Sunday, 29 November 2020

Savory Farmhouse Cheese Soup Recipe and a Crime Thriller Read by Linda Lee Greene...

Winter, and especially the high-holiday season that is winter’s centerpiece, brings with it for me an air of nostalgia, a wistfulness for the Thanksgiving Days of old, the days when at the end of a long country lane, the white square farmhouse of my maternal grandparents came into view, and within its walls my large family would soon gather around an immense table groaning with a homegrown Thanksgiving meal. With the elapsing of time, the torch has passed to my aunts and uncles, and then to the members of my generation. The work of keeping the traditions of our family alive and well continues to be handed down.

This past Thanksgiving my immediate family gathered at the home of my daughter, Elizabeth, the person who often as not, has hosted our celebration for several years. I am so grateful for the young people of my family, and for the time and space to hunker into the winter of my life, to gather my provisions, as well as to relax into my unbound hours and make the most of them.

Turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and several other side dishes, sweetened at meal’s end with pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and a wide selection of additional heavenly desserts was our traditional fare. Last year, we broadened our menu with some new dishes. My contribution was a lovely ‘Farmhouse Cheese Soup’ laid at table as an appetizer. The recipe comes from Stacey Pirtle of ‘Southern Discourse,’ where it is described as “…oogey, gooey, goodness…a zesty comfort food even the pickiest eaters will enjoy.”

 
Savory Farmhouse Cheese Soup

1 stick (½ cup) butter
⅓ cup onion, diced
⅓ cup carrots, diced
⅓ cup celery, diced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
32 oz. chicken broth (I prefer the low-sodium brands)
½ cup roasted red peppers, diced
1 cup of Chardonnay, optional
6 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 cups of half-and-half
2 tsp. paprika
1½ tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
Bacon bits
French bread, small chunks

Melt butter in a large stockpot or automatic cooker over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until vegetables are translucent.

Add broth and peppers. Simmer about 5 minutes. Pour in Chardonnay and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add cheddar cheese, 1 cup at a time, and stir well after each cup until cheese is melted. Blend in half-and-half a little at a time, stirring continuously.

Stir in paprika, thyme, salt, and white pepper. Cook on very low heat for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle bacon bits on top of each savory bowl. Sprinkle on bread. Shredded chicken is a nice add-in. Enjoy!

While your soup is simmering how about a peek at my latest crime thriller?

 
Was it chance or destiny’s hand behind a man and a woman’s curious encounter at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas? The cards fold, their hearts open, and a match strikes, flames that sizzle their hearts and souls. Can they have the moon and the stars, too? Or is she too dangerous? Is he? Can their love withstand betrayal? Can it endure murder?

While the cards at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas fail to distract them from their troubled pasts, on the side, the actress and the gambler play a game of ‘will they won’t they’ romance. Meanwhile, an otherworldly hand also has a big stake in the game. Unexpected secrets unfold brimming with dangerous consequences, and finally, a strange brand of salvation.

Amid the seductions of Las Vegas, Nevada and an idyllic coffee plantation on Hawai’i’s Big Island, a sextet of opposites converge within a shared fate: a glamorous movie-star courting distractions from her troubled past; her shell-shocked bodyguards clutching handholds out of their hardscrabble lives; a dropout Hawaiian nuclear physicist gambling his way back home; a Navajo rancher seeking cleansing for harming Mother Earth; and from its lofty perch, the Hawaiian’s guardian spirit conjured as his pet raven, conducting this symphony of soul odysseys.

The Cast of Characters

Actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms escapes the shadow of her mother’s gruesome murder and the relentless demands of Hollywood and loses herself in the cards at Las Vegas casinos. But like hounds on the scent, the scandal tracks her. And true to her history, it shows up in the person of dashing Hawaiian gambler, Koa Kalua’i. Neither of them are strangers at taking risks and too often losing. Will they win in their chance at the moon this time?

In Hawaiian cosmology, Aumakuas are guardian spirits whom many believe to manifest in physical form. Koa Kalua’i knows the tenet to be true, because Raven has not only been his winged-pet since the earliest days of his childhood on his family’s coffee plantation on Hawaii’s Big Island, but also his Aumakua. They make a remarkable pair, dedicated to righting wrongs.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, and orphaned as little kids, twin brothers Nicholas and Tobias Plato grew up tough but tenderhearted, qualities they put to use as actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms’ bodyguards. Who knew that Nicholas would play such a pivotal role in Olivia’s life: her most trusted friend and guardian, and in the end, her savior?

Navajo rancher and computer geek, Sam Whitehorse uncovers a secret, terrorist stockpile of materiel burrowed in the side of one his people’s sacred mountains in Nevada. It is a threat that he and Las Vegas gambler, Koa Kalua’i must expose and eliminate, but potential government involvement in the matter complicates such an offensive. And why does actress, Olivia Montoyo Simms insert herself into the whole affair?

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Multi-award-winning author and artist Linda Lee Greene describes her life as a telescope that when trained on her past reveals how each piece of it, whether good or bad or in-between, was necessary in the unfoldment of her fine art and literary paths.

Greene moved from farm-girl to city-girl; dance instructor to wife, mother, and homemaker; divorcee to single-working-mom and adult-college-student; and interior designer to multi-award-winning artist and author, essayist, and blogger, it was decades of challenging life experiences and debilitating, chronic illness that gave birth to her dormant flair for art and writing. Greene was three days shy of her fifty-seventh birthday when her creative spirit took a strong hold.

She found her way to her lonely easel soon thereafter. Since then Greene has accepted commissions and displayed her artwork in shows and galleries in and around the USA. She is also a member of artist and writer associations.

Visit Linda at her online art gallery and join her on Facebook. Linda loves to hear from readers so feel free to email her.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

White Chocolate: a Sweet Faux Pas by Anne Montgomery...


I love chocolate, which does not make me special. Americans consume roughly 18% of the world's chocolate stash, spending over $18 billion annually on the rich, creamy confection. 

 As a child, my mother fretted constantly about my waistline and hid sweets from me. In retaliation, I'd scour my dad's Brooks Brothers suit-coat pockets for change and trundle through the woods to Ben's Diner, which had a long, glorious rack of candy. Ben, a big man with a giant stomach encased in a white apron, never questioned my daily haul of candy bars - which were big suckers back then. 

I'd sit by the brook with my collie Betsy and eat that candy - Snickers, Milky Way, Baby Ruth, Chunky, 100 Grand Bar, M&Ms, Heath Bar - every day. 

My mom, exasperated by my girth, would defend herself to strangers. "It's not my fault," she'd tell people when she thought they were staring at me. "I feed her baked fish and salad with no dressing." 

 I always wanted to say, "I'm fat, Mom, not deaf. I can hear what you're saying." But I never did.
The point is, I love chocolate, which brings me to the abomination: white chocolate. 

I realize that some people like that creepy colorless confection. I also know that, lately, fancy chocolatiers have been experimenting with it in an effort to make it more hip. Still, the fact that white chocolate includes cocoa butter, which is derived from cocoa beans, does not make the substance chocolate. One needs cocoa solids to make actual chocolate. (Yes, I know the FDA claims white chocolate made to their standards is considered chocolate, but I'm not having it.) 

White chocolate was first unveiled in the 1930s, a product of the NestlĂ© company in Switzerland. The theory goes that the substance was invented to utilize excess cocoa butter, but no one is really sure. 

The Maya, who were the first people to cultivate cacao trees, probably would be stupefied to learn that their prized chocolate - the beans of which they used as a form of currency - is now offered in this pale, unrecognizable form. 
 

And, even worse, those trendy chocolatiers are doing unspeakable things to this white sweet. You can now purchase organic kale with mustard mixed into your white chocolate. And salted almonds with broccoli. Clearly, there are maniacal minds at work here. Confectioners who make Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka appear quite sane. 



So, what are we to do with this sweet faux pas? Despite my misgivings, I don't mind a bit of white as a decoration. After all, it's pretty. But as a real chocolate substitute? Never! 

 So give me a dab of white chocolate, if you must, but please ... hold the broccoli. 



Here’s a little from my latest women's fiction book. I hope you enjoy it.

A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand - her aunt’s college roommate - gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Amazon Buy Links

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

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

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

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Pigskins and Plot Twists by Author C.D. Hersh...

My writing partner (The D in C.D. Hersh who is my husband) and I were talking about the Super Bowl over dinner one night. He commented that the game of football was a lot like writing a book.

“How so?” I asked.

“Football is a series of scripted plays set within the rules of the game,” he said. “With the object being to win. Writers have a scripted set of plays to work within too—the basic structure of a plot—with the goal being a satisfying ending. Certain plays are designed to fool the defense. The team that does this the best, with twists in the plays the opposition doesn’t expect, ends up with the big score and wins the game. The writers who come up with the best plot twists, the ones that make you go ‘whoa, I didn’t see that coming’ are the writers who often succeed in the business. The ones who score big and win the game.”

I admit I hadn’t thought much about comparing football to writing, but after thinking about what he said, I saw the connection. For example, last night we watched the romantic comedy When in Rome that had plot twists that made us both say, “Didn’t see that coming.” And believe me, as writers we are always dissecting the movies we watch. See if you can figure out the plot twists in this fun movie.

 

While in Rome, Italy, at her sister’s wedding, Beth, who doesn’t believe in love, meets the best man Nick and discovers she’s attracted to him. During the reception the priest comes by and asks Nick if he’ll come play poker with him again, explaining to a shocked Beth that he’s new to the priesthood and is still working on getting a handle on some temptations. Nick declines, saying the padre cleaned him out already and whisks Beth off to dance.

Later, giving into her attraction, Beth follows Nick outside with a bottle of champagne and sees him kiss another woman. Disillusioned, and drunk, Beth picks up four coins and a poker chip from a lover’s wishing fountain in the town square. Legend says those who throw their coins in the fountain will have their wishes come true. Love has never worked for Beth, and she decides to save the wishers from ill fated love by removing their coins.

When she returns home to the States, the men who threw the coins in the fountain begin appearing, professing their love. One of the guys is Nick, the best man at her sister’s wedding. As her relationship with Nick grows, Beth discovers the lovesick men stalking her have fallen under a spell cast by the fountain when she removed their coins. To remove the spell she must return the coins to each of the men.

While at Nick’s apartment one night she sees a poker chip on the table that is identical to the one she removed from the fountain. She breaks up with him, believing he is under the spell too. Beth returns the coins to the men and, as she does, they snap out of the spell, everyone that is but Nick, who professes his forever love for her.

At this point, any romance reader knows that Nick isn’t under the spell. It’s too contrary to the rules of romance. True love always wins out. But the writer hasn’t shown us who the poker chip belongs too. All along we are lead to believe the chip belongs to Nick. We’ve seen a poker game at his home using the same chips. He’s acted with the same lovesick impulses the other four men displayed. There’s a plot twist in the wings, but we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

A year later Beth and Nick are back in Rome, preparing for their wedding when one of the lovesick men, a magician who played sleight of hand with Nick’s poker chip, comes to her and says he gave her the wrong chip back. Beth now believes Nick is still under the fountain’s spell.

As the wedding scene plays out, it’s obvious the priest is having trouble with the wedding sermon. He draws out the invitation to object to the marriage. He gives the bride inappropriate compliments. He changes the vows to “will you have this woman as your awful wedded wife?” He’s clearly under duress performing this wedding. When he asks Beth, “Will you have this man as your awful wedded husband?”

She presses the poker chip into Nick’s hand and runs out of the church. Nick follows and she confesses to him that he’s under the spell of the fountain because she removed his poker chip from the water. He doesn’t really love her. “This isn’t my chip,” Nick say and throws it back in the fountain.  In the background, behind Beth and Nick kissing in front of the fountain, you see the priest whirling around on the square shouting, “I’m free from temptation!”

The second twist? The owner of the chip didn’t wish for love, but to be free of it.

Just like a football team’s defensive back is fooled by a play action pass, we have to admit—we didn’t see that one coming.

Here’s a sample of a miss-direction for the police and our main characters in our first book The Promised One. In this story a shape shifter is murdered and returns to the natural persona: a man. The problem was he had been shifted into a smaller female whose dress did not fit well over his muscular male body. Trying to keep the police from drawing the wrong conclusions keeps the main characters busy coming up with plausible explanations for a man in a dress that is too small for him.

EXCERPT

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.”

As you can see miss-direction can be quite startling when not expected. Do you have some memorable plot twists in stories that you consider winners? We’d love to hear them.

Following are the covers and back cover blurbs of the books in our series, The Turning Stone Chronicles.

The Promised One The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1

In the wrong hands, the Turning Stone ring is a powerful weapon for evil. So, when homicide detective Alexi Jordan discovers her secret society mentor has been murdered and his magic ring stolen, she is forced to use her shape-shifting powers to catch the killer. By doing so, she risks the two most important things in her life—her badge and the man she loves.

Rhys Temple always knew his fiery cop partner and would-be-girlfriend, Alexi Jordan, had a few secrets. He considers that part of her charm. But when she changes into a man, he doesn’t find that as charming. He’ll keep her secret to keep her safe, but he’s not certain he can keep up a relationship—professional or personal.

Danny Shaw needs cash for the elaborate wedding his fiancée has planned, so he goes on a mugging spree. But when he kills a member of the secret society of Turning Stones, and steals a magic ring that gives him the power to shape shift, Shaw gets more than he bargained for.

 
Blood Brothers The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2 

When Delaney Ramsey is enlisted to help train two of the most powerful shape shifters the Turning Stone Society has seen in thousands of years, she suspects one of them is responsible for the disappearance of her daughter. To complicate matters, the man has a secret that could destroy them all. Bound by honor to protect the suspect, Delaney must prove his guilt without losing her life to his terrible powers or revealing to the police captain she’s falling for that she’s a shape shifter with more than one agenda.

The minute Captain Williams lays eyes on Delaney Ramsey, he knows she’s trouble. Uncooperative, secretive, and sexy, he can’t get her out of his mind. When he discovers she has a personal agenda for sifting through all the criminal records in his precinct, and secretly investigating his best detective, he can’t let her out of his sight. He must find out what she’s looking for before she does something illegal. If she steps over the line, he’s not certain he can look the other way for the sake of love.

 
Son of the Moonless Night The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3

Owen Todd Jordan Riley has a secret. He’s a shape shifter who has been hunting and killing his own kind. To him the only good shifter is a dead shifter. Revenge for the death of a friend motivates him, and nothing stands in his way . . . except Katrina Romanovski, the woman he is falling in love with.

Deputy coroner Katrina Romanovski has a secret, too. She hunts and kills paranormal beings like Owen. At least she did. When she rescues Owen from an attack by a werebear she is thrust back into the world she thought she’d left. Determined to find out what Owen knows about the bear, she begins a relationship meant to collect information. What she gets is something quite different-love with a man she suspects of murder. Can she reconcile his deception and murderous revenge spree and find a way to redeem him? Or will she condemn him for the same things she has done and walk away from love?

 
The Mercenary and the Shifters The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4

When mercenary soldier Michael Corritore answers a desperate call from an ex-military buddy, he finds himself in the middle of a double kidnapping, caught in an ancient war between two shape shifter factions, and ensnared between two female shape shifters after the same thing ... him.

Shape shifter Fiona Kayler will do anything to keep the shipping company her father left her, including getting in bed with the enemy. But when she believes the man trying to steal her company is involved with kidnapping her nephew, she must choose between family, fortune, and love. The problem is...she wants all three.

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.

The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available on Amazon. 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. Also a novella, Can’t Stop The Music, with twelve other authors from various genres with a book coming out each month in 2017.

They look 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.

Learn more about C.D. Hersh on their website and their Amazon Author Page. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Visit our Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/author/cdhershto check out our books to see if we have delivered the “didn’t see that coming” moment.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

The Apple of Author Emma Lane's Eye...

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash
Such a gorgeous fruit. Fruit bowl on the dining room table lends a nice fragrance to the room; apple bobbing and caramel apples are for Halloween. Did you mom ever make fresh apple sauce? Nothing like the stuff they sell in the grocery store, is it? At my little Herbtique Shoppe here in Western NY, we sell Gourmet Chunky Rum Apple Sauce. The recipe is a state secret, but here are some hints to make the most of this delicious fruit.

Select both soft and firm apples, ie Courtland is soft, Greenings are firm. One will cook down first leaving the other 'chunky'. Stir frequently. Burned apples are not delicious and the soft ones cook rapidly.

To peel or not to peel: We leave the peel on at home. Commercially we don't. Both are good. Taste before you add sugar. Most times it isn’t necessary.

Blend flavors: Buy as many different kinds of apples as you can. Not only is this tasty, but it's way fun as well. As you peel, take a bite now and then to compare flavors.

Flavorings: You are probably familiar with cinnamon to taste. A very small dash of nutmeg and cloves is good too. Vanilla is a winner. One cap and then taste. Other flavorings are great too-here is a good place to experiment. Let your eye roam over the choices at the grocery store. My son swears root beer would be great; he could be right. Be careful with maple syrup; it gets too sweet fast.

Baked apples are wonderful when you use a touch of flavoring with your brown sugar—vanilla is one of my favorites but you might find others.

Regarding the RUM: If you are making apple sauce, add at the last minute with whatever flavoring you have chosen. It gives it a sort of butter taste. I am about to experiment with BRANDY. You might try it too.

A neighbor just hinted to me that apple added to salsa is good. Can't wait to try.

Canning apple sauce takes expert knowledge. Please do not try it if you haven't done quite a bit of reading. PH is a biggie. We use lemon juice and a ph meter.

Enjoy the apple harvest. There are so many ways and I didn't even mention: apple pie, apples and cheese, cocktail apples, home dried apples, apple pan dowdy, apple crumb cake, apple butter, etc, etc. Dried apples and apple pie are delicious any time.

After you've mulled over all the apple opportunities may I suggest a peek into one of my Regency releases?

 
Can an arrogant duke overcome his prejudice against a beautiful but managing female in time to find true love and happiness?

Miss Amabel Hawkins acknowledges her unusual upbringing, but she thinks James Langley, the Duke of Westerton, might be a tad unbalanced when he protests her efforts to right his badly managed properties. The duke, who has been away on the king's business, demonstrates no respect for the beautiful but managing Miss Hawkins. Amabel has taken refuge at Westerton, fleeing from a forced marriage to a man who claims to be her relative in order to gain control of her young brother's estate.

The Duke arrives home to find his estate under the firm control of a beautiful but managing female. His suspicions are fueled by his recent task of spy-hunting and he wonders if Amabel Hawkins is just who she seems. While a dastardly spy lurks, a wicked man poses as her cousin threatening to take over the guardianship of her young brother. Amabel might be falling in love, but she knows for certain the duke would never approve of a meddlesome woman, and she decides to flee his estate. Will the duke finally realize the true value of the woman he loves or will his prejudice ruin his chances forever?

EXCERPT

Fatigue and the effects of the brandy on top of the ale now gave his gait a distinct wobble. He chuckled, amused at his condition.

As he reached for the portrait of great Uncle Barney, he lurched into the back of the red leather sofa in front of the cosy fire. “Deuce take it,” he exclaimed when a rounded arm rolled into view. He spotted the gentle curve of a hip and walked around to the front, where he spied a tumbled haze of dark curls hiding a face. It is indeed a female—a sleeping female.

Who was she? The gown was too rich for his household staff. Curious, he knelt beside the sofa. “Only one way to find out,” he whispered and moved one dark curl. He sat back, satisfied when a handsome face swam into view. She sighed and rolled over, revealing a generous figure and a pair of rosy lips. She might be Sleeping Beauty—but not one of my relatives. He leaned over and kissed those tempting lips.

As he lingered there, she sighed and came partially awake. He could not resist. He deepened the kiss and sounds of satisfaction like yum and umm came from those delicious lips. Her hand stroked his face, then reached around his head to pull him closer. Delighted with this turn of events, the Duke of Westerton complied enthusiastically and extended an arm around a slender waist. How much of the ale and brandy had he imbibed? Dizziness overcame his senses as he slid down on the floor and knew no more.
 

Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes under several pen-names. She lives with her patient husband on several acres outside a typical American village in Western New York. Her day job is working with flowers at her son’s plant nursery. Look for information about writing and plants on her new website. Leave a comment or a gardening question and put a smile on Emma's face.

Stay connected to Emma on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Book Review: The Ghost in the Gardens; A Flower Girl Mystery by HL Carpenter…



If you enjoy stories filled with intrigue, mystery, and a dash of the supernatural, then HL Carpenter’s The Ghost in the Gardens about a ten year old girl trying to ignore an intrusive ghost haunting her while attempting to find a rare orchid without trying to get killed may be just up your alley.

So what’s my take on a story that’s all about a determined tween girl trying to solve the mystery of her teacher’s disappearance and discover a rare orchid? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…

A 4 Star Bouquet of Flowers for The Ghost in the Gardens…

A perfect read for middle graders who are drawn to ghosts, mystery, and anything that goes bump in the night, or in this case, the garden. I found this well-written story filled with enough conflict to keep it going and growing (pun intended) with plenty of cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.

Chrysantha Howe dreams of being a botanist when she grows up, and is true to her nature with her knowledge of plants and flowers. Haunted from the get-go by a pesky ghost while searching for the illusive Coralroot orchid doesn’t deter the resilient tween. Chrys, her best friend, and a boy dubbed ‘the Nuisance’ face many obstacles and dangers throughout the book while learning to work together as a team to bring justice to their small town community.

In a nutshell, HL Carpenter works her storytelling magic, and is not afraid of getting her hands dirty from the very first chapter!

About the Book:

 Until the first spooky visit, ten year old Chrysantha Howe doesn't think about ghosts. She thinks about plants.

 

All.

 

The.

 

Time.

 

She has her future planned out, and that future includes plants. Chrys is going to be a plant scientist like her uncle and her favorite teacher, and she's determined to find the very rare Coralroot orchid.

The ghost is not in the plan.

But when her teacher disappears and the police suspect her uncle was involved, Chrys has to figure out what the ghost is trying to tell her—before it's too late.

Read an Excerpt:

I tugged Barkley's ear and picked up one of the quarter-size flat stones scattered beside the path. I tossed the stone into the deep end of the Water Garden pond.

Barkley scrambled to the bank, then yipped and jumped back, almost jerking the leash from my hand. The ruff on his neck rose straight up. He stared at the pond, his lips curled, his teeth bared.

I gripped the red plastic leash more tightly.

The ghost liked water.

Barkley growled.

In the pond, twin black shafts of water shifted into the wavy outline of feminine eyes. Pale lips, reed-thin and white as unearthed slugs, parted. The lips tried to form a word. A gurgle rose from the depths like a deep sigh.

"Daaaaay...daaaay..."

Bubbles roiled the surface of the water.

Barkley growled again. Then he barked, as if to prove the ghost hadn't silenced him.

I tried to speak, to ask the ghost what she wanted. My tongue clung to the roof of my mouth. My lips moved in a quivery jiggle as if I were silently whistling. But I could not force out a sound, much less a whole question.

Maybe if I could think a question, the ghost and I could communicate. Maybe she didn't need actual words to hear me and to answer.

I tipped forward. My glasses slipped down my nose. I wanted to ask her...something...something...important...

What would touching her feel like?

I stretched out my hand.

The buzz of a bee snapped me out of my trance. I scrambled back as the edge of the bank crumbled under my foot. The ghost vanished.

 

I had the future planned out.

 

The ghost was not in the plan.

 

After the first visit, I still didn't really believe in ghosts. But when she came back the second time, I had to change my mind. I hadn't been dreaming and I wasn't crazy. The only other alternative was: I had seen a ghost.

 

I started researching ghost visitations. What made them stick around in this world? How did they choose who to haunt? Why had no one ever caught a legitimate sighting on video or made a recording?

 

Mostly what I learned was that people argued a lot about whether ghosts existed. People who believed in ghosts liked other people who believed in ghosts. People who didn't believe in ghosts thought people who did were crazy.

 

I was not crazy.

 

Finding out the answers to my questions about ghosts should have been easy. I had my own personal ghost to ask. But every time she visited me, I couldn't say a word. My thoughts got all tangled and my breath stuck in my throat and I got dizzy. Having my own personal ghost was not helpful. The visits were...creepy. Like are-you-here-because-I'm-going-to-die creepy. Maybe the creep factor was why no one had ever documented a ghost.

 

I shivered, though I hadn't seen the ghost in hours and cheerful sunlight warmed the early June morning. The Water Garden, a magical green fairyland of trickling streams and arched bridges, closed in around me. Shadows shifted. Bushes rustled.

 

I'd never seen a ghost before, not even when my dad died. Why had one decided to haunt me now?

 

"Just lucky, I guess," I said. "What do you think, Barkley?"

 

My long-legged Schnauzer scratched his ear with his hind foot.

 

"That's what I think too."

 

I tugged Barkley's ear and picked up one of the quarter-size flat stones scattered beside the path. I tossed the stone into the deep end of the Water Garden pond.

 

Barkley scrambled to the bank, then yipped and jumped back, almost jerking the leash from my hand. The ruff on his neck rose straight up. He stared at the pond, his lips curled, his teeth bared.

 

I gripped the red plastic leash more tightly.

The ghost liked water.

 

Barkley growled.

 

In the pond, twin black shafts of water shifted into the wavy outline of feminine eyes. Pale lips, reed-thin and white as unearthed slugs, parted. The lips tried to form a word. A gurgle rose from the depths like a deep sigh.

 

"Daaaaay...daaaay..."

 

Bubbles roiled the surface of the water.

 

Barkley growled again. Then he barked, as if to prove the ghost hadn't silenced him.

 

I tried to speak, to ask the ghost what she wanted. My tongue clung to the roof of my mouth. My lips moved in a quivery jiggle as if I were silently whistling. But I could not force out a sound, much less a whole question.

 

Maybe if I could think a question, the ghost and I could communicate. Maybe she didn't need actual words to hear me and to answer.

 

I tipped forward. My glasses slipped down my nose. I wanted to ask her...something...something...important...

 

What would touching her feel like?

 

I stretched out my hand.

 

Book Details:

 

Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal Mystery

Page Count: 152 pages

 

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/)

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40072894-the-ghost-in-the-gardens

 

Order Links:

 

Mirror World Publishing:  Ebook  Paperback

Amazon

Special Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Ghost in the Gardens will only be available for purchase until the end of December 2020, and then it will be removed from both virtual and physical book shelves forever.

Meet the Author:

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes family-friendly fiction. The Carpenters
write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity.

 

Connect with HL Carpenter:

 

Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820921.H_L_Carpenter

Sunday, 25 October 2020

The Perfect Pairing for Halloween: A Chocolate Recipe and Children's Read by Tina Ruiz...

Morning or afternoon, everyone. I want to share this chocolate hummus dip/spread recipe with you. The photo is stock because I kind of made a mess in my kitchen and the picture I took doesn't look as appealing as this one. Maybe because I couldn't stop taking spoonfuls out and shoving this mixture into my mouth. LOL! Anyway, while I've made hummus before, I've never made a chocolate version. Already I think it's fabulous on the chocolate chip pancakes I also made this morning. Next, I’ll try it on toast for lunch today.

On A Side Note - I am a girl who likes to freeze things, and pancakes are no exception. Package them in twos, or enough for one serving, with a parchment sheet in between them. This makes it easier when you want to separate them later. To reheat, pull them apart, and either throw them in a frying pan, or on a plate and slide them into the microwave oven for 2 minutes. Easy peasy.

Back to the hummus. Here's the recipe for the healthy version I make.

 
Chocolate Hummus

15 oz. can of chickpeas
2 tbsp. aquafaba (chickpea water)
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

Open a can of chickpeas and save 2 tablespoons of the water, also known as aquafaba, then drain the can.

Add chickpeas, aquafaba, and the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Blend until smooth.

Since I have your attention, I'd like to announce my latest Halloween children's book - A Haunting Birthday Party available on Amazon. This is the second children's book I've written with a Halloween theme. A Halloween Party was book one.

As I promised my grandchildren, and others who truly enjoyed the first Halloween Children's Book, this one also contains silly character names. Example: Harry Pitts (harry arm pitts) is the narrator in this book, and the birthday party is for Peppa Roni and her twin brother, Reece A. Roni. It takes place at the Ray Zen (raisin) Restaurant, where people like Judge Mental and his wife, Judy, are enjoying a lovely meal. Kitti Letter (kitty litter) is the waitress for that side of the room, and her job is to give all the kids a spooktacular evening. Walter Melon (water melon) is the magician, Eve Ning (evening) is the cashier, Miss Turi (mystery) is another waitress, and Mr. I. Ball (eyeball) is the manager of the restaurant.

As you can see, this is a fun treat for young and old alike. I'm excited for the world to see my second Halloween children's book.

 

The story is about Peppa Roni and her twin brother, Reece A. Roni and Reece are having their 9th birthday party in the neighborhood restaurant.

The storyline is quite charming, and because you will try to figure out the double meaning of the fun names while you read, this is bound to become your child’s favorite book.

This delightful paperback book is another wonderful collaboration from writer Tina Nykulak Ruiz and illustrator Ishika Sharma. This creative duo knows how to put life and fun into children's books to encourage young people to read. As with all of Tina's children's stories, there's a moral at the end.
 

Tina Ruiz was born in Germany, but her family moved to Canada when she was in grammar school. She began writing children's stories when her own were little. Through the years Ruiz wrote twenty-seven books. Most of those stories went into readers for the Canada Board of Education. Two did not. Mayor Shadoe Markley is a story about a ten-year-old girl who becomes Mayor for a Day through a contest at school. 

Little did Ruiz know that story would “change the world.” The book came out at early January 1988. By the end of that same month, everyone was calling the mayor's office at City Hall, trying to get the forms to fill out so their children could participate in the contest. Thirty years later that same contest is still runs at full speed. And not only in Calgary, but all across Canada. The Mayor's Youth Council is now in charge of the celebrated contest and invites Ruiz to attend and meet the lucky winner. It's usually followed by a hand-written thank you card from the mayor himself. Recently Ruiz was invited to be part of the Grand Opening of Calgary's New Library where the mayor shook her hand and introduced her to the attendees.

Tina has worked in television and radio as well as being a professional clown at the Children's Hospital. She lives in Calgary with her husband who encourages her to write her passion be it high-quality children's books or intriguing romance.

Stay connected with Tina Ruiz on her Facebook group Tina Speaks Out.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Book Tour: Mirror's Despair by Justine Alley Dowsett and Murandy Damodred...

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


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


About Mirror's Despair:

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

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

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

Guest Post: Writing as an Escape

By Justine Alley Dowsett

I write what I like to call ‘Escapism fiction.’ Simply put, I like to write stories that transport my readers to far away lands and distant futures; to show them an alternate vision of what life could be. Ultimately, my goal is to provide readers with a vivid world they can escape into for a while, but I’ve found that writing such stories can be a kind of escape for me as well. 

Most of my books are co-written with my sister, Murandy. The two of us invent a world and a host of characters and then we retreat into our writing room to live in our imaginations for the duration of the writing project, which is usually two to three nights a week for anywhere from three to six months at a time. 

Mirror’s Despair was no different in this regard. We started writing the first book in the Mirror Worlds series, Mirror’s Hope, back in 2013 and back then we were both going through some difficult times. Without going into details, at that time in our lives it was a wonderful gift to be able to go into our writing room and shut the door on the real world for a little while each night. It allowed us to focus on something else, feel productive and have something to show for it while spending time together doing what we both love.

And worldbuilding is a big part of that. The setting of this series, the Mirror Worlds, are two realms that exist in a precarious balance. One side worships the Creator and the other fears the return of the Destroyer and in each realm a copy of each person exists, called a ‘Mirror’. Across the four books, the story of a pair of Mirrors are told (one pair chosen by the Creator, and other by the Destroyer) following each of them as they cross back and forth discovering the true nature of their balanced worlds and what threatens it, essentially playing out a massive game of chess at the hands of two primal forces. Oh, and did I mention it’s also a romance story?

Sitting down to work on each book was like travelling to that world and joining the cast of characters on their journey. After a time, the people in the story became like friends to us, and we knew the world we lived in about as well as we know our own. It was hard to say goodbye, but also cathartic to have the story finally come to the conclusion it had been building to for so long. 

In fact, writing this series was such a great escape for us, we’re now working on building another world now that our epic dark fantasy romance is complete. We’re not sure what form it will ultimately take yet, but that’s part of the fun. 

The current state of the world has been a great stress on all of us and Murandy and I are no different. Even if writing is not your thing, I would definitely recommend taking up a project either with someone else, or solo; one that allows you to escape into a world of your own for a time. It can be highly therapeutic and a whole lot of fun besides. 


Book Details:

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

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing
Ebook 
Paperback 

Amazon

Meet the Authors:

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

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

Connect with: 


Author Pages: 

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


Giveaway Information:

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

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