Sunday 30 October 2022

Celebrate Halloween with a Slice of Pumpkin Spice Cake and Romantic Thriller by Author Tina Griffith...

Halloween and November are my things. I love every spooky, creepy, and wonderful thing about October and all the good food of November. One of my favorite treats is the cake I’m sharing with you today. I used to make it with my kids. Now my grandbabies join me in the kitchen. Use any pan you like. I’ve baked this cake in a Bundt pan, a 13 x 9-inch pan, cupcake tins, and in three separates shape/sizes for freezing. It’s so easy to prepare and will fill your home with a wonderful aroma.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 spice cake mix box
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
Raising, walnuts, or blueberry jam, optional
Follow package instructions for egg, oil, and water amounts along with baking temps and time.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar – Confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. salt
Cool cake completely before frosting. This helps stop crumbs from mysteriously appearing all over your frosting.

The chill is in the air and all things that go bump in the night are about to happen. Time to curl up with a good romantic thriller while you enjoy a piece of your yummy treat.

 On Hallow’s Eve, as the veil between the two worlds was thinning,   the face of the full moon was lit up like a Christmas tree. The dead   would soon come alive, the alive would dress up as the dead, and   witchcraft had a way of piggybacking off other spells. This was the   ideal night to be a witch, for the effectiveness of all incantations,   divinations, and other avenues of magic, was perfect.

 Jayla is a clever witch, who had been cursed in her teens by her   friend, Ophelia. Since then, she has had to retrieve dark souls from   shrewd men in order to survive. While she has taken hundreds of   souls in her lifetime, this story is about her trying to take the one   which belongs to Roger Casem – the man she accidentally fell in   love  with.

 Could she kill him, as she had done with the others? If she wanted to   continue living, she must. But today, when his eyes skimmed her   body with unbelievable passion, she began to recognize her own   needs. As she blushed and turned her face away from him, Jayla did the only thing she could.

Tina Griffith, who also wrote twenty-seven children's books as Tina Ruiz, was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school.

After her husband of 25 years passed away, she wrote romance novels to keep the love inside her heart. Tina now has eleven romance novels on Amazon, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they are different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and her sister's scary biography.

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 second husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children's books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina (Griffith) Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out

Sunday 23 October 2022

Autumn is in Full Bloom According to Cozy Mystery Author Janis Lane...

 It’s that time of year again. Nothing is more refreshing than a vivid blue sky accented by fiery leaves of the hard woods, yellows of the aspens and some maples, and various reds of the underbrush. Many shades of orange and yellow are accented by the dark greens of spruce and pines. Autumn is foliage showing off and we love it. It’s nature’s last hurrah before the settling of winter time and rest.


 The flower gardens are looking a bit seedy (they have cause as they are making next year’s seeds.) Have your Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Obedience Plant finished? Sunflowers are nodding their heavy heads with birds and rodents feasting on the bounty of oil rich seeds. For relief we turn to a plant we nicknamed, MUM, but it is so not mum as it speaks with rich fall colors on a plant that stays tidy and easily tucked into existing gardens. Chrysanthemum has been shortened to mum; the real name almost forgotten. 

 Are mums perennial? Do they survive the freezing temps and come back next year?

The answer is . . . maybe. Indeed, the plant is cold hardy at least to agricultural zone 4/5. So why have so many gardeners been disappointed when the mums succumb to the cold? Might be from too much love? Actually, mums are fairly tough plants that need little attention to thrive. The problem is a shallow root system. Simply put, it cannot stay in the ground during frost heaves which come and go with a changing temperature. 

 Give it up. You aren’t about to run out every time a warm day and a frost freeze night happens. It’s probably many more nights than you suspect. Mulch is the best remedy. A good mulch will cut down on the possibility of the shallow rooted plant being thrust out of the ground and left high and dry to die.

 Two other remedies: Stick a pot or two of your favorite colors in a corner of the garage and give a sip of water occasionally. It might work; worth a try. Next is treat the low-cost mum plant like an annual and don’t worry about it. Just buy new next year.

  I’ve done all of the above with various successes. I refuse to give up new and different colors so I buy every year. I, also, cover my favorite yellows with solid mulch and try to remember to trim until the 4th of July. (Otherwise they grow leggie and unattractive.) I’ve been known to pot up an unusual color I want to try and save and tuck it into a corner of the garage. It works maybe half the time. I don’t get upset with failures, as I remember mums are not expensive and I can replace them as autumn approaches. It’s a lovely plant; indulge and enjoy.

Here's a glimpse into my new Cozy Mystery Release, MURDER AT THE LOOKOUT. It is 4TH in the Detective Kevin Fowler series. 

When is it not fun to be a blond? 

What happens when a blond beauty hits town like a tornado stirring up memories and causing turmoil? Detective Kevin Fowler and his wife, the former Beverly Hampton, owner of the local newspaper, are settling into blissful married life. Although Beverly is sanguine over the demand on Kevin’s time by the good people of Hubbard, she is more than dubious when his duties include the escort of a drop-dead gorgeous female from his past.

There is some concern over the persistent vandalism of residential mailboxes, but an infamous arsonist has decided peaceful but dull Hubbard would make a great place from which to operate. He brazenly locates down the block from the detective and his wife.

What bait and tackle shop in the village has a dual purpose? Kevin ponders why two goons have invaded town shooting at and attempting to kidnap and murder three women. A state patrolman, aptly nick named Rooster, teases Fowler at the riotous scene of a traffic accident where the press, not the police, wins the day.

Another mystery and adventure with a satisfying ending unfolds in peaceful Hubbard, New York, small-town Americana, where Detective Kevin Fowler keeps an ever-vigilant watch.

Amazon Buy Link

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane. 

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own. 

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma's new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma's face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Ready for Party Season? The Origin of Cocktail Parties, a Rout Cake Recipe, and a Few Favorite Reads by Author Vonnie Hughes...


During the Regency era, and also most of the Victorian era, rout cakes were eaten at large gatherings called routs which were like afternoon teas that lasted long into the evening. Routs bore a marked resemblance to today’s cocktail parties where fashion was displayed, everyone stood, holding a drink and or some finger food in one hand. There was a little chatting then on you went to the next ‘rout’ after you’d sussed out whether your friends’ and neighbors’ fashionable garb was equal to your own. The upper echelon often attended more than one rout in a day.

So-called rout cakes were often consumed at these gatherings and were akin to drop cakes, quite plain by our standards – no ornate cupcake decorations or fussiness of that nature.

Below is a recipe for rout cakes borrowed from The Cook and Housekeeper’s Dictionary by Mary Eaton, 1822. Look at the HUGE amount of flour and butter! This mix would make many, many little cakes. Not, of course, that the lady of the house had slaved over a hot stove. No doubt her cook had that honor, baking in a kitchen so smoky she/he could hardly see.


2 lbs. flour
lb. butter 
1 lb. sugar
1 lb. currants, cleaned and dried
2 eggs
1 lg. spoonful orange-flower water
1 lg. spoonful rose water
1 lg. spoonful sweet wine
1 lg. spoonful brandy

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Mix flour, butter, sugar, and currants. Moisten into a stiff paste with eggs, orange-flower water, rose water, sweet wine, and brandy. Drop the paste onto a floured tin plate, and a short time will bake them.

Some authors produce quality books year after year and I have the utmost respect for them. They don’t churn out something quickly for the Christmas trade and other celebratory dates. Instead, they research and work, work and polish.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Most books by Tami Hoag
such as Down the Darkest Road and Live to Tell. I think my favourite is Still Waters. Why? Because her novels are so detailed, and the solution of the mysteries is never obvious. In fact, the character of the antagonists and protagonists holds the key to the solutions each time. For example, in A Thin Dark Line, it is the generations-old, warped solution of ways to protect a family that bubbles to the surface and the bloody mindedness of an ambitious female cop who stands up for her rights amongst male chauvinism that would chop most women off at the knees, that points the way to reasons for the crime and the discovery of the perpetrator(s).

Many books by Jayne Ann Krentz, not her very early ones where the hero was a dyed-in-the-wool MCP as was the fashion of the day, but her books from about 1998 onwards and also her historicals. Love the way her heroes say “huh.” It can mean so many things: they can be having a revelation, they may disagree with the heroine but they sure as hell are not going to say so, or it can be simply their version of a civil reply to modern discourse. My favourites are the Eclipse Bay series and her historicals written under the name of Amanda Quick such as Mistress (Regency) and The Third Circle (Victorian). Most of all, however, I enjoy her futuristic paranormals such as Siren’s Call set on Rainshadow Island and In Too Deep set in Scargill Cove. These appeal to me because of her light hand with the paranormal concepts and the quirkiness of the main characters. She creates otherworlds without belabouring the point. Sometimes writers create alternate worlds that require an immense investment on the part of the reader to learn the settings and morĂ©s of those worlds which can have the effect of having the reader skip pages and eventually put the book down. Not so JAK who, after many years of writing, knows just how far she can go to create a world not so very dissimilar to our own.

Obviously, I can’t go far without mentioning the greatest modern storyteller – Nora Roberts. I don’t like many of her earlier books which now seem dated, and I don’t feel that her paranormal ones are in the least bit convincing. However, I totally enjoy her recent single titles such as Tribute and Whiskey Beach. And I especially enjoy The Inn at Boonsborough series. I once saw a review where the reader criticised the Boonsborough ones because they had too much building detail in them. Now that’s the part I am intrigued with. I am not a purist romance reader so I like a bit of meat with my coffee froth. I wait for each new release of Nora’s, as do thousands of others, not all of them women by a long way.

Stieg Larsson, in particular his series of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Anti right wing extremist and magazine editor-in-chief, what a shame most of his books were only found after his death in 2004. I suggest for those who want a touch of reality watered down with a little idealism, read Larsson. Whether you see the movies first or read the books first, I promise you will enjoy Lizbeth Salander, the toughest cyber-expert on the planet.

Rick Mofina, a great suspense writer endorsed by the best suspense writers such as James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Sandra Brown, Tess Gerritsen etc. He is Canadian and so less inclined to use acronyms which can be a relief for a reader steeped in jargon which has to be researched. I thoroughly enjoyed Be Mine and my next choice is The Dying Hour. He writes about a crime reporter and unravelling detective in several of his novels, then switches to another team in his later books. If you like suspense and that ‘unable to put it down’ feeling, then choose Mofina.

Another one to keep an eye on: Going to read more by J.M. Gregson. Have just finished The Fox in the Forest about the murder of a well-liked town vicar. The murdered man is one of those rare characters whom everyone liked. Of course, the reader thinks “mistaken identity?” Gregson has an impressive writing record of both non-fiction and fiction. I enjoyed the British outlook to solving crime – stoic, authentic and painstaking – and the author’s writing experience showed by his excellent characterisations. No character was just a sketch. It was an in-depth exploration of people both likeable and unlikeable. 

So what authors do you enjoy? Have you stopped to ask yourself Why do you like their writing?

Regency novels by Vonnie:


wherein a woman forced into servitude meets a man struggling with family debt and they become embroiled in the world of espionage.


The fate of second sons and the practice of primogeniture is at the basis of this novel where John, who has secretly despised his older brother for years suddenly comes face to face with the reality of ownership and responsibility for the lives of others.


A follow-on from The Second Son. Originally published by Robt Hale UK and when they closed down after almost 80 years it was published on Amazon and Smashwords under the title Dangerous Homecoming. In this book Colly Hetherington and Juliana Colebrook leave Portugal to escape the ravages of war, but on their arrival in 'safe' England, face a vicious danger that neither had ever imagined.


A bit hotter than my other Regencies.

Matthew Monfort has two excellent reasons for loathing members of the ton, but thanks to his father’s machinations, he finds himself inveigled into offering for Lady Verity Tristan. But she needn’t think she’s going to win him over.


When Alexandra Tallis discovers that her witless sister has imprisoned their father’s nemesis, Theo Crombie, in their attic, she quickly frees him, fighting an unladylike impulse to keep him as her own special captive. Despite the brutal beating she receives from her father, Alexandra continues to yearn for the delicious Mr. Crombie.

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow, she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand, be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Creating an Author Brand without the Hustle…

I recently embarked on an identity quest for my author brand for the purpose of purging what wasn’t working, and amplifying what was working for me in my author life. The ‘Hustle Culture’ eventually wore me down, and the Covid-19 pandemic gave me a new perspective on what was important and what wasn’t in my personal life. Though globally devastating, the pandemic forced us to look in the mirror and ask those hard questions. Am I happy doing what I’m doing? What’s my purpose? How did I get here? And many other self-reflecting questions. Yes, masks took away our ‘physical’ identity, made us all the same. However, masks did serve to keep us safe enough to allow the possibility of self-transformation during the pandemic if we chose to do so. Slowing down and reevaluating our lives was probably the best thing to come out of this global crisis. 

An article about author branding and marketing made me stop and reassess how I approached my branding. I took a few notes that would help me and other authors out there who are ready to make some changes in the way we do business. The article’s author suggests that we identify five-six interests or topics we’re passionate or excited about, and make them our keywords or phrases. You know what I mean—your go-to subjects. What lights you up. So I went back to my social media bios and began tweaking them based on what floats my boat. The following are the words/phrases I came up with: writing, reading, recipes, anything arcane, ancient mysteries, and guilty pleasures (a.k.a. single malt scotch). That’s the kind of posts I share, like or comment on in my social media feed now. If you think like the reader you are, you’ll easily figure out your branding keywords. What do you search for when you’re looking for a book? Fantasy books? Time travel? Recipes? Spirituality? Supernatural? You do you. Everyone else is taken. By hitting on common bonds of interest you create bonds with others. This is how you build relationships and your authentic brand.

Other small actions I took to buff up my brand was to purge my Facebook friends and groups. I decided
to let go of people who haven’t posted in over a year, passed on, or have nothing in common with me. So I deleted away the dead wood, and opened up space for new growth. I also chose to take a break from posting my weekly #authorlife images on my social media accounts. I started doing those posts in September 2019 and continued on until June 1st, 2022. The reason for letting this way of connection go? I was beginning to find this task had run its course, and frankly was a time-suck. So now, I’ll only share book events and the odd personal post using the #authorlife identity.

To help Authors identify and create their brand, here are 3 questions they should ask themselves, and my personal response to each question:

What am I good at? 

Me? Uplifting and helping others. Being generous with my tweets and shares. I give back more than I take. 

What do I love doing? 

I love writing for the young adult genre—especially anything arcane like psychic teens who use their powers to help save their small tourist town. Or ancient mysteries where my time-traveling teens are sent on their incredible missions to save earth’s past. Plus, I love researching all these subjects. Wink.

What solution can I bring to the world?

I want to reach readers (a.k.a. target audience) who will benefit and be inspired by my books in such a way as to find their own voice, not be afraid to use it, and shine their light in the best way they can. In essence, I’m passing on the baton to the next generations.

Now that we’re in a post-pandemic world, there really is no reason to hustle anymore. It’s a virtual world, and technology is changing by the day to make our lives easier. Many people have chosen to work from home and avoid the commute. Spending time with families has moved to the top of the list for many of us. New skills were developed, while old ones fell away. It’s good to do a reassessment and reevaluation of your author brand from time to time. After all, nothing is fixed, and change is a constant. Just remember to be consistent and be authentic.

Did you get tired of the Hustle Culture? Are you in the midst of branding or rebranding yourself? What are your keywords or phrases? I’d love for you to share your comments. Cheers, and thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate you!

Sunday 2 October 2022

Oktoberfest is Wunderbar in Cookbook Author Sloane Taylor's Eyes...

Oktoberfest is the festival to end all festivals that is celebrated around the world but started in Munich, Germany for a royal wedding in 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to all the festivities held in fields just outside the city gates. And from there the world adopted this grand event. It runs from late September to the 1st Sunday in October. Be sure to include plenty of German music when you celebrate.


Sauerbraten – Marinated Pot Roast
Boiled Potatoes
Red Cabbage with Apples
Rye Bread
German Red Wine – Spätburgunder which is German for Pinot Noir

Sauerbraten – Marinated Pot Roast
5 black peppercorns
4 whole juniper berries*
1 med. onion, sliced thin
½ cup (120ml) dry red wine
½ cup (120ml) red wine vinegar
2 cups (450ml) cold water
2 small bay leaves
4 lbs. (2kg) boneless beef roast, top or bottom round or rump
3 tbsp. (43g) lard or solid shortening
½ cup onion, chopped fine
½ cup carrots, chopped fine
½ cup celery, chopped fine
2 tbsp. (30ml) flour
½ cup (120ml) beef stock, if needed
½ cup (50g) gingersnap cookie crumbs

Use a mortar and pestle or a baggie and hammer to crush black peppercorns and juniper berries together.

In a medium-sized saucepan combine peppercorn mix, sliced onion, wine, vinegar, water, and bay leaves. Bring marinade to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from stove and let cool to room temperature.

Trim excess fat from roast. Set beef in a deep flat bowl or pot just large enough to hold it comfortably. Pour marinade over the top. Add more wine if marinade is not halfway up the sides of the meat. Turn meat to moisten all sides. Cover pan tightly with foil or cling wrap. Refrigerate for 2 – 3 days. Be sure to turn the meat over at least twice a day.

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C).

Remove meat from marinade. Pat dry with paper towels. Strain marinade through a fine sieve set over a bowl. Discard spices and onion, but reserve marinade.

Melt lard in a Dutch oven over high heat until it sputters. Add roast and brown well on all sides. Adjust heat so as not to burn the meat. Transfer meat to a platter. Pour off and discard all but 2 tbs. (30ml) of fat. Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot. Cook over moderate heat until they are soft and light brown, 5 – 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour over veggies. Cook, stirring constantly 2 – 3 minutes or until flour begins to color. 

Pour in 2 cups (450ml) of reserved marinade and ½ cup (120ml) water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return meat to pot. Cover tightly. Cook in the oven for 2 hours or until meat shows no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Transfer meat to a heated platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. 

Discard veggies. Pour liquid from pot into a measuring cup. Skim off fat. You need 2½ cups (570ml) liquid for the sauce. If you have more, boil briskly to reduce the amount. If you have less, add beef stock. Combine liquid and gingersnaps in a small saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. The crumbs will dissolve and thicken the sauce. Strain sauce through a fine sieve. Keep warm on very low heat until ready to serve. 

To serve, carve meat into ¼ inch (.64cm) slices. Arrange on individual dinner plates or a large platter. In either case moisten the meat with a little sauce. Pass the remaining sauce in a gravy boat. 

*Rosemary is a good substitute for juniper berries. Use one fresh sprig. 

Boiled Potatoes
Tap water
1 lg. bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Butter to taste 

Add potatoes to a saucepan that holds them comfortably. Pour stock halfway up the potatoes. Top off with water, covering potatoes by an inch (1.25cm) or so. Add bay leaf. Set a lid on top.

You can do up to this point earlier in the day. Leave on the counter or stovetop until you are ready to cook.

Bring pan to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the lid and heat so the water continues a soft/light boil, but does not spill over. Cook 15 – 20 minutes, then test for doneness. A fork will insert easily.

Drain potatoes and discard bay leaf. Sprinkle pepper over potatoes. Add butter. Stir carefully so as not to smash potatoes. 

Don’t have bay leaf? Add 1 tablespoon (20ml) or so of dried basil to the pot. When you drain the potatoes most of the leaves will be gone, but the good taste remains. 

Red Cabbage with Apples
2 – 2½ lb. (1 – 1.5kg) red cabbage
⅔ cup (150ml) red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. (30ml) sugar2 medium-sized apples, peeled and cored
2 tbsp. (25g) lard or bacon fat
½ cup (50g) onions, chopped fine
1 whole onion, pierced with 2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
5 cups (1.2L) boiling water
3 tbsp. (45ml) dry red wine
3 tbsp. (45ml) red currant jelly, optional 

Wash cabbage under cool water and then remove tough outer leaves. Cut cabbage into 4 pieces. Remove core. Shred easily by slicing each section into thin strips. 

Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl. sprinkle with vinegar and sugar. Toss with a spoon to cover the shreds evenly. 

Slice apple into thin wedges. Melt lard or bacon fat in a large pot. Add apples and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until apples are lightly browned. 

Add cabbage, onion with cloves, and bay leaf. Stir well while pouring in boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so cabbage does a slow simmer. Cover and cook 1½ - 2 hours, or until cabbage is tender. Check occasionally to be sure cabbage is moist. If it seems dry, add 1 tbsp. (15ml) or so of boiling water. When cabbage is tender there should be almost no liquid in the pan. 

To serve remove whole onion and bay leaf. Stir in wine and jelly. This recipe freezes nicely.

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