Sunday, September 29, 2013

Authors Beware!

This article on STGRB is very telling in showing exactly how the bully mentality on Goodreads has worked. This "reviewer" claims to love authors in comments on another website, yet spent the day yesterday randomly "carpet bombing" 100 books on Goodreads with 1-star reviews. How can one claim to respect authors, then go round deliberately leaving low ratings on books they've never read? I'm glad the problem is being addressed, but authors, be wary. Keep your interactions minimal on these sites or you'll be sucked into ridiculous drama.


Authors, don't be surprised if random 1-star ratings appear on your books, especially on Goodreads. If they do, flag it or report it, but do NOT, by any means, interact with the "reviewer".

If you notice malicious activity on any of your book ratings, record the information or take screenshots. And here are a couple of links you can use to file your complaints:


Amazon (also, you can email Jeff Bezos, CEO: & Nader Kabbani, VP of KDP:

The only way we can ensure a positive change in this situation is to be proactive. This IS our business, no matter if it's our main source of income or not, and we need to do all we can to maintain our integrity. This also applies to the fake glowing reviews. Ask everyone who reviews your books to leave an HONEST review. This means they may not like everything about it, and they may not leave you a 5-star review, and that's OK. It's honest, and that's what you need to strive for.

DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT respond negatively to a critical review! Drown your sorrows in chocolate or cry into your pillow or indulge in some retail therapy, but do NOT engage with critics. Especially the harsh ones. Unless you know this person, there's a chance it's a dreaded "troll" who is just waiting for you to complain so they can launch their counterattack and spread venom about you to everyone who will listen.

 Readers (the REAL ones) will respect you all the more if you are open and respectful in all you do. And that's my public service message for today.

Mysti out.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Coming October 2: A Guest Post by Chrystalla Thoma, author of Azure

Join us here on October 2 for a special guest post by author Chrystalla Thoma, as part of her virtual book tour for her latest release, a New Adult novel called Azure!

Here's the rest of the schedule if you'd like to be Chrystalla's groupie:

30th September - Guest Post - Page Turner Book Tours   
30th September - Spotlight - Love Books? Blog Books! -           

1st October - Guest Post - Inkfever -
1st October- Interview - Charles O'Keefe  -

2nd October - Guest Post - Unwritten -

3rd October - Spotlight  - The Writer's Life -  

4th October - Review - Pure Jonel -

7th October - Guest Post - The Council Blog -

8th October - Guest Post - My World -

9th October - Spotlight - Reading Writing And More -
9th October - The Book Junkie -

10th October - Guest Post - IWAssociation -      

11th October - Review - Read 2 Review - 
11th October - Interview - J.A. Beard's Unnecessary Musing -

Friday, September 27, 2013

What Good Is a Review?

Back in July, I did a guest post on Tricia Kristufek's "Musings of a Writing Reader" with some pointers about writing book reviews (scroll down a bit on that post to read it).

 Unfortunately, nowadays, it's hard to tell if a review for a product or book is even legit.

This  Goodreads "Civil Protest" = Untrustworthy Ratings
With so many bullies randomly one-starring things because of some perceived offense or out of protest, AND with all the fake glowing reviews that companies (and authors) often pay for, how can we tell if what we're buying lives up to the hype (or the bashing)?

This deceptive behavior lowers the value of people like me who actually take the time to write genuine, HONEST reviews of books and products. As unfortunate as this is, we have to realize that we CANNOT rely on customer reviews alone to help us make a purchase decision.

Here are some things you can look for when deciding what to buy and what to ignore:

  1. Try It Before You Buy It: When shopping for a book online, use the "look inside" or "preview" options to read a bit of the book before you buy. Or, in the case of Kindle books, often you can download a preview straight to your Kindle device. No matter how good or bad the reviews, you should be able to tell if you enjoy the writing and story from this preview.
  2. Word of Mouth: Ask friends and family who have bought the product or used the service, or seek out sources who are knowledgeable about what you're buying. For instance, if you're shopping for a contractor to renovate your home, try to go straight to those with whom he/she's worked before.
  3. If It Quacks Like a Duck: Sometimes you CAN tell the difference between real and fake reviews. Starred ratings with no review whatsoever you should ignore since there is no information backing the rating. Reviews that are 100% glowing with praise and catch phrases such as "must-read" or "must-have", those you should probably ignore too. The most trustworthy reviews are those that aren't 100% positive or negative. Look for reviews that express both pros and cons of a product. That way, you're getting a well-rounded view. 
Just for an example of a well-written critical review, here's one from one of MY books, Hearts In Exile:


's review
Jun 03, 13

bookshelves: fantasynew-adult-adultread-2013
Read on May 26, 2013

Actual Rating 2.5 

First of all before saying anything else, I’d like to say that this book isn’t a fantasy but more of a romance, of course it’s set in a fantastical world but it doesn’t focus on it so I think I am going to call it a romance instead.

This book didn’t do much for me to be honest. It’s because I don’t usually like books that are focused on a romance instead of, for example, the world that this book is set in. As it is, there isn’t much going on besides the romance. This book starts with the main character being exiled to some island and then after 10 years, her lover comes up. Then the book goes back in time to the first time they met and then it moves forward until it comes to the present.

It was hard for me to enjoy even that because I was waiting for the story to continue in the present but the majority of the book is set in the past. I think there wasn’t enough time spent in the present to satisfy me.
The characters however were pretty good. Loralee is the daughter of a priestess and will eventually have to marry someone chosen by the king and her mother. She is determined and believes in change. I like how she is willing to stand up for what she believes instead of standing at the sidelines waiting for change to happen. Although she can be a bit naïve when it comes to her sister, she cannot see through the lies her sister tells and falls for them even when her sister is hostile to her.

There are two sisters, the youngest one is rather adorable and the second youngest one, well as I’ve said, is fishy and selfish and… a whole bunch of other things.

Igrorio had an okay childhood until his mother died and his father became depressed and then his father died and said some things right before that happened. Igorio of course dismisses what his father said because denial is better isn’t it? Aside from that, Igrorio is loyal to the bone and cares deeply for his friends and Loralee.

I am the kind of person who doesn’t find it believable when teenagers go around claiming they are in love, that is not to say that there aren’t cases where I am absolutely convinced, but in this case I am glad that the romance takes time to be developed even though they’ve had feelings for each other since almost the first time they met.

Her dad is the ‘good’ parent while her mom is horrible. Her mom, it seems, is jealous and upset because she claims her husband doesn’t love her but loves her sister who died. I don’t understand why she takes that out on her older daughter. They are always clashing heads and can never agree on anything. It bugs me when parents treat their children like that.

The ending wasn’t particularly satisfying either. It wasn’t how I wanted things to work out, it ends in the present of course but because there wasn’t exactly a conflict in the present, the ending just didn’t work for me and what happened right in the end? Well it left me slightly confused.

If you enjoy a romance, then give this a shot.

This review has also been posted on my blog
 ·  ∙ flag

You can see from reading that it's a well-rounded description of the reader's experience. It's more than just "I didn't like this book." It's full of specific details about the characters and storyline, which would be hard to do if the reader hadn't actually READ the book. 

Sure, I wish this reader had enjoyed the book more, but I am SOOO appreciative of reviews like this. These are the sort that actually help inform consumers. 

So, our lesson today is buyers beware. Learn to sort truth from fiction by not relying solely on reviews, but get the best bang for your buck by using your good common sense and doing a little research. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Over the past week, I've watched the train wreck which has unfolded concerning Goodreads' review and bookshelf policy changes. In case you haven't been privy to the drama, here's the announcement thread and the over 3000 comments it's generated since last Friday.

Most of the comments express a sincere hatred of the changes. Lots of flowery language too. I can almost hear the BLEEPs as I read them. Cries of "censorship" and "thought police" are everywhere. If you explore some of the other sites covering it, like STGRB and even some major news sites like the Washington Post,
it's hard to know who's really to blame for the whole blow-up. It's like a vicious troll vs. troll battle:

"Authors are the real trolls!"
 "Nuh-uh, it's reviewers who are the trolls!"
I mean, WTH, seriously? Is this what the publishing industry has become? I can only address this from my experience as a mother. Here's the deal: Goodreads started out as a first-time mom with some grand intentions. She developed a nice list of rules and guidelines for all her children to follow. Yet, like many mothers, she didn't follow through with the discipline. You see, kids will be kids and they will constantly test their boundaries. Unless mom is consistent with enforcing the rules and using tactful discipline, the kids will over-step one boundary after another. And if mom keeps caving to the kids unruly behavior, they'll keep overstepping until they become absolute spoiled brats.

That's what's happened to Goodreads. They had a reasonable set of guidelines that should have kept discussions civil and squashed drama before it escalated, but from the start, they didn't enforce the rules. Now, all of a sudden Mama Goodreads has had enough of the brats and is putting her foot down. And the kids are NOT happy at all.

Is it any wonder? The lesson I hope other book-centered websites will take away from this is: if your goal is to foster a welcoming, civil interaction of your users, then you HAVE to be a disciplinarian from the very start. Hire some good moderators. If someone breaks the rules, give them one warning, and if they ignore it, put them in time out. Let them come back after a while, but if they offend once more, then take away their toys (membership).

I hate that this big Goodreads hoopla has resorted to what looks like censorship, but since there are kids out there who refuse to be respectful and use their common sense, it's become a necessary evil. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Refuse to moderate your website, you're gonna get trolls. Plain and simple.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know About Me and Probably Wish You Didn't

...but I'll tell you anyway!

Yes, dear readers, you can find a whole list of juicy tidbits about me like this one:
"Every time you don't put your shopping cart back in the corral, a kitten dies somewhere in the world. Therefore, I hate you."

To read the rest, you'll have to visit my dear friend, author Jenny Twist's Facebook Fan Page. Just click the linky below and be sure to like Jenny's page. Feel free to comment too, you kitten killers! :)



Purchase A Ranger's Tale (Book One) of the Tallenmere fantasy romance series on Kindle or Nook for just $2.99, and get a Kindle or Nook copy of BOTH Serenya's Song (Book 2) & Hearts in Exile (Book 3) FREE! To redeem your free books, just send a copy of purchase receipt and I'll send the other books right to your inbox!

Buy A Ranger's Tale for just $2.99

on Amazon:

or B&N:

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Catch the latest review for A Ranger's Tale here:

Visit and LIKE my fan page here:

Follow me on Twitter: @MystiParker

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Review of Romance at the Royal Menagerie by Ruth J Hartman

Romance at the Royal MenagerieRomance at the Royal Menagerie by Ruth J. Hartman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Francesca Hartwell adores the big cats at London's Royal Menagerie. Her father has been their caretaker her whole life and has raised her by himself since her mother left them both to marry a wealthier man. As a young woman, Francesca's not allowed to be employed at the menagerie, but helps her father anyway. Sometimes, when no one is looking, she even goes inside the cages! Why? Because Francesca has a that will come in quite handy when a handsome stranger walks into her life.

Enter John Fairgate, raised and groomed by his titled uncle to take his place when he dies. The old man hasn't got much time left and is desperate to see John married to a proper lady before he dies. He's even picked out a lovely trick of a woman for his nephew that John can't stand in the least. When John meets Francesca, sparks fly, but she's definitely NOT a "proper" lady in his uncle's eyes.

Ruth J. Hartman tackles some timeless conflicts like love vs. money while adding her own feline-loving spin into the plot. Francesca's "gift" with the big cats does prove quite handy when a villain tries to sabotage everything. And really, that's the only little criticism I had. The villainry had a lot of potential, but didn't provide quite the oomph that it could have.

Overall, however, this sweet regency romance was the purrfect distraction for a weekend by the pool. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves a quick, non-explicit tale with a feline twist!

View all my reviews

Book Blitz: The Twisted Mosaic by

 The Twisted Mosaic
by Amelia James

Genre: Erotica

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Formats Available In: All eBook formats and Print

Release Date: September 23, 2013 (Today!)

 All three Twisted Mosaic books (Her Twisted Pleasures, Their Twisted Love, and His Twisted Choice) in one volume, plus a deleted scene, and three exclusive bonus stories!

Dirty little secrets.
Talia indulges her sexual pleasures, turning her life into a twisted mess. Sleeping with Alex is dangerous and reckless, and she craves that excitement. Loving Will is comforting and safe, and she needs that stability. Why can’t she get everything she wants from one man?

All the wrong reasons.

Alex has everything he wants. He loves the power that comes with his job, and fooling around with his boss provides the illicit kink he needs. He’s in charge and trusts no one.
When Alex’s case forces them back together, Talia discovers she still craves both her former lovers. Can only one love her enough to satisfy her twisted desires and provide the stability she needs?

Love takes an unexpected twist.

Will loves Talia, and he’s willing to give up everything to be with her. Their future hinges on her answer to one simple question. But when he leaves his life behind to pursue her, he’s confronted with choices he didn’t expect.

No more secrets. No more lies. Old love? New love? Or do they have a third option?

About Amelia James:

Amelia James started reading steamy romance novels in junior high, but her mom took them away from her, so she started daydreaming instead. After she got married, she wrote some of her naughtier daydreams down and sent them to Playgirl magazine. Two of them got published. She kept daydreaming and writing stories until her dirty stories turned into trashy books.

She lives in Colorado, but she’ll always be a loyal Wisconsin Cheesehead. When she’s not lusting after her next bad boy hero, she looks for inspiration in sci-fi and action movies, football players, bloodsucking lawyers, muscle cars, and kick-butt chicks.

Visit the other blogs on today's blitz at these links:

  • Author Lynn Reynolds -
  • Decadent Decisions -
  • IWAssociation -
  • Love Books? Blog Books! -
  • Page Turner Book Tours -
  • Read 2 Review -
  • Reading Writing And More -
  • The Book Junkie -
  • The Council Blog -
  • The Writer's Life -

  • Saturday, September 21, 2013

    Thank You, Goodreads!

    Due to the overwhelming onslaught of cyber-bullying across the Goodreads site, the administrators are finally listening and have begun to fully enforce their policies against harassment. Meant originally to be a place where readers and authors could mingle and discuss books, many have taken their rights of "free speech" to the extreme. Both authors AND reviewers have been ganged up on and harassed persistently, not only online, but even by phone and in person because of the hateful culture that has ran amok there for too long.

    Take a look at how Goodreads is working to clean up some of the muck:

    No matter where you stand on this issue, whether you lean toward these actions being censorship or just good sense, all I have to say about the matter is that freedom of speech is NOT free. Thousands of men and women have given their lives to ensure you have the right to express your opinions.

    Please THINK before you speak, whether in person or online. Use good judgement and be respectful in all your discourse. Don't resort to trash talk and profanity to harass others in the guise of "free speech".

    And if you just can't help yourself and decide to be an @$$hole anyway, then expect some backlash. After all, free speech applies to EVERYONE, not just you.


    Peace In Time Book Blitz

    About The Author:

    M.C.V. Egan lives in South Florida. she is fluent in four languages; English, Spanish, French and Swedish. From a young age became determined to solve the 'mystery' of her grandfather's death, she has researched this story for almost two decades. the story has taken her to Denmark, England and unconventional world of psychics.Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

    Genre: Historical Paranormal
    Publisher: AuthorHouse Publishing
    Release Date: June 14, 2011

    On August 15th, 1939 an English passenger plane from British Airways Ltd. Crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykobing/Falster and Vordingborg. There were five casualties reported and one survivor. Just two weeks before Hitler invaded Poland with the world at the brink of war the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police, created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust.

    In the winter of 2009-2010 a young executive, Bill is promoted and transferred to London for a major International firm. He has struggled for the better part of his life with nightmares and phobias, which only seem to worsen in London. As he seeks the help of a therapist he accepts that his issues may well be related to a 'past-life trauma'.

    Through love, curiosity, archives and the information superhighway of the 21st century Bill travels through knowledge and time to uncover the story of the 1939 plane crash.

    The Bridge of Deaths is a love story and a mystery. Fictional characters travel through the world of past life regressions and information acquired from psychics as well as archives and historical sources to solve "One of those mysteries that never get solved" is based on true events and real people, it is the culmination of 18 years of sifting through sources in Denmark, England and the United States, it finds a way to help the reader feel that he /she is also sifting through data and forming their own conclusions.

    The journey takes the reader to well known and little known events leading up to the Second World War, both in Europe and America. The journey also takes the reader to the possibility of finding oneself in this lifetime by exploring past lives.

    Tuesday, September 17, 2013

    What's Your Food Story #3: Making Texas Chili by Rob Jones

    Welcome to the What's Your Food Story contest! For the rest of this month, you'll see stories with a food theme AND a yummy recipe to go along with it.

     If you'd like to submit your own food story/recipe, see all the details here: DEADLINE: September 30

    Making Texas Chili


    Rob Jones

    Before we get started I’d like to dispel a vicious rumor. On more than one occasion when I was discussing chili, someone had the undaunted temerity to point out that Texas chili cannot contain beans, therefore my chili was not REALLY “Texas chili”.

    Now bear in mind, about half the time I’m getting corrected on this topic the speaker turns out to be from Boston or some other part of Arctic North America. I on the other hand was raised here, my family was raised here, and their families were raised here, and about the only thing they had in common besides their Texas heritage was the fact that they put beans in their chili. So I’ll be darned if I’m going let somebody who doesn’t even speak the language tell me what I can put in my chili. Just doesn’t work that way. If Texans hate anything, it’s rules.

    I realize there is a lot of written material that originated in Texas which perpetuates this particular rumor, but it’s important to remember that nine times out of ten the guy that wrote it was from Austin.

    For those unfamiliar with Austin, it is the home of the Texas legislature, the Texas Longhorns football team, and the University of Texas. It’s a great place to watch a football game, a lousy place to watch law being made, and it’s chock full of liars. That’s not entirely attributable to the fact that our legislature is there. You can’t discount the mendacity of guys that enter chili contests, most of which originate in Central Texas.

    Let’s face it, Austin is just about the only communist city in Texas, and it’s just a weird place. When they make me governor I plan to fence it in and make it a zoo. It’d make one helluva tourist attraction. But nobody in Texas is dumb enough to believe anything they hear coming out of Austin. I mean, that’s the reason we elected our legislators to go there in the first place… So we could get those sunsabeetches out of our cities.

    So let’s dispense once and for all with the idea Texas chili doesn’t contain beans. The only true defining characteristic of Texas chili is that it contains meat (ground or otherwise) and could be used in a pinch to strip tar from your driveway.

    One other myth about chili that probably should be addressed is that it is only to be eaten in cold weather. I have no idea where that came from, because in order to experience cold weather in most of Texas you pretty much have to drive to Colorado. Texas has two seasons, football season and summer. Both of them are hot. That’s because Texas was assembled out of parts that were left over when God made Hell. Mostly parts he didn’t use because there were just too darned hot. If we waited for cold weather we’d die of starvation. Just isn’t impractical. Texas was once part of Mexico, and we retained their love of peppers. Chili is a year-round meal.

    Anyway, there are two basic parts to a good chili recipe. The first is the chili seasoning, and the second is the actual set of chili ingredients. You mix the ingredients, and add seasoning in small doses while cooking.

     There are a zillion possible recipes for chile seasoning with overlapping but not identical components, so you can be creative. Here’s my starter set.
    Chile Seasoning:
    ·         1/4 cup red New Mexico chile powder
    ·         2 tablespoons ground cumin (smells like heaven)
    ·         2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
    ·         1 !@#!!! randomass bunch of ground chipotle
    ·         1 tablespoon garlic powder
    ·         1 teaspoon ground allspice
    ·         1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    Word of caution:
    When getting creative, you will occasionally make mistakes. Local tradition requires that when this happens, and it will, it doesn’t really matter … as long as you pretend that whatever happened, you did it on purpose. It may require considerable practice to get your gag reflex under control, but it’s necessary. It’s all about the presentation.

    Other stuff that might have been added but didn’t go into this round... Ground celery seed, ground oregano, onion powder, ground tellicherry peppercorns, any number of different types of ground chiles (Pasillo chiles, ancho chiles, cascabel, arbol, etc), or just about anything else that is ground up and laying within reach up to but almost never including gunpowder. [I’ll never try that again.]

    Once you have your seasoning ready, time to gather your ingredients and go to work. Once again you may vary this, but here are basics you’ll want to put into your chili.

    ·         2 lbs burger (brown & drain)
    ·         1 Onion (diced) ... salt & Saute' (not caramelize) in Canola oil
    ·         1 can Rotelle (with juice)
    ·         2 cans red kidney beans (drained & rinsed)
    ·         1 can diced tomatoes (drained)
    ·         1 can tomato paste
    ·         1 can Hunts Zesty & Spicy Tomato Sauce
    ·         1 TSP Garlic Powder
    ·         1 TBSP Sorghum
    Add meat, onions, chile powder mix to the big pot mix. [A few TSP, add some more slowly as you cook.] Grind tellicherry pepper (course grind) over the whole thing, folding the ingredients.
    TIME: Cook all day... covered... LOW heat. Go stir it and add additional chile mix to it every so often until seasoning tastes right.​

    You don’t start making chili when you get hungry, you start it when you have hours between you and the next time you will be hungry. As such, this may not be an activity that can be mastered by the microwave generation, but for those with the patience, they shall be rewarded with a culinary experience unparalleled since Moses found manna from heaven.

    Give it a shot. You’ll find Texas chili making is more of an art than a science.

    Good luck, and God bless Texas.

     Author Bio:

    Rob Jones is a native Texan who, though armed with a Finance degree, clings to his redneck roots out of sheer spite. He’s considering a run for president because he needs a job and heard it pays ok.
    Prior to becoming managing editor for a web company he spent 3 decades in real estate, becoming an accomplished story-teller and fine amateur liar. He lives with his wife in Haslet TX, where he feeds horses and pays for hay.

    You’ll find him on Twitter, Facebook or his blog at these links:

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    What's Your Food Story #2: Man Tasting Pain by BK Fowler

    Welcome to the What's Your Food Story contest! For the rest of this month, you'll see stories with a food theme AND a yummy recipe to go along with it.

     If you'd like to submit your own food story/recipe, see all the details here: DEADLINE: September 30

    #2: Man Tasting Pain
    B.K. Fowler
    Typically, my husband tells his favorite food story after a guy has described, oh, maybe a spicy curry he ate at a Thai restaurant or how he dumps Tabasco sauce on everything, even French toast.

    If I don't care for the man, I'll shrug and say, "Tabasco's mostly salt and vinegar."

    Tom's one-upmanship story begins with a complaint. After 30 years of marriage and hindsight, I know this pattern of his. He made his first "romantic" overture toward me by complaining that my fried flounder smelled up the entire apartment building. What woman could resist such sweet talk?

    Tom's complaint usually starts like this: "I always tell the waiters I want extra spicy, extra hot. And the waiters will ask me, 'Are you sure?' They can't believe it when I can eat the hottest chilies they have."

    Chili peppers are rated on the Scoville scale. Sauces made of chilies with higher SHU ratings (that's Scoville Heat Units) come with a first aid kit and an attorney carrying an attaché full of waivers.

    A universe for chili aficionados exists just as it does for lovers of wine, chocolate and fine olive oils.

    I have read that, like wine, chocolate and olive oils, spicy flavors stimulate the release of endorphins - our natural, happy chemical. I think with Tom's affinity for chili, there's more than an endorphin rush.

    I have two theories:
    1. The wiring that connects Tom's taste buds to the pain/pleasure zones in his brain is crossed up.
    2. Pain affirms that he's a man: steely, able, quiet.

    The story he's telling occurred in England. We'd discovered that the advice often offered was true: The best English food is Indian. I mean, "mushy peas" says volumes about Brit cuisine.

    Tom goes on. "The Indian waiter went back to the kitchen and returned with the chef to our table. 'Are you sure you want very, very spicy?'" Tom assured the concerned waiter and chef, yes, he wanted very, very spicy.

    The chef and waiter went to the kitchen. Not much later they both returned to our tableside. The chef said, "We tasted your vindaloo and we couldn't eat it. Are you sure you want to eat it?"

    "Yes, yes!" Tom said.

    Our meals arrived. The waiter and chef peered from the kitchen doorway to watch the American diner who'd ordered very, very spicy.

    Tom's quest for a chili too hot to tolerate has been going on for decades. He's been disappointed chili-wise in many countries, at numerous restaurants and over countless meals. He's always polite, though, when the waiters inevitably inquire, "Was that hot enough?" Tom will say, "It was good," which isn't a lie as he's cleaned his plate. No doggie bag needed.

    I watched Tom taste his very spicy vindaloo as I ate my chicken tandoori. The blood drained from his face. Red Rorschach blotches popped up on his forehead. His nostrils streamed. His eyes gushed. He was in heaven.

    "I couldn't finish it," Tom tells us. "I ate off that meal for a week." He's beaming. His eyes take on that distant cast of reminiscence.

    Clearly, he's happy to have met a chili that stopped him in mid-chew. Tom's listeners say, "Oh," at the right moment in his story.

    Before the conversation lurches onto the Ravens or the construction work on Route 83, I say, "Well." I pause making sure I have the floor. "Pain is not a flavor."

    Chuckles ruffle around the room. One of our guests repeats this. 

    Pain is not a flavor.
    3 tsp cayenne pepper or 10-15 of your favorite hot chilies (soaked)
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    5 cloves
    2 inches of stick cinnamon or 1 tsp. ground cinnamon is OK
    10 peppercorns
    ¼ star anise
    2 Tbs fresh ground root ginger
    6 garlic cloves
    1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
    1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
    3 medium onions, minced
    1 and ½ pounds of cubed meat of your choice (lamb, pork, chicken, beef) or veggies
    Grind all spices with vinegar. Heat oil in a pot. Fry onions 15-20 minutes until browned on edges. Add spice paste and fry 5 more minutes.  Add a little water if needed.
    Add meat of choice or veggies and sauté for 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of water, salt to taste and cook over low heat until meat or veggies are done to your liking.

    Beth (B.K.) Fowler isn't going into that stuff about where she was born and how many cats she has (two). However, to read Fowler's helpful articles and insightful stories visit and  She welcomes messages from readers at both websites.
    Fowler will donate 65% of Ken's War royalties to the VFW. The novel Ken's War, centered on a young male who has guts, good intentions and flaws, is for readers who crave stories with high stakes, exotic settings, raw truth and light humor. Ken's War will be published by in the summer of 2014.