goddess Fish Promotions and he's giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to a lucky commenter. So don't forget to visit often and leave a comment!



What is the book about?

When John Martin is forced to sell his tech company, he decides to take a six-month vacation to the south of France.

When he meets Madame Garcin, her daughter Sophie, and her granddaughter Isabelle, his life is changed forever. What began as a long vacation becomes a journey of self-discovery marked by love, loss, and tragedy.

He is molded by this family of three generartions of women, tempered by tragedy themselves, in way that he could never have imagined.



Excerpt:

On the weekends, John would visit surrounding towns to explore. He visited Avignon and Gordes, as well as other cities in Provence. He always liked market day, when the farmers came into town with their produce to sell in the town plaza. The market became a sea of color with the various fruit and vegetables stacked neatly in rows as people from town gathered to select their food for the week. It was not only the fruit and vegetables that attracted him, but also the stores filled with cheese, pastries, and meat. It seemed like there was a specialist for everything.
 
Unfortunately, the bucolic nature of his current life continued to be interrupted by his weekly updates from his lawyer regarding the SEC investigation. He wondered if it would ever go away. His lawyer continued to fend off the SEC, but eventually he would probably need to return to California for questioning. His lawyer kept telling him not to worry, but that was easier said than done. The whole ordeal continued to weigh on him. Since his arrival in Aix a month before, the calls about the investigation seemed like the only news he had heard from home. Mike was probably too busy getting ready for the arrival of his new baby, Michelle was probably not speaking to him, and his parents didn't call. He assumed his father was mad at him for selling the company.

 LINKS:


 

How crazy can weather be?

Today our temperatures reached 19° Celsius (which is almost like summer!), just like the previous days. Only the sun did not quite cooperate, as it was rather cloudy and now it's raining a little. But the other days were full of sunshine and it was very pleasant to be outside.

But if we can believe the weather forecasts, we'll be in winter once more on Sunday! The temperatures will drop at least 15 degrees and we'll have frost during the night once more. The day temperatures won't go over 4° C. And it will last for at least one week, even longer.

Well, I've once known it to snow after Easter, even on my birthday (May 15th) when I was still living in Germany, after a harsh winter.

Weather can be tricky, especially in Belgium. We don't often get nice weather, and a long hot summer is more than ten years ago. During the 1990's and the early 2000's we had some great summers, when you were practically living outdoors day and night. I remember a particularly hot day in August, when we were eating a Cajun stew and the sweat fell down from my forehead into my plate... (It did not spoil my appetite, though!)

How's the weather in your part of the world?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The innocent face of evil

When people think of mass murderers, they probably imagine a man or woman they can immediately classify as evil. They assume they will look like bad people, with eyes out of hell and behavior to match.

Alas, evil can look very different, even innocent. Just watch the face of Kim De Gelder, who murdered two women and two babies, next to wounding many more. A decent lad, at first sight. One who is rather shy, who has problems telling about his emotions.


Or take Ronny Janssens, equally a serial killer. Nothing special about the guy, who used to be a teacher and was active in community life. His colleagues and friends in the club had problems believing their Ronny murdered a couple of girls.


You can't see evil in a person. Perhaps sense it, but not when you only meet the person occasionally. I knew Ronny Janssens, he once did an interim job at a school where I also worked. He was an ok guy, easy to talk with, good with the pupils, nothing special. He only complained about his wife every now and then, but that's something guys do.

Although I can see lots of things on first sight (like intelligence, nationality, age) I could never suspect Ronny Janssens of being a serial killer. He did not give me the creeps. Neither did Andras Pandy, another serial killer (he was responsible for the murders of his entire family). I knew him as a cultivated man who always came for coffee and we chatted about cultural events in Brussels. Only afterwards I realized he must have been busy committing his murders at that time. So I've come into close contact with two of these serial killers and I never knew it.

I guess you can only tell something is wrong when you know the person better. When you experience them day in, day out. Then you'll probalby see things that don't fit or are lacking. Traits that point to a disturbed nature. I'm not a psychologist, but I did study exeperimental psychology for a while and was told I excelled in it. I'm good at finding out what concerns people. It is a good thing when working with pupils, as they confide in me and I'm often the only one who can find out what's bothering them.

But I've never came across evil in my life, so I don't know a lot about it. I had great parents and grandparents who cared for us children and there never was anything wrong in our childhood.We were lucky and happy kids - which is far more important than having a lot of money!