Leigh Goff

Author


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New Release! Lands of Jade (Exclusive Excerpt)

Darkness falls…so I can… see the light of day again 


Mirror World Publishing and Sapphyria’s Book Promotions present the 1-week book for Lands of Jade: Crimson Winter, Vol. 2 by Justine Alley Dowsett.

About Lands of Jade:

Darkness falls…

For the first time in eight hundred years, the sun sets on the desert world of Crimson Winter, throwing the planet into unexpected darkness and further chaos. And with the setting of the sun comes the unexpected rise of hordes of undead creatures from the endless Sand Lakes.

…so I can…

Yukari Namikoya, Japanese high school student turned Chosen of Sapphiros, must rise to the occasion and use the powers she has been given to try and protect those she’s come to love against overwhelming odds.

…see the light of day again.

But when each night lasts a little longer, Yukari soon realizes that their days might be numbered and a sinister force beyond even the menace of the Vile Emperor might be behind the terrors that are besieging the planet during such a desperate time. The worst part is that Yukari doesn’t know if her powers, or even the combined forces of her allies will be enough to protect the Kingdom of Taiyou, let alone the whole world.

Genres:  Young Adult, SciFi, Fantasy, Adventure 

Page Count: Approximately 434

Sale Information:

Buy Lands of Jade and get 50% off any other Mirror World title from their store until the end of April. The discount is automatic for anyone who buys Lands of Jade as an ebook or paperback.


Read an Exclusive Excerpt Below:

 


Meet the Author:








Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of ten 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 role-playing with her friends.

Connect with Justine:

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/mirrorworldpublishing

Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/mirrorworldpub

Amazon:
http://amzn.to/2obPWUL

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/28439132-mirror-world

Blog:
http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.wordpress.com/

Publisher Website:
http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/


YouTube: 

Enter the Giveaway:

Contest is for a Kindle copy of Ruins of Sapphire, Crimson Winter Vol. 1. Contest is for US and Canada only. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js




Exclusive Excerpt

“Sabien, where is everyone?” I asked. 

Sir Sabien, the Knight Commander of Sapphiros, was a tall and imposing man in his white armour with two swords strapped to his back – the black-bladed one had, until recently, belonged to the traitor, Viron. 

“Adel is guarding Aysel personally. There has been no change.” 

Lady Adel was the one Knight I did know the location of very well. The formidable Knight had been injured in the fight with the mysterious assailant, but that wasn’t what kept her immobile. Her twin sister and squire, Aysel, had been badly wounded, losing her sword arm and some of the right side of her body with it. The Kumori healers – a race of silent, bat-like people – had done their best work amputating her arm and removing what was left of her armour with their magic, but Aysel had remained unconscious ever since the operation. Adel had not left her sister’s side, unless commanded by Sabien to take her turn scouting. 

“Ris and Masaru are ranging out a little further north and east today,” he continued, “and Jeth has gone southwest. I’m staying here in the centre, in case she evades the others and returns here.”

“Is there still no sign of her, then? Or the reinforcements I sent for?” 

Sabien shook his head, “No, but Ris informed me Masaru believes he has found her trail. They are following it now.” 

“Should they really be going after her?”

“They are simply following her trail to see which direction it leads,” he responded. “They have no intention of engaging her. With any luck, she will already have left Taiyou entirely. If we can confirm that, I will rest a little easier.” 

I nodded, though I wasn’t entirely reassured. Like Sabien worried for Ris, my feelings toward Masaru were quite similar, only in my case Masaru wasn’t aware of them yet. Ever since I realized how I felt, I had been trying to find the words to explain it to him, but there had yet to be an appropriate time. After I had emerged from the confrontation with the Oujou to discover the carnage that took place while we had been occupied within the temple, I realized just how important it was to tell him while I still had the chance. Still, it had been difficult to find him alone for even a minute; as one of the less injured Knights, he was always off scouting.

“Do you think I should join them? I should be able to fly just as quickly as Ris does, and I could help them scout.” 

I had been feeling the need to be on the move now for several days and if anyone was going to have to face this deadly woman, it should be one or more of the Chosen – which is not to say I was looking forward to the experience – but also, I wanted my chance to speak to Masaru. I had been forced to realize just how dangerous this world was and it was a simple fact that our positions didn’t help matters. We would have to fight to stay alive and we had plenty of enemies besides. There was no benefit to waiting any longer, as much as I was afraid to tell him the truth in case it wasn’t something he wanted to hear.

Sabien levelled his gaze on me. “Yukari, I know you wish to be of use, but I think your place right now is here with the people that need to be defended.” 

My mouth settled into a grim line at the reminder that Sabien seemed to be able to see right through me. “Fine. I’ll be waiting near the temple. If you hear anything at all from Ris, I would appreciate it if you could let me know.” 

JADEBOGO


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Chocolate Bites from Heaven

from Helen Carpenter

There comes a time when your sweet tooth demands satisfaction. This recipe from Carpenter Country is guaranteed to do just that. You may want to double the batch then freeze the extra for the next time the sweet craving gremlin attacks you.


Mini BrowniesUnknown-2

Non-stick spray
12-cup mini muffin pan
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
1 egg
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Place chocolate chips and butter in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Stir until smooth. (Your microwave may take up to a minute longer. Just beware that chocolate chips will retain their shape even when melted, and if you nuke them too long, they’ll burn. Not that we would know from personal experience or anything.)

Mix cocoa and molasses into the melted chocolate. (What? You don’t have molasses? Okay. Use a tablespoon of water instead.)

Add vanilla, flour, and egg, and mix well. Add sugars and mix well.

Spray muffin pan with cooking spray, then spoon the batter into the cups, dividing evenly.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Tops of brownies will be puffy. (Don’t overcook or the brownies will be too dry. That’s what we’ve heard, anyway.)

Cool ten minutes, then transfer brownies from the muffin pan to wire racks. The puffy tops will flatten as the brownies cool (So the instructions say. We’ve never actually waited that long.).

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

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


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What’s Your Lucky Charm?

by Leigh Goff

E16 Cat & CharmWhat is a familiar or a familiar spirit? A familiar is a witch’s mascot; her supernatural spirit companion that takes the form of an animal, but an animal with its own magical powers. This special creature is a guardian and protector, lending support to its witch when needed and, if she is young, guiding her as she comes into her powers.

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

How does a witch choose her familiar? She doesn’t. They choose each other. Sometimes thereimages-1 is a family connection. It is a spiritual partnership with a psychic connection. They are attuned to each other and possess a strong bond. They can communicate without words and interpret each other’s expressions, sounds, and motions. Familiars have an interest in magic-practices and assisting with them.

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

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

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

Best Lucky Charms Treats

06-seo-lucky-charm-treats-11616-h-1582735417

INGREDIENTS

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, plus more for pan

1 (12-oz.) bag mini marshmallows

1/2 tsp. kosher salt 

6 c. Lucky Charms

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grease a 9″-x-9″ baking dish with butter. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows and salt and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in Lucky Charms. 
  2. Pour into pan and smooth top, being careful not to pack cereal too tightly into prepared dish. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Here is a little from my paranormal fantasy for your reading pleasure.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a royal legacy of dark magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead.

Engaged in a deadly game and not knowing whom her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses, she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

BEWITCHING HANNAH EXCERPT
The imposing entrance segued into the main part of the old family chapel. Shadows flickered across the white walls as candlelight streamed down from an ornate iron chandelier cradling clear-colored hurricanes. Angelic sculptures hung between the arched windows and beneath the cloud-painted ceiling that Michelangelo himself would have envied, four wooden pews graced each side of the aisle.

I tiptoed farther in and spotted another black-lined white envelope on the altar. I was definitely in the right place.

My fingers trembled as I traced the letters that formed my name. This was way beyond ordinary, but why and—more importantly—who?

“W?”

A hint of the Shadow’s amber and woods scent mixed with the faint candle smoke of the chapel. “No. Way.” I spun around ready to stomp right out of there.

In that moment, a heavy gaze fell on me and the air felt charged with electricity. I searched right and left, seeing no one. “W? Whoever you are, show yourself.”

“This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” His potent voice reverberated off the walls and seemed to come from everywhere, including the inside of my head.

I locked my wandering gaze on the loft above the entrance where I spotted his silhouette. “Was leaving me in a burning wreck the hardest thing you ever had to do? Was it?” I raised my volume. “Who are you? Why did you leave me for dead?”

His intake of breath was audible. “I would never. I mean. I didn’t want to do that. I don’t.”

“Oh, lucky me.” I stuck my hands on my hips and tapped an impatient foot on the floor. “If you don’t want to finish me off, then you lured me here to do what, exactly?”

“To help you. I want to help you.”

“Ha!” The sarcastic laugh burst out before I could stop it. “You’ve done a bang up job inspiring my confidence and trust in that department.”

He simmered in silence for a moment. “What do I have to do to inspire you to follow my directions?”

Following someone else’s directions was definitely not my strength. I grimaced, but curiosity got the better of me. “What do you want?”

“You read the note.”

His desire to remain in the shadows was increasingly irritating. “I consider myself a very smart girl, so when a guy who left me in a burning car tells me he wants to help me take on a different deadly problem, I have to wonder if he’s not setting me up to fend for myself again. What’s your motive?”

I dropped my eyes to the envelope, turning it to and fro.

“Emme Blackstone is a mutual enemy and means us both harm.” A tinge of anger laced his tone.

The anger, I understood. After all, we were talking about Emme, but there was also a hint of sadness that intrigued me further. “Why do you think Emme means you harm?”
“It’s inevitable—because of what I am.”

What was he besides completely contemptible?

“It’s in her blood and I believe it’s in her destiny to wreak havoc, especially against someone who can challenge her in talent like you can.”

I dropped my hands to my sides, still clasping the enveloping. “Whoa. Like me? You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me. How could you? I’ve been gone for the last year.”

A chortle caught in his throat. “What’s a year when you come from a bloodline with hundreds of years of history? A history that’s written down and available to certain people with the right—pedigree.”

Confused, I creased my brow as I continued to stare at his silhouette. “Have you been cyber-stalking me on Ancestry.com or something?”

“Hardly.” There was disdain in his voice as if he considered cyber-stalking to be worse than leaving a girl to die.

“Look, whatever you think you know about my family, I’m not like them. I’m not talented, and I don’t want to challenge Emme. I just want to live a normal life. Normal.” My voice escalated. “Do you hear me all the way up there?”

He huffed. “Normal? You don’t get to pretend to be normal when you’re not. It doesn’t work like that. Not in Annapolis. Someone always knows. Someone always unravels your secrets.”

I thought of the Witch’s Grave. I pictured the women’s slender figures dangling from sturdy, gnarled branches. Their tragic endings proved what I already knew. Magic only brought suffering and death. “You make it sound like I don’t have a choice. I’m telling you I do, and I won’t be a part of this.” I stomped my foot hard on the floor.

He shifted from the shadows into a dim ray of light, seething. “You read the note and you know Emme won’t stop. You need my help.”

I glared, trying desperately to make out the details of his face. “I don’t need anything from you.”

“You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are a part of this. You know you are or you wouldn’t have come here. However, if that’s how you feel then you should leave.” The cold in his voice crystallized.

My pulse escalated. “Yup. That’s how I feel. And I’m only leaving because that’s what I want to do, not because you suggested it. Bye.” I marched to the door and wrapped my hand around the knob. I yanked it open. From the moment I’d first laid eyes on him, he’d been nothing but trouble. Horrible, awful trouble. However, as much as I hated to think it, he knew about me and the other witches in town. He was full of answers—answers I needed. I shut the door and turned back around. “How do you know all this about Emme and me?”

AMAZON BUY LINKS  
 
Leigh Goff loves writing young adult fiction with elements of magic and romance because it’s also what she liked to read. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives in Maryland where she enjoys the area’s great history and culture.

Leigh is a graduate of the University of Maryland, University College and a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America. She is also an approved artist with the Maryland State Arts Council. Her debut novel, Disenchanted, was inspired by the Wethersfield witches of Connecticut and was released by Mirror World Publishing. Leigh is currently working on her next novel, The Witch’s Ring which is set in Annapolis.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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The Original Cakewalk

from Sharon Ledwith

Y’all ready to set the flo’? Say what? Not sure what I’m talking about? You’re not alone. I had no idea what “set the flo’” meant until digging into the research I needed to bring readers into my point-of-view character Drake Bailey’s world in the third book of The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series. Set in 1855, during the antebellum period in Georgia, Drake discovers that it’s not the best place for an African American time traveler, but he endures and lives to tell his tale.

Plantation slaves in the deep south of America weren’t given many pleasures in their hard lives. Author Julius Lester sums it up beautifully when he wrote in his book, To Be A Slave, “The prayer meetings, the parties, and the holidays did not make being a slave pleasurable. Nothing could do that, but whatever pleasure the slave was able to provide for himself was a remarkable testimony to the ability to retain humanity under the most inhuman conditions.” One of those small pleasures was to set the flo’ or set de flo’—a dance style competition—where the best couple or single dancer won a cake through their creative jig.

In The Last Timekeeper and the Noble Slave, I wrote a cakewalk scene during the slaves’ Good Friday E28 22 Apr cakewalk+postcard+detailcelebration. My interpretation of a set the flo’ dancing contest involves an elder slave drawing a circle on the dirt floor with a charred corn cob. The rules require the dancers not to step outside the circle or they’ll be disqualified. Next, the fiddler would call out to begin the competition. Since I had slave couples compete, the man and woman would bow to one another, then the woman placed her foot on her partner’s knee, so he could tie her shoelace. Traditional cakewalk dance contests had the woman put her hands on her hips while the man rolls his eyes and grins before they started dancing. I combined both techniques to break the tension and create the necessary humor in the scene.

Strutting was an element always present in set the flo’ dancing, and there were different styles, such as water dances. As you may have guessed, this jig demanded the dancer keep a glass or pail of water on his or her head and see how many kinds of steps they could make without spilling the water. Um, no thanks. Already dressed in their best clothes, why tempt fate? The fluid and graceful steps of the dance may have given rise to the colloquialism that something accomplished with ease is a ‘cakewalk’, but the life of a slave was far from that.

However, there is an interesting element with the history of this dance. A firsthand account from ex-slaves interviewed during the 1930’s shares that the cakewalk was meant to covertly mock their owners without getting punished, through the signals and expression of dance. Now that’s what I call getting their just desserts!

Speaking of desserts…

Unknown-1What’s better than a 12-slice cheesecake to serve at your next family gathering or function? Getting to choose a mini version of your favorite cheesecake and indulge without the guilt of having a large piece. Enter Cheesecake Shots…

Cheesecake Shots

1 cup Graham Crumbs

¼ cup butter, melted

2 packages (250 g/8.82 ounces each) Brick Cream Cheese, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

½ cup sour cream

Suggested Toppings

⅓ cup caramel ice cream topping and 1 bar (100 g/3.52 ounces) Toblerone Swiss Milk Chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 can of cherry or blueberry pie filling

⅓ cup caramel ice cream topping and pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Mix crumbs and butter; press into bottom of 12-count muffin pan (1 tablespoon in each cup).

Beat cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour a ¼ cup of mixture over crust in each cup.

Bake 18 – 22 minutes or until center is almost set. Refrigerate 4 hours.

Depending on what you choose for a topping: spread caramel topping over cheesecake just before serving and garnish with chopped chocolate or pecan halves, or add a dollop of your favorite pie filling, and enjoy!

While you’re waiting for the cheesecake shots to set in the fridge, here’s a taste of The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave available for purchase on all your online bookstores.


True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.B Sharon Ledwith NobleSlave cover

Eleven-year-old Drake Bailey is an analytical thinker and the genius of the Timekeeper crew. However, no logic or mathematical acumen can change the color of his skin, or prepare him for this third Timekeeper mission in antebellum Georgia. To survive, Drake must learn to play the role of a plantation slave and when confronted with the brutality, hatred, and racism of the deep south, he’ll have to strategically keep one move ahead of his sadistic captors to ensure his lineage continues.

In a dark world of Voodoo, zombies, and ritualistic sacrifice, the Timekeepers must ensure a royal bloodline survives. Can Drake remove both literal and figurative chains to save both himself and a devout slave girl from a terrible fate? If he can’t summon the necessary courage, humanity could stand to lose one of its greatest leaders.

Amazon Buy Link

Sharon Ledwith Author ShotSharon 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 websiteand blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, 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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CUPCAKE FANTASY

from Helen Carpenter

The day was perfect; one of those low humidity, blue sky, breeze-off-the-lake days that made tourists flock to central Florida. Green and yellow tents filled the park and costumes were the attire of choice. Dogs in costumes, babies in costumes, teens in costumes, turtles in costumes; every life form Andi encountered wore a costume.

Her own costume was her usual jeans and boots, topped by a red tank and a red cap to match the red linen covering the platter of cupcakes in her hands. This year the cupcakes were salted caramel apple. The recipe was new and the friends who’d taste-tested had raved over them. They were sinfully delicious and should easily be the best cupcakes in the park.

She’d still baked three batches before she was satisfied. Competition in the Cupcake Wars at the annual Cooter Festival was always fierce.

She signed in, took her number, and walked to the table at the end of the tent. To get to her assigned spot, she had to step around a lumbering turtle. The damp lettuce leaf draped over its shell was only partly a costume. The real reason for the decoration was that the turtles—or cooters as the locals called them—were well cared for and the festival organizers were making sure this one stayed cool.

Andi put the cupcakes and her bag on the table and took her place beside a leggy teen. The girl had crafted sugar lily pads, fairy wings, and miniature frogs to go with her mint and chocolate cupcakes. With their pink frosting and blue polka dots, the cupcakes seemed ready for an impish tea party as she positioned them on a miniature tree-shaped stand.

After Andi finished setting her cupcakes on the upended crystal goblets she’d brought, she walked along the exhibit table to greet the other contestants. The confections were as varied as the bakers. Classic vanilla, red velvet, peanut butter truffle, tiramisu, banana walnut, double maple, pumpkin spice—all mouthwateringly scrumptious and worthy adversaries. With luck the proud presenters would not be sore losers.

When the judging began, Andi took her assigned place and handed out samples to the judges. As her friends had proclaimed, her cupcakes got high marks for taste. But when all the votes were tallied, the leggy teen’s presentation won the blue ribbon.

Andi congratulated the young baker and admired the silky ribbon. Then she distributed the rest of the salted caramel apple cupcakes to the passers-by and packed her goblets. As she stepped past the exhibit table, she hooked her boot around the metal leg and tugged. The table tipped. The teen’s beautiful display landed in the dirt with a splat, icing-side down. The other contestants gasped. The lettuce-draped turtle moved in for a taste.

Andi settled her hat more securely over her hair so her horns wouldn’t show and elbowed her way through the crowd.

There might have been better cupcakes than hers in the park that day. But she didn’t think so.

Sinfully Delicious Salted Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Batter
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped 
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put ¼ cup apples and 1 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute at 50% power to soften. Mash with a fork (lumps are okay). Let cool.

Cream together the stick of softened butter and brown sugar. Blend eggs and vanilla into the creamed mixture. Add the mashed apples and heavy cream to the batter and mix well.

In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Add to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Batter will be thick.

Fold chopped apple pieces into batter.

Line a 12-muffin tin with baking cups. Spoon batter evenly into the cups. 

Bake 20 minutes.

Let cupcakes rest in pan for five minutes. Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

Frosting
1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Stir in salt.

Let mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes.

Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup butter
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat sugar and water in pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils.

Let mixture boil without further stirring until it browns to the color of caramel. Add butter and stir until butter is melted.

Remove from heat. Add heavy cream. Stir until the bubbling stops and the sauce is smooth. Drizzle over cupcakes.

Remaining sauce can be used for other recipes.

For additional flavor, garnish cupcakes with a sprinkle of salt.

Makes 12 cupcakes

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

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

Stay connected on her blog and Facebook.


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LUCKY 13 AND THE LITERARY AGENT

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”–Meister Eckhart

thumbnail-3by Leigh Goff

Lucky thirteen–my thirteenth full manuscript request for WICKED SWEET was the lucky one for me. My eyes popped when I read the email from Lauren Bittrich of Lucinda Literary in New York City. Was it real? It sure was!

After this wonderful, fabulous agent requested and read the full manuscript (YA with magical elements) in two days, she sent a glowing email. She wanted to meet with me and I cried. I literally sobbed with joy for ten minutes. My poor golden retriever didn’t know what to do with me. She sat and stared until I hugged her. Then I texted my loved ones with happy dance GIFs. After I caught my breath, I was ready. I replied back with a day and time and that worked for both of us.

The morning of our Google meeting, I was nervous, but definitely more excited. I was going to talk with someone in the literary world who had read my manuscript, loved my characters, and wanted to chat about all of that. How cool?

woman in blue floral top sitting while using laptop

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Lauren was great from the start. She told me about her professional background and editorial experience. She explained her vision for my book and it meshed perfectly with mine. Everything sounded great! She wanted to know what inspired WICKED SWEET, and of course I told her it was the wonderfully sassy main character (Abigail) from New England who becomes a square peg in the round hole of a small, Southern town. (There’s also a coven of cool misfits, a wicked cake seance, and a romantic kiss at Boneyard Beach.) She asked if I had any other stories I was writing. I told her a bit about another story in the works. She was thrilled because she didn’t want to represent just one book, she wanted to rep me for my career. What?!

As much as I wanted to sign with her right then, I informed her that I had to let the other agents reading the manuscript know I received an offer, and I would get back to her in ten days.

What a wait! The ten days dragged on, and I found myself wondering if the first call had really happened. It had! Once I had everything I needed to make a decision, it was an easy one. Lauren was the best. I emailed her the morning of the tenth day, just as she emailed me. Within two hours, the client agreement was signed.

I’m incredibly excited to work with her and her team at Lucinda Literary on WICKED SWEET and get it ready for submission. I wish everyone who is working on a manuscript the best of luck and look forward to reading your post on getting published.

Please subscribe to this website and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates on my WICKED SWEET publishing journey! THANK YOU!


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Poltergeists, Phantoms and Paranormal Presences!

from C.D. Hersh

Annually May 3 is Paranormal Day, a day to talk about scary things like ghosts, vampires and other undead creatures that go bump in the night, and sometimes in broad daylight. But why wait until May when we have today?

Where we live, in Southwestern Ohio, one of the most haunted cities in the area is Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s a sampling of some haunted spots in that fair city.

Music Hall, in downtown Cincinnati, built on top of a pauper’s grave, is rumored to be haunted and was selected as one of the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America.

Union Terminal, or the Cincinnati Museum Center as it’s known now, is said to be haunted by the ghost of a security guard named Shirley, who was murdered there.

At the Cincinnati Art Museum a seven foot specter rises from a mummy sarcophagus.

Kings Island Amusement Park employees have reported sightings of a little girl in a period 1900s blue dress believed to come from the graveyard adjacent to the park.

Mother of Mercy High School has a nun, Sister Mary Carlos, who haunts the auditorium, which is named after her. The Sister interferes with performances unless she is asked for permission to use the space and is invited to the performance.

At the Cincinnati Zoo not all the animals are caged. A ghostly lioness prowls the park at night.

We haven’t seen any of these apparitions, and don’t plan on going ghost hunting to find them, but Catherine has lived in a few places her family believed to be haunted.

As a young girl she lived in an old house that had been subdivided into apartments, and her parents believed the apartment they lived in was haunted. Pictures and items would be moved to different places when they came home; a cousin saw a man standing at the foot of her bed one night; and when the neighbor’s children would call at the door for Catherine and her sister to come out and play, a man’s voice would answer saying, “They aren’t home.” Funny thing was, no one was home when kids came calling … except the ghost.

In another home where Catherine lived a murder had taken place years before. Her folks kept the scary information a secret from the children. While she lived in the house, Catherine had a recurring dream of a woman who appeared at her bedroom door and urged her to climb out the second story bedroom. Catherine would always awaken before she made it out the window. When the family moved, she mentioned her dream to her mother, who told her about the murdered woman. She had died at the top of the steps by the door to Catherine’s bedroom. Her mother believed the ghost of the woman was trying to kill Catherine and that if she had ever gone fully out the window she would have died. That dream, no matter how hard she tried to replicate it, has never occurred in any other home where Catherine has lived.

Catherine’s sister Carolyn lived in an apartment in the basement of Westwood Town Hall, in Cincinnati, Ohio, another reported hot spot for spooks. The town hall is reported to be haunted by the ghost of a former security guard who hung himself in the building after he was fired. Some resources say the ghost is known as Willy, others say his name is Wesley. There are many reports of stage sets, costumes and orderly things found in disarray. Water faucets turn on by themselves and locked doors are unlocked, lights turn off and on and children have reported seeing a man on the ground and in the building.

Carolyn and her husband were caretakers for the hall around 1971. “We had to clean the buildings,” Carolyn said, “and we would hear whispers around us.” Carolyn believes there is more than one ghost because of the multiple voices they heard. They would be in bed in their basement apartment of the town hall and could hear racket going on and what sounded like people bumping into the walls when they knew no one was there. “On one occasion we had to clean a room on the upper floor where a train group met. We could hear voices in the room and the door wouldn’t unlock. When we finally got the door open, there was no one inside.”

After Catherine’s sister learned the building was haunted she wouldn’t go into the main area by herself.

Can’t say that I blame her!

Now that I’ve thoroughly frightened myself by writing about all this spooky stuff at night, I think I’ll go double check the dead bolts, flip on all the lights, and look up some paranormal ghost busters … just in case.

Happy Haunting!

Have you ever had any spooky, paranormal encounters?

While you think about that here’s an excerpt from the first book in our Turning Stone Series, The Promised One.

The woman stared at him, blood seeping from the corner of her mouth. “Return the ring, or you’ll be sorry.”

With a short laugh he stood. “Big words for someone bleeding to death.” After dropping the ring into his pocket, he gathered the scattered contents of her purse, and started to leave.

“Wait.” The words sounded thick and slurred . . . two octaves deeper . . . with a Scottish lilt.

Shaw frowned and spun back toward her. The pounding in his chest increased. On the ground, where the woman had fallen, lay a man.

He wore the same slinky blue dress she had—the seams ripped, the dress top collapsed over hard chest muscles, instead of smoothed over soft, rounded curves. The hem skimmed across a pair of hairy, thick thighs. Muscled male thighs. Spiked heels hung at an odd angle, toes jutting through the shoe straps. The same shoes she’d been wearing.

The alley tipped. Shaw leaned against the dumpster to steady himself. He shook his head to clear the vision, then slowly moved his gaze over the body.

A pair of steel-blue eyes stared out of a chiseled face edged with a trim salt-and-pepper beard. Shaw whirled around scanning the alley.

Where was the woman? And who the hell was this guy?

Terrified, Shaw fled.

The dying man called out, “You’re cursed. Forever.”

When your “goose bumps” disappear perhaps you might be interested in the links for our books:

Our Amazon Author Page

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. Plus their paranormal series titled The Turning Stone Chronicles.

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.

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Life Biting at You?

From Sloane Taylor

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

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Photo Courtesy of Monovareni Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve from a tureen or in individual bowls.

This recipe makes 6 bowls.

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

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

Sloane Taylor

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Independence Day

from Stella May

Leo’s passport photo

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

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

Stella’s passport photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York 1991

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

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

And we did.

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

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

Such a simple and untarnished truth!

We are proud to be American citizens.

God bless United States of America.

God bless my wonderful beloved country.

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

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors.

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 35 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business.

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


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A Writing Twist on Life Lessons

from C.D. Hersh

We recently came across an old email entitled Instructions for Life. The 45 positive recommendations on the list are meant to help make one’s life better. By turning some of the instructions upside down and we created bad life advice that will keep novel characters in turmoil. Next time things are going too smoothly with your WIP try throwing one of these in the mix.
    • 1. Let them believe in love at first sight, but fight it like it can’t exist.
    • 2. If they make a mistake, don’t let them be too quick to acknowledge it.
    • 3. Let them fall in love deeply, passionately, and with people they would never choose. They might get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
    • 4. Make them fight to keep their values, but make sure they do keep them. No one loves an un-heroic hero.
    • 5. Remember silence is sometimes the best answer and unanswered questions are always suspect.
    • 6. Let them dredge up the past; it makes for good conflicts.
    • 7. Let them read between the lines … a lot. Miscommunication thickens the plot.
    • 8. Let them slowly discover that not getting what they want is sometimes the best thing that ever happened.
    • 9. Never let them mind their own business. You can’t get in trouble that way.
    • 10. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risks, and make them willing to risk everything to reach their goals.
Do you have a favorite trick for keeping your characters in turmoil? Now if you want to see what we do with our characters how about checking out our series.