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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

January 19, 2022 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Sharon Ledwith

This is a fantastic soup to serve to your crew and freezes well. Salad, hard rolls, and wine (red or white) complete this meal! You can make it 24 hours ahead of time without the noodles and wait to add noodles when you reheat the soup to serve.

SAVORY SAUSAGE SOUP

1½ pounds sweet Italian sausage*
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1¼ cup dry red wine
5 cups beef broth
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
2 zucchinis, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package spinach fettuccine pasta (or plain, whatever your heart desires)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook sausage over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Drain fat from pan, reserving 3 tablespoons. If desired, instead of ground sausage, cut sausages in thin slices.

Sauté garlic and onion in reserved fat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, broth, basil, and oregano. Transfer to a slow cooker, and stir in sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, and parsley.

Cover, and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Break pasta into smaller pieces and drop into boiling water. Cook until al dente, about 7 minutes after the water returns to the boil. Drain water and add pasta to slow cooker. Simmer for a few minutes, and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Serve topped with grated parmesan.

* Use ground sausage or links you’ve broken into bits or sliced thin.

This recipe can also be made on your stovetop. Follow the directions, but instead of the slow cooker, combine all your ingredients in your original pot. Simmer partially covered for 1 hour.

Give yourself a well-deserved break while your soup simmers. Sit back, prop up your feet, and open a book you’ve been meaning to read. Why not pick up one of The Last Timekeepers adventures, and peruse the latest mission with Treena and her time traveling cohorts?

Only a true hero can shine the light in humanity’s darkest time.

Fourteen-year-old Jordan Jensen always considered himself a team player on and off the field, until the second Timekeeper mission lands him in Amsterdam during World War Two. Pulled into the world of espionage, torture, and intolerance, Jordan and the rest of the Timekeepers have no choice but to stay one step ahead of the Nazis in order to find and protect a mysterious book.

With the help of the Dutch Resistance, an eccentric baron, Nordic runes, and an ancient volume originating from Atlantis, Jordan must learn that it takes true teamwork, trust, and sacrifice to keep time safe from the evils of fascism. Can Jordan find the hero within to conquer the darkness surrounding the Timekeepers? If he doesn’t, then the terrible truth of what the Nazis did will never see the light of day.

EXCERPT
“I wonder what else is down here.” Drake beamed his cell phone across the basement, hitting jars of jams, pickles, and relishes. His stomach growled.

Jordan pulled the cheese from his pocket and handed it to Drake. “Trade you for your phone.”

“Best. Trade. Ever.” Drake passed his phone to Jordan.

Jordan walked over and grabbed a jar of pickles off the dusty shelf. At least they wouldn’t arrive at the baron’s place hungry. He hoped his uncle had managed to stop Amanda’s bleeding. His hand tightened over the jar, the ridges of the lid cutting into his palm. A scrape from behind the shelves made Jordan jump.

“Hello?” he asked, pushing jars aside. He flashed the cell phone into the small, dark area.

“Who ya talking to, Jordan?” Drake asked with his mouth full of cheese.

“Shhh, Drake.” Jordan listened. Hearing nothing, he shrugged and turned back around.

“I thought I heard—” Jordan stopped and pointed the phone at Ravi. His jaw dropped. “A-Are you serious, Sharma?”

Drake spat out his cheese, snorting with laughter.

“Is there a problem?” Ravi asked, tying the bowtie of his tuxedo.

“You look like a penguin with attitude!” Drake slapped his knee.

“Say what you want, but I’m glad we didn’t hit the cleaners on the way to school now,” Ravi replied, pulling down his sleeves, “or else I wouldn’t have these dry clothes.”

Jordan chuckled. Suddenly, he heard a door creak open, followed by heavy footsteps squeaking down the stairs. Panicking, Jordan stuffed Drake’s phone in his track suit jacket’s pocket and waved Drake over by the shelves. Drake slipped behind Jordan just in time, before the small light bulb above the bottom of the stairs clicked on. Jordan swallowed hard. There, staring directly at Ravi was a portly man in a blood-stained apron. Tufts of blond hair sprouted from the sides of his balding head. His brown trousers were pulled up past his waist, making him resemble an evil garden gnome. In one of his hands, he held a huge butcher knife, its blade flecked with blood.

Wielding the knife, the man pointed at Ravi. “Who are you?”

Ravi licked his thick lips nervously. “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”

BUY LINKS
Mirror World Publishing: PaperbackeBook
AmazonAmazon.caKOBOBarnes & Noble

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

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. 

 

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Life Biting at You?

January 12, 2022 | Cooking

There comes a time when everyone needs a little comfort food. Lovely hot soup with fresh bread and a glass of wine always does it for me. Maybe this recipe will do it for you, too.

Asparagus Soup

Photo Courtesy of Monovareni Pixabay

Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
6 cups chicken stock
7 tbsp. butter
½ cup flour
3 tbsp. shallots or scallions, chopped fine
¼ cup dry sherry
2 egg yolks
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter, softened
White pepper to taste*

Slice off the asparagus tips and set aside. Trim off ¼ inch or so from the bottom ends of the stalks and discard. Chop the rest of the spears into ½ inch lengths.

Use a medium-sized saucepan to bring the chicken stock to a boil. Drop in the tips and lower temp to medium-low or soft boil. Cook tips until just tender, 5 – 8 minutes. Drain the stock into a bowl and spoon the tips into another one.

Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a 4 -5-quart saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the flour. Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Be careful not to let this roux brown or the soup will be bitter.

Remove pan from heat, let cool 30 seconds or so. Pour in stock. Stir constantly with a whisk to thoroughly blend the stock and roux. Return pan to moderate heat and stir until this soup base comes to a boil, thickens, and is smooth. Lower the temperature and simmer gently.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. When the foam subsides, stir in the stalks and shallots. Toss them in the butter over low heat for 4 minutes or so. You only want to soften them so don’t allow them to brown. Stir this mixture into the soup base, add sherry, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

Purée soup in a blender or food processor. Pour into a strainer set over the pot. Stir with a spoon or spatula to extract soup from the pulp. Discard pulp.

Whisk the egg yolks into the cream. Stir in 5 tablespoons of hot soup at a time until you’ve added about ¾ cup. Reverse the process and slowly whisk the now-warm mixture into the soup.**

Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with pepper if necessary. Add the asparagus tips.

Serve from a tureen or in individual bowls.

This recipe makes 6 bowls.

*No need to buy white pepper if you don’t have it. Use black pepper only a little more as it is not as strong as white pepper.
**This may seem like extra work, but if you don’t do it the yolks and cream will curdle.

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

Sloane

 

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SOUP’S ON!

January 5, 2022 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

by Helen Carpenter

Now that winter has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, the human residents of Carpenter Country have started thinking about soup. And quackers too of course. My husband and I are duck fans and ducks generally show up in our neighborhood this time of year. However, much as we like both, we restrain ourselves from combining soup and quackers.

Speaking of combining things, did you know January is National Soup Month in the US? What we don’t understand is why April is national grilled cheese sandwich month. Those two celebrations belong together. Someone should right this wrong.

We think we’ll have soup while we work up a petition.

Won’t you join us in a bowl? It’s big enough for all.

Easy Potato Soup

1 tbsp. butter
4-5 potatoes, peeled and diced
Chopped or diced onion to taste
1 tbsp. cornstarch or flour
¼ cup water
2 cups water
1 cup milk (whole, evaporated, or 2%)
1 tsp. salt
1 packet chicken bouillon
Shredded cheese optional

Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan.

Add onions and potatoes and cook until soft (5-10 minutes).

Mix 1 tbsp cornstarch with ¼ cup water (pre-mixing prevents annoying lumps). Add cornstarch mixture, water, milk, salt, and bouillon to softened potatoes and onions in saucepan.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes.

Serve with a topping of shredded cheese and a chunk of fresh bread.

Bonus goodness:
Crave added richness? Substitute ½ cup whipping cream for half of the milk.

Are you a vegetable fan? Toss in the veggie of your choice, either frozen or fresh, when you add the milk and water. We like frozen carrots and corn. They add color and they cook right along with the potatoes.

Like things meatier? Put in leftover ham or chicken.

Bland potatoes? Mix in sweet pickle juice. Six teaspoons give the soup a little zing.

Want some zest? A ½ teaspoon dry mustard provides zip.

Need more soup? Add more stuff. The converse works too.

Fighting off vampires? Switch out the regular salt for a teaspoon of garlic salt. If you have a bad infestation, add ½ teaspoon crushed garlic to the soup and serve with a wood spoon.

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years  and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and  Facebook .

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INDEPENDENCE DAY

January 3, 2022 | Author Friend Promo

from Stella May

Leo’s passport photo

January 18th is a very special day for me and my husband Leo. In 1991, on this day, we arrived in the United States. Every year Leo and I celebrate January 18th as our own Independence Day.

Between the two of us, we carried $260 in our pockets, all that we were allowed to take with us, two small suitcases, and an unbreakable will to be free and happy.

Stella’s passport photo

But first, we had to survive. Literally. Yes, life was a precious commodity in those days. You see, we are Armenian Christians, who were born in Azerbaijan, a Muslim country, one of the former republics of the former USSR.

In the late 1980s there was a national and civil conflict largely provoked by the government. A conflict about a spec of a land that two nations, Armenians and Azeri, had argued about from the dawn of time. That land was called Karabakh. Located in South Caucasus, this tiny space was always home for the Armenian people. They call it Republic of Artsakh. But located on the Azeri territory, this region was a sore spot, and a reason for a long-lasting dispute between two nations.

That slowly-brewing disagreement finally erupted into a riot, and then war.

Since then, several wars were fought, and a sea of blood poured over Karabakh. The two nations, that were friendly once upon a time, became the worst enemies. Hatred replaced love, lies replaced truth, and white became black.

The horrors of those days are impossible to describe. Chaos. Fear. Death.

Friends and neighbors became adversaries; many mixed-race families were destroyed, and peace was replaced with war of the worst kind: racial/religious war.

Even though we lived in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, long away from that disputed land, we, Armenians, became the enemies simply because of our nationality. Blood-thirsty crowds of fanatics boosted on alcohol and narcotics, ran around our beautiful city, vandalizing, destroying, raping, murdering.

At first, people couldn’t believe that this situation would last. Everyone waited for the government to step up and put a stop to it. But…

I don’t want to go into a political aspect of that horrible war. I’m just saying that somebody higher-up— somebody evil— needed it and made those atrocities possible.

When it became obvious that no one was going to interfere and help us, people took matters into their own hands. Many ran away, but even more died trying.

My family was very fortunate. We didn’t lose anyone, and we were able to run away first to the former republic of Georgia, and then to Moscow. We still harbored hope that our government, not the local but federal, would somehow help our situation. Guess what? No one in our nation’s capital cared that millions of people were left homeless, penniless, and victimized. And no one cared about the dead.

At that time, when hope was the only thing that keep us afloat, the United States officially recognized the situation in Karabakh as war against humanity, acknowledged Armenians from Azerbaijan as political refugees, and opened the doors to my people. And that’s how we first met, my then future husband and I: in line in front of the American Embassy in Moscow. That day fate was hard at work. She brought us together, and opened the doors to our new life. Thirty-two years later, we’re still living that life, and couldn’t be happier.

But back then, it would be another year of hardship before we landed at JFK airport. A horrible year of struggles, sacrifices, humiliations, and personal tragedy.

That year we lost my mom just a few months before we were due to leave Moscow. We are still not sure whether the surgeon who performed her simple procedure made a terrible mistake or it was a broken thrombosis, but she died overnight in a hospital. The autopsy was inconclusive. But what does it matter? We lost our anchor, our rock, the glue that kept our family together. She was just 48 years old. In a matter of days, my dad, a vibrant man of 53, became a shadow of his former self. Our family was shattered.

Scared and emotionally beaten, we resembled a bunch of survivors of a terrible disaster. And that’s exactly who we were back then. We all went through hell and back, but somehow our spirits weren’t broken. Even dad managed to drag himself from the abyss of grief. We all were determined to survive. Freedom was our mantra and our God. And so, with my mom’s ashes, we finally left the old country.

New York 1991

And every January 18th I remember my first glimpse of New York, and those first scary and confusing emotions. We were so young, but my hero was confident.

At first, there was the nerve-racking illusion of being deaf because I couldn’t understand a word spoken all around me. I remember people, so many people, laughing, moving, eating, talking… And the noise! The lights! Everything so bright and sharp and loud. I remember clutching my husband’s hand like an anchor and afraid to let go. But most of all, I remember Leo looking at me with his dark tired eyes, and telling me, “We’ll make it, you’ll see.”

And we did.

Even though the events that brought us here were tragic and horrible, we look at it now as a blessing in disguise. If not for that bloody war, we would never cut our ties with the old country, and would never know what true freedom is.

We would never know what it is to be true patriots, and to love your country with everything you are. And it doesn’t matter that we weren’t born here. The old wisdom says the real parents are those who raised you, not who birthed you.

Such a simple and untarnished truth!

We are proud to be American citizens.

God bless United States of America.

God bless my wonderful beloved country.

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 35 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.

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DESSERT SPECIAL

December 29, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Catherine Castle

Two years ago in late December, I discovered almond paste and went down a cake rabbit hole. My family celebrates Christmas on New Year’s Day most years, but that year we were celebrating after January 6, which is Epiphany. Epiphany is the traditional date the Wise Men visited the Christ Child, and to celebrate the event a special cake, with a plastic baby or bean hidden in the cake, is served. The Epiphany cake, often referred to as a King cake or the Three Kings cake, has many forms, flavors, and even many trinkets hidden in it. It is also a tradition in many countries, especially those with a Catholic background.

I’d never heard of a King cake, except in reference to Louisiana Mardi Gras celebrations. After some research, I decided to come up with my own version of an Epiphany King cake using almond paste. It took several tries to create something that showed off the frangipane I’d made with almond paste. On my first attempt, using a yellow cake recipe, the frangipane melted into the cake batter and didn’t give me the definition I wanted.

So I began experimenting. I decided I’d make a chocolate spice cake with a frangipane layer. That worked. I’m calling it Epiphany Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake. If you don’t want to make it an Epiphany cake, complete with trinkets, just call it Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake. Here’s a tip I learned the hard way – be sure to make the frangipane first!

Also, you may want to consider adding the following:

  • 1 bean, or 1 plastic small baby figurine, or several small trinkets. Be sure to tell your guests these items are hidden in the cake!
  • Chopped maraschino cherries or chopped candied fruit for decorating the cake. You can add the chopped candied fruits to the baking pan before you add the batter, scattering them evenly around the pan, or you can reserve them and scatter them over the top of the baked cake adhering them to the cake with a bit of confectioner sugar glaze.

Frangipane Chocolate Spice Cake

Cake

2½ cups sifted cake flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. ground cloves

3 tbsp. cocoa

1 cup shortening

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk, divided

4 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine flour with spices and cocoa in a large bowl.

In another bowl, cream shortening until fluffy. Add 1 cup sugar and mix again, then add 1 cup flour and spices. Mix and beat until combined, adding vanilla and ¾ cup buttermilk, ¼ cup at a time, as needed to make batter mixable.

Add remaining flour, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Keep batter scraped down from sides and bottom on bowl while beating.

Add eggs and remaining buttermilk. Beat 2 more minutes on medium.

In a lightly buttered, easy-release Bundt pan, gently pour 2 cups of batter into cake pan, smoothing out until batter is level if necessary.

Almond Cream Frangipane

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

¾ cup almond flour

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. almond extract

Add all ingredients for the frangipane into a mixing bowl. Combine ingredients on medium, then on high until fully combined. Refrigerate frangipane until cake batter is ready.

Drop frangipane by teaspoonfuls onto batter, taking care to center in in batter. Or alternately you could pipe frangipane onto batter.

Gently cover frangipane with 1½ cups batter, leveling out if necessary.

Add another layer of frangipane in same manner as before.

Cover with 1½ cups cake batter.

Put upper rack in the lower third of oven. Bake cake for 60-65 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted in cake comes out clean. You need a long skewer, not just a toothpick to test for doneness.

Cool pan upright for 5-10 minutes. Invert onto a wire cooling rack, Cool cake completely on wire rack.

Note: You will have extra batter and frangipane with this recipe. To use remaining mixes, make cupcakes.

Spoon ⅛ cup batter into a cupcake line. Top with 1 teaspoon frangipane, centering it in batter.

Cover frangipane with another scant ⅛ cup batter. Bake at 375° F for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean.

I hope you’ll enjoy my cake. While it’s baking check out my romantic comedy with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. There’s cake in this book, too. Wedding cake.

While you’re waiting for the popcorn balls to cool, check out Catherine’s romantic comedy with a touch of drama. There’s no popcorn in the book, but there are plenty of laughs.

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes, she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom for Mama.

Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer, she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems.

In addition to writing, she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting, and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Follow her on Twitter, FB, or her blog.

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DROWNING IN PLASTIC

December 27, 2021 | Author Friend Promo

from Anne Montgomery

I worry about the planet. I have since I was a child. Maybe it was the camping and fishing trips my parents took us on where the adage leave nothing behind was drilled into our young heads. Or maybe it was those anti-littering ads that ran on TV and billboards,  or the lessons I learned as a Girl Scout about the importance of protecting nature.

Whatever sparked my concern was enough to make me pause one day as I overlooked a small stream near my home. A rusted bicycle stuck up from the water as an eddy of garbage swirled around one wheel. The vision so disturbed my 12-year-old self, that I waded into the river and extracted the bike and some of the garbage. When the stream again flowed free and clear, I rejoiced.

As an adult, I have worked hard to do my part, so much so that family members sometimes derisively call me Eco Annie when I complain about who forgot the reusable cloth shopping bags or who put the wrong stuff in the recycle bin. I ball up plastic bags to return to grocery stores. I compost, feeding the insects that make beautiful soil for my vegetable garden. I purchase products that are biodegradable and, when I scuba dive, I retrieve garbage that has found its way into the sea.

I mention this because of an article I just read, one that has me damned depressed. “More than a million tons a year of America’s plastic trash isn’t ending up where it should. The equivalent of as many as 1,300 plastic grocery bags per person is landing in places such as oceans and roadways,” said the Associate Press article, “Study says much trash is going astray.” While the U.S. was not previously ranked in the world’s top-ten worst offenders for plastic waste in oceans, the study says we now sit as high as third on that list.

One of the problems is the fact that many countries no longer take our garbage. According to the study, U.S. exports of plastic waste have declined nearly 70%. And those countries that still accept our recyclable plastic, are not doing their jobs. Fifty-one percent of the plastic waste we ship abroad is routinely mismanaged.

Consider, as just one example of our plastic trash problem, that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to cover an area twice the size of Texas, a swirling storm of mostly floating plastic, one of five such patches in our oceans.

Industries are trying. Modernized recycling operations are being funded and there’s a push for new packaging standards. But, let’s face it, if we, the people, don’t do what we can our world may one day resemble a vast garbage dump.

There are those who say other countries must also bear the burden of cleaning up the Earth, and while they’re correct let’s remember that the U.S. is the number one generator of waste in the world, with one study estimating that each of us produces 1,600 pounds of garbage annually.

Jena Jambeck, an environmental engineering professor at the University of Georgia, had the last world in the AP article. “The best thing you can do environmentally is to produce no waste at all.”

While that’s probably an impossible goal, I believe we can, at least, do better.

Don’t you?
Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS
Amazon PaperbackKindleMidpoint Books

 

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

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

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

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A DEVILISH APPETIZER

December 22, 2021 | Author Friend New Releases, Cooking

by Helen Carpenter

Holiday potluck parties are lots of fun; a day to eat hearty and share good times. Bedeviled by what to bring? Try this easy spicy recipe for deviled eggs. (Do you know why they’re called deviled eggs? You get to eat two if you know the answer.*)

Deviled Eggs with Curry

Eggs (week-old or just-ready-to-expire eggs peel more easily)
1 tsp. salad dressing for each egg
Dash of curry powder
Dash of paprika

Hard-boil eggs using an egg cooker or a pot of cold water (cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10-12 minutes). Drain; then place eggs in ice water until cool. Peel cooled eggs and cut in half lengthwise.

Slide egg yolks onto a plate and mash with a fork.

Stir in salad dressing until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon yolk mixture back into egg whites, or use a disposable plastic baggie and an icing tip if you want ooh-la-la fancy deviled eggs.

Sprinkle with curry powder to taste. Dust with paprika for more color.

Arrange on a festive platter and serve warm or cold.

If you’re traveling to the potluck, carry this dish in an insulated cooler with ice.

*According to the Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson (1999), pp. 247-248, “devil” is a culinary term which first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments. The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat where the devil dwells.

Once upon a time there was a mother/daughter author duo named Helen and Lorri, who wrote as HL Carpenter. The Carpenters worked from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, was unreal but not untrue. Then one day Lorri left her studio to explore the land of What-if, and like others who have lost a loved one the magical place lost much of its magic. But thanks to family, plus an amazing group of wordsmiths named Authors Moving Forward (AMF), the magic is slowly returning.

Helen Carpenter loves liking and sharing blog posts from other authors. She lives in Florida with her husband of many years and appreciates everyday, especially those without hurricanes.

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook .

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LEIGH GOFF UNBOUND

December 20, 2021 | Author Friend Promo

For the new release of the Koush Hollow audiobook, Leigh Goff provides insight into her writing process and about Koush Hollow, a mystical place where magic abounds and all that glitters…is deadly.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

For me, they must come together at the same time. I always outline the story first, so I need both of those elements fleshed out in the outline before I start to do the actual first draft. That being said, the characters are always a bit easier to develop than the plot.

What part of Koush Hollow was the most fun to write?

In Koush Hollow, the climactic end was absolutely the most fun to write. It’s actually the darkest thing I’ve ever written. I totally enjoyed visualizing those events and writing them down. Great fun and bit cathartic!

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?

I’ve never had to design my own cover and I’m not sure that’s my strength anyway, but I have had input into all of my covers. I’m appreciative that the publishers asked for that input and took my advice to tweak the art to make the cover design more pertinent to the story. No one knows the story better that the writer so it’s always nice to add those little touches.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

You know, I wish I had used a variation of my name. I thought about using L. A. Goff, rather than Leigh A. Goff when my first book, Disenchanted, was published in 2015. With Koush Hollow, which is my third, I requested that change in my name for the cover, but since I already had a following under Leigh A. Goff, the publisher wanted to stay with that. However, in the future, if I write in a different genre, I may push for L. A. Goff.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?

My favorite part is the excitement that comes with the offer letter. It means someone read the work and loved it. There’s nothing you want to do except pop a Champagne bottle and toast to the book’s future. Least favorite part—public speaking events to promote it. I’m absolutely terrified of public speaking, however, I love speaking with small groups or book clubs or doing book signings and meeting the readers. That’s pretty awesome.

How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

Oh my gosh—editors are critically important to finishing and polishing the final version. When a writer has been in a story for months, it is difficult to go back and see the trees (the trees being all the mistakes hahaha) for the forest. It’s not always fun to see those mistakes, but editors are a necessary part of a writing team. I am always so grateful for their insight and suggestions to make the work the best it can be. 

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Koush is a play on the French word, cauchemar, which means a terror that comes in the night. And there are legends in the South about witch-riding nightmares where people dream about a witch or demon sitting on their chests or backs trying to suffocate them. This strange phenomenon is called a cauchemar. And since there are mystical characters, strange waking dreams, and nefarious women in Koush Hollow, it seemed like an appropriate title.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Ice cold lemon seltzer water in the warmer months/hot chocolate coffee in the colder months, my dog Summer next to me, a comfy chair, and my laptop. I need to be comfortable so I can just focus on writing and nothing else.

 

Here’s a bit more on Leigh’s latest release.

After her father’s untimely death, Jenna Ashby dreads life with her wealthy mother in Koush Hollow, a bayou town outside of New Orleans.

As the sixteen-year-old eco-warrior is introduced to the Diamonds & Pearls, her mother’s exclusive social club, she comes to the troubling realization that secrets are a way of life in Koush Hollow. How do the Diamonds & Pearls look so young, where does their money come from, and why is life along the bayou disappearing?

As Jenna is drawn into their seductive world, her curiosity and concerns beg her to uncover the truth. However, in this town where mysticism abounds and secrets are deadly, the truth is not what Jenna ever expected.

BUY LINKS

Audible

Amazon

Apple

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

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

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

 

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SPECIAL HOLIDAY SALAD

December 15, 2021 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Stella May

This is a traditional New Year’s dish for any person who was born or grew up in former USSR. To this day, not a single celebration goes without it.

The name of this salad in Russia is Сajiat ОЛИВЬЕ. For all the former republics that once upon a time were part of the USSR, this salad became a synonym for a New Year. It brings many of us a lot of bitter-sweet memories.

There are many variations to Olivier Salad. The recipe below is how my family made it, and how I still make it every year on December 31st.

OLIVIER SALAD
5 large eggs

2 large Russet potatoes

2 carrots

1 can green peas

2-3 pickled cucumbers, traditional Vlasic is best

1 fresh English cucumber

½ cup fresh dill, chopped fine

½ cup green onion, chopped or 1 small sweet onion

½ cup mayo, maybe a little less

½ cup sour cream, maybe a little less

1 cup cubed chicken breast or boiled meat, optional

2 pinches salt

Pepper to taste

Boil eggs, potatoes, and carrots in the same pan. Drain and then set aside pan to cool.

Cube all ingredients, combine them in the large bowl, mix gently. Add combination of mayo and sour cream. Some people use only mayo, others only sour cream. You decide which works best for you. You may want to use more or less mayo/sour cream mixture, depending on your taste.

Stir in salt and pepper and fresh dill. Cover with plastic wrap and then chill until you’re ready to serve.

Happy New Year! 

Stella

Here is a peek at Stella’s time travel romance for your reading pleasure. It also makes a wonderful holiday gift.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD

December 13, 2021 | Author Friend New Releases, Holidays

from Linda Lee Greene, Author/Artist

How much easier it would be for me to fulfill a commission to write an article titled ‘Christmas Around the World,’ if I were actually free to travel, but I do not have that freedom for various reasons. Therefore, I call on my crafty Muse to settle on my shoulder and whisper in my ear an imaginary tale of travel, one in which I call on a number of women in faraway places, each of whom is immersed in high holiday celebrations unique to her culture. I am giddy over the prospect of beginning my make-believe trip with my Muse depositing me smack-dab in the presence of a Native American sister.

Seven Sisters acrylic painting by Linda Lee Greene

Paulette welcomes me into her kitchen and then very graciously explains that embracing the Christian tradition is a thorny issue for many of her people given the injustices that America’s indigenous people have faced under white domination, both in the past and the present. Even so, the good spirit of the season permeates her culture in admirable ways. “You showed up just in time to catch me before I leave for a meeting of the Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA),” Paulette informs me. Responding to the quizzical look on my face, she continues. “We spread holiday cheer in the way of blankets, nutrition and education services, medical screenings, and more to over 30,000 of our Elders, children, and families in approximately 110 reservation communities here in the Northern Plains and the Southwest. Winter is brutal in these reservations and rural communities, and we work hard to come together in the spirit of giving at this special time.” Upon making my exit into a frozen morning, I drop a couple of Andrew Jacksons into Paulette’s PWNA donation basket and cringe at the gruesome symbolism of that particular face being imprinted on those U. S. $20.00 bills.

I suppose my Muse took pity on me and decided to thaw me out, because in the blink of an eye, I am stretched out on the blinding sand of a beach in Melbourne, Australia. I am clad in a bathing suit, and the unmistakable aroma of seafood sizzling on a grill within smelling distance floods my mouth with saliva. Jingle Bells, the jolly Christmas song, rings out from an electronic device. The incongruity is not lost on me as I push to my feet to the greeting of a scantily-clad blonde goddess waving a barbecue fork in her hand. “We thought you were dead to the world, myte,” she says to me. “Come on and git yerself a plyte. It’s prawns on the barbie, stryght from Dad’s boat this mornin’.” Kathryn is the name of this supernatural being, and she is only one of many just like her in her large circle of beach party buddies. Someone thrusts a frosty bottle of beer in my hand and I recoup my senses enough to inquire, “Jingle Bells?” “What else?” Kathryn replies. “It’s Christmas! Eat up! Drink up! The day is jist gittin’ started. You don’t want to miss Carols by Candlelight tonight.” “Carols by Candlelight?” “Yeh, you know! The big charity evint to help out the needy in the community.” To get in the spirit of things, I chug the cold beer and pretend the hot white sand squishing between my bare toes is bone-chilling snow.

A strong scent reminiscent of home that I am powerless to resist lures me away from summertime Melbourne to a cozy dining room in Tokyo, Japan. A table laden with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken is occupied on all sides by a young Japanese family comprised of a mother, father, and two children. Apparently, I am the only dinner guest at what Aimi, the lovely mother, explains to me is their “hidden Christmas”. While the stigma of what in Japan is mainly a secular event is dissipating thanks to ubiquitous Western influences wrought through television and social media, influences such as America’s KFC as the food of choice for Christmas Day in Japan, still many people whose leanings remain Shinto or Buddhism, observe the day on the quiet. “It ruffles fewer feathers that way,” an otherwise very Japanese Aimi tells me in ironical American terminology.

Muse is anxious to send me further into my whirlwind tour, and next, and for a minute or two, I wonder if Muse has time-slipped me back to America’s Old West as the gentle steed on whose back I ride trots me beneath a wide, wood archway that spans an opening in split-rail fencing on both sides. The fencing wanders and then evaporates into what appears a boundless, misty landscape. A carved sign in wood at the crest of the archway proclaims, “LET’S GO GREEN!” And then I know I am in current time, the ominous Climate Change time that does not withdraw to a voiceless corner even on Christmas Day. Great plumes of crystalized breath billow from the nostrils of the horse, and my own frosty breath hazes the lenses of my spectacles. I am in cold, cold country—not quite to the Arctic plain, but close enough, I am pretty sure. No level treeless tundra is this, though, for there are evergreen trees, evergreen trees upon evergreen trees as far as the eye can see, planted in deliberate, neat and regimental rows, like line upon line of locked-arm chorus girls frocked in frilly green. Donned in blue-jeans and a fleece-layered black-and-red-plaid flannel shirt, a Paul Bunyan-like figure materializes out of nowhere suddenly. “Welcome to Saskatchewan’s Evergreen Tree Farm. We’ve been expecting you. I’m Anne,” this burly Canadian female greets me. “You look like you need a warm-up. Come on up to the house. There’s a rum and brandy hot toddy there with your name on it.”

A profusion of Christmas decorations, evergreen garlands, and twinkling lights at every door, window, and eave forms an almost impenetrable obstacle course to the entrance of the place. In the wake of my hostess, I step across the threshold and enter a winter wonderland, a plethora of all things Christmas. A steaming mug of the hot toddy beckons me to the table upon which it rests, and on the stovetop, the valve on the lid of a pressure cooker dances up and down. The aroma emitting from it is heavenly. “Have you ever had frontier bison stew?” Anne asks me. My stomach drops to my toes and I shake my head. I feel my enthusiasm wilt to a point of no return. I am not so sure my belly is ready for frontier bison stew. “I thought bison was an endangered species,” I state, my mouth going desert-dry in my unease. “Our First Nation people have taken the herds in hand and are bringing the numbers back to almost double now,” Anne explains. “The grazing habits of the herds are also reestablishing the indigenous grasses that are much better carbon capturers than non-native plant-life that was introduced in colonial times. With their bison and my trees, the First Nation people and I are working hard to do right by Mother Nature.”

Don’t get me wrong. My gratitude for all of Anne’s hospitality is as mammoth as the woman herself. This big-hearted female had a hot toddy waiting to warm my icy bones. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she had grabbed that bison by its horns in her immense lumberjack hands and wrestled it to the ground all by herself, and then saw to all further machinations to get it into her pressure cooker just in time for my arrival at her tree farm this Christmas Day. And while I also appreciate all the laudable environmentalism, suffice to say that my main motivator at the moment is finding a gracious way of sidestepping Anne’s looming offer of a bowl of that bison stew. I send a private, silent message to my Muse that I am ready to move on to the next spot on my journey. Muse hears my plea and at mach-speed, I turn up in Jerusalem of all places, which I am to learn is planet Earth’s ‘City of Three Christmases’.

While terrorists are wiping out Christians far and wide in the Middle East, the Jewish state of Israel is the one place in the area in which Christians can practice their religion freely. Their number is small: only about 2.5% of the total Israeli population, but Christmas celebrations are large. I meet up with Susan in a library on an outskirt of Jerusalem. She leads me to a table on which lays an enormous tome. She invites me to sit next to her, and she opens the book and I follow along as she spins an intriguing and complex story of Christmas in Jerusalem, the index finger of her right hand tracing the lines on the pages like a sightless person reading braille. Now and then, her head lowers to within mere inches of the book for a closer look at the ancient, fading text, and a crucifix suspended from a silver chain around her neck drops forward and drags across the pages. It seems a confirmation, of sorts.

Christmas on Mithoff Street watercolor painting by Linda Lee Greene

“The Christmas story took place in Israel,” Susan reminds me. “But through the centuries, and for a variety of reasons, the different factions of Christians have not come to a meeting of minds on the actual date of the birth of Jesus. So you see, Christmas in Jerusalem is not a one-day affair. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians celebrate the day on December 25th. Orthodox Christians do so on January 6th, and Armenian Christians on January 18th.” Susan implores me to stick around and partake of an array of dazzling festivities commemorating the holiday, but by this time, I am more than ready for crisp air and fluffy snow and a bona-fide traditional Christmas as I recognize it to be—a Midwest America Christmas of time spent with family and friends, of sharing food and memories, of gift-giving and receiving amid the ambience of a gorgeously adorned Christmas tree and sparkly mantel and tabletops aglow in candlelight. As ever, my Muse reads me and transports me back to my home.

My wise Muse arranges my return trip to be a bit slower than my arrivals had been, to give me time to reflect on all I had experienced. The impression most indelible in my memory is the evidence of Creator’s handiwork in those places, of the sights and sounds and aromas, and in the people and their talismans for good such as Paulette’s donation basket, Kathryn’s barbecue fork, Aimi’s KFC bucket, Anne’s trees, and Susan’s crucifix. And I wonder now, what’s in store for me on my next go around!?

Readers were introduced to American Nicholas Plato in multi-award-winning author Linda Lee Greene’s A Chance at the Moon, which was published in 2019 and is available on Amazon.

Greene takes readers on yet another adventure of Nicholas’ whirlwind life in her Garden of the Spirits of the Pots, A Spiritual Odyssey. In this sequel, Nicholas shows up in Sydney, Australia. The principle plotline unfolds as on one Saturday of sightseeing he gets lost in Australia’s forbidding yet alluring outback, and there he happens upon a pintsized hut on a lonely plot littered with hundreds of clay pots of every size and description. Driven by a deathly thirst, he stops. A strange little brown man materializes out of nowhere and introduces himself merely as ‘Potter’ and welcomes Nicholas to his ‘Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.’ Although Nicholas has never laid eyes on Potter, the man seems to have expected Nicholas at his bizarre habitation and displays knowledge about him that nobody has any right to possess. Just who is this mysterious Aboriginal potter?

Although they are as mismatched as two persons can be, a strangely inevitable friendship takes hold between them. It is a relationship that can only be directed by an unseen hand bent on setting Nicholas on a mystifying voyage of self-discovery and Potter on revelations of universal certainties.

A blend of visionary and inspirational fiction with a touch of romance, this is a tale of Nicholas’ journey into parts unknown, both within his adopted home and himself, a quest that in the end leads him to his true purpose for living.

Garden of the Spirits of the Pots is available in eBook and/or paperback on Amazon.

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 on her blog and join her on Facebook.

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