Author Archives: Nichole Bennett

Ordinary mysteries

It’s no secret that I enjoy a good mystery.  Heck, that’s what I write.

And it probably won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but I really like those stories where the “ordinary people” find themselves doing something extra-ordinary.  You know, like the woman accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, who managed to survive captivity.  Or the man who fought for the Union during the Civil War while his brothers enlisted in the Confederacy.

To me, those are more interesting stories than Wonder Woman.  And I love Wonder Woman!
Plus, everyone’s got a story.

Do you ever wonder how those stories shape you?  For example, did your tenth-great grandfather help start one of the original 13 colonies?  Or did your third-great grandfather work in a chocolate factory?   Or is your sixth great-grand uncle pictured on the one dollar bill?

All of those things would have shaped the people closest to them.  Which in turn shaped the people they touched.  All the way down to me.  (Although I think the chocolate factory thing shaped my waist more than the others…)

Recently author Stephen King was on PBS’s “Finding Your Roots”  (an episode which focused on long-lost fathers) and learned that his family name isn’t really King.

Another mystery.

Another everyday, ordinary person, mystery.

What’s your mystery?

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her novels, Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, are available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and researching her family tree.

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Mourning the End of Summer

Could someone please tell me where this summer has gone?  For that matter, could someone explain where this year has gone?

Those lumps there are cars.  To be more accurate, one is a Jeep and the other is a full-size pick-up truck.  There was a LOT of snow.

Those lumps there are cars. To be more accurate, one is a Jeep and the other is a full-size pick-up truck. There was a LOT of snow.

It seems like just yesterday Western South Dakota was digging out from Winter Storm Atlas, which dumped more than two feet of snow.  Heavy, wet, way too early in the season snow.  The wind knocked the official sensors out, so there is no official record of how strong the gusts were.  At least 50 and 60 miles per hour.  Those speeds were recorded before the sensor was put out of commission.  People were without power for days—some for weeks.

It started a long, cold winter.

That led into a short, cold spring; which then gave us a cold, wet summer.

And that has me pretty bummed out.

I love summer.  And not just because my birthday is in August.  (Hey, who doesn’t love presents?)

Therefore, I will be spending this Labor Day weekend, mourning the summer that never was and hoping against hope (or at least against the Farmer’s Almanac) that this upcoming winter is more hospitable than last!

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her novels, Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, are available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and reading.

But not hanging out in the cold.

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Ups and downs of a new release

ImageWeather in the Black Hills of South Dakota can be fickle. This morning, for example, it was snowing. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the 60s.

The past few months have had the same up and down trend. Finishing a book brings a wonderful feeling. Rereading it for the twelfth time looking for typos is more daunting. Opening that box of books is a real rush. Trying to set up book signings means a lot of time on the phone.

Don’t get me wrong! I enjoy every step. I just like some of them more than others.

Sleeping Bear has been a long process. It took me longer to write it because “life” kept getting in the way. Life and weather. I find it hard to write about the hundred degree summer temperatures when the wind chill makes it feel twelve below.

And now that the weather is starting to warm up, I’m so excited that Sleeping Bear is available.

Sleeping Bear, a follow up to Ghost Mountain, takes place during the annual motorcycle rally in Western South Dakota. It’s a wild and crazy event that truly must be experienced to be believed. And even then you might not believe it!

Combining the motorcycle rally with a local Lakota landmark wasn’t the challenge I first thought it would be. Mato Paha, better known as Bear Butte, is an amazing location that anyone visiting the area should stop and see.

Even though Sleeping Bear is a mystery, I hope I was able to honor all the various cultures in the book: Celtic, Lakota, motorcycle, tourist. Each of those cultures is important to the story–and to me.

If you do pick up a copy of Sleeping Bear (and I really hope you do!), I’d love to know what you think of it.

Blessings!
Nichole

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A warm meal for a cold day….

brrrrrrLet’s face it.  It’s cold outside.

I mean, really, really cold.

And I don’t like the cold.

Thankfully, we don’t have the sketchy power surges some areas of the country have and we are accustomed to January being on the cool side.  Also, the Black Hills can be odd…it was 60 degrees this past Saturday.  Today’s high was 12.

So as I’m sitting in my office, listening to the howling of the wind, staring at the review copy of Sleeping Bear, I opted to make this a short (but timely) post and instead of share amazing words of writing wisdom — or even the half-baked ideas I usually have — I thought I’d share one of my favorite cold weather dinner recipes.

Oh, and I’ve had both of these recipes for awhile, and don’t remember where I originally found them.

Potato Bacon Soup (makes a big pot!)

  • 6 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into 1-inch Pieces
  • 1 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 3 whole Carrots, Scrubbed Clean And Diced
  • 3 stalks Celery, Diced
  • 6 whole Small Russet Potatoes, Peeled And Diced
  • 8 cups Chicken Broth
  • 3 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Grated Cheese Of Your Choice

Directions:

  1. Add bacon pieces to a soup pot over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pot and set it aside. Pour off most of the grease, but do not clean the pot.
  2. Return the hot to medium-high heat and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for 2 minutes or so, then add the diced potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt, pepper, and Cajun spice.
  3. Pour in the broth and bring it to a gentle boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to get tender. Whisk together the flour and the milk, then pour into the soup and allow the soup to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Blend half to 2/3 of the soup in a blender/food process until completely smooth. Pour it back into the soup pot. Let it heat back up and taste for seasonings (salt, pepper, etc), adding more of what it needs. Stir in cream.
  5. Serve in bowls garnished with parsley, grated cheese and crisp bacon pieces if desired.

Beer Bread (makes 1 1/2 pound loaf in the bread maker)

  • 1 1/8 cups beer (9 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fast rising yeast (or 2 1/4 t. bread machine yeast)

Directions:

  1. Pour beer into a bowl and let stand at room temperature for a few hours to go flat.
  2. Place all ingredients in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer’s directions.
  3. Set crust on dark and program for the Basic cycle; press Start.
  4. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Bon Appetit!

Nichole
Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Sleeping Bear, will be available soon.  When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  And staying warm.

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Is it a resolution or a goal?

ImageI love lists.  And I love crossing things off of lists.

This time of year, therefore, makes me almost giddy!  There was a list for my holiday baking, a list for Christmas presents, a list for the grocery store, and my weekly to-do list.  And, of course, a list for both 2013 and 2014.

Yes, I have lists for the year.  Some might call them resolutions.  I prefer the word goals.    Hey, we all know that resolutions get broken.  Goals, however, can be attainable if written correctly.  Resolutions are often lofty ideals (i.e. “I wanna be skinny”).  Goals are smaller and more manageable (i.e. “I want to exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week”).  

Are they really the same thing?  Of course.  I know that.  Yet, calling my yearly list goals seems to work better for me than calling them resolutions.  Besides, I’m a writer.  Words matter.

For instance, if I fall short of a goal, I’m okay with reevaluating and trying again.  If I break a resolution, it’s already broken…what’s the point of fixing it?

So, as 2013 draws to a close, I can reflect on the goals I made this year.  Of my writing-specific ones, I kept some, and missed some.  The ones I missed will be added to my 2014 goals and some new ones will take the place of the goals I’ve accomplished.  And not just my writing goals, but my knitting goals, my self-improvement goals, my personal and professional goals.

What about you?  Do you make resolutions?  Or do have goals for the new year?  And what’s your personal track record for keeping them?

Whatever the answers, I do want to wish you a happy and prosperous 2014.

Blessings!


Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  And making lists.

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Today I’m thankful for….

I’m actually thankful for a lot of things and, since today is Thanksgiving in the US, I thought I’d share a few of them.

  1. My family.  I’m thankful for the family I was born into, the family I married into, and the family we’ve created over the years.  The family we’re “really” related to and the one we’ve managed to acquire.
  2. Modern conveniences.  Seriously!  I’m very thankful for things like electricity and indoor plumbing.  I don’t think I would do well a century ago…
  3. Nature.  There’s something about the beauty of nature that calms me.  Whether it’s the ocean or the mountains, I’m thankful for the scenery.
  4. Chocolate.  And coffee.  Hey, don’t judge.  Everyone needs a vice, right?
  5. You.  I’m very thankful for the readers.  For the ones who’ve read Ghost Mountain and continue to ask about the next book.  For the ones who will read it in the future. 

Thank you!

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  And she’s thankful for the ability to do it all.

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Happy Chocolate Day!

ImageToday is one of my favorite holidays.  

What?  October 28 doesn’t ring any bells for you?  You didn’t see the greeting cards?

Well, let me tell you that today is National Chocolate Day!

I admit I’m a choco-holic.  My family will tell you that I’ve always had a sweet tooth and that my sweet of choice has always been the melt-in-your-mouth variety.  When someone says “kisses,” my first thoughts are of the foil wrapped variety not the smooching type.  My husband has grown accustomed to seeing bags of chocolate chips in the vegetable crisper and has long since given up asking if I knew they were there.  My favorite sweatshirt has always been the one that proclaims “Give me chocolate and no one gets hurt.”  (Sadly, it wore out about 10 years ago.  But it’s still my favorite.)

In the summer, chocolate shakes are a must.  Hot chocolate is a winter-time staple.

While chocolate may not directly influence my writing, it does serve as an amazing reward for getting words on the page.

And this time of year, I have a bag of chocolate waiting for any Trick-or-Treaters who may find their way to our door.  Living in the country, however, means that there will probably be no children ringing our bell and the chocolate will be savored by me over the next few weeks—or days.

So allow me to be the first to wish you all a Happy Chocolate Day.  Whether you prefer white, milk, semi-sweet or dark, enjoy a piece in celebration.  (Check out Second Helpings: A collection of holiday short stories and recipes, too.  You might find a new chocolate dish to share!)

Blessings!
Nichole

Nichole Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found  knitting socks, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  And reading.

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Changing seasons

The leaves are starting to change in the canyon.  In a few short weeks there won't be any left on the trees.

The leaves are starting to change in the canyon. In a few short weeks there won’t be any left on the trees.

I’ve lived in places where the seasons don’t change much.  There you have your choice between hot and warm.  The Black Hills of South Dakota is not one of those places.

Summer is my favorite season.  Spring is a close second.  Fall comes in a distant third and winter, well, winter can take a long walk off a short pier as far as I’m concerned.

However, I try to make the most of what I’ve got. And right now, for better or worse, I’ve got fall.  To me fall has a few redeeming qualities, which is why it isn’t tied for last place with winter.  The best thing is Halloween, which happens to be my all-time favorite holiday EVER.

Fall has it’s own smells.  I love the apple-cinnamon scent that is so popular this time of year and the smell of a wood fire is amazing, so I guess the smells of fall are okay.  With the cooler weather I do more baking, so the house smells different…like fresh bread, brownies, or cookies.

That brings me to the taste of fall.  I love sweets.  I love fresh baked bread.  I love chocolate.  Unlike most of the rest of my family, though, I do not like pumpkin.  Not even a little.

In the Black Hills, fall has it’s own look.  Sure, Halloween costumes are everywhere, but it takes living in a special place to understand the necessity of having Halloween costumes three sizes too big (so you can fit your winter coat underneath, of course).  But the leaves changing in nearby Spearfish Canyon are a beautiful mix of greens, golds, oranges, yellows and reds.

Ghost stories seem to fill the air this time of year.  Combine those with an over-active imagination and the crackle of dry, fallen leaves and you know fall sounds different than any other time of year.

The feel of fall is a 50-50 split.  Hay rides are fun.  Hay always gets stuck in places where it shouldn’t.  Hay is itchy.  Itchy is no fun.  And I hate cold.  I really, truly despise cold.  Fall temperatures are, well, cold.

Maybe fall isn’t so bad after all.  I don’t have to eat pumpkin flavored anything and I can always stay inside whenever possible.  And there is something to be said for reading by the fireplace, isn’t there?

Nichole
Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and reading.

But not hanging out in the cold.

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Hidden gems

In the time since Ghost Mountain was released, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about writing in general and my writing in particular.

The questions have run the gambit from things like “what kind of books do you read?” (I prefer mysteries but will read just about anything that’s been recommended to me) to “what do you do when you aren’t writing?” (Knit, read, work as a web site designer at my day job).

However, the most asked question has to be “how’s the next book coming?”  I’m finally able to answer with something besides “I’m working on it.”

sturgis2010Sleeping Bear, the sequel to Ghost Mountain, is in the publication process and I really couldn’t be happier.  The story takes place in August during a well-known motorcycle event in South Dakota.  The influx of tourists during the annual affair increases the small town’s population 100-fold.

Bear Butte, called Mato Paha by the Lakota people, also plays a role in the upcoming novel.  The Butte—like Devils Tower from Ghost Mountain—is a sacred site located in the Black Hills, and is really not a butte but a small mountain.  Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull have all prayed at Bear Butte.  Today vision quests, sweat lodges and other ceremonies are held there and the trees are filled with colorful prayer cloths.

I don’t think I consciously set out to write about the sacred sites of the Lakota people.  I do, however, set my stories in the Black Hills and Western South Dakota.  I live here and it’s easy to visit the site and get a “feel” for the location.  Devils Tower and Bear Butte are two of the most beautiful places around.  And they both have a history that is long and fascinating.

I think everywhere has places that set the tone—historical sites, geographical anomalies, sacred places.  It’s the responsibility of people today to recognize those places and preserve the spot, the legend, and the history for future generations.

What are the places in your area like that?  Those “hidden gems” of the community?  More importantly, do you visit those sites?  Let me know!

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and reading.

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Asking about books the best conversation starter

I read a post on Facebook the other day about how to talk to girls.  Having two girls, the title of the post intrigued me.  Well, that and I am all about strong females.

So, I followed the link to a blog.  The blog’s author is a journalist and lawyer who has written a book about “girl power.”  This particular 2011 post was specifically about talking to little girls about their minds.  Not mentioning how cute they are.  Or how pretty their dress is.  But what are they reading?  What subjects do they enjoy in school?  

It made sense to me as a woman, as a mother, and as an author.  I can’t imagine someone calling my main character, Cerri Baker, cute.  Perhaps her husband would tell her she was beautiful.  And her mother might comment that Cerri’s curly red hair was a bit mussed.  But the average person wouldn’t walk up to Cerri and call her cute.  Cerri is a smart, educated woman who enjoys time with her family.  She may not always be confident in her abilities, but she is more than looks.

Of course, gender roles and stereotypes go the other way, too.  Cerri’s husband, Matt, is an associate professor and the major breadwinner for the family.  However, he would happily spend the day playing with their kids.  I can’t imagine someone asking Matt about fixing a car or discussing sports scores.  That’s just not the kind of guy he is.

As an author, I think it’s important that we make our fictional characters as multi-faceted as the real people we know and love.  Not every woman is crafty and not every man is at home behind the grill.  

Every person, however, should be a reader.  Romance.  Mystery.  Science fiction.  Non-fiction.  There’s a genre out there for everyone.

So next time you meet someone new, instead of commenting on their appearance or even their occupation, try asking them what book they read.  Maybe we can make the world a better place by expanding minds.

Blessings!
Nichole

Nichole Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her first novel, Ghost Mountain, is available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found  knitting socks, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  And reading. 

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