February 21, 2014 • 3 Comments
Who doesn’t like an excuse for a holiday? While researching my series, I travelled to the south of England and of course encountered the cream tea. Nine times out of ten, it was a simple affair consisting of a cup of tea, one or two small scones, clotted cream, and maybe preserves. There was nothing overdone or fussy but everything was absolutely fresh. This wasn’t a huge surprise since, in some cases, the cows were literally in the back yard.
When I got home, I started to experiment with scone recipes to recreate the experience (minus the cow). I started with traditional Victorian recipes, but soon started doing my own thing. I came up with a recipe I really like for lemon cranberry scones, which balance the sweet and tart and still taste great with cream, butter or even plain greek yogurt (yes, I’m strange). Here you go:
2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
Cut in ¼ cup of butter
Make a well in the center and pour in the juice of one large lemon and enough milk so that the total volume of liquid is 2/3 cup
grated rind of one large lemon
½ cup dried cranberries
Knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface. Roll out until it’s about an inch thick and cut into 2 inch rounds with a floured cutter. Brush the tops with a little milk.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
For a traditional taste, omit the cranberries and lemon and use heavy cream for the liquid. Currants are also a nice addition.
February 16, 2014 • 1 Comment
Susan McCaskill, the seamstress who made my fabulous costumes, has many talents! It’s with great pleasure that I give a signal boost to her new, independently published children’s book, Penelope Parker: Witch in Training. It’s written for a young reading level, maybe about seven to ten depending on the reader. here’s the blurb:
Penelope Parker is a ten year old girl with a problem; she has just been expelled from school! Now what on earth could a ten year old girl have done that was serious enough to get her expelled?
Well, Penelope has special powers, the trouble is she can’t control them. Her father is a wizard and her mother Mundane, with no powers at all, so the powers Penelope inherited from her father are not balanced by those of her mother. This causes no end of catastrophes, one of which ends with Penelope being expelled.
From that time on, Penelope’s life was never to be the same. Follow her adventures and the scrapes she and Hecate, her talking cat get into, and the danger just around the corner.
and a link to Amazon: here
And here is Sue:
First, I’d like to thank Emma Jane Holloway for hosting me on her blog; it is much appreciated!
My book Penelope Parker: Witch in Training started rumbling around in my head a little over ten years ago. I played with it, wrote a couple of chapters, and made notes. Then Life intruded, and it sat collecting dust until last year, when I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and the book was not going to write itself. (It did, but that’s another story.)
Penelope herself is based loosely on me as a child. I was gangly, a square peg in a round hole, and was mercilessly bullied. I also saw things others didn’t, and I’m sure my mother worried about me!
Gillian Barrington-Smythe, the antagonist, is also based on a girl I knew at school. She came from a rich family, and was spoiled and used to getting her own way.
The other characters just emerged fully formed from the recesses of my brain, and I’m not sure where they came from!
The school Penelope was expelled from is also the school I went to in England, as is the headmistress. Unfortunately, the school no longer exists; there is a council estate there now.
I love the Harry Potter series, but I always felt that a few more strong female characters would have been good, so I set out to do just that. There aren’t too many books in the fantasy genre that have a female as the main character, so Penelope was born, partly from me, partly from fantasy.
All the main characters are female, and the only males in the book are the fathers, Gwyddion and Marcus, Hecate’s brother, Paddy, and Jacob. I think that will continue, at least for the next book, and we’ll see what happens after that. I’m already working on the second book and hope to have the first draft finished by April if all goes well.
About the author:
Susan (or Sue, as she prefers to be called), was born in post war England, and lived there until the age of nine, when she and her mother emigrated to Canada. Her father died when she was eight, and left a huge impression on her. Both her parents encouraged her to read, and learn. She has always believed in fairies and elves, and probably always will, and as a child, she saw things many others didn’t, and as a result she was thought to be a little strange.
Although she has been in Canada for so many years, she still misses the English and Welsh countryside, and because of this, her novel is based in the ancient, picturesque town of Betws-Y-Coed, and the surrounding countryside.
Sue lives on beautiful Vancouver Island, with her husband and her demanding cats.
February 14, 2014 • No Comments
New from steampunk author Melanie Karsak!
- A sabotaged airship.
- A recovering opium addict.
- A messenger with life-shattering news.
With the 1824 British airship qualifying race only weeks away, Lily Stargazer is at the top of her game. She’s racing like a pro, truly in love, and living clean. But on one ill-omened day, everything changes.
Pulled head-long into the ancient secrets of the realm, Lily soon finds herself embroiled in Celtic mysteries and fairy lore. And she’s not quite sure how she got there, or even if she wants to be involved. But Lily soon finds herself chasing the spirit of the realm while putting her own ghosts to rest. And only accepting the truth–about her heart and her country–can save her.
Begin the adventure with Chasing the Star Garden, The Airship Racing Chronicles I, available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Garden-Airship-Racing-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00GXUU6IC/
About the Author:
Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania where there wasn’t much to do but read books and go for hikes. She wrote her first novel, a gripping piece about a 1920s stage actress, when she was 12. Today, Melanie, a steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Melanie-Karsak/e/B009DKGKQG/
- Blog: http://melaniekarsak.blogspot.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelanieKarsak
- Email: [email protected]
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorMelanieKarsak
- Authorgraph: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/MelanieKarsak
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/melaniekarsak/
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6539577.Melanie_Karsak
A chartreuse-colored leaf fluttered down onto the wheel of the Stargazer. It was early morning. The mist covering the surface of the Thames reflected the rosy sunrise. Yawning, I reached out to brush it away only find it was not a leaf at all. Carefully, I balanced the fragile creature on the tip of my finger.
“Mornin’, Lil. Hey, what’s that?” Jessup called as he bounced onto the deck of the Stargazer.
Angus was cursing as he cranked out the repair platform below the ship. We were preparing for our morning practice run to Edinburgh.
“A luna moth,” I replied.
“I thought maybe you’d finally caught the green fairy,” Jessup joked as he climbed into the burner basket.
I grinned. The moth’s green wings, dotted with yellowish eyes, wagged slowly up and down. It was beautiful, but it was dying. “My mother once told me that they are fey things, that they live in the other realm until it’s their time to die. Then, they come to humans.”
“Why?” Jessup asked as he adjusted the valves. Orange flame sparked to life.
“She said that even enchanted things want to be truly loved at least once.”
“Don’t we all?” he replied with a laugh.
A harsh wind blew across the Thames, clearing the morning mist. It snatched the delicate creature from my hands. I tried to catch it, but the breeze pulled it from me even as it was dying. I lost it to the wind.
I sighed heavily as I picked up my tools then bounded over the side of the ship to the repair platform. I pulled out a dolly and rolled under, joining Angus who had fallen remarkably silent. The moment I saw the gear assembly on the Stargazer, I understood why.
“What the hell?” I whispered.
“Jessup!” I shouted. “Get the tower guards down here!”
“What’s wrong?” Jessup called.
“The Stargazer has been sabotaged!”
I stared at the mangled gears. From the saw marks on the gear assembly to the metal shrapnel blown around the galley, it was clear what had happened. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Seconds later I heard Jessup’s boots hit the platform and the sound of him running toward the guard station.
“They removed Sal’s torque mechanism. Sawed the bloody thing right off,” Angus said angrily.
“But . . . who?” I stammered.
“The Dilettanti?” Angus offered as he strained to examine the rest of the assembly.
“No,” I said as I touched the saw marks. The rough metal cut my finger. “That business is finished. Byron saw to that.” I stuck my bloodied finger in my mouth. The salty taste of blood mixed with the tang of gear grease.
“Someone who didn’t want us to race in the qualifying. Someone who wanted to learn what had us running so fast.”
We were less than a month out from the British qualifying. While there were other good race teams in the realm, no one raced better than us. After all, we were the champions of the 1823 World Grand Prix. My stunt in Paris had brought us heaps of acclaim, but not all our British competitors were impressed. Envy had set in.
“Grant?” Angus suggested.
Julius Grant, whose team was sponsored by Westminster Gas Light, was our greatest competition at home. He hated us. He was annoyed that we were sponsored by Byron, annoyed that I was female, and annoyed that we were faster than him. Grant was the most likely suspect. But he was not the only one. “Almost too obvious. What about Lord D?” I wondered aloud.
“He’d love to, but he doesn’t have the stones,” Angus replied. “Might be someone who doesn’t want us in the Prix. If they take us out during qualifying, we aren’t a threat abroad.”
“That means it could be anyone.”
“Hell, maybe one of Byron’s lovers took a stab at you.”
“But I’m not even romantically involved with him anymore.”
“The rest of the world doesn’t know that.”
I rolled out from under the ship. Leaning against the Stargazer, I wiped my hands. The cut stung as grease mingled with the open wound. I wanted to either beat someone to death or cry. I wasn’t sure which. Maybe both.
Angus joined me.
“Can we get it fixed in time?” I asked him.
He wiped sweat from his bald head as he thought. “It’ll be close. I’ll need Sal’s help.”
“You? Need Sal?”
“He’s busy getting the factory ready, but he’ll come.”
Jessup returned with Edwin, the stationmaster, and Reggie, one of the guards.
“Where the hell were your people last night?” Angus demanded of Edwin. We’d known Edwin for a long time, and we trusted the guards in London. Something wasn’t right.
As Angus and Edwin discussed, a terrible ache rocked my stomach. I set my hand on the side of the Stargazer. Her honey-colored timbers shone in the sunlight. Just as sleek and beautiful as she was the first time I laid eyes on her, she was my pride and joy. My ship. My love. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“What do you think, Lil?” Jessup asked.
Clearly, I’d missed something. “Pardon?”
“Edwin suggested we post a private guard,” Jessup explained.
I nodded. “We’ll sort it out.”
“Lily, I’m so sorry. Someone must have sneaked past us. I can’t believe it,” Edwin said. His clear blue eyes were brimming with tears.
I set my hand on his shoulder. “Who was stationed on this end last night?”
I sighed. I wasn’t one to point fingers, but that explained it. “Was he still drunk when he went home this morning?” I asked Reggie.
Reggie shifted uncomfortably as Edwin turned to look at him. “He was,” Reggie answered after a moment.
“That lazy, rummy bloke. I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him!” Edwin shouted, and in an angry huff, stomped back down the platform.
“Sorry, Lily. Angus. Jessup. I won’t take my eyes off her,” Reggie said sadly then went to take a post near the Stargazer.
“We’ll sleep on the ship until we get a guard on board,” I told Angus and Jessup who nodded in agreement.
“A guard . . . but who can we trust?” Jessup asked.
“The Stargazer is family. We need family to keep her safe,” Angus replied then looked at me.
“You mean . . . Duncan?” About three years earlier, I’d been, albeit briefly, in a relationship with Angus’ older brother Duncan. While I’d fallen for Duncan the moment I’d laid eyes on him, we were not suited for one another. Back then, I wasn’t ready to give up Byron or anything else.
Angus shrugged. “I suppose he’s over you by now.”
“That’s all well and good,” Jessup spat, “but we need someone to look into this! Someone needs to be held accountable! We should send for the Bow Street boys.”
Angus shook his head. “Only if we want everyone in London to know.”
“Well, we need to do something!” Jessup protested.
“Let’s keep it quiet. I’ll talk to Phineas,” I replied.
Jessup nodded eagerly. “Yeah. Good idea.”
Angus frowned. “Are you sure about that?”
Phineas and I had a convoluted opiate history, but as Angus knew well, I’d been keeping my habits in check. “It’ll be fine. I’ll check in with Phin, go get Sal, and come back. We can head out to the league meeting together.”
“If Grant looks even a wee bit guilty, I’m going to squeeze his neck,” Angus cursed.
“If he looks guilty, I’ll help you,” I replied. I set my hand on the Stargazer. It was so painful to see something you loved damaged.
“It’ll be all right, Lil,” Jessup said trying to comfort me. “We’ll get her fixed.”
I smiled weakly at Jessup then turned to leave. I knew he was right, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
February 8, 2014 • No Comments
1. You’re vaguely disappointed when your date has a tan
2. Staking your roses takes on a whole new meaning
3. You know the moon phases the way others know what’s on TV
4. You scream when you catch your kid with foamy toothpaste mouth
5. You wonder which of your classmates discovered the New World
6. You can’t bring yourself to buy silver jewelry
7. You only drink merlot
8. You worry about the guy who lives in the basement apartment and works nights
9. You fantasize about the guy who lives in the basement apartment and works nights
10. A story with strictly human characters seems . . . just wrong.
February 4, 2014 • 2 Comments
I was trundling through the countryside and spotted an intriguing looking junk–ahem–antique shop. As I have no willpower in these matters, I stopped to have a look. See what I found! The cutest possible cast iron doorstop. And how can it be metal, antique, and a mouse and not be Evelina’s Mouse?
February 3, 2014 • 2 Comments
Superiority—by which I mean being feline—is a burden. For one thing, I’m obligated to observe the staff struggling with meaningless day-to-day activities while my needs go unmet. Case in point: the Human Entity plays on the keyboard while my food bowl has been empty for FIVE ENTIRE MINUTES.
Nevertheless, I am a compassionate lord. I assist with the keyboard, mostly by blocking it from view. I can do this with the television also.
There are times I wonder how many great works of literature have been assisted by kindly efforts such as these. Humans owe so much to their protectors. In fact, I see a paper product stalking the house. I will immediately stalk it through the hallways, ripping shreds from its hide until there is nothing left but softly quilted entrails, which the Human Entity then collects while cursing like the peasant she is.
It is sad to lead such a life as mine, wherein the most heartfelt service is cuttingly ignored. Pity my wounded yet noble spirit.
Until later, my treasured devotees.
• No Comments
I picked this story up because I was aching for something fun and quirky and entirely different from what I’ve been reading lately. This fit the bill admirably. And, since I’ve always suspected that computers are inhabited by otherworldly forces (possibly maleficent) and that IT specialists are a peculiar species of wizard, the premise of the tale did not overly strain my willing suspension of disbelief.
The best thing about this story is the narrative voice. It’s told in first person by the main character (John Golden) with editorial footnotes by his non-corporeal sister and business partner, Sarah. The footnotes introduce an interesting rhythm to the text, creating a comic timing to the punchlines. At its best, the tone is snappy, smart and very funny. Occasionally it flirts with excess, maybe throwing in one footnote too many, but that’s a small transgression given the overall quality. The plot is not overly complex but substantial enough to carry this short piece and showcase the world and the highly entertaining personalities in it.
Would I revisit this world? Absolutely. This isn’t the same old, same old.
January 19, 2014 • No Comments
January 3, 2014 • No Comments
The winning comment on the guest post by Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Writer/Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society Comic was Elaine, who won a book from The Baskerville Affair trilogy. Congratulations!
January 1, 2014 • No Comments
The last (for now) winner is Mary Ann D., who won the $50 Amazon gift certificate as the grand prize for my A STUDY IN ASHES book promotion. Thanks so very much to all the wonderful contributors and commenters through December. I had a great time and “met” some fabulous people!
Happy New Year, and onward and upward to 2014!