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Friday, January 31, 2014

No more vitamins?

When you read the newspaper on a daily basis, you come across the weirdest things. Today I read something about vitamins.

According to new tests, vitamins are not the wonder pills they are claimed to be. A Swedish trial showed that vitamins don't work as anti-oxcidants, but they would provoke cancer...

When we are going to the doctor, they often prescribe us vitamin C or D. My sister is taking it too. But apparently they don't work wonders.

Vitamins should not be taken seperately, according to the scientists. You have to find them in your food. Those who eat in a healthy way take in enough vitamins to remain fit and without disease.

Well, I'm not a doctor so I can't tell you if this is true or not. Anyway I don't take pills containing vitamins whatever. But as far as I can tell I'm in pretty good shape, but then I eat what is considered healthy: lots of vegetables and fruit, a variation of meat, fish, poultry and seafood, not only potatoes but also rice and pasta. Not too many desserts and not too much sugar or salt.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chance encounters

When you have to take a train to reach the place you're working, you're always in to something. A d.elay (happens most of the time, and then the NMBS doesn't consider 5 or  6 minutes as a delay), a cancelled train (nice, very nice!), a suicide which detains your train for hours at an end, a bridge that doesn't open, ... The list is long and tedious.

But also nice things can happen. Like meeting someone you don't know, but feel completely at ease with. Last week, a girl sat next to me and we started talking. We soon found out we had more or less the same taste and even shared the same job. She was a trainee teacher, I've been teaching since 1978. She was grateful for the tips I could give her, and I like to know how young people think.

Today, a young guy sat next to me, and he was constantly looking over my shoulder to read along on my Kindle. After some time, he dared to ask me what I was reading. I'm well into 'Tell No One' by Harlan Coben, and he told me he wanted to buy the book as well. 'From what I've seen, it's a very thrilling story," he said. Well, good for Coben, right?

Once I could interest a fellow passenger into reading (and buying) my own books. That woman was very much interested in the genre I write.

So, what will happen tomorrow???

Monday, January 27, 2014

Untangle My Heart

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing several tours for Untangle My Heart by Maria K. Alexander, a Contemporary Romance releases worldwide March 19, 2014 from The Wild Rose Press Publishing (it is currently available for Kindle only). 

A Super Book Blast promoting the books FREE Kindle Days will run January 28-31. AND the author will award a $25 Amazon GC commenter prize to a randomly drawn commenter. Please use this Rafflecopter code to enter your comment: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c76/


About the book

Blurb:

When her marriage ended in tragedy, Kate DiFrancesco rebuilt her life, but has never gotten over the pain of what she lost. Seeking the help of an ex-lover ignites feelings she’s promised never to have again. She’ll need to untangle herself from dangers in her past in order to break the hard shell around her heart.

Edward Weston has a lot to prove, both to his stuffy upper-crust British family, and to  himself. Working alongside Kate, a woman he had a casual relationship with, stirs unexpected feelings. Helping her family makes him realize what he's missing. For the first time, he wants more than a one-night stand.

When Kate is threatened, Edward must overcome feeling unworthy to protect the woman he loves and fight for the family he never thought he’d have.

Excerpt:

“Privacy is a hard thing to find around here, so you may want to lock the door. Especially when you’re wearing only a towel and my sister is on the prowl.”

“I’ll have to remember that,” Edward said, taking a step toward her. “I knew she was smitten, but didn’t think she would be waiting in the room after my shower. I was struggling with a tactful way of getting her out.”

“I’m sure you’re not accustomed to asking a woman to leave your room.”

He gave her an unapologetic grin. “No, usually not.”

“I guess it’s partly my fault. I told her I don’t have any claims to you. Apparently she took that to mean it was open season to pursue you.”

“Yet you stopped by. Why?”

“I wanted to thank you again for your help today. You dropped everything to come and help my family and that means a lot to me.”

He took another step toward her until he stood directly in front of her. “You mean a lot to me. I’d do anything I could to help you.”

She nodded in acknowledgement, not sure she could trust her voice to speak with him all but touching her.

“And you’re wrong about not having a claim on me.”

His hands found their way to her waist. Her heart thumped and she knew she should pull back, wanted to pull back. But his blue-gray eyes held her in a hypnotic state and she couldn’t move.


Author bio and links

A romantic at heart, Maria K. Alexander spent hours as a young girl getting lost in and wishing to be one of the heroines in the stories she read. Books gave her the ability to go to another world where she loved meeting new characters, learning about their problems, and watching them fall in love.

Maria blogs and shares her writing journey with her critique partners at: http://thevioletfemmes.com.

When not writing, Maria loves to read, bake, downhill ski, visit the beach, and watch romantic comedies. Maria lives in New Jersey with her husband and children, and writes in her “spare” time between juggling a full-time job and her kids’ busy schedules.

 You can keep in touch with her at: http://mariakalexander.com.

Web Links


The Violet Femmes Blog: http://thevioletfemmes.com




Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.com/B00GVKRLOG


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Here's To You, Zeb Pike

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for Here's To You, Zeb Pike by Johanna Parkhurst, a YA Contemporary GLBT book available now from Harmony Ink Press. The tour will run January 20 - 31, 2014

Johanna will be awarding one ebook to a randomly drawn commenter and one print book (US only - international winners will receive an eBook substitution) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.


What's the book about?


Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.

Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.


Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?

And an excerpt...

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only high school freshman on the planet who actually likes school.

Well, I guess I don’t really like school itself. I don’t really enjoy writing papers or listening to lectures or dealing with quadratic formulas or any of that stuff. It would probably be more accurate to say that I like resting.

School is one of the few places where I get a chance to relax, sit back, and not think too hard. My buddy Race hates when I talk like that—he says it’s egotistical of me to brag that I can ignore about 80 percent of what our teachers say and still get the grades I do—but I’m not trying to brag. That’s just how school is for me.

Take the class I'm currently chilling out in: history with Ms. Carlson. This is a class that probably makes other freshmen want to slit their throats. I mean, I know all students think their teachers drone on and on, but Ms. Carlson brings it to the level of an art form. She must have been absent from teacher school on the day “class discussion” was introduced as a method of instruction.

Me? I love this class. Most of the time I completely zone out for forty minutes and just recap whatever I missed with a little textbook-skimming during study hall.

Today I’ve managed to lean back in my chair as far as it will go, and I’ve got my feet propped up on my backpack. I’m half-listening to Ms. Carlson; she’s going on about the Pike Expedition. After all, this is Colorado Springs, home of Pikes Peak, the semifamous and epically huge mountain that is currently looming right outside our classroom window.

“Zebulon Pike and his team did attempt to ascend the peak, but they were forced to turn back, essentially due to weather conditions and a lack of appropriate gear. There were no REIs in the area then, you see.”

The class titters, which is more of an effort to keep Ms. Carlson smiling than a nod to how great the joke is. Ms. Carlson is one of those teachers who enjoys thinking she’s hilarious. We’re a bunch of students who enjoy inflated grades.

“Wait, Ms. Carlson, I don’t get it. Do you mean he didn’t get to the top?”

Some words from Johanna

Wait…Other Adults Read This Stuff Too?!?
  
Fun fact: I’ve pretty much always been obsessed with YA lit.

Interesting fact: I’ve spent a lot of years ashamed of that first fact.

So how long have I been harboring this secret love of YA novels? Hard to say. Probably about ten minutes after I stopped being classified as a “young adult” myself.  I distinctly remember a fellow English major saying this about a copy of Holes by Louis Sachar that I was carrying around campus: “Why are you reading that trash? Shouldn’t you be reading someone more important?”

Then I started teaching middle school, and I became even more and more immersed in the world of young adult literature. I fell even more in love with this—in my opinion—completely underrated genre. My husband can tell you that our house looks like the Teen Reads section of the local library; and that’s not counting the bazillion young adult books that I’ve left behind in classrooms for students to enjoy.

But here’s the thing: despite the fact that I’ve spent the last decade of my adult life reading AND writing young adult literature, I’ve kept my preference for this genre pretty close to my chest. Oh, my friends knew about it, and my teacher friends have been reading right along with me…but everyone else? Pretty sure they thought an English major like me was curled up in the corner with John Updike every night. (All respect and love to Updike, of course.) And because I wasn’t into the Goodreads or the book blog scene until recently, I sort of thought that I was the only crazy one. You know, that weirdo adult who only wanted to read books written for teenagers.

Fast forward to 2013. My first book gets published, and it’s (of course) a young adult book. And about ten minutes later, this is what I figured out: THERE ARE A LOT OF ADULTS OUT THERE IN THE WORLD WHO LOVE YA BOOKS JUST AS MUCH AS I DO.  

I’m still trying to catch my breath after this stunning realization. I mean, there are book blogs out there just for adults to tell other adults what YA books they should read! Not to mention that almost all the great YA book blogs seem to be run by adults, who are absolutely open about their love for the genre. And the coup de grace: nearly all of my first GoodReads reviews for this book were from adults.

Well. If I’d known all that was going on, I would have stepped into the scary internets book world a whole lot sooner.

For me, it’s been incredibly liberating to realize how many adults are out there enjoying my book about a fourteen-year-old. Not just because they like the book (which is AWESOME, by the way), but also because it feels so good to know there are about a bazillion other adults out there like me who would rather be reading Gordan Korman than Jane Austin. (Again, all respect to Austin.)

I’m coming out of hiding folks. Yup, it’s time.
            
MY NAME IS JOHANNA PARKHURST, AND I’M AN ADULT WHO LOVES YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE.

No more shame. 

Author bio and links:

Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her at  https://www.facebook.com/johannaparkhurstwriteson or find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/johannawriteson.

Buy Links:




Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Olympics will start soon...

As they haven't yet, no jokes are circulating about them. But here is a fine selection of (dumb) questions asked before the Games in Vancouver... People from all over the world were posting questions about Canada on an international tourism website.



These were actual questions:

Q: Will I see polar bears in the street? (USA)
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Where can I sell it in Canada ? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada ? (USA)
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blood and Gold

May I have your attention for another novel of Hawk MacKinney?

Blood and Gold, the third book in The Craige Ingram Mystery Series, once again tests the instincts and skills of retired Navy SEAL/part-time private investigator Craige Ingram. Lust, greed, body parts and unrestrained wild sex parties are what await Craige Ingram when he leaves the comforts of his South Carolina home to visit his former SEAL buddy, Detective Spinner Krespinak. Set in the Colorado underbelly of a sordid sable and faux glitz ski mecca, Detective Spinner Krespinak suspects drugs have made their way to the snowy playground that is Aspen. An Olympic ski hopeful is brutally murdered, Spinner vanishes, and Craige Ingram is shot as events spin out of control with a Catch-22 no one anticipates.


Hawk is promoting this novel right now, and for the occasion he's giving away a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Here's a teaser:

Spinner's high mountain, ski slope bronzed hand ruffled through his hair.  He flipped another page, “That's the third one, counting the other mismatched body parts as one and two.”  Frowned.  “There's not much more here than with the others.”  Handed Craige Loopy's prelims. “Take a look at those…lemme know what you think.”  Krespinak brown eyes bayoneted the blue stick-‘em pasted to the center of his monitor, “…mm…interesting phone memo.  Seems Hizzoner the Mayor is concerned.  Wants to keep the lid on.  Claims he doesn't want to scare away business.  Real fact behind his fume-an’-fuss is all about not wanting to scare away votes in the upcoming elections.  Media’s already nosing around about this morning’s torch job—that ought to rattle his cage.  Stroking a yancy politician doesn't gripe me, but if he was serious we could use some additional personnel pavement pounding for answers.”
           
Ferron said, “Loopy said she hadn’t gotten the final results on the mitochondrial DNA runs.  But from what she’s seen so far, she said it doesn’t look like this latest one even comes close to a match with any of the previous body parts.  Time of death is iffy as well.  If the body was left outside in the subfreezing temps, Loopy said it could stretch the time interval.  Her best guess is within a week or two of the others.  Only difference this time, we have a whole body.”
           
Craige asked Ferron, “When did the first one show up?”
           
Ferron thought for a moment, asked Spinner, “When did we get the first one?  A little over two months ago?”
           
“Something like that…date’s logged in the case file,” Spinner said.  “What bothers me most is not what we have, but what we don’t have.  Along with no IDs and no statewide missing person reports, there’s not even a close to a match to any of the age ranges Loopy suggested.”
           
“You think the killings are random?”  Craige said.
           
“No—I don't think they're random.  But I'm one of the few who feels that way.”  Spinner thought of the grisly pieces in the morgue cooler.  He didn't like prowling for motives.  Liked it less their coming up empty with damn few answers.  Sure didn't like the doubts gnawing his innards.  “I'm stuck at which came first—chicken or the egg quandary.  Which victims were intentional targets?  Which ones might’ve just been in the way; killed to make sure there were no awkward inconvenient witnesses.  If they are serial killings, we’re not seeing any time-pattern between kills.  There has to be a reason for the times between each victim, and why are we finding only pieces?”

Author info and links:

With postgraduate degrees and faculty appointments in several medical universities, Hawk MacKinney has taught graduate courses in both the United States and Jerusalem. In addition to professional articles and texts on chordate neuroembryology, Hawk has authored several works of fiction.

Hawk began writing mysteries for his school newspaper. His works of fiction, historical love stories, science fiction and mystery-thrillers are not genre-centered, but plot-character driven, and reflect his southwest upbringing in Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Moccasin Trace, a historical novel nominated for the prestigious Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Writers Notes Book Award, details the family bloodlines of his serial protagonist in the Craige Ingram Mystery Series… murder and mayhem with a touch of romance. Vault of Secrets, the first book in the Ingram series, was followed by Nymrod Resurrection, Blood and Gold, and The Lady of Corpsewood Manor. All have received national attention.  Hawk’s latest release in the Ingram series is due out this fall with another mystery-thriller work out in 2014. The Bleikovat Event, the first volume in The Cairns of Sainctuarie science fiction series, was released in 2012.


"Without question, Hawk is one of the most gifted and imaginative writers I have had the pleasure to represent. His reading fans have something special to look forward to in the Craige Ingram Mystery Series. Intrigue, murder, deception and conspiracy--these are the things that take Hawk's main character, Navy ex-SEAL/part-time private investigator Craige Ingram, from his South Carolina ancestral home of Moccasin Hollow to the dirty backrooms of the nation's capital and across Europe and the Middle East."

Barbara Casey, President
Barbara Casey Literary Agency

Links:

www.hawkmackinney.net




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spam

I don't know what it is these days, but lately my mailbox overflows with spam mail. Cheap meds, get a bigger one, need a date? And then I don't count all those mails telling me my bank account will be blocked if I don't pay up, or a request to whitewash money for some foreign nation.

I'd be rich and not having to work when I believed all the messages telling me I have won either one million dollars or one million pound. (I admit, I'd like to believe it, then I could retire immediately and spend the rest of my life enjoying the finer things money can offer...)

I think the email providers should filter the spam better. MSN is the best for this. Once blocked, you won't receive a message of that sender anymore. But Skynet?

Well, now I have to spend time I could use differently to cleaning up my mailbox. Do you have the same problem?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blue Monday

Today was officially the most depressing day of the year - Blue Monday.

Now we realize that most of the wishes made for the new year won't come true - or we won't be able to realize them.

That's the reason why I don't make wishes. Well, I hope I'll win the lottery once (who doesn't?) but I know it will never happen - I don't count the occasional 10 or 20 Euro I sometimes win with a scratch ticket.

I also hope my health will remain fine, but also that will probably change when I get older. I don't know an elderly person without one or other pain.

I don't have intentions. When the doctor tells me I can't have sugar, I won't take it. It's that simple for me. When I shouldn't drink alcohol, I won't touch a bottle of wine or whisky anymore. I never smoked, that helps already. And I never took drugs, whatever sort, even when the cocaine was offered in full view (that was at a wild party in Sacramento, years ago - the fartherst I went that evening was swim naked in the pool...)

How about you? Did you have good intentions? Do you make wishes?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Oscar nomination for Broken Circle Breakdown

In recent years, many a good film was made in Belgium. In the beginning, the directors only made slow films about country life as described in many a book of the 20th century or earlier. Beautiful made films, but way too slow for my taste.

Not so in recent years. We have some good directors like Jan Verheyen (Loft) and Felix Van Groeninge, who directed the movie which has now been nominated for an Oscar (foreign language film): The Broken Circle Breakdown.


The film tells the story of a couple. She, Elise, is a tatto artist. A free woman, who has a mind of her own and is very down to earth. He, Didier, is a romantic at heart. He plays banjo in a blue grass band. Despite these differences, they fall in love and they get a daughter, Maybelle. And little Maybelle is diagnosed with cancer...

A beautiful film (you should see it if you have the chance, it's playing in the States) but also very sad. You'll laugh and you'll cry while watching. It gets even better if you see it for a second or a third time.

There is also some very good blue grass music in the film and the actors who perform the leading roles, also tour in a band with the music from the film.


The female lead role is for Veerle Baetens. A very good actress, and some say if this film was made by an American producer, she would have been nominated for the Oscar for best actress. Veerle did win this prize in Europe already.

The film gets awards worldwide, by the way.  Here in Belgium we all will be sitting before the telly at night to watch the Oscars in L.A. - and hope Broken Circle Breakdown wins!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nickie's Ten Questions to Sabrina Jeffries

Today, I have bestselling romance author Sabrina Jeffries over to answer some questons about her work. Sabrina’s latest installment is due to be on the market soon.


So here goes:

1) Sabrina, can you tell us something about what made you an author?

Believe it or not, when I was 12, I used to lie in bed at night and make up stories (I had three stock romances--a cowboy one, a medieval one, and a contemporary about a rock star). I actually remember thinking that one day I was going to grow up and write them down and sell them to people. I'm not kidding. I did get waylaid for a decade and a half, but I guess old dreams die hard. Fast forward to about eighteen years later when I sat down to turn my dissertation into a published work about James Joyce's play, "Exile." I snapped and wrote a romance novel instead!

2) You’ve been a published and bestselling author for quite a while, but can you remember how it was in the beginning?

Oh, yes, especially since I went through that beginning stage twice--once as Deborah Martin, and then a second time as Sabrina Jeffries.

3) What made you pick Regency romance as your genre?

I love the Regency because of the fine wit, the bawdy character of some of the aristocracy, and the wonderful costumes. It was a time of change in English society, which always makes for great dramatic material.

4) How do you handle criticism?

It depends on whom it's from. If it's from my critique partners or my editor, I think I handle it fairly well. I'm only slightly annoyed. But if it's from reviewers I get a little more crazy. I just keep that reaction to myself!


5) How do you go ahead when planning to write another novel?

Believe it or not, I do jigsaw puzzles. They help me plot. I don't know why. But I work on the puzzle and my ideas coalesce and that's how I start!

6) You have more than one series (Lord trilogy, Swanlea Spinsters, The Royal Brotherhood, The School for Heiresses, the Hellions of Halstead Hall and now The Duke’s Men). It is admirable how you succeed in taking characters from one series and putting them in another. How do you keep track of them?

I use several tables that list their origins, their looks, their manner of speech, everything I can think of. I'm a bit geeky that way.


7) Have you visited the places you write about?

Some of them. I've been to Amsterdam (setting of the prologue of When the Rogue Returns) and to London and to Edinburgh (setting of the rest of the book). But I haven't visited nearly enough of them!



8) Your newest release,When the Rogue Returns, is due January 21st. Can you already tell us a little more about it?

When the Rogue Returns covers an area little discussed in historical romances—the creation of good-quality fake diamonds, which began in the 18th century with a man named Georg Friedrich Strass, who essentially “discovered” the rhinestone. My heroine, Isabella Cale, is a jeweler who’s an expert at creating fake diamonds, so expert that she gets herself and her new spouse, Victor Cale (cousin to the duke in What the Duke Desires) embroiled in a plot to steal royal diamonds. Ten years later, after the plot separates her from her husband, they get a second chance at love. I had to do a LOT of research into diamonds and the diamond industry. What a trial that was! :-)

9) Do you plan more series? Perhaps lift a tip of the veil?

I'm still mulling over my new series. But I'll be telling readers about it as soon as I get it finalized.


10) What do you like to read yourself?


Everything. History, romance, biographies, business books, women's fiction, new adult . . . About the only thing I don't read is inspirational. Everything else is fair game.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Abominable first names

Up to 1982 there existed a law in Belgium that regulated the use of first names. When parents came to announce the birth of a son or daughter and they wanted to give them names, the name had to be in the list of permitted first names. Of course, this was not always perfect. If you wanted your son to be named Johan (a quite ordinary name) it was not permitted, because Johan was not in the list. You had to call the baby Johannes... and shorten it to Johan at home.

So the law changed. From 1982 onwards, people could give whatever name they wanted, with only a few restrictions. A name like 'Hitler' would not be permitted.

But in recent years, there has been a change towards chosing the most uncommon names for kids. This morning a list was printed in the daily newspapers with the 'top ten' of unusual first names. What do you think of:
* Myemmyblue?
* Loezer (which means as much as loser)?
* Anaa'ol (Antwerp dialect for 'up your arse')?
* Tamme Jonathan (droopy Jonathan)?
* Crimson (after Pat Crimson of 2Fabiola)?
* Mohammed Sorry Ben?
* Devadub?

I wonder what these parents were doing, in heaven's name? Don't they realize their kids will be the target of pestering at school? I can already imagine that the teacher of primary school wouldn't be able to pronounce or write the name correctly.

Kids can be cruel to others, we all know that. A child doesn't want to be in the limelight at school, but when you are cursed with such a name, you're sure to be in it!

The parents of Myemmyblue won't stop at this one. Mum is expecting another one, and she claims he or she will even have a more unusual name than her little daughter. (Well,, they should punish these parents imo, and at least give the kids the opportunity of chosing another name as soon as they become aware of what they are cursed with.)

What's your take on this?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Towns without cars?

Did you also read this in the newspaper? In 20 years' time, the town of Hamburg (Germany) should be car-free. Instead of 4 lane highways there should be parks and gardens. Something that would look like this:


The highway should go underground and this way nobody could enter the town by car anymore. Highways should only be used for through traffic.

More and more towns see the necessity of banning the car. Next to the fact that is is not good for the environment, a car is also (very) costly and there are way too many of them around. In the old days, only the doctor or the mayor of a town had a car, now everyone has one or more.

Could you live without a car? I can honestly answer: yes, I can.

My sister and I decided to sell our last car five years ago. Before that we had two of them. I sold mine already ten years ago, because I knew my eyesight was not too good anymore and when you can't distinguis a distance rightly, you're a danger on the street. One car was enough, anyway, as my sister could work at 5 minutes' distance from where we live.

We did not sell our car because we needed money. No, we sold it because we had no more use for it. Do you really need a car to go shopping (in Dendermonde, only a twenty minute walk to the farthest shop) or to drive to the coast? The train is faster when you want to go to Knokke and it has the big advantage of being able to read or just chat away.

We got ourselves two caddy's and now we go shopping and load our stuff in them.  Walking is good for your health and we have to go regularly.

I can only see the advantages of not having a car. You don't have to pay for its upkeep, you don't have to wash it, you don't pay insurance (and other taxes), you don't have to buy petrol, ... Can you believe, we can make a trip to England or another country in Europe for the money we paid for the car?

So I'm all for banning the cars out of towns. But I also realize this won't go easy. Here in Dendermonde the city council wanted to make some streets car-free. But the shop owners protested because they're afraid nobody will want to visit town when they do. So a change of mind will be necessary.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wauters versus Waes

Yesterday evening, a long expected broadcast was aired. A program called "Wauters versus Waes".

This is THE competition between national TV and commercial TV. They each chose one of their fittest men to compete against each other in a 10-part series of events. The viewers could send in suggestions as to what the guys should do. A list was made from these.

Tom Waes (the competitor of national TV) is a tough guy. He has already done a program in which he climbed mountains, crossed across the desert, fly a jet plane, ... His competitor Koen Wauters is the lead singer of the group Clouseau, but he also presents on commercial TV. He's quite tough as well, as he takes part in the Dakar rally each year.


The first competition was riding from Bordeaux to Paris like they did in 1891. On bikes from that age, in clothing from the 19th century. 600 kilimeters and only one stop permitted...


Both tried their best, but Tom Waes won this time. 0-1 is the score right now.

I wonder what they will be up to next week. The program sures draws attention and it will be great for the viewing figures. It's broadcasted on Een for 5 weeks, and then for another 5 on VTM.

Do you also have this kind of program in the US? And would you dare to take part in such a competition, where you never know what's being asked of you?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Word games

I must admit, I'm a little addicted to playing word games online. For a couple of years both my sister and I played 'Letters in the Sand' on Facebook. The games consisted of trying to form 11 or so words with six letters that were given in 2 minutes 30 seconds - or less. At first, we barely managed to form all the words, often missed a couple of them. But in time we managed to find them all and from then on our time got better by the day. At the end, we played the game in 9 seconds!

But since a couple of weeks this game can't be played anymore. Don't know why. It seemed to crash first and then there was an announcement they would not continue the game.

Now we're into Words of Wonder. More like Scrabble, but intriguing anyway. 

I think such word games are good for the mind. We're getting older and this makes our brain work. Fancy I'll still be playing these when I'm in an old folks home.... By now they should all have wifi anyway!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's reception

The last years, it has become a tradition in Belgium to have a New Year's reception offered by the town council.

Today we were invited to two reception, by the way. We live in Dendermonde and thus we were invited to the town's reception on the Great Market, but we were also invited in Knokke-Heist where we have our second home. So we switch between the two towns and this year we attended in Dendermonde.

The mayor speeced for a little while - he's a teacher, so he doesn't just talk to be interesting - and afterwards there was music by a philharmonic orchestra and free drinks. Beer from local breweries Malheur and Vicaris and also warm soup, hot chocolate and fruit juice. I first tried a Vicaris Quint but it was a bit light to my taste, so afterwards I went for a Vicaris Triple.

Btw, did you know they also brew Trappist beer in the United States? To be exact, in  Boston and I believe the beer is called Spencer. The brothers of the abbey learned their trade in Belgium and the head brewer is one of our countrymen.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

In Flander's Fields

This year, it will be exactly 100 years ago that World War One began - the Great War, as it was called.

We won't escape the memory. Every country involved in this war is organising celebrations. And these will go over four years, until 2018.

Our national TV, VRT, starts a 10-part series tomorrow, titled 'In Vlaamse Velden' (in Flander's Fields). It tells the story of a Flemish family in the war: father, mother, two sons and a daughter. The father doesn't believe a war will start, while the daughter hopes it does. The eldest son has to go to the army immediately and the second one is forced to do so too, despite the fact he hates fighting and killing. I suppose it will be a great series, because even our generation doesn't know what exactly happened during this period in time.


My grandfather fought in this war, but he never told a lot about it. He did tell lots of stories about the next war, in 1940-1945. I suppose it was because this first war was too terrible to relate to a small child.

The only facts I know from then are that he was only a boy of 17 when the war began. The son of an officer, he was at military school and these young guys were obliged to go fighting as well. He got the command over a company of men twice his age, most of them farmhands. What he told me about it was the fact these farmboys did not know left from right. They had to drill them by putting straw and hay in their boots. Hay-straw, hay-straw... that way they learnt to march. (Well, I would not know the difference between hay and straw....)

Granddad was also caught in the gas and shot a couple of times. And when the war was over, he went to the cinema in Antwerpen and it was raining. A girl stood there and she asked if you could take shelter under his umbrella. That was my grandma, and they were a couple since. A very good and loving marriage. I will always remember the way they held hands, even in their old age.

Also my grandmother did not tell a lot about this first war. They went through hard times, for sure, but she claimed they always had enough to eat (her dad worked in the harbour). She was the youngest of the family, and her eldest sister had a daughter who was the same ago as my grandma. Those two were great friends.

I have more stories about the second world war, when the entire family went to France to escape the Germans. I could easily write a novel about it.

Well, we'll see what will happen next. There are plans for 2015 to have the Last Post played all over the world simultaneously. Wonder if that willl work out?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Soul Slam

Hello everyone! Allow me to introduce you to Allie Burton, author of young adult fiction. Allie’s newest novel Soul Slam (part one of the Soul Force series) is available now.

Allie is doing a promotional tour at the moment, and for this occasion she is giving away a $50 gift certificate from Amazon or B&N to one lucky commenter. Attention: if you want to compete, use this Rafflecopter code: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e43452/


I’ve asked Allie what adventurous young adult fiction means for her. Here is what she answers:
Adventurous Young Adult Romance is a subset of the young adult genre. The stories feature teen characters who fall in love and include an exciting adventure.  The books take readers on a thrilling ride both romantically and experience-wise.

For example, through the heroine in Soul Slam we enter a museum at night, travel around the city with mystical powers, follow clues, and are tracked by the villains. The guy who accompanies her is handsome and brave and only has eyes for her. And if they don’t solve the puzzle by the end of the story, a deadly curse will befall our heroine.

In my Lost Daughters of Atlantis series (Atlantis Riptide, Atlantis Red Tide, and Atlantis Rising Tide), the hero and heroine discover amazing underwater worlds. Castles made of coral, dead thermal vents, and hidden coves are all part of these stories. Add in royalty, a war, and some hot heroes and you’ve got a combination of romance and adventure.

From first blush to first crush, to committed relationships and temporary partnerships, to friends and enemies—adventurous young adult romances feature the characters you fall in love with and root for, and the adventures you crave.

What kind of adventures would you like to experience?

A bit more about the novel and the author


Blurb

A sixteen-year-old on her first heist to steal an ancient Egyptian amulet inadvertently receives the soul of King Tut…and the deadly curse that comes with it.
           
And Olivia is not alone at the museum.
           
A member of a secret Society, Xander believes it is his place to inherit King Tut’s soul and justly rule. He knows nothing about the society’s evil plan to control the world or the curse. Now, he must deal with the female imposter who stole the amulet.

Xander convinces Olivia they must form a temporary partnership. The two teens develop a connection, and together they must figure out how to end the curse before it turns deadly. On the run, unable to touch because of the curse, and dealing with a male soul inside her female body, Olivia must learn to trust Xander.

As the mystery surrounding the amulet unfolds, Olivia and Xander start to fall for each other. But is love enough to save them and the world from destruction?

Excerpt

(from the end of Chapter 1)

Crawling ninja-style out of the sarcophagus, my black gym shoes hit the ground without a sound. But inside, a screech built up in my lungs and released on a heavy exhale, the scream so loud it sounded like an alarm. “Aiyeeeeee!”

Xander and the old man froze.

I lunged at the case, swooped in, and grabbed the amulet.

A jolt rocked my body. Pain rocketed up my spine, but I held tight to the prize. Clutching the piece in both hands, I hit the concrete floor like a football player making a catch, and kept rolling.

“A girl.” Xander’s surprised voice rose on a high note. “What the…Tut.”

“Grab her!” The old man spoke in English.

“Touch her?” Xander sounded horrified like I was the slime of the world. “I can’t.”

“She’s got the amulet.”

I tried to get to my feet, but the pulsing inside threw me off balance. I crashed back onto the floor. Pain seared my fingers and heat rushed my veins.

My body jerked. My head spun.

Something slammed into me from the inside, like it was in my body trying to get out. Back and forth I jerked. A powerful energy thumped from my ribcage to my stomach and back again.

I trembled from head to foot. My vision blurred. Images swam before my eyes—a blue river, golden statues, Egyptian pyramids, deceit, and death.

“What’s going on?” The sound coming out of my mouth warbled. “Am I dying?”

This felt worse than the time I had pneumonia with no medicine, or the time I broke my arm and Fitch duct taped it…

Fogginess seeped into my consciousness. If I blacked-out they’d steal the amulet, leave me to be caught, to go to prison, to face Fitch’s wrath.

Whatever was inside me ignited like a nuclear bomb. My skin could no longer contain my insides. I’d explode into tiny pieces and scatter across the museum floor.

“It’s happening… To. Her.” Jeb’s voice was faint as if coming from a distance, but I saw his shoes through squinted eyelids.

“But it’s my right. My inheritance.” Xander stomped his sandaled foot near my head. “My destiny.”

“It’s too late.” Jeb’s voice curled like a sneer with extra hatred. “The transfer has occurred. This stupid girl is now in possession of King Tutankhamun’s soul.”

Author bio and (buy) links

Allie didn’t realize having so many jobs would become great research material for the stories she writes. She has been everything from a fitting room attendant to a bike police officer to a professional mascot escort. She has lived on three continents and in four states and has studied art, fashion design, marine biology, and advertising.

When her kids asked, “when are you going to write a story we can read?” she switched from adult novels to Young Adult and Middle Grade and hasn’t looked back.

Allie is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Romance Writers of America including the Young Adult, Dallas Area Romance Writers and Heart of the Rockies chapters. She is also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Currently, she lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

 Her website: www.allieburton.com



Wattpad account: www.wattpad.com/AllieBurton

To buy the book: