Saturday, August 31, 2013 | By: Cafe

Blueberry Pie

While you can still catch fresh blueberries in the store or farmer's market, whip up this really delicious blueberry pie. The recipe is a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law and it's a real winner for a seasonal dessert. I always make it with my own recipe for a cookie crust, but you can team  the filling with whatever crust you prefer.

Fresh Blueberry Pie

4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Place ½ of the blueberries, ½ of the sugar, and 1 cup of water in pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix cornstarch and rest of sugar and add to hot mixture after the five minutes. Cook until it thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the rest of the blueberries and lemon juice. Place in baked pie shell. Serve when cool with whipped topping.

Cookie Crust

¼ cup of softened butter or margarine
¼ cup of sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour


Cream sugar and butter/margarine. Add egg yolk. Add flour and mix until blended. Press firmly in 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 min. or until edges brown. Cool thoroughly.
Monday, August 26, 2013 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Nancy C. Weeks


Today, the Write Way Café welcomes Crimson Romance author Nancy C. Weeks.

I’m so thrilled to be a guest on The Write Way Café. This is my release day for In the Shadow the Evil, the second book in my Shadow series! I’ve been waiting a couple years for everyone to meet my wonderful couple, Jennie McKenzie and Jared McNeil. I can’t thank you enough for hosting me.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
     There really wasn’t a big ta-da moment where I said to myself, “I’m going to write a book.” It was just something I always wanted to do. As for why romance, I discovered romance novels while in my early teens. From that moment on I had a book on me at all times. I write what I love to read. Intense action, romance, and happy-ever-after; what’s not to love?

What was your path to getting this book written and published? 
     If it wasn’t for my sister, Mary, I don’t think I would have ever started down this road. About four years ago, Mary decided to stop smoking ― cold turkey ― no gums, no pills ― just her strong will and determination. We lost our mother to lung disease caused by years of smoking. To say that I was proud of Mary was an understatement. I had to do something to honor her and asked her to name something I could do that would keep her on track.
     Being part of a large family where we constantly challenged each other to be the best person we can be, she asked me to start writing that book I always talked about, and demanded the first ten pages by the end of the day. So began In the Shadow of Evil.
     For months, I told no one about my writing. Every few days, she would report to me how many hours she had gone without a cigarette and I would send her my horrid next chapter. I had no idea what I was doing, and my respect for writers grew tenfold. But Mary seemed genuinely intrigued and kept encouraging me to send more pages. At the one year anniversary mark, we celebrated a smoke-free year and a completed first draft of In the Shadow of Evil.
     As for the road to publication, I’m still swimming in that black hole. The publishing world is changing everyday and I can’t seem to keep up with everything, but I continue to learn.

What type of research did you do for In the Shadow of Evil?
     One day I’m going to write a book about something I actually know about. LOL! I think I researched everything about this book from my primary locations, to police procedures, to COPD, and lung disease, to degrees in primary education, to ministries in the Catholic Church, and even expensive huge mansions. Everything! I tell people I can fill an ocean with what I don’t know and fill the top of a pin head with what I do know. However, I love Google. I may not know what the inside of a great, soulless mansion looks like (my heroine’s impression of the villain’s home), but Google will show me.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
     The premise of In the Shadow of Evil had been floating around in my head for years. I really enjoyed placing my heroine, Jennie McKenzie, hero, Jared McNeil, and villain, Elias Mendoza in a love/obsession triangle, spinning it, and seeing what would come out at the end.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     Most of In the Shadow of Evil takes place in the well known historic section of Baltimore called Fells Point. The reason I picked this setting for my first book is really kind of silly. I began my writing journey when my daughter was in her senior year in high school. I drove her into downtown Baltimore for some event that I sadly can’t remember, and after I dropped her off, I got lost in Fells Point. As I was driving around the side streets, I stumbled on what just had to be Louise Cunningham’s brownstone. A couple blocks down the street was a beautiful old church that I turned into St. Luke’s. From that day on, Fells Point became my imaginary stomping grounds.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
     I took a workshop once where the instructor said that authors should never place themselves in their stories. I still question that comment because I don’t know how I keep myself out of my writing completely. While my characters are imaginary, they have to be in a small way a product, or for a better word, a reflection of who I am, what I believe, and the experience I have had.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
     Oh yeah, huge, inches thick blocks. I refer to those blocks as dream killers; those moments that come on without warning, and make you doubt everything. What did I do to break down those blocks? I made myself press right through the doubt, not allowing it to take away something I love. I don’t have to be the greatest literary author in this century to write. What I do expect of myself is to continue to learn my craft while completely enjoying the process of storytelling.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after? 
     The biggest mystery I have discovered writing In the Shadow of Evil is where the story took me. I love how Jennie and Jared became so very real to me. Even my villain, Mendoza was larger than life. He even scared me.
     What surprised me after I finished In the Shadow of Evil was how lost I felt. I missed the world I created, and I really missed Jennie and Jared.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself and the writing world.
     Wow, this is a hard question. I’ll tackle what I learned about myself first.
     The one thing that changed me the most about finishing this book was it gave me a direction in my life I didn’t know I needed. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years and a wife for over thirty. My family’s needs always came first, and I was very grateful to be able to be home as my kids grew up. But this new path I’m on is all about me, and I’m loving it. Being part of the writing world has been a real learning experience. The road to publication really is a huge, confusing black hole, but I have met some wonderful men and women while swimming it. Every writer’s group I have joined has welcomed me like I was a long lost relative. Authors are amazingly supportive and generous with their knowledge. Meeting/interacting with amazing people, like Lynn Crandall and HiDee Ekstrom, is one of the highlights of my new writing journey.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I’m a semi-early riser. If the weather is nice, I take my laptop and coffee out on either the deck or the front porch. I call this my ‘airing out my brain’ time. During the winter months, I write at the kitchen table next to a large bay window. If the family is watching sports, which is on all the time, I just place my earphones on and turn up the tunes. I like to be part of whatever is going on, but I much rather write when my family is glued to the next big sporting event.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
      I still struggle coming up with fresh new ways to describe what my characters are feeling/experiencing during a scene. I want readers to be pulled so deep into the story that they not only see my characters, but feel, smell, and hear their actions as well. Writing this deeply doesn’t come natural to me. It takes a lot of revising to layer that kind of emotion.

What are some of your favorite books and why? 
     I get asked this question all the time and it just stumps me. Here’s me taking the easy way out. I have loved so many books over the years and they are all my favorites. As long as the author can pull me into the story, make me fall in love with the characters, and the world around them, I’m hooked.

What are you working on now?
     I’m in the middle of my next book in my Shadow series, titled, In the Shadow of Malice. With each book, I bring back a very minor character from a previous book and connect them to my wonderful McNeil family. In this story, I’m going to knock my hunky brothers on their ears. They don’t know what’s coming. Hehehe.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
     I think I would love to tip my toe into the young adult genre or even the brand new genre called New Adult which features heroes and heroines in the early twenties. I also have an idea for an inspirational story. This story is the one I have always wanted to write but haven’t decided how to begin it. If you were not a writer,

What would your dream job be?
     A billionaire heiress!



Elías Mendoza’s personal vendetta against the McKenzie family rests on Jennie’s shoulders. As she cradles the bullet ridden body of her ten-year old student, she knows Mendoza is responsible. Quinton’s death is a message. Jennie’s life belongs to only Mendoza. But she has her own message. No one else dies. Her life means nothing as long as Mendoza is free.

Jared McNeil has spent ten years with Maryland’s Special Crime Unit and very little rattles him. When the haunted teenager he once tried to protect walks into his precinct now a beautiful woman, he wants nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and never let her go. But he soon realizes she is there only to settle her debts before she goes after his nemesis, Mendoza. Jared’s vow to stay away from Jennie until the task force destroys Mendoza now means nothing. 

What Jared and Jennie don't understand is there are forces at play greater than the evil shadowing them, but time is running out. United, they can do anything. Alone, they will fail. 

Here is an excerpt of In the Shadow of Evil. Enjoy! 

     Jared rested his head against the column and listened to the hauntingly sad music coming from the piano. As Jennie’s fingers waltzed across the keyboard, a tear slid down her cheek. Whatever gut-wrenching pain she was trying to rid herself of through the music, it wasn’t working. Every note echoed what only could be a deep hurt—the kind of hurt that dug itself into the darkest crevasses of the heart. Just listening to her pain ate away at him. What the hell had he missed that would cause this kind of grief?
     Jared stepped out of the shadow and waited for her to notice him. It didn’t take long before her fingers froze and she sought him out. “Jared,” she whispered.
     He took another step closer. “Hey, Jennie.”
      “What are you doing here?”
     “I could ask you the same thing.” He strolled up the side aisle, keeping as much in the shadows as he could. The one question he wanted to ask all day came stumbling out of his mouth. “How could you just run off like that, Jennie? You know Noah. He’s all bark. He never would have . . .”
     “You shouldn’t be here.” Her expressive, deep hazel eyes widened as she searched the sanctuary. When Jennie turned and faced him, her features were clouded with fear. Jared straightened his stance and his hand went to his weapon.
     “Who else is here?”
     “No one, except Father Anthony.”
     “Why are you so spooked? Hell, Jennie, you look like you are about to jump out of your skin.”
     Jennie stood and lowered the piano lid over the keys. “It’s just late. I didn’t expect anyone to be here. You just startled me . . .”
     Damn. What the hell is going on? 
     “I think that is the first lie you ever told me.” Jared took several steps, closing the space between them. Even in the dim light he could tell his words affected her. He reached for her hands clutched in front of her. His fingers rubbed against several layers of gauze wrapped around her left palm. He lifted it so he could get a better look. He couldn’t see what was under the bandage, but the skin was red, and blisters formed on each joint. “What the hell? You didn’t have this earlier.”
     She yanked her hand free. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”
     “That’s two lies.” Jared shook his head. “And this,” he said, holding up her hand, “is definitely something. How did it happen?”
     In all the years they have known each other, Jennie never tried to close herself off from him. In fact, he teased often that her eyes gave away exactly what she was thinking. But not tonight. She was definitely hiding something.
     Where was the smile that lightened his mood, or the hug that stayed with him for hours? Their friendship was solid. She was one of the few people with whom he felt completely comfortable. He didn’t think there was anything he didn’t know about her.
     So what had he missed? Could the distance he placed between them have finally led her to stop believing in him? The thought was crushing.
     “Why did you come to the station today?”
     “I left you a note.”
     Jared edged in close enough that her citrus and jasmine scent surrounded him. She didn’t back away but she kept her gaze on the floor. “Since when do you need to leave a note? Why didn’t you just let me know you were coming? I’m would have been there to meet you.”
     Jennie brushed a hand through her auburn shoulder length hair while her eyes darted everywhere but at him. So many emotions passed across her features—desperation, guilt, sadness.
     With the tip of his finger, he lifted her face.
     “Jennie, what’s wrong?”
     “Read the note, Jared. It’s all in there,” she replied in a hushed whisper.
     It took everything in him to keep from blaring out where she could stuff the damn note. “You could always talk to me before. What’s changed?” He cupped her face with both of his hands. His thumb caressed the tender skin along her jaw. “I’m here, Jennie. Please don’t shut me out.”
     “You’re not here, Jared. I can’t . . . won’t—”
     “Won’t what, Jennie? Count on me, trust me?”

About the author:  Nancy C. Weeks has loved happy-ever-after romances since she was in her early teens. While still in college, she met and married her hero and spent the next several years honeymooning and working overseas. Today, she lives in suburban Maryland with her husband of more than thirty years. Her two children are in college and she spends her days out on her deck writing as the local bird population keeps her company. She loves to hear from her readers.

Where you can find Nancy C. Weeks:
http://nancycweeks.com
http://nancycweeksauthor.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/NancyCWeeksAuthor
@NancyCWeeks

Buying links for In the Shadow of Greed and In the Shadow of Evil 
Amazon: http://amzn.to/16ZTUl3
Barnes andNoble: http://bit.ly/16GHb6I
iTunes: http://bit.ly/17JKTvi
Crimson Romance: http://www.crimsonromance.com/
In the Shadow of Evil pre-order link: http://amzn.to/1aoeYaf

Friday, August 23, 2013 | By: Cafe
In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.  
- Henry Miller, The Books in My Life
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 | By: Lynn

Happy Perspective

I recently wrote a post for The Book Boost blog about my experience of "happy." In writing that post I looked at my concept of happiness and realized I've moved from an outlook of an Eeyore, the small little donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories, to an outlook of an Eeyore who sees the sunshine in things, too, not just the rain. I don’t feel I live in denial or am anything close to a Pollyanna, but I have learned to make happiness happen and I believe it's possible. It's a perspective, a view of the very same circumstances from a belief that, yes, there are struggles and challenges in life, but there is an abundance of support and opportunity, too. That's been my "Aha!" moment. That I can live in heaven, so to speak, or hell, it's a matter of perspective in large part.

Trust me, I think being an Eeyore is nothing to be ashamed of. I don't think there's anything wrong with a delicious melancholy. It can inform life from a very realistic and rich point of view. But balance is good, and a strong underlying and real sense of happiness feels to me like a much more empowered approach and something that is available to all types of personalities.

I'm slowly getting to my point.

There are many, many, many suggestions for living a happy life. My Eeyore self has in the past typically discounted such advice and maintained a perspective that expected not to get happiness. But as I've seen the sunshine, so to speak, I've accepted that there are many approaches to life that can enhance the happy factor. I subscribe now to author Kristen Lamb's suggestion that we focus on the positive if we want positive results. And it's not simply a cheap parlor trick, because the perspective, the choice, for positive is just as viable as the negative perspective. That may sound too simple, so to make it more challenging and more life-changing, look deeper and let go, writes the Purpose Fairy.

"We hold onto so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them," Luminita D. Saviuc writes on her blog.

Saviuc lists 15 things to give up that will support happiness in your life. The list includes: Give up your need to be right. Give up blaming. And more really helpful but challenging concepts to master.

To make it simple for myself, I followed Lamb's advice of seeing the positive side of things. Not noticing just the flaws, but the delights, too, and expect the happy to follow. So each night I've been listing Things that Made Me Smile Today. The list concept came from a thought of, what was my best day ever? The very first thought I had was of a day several years ago I spent on the couch and my husband spent in the recliner, both of us sick. We hunkered down and got better. There was nothing to do but be. Of course, I didn't enjoy the sick part but it was a good day.

So there it is. The choice to live in heaven or hell, circumstances be damned.

What made you smile today? What was your best day ever?

Friday, August 16, 2013 | By: Cafe
Toss your dashed hopes not into a trash bin but into a drawer where you are likely to rummage some bright morning.  
- Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com
Tuesday, August 13, 2013 | By: HiDee

Proceed at Your Own Risk

With over 170,000 miles on our van, we opted for a staycation this year. As much as we’d like to head out west again, we didn’t want to break down and have to buy a new van on the way. Been there, done that.

Here are five things I learned on my staycation.

1.  A change of scenery can reset your outlook on life. 
Being cooped up in an office, even though I love my day job, gets old.  Vacation provides an opportunity to get out, to escape from the daily fires – something I really should do more often.  My escape of choice is hiking. Experiencing nature (except for the spiders and snakes) relaxes me, and viewing it through the lens of my camera allows me to capture details I might otherwise miss.

My creativity has taken a nose-dive lately due to situations beyond my control, so my change of scenery is giving me a new perspective. Nature relaxes me, so maybe I should try writing there.  I can take my choice of writing tools and find a picnic table overlooking the lake. If the weather isn’t cooperating, I can skip the coffee shop and find a corner table in the food court at the local mall where I can people watch. It might be noisier here but you never know what characters you might observe!

2.  Change can be painful.
Hiking works muscles that get lazy all week, sitting in comfy chairs. Hubby thinks he can give me a better workout than any gym. He heads for the more rugged trails, ones that wind through an assortment of terrains: hills and valleys, rocks and streams, ladders. And steps. Hundreds of wooden steps. So many steps that if I never see another step in my life it will be too soon. Just ask my calves and thighs.

Traversing life experiences can be difficult, sometimes downright painful, both mentally and physically. But our experiences make us who we are, and have brought us to where we are today.  We have to take our experiences and run with them, make them our own.

Don’t like where you are today?  

3.  Get out of your comfort zone.
My 17 year old son wanted to go to King’s Island and ride rollercoasters. I love rollercoasters, so I was game. But then I rode the Diamondback. I should have known better than to ride a coaster named after a snake! That first drop was waaaayyy out of my comfort zone, and left me thinking I was not in my right mind. 

Whatever possessed me to get on that thing? It scared the daylights out of me. It made my heart beat a little faster. It was an adventure! Adventures are the spice of life, so go ahead, do something you wouldn’t normally do. (Just trust me, and don’t ride the Diamondback.)

4.  Proceed at your own risk.
While hiking, we came upon this sign – twice. Hubby ignored the first one, even though it was stuck smack-dab in the middle of the trail we were on. The bridge that was “out” couldn’t really be called a bridge – we were able to step across the rut below it with no problem. But the trail eventually left us stranded at the bottom of a ravine, with two choices: go back the way we came, or climb out by following a narrow deer path up a steep hill. Guess which way we went?

The second sign was off to the side of our trail, but given the status of the previous bridge – let’s just say life is always an adventure with my hubby. This bridge was mostly under water, and it was too wide to jump. Lucky for him, there were boards and logs across a narrower section that we were able to cross and continue on our way.

Taking risks – taking chances – is what enables us to have unique experiences. Nobody wants to put themselves in peril, but where would we be if we never ventured out? Think of taking chances as an opportunity to be resourceful, and accept the challenge.

5.  Surround yourself with supporters.  
My family challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and try something different, but they were right there with me, making the trip more enjoyable.

My fellow writers are always right there with me, too. They have different and helpful ideas and viewpoints, if only I will listen. They encourage me to take risks, and to be resourceful. They encourage me to build my own bridges.

My staycation may not have been my dream vacation, but it served an important purpose: it allowed me to step back from the pressures of everyday life, to reset – physically and mentally.

What do you do to reset?  Please share!




Friday, August 9, 2013 | By: Cafe
You will turn over many a futile new leaf till you learn we must all write on scratched-out pages. 
- Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960
Tuesday, August 6, 2013 | By: Cafe

The Challenges of Writing the Next Book

We welcome Rena Koontz and congratulate her on her second release, The Devil She Knew.

by Rena Koontz

Not quite a year ago, I broke into the publishing world with my debut novel that, quite frankly, I’d been trying to get published for, off and on, almost four years.  I would tell those who asked that I just needed to get my foot in the door – catch that one big break – and my career as an author would be on its way.

After that – it would be gravy.

Well, my foot is in the door, and earlier this year my second novel was released. But, I assure you, I haven’t tasted the gravy yet!

The challenges of writing a book worthy of publication are enormous. The challenges of writing a second book, new and different and more readable than the first, are mammoth.

And now, as I wait for word from a publisher about my third book, and begin work on a fourth, I am, quite frankly, scared to death. Writers are full of self-doubt and I’ve never met one, published or unpublished, who didn’t question whether or not their work was good enough.

“Oh, Rena,” my friend said when we celebrated the contract for my second release, “didn’t you know the editor would love it?”

Well – no! It is the opposite of gravy. Instead of being easier, it is harder.  Being published doesn’t guarantee the next book gets published. It’s not uncommon for an editor to reject a new submission from an established author.

The bar I’ve set elevates with each new manuscript. I strive to use different words to describe my scenes, my characters and the action, both in the bedroom and in the plot. I must tell a different story than I did in my first book, “Love’s Secret Fire,” or the second, “The Devil She Knew.”

Well, that’s easy, friends say. One is about arson and one is about a mob hit. Just pick a different subject. But the tale I tell, and the characters I bring to life, must be ones I can identify with. They must be believable and appeal to the reader and above all, be unique. They can’t resemble the folks I portrayed in other books. Just as every person you meet is different, so must my characters be different and their stories distinctive when you meet them.

Each time I sit down at my keyboard, I come face to face with the nagging question: What if I can’t write it better this time?

What if the reader liked the last book so much, the next one is a letdown? It is a fear I suspect every writer faces.

Sure, I have an arsenal of ideas thanks to a background in newspaper reporting and a vivid imagination. And I have a Thesaurus at my fingertips so that I can change “happy” to “glad” and use words like chocolate, coffee or tan to describe brown this time around. But making the next book better than the last extends well beyond describing a color differently between book one and book three.

My ideas must be fresh, my plot more intriguing and I must introduce you, the reader, to new people who embark on a new adventure, one that they share with you.

What if I can’t do it?

It’s a dilemma, one that I hope I can overcome as Chrissy and Mike come to life on the pages of my next story. All I can do is give the reader my best and hope it’s good enough.

What are the challenges that you face as you write your next novel?


More information about Rena is available on her website, www.renakoontz.com.

“Love’s Secret Fire” and “The Devil She Knew” are available at http://www.amazon.com/.
You can also find Rena’s romantic suspense novels on www.barnesandnoble.com, Apple iBooks and other E-retailers.
Friday, August 2, 2013 | By: Cafe
Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.  
- Russel Baker