"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy New Year !!! El Sueño de Gina is officially published by The Write Place!

Happy New Year 2015!!!

I am bringing in the New Year with a Dual Book in English and Spanish, Gina's Dream/El Sueño de Gina. Published by The Write Place (http://www.thewriteplace.biz/bookstore/product/56-gina-s-dream-el-sueno-de-gina).

It has been a pleasure working with The Write Place. They are a full-service publishing house. The staff are knowledgeable, talented and responsive to author inquiries and suggestions.

From now until January 8, 2015

Gina's Dream/El Sueño de Gina is 30% off in print or ebook formats.

In Gina’s Dream, Kit Brennan, SETA’s (Space Exploration Through Astronomy) Assistant Director, meets an unusual woman at a convention. She claims she is an alien. What is he to believe? What is he to do?

Kit’s co-worker sees her as a threat, first to his friend and then to humans. The co-worker seeks to discover Gina’s secrets to stop her.

Gina has broken the emissaries’ primary rule by telling Kit who she is. But, she is here to defend her world from a future invasion by humans. As Gina’s safety is threatened, what will she do to defend herself?

Caught in the middle between his co-worker’s fears and her defense, Kit has few choices but to let Gina follow her dream.

What would you do if you met an alien?

El Sueño de Gina
Traductor, Ileana Silva

En El Sueño de Gina, Kit Brennan, asistente del director de SETA, se encuentra con una mujer excepcional en una convención. Ella dice que es un extraterrestre. ¿Qué es lo que creer? ¿Qué ha de hacer?

Un compañero de trabajo del Kit la ve como una amenaza, primero a su amigo y luego a los humanos. El compañero de trabajo trata de descubrir los secretos de Gina para detenerla.

Mientras tanto, Gina ha infringido la regla principal de los emisarios diciéndoles Kit quién es. Pero ella está aquí para defender su mundo de una futura invasión por los seres humanos. Como se ve amenazada la seguridad de Gina, ¿qué va a hacer para defenderse?

Atrapados entre temores a su compañero de trabajo y la defensa de Gina, Kit tiene pocas opciones pero para dejarla seguir su sueño.

¿Qué harías si te encontraste un extraterrestre?

(PR crédito: Google Traducir)


Gina’s Dream began as an idea after reading several research papers, in the early 1990s, where basic life functions were being manipulated for singular purposes without regard for the universe’s ecosystem.

Several characteristics run through Ria’s stories. Characters confront moral dilemmas with honesty, truth, fairness, self-responsibility, compassion, common sense, respect for science, curiosity, hard work, and optimism. Characters question the status quo. Spirituality, dreams, faith, and a belief in contributing to community and society to improve the lives of others now and in the future are underlying themes.

Category: Fiction
Genre: Science-Fiction/Romance/Predictive Fiction/Social Commentary
Audience: 12+ Adult 
Length: Novelette
Language: English/Spanish
No illustrations

*Pen Name


Amazon: Author Page

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Honey Peanut Butter & Chocolate Balls

Here's the peanut butter ball recipe I was looking for.

Honey peanut butter & chocolate balls
(Adapted from: http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/recipes/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/honey-milk-balls)

Servings: about 16 (depends on size)

1/4 cup honey
2 heaping tablespoons  peanut butter
2 heaping tablespoons dry milk, low-fat/non-fat
2 heaping tablespoons chocolate mix (cocoa milk mix)*
1/2 cup cereal, crushed+
1 dab of olive oil

*My cocoa mix is a mixture of Chocolate Ensure and a powdered cocoa milk mix.
+I used bran flakes.

Mix honey and peanut butter.
Gradually add the dry milk and  cocoa mix.
Stir mixture. Mixture will be very stiff.
Chill to make "dough" easier to roll.

Add dab of olive oil to one palm, rub palms together, to make it easier to roll the "dough."
Take a small amount of mixture and roll between palms.
Roll ball in crushed cereal.
Sprinkle some cereal over ball.
Roll in palms again. (optional)

Place finished balls in small container.
Cover when done.
Chill until firm.


These peanut butter balls are best when "frozen."

I am going to try the same recipe but coat the balls with different types of crushed cereal and make some with crushed cookies.


I made more peanut butter balls with three types of cereal.

The winner is Choco Krispies. They were tasty and crunchy. I will skip the crushed cookies for now.

My 1st Three Course Meal and More...

Cooking is so frustrating for me.

I had been planning a casual get together for about six friends and I wanted to attempt my first 3-course meal.

I researched recipes for days, several days, many days.

I tried to develop a menu with appetizers, a main course, a side dish, a salad and dessert to be served buffet style.

I settled on stuffed cherry tomatoes, tuna & bean bruschetta, and cucumber topped with cheese and grated carrots for appetizers.

I thought I would make a slow cooker stew as the main dish but changed it to meatloaf at the last minute because I did not want to deal with soup bowls.

The side dish was going to be pasta, a fall back dish.

Oh, and there were no cherry tomatoes at the store and the cheese topped cucumber slices was abandoned due to lack time and energy. That left blue-cheese stuffed olives and tuna & bean dip as appetizers.

A salad of onion, tomato, and cucumber slices with cheese cubes was another fall back.

Dessert kept changing because on my first grocery shopping trip the store did not have whipped topping in a container (spray can only). I settled on peanut butter balls.

I had selected so many recipes and saved them on various devices in various ways (email, bookmark, photo, reading list) that finding the one I wanted became a problem, more frustration. Solution was to email the pertinent recipes to my mobile and flag them and then delete the ones that I would probably not use.

Well, I had to get a loaf pan for the meat loaf and I got a 7 x 5, not a 9 x 5, so I tried to reduce the recipe and failed. I cried so much cutting the onions, I couldn't see what I was doing with a very sharp knife.

Waiting to see if the first mini-meatloaf comes out before I go forward. I cooked it too long, while it was tasty, it was dry. Luckily, I had accidentally made too much loaf mix, I had enough for another batch.

And all I could think of was, I am not ever doing this again!

I reduced the cooking time from 15 to 10 minutes in the microwave. This time I also added the tomato sauce topping I forgot on the first one and this one came out great!

Then I tried a new recipe, Vegetarian Nut Loaf. I should have tried it first when I wasn't so tired. I forgot to cut the recipe in half, then half way through I tried to cut it half by dividing the half-done mixture into two bowls while attempting to finish one-half.

The thing was pink because I used colored bar nuts.

It just came out of the microwave. It is still pink. It is crumbly but tasty. I have enough mix for probably three more loafs. If I make another one, I will add another egg and maybe another cheese. (Note: only used one pkg of cream cheese and one egg).

While I bought a sharper knife thinking I would be able to "mince" onions and such better, all it did was make cutting onions more dangerous. I never got past dice.

Ok, it's late and I am tired. I thought making the hard-boiled eggs would be easy. Something went wrong, maybe I cooked them a minute or two too long, or maybe because I was using eight eggs contributed to this disaster. The eggs were overlooked and so hard to peel I lost two eggs because most of the egg came away with the shell. I salvaged six eggs but cut myself in the process and could not stop thinking of all the illnesses you could get from eggs.

I couldn't find my original peanut butter ball recipe and took a chance on trying to remember how it went. It was another failure, I tried to salvage by making a "peanut butter" pie topped with crushed cookies. As another attempt to make a dessert, I tried Stove Top Coffee Cake, but I could tell I was done because I forgot to grease the pan and I suspected it will turn out to be just one big pancake, I think I tried it before.

I still have to make the tuna and bean something and peel the cucumber etc.

Dread, dread, dread....

Ok it's 3:00 pm and I am exhausted/ The frig holds three ground beef mini meat loafs, 1 nut loaf, 1 plate of deviled eggs, 1 bowl of pasta, 1 bowl of salad and a stone top coffee cake.

It was funny. After it was all done and the table was set, I did not feel so bad.

I had three disasters, the Vegetarian Nut Loaf (a bit dry and still pink),  the peanut butter balls became a pie. The Stove Top Coffee Cake was ok (next time, I will use a different pan and more baking soda).

I managed to salvage the deviled eggs instead of 16 halves, I had 12 and they were tasty but next time I need to remember to cover them in the frig.

Please ignore the Mercado/Discount/Mom's items/Recycled mix & match table settings.

While everyone enjoyed the meal, there was plenty left over. I had made two extra mini-meat loafs, so I was eating meat loaf and pasta for a week.

While it was both a disaster and a success, I now have a good fall back main dish -- mini-meat loaf.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Scary Halloween Wedge Salad and Maryland Redmon Fruity French Toast

On a recent family visit, all my family are good cooks, so at meals, I struggled to contribute. Usually, I set the table.

On Halloween eve, I tried my "use what you got" approach. So, I scrounged the frig and cabinets and came up with "Scary Halloween Wedge Salad."

I used what was left of a head of lettuce and quartered it with a large knife. I placed each wedge into an individual bowl. Then, I added some sliced olives and cherry tomatoes. Found some avocado, added some slices of that, too. Then sprinkled on some goat cheese and grated carrots on top. Seasoned it with grated black peppercorns, a few sliced hot peppers and a little lime juice. 

Everybody liked it.

Then one morning, I tried the same approach. I made "Maryland Redmon Fruity French Toast."

French toast is probably one of the easiest meals to make. I used multi-grain bread slices. I broke three eggs into a bowl and added a dollop of milk, then with a fork stirred and whisked the mixture thoroughly.

Then, I dipped each slice into the batter and placed them in a skillet with melted butter. I cooked the slices until they were very brown on both sides. Then, I removed the slices and placed them on a individual serving plate. I put a dab of butter in between two slices. Then,  sliced strawberries and bananas were added on top. Then I sprinkled some fresh blueberries on top and on the plate. Serve with syrup.

Everybody liked it. Hurray!

Whew, in the Home Stretch for Publishing Gina's Dream/El Sueño de Gina as a Dual Book POD and eBook

Being a writer, you make alot of choices. It is especially hard if you don't have an expertise or skill in a particular field of writing.

While I have always loved writing, my writing was usually work-related. I have written and designed newsletters, user manuals, news articles, press releases, letters-to-the-editor, essays, resumes, business cards, and stationery, and a movie review blog.

I had a stash of fiction stories in various stages of development, but, I never planned on publishing my fiction. Then, in 2011, when I found myself with a whole lot of time on my hands, I decided to jump in and publish one of my fiction stories, Gina's Dream.

What a trip this has been. Two and a half years in writing, researching, editing and negotiating with an editor and a book cover artist. Plus, I had to learn the publishing software for Smashwords, Library of Congress's copyright software as well as setup a website and blog. I think there were at least four other software packages in the mix.

Then I pushed the button on Smashwords and published Gina's Dream as an eBook October 2013.

Then, I went straight into marketing and promotion.

While I struggle to "find my audience", I had some wonderful adventures during my research. I wrote an article about writing for Boomer Cafe and also interviewed an amazing author, Antoinette G. Lane, who wrote a biography of Guy Williams, an actor best known for starring as Zorro for Disney's TV show in the 1950s.

A suggestion many marketing columns and books suggested is 'offer something free.'

So, I dragged out an old cookbook I started and worked to created an eCookbook. That process is a whole other story but I published it on Smashwords and on Amazon, another software package and TOS to learn.

The eCookbook, Recipes from the Kitchen from a Frugal Non-Cook was very popular when it was free. When I put a price on it, $1.99, most of that interest faded.

I joined several forums, including Smashwords Writers Forum, and met more fascinating people, including an author of erotica. I setup a Twitter account and tried to learn how to approach that media. One major downfall was I fell into a Twitter hole for weeks. Already addicted to print, Twitter is a whole new addiction.

Because several people wanted Gina's Dream in print form, I made the decision to get Gina's Dream translated into Spanish and get a POD as a "dual book." I got lucky. I met a wonderful woman, Ilena, who translated Gina's Dream for a price within my budget.

Now, I had self-published an eBook and a eCookbook on two venues.

This time I choose a small publisher, The Write Place, to get a "dual book" POD and eBook of Gina's Dream/El Sueño de Gina. I was lucky. Things went pretty smoothly, just a few minor changes. The process is in the final stages, hoping to offer a pre-release promotion soon.

I won't list all my expenses but it would probably take 100 years to recoup my costs at the current rate of sales.

The research continues. Marketing never ends.

This has been a major learning experience and one I will never regret.

My Other Hobby - Making Earrings

This is really about my friend, C. We started making jewelry about the same time. I love earrings, so I invested in supplies for making earrings. I used How-to webpages and magazines to help me.

C likes to make necklaces. C took jewelry classes. While we were beginners at first, C has really grown as an artist.

But, what amazed me was how she and her husband's interests combined in several projects. C's husband F, is a science writer and he recently got a 3D printer. I have read about 3D printers but still don't understand them.

During a recent get-together, C showed me a surprise her husband had given her, a 3D earring tree. He got the idea from a magazine and now C is going to design one of her own for him to make.

Both C and I enjoy making jewelry. C is becoming a professional. She designs necklaces for clients and sells at various craft fairs. Me, I have made about 70 pairs of earrings and that has slowed my spending on earrings considerably. But, I still buy earrings now and then.

Another friend of mine and I make earrings together. Combined we have made about 170 pieces of jewelry. So, with my original investment of 6000 pesos, the pieces now cost about 35.00 pesos each. Artists, here in Merida, sell earrings for about 20.00 to100.00 pesos.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Punto Café - Just Opened September 29, 2014

Businesses come and go in Merida. As the economy improves, more businesses are opening.

Recently, on a Monday, enroute to a new physical therapy clinic, I stopped by the Punto Café near the clinic to get breakfast and a cup of coffee.

I was greeted by Beatrice, who offered me some sandwich samples. I choose an egg and tomato sandwich and Americano coffee with milk.

I always try to use my Spanish. As I struggled to make my sentences, Beatrice asked if I spoke Italian. Nope. Beatrice and her co-owner Luca were Italians. They had lived in Merida for several years.

Just as I was finishing my sandwich, Luca offered me a piece of apple pie. He said it was because today was the first day their café opened and I was their first customer.

I was surprised. “The first!” Rarely, do I get to be first at anything. So, this was exciting.

The café is long but large and colorfully decorated. I took some pictures of Beatrice and Luca, the apple pie, and more. It was an enjoyable breakfast.

You can find the Punto Café at:
Calle 59A x Calle 84A just off Avenue Itzáes (Centenario Park is nearby)
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico
Hours: 9am – 4pm, M-F
Punto Café’s menu offers sandwiches, pizza, pasta, lasagna, various salads, coffee and refrescos.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Creme of Coconut Spritzer

Thanks to a gift of a manual carbonated water maker from a lovely relative. I have enjoyed various juice spritzers.

Actually, I make a spritzer out of just about anything including tea. So, this time I tried a dollop of Creme of Coconut and made a great Coconut Spritzer.

I recommend an ice-old fruit or other flavored spritzer on these hot summer days.

P.S. I got lucky there's a restaurant supplier on Paseo de Montejo that sells the carbonation cartridges.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Few Cooked Rice Desserts

I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth using what I had on hand. I had already eaten all my sweets, so that meant innovation.

A search of Cooks.com for a rice dessert, found Bibingka (Coconut Rice Dessert) which called for a special rice, coconut milk, brown sugar and milk. Other recipes suggested other additions.

All I had was milk, cream, and Creme of Coconut, raisins, honey, vanilla and cinnamon.

So, here is what I cooked:

1 cup rice
1 cup Creme of Coconut
1 cup water

Add all ingredients to a skillet. Mix all ingredients together. Cover. Cook at simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid (about 20 minutes).

Variation: use 2 cups of milk instead of Creme of Coconut and water.

Additions and toppings

First, I cooked the rice. It was good just as it was but I went on to make a few combinations.

No. 1 Rice mixed with a few raisins topped with a dollop of honey.

No. 2 Rice mixed with vanilla flavoring with cinnamon sprinkled on top. (This was my favorite.)

No. 3 Rice mixed with cream topped with a dollop of honey. (Truly creamy taste.)

Also, it tastes good cold.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Answers to Mystery Writer, Jenny Crusie's Questions on Mystery Stories

Jenny Crusie's website Argh Link came up in a Google Alert on Mystery Writers. I enjoyed her August 5, 2014 post, Howdunit: Writing Mysteries, about her personal experiences trying to write a mystery.

She’s funny…using mental duct tape to patch holes in her story really captures her struggles with her story. I could empathize.

I was surprised when she talked about her TV binge of watching mystery shows. Yet, her details about the writing, characterization, mood, and setting illustrate the structure of good mystery writing.

Jenny knows of what she speaks, her master’s thesis was on women’s roles in early mystery fiction.

While her blog is chock full of useful info, it was the questions she asked her readers at the end that captured my attention. Below are my responses to her questions


What are some mystery titles–books and film–that you think are stellar?

Sadly, I have a poor memory so I can’t immediately recall from the mass of movies and books I have consumed which ones stand out.

But Mary Stewart (Madam Will You Talk) and Dorothy L. Sayers (The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club) are my favorite mystery writers because of the quality of their writing that includes excellent plotting and characterization. Mary Stewart subtly injected poetry, history, geology, and more into her stories which piqued my interest and stimulated my life-long love of learning. It was Sayers’ sentence structure that spurred me to want to write.

Based on some recent viewings, I like BBC’s 2005  State of Play. I have watched it probably 30 times. It is such a lesson in writing a “mystery/action adventure.” I was amazed at the use of foreshadowing in the dialogue where little bits about the character are revealed and later played a role in the plot. The acting was great. Watching the characters evolve from lack of information and preconceived notions about the crime into persistence, to deception, to disbelief, and to revelation.

Another reason I liked BBC’s State of Play was that every character was well acted and added to the story. For example, the mother and brother of the young man who was killed may not be in many scenes but when they are on screen, they have a huge screen presence. They add energy and realism to the story in very human ways.

I have gobbled up tons books and movies, mysteries, science-fiction and more. There are many other excellent stories. But, one in particular that stands out is Who Rides a Tiger? by Doris Miles Disney. For some reason, the way she cast the story and characters made the story believable and surprising. I guess because the twist held a final irony is what made it memorable.

What annoys the hell out of you about some mysteries?

I do not think I have ever figured out “who done it” in any mystery. When I reread the mysteries looking for the clues, I can see where I missed the clue but sometimes I think authors get a little too “fancy” trying to hide a unique or obscure clue.

Plus, sometimes, the plot seems to get convoluted just to make it confusing not because it adds to the story.

Are there any unbreakable rules to mystery writing?

Again, while I have never solved a mystery, I do think that upon rereading the story, the reader should be able to see all the clues.

Most of all, what makes a good mystery?

Besides the obvious, plotting and characterizations, for me, what makes a good mystery is not the crime but the mystery of the characters involved, the mystery of human nature and how it is expressed. Also, I have to have sympathy for key characters.

Another reason I like Dorothy L. Sayers is that intertwined in her stories is also the story of British culture and history, and her settings as well as her characters embody or reflect these elements.

Subtle humor and descriptive settings also add a great deal to stories.


To find Jenny Crusie's website Argh Link go to: http://www.arghink.com/2014/08/05/howdunit-writing-mysteries/