"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hashtag I Love My Job

If you happen to follow me on twitter (or as I like to call it, "the twittah," just because it makes me giggle), you know I like to play with various hashtags, just because.

The only one I use seriously on a regular basis is #ilovemyjob. Why? Because I do. And the following excerpt from one of my latest editing projects is a prime example of why I love my job, why I do what I do, and why, even when I feel a bit overwhelmed by too much work or a challenging project, I get it done and move on to the next.

Kim Thompson contacted me a while back and asked if I could do a rush job on her 'script. I said yes for two reasons:

My roommates had literally eaten every morsel of food in the house, then moved out, thereby leaving me with no groceries and no grocery money. So I needed cash fast.
I had some free editing time and I always panic when that happens. Even if I know I have upcoming jobs that will take care of everything.

Anyhow, she needed the book done for an upcoming tour to promote the first in this series. She'll now have a second to show off and perhaps be able to sell to those who've already purchased the first volume. AND what better day to launch a book that includes witches, ghosts, and werewolves and falls into the paranormal category than on Halloween?

So here, I offer you a taste of one of my most fun, and most beloved, projects this year, Chapter One of Once Upon a Haunted Moon by K. R. Thompson.
Chapter One


Stryker's Pass, Southwest Virginia 

October 7, 1765 

Her name had been Ella. Such a long time ago. But that was before she became nameless. 

Before the Fire Witch came. 

She shivered in spite of the heat from the nearby wagon. Flames licked at the hem of her calico dress. 

The wagon burst into flame as something exploded and shoved a massive heat wave against her tiny body. Scorched bits of canvas flew over her head, floating like pitiful flags of surrender. Her cap flew off her small, blonde head, the wind blowing it end over end -- a circle of seemingly impossible, pristine white that soon was engulfed in a choking mass of smoke. 

She heard the screams. Hundreds of thousands of piercing cries that seemed to echo over and over, back and forth in her head. Pleading cries for mercy, of anger, of pain…a tiny part of her tried to reason against the multitude of voices, the shrieks and groans that seemed to go an eternity. After all, hadn't there only been thirty-five people in their wagon train? Surely, it shouldn't take so long to die… 

A blast of wind sent putrid smoke flooding through her nostrils, and she gasped, breaking free of the trance that held her fast. It was then the smoke parted in a small path, as if in a bow to its master. Her blue eyes widened, and while a small part of her mind registered the deafening roar of flames, the sudden absence of scream, there was a dull feeling of certainty that she was alone, and that she knew what was coming next… 

She had always known. It was that feeling you got sometimes a moment before something happened that should take you by surprise, but didn't, because you knew it was going to happen. Not everyone could do it, her little brother Billy, and her papa couldn't. But she'd always known things. Her mama always knew things, too…like when she was going to get sick, or her papa was going to bring home game from hunting. Papa had always grinned at them, and told her and Mama they were "canny" and "good at guessing." She wondered why they hadn't seen this coming, this gruesome, hot death at the end of a journey that had promised to be so rewarding. A new world, free for the taking for those courageous enough to seek it, who knew that courage would have been their undoing. 

What she hadn't known was that the woman who stepped through the walls of smoke was Death -- and that she was beautiful. Firelight glinted of perfect, white skin, and long red hair -- the color of blood, streamed back from a heart-shaped face. Ella had almost decided that this woman was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Even more beautiful than Mama…until those huge, black eyes of Death stared at her. They were eyes that didn't have any bottoms, like still, dark water. 

And they tried to pull her under. 

"Come to me, child," the Fire Witch said in a musical voice that sounded like raindrops, and a smile that should have coaxed, showed sharp, bloodstained teeth instead. 

Ella felt the pull of the Fire Witch's eyes, drawing her closer. She pushed back, shaking her head emphatically, wisps of blonde hair stinging her eyes. 

"No," she said in a small, shaking voice, and started to back away slowly, her blue eyes locked on the black ones that bore into hers and continued their pull on her. She felt the drag of power, and she gasped, feeling as if she were drowning within herself, into the impossible, endless ocean that made an eight-year-old girl. She heard herself scream, a pitiful, raspy sound, full of smoke… 

"Ellie?" A tiny voice trembled from its hiding place near the trees, bringing her back to the surface just as her curly-headed little brother toddled into view, wielding a branch that was nearly as big as he was, a ferocious scowl on his determined little face. 

"No, Billy! Run!" Ella shrieked at him, and watched in horror, as he stopped and stared at her for a full second, bottom lip quivering, then dropped his branch and darted back into the shadows of the trees. 

"Touching," the Fire Witch sneered, "But you shan't save him, any more than you shall save yourself." 

Ella turned to follow her brother, stopping just long enough to snatch the sycamore branch he had dropped. A cold hand gripped her shoulder, spinning her around so fast her vision blurred and her neck threatened to snap. Somehow, she brought the ragged, sharp edge of the branch up and shoved with every last bit of strength she had, and was rewarded with a sickening crunch that jarred her hands so hard they numbed. 

The sound that came next was like nothing Ella had ever heard before. A shriek, a howl, a gurgling scream of hatred all mingled and washed over the little girl in a wave so strong that she turned loose of the branch that had pierced the Fire Witch's side, and clapped her hands over her ears, shutting her eyes as tight as she could against the nightmare that stood inches from her. 

Then Ella died. 

The feeling of weightlessness felt odd, she thought, as she felt the air whoosh against her stinging face. Yes, it was odd, she decided, but then, she'd never been an angel before. She supposed it would take some getting used to. 

The fact that she hadn't at all died, but only had been backhanded by the furious Fire Witch and sent flying through the air, hit her when she tasted the coppery tang of blood that filled her mouth. That was a split second before she landed in the underbrush at the edge of the forest. 

She lay dazed for a few seconds, her vision doubled. She struggled to her knees, ignoring the pain that shot through her tiny frame. The world spun once she tried to stand, so she dropped back to her knees until her vision cleared, then dared to look back at the Fire Witch, who had quieted. 

A dozen or more crows circled the Fire Witch, flitting amongst the flames like black demons. The sycamore branch still pierced her body like an arrow, and the Fire Witch turned to and fro, as if trying to figure out how such a thing had happened. Each time she touched the branch, she'd scream as if burnt. 

Ella hoped her crows would eat her, and that the branch was stuck in her for forever. Even though the Fire Witch appeared to have forgotten her, Ella crawled on her hands and knees through the thorns and bushes, and into the dark shadows of the forest. 

A few moments later, she heard the sound of a little boy who had come once more to the clearing to save his big sister, "Ellieee!" 

A shrill scream echoed through the trees seconds later, and crows filled the dark sky. She didn't remember how long she had lain in the hollow log, or how she had even gotten there, but she remembered crying for what seemed forever. Knowing there was no one left to go back to, she stood, and after a few wobbling steps, ran deeper into the shadows of the forest, wondering if there was anyone left in the world, or if the Fire Witch had taken them all.
K.R. Thompson was raised in the mountains of southwest Virginia. She resides in Bland County with her husband, son, two cats, and an undeterminable amount of chickens. 

When she is not writing, she is an avid reader and a firm believer in magic. She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek. 

She can be found on her website— 

And on Facebook-- 

The Keeper Saga Books:

Hidden Moon 

The first installment of the Keeper Saga, Hidden Moon is a story of romance, adventure, mystery and magic. 

Released June 2013, available in paperback and kindle format. 

Once Upon a Haunted Moon 

The second installment of the Keeper Saga, Once Upon a Haunted Moon is a story of suspense, magic, and adventure. 

Released October 2013, available in paperback and kindle format. 

Wynter’s War 

Coming Fall 2014
I'll also share a secret with you: If I have one wish to be fulfilled in 2014, it's that Kim chooses me to edit Wynter's War. That, in itself, should tell those of you who know me well how much I love and believe in this series.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

WHAT Kind of Pie?

Say the words, "spaghetti pie" in Greater Boston, especially the North Suburban area, and people will grab their forks and follow you like zombies. But utter those same words here in the Southwest and you're met with blank stares. Your friends might begin planning an intervention, thinking you've lost your mind, and the neighbors will lock their doors and close their curtains if they see you walking up their driveways.

But spaghetti pie is one of my favorite dishes and my BBF (Best Boston Friend) was the one who taught me how to make it. Hers was the best!

These days, as I avoid pasta and keep gluten in my diet to a minimum, I find myself missing this favorite like you can't believe. So last week, when spaghetti squash was on sale, I snagged a couple and decided to experiment.

The verdict? I believe "no leftovers" pretty much sums it up.

Start by slicing your spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and loose pulp and set aside if you want to roast the seeds later. Lay the squash cut side down on a lined baking sheet. Roast it in a 375 degree (f) oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Err on the side of it being underdone rather than fully cooked. Allow it to cool for a bit until you can handle it, then scrape out the guts with a fork. (Resist the temptation to eat the squash right out of the shell -- it's yummy!)

If that's not enough instruction for you, there are video tutorials all over youtube to teach you how to get the spaghetti out of spaghetti squash. You can also do it in the microwave, but I prefer the oven. It develops the flavor better.

Now you can use the "spaghetti" as the base for whatever recipe you choose. For this recipe, let it sit in a strainer for a few minutes to get rid of the excess moisture.

Not Quite Spaghetti Pie

1 lb lean ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t basil
1/4 t sage (crushed or rubbed, not ground*)
1/2 t garlic powder
salt to taste
24 oz tomato sauce

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c grated or shredded parmesan cheese (or romano, or asiago, or a blend of the three)
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1/2 t Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1 (3-4 lb) spaghetti squash, prepared as above

Brown meat and onions in a large frypan until meat is cooked through
Drain and return to pan
Add herbs and salt and allow to heat until you can smell the herbs
Pour in tomato sauce and bring to boil
Reduce heat and simmer for about five to ten minutes

Combine second group of ingredients in a large bowl, holding aside a cup of mozzarella
Fold in "spaghetti" until it's coated somewhat evenly
Lightly grease a 9x12" or 9x13" baking dish with olive oil
Spread spaghetti squash mixture evenly on bottom of pan
Add meat and sauce
Top with remaining cup of mozzarella

Bake in a 375 oven for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly
Allow to stand for about ten minutes before serving

*I have nothing against ground sage, but it's more potent than the rubbed sage I usually use, so cut the amount at least by half.

I would say this serves eight, but everyone will come back for seconds, so if there's any question, double the recipe. Doubling works in a giant lasagna pan, but the heating time at the end will take longer. You'll also want to cover it so your cheese doesn't get too browned on top.

Generally, when I double a recipe like this, I prepare it in two of those disposable Gladware storage/bakeware containers so I can just stick one in the freezer. You can freeze it before you heat it in the oven, then just remove it from the freezer and heat it at 375 until it's hot, but that will take at least an hour and you want to cover it with aluminum foil so your cheese doesn't burn.

What to do with the leftovers? What leftovers?

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It's All Over Now But the Tears . . .

It's really difficult for me to believe, but this serial that Tony and I began working on about fourteen months ago is finally done. Originally, it was to be released in twelve parts over the course of sixteen months, but I think Tony got restless to work on other projects, so he wrote, then had me edit, the last three segments in one go. Your benefit? No more waiting to see how it all ends. No more teasing. No more . . . just, no more. I'll miss working with Captain Jessica King and her crew, but I doubt it's the last any of us has seen of her, or them.

That said, I figured now would be a great time to revisit Chapter One of the first segment. Oh, if you want more, Far From Home 1: Legend is free on Amazon, as always. You'll also find Far From Home: The Complete Series finally gathered in one book which amounts to about 700 pages. If you're looking to grab the paperback rather than the Kindle, Tony was making a couple of corrections to the formatting and it should be available any day now.

If you haven't been following the series, but waiting for it in one whack, grab it now. If you HAVE been following, you are in for an ending that surprised even me. But I'll shut up before I spoil it and just let you start here:

Far From Home 1: Legend
Chapter One

Battered and bruised, the Defiant slowed on its approach to Starbase 6.

Commander Jessica King occupied the captain's chair. She’d hoped that one day she would get to sit in such a chair as Captain of her own vessel. She never once thought that the privilege of doing so would come at such a cost. It filled her with no joy to carry out her role as Acting-Captain in Andrew Singh’s absence, especially so considering he was lying on a mortuary slab two decks under her feet.

"Starbase has made contact, sir," Ensign Boi reported from the comm. station.

King nodded. "Okay Ensign. Patch me through."

She waited a few seconds for the connection to be made. "This is Commander Jessica King, Acting-Captain of the Union Starship Defiant."

"Please state your prefix number," a mechanical-sounding voice said on the other end.

"T.U. zero-one-one-three-eight," she said.

There was a brief delay, and then the voice announced that they were cleared to dock. "Docking bay three. Please do not exceed standard thruster speed."

"Close channel," King said.

She looked ahead at the large circular space station. It was a tall centrifuge at the centre, with spokes extending to a wide outer ring. Along the ring were enough docking bays to accommodate up to twenty vessels. There were several ships already docked, all much larger than the Defiant. That wasn’t to say the Defiant was a small ship.

But she was old.

At one time the Archon Class vessels had been the backbone of the fleet. Now they were relics twenty years past their sell-by date. If the system-wide war between the Union and the Draxx didn’t still rage on, they’d have been decommissioned and retired already.

Still didn’t stop us holding our own in a fight, did it? King thought. She might be old, but she’s got it where it counts.

"Banks, I think I can leave the parking in your capable hands?" King asked as she got up from the captain's chair.

Lieutenant Kyle Banks swiftly worked the controls across the front helm console.

"I’ve got it covered," he said.

"Good. Then I will be below decks," she said.

The bridge crew looked up from their stations, but when she looked around at them they hurried back to their assigned duties.

King walked toward the exit. Insulation and wiring had erupted from the ceiling during the battle and hung like copper intestines in places. She ducked beneath it on her way out, her feet crunching on bits of broken plastic and glass.

On her way to her quarters she passed the scorched carcasses of burned-out conduits, pipes that were still dripping onto the deck plating from leaks that hadn’t yet been attended to.

The ship had taken a beating, it was true. She was proud of the crew, and of the ship itself, for pulling through. They hadn’t run away from the battle like cowards. They faced the danger and hit back with what they had.

Several crew saluted as she strode past them. She quickly saluted back.

It lifted her spirits, despite all that had happened, to see the crew still going about their duty as they were meant to. The men and women she passed looked tired, dirty, some of them injured. But they carried on with grim determination and a sense of duty. King walked with a determined gait, showing the pride she felt for her crew.

When Jess got to her quarters she headed straight for the shower to freshen up quickly before her debriefing. She knew that Admiral Grimshaw would want to hear the full account of what had gone on despite having a copy of her report already on his desk. He would demand to hear it first-hand from someone who was knee deep in it all. The fleet had lost a brilliant Captain, and there were questions that must be answered.

In her quarters, she got out of her dirty uniform. Standing in front of the mirror in her tiny bathroom she looked tired, beaten.

Her temple carried a long cut from when a Draxx missile had hit the side of the Defiant, sending her flying against a bulkhead. Dr. Clayton had yet to treat it properly.

Her eyes were red, ringed with dark, puffy circles. During the journey to Starbase 6 King had done her fair share of grieving for Captain Singh. But she knew there would be more to come at some point. That loss was an open wound. Over time it might heal a bit, but never enough so you didn’t know it was there.

She stepped into the shower and tried to wash the difficulties of the last week away. But they were in there with her. She stood under the stream of the water, bowed her head, her hands up against the tiles. She started to sob. In the shower no-one could see her. No-one could hear her. In the shower she had privacy to give freedom to the grief.

King could still see him lying there on the deck, dying in her arms. She could still hear his final words . . . 

The mangled mess of his legs. The blood pooling from his mid-section. His face grey, washed-out. Tears streamed down her face.

Her voice cracked as she spoke. "Please don’t go, please."

Captain Singh shook his head slowly. Smiled. "Jess . . . We each have our time. My own is at an end . . ."

"No . . ." she managed to say.

Singh reached up, stroked the side of her face. "Now it is your turn to do as much as you can with the time you have . . ."

He smiled again, then his eyes seemed focus on something far away. The light in them faded. Singh’s hand fell away from hers and the sound of his last breath issued slowly from between his lips.

"No . . ."

She felt the thud of the ship as it jutted up against the docking bay. She came back to reality, regained her composure and set about washing herself, then got out of the shower.

She walked to the comm. unit on the wall, pressed the button that opened a direct line to the bridge.

"Bridge," she said. "Equalise the pressure seals and reduce all systems to idle status. I’ll meet all senior crew members at airlock four in fifteen minutes, so be sure to have your stations locked down. Please inform Chief Gunn and Dr. Clayton to be there also."

"Aye aye sir," a voice reported back to her. It was Lieutenant Banks.

Jessica closed the channel. Again she stood in front of the mirror.

Now she looked better. Not great, but better. Less tired and dishevelled. More like a woman. It felt good to be washed, wearing a clean uniform.

"Let’s get this over with," she told her reflection.


Tony Healey is a born and bred Brightonian. He is married and has three daughters. 
For the latest on Tony's various projects, visit his site www.tonyhealey.com

Happy Reading!