Sunday 30 January 2022

Southern Plantations’ Dark Legacy…

Antebellum-style Plantation House

Visions of Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara from the movie Gone with the Wind or the famous Oak Alley Plantation sweep through ones’ mind when conjuring up those antebellum period plantations of the deep south for some. However, for the black race and people of color, plantation life in the 1700s and 1800s was a constant struggle just to stay alive. In The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, the third installment of The Last Timekeepers time travel adventure series, eleven-year-old protagonist Drake Bailey must confront not only his demons, but the terrible oppression and cruelty against his race in antebellum Georgia.

When I researched these grand Southern homes for my novel, I found a few myths in this mired past. In movies, plantations were often depicted as ‘mansions’ with fluted columns and a broad porch; massive trees with their drooping limbs lining circular driveways, and finely dressed men and women parading their wealth for all to see. Um, no. There were a few plantations which fit this description, but these were the exceptions. Most plantation owners lived modestly and some even poorly. The overwhelming majority of slaveholders held less than twenty slaves. Yet, even if a man only held one or two slaves, he had considerably more status in southern society than a man who held no slaves. Status was everything to the South’s white population, and the more slaves a man owned, the more respected he was.

The plantation was a world in itself. I created the fictional Taylor Plantation situated near Athens Georgia, close to where my time traveling characters would land. Trying to keep the grounds as authentic as I could, the plantation was comprised of the slave owner’s house (the Taylors) which was called the ‘big house’, the line of single-room cabins dubbed ‘slave row’ where slaves called ‘home’, and nearby loomed the overseer’s house. Scattered about this plantation were various barns and sheds where animals, tools, and the harvested crops were stored. Surrounding everything were cotton fields and woods, and situated in the back of the property lurked the slave cemetery by a winding creek.

Interior of slave quarters
Curious on how plantations came to be? In the early 17th century, when the British colonized what
would later become the United States of America, the crown offered large plots of land to settlers as an incentive for them to journey to a strange and harsh new world. Many settlers who took the deal combined their properties into larger settlements—in the South, these eventually became plantations. As these landowners needed immense manpower to maintain the plantations, they turned to slavery, importing captured peoples from Africa as forced laborers.

Plantations operated relatively unfettered in the American South for more than 250 years; the Northern states, however, had all abolished slavery by 1804. Despite Congress banning the African slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the South continued until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which banned slavery outright.

During Reconstruction (post-Civil War years), the plantation system collapsed. While some plantations were destroyed, many were subdivided, with both black and white farmers leasing these smaller plots as sharecroppers (who would give a portion of their harvest to the landowner as ‘rent’) or tenant farmers (who paid rent). These farming practices continued through the mid-20th century until the Great Depression and advancements in farming technology got rid of traditional plantations for good.   

Many people descended from African American slaves consider plantations to be the American version of Auschwitz. They’re not wrong. Filled with echoes of death and despair, Southern plantations—many of which are in disrepair and decay—are places where slavery made the romanticized southern lifestyle possible, and continue to carry their dark legacy to this day.

Here’s a snippet of what to expect in the third installment of The Last Timekeepers available for purchase on all your online bookstores…

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 23 January 2022

A No-Tomato Crockpot Chili Recipe and An Inspirational Romantic Suspense Read by Catherine Castle...

Recently tomatoes have been cut from our diet. I love tomatoes and many of the recipes I cook are tomato based. Here’s the issue: tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, along with a few more of my favorite foods such as peppers and eggplants. In some people the nightshade plants make arthritis worse and eliminating nightshade foods can help keep arthritis at bay.  The problem comes when one family member loves tomatoes and the other one now has to avoid them.

There are very few, if any substitutes for tomatoes, so I’ve been on the hunt for ways to make my favorite dishes without tomatoes for the non-tomato eating half of our family, yet please the tomato-loving member. It’s been tough, especially with chili season upon us. 

So, I set out to conquer the problem. Here’s one of the recipe I came up with: No-tomato Crockpot Chili. I hope you’ll enjoy it.  

No-tomato Crockpot Chili

1 pound ground beef

½ large onion, diced

One garlic clove, diced – optional

2 cans of beans*

1 small can diced chilies, if the non-tomato eater can eat them without issues

1 can beefy mushroom soup (I used Campbell’s soup)

¼ cup water, or less if you want a thicker chili

Chili powder to taste

Spaghetti – optional

Salsa, your heat preference for the tomato-eating family members

Cheese for topping – optional 

Break up ground beef in a large skillet and brown along with the diced onion and garlic. 

Add beans and bean liquid, diced green chilies, soup, water, and chili powder to crock pot. Stir to mix well. 

Drain beef mixture of fat and place in a crock pot. Stir to mix. 

Cook on high for 2 hours or until hot, or on low 4-6 hours or until hot. 

At serving time, place spaghetti in bottom of bowl and add beef chili.  

For those who can eat green chilies and tomatoes, top their bowls with ¼ to ½ cup of salsa and 1 teaspoon of green chilies to each cup of the beef-soup-based chili.  Stir lightly to combine. 

*The bean liquids help make up for the loss of the volume of the tomatoes. You can use seasoned or unseasoned chili beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, or lentils. Your choice and you can mix and match beans types. 

While your chili is cooking settle into a comfy chair and check out Catherine’s multi-award-winning, inspirational romantic suspense book, The Nun and the Narc. It’s not your usual inspirational romantic suspense. Here’s what one reviewer said: 

“You know that you aren’t supposed to laugh during a romantic suspense book, right?  And it’s a different kind of Inspirational Romance, too.  There were times in this book that I was rolling with laughter.  We needed the laughter considering that Maggie and Jed were dealing the Mexican drug cartel, trying not to get killed in the process and coming to terms with their faith and each other.  Oh and falling in love…

Ms. Castle wrote some the most dramatic scenes that I’ve read in a while.  She could write an action/thriller movie with no problem.  I really felt like I was the fly on the wall and actually cringed, ducked and held my breath.  I will also say the James Bond references were spot on.  Jed Bond!  LOL!  Priceless and needed when you are dealing with the cartel.  Also, the humor that she writes helps with the tension and action sequences, too.

Don’t worry about the book being “preachy” or heavy handed.  Ms. Castle wrote a book that everyone can relate to in one way or another...” From Harlies Books.

While you’re waiting for the chili to heat check out Catherine’s Award-winning Inspirational Romantic Suspense 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 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.

Sunday 16 January 2022

10 Ways Authors Can Keep Their Characters in Turmoil and Their Readers Reading by C.D. Hersh...

We recently came across an old email entitled Instructions for Life. The 45 positive recommendations on the list are meant to help make one’s life better. By turning some of the instructions upside down and we created bad life advice that will keep novel characters in turmoil.

Next time things are going too smoothly with your WIP try throwing one of these in the mix.

    • 1. Let them believe in love at first sight, but fight it like it can’t exist.
    • 2. If they make a mistake, don’t let them be too quick to acknowledge it.
    • 3. Let them fall in love deeply, passionately, and with people they would never choose. They might get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
    • 4. Make them fight to keep their values, but make sure they do keep them. No one loves an un-heroic hero.
    • 5. Remember silence is sometimes the best answer and unanswered questions are always suspect.
    • 6. Let them dredge up the past; it makes for good conflicts.
    • 7. Let them read between the lines … a lot. Miscommunication thickens the plot.
    • 8. Let them slowly discover that not getting what they want is sometimes the best thing that ever happened.
    • 9. Never let them mind their own business. You can’t get in trouble that way.
    • 10. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risks, and make them willing to risk everything to reach their goals.

Do you have a favorite trick for keeping your characters in turmoil?

Now if you want to see what we do with our characters how about checking out our series.


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 are two hearts creating everlasting love stories.  

Catherine and Donald 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 at Soul Mate Publishing. Stay connected on Facebook, their Amazon Author Page, and Twitter.

Sunday 9 January 2022

Heat Up Your Winter with Cookbook Author Sloane Taylor's Spicy Jambalaya...

With winter in full swing, I asked cookbook author and gourmet guru, Sloane Taylor to stop by and prepare us a pre-Mardi Gras dish guaranteed to keep you warm enough to make you believe that you're in the middle of New Orleans on a steamy summer evening. Welcome, Sloane! My virtual kitchen is yours, so let's heat things up...

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
½ tbsp. garlic, chopped
¾ lb. andouille sausage, sliced to pieces 1 inch thick
2½ cups chicken stock, possibly more
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ cup paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. tabasco sauce2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup rice
1 cup green onions, chopped, include plenty of green

Warm a Dutch oven on medium heat. Pour in oil. When it shimmers add onion, celery, and green pepper. Sauté 7 – 9 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Adjust heat so onion doesn’t burn. Add garlic. Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.  

Stir in sausage and stock. Add remaining ingredients, except rice and green onions, and then stir well.

Add rice and bring to a boil. Cover then lower heat to simmer. Cook 25 minutes. Stir well after each 10 minutes so rice doesn’t stick to pan. Add more stock if the food looks dry.

Sprinkle green onions across the rice mixture when you serve.

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


Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning 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 cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Summer Sizzle, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire are released by Toque & Dagger Publishing and available at all book vendors.

Excerpts from her books and free reads can be found on her website, blog, and her Amazon Author Page. Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday 2 January 2022

A New Year of Being Resilient in my Author Life…

As we close up the second year of the pandemic, albeit a more hopeful year than 2020, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for us resilient humans in 2022. Perhaps resilience is the key. Being resilient in your chosen profession and your life. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s to truly be resilient in the face of adversity. To adapt, go with the flow, rebound, or be flexible. It’s how we’ve survived throughout the millennia, and how businesses choose to evolve instead of die. Remember Sears? If not, do a check and see what businesses survived during this pandemic. How did they adapt? What did people do to keep themselves (and their customers) safe and protected? That’s where the answers will lie.

With our hands tied these past two years, even authors have had to give up in-person events such as book signings and doing public readings or book launches. Zoom became our friend in order to reach readers. Social media continued to thrive, though we should be mindful of what content we allow into our energy system. If we keep our wits about us, we’ll thrive. That’s what I plan to do in 2022. With the release of my latest time travel young adult book (number three in the series) The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave, last September I worked hard promoting it (mostly online) to become my publisher’s bestselling author in the second half of the year. I’m high fiving myself in the mirror for that achievement! However, being a resilient author (or insert a profession here) doesn’t stop there. Like the Covid-19 virus has trained us, we need to mutate into the next variant if we want to better our best. After all, that’s what evolution is all about.

 Speaking of evolution, my publisher is celebrating their eighth anniversary in the publishing biz in 2022, and have got an amazing deal for readers who love to escape into a book. So, without further ado, Mirror World Publishing is offering a discount of 20% off ebooks and paperbacks in their online store to their friends, family, and fans for the entire month of January 2022. How does it get any better than that! Use the code MWFAM22 to cash in on some really great reads this winter by visiting to feed your need to read!

In case you never got the chance, please check out my candid interview with my publisher below as we go ‘beyond the bio’. I share some personal and professional info, as well as what’s happening next in my author life. Cheers and wishing you and your loved ones a safe and wonderful new year! Happy reading…

 Tell us a bit about yourself, your hobbies, or your background.

Only a bit? LOL! Actually, I really think my Twitter account bio nails it: Author of THE LAST
TIMEKEEPERS and MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS YA series. Lover of single malt scotch, anything arcane, and ancient mysteries.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve always loved watching shows or reading about the unexplained, supernatural, ancient mysteries, and legends throughout my life. Topics like Atlantis, the Druids, Robin Hood, Voodoo, monsters, and psychic abilities intrigue me. I’m a deep thinker, as well as an analytical thinker (in fact I’m an over-thinker) which prods me on to do the research needed to get those golden ‘fact’ nuggets I can use to make my books entertaining and educational for the reader.

Of course, the single malt scotch needs no explanation after a hard day of writing. Cheers!

What's your writing process like?

Cut a vein and write. Kidding. My writing process is always the same for every book. First, I start with the characters and build the story around them. The characters—my characters—must carry the story to completion, and give readers closure. It’s a must. In order to do this, I begin writing out character tracking sheets (stats on character appearances, clothing, likes and dislikes, etc.) which have served me well throughout the writing process. Then the fun begins. Research, research, and more research. I love this part of the process too. Only when I have enough facts, and I feel my characters are fleshed out sufficiently, then I begin to plot the novel. That’s another thing—I’m an intuitive plotter and love to outline the entire storyline. I also make sure I leave enough room for my Muse to pop in and direct me to where my imagination wishes to go.

Hindsight has taught me that I’m a little anal when it comes to managing my writing life, and love to be prepared and organized when getting to the guts of a story. Guess that’s how I’m built!

Tell us about your books and why you write in the genre that you do, or for the age market you've chosen.

A psychic once told me I’d always be a little girl at heart, so I figured why not write for her? I believe the young adult genre chose me, and not the other way around. The first book I penned was a supernatural romance thriller with shapeshifters, witches, and African folklore in the mix. When I received a critique from a dear friend who said my ‘voice’ was definitely more for the young adult crowd, I almost fell off the chair in shock. The more I thought about it, the more I knew in my heart that her constructive critique was bang-on.

Presently, I have two young adult book series on the go: The Last Timekeepers time travel adventures, and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls teen psychic mysteries. Both series contain a healthy dose of humor, mystery, and the unexpected; served with a dash of inspiration, entertainment, and education on the side.

What do you have going on right now in your writing life? Anything new we should be looking out for?

Well, the third installment (fourth if you count the prequel) of The Last Timekeepers series entitled, The Last Timekeepers and the Noble Slave came out on September 17th, 2021 which I was so excited about! It’s been a long time coming, as this book was put on the backburner so I could release books one and two of Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. Once I caught up with those launches, it was back to the writing grindstone to complete the next time travel adventure which is set in antebellum Georgia during 1855. My poor characters are in for the rides of their lives with this Timekeeper mission!

Currently, I’m working on the next book in Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, Sticks and Stones, where the main character’s latent psychokinetic ability is unleased in the most unexpected ways. So, keep an eye out for this book in the near future!   

Here’s a glimpse of the premises of both my young adult series:

Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls Teen Psychic Mysteries…

Imagine a teenager possessing a psychic ability and struggling to cope with this freakish power. There’s no hope for a normal life, and no one who understands. Now, imagine being uprooted and forced to live in a small tourist town where nothing much ever happens. It’s bores-ville from the get-go.

Welcome to Fairy Falls. Expect the unexpected.

The Last Timekeepers Time Travel Adventures…

Chosen by an Atlantean Magus to be Timekeepers—legendary time travelers sworn to keep history safe from the evil Belial—five classmates are sent into the past to restore balance, and bring order back into the world, one mission at a time.

Children are the keys to our future. And now, children are the only hope for our past.