Scottish Gaelic: Dreamer, Visionary

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Dawn’s Early Light – Blogtour

Dawn's Early LightI have been a fan of Pip’s and Tee’s writing for many years now. Naturally, when they ventured into Steampunk, I made the discovery with them. Reading the first two novels in the series was a delight and I have also already preordered Dawn’s Early Light.

When I heard about the blog tour I was excited to take part and – totally not selfishly – asked to post an excerpt of the book which I can share with you today.

Below you can find the links where to get the book, the excerpt and also more info about the authors. Enjoy!


A selection from Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
released by Ace Books 

She reached for the lantern hanging at the bottom of the steps, struck a match, and then turned up the light once the flame caught. The sconce’s glow pushed aside the shadows to reveal a small analytical engine, her pride and joy, sitting in the corner of the room.

Perhaps it was an indulgence, but she was guaranteed a small amount of privacy and confidentiality when using it. The money should have gone to the church, but this device was in a sense keeping the church together. It was her personal line of communication with those who called upon her for specific talents. When noon struck, the green light on the panel before Van switched to red. She threw a few connectors forward, awakening the amber display in front of her. It squeaked lightly when she adjusted it to a more comfortable reading position. Yes, along with the piano, her analytical engine was also in need of some maintenance.  


Van tapped her lips as she thought about the shadowy organisation. It had been at least six or seven years since the House of Usher had been active in America. What could it mean that they now wanted a hunt and retrieval from her? Whoever this mark was, the House wanted him or her badly, considering the terms of the bounty. 

The term “Eliminate any opposition” would be her judgement call—and solely hers—in the field. She had made a pledge to herself that in these assignments, her sword would only take a life if her own was threatened. She was not an assassin. She was a tracker and a retrieval specialist. 

Accepting this commission would see to the many needs of their church. The piano would finally be tuned, and the roof fully repaired in time for next winter. There could even be some money in the coffer for a garden. Meals for the poor. 

Her fingers had already begun typing before her eyes returned to the screen. 


Van’s thoughts scattered when the signal returned to red. She flipped the switch underneath, and the display began to assemble itself, line by line. In an hour’s time she would have the face of her latest assignment. Even the telegraph could not offer that.

As the image assembled itself, she would have plenty of time to pack for an unexpected journey south. Van connected two more leads, and flipped a switch that would provide a printed copy of her screen once the image finished its travel through the æther. She turned toward the wall to the left of the machine and gave a section of its moulding a gentle push. The top half of the wall slid away, revealing several rifles and handguns. After a moment’s consideration, she took down the quad-barrelled Winchester-Henry-Armstrong 1892, and felt the weight in her hands. Stopping power and distance were guaranteed, provided the target’s weight was not an issue.

Van propped the ’92 up against the wall and looked over the handgun options in front of her. Her fingers ran along the edges of a wide, rosewood case. She tapped the sides of the box, wondering if these would be needed.

Apprehending of target alive is the top priority, she recalled from the message. Eliminate any opposition. The House of Usher wanted this target with no expense spared. The order was brief, but told her so much. There was no suspicion of opposition. It would happen. Without question.

Van pulled the box free of the wall case and flipped open its brass latches. The pair of .38 Smith & Wesson revolvers within duly reflected the lantern light. She had not picked up either pistol yet, but the wooden grip under her brushing fingertips felt warm, as if expecting her touch.

Closing the lid to the case and then hefting the rifle free from the wall, Van ascended the staircase, her speech to Everett already prepared. Two weeks. She’d only be away two weeks. Three weeks, at the most. For that amount of time, she would be able to do so much good for the church and their little town. Even her stoic partner would see that. The reappearance of the House of Usher could provide a welcomed windfall, and a gift from above. 

Van had to keep the faith that was why the House of Usher had returned to America. She didn’t dare contemplate the other possibility.



Bio: New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.

Pip’s website:
Pip’s Twitter: PhilippaJane

Tee’s website:
Tee’s Twitter: TeeMonster

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Facebook page:

Danube Waves

2014-02-20 15.17.55Only a few days ago, I finished the first draft of Danube Waves, the sequel to the Coffee Legacy and the second book in the Wiener Blut universe. The draft came in just over 76K which makes it quite a bit bigger than the first novel. I’m not sure if it will grow or slim down in the editing process but it will most likely stay longer. At the moment I’m into the first round of edits before the manuscript goes to the editor. I have a few timeline references to fix and to make sure that the story stays consistent throughout and I didn’t start off with an idea that gets forgotten later on.

When I’m done with my edits I will start with the casting for the podcast version of it. I cannot resist doing a podcast again and I am very lucky that I already have the OK of those people who are recurring from the first book. But there are also many new characters which need new voices and I’m excited to cast them.

At the same time the relaunch of the paperback version of the Coffee Legacy is underway and it’s long overdue. I hope to get it out before the eBook version of Danube Waves gets released.

Once the casting call is out, I will put a blogpost here and over on the Wiener Blut website, so keep your eyes open! 🙂 Also, there will be cake!

Cookbook Challenge 12 – My Viennese Kitchen

The cookbook challenge is coming to an end, this is the last one – for now at least. This is going back to the basics and my Austrian roots with the Plachutta “My Viennese Kitchen” cookbook. Plachutta is one of my favourite restaurants in Vienna and they are famous for their beef dishes. “The Good Kitchen”, one of my top 3 favourite cookbooks of all time, was co-written by Mr. Plachutta as well. So a few years ago, my dad got me a signed copy of his newest book. Finding something in there I hadn’t made before was surely going to be a big challenge. Adding to that Mick’s special request of “traditional, but different”, I knew it wasn’t going to be all that easy.

Eventually, I went for Quark Dumplings. I had made the dough before but made the dumplings with plums in the middle, not just plain ones. For them you need something fruity to go with it, so I decided to be experimental there. Traditionally you eat them with a plum sauce or apple sauce, but I decided to use cowberries, which I got in a jar as a whole with sauce around them. Not as saucy as a jam. For the twist, I just decided to add Whisky.



Quark Dumplings with Cranberry Whisky Sauce

For the dough:
350g quark (sometimes referred to as curd cheese but that is produced differently)
50g butter100g breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Zest of half a lemon

For the icing:
50g butter
Castor Sugar

For the sauce:
Cranberries or cowberries in a jar, whole with sauce




For the dough you simply mix all the ingredients together. Make sure the butter is soft so you won’t have clumps in the dough later which will then make holes in the dumpling. Once the dough is thoroughly mixed through, put it in the fridge to rest for about an hour.



Once the dough has rested, put on a big pot of water and bring it to the boil. Whilst that is heating up, start forming the dumplings out of the dough. They should have a diameter of about 4 cm, and I admit I also prefer them rather small. Make sure your hands are thoroughly covered in flour because it’s a very sticky dough. Then cover the dumplings in a thin layer of flour before you put them in the boiling water. The dumplings need about 10 minutes in the boiling water. Many dumplings are ready when they rise to the surface of the water. Those will rise to the surface quite soon though, so don’t take them out just yet.

In the meantime, prepare the breadcrumbs to coat the dumplings. Since it’s the last challenge, I will admit that Austrian cuisine wouldn’t work without breadcrumbs. In case you were wondering. In the original recipe, the breadcrumbs just get roasted in a ton of butter. Since that’s not how my granny made it – here’s how it really goes.


Put a big knob of butter in a hot pan and melt it. Then pour in breadcrumbs, I reckon about 100g. I always rather have too much breadcrumbs. Stir it and add castor sugar- I’d say about a third the amount of the breadcrumbs. The goal here is to get the sugar melted, caramelised and have the breadcrumbs nice and golden brown. You have to stir it often so it won’t burn or stick to the pan. Also when you’re finished and it’s cooling down you need to make sure you still occasionally stir it because otherwise it will get quite solid when the caramel hardens.



In a small pot, put in two big tablespoon full of the cranberries. Add a shot of whisky and bring it to the boil whilst steering it. Then put the pot aside to let it cool down.

When the dumplings are ready, take them out of the water and drain them of any excess water. Then roll them in the breadcrumbs until they are fully covered. Add some more breadcrumbs to the plate, sprinkle some icing sugar over the top and add the cranberry sauce. Finished!

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Like I said, I had made that dough before for plum dumplings, which are some of my favourite. You can also stick a strawberry, an apricot or a piece of chocolate in the middle. Then you usually don’t need the fruity sauce anymore. Some also recommend making those dumplings with a potato dough, but I find it too heavy for a desert which is already so sweet. The quark dumplings turned out extremely light though, so that worked very well. I always like a spot of fruit with my dessert, so I wouldn’t have made them without the sauce. Adding the Whisky to the sauce gave it an extra zing which was much appreciated. My only problem is that I keep forgetting how filling they are and after the third dumpling I was completely stuffed. But the good kind of stuffed. If anyone’s wondering – yes, I’ll totally make them again!



The Third NaNo Win

2013-Winner-Facebook-CoverIt’s December 1st, and on November 23 I finished my third NaNoWriMo after 2010 and 2012. It is also the third time I’ve managed to write 50,000 words. I might have finished the word goal but I’m not finished with the book yet. I think it might need another 10-20K words. For this NaNo, I was writing the sequel to my 2010 project, the Coffee Legacy (Wiener Blut 1). It is called Danube Waves and revolves around… cake! 🙂 Yes I am serious. That’s how the idea started. One cake per chapter instead of coffee. Not to worry, there is still a lot of coffee in the books and even more was consumed writing it. I hope I can finish the first draft of the novel by the end of the year but I also promised Mick to edit Some other Scotland, which he has finished during this NaNo. He’ll go on to writing his 2010 NaNo book which has yet to be finished. Once he has done that, he will go on to edit Danube Waves. I hope I’m quicker writing than he edits, but I have a suspicion I might be.

So what else is next? Working on more Every Photo Tells… stories and on the 2nd edition of our guidebook Christmas Markets in Vienna, to add more markets and more photos. Once the edits of Danube Waves are done it’ll go out to the beta readers and I will start working on the audio book version. I was hesitant about it at first, mainly because I didn’t want to re-cast the people who appear again, but since I managed to convince the most important recurring voices, I’m happy to do a full cast version of it as well.

I think that’s enough to do and it should keep me busy for a while. Needless to say there is already the next idea or two floating in my head…

Cookbook Challenge 11 – The Greek Kitchen

The eleventh of my 12 cookbook challenges is from a Greek cookbook I got in France. It really caught my eye because it describes three generations of a Greek family and their favourite dishes. The extra challenge that Mick gave me was to use feta in the side dish. So this was going to be easy enough. There is one feta dish I love but have never made myself.


Keftedes, Tsatsiki and Feta Saganaki
Greek meatballs, Tsatsiki and breaded Feta

1/2kg minced meat
400g piece of feta, not marinated
1 Onion
2 Eggs
1 big cucumber
250g Greek Yoghurt
Olive Oil
1 Lemon
Salt, Pepper



Usually I would put crumbled feta cheese into the meat balls, but this time I went without because there was already feta cheese in the side dish. Mix the minced meat with the finely chopped onion and one garlic clove, then add one egg and a big handful of breadcrumbs. Mix it all thoroughly with salt, pepper and oregano. You can add more breadcrumbs if the mix is too wet. Put it aside to let it sit for a bit.


Grate the cucumber into a bowl and mix it with the greek yoghurt. Finely chop or press two garlic cloves into the mix. Then chop the dill, mix it in and add salt and pepper. Then squeeze the juice of half a lemon in and add a spoonful of olive oil. Mix it all through and put it in the fridge.

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In three deep plates or pots put the flour in the first, the scrambled and salted egg and a bit of water in the second, and the breadcrumbs mixed with oregano in the third. Then start making meatballs out of the mince.

Put finger-high oil in a deep pan and heat it until it sizzles. Cut the feta in big chunks, more than a finger wide. Carefully cover each piece in the flour, then cover it completely in the eggs. In the end, dip it in the breadcrumbs and make sure it’s completely covered again. Since feta cheese is not a very solid cheese, you need to be careful when making the batter so it won’t fall apart.

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You can fry both the meatballs and the feta in the same pan. The feta is done much quicker, so once it’s brown you can take it out and put it in the oven to keep warm. This also helps with melting the cheese in the middle whilst the meatballs are cooking.

Once the meatballs are nice and brown and the feta cheese is nicely hot, plate it all with Tsatsiki in the middle. It also works very well with white bread.


I’ve made the greek meatballs often, mostly with feta mixed in or a piece of feta in the middle of the meatball – which is fantastic too when it melts! The Tsatsiki with dill was also new for me, and very delicious. The feta was my biggest worry because I knew how crumbly it was. I had no idea how well it would work with the batter. I order it whenever it’s on the menu of the Greek restaurant I’m in. In the end, it worked very well and all the things were super delicious, but the Feta was my favourite! On the one hand because it’s always been one of my favourite Greek dishes and on the other because I’m so happy I can make it myself now. Making it again, I will. Certainly. Soon.

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