Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at

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Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reading Justin Richards...

The Invisible Detective and Friends...
I’ve been reading mysteries and murder mystery books almost exclusively in the last two years, aside from the odd biography or reference books. Sometimes I detour for a young adult novel or children’s book that catches my fancy: usually something to do with mystery, mystery/historical, mystery/paranormal, or mystery/time slip themes. My usual themes, I guess. Anyway, we spent a day in New York City the Monday before last, whilst my husband, Bob, did some business at a couple of publishing houses he works for. After that, the day was ours. We thought about going up to the Field Museum and surrounding shops, but opted to visit bookshops a little closer to the train station. We were pretty tired from the unearthly hour we’d gotten up that morning for the drive and train trip in. We wanted to be awake and able to enjoy a trip to see the dinosaurs at the Field Museum on another trip, so it was bookstores. For the longest time, Bob had been talking about taking me to Strand Books in the city – this time we got there. They had a huge children’s section that I could have spent all day in if I’d been feeling up to it. Still, I managed to pick up a delightful picture book called ‘Mik’s Mammoth’ by Roy Gerrard and discovered English writer, Justin Richards. To be exact, Richards’ ‘The Invisible Detective’ Series. On a whim, I bought all three that they had on display. Titles like ‘The Paranormal Puppet Show’ (released in this country under the pallid title of ‘Double Life’), ‘Ghost Soldiers’ and ‘Killing Time’, really piqued my interest.

I read Richards’ books in order, beginning with ‘The Paranormal Puppet Show’. In doing so, once started, I found that I couldn’t put it down. Now that is brilliant writing! Not only did the subject and time settings (contemporary as well as the 1930s) enthrall me, but the interweaving of the current mystery under investigation, plus intrinsic subplots and placements of information regarding further mysteries that are dealt with in future stories. When I was in my early teens, I would have thought these books were so cool to read, let alone keep. Even at my age, the writing captured my enthusiasm as well as my interest. Richards doesn’t talk down the reader in any way, but involves he or she in what ever is happening like a fellow conspirator. Yes, I did say conspirator. The situation involving the base set up of the Invisible Detective, Brandon Lake, is created and kept secret by four children: Art Drake, who plays the barely visible detective who gives audiences in a dark room, and is the leader of the little group; Meg Wallace, the suspicious, logical one who can uncannily tell if someone is lying; Jonny, the fastest thing on two legs; and Flinch, a little girl abandoned to the streets, and the reason for the subterfuge. The children, or Cannoniers as they call themselves, are trying to raise enough money to buy Flinch some warm clothes for the winter. So, everyone who comes to consult the Brandon Lake on a Monday evening by asking a question, must leave sixpence in return.
The children investigate things as simple as ‘is the publican at such and such a pub watering his beer?’ to a missing person under suspicious circumstances. All this is done between the serious problems of their own lives. Simple things lead the intrepid children into strange and dire circumstances, some way beyond their control. Sophisticated, imaginative, and very well thought out. The cases of the Invisible Detective are set to intrigue, and they do. I’m currently waiting to receive more of the novels…

Meantime, I read Justin Richards’ newest release ‘The Death Collector’. Set in another time with new characters in a new, but no less fascinating setting: The British Museum, in late Victorian England. The pace is fast, the dangers real, and the murders and mysteries just keep piling up. Even the dead walk – but not in the way you imagine. The opening lines from this book capture you from the start: “Four days after his own funeral, Albert Wilkes came home for tea…Even the dog knew there was something wrong.”

Justin Richards is a writer gifted with a brilliant imagination, a love of clockwork, history, mystery and all of the quirks that human history and pre-history has to offer. And he uses it all to fashion stories and people that intrigue the reader, and fascinate the mind – usually at a breathless pace.

He is the author of currently more than a dozen genre and sf novels, as well as non-fiction books, and audio and television scripts. He has moonlighted by editing anthologies of short stories, collaborated occasionally with well-known author, Jack Higgins, been a technical writer, founded and edited a media journal, and contributed articles to many mainstream magazines. Before all that he worked for a multinational computer company. At present, Justin is best known for his role as Creative Consultant to the BBC Books range of Doctor Who novels, as well as writing his own well-received novels for the series.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

A New Recipe...and it's healthy

I created this one night when I was feeling creative in the kitchen and wanted to use up some ingredients lying around the place. Originally, I used a a brown rice and wild rice blend, and then baked the whole thing when it was made. The recipe is the one I use now, and the risotto tastes just as good with the sourcream/plain yoghurt mix mixed through it without baking it further. Give it a whirl, and see what your tastebuds think...
Brown Rice Risotto
1 cup Brown rice
3 ¾ cups Chicken Broth or water )

2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/3 green pepper (capsicum), finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1-2 large links of lean Sweet Italian pork sausage, removed from casing OR 6-8 rashers of turkey bacon finely chopped.
(or even turkey or chicken sausage)
1 heaped teaspoon of Parsley flakes
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
½ - 1/3 cup of peanuts, or cashews or crushed Pecans

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yoghurt
salt and pepper to taste
dash of paprika or, alternatively, dried mustard.

Small amount of butter (optional)
Seasoned Bread crumbs (optional)

In a large saucepan, place rice and chicken broth (or water, if using) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer with lid on for further 40-45 minutes or until Brown rice is tender. Remove lid and let sit until remaining water is absorbed.

In a deep frying pan, place celery, green pepper, onion and olive oil, parsley flakes, Thyme, crushed garlic and peanuts. Cook on medium heat until all ingredients are tender and a bit browned. Drain, and add ingredients to rice mixture. In same frying pan, place sausage, and a little extra olive oil if sausage is really lean. Heat over medium heat until cooked through – crumble the sausage until fine. Add to rice mixture.

Add all remaining ingredients to rice mixture. Blend well!

If you would like a different texture and serving suggestion, then:

Grease, or spray lightly with oil, a large baking dish. Spoon rice mixture into baking dish and smooth the top of it with a spoon. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top of rice mixture and dot with butter. If butter is hard, it can be grated over breadcrumbs to ensure an even spread. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes to allow flavours to blend. The breadcrumb topping stops the rice from drying out in the oven.

Serves 4-6 people or lasts two people two meals.

NOTE: Highlighted ingredients are the ones I usually use when making this recipe.
Hope you like it,