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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Spring time, romance, and cooking

by

Sloane Taylor

Spring is an amazing time of year and my favorite because that’s when the Earth comes alive. All sorts of beautiful things happen. Trees are budding, tender plants push through the ground, and romance is in the air and warm weather is just a few weeks away.

I am a romantic through and through. Always have been and with any luck I always will be. Romance is much more than a quick trip to tangle the sheets. It is about being with someone you love and doing little things to show them how much they mean to you. In my case I cook because I love it.

When summer arrives and the gardens are ablaze in color, I want to move the romance outside. So why not share a summer night with your someone special? What better way than with a sizzling romantic dinner, candles, wine, and music. You don’t need much to set the mood and turn your patio, balcony, or kitchen into a lover’s nook. Make your night special with great food because is the doorway to infinite possibilities.

A printed flat sheet is perfect for a festive tablecloth or set out placemats for the plates and serving dishes. Use plenty of candles in different sizes and a variety of holders scattered around the table to enhance the mood, but definitely avoid scented candles. Stemmed wine glasses sparkle in candlelight and add a festive feel to your dinner. Use your regular dishes or, for fun, mix it up with a number of different plates that don’t match but complement each other for the different courses. Experiment and have fun.

Now that you have the perfect location and setting for you and that right person, may I suggest you spoil yourself with an intimate dinner meant for lovers. It is easy to prepare, and leftovers make marvelous sandwiches. This recipe also works great in the oven.

Ask your butcher to dress the tenderloin. If he won’t, then you need to remove the excess fat and sliver out the silver strip along the side. Easy to do. Slide a sharp knife under the strip close to one end. Use a back and forward motion like sawing to ease your knife between the meat and the strip as you lift it away from the beef.

MENU

Marinated & Grilled Beef Tenderloin

Potatoes Baked on the Grill

Grilled Asparagus

Sautéed Mushrooms

Dry Red Wine – Valpolicella

Marinated & Grilled Beef Tenderloin

2 – 3 lb. (1 – 1.5kg) beef tenderloin

½ cup (120ml) olive oil

½ cup (120ml) dry red wine

3 rosemary sprigs or 1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried

6 thyme sprigs or 1 tsp. (5ml) dried

1 bay leaf

3 garlic cloves, chopped fine

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Oil to coat grill grate

Combine all ingredients in a long bowl or plastic bag and a shallow pan. Marinade in fridge 2 – 20 hours. Seems like a strange time span, but the longer the marinade the tastier the beef.

Remove meat from refrigerator 1 hour before grilling or roasting in oven. Meat needs to be almost room temperature.

Grill Instructions

Preheat grill to medium-high.

Pat tenderloin dry. Discard marinade. Add beef, close lid, and grill 15 – 20 minutes or until meat is done to your preference. Be sure to turn meat several times to avoid burning.

Oven Instructions

Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C).

Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Pat tenderloin dry. Discard marinade. Add beef to pan. Roast 30 – 40 minutes or until meat is done to your preference. Save the juice to moisten he meat when you serve.

Baked Potatoes on the Grill

1 russet potato per person

Olive oil

Aluminum foil

Butter

Sour cream

Chives

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat gas grill to medium-high.

Wash potatoes under cool water. Pat dry. Poke several sets of holes in each potato with a fork. This stops the potato from bursting as it bakes. Rub potatoes with a small amount of olive oil to keep the skin soft. Wrap each potato in a section of aluminum foil.

Place potatoes on upper shelf of grill. If you don’t have an upper shelf, then lay them at the outer edges of your grill.

Grill 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning every 15 – 20 minutes. Test if done by inserting a toothpick into the potato. It should glide in easily.

To serve, remove foil and then cut an X across the top of each potato. Using potholders squeeze the ends toward the center until the potato mounds.

Serve with butter, sour cream, chives, and pepper.

Grilled Asparagus

6 – 8 asparagus per person

½ cup (120ml) olive oil

2 tbsp. (30ml) lemon juice

½ tbsp. (7.5ml) garlic powder, not salt

1 tsp. (5ml) dried basil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Trim, then discard, the tough bottoms off asparagus with a sharp knife.

Combine oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, basil, and pepper in a glass or ceramic dish. Stir well. Add asparagus. Stir gently to coat the spears.

Set gas grill to medium-high heat. Poke a few holes in a piece of aluminum foil then set it onto the grate. Lay spears on top. Turn frequently to avoid burning.

Asparagus are done when they color to medium brown, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Arrange spears on a dish and serve immediately.

Sautéed Mushrooms

6 – 8 mini bella mushrooms

1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil

2 tbsp. (25g) butter

½ small onion, sliced thin

2 tbsp. (30ml) dry vermouth or white wine

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Clean mushrooms with a dry paper towel to remove bedding soil. Slice them in half lengthwise if medium or into thirds if large.

Over medium heat, drizzle a small amount of olive oil into a medium-sized frying pan and add butter. Stir in onions and mushrooms. Sauté until almost tender, 3 – 6 minutes.

Pour vermouth or white wine over the mushrooms and continue to heat.

To serve, grind pepper across the top and spoon into a warm serving dish.

This dish is best cooked and served on the same day. Leftovers are soggy.

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

Sloane

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

To learn more about Taylor go to her website. Stay in touch on Blogger, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Date Night Dinners Italian Style, Sizzling Summer, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available on Amazon.

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Friday Features

Cover Reveal

A new Regency Romance Drama

by

Vonnie Hughes

Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press! Acclaimed author Vonnie Hughes has written another exciting Regency romance drama with just a bit of fluff and interesting facts sprinkled in. This is novel is destined to soar on the bestseller lists!

 

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 on 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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Friday Features

We talk about

Taking a free trip to Scotland

Many books require research, and The Mercenary and the Shifters was no exception. We had to research a bunch of things for this book, but our favorite was the Hebrides Islands in Scotland. It’s a lot of fun when your book requires you to visit other countries. In The Mercenary and the Shifters-Book Four of The Turning Stone Chronicles, our hero goes to the Hebrides in Scotland.

We have never been to Scotland, but it’s somewhere Catherine has always wanted to go, so we set off to discover these remote islands with our hero, Mike Corritore, who lands in Benbecula airport in the Hebrides in the early dawn.

From the airport we headed south for South Uist, crossing a causeway lined on both sides with white boulders. Back on land, the road periodically narrowed into a lane and a half, the bulged-out lanes barely big enough to hold a vehicle. Houses dotted the landscape, surrounded by fields of low, green grass. Squat, wire fences penned in white sheep, grazing contentedly. Along the edge of the road, bushes leaned into the pavement, the tips of the branches sporting white blossoms.

En route for Loch Baghasdail, we crossed a second causeway. Just past the end of the causeway, a series of small, deep blue lakes dotted the countryside. As the road moved inland the landscaped changed. Fewer houses appeared along the roadside. Bleached, white boulders jutted from the ground like cemetery markers. The flat, slightly curvy road became straight, with low, rolling rises. Gray mountains, their tops ringed in matching gray haze, lay against the horizon on the left. The scenery was beautiful, bucolic, and stark at the same time.

Do you want to know the best part about this trip? It didn’t cost us a dime.

We went via Google Maps to the Scottish countryside. Ain’t the internet wonderful?

Maybe someday we’ll get to see the Hebrides in person. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy our hero’s trip to Scotland, the exciting action-packed story, and the results from the fun research we did for this story.

If this piques your interest, then settle into a comfy chair and check out our books on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

The 80-20 rule for writers

by

Sharon Ledwith

Apply the 80-20 rule to everything you do. Especially when it comes to your writing. What’s the 80-20 rule? It’s a simple formula. The basic idea is that 20 percent of the things you do will account for 80 percent of the value of your work. For optimum performance in any job, it’s essential that you work on the top 20 percent of the activities that account for most of your results. This rule is also known as the Pareto Principal or Power Law.

How does this law apply to Writers? Read on…

  • Time Sucks: You know what I’m talking about. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. TV. Email checking. Web surfing. These activities can be gigantic time sucks. Get a timer or set an amount of time for yourself for these simple pleasures. If you do this, you’ll free yourself up to dedicate time for your writing. Do it. Be ruthless.
  • Great Writing Sessions: Some writing sessions are more productive than others. Know when is the best time for you to write, and when is not. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Know yourself well with regards to this advice. You will generate roughly 80% of your writing in the best 20% of your writing sessions. When you have a great day of writing, take notice on the factors that make it productive, and try to repeat those factors in all of your writing sessions.
  • Not-so-great Writing Sessions: A small number of your writing sessions will be far more wasteful than the rest. What happened in these sessions? Distractions? Your special someone knocking on your office door? Pets demanding attention? Do the math and figure out the factors that prevented great writing sessions. What can you do to fix these sessions in the future?
  • Writing Quality: Pretty much 20% of your writing will be of a high quality. That’s the good stuff you should publish. The other 80% will be crap. Buck up. It happens to the best of us.
  • Know Your Audience: What’s selling for you? Your audience will vastly prefer some 20% of your writing. Know this. Embrace this, especially the enthusiastic reviews. Then create more stories like it. It should drive more success your way.
  • Creating Ideas: You’ll think up 80% of your best ideas in 20% of the time you dedicate to creative activities. Figure out what puts you in these highly creative states and try to recreate those conditions every time. Was it the music you were listening to? The tea or coffee you sipped? Perhaps it was incense you were burning. On the flipside, you’ll trash 80% of your time spent generating new ideas. Maybe that time would be better spent on editing, reading or other activities.
  • Productivity: Some days will be more productive than others. Period. Exploit those days by pushing yourself to write as many hours as you can. Make the most of it and you may complete more work in one day than in several average days.
  • Book Sales: A cold, hard fact: 80% of book sales will come from 20% of authors. This explains why the publishing industry tosses huge amounts of money at a small number of authors while it ignores great work from everyone else. Life’s not fair for those in that 80% range.
  • Success and Failure: Some 80% of your written work will likely fail to gain an audience. However, all it takes is one major success to turn that percentage around and claim your stake in the publishing world. Grow a thick skin and keep trying.

Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series:

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures…

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time.

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

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries…

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with its freakish power. There’s no hope for a normal life, and no one who understands. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go. Until mysterious things start to happen.

Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series:

The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, Book #3

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mystery Series:

 

Lost and Found, Book One Buy Links:

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

Blackflies and Blueberries, Book Two Buy Links:

MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING ׀ AMAZON ׀ BARNES & NOBLE ׀

 

 

 

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

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

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Curses, Spells, and Love

by

Leigh Goff

The light of Protection, I carry it strong.

No ill wishes or trouble, can come along.

You cannot harm me, or weaken my soul.

My light is my weapon, and peace is my goal.

–Author Unknown

 

What is a witch, but a powerful woman? In my stories what makes her powerful is more than magic. It is the willingness to sacrifice herself for the ones she loves. It is the ability to face her fears with courage she didn’t know she had. It’s also having the heart to tap into her talents when needed, and if that includes spell casting and curse breaking at any cost, so be it.

Because of reader interest in the witches’ spells in my books, I compiled a few from Disenchanted and Bewitching Hannah to share. In my latest novel, KOUSH HOLLOW, the magic comes from the women of the bayou–it embodies the mysticism of the Deep South and is equally powerful.

DISENCHANTED

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Goodchild from the wickedly wonderful town of Wethersfield, Connecticut struggles with her magic as she finds forbidden love along with a centuries-old true love curse. Here are a few spells, some spoken in Latin, from Disenchanted.

“Ictus.” Sophie hopes for a windstorm when she encounters a boy who should be her family enemy, but she’s love struck and only flower petals rain down on her and Alexavier.

“Verum.” Sophie casts this spell on the boy she thinks she must hate, but instead of him speaking the truth, a heart shape appears in the bark of a mulberry tree trunk behind him. The tree is significant in this story as it is in Pyramus and Thisbe. They are the ill-fated couple, like Romeo and Juliet, and they planned to meet under a mulberry tree.

Semper memoriam tui delebo Diamond”- She commands Judge Mather to forget about the rare red diamond used as a blood charm that has caused so much trouble.

BEWITCHING HANNAH

When an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald realizes she can no longer repress the magic that has taken away so much. There’s also the Grey witch’s Arundell Curse plaguing Hannah and her mysterious love interest, W.

“By the power of fire, I do summon and churn, and call thee forth to blaze and burn.” Hannah casts this spell, needing heat from her hands to burn through a seatbelt when she’s trapped in a fiery wreck.

Her frenemy, Arora, demonstrates her dark magic when she captures an insect and kills it with this spell, “By my command and desire, your pesky little death I require.”

The nefarious Emme using magic to fight with Hannah says, “For the trouble you have inflicted on me, double shall I inflict on you.” She snaps Hannah’s icy doppleganger statue in half and Hannah doubles over in agony.

KOUSH HOLLOW

As Jenna Ashby, the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior, is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive New Orleans social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow. She’s also cursed with her cold, narcissistic mother, Rayna, who’s ambitions are limitless.

 

In the excerpt below, Jenna is drawn to Voodoo priestess, Mama Ismay. She watches her create a mystical potion using bayou magic, but then Jenna is left with more questions than answers when she sees what’s in the mysterious aquarium.

EXCERPT

Mama Ismay reached for another bottle. The blue-green liquid within shimmered. “From da horseshoe crab.” She dripped blood into the malevolent liquid. From a bowl, she scooped silver-colored flakes and tossed them into the flames followed by a fistful of fine blue crystals.

I had to know. “Copper chloride?”

Feu bleu. Blue fire.” Orange flames flashed to a cerulean blue and burned hot enough to heat my face from a distance. She sprinkled a fine pink powder onto a conch shell and held it over the fire for a few seconds while chanting.

“What are you saying?”

She raised the shell over her head. “I am summonin’ da magic of my ancestor spirits who came before me.” She dropped the whole shell into the pot and turned to me.

I lifted my eyebrows with surprise. Did she really believe she could summon magic from dead people?

“How did you find us?” A crease appeared between her brows. “I doubt our location was given readily.”

I stared, mesmerized by the mystical concoction, steam rising from its gurgling depths as it reduced over the crackling, blue fire. “I, um, did my research.”

“Dat’s what scientists do, no?”

I wasn’t sure about her so-called magic, but she was using quite a bit of science herself with that potion. Her expression left me wondering. “I know we don’t know each other that well, but you look like there’s something troubling you.”

“You shouldn’t have come here.” She covered the pot with a grassy cloth and headed to another room. I followed.

“Why not? I had a lot of questions and I felt you were the only one to answer them.”

Next to a chair covered in oyster shells was an antique aquarium with beautiful, brass seahorse legs and brass oyster-shaped lights that illuminated the water. Within the water delicate, glass spheres the size of golf balls in varied pastel hues floated up and down in a slow, rhythmic pattern, never reaching the surface. I stood over it for a better look. An unexpected wave of heat rose up and warmed my cheeks. “What is this?”

She snatched a dried, green strip from the table next to her and snapped off a mouthful. “Sea grass jerky. Want a piece?”

“No thanks.” My gaze returned to the mysterious floating balls. “I mean, why are there balls in a fish tank and what’s in them?”

“Da balls contain somethin’ more precious dan air.” She stepped closer and hovered her hands over the water and when she turned back to me, her cheeks were flushed with color.

Amazon Buy Links

Koush Hollow

Bewitching Hannah

Disenchanted


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

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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Friday Features’

Is Happy to share the news

Soul Mate Publishing is proud to announce the release of a

new book by

Janis Lane

Murder by Proxy, a Detective Kevin Fowler cozy mystery.

A blizzard blows in big-city crimes which spill into the peaceful small town of Hubbard, New York, catching the attention of Detective Kevin Fowler and staff. What unusual acts engage the Secret Service with the local cops? A young man is found badly beaten in the heated greenhouse of the Young Family Plant Nursery. Early spring melt reveals a sinister vehicle with a deadly cargo, even as the master of the greenhouse welcomes part-time alumni.

Romance swirls, tumbles, and produces surprising changes among the group of friends at Buddy and Rita’s diner. Beverly hires a young, ambitious reporter to work at the growing newspaper and starts a new adventure of her own, while Kevin watches over the townspeople of Hubbard. The mystery of a toxic skunk is finally routed by troublesome out-of-towners. An unexpected wedding shocks everyone but the Young Family. Spring has arrived and May is in full bloom in the Western New York small-town Americana, as another beautiful bride walks toward the flower-laded bower under the approving eyes of a group of fond friends.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma Lane, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Her dream job

by

Alicia Joseph

When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a creative writing course where I wrote two horribly written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts.

About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time, and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start.

Turns out, I was right.

Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them, I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel titled A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out. The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near train tracks. They spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hide becomes the scene of a tragic death.

As for the other story, The Attic, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes and took me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but it was contracted. The new name of that book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally putting that story to rest.

I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after graduating college. I had finished it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible.

So, in the bin those pages went. A couple of years back I fished the pages out of the bin. Just like the short stories, I found a storyline I could work with. I hope to be finished with the story my summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I will look at and see if there’s a storyline in them to work.

Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They take up too much space in my head. I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on new projects.

If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones to salvage and which one to let go? I now realize it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go. Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.

Here is a glimpse into my coming-of-age novel A Penny on the Tracks. I hope you enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Really, it was all my idea

by

Anne Montgomery

I became a sports official to learn about the games so that I might become a competent sportscaster. It seemed like a good idea, and yet, during my 15-year reporting career, I never met any other officials who became broadcasters.

A long time ago, back when I hoped to earn a paycheck in front of a TV camera, I had what I thought was a moment of brilliance. Why, I opined, wouldn’t TV networks want to hire sports officials and put them in the broadcast booth? The idea seemed like a win-win.

Of course, I was a tad biased. I had taken five years and learned to officiate five sports: football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. All with the hope that my new-found on-field expertise might wrangle me a job as a sportscaster. While blowing whistles and calling balls and strikes did eventually help me get my foot in the sports journalism world, I never in 15 years as a reporter meet any other broadcasters from the officiating ranks.

When I was a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, I suggested it might be a good idea to put former officials in the broadcast booth. My colleagues thought I was crazy.

Fast forward to today, where former officials are now miced up and sharing their thoughts on calls with the viewing public. That makes me want to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and confront my old colleagues at ESPN.

“It would be great,” I explained in the newsroom back in 1990. “You could put officials in the booth and they could explain why certain calls were made.”

Crickets.

“You know, clear up confusion for the viewers.”

My remarks, as I recall, were met by head shakes indicating that I was certainly out of my mind. Who would ever want to listen to sports officials speak? They intimated.

Fast forward thirty years and there they are, with the NFL leading the way. Former officials and now rules analysts Mike Pereira, Dean Blandino, and Terry McAulay, among others. Then there’s Gene Steratore, who along with his 15-year NFL career spent 20 years calling college basketball games and is now an analyst for both sports.

The question is, what took the networks so long? Sports rules are complicated. Don’t believe me? Ask someone to explain what constitutes a catch is in football. Or the reasoning behind and execution of an infield fly in baseball. Or the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Or when icing is waved off in hockey. Or how to tell a charge from a block in basketball. Or what constitutes traveling. Oh, wait. No one calls that anymore.

While fans might better understand their favorite sports by listening to former officials in the booth, maybe they’re happier just arguing about the rules.

Anyway, if you don’t believe me, pick up a rule book. Just read one page. I dare you. Rules and their corresponding diagrams can sometimes look like hieroglyphics with descriptions written by folks from MENSA. So why not hire people who study those books for a living? Then they can dumb down the rules to make them more digestible to the viewing public.

Then again, many fans thrive on controversy and arguing about calls is high on their list of entertaining things to do. Maybe if they actually understood the rules, some of the fun might be drained out of sports fandom.

As a purist, I think it’s better to truly understand the rules, but since I spent four decades as an amateur official, I’m clearly more than a little biased.

Here is a peek at one of my women’s fiction novels. I hope you enjoy it.

A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona dessert.

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

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Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

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Friday Features

We talk about

words and meanings

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

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

“Where are you located?” I asked him.

“The Philippines,” he replied.

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

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

Then he said we should keep our phone lines open.

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

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

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

“No,” he replied.

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

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

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

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

Links for our books are on our Amazon Author Page

BIO: C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories.
Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They’ve written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after.

They are looking forward to many years of co-authoring and book sales, and a lifetime of happily-ever-after endings on the page and in real life.

If this piques your interest, then settle into a comfy chair and check out our books on our book page, under the menu at the top of the page or on our Amazon Author Page

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