Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christmas in July - Visit Bayeux with Stephanie Burkhart

Nutmeg and cinnamon. Peppermint and warm hot chocolate. The smells of Christmas can really put a person in the holiday spirit, but when I was in Europe, there were several different traditions I grew to appreciate and love.

In 1986, I was stationed in Muenster, Germany. Downtown Muenster had a pedestrian square that hosted a Christmas Market every year. There were booths that sold handcrafts, wooden ornaments, and marzipan cookies. They also sold a warm drink called Glühwein. It was a mulled wine drink usually spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla, sugar, or rum. You could find everything you wanted to decorate your home and gifts for the family at the Christmas markets. (They weren't quite Target, but I loved the old world charm and ambience.)

I drew on that old world charm and ambience when I wrote my story, "Christmas in Bayeux," which is included in "A Christmas Collection, Stimulating" with Victory Tales Press. In the story, Aiden Seward travels to Bayeux, France and the World War II Beaches of Normandy to find himself. He's reunited with a young French woman, Noel Rousseau, who he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help Aiden find his Christmas spirit?

Nowadays, Christmas in California, isn't quite the same. Glühwein and marizpan cookies are tough to come by, but one Saturday during December, I set the day aside to bake homemade sugar cookies with my boys from scratch. The smiles on their faces say it all.

Does anyone want to share their Christmas traditions?

Enjoy this recipe for Christmas Minty Meltaways that's Weight Watcher friendly!
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp fat free milk
red food coloring

1. To make cookies place oven racks in upper and lower thirds ot the oven and preheat to 350.

2. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt in a bowl. With an electric mixer on med speed, beat butter until creaming, about 1 min. Add confectioners sugar and peppermint extract, beat 4 mins. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mix, beating just until blended.

3. form dough by tablespoonsfuls into 1 inch balls. Place balls on 2 large ungreased baking sheets 1 inch apart.

Bake until tops are firm 8-10 mins Let cookies cool on baking sheets 3 mins transfer to racks and let cool completely.

4. To make the glaze, whisk confectioners sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and food coloring until smooth. Drizzle glaze evenly over cookies. Let stand until glaze sets about 30 mins. Cover and store at room temp up to 1 week.

1 cookie: 119 calories. 3 points.

Enjoy a small excerpt from the story, "Christmas in Bayeux." - a .99 read! Treat yourself to a little Christmas in July!

They walked a block or two and entered the downtown pedestrian area. Aiden stopped, amazed by the wooden shops lined up against each other. They sold wooden ornaments, candies, knick-knacks, wreaths, candles, anything that had to do with Christmas. There were three rows of these booths, which took up the square along with a food tent. The scent of mulled apples and sweet pastries tickled his nose.

"Noel, what is this?"
"The Christmas markets."
"Is this what you wanted to show me?"

"No." She paused. "Ah, that's right – you don't have Christmas markets in the States."

"Well, then, we're coming here tomorrow to shop for Christmas."

She smiled. "It's a date."

He found it impossible not to return her disarming grin. Was that what they were doing? Dating? She led him down the street. It was getting harder for him to hold back, but he wanted her to know that when he kissed her, when he touched her, it was because he wanted her, not because it was gratitude or some other strong emotion. Well, yes, he was grateful to her, but damn it, he wasn't about to let her walk out of his life right now. Right now? Who was he kidding? He didn't want her to walk out of his life again.

She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. "Is this a museum?"

"Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry."

Short Teaser on You Tube:

Amazon Link:

Smashwords link:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Welcome Guest Author - Laurie Boris

STEPH: Welcome Laurie, can you tell me a little about yourself?

LAURIE: I’m a writer from my sneakered feet to my unretouched roots. I’m rarely as happy and fulfilled as when I’m lost in writing fiction. I am also rather quiet. If I weren’t, I’d probably be a stand-up comic. I love baseball; I’m a long-time New York Mets fan from a Yankees household. My father probably still wonders what happened.

STEPH: What's "The Joke's on Me" about?

LAURIE: Thirty-something Frankie Goldberg, a less-than-successful Hollywood stand-up comic, is scared back home to her mother’s Woodstock B&B following a natural disaster. But after being away so long, “home”, with her bossy older sister at the helm, is not especially welcoming. Frankie is faced with two choices: run back to LA and start over (she’s very good at running away) or stay and take on the family responsibilities she’s been shirking. Learning that her high school crush has also returned makes the decision harder…and more interesting.

STEPH: How did the story find a home on 4RV?

LAURIE: I had almost given up on these poor characters! First a back injury and then starting a small business derailed me from marketing Frankie’s story. Then a friend told me about the Muse Online Writers Conference. 4RV was accepting pitches, and something told me to sign up. Publisher Vivian Zabel agreed to take me on. She and 4RV’s wonderful editors worked with me to refine and strengthen the story.

STEPH: How long did it take to write?

LAURIE: All told, the first draft took about a year to complete, then, two more years to edit. I was in the midst of the first draft when 9/11 struck. The tragedy hit me very deeply; I live a couple hours north of Manhattan and knew and worked with people who’d suffer losses. I wanted to keep writing, but for a while I couldn’t reconcile working on a comedy at such a tragic time. Then, I needed the healing and relief that comedy brings me, so I turned to my writing for solace.

STEPH: What do you want readers to take home with them after reading the book?

LAURIE: Overall, I want to entertain and make people laugh, because that’s so important, especially now. But I also want to leave readers with a sense that no matter how bad your situation, or how many years you’ve let go by, if you’re willing to trust and love, you can get a second chance.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for it?

LAURIE: Not really. I researched a bit about Alzheimer’s and Stroke, learned a bit of Yiddish from my mother and Mother Google, and imagined the rest.

STEPH: What was the inspiration for the story?

LAURIE: I was stuck in traffic in the middle of Woodstock, going back to work after lunch, when this character in my head started talking to me. It was Frankie. She was doing a bit about how bizarre and annoying Woodstock and her sister had gotten since she left home. I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk to take notes.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

LAURIE: I write in a spare bedroom that I painted pink. I’m quirky about how I keep my space. The mess can pile up…empty coffee mugs, pens, drafts to edit…but as long as it’s clean in my direct line of sight, not even anything on the walls, I’m good. Also, the previous owners had several children, so the bedrooms were decorated in early My Little Pony. Mine came with glow-in-the-dark plastic stars cemented to the ceiling, and I left them there. Occasionally, a star will fall. I think that’s kind of cool. I make a wish.

STEPH: What's your favorite summer fruit?

LAURIE: Sour cherries! I buy them at the farmers market and eat them straight from the bag. They’ve never lasted long enough for me to make pie.

STEPH: Tell us about the state you live in?

LAURIE: Denial? It’s lovely this time of year… No, seriously. I live in New York’s Hudson Valley, about halfway between Albany and Manhattan. I love it. I was born in this area, went away for college and for about five years after that, but then returned. The mountains, the river, the autumns, the apples…it’s amazing. I feel grateful to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

STEPH: Where can we find The Joke's on Me at on the Web?

LAURIE: You can buy directly from 4RV’s web site or from,, and the usual culprits.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

News From The Publishing World - 13 JUL 2011

Here are some interesting clips from around the horn in the world of publishing:

It's a good day to be a writer, from Forbes, DTD 6 JUN 2011.

Book Expo, the publishing industry's annual convention was recently held in NY and one of the things to come out of it was that that with digital writing and publishing coupled with social networking has indeed revolutionized the book business, giving authors more say-so.

Publishers, more traditional one, have been slow to get on the bandwagon. Most books they release release lose 80-90 percent. They don't even earn their advances. Many have come to realize that the old marketing methods don't work. Social networking is where it's at.

The Old:
$50K ad spot in the NY Times.
20+ city booktour w/1st class in airplanes, limos & hotel suites.
Appearance on TV shows.

The New:
Word to mouth generates the buzz. If an author can you use social media to connect to readers, they generate buzz. Blogging, websites, Facebook, Tweeter, You Tube and social networking are (free) and have a better chance of reaching those readers who might be interested in the work, whether it’s an ambitious literary novel or genre romance, sci-fi and mystery, paranormal or super-wholesome faith-based inspirational stories. And the author can work from home in their PJs if they want!

Wwe’ve all heard about Amanda Hocking, The Shack (ten million copies sold), Chicken Soup for the Soul, John Locke, Stephanie McAfee (Diary of a Mad Fat Girl), Bella Andre, and the phenomenal success of Joe Konrath and his many self-published titles.

That’s why more authors are diving into self-publishing. As author work at their own self-marketing, which if oftentimes inexpensive, they are starting to see more results. The most challenging part is writing the book that will create the buzz.



Your Publisher should not be your Agent

I think on it's face alone that it's common sense that your agent should NOT be your publisher. Look at this way, if the agent does become the publisher than they are now a principal in the transaction. Conflict of interest because now the agent is looking out for #1 and the CLIENT, ie the writer should be #1.

Agency law makes it clear that an agent must not engage in self-dealing, or otherwise unduly enrich himself from the agency. Nor must an agent usurp an opportunity from the principal by taking it for himself.

In recent weeks, there have been a spate of agents who have cut deals on behalf of their clients with… themselves. One such involved the agent to the estate of the late author Catherine Cookson. According to the Daily Mail, the literary agent didn’t even inform the author’s publishers, Transworld and Simon & Schuster, that she’d done a deal – with herself – to digitally publish 100 of the author’s titles. “I haven’t told either firm about the deal”, she said, “and I am sure they are going to kick up a fuss about it”.

Yes, I bet they will.


New Ebook Reader:
Google eBooks is partnering with Korean electronics manufacturer iriver to release the Story HD, an e-book reading device integrated with the Google eBooks platform. The Story HD is an e-ink device with wi-fi connectivity and beginning July 17 it will be priced at $140 and sold exclusively through Target stores.


Kobo Ebook Reader updates:

Canadian e-book retailer Kobo’s new $130 touch screen reader is lighter, cheaper and is said to be faster and more powerful. It’s definitely way cooler than the old Kobo reader, offering a new, sophisticated graphic home screen interface and it gives consumers the ability to easily synch their reading across desktop, phone and tablet devices. While none of this is unusual among the leading e-reading devices, Kobo continues to serve notice that it plans to compete in the international e-book market.


Nook Ebook Reader updates:

Hot on the heels of Kobo’s launch of a $130 e-ink touchscreen device, Barnes & Noble unveiled the Nook Simple Touch Reader, a $139 black & white e-ink touchscreen device with an upgraded 6” screen, faster page-turns and a battery B&N says will hold a charge for two months. The device will go on sale June 10.


Food for thought from Steph:

Ereaders and ebooks continue to be popular and many other companies are updating their ereaders or getting into the game. There's a lot more variety out there so if you're in the market for an ebook reader shop wisely.

An agent should not be your publisher. I think that's a no-brainer. if they are, who would look out for #1?

The big observation: There's a shift in marketing/promo strageties with authors taking on more responsibility. Social networking/media is hot. It's free and easy to reach people over the internet, but I think you still need a QUALITY project that will create buzz to stand out.


For those that are ebook authors it's always tough to get out and do a book signing. Where's the book, right? Consider this: Perhaps you could get with your local B&N or Borders and help sell their ebook readers. Go to the store for an hour or two, sit down at their ebook reader section and sell the book. You could have postcards, and other marketing items to sell your book as well. It's a win win for you the author and the bookstore. If anyone has done this, post a comment. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Excerpt Monday - From Victorian Scoundrel

The Set up: Alice & Grayson kiss!

Grayson escorted her to a door on the right, threw it open, and put his hand on her waist, guiding her inside. A gas lamp burned on a nearby table, throwing stark, deep shadows into the room.

Her determined man shut the door and pinned her against it. He plucked her glasses from her face and threw them onto the table with the gas lamp. Then he pinned her against the door, placing his hands on the door next to her arms. His breathing was erratic. The light from the lamp cast dark shadows over his chiseled features.


He stepped closer and lowered his hands, placing one on her waist. Heat spiked within her and settled low in her abdomen. His hazel eyes burned with desire. He drew in a deep breath and raised his forefinger, tracing her lips. Alice closed her eyes, but only briefly, savoring the gentle touch of his finger.

"You do wild things to my heart, sweet Alice," he finally whispered. His finger traced her cheeks, then her jaw.

She grew hot, yearning for more. Her senses spun from his sensual touch. She could hardly breathe. "Me?"

"Yes, you."
"What do I do to your heart?"

"You make it beat hard -- fast." He ran his finger down the side of her neck and traced the 'v' in her throat.

Alice met the raging inferno in his eyes and nipped at her lower lip with her teeth. "Is that all I do?"

He issued a low, deep groan from his throat and leaned forward. Their lips searched for each other, teasing, until finally they meshed into a heat-searing kiss.

Alice completely lost her head. His lips were hard, firm, staking his claim. His hands went to her waist as his long, lean body pressed against her. She placed her hands on his shoulders and glided her fingertips around the nape of his neck. She wanted this man. Etiquette and propriety be damned. Victorian values wafted to the floor. She wanted to feel every inch of him that she could. His lips trailed over her jaw, kissing the side of her neck.

"Oh, Gray..." she moaned, her flesh now highly sensitized to his touch.

She had never been kissed like this.

He lifted his head; his mouth overtook hers once again. Her stomach fluttered. If it wasn't for him leaning into her, giving her support, her knees would have buckled. Need. Want. Desire. They pulsed through her.

His tongue teased her lips, coaxing her to receive him. She gave in.

Their tongues mingled, exploring, tempting, teasing. Raging flames consumed her body. There was only Grayson and her. Here. Now.

Grayson broke free, gasping for breath, as did Alice. His hands cupped her face. "I have to stop."

"All... all right."

His thumbs stroked her jaw. "You fascinate me, Alice."

A deep smile graced her lips. "Completely?"


"You kiss like a demon possessed, Grayson."






REVIEWS: 5 Stars, Readers Favorites, Molly E: I have never read a Steam Punk novel before, but because of her fantastic writing, her engaging plot line, and fun loving characters, it will NOT be the last. I highly recommend this with highest of 5 stars, and I can't wait until the second Windsor Diaries installment releases!

5 Stars, Tami Dee, Author of the Mists of Time Series: Stephanie Burkhart has a fresh, quick, quirky, inventive imagination and she gives the readers of Victorian Scoundrel a delightful mixture of all of the above!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review Friday - Blitz by Sue Perkins

Book Review for: "Blitz"
Written by: Sue Perkins
Desert Breeze Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-61252-034-6
Avail as ebook only
4.5 Stars

Reviewed by: S. Burkhart

Perkins pens a suspenseful love story set against the backdrop of World War II with "Blitz." Velma Field comes of age just before the dawn of World War II. When she meets Jack Stanley, her courage and resolve is tested like never before.

The novel starts in 1938. The Fields live in Plymouth, England a town on the coast. Velma goes to visit her sister, Florence, and discovers Jack, Florence's brother-in-law in the kitchen. For Velma, the attraction to Jack is heartfelt and immediate. Jack also finds himself attracted to Velma. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple declare their love and plan their wedding for September, 1939.

Fate, however, has other plans. World War II erupts. Jack and Velma have a registry marriage before he is shipped out. Velma tries to maintain her inner strength and moves in with Florence, whose husband also goes off to war. Florence and Velma strengthen their sisterly bond. Florence takes a job working at the post office and Velma joins the Wrens – the Navy's women corps. The war tests everyone's courage, hope, stamina, and endurance. The Germans bomb England continually, blitzing Plymouth. Will Velma's resolve break before she sees Jack again? Will Jack overcome a severe case of Malaria? Can Velma and Jack look the adversities of war in the face to find happiness after it ends? Only time will tell.

Perkins' writing is sharp, engaging the reader right away with Velma and Jack's first meeting. The writing style is easy to read. The story has a nice flow to it. The descriptions are rich and vivid, allowing the reader to picture the setting in their mind as they read. The dialogue captures a rich authenticity of the times.

The characterization is wonderful. Jack and Velma will tug on your heartstrings as the strong supporting cast. Florence's fate had me choking up and I realized then just how subtly, yet deeply, Perkins' story had touched me.

Jack is a noble guy and takes his commitment to the Army seriously. Still, when the Army separates him from Velma, his resolve is tested in way he didn't expect.

Velma wants to prove she's a strong, capable young woman, not just to her family, but to herself. Her worries are something many can identify with today.

The story is sensual for romance readers with tender kisses and sizzling caresses. From page one, Blitz will leave the reader wondering if Jack and Velma will find happy ever after. Blitz will put you in the thick of World War II and leave you turning the pages to find out what happens next.