Wednesday, October 27, 2021

This Treat is No Trick

 from Tina Griffith

I used to make these Pinwheels for my kids when they were in elementary school.  The recipe is pretty easy and quite versatile.  By that I mean, you can flavor and add color to both layers.  Example: add cinnamon or almond flavoring to the chocolate dough, and add peppermint flavoring and pink food coloring to the white one.  Can you imagine eating a purple and green spiral cookie on somebody’s birthday?  Or how about a black and orange cookie on Halloween? 

And just before you put them in the oven, you can also top them with sprinkles, candy shapes, or just plain sugar.  Use your imagination to make the most interesting of cookies for any holiday or celebration, because experimenting is part of the fun with this dough. 

e  Grama Tina’s Spiral Cookies  f

¾ cup of softened butter
1 cup of white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon of baking powder
cocoa powder, peanut butter or Nutella - optional
rainbow sprinkles or candy shapes - optional
5 drops of food coloring - red, yellow, pink, orange, black - optional
1 teaspoon of cinnamon, almond, or nutmeg - optional
3 or 4 drops of flavoring - peppermint, lemon, etc. - optional

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Lay parchment paper on 2 large cookie sheets or grease well.  

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy.  Then beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour with baking powder. Add to butter mixture in 2 additions, stirring until it becomes a soft dough.

Divide dough in half.  Add cocoa powder (and/or cinnamon, peanut butter, Nutella, or mint flavoring).  Mix and set aside.  Now move to the other ball of dough.  Leave this white and add mint or a cinnamon flavoring or any flavoring you like and coloring. Remember - both the colors and flavors should go together well.

Roll each ball out flat, and then place one on top of the other.  Take one end and slowly roll this up into a log.  Length-wise or width-wise determines how large your cookies will be. 

Once you’ve completed rolling the dough, wrap it in plastic and place in the refrigerator until chilled.  This could take up to 2 hours, but you can leave it in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

When you’re ready to bake, take the log out and remove the plastic covering.  Beginning at one end, slice the cookies about ¼” thick and place them on the prepared cookie sheets.  

Bake for about 10 minutes – you want them to be a lovely golden brown.  Let cool and serve. 

**HINT - using a piece of thread instead of a knife, makes it easier to cut the dough.

The chill is in the air and all things that go bump in the night are about to happen. Time to curl up with a good romantic thriller by Tina Griffith.

On Hallow’s Eve, as the veil between the two worlds was thinning, the face of the full moon was lit up like a Christmas tree. The dead would soon come alive, the alive would dress up as the dead, and witchcraft had a way of piggybacking off other spells. This was the ideal night to be a witch, for the effectiveness of all incantations, divinations, and other avenues of magic, was perfect.

Jayla is a clever witch, who had been cursed in her teens by her friend, Ophelia. Since then, she has had to retrieve dark souls from shrewd men in order to survive. While she has taken hundreds of souls in her lifetime, this story is about her trying to take the one which belongs to Roger Casem – the man she accidentally fell in love with.

Could she kill him, as she had done with the others? If she wanted to continue living, she must. But today, when his eyes skimmed her body with unbelievable passion, she began to recognize her own needs. As she blushed and turned her face away from him, Jayla did the only thing she could.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2021

8 Reasons to Listen to Audiobooks

 from Leigh Goff

My publisher, Parliament House, encouraged me to turn my Southern Gothic Horror book Koush Hollow into an audiobook. Before I made that commitment I decided to investigate the benefits of audiobooks. And was I surprised! Here are just some of the things I learned that you may find interesting:

  • Something new. Some people prefer listening rather than reading text and the increasing popularity of audiobooks proves that. According to, audiobook sales increased by 16 percent in 2019 and generated over $1.2 billion in revenue. That same year, e-books only made $983 million. 
  • You can listen to a book on your phone, iPad, computer, at the beach, or at a family get together you want to escape from. It’s easier than ever to download a book thanks to Audible, and it’s tough to lose one when it’s on your phone. Bonus, no more physical bookmarks or reading glasses needed! Just pick up where you left off listening. 
  • Huge Variety. In 2020, more than 71 thousand audiobooks were published in the U.S. The number has increased 39 percent year over year since 2007. There are currently more than 25 audiobook publishers, and according to, the most popular genres in audiobooks are autobiography/memoir, mystery, thriller, fantasy, and science fiction. Almost anything you want to read is ready for downloading. 
  • Pro-Multitasking. According to, over half of UK audiobook listeners say they don’t have time to sit and read a physical book. Audiobooks allow you to listen while you walk your dog, clean your room, get a load of laundry done, workout on the elliptical, or prep dinner. 
  • Popular. One in three book buyers has listened to an audiobook in the past year and if you’re in a book club, you can have all of those book titles downloaded into one place to make it easier than ever to listen anytime, anywhere. They’re so popular, the big publishers like Audible and Harper Collins are investing in more studios and narrators to speed up production. 
  • Mood Elevator. Listening to an audiobook before bed is similar to meditation because it keeps unnecessary thoughts from creeping into your mind. Studies show that it’s a more immersive and intimate experience that can also help you fall asleep. 
  • Vocabulary Helper. When you listen to audiobooks, you learn how to pronounce difficult words and learn their meaning through the context of the dialogue. You may not be able to guess the spelling of the word, but your curiosity could lead you to investigate further. 
  • Koush Hollow. Horror/Fantasy/Southern Gothic. This is a brand-new audiobook release from The Parliament House Press, and it offers an original story that’s a great choice for all readers. It’s a chilling, yet hopeful tale of one girl’s resistance to an elite world of wealth and class and her brave questioning of the strange happenings around her. The talented Erin Seidel gives voice to an eclectic cast of characters and her narration captures the youthful, idealistic character of Jenna as she is transformed from a disillusioned girl to one who honors her convictions and truths at all costs in a riveting story set in the mystical bayous of New Orleans. Available on Audible, Amazon, and iBooks.

For your listening pleasure, enjoy a sweet cocktail from New Orleans that pairs perfectly with the audio version of Koush Hollow. 

2 oz. light rum
3 oz. dark rum
6 oz. passion fruit juice
6 oz. orange juice
2 tbsp. grenadine
2 Orange slices
2 maraschino cherries

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine rums, passion fruit juice, orange juice, and grenadine.

Pour over iced-filled glasses.

Garnish each glass with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

Find the original recipe at Delish

Here's a brief intro to my new audiobook. Click the audible link below to hear more.

After her father’s untimely death, Jenna Ashby moves to Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans, dreading life with her wealthy mother. As the 16-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 could have ever imagined.





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 Goodreads.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


Halloween October 31 -  Centuries ago ancient Celtics believed that at summer’s end the barrier between our world and the world of spirits thinned, allowing evil to cross over to us. Time passed and people dressed as saints and went door to door which is the origin for tonight’s ghosts and goblins to magically appear at your front door to trick you if you don’t treat them. 

Invite friends over and celebrate Halloween with this menu that will tame your creatures who go bump in the night.

Barbequed Meatballs
Garlic Dip & Pretzels

Main Course
Braised Short Ribs
Mashed Potatoes
Veggie Sauté
Dry Red Wine – Pinot Noir

Barbequed Meatballs

This is an easy appetizer recipe you adjust to suit you. Add more jelly if you prefer a sweeter taste or cut jelly amount and increase barbeque sauce if you want a tangy taste. Plan on 4 – 5 meatballs per person.

1 12 oz. (340g) jar grape jelly
1 – 2 bottles barbeque sauce
50 precooked frozen Italian style meatballs
Toothpicks for serving

Scoop jelly into a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Add 1 bottle barbeque sauce. Stir until jelly melts. 

Add meatballs. Stir in more barbeque sauce if needed. You want the meatballs covered but not swimming. Simmer 5 – 10 minutes, stir occasionally. 

Serve warm.

Garlic Dip & Pretzel Twists
8 oz. (226g) cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. (15ml) garlic powder, not salt
Pinch salt
2 tbsp. (30ml) milk, possibly more 

Lay cream cheese in a medium-sized mixing bowl. I know this seems too large, but you need the room. Use a wooden spoon to mash the cheese against the sides of the bowl. 

Sprinkle on garlic. Stir well. Add salt and stir well. Taste for flavor. Add more garlic if necessary. Don’t add more salt. You’ll get plenty of that flavor from the pretzels. 

Drizzle in milk. Stir well. Carefully stir in milk until you reach a consistency soft enough to dip the pretzel without breaking it. 

Scoop into a serving bowl, cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate. Remove from fridge a half hour or so before serving. This dip lasts 1 week in the fridge. 

½ lemon, peel intact and sliced thin
½ orange, peel intact and sliced thin
½ lg. apple, cored and sliced thin
¼ cup (30g) superfine sugar
1 bottle dry red wine, Portuguese or Spanish preferred
¼ cup (60ml) brandy or cognac
1-liter club soda, chilled


Combine lemon, orange, apple, and sugar in a large pitcher. Stir in wine and brandy. Taste for sweetness. If the punch is still not sweet enough, carefully add another ¼ cup (30g) of sugar.

Refrigerate for several hours to intensify the flavors.


Just before serving gently stir in club soda. Fill wine glasses with ice and pour in Sangria.

Main Course
Braised Short Ribs
2 – 3 lbs. (1 – 1.5kg) beef short ribs, cut into 2 inch (5cm) or so pieces
freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup (60g) flour
½ tsp. (2.5ml) thyme
2 tbsp. (30ml) lard or solid shortening
2 medium onions, chopped
½ cup (60g) carrot, chopped
1 tbsp. (15ml) garlic, pressed or chopped fine
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
2 small bay leaves
1 tbsp. (30ml) Worcestershire Sauce


Preheat oven to 325° F (160°C).

Pat ribs dry. Grind pepper over meat. Pour flour and thyme into a paper bag. Add 2 – 4 ribs at a time. Shake bag gently to coat meat. Remove ribs and set on a large plate. Continue until all ribs are coated.

Melt lard or shortening in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Carefully add ribs and brown them on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan. Best to brown meat in batches so the cooking temperature remains constant. Return ribs to plate. Lower heat to medium.

Add onions and carrots to the same pot. Sauté until onions are soft and transparent. Add garlic. Cook 45 – 60 seconds.

Stir in stock. Bring to a boil over high heat. Scrape in any brown bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the pan.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce.

Nestle ribs in pan and bring to a boil. Cover and then place in oven. Braise ribs for 1½ hours or until meat shows no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Arrange ribs on a clean platter and tent with foil to keep them warm.

Strain braising liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Press down hard on vegetables to extract juices. Discard vegetables. Skim off surface fat. Bring to a hard boil. Cook 2 – 3 minutes to intensify flavor.


Pour sauce into a gravy boat and serve alongside ribs.

Mashed Potatoes
Chicken stock, not broth
1 small russet potato per person, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp. (43g) butter
Sour cream, a very large dollop
¼ cup (60ml) milk, at room temperature
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Parsley, snipped or chopped for garnish

Preheat oven to 220° F (100°C).

Pour one-inch (2.5cm) chicken stock into saucepan. Place potatoes in saucepan. Add tap water to cover by at least one inch (2.5cm). Cover the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower temperature to a strong simmer. Cook approximately 20 - 25 minutes. Potatoes are done when a fork inserts easily into a section.

Drain potatoes. Stir in butter, sour cream, and pepper. Mash well. Drizzle in milk. Mash and continue to add milk until you achieve the consistency you prefer.

Keep the saucepan warm in the oven while you finish preparing dinner.

Veggie Sauté

Leftovers from this easy recipe make a tasty lunch when reheated in a little butter and served with crusty bread and a glass of cold white wine.

8 oz. (250g) baby bella mushrooms
2 tbsp. (30ml) olive oil
1 zucchini, sliced thin
1 red pepper, seeded and ribs removed
1 yellow pepper, seeded and ribs removed
1 small onion, sliced thin
½ tsp. (2.5ml) garlic powder, not salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms with a paper towel to remove bedding soil. Slice them in half lengthwise if medium size or into thirds if large. 

Dribble oil into a medium-sized frying pan set over medium heat. Do not let it smoke.

Add all the vegetables except mushrooms. Turn up heat to medium-high. Sauté about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Lower temperature to medium. Stir in mushrooms, garlic powder, and pepper.

Continue to cook 3 minutes or until peppers are at the crispness you prefer.

Monday, October 18, 2021

How to Make a Zombie

 from Sharon Ledwith

Much has been written about the walking dead we’ve come to know as ‘zombies’. Immortalized in movies, television shows, books, comics, and music videos (remember Thriller?), zombies have become so much a part of our culture that people can’t get enough of these brain-eating horror icons. When researching for The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, the third installment of my young adult time travel adventure series, I wanted to incorporate a Voodoo ceremony that included creating a zombie. Oh, where to start, I asked myself, as there was so much information out there to glean, and only a chapter to fit it in. 

So do zombies exist? The people of Haiti certainly think so. Here they are considered to be more than spooky stories, but rather very real entities. Stories of zombies persist in Haiti right up to the modern day, with sightings of the poor, haggard creatures fairly common in many rural areas. In fact, cases are so prevalent that there have been wild estimates claiming that there are as many as up to one thousand new cases of zombies a year. Wow, that’s a lot of the undead roaming around a small island! Zombification is even a crime under the Haitian Penal Code (Article 246), in which it is considered to be on par with murder despite the fact that the zombified individual is technically still alive. 

Bet you’re dying to know how to make a zombie? Read on… 

The zombies of Haiti were said to be corpses that were reanimated through black magic by powerful Voodoo sorcerers or priests known as bokors, for manual labor on farms and sugarcane plantations. Zombies can allegedly be made from those who are still living if the bokor is powerful enough to wrest the victim’s soul from their body. The process of turning a living person into a zombie is said to follow certain steps. First, the bokor will place a hex on the target of the ritual, who will subsequently fall mysteriously ill and die soon after. The exact methods and concoctions used vary among the bokors, but many use a powerful neurotoxin derived from pufferfish. Some zombification processes use blood and hair from their victims in addition to using Voodoo dolls. Ohers involve a carefully prepared mixture called ‘coup de poudre’ (powder strike) made of mystical herbs, human remains, and animal parts. Administrating this mixture can also vary from ingestion, injection, or even a blow dart. 

Once the family of the victim pronounces the victim dead, he or she is buried in the family tomb (usually above ground), where the responsible bokor will steal the body from its grave and set about reanimating it through dark sorcery. Next, the bokor performs an ancient Voodoo rite where he or she captures the victim’s ti bon ange (the part of the soul connected to an individual) within seven days following the death of corps cadaver, while it is still hovering over the corpse. This effects a split in the spiritual parts of the victim and produces two complementary types of zombies: the spirit zombie and the zombie of the flesh. The bokor then traps the spirit zombie in a small clay jar or container, and replaces it with the loa (Voodoo spirit) that the bokor controls. The container is hidden in a secret place and is wrapped in a piece of the victim’s clothing or some other personal possession. 

After a day or two, the bokor then administers a hallucinogenic mixture called the ‘zombie cucumber,’ (made from the plant Datura stramonium) that revives the victim and is used to keep the zombie in a state of submissive confusion. In this brainwashed condition, the zombie cannot speak, has no memory, and no longer resembles its past human personality. Now easy to control, the zombie is completely under the control of the bokor who created them until the bokor dies. Once released from bondage, the zombies can finally return to their home village or place of burial, and die. 

There seems reason to believe from work and research done in the past that there may possibly be a concrete, scientific basis for stories of zombies, so perhaps time will tell. For now, these mysterious creatures lurk along the fringes of Haitian villages and our imaginations. Whether drug addled slaves or corpses reanimated through dark sorcery, the enigma of real zombies beckons us. Perhaps one day we will bring them out into the light and have the answers we seek. 

With that, I’ll leave you with this line in the song Thriller, by Michael Jackson: It’s close to midnight! Something evil’s lurking in the dark! Hopefully, it’s not a blood-thirsty corpse. Stay safe, my zombie-loving readers! 

Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series:

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries… 

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power. There’s no hope for a normal life, and no one who understands. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. 

Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected. 

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures…

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time. 

Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past. 

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

Coming soon: The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, Book #3

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:


The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:


Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:


Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:

Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:


Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links:


Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure 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 spoiled hubby, and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, LINKEDIN, INSTAGRAM, and GOODREADS.

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


from HL Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, October 11, 2021


 from Stella May

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a long time, but never put the actual words to paper. Something always stopped me. When the story is vital, and the memories are bittersweet, it’s very hard to transform into words your emotions. At least, it is for me.

So, the women of my family: my great-grandmother Tatiana, my grandmother Vera, my mother Karina, and my aunt Stella.  Even the names sound lovely, old-fashioned, and classy, don’t they?

Three generations, four amazing women who shared blood, but were as different from each other as night and day, or as only mothers and daughters can be. Four women, four fascinating life stories. 

Today, I will tell you about my grandmother.

Her name was Vera, but we called her Verunya. Even her daughters, my mother and my aunt, referred to her by that endearing nickname. No one in the family knew when exactly it started or who started it. But someone did, and it stuck. For three generations.

As a matter of fact, she had two names: Vera, which means “faith” in Russian, and Gulbahar, which means “spring flower” in Azeri. Why? My grandmother was unique in more ways than one. You see, her mother was from a prominent Russian family, and her father….. Well, here’s where we draw a blank. To this day, no one in the family knows who his ancestors were. But as the family lore goes, my great-grandfather was kidnapped as a child and raised in Iran in a Kurdish family. When he met my great-grandmother Tatiana (and no one is sure when or how he ended up in post-revolutionary Azerbaijan, a republic of former USSR) he was so lovestruck that he converted to Christianity to get permission to marry her. And so, Meshady Abbas became Artemy Kurdov. My grandmother Verunya was the only child of that unusual union.

To say that she was a complex woman is truly an understatement of the century. Stunning, strong-willed, capricious, multifaceted, she looked fragile like a china doll, but was stronger than steel. She was beautiful and knew it. She drove men crazy and enjoyed it.

But she wasn't flighty, shallow, or mean. There was not a single humble bone in her body, but she never hurt anyone on purpose. She worshipped at the altar of high fashion, but sold without hesitation her favorite dress in order to buy her two little daughters Christmas gifts.

She had a huge heart, and loved all four of us, her grandchildren, to distraction. And every time one of us would visit her, before she would open the door, she'd call out, "My dearest one has come!"

She was not your traditional grandmother. She was not traditional anything, period, and that was a huge part of her charm.

For me, she was a personification of everything female. Always dressed to kill, sporting an impeccable manicure and pedicure, she could apply mascara and her famous cherry red lipstick even half asleep. And grey hair? She refused to even acknowledge its right to exist.

She fell in love at 16 with a man who was almost twice her age. Needless to say, no one could stop her from marrying this dashing hunk who happened to be a popular jazz singer. My aunt was born less than a year after, and my mother three years later.

Then, tragedy struck. My larger-than-life grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. He died three months later, leaving a 20 year-old widow with two toddlers on her arms, no income to support them, and no place to live in a strange city. You see, my grandfather Sergey Periev moved his family from Baku, when my Verunya lived all her life, to Yerevan, where he was offered a position as a lead singer in Armenian Jazz band. The apartment they were living in was a rental for the members of the band only, so after his death my grandmother was asked to vacate it. And the year was 1942, the second year of World War II.

But instead of falling apart, this young girl, a child herself, grabbed her two daughters and whatever meager possessions she had, and returned home. With no help from the well-to-do in-laws, who decided they didn’t need an additional burden, she struck out on her own.

I can only imagine how scared she was. She needed to support her family, but had no real profession or formal education. What she had in abundance was sheer guts and a spine of steel. And a true gift that fate bestowed upon her: her amazing voice.

So, shaking off her own fears and insecurities, my Verunya stuck her perky nose up, squared her fragile shoulders, and set to pursue a career as a singer. And the rest was history. She became a star. In my former country, USSR, the name Vera Perieva was familiar to millions.

In her early thirties, she met her second love. Mikhail Kauffman was her impresario. It was a long, happy, and content marriage. But then cancer struck again, taking away the man who became a true father to my mother and aunt, and loving grandfather to my cousins and I.

When in 1991 our family relocated to the USA, Verunya tried really hard to adjust to her new country, but that proved to be a challenge. The language barrier, failing health, advanced age—everything added to the load.

She passed away quietly in her sleep on one brutally cold October morning, wearing an impeccable manicure and pedicure, with not a single grey hair offending her trade-mark mahogany mane.

Last February would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday. I'm sure the angels threw a huge party for our Verunya, with my mom and dad, and all our dearest departed friends and family in attendance. And then the birthday girl sang, and her deep rich soprano flew over heaven making the Almighty sigh with pleasure…..

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 and time travel and is the author of the family saga/trilogy Once & Forever, and fantasy romance Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and her 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.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021


 from Catherine Castle

Halloween is coming and lots of people are planning parties. I thought it would be fun to share my recipe for popcorn balls. Most popcorn balls are made using corn syrup, but in our family we adjusted the recipe since we weren’t keen on how the corn syrup stuck to our dental fillings, especially after a corn-syrup-based popcorn ball pulled out a loose filling.

Additionally, this popcorn recipe brings back memories. The day our daughter was born I had made popcorn balls to take to a Christmas party. Instead of making the party, we ended up in the delivery room. Hubby missed most of the party, but he had the popcorn balls in the car. So, when after her birth, instead of passing out cigars (which he wouldn’t have done since he doesn’t smoke), he passed out popcorn balls to the hospital staff.

This is a simple and fast recipe and was a staple at our house for a long time at Christmas. It’s good other times, too, and will make a sweet treat for any time you need to reward yourself.

Catherine’s Popcorn Balls

¼ cup margarine
4 cups mini marshmallows
5 cups popped popcorn. Don’t use pre-bagged, pre-seasoned popcorn for this. Pop the whole kernel corn instead.

Pop the corn as directed on the package. Set aside each popped batch in a large bowl until you have 5 cups of cooled popped corn.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows. Stir until melted.

Pour over the popcorn and stir well to mix.

Working quickly, with lightly greased hands and helpers if you can get them, form the popcorn and marshmallow mix into balls. Let balls cool completely.

Serve right away or store by wrapping each ball in a square of plastic wrap.

Serves: Who knows? It often depends on how much you, or your helpers, can resist eating as you
roll them into balls.

While you’re waiting for the popcorn balls to cool, check out Catherine’s romantic comedy with a touch of drama. There’s no popcorn in the book, but there are plenty of laughs.

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.