Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Recipe for Seduction

from Gina Briganti

Artichokes were a favored aphrodisiac of Catherine de Medici and Henry VIII. They were considered so powerful that they were allowed for men only, which de Medici defied. It was scandalous for a woman to eat artichokes in the 16th century.

Pine nuts have been used in love potions for centuries because they are high in zinc and are valued as an aphrodisiac because of that mineral.

Chile Peppers raise your heart rate, bringing a flush to your skin, lips, and libido. Hubba hubba.

This is a recipe for seduction.

So smooth you can tip a warm bowl of this aphrodisiac-filled soup to your lover's lips on a cold night and light your fires.

LOVERS SOUP
2 cups cooked artichoke hearts or quarters
2 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 cup pine nuts
1 tsp. hot sauce (more, if you want it hotter)
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Stir until mixed. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until artichokes are soft.

Transfer soup to a high-speed blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Strain the soup with a fine sieve.

Serve with warm, crispy, buttered bread.

Lovers Soup was inspired by this scene with Carter and Brittany from my latest paranormal romance.

Natural Gifts…where fate gets a good name.

Brittany has shy down to an art. Maybe she needs a push. It’s been years already!
Jack is stubborn personified. Push, push, push.
Jason is having the time of his life in college. All those beautiful women. Ha ha. Not the plan.
Rowan is convinced that his soulmate didn’t incarnate with him in this lifetime. Surprise!

Forget slow and steady, fate has plans for these four couples!

There’s no looking back now.

There are No Yesterdays.

“Don't remind me.” He put his hand over his eyes. “I had no idea you were staying away from me because you were sick. How'd you like that spinach soup I made for you?”

“No one knew, Carter. I like the soup. I eat it all the time. I even made a batch, and you know what? It's better than yours.” She pinched his calf.

“You got your spunk back. Maybe more than I ever knew was missing.” He cocked an eyebrow, waiting for her to say whether or not the whole time they'd been together she wasn't entirely herself.

When she didn't answer he went on. “Now, about this vacation. I'm allowed to treat you to a few days in a place you've never been, right? Let's pick somewhere you've always wanted to go and just go. You have two weeks off. I can take time off. Dana said she'd cover me.”

“A cabin in the woods, no, let's go to Vegas, or, hmmm, we could go to New York. I've always wanted to see it.” She flopped down on the bed next to him, then sprang back up. “Carter, I love you so much! A vacation, a real, honest, vacation.”



Gina Briganti writes paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance in north Texas. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, and whatever else she thinks up.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

EYEBROW ENVY

by Anne Montgomery

Film siren Elizabeth Taylor had the art of the eyebrow down pat.

When I was a teen, I had rather thick eyebrows. While beauties like Elizabeth Taylor rocked alluring broad brows, the trend was starting to fade by the 70’s, so I would suffer some brow cruelty, initially afflicted upon me by a well-coiffed woman wielding a pair of weaponized tweezers.

When I was 17, I was awarded a scholarship to the John Robert Powers Modeling School, an unwanted prize my mother hoped would make me more feminine. Note that she truly wanted a girly-girl, one who would take delight in being swathed in dresses and heels. Clearly, since I favored jeans and sweatshirts and tended to clomp around like a Clydesdale on those rare occasions I was forced into pumps, I wasn’t fulfilling that dream.

The only thing I remember about my stint at modeling school was that I hated it. All these years later, I have virtually no recollection of what I did while attending those classes, the memories a black hole save for one miserable moment.

A poised, splendidly-attired woman strode to the front of the room, gliding on pointed heels, chin up, eyes wide. “Today’s lesson will be on the importance of properly maintaining one’s eyebrows,” she said prettily.

I recall being bored, longing to be outside somewhere, as she held up those silver tweezers. Then, she pointed one manicured hand my way and waved me to the front of the room. She smiled, an expression that, in hindsight, bore a sadistic hint. After ushering me to a chair, she disparaged my brows, explaining that such wanton neglect was unacceptable.

I froze as she brought the tweezers close to my right eye, and winced as she plucked. Throughout her lesson, she continued to yank at my offending brow as if to place emphasis on her syrupy words.

Looking back, I can’t reckon why I allowed her to persist. I also can’t figure why she picked me. It’s not like I had something Fridaesque sprawled across my forehead or a set of brows like Mr. Spock.

While it was perfectly acceptable for an alien from Vulcan to sport such expressive brows, for a 17-year-old girl in the ’70s, not so much.

When she finished, she motioned to my sore, red brow, assured the students that the tinge would soon fade, then placed the tweezers in my hand and instructed me to pluck the other brow myself. While I was relieved the assault had stopped, the thought of using the tool on myself made me queasy. Because memories mercifully fade, I don’t recall how I ultimately handled those mismatched brows.

Years later, while working at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, my beleaguered brows took another hit. Since the newscast was in progress, I was the only one in the newsroom when the phone rang. The woman caller wanted to know if I would get a message to that woman sportscaster. Without revealing my identity, I assured her I would.


“Tell her that I hate her eyebrows,” she said.


What propelled a viewer to take the time to make such a call, I cannot say. What I recall was hustling to the make-up mirror and staring at my eyebrows for a very long time.

I have learned that, as we age, our eyebrows naturally thin. Strangely, I am a bit wistful at what I’ve lost, especially considering that the tide has again turned. I read that fashion folks say we are currently in the decade of the eyebrow. YouTube has half-a-million tutorials on how to perfect your brows, and there are brow tattooing and transplants and tinting and threading, for those who suffer eyebrow envy.

I wonder if such procedures are painful, and then think of the woman with the tweezers and the brow beating she inflicted. I don’t think I’ve forgiven her, yet. Can you blame me?

Here's a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene. As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Looking for a Romantic Valentine’s Gift?

Check out this Giveaway on What’s Cooking This Week



That's right - you can win a $50 Gift Card to Whole Foods and a signed copy of the couples cookbook Date Night Dinners.

Treat your Valentine to a home-cooked meal designed with romance in mind. Whether you are a master chef or an aspiring beginner, this cookbook will walk you through making a wonderful meal for two with just the right romantic touches to celebrate any night.

No purchase necessary to enter.

To enter:
1) Join the What’s Cooking This Week Facebook Group
2) Reply to the pinned post between now and 11 PM CST on 02/10/19.

Grand Prize: $50 Gift Card to Whole Foods and a Signed Copy of Date Night Dinners
2nd Prize: $25 Gift Card to Whole Foods and a Signed Copy of Date Night Dinners
3rd Prize: Signed Copy of Date Night Dinners
4th Prize: Signed Copy of Date Night Dinners

Winners are chosen at random. All winners will be contacted by direct message and must provide a mailing address to receive their prize. Open internationally. Void where prohibited.

If a winner does not respond within 48 hours an alternate winner will be chosen.

The contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Whole Foods
The contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Good luck all!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Keep It Hot

Today we have a hearty soup created by my step-daughter Theresa. Not only is this soup easy to make, it tastes great! Add crusty bread and a chilled bottle of white wine for a marvelous meal.

Tortellini Soup
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 med. onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 lg. garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
4 cups beef stock
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ cup water
2 cups half & half
1 package Buitoni Fresh Garlic Tortellini, 3 cheese or chicken

Brown sausage in medium-size saucepan. Empty into a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in onion, carrots, celery, garlic, Italian seasoning, and stock. Cook on high 4 hours or on low 7 hours.

This soup may also be made on your stovetop. If so, brown sausage as directed then add the vegetables, seasonings, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Whichever method you choose, at the end of the cooking time skim off any fat.

Dissolve cornstarch in water in a small bowl. Stir in half & half. Blend this mixture into the soup pot. Gently fold in tortellini and mix well. Cook until pasta is soft and heated through.

If the soup is thicker than you like, add a little milk to create a consistency you prefer.

Stay warm!

Sloane

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WARM and WONDEREFUL

from Vonnie Hughes

This soup tastes great and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

MINESTRONE SOUP
1 tbsp. butter
4 slices bacon, chopped or ½ lb. gravy beef, minced/ground
1 onion, chopped
½ lb. fresh tomatoes or 1 jar/can, chopped
1 carrot, scraped and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery or other seasonal vegetable, chopped
½ cup haricot beans that have been soaked overnight
3 tbsp. macaroni
3 tbsp. rice
3 tbsp. spaghetti
½ tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Melt butter in a frying pan. Add bacon or meat and fry until crisp. Stir in onion and tomatoes.

Carefully pour mixture into a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Fill pot halfway with water. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Cook 2 hours in slow cooker or 15 minutes in pressure cooker.

Here's a little from my latest romantic suspense. I hope you enjoy it.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

BLURB:
Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit "New Zealand's witness protection program" where she's expected to trust strangers with her life.

It's psychologist Brand Turner's job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide "can she trust Brand with her life? 

BUY LINKS

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

EDITS - The Ugly Truth

by Carol Browne

I met with a new proofreading client recently and looked at his manuscript. It needed a lot of work. In fact, he needed an editor not a proofreader. He had no idea what the difference was any more than he knew what an editor does. As I tried to explain it all to him, it took me back to my own beginnings as a newbie author and I remembered what a shock the editing process had been. I had no idea what was involved; writing the book turned out to have been the easy part! So, aspiring writers, here is a brief description of what lies in store for you.

Let’s assume that you were able to construct a fairly presentable manuscript and submit it to a publisher with strict adherence to their submission requirements and that said publisher has agreed to publish the work. Let’s also assume that you have thrown your hat in the air, danced on the table, bought a round of drinks for everyone in the pub, day dreamed about fame, fortune and winning the Booker Prize and now await the next step. Once the excitement has worn off, the real work begins.


This is what happened to me: I was told who my editor was, that they were editing my manuscript and it would then be emailed to me so I could address the editor’s changes and suggestions. I had done a fair bit of proofreading by then but proofreading is to editing what a string quartet is to the London Symphony Orchestra. Straightaway, I was shocked when I saw that most of Chapter One had been removed (“You can condense it into a small paragraph somewhere if you really must.”) and great chunks of the narrative had been torn out. Thousands of words were scattered to the four winds, never to be seen again. Thousands! The book I had given years of my life to was purged and purified. And this is what you call a structural edit.

And guess what … I ended up with a much better book. Did I manage to condense the pruned pages into one small paragraph? You bet I did! It was the sort of exercise that tones up the writing muscle. I learnt how to write more succinctly and move the narrative along without unnecessary clutter. Editors I’ve had since have not been so ruthless, but it’s probably because I have become a more competent writer.

Once the structural editing is done, it’s time for line editing. This is exactly what it sounds like: going through the narrative line by line, addressing punctuation, spelling, typos, syntax and word choice. The editor will often suggest the author uses a better word or adds some description or makes the dialogue more natural. There will be all kinds of errors or inconsistencies in continuity. Have you used the same word three times in quick succession? Perhaps a character does something incongruous and you never noticed? Did you just mention someone, having forgotten you killed them two chapters ago?

You can imagine how long and involved a process this can be, particularly if you have a book as long as mine was. (‘Was’ being the operative word!) But your editor is trying to make your book the best it can be. You may have to lose your favourite metaphor, pluck out padding you enjoyed reading, delete swathes of dialogue that made you laugh but did nothing to further the plot or develop the characters. In the end it is all worth it.

Hopefully it is at this point that your publisher will give their blessing to the final edits of the manuscript.

But that’s not the end of the process, because it‘s then that a proofreader takes over and that proofreader is very often YOU. Having worked your way through your manuscript umpteen times already until you could happily throw it at the wall and walk away forever, it is up to you to read through ALL of it carefully and look for any errors that have been missed.

Yes, the editing of a manuscript is a lot of work: Weeks of daily toil; long hours at the keyboard; chewed finger nails; bloodshot eyes; gallons of coffee. And finally, if you are lucky, your book emerges, all sparkly and beautiful, like a polished jewel!

One more thing – and this is extremely important advice for aspiring writers – you need to familiarise yourselves with the Track Changes function of Word, because you are gonna need that knowledge! I was lucky in that I had a proofreading course under my belt before I started, so Track Changes didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. This is a function that allows many people to edit and proofread a document without the changes they make to that document being lost – hence the changes are tracked, very much like sending a parcel – but Word also remembers the original document so nothing is lost (we can’t always say the same about the mail service!). Delete a paragraph, say, and it will be held in the margin in a sort of bubble. Only when the author accepts that deletion will that paragraph be completely removed from the document.

Well, this isn’t an article about Track Changes! Suffice it to say, as with many things, there are tutorials on You Tube if you really feel this is beyond you. Trust me, it isn’t. If I can manage to use this function, anyone with a modicum of computer skills will have no problem.

So, budding authors, prepare yourselves for the editing process; but don’t worry about it because it’s not all hard work and learning the craft, it can also be a lot of fun.

Godwin's adventures in Elvendom left him a changed man, and now bereavement has darkened his world.

In another dimension, a new Elvendom is threatened by the ambitions of a monstrous enemy. Who—or what—is the Dark Lady of Bletchberm?

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.
Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?

EXCERPT

His heart thumping in his throat, Godwin took in all the details of the goblin’s appearance. The creature was probably four feet tall at most and was wearing a sleeveless leather tunic and short leggings over his skinny frame. His arms and legs were hard with thin bands of muscle; sinews moved like taut wires beneath the scant flesh. Godwin fancied that the goblin’s skin had a sickly, greenish tint, but in the firelight it was impossible to be sure.

The goblin moved in an awkward manner, not upright like a man or an elf, but slightly stooped and with bent knees, as though on the verge of pouncing. The dome of his head was as bald and smooth as a pebble, and his very long, pointed ears were attached on either side like those of a lynx. His large eyes glittered like wet malachite and between them a long, sharp nose protruded with all the aesthetic attributes of a small parsnip.

The goblin’s large eyes widened as they swivelled in Godwin’s direction, making his stomach curdle in fear and revulsion.

“Only two of you, then?” said the goblin with a smirk. “Not much of a challenge, is it?” He beckoned with his sword and others of his kind began to creep into the circle.

Godwin glanced around. There were six more of them, each carrying a sword of a curious design, the blade like a thin, metal spiral with a very sharp point. A visceral fear welled up inside him at the sight of these weapons, but he didn’t know why.

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, January 09, 2019

COOK UP SOMETHING SPECIAL

with Janis and Emma Lane. No, they're not sisters or even cousins. Today's guest blogger is an author with a split personality and man can she cook!

Hi everyone, this recipe is only a guideline for making a delicious lunch or main dish with fresh vegetables. The list of veggies is easily amendable to whatever your grocer has in stock. No beets, please! Be sure to add nurturing bread like corn bread or crackers for a more substantial meal. Okay, I used corn Chex Mix one time, but that was an emergency. A green salad is always a welcome addition.

FRESH VEGETABLE SOUP
1 onion, diced
½ green pepper, cleaned and diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fat carrot, peeled and chopped
1 – 2 ears fresh corn kernels, scraped from cob
1 can diced tomato or 1 lg. fresh, chopped
1½ cups fresh green beans, strings removed and chopped
3 cups beef or chicken stock
½ pound ground chuck
1 med. potato, diced
Sprig fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried
Sprig of oregano or ¼ tsp. dried
Small sprig of basil or ½ tsp. dried
Sprig of parsley, flat not curly

Sauté meat and set aside.

Pour stock into a large pot. Add onions and celery. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Add carrots, corn, tomatoes, potato, and herbs. Return soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add meat. Simmer 10 minutes more.

Veggies will be somewhat crisp. Cook longer if desired. As it sits the flavor will increase. But cool and refrigerate if it’s going to be longer than a few hours before serving.
Optional Veggies: okra, green peas, yellow squash, small can chick peas
Optional herbs/spices: pinch of chili pepper, tiny clove of garlic, sprig of cilantro.

Tip: if you use fresh herbs tie together with kitchen string and remove before serving.

Here's a peek at my Cozy Mystery, Murder in the Neighborhood, a novel which introduces you to Detective Kevin Fowler and the intriguing murders which infect this small town Americana. The series follows the detective, colleagues, friends, and lovers through a whirlwind of events, good and bad, over the next three novels.

A killer is attacking respectable citizens in picturesque Hubbard, NY, and leaving corpses on their front steps in the middle of the day. Detective Fowler isn’t certain who causes him to lose the most sleep, a certain sexy reporter with bouncing curls and sparkling black eyes, or the elusive psychopath creating panic in his small-town community. Together, the detective and the reporter race to find the monster in their midst and return the town to the desirable place where people come to raise their families in peace and contentment. Can they sort through their differences to find romance even as they search for a determined stalker with murder on his mind? The clock ticks down on a man in a rage with a deadly mission.


Amazon Buy Links Kindle - Paperback

Read more of the cozy mysteries by Janis Lane on Amazon
Janis Lane is the pen-name for gifted author Emma Lane who writes cozy mysteries as Janis, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma's new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma's face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

SOUP - Ultimate Comfort

by Alicia Joseph

Since most of my mom's recipes are all in her head and she "eyeballs" most of the ingredients, it was hard to get one from her that she can actually give me precise measurements, but I think I found one. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

POTATO SOUP
Photo Courtesy of PD Douglas Pixabay
6 med size potatoes
1 med size raw onion or one med - lg leek, green onions may also be used
3 to 4 stalks celery, chopped fine (some leaves are good)
2-3 cups of milk
2 tbsp. oleo or butter

Peel and cut the potatoes into approximately ¼ inch cubes.

Add them in a large kettle, along with the onion or leek and celery. Cover with enough water to be visible at the top of potatoes. (Do not completely cover with water.) Boil until potatoes are tender and slightly mushy.

Add just enough milk to make the soup a consistency of your choice.

Add oleo or butter.

Heat only until liquid appears ready to boil. Do not let this soup boil.

Place in soup bowls and enjoy!

Get comfy and enjoy a little from my latest release.

“When a train runs over a penny, the penny changes form, but it can still be a penny if I want it to be. Or, I can make it be something else.”

Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality. After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

Prologue
1993

I was jerked from my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand beside my bed. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open. My mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

I watched my mother slowly make her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but the stiff movement of the outline of her body was hesitant.

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale. She let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

Finally, my mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.

AMAZON BUY LINKS

Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. Her first novella, Her Name, was published by Musa Publishing in 2014. Her Name is a sweet, romantic story about a woman who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life.

Loving Again is her second published novella. Alicia is currently working on a new novel called A Penny on the Tracks, a coming of age story about love and friendship. Alicia has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon.

When she is not writing, Alicia enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Learn more about Alicia Joseph on her blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Writing the Back-story for Troubled Characters

from Eris Field

Photo Courtesy of geralt pixabay.com


In reality, psychiatric disorders are similar to physical disorders in that they have predisposing factors (risk factors), protective or buffering factors, and an impact on the family as well as the patient.

Recently, I’ve been reading novels that include a family member developing early onset dementia (onset before the age of 60 years) and the necessity of one of the characters (usually the son or daughter) to take over the care. The information seems to be plunked down with no description of possible risk factors—certainly a big cause of fear for every other family member—and little description of the effect on the person’s life and on the caregiver. Just think of someone younger than 60 years. An energetic time for most and certainly too young for retirement. They’ve got things to do and places to go. The person’s children are in their 30’s and there are probably young grandchildren.

As a retired psychiatric nurse I turn the pages frantically looking for the writer to provide more information about the afflicted member and the impact on the family member assuming the caregiver role.

It occurred to me that readers want to know and writers need to address three vital questions:

1. What are the predisposing factors? What in the character’s backstory might have contributed to his developing the illness? Do I have those risk factors?
2. What are the protective factors? Family members wonder what can I do to avoid the same illness?
3. What is the effect of the illness? What would the effect be on me: my career, my savings for the future, my children’s educational funds, my marriage, and my plans for retirement.

In writing about early onset or late onset dementia, it should be remembered that it is a gradual process. Mild cognitive impairment is believed to be a preclinical phase of dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment have impaired memory for recent events but they also frequently have apathy, depression, irritability, and anxiety. They may appear to be agitated without cause. The onset of mild cognitive impairment may be followed by dementia, often within three to five years.
Predisposing factors for developing mild cognitive impairment include:
• Lower level of education
• Fewer stimulating mental activities
• Less physical exercise

Protective factors include:
• Higher level of education achieved
• Being employed or volunteering
• Engaging in physical exercise
• Maintaining good health
• Having an active social support network
• Not smoking
• Having one glass of alcohol a day

Effect on Others
Family members often notice that the person has difficulty remembering future commitments and the family begins to compensate for person’s inability to remember things.

Dementia is an impairment of cognitive functioning—thinking, reasoning, knowing, and memory-- that is severe enough to cause problems with communicating, self-care, and functioning at work, within the family, and within social situations.

Predisposing factors for dementia that occur in middle age:
• History of trauma to the head: repeated injuries to the head, concussions
• Hypertension
• Diabetes
• Obesity
• Cigarette smoking
• Physical inactivity
• High cholesterol,
• Depression
Protective factors for dementia that occur in middle age
• High levels of academic achievement
• Mediterranean diet
• Engaging in intellectually challenging activities
• Engaging in physical exercise
• Moderate use of alcohol (one glass a day)

Predisposing factors for dementia that occur at old age
• Stress
• Cigarette smoking
• Depression
• Head injuries, especially head injuries from falls
• Social isolation and loneliness
• Medications with anticholinergic effects

Protective factors for dementia that occur at old age
• Following a Mediterranean diet
• Drinking wine daily in moderation (one glass)
• Maintaining physical activity
• Engaging in cognitively stimulating activities
• Engaging in leisure activities: music, walking, visiting friends, reading, volunteering, playing games with friends
• Maintaining social networks
• Spirituality

Effect of dementia on others
Grief over the loss of a partner, a relationship, and a shared dream of the future,
Guilt over losing patience with the person with dementia.
Guilt for not being able to keep promise to care for them at home,
Anger over changes, financial burden, and lost opportunities associated with caring for the ill person.
Fear of being at increased risk of developing dementia, and
Fear that dementia in the family may jeopardize chances of marriage for younger family members.

Writers often hint at a genetic influence as the cause of the development of dementia, but if they would include the presence of other risk factors or absence of protective factors in the back stories of their troubled characters and would describe broader effects on the caregiver, their stories would be richer, more compelling.

Here is a brief intro to one of my romance novels that deals with some of these issues. I hope you enjoy it.



At some time in our lives, many of us will be refugees--people fleeing from traumatic situations such wars, earthquakes, fires, floods, or the aftermath of debilitating illness, death, divorce or betrayal. Help for some may come from family members, friends, and spiritual leaders. Within the medical profession, it is often psychiatrists who help those who have been traumatized by such events. No Greater Love is a contemporary, international romance featuring a psychiatrist and a nurse who help those who are refugees only to discover that they are the only ones who can save each other. The story moves from East Aurora in Western New York to Leiden and Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Descended from legendary Circassian beauties once sought for Sultans’ palaces, Janan, a survivor of an earthquake in Turkey that killed her family when she was eight years old, was adopted by an older, childless couple in East Aurora. Her adoptive father was raised with a cousin, Carl, who, in 1939 at the age of 5, had been sent from his home in Leiden by his Dutch-Jewish father to his uncle in the US to save him from Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. Now, 28 years old, Janan has spent her life working as a nurse, caring for her parents, and, after their deaths, helping the aging Carl.

When Pieter, a young Dutch psychiatrist who Carl mentored, comes to Buffalo to be evaluated at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, he meets Janan and knows the sweet power of love for the first time. He also knows that, even if he lives, treatment for leukemia may leave a man unable to father children.

Realizing she has fallen in love with Pieter and fearing that life is passing her by, Janan asks him for one night. During that one night, cloistered in Room 203 of the venerable Roycroft Inn, Pieter teaches Janan the eight different kisses of seduction. It is a night that changes the lives of all.

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Eris Field was born in the Green Mountains of Vermont—Jericho, Vermont to be precise—close by the home of Wilson Bentley (aka Snowflake Bentley), the first person in the world to photograph snowflakes. She learned from her Vermont neighbors that pursuit of one’s dream is a worthwhile life goal.

As an impoverished student nurse at Albany Hospital, Eris met her future husband, an equally impoverished Turkish surgical intern who told her fascinating stories about the history of Turkey, the loss of the Ottoman Empire, and the painful experience of forced population exchanges.

After years of working as a nurse, teaching psychiatric nursing, and raising a family, Eris now writes novels--international, contemporary romances that incorporate her interest in psychiatry, history, people from different cultures, and the problems of refugees.

Although the characters in Eris’s novels are often from other countries—The Netherlands, Turkey, and Kurdistan— her novels are usually set in Western New York--The land of Father Baker, Jericho Road Refugee Center, the Buffalo Bills, Wings, and snow--chunky rain snow, lake-effect snow, horizontal snow, the snow of thunder snow storms, dry, fine snow, curtains of wet heavy snow, and whiteouts.

Learn more about Eris Field on her website. Stay connected on Facebook.

Friday, January 04, 2019

MORE STARS

from Elliott Baker

We live in a thought generated universe. The universe that I live in has less stars that the one Neil deGrasse Tyson inhabits because I have never counted them, and he has.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

As a writer, I find it instructive to allow my thoughts to wander. No one may ever see this, and that’s the magic of it. We are a sharing species. When you watch toddlers playing amongst the pebbles in a stream, they’re showing each other the wonderful variety of the shapes and the colors of the pebbles. There is obvious joy in doing that. All you have to do is see the look on one’s face when they pick up one more shiny than the last.

I am. I heard an article on NPR the other day about the last ship to bring enslaved people here to America from Africa in 1868. I cannot even make a comment on the institution of slavery. That it still thrives in the world is so demeaning to us all my mind balks. In truth, I’ve written a novel about our predilection for enslaving our fellow humans. On the program, a woman talked about the transference of language from Africa to here and she said something that I would share. When a language crosses over to another language, its first form is a pigeon version incorporating the lexicon and grammar of both, and that the African languages at that time did not use the verb to be, I am, I was, I will be. When speaking to someone before the advent of all of the communication advances we enjoy, it was self-evident that you were standing there and therefor, to communicate that fact was unnecessary.

I am not a scientist and will offer my usual disclaimer. My intent here is not to convince or illuminate. It is merely to share my understanding of a pebble I’ve just picked up. Pebbles are fascinating and if you find interest, find the pebble and look at it closer.

I’ve also heard that language is key to creating, and some might say warping our view of ourselves and through that view, the larger world. I would postulate, that enlarging your vocabulary does more than helping you craft a lyric line. Every star Neil deGrasse Tyson counts and describes, becomes a figment in his cosmos. We think in symbols and the more and more complex symbols we add, I would argue, the greater and more complex our world becomes. Which begs the question: Why aren’t we out there every day enlarging our worlds?

This damn place is frightening enough without adding more doors behind which could be monsters and things. Enter the ego. What’s funny is that I can feel my resistance increasing by just writing the word, ‘ego.’ There, I wrote it again. (I am getting tired of writing, of this line of thought which I probably won’t show to anyone anyway.) And this feeling alone is a good reason to keep writing.

I love reading stories. Other people managing to deal with the opposition of life, of heroes and villains. In the best stories, I’m there, close enough to not be here, at least enough not here to be distracted from the litany of daily stresses that must be dealt with, or else (these last two words are definitely an ego addition). What I benefit from is that by trying on the cloth of other people’s stories, I am able to broaden the reach of my own. Given the number of people who experience resistance reading, I wonder if the ego has a hand in that. The ego likes black and white. Yes and no. Good and evil. Adolescents like either-or choices, not so much adults with greater life experience.

So perhaps, the ego wants me to stop with ‘I am’ rather than adding the words ‘what,’ or ‘why.’ Seems reasonable to me that education would not be high on the list of things the ego would vote for. This is simplistic, but perhaps the ego is the toddler within us. It is determined to drive. Anything or anyone who challenges its right to drive must be diminished or removed. (an aphorism for killed.) So anything that offers alternate possibilities (like other people’s lives in stories) are considered too time consuming, too energy consuming, too hard. In Steven Pressfield’s book, The Art of War, he speaks of the resistance artists encounter. To be honest, I’m experiencing it right now. Instead of working on the book I’m writing, I am sitting here writing this train of thought which will probably not be reflected on anyone’s eyeballs but mine.

I believe that the ego wants us to exist in a state of mild misery. Every moment we entertain thoughts of less or threat, we use energy that could be put to much better use. The ego, desperate to maintain its control in a rapidly maturing world, continues to show us monsters external to us terrified that we might have a moment of reflection. We might actually stop and look at the monster within, turn that flashlight on and sweep it under the bed. Should we find the courage to do that, I think we’d find an angry, frightened, powerless toddler.

The reason names are so powerful is that they add reality with every use. I have named ‘the toddler’ and my continued naming of this insecure focus of fear within lessens its power to disguise the majesty of the world around me. Can our world really be limited to the frightening images that the news programs use to claim your attention? Get out there and count some stars.

Here is a little from my first novel in The Sun God's Heir series. I hope you enjoy it.

For three thousand years a hatred burns. In seventeenth century France two souls incarnate, one born the child of a prosperous merchant, the other, determined to continue an incarnation begun long ago.

In ancient Egypt, there were two brothers, disciples of the pharaoh, Akhenaten. When the pharaoh died, the physician took the knowledge given and went to Greece to begin the mystery school. The general made a deal with the priests and became pharaoh. One remembers, one does not.

The year is 1671. René Gilbert’s destiny glints from the blade of a slashing rapier. The only way he can protect those he loves is to regain the power and knowledge of an ancient lifetime. From Bordeaux to Spain to Morocco, René is tested and with each turn of fate he gathers enemies and allies, slowly reclaiming the knowledge and power earned centuries ago. For three thousand years a secret sect has waited in Morocco.

After ages in darkness, Horemheb screams, “I am.” Using every dark art, he manages to maintain the life of the body he has bartered for. Only one life force in the world is powerful enough to allow him to remain within embodiment, perhaps forever. Determined to continue a reign of terror that once made the Nile run red, he grows stronger with each life taken.

Bordeaux, France

Three men bled out into the dirt.

René stared at the hand that held the bloody rapier. His hand. Tremors shuddered through his body and down his arm. Droplets of blood sprayed the air and joined the carmine puddles that seeped into the sun-baked earth. He closed his eyes and commanded the muscles that grasped the rapier to release their tension and allow the sword to drop.
Years of daily practice and pain refused his mind’s order much as they had refused to spare the lives of three men. The heady exultation that filled him during the seconds of the fight drained away and left him empty, a vessel devoid of meaning. He staggered toward an old oak and leaned against its rough bark. Bent over, with one hand braced on the tree, he retched. And again. Still, the sword remained in his hand.

A cloud shuttered the sun. Distant thunder brushed his awareness and then faded. Rain. The mundane thought coasted through his mind. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and glanced down hoping to see a different tableau. No, death remained death, the only movement, that of flies attracted to a new ocean of sustenance.

The summer heat lifted the acrid blood-rust smell and forced him to turn his head away. Before him stretched a different world from the one in which he had awakened. No compass points. No maps. No tomorrow.

The Maestro.

The mere thought of his fencing master filled him with both reassurance and dread. René slid the rapier into the one place his training permitted, its scabbard. He walked over to where the huge black stallion stamped his impatience, and pulled himself into the saddle.
Some impulse caused him to turn his head one last time. The sunlight that surrounded the men flickered like a candle in the wind, and the air was filled with a loud buzzing sound. Although still posed in identical postures of death, three different men now stared sightless.

Their skin was darker than the leather tanned sailors. Each wore a short linen kilt of some kind that left their upper bodies naked. As strange as the men appeared, their weapons were what drew René’s eye. The swords were archaic; sickle shaped and appeared to be forged of bronze. These men wore different faces and yet their eyes—somehow he knew they were the same sailors he had just killed. René blinked and there before him the original three men lay unmoved. Dead.

For an instant his mind balked, darkness encircled the edges of his vision.

Do not anticipate meaning. The Maestro’s voice echoed in his head. Meaning may be ignored, but it cannot be hurried.

The darkness receded, and he reined the stallion’s head toward home.

René approached the linden shaded lane to the château. The stately trees, their clasped hands steepled over the gravel drive, had always welcomed him. Now they were just a faded backdrop that moved past the corners of his eyes. Could it have been only hours ago that the anniversary of his sixteenth year had presented itself like a gaily wrapped gift waiting for his excited appreciation? The day had dawned as grand as any he had yet experienced, and he had awakened early, eager for the morning’s light.

“Henri,” he yelled, as he charged down the marble staircase and into the dining room. Breakfast was set and steaming on the polished mahogany table. Burnished silver platters and cream colored porcelain bowls held a variety of eggs, sausages, fruits, and breads. How Henri always seemed to anticipate his entry amazed René.

Oui, Master René.” Serene as always, the middle-aged major domo entered the dining room. Henri walked over to the table and poured a cup of tea for René. “ S’il vous plaît, be seated, sir.”

“I cannot. Maybe a roll and a link of sausage. Henri, do you know what today is?”

Henri paused as if deep in thought. “Thursday. Oui, I am quite sure ’tis Thursday.”

René took a still sizzling sausage from a tray and did his best to fold it within a baguette.

Non, ’tis my birth date,” he managed around a mouthful of sausage and roll.

“Which one is that, sir?”

“How do you not know? You were there.”

“Well, I remember ’twas after the end of the war. Let me see. The war was over in…”

“Very droll, Henri. Your memory works fine, ’tis your humor that leaves room for improvement. Today is... so... I cannot explain, it feels like anything is possible today.”

“Given that there is still plenty of day left, perhaps you might sit down and eat. I expect you will need all your strength for a day so filled with possibility.”

“I cannot be late.” René gulped his tea and shoved the rest of the roll and sausage into his mouth.

“Happy anniversary, Master René.”

Merci, Henri.” René checked his appearance in one of the grand foyer mirrors, and then strode toward the courtyard. The time had come to present himself to the Maestro.

René vibrated with excitement. He paused just inside the entrance to the training area. This was no way to face the Maestro. He sucked in a deep breath, exhaled, and reached for that quiet center. The torrent of chaotic thought stilled and that unique calm of intense focus settled around him. His friends Marc and Anatole sported their weapons in public. René had yet to earn that privilege. Disarming the Maestro was the only way, and since that possibility seemed as remote as the ability to fly, it generated a great deal of frustration.

Today, however, might be the day.

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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 offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy.

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.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Baby, It's Cold Outside

by Chris Pavesic

This soup creates a warm and cozy meal on a cold winter day. As it simmers the house fills with enticing aromas that will have your family clamoring for dinner!

Meaty Barley Soup
2⅓ cups water
1 cup pearl barley
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 carrots, scraped and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
1½ lbs. stew beef cut into bitesize
1 bay leaf
64 oz. beef stock, low sodium works too
1 large can (about 28 oz.) diced tomatoes

Rinse barley in a bowl of water and drain with a sieve while you look for little pebbles or debris.

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rinsed barley to the saucepan and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat about 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set pan aside.

In a Dutch oven heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook veggies until tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Mix paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pat meat dry with a paper towel and rub spices on both sides. Move veggies to the sides of the Dutch oven or remove if more room is needed. Brown meat, stirring so all sides of the meat are browned.

Pour broth into pot along with bay leaf. Bring to a slow boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until meat is tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in barley and tomatoes. Cook another 15 minutes or until heated through.

While you enjoy your soup, why not listen to a good book? Starter Zone, the first book of my new YA/LitRPG series, The Revelation Chronicles, is now available on Audible!

Audible Version Available
When hydrologists inscribe the consciousness of a human mind onto a single drop of water, a Revelation sweeps the land. The wealthy race to upload their minds into self-contained virtual realities nicknamed Aquariums. In these containers people achieve every hope, dream, and desire. But governments wage war for control of the technology. Terrorist attacks cause massive destruction. The Aquariums fail. Inscribed human minds leech into the water cycle, wreaking havoc.

Street gangs rule the cities in the three years since the fall of civilization. Sixteen-year-old Cami and her younger sister Alby struggle to survive. Every drop of untreated water puts their lives in peril. Caught and imprisoned by soldiers who plan to sell them into slavery, Cami will do anything to escape and rescue her sister. Even if it means leaving the real word for a life in the realms, a new game-like reality created by the hydrologists for the chosen few.

But life in the realms isn’t as simple as it seems. Magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as the sisters navigate their new surroundings. And they encounter more dangerous enemies than any they faced in the real world.

Time to play the game.
Available Now At:

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Want to learn more about The Revelation Chronicles? Click HERE for updates on this and the other series by Chris. Watch the video on YouTube.

4eee6-chris2bpavesic2bauthor2bphotoChris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and her Amazon Author Page.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

SOUPING UP THE CHICKEN

by HL Carpenter

We're good eggs here in Carpenter Country, and we subscribe to the waste-not philosophy of life. In our kitchen, one cooked chicken results in multiple meals, including delicious homemade chicken soup.

For this soup recipe, we began with a chicken slow-cooked in the crockpot. Once the chicken was cooked and the initial chicken-and-vegetable-and-potato meal eaten, we separated the remaining meat from the bones. We used the darker chicken meat in the soup, and the white-meat portions in chicken salad, chicken potpie, and chicken sandwiches.

Then we got out our soup pot and put together this stovetop soup. For extra flavor, when we filled the pot with water, we added a few spoonsful of the drippings collected in the crockpot as the chicken cooked.

Note that this recipe works exactly the same if you prefer to roast your chicken in the oven.

Here's our souped-up video. The full recipe follows below.



CHICKEN SOUP CARPENTER STYLE
Chicken trimmings (bones and skin) from fully cooked chicken
Water (enough to cover the trimmings and fill the pot)
2-4 tbsp. pan drippings, depending on the size of your pot
2-4 cups fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice (we used frozen mixed)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. garlic salt (or regular salt if you prefer)
2 tsp. minced garlic
Dash black pepper
2 cups shredded chicken meat

Add chicken trimmings to pot.

Add enough water to cover the trimmings and fill the pot.

Add pan drippings.

Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes.

Remove chicken trimmings from pot with strainer or slotted spoon and skim off any foam from the broth.

Add vegetables, seasonings, and shredded chicken to pot. Add additional water if necessary.

Simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes.

Serve hot with bread or crackers.

TIPS and TRICKS
Add a packet of chicken bouillon with the drippings to punch up the flavor.

For a thinner broth, leave out the vegetables (or cook them until they are very soft) and reduce the amount of shredded chicken. Use the broth in other recipes or serve in mugs.

To make chicken noodle soup, add noodles or pasta of your choice along with the vegetables.

Be creative with the spices. For instance, a dash of curry powder adds a unique flavor.

While you're savoring your soup, we invite you to enjoy an excerpt from our mystery, Murder by the Books.


A letter from beyond the grave brings accountant Fae Childers face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

Certified public accountant Fae Childers is not an embezzler, despite the belief of the accounting firm that fires her for stealing. But proving her innocence is harder than convincing an IRS agent to allow a deduction. She's lost her mother, her job, her fiancé, and her self-respect. She's running out of money and the lease is about to expire on her apartment.

Then the fortune-telling grandmother Fae never knew existed, whose name and psychic abilities she now learns are also hers, issues a challenge from beyond the grave—a challenge that brings Fae face to face with murder, embezzlement, romance, and a hidden family legacy.

When the mystery of Fae's past collides with the troubles of her present, the situation veers out of control. Her very life is threatened. Who can she trust? The man she's falling in love with? The former fiancé who has already betrayed her once? Or only herself?

With justice, romance, and her future at stake, Fae must overcome personal and professional obstacles to save herself and those she loves. And she's going to have to do it fast, before someone else dies.

EXCERPT
The letter arrived on the last Thursday in April, two weeks to the day after I got fired from the accounting firm where I worked for the past decade. August Palmer, my landlord, hand-delivered the letter in person, saying, "The mail carrier stuck this in my box by mistake, Fae."

I took the envelope without bothering to look at it and glanced past Gus, at the patch of brilliant cloudless blue sky framing his shoulders.

Tampa, Florida on the cusp of summer, full of birdsong and the scent of warming pavement.

"Beautiful morning," I said, as if I cared.

"Afternoon," Gus said, his voice a low rumbly growl, the product of too many cigarettes and whiskeys in his happily misspent youth. He stood outside the tiny apartment my mother and I rented from him for the past two years and eyed me. "Still mopin', girl?"

He had shown up on my doorstep every day since the firing with the same question.

Adhering to our new routine, I answered the same way I always did, except this time I didn't bother pasting on a fake smile to accompany the words.

"Nope. Not my style."

"'Scuse me." His tone was as dry as the month he was named for. "Forgot you've been hidin' in the apartment, tap dancing with glee."

I met his gaze. "For hours at a time. Any complaints about the noise?"

He clicked a nicotine pellet against tobacco stained teeth and kept his silence. I regretted my sarcasm. In my forbidden childhood game of describing people in colors, I would have painted Gus early-morning-yellow, the shade of the summer sun before the friendly sheltering coolness of night gave way to the brutal heat of day.

The description would have horrified him.

"How are the treatments going?"

He grunted. "They tell me I ain't gonna croak this week."

"Glad to hear it. You might want to keep your distance from me, though. I'm jinxed."

Gus shook his head. "You gotta get over them fools, girl."

"That's no way to talk about my former bosses." Especially since I looked at the real fool in the mirror each morning. I had believed dedication, loyalty, and hard work were appreciated by the partners of Slezia + Fyne, CPA, PA.

Ha, ha.

"Anyway, I am over them. Way over."

"Yeah?" He was not convinced. "You over the suit, too?"

"Sure am." Once again, I stuck with our new routine and gave him the same answer I always did. "I have moved on."

Once again, the lie carried the bitter taste of betrayal. The suit was Scott Piper, former co-worker, fiancé, and man of my dreams. The suit dumped me the day of the firing.

Gus snorted. "Funny how much movin' on resembles standing around feeling sorry for yourself."

In my opinion, wallowing in self-pity was marginally more mature than throwing a temper tantrum. Even if it hadn't been, I didn't have the energy for a tantrum. I barely had the energy to maintain my half of the daily conversation with Gus.

"Have you been watching that big bald guy on television again?"

He stuck out his chin. "Don't get smart. You know I'm right. You're mopin'."

"Only because I can't tap dance."

He was right. In the eight months since my mother's death, I had slogged through an ever-darkening morass of the malady Gus called moping, and what his favorite celebrity psychologist might consider the early stages of depression. The firing and the accompanying fallout shoved me even closer to the edge of a black abyss.

My moping was self-absorbed, given the burdens others faced, but what could I say? One woman's detour was another's stop sign.

"You ought to call your girl pal, that one you worked with. What's her name? Sarah? Have you heard from her?"

No. And I didn't want to hear from her, much less call her.

I shook my head.

"Your ma would have been annoyed with you."

A lump in my throat closed off my voice and I could only nod. He was right about that too. My irrepressible mother believed in taking the positive approach to life. To her, saying negative words or thinking negative thoughts was the same as asking them to come true. She had little patience for pity parties.

Focus on your strengths, Fae, and always keep moving.

My ability to follow her advice vanished with her death. I was slowly turning into the type of recluse the Japanese call hikikomori. Even the simple task of cleaning out Mom's bedroom was beyond me.

"So? You gonna open the letter?" Gus asked.

I turned over the envelope in my hand.

Heavy, officious, dirty white, and mildly threatening, the envelope shrieked of the intimidation perfected by lawyers and the Internal Revenue Service and jolted me right out of my apathy. My breath hitched in my throat.

Had Gary Slezia and Richard Fyne gone back on their word? Had they decided to forego their distaste for publicity and press charges against me?


Mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write family-friendly fiction 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 happeni
ng in Carpenter Country.

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