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Archive for the ‘CD Hersh paranormal romance author’ Category

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A story from our past.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Image by Michael Sylvester from Pixabay

At age 18, I (Catherine, the C of C.D. Hersh) decided to cook a dinner for my then boyfriend to show off my homemaking abilities. It was something you did way back then. I planned a four-course dinner to cover all the basics of a meal. I served him two sets of appetizers: shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce and bacon wrapped hot dogs. A big salad, an entrée and two vegetables, and poached pears drizzled with chocolate sauce for dessert rounded out the meal.

I’ve long since forgotten exactly what I served for the middle portions of the meal because the beginning of the dinner was so spectacular that it is burned in both our memories. The shrimp cocktail was a huge success. I lined the pedestaled dessert cup with lettuce leaves, piled a generous amount of the homemade cocktail sauce in the center and carefully laid the curved shrimps around the edge of the dish. The presentation was exquisite. He was all smiles as he ate my offering.

The next appetizer up was the bacon wrapped hot dogs (recipe below). You could use little smokies or sausages, but hot dogs were the choice that day. I carefully wrapped each hot dog in a strip of bacon, cut them into bite-sized pieces (because a savvy hostess would never serve an entire hot dog as an appetizer), and laid them on a baking rack. The bacon kept falling off. So I hunted for something to skewer the strips of meat to the hot dogs. I finally found a box of toothpicks, or rather a few toothpicks, in the pantry. I counted the number of hot dog pieces I had and then how many toothpicks I had. I was woefully short on toothpicks. So, like any frugal cook, I broke the toothpicks into the number of pieces I needed and carefully stuck them into the hot dogs, making a mental note to remove the skewers before serving. I popped the hors d’oeuvres in the oven and went back to work preparing the rest of the meal.

Then the oven timer rang, I removed the appetizer from the oven, put the next course in to finish cooking, checked that none of the pots were boiling over, plated the hot dogs and proudly presented them to my boyfriend who was in the living room watching television.

“Yumm,” he said. “This looks good.”

Pleased that I hadn’t burned them and that they looked appetizing, I picked up the empty shrimp cocktail dish—which look like it had been licked clean—smiled, and returned to the kitchen. A bit later I returned to the living room to retrieve the hotdog platter. My boyfriend had eaten every single hors d’oeuvre.

As I looked down at the platter my stomach dropped to the floor. “Where are the toothpicks?” I asked anxiously.

“Toothpicks?” he said. “You had toothpicks in them?”

“Yes, to hold on the bacon.” By now my heart was racing. “Did you throw them into an ashtray or the waste basket?” I glanced at the ever-present ashtray sitting beside the sofa. It was empty. So was the wastebasket.

He put his hand to his throat and massaged it. “I thought they were a bit crunchy.”

“You ate them?” I asked in terror.

“You didn’t take them out?” he responded. “Why weren’t they sticking out of the hot dogs?”

I looked at him in dismay. “I didn’t have enough to put in all the hors d’oeuvres, so I broke them into smaller pieces. I must have forgotten to remove them. Oh. My. Gosh! I fed you toothpicks! What if they rip up your stomach or intestines? I may have killed you! I’m soooo sorry.”

He took my accidental murder attempt with great aplomb. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “I chewed them up real good.”

His assurance didn’t make me feel much better. “Do you want the rest of the meal, or should we go to the emergency room?”

“What are you serving me?”

I told him the menu, and then added, “With no toothpicks in sight. I’ve used them all up on the appetizer.”

“I’ll eat,” he replied. Then we both broke out in gales of laughter. But I kept a real close eye on him for a few days just to be sure.

That boyfriend was Donald (the D of C.D. Hersh), the same man I married a few years later. He didn’t die. I wasn’t indicted for murder, and we’ve lived happily-ever-after for half a century. Occasionally, I serve him a burnt offering, which we laugh about, but I never, never, never break a toothpick for use in meal prep. I can’t even pick one up without remembering that first meal I cooked for him.

I learned an important lesson that day—for a happy life, don’t kill your future spouse.

For your eating pleasure here’s a version of the hotdog hors d’oeuvres, using whole toothpicks.

Bacon Wrapped Hotdog Hors d’oeuvres

    4 hotdogs

    4 slices lean (center cut) bacon, thin slices

    2 slices American cheese (optional)

    Toothpicks (WHOLE)

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lay a cookie rack over it.

Wrap one slice of bacon around each hotdog. Secure with WHOLE toothpicks at ends and middle. Place hot dogs on cookie rack.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, turn hotdogs. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until bacon has cooked and crisped.

If using cheese, cut each slice in half and lay a half slice over hot dog and leave in oven until cheese begins to melt.

Remove from oven and cut hotdogs into bite-sized pieces.

REMOVE TOOTHPICKS.

Tip: Cooking the hotdog whole means you won’t need as many toothpicks and will help ensure you don’t puncture your beloved’s intestines when he accidently eats them because you forgot to remove the tiny wooden skewers. ☺

Links for our books are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Most Viewed Post Series #3

Friday Features’

We talk about

Kissing fun!

800px-Defense_gov_News_Photo_040902-N-3228G-005

Photo from the U.S Navy files via Wikimedia

As we’ve mentioned before, we’re hooked on the Bachelor television show. Yes, we know 99 percent of the “in love” couples at the end of each season don’t make it past the screening of the series. Yes, we know it’s a lot of drama and cat fights. Yes, we know it’s probably all hokey. But deep down we are romantics who hope that some lucky couple will find true love.

This season’s Bachelor Sean has had a couple of romantic dates planned for his ladies. On week two there was a group date photo shoot with Harlequin, one of the most well-known publishers of romance novels. On week three Sean took Lesley Murphy to set a new Guinness World record for the longest onscreen kiss. The old record was 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Sean and Lesley set a new record with a live audience cheering them on.

Watching that long on-screen kiss made me curious. If two people who barely know each other can lock lips for over 3 minutes and 16 seconds, how long can a couple who are in love kiss? So, I did some research from a purely writer’s point of view. I set the timer and read a love scene from a romance book for 3 minutes and 16 seconds.

If you were reading a 3 minute 16 second love scene (referencing kissing only here) it would take approximately two pages of lip-locking description to break the world record, assuming you are not a speed reader. That’s an estimated 600 words in Times New Roman font. When I searched my computer’s thesaurus for alternate words for kiss and kissing—because you would surely not want to use the same verb each time you mentioned kiss—I came up empty-handed. Roget’s Thesaurus netted me a measly six synonyms: smack, buss, osculate (caress), brush, graze, and shave (touch). What shave has to do with kissing, aside from whisker burn, I have no idea. Roget forgot an obvious synonym, in my humble opinion—smooch.

On the hunt now, because I couldn’t believe how few alternate words I’d found for kiss, I went to my Romance Writer’s Phrase Book, by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton, where I found one hundred and five kissing related phrases. However, only 61 were suitable for use in 3 minutes and 16 seconds of lip-locking, record-breaking kissing description. To win the record both parties’ lips must be touching the whole time, and some of the phrases in the book involved kissing other body parts.

Next I did an internet search for synonyms for kiss and kissing. Here’s a few more that I came up with: snog (British slang for kiss), neck, canoodle, peck, suck face, make out, spoon, get to first base, french, plant one on, Yankee dime/nickel (a favorite of Catherine’s parents), bill and coo, cupcake, spark, make whoopee, hooch up, and mwah (onomatopoeia for the kissing sound).

The next step in the research is to write a 600 word kissing scene. Better yet, I think I’ll set the timer and create my own Guinness World Record for kissing the other half of C.D. Hersh. That’s bound to be more fun than struggling to write 600 kissing related words on the computer. ☺

Have you kissed someone you love today?

Here’s an excerpt from our book Can’t Stop the Music for you to read while you remember if you’ve kissed anyone today.

Tipping her chin up, he whispered, “Anything for you.” Then he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her, savoring the sweet taste he’d only dreamt of. She leaned against him, their bodies molding together perfectly. In the strains of Woodstock music coming from the living room, he swore he heard the lyrics I’ll gift you forever, to have and to hold.

As their kisses grew more passionate, she mumbled against his lips, “We should drink our tea before it gets cold.”

“I hate chamomile tea,” he confessed.

She drew away and stared at him. “You lied?”

“Fibbed a little. But only to get my foot in the door.”

She punched him lightly on the chest. “Don’t do that again.”

“You have my word.” He grabbed her fist and kissed her knuckles one by one, lavishing his tongue over the flesh. A tiny moan escaped from her. He gazed at her in expectation. Her eyes dropped shut, her head dipping backward as an expression of rapture floated over her face.

The doorbell rang, startling them apart.

If this piques your interest then the links for our books are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Most Viewed Post Series #1

Friday Features’

We talk about

Poltergeists, Phantoms and Paranormal Presences!

photo from Microsoft Clip Art

May 3 is Paranormal Day, a day to talk about scary things like ghosts, vampires and other undead creatures that go bump in the night, and sometimes in broad daylight.

Where we live, in Southwestern Ohio, one of the most haunted cities in the area is Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s a sampling of some haunted spots in that fair city.

  • Music Hall, in downtown Cincinnati, built on top of a pauper’s grave, is rumored to be haunted and was selected as one of the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America.

Union Terminal
photo by Donald Hersh

  • Union Terminal, or the Cincinnati Museum Center as it’s known now, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a security guard named Shirley, who was murdered there.
  • At the Cincinnati Art Museum a seven foot specter rises from a mummy sarcophagus.
  • Kings Island Amusement Park employees have reported sightings of a little girl in a period 1900s blue dress believed to come from the graveyard adjacent to the park.
  • Mother of Mercy High School has a nun, Sister Mary Carlos, who haunts the auditorium, which is named after her. The Sister interferes with performances unless she is asked for permission to use the space and is invited to the performance.
  • At the Cincinnati Zoo not all the animals are caged. A ghostly lioness prowls the park at night.

We haven’t seen any of these apparitions, and don’t plan on going ghost hunting to find them, but Catherine has lived in a few places her family believed to be haunted.

As a young girl she lived in an old house that had been subdivided into apartments, and her parents believed the apartment they lived in was haunted. Pictures and items would be moved to different places when they came home; a cousin saw a man standing at the foot of her bed one night; and when the neighbor’s children would call at the door for Catherine and her sister to come out and play, a man’s voice would answer saying, “They aren’t home.” Funny thing was, no one was home when kids came calling … except the ghost.

In another home where Catherine lived a murder had taken place years before. Her folks kept the scary information a secret from the children. While she lived in the house, Catherine had a recurring dream of a woman who appeared at her bedroom door and urged her to climb out the second story bedroom. Catherine would always awaken before she made it out the window. When the family moved, she mentioned her dream to her mother, who told her about the murdered woman. She had died at the top of the steps by the door to Catherine’s bedroom. Her mother believed the ghost of the woman was trying to kill Catherine and that if she had ever gone fully out the window she would have died. That dream, no matter how hard she tried to replicate it, has never occurred in any other home where Catherine has lived.

Westwood Town Hall
photo by Donald Hersh

Catherine’s sister Carolyn lived in an apartment in the basement of Westwood Town Hall, in Cincinnati, Ohio, another reported hot spot for spooks. The town hall is reported to be haunted by the ghost of a former security guard who hung himself in the building after he was fired. Some resources say the ghost is known as Willy, others say his name is Wesley. There are many reports of stage sets, costumes and orderly things found in disarray. Water faucets turn on by themselves and locked doors are unlocked, lights turn off and on and children have reported seeing a man on the ground and in the building.

Carolyn and her husband were caretakers for the hall around 1971. “We had to clean the buildings,” Carolyn said, “and we would hear whispers around us.” Carolyn believes there is more than one ghost because of the multiple voices they heard. They would be in bed in their basement apartment of the town hall and could hear racket going on and what sounded like people bumping into the walls when they knew no one was there. “On one occasion we had to clean a room on the upper floor where a train group met. We could hear voices in the room and the door wouldn’t unlock. When we finally got the door open, there was no one inside.”

After Catherine’s sister learned the building was haunted she wouldn’t go into the main area by herself.

Can’t say that I blame her!

Now that I’ve thoroughly frightened myself by writing about all this spooky stuff at night, I think I’ll go double check the dead bolts, flip on all the lights, and look up some paranormal ghost busters … just in case.

Happy Haunting!

Have you ever had any spooky, paranormal encounters?

While you think about that here’s an excerpt from the first book in our Turning Stone Series, The Promised One.

The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard. Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

When your “goose bumps” disappear perhaps you might be interested in the links for our books that are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Friday Features’

We talk about

Can gardening & writing have anything in common?

Henbit

The warm days this week enabled us to take a stroll through the yard, another put-our-butts-in-the-writing chair avoidance tactic. We found a slew of winter weeds scattered throughout the landscape. Some tiny-leafed, prostrate thing has taken over a portion of the easement making it the greenest it has been in years. Buckhorn plantain spills out between the path stepping stones. Flat rosettes of chickweed carpet the stone gully in the backyard, and henbit, with its scalloped leaves and purple stems, juts out of the grass—or at least what passes for grass in the lawn.

We’re letting the unidentified weed taking over the easement and the lawn. It’s green, low growing, and doesn’t look like it would need much mowing. But after an afternoon of surfing weed identification web sites (another avoidance tactic), we’ve come to the conclusion that we might have to dig out this patch of weeds and eradicate it every other spot we find. You see, if we’ve identified it correctly, we’re harboring shot weed, also known as hairy bittercress. Oh, it looks innocent enough, but when it sets seeds the slightest touch will send hundreds of seeds shooting out in a three-foot radius across the lawn into flowerbeds and pathways looking spots to hide and root.

Jimson Weed

Fighting weeds in the garden is a full-time task. It starts in early spring with digging out winter weeds like plantain, chickweed, and henbit from the paths and flower beds. By the time we get those eradicated the dandelions rear their yellow heads. After that it’s pigweed and purslane and nutsedge and Canadian thistles and Jimson weed and ground ivy and goose grass. Spring and summer progress marked by an army of weeds marching through the garden. We hoe and pull and mulch and spray, and they just keep coming. The only thing that keeps them under control is persistent daily effort—and maybe a hard, hard freeze.

Like the cycle of weeds in the garden, writers face different challenges along every stage of our careers. As soon as we think we have a handle on our craft and profession something new springs up and surprises us. The beginning writer’s weeds might be learning the basics of the craft or finding that story idea or dealing with writer’s block. For some it’s getting to the end of the book, or figuring out what to do with the sagging middle. For the more skilled, unpublished writers the weeds that need pulling could be social networking, getting an agent, or getting published. Whatever the weeds in your writer yard there’s one universal truth—they will always be there. Our job is to figure the best way to control them.

We’re not beginning writers. We know how to write. That has been reinforced with a number of contest placements. We have a good grasp of the skills and have been published. We know our stories and the characters. We even have books waiting in the wings to be written. But we still have writing weeds to pull—BIG ones.

We haven’t finished our series—yet.
We want to write in several genres, which presents branding problem and sometimes an identity crisis.
While we have some social networking and internet connections there isn’t a large following wanting our books—one of the biggest weeds for a lot of writers.
Currently, we spend more time blogging than writing the books.

Gertrude Jekyll, one of the most important British landscape designers and writers, once said, “There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight. It cannot always be done easily; many things worth doing are not done easily; but there is no place under natural conditions that cannot be graced with an adornment of suitable vegetation.”

Gertrude’s advice applies not only to the garden, and all those weedy patches, but to writing as well. The road to success isn’t easy, but we can accomplish it. We can transform those bare, ugly pages into something overflowing with suitable vegetation (the best words and story we can make). When we finally reach that goal it’s worth the work. So, pull those weeds out of your writing garden and create something beautiful!

We’re going to try this year to get rid of our biggest weed and finish our next book.

What are the writing weeds that are stopping you from creating your masterpiece? Do you have a plan to pull them out?

While you figure out what weeds to attack here’s an excerpt from the first book in our series.

In the wrong hands, the Turning Stone ring is a powerful weapon for evil. So, when homicide detective Alexi Jordan discovers her secret society mentor has been murdered and his magic ring stolen, she is forced to use her shape-shifting powers to catch the killer. By doing so, she risks the two most important things in her life—her badge and the man she loves.

Rhys Temple always knew his fiery cop partner and would-be-girlfriend, Alexi Jordan, had a few secrets. He considers that part of her charm. But when she changes into a man, he doesn’t find that as charming. He’ll keep her secret to keep her safe, but he’s not certain he can keep up a relationship—professional or personal.

Danny Shaw needs cash for the elaborate wedding his fiancée has planned, so he goes on a mugging spree. But when he kills a member of the secret society of Turning Stones, and steals a magic ring that gives him the power to shape shift, Shaw gets more than he bargained for.

EXCERPT

The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard. Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

If this peeks your interest then the links for our books are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A recurring character in our series The Turning Stone Chronicles and his favorite snack.


In our Turning Stone Chronicles paranormal romance series the Keeper of the Stone, an ancient Scottish man named Eli McCraigen, serves an ever-present cup of tea and scones when serious matters need to be discussed. You’ll see him in every book brewing his tea and serving scones or biscuits of some sort. Our character most likely does this because tea is a breakfast ritual at the C.D. Hersh house.

Catherine loves a good cup of Scottish tea and drinks either a robust cup of Scottish or Irish Breakfast tea every morning. Her Scottish and Irish teas of choice are Taylors brand, imported from across the pond. Donald prefers something with a bit more flavoring and brews a cup of Bigelow Carmel Vanilla tea. Most of the time we have high-fiber toast with our morning tea, but today we wanted to share an authentic Scottish recipe–scones (which when pronounced correctly rhymes with gone).

Catherine got the recipe a number of years ago from a lovely Scottish lady named Rhoda, who immigrated to America at the end of WWII after she fell in love with an American G.I.

We hope you’ll enjoy Rhoda’s scones!

Scottish Scones

    2 c flour
    3 t baking powder
    2 T sugar
    6 T shortening
    ½ t salt
    2 ½ c buttermilk

The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1) that has Eli serving his tea and scones.

Alexi thumbed her cell phone off and shoved it into her pocket. “Rhys should be here in a couple of minutes. Are you sure we need to do this?”

Eli took the screaming teakettle off the stove and poured boiling water into a ceramic teapot. “Aye. We have tae make sure he’s included. We need him.” He dropped three tea bags into the water and set on the lid. “He may not be a shifter, but he has a gun and, unless I miss my guess, isnae afraid to use it. Besides, going off and doing things on our own, without keeping him informed twill only push him away. Tae get him tae accept who he is we need tae draw him in.”

She lined the three mugs on the counter next to the scones Eli had prepared. “I don’t know. He’s been very resistant.”

“So’s a salmon in a bear’s mouth. All that flopping about after he’s been caught is for naught. But if he’d heeded the shadow on the water he might have stayed in the stream.”

“So your strategy is to keep Rhys in water?”

“‘Tis tae make him see the shadow, lassie. That’ll keep him alive and hopefully coming tae our side.”

Alive was good. So was on their side. She rubbed the frown creases between her eyes. Worry deepened the two lines more every day.

“Dinna be afeart. I have a plan.”

That was good, because she was fresh out of ideas. The doorbell rang. Alexi answered it and ushered Rhys into the kitchen.

Rhys eyed the scones and teapot. “Tea party, for me?” He took a scone and bit into it. “I’m not easily swayed by sweets, old man.”

“Yer actions would say different, laddie. But ‘tis for me. I’m an auld man, set in his ways, and ‘tis tea time in Scotland.”

Now if your scones are ready and tea brewed how about checking out our series.
Links for our books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the page.

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Friday Features

We talk about

Pacing

Six Ways to Keep a Train from Rolling Through Your Scenes

By C.D. Hersh©2012

We’re not talking about stories about locomotives or the walking back and forth you do when waiting for someone. Pacing in writing is determined by the length of the scenes, how fast the action moves, and how quickly the reader is provided with information.

Have you seen the movie “The Descendants” starring Nick Clooney? If you like panoramic views of Hawaii and lots of close-ups of Clooney, then hunt it up on your favorite streaming service. If, however, you prefer a faster paced story, this movie is not the one for you.

When we belonged to a drama group our director was always talking about pacing. She hated pauses that were longer than it took for a ping pong ball to drop from a coffee table. In “The Descendants” you could have driven trains through some of the pauses in the scenes. Can you say sloooooow?

Try as we might, we couldn’t figure out why so many sluggish scenes were needed. Some of the unnecessary scenes included close ups of an angst-ridden Clooney staring out into space, for way too long; pedantic scenes of him buried behind piles of paper at his office desk; more than one silent, plodding hospital scene with Clooney and his family, while the camera panned the room; long camera shots of Hawaii you could have fit four commercials into; and a closing movie scene where the characters spent minutes staring wordlessly at the television. The only thing in the last scene that made a point was the quilt they all snuggled under. Come on, already. Pick up the pace. Even sad stories need to move along at a clip that keeps the viewer, or reader, engaged.

Pacing is such an important part of any story. Too slow and you lose the reader’s attention. Too fast and you leave them wondering what just happened. Here are a six tips to help you keep your story’s pacing moving along.

  • Use more dialogue for faster pacing. We’re not talking about dull “How’s the weather” conversation, unless the story’s about a tornado. Make every word count and tell the reader something new.
  • Don’t repeat information. There’s no need to beat the reader over the head with information. Telling them once that Aunt Millie is dying is sufficient. They’ll remember it. They’re smart.
  • Use action instead of tags in dialogue. You’ll not only speed up the pace, but you’ll show the reader what’s happening.
  • Keep two or more characters on the scene. Think Tom Hanks in Castaway, versus The Transformers.
  • Use narrative or description sparingly. Nothing stops a story like a side trip down memory lane or descriptions of setting and characters. Drop that kind of information into the story in short bites. The reader will still get it.
  • Create tension in the scene. Donald Maas says every scene should have tension, even every page. If you don’t have tension there’s no reason for your reader to turn the page.

Check your work in progress. Are your scenes tight and exciting, or can you drive a train or a semi-truck through them? Scenes don’t have to be action packed, just tension packed. Keep those ping pong balls bouncing around to stir up the pace.

Here’s a scene from book four, The Mercenary and the Shifters of our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, to give you an idea of fast pace.

My home is perfectly safe. It’s my business I’m concerned about.”

Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, her body language closing off to further suggestions. Mike followed her motions. As he did, he spotted a red dot on her chest. The dot wiggled.

“Get down!” Mike shouted as he dove for Fiona.

They hit the floor as the pottery on the raised fireplace hearth exploded, sending shards across the room. Mike shoved Fiona behind the nearest chair then scrambled across the rug to the blown-out window. Removing his gun from his back-of-the-waist holster, he peered over the windowsill. Seeing no one in the driveway, he swiveled around to check on Fiona. The red laser point danced around the room, searching for a target.

Mike followed the trajectory of the beam. The shot came from across the street in something high. He remembered seeing a tree house in the yard across the road from the mansion.

“Who lives across from you?” he asked.

“No one right now. The house is for sale.”

“I didn’t see a ‘For Sale’ sign.”

“We’re in an exclusive neighborhood. The HOA forbids sale signs.” Another shot rang out.

Mike whirled around in time to see Fiona’s head sticking out from behind the chair. The image of her head reflected in the fireplace mirror. “He’s using the mirror to target us. Do these curtains close?”

“Yes. The cord’s on the other side of the window.”

“I’m going to crawl under the window and close them. He’ll probably see my reflection in the mirror and start shooting, so stay hidden. As soon as the curtains close, crawl to the window as fast as you can and follow the wall to the entryway. Then get the hell out of the front of the house. Got it?”

“Got it.” Fiona’s voice quavered up the scale.

“You okay?”

“Scared, but okay.”

As Mike crawled along the floor, a volley of shots rang out. The remainder of the pottery displayed on the hearth shattered. When he reached the other side of the window, he yanked the drapery cord. The curtains billowed closed.

“Now, Fiona!” he shouted.

As she belly crawled across the floor, Mike held his breath. Bullets sprayed the room, punching through the heavy draperies, the shots veering from floor to ceiling.

Don’t ricochet! he commanded.

Fiona reached the cover of the exterior wall, and he let his breath out in a whoosh.

“Hurry!”

When she came within arm’s reach, he grabbed her hand and yanked her the rest of the way across the room and into the entry.

“Do you have a panic room?”

She nodded, her eyes filled with fear. “In the basement, behind the trophy wall.”

“Get in it, and don’t come out until I tell you to.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get the SOB who’s trying to kill you.”

Now when your heart rate slows down how about checking out our books?
Links for our books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Our book Can’t Stop the Music that opens at Woodstock and is filled with musical references of the era and food.

Today we’re talking about love, food, and magic. Love was plentiful at Woodstock. Magic mushrooms were probably plentiful, also, but food not so much. The producers didn’t expect the overwhelming crowd that should up and the vendors ran out of food in a very short time.

But you don’t have to worry about that, because we’ve got a special treat for you today.

As writers, we know that love and food go together like romance and a happily-ever-after ending. Maybe that’s why in most of our novels the hero and heroine share a meal of some sort. There’s just something magical about a special dinner with the one you love. Don’t you remember that special dinner, or dinners, with your honey? On the first dinner Catherine made for Donald she accidently fed him a toothpick—which he unwittingly ate. Trust us, we remember that!

Like most humans, we like to eat, and food works its way into our stories. In our book, Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) the hero cooks an Italian meal for the heroine that is positively orgasmic. Can’t Stop the Music is a nostalgic romance set in Woodstock 1969 and contains a paranormal element. The paranormal involves a magic Soul Mate Tree that grants soul mates to deserving persons.

The Soul Mate tree is
An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds.
To some, it’s nothing more than a dream.
To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.
For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

And our heroine and hero are in definitely in need of a happy ending.

Speaking of happy, who doesn’t love a delicious pasta dish? We do, but pasta is something we don’t eat a lot of anymore because of the high carb content. Recently, we’ve begun experimenting with ways to make high-carb pasta meals friendlier, because we do miss our pasta. In the process, we’ve discovered things like lentil and soybean pastas that are great substitutes for wheat pasta. They have a high fiber to carb ratio, which not only puts more fiber in the diet, but slows the release of sugars into the blood stream, both which are great boons to people with insulin resistance issues. The soybean pasta is fantastic and has become our go-to pasta for spaghetti.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found a soybean lasagna. So, Catherine got creative and made a meatless version of lasagna that uses a smaller amount of lasagna on the bottom of the dish and substitutes sliced zucchini for the pasta in the other layers. Putting a single layer of pasta on the bottom provides the traditional taste of lasagna and helps the servings come out of the dish better, without the added high-glycemic carbohydrates. We made this lasagna recipe meatless, but you could use a meat sauce if you prefer. Bon appétit!

Mushroom Zucchini Lasagna

Serves four

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets oven-ready lasagna pasta
  • ½ jar (1 1/3 cups) spaghetti or marina sauce (any flavor you prefer)
  • 2-3 ounces fresh baby spinach (2-3 handfuls)
  • One 8-ounce box sliced mushrooms
  • 2 small zucchinis, sliced into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 12 tablespoons low-fat ricotta cheese

Directions:

  • Trim ends of zucchinis until they fit inside a square 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Then slice zucchinis into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons. Place on a plate and salt liberally both sides. Let stand about an hour to draw out the excess moisture. Rinse off salt and pat slices dry with a paper towel. Set aside.
  • Rinse mushrooms and place in a skillet or large saucepan. Using 2 sharp-bladed spatulas, coarsely chop mushrooms in the pan. (Alternately, you could use a knife and cutting board, but Catherine found this method to be quicker.) Sauté mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of water until the mushrooms darken and excess water from the fungi has appeared in the pan. Drain and set aside.
  • Fit the 2 sheets of pasta in the bottom of a square, 1-1/2 quart baking dish, breaking edges off as necessary so the pasta lays flat in the bottom. Remove pasta and broken pieces from the dish.
  • Pour 1/3 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of the dish and lay the pasta sheets and broken pieces on top.
  • On top of this base, layer 1/3 cup pasta sauce, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup mushrooms, a handful of spinach, torn into small pieces, and four tablespoons of ricotta cheese (dotted over the top of the spinach), and enough zucchini slices to cover the ingredients. Spread the ingredients so they are evenly layered. Repeat layers to the depth the dish allows, ending with a layer of zucchini, sauce, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Let stand and couple of minutes before cutting. Catherine found using a chef’s knife to cut the layers works best to cut through the zucchini without destroying the layers. Serve with a fresh salad and warm, Italian garlic bread.

Note: We went light on the cheeses, which gave each square of lasagna about 1 serving each of the cheeses. If you like a heavier cheese taste, add more cheese on each layer.

Serve the lasagna with a fresh green salad and some yummy Italian bread and you have a complete meal.

After the dishes are done and you’re ready to relax, download Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) and take a trip back to Woodstock 1969 with our heroine Rose and her Italian stallion Dakota. To whet your appetite, here’s a peek at Rose and Dakota’s first meeting. Enjoy!

Can’t Stop the Music
By C.D. Hersh

As they made their way to the festival site, Rose and her friends grooved to the music coming from the stage.

When they reached the makeshift bridge over the road, someone yelled, “Hey beautiful! You with the red hair.”

She looked around to see if there was anyone else with red hair. Then she glanced up and spotted two guys, one blond and the other dark-haired, leaning over the side of the bridge.

“Yeah, you,” the blond called out as he caught her gaze.

Willow halted beside her. “He’s cute. How about him?”

Rose looked away, her gaze landing on the other guy.

He jabbed his companion in the ribs. “Quit trying to pick up every girl you see.” Then he leaned farther over the rail. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s high.”

“So she’s not beautiful?” Willow yelled to the hippie.

She poked her friend. “Stop it, Willow, you’re making a scene.” In spite of her protest, her gaze remained on the dark-haired guy.

He rested his elbows on the rail and stared back at her. The intensity of his expression shot heat into her belly.

“I didn’t say that, just that she shouldn’t pay attention to him.” He flapped a hand at his blond buddy, then tapped his own chest with his thumb several times as if to say, ‘Choose me!’

Does he want me to pay attention to him? Her heart thumped in rhythm to his jabbing thumb.

“Take that one,” Willow whispered. “He’s the real cutie.”

Before she could respond, the crowd pushed them forward. When they reached the other side of the bridge, she looked back, searching for the dark-haired hippie, but the spot where he’d stood was empty.

Just my luck. I see someone who’s intriguing and he disappears.

With a sigh, she continued the trek to the festival grounds.

Links for our books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the page.

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Friday Features

We talk about

Gardening is like writing

by

C.D. Hersh

The warm days this week enabled us to take a stroll through the yard, another put-our-butts-in-the-writing chair avoidance tactic. We found a slew of winter weeds scattered throughout the landscape. Some tiny-leafed, prostrate thing has taken over a portion of the easement making it the greenest it has been in years. Buckhorn plantain spills out between the path stepping stones. Flat rosettes of chickweed carpet the stone gully in the backyard, and henbit, with its scalloped leaves and purple stems, juts out of the grass—or at least what passes for grass in the lawn.

We’re letting the unidentified weed taking over the easement and the lawn. It’s green, low growing, and doesn’t look like it would need much mowing. But after an afternoon of surfing weed identification web sites (another avoidance tactic), we’ve come to the conclusion that we might have to dig out this patch of weeds and eradicate it every other spot we find. You see, if we’ve identified it correctly, we’re harboring shot weed, also known as hairy bittercress. Oh, it looks innocent enough, but when it sets seeds the slightest touch will send hundreds of seeds shooting out in a three foot radius across the lawn into flowerbeds and pathways looking spots to hide and root.

Fighting weeds in the garden is a full time task. It starts in early spring with digging out winter weeds like plantain, chickweed, and henbit from the paths and flower beds. By the time we get those eradicated the dandelions rear their yellow heads. After that it’s pigweed and purslane and nutsedge and Canadian thistles and Jimson weed and ground ivy and goose grass. Spring and summer progress marked by an army of weeds marching through the garden. We hoe and pull and mulch and spray, and they just keep coming. The only thing that keeps them under control is persistent daily effort—and maybe a hard, hard freeze.

Like the cycle of weeds in the garden, writers face different challenges along every stage of our careers. As soon as we think we have a handle on our craft and profession something new springs up and surprises us. The beginning writer’s weeds might be learning the basics of the craft or finding that story idea or dealing with writer’s block. For some it’s getting to the end of the book, or figuring out what to do with the sagging middle. For the more skilled, unpublished writers the weeds that need pulling could be social networking, getting an agent, or getting published. Whatever the weeds in your writer yard there’s one universal truth—they will always be there. Our job is to figure the best way to control them.

We’re not a beginning writers. We know how to write. That has been reinforced with a number of contest placements. We have a good grasp of the skills and have been published. We know our stories and the characters. We even have books waiting in the wings to be written. But we still have writing weeds to pull—BIG ones.

    We haven’t finished our series—yet.
    We want to write in several genres, which presents branding problem and sometimes an identity crisis.
    While we have some social networking and internet connections there isn’t a large following wanting our books—one of the biggest weeds for a lot of writers.
    Currently, we spend more time blogging than writing the books.

Gertrude Jekyll, one of the most important British landscape designers and writers, once said, “There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight. It cannot always be done easily; many things worth doing are not done easily; but there is no place under natural conditions that cannot be graced with an adornment of suitable vegetation.”

Gertrude’s advice applies not only to the garden, and all those weedy patches, but to writing as well. The road to success isn’t easy, but we can accomplish it. We can transform those bare, ugly pages into something overflowing with suitable vegetation (the best words and story we can make). When we finally reach that goal it’s worth the work. So, pull those weeds out of your writing garden and create something beautiful!

We’re going to try this year to get rid of our biggest weed and finish our next book.

What are the writing weeds that are stopping you from creating your masterpiece? Do you have a plan to pull them out?

While you figure out what weeds to attack here’s an excerpt from the first book in our series.

Blurb for—The Promised One

ThePromisedOne2In the wrong hands, the Turning Stone ring is a powerful weapon for evil. So, when homicide detective Alexi Jordan discovers her secret society mentor has been murdered and his magic ring stolen, she is forced to use her shape-shifting powers to catch the killer. By doing so, she risks the two most important things in her life—her badge and the man she loves.

Rhys Temple always knew his fiery cop partner and would-be-girlfriend, Alexi Jordan, had a few secrets. He considers that part of her charm. But when she changes into a man, he doesn’t find that as charming. He’ll keep her secret to keep her safe, but he’s not certain he can keep up a relationship—professional or personal.

Danny Shaw needs cash for the elaborate wedding his fiancée has planned, so he goes on a mugging spree. But when he kills a member of the secret society of Turning Stones, and steals a magic ring that gives him the power to shape shift, Shaw gets more than he bargained for.

EXCERPT:

The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard. Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

Amazon buy links for all the books of the series:
The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2)

Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3)

The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)

Links for our other books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the post.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Donald’s mother who created this easy recipe that soon became a family favorite.

CALICO FUDGE

    ⅔ cup milk
    1½ cups granulated sugar
    ¾ cup brown sugar
    Pinch of salt
    2 tbsp. butter
    4 tbsp. peanut butter
    12 marshmallows, cut into pieces

Cook milk, sugars, and salt to soft ball stage. Remove from heat.

Add butter and peanut butter. Beat until creamy.

Lay marshmallows one inch apart in a greased pan. Pour fudge over the marshmallows.

Cut into squares when cold.

Here is a little about our paranormal series, The Turning Stone Chronicles.
We hope you enjoy it.

Three ancient Celtic families. A magical Bloodstone that enables the wearers to shape shift. A charge to use the stone’s power to benefit mankind, and a battle, that is going on even today, to control the world. Can the Secret Society of shape shifters called the Turning Stone Society heal itself and bring peace to our world? Find out in the series The Turning Stone Chronicles series.
Links for our other books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the post.

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Friday Features

What people want to know about C.D. Hersh and our Turning Stone Chronicles series.

Over the years while promoting our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, and appeared on different blogs or radio interviews we’ve encountered many questions. Today, we are sharing a few of those questions and answers.

Who’s had the greatest influence on your writing careers?

At Donald’s uncle’s 90th birthday party, when we were talking with him about writing when Donald retired, he said we should just go for it now. We took his advice and the rest is history. He died a year later and really didn’t get to see that we got published.

Where’s the most romantic vacation spot you’ve been together?

Wawasee Lake in Indiana, where you can see a full sky of stars on an evening stroll arm-in-arm along the lake, listening to the sounds of the evening.

Are you a morning writer, afternoon writer, evening writer, or midnight oil writer?

As a team we tend to be afternoon and evening writers, although Catherine has been known to be a midnight oil writer when she is working with the first draft.

When did you first realize you were a good writing team?

Our first experience as a writing team came when we were writing drama scripts for our church. We had so much fun doing it and people seemed to really like what we wrote, that on a business trip Donald took, we wrote a three act play called Adam and Eve on a Raft. After that we were hooked on writing things longer than two minute skits. Then on another business trip we were discussing writing a book, to pass the time and keep awake, and the paranormal series was born.

In your Turning Stone Chronicles, you have a unique take on shape-shifters. Can you talk a little bit about that?

As we developed the book concept we decided that we wanted something different than the normal were-shape shifters. In reality, we can thank Donald’s psychology courses for the idea of the various forms of shifting. One of the psyche theories is that we all have three parts to our psyche, commonly called id, ego and super-ego. We added a twist to that theory using male, female, and animal egos, and a magic ring that could tap the various forms.

What is your favorite sentence or quote in The Promised One?

We have several but probably the best is: “Grief is a midnight indulgence when no one else can hear.”

Who do you envision as your lead characters?

Alexi Jordan and Rhys Temple are the heroine and hero of The Promised One. Their story line runs through all the books, although the lead characters will change in each book.

In The Promised One, the partnership between Rhys and Alexi is extremely powerful and hits you immediately from the beginning of the book. Do you think this is a reflection of the strength within your own relationship together?

We’re laughing out loud here as we read this question. It’s not something we intended, but since our daughter said she could see us in the characters, we guess it does reflect our relationship, minus the shifting, of course. We suppose a bit of self comes out in all writers’ writing, at some point.

Since we’ve commented about Rhys and Alexi’s relationship, we thought we’d give you a brief look at those characters.

Tucking his gift under her arm, she started to leave.

“Hey.” He pointed at the other gifts. “Aren’t you going to add yours?”

“Nope. I’ll give it to you later, when we’re alone.”

“Ooh. Something special. Mineral or animal?” His right eyebrow raised, his smile growing.

Alexi laughed. “Just embarrassing.”

“For you or for me?”

“I’m not telling.”

Sidling close to her, he backed her against the wall. “Come on. Just a hint,” he said, a purr in his tone as he placed his hand on the wall next to her shoulder and moved into her personal space with the ease of a lover. One of his famous melt-the-girl looks smoldered in his gaze. The golden flecks in his green eyes lit up like fireworks. Hot fireworks.

Enjoying his closeness and the raw sensuality emanating from him, she lingered for a minute, then slowly moved away. Standing this close she could get burned, and she wasn’t ready to play with fire . . . not yet. She shook her head. “Not a chance.”

He crossed his arms, obviously irked that she hadn’t succumbed. “My irresistible charms work on everyone else. Why not you?”

Oh, if you only knew. She had to fight to resist him. She flashed him a smile. “Because I’m special. And I’m your partner. Keeping your back safe is more important than getting you on your back.”

He laughed, a deep, throaty, and utterly sexy sound.

She locked her knees to keep from melting into a puddle.

“I like the sound of that.”

Of course you would. She felt her face flame.

Links for our books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the post.

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