Thursday, June 30, 2016

Special Levels of Earthly Hell

Quite a coincidence - I have a guest author today, who writes in the same genre as the BBC1 series "The Living and the Dead". Those who like this genre of horror, should pay attention!!!

Merry Freer is eager to tell you something about her book - and you can also win a $20 Amazon or BN gift card via rafflecopter (code underneath):

The novel she's written is Special Levels of Earthly Hell. The main character is Drew Collins, who experiences the world in black and white. As an educated man of science, he rejects belief in the paranormal and the existence of demons. Until an evil energy he calls 'the Beast' repeatedly enters his bedroom and takes possession of his wife's body.... What he witnesses at night in his own bedroom, he cannot reconcile with science. And yet he sees it with his own eyes, feels it presence - ominous and evil - with his entire being. Against every instinct, Drew reaches out for help. It is not just his marriage on stake. The evil force has invaded his wife's family, tearing them apart and culminating in bloodshed and murder. Drew must face a stark choice: sacrifice his belief that the world is a rational place and fight an entity he doesn't understand and is unable to label, or abandon his wife and her family.

As the author herself says: Sadly, the most frightening and brutal events in this book are factual. The story is loosely based on one family's experience with multiple tragedies, some of them "ripped from the headlines." It is also an excruciatingly factual account of one man's experience with a loved one who is possessed by a demonic presence. However, it transcends genre and is as much a tale of romance, of cultural barriers, of abuse, and of family drama, as it is of demonic possession.The link between the introduction of an evil spirit and the heartbreaking misfortunes that are visited on the family is left for the reader to decide.

An excerpt:

Drew sat up straight and turned to her. He needed to see her eyes, her reaction to his experience. Almost imperceptibly he shook his head and took a deep breath. Then, surprising even himself, he poured out his story of the frightening drama unfolding in his home. He described the visions, the fear, and his most ridiculously implausible visitor. It came in the night, he told her, on multiple occasions, and appeared to possess Adriana. He described how it spoke through her, threatened him, threatened their marriage and the children.

“The presence has become a part of my life,” he said, “an unwelcome visitor in my own bedroom at night. I don’t know what to call it. I understand that in Judeo-Christian belief it might be thought of as a demon, a devil sent to defy their God. But I’m not a believer, so how do I name it? How do I label something I don’t understand? I can’t give it a name that identifies it as a specific entity to Christians. I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in God and so I don’t believe in the devil or demons. I had an experience. That’s how I identify it. And I honestly don’t know what to do about it. I get that it’s not a battle of strength. It’s a battle of wills. But I don’t understand its intention – what it will take to make it go away.”

The author also likes to share her views on what's the difference between reality and fiction.

It’s a blurry line when it comes to a book about demonic possession. The main character in my latest book, “Special Levels of Earthly Hell,” is a real person. He is also an atheist, yet he claims to have witnessed the phenomenon. He’s a pretty trustworthy guy too, not known for exaggeration or practical jokes. Besides, I saw the look in his eyes and heard the catch in his voice when I interviewed him. He saw something.
As an author, writing about actual events and real characters has both an upside and a downside. The upside is that the story and characters have already been developed. It then becomes the author’s job to tell the story in an interesting manner and to do it justice. The downside is that the story and characters have already been developed. Wait. Didn’t I just list that as a plus? Yep. Characters and story lines that are not fictional are more rigid and the writer has an obligation not to stray too far from reality. There’s not a lot of wiggle-room for tweaking events or embellishing.
This is where the interesting little disclaimers of “based on” and “inspired by” come to save the day for the author. “Based on” requires the author to stick as close to the truth as possible, changing only that which enhances the reading or movie-watching experience for the viewer/reader. Time might be compressed, locations might be changed, and dialogue is manufactured while still being kept true to the story. “Inspired by” tips the truth scale for the author and what began as a true story can find characters added and deleted, facts stretched for greater entertainment, or events added to fill gaps in the author’s knowledge of the original story. Some “inspired by” stories stray more than others, depending on the author’s intention to make the story more interesting or the requirement to clarify the unknown.
I have written two fact-based books (one a memoir in the true crime genre and the other an “inspired by actual events” paranormal story). “Special Levels of Earthly Hell” was inspired by actual events. I felt compelled to use this disclaimer because there are a couple of years in the factual story that are unaccounted for by my sources and the story would not be coherent without an explanation. Also, I was unable to interview a few of the characters and used the point of view or conjecture provided by other characters. I felt a degree of frustration in feeling compelled to use the “inspired by” disclaimer because the meaty part of the story, the dark and creepy, gruesome and frightening parts were expressed to me by the character who experienced them as very real. Other events are supported by court documents. But, in my personal opinion, the portions that were invented for the sake of writing a story with a cohesive timeline or embellished due to lack of knowledge of the actual event, required the use of the “inspired by” disclaimer.
I invite any of the readers of “Special Levels of Earthly Hell” to inquire by e-mail ( about which parts of the story were “inspired” and which were expressed by my sources as absolute truth. I’m guessing readers will be surprised.
And while I’m on this subject, there is a great deal of frustration on the part of the author when a reviewer gives a poor review because he/she doesn’t think a character in a primarily nonfiction story handled a situation properly, or acted and reacted in ways that don’t make sense to the reader. It’s a real story, folks! Authors can’t make a real character in a true story do something they didn’t do because it makes more sense to the reader. The characters’ poor decisions or the crazy situations in which they find themselves are what made it an interesting story in the first place. Just something thing to think about the next time you read a story that is “based on” or “inspired by” the truth.

Author bio and links:

Merry Freer is an author of memoir and fact-based fiction. “Special Levels of Earthly Hell: The Story of One Family’s Chilling Struggle with Demonic Possession”  was inspired by actual events that were experienced by her nuclear and extended families, tearing relationships apart and making national news headlines. This book comes on the heels of her first book, a memoir named “Doctor, Doctor.”  While "Doctor, Doctor" is her debut novel, she has been a writer and editor for many years, including work with the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego Hall of Champions. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from San Diego State University and has been a featured speaker for classes dealing with medical ethics.

Her controversial memoir, "Doctor, Doctor," topped the Best Seller List in True Crime/White Collar Crime for 10 months and received a "Best Books of 2014" award from "Suspense Magazine."

Visit her Facebook Page at


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Drop Dead Handsome

Authors M.K. Scott (husband and wife) are dropping by to promote their novel, Drop Dead Handsome, a cosy mystery from the Painted Lady Inn Mystery series. The books are published by Sleeping Dragon Press.

For this occasion, the authors are giving away a prize to multiple winners such as $50 Amazon Gift Cards, $15 Target or Groupon Gift Cards and other GCs and books to randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Here is the link:


The Painted Lady Inn is open for business and limping along in the B and B world. A high school reunion package assembles Donna’s least desirable classmates, including the backstabbing cheerleader, her narcissistic high school crush, and Arnie, whose cheesy poem had everyone calling her, hot mama. It’s all something she liked to forget. These are the normal guests.

An octogenarian self-proclaimed sleuth, Father Christmas, a dognapping couple, and a pair who is copying everything in the Inn to set up their own competitive establishment rounds out the group. Maria, the sister-in-law, has a matchmaking agenda for Donna. Daniel, her brother, finds himself serving as a referee with one guest’s multiple wives.

High school reunions can be murder. Detective Mark Taber is on the trail of the murderer, when he isn’t interfering in a smitten Arnie’s determined bid to woo the no nonsense innkeeper.


“Hello. Welcome to The Painted Lady Inn. Thanks for choosing the Lady for your weekend getaway.” She held the smile in place, questioning her choice of a name for her bed and breakfast. Daniel remarked it sounded like something out of a horror movie, as if it would come to life.

The woman didn’t answer, but took two more steps closer, then placed her bag on the floor. “I’m glad to be here before the sun sets.”

“You made it.” Her cheeks were starting to ache from continually smiling. Well, that and acting like a genial innkeeper. Why couldn’t she’d just be normal Donna Tollhouse?

“Yes, yes, I did.” The woman glanced around the foyer that had several open doors to the front parlor, library, and dining room. Her lips pursed as her eyes flicked upward.

No dust anywhere and the floors gleamed where they weren’t covered by a floral runner. 

“May I have your name, please?”

The woman gave a nervous laugh, which seemed out of place.

“Lorena, Lorena Fitzgerald.”

Convenient, since she was the first name on the list. Her hand gripped the heavy reunion basket and held it out to Lorena. “Compliments of the inn for your stay.” The woman’s French tipped manicured hand wrapped around the basket handle beside Donna’s. “Enjoy the reunion.”

Lorena’s eyes widened. “There’s a reunion? What type?”

Donna had relinquished the basket unaware that her guest didn’t merit it. Too late to take it back too, especially since the woman was now poking through it making pleasurable noises. With her luck, the couple out antiquing would hear about it and expect one too. Well, she did have a couple cases of Reunion Red.

“Ah yes, the local high school is having a reunion. Thirty-one years.”

Lorena fanned her free hand in front of her as if overcome by the thought of a reunion. “Thirty-one years. Goodness, I’ve only been out of school barely twenty years.”

Taking a page from Detective Taber’s book, she ran a hand over her face, hoping to hide her smirk. Okay, the woman looked good, but not that good. A woman in her thirties would wear something a little more playful, edgy, or even more casual. The shoes and sweater set declared her mid-forty. Once she recovered her innkeeper face, she dropped her hand.

Author bio and links

M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach.  Morgan’s daughter who manages a hotel provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog.  Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.

Social Media

Buy Links

Forthcoming on KOBO, iTunes & Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Clean bill of health

This afternoon, I got the results of my six-monthly check-up at the doctor's. And hurray, everything is fine! All levels (of blood, sugar, cholesterol) are lower than the previous check-up - which means I must be doing well.

Now I just have to keep up sticking to my daily routine of breakfast (not always bread, and not too much sugary stuff), soup for lunch, and diner including lots of vegetables.

And yes, I do admit I eat a piece of (dark) chocolate every now and then (I just can't do without chocolate!) and sometimes indulge in having pancakes or icecream. My doctor claims it's a good thing; you can't deny yourself everything.

I've developed a liking for vegetarian as well, and look forward to these days when we eat veggie. We already have a big variety of recipes. I find that, after having had a vegetarian meal, I don't often feel hungry anymore. When I eat fish or meat with vegetables, it happens I get a littly hungry only hours after I've eaten.

Up to the next 10-20-30- .... years? (I wouldn't mind becoming one hundred, if my mind remains sane.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wizzard with a ball

Well, I'm not euphorious most of the time, but today I can't but praise Eden Hazard for what he did in yesterday night's football match in Toulouse!

The captain of the Red Devils showed the world how well he can play the ball. He dribbled, he whirled around the field  - and finally made a goal for the national team. (This was not the only one, of course, we won against Hungary with FOUR goals!)

Now it' up against Wales next Friday. The match will be in Lille, where Hazard has played a long time, so it will be quite a home match. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Afternoon in town

As the sun was still shining around 2 pm, we decided to head into town (on foot) to do some browsing in shops for items we need. Chris wanted to find some steel wire and other utensils to remake a necklace I bought last year in France (and which got in such a tangle that we can't get it loose again). We also wanted to see if we could find a new holder for toilet paper in an interior design shop, which has not so long ago come to our town.

We found what we needed. As we were heading back, we met an old colleague + hubby, and so we all went (as is typical for Flemish people) to a tearoom to have coffee there with pancakes. When we said goodbye, and walked back home, the skies began to darken once more. We were just inside when rain came slashing down, followed by a nice thunderstorm.

But all in all, it was a nice afternoon!

Friday, June 24, 2016

From one extreme into another

As the political news is not very interesting (Brexit all day) we can better talk about the weather - as we so often do when getting together. Although... nowadays soccer will come in at a good second place (our Belgian team is playing 1/8 finals).

Last week, you had to wear a pullover to keep warm. And then all of a sudden, the weather turned and it became hot. Today is not so hot as yesterday, but anyway it's nice weather for a barbecue (ribs, yummie!). As soon as my sister gets home from work, we'll have the BBQ going.

At the same time, this hot weather causes heavy thunderstorms. Here in Dendermonde (East Flanders) we often escape. Older people say this is because of the nearness of the two streams, Dender and Schelde. And they are probably right, as I've often seen it rain very hard in Hamme or Grembergen (across the bridge) and then when you went over the bridge, everything was dry in Dendermonde.  The water wards off the most heavy of storms. We had some rain and some light thundering (more in the distance), that's all.

Let's hope the weather will become more stable once July starts.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Good habbits can save your life

This morning, when turning on my computer, I got the message I've a doctor's appointment tomorrow.

Now, I remember well enough when I need to be somewhere, but for all certainty I put it in my electronic diary.

I'm not often ill, but I go to see my doctor at least twice a year to have a check-up. Same with the dentist. As a result, I still have all my own teeth (and quite healthy ones) and my general health is not bad either.

It pays to have regular check-ups. Especially when you're "blessed" with a genetic tendency for high blood pressure and high sugar levels. And more especially when you have a heart that beats a bit too fast - spent a lot of time with the heart surgeon, who told me I shouldn't pay too much attention (ahum!) and must try to avoid stress. Well, I try to and the last months the heartbeat has slowed down somewhat. It is imperial though, that I keep my weight under control and see to it the levels in my blood are acceptable. Therefore I go to see my local GP who takes my blood and samples of urine and of course also checks heart, lungs, etc.

I'm 60 and hope to continue for some time more. My dad died aged 64 (!) but he never had regular check-ups. And my mother died of veins that didn't allow blood through any longer, because she kept no control of what she ate. Too much butter, too much fat meat.

My sister and I do care for all of this and we want to live as healthy as possible, without denying ourselves some fun. We can indulge in a sweet dessert, as long as it doesn't happen too much. And we try to prepare healthy dishes (also vegetarian ones) in which we have a great variety in what we eat - fish, red meat without much fat, poultry, lots of vegetables, only wholegrain bread and pasta.

In recent years, I've been losing weight and am almost back to my teenage figure. Well, it's a costly affair because I have to buy new pants and skirts all the time. But I pay gladly, because I look better when weighing less!

And what about you? Do you take regurlar check-ups?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How will the British decide?

Tomorrow is D-Day for Great-Britain, as the population can vote to stay inside the EU or leave it. As up to now, it's indecisive how the vote will go. It depends on region, on age-groups, on education levels.

Some think leaving the EU will be better for the UK, others argue they'll lose income when they leave.

In Europe, it is largely believed the British could better stay in. But the EU itself needs change. The system doesn't really work (well, since the EU was created, everything just got more expensive for us and even more since the Euro was in use). They should go to a more federal level, according to EU  officials.

In my opinion, not much would change if Great-Britain made its exit. Sure, some companies who deal with the UK could pay higher import rights. And products from the UK would become more expensive. On the other hand, the pound would devaluate, which would make trips to the UK less expensive...

So I'm wondering how the vote will go. What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Song of the Oceanides

Today's guest is author J.G. Zymbalist. He's doing a virtual book tour for Song of the Oceanides - a highly experimental triple narative transgenre fantasy that combines elements of historical fiction, YA, myth and fairy-tale, scienc fiction, paranormal romance, and more. Suited for ages 10-110!

You, as a reader, also have a chance to win a $50 Amazon/BN gift card, if you leave a comment via rafflecopter. Here's the link;

An excerpt:

Blue Hill, Maine.
3 August, 1903.

From the moment Emmylou heard the song of the Oceanides, she recognized something godly in the tune.  As it resounded all across the desolate shoreline of Blue Hill Bay, she recalled the terrible chorus mysticus ringing all throughout that extinct Martian volcano the day her father went missing down in the magma chamber.

Aunt Belphœbe followed along, guiding Maygene through the sands.  “Why don’t you go play in that shipwreck over there?”  Aunt Belphœbe pointed toward a fishing schooner run aground some fifty yards to the south.

When Maygene raced off, Emmylou refused to follow.  By now the chorus of song tormented her so much that an ache had awoken all throughout her clubfoot.  Before long she dropped her walking stick and fell to the earth.  Closing her eyes, she dug both her hands into the sands and lost herself in memories of the volcano.  How could Father be gone?  Though he had often alluded to the perils of Martian vulcanology, she never imagined that someone so good and so wise could go missing.

The song of the Oceanides grew a little bit louder and increasingly dissonant.

Opening her eyes, Emmylou listened very closely.  The song sounded like the stuff of incantation, witchcraft.  And even though she could not comprehend every word, nevertheless she felt certain that the Oceanides meant to cast a spell upon some unfortunate soul.

About the author:

The author is happy to answer some question about his book:

Have you ever had an imaginary friend?
No.  I was always very introverted and always had my head in the clouds and was always staring out the schoolroom window daydreaming, but I’ve always been the boring self-conscious version of that sort of person.   For me, an imaginary friend would’ve been something of an embarrassment.  Ideas must be constructive and used in a meaningful real-world way—i.e. storytelling.

Do you have any phobias?
Spiders.  They’re prominent too in Song of the Oceanides.   Part of the tale takes place in New Mexico where there are plenty of big freaky crab spiders fiddling about.  Anyway that’s where my Martian characters end up, and the spiders regularly unnerve them.  It’s all quite harrowing because I poured my own fear of spiders into my fragile Martian girl character, Emmylou.

Do you listen to music when you're writing?
No.  I prefer white noise—usually a fan in the summer or a sleep mate in the winter.  The only time I listen to music while working is when I’m tearing apart a notebook or idea book and rearranging notes and ideas so as to construct a story or upcoming chapter.  That seems like a good time to have music playing.  I prefer Ravi Shankar in those moments or sometimes Japanese koto music or Satie’s soothing early piano music.  I also like Chinese-dulcimer music. Thanks to You Tube, it’s easy to find whatever sort of music you want.

Do you ever read your stories out loud?
No, I’m too quiet and introverted.  Also I write in a way that is lucid and easy to understand; as such there is no need to read out loud.  There are books like Ulysses which must be read out loud (at least in certain passages) in order for the meaning to be made clear.  But I don’t write in that high-falutin’ way.  I prefer absolute simplicity, and simplicity does not require reading aloud.

Tell us about your main character and who inspired him/her.

Song of the Oceanides is a triple narrative, and there is a great deal of me in the two male point-of-view characters, Rory and Giacomo.   I poured my own fragile childhood (and my own experiences with school bullying) into young Rory, and I poured my own adult misadventures and failed romances into Giacomo, the comic-book artist.  The real question for me is where did my Martian girl point-of-view character, Emmylou, come from.  In some sense, she’s a tribute to the sort of quirky characters that often populate science fiction and fantasy.  She’s my Alice, and my Wonderland is turn-of-the-century steampunk America.

Bio and links:

J.G. Źymbalist began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house.

The author returned to the piece while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005.  He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.

For more information, please see

NOTE:  The book is now permafree on all sellers.  Here are the buy links :

Cleaning up brings back memories

This afternoon, because of the dreadful weather (rain, rain and more!) I kept myself busy by cleaning up drawers and cupboards. In the drawers of my desk, I found lots of things - forgotten for so many years.

Some I'll keep, others I just threw away in the garbage.

But it's nice to find back things you even don't remember! Some old jewelry (yeah, really) bought for me by my dad (rings that don't fit anymore), old cards for railway travel (not valid anymore), cold booklets with addresses of people you haven't seen in 30-40 years, ....

Even a USB stick I don't recall ever having! Wonder what's on it (need to check - when nothing important, I can use it for other purposes). And old watches galore. I wonder why we tend to keep eveything for so long?

In recent years, I throw away items much more easily. Guess that has to do with growing older and realizing what is important and what not.

What about you?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where have our summers gone?

When I was a little kid, summers were guaranteed to have sunny weather and nice temperatures. You could leave off your socks once it was May and walk in sandals or just barefoot. You did not need a warm coat, only a light vest occasionally. And you could go swimming in the big pond not far away (which was still allowed in those times). You just put on a bathing suit, hopped out of your house and jumped into the water. Summer fun for everyone.

But the last 10 years... I believe the really good summer dates back to 2003. (I should look it up, I keep a weather oversight from all summers past.) Last year it was nothing much, only the days spent in the south of France and Rome were great (temperatures in the high 30's, sometimes even 40°C). The year before, just the same.

And now... It has been rainy and even cold. Our heating turns on every now and then, having our thermpstate set on 20°C. Sometimes the temperature drops below. And it's June! When I look out of the window, the skies are grey and it looks like rain once more.

It's so depressing! And the forecasts are not good. More of the same the coming days.

How's the weather where you live?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Guest blog: Mark Spivak on "Friend of the Devil"

Author Mark Spivak is on a promo tour for his culinary thriller Friend of the Devil (Black Opal Books) and so I have him over to do a guest blog. Here's what Mark thinks what becoming an author involves:

I started mentoring beginning writers about a year ago, and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and starting investigating writer’s groups in my area (South Florida). Almost exclusively, they were structured as group critique situations, which didn’t make much sense to me: if you’re a beginner, I don’t believe you’re going to benefit much from the advice of other beginners.
What I ended up doing was working with an established writer’s group, and creating a Meetup tailored to the mentoring concept. Participants send me work ahead of time via email, and they receive an intensive one-on-one critique at the session. We get together an average of twice each month, and have attracted aspiring writers ranging from poets to novelists to creators of children’s books.
A number of consistent patterns have emerged. Most of the people who show up are beginners with terrific ideas and sloppy executions. Many of them haven’t studied formally and lack training in grammar, sentence structure and point of view. A great many of them are hampered by time constraints (either job or family) that limit the amount of time they can focus on writing. The most common scenario, unfortunately, is that talented people tend to stop coming when they realize how difficult it really is to become a writer.
The question I invariably end up asking them is whether they are writing to express themselves, or whether their goal is to have other people read their work. Either course of action is fine. Whether someone is writing for therapy or whether they really want to go the distance, my role is the same: I want to help them learn the craft and find their own voice.

Probably the most disturbing trend I’ve noticed is the current reliance on self-publishing. It turns into a shortcut for many people, a way of avoiding putting in the effort to make a piece of work as good as it can be. Rather than agonize and slave over it until it’s perfect, they pay Joe the printer to print it for them. This is a workable solution for some people (a person who wants to record their memoir for their children and grandchildren, for example), but for someone who really wants to be a writer it can short-circuit their career.

Now, some info about the novel, Friend of the Devil. Btw, Mark is giving away a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly chosen reader. So don't forget to leave a comment via rafflecopter. Here's the link:


In 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.


Several years after the opening of Chateau de la Mer, the triumvirate of Avenzano, Walsh and Ross appeared to be one big happy family, although there were rumors of strains in the relationship. One night, at the height of the Festival of Champagne, there was an incident. Ross, a notorious womanizer, was sipping Cristal with a redhead at the restaurant’s corner table. His wife slipped through the front door of the mansion, unannounced. Walking slowly through the dining room, past the Medieval memorabilia and dramatic cast-iron griffins, she strolled up to Ross’s table, took a revolver from her evening bag, and calmly shot him through the heart.

The ensuing chaos did more to establish Joseph Soderini di Avenzano in the American imagination than his designer pasta, his Bedouin-stuffed poussin, his recipes transposed from Etruscan or Old Genoese, or his library of 10,000 cookbooks. This was more than a good meal, after all. This was sex and death in Palm Beach. Even more intriguing was the Chef’s refusal to comment on Ross after his death, except for informal and effusive eulogies in his famous baritone.

“Watch that Cristal,” David’s friend Bill Grimaldi told him before he left Manhattan to do an assigned story on the 25th anniversary of Chateau de la Mer. “It’s a killer.”

Author bio and info

Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on He is the holder of the Certificate and Advanced diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.

 Amazon author page URL    

Barnes and Noble Author URL

Soup, anyone?

Some days, our kitchen resembles a soup factory. The reason for it: we lunch on soup five times a week, so we need a lot of variety. Today, we're making a double ration because our soup has nearly all gone.

Normally, we make a big pot of soup (any kind) which we then divide in portions for two. We freeze these and use them when we like. That's why we have two freezers in the house...

The favorite soup in Belgium is tomato soup with little meat balls. I also like it, but it's not my favorite. I'd go for mushroom-chervil soup or asparagus soup. I equally like peasoup with little cubes of bacon in it. And onion soup with cheese (French manner).

What kind of soup do you like?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Genealogy research

More or less twenty years ago, I had lots of spare time and was easily bored, so I started some research into the family history. Before I knew it, I was completely immersed in genealogical research, which brought me to various parts of the country. In those days, you had to drive to each and every village or town's archive and look up data. When you were lucky, you were offered a cup of coffee (tea) and sometimes you even got a cookie!

I managed to go as far back as the 16th century for most of my ancestors at father's side. I already know that my family name is not our real one. The first Moens was a foundling - a little baby found at the steps of a church in Brussels. He got the name of the priest who found him and took him in.

At that point in my research, work became more hectic and I had no longer time to drive around the country. After a while I completely quit my research.

But now, so many years later, all the data have been digitalised and are in a databank. So I've registered and will continue my research online. A lot needs to be looked up at mother's side, and I'm going to try to get even further back than the 16th century.

Anyone else who does this kind of research?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Finding my way around the new features of Windows 10

Today was a day I could not do much (had someone over to check my heating system) so I spent some time behind my pc.

I've told before I downloaded Windows 10 on my (rather) old computer. Well, this one dates back to 2005, just as old as my TV-set. Somtimes you are lucky in the equipment you buy - I had another pc which crashed after not even a year!

This morning I got a message that Live Mail would not longer be supported, and I should switch to the mail program included in Windows 10. No problem, but the older mails don't come through. I just hope they'll remain in the old program as long as I need them. I tend to keep mails like those of reservations and confirmations for as long as they are needed. Once the trip is completed, I delete this mail. So it will take me some months before I can completely remove Live Mail from my pc.

There are many more features in this Windows 10 that I still not know - even aren't aware of. For my a computer is handy, but not more than that. It's not my means of having a life.

How do you guys get along with all the changes? I'm 60 now, so I have seen and experienced many of them...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Girl Who Could Change Fate

Today, author Cassidy Ostergren is doing a book blast tour to promote the launch of her young adult fantasy novel: The Girl Who Could Change Fate (Creativa Publishing). Cassidy will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the following link to place your comment:


Lacey Joy White considers herself unremarkable in every way: she worries over choosing the right clothes, tries to maintain a D in chemistry, and spends nights creeping on her crush on Facebook. And she can alter the future.


As I had already been staring at Alex two rows away, I didn’t miss him cast a furtive glance in the teacher’s direction before erasing what appeared to be a name on the right side corner of a worksheet.  My name.  On my worksheet.  He didn’t even try to glimpse me as he scribbled his own name down and handed it forward.  Perhaps he knew he would see the expression of utter horror that was steadily warping my face.  I wouldn’t have wanted to see it either.
“Now, that worksheet will be counted as a quiz grade…” Mrs. Kramer began.

I didn’t listen.  Alex’s betrayal was gnashing at my insides with teeth of biting cruelty as bitter understanding of his intentions dawned upon me with all the force of a tidal wave.  I was suffocating under depths of cold reality, the truth more stinging than his actual actions—the truth that I was no more than a tool…that it was only illusion—an illusion I clung to nevertheless because it was all I could do.

Man, life can be a bitch.

I resisted the tears that clumped around my lashes, though the temptation to burst with them was more than enticing.  My hands balled into fists that I smashed upon my Macbeth book with dull thuds.  I didn’t really like that—Macbeth happened to be my favorite play of all time, as it made me recall how helpless the title character was in striving to avoid his Fate at all costs—a Fate he could not avoid.

Author info and links

Cassidy Ostergren was born and grew up in the DC metropolitan area. She attended Roanoke College in Salem, VA, where she majored in Creative Writing and English, and published several of her works in both the college and local magazines. She is currently a full-time novelist of YA fiction and lives on Oak Island, NC, where she enjoys taking walks on the beach with her dog and composing her newest stories.



EC disrupted by hooligans

Also seen the images of fighting 'supporters' in Marseille? A real shame! Not so long ago, my sister and I also were in Marseille, strode along the Quai des Belges at the old harbour. Never felt unsafe, not even at Friday or Saturday night. When in the UK, the streets around pubs are crowded with young men and women who drink themselves half dead. Even at the best of hotels, you'd hear them brawl and shout up to the early morning. Not so in Marseille.

But this weekend it will certainly have been something else. Football, a feast? What fun is there in fighting with other supporters, throwing bottles and bricks to the police?

I think the soccer union should ban all those countries whose supporters cause problems. Russia and England: OUT!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weekend: better than expected

We're away for a long weekend to the coast. We left yesterday around noon. The weather forecast was not too good, but we had to be at the flat to pick up some items we need for our trip to Venice (most of the summer stuff is kept there).

But it turned out better than expected. Yesterday it was quite sunny (although there was some wind). And also today, the sun broke through after a grey start of the day. There was practically no wind, so i quickly put in some washing and everything could dry outsided. I just got the last pieces in again.

Being at the coast is always nice, and always feels a bit like a holiday. It''s peaceful here and there's plenty of good air. And better still, there are many good restaurants around... We tried one yesterday evening which we hadn't visited before, and it was a nice experience.

Rain is predicted for tomorrow, but perhaps it will be better once more. Hopefully we can make something of that day as well.

And then it's back to work on Monday....

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The EC Soccer 2016 is about to kick off

It's becoming pretty hectic in France, as tomorrow the EC Soccer will start with the opening match France against Rumenia. Big security measures have been taken, and let's hope no attempt will be made to disrupt this championship.

Our national team, the Red Devils, are the number 2 in the world right now and normally you'd expect them to do well - perhaps win the Cup?

I must confess I'm not all that confident. But we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, our streets are coloring black-red-yellow and marketing is going strong. Some people even have postponed their holidays to be able to see all the matches!

Are there any soccer fans around? If so, what do they think? Who's going to win the EC?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Nice weather, but half of Belgium is under water

Weather can be so unpredictable! While West and East Flanders are enjoying lovely sunshine and high temperatures, other parts of the country suffer from heavy thunderstorms. The rain falls so heavy at places it causes flooding. The main reason for this is because many people have built homes in regions that were susceptible to flooding in the past (but who don't know right now).

Although... if you go and live in the 'Brook' street, or in 'Waterland' you should be aware that your feet could get wet!

But a Belgian is born with a brick in his/her stomach, so they all want a place of their own. And building ground have always been much cheaper at places where there are certain risks attached. Where we live, across the railroad lines, there used to be pasture. When rain fell heavy, this land went underwater, but all the rest remained dry. And some twenty years ago, city council allowed people to buy building permits there. So now there are quite some villa's... which get underwater every now and then.

Building is one of the main reasons why heavy floodings occur. Like 50 years ago, there were regions reserved for the extra water. But space is growing spare and so they are used. Also many roads are being laid, which causes more trouble.

I'm glad I live in a street where there has never been a problem, as it's a bit higher because of the railroad. 100 meter further, and you have water. The worst thing we ever had was that our garden was a lake with little ducks in it. But the water never entered our home, as the garden is low enough.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Summer holidays are coming up

Less than three weeks, and then most students (and teachers) have two long months of summer holidays. And the general holidays are mostly taken in this period as well.

So, what are your plans? Are you going on a trip - or are you afraid to travel abroad while there is still a possiblility of a terrorist attack?

I don't think it does any good to be afraid. So I definitely choose travelling. OK, when you want to spend your summer holidays abroad where do you go?

Do you head for an exotic beach?

Or rather prefer a city trip?

Personally, I'm not much for just idling along on a beach (wherever that may be) although I must confess I rather like the sun, now that I'm getting older. The reason is simple: when it's dry and warm I don't feel any pain in my bones. (Sometimes, when it's humid and it rains all the day, you could kill me when you just touch my fingers.) So we try and pick a destination in summer where nice weather is guaranteed.

This year we're heading for Italy once more, after having stayed in Marseille (France) already last month. Our destination is Venice. And later this summer, we're off to Sweden. Most of the time, the weather in Scandinavia is quite good, better than in Belgium anyway.

Please don't hesitate to share what your favorite destination is.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Falling for Sarah

Today's blog features Cate Beauman, author of Falling for Sarah, a novel of romantic suspense. Because she is promoting her work, Cate will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Please use the following link to place your comment, and have a chance to win:


Widow Sarah Johnson struggled to pick up the pieces after her life was ripped apart. After two years of grieving, she's found contentment in her thriving business as photographer to Hollywood's A-list and in raising her angel-faced daughter, Kylee... until bodyguard and long-time friend Ethan Cooke changes everything with a searing moonlight kiss.

Sarah's world turns upside down as she struggles with her unexpected attraction to Ethan and the guilt of betraying her husband's memory. But when blue roses and disturbing notes start appearing on her doorstep, she has no choice but to lean on Ethan as he fights to save her from a stalker that won't stop until he has what he prizes most.


Her eyes flew open, staring into his. “You startled me.” A smile played across her lips and faded. “What’s wrong?” She sat up straighter, breaking Kylee’s latch with her finger.

He tightened his grip on her hand, willing her to take all the strength he could give. “Sarah, there are some men waiting for you in the living room. They’re Marines.”

Her fingers clutched his before they went lax and the bright, bold blue of her eyes dimmed. “Okay,” she said dully. She stood, covering her breast and pulled Kylee close, automatically burping her.

He draped his arm around her shoulders, walking with her and the baby to the living room.

The men stood as they entered, and the officer stepped forward. “Mrs. Johnson, I’m Commander Michael Driggs. I’m here to regretfully inform you that your husband, Gunnery Sergeant Jake Johnson, was killed in action today at six thirty-four p.m., Afghanistan time. The United States Marine Corps is truly sorry for your loss and is proud of the service your husband provided our country.”

Sarah stared at the commander for several seconds before she slowly sat down on the couch.

Ethan sat beside her.

“Jake’s gone?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper. “He can’t be. He hasn’t held Kylee yet. He’s coming home in twenty-nine days to hold Kylee. He watched me give birth yesterday. He said he was coming home in four weeks.”

As Sarah’s face paled, Ethan swore he heard her heart shatter. In an instant, her bubbly vibrancy had been replaced with fragility, and he was afraid that if he touched her, she would break into a million pieces. He glanced at the man who now sat on the other side of Sarah. “Sir, Gunnery Sergeant Hunter Phillips is in Jake’s company. Is there any word on his welfare? He and Jake are—” He closed his eyes on a fresh wave of pain. “—were my childhood friends. Hunter is also very close to Sarah.”

Author bio and links

International bestselling author Cate Beauman is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense series, The Bodyguards of L.A. County. Her novels have been nominated for the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Golden Quill Award, Writers Touch Award, and have been named Readers Favorite Five Star books. In 2015, JUSTICE FOR ABBY was selected as the Readers' Favorite International Book Award Gold Medalist, while SAVING SOPHIE took the Silver Medal. SAVING SOPHIE was also selected as the 2015 Readers Crown Award winner for Romantic Suspense and FALLING FOR SARAH received the silver medal for the 2014 Readers' Favorite Awards.

Cate makes her home in North Carolina with her husband, two boys, and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack. Currently Cate is working on Deceiving Bella, the eleventh novel in her popular Bodyguards series.

For information on Cate's new releases, monthly giveaways, and upcoming events, sign up for her newsletter at:!newsletter-sign-up/c9td

You can follow Cate on Twitter @CateBeauman

Contact Cate:

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