Mar 192014

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:

 March 19, 2014  Posted by on March 19, 2014 Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Mar 082014

WB1_klAfter rereleasing the eBook and writing on the sequel, it is now time to bring out the new paperback version of The Coffee Legacy.

Thanks to my husband’s help with the formatting, I was able to get a proof copy which I’m really happy with.

The paperback is already available on Amazon and Createspace and will also be shipped out to other online booksellers. I hope you will enjoy having it in your hands as much as I do! :)

 March 8, 2014  Posted by on March 8, 2014 Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Feb 222014

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!

 February 22, 2014  Posted by on February 22, 2014 Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »
Dec 192013

I admit it, I’m addicted to tablet, the wonderful Scottish sweet. That is why, about three years ago, I discovered Skye Fudge on a weekend trip to the Isle of Skye on the west coast of Scotland. It is mainly an online shop, but their products are also sold all over the Isle of Skye in different shops as well as elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands. I was hooked on the delicate and slightly crumbly tablet that Carol Inglis, the owner, makes. By that point I had already tasted my way through a lot – hand-made as well as mass-produced. By far, hers remained my favourite. So much so that I even ordered boxes of tablet as favours for our wedding last year. The experience and the service from Carol was fantastic.


Finally, this September, we made it back to Skye. This time, we emailed Carol beforehand and asked if we could get a tour of the Sky Fudge & Chocolate kitchens. She only runs an online shop, so we were excited when she invited us over. I took many photos (which you can find at the end of this blogpost) whilst she showed us around and today I will share the experience with you.

If I hadn’t been jealous enough going down a single track road on a splendid day, the view from Carol’s house over the sea is fantastic! First up, Carol showed us the chocolate kitchen in her house. Yes, think about that. How amazing is it to not only have a  second kitchen in your house, but one which is dedicated solely to the task of making chocolate?


In this magical room, Carol and her employees (not an oompa-loompa in sight) were making bars of chocolate as well as a bewildering selection of chocolate pralines. We watched how the chocolate was made and filled into the forms for the bars.  They need to be shaken on a piece of wood so that there are no bubbles of air left within the chocolate. Some of the chocolate bars had caramel, sea salt, flower petals or pieces of fruit in them. After the bars are hardened, we watched them being taken out of the form, all fresh and shiny.

After the chocolate bars, we investigated the multi-flavoured pralines and I was able to take many photos of the different flavours which look as good as they taste. They showed us how the pralines are filled with cream and covered in layers of chocolate and sprinkles of awesome. Following some tasting and selecting even more pralines we wanted to take home with us, we moved on to the sweet perfection that is tablet.

The part I was looking forward to most was the heavenly place where tablet is made. For that, Carol uses a workshop in her garden which was converted into a huge tablet kitchen. You want to get one step better than a chocolate kitchen in your house? Get a tablet kitchen!


Along the walls were lined up many baskets full of tablet, some traditional tablet and some flavoured with Talisker, the local single malt whisky, or Drambuie, a liqueur made out of whisky, honey, herbs and spices. Needless to say, I wanted to move in, but then I would probably have a sugar overdose within 24 hours. Tablet is basically made with condensed milk, sugar, butter and a bit of water. You might think when you have a bit of tablet, it might be enough sugar for a day and it probably is, but you won’t be able to stop eating it. Now a disclaimer: tablet can be addictive. Very addictive. Especially when you go ahead and order some of Carol’s online; you’ll be hooked instantly. Don’t come complaining to me, though!

There were huge pots where the tablet was being cooked, bubbling away merrily on the stove. After the tablet has been bubbling long enough, you have to stir it an extreme amount of time, before it gets put in trays to harden. Lining the walls there were shelves full of tablet laid there to cool down. When it has hardened a bit, the cuts are made so it can be broken into small tasty squares once the tablet is ready. Sometimes, unfortunately for anyone’s diet, there are crumbs and leftovers. Even more “unfortunate” is it, if you get to nibble on it whilst you are getting a tour of the kitchens. Needless to say we didn’t leave there under-sugared.

Once the perfect tablet cubes are finished, they are gathered together, packaged up and labeled.

At the end of our tour, we met a lobster and a crab, but that was just an added bonus :) :) .


The luckiest thing for me, because I live a thousand miles away in Austria, is the fact that these delicacies are shipped all over Europe. It would be quite a trek to fly or drive to Skye every time I ran out of tablet. I tried to make it myself and might continue to do so to pass the time until the next box from Skye Fudge arrives. Naturally, it is always filled with tablet AND chocolate.

The online shop consists of a dedicated tablet site and one for the chocolates – though you can order from both for one big shipment (luckily). Just two words to add here… Fudge. Chocolate.

All that’s left for me to do is thank Carol and her team for the tour, the patience in explaining and – above all – making the best tablet EVER! :)

 December 19, 2013  Posted by on December 19, 2013 Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Dec 032013

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!

DSC_4350 DSC_4348

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!