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Monday, September 29, 2014

Dinner for Two

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Super Book Blast Tour for Dinner for Two by Drea Stein, a Contemporary Romance available now from Barn Hill Media. The Super Book Blast Tour will take place Monday-Tuesday, September 29 and 30, 2014 . And better still, these are the book's Free Kindle days!

Drea will award a $25 Starbucks card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the following Rafflecopter link to post your comment and stand a chance at winning:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f338/


Blurb

Sean and Darby love food - but is their relationship a recipe for disaster - Or a chance to make kitchen magic?

Find out in Dinner for Two, Book 1 in The Queensbay contemporary romance series

Sean Callahan was a hot shot big city chef whose high handed ways got him into trouble one too many times. Now he's in a small town hoping for another shot at the big leagues.

Darby Reese is a big city lawyer who can bake like an angel. Unfortunately, a life lived according to the law has left her burned out. So when the chance comes to run her family's deli in the small town of Queensbay, Darby's happy to take it.

But when Sean, the former chef du jour walks into her kitchen, she's definitely not prepared for sparks to fly. Will the two of them be able to find the recipe for happily ever after?


Book one in the Queensbay Series, a contemporary romance series.


Excerpt

“I’m Sean Callahan.” He stuck out his hand.

She looked at it, shrugged and said. “We met already, remember?”

He did his best to keep smiling, but her hostility was wearing him down. “Yeah, about that.”

“I assume your mushrooms worked out for you?” Her tone was frostily polite as she turned and began to walk.

Surprised, he had to move quickly to keep up with her. “You know, I have plenty more,” he said, “if you need some. I didn’t mean to send you back to the store.” Friendly. If you were friendly, then someone else was supposed to be friendly back, right? Apparently, this one wasn’t going to give him an inch.

She looked at him, and he noticed that she had a small smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheeks. “I managed to improvise.” Her tone was clipped, and it didn’t take a genius to deduce that she was pissed at him.

He ran a hand through his hair. Usually he didn’t have to work this hard to get a girl to like him. Women seemed to find him charming, at least at first. Until they got pissed off when he decided it was time to move on. Unfortunately, Darby seemed to have moved straight on to the pissed stage, without even giving him a chance. Okay, so he’d not been on his best behavior that morning, at least until he’d gotten a good look at her.

He turned on his high-wattage smile, the one that always worked, and tried his best bad-boy-turned-sorry look. “Sorry, sugar, it was a bit of a crazy morning. I hadn’t had my coffee yet. You know how that goes, right?”


Author bio and links

Drea Stein is the author of the Queensbay contemporary romance series. She lives in rural New Jersey – yup, there really is such a thing – with her family and writes in an old barn. Visit her at www.dreastein.com or https://www.facebook.com/DreaSteinAuthor


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Accident 2 (too)

I've done it again! Those who are reading this blog will know we are painting our house.

Two weeks ago, my sister had a little accident because the stool she was on broke in two - hence a nice blue spot on her leg!

This time, it was my turn. We need to paint the upstairs but because of the construction of the house, it's nearly impossible to access every part by using a ladder only.

To reach one particular spot, we need to climb through my bedroom window and then step onto a flat roof. We had put a little step on the roofing, but I missed my footing and fell down onto the roofing. One blue elbow and a little sprain in my right ankle, plus a beautiful gash on my hip.

Yeah, yeah, you can laugh, but we don't have a man around and so we need to do everything ourselves.

Well, I think the next time we need to paint the house, I'll try and find a young guy who's willing to stand on tiptoe on ladders and climb through several holes and windows!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Autumn of protest

There is a lot of unrest going on in our country. After the national elections (which took place over 4 months ago) we still haven't got a federal government. But the talks are not very promising. Liberals and right-wingers have the majority and that never promises a lot of good for those who work for their living.

We need to econonomize. Ok, but in my mind they'd better look for the money where it is! There are talks going on to make everyone work much longer, the ministries should get less funding, culture and tv won't get a lot of money anymore, you'll have to pay more to put your kids into daycare, the insurances will go up, ....

Every week there are demonstrations and strikes. The police are not happy - they see their career lenghtened by sometimes as much as 8 years - and the unions are on the ready.

Today it is the teacher's turn. The radio news let know that teacher will need to work an extra hour per week starting from next school year. You can already imagine the responses! Those who think a teacher only has holidays will go along with this of course. But teachers who work long and hard to prepare their lessons and correct the homework of their students will not agree. It's wrong to think we only work 20 hours a week. Those are only the hours actually teaching in class. It says nothing about having to do guardian duties for or after school hours, having to sit in endless meetings with fellow teachers and the head of school, then preparing the next day's lessons and (in my case) often correcting over 30 essays per class (and you have more than one!).

I'm convinced this government will not be a popular one.

On the other hand, I also heard some good news. The interest rates have sunk so low that you won't have to pay interest on loans with variable running time. Good for me, because I have such a loan. I pay the same amount each month, but the end date of the payback can vary. Originally it was until April 2022, but now it is already down to October 2019. And probably it will even be less by next year!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How objective are reviews on travel sites?

I admit, whenever I plan a trip abroad I look at sites like Booking Com or Tripadvisor and read all the reviews about the hotel or restaurant I want to visit.

I must also admit I write reviews myself. But - you can believe me or not - I try to be quite objective. I won't say something is excellent when it's only halfway good. I won't write it's bad when there are good point to be found.

But how objective are others? I know for certain there are people who paint everything black, or who give a bad review because of a futility.

So the question is what you can believe. While admitting I read all the reviews about a property, I never form an opinion before I have first-hand experience.

I guess this is because I'm a teacher. I try to pass on objectivity to my students. I also never take for granted what they write in essays. I always tell them I'm able to check whether they have copied and pasted the info from one or other website. Sometimes it's funny to see the faces change when I say this. Lots of students don't know how to look up information anymore. They take everything for granted and when it's somewhere on Google, it must be the truth...

Once I read in one or other review on Tripadvisor that a certain hotel was not worth a lot. We had booked there however, and on arrival we could detect none of the minus points this review had mentioned. Some things are so obvious, you know. When you stay in a city center in England during the weekend, you know there will be a lot of noise outside. The English like to drink themselves into oblivion, that's well known. So demand a room not facing the street side, then you won't have to say the hotel rooms are too noisy.

And what do you do when something doesn't meet your approval? In a hotel, I would go to the reception and state my problem. When they are not receptive, I demand to see the manager. Never had problems there. And in a restaurant, when something is not right, we just never return. An example of this is Old Fisher in Knokke-Heist. Used to be a very nice restaurant when the father was the cook, but when the son took over it changed. The last time we dined there we had ordered the menu with a pairing of wines. What we got was the one glass... So we never ever go to eat there anymore. Their loss!

What's your take on this?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Clever dog!

All those who love animals know they are not the dumb creatures others think so. Cats and dogs are quite intelligent, and this is shown once again.

A woman suffering from a heavy form of epilepsy, got a specially trained dog some time ago. This dog barks twenty minutes before she will suffer an attack of epilepsy. This gives the woman the chance to warn her husband, put everything down and herself in bed. She was afraid of having a baby, but now she has this wonderful dog, she thinks she might have one at last.


Beautiful story, isn't it?

I would also love to have a dog, but my sister is not quite for it. She still suffers from losing our cat Pluche.

Pluche also was a clever animal. Once when we were having builders in the house, it was impossible to go through the kitchen to reach the garden. So we told Pluche he should jump through the window in the living room. Well, after he had been outside, he sat waiting on the window sill! He also understood when the builders were ready and he could go out the usual way. Btw, he inspected their work!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Orange Moon Affair

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Blurb Blitz Tour for The Orange Moon Affair (a Thomas Gunn Thriller) by AFN Clarke, a thriller available now. The tour will run September 15, 2014 to October 3, 2014.

The author will be awarding a $15 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use this link to post your comment:


Blurb

Thomas Gunn (ex-Special Forces) and his partner Julie are running for their lives. Who are they running from? And why? It all starts when Thomas decides to investigate the mysterious murder of his billionaire industrialist father. He’s shocked when his every move is blocked, especially by top levels of the UK government. But when his attempts to track down an elusive American business partner of his father’s turn lethal, he and Julie become moving targets, racing to outwit those who clearly want them dead. The danger rapidly escalates when Thomas is reluctantly compelled back into working for British Military Intelligence, exposing an international conspiracy that puts the freedom of the western world at grave risk.

But who are these ruthless conspirators that wield such unimaginable power? How are they connected to his father? And what dark secrets from the past will Thomas uncover in his relentless quest for the truth? This action-packed thriller spans the UK, USA and Europe and keeps you guessing to the very last page!


“The Orange Moon Affair” and “The Jonas Trust Deception”, the second in the series, have been hailed by the San Francisco Book Review as “fast-paced books you won't want to put down and you won't want them to finish." Available from Amazon (ebook and paperback).

Excerpt

Nightmares crowded my sleep and I woke in a sweat, some twelve hours later, gasping for air and thought that Julie’s death was just a nightmare, a figment of my imagination. But I knew it wasn’t.

I needed air and crawled to the door leading out onto the patio that overlooked the beach and the Sea of Cortez. It felt similar to Gozo, but it was subtly different; the smell of dry sage tinged the slight breeze and somewhere close by, lingering smoke from a mesquite barbecue blew lazily across the beach. Bile rose in my mouth and I dry retched onto the sand as the image of Julie, bloodied and broken in the helicopter, blasted into my mind.

The moment passed and I sat at the water’s edge as small wavelets ran up the beach and sank into the sand.

Julie’s death killed something in me. Something I thought I had recovered from after my last tour in Afghanistan. She gave my life a soul that had been destroyed, and now with her death, my soul was as dark as it had ever been.

De Costas would pay for her death.

All that was left in me was the instinct for survival and revenge; the only emotion, pure hatred for the man that had caused all this. It was this that had kept me alive when I should have been dead. It was this that created the desire to fight back to full health.

An hour later I hobbled slowly back to the bedroom, lay down and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Author bio and links

AFN Clarke is a full-time author, screenwriter, the son of a British MI6 operative, former officer in Britain's elite Parachute Regiment, pilot, sailor, racecar driver and father of four who's lived in Hong Kong, India, Libya, Iran, Europe, the UK, USA, and Australia. He's written seven books of fiction and his bestselling memoir, CONTACT, was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award-winning BBCTV film.

This rich background allows Clarke to bring his own unique and eye opening experiences to his latest Thomas Gunn thriller series that are fast-paced, thought provoking and frighteningly real and have captured the imagination of readers world-wide. As he says: "For me, good books are a great way to shut out every day life, suspend normal ways of thinking, and allow yourself to be captivated by another world. That’s what I continually strive to deliver to my readers."

Books include: The Orange Moon Affair and The Jonas Trust Deception (Thomas Gunn thrillers), Contact, An Unquiet American, Dry Tortugas, Dreams from the Death Age and Armageddon (The Book of Baker Satire Series), Collisions, with more coming soon. Available from Amazon; coming soon to Nook, iBooks, and Kobo.


Connect with AFN Clarke:

Subscribe to AFN Clarke’s Email List: http://www.afnclarke.com/Email_Us.php

Author Website:  http://www.afnclarke.com/

Twitter: @AFNClarke



Purchase “The Orange Moon Affair”:

Buy from the Kindle Store at Amazon.com:



Buy the Paperback from Amazon.com:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Technically unemployed

Those who have been reading my blog will know we are at work on our house. After the summer holidays we undertook the maintenance of the outer walls of the house.

We managed to treat all the doors and windows with protective coating (they gleam in the sun) and yesterday we began whiting the walls. We were almost ready with the downstairs part of the house. It was already half past seven when we put away our brushes.

So the plan was we'd continue with the upper part this morning, in the hope of having finished by tonight.

But we woke up to pouring rain. They had not predicted this (a weak front would pass during the night) so we are technically out of work.

We're now enjoying a lazy Sunday morning and hope it will get dryer by noon so we can do at least something.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The end of summer?

It looks like the summer will finally come to an end.

July was a good and sunny month, August was colder and had more rain, but this September is one of the best we've ever experienced. The days are warm and sunny and we reached temperatures above the average.

It's ever so nice to be able to have dinner outside in the evening, and go shopping in bermuda's and tops.

But now the weather forecast predicts colder temperatures, although it will remain dry. Autumn will soon come to our parts. In a way, I like this season as well. The darkness falls sooner and you can cuddle up before the tv in your pajamas.


I bought the first Halloween decorations already. As soon as October sets in, we'll put them up. I found this cute bride and groom skeletons, and little pumpkins.

We have boxes with decorations for every season or occasion. In summer it's mostly everything concerned with the sea (fishes, shells, ...).

Do you also decorate according to the season?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yay or Nay for the Scots

Today, the Scots will have the chance to vote for independence - or remain with England. It will be very thrilling, as the number of 'no' voters is only slightly higher than the 'yes' voters. Moreover, a good lot of people are still undecided.


Last year when visiting Scotland, most people I met were for independence. Scots have fought long and hard to be a free country (think of Braveheart) and they still haven't forgotten they were forbidden to wear kilts and play the pipes.

We will only know the result by tomorrow morning.

Not only in Scotland and England the question is the topic of the day, but also in other parts of Europe this vote is eagerly awaited.

If the Scots get their independence, the Catalonians will also want it. And the Bretons, the Basques, the East-Tiroleans (who want to part with Italy and return to Austria), the Flemish...

If you are living outside Europe, you probably won't undertstand this need to be independent. But you have to understand that once Europe was a collection of feudal states: counties, principalities, dukedoms... Each of these had an identity of their own.

A country like Belgium did not exist then. We had Flanders (which covered what are now the provinces of East and West Flanders, Antwerp, part of Holland and the north of France), the dukedom of Brabant (with Brussels), the principality of Lieges, ...

At a given time, governments felt it necessary to form new countries. A couple of examples: Chechoslovakia, Jugoslavia. Now you have Chechia and Slovenia, and the former Jugoslavia is now turned into numerous states.

It's also a reason why a United Europe will never be. The Europeans don't want to be united! They want to cherish their individuality and their characteristics.

Well, I'm really eager to find out how today's vote will go! What do you think?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Face Transplant

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for The Face Transplant by R. Arundel, a medical suspense/thriller book available now. 


The tour will run September 8, 2014 to October 3, 2014.

Prizes for the tour are as follows:
One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card.
Please use this link:


Blurb

Dr. Matthew MacAulay is a Facial Transplant Surgeon at a prestigious New York hospital. His friend and mentor, Tom Grabowski, dies under mysterious circumstances. Matthew is forced to investigate. He uncovers his friend’s secret. A new technique that allows perfect facial transplants. No incisions, no scars. The surgeon is able to transplant one person’s face to another with the perfect result. Tom was able to accomplish this monumental feat with the help of Alice, a supercomputer robot with almost human abilities. While trying to find the people responsible for murdering his friend Tom, Matthew realizes he is the prime suspect. Matthew must flee for his life with the help of Dr. Sarah Larsson, a colleague and reluctant helper who has a secret of her own. Alice helps them make sense of a baffling series of seemingly unrelated events. Matthew is forced to undergo a facial transplant to hide his identity and help to uncover the truth. The clues carry Matthew and Sarah around the world. Matthew stumbles onto a sinister plot of monumental proportions, the real reason Tom was murdered. This discovery leads Matthew all the way to The White House with a dramatic conclusion. Matthew never wavers in his quest for the truth and perseveres against all the odds. He must race to stop a major catastrophe, ratcheting up the excitement until the thrilling conclusion. The Face Transplant is a powerful medical suspense thriller of the first order. The novel was written by a surgeon. The novel has a realism that only a surgeon can bring. The plot weaves politics, medicine and espionage into a tightly paced, intelligent thriller. The novel crescendos page by page to a totally unexpected conclusion.

Excerpt

Guaarrr. It sounded like water draining from a very large bath tub, through a very large hole. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a    warm relaxing bath? Sit. Soak. However, in the fraction of a second that it took that thought to go through Matthew’s head, a more powerful thought pierced his mind. I just killed myself. I just killed the patient. Most likely a criminal anyways. He looked down on the operating room table at the very gaunt, greying man. Dr. Matthew MacAulay quickly scanned the operating theater. In his peripheral vision he could clearly see the short, wide man in the observation area. I just killed myself, Lars, and Marcia. Matthew looked across the operating room table at Marcia Lopez, forty two, an American of Spanish ancestry. She had been his scrub nurse, assisting him in the operating room for the last 3 years. Divorced, one child.

It would take a few more seconds for the monitors to tell everybody what Matthew already knew. Soon the monitors would alarm and all would know. But Marcia already knew. She was right across the table. She saw him use the robotic arm to dissect the vessel and mistakenly cut the large artery in the neck. An operating room nurse of Marcia’s experience has seen it all. When Matthew looked into Marcia’s eyes they flashed ever so quickly an acknowledgement that it was all over. Instead of any words she quietly unclamped the suction. Now a dull hiss filled the air. To the casual observer, or the short wide man holding a 9 mm Glock pistol in his fat stubby hands, nothing really had changed.

Author bio and links

Robert was born in London, United Kingdom.  His early formative years were spent in Toronto Canada.  Robert attended the University of Toronto Medical School.  After obtaining his Doctor of Medicine degree he completed surgical training in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Toronto and obtained certification from the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Robert Mounsey practices surgery in private practice in Toronto.

R. Arundel studied Film Studies at Ryerson University, after this he began writing screenplays and novels. The Face Transplant is his debut novel.

R. Arundel is married and lives in Toronto, Canada. When not writing or practicing surgery Robert can be found cycling.






@TheFaceTranspla

Monday, September 15, 2014

Forsaken

Hello folks! Allow me to introduce you to Sarah Ballance, author of Forsaken.


Sarah and her husband of what he calls “many long, long years” live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids.) When not buried under piles of laundry, she may be found adrift in the Atlantic (preferably on a boat) or in search of that ever-elusive perfect writing spot where not even the kids can find her.  To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly.

Sarah is now doing a Book Blast Tour to promote her latest novel, in cooperation with Goddess Fish Promotions. For this occasion, she is giving away a $50 gift certificate from either Amazon or Barnes&Noble to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. To make a chance, please leave a comment by using this Rafflecopter link:


What is the book about?

Blurb

Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.

When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.

Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.

A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.

A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.

This book has been previously published.

Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.

Excerpt

Without taking his attention from her, Gage climbed out of the chair, cursing when he realized his foot was asleep. He tucked the .38 in the waistband of his pants and limped through the pins-and-needles sensation wreaking havoc in his left boot.

Hell of a time to feel ticklish, he thought, staring at Riley’s wild mane of dark waves sprawled over the floorboards. Not the stark contrast he’d seen over a crisp white pillowcase.

His mind played flashbacks. Memories of dragging his lips over her heaving, sweat-slicked skin threatened his plans…and his resolve.

The flood of emotions shouldn’t have surprised him. He was as stoic as a block of granite when it came to everything—and everyone—except Riley Beckett. He never could put the feeling into words, but just being around her made him feel free, like standing in the middle of the prairie with the sun, and the breeze, and the vastness…and the promise of something he didn’t dare believe.

And he didn’t. Gage knew good things didn’t happen to him. But she’d captured a piece of his soul with her laughing eyes and damning innocence.

The purest woman he’d ever known and he’d destroyed her.

Twice.


Some links








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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Accidents do happen

Like I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, my sister and I are working in and around the house. The previous weekend and also this one we are doing the doors and windows. As they are all in meranti wood, we need to put a protective coating on them.

But our house is an old one - nearly one hundred years old - and some places are hard to reach, even with a ladder.

This morning we were working on the bedroom window in the front of the house. It's not a normal one, as it has the shape of a half moon. Looks very nice, but the guys who made this clearly did not think about a) washing that window, b) varnishing it.

Even when standing on a ladder (from the inside, it's much too dangerous placing one outside because of the heavy traffic) it's nearly impossible to reach the upper part of that half moon circle. So my sister was leaning rather hard on the ladder when it (the ladder) broke and she fell.

Luckily for her she did not knock her head and also did not top outside, but half of her body is getting a nice blue color...

Guess we'll have to find a young lad to do the work next time! We don't have any family though, so we'll have to find a volunteer at work. I suppose there are always guys who want to earn an extra, right?

I'm ever so glad nothing really bad happened with Chris. Btw, I always find it strange that she seems to be more prone to being accidented. I'm near-sighted and don't have any in-depht vision (that is why I was so bad in ball games) but up to now I never had something bad happening to me.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How people identify with soap characters

In Belgium, the most popular soap is undeniably Thuis (Home). It has been airing since December 1995 and is growing more popular as time goes by. Everybody - the elderly, families with children, teenagers, singles, ... - watches the show. It is broadcasted from Mondays to Fridays and always ends with a cliffhanger at the end of each season.

When people have been watching a soap for over 20 years, they tend to think the characters are real. When Leah Thys (in the series she's Marianne, the doctor's wife and somewhat of a snob) goes to the butcher's and asks for just sausages, she is likely to be asked 'I thought you only ate beef?"

And when somewhere in the the series Jenny (played by Jeanine Bishops) was unfaithful to her husband Andre, she got hate mail and unwanted phone calls.

Lots of people don't know these characters are not real, but just imagination. This shows how good the writers of this show are. They create character who are so life-like that people send letters to 'Frank' or 'Jenny' or whoever.

The creators also use the popularity of their characters to make some items more talkable. Everything has happened in Thuis: murder, rape, serial killers, ...

Nowadays the current themes are the lesbian relationship between Ann (Marianne's daughter) and Mayra, the blindness of Peggy (daughter of Frank and Jenny, who got divorced) and her obcession with not being able to have children. But the biggest question everyone asks now is: Who kidnapped Emma?

Emma is the-year-old teenage daughther of Judith, who is now living together with Tom (the son of Mariann, and a lawyer) and Kurt (who was found dead the previous season). She is not happy with the new situation and is constantly on Facebook. There she is groomed by a pedophile (whose identity is not yet unraveled) which leads to her running away from home and now being kept somewhere by the pedo.

The hashtag #wieheeftemmaontvoerd is the most popular on Twitter right now.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'm beginning to see ghosts...

During the second half of August my sister and I made a trip to Ireland. We stayed in Dublin, but also took the opportunity of making some trips to see more of the countryside.

One of these trips brought us to Malahide, a lovely seaside town with a beautiful castle. Malahide Castle dates back to the Middle Ages, when Sir Richard Talbot was rewarded for helping King Henry The Second of England in his Irish campaign. The castle was built upon. the remains of an old tower keep.

It has remained in the hands of the Talbot family for over 800 years. In 1973 Lord Milo died childless and his sister Mary sold the castle in 1975 because she could not pay the death duties otherwise. It now is owned by the Irish government.

Well, we took a guided tour in the castle and the guide told us about the ghosts which haunt the grounds. There are five of them, apparently. Mind you, right at that time I did not believe in ghosts (unlike my sister, who talks to our deceased mother and can predict when someone in the family is going to die). I always thought myself to be a very realistic kind of person, who can only believe what she sees with her own eyes or feels with her own senses.


In the Great Hall, the ghost of Puck, a former court jester from the 15th century, is told to be spotted sometimes. Now, as we were having a look at some of the portraits of former Talbots, I could feel someone breathing behind me. I looked around, but saw nobody but my sister. She too felt a cold breath.

Ok, that could have been a draught. These old castles were not built to keep out the cold. But when we got home, I walked into the kitchen one evening to fetch something to drink, and I saw a dwarf-like figure standing before the window. When I looked again, he (or it) was gone!

And then a few days later, when I was running my errands in the supermarket, I actually saw a dwarf pushing past me, hurrying to the cashier's desk. But then he just disappeared into thin air. I don't lie, I've SEEN this.

And lately all sorts of pranks are taking place in our home. My sister's underwear changed place without anytone touching it, something or somebody switched the items in the freezer, ....

So I must conclude that ghost do exist after all.

As the guide in Malahide told us Puck seemed very attached to the Talbot family, I wonder if we perhaps have some bloodline in common? After all, we descend (if only illegitimately) from the very old noble family of De Dampierre in France. In those times, nobles of high rank married only their equals. I know for sure the Dampierres are related to the Bourbon kings of France, and one of our ancestors was king of Jerusalem. So perhaps one of the daugthers married a Talbot, who knows?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For Love of Livvy

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Super Book Blast Tour for For Love of Livvy (Book1 Esposito Series) by J.M. Griffin, a Cozy Mystery available now from Lachesis Publishing. The Super Book Blast Tour will take place on Wednesday, September 10, 2014.

The author will be awarding a winner's choice of an eBook from Lachesis Publishing to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. So please use this link to place your comment:

Also, this book is FREE everywhere it's sold!!!!


Blurb:

After her favorite aunt is found dead and an alarming box is mysteriously left on the doorstep of her aunt’s house now legally hers, Lavinia Esposito wants explanations. But, having cleared the package of explosives, the local cops are dumbounded by the precious stones which came without an explanation, just an address─her Aunt Livvy’s. Frustrated by the cops’ refusal to share their theories, criminal justice instructor Lavinia Esposito, a.k.a. Vinnie, takes investigation matters into her own hands. Vinnie is soon dragged into situations beyond her control, finding herself in hot water with the law, the crooks, and her Italian father. Willing to put her life at risk to find out what really happened to her beloved Aunt Livvy, and why jewels would be addressed to her aunt, Vinnie plunges ahead with her usual tenacity, bravery, and keen wits to solve and survive this mystery.

Excerpt:

The front door knocker rapped twice after the door bell rang. I hustled from the rear deck of the gargantuan house to answer the summons. Someone seemed impatient, and I was curious as to who it was. My watch read just after eight o’ clock. I swung the heavy door open to find my prospective visitor absent.

It was so quiet, the town ghostly in its seemingly deserted state. Sundays were always lazy days in Scituate, once church was over. With a glance up and down the street of the small historic Rhode Island village, neat colonial homes stretched along the sides of the road in both directions. No one came into view. On the doorstep, a package addressed to my recently deceased Aunt Livvy sat wrapped in brown paper. Again, I gawked up and down the street, but only empty sidewalks and barren roadway appeared in the waning light. The idea of a jaunt along the main drag entered my mind. I figured it would be senseless since the street was visible for about two hundred yards in either direction. Whoever had left the package was gone, long gone.

An eternity passed, or so it seemed, while my gaze locked onto the square, little box. Reluctant to touch it, I decided to call the local fire company to come take a gander. Call me paranoid, but as a criminal justice instructor, a recent audit of a class on bomb components remained fresh in my mind.

I quickly stepped to the living room and grabbed the phone. I dialed the private number of the fire station up the street. A grunt came across the phone line that could only be Bill MacNert.

“Hey Nerd, its Vinnie,” I said. “A package was just left on my doorstep, could you come down and check it out for me?”

“Sure, you got a secret admirer or somethin’?” He cackled, as only senior men can.

“Not likely, but you never know. This package is addressed to Lavinia Ciano, not Lavinia Esposito and is wrapped in brown paper. Nobody’s here to accompany this little surprise either.”

“I’ll be right down, Vinnie, don’t touch it.” He warned.

“Okay.”


Anxious, I paced back and forth across gleaming hard wood floors in the spacious living room of my newly acquired colonial. My fingernails tapped the enamel on my teeth as I wandered to and fro. As irrational as it seemed, I finally leaned against the door jamb inside the entry to wait for MacNert to arrive.


Author bio and links:

J. M. Griffin is a student of the human condition, wielding the written craft to stimulate the imagination much like she wields her paint brush. The pages are a blank canvas on which J.M. draws vivid characters. J.M. is the author of the popular Vinnie Esposito mystery series featuring the sexy sleuth Vinnie Esposito and the engaging Deadly Bakery mystery series featuring the sassy baker/sleuth Melina Cameron. J.M. lives in rural Rhode Island, a state she considers colorful and interesting.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Jack The Ripper unmasked?

This morning, I read an article in the newspaper about the British serial killer Jack The Ripper. Apparently, now his identity has been unmasked and one of the biggest mysteries in British history is finally brought to an end.


According to the article, a businessman named Russell Edwards (48) bought a shawl at an auction. This shawl was found near the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper's victims. It was covered in blood and semen.

Edwards brought the shawl to Dr. Jari Louhelainen - a world renowed expert in using genetic evidence in tracing back killers - who used cutting-edge techniques to trace DNA found on the material.

Apparently, there is no doubt who the killer really was. He was a Polish-born hairdresser, named Aaron Kosminski. He used to be considered a suspect at the time of the killings, but no evidence was foudn of his guilt.

Well, I don't know whether this is true or not. After all, the story was brought to the The Mail on Sunday by Russell Edwards himself... who is without doubt obsessed by the Ripper killings.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Town in ashes

Exactly one hundred years ago, our town (Dendermonde) was occupied by the German army and consequently burned to the ground.

All the historical buildings, like the Lakenhalle (used to be the meeting grounds for the guild of weavers and wool traders), the Court of Law, the houses in the town center,... were reduced to ashes and lots of casulties were counted.

These tragic events were remembered yesterday and today, by an evocation under the guidance of Stijn Kolacny (who is also the conductor of the well-known choir Scala). Lots of volunteers, actors, dancers and the Scala choir rendered this evocation of one of the worst times in the our town's history.


Dendermonde is a 'Martyr Town', along with other towns in Belgium. A town where playing children were surprised by the German army and a little girl was hit by a stray bullet.  A place where many were made homeless.

Today the town looks like it did during ages past, in it's full glory. The Town Hall and all the other buildings were restored to their once appearance and when you see them now you won't know they are not the real stuff. (Well, a bit like Prague.)

It is a town worth visiting, if you have the chance to come to Belgium in the future. If you contact the visitor information of the town, you'll certainly see why.

Friday, September 5, 2014

'k Vraag het aan

Probably most of those who read this blog's title won't understand what it means. I even doubt the Dutch would.

'k Vraag het aan is a typical Flemish (dialect) expression. It's used by boys (or girls) when they ask their sweetheart to start a relationship. Something like 'do you wanna go with me?'.

Aanvragen also means to ask for something. I.e. a record you want to dedicate to someone special.


Now it's also the title of a radio program. Radio 2, the biggest radio broadcaster in Flanders, offers a week of asked-for records. Every one can mail or phone to ask for a tune and dedicate it to whom he or she likes.

Tomorrow there will be a top-100 of most asked records from the past week.

Just out of curiosity: how do you ask to start a relationship? Being a linguist I'm always interested in learning new expressions. All your responses are welcome. I understand French, German, Italian and Spanish. If you want to use another language, please also give a translation or a phonetical rendering. Thanks a lot!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How often do you act on impulse?

As I grow older, I realize that more and more I let my impulses lead me. I used to be prudent when I was younger, but probably I missed chances just by doing so.

Our lives changed when our mother had a bad accident and landed in a wheelchair. Ever since that accident she pressed us to do what we wanted and to enjoy it thoroughly. 'It might be too late,' she used to say. 'Just look at me." She insisted we wouldn't postpone until tomorrow what we could to today.

Carpe Diem... that's how we live - and I can state we're so much the happier right now. Enjoy every day as it comes and let nothing bother you. All bad things come to an end, just like the good ones.

So yesterday once more, we allowed ourselves to indulge in what we call 'een folieke' (some extravaganza). Receiving an email from a theatre in Manchester about a ballet, we fell in love with the promo video and wanted to see this ballet (Beauty and The Beast). It's classic ballet but in modern choreography. And we do love ballet. Unfortunately, we can't get top seats in Antwerp or Ghent or Brussels. I don't know why. We always try to book them, but the best seats are all gone. And in Great-Britain or the USA it always works out. We pay for top seats and we get them - especially when I ask for one of the first rows because of my near-sightedness.

The performances in Manchester were too close to attend and not in a weekend. But the company (Birmingham Royal Ballet) also performs a couple of days in Birmingham itself, and luckily this includes a weekend. So we can fly out on Friday night and see the performance on Saturday night. Will be a great weekend, and Birmingham is a nice town. We were there the last year as well, to see Barry Gibb perform in the LG Arena.

What about you? Do you act on impulse? Or not?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Return To Me

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Super Book Blast Tour for Return to Me by Melissa MacKinnon, a historical romance with strong fantasy elements  available August 19, 2014 from EsKape Press. The Super Book Blast Tour will take place on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.

Melissa will be awarding $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use this link to place your comment:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f324/


Blurb

Archaean bounty hunter Marek Coinnich isn't particularly fond of Engels. In fact, he prefers them dead. But to save his injured brother, he must enter the manor of an Engel enemy. Marek finds himself enthralled by the slave girl nursing his brother back to health. When his enchantment with her lands them in a compromising position, he refuses to let the young beauty pay for the misunderstanding with her life.

Brynn of Galhaven prefers to keep to the shadows. When she is ruined by an outsider, she barely escapes with her life and finds herself left alone in an unforgiving land. Through her struggles to survive, Brynn discovers a world she never imagined and never forgets the enemy Archaean who stole her heart.

Marek can’t deny his desire for Brynn, but these are wartimes, and she is the enemy. And though love knows no prejudice, the world in which he lives isn’t nearly as forgiving.

Excerpt

“Oh, now you want this?” He squeezed the wet fabric in his fingers.

“Not if you’re going to throw it at me.” She pouted, tasting the blood with the tip of her tongue.

“Here, have at it.” Marek handed her the cloth and the water bladder. “When you need my help, I’ll be waiting for your thanks.” Busying himself with the torch, Marek let her be.

The process was slow. Every inch of her ached. What she wouldn’t give for a bath — a proper one. When she was sure she had scrubbed her face thoroughly, Brynn set to work on her arms and legs. Mud resided in every cranny, making her tattered clothing seem like rags themselves.

“Would you care for help now?” he asked, watching her struggle.

“I’m fine.”

“’Tis all right to ask for help.”

“I said I’m fine,” she replied, peeling a section of matted hair from her shoulder. Brynn winced and sucked in a breath through her teeth, trying not to cry out while he was near. “Might I have a bit of privacy, warrior?”

“My name is Marek,” he corrected, “and do not worry — you haven’t anything I have not seen before. I’ve been cleaning those wounds of yours for days now.”

Brynn’s cheeks flushed, and she directed her attention elsewhere, ignoring his shameless stare. She focused on her wounds, keeping her distance.

Near the curtain, Marek unbuckled his belt to remove his tunic. He pulled the fabric over his hand and then down his arms. He stood bare-chested. Brynn averted her eyes.

Marek let out a rumbling laugh. “You are welcome to look, love.”

“I fear the gods will not forgive me if I do,” she whispered.


Links

Melissa MacKinnon: http://melissamackinnon.com/




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