Archive for 2020

November 25, 2020 | Holidays

The Entire Taylor Family

Wishes You and Yours

Happy Thanksgiving
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A Child’s Narrative

November 23, 2020 | Author Friend Promo

from Elliott Baker

I do not have an advanced degree in psychology. I am the proud owner of a BA in history which was chosen as the least onerous way I could spend four years. I figured it would involve mostly reading and I liked to read, even then. So, if you need an expert to entertain someone’s thoughts, you may need to stop here.

Like you, I can look out and see a pretty messed up situation. And like you, I think about it. Since I am a writer, I naturally see things as stories, narratives. It occurred to me that we are acting in a child’s narrative. Sally and I have three children and five grandchildren and I have loved and watched each closely. ADD runs in our family, so I have had more occasion to think about their paths. In my view, children are not immoral, they are amoral. That their actions might hurt someone else, or even themselves in the long run does not occur to them. They mostly don’t say to themselves, “that’s bad, but I’m going to do it anyway.” They say, “I want this. Now.”

Image by akos147 from Pixabay

We are living in a child’s narrative. This narrative’s  defining characteristic is ‘Me and not me.’ With rare  interruptions, the child sees the world in shades of   black and white where the adult has run into blue  and red and knows the world to be more complex   than that. The fact that we add a year’s chronological  age every year doesn’t guarantee that our maturity or  awareness grows at the same pace. Many of us get to  the end of this particular narrative without gaining  much in the way of awareness. If I believed that 80  years is all we have to accumulate greater awareness,  I’d be angry, frustrated, and fearful, but since I choose to trust that we have every moment we need to evolve, I don’t entertain fear as often as I might. That is, right up to the point when I buy into the hypnotic, seductive, child’s narrative with all its resentments and anger and sadness. The child within me grabs hold of its ‘Me and not me’ perspective as it leaches all of the colors from the world leaving only black or white. And I am left feeling frustrated and frightened for myself and those I love.

What can I do? Observe first without judgement. Not so easy, but it can be done. Survey the problem and parts of it fall away, but not all. There are action steps to change.

I don’t have to act in this particular play that my ego (child within) is thrilled to produce. Each moment is about choices and the more balanced the mind, the better the choices. Fear is not balance. The child’s narrative (ego) is in business to disconnect you from everyone and everything in order to maintain the illusion of control. Control is the aim of the ego, pure and simple. If the child can control everything, including the adults around him or her, he will be safe. Not true, of course, but that is the child’s underlying motivation. Add in the desire for immediate gratification, and you have the child’s narrative. It’s a story, like any other, but now that I see it, it isn’t the story I want to play in.

So, what can I do? Aren’t I chained to this reality, to this narrative? Not so much. Oh, there are chains all right, but take a good look at them. Do it now. Look at the chains of thought that bind you to anything. Who made those chains? I did, for me. So, can I just make ‘em disappear? Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice. Thing is it took some time to lay down our part in the narrative and it will take some time to dematerialize those chains. Not as much time as our ego wants us to believe, but some. How do I do it?

Not by fighting a war. Every strike at an opponent, while it feels so good in the moment, only solidifies the narrative. Remember, we want to change narratives. At least I do. I’m tired of feeling sad about the chances for my beloved grandchildren to find a satisfying life.

The child’s narrative is a habit we have accepted. Is it possible to change destructive habits? You bet. There are plenty of folks who have beaten horrible addictions. Like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, they aren’t any stronger than you or I, they just decide and do not turn back.

How do I change this habit, this narrative?

When I was in my twenties, I worked as a life guard in a resort in upper state New York. There was one guy there who was so cool. He got all the girls, and was just, for lack of a better description, cool. I aspired to be cool so I watched what he said and did that was so attractive to the opposite sex. He spoke in a very, to me, cool way by adding the word ‘like’ before his sentences. “Like, why don’t we go grab a drink.” Every sentence was preceded by the word ‘like.’ Aha, that’s his secret. As I said, he was cool. So, I added the word into my vocabulary and used it profusely.

My mom had occasion to visit and we went to a Broadway show. Actually, I remember the show, George M with Joel Gray. Great show about George M Cohan. I digress. Afterward we went out to eat. I was talking about something, and she said, “Like what?” I repeated whatever I thought she hadn’t caught or understood. (My mom’s a real smart person and her hearing is fine, so I should have caught on earlier, but it took me a few times.) So, I repeated what I had said, and she again said, “Like what?” I said it again and she echoed “Like what?” Ah. Finally got to me. By that time, I had gotten over how cool this guy was, but my speech hadn’t reflected that awareness.

“I say it a lot, huh?” She just smiled. “Sounds pretty stupid, huh?” Again, she just smiled. (Did I say how smart she is?) Well, I’ll just stop saying the word like. Not so easy. Habit. She helped me. Every time I said “Like,” she’d say, “Like what?” Took me all that night and the next day.

Unfortunately, we don’t have someone saying “Like what?” every time we replay a habit, so they aren’t as easy to change and often take more than a day and a half. Some years later, when I found the less than useful vocal addition, “You know,” had crept into my speech, I decided to delete it. Once again, not so easy. So, I had a choice between listen to the ego, “It’s too hard, you can’t do this. You don’t have anyone to help you.” Or create my own “Like what?” to pry that habit out of there. “I did this once before; I can do it again.” Hah.., (Damn, a semicolon. How pretentious can you get? It was an accident. Windows did it.)

The first few times I actually heard myself saying “You know,” (And there were plenty I didn’t hear.) I was pretty frustrated. I then realized that I wasn’t even hearing it most of the time. So, I began listening for its unwelcome appearance. I decided the first thing was not to get angry at myself as that didn’t seem to speed things up. Just observe. At first, I would hear myself say “You know,” maybe five or six times a day, and each time I would be determined to catch it before I said it and not say it. I managed to ditch the anger and frustration, and I told my ego to go sit on the bench. I was doing this. But it was like that illusive cricket that managed to get into your bedroom. Every time you think about it or move toward it, it quiets down and you can’t find it. Then it starts up and you can’t sleep.

Finally, as I was about to say something to someone, my brain paused for me to act. I chose not to say, “You know.” Victory. I did it. Not so much. Two sentences later, there it was. Crap. Still, what I could do once I could repeat. Took me some time, but I stopped saying, “You know.”

A visual would be if you ran a pencil along a school desk until you’d made a nice trough. Not that you would ever do that. Once the trough (habit) is dug, the pencil goes along easily. Well, yes, but a straight line is boring and I’m, uh, someone, is much more creative than that so let’s make a Y. At first it’s hard to get the pencil out of the rut (habit) I’ve, we’ve dug, but once it jumps the moat, the leg of the Y is created and then with a little application, it’s easier to push the pencil along the new trough (habit) than the old. Will and persistence. And ditch the anger. You might not be able to get to forgiveness, which is way more powerful, but we can just set the anger aside. Remove our attention from it. Not every time at first, but once we get the hang of it, it can be done.

Why should we devote our attention and energy to creating a new narrative, a more adult narrative? The simple answer is it hurts less. And if enough of us refuse to live in the child’s narrative, the script will change. And we and our grandchildren will be in a richer story with greater possibilities to create a more satisfying and happy life.

Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott’s Author Page on Facebook to learn all his latest news.

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A THANKSGIVING FEAST TO BEHOLD

November 18, 2020 | Cooking, Holidays

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Every year Mike and I had at least twenty people for a sit-down dinner. We cooked the meal and the guests supply the appetizers, deserts, and wine. It was a wonderful time to reminisce, over-indulge, and have fun. There comes a time when life must change. Two years ago I passed the turkey baster on to my daughter Dru. She’s a wonderful cook and it’s great fun to be her guest. 

 MENU 
Roasted Turkey 
Stuffing 
Mashed Potatoes 
Candied Sweet Potatoes 
Broccoli 
Stir-fry 
Canned Corn 
Cranberry Sauce 
Gravy 
White wine – Chardonnay 
Roasted Turkey 
Turkey 
8 tbsp. (114g) butter
2 leeks including some green, chopped 
2 large onion, chopped 
15 baby carrots, chopped 
4 tomatoes, chopped 
1 tbsp. (15ml) dried thyme 
1 tbsp. (15ml) dried marjoram 
1 large bay leaf 
Bacon strips to cover breast 
Chicken stock 
Disposable pan 
Cooking rack 
Cookie sheet – for stability 

 Place unopened turkey on a cloth lined cookie sheet and thaw in refrigerator 7 hours per pound or one day for every four pounds of frozen turkey. So, if you have a 20 pound (9K) turkey it will take 140 hours or a least 5 days to thaw in the fridge. 

Thanksgiving Morning
If the turkey isn’t completely thawed, set in a large pot of cold water to complete. Dispose of packet inserted in cavity. Rinse well, then pat dry with paper towels. 

Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). 

Cooking Times
10 – 18 lbs. (4.5 – 8kg) 2 – 2½ hrs. 
18 – 22 lbs. (8 – 10kg ) 2½ – 3 hrs. 
22 – 24 lbs. (10 – 11kg) 3 – 3½ hrs. 

Melt butter in a large frying pan. When the foam subsides, lay turkey, breast down, and brown first one side then the other until skin is golden. Be careful moving the turkey around, it’s heavy and awkward.

Set disposable pan on cookie sheet. Scatter chopped vegetables onto pan bottom. Insert cooking rack. Place turkey on rack breast up. Lay bacon slices over breast to cover well. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the pan bottom by 1 inch (2.54cm). Cover turkey and pan edges with aluminum foil, crimping sides well. 

Remove from oven at the predetermined time. To test if the bird is done, use a paper towel or pot holder and shake hands with its leg. The leg should move freely. Tent with foil and allow to rest 30 – 45 minutes before carving. 

Remember – turkey, like all other meat, continues to cook long after it is removed from the oven.

Stuffing 
Stuffing is a winter food for us. I make a huge batch and freeze the unbaked extra in serving-size containers. Throughout the winter I’ll serve it with pork or chicken. 
 
1 package bread stuffing cubes, plain or seasoned 
½ lb. (250g) breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk 
8 tbsp. (1 stick) (114g) butter, melted 
1 rib celery, chopped 
½ medium onion, chopped 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried sage 
1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried thyme 
2 cups (450ml) chicken stock, maybe a little more 

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl. 

 Fry sausage in a medium-sized skillet, breaking meat into small chunks, until no longer pink. Add sausage and its juice to bread cubes. 

Melt butter in same skillet. Add celery and onion when the foam subsides. Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until translucent, be careful not to let it brown. Add vegetables with all their juices to bread cubes. Mix well.

Pour egg onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well. 


 Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy. 

To Bake as a Side Dish 
Spoon mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Do not pack it in. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate stuffing until you are ready to bake it, but no longer than two days. 

To Freeze 
Spoon mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freezer no longer than 3 months. I use several small bags that serve 2 at a single setting.

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come to room temperature. 


Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown. 

Mashed Potatoes 
1 small russet potato per person 
Chicken stock 
Butter 
Sour cream 
 Milk 
Pepper 

The Day Before 
Pour 1-inch (2.54cm) chicken stock into saucepan. Peel and quarter the potatoes, then place in saucepan. Add tap water to cover by 1-inch (2.54cm). Put a lid on pan and bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower temperature to a strong simmer. Cook approximately 25 minutes. Test for doneness by poking a fork into a potato. It should insert easily. 

Drain potatoes. Mash well without adding other ingredients. Cool completely in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerate. 

Thanksgiving Day 
Remove potatoes from the refrigerator early in the day to allow them to come to room temperature. When you are ready to serve, microwave potatoes until hot. Stir in butter, sour cream, milk, and pepper to the consistency you prefer. 

Candied Sweet Potatoes 
32 oz. (1kg) can of sweet potatoes
½ cup (50g) brown sugar firmly packed 
8 tbsp. (114g) butter 
 2 handfuls mini marshmallows 

Preheat oven to 375° F (190°C). 

Drain potatoes in a colander. Cut large pieces in half. Lay potatoes into a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 22cm) glass baking dish. 

Sprinkle brown sugar across the top, then dot with butter. 

Bake 20 minutes. 

Scatter marshmallows over the yams and bake for 15 minutes or until marshmallows are brown. 

Broccoli Stir-fry 
4 mini carrots sliced on an angle 
½ cup (50g) olive oil – possibly more 
½ medium onion, sliced 
1 in. (2.54) piece gingerroot peeled and cut into strips 
1 head broccoli trimmed and cut into florets 
½ small sweet red pepper cored, seeded and cut into strips 
½ small yellow pepper cored, seeded and cut into strips 
2 large garlic cloves pressed 
½ tsp. (2.5ml) red pepper flakes 
2 green onions sliced on an angle, include green 
5 mini Bello mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thirds 
1 tbsp. (15ml) lime or lemon juice 

Have all ingredients prepped and, on the counter, before you begin cooking. 

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onion, carrot and gingerroot. Sauté until carrot is almost soft. Test by inserting a toothpick into the carrot. Remove as many gingerroot pieces as you can find. Don’t worry if some are left in the pan. 

Add broccoli, red and yellow peppers, and garlic. Sprinkle on red pepper flakes. Stir constantly to ensure broccoli is well coated with oil. Add more oil if necessary. Squeeze on lime or lemon juice. Sauté 2 – 4 minutes, but be sure broccoli and peppers still have crunch to them. 

Blend in green onions and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms are heated through. Serve quickly. 

Serves 4 – 6 so adjust accordingly. 

From the corn through the gravy you’ll see just how lazy I was on holidays. And I’m not ashamed. 


Canned Corn 
1 can of corn per 4 people 
butter 

Drain corn, then pour into micro wave safe bowl. Lay 2 or 3 pats of butter across the top. Micro wave for 3 minutes, stir and serve. 

Cranberry Sauce 
1 can of sauce per 6 people 

Lay sauce into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Gravy 
1 jar of gravy for 4 people 
Juices from the turkey pan 

Pour the gravy into a saucepan. Stir in ¼ – ½ cup (58 – 57g) of juice from the roasted turkey pan. Go easy so you don’t thin the gravy too much. Heat through and serve.

Have a happy and safe holiday!
Sloane
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12 HOLIDAY MOTIVATION TIPS

November 16, 2020 | Author Friend Promo

to get you started on time for the upcoming season. 

from C.D. Hersh

The holidays are nearly on us, and with them come extra work decorating the house, the lawn, the trees, baking all those Christmas cookies and goodies, shopping, cleaning, holiday parties to attend and give, and scads of other things that can take you away from your WIP. This year give yourself a head start with a little motivation to sit down at the computer and keep writing. Start planning now for a successful holiday writing season.

Here are a few tips on how to motivate yourself to write during the holidays.

  1. Start your holiday motivation by spending part of one day each week doing some holiday activity that fuels your creativity. If you celebrate Halloween get those decorations made and put up. When that’s accomplished start making Thanksgiving decorations for your table, bake those pies and fruitcakes, begin making Christmas cards, build a gingerbread house, plan what Christmas cookies you’re going to bake, build a snowman with the kids (use snow or craft paper or pillows), or begin your shopping. You’re only limited by your own imagination.
  2. Plan a couple of writers’ plotting and cookie exchange parties for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Have each participant bring 2 dozen home baked cookies (which you mixed up while writing with your tape recorder – more later on this) and exchange cookies and plotting ideas. And yes, this can count toward one of the writing goals.
  3. Make a holiday advent writing calendar. Choose a series of 25 clear writing goals for the holiday season and write them down on holiday themed paper. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chapter a day, 100 or 1000 words a day, perfecting that blurb or synopsis, or looking up a new editor or agent to submit to in January. Drop the goals into a bowl and pick one each day. Not knowing what you are going to do will keep the excitement alive, much like opening the doors on the Advent calendar does for children. If your family already has an advent calendar when you set it up add your goals to the calendar. Let the family number your advent goal papers so you will be surprised when you open them. This way the family can see what you need to accomplish and help keep you on track.
  4. Let Santa’s “writing elf” reward you with a little gift under the tree, or holiday snack set next to your easy chair, for each goal or week of goals you complete. Shop for your own rewards in advance, involve the family and let them choose or make the gifts for you, or do both.
  5. Head to Panera’s (or some other location that has a fireplace), grab a seat next to the fire and write until the heat overtakes you. If you work on your steamy love scenes it might not take long for you to get overheated. Then call it a day and have a Chai Latte while you watch the flames flicker.
  6. Leave the decorations off of the Christmas tree and put a few ornaments on every time you write 100, 200, 300, or 400 words—you choose the limit. Store the decorations in a pretty basket by the tree to make them easily accessible. If you plan a Christmas party and need the tree decorated quickly this could spur your word count to grow rapidly.
  7. Do a fun holiday related activity with the family with the understanding that the next day, or hours, are yours for writing.
  8. Write a Christmas story during your holidays. Inspiration is all around you during the season, from music to snow, if you’re lucky enough to get it. Writing holiday themed stories now beats putting the tree up in July, like Dolly Parton does for inspiration when she creates Christmas songs in the summer.
  9. Work hard in the time you’ve allotted and stay focused. This means no email, no web surfing, and shutting the office door.
  10. Use your crockpot … often. Winter’s a great time for simple soup, chili or stew meals topped off with crusty loaf of bread. Make double batches and you’ll have leftovers for another day. Some soups are better reheated.
  11. Write with a tape recorder and transcribe it after the holidays are over. A mini tape recorder fits in your pocket and is easy to use. Some cell phones even have to ability to record voice notes. All those times you have while you wait for the kids’ Christmas concerts to start (because we all know you have to be there hours in advance), waiting in line for thirty minutes at the checkout counter while holiday shopping, or mixing dough for Christmas cookies can count as writing time.
  12. At the end of the holiday season, if you met all your goals give yourself a BIG reward. You deserve it!

Share with us in the comments what ideas you have to motivate you through the holidays to keep writing.

Here’s a brief intro to our romantic shapeshifter series. We hope you’ll click the link to read the blurbs.

 

Amazon The Turning Stone Chronicles Series page

The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1)

Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2)

Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3)

The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4)

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

They have a short Christmas story, Kissing Santa, in a Christmas anthology titled Sizzle in the Snow: Soul Mate Christmas Collection, with seven other authors.

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

Social Media Info:

Website
Soul Mate Publishing
Facebook
Amazon Author Page
Twitter
Goodreads
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November 11, 2020 | Holidays

Thank you to all the brave men and women who have served this great country. 

May you live long and happy lives.

In the USA, Veterans Day annually falls on November 11. This day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918.

For those who aren’t aware, the key difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day is that Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering all military personnel who sacrificed their lives in the name of the nation while Veterans Day is dedicated to honor all those military personnel who are alive and living a retired life.
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Add a Little Spice to November

November 9, 2020 | Author Friend Promo, Cooking

from Tina Griffith

Halloween and November are my things. I love every spooky, creepy, and wonderful thing about October and all the good food of November. One of my favorite treats is the cake I’m sharing with you today. I used to make it with my kids. Now my grandbabies join me in the kitchen. Use any pan you like. I’ve baked this cake in a Bundt pan, a 13 x 9-inch pan, cupcake tins, and in three separates shape/sizes for freezing. It’s so easy to prepare and will fill your home with a wonderful aroma.

Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 spice cake mix box
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin spice
Raising, walnuts, or blueberry jam, optional

Follow package instructions for egg, oil, and water amounts along with baking temps and time.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar – Confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. salt

Cool cake completely before frosting. This helps stop crumbs from mysteriously appearing all over your frosting.

The chill is in the air and all things that go bump in the night are about to happen. Time to curl up with a good romantic thriller while you enjoy a piece of your yummy treat.

On Hallow’s Eve, as the veil between the two worlds was thinning, the face of the full moon was lit up like a Christmas tree. The dead would soon come alive, the alive would dress up as the dead, and witchcraft had a way of piggybacking off other spells. This was the ideal night to be a witch, for the effectiveness of all incantations, divinations, and other avenues of magic, was perfect.

Jayla is a clever witch, who had been cursed in her teens by her friend, Ophelia. Since then, she has had to retrieve dark souls from shrewd men in order to survive. While she has taken hundreds of souls in her lifetime, this story is about her trying to take the one which belongs to Roger Casem – the man she accidentally fell in love with.

Could she kill him, as she had done with the others? If she wanted to continue living, she must. But today, when his eyes skimmed her body with unbelievable passion, she began to recognize her own needs. As she blushed and turned her face away from him, Jayla did the only thing she could.

AMAZON


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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Don’t Call Me Jennifer…

November 4, 2020 | Author Friend Promo

from Leigh Goff

An Interview with Jenna Ashby from Koush Hollow

Unknown-10

What is your full name?

Technically it’s Jennifer Ashby, but don’t call me Jennifer. I prefer Jenna (most of the time) and my middle name is Crossland, which is my mother’s maiden name, bleh, however, I have a feeling that’s not really what my middle name is…

Tell us about your parents.

Do I have to? They divorced when I was little and I moved with my dad from Koush Hollow outside of New Orleans to Atlanta. I was fifteen when my dad died tragically last year, and I had to move back to live with my mother, Rayna. She’s rich and ambitious and she pretty much has my whole life planned out for me, which is so not going to happen. One day she wants me to take over her exclusive social club, the Diamonds & Pearls, but I’m an eco-warrior at heart and have no intention of hanging out with those snobby women, attending balls, or wearing pearls. Needless to say, life with Rayna is going to be a challenge—mostly for her.

Do you have any distinguishing features?

Besides my cool short, blonde spikes of hair, I have these interesting red marks on my hands. They’re crescent moon-shaped and my dad always told me they mark me as special, but Rayna hates them. And ever since I’ve returned to Koush Hollow, they’ve been acting up. I think it has something to do with being near the bayou, but I’m not sure why.

diamonds-and-pearls-3-gina-sullivanWhat is your greatest regret?

Not spending more time with my dad before he died. I’ve really struggled to deal with him being gone, too. Rayna wants me to forget about him and focus on being perfect, but I’m not perfect. I’ve made bad choices. I keep making mistakes because of other traumatic events that keep sending me whirling. I regret the mistakes, but that’s what being a teenager is all about. Being sixteen means making mistakes. No one’s perfect. We all have regrets and maybe other kids can learn from my mistakes.

Unknown-9Who is the most important person in your life?

My dad was the most important, but since I’ve arrived in Koush Hollow, I’ve met someone who makes me question what’s going on in the world that Rayna wants to paint as perfect. His name is Hayden and he’s more like me than any of the Pearls. He irritates me most of the time, but he’s smart and cares about Lake Pontchartrain and the bayous around us, which aren’t as healthy as they used to be. He blames the nuclear power plant where Rayna works, but she’s a former marine biologist. There’s no way she would do anything to hurt the environment, right?

 

Who are your friends?

I had the coolest friends back in Atlanta. We would cosplay together and have the best times. I even had a long-distance boyfriend who I detest now. In Koush Hollow, I hang out with Lauren and Abigail. They’re Pearls and on Rayna’s approved list, but they are starting to grow on me. They want me to become a Pearl, too, so I can meet with the mysterious Marais sisters and have access to their stupid beauty treatments. What they don’t know is that I’ve already met them. Lauren keeps hinting at the price I’ll have to pay to be a Pearl. We’ll see what happens.

images-4What is your favorite food?

The one thing I love about being back in New Orleans is the food! It’s all freaking amazing. A perfect day would begin with beignets for breakfast, a Muffuletta for lunch, shrimp and grits for dinner, bread pudding with bourbon sauce for dessert, and Zapp’s Voodoo chips to snack on while I binge on Netflix shows.

Unknown-13Speaking of Voodoo, are the Marais sisters Voodoo priestesses?

Yes, and they’ve got all kinds of mystical stuff going on at their place on the bayou. I’ve seen them painted as skeletons, dancing, chanting, and tossing fish into a bonfire. There’s Mama Ismay, she’s the oldest, although they all look so young, it’s hard to tell. Lisette is sexy, Destine is into health food, and they all tell me I remind them of their late sister Chelsea. I don’t know how that’s possible, but they’re so beautiful beyond their appearance, I like the comparison.

Here’s a favorite appetizer or snack straight from the bayou. The unique flavor of Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips, which are made in Louisiana, features salt and vinegar with a smoky BBQ sweetness and spicy, jalapeno kick. These chips are so good, they’ll taste even better on an oven-fried pickle.

Voodoo Chip Fried Pickles
2 cups sliced dill pickles drained and patted dry
2 eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups crushed Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips

Cajun sauce for dipping
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon horseradish
4 teaspoons ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

  1. Preheat oven to broil on high. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside. Whisk the eggs together in a bowl and then whisk in the flour.
  2. Place crushed Zapp’s Voodoo potato chips in a shallow dish. Dip each pickle slice in the egg mixture, then dredge in the crushed potato chips.
  3. Place coated pickles on a rack set above a baking sheet and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Place baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven. Broil for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  4. Serve right out of the oven with Cajun sauce.

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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When You Can’t Make it Work on Paper

November 2, 2020 | Author Friend Promo

from Carol Browne

Christianna Cassisa, an artist friend, recently posted some of her paintings on Facebook. I love her art because she has a unique style and her work seems to have a life of its own that I can only describe as magical. Some creatives really do have a special gift for breathing life into their artistic concepts. Here are three of my favorites.

As usual, I remarked upon how much I love her paintings and how perfect and brilliant they are. Her response was that I hadn’t seen her failures, and I never would. Nobody would, because they are mediocre and fall short of her vision. She couldn’t make them work on paper.

She said, didn’t I as a writer experience the same phenomenon, where no matter what you do, you can’t make the medium you work with reflect the ideas in your mind? The similarity between our two art forms struck me very forcibly then, yet it had never occurred to me before. One of the major frustrations of creative work is when a great idea takes root in your mind but you can’t do it justice in the physical expression of it.

For some months now I have been struggling with one of those great ideas. It is dark and unsettling and the perfect premise for an intelligent thriller. It’s an idea that won’t leave me. To discard it is unthinkable.

I wrote three different versions of chapter one and binned them. Likewise, characters have been introduced and quickly shown the door. Backgrounds changed colour and setting. Dramatic conflict between faceless characters led to long verbal exchanges that had no mouths to speak them. Only the idea, the central premise, remains, both egregious and ingenious, demanding manifestation.

And I can’t make it work on paper.

This idea is like a seed that is full of potential but in the hands of an indifferent gardener may never reach for the sun and bear fruit. It is too good an idea not to run with it, and yet it has no legs. I could wish this idea had been given to someone else. Let them sit and stare at the wall, trying to work out a plot! I have been infected with the germ of an idea for a great story, but so far it is peopled by phantoms and written on water.

At some point, I might have to tell myself to let it go. If that happens it will mean having to face the possibility that I’m not up to the job. I was given a good idea but it surpassed my abilities as a writer. I’m not prepared to give up just yet because this idea is bold and brave. It is a commentary on our times. It has important topics to explore, essential truths to impart, observations to set down and questions to pose. But without a structure these themes float around like rudderless boats, seeking anchorage in a shared harbour. The harbour they are searching for is the book I have called Now You Don’t. It has a title so it should exist. But it doesn’t. It’s a non-book.

Because I can’t make it work on paper.

Here’s a little from my book that did work on paper.

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
“Everything is energy,” I said, and swallowed down a lump in my throat. A lump composed of both unease and excitement in equal measure.

“Indeed. Just energy vibrating at different frequencies,” he said. “So while you think about that, here’s another interesting phenomenon that has been recorded many times, and it seems to me it has something in common with imaginary friends. Have you heard of the third man syndrome, Gill?”

I had to admit this meant nothing to me.

“Here’s an example of it,” he went on. “A mountaineer called Frank Smyth attempted to climb Mount Everest but had to turn back before he reached the summit. He reported that although he was completely alone during his descent, the feeling that someone was with him was so powerful he tried to share his Kendal mint cake with this person.

“The phenomenon is said to originate with Shackleton in 1916. While he was exploring Antarctica, Shackleton saw the apparition of a person alongside his two companions. There are countless reports of this from people who have survived terrorist attacks or extreme trauma. Some sort of threat to existence or even severe social isolation” — at this point the Professor gave me a knowing look — “can trigger this phenomenon. Some people might try to explain it with terms such as guardian angel or spirit guide, but could it be a hallucination or defence mechanism that switches on to help the brain deal with trauma and stress? It frequently happens that these apparitions offer comfort and support, and yet what of those cases where the third man not only gives advice but even leads people to safety when they find themselves in a life-threatening situation? That goes beyond mere imagination surely?” He raised his eyebrows, as if inviting a response, but his information had overwhelmed me. “I see I’ve given you something to think about. My advice is you go and do some research on this yourself.”

For a moment my mind slipped, stumbled, staggered about looking for something to grab on to. What was going on here? I looked at the Professor and he stared back, innocent as a kitten, waiting for me to speak. If I didn’t speak, would our exchange stop now? I was really talking to myself, for God’s sake. He can’t have done any research. He didn’t exist. I must have done it and either forgotten I had, or pretended to forget so it would all seem like new information.

Was I so needy I had to resort to these ludicrous mind games?

“You’re not real,” I said.

I stood and marched out of the room, my jaw clenched so hard it ached, my hands balled into fists. If there was no gin in the fridge, there’d be hell to pay, but, thank God, there was nearly a full bottle. Two stiff drinks were all I’d need for now, just to take the edge off.

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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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Easy Pasta Dinner

October 28, 2020 | Cooking

from Sloane Taylor

This quick recipe is ideal for those days you are too busy to fuss. Add a salad and a loaf of crusty bread to round out dinner. After
you assemble all the ingredients on your counter pop open a bottle of Soave white wine from the Veneto region in Italy to enjoy while you cook. It’s perfect for this meal.

Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

Linguine with Artichokes and Leeks
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned
2 12-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts in oil, drained
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tsp, kosher salt less will not disturb the flavors
1 tsp, freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Halve the leeks lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces. Wash well to remove any sand grains.

Cut the artichokes lengthwise if large.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the leeks, and cook until soft but not browned, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove the leeks from skillet and set aside.

Increase heat to medium and add the artichokes. Cook about 3 minutes stirring often.

Return the leeks to skillet and toss to mix. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Cook the linguine according to the package directions, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.

Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add vegetables and toss with half the Parmesan cheese. Add a little pasta water to moisten if necessary. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

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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Spooky Mommy Magic

October 26, 2020 | Author Friend Promo

from Catherine Castle

I got a text message from my daughter the other day.

“I need your Mommy magic,” she said. “Help me find my missing items. Text me and let me know where they are.”

She was looking for: a pill cutter, a monkey necklace, and a pair of orange-handled scissors she travels with.

Her dad told me to text her that they would be in the last place she looked. I did, but then sent her the locations of the items.

“The pill cutter will be on a shelf, possibly with some bottles. The necklace is hanging from something, and the scissors are in your kit bag, train case, or a suitcase pocket,” I said.

A few minutes later my daughter’s text came back.

“The pill cutter was with other bottles of hubby’s medicine, in a ziplock bag. I told him, ‘Dang, she’s good!!!’when I read your description.”

Hah! Mama’s still got the Mommy Magic!

A few days later she told me she found the scissors in a travel bag.

Then she called and said she’d lost her pill case. I saw the hallway bookshelves. So she went on a house-wide search looking on all the book shelves.

When she couldn’t find the item, she called back and said, “Nope. What else did you see? What colors?”

“Blue,” I said. “Like a blue carpet.”

“I said the pill case was blue, Mom,” she said.

“I don’t remember that,” I replied. “I just know I saw blue when you asked me where it was.”

“But the hall carpet’s not blue,” she replied.

“Well, I saw blue. Look for it around something blue.”

And they were off on another search. A few minutes later, she texts me a photo of a popcorn box with the message, “Ur all wrong about the carpet.”

But I was right about the blue!

They found her pill box, in front of the popcorn box, which is mostly blue. I missed the carpet, but, Hey, I got the color right!

At the writing of this post, I don’t know if she found the necklace where I predicted, but 99-percent of the time when she sends me on a long-distance hunt for lost items, I can see the general location of the lost items.

I have no idea why I can do this. When she asks me to find a lost item, a picture pops up in my brain. I go with it. I have to say the first picture I see, even if it makes no sense—like it’s in a small, dark place. That was a real response once, and she found the item in a black, velvet bag after asking me what color I saw in the vision. Or if I envision something that is in my own house, like where my own pill cutter resides—on a shelf—possibly with other bottles—I still go with that first image. That was the first thing I saw that day. If I don’t go with the first thing I see, the magic doesn’t work quite as well.

Sometimes, even though she swears she’d looked in a location I’ve seen, a second search in the place I said to look will turn up the item. Other times she says she would never put it there, but that’s right where she finds the missing object. Occasionally, I get accused of sneaking into her house and placing the lost article where I predict just so she’ll find it there.

Trust me, I don’t.

I’ve even found things long-distance for my daughter’s neighbor.

Funny thing about this Mama-lost-item-finding power…it doesn’t work for me. I can lose things for weeks on end, searching unsuccessfully in every corner I can think of. Once I lost my Kindle and went into a panic. I found it weeks later at the bottom of a pile of papers on my desk. Every time I do a sweep to clean the house quickly and dump every loose item I can get my hands on into a box, I’ll lose something. Sometimes for months on end, because I forget what I swept up in the frantic cleanup and where I put the box. Which begs the question: If I forgot what I lost, is it really lost or just forgotten?

Next time I lose something, I should call my daughter and ask her where it is. If I have this power, shouldn’t she? After all, she is my daughter.

What about you? Can you find lost items? Magically or otherwise.

<>If you’ve lost something and can’t find it, take a break after searching and pick up a copy of Catherine’s award-winning romantic comedy with a touch of drama, A Groom for Mama. You’ll laugh as you watch Mama search for a husband for her daughter.

One date for every medical test—that’s the deal. Allison, however, gets more than she bargains for. She gets a Groom for Mama.

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.

 

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Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.

Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Learn more about Catherine Castle on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out Catherine’s Amazon author page and her Goodreads page. You can also find Catherine on Stitches Thru Time and the SMP authors blog site.

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