Friday, July 29, 2011

Gardness Goodness

Oh my goodness...the crops are coming in here on the farm. There are blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes... You get the idea. A lot of picking and canning going on now!

We plant extra zucchini plants just so we can get the blossoms. They are abundant now. I've got great recipe to share, just in case they're available in your neighborhood (or backyard!) too.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. And have a peaceful Friday!

A favorite in our house!

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

zucchini blossoms
2 cups whole milk
4 Tablespoons
An egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Trim the stems of the zucchini blossoms, remove flower parts from inside the blossom and wash gently them gently. Pat them dry, using a delicate touch. Combine the milk, flour and egg.

Heat the oil in a deep pan.

Lightly salt the zucchini blossoms then dredge them in batter. Immediately drop them into the oil and fry them until golden. Drain on paper towels, then serve them hot.

Make more than you think you'll need. Believe me. Make more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing Beth Elliot

Today I am so happy to introduce you all to Beth Elliott. Beth writes for Robert Hale Limited, London, who has also published some of my novels. Beth writes wonderful Regency novels and these are quite unusual – as you will find out.

Hi Beth, welcome to Larks Journals blogspot, would you like to tell us a little about yourself

Hello Margaret and thank you for inviting me. I like reading Larks Journals blogspot and am delighted to be your guest today. I was always fascinated by languages [my mother's mother spoke Welsh as her first language ] and I became a teacher of French and Italian. Working in France, I met my Turkish husband [who also spoke French and Italian]. We lived in Turkey for some years, so that was another language I had to learn.
We both liked writing stories and completed a historical tale together. That one never got anywhere but I was determined to get published, and suddenly thought up a Regency set adventure story, The Wild Card.

Beth, I am so amazed, and very impressed. As someone who struggles with learning a new language I am in awe of someone who speaks three!
You have written Regency novels with a Turkish setting, how did you research these novels?

We lived in the east of Turkey for five years. Life was more traditional there and my husband explained all the customs I found strange. For example, when you are introduced to an older person, you must kiss their hand and then place it against your forehead. And when a female relative got married, you bought her a gold bracelet. I loved the jeweller's shop windows with their glittering displays. In fact I enjoyed living there and still go for long holidays each year. Turkey has leapt into the modern world, so many old customs are disappearing fast. But I'm glad to say they maintain their delicious cuisine.

That s fascinating. I have never been to Turkey but I have seen the pictures you post, it looks so beautiful.
Why do you choose to write about the Regency, what is so fascinating about this period of history?

I loved Jane Austen from the first time I opened Pride and Prejudice. I used to imagine being one of the Bennett sisters. Then I discovered Georgette Heyer and the Regency world seemed so glamorous and full of possibilities for adventures. It's wonderful to write my own tales set in that era. And after setting stories in London, Bath and Brighton, I set one in Constantinople [Istanbul] and London. I got the idea after reading that Lord Byron visited Constantinople in 1810.

When did you first start writing, Beth?

As soon as I learnt to write! And it was nearly always about the distant past. I suppose my first stories were more or less copies of books I'd enjoyed. But I always won the prizes for essay writing at school, so there must have been a few original ideas in there.

How did you find your publisher?

Thanks to the Romantic Novelists Association. To join, you must send in a novel within a year. I completed The Wild Card and sent it to them for a critique. It came back with a note to send it to Robert Hale. Mr Hale took it at once and I'm very happy to say he has just published my fourth Regency tale, The Rake's Challenge.

Would you like to write about a “real” historical person and if so who?

I like to put real people in my stories - the Prince Regent appears in The Rake's Challenge and Sir Stratford Canning and Lady Hester Stanhope have big roles in the novel I'm currently writing. It adds some weight to the story to bring in real people but at the same time it's a challenge to keep them authentic. It would mean a change of era but I would like to portray King Charles II in a tale. He had such a difficult life and he showed so much tolerance. I admire him for that.

I rather like Charles the Second too, he is a fascinating, many faceted character.
When you are not writing what do you like to do

I read a lot and I love travelling. I also do metallic embroidery - stitching threads and beads to create pictures, and sometimes I sketch.

You obviously are very artistic. If you could be paid to go to any part of the world to write a novel, where would this be

I would love to travel the Silk Road and I'm sure I could think up a historical adventure to write using that setting.

I’m sure you could write a really good novel about the Silk Road,.What is your latest novel and what are you working on now?

The Rake's Challenge, set in Brighton, is just out. This is about a rake who is forced to become guardian to a young lady running away from home. I plan a sequel to it, as there are four friends, all devoted to Lord Byron's poetry. They need their tales as well. But currently I'm working on another story set in Constantinople in 1811. It has to be that year because that's when Lady Hester Stanhope stayed there - and quarrelled bitterly with Sir Stratford Canning. My hero is a diplomat, related to the Sultan. My heroine has ruined herself in English society and the hero assumes she is his for the taking. But from a very stormy beginning, they gradually learn to understand and respect each other. There are plenty of exotic episodes in this novel.

Thank you so much for being with us, Beth. It has been such an interesting visit and I do wish you well with all your books. I am sure you have many ideas bubbling away.

You can buy Beth’s books at :

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Never satisfied

I am looking out on a grey gloomy day. We have had rain since Saturday. It's been chilly too. This is July! Yet on Wednesday I was out with one of my walking groups and the weather was perfect. Sunny, pleasantly warm, indeed a perfect day.

Just under a month ago I was in Florida where the temperature was 93/95. It was far too hot. You couldn't venture out (or rather I couldn't) after about 11.00 a.m. The sun was too intense. I don't know how people work outside in that heat but they do. Yet it was perfect at the beach, I could lie beneath an umberella and when the mood took me, dive into the warm, loving waters of the Gulf. Now sitting in a fleece I am making do. I guess that's what we do, make the best of it.

All this then has had me wondering if I am a whinger, too chilly here, too hot in the Florida. But then perhaps I am a perfectionist, wanting everything to be the best. No, looking at the dust on my filing cabinet, I guess I am not that either.

However, I can escape - I can dive into my new book - it's set on an island in Greece in the Spring. Perfect. I think I will go there, smell the flowers, and wander in a perfect garden beneath a benign sun.

Catch you later.

Friday, July 15, 2011

From the Farm

Life here at Villa Leone is quiet. All about writing, reading, gardening, taking long walks, mowing, picking flowers, adjusting and staying connected with friends and family.

But there's something new going on, too. I'm cooking. Baking, too. Really. I'm starting to eat more than frozen dinners, which is a real big step forward.

When I was in Florida, my aunt (also a widow) gave me a few hints on cooking for one. She's a smart woman and I've taken her comments to heart. I think I needed someone to take me in their kitchen, fill me in on what works for her and what doesn't. She's been at this new lifestyle much longer than I have and, truly, she was a huge help.

Thanks, Aunt Maria!

I baked cookies last night. Not the ones above, because I dumped all of the cookies into the cookie jar (minus two--okay, four--"test" cookies) before taking a picture. So, they look like the cookies in the photo but they're not those. Confusing, I know, but very tasty!

Have I mentioned that there's a 20% off sale on everything in my Etsy shop? I'm starting to think about holiday stock so I'm trying to find new homes for what's there now. I hope you'll take a peek. Also, if you've got any holiday requests, please let me know. I've already got one order for Christmas ornaments, something that seems strange to contemplate while the weather is scorching. The order is welcome, for many reasons, but mostly because it helps keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. All good.

So, what's new with you? What's going on in your corner of the world?

I hope you have a peaceful weekend!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Welcome to Kathy Reinhart

Welcome Kathy, I am so happy you agreed to be here today, tell me when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t think I realized I ‘wanted’ to be a writer as much as one day I realized I ‘could’ be a writer. It was after reading a book by a very successful author whose style I don’t particularly care for. While reading it I remember thinking of the different ways I would have done it if I had been the one to write it. That doesn’t happen often, I usually enjoy a book as is, but that was how that particular book affected me. Shortly afterward I began submitting articles to Ezines and then wrote my first book, ‘Pretty Lies’, which I never submitted to anyone.

Your latest book sounds exciting where did you get the ideas?

Well, ‘Lily White Lies’ is about a woman of a certain age. She reaches a place in her life and suddenly finds herself looking back. She realizes that she’s been complacent in her life, afraid to ask questions when things around her didn’t seem right, ignoring the subtle signs of relationship in trouble and realizing that the only way to catch her dreams was to chase them. When I wrote it, I was in Meg’s shoes. I think I drew a lot from my own life experiences. Like Meg, I had to figure out if who I was, was who I wanted to be.

I think many women will identify with this theme. Your book Missouri in a Suitcase has a very different feel to it, you write about the relationship between a brother and a sister, how difficult was that?

Writing about the relationship between a brother and sister was different from what I have written in the past, but not necessarily difficult. What was challenging was the fact that ten-year-old Tommy doesn’t speak for three quarters of the book. Lizabeth, his sister, suddenly finds herself his legal guardian after tragedy strikes and reading the book takes you through her frustrations, the emotional ride that Tommy’s challenges take her on and ultimately, the bond between them that eventually brings him out of his hiding place. The interaction between them is quite emotional at times.

Do you do a lot of research?

I do now. I am going to admit a huge faux pas on my part and tell you that when I first began writing, it was mostly for online enthusiast publications, and mostly about horses and the like. That was how I got my feet wet and when I turned my hand over to novel writing, I paid little attention to the mechanics believing that all I had to do was put the story in my head on paper, spell it all correctly and make sure I used punctuation. That might be a little exaggerated, but at that time, I believed fiction covered ALL aspects of writing, not just the people, places and events. When I wrote ‘Missouri in a Suitcase’ I did not research the ‘police scenes’, the legal aspects of the story, relying more on what I had heard in the past or seen on t.v. Although people to this day tell me how much they love it, I think I could have made it better had I researched that area more. I don’t think it would have changed the overall feel of the story but it would have given a little more authenticity to that part, however small it was.

I think sometimes we can “over” research. I know I used to do that. If the story flows that is what is important, unless there is a silly mistake. If your readers believe it realistic then it is. What kind of things do you like to do when you are not wearing your writer’s hat?

Nick and I are big on day (long weekend) trips. We also have horses but due to the demands on our time recently, we don’t ride nearly as often as we once did. I love to cook, antique and relax by any body of water. There are a few big changes coming for us in the very near future so we’ll see where they take us.

Ah, you are going to keep us waiting to find out what those big changes are! You also advise writers – what was the best advice you had?

The advice I usually offer is to never stop learning. I don’t think it matters how successful you become, there is still room to learn. Trends change, reader’s expectations change and we all know how much the industry itself has changed and will continue to do so. I believe you have to stay ahead of it, know what is expected and what you can do to stay competitive in a very subjective market.

Kathy, you conduct a weekly interview blog called Ink Drop Interviews. What made you decide to do that and how has it been received?

I began Ink Drop Interviews about eight weeks ago. I guess my decision to do it was brought about by the ever-changing industry. There was a time when you wrote your book and once you signed your contract, the publisher did ‘most’ of the legwork -the marketing and promoting. Not to say that authors didn’t have obligation in it, but not the way they do now. To be a writer now is similar to a plate and stick-balancing act, spending time almost equally between writing and promoting, building a platform, networking and such. I know my blog only reaches a small audience, but it is my humble attempt to pay back what has been given to me. I discriminate against no one, I believe everyone has the right to be heard and that it is ultimately the reader who will decide whether they want to hear more from a particular author.

That sounds like a very useful blog. Thank you so much for being here; it’s been such a treat talking with you.

Lily White Lies on Amazon:

Lily White Lies for eReader on Smashwords:

Friday, July 1, 2011


I've never been a big television person. Really, I'm just not into it. Give me a good book or sweet movie any day of the week. But television shows? Nope.


Lately I've found an exception to my no-tv rule.

It's one of those things that call to me, drawing me close and reeling me in hook, line and sinker.

What is it, this television show that's got me so captivated? Cake Boss. Really, I'm charmed by a show where a guy bakes cakes. Go figure!

Have you seen it?

What show, if any, makes your must-watch list? I'm open for new ideas.

Hope you have a peaceful Friday. Thanks for stopping by!