Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Whew! Thank you to everyone who submitted their manuscript. We have chosen a few and will be very busy for the rest of the summer. We expect to open submissions again this fall. In the meantime . . . keep on writing :)

Gail Westover
Thistlewood Publishing

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Thistlewood Publishing is proud to welcome Kate O'Neill to the family. Kate has written a very explicit book about frontier life in the mid-west in the early 1800's when settlers worked from sunrise to sunset. Readers will learn what life was like when native Americans still roamed freely, before white man's treaties forced them off their lands, before the railroad, newspapers, electricity, indoor plumbing, automobiles and every other convenience we take for granted today.

Meet Corabell, a beautiful, passionate woman who had a white father, a fur trader by profession, and an Indian mother. When her tribe left the area, Corabell stayed behind and went to the giant blonde German man who waved to her across the river. She hoped he would take her as his wife. In love with her from afar, he quickly agreed to marry her. As a new bride, passions awakened under her husband's touch. Later, circumstances out of her control caused her to be forced to marry her husband's brother.

Watch for it in the fall of 2011


Thistlewood Publishing is proud to welcome Rose Daly as our newest author. Rose brings us MOONFIRE, the first book in a series.

In the 18th century, when sailors saw the moon shrouded in a red glow they knew that great changes were on the horizon.

From Fordell, a small Caribbean island, Daniel and Emma also see the fiery moon as they run for their lives through treacherous jungle territory laced with fearsome claw traps.
Great changes, and great dangers, lie in wait for them, for they have made an enemy of the most powerful and ruthless man on Fordell, Clayton BlackAdder.
Unaided and unprepared, they must face the daunting prospect of life on the run on this isolated island, for to be recognized and captured will mean certain death for Daniel and a forced marriage to Clayton BlackAdder for Emma.

Zed also sees the fiery moon, and he knows without a doubt that his life will change; for he is a runaway slave fleeing through the jungle, and the woman he carries in his arms he has stolen from Clayton BlackAdder. Zed's future is fraught with danger and the fearsome prospect of torture and death if he is captured. Added to this, he faces a terrifying struggle with treacherous pirates that will change his life forever. Somehow, Zed must find a way to save the woman he loves from BlackAdder's clutches, but Zed is not alone in his quest.

Friendship between white man and black man seems unlikely in this brutal, slave-oriented island. Daniel and Zed do not recognize the boundaries of race or class, they only recognize a kindred spirit, and a common need to protect those they love, and this they will do ... no matter what the cost may be.

Watch for this thrilling book this summer!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Finally, summer is here, complete with all the rain that is making my flowers and vegetable plants grow like crazy! As always, I spend more time on my flower beds because they're so beautiful....and....I saw a 2 foot long snake in my veggie garden two days ago. Yes, I screamed, but don't tell anyone.

My passion this year has been container gardening. I have three of them on the dock and smaller ones scattered around on the rock walls of the flower beds. They look very pretty and are planted with a mixture of foliage and flowers both. Of course our large deck is full of them too. Love them all.

If you've been following my blog since last year, you've read about my casa blanca lilies. I planted only 6 bulbs and now have about 11 plants. They have multiplied. The original ones are about a foot or so taller than they were the first year. The fragrance is out of this world and since they are covered in buds, I'm countng the days.

A new summer recipeis to take fresh asparagus which you wash and cut the woody bottom stems off. Baste them or pour a little olive oil on them and throw them on the gril in a single layer. We sprinkle a seasoning mix on them and grill for about ten minutes. Delicious!

We're beginning to get corn from Delaware, I think Bob said. It was pretty good and we're anxiously awaiting our own local corn.

Happy summer :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I ask you now, wasn't spring supposed to have sprung? I have verified this information with our local meteorologists, my grandson who is ready to swim in the lake, the groundhog, and even the Easter bunny. All concur...spring has sprung. Mother Nature, on the other hand, is not cooperating. It's gray, damp and ugly outside and I have no desire to be out there. The birds are singing, but I've come to the conclusion that they need their tiny heads examined.

My waistline thanks me, Bob's waistline thanks me (NOT). Since I can't work in my gardens, I've been cooking (surprise!). Our refrigerator is nearly ready to explode, but I can never find anything I want to eat. I have to make something new. Othertimes I'll see a commercial on TV and get a craving for something. Luckily, I have the ingredients to make almost anything. So, I do it. It's a vicious circle. If you have a few lemons hanging around and want to make the most delicious lemon bars you've ever eaten, let me know.

The sun actually poked its nose out yesteray for a few minutes. I guess it's waiting for a written invitation.

Nap time. Bye for now :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011



Xavier Dufaure de Citres has brought to the backgammon community eXtreme Gammon but also GammonSite and in the past NetGammon.

Tell us something about your yourself and your background.

I am 42. I grew up in France, in Savoie to be precise, with my parents and my 2 brothers. I graduated from college in Grenoble in electrochemistry and electrometallurgy. I never used these skills since I left college as I started working in the software industry right away. I started to work for Borland as a Language Tech support specialist. I learned a lot but after one year it got boring and I found a job at GOTO software. I brought with me the backgammon program I had made (CyberGammon) and created NetGammon for GOTO.

This project will always remain very dear to my heart as it is on NetGammon that I met my wife Michelle.

I moved in the USA in 1998 and we got married in 1999. We have been living in Massillon, OH ever since.

What do you do for a living?

I am a project manager in a small company (45 employees) that writes software for the food industry. I am more specifically taking care of the SQL database development and the data warehousing.

How did you get introduced to backgammon?

My first exposure to backgammon is a bit unusual. Around the age of 11 my older brother and I were receiving a magazine called “Jeux & Strategies.” It was covering a wide variety of games (wargames, logic puzzle, math puzzle etc…) and had a section for the “great classic”: Chess, Draughts, Othello, bridge, tarot, go and backgammon.

The backgammon section was made by Benjamin Hannuna. It was typically an 8 positions quiz. I got interested in the game and started learning from the Hannuna’s comments. So, strangely, I started backgammon by solving problems rather than actually playing. I tried to get my brothers and father interested but without success (the fact that I was a very bad loser at the time probably explains why).

I did not play backgammon until I went to engineering school (College). At the time I did not have a board so I wrote my first backgammon program (no engine, just an interface to play and store results).

How strong a player are you?

I am decent level, but far from the top. When paying attention I play around a PR of 5.0 in average.

What advice would you give to a new player that wants to become a top player some day?

Get eXtreme Gammon, of course! Also, read books or get some lessons with Phil Simborg! Programs are great at spotting your mistakes, but without the bases to understand why you actually made a mistake it will take longer to progress.

What’s the best backgammon book or article you’ve ever read?

I’ve always enjoyed Chris Bray’s, Backgammon; An Independent View. Robertie’s 501 Essential Positions is also something I often reopen.

What are you really good at besides backgammon?

I am quite good at logic puzzles. I like games in general and I can play most of them correctly but Backgammon is still the one I am strongest.

I am good at programming and have a strong mathematical background (Math Spe M’, for those who know the French educational system).

How do you relax other than playing backgammon?

I enjoy watching movies and playing games on the computers. Also, my wife Michelle and I always enjoy going out to a restaurant with good food and good wine.

Who are your heroes in backgammon…people you respect either for their play or for other reasons?

I am very impressed by how fast and accurate players like Neil Kazaross, Stick Rice, John O’Hagan etc… can be.

Has your game improved much in the past few years? If so, why?

Not so much in the past 2 years because I’ve been more busy programming than playing. But in the years before that my skill improved a lot. XG was getting to its maturity level and I was playing again the bot a lot. I was focusing on getting the right moves and did not care about the result.

How did you happen to start GammonSite, a backgammon playing web site?

As I mentioned before I moved to the USA in 1998. I started to work on a Gaming site. The site (GameSite 2000) opened in 2000 and was including Chess, Checkers, Reversi and Backgammon.

The other games never caught on and later were dropped and the site renamed GammonSite.

Tell us a little about GammonSite.

GammonSite offers rating, chat, tournaments and long duration leagues. Everything is highly configurable. It’s a friendly site for casual games, but experts are welcome. We have tournaments scheduled every half hour.

How did you happen to develop Extreme Gammon?

eXtreme Gammon started when Oasya (Snowie) told us they would start charging money to have their program running on GammonSite. As we did not want to (can couldn’t) pay the requested price, I started to work on an engine. After a few months, we were able to replace Snowie with our program. A year or so after, I thought I had a decent enough engine and started working on the interface. I worked on and off for about 5 years. Around 2008, we started to think about making it available commercially and started working in that direction. Phil Simborg came to GammonSite around that time and I happened to mention XG to him. I sent him the program and his enthusiasm about it showed us we had a product that would be interesting to users. We released the program in June 2009 and we have been very happy with how the product was received.

How is Extreme Gammon different and/or better than Snowie or GNUBG?

The first thing I programmed in XG was that I wanted all the analysis to be done in the background. I always found very annoying to have to wait for the results while I could start checking my mistake.

This is the main difference with our competitor on the interface/usability side. The two other main differences are speed and strength.

Speed took a long time to achieve. Optimizing the core routine of XG in assembler was very fun, but it’s a long and complex process (to give you an idea I estimate I can write the same code in Delphi about 20 times faster than in assembler; however the assembler code will be between 5% and 20% faster). Speed optimizations are however challenging and have an instant gratification (If I found an optimization, I can just calibrate and see immediately what I gain). Strength is the opposite: you make a very simple change, let’s say in the cube efficiency and then in order to test that change you have to let the computer self-play for a couple days before seeing the results.

I think XG surpass our competitors on both Speed and strength –the Depreli study and Phil’s study of positions that Snowie and Gnu missed in Michael Corbett’s book very clearly proved this to be true.

Are you working on a new, improved version of Extreme Gammon? What features will it have? How will it be improved? When will it come out?

Yes XG2 work started in June last year. I started with retraining the neural network. The details of it are “trade secrets” so I won’t discuss them. However, the retraining required the analysis of 73 trillion positions! Even using multiple core i7 (up to it took several months. Big thanks to Neil Kazaross, Claude Landry and Miran Tuhtan for contributing their CPU power to that effort.

I am glad to say that we achieved a better improvement than we targeted. On the 3-ply as it has increased by 13.2 Elo (or 0.4 PR) and we would have been happy with 10. We also achieved even more significant improvement on backgames. Thanks to Neil Kazaross for his relentless effort to push me in that direction and his valuable feedback as the process unfolded.

Mochy and Phil Simborg have also helped in the trials and have provided excellent ideas and feedback.

The other changes are interface improvements. The non-exclusive list is: Clock play, Batch rollout, translation in other languages, new position export features, new HTML export, opening book using all the rollouts made by the community on Bgonline.org.

Release time is expected to be in June of 2011.

How would you compare eXtreme gammon to the best players in the world? Are there any specific areas of the game where eXtreme gammon is not as good as the best players in the world?

Neil, Mochy, Stick or any other giant can surely answer this better, but I think that XG (version 1) is globally stronger than any human player. Backgames are surely the positions XG understand the least but hopefully this is improved in the upcoming version.

Do you think internet play of backgammon will continue to grow in the future? How will we ever be able to play on line and be confident that no one is cheating?

Playing for money against people you do not know surely conveys the risk that this user will use a bot. As computers get faster, it makes it easier for people to use them while playing, they don’t have to wait any noticeable time for a 3-ply analyze. I think that’s why money games have drastically decreased on the internet (along with the outrageous rake on most sites).

Sites for casual play, such as GammonSite, do still have their place and I am sure will continue to grow as more people access the internet.

Do you ever hope to give up other jobs and devote your time to backgammon?

I wish, yes. I do not give up hope, but I would say this is quite unlikely that I would be able to do that anytime soon.

Do you ever intend to start playing in live competition?

Maybe, yes, I am procrastinating about that. Let’s say I am seriously thinking about it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Isabelle's Locket is doing well :) I set it up as a giveaway in goodreads.com and have many people interested in it all ready. Colleen Mitchell and I are busy editing her second novel, which we've yet to name. She's just a busy girl, so full of energy and that wonderful imagination of hers keeps me on my toes. She has ideas for so many new books.

Bob and I are heading south again for a few days. We plan on hitting up some new bookstores and try to drum up some new business. We're taking Joey and Tyler with us (the keeshonds). Prissy gets to stay home all alone. She hates that. She likes me to be rigt next to her, or she isn't happy.

We've had so much rain here that we're scared to death of flooding again. Two or three houses across the street, one next to us and others down the street are pumping. The next door neighbor has water in their back yard. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. We're good so far.

Spring is in the air and I'm itching to get back to the lake. This time of year I miss it so much. Always such a long winter.

That's it for now. Don't forget to check out my fan club page in Facebook http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=140040156027808 and of course the Thistlewoo Publishing page at . They will keep you updated.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


WOW, what a fun dinner we had tonight. Bob and I made homemade tortillas. It was fun and quick and they really were better than store-bought shells. They were actually flaky. We filled them with cooked ground beef, refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and jalapenos. After we rolled them, we baked them for 10 min (I don't know why, exactly. Bob said to do it, so I did it). When they were finished, we topped them with sour cream and my homemade salsa. If you want to make some, here's the video with recipe. Give them a try. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49BaECtjPkc


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Isabelle's Locket

Isabelle's Locket is officially released and available for purchase through our website www.thistlewoodpublishing.com. Amazon has it available also, and other online bookstores will have it available as soon as they pick it up off the internet super highway. The release has caused a bit of a stir, as many folks were waiting for it. (Even Bob has put down his action thrillers to read Colleen Mitchell's book!)

Colleen and I are busy on the next one already. I promised you all that she had many novels in the wings so expect to see a lot more of her in the future!

I am very excited to have this wonderful author join our family at Thistlewood Publihing and wish her all the success in the world.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011


(A wonderful light muffin to enjoy on spring mornings)

1 cup ripe mashed bananas
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 stick melted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Large mixer bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, bananas, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon and butter. Add flour and mix only til blended. Add strawberries and mix only til blended. 14 muffins
350* 20-22 min.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


After a bad bout with bronchitis, I finally quit, after more than 40 years of smoking. Since I was so ill, I slept more than anything else. When I would wake up, I'd reach for my cigarettes. By the time I had one lit, I was choking and coughing. Needless to say, I was unable to smoke. After a week and a half of smoking no more than a few puffs a day I had a brilliant idea...."This is a perfect time to quit!" Halloween night, 2011, I had my last cigarette.

Even with a good antiibiotic, I didn't get off the couch for many days and continued to do nothing more than sleep. I believed this is what kept the withdrawal symptoms away. Once I was up and around, I still didn't have much of a problem with withdrawal symptoms or cravings, and considered myself VERY lucky! I thought it was a miracle! Sure, I wanted a cigarette quite often, but I'd just ride out the short craving and move on. Seriously, with everything on my mind, in 30 seconds, I'd moved on. Now, four months later, they are few and far between.

You must be wondering what sucks so badly. I'm getting to that, honestly. I've always had a problem with my sinuses and didn't think much of it until my friend Deb told me that I'm detoxing. Since I quit, I've had multiple cold/sinus problems, ear infections, cough/choking spells, and sore throats often enough that I felt compelled to research it.

These, as well as many other issues such as lack of energy, sleep disorders, bad acne, headaches, excess mucus, cold sores, stomach issues, and more. The good thing is that these things are temporary and they are explainable. My body is detoxing and it's making me sick. I wish it would go make someone else sick, but it's all mine to enjoy. I'm going to give you a link to read in case you know someone who is experiencing the joys of quitting smoking. If you're about to quit, please save the link. You may need it later. http://caloriecount.about.com/sick-quitting-smoking-ft36859. Currently, the forum is three pages long and you will read many stories, as well as advice on how to counteract them, i.e. B-12, bananas, lots of water, exercise. (sorry, the hyperlink option here isn't working. Just copy and paste the link in your browser. Do additional resarch; there's all kinds of information out there.

This post was meant to educate, not discourage anyone. Quitting really is worth it. This too shall pass.