PRALINES - a sweet sticky treat, Conquering distractions, Bob Simmons "Rob Engleman", Dan

NATIONAL PRALINES DAY is observed every year on June 24th. A praline is a confection made from nuts (whether in whole pieces or ground) and sugar syrup. Pralines may also refer to any chocolate cookie containing the ground powder of nuts.

Pralines vary depending on the land and culture of origin:

  • Belgian Pralines – contain a hard chocolate shell with a softer, sometimes liquid, filling.

  • French Pralines – a combination of almonds and caramelized sugar.

  • American Pralines – contain milk or cream and are softer and creamier, resembling fudge or sticky and chewy.

At the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte during the 17th century, French sugar industrialist, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675), originally inspired the early pralines. These first pralines were made with whole almonds, individually coated in caramelized sugar.

The powder made by grinding up sugar-coated nuts is called pralin. This is an ingredient in many types of cake, pastries and ice creams. When this powder is mixed with chocolate, it becomes praliné in French, which gave birth to what is known in French as chocolat praliné.

The French settlers brought their recipe into Louisiana, an area of the United States where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. During the 19th century, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans for almonds, added cream to thicken the confection and thus created what is known throughout the Southern United States as the praline.


Create your own batch with this recipe for pralines. We enjoy this Louisiana tradition so much we found another recipe for pralines for you to celebrate. Of course, you can stop by your favorite confectionery and enjoy a few with friends and family. Use #NationalPralinesDay on social media.

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/8 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Add all ingredients to list

Cook 30 m

  • Ready In 45 m

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

  2. In large saucepan over medium heat, combine pecans, sugar, butter, brown sugar, milk and vanilla. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F (112 to 116 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface.

  3. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely.

When I contemplated my retirement a few years ago, I breathed a sigh of relief that at last I would now have time to write. I pictured days sipping coffee and churning out meaningful text, uninterrupted.

I think I forgot what year it was and how with each passing year the distractions of daily life are even greater now than they were when I was working and raising my kids. This article is worth posting because it truly struck a note!

Distraction-Free Writing in the Age of the Internet


Writers’ concentration and willpower are challenged like never before. Until recently, if a writer sat down to work, there was little to distract them except the chirping of birds or the din of the streets.

It was just the writer and the quill, and later, the typewriter.

Now we have phones, tablets, and computers bleeping off every few minutes.

Most of us don’t realize how damaging this is. Not only does it prevent us from entering the flow state, which is crucial to our creativity, it wastes our time.

One text from a family member, one email, or one social media notification can completely derail you.

It may only seem like it takes a few minutes, but add all those interruptions up at the end of the day, and you may have lost an hour or more. Not only that, you risk being led down the rabbit hole of the internet.

Check one mention on Twitter or comment on Instagram, and before you know it, you’re scrolling away while your characters sit in the corner, tapping their foot, impatiently waiting for you to tell them what to do next.

Hey, it’s not your fault. All content, video, and social media were purposely designed by some of the best minds in the world to keep you on their pages or in their loop of pages.

Sometimes willpower isn’t enough, especially if we’re tired or feeling apprehensive about writing on a particular day.

Here are a few tips for Distraction-Free Writing in the Age of the Internet

  1. Turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer, or better yet, turn off the router for your home completely (if no one in household objects).

  2. Remove all social apps from your phone. Only check at a designated time through your browser.

  3. Shut down your phone and tablet while writing.

  4. If you need to receive calls in case of emergency, tell your close family and friends to use your phone number only.

  5. Do not open your email in the morning. Wait till the end of your writing time to check and reply to email.

  6. Use internet time as a reward to look forward to after you’ve met your writing goals.

  7. When you do get on the internet, set a timer for the amount of time you spend there.

  8. Use a blocking app.

How do YOU fight internet distraction?

Happy Writing!


This week Author Bob Simmons presents his character Rob Engleman

1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.

My name is Rob Engleman. I’m an explorer… and sometimes a fighter.

2.Tell us where and when were you born.

I was born and raised on Engle Isle. It’s not likely you’ve ever heard of it before.

3. How would you describe yourself?

I would say that I’m curious. I want to know everything I can. I feel like I don’t fit in with the people on my island because I’m not content to live the simple lives they lead. I’m also loyal… to a fault.

4. Tell us about where you grew up. Engle Isle is a small, remote island. It’s conservative people are steeped in tradition, much of which is designed to keep people from leaving. I understand why. The world is dangerous, but tradition and safety aren’t for all of us.

5. How old are you?

I’m eighteen years old now.

6. Did you have a happy childhood? Why/why not?

I suppose my childhood was happy. I have a loving family who provided everything for me. I often feel ungrateful. For everything they’ve had to suffer recently has come about because of me.

7. Past/ present relationships? How did they affect you? This is difficult to talk about. I have decided I can’t maintain my relationships. The course my life has taken and the choices I’ve made, make it too dangerous for anyone to be around me. I’ve lost too much to take any of that for granted.

8. What do you value above all else in life?


9. What are you obsessed with?

This is the most important part of my life: To understand the world; its history, its geography, its nature. I want to understand what it is and why it is. I feel like this is my purpose for existence.

10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?

I tried to tell you before. My beliefs make me an outcast. Even though I don’t wish them to, I can’t help how I feel and I accept that I am not right for Engle Isle, my family or even my friends.

11. Biggest fear?

That I have doomed my island to destruction because of my actions.

12. What line will you never cross?

To betray my conscious. I cannot go against my convictions of what is right.

13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? The worst?

In a way, this is the same event. Sailing away from Engle Isle aboard the Entdecker for the first time. It’s what started all of this, the good and the bad. Certainly I believe having more knowledge of the world is good, however, it’s cost me and my people so much.

14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

Do we have to talk about Trina? I didn’t mean to break her heart.

15. Biggest secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be much of a secret. Let’s just say, I’ve recently learned something that could radically change the lives of everyone on this planet.

16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?


17. What is your current goal?

At the moment, I want nothing more than to kill the man who betrayed me and murdered my friends. After that, perhaps I can go back to my explorations.

Today's new author is Dan Melson. Welcome Dan!

What made you want to be a writer?

It’s not complicated – I had stories I had to tell. I spent a long time writing for nobody but myself and a couple friends, but eventually started to publish

When is the release of your next novel? Name genre or if it’s part of a series. If your book is part of a series tell the readers about the others that are out for sale.

The next one will be Setting The Board, third in the Preparations For War series – partially space opera, partially science fiction adventure. I’m aiming for a September release.

It starts with Preparing The Ground, in which one protagonist makes a series of mistakes and ends up on the planet Calmena, where an ancient enemy of humans has been conducting breeding experiments with humans abducted from Earth, hoping to end up with another servant race.

That wasn’t working so well for those enemies, but conditions are primitive. In the process, he rescues the other protagonist and her daughter.

They both end up working on Calmena to help other humans advance technologically and break free of alien domination. The first project is the teaching of metalworking.

In the second book, Building The People, their improvement project is water transport, and linking the humans of the four significant continents on Calmena together via trade. However, the aliens are changing tactics and grouping for a massive counterattack, which they must foil.

In Setting the Board, between themselves and many other groups of technological missionaries, they’ve managed to improve the planetary technology to something approximating the turn of the twentieth century on Earth, although there are areas where Calmena still lags.

The war between the aliens and the Empire feels imminent, and the stakes are increasing. They have two projects this time: first to start marine diesels propagating, then teaching the Calmenans to build aircraft sufficiently advanced and in enough numbers that they will be able to discourage the aliens from wiping them out when the war begins.

At this moment, I’m not certain I’ll be able to fit everything that needs to happen to finish the series into Setting The Board. If needed, the fourth book will be Moving The Pieces.

This series is something of a follow on to the four book Rediscovery series, and in parallel with Politics of Empire, which has two books released and two more to come. Rediscovery dealt with events leading to uniting Earth with the Empire of Humanity. Politics of Empire takes place in the main part of the Empire and concerns events surrounding one of the more important dynasties of the Empire, while Preparations For War is missionary work completely outside the Empire on front lines of where the war will be fought, the backside of nowhere,

How important is it to read books when you want to be an author?

It completely blows my mind that people think you can be an author without reading. This is your craft, and practical demonstrations of how to do it right and wrong. You can’t be a mathematician without paying attention to the work of others, it would be painful to try and be an engineer without paying attention to other engineers – you’d have to solve every problem yourself from the beginning. The same applies to writing.

Do you remember the first book you read?

No, because I can’t remember a time before I learned to read. I think it was likely something Arthurian from a huge set of about twenty books of Myth and Legend, old even mid-1960s, and those were the first things I remember reading.

What book are you reading now?

An indie. These days, I’m reading almost entirely indies. I’m using an e-reader, and I refuse to pay the prices trad pub wants for e-books except for a very few reliable favorite authors. Even some of them I’m getting leery of. Furthermore, indies don’t have to pass gatekeepers about being politically correct enough. When real best-selling authors from when the New York Times bestseller list meant something can no longer get published traditionally because they’re not politically correct enough, that’s a problem.

How did you come up with the idea for the book or series, especially the title?

An oblique reference out of Sun-Tzu and von Clausewitz. Victory is usually decided before the first shot is fired, by preparing the nation for the war that is coming. The rulers of the Empire play the very long game.

Which character do you identify with most in your novel?

Joseph Bernard (‘Joe’) is a young man originally from Southern California on Earth. He grew up before Imperial contact. In the normal course of things, he likely would have become an auto mechanic, but his aunt began a business shipping dogs to the Empire as pets, and so he got training first as a cargo handler, then in ship maintenance, and finally as a normal space pilot, which leads to how he ends up on Calmena.

The other protagonist is Asina, a woman native to Calmena. She had a very hard life growing up as a slave to the pseudo-feudal agaani of Calmena. Since the agaani are just barely able to hold on by their fingernails against the aliens, there isn’t a lot to spare for making people’s lives pleasant at the beginning of the series. When we meet her, she’s slowly slipping away to a combination of malnutrition and the repeated brutalizations she endures.

How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Joe’s Earth background is real. I know any number of people in situations not too different. Asina’s experiences are also based upon experiences that are damned real, if pre-historic rather than present day in the West. Imperial technology is made-up, but based upon engineering extrapolations of current theories. The only thing with little basis in fact is the descendants of genetically enhanced humans the Empire calls operants and Guardians, which I went into considerable detail on in the Rediscovery series.

To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

It helps to have travelled in that travel enables you to describe areas that you don’t live in, and perhaps meet a few different people. I’ve travelled extensively throughout the continental United States, although not much outside.

Tell us how the atmosphere needs to be for you to be able to write. Example, music on or quiet etc.

I can write just about anywhere I’m reasonably comfortable and not too distracted by the environment.

What is one goody you must have at your desk when you’re writing?

The computer with all of my notes and related works to refer to. Ideally an internet connection for research, although that’s a double edged sword as it can be a distraction.

Which part of the publishing process do you detest most?

Promotion. However, it’s a critical function and whether or not I like it, I need to do it and I need to improve.

What is the worst thing you’ve had to overcome before publishing your novel? IF it’s too personal just make a generalized statement if you can.

Some of the things I’ve put my characters through. This novel is comparatively tame – Asina is over a century removed from the starving brutalized young woman we initially meet in Preparing The Ground, and although the memories can still be painful, a relatively quick death is the worst I’m inflicting on anyone yet. For one book, I had to research effects of atomic war between China and Russia, including fallout patterns and likely effects of radiation exposure. For another, the two protagonists are essentially possessed and forced to things that are personally repugnant to them. I’m of the opinion that if any of my characters had the opportunity to kill me, I’d never have a chance.

When you need some extra encouragement who do you turn to?

I’m married to The World’s Only Perfect Woman. Sometimes, reading helps, whether something new or an old favorite like Shakespeare or Heinlein.

How do you market your book?

Amazon ads, readers groups. I’m trying to start getting to conventions again, but the day job has been restrictive of that in the past. Trying to get into anthologies and such, but that’s difficult because most ideas I have are novel length.

Have readers ever contacted you? If so, tell us the best thing they’ve said to you.

Most of my reviews are very good, but I don’t remember anyone personally contacting me. One guy was recommending me for a Prometheus Award, which would have been a big deal, but I didn’t get enough nominations.

Who do you trust to read your finished books before publication?

The World’s Only Perfect Woman and a couple other friends whom I know aren’t afraid to tell me where I need to improve.

Tell us all about your very first book signing. Take us there with your description of people, place, food, décor etc.

I haven’t done signings.

Is there a message you’d like to send through your book?

Samuel Goldwyn said messages should be delivered via Western Union. Maybe indirectly that different cultures work different ways and that maybe you shouldn’t think you’ve got a monopoly on truth. My first book was wave after wave of culture shock to the protagonist.

If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Once upon a time I think a young Alfred Molina would have been good for Joe, or maybe Lou Diamond Phillips. Now, it’s been so long since I really watched a lot of movies or TV, I’m no longer sure. He’s naturally just under six feet, mixed race Mexican-American. I have no idea at all about Asina – she’s naturally a short, petite, blue-eyed sandy-haired brunette, somewhere on the light-tinted end of Polynesian in skin color. But Imperials (including both of them) change their physique or appearance when they want to, so presence is a lot more important.

Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

There is no way to cut it to just one. George Washington is a personal hero. Shakespeare among authors – how did he create that marvelous dialog? So many others.

Do you have any hobbies?

Reading, history (especially military history), science of all sorts, gaming.

What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

I almost never watch TV any longer. The Expanse is the only recent show I’m kind of following. I read the five books of Song of Ice and Fire that are actually out, but not the show Game of Thrones. I’ll watch Babylon 5 again if I’m too tired to write, or original Trek, maybe Deep Space Nine or Firefly.

Favorite foods

Chocolate, beef, and bacon

What’s your sign, lucky number.

I think I’m a Capricorn astrologically. I’ve never had any lucky numbers, other than mean, median, and standard deviation.

What’s your favorite color.

Blue, usually. Occasionally purple. Plus whatever The World’s Only Perfect Woman is wearing.

What music do you hear in your latest book.

I’m eclectic in music. For Setting The Board, Maybe some Mary Chapin Carpenter, maybe some Garth Brooks. Others, Al Stewart or Boston or any of dozens of others.

Do you have hobbies other than writing?

Reading and gaming. I used to fence, hike, and other physical activities, but I can’t any longer.

Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

For that to happen, my brain would have to be no longer functional.

You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?

With family – World’s Only Perfect Woman, our two children, our dogs.

What do you want written on your head stone?

Earth is for the living. If what I have done or created is not enough of a monument, then a 6 by 3 piece of ground with a stone in one end will make no difference.

Are there any mistakes you made with your first book?

If I had The Man From Empire to do over again, I’d emphasize the relative ages and experience levels of the two protagonists more, and especially the power of the culture shock the younger experiences. Some people get entirely the wrong ideas, and that’s my fault, but I’m still proud of that book.

What kind of advice can you give to other either aspiring authors?

The most important is persistence. It’s like one of those ultra-long distance races where all that’s really important is crossing the finish line however long it takes. It’s nice to cross it faster, but as long as you don’t quit, you’ll get there in the end.

When in doubt, who do you trust to help you out?

The World’s Only Perfect Woman, always. I have a few other friends I trust, but she stands out.

Tell us how we may get a copy of your book. (Kindle, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, paperback etc.)

My Amazon author page is My Books2Read author page is (This covers all the Books2Read retailers including B&N, Kobo, and library services such as Overdrive and Biblioteca among others)

I’m looking at publishing through Smashwords as well, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Social media links and websites?

Blog: facebook author:

Twitter: @danmelsonwrite

Goodreads: MeWe:

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There once was a castle in the woods, claimed by a terrible Beast… I was a simple girl, living a simple life of cloths and needles, never seeking adventure, glad to dress those who did. But the world is full of magic, and spells never let rest those caught in their thorns. A rose by any other name… The tattoo on my hand was dying, the petals falling faster and faster. All because of the curse within the trees, and those held in its thrall threatening to break free. What would you give up to save those you love most? What would you risk facing in the Darkness of the Woods? My name is Amarice. And this is my Tale. So Sweet Who but a Beauty can Judge a Beast?

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