Guest Blog Post: Soulmates by Kevin Cooper

Writing can be lonely — unless one has a special friend — like a beloved pet! Do you have a soulmate who’s not human?

Author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader Kevin Cooper blogs from England. Two furry mates cheer him for all his endeavors…

Aragorn and Rico when Kevin Cooper and his wife first got them.

* * Soulmates * by Kevin Cooper * *

Our cats are our little soulmates. They bring us a wellspring of joy and happiness and are a huge source of comfort, well-being, and healing.

When we first got the brothers: Aragorn (grey) and Rico (black) at 6 weeks of age, Pat had just come home from hospital having had a major surgery that involved placing a rod in her ribs to support her shoulder blade which hung loose after the muscles around it had wasted away. Having them on the bed with Pat brought such comfort and joy to her.

Aragorn now.

It was only a few months later when I became really ill and bedridden myself for a few days, and I never forget it. Rico never left my side except for natures calls. Before that, he hadn’t really paid any attention to me at all. He was always far too busy exploring every little corner of the house so you can imagine my great surprise when he decided to spend all that time by my side. I know without a doubt that his presence had much to do with my swift recovery.

Rico is quite reserved and doesn’t take to visitors… He loves his privacy and doesn’t like any kind of change in the house. But secretly, he loves to play and loves to be loved. Recently he has taken to fussing a bit as well. I say secretly because no one else ever sees it.

Aragorn is a fusspot. Make up the bed, and he’s on their kicking up a fuss, and rolling around. He has to be in on EVERYTHING and will nosey up to just about anyone.

Rico now.

Whenever we go out, they greet us at the door, and Aragorn fusses… They want to know what we have in the bags, but more importantly, what we have brought for them. And so of course, we ALWAYS remember to get them something!

They are the most lovely of pets and while they do have their moments. (As do all brothers, I’m sure.) I absolutely love watching while they chase and play with each other. But my favourite times are those when they want me to get down on the floor and join them. Each of them has many a time stolen a stylus while I’ve been reading on my kindle or pen from me while I’ve been writing and ran away with it in their mouths to get me to play with them. And sometimes I get a good telling off if I ignore them for too long.

They are seven years old now, and we have been there for each other over the years and will be for years to come. They are a Godsend, and without a doubt, they are Soulmates.

About the author: Kevin Cooper is an author, songwriter, and avid movie goer and reader. He lives in England with his wife and two adorable cats. When he is not out with his wife at the movies or playing on the floor with his cats, you might just find him quietly sneaking away to write about the latest book he has finished reading. You can find out more about his books and music, and the books he reads on his website.

Banana Blueberry Frozen Delight by Khashayar Parsi

Frozen yogurt made by my honey makes me smile!

(Hi friends, this is da-AL — Khashayar’s post follows the next photo.)

Cool, cold, freezing! Yes! All those sound absolutely refreshing now that summer’s kicked in here in Los Angeles. What does hot weather make you feel like doing?

For me, the heat makes me want to dip my toes in a whispering mossy stream. It makes me want to nap. And it makes me want to sip iced coffee by the shore. Alas, real life beckons.

Enter ice cream! Better yet, frozen yogurt, because more people can tolerate it. Moreover, yogurt’s healthy probiotics withstand freezing. Here’ my sweeter-than-frozen-yogurt husband’s version of sheer indulgence (photos and captions are by me)…

From any angle, this scoop grins for you!

* * * Banana * Blueberry * Frozen * Delight * by * Khashayar * Parsi * * * 

* European style yogurt, plain full fat, 32 oz.

* Honey, 1.5 cups

* Banana, 1 large and ripe

* Blueberries, frozen, half a bag

* Butter, half a bar

1. Use cheesecloth to line a strainer that’s the size of the type used to drain pasta, and pour yogurt into it. Insert strainer over a bowl to collect the water from yogurt. Place in the fridge for 12 hours.

Step 1: Save the resulting fabulous liquid, a.k.a. whey, to later enhance everything from drinks and smoothies to soups and bread making.

2. Cook the berries on low heat to reduce the juice out of the fruit for about thirty minutes.

Step 2: Frozen berries are picked at the height of their season.

3. In a large bowl, use a hand blender to mix the banana, honey, and butter. Add in the thick yogurt and fruit and mix.

Step 3A: Ingredients other than yogurt and berries.
Step 3b: A blend of all but berries and yogurt.
Step 3c: Super dynamite yogurt meets blended tasty fruit and stuff.
Step 3d: Everything stirred together, except the berries. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of the last step of combining berries into everything.

4. Leave in freezer for 24 hours and serve.

Step 4: Use the yogurt container to freeze the total mix in. In my humble opinion, it tastes amazing even at room temperature!!!

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Easy! Yummy! Healthy! Veggie Black-Eyed Pea Appetizer Recipe by Khashayar Parsi

How do you make staying healthy easy? Focusing on what’s good to eat (rather than what isn’t) helps me. So does collecting wholesome recipes that are simple and delicious.

My husband welcomes challenges, nutritious cooking included. Here’s a favorite dish he’s come with that family and guests love…

vegetarian cooking
Hungry for something wonderful?

Veggie Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer

Ingredients

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 zucchini

1 head garlic

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas

1 cup dried maitake mushrooms

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup cheddar cheese

4 cups water

1/2 cup white rice

salt and pepper to taste

olives

crackers

Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer garnished with olives
Olives brighten up Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop onion.
  2. In a medium sized pot, sauté in coconut oil until golden.
  3. Coarsely dice zucchini.
  4. Add zucchini to onions and sauté another five minutes on medium heat.
  5. Mince garlic.
  6. Add garlic to the pot with turmeric and sauté two minutes.
  7. Add black-eyed peas, mushrooms, walnuts, rice, cheese, and water. Bring to boil.
  8. Lower heat to medium and simmer for half an hour.
  9. Once fully cooked, coarsely grind with an immersion blender (which is a little easier to control) or mixer. Tip: if mixture overcooks and becomes too dry to blend, add water 1/4 cup at a time until it can be emulsified without becoming watery.
  10. Let cool.
  11. Spoon into large bowl.
  12. Garnish with Olives.
  13. Serve with crackers.
Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer is tasty on wholewheat crackers.
Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer is tasty on wholewheat crackers.

Serves 8-10 people.

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

Guest Blog Post: My Road to Getting Published by Geoffrey Simpson

The story of how author Geoffrey Simpson, who just released “The Three Hares,” got his first book published — in his own words…

Geoffrey Simpson, author of The Three Hares
Geoffrey Simpson, author of The Three Hares

On a gloomy January morning, the air was heavy and uninspired. I read an article about ancient symbols—a distraction from those about politics, rife with propaganda. One symbol, with three rabbits chasing one another in an infinite circle, struck a chord. A whirlwind flooded my conscience.

Although I’ve never written before, a few story ideas were tucked away for a rainy day. That same morning, I began to plot. That same gloomy day was the beginning of an adventurous journey to becoming an author. 

Three months later, manuscript in hand and an intent to self-publish, an author friend of the family strongly encouraged me to find an editor. I hadn’t planned on investing in this project, but I also never expected to write a novel. 

As an author, I’ve transitioned through two distinct phases. There was pre-Janet, and post-Janet. As you probably assumed, Janet Fix, owner of thewordverve inc., agreed to become my editor, mentor, and inspirer.

With a polished manuscript and newfound confidence, I changed course from self-publishing and sought an agent. A thrilling adventure began, but as the queries went out, the feedback was unanimous. “Unfortunately, I’m not the right agent for this project.” Not a single manuscript request came forth.

Discouraged and circling back toward self-publishing, I spoke to Janet the Inspirer. She, who wasn’t just an editor, was transitioning her business from hybrid to traditional publishing, asked me to join Team Verve.

Twelve months after that gloomy January morning, Janet became my publisher, and there’s no looking back. Today, Janet is editing the sequel to The Three Hares, and I am writing the third installment of this five-book YA adventure/mystery series. It is this partnership/friendship which has made all the difference.

Cover of Geoffrey Simpson's book, The Three Hares

I’ve got two novels I’m writing. What are your experiences with traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

Guest Blog Post: 18 Years of Blogging by Dan

How long have you been writing or reading blogs? I’ve read them for years and blogged myself about two and a half years.

Dan’s blogged for 18 years! Regardless of his ever self-effacing self-description that he should be better at it by now, I’m much impressed! In his words, here’s what he’s learned about blogging, including some of his art…

outline drawing of Dan's feet
EWB* (Experience With Blogging)

I blogged as a way to practice my writing hobby. Attraction of Viewers, Likes, and Comments would only add incentive for sorting out and organizing my thoughts. Wrong! My blog grew to an enormous size. I became insatiable, like a chef on a quest to include more ingredients in the pot. I tripped up on this “big feet” mentality.

Meanwhile, other matters became most pressing. I was a Caregiver. After things settled down, I reached good stopping points (CMfM – skeleton; ITN – structure) and buttoned up (put it in an archival mode) my blog after publishing 2057 posts. (It downloads too slowly, and casual users can’t reasonably peruse its content.)

If your goal is to attract spiders (advanced views to blog posts), here are two tips for increased “access to location”:
Improve the odds that an Internet Seeker with a focused search will find you [do this by adding General or Specific Category labels and Tags.] and
Improve your referrals [get out there and find compatible sites and link to each other].

Just remember this: It is easier to get excited by one well-directed “find” than to sustain the fickle interest levels of the entire internet!