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Posts Tagged ‘Wednesday Special Spotlight’

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

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

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

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

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

Savory Farmhouse Cheese Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

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

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

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

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

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

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

From that moment on I was a writer.

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

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

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

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

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

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

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no idea how this happens.

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

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The New Year

May the coming year find you healthy, happy, and reading many books.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The Christmas Gift

Wishing you the best of the season and may we always remember the reason we celebrate.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

How to Write a Christmas Play by C.D. Hersh . We also share our Christmas novella Kissing Santa.

If you’re like us, you love a great Christmas story. In fact, last year we devoured Christmas movies well into springtime. This summer, Catherine started bugging Donald to look on Roku and Sling for new holiday movies. Being the nice guy that he is, Donald agreed. We already have several queued up for watching. So when we were approached to write a post about “How to Write a Christmas Play”, we thought about it for a bit and said, “Sure. We’ve done that.”

There are a lot of things we could say about how to write a Christmas play, or any play for that matter. The basics of writing a good book are the same as writing a play. You need a good story, good characters, and good conflict. There are some differences, however. We could talk about the nuts and bolts of playwriting, such as:

    • Formatting.
    • Making the last moment of the play a satisfying ending.
    • Always keeping the action moving forward since time shifts and short scenes that hop around don’t work well for plays.
    • Proper scene structure.
    • How a play script usually has little dialogue or action tags or setting description.
    • And so on.

However, since these elements are things that you can learn from a book, we decided to take a different approach and focus on the five lessons we found to be most important in play writing by walking you through one of our most successful Christmas plays.

Catherine has always loved Christmas, but an interest in writing Christmas stories, particularly Christmas themed plays, started in the 1990s when we were in our church’s drama group. The church leadership decided to put on an outdoor re-creation of Bethlehem set on the night of Jesus’s birth. They would build a representation of Bethlehem in the church parking lot. The village would have several historically researched shops, a synagogue, a house, an inn, animals, and the stable where Jesus was born. Originally the leadership wanted a walk-through diorama where the town’s characters interacted with each other, but not with the people visiting the event. Our drama leader knew Catherine was a freelance writer and that we were interested in writing plays, so she urged us to create a script for Back to Bethlehem, which was the name of the event.

Lesson 1: Accept the challenge
We had never done a play before, but had acted in plenty in the church drama ministry.
So when we were asked, we accepted the challenge. We dug into playwriting
books and brushed up on the nuts and bolts of playwriting.

Lesson 2: Start early
In early spring of the year the event was to be hosted, we threw ourselves into the job and read and reread the Christmas story from the Bible. We learned it’s never too early to think about Christmas when planning a Christmas story. If you’re out of the Christmas season when you need inspiration, put on the Christmas music. Put up your tree in June. Don your Santa hat and beard. Go Christmas shopping and wrap the gifts. Do whatever it takes to get into the Christmas spirit.

Lesson 3: Look for the unexpected. Find the twist. The new in the old.
Religiously, Christmas is about Jesus’s birth. Secularly, Christmas is about Santa, gift giving, charity, family gatherings, food, joy, and cheer. If you’re planning a Christmas story, play, or book, you need to figure out how to make a well-known story unique and fresh. Since most people visiting Bethlehem would know the biblical story of the virgin birth, our challenge was to create a new tale, yet keep the age-old tale intact for the hundreds of people who would travel back to Bethlehem on a mulch-strewn tar parking lot.

To make an old story new, we suggested the visitors to Bethlehem follow several characters through the town as they looked for Mary, Joseph, and a baby born in a stable. One character, Myriaden, went from shop to shop looking for Mary interacting with all the townspeople, asking if they had seen a young pregnant woman, telling them how she’d traveled with her from Nazareth. And in case some of the newcomers to the town missed Myriaden, a group of rowdy shepherds who saw the heavenly host also came through the town looking for the baby born in a stable. Another set of characters, the Roman soldiers, told a different part of the story—the part of the suppression of the Jews and their disbelief in the shepherds’ tale of angels singing in the sky.

Mary, the shepherds, and the Roman soldiers told the stories of the Bible in an unexpected way, as Christmas plays depicting Jesus’s birth normally center around Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The interesting thing about the Back to Bethlehem drama was that it became an interactive play. While our characters, both those “leading” the visitors and those in the shops, had set lines to say, they ended up interacting with the visitors to Bethlehem who wanted to know more about the town, the time and the story. So, we developed a set of improvisational lines for the characters to use. They always kept in character as they had spur-of-the-moment conversations with the visitors. Visitors were immersed in the drama, and that was very unexpected and very delightful for them.

It’s highly unlikely that your Christmas drama will be as improvisational as Back to Bethlehem was, but the example certainly shows the twist in this story. We broke the fourth wall of the stage and completely immersed the audience in the drama.

Lesson 4: Watch your Dialogue
As with books, dialogue is important and should sound natural no matter your genre. Plays, unlike books, are composed completely of dialogue. You have a few moments to capture your audience. They can’t go back and hit rewind or flip the page back if they think they missed something You don’t have the luxury of internal thoughts, or rambling commentaries (unless you’re Shakespeare). Plays don’t have exposition and, just like books, shouldn’t have author intrusion. If you can’t write without a lot of narrative, exposition, or description, you have a book, not a play.

Here’s an example of the importance of dialogue.
Because we were writing for a historical period in which we did not know how the people sounded, in English, we chose to use a more formal language, with no contractions or slang. It was just different enough that it gave a unique flavor to the actors’ speech. When they were interacting with the visitors, they also did not recognize modern day terms or items the visitors might say or show to them. Once when Catherine was talking to a visitor, he used the word technology while admiring her earrings.

Catherine said, “I do not understand this word, sir.”

“Where did get your earrings?” he asked.

“The goldsmith hammered them out for me,” she replied.

“If they’re made of gold, then you’d better hold on to them,” he said.

“As you wish, sir,” Catherine replied. Then she reached up and grasped both of her earrings, bowed, and walked away.

Peals of laughter followed her as she exited. In Bethlehem, Catherine would not have known the slang “Hold on to them.” So, she reacted literally. We’re fairly certain those visitors remembered their visit to Bethlehem for a long time. And that’s what you want your audience to do, too.

Lesson 5: Create a dramatic ending
The town of Bethlehem was noisy and crowded. Roman soldiers bellowed at the local beggar, harassed the shop keepers, and insulted the shepherds looking for a baby in a manger. Shop keepers shouted at passersby to come buy their wares. The women at the well gossiped loudly. The priest in the synagogue taught his young charges, quoting the scriptures in Hebrew. The guests at the inn complained at the crowded conditions. But when visitors passed through the small hallway into the stable, the whole atmosphere changed. Mary and Joseph spoke softly and calmly to all who approached them. Myriaden, who had found Mary, whispered and admired the baby. The shepherds bowed down and worshipped him. Even the visitors who came to see the town spoke in hushed tones as they gazed on Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. Although you heard the sounds of the busy town, everyone in the stable was quiet and reserved, even the children. Coming from the hustle and bustle of the crowded town into the quiet stable was a magical moment. Even today, nearly twenty years later, when we meet people who visited our Bethlehem they comment on how much it touched them. As writers, isn’t that what we want to do with our stories—touch people?

We’ve written several Christmas plays—Back to Bethlehem, which ran for 5 years at our former church and was sold to two other churches; a Christmas musical that has not been yet published, and four Christmas puppet plays that have been performed at our current church. We also wrote a Christmas novella Kissing Santa, which is part of the Christmas Collection Sizzle in the Snow, published by Soul Mate Publishing.

If you want to write a Christmas play, we suggest you read a lot of plays. Study the craft of playwriting, and apply the five lessons we’ve talked about. Remember, they translate to your manuscripts whether you’re writing plays, stories, or books.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Playwriting Year!

While you’re thinking about your next Christmas play or story, take a peek at this excerpt from C.D. Hersh’s Christmas novella 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
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.”

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

The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors. Also a novella, Can’t Stop The Music, with twelve other authors from various genres with a book coming out each month in 2017.

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

Find all our book here Amazon Author Page.

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Gina Briganti who is sharing one of her favorite breakfasts.

This spiced apple oatmeal is perfect for busy people who want fast, delicious food without lots of shopping, chopping, and prep. That’s exactly why I love this recipe.

Plus, you can share it. I’ve given jars dressed up with a bow as gifts. I know friends who have made jars ahead and brought them on road trips and camping because they travel well. You can get the kids in on this, too, by having them put their mix into a jar. They can customize how much apple they add and what kind or get fancy and add a mix of different freeze-dried fruits.

Make sure you buy freeze-dried fruit that does not have sugar added to it. Freeze drying brings out the sugars and the fruit is sweet all by itself.

As more of us move to zero or low-waste lifestyles jars are making a comeback. Whether you’re a new fan of reusable jars or a pro, I hope you enjoy this quick and lovely meal. It’s gluten-free, there’s no added sugar, and it is packed with flavor. As written, this recipe serves one, but it is easy to increase for more people.

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Spiced Apple Oatmeal
½ cup quick oats
¼ freeze-dried apple slices broken into pieces
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1½ cups hot water

Mix all ingredients into a bowl. Stir and then cover.

Wait 5 – 7 minutes. It’s ready!

To give this delicious cereal as a gift, mix the dry ingredients together. Spoon mixture into a glass jar. Write out the cooking directions on a card and attach to the jar with a ribbon.

Keep It Simple: Permission to Illuminate Your Life Easily, Effortlessly, & Joyfully is a workbook I wrote to share the tools my clients and I have used for over a decade in my holistic health practice.

Tasty nutrition is one of the keys I highlight that will help you live a life that feels like a dream.

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Gina Briganti is an RWA member who writes fantasy and sci-fi romance in north Texas.

She also writes holistic health non-fiction because real life can be magic, too. Her credentials in holistic health include certification as a Reiki Master Practitioner and teacher, certification as a nutrition consultant, and a degree in holistic nutrition.

When she’s not writing, eating delicious healthy food, reading (follow her on Goodreads to see the massive variety she finds appealing) or making videos, she is spending time with family and friends. Her constant companion is a special soul who masquerades as a dog.

Visit her website and blog for book trailers, newsletter sign up, for exclusives and announcements that are shared only in her newsletter.

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

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Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The multi-talented Carol Browne who brings us an exciting dessert rich with flavour and low in calories plus her latest book.

Image by Chris Tweten from Pixabay

Chocolate Mousse
1 ripe avocado
1 large ripe banana
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. cold water

Put ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.

Spoon mixture into 4 small dishes or glasses.

Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

You can add your sprinkles of choice on top, e.g. coconut or chopped nuts or whatever teases your taste buds.

It’s perfect for guests or just a treat for yourself. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

How about a little from my latest psychological fiction while you’re waiting for your mousse to chill?

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

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

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

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

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

EXCERPT
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no idea how this happens.

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

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

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

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