Sunday 27 December 2020

A Recipe and Read for the Holidays: Pizza Bread and Children's Book 'Blitzen Learns How to Fly' by Tina Ruiz...

Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. If I have leftover Italian or French bread it becomes the base for a dinner. And what a dinner it is – easy – quick – delicious. Can’t beat that if you’re on a busy schedule or tight budget. 


½ loaf Italian or French bread

1½ cups spaghetti sauce, possibly more

½ lb. Genoa salami or pepperoni, sliced thin

3 or 4 slices fresh tomatoes

1½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Split the bread in half lengthwise.  Smear spaghetti sauce on the white part of the bread. Lay meat slices on top. Scatter on mozzarella and then Parmesan.

Place the bread on a cookie sheet then pop them into the oven until the cheese melts, and VIOLA, dinner is ready! 

A nice treat after the pizza bread is a dish of vanilla ice cream topped with Kahlua or your favorite coffee liqueur.  No whip topping, just the ice cream and liqueur.  It is sooooo good and really hits the spot.

Here’s a brief intro to my children’s Christmas book your little ones will enjoy.

Blitzen was born at the North Pole, but he is unable to fly. Because of that, he is taunted and called names by the other reindeers. Rudy saw what was happening, and he decided to teach Blitzen how to gain some confidence. And with a little magic powder from Santa, Blitzen is not only able to fly, but he becomes part of Santa's famous team.

Amazon Buy Links

Tina Ruiz was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school. She began writing children's stories when her own were little. Through the years Ruiz wrote twenty-seven books. Most of those stories went into readers for the Canada Board of Education. Two did not. Mayor Shadoe Markley is a story about a ten-year-old girl who becomes Mayor for a Day through a contest at school.

Little did Ruiz know that story would “change the world.” The book came out at early January 1988. By the end of that same month, everyone was calling the mayor's office at City Hall, trying to get the forms to fill out so their children could participate in the contest. Thirty years later that same contest is still runs at full speed. And not only in Calgary, but all across Canada. The Mayor's Youth Council is now in charge of the celebrated contest and invites Ruiz to attend and meet the lucky winner. It's usually followed by a hand-written thank you card from the mayor himself. Recently Ruiz was invited to be part of the Grand Opening of Calgary's New Library where the mayor shook her hand and introduced her to the attendees.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children's Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children's books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Christmas Brunch Made Easy by Sloane Taylor...

After we entertain Christmas Eve, we tear through the house cleaning up before the kids and grands come for brunch Christmas Day. This meal is wonderful because so much can be prepared well in advance and stored in the fridge until it’s time to cook. 

Breakfast Soufflé 
Hash Browns 
Fresh Fruit Salad 
Mini Croissants 
Christmas Cookies & Leftover Desserts 

Breakfast Soufflé
1 lb. (½kg) ham, bacon, or breakfast sausage 
9 eggs, lightly beaten 
3 cups (750ml) milk 
1 tsp. (5ml) dry mustard 
Diced green, red, and/or yellow pepper to taste 
½ lb. (57g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated 
½ lb. (57g) Swiss or Gruyere cheese, or a combination of the two, grated 
Diced onion to taste 
Freshly ground black pepper to taste 
4 – 1 in. (2.54cm) slices Vienna or French bread, cubed 

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). 

Dice ham or bacon. If you use ham, set aside in the bowl you use for the eggs. Fry bacon to the crispness you prefer. Drain on paper towels. If you use breakfast sausage, fry meat until no longer pink. Be sure to break up any clumps. Drain meat in a colander while you continue to prepare the soufflé.

Add all ingredients, except bread, to eggs. Stir well. Gently stir in bread. 

Pour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch (33 x 22cm) glass baking dish. Bake 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center has no egg clinging to it. 

This dish can be assembled one or two days ahead of time. On serving day allow the soufflé to sit on your counter 1 – 2 hours before you bake it. 

Leftovers are excellent from the microwave. 

Hash Browns 
If you need to increase the hash browns recipe for a larger group of people, it’s best to sparingly add more garlic powder. As is this recipe serves 6. Leftovers reheat beautifully. 

3 russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds), peeled 
1½ tsp. (7.5ml) garlic powder, not salt 
Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil 

Shred potatoes on the large holes of a box grater or use the coarse grater disk on a food processor. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to soak for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and then rinse under cold water. You do this to remove the starch that makes hash browns gummy. 

Transfer shreds to a kitchen towel. Gather together ends of towel and twist over sink, squeezing firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. This step creates crisp hash browns. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl and toss with garlic powder and pepper. Be sure to evenly distribute the seasonings. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes, press down to form a thin layer and cook for a minute or two. Stir and then press down again. Cook until a dark golden crust forms, about 5 minutes. 

Turn potatoes in sections. This is easier than trying to turn the food as a whole. Continue to fry until hash browns are crisp and browned all over, 5 minutes or so. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil. 

Fresh Fruit Salad 
1 banana, peeled 
1 pear, cored 
1 tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice 
¼ pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced 
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced 
10 seedless red grapes, halved 
10 blueberries 
10 raspberries, optional 

Slice banana into bitesize pieces. Scoop into a medium-sized bowl. Dice pear and add to bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over fruit to stop it from turning brown and mix well. 

Gently fold in remaining fruit. 

Spoon into a glass bowl, cover with cling wrap, and chill until time to serve. Leftovers are still good the next day.

1 bottle sparking white wine or champagne, cold 
1 carton orange juice, cold 
Tall slender glasses 

Fill glasses half full with wine. Tip the glass slightly as you pour to retain the fizz. Top off with orange juice. Don’t stir. That will destroy the bubbles. 

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!


Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a second passion in her life. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Taylor's cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Summer Sizzle, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available at all book vendors.

Excerpts from her books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday 20 December 2020

A Few of My Favorite Things for this Crazy Covid Christmas...

Given this unprecedented year (bet you’re getting tired of that word), 2020 has been an eye-opener for many people. In truth, I believe this year has brought families closer. Priorities changed, and I think for the better. Work has too. Many people now work from home, cutting travel time and saving the environment, as well as purchasing power suits and dresses for the office, opting for jeans and yoga pants. Though far from over, this pandemic has caused people to think about the impending holidays, how they want to spend them, and with who.

Since most of my family won’t be joining us over the holiday season due to Covid 19, we’ve had to come up with ways to fill the void. Yes, we’ll be decorating our house inside and outside, and I’ll be writing up Christmas cards to mail to family and friends. Guess I’m old school that way. We also get our fill of those sappy Hallmark Christmas movies playing 24/7 on the television. However, one stumbling block to contend with is that my 90-year-old mom is in a nursing home. Depending on the severity of the pandemic, she may or may not be joining us this Christmas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though, and sending out positive vibes while asking Santa for a huge favor to stuff her in his sleigh and fly her over to our house!

So in lieu of a ‘traditional’ Christmas this year, here are some of my favorite things I don’t plan on giving up:

First Favorite:
Eggs Benedict breakfast on Christmas morning. It’s a must. Been doing this breakie for years. If anyone doesn’t know what this tasty dish is all about, here’s the basic recipe:

1. Prepare hollandaise sauce according to package directions (I’m lazy and get the packaged hollandaise sauce, but you can find a recipe to make from scratch on your favorite cooking site).

2. Place English muffins and Canadian bacon (or Black Forest ham) on the same baking sheet. Broil 2-3 minutes or until English muffins begin to lightly brown and bacon/ham is warm. Remove from oven.

3. Bring pot of water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. Crack one egg into a small bowl and gently slip into the simmering water. Repeat with remaining eggs. Allow eggs to simmer 3-5 minutes or until they reach desired doneness. *We use a poached egg pan, which is much easier.

4. Top each English muffin with warmed bacon/ham, 1 egg, salt and pepper, and hollandaise sauce. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika, parsley or chives if desired. Trust me, this rich, delicious meal will last you until Christmas dinner.

Second Favorite: Single Malt Scotch. If it’s good enough for Ernest Hemmingway, it’s good enough for me. I ask Santa for a top shelf bottle every year, and he never disappoints!

Third Favorite: Books or gift cards from online bookstores or local bookstores, because you know, winter is coming! Plus, I love supporting my author peeps out there.

Speaking of books, I’ve got two young adult book series available for purchase online or through ordering from your local bookstore for the teen readers in your life. Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both series:

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries…

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power while trying to have a normal life. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go.

Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures…

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time.

Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:


The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:


Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:


Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:

Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:


Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links:


Sunday 13 December 2020

12 Holiday Motivation Tips to Get You Started on Time for the Upcoming Season by C.D. Hersh...

The holidays are nearly on us, and with them come extra work decorating the house, the lawn, the trees, baking all those Christmas cookies and goodies, shopping, cleaning, holiday parties to attend and give, and scads of other things that can take you away from your WIP. This year give yourself a head start with a little motivation to sit down at the computer and keep writing. Start planning now for a successful holiday writing season.

Here are a few tips on how to motivate yourself to write during the holidays.

1.     Start your holiday motivation by spending part of one day each week doing some holiday activity that fuels your creativity. If you celebrate Halloween get those decorations made and put up. When that’s accomplished start making Thanksgiving decorations for your table, bake those pies and fruitcakes, begin making Christmas cards, build a gingerbread house, plan what Christmas cookies you’re going to bake, build a snowman with the kids (use snow or craft paper or pillows), or begin your shopping. You’re only limited by your own imagination.

2.     Plan a couple of writers’ plotting and cookie exchange parties for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Have each participant bring 2 dozen home baked cookies (which you mixed up while writing with your tape recorder – more later on this) and exchange cookies and plotting ideas. And yes, this can count toward one of the writing goals.

3.     Make a holiday advent writing calendar. Choose a series of 25 clear writing goals for the holiday season and write them down on holiday themed paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chapter a day, 100 or 1000 words a day, perfecting that blurb or synopsis, or looking up a new editor or agent to submit to in January. Drop the goals into a bowl and pick one each day. Not knowing what you are going to do will keep the excitement alive, much like opening the doors on the Advent calendar does for children. If your family already has an advent calendar when you set it up add your goals to the calendar. Let the family number your advent goal papers so you will be surprised when you open them. This way the family can see what you need to accomplish and help keep you on track.

4.     Let Santa’s “writing elf” reward you with a little gift under the tree, or holiday snack set next to your easy chair, for each goal or week of goals you complete. Shop for your own rewards in advance, involve the family and let them choose or make the gifts for you, or do both.

5.     Head to Panera’s (or some other location that has a fireplace), grab a seat next to the fire and write until the heat overtakes you. If you work on your steamy love scenes it might not take long for you to get overheated. Then call it a day and have a Chai Latte while you watch the flames flicker.

6.     Leave the decorations off of the Christmas tree and put a few ornaments on every time you write 100, 200, 300, or 400 words—you choose the limit. Store the decorations in a pretty basket by the tree to make them easily accessible. If you plan a Christmas party and need the tree decorated quickly this could spur your word count to grow rapidly.

7.     Do a fun holiday related activity with the family with the understanding that the next day, or hours, are yours for writing.

8.     Write a Christmas story during your holidays. Inspiration is all around you during the season, from music to snow, if you’re lucky enough to get it. Writing holiday themed stories now beats putting the tree up in July, like Dolly Parton does for inspiration when she creates Christmas songs in the summer.

9.     Work hard in the time you’ve allotted and stay focused. This means no email, no web surfing, and shutting the office door.

10.  Use your crockpot … often. Winter’s a great time for simple soup, chili or stew meals topped off with crusty loaf of bread. Make double batches and you’ll have leftovers for another day. Some soups are better reheated.

11.  Write with a tape recorder and transcribe it after the holidays are over. A mini tape recorder fits in your pocket and is easy to use. Some cell phones even have to ability to record voice notes. All those times you have while you wait for the kids’ Christmas concerts to start (because we all know you have to be there hours in advance), waiting in line for thirty minutes at the checkout counter while holiday shopping, or mixing dough for Christmas cookies can count as writing time.

12.  At the end of the holiday season, if you met all your goals give yourself a BIG reward. You deserve it!

Share with us in the comments what ideas you have to motivate you through the holidays to keep writing.

Here's a brief intro to our romantic shapeshifter series. We hope you'll click the link to read the blurbs.

The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2)

Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3)

The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)

C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.
Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors.

They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

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Sunday 6 December 2020

Reflecting On My Journey to Publication…

The journey to publication wasn’t easy for me. In fact, it took me a great deal of time and effort to get to where I am now. So, let’s go back in time to 1995 when I got bitten by the writing bug during a Planning Your Novel workshop I attended for fun at the local college. One of the exercises I volunteered for still sticks in my mind. The teacher handed me three pennies, and I had to throw them into a waste basket one at a time. I managed to get all three coins in, shooting at different angles and distances. My teacher, Tom Arnett—a NYT bestselling author—was surprised at my luck because the norm was usually two pennies in. He explained that getting all the pennies in would suggest your (writing) goals would be too easy because the person threw them from a close distance. On the flipside, one penny in (throwing too far away) suggested having unrealistic expectations/goals about a career in writing.

You could say that this penny exercise set the bar for me, and gave me some hope in a field I knew absolutely nothing about. I ended up taking Tom’s night course, Starting your Novel, and from there the writing games began…

Trying to get published looked something like this:

·        Write a book (I choose a paranormal romance) which took about 2 years, including research and learning the basics.

·        Attended a workshop where I met an agent, and handed her a query and outline, which eventually got her interest. This went back and forth for a time (about four years) until the agent admitted that my book wasn’t developing the way she wanted it to go, so we decided to go our separate ways. Sigh.

·        Around 1998, I had a dream where I saw seven arches, and there were seven people (five kids, two adults) with crystals in their hands, walking up to these arches. It definitely had an Indiana Jones feel to it. At that time, I was trying to get my paranormal romance published, and had no intention of writing in the young adult genre. But this idea kept growing in my mind, and wouldn’t leave, like some mystical force pushing me from behind. So, I thought I’d challenge myself to write a time travel series based on that dream, calling it The Timeliners, and later The Last Timekeepers.

·        Had some luck with The Last Timekeepers when an agency and publishers showed interest. But their interest was short-lived. Rejection, rejection, and more rejection followed.

·        In 2003, we sold our graphic trade business and house, packed up, and moved to our cottage in a popular tourist area located in Ontario. I decided to become a tutor for the local Literacy Council in the winter of 2004. While living pretty much off the grid (we had dial up internet), I started a teen psychic mystery series entitled, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, pulling from my experiences living in the wilds of cottage country.

·        I enrolled in a two year correspondence course geared toward writing for children and teens to beef up my writing chops.

·        Then, I decided to try my hand as a participant in the 2005 Muskoka Novel Marathon, where previously I had helped with the organizational aspects of this event. The idea is to write a novella or novel in three days, and the winner gets a chance at publication. During the course of the marathon, our dog died suddenly and I left for the day, only to come back the next day to finish writing my manuscript in time to submit it. It was truly a bitter-sweet experience.

·        My writing suffered after that, and I decided to enter the workforce as an animal care attendant at the
local Animal Shelter for the next fourteen months. During this time, I finished my writing correspondence course, tinkered with Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, then finally woke-up and quit the animal shelter to get back to writing. I wrote a whole book out of my animal shelter experience, and geared it for my teen psychic mystery series. I sent in that manuscript and got rejected a lot, but one agent showed an interest. He later sent me a lovely rejection letter. Sigh.

·        Finally, in 2010, I decided to dust off my time travel story, update the characters and give it a fresh voice. I sent it out—mostly to agents—and got rejected again, and again.

·        By this time, I had decided to check out ebooks and how to go about publishing them. Since I owned a graphics business for over twenty years, I had some business background, and it seemed many authors were being forced to wear two hats in these changing times. So I started a blog in May 2011 to create an on-line presence.

·        Then, I entered the 2011 Muskoka Novel Marathon with the idea of doing the prequel for The Last Timekeeper series. Two writers there had just signed publishing contracts, so this gave me some hope. I asked if I could use their names as a reference when querying their publisher. They said, ‘No problem,’ but I’d have to wait until September to query. After the novel marathon, we all exchanged social media info.

·        This is where hard work and opportunity collide. One of those writers shared a link on Facebook, which I thought was the publishing company she had signed with. But it wasn’t. It was the link to a new epublishing company calling for submissions. What the hell, there was nothing to lose while I waited for September to roll in. I sent out my query the end of August, and got a reply within seven days—Musa Publishing wanted to see my manuscript. Excited, yet not getting my hopes up, I sent my young adult time travel manuscript in. They loved it, but wanted revisions. Actually, they wanted a huge, big-ass rewrite that included making the entire book only in one POV, instead of the five I originally had written. Each kid had their own chapter. This publisher only wanted one kid per book. So they offered me five books right off the bat.

·        I signed the contract September 13th, 2011, with a release date of May 18th, 2012. Plenty of time for rewrites, and plenty of time to learn what’s expected of an author in this new paradigm of publishing. I followed up with the prequel to The Last Timekeepers series, Legend of the Timekeepers came out in August 2013.

·        Time travel to 2015 when Musa Publishing closed their doors permanently, and Mirror World Publishing appeared to open their doors for me. Not only did they take on The Last Timekeepers series, but in 2017 added Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls to their young adult list of books. Woohoo!

Honestly, I’ve come a long way since 1995, and I’m still learning and growing in this crazy publishing business as it continues to evolve. Presently, I’ve got two young adult book series under my belt, both published through Mirror World Publishing. And I’d wager three shiny pennies that they won’t be closing their doors any time soon.

If you’re an author, what does your publishing journey look like? Did it take you a long time to get published? Would love to read your comments! Cheers, be well, and thank you for reading my blog.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:


The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:


Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:


Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:

Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:


Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links: