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Friday Features’

Guest shares

A low-calorie pumpkin-based custard

by

Suzanne G. Rogers

A friend of mine invited me to a potluck, with the caveat that she was following a low-sugar diet to lose weight. I offered to bring dessert and began looking for a low-calorie pumpkin-based custard recipe on the Internet. I wanted to find something that didn’t require any artificial sweetener, and I found what I thought was the perfect recipe.

It was a disaster.

If your idea of delish is eating pumpkin puree with a spoon, that dessert would have been perfect for you. Therefore, I modified it into something tasty, without the cloying sweetness often found in pumpkin pies.

Image by Conger Design from Pixabay

Suzanne’s Pumpkin Custard

    1 15oz. can pumpkin
    4 eggs, beaten
    ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
    ½ tsp. salt
    2 tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Fold pumpkin into eggs. Stir in milk, both vanillas, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar. Divide mixture into 4 small ovenproof bowls.

Be sure to use cooking spray on the inside of the baking dishes. I also use a squirt of cooking spray inside my measuring cup before I add the sweetened condensed milk, so it slides out better.

You can adjust the added sugar to taste, but this recipe as written comes out to just under 250 calories per serving. Best served cold, but I’ve eaten it warm because I couldn’t wait and it was good then, too. I’ve also eaten it for breakfast as well as dessert because I’m a grown person and I can do what I like.😊

Add a dollop or two of whipped topping, or for something really scrumptious, make a batch of vanilla sugar-free pudding and put a few tablespoons on top before you dig in. Of course, you’ll also be adding more calories, but the vanilla pudding makes for a really nice treat.

For another calorie-free treat, pick up my Victorian-era romance, Duke of a Gilded Age. The sweetness is built into the story, so it won’t go to your hips.

When American-born Wesley Parker inherits a dukedom in 1890, he must learn to be an aristocrat. Assigned to the task is his attorney’s daughter, prim Belle Oakhurst. As they travel to England together on a luxurious ocean liner, their tempestuous relationship encounters more than rough seas. Although Wesley is increasingly attracted to Belle, she is already engaged. While Belle begins to regret her hasty promise to marry, she is bound by honor and duty to keep her pledge. Furthermore, a thoughtless fabrication on her part threatens to expose her as a liar. Neither Wesley nor Belle can foresee that their voyage across the Atlantic will be fraught with peril and will cost more than one man his life.

Duke of a Gilded Age is available at this Universal Link, Amazon, and Google Play.

Suzanne G. Rogers lives with her husband and son in romantic Savannah, Georgia, on an island populated by deer, exotic birds, and the occasional gator. She’s owned by two Sphynx cats, Houdini and Nikita. Movies, books, and writing are her passions.

Learn more about Suzanne G. Rogers on her historical romance blog and her fantasy blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be sure to check out her website for the Sweet Romance written by Suzanne G. Rogers.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The garden guru Emma Lane bringing us her most recent tips.

Gardens grow of their own volition. You labor with the lay out and lovingly place the plants. By the third year, your garden has selected what it will and will not accept. But it’s gorgeous, healthy and you wouldn’t change a single thing. (Okay, maybe you’ll move that fragrant dianthus in front of that balloon flower which is taller.) Some of it is your fault because you couldn’t resist that church sale and your neighbor shared several perennials. Status normal. Allow your garden nostalgia. You show it off by saying, “I got that one for next to nothing on sale, Susan Smith gave me that one when she moved to Florida, I miss her so! My mother-in-law finally broke down and shared that rose. Would you believe how she can make cuttings and root them?” This iris came from … and that one came from…

SEASONAL: Do plan spring shrubs/bulbs which are so welcome. Fall red/yellow leaves.

INVASIVE: When someone mentions the plant is invasive, believe it! I love the golden blooms of Rudbeckia Goldstrum, but it will take over if given the chance. Plant it way over there where you can mow it if need be; same with any sort of mint.

PARTNERSHIPS: Delphenium back up to fences almost poetically, a partnership. Peonies are almost small bushes. I love to make a back ground hedge row from them. Yellow coreopsis and red yarrow are made in heaven for hot colors.

FRIENDSHIP: The deer, rabbits, groundhog, the neighbor’s pets, etc have destroyed some of your hard work? This is your opportunity to share and discover new friends. What better way to become acquainted? You’ll learn to laugh and maybe learn new gardening secrets while you commiserate.

Now that your garden is all you want it to be, take a good book and relax in all that beauty. May I suggest one of my Regency releases?

Can an arrogant duke overcome his prejudice against a beautiful but managing female in time to find true love and happiness?

Miss Amabel Hawkins acknowledges her unusual upbringing, but she thinks James Langley, the Duke of Westerton, might be a tad unbalanced when he protests her efforts to right his badly managed properties. The duke, who has been away on the king’s business, demonstrates no respect for the beautiful but managing Miss Hawkins. Amabel has taken refuge at Westerton, fleeing from a forced marriage to a man who claims to be her relative in order to gain control of her young brother’s estate.

The Duke arrives home to find his estate under the firm control of a beautiful but managing female. His suspicions are fueled by his recent task of spy-hunting and he wonders if Amabel Hawkins is just who she seems. While a dastardly spy lurks, a wicked man poses as her cousin threatening to take over the guardianship of her young brother. Amabel might be falling in love, but she knows for certain the duke would never approve of a meddlesome woman, and she decides to flee his estate. Will the duke finally realize the true value of the woman he loves or will his prejudice ruin his chances forever?

EXCERPT

Fatigue and the effects of the brandy on top of the ale now gave his gait a distinct wobble. He chuckled, amused at his condition.

As he reached for the portrait of great Uncle Barney, he lurched into the back of the red leather sofa in front of the cosy fire. “Deuce take it,” he exclaimed when a rounded arm rolled into view. He spotted the gentle curve of a hip and walked around to the front, where he spied a tumbled haze of dark curls hiding a face. It is indeed a female—a sleeping female.

Who was she? The gown was too rich for his household staff. Curious, he knelt beside the sofa.

“Only one way to find out,” he whispered and moved one dark curl. He sat back, satisfied when a handsome face swam into view. She sighed and rolled over, revealing a generous figure and a pair of rosy lips. She might be Sleeping Beauty—but not one of my relatives. He leaned over and kissed those tempting lips.

As he lingered there, she sighed and came partially awake. He could not resist. He deepened the kiss and sounds of satisfaction like yum and umm came from those delicious lips. Her hand stroked his face, then reached around his head to pull him closer. Delighted with this turn of events, the Duke of Westerton complied enthusiastically and extended an arm around a slender waist. How much of the ale and brandy had he imbibed? Dizziness overcame his senses as he slid down on the floor and knew no more.

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes under several pen-names. She lives with her patient husband on several acres outside a typical American village in Western New York. Her day job is working with flowers at her son’s plant nursery. Look for information about writing and plants on her new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Seasonal fruit

by

Carol Browne

In the USA, it’s Fall; in the UK, Autumn. Whatever you call it, it’s that time of year for mists and mellow fruitfulness and it’s the fruit that takes centre stage. We harvest an abundance of russet-coloured apples and use them for apple-bobbing and cider. Their colours echo the colours of the leaves. But Autumn has one other iconic fruit and that is the blackberry. It is dark and rich and guarded by thorny brambles, a treasure in the hedgerows that we must take care to harvest. For centuries this fruit has been picked and enjoyed in a variety of ways. It is an ancient source of nutrients and is extremely beneficial to health; the berries’ dark purple colour created by the antioxidants they contain.

Blackberries are an image important to the childhood memories of one of my main characters in The Exile of Elindel. It is strange to think of people picking blackberries for so many centuries. The continuity of this seasonal practice has continued regardless of what else has happened in the world. I myself live in the countryside where the opposite side of my road is entirely hedgerow and as I write this, it is one huge blackberry factory! Strangers have suddenly descended upon us to fill their buckets and baskets with fruit. We won’t see them at any other time of the year. I just hope they leave some for the birds who need them far more than these humans!

I’m sure elves love blackberries too.

Image by Emma Larocque from Pixabay

BLACKBERRY BRAMBLE SORBET
900 grams (4.5 cups) blackberries
1 whole lemon, with peel, chopped, remove seeds
1 lemon, juiced
425 grams (2 cups) castor sugar (superfine sugar in the USA)

Purée blackberries in a food processor. Add lemon bits, juice, and sugar.

Blend until well incorporated. Set in fridge and chill for 2 hours.

Place in an ice cream maker and churn until set.

No ice cream maker? No problem. Freeze the bramble in a metal pan. Scrape and stir the mixture every half hour for a 2 – 3 hours to create a fine ice.

Here is a little from my latest epic fantasy. I hope you enjoy it.

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

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

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.

Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?

EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

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

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Family and Food!

by

Sharon Ledwith

The one theme I love to weave throughout my two book series is the importance of family. We hold each other tight when times are tough, and on the flip side we can tear each other apart during times of stress and worry. Food seems to be the source of comfort in all family matters.

Meals bring us together to celebrate, cry or support each other in so many ways. The characters in The Last Timekeepers young adult time travel adventure series were originally thrown together, despite their differences, and have had to learn how to act like a family by trusting and working with one another through each Timekeeper mission. In my Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series, the main characters change with each book, but the setting remains the same, I focused on the tribal matters of the town, and what’s best for the whole. Again, my characters must overcome differences and obstacles in order to keep Fairy Falls’ sense of community safe and intact.

I recently came across my father’s lasagna recipe, and a wave of emotions and memories rushed through me. I loved his meaty take on a popular Italian dish. My dad’s been gone for over thirty-five years, and I still miss him deeply, especially when our family gets together over holidays, events or Sunday dinners. So, I thought I’d share his special family recipe with you with the hopes of adding this mouth-watering pasta entree to your menu one day. Bon appetite!

Dad’s Mouth-Watering, Meaty Lasagna

    1 lb. lean ground beef
    ½ lb. ground pork
    1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
    1 can (12 oz.) tomato paste
    2 tsps. garlic salt or powder
    1½ tsps. oregano leaves
    1 tsp. basil leaves
    2 cups cottage cheese
    ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    3 packages (4 ounces each) shredded mozzarella cheese
    12 oz. lasagna noodles, cooked and well drained (we use precooked noodles)
    ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch over or large skillet, cook and stir meats until brown. Drain off fat. Add tomatoes; break up with fork. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano and basil. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered 20 minutes or until mixture is consistency of spaghetti sauce.

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

Stir together cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese. Set aside 1 cup meat sauce and ½ the mozzarella. In ungreased baking pan, 13 x 9 x 2 inches, alternate layers of ⅓ each noodles, remaining meat sauce, remaining mozzarella, and cottage cheese mixture.

Spread reserved meat sauce over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Scatter reserved mozzarella across lasagna.

Bake uncovered 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Cut into 3-inch squares.

Serves 8 of your hungriest family members or friends.

And there you have it! A feast fit for any family who loves getting together to share good food, and create happy memories. So, now that you’ve cooked to your heart’s content, and your belly is full, why not escape from the dishes and curl up with one of my books? May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls or go back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Just remember to pack lightly.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

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, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The ever-learning Chris Pavesic brings us writing advice.

I like to read writing advice from other authors. Many times, I find really great ideas that help improve my own abilities. For example, in On Writing, Stephen King (2001) recommends listening to music to help a writer block out the world and focus on the work at hand. I have multiple dedicated writing playlists for just this purpose.

Certain advice, though, does not resonate with me. For example—certain writers suggest modeling villains after people in your own life that you dislike. I would find that difficult advice to implement in my writing.

First—there is the time factor. Writing a novel generally takes time. Even if a writer aims for a thousand words a day of good, solid prose, the writing stretches into months. Imagine this time actively thinking about people you do not like. This would not be an enjoyable activity in my perspective.

As a writer, I want to like my villains. Not everything that they do—many of their activities to me would be morally objectionable. But I need to understand them—to know why they are doing certain activities so that I can put this down on the page. I need to sympathize with their motivations and to realize that, in most instances, the villains do not see themselves as evil. These characters need the same depth as the heroes or, in my opinion, they will never be more than a caricature.

In Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett (1991, p. 185) has the villain of the story, Lilith, make the following comparison:

“She wondered whether there was such a thing as the opposite of a fairy godmother. Most things had their opposite, after all. If so, she wouldn’t be a bad fairy godmother, because that’s just a good fairy godmother seen from a different viewpoint.”

Later in the story, readers learn that Lilith firmly believes she is the good fairy godmother and is not the villain. It’s a matter of perspective, and in her viewpoint, those working against her are evil. She’s trying to improve people’s lives, and those working against her are trying to impede progress.

This is not the only type of villain in literature, but it is the type that I tend to find the most interesting. It is why I can sympathize with Khan in Star Trek (both in Into Darkness and in Space Seed) and Loki in The Avengers while at the same time being morally appalled by many of their actions.

There are obvious exceptions to this—Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy does not generate sympathy for many readers, (although Tolkien does give him a fascinating history in The Silmarillion that explains his fall into darkness) but the Nazguls always had a touch of sympathy to their story for me because they were tricked by Sauron into becoming the Ring Wraiths. The detail and care that Tolkien invests into the story keeps these characters from being caricatures.

Allow me to introduce you to my villains. I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I did writing them.

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

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On
A new book,

Ophelia’s Curse,

coming soon

by

Tina Griffith

Ophelia’s Curse is a suspenseful and intriguing novel from start to finish. The story will give you goose bumps and have you sitting on the edge of your seat. In short, this story will tickle your senses on a level that you’ve not known before. The thin line between witchcraft and terror is remarkable and written as if Tina Griffith had the gift of pure magic. This is an hypnotic and provocative book. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the twists and turns prove you wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Features’

Guest shares

A new dish for breakfast

by

Lizzie T. Leaf

I like to create new dishes for breakfast. It’s my personal challenge to produce tasty and healthy meals outside the norm. This certainly fits the bill! Although I use honey smoked salmon, but any type salmon will still be delicious. This recipe serves 1 but is easily increased for more.

LIZZIE’S BREAKFAST SPECIAL

Image by Rupert B. from Pixabay
    1 Roma tomato, sliced thin
    1 ripe avocado
    2 slices swirl bread, rye & pumpernickel
    ¼ red onion, sliced thin and separated
    ⅓ cup honey smoked salmon
    Balsamic vinegar to taste

Drain tomato on a paper towel while you create breakfast magic.

Cut avocado in half, remove from shell and then dice. Spread on each slice of bread.

Lay onion pieces on top of avocado. Add tomatoes and then salmon. Sprinkle on vinegar.

Dig in!

Here is a little from my latest spicy romantic release for your reading pleasure.

Following the Powers directive to unite soul mates, a Scottish Cailleach’s magic will have repercussions in several realms.

Mixed-blood author Ian McCabe, grandson of Fae and gods, tries to deny his powers while hiding his true origins from the human world. When he discovers mortal, Emma Grant unconscious at his front door, his world starts to change.

Tour director Emma Grant leads a group of senior ladies through Scotland. The breakdown of their bus on a rural Scottish backroad has her sloshing through the rain and mud on foot. Her efforts to seek help results in a fall that knocks her unconscious. She awakens to find the man of her dreams staring into her eyes.

Both feel an instant attraction, but will his secrets and her distrust of men keep them apart.

A few lines that tweak a grin.
Yep, at this rate, a long three weeks lay ahead. No one had told Emma that the dozen school teachers ranged in ages from sixty-nine to eighty-eight. Good grief, what happened to women at this age sitting on the front porch and enjoying their rocking chairs?

Mildred waved away the correction “Of course, dear. Whatever you say. I just want to know, will we see any men in kilts soon? I want to see what they wear under them.”

Dirty old woman. She asked that question at least half a dozen times before we got on the bus and stated the reason just as often.

Read the first chapter on Amazon.

To read excerpts from other books by Lizzie T. Leaf please click onto Amazon.

Lizzie T. Leaf has loved books since she opened her first one. Her dream was to write them herself. Lost in the hectic day to day world of family, job, laundry and housework, writing became a distant memory. When the twinkling ember did spark, it was usually doused by someone demanding their share of her time.

Lizzie’s life went full circle. The desire to put the stories that continued to play in her head on paper emerged stronger than ever, and at a time when there was someone who encouraged. Now she lives her dream.

Learn more about Lizzie T. Leaf on her website and blog. Connect with Lizzie on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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