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Friday, December 30, 2016

Counting off to 2017

The year 2016 has nearly gone. Not the best of years, with so much terror and war going on. We in Belgium had the attacks on Brussels airport and the Brussels metro. In France they had Nice and Germany had Berlin not so long ago. The Brexit happened.

What will the new year bring? The US will have a new president. I always thought Trump would win the vote. And now my sister can truly say she once told the president of the United States he needed to watch the light (he nearly drove through a red light, practically running us over). Elections are coming up in various countries and we'll have to see what these bring. I suspect extreme right and left are on the rise and will get more and more votes. People want change. Also in our country. Even the industrialists are now against the government Michel.

What is certain is we all get a year older! I turned 60 this year, so from now on it's watching one's health with hawk's eye. My only point of concern is my sugar level. All the rest is still fine. For my sister it's the cholesterol. That's why we try to eat as healthy as possible and cut down on the alcohol. Well, when we are on a trip we still indulge in a good glass, but that is okay according to our doctor.

I hope to see the birth of a new baby - i.e. my latest novel, The Black Coach, which is due to be published in February. I think it's a great story, even if I say it myself.  I always find pleasure in the books I write.

I also hope I'll have enough imagination to continue on the other books I plan. I want to write a sort of Phantom story and also need a sequel to Diamonds for the Devil. I've made a start on both manuscripts and I continue on either of them if the mood catches me. That's not always the case. There are days - weeks, months, years - when I don't feel like putting even one word on paper. But other times I could do several stories at the same time.

What do you hope for 2017???

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Back from our trip

We're back home from our trip to Budapest, Hungary. It was a nice trip, to a city that we want to visit once more in the coming years!

What makes the city this agreeable? Well, not the language (very strange looking, can't understand a word, but nearly everyone speaks either English or German). But there are wide avenues and boulevards, friendly people, lots of café's and restaurants (where you can eat very well for only a few euro - or forint), museums, galleries, shops (and among them a lot you don't find anymore in Belgium).



A lot to see as well, as the town consists of two parts: Pest and Buda. They are both on one side of the Danube river. We stayed in Pest, at the Hilton near the Westend Shopping Center. The whole trip only cost us 1000 Euro, can you imagine? Four nights in a suite and we did not mind our money when eating out.

Now we visited in winter. But in summer there is a lot more to see and do there, so if we return it will be during summer time. If you look at the picture, you'd think it was already spring, because we had very nice and sunny weather during our stay.

I once had a penfriend from Budapest, Timea Nemec. Timea, if you happen to read this by chance, your town is indeed worth a visit!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Enjoying our stay in Budapest

Right now, late in the afternoon, we're back from a long walk which took us from the Pest side of the town to the Castle Hill district of Buda. We did more or less 15 km' because we love to walk. I'm not tired, but I believe I'll sleep well tonight!

We were able to book a suite in the Hilton near the Westend Center (Pest) as Hilton always has a winter sale. This suite only costs us 150 € a day and for that you have all the luxury you want. Hungary is quite cheap for us Belgians!

We are lucky with the weathervas well. Today it was sunny and about 8 degrees Celsius. Yesterday there was some light drizzle every now and then but nothing to worry about.

There is a lot to see and do here in Budapest, and we have alreadybsaid to each other we need to return one of the following years - and then perhaps in summer.






Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas to everyone

I'd like to take the opportunity to wish all the readers of my blog a Merry Chrismas. Are you ready for the festivities?

Remember I spoke about my frustration of not being able to make a nice card? Well, my sister worked out how to and so we now share this one:



When you look at the card, you see the fireworks in London at New Year's Eve (pic above, left), the beautiful church of Scuol, Switzerland (above, right), a choir singing Christmas carols in Copenhagen, Denmark (pic under, left), my sister and I (pic under, middle - I'm the one on the right) and some ladies giving away sweets also in Copenhagen.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tinder doesn't work for people with high IQ

I just read this caption when going to the MSN page to check my mail there. Ok, I'm clever enough to know what Tinder is (my pupils always used to think that you don't know anything when you're over 50). And I also know what a high IQ does to a person's social contacts.

Most people with high IQ have problems with their social life. I find that many with IQ's over 130 (and more) don't seem to be making friends easily. From personal experience I also know that men (in my case) like your company (and even want to bed you) but they're afraid of a more formal relationship, like marriage. No man wants a wife who's more clever than he is!

So I think it's strange they should write and talk about this now. It has always been that way. It's not always a blessing having a high IQ. Sometimes people don't understand what you say - for you it's easy, for them nearly impossible. And when others tell jokes, we sometimes don't understand them, because they are way too simple.

I'm lucky to have sister with an equal IQ, so at least we are each other's best friends. And we don't need a man around, we're ok as we are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas cards

Gr, I'm feeling a bit frustrated! I've been trying to make a unique Christmas card to send out to my friends for most of the morning now. Last year in Copenhagen, we took a cute pic of two ladies spreading around the spirit of Christmas.


I wanted to try and work on this picture, but for one or other mysterious reason my computer keeps telling me he can't save the file! Jerk!

My sister did the same with another picture (New Year's Eve fireworks in London) and on her computer everything works out fine. She has a Surface, while I have one from 2005 (but still working fine most of the time).

In the end, I had to send e-cards from Hallmark but they never are original. Is there someone who could help? If so, please add your comment. Then I'll save it for the next time I want to create  a nice card.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Getting into the festive mood?

Only a couple of days, and Christmas will be there. I must say I love this season! You hear Christmas songs on the radio (yes, I'm old-fashioned, still listening faithfully to my radio station) and all the streets and houses are nicely decorated - our own house no exception.

It's the season for good dining (and sometimes eating a bit too much...) and drinking (but also, try to keep sober enough), of Christmas markets and glühwein.

We already had a start last weekend. Dining - once more - at Bartholomeus in Knokke-Heist. Like always, chef Bart Desmidt made this a unique experience. By the way, they even knew we came to celebrate my sister's birthday (they must be reading this blog), although we hadn't mentioned it. Chris only becomes a year older next Saturday, but then it's Christmas Eve and already as a young child she demanded TWO festivities, like all the others got! Clever kid, eh?

And once Christmas, we're in for a lot of goodies. Two trips during the festive season, one to Budapest in Hungary and the other to London, UK. Another evening of fine dining, on New Year's Eve at La Guera where chef Glen is in command. And then a weekend Antwerp, to see a musical show and do some serious shopping. Not long afterwards, the long-awaited trip to Buenos Aires, for which all reservations have been made now. Going to an estançia, taking tango-lessons, discovering the city with a private guide... Looking forward to all of that!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Enjoying the seaside

Both my sister and I love to be at the seaside. So we don't mind being here in winter. We think that it's even better in winter than in summer. Less tourists, less beach huts, less of everything. So wonderful to enjoy some peace and quiet, especially after a busy week at work!

We decided to have a long weekend here in Heist. My sister has her birthday on December 24th, but as we celebrate Christmas Eve then, we thought it better to celebrate her birthday one week earlier.

Tonight we'll dine at Bartholomeus (2 Michelin stars, 18/20 in Gault-Millau). We've known chef Bart Desmidt since he was a little boy on a pony, also know his dad and his sister. It's always a delight to go dining there. And then you should know that there are only 4-5 people in the kitchen! Some chefs with one star already employ 10 to 20 people. Bart still does most of the cooking himself. And he sticks to the traditional values in cooking. No fusions and other stuff. No Noma. But fish right from the last catch of the day and meat from farmers he knows and respects.

For the rest, the weather is fine enough. No wind to speak of, a bit cloudy, decent temperatures.

We'll come back home totally relaxed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Final Kill

Today, author Leslie McKelvey is doing a book blast tour to promote her novel Final Kill (romantic suspense from Black Velvet Seductions).



Leslie will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use this link to place your comment http://www.rafflecoptecom/rafl/display/28e4345f2097

Blurb

The world doesn’t know Cat Beckett, CIA linguist and expert sniper. She does her best to keep her skills secret, but when a SEAL team is ambushed in the remote mountains of Afghanistan she doesn’t hesitate to take out the enemy. After saving the SEALs, the third Spec Ops team to be compromised in as many months, she realizes someone in her unit is giving classified information to the enemy. She suspects that Peter Mitchell, her supervisor and ex-lover, is behind the betrayal, and sets out on a dangerous quest to prove his treason.

Lt. Ryan Heller, US Navy SEAL, is accustomed to facing death. When his team is attacked by Taliban fighters he thinks his last day is upon him, until an unknown sniper saves their lives. The prickly, green-eyed beauty handles a rifle as easily as most women handle a purse, but who is she? And what is she doing in the middle of a war zone? He is intrigued, and attracted, but his instincts and her piercing, tiger-like stare tell him to tread carefully.

Afghanistan’s Bagram Valley is not the ideal place to find love, but these two are trained to make the best of bad situations. Geography alone makes starting a relationship challenging enough, but caught between extremists and an unhinged, obsessed Mitchell makes it downright deadly.



Excerpt

She remembered the face of the first man she’d ever killed: the rest of them . . . not so much.

Regulating her breathing, Cat peered through the scope of the .416 rifle as snow fell fitfully, almost as if it didn’t want to reach the ground.  The snap of AK fire interspersed with the shouts
of the Taliban firing the Russian-made weapons bounced around the ravine below her.  She scowled.

Half an hour ago she’d been sitting in a hidden mountain cave, relatively warm, monitoring two-way radio and cell chatter with a pair of specially designed headphones, using very expensive, top-secret, brand new, state-of-the-art technology.  Now, because of what she’d heard she was lying on a ledge in the snow with her rifle, more than a kilometer from her relatively warm cave.

“Do you have them?” she whispered as the crosshairs found one turban-clad head.

“The SEALs are less than half a klick in front of them and losing ground.”  Tripp grunted.  “What the hell are they doing out here?”

“Dying,” she replied in a solemn voice.  “But we’re not going to let that happen, are we?”

Author bio and links

Leslie McKelvey has been writing since she learned to write, and her mother still stores boxes of handwritten stories in the attic.  When her high school Creative Writing teacher told her she needed to be a novelist, she decided to give it a try.  Finally, at the ripe old age of...forty-something...her debut novel, Accidental Affair, was contracted and published by Black Velvet Seductions Publishing.  Two follow-up novels, Right Place, Right Time and Her Sister’s Keeper completed the Accidental Encounters series, and Runaway Heart, a standalone book, was released in March of 2016.  BVS also published one of Leslie’s short stories in the erotic anthology First Submission, and her fifth novel, Final Kill, will be released in late 2016.
Leslie is a war-veteran who served with the U.S. Navy during the Gulf War, and she was among the first groups of women to work the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.  During her five years tour she was stationed at NAS Miramar and spent time on the carriers USS Independence, USS Ranger, USS Lincoln, and the USS Nimitz.  The final two years of her enlistment were spent on Guam and her squadron frequently deployed to Japan and the Middle East.
She learned everything she knows about firearms and tactics from her police officer husband, who is a weapons expert, range master, and firearms instructor for one of the most highly-respected law-enforcement agencies in the world.  She has three boys who contribute daily to her growing number of gray hairs.  Her two oldest sons are United States Marines and the youngest vows to follow suit.  She spends her off-time (kidding...WHAT off-time?) reading, taking pictures, and sending lead down range (that's shooting, for those who are unfamiliar).  One of her favorite scents is the smell of gunpowder in the morning.... 



Links

Amazon US   https://www.amazon.com/Leslie-McKelvey/e/B00A86ZSQW/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard
Smashwords   https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/LeslieMcKelveyBVS
Facebook Author Page   http://www.facebook.com/lmckelveyauthor
Twitter  https://twitter.com/LMcKelveyAuthor

Blog


www.amazonred.wordpress.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A general decline in standards

I don't know if this is because I'm getting older, but I do see a general decline in standards. When reading my national newspaper, my hairs often stand on edge when I spot mistakes in spelling and/or grammar. Too many, these days. Don't they have editors anymore??? I used to be a teacher of languages, and my professor grammar used to be very precise. With some hint of an accent you wouldn't pass your exams. And especially not with an essay littered with the mistakes I now see in the daily papers and magazines.

Also, the general knowledge of young people seems in the decline. Twenty years ago, I once asked a class to name the capital of Egypt (used in context of a text we were reading) and one pupil answered 'Paris'! But at that time they could still spell more or less exact and could conjugate their verbs. Dutch is a difficult language - when conjugating verbs, they either end on 't' - 'd' or 'dt'. This appears difficult these days. And they don't know any geography anymore, nor any history. To me, it doesn't look like a good thing.

Manners are on the decline as well. I won't say only young people are rude (some are, other aren't). Sometimes it looks as if the elderly are the rudest. (I just hope I'm not like that.)

This morning, I heard on the news that the two biggest universities of our country are lowering their standards too. When I was a student, you started the academic year early in October. You either attended the courses or not, but the exams started in the middle of June (and colleges ended early in May, so you had a month or so to prepare). You could only move on to the following year when you passed all your exams. The only exception was for those students who failed less than 3 exams and had a 13 in general (20 being the highest score to be had). All the others could take a second sitting in September. We started out with around 400 students in my option (Germanic Philology) and after the first year (even after the exams of September) we were with 100 to move on to the second year of bachelor. We ended up with about 80 to take the master's degree.

But now the students have exams twice a year, and they don't need to pass anymore. They take along one course to the next year. And even then, the two universities mentioned want to make it even more simple. You can wonder what those master degrees are worth anymore?

What's your take on this?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dangerous in a Kilt

Please welcome Anna Durand today. Anna is the author of Dangerous in a Kilt, a feisty romance.

To promote the release of this novel, Anna is doing a tour and will be giving away a $20 GC from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble to a randomly drawn commenter via rafflecopter. Please use this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2061



Blurb

Good-girl Erica Teague is out on bail, charged with a crime her ex-lover committed. Her desperate bid to experience one wild night of sizzling sex, before her trial and certain conviction, lands her in the arms of Lachlan MacTaggart, a hot Scot with a secret past. She can't resist his offer to enjoy one month of sex and companionship with no strings. But when their hot fling gets personal, can their passion free their imprisoned hearts?

Excerpt

I swigged my brandy. A flash of fruity sweetness raced over my tongue, chased by a tangy burn. Why was I waiting for a man who didn't have the courtesy to call and cancel? Enough of this. I leaped off the stool onto my five-inch heels and tottered, mirroring my stool's motion. What the hell had I been thinking, wearing stilettos for the first time in my life?

Strong hands grasped my upper arms. "Easy there."

I craned my neck to behold my would-be savior. My heart thudded.

A giant of a man peered down into my eyes, his body towering several inches above me. Whoa, mama. The heels elevated my five-four to five-ten, which must've made him well over six feet tall. Thick muscles in his impossibly broad shoulders flexed as he maintained his hold on me. The lights glistened on his short, dark hair, casting it in unearthly hues. The sensation of his fingers on my skin and the proximity of his body flooded me with heat and my mouth watered at the sight of acres of hard, defined muscles straining his skintight black T-shirt. His powerful thighs vanished under a kilt, its plaid woven in pastel shades of green and blue with orange lines
threaded through them. The blue in the fabric echoed his pale eyes, which studied me with electrifying interest. Black combat boots covered his feet but somehow, combined with his angular features, they lent him a rugged appeal.

I raked my gaze over his body, drinking in every inch of him, until our gazes intersected.




Why Anna loves Scots

What is it about Scotland? Why are Scottish men so hot? Is it all Sean Connery's fault? Well, I'd have to say my introduction to hot Scots probably did come from the original Bond movies, though Connery's Scottishness played no part in the stories. For me, though, the fascination with Scotland stems from my family's background.
I have Scottish ancestry on both my mother's and father's sides of the family, and my dad always loved to celebrate our heritage. Sure, we also have Welsh, French Canadian, German, and some other nationalities in the mix, but Scotland has remained our favorite. My dad liked to experiment with a chanter, a kind of practice instrument for learning the bagpipe, though he never graduated to the full pipes, and he owned a plaid cap too—plus a "Scotland the Brave" sweatshirt.
When it comes to Scottish romance heroes, I've long had an obsession with those kinds of stories. Historical romances introduced me to sexy Highlanders many years ago, and my literary love affair with them has only intensified. I mean, come on, the accent is hot! That's one reason I prefer to "read" Scottish romances in audiobook form, preferably with a male narrator who can assume a deep, sensual brogue for the hero. Phil Gigante reading Karen Marie Moning's Highlander books sends me hunting for a fan every time!
It's only natural my love of Scotland, and especially hunky Highlanders, would influence into my own writing. Dangerous in a Kilt is the culmination of a lifetime fascination, but it's hardly the last book I'll write about the beautiful and mysterious men—er, country. I plan on feeding my hunger for sizzling Scotsmen with many more romances to come, including more stories in the Hot Scots series, of which Dangerous in a Kilt is the first book.
Why do you love hot Scots?

Author bio and links

Anna Durand is an award-winning romance writer specializing in steamy romances populated with spunky heroines and hunky heroes, in settings as diverse as modern Chicago and the fairy realm. Her romances have to date won eight awards and her novel Intuition was a 2016 RONE Award nominee, while her short story Tempted by a Kiss was a finalist in The Romance Reviews 2016 Readers' Choice Awards. Anna also maintains a blog, Spunk & Hunks, where she writes her own articles and reviews romance books, as well as hosting wonderful guest authors.

Website: http://www.annadurand.com
Spunk & Hunks blog: http://www.spunkandhunks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheAnnaDurand
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaDurandFiction
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/annadurand
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+AnnaDurandFiction
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/Anna_Durand
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/author/annadurand




Dangerous in a Kilt Buy Links:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ9523F
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dangerous-in-a-kilt-anna-durand/1124468823
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dangerous-in-a-kilt/id1147897435
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-dangerousinakilt-2092621-149.html
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Anna_Durand_Dangerous_in_a_Kilt?id=7z4ZDQAAQBAJ
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/dangerous-in-a-kilt
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/660943


The e-book has a special pre-order price of $0.99 and regular price will be $4.99. The special will extend through part of the tour, as the release date is 12/16. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The perception of feeling older

Earlier today, I was browsing through some old family albums - pictures of my great-grandparents, my grandparents in their youth, baby pics of my mother and her brothers, right up to the pics of my sister and I. Guess my dad was a bit biased, as there are far more baby pics from me than of my sister, who's nearly 5 years younger.

Now that I'm 60, I noticed that my grandmother at 60 looked far older than I do. She was an old woman at that age. My mother already looked a bit younger than her own, and compared to the two of them, I look like 20 years younger still.

Well, I don't feel my age. I don't feel old. Sometimes, I still feel like a teenager and I want to dance around the house. I can still hop on-hof off the stairs like I always did. I never walk on stairs, I run. And we have many stairs in the house... A good work-out, right? Also, I can still ply my legs to sit comfortably (yes, when sitting on a sofa, my legs are like in a yoga exercise - it allows to easily lean forward to pick up something from the low table,  like a glass of wine). I can also still mount a horse, ride a bike, walk for hours.

I suppose I'll only feel old(er) when I'm around 80 (or even 90). That is, when I'm still around by then. I hope so and something inside tells me it will be that way. I had some problems with my blood pressure, but they are under control and I never forget to take my medicine. Also my heartbeat has improved a lot since I'm not working anymore.

And what about you?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Did you ever visit these places?

Tripadvisor published the top-25 of world-wide landmarks today. Places visitors think are worth visiting. They are the following:

1. Machu Picchu in Peru
2. Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi (UAE)
3. Angkor Wat in Cambodia
4. St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy
5. Taj Mahal in Akra, India
6. Mezquita Cathedral in Cordoba, Spain
7. Church of the Savior in Moskou, Russia
8. The Ahambra in Spain
9. The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
10. Duomo di Milano in Italy
11. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA
12. Haya Sophi in Istambul, Turkey
13. The Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium
14. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
15. The Notre Dame in Paris, France
16. The Great Wall of China
17. Acropolis in Athens, Greece
18. Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
19. Big Ben in London, UK
20. Chichen Itza in Mexico
21. What Po in Bangkok, Thailand
22. Burj Khalifa in Dubai (UAE)
23. Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia
24. Sydney Opera House, Australia
25. Fushimimi Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

I'm glad to say I've visited at least some of these places (I've marked them in black). The most impressive sight was that of Machu Picchu, without any doubt. We were there in 1982.  That was a trip sponsored by our grandmother who kindly donated a big part of the sum! In those times, trips like a 3-week-tour of Peru and Bolivia were rather expensive and exclusive. We only had a travel company of 6 people. Luckily the only young guy with it spoke fluent Spanish and he quite liked our company... It was a trip we'll never forget. You just have to been there to understand. We saw the Andes mountain range and also went into the jungles of the Amazon when in Bolivia. Quite an adventure, with a small fishing boat and a kind couple of Bolivian guides.We ate fish that came right of the river and was grilled over some banana leaves and slept in Indian huts.



I also hope to be able to see more of these places, like the Opera House in Sydney or Christ the Redeemer in Rio. 

Which places have you visited already?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Pen friends

Those who are old enough (!) will remember the time when you first began to study English (or any other foreign language). The teachers in those times used to give you addresses of girls/boys of around your age and who lived in countries where English is spoken. Well, not all the kids in my class wrote letters to these addresses, but I did. I got a reply - ét voilà: I had a penpal!

The guy I wrote to lives in India (he's now a high court judge) and is called Rajeev Masodkar. He's a few months older than I am (birthday in February, mine in May) and was also a high school student at the time. He then lived in Nagpur, where his dad equally was a judge. We shared letters frequently and in the course of years we got to know each other better and better. I even was invited when he married! Unfortunately, I was already working as a teacher then and we can not take a holiday at random.

And after all this time, we still share letters (well, righth now we've switched to mails) and tell each other what's happening in our lives.

We've turned into pen friends. We have never met in the person, but we have spoken to each other on the phone.

Do any of my readers also have a pen friend?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Familiar places in books/film/tv

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

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

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

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



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



What about you?




Monday, December 5, 2016

The Pawn

Please welcome Skye Warren, author of The Pawn. This novel is a contemporary romance available as of today. Skye is doing a book blast tour and will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour. Please use the following link to place your comment: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2078



Blurb

The price of survival…

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

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

My virginity.

A forbidden auction…

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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




Author bio and links

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

SOCIAL MEDIA
– Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/skyewarren
– Twitter  https://twitter.com/skye_warren
– You Tube  https://www.youtube.com/user/SkyeWarrenBooks
– Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/skyewarren
– Instagram  https://instagram.com/skyewarrenbooks

Buy Links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MCV02X1
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MCV02X1
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pawn-skye-warren/1124892956;jsessionid=E389EB80B20DC5B63F463C0AF1FB013B.prodny_store01-atgap10?ean=2940156816125
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-pawn/id1166560955?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-pawn-14

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

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



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

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

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


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Home-made chile con carne

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

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

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



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

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


Friday, December 2, 2016

Nickie's Ten Questions to Simon Wood

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wired Rogue

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



Toby Neal will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, Please us the following link:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2046

Blurb

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



Excerpt

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


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


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



Author bio and links

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

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

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

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



Resources:
Website: http://tobyneal.net
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Toby-Neal/e/B006NR5PW2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1%20Lei%20Crime%20Kindle%20World:%20https://kindleworlds.amazon.com/world/LeiCrime
Twitter: @tobywneal
Facebook: Toby Neal Books 
Instagram: Tobyneal0
Google+: Toby Neal
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tobyneal/
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

IBooks 
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Clever ideas can bring a lot of success

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

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

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

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

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



All of this is quite clever, right?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bounty's Song

Please welcome author Mandy Colton, who's doing a virtual super book blast tour for Bounty's Song , a contemporary romance available now from Cavalcade Press. The Super Book Blast Tour will take place on November 28, 2016 to December 2, 2016.




Mandy will be awarding a $15 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. So please comment as much as you like, using this link:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2028

Blurb

Gage Knight is a Texas bounty hunter and just doing a tough job when he’s sent to Nashville to pick up a grifting high-dollar fugitive. He arrives at the right place at almost the right time, but he makes a big mistake when he leaves.

Once a debutante, Danica Chastain is now a struggling songwriter with a dream of landing a job in the music business. On the day when her hard work seems to be heading in the right direction, a gruff man with a dark presence and wolfish eyes arrives at her door.

Although their immediate chemistry is off the charts, the two clash—for good reason. Danica is not who he thinks she is, and he’s not listening...




Excerpt

That little bitch had pulled her con off so smoothly, Danica knew just like she knew her rent hadn’t been paid that Tara, if that was even her real name, the money, and her stuff was long gone. She would just wait and call the cops after her appointment at the record company tomorrow. Focus on your meeting with Hank, Danica. If that went well, she’d just find her another roommate, take what was left of her clothes, and leave this dump. She would hold her head up and keep moving forward with her mind on her future and dreams.
* * * *
The next morning, Danica spent much of her time stomping around and grumbling. Her routine was screwed. She’d found the coffee pot gone first and then, after taking her shower, found her blow dryer lifted as well. She’d had to painstakingly brush her hair dry. Then there was the underwear dilemma she’d faced next. She had none. It was all gone, and the only thing she could do was put the bra back on from the day before, which was not going to work for the
panties. There had been too much freaking out the night before about bigger issues than to remember to wash them out or even worry about something as minor as going sans the drawers. She’d just have to temporarily go commando and leave early enough to buy herself some undies on the way to her appointment.

She was about ready to leave the apartment when there was a knock on the door. Danica looked out the peephole but didn’t see anyone. Hmm. She shrugged, opened the door to take a step out and look, immediately walking into a wall of man and muscle. Yelping in surprise, she quickly moved her eyes up to his face. Whoa. At first glance, the guy had a dark, daunting presence, almost intimidating as he loomed over her. A closer inspection made another thought cross her mind. What a hunk-o-man! Talk about tall, beefy, and ruggedly handsome. Not exactly swarthy but deeply tanned and a nice amount of past-five-oh-clock shadow framed a nicely chiseled jawline. The whole package made her shiver a little. She could smell the guy, he was so close, and his cologne was a heady alpha male blend of sweat, the non-stinky man-musk kind, and spice. Ooh, and leather. In fear of being zapped by a jolt of supercharged testosterone mixed with potently virile pheromones, she took a step back.

He stood there, intimidating-like, looking down his nose at her, eyeing her, nothing moving except for a pair of odd color eyes. They were mesmerizing. He cleared his throat, which broke her staring spell.

She finally said, “If you’re looking for Tara, she’s gone.” She scanned him again. At least the bitch had a little taste in who she screwed. Couldn’t say the same for the guys.

Suddenly his eyes changed and he looked a bit amused. What a pair of peepers he had on that strikingly handsome and chiseled face. The guy had bright-gray eyes, like a husky dog or a wolf. My goodness, how beautiful they were and framed by lush lashes, those making her a little jealous. Danica was curious if the eye color was real or if he might be wearing contacts. Before she had the chance to ask, he opened his mouth.

“Is that right?”

Wow. The beefcake wasn’t the meathead she was expecting, he could speak. Smooth, sexy voice too. “Yup, bitch is gone. That’s for damn sure.”

He snickered at that. “Mind if I come in?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. I have somewhere I gotta be.”

The guy rudely bumped her aside with his broad chest and walked right past, making her gasp because he didn’t have permission and she was pretty sure that brief contact had created a few sparks underneath her chassis. Sparky, like after a bump in the road and your loose muffler intermittently drags the asphalt before scraping your undercarriage again with a zing. Yeah, like that.

Danica put her hands on her hips and cleared her own throat this time. “Excuse me, but I think I just told you that Tara’s not here and I have someplace to go.”

He walked right through the apartment, opened a bedroom door, and turned to grin at her. Then he walked to the other and opened it. “Mmhmm. Bet you do have some place to go, being that
you just missed your court date. Again. Skipping for a second time on the same bondsman. He warned you last time. Somebody was gonna be comin’ for your lily-white ass.”

“Why are saying ‘you’? Like I did that? I don’t have a clue what you’re even talking about. I haven’t done anything, and for your information, my white ass is clean. I have never needed a bondsman.”

That made the corners of his mouth quirk upward into a smile. “Nice to know. Let’s see some ID, sweetheart.”

She still had her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes at the guy. “What? You think I’m her, don’t you?” Thoroughly insulted by the thought, she continued, “Freaking Jesus H. Believe me, I could never be as bad as that nasty-ass, thieving, nympho skank is.”

Those sexy lips began twitching at that. She couldn’t stop focusing on them. He stuck his hand out, doing a “give it”-type motion with his fingers. “ID, please.”

Aggravated now, she grabbed her bag and snapped, “Fine! Who the hell are you, walking right in and demanding ID? Why are you here?”

“I’m a bond enforcement officer working on behalf of the bondsman in Texas. The law and bond was broken by not showing on the scheduled court date. I’m here to collect Tara Morgan and take her to jail. If you’re not her, then just kindly show me some ID and I’ll go.”




Author bio and links

Mandy Colton is from Louisville, KY, and lives a very quiet life with her husband and teenage son. A fan of romance, fun adventure, drama, humor, and on occasion, sci-fi stories. Her first book, Way to Go, and the continuing series came from her years, own adventures and experiences working in the travel industry.

Although she’s a great fan of the human imagination, she is also of the opinion that there are just no better stories than those that involve a bit of true life.

If you like my books, please review on Amazon or Goodreads. Subscribe for notifications on future new releases!

Links:

www.mandycolton.com

www.cavalcadepress.com
The book is Free on Kindle and Nook During the Tour
Amazon Author Page –  https://www.amazon.com/Mandy-Colton/e/B00X1MMJ2Q/
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13894995.Mandy_Colton
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/mandycoltonfiction
Twitter - https://twitter.com/mandycoltonfic
Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/mandycoltonfict/mandy-colton-fiction/

The first cold of the season

Today we woke up to a minus zero temperature. That's quite unusual for the end of November, when you may expect some 7-8 degrees Celsius. It's still quite cold now and for tonight it's going to freeze even more.

Well, I don't mind. The sky is blue and the sun is out. You can dress against cold. Besides, I never feel cold when it's freezing. I only feel chilled when it's raining and there is a lot of humidity in the air.

I was out this afternoon and really enjoyed my walk. Because of my short hair I was wearing a hat, but I didn't put on gloves. Also don't dress in thick pullovers. No need for that. I've got a warm jacket (bought it years ago in Canada and it's still in prime condition) and didn't feel anything from the cold.

How's the weather where you are living?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Beauty and the Beast

Don't you agree that Beauty and the Beast is one of the most wonderful fairy tales ever told?

When I was a little girl and my grandma read this tale to me, my fantasy went in overtime. And of course, later on we could watch the animated film by Disney, with even later the musical version. I've seen them all.



And now there will be a film with Emma Watson as Belle, coming in 2017. I think the casting for this movie is great.

What drew me from the advance to this tale is the fact that Belle loves to read. I was just the same as a kid - an accident could happen right before my nose, but I wouldn't see it because I was deep into a story. I didn't like to play outside a lot. Sometimes I climbed into a tree and stayed there perched on a branch, reading away until the other kids decided to go home.

In the Beast's castle Belle discovers the library - a dream to everyone who loves books! Oh, I'm already looking forward to seeing this film!

I don't know if anyone still remembers the French version of this fairy tale? La Belle et La Bête - once a black-and-white film. I remember all of us (the other girls in my class) swooned when we watched this film. Not everyone had a TV set at that time, so my best friends were invited to our place to watch.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

For all my American readers: happy Thanksgiving! Don't let the turkey burn and enjoy your meal.



Here in Belgium we don't have Thanksgiving. For us it's just an ordinary day - although... Not quite ordinary! My sister had an accident while cutting carrots (tip of the finger cut off) and now she's incapacitated. Which means I have to do everything! Now slicing, cutting etc. is not my forte - I always get complaints the cubes are too big. But I had to finish cutting away those carrots + onion for the soup, and then bring it to cook. A bit later this afternoon I have to start slicing mushrooms for today's dinner. Gosh, I hate to cook! I can do it, but I really don't like it.

And I'll also have to clean out the pots and pans - grr!

I often wish I had a house full of servants, who would care to my every desire. Meaning, THEY would do the housekeeping and let me concentrate on my writing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Preparing for Chrismas

Coming Saturday it's exactly 4 weeks before Christmas (and my sister's birthday). So time to check what kind of Christmas decoration we're going to use this time.

I don't like a real tree, as it sheds needles - and anyway, we wouldn't be able to pick one up on foot or by bike. The artificial ones are just - artificial. So we like to go for something which is beautiful to the eye. Last year during our trip to Copenhagen (Denmark) we saw nice decorations, but as we only had hand-luggage we couldn't bring it home.

This afternoon we've been in some shops, but all the decorations looked rather trashy. Hopefully we'll be able to find something in the DIY shop tomorrow. We have an antique stable with (very) old figurines, but that's not near enough. We've also filled some glass containers with colored balls. We have reindeer from Alaska, but something is still lacking. A nice wooden construction in which you can attach balls and figurines, that'd be great (that's what we saw in Copenhagen). But up to now we haven't come across one.



This is kind of what I'd like. I found this picture on the net but alas, they don't sell these in Dendermonde!

If we don't find something similar, we have to go to the floral shop, to buy a nice decoration there. You'd only use it once, though. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Online booking

Ever since the internet came into existence, my sister and I have done our bookings online. Up to now we never had a bad experience.

Of course, you need to be careful. Some online offers seem to be good to be true, so it's best you stay far away from them. That is the main reason why I don't put a lot of trust on sites like Booking.com or any other site that offers hotel stays. Too many times I've heard from people who had made a booking through one of these services, then arrived at the chosen hotel to hear there was something wrong with the booking - or once the hotel even didn't exist anymore!

I prefer to book directly with the hotel. When their prices vary from those of the likes of Booking.com, just mention you've seen a better deal. They'll lower their price as well. Also, with hotel chains, loyalty pays. We often stay at Hilton hotels and this way we built up a nice sum of points. With them, you can book a stay for free! We've already had a free 4-day-stay in Amsterdam and more recently we had an entire suite for free.

When you want to book airplane tickets, it's like a game. For overseas destination, it's good to book about 10 months in advance. You'll pay directly for the tickets, but they will be way lower than when you book later on. For instance, we had a look at the airfares for Buenos Aires. At the moment we looked the lowest fare was 2,400 € for two people. That was in 2015. But when we actually booked the tickets earlier this year, we only paid 1,700 € (including annulation insurance). For flights in Europe, you just have to wait until the airline announces a reduction. Sometimes you can fly to destinations inside Europe for just 39 €! Beats Ryan Air. We mostly travel with Brussels Airlines or any other airline that is in the Miles & More program. For 10,000 miles you can travel for free.

Care to share your experience with online booking?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Frustration

I'm feeling a bit frustrated because I've been spending more than a week online trying to find a restaurant in Budapest which will be open on Christmas Eve.

We'd planned a trip to Budapest, Hungary but we couldn't imagine everything would be closed for the Christmas period. I didn't think Hungary was a catholic country. Hell, even in Spain and Italy you'd find restaurants open for business on these days - also in our own country.

So we still don't know if we are going to continue with this trip. Most of the businesses, museums etc. will be closed as well. We can cancel the hotel without penalty. We'd only lose the airplane tickets, but these were cheap, so not so important (and you are paid back the taxes - found this out some time ago when we had to cancel another trip).

2016 has been a year in which many things didn't go as planned. The terrorist attacks on Brussels airport, a concert that was cancelled, the fire at the Paris theater Mogador.... Hopefully 2017 will be less eventful!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Home-made apple compote

Those who read my blog on a regular basis will know by now we often use the Thursday afternoon for cooking.

Some time ago we gathered fallen apples near the railroad. There are a couple of apple trees on the hard shoulder of the tracks, and this land is more or less no man's land. Actually, it belongs to the railways, but they don't seem to know it and say it's ours (and that of my neighbors). So we all asume we can collect the apples, right?

We have a whole bunch of them in our cellar (cellars are quite good for keeping food, like fruits, potatoes, onion, ...) and  this afternoon we decided to make a bunch of compote. Once ready, we freeze it in handy portions.



The principle is quite simple: skin the apples, remove the core and cut into pieces - bigger or smaller, according to the need. Then add some water, sugar and cinnamon. Let it stew on a low fire until it's ready.

The finer compote is great as an additon for cakes, desserts etc., while the one with chunks is ok to eat. Some recipes are great with apple compote, like black tripe, or chicken. We mostly eat it with vegetarian hamburgers (grilled and with fried onion added) and grilled potatoes (not baked, just slices of potato put under the grill).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Angel Boy

Hello! Come and meet author Annalisa Russo who's doing a book blast tour for her latest publication. Angel Boy is a historical romance (20th century) available from Wild Rose Press.

Annalisa will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during this tour. Please use the following link to place your comment: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2026


Blurb

Private Investigator Meg Cavelli wonders why her traitorous family has trotted out the fatted calf for Seth Truitt, the boy who left her flat eight years ago. Now he’s back, sexier than she remembers, and needs her help. How can Meg accept Seth’s no-strings-attached deal in return for bringing a deranged predator to justice, when their steamy attraction to each other might very well get in the way?

Army Air Corps pilot Seth Truitt needs help to erase his dark-stained past, but soon realizes helping Meg Cavelli solve a dogged criminal case in return for salvaging his military career might be more dangerous than flying P-26 fighters for USAAC. But since Seth has no intention of letting Meg go again, he’ll stop at nothing to keep her safe from the twisted, unnatural threat they dubbed “the monster” as kids.

As the mystery unfolds, joining their minds and hearts might be the only way to stay alive.




Excerpt

Seth Truitt stood on the street in front of the only home he remembered. The autumnal drizzle of mid-October wet his thick mop of brown hair and plastered the starched shirt of his uniform against his skin. He turned back, grabbed his leather flight jacket and small duffel bag off the back seat, and paid the Yellow Cab hackie.   

As the cab sped away he let the sight of Bellaluna sink in, soothe. 

Bellaluna, beautiful moon in Italian, the ancestral home of the Cavelli family—people who took him in—raised him really—a place for family, for love, and now for sanctuary, he thought. 

His Army Air Corps-issued boots crunched gravel underfoot on the long walk to the back yard. The overspent blooms of summer stretched proudly upward from terra cotta pots set on the flagstone portico. Faith’s attempt at a green thumb—his sister, Doctor Faith Cavelli now, and only living blood relative. 

Two automobiles were parked out front. One vehicle he hadn’t recognized—a snazzy, brand-new Buick Coupe in hot red. Maybe from Gabriel Cavelli’s auto and motorbike collection. Gabe…one of his titulary uncles. 

The three Cavelli brothers: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, named after the archangels by their overly optimistic mother; Michael, proverbial head of the family, shrewd, astute businessman; Raphael, globe-trotting archaeologist, now curator of the Field Museum; and Gabriel, confrontational, Harley-riding badass, self-made entrepreneur.

He wasn’t related to any of them by blood… but he was by heart, by love.


Author bio and links

Annalisa Russo is a Midwest girl who grew up in an overpopulated first-generation Italian family in the burbs of Chicago, the setting for her historical romance novels based in the 20th century.
Her first series will be completed with the release of Angel Boy, the fourth book of The Cavelli Angel Saga. The series chronicles the lives of Italian immigrants in the 1920’s and 30’s. Along with a passion for reading and writing, Annalisa enjoys gardening, cooking for company, and frequently invents reasons for traveling. The mother of two grown children, she inherited a narcissistic tabby named Buster who really runs the show.



Buy links:
Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Boy-Cavelli-Saga-ebook/dp/B01M16JAG1
Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/angel-boy-4
All Romance Ebooks:   https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-angelboy-2114596-367.html
BookStrand:   https://www.bookstrand.com/Angel-Boy

Sites:
Website: http://www.annalisarusso.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnalisaRussoAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RussoAuthor
Goodreads:  https://goodreads.com/author/show/6453898.Annalisa_Russo