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Mother’s Day Surprise

from Sloane Taylor


Mother’s Day is Sunday May 9 this year.


Do something really nice today for the lady who does so much for you throughout the year. This brunch  will show her how much you care. A few fresh flowers on the table are a nice touch.
 

MENU
Quiche
Fresh Fruit Salad
Croissants
Raspberry Jam
Butter
Zucchini Bread for Dessert
Mimosas
 Quiche
1 frozen deep-dish pie shell
1 tsp. (5g) butter
6 bacon strips, cut into ¼ in. (.64cm) pieces*
¼ cup (30g) onions, chopped
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1¼ cups (230ml) heavy cream
3 pinches white pepper**
¾ cup (85g) swiss cheese, grated
2 tbsp. (25g) butter, cut in small bites

Preheat oven to 375° F (190°C). 

Place pie shell on cookie sheet. Use a fork to poke several sets of holes in the bottom and around the sides of the shell. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. 

Melt butter in a heavy skillet. Add bacon, and ham if you’re including it, and onion when foam subsides. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon to paper towels. 

Beat or whisk eggs, yolks, cream, and seasonings in a large bowl. Stir in cheese. 

Scatter meat, into pie shell. Gently ladle in egg mixture. Sprinkle the top with butter bits. 

Bake for 25 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the middle of the quiche comes out clean. 

The dish may be served hot, warm, or room temperature. It also makes a wonderful appetizer. Leftovers reheat in the microwave beautifully. 

*Diced ham, ¼ lb. (125g), is also good in this recipe in place of the bacon or along with. All other ingredients and process remains the same. 

**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. 


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Romance Novels: Why Are They So Popular?

 from Anne Montgomery

Once, after reading one of my manuscripts, my agent said, “I really like the historical part of the story. Why don’t you write it as a stand-alone romance?”

I winced. A romance novel? Me?

I have a pretty good idea about
where this book is going. Don’t you?

I’ll admit here that I’ve been a bit of a snob in regard to that particular genre, which I was surprised to discover is the number one book-selling category on the planet. Not sure why I’ve often scoffed at romance novels. Perhaps it’s the covers: the swooning women with their heaving breasts, the muscular men, all sixpacks and flowing hair. Those books just never sang to me and I never understood why other people wanted to read them.

So, in an effort to learn, I contacted some of my lovely romance-writing friends. I put on my old reporter’s cap and grilled them like a detective looking for clues, my goal to understand why anyone would want to read a romance novel.

Boy, did I learn a lot!

“Romance gives us a glimpse into another world,” said author Tina Ruiz. “Sometimes it’s a world that we don’t have around us. Romance novels are like fairy tales to grown up women, where the men are nice, cater to our every whim, and shelter us from everything that might make us sad or hurt.”

“It’s possible the diversity of romance novels is a magnet for diverse individuals,” said romance author Nancy Kay. “From contemporary, to historical, to mystery and thrillers there are any number of themes to attract a number of tastes.” 

Okay. But why are these stories tops in sales department?

“In my humble opinion it’s because we live in a shattered world that is full of bad stuff and romance is the ultimate good stuff,” said author Catherine Castle. “True love, loyalty, people who care about each other’s happiness.”

“Simple answer – escape,” said author Sloane Taylor. “Escape from the husband/wife who takes you for granted. Escape from the kids demanding all your time with not even a thanks. Escape from the boss who is a major ass. Escape from the bills that keep mounting. And especially in today’s world – escape from the pandemic and it’s personal repercussions.”


“The mainly happy endings in a frequently bitchy world,” Australian author Vonnie Hughes explained.

Hughes went on to say that romance novels don’t cost as much as other genres and they tend to be shorter, so don’t require a big investment of time.

I have certainly read books that contained romance, though that part of the story was mostly secondary to the plot, so I was curious as to what exactly defines a romance novel. Of course, my first thought in our post Fifty Shades of Grey world was sex. But Ruiz pointed out that actual sex is not always the big draw.

“It is the illusion of sex that grabs our hearts,” she said. “In a lot of movies, the man and woman don’t even kiss until the very last scene.  That moment gets built up from the moment they meet until the end of the book or movie.  It’s the part we are all waiting for, so when it happens, it is absolutely wonderful.”

Still sex is often part of the format.

“Reading a book where sex is prominent is pretty awesome,” Ruiz said. “Because it gets portrayed in a different way than we have it in real life.  Some men…are not perfectly, let’s say, kempt, when they walk into the bedroom.  The men in the books and/or movies are like a Prince Charming. Every hair is in place, his teeth shine, his eyes twinkle, and his breath is probably minty fresh.”

Another rather obvious requirement in a romance novel is that romance needs to be the most important part of the story.


“The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work,” Kay said. “There can be subplots as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.”

And, there’s something else I learned. Romance novels apparently should not end on a depressing note. There must be an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending,” Kay said. “In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I can now see the appeal of romance novels. Perhaps it’s time I gave one a try.

How about you?

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. It’s not romance but 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.

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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, and Twitter.


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PIZZA EXTRAORDINAIRE

 from Sharon Ledwith

Ready for some comfort food? I bet you are! So, let’s go with a fan favorite – PIZZA! Not just any pizza, but one so extraordinaire you’ll toss all those take-out menus and never order in again. The sauce is superb and flavorful, and is worth adding the numerous ingredients. This pizza is perfect for game night and gatherings on those cool or damp days at your vacation or stay-cation home. Now that’s Amore!

SAUCE

1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste
6 oz. warm water (110° F/45° C)
3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. anchovy paste
¾ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. dried marjoram
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
⅛ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well, breaking up any cheese clumps.

Allow the sauce to sit for 30 minutes to blend flavors. Spread sauce evenly over the dough. Add any of toppings you like.

CRUST

2¼ tsp. active dry yeast
½ tsp. brown sugar
1½ cups warm water (110° F/45° C)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
3⅓ cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable or olive oil

Use a large bowl to dissolve yeast and brown sugar in the water. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in 2½ cups of flour.

Turn dough out onto clean, well-floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. You may or may not use all of the remaining 1⅓ cups of flour.

Place dough into a well-oiled bowl and then cover with a cloth. Let dough rise until double, approximately 1 hour. Punch down dough and then form it into a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 425° (220° C).

If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may spread the sauce and add your favorite toppings on the dough, and bake immediately. If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping and baking it.

Bake pizza until cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. 

While you’re enjoying your slice of mouth-watering, made-to-order pizza why not put your feet up and relax on the couch with a good book? May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, a trip back in time with The Last Timekeepers? Whichever you choose, I assure you that either series will take you on a journey far away from the chaos and problems of your world.


The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.



Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery 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. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.


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One Step Nearer the Epilogue

from Carol Browne

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash
The metaphor that likens life to a book is a common one. Viewing our progress through existence as a series of chapters appeals to our need to put things in boxes and compartments. Each chapter can be titled after a significant event or rite of passage: infancy; puberty; marriage; first job; and so on. There is no set number of chapters and each one may have different themes and moods. The length of each chapter is as variable as the length of the entire book; it is, however, generally assumed that a valuable lesson or learning experience should be included in the narrative.

The latest chapter in my own book of life is the one headed ‘Retirement’. I have longed to reach this chapter but I am fully aware of the potential dangers that lie within its pages.  For many, retirement is the end of usefulness when we become a drain on society and not a contributor anymore. It can make us feel less important and rob us of our self-respect and purpose. We tell ourselves that we have nothing to look forward to but an eventual decline into infirmity. But, as with all previous chapters, we have a choice in how we approach this new status. It’s all a question of attitude.

We can embrace our new freedom because we have earned it, and we don’t have to let ourselves go or stop learning. We can still work if we want to, but now we can choose what work we do, and when. Retirement doesn’t have to mean bingo and chamber music, complaining about the younger generation, or behaving with dignity at all times. The contribution of the elders to society should be enormous because finally we have the time and financial freedom we need to change the world. It’s not just by doing voluntary work or becoming politically active. We are now more useful than ever before because we have a lifetime of knowledge and experience and we can use that to guide those who are still struggling through earlier chapters. I would encourage all my fellow oldsters to reject the idea that they are on the scrapheap, because the fun is only just beginning.

I’m hoping ‘the undiscover’d country’ is some way off for me yet, but when they come to write my epilogue I hope it will show me in a favourable light. I hope it will include my successes as well as my failures. I would like to think I had made a difference to the world and left it in a better condition than I found it, even if it’s in a small way. I have plans for this particular learning experience and trust that the epilogue will celebrate my success. Most importantly of all, once my book is finished, I hope those I leave behind me will give it a five-star review.

Just to prove to you sitting in a rocker all day is not in my future, here’s a peek at my latest epic fantasy. I hope you enjoy it.


His adventures in Elvendom left Godwin a changed man, and now bereavement has darkened his world.

In another dimension, a new Elvendom is threatened by the ambitions of a monstrous enemy. But who – or what – is the Dark Lady of Bletchberm?

And what has become of Elgiva?

Reeling from the loss of their Elwardain, the elves ask Godwin for help.
Transported into a strange world of time travel and outlandish creatures, will he succeed in his quest against impossible odds, or will the Dark Lady destroy everything the Elwardain fought to preserve?


EXCERPT

His heart thumping in his throat, Godwin took in all the details of the goblin’s appearance. The creature was probably four feet tall at most and was wearing a sleeveless leather tunic and short leggings over his skinny frame. His arms and legs were hard with thin bands of muscle; sinews moved like taut wires beneath the scant flesh. Godwin fancied that the goblin’s skin had a sickly, greenish tint, but in the firelight it was impossible to be sure.

The goblin moved in an awkward manner, not upright like a man or an elf, but slightly stooped and with bent knees, as though on the verge of pouncing. The dome of his head was as bald and smooth as a pebble, and his very long, pointed ears were attached on either side like those of a lynx. His large eyes glittered like wet malachite and between them a long, sharp nose protruded with all the aesthetic attributes of a small parsnip.

The goblin’s large eyes widened as they swivelled in Godwin’s direction, making his stomach curdle in fear and revulsion.

“Only two of you, then?” said the goblin with a smirk. “Not much of a challenge, is it?” He beckoned with his sword and others of his kind began to creep into the circle.

Godwin glanced around. There were six more of them, each carrying a sword of a curious design, the blade like a thin, metal spiral with a very sharp point. A visceral fear welled up inside him at the sight of these weapons, but he didn’t know why.

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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 usually writes fiction but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

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


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Easy Christmas Morning Breakfast

By Sloane Taylor

After we entertain Christmas Eve, we tear through the house cleaning up before the kids and grands come for brunch Christmas Day. This meal is wonderful because so much can be prepared well in advance and stored in the fridge until it’s time to cook.

MENU

Breakfast Soufflé

Hash Browns

Fresh Fruit Salad

Mini Croissants

Christmas Cookies & Leftover Desserts

Mimosas

Unknown

1 lb. (½kg) ham, bacon, or breakfast sausage

9 eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups (750ml) milk

1 tsp. (5ml) dry mustard

Diced green, red, and/or yellow pepper to taste

½ lb. (57g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated

½ lb. (57g) Swiss or Gruyere cheese, or a combination of the two, grated

Diced onion to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 – 1 in. (2.54cm) slices Vienna or French bread, cubed

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Dice ham or bacon. If you use ham, set aside in the bowl you use for the eggs. Fry bacon to the crispness you prefer. Drain on paper towels. If you use breakfast sausage, fry meat until no longer pink. Be sure to break up any clumps. Drain meat in a colander while you continue to prepare the soufflé.

Add all ingredients, except the bread, to eggs. Stir well. Gently stir in bread.

Pour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch (33 x 22cm) glass baking dish. Bake 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the center has no egg clinging to it.

This dish can be assembled one or two days ahead of time. On serving day allow the soufflé to sit on your counter 1 – 2 hours before you bake it.

Leftovers are excellent from the microwave.

Hash Browns

If you need to increase the hash browns recipe for a larger group of people, it’s best to sparingly add more garlic powder. As is this recipe serves 6. Leftovers reheat beautifully.

3 russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds), peeled

1½ tsp. (7.5ml) garlic powder, not salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil

Shred potatoes on the large holes of a box grater or use the coarse grater disk on a food processor. Transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to soak for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and then rinse under cold water. You do this to remove the starch that makes hash browns gummy.

Transfer shreds to a kitchen towel. Gather together ends of towel and twist over sink, squeezing firmly to wring out as much liquid as possible. This step creates crisp hash browns. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl and toss with garlic powder and pepper. Be sure to evenly distribute the seasonings.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes, press down to form a thin layer and cook for a minute or two. Stir and then press down again. Cook until a dark golden crust forms, about 5 minutes.

Turn potatoes in sections. This is easier than trying to turn the food as a whole. Continue to fry until hash browns are crisp and browned all over, 5 minutes or so. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Fresh Fruit Salad

1 banana, peeled

1 pear, cored

1 tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice

¼ pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced

1 kiwi, peeled and sliced

10 seedless red grapes, halved

10 blueberries

10 raspberries, optional

Slice banana into bitesize pieces. Scoop into a medium-sized bowl. Dice pear and add to bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over fruit to stop it from turning brown and mix well.

Gently fold in remaining fruit.

Spoon into a glass bowl, cover with cling wrap, and chill until time to serve. Leftovers are still good the next day.

Mimosas

1 bottle sparking white wine or champagne, cold

1 carton orange juice, cold

Tall slender glasses

Fill glasses half full with wine. Tip the glass slightly as you pour to retain the fizz. Top off with orange juice. Don’t stir. That will destroy the bubbles.

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

ff70c-sloane2btaylor2bhead2bshot

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning romance author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Learn more about Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire on Amazon.

Excerpts from her romance books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.


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Festive Christmas Flowers

from Emma Lane

I love to create festive bouquets for any season, but my personal favorite is Christmas. The holiday colors are vibrant and a joy to bring together in stunning arrangements. So let’s talk a little about how you can create masterpieces for your home and as hostess gifts. The work isn’t hard. It simply takes a little patience.

It looks easy, but the greenery for bouquets is more complicated than you might think. I’m fortunate because there is a veritable forest in my front and back yards. I deliberately refrain from trimming the evergreen shrubs out front until the holidays. That gives me a very fresh start to my bouquet which is difficult to match with store bought greenery. If you have any type shrub in your yard it will work. If not then you are forced to purchase them. I strongly recommend you visit your local nursery for the foliage you want.

There’s a combination of old-fashioned yew shrub because it holds the needles for a good while. I add cuttings from a blue spruce just because I love the tinted color. Then my secret choice for Christmas is clippings from a juniper shrub for its heady, wintry seasonal fragrance. I once made a bouquet using only juniper but quickly learned why that wasn’t a good idea. They dry out rapidly and lose the rich green color most desired. So, tuck them in to smell good but toward the back. There are plenty of other types of evergreen shrubs for possible Christmas decorations. By all means, bring them inside and test their worthiness.

Next are the luscious red berries. They grow on a native shrub named winterberry (ilex, a member of the holly berry family) in slightly swampy terrain. No, don’t go wild crafting unless you wear high waterproof boots! Fortunately, our brilliant horticulturists have propagated this shrub for home gardeners. Consider planting them in your yard. You must have a male and female to get berries and it takes patience. They are not fast growers, but well worth the effort. Plant toward the back of the garden. The bush itself is not all that attractive until the Fall berries appear. Then you begin a vigil to pick them before the flocks of robins descend during migration. Cedar Waxwings love them too, but they are so beautiful I give in just for the pleasure of watching. Winterberries are frequently found for sale at late Farmers’ Markets and in craft and florist shops. They will dry out but seldom fall off unless bumped or roughly handled.

You all know about poinsettia, the official Christmas potted flower. It’s the brackets that have the color. The flower itself is the small yellow center bloom. I personally find them boring, but one day an idea came to me. I cut them as if for a cut flower bouquet. Here are a few photos to better explain.

 

Once I bought a pink one and lightly sprayed it a tinted blue, as a blue bouquet was what the customer needed, pairing it with sprayed-gold milk weed pods.

The last one is a pale pink mixed with dried dock and milk weed pods, the red berries tucked in here and there with a brass colored vase. I’m particularly fond of this one. Christmas bouquets need not always be red to be lovely.

 

I wish you all a beautiful healthy and happy holiday season!

Emma

Enjoy the holiday season with one or both of Emma Lane’s sweet Regency Romances collections. Here is a brief intro for you.

 

Families can be troublesome, but a next door neighbor can sometimes be even worse. Caroline is a strong-willed young lady and refuses to be bullied by a handsome duke. Four sweet Regency romances to get you in the mood for the season.

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Winter storms swirling snow and unexpected guests on the eve of Christmas, the pungent fragrance of fresh pine boughs, springs of mistletoe hung with red ribbons, and a stolen kiss underneath the kissing ball comprise scenes of Christmas in the country. Ice skating anyone? Have a cup of wassail and toast your toes in front of a warm fire while you enjoy four short stories of sweet Regency Christmas romances.

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Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma’s face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.


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Art: Painters and Writers Have Much in Common

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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Date Night Dinners: A Taste of Italy

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 2 12-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts in oil 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

Ready to ignite that old flame? Or spark a new one? Take your partner by the hand and turn on your stove. A true romantic, award-winning author Sloane Taylor brings her creativity to the kitchen with easy-to-make meals sure to spark the intimacy and quality time you want with your special someone. Cooking together is only the start of the fun!

Create 45 complete dinners for two and flavor your evenings with a new dish. These 80 recipes use everyday foods already on most kitchen shelves. The recipes are easily increased for those fun times friends or family join your table.

Date Night Dinners, Meals to Make Together for a Romantic Evening, is an ideal hostess and holiday gift, or for anyone who wants to spice things up.

 

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Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a second passion in her life. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Summer Sizzle, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available at all book vendors.

Excerpts from her books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.


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Mirror’s Despair–Book Release Giveaway & Excerpt

Mirena’s back to claim what’s hers; this time, Tendro is ready for her. 


Welcome to the 1-week book release tour for 
Mirror’s Despair
Mirror Worlds, Book 4
Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred


About Mirror’s Despair:

Following ten tense years of absence, Mirena Calanais suddenly resurfaces as the Avatar of the Destroyer. With Abraxas’ dark army at her back, she’s determined to reclaim what she feels is her due; control over the lands the Panarch’im once ruled.

His political career and his marriage both drying up, Tendro Seynor long suspected this day would come, but what he isn’t prepared for is Mirena’s return to his personal life. There’s more to Mirena than her persona as the Dark Avatar; she’s the mother of the son Tendro hasn’t seen since the day he was born. As her presence in his life grows, Mirena confides in Tendro that she’s being haunted by someone who should be dead. As this vengeful presence closes in on her and the Destroyer’s hand thouches the world once more, they begin to realize their son may be at the center of it all and his innocence hangs in the balance.

Can Tendro and Mirena put aside their rivalry for the sake of their families, or will the bad blood between them finally escalate to the point where it has the power to tear the entire world apart?

Book Details:

Page count: 242
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing
Publish Date: October 17, 2020
ASIN : B08FF7M8MQ

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing
Ebook 
Paperback 

Amazon

Meet the Authors:

Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends. 

With a background in Drama and Communications from the University of Windsor, Murandy Damodred enjoys fantasy fiction with strong romantic subplots. She is an avid role-player and is happiest when living vicariously through her characters. Though she’d rather think of herself as the heroine of her next novel, in the real world she is a new mom living in Windsor, Ontario, training to become a nurse. 

Connect with: 


Author Pages: 

Justine’s Amazon Page: https://amzn.to/31FIrMC 


Giveaway Information:

ONE entrant will be selected randomly using the Rafflecopter platform to receive choice of 1 of the books from the Mirror Worlds series located here https://amzn.to/3lP3XWN. It is the entrant’s responsibility to read about the books and make their selections. Sapphyria’s Book Promotions shall be held harmless if winner does not like the content of the book selected as a prize.

This giveaway is open to all U.S. entrants with US mailing addresses/Kindle accounts and who are 18 years of age or older. The giveaway is scheduled for October 16, 2020 through November 20, 2020 and winner will be selected via Rafflecopter. There is no other way to enter this giveaway. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the winner notification email from Sapphyria’s Book Promotions to claim their prize or a new winner will be selected. Void where prohibited and no purchases are necessary to enter this giveaway. See Rafflectopter for entry options. Sapphyria’s Book Promotions reserves the right to not award any books if entrants do not follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form or the information in the Giveaway Information section.


EXCERPT

Bundled up against the cold, Mirena moved low-hanging branches out of her way as she navigated through an orchard. It was not yet winter, but it was also no longer the season for apples; the trees were wild and overgrown, the rows between them almost indistinguishable with no real path to speak of, at least not that Mirena was using.

Beyond the last row of trees, a small barn could be seen. Mirena headed unerringly for the structure but stopped when an unnatural-sounding howl broke the afternoon’s pastoral stillness. After standing still for a moment, Mirena continued, hesitating at the barn door before knocking on it. There was a pause as the muffled sounds from inside quieted and then the wooden sliding door slid just far enough to the right for a face to appear in the crack.

“Oh, Mirena, it’s you,” Abraxas noted.

She frowned. “Who else would it be, all the way out here?”

“Oh, you know,” he said with a shrug, but did not move aside or open the door any further.

Her frown deepened. “You’ve been spending quite a bit of time out here lately.”

“Oh, have I? I’m sorry, I’ll get back to the renos tomorrow.”

“That’s not,” she began, then seemed to change tactics, putting her hands on her hips. “What’s in the barn, Abraxas?”

He sighed, rolling his eyes, then stepped back, letting the door slide open slowly under its own power. As if on cue, something from within the barn started whining in a petulant kind of way. “You said you didn’t want to know, so…”

She tentatively stepped into the barn. The light just barely trickled past her form, illuminating the heavy wooden table erected in the centre of the space, and on it was a thing that shied away from what little light there was, bucking and clawing in its attempt to shield itself from what was clearly causing it distress.

It was entirely black, almost darker than the colour usually allowed for, and it seemed to steam slightly, or at least an inky blackness seemed to emanate from it. As far as shapes went it was vaguely canine. At least, it had four legs which ended in what could be described as paws, if a dog’s paw had curved talon-like claws coming from it.

It had a dog’s head, large and square, though its fangs looked more like the kind of tusks you might find on a wild boar, only pointed downward, and from those fangs dripped more of that inky blackness. Mirena shuddered. The creature somehow managed to look both massively muscled and severely underfed at the same time. It was strapped down on the table, but watching it struggle, she wondered how long that would last.

“This is what you’ve been working on?” she asked, not knowing what else to say.

He nodded, his eyes glowing with excitement over his new project. “This guy is just a prototype, but yeah. I intend to make them bigger, stronger, and fiercely loyal, and then breed them. They’ll be like guard dogs, but better and deadlier, of course.”

“You have strange hobbies,” she told him.

“It’s not just a hobby,” he countered. “It’s our future.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Just imagine it, whole armies of these creatures, and more. Combine that with any who remember the call of the Avatar of the Destroyer and we can finish what we started-”

“But what about Greyson?” she interjected.

“What about him?” Abraxas countered. “He’ll be safe and protected. He’ll be on our side.”

Mirena frowned again. “I don’t want him to experience war at his age, and I don’t want to have to sit out being a mother when I should be there with you, claiming what is rightfully ours. We’ll take it all back someday, I promise, but can we just wait until Greyson is a little bit older?”

Abraxas’ expression was far away, imagining something, but eventually he nodded. “I’m going to need some time to perfect the process, then breed and train my army anyways.”

Mirena shook her head. “Have fun,” she told him dubiously. “I’ve got to get back to the house before Greyson wakes up from his nap. Just do me a favour, okay? Don’t let him see what you’re doing.”


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Coffee Cake & a Great Book!

From Chris Pavesic

Fill your home with the beautiful aroma of fresh baked coffee cake. This recipe is easy and oh so tasty you’ll want to make it often.

Cranberry Walnut Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour 3 tsp. baking powder ¼ tsp. salt 2 tbsp. sugar 2 tbsp. olive oil ⅔ cup milk 1 egg ⅔ cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce olive or avocado oil to grease the baking dish

Topping ½ cup chopped walnuts ⅓ cup packed brown sugar ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Glaze 1 cup confectioner sugar 2 tbsp. milk ¼ tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven 400° F.

In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, and oil. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir contents of both bowls together.

Pour into a greased baking dish. Spread cranberry sauce over batter.

In small bowl combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over cranberry sauce.

Bake for 18 – 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients then drizzle it over coffee cake.

Why not read a good book while you enjoy your warm coffee cake and favorite beverage? May I suggest one of the books from my LitRPG series The Revelation Chronicles? ?

In Starter Zone Cami kept herself and her younger sister Alby alive in a post-apocalyptic world, facing starvation, violence, and death on a daily basis. Caught by the military and forcefully inscribed, Cami manages to scam the system and they enter the Realms, a Virtual Reality world, as privileged Players rather than slaves. They experience a world of safety, plenty, and magical adventure.

In the Traveler’s Zone magic, combat, gear scores, quests, and dungeons are all puzzles to be solved as Cami continues her epic quest to navigate the Realms and build a better life for her family. But an intrusion from her old life threatens everything she has gained and imperils the entire virtual world.

Time to play the game.

Above the tree line floats an airship close to three hundred feet long with a slightly rounded wooden hull. Ropes attach the lower portion of the ship to an inflated balloon-like aspect, bright white in color with an identification symbol, a red bird with white-tipped feathers extended in flight, inside a round yellow circle in the center of the canvas. The deck is manned with archers and swordsmen. There are two sets of fore and aft catapults.

What I don’t see are cannons or any other type of a gun large enough to account for the sound of the explosion.

The ship pivots in the air, coming around to point directly at what looks like an oncoming flock of five large birds. Or creatures. They are too big and too strange looking to be birds. They drift closer, flapping their wings.

A moment passes before I realize that they are not creatures either. They are some sort of gliders. A person hangs below each set of the feathered wings, which flap and move with mechanical precision in a sky washed out by the morning sun.

The archers nock their arrows and aim at the flock.

The gliders draw in their wings and dive toward the deck, covering the distance in a few heartbeats. Most of the arrows fly uselessly past the attack force and fall like black rain from the sky. The archers aimed and released the volley too late.

The forward catapult releases a torrent of small rocks at the lead glider. It is a scatter-shot approach that proves effective. There are so many missiles that it is impossible to dodge them all.

But at the moment the stones strike, the other four let loose with fireballs. Spheres of crackling flame spring from their hands, glowing faintly at first and then with increasing brightness. The balls of fire shoot from their hands like bullets from a gun and fly toward the ship, exploding. Pieces bounce off the hull and fall to the ground, throwing hissing, burning globs of magic-fueled fire in all directions, setting everything they touch aflame.

Want to learn more about The Revelation Chronicles? Click HERE for updates on this and the other series by Chris. Watch the video on YouTube.

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

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

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