Monday, October 30, 2017

PUMPKIN for EVERYONE!

by Dominique Eastwick

One of the many reasons I just love about fall are pumpkins. I love to carve them, look at them, and eat them.


I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice Latte…I could go on and on. But one of my favorite things is Pumpkin Soup. So celebrate this spooky day with a bowl of the easiest soup ever, especially if you use canned pumpkin. And you can quote me on this - nothing tastes better on a cold day.

Pumpkin Soup
1 stick butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tsp. packed brown sugar
2 cans chicken broth
1 cup water
½ tsp. salt (optional)
2 cans (15 ounces) Pumpkin or 2 cups pureed fresh pumpkin
2 cans (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg to garnish

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add garlic and brown sugar; cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until soft.

Add broth and water; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin, evaporated milk, and cinnamon. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

With real pumpkin you may need to puree your soup again.

Serve warm and enjoy.

serves 10

How about a hot read while you enjoy a warm bowl of soup?

The babies are coming… the Wiccan Haus will never be the same.

Things are not as calm at the Wiccan Haus as they usually are. The impending birth of Dana and Rekkus’ cubs has everyone on edge. The last thing anyone wants or expects is a series of uninvited guests.

Ashlynn Stone hasn’t spoken to her sister Dana since she left for the Wiccan Haus over a year earlier. But when a fluke accident on the fashion runway forces her to seek the healing of the Wiccan Haus, she has no choice but to pack her bags and take the ferry to the island with her family in tow.

Shadedor has been sent to the Wiccan Haus to assess the situation. But he soon finds more than he expected. His soul mate in need of healing. Can he negotiate the issues of the Wiccan Haus and overcome the walls Ashlynn has built to protect herself.

As the Haus prepares for the biggest event since it opened, can the siblings find harmony and manage to do what they do best, heal those in need? Or is it too much for them to take?

Welcome back to the Wiccan Haus.

EXCERPT
He walked. This morning, he had been right next to her, and there had been constant contact. Now they would appear to anyone passing to be complete strangers. “You want to tell me what is going on?”

“We are attempting to remove all stress from your life in hopes of easing the headaches.”

“No, with you. If you would prefer to be elsewhere, I can go back to my room and lie down.”

He stopped. “There is nowhere I would rather be.”

“Then why are you acting like I have the plague? Was it the kiss earlier?”

“I overstepped my boundaries this morning. I should not have done so.”

“Do you regret it?”

“I am assisting the staff here in your healing. It is inappropriate for me to come on to you.”

“Are you on staff here?”

“No.”

“That settles it.” She smiled. Closing the distance between them, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I do not know what is going on, but I do know my pain and fears ease when you are near. I don’t claim to understand how you discern all you do, but I am starting to see things here aren’t always black and white, and sometimes I have to have faith and trust.”

After a brief second of him standing as still as a statue and her wondering if she read too much into this morning’s embrace, he relaxed. His arms snaked around her, pulling her against his hard body. His mouth came down on hers begging her to open for him, demanding she submit to his kiss. She might have started this dance, but he would damned well be leading it.

BUY LINKS
Amazon - Decadent Publishing



Award-Winning author Dominique Eastwick currently calls North Carolina home with her husband, two children, one crazy lab and one lazy cat. Dominique spent much of her early life moving from state to state as a Navy Brat. Because of that, traveling is one of her favorite pastimes. When not writing you can find Dominique with her second love…her camera.

Learn more about Dominique Eastwick on her website, blog, and Amazon author page. Be sure to join her Newsletter for up to the minute info on new releases, contests, and more.

Stay connected on Twitter, Tublr, Tsu, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A LITTLE HALLOWEEN CHEER

by Leigh Goff

No trick here. This is a treat all you adult ghosts and goblins are sure to enjoy.

BEWITCHING PUNCH
1 750-ml bottle orange vodka
2 750-ml bottles Prosecco
2 1-liter bottles of orange-flavored seltzer
½ gallon orange juice
½ gallon lemonade
2 pints orange sorbet

Gently mix vodka, Prosecco, seltzer, orange juice, and lemonade in a large punch bowl.

Scoop the sorbet into the punch bowl, so it has time to melt. Add the ice ring to keep the punch cold and colorful.

ICE RING
Water
15 seedless red grapes
10 maraschino cherries, halved
1 orange, peeled and sliced thin

In a 6 – 6½ cup ring mold, arrange thin citrus slices and grapes or cherries in an attractive design. Pour water into mold to partially cover fruit. Freeze.

When frozen, add water to fill mold ¾ full. Refreeze. At serving time, unmold and float fruit side up in punch bowl.

If you prefer, freeze ring without decorations. Or, instead of water, freeze with orange juice. This will keep punch cold without diluting it.

Serves 12 - 15

Here's a little from my latest novel to help put you in a Halloween mood.

Hannah, the thirteenth great-granddaughter of the Wizard Earl Fitzgerald, has always known she was descended from a troubled legacy of alchemy and dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial; however, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the secrets she must unlock – including one that reveals the location of an unimaginably powerful elixir.

Enemies will hurt her. Loved ones will make her vulnerable. And the impending prophecy that drives her to unleash her magic will cause her to unearth the sins of the past and doubt any promise of a future. Without knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she’ll survive the game Fate is playing, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

EXCERPT

The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”



Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it's also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers' Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch's Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The POWER of STORIES of HOPE

The world today is awash in grimdark fantasy and dystopian science fiction, and we're sure to see an even bigger surge in both genres now that we've entered the era of Trump and Brexit. I personally know half a dozen authors who have been inspired to write new dystopian stories, including myself.

Keeper of the Dawn, my debut YA fantasy novella, is a different kind of story. It is a story of hope. There are many struggles along the way, even periods of hopelessness, but in the end hope always returns.

I don't believe that the timing of my publication is a coincidence. Hope is incredibly precious, and stories of hope are more important now than they have ever been. It is so easy to feel hopeless about everything going on in the world, with governments and corporations working together to destroy our planet and steal our rights. Stories of hope, even fictional ones, help us imagine a brighter future for ourselves.

My wish is that Keeper of the Dawn will remind you there is always hope, even after devastating failures.

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to her beloved goddess. That's before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she's trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum – a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshipping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai's own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join the sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate wasn't part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a story of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

EXCERPT
Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.

Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.

She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.

Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.

Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.

Lai's attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.

She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.

Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.

“You understand, it has to be me.”

Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.
The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.

Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She col¬lapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.


Dianna L. Gunn is a young Canadian author who just release her debut novella Keeper of the Dawn. Passionate, hopeful, magical
Keeper of the Dawn is a story of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

Dianna L. Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She had known she wanted to be a writer since she was eight years old. Dianna wrote her first novel for Nanowrimo at the age of eleven years old, but quickly discovered that writing books is not an easy way to make a living. So she decided to broaden her horizons, seeking another career that still allowed her to work with words.

Her freelance writing career started when she became a marketing intern at Musa Publishing(now defunct) in September 2011 and quickly became a staff writer in charge of multiple imprint blogs. Since then she has worked with a variety of small businesses and non-profits to improve their online brands and create long term marketing strategies. Some of her most notable work has been for the tech education non-profit STEAMLabs and natural dog care company ProPooch. She is dedicated to helping her clients build successful brands and making their dreams come true.

Need help creating awesome content for your business? Send an email to diannalgunn@gmail.com explaining what your needs are, and she will help you.

When she isn’t helping her clients bring their dreams to life, Dianna can be found working on her own dream of being a successful fantasy author.

Dianna blogs about writing, creativity, and books at The Dabbler.

Learn more about Dianna on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NEW RELEASE for ELLIOTT BAKER

REDEMPTION, Book Three of the Sun God's Heir trilogy, is the latest action adventure novel by Elliot Baker. This exciting book ties up the series with the same punch and pizzazz as the previous books and is sure to captivate you.

Death is not life’s final stop. There are worse ends.

Two brothers, once disciples of the Pharoah Akhenaten, reincarnate in seventeenth century France. From Spain to Morocco to Egypt, one is determined to rule, the other to protect.

Horemheb, driven to destroy his brother and end their ancient rivalry, invites an African shaman to assist in recovering ancient artifacts of power that will ensure his dominance. Twice before, these artifacts have raised and then destroyed civilization.

The other, Rene Gilbert, escapes from the murderous sultan of Morocco, closely followed by the sultan’s personal guard, the Bukhari. Trained from childhood, these assassins live to kill.

Now, in the blockbuster conclusion to the Sun God’s Heir trilogy, Rene must find a way to fulfill a commitment made lifetimes ago. His long journey across the ages hurtles toward its climax, with the fate of his soul, and perhaps our very world, in the balance.

EXCERPT
The four swivel cannons fired simultaneously in an earsplitting crack. The four two-man crews reloaded the breech, loading cannons quickly and efficiently. Their survival depended on their rate of fire. Each two-man team loaded a premade chamber filled with explosive and grape shot. The chambers, which had been prepared in advance, could be loaded quicker than a similar bore loaded weapon. This rapid fire as well as its swivel mount was what gave this weapon its incredible lethality.

René was about to order the cannons to fire again when the smoke cleared enough for him to see the first shots’ results. One weapon was capable of clearing the men from a ship’s deck in a naval battle. Four fired at once literally created a quagmire of blood and body parts out of the fifty men and horses that had exited the ravine first. For a moment, there was absolute silence. No matter how disciplined the troops, it would take a while for whoever remained in command to organize the next attack.

“Move the right hand wagon to its flanking position.” René pointed east.

Moving swiftly and efficiently, Walid had the men reattach the already hitched horses and move the wagon along its prepared path. A flanking maneuver would encounter a very nasty surprise. Minutes later, Walid returned to René’s side. “We are set. They will not succeed in flanking our position. With your leave sir, I will recheck the elevations of these cannons.”

“As you will, Walid. What do you think of firing the guns successively rather than simultaneously?”

“I will make it so. We must inflict greater casualties on each charge to increase the time between charges. To do that we must allow more troops to exit the ravine. By firing successive shots, we can maintain a near continuous rate of fire if necessary.”

René expected another attack within the hour and he was not disappointed.

The Bukhari erupted from the ravine. And the ‘murderers’ began to fire. The result was the same only now there were more men and horses. The number of dead and dying on the field created an additional barrier for the troops to overcome. The next attack would be a flanking attempt. The Bukhari’s horses were more of a disadvantage in this particular location so snipers scaled the rocks.

“Let us make climbing those rocks a little more precarious.”

The men aimed their muskets and began picking off the outliers that were in sight. The battlefront quieted. The Bukhari would wait for the cover of darkness before attempting to flank them. The afternoon hours passed slowly. Waiting for battle was always difficult. René was confident the routines followed by Ismail’s troops were similar. You ate, you rested, you remembered.

“Walid, have the men unhitch the horses. Tie them up next to the trail a half mile back. We will not move the wagons and if needed, we can retreat faster on horseback. The forest grew dimmer as the sun sank. The giant cedar trees were silent. All the animals had deserted their homes when the first cannon fired.

Flashes of light and explosions erupted from the cannons on the right flank, a burst of light in the growing darkness. As expected, the Bukhari had first attacked their right. Men charged out of the ravine on foot. They tried to find cover behind their fallen comrades, and failed. At such close range grape shot shredded both the cover and the men. A musket ball whizzed past René’s head blowing a chunk from the backside of the wagon. The Bukhari scaled the rocky gorge to the left and managed to come around on that side as well. Walid detailed the left most cannon to swivel and focus on the men coming around the left flank. One cannon in each direction was not enough. In the three minutes it took to reload the cannon, Screaming scimitar wielding men reached the wagon.

René moved in front to protect the gun crews. With a sword in each hand, he met the first black giant of a man who managed to reach the wagon. Ducking below a vicious strike tasked with removing his head, René plunged his sword into the man’s chest and disengaged, allowing the man to drop to the earth. More men challenged him. None survived. The two men on the forward gun yelled and he hit the dirt, the red hot metal exploding out over his head. The sound beneath the gun was deafening. The Bukhari pulled back to regroup. René’s men could not withstand another attack. They were nearly out of preloaded chambers for the guns.

“Walid, spike the guns and then take these men and collect the other gun crew. Fall back to where the horses are. Make sure that all four cannons are rendered useless”

“What about you?” Walid asked.

“I will be right behind you. Leave a horse for me, but do not wait. Ten men cannot stand against hundreds.”

“I cannot leave you, Captain.” Walid’s face constricted as if horrid memories flooded his mind. “I will not fail again.”

René put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “There will be times when we fail each other. No man is invincible. But I am confident that this will not be one of those times. I am not sacrificing myself. I intend to create a diversion that will afford us the time to escape”

“I will help you.”

“In what I am about to do you cannot help. You do not have the training. Trust me and go quickly for our enemies will move soon.”

“Do not die, El Muerte, for I cannot face the sheikh’s daughter without you.”

There was a hint of a smile on his face, but he was deadly serious.

“Do not worry. I am not ready to leave yet. I will be there.”

Walid gathered the two gun crews and they disappeared into the trees.

René backed deeper into the lush cedar grove. Being late fall, the trees all had cones filled with sap. He walked over to a one hundred and thirty foot patriarch of the grove and kneeled. With his hands opened in reverence to the trees and with regret at what he was about to do, he took a deep breath and sank deeper into the levels of consciousness. As he moved through the energy centers that control the physical body, his consciousness enlivened those centers that connected him with the wider universe of energy and matter. He began to know the tree. Not just the image his physical senses brought to him, but its life and spirit. He thanked the tree for its sacrifice and began to speed up the tiny packets of energy that made up the tree’s physical presence. Faster and faster their movement, invisible but manifest until a wisp of smoke was present on the outside of the tree’s bark. The smoke increased, becoming a small flame and then larger until the entire tree burst into flame with an explosive crack. The intense heat spread the fire quickly. The tree’s cones exploded like musket fire, sending arcs of flame into neighboring trees. René went to the other side of the trail and ignited another tree and then another. The winds coming off the mountains fanned the fire and in minutes a conflagration raced from one side of the grove to the other. René sprinted for the horses. The fire would not delay the Bukhari forever.


Award winning novelist and international playwright Elliott Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and performed throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott has turned to writing novels. His debut novel, The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book One of the trilogy, was released this past January and Rebirth, Book Two released in May.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott's Author Page on Facebook to learn all his latest news.

Monday, October 16, 2017

HOLIDAY CREATIVITY

from HL Carpenter

October is National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.

Cheese Ball Pumpkin
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
Paprika
The stem of a green bell pepper

Place all of the cheese in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.

When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).

Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.

With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.

Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.

To add even more fun to the party, discuss a good book. We suggest our latest speculative fiction novella.


Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of financial fraud. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As accusations and innuendos pile up, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.


EXCERPT
A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.

Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…

Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. "Don't you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?"

I should have known Stenny wouldn't traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn't his style. He'd use his phone.

My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete's chest. "Quit calling me that. Don't you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?"

"I took the night off." He peered at me. "Why are you crying?"

"None of your business!" Then, as his words sank in, I asked, "Why'd you take the night off? Is Gus okay?"

"Gramps is the same as he always is." Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. "I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We're going to help, in whatever way we can." His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.

"That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too."

"Yeah." Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. "Where's the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?"

My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. "Stenny's not a jerk-off, and he's probably at the tree house, where I left him."

"How nice to know he'll stay where you tell him to. At least you won't need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France." Pete narrowed his eyes. "The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven't noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?"

I didn't need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn't paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny's doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.

"Thanks, Pete. That's a good idea."

"I have them occasionally." He gestured with the flashlight. "The path's this way."

We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.

"Nightingale," Pete said.

We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway's open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house's white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.

I smiled despite my worries. "I love how pretty our house is at night."

Pete shut the flashlight off. "I'll send you pictures while you're enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off."

I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. "He's headed for the house! I have to warn Dad."

BUY LINKS

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Let’s Get This Cookbook Party Started

Who doesn’t love the holidays? You get to bond with family and friends, shop till you drop for that perfect gift, decorate the house to your heart’s desire, plan a meal worthy of gracing your table, and attend all those fabulous parties. Wait…hope I didn’t exhaust you already? Yes, we ALL love holidays and celebrations, no matter what time of year they fall, but it can get a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming when it comes time to prepare for those holiday meals and parties when you’re working a full-time job, and taking care of your family’s needs.

How about some relief from the stress and pressure of figuring out what to serve your hungry guests during holiday get-togethers, events, or celebrations?

Cue a holiday-inspired cookbook written by the following thirteen busy authors, of various ages and genres: Carol Browne, HL Carpenter, Sara Daniel, Dominique Eastwick, Leigh Goff, C.D. Hersh, Vonnie Hughes, Alicia Joseph, Emma Lane, Sharon Ledwith, Anne Montgomery, Chris Pavesic, and Sloane Taylor. These wonderful writers have created recipes that will make your life easy and simple when it comes time to prepare tantalizing appetizers, tasty beverages, mouth-watering cookies, and decadent desserts.

The ABCDs of Cooking with Writers is your go-to recipe book for entertaining over the holiday seasons, hosting events, or celebrating that special day. Compiled by Sloane Taylor—a gourmet cook in her own right—and designed by mother-daughter duo HL Carpenter, the included recipes have been tested and approved of by the most finicky family members. Oh, and did I mention that it is FREE?

So why not have your cake and eat it too? Yes, pun intended. You’ve got nothing to lose, and time to gain when you download The ABCDs of Cooking with Writers. There’s a recipe for every holiday, celebration, or event in your life. Give yourself a gift this holiday season with a cookbook from thirteen writers who share their favorite recipes and tips to help relieve the stress in your busy life.

Download your FREE E-Pub cookbook at Smashwords.

Click the sidebar link to download your FREE PDF copy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

SWEETS for the SWEET

by Leigh Goff

In my newest young adult fantasy, Bewitching Hannah, Hannah’s Aunt J promises sixteen-year-old Hannah a sweet surprise. The young witch hopes the surprise will be her favorite sugary treat—Lavender Honey Macarons. As she describes them, “They were the most amazing little delights; a melt-in-your mouth combination of whipped egg whites, honey, and French lavender...”

LAVENDER MACARONS with HONEY BUTTERCREAM
Macarons
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp. dried lavender buds
¾ cup almond meal
2 egg whites
3 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Blend the confectioner’s sugar, lavender, and almond meal in a food processor until fine, then whisk everything into a large bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites and sugar together until you create a stiff meringue in a medium-sized bowl. This can take up to 10 minutes. Scrape any meringue clinging to the beaters back into the bowl.

Add the almond meal mixture into the bowl all at once.

Fold the dry ingredients into the egg whites and also rub the meringue against the side of the bowl to knock the air out of it. This is not a mixture combining that you need to baby. You want to deflate the egg whites don’t be gentle. By the time it’s ready, its consistency will be runny, closer to pancake batter than cake batter.

Fill a pastry bag with the batter. Use a pastry bag with a coupler or with a tip. Pipe your shells onto the parchment-paper lined baking sheets, about 1 inch. Space them 1 inch apart.

When you’re done piping, lift the pan and whack it down hard against your counter twice. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and repeat. You might see tiny air bubbles appear on the top of the rounds, a good sign. Do the same with the other pan. Slide the pans into the oven and bake about 15 minutes, at which point the shells should be able to be cleanly picked off the parchment paper.

Let the shells come to room temperature, then fill your macarons with the honey buttercream (recipe below). Use a pastry bag or a spoon.

Honey Butter Cream
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. honey

Beat the butter using the whisk attachment for about 2 minutes. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, and whisk until well incorporated.

Pour in the honey. Beat until well mixed.

Makes about 40 shells, or 20 macarons
Adapted from Brave Tart


EXCERPT
The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

AMAZON BUY LINK


Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it's also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers' Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch's Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Monday, October 09, 2017

NEW RELEASE for CAROL BROWNE

Burning Willow Press is excited to present the epic fantasy The Exile of Elindel, The Elwardian Chronicles Book 1, by Carol Browne. This exciting novel is filled with action and adventure and will keep you glued to your e-reader to the last page.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.



Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

BAKE UP SOMETHING GOOD

by Sharon Ledwith

When we lived in cottage country, we’d visit the local bakery in Baysville, a small, tourist town five minutes south of us. The smell of fresh baking does something to a body. Sometimes it takes you back to when life was simpler. Today, cottage and camping life have changed. Cell phones are getting better reception, and seeing satellite dishes on cottage roofs has become the norm. But sometimes it’s nice to just unplug, and let nature stir your soul.

In my new series, Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, I uproot a troubled teen with a complicated life—he or she also possesses a psychic ability—and place them in the serene setting of Fairy Falls. These kids then have to deal with the fact that they’re different, and try to fit in, which as you can imagine isn’t that easy. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The following moist and spicy recipe is geared to enjoy with coffee on the dock, snacks around the card table, or a hot cup of tea in a hammock. With a prep time of 15 minutes, and cook time of 50 minutes, this pumpkin bread actually tastes even better the day after it is baked, and the smell of it coming out of the oven may take you back to your favorite tourist bakery shop while vacationing with your family.

Lakeside Pumpkin Bread
1 (15 ounce) can of pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
⅔ cup water
3 cups white sugar
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger in a medium bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake about 50 minutes. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

So while those loaves are baking, and filling your kitchen with the most amazing smells, why not relax on the couch, and visit the small, tourist town of Fairy Falls, starting with Lost and Found, Book #1 of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls? Just don’t forget the bug spray.

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power, all the while trying to lead a normal life. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey decides that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well.

Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.

BUY LINKS
Amazon Kindle - Amazon Paperback - Barnes & Noble - Mirror World Publishing ebook - Mirror World Publishing Paperback



Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Monday, October 02, 2017

NEW RELEASE for MARCI BOUDREAUX

Sweet Romance at its finest is what Marci Boudreaux promises and delivers with style. Her books receive top marks for drawing readers into the story with well rounded characters and a plot you can't help but love. Here is a little from Marci's new release.

Now serving second chances.

Jenna Reid purchased the Stonehill Café to prove to herself that her ex-husband was wrong…that she could make her dreams come true. Three years later, all she has is a crumbling building, no social life, and her bruised pride.

Pride is something Colonel Daniel Maguire lost long ago and isn’t likely to find living in the alley behind the café. He just needs a little time to get on his feet. In the interim, keeping an eye on the overworked café owner gives him a sense of purpose. He has no intentions of making his presence known until he hears the woman screaming late one night.

He rushes into the café but instead of finding her in dire straits, he finds a broken pipe and Jenna—soaking wet and holding a wrench. With her last bit of hope fading, Jenna accepts Daniel’s help to fix up her building, but it doesn’t take long for them to start trying to fix each other.


This Old Café is available at these retailers:


As a teen, Marci Boudreaux skipped over young adult books and jumped right into the world of romance novels. She's never left. Marci lives with her husband, two kiddos, and their numerous pets. Until recently, she was a freelance writer appearing monthly in a variety of local magazines. She now focuses on writing and her work as a content editor.

Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new and her husband doesn't like when she does that in real life.

Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.