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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

What’s in a Name?

by

Stella May

Have you ever wondered if or how a person’s name affects his/her personality? Does your name determine your fate? Or was Shakespeare right to shrug off labels? The older I get, the more I am convinced that the Bard was wrong—that there is something in a name, after all.

My great-grandmother was named Tatyana. There are several different meanings of that name. From ancient Greek, it translates as “founder of order” or “organizer.” According to other translations, it means “a fairy queen,” or “fairy princess.” She was both. Born to a noble Russian family, she was raised like a princess. Later in life, by fate’s capricious will, she became head of the household, where she reigned supreme, bringing order and organizing the lives of her family.

Let’s start from the beginning: Tatyana Fortushina was born in 1901 in Qusar (Kusary), located in the foothills of the Great Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan. One of her brothers was an orthodox priest. The other was in the army. She also had two sisters.

Unfortunately, the details about my great-grandmother’s family are sketchy at best. According to all the people I have talked to, Tatyana (or Baba Tanya, as everybody called her) wasn’t close with her parents or siblings. My guess? Probably because of her highly unusual marriage. As I said, my great-grandmother was raised and educated like a princess, graduating from an establishment (St. Nina’s) for girls of prominent Christian families, and was the apple of her parents’ eye…. until she met my great-grandfather, that is.

Here, we draw a big, fat blank. To this day, no one in the family knows how or why Meshady Abbas, the son of an Iranian manufacturer, ended up in post-revolutionary Azerbaijan.

When did my great-grandparents meet? And how on earth did a Muslim merchant get parental permission from one of the prominent members of Christian society to marry his daughter? The details are shrouded in secret. One thing we know for sure, though, is that in order to marry my great-grandmother, my great-grandfather converted to Christianity. And so, Meshadi Abbas became Artemy Kurdov and married my great-grandmother. Vera, my grandmother, was born the next year.

Their small family was happy—at least I want to believe that they were—but not for very long. When my grandmother Vera was a toddler, Artemy Kurdov, who embraced the Communist ideology wholeheartedly, was executed as an enemy of the nation. Ironic? Not in the least. It’s hard to understand now, but, during Stalin’s regime, just sneezing the wrong way was enough to be labeled as an enemy of the state—literally. And my daredevil of a great-grandfather had managed to become something of a Major in the small city where he lived. I assume that’s why he was ultimately executed… or perhaps he just said something, or did something, or looked at someone in passing, and some zealot took a notice and reported it. I don’t want to think about my great-grandfather’s days in prison or the beatings he endured. Torture was a regular practice of the NKVD—the original name of the KGB.

Thus, my great-grandmother Tatyana was left a young widow with no income to support her and her daughter, and no family to turn to for help. But instead of falling apart, this delicately built dark-haired princess squared her shoulders and spat fate in the eyes. She showed everybody what a graduate of St. Nina’s was made of! Remembering the sewing lessons she took in school, Baba Tanya soon became one of the most sought-after seamstresses—all the wives of the city’s elite were dressed by her. Much later, her granddaughters, my mom and my aunt, paraded in the clothes that were the subject of envy to their friends. She had finally found her footing, and life in her household became content. They had a roof over their heads, food on the table, but, most importantly, they had each other.

And then…

Her only daughter, her whole world, the reason of her being, fell in love with a man almost twice her age… and had to get married, or else. I can only wonder what Baba Tanya felt, when her nice and quiet world suddenly fell apart, as her own daughter repeated the same fate she had? As a mother, how would I react if I were in her shoes? Would I let my daughter chose her own fate, or would I try to interfere? I honestly don’t know.

In the end, my great-grandmother gave the couple her blessings and stepped aside. For the next five years, she lived alone. Was she hurt? I imagine she was. Feeling lonely? Abandoned? Oh, absolutely. But she was too proud to show her emotions. Always restrained, now she became coolly aloof.

Years later, when her beloved daughter became a widow with two small children at the age of twenty, she immediately took all of them under her wing. How could a woman, a mother, and grandmother keep harboring grudges when three people she loved more than life itself needed her? Hence, she became the head of an all-female household, one she ruled for almost three decades. The second meaning of her name – the founder of order—had come into play.

According to my family, she was a stern woman, fair and loving, but reserved. She didn’t suffer fools, didn’t forgive easily, and meted out punishment with a precision of a surgeon. Her scalpel was her tongue—sharp, cold, and merciless. But her love for her girls, although never visible, ran deep and was true.

My grandmother Vera always said that, if not for Baba Tanya and her sacrifices, they probably wouldn’t have survived the hunger of World War II. During that horrible time, to suppress her own hunger, Baba Tanya started to smoke. She went hungry for days, giving her tiny bread portions to her granddaughters. She learned to cook from bran and waste products, conjuring meals out of things unimaginable. She stood hours on end in bread lines, barely alive from hunger, all the while puffing away her disgusting handmade cigarettes. That cheap tobacco mix affected her lungs, ultimately causing her to pass away years later when I was barely three years old.

My memory of her is vague: a frail figure in a starched white kerchief, thin and pale-faced, coughing loudly. I remember I was afraid to enter the room when the ‘scary old woman’ was lying in bed. I suppose, for a small child, her frailty, her illness-ravished face, that horrible dry cough could and did look scary.

But still…to this day, I feel ashamed of myself.

Interestingly enough, while I don’t remember much of my great-grandmother’s face, one thing that stuck with me is her hands, which I can remember clearly.

Isn’t that just strange?

Or is it just the wonders of human memory?

Here is a peek at my latest time travel romance novel for your reading pleasure.

One key unlocks the love of a lifetime…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.

’Til Time Do Us Part is available in Kindle and Paperback at AMAZON.

Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website.

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business.

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

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

World Building: Possessions

By Cindy Tomamichel

Possessions – do you own them, or do they own you? Tools or trophies? Status symbol or frippery? How people acquire and use or adore their possessions can tell the reader many things about the character – their background, current wealth and even their philosophical beliefs.

Keeping stuff is a very human trait. Who hasn’t been for a walk and collected a small rock or feather or interesting leaf? We can be assured that items such as these would have been found in the hands of . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Cindy Tomamichel’s blog

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Friday Features’

Guest shares

8 Reasons to Listen to Audiobooks

by

Leigh Goff

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

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

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

BEST-EVER HURRICANE from Delish

2 oz. light rum

3 oz. dark rum

6 oz. passion fruit juice

6 oz. orange juice

2 tbsp. grenadine

Ice

2 Orange slices

2 maraschino cherries

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

Pour over iced-filled glasses.

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

Find the original recipe at Delish.

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

After her father’s untimely death, Jenna Ashby moves to Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans, dreading life with her wealthy mother. As the 16-year-old eco-warrior is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow: How do the Diamonds & Pearls look so young, where does their money come from, and why is life along the bayou disappearing? As Jenna is drawn into their seductive world, her curiosity and concerns beg her to uncover the truth. However, in this town where mysticism abounds and secrets are deadly, the truth is not what Jenna could have ever imagined.

BUY LINKS

Audible

Amazon

Apple

Leigh Goff is a young adult author with type 1 diabetes who is inspired by caffeine, enchanted spells, and unforgettable, star-crossed fates.

Although she’s terrible at casting any magic of her own, she is descended from the accused witch, Elizabeth Duncan of Virginia, who went to trial in 1695 for charges including bewitching livestock and causing birds to fall from the sky.

You can find more information at www.LeighGoff.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Friday Features’

Guest

Carol Browne

Talks about hugging trees.

I’m a tree hugger and always have been. There’s something in my nature that draws me to them like old friends. How gratifying it is for me to see so many other people waking up to how important and precious trees are.

Photo by Studio Dekorasyon on Unsplash

Every oxygen-breathing organism on Earth benefits from the work done by these forest denizens. Their fallen leaves not only nourish the ground they stand in but also feed a network of fungi, plants and small critters essential to the circle of life. The trees hold the land in their roots, preventing soil erosion and landslides. They suck up water and protect the land from flooding. They provide shade, shelter and homes to countless animals, birds and insects. They give us fruit, nuts and medicine; wood for building and fuel. In the rainforests they even create their own weather.

Trees are amazing. And now we need them more than ever. Their ability to capture carbon from the air, to use and store it, while releasing life-affirming oxygen, is vital in the battle against climate change.

We must plant more trees. Anyone with a garden can do that. If you can’t, donate to an organization that will plant trees on your behalf and support campaigns to protect ancient woodland.

We have lost our connection with Nature, that fellowship experienced so profoundly by our ancestors. For far too long we have looked down upon primitive cultures that talked about nature spirits and the wisdom of trees. We dismissed the Druids for worshipping trees. It was all superstition. But we were wrong. The trees have been our allies all the time, even when we turned our backs on them. They remained the guardians of the planet and quietly went about the business of preserving its ecosystem. Now it is imperative we embrace them again as our friends and rediscover that lost connection, before it is too late.

There is a close relationship between trees and writers; don’t they provide us with the paper on which we write our stories? They can even give us the ink to write them with. Ink made from oak galls was favoured by scribes during the Middle Ages and Renaissance because of its permanence and resistance to water and it still enjoys a niche market today among artists.

It is fitting, then, that my fantasy novel The Exile of Elindel opens with the main character, Elgiva, asking an oak tree for advice. As an elf she is fortunate in being able to understand the language of trees and she knows that ancient oaks are steeped in wisdom. It is this encounter at the beginning of Chapter One that determines everything that follows.

Without the tree there would be no story. Here’s an a brief intro for you.

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.


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. Her non-fiction book is available at Dilliebooks.

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

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Friday Features’

Guest

Leight Goff

talks about

Sparking a Writer’s Creativity

If I struggle with writing a descriptive scene, I know it’s time to step outside my present environment (the sofa, a hot cup of coffee, and a fluffy dog at my feet) and explore the world around me—really explore it. There’s something about traveling and sightseeing that stimulates my senses and creativity and it might be just what other writers need, too.

Photo courtesy of Cody Board Unsplash

When I was little, I loved traveling to visit my grandparents every summer. I remember counting down the days and planning what to pack in my blue and red-striped suitcase. I remember the excitement of my first airplane ride and my first trip to Disney World. Disney was like nothing else I’d ever experienced. It went something like this—the Florida sun blazed hot against my skin while the magical kingdom around me smelled of caramel apples and mouth-watering vanilla waffles. And, oh, the stomach-whirling water rides and fantasy-filled adventures that swept me away while I was there. When I arrived home after that first visit, I wrote all about it in my diary, every scrumptious detail. I didn’t want to forget where I’d been and what it felt like to be there because if I didn’t go back ever again, I would be able to revisit that dream-like place in my diary.

I’m an adult now, however, I still need to explore different worlds in order to get my writer’s creativity flowing. Whether my travels include walking in the woods, trekking through London, or taking a ghost tour of the historic buildings and cemeteries in my hometown, every trip is filled with descriptive possibilities. I don’t know if a future main character will end up lost in a city café ordering escargots and later singing along to a street musician’s rendition of ‘Chevaliers de la Table Ronde,’ but I’ll be able to describe it with accuracy because I’ve done it.

One memorable sightseeing trip was to Paris, which included a stop at the Louvre. Breathtaking. I’m talking about the artworks—every single one I saw, including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. The masterpiece was smaller than I’d imagined, but she was a rock star. Crowds lined up outside the salon for a glimpse of her. Finally, it was my turn. She was beautiful, mysterious, wise, and timeless.

As I stood there before her, I thought about the Da Vinci Code written by Dan Brown. I found myself recalling his vivid descriptions of the museum including its parquet floors, vaulted archways, glass pyramid, and the paintings’ gilded frames. Being there in person was amazing, but if I hadn’t had that experience, Dan Brown’s descriptions of the Louvre and a few of its precious contents were the next best thing to being there.

Writers create or recreate worlds with words and traveling experiences can be the spark for those words. As author Larry Brooks once said, “Writers experience the world…in a unique way. We look for meaning. We see it when we are not paying attention…We are scribes to the ticking of the days, and we have a job to do.” We just need to get out there and experience it for ourselves.

Here is a little from my latest novel for your reading pleasure.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a royal legacy of dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead.

Engaged in a deadly game and not knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

EXCERPT

    The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

    I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

    My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

    “W?”

    A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

    In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

    “This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

    I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

    His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

    “Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

    “To help you. I want to help you.”

    “Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

    He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

    Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

    “You read the note.”

    His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

    I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

    “Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

    The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
    “It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

    What was he besides completely contemptible?

    “It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

    I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

    A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

    Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

    “Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

    “Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

    He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

    I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

    He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

    I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

    “You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

    My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

AMAZON BUY LINKS



Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

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

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

One of the reasons why she loves fall

by

Dominique Eastwick

One of the many reasons I just love about fall are pumpkins. I love to carve them, look at them, and eat them.

I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice Latte…I could go on and on. But one of my favorite things is Pumpkin Soup. So celebrate the fall season with a bowl of the easiest soup ever, especially if you use canned pumpkin. And you can quote me on this – nothing tastes better on a cold day.

Pumpkin Soup

    1 stick butter or margarine
    2 clove garlic, finely chopped
    4 tsp. packed brown sugar
    2 cans of chicken broth
    1 cup water
    ½ tsp. salt (optional)
    2 cans (15 ounces) Pumpkin or 2 cups pureed fresh pumpkin
    2 cans (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    Ground nutmeg to garnish

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add garlic and brown sugar; cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until soft.

Add broth and water; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin, evaporated milk, and cinnamon. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

With real pumpkin you may need to puree your soup again.

Serve warm and enjoy.

serves 10

How about a hot read while you enjoy a warm bowl of soup?

The babies are coming… the Wiccan Haus will never be the same.

Things are not as calm at the Wiccan Haus as they usually are. The impending birth of Dana and Rekkus’ cubs has everyone on edge. The last thing anyone wants or expects is a series of uninvited guests.

Ashlynn Stone hasn’t spoken to her sister Dana since she left for the Wiccan Haus over a year earlier. But when a fluke accident on the fashion runway forces her to seek the healing of the Wiccan Haus, she has no choice but to pack her bags and take the ferry to the island with her family in tow.

Shadedor has been sent to the Wiccan Haus to assess the situation. But he soon finds more than he expected. His soul mate in need of healing. Can he negotiate the issues of the Wiccan Haus and overcome the walls Ashlynn has built to protect herself.

As the Haus prepares for the biggest event since it opened, can the siblings find harmony and manage to do what they do best, heal those in need? Or is it too much for them to take?

Welcome back to the Wiccan Haus.

EXCERPT

    He walked. This morning, he had been right next to her, and there had been constant contact. Now they would appear to anyone passing to be complete strangers. “You want to tell me what is going on?”

    “We are attempting to remove all stress from your life in hopes of easing the headaches.”

    “No, with you. If you would prefer to be elsewhere, I can go back to my room and lie down.”

    He stopped. “There is nowhere I would rather be.”

    “Then why are you acting like I have the plague? Was it the kiss earlier?”

    “I overstepped my boundaries this morning. I should not have done so.”

    “Do you regret it?”

    “I am assisting the staff here in your healing. It is inappropriate for me to come on to you.”

    “Are you on staff here?”

    “No.”

    “That settles it.” She smiled. Closing the distance between them, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I do not know what is going on, but I do know my pain and fears ease when you are near. I don’t claim to understand how you discern all you do, but I am starting to see things here aren’t always black and white, and sometimes I have to have faith and trust.”

    After a brief second of him standing as still as a statue and her wondering if she read too much into this morning’s embrace, he relaxed. His arms snaked around her, pulling her against his hard body. His mouth came down on hers begging her to open for him, demanding she submit to his kiss. She might have started this dance, but he would damned well be leading it.

BUY LINKS


Award-Winning author Dominique Eastwick currently calls North Carolina home with her husband, two children, one crazy lab and one lazy cat. Dominique spent much of her early life moving from state to state as a Navy Brat. Because of that, traveling is one of her favorite pastimes. When not writing you can find Dominique with her second love…her camera.

Learn more about Dominique Eastwick on her website, blog, and Amazon author page. Be sure to join her Newsletter for up to the minute info on new releases, contests, and more.

Stay connected on Twitter, Tublr, and Pinterest.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Family Secret Recipes or parental respect

by

KD DuBois

I feel bad that I don’t have a recipe to share, but here’s why: my mother.

Anything I have worth sharing comes from a collection my mother handed to me when I left college and moved into my first apartment. On each card, in the top right corner and in bold, capital letters, she wrote FAMILY SECRET RECIPE and underlined the words—twice. During the hand-off, she didn’t let go of the stack until I had looked her in the eye and promised I wouldn’t share them. And you know what I stared into, the mom-glare that makes you squirm even thinking about it.

Nope, no way in hell am I going to incur the wrath of Mom. She may be over eighty, but I’m fairly positive she could still whup my butt.

Writing this post has made me think it may be time to get permission from Mom to share some of those recipes. You know, the way the military reviews classified information after 25-years and decides whether or not to downgrade it. She and Dad are coming to visit sometime this month—and I won’t know the exact date until they’re halfway here and decide to tell me they’ve hit the road—so it might be time to have our own declassification review.

I bet eighty percent get through and the rest fall under some type of exemption.

We’ll have fun, though, walking down memory lane for each one, reliving some special moment or remembering those in our family who are no longer with us and either loved or hated the dish. I bet we also remember the apple pie we never got to eat because of a tornado, much like Dawn’s family experienced in Daughter of the South Wind.

In a way, the process will be our own Thanksgiving for the rich lives we’ve lived. And I’ll make a few of recipes, too, because, duh, they wouldn’t be secret if they weren’t tasty.
All I can offer you is a yummy read, and my book (e-book) Daughter of the South Wind will be on sale for FREE from 12-16 Nov. Click on the link below to get it, and keep checking this blog or my social media for one of those recipes!

BLURB

As if grad school wasn’t hard enough, Dawn Wynham battles her bossy sister’s interference with her private life and resists divulging one secret—her very realistic dreams about tornados and the man who morphs out of them, Nino. After chasing twisters for her meteorology degree, why not indulge in a little sexy fantasy to enhance the adrenaline highs?

Nino’s visits tantalize Dawn, his mythological viewpoints mysterious yet familiar. When make-believe blends into real-life, she must choose between the practicality of her mind and the yearnings of her heart or else lose everything she holds dear.

The most desirable path holds the greatest danger. Dawn knows what feels right in the depths of her soul—and hopes her decision doesn’t cast Nino away from her forever.

Click here to buy Daughter of the South Wind

EXCERPT

    “Please stop calling me that. My name’s Dawn. I have no idea who Tira is.”

    “But you do, and I am here to aid your recollection.”

    “Yeah, well first, better tell me who you are.”

    The primitive shadows of my brain which governed fright or flight said I should call 911, but the modern and more practical recesses of my mind argued the responders would likely search the apartment for drugs, because the story of what I thought as reality played out more like a comedian’s recount of an acid trip. Truthfully, I didn’t feel threatened by him. A strange sense of peace had washed through me at his touch. Like I belonged with him.

    “You might as well sit.” I motioned to the bed. “Because I have more questions than the SAT exam.”

    He displayed perfect squat form to perch on the edge of the mattress. “How should I begin?”

    “Start with your name.”

    “Minninnos, but friends and family call me Nino.”

    I had no idea what to ask next. Too many questions spun in my mind, such as why he’d been in my dreams or what happened to Chrissy and Taran. Maybe what freaked me out the most should get priority.

    “How the hell did you survive the tornado?”

    He wore a pained expression, his eyes squinted, his lips parted. Silence indicated he either didn’t know how to explain it, or he didn’t want to. Count that one as a pass. Next question.

    “Okay, since it’s too hard to answer, why do your irises swirl?”

    His shoulders raised and lowered, and his breath exhaled in a loud rush. His mercurial whirling orbs caught my gaze and held it.

    “The answers to both inquiries are related. I hesitate because I do not know if you will accept the truth.” He propped his forearms on his knees, their long muscles defined as he clasped his hands. “It is important to me, and others, you do.” The orbital motion slowed, and he shook his head side-to-side once. “I do not want to frighten you. There is not enough time.”

    His intensity borderlined anguish. My acceptance of his explanation somehow played an important, albeit unknown, role in his life.

    “I’m a scientist and have to know why things happen. What occurred today defies all logic, so I’m curious and want answers. Just tell the truth. Don’t hold back.”

Click here to buy Daughter of the South Wind and find out the truth

READER COMMENTS:

“I laughed, I cried, I was happy, I was sad, I enjoyed reading this book so much!” -Angi T

“When I pickup a new book and yearn for the day to come to a close so I can pickup where I left off… or maybe even grab a couple chapters between workday tasks then I know it’s a good book, this was the case with Daughter of the South Wind.” -Chris W.

“I read this book in less than 48-hours because I had to see what crazy situation Dawn got herself into next, as well as where her fated encounter with Nino would take her.” -Lynnann L.

BIO

KD DuBois writes fantasy mixed with a touch of romance. Her current book delves into mythology, giving obscure gods and goddesses their own stories. It’s the first of a series in a world she created called The Immortal Dimension.

Twenty-eight years in a military uniform took KD DuBois to many unique places around the globe. But a few choice assignments in year-round mild climates spoiled any inclinations to retire where even a hint of snow might fall. Instead of settling down in her home state of Kansas, she planted roots in the perpetual sunshine of south-central Texas.

With the opportunity to start a second career, KD took a class and got inspired to write. Now she types away and takes an occasional break to ride her bike and enjoy the sunshine. Visit her website to learn more about her and what she’s working on.

SOCIAL LINKS

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon author page

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Friday Features’

Guest suggests a book

Bewitching Hanna

and

Pumpkin Slab Pie

for next book club meeting from

Leigh Goff

For your next book club, read Bewitching Hannah and serve these tasty fall treats to your guests that are timely and delicious.

PUMPKIN SLAB PIE

1 Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust, 2 crusts in a box
2 cans (15-oz. each) pure pumpkin
1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1¼ cup heavy cream
1¼ cup whole milk
4 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
Whipped cream, for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Roll and shape both pie crusts on a lightly floured surface into two 12 x 10-inch rectangles. Gently wrap one pie crust around rolling pin and transfer to a 15 x 10-inch rimmed baking sheet, placing 10″ side of dough along longest side of pan and allowing dough to hang over 3 sides. Place the second pie crust on other half of baking sheet, overlapping slightly with first piece. Press seam together to seal. Trim any excess dough, leaving ½ inch overhang if possible. Crimp and press edges of crust to create even rim, using any trimmed dough to seal cracks or gaps. Cover with large sheet parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans.

Bake 14 minutes. Remove paper and weights. Bake another 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, in 4-quart saucepan, cook pumpkin and ginger on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat allow to cool slightly.

In medium bowl, whisk cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until smooth. Add pumpkin mixture, whisking until smooth.

Pour into pre-baked pie crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

Cool completely before cutting. Cut into 12 to 16 pieces. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Pie can be baked, cooled and refrigerated, uncovered, up to 1 day ahead.

Recipe and photo from Good House Keeping.

Here’s a little from my latest novel for your reading pleasure.

Hannah, the thirteenth great-granddaughter of the Wizard Earl Fitzgerald, has always known she was descended from a troubled legacy of alchemy and dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial; however, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the secrets she must unlock – including one that reveals the location of an unimaginably powerful elixir.

Enemies will hurt her. Loved ones will make her vulnerable. And the impending prophecy that drives her to unleash her magic will cause her to unearth the sins of the past and doubt any promise of a future. Without knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she’ll survive the game Fate is playing, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

EXCERPT
The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

BUY LINKS

Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

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

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

World Building

By Cindy Tomamichel

Designing a new world with its own creatures and plants is a lot of fun. There are so many resources available online that research can be a bottomless pit. However, this depth of knowledge will shine through in your writing. Just try not to show off your knowledge with vast info dumps, not all readers will be as enthralled with the details of amphibian evolution as you might be. You can always list your references in an appendix, and discuss it at more length there, or mention your fascination in your blogs and social media for instance.

Evolution is the process of change, as mutations . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Cindy Tomamichel’s blog

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Tell Again Tuesday

A blog series where we shamelessly share posts from others that we have enjoyed.

 


 

World building: Creation

By Cindy Tomamichel

Writing is quite a personal thing, with authors each having their own idiosyncrasies and quirks to help them imagine and get the words on the page. Books may start in a dream, but like anything worth doing, take days that may stretch into years to get into the hands of a reader.

World building will also vary depending on . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Cindy Tomamichel’s blog

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