Monday, 25 July 2016

My 10 Top Favorite Things…

Now that summer is in full swing in the banana belt of Canada, I’m willing to bet most kids in the northern hemisphere are enjoying their free time doing their favorite things like playing with their friends, hanging out at the beach, reading books by their favorite authors (wink), or going on vacations with their families. That said, I thought I’d compile a list and share my ten top favorite things that I enjoy whether it’s summer, fall, winter or spring.

1. Enjoying my morning coffee outside (weather permitting) on our patio. True therapy.

2. Big. Bang. Theory. Sheldon still cracks me up!

3. The original Star Wars movie. I know, I’m dating myself, but I was one of those people who went
to the movie theatre to see it again and again. Of course movies were cheaper back then!

4. My reading chair. It’s comfy and cozy. Even when I have to share it with the cat.

5. my reading chair…with or without the cat.

6. Writing the first draft of a novel that nobody sees because that’s where the fun begins!

7. My pets. After all, I have to read my first draft to someone. Right?

8. Writing ‘THE END’ on the final draft of my novel. Trust me, it’s a BIG deal! 

9. Connecting with my readers online and offline. Trust me, it’s a HUGE deal!

10. Single. Malt. Scotch. No explanation necessary.

So, what are some your favorite things? Would love you to comment and share! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and thank you for reading my blog! Cheers! 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Book Review: Black Lightning by K.S. Jones…

I absolutely love Arizona! I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice (Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale areas), and would love to go back and see the Grand Canyon, since I never got a chance to go there. K.S. Jones paints a vibrant and beautiful picture with her words, that allows me to feel my skin sizzle under the Arizona heat, and make my mouth water for buttery cornbread. So what’s my take on a story set in a place that can conjure up Geronimo’s ghost and make you sweat with every page you turn? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…

Lightning does indeed strike twice with this 5 Star Winner!

K.S. Jones combines a mixture of Apache folklore, natural phenomenon, and science fiction in a dessert setting to create her middle grade sci-fy adventure about 10 year-old Samuel Baker and his incredible journey into another dimension. Fast-paced from beginning to end, Jones weaves a fantastic and emotional tale wrought with love, death, magic, and hope.

Jones’s imaginative story is a must for any bookshelf (or ereader), and though geared for tween boys, there’s plenty of action to get the girls cheering for Samuel and his friend Isabelle to get them back home to the families they love. High fives for K.S. Jones and her electrifying tale!

Tagline and Blurb:

Life moves on — no matter what...

Following his father’s puzzling disappearance and his mother’s death, ten-year-old Samuel Baker goes through the motions of living in a world turned upside down. He wears an Apache talisman, a long ago gift from his father, in hopes its promise of strength and guidance is true. But what he truly wants is the power to bring his parents back. 

Heartless Aunt Janis is elated at the prospect of becoming Samuel’s legal guardian. She is sure an orphan boy will elicit such an outpouring of public sympathy that her husband will win his Senate bid by a landslide. But when Grandpa Tate arrives, things don’t go as expected, especially when black lightning strikes!

Read an Excerpt:

Samuel stood beside his mother’s rain-speckled casket. He had cried his tears dry, so there was no point in trying to find more.

“Chin up, young man,” Aunt Janis said as her fingers nudged Samuel’s jaw upward. “Death is just part of life, and our photographer needs a good picture of you for the newspapers.”

A camera flashed, leaving Samuel’s red and swollen eyes burning as if stung by the sun instead of grief.

So many important days had come and gone without his father, but surely he would come home today, wouldn’t he? Samuel closed his eyes. He pretended his father was beside him holding his hand. They had a right to hold hands, he told himself. Not because he was ten, but because it was his mother’s funeral. Two years had passed since his father left, never to be seen again. Vanished, was the word his mother had used. Into thin air, she’d said.

“Take that silly thing off.” Aunt Janis flicked Samuel’s wood and bead necklace.

“No,” he said and shook his head. “My dad gave it to me.” It was a pinewood tile, the size of a domino shaved nickel-thin, which hung from a leather cord around his neck. Burned onto the front side of the wood was a lightning bolt. Its flipside bore the blackened imprint of a tribal dancer. It had a turquoise nugget and a shiny black hematite bead strung together on each side. His father had given the talisman to him with a promise: It will guide you and give you strength when you need it most.

Today, dressed in a black suit and starchy white shirt, Samuel wore it in hopes the promise was true.

As mourners gathered, Samuel’s friend Brian came to stand beside him. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Samuel answered without taking his eyes off the casket.

“Is that the necklace your dad gave you? You don’t usually wear it.” Brian’s wire-rimmed glasses slid down his straight arrow nose. He pushed them back up the bridge with one finger until they encircled his eyes again. “Can I see it? I promise I’ll give it right back.”

“It’s not a necklace.” Samuel pulled the leather cord off over his head, mussing his overgrown blond hair. “It’s a talisman.” He handed it to Brian. “My dad said it would help me, but it hasn’t done anything yet. I think it was just one of his stories. It’s probably just an old piece of scrap wood with a couple rocks tied to it.”

Brian shrugged after examining the piece then he handed it back to Samuel. “I think it’s cool. You should keep wearing it anyway.”

Nodding, Samuel hung the talisman around his neck again, but this time he dropped it down beneath his shirt where it was no longer visible. It felt warm against his skin.

“Has anybody told you where you’re going to live now?” Brian asked.

“Probably with Aunt Janis and Uncle Jack.”

Brian frowned. He kicked the tip of his shoe into the muddy soil. “They live so far away. Why can’t you just stay here and live with Mrs. Abel? She doesn’t have any kids.”

Mrs. Abel was their fourth grade teacher. She had plainly stated to all who would listen that her job was to teach the proper use of the English language to children who behaved properly. A babysitter, she had said, she was not. Today, she stood in the rain with the other mourners, eyeing the ground where the hem of her long, gray dress lay caked in mud. Tufts of brown hair jutted out from under her pink plaid scarf. Even though she stood a few feet from him, she had not spoken to Samuel since his mother’s death. Few people had. Everyone had words for Aunt Janis and they talked to Uncle Jack, but no one but Brian and a few classmates had spoken to him. Maybe talking to an orphan was harder than talking to a normal kid.

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing


Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author:

Karen (K.S.) Jones grew up in California, but now lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio with her husband, Richard, and their dogs Jack Black, Libby Loo, and Red Bleu. Black Lightning is her first middle-grade novel. She credits her love of fantasy to the early influences of authors J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Her award-winning first novel, Shadow of the Hawk, a Young Adult Historical, released in 2015.

Connect with K.S. Jones:

Monday, 11 July 2016

Lessons from my Brother…

Ian at his home in spring 2014
I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my youngest brother, Ian, has left us. Truth be known, we actually got closer when he was diagnosed with cancer over two years ago. I’d phone him once a week, and he’d phone me when he was feeling up to it. He brought his son to our ‘Farewell to the Cottage’ party and had fun watching him fish and hang out with the family. Oh, there were times when I wanted to slap my brother across the back of his head for his bad behavior and callousness in the past. I know I’m not the only sibling in that boat! LOL! Still, in the end, Ian was my brother. And as the old saying goes, blood is thicker than water.

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. But I believe that we choose the family we want to be with before we’re born. Scary concept, eh? We choose what lessons we want to learn from our family that will help our souls grow, develop, and evolve into someone better than before we were born. And when those lessons are over, the teacher leaves us.

So this got me to thinking. What lessons did my brother teach me? I did a little time traveling, since I’ve been so good at that lately, and came up with some answers…

I remember when I got my father’s station wagon crooked in the garage and tried to straighten it. Um, not one of my finest moments. I scraped both sides of the car, until I realized that there was no way I could straighten it. So what did I do? I ran crying to my two brothers. I swear they couldn’t stop laughing, but my heart was pounding so hard knowing I was gonna get in trouble. Ian managed to get the car out, and drove it back into the garage with no sweat.

Lesson learned: Patience is a virtue. Oh, and never try to straighten a big-ass car in a small garage.

I remember when I used to cheer Ian on during his hockey games. I wished like hell I could have played hockey back then. But being born in a time when no such opportunities existed, I settled for being his team’s number one booster.

Lesson learned: A team doesn’t just consist of players. The backbone of any sport is comprised of the blood, sweat, and cheers of all family members. Plus, I believe I found my true voice with all that cheerleading I did!

I remember when Ian let me drive his and my other brother’s green Challenger. Somehow, I managed to put one of the front wheels into a ditch while backing out. I think we had to pull it out with my father’s station wagon (yes, the same one that got a garage door make-over). Again, my brother got me out of another tight spot and didn’t berate at me.

Lesson learned: I always have the support I need to overcome obstacles. And never make wide turns in a small driveway.

I remember when my brother and his best buddy sat on me so I couldn’t go to church. They held me down until it was too late to attend. Um, yeah. Hope God forgave them for that one. Still, I know Ian was never one for religion or going to church, and sometimes we all have our faith tested again and again to see if our beliefs have changed from when we were kids. I know mine have.

Lesson learned: Develop an understanding of where other people are coming from. Even if those people are sitting on you.

I remember when my brother tried (operative word here is tried) to teach me how to drive three on the tree in his red truck. He drove me down to the town’s fairgrounds where I could practice shoving the stick-shift in the column. About ten grinds later, we called it quits before I did something very bad to the transmission. He never took me out again.

Lesson learned: When something doesn’t work for you, just let it go.

Finally, I remember when we celebrated the first Christmas during Ian’s apprenticeship as a mechanic. He bought us some wonderful and expensive gifts, and I truly appreciated his generosity. I still have part of that gift – the mirror to the tea caddy he bought me. Ian was very generous to our family that year, and I believe our father would have been so proud of him, had he lived.

Lesson learned: Enjoy the fruits of your labors, so that you may share them with those you love the most.
Ian celebrating our 'Farewell to the Cottage' party

As the first year of your absence in our lives comes to a close, I want to just thank you for choosing me as your big sister, Ian. It was a truly a gift from the Universe, and I believe I made the right choice too. Here’s a toast to you, who in the end, will always be my little brother…

“Be grateful to those who left you, for their absence gave you the strength to grow in the space they abandoned.” ~ Dodinsky

Monday, 4 July 2016

Ring in Summer with these Holiday Pork Kabobs…

The encroaching summer season in the northern hemisphere is filled with long weekends, vacations, and family get-togethers. In the Ledwith house, we have a sure-fire recipe that is guaranteed to fill your guests and family members’ bellies when they come a-calling during their holidays. We’ve used this recipe time and time again, and it has never disappointed even the fussiest eater. I hope you share this wonderful feast with your family, no matter what season it is!

Note: The total prep time takes 6 hours which includes marinating the pork tenderloin plus another 20-25 minutes to cut up the veggies and fruit. This kabob recipe serves approximately 6 – that’s with 2 kabobs a piece. Baked potatoes and corn on the BBQ make for excellent sides, and this mouth-watering meal is always a crowd pleasure on those hot summer days!

What You Need:

2 Tbsp. Asian Sesame Dressing (we use Kraft® brand dressings)
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. grated fresh gingerroot
1 pork tenderloin (1 lb./450 g)

What You Do:

MIX all ingredients except pork; cut meat up into 1- 1½ inch cubes, and pour marinade over meat in a large plastic bag. Seal bag and turn to evenly coat meat. Refrigerate for 6 hours to marinate. We find marinating the longer the better, so if you prefer, mix the marinade the night before.

PREPARE pork kabobs with your favorite veggies and fruit. Remove the meat from plastic bag and discard the marinade. We use an orange and red pepper, a sweet onion, and pineapple chucks to create our kabobs. You can use 3-4 pieces of pork, depending on your tastes and desires.

PREHEAT barbecue on high, then lower heat. Cook potatoes first. Corn can be put on with kabobs.

BARBECUE kabobs approximately 20 minutes or until meat is done. Make sure pork is thoroughly cooked.

DIG in and enjoy this feast with your family or friends!

That’s it! Easy-peasy, right? Now what will you do with all that time on your hands while the pork tenderloin is marinating in the fridge? How about relaxing in the sun, and indulging in one of my books from The Last Timekeepers series? Wink. Wishing you a safe and happy summer! Cheers!