Monday, 27 January 2020

6 Writing Tips that will Make any Writer King or Queen of the Castle by Catherine Castle...


Have you heard the story about the goldfish? She was swimming in her bowl and passed the front entrance of the castle that decorated the small aquarium.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed. Then she went around the bowl again and spied the fortress once more.

“Oh, I have a new castle!” she exclaimed.

She went around again, and not remembering what’d she just seen she exclaimed once more, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, “Oh, I have a new castle!”

And again, and again.

The moral of this story, beside the fact that goldfish have memories that only last for three seconds, is that you, the author, may forget you’ve written a particular piece, or pieces, of information in your story and repeat yourself. While you might not remember dispensing the information, you can bet, that like those of us who are laughing at this funny story, your reader will remember those words, phrases, and information that you’ve inadvertently added more than once.

Don’t get bent out of shape if you discover this in your work. It’s a natural result of writing a book over a long period of time. Most authors only write a few thousand words in any given day, and unless you’re writing a short story, blog post, or essay, it will probably take weeks, or months, before you’ve finished your project. With all the stuff that happens in between your times at the computer, it’s only normal you’d forget something you’ve already written, especially if you get in the zone and your muse or characters take over.

SO WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO?

Here are a few tips to help you catch those repetitions.

FOR REPETITIVE WORDS AND PHRASES:

• If you know you’re fond of certain words or phrases, and you use them a lot, make a list and do a search for them at the end of each day’s writing. A quick way to search is by using the find function of Microsoft Word. Type in the word, ask the computer to highlight all forms, and see how often you’ve fallen victim to repetition.

• Eliminate repetitive words and phrases as you go. By doing this you will make the chore less bothersome at the end of the book. A daily reminder of your trouble words will also help prime yourself to catch them as you work.

• Reread the previous day’s work (or even a couple of days work if you’ve been away for a long time) when you sit down to write. By keeping what you’ve written fresh in your mind, you will be less likely to repeat yourself.

FOR REPETITIVE INFORMATION:

• Keep a list of the important points/information you want to be sure to include in your story. When you’ve made that point, notate it, indicating where in the book you placed the information.

• Double check how many times your characters repeat a story or information. If the event or information they are revealing to another character has already been shown to the reader, if may not be necessary to repeat the whole story again. The author of Downton Abbey was a master at this technique. When something was being related to other characters that had happened in an earlier episode, he often had a one sentence referral to the incident. Enough to trigger the viewer’s memory, but not enough to bore one to death. For the written word, a simple She told him what happened at the skating rink and the character’s reaction to the story may be enough to get the point across without rehashing the information a second or third time.

• Consider becoming a plotter. When you draft your book’s scenes in outline form, chapter synopsis, or whatever works best for you (and follow them), the tendency to repeat oneself is reduced. Yes, you may still have to double check that you’ve eliminated those pesky repetitions, but you will find they are fewer and, hopefully, farther in between.

What tips do you have for eliminating repetition in your work?

Here's a brief intro to my inspirational romantic suspense. I hope you enjoy it.

Where novice Sister Margaret Mary goes, trouble follows. When she barges into a drug deal the local Mexican drug lord captures her. To escape she must depend on undercover DEA agent Jed Bond. Jed’s attitude toward her is exasperating, but when she finds herself inexplicably attracted to him, he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them by making her doubt her decision to take her final vows. Escape back to the nunnery is imperative, but life at the convent, if she can still take her final vows, will never be the same.

Nuns shouldn’t look, talk, act, or kiss like Sister Margaret Mary O’Connor—at least that’s what Jed Bond thinks. She hampers his escape plans with her compulsiveness and compassion, and in the process makes Jed question his own beliefs. After years of walling up his emotions in an attempt to become the best agent possible, Sister Margaret is crumbling Jed’s defenses and opening his heart. To lure her away from the church would be unforgivable—to lose her unbearable.


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

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

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

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Escape Network of the 1800s: The Underground Railroad…

Amherstburg Freedom Museum

Since today falls on Martin Luther King Jr. Day around the time of writing this post, I thought it fitting to do a piece on the Underground Railroad. I’m actually fortunate enough to live in an area in Ontario, Canada that played a large role in helping slaves escape the horrors of plantation life in America’s southern states during the 1800s. It’s even more of a blessing that I live near the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, where the museum’s mandate states, “To tell the stories of Amherstburg’s role in the Underground Railroad, and African-Canadians’ journey and contributions to Canada and the region”. Believe it or not, at one time this area was a chief entry point into Canada for those escaping slavery.
While doing research and outlining for the next book in my young adult time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, I found a lot of interesting tidbits and facts about the Underground Railroad, and where the name came from. If you don’t know the history, this ‘escape network’ was not literally underground nor a railroad. It was figuratively “underground” in the sense of being an underground resistance. It was known as a “railroad” by way of the use of rail terminology in the code. Pretty darn clandestine, don’t you think?
The Underground Railroad consisted of meeting points, secret routes, transportation, and safe houses, and personal assistance provided by abolitionist sympathizers. The resting spots where the runaways could sleep and eat were given the code names “stations” and “depots,” which were held by “station masters”. “Stockholders” gave money or supplies for assistance. Participants generally organized in small, independent groups; this helped to maintain secrecy because individuals knew some connecting “stations” along the route but knew few details of their immediate area. Escaped slaves would move north (usually following the north star, or when overcast, the river) along the route from one station to the next. “Conductors” on the railroad came from various backgrounds and included free-born blacks, white abolitionists, former slaves (either escaped or manumitted), and Native Americans. Church clergy and congregations often played a role, especially the Quakers, as well as certain sects of mainstream denominations such as branches of the Methodist church and American Baptists. Without the presence and support of free black residents, there would have been almost no chance for fugitive slaves to pass into freedom unmolested.
Harriet Tubman
In 2019 the movie Harriet was released, telling the story of one of the most famous conductors, slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman. She was a true hero in every sense of the word, who would give every drop of her blood, and wouldn’t stop freeing her people until “this monster called slavery” was dead. Crowned “Black Moses”, Harriet, with a strong and unwavering faith in God and the help of free blacks and sympathetic whites, managed to successfully lead more than three hundred slaves, including her family, to freedom. Now, that’s some track record!
If you get a chance, please check out the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s page called ‘Sharing Our Stories’, and watch some of the videos. I guarantee that you’ll rethink the meaning of FREEDOM, and what it meant to those who escaped the evils of slavery during the 1800s, and those who chase freedom even now. I’ll leave you with this quote from one of the narrators sharing her family’s story, “You need to know who you are and of the sacrifices made for your freedom”. Amen to that.
So what does freedom mean to you personally? Have you ever thought of the sacrifices made by your ancestors that has led you to living the life you are now? Would love to read your comments. Cheers, and thank you for reading my blog.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Guest Post: How a Task Swells to Fill the Time Allotted by Chris Pavesic...

Parkinson’s Law originated with Cyril Parkinson in a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955 and was reprinted in Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress by John Murray (1958). The law states that work will expand and swell in importance so as to fill the time available for its completion. Alternatively, some define Parkinson’s law in regard to time as the amount of time that one has to perform as task is the amount of time it will take to complete a task. This theory posits that the more time you give yourself to do something, the more complex and daunting it will seem.
The perceived amount of work swells to fit the time allotted.
According to this law, if you give yourself a month to work on any project, that project will take a month to complete. You will not be working on this project for the entire time, of course. During that month you will be doing other things. You will procrastinate. You will work on it a few hours here and there. The project, though, will remain in your consciousness. It will cause you stress. It will take mental energy. At the end of the month when you complete the project, it will seem like you worked on this for 30 days, when in fact if you count up the actual hours worked, you may find you worked for less than a day. This theory is interesting to me as a writer. It reminds me of a passage I read in Ariel Gore’s text on writing, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead:
Deadlines matter. Obviously, you don’t want to get into the habit of delivering mediocre work—that’s not going to do you any good in the long run—but you’ll notice that if you force yourself to meet your deadlines, you’ll learn to produce better and better writing in whatever amount of time you have. You’ll master the sprint as well as the marathon. Meet your deadlines. Meet them every time.
The key line for me in Gore’s quotation is “you’ll learn to produce better and better writing in whatever amount of time you have.” She is, in fact, talking about Parkinson’s Law for writers. If you can focus, you can get a writing project done in a shorter amount of time. If you work to develop this habit, the quality of your writing will improve in the shorter time frames for the projects. So what lessons can writers learn from Parkinson’s Law? Set tight deadlines for each project. Set time limits and time deadlines for everything you want to complete that day. Once you get into that habit, it will be easier to estimate the amount of time it actually will take you to complete a task.

If you give yourself forever to do something, it is going to take forever to do it.



4eee6-chris2bpavesic2bauthor2bphotoChris Pavesic is a fantasy author who lives in the Midwestern United States and loves Kona coffee, steampunk, fairy tales, and all types of speculative fiction. Between writing projects, Chris can most often be found reading, gaming, gardening, working on an endless list of DIY household projects, or hanging out with friends.

Learn more about Chris on her website and blog.

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

Monday, 6 January 2020

Guest Post: Latin - the Dead Language that Speaks to Us Today by Carol Browne...

I know I was lucky when it came to education. Not only did I live in the UK at a time before austerity when the state paid for all our equipment, I also got to attend a grammar school. That meant I studied Latin for about the first four years I was there. At the time I didn’t see the relevance; none of my contemporaries did. It was a dead language confined to history. Something for academics and librarians and archaeologists. A difficult study for an English brain not used to complicated conjunctions and declensions. The concept that nouns had to be classified into gender was bizarre. All the different word endings that had to agree with each other made my head reel. It seemed Latin was something you did to get a qualification—and I did. I achieved what in those days was called an ‘O’ Level. So, job done. Stick it on the CV with all the others.

Image by Desi Maxwell from Pixabay
It was after I left school that I learned to love Latin and appreciate its value as a linguistic tool. More than that, I understood its historical significance, how it helped to shape the modern world we have today. How many languages have Latinate words as part of their lexicon? How many countries, corporations and institutions use Latin mottos? I’m thinking of a famous one here, E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) which appears on the Great Seal of the United States of America.

Latin invaded Britain along with the Romans in the first century and it was clearly determined to take root as part of the language of the indigenous people because it became the language of the church for centuries. In 1066, when the Norman French invaded Britain, their Latinate tongue became the dominant language and married itself without ceremony to that spoken by the oppressed Anglo- Saxons. In this way, Latin moved up to another level and its words formed a large part of what was to become what we now know as English. People wonder why in English there are so many different words for the same thing but the richness of the language is a result of having input from so many other languages brought to Britain by a variety of invaders.

Image by Photos for You from Pixabay
So from a living language spoken by the Romans, to an elitist language used by the church and the legislature, it evolved in many ways, even giving scientific names to plants, animals, diseases and body parts! And now it is supposedly a dead language because no-one speaks it anymore except for academics and historians. And yet how can you call it dead when it is so widely used?

As a writer Latin isn’t dead to me. I can call upon my knowledge of Latin to help me work out the meaning of many words in use today. If I encounter an unfamiliar word, as long as it has had some truck with Latin during its evolution, I am likely to be able to recognise some part of it that will facilitate my understanding. Latin prefixes are extremely helpful: ex, inter, trans, sub, contra, for example. These are already pointing you in a certain direction. A submarine is obviously going to operate under the sea rather than above it! (And marine is also of Latin origin—‘mare’, sea.) Latin has also helped me translate words in other Latinate languages like Italian and Spanish, even though I’m not that acquainted with them.

Latin is timeless, as familiar in Shakespeare’s plays as in Hollywood movies. It has expanded its influence into popular culture without most people giving it a second thought—where would Hogwarts professors be without their Latin-inspired incantations? In the Marvel universe, what would Magneto be called without that ancient Roman language? (L. ‘magnes’?) All those horror films where the bad guys try to summon demons wouldn’t be half so dramatic if they didn’t use Latin to do it; likewise, exorcisms sound much more impressive in Latin. It is, I have come to realise, a rather beautiful language.

Versatile too. You can have fun with Latin. In The Handmaid’s Tale, ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) is grammatically incorrect Latin with some made-up words and was a joke Margaret Attwood remembered from school, but it struck a chord with her audience and people actually have it tattooed on their wrists!

Latin isn’t dead. It never really went away. Those ancient Romans gave us the gift that keeps on giving; even our planets are named after their gods and goddesses. Latin went global long before that concept even existed.

The question must be, did we absorb Latin or did Latin absorb us! Whatever the answer, Latin is here to stay.

Here is a little from my latest release for your reading pleasure. Yes, a little Latin has worked its way into this psychological thriller.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem. Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB
Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female. I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt... keep stirring... is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.

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

Monday, 30 December 2019

2020: A New Decade. A New Perspective…

First Book Launch in 2012

Wow, that decade zoomed by! I honestly don’t know where those ten years went, but what I do know for sure (quoting Oprah) is that a lot has happened to me personally and professionally since 2010. I’ve lost some people (and pets) by death, and by choice (toxic relationships), worked with two publishing companies and one literary agency, had my hopes dashed only to realize that it was for my highest best anyway, and transitioned from living in cottage country to surviving in the suburbs of sultry, southern Ontario. I’ve had a total of five books published (Woohoo), done book readings without breaking out in a sweat or fainting, and though self-doubt creeps in from time to time, I’ve learned what self-love really means in this crazy, on demand world we are presently living in. Rather than go on and on, I thought I’d share my decade experiences by breaking it down for you in three categories:

What have I accomplished in the last 10 years?

So much! I started my blogging journey May 4th, 2011 before I even had a publishing deal—which BTW—I received in August of that same year with a new publishing company called Musa Publishing. This is where I earned my author chops, so to speak. What was expected of an author—which was pretty much everything from promoting to marketing to creating a social media presence to writing my next book, and what a publisher did for their authors. I went from zero experience on the internet to feeling quite comfortable navigating through cyber-space. I received a grant to help build a website to house my first book: The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis and the ones that followed, and celebrated the best book launch ever on May 19th, 2012 surrounded by friends and family who knew how hard I’d worked trying to get published for over fifteen years. I wrote the prequel to The Last Timekeepers series, and received another contract with Musa Publishing. Then…everything changed.

 A few Mirror World Publishing Authors
We moved from our house on the lake to a house in the suburbs in the summer of 2014. What I couldn’t have foreseen was Musa Publishing would close their doors in February 2015, leaving over 300 authors stranded, without contracts or support. Thankfully, I had attended a book expo in November 2014, and there I met my future publisher, Mirror World Publishing. In the last five years, we’ve worked together to bring two young adult book series out into the world, The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series, and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mystery series. And since then, I haven’t looked back.

Now that the fruits of my labors are realized, I know I need to continue on my path to write, promote, market, engage, and connect with people who are looking to escape into my fictional worlds. So, it is my hope to write books that will entertain, educate, and inspire both young and young-at-heart readers for generations to come.

What are the lessons I learned in those years?

Being an author isn’t for the faint of heart. I’m so not kidding. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that no one is going to care more about your book than YOU do. Period. So do the tough stuff. Get your hands dirty. Experiment. Beg for book reviews. Share helpful content. Be kind to others going through the same thing. Always add value. Go the extra mile. Think of all these acts as your karma bank account, and it will compound by leaps and bounds.

Make a business plan. Remember, writing is a business. So treat it this way. I began writing my ‘Master Business and Life Plan’ on March 9, 2011, when I was researching how to start up a blog. This plan has evolved and grown throughout the last nine years, and will continue to do so. I’ll admit, not everything gets crossed off the plan, but it does give me an overview on where to adjust for the future, and where I’d like to be at the end of the year.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. At the beginning of this decade, the thought of standing up in front of an audience to read an excerpt or visit a school to share my writing journey with students made my teeth itch and want to hide among the shadows. But, I authored up. I faced my fears, and pushed myself enough to get over whatever it was that made me feel this way. Lack of self-confidence and self-esteem be damned. I learned to love who I’d become, what I’d accomplished, and where I’m heading these past ten years. And from where I stand, the future looks so bright, I’m gonna need shades!

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventure Series (so far...)
What do I need to let go of, drop or release that doesn’t serve me?

This is a BIG one: Stop comparing myself to other successful authors. By all means, I should learn from them because success leaves clues, but my journey is not the same as their journey or experiences, so there’s really no comparison. I must drop this, put on a pair of blinders, and focus on MY path.

This is a HARD one: Approval from others. Since we were children, all we wanted was attention —first from our parents, then friends, later co-workers and bosses, and loved ones. We’re hard-wired for this. The truth is that the only person whose approval really matters is our own. That’s it. We need to have our own backs. Trust ourselves enough to stand in our truth. This will definitely be a work in progress for me.

This is an HONEST one: Releasing expectations. When I was a girl, I had a plaque hanging on my bedroom wall that said, ‘Blessed are those who do not expect, for they won’t be disappointed.’ Now that’s some sage advice! So, going back in time, as I love to do when writing my books, I realize having expectations gets in the way of what the Universe has planned for me. Adopting the mindset, ‘Everything happens for me, not to me’ has helped tremendously, and I know that by releasing expectations, I make room for more positive energy to come into my life.

Released in 2017 and 2019: Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls (so far...)
As this decade closes out, I encourage you to ask these three questions, and see how far you’ve come. You just might realize that ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’! Please share your findings if you feel obliged. Would love to read your comments. Cheers, and thank you for reading my blog. Happy New Year, and wishing you and your loved ones, health, happiness, wealth, and all the best in the next ten years ahead!

Monday, 23 December 2019

A Holiday Feast Fit for a Family by Sloane Taylor...


Christmas Eve

December 24


My favorite day of the year! We celebrate with a houseful of friends and relatives by serving a sit-down dinner complete with crystal glasses, all the pretty dishes I’ve gathered over the years, and what I call my “good” flatware. Each year I try to create a memorable meal such as the one listed here.

This elegant dinner, with marvelous flavors, is easy to prepare. On a tight schedule? Most of the meal can be assembled in advanced. Look for the ** in the instructions for the stopping point. Continue cooking on Christmas Eve. I suggest you make extras and freeze them for future use. You’ll be glad you did.

MENU
Mock Chicken Legs
Roasted Potatoes
Snow Peas with Lettuce & Chives
Sautéed Mushrooms
White Wine – Chablis

Mock Chicken Legs
Use equal amounts of the three meats. If you are anti-veal, the beef and pork alone are still great. Increase their amounts to 1½ pounds (750g) each.

1 lb. (500g) beef eye of round or other high-quality roast, cut into 2 in. (5cm) cubes
1 lb. (500g) pork tenderloin, cut into 2 in. (5cm) cubes
1 lb. (500g) veal shoulder, cut into 2 in. (5cm) cubes
Skewers about 6 – 8 inches (15 – 20cm) long
3 eggs
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1½ cups (200g) seasoned bread crumbs, possibly more
Olive oil

Alternate the meat types as you skewer them. Set aside on waxed paper.

** Stop here if you plan to cook the legs another day. If you made extras, this is the time to freeze them.  Lay the skewers to cook on a cookie sheet. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate.

On the day of serving, cover a platter or cookie sheet with waxed paper. Combine eggs and pepper in a flat bowl. Pour breadcrumbs into another dish. Dip skewers, one at a time, into egg mixture. Roll in bread crumbs then set them back onto the waxed paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the coating.

Preheat oven to 350° F
(180°C).

Heat ½ inch
(1.25cm) olive oil in a frying pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, carefully lay in a few skewers and brown well on all sides. As they cook set them into a baking dish, stacking the skewers is fine.

Cover the dish and bake for 1 – 1 ½ hours or until fork tender.

Do NOT add any liquid to the meat. This dish produces its own fantastic sauce.

Roasted Potatoes
These potatoes are definitely out of the norm, but they are great with any meat dish.

3 tbsp. (45ml) olive oil
3 tbsp. (45ml) cider vinegar
1 tbsp. (15ml) kosher salt
1 tsp. (5ml) dried thyme
1 red potato per person, quartered but not peeled

Preheat oven to 425° F (220°C).

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, and thyme.

Place potatoes in a large plastic bag. Pour mixture over them and gently shake bag to coat evenly.

Spread potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle remaining mixture over them. Bake until potatoes are toothpick tender and slightly browned, 50 minutes.

Snow Peas with Lettuce & Chives
This recipe from France that serves two is one you will want to serve often. Simply increase the ingredient amounts proportionally when you prepare this dish for more people.

4 oz. (125g) snow peas
2 tbsp. (25g) butter
Pinch of sugar
½ Boston lettuce, shredded
1 tbsp. (15ml) chives, chopped fine, or 1½ tsp. (7.5ml) dried
2 green onions, sliced fine be sure to include the green stems

Trim ends off peas with a sharp knife. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Be careful not to let this burn.

When the foam subsides stir in peas. Stir in sugar. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

Add lettuce, chives, and onions. Gently toss until lettuce has wilted.

Scoop into a bowl and serve.

Sautéed Mushrooms recipe found under Veggie section in the Index.

Christmas Day

December 25


After we entertain Christmas Eve, we tear through the house cleaning up before all the kids and grands come for brunch Christmas Day. This meal is wonderful because so much can be prepared well in advance.

MENU
Breakfast Souffle
Hash Browns
Fresh Fruit Salad
Mini Croissants
Christmas Cookies & Leftover Desserts
Mimosas

Breakfast Soufflé
1 lb. (½kg) ham, bacon, or breakfast sausage
9 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups (750ml) milk
1 tsp. (5ml) dry mustard
Diced green, red, and/or yellow pepper to taste
½ lb. (57g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ lb. (57g) Swiss or Gruyere cheese, or a combination of the two, grated
Diced onion to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 – 1 in. (2.54cm) slices Vienna or French bread, cubed

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

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

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

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

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

Leftovers are excellent from the microwave.

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

3 russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds), peeled
1½ tsp. (7.5ml) garlic powder, not salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil

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

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

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

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

Fresh Fruit Salad
1 banana, peeled
1 pear, cored
1 tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice
¼ pineapple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
10 seedless red grapes, halved
10 blueberries
10 raspberries, optional

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

Gently fold in remaining fruit.

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

Mimosas
1 bottle sparking white wine or champagne, cold
1 carton orange juice, cold
Tall slender glasses

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

May you spend all the holidays of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table ~ Sloane

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

Taylor's first solo venture into non-fiction was a Couples Cookbook with eighty of her favorite recipes, DATE NIGHT DINNERS, Meals to Make Together for a Romantic Evening. ROMANTIC MEALS TO DINE AL FRESCO is Taylor’s latest cookbook and contains 104 exciting recipes. 

Excerpts from her books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Nostalgic Christmas Treats and a Trip to Fairy Falls...

Here’s a new twist on an old favorite that will leave you longing for those good old days when family holiday get-togethers were spent hanging with your cousins, and playing with your new toys at your grandparents’ house. Not only perfect for the dessert table, these holiday-inspired muffins also make wonderful gifts. Fill a festive tin from the dollar store to create the perfect present for teachers, baby-sitters, hair-stylists, and neighbors.

Christmas Pudding Muffins


1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
1¼ cups mincemeat
6 glace cherries, halved

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

INSERT cupcake liners into a 12-cup muffin pan.

WHISK flour with sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.

WHISK eggs with butter and milk in another bowl, then stir into flour mixture.

STIR in mincemeat.

SPOON batter into prepared muffin tin.

BAKE until a skewer inserted in a muffin comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

COOL completely in pan.

Glaze

1 cup icing sugar, powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk
Glace cherries

WHISK icing sugar with milk. Brush muffins with glaze and top with glace cherries.

While you’re waiting for your muffins to cool, take a seat in your favorite cozy chair and crack open one of my books. May I suggest a visit to Fairy Falls? I guarantee these books will take you on a journey far away from the busyness of the holiday season.

Fairy Falls was bores-ville from the get-go. Then the animals started talking...

The Fairy Falls Animal Shelter is in trouble. Money trouble. It’s up to an old calico cat named Whiskey—a shelter cat who has mastered the skill of observation—to find a new human pack leader so that their home will be saved. With the help of Nobel, the leader of the shelter dogs, the animals set out to use the ancient skill of telepathy to contact any human who bothers to listen to them. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Meagan Walsh, she hears them, loud and clear.

Forced to live with her Aunt Izzy in the safe and quiet town of Fairy Falls, Meagan is caught stealing and is sentenced to do community hours at the animal shelter where her aunt works. Realizing Meagan can hear her, Whiskey realizes that Meagan just might have the pack leader qualities necessary to save the animals. Avoiding Whiskey and the rest of shelter animals becomes impossible for Meagan, so she finally gives in and promises to help them. Meagan, along with her newfound friends, Reid Robertson and Natalie Knight, discover that someone in Fairy Falls is not only out to destroy the shelter, but the animals as well. Can Meagan convince her aunt and co-workers that the animals are in danger? If she fails, then all the animals’ voices will be silenced forever.

BUY LINKS

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

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

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

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