Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Here we are, folks. The last day of the year.

I have to admit, I had a pretty good year. My first two novellas came out this year with The Wild Rose Press. I’ve made some great new friends between this blog, Facebook and Twitter. I got to go RWA National Convention, I made PRO, I finished up my associate degree I’ve been working on forever, and I’m back to writing full-time. Those are just the highlights. I can’t complain.

I’m expecting next year to be even better. I’ve got a full load planned for writing, I’ve got great friends and critique partners to help keep me on track, I’ll be starting my bachelor degree, and I’ll be pursuing an agent this year. I’m excited to get started.

I'll be spending the evening with wonderful friends, playing games and having fun. Tomorrow is family day and Sunday I'll be winging my way back to Germany to brave the snow.

How has 2010 treated you? What are your highlights? What have you got planned for 2011?

Have fun celebrating, but stay safe.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I arrived in Texas, safe and sound. Maybe a little bit frazzled, but that's another story.

Since I've been tied up with family the last two days, no blog post today.

I'd like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a season full of love. Be good to each other.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holidays: The End of your Healthy Lifestyle?

I’m winging my way across the ocean today (plane and weather gods willing) while you read this. Hopefully on Friday, I will be writing from sunny Texas.

Weightloss Wednesday, right before Christmas. What shall we talk about?

Should we discuss all the cakes, cookies and pies everywhere we turn? How about fat-laden mashed potatoes, all the bread you can eat, and the alcohol that flows freely at holiday parties?

What’s a poor girl trying to make healthy choices to do?

Give it all up until after the first of the year? We could do that. But that’s 2 weeks and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take license to eat whatever you want and to damn the rest. When it’s time to start back up again, you’ve gained back that 20 pounds you lost before Christmas.

Deprive yourself? You watch everyone around you shoving all those calories down their throats without abandon. You start feeling left out. Then is desperation, or possibly even spite, you indulge. And indulge and indulge and indulge.

Neither of these options sound all that appealing, do they? With a plan in place, you can weather the holidays, indulging in the traditions that make up your family holiday and keeping on a healthy track. After all, balance is what it’s all about, right?

If you have a holiday gathering, eat a little less during the day beforehand and get in your exercise. You’ll feel more in control and by conserving some calories and burning more with the exercise, the food you eat at the party won’t make a dent in your plan.

If you’re hanging with the family, incorporate some healthy snacks along with the baked goodies. If you eat a bunch of low-cal veggies, you don’t have as much room to hold the high-cal foods. You may even find that you don’t crave them as much as you thought you would.

There’s always lots of alcohol at holiday parties, right? You can still indulge. In moderation. Alternate glasses of wine with sparkling water. Or do like the Germans do and mix half wine and half sparkling wine. That’s a popular drink over here and it cuts your alcohol intake in half.

One important thing to remember is that the holidays are separate events. If you stick to your healthy lifestyle most days and indulge at those special parties or family gatherings only, you’ll still be on track in January.

What are some of the ways you balance your healthy lifestyle with the holidays?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Delivering Christmas Cheer in Germany

Thank you to Lillian Grant for stopping by on Friday and sharing such an interesting story with us. Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by and saying hi.

The winner of a copy of Lillian’s new release, Happy Birthday Nancy Tobin, is:

FiremanPat

Congrats, FiremanPat. I couldn’t find your email address so could you please email me at riley@riley-quinn.com. I’ll get your copy out to ASAP.

So what did your weekend hold for you? This time of year seems to find people so busy.

We started delivering Christmas gifts to the neighbors. I say start because we learned another difference between Americans and Germans last year.

When we lived in Texas, we were in a fairly new neighborhood and as a result, we met our neighbors as each family moved in. Being near a military base, most of them were friendly and we did cookouts and parties together.

At Christmas, I always baked goodies and put together a gift bag for the neighbors. We’d go to each door, ring the bell, wish them a Merry Christmas and give them a gift. They’d say thank you, Merry Christmas back and we’d go on our way to the next house.

So last year, I put together gift bags and one night after hubby got home from work, we thought we’d run gift bags around and then eat dinner. We only had 4 houses to visit. No problem, right?

At House 1, the neighbors were gone. So we left their bag inside the doorway for them.

House 2 is where our master plan began to unravel. Instead of a quick stop, we were invited in. Wine was brought out. Then another bottle of wine. 2 bottles of wine, several schnapps, and 2 hours later, we left.

At House 3, again we were invited in. This time it was beer. 2 beers each, 2 schnapps each and 1 hour later, we left.

Keep in mind, this is 2 bottles of wine, 2 beers, lots of schnapps (which is powerful stuff here in Germany. Think tequila) all on empty stomachs. I was drunk and we still had one more house to go.

We popped into our own place and ate a quick snack of sausage, cheese and crackers in which I proceeded to slice my finger open while cutting the sausage. Then on to House 4, which happens to be our upstairs neighbors and we KNEW that would be a long visit. It was.

Moral of the story: We needed more than a quick visit to deliver our goodies. Friday night, we were invited upstairs. We took their gift. Today, we visited House 1 & 2 and tomorrow we’ll hit House 3.

In addition to all this impromptu neighbor visiting, we had hubby’s work Christmas party and then a co-worker’s Advent party this weekend. Lots of fun, lots of socializing.

We’ll also get a lot of the same over the next 2 weeks. We’re heading to Texas to visit hubby’s family and see all our friends for the holidays. We fly out of Frankfurt on Wednesday (good travel thoughts please as there have been a lot of cancellations lately) and straight into Dallas. We’ll be there until after the first of the year.

So what about your weekend? What kept you busy?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome Lillian Grant

What English?

As an Aussie seeking publication in a US dominated e-publishing world some things you assume are a given clearly are not.

When I wrote Happy Birthday, Nancy Tobin, I wrote it in English. At least I thought I did. Turns out, nothing is quite that simple.

Story complete, critiqued, polished, rewritten, re-critiqued, whisked into outer space by aliens, prodded, probed, formatted and good to go, I sent a sample on its merry way to my publisher of choice. Happy with the final copy, I sat back and waited, and waited, and waited, until at last I got a nibble. Could I send the whole manuscript? Mai oui, of course. Then, would I rewrite the sex scenes to make them hotter? Well, in for a penny in for a pound. Finally, an offer to publish my baby, in English.

BUT, hmm, whose English? The contract said I had to use US spelling. So, who cares? What are a few lost U’s and the occasional S morphing into a Z between friends? If it got my book into the public domain and made women weep with unrequited lust for my hero, I could sacrifice the odd letter here and there.

Contract signed, I waited for my first round edits. They arrived and I opened the file. What eternal hell was this? My editor had interpreted, use US spelling, for make it a US novel…NOOOOOO!! Thankfully, she is an angel and when I emailed my horror at having my gorgeous Aussie hunk, that would have the ladies panting with pent up frustration, changed to a down home American boy, she spoke to ‘management.’

Oh, what sweet joy it was when the answer came back, lose the Aussie spelling, keep the Aussie slang. However, this came with a caveat. Keep the Aussie slang that made sense. So began a period of tense editing where words like ‘lounge’ were tossed aside to be replaced with ‘living room.’ Would American readers understand the word ‘git’ if read in context. I even got complemented on how clever I was to know when it was appropriate for my hero to use the word ‘bugger’ in a sentence. After much deliberation, the process was complete. My hero and heroine are still Aussie’s living in Australia and most of my slang survived. I was thankful I hadn’t used some of our more colourful expressions, such as ‘cooked chook,’ because nothing could have saved them, and it seems the names of more intimate body parts are universal.

I recently read pages and pages of comments on another blog about changing stories for the US market. Which begs the question, as a reader, do you want books set in other countries to be adapted to become stories set in the country you live in?

NB: No U’s or S’s were harmed during the writing or publication of this article.


Blurb:
Suddenly single on the eve of her fortieth birthday, Nancy Tobin’s not sure turning middle-aged is worth celebrating. She's stuck in a dead-end job as the boss’s bitch with only her morose Labrador for a companion. What does she have to party about? Maybe if she ignores the whole birthday thing, it will just go away.

Hot, twenty-six-year-old Jake Turner has other ideas. When he bumps into Nancy at the library, he sees a woman in need of a wake-up call. Determined to unleash the beauty hidden beneath the sad façade, he schemes to relight her spark. He wants to give her a birthday to remember but he ends up being the one who can't forget: a visit to his apartment becomes a weekend in his bed where he discovers an offbeat, unpredictable, sexually adventurous woman he never wants to let go.

With Jake, Nancy can do anything, her life can be whatever she chooses. But this new and exciting relationship teeters on the edge of destruction when her soon-to-be ex-husband reveals the reason for Jake’s initial interest in her. Can Nancy trust Jake when he finally tells her he loves her?

Excerpt:
Nancy sat alone at the table near the student café. Despite her best intentions not to, she searched the male population for Jake. He must have been teasing. Why would a cute young guy be interested in her? She stared at the nubile female bodies as they walked past, their belly buttons proudly displaying all manner of trinkets and tattoos and yelling to the world, I’m young, supple, and the best shag you could ever have. She looked down at herself and saw the roll of flab above her waistband. Her body appeared to yell, I’m old and saggy and too fucking tired to care if I ever shag again. Why would he even give her a second thought? Perhaps it was a dare or a joke.

“Excuse me; is this seat taken?”

The voice dragged Nancy back to reality, and she looked up, surprised to see a familiar face. Her cheeks burned, and she struggled to speak.

“No, please, feel free.”

Jake slid into the seat next to her. “So, Nancy, we meet again. Are you stalking me by any chance?”

Nancy was quick to shake her head. While she had been hoping to see him again, she had no intention of revealing that to anyone. She could barely believe it herself. Was she so desperate for love she would latch on to the first male who showed a glimmer of interest? No matter why she attracted him, with her track record, she should avoid good-looking young men like the plague. “No, absolutely not. Are you sure you’re not stalking me? I was here first.”

His deep, sexy chuckle resonated through her. “Touché. You guessed it. Someone is paying me to follow you.”

“Well, they’re wasting their money, I can assure you. There is nothing to see here.”

“Let me be the judge of that. Did you miss me?”

Nancy tore her eyes away from his and tried to sound nonchalant. “I haven't given you a moment’s thought since you left the library.”

He put his hand over hers, and she felt the blood rush to her cheeks again. When he leaned closer, she closed her eyes. The smell of his musky cologne and the feel of his breath on her face as he whispered in her ear made her stomach lurch and her heart rate lift.

“Liar, but it’s okay. I’ve been thinking about you too.”

Nancy opened her eyes and snapped her head around to glare at him. No one in their right mind would think about her. She refused to be the butt of anyone’s joke. Her hand hovered in midair as she fought the urge to slap his face. Jake leaned back and put his arm up. Deciding he wasn’t worth it, Nancy dropped her hand and snatched her empty Coke bottle off the table instead.

She clenched her teeth. “Fuck off, you git; you’re not funny,” she spat out.

Without another word, she got up and stomped back to the library, tears of frustration stinging her eyes. Stupid, stupid woman!

Thank you, Lillian, for joining us today.

If you’d like to read more about Jake and Nancy, one lucky commenter will win a free copy of Happy Birthday, Nancy Tobin.

If you can’t wait, you can buy it here.

And to keep up with Lillian, you can visit her site.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And the Winner is...

Last week’s winner of a copy of Paige Tyler’s new release, Dead Sexy, is:

Lynne Roberts. 

Congrats, Lynne. I sent you an email, but please let me know if you don’t get it.

It’s Wednesday, which usually means Weightloss Wednesday here. Not this week, folks.

I woke up Sunday with the crud and have been mostly sleeping. I’m hoping to knock this in time for our trip to the States next week, so today is short and sweet.

Check back here Friday for guest blogger, Lillian Grant.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Show a Zombie Some Love

Thanks so much for letting me guest blog today!

Readers often ask me how I come up with ideas for my books, so I thought I'd give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at how I came up with my new release, a paranormal erotic romance from Ellora's Cave called DEAD SEXY.

Before I say anything else though, isn't that cover too hot for words?!  When the art department sent it to me, I probably gazed at it for a good ten minutes in mouth-drooling appreciation before I could email them back telling the artist it not only rocked, but totally fit the book.  The hero is "Dead Sexy," after all!

Okay, back to the story and how I came up with it.  First, to set the stage, I need to share a little something with you about myself.  Well, about my hubby and me, actually.  We love zombie movies, from the George Romero gems to Shaun of the Dead and everything in between, including "Walking Dead," the new series on AMC.  You just can't go wrong with  a movie full of walking dead people, can you?  Well, if you've ever seen a zombie movie (or even you haven't), then you know the creatures aren't the heroes of the film.  I mean, how can they be, right?  They're all dead and decayed and downright unattractive, not to mention pretty damn scary.  Which was why you can imagine my surprise when my hubby suggested I write an erotic romance about a zombie hero.  I was like, you're kidding, right?  What woman in her right mind would fall in love with a dead guy?  No way could that possibly work, or so I thought.

Turns out, my hubby wasn't kidding.  In fact, he started working up ideas for the story.

"The hero didn't have to be a zombie all the time," he told me. "Think outside the box - take a little literary license!"

Okay, I thought. I suppose I could be open minded. 

My hubby told me that in his out-of-the-box world, the hunky hero got cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess and only turns into a zombie sometimes. 

"I'm listening," I said.

"And when he does go zombie, he doesn't have to be like the kind in the movies," my hubby added.  "Well, he has to look like one, you know all dead and stuff, but he doesn't have to be a mindless creature or attack humans or eat anything gross."

So, brains are completely out, thanks goodness!

"Think Jensen Ackles or Jared Padelecki, with a really, really, really dark tan - (yes, my hubby knows I've got a thing for the Supernatural hunks!) - well, maybe more gray and black than tan, but you get the idea."

I thought about that for a minute.  "So, the hero's dead, but he's still sexy, is that what you're saying?"

"Exactly," he said, giving me a grin as my eyes lit up with understanding.

By that point, my hubby had pretty much sold me on the idea.  Of course, I knew if I ran with it, I was going to have to sell it to a publisher, and I knew that could be tough since the hero is a zombie. But I ran with it anyway and ended up with a full-length novel.  And it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself!  I still had to find a publisher for it, though.

About this same time, It just so happens that several of my other books were in the process of being picked up by Ellora's Cave and I thought what the heck?  Why not pitch it to my editor there and see what she thinks?  So I did, and she told me to send it to her.  She was interested to see how I handled the whole zombie-thing.  Well, long story, short, she liked it.  A lot!  My zombie romance with it's dead-sexy hero had a home!  I was thrilled and my hubby walked around for a week with a smug, "I-told-you-so" look on his face.

I've been getting the word out there about DEAD SEXY ever since I signed the contract for it and I'm thrilled with the interest from readers who can't wait to get their hands on it!  I can't wait for them to read it, too! 

Now that I've revealed the story behind the story, I thought I'd share the blurb and an excerpt just to whet your appetite for more!
 
Blurb:

Romance author Simone Kent thinks she might just have found the most perfect guy in all of New York City - in bed and out. But Drake Parrish is about as far from perfect as any man can get. Eight years ago, he was cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess to live part of his life as a zombie. Since then, he has lived like a recluse on New York’s Upper East Side, afraid to go out for fear he’ll suddenly turn into one of the walking dead.

The sex if the hottest either of them has ever experienced and Simone discovers just how naughty she can be with Drake, while he finds himself feeling things for her that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. When the Voodoo priestess learns of their relationship, however, she comes after him again. She is determined to make sure he won’t have a future with Simone, even if that means killing both him and the woman he loves.


Excerpt:

As she led him up the steps to the second floor, Drake found himself wondering if she would ask him in. And wondering what he’d say if she did. When they came to a stop outside the door to her apartment, Simone turned to give him a smile.

“I had a great time tonight.”

“Me, too.”

She caught her bottom lip between her perfect white teeth and chewed on it thoughtfully as if unsure what she wanted to say next. It was probably an unconscious gesture, something she did whenever she was thinking, but to him, it was sexy as hell and all he could think about was kissing her.

Surely, one kiss couldn’t hurt. He desperately wanted to. He hadn’t kissed a woman in so long. It would be nice to see if he still remembered how.

Before he could stop himself, Drake tilted Simone’s face up to his and pressed his mouth to hers.

She tasted just as sweet and delicious as he thought she would. Her lips were soft and pliant under his as she kissed him back, her tongue eagerly seeking his out.

Drake groaned and slid his hand into her hair, deepening the kiss. Simone sighed into his mouth, running her hands up the front of his shirt to grasp his shoulders. The feel of her touch was like a tonic to his deprived soul and he let out another groan, deeper this time.

He ran his free hand up her side and around to her breast, cupping it through the soft material of her dress. He couldn’t stop himself and apparently, Simone didn’t want him to. She moaned and arched against him. He could feel the heat of her pussy through their clothes as she pressed up against his hard cock. Damn, she felt good.

Drake drew her bottom lip into his mouth and gently suckled on it before slowly kissing his way along the delicate curve of her jaw. Simone clutched his shoulders and tilted her head back. He eagerly trailed a path of hot kisses down her neck, then back up, his mouth finding hers again. Simone looped her arms around his neck, pulling him in even closer as their tongues met.

Down the hall, a door slammed, reminding him where they were.

Drake dragged his mouth away from hers, his breathing ragged as he tried to regain control. He had to get it together because he was about five seconds away from doing something really stupid. Like taking her to bed. “I should go.”

Her lips curved into a sexy, flirtatious smile. “Or you could stay.”

God, how he wanted to. But as much as he’d love to spend the rest of the night exploring every inch of her body, he couldn’t take the chance he might go zombie on her right in the middle of sex. Talk about coitus interruptus, And it had already been almost four days since he last turned, which meant he was already pushing his luck.

“You don’t know how much I want to,” he groaned. “But I can’t.”

Simone looked up at him with those big, blue eyes. “Why not?”

“Because I…” He hesitated, trying to come up with something that would sound believable. “I have a column due in the morning and I haven’t even started on it yet.” She knew all about deadlines, so she would understand that. Besides, he did have a column to write, it just wasn’t due until next week. “Rain check?”

She looked disappointed, but she smiled anyway. “Absolutely. How does coming over for dinner tomorrow night sound?”

It would be crazy to agree when he could be so close to having an episode, but he couldn’t say no. Not when she asked in that soft, sultry voice. “Sounds great.”

“Good. Be here at seven.”

“Seven it is.”

She pulled him down for another long, slow kiss on the mouth. “Don’t be late.”

His mouth twitched. “I won’t.” He bent his head to kiss her again, then groaned. “If I don’t go now, I’ll be here all night.”

Simone laughed. “Would that be such a bad thing?”

“Not to me, but my editor at Money Issues might not be too understanding when he doesn’t find my column sitting in his inbox tomorrow.”

She sighed. “Deadlines can be a real pain in the butt sometimes. Okay, go home and write your column. I’ll cuddle up with a bowl of ice cream instead.”

He chuckled. “Sounds better than taking a cold shower, which is what I’m going to be doing when I get home.” He closed his mouth over hers once more. “See you tomorrow night, beautiful.”

Resisting the urge to pull her into his arms again, Drake turned and walked down the hallway toward the stairwell. At the top of the steps, he glanced over his shoulder to see Simone standing where he’d left her, a sexy curve to her lips.

It took every ounce of strength he possessed not to go back and pin her against the door for one more long, lingering kiss. God, what he wouldn’t give to spend the night with her. Man, it was going to take more than a cold shower to get her out of his head.


Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and that you can't wait to read more! You can get DEAD SEXY from Ellora's Cave at http://www.jasminejade.com/ps-8917-50-dead-sexy.aspx

You can also check out the trailer here!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5D_YH6bYrE


If you decide to pick up DEAD SEXY, let me know how you like it!


*hugs*
Paige

http://www.paigetylertheauthor.com
http://paigetylertheauthor.blogspot.com

Thanks for joining us today, Paige. Your zombie actually does sound sexy. Can't wait to read the whole thing.

Were you readers intrigued? If so, leave a comment. One lucky person will win a free copy of Dead Sexy.

Everyone have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Skinny on Fat

Today we’re talking about the role fat plays in a healthy diet.

For years, fat has been the bad boy of the diet world, blamed for obesity, heart disease and high cholesterol. With the advent of low fat diets, most people should be able to control their weight better or be healthier. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true.

It’s when you factor in the type of fat with overall intake that makes a difference. There’s a lot of info out there and some of it is contradictory. What’s a poor girl just trying to make healthy choices to do? Research!

Despite the bad name, fat is important for our bodies to function properly. It helps brain function, learning abilities, memory retention and moods. Over half, actually 60% of our heart’s energy comes from burning fats. Fats compose the material that insulates and protects the nerves. Our lungs, eyes, digestion, organs and immune systems all use fats to keep our bodies in working order. Whether we like it or not, fat is here to stay.

As I mentioned before, there are different kinds of fats. In order to make the best choices, we need to know what to look for.

Monounsaturated fats are found in plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other sources are avocadoes, nuts and seeds. People following a Mediterranean style diet that incorporates a lot of monounsaturated fats usually have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in sunflower, corn and soybean oils, as well as walnuts and fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in this group. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and your body can’t make them. They’re also found in very few foods.

Saturated fats are found in animal products like red meat and whole milk dairy products. Tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil or palm oil are in this family. Poultry and fish contain saturated fat but less than red meat. Our bodies actually produce all the saturated fat that we need if we consume enough of the good fats, making it unnecessary to eat these sources of fat.

Trans fats are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods. Trans fat raises your bad cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease and lowers your good cholesterol.

I think we’re all smart cookies and know that we should limit our intake of saturated and trans fats. But how much fat do we actually need to maintain a healthy body and how much is too much?

That depends on you. Your lifestyle, your weight, your age and your overall health factor into the equation. General guidelines recommended by the USDA are:

1. Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of your total daily calories.
2. Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily calories.
3. Limit trans fats to 1% of your calories.

The bottom line is that we need to be aware of what we’re putting into our mouths. I’m so guilty of this, but in the last few months, as I’ve made more conscious choices, I’ve noticed a difference.

I feel better. My body thanks me now. I used to get heartburn 4 times a week or more. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve had it since August. I have more energy to do the things I want to do. For the first time, I really get the whole balanced diet thing.

How about you? Do you watch the fats you use? What tips do you have for keeping in the good fat and getting rid of the bad?

Also, I’ve got a poll up on the right hand side under About Me that I’m going to keep up until Tuesday of next week. I’ve been doing Weightloss Wednesdays for quite a while now. I’d like to know if you all like this and want me to keep it up. So please, place your vote.

Friday, Paige Tyler will be here guest blogging with us. Her new book, Dead Sexy, releases that day. Her hero is a zombie and she swears he’s sexy. She’ll tell us more about the premise of her hero and we’ll be giving away a copy for one lucky commenter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Saturday's Disappointment

First things first, Autumn Shelley won the copy of Blood Diamond.

Second, I had wanted to post pictures of the Nuremburg Christmas market today, but that’s where my disappointment comes in.

When we go to Nuremburg, we take the train. The station in our town is only 2 blocks away and it’s an hour train ride. Same amount of time to get there as by car and the 2 of us can ride on a Day Plus pass for less than 15 euros. Totally worth it when you consider gas prices (which are higher than in the States, even for those of us on base), wear & tear on the car, parking prices, and general driving nuisances.

Anyway, hubby had to work this weekend, but he got off work around 3. We decided to go when he got in. We got up to the station, bought our ticket, no problem. We’re on the platform waiting for the train and minutes before it’s supposed to arrive, it cancels.

My German isn’t good enough yet to catch everything said, I just know that train isn’t coming. So I go up to a man about my age or so and asked if spoke English. Generally, my age and younger usually speak it pretty well. He said yes and I asked about the train. He said it wasn’t coming and we’d have to go through Bayreuth to get there.

Okay, not the best option as it doubles the ride, but do-able. So we’re on our way. When we get to Nuremburg, it’s almost 7. There is drama in the train station there. Not sure what was going on, but the polizei had the middle section of the station cordoned off, they stood there with automatic rifles and police dogs to make sure no one crossed. As the Queen of Nosy, I’m dying to know what happened, but don’t know where to look so I’ll be asking my neighbor where I can find out.

Anyway, we exit the train station the back way and head over to the Irish pub near the station where our friends, who arrived around the time we were supposed to, were waiting for us. Or so we thought. We got our wires crossed and ended up meeting at the big church in town.

We meet up with them, get some sausage sandwiches, some gluhwein for hubby, hot chocolate with amaretto for me. Pick up a few things we like to get. Walk towards one end of the market until we see it peter out and then head back toward the center.

That’s when we got our surprise. The vendors were closing. It was 8 o’clock on a Saturday night and they were closing early. It was a disappointment. We didn’t have enough time to purchase everything we wanted to and see everything.

And, lovely readers, that is why I have no photos for you today. Everything folded up before I could snap them.

How did you spend your weekend?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why the Congo?

Blood Diamond released this week. Wednesday, in fact. As I’ve shared here before, it’s my romantic suspense novella set in the Congo jungle.


Why did I choose such an exotic locale?

Well, it mostly had to do with the parameters of the call. I wrote Blood Diamond in response to call for romantic suspense stories for the Jewels of the Night series at The Wild Rose Press. The rules were simple: high suspense, romance, include a blue diamond.

At first, I was at a loss as to a story line. Up to that point, I’d concentrated on paranormal type story lines. So I put it to the back of my mind for a while.

I was watching a rerun of Bones, the pilot episode where she’s at Dulles airport with a skull in her bag and Booth has her detained. It got me thinking about how a forensic anthropologist works in some interesting, out of the way places. It started a niggling thought. What other professionals would be in out-of-the-way places. Then I thought about Doctors Without Borders. Now I was getting somewhere.

Next, it was time to research blue diamonds. Where in the world are they mined? I had a thought about using Russia as a backdrop, but there just wasn’t anything there that sparked any ideas. Then I read an article about blood diamonds and how the Republic of the Congo or Congo Brazzaville (there’s another country in Africa called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) had been sanctioned by the Kimberly Process in 2004. There had been a large number of diamonds exported when there were no registered mines there.

This really got me thinking and that story, combined with my heroine who was a part of Doctors Without Borders gave me the bare bones for a story. With the help of a critique partner, Rachel Lynne, who was also writing a story for Jewels of the Night (her book, Ring of Lies, comes out December 22), I was able to iron out my plot.

So that’s the story behind why I set my story in the Congo. I know I shared my blurb and excerpt a couple of weeks ago, so I chose a new, never-before-seen excerpt for today.

Excerpt
As if he read her mind, he pulled the cup of her bra down and sucked the puckered tip into the wet warmth of his mouth. The pulls on the tender bud shot red-hot need directly to her core, wetting her panties. A moan broke free from her throat as she grabbed his head, but she didn’t know whether it was to push him away or to hold him in place. 

“Mack.” Her plea broke on a gasp as one of his hands slid past the barrier of her pants to stroke plump lips moist with her desire.

His whisper cut through her haze. “Do you want me to stop, Jillian?”

His assertion earlier that he didn’t go where he wasn’t invited floated through her mind and she knew what he wanted. He might not trust her, but she was learning to trust him. Though, it might be a huge mistake, one she would pay dearly for later, she couldn’t deny that she wanted him now.

“Jillian?”

Her mind made up, she rubbed his erection through his pants. “No. Don’t stop.”


In celebration of the release, I’m giving away a copy of Blood Diamond to a commenter. I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Do exotic locales make a book more exciting for you? Are you drawn to certain settings?

Make sure to leave a comment for a chance at the giveaway. Everyone have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Interview at A Possessed WIP

I’m over at Rachel Firasek’s blog today. She’s got a copy of my new release, Blood Diamond, up for grabs. If you don’t win one there, stop by here tomorrow. I’ll be talking about why I chose the Congo jungle as the setting in my story AND you’ll have another chance to win a free copy.

Head over to Rachel’s here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Carbohydrates

First of all, Happy December. Christmas is catching up fast. Are you all ready for it? We've got snow on the ground here and it really feels like winter.

Today's Weightloss Wednesday again. We’ve discussed fruits, veggies and proteins so it’s only right that we discuss carbohydrates in a healthy diet.

In the past few years, carbs have gotten a bad rep. We’ve all seen those high protein/low-or-no carb diets. They’ve been popular for quite a while. Carbs aren’t the villain. As with anything, they just need to be eaten in moderation and there are some that are better than others.

Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient and they’re easily converted into energy by your body. Glucose, which is a sugar, is essential fuel for the brain. Obviously carbs have their place in a healthy diet.

As I mentioned, some are better choices than others. As a rule, the more natural and unrefined it is, the healthier it is. A low glycemic index (GI) is also an indicator of a good choice.

The GI classifies carbohydrates by their immediate effect on our blood sugar. Carbs that are converted to glucose very fast have a high GI value. Those that metabolize slowly have a low GI. Here’s a link to the Glycemic Index so you can check out your own choices.

So what are good carbohydrate choices?

1. Fruits and vegetables. They’re usually low in calories and high in nutrients.
2. Whole grains. Unrefined carbs are higher in fiber and keep you feeling full longer. Companies are making it easier for us with whole grain pastas and noodles and brown rice. Choosing wholegrain bread when possible is another way to make better choices.
3. Potatoes. These have higher GI values. New white potatoes are better choices, but sweet potatoes are the best of all. I’ve even seen sweet potato french fries in the freezer section. Potatoes are fat-free and their higher GI can be reduced by eating them with other low GI foods as part of the same meal.

How many do we need? If we’re making smarter choices and eating less refined carbs, anything between 40 and 60 percent of your daily calories can come from carbs. Lower carb is fine, but try to avoid the very low carb diets except for very short periods of time. Yeah, remember when I said glucose was food for the brain? ‘Nuf said.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with carbs. I loved them and they loved me back since they wanted to stick around, but I hated how my body looked. These days, I’ve got a better self-image and I’m making better choices. I’m learning that anything is okay in moderation.

What about you? How do you feel about carbs? Have you done the very low carb diets? How did you do? Would you do it again?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pictures from the Regensburg Christmas Market

Today, pictures of a Christkindl Markt, as promised.


On Saturday, I went to Regensburg for the day. They actually have 3 different markets. There is one that is arts & crafts. These booths feature things like stained glass items, pottery and other handmade items. Beautiful stuff.

There is the regular market located in the middle of town. And then they have the market that is on the castle grounds.


There are several carousels at the Christmas markets.


The red and white striped tops are common. Those are mostly what you see, regardless of the city. The only place (so far) that I haven’t seen them is the market on the castle grounds.


Gluhwein, anyone?


Speaking of warm drinks, I have a new favorite. I had a hot chocolate with a shot of amaretto in it at the market. It is OMG good.

This is one line of vendors. Instead of all individual booths, they set up one long one with dividers and each vendor gets a section. In the middle of town, there are about 4 of these long stretches.


These last two pictures are taken at the market on the castle grounds. It’s a bit more spread out and easier to navigate. There aren’t quite as many people either, as it costs to get in.


Since this is one of the Christmas markets I went to last year, I noticed that all the vendors get the same spot every year. That makes it easy to go back and find one you’re interested in. Lucky for me.

What did I haul off with for the day? We got a wood and wheat star to hang on the door, I got a Tibetan singing bowl and of course, the goodies. Lebkuchen, spiced almonds, bratwurst and the hot chocolate I mentioned.

It was so cold and very windy, but a good day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

German Christmas Markets

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America and as we are currently living in Germany, we weren’t able to spend it with family as we would have liked to. So what did we do?

Well, I wanted to see the new Harry Potter movie and it was playing in Nuremburg. We had friends that asked us over to celebrate with them. So, we went to the first showing of the movie (and had a private showing) and then went to our friends’ house.

While we were in Nuremburg, we noticed that they were setting up for the Christmas market there. It started this afternoon.

If you’ve ever been to Germany in late November into December, you’ve probably been to one. If you haven’t, these are a tradition and most large cities have one and most smaller cities have a variation. Some people even plan vacations to Germany to coincide with the Christmas markets.

Christkindl markt as they are called here, are booths set up all over the pedestrian zone of the city. The booth vendors are a combination of food and goods.

Gluhwein (pronounced glue-vine) is a mulled red wine that vendors throughout the market sell. It’s common for people to sip this warm drink while exploring the offerings. There are other variations, such as a cherry gluhwein or a spiked apple punch.

Then there is the food. There isn’t much that isn’t offered. Sausages of all kinds, toasted nuts, pastries and other baked goods, schneeballens (from Rothenburg, if you remember that post), chocolate covered fruit, fruit bread, and lebkuchen (laib-kookin), which is a Christmastime specialty consisting of a gingerbread-like tasting cookie that is soft and chewy. It’s really good and hubby loves them.

As for the goods, they run the gamut. Handmade Christmas ornaments, advent candles, other Christmas decorations, pottery, jewelry, slippers, handbags, leather goods, things carved from wood, just about anything.

It feels a lot like walking the fairgrounds at a county fair in the States. They are a lot of fun and last year, we went to several. In doing so, we learned that not all Christmas markets are created equal. So this year, we have a plan.

We’re limited because we’re heading to Texas for the holidays and because hubby has to work one weekend. So, tomorrow I’m heading to Regensburg. They actually have two going on. There’s one in the pedestrian zone and one on the castle grounds. It was really nice last year, so we’re hitting that one again.

On the second weekend of December, we’re heading back to Nuremburg. We only did a quick pass-through last year and only saw a small bit. It seemed really nice and since then, I’ve been told they have one of the nicer markets. The following weekend, if possible, we’re going to try to hop over to Rothenburg. They are kind of the Christmas capital of Germany. We may have to wait until next year for that one.

So I’ll be taking some pictures tomorrow and at the other markets and sharing later in December. Have you been to the Christmas markets in Germany? What did you think? Would you plan a vacation around them?

Hope you all had a great turkey day yesterday and a fun weekend coming up!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Talking Turkey

So we’ve talked about the importance of water. We’ve discussed the benefits of fruits and veggies. Now it’s time to talk turkey. Sorta.

Protein, preferably lean protein, is an important part of a healthy diet. Why?

For one, protein helps you feel full longer and choosing lean protein lowers your saturated fat intake. Making smart protein choices throughout the day can help curb your hunger and prevent you from overeating.

It can increase your metabolism. Really. According to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, choosing protein for 1/3 of your daily calories gives your metabolism a boost, which helps burn more fat, even when you’re sleeping.

Fiber. We all need it to maintain healthy bodies and decrease the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Choosing leaner types of protein will naturally increase your fiber intake.

Lean protein helps us build muscle. We need more lean protein when we workout more to help replace the muscle tissue your body breaks down and burns during exercise. More muscle helps you burn more fat.

Lean protein can be beans, chicken, turkey, and believe it or not, buffalo meat. Tofu is another good source of protein.

I’m going to share a rockin’ chicken recipe that I made last week. It’s is so good. I made it with some couscous and veggies, but you could go farther with the Asian theme, if you wanted.

Grilled Sesame Chicken

6 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, lightly pounded
2 TB sesame seeds, toasted

Marinade
1 TB sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 TB ginger root, grated
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions,chopped

Combine the marinade ingredients. Add chicken and marinate for 3 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and grill over medium-high heat 4 -5 minutes each side, basting with the marinade.

Toast sesame seeds in frying pan over medium heat, shaking to prevent burning. Sprinkle over grilled chicken.

The sesame seeds were really too much, but I saved those that I didn’t use for the next time I make this. You could probably cut them in half, but it’s to your taste.

I hope you give this recipe a try. Let me know if you like it. How do you get your protein in? Do you get enough?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Books, Books and More Books

I love books. It’s my one true vice. I can never leave a bookstore without something. And don’t get me started on ebooks. I’ve been buying those for about 7 years, before the Kindle and the Nook made them as popular as there are today.

Why am I bringing this up? Probably because I spent most of the day yesterday, about 6–7 hours helping hubby put together bookshelves.

When we moved to Germany, we put a lot of books into storage. If I remember correctly, I counted about 50 boxes. I brought somewhere between 10 and 15 with me. After 2 RWA conferences and just buying online and at the PX, the 2 bookshelves we brought were overflowing.

So we went to IKEA. I’m not a fan of their stuff, but hubby loves them and I can deal with their shelving units. After discussing what we wanted, we knew we’d have to come back because our little car wouldn’t hold things. We were prepared to rent a van, but then a friend offered us the use of her husband and their station wagon. Saturday, the 2 guys went to get our stuff.

I would like it better if they had had all the pieces in the warm brown that I wanted. Instead, hubby came back with that light birch stuff that I despise. It does look clean, but it also looks cold to me. The brown would have felt more welcoming to me. Oh well.

We again have a wall that is almost all bookshelves. There are a few spots for growth, but yeah, we’re pretty filled up. And I’m not even going to mention the boxes of books still under the bed in the guest room from conference this past summer. ;)

I have noticed that since I’ve started writing, I don’t read as much as I used to. I still do and I love it, but I’m finding myself reading the shorter works now. One of my goals for next year, though, will be to read at least one book for pleasure per week. Since I used to inhale them in a day, I think it’s doable.

How often do read for pleasure? How many books do you generally read a week? What’s your all-time favorite?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back in the Land of Writing

If you stop by regularly, you’ll notice I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that. Real life intruded, in a big way, and I was mostly offline for most of that time.

Remember a couple of months ago when I mentioned that hubby and I would be staying here in Germany for another 3-5 years? Well, in order for that to happen, he has to switch companies to the one that won the new contract for his job. We had decided that would be the best option for us.

Then, at the 11th hour (read two weeks ago, contract ends November 30), his current employer gave him a job option within the company to keep him on board. It wasn’t so great financially for us and required us to move to Alabama. We weren’t thrilled with the idea and after talking with some lovely online friends about the area and the bottom line financially, we decided to pass.

That’s when his VP brought out the big guns. Made him an offer that, in the end, he wanted to take. It required a move back to the States, while we waited to hear back from this guy with an actual offer letter, I had to proceed forward as if it were a done deal.

So I got Peanut into the vet to get her shots early. Rabies shots have to be at least 30 days old before a dog is allowed into the country. I called the movers to get an estimate. They stopped by. Between all the errands and little things that it takes to move from one country to another, I was online about 30 minutes a day. A record for me! LOL

After all this running around, when we finally heard back from the VP, he said all those positions that he had offered hubby had filled up over the weekend, the same weekend hubby had called and emailed the guy. The offer was off the table.

We talked about it and decided to stick with our original plan. So, the dog’s already got her yearly shots, albeit a month early, so it wasn’t a total loss of time and energy. Hubby will keep his eyes peeled for something else as I think he’s getting tired of working in the military contracting business.

Now I can get back to work, concentrate on my writing and school and continue to enjoy the experience of living in Europe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Importance of Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy and balanced diet. Many experts suggest 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Sounds like a lot, right? Consider this – one serving size is one-half cup of most fruits and veggies. One serving of greens and leafy veggies is one cup and a single piece of fruit is one serving.

Broken down like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. Eat a cup of cooked mixed veggies and you’ve got 2 servings down. I’ve been finding that it does take some vigilance to get enough. I love most fruit and vegetables and still have to plan them into my daily diet.

So why should you make the effort to eat more? There are so many benefits.

They have a lot of vitamins and minerals that help make our bodies strong. Yes, there are supplements out there, but almost every expert will tell you that the body processes natural sources better than supplements. Getting the nutrients we need helps our bodies reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Making fruits and vegetables a part of a healthy diet helps to lose or maintain a healthy weight. They have a lot of water and fiber, which helps to fill you up, but are low in calories.

You can even add some veggies to your favorite baking recipes for lower fat, healthier versions. I have some of those recipes that I’ll be sharing over the next couple of months.

What are some ways to make incorporating fruits and veggies into your diet easier?

Add flavor! Herbs and spices are wonderful flavor enhancers that can really bring out the extra flavor without adding extra calories.

If you must add butter, try I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. No calories and just a couple of sprays can give you that buttery taste you’re craving.

If fresh isn’t available, canned or frozen are good options, but read labels. Don’t get the ones with added sugar, syrups, sauces or anything else that adds extra calories.

Mix it up. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if a particular veggie isn’t your favorite, try it cooked a different way. This leads me to the recipe I’m going to share with you today.

Zucchini is not a favorite of most people. I could eat it, but preferred other veggies. Hubby didn’t like it all. Someone pointed me to this recipe and I tried it. Hubby liked it and I LOVED it. I made it for the first time last Tuesday. I’ve made it 4 times since. It’s easy and so good.

Zucchini Fries

Ingredients

    4 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray   
    1 tsp Italian seasoning   
    1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour   
    3/4 tsp table salt   
    3/4 cup(s) dried bread crumbs, panko-variety suggested   
     2 medium zucchini, about 7-inches each, cut into 4 chunks, then each chunk halved   
     2 large egg white(s), whipped until frothy (almost soft peaks)  

Instructions

•    Preheat oven to 425ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, flour and salt. Place bread crumbs in another small bowl.

•    Dredge a zucchini fry in flour mixture and then dip into egg whites; dredge in bread crumbs. Place coated zucchini on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining ingredients; liberally coat with cooking spray.

•    Roast, turning once, until desired crispness, about 12 minutes. Yields about 8 fries per serving.
Notes

•    Use this technique with any summer squash or eggplant. It also works great with thick-cut onion rings or even green tomatoes.

For extra crispy fries, increase the oven temperature to 500ºF and knock 2 minutes off the cooking time.

One last thing, the CDC has an awesome website dedicated to helping people get in their fruits and veggies. Check it out.

How do you get your fruits and veggies in? Think you’ll give this recipe a try? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks and your opinion of zucchini fries.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Remembering the Journey

Life’s a journey. Pretty simple and straightforward, right?

It’s easy to forget sometimes. I think we get so focused on achieving our goals, that we forget to enjoy getting there. We forget that the achievement of those goals aren't the end, but the beginning.

I was reminded of this yesterday. I was in my Sculpt & Burn class and we were doing baselines for the new month so we could gauge our progress at the end of the month. I knew I wouldn’t do as well as some of the other ladies there, but I expected to do better than I did.

I’ve been working steadily at becoming healthier and more active. To that end, I’ve been watching what I eat, eating more fruits and veggies, drinking more water, going to this exercise class 2x (now 3x) a week and walking 3 miles on the other days. I’ve been doing this for over two months.

Well, I sucked. Big time. The frustration, and yes, the shame, that I couldn’t do more sit-ups and push-ups than I did overcame me and I cried like a big baby in front of everyone in the class.

I have to say, here and now, that the ladies in that class and my instructor, Sarah, are the most awesome people and I’m so blessed to be sharing my journey with them. Anyway, I continued on with the class and at the end, Sarah reminded me that this is a journey.

Sure, I couldn’t do as many of the exercises as I’d have liked, but she reminded me of what I had accomplished. That I needed to be patient. That I needed to keep working at it.

As I thought about her words on the way home, I realized that it’s easy to get frustrated in the pursuit of our goals, regardless of what they may be. In our writing, we’d like to get published sooner, write more words each week, etc. In our quest for a healthier lifestyle, we’d like to lose weight faster, get stronger faster, etc.

When we are this focused on the end result, we tend to miss the little joys along the way. In our writing, it might be the story that the plot falls into place for us, our critique partner loved one of our characters, an editor may have rejected our story but they took the time to tell us why and how we could improve. In getting healthier, it might be walking up 3 flights of stairs without getting winded, going deeper into our lunges and squats, turning to a piece of fruit when you want something sweet instead of chocolate.

Starting today, I’ve got a new goal to go along with all those others I’ve got written down. To take time each week to appreciate the little things that makes the journey so special. To make a list of the things I’ve accomplished. I’m sure I’ll get frustrated again, but when I do, I’ll take out that list and remind myself to enjoy the journey.

What about you? Do you ever forget to enjoy the journey? How do remind yourself?

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNo-vember

Today is the day! It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month, more commonly called NaNoWriMo. Good luck to all of you courageous people out there working towards that goal. I’ll be joining my peeps from the Nuremburg writers group this week for our first write-in.

We’d planned for tomorrow but it’s a holiday here in Germany. Germans take their holidays seriously and everything’s closed so we’re aiming for Thursday. It may work out better as we may need some encourage by day 4.

Today also marks the 1 month mark for my new release. Blood Diamond, a Jewel of the Night story, will be out December 1 from The Wild Rose Press and it's up on the website as Coming Soon. To celebrate, here’s a little taste.


Blurb:
Dodging an angry warlord and running through the rain forest in Congo Brazzaville was not what Jillian St. James expected when she signed up with Doctors Without Borders. Yet that’s exactly what she gets after a mysterious visit from her brother.

Mercenary Mack Nichols doesn’t have much faith in humanity these days. When a beautiful young doctor denies being part of the theft of a blue diamond from his client, he doesn’t put much stock in her story.

Neither have reason to trust the other and their mutual attraction is an inconvenience to both. A betrayal and the reveal of an evil plan pit these two against an army. Can they put aside their doubts and work together to bring down a corrupt, power-hungry overlord or will their chance at love be over before it ever starts?

Excerpt:

“Are you all right, Jillian?” The husky timber of his voice sent another shiver through her, this time having nothing to do with fear.

How could she be aroused after being scared so bad? Especially with a man like this one, a man who worked for the General. She was one sick puppy.

“Jillian?” A hand came down on her shoulder and she jumped.

Finally lifting her head, she ignored Mack and trained her attention on the log where she’d been sitting.
As recognition set in, her entire body began to shake and her heart pounded so hard, she feared cracking a rib. Dear God. There where she’d just been sitting lay a yellow-green snake with ridged scales and green eyes that matched its body staring sightlessly ahead.

She swallowed, trying to wet her dry throat. “Is that—”

“An African bush viper? Yep. I think in the firelight, your hand must have looked like dinner.” Though the snake now lay dead, Mack’s voice still sounded strained.

She stood on shaky legs. “I didn’t even see it there.”

“I’m not surprised. It had coiled its tail around the branch overhead and dropped from there.”

If he hadn’t seen the highly poisonous snake, she’d be dead right now. She launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her face in his throat. She heard a thud and then his arms were around her, surrounding her in a blanket of safety. For the first time, she thought maybe he really would keep his promise.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Krenfleisch

So far over the almost 2 years I’ve been here in Germany, this is my favorite German dish. It’s pronounced crane fl-eye-sh. In my little area of Bavaria, they drop the n and call it cray fl-eye-sh.

Sorry that there are no amounts for the ingredients. This is my neighbor’s recipe and she taught it to me so this is from the notes I jotted while watching her like a hawk.

I hope you like it. If you’ve ever had it before, did you like it? If you haven’t tried it before, let me know when you do. I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Enjoy! Everyone have a great weekend.

Krenfleisch

Beef roast
Crisco or butter or lard (my neighbor used lard)
Salt
Pepper
Celery, chopped
Carrots, chopped
Onion, chopped
Bayleaf
Beef bouillon
Horseradish
Granny smith apple
Whipping cream

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Brown in the Crisco (or butter or lard).

Remove the meat from the pan and add the celery, carrots and onion. Saute the vegetables until they start to soften.

Add hot water, bayleaf and beef bouillon. Return the meat to the pan. Cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours.

Meanwhile, grate the horseradish (if using fresh) and the granny smith apple. (500g of grated horseradish makes enough for 4 people).

Remove the meat from the pan and strain the vegetables, returning the juice to the pan.
Add the horseradish/granny smith apple mixture to taste and whip.

Add the whipping cream to taste and whip. Serve as a gravy over the beef and your choice of dumplings or spaetzle.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NaNoWriMo

I’m taking the plunge this year and participating in NaNo. What’s this, you ask?

The complete abbreviation is NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Those that sign up are committing themselves to writing 50,000 words from November 1-30.

50k seems like a lot to write, especially in 30 days. It can be done. Millions have done it. The idea is to just write. No time to go back and edit stuff as you go, just spew those words out and get them down. December is soon enough for editing.

My goal is to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. I know that I’m going away for Thanksgiving weekend. Add in some weekend days that I probably won’t have time to write and I’m figuring I have 20 good days to write in November. So, divide 50,000 by 20 and my daily word count goal is 2500 words.

This is a reasonable goal to me. On a good day, I can have this knocked out within 3 hours or less. Other days make take me longer, but it’s definitely a do-able goal. On the good days, I’ll probably also try to go past that mark because who knows what will happen the next day.

I think I’ve mentioned here that my hubby found an English writer’s group in Nuremburg for me. The rest of the group have joined in with me and we’re going to try doing write-ins at the bookstore where we meet. We’re kicking the month off with a scheduled write-in for Monday afternoon.

Write-ins are basically where a group of writers meet to write. I’ve never participated in one before so this is a new experience for me. I think it will be a lot of fun and helpful to keep the motivation going so that we all reach that 50k goal by November 30.

This week, I’m finishing up the prep work that I need so that I’m ready to start come Monday.

If you’re interested in signing up for NaNo, or just want more information, head over to the official website. If you join in the fun, look to add me as a writing buddy. My screen ID is Riley Quinn. Go figure, right?

Are you already signed up? Think you’ll sign up? Or do you just think we’re all crazy? :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Going Overboard?

Is it possible to go too far in the quest to lose weight? Most definitely.

We’ve all been there. We’re so excited to start this new phase in our life, to get healthy, to get thinner, that we jump in with both feet. We’re stringent with our diet. We exercise for several hours each day. Then what happens?

We do great for a while, maybe a few weeks, maybe even a few months. We’re losing weight, feeling great. Then something happens. It could be that you get ill, you could have a killer week at work and just can’t get to the gym, or you could just be watching television and that cake the TV character is eating looks so darn good. You slide. With a vengeance.

No more watching your diet, no more exercise. Within a short amount of time, you’ve undone everything you’ve accomplished, especially the new-found confidence and pride in yourself. Sound familiar?

That’s one of the things I love about SparkPeople. They encourage you to take things slowly, incorporating one step at time until it becomes a habit and then adding the next step.
A conversation with an acquaintance really brought home to me how we deprive ourselves sometimes.

As many of you know, I’m an American living in Germany. I love learning about the people and culture here and enjoy experiencing it all firsthand. One part of that is the food. German food is more than schnitzel and bratwurst and it’s pretty tasty. Of course, I can’t forget the beer either.:)

A woman that is in my exercise class said that she won’t eat German food because she doesn’t know how to count the calories. I found that sad. She’s here, experiencing a new country. Many people would love to change places with her and she’s limiting herself. For no reason, in my opinion.

It’s true that most calorie counters don’t list German food. It makes it a bit more difficult, but not impossible to enjoy cultural dishes and still lose weight.

Options include finding a recipe online (easy) and figure it out. Punch the recipe into an online food calculator (like SparkPeople) and let them figure it out for you. I enjoy the food when I go out. I drink the beer. I just make allowances in my diet for the rest of the day. Or, if I happen to over my allotted daily calories, I get back on track the next day.

Am I losing the weight slower? Maybe. I think I have a better chance of keeping it off. I’m not looking for a diet to follow to lose weight quickly. I’m looking for a healthier lifestyle overall. That includes indulgences.

What do you think? Would you eat the food in Germany if you were on a diet?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rewarding Yourself

A couple of weeks ago on Weightloss Wednesday, I talked about motivation.

Today’s topic, Rewarding Yourself, ties in with motivation.

I spent this past weekend in Austria. I signed up for a spa weekend as a reward for losing weight and finishing a manuscript. At the time of departure, I’d lost 17 pounds. This happened over a period of 2 months. I was quite pleased with myself.

After enjoying a Swedish massage and the thermal pools of the Aquadome, I decided that another weekend there was in order for reaching my 30 pound goal.

Then it dawned on me (I know, duh!) that having set rewards for your milestones are a great way to keep your motivation level high. And while big rewards like a spa weekend are nice, smaller rewards for smaller goals reached are important too.

So what would be a good reward? For me, I can think of lots of things. A new music CD, a movie night with the next must-see, a special night with just my guy and me, new makeup. These are all rewards that don’t have to cost a lot of money.

I think 5 pound increments are great milestone markers. I know I get excited every time I hit that next 5 pound mark. It would be even better if I knew I’d earned a new CD or book too. So I’m going to make up my own reward system. Every 5 pound milestone gets a small reward and 30 pounds gets a big reward.

I haven’t decided on my rewards yet, though. I’ll work on it over the next couple of weeks and then share with you.

What do you think of creating a reward system? Would you create one for yourself? Do you think it would help keep your motivation level high? Would it be enough to make you stay on track?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading Ease

A couple of weeks ago, I learned about something cool – Reading Ease.

Apparently, the top best-selling writers average better in several statistics than other writers. They use shorter sentences, shorter words, and a higher percentage of active voice. The analysis of this factors is what Jim Smith (Writer’s Little Helper) calls the Reading Ease Ideal.

This check can be done in Microsoft Word and according to Mr. Smith, the following numbers are the benchmark.

Words per sentence (avg): 15 max
Characters per word (avg): 4.5 max
Passive voice: 5% max
Flesch Reading Ease: 80% max
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 6 max

He suggests editing a scene at a time to achieve or surpass the above goals. He goes into more detail about how to use these numbers effectively, but this provides a good start.

How do you find these numbers? I have Word 2007. I can tell you where to go in this program. If you have a different version, go to help and type in “Flesch reading ease” and the directions should pop up.

Click on the Microsoft symbol button in the top left corner. At the very bottom of the menu that pops up is a Word Options button. Click that. On the left-hand menu, choose Proofing. In the menu that comes up in the right pane, the third group of options has a box for Show Readability Statistics. Check that and hit OK. Now the next time you run your spell check, these statistics will be displayed. Cool, right?

For fun, I ran the first chapter of Into the Pride through it. This is what it came up with:

Words per sentence (avg): 9.7
Characters per word (avg): 4.3
Passive voice: 0%
Flesch Reading Ease: 84.3%
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 3.9

Not too shabby, eh? That’s the rough first draft. So, if I edit it until the reading ease score hits 80% or below and keep the other numbers about the same, I’ve got a possible best-seller. Woohoo!

Seriously, though, it’s an interesting tool to use to help during your editing process.

For the record, the stats for this post are:

Words per sentence (avg): 10.8
Characters per word (avg): 4.3
Passive voice: 3%
Flesch Reading Ease: 77.1%
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 5.1

Have you used this tool? Are you going to? Hit me with some numbers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Welcome back Nancy Lennea

Please welcome back Nancy Lennea. She’s got a couple of new books coming out and she’s here to tell us about Destiny’s Mountain.

What can you tell us about your new book?
I created a romantic suspense that incorporates scenery and location as an integral part of the plot. DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN also includes a hint of gothic mystery since I filled my story with stalkers, a murder, mountain rescues, ghostly voices, and sexy romance. It takes place in a quirky college town that is nestled between a river and mountains in northern New Hampshire.

What is your writing routine like? Do you find time to write every day?
I am fortunate in that writing is my current profession and it is up to me each day to get my b*tt in the chair. A few years ago, not the case. I worked outside the home as a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatcher when I began writing. I’d use a pencil and pad during breaks then rush home and type it into my computer. People at work helped with the story by editing, sharing ideas, and giving me the confidence to keep at it. Is it any wonder I have dedicated this book to them? After selling our NH home, we moved to North Carolina to be near family. My hubby goes to work and I write. It is my dream come true!

Last time you visited, you mentioned you believed in writing organizations. Still true?
Absolutely! I could not have done this—selling five manuscripts in a little over one year—without the organizations I have joined. Romance writers of America is the biggest. They supply their members with a varied system in order to help young writers, struggling published writers, and even old pros. My local chapter, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, has 137 members and a great mix of men and women, old and young, and we have fantastic, helpful, and fun monthly meetings. On Saturday Oct. 16th our own Sabrina Jeffries will speak along with her agent Pamela Ahearn during an all day workshop. Next month’s talk on November 13th (my birthday!) will feature the Borders Romance Book Buyer, Sue Grimshaw. (find out more at www.heartofcarolina.org) I also belong to a few on-line chapters. Even my two publishers have author loops where we can chat and ask questions and pat each other on the back. Belonging to writing organizations is worth it!

Describe the genre of this book. Is this the only genre you write in?
Due to the intrigue I have wrapped around my characters, I deemed DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN a romantic suspense. Romance is, first and foremost, the basis, but I didn’t want to make the path toward true love too easy for Jacob and Destiny. There are several—read, dozens—of dark moments. My previous release from Red Rose Publishing, SECRET LOVE MATCH, was a more simplified contemporary story about romance between two individuals who were not out to find love. My latest release from Whispers Publishing, DRAGON’S CURSE, is a historical paranormal set on an island off the coast of Scotland. Totally different! I write what comes to my head. I create a story when a certain character demands attention. Crazy, but it works for me.

Having recently achieved your goal to be a published writer, what’s next?
I signed that first contract with Red Rose Publishing in August of 2009. I signed with Whispers Publishing last March. Three books are out. UNWRAPPING CHRIS, a contemporary short story set on an army base, is due out in December from Whispers and I have sold another romantic suspense to Red Rose. I believe in the power of the electronic publishing world, but still enjoy the feel of a book in my hand. I hope to someday have a book in print. So, I’ll keep writing.

What are you working on right now?
My sister and I visited my parents down in Florida back in August and, while enjoying the pool, we started talking about a newly expanded art museum that reopened near our homes in North Carolina. We started throwing out ideas for a paranormal that will include some of the twenty-nine bronze statues by Auguste Rodin. I am working through that book and have come up with some amazing characters and enough of a story arc to create a trilogy. So, in between promoting my current releases and editing my upcoming sales, I will get it done and out to agents. Still looking for an agent.


BOOK BLURB

In a quirky college town surrounded by the mountains of New Hampshire new art history professor, Jacob Oliver, hikes a trail on a crisp September morning. He contemplates his life. Divorced and forced out of his job with the Boston Police due to a horrific accident, he spots a naked woman beneath a majestic waterfall. Escaping, he falls and reinjures his knee.

Destiny Blake hears a noise; someone is on her mountain. She finds a handsome man sitting in the mud. Love blooms and lust consumes them after she helps him to the safety of her cabin. Soon, assumptions pull them apart, leaving her vulnerable to the unwanted attentions of other men.

When Jacob decides he cannot live without her, he must save her from a madman who chases her up her mountain through the cold, snowy darkness of a November night. Ghostly voices push Jacob onward, and urge Destiny to fight back. Pain, hypothermia, and death threaten before the sun rises. Can Destiny and Jacob make it off Destiny's mountain...alive?

EXCERPT

With all the noise, Jacob barely caught her name. Branches cracked and leaves rustled, while small animals high-tailed it out of her way. Chattering squirrels raced up huge pines, and several rabbits hopped past him and his stump. He spied small flashes of tan skin and blonde braid, and his aching body immediately reacted.

God, this girl would make a dead man hard.

When she reappeared with a long branch, he couldn’t look away. She wore no makeup. She didn’t need any. Delicate gold earrings hung from dainty ears, and she had the deepest blue eyes imaginable.

He let his gaze slide down her body, and glimpsed squared shoulders and taut muscles under her mud-spattered, yellow shirt. Two taut nipples jutted out, the soft fabric barely concealing their beauty.

“She’s braless,” he sputtered.

“Did you say something?”

The young woman stopped in front of him. His cock went rigid as a tree trunk, adding a different sort of pain to the mix.

“No, just clearing my throat.”

There’s a time and place for a throbbing erection. This isn’t it.

He hadn’t even shared a regular conversation with this woman. He required her help, so he’d better not scare her away.

“Just breathe and relax,” he muttered. These irrational thoughts could turn into a problem. Air whistled past clenched teeth with an irregularity not caused by his injury.

 He turned away, but kept one eye on her while she peeled twigs and dry leaves off a five-foot-long tree branch.

No panty lines, either.

She must have jumped into her clothes to chase me down. Brave, or just plain stupid? What if I was a rapist or a serial killer?

His mind blanked out on the present situation with swift intensity. Jacob’s brain suddenly relived that long ago horrible night even though he didn’t want to remember the sobbing, near-dead woman he found lying in an alley…


A little bit about Nancy

Nancy grew up on New York’s Long Island then attended school in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire. She worked during college in the dining hall while earning a degree in art education. She met her husband at college and they raised a family in nearby Rumney. She volunteered as an EMT/firefighter then worked for the State of New Hampshire as a 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Dispatcher. Nancy now writes full time, lives in North Carolina, and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, and Sisters-in-Crime. She also writes paranormal romance, such as DRAGON’S CURSE, as Nancy Lee Badger. Find out more at www.nancyleebadger.com.

DESTINY’S MOUNTAIN is available now from
Red Rose Publishing at www.RedRosePublishing.com.
The buy link is: http://bit.ly/a4NOHE
Visit my website at: www.nancylennea.com
Visit my blog at: www.nancylennea-inlove.blogspot.com

Have a great weekend everyone! I'm heading to Austria for the weekend so I'll have some pics next week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A German Kirwa

A Kirwa (pronounced keer-va) is a local festival, usually in the fall. Each region has their own customs and traditions. Speichersdorf had their Kirwa last weekend. On Sunday, we walked down to the Landgasthof Imhof, a local restaurant. All the fun started there. On the previous Wednesday, the ‘grave’ of the Kirwa was put out.


This will stay out all week and was just taken down yesterday.

We started off with a parade. Two young girls (twins) pulled the cart, followed by a band playing traditional Bavarian music.




Then came the young couples. Each couple followed behind, the men carrying a krug of…you guessed it, beer.


The parade went around a loop in town and stopped in a clearing. Once there, the young couples formed a circle and the men put their krugs in the center of the circle.


Then they danced.


After a few dances, the men would take a drink and head back to their ladies for more dancing. Then they headed out and continued their parade.

They made a total of 3 stops, the last one ending where it all began, in the parking lot of the restaurant. They danced some more and then they formed a half circle. Here, the men took turns saying little poems of the happenings in the town over the past year. After each man spoke, the band would play.


After every man had said what they wanted to say, the entire procession posed for pictures.


Afterwards, it was time to move inside for…you guessed it, a beer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Benefits of Exercise with Sarah Brown

Today, Sarah Brown is joining us. Who is this, you ask? I’ve mentioned her before, just not by name. She’s the instructor that kicks my butt on a regular basis. LOL

Seriously, she’s the awesome leader of the Sculpt & Burn class I’ve been going to for the past month or so. Exercise is great and has some wonderful benefits. Who better to share them with us than a professional? Sarah’s awesome and so interested in helping anyone become more active.

In addition to these great benefits, she’s agreed to answer any questions you might have. Just leave a comment and she’ll check back. As an incentive, there will be a giveaway. Yay!

Anyone leaving a comment will go in the drawing to win a copy of The Spark. I’ve talked about this book before and love it. Here’s your chance to check it out.


Everyone, please welcome Sarah Brown.

Hello there. My name is Sarah and I am a fitness fanatic. That may not be completely true, but after rewriting this first sentence over 10 times, I figured the AA greeting would have to suffice. 

I have always been passionate about exercise and certified to teach aerobics when I was 18. I have taught on and off for 12 years, run over 20 half marathons, 1 full marathon, and completed 2 triathlons. I also love playing tennis, attending any and all gym classes, mountain biking, skiing, yoga, Cross Fit and dancing in my kitchen. Do you think I’m crazy? You shouldn’t.

Let’s talk about exercise for a minute, shall we? It is UNBELIEVABLY good for you. Why?

*It improves your mood.  When you exercise your brain releases “happy” chemicals. This will leave you happier and more relaxed after a workout. Seriously, with the weather here in Germany, if I wasn’t exercising, I would have some serious seasonal depression!

*It prevents chronic disease.  Exercise has been known to help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis (a serious concern in my family), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It can also prevent type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Wow.

*It helps you sleep better.  I am a serious insomniac. This side effect alone is worth it for me.

*Your energy will go through the roof.  The first few weeks may be tough and you may feel tired while your body is adjusting, but after this initial period, watch out! With all the great sleep you’ve been getting and those “happy” chemicals bouncing around your brain, you’ll become unstoppable.

*It will help you manage your weight. Need I say more? When you exercise, you burn calories. This means that (a) you will begin to slowly lose weight or (b) you can eat more. This is what I call a win-win.

*IT CAN BE - - - FUN.  Seriously.  I don’t care who you are, there is an exercise that you will enjoy. Zumba?  Biking? Walking with your family? Playing Frisbee? Dancing in your kitchen? Remember when you were a kid and you ran or biked everywhere? And you never wanted to slow down…ever. Before “it” became exercise, it was play.  Never forget that.  

If you are in love with your current exercise routine – great. If you’re getting bored with it – it’s time to switch it up. If you’ve been thinking about starting a program – now is the time. The above benefits are just the beginning. There is an activity or an instructor that is the perfect fit for you. Go ahead.
You deserve it.

Okay,  I’ll get off my soap box now, but THANK YOU for letting me stop by.  If you have any questions, or things you want to know more about, please don’t hesitate to comment!

Cheers,
Sarah

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rothenburg - Schneeballen

Schneeballen means snow balls in German. These yummy treats are a local favorite in Rothenburg.


Apparently back in the day, the people here came up with this ingenious way of using up excess dough before it went bad. Nowadays, it’s a tasty treat that every tourist tries while they’re here. They’ve also devised many yummilicious toppings to appeal to everyone’s tastes.

Of course, I had to try one. Before I did, though, the man at the shop we stopped at was nice enough to make them slowly so I could photograph each step.

He started by rolling the dough flat and then using a cutter that cut the dough into strips, leaving it attached at both ends.


Then he lifted the dough and kind of shook it out a bit.


He packed it into a metal ball full of holes and dropped it into a vat of oil.


Once fried, he opened the ball and deposited it on the table. At that point, it went through the process of being covered by various toppings, although we didn’t get to see that part. We did get to taste the finished product, however.

Behold, the caramel goodie that I chose.


It was crunchier than I expected. I thought it would be more like a funnel cake, but I was wrong. It was good, though. Definitely not something you could eat on a regular basis, especially if you’re watching your calorie intake.


Hubby chose a chocolate-covered ball.


They make them in all sizes and flavors, so you need to head over to check them out.

Ever had one of these? Want to? Maybe I’ll pick some up for a blog giveaway the next time I’m there.

Remember to stop by tomorrow. I’ve got a special guest joining us.