Leigh Goff

Author


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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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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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Short & Sweet: A Halloween Treat

from HL Carpenter

October is National Pumpkin month, but we think such a beautiful fruit should get more than just one month of notoriety. So smile, say cheese, and make your own yummy appetizer for any holiday get-together.

Cheese Ball Pumpkin
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 ounces crumbled feta or blue cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. prepared mustard
½ tsp. onion powder
Paprika
The stem of a green bell pepper

Place all the cheeses in a large bowl and let soften to room temperature.

When cheese is soft, add Worcestershire and mustard. Blend with electric mixer or food processor on low speed. Scrape bowl and beat blended mixture on medium speed 1 or 2 minutes more until well mixed (do not over-beat).

Turn the mix onto plastic wrap. Pull the wrap up and secure with a twist tie. Shape the wrapped mixture into a ball. Score the pumpkin “ribs” onto the cheese ball with your fingertip or a flat knife.

With the plastic in place, set the cheese ball in a bowl and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with paprika and add a bell pepper stem to top.

Keep refrigerated until the crowd arrives, then serve with assorted crackers.

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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The Importance of Pacing

C.D. Hersh is here to talk about pacing and its importance to a better story. They offer six ways to keep a train from rolling through your scenes.

We’re not talking about stories about locomotives or the walking back and forth you do when waiting for someone. Pacing in writing is determined by the length of the scenes, how fast the action moves, and how quickly the reader is provided with information. Have you seen the movie “The Descendants” starring Nick Clooney? If you like panoramic views of Hawaii and lots of close-ups of Clooney, then hunt it up on your favorite streaming service. If, however, you prefer a faster paced story, this movie is not the one for you. When we belonged to a drama group our director was always talking about pacing. She hated pauses that were longer than it took for a ping pong ball to drop from a coffee table. In “The Descendants” you could have driven trains through some of the pauses in the scenes. Can you say sloooooow? Try as we might, we couldn’t figure out why so many sluggish scenes were needed. Some of the unnecessary scenes included close ups of an angst-ridden Clooney staring out into space, for way too long; pedantic scenes of him buried behind piles of paper at his office desk; more than one silent, plodding hospital scene with Clooney and his family, while the camera panned the room; long camera shots of Hawaii you could have fit four commercials into; and a closing movie scene where the characters spent minutes staring wordlessly at the television. The only thing in the last scene that made a point was the quilt they all snuggled under. Come on, already. Pick up the pace. Even sad stories need to move along at a clip that keeps the viewer, or reader, engaged. Pacing is such an important part of any story. Too slow and you lose the reader’s attention. Too fast and you leave them wondering what just happened. Here are a six tips to help you keep your story’s pacing moving along.
  • Use more dialogue for faster pacing. We’re not talking about dull “How’s the weather” conversation, unless the story’s about a tornado. Make every word count and tell the reader something new.
  • Don’t repeat information. There’s no need to beat the reader over the head with information. Telling them once that Aunt Millie is dying is sufficient. They’ll remember it. They’re smart.</li
  • Use action instead of tags in dialogue. You’ll not only speed up the pace, but you’ll show the reader what’s happening.
  • Keep two or more characters on the scene. Think Tom Hanks in Castaway, versus The Transformers.
  • Use narrative or description sparingly. Nothing stops a story like a side trip down memory lane or descriptions of setting and characters. Drop that kind of information into the story in short bites. The reader will still get it.
  • Create tension in the scene. Donald Maas says every scene should have tension, even every page. If you don’t have tension there’s no reason for your reader to turn the page.
Check your work in progress. Are your scenes tight and exciting, or can you drive a train or a semi-truck through them? Scenes don’t have to be action packed, just tension packed. Keep those ping pong balls bouncing around to stir up the pace. Here’s a scene from book four, The Mercenary and the Shifters of our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles, to give you an idea of fast pace.

My home is perfectly safe. It’s my business I’m concerned about.”

Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, her body language closing off to further suggestions. Mike followed her motions. As he did, he spotted a red dot on her chest. The dot wiggled.

“Get down!” Mike shouted as he dove for Fiona.

They hit the floor as the pottery on the raised fireplace hearth exploded, sending shards across the room. Mike shoved Fiona behind the nearest chair then scrambled across the rug to the blown-out window. Removing his gun from his back-of-the-waist holster, he peered over the windowsill. Seeing no one in the driveway, he swiveled around to check on Fiona. The red laser point danced around the room, searching for a target.

Mike followed the trajectory of the beam. The shot came from across the street in something high. He remembered seeing a tree house in the yard across the road from the mansion.

“Who lives across from you?” he asked.

“No one right now. The house is for sale.”

“I didn’t see a ‘For Sale’ sign.”

“We’re in an exclusive neighborhood. The HOA forbids sale signs.” Another shot rang out.

Mike whirled around in time to see Fiona’s head sticking out from behind the chair. The image of her head reflected in the fireplace mirror. “He’s using the mirror to target us. Do these curtains close?”

“Yes. The cord’s on the other side of the window.”

“I’m going to crawl under the window and close them. He’ll probably see my reflection in the mirror and start shooting, so stay hidden. As soon as the curtains close, crawl to the window as fast as you can and follow the wall to the entryway. Then get the hell out of the front of the house. Got it?”

“Got it.” Fiona’s voice quavered up the scale.

“You okay?”

“Scared, but okay.”

As Mike crawled along the floor, a volley of shots rang out. The remainder of the pottery displayed on the hearth shattered. When he reached the other side of the window, he yanked the drapery cord. The curtains billowed closed.

“Now, Fiona!” he shouted.

As she belly crawled across the floor, Mike held his breath. Bullets sprayed the room, punching through the heavy draperies, the shots veering from floor to ceiling.

Don’t ricochet! he commanded.

Fiona reached the cover of the exterior wall, and he let his breath out in a whoosh.

“Hurry!”

When she came within arm’s reach, he grabbed her hand and yanked her the rest of the way across the room and into the entry.

“Do you have a panic room?”

She nodded, her eyes filled with fear. “In the basement, behind the trophy wall.”

“Get in it, and don’t come out until I tell you to.”

“Where are you going?”

“To get the SOB who’s trying to kill you.”

Now when your heart rate slows down how about checking out our books? 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. Stay connected with C.D. Hersh on social media:

Website

Soul Mate Publishing

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Twitter


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Cover Reveal for The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave!!!

The Last Timekeepers, Book 3

by Sharon Ledwith



Welcome to the Cover Reveal for The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave
The Last Timekeepers, Book 3
by Sharon Ledwith



About the Book:

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.

Book Details:

Genres: Young Adult, Time Travel, Fantasy  

Release Date is September 17, 2021

Author Tagline:

Escape to the past and have a blast.

Meet the Author:

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel adventure series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the award-winning 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 spoiled hubby, and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, LINKEDIN, INSTAGRAM, and GOODREADS

Publisher Website:

Mirror World Publishing 


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An Elf’s Lament Upon Leaving

High praise for Carol Browne’s latest book that is a beautiful anthology of poems and short stories. No one says it better than an Amazon reviewer who describes the book as “atmospheric”: “The poetry is steeped in a love of nature, magic and mythology. The short stories hold interesting twists. No spoilers! The Boomerang Effect (dabbling with a love spell, Martin Nevis finds himself having second thoughts) A Force to Be Reckoned With (an outcast with thoughts of being “destined for something great” wants to join the police force) and Transformation (once bullied, Patricia attends a school reunion and emerges victorious) were my favorites. Give this anthology collection of short stories a read, you won’t be disappointed.”

BLURB

An elf laments a passing era, But truth and beauty will survive, For they live on in stories and verses, And in our imaginations thrive.

Nature, nostalgia, mystery and magic, In twisty tales and poems that rhyme, Are here, with myth and fantasy blended, To capture another place and time.

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Once upon a time a little girl wrote a poem about a flower. Impressed, her teacher pinned it to the wall and, in doing so, showed the child which path to follow. Over the years poems and stories flowed from her pen like magic from a wizard’s wand. She is much older now, a little wiser too, and she lives in rural Cambridgeshire, where there are many trees to hug. But inside her still is that little girl who loved Nature and discovered the magic of words. She hopes to live happily ever after.

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


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The Koush Hollow Audiobook is Available Now!

Screen Shot 2021-09-23 at 8.33.12 AMFive-star review from Jessica Julien-Audiobook Reviewer
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟”Today, I have a  great audiobook for you to check out that is dark & mysterious, witty & charming, & downright Southern Gothic…overall it was an awesome listen that you should all check out!!

BUY LINKS: | Amazon | iBooks | Audible