Monday, March 31, 2014

Vonnie Hughes Holds Her Audience Captive

Please welcome back mu New Zealand friend who makes her home in Australia, author extraordinaire Vonnie Hughes. Today Vonnie has her delightful Regency romance Captive for your reading pleasure.

When Alexandra Tallis sets free the attractive man her sister stupidly tried to hold captive, her actions lead not only to a love she never thought to find, but also to a horrific family secret that threatens that love.

When Alexandra Tallis discovers that her witless sister has imprisoned their father’s nemesis, Theo Crombie in their attic, she quickly frees him, fighting an unladylike impulse to keep him as her own special captive. Despite the brutal beating she receives from her father for her actions, Alexandra continues to yearn for the delicious Mr. Crombie even though she knows that nothing will ever come of her dreams.

Injured and shackled in a stranger’s attic, Theo unexpectedly discovers the woman of his dreams. But how can he pursue those dreams when her bizarre family’s complex relationships threaten the very foundation of his existence? Somehow Theo must find a way through this maze to claim his lady.

“Oh, no, Emmaline! Please untie him. Let him go.”

Whatever would her sister do next? At seventeen, she was an eligible man’s worst nightmare. And this latest escapade—

“Don’t be such a bore, Lexie. ’Tis a great joke! For once, Papa will thank us. Especially when he finds out who it is we’ve trussed up.” Emmaline laughed her silvery, seductive laugh that drove men wild and irritated women.

“Thank us? He is more like to beat us. You cannot capture someone and bring him here and…and just tie him up!”

“Of course I can. I already have. I shall lock the two of you in here together and then raise an outcry. Papa and the servants will come running and—,” she waved her pretty hands in the air, “—the rest will take care of itself. Papa’s investment problem will be solved, and with a bit of luck, you might even be married by next week, sister.”

“Are you out of your mind?” rasped an angry voice from the darkest corner of the garret.

“Ah, you’re awake!” trilled Emmaline.

Alexandra Tallis gulped. She was doing her best not to look at the near-naked man half-hidden in the shadows. But her eyes refused to behave. Stripped to the waist he was a wondrous sight, all muscle and taut sinew. His arms tensed and strained as he struggled to escape.

“Get me out of here,” he snarled.

Alexandra blinked and looked more closely, but her eyesight was not the best. She lifted a candle from the wall sconce and took a step forward. And another.

“You’re bleeding!”

He swiveled his head to look in her direction. “Sense at last. Yes, I’m bleeding. I’d be obliged if you’d free me from these bl—these ridiculous bonds.” There was a clank and rattle as he tried to move.

Gracious! Emmaline hadn’t just tied the man up—she had chained him. Alexandra closed her eyes for a few seconds.

“Emmaline! How on earth did you manage—?”

“Davy did it for me. Well, he would fight, so Davy had to subdue him.”

“What did that witless boy do? Shoot the poor man?”

“Yes, actually. He did,” the man muttered.


Vonnie Hughes is a New Zealander living in Australia. She loves animals and jogging. Vonnie writes Regencies and romantic suspense novels along with short stories. She is presently working on a romantic suspense, working title: Innocent Hostage and a Regency novella, working title: A Tale of Two Sisters.

Her earlier book Coming Home is about a soldier and a nurse, thrown together during the Napoleonic wars, who find more danger on their return to England than they ever did on the Iberian Peninsula.

The Second Son is actually a prequel to Coming Home. A second son, filled with angst, stands to inherit a title and property through the death of a brother he has always loathed and mistrusted. A young disabled woman teaches him how to find his self-respect and how to love.

Another Regency Historical, Mr. Monfort’s Marriage, has businessman Matthew Monfort inveigled into marrying an earl’s daughter. With good reason he loathes the ton, so his new wife needn’t think she’s going to win him over, even though she’s quite delightful…and intelligent…and sweet…However Verity shows him that not all members of the ton are idle layabouts and that he can do much good with his largesse and with—shock, horror—the unexpected and embarrassing title conferred on him by Prinny.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on Amazon and Musa Publishing.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog.
Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

I'll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then...

Happy Reading!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tips for Easier Cooking

Cooking Tips
• Always cook with a sink of hot soapy water at the ready. It makes for easier cleanup.
• Write the date and your opinion along with any adjustments on your recipes. I also make a note in the index i.e. VG (very good), etc. for future reference.

• Don’t flour roasts before you brown them. All you’re browning is the flour and the meat is not sealed to hold in its juices.
• Always allow roasts, steaks, etc. to sit on a cutting board for 10 minutes, with a foil tent over, before you carve it. This allows the juices to sink back into the meat.

• To unpeel bananas the easiest way, start from the bottom.

• Place unripe tomatoes in a brown paper bag. Store in a cool dark spot. This is also great for all the green tomatoes you rescue from your garden at the end of summer.
• Don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator. They lose their flavor.

• Steam vegetables to retain bright color and crispness. Place a metal steamer in your saucepan. Add chicken stock, white wine, and water to below the bottom holes. The stock and wine add a little extra flavor and the alcohol cooks away.

Dried and Canned Beans
• When cooking beans for soup, stews, and the like, add a teaspoon or so of baking soda to the mixture. This cuts the negative intestinal reactions to beans and does not affect the flavor or cooking.

Fresh Green Beans
• Add a paper towel to the plastic bag when you store green beans in the refrigerator. It absorbs the excess moisture so the beans stay fresh for a longer period of time.

• What to do with those extra stalks that you don’t need, but don’t want to throw out at today’s prices? Chop and sauté in a mix of olive oil and butter. Store in small containers, and freeze until needed.

• Use a garlic press instead of chopping. The press brings out more flavor and you’ll use less garlic.

• All types need moisture to stay fresh. When buying head lettuce, look for the longest stem. Scratch the nub with your nail and place a damp paper towel over the end. Store in the fridge, preferably the crisper drawer.
• Leaf lettuces should be rinsed in cool water, wrapped in a dish towel or other cloth, and store in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
• Remoisten the lettuce after each use to retain freshness.

• Clean mushrooms just before using. Wipe with a dry paper towel to remove the growing soil.
• Loose mushrooms keep reasonably well in a paper bag and stored in the refrigerator.

• Cut the root end off onions first. This allows the crying gas to escape.
• When cleaning green onions use a piece of paper towel to pull off the slippery end and not have your fingers smell.
• When the recipe calls for a small amount go ahead and sauté the entire chopped onion. Divide out what you need at that time. Freeze the remainder in small containers until needed.

• Make your salad early in the day and never worry about it turning brown or mushy. Use a good size plastic bag to toss your salad without the dressing. Gently shake the bag until well mixed. Store the bagged salad upside in the serving bowl. Pop it into the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Pull the bag from the bowl, add dressing, and you’re good to go.
• Add your salad ingredients to a large bowl. Gently toss until well mixed. Cover with a damp paper towel and store in fridge until you’re ready to add dressing and serve.

• Spray your cheese grater with a little Pam. The cheese won’t stick and cleanup is a breeze.
• Grate your own Parmesan, Asiago, Swiss, etc. fresh when you need it. The blocks will keep in your fridge for months if you cover tightly with cling wrap or aluminum foil, then store in a plastic bag.

• Peeling hard boiled eggs is easy. Crack the shells gently against your sink, then place them back in the cooking pot filled with cold water for a few minutes, then peel.
• Store peeled hard boiled eggs for up to five days in a glass container. Be sure to cover the eggs with water. Change the water every few days.

• Children of any age should not drink expired milk, but adults can without a problem.

Additional Tips
• Don’t store bread in the refrigerator. This dries out the bread.
• Bread freezes well for up to one month.

Brown Sugar
• When light or dark brown sugar hardens place it into a plastic bag. Add a slice of white bread and seal. Within hours the sugar is back to a usable state.

Cooking Oil
• Test if the oil is hot enough for frying by adding a small piece of white bread to the heated pan. When the bread quickly toasts golden the oil is ready.
• Chop fresh herb leaves easily. Place the whole leaves into a cup and snip with scissors.

• Don’t add oil or salt to the cooking water. Those additions make it difficult for the sauce to cling to the pasta.

I'll be back Monday with Vonnie Hughes. Until then...

Happy cooking!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Monday, March 24, 2014

Let's Talk SIN

I'm excited to announce Stockholm SINdrome, Book 2 of Melt the Ice series, an erotic romance from Musa Publishing is now available.

Fire and Ice…

Hot nights and hotter moves melt the ice.

Battered American hockey player Colt Coltrane intends to concur Sweden. A bad spill on their ice and the goalie is at the tender mercies of a hot massage therapist with a grudge against all athletes. All his good intentions to behave go straight to hell when her warm hands stroke him.

Disa Ellstrom is disgusted with sports figures who expect more than a deep massage. She checked her cheating husband and her puck bunny status to build a practice to help people, not hurt them. But her frozen heart melts faster than a spring thaw when a sexy goalie limps into her life.

Combine a hot-blooded American with a Swedish spitfire and they’re sure to sin in Stockholm.

Disa ran her fingers along Colt’s deltoids. The strong muscles flex under her touch. His shyness had been endearing, along with confusing. Were his physical problem more than the normal aches and pains of a professional athlete? If so, she intended to help him overcome the situation. If not, he was in for a satisfying surprise. She hoped.

A quick scramble across the sheet gave him more room, and she tugged on his shoulders so he would lie back against the pillow. He winced, but continued to draw his legs up onto the bed.

She combed her fingers through the crisp auburn hairs sprinkled across his broad chest and descended to his beautiful hard dick nestled in a curly reddish tuft. She swallowed hard and foughti her desire to suck him until he came.

“You are a fine-looking man, Colt.” She rose onto her knees and traced a fingernail around his tight balls. Her vaginal muscles clenched.

He laid a hand on her calf and eased it up toward her thigh. He climbed higher. A shudder ran through her from his gentle massage over her rear end, up to the small of her back, then down. He slipped a finger between her cheeks.

Disa gasped and wiggled her ass, encouraging him to slip into her.She nipped at his balls and laved the tight sac, savoring the salty taste. She pumped his cock, starting slow and increasing the speed along with the pressure. His hips jerked, rocking with her rhythm and thrusting along her palm.

Colt maneuvered out from under Disa and knelt, facing her. He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her. A new world opened for her, a world of gentleness that brought tears to her eyes. She clung to him, loving his strength, relishing his taste. He pulled away. The skin was pulled taut over his cheekbones.

“It’s time to make you happy, baby. How about rolling over?” He tugged on her hip until she faced away from the brass headboard. “A little more to the center, so we can watch in the dresser mirror.”

She scooted across the rumpled linen and glanced into the antique glass. Their eyes met in the reflection, and breath caught in her throat.

“Spread your legs, Disa.” He gently nudged her shoulders to the mattress. “I promise to go easy.”

Kisses rained down her back as he mounted her. His thick cock played against her wet labia, the swollen head teasing into her. After a smooth thrust, he was inside. Filling her. One firm palm kneaded her lower abdomen, while his long fingers curled through her pubic hair and covered her mons. He stretched a finger along her nether lips, separating the folds, and massaged her fiery clit.

Tingles shot through her as she watched their wavy images across the room. His arm muscles bulged when he moved his hands to her hips, gripped them tight, and guided her to him.

He rocked into her. The strokes faster and faster. His balls slapped against her labia. He clutched her hips and slammed into her, riding her hard. She reared back, yet kept pace, and clenched her muscles to hold him tight and swallow him in deeper. She gritted her teeth to bite back the scream that tore through her. Her body pulsed with his touch, and she hungered for release from the magnificent torture that only he could provide. She clutched the sheets, wadding the warm material in her fists, and burrowed into them, inhaling his musky scent.

“Come for me, baby. God, I need you.” His voice rasped…


To celebrate the release of my newest book, I'm mailing bookmarks and trading cards to everywhere in the world! Please email me with SWAG PACK in the subject line and include your address in the body of the email. The packet will go out this week along with a bonus or two.:)

To read excerpts from my other erotic romances, please click here.

I'll be back Wednesday with a new recipe. Until then...

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fyne Recipe for Mini-brownies

Our latest Musa release, The Demise of Fyne Literature, is a short story, brief enough to read in one sitting, just like the single-serving mini-brownies in the picture.

But coming up with a description for Fyne has taken longer than one sitting, and we’re still not sure we have it right. We labeled the story as satire, though we’re not “attacking” anything, which is a main element of satire. We think Fyne has a touch of noir, but the setting isn’t bleak. Maybe Fyne’s a caricature, yet the tone is not critical.

So we’re stuck, and we’re asking for your help. Read the excerpt below. Then, if you know the right word for this Fyne style of writing, please share, either in the comments or in an email. We’ll send a free e-copy of The Demise of Fyne Literature to the person who comes up with the best description.

While you’re musing through your vocabulary, whip up this Fyne recipe for mini-brownies. Nothing beats a single serving of chocolate—or a Fyne short story—for sparking inspiration.

Fyne Mini-brownies
Non-stick spray
12-cup mini muffin pan
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
1 egg
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar
Heat oven to 350 °F.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Stir until smooth. (Your microwave may take up to a minute longer. Just beware that chocolate chips will retain their shape even when melted, and if you nuke them too long, they’ll burn. Not that we would know from personal experience or anything.)

Mix cocoa and molasses into the melted chocolate. (What? You don’t have molasses? Okay. Use a tablespoon of water instead.)

Add vanilla, flour, and egg, and mix well. Add sugars and mix well.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray, then spoon the batter into the cups, dividing evenly.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Tops of brownies will be puffy. (Don’t overcook or the brownies will be too dry. That’s what we’ve heard, anyway.)

Cool ten minutes, then transfer brownies from the muffin pan to wire racks. The puffy tops will flatten as the brownies cool (So the instructions say. We’ve never actually waited that long.).

Eat one or two brownies while consuming an entire short story. Repeat until the brownies are all gone.

Who killed Fyne Literature? The Fictional Book Investigation Agency is on the case—and the lead investigator is closer to the culprit than he realizes.

Ivy League wants to learn who murdered the love of her life. The Fictional Book Investigation Agency agrees to take the case, and soon discovers a surplus of suspects.

Is the killer one of the victim’s many enemies? Is there more to the story than anyone knows? The Agency’s profiler has a clue, yet she’s remarkably reticent.

For the lead investigator, unraveling the plot means confronting the mystery within.

To read an excerpt from The Demise of Fyne Literature please click here.

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter writing team. Learn more about HL Carpenter on their website and their latest story “Going Where You Look”, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers.

Monday, March 17, 2014

From the Taylor clan to all of you

May the road rise up to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

And may this day be a safe and happy one

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cast Your Net for a Tasty Meal

There are days I just want something fast and easy for dinner or a weekend lunch. Homemade fries and fish sandwiches with tartar sauce are the perfect foods.

Homemade Fries
1 Idaho potato per person
2-3 cups vegetable oil
½ cup lard, optional
Salt to taste

Wash potatoes under cool water. Peel, but it’s not necessary. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then lay flat and slice into thirds. Place pieces in a bowl with enough water to cover them. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Heat oil and lard in deep saucepan on medium-high. Test temperature by dropping in a piece of bread. When bread should browns in a matter of seconds the oil is ready.

Drain potatoes then pat dry. Carefully add to hot oil. Deep-fry for approximately 4 minutes. They’re done when a toothpick inserts easily.

Drain the fries on a plate lined with paper towels, salt, then place in the oven to keep warm while you make the fish.

Fresh Fish Sandwiches
2 – basa or swai fillets
2 tsp. olive oil plus more for brushing
1 glove garlic, pressed or chopped fine
4 sage leaves or ½ tsp. dried sage
3 thyme sprigs or ½ tsp. dried thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Provolone cheese
2 fresh deli rolls, split
Lettuce and sliced tomato optional

Heat skillet on medium-high. Brush a little olive oil onto insides of the rolls. Test the skillet for heat by sprinkling a few drops of water onto the pan. When the water jumps and quickly evaporates place the rolls oiled side onto cooking surface. Carefully toast until the rolls are a light golden brown. Remove to individual plates and lay a slice of cheese on the roll bottom.

Pour remaining olive oil into the hot skillet. When the oil shimmers add the fish. Sprinkle with herbs. Fry 2-3 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Remove fish from skillet with a spatula and lay the filets onto the cheese half of the rolls. Add a healthy smear of tartar sauce, the lettuce and tomato, then cap with the other half of the roll.

Tartar Sauce
½ cup real mayonnaise
1 small garlic clove, chopped fine
1 tbsp. onion, chopped fine
1tbsp. sweet relish

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust to your preference.

I'll be back Monday. Until then...

Happy Eating!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Two Names for One Talented Woman

I'm very excited to have multi-published author Sam Cheever here today to talk freely about her career and life. So let's get right to it.

IMG_7837_120x180Where are you from? What is your writing name?
I write mainstream fiction as Sam Cheever and some would say I’m from Mars. But in actuality I grew up in a mid-sized town in Indiana. Kind of the same thing, actually.

I also write M/M romantic suspense and fantasy as Declan Sands.

As a child, who did Sam want to be when she grew up?
I always wanted to be a writer. I believe everyone is good at something, the trick is just finding out what that something is. #:0) I discovered at an early age that I had a knack with words. But I didn’t think I was going to be able to make a living writing. Then I found a degree program at a local 4 year college called Professional and Technical Writing. It was the happiest day of my life! I was able to use my BA degree in writing to offer my writing and editing services to Corporate America until I could get my fiction writing career underway. I feel very blessed to have been able to do what I both love and have a skill for.

Tell us about your first book, the highs, the lows and the unexpected.
My first published work was ‘Tween Heaven and Hell, a fast paced paranormal romance about angels and devils in a futuristic world. I wrote the initial draft as a weekly serial, one chapter a week, for a few dozen subscribers. When it was complete I sent it out to several publishers and received an acceptance from Ellora’s Cave a few weeks later. It was very exciting!

The book was published on the Cerridwen Press side of the house, which was the sensual rather than erotic side of Ellora’s Cave because it wasn’t an erotic book. As a result, my sales figures were not as healthy as I’d hoped. However, the first book in the series has gone on to win several awards and the series has gained an extensive following.

What do you find the most difficult to write? Dialogue? Back story? Emotion?
Probably back story. I try really hard not to do info dumps in my stories so I have to use different tactics to flesh out the plot with the necessary information. Writing series fiction, which I tend to do a lot of, makes that both easier and harder. It’s obviously easier for readers who have read the other books in the series to keep up with the relationships and stories that have shaped them, but readers who start in the middle or end of the series need to feel like they know what’s going on too. I solve the problem by making all the books standalone, and then including self-contained information snippets that tie them together as the story unfolds.

What was the best piece of advice you were given in regards to your writing?
Nothing earth shattering there…the advice is the same for everybody…just keep writing. Much easier said than done as you get rejection letter after rejection letter. But the only writers who eventually make it big are the ones who believe in themselves enough to keep slogging through all the disappointment and criticism. It ain’t easy! But if you truly believe you’ve got what it takes, hang in there, keep writing, it will come, grasshopper.

I see you are published with many houses, Sam. How important is it to diversify your publishers in today’s market?
Extremely important. Each house has a specialized, target market where they sell most of their books. For example, Ellora’s Cave obviously has a big chunk of the erotica market and Changeling Press writes hot, short, serialized fiction. Once you figure out what a house’s market is, you can tap into it and broaden your audience. And since most readers tend to read across genres, you can often draw readers across publishers once they’re familiar with your work.

What is your strangest writing habit?
I write in snippets on multiple projects at once. Many writers sit down in the morning and just crank out an allotted number of words on a single project or even a couple. I might have six projects going at any given time and will write a couple thousand words on 3 or 4 of them, sometimes moving back and forth between two or three of them in the space of a single day.

How do you avoid interruptions?
Avoid them? I embrace them! If something has managed to interrupt me it’s probably because I’m stuck on a plot point or have exhausted my creative energy for that moment. I’ll usually take a break and then come back to it. It works for me.

What is one problematic area you have with your writing and how do you fix it?
Occasionally I neglect to describe my characters. #:0) I see them so clearly in my mind and forget the reader doesn’t know them like I do so I think I just take it for granted they know what they look like. Har! It’s now on my list of things I look for in rewrites but, if all else fails, thank goodness for my editor!

You bring a wicked sense of humor to your books - is this you or just your characters micromanaging you.
Alas, I’m afraid it’s me. I can’t seem to help myself. In fact, my characters sometimes beat me upside the head for the situations I put them in. But that’s a big mistake. I have one of those contrary personalities and I’m likely to torture them even more if they complain. hehehe

Sam, please tell us more about your writing and a little on the personal side of your life.
I write as Sam Cheever for mainstream romantic suspense and fantasy, all heat levels; and Declan Sands for M/M romantic suspense and fantasy. I live on a hobby farm in Indiana with 13 dogs, 2 horses, and one husband. I write books I like to read and read books I wish I’d written. My books are fast paced and fun loving. Not one of them will solve a single world problem, but you definitely won’t be bored while reading them!

My published work includes 40+ works of young adult, romantic suspense, and fantasy/paranormal. My books have won the Dream Realm Award for fantasy, been nominated and/or won several CAPAs, were nominated for Best of 2010 with LRC and The Romance Reviews, and won eCataromance’s Reviewer’s Choice award. I am published with Ellora’s Cave, both Romantica and Blush; Changeling Press; Electric Prose Publications (my own imprint), and Red Rose Publishing. I look forward to chatting with you today and sharing some of my work!

Sam Cheever links: Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Blog

Declan Sands links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

hexuallyobsessed_200x300If lust were flames there'd be scorch marks across the ages!

Ardith is a time traveling witch, a member of the Epoch Mages. Draigh is a Sorceri Bounty Hunter. They H-A-T-E each other. When they’re thrown together by the elders to chase an evil rogue witch through time and save the world from flesh eating zombies, they quickly discover that, while their minds may tell them they don’t like being together, their bodies don’t quite agree. In fact, if lust were flames, there would be a lot of scorch marks across the ages!

~ 5 Stars from SnifferWalk "I don't hand out a ton of 5 Star ratings for books. Like my Ratings Guide says, they have to be practically life changing. But if I read a book and I just cannot seem to forget it, it has to be a 5."

~ 5 Stars from My Cozie Corner Book Reviews "A hard to put down novel that will captivate you from the beginning."

Draigh couldn’t believe he was being forced to work with a mage. He was fully capable of capturing the crone Edana without an epoch mage tagging along. He’d hunted rogue magic users for centuries and needed no instruction from the young wench striding along beside him as if she owned the world.

He cast her a sideways glance, taking in the long, well-toned limbs and the lush curves beneath the scant leather costume she wore. The ridiculous clothing barely covered her considerable assets. He wanted to be disgusted by the clothing, hating how it made him hard beneath his own leather breeches.

Very hard.

And he despised the woman. The last thing he wanted was to have any kind of pleasant thoughts about her. Particularly of the carnal kind.

Draigh forced his gaze away from the soft roundness bulging past the edges of the leather top. The woman was a damn temptress. He’d seen her type before. He’d had his balls handed to him by one in fact. He might not be the smartest hunter on the planet. But he rarely made the same mistake twice. The witch was nothing but trouble.

At the moment she stood between him and his prey. That was unacceptable. The first thing he needed to do was rid himself of her. Then he could do the job he’d been hired to do.

Her steps slowed and faltered as they approached the low-slung structure at the edge of town. He immediately realized the same thing she obviously had. It was one of the bunker-style buildings that had become so popular since the great wars. Only the entrance was above ground. Most of the structure was subterranean.

He slid a furtive glance the witch’s way and noted the moisture already beading on her upper lip. Her usual creamy, peach-toned skin had turned a pasty shade of tan. He wanted to celebrate her discomfort. But somehow he just couldn’t. “I can go inside and question the witness. You can wait outside.” He hadn’t meant it to sound like a command. Unfortunately that was the way it had emerged from his lips.

Her head whipped around, flinging the thick, waist-length braid into the air as her gaze snapped in his direction. “I’m fine. I don’t need you protecting me.”

Draigh ground his teeth. So much for learning from his mistakes. He’d tried to give the viper a soft nest to rest upon, and the damn thing had thanked him by attempting to sink its fangs into his throat. “Suit yourself, witch.”

She strode right up to the victim’s door and pounded. Draigh waited a few feet back, his gaze sweeping the area for signs of Edana’s own special type of trouble. The witch pounded on the door again and received no response.

She glanced at Draigh. “Looks like we’ll have to do this the hard way.” Magic thickened on the air and Draigh swore. “Let me try…”

Ardith sent a focused beam of magic into the door handle and the door swung open. She turned to give Draigh a smug smile, not noticing as a large hand appeared from inside the house and wrapped around the edge of the door. Draigh called out a warning and she started to turn.

The door slammed outward, sending her sprawling.

Before he knew what he was doing, Draigh had thrown himself over the witch.

She landed beneath him with an umph and started pelting his chest with her small fists. “Get off me, oaf.”

Pain pierced his calf as her damn familiar clamped his massive jaws around Draigh’s leg and gave it a warning squeeze, a low growl rumbling in his chest.

The stench of sour, old death assailed his nostrils. Draigh squinted through the shadows beyond the door and saw movement. “Stop it, witch! Call off your dog. We have company.”

He tried to grab her wrists but she was too agitated. Fighting the urge to smack her unconscious, Draigh screamed into her face, “Stop fighting me. Edana’s pets are about to descend on us.”

Fortunately her dog was smarter than she. He released Draigh and stood with teeth bared, snarling at the shadowed entrance.

She peered around his shoulder just as the first pale half-rotted face appeared in the doorway. “Well why didn’t you say so?” The first blast of her magic nearly took his ear off.

He rolled off her. “Damn it, woman.”

She leapt to her feet and sent another blast into the conglomeration of mucus and bone marching stiffly toward them. The zombie’s bloodied, jagged teeth were bared in a warning hiss. When her magic hit, the thing surged backward, a huge chunk of its chest sloughing away under the force of her witch fire.

Draigh pulled one of his knives and leapt on the lumbering monster nearest him, slicing the knife cleanly through its spongy neck with one swipe. Putrid-smelling green slime sprayed in an arc from the blade of his knife, saturating Draigh’s face and arms. The head dropped to the ground and rolled away, and the body sank to the earth.

When Draigh looked toward the door, he was facing a small army of the mangy creatures. Ardith stood beside him, her eyes flashing and her fists fizzling with unshed magic.

He glanced at her. “I hate zombies.”

She gave him a slow smile. “You wanted exercise. I think you’re gonna get it.”

Then she leapt into the fray, witch fire flying, and Draigh reluctantly followed.

Buy links:

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

It's Wednesday, so What's Cooking?

How about Chicken Thighs with an Italian Flair? This is an easy dish and won't break the bank. Leftovers don't freeze well. But the dish does stay well for two days in the refrigerator and nukes beautifully.

Chicken Thighs with an Italian Flair
Chicken thighs, boneless and skinless 1 per person
Prosciutto 1 thin slice for each thigh
Olive oil
Medium-sized can tomato sauce
¼ - 1 cup dry white wine, the amount depends on how many thighs you cook.
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Handful fresh basil or 1 tbsp. dried

Gently pound the thighs to a slightly thinner size between two pieces of waxed paper. Sprinkle lightly with marjoram.

Lay prosciutto onto thighs and gently pound.

Pour flour into a paper bag. Place one thigh at a time inside bag and shake gently. Remove thigh to a plate while you flour the remaining thighs.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium- high heat until it shimmers. Carefully add the thighs chicken side down. Fry until nicely browned. Turn the meat to finish frying. Regulate the heat so the chicken browns and not burn.

Pour the tomato sauce over the chicken. Add the wine, basil, and gently stir. Sprinkle a good amount of cheese across the top. Heat through.

To Serve:
Place chicken on a plate along with your favorite pasta. Ladle the pan juices over the pasta. Be sure to have a bowl of grated cheese on the table!

I'll be back Monday with Sam Cheever. Until then...

Mangiare Bene!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Monday, March 03, 2014

Hampton and Ledwith Get Down to Business

I am delighted to turn over my blog to my good friends multi published author SS Hampton Sr. and his guest, outstanding Middle Grade author Sharon Ledwith.

Sharon Ledwith, hello! So, who are you, and where do you come from?

Hey, Stan, glad to be here! Oh, such a complicated question. How long do we have? Seriously though (and I rarely am!) I’m a middle-aged broad who writes for the middle-grade/YA genre. Guess you could say I’m going through my second childhood! I come from my parents—mom still has nightmares to this day—via Streator, Illinois USA while my father was under contract by the government to teach meteorology. That makes me a dual citizen. Currently I reside in the wilds of Muskoka, a tourist area deep in the heart of central Ontario, Canada. Cue the haunting cry of the loon…

Lol, the loon! So, why did you become a graphic artist? Was it difficult to give up that career field for writing (I assume you write full-time)?
Well someone has done his homework! I’ve always loved art throughout school, and wanted to parlay that into a solid business career. Plus I didn’t want anything to do with math again! I took the graphic technician course in college which allowed me to work in the printing trade. This was before computers took over, so everything was done by hand. Um, yeah, slow process, but worth it if you applied yourself and worked hard. My hubby and I started Box Office Graphics in the early 80s and we saw so many changes in the industry which included fax machines, computers, and the internet. The graphic businesses that didn’t change fell by the wayside. We sold our business in 2004, and have never looked back. BTW—our former business is still going strong after 30 years! And NO, it wasn’t difficult to give up that career at all. Somehow I knew deep inside I would be pursuing a full-time career as a writer. After all, something had to be done to stop the voices from talking in my head!

Where and how did you meet your husband? Was he aware that he was courting a soon-to-be writer with all of her quirks? I generally assume all writers have their quirks – I know I do.
Poor hubby. I met him at the first job I was hired at straight out of college—a graphic trade shop that specialized in plastic container packaging. Call him my soul mate or a misguided fool, I knew from the moment I met him that we were destined to be together. I believe he was aware of some quirky karma, ’cause he never gave up the chase, even when the odds were against us. I also believe writers should use all their quirks to their advantage!

Any friendly words of advice for writers, particularly when a future spouse “comes a’calling”? Or perhaps for the future spouse who discovers their love interest is a writer?
Run, spouse, run! Kidding. My advice would be to never stop investing in yourself. Invest in the best. That’s in yourself, in your readers, and in your partner. Your readers deserve the best of what you have to offer them. Surround yourself with the best possible team (this includes spouses). Never stop learning. As you grow, so will your readers, so be prepared for this. Oh yeah, and never give up. That’s a given and should be part of any author’s credo.

How did your family and friends react to you becoming a writer?
Say what? You want to be a writer? Good for you! Ten years later…you’re still writing? Anything published yet? No? Humph. Maybe you should get a REAL job. Um, yeah, tried it, didn’t like it, went back to writing, and got published. Yay me! Once I signed the contract, I was cast in a different light, and everyone was supportive and happy for me. You should have seen the release party I threw – hot damn it was fun and VERY satisfying!

I find it interesting that the inspiration for The Last Timekeepers of Atlantis came to you in a dream, that you believe in Atlantis, and you burn incense when writing. You didn’t mention what types of music you like, or favorite artists. So, not to resort to labels, but are you perhaps, something of a “New Ager”?
Yes, very much so. I’m quite a spiritual person and believe we’re all here for a reason and purpose. This comes out in my stories. I don’t want to come off as preachy (in fact I can’t stand it when other people try to shove their beliefs on me) so I try to inject humor whenever I can in my stories. I think we all learn best when there’s laughter present. And if you want a real laugh, when I first started out writing I listened to the soundtrack of Braveheart (sigh) a lot, as well as some native drum instrumentals, Enya, and Enigma. Now I hardly listen to music while writing.

Braveheart, eh? And Enya and Enigma—some of my favorite music too. Just a comment here: I like the first sentence of the opening of your blurb – “Children are the keys to our future.” Truthfully, I have always believed that. Might that have something do with the intended audience of Middle Grade/Young Adult readers regarding Last Timekeepers?
Oh definitely! But it is true – children are the keys to our future. It’s up to us adults to supply kids with good role models, people to look up to, and to aspire to. We need to be the best we can be, and offer children a new hope for a better tomorrow. I mean, how else can we pass along our knowledge and understanding to a new generation if we don’t show up in this life?

Would you please share an excerpt from The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis with us? Or, if you feel comfortable, perhaps an excerpt from your prequel, Legend of the Timekeepers?
Would be honored, Stan. Here’s the blurb and excerpt from my newest release, and the prequel to the Last Timekeepers series, Legend of the Timekeepers:

There is no moving forward without first going back.

Lilith was a young girl with dreams and a family before the final destruction of Atlantis shattered those dreams and tore her family apart. Now refugees, Lilith and her father make their home in the Black Land. This strange, new country has no place in Lilith’s heart until a beloved high priestess introduces Lilith to her life purpose—to be a Timekeeper and keep time safe.

Summoned through the seventh arch of Atlantis by the Children of the Law of One, Lilith and her newfound friends are sent into Atlantis’s past, and given a task that will ultimately test their courage and try their faith in each other. Can the Timekeepers stop the dark magus Belial before he changes the seers’ prophecy? If they fail, then their future and the earth’s fate will be altered forever.

“Why are you here?” Lilith asked. “You’ve already got your life seal.”

“I have more questions for Istulo.” She continued to stare at the disk.

Lilith sighed. “My name is Lilith. What’s your name?”

Her shoulders relaxed slightly. A hint of a smile broke out on her face. Her upturned nose wiggled. “She-Aba. I was born here in the Black Land. Both my parents arrived from Atlantis fourteen years ago yesterday. My mother gave birth to me the next day.”

Lilith perked up. “That would make today your birthday!”

She-Aba beamed. “Yes. That’s why I’m here. For my birthday last year, I had my life reading done by Istulo. But recently, there’s been a hiccup in my plans. It’s like my life seal rearranged itself, and now I’m confused. I’m here for a reaffirmation.”

“What’s the problem?”

She-Aba traced her life seal with the tip of her perfectly shaped fingernail. “My lifetime occupation was supposed to be to design clothing for the people of the various positions in the court and temples.”

Lilith smirked. “That makes perfect sense.”

“I know, right? So why, all of a sudden, would my life seal change from designing clothing to something completely different?”

Lilith arched a fair brow. “How different?”

“Well, instead of clothing people in lavish robes and gowns for others to appreciate, the seal suggests that I’ll be doing the opposite by covering up and hiding the truth. I don’t understand it at all. I thought my life was all planned out for me.”

“I thought mine was too, until my country blew up and slid into the ocean,” Lilith muttered.

“Hey, look at the bright side, at least your hair isn’t red like mine.”

Lilith eyed She-Aba carefully. “What’s wrong with red hair? My uncle has red hair and it suits him fine.”

She-Aba moved in closer. “If you haven’t noticed already, there aren’t many redheads around here. The natives think red is magical, and anyone with red hair is considered a freak of nature.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Lilith said loud enough to cause an echo down the marble hallway. “Is that the reason why those artists were rude to you? Because you have red hair?”

“Red is a very powerful color,” a raspy voice said from behind both girls.

Lilith and She-Aba jumped. They slowly turned to find Istulo hovering over them.

Wearing the same white gown and orichalcum headband Lilith saw her dressed in before, Istulo nodded slightly before she said, “Red represents the essence of life—if we are drained of blood, we are drained of energy. The people of the Black Land understand this, and therefore red is reserved only for their gods and goddesses.”

Lilith giggled. “Don’t tell She-Aba that, she’ll think she’s a goddess.”

Here's the LINK for more information on the book.

Thank you for visiting with us today! Are there any parting words you would like to share with us?
Absolutely! I was once asked by another interviewer to share what inspires me to write, and why am I doing what I do? The truth is that I want to be the change I would like to see in this world. Yes, I stole that from Gandhi, but those words have been my mantra, and have guided me to write stories I would have loved to read as an adolescent. My hope is to give my target audience (upper middle-grade and lower young adult) the kinds of stories the world needs now—force readers to ask why they are here on earth at this time, and what is their major purpose. I guess I’m looking for ways to make the world a better place. I also want to make people laugh out-loud while they’re reading my books, and leave them wanting more when they turn to the last page. Thanks so much for putting up with, er interviewing me today, Stan, and loved your well-researched questions! Cheers!

Check out The Last Timekeepers series Facebook Page.

Musa Publishing - Amazon Link - Barnes & Noble - Kobo

When Sharon Ledwith is not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, kayaking, time with family and friends, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Much of SS Hampton, Sr.'s writing is drawn from his extensive military career, including his historical short story The Sentinels.

December 1941 – the German offensive has ground to a frozen halt before an ominous forest encircling Moscow, and a German patrol seeks to discover what secrets the forest hides…

December 1941, and fresh Siberian troops from the Soviet Far East have launched savage counter-attacks against the German invaders. The Eastern Front is torn open with German units driven back, overwhelmed, or isolated. An exhausted Waffen SS infantry platoon outside of Moscow needs to know what the Siberians, hidden in a dark forest before them, are up to. A small patrol is sent into the snowy, otherworldly forest...

To read an excerpt from The Sentinels please click HERE.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. His military career began in 1974. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, the Army Individual Ready Reserve, and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. He is also a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America.

After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.

To learn more about SS Hampton, Sr. or read excerpts from his books please click a vendor's name.
Musa Publishing - Melange Books - MuseItUp Publishing
Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK Author Page - Goodreads Author Page