Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce

I don’t know about anyone out there, but this household loves all types of Asian cuisine. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, you name it and we’re there. The problem is most of our favorite dishes are loaded with garlic, onions, scallions, etc… And if you live with someone who has an intolerance to all things Allium, then eating your favorite Asian dishes isn’t an option.

However, I have a solution for you that will make cooking your favorite dishes at home absolutely delicious. It’s my version of a spicy sweet and sour sauce. It’s similar to Sambal Oelek or any other of the spice sauces you can buy in the Asian section of your supermarket, but none of the nasty garlic or onions. It’s simple to make, and best of all it keeps in the refrigerator for months.

You’ll never miss what’s missing.

1 tablespoon of Red Pepper Flakes (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)

1/4 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1/3 cup Honey (Please buy the good stuff, none of the crap in little plastic bears)

3/4 cup water + 2 tablespoons

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon of Cornstarch.

Add all ingredients (except cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water) to a saucepan. Boil over med-high heat for 1 minute stirring constantly.

Mix cornstarch and water and add to the sauce stirring over medium heat until thickened about 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.



Upcoming Writing Projects

Upcoming Writing Projects

It’s been a minute or two since I’ve posted anything on my blog, and the only excuse I have is that sometimes life gets in the way of the creative process. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I’ve had several illnesses strike friends and loved ones in the past six weeks. I became a physical and, at times, an emotional caregiver to them all. Don’t get me wrong, I’d do anything for any of them, and I was glad I could be there for them.

Things are starting to get back to normal (or as normal as life is these days). I’m looking at the rest of the year with a renewed sense of life. It’s short, too short, and we never know how long we have. The past weeks have kicked me in the ass, and I’m back and ready to move again.

The third and final book in the Geraldine Flanders series will be released on May 15th. I have a short story a publisher asked me to write. The short story, Shuttered is mainly done but needs some editing and final touches before I’m ready to send it off.

Once those are out in the world, I have two novels written, Blood Crucible and The Demon Librarian, that I’m going to revisit, do some work on and get them out to publishers and see if I can’t get a few contracts moving.

Any publishers out there looking to sign on an author? Kidding…not really.

So that’s where things stand now. Life could, of course, decide to though many wrenches into these plans, but I’ve got a secret weapon. I’m leaving for nine days for a writing retreat. I plan on resting, recharging, and writing up a storm. I have a lot of catching up to do. It can’t get much better than that.

Until next time folks,

Keep on doing what you love.

Preternatural Evolution by Peter Topside

In my review of Peter Topside’s first book, Preternatural, I started with the fact that Peter had hit the mark with an enjoyable debut novel. I just finished reading the second book in the trilogy, Evolution, and I’m happy to report Peter has managed to write a fantastic sequel.

Many authors spend way too much time in flashback scenes, and I often feel as if I’m re-reading large chunks of the first novel. Peter found a brilliant way to bring back pieces throughout the second book, just little snippets, but that’s the gem of book two. I never felt bombarded with trips down memory lane, nor did I feel lost.

The characters are more three-dimensional in the second book. They’ve grown over the fifteen years since Blackheart first terrorized their town, and yet many of them, despite the growth, are still stuck looking for something in the past to allow them to move forward. In comes the new and viciously improved Blackheart.

Preternatural: Evolution is a great read and a thoroughly enjoyable sequel to his debut novel. I’m looking forward to reading the final installment. Well done, once again.

Available on Amazon.

Massaman Curry Paste

One of my all-time favorite dishes is curry. Whether it’s green, yellow, Panang, or red. There is something warm and soothing about the blend of spices. But when I think of curry, I think of Massaman curry. It’s known as a Thai dish, but many of the spices were originally from Persia and India. In my opinion, it’s the mildest of the curries, with little heat but a mouth full of wonderfully bright and aromatic flavors.

It’s difficult to find Massaman curry paste in the supermarkets, but if you do run across it, and are sensitive to garlic or onions, beware. These store-bought cans are loaded with the stuff. My love of Massaman curry has taken me on a quest to create a homemade paste that rivals anything you can get at a Thai restaurant and I’m sharing that very special recipe here with you today.

6 dried Thai bird chiles

3 lemongrass stalks (I used the canned variety that’s in a water brine)

1 one-inch piece of ginger sliced thin

1 tablespoon of canola oil

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

2 tablespoons of ground cloves

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

2 1/2 tablespoons of ground coriander

2 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin

1/3 cup of dry roasted peanuts

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon of salt

Place all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until a smooth paste forms. You will have to add water (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the smooth paste.

The paste can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 month or 6 months in the freezer.

Release Day for Stitched.

Terror comes in all shapes, sizes, places, and people. Today, I have released Geraldine Flanders into the world. Be prepared to visit Winthrop Falls, Texas. It’s like no place you’ve ever been. There are no streetlights or stop signs, and there is one way in and one way out – Main Street. The problem is no one usually gets out.

Winthrop Falls is the birthplace of Geraldine Flanders. She’s not your ordinary mayor of a small southwestern town. She has a very dark past and an even darker soul, and she’ll do anything to keep her secrets hidden.

In honor of Geraldine’s “coming out,” I wanted to talk a bit about where Geraldine Flanders came from, not in the story, but in my mind. The idea first came to me in The French Quarter at the annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival back in 2014. My writing partner in crime, Dale Chase, and I were sitting on the balcony of my hotel room one evening, hatching ideas when we started talking about older adults in fiction, and it was something we were not used to seeing or reading. That led to a discussion of death and dying, which led to Dale coming up with a brilliant story about an older man who wants to arrange his death on his terms, called Journey’s End. It’s a fun, twisted tale.

In our usual way, ideas started flowing. From those conversations, laughter, and moments of grossness, we created Geraldine Flanders, an eight-five-year-old woman who could be anyone’s grandmother. Sweet, endearing, and utterly charming. However, she has a strange passion or obsession for making scarecrows. It wasn’t until later that I discovered her secrets and what she would do to keep them.

Initially titled The Last Straw, the short story was published in 2015 by Fireborn Publications (now defunct). After some deliberation, I decided to rewrite it and make it into a novella. It was in 2020 that Geraldine Flanders captured my heart. She haunted my sleep and my waking hours. I couldn’t get enough of her. In some ways, I became obsessed with her, much like her obsession with the scarecrows. The harder I tried, the deeper I found myself wallowing in her lies, deceit, and spiraling down into some very dark and disturbing places. What started as a short story seven years ago is now a trilogy—The Geraldine Flanders Series.

I hope you like Book One, Stitched as much as I do and that you come back for the second, Tangled Threads, and the last installment, The Final Stitch. The last page of the final book, I hope, will leave you speechless. Trust me. Geraldine is many things, but the one thing she is not is predictable.

Thank you to Dale Chase for sixteen incredible years of conversation and laughter. This trilogy would not be here today if it weren’t for you and our extraordinary friendship.

Absolute Unit by Nick Kolakowski

Okay, this one takes the prize for being the strangest most bizarre thing I read in 2020. There are no words to describe how addicting, over-the-top, and utterly freaking weird this book is.

Parasites are living inside Bill and his nephew Trent. Bill, a Health Inspector, is hated by everyone, and Trent is a young con artist. The parasites are sarcastic, funny, and unapologetic as they go from learning the joys of human consumption to the terrifying realization that they can control our every move. If you think that the parasites living in Bill and Trent are strange, wait until you get farther into the story with sex addicts dressed as furries, drug dealers, prostitutes, and an angry girlfriend, all of whom are trying to get their hands on these two men.

It’s not us who will end the world, and it might very well be something darker, something that comes from inside of us. The book makes me wonder how much control we have over ourselves. Or do I or we have some alien or biological creature running through our bodies?

This book is truly a gripping, bizarre, and bonkers experience. I loved every moment of this story. Do yourself a favor and dive in, you won’t regret it.

Places and Spaces

I find the concept of spaces and places an interesting idea as it relates to writing. I can write in coffee shops, noisy airports, planes, and trains. I’ve spent hours writing on napkins in bars in New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, and Dallas to the loud beat of the music and the cacophony of the crowds and, on occasion, naked dancers.

At home, it’s different, and I’ve never figured out why. I’ve been writing for twenty-five years, and I’ve always had a “space” within a house that was mine. The space or place didn’t have to be a particular size; I prefer smaller writing areas, again when I’m at home.

We moved to Dallas in 2018. The house is a 1950’s ranch in a beautiful neighborhood that sits on top of old limestone cliffs just south of downtown. It’s a perfect place, except for one thing. In three years, I’ve never felt settled into a writing space. I have literally been in every room and corner of this house, including the in-law suite that takes up the entire second floor. I’m suitable for a while, then the space begins to feel uncreative and uninspiring (I know that an airport is not the most creative space in the world). I can’t explain it.

For the umpteenth time in three years, I have just moved my desk “study” again. This time I’m in the front bedroom of the house. It’s the guest bedroom, complete with a bed and closet, but I doubt we’ll have any overnight guests in the coming years with the pandemic still playing havoc with all our lives. Maybe this space is the one. I’m between two large windows, which supply wonderful natural light. My books and my research library are on shelves next to me. Is this going to be the place? If not, I’m sort of shit out of luck. There’s no place else. Oh, wait. Maybe the garage?

What’s your experience with writing spaces or places? Is it one place, or have you been shifting rooms and settings to find the right spot like me?

Great Backyard Bird Count

As all of you may know, I’m a wildlife fanatic. It doesn’t matter if it’s turtles, snakes, squirrels, possums, or raccoons. Birds, of course, are not out of my equation. I love birds, and watching them in my backyard has eased my stress levels during the pandemic. The birds (and all wildlife) go about their day like the pandemic doesn’t exist. It’s a way for me to escape.

Birds are not immune to natural disasters or climate change. They have their own set of problems. Adequate food supply, fresh water for drinking and bathing, air quality, and light pollution. The worst-case for them – extinction. We as a nation and as a world are their greatest enemy. Yet, we can change that. We can become their allies, their saviors. We just need to think about how our actions affect the birds and their habitats.

Every year in February, for over four days, Cornell Labs, The Audubon Society, and many other organizations and donors have developed a way for us to track our feathered friends. It’s called the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year it takes place between February 18th and the 21st. It takes as little as 15 minutes during the four days, or if you have the time like I do, 15 minutes each of the four days. You sit in your backyard, record the birds you see, and go into a worldwide database. This database uses the data for tracking migration, where birds have shifted their habitats and the number of birds. It’s a way to understand the effects of climate change on them.

Please consider spending 15 minutes this year and joining the millions of people worldwide who participate in the annual event. All birds matter and every count is essential to understanding the world around us.

Here is more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count and how you can participate in this important event. https://www.birdcount.org/participate/

Preternatural by Peter Topside

Peter Topside has hit the mark with an enjoyable story for a debut novel. The antagonist, Blackheart, is the dark soul of this book. There are no Twilight vampires in Peter’s world or in the small town of Meadowsville, which has decided to use the strange deaths and legend to increase tourism, led of course, by the town’s mayor.

The myth surrounding the creature of the night was original and engaging, even though there were some awkward moments where I thought a bit more editing of the book could have enhanced the story. Overall, this was an original and creative endeavor for Peter’s debut work of fiction.

As another horror genre writer, I know that writing a trilogy can be difficult. The author must ensure that each of the novels has a solid ending, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated with unnecessary cliffhangers. Peter thankfully didn’t have this problem. Preternatural has a definite conclusion and one where I felt satisfied and not cheated.

I’m looking forward to reading the second in the trilogy and seeing how Peter continues the story of Blackheart and Meadowsville.

To Stand Alone or Not

Sorry for my silence. I decided to unplug myself over the holidays to focus my attention on finishing some writing projects. I completed Book 2 of the Geraldine Flanders trilogy, and I’m well into book 3. I also have some exciting news to share about another book project, but that will be for another post. For now, this is where my mind is wandering.

Over the years, I’ve written both stand-alone novels and novellas and a series or trilogy if you prefer since there were only three books in the series. While I was writing the first Thomas Newton novel, Secret Societies, I had no idea or intention of writing more books featuring Thomas Newton. I always meant for it to be a stand-alone novel from the beginning. It wasn’t until after the Secret Societies was published and out in the world that I decided to undertake Thomas’ sequel (The Thief Taker) and then another year and a half before I decided there needed to be closure and write the third and final installment (Den of Thieves).

Looking back now, I can see where my mistakes were in this jagged way of writing a series. The third book came out two and half years after the second and was published by a different publisher than the first two. While sales and the reviews were good, I wasn’t happy with how it all came about.

I’ve just finished the second book in a new trilogy. The difference now is that I started out knowing there would be three books, and none of them have been published yet. This time I have a plan, unlike the last time – a scheduled release during 2022 where the readers don’t have to wait a year or more for the next book to come out.

I’ve also learned an important lesson in planning and writing this trilogy. I guess writing, like most professions, is a never-ending learning experience. Having all the books unpublished gives me the freedom to go back and make changes to the first book while ending the second or making changes to the second book while working on the third. This newfound freedom of writing a trilogy has offered me an ideal way of making sure all the books are cohesive and that there are no gaps in the three stories.

I’m enjoying this authorial freedom and hope that once the trilogy is released, the readers will enjoy it as well.