February, a Time for…

It’s Valentine’s Day: a time for romance… Did you receive or give flowers, chocolate, cookies? Did you go out to celebrate, start or revive a relationship?

It’s Lent: a time to fast and pray, but not to go on a diet! “Give Love and Time to your neighbors, your family, friends or anyone who is lonely and in need of help,” our pastor said.

It’s snow time: a time to stay warm. Avoid careless and unnecessary driving. Get someone to shovel your driveway if you’re not in your best shape. OR it’s snow time: do you ski? What better time to enjoy a fun weekend on the slopes!

If you’re a student, it’s time for hard work and thorough studying. Keep the social gathering, partying, and celebration for vacation time.

It’s also time to get cozy: relax on your couch, sip a hot chocolate or tea, and enjoy a good book.

DOCTOR’S ORDERS

DOCTOR’S ORDERS series (a set of three winning novels): Babies in the Bargain, Right Name Wrong Man, No More Lies ( previously titled Rx for Trust)

We’re All Heroes

Contemporary Romance with emotion, passion, action, and humor.

The joy of grapes and homemade juice

We were blessed with established grape vines on the property we bought nine years ago. The place had been abandoned for two years yet the plants still bore fruit. They were struggling, but that was because the surrounding trees had blocked their sunlight. We did extensive pruning and were rewarded with four varieties of grapes as a result. But enough backstory. Here’s a quickie lesson on how easy it is to raise grape vines and get some dandy (sugar-free) juice for drinking or making jelly.
Selecting Grape Varieties: Luckily, there are plenty of varieties suited for nearly every growing region. Early, mid, and late-season grapes extend the harvest. Consider seedless varieties like Himrod (green/yellow), Canadice (red)*, Lakemont (blue-black)*, Venus (pale green), Reliance (red), and Suffolk*. The * means they’re cold weather hardy. Check with your local agricultural extension service to find out which types grow best in your area. Remember: whichever type(s) you select, be sure to choose disease-resistant cultivars. This helps avoid common grape diseases like powdery mildew. Don’t be in a hurry either. Most vines take 2-3 years to mature and produce fruit.
Planting and Caring for Grape Vines: Grapes thrive best in sunny locations with well-draining soil. Space vines 6-8 feet apart in rows, with the rows 8-10 feet apart. Dig holes and amend the soil with compost to improve drainage. Soak bare root plants in water before planting. Water young vines regularly for the first two years until they establish an extensive root system. Installing a trellis system is also critical. As vines grow, train the stems along the wires. Trim away suckers and excess growth.
Ongoing Care and Maintenance: Prune grape vines before spring growth emerges. Remove up to 90% of the previous season’s growth, leaving just a few healthy canes with 6-10 buds each. Fertilize vines in early spring using compost or organic grape fertilizer. Put down mulch to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Install bird netting as fruit ripens to protect from hungry birds. Scout for pests like Japanese beetles and apply organic neem oil if needed. With proper care, homegrown grapes will flourish!
Harvesting Your Grape Crop: Depending on variety, grapes will be ready for picking from mid-summer into early fall. Snip bunches off vines when grapes are plump and sweet. Wear gloves to protect your hands from sticky juice. Select bunches that are fully ripe but not mushy. Use sharp pruners or scissors when harvesting to avoid damaging vines. Pick grapes in the morning when cool and transfer immediately to flats (don’t pile them high) out of the sun.
Extracting Fresh Grape Juice with a Steam Juicer: Once harvested, it’s time to turn those grapes into delicious homemade juice! A steam juicer allows you to easily extract pure, concentrated juice. You can leave them on the bunch, but I prefer to pluck them, making sure there aren’t any moldy ones hiding.
Fill the bottom pot of the three-part juicer with a few inches of water and bring to a boil on the stove or hot plate (I process mine outside). Place the top colander section loosely packed with grapes over the boiling water. The steam rises and heats the grapes, releasing their juice which drips down into the center section. Stir, then add more grapes as the level lowers in the colander. My unit has a vinyl hose with a clamp on it. I decant right into sterilized canning jars. I add the lid and band, then set them aside on a flat surface to sit for 24 hours, undisturbed. If the lid hasn’t ‘sucked down’ and stayed that way after 24 hours, put that jar in the refrigerator and use right away. A boiling water bath is optional. Check online to find out more.

I made V-3 juice with the steamer, too. My orange tomatoes, Vidalia onions, and Poblano chiles produced a beautiful orange drink (top picture, with the pink and purple grape juices) that has just the right amount of kick.

Did you know that archaeological evidence suggests grape cultivation began 6,000-8,000 years ago in the South Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas? It’s big the world over now. I wonder if some of my time travelers ever went back that far to sample the vintages of Ancient Greece?
I’m pretty sure Big Mac didn’t. He only makes short ‘hops’ and always for doing good deeds. Check out his story while it’s only #99cents. Or read for #free anytime with #KindleUnlimited.

The Rise of Use of AI by Authors

Imagine: Two of Zoe Saldana’s alter egos having fun with karaoke. Limitless prompts!

Advances in AI are providing authors with exciting new tools to bring their stories to life. Recently, text-to-image generators like #MidJourney have popularized the ability to create original images simply by describing them. This emerging technology has intriguing implications for writers looking to vividly visualize their fictional worlds. After a lot of soul searching, I’ve decided to add Artificial Intelligence image creation to my creative toolkit.

Benji, THE GREAT BIG FAIRY, as I visualize him.

For any novelist, a core part of the writing process is imagining how our characters and settings look. Translating those mental pictures into words through descriptions is part of the artistic challenge. Our readers take our words and reinterpret them into their own mental images. Something is often lost in translation. After all, we each imagine things in our own unique way.
I enter word prompts to the AI (MidJourney for me) and it generates a myriad of original images. After picking the one that best matches what I imagined, I fine-tune it with more adjectives. The AI helps me crystallize my vision into impressions that I can describe in new ways, boosting my creativity in how I share my vision with readers.
I love the way the technology bends to my will. I control the size of the image, lighting, and settings. I can also employ whatever media and technique I want to use. These images can be photos, woodwork, line drawings, posters,or works of art based on the Masters, all tailor-made to match my verbal prompts. They can also be fun, whimsical, and made out of metal!

My impression of 2004, the Chinese Year of the Metal Monkey.

It’s also useful for advertising books and sharing inspirations with fans on social media. I created the one above to describe my evening with a brown bat that had come in, uninvited. Isn’t this great for conveying a moment of panic?

Here’s what I got when I asked for a red-haired 18th-century Scot. No names or books were mentioned. Since he also happens to look like Jody Pomeroy in THE FAIRIES SAGA series, he’s a keeper

Fleshing out my fictional characters with AI-created images has allowed me to promote my books in exciting new ways. For readers, AI art shared by authors grants a peek directly into their imaginative process, a glimpse inside their heads to see how they see their characters. Like concept art in movies, it makes the fictional realm feel real.

Here’s Grace from THE SET UP and THE WHOLE SHE-BANG collection

As with all new technologies, there are debates on ethics we must consider, too. However, used judiciously and with respect for human creatives, text-to-image generators like MidJourney feel akin to any new tool in an author’s creative kit. Much like concept artists at Pixar using digital software, these AI can enhance imagination in fresh ways. But human creativity, skill, and labor still remain essential! Someone has to tell the ‘bot what to create!
At the end of the day, it’s the writer who breathes life into her worlds and characters through meaningful stories that connect with readers. In the hands of skilled creatives, AI image generators are an innovation to get excited about. This fusion of emerging tech with the enduring craft of storytelling will be fascinating to watch unfold.

Thanks for tuning in! Dani Haviland

If you’re looking for a box set of Romantic Sizzle, check out Unforgettable Devotion. It contains ALL these titles. It’s also free to read with #KindleUnlimited!

Are You a Book-a-holic? That’s right.

pile of books My hair’s a mess and I’m still in my robe at 4:30 in the afternoon. I have dark circles under my eyes and around my arm pits. I’m surrounded by a guilty mountain of discarded candy wrappers and a pill-inducing Mount Everest pile of …

books.

That’s right– I’m a book-a-holic.

Lest you think my affliction is limited to the luscious inky smell of the print version of the seductive objects, not exactly.

I have two kindles, an iPad, an iPad mini and a Nook reader. I’m seriously considering buying a KOBO reader, but I would need to stop reading long enough to get my credit card, type in all that delivery information to order the thing.

That’s right–

It’s a serious affliction. And I love it.

Books are like my air. I breathe to read—wait—no—that’s not right. I live to read and I read to breathe. No. That’s not right either…

Whatever. You get the picture. It’s in a book.

That’s right–

I’m seriously crazy—about books.

The thing is—no one knows about my affliction. I hide it.

If someone’s comes over, I’ll dress. Comb my hair. Hide my book in my blouse.

If I go out, I read on my phone. Pretend I’m texting. I wear a hat and a long coat with deep book-filled pockets. It gets hot in the summer, but whatever. I keep my secret.

No one knows I chain read.

That’s right–

My basement is filled with old books and I built an addition to the garage out back to store them. I’m running out of GBs on my hard drive and I’ve taken to the cloud where I have a commercial storage package.

If Amazon had a VIP high roller club, I’d be a platinum member.

That’s right–

Amazon knows my name.

What are you reading?

That’s right–

I want to know what book you’re reading. Tell me. There could be a prize bribe not a thing reply to you…

Or, that’s right–a book.

A shiny new one: THE BIG PUCK – a grumpy single dad saved by the nanny hockey rom-com book-a-holic