Posts Tagged ‘Friday Features’

Friday Features’

Released March 5 from

Chris Pavesic,

the author of Starter Zone: The Revelation Chronicles, the first book in a new steampunk mystery series. Looks like another best seller for this fine author. But you be the judge.

When the Temples north of Chiaroscuro are burned and followers of the Sun Goddess are murdered, Catherine, a bard of the Ealdoth Temple, sets out to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. With only the help of a traveling group of minstrels and a retired fae investigator, Catherine must solve the mystery before more people are killed.

So saddle up your clockwork mount, buckle on your electro-dagger, and join Catherine as she finds herself pitted against members of her own Temple, rogue members of the Seelie Court, and a seemingly unstoppable army of undead.

In Chiaroscuro it’s important to keep the faith.

Services were scheduled to commence in an hour, and Ernest needed to be ready. He struck a match and lit the first gaslight, watching the flame take hold and flare up. The light pushed back the shadows so parishioners were able to find their way to the pews without stumbling. He would extinguish the artificial lights right before the service so the effect of the sunlight illuminating the darkness hit with maximum impact as it flooded through the skylights.

The parishioners would marvel at how the Temple filled with the Goddess’s Holy Light just in time for the service. Ernest would marvel at the fact that none of them were smart enough to realize he flipped a switch on back of the altar to swing open mechanical shutters.

There was a religious stirring in Grand Marsh more powerful than anything Ernest had experienced in his ten years as a Sacerd. The services at dawn, noon, and sundown were packed. Few of the farmers went out to the fields. They worked in town on community projects or sat drinking at the tavern. Their wives remained in the town square, full of chatter, instead of staying on their farmsteads. Their thin voices filled the air. The youngest children were kept close while the teens clustered in protective packs far enough away to keep their discussions out of reach of their parents’ ears. But close enough to be in sight at all times. None of them wandered off.

Three times a day they filled the Temple, ready to hear his words. Faces tilted up to him. Man and woman, young and old. And none of his parishioners would confess why they were so filled with the Holy Spirit that they were neglecting their farms. They were afraid of speaking blasphemy. But he knew the reason, and it caused a lift in his heart that was not due to religious inspiration. They were scared, plain and simple, and it gave him hope.

Since being assigned to the far parish almost five years ago, a posting he saw as an end to the upward progress of his career in the Temple, he struggled daily to swallow his disappointment. It wouldn’t leave, and it was bitter. Bitter.

In this remote village, far from the bustle and industry of Chiaroscuro, the quality of his life, the texture of his life, changed. He longed for life in the city. The world seemed to have shifted into two zones. The pace of life for the city dwellers increased while people living in the countryside were being left behind.

Time’s arrow struck fastest through the densest populations. Sacerds assigned to any of the major cities made more connections and accumulated more power in a single week than he did in a year. Exerting influence was impossible when the spheres of power were spinning outside of his reach, moving too fast for him to see, let alone have an impact.

The wound to his pride stung the most. The elders had hurt his feelings. To be dismissed so easily, passed along so casually—it was like the swatting of an annoying insect. The Temple elders did not treat him as if he mattered, as if his family ties were consequential. True he was a third son, but of a noble line. And they assigned him to a rustic Temple to attend to common folk far below his station.

Very little was required of him here. Or, more precisely, very little of what he did here interested him. He burned to return to the central Temple and to be part of the intrigues and power shifts. This attracted him more than caring for the simple souls of farmers and shopkeepers. Power was why he joined the Temple, and what he was now denied.

But not for long. The thought clanged in his mind with undeniable rightness. Not righteousness. It was an important distinction. Would the Goddess sanction his actions? Probably not, but he was past caring about her approval. During all of the ceremonies, all of the prayer and introspection, he had never felt any divine presence. He had never witnessed any miracles, and doubted their existence.

But power, oh he had seen the existence of power. Political. Social. Religious. Whatever you called it really didn’t matter. Get enough people to follow you. Enough people to believe in what you were selling. This was the belief that could move the world.

There was only one woman in his life he needed to please now, and she held no divinity. Merci had offered him a way out of this rural purgatory, and he had accepted. Truth be told, he had grabbed at it like a castaway might grab at a line from a passing airship. If the price were the damnation of his soul, so be it.

He glanced out the window at the transport coming down the lane. A high quality clockwork carriage with the Temple’s Crest stamped on the doors rattled over the boards strewn across the irrigation ditch and stopped, parking in the speckled light cast by the ornament trees planted along the lane. The carriage blocked traffic, but the driver did not seem to care. Elder members of the clergy, Hlytere, and above, felt they had the right of way. Others had to go around.

A pale, dark-haired woman emerged and stood for a moment looking around. She pulled the hood of her dark cloak over her hair and walked through the yard toward the Temple. Ernest’s gaze followed her, trying to imagine who this stranger was.

Her footsteps sounded in the aisle and, when he turned from window, she was almost upon him. Her speed startled him. When he saw her face to face he realized she was younger than he had supposed. Too young to be a Hlytere, but her use of the carriage meant she was favored by the Temple elders. The seed of jealousy radiated through him. He felt it in his chest and the pit of his stomach. He struggled to keep the emotion off his face.

“Greetings.” He shook her hand with a firm grasp. Her hands were small and smooth and white. “Will you come in for a moment?” He led her to the small reception room off the main area that contained a round table and several wooden chairs. He lit a cheroot, offered her one, which she declined, and they sat down.

“Please forgive me for calling on you so close to mid-day Services, Sacerd Ernest.” She paused. “You are Sacerd Ernest, correct? It’s not like me to presume.”

“Of course. I’m glad you came. I watched you drive up, you know, and I wondered who you were. We don’t get many visitors from the Temple here.”

“I’m surprised you don’t recognize me, cousin. Of course, I didn’t recognize you. So perhaps it’s not so surprising.”

“I’m sorry. I …”

“I’m from the cadet line of our family tree. My father is the elder son of the younger son of our line.”

His brow creased in thought. “Grace?”

“Yes,” she said with a smile, reaching out to touch his hand. Her fingers rested there for a moment too long. Lingered. And then she leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs, which were slim and bare beneath her robe.

Sacerd Ernest regarded his guest, wondering that her physical presence should suddenly dawn upon him so. She was more beautiful than he had thought at first. Her skin was clear and lovely, and her eyes and mouth were made up carefully and well.

What’s her game? He licked at the perspiration that appeared upon his upper lip.

“I would like your help in a small matter. And of course I wanted to meet you.”

“You did?”

“Our sponsor has spoken of you with such affection.”

“Our superior?” He used the wrong word to see if she would correct him.

“Technically, I suppose, she may be yours. I’ve never thought much of the rules of hierarchy in the Temple.” She cocked her head, listening to noises from the other room. Some of his parishioners had started to file in for the service. “It’s such a mercy, isn’t it?’

Ah, code words.

She must think she’s being clever, although he had no idea who could possibly overhear their conversation. It was only just dawning on him why she must be here. In his town. In his Temple. But he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was get out of Grand Marsh. Get back to Chiaroscuro. It didn’t bother him that people, his parishioners, may die, or suffer a fate worse than death. He just wanted to get out.

It’s not my fault if I’m following orders.

But that was a poor excuse, wasn’t it? Guilt flared, hot and strong.

Do you want to stay in Grand Marsh forever? Ministering to the townsfolk? Do you?

No … but he didn’t want to hurt people. Those conflicting thoughts pulled at him. There was the question of right and wrong. What was right for him might go wrong for others. But that was the way it had to be.

Thus he banished the guilt. When something inside of him tried to protest again, tried to tell him to think before he did this, he smothered it.

“When?” He didn’t have any time for nonsense. The quicker it occurred, the quicker he resumed his rightful place.

“In two days. I have some items in my transport that need to be set up in the Temple, but kept out of view.” She smiled and spoke a little louder so that the earliest arrivals overheard her. “I wish I could stay to help with the Mass, but I am needed back in Chiaroscuro.” She lowered her voice. “Officially I never left the city.”

“Of course.” He guessed that she had no desire to partake in the service. “I will help you with whatever you need.” Whatever may come of it, he had gone too far to stop now.

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

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

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


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Friday Features’

Guest talks about



Eris Field

Photo by Chris Sharp

Marriage is usually thought of as being brought about in one of two ways: love-based marriages and arranged marriages. Love-based marriages are easy to define. They are marriages arranged by the two people to be married–two people who are wildly, deliciously in love. Arranged marriages have greater variety. Traditionally, arranged marriages have been thought of as marriages orchestrated by others—parents, family members, matchmakers, or religious leaders. However, there is an atypical form of arranged marriage, dearly loved by novelists—the marriage of convenience—that is the marriage is arranged by the two people to be married but it is not based on love, definitely not on love or there would be no story. Finally there is the maverick form, On-line Dating, the method used by 40 million Americans to meet suitable partners for the purpose of matrimony. Overall, love-based marriages are more common in the Western World and arranged marriages more common in traditional societies.

In love-based marriages, it is the mutual attraction of the two people for each other that leads to marriage. Their goal is immediate, blissful happiness. Their motto is Love Conquers All. Issues such as expectations of their extended families, whose work with take precedence, how money will be managed, religious practices, where they will live, and previously acquired debts may or may not be discussed by the two of them prior to the marriage.

In contrast, in arranged marriages, the goal is not immediate happiness for the two people being married but long-term well-being and lack of problems for them and, equally important, for the members of both families that are being united by the marriage. It is accepted that, if the selection process is carefully carried out by people who know the couple well and have their best interests in mind, the bride and groom will be well-matched and will come to love each other. The motto in arranged marriages is Love Comes After Marriage. To increase the odds of a trouble-free marriage, it is common for the person arranging the marriage to present the following information about the prospective partner:

1) Reputation of the individual and of all the members of the family,
2) Vocation/career of the individual and how long employed,
3) Wealth of the individual and the family,
4) Physical appearance including grooming,
5) Values such as traditional beliefs or liberal beliefs,
6) Religion, and
7) Medical history of the entire family (possibly to rule out potential mates with a family history of genetically transmitted disorders).

In arranged marriages, it is generally accepted that the couple will have the final say in accepting or rejecting the proposed candidate.

There is a different type of arranged marriage, the forced marriage, in which the couple does not have the final say. Most frequently it is a young girl who is forced to marry against her will. If she refuses, she may face physical punishment, banishment, or death (honor violence). Forced marriages are more common in the Middle East, North Africa, South East Asia, and India; however, they do exist in other countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. among their immigrant populations. The reasons for forced marriages include:

1) To strengthen family or tribal ties,
2) To increase family wealth,
3) Parents’ cultural or religious beliefs,
4) To control behavior of young women (reduce chance of sexual activity),
5) Settle disputes between families/tribes,
6) Make retribution for an injury or insult,
7) Resolve tribal feuds, blood feuds.
8) To help someone gain entry to the U.S. i.e. to get a ‘green card.’

The United Nations views forced marriages as a form of human rights abuse and the practice has been outlawed by many countries.

In comparing the outcomes of love-based marriages and arranged marriages, it appears at first glance that the divorce rate is lower among arranged marriages. However, it should be kept in mind that the acceptance of divorce is lower in the parts of the world where arranged marriages are highest. There have been studies showing that couples who met through on-line dating were happy, loving, and committed. If there is any conclusion to be drawn in considering love-based marriages versus arranged marriages, it seems that the chance of a successful marriage may be increased by knowing more about the person before the marriage takes place.

In my book Lattices of Love Emine Wheeler, a 26-year-old Turkish-American professor of psychiatric nursing, has vowed to marry for love, like her American father. When Emine meets Marc van Etten, a reticent Dutch psychiatrist, at a conference in Amsterdam, she recognizes him as the man she has been waiting for and knows that she can’t live behind the lattices of old harem rules any longer.

Marc, who believes that his colleagues blame him for his wife’s suicide, restricts his life to work and caring for the troubled four-year-old girl he calls his daughter. But, when Emine runs into difficulties, he offers his assistance. Emine, ignoring the age-old harem rule that forbids talking or spending time with a man who is not a family member, accepts his help.

Later, when Emine must choose between accepting the family-approved proposal of a man she does not love or damaging her family’s honor, Marc offers a solution—marriage. It will save her family’s honor and provide a mother for his daughter.

Believing that her fierce love for Marc will be enough, Emine agrees, only to discover that it is not. When Marc erroneously accuses her of betraying him, she flees. Realizing belatedly that he loves Emine beyond everything in his life, Marc must find a way to win her back.

Here’s a little from Lattices of Love for you.

Emine Wheeler, a 26-year-old Turkish-American professor of psychiatric nursing, has vowed to marry for love, like her American father. When she meets Marc van Etten, a reticent Dutch psychiatrist, at a conference in Amsterdam, she recognizes him as the man she has been waiting for and knows that she can’t live behind the lattices of old harem rules any longer.

Marc, who believes that his colleagues blame him for his wife’s suicide, restricts his life to work and caring for the troubled four-year-old girl he calls his daughter. But, when Emine runs into difficulties, he offers his assistance. Emine, ignoring the age-old harem rule that forbids talking or spending time with a man who is not a family member, accepts his help.

Later, when Emine must choose between accepting the family-approved proposal of a man she does not love or damaging her family’s honor, Marc offers a solution—marriage. It will save her family’s honor and provide a mother for his daughter.

Believing that her fierce love for Marc will be enough, Emine agrees, only to discover that it is not. When Marc erroneously accuses her of betraying him, she flees. Realizing belatedly that he loves Emine beyond everything in his life, Marc must find a way to win her back.

Amazon Buy Link

Eris Field was born in the Green Mountains of Vermont—Jericho, Vermont to be precise—close by the home of Wilson Bentley (aka Snowflake Bentley), the first person in the world to photograph snowflakes. She learned from her Vermont neighbors that pursuit of one’s dream is a worthwhile life goal.

As a seventeen-year-old student nurse at Albany Hospital, Eris met a Turkish surgical intern who she later married. He told her fascinating stories about the history of Turkey, about the loss of the Ottoman Empire, and about forced population exchanges. After they married and moved to Buffalo, Eris worked as a nurse at Children’s Hospital and at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

After taking time off to raise five children and amassing rejection letters for her short stories, Eris earned her master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing at the University at Buffalo. Later, she taught psychiatric nursing at the University and wrote a textbook for psychiatric nurse practitioners—an endeavor requiring a great deal of hard labor.

Eris now writes novels, usually international, contemporary romances. Her interest in history and her experience in psychiatry often play a part in her stories. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Western New York Romance Writers. In addition to writing, her interests include Honor Killings, eradicating female genital mutilation, supporting the Crossroads Springs Orphanage in Kenya for children orphaned by AIDS, and learning more about the old cities of the world.

Learn more about Eris Field on her website. Stay connected on Facebook.


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Friday Features’

Guest talks about



Vonnie Hughes

This is a lovely beverage to serve for any party. The color is festive and the taste refreshing.


Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash.com

2 cups boiling water
4 green tea bags
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cups red grapefruit juice, preferably fresh
1 cup orange juice
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 medium apple, cored and cut into chunks or/and wedges
2 peaches cut into wedges
3 cups carbonated water

Pour the boiling water over the tea bags and steep for 10 minutes. Discard tea bags and then stir in sugar.

In a large pitcher combine tea, cinnamon sticks, juices, and fruit. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight.


Just before serving, stir in carbonated water. Serve in large glasses filled with ice.

1 – 750ml bottle of your favourite red wine
150ml (5oz.) brandy
1 cup orange juice
½ grapefruit, sliced into thin rounds
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 medium apple, cored and cut into chunks or/and wedges
2 peaches cut into wedges
6 cinnamon sticks

In a large pitcher combine wine, brandy, juice, fruit, and cinnamon sticks. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour but preferably overnight.

Serve in large glasses filled with ice.

Now sit back and enjoy your drink while you scan my latest romantic suspense.

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she’s placed in the Unit “New Zealand’s witness protection program” where she’s expected to trust strangers with her life.

It’s psychologist Brand Turner’s job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide “can she trust Brand with her life?

Please click a vendor’s name to read more from Lethal Refuge: 
The Wild Rose Press – Amazon

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’

New book

Wild Whispers


Ryan Jo Summers

Set against the exciting backdrop in the chase for the Triple Crown and filled with mystical surprises. Season is not a witch, but she can make a horse run and Ty’s heart race.

Season Moriarty is part fey and part druid. She can see the future and alter it. She welds control over the natural elements of earth, wind, fire and water as well as manipulating life and death. And she is an accomplished racehorse trainer, able to get any horse to run like the wind. Now Season has landed the dream job that will test all of her skills and abilities.

Ty Masters runs his horse racing business with an iron fist. No one dares to question him. He hires Season based on her reputation. Then they meet. Immediately, she questions him, challenges him, infuriates him, intrigues him, captivates him, and even intimidates him a little. Then she spellbinds him. But can she make a Triple Crown winner out of his willful colt?

Mysterious threats to Ty’s racehorses bring him and Season together in another kind of race against the clock. As the stakes for the Triple Crown rises and the identity of who wants to destroy Ty, so does the undeniable interest and fiery sparks between them.

Buy link for Wild Whispers


Ryan Jo Summers writes mashed romances. Sweet love stories that include any combination of contemporary theme: Christian, humor, mystery, paranormal, shape shifting, suspense, or time travel. She writes non-fiction pieces for various magazines. In addition to a full time job, and a full time writing career, she also has a pet sitting business. She comes from a family of wordsmiths, with members who have been song writers and poets.

In her limited free time, she likes to read, escape to the wilderness and rivers, visit with friends and family, or just hang with her pets. She enjoys chess, crafts, painting, poetry, and word find puzzles. She lives in a century-old mountain cottage in North Carolina with a menagerie of rescued animals and way too many house plants.

My social media links:

Website Blog Facebook Twitter

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Secret Operative


D.R. Grady

What is a secret operative?

The short answer is—I have no idea! I’m not entirely cognizant on the training secret operatives receive, or the skills they’re expected to possess. The little I know I picked up from books and the internet. Who knows if that information is accurate?

In the usual manner of writers, I made up my characters’ abilities for my newest story, THE NERD WHO SPIED ME. I need them to know how to do certain things in select scenes, so they display that aptitude.

I can certainly state that my characters who are secret operatives, or spies, as they are also known, are impressive people with impressive expertise. My secret operative characters possess the Navy SEAL and Army Ranger skill sets. These include, but are not limited to—weaponry, multiple languages, advanced survival skills, in-depth computer knowledge, and basic medical training. They can function in any terrain and are trained to handle any situation.

Or they die. We can therefore conclude that those who have lived long enough to retire are impressive people. I’m not entirely clear on their missions. I suspect I don’t have a high enough security clearance to be privy to their assignments. 

You’ll meet Cian Hunter and Verity Wellington in THE NERD WHO SPIED ME, two operatives who both have plenty of successful jobs to their record—a major feat. They’ve endured situations they can’t talk about, and typically don’t think about either.

This book is a little darker than my usual novels, and it’s entirely due to their profession. I couldn’t write this in the usual lighthearted manner as most of my books. Although you’ll encounter plenty of humor, their very lives are often in jeopardy, so I couldn’t undermine this by glossing over the stomach squelching aspects of their assignments.

It’s still a romp and still has my lighter voice, as well as plenty of the Morrison family who make an appearance. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of THE NERD WHO SPIED ME to enjoy.

The Nerd Who Spied Me blurb
Cian Hunter is tasked with the impossible: find Verity Wellington and bring her home safely. His survival is not guaranteed.

Everyone in their business knows Verity is perfectly capable of getting herself home, since she’s the gut-them-first-and-ask-questions-later type of operative. She also has the advantage of knowing where she is, which would be helpful.

He accepts the assignment, aware two operatives are better than one when dealing with the nebulous factions who lurk in the shadows. Plus, the chance to get close to Verity to see if his attraction to her is more than a fleeting interest is too good to pass up. Provided she doesn’t gut him first.

Cian is confident in his secret operative abilities, despite wishing to leave them behind. However, his relationship goals leave something to be desired. If he can figure those out… he might stand a chance of getting them both home alive.

The Nerd Who Spied Me buy links:


Barnes and Noble

Google Play


Createspace: coming soon!


D.R. Grady lives with her husband near Hershey, PA. She adores chocolate, laughing, collecting bags, books, and shoes, and writing stories that resonate with others.

Find D.R. Grady at:

Website Amazon Facebook Twitter Google+ Instagram

Other works by D.R. Grady

The Morrison Family Series:

The Nerd and the Marine
The Corpsman and the Nerd
the Nerd and the SEAL
The Nerd’s Pocket Pets
Shadows and Spice
Macy’s Parade
Bad Nerd Rising
Bad Nerd Falling
Nerds on Fire
Nerds Unite
The Trouble with Nerds
The Nerd who Spied Me

The Me Series:

Treasure Me
Save Me
Trust Me
Heal Me
Love Me

The Dragon Chronicles Series:

The Dragon Chronicles Book 1: Learning
The Dragon Chronicles Book 2: Shifting
The Drabon Chronicles Book 3: Healing

For additional buying options and updates, please visit my Website.

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Friday Features’

Guest appetizer

Cheese Ball Pumpkin


HL Carpenter

October is National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.

Cheese Ball Pumpkin

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
The stem of a green bell pepper

Place all of the cheese in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.

When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).

Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.

With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.

Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.

To add even more fun to the party, discuss a good book. We suggest our young adult novel.

Seventeen year old Vandy Spencer lives like a princess. Sheltered by her wealthy family, she happily makes plans to spend a before-college gap summer with her gorgeous boyfriend.

Then her dad is accused of financial fraud. The victims of her dad’s swindle vow revenge, and her dad flees.

As accusations and innuendos pile up, Vandy retreats to a hermit-like existence in her childhood tree house and struggles to separate reality from lies. Was her perfect life truly so perfect? Did she ever really know her father?
When family secrets come to light, revealing an unimaginable betrayal, Vandy learns to appreciate the simple richness of sincerity and truth.

A branch cracked behind me and leaves rustled. I scrambled to my feet.

Stenny had come after me! He really did love me, enough to follow me, and…

Pete Hawthorn stepped out of the woods, holding a flashlight. The backglow lit his face, which was drawn into the frown he wore lately whenever he saw me, and his mouth turned down into a scowl. “Don’t you have any sense at all, Dandy-Vandy?”

I should have known Stenny wouldn’t traipse through the woods searching for me. Running through the dark wasn’t his style. He’d use his phone.

My own phone, tucked in the pocket of my shorts, burst into the first bars of Boyfriend. I ignored the noise and poked a finger at Pete’s chest. “Quit calling me that. Don’t you have better things to do than skulk around the woods in the dark? Like maybe going to work?”

“I took the night off.” He peered at me. “Why are you crying?”

“None of your business!” Then, as his words sank in, I asked, “Why’d you take the night off? Is Gus okay?”

“Gramps is the same as he always is.” Pete slid the button on the flashlight and the bulb dimmed. “I stayed home because we heard the news about your dad. We’re going to help, in whatever way we can.” His voice barely carried across the small space between us, the words and tone sincere.

“That means a lot. Thanks. Tell Gus thanks too.”

“Yeah.” Pete turned the flashlight on bright again and waved it in a searching arc. “Where’s the jerk-off? He leave you alone out here?”

My gratitude evaporated like dew off grass. I planted my hands on my hips as my phone played Boyfriend again. “Stenny’s not a jerk-off, and he’s probably at the tree house, where I left him.”

“How nice to know he’ll stay where you tell him to. At least you won’t need to put a leash on him when the two of you are wandering around France.” Pete narrowed his eyes. “The woods are really dark, Dandy-Vandy, in case you haven’t noticed. Do you have a flashlight? Or am I gonna have to walk you home?”

I didn’t need him to babysit me. I opened my mouth to say so, and then reconsidered as the sounds of the night surged around me. He was right. The darkness crackled with noises I hadn’t paid much attention to during my rush to get away from the hurt of Stenny’s doubt. The air seemed ominous too, full of a sickly-sweet odor, a combination of gasoline, motor oil, and damp dirt. The mix stunk the way I imagined zombies – or worse, vampires – would.

“Thanks, Pete. That’s a good idea.”

“I have them occasionally.” He gestured with the flashlight. “The path’s this way.”

We strode along single file without speaking. The dry leaves crackled beneath our feet and the occasional haunting cry of a bird shredded the air.

“Nightingale,” Pete said.

We reached the end of the path, coming out of the woods behind a row of bushes fencing Kingsway’s open lawn. A line of solar lights illuminated the back yard, glowing against the pool cabana and the house’s white walls beyond – big, ornate…and home.

I smiled despite my worries. “I love how pretty our house is at night.”

Pete shut the flashlight off. “I’ll send you pictures while you’re enjoying your European adventure with the jerk-off.”

I was turning to him when a man carrying a portable video camera dashed across the lawn. I gasped. “He’s headed for the house! I have to warn Dad.”


Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

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Friday Features

Free Book

Sizzle in the Snow

Sizzle in the Snow: A Soul Mate Christmas Collection is eight holiday romances packed into one volume. Majanka Verstraete of InD’tale magazine rated the collection four stars and five steam pots. She called the book “an interesting holiday collection” with “smooth and polished style” storylines. “Each story is full of wit, charm and – most of all – romance.”

Our story is Kissing Santa:

When Sam S. Klaus, a professional Santa, has a fling with a beautiful elfette at a Santa Conference, he wants to make her Mrs. Klaus, but his intended disappears before Santa can pop the question.
Excerpt from Kissing Santa:
     Anna Noel studied the trim backside of the Santa standing in front of her. He appeared younger than most of the Santas at the Santa Claus conference she’d chosen to attend this year. A lot more attractive than any Santa she’d ever met. For the briefest of moments she let her mind wander, lingering on Christmas wish number nine—make love to Santa. A heated flush climbed her chest as she envisioned the scene, and she flapped the jacket of her green elf costume to cool down.
     Her gaze traveled over his hips, chest, and to the beginnings of a snow white beard. Then to his shock of silver hair underneath the white-trimmed, red Santa hat.

     Yep. Definitely a Santa she wanted to know. Too bad she wouldn’t be the elf to his mall Santa. They could get to know each other and more.
     The conference registrar drew her out of her Christmas fantasy with a loud, “Miss? Are you with this Santa?”

     “What? No. I don’t have a Santa. I’m here alone.”

     Sexy Santa turned and held out his hand. “Me, too. I’m Sam S. Klaus.”
     A smile curled her lips as she took his hand. “As in Sam Santa Claus?”
His warm palm sent tingles through her fingers as he gently squeezed them.

     A lopsided grin slanted his cheek upward, and he flashed a brilliant smile. “You have the same warped sense of humor as my parents.” He gave her a mock bow. “Sam S., for Santa, Klaus, with a K.”
     “That’s your real name?” He let go of her hand. She fought to keep from grabbing it back. A real Santa Klaus? How great was that?
     “The same, and you are?”
     “An—” She stopped, suddenly unwilling to reveal her name. A rollercoaster of emotions raced through her, suggesting she might hit number nine with this Santa. If she did, and it didn’t go well, she wouldn’t want Sam Klaus to know her real identity. “An elf, who needs a Santa,” she said. “How about we team up? I’ll be your personal elfette, and you can be my Santa.”

Want to know what each story is about… besides romance and Christmas? Well, here it is! (If you like their blurb, check out each author’s other books by clicking on their name!)

SANTA BABY by Beth Carter

Unlucky-in-love Brooke Woods finds herself with a Christmas delivery and it isn’t from Santa. When her boyfriend leaves her for their neighbor, she heads to the nearest bar, meeting hunky, nice guy Anderson Bradley. The two only exchange first names, and their hot fling leaves them both wanting more but their anonymity makes that impossible.
Brooke never thought she’d end up in a hospital pregnant at Christmastime. Will a Santa Baby bring the new mother and father together or tear them apart?


When Grace Sellers needs to start over, she moves back to her old hometown with her two young children in tow. But the last person she expects to see is her high school crush, Michael Dennison.
Is this unexpected encounter a mere coincidence or a second chance at true love?


“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when plans led to danger
For Clara and Drew, who until now were strangers.
As they run for safety, desire comes fast . . .
Will they have each other, or is this night their last?”

THE SNOW BIRD by Kim Hotzon

Lauren, a young single mother, is struggling to keep her children fed and a roof over their heads as the holidays approach.
Christmas is looking bleak until a sexy and wealthy property developer unexpectedly shows up in town, offering to repair her roof . . . and a whole lot more.


Years ago Paige and Shane experienced a tragic event in their romance. Unable to move past it, they broke up. Yet the passion remains, and she returns at Christmas time in an attempt to rekindle the love she and Shane once shared. It’s a rocky road, and it seems they might not succeed until a freak accident shows them what they really have to lose.
Can Shane tame Paige’s heart by Christmas? Or should they just let those still burning flames slowly die?


When Marci Hofer becomes fed up with the lack of attention from her husband, David, she decides to leave him. Devastated, he begins a campaign to bring her home. Calling it Operation Santa, he learns what he thought would be as simple as sending her gifts can backfire in the most embarrassing ways.
Will he survive the battle to get her back?


Steve knows he screwed up, but he’s determined to reclaim the woman he loves and the babies she carries.
But when he sweeps back into her life on Christmas Eve, Amy’s not sure she’s ready to forgive him for abandoning her six months earlier.

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