Your Favorite Drink

For years, I would restrict myself to a light whiskey, a girlie drink as they call it, that has the right proportions of lemon juice; warming, floral bourbon; and sweet syrup to deliver a refreshing cocktail that’s neither too cloying nor too biting. Just what I needed to mingle around with a drink in hand.

American vodka

I learned to drink stronger stuff during my business trips to Belarus. Vodka, the typical Russian drink is not for the faint of heart. In the States, I’ve tried vodka diluted with orange juice and ice cubes, and found it too strong for my taste.

In Minsk, I experienced the burning effect of straight, unadulterated Belarusian vodka. When I landed in Minsk, Belarus, to work as the Program Manager of an American-Belarusian project of demilitarization that included refurbishing an analytical laboratory, I discovered that Belarusians can’t function without a bottle of vodka handy.

Belarusian vodka

During our delegation’s first meeting in the historical Hall of Officers, I presented a ten-minute summary of the project. Later an officer brought a bottle of vodka and small glasses, filled the shot glasses and distributed them. The Belarusian general raised his glass in a toast. “Welcome to Belarus. Moy drouk, my friends, I wish you a happy stay in my beautiful country. Na zdorovie. To your health.” Na zdorovie was the second Russian word I learned after Dobroye outroh, good morning.

The men emptied their glasses in one shot. I swallowed a first sip. A colonel laughed. “Let me show you how to drink vodka. One of us makes a toast. You raise your glass and you swallow it all at once. Bottoms up, as you Americans say.”

French vodka and Swedish vodka

The officer filled a second round and the general stood for another toast. “I propose a toast to the success of our joint project in Minsk.”

The men chorused, “Bottoms up.”

I raised my glass, then emptied half of my drink and brought my hand to my throat. I could swear it was on fire.

Waggling his finger, the officer chuckled. “You cheated. You left half the vodka in your glass. With each toast, you’ll get better.” Toasting with vodka became part of my job description.

Vodka, a liquor usually made from fermented grains and potatoes, has a standard alcohol concentration of 40% ABV in the United States, and 45% in Belarus (or up to 76%). Belarusians drink vodka to celebrate, to keep warm, to treat cough and sore throat. They use it in cooking and pastry. When I got sick during a trip to Minsk, they treated me with six shots of vodka. I fell asleep right away and awakened cured.

In remarks to U.K newspaper The Times, President Lukashenko encouraged citizens to drink vodka (unless working) and visit the sauna at least twice a week to stay healthy. Thanks to their heavy drinking of vodka, only 152 people have contracted COVID-19 infections, with no deaths.

I wrote two books set in Belarus:

Allow me to present my new series, LOVE PLANS with three romance novels released in September and October.

Who’s Your Dream Lover?

Every author has a visual image of her characters in her head. If she finds the right words, her readers will see whom she sees, too.

Okay, that’s a perfect world. If books did it all, no one would ever go to the movies. Many times the visual I have in my head of a hero or villain is attached to someone I know or a celebrity. I have to admit, Blake Shelton was my inspiration for Benji, THE GREAT BIG FAIRY.

A younger Blake Shelton as Benji, The Great Big Fairy (time traveler).

I needed someone tall, blue-eyed, red-haired, and with dimples. Well, Blake Shelton is three out four…or four out of four if a box of Nice ‘N Easy is thrown in. And my Benji loves to sing. Would that make Blake a five out of four?

Pierce Brosnan as Marty Melbourne aka DANCES NAKED.

Pierce Brosnan’s rugged look here would be a great example of a 21st-century gentleman, stuck in the 18th-century backwoods, without access to a razor or a barber.

Do you have a movie star doppelganger to your book hero? Leave comments below. Maybe we share the same one.

The FIRST Cozy Mystery Box Set by The Authors’ Billboard!

Murder is to Die For

Four NEW stories

 

Who Loves Enemies-to-Lovers Romance–and Why?

 In the world of new adult & college romance, the enemies-to-lovers trope reigns supreme.

Fact: 12% of the top 100 New Adult/College Romances are Enemies-to-Lovers💜

Friends-to-Lovers only make up 2% of the top 100!

Something to Think About

💜 But WHY the enemies-to-lovers trope?

I love a good angst filled enemies-to-lovers story. The thing is though, it’s very tricky to strike that balance for the enemy to be hateable and likeable at the same time. Sometimes as a reader, I take sides if the war is too intense.

On the other hand, the worst thing is one of those stories where the hate-reason is pathetically petty and you just want to roll your eyes.

Needless to say, this is one trope that is wicked hard to write! But I do anyway and give it my best shot.

When done right, all the angst oozes off the page and the fiery back-and-forth fuels a hot-hot story.

My favorite thing: That first breach of physical restraint, the first kiss

Why are you a fan of enemies-to-lovers romance?
What’s your favorite Enemies-to-Lovers romance novel?

There are a lot of great examples out there, but if you’re looking for something new…

Notorious Man on Campus – an Enemies-to-Lovers College Football Romance

Just released TODAY and it’s on sale for $0.99 until Thursday or FREE on Kindle Unlimited! Here’s the blurb:

Brick

To say I don’t trust women is impossible. I would never use the word trust and women in the same sentence.

In the universe of un-trustworthy women, there’s Nyla, the she-devil, the girl who broke my brother’s heart, the one who caused him to drop out of college to work at the family business in nowhere Pennsylvania. She holds a specially vile place in the black hole that would be my heart.

And f*ck if she isn’t the girl I’m looking at right now in the kitchen at BMOC House where I live, where I rule. Nyla Rhoades stands at the sink, washing pots and pans more temptingly forbidding than ever.

Some unholy deity could not have dialed up a more heinous torture, a more poisonous punishment than to force me to spend my senior year living under the same roof as that girl.
But Majik hired her and there’s no going against Majik’s decree that she needs Nyla’s help to cook and clean at BMOC House.

Welcome to my senior year. Turning from the best time of my life as star QB on campus on my way to the NFL, to a living purgatory where I’m reminded daily of the one most absolutely f*cked up mistake I’ve ever made.
My dreams of a pro football career could come crashing down. Worse, I could lose whatever shreds of a family I still have.
Unless I deal with her… my personal Eve from the garden of hell with with her tempting apple.

Notorious Man on Campus is a sizzling stand-alone enemies to lovers romance in the world of Big Men on Campus at St. Paul University. If you love stories where the giant immovable oak in the form of a grumpy smokin’ hot football god is felled by an s sunshiny spitfire in a battle of wills and forbidden attraction, then you’ll love this one! (Warning: language and sex for a mature audience)

Available at AMAZON

A Visit to Vietnam

For most Americans the word Vietnam evokes painful memories, a cherished person gone too soon, and a hateful war we’d rather forget.

Our welcome committee in Nha Trang, Vietnam

I probably would have never visited Vietnam if our cruise ship hadn’t put it on its Far-East itinerary that included five days in China, Beijing and Shanghai, a stop in Okinawa (Japan), a visit to Taiwan, two days in Hong Kong, and two days in Vietnam, before we reached Singapore to fly home.

NHA TRANG is one of Vietnam’s most popular seaside destinations. It offers white-sand beaches, azure and turquoise waters, coconuts palms swaying in the breeze, and gaily painted fishing boats in the harbors of small villages. We took a guided tour to visit the Long Son pagoda, the Reclining Buddha, the Cham Tower complex and a couple of factories.

Long Son pagoda, or White Buddhist Pagoda as called by the locals, is a beautiful Buddhist temple built in the 19th century, on top of Trai Thuy hill. A pair of dragon mosaics stands firmly at the entrance, while lush topiary lines the main grounds.
On the way to the top of Trai Thuy hill, we admired the reclining Buddha statue made of marble. People say that The Reclining Buddha represents the potential that all beings have to release themselves from suffering. The serene and smiling expression of the reclining Buddha statue portrays the compassion and calmness that come with the enlightenment. 
Po Nagar Cham temple complex was built between 8th and 11th centuries by the Cham people who once ruled the central plain of Vietnam. They are renowned for their skills in sculpture and architecture, and left behind a legacy of artifacts and temple settlements not only in Vietnam, but also Cambodia and Thailand.

 

The towers of Po Nagar Cham are square red brick structure with protruding support frames and tapering roofs. Their towers are shrines to different deities. The tallest building, the Po Nagar Kalan, is the most impressive. 
Cri Cambhu, goddess of fertility.
Vietnamese women practicing the art of picture embroidery, at a local workshop for embroidery..

 

A lacquer factory where I bought a gorgeous jewelry box

Our second day in Vietnam was spent in the capital, Ho Chi Minh–or Saigon– a bustling metropolis where bicycles, motorbikes and cars fly down at dizzying speed. We took a walking tour around the downtown.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Independence Palace
Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
Pedicab is a special type of transportation for Vietnam. 

Unfortunately I haven’t cruised for two years. Now I spend my time writing. My latest book is released today. I hope you will celebrate with me and enjoy RESCUE PLANS, book 3 of Love Plans Series.

RESCUE PLANS

To forget the drama that shook his life years ago, Captain Rafael Lopez dedicates himself to his career as a helicopter pilot, transporting patients in need of urgent care. His new flight nurse holds his attention with her gorgeous face, sassy mind, and indomitable spirit.

With determination and a lot of guts, Arianna Garcia survives life in the slums, learns to conquer her fears, and fights for herself. Rafael gives her the courage to break from her past. And Arianna is delighted to be Rafael’s flight nurse by day and passionate companion by night. After meeting a few jerks, she doesn’t believe in crazy promises and sex-driven hypocrisy.

Will Rafael discover the skeletons in her closet, gain her trust, and restore her faith in love?

Rescue Plans is book 3 of the Love Plans Series