Friday, October 5, 2018
Although Fall in Las Vegas looks nothing like this, the desert holds it's own beauty. But, I do remember beautiful Autumn moments like this growing up, and I must admit, I still miss them. Fall is by far my most favorite Season. One of the fondest memories of the Fall/ Winter months was Ebinger's Blackout cake. A delectable, rich chocolate dessert that tantalized the taste buds and delivered a fork full of perfection with each bite.
Ebinger's is long since closed, and Entenmann's, whose recipe was a very close second, no longer manufacturers this culinary classic. I've yearned for this dessert for years, a childhood favorite, it remained locked away in my most fondest memories of New York.
A few weeks ago, my brother Joe, surprised me. He had tracked down the recipe from Ebinger's and emailed it to me. To say I was elated could not to begin to describe my joy. I know what you're thinking... it's just a cake, Vicki-Ann. There are numerous recipe's for scrumptious chocolate cakes. I know, I've made a few. But the Blackout cake from Ebinger's and Entenmann's was more than just chocolaty goodness. It was countless hours at the kitchen table with my family growing up in New York. My grandmother's boisterous half Italian, half English comments of advice to my mom, my grandfather's quiet calm, my uncles and aunts, cousins, friends, and anyone else who just dropped by our house. It was nights watching television with my mom, insisting on murder mysteries, while my dad tried to vie for a half hour of comedy shows. My brother and I downstairs playing in the basement, my dad tickling the keys on the piano, my mom cooking dinner... the Blackout cake saw life pass by from it's perch on the kitchen counter.
After forty plus years, my heart warms with the thought that once again, a Blackout cake will be enjoyed. And although I've grown into an adult, and most of my loved ones who shared this treat many years ago are gone, the tradition will go on. It'll be waiting on my counter for whoever drops by.
Here's the link my brother sent me, please let me know what you think if you bake it.
Monday, September 24, 2018
I'd like to introduce you to my friend and fellow author, Susan Johnson. Susie suffers with a lifelong battle of Bipolar disorder. She is an inspirational speaker and tireless advocate, spreading hope and strength to others who suffer along side her.
Below is a quick note from Susie for an event this Friday evening Sept. 28th, at Lake Las Vegas. Susie will be selling and signing the second edition of her bipolar memoir, Some Dreams are Worth Keeping. It takes the reader into the upside down world of bipolar disorder. Susie has bravely shared the good and sometimes, the very bad episodes in her life. I have personally seen her compassion and drive to help others. Quite often when she is approached during one of our signings together, the person inquiring about her book leaves with a smile. She is making a difference. So please, if you are looking for a fun evening, go check out the event and stop by Susie's table. I promise, you will be greeted by one of the kindest souls you'll ever met.
P.S. If you can't make it over to Lake Las Vegas Friday night, here's the link to Susie's book on Amazon. She often does signings around town and I know she'd be more than thrilled to sign you your book. So follow her on Facebook and see where she'll be next. Chances are, she 'll be in your neck of the woods some time soon!
A note from Susie...
Some of you might remember I was featured 3 times on "The Journey" a Christian radio program hosted by my friend Annie Meadows. If you have never heard of Annie Meadows she is a very talented local Christian singer. On Friday, September 28th from 7-10pm Lake Las Vegas and Faithrunner Ministries presents a concert "Walking On Water". Annie will be singing along with several of her friends. I am incredibly honored to be a part of this event and will be there for a book signing. Please help spread the word.
Friday, September 14, 2018
Happy Friday everyone! Today on my blog I have a guest author, the wonderfully talented, Jim Cronin. He's here to tell us about his new book Aeon Rises, and share some insight into the author himself! But first, let's have a peek into the world of Aeon Rises...
Justin Madrid always considered himself an average nerdy freshman in high school, and an outcast because intense migraines prevent him from playing video games or watching television. Even looking at a phone screen hurts. But when the aliens, disguised as local librarians, started trying to kill him, everything changed. And now it is up to Justin and his cool new power to save the earth from invasion.
“Okay Mom,” he yelled, yanking the blankets over his head. “Okay, I’m up already! Gimme a break! I don’t know why I have to get up before the sun. It only takes a minute to get ready.” Struggling through the fog in his head, Justin rubbed his eyes and shook his head trying to clear it.
“Man, that dream was so real.” The dream, so vivid only minutes ago, faded quickly as he awoke fully. Only a vague memory of his father, long dead now, spoke to him as they stood together among the stars. While most of the conversation was gone now, there was something about it being time. Time for what? That was so fricking weird.
As the dream faded completely, Justin gave in to the inevitable, sat up, and tossed the covers to one side.
Today began as every other day began…unfortunately for Justin. Still having homework with only a week left in the school year, his ever growing and never-ending mountain of chores, his ancient cell phone, and, most important of all, the lack of privacy in his own home were chief among his gripes.
“Don’t give me that tone of yours, young man. Just get yourself up here with a smile on your face and get your breakfast before you miss your bus.”
Mumbling through his hands as he scrubbed his face, Justin argued back. “Maybe if you would drive me to school I wouldn’t have to get up so fricking early just to catch the bus.” He made that mistake once before of saying this sort of thing loud enough for his mother to hear and did not want a repeat of that long lecture again, so he was more careful to not let her actually hear his response. The twice-daily torment on the rolling yellow prison was unbearable. Did she really need to remind me about the bus? As he brushed his teeth, a new strategy came to him and his mood brightened. His mind searched through dozens of ways to open the conversation once again before settling on what he considered the most irrefutable, and logical argument. Putting on his best Mom-pleasing smile and one last check in the mirror, he bounded up the stairs. The meadowlarks sang sweetly in the field behind the house as he entered the kitchen.
“So Mom, I heard they’re going to start charging extra to ride the bus next year…”
“Hurry and finish breakfast so you can fix your lunch, young man. The bus will be here before you know it.” Justin poured a bowl of Apple Jacks and chugged his orange juice, then went to examine the fridge. PB and J on whole grain bread, an apple and an organic juice box. “Don’t forget to take one of those packs of carrots too,” his mom called out as he stuffed everything into a reusable bag.
“And another thing. I’m not going to be your personal chauffer, mister. We are perfectly able to afford any sort of bus fee. It won’t kill you to take the bus. You could even do some homework or extra studying on the ride if you put your mind to it. Your grades aren’t so perfect you couldn’t put more effort into them, you know…” Her soapbox speech lasted for a good three minutes, rambling from one pointless reason to the next. Justin zoned her out—a skill perfected by most teenagers. He only caught the edges of her diatribe and forgot the details.
He sat back at the table and added some milk to his cereal, but did not lift the spoon to eat any of it. Two fingers of his left hand scratched nervously at the table. “I don’t like the bus. They bully me on the bus and nobody does anything about it.”
She moved to empty the dishwasher, but cocked her head, carefully measuring her son’s mood. “Have you reported it to the dean at school?”
Realizing he had made the comment too loudly, Justin shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and decided his best course of action was to finish his complaint before the “I am your mother and you can tell me anything,” speech started up. He gobbled up a mouthful of cereal while he organized his thoughts. “I tried once, but that only made it worse. Nobody would be a witness so all they got was a warning. Everyone except Kevin looks at me like I’m some sort of freak. I try to fit in, but I don’t know anything about the benefits of Xbox versus PlayStation. I can’t text them, or go on Snapchat to talk with them. They all laugh at me in the lunchroom. I don’t fit in with them, so I’m a target. You don’t understand. The school can’t do anything about it so I just try to ignore it. Besides, they’re right. I’m weird.”
Justin’s mom stood up with a handful of plates and turned to face him. Her eyes narrowed as she tilted her head. “What do you mean weird? What makes you say such a thing?”
Justin swallowed another spoonful of his breakfast, sat back, and leaned on one elbow as he faced his mom. “You know… just weird. I don’t like the same things other kids my age like. Those video games they play all the time give me headaches. The glasses you got me help some, but they’re trash. Can’t I get contacts like everyone else? I don’t get what they see in all those dumb You Tube videos. I mean, like really, what’s so hilarious about cats playing the piano after the first eighty-three times you’ve seen it? And I enjoy reading real books, not Audible or Overdrive everyone has. I mean, like real paper books. Real books never give me migraines. Those books just don’t feel right to me. You see? I’m just weird.”
His mother sighed and placed a gentle hand on Justin’s shoulder. “All that means is you have better things to occupy your brain and your time with than all the nonsense those other kids are filling their brains with. You’re not weird, honey, you’re more mature than they are. You’ll see. In a few years they’ll all catch up with you and things won’t seem so bad.”
Justin rolled his eyes at her well-meant remark, knowing she simply did not understand the problem. “So, in the meantime, can you like give me a ride in to school instead of making me ride the bus?” Her look instantly told him the answer had not changed. “Well then, can I get a real phone instead of this piece of crap? At least they won’t be able to mess with me about having a junk phone.” That last statement escaped his lips before he even realized it. He knew it was a mistake, but just couldn’t help himself again. Oh crap!
“Justin Madrid, we’ve been over this before.” His mother’s voices suddenly became a lot less motherly as she continued her efforts to clean up the kitchen. “You said it yourself: going on the internet gives you headaches, and you know how I feel about kids your age being able to text anyone at any time. You don’t need that sort of distraction. You know I don’t even have one of those idiotic smart phones myself. A phone should just be a phone. Now let’s not have any more of this nonsense. I have work to do. Finish your breakfast. If you want, I’ll go in and have a talk with the principal about the bullying.”
“No!” he shouted, spewing cereal from his mouth. “Don’t talk to anybody about anything, Mom.” He turned to face her. His hands gripped the table so hard his knuckles turned white. “You’ll only make things worse. I can deal with it on my own. School is just about over anyway. Maybe next year I won’t feel like such an alien.”
She turned to face him, her eyes wide as if in shock. The muscles in her forearms knotted as her grip on the dish towel tightened. The morning sun coming through the window caught Justin at the perfect angle. For a mere second, his eyes reflected golden the soft light, the way a dog or cat’s eyes reflect a car’s headlights at night.
His mother’s face paled and she dropped the plate she was drying. It shattered loudly all over the floor. She grabbed the counter top to steady herself before kneeling down to recover the shards.
“Mom! Are you okay?” He jumped up to help her pick up the
off the floor.
“I’m fine. It just slipped. Must have still been wet, I guess. What was it you said?”
“No, I’m serious.” Her voice trembled slightly despite her effort to control the fear. “What did you say about being an alien?”
Justin sighed, rolled his eyes again, and reached for another piece of broken plate, forcing up a few tears for added effect. “I just said that sometimes I feel like I’m so different from everyone else my age I must be from another planet or something. Don’t go all crazy over it, okay? You have enough to worry about taking care of us on your own and all. It’s just… like a kid thing, Okay? Let’s not turn it into a big deal. Don’t worry about me, I’ll figure it out.”
His mom sat up onto her knees and took Justin’s hands in hers, capturing his attention with her gentleness. “Justin, I know things have been tough for you lately. I’ve tried to be both parents to you, but you’re getting older now and I’m not sure how to handle some of the things you’re going through. I’m sorry your dad can’t be here for you.”
He felt her hands shaking as he saw the worry on her face. “I’m fine, Mom. You’re the best mom ever and I love you. The only way I even know anything at all about him is because of all the stories you tell me. Are you sure you’re okay?”
She tousled his hair and placed one hand on his cheek. “Just go get yourself changed before you miss the bus. I’ll finish up here.”
Now let's get to know Jim...
Your latest/current work: Aeon Rises
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
1.Tell us about your Latest Book/Book about to be released? Release Date? And can you give us a teaser?
My latest book, Aeon Rises, is my first attempt at writing a Young Adult science fiction novel.
2.What other books/short stories have you written?
My previous works include the science fiction trilogy: The Brin Archives: Hegira, Recusant, and Empyrean. I have also had two short stories published by Solstice as part of an annual anthology they produce.
3.Are they available in e-book, print, or both?
All of my novels are available in both print and ebook formats on Amazon
4.Where can readers find your books?
All of my books are available on Amazon.com, or through the following social media links:
My Webpage: http://jimcroninscienceedutainer.weebly.com/
5.What do you think are the biggest challenges for the type of writing that you do?
For me, the biggest challenge in writing is the basics of the English language: spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the like. I am a retired science teacher, not language arts, so the English language is a bit of a challenge. Otherwise, I think trying to make my work believable, and yet other-worldly is a real challenge. How do I make my aliens live in a believable world with actual laws of physics restraining them, yet fantastic enough to be beyond our abilities today.
6.How did you get started in writing?
I started writing by accident, if the truth be told. My brother was writing a book and asked for my help proofing it. It turned out to be fun, so we brainstormed ideas for me to write about, and the result was the Brin Archive trilogy. Who would have guessed? I know some of my former Language Arts teacher partners were in total shock when I told them what I was doing.
7.Where and How can readers get in touch with you?
I can be reached through any of the media links listed above. I would love to hear from some of my readers.
8.So with your latest work released/or being released, what comes next? What can we expect from you in the future?
My next project involves continuing to write a series of short stories to use science fiction and fantasy tales to explain actual scientific concepts. My goal is to have something science teachers, or anyone, can use to provide a fun and engaging introduction to a scientific topic which avoids textbooks, at least at first.
9.How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
I think Aeon Rises is a story with the most of me in it. I strongly identify with Justin and Kevin as outcasts in high school, and their nerdy nature. It also takes place in the community where I lived and worked for many years. The library in the book is actually the place my wife works. The librarians there love the idea of me turning them into evil aliens invading the earth. Even Justin’s house is based on one I lived in there. All of my books show, I hope, my awe and love of science and nature.
10.What about you in general? What is it that makes you tick? Makes you you? Things you like to do and what prompted you into writing?
I am a teacher. Even in retirement, I work part-time as an educator/performer at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I love telling stories and making science accessible to others. I love my family. My wife (married 40 years), two sons and daughter-in laws, and soon to be four grandchildren are my life and heart. Aside from that, I enjoy reading almost anything, baseball (Go Rockies!), going for walks and bike rides. Writing turned out to be a fun, and rewarding, but accidental part of my life.
11.Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite Hero or Heroine?
I guess Hegira, my first published work, will always be my favourite. It was a work that took about three years to get right since writing was a lot harder than I ever expected. The effort and determination it took to complete the story and have it published was incredibly rewarding. I can be very stubborn when I set my mind to learning something.
12.What kind of research do you when writing one of your works?
I will research different scientific theories to learn what ideas might be best adapted to solve the conflicts in my stories. For Aeon Rises, I also researched a number of UFO conspiracy theory locations to include in the book. I had never heard of Hooper, Colorado as a prime UFO site here, but it proved to be the perfect location to use in addition to DIA and Area 51. I even got to visit the UFO Watchtower in Hooper recently and was amazed at how well a nearby house fit the description I made up for a house in the story. Can you say psychic connection?
13.Do you ever ask friends/family for advice or ideas to go into your works?
My brother and I always toss ideas around and problem solve sticking points in all my books. For Aeon Rises, I was fortunate enough to have access to an incredible group of 8th graders at my old school who helped me make the teen protagonists more believable.
14.Lastly do you have any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Stick to it! It took three years, and over a hundred rejections before I figured out how to get my first book into shape for a publisher. Find some good proof readers and editors to critique your work, and listen to their advice. When my first editor ripped apart Hegira’s first version and rearranged all the chapters, I was shocked. Turns out he was right. The story made much more sense with the new order of things. Don’t let your ego get in the way of making your story the best it can be.
I am a retired middle school science teacher, working part-time as an educator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I have been married for forty years to the love of my life. We raised two incredible sons, and now have four amazing grandchildren to spoil rotten.
I was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in Arlington, Virginia before moving to Denver where I attended High School and eventually college at Colorado State University, graduating with a degree in Zoology and a teacher certification. My wife and I currently live near Denver in the small town of Parker.
After writing The Brin Archives trilogy, I wanted to try my hand at reaching a new audience. The idea of a nerdy teenager with few friends suddenly learning the fate of all earth depends on him struck me as a fun scifi adventure.
Other titles available by Jim
Friday, September 7, 2018
Yesterday, my daughter had to say good-bye to her baby, Sheila. She was the sweetest, kindest and gentlest soul. Words are difficult today, so I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite pictures. Minga loves you Sheila Roni, today, tomorrow, and always
Friday, August 31, 2018
Today is a strange day. I'm feeling optimistic, excited, and filled with anticipation. The weirdness comes in because I have no reason why I'm experiencing all these positive emotions. I'm loving it, but I'm... befuddled. My dad always said, never look a gift horse in the mouth. To this day I have no idea what that means, but I do know I'm riding this wave of light and joy, hoping it guides me to the shore of whatever adventure is waiting.
I was wondering if I'm alone in my blanket of positive, or is this something others were experiencing too. So, tell me... how are you feeling today? Leave a comment, and let's share in the weirdness.
I was wondering if I'm alone in my blanket of positive, or is this something others were experiencing too. So, tell me... how are you feeling today? Leave a comment, and let's share in the weirdness.