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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Her plan for healthier eating

by

Alicia Joseph

I’ve followed my plan to eat healthier for about eleven days as part of my thirty days of plant-based eating. I decided I’d been consuming too much processed vegan junk food. My body needed a break from the manufactured foods, and instead fill up with whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.

Most of the recipes I made came from a cookbook written by Dr. John McDougall. He preached a low fat/high carb vegan plant-based diet consisting mostly of potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, and multigrain breads. Although my previous diet consisted of plenty of fruits and vegetables, my snack choices of chips, ice cream, and pastries were counterproductive. To stick with the new diet, my snacks consisted of raw nuts and sliced veggies with hummus. To satisfy my sweet tooth cravings, I turned to fruit, smoothies, or fruit in yogurt. Okay, so I cheated one night with a piece of vegan dark chocolate, but I didn’t eat nearly as much chocolate as I usually did. That’s progress, right? Please say yes. 😊

The recipes I’ve made have been easy, convenient, and healthy, but there hasn’t been much change in how I look or feel, except that my face broke out in acne I haven’t seen since I was thirteen! I hope it’s a result of all those toxins exiting my body. Maybe? Could be?

It was unfair for me to judge the impact this plant-based diet had on me because I was experiencing a Myasthenia Gravis flare-up that began before I started the new diet. In fact, it was the flare-up that inspired me to clean up my eating to give my immune system a boost. I was sure the muscle weakness that limited my physical abilities would pass and I would be able to exercise again. And of course, see a more physical change in me.

I had over two weeks left to go when I decided wouldn’t abandon eating plant-based. It will always be the majority of my diet with just a splash of the vegan processed junk food I love so much.

Here is a glimpse into one of my books. I hope you enjoy it.

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

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

As they’re about to graduate from high school, Abbey’s family life spirals out of control while Lyssa is feeling guilty for deceiving Abbey about her sexuality.

After another tragic loss, Lyssa finds out that a penny on the track is sometimes a huge price to pay for the truth.

AMAZON BUY LINKS

 

Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. She has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon. Life permitting.

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

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The ever-engaging Sharon Ledwith who brings us her recipie for chili for those who are or feed sports fans. Here’s Sharon

One of the favorite dishes of armchair warriors, chili has so many combinations and gastric consequences, I’m sure it could be deemed as a weapon of mass destruction. Sports fans absolutely love their chili, especially when tailgating with other like-minded souls. We’ve discovered one recipe that’s a sure-fire way to keep you warm inside and out, while waiting for your team to get the game started.

Make ahead the day before and reheat or prepare on the fly, this spicy version takes 30 minutes to prep, cooks for 2 hours, and serves 12 of your closest blood-thirsty family or friends. A warning: have plenty of water or your preferred adult beverage on hand, along with a stack of napkins to not only wipe your mouth, but soak up your tears.

Game-Face Tailgate Chili

2 pounds ground beef chuck

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (use hot Italian if you love it spicy)

3 (15 ounce) cans chili beans, drained

1 (15 ounce) can chili beans in spicy sauce

2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with juice

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 green chili peppers, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon bacon bits

4 cubes beef bouillon

½ cup beer

¼ cup chili powder

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco or Frank’s)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 bag of nacho chips

1 (8 ounce package) shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble the ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan, and cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.

Pour in the chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chili peppers, bacon bits, bouillon, and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 2 hours, taste, and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve, or refrigerate and serve the next day.

Ladle into bowls and top with shredded Cheddar cheese. Serve with nacho chips for dipping.

After the game or while you’re waiting on the chili to simmer, take a timeout for yourself, and crack open one of my books. May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, I assure you that either series will boost your mood, and take you away from the game of life.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

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Friday Features

Shares a new book from

Stella May

This novel is a wonderful Time Travel Romance with diverse characters and a well-developed plot. Book One will have you eager to read the other novels in the series as soon as they release.

The twist of a key answers many questions…but could also break her heart.

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

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

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

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

Available at Amazon in E-book or Paperback and all other major vendors.

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 the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean.

She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and all are partners in their family business.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Debut author Mark Hess who has created a cozy mystery that keeps the reader on their toes with the perfect blend of red herrings and unique characters. Hess has a wonderful imagination and a flair for creating an enjoyable read.

Seven people are trapped in a lonely mansion at the top of a mountain where a private detective races to identify the killer before no one is left alive.

The weather is brewing into a late winter snowstorm and the drive down the mountain is dangerous. Complicating the dilemma, there is no cell phone connection or any way to contact anyone for help. The situation turns serious after they learn the gates are closed and locked. The killer has them perfectly trapped. No is permitted to leave until the end of the three-day weekend.

Meanwhile a childhood romance is about to rekindle, as a rich relative promises to reveal which guest will be granted a prize. The detective is disturbed to realize things are not what they seem when teams are formed to search for the promised treasure. Detective Joe O’Conner wonders how far greed will take this odd group, his dubious playmates of childhood. He will need all his training, experience, and instinct to solve this case. But a friend wonders if a bad case of love will keep him too distracted to be effective.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Mark Hess is a determined man who, once he sets his mind to something, it gets done. Hess has a learning disability that he has struggled with all his life, but he refuses to let it stop him. A kind man by nature, Hess also has a wonderful sense of humor and a flair for the dramatic. This adds up to an author with the ability to create intriguing plots that never fail to hold you close to the edge of your chair.

He lives in Western New York on picturesque acreage that showcases the beauty of each season as the year moves on. During the day Hess happily devotes his time at an herbtique and plant nursery. At night he works on plotting his next novel.

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Friday Features’

New YA Time Travel

The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave

by

Sharon Ledwith

No one writes YA Time Travel better than Sharon Ledwith. She has the creative nature and writing skill to set the reader smack into the story on the first page. Be sure to check out this novel and the other books in Ledwith’s The Last Timekeepers Travel series. As a set or individually, these books make a perfect gift for readers of all ages.

True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

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

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

EXCERPT

Suddenly, a radiant white light beamed from the archway like a lighthouse beacon. Drake hooded his eyes. Amanda grimaced, cradled her stomach, and fell to her knees. Perspiration beaded across her forehead while she fumbled for the Timekeepers’ log in her purse. Amanda pulled a thin, pencil-like writing instrument Lilith called a crystal chalkis out of the log’s spine, and opened the log. Her left hand jumped across the page, scrawling at an incredible rate. Amanda’s breathing became labored. She tossed the crystal chalkis and Timekeepers’ log aside, and lurched to vomit across the lawn.

“What the—” Jordan crouched to steady her. “Amanda? Are…are you okay?”

Treena heaved. “Oh, I don’t do pity puke well.”

“Neither do I,” Ravi said, puffing his cheeks. “I can’t unsee or unhear that.”

A sharp whoosh—like the sound of a spaceship’s door opening on a science fiction television show—made Drake glance into the archway. Lilith appeared with her arms open wide, and a slight halo around her slim body. The shimmering, dark blue sleeveless dress she wore billowed as if a great force rolled in behind her.

“Greetings, Time…” Her sea blue eyes widened. “Amanda, let what you feel pass. They are old emotions embedded into the vibration of your new mission.”

“Embedded emotions?” Drake asked. “Is that like those haunted imprints we experienced in our last Timekeeper mission?”

Melody grabbed the garden hose and rushed over to Amanda. “John, please turn on the tap.”

“Hang in there, Amanda, the cool water will make you feel better,” the Prof said.

Lilith clasped her hands together, and nodded, making the numerous quartz crystals holding up her blond hair quiver. “Yes, Drake, but worse. These haunted imprints go deeper.”

A terrible ache spiked through Drake’s stomach. He picked up the opened Timekeepers’ log, swallowed hard, and read aloud, “April 8th, 1855—Fields of blood bathe the deep south’s soil as a race of people continue to toil. Broken in body, but not in soul, they wait for a King to make them all whole.

Drake stuffed the crystal chalkis into the spine of the Timekeepers’ log. He imagined wearing the standard issue red uniform of a crewman in his favorite space show. The crewman who always gets killed by the end of the episode. Was this a call of duty or a suicide mission? Drake’s belly burned. Now he wanted to puke too.

Available at Amazon and all major vendors.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightening and the lightening bug
—Mark Twain.

I (The C in C.D. Hersh) personally experienced Mr. Twain’s quote when the telephone company crossed our phone lines with that of another customer. Upon calling customer service, I explained the problem and noted something different about the employee’s accent.

“Where are you located?” I asked him.

“The Philippines,” he replied.

As he was unable to resolve my problem to my satisfaction I asked to speak to his supervisor. Big mistake, as the supervisor had a thicker accent. To make a long story short, I finally got through to the person on the other end of the line that they needed to check my phone records, or rather the phone records of the number I was calling from—which wasn’t my number, and they would see how to resolve the problem as this was the second time they had switched my phone line with this person.

After much checking and rechecking on what I’d said, the phone company employee gave me a time that they would attempt to fix the problem. He said the technician would come to our apartments and look in our phone boxes. I repeatedly told him neither of us lived in apartments and there should be no need for the technician to come into our homes. We lived in houses a mile apart and no one had been messing with our phone boxes. The problem was on their end, or rather in a relay box somewhere near where we live. I should have taken the hint right then that we weren’t on the same page, English-wise or culturally.

Then he said we should keep our phone lines open.

Now I don’t know what that meant to him, but to me it meant staying on the line. “Do you mean you want me to not hang up the phone?” I asked, wondering how that make any sense and how it was going to work for the allotted time to would take to fix the line.

“No,” he said, “keep it by your side.”

“Keep it by my side?” That made about as much sense as putting Godiva dark chocolates on a hot sidewalk. “Do you mean you want me to carry it around with me?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

I searched my brain for another definition of keeping the line open. “Then do you want us not make any calls or take any calls on our lines?” I asked.

He said some other unintelligible phrase, obviously as frustrated as I was at his botched attempts. Finally, he blurted out, “Don’t unplug the phone.”

“Why would I do that?” I asked, completely bamboozled at his definition. That, I thought, would be a stupid thing to do, and had absolutely no relationship to the phrase “keep the lines open.” What he tried to express to me, with what appeared to be a very basic understanding of English, was as close to lightening as lightening is to a lightening bug.

Next time I have to deal with the phone company, I’m asking where the customer service employee is located, and calling back until I get someone in America. Hopefully, they’ll know the difference between lightening and the lightening bug.

Links for our books are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

The Castle

by

Anne Montgomery

A thrilling novel that showcases Anne Montgomery’s creativity and ability to draw the reader into the story.

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—an ancient pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

Available at Amazon and all major vendors.

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.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Chief par-excellent Sloane Taylor who brings us her Oktoberfest inspired menu from her vast collection of easy to prepare recipes.

Oktoberfest is the festival to end all festivals and is celebrated around the world but started in Munich, Germany for a royal wedding in 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to all the festivities held in fields just outside the city gates. And from there the world adopted this grand event. It runs from late September to the 1st Sunday in October. Be sure to include plenty of German music when you celebrate.

MENU
Sauerbraten – Marinated Pot Roast
Boiled Potatoes
Red Cabbage with Apples
Rye Bread
German Red Wine – Spätburgunder which is German for Pinot Noir

Sauerbraten – Marinated Pot Roast
5 black peppercorns
4 whole juniper berries*
1 med. onion, sliced thin
½ cup (120ml) dry red wine
½ cup (120ml) red wine vinegar
2 cups (450ml) cold water
2 small bay leaves
4 lbs. (2kg) boneless beef roast, top or bottom round or rump
3 tbsp. (43g) lard or solid shortening
½ cup onion, chopped fine
½ cup carrots, chopped fine
½ cup celery, chopped fine
2 tbsp. (30ml) flour
½ cup (120ml) beef stock, if needed
½ cup (50g) gingersnap cookie crumbs

Use a mortar and pestle or a baggie and hammer to crush black peppercorns and juniper berries together.

In a medium-sized saucepan combine peppercorn mix, sliced onion, wine, vinegar, water, and bay leaves. Bring marinade to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from stove and let cool to room temperature.

Trim excess fat from roast. Set beef in a deep flat bowl or pot just large enough to hold it comfortably. Pour marinade over the top. Add more wine if marinade is not halfway up the sides of the meat. Turn meat to moisten all sides. Cover pan tightly with foil or cling wrap. Refrigerate for 2 – 3 days. Be sure to turn the meat over at least twice a day.

Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C).

Remove meat from marinade. Pat dry with paper towels. Strain marinade through a fine sieve set over a bowl. Discard spices and onion, but reserve marinade.

Melt lard in a Dutch oven over high heat until it sputters. Add roast and brown well on all sides. Adjust heat so as not to burn the meat. Transfer meat to a platter. Pour off and discard all but 2 tbs. (30ml) of fat. Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot. Cook over moderate heat until they are soft and light brown, 5 – 8 minutes. Sprinkle flour over veggies. Cook, stirring constantly 2 – 3 minutes or until flour begins to color.

Pour in 2 cups (450ml) of reserved marinade and ½ cup (120ml) water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Return meat to pot. Cover tightly. Cook in the oven for 2 hours or until meat shows no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Transfer meat to a heated platter. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Discard veggies. Pour liquid from pot into a measuring cup. Skim off fat. You need 2½ cups (570ml) liquid for the sauce. If you have more, boil briskly to reduce the amount. If you have less, add beef stock. Combine liquid and gingersnaps in a small saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. The crumbs will dissolve and thicken the sauce. Strain sauce through a fine sieve. Keep warm on very low heat until ready to serve.

To serve, carve meat into ¼ inch (.64cm) slices. Arrange on individual dinner plates or a large platter. In either case moisten the meat with a little sauce. Pass the remaining sauce in a gravy boat.

*Rosemary is a good substitute for juniper berries. Use one fresh sprig.

Boiled Potatoes
1 red potato per person, peeled and quartered
Chicken stock
Tap water
1 lg. bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Butter to taste

Add potatoes to a saucepan that holds them comfortably. Pour stock halfway up the potatoes. Top off with water, covering potatoes by an inch (1.25cm) or so. Add bay leaf. Set a lid on top.

You can do up to this point earlier in the day. Leave on the counter or stovetop until you are ready to cook.

Bring pan to a boil over medium heat. Adjust the lid and heat so the water continues a soft/light boil, but does not spill over. Cook 15 – 20 minutes, then test for doneness. A fork will insert easily.

Drain potatoes and discard bay leaf. Sprinkle pepper over potatoes. Add butter. Stir carefully so as not to smash potatoes.

Don’t have bay leaf? Add 1 tablespoon (20ml) or so of dried basil to the pot. When you drain the potatoes most of the leaves will be gone, but the good taste remains.

Red Cabbage with Apples
2 – 2½ lb. (1 – 1.5kg) red cabbage
⅔ cup (150ml) red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. (30ml) sugar
2 medium-sized apples, peeled and cored
2 tbsp. (25g) lard or bacon fat
½ cup (50g) onions, chopped fine
1 whole onion, pierced with 2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
5 cups (1.2L) boiling water
3 tbsp. (45ml) dry red wine
3 tbsp. (45ml) red currant jelly, optional

Wash cabbage under cool water and then remove tough outer leaves. Cut cabbage into 4 pieces. Remove core. Shred easily by slicing each section into thin strips.

Place cabbage in a large mixing bowl. sprinkle with vinegar and sugar. Toss with a spoon to cover the shreds evenly.

Slice apple into thin wedges. Melt lard or bacon fat in a large pot. Add apples and onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until apples are lightly browned.

Add cabbage, onion with cloves, and bay leaf. Stir well while pouring in boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so cabbage does a slow simmer. Cover and cook 1½ – 2 hours, or until cabbage is tender. Check occasionally to be sure cabbage is moist. If it seems dry, add 1 tbsp. (15ml) or so of boiling water. When cabbage is tender there should be almost no liquid in the pan.

To serve remove whole onion and bay leaf. Stir in wine and jelly. This recipe freezes nicely.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with good friends, laughter, and seated around a well-laden table!


Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Learn more about Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire on Amazon.

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Friday Features’

A free, fun, fanciful and fantastic book

Holiday Romance

by

Charles Dickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Romance is unique for several reasons.

    • Originally written as a four-part series for Our Young Folks, An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls, the book is Dickens’ only fictional work for children.
    • He is writing for children using their language and perspective.
    • Published in 1868, near the end of his life, it has also rarely been reprinted as a whole.
    • The use of fairy tales (which he opposed as a vehicle for promoting moral causes) is a primary literary vehicle for parts of the book.

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

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

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

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

Links for our books are on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A new book from Stella May who brings us her latest Time Travel Romance. Be sure to get your copy today!

This engrossing novel has wonderful moments of humor and honest soul-searching. This book contains a house flipper who talks to her projects, a beloved grandmother, a case of mistaken identity, and a slow-burn romance. Look for its release on Amazon and all major vendors September 27, 2021.

The twist of a key answers many questions…but could also break her heart.

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

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

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

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

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 the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean.

She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and all are partners in their family business.

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

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