Author Archives: Nichole Bennett

Psst! I have a secret!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Writing is hard work.

Well, maybe writing isn’t so hard.  I mean, you sit down and let the words flow, right?  That isn’t so hard.

writing a bookBut coming up with ideas is hard.  I mean, there’s the story that takes place on Battle Mountain that I need to work out.  Okay, so I want a story to happen on Battle Mountain.  I’m just not sure about the plot.

Even once the idea is there writing doesn’t get any easier.  For example, there’s the story that I’m going to write where the murder takes place at an unlikely tourist spot in western Nebraska.  I just need to figure out why the victim gets killed.

Once I have the location and the victim and the villain all sorted out, I still think writing is hard.  All those details!  Should Viktor be an old Russian mobster?  Or is his name really Alberto and he’s Sicilian?  Are Joe’s eyes a common brown?  Or are they golden-brown with hints of yellow when the sun hits them just right?  And how far away is the diner from the bookstore?  There’s a lot of details for someone who can’t remember to send out birthday cards in time to actually arrive in time for the birthday.

Then there’s the actual writing.  The sitting down and making the story progress.  After checking e-mail.  And Facebook.  And sending a tweet to let the world know I’m sitting down to write (#amwriting).

By then, of course, the dog has to go out.  And the cat needs to be fed.  Mostly because the dog ate all the cat food, but that’s probably not really important.

Back in my “office”, I start to write.  Then comes the melodic tones of the dryer.  Better get the clothes out before they wrinkle.  After the laundry is put away, I head back to the office and decide I might as well set up the coffee maker for the morning.  And go ahead and pack my lunch for the next day so that I don’t have to do it in the morning.

Those tasks completed, I get back to the computer, sit down and start typing.

For 10 whole minutes.  Until I realize that it’s almost 11 pm and I have to work in the morning.

So why do I do it?  Why do I spend some days staring at a blank computer screen waiting for the next burst of words?

Easy.

Because I love it!

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, thinking about writing or avoiding writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, or eating chocolate.

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Are you romantic? Or romantic?

January is almost over, and I’ve almost gotten used to writing 2015 on the checks.  Since weather in the Black Hills is always a little off from the rest of civilization, that means we’ve had beautiful 60 and 70 degree weather.  It also means that the annual Stock Show and Rodeo is coming up.

It also means that stores are filled with all things pink and red.

Which, to me, is more frightening than Halloween.

You see, I am not a romantic.

Well, lovers2at least not in the “wine me, dine me, we live happily ever after” way.  Then again, if you mean “romantic” in the Edgar Allen Poe, basing your writing on the Supernatural, I’m so romantic it’s not even funny!

But Hallmark and Hershey’s don’t have greeting cards and boxes of candy for human psychology and satire.

No.  No one has turned the original romantic movement into a multimillion dollar pseudo-holiday.

Dang it.

So this time of year, I avoid the big box stores like the plague.  When my husband thoughtfully asks what I want for Valentine’s Day, I stare at him, my mouth agape like a fish out of water.

After decades of marriage, he should know better than to ask, but ask he does.  And he doesn’t take shrugs and grunts for an answer.  At least not any more.

Truly, I have no idea.  My “needs” list is thankfully small.  My “wants” list isn’t too large, either, but has more expensive items on it.  Items that are too pricy to ask for.  Items that are too pricy for me to spend the same amount on him.

Don’t get me wrong!  I will get him something.  I always do.  And there’s about a 95 percent chance that it will come in a heavy cooler packed with dry ice and taste great on the grill.

And, hey, let’s face it.  I’d be fine with a box of good chocolates and maybe a coffee gift card.  Or an afternoon to myself.  Or even an afternoon of being in charge of the remote control.

But the idea of dinner and dancing?  I just wouldn’t think of it.  I mean, restaurants are packed on Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, the idea of not cooking is good and I’m always up for a dinner that didn’t come from a drive-thru.

So, for this Valentine’s Day, like others before, I will avoid the red and pink romantic items, and stick to the supernatural-occult ones.

At least this way I can say I am a romantic, right

What about you?  How romantic are you?

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, or eating chocolate.  Which she does all year long, and not just in February.

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Ringing in the New Year

happy_new_year_2015_clip_art_wallpaperIt’s that time of year again.  It seems like just yesterday I was actively reminding myself to write 2014 on checks and other documents.  By Friday, I will have to bump that up again.

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to spend this time of year planning for the next.  I don’t mean the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution.”  No, I never make those.

According to Statisticbrain.com, 45% of Americans usually make resolutions, but only 8% are successful in achieving them —  24% fail year after year.  (Then again, people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who never make resolutions, so there is that…)

In a weird lesson of semantics, I don’t make resolutions.  But I do set goals for each year.

In fact, starting on Samhain—better known as Halloween—I start evaluating my year.  Well, I probably truly start in August when my personal calendar turns another page.  I find those are good times to review my plans and see where I still need some work.

But it’s this time between Christmas/Yule and the arrival of “baby new year” that turns my attention to the goals I want to set for the next 365 days.

I set these goals for every aspect of my life….from my health goals to my community service ones, all broken down into baby steps to make the goals attainable. (Well, attainable if I take the steps, that is.)  I even print those goals out and post them next to my computer where I am sure to see them every day.  Of course my writing life is included in that list.

For this year, my two big writing-related goals are this:

  • To finish “A Killer Yarn.” This will be my third book, but it’s not a Cerri Baker mystery.  Allison Weber is the heroine of this novel, which takes place in a small town in western South Dakota.
  • To finish an as-yet-unnamed Cerri novel set in the Nebraska panhandle.

Both of those stories have been dancing around my head for awhile and “A Killer Yarn” is almost ready for the editing processes.  Surely by spring.

And so, as the clock winds down only to start up again, I’m curious.  Do you set goals?  Make resolutions?  What do wish 2015 has in store for you?

Happy New Year and Blessings on you!
Nichole

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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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