About Me

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I received teaching and engineering degrees and have traveled extensively, living ten years outside the US. I moved from the big city of Houston to a small sleepy community in North Carolina, which has been a tremendous change and a great inspiration for my novels, full of the local color. My time has been filled with writing and helping to physically construct three additions to our former farmhouse. I have a great view of the mountains ten miles away across the broad valley and the sunsets are breathtaking. I am an avid reader of all kinds of mystery and contemporary fiction.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review of Rond du Cher Cheese

Review of Rond du Cher Cheese

While perusing the goat cheese at Whole Foods this week, I ran across Rond du Cher, a goat cheese made especially for Whole Foods. I’m surprised that I had not seen this cheese before since I am constantly looking for different kinds of goat cheeses, my favorite kind of cheese.

This is a hard round goat cheese whose rind is coated with ash. It is hard and smooth, not crumbly, with an ashen coated rind. When I first opened the 4-1/4 ounce package, the smell reminded me of the goat cheese I had smelled on the barge trips along the canals of France. It brought back very fond memories. Rond du Cher had a pungent smell with a nutty sour taste, but still not as strong as the non-pasteurized goat cheeses I had in France. And, even the rind was edible. My husband said that it smelled like buttermilk. I don’t know what confidence to place in that appraisal, since my husband abhors goat cheese and buttermilk.

I had this cheese with a crusty French baguette -- perfect. However, the 20-year Sandeman port was a little too mild for the sharp taste of the cheese. A vintage or any other ruby port might have been a better choice.

I’m glad I ran across this cheese, but, at $10 for 4-1/4 ounces, it’s a little too expensive for my budget. Maybe I had to also pay for the little wooden crate in which it was packaged.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Editing of New Book

Editing of New Book

I just received my latest book in the Rachel Christie series back from my editor today. Now, I will re-read the book to see if I agree with his comments and see if I will either change my book or argue. He usually has good comments and his changes and recommendations are accepted. But, each author has the responsibility to keep their book their own. My name is on the book and it has to be written my way. If the book is bad, I have no right to blame the editor.

The one good thing about my editor is he helps with keeping my characters in character, always checking for inconsistencies.  Rachel Christie is a strong woman, but not too strong. She never curses and she doesn’t take advantage of anyone. She has honor and respectability, mostly. She is also a woman with many different feelings. Since she doesn’t curse, I have to find other ways of showing how upset she is. So that has to be taken into account. Other regular characters in the series have their own characteristics and they must be consistent, too. Each time I write a book in this series it is like getting together with a group of old friends. Comfortable, but challenging to keep each one individual.

If one character, who is normally a calm person, all of a sudden becomes excited or extreme in his thinking, that has to be explained. From experience, readers will pick up on inconsistencies right away and know that something is wrong. I know I do not like inconsistencies in the books I read.

In my last book, “Murder of the Innocent,” my editor intentionally put in several words to make sure that I was reading every single word he had written and not just skipping through. He wanted to make sure I was doing a good job of final editing. He should be paying me. Of course, I picked up on it. I’m not sure if that pleased him or not.

With any luck, my latest book will be available to the public in early November. In the meantime, my other four books are available at Amazon.com or at Barnes and Noble. Those books are: “Murder by the Clock,” “Murder in Emerald Hills,” Murder by Lion” and “Murder of the Innocent.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trip Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill, VA

Trip Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Today I took a break after finishing the fifth novel of the Rachel Christie murder mystery series by driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The local news weather forecaster told us that this was the week to look at the leaf changing around 3000 ft. Alas, he had it wrong this year as in the last few years. Either that or we didn't have as good a year this year as last.

Most of the leaves were either gone from the trees or were a dull brown. A few trees were in their glory with the yellows and oranges, but they were few and far between. The Blue Ridge Parkway, however, had quite a few cars, ranging from the local North Carolina and Virginia tourists to those from New Jersey and other places.

We did enjoy a good, although overpriced, lunch at the Chateau Morrissette, a local Virginia winery. The service was so-so. If they used the people who brought water and bread before dinner to refill drinks, that would be an improvement.

We look forward to next year when we will take our trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway about a week before we did this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!

Nuts! Nuts! Nuts!

This has been a grueling week of gathering nuts. I feel like a squirrel storing his nuts for the winter. The only difference is I think I worked harder for my nuts than the squirrel did.

When we planted our nut trees, we were told that some nuts you plant for yourself, some you plant for your children and others you plant for your grandchildren. I think we have those that should be planted for ourselves and some for the third generation. I’m not sure we have any in between.

About eight years ago, we planted four chestnut trees because my husband likes them. For the past several years, we have had chestnuts, chestnuts and more chestnuts. If you’ve ever tried getting chestnuts out of their hulls, you will sympathize with the hurt fingers I now have. Even though I used thick leather gloves, a few of the prickly spines penetrated the gloves to my fingers. Even the turkeys know better to eat only the ones that have dislodged themselves from the hulls. The deer also feast on the nuts. That should tell you how many chestnuts we have. My only use for them is to add to dressing at Thanksgiving. These chestnuts were definitely planted for us and our wildlife.

At the same time that we planted the chestnut trees, we also planted some Carpathian walnuts (the pictures looked like English walnuts), black walnuts, hickory nut and pecan trees. The hickory nut trees did not survive, so we planted some more a few years later. They are still only three feet tall. Since they grow to be over 30 feet tall, we will not see the fruits of our labor. The pecans died out a couple of years after we planted them and then recovered the following year. I don’t hold my breath for either of the walnut species or the pecans.

Black walnuts drying on driveway
However, a couple of black walnut trees are on the edge of our property. Up until last year, I had never seen a nut on the trees. It might have had something to do with the vines in North Carolina that are abundant and choke the life from trees. After some pruning and killing of the shrubs, last year we found one, yes, one, black walnut. This year, we collected over four dozen.

Two bad things about black walnuts are the hulls will turn one’s hands a dark yellow and the other is the nuts are so hard to crack that a normal nutcracker cannot do the trick. Unless your hands are really strong. Then I think you might break the nutcracker. I end up using a rock and a hammer to crack the hard shell. One other thing about black walnuts is that they have a strong taste. I usually like to eat them like they are; but, if I were going to bake with them, it would have to be something that the nuts would not overpower the additional taste.

That last nuts collected this week were hazelnuts. A couple of trees were planted eight years ago and have yet to produce any nuts. However, we planted a tree a couple of years ago and it produced a few last year and more this year. I was surprised that it did so well here in North Carolina, but I figure since my local nursery sold the tree, then it must be for this climate.

After recalling the aches and pains associated with collecting these nuts, I am looking forward to enjoying them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thoughts of Sunsets

Thoughts of Sunsets

Yesterday and today have both been that type of a day when I feel like closing all the windows and thinking happy thoughts. Cloudy, rainy days, to me, are depressing. And, especially, rainy days in October. The yellows, oranges and reds are beautiful. However, the tree just outside my window has those dull yellow leaves that are quickly turning a dead brown color. I don’t like depressing thoughts. My mind is sluggish and I don’t feel like writing, so what do I do? I close my window and turn my computer to the file of sunset pictures I took last month. They are beautiful. I’m now rejuvenated and ready to start the day anew.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review of Vincent Cheese

Vincent cheese is imported from Holland and I purchased it at my local supermarket in a town of about ten thousand.

The package says it is a “unique, fully ripened, full flavor” cheese. This is absolutely true although it is not as full of flavor as the cow’s milk cheeses that have been aged for many months. It is strong in flavor and is a grainy, crumbly cow’s cheese with a little bit of a sour taste, much like a goat cheese.

I don’t normally like cow’s milk cheeses, but this one is my favorites. It is both good with fruit such as pears or peaches, but I mainly have it with baguettes and port. If you are serving it with other cheeses, I would recommend that it be served toward the end of the cow’s milk cheeses that have not been aged or at the beginning of the goat cheeses or after any goat goudas.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What's in a Brand Name?

What’s in a Brand Name?

We all have certain brands of items that we like and would never buy another brand. I used to feel that way until several of the brand name items I liked disappeared, either went bankrupt or are no longer made. Since then I have experimented with the store brand items.

Breyers went out of business within the past year and it took me forever to find a yogurt that I liked. Breyers had more fruit and less sweetness than Yoplait and Dannon. I tried Food Lion My Essentials brand on a lark one day and found that it was closer to the Breyers taste, but with a little less fruit. The flavors I particularly like are the ones in the photo. However, I do not think that I will ever find a yogurt that I like as much as I liked Breyers. Boohoo!

I used to drink Coca-Cola and that was the only brand of cola that I would drink and it had to be diet and caffeine free. Since I liked the brand name yogurt I bought at Food Lion, I decided to try their soda drink. I found that this soda, at least to me, tastes like Diet RC. I don’t know if RC is a brand that is sold in most of the country, but I do know that it is sold in the east, especially the south. I’ve never liked Pepsi products because they are citrus based. Coke and RC are vanilla based, but RC has a stronger taste than Coke. Wal-Mart sells Coke products regularly at $1.28 in my area and the Food Lion brand is sold for $0.83. Even when Coke goes on sale, it does not go much below $1. As far as I am concerned Food Lion colas are cheaper and taste better.

Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Juice was always my brand of juice I drank each morning. However, Ocean Spray has taken to adding grape juice and everything else into their cranberry juice, which makes the juice taste like anything but cranberry juice. If I wanted to drink grape juice, I’d buy grape juice. I have tried Food Lion’s My Essentials brand and Lowe’s brand. However, both of these are watery. To make up for that, I add some Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice with Lime. I just hope Ocean Spray would go back to its original recipe.

I guess that brand names are good, but some store brands are just as good or better. Breyers is gone for good and Ocean Spray changed. However, I like the Food Lion’s My Essentials Diet Cola. Sometimes you lose and sometimes you win.