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Deborah O'Toole: Newsletter (Autumn 2022)

Deborah O'Toole: Hello dear readers . . .

The summer of 2022 was the longest and hottest I've experienced to date. Sizzling temperatures broke standing records in my area by several degrees. It wasn't until the middle of September that the weather began to cool down, much to my relief. With it comes the long-awaited season of autumn, which is my favorite time of year.

Happy Autumn!

Many years ago, I wrote culinary articles for Food Fare about the food and culture of different countries across the globe, holidays and food-specific topics. The pieces also contained history, food traditions, lifestyle and dishes native to various countries, as well as authentic recipes, words and phrases in the native tongue of the subject, along with food terms.

One of my favorites, to this day, remains The Pumpkin Patch:

Pumpkins are fruits used widely as a Halloween decoration, but there are many other uses for the plump little Jack O'Lantern. Just about every part of the pumpkin is edible (apart from the stem), including the hollow shell which can be used as a serving dish. Recipes associated with pumpkins are also wide and varied: one can make pies, cakes, breads, tarts, Crème Brule, pudding, cookies, soup, butter, dips, pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream, risotto and sauces. Pumpkins can even be baked like squash as a side dish. The pumpkin seeds (to be found inside amongst the spaghetti-like innards) can also be salted, roasted and served as a snack. While I don't claim to be an expert on pumpkin-lore, my brief article will attempt to shed some light on the edible pumpkin, along with bits of history, planting and growing, varieties, methods of cooking, health benefits, trivia, links and pumpkin-based recipes.

People are on the fence about pumpkins. They either hate the taste, or love it. I fall into the latter category. Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin hot cocoa, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, and even pumpkin-scented candles - I love it all. To honor the versatile pumpkin, I'd like to share the following recipe:


  • 1 large pumpkin

  • 1 quart water

  • 2 TBS salt

  • 1 TBS vegetable oil or unsalted butter (melted)

Pull seeds from the pumpkin, separating them from as many of the "spaghetti" strings as possible. Pick through the seeds and remove any cut or marred seeds. Preheat the oven to 250-degrees F. In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for ten minutes. Drain, and then spread seeds on a kitchen towel or paper towel. Pat dry. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter, and then spread evenly on a large cookie or baking sheet. Place pan in the preheated oven and roast for thirty to forty minutes (stirring about every ten minutes), until crisp and golden brown. Cool the seeds. Shell the seeds before eating. Note: If you want to keep the seeds until ready to eat, store in air-tight containers or zip seal plastic bags and refrigerate.

Enjoy the season. :)

Deborah O'Toole: In the Shadow of the King

As of this writing, In the Shadow of the King is being presented in ten parts, along with a prologue and an epilogue. As with all of my books in progress, content and layout might be subject to change. Available excerpts are provided.

Table of  Contents from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Prologue from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

THE TWO MEN stood by the open grave solemnly, each one absorbed in his own thoughts. The wind had turned cold as evening approached, whipping orange-colored leaves in and around the old headstones as if they had independent will. Clouds had gathered overhead earlier in the day, so it was only a matter of time before rain began to fall in earnest.

Part One from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

SHEILA BRYAN STRUGGLED with her car keys as she attempted to hold several textbooks under her arm. Muttering under her breath, she swung her head back to keep her hair from falling into her face. Just at that moment, her car keys fell from her hands and onto the ground.

Part Two from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

THE YOUNG MAN ran along the well-worn footpath, ducking his head as he went under a hanging tree branch. Without a pause in his stride, he looked behind him and started to laugh. His favored dog, a sleek Greyhound named Nasir, was loping along, trying to catch up with his master. The man came to a stop, bending over to place his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. But still he laughed.

Part Three from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Four from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Five from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Six from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Seven from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Eight from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Nine from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Part Ten from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Epilogue from "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

I can predict with certainty that In the Shadow of the King will be a lengthy book. At the moment, I'm 196 pages in (with a current file size of 2.80 MB and 79,702 words), but only to the year 1513 in the storyline. As Sir Francis Bryan lived until 1550, I still have quite a few miles to travel in order to reach the end.

In addition, my character spreadsheet for In the Shadow of the King keeps getting larger (24 pages currently).

Character spreadsheet for "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

I'm also particular about the fonts I select for books, as evidenced below.

Book fonts for "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

I typically decide which typeface(s) to use even before I start writing. For In the Shadow of the King, I'm using Sabon for the body text, Merriweather for chapter headings, and Seaker and Trajan Pro for front and back book covers.

Fonts are easy to come by, and 99.9% of the time can be found online for free. In all the years I've done web design, I've only paid for a font twice. About a decade ago, I purchased Trajan and then obtained Seaker last July. Both fonts are perfect as headers and for embedding on website navigation buttons.

Book fonts for "In the Shadow of the King." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Then there is the subject matter itself. Although not much is truly known about Sir Francis Bryan's persona as a whole, I found an intriguing description of it referenced in the General Biographical Dictionary by Alexander Chalmers. The volume was first published in 1761, more than 200 years after Bryan's death.

No portrait survives so we know nothing of his appearance. Bryan was a typical Renaissance courtier, a poet and man of letters who was also to distinguish himself as a soldier, sailor and diplomat. His irresistible charm disguised an incorrigible intriguer who was two-faced, manipulative and promiscuous; once, on a trip to Calais, he demanded "a soft bed then a hard harlot." He was full of pent-up energy; highly articulate and viciously witty. Observers were astonished at the familiarity he used towards the King, both in speaking his mind and telling jokes. Bryan was no creature of principle; by altering his loyalties and opinions to conform to the King's changes of policy, he managed to remain in favor throughout the reign.

In writing a semi-fictional account of Bryan's life with In the Shadow of the King, the bit of personality illumination has come in handy while creating dialog and various scenes. But who was Alexander Chalmers, and on which facts did he base his opinion? He was born more than two centuries after Bryan's death, so how could he know?

According to Wikipedia, the full title of the work was The General Biographical Dictionary: Containing an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in Every Nation, Particularly the British and Irish, From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. "Saxii's Onomasticon" is the most commonly cited source.

My research goes on, and I still find the process utterly fascinating.

Deborah O'Toole: In Progress

I've had to push back release dates for my historical essays about Lizzie Borden and Michael Collins yet again. I've shifted both essays for conclusion sometime in 2024. The reason being? I'm completely immersed in the Deborah O'Toole: In the Workswriting of two books, which are currently in progress:

I'm estimating it will take me at least one year - or maybe more - to finish both books, therefore leaving me little time to work on the half-completed essays until 2024.

My significant other recently asked me: "How do you keep two different books straight in your head? Does it ever get confusing?"

The answer is no, at least for me. The two books have vastly different storylines, and are in truth nothing alike. While Limb of Iniquity is a continuation of the Collective Obsessions Saga in the modern day, In the Shadow of the King is a trip back in time to the Tudor era of history (roughly 1509 up to 1550). The research alone takes up quite a bit of time as I'm keen to get historical facts in order, even though the book is a semi-fictional account of Sir Francis Bryan.

As per my usual notation, storylines, estimated release dates and book cover designs may be subject to change.

Deborah O'Toole: Nod to Mary M. Luke

In keeping with the Tudor theme of my current writing project, I decided to share a book review of A Crown for Elizabeth by Mary M. Luke, which I penned several years ago.

"A  Crown for Elizabeth" by Mary M. Luke. Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

The following is my review of the novel:

Book Review by Deborah O'Toole:


"A Crown for Elizabeth" by Mary M. Luke is one of the better books written about the Tudor era of history, especially if one is partial to Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch. While A Crown for Elizabeth begins as if the story is about the Tudor children in general (Mary, Elizabeth and Edward), the chapters describing Mary and Edward are actually pieces that intertwine with the Elizabeth puzzle. Each chapter effectively leads up to the life Elizabeth led before she became Queen of England in 1558.

And that brilliant life was fraught with tension, mistrust, paranoia, shrewdness, judgment, discretion and daunting courage. I certainly would not have wanted to be one of the children of Henry VIII. He had the gumption to behead two of his wives - what would have prevented him from doing the same to one of his children? Although Henry VIII did not do this, the fear of that reality certainly must have been in the minds of his offspring. To watch Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard go to the block, as well as old friends, relatives and servants, had to leave an indelible impression on the Tudor children. If blessed with common sense and a sharp mind - as Elizabeth was - each incident taught a lesson of perseverance, sound judgment for the most part, and of extreme caution. As this was normal behavior in the reign of Henry VIII, the resulting personality formations surely went unnoticed as a general rule.

Mary M. Luke portrays the true story of Elizabeth I with a vividness that clearly evokes the Tudor era. The history has been meticulously researched, and brings the characters to life in many dimensions. Some of the letters are faithfully reproduced in their entirety, and there is an example of Elizabeth's famous signature. There are also accurate records of Elizabeth's few "mistakes" - one of which was her flirtation with Sir Thomas Seymour, and the scandal it created at the time. You will read about the desperation of Henry's Queens, the brutal way in which Henry treated Princess Mary after he had become consumed with Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth's uncertain childhood, and the sad and sickly Prince Edward who was to become the last Tudor King.

"A Crown for Elizabeth" interweaves the destinies of each Tudor child, and tells their stories in riveting detail. Without Mary and Edward, Elizabeth would never have fulfilled her own destiny. All of the events in the story lead ultimately to one compelling moment: the day Elizabeth Tudor ascended the throne of England, thus beginning the magical Elizabethan age.

Elizabeth I's signature. Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

The story never gets old for me.

Mary M. Luke passed away in 1993 at the age of seventy-four. Her other works include Catherine, the Queen; The Nine Days Queen: A Portrait of Lady Jane Grey, The Nonsuch Lure, and The Ivy Crown: A Biographical Novel of Queen Katherine Parr.

Deborah O'Toole: Logos & Such

When I need a break from writing, I tend to either play computer games or go about messing with new graphics for my books.

Graphics won out for this go-round. The possible new logo for the Collective Obsessions Saga:

Collective Obsessions Saga (logo). Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Another button with the book covers included:

Collective Obsessions Saga. Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

Let me know what you think by sending a comment via my Contact page.

Deborah O'Toole: Feline Antics

Our cats Hissy and Dusty now have their very own Facebook pages, much to their mutual delight. ;)

Hissy Dalton @ Facebook.

Dusty OToole Dalton @ Facebook.

They would both be thrilled if you came by their pages for a visit. :)

Deborah O'Toole: Leisure Activities

The amount of meticulous research required to assemble In the Shadow of the King in proper fashion sometimes leaves me longing for a quick, simple read in order to relax. So, where do I turn? I escape back into my youth and Nancy Drew. The storylines are entertaining without being complicated. I can usually finish one book in just over an hour.

Nancy Drew

It is somewhat comforting to return to a familiar character from the past, as if visiting with an old friend.

I also take breaks by playing the Delicious Emily and Incredible Dracula series' of PC games. They are mostly time management games, which typically would cause me stress but doesn't in this case.

Either that, or I'm a glutton for punishment. ;)

Deborah O'Toole: Until Next Time . . .

Another newsletter will be coming your way in late spring/early summer 2023, so keep your eyes peeled.

Meanwhile, visit my website, Facebook and Twitter pages for updates, or go to my blog Irish Eyes to view recent posts.

And until next time, happy reading . . .

Deborah O'Toole

Sunday, 2nd October 2022

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