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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


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.


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.... 


Amazon US
Facebook Author Page


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:


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?


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.

Spunk & Hunks blog:
Amazon Author Page:

Dangerous in a Kilt Buy Links:

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:


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.


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.

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Buy Links:
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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.” 

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.