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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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Author Leigh Goff who shares with us about a witch’s supernatural spirit companion.

A witch’s familiar is her lucky charm. What is a familiar or a familiar spirit? A familiar is a witch’s mascot; her supernatural spirit companion that takes the form of an animal, but an animal with its own magical powers. This special creature is a guardian and protector, lending support to its witch when needed and, if she is young, guiding her as she comes into her powers.

In witch lore, the creature is usually represented by the oh-so-clever black cat, but the familiar takes a form that best represents the individual nature of the witch. Dogs, birds, and mice are also popular familiars. A familiar can be as small as a butterfly or as big as an elephant. Horses make excellent familiars, too. As an author who writes about witches, I am partial to ravens and crows. They are protective, intelligent birds known for being excellent messengers.

Famous familiars include…Thackery Binx cat of Hocus Pocus, Salem Saberhagen from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Perdu the magical raven in The Witches of New York. I feature Hannah’s beautiful white raven familiar on the cover of Bewitching Hannah. He is her brave messenger, Siris; a name that is a magical palindrome like Hannah.

Today, many witches and Wiccan practitioners have adopted the idea of having a supernatural servant spirit and guardian. Familiars serve as faithful protectors of a witch and her powers. Most importantly, they are loyal to the end.

Speaking of lucky charms, if you’re looking for a sweet treat to pair with one of my bewitching novels, I am including a super simple recipe from Delish.com below.

Enjoy!

Best Lucky Charms Treats

½ cup (1 stick) butter, plus more for pan

1 (12-oz.) bag mini marshmallows

½ tsp. kosher salt

6 cup Lucky Charms

Grease a 9″-x-9″ baking dish with butter. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows and salt and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in Lucky Charms.

Pour into pan and smooth top, being careful not to pack cereal too tightly into prepared dish. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Here is a little from my paranormal fantasy 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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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A new book from Stella May who brings us her latest Time Travel Romance. Be sure to get your copy today!

This engrossing novel has wonderful moments of humor and honest soul-searching. This book contains a house flipper who talks to her projects, a beloved grandmother, a case of mistaken identity, and a slow-burn romance. Look for its release on Amazon and all major vendors September 27, 2021.

The twist of a key answers many questions…but could also break her heart.

BLURB:
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.

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

Stella writes fantasy romance and time travel and is the author of the family saga/trilogy Once & Forever, 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.

She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and all are partners in their family business.

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

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Friday Features

SALMON PATTIES

As the “C” of C.D. Hersh I do the cooking around the homestead. Today I thought it would be nice to share a homey meal of salmon patties. This is my mother’s recipe, and quite frankly, I love it so much that I always put a few patties aside for breakfast. I even eat them cold. As kids, and when I could eat more carbs, these were served with white rice and gravy made from the oil and pan drippings. Nowadays I choose a more carb friendly side. I know the “D” loves these and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.

MOM’S SALMON PATTIES

    1 – 15 oz. can of pink salmon
    2 eggs, lightly beaten
    ½ cup finely diced onion
    1 cup finely diced celery
    ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
    1 – 2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Drain salmon, leaving bones and skin in bowl. Add eggs and veggies and mix well. Add cornmeal and mix well.

Heat oil in skillet until it shimmers. Form patties using a 2-inch diameter spoon and fry in oil until golden brown on both sides. It may take 2 batches to cook all patties and you may need to add a bit more oil as they fry. Keep patties warm in a low temperature oven while your second batch cooks.

Makes 12 patties

After the dishes are done and you’re ready to relax, download Can’t Stop The Music and take a trip back to Woodstock 1969 with our heroine Rose and her Italian stallion Dakota. To whet your appetite, here’s a peek at Rose and Dakota’s first meeting. Enjoy!

Magic and music brings them together at Woodstock in 1969. Misunderstandings tear them apart. Will two flower children find one another again, or live with missed opportunities?

As they made their way to the festival site, Rose and her friends grooved to the music coming from the stage.

When they reached the makeshift bridge over the road, someone yelled, “Hey beautiful! You with the red hair.”

She looked around to see if there was anyone else with red hair. Then she glanced up and spotted two guys, one blond and the other dark-haired, leaning over the side of the bridge.

“Yeah, you,” the blond called out as he caught her gaze.

Willow halted beside her. “He’s cute. How about him?”

Rose looked away, her gaze landing on the other guy.

He jabbed his companion in the ribs. “Quit trying to pick up every girl you see.” Then he leaned farther over the rail. “Don’t pay any attention to him. He’s high.”

“So she’s not beautiful?” Willow yelled to the hippie.

She poked her friend. “Stop it, Willow, you’re making a scene.” In spite of her protest, her gaze remained on the dark-haired guy.

He rested his elbows on the rail and stared back at her. The intensity of his expression shot heat into her belly.

“I didn’t say that, just that she shouldn’t pay attention to him.” He flapped a hand at his blond buddy, then tapped his own chest with his thumb several times as if to say, ‘Choose me!’

Does he want me to pay attention to him? Her heart thumped in rhythm to his jabbing thumb.

“Take that one,” Willow whispered. “He’s the real cutie.”

Before she could respond, the crowd pushed them forward. When they reached the other side of the bridge, she looked back, searching for the dark-haired hippie, but the spot where he’d stood was empty.

Just my luck. I see someone who’s intriguing and he disappears.

With a sigh, she continued the trek to the festival grounds.

Available on Amazon

Can’t Stop The Music

Links for our other books are on our book page or under the menu at the top of the post.

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

fantasy settings

by

Jaycee Jarvis

One of my favorite things about writing fantastical settings is the excuse to research anything that strikes me as a cool world building detail. I’m a bit of a world building magpie, in that I’ll collect cool factoids or interesting discoveries to incorporate in my writing. I’m a natural history hobbyist, and always amazed by the rich natural world around us. Of course, I also sometimes need to seek sensory details to bring a fictional world to life.

For example, there is a bridge in Secret Courtship connecting two settlements on opposite sides of a river. While the bridge only appears in a few scenes, I wanted to understand what such a structure would look and feel like, particularly in my low tech setting. It was quite fun to go down the research rabbit hole, looking up various ancient techniques for crossing rivers. I was lucky enough to be in Washington DC last summer and visit an exhibit about the Inka empire in the National Museum of the American Indian. The Inkas built ingenious woven grass suspension bridges over vast chasms in the Andes. The museum had a life-sized partial bridge on display with a full explanation of the process of making it, along with stunning photos of the completed bridges from different time periods. I was enchanted, and knew I’d found the perfect inspiration for the bridge in Trimble. I modified the manuscript to add a few rich details, and was thrilled with the result.

Getting the setting just right is very satisfying to me as an author, and I hope my readers enjoy it too. To be totally immersed in the land of Destin, check out my recent release, Secret Courtship.

Blurb:
Devoted to the Goddess of the Future, an elegant beauty is blessed–or cursed–with near-perfect foresight.

Han-Mystic Ophelia d’Marana lives a rich life as the strongest seer in the bustling tropical town of Trimble, but still she feels alone. She aches for a family with every beat of her heart. She would take comfort from a prophesy predicting the birth of her child, except the foreseen father is Han-Builder Ulric.

The rude, crude earthworker has no place in her pious life, and has never seen her as a woman worthy of a tumble, until a passionate night proves him susceptible to her beauty. Emboldened, Ophelia hopes to share her destiny with him. But Ulric can’t risk his heart, not again. Instead, they enter into a loveless arrangement to beget a child, each keeping painful secrets close.

When Ophelia’s most ominous prophesy comes to pass, the uneasy lovers overcome their differences to work together against a mysterious plague threatening the city. As their passion burns hot, Ophelia finds she has more in common with Ulric than she ever dreamed. She’s in danger of losing her heart to a man in love with a ghost . . .

If she doesn’t become a ghost herself first.

 

Excerpt

Ulric slowed as they approached their home. Only a lonely meal warmed by the house charmaid waited for him inside.

Fighting the melancholy dragging at his feet, he scratched the top of Racon’s head. In return Racon bumped his skull against Ulric’s hip, a happy sound in his throat. A spark of warmth lightened Ulric’s heart. At least with his waccat at his side, he was never truly alone.

A shadow moved behind the stained-glass window on the ground floor. Ulric frowned. He expected Gracie, the charmaid, to be resting in the heat of the day. Curious, he took the three steps into the house in one stride, Racon trailing behind him.

“Ophelia.” A tightness in his chest relaxed. He wouldn’t be alone after all.

Han-Mystic Ophelia had trained to become a Hand the same season as Ulric. She and Ulric’s roommates, along with Han-Bursar Quintin, had formed a tight-knit group of year-mates. Ulric often felt on the outskirts of their comradery, tolerated more than understood, yet he welcomed even their backhanded affection.

Ophelia looked up at the sound of her name. Radiant as always, her blue sari covered her hair and drifted over her shoulder. The embroidered fabric glimmered in the light from the window. With her grace and elegance, she brought to mind the Goddess she served.

“You’re home,” she said, relief clear in her voice. Her gold and white waccat Felice rose and padded over to sniff his fingers. “How is Racon?”

“Racon?” As pleased as he was to see his year-mate, he suddenly realized the oddity of her presence. On Maranasday, Ophelia had a duty to cast fore-tellings at the temple scrying pool from dawn to dusk. How had she managed to escape? “Why are you here?”

“The Goddess sent me.” She stood and gestured at his waccat. “For Racon.”

Apprehension shivered down Ulric’s spine. There was no reason for Marana, the Goddess of Water, to take an interest in his waccat.

“Racon’s fine,” he said, refusing to believe otherwise. “You want to eat?”

A frown marred her perfect features. “I’m not here to dine with you.”

He grunted and headed to the courtyard at the back of the house. He was hungry even if she wasn’t.

Ophelia sighed, somehow managing to make the tiny sound more exasperated and condescending than any scold.

Bio:


Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.

When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.

Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018.

Where to find Jaycee:
Amazon
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Bookbub

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The remembrance’s of Tina Griffith who shares a favorite recipe today!

I (Tina) was born in Germany where my mother frequently filled our home with the most amazing aromas. This is one of my favorite recipes and I want to share it with you.

Rouladen – Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls

    6 slices top round steak, 4 x 6 inches, sliced ½ inch thick
    6 tsp. German or coarsely ground mustard
    ½ cup onion, chopped fine – divided
    5 garlic cloves, chopped fine
    3 dill pickle spears cut in half lengthwise
    Freshly ground pepper to taste
    Toothpicks or kitchen twine
    3 tbsp. lard or vegetable oil
    2 cups water
    2 tbsp. flour
    1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Place meat between 2 pieces of cling wrap or waxed paper. Gently pound meat to ¼ inch thick. Be careful not to tear the meat.

Spread mustard along meat slices. Sprinkle on ¼ cup onion and garlic. Lay a pickle piece at the bottom of each roll or the narrow end.

Roll meat into a cylinder starting at the pickle end. Pierce with toothpicks to hold together or tie with twine.

Brown meat on all sides in a medium size frying pan. Lay rolls in a roaster pan.

Add water to the frying pan and bring to a boil, scraping the sides and bottom to collect all the meat bits. Whisk in four and butter. Pour this mixture over the meat rolls.

Bake 1 hour or until meat is fork tender. Remove toothpicks before serving.

If you prefer a thicker gravy, combine 2 -3 tablespoons flour in ½ cup water. Bring to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper then stir into roasting pan gravy.

Boiled potatoes or dumplings along with red cabbage make this meal complete.

Here’s a bit from The Elusive Mr. Velucci, a timeless romance, I hope you’ll enjoy while your dinner is cooking.


Enrico and Sadie were now standing alone, and it was their turn to say good-bye. They faced each other, he took her hands in his, and he spoke in an extremely compassionate tone.

“I didn’t realize how much you would mean to me when we first met”, he whispered with total sincerity. His eyes had filled up and he could hardly see, and with everything in his soul, he very much wanted to stay right where he was. He was miserable because he knew he couldn’t, so he promised to come back as soon as possible.

“Enrico”, she whimpered, as she looked lovingly into his eyes. Her voice had a gentle softness to it, with undertones of abandonment. She wanted to say a thousand more words, but they got stuck in her throat.

“I know”, he revealed, in a voice that was fragile and shaking. It was quite evident to everyone around them, that he wasn’t prepared to say good-bye to the beautiful girl standing in front of him. He brought his forehead forward until it was touching hers, and they cried with immense fear that they would never see each other again.

An announcement came over the P.A., which stated that all passengers must get checked in. It was in that moment when Enrico knew in his heart, that no miracle was coming and that he would have to leave. He pulled his head back from hers and looked deep into Sadie’s unhappy eyes. He had not expected to fall in love, and now he could feel his own heart breaking.

Enrico placed both of his hands against the sides of her face, and slowly closed his eyes. With all the love he had inside of him, he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her nose, and then her mouth. It baffled him that this woman had provided him with the absolute need to love another living soul, for he would not have guessed that to be possible. He wanted to hold her, take care of her, know her whereabouts, and love her for the rest of his life, but he could not; he had waited too long to change the course of his immediate future.

Enrico was becoming frustrated that he had taken eight months to get to know her, but he had only had six hours to really love her. He pulled her body closer to his, and then held on tight. ‘If only I had known or acted sooner…’ he whispered.
Enrico needed to go, so he ended their embrace as hurriedly as it had begun.

A flash of wild grief suddenly ripped through her soul, as Sadie realized the true reality of what was happening. “Enrico!” she cried from every pore in her body. Her eyes were begging him to stay, while her heart was breaking into a million pieces. The whole thing suddenly felt very real, and severe panic began to fill every fiber of her being.

Enrico examined her face and he knew what she wanted. “I’ll be back”, he assured her, in a voice that was both soft and trying to stay strong. He picked up his suitcase with one hand, and he placed something in her hand with the other.

Without looking to see what it was, she swaddled the object safely in the palm of her hand, while keeping her eyes locked with his.

Enrico twisted his upper body to face his family and shouted, “Good-bye everyone!” He turned around to take one more look into the face of his beloved Sadie, and then he began to walk away.

“No!” she shouted loudly. The simple word dissolved into the air like a crispy leaf in the fall.

Enrico hadn’t gotten very far, and now it was him who was falling apart. He took one more look in her direction, put his hand to his mouth, and blew her a kiss. “Bye for now!” he said quietly. As he faced forward again, he began to cry. Not full-out crying like a small child who had gotten hurt on the playground, but a grown man’s frustration and enormous displeasure of things that he couldn’t fix or change.

Nothing in her mind or body was able to let him go, and now Sadie felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her muscles were paralyzed and she was experiencing numbness all over. Her eyebrows were raised, her eyes were wide open, and a look of extreme anxiety shot across her face.

While Enrico was moving his feet, he was trying to hide his appearance from the other travelers. He was utterly depressed and having a hard time forcing his emotions to stay down. He tried to make it look like he was holding back a sneeze rather than a flood of tears, but when one or two drops of salty water leaked out from their moist environment, Enrico wiped them off of his face with the sleeve of his right arm and kept going.

Sadie had been watching the man she loves walk away, and with an incredible amount of courage, she boldly took a few steps towards him. “En-ri-co!” She shouted his name as she extended her left hand far in front of her body, but he didn’t turn around. With sheer desperation gushing from the very core of her soul, she wanted to run after him, to hold him one last time, but she knew she couldn’t; their time was up.

Enrico heard her calling him, but he couldn’t bear to turn around again; he knew that if he saw her, he would run back into her arms and he would never let go. Instead, he made himself a promise to return to New York as soon as he could.

Sadie stood frozen in her tracks, while anxiety guided her every thought. She watched Enrico, as he continued to walk in a hurried pace, and she wanted him to come back. “Enrico”, she sighed, with little air passing through her trembling lips. “I love you.” Her head was bent in sorrow while the world was crashing down around her.

After Enrico boarded the large vessel, he made sure to stand on the very end of the large deck. He was facing her, but they were so far apart. His hand leaped high into the air and swayed back and forth, as he watched her wave back to him. He could tell that she was beckoning him to come back, and it was killing him that he couldn’t.

Sadie’s heart leaped in her chest when she saw him. “Enrico!” she called loudly. She saw him waving, and she waved back with as much energy as she could muster. She couldn’t take her eyes off of the handsome man, who only hours ago, had made passionate love to her. “I’m here!” she cried. Her voice had cracked and was full of raw emotion.

Enrico’s face was wearing the biggest smile of his life, and he waved with all of his might. “Sadie!” he called, as if she could hear him.

“Enrico!” she shouted. She knew in that instance that he was the man who she would love for the rest of her life.

The ship blew its horn a few times, and then it slowly pulled away from the dock.

“No!” she screamed, as her body went into an even bigger panic mode. Tears were trickling down her moist and flushed cheeks, as her soul was being smashed into a thousand different pieces. “Please don’t leave!” she pleaded at the top of her lungs. She was yelling with as much force as she had in her body, and was stunned that no-one was looking in her direction. ‘Why were they not helping me get him back?’ she wondered wildly.

“Sadie!” Enrico called, but the sound of his words were not as clear anymore. “I love you!” he added happily. “Can you hear me?”

With all the noise that was around her, Sadie’s ears didn’t get to receive his tender words. “How will I go on without you?” she cried, while choking on her own tears. Her heart was in her throat, her will to live had been taken away, and now there was a horrible, empty ache in her soul.

“Enrico!” Sadie shouted at full volume. She continued to step closer and closer to the edge of the platform, as the ship appeared to go further and further away from the shore. “No-o-o-o-o!” she screamed, as if that would somehow stop what was happening.

With each moment that passed, their hearts were growing heavier with the sadness that was now weighing them down. Minute-by-minute, their emotional pain was getting worse, and almost an hour later, the ship was nothing more than a mere dot on the large body of water.

Sadie had fallen to her knees before the ship had totally disappeared, and it was then when she discovered what Enrico had placed in her closed fist – a beautiful silver locket. On the left side of the elaborately engraved heart, was a picture of Enrico. On the right, was a picture of her.

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

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

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

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

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Tell Again Tuesday

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

 


 

The 5 Essential ‘Abilities’ of the Romantic Hero

By Ella Hayes

Oh my goodness I have such a blog post for you!

Mills and Boon Author Ella Hayes is here to talk about the essential abilities of the romantic hero. I always fall madly in love with Ella Hayes’s male characters and to me she’s the queen of creating sexy male heroes. Her latest character Zach Merrill, from Italian Summer with the Single Dad, made me throw out my new year’s resolution about not getting carried away with fancying fictional hunks and don’t get me started on her character, Cormac from Her Brooding Scottish Heir.

I am a hot mess before this post has even started so let’s quickly hand over to Ella Hayes.

Hello, here are my essential hero attributes: . . .

For the rest of the blog go to:

Lucy Mitchell’s blog

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Author and Artist Linda Lee Greene who brings us her recipe for Blueberry-Blackberry Cobbler.

At my advanced age, a ‘mushy’ bottom pretty much comes with the territory. But to save your baked-goods from the same fate, there is a little trick you can use as a deterrent. Keep reading to find it.

Several months ago, I learned that victims of thyroid disorder, which I have been since the age of 16, should adopt a gluten-free diet. Carbs are also a problem for me. I looked around for a nutrition plan that would best suit my needs. I found it in the Keto Diet. A side benefit is that I am losing weight on this easy diet plan. Now when I look in the mirror, I see promise of the svelte and fit creature I was when young. It is a tremendous incentive to keep on keeping on.

A favorite gluten-free, low calorie, low carbs, high protein dessert that I stumbled upon by fooling with a recipe in Keto in 30 Minutes, edited by Jen Fisch of Ketointhecity.com, is one I call ‘Blueberry-Blackberry Cobbler’. I treat myself to a filling and satisfying 2-inch square of it drenched in icy-cold, Aldis’s Friendly Farms Original 30 calories per cup almond milk on many late evenings. Blue Diamond almond milk is also a good one. Neither of them is thick and greasy like Silk almond milk. Coconut milk works, if it is your preference. And no, this dessert will not go to your hips, unless of course, you gobble down the whole thing in one sitting.

Blueberry-Blackberry Cobbler

¼ cup gluten-cholesterol-sugar-free coconut flour
4 large eggs
4 oz. cream cheese, softened, I prefer Neufchatel, it contains less fat and has a tangy bite to it
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ cup Erythritol or three packets of Stevia, plant-based, sugar-free sweeteners
1 tsp. vanilla extract (organic, if possible)
1 tbsp. lemon zest (I use four drops of ‘Young Living’ essential lemon oil)

Nonstick butter cooking spray
4 pats butter
¼ cup blueberries
¼ cup blackberries

Pre-heat oven to 425º F.

Combine all ingredients before cooking spray together in a mixing bowl.

Coat the sides and bottom of an 8-inch. x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Place a thin pat of butter in each corner of the baking dish. Set dish in the oven until butter melt, about 2 – 3 minutes.

The thick batter spoons nicely into the warm baking dish. Now here is the trick to avoid turning your cobbler into a ‘mushy-bottomed-mess.’ Rather than mix your fruit into the batter, spoon blueberries and blackberries onto the top of the batter. You can use any fruit you choose, but be careful, most fruits outside the berry family are high in carbs and will go to your hips.

Bake about 20 minutes.

I whip up this delicious dessert in the evening so I can cut myself a warm square of it right out of the oven. It is a yummy soother to a gnarling, late-night tummy.

While your cobbler is baking, how about taking a peek at my latest romance/crime-thriller?

Amid the seductions of Las Vegas, Nevada and an idyllic coffee plantation on Hawai’i’s Big Island, a sextet of opposites converge within a shared fate: a glamorous movie-star courting distractions from her troubled past; her shell-shocked bodyguards clutching handholds out of their hardscrabble lives; a dropout Hawaiian nuclear physicist gambling his way back home; a Navajo rancher seeking cleansing for harming Mother Earth; and from its lofty perch, the Hawaiian’s guardian spirit conjured as his pet raven, conducting this symphony of soul odysseys.

Was it chance or destiny’s hand behind the movie-star and gambler’s curious encounter at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? The cards fold, their hearts open, and a match strikes, flames that sizzle their hearts and souls. Can they have the moon and the stars, too? Or is she too dangerous? Is he? Can their love withstand betrayal? Can it endure murder?

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

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Multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene describes her life as a telescope that when trained on her past reveals how each piece of it, whether good or bad or in-between, was necessary in the unfoldment of her fine art and literary paths.

Greene moved from farm-girl to city-girl; dance instructor to wife, mother, and homemaker; divorcee to single-working-mom and adult-college-student; and interior designer to multi-award-winning artist and author, essayist, and blogger. It was decades of challenging life experiences and debilitating, chronic illness that gave birth to her dormant flair for art and writing. Greene was three days shy of her fifty-seventh birthday when her creative spirit took a hold of her.

She found her way to her lonely easel soon thereafter. Since then Greene has accepted commissions and displayed her artwork in shows and galleries in and around the USA. She is also a member of artist and writer associations.

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

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Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Music being part of her writing life

by

Gina Briganti

Press play to listen to the Deep in the Dreaming playlist while you read the rest of the blog post.


Music

Sometimes I’ll listen to the same song until I feel like it has got it’s message across in how it relates to the character, scene, or story I’m writing. Wake Me Up by Avicii was key to unlocking how and why Draper ended up spending most of the last decade in the Dreaming. I listened to the song at least ten times while I was exploring Draper and creating his past.

Girls Like You cover by Walk Off The Earth. When Draper’s attraction to Elena continues to deepen, he decides that they could be special in each other’s lives, and that she understood him. Listening to this song while I was writing the book didn’t vibe 100% because Elena wasn’t doing what Sarah is singing about here. Not Elena. And Draper’s addiction history mean no ganja or alcohol. There was no escaping the song at the time because it was on most of my radio stations and in my playlist, just like Draper and Elena found themselves in the same places at the same time.

This playlist is influenced by the infectious energy of my favorite band, Walk Off The Earth. My daughter and I met the band during their November 2018 tour in Dallas. It’s a moment I hope to remember forever. What an amazing group of musicians they are!

I Like Me Better by Lauv perfectly describes how Draper feels when he’s with Elena and it’s why he faces his personal demons and steps up when Elena needs him most. This is another example of a song filling in pieces of a character’s emotional landscape.

We’ll jump way ahead in the story with the Love Lies cover by Walk Off The Earth. There comes a point when Draper has to wonder if Elena is more dedicated to (spoiler) than she is to him. I was feeling pretty bad for Draper when I wrote this part and so was Draper. Listening to the song helped put me in the right frustrated, confused head space that Draper was in.

Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne clicked when everyone was struggling. Were you glad to see Avril back with such a strong song? I was! I know this song speaks to people going through tough times. I needed the angst in this song to infuse scenes I wrote, which it did.

Drag Me Down cover by Walk Off The Earth illustrates the determination Elena needed to overcome her biggest obstacles in the worst place anyone can imagine, a parallel dimension where confusion, treachery, and evil reign supreme. Draper stands behind her. A truly awe-inspired moment in the story. My family loves this song, including my three-year-old granddaughter who sings it and stomps her feet on time with the video. Yep, that melts her G.G.’s (Grandma Gina’s) heart every time.

That’s Amore by Dean Martin was a fun addition to the playlist because it speaks to Elena’s roots and one of Draper’s favorite places to vacation. They needed a love song to celebrate with. These two could definitely appreciate Martin’s light-hearted vibe after what they went through.

I listen to playlists I’ve made from books I’ve written in the past and ride the nostalgia wave created by the music, which feeds into writing scenes for characters from previous Natural Gifts books. The playlist for Desert Sunrise (Book 2 of the Natural Gifts series). includes Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) by Big and Rich and Indian Outlaw by Tim McGraw. Those songs give me a good sense of Lucy’s playful, saucy spirit and help put me in her head space when I wrote scenes for her in this book and in future Natural Gifts books.

Music has always been a huge part of me, enriching, inspiring, consoling, and entertaining me through all phases of my life. I’m a closet songwriter and if you’ve seen someone singing and dancing to a good song in a store, that was me or someone channeling me.

I want to hear about your relationship with music in the comments.

Thank you for reading!
Gina

Deep in the Dreaming Ad 1 (1)

Elena Zucchero has lived and lost in reality. Now she fills her heart through her work as a hypnotherapist by helping her patients improve their lives. But when a nightmare plagues her sleep, she learns her friends have gone missing in an addictive alternate plane. And the only way to save them may require feeding the demons of her handsome new client…

Draper Montgomery painfully resists the call of the Dreaming. But despite his dangerous cravings, he senses his enchanting therapist has a wound he can help heal. And to satisfy his heart’s desire, he may just have to risk the very foundation of his mind…

As Elena and Draper discover a deeper soul connection, the therapist struggles to keep her distance in the hunt for her friends. If the people she loves even want to be saved…

Will the perilous hunt to rescue her friends lose them their lives and their souls?

Deep in the Dreaming is the fourth standalone book in the captivating Natural Gifts paranormal romance series. If you like mysterious worlds, conflicted characters, and love that conquers all, then you’ll adore Gina Briganti’s enthralling tale.

Buy Deep in the Dreaming to slip into another world today!

 

Watch the YouTube video here.


Gina Briganti writes paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance in north Texas. She also writes about Reiki (a relaxation technique) and self-help. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, and whatever else she thinks up.

Stay connected on Facebook, Gina’s Amazon Author Page, YouTube, Pinterest, , and Instagram

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Eris Field talking about hoarding.

Image by Deedee86 from Pixabay

Hoarding is a clinical disorder that affects 5% of the population. It tends to start when the person is 12 to 13 years old, often after a loss—death of a loved one, parents’ divorce, or losing cherished possessions in a fire, flood, or hurricane. It has a genetic component. That is it tends to run in families. It also has a neurobiological basis. It has been found that there are abnormalities of certain brain structures (areas of the brain). These brain structures are involved in decision making, attention, organization, and regulation of emotions. Their impairment of functioning is evidenced in emotional responses, thinking, and behaviors that are different from people who do not have a hoarding disorder.

In addition to their compulsive hoarding disorder, 25% of people will have co-existing illnesses such as depression and anxiety. In addition, people with hoarding disorder often experience problems with planning ahead, making decisions, and having an unrealistic desire for everything to be perfect.

Symptoms of hoarding include:
• Experiencing severe anxiety over the thought of discarding possessions because the saved items give them a sense of security
• Buying or saving things that are unnecessary, worthless, or useless
• Accumulating huge amounts of objects that have little or no value such as old magazines, telephone books, clothing, shoes, hats, bottles, boxes, and empty food containers
• Having numerous animals such as cats that they cannot care for
• Inability to organize space for items—hoarded items take over space needed for activities of normal living

The effects of hoarding can be severe and often affect family relationships, work, health, and everyday life activities such as cooking, shopping, sports, and having friends, children or grandchildren visit.

Hoarding disorder often results in:
• Crowded, dangerous (risk of fires or falls), and unsanitary living conditions including the presence of vermin and mold that may endanger the person’s health
• Loss of a cooking space, eating area, and living room, bedroom, halls, closets, basement, garage, porches, and yard due to accumulations of hoarded items
• Loneliness
• Family conflicts and isolation from loved ones
• Inability to perform work as expected
• Financial problems related to compulsive purchasing of unneeded objects or the care of an accumulation of a large number of pets
• Legal problems such as threats of eviction.

What you can do to help:
• Encourage them to seek professional help
• Suggest self-help groups such as Clutterers Anonymous
• After treatment, help them with their belongings if they ask for help. Remember that many feel great anxiety if anyone touches their things
• Remember that hoarding is an illness like other illnesses such as diabetes or kidney disease,
• Don’t remove things without their permission
• Don’t expect perfection or constancy

My novel, The Gift of Love, is a story of hoarding and the perils of the disorder. I hope it helps you understand the problem so many people must face.

Laurel, a 26-year-old slightly impulsive pediatric nurse learned her survival skills through early years in foster care. Her life dream is to provide a home for six abandoned children. But, before she can do anything about the dream, she must sell the huge old house her adoptive parents left her. She must sell it before she falls even deeper into debt. To put it on the market, requires tackling the escalating compulsive hoarding of her reclusive half-sister who lives with her. Paper of all kinds is filling the rooms and hallways of the house. She has tried reasoning, nagging, and threatening. Now in desperation, she borrows from her Union’s Retirement Fund to go to a conference on the latest treatments for Compulsive Hoarding.

Andrew, a 39-year-old psychiatrist, is never impulsive. A reticent, somewhat austere man, he limits his interactions with people to his work. His life is strictly planned and modelled on the life of his grandfather who was one of hundreds of orphaned boys raised by Father Baker. Despite the scorn of his father, an entrepreneurial plastic surgeon, he prefers to practice psychiatry in the underserved communities of Buffalo, New York. Being handed Jamie, the mute two-year-old grandson of his father’s second wife, as he is about to leave for the conference where he has agreed to fill in for a colleague is definitely not part of his life plan.

When they first meet, a series of unfortunate events cause Laurel to view Andrew as arrogant, rude, but disturbingly attractive and Andrew to view Laurel as a dangerous distraction to be avoided. Faced with a crisis, they are forced to work together, but will they be able to put aside their protective armor and trust each other enough to let love in?

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 told her fascinating stories about the history of Turkey, the loss of the Ottoman Empire, and 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—a wonderful rewarding but never to be repeated experience.

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, Eris’s interests include: Prevention of Psychiatric Disorders; Eradicating Honor Killings, supporting the Crossroads Springs Orphanage in Kenya for children orphaned by AIDS, and learning more about Turkey, Cyprus, and Kurdistan.

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

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