Candy Cane Oreo recipe from Christmas Cupcakes & A Caper #culinarycozy #recipes #foodporn #yummy #baking

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Anna, from the Death by Cupcake series, thinks she can solve crimes with cupcakes. Well, I don’t know about that. What I do know is eating her candy cane Oreo cupcakes makes me forget about my problems. If you’re looking for a fun but not too time-intensive cupcake recipe for the holidays (I cheat with this one and use a cake mix), I recommend this recipe from Christmas Cupcakes & A Caper.

 

 

Ingredients (for 20 cupcakes)

Cupcakes

  • 20 Oreos
  • 1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 4 candy canes
  • Oreos (leftover from above)
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) butter softened
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese
  • 3 – 4 Cups of powdered sugar
  • Milk, if needed

Directions

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and line 2 cupcake trays with cupcake liners.
  • Twist Oreos to break apart and put the side with the most cream, cream-side up into each cupcake liner.

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  • Add eggs, oil, milk, and sour cream to cake mix. Stir until smooth. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full.
  • Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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  • While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
  • Finely crush candy canes (I used a mortar and pestle) and finely crush the other half of the Oreos.

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  • Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until you get the desired consistency. If it gets too thick, add a bit of milk. Fold in the finely crushed candy canes and Oreos.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes and top with extra Oreos.

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These were a big hit with our dinner guests and my in-laws, although my husband said there was too much frosting. As if. There can never be too much frosting!

Short, short reviews #MondayBlogs #AmReading

The busy holiday season is upon us. My December calendar looks like someone’s pen exploded – it’s chock-full of parties and drinks get-togethers. But no matter how busy I am, I always (!!) find time to read. I’d explode if I couldn’t get a bit of reading in every now and again. I may find time for reading, but I don’t always have time for writing reviews. As a writer I KNOW how important reviews are, however, which leads me to my short, short reviews. Here’s what I’ve been reading and my thoughts on those reads

~ Dark Alpha’s Temptation by Donna Grant ~

Monday blog 2 dec 2019.1

 

There is no escaping a Reaper. I am an elite assassin, part of a brotherhood that only answers to Death. And when Death says your time is up, I’m coming for you…

For centuries, my loyalties lie with Death. She is my mistress and master. I am alive only to do what pleases her. And for Death, I shall battle the evil among us until the bitter end to keep her safe.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

This is my second novel in Donna Grant’s Reaper series and I am planning on going back to read ALL the novels in the series. And probably every series Grant has written. Dark Alpha’s Temptation has everything one expects in a paranormal romance – lots of mysterious happenings, some great suspense, and hot-burn-your-sheets-up sexy times. Mmmm….

I’m pretty sure Kyra and I would be great buddies. I especially liked how she did things the ‘human’ way. She’s humble, but knows she can kick some ass when necessary. And Dubhan? He can eat crackers in my bed any time. I liked how the story of him becoming a reaper is interwoven into this story.

And now I need to read the next novel, because Grant may have given us a HEA with Kyra and Dubhan but there are still things amiss amongst the Fae and dragons. Impatiently waiting ….

Baiting Him by Aurora Rose Reynolds ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.2Chrissie doesn’t have time for guys, hot or otherwise; most days, she barely has time to sleep. With a thriving bakery that demands her attention and plenty of proof that relationships aren’t worth the trouble, she’s content to go it alone. Too bad she’s unwittingly baited Mr. Tall, Dark, and Way Too Gorgeous—and he’s just waiting for a chance to bite.

Gaston is used to getting what he wants, but he also knows nothing good ever comes easy. From the moment he meets Chrissie, he realizes that this woman who makes him laugh, smells like cupcakes, and looks like a tasty snack is going to be his greatest challenge. And if he’s lucky, she’ll be his biggest reward.

But someone else wants to catch Gaston at all costs—even if it means endangering the lives of the people he loves. Somehow Gaston must thwart danger and convince Chrissie that he’s the perfect catch.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 3 stars

Baiting Him is typical Aurora Rose Reynolds. Instalove and a bit of suspense all wrapped up in a sexy package. Yes, please! I love me some instalove and sexy times. Unfortunately, this story didn’t capture me as much as previous stories from Reynolds. (The Underground Kings remains my favorite series.)  Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Chrissie and Gaston’s story and ate it up in one sitting, but I didn’t find the dialogue as witty as usual and the suspense was predictable.  I will continue to devour her stories but this wasn’t my favorite, although I still recommend it to die-hard readers of the genre.

~ Chosen Mate by Katie Reus ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.3Her past has taught her to be wary…

With an abusive relationship behind her, wolf shifter Leslie is quietly raising her young son in the Kendrick pack. If she’s occasionally lonely, it’s a small price to pay for her son’s safety. And if she’s secretly longing for pack alpha Malcolm Kendrick, well…she’s keeping that fantasy to herself. Experience has made her a realist, and they’re far too different to work.

This alpha is about to stake his claim…

She has no idea Malcolm wants her just as fiercely. That he’s been subtly courting her for a year. But subtlety has gotten him nowhere—even if he thought it was the best choice after what she’d been through. He wanted to make sure Leslie didn’t feel obligated to him, that she was truly ready to move on. Now that he knows she is, he’s determined to make sure it’s with him. And when a threat from her past surfaces, he’ll eliminate anyone who would dare to hurt his mate.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

I love me some paranormal romance, and Katie Reus happens to be one of my favorites. Gimme. Gimme. The Crescent Moon series is made up of several novellas that are less intense than her usual fare (e.g. the Darkness series).  Leslie is coming off a bad relationship – the worst – and Malcolm knows she’s his true mate but has to ease into things with her. Malcolm sucks at easing into things. There is a bit of suspense, but this story is mostly about Leslie and Malcolm. It’s nice and short. Perfect for the busy holiday season.

Bishop’s Queen by Katie Reus ~

Monday Blog 2 dec 2019.4He doesn’t believe in fairy-tale endings…

They used to call Evan Bishop the golden boy. He had it all and was about to close the business deal of a lifetime, then marry the woman of his dreams. But everything goes to hell when a faceless enemy wants to destroy his family’s empire and see him dead. Except the bomb meant to kill him fails. He wakes up from a coma to find his face scarred and his brother missing and wanted for murder. Now that he’s damaged, he hides away from the world—including the woman he loves. He refuses to be a burden to her, so even though it destroys him, he sets her free.

She’s about to prove him wrong…

Isla MacDonald isn’t walking away from Evan just because he’s decided to shut her out of his life. He blames himself for the bombing that got her father killed and nearly killed him—but he’s wrong. After all attempts to see him fail, with a broken heart she tries to resume her life and take over her father’s firm. Though it’s not her dream, she wants to honor his legacy and finish the deal that will save thousands of jobs. But when someone tries to kill her—twice—she needs a bodyguard. To her surprise Evan steps up and insists on protecting her, putting on a show as the caring fiancé. But he won’t let her back into his life or into his heart. To have any chance at a future together, they’ll have to resurrect the past and stay alive long enough to expose the man determined to see them both dead.

~ My Thoughts ~

monday blog 2 dec 2019.5 4 stars

Another Katie Reus novel? Yes, PLEASE! I loved Bishop’s Knight and could not wait to get my hands on this next novel in the series. Reus had done an excellent job in the previous novel of whetting our appetite for the next installment – little teases here and there. Gimme! Gimme!

Oh boy is Evan a jerk! Ugh! You are in love with Isla, show it! And not by taking all the decisions away from her. And Isla? Come on, girl! Demand his love or walk away. I did feel there was slightly too much introspection with their love story. The self-doubt and self-recrimination drove me batty at times. I also didn’t understand why Reus made the couple have a large age gap. It never affects the story except to drive me batty in regards to Isla running this huge company. At her age? Yeah, no, I wasn’t buying it. But the sexy scenes? Oh yeah. I’ll take more of those, please.

The bad guy is a tiny bit predictable, but that’s okay. It didn’t affect the suspense one bit. The suspense and mystery aspect were the best parts of the novel.  I’m now anxiously awaiting Bishop’s Endgame.  I recommend this one for lovers or romantic suspense.

What are you reading this week?

Don’t miss your pre-order deadline! #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #BookMarketing

Amazon allows indie authors to put a book up for pre-order as early as one year before the release date. And how awesome is that? If you are unable to write as quick as the dickens but want to profit from having a series of books, pre-orders are the way to go. After all, you want readers not only excited about the next book in the series but able to get their hands on that book (even if it is only as a pre-order). I could wax poetic about pre-orders for a while, but that’s not what this blog post is about. This blog post is about why you don’t want to miss your pre-order deadline.

Amazon penalties.

pre orders

Classic Peanuts by Charles Schultz

As an indie writer, the absolutely last thing you want is for Amazon to penalize you in any way. Trust me, I know. Yesterday, they decided one of my novels is a get skinny quick scheme and now I can’t use Amazon ads service. It takes forever to get out of the Amazon penalty box. If you cancel a pre-order on Amazon, you won’t be able to set up a pre-order for any eBook for one year. One year! Yikes! That’s some penalty. Trust me, you want to stay out of the box.

Reader expectations.

Not meeting reader expectations is actually the reason I started writing this blog post. Let me explain. I have a huge wish list on Amazon. HUGE! I check it every day to see if any books I’ve been eagerly awaiting have been released. One of my wish list books changed its release date to a month later. Bummer, but I can deal. Mostly. (Amazon allows you to delay your release date up to 30 days ONCE. After that, it’s into the penalty box.) But then I went to my wish list on the date of release and the book had disappeared. Poof! Where did it go? I searched for the book. Nothing. Then, I searched for the author. The book was no longer on the author’s Amazon page.

I was annoyed. This isn’t the first time this particular author promised a novel and then didn’t deliver. My response? I stopped following the author. I’m done. There’s nothing worse than having your expectations crushed. And this is exactly the reason why I advise indie authors to stick to their pre-release deadlines. As much as possible, of course. Life happens.

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For information about Amazon pre-orders, head over to KDP. Avoid the Amazon penalty box and angry readers and meet your pre-release deadline!

Review of The Red Tent #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #AmReading #Theredtent #AnitaDiamant

red tent coverOctober’s book club selection was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Apparently, if you are a woman, you HAVE to read it. I’m normally one of those people who hears I have to do something and runs in the other direction. Unfortunately, my book club votes on which book to read rather than allowing me to choose all the books (bummer, right?), because the description of The Red Tent didn’t tickle my fancy. I suffered through a history of the bible course in college and that was about enough of biblical characters for me, thank you very much.

 

~ Blurb ~

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

~ My Review ~

(Contains spoilers)

red tent family treeIt took me approximately 2,919 years to read the first fifty pages of The Red Tent. Slight exaggeration. I did find the start of the novel to be a slog to get through. This family is impossible to keep straight! Thirteen children, four wives… all with impossible to pronounce names. Too bad I didn’t discover the family tree until after I finished the novel.

I finally gave up on trying to remember who was who and things went much better. Once I got over the names, I had to get over the sister wives issue. Somehow Jacob had four wives and still had time to be gentle and loving to each of them. Not only did he have time for them but he was apparently a gentle lover. Hmmm… If you’re his only daughter, though, he won’t be able to recognize you. He will, however, avenge you by killing your beloved and his entire family. Oh my. The family saga aspect of the novel was obviously not my favorite part.

I also struggled with the blatant sexism portrayed in the novel. I realize this is historically accurate, but it only served to remind me that there are many cultures where treating women as second class citizens remains the norm. I usually enjoy novels that take me away from my daily life instead of reminding me there’s a lot in society we still need to improve.

The description of the daily life in Dinah’s time period is the crowning achievement of this novel. The herbs they used for midwifery, for example, was incredibly detailed as was the description of what daily life looked like for women of the time period. It made me more than a bit thankful for living in a modern age.

As someone who studied history, I enjoyed the descriptions of the locations and the various tribes. The landscapes and rivers were easily recognizable despite the passage of thousands of years. Thanks to Diamant’s descriptive voice, I could imagine what Ancient Egypt was like when Dinah arrived there.

Although there were aspects of the novel I appreciated, I wouldn’t have slogged through those fifty pages had it not been for my book club. If you enjoy historical novels, give it a try.

That time I almost bought a house of ill repute #Memoir #Nonfiction #TrueStory #CreativeNonfiction #ThisIsMyLife

lady justice

What I thought being a lawyer would be like. It wasn’t. 

After working as a lawyer for a decade, I was done. D-O-N-E! Done! I loved law school. Loved it! But the actual practice of law – yuck. Hated it! I tried – literally – ever legal job I could land. I worked for the government, non-profits, boutique law firms, big corporate firms, etc. etc. Spoiler alert – they all sucked.

Law was obviously not for me. Okay, then. What now? After much soul searching and having a billion ideas shot down by the hubby, I decided to start a spa. But not just any spa – a weight loss spa. There was no way we could set something like that up in the Netherlands. The housing prices are obnoxious in this country. We decided to start our search in Belgium.

While scrolling through the property listings one day, I found a place near Spa-Franorchamps. It’s a beautiful location and not too far from the Netherlands. Score! I called the real estate agent to arrange a viewing. She was overly cautious when I spoke to her. “It was a private club,” she said. I had no idea what she meant. Just like any other time I didn’t understand what was going on, I plowed forth.

When we arrived at the location, nothing seemed amiss from the outside. It was a large house with lots of property – exactly what I was looking for. The first rooms were fine as well – kitchen, living room, etc. Then, we went upstairs and toured bedroom after bedroom after bedroom. Each room had not only its only sink – which is normal for older houses in the region – but also its own toilet right in the middle of the room without no type of separation for privacy. Okay, this is getting weird.

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The Belgium Ardennes region.  By Jean-Pol GRANDMONT – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=895642

Then, we entered the master bathroom. The entire thing was pink with gold trimmings. Not only were the faucets gold but they were shaped like dolphins. At this point, I’m starting to get a bit giggly. We walked through the connecting door to the bedroom and lo and behold there was a mirror so the occupants of the bedroom could watch the goings on in the bathroom. My imagination starts running wild.

We moved on to the attached ‘club’. I thought an attached club would be super handy for my business idea. I could turn it into a gym or restaurant. What I walked into was a strip club complete with stripper poles on each table – each glass table. The glass tables threw me for a loop. I don’t think I want to see a strange man’s lap when he’s  watching a pole dancer. Nope. No, siree bob.

I quickly marched onto the attached pool – another reason I thought this property would be perfect. A pool is a necessity for a weight loss resort. The pool needed some reconstruction. No biggie. No, the problem was the hubby who kept making snide remarks about how much we’d need to clean it. I was losing my battle not to laugh.

red-deer-76961_1920The view from the pool was gorgeous. The property included several acres of land. And deer. Yes, a herd of deer came with the property. What also came with the property? A restrictive clause in which we had to promise not to eat the herd of deer. At that point, all hope was lost. I quickly thanked the realtor and hurried to the car where I collapsed in fits of giggles.

We ended up not buying the property.

 

 

Why I decided to use Findaway Voices to produce my audiobook #WriterWednesday #Audiobooks #AmWriting @FindawayVoices

audiobook 1The fastest growing segment of the book world is – hands down – audiobooks. I first thought about having my work produced as audiobooks after the London Book Fair of 2017. The advantages of having an audiobook are plentiful. Besides being the fastest growing segment, more younger readers listen to them (a segment I struggle to reach), and commuters (who are not necessarily readers) listen to them.

As an indie author, there are basically three ways to produce an audiobook: (1) ACX (owned by Amazon) (2) Findaway Voices (or another aggregator), or (3) do-it-yourself solutions.

Do-it-yourself solutions

By this I mean finding a narrator yourself and having the audiobook produced by them and then uploading the audiobook to whatever distribution channels you decide upon. I have to be honest here. I didn’t even consider this option besides thinking ‘Nope! No freaking way!’ Not only is it a lot of work, but I have no idea what I’m doing. I barely have time to keep to my writing and marketing schedule as it is. I certainly don’t need to add this type of project to my to-do list.

ACX

acxWith ACX, you audiobook is made available on audible.com, Amazon and iTunes. If you grant Audible exclusive distribution rights, you earn a 40% royalty. ACX offers three options for audiobook production: pay for production, royalty share, or do it yourself.

Pay for production. If you pay for production of the audiobook, then you keep all royalties and control of the distribution. If you go for the non-exclusive option, you earn 25% royalties. This allows you to upload your audiobook on other retail websites.

Royalty share option. The advantage of the royalty share option is the lack of out of pocket expenses. Your audiobook is exclusive to Audible and your earn 20% royalties (with 20% going to the producer). You are locked in to a seven-year term with Audible, though. There’s also a new royalty share plus program, which grants you access to a higher tier of producers for a one-time payment.

Findaway Voices

findaway voicesAccording to Findaway Voices, it has the largest network of audiobook sellers, including both retail and library channels. The team guides you through the production of the audiobook. They suggest narrators, manage the production, and prepare the digital files for distribution.

Sound great, right? But hold up. With Findaway Voices, you need to pay for the production yourself. My audiobook (55,000 words) cost € 1406 to produce. That’s a heck of a lot of sales I need to make before I break even, which is totally freaking me out.

Hybrid Royalty share (aka Voices Share). As an author you pay half of the normal cost of audiobook production in exchange for sharing 20% of royalties with the narrator. You can even buyout the royalty share. As this product launched after I had begun production of my audiobook, it wasn’t an option for me. I may consider it in the future, though. I like that the royalty share is 20% instead of 50%.

Royalty rates. The royalty rates vary depending upon the retail channel, but Findaway retains 20% of all royalty receipts.

Why I went with Findaway

audiobook AF with headphonesUsing ACX seems like a no-brainer. With the royalty share option, you can literally get an audiobook made and distributed without being opening your pocketbook. Ching! Ching! But there’s one teensy weensy problem with ACX – it’s only available in the US and the UK. Okay, I thought. Not a problem. I can use the address of one of my sisters. But then I discovered, you need a bank account in the US or the UK. Getting a bank account in the US when not living there is almost as difficult as getting a bank account in the EU as an American.

I did a bunch of research and read a lot of blogs of others who had decided to go with Findaway. I’m comfortable with my decision, but I will be waiting to see how well my current title sells before having a second title recorded.

 

 

 

 

Things I learned from making my audio book #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #AmWriting #Audiobooks

I just pressed ‘submit’ for my first audio book ever. Yes! I’m super excited, but I’m also more than a bit worried. The entire process of creating an audio book is not a cheap endeavor. Will I earn back my investment? *Bites nails* Only time will tell. I just keep telling myself at least I learned a lot from the process. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.

Time – the entire process takes up oodles of time

findaway voicesWhich provider to use? First, you have to figure out which company to use. As I don’t live in the US or the UK, my options were limited with regards to Amazon’s Audible. I spent some time trying to figure out how to get around their requirements, but finally gave it up and went with Findaway Voices. I’m planning a blog about why I chose Findaway, so stay tuned for that.

Choosing a narrator. I decided not to narrate my own audio book. After a bit of research, I realized two things. One – I didn’t have the time to narrate a book. And two – I had no desire to buy all the equipment necessary for this ‘experiment’. I asked Findaway to give me some choices. I thought this process was going to be difficult, but the second voice I heard nailed my character. I went ahead and asked for auditions from three narrators, but ended up going with the first voice anyway. This entire process, however, took nearly a month. No one will confuse Findaway with Speedy Gonzales.

Proofing. Oh lord – the proofing! Other authors had warned me about the time suck proofing would be. I thought yeah right, it can’t be that bad. WRONG! I can be that bad. Proofing my six-hour novel took me the better part of a work week. BE WARNED.

Prep work – You’ll need an audio book version of your novel

Yep. More work. But all those click links don’t translate well to an audio book. My books also have a ton of back matter. Every minute the narrator records is more money. Do you want all that stuff read? Is it necessary? Something to think about. You’ll also need to make a new cover as audio book covers are square.

Editing – I ended up updating the novel and uploading a new version to Amazon

AB audio coverAbout Face, the book I’ve transformed into an audio book, has been out for a few months. It’s been to the editor, I’ve self-edited a gazillion times, and early reviewers have provided commentary. I knew it wasn’t perfect. Nothing I do will ever be perfect! But I didn’t realize how much listening to my novel would make me want to make changes (I do read the novel to myself while editing but obviously I suck at that). These are the things I learned about my writing while listening to the audio book:

Character names. I write the character names WAY too often. I worry readers won’t know who’s talking and err on the side of caution. After listing to this book, I am going to make some changes in future books.

Repeated words. Like all good self-editors, I have a list of words I use over and over again. That, yet, so, shrugs, just, really, only …. etc. etc. These were not the problem. Not at all. No, the problem was the use of the same word in one paragraph. UGH! Lesson learned.

Missing words. Apparently no matter how many times you and your editor review your novel, you will still miss words.

Conclusion Wow. Yeah. I’ve learned tons about my writing and the audio book world during this process. If the experiment is successful, I’ll be well prepared for the next round of audio book preparation.

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

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