Rent or buy?

Authors’ Billboard Blog Traci Hall October 6th

Carving out time this morning on the balcony with coffee, enjoying the cooler temperatures that Floridians wait all year for. We’ve had so many people move to Florida that rent prices are astronomical. Pulled from the web: Net migration to Florida appears to have peaked at more than 404,000 people in 2020, and it’s expected to be only about two-thirds of that by 2032 — or more than 262,000 people—per year.

Buying a home is also hard, and now because of Hurricane Ian and the 47 billion in projected losses (I’ve also read 75 billion!) we will lose more companies willing to insure the property. After my divorce (ten years ago this December!) I rented, and I love the freedom of that. If something breaks, you call the owner, and they fix it.  I turned 55 this year and my new husband and I go round and round over buying or renting. In this market? I think renting is the safer bet.

That said, the rent prices are climbing so high that we are considering staying in a place where the elevators breaking is a common occurrence and the dog upstairs barks nonstop. To move is a pain, and expensive, and I think of the expression: better the devil you know than the one you don’t. Florida had one of the most dramatic rent increases in the nation, with no wage increase to back it up. My dream has always been to live on the beach, where I write my stories. Family have warned that Florida is sinking, so when I finally buy, to be inland.

If we buy lol. I am seeing a lot of plusses in the rent column. And maybe being exactly on the beach might not be so wise. Florida homes built to withstand hurricanes seemed to do all right in this latest storm!

As a reader as well as a writer, I was pleased to get an email from the Southern Bookseller Review—they posted updates on bookstores around the area hardest hit by Hurricane Ian. The best thing we can do for these guys is to buy books from them and keep business going.  https://thesouthernbooksellerreview.org/southern-bookseller-directory/

Reading is an escape, and what we do matters! I am writing the third book in my Misty Beach series, Mistletoe on Misty Beach. Book one can be found in Irresistible Christmas: Pets to the Rescue

I hope wherever you are, you are safe and happy <3

Traci

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How I Escaped to the Middle Ages

It was during the pandemic. Like everyone else, I was locked in my house except for brief trips to the grocery store. (At least I had a loving husband and two demanding cats for company. This picture shows only one cat because they do not tolerate each other.)

I was looking for a writing project that would take me away from my endless confinement and decided to start fiddling with a far-out fun project. Why not make a getaway to the Middle Ages but use a medieval milieu that was tweaked for my own pleasure. While lying on the chaise with my other cat, I started adding details. (Yes, both cats are gray. Not what I would have chosen, but they are the stray and feral ones I brought in.)

I love writing paranormal, so why not insert magic into my medieval world? And while I was at it, why not turn the religious structure on its head and invent a pantheon of gods and goddesses. But I would keep a lot of the conventions of the times. I’d have kings and castles, troops of soldiers on horseback, roadside inns and town marketplaces. And just to add some inconvenient medieval complications, girls would be the property of their fathers, women were subject to the rule of their husbands, and your life was a crapshoot—depending on whether you were the subject of a humane or a hard-assed king.

With some of the background blocked in, I turned to the story. I started off with a princess named Sabina who runs away from her father, the king, because he’s going to marry her off to forge an alliance with an absolute bastard of a prince.

She’s captured pretty quickly by some rough and tumble freelancers and thrown into a prison tower to await the punishment of her father. Unfortunately, or ultimately fortunately, there’s already a prisoner in the tower. Everybody thinks he’s a ghost, but we find out later that he’s really Prince Killian who was enchanted by an evil magician. Everybody’s scared spitless of him. But Sabina decides that if they are locked in together, she will try to make friends with him.

This is when I started having fun with the story. Killian’s mind is a blob of Swiss cheese, but Sabina’s attentions start awakening his memories. Physical contact with her is the key to bringing him back to life—the hotter and heavier, the better.

How do you have an intimate relationship with a guy you can’t see? Lots of interesting ways. She decides: What’s the harm in letting this ghost do stuff to me. As long as he doesn’t fuck me, nobody will ever know about it. The more intimately he touches her, and the more intimately she touches him, the more visible he becomes and the more they grow to care about each other. After each heated encounter, he remembers details from his life—and finally what happened to him.

In the first part of the story, she’s the driver. But when they learn her father is coming to scoop her up, his macho guy instincts kick in.  Killian engineers their escape and takes her on a dangerous trip back to his kingdom while dad’s soldiers pursue them. Along the way, she gives up the idea of staying a virgin. That leads to an embarrassing wedding-night scene. The consummation of the prince’s marriage has to be witnessed by a bunch of courtiers—albeit through gauzy curtains. What are Sabina and Killian going to do to convince the spectators that she’s a virgin?

I had no idea if Changeling would want this story. But my editor liked it a lot. It became Killian Unbound and led to a five-book contract, so I’ve steadily been adding more episodes in my medieval world. I hope you’ll come join me. The latest is number four, Morgan Unbound, published this month.

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Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread #Recipe by @Donna_Fasano

This chocolate zucchini bread is dense, moist, and has a decadently rich chocolate flavor. Starting out with this recipe, I then did a little fiddling. I scrapped the honey and increased the brown sugar. I used butter where they called for oil. And I doubled the amount of vanilla and espresso powder. If you don’t have espresso powder or instant coffee, leave it out, but the coffee really enhances the chocolate flavor. The loaf doesn’t taste a bit like coffee, I promise.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (also called black cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder or instant coffee granules
  • 2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchinis; do not wring out the liquid)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks (or semi-sweet baking bits)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees and grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Mix together the melted butter and the brown sugar until smooth and glossy, and then add the eggs and vanilla. Stir until fully incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and espresso powder. Then add to the butter mixture and stir well. Batter will be very thick.
  • Using a sturdy spoon, mix the zucchini and chocolate chunks.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and then spread batter into all corners of the pan; smooth the top evenly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature.

I’d like to take a moment to say WELCOME, FALL! It’s my favorite time of the year. I hope you’ll consider my book MOUNTAIN LAUREL. It is available for:   Kindle  ~  Paperback  ~  Audiobook  (I’m an Amazon Affiliate and I will earn a few pennies if you use these links to make a purchase.)

Mountain Laurel

 

 

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Cruising the Danube with Mona: The Iron Gate and Serbia

As mentioned in my September 1st post, we spent the first days of our river cruise visiting Romania and Bulgaria, and Day 5 all on deck, cruising the Danube, admiring the scenery, and snapping pictures.

The most spectacular scenery was the dramatic gorge of the IRON GATE, a narrow and formerly very dangerous passage on the Danube. The Iron Gate divides the Carpathian and Balkan mountains, forming part of the boundary between Serbia and Romania. It is about 2 miles (3 km) long and 530 feet (162 meters) wide, with towering rock cliffs that make it one of the most dramatic natural wonders of Europe. 

Our cruise ship approaching the Iron Gate dam,
and going through the Iron Gate dam.

In the 1960’s, a massive lock and dam were built to help control the speed of the river and make navigation safer. The joint development project of Romania and Yugoslavia on the Danube River (including a dam and hydroelectric power plant) was completed in 1972, providing equal amounts of energy to each country and quadrupling the annual tonnage of shipping. The name Iron Gate is commonly applied to the whole 90-mile- (145-kilometre-) long gorge system.

Our cruise ship going through the locks.
The crew member changing the flag as we entered Serbian territory.
Our cruise ship cruising in the open again.

On our way to Serbia we passed the rock sculpture of Decebalus, a colossal carving of the face of Decebalus (r. AD 87–106), the last king of Dacia, who fought against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan to preserve the independence of his country, which corresponds to present-day Romania.

It was commissioned by Romanian businessman Iosif Drăgan and it took 10 years for twelve sculptors to complete it. The lead artist sculptor’s name was Florin Cotarcea. According to Drăgan’s website, the businessman purchased the rock in 1992, after which the Italian sculptor Mario Galeotti assessed the location and made an initial model. The first six years involved dynamiting the rock into the basic shape, and the remaining four years were devoted to completing the details.

Under the face of Decebalus there is a Latin inscription which reads “DECEBALUS REX—DRAGAN FECIT” (“King Decebalus—Made by Drăgan”).

The carving was placed opposite an ancient memorial plaque, carved in the rock on the Serbian side of the river facing Romania. The plaque, known as the Tabula Traiana, records the completion of Trajan’s military road along the Danube and thus commemorates the final defeat of Decebalus by Trajan in 105, and the absorption of the Dacian kingdom into the Roman Empire. 

The Tabula Traiana marker laid by the Roman emperor Trajan over 2000 years ago can be seen on the left bank of the Danube.
You will also pass a beautiful Orthodox Church built on what appears to be a pier.

On Day 6 we arrived in Belgrade, capital of Serbia, and previously capital of Yugoslavia, situated at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.

Overlooking the city of Novi Sad with a spectacular view of the Danube and surroundings is
Marshal Vauban’s unconquerable Petrovaradin Fortress. Dramatic events in the recent past
have shaped both the present and the future of this region, resplendent with natural beauty and
a proud history. Located high on the right bank of the Danube River in the city of Novi Sad, the Petrovaradin Fortress (Petrovaradinska Tvrdjava) has played a significant role in Serbia’s history. Over the centuries, the site of the fortress has been used by the Romans, Byzantines, Celts, Turks, Hungarians and Austrians. Starting in the 17th century, the Austrians spent nearly a century building new fortifications, including new walls, water moats and channels with movable bridges and control gates. A 16-kilometer long system of underground tunnels was completed in 1776.

 Pobednik (in Serbian Cyrillic ‘The Victor’) is a monument in the Upper Town of the Belgrade Fortress, built to commemorate Serbia’s victory over the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires during the Balkan Wars and the First World War. Cast in 1913, erected in 1928, and standing at 14 metres (46 ft) high, it is one of the most famous works of Ivan Meštrović. The park is also one of the most visited tourist attractions in Belgrade and the city’s most recognizable landmark, a good place to watch the sunset over the city.

The Temple of Saint Sava  is the largest Orthodox church in Serbia, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches and it ranks among the largest churches in the world. It is the most recognizable building in Belgrade and a landmark, as its dominating dome resembles that of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul that has been converted to a mosque, after which it had been modelled. Every day, its grandiose bell towers with almost 50 bells announce noon. The interior is famous for its exquisite mosaic work. It was under remodeling when we visited.

The city center has a lively pedestrian area and charming outdoor cafes. There were colorful cows statues everywhere.

Tennis champion Novak Đoković is the big hero of Belgrade–and a generous one. We heard of Restaurant Novak 1, Tennis Center Novak, Nova Vita hospital…

We were treated to a special performance of local folkloric dances before the river ship sailed away from Belgrade.

When going on any cruise you shouldn’t forget your books. Here are two newly released novels for your entertainment.

Available on Amazon
He adopted two minority children but lost his wife. Finally things settle for him, until the lovely surgeon he hires turns his life upside down.

Released September 22

Available on Amazon
A biracial lawyer and jack of all trades, he fights discrimination to win the heart of the pretty blonde travel agent.

Release Day October 5

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