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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The perfect comfort food to serve your family or friends in late fall or the dead of winter from Sharon Ledwith. These melt-in-your-mouth chops are the most tender—dare I (Sharon)say succulent pork chops—you’ve ever tasted. Food seems to be the source of comfort in all family matters, and I’ve found that meals bring us together to celebrate, cry or support each other in so many ways. Call me sentimental, but there’s something about those family chats at the dinner table after a long day or weekly family get-togethers on Sunday that you’ll hold in your heart for years to come.

Succulent Sour Cream Pork Chops

    6 pork chops
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Garlic powder to taste
    ½ cup all-purpose flour
    1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil
    1 large onion, sliced ¼ inch thick
    2 cubes chicken bouillon
    2 cups boiling water
    2 tbsp. (30ml) flour
    1 8 oz. (250 g) container sour cream

Season pork with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Dredge in flour.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When the oil shimmers lightly brown chops.

Place chops in slow cooker, and top with onion slices. Dissolve bouillon in boiling water and pour over chops. Cover, and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 200° F (95° C).

After the chops have cooked, transfer them to the oven to keep war. Be careful, the chops are so tender they will fall apart.

In a small bowl, blend flour with sour cream. Stir into meat juices in slow cooker. Turn cooker to HIGH for 15 to 30 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened.

Spoon sauce on pork chops, and serve over rice or noodles.

With a prep time of 15 minutes and cook time of 8 ½ hours, there’s plenty of time to get some weekend reading done while you wait for your guests to arrive. 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 guarantee either series will take you on a journey far away from dirty dishes and messy pots.

Here’s a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

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

Dilliebooks is excited to present the epic fantasy The Exile of Elindel, The Elwardian Chronicles Book 1, by Carol Browne. This thrilling novel is filled with action and adventure and will keep you glued to your e-reader until you have finished the last page.

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Amazon Buy Links
USAUK

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 but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A delightful dessert fromCarol Bowne who brings us fairy cakes.

This delightful dessert is popular in Britain. We call them fairy cakes while my American cousins call them cupcakes. No matter which you say, I am confident you will love this vegan sweet. Add a little food colouring to the icing for a more festive appearance. Sprinkles or candied cake decorations are also a fun addition.

FAIRY CAKES

    6 tbsp. /90ml oil
    1 cup /230ml water
    ½ cup /55g light brown or coconut sugar
    1¼ cups /185g self-rising flour
    1 heaped tsp. /5+ml baking powder
    1 ½ oz. /45g cocoa or carob powder

ICING

    ½ cup /55g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
    vanilla essence (vanilla extract) to taste
    ¼ cup /55g margarine

Preheat oven to 350 F°/180C/gas 4.

Stir oil into water in a medium-size bowl. Beat in dry ingredients with a hand whisk. Roughly 2 mins.

Insert fairy cake (cupcake) papers into a muffin tin. Pour in batter about half way up the paper. Bake 15 mins.

Remove cakes from tin and allow to cool on a rack.

Cream filling ingredients together in a small bowl. Slather onto cakes after they have cooled.

You’re worked hard so pour a cup of tea and settle a fairy cake or two onto a plate then sit back. How about a peek at my latest fantasy while you enjoy a break?

Elgiva, a young elf banished from Elvendom, must seek shelter among the Saxons as her only hope of surviving the coming winter.

Godwin, a Briton enslaved by the Saxons, is a man ignorant of his own inheritance and the secret of power he possesses.

A mysterious enemy, who will stop at nothing to wield absolute power over Elvendom, is about to make his move.

When destiny throws Elgiva and Godwin together, they embark upon the quest for the legendary Lorestone, the only thing that can save Elvendom from the evil that threatens to destroy it.

There is help to be found along the way from a petulant pony and a timid elf boy but, as the strength of their adversary grows, can Elgiva’s friends help her to find the Lorestone before it falls into the wrong hands?

EXCERPT
The night was waning when Elgiva woke, wondering where she was. The dark ceiling of Joskin’s cave hung above her, and everything had a reddish glow, cast by the embers of the fire. She slid from under the fur coverlet, her skin tightening at the loss of its warmth, and searched for her leather sandals.

Something had woken her, something that waited outside the cave. A runnel of dread ran down her spine.

She had an inexplicable sense of impending danger, but it was too insistent to ignore. An unnamed instinct stopped her from alerting her companions. She must face this menace alone.

She left the cave as quietly as she could. Her heart pounded in her throat as she peered between the rowan trees and searched the night. Whatever had awakened her, it beckoned. She held her breath and listened, but her ears detected nothing, save for a silence as dark and empty as an abandoned crypt.

It would soon be daybreak, but the sun had yet to rise, and the dark beyond the cave swarmed with potential horrors. She stepped out from among the rowans, relying on her acute senses to make out her surroundings. An unnatural calm gripped the night and as her sandals whispered against the cold grass, they sounded abnormally loud. She feared they would betray her presence.

After a while, she came to a stop and searched the trees. Thin strands of mist curled along the ground, cold and clammy, like an exhalation of sickness.

She hugged her shoulders, knotted her fingers in the cascade of her hair, and shivered in her ragged robe. All around her, the silence seemed to be drawing into focus.

“Who is it?” Her throat was too dry for her purpose. She swallowed and licked her lips. “Who’s there? I know you’re there. I can . . . I can feel you!”

Feel you.

A flash of silver sliced through the dark, and Elgiva gasped in fear. Her arms came up to shield her face as the beam struck a rock several yards ahead. It exploded with a whoosh and sent up thousands of splinters of light, which fell to the ground and sizzled in the mist.

A shape now stood upon the rock, its form concealed in a black, hooded cloak.

Elgiva clutched the amulet to her breast. Her hands were white with terror. “In the name of Faine, who are you? What sort of trick is this?”

A soft, sly voice spoke back to her. “Why should you fear magic?”

“What do you want?” she pleaded, her voice a croak of fear.

“To see for myself.”

“To see what?”

The dark shape sniggered, but made no answer. Instead, it swept its cloak aside, and a cloud of sparks flew out and covered the ground with beads of light.

Elgiva stepped back unsteadily, resolved to flee.

“Stay!” commanded the creature.

It raised a skeletal hand, and the forefinger swung towards Elgiva and pinned her against the darkness, holding her like a rivet of bone. No elf, no wilthkin, ever owned such a hand. Her legs threatened to buckle beneath her. This had to be a nightmare; she was still asleep in the cave. But no, it was all too real.

“Who are you? What do you want?” she cried. “I have . . . I have an amulet!”

The creature laughed derisively. “I am Death, and I have come for you.”

It began to radiate a sickly green light, enveloping itself in a caul of brilliance that pulsated with force. The light grew in size until the trees behind it were bathed in its angry glare. It reached for Elgiva, like a foul stench creeping along a breeze, and she was helpless. The creature’s power throbbed in the darkness.

Within the taut coils of her fear, her instincts screamed at her to run, but her limbs had turned to stone.

Siriol, Siriol, help me . . . help . . .

With a shriek of glee, the creature increased the throb of its power. Elgiva’s mind was suddenly invaded by an inexplicable force. She became divorced from herself and watched from a great distance, waiting for the horror to unfold.

Amazon Buy Links
USAUK

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 but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

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

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

This quick and easy treat from Vonnie Hughes who brings us a recipe that is a huge success with her family and she’s confident it will be with yours, too.

IMPOSSIBLE PIE

    4 eggs
    ½ cup butter
    2 cups milk
    ½ cup plain flour
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup coconut
    2 tsp. vanilla essence (extract)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Blend all ingredients together in a food mixer.

Pour the mixture into a 10″ (or similar) greased pie dish. Bake for one hour or until the centre is firm.

The flour forms the crust; the coconut forms the topping and the center is egg custard, creating a delicious dessert!

Sit back with a slice of your tasty pie and take a peek at my latest Regency Romance.

Both of them are scarred by war; she because of the shattered men she nurses; he because of the loss of friends and the horrors he must endure daily.

Colwyn Hetherington has a chance to put it all behind him and return to England. Juliana Colebrook desperately wants to go to England to seek out her relatives. They take an almighty chance and travel together, setting in train a series of events that neither could have anticipated.

With only their love to sustain them, they clash head-on with the reality of England, 1813.

BLURB
She clasped her penknife tightly in her free hand and hid it beneath her skirts. The dead eyes swivelled from Kit’s hemp binding, now lying on the floor, to Juliana’s face where she hovered protectively in front of Kit.

‘What a clever young lady,’ the revolting animal purred. At the menace in his voice, Juliana felt as though a snake had slithered up her spine. She stood up and held out her ungloved left hand to show him how she had untied the ropes. Dead-Eyes was too wary to come any closer, and she knew he couldn’t see in the dimness that the knots had been sliced through.

The pale eyebrows rose. ‘Perhaps those dexterous fingers can be put to better use. Come here.’ He crooked a long, thin forefinger and the muscles at the bottom of Juliana’s stomach jolted.

Hold yourself together, Juliana. Your plan relies on your being as close to him as possible.

Slowly she sidled towards the creature and for the first time she saw signs of life in the cold eyes.

‘I always interview our new young ladies before they are thrust on our clients,’ he purred thickly. ‘I like to … warm them up, so to speak.’

Bile rose in her throat. She had never seen an iceberg but she had heard about them, and she had the distinct impression that a huge chunk of iceberg had just washed into the room. ‘Warm them up?’ She didn’t think so. Please, please, please God, don’t let him have touched Tilly.

Clutching the penknife in the palm of her right hand, she shuffled closer to him, measuring the distance carefully and also his height. Yes, he was tall. So was she. Flexing her body, she moved closer, as if in a trance. His arm shot out and grabbed her.

‘No!’ Kit yelled behind her.

‘Stay back, Kit,’ she warned.

‘That’s right, my dear. You understand. You want to be tutored by Benny Ames, don’t you?’ He tugged her flush against his body. Struggling not to recoil, she saw he was sweating. His tongue slid greedily over his yellowed teeth and he clasped her left hand like a lover. She kept her right hand hidden in her skirts. Ames’s breathing deepened as he tried to rub her left hand over his erection. Even as she struck, he was so lost in a haze of sexual pleasure he had no idea what had happened.

‘Hurry, Kit. Run!’ she yelled.

This time she was prepared for the blood. It spurted out of his throat in a great arc, dousing the holland covers beside them. Juliana ducked backwards holding the slippery knife handle. The knife blade was buried in Ames’s neck. He clutched his throat, his eyes wide with stupefaction.

Juliana’s stomach lurched and she dropped the handle. As Ames made the most fearsome gurgling sounds, she edged around his flailing body and raced to the door. She hurtled down the stairs and cannoned into Kit. ‘Hurry, Kit. Hurry. Get out of here.’ She shoved the front door open and pushed him outside.

Kit slanted a glance back over his shoulder as his little legs sped along. ‘Where are we going?’

‘To the Rosemary Lane Inn. Hurry!’

‘But I don’t know where it is!’ He kept on running all the same, tugging Juliana along by the hand.

Juliana cast a quick glance behind them. The blue door with number 32 painted on it still stood innocently ajar and she could hear no sounds of pursuit.

‘Run towards the traffic noise,’ she gasped.

A few people glanced at them as they rushed by, but nobody seemed interested in a scruffy boy and a bloodstained, disheveled young woman running helter skelter up the alleyways. No doubt it was a common sight in these parts.

As they stumbled from the dank alleyway into a wider street she saw a sign stuck on a building façade that said ‘Chamber Street’. The steady throbbing of her sore, bruised feet echoed the drumming in her head. Swaying, she knew she was nearly done for.

Kit glanced back and tugged her hand. ‘Come on, miss,’ he encouraged her, then he raised their clasped hands and stared at the red stains on Juliana’s fingers. ‘Thank you,’ was all he said.

Breathless, she gulped and said nothing, fighting her queasy stomach. Soon it would happen – the reaction. Last time she had shaken as if with the ague for several hours. And when she had finally found herself safe, she had huddled into a ball and cried and cried and cried. She had cried for her mother and for herself, and for all the other women who had been held in the power of men who did not deserve them.

But now was not the time for self-indulgence. She must protect Kit. She lifted her chin and plodded on.

Footsteps pounded behind them. Twisting around, she shoved Kit out of the way…

BUY LINKS

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Sharon Ledwith
who brings us her filling Minestrone Soup recipe.

Who doesn’t love a hearty bowl of soup, especially on those cold or rainy nights? Makes for a wonderful meal at the cottage when unexpected guests pop in, or in the comfort of your home if it’s just you and your significant other. Easy to prepare, this delightful Italian cuisine takes about an hour to prep and cook. Perfect for a weekend lunch, and plenty of leftovers for the week, serve with half a baguette, sliced and buttered, and ready to dip! Bon Appetit!

Stick-to-your-Ribs Minestrone Soup

    2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    1 large onion, diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 stalks celery, diced
    1 large carrot, diced
    ⅓ lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces (about 1½ cups)
    1 tsp. dried oregano
    1 tsp. dried basil
    ¾ tsp. salt
    freshly ground pepper to taste
    1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
    1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
    6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1 15-ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 cup elbow pasta
    ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add celery and carrot, and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, dried oregano and basil, salt, and pepper; cook 3 more minutes.

Stir in diced and crushed tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in kidney beans and pasta. Cook until pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with the parmesan and chopped basil.

While you’re waiting for the minestrone soup to digest why not put your feet up and relax on the couch with a good book? 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, either series will transport you to another time and place, leaving the busyness of life far behind.

Here’s a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

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, 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

Nostalgia from Linda Lee Greene who brings us her ‘Farmhouse Cheese Soup’ recipe used as an appetizer.

Winter, and especially the high-holiday season that is winter’s centerpiece, brings with it for me an air of nostalgia, a wistfulness for the Thanksgiving Days of old, the days when at the end of a long country lane, the white square farmhouse of my maternal grandparents came into view, and within its walls my large family would soon gather around an immense table groaning with a homegrown Thanksgiving meal. With the elapsing of time, the torch has passed to my aunts and uncles, and then to the members of my generation. The work of keeping the traditions of our family alive and well continues to be handed down.

This past Thanksgiving my immediate family gathered at the home of my daughter, Elizabeth, the person who often as not, has hosted our celebration for several years. I am so grateful for the young people of my family, and for the time and space to hunker into the winter of my life, to gather my provisions, as well as to relax into my unbound hours and make the most of them.

Turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and several other side dishes, sweetened at meal’s end with pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and a wide selection of additional heavenly desserts was our traditional fare. Last year, we broadened our menu with some new dishes. My contribution was a lovely ‘Farmhouse Cheese Soup’ laid at table as an appetizer. The recipe comes from Stacey Pirtle of ‘Southern Discourse,’ where it is described as “…oogey, gooey, goodness…a zesty comfort food even the pickiest eaters will enjoy.”

Savory Farmhouse Cheese Soup

    1 stick (½ cup) butter
    ⅓ cup onion, diced
    ⅓ cup carrots, diced
    ⅓ cup celery, diced
    1 tsp. garlic, minced
    32 oz. chicken broth (I prefer the low-sodium brands)
    ½ cup roasted red peppers, diced
    1 cup of Chardonnay, optional
    6 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
    6 cups of half-and-half
    2 tsp. paprika
    1½ tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    1 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. white pepper
    Bacon bits
    French bread, small chunks

Melt butter in a large stockpot or automatic cooker over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until vegetables are translucent.

Add broth and peppers. Simmer about 5 minutes. Pour in Chardonnay and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add cheddar cheese, 1 cup at a time, and stir well after each cup until cheese is melted. Blend in half-and-half a little at a time, stirring continuously.

Stir in paprika, thyme, salt, and white pepper. Cook on very low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle bacon bits on top of each savory bowl. Sprinkle on bread. Shredded chicken is a nice add-in. Enjoy!

While your soup is simmering how about a peek at my latest crime thriller?

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?

While the cards at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas fail to distract them from their troubled pasts, on the side, the actress and the gambler play a game of ‘will they won’t they’ romance. Meanwhile, an otherworldly hand also has a big stake in the game. Unexpected secrets unfold brimming with dangerous consequences, and finally, a strange brand of salvation.

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.

The Cast of Characters
Actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms escapes the shadow of her mother’s gruesome murder and the relentless demands of Hollywood and loses herself in the cards at Las Vegas casinos. But like hounds on the scent, the scandal tracks her. And true to her history, it shows up in the person of dashing Hawaiian gambler, Koa Kalua’i. Neither of them are strangers at taking risks and too often losing. Will they win in their chance at the moon this time?

In Hawaiian cosmology, Aumakuas are guardian spirits whom many believe to manifest in physical form. Koa Kalua’i knows the tenet to be true, because Raven has not only been his winged-pet since the earliest days of his childhood on his family’s coffee plantation on Hawaii’s Big Island, but also his Aumakua. They make a remarkable pair, dedicated to righting wrongs.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, and orphaned as little kids, twin brothers Nicholas and Tobias Plato grew up tough but tenderhearted, qualities they put to use as actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms’ bodyguards. Who knew that Nicholas would play such a pivotal role in Olivia’s life: her most trusted friend and guardian, and in the end, her savior?

Navajo rancher and computer geek, Sam Whitehorse uncovers a secret, terrorist stockpile of materiel burrowed in the side of one his people’s sacred mountains in Nevada. It is a threat that he and Las Vegas gambler, Koa Kalua’i must expose and eliminate, but potential government involvement in the matter complicates such an offensive. And why does actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms insert herself into the whole affair?

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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 strong hold.

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 at her online art gallery and join her on Facebook. Linda loves to hear from readers so feel free to email her.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

What is your super power by Carol Browne who shares how she found hers.

The day I discovered my superpower is a memory undimmed by time. It was a life-changing event and I doubt I will ever forget it. Some of the details are sketchy, though, like how old I was. I know I was in my first year of primary school so I must have been about seven.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

I can still see the classroom, the table where I was sitting when it happened, and the chalk-smeared blackboard, but apart from the teacher being female, I don’t recall much about her. I regret that because I have never been able to thank this woman for making me aware of a talent I didn’t know I had. She set me on a path I am still following almost sixty years later.

It all started when I wrote a poem. Where did I get the idea from to do that? It’s a mystery, and it seems strange to me now that I even knew what a poem was, or that it should have meter and rhyme. I also wrote it in verses of four lines each. The subject was a crocus, something I must have seen and wondered at, but again I’ve no idea why this little plant should have inspired me to put pen to paper the way I did, nor why I chose to present the poem to my teacher. Having composed this no doubt unsophisticated piece of doggerel, that was that as far as I was concerned. I didn’t expect what was to follow.

I was at my table, scribbling away with one of those thick blue biros they used to hand out, when the teacher announced that Carol Browne had written a wonderful poem and it was going on the wall so everyone could see it. In fact, she advised my classmates to look at it if they wanted to know how to write a poem. She came over to me and congratulated me on my work and I was astonished, delighted and taken aback by this praise and recognition. As a shy and lonely child with physical defects only time would cure, I found myself suddenly elevated to a status I could not have aspired to in my wildest dreams. I never received validation for anything before but now I was worthy because of a talent not everyone else possessed. I could manipulate words. I could bend them to my will. I could do this because I was a wordsmith. This was my gift, my specialty. This was my superpower.

From that moment on I was a writer.

Here’s a brief intro to my latest release. I hope you like it.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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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 writes both fiction and non-fiction.

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

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