Monday, December 31, 2012


Thanks and a tip of the puzzle guy's hat to author and marketing specialist,  Nikki Leigh who shared this guest blog above with us.


Happy New year
LAST FEW DAYS to download this e-book free from now until FRIDAY. Feel free to share the free link with your friends and encourage them to share it, too.
This is the story of debutante Christy Lawrence who goes west for her health and meets a Medicine Man. It will also be listed as priceless at and
You can Download the e-book from our site free by clicking on the line below:
If you need another format, e-mail me at
It is also free at 

This applies to the PDF e-book only, not the paperback.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Who Doesn't Love a Mystery?Guest Blog by Sandra Gardner

When Marabella Vinegar finds her psychotherapist's bloody corpse, she becomes the NYPD's perp of choice. Her recently deceased mother - the bane of her existence in life - comes back to help get her out of trouble and find the real killer. Things get even worse when, thanks to Marabella and her mother's sleuthing, someone tries to kill her. Then another body is found and Marabella is thrown in jail, awaiting trial for two murders. Can she and her mother-the-ghost-detective find the killer before Marabella becomes corpse number three?

By Sandra Gardner 
Author of” MOTHER, MURDER AND ME,” winner of Swyers Publishing’s First New Author (fiction) Contest 2011, published by Swyers in 2012.  Available on, Barnes & and from the publisher. 

Who doesn’t love a mystery? Whether it’s a James Bond, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Morse, Stephanie Plum, Rizzoli and Isles -- we’ll gladly join the chase and follow along to find out whodunit. 
            Why?  Besides the fact that we’re curious and like answers to puzzles, a big reason is vicarious excitement. We can drop in and out of a mystery novel without putting our lives on hold. But most of us can’t drop our daily lives and follow a trail, sniff out clues, interview suspects, trap them in their own words and deeds. And would most of us want to put their life and maybe that of their loved ones -- in danger? Carry a lethal weapon or hone a deadly skill?  Maybe be at odds with the cops even to being pursued by them as well as a killer?   
             Then there’s our satisfaction at seeing good triumph over evil. Would we find the ending of a mystery as gratifying if the villain got to kill off the investigator and get away? We want our hero, our investigator, our main character, to fight the good fight and be rewarded in the end.
            This is where characterization comes in. If Stephanie Plum weren’t loveably comic, Hercule weren’t eccentrically brilliant, Rizzoli and Isles intrepid, Inspector Morse dogged, or James Bond suave, would we want to tag along in their latest adventure? 
            We want our investigator to be charismatic, intelligent, relentless, resourceful, wily and powerful, in his or her own way. We expect the same for the villain our investigator is pursuing -- along with being menacing.
            We want the chase to be fast-paced, to run into twists and turns along the road, to drop a red herring or two, and even though it’s fiction, to feel real enough for us to suspend belief and hang on for the ride.  Above all, we want to be surprised – by a discovery of an identity, the outcome of the chase, the unraveling of the mystery. In many cases, the surprise is whodunit. In some cases, for example, TV’s Lt. Columbo mysteries, we know who did it from the start.  It’s the lieutenant’s solving of the puzzle that provides the excitement and suspense.
            We want the suspense to start to build from the beginning and keep building.  It might work this way: there’s a murder, someone’s missing, something – such as money or jewels – is missing, there’s a plot against the government.
There’s another murder (or two or more). The missing person is found alive, dead, or not found till the end.  Or another person (or two or more) goes missing.  The plot against the government has a timeline, an assassination is planned, a bomb is set to go off, -- think “The Man Who Knew Too Much” or “The Manchurian Candidate.”    
            Whether it’s a courtroom, small gossipy village, CIA, MI5, big-city police department, coroner’s office, or Hercule Poirot summoning up his little gray cells, we get to be part of the action, enjoy the thrill of the chase, and find the solution. Where else, other than in the pages of a well-written mystery, could we experience all that – and more?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kasia's Biscotti -- Recipe

by Anna Dynowski

Harmony Village Series, Vol. 6

Life is great for Kasia Jacubek. She’s smart. She’s sassy. And she’s the sole owner of her restaurant. Well, sort of. She does have a silent partner. But the faceless man appears uninterested in taking a hands-on approach to their shared inheritance, content with accepting his share of the profits she mails to the lawyer.

Everything is going great, until…he shows up unexpectedly to take over the culinary reins. Why does he look familiar? And why does her heart take a leap of joy?

Take heed! Guard your heart!

Sharpening his matchmaking claws, Cupid Cat has his own ideas on the matter of the heart: he intends to make sure the restaurant’s silent partner isn’t so silent with her.

Kasia's Christmas Biscotti Recipe


  • 1 3/4 cups dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur), plus more if needed
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon  sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (3 whole, 1 lightly beaten)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole blanched almonds, chopped
  • 3 (approx.) tablespoons Red and Green sugar sprinkles


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat cherries and liqueur in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cherries have softened, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons liquid. If liquid equals less than 2 tablespoons, add enough liqueur to make 2 tablespoons.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Cream together butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Mix in 3 whole eggs, one at a time. Mix in reserved cherry liquid and the vanilla. When liquid mixture is fully integrated, gradually mix in flour mixture. Stir in cherries and almonds.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, halve dough. Shape each half into a 12 by 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch log. Flatten logs to 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Brush logs with beaten egg; sprinkle with red and green colored sugar sprinkles.
  4. Bake 35 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to wire racks to cool, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  5. Cut each log on the diagonal into 16 to 18 pieces. Transfer pieces to racks, laying them on sides. Set racks on baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes; flip. Bake 8 minutes more. Let cool until crisp. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Holiday Poem for Everyone.


On the solstice, the Universe will realign,
   It has done so before, though not for 26,000 years...
Will it do so again,
   Surviving once more Universal the checks and balances
        Our Creator has set in motion.

It is the true celestial beginning of the “Age of Aquarius”           
   we sang of in the seventies, rejoicing in welcome...
Then, it signified hope and a time of peace and love
   As this time of year signifies
    For many of us, our High Holy Days...

As Christians, we are taught that God is Love
   As Jews, that the Creator cares greatly for us
As Budhists we believe in loving all creatures...
   All faith is rooted in love, but may be twisted
    By if power is misued in it’s name...

As gravity realigns this time, let us hear Good News
   Let us each find love in or hearts for one another
Not only for those who think like us, but for all..
  Whatever happens on that day, whether it is everything,
    Or nothing, is part of the Creator’s Plan.

            — Arline Chase,
                Thoughts Upon the Winter Solstice, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Catching UP!

Dr. Piatt’s novel is one of the four most unique post- apocalyptic science fiction novels published in the past two decades. The earth is totally devastated by an atomic war and only a few hundred scientists survive as they hide deep inside the bowels of the earth. The setting of the Lechugilla’s Labyrinth is a metaphor for Plato’s Cave of illusions, and shadows of non-reality. After a battle ensues inside the caves between those of divergent religious and ideological differences, the remaining warriors have their brains programmed to remove all right brain constructs, including emotions, and free will. They become the ideal citizens in the Ideal Society. After thousands of years of an unemotional, but extremely productive existence, eight of the citizens mysteriously have their brains restored to their original state. The story tells of the spiritual, emotional, and physical journey, filled with danger, passion, and death as the eight new humans escape the shadows of the caves of false impressions into a new world of reality.

Books that went to press or back to press this week:

THE IDEAL SOCIETY, by James G. Piatt.

Galleys that went out, or went out again this week:


Work began or continued on the following:
TIME, by Gianni D. Hayes

FREE FALL, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Broken-hearted, New York debutante Christianna Lawrence flees her home and meets a Blackfoot white captive on Montana's high plains. Saved from a flash flood as a boy, Rowan Cameron was destined to become a shaman. Divided by cultural misunderstandings, the extraordinary lovers surpass contrasting beliefs and join forces against railroad saboteurs--only to unleash the magic and spirit of the Ghost Dancer. Eppie Finalist.

ISBN 1-59431-068-8 Historical / Romance / Mystery /Adventure       Price 0.00

Happy Winter Solstice!

Whatever other holiday you may celebrate at this time of year, all of us will enjoy a Winter Solstice. Well, no, Happy Summer Solstice, to those south of the Equator. But Happy solstice Everyone!
As a holiday gift to readers and customers, you can download this e-book free from now until New Years. Feel free to share the link with your friends. This is something we have been wanting to try for some time and possibly to offer to authors on our site as a promotional choice. But we wanted to make sure whether there are any gremlins attached to this process,  or IF folks could find the free link from a small site, so we're experimenting with one of mine.
You can Download the e-book from our site free by clicking on the link below:

This applies to the PDF e-book only, not the paperback.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You can't please everyone -- writer's tip

'Tis the season to be Jolly!

Question:  Thanks for the tips you gave me earlier this week when you suggested motivation might be the problem when a reader didn't "like" one of my characters. It was good advice, but when I talked to my friend and shared it with her, she said she just plain didn't LIKE him. That he was not a person she wanted to spend her time with, though she couldn't or wouldn't say why. What now?

Answer: Find another reader. No, seriously...not every one is going to like EVERYthing. Maybe you wrote about a dog and her dog bit her, or maybe you wrote about a lawyer and hers screwed up her divorce settlement...  . Listen politely to everyone who volunteers information. Thank them for their help. And let it go. Truly, you shouldn't worry too much until more than one person has the same complaint. That's the time to really pay attentions

Like the late, great Ricky Nelson said, "You can't please everyone---better please yourself!"

The only other suggestion I could make, would be to make the character more vulnerable. Nobody likes Mr. Perfect. Be sure he has something to lose, okay?

Dick Francis is an author who is very good at making his characters vulnerable and at creating reader empathy for them. In his very first book, Odds Against, he has a character who is a jockey. It is made clear very early on that the jockey’s wife, a social climber, had made him choose between his career (she was ashamed to be married to a jockey) and her, and he didn’t choose her. Already the reader can sympathize with him, because she cared more about what her friends thought, than she cared about what was important to her husband.

Then (also before the beginning of the story) he suffered a fall and a horse stepped on his hand, leaving him with a useless appendage, a cripple for life. Now he’s lost both the wife he loved and the career he loved. As the story begins he’s depressed, alone, andeverything he valued in life has been taken from him. Then his ex-father-in-law asks him to look into a mystery and he begins detecting.

He finds his brain isn’t crippled after all. Now Francis, even though he was new to the mystery field, and the story had a hole in the plot you could drive a truck through, played fair and gave the reader all the clues to solve the little puzzle.

Guess where the give-away clue was hidden? In a dinner scene where his ex-wife makes fun of him because he needs help to cut up his meat. Because the reader is identifying with him, feeling his embarrassment, most of us missed the vital clue. I know I certainly did.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

While his wife, Anirra, waits and worries Julian Hayes is lost in the storm. Is the woman he meets on the road another lost pilgrim, as she seems, or is she really the dreaded ban sidhe come to steal his soul and visit him with the worst of Holiday luck.

1-59431-310-5 Horror/Novella

Question: Someone in my writing class said they didn't like my protagonist. I didn't know it was a popularity contest. Okay, he has plenty of flaws in his character, and he does some stupid things, but he's my main character and I'm sticking with him.

Answer: Almost always a protagonist is someone the reader will identify with, admire, and root for. He will have a problem and the reader will want him to solve it. That should be true of every story. It's why he's called a PRO-tagonist. We are supposed to be for him.

Readers read in order to vicariously experiences other times and places, other lives, other people's problems. Almost always the protagonist will act from noble or admirable motives. If not the former, they must act at least from understandable ones. That doesn't mean the progagonist has to be perfect.

Certainly your leading character must have human flaws and make mistakes -- otherwise there's no story, only "happily ever after" and that's the end! But take a long look at why your protagonist does things and make sure you have gotten his reasons across to the reader. Try always to keep the character's motivation for doing disagreeable things in terms the reader will understand.

You can let a character make any kind of foolish decision or take any kind of dangerous action if you give them a good enough reason for the reader to feel as if they might have done the same thing in the circumstances. 

To quote my good friend Alice Orr (Thanks, lady!), "Good characters keep secrets, tell lies, and take risks for good reasons. Bad characters keep secrets, tell lies, and take risks, for bad reasons. But they all have a reason to keep secrets, take risks, and tell lies."

That reason is the character’s motivation. One reason writers of romantic suspense get criticized is because the dimwit heroine always goes blindly into the house filled with weird characters and murderers determined to solve the mystery herself, when any sane person would go away and call the police. BUT if she has been warned not to contact the police, although someone she cares deeply about has been kidnapped and is likely to be inside that house, ANY of us might go in.  

If a seemingly wrong decision is made, the reader should feel as if they might have done the same thing. It was no fool who said, "We are the sum of our experiences, not the sum of our possessions." It is your job, as a writer, to mold the reader's experience from the time they open your story.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ugly Cookies -- recipe

Lydia was burned out by her work as a midwife until destiny called her to be an aid to the birth of Jesus. A moving, beautifully-written book about a witness to one of the most important periods in religious history.

ISBN 1-59431-177-3 Historical/ Inspiration/ Christianity/ Fictional Biography

Ugly Cookies (Santa's Favorite!)

For years I made pretty tree-shaped, star-shaped, wreath-shaped, cookies sprinkled with glittery sugar toppings. Then I discovered this recipe and the pretty cookies all got left on the plate as my 3rd grader said, "Hey Mom, you got any more of these ugly cookies? Santa must have agreed, because they are the only ones he ate, too.
They're the best.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees F . Grease cookie sheets. Drop the dough into spoon-sized balls, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. 
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Long flowing sentences -- writng tip

Write Words Author
Nina M. Osier wrote a novel about a future planetary
allignment that will be the same
as the one to occur on Dec. 21, 2012

Edek Fallon, born with a Shaman's seal on his wrist, lives an Astral Guard officer's life and never thinks about the chants his father taught him. Not until they start to come true ...

When the shadow-men shall conquer,
When ten billion suns shall blaze
With the brightness of destruction, 
Comes the time of INTERPHASE.

And For The Record, the Mayans did not say this coming planetary alignment would be the end of the world, only the end of the "Long Count" recorded on that particular calendar. They named several more long counts to come after this one.

Question from the e-mail:  I was taught in college to use semicolons and to use them correctly. I was also taught to write in long, flowing sentences.  I recently paid an editor to go through my unpublished novel and not only did she change all the semicolons to periods, but  she suggested I write in "punchier" sentences and paragraph more often. What do you think about that?

Answer: In college they teach us to write exposition. Long sentences, no slang, no em dashes, absolutely correct grammar, etc. What they don't teach us is to write fiction with dialogue. Their aim is for us to put forth an argument about something. Not to talk to one another. Dialog is frequently ungrammatical, because the way people talk is different from the way people write

Ellipses in exposition, or in a quoted section from another text, mean that something was left out. In dialogue, they signify a long pause, at least long enough to count to three, while the em dash -- is quite rightly used to show an interruption or a change of thought.  So it's almost as wrong to use ellipses in dialogue as it is to use em dashes in narrative. 

When I worked as a news reporter, the only complaint they had about my writng was that I used $5 words too often. "You are here to edify, NOT to mystify!" my editor used to yell. The great American public, thanks to our peerless education system, reads at an average of 5th grade level. Many book buyers didn't go to college and some stare at a semicolon, wondering what it is, for long enough to lose the thread of your story. So your editor is giving you good advice for fiction.  

As an editor and a publisher, my own pet peeve is long paragraphs that run all the way down the page. Readers take one look and skip to the next short one. 

Worse still are long paragraphs where the topic sentence does not reflect the true topic. If the long paragraph starts with a lovely young woman walking down a country road and enjoying the flora and fauna and (several long and flowing descriptive sentences later) ends with her finding a body in the ditch. The readers who read the topic sentence that is a  weather and scenery report will skip down to: 

After she found the body...and that will be quite a shock.
Avoid run on sentences. A sentence should have a noun (name) and one verb (action that happens to, or because of the noun).  Mountains float. You can allow one explanation per sentence. Mountains float when we have an earthquake. But if you find more nouns and verbs, you need to put in a period and start a new sentence. 
No: Mountains float whenever we have an eathquake; the creek overflows it’s banks and our old cabin shakes on its foundation; it scares the living heck out of me.  
Yes: Mountains float whenever we have an earthquake (Period). The creek changes course and water rises over the banks (period). Our old cabin shakes on its foundation (period). That scares the heck out of me (period).


Friday, December 7, 2012

Catching UP!

Books that went to press, or back to press this week:

COUNTING ON YOU, by Dr. Kris Condi

HAUNTED PAST, By Robert Kanehl

Galleys that went out or went out again this week:

THE IDEAL SOCIETY, by James G. Piatt

I THE SPARROW, by Marjorie K. Doughty

Work began or continued on the following:
TIME, by Gianni D. Hayes

FREE FALL, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Broken hearted, New York debutante Christianna Lawrence flees her home and meets a Blackfoot white captive on Montana's high plains. Saved from a flash flood as a boy, Rowan Cameron was destined to become a shaman. Divided by cultural misunderstandings, the extraordinary lovers surpass contrasting beliefs and join forces against railroad saboteurs--only to unleash the magic and spirit of the Ghost Dancer. Eppie Finalist.

ISBN 1-59431-068-8 Historical / Romance / Mystery /Adventure       Price 0.00

Happy Winter Solstice!

Whatever other holiday you may celebrate at this time of year, all of us will enjoy a Winter Solstice. Well, no, Happy Summer Solstice, to those south of the Equator. But Happy solstice Everyone!
As a holiday gift to readers and customers, you can download this e-book free from now until New Years. Feel free to share the link with your friends. This is something we have been wanting to try for some time and possibly to offer to authors on our site as a promotional choice. But we wanted to make sure whether there are any gremlins attached to this process,  or IF folks could find the free link from a small site, so we're experimenting with one of mine.
You can Download the e-book from our site free by clicking on the link below:

This applies to the PDF e-book only, not the paperback.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Breakfast Schneken -- recipe

At last, here's a sweet, romantic Christmas paranormal anthology! Each story has its unique ghost and psychic experience where holiday traditions are kept alive and a love story warms your heart. And the most delightful ghost of all, Mary Blake's Christmas rubber ball, connects the stories to give you a read that will leave you longing for more.

Christmas Breakfast Schneken
(Sticky "Snail" Buns)

These can be prepared ahead of time and served with coffee or hot chocolate on Christmas morning. I usually make a dozen, because someone is sure to get into them before Christmas. They are good warm or cold and may be "gently warmed" for 45 seconds on a saucer in the Microwave. Any longer and the sticky tops will become case-hardened tooth breakers....

2 disposable aluminum round cake pans or square cake pans
Pam non-stick cooking Spray

1/2 your favorite 4 loaf yeast bread recipe, or you can use the simple one below OR you can buy a yeast bread box mix from the store.  Box mix is enough for 1 set of buns. 1/2 recipe below is enough for 2 sets of buns.

1 or  1 1/2 cup  pecan pieces
1 box soft dark brown sugar (Sprinkle onto rolled-out dough generously, but not too thick. You will 
   not need it all by any means, but they only sell it in 2 lb boxes.

1 bottle dark brown Karo syrup (you won't need it all and one bottle should be enough whether you do two pans or one).

1/4 pound real butter at room temperature, so it's soft (again, you may not need the whole thing).
Ground cinnamon in a shaker, rather than by the spoonful. 

Bun Steps

Divide the dough into two equal lots and replace one in the bowl to use on another project, or to make extra schnecken for your friends.

On a smooth floured surface, roll out the dough in a rectangular shape, about 1/2 to 3/4 in  thick.  Approximately 12 x 8 inches or so. It doesn't have to be absolutely even, but should not be thinner than 1/2 inch anywhere, for easy handling.

Coat top of rolled out dough with soft butter. Sprinkle generously with dark brown sugar. There is no measuring here. Use your eyes. Only leave blank spaces at the long edges of the dough. Everything should be covered, but don't pile it up too thick. 

Sprinkle top generously with Ground Cinnamon.

Sprinkle top generously with pecan pieces.

Spray cake pans or square baking pans with Pam. Add Karo Syrup to cover bottom.

Roll one long edge toward the center (as if making a jelly roll) and meld the other long edge to bind it into the roll.  So you have one long loaf of rolled buns. Slice the roll in half. With two cuts on each half slice each half to divide it into thirds. This should  give you six sliced, evenly-spaced buns. If you have the square pans, you might want to make the first cut into thirds and space it so there are 9 buns, but be careful to make sure each bun is 1 and 1/2 inches high when placed in the pan.

I like to get the square disposable pans and gift disposable pans with tops and make an extra lot to give away. But it's okay to use round ones and covered pie gift pans.

Place the sliced buns into the baking pans. If using cake pans, put one in the middle and the others around the edge. If they don't quite fill it, don't worry, the dough will rise again when baking and fill the empty spaces in.

Bake in 325 oven (NEVER HIGHER or the syrup will crystalize and the sticky coating will get hard) for 45 minutes to an hour until tops are good and brown. Spread your counter with wide aluminum foil to prevent spills. Turn over into serving dish so the schneken are displayed with sticky side up.  Cool. 

I like to turn them into the gift pans with clear covers, even if I'm going to use them myself. They stay fresh with the airtight covers, make a pretty gift, and look festive at Christmas Breakfast.

Repeat the bun steps with the second half of the dough. Buns will keep well in Christmas gift-giving pans with lids that seal, or in large zip-lock bags, for up to a week.

Easy Bulk Bread Recipe

  • 2 (0.6 ounce) cakes compressed fresh yeast 
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) 
  • 4 cups hot water (from the faucet, not boiling in the teakettle -- if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast and disaster will ensue)
  • 3/4 cup white sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon salt 
  • 1/2 vegetable Oil 
  • 15 cups flour  Use bread flour if you have it, or plain white sifted


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. In a very large bowl, combine hot water, white sugar, salt and shortening. Stir to dissolve shortening; let cool to lukewarm. Add the yeast mixture and 6 cups of flour; beat well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil two large bowls Divide the dough in half and place each half in a bowl; turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  4. Deflate dough, form into rounds and let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  5. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. 
  6. You can shape the pieces into loaves for large loaf pans, or into dinner rolls.  Or you can work in  a few raisins or chopped dates and braid portions for pretty Scandinavian braided bread loaves. Drizzle the tops of loaves with white icing after they are baked.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped.

Dough may be refrigerated for up to three days, punching down from time to time ( I do it whenever I got to the refrigerator for something), but must be allowed to return to room temp and rise in the bowl, before  turning it out onto a floured board and shaping it into whatever you choose.

Easy White Icing Recipe

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound (3 2/3 cups) confectioners' sugar (Half a two-pound bag from the grocery store)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (optional)


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually add confectioners' sugar; beat until smooth. If too thick to spread, beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons milk.

    This can be used for cupcakes or made with a little less sugar (so it's less stiff) and drizzled over bread loaves, or forced through a plain decorating tip  to make Hot Cross Buns, or used as a Streussel or Braided Bread Topping.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Organization -- writing tip

The Russian military is trying to perfect a secret system that will make their submarines virtually immune to attack, and secure them control of the world's seas. An American working in Russia as a spy for Israel is trying to uncover the secret. In The U.S.A. an unsuspecting family has developed a product that is capable of solving the one problem preventing the Russians from achieving their goal. russian agents, led by the country's top female operative, Olga Andreyeva, are dispatched to steal the product's formula.

Remember that this book takes place during the Cold War, and the Russian political references will never be anachronistic.


Question: A friend  read my manuscript and said it was a great story, but it got her "mixed up" a tad too often. What do you think she means by that?

Answer: Remembering always that I haven't read this, when I hear folks say this kind of thing to me about my work, it usually means there are anachronisms in the text.

It all has to do with organizing your information so it flows smoothly. First things should be first. My usual mistake is that I give a character brown eyes on one page and blue on another. I always write a short bio of each character with a physical description, so I can check if I forget.

But there are other kinds of problems that can creep in. People can't go upstairs if they are already upstairs. If characters begin to talk in a bedroom and later go upstairs to look for a missing diary, that's a problem. A student once wrote:

They walked down the steps, crossed the grassy lawn and drove away. The vehicle was a black phaeton pulled by two gray stallions.

I found this confusing as they drove away before I knew the carriage was there. She argued it was there, right in the very next sentence!  But they would have seen it waiting when they came outside and that's when it should have been described. Also it is downright impossible to have two stallions work as a team. Two geldings, yes. Two stallions, absolutely NOT. And most people would know that, too.

It's truly as simple as first things first .

It's always a good idea to use a character's full name on first reference (unless it's a minor unnamed character like "the waiter"), and to get the physical description in when the reader first meets the character. It can seem a small thing, but if your reader envisions a blond on first reference, only to learn that the character is dark a few pages later, it can be really confusing to him. It wakes them from what John Gardiner calls "the dream" of the story.

Believe me, I've seen some real "wake up calls" even in commercially published material. Once I was reading a historical romance set in Elizabethan England. Obviously the author had written it first as a modern story, then set it back in time, because historicals were selling. There was a wonderful wedding scene. It had whole roasted pigs, jongleurs (what the hell is a jongleur, anyway?), lute players and troubadours singing bawdy songs of bridal beddings.

Then a minor character praised the cheese served in the wedding "buffet," saying to the bride's father, "Where did you get this wonderful cheese?" To which the bride's father replied, "Oh, I'm glad you like it, okay? We had it flown in special."

"Buffet" and "okay" would have been bad enough, as in Elizabethan times "buffet" was a cupboard and "okay" didn't come into use at all until the mid-19th century.. But "flown in?" How? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Recipe for Russian Tea --

Christmas Traditions with a Country Flair
if you need a recipe for roast wild goose, this is your goto book
edited and Illustrated by Quadriplegic artist Mary Cox-Bilz

Mary Cox-Bilz’s Russian Tea

2     1 qt. (large jars) containers Instant Iced Tea, sweetened and with lemon (any brand)
1     1 qt. Jar Tang
3     tbsp. Cinnamon

Since I am a quadriplegic, for this tea, I get someone whose fingers work to mix all ingredients well and store in an air tight container. I use one I can flip open with my mouth stick, but any cannister, or even a large Ziploc bag works well.  Mix two teaspoons with half a glass of water. Add ice, and enjoy a refreshing treat any time you like. You can also use it as an instant hot tea.  Or we sometimes make it by the pitcher using 3/4  to 1 cup of mixture to a 2 quart container.

Contributed by Mary Cox-Bilz, author of CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY

Monday, December 3, 2012

Catching UP!

Catching UP!

Paper Books that went to press or back to press in the past two weeks:

HAUNTED PAST, by Robert Kanehl



WILT THOU BE MINE: Fox River Valley Series, Vol. 1 by Ann Nolder Heinz

WORLD WITHOUT END, by Nancy Madison

Galleys that went out, or went out again in the past two weeks:

THE IDEAL SOCIETY, by James G. Piatt


COUNTING ON YOU, by Dr. Kris Condi

Work began or continued on the following:
I THE SPARROW, by Marjorie K. Doughty

TIME, by Gianni D. Hayes

FREE FALL, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Happy Winter Solstice!

Whatever other holiday you may celebrate at this time of year, all of us will enjoy a Winter Solstice. Well, no, Happy Summer Solstice, to those south of the Equator. 

As a holiday gift to readers and customers, you can download this e-book free from now until New Years. Feel free to share the free link with your friends. This is something we have been wanting to try for some time and possibly to offer to authors on our site as a promotional choice. But we wanted to make sure whether there are any gremlins attached to this process, so we're experimenting with one of mine. 

This is the story of debutante Christy Lawrence who goes west for her health and meets a Medicine Man. It will also be listed as priceless at and

You can Download the e-book from our site free by clicking on the line below:

This applies to the PDF e-book only, not the paperback. 

New Books as of Dec. 1, 2012

New e-books

THE BOY WHO COULD STOP TIME, by Evelyn Frederick Moll

I HAVE A FRIEND ON JUPITER, by Celine Rose Marotti


New paper books as of Dec. 1


WORLD WITHOUT END, by Nancy Madison

HAUNTED PAST, by Robert Kanehl

WILT THOU BE MINE, by Ann Nolder Heinz



 Slow, Road Work Ahead

Work will be slowing down for books in progress over the next few weeks. First, because Corporate taxes are due and the accountant needs everything so he can get the W-9s out to those of you who made more than $600 in book sales this year, and to prepare our tax returns. That means I have to give him the correct information right after Christmas.

Also the 31st is the end of this quarter and I will begin work on author's payroll as quickly after Jan. 1 as I can. That payment will not affect this year's tax return for any of you, as you are taxed in the year in which you receive payment, regardless of when the sales took place.  

So over the next six weeks, even if feels like it's taking forever to get your galleys fixed and books to press, I WILL have my nose to the grindstone and my shoulder to the wheel--just burning up those computer circuits, trying to get everything done. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dialogue Question- writing tip

In this romantic comedy, the rocky road to love just got rougher. Jake Malone's dead sure he doesn't need anyone to complete or complicate his life.

Meeting the self-assured loner, Carly Anderson disagrees and vows to pursue Jake until he catches her. In her quest, Carly's helped or hindered by a wanna-be Stallone, a larcenous film producer who preys on lonely women and a granny with a black Labrador and a Harley.


Question:  Back when you were teaching, you used to have a handout on dialogue. Do you still have it? What's your best current advice on dialogue?

Answer: Yes. I still have it. See Below.  My best current advice about dialogue is to warn you that it isn't punctuated like eposition, which we were all taught to write in school. In dialalogue it's perfectly fine to use em  dashes, vernacular (go easy on that) and slang. In expositon an ellipse shows that something  has been left out of a quote. In dialogue, it's a long pause, at least long enough to count to three. Far too long for a short change of thought--or an interruption.

Writing Good Dialogue Handout

Pay attention to the way people talk. Listen to their speech patterns. Then pare them down to the bare essentials. That’s dialogue. Avoid vernacular, or overuse of vernacular, anyway. With dialect, less is always more. We are a nation of poor readers. Dialect can be very difficult to write well. This is a lesson I learned – reluctantly I’ll admit – in a workshop with Diana Gabaldon. She wrote a book about a group of 17th century Scots, and  English Outlander. No dialect is a thick as that of Scotland. Diana said she listened to old Scots ballads sung in English and in Gaelic to absorb the rhythm of the speech. There’s a great deal of difference between the speech of the Scots and the Englishwoman, and among the Scots, depending upon their station in life and educational level.  But nobody said, “Hoot mon!” She changed didn’t to didna, and wouldn’t to wouldna, and added some dated terms like “foxed” for drunk. But most of it was in the rhythm of the language -- how the words were put together. Because of the sentence construction, English sounded different when the Scots spoke, but their meaning was never obscured.

Avoid anachronisms and use very little slang, unless it’s some you make up yourself. I read a story set in Biblical times where characters said things like “okay.” Okay is a slang term that didn’t come into use until the 19th century. It wouldn’t have been said in Biblical times. Any time you are uncertain when a term came into use, you can check it in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Slang gets dated and slang terms may change in meaning. Avoid cliches, too. In a 1940 edition of Nancy Drew, Girl Detective, it was fine to describe her father as a “gay man about town,” even though it was a cliche. At that time it meant he was lighthearted and very social. You wouldn’t use that term today, because the word “gay” has taken on a whole different meaning.

Good dialogue should sound natural, but not too much like people really talk. Punctuating dialogue is tricky. First, never let two characters talk in the same paragraph. Commas and other punctuation go inside the quotes. And you must paragraph each time a new person speaks. Finally, Everything a person says at one time (even if they change the subject) goes in the same paragraph. I can't stress too much how important it is to punctuate dialogue correctly. Editors know immediately if it's done wrong, and they also know it will take them a lot of work to fix it. It's never a good idea to make work for your editor.

Never put small talk into dialogue, it just slows everything down. The important thing in dialogue is to leave out stuff that is unimportant and get right to the point.

Here is an example of BAD dialogue the way it might go in real life:

    “Hi, Harry. How are you? And how’s your mother?” Mary said, to her neighbor.
    “Hi, Mary. Good to see you this morning. She’s better thanks.”
    “Oh, good. I’m glad to hear it.” Mary admired the way Harry cared for his aged mother. He was so good to her. Mary wondered if Harry had heard the news about John.  “Say, did you hear about John?”
    “No. Did something happen to him?”
    “He’s dead.”
    “John Smith, who lives across the street? You’re kidding. Right?”
    “No, I’m not kidding. John’s dead.”
    “Really? What happened?” Harry asked.
    “The postman smelled exhaust coming from the garage. He called the cops from my house. It took them 20 minutes before they showed up! Then they had to call a locksmith to get in his house, ” Mary said.
    “Wow. That’s interesting. Which locksmith did they call?” Harry asked, again.
    “Brady’s – the one over on Biscayne. Anyway, the car was still running and John was dead when they found him. But they called for an ambulance anyway. It took them another twenty minutes to get here. Then they took him to the hospital.”
    “Hospital? I thought you said he was dead,” Harry said.
    “He is dead. But they had to go to the hospital, it’s the law,” Mary said. “The paramedics said he was dead all right, but they took him in the ambulance anyway, so a doctor could pronounce him.”
    “Gosh. I can’t believe John’s dead. What was it? Suicide?” Harry asked.
    “You’d think so, wouldn’t you. He’s been so depressed, ever since Evelyn left him,” Mary said.  “But the cops found a bruise on his head. So they weren’t really sure if he killed himself or if it was murder. You know, John had a lot of enemies.”
    “Yes, he did. That Evelyn of his, for one. Not to mention her new boyfriend.”

Notice all the “saids?” Here's a neat little technique you can use. If you show a character in action within the same paragraph as their speech, the reader will assume the character who moved was also the one who spoke. This little trick can get rid of a lot of repetitive language (the saids), and it forces you to insert an image. You only have to be careful to make certain that the person who speaks and the person who moves are the same. If you want to show another character's reaction to the speech, change paragraphs, even if they don't say anything. Treat the movement just as if it were a dialogue reply.

In good dialogue, you leave out all the fluff and repetition and only put the important stuff:

    “Harry, did you hear? John Smith’s dead.” Mary accosted her neighbor
    “No! How did it happen, Mary? Suicide?” Harry’s face looked stunned.
    Mary shook her head. “They’re not certain. Could be murder.”
    “Wouldn’t surprise me – that ex-wife of his always said she’d kill him one day.”
    “You think it was her?”
    “He had a lot of enemies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did it.” Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Her, or her new boyfriend.”

Do you see how 25 lines of dialogue were condensed to seven? And yet all the important information was relayed to the reader.