Monday, October 30, 2023

BOO!

 

May your tricks be creative, and your treats plentiful. 


Wishing you all a safe and fun Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

PRETZEL BLISS

from Sharon Ledwith

Looking for a great family snack that’s easy to make and soooo addictively wicked, you’ll need to lock those ranch-dressed, salty bites under lock and key if you want to make them last until your next movie night? Then look no more. Seriously. You’ll be hooked with your first nibble.

And guess what? No baking is required. Even your kids can help with this recipe.


PRETZEL CRACK

32 ounce bag of pretzels
16 ounce bottle of Orville Redenbacher’s Buttery Flavor popcorn oil
1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (dry)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoon dill weed
1 deep foil tray (from dollar store)

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.
Stir in popcorn oil.
Add pretzels and coat evenly, then spoon into a deep foil pan.
Air dry pretzels in foil tray, stirring every 15 minutes or so until dry. This can take anywhere from 2 - 24 hours.

Store your freshly made pretzel crack in freezer bags. Voila. Done. Ready for consumption.

Warning: If you find that you or a family member eats a whole bag in one sitting, it’s time for an intervention. Do what you must. Be firm. Then, since the bag is empty, go ahead and make some more. You know you want it.

While waiting for the pretzel crack to dry, might I suggest you enjoy a trip into the past with The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis?

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

When 13-year-old Amanda Sault and her annoying classmates are caught in a food fight at school, they're given a choice: suspension or yard duty. The decision is a no-brainer. Their two-week crash course in landscaping leads to the discovery of a weathered stone arch in the overgrown back yard. The arch isn't a forgotten lawn ornament but an ancient time portal from the lost continent of Atlantis.

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers--legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial--Amanda and her classmates are sent on an adventure of a lifetime. Can they find the young Robin Hood and his merry band of teens? If they don't, then history itself may be turned upside down.

BUY LINKS
Amazon - Kobo


Sharon Ledwith
is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the award-winning teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, reading, researching, or revising, she enjoys anything arcane, ancient mysteries, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her spoiled hubby.

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

 

 

Monday, October 23, 2023

DEPRESSION & ANXIETY VS CREATIVITY

 from Linda Lee Greene Author/Artist

“The poet Rilke was afraid that if he got rid of his demons, he would lose his angels as well. Of course the danger of clinging to our demons to save our angels is that our demons may well take over.”[1]

Boy, do I relate to that statement. I bet a gang of you do, too. My demons began to take over when I was the tender age of sixteen and developed a hyperactive thyroid, wrongly diagnosed at the time, and under-treated for many years thereafter. During those most important years of marriage and childbearing, when, if one can possibly arrange it, it’s a good idea to be at ones best and on top of ones game, too much of the time, I seesawed between depression and anxiety, in my case, depression manifesting as feelings of dissatisfaction, and anxiety as restlessness and a sense of uninterrupted urgency. Believe me, I get the angst of victims of mental disorders.

My children grown and on their own, I ventured into New Age Practices, gave Buddhism a look, tried Yoga, joined a church, read enough spiritual tomes to fill the library of Congress, hunted for a better me in the eyes of lovers who hadn’t a clue (I was divorced by then), all in an effort to just feel better. I finally got diagnosed, the lights came on in my brain, and the mood swings began to level out (but not completely). As a result, I have a life-long dependency on Synthroid, a thyroid replacement hormone, which, most of the time, keeps me just level enough that I don’t tip over into insanity. Now and then, though, the mood swings get out of control, which requires an adjustment in the dosage of the Synthroid.

During my famine years, and before I knew there was a bona fide thyroid disorder responsible for my troubles, I gave various antidepressants a whirl—or more precisely, I contemplated giving them a whirl. The truth is, I got prescriptions for them filled, took them for a few days, and then never touched them again. I was afraid of them! Like Rilke, I was afraid they would kill my creativity, my spark. I was afraid I’d descend, if not into the blackness of full-blown depression/anxiety, but into the gray gloom of a medicated zombie state. I bet a slew of you have also experienced that same fear.

“Blake, Byron, Tennyson, Woolf, Poe, Plath, Kierkegaard, Pound, Hemingway, Van Gogh, Tennessee Williams[2], Stephen King, Robin Williams, to name a few in an endless accounting of artist-sufferers of depression/anxiety, some of whom are among the eighteen percent of creative people who have committed, or are more prone to commit, suicide than depressed people in the general population. Other mental disorders among artistic people present similar terrifying statistics.

In tandem with my faulty thyroid messing with my moods, the fact that I’m primarily a right-brained individual—an author of fiction, an artist, and an interior designer, also presents tremendous “real-world” challenges for me. When a fire is burning in my right brain, and its light-filled, stress-free, happy, and packed with understanding people hovering steadfastly in the periphery of my existence, encouraging me, supporting my efforts, giving me space and time and freedom to do my thing, life is good for me. But once the project is finished—the book is published, the artwork is hanging on the gallery walls, the rooms are arranged and decorated down to the last knickknack, my Muse retires to her cave. She then pulls its blackout curtain across its door, and wants only solitude and nothing to do with the other side of all her efforts, namely the business associated with them.

How about you? Where do you stand on this subject of depression and/or anxiety vs creativity? If you are a seamstress, scrapbooker, photographer, furniture refinisher, cook, gardener, artist, musician, writer, composer, singer...whatever your creative outlet, do your creative efforts get waylaid by depression or anxiety? This is your forum to talk about it. Talking helps!

The following is an excerpt of GUARDIANS AND OTHER ANGELS, my book of historical fiction blended with my family’s actual story. The selection depicts an amusing, true incident involving apples and my mother Roma before she was my mother. A delicious recipe for fried apples and peaches rounds out this posting. Enjoy! 

One of the most enchanting features of the farm was its peach and apple orchard. Disregarding the fact that green apples gave Roma the “runs,” and convincing herself that she would get away with it that time, in a fit of gluttony, she set about one hot summer morning to stuff her belly full of the sweet green teasers. Predictably, later in the day, she found herself in dire need of visiting the “path” as this family called their outhouse, whereupon she sat, for long intervals of time, for several visits in a row. 

This was back in the day before fluffy white “Charmin” or any other machine-perforated-roll-perfectly-into-your-hand toilet paper came on the scene; these were the days when pages from magazines, newspapers, and the Sears & Roebuck catalog were special favorites for cleaning the backside. And when paper products ran out, corncobs would do. 

This day, Sears & Roebuck were on duty, and Roma, having gone through a good portion of the catalog, pulled up her underpants, and confident her ordeal was finally behind her, pun intended, proceeded to walk to the back door of the house, the door opening onto the kitchen. She lighted into her piled-up kitchen chores, working away uninterrupted for an hour or more, enjoying that peculiar euphoria that comes to one with the release of all the toxins in one’s body, when she realized that the house was unusually quiet, a phenomenon never occurring in that filled-to-human-capacity household. Taking a mere glancing note of it, she continued to sweep away, when out of the distance she thought she heard what sounded like a snicker. She hesitated for a moment, listened, but when all was quiet again, she fell back into the rhythm of her swishing broom. But suddenly, there it was again – a snicker, then two, then three. She realized she had company in the room. She turned to look, and there they all were, all nine members of her family, snickering and pointing at her backside. Horrified, she realized what was the matter, and twisting her head to get a gander at her backside. 

Like a dog chasing its own tail, Roma took off spinning around and around in the middle of the kitchen, howling like a dog, and flapping her hand at the offending article protruding from her underpants. In her haste to vacate the outhouse, the tail of her dress had caught in the waistband of her bloomers, and with it, a page from the Sears & Roebuck catalog also had fastened itself there, the page waving like a flag flapping in the breeze and ironically hailing its vivid advertisement of women underpanties.

Available in paperback and in eBook 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.

 

[1] The Sun, March 2010, “Tim Farrington On Creativity, Depression, And The Dark Night Of The Soul,” by D. Patrick Miller, p 8

[2] Ibid, p 5

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

SWEET TREAT from the DEEP SOUTH

from Leigh Goff

Here is a dessert I confiscated and made my own. This New Orleans treat is perfect on a special night for two as well as holiday gatherings and everything in between.

Here are a few tips to make preparing this dessert easier:

Soak the raisins in bourbon before you start this recipe. You can even soak them a day or two ahead.

The bread you use should be a little dry. If the bread you are using is fresh, after you cube it, spread it out on a sheet pan and put it in a 200° F oven for 10 minutes.

Go easy on the bourbon sauce. It is strong! But so delicious.

Bread Pudding
1 cup raisins
¼ cup bourbon whiskey
1 loaf French bread, at least a day old, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 qt. milk
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ – ½ tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Combine raisins and bourbon in a small bowl. Cover and soak for 1 to 2 hours or until the raisins have absorbed most of the bourbon.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Pour milk into a large bowl. Add bread and press into milk with your hands or a large spoon until all the milk is absorbed.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, allspice, and cinnamon. Pour over bread mixture. Add bourbon-soaked raisins, with or without the remaining soaking liquid. Stir gently to combine.

Pour melted butter onto bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Coat the bottom and the sides of the pan well with the butter. Pour in bread mixture then egg mixture.

Bake 35 – 45 minutes, until liquid has set. The pudding is done when the edges are just brown and pulling away from the pan edge.

Bourbon Sauce
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey, amount according to taste

Make the bourbon sauce while the bread pudding is cooking.

Melt butter in a saucepan on low heat. Whisk in sugar and egg. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove pan from heat.

Do not allow mixture to simmer! Or the sauce will curdle. By the way, if your sauce curdles, just take it off the heat and blend it smooth in a blender.

Whisk in bourbon. Whisk again before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth.

Serve with whiskey sauce on the side. This dessert is best eaten the day it is made.

Please allow me to share a sneak peek of my Coming Soon Southern Gothic book while you enjoy your pudding.

Koush Hollow:
Where bayou magic abounds and all that glitters…is deadly.


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 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 could have ever imagined.

Available in AudiobookE-book, and Paperback


Leigh Goff writes young adult fiction. She is a graduate from the University of Maryland and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area's great history and culture.

Her third young adult novel, Koush Hollow, a Southern gothic set in New Orleans, will release on September 1, 2020 from The Parliament House.

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

Monday, October 16, 2023

SHARING EXCERPTS

from the Turning Stone Chronicles

By C.D. Hersh

Often, we are asked what is our favorite book or author. As writers there is another favorite that we have and that is certain sections of the books we have written. These favorite sections or excerpts become the lines shared to promote interest in the book. Today we thought we’d share some of our favorite lines from our paranormal romance series, The Turning Stone Chronicles Series. Each of these books is a standalone in that there is a HEA in each. However, you will understand the continuing characters and their relationships if you start with the first book in the series. 

With that said we will start our excerpts with the first book, The Promised One.

Tucking his gift under her arm, she started to leave.

“Hey.” He pointed at the other gifts. “Aren’t you going to add yours?”

“Nope. I’ll give it to you later, when we’re alone.”

“Ooh. Something special. Mineral or animal?” His right eyebrow raised, his smile growing.

Alexi laughed. “Just embarrassing.”

“For you or for me?”

“I’m not telling.”

Sidling close to her, he backed her against the wall. “Come on. Just a hint,” he said, a purr in his tone as he placed his hand on the wall next to her shoulder and moved into her personal space with the ease of a lover. One of his famous melt-the-girl looks smoldered in his gaze. The golden flecks in his green eyes lit up like fireworks. Hot fireworks.

Enjoying his closeness and the raw sensuality emanating from him, she lingered for a minute, then slowly moved away. Standing this close she could get burned, and she wasn’t ready to play with fire . . . not yet. She shook her head. “Not a chance.”

He crossed his arms, obviously irked that she hadn’t succumbed.

“My irresistible charms work on everyone else. Why not you?”

Oh, if you only knew. She had to fight to resist him. She flashed him a smile. “Because I’m special. And I’m your partner. Keeping your back safe is more important than getting you on your back.”

He laughed, a deep, throaty, and utterly sexy sound.

She locked her knees to keep from melting into a puddle.

“I like the sound of that.”

Of course you would. She felt her face flame.

Now for the second book, Blood Brothers, excerpt.

Sylvia Jordan Riley winced as Falhman dug into her shoulder and extracted a bullet. He dropped the bullet into the trash and swabbed the wound. “You want to tell me how you got injured?” he asked as he reached for the needle to stitch the gaping hole.

“Chasing Promised Ones.” And the man who murdered my ex-husband.

“I hope it was worth this.”

“It was.” She’d torn Baron's killer to shreds, but that wasn’t the best part of her news. “I’ve found someone who shifted with me by using the power from my ring.”

Falhman stopped stitching and stared intently at Sylvia, his eyes glittering with undisguised interest. “Is he a rogue shifter?”

“I don’t think he’s any kind of shifter. He seemed startled when the shift occurred.”

“A non-shifter who can use the ring without the incantation? What’s his name?”

“Temple. Rhys Temple. There’s only one problem.” Sylvia paused then continued, “He’s in love with Baron Jordan’s niece, Alexi.”

“I thought that whole family was dead.”

“She’s the last one left, and I think she's on track as a Promised One.”

Falhman went back to stitching Sylvia’s skin with practiced ease. “Get rid of her and get him. If we can control someone with that kind of power, we can control the world.”

Sylvia looked at her superior. He made it sound simple. Kill Alexi Jordan and lure Rhys to the dark side. Piece of cake? Not if a Jordan was involved. From her recent dealings with Alexi, she knew there would be one heck of a fight if she tried to take her man.

The third book in the series, Son of the Moonless Night, has some new characters but continues the underlying story. Here’s the excerpt:

A head of lettuce and a grapefruit escaped from the paper grocery sack as Katrina leaned sideways on tippy toes to get the topmost lock. The vegetables rolled across the small concrete patio at the bottom of the stairway well and stopped against a leg of the wrought iron café table. Whispering an expletive, she pushed the door open and placed her purse and grocery sack on the entryway table just inside the door. Then she swiveled to get the runaway vegetables.

A very pleasant and interesting sight greeted her. A pair of dark trousers caressed a toned posterior of the man bending over to retrieve her vegetables. She fought to rein in the path her mind started down. Been too long, Katrina, she said to herself as the vision straightened and turned around.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “I thought you had gone inside.”

The way he held the vegetables out in front of him made her wonder what his hands would feel like if he held her breasts in that manner.

“Hello? Are you awake?”

“Ah, ah,” Katrina sputtered as she focused on his face to get her mind out of the gutter.

“Okay. Awake, but not here yet.” The corner of his lips started to rise.

“You,” she breathed when she recognized him. “Where’s my grandmother’s afghan and my Cleveland Brown’s hoodie?”

“Nice to see you, too, and thank you, I’m feeling fine.”

She crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “If you hadn’t run off I’d have known you were okay.”

The smile inched up the side of his cheek, lighting his electric blue eyes. “You worried about me. How sweet.”

“Sweet, my patootie. I just . . . You could have bled . . . Oh, crap. Where’s my stuff?”

He took another step closer to her. The deep blue ring around his amazing eyes seemed to darken.

She leaned back from him.

Without taking his eyes off her, he nodded to a brightly colored gift bag on the ground beside the door. “I got blood on the afghan so I had it cleaned. It wasn’t badly stained. The blood came out. The hoodie’s a different story. I couldn’t salvage it, so I bought a replacement.” Balancing the vegetables in one hand he lifted the gift bag to her. “Forgiven? Please?”

Book four, The Mercenary and the Shifters, gets more characters involved in the struggle. Here’s the excerpt:

Mike Corritore wheeled up the circular drive of the impressive house on Lakeshore Road and cut the engine on his motorcycle. After a quick glance around, he shouldered the bags containing his clothes, ammo, pump shotgun, and talwar sword. Then he headed for the carved front door. The doorbell echoed inside indicating the mansion had a cavernous entry hall. He searched the entrance stoop for security cameras and found none.

What the heck had he gotten himself into? A rich bitch, with no security on her home, mixed up with a bad syndicate spelled major trouble. With this chintzy level of security, it would take more time than he originally anticipated to make her house and business secure.

After a couple of minutes, the door opened.

“Can I help you?” asked an attractive redhead.

“I’m Mike Corritore. Here to see Fiona Kayler. Will you tell her I’ve arrived?”

The redhead looked him over, then braced her legs shoulder width apart and crossed her arms over her curvy bust. “Do you have identification, Mr. Corritore?”

Mike returned her once-over. Her porcelain complexion blushed pink at his bold examination, and she tossed her mane of wavy, mahogany hair defiantly. Damn, she was gorgeous.

If she thought her insolent pose enough to keep him, or intruders out, she’d better reconsider.

“Hugh sent me.” He stepped forward but she blocked him.

“A driver’s license for your very expensive motorcycle will suffice,” she said, wiggling her fingers at him. When he didn’t comply, she stepped back and reached to the side of the door.

The distinct cachung of a gun cocking sent him flying to the right of the doorway.

“Identification, Mr. Corritore. Please,” she said as she leveled a pistol at him.

Mike dug in his rear pants’ pocket. “Hugh lied,” he said as he held out his driver’s license. “You don’t need protection.”

After inspecting his identification, she lowered her weapon and waved him inside. “For my business, Mr. Corritore. I’m capable of protecting my home, but I can’t draw my gun just anywhere.”

“You should get a conceal and carry license,” Mike said as he entered.

She put the safety on the gun and stashed the weapon in the table beside the front door.

“I take it you’re not the help,” he said, glancing around the entry hall.

She held out her hand. “Fiona Kayler. Nice to meet you, Mr. Corritore.”

“Mike,” he said, taking her hand. Her palm, warm and soft, told him she lived a life of leisure. But her strong grip screamed, No patsy. He held her hand a bit longer than he should have. She wriggled free and waved him to the left.

“Ladies first.”

With a nod, she led him toward a sumptuously decorated room. He followed, his eyes taking in the soft curves of her rear as she sashayed across the marble-tiled floor. Mike’s body reacted to the seductive wiggle of her bottom. She walked as sexy as she looked.

Keep your mind on the job, Corritore. He shifted his gaze away from temptation, searching the ceiling and corners of the entry for security cameras. If she had them, they were well hidden.

The measured click of her high heels on the hard marble tile floor disappeared as they stepped on the thick, white carpet of the living room. This room appeared cozier than the entry. A huge gold, gilt-edged mirror hung over the fireplace reflecting the scene outside the oversized plate-glass window.

She motioned to a seat beside the fireplace. Mike chose a location less exposed to the exterior, where he could watch the entrance to the room. Fiona dragged a side chair across the room to where he sat, positioning it at a right angle to his seat. Two vertical furrows appeared in the carpeting, bisecting their shoe impressions and the vacuumed paths in the thick fibers. Apparently, she didn’t use this room much.

“So, Ms. Kayler—”

“Fiona,” she corrected.

“Fiona, exactly what do you need me to do?” As he said the words, he had a lurid vision of what he’d like to do to this lovely woman. He shook it off. She was Hugh’s friend and in trouble. He had no business screwing around with damsels in distress. They were needy. The last thing he wanted.

“A couple of years ago I had a problem with smugglers. They brought in some hazardous materials which got me in trouble with Homeland Security and the FBI. They cleared me, but my business took a pretty big hit. To keep things afloat, I’ve had to get in bed with some rough characters recently.”

At the phrase get in bed with Mike cocked his eyebrow at her.

“Not literally,” she amended quickly, as a dusky pink blush crept over her pale complexion. “I need my security beefed up, so I don’t have a replay of two years ago.”

“Any good security company could upgrade you.”

“I also need someone I can trust implicitly. Hugh vouched for you, and I trust Hugh.”

“We should start with your home security. I didn’t see surveillance cameras at the door.”

“My home is perfectly safe. It’s my business I’m concerned about.”

Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, her body language closing off to further suggestions. Mike followed her motions. As he did, he spotted a red dot on her chest. The dot wiggled.

“Get down!” Mike shouted as he dove for Fiona.

They hit the floor as the pottery on the raised fireplace hearth exploded, sending shards across the room. Mike shoved Fiona behind the nearest chair then scrambled across the rug to the blown-out window. Removing his gun from his back-of-the-waist holster, he peered over the windowsill. Seeing no one in the driveway, he swiveled around to check on Fiona. The red laser point danced around the room, searching for a target.

We hope you enjoyed this look into some of our favorite lines from our books and maybe got interested to follow along with the story. 

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to the husband and wife co-authors whose pen name is C.D. Hersh.

They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s while co-authoring a number of dramas, six which have been produced in Ohio, where they live. Their interactive Christmas production had five seasonal runs in their hometown and has been sold in Virginia, California, and Ohio. 

As high school sweethearts, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after. Which is why they write it! The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles Series page are available on Amazon. Their standalone novella, Can’t Stop The Music, is in the Soul Mate Tree collection with twelve other authors from various genres. 

When they aren’t collaborating on a book, they enjoy reading; singing; theatre and drama; traveling; remodeling houses (Donald has remodeled something in every home they’ve owned); and antiquing. Catherine, who loves gardening, has recently drawn Donald into her world as a day laborer. Catherine is an award-winning gardener — you can see some of her garden on their website. They are looking 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.


You can see excerpts of their books, connect with, and follow C.D. Hersh at:

Website, Facebook, Amazon Author Page, and Twitter

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Cassowary: Why We Should Care

From Anne Montgomery 

It’s estimated that nearly 500 animal species have become extinct since the beginning of the 20th century. Among them the Passenger Pigeon, Japanese Sea Lion, Western Black Rhinoceros, Golden Toad, Caribbean Monk Seal, and Mexican Grizzly Bear, now gone forever.

And yet, for most of us, the absence of these creatures makes no difference in our daily lives. Perhaps that’s why some people roll their eyes when they hear about saving the tiny Snail Darter or the Polar Bear or the Gray Wolf.

But what if a creature existed that could change lives with its passing? And I mean change in a big way.

Meet the cassowary.



I first became aware of the giant, Australian bird that vaguely resembles an ostrich, but which sports a fabulously-colored keratin casque, while walking in the Daintree Rainforest – a UNESCO site like the Great Barrier Reef over which it hovers – that has one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, hosting species whose ancestors date back 110 million years.

“The cassowary is extremely important,” our guide explained. “Without the bird, the forest would not exist.”

Daintree is primordial. Giant strangler figs crawl across the forest floor. Dappled sunlight sneaks though a thick green canopy. Massive ferns sprout from leaf-littered soil. The outside world is muted, and the sight of a dinosaur might not seem strange.

I learned the cassowary is a one-bird master gardener, a creature that combs the forest floor eating fallen fruits, even gobbling up plants that are toxic to other creatures. The bird consumes up to 150 different types of fruits. The existence of 70 to 100 plant species depends on the cassowary pooping out their seeds in a pile of protective, compost-like dung, the smell of which repels seed predators. The cassowary is a “keystone” species, which means a species on which others in an ecosystem largely depend, one that, if removed, would cause the ecosystem to change drastically.

So, no cassowary, no rainforest. But there’s more. Below Daintree are mangroves, a mucky area rich in bio-matter that filters down from the forest. All types of young creatures - crabs, jellyfish, snappers, jacks, red drums, sea trout, tarpon, sea bass, and even juvenile sharks - thrive in the protection of the fertile water of the mangroves.

 Offshore, the Great Barrier Reef follows Australia’s eastern coast. There, too, the nutrients from the forest help feed the tiny creatures that build the reefs. This fertilizer promotes the growth of phytoplankton which nourishes the zooplankton on which the coral polyps dine. Without this sustenance the coral dies, losing the ability to protect the shoreline from waves, storms, and flooding, which leads to loss of human life and property.

Also consider that roughly 25% of the world’s fish species spend part of their lives on the reefs. If the Great Barrier Reef dies – note that half of the more than 1,400-mile structure has already perished – vast fisheries could collapse leading to starvation that could ultimately affect billions of people.

Which brings me back to the cassowary. It’s estimated that only 12,000 to 15,000 of the birds remain in the wild. Loss of habitat is decreasing their numbers, as are attacks by dogs.  Another problem is humans driving too fast.

Why should we care?

I think the cassowary is but one example of the interconnectedness of life. Perhaps that's something we should think about.

Please allow me to give you a brief intro to my latest women's fiction novel for your reading pleasure.


The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.

In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archaeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

Amazon Buy Link


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.

 


Monday, October 09, 2023

Blonde Math

from Catherine Castle


I’m a blonde. Always have been a blonde.

Always will be a blonde.

If I had any doubt about that it was reinforced the other day when my husband brought me a new blonde joke.

You have to understand that I love blonde jokes. The dumber the blonde the funnier I think the joke is. That’s because at my core I know blondes are really smart, and we know how to work things to our advantage. That’s why so many women, and men, want to be blondes nowadays.

I have a collection of blonde jokes sent to me by friends and that I have garnered from the internet. One of my favorites is about the blonde driving down the highway knitting.

A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway.  Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting!

Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, 'PULL OVER!'

'NO!' the blonde yelled back, 'IT'S A SCARF!'

I get that joke. I also get the one about the three construction workers, also one of my favorites.

Three male construction workers—an Italian, a Mexican, and a Swede—are sitting on a high construction beam eating lunch.

The Italian pulls a meatball sandwich from his lunch pail and says, “If I get another meatball sandwich for lunch, I’m going to throw myself off this high beam.”

The Mexican pulls a taco from his lunch pail and says, “If I get another taco for lunch, I’m going to throw myself off this high beam.”

Then the Swede pulls a sardine sandwich from his lunch pail and says, “If I get another sardine sandwich for lunch. I’m going to throw myself off this high beam.”

The next day, the Italian pulls a meatball sandwich from his lunch pail and throws himself off the beam. Then the Mexican pulls a taco from his lunch pail and throws himself off the beam. And finally, the Swede pulls a sardine sandwich from his lunch pail and throws himself off the beam.

At the funeral for the men the wives were commiserating. “If I’d only known he hated meatball sandwiches, I wouldn’t have packed them,” said the Italian’s wife.

“If I’d known he hated tacos, I wouldn’t have packed them, either,” said the Mexican’s wife.

Then the two women looked at the Swede’s wife.

“Don’t look at me,” she said. “He packed his own lunch.”

I get this joke. Duh…the Swede could have just packed something different and then he wouldn’t have to throw himself off the construction beam.

But the following joke stumped me, proving I’m a true blonde, even when my roots grew out 3 inches during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“Listen to this,” my husband said as he came into the kitchen and proceeded to tell me a new blonde joke.

A blonde answers the door and sees a census worker who asks her a variety of census questions. Then he says, “How old are you, ma’am?”

“Well,” says the blonde,” I was married when I was eighteen and my husband was thirty. He’s sixty now, which is twice his age, so that makes me … thirty-six.”

There was a pregnant pause in the kitchen, and then I said, “So what’s the punch line?”

My husband started howling with laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Her husband was thirty when they married and now he’s sixty.”

“Yeah,” I said, “twice his age.”

“And she’s how old?” he asked.

“Thirty-six. Eighteen plus eighteen is thirty-six, right?” I said.

“He’s thirty years older,” my husband said. “He’s now sixty. Do the math.” When I didn’t answer right away he started laughing even harder. “No wonder you were thirty-seven for so many years. You really are a blonde.” Then he turned and walked out of the kitchen.

“I didn’t add wrong,” I hollered at his retreating back. “I just forgot how old I was for all those years.”

As soon as he was out of sight, I pulled retrieved my phone calculator and did the math again. Eighteen plus eighteen still came out thirty-six.

Thank heaven for calculators, because I flunked word-problem math in seventh grade. Without my calculator I’d be lost doing higher math problems.

Are you a real blonde, too, or do you know the answer my hubby was after? I'd love to know.

∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼∼

Catherine may not be great at higher math, but she sure can write, as is testified to through her multiple book awards. Check out her romantic comedy, with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama, for more funny situations.

A Groom for Mama

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.

AMAZON BUY LINK



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.

 

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

EATING WELL

From Linda Lee Greene Author/Artist

“Well, dog-gone,” my father replied when I told him my research on the subject revealed that hickories and pecans are in the same family of trees, and that pecans grow as far northeast as Southern Ohio, our original stomping grounds. While hickories grow in abundance there, neither my father nor I could recall seeing a tree giving forth pecan nuts in our area. It was also news to us that Native Americans were responsible for naming both of the trees. The word "hickory" is said to have come from the Algonquian Indian word "pawcohiccora," while “pacane,” or “paccan,” or “pakan,” meaning “a nut so hard it has to be cracked with a stone,” evolved into “pecan.” 

If we were sons and daughters of Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, New Orleans, and other warm places along the “Pecan Belt,” we would be familiar with the resumé of pecans—we would know, for instance, that pecan trees can grow to be one hundred feet tall and live to be one thousand years old—quite a bit taller and much older than hickories. Now that’s a lot of nuts! In addition, after peanuts, which aren’t tree-nuts at all, pecans are the most popular nuts in North America. In fact, the United States produces over eighty percent of the world’s crop of this indigenous commodity. This is true even though along with electricity, automobiles, airplanes, telephones and countless other good things from North America, with the help of humankind, pecan trees eventually set root in other places around the globe such as Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Peru, and South Africa. 

Along with many other firsts credited to him, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, is recognized as the person who introduced the pecan to areas east of the Mississippi Valley, its native ground. Having discovered them during a trip to the area, he carried some nuts and seedlings back to his home in Virginia. He also introduced them to his friend, fellow Virginian, and first president of their homeland, George Washington. Thereafter, both of the gentlemen grew the trees on their plantations, an enterprise that spread to the southern states of the country. Subsequent to the Civil War, Union soldiers transported the seedlings and nuts to the north, which increased the regard for the buttery-flavored nut even further. It was a black-slave-gardener named “Antoine,” at Louisiana’s Oak Alley plantation, however, who was responsible for developing the first cultivar of the tree. In 1876, it was dubbed, “Centennial,” in commemoration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the United States. Since then, in deference to the people who fostered them originally, many of the current, five-hundred cultivars of the plant have been named for Native American tribes including “Cheyenne,” “Kiowa,” “Sioux,” “Choctaw,” and “Creek.” 

No overview of pecans would be complete without including pralines, the nutty confection originated in France using almonds rather than pecans. Stories abound regarding its appearance in the French cuisine. One account is that Clement Lassagne, chef of Marshal du Plesses-Praslin (1598-1675) concocted it after watching children in his kitchen nibbling on almonds and caramel. Or, it might have happened when one of his young and clumsy apprentices knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel. The most popular version involves Marshal du Plessis-Praslin himself. A notorious ladies man, he is purported to have asked Lassagne to develop an alluring treat for his paramours, which he presented to them in decorative little packets. For a time, the treat was referred to as “praslin,” after the lascivious gentleman, but evolved into “praline,” 

Brought to Louisiana by French settlers, chefs in New Orleans eventually substituted pecans for almonds and added cream to the French praline recipe. The basic “Big Easy” recipe for this Creole treat comprises pecans, brown sugar, white sugar, cream, and butter added to either rum, vanilla, chocolate, coconut, or peanut butter. Pronounced “prah-leen” in Louisiana, it is “pray-leen” to the rest of us, but regardless of the way one pronounces it, it is a Southern delicacy. Having always been sold on the streets of New Orleans, passers-by are lured to the Vieux Carré-stalls of praline vendors by the mouth-watering aroma, as well as the Creole call, “Belles Pralines,” “Belles Pralines!

Pecans are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Clinical research has found that eating about a handful of plain pecans each day may help lower cholesterol as effectively as designated medications. They also are said to promote neurological health as well as delay age-related muscle-nerve degeneration. If you have a hankering for baked-goods, but want to avoid the unhealthy ingredients in traditional recipes, the following is a tasty and healthy substitute. It is also a better choice for people sensitive to gluten. This recipe batter can be used for baking basic bread, pancakes, crackers, crepes and cupcakes, but add maple syrup or Stevia to sweeten the batter.   

The recipe normally substitutes almond flour for flours made from grains. I have found that by adding garbanzo/fava bean flour to the almond flour, a smoother and finer batter is the result. It also calms the rather strong flavor of almond flour. Cranberries are featured in this recipe, but any berry or fruit, will do.


Healthy Berry-Pecan Muffins

Topping
1 tbsp. (15 ml) ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. (25 ml) maple syrup
1 tbsp. (15 ml) unsalted butter 

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.

Muffin Batter

2 ½ cups (625 ml) almond & garbanzo/fava flour mixture
1 cup (250 ml) chopped pecans
¼ tsp. (1 ml) salt
½ tsp. (2 ml) baking soda 
1 tsp. (5ml) ground cinnamon 

Combine the following ingredients in a separate bowl.

2 eggs
½ cup (125 ml) Yogurt
½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup
1 ½ cups (375 ml) cranberries, or berries or fruit of choice 

Preheat the oven to 325° (160°C).

Line a muffin tin with large baking cups

Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl and pour into the first bowl of the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add enough water to make the batter about the consistency of toothpaste. Evenly fill each baking cup with the batter and drizzle the topping over each one.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.)

This is a good day for baking a delicious treat, and what can be better than baking with pecans and fruit? A delightful breakfast, snack, or dessert of Healthy Berry-Pecan Muffins and a cup of coffee awaits you. To soothe your tummy further, add a pinch of baking soda to your coffee grounds upon brewing. It cuts down on coffee’s acid. I do it! I like it! It works!

Was it chance or destiny’s hand behind a man and a woman’s curious encounter at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? The cards fold, their hearts open, and a match strikes, flames that sizzle their hearts and souls. Can they have the moon and the stars, too? Or is she too dangerous? Is he? Can their love withstand betrayal?! Can it endure murder?! Amid the seductions of Las Vegas, Nevada and an idyllic coffee plantation on Hawai’i’s Big Island, a sextet of opposites converge within a shared fate: a glamorous movie-star courting distractions from her troubled past; her shell-shocked bodyguards clutching handholds out of their hardscrabble lives; a dropout Hawaiian nuclear physicist gambling his way back home; a Navajo rancher seeking cleansing for harming Mother Earth; and from its lofty perch, the Hawaiian’s guardian spirit conjured as his pet raven, conducting this symphony of soul odysseys. 

A reader says, “I loved this book. I got lost in the realism and all that was going on, and it made me feel like I was watching a movie instead of reading a book. If you want to be left breathless in a sea of a million emotions, buy this book. It will captivate your senses on every level. I highly recommend, A CHANCE AT THE MOON.”

“Give me a ticket to Las Vegas, a big stack of poker chips at a table lucky as gold—oh, and a copy of A CHANCE AT THE MOON to refuel me when I fold.” Tina Griffith, multi-award-winning author of THE ELUSIVE MR. VELUCCI

AMAZON BUY LINK


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.


Monday, October 02, 2023

H is for HOMEMADE GOODNESS

From Stella May

There is a lot of debate about the origin of hummus; whether it’s Greek, Egyptian, or Lebanese. It is thought to have originated in Lebanon and traveled all over the Middle Eastern regions. This unique food has been prepared for hundreds of years and is well-loved around the world.

So, what is hummus? Hummus is a bean dip made primarily by blending cooked chickpeas, tahini (a creamy sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and seasonings. Once you make it at home, I promise you will never return to store bought.

There are wonderful foods you can dip into hummus. They include broccoli, carrot and celery sticks, cauliflower, cukes, pita chips, pretzels, radishes, and any other crunchy veggie. Let your imagination soar.


Stella’s Easy Hummus
5-6 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp. sea salt
2 lg garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
⅔ cup Tahini 
6-8 tbsp. ice water
3 cups of cooked (pre-soaked overnight) chickpeas or 30 oz canned chickpeas
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch black pepper
paprika and freshly chopped parsley for garnish

In a food processor – combine 5 tablespoons lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Pulse to combine then let it rest for a few minutes.

Add Tahini and blend until thick and smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed with a spatula.

Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time with the blender running. Stop and scrape down the bowl as needed.

Drain the chickpeas then pour them into the food processor along with the olive oil and pepper. Blend until completely smooth, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl a couple of times. Add more ice water to reach your desired consistency.

Season to taste with more salt and lemon juice if needed.

To Serve – transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle the top with paprika and sprinkle parsley.

Enjoy!



A jaded CEO. A fiercely focused ballerina. A love that defies all society’s rules.

SoHo, 1962

JJ Morris, successful CEO, leads a secret double life, playing saxophone to his heart’s content in his hole-in-the-wall dive bar. Yet he can’t escape the feeling he’s slowly petrifying into just another jaded millionaire. 

Then a gorgeous blonde steps into his bar and shakes up his world. Certain this fierce little swan of a woman is exactly what’s missing in his life, he maps out a plan to wed her by Christmas. With or without his snobby mother’s approval.

Most women would be thrilled to learn that the tall, handsome bar musician is, in fact, a wealthy prince charming. Verochka Osipoff is less than impressed. She’s focused on becoming a prima ballerina, and everything hinges on her next audition. She can’t afford distractions, especially a rich playboy slumming it in SoHo.

Yet the heat of their attraction melts Verochka’s heart like warm chocolate. But JJ’s world is a cold, glittering nest of vipers. And their venom could destroy their love song before the first movement ends.

EXCERPT

The sound of a saxophone halted her steps. That deep, velvety voice grabbed her by her throat, and refused to let go. Holding her breath, mesmerized, Verochka stopped, then pivoted. Where did it come from? Straining her ears, she looked around, searching the almost empty street. Guided by her hearing, she glanced at the closed doors on her right. The Broome Street Bar. Inside, the sax murmured its enchanting tale, sad, and touching, and heartbreaking.

Mon Dieu! What must one feel to play like that?

Verochka closed her eyes and swayed to the music. Her arms by their own volition lifted and moved in a lazy, unhurried wave. She visualized the dance in her mind, something slow and sensual. Strange, but she never paid attention to jazz before. Then again, she was never partial to any music except classical.

To her there was nothing and no one compared to Tchaikovsky. But the soulful notes of that sax fascinated her as much as the famous opening theme from Swan Lake. When the sound trailed off, she felt almost bereft. She craved to hear more. Will the musician play again? Oh, she hopped so. She’d wait for it.

Outside? On the sidewalk at almost ten at night?

Unwise, not to mention quite dangerous. Granted, this spot in SoHo was not prone to crime. But still. A young woman alone was bound to attract some attention.  Verochka looked at the closed door of the bar, biting her lip.

To go inside, or continue on her way? The wisest thing to do, of course, was to turn around, and go home, to her tiny apartment. It was late. She must rest before her wake-up call at 5:30 AM. All morning classes of Madame Valeska started at precisely 6 AM, and God forbid if any of the dancers were late even by a minute. The wrath of her teacher definitely equaled to her worldwide fame as a former principal dancer of The Royal Ballet.

Tired after the long day of classes and rehearsals, then cleaning the premises, Verochka barely kept upright. She hated her after- hours janitorial obligations, but promise was a promise. And Verochka Osipoff never broke her word.

No matter how spent she was, each and every evening, after all the dancers went home, and the school was closed, she headed to the closet for a broom and a bucket. At first, she didn’t mind it at all. It was an arrangement made in heaven. An eighteen-year-old orphan from France, determined to reach her dream, Verochka arrived at the doors of the famous New York ballet school with nothing but fifty dollars to her name and a small satchel that belonged to her father.

After her initial shock faded, the formidable Madame Valeska, the owner of the school, ordered Verochka to change into her leotards, and dance.

Her final verdict delivered in a grumbling voice was like a heavenly music to Verochka’s ears.

“You have a potential, Miss Osipoff. I’ll take a chance on you, and let you stay for a probationary period of three months. After that, we’ll see.”

Verochka’s elation was huge, but temporary. The school was obscenely expensive. No way she was able to afford the tuition. There was a stipend, but applying for it took only God knew how long, with no guarantee that it will be granted in the end.

On top of it, she was a foreigner, all alone in the strange country, and barely able to speak English.

Madame Valeska, quickly assessing the situation— more accurately, feeling sorry for her— offered Verochka a deal: the education in exchange for cleaning services. A tiny room in the attic as a temporary place to live was added to that offer. To Verochka, it was like a Christmas gift she could never have dreamt about.

Overwhelmed, moved to tears, Verochka grabbed the opportunity with both hands. After a while, she got her stipend for the gifted and unprivileged students, thanks to Madame Valeska’s help, and was able to cover most of her tuition.

The convenience of living on the premises saved her the expense of a rent, and occasional participation in corps de ballet’s performances made everything else manageable. She didn’t need a lot of food, as her extremely strict diet fell mostly into yogurt and fruit category. As to clothes— she learned at her dancing parents knee the skill to mend tears and repair pointe shoes.

Two years later, Verochka was still living in the attic, and still mopped the floors, and cleaned the premises. But it didn’t matter. Her main goal to become a prima ballerina of The Royal Ballet took the precedence over everything else.

Ambitious? Maybe. But, as her father always said, you must dream big. Otherwise, what was the point? So, she dreamed big, and worked like a woman possessed in order to reach that dream. She was content, and happy, and along the way, fell in love with New York, her new home. Her only home. She learned English, and became quite fluent in it, even though her accent stubbornly refused to be erased.

Of course, she missed France, and Paris, and small street cafes, and long strolls along the Seine. Oh, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and sprinkled with powdered sugar beignets! Sometimes, she could smell them in her dreams.

But most of all, she missed her parents. She was sure they were looking at her from heaven, smiling, proud of her accomplishments.

Her occasional nostalgia was usually sweet, and short, like a children’s lullaby.

But not tonight.

After finishing her duties, Verochka was ambushed by a sadness so huge, she almost doubled down with it. Suffocated in the large empty building that housed the ballet school, she was lonely, isolated, until she couldn’t bear another minute longer locked inside. Hence, her impromptu evening walk that brought her in the middle of SoHo, to the Broome Street Bar.

The plaintive sounds of sax reached her ears again.

Oh, yeas, please.

Listening to those seductive low rumbles, she wondered about the player.

Available at BOOKStoREADAMAZONand GOOGLE PLAY BOOKS.

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 with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 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.