Tuesday, December 31, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR


To Everyone All Around the World

from Studs, Sloane, and all the Taylors

Monday, December 30, 2019

I Have a New Castle!

by Catherine Castle

Have you heard the story about the goldfish? She was swimming in her bowl and passed the front entrance of the castle that decorated the small aquarium.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed. Then she went around the bowl again and spied the fortress once more.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed.

She went around again, and not remembering what’d she just seen she exclaimed once more, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, and again.

The moral of this story, beside the fact that goldfish have memories that only last for three seconds, is that you, the author, may forget you’ve written a particular piece, or pieces, of information in your story and repeat yourself. While you might not remember dispensing the information, you can bet, that like those of us who are laughing at this funny story, your reader will remember those words, phrases, and information that you’ve inadvertently added more than once.

Don’t get bent out of shape if you discover this in your work. It’s a natural result of writing a book over a long period of time. Most authors only write a few thousand words in any given day, and unless you’re writing a short story, blog post, or essay, it will probably take weeks, or months, before you’ve finished your project. With all the stuff that happens in between your times at the computer, it’s only normal you’d forget something you’ve already written, especially if you get in the zone and your muse or characters take over.

SO WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO?

Here are a few tips to help you catch those repetitions.

FOR REPETITIVE WORDS AND PHRASES:
• If you know you’re fond of certain words or phrases, and you use them a lot, make a list and do a search for them at the end of each day’s writing. A quick way to search is by using the find function of Microsoft Word. Type in the word, ask the computer to highlight all forms, and see how often you’ve fallen victim to repetition.

• Eliminate repetitive words and phrases as you go. By doing this you will make the chore less bothersome at the end of the book. A daily reminder of your trouble words will also help prime yourself to catch them as you work.

• Reread the previous day’s work (or even a couple of days work if you’ve been away for a long time) when you sit down to write. By keeping what you’ve written fresh in your mind, you will be less likely to repeat yourself.

FOR REPETITIVE INFORMATION:
• Keep a list of the important points/information you want to be sure to include in your story. When you’ve made that point, notate it, indicating where in the book you placed the information.

• Double check how many times your characters repeat a story or information. If the event or information they are revealing to another character has already been shown to the reader, if may not be necessary to repeat the whole story again. The author of Downton Abbey was a master at this technique. When something was being related to other characters that had happened in an earlier episode, he often had a one sentence referral to the incident. Enough to trigger the viewer’s memory, but not enough to bore one to death. For the written word, a simple She told him what happened at the skating rink and the character’s reaction to the story may be enough to get the point across without rehashing the information a second or third time.

• Consider becoming a plotter. When you draft your book’s scenes in outline form, chapter synopsis, or whatever works best for you (and follow them), the tendency to repeat oneself is reduced. Yes, you may still have to double check that you’ve eliminated those pesky repetitions, but you will find they are fewer and, hopefully, farther in between.

What tips do you have for eliminating repetition in your work?

Here's a brief intro to my inspirational romantic suspense. I hope yo enjoy it.

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicably attracted to him, he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them by making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion, and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.


Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.

Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Learn more about Catherine Castle on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out Catherine’s Amazon author page and her Goodreads page. You can also find Catherine on Stitches Thru Time and the SMP authors blog site.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Wishing You and Yours
a very Merry Christmas


Along with
Pleasant memories of holidays past!

From the entire Taylor family

Monday, December 23, 2019

A PERFECT AHA MOMENT

by Carol Browne

The day I discovered my superpower is a memory undimmed by time. It was a life-changing event and I doubt I will ever forget it. Some of the details are sketchy, though, like how old I was. I know I was in my first year of primary school so I must have been about seven.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash
I can still see the classroom, the table where I was sitting when it happened, and the chalk-smeared blackboard, but apart from the teacher being female, I don’t recall much about her. I regret that because I have never been able to thank this woman for making me aware of a talent I didn’t know I had. She set me on a path I am still following almost sixty years later.

It all started when I wrote a poem. Where did I get the idea from to do that? It’s a mystery, and it seems strange to me now that I even knew what a poem was, or that it should have meter and rhyme. I also wrote it in verses of four lines each. The subject was a crocus, something I must have seen and wondered at, but again I’ve no idea why this little plant should have inspired me to put pen to paper the way I did, nor why I chose to present the poem to my teacher. Having composed this no doubt unsophisticated piece of doggerel, that was that as far as I was concerned. I didn’t expect what was to follow.

I was at my table, scribbling away with one of those thick blue biros they used to hand out, when the teacher announced that Carol Browne had written a wonderful poem and it was going on the wall so everyone could see it. In fact, she advised my classmates to look at it if they wanted to know how to write a poem. She came over to me and congratulated me on my work and I was astonished, delighted and taken aback by this praise and recognition. As a shy and lonely child with physical defects only time would cure, I found myself suddenly elevated to a status I could not have aspired to in my wildest dreams. I never received validation for anything before but now I was worthy because of a talent not everyone else possessed. I could manipulate words. I could bend them to my will. I could do this because I was a wordsmith. This was my gift, my specialty. This was my superpower.

From that moment on I was a writer.

Here's a brief intro to my latest release. I hope you like it.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt... keep stirring... is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

Amazon Buy Links e-Book - Paperback



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 writes both fiction and non-fiction.

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

Sunday, December 22, 2019

To All Our Jewish Friends and Readers


Photo by digitalart

The Taylor Family
wishes
you and yours,

HAPPY HANUKKAH

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

SUGARY BLISS

from Sharon Ledwith

Some recipes take me back to a time when life was simpler—a.k.a. living with my parents, eating their food, and not having to any pay bills or a mortgage. As the name suggests, this cake tastes exactly like the honey bun I used to buy during my high school days. Trust me, just one mouthful of this sugary bliss propels you back to those days where all your happy memories and good times of the past, still exist.

A warning to the wise: it’s quite a sweet cake and not for those who are watching their waistlines, so wait until after you’ve blown your New Year’s Resolutions to try this delish dish. I’ve found this is the perfect cake to serve during holidays, celebrations, or perhaps as an indulgent dessert at your monthly book club.

Heavenly Honey Bun Cake
1 package of yellow cake mix (432 g or 18.25 ounce)
¾ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 (250 g or 8 ounce) container of sour cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325° F (165° C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, oil, eggs, and sour cream. Stir by hand approximately 50 strokes, or until most large lumps are gone. Pour half of the batter into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle over the batter.

Spoon the remaining batter into the cake pan. Be sure to cover the brown sugar and cinnamon well. Twirl the cake with a butter knife or icing knife until it looks like a honey bun or whatever design you want to make.

Bake 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Frosting
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Spread across the cake while fairly hot. Serve warm.

Tastes wonderful if served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

While you’re waiting for the cake to bake, take a seat in your favorite comfy chair and crack open one of my books. May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, I guarantee either series will take you on a journey far away from thoughts of paying bills or putting in a load of laundry.

Here's a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.



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, December 16, 2019

What Do You Do with the Mad You Feel?

by Elliott Baker

A couple of days ago, Sally and I had the pleasure of watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster and directed by Marielle Heller. In the movie, Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers. I am incapable of writing spoilers so I can’t speak about the plot of the film. Go see it. It’s different from what you think. Sally and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Fortunately, all of my generation had the privilege of watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” if not through our own child eyes, then through those of our children.

The first broadcast of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” took place on the National Educational Television network on February 19, 1968. I was already a teenager, and I remember thinking that the pace of the show was slow. I also remember thinking, “That guy can’t be for real.” Why did I think that, but perhaps more importantly, what caused me to change my mind? In 1980 I saw Mister Rogers through my son’s eyes and that image has stayed with me all my life.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was broadcast from February 19, 1968 to February 20, 1976, and again from August 20, 1979 to August 31, 2001. It was almost like he came back on the air for our three children. Our eldest was born in 1978. Two out of our three children watched the program and Sally and I loved the half hour we could use to do life other than children. Our daughter didn’t like The Neighborhood because she felt that Mister Rogers’ mother didn’t dress him properly if he had to change clothes every time he entered. Still, when I was home, the show would occasionally catch me and I’d sit with whichever little ones were glued to the set. My memory of those days was that Sally and I were both at a dead run juggling whatever momentous tasks that needed to be done. Why did I, a young adult, stop and watch Fred Rogers?

Most everything is new to the 2 to 5-year-olds which were the preschool ages Fred Rogers’ series was aimed at, even though it was labelled by PBS as “appropriate for all ages.” It might be said that children are unsophisticated about their choices of what to give their attention to. I don’t think that’s true, mainly because their choices followed a pattern and they often requested Mister Rogers. What they didn’t have was an unconscious experiential barrier to love, either giving or receiving. My first response to the show was “That guy can’t be real. He’s acting in order to catch an audience and maintain the success of the show in order to bring him more fame and money.” When I saw Mister Rogers through the eyes of my children and through their expressions, (I watched them watch him.) I saw the truth. Without the colors we add in through the bumps and mistakes of life, there’s just what is in front of us and we know it for what it is. The man in that sweater was exactly as my children saw him, a gentle soul teaching a child the benefits of kindness to oneself and others.

As children we lust after the power of the adults in our lives. We are hurt and the hurts scab over, but remain with us informing our lives and our search for acceptance. We learn what to do with mad from our heroes whether they’re heroic or not, whether we love them or hate them. Anger comes from fear and only from fear. We are never angry about the things we love. Anger is a signpost of an injury along the way. Acceptance leads to forgiveness which is the only true healing we can exchange.

That was Fred Rogers’ gift to us. His ability to surmount appearances and portray genuine acceptance. I wonder that the ability to accept others wasn’t the first and most powerful tool that allowed us to survive in a dangerous world. The only reason homo sapiens managed to survive a vicious primitive environment was their aggregation, not their aggression. Individually, tools notwithstanding, we were helpless. Together we were more powerful than the carnivorous fauna that surrounded us, more tenacious than the environmental disasters that beset us. Being accepted by the group implied the opportunity for survival, rejection was a guarantee of death. Those early motivations are still resident within each of us like old outdated programing, and in fear, we lash out at any attempt to challenge the group that has deigned to accept us. No matter the underlying motivation of the group originator. Even if the group’s destination is eventual destruction, we can’t seem to disobey that prime directive. Belong or die.

In his gentleness, Mister Rogers taught power, real power. There is such power in forgiveness and compassion. Forgiveness causes structural change, long lasting change whereas anger and its effects are always temporary. If compassion is forgiveness for the self you see in others, doesn’t its exercise release us from our own fears at the same time? Doesn’t it make our load lighter and the road easier to navigate? We all suffer from the belief that we are powerless no matter how many missiles we command. To an adolescent, adults have power in that they can compel behavior using the threat of bodily or psychological injury. And, as adolescents, we lust after that power. We use all kinds of behaviors to compel others to accept us. That strategy which often appears to work in the short term, always fails in the end because while we may have destroyed the self we see in others, that short lived victory has not given us the ability to accept ourselves. In fact, it reinforces our nonacceptance and without that self-acceptance, the world remains in ego colors of black and white, good and bad.

Fred Rogers was a shining light dispelling the darkness of that youthful inability. He wasn’t a saint. He was from our neighborhood. That we’re having difficulty accepting ourselves now does not mean that we can never do so. We do not live in a black and white world no matter how we choose to see it. Yet we all participate in thought conventions that use that limiting paradigm. Good or bad. My father-in-law, a man very much in the mold of Fred Rogers once told me a story about a young man in Russia at the turn of the century. I’ll shorten the story, but you’ll see the thread.

This is a universal story and my father-in-law set it on a Russian farm. One day, the farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbors commiserated with him saying, “Such bad luck.” “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The next day, the horse returned bringing three other wild horses with it. The neighbors came over. “Such good luck,” they said. “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The next day, while trying to rope one of the wild horses, the farmer’s son was kicked and his leg broken. “Such bad luck,” said the neighbors. “Who knows,” replied the farmer. The Russian army heard of the horses and came to collect them. While there they asked to see the farmer’s son who they intended to recruit. They needed more fodder for the front lines.

A world of color is so much more exciting. The complexity of our world is frightening because our personal knowable resources are shrinking against the total knowledge available. It is this fact that threatens our survival more than any carnivorous fauna could. It is also the reason why it’s imperative that we learn to accept each other in larger groups than our current tribes. No matter how it may look, the only way to accomplish this is one at a time until eventually the one becomes all.

There are many Mister Rogers among us. They don’t speak loudly. We have to quiet our egos and listen to hear them, but they all tell us the same message. What to do with the mad you feel. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for reminding me I can do better.

Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to turn his skill to writing action adventure novels.

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.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

LUNCH IS SERVED

from Tina Griffith

Meat Salad is a European dish that I have grew up with and still enjoy to this very day. Throughout the years, I've learned to make it even more special. Now it's my own recipe and I take it to almost every event my family has. Of course, there are no left-overs, and people have always asked me for the recipe and today I give it to you.

It's not difficult to make and is a delicious bouquet of flavors in your mouth. It can be made in any quantity you wish. Simply scale the ingredients up or down to fit your need. Shall we begin?


MEAT SALAD
5 packages of your favorite lunch meat such as: black forest ham, Lyoner sausage, beer sausage, roast beef, mortadella
1 jar garlic pickles, cut off both tips
3 dashes paprika
Miracle Whip (it's mayo on steroids) to taste
Rye bread




Dice lunch meat and pickles into same-size pieces. Place into a glass bowl, because steel or aluminum seem to alter the taste.

Add paprika and 3 to 4 large tablespoons of Miracle Whip to the mixture.

Do not add salt and/or pepper, because the meat has enough salt already.

Mix together so every piece of meat is covered. Chill 1 hour. Serve on a slice of soft, rye bread.

Here's a bit from The Elusive Mr. Velucci, a timeless romance, I hope you'll enjoy while your salad is chilling.

Enrico and Sadie were now standing alone, and it was their turn to say good-bye. They faced each other, he took her hands in his, and he spoke in an extremely compassionate tone.

“I didn’t realize how much you would mean to me when we first met”, he whispered with total sincerity. His eyes had filled up and he could hardly see, and with everything in his soul, he very much wanted to stay right where he was. He was miserable because he knew he couldn’t, so he promised to come back as soon as possible.

“Enrico”, she whimpered, as she looked lovingly into his eyes. Her voice had a gentle softness to it, with undertones of abandonment. She wanted to say a thousand more words, but they got stuck in her throat.

“I know”, he revealed, in a voice that was fragile and shaking. It was quite evident to everyone around them, that he wasn’t prepared to say good-bye to the beautiful girl standing in front of him. He brought his forehead forward until it was touching hers, and they cried with immense fear that they would never see each other again.

An announcement came over the P.A., which stated that all passengers must get checked in. It was in that moment when Enrico knew in his heart, that no miracle was coming and that he would have to leave. He pulled his head back from hers and looked deep into Sadie’s unhappy eyes. He had not expected to fall in love, and now he could feel his own heart breaking.

Enrico placed both of his hands against the sides of her face, and slowly closed his eyes. With all the love he had inside of him, he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her nose, and then her mouth. It baffled him that this woman had provided him with the absolute need to love another living soul, for he would not have guessed that to be possible. He wanted to hold her, take care of her, know her whereabouts, and love her for the rest of his life, but he could not; he had waited too long to change the course of his immediate future.

Enrico was becoming frustrated that he had taken eight months to get to know her, but he had only had six hours to really love her. He pulled her body closer to his, and then held on tight. ‘If only I had known or acted sooner…’ he whispered.
Enrico needed to go, so he ended their embrace as hurriedly as it had begun.

A flash of wild grief suddenly ripped through her soul, as Sadie realized the true reality of what was happening. “Enrico!” she cried from every pore in her body. Her eyes were begging him to stay, while her heart was breaking into a million pieces. The whole thing suddenly felt very real, and severe panic began to fill every fiber of her being.

Enrico examined her face and he knew what she wanted. “I’ll be back”, he assured her, in a voice that was both soft and trying to stay strong. He picked up his suitcase with one hand, and he placed something in her hand with the other.

Without looking to see what it was, she swaddled the object safely in the palm of her hand, while keeping her eyes locked with his.

Enrico twisted his upper body to face his family and shouted, “Good-bye everyone!” He turned around to take one more look into the face of his beloved Sadie, and then he began to walk away.

“No!” she shouted loudly. The simple word dissolved into the air like a crispy leaf in the fall.

Enrico hadn’t gotten very far, and now it was him who was falling apart. He took one more look in her direction, put his hand to his mouth, and blew her a kiss. “Bye for now!” he said quietly. As he faced forward again, he began to cry. Not full-out crying like a small child who had gotten hurt on the playground, but a grown man’s frustration and enormous displeasure of things that he couldn’t fix or change.

Nothing in her mind or body was able to let him go, and now Sadie felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her muscles were paralyzed and she was experiencing numbness all over. Her eyebrows were raised, her eyes were wide open, and a look of extreme anxiety shot across her face.

While Enrico was moving his feet, he was trying to hide his appearance from the other travelers. He was utterly depressed and having a hard time forcing his emotions to stay down. He tried to make it look like he was holding back a sneeze rather than a flood of tears, but when one or two drops of salty water leaked out from their moist environment, Enrico wiped them off of his face with the sleeve of his right arm and kept going.

Sadie had been watching the man she loves walk away, and with an incredible amount of courage, she boldly took a few steps towards him. “En-ri-co!” She shouted his name as she extended her left hand far in front of her body, but he didn’t turn around. With sheer desperation gushing from the very core of her soul, she wanted to run after him, to hold him one last time, but she knew she couldn’t; their time was up.

Enrico heard her calling him, but he couldn’t bear to turn around again; he knew that if he saw her, he would run back into her arms and he would never let go. Instead, he made himself a promise to return to New York as soon as he could.

Sadie stood frozen in her tracks, while anxiety guided her every thought. She watched Enrico, as he continued to walk in a hurried pace, and she wanted him to come back. “Enrico”, she sighed, with little air passing through her trembling lips. “I love you.” Her head was bent in sorrow while the world was crashing down around her.

After Enrico boarded the large vessel, he made sure to stand on the very end of the large deck. He was facing her, but they were so far apart. His hand leaped high into the air and swayed back and forth, as he watched her wave back to him. He could tell that she was beckoning him to come back, and it was killing him that he couldn’t.

Sadie’s heart leaped in her chest when she saw him. “Enrico!” she called loudly. She saw him waving, and she waved back with as much energy as she could muster. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the handsome man, who only hours ago, had made passionate love to her. “I’m here!” she cried. Her voice had cracked and was full of raw emotion.

Enrico’s face was wearing the biggest smile of his life, and he waved with all of his might. “Sadie!” he called, as if she could hear him.

“Enrico!” she shouted. She knew in that instance that he was the man who she would love for the rest of her life.

The ship blew its horn a few times, and then it slowly pulled away from the dock.

“No!” she screamed, as her body went into an even bigger panic mode. Tears were trickling down her moist and flushed cheeks, as her soul was being smashed into a thousand different pieces. “Please don’t leave!” she pleaded at the top of her lungs. She was yelling with as much force as she had in her body, and was stunned that no-one was looking in her direction. ‘Why were they not helping me get him back?’ she wondered wildly.

“Sadie!” Enrico called, but the sound of his words were not as clear anymore. “I love you!” he added happily. “Can you hear me?”

With all the noise that was around her, Sadie’s ears didn’t get to receive his tender words. “How will I go on without you?” she cried, while choking on her own tears. Her heart was in her throat, her will to live had been taken away, and now there was a horrible, empty ache in her soul.

“Enrico!” Sadie shouted at full volume. She continued to step closer and closer to the edge of the platform, as the ship appeared to go further and further away from the shore. “No-o-o-o-o!” she screamed, as if that would somehow stop what was happening.

With each moment that passed, their hearts were growing heavier with the sadness that was now weighing them down. Minute-by-minute, their emotional pain was getting worse, and almost an hour later, the ship was nothing more than a mere dot on the large body of water.

Sadie had fallen to her knees before the ship had totally disappeared, and it was then when she discovered what Enrico had placed in her closed fist - a beautiful silver locket. On the left side of the elaborately engraved heart, was a picture of Enrico. On the right, was a picture of her.

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Tina Griffith, who also wrote twenty-seven children's books as Tina Ruiz, was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school.

After her husband of 25 years passed away, she wrote romance novels to keep the love inside her heart. Tina now has eleven romance novels on Amazon, and while all of them have undertones of a love story, they are different genres; murder, mystery, whimsical, witches, ghosts, suspense, adventure, and her sister's scary biography.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children's Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her second husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children's books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina (Griffith) Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

Monday, December 09, 2019

’Tis the Season for Christmas Stories

Or How to Write a Christmas Play

by C.D. Hersh

If you’re like us, you love a great Christmas story. In fact, last year we devoured Christmas movies well into springtime. This summer, Catherine started bugging Donald to look on Roku and Sling for new holiday movies. Being the nice guy that he is, Donald agreed. We already have several queued up for watching. So when we were approached to write a post about “How to Write a Christmas Play”, we thought about it for a bit and said, “Sure. We’ve done that.”

There are a lot of things we could say about how to write a Christmas play, or any play for that matter. The basics of writing a good book are the same as writing a play. You need a good story, good characters, and good conflict. There are some differences, however. We could talk about the nuts and bolts of playwriting, such as:

• Formatting.
• Making the last moment of the play a satisfying ending.
• Always keeping the action moving forward since time shifts and short scenes that hop around don’t work well for plays.
• Proper scene structure.
• How a play script usually has little dialogue or action tags or setting description.
• And so on.

However, since these elements are things that you can learn from a book, we decided to take a different approach and focus on the five lessons we found to be most important in play writing by walking you through one of our most successful Christmas plays.

Catherine has always loved Christmas, but an interest in writing Christmas stories, particularly Christmas themed plays, started in the 1990s when we were in our church’s drama group. The church leadership decided to put on an outdoor re-creation of Bethlehem set on the night of Jesus’s birth. They would build a representation of Bethlehem in the church parking lot. The village would have several historically researched shops, a synagogue, a house, an inn, animals, and the stable where Jesus was born. Originally the leadership wanted a walk-through diorama where the town’s characters interacted with each other, but not with the people visiting the event. Our drama leader knew Catherine was a freelance writer and that we were interested in writing plays, so she urged us to create a script for Back to Bethlehem, which was the name of the event.

Lesson 1: Accept the challenge
We had never done a play before, but had acted in plenty in the church drama ministry.
So when we were asked, we accepted the challenge. We dug into playwriting
books and brushed up on the nuts and bolts of playwriting.

Lesson 2: Start early
In early spring of the year the event was to be hosted, we threw ourselves into the job and read and reread the Christmas story from the Bible. We learned it’s never too early to think about Christmas when planning a Christmas story. If you’re out of the Christmas season when you need inspiration, put on the Christmas music. Put up your tree in June. Don your Santa hat and beard. Go Christmas shopping and wrap the gifts. Do whatever it takes to get into the Christmas spirit.


Lesson 3: Look for the unexpected. Find the twist. The new in the old.
Religiously, Christmas is about Jesus’s birth. Secularly, Christmas is about Santa, gift giving, charity, family gatherings, food, joy, and cheer. If you’re planning a Christmas story, play, or book, you need to figure out how to make a well-known story unique and fresh. Since most people visiting Bethlehem would know the biblical story of the virgin birth, our challenge was to create a new tale, yet keep the age-old tale intact for the hundreds of people who would travel back to Bethlehem on a mulch-strewn tar parking lot.

To make an old story new, we suggested the visitors to Bethlehem follow several characters through the town as they looked for Mary, Joseph, and a baby born in a stable. One character, Myriaden, went from shop to shop looking for Mary interacting with all the townspeople, asking if they had seen a young pregnant woman, telling them how she’d traveled with her from Nazareth. And in case some of the newcomers to the town missed Myriaden, a group of rowdy shepherds who saw the heavenly host also came through the town looking for the baby born in a stable. Another set of characters, the Roman soldiers, told a different part of the story—the part of the suppression of the Jews and their disbelief in the shepherds’ tale of angels singing in the sky.

Mary, the shepherds, and the Roman soldiers told the stories of the Bible in an unexpected way, as Christmas plays depicting Jesus’s birth normally center around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The interesting thing about the Back to Bethlehem drama was that it became an interactive play. While our characters, both those “leading” the visitors and those in the shops, had set lines to say, they ended up interacting with the visitors to Bethlehem who wanted to know more about the town, the time and the story. So, we developed a set of improvisational lines for the characters to use. They always kept in character as they had spur-of-the-moment conversations with the visitors. Visitors were immersed in the drama, and that was very unexpected and very delightful for them.

It’s highly unlikely that your Christmas drama will be as improvisational as Back to Bethlehem was, but the example certainly shows the twist in this story. We broke the fourth wall of the stage and completely immersed the audience in the drama.

Lesson 4: Watch your Dialogue
As with books, dialogue is important and should sound natural no matter your genre. Plays, unlike books, are composed completely of dialogue. You have a few moments to capture your audience. They can’t go back and hit rewind or flip the page back if they think they missed something You don’t have the luxury of internal thoughts, or rambling commentaries (unless you’re Shakespeare). Plays don’t have exposition and, just like books, shouldn’t have author intrusion. If you can’t write without a lot of narrative, exposition, or description, you have a book, not a play.

Here’s an example of the importance of dialogue.
Because we were writing for a historical period in which we did not know how the people sounded, in English, we chose to use a more formal language, with no contractions or slang. It was just different enough that it gave a unique flavor to the actors’ speech. When they were interacting with the visitors, they also did not recognize modern day terms or items the visitors might say or show to them. Once when Catherine was talking to a visitor, he used the word technology while admiring her earrings.

Catherine said, “I do not understand this word, sir.”

“Where did get your earrings?” he asked.

“The goldsmith hammered them out for me,” she replied.

“If they’re made of gold, then you’d better hold on to them,” he said.

“As you wish, sir,” Catherine replied. Then she reached up and grasped both of her earrings, bowed, and walked away.

Peals of laughter followed her as she exited. In Bethlehem, Catherine would not have known the slang “Hold on to them.” So, she reacted literally. We’re fairly certain those visitors remembered their visit to Bethlehem for a long time. And that’s what you want your audience to do, too.

Lesson 5: Create a dramatic ending
The town of Bethlehem was noisy and crowded. Roman soldiers bellowed at the local beggar, harassed the shop keepers, and insulted the shepherds looking for a baby in a manger. Shop keepers shouted at passersby to come buy their wares. The women at the well gossiped loudly. The priest in the synagogue taught his young charges, quoting the scriptures in Hebrew. The guests at the inn complained at the crowded conditions. But when visitors passed through the small hallway into the stable, the whole atmosphere changed. Mary and Joseph spoke softly and calmly to all who approached them. Myriaden, who had found Mary, whispered and admired the baby. The shepherds bowed down and worshipped him. Even the visitors who came to see the town spoke in hushed tones as they gazed on Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Although you heard the sounds of the busy town, everyone in the stable was quiet and reserved, even the children. Coming from the hustle and bustle of the crowded town into the quiet stable was a magical moment. Even today, nearly twenty years later, when we meet people who visited our Bethlehem they comment on how much it touched them. As writers, isn’t that what we want to do with our stories—touch people?

We’ve written several Christmas plays—Back to Bethlehem, which ran for 5 years at our former church and was sold to two other churches; a Christmas musical that has not been yet published, and four Christmas puppet plays that have been performed at our current church. We also wrote a Christmas novella Kissing Santa, which is part of the Christmas Collection Sizzle in the Snow, published by Soul Mate Publishing.

If you want to write a Christmas play, we suggest you read a lot of plays. Study the craft of playwriting, and apply the five lessons we’ve talked about. Remember, they translate to your manuscripts whether you’re writing plays, stories, or books.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Playwriting Year!

While you’re thinking about your next Christmas play or story, take a peek at this excerpt from C.D. Hersh’s Christmas novella Kissing Santa.

When Sam S. Klaus, a professional Santa, has a fling with a beautiful elfette at a Santa Conference, he wants to make her Mrs. Klaus, but his intended disappears before Santa can pop the question.

EXCERPT
Anna Noel studied the trim backside of the Santa standing in front of her. He appeared younger than most of the Santas at the Santa Claus conference she’d chosen to attend this year. A lot more attractive than any Santa she’d ever met. For the briefest of moments she let her mind wander, lingering on Christmas wish number nine—make love to Santa. A heated flush climbed her chest as she envisioned the scene, and she flapped the jacket of her green elf costume to cool down.

Her gaze traveled over his hips, chest, and to the beginnings of a snow white beard. Then to his shock of silver hair underneath the white-trimmed, red Santa hat.

Yep. Definitely a Santa she wanted to know. Too bad she wouldn’t be the elf to his mall Santa. They could get to know each other and more.

The conference registrar drew her out of her Christmas fantasy with a loud, “Miss? Are you with this Santa?”

“What? No. I don’t have a Santa. I’m here alone.”

Sexy Santa turned and held out his hand. “Me, too. I’m Sam S. Klaus.”

A smile curled her lips as she took his hand. “As in Sam Santa Claus?” His warm palm sent tingles through her fingers as he gently squeezed them.

A lopsided grin slanted his cheek upward, and he flashed a brilliant smile. “You have the same warped sense of humor as my parents.” He gave her a mock bow. “Sam S., for Santa, Klaus, with a K.”

“That’s your real name?” He let go of her hand. She fought to keep from grabbing it back. A real Santa Klaus? How great was that?

“The same, and you are?”

“An—” She stopped, suddenly unwilling to reveal her name. A rollercoaster of emotions raced through her, suggesting she might hit number nine with this Santa. If she did, and it didn’t go well, she wouldn’t want Sam Klaus to know her real identity. “An elf, who needs a Santa,” she said. “How about we team up? I’ll be your personal elfette, and you can be my Santa.”

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Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Also a novella, Can’t Stop The Music, with twelve other authors from various genres with a book coming out each month in 2017.

They look forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

Learn more about C.D. Hersh on their website and their Amazon Author Page.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Warm and Wonderful

by Gina Briganti

We have been trading lots of yummy recipes lately and I wanted to share one of my favorite breakfasts. This spiced apple oatmeal is perfect for busy people who want fast, delicious food without lots of shopping, chopping, and prep. That’s exactly why I love this recipe.

Plus, you can share it. I’ve given jars dressed up with a bow as gifts. I know friends who have made jars ahead and brought them on road trips and camping because they travel well. You can get the kids in on this, too, by having them put their mix into a jar. They can customize how much apple they add and what kind or get fancy and add a mix of different freeze-dried fruits.

Make sure you buy freeze-dried fruit that does not have sugar added to it. Freeze drying brings out the sugars and the fruit is sweet all by itself.

As more of us move to zero or low-waste lifestyles jars are making a comeback. Whether you’re a new fan of reusable jars or a pro, I hope you enjoy this quick and lovely meal. It’s gluten-free, there’s no added sugar, and it is packed with flavor. As written, this recipe serves one, but it is easy to increase for more people.

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash
Spiced Apple Oatmeal
½ cup quick oats
¼ freeze-dried apple slices broken into pieces
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups hot water

Mix all ingredients into a bowl. Stir and then cover.

Wait 5 – 7 minutes. It’s ready!

To give this delicious cereal as a gift, mix the dry ingredients together. Spoon mixture into a glass jar. Write out the cooking directions on a card and attach to the jar with a ribbon.




Keep It Simple: Permission to Illuminate Your Life Easily, Effortlessly, & Joyfully is a workbook I wrote to share the tools my clients and I have used for over a decade in my holistic health practice.

Tasty nutrition is one of the keys I highlight that will help you live a life that feels like a dream.


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Gina Briganti is an RWA member who writes fantasy and sci-fi romance in north Texas.

She also writes holistic health non-fiction because real life can be magic, too. Her credentials in holistic health include certification as a Reiki Master Practitioner and teacher, certification as a nutrition consultant, and a degree in holistic nutrition.

When she's not writing, eating delicious healthy food, reading (follow her on Goodreads to see the massive variety she finds appealing) or making videos, she is spending time with family and friends. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, for exclusives and announcements that are shared only in her newsletter.

Stay connected on Facebook, Gina's Amazon Author Page, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Monday, December 02, 2019

JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

New from Toque & Dagger Publishing an exciting cookbook filled with recipes perfect for celebrating life. Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire, Book 3 in the Meals to Make Together series, is now available in e-book and paperback.


Liven up 2020 with this new cookbook. The 113 taste tempting recipes come together to celebrate 35 traditional, and far from typical, holidays with meals perfect for two or twenty. These complete menus are guaranteed to excite your taste buds and satisfy your most discriminating diner. Start a new tradition by inviting your family into the kitchen for holiday fun.

Entertain like royalty year-round on a working woman’s budget. No exotic or expensive products to buy. These delicious recipes use ingredients already on your kitchen shelves.

Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire is a fun gift for every holiday celebration, hostesses, bridal showers, or the couple who wants to enjoy quality time together.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Monday, November 25, 2019

NEW RELEASE for LINDA LEE GREENE

From one unexpected twist to another you fall deeper and deeper into this intriguing romantic crime thriller from Linda Lee Greene. The cast of characters are strong and compelling. This is a book you definitely want to read.

Was it chance or destiny’s hand behind a man and a woman’s curious encounter at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? The cards fold, their hearts open, and a match strikes, flames that sizzle their hearts and souls. Can they have the moon and the stars, too? Or is she too dangerous? Is he? Can their love withstand betrayal? Can it endure murder?

While the cards at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas fail to distract them from their troubled pasts, on the side, the actress and the gambler play a game of ‘will they won’t they’ romance. Meanwhile, an otherworldly hand also has a big stake in the game. Unexpected secrets unfold brimming with dangerous consequences, and finally, a strange brand of salvation.

Amid the seductions of Las Vegas, Nevada and an idyllic coffee plantation on Hawai’i’s Big Island, a sextet of opposites converge within a shared fate: a glamorous movie-star courting distractions from her troubled past; her shell-shocked bodyguards clutching handholds out of their hardscrabble lives; a dropout Hawaiian nuclear physicist gambling his way back home; a Navajo rancher seeking cleansing for harming Mother Earth; and from its lofty perch, the Hawaiian’s guardian spirit conjured as his pet raven, conducting this symphony of soul odysseys.

The Cast of Characters
Actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms escapes the shadow of her mother’s gruesome murder and the relentless demands of Hollywood and loses herself in the cards at Las Vegas casinos. But like hounds on the scent, the scandal tracks her. And true to her history, it shows up in the person of dashing Hawaiian gambler, Koa Kalua’i. Neither of them are strangers at taking risks and too often losing. Will they win in their chance at the moon this time?

In Hawaiian cosmology, Aumakuas are guardian spirits whom many believe to manifest in physical form. Koa Kalua’i knows the tenet to be true, because Raven has not only been his winged-pet since the earliest days of his childhood on his family’s coffee plantation on Hawaii’s Big Island, but also his Aumakua. They make a remarkable pair, dedicated to righting wrongs.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, and orphaned as little kids, twin brothers Nicholas and Tobias Plato grew up tough but tenderhearted, qualities they put to use as actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms’ bodyguards. Who knew that Nicholas would play such a pivotal role in Olivia’s life: her most trusted friend and guardian, and in the end, her savior?

Navajo rancher and computer geek, Sam Whitehorse uncovers a secret, terrorist stockpile of materiel burrowed in the side of one his people’s sacred mountains in Nevada. It is a threat that he and Las Vegas gambler, Koa Kalua’i must expose and eliminate, but potential government involvement in the matter complicates such an offensive. And why does actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms insert herself into the whole affair?

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Multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene describes her life as a telescope that when trained on her past reveals how each piece of it, whether good or bad or in-between, was necessary in the unfoldment of her fine art and literary paths.

Greene moved from farm-girl to city-girl; dance instructor to wife, mother, and homemaker; divorcee to single-working-mom and adult-college-student; and interior designer to multi-award-winning artist and author, essayist, and blogger, it was decades of challenging life experiences and debilitating, chronic illness that gave birth to her dormant flair for art and writing. Greene was three days shy of her fifty-seventh birthday when her creative spirit took a strong hold.

She found her way to her lonely easel soon thereafter. Since then Greene has accepted commissions and displayed her artwork in shows and galleries in and around the USA. She is also a member of artist and writer associations.

Visit Linda at her online art gallery and join her on Facebook. Linda loves to hear from readers so feel free to email her.