Wednesday, December 29, 2021

DESSERT SPECIAL

from Catherine Castle

Two years ago in late December, I discovered almond paste and went down a cake rabbit hole. My family celebrates Christmas on New Year’s Day most years, but that year we were celebrating after January 6, which is Epiphany. Epiphany is the traditional date the Wise Men visited the Christ Child, and to celebrate the event a special cake, with a plastic baby or bean hidden in the cake, is served. The Epiphany cake, often referred to as a King cake or the Three Kings cake, has many forms, flavors, and even many trinkets hidden in it. It is also a tradition in many countries, especially those with a Catholic background. 

I’d never heard of a King cake, except in reference to Louisiana Mardi Gras celebrations. After some research, I decided to come up with my own version of an Epiphany King cake using almond paste. It took several tries to create something that showed off the frangipane I’d made with almond paste. On my first attempt, using a yellow cake recipe, the frangipane melted into the cake batter and didn’t give me the definition I wanted.   

So I began experimenting. I decided I’d make a chocolate spice cake with a frangipane layer. That worked. I’m calling it Epiphany Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake. If you don’t want to make it an Epiphany cake, complete with trinkets, just call it Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake. Here’s a tip I learned the hard way - be sure to make the frangipane first! 

Also, you may want to consider adding the following: 

·       1 bean, or 1 plastic small baby figurine, or several small trinkets. Be sure to tell your guests these items are hidden in the cake!

·       Chopped maraschino cherries or chopped candied fruit for decorating the cake. You can add the chopped candied fruits to the baking pan before you add the batter, scattering them evenly around the pan, or you can reserve them and scatter them over the top of the baked cake adhering them to the cake with a bit of confectioner sugar glaze. 

Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake 
Cake
2½ cups sifted cake flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
3 tbsp. cocoa
1 cup shortening
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, divided
4 eggs, room temperature 

Preheat oven to 350° F.  

Combine flour with spices and cocoa in a large bowl. 

In another bowl, cream shortening until fluffy. Add 1 cup sugar and mix again, then add 1 cup flour and spices. Mix and beat until combined, adding vanilla and ¾ cup buttermilk, ¼ cup at a time, as needed to make batter mixable. 

Add remaining flour, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Keep batter scraped down from sides and bottom on bowl while beating. 

Add eggs and remaining buttermilk. Beat 2 more minutes on medium. 

In a lightly buttered, easy-release Bundt pan, gently pour 2 cups of batter into cake pan, smoothing out until batter is level if necessary. 

Almond Cream Frangipane
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
¾ cup almond flour
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract 

Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl. Combine ingredients on medium, then on high until fully combined. Refrigerate frangipane until cake batter is ready. 

Drop frangipane by teaspoonfuls onto batter, taking care to center in in batter. Or alternately you could pipe frangipane onto batter. 

Gently cover frangipane with 1½ cups batter, leveling out if necessary. 

Add another layer of frangipane in same manner as before. 

Cover with 1½ cups cake batter. 

Put upper rack in the lower third of oven. Bake cake for 60-65 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted in cake comes out clean. You need a long skewer, not just a toothpick to test for doneness. 

Cool pan upright for 5-10 minutes. Invert onto a wire cooling rack, Cool cake completely on wire rack. 

Note: You will have extra batter and frangipane with this recipe. To use remaining mixes, make cupcakes. 

Spoon ⅛ cup batter into a cupcake line. Top with 1 teaspoon frangipane, centering it in batter.

Cover frangipane with another scant ⅛ cup batter. Bake at 375° F for 35 minutes or until

toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. 

I hope you’ll enjoy my cake. While it’s baking check out my romantic comedy with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. There’s cake in this book, too. Wedding cake. 

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes, she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom for Mama.

Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer, she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems.

In addition to writing, she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting, and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter, FB, or her blog.


Monday, December 27, 2021

DROWNING IN PLASTIC

 from Anne Montgomery

I worry about the planet. I have since I was a child. Maybe it was the camping and fishing trips my parents took us on where the adage leave nothing behind was drilled into our young heads. Or maybe it was those anti-littering ads that ran on TV and billboards, or the lessons I learned as a Girl Scout about the importance of protecting nature.

Whatever sparked my concern was enough to make me pause one day as I overlooked a small stream near my home. A rusted bicycle stuck up from the water as an eddy of garbage swirled around one wheel. The vision so disturbed my 12-year-old self, that I waded into the river and extracted the bike and some of the garbage. When the stream again flowed free and clear, I rejoiced.

As an adult, I have worked hard to do my part, so much so that family members sometimes derisively call me Eco Annie when I complain about who forgot the reusable cloth shopping bags or who put the wrong stuff in the recycle bin. I ball up plastic bags to return to grocery stores. I compost, feeding the insects that make beautiful soil for my vegetable garden. I purchase products that are biodegradable and, when I scuba dive, I retrieve garbage that has found its way into the sea.

I mention this because of an article I just read, one that has me damned depressed. “More than a million tons a year of America’s plastic trash isn’t ending up where it should. The equivalent of as many as 1,300 plastic grocery bags per person is landing in places such as oceans and roadways,” said the Associate Press article, “Study says much trash is going astray.” While the U.S. was not previously ranked in the world’s top-ten worst offenders for plastic waste in oceans, the study says we now sit as high as third on that list.

One of the problems is the fact that many countries no longer take our garbage. According to the study, U.S. exports of plastic waste have declined nearly 70%. And those countries that still accept our recyclable plastic, are not doing their jobs. Fifty-one percent of the plastic waste we ship abroad is routinely mismanaged.

Consider, as just one example of our plastic trash problem, that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to cover an area twice the size of Texas, a swirling storm of mostly floating plastic, one of five such patches in our oceans.

Industries are trying. Modernized recycling operations are being funded and there’s a push for new packaging standards. But, let’s face it, if we, the people, don’t do what we can our world may one day resemble a vast garbage dump.

There are those who say other countries must also bear the burden of cleaning up the Earth, and while they’re correct let’s remember that the U.S. is the number one generator of waste in the world, with one study estimating that each of us produces 1,600 pounds of garbage annually.

Jena Jambeck, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Georgia, had the last word in the AP article. “The best thing you can do environmentally is to produce no waste at all.”

While that’s probably an impossible goal, I believe we can, at least, do better.

Don't you?

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 the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While 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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A DEVILISH APPETIZER

by Helen Carpenter

Holiday potluck parties are lots of fun; a day to eat hearty and share good times. Bedeviled by what to bring? Try this easy spicy recipe for deviled eggs. (Do you know why they’re called deviled eggs? You get to eat two if you know the answer.*)

Deviled Eggs with Curry

Eggs (week-old or just-ready-to-expire eggs peel more easily)
1 tsp. salad dressing for each egg
Dash of curry powder
Dash of paprika

Hard-boil eggs using an egg cooker or a pot of cold water (cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10-12 minutes). Drain; then place eggs in ice water until cool. Peel cooled eggs and cut in half lengthwise.

Slide egg yolks onto a plate and mash with a fork.

Stir in salad dressing until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon yolk mixture back into egg whites, or use a disposable plastic baggie and an icing tip if you want ooh-la-la fancy deviled eggs.

Sprinkle with curry powder to taste. Dust with paprika for more color.

Arrange on a festive platter and serve warm or cold.

If you’re traveling to the potluck, carry this dish in an insulated cooler with ice.

*According to the Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson (1999), pp. 247-248, “devil” is a culinary term which first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments. The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat where the devil dwells.


Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author dup named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. the Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-If, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years  and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook.

Monday, December 20, 2021

LEIGH GOFF UNBOUND

For the new release of the Koush Hollow audiobook, Leigh Goff provides insight into her writing process and about Koush Hollow, a mystical place where magic abounds and all that glitters…is deadly. 

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

For me, they must come together at the same time. I always outline the story first, so I need both of those elements fleshed out in the outline before I start to do the actual first draft. That being said, the characters are always a bit easier to develop than the plot.

What part of Koush Hollow was the most fun to write?

In Koush Hollow, the climactic end was absolutely the most fun to write. It’s actually the darkest thing I’ve ever written. I totally enjoyed visualizing those events and writing them down. Great fun and bit cathartic! 

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?

I’ve never had to design my own cover and I’m not sure that’s my strength anyway, but I have had input into all of my covers. I’m appreciative that the publishers asked for that input and took my advice to tweak the art to make the cover design more pertinent to the story. No one knows the story better that the writer so it’s always nice to add those little touches. 

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

You know, I wish I had used a variation of my name. I thought about using L. A. Goff, rather than Leigh A. Goff when my first book, Disenchanted, was published in 2015. With Koush Hollow, which is my third, I requested that change in my name for the cover, but since I already had a following under Leigh A. Goff, the publisher wanted to stay with that. However, in the future, if I write in a different genre, I may push for L. A. Goff. 

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?

My favorite part is the excitement that comes with the offer letter. It means someone read the work and loved it. There’s nothing you want to do except pop a Champagne bottle and toast to the book’s future. Least favorite part—public speaking events to promote it. I’m absolutely terrified of public speaking, however, I love speaking with small groups or book clubs or doing book signings and meeting the readers. That’s pretty awesome. 

How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

Oh my gosh—editors are critically important to finishing and polishing the final version. When a writer has been in a story for months, it is difficult to go back and see the trees (the trees being all the mistakes hahaha) for the forest. It’s not always fun to see those mistakes, but editors are a necessary part of a writing team. I am always so grateful for their insight and suggestions to make the work the best it can be. 

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Koush is a play on the French word, cauchemar, which means a terror that comes in the night. And there are legends in the South about witch-riding nightmares where people dream about a witch or demon sitting on their chests or backs trying to suffocate them. This strange phenomenon is called a cauchemar. And since there are mystical characters, strange waking dreams, and nefarious women in Koush Hollow, it seemed like an appropriate title. 

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Ice cold lemon seltzer water in the warmer months/hot chocolate coffee in the colder months, my dog Summer next to me, a comfy chair, and my laptop. I need to be comfortable so I can just focus on writing and nothing else. 


Here's a bit more on Leigh's latest release.

After her father's untimely death, Jenna Ashby dreads life with her wealthy mother in Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans.

As the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother's exclusive social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow. How do the Diamonds & Pearls look so young, where does their money come from, and why is life along the bayou disappearing?

As Jenna is drawn into their seductive world, her curiosity and concerns beg her to uncover the truth. However, in this town where mysticism abounds and secrets are deadly, the truth is not what Jenna ever expected. 

BUY LINKS 

Audible

Amazon  

Apple 

Leigh Goff is a young adult author with type 1 diabetes who is inspired by caffeine, enchanted spells, and unforgettable, star-crossed fates.

 Although she’s terrible at casting any magic of her own, she is descended from the accused witch, Elizabeth Duncan of Virginia, who went to trial in 1695 for charges including bewitching livestock and causing birds to fall from the sky. 

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

SPECIAL HOLIDAY SALAD

from Stella May 

This is a traditional New Year’s dish for any person who was born or grew up in former USSR. To this day, not a single celebration goes without it.

The name of this salad in Russia is Сajiat ОЛИВЬЕ. For all the former republics that once upon a time were part of the USSR, this salad became a synonym for a New Year. It brings many of us a lot of bitter-sweet memories. 

There are many variations to Olivier Salad. The recipe below is how my family made it, and how I still make it every year on December 31st. 


OLIVIER SALAD
5 large eggs
2 large Russet potatoes
2 carrots1 can green peas
2-3 pickled cucumbers, traditional Vlasic is best
1 English cucumber
½ cup fresh dill, chopped fine
½ cup green onion, chopped or 1 small sweet onion
½ cup mayo, maybe a little less
½ cup sour cream, maybe a little less
1 cup cubed chicken breast or boiled meat, optional
2 pinches salt
Pepper to taste

Boil eggs, potatoes, and carrots in the same pan. Drain and then set aside pan to cool. 

Cube all ingredients, combine them in the large bowl, mix gently. Add combination of mayo and sour cream. Some people use only mayo, others only sour cream. You decide which works best for you. You may want to use more or less mayo/sour cream mixture, depending on your taste. 

Stir in salt and pepper and fresh dill. Cover with plastic wrap and then chill until you’re ready to serve. 

Happy New Year! 

Stella

Here is a peek at Stella’s time travel romance for your reading pleasure. It also makes a wonderful holiday gift.

One key unlocks the love of a lifetime…but could also break her heart. 

Nika Morris’s sixth sense has helped build a successful business, lovingly restoring and reselling historic homes on Florida’s Amelia Island. But there’s one forlorn, neglected relic that’s pulled at her from the moment she saw it. The century-old Coleman house.  

Quite unexpectedly, the house is handed to her on a silver platter—along with a mysterious letter, postmarked 1909, yet addressed personally to Nika. Its cryptic message: Find the key. You know where it is. Hurry, for goodness sake! 

The message triggers an irresistible drive to find that key. When she does, one twist in an old grandfather clock throws her back in time, straight into the arms of deliciously, devilishly handsome Elijah Coleman. 

Swept up in a journey of a lifetime, Nika finds herself falling in love with Eli—and with the family and friends that inhabit a time not even her vivid imagination could have conjured. But in one desperate moment of homesickness, she makes a decision that will not only alter the course of more than one life, but break her heart. 

’Til Time Do Us Part is available in Kindle and Paperback at AMAZON


Talented author Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of 'Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 35 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business.

Follow Stella on her website and blog Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, December 13, 2021

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD

from Linda Lee Greene, Author/Artist 

How much easier it would be for me to fulfill a commission to write an article titled ‘Christmas Around the World,’ if I were actually free to travel, but I do not have that freedom for various reasons. Therefore, I call on my crafty Muse to settle on my shoulder and whisper in my ear an imaginary tale of travel, one in which I call on a number of women in faraway places, each of whom is immersed in high holiday celebrations unique to her culture. I am giddy over the prospect of beginning my make-believe trip with my Muse depositing me smack-dab in the presence of a Native American sister. 

Seven Sisters
acrylic painting by Linda Lee Greene
Paulette welcomes me into her kitchen and then very graciously explains that embracing the Christian tradition is a thorny issue for many of her people given the injustices that America’s indigenous people have faced under white domination, both in the past and the present. Even so, the good spirit of the season permeates her culture in admirable ways. “You showed up just in time to catch me before I leave for a meeting of the Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA),” Paulette informs me. Responding to the quizzical look on my face, she continues. “We spread holiday cheer in the way of blankets, nutrition and education services, medical screenings, and more to over 30,000 of our Elders, children, and families in approximately 110 reservation communities here in the Northern Plains and the Southwest. Winter is brutal in these reservations and rural communities, and we work hard to come together in the spirit of giving at this special time.” Upon making my exit into a frozen morning, I drop a couple of Andrew Jacksons into Paulette’s PWNA donation basket and cringe at the gruesome symbolism of that particular face being imprinted on those U. S. $20.00 bills. 

I suppose my Muse took pity on me and decided to thaw me out, because in the blink of an eye, I am stretched out on the blinding sand of a beach in Melbourne, Australia. I am clad in a bathing suit, and the unmistakable aroma of seafood sizzling on a grill within smelling distance floods my mouth with saliva. Jingle Bells, the jolly Christmas song, rings out from an electronic device. The incongruity is not lost on me as I push to my feet to the greeting of a scantily-clad blonde goddess waving a barbecue fork in her hand. “We thought you were dead to the world, myte,” she says to me. “Come on and git yerself a plyte. It’s prawns on the barbie, stryght from Dad’s boat this mornin’.” Kathryn is the name of this supernatural being, and she is only one of many just like her in her large circle of beach party buddies. Someone thrusts a frosty bottle of beer in my hand and I recoup my senses enough to inquire, “Jingle Bells?” “What else?” Kathryn replies. “It’s Christmas! Eat up! Drink up! The day is jist gittin’ started. You don’t want to miss Carols by Candlelight tonight.” “Carols by Candlelight?” “Yeh, you know! The big charity evint to help out the needy in the community.” To get in the spirit of things, I chug the cold beer and pretend the hot white sand squishing between my bare toes is bone-chilling snow. 

A strong scent reminiscent of home that I am powerless to resist lures me away from summertime Melbourne to a cozy dining room in Tokyo, Japan. A table laden with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken is occupied on all sides by a young Japanese family comprised of a mother, father, and two children. Apparently, I am the only dinner guest at what Aimi, the lovely mother, explains to me is their “hidden Christmas”. While the stigma of what in Japan is mainly a secular event is dissipating thanks to ubiquitous Western influences wrought through television and social media, influences such as America’s KFC as the food of choice for Christmas Day in Japan, still many people whose leanings remain Shinto or Buddhism, observe the day on the quiet. “It ruffles fewer feathers that way,” an otherwise very Japanese Aimi tells me in ironical American terminology.         

Muse is anxious to send me further into my whirlwind tour, and next, and for a minute or two, I wonder if Muse has time-slipped me back to America’s Old West as the gentle steed on whose back I ride trots me beneath a wide, wood archway that spans an opening in split-rail fencing on both sides. The fencing wanders and then evaporates into what appears a boundless, misty landscape. A carved sign in wood at the crest of the archway proclaims, “LET’S GO GREEN!” And then I know I am in current time, the ominous Climate Change time that does not withdraw to a voiceless corner even on Christmas Day. Great plumes of crystalized breath billow from the nostrils of the horse, and my own frosty breath hazes the lenses of my spectacles. I am in cold, cold country—not quite to the Arctic plain, but close enough, I am pretty sure. No level treeless tundra is this, though, for there are evergreen trees, evergreen trees upon evergreen trees as far as the eye can see, planted in deliberate, neat and regimental rows, like line upon line of locked-arm chorus girls frocked in frilly green. Donned in blue-jeans and a fleece-layered black-and-red-plaid flannel shirt, a Paul Bunyan-like figure materializes out of nowhere suddenly. “Welcome to Saskatchewan’s Evergreen Tree Farm. We’ve been expecting you. I’m Anne,” this burly Canadian female greets me. “You look like you need a warm-up. Come on up to the house. There’s a rum and brandy hot toddy there with your name on it.”       

A profusion of Christmas decorations, evergreen garlands, and twinkling lights at every door, window, and eave forms an almost impenetrable obstacle course to the entrance of the place. In the wake of my hostess, I step across the threshold and enter a winter wonderland, a plethora of all things Christmas. A steaming mug of the hot toddy beckons me to the table upon which it rests, and on the stovetop, the valve on the lid of a pressure cooker dances up and down. The aroma emitting from it is heavenly. “Have you ever had frontier bison stew?” Anne asks me. My stomach drops to my toes and I shake my head. I feel my enthusiasm wilt to a point of no return. I am not so sure my belly is ready for frontier bison stew. “I thought bison was an endangered species,” I state, my mouth going desert-dry in my unease. “Our First Nation people have taken the herds in hand and are bringing the numbers back to almost double now,” Anne explains. “The grazing habits of the herds are also reestablishing the indigenous grasses that are much better carbon capturers than non-native plant-life that was introduced in colonial times. With their bison and my trees, the First Nation people and I are working hard to do right by Mother Nature.” 

Don’t get me wrong. My gratitude for all of Anne’s hospitality is as mammoth as the woman herself. This big-hearted female had a hot toddy waiting to warm my icy bones. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she had grabbed that bison by its horns in her immense lumberjack hands and wrestled it to the ground all by herself, and then saw to all further machinations to get it into her pressure cooker just in time for my arrival at her tree farm this Christmas Day. And while I also appreciate all the laudable environmentalism, suffice to say that my main motivator at the moment is finding a gracious way of sidestepping Anne’s looming offer of a bowl of that bison stew. I send a private, silent message to my Muse that I am ready to move on to the next spot on my journey. Muse hears my plea and at mach-speed, I turn up in Jerusalem of all places, which I am to learn is planet Earth’s ‘City of Three Christmases’. 

While terrorists are wiping out Christians far and wide in the Middle East, the Jewish state of Israel is the one place in the area in which Christians can practice their religion freely. Their number is small: only about 2.5% of the total Israeli population, but Christmas celebrations are large. I meet up with Susan in a library on an outskirt of Jerusalem. She leads me to a table on which lays an enormous tome. She invites me to sit next to her, and she opens the book and I follow along as she spins an intriguing and complex story of Christmas in Jerusalem, the index finger of her right hand tracing the lines on the pages like a sightless person reading braille. Now and then, her head lowers to within mere inches of the book for a closer look at the ancient, fading text, and a crucifix suspended from a silver chain around her neck drops forward and drags across the pages. It seems a confirmation, of sorts. 

Christmas on Mithoff Street 
watercolor painting by Linda Lee Greene
“The Christmas story took place in Israel,” Susan reminds me. “But through the centuries, and for a variety of reasons, the different factions of Christians have not come to a meeting of minds on the actual date of the birth of Jesus. So you see, Christmas in Jerusalem is not a one-day affair. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians celebrate the day on December 25th. Orthodox Christians do so on January 6th, and Armenian Christians on January 18th.” Susan implores me to stick around and partake of an array of dazzling festivities commemorating the holiday, but by this time, I am more than ready for crisp air and fluffy snow and a bona-fide traditional Christmas as I recognize it to be—a Midwest America Christmas of time spent with family and friends, of sharing food and memories, of gift-giving and receiving amid the ambience of a gorgeously adorned Christmas tree and sparkly mantel and tabletops aglow in candlelight. As ever, my Muse reads me and transports me back to my home. 

My wise Muse arranges my return trip to be a bit slower than my arrivals had been, to give me time to reflect on all I had experienced. The impression most indelible in my memory is the evidence of Creator’s handiwork in those places, of the sights and sounds and aromas, and in the people and their talismans for good such as Paulette’s donation basket, Kathryn’s barbecue fork, Aimi’s KFC bucket, Anne’s trees, and Susan’s crucifix. And I wonder now, what’s in store for me on my next go around!      

Readers were introduced to American Nicholas Plato in multi-award-winning author Linda Lee Greene’s A Chace at the Moon, which was published in 2019 and is available for purchase at Amazon

Greene takes readers on yet another adventure of Nicholas’ whirlwind life in her Garden of the Spirits of the Pots, A Spiritual Odyssey. In this sequel, Nicholas shows up in Sydney, Australia. The principle plotline unfolds as on one Saturday of sightseeing he gets lost in Australia’s forbidding yet alluring outback, and there he happens upon a pintsized hut on a lonely plot littered with hundreds of clay pots of every size and description. Driven by a deathly thirst, he stops. A strange little brown man materializes out of nowhere and introduces himself merely as ‘Potter’ and welcomes Nicholas to his ‘Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.’ Although Nicholas has never laid eyes on Potter, the man seems to have expected Nicholas at his bizarre habitation and displays knowledge about him that nobody has any right to possess. Just who is this mysterious Aboriginal potter? 

Although they are as mismatched as two persons can be, a strangely inevitable friendship takes hold between them. It is a relationship that can only be directed by an unseen hand bent on setting Nicholas on a mystifying voyage of self-discovery and Potter on revelations of universal certainties. 

A blend of visionary and inspirational fiction with a touch of romance, this is a tale of Nicholas’ journey into parts unknown, both within his adopted home and himself, a quest that in the end leads him to his true purpose for living. 

Garden of the Spirits of the Pots is available in eBook and/or paperback on Amazon



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 hold of her.

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 on her blog and join her on Facebook. Linda loves to hear from readers so feel free to email her.


 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

GUMBO NEW ORLEANS STYLE

 from Sharon Ledwith

In my latest time travel adventure, The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, a character named Delilah is owned by the Taylor Plantation, and takes care of all the cooking at the big house. In one scene, my protagonist Drake Bailey helps Delilah prepare her coveted Orleans Gumbo soup for the Taylor family and their special guests (a.k.a. the Timekeepers). 

Since this Timekeeper mission takes place in antebellum Georgia during 1855, not all these ingredients would have been available for Delilah, so I’m sure she did her best to improvise with the foods and herbs available during that time period. I thought it would be fun to share a gumbo dish, and looked up several recipes to get the right concoction to re-create Delilah’s tasty brew. Though, as you can imagine, I didn’t include a certain ingredient that Delilah added for fear of being hexed or turned into a zombie.

Delilah's Orleans Gumbo

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked converted rice

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch cubes

½ pound smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ½ inch slices

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ cup cold water

1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 large green pepper, chopped

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Stir in the rice, celery, onion, and garlic. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the tomatoes, chicken, kielbasa, thyme, pepper, bay leaves, and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Combine flour and water until smooth. Gradually stir into chicken mixture. Stir in shrimp and green pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and gumbo is thickened. Discard leaves.

Remove rice mixture from heat and let stand for 5 minutes; stir in parsley. Serve with gumbo.

With a prep time of 25 minutes, and cook time of 20 minutes, this spicy dish serves 8 of your closest, and bravest, family and friends. Remember to have plenty of water, wine, or beer at the table to cool your palate between bites.

Bon Appetit!

Here’s a taste of what to expect in the third installment of The Last Timekeepers available Amazon and all online bookstores.


True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

Eleven-year-old Drake Bailey is an analytical thinker and the genius of the Timekeeper crew. However, no logic or mathematical acumen can change the color of his skin, or prepare him for this third Timekeeper mission in antebellum Georgia. To survive, Drake must learn to play the role of a plantation slave and when confronted with the brutality, hatred, and racism of the deep south, he’ll have to strategically keep one move ahead of his sadistic captors to ensure his lineage continues.

In a dark world of Voodoo, zombies, and ritualistic sacrifice, the Timekeepers must ensure a royal bloodline survives. Can Drake remove both literal and figurative chains to save both himself and a devout slave girl from a terrible fate? If he can’t summon the necessary courage, humanity could stand to lose one of its greatest leaders.

 Amazon Buy Link


 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, 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 06, 2021

WHAT THE DICKENS!

from C.D. Hersh

We found a free, fun, fanciful and fantastic book Holiday Romance by Charles Dickens

While surfing the Kindle bookstore for romance book freebies we came across a book by Charles Dickens entitled, Holiday Romance, which has been recently put into e-book format. Romance by Dickens? The title had our attention and we downloaded it.

We haven’t read much Dickens since high school where the obligatory Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield with its flowery language was enough to stifle any desire to read more. Oh, we enjoy A Christmas Carol and the many rewrites and adaptations, but, as a general rule, we have no burning desire to drown ourselves in Dickens’ classic works. That all changed with the reading of the opening line in the second paragraph of the book.

“Nettie Ashford is my bride. We were married in the right-hand closet in the corner of the dancing-school, where first we met, with a ring (a green one) from Wilkingwater’s toy shop. I owed for it out of my pocket money.”

He had us with that line. We wanted to know more about the closet romance between this couple. The subsequent quick reading of book did not disappoint, not because it’s a romance in the fashion of the genre today.

The book is written from the viewpoint of four children, ages six and a half to nine and has four parts. The first part, The Trial of William Tinkley, is an adventure in which the children marry one another. The Magic Fishbone is a fairy tale where a Victorian era Cinderella gets her prince and the promise of thirty-five children, seventeen boys and eighteen girls. In Boldheart and the Latin Grammar Master the young seafaring pirate captain obtains permission to marry his love after proving his worth on the high seas. The fourth part, Mrs. Orange, is a domestic romance with role reversals of adults and children showcasing a frazzled child-mother who decides to place her brood of adult-children, whom she dotes on but for whom her husband doesn’t care much about, in boarding school.

While there is a romantic element in the childish love stories, the book is a romance mostly in the literary sense of romanticism—a literary style that revolts against the aristocratic social and political norms of the day. In spite of (or maybe because of the social commentary in the book) and the easy flow of the language, we found this to be a delightfully funny children’s book that made us laugh out loud.

Holiday Romance is unique for several reasons.

Originally written as a four-part series for Our Young Folks, An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, the book is Dickens’ only fictional work for children.

He is writing for children using their language and perspective.

Published in 1868, near the end of his life, it has also rarely been reprinted as a whole.

The use of fairy tales (which he opposed as a vehicle for promoting moral causes) is a primary literary vehicle for parts of the book.

So you ask, “What does Holiday Romance have to do with writing today?” It’s Dickens combination of realism and fantasy that strikes a chord with me. Dickens knew he was writing something off the wall when he penned Holiday Romance. In fact, he wrote to James Field in 1867 commenting about the implausibility of his work saying, “I hope the Americans will see the joke of Holiday Romance. The writing seems to me so like children’s that dull folks (on any side of any water) might rate it accordingly.” {http://users.unimi.it/dickens/essays/Craft/bacile.pdf}

For us, the humor and appeal of Holiday Romance lies in the fantastical element. We know children don’t get married in coat closets. Nor do they sail off on pirate ships, have fairy godmothers, or put their parents in boarding school. But those situations are fun, fanciful, and fantastic and that’s what makes this book work.

Likewise a paranormal story without the extraordinary elements of the supernatural would just be another story. Vampires, shape shifters, ghosts, things that go bump in the night are core to the genre. We all know these things don’t exist, but we are willing to suspend belief and enter into the writer’s world and let them take us for a ride. When a writer skillfully sets these elements in a realism that makes the reader want to look over her shoulder in a dark alley, load her conceal and carry gun with silver bullets, triple check the deadbolts, and keep the lights on after midnight, the author has turned those improbable essentials into something as close to reality as they will ever get. That thrill of finding the unexpected and abnormal is what lures most readers to paranormal. It’s also what makes most of us write it too.

Dickens may have had a social agenda when he wrote Holiday Romance, but we don’t care about that. We just thought it was a funny read. And how often can you say that about Dickens?


You can you can get your copy of this e-book on Amazon.


Here is a little about our paranormal series, The Turning Stone Chronicles.We hope you enjoy it.

 

Three ancient Celtic families. A magical Bloodstone that enables the wearers to shape shift. A charge to use the stone’s power to benefit mankind, and a battle, that is going on even today, to control the world. Can the Secret Society of shape shifters called the Turning Stone Society heal itself and bring peace to our world? Find out in the series The Turning Stone Chronicles series.

C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.

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. 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.

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