Sunday, 21 November 2021

Need help? Call on a Loa or Orisha…


Depending on your culture or beliefs, more and more people are being drawn to their pre-Christian ancestral ways. Modern African American, Afro-Caribbean, South American, and many other magical people feel called to work with the Orishas or Loa. In The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, the third installment of my young adult time travel adventure series, I included a scene where my character (Henri) practices Voodoo sorcery. During his ceremony he summons an evil Loa Voodoo spirit by the name of Kalfu. To offset this, I added another scene later in the book where my point-of-view character, Drake Bailey is forced to conjure the Orisha, Shango, who is one of the Seven African Powers.

Loa are the Voodoo spirits called upon by practitioners in order to make a request, whether it’s to improve one’s romantic life or heal a loved one’s sickness. Since each Loa is responsible for a different aspect of life, there are hundreds of these spirits and each has their own veve symbol (religious symbol used in different branches of Voodoo) used to invoke them. Loa legends like Papa Legba (gatekeeper to the Loa world) and Baron Samedi (keeper of the spirit world and ruler of the dead), or creations based on them, are often used as characters in movies, comics, and television. Unfortunately, these recreations are usually caricatures and often give Voodoo the reputation of being creepy and evil. Misunderstood facts about Loa sometimes make the things Loa can do seem dark and scary, but there are many Loa spirits who are benevolent. There are those who represent love, romance, and fertility in addition to death and war.

Kalfu
Kalfu is definitely not a warm and fuzzy Loa. He also happens to be the twin brother of Papa Legba,
and helps control the crossroads between the dead and the living as well. However, Kalfu is considered to be more of an evil twin and is known to only let bad spirits cross over. While Papa Legba’s righteousness caused him to become old and frail, Kalfu stayed young and strong. Since balance is needed in the world, Kalfu is a very important Loa and is necessary to compliment his brother. Kalfu’s power with black magic leads people who desire injustice, misfortune, and destruction to call upon him. Despite being a feared Loa, he is also well respected thanks to his power.

The Orishas—particularly the Seven African Powers—are a group of spirits originating from Yorubaland, which is a region in Africa spanning Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. Some people liken the Orishas to gods and goddesses. They are similar but not quite the same. Put simply, Orishas are spirit beings who may be anywhere from intangible to fully manifest in the flesh. They represent facets of God, the Supreme Deity—manifestation of God’s many faces and natures, if you like. Each Orisha has an associated color, an appropriate offering, and other associations.

Shango

Shango is the most beloved of all Orishas. He is the immensely powerful Lord of Thunder, Lightning, and Fire. His colors are red and white, and his loves dancing and music. Lover boy supreme, Shango epitomizes virility, male beauty, and the procreative energy. He is invoked for courage and justice, and in Yoruba cosmology, lightning is understood as an instrument of divine justice, retribution, and protection. As the wielder of lightning, Shango provides victory over enemies and protects from all evil by breaking hexes, curses, and evil spells. With a bio like that, it’s no wonder Shango is the most popular!

It should go without saying that if you plan to invoke and work with the Orishas or Loa (whether Shango or Kalfu or others), you should approach them with respect and reverence. Understand the culture and people from whence these magical beings came. These spirits, the Orishas and Loa, were brought to the Americas on the backs of the enslaved Africans. They’ve survived because of the culture. They’ll continue to survive through those who need a little extra help.

Looking for help choosing your next read or a gift for the reader in your family? Here's a glimpse of The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, Book 3 in my young adult time travel adventure series...

True freedom happens only when you choose to be free.

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

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Love, Food, Writing, and Happy Endings by Author C.D. Hersh...

Our book Can’t Stop the Music opens in Woodstock and is filled with musical references of the era and food.

Today we’re talking about love, food, and magic. Love was plentiful at Woodstock. Magic mushrooms were probably plentiful, also, but food not so much. The producers didn’t expect the overwhelming crowd that should up and the vendors ran out of food in a very short time.

But you don’t have to worry about that, because we’ve got a special treat for you today.

As writers, we know that love and food go together like romance and a happily-ever-after ending. Maybe that’s why in most of our novels the hero and heroine share a meal of some sort. There’s just something magical about a special dinner with the one you love. Don’t you remember that special dinner, or dinners, with your honey? On the first dinner Catherine made for Donald she accidently fed him a toothpick—which he unwittingly ate. Trust us, we remember that!

Like most humans, we like to eat, and food works its way into our stories. In our book, Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) the hero cooks an Italian meal for the heroine that is positively orgasmic. Can’t Stop the Music is a nostalgic romance set in Woodstock 1969 and contains a paranormal element. The paranormal involves a magic Soul Mate Tree that grants soul mates to deserving persons.

The Soul Mate tree is
An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds.
To some, it’s nothing more than a dream.
To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.
For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

And our heroine and hero are in definitely in need of a happy ending.

Speaking of happy, who doesn’t love a delicious pasta dish? We do, but pasta is something we don’t eat a lot of anymore because of the high carb content. Recently, we’ve begun experimenting with ways to make high-carb pasta meals friendlier, because we do miss our pasta. In the process, we’ve discovered things like lentil and soybean pastas that are great substitutes for wheat pasta. They have a high fiber to carb ratio, which not only puts more fiber in the diet, but slows the release of sugars into the blood stream, both which are great boons to people with insulin resistance issues. The soybean pasta is fantastic and has become our go-to pasta for spaghetti.

Unfortunately, we haven’t found a soybean lasagna. So, Catherine got creative and made a meatless version of lasagna that uses a smaller amount of lasagna on the bottom of the dish and substitutes sliced zucchini for the pasta in the other layers. Putting a single layer of pasta on the bottom provides the traditional taste of lasagna and helps the servings come out of the dish better, without the added high-glycemic carbohydrates. We made this lasagna recipe meatless, but you could use a meat sauce if you prefer. Bon appétit!

Mushroom Zucchini Lasagna

Serves four

2 sheets oven-ready lasagna pasta
½ jar (1 1/3 cups) spaghetti or marina sauce (any flavor you prefer)
2-3 oz. fresh baby spinach (2-3 handfuls)
1 8 oz. box sliced mushrooms
2 small zucchinis, sliced into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
12 tbsp. low-fat ricotta cheese

Trim ends of zucchinis until they fit inside a square 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Then slice zucchinis into scant 1/8 inch thick ribbons. Place on a plate and salt liberally both sides. Let stand about an hour to draw out the excess moisture. Rinse off salt and pat slices dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Rinse mushrooms and place in a skillet or large saucepan. Using 2 sharp-bladed spatulas, coarsely chop mushrooms in the pan. (Alternately, you could use a knife and cutting board, but Catherine found this method to be quicker.) Sauté mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of water until the mushrooms darken and excess water from the fungi has appeared in the pan. Drain and set aside.

Fit the 2 sheets of pasta in the bottom of a square, 1-1/2 quart baking dish, breaking edges off as necessary so the pasta lays flat in the bottom. Remove pasta and broken pieces from the dish.

Pour 1/3 cup pasta sauce in the bottom of the dish and lay the pasta sheets and broken pieces on top.

On top of this base, layer 1/3 cup pasta sauce, 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup mushrooms, a handful of spinach, torn into small pieces, and four tablespoons of ricotta cheese (dotted over the top of the spinach), and enough zucchini slices to cover the ingredients. Spread the ingredients so they are evenly layered. Repeat layers to the depth the dish allows, ending with a layer of zucchini, sauce, ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Bake 45 minutes.

Let stand and couple of minutes before cutting. Catherine found using a chef’s knife to cut the layers works best to cut through the zucchini without destroying the layers. Serve with a fresh salad and warm, Italian garlic bread.

Note: We went light on the cheeses, which gave each square of lasagna about 1 serving each of the cheeses. If you like a heavier cheese taste, add more cheese on each layer.

Serve the lasagna with a fresh green salad and some yummy Italian bread and you have a complete meal.

Dessert Anyone?

Donald's mother created this easy recipe that soon became a family favorite. While we can neither confirm or deny if this particular sweet kept the folks together, they were married for 62 years. Dad was never hungry after he ate nor complained about mom’s cooking.


Calico Fudge
⅔ cup milk
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. peanut butter
12 marshmallows, cut into pieces

Cook milk, sugars, and salt to soft ball stage. Remove from heat. 

Add butter and peanut butter. Beat until creamy. 

Lay marshmallows one inch apart in a greased pan. Pour fudge over the marshmallows. 

Cut into squares when cold.

After the dishes are done and you’re ready to relax, download Can’t Stop the Music (The Soul Mate Tree Book 2) and take a trip back to Woodstock 1969 with our heroine Rose and her Italian stallion Dakota!

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.

Join them on social media:

Website

Soul Mate Publishing

Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Holiday Table Settings by Author Catherine Castle...

I’m channeling Martha Stewart today with a home décor post, so bear with me this morning.

As we head into another year of unusual holiday entertaining chances are there will still be fewer people around your table. Fewer guests don’t mean you should back down on the fancy arrangements.  Instead, why not get creative and try something different?

I don’t know about you, but when I have company, I like to set a decorative table. It’s one of the reasons I have ten different sets of dishes and several different sets of glassware. I can set a Disney table, complete with themed flatware and napkin rings; go native American with my Indian patterned dishes; have an indoor garden party with my garden dishes; set two different themed Christmas tables; or celebrate the Fourth of July Americana style. I also have two sets of patterned Corelle®, a plain white Corelle set, and plain colored stoneware that will span several seasons.

I know, I know. That’s way too many plates, cups and bowls for one person to own. But, much to my hubby’s chagrin, it’s a quirky fetish of mine. I collect dishes like most women collect shoes. I can’t bypass a single display of dishes without lusting after them. I realize most women don’t have access to such a wide variety of dishes, aside from Martha Stewart perhaps. But even if you don’t have a bazillion complete sets of dishes, you can still set a decorative table.

Having said that, I decided to challenge myself and my overabundant dish fetish. Instead of using a complete set of one of the ten dish setting I have, could I create four seasonal table settings using only four white dinner plates, 8 solid primary color luncheon plates, and 8 assorted bowls and 4 clear glasses?

With no patterns in the dishes to help set the seasonal mood, I decided to use patterned placemats. Placemats take up less storage room than dishes and cost less to replace if they get stained or you just want a change. Seasonal paper napkins and decorative elements gathered from around the house for centerpieces rounds out the table. Since white contrasts best with colored or patterned placemats I used the white dinner plates as the base for the place settings.

Spring bursts onto the table in shades of yellow, white, and turquoise. A vase of airy pink flowers adorns the center of the table, and a cocktail napkin containing all four colors ties the place setting together. If you’re having an Easter dinner, a pretty Easter basket filled with battery operated candles would be the perfect centerpiece, or unwrap that giant chocolate bunny you bought, set him on a plate with your homemade Easter eggs and fill in the empty spots with Easter grass. This is one centerpiece you won’t have to store.  J



Celebrate summer’s freedom holiday with a red, white and blue theme. A candle in a star shaped dish sets center stage. If you have them, a few sparklers set in small balls of clay around the candle would be an interesting touch. (I didn’t, so I just went with the single candle.) Placing blue and red napkins in the glasses gave the hint of fireworks to the table settings.

 I was sorely tempted to break out the garden dishes to create a summer garden party theme, but since I figured most people don’t have an assortment of flower and veggie shaped dishes, that would be cheating on the challenge.

 

When the temperatures drop and autumn rolls around, bring out the warmer colors of yellow and red to contrast with the warm wood tones of your table. A circle of leaves around a tall candle works as a centerpiece and draws in all the colors of the plates into the palette. If you have fall placemats they can be used under the dishes. I only had two matching autumn placemats, so I chose to forego them on this table setting. Instead of white bowls I used some red and green ramekins to pull in more fall color.




Christmas brings out the traditional, cheery colors of red and green. I interspersed green ramekins with the white bowls for a touch more green in this palette and to make the bowls pop on the red plates. Using green napkins in the glasses looks like you have tiny evergreen tree on your table.



With 20 dishes, not counting the clear glasses, I’ve created four attractive seasonal place settings. Now, the trick will be to not let the hubby see what I can do with only 20 dishes. Because if he finds out, I’ll have no more excuses to buy tableware.

 Which one of these table settings do you like best? I can’t decide. I may just have to see how many more I can create using a few unusual pieces. Oh! New antiquing idea—searching for unique seasonal serving pieces to set off my five-color scheme place settings. Then I think I’ll have some dinner guests over—once COVID is gone.

What about you? How do you create inviting dinner tables?

Now that you’ve got some great table settings lined up, relax with Catherine’s multi-award-winning inspirational romantic suspense novel The Nun and the Narc.

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 inexplicable attracted to him he becomes more dangerous than the men who have captured them, because he is 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.

The Nun and the Narc is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems. In addition to writing she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog.