A Writer’s Garden–What COVID Did for My Garden by Caroline Warfield

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Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing. Today’s writer/gardener guest is Caroline Warfield who is sharing the good things that COVID did for her garden. Welcome, Caroline!

Gardens are one thing; gardening is another. I generally say I love the first, but I’m not fond of the second, nor particularly skilled. Covid turned that on its head.  We could no longer plan visits to the public gardens we’ve known and loved—from Longwood near Philadelphia to Versailles and the Vatican Gardens. Worse, we had no way  to visit ones still on our bucket list, such as Kew. All we could do is stare at our own piece of earth. Perhaps that was a blessing.

The plantings across the front had to go first. At the very beginning of the pandemic, we hired a crew (masked and outside) to remove ugly yew bushes and plant flower beds. We thoroughly enjoyed the sequence of blooms all spring and summer. Four little plants, short and unassuming in the very back puzzled me. I didn’t recognize them and worried they were unrecognized weeds. They weren’t. Imagine my  delight this spring when they shot up  into glorious bloom—Foxgloves.

We spent weeks staring at sprawling patch of grass out back. We removed the dead and dying pines that lined the back lane, and planted four trees.

Charging into the second spring, we raised the vegetable patch three inches and  filled it with mushroom compost.

Then  we plunged into a tougher project, a flower border along our back patio. Removing sod  to create a new bed exhausted us, particularly when we realized the spot was heavily  clay. We learned about the uses of gypsum and hard work, but we did it. We used the rest of the compost, and lined the patio with  bee balm and other hummingbird-friendly flowering plants. I’m rather proud of it!

By then restrictions were lifting and a visit from a friend gave me an excuse to visit Longwood Gardens again. Next year it will be back to visits to great public gardens, but our own ground will be much the better for our year of Covid.

Book Two of The Ashmead Heirs has a pivotal scene in a rose garden… but that is a story for another time.

About  the Writer/Gardener:

Award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Connect with Caroline on her Website and Blog   Facebook    Twitter   YouTube                                            

The Ahsmead Heirs

About the Series

When the old Earl of Clarion leaves a will with bequests for all his children, legitimate and not, listing each and their mothers by name, he complicates the lives of many in the village of Ashmead. One of them grew believing he was the innkeeper’s son. He is the first of The Ashmead Heirs.

Book One: The Wayward Son

Sir Robert Benson’s life is in London. He fled Ashmead the day he discovered the man he thought was his father had lied to him, and the girl he loved was beyond his reach. Only a nameless plea from his sister—his half-sister—brings him back. He will not allow a ludicrous bequest from the earl who sired him turn him into a mockery of landed gentry. When a feisty little termagant with flashing eyes—and a musket—tries to turn Rob off the land—his land—he’s too amused and intrigued to turn away. But the longer he stays, the tighter the bonds that tie him to Ashmead become, strengthened by the powerful draw of the woman rooted on land he’s determined to sell.

Lucy Whitaker’s life is Willowbrook, its land, its tenants, its prosperity—and her precious  apiary—but she always knew it wasn’t hers, knew the missing heir would come eventually. When a powerful man with military bearing rides up looking as if he wants to come in and count the silver, she turns him away, but her heart sinks. She can’t deny Rob Benson his property; she can only try to make him love the place as she does, for her peoples’ sake. A traitorous corner of her heart wishes Rob would love it for her sake.

His life is London; hers is Ashmead. How can they forge something lasting when they are torn in two directions?

Available on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase

Wednesday Writers–Finding The Key Factor By Carole Brown

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When beginning the story of THE GOLDEN TOUCH, Book Five of the Appleton, WV Romantic Mysteries, I needed a KEY factor. (Not to be confused with a spiritual or romantic element of the story). 

Here’s what I knew:

  • the protagonists: Jazzi (Jazmine) Sanderson and Ryle Sadler, their careers and/or past, their personalities, their faith element
  • the basic plot: mystery and romance
  • the setting
  • the first chapter

But I still didn’t have that thing—that emotion—the characters were searching for…until I, unknowingly hit upon it. What Jazzi and Ryle were both seeking, although unknown to either, was a place that felt like HOME. The place that makes a person feel content, relaxed and at peace, even when trouble is brewing, even when you’re still searching for that one person who makes the world go ’round for you.

Where was it? Appleton, West Virginia. The small town where everyone knew everyone and their business, or at least assumed they knew. Where friends were friends for life, even when that small town held secrets, trouble and problems.

Ryle, who was rich, innovative and smart, living in a big town and traveling across the country for work was happy, or thought he was. But when he chanced upon Appleton, West Virginia, small, friendly, clean and sometimes a nosy place, but where friends were loyal and ready to help in any way they could, Ryle realized he’d found that spot that felt like home. Adding that to solving the mystery and finding love, was the answer his heart had craved, even though he didn’t know it.

As for Jazzi, wild, beautiful young lady that she was, felt unloved by her adopted parents, and flew the coop from Appleton as soon as she was of age. What she didn’t realize, that instead of blaming others for her unhappiness, it was of her own making. It wasn’t until she returned to Appleton, more mature now, accepting of her own mistakes, and finding a meaning for her life, that her heart grasped the one place that could ever feel like home. Appleton.

Once that revelation that they’d found the place their hearts had sought for, although through different methods, it was then their hearts could open to accept the love facing them. And it was only then that both were able to relax enough to allow God to lead them in the right path. 

The Golden Touch, Book Five of the Appleton, WV Romantic Mysteries

By Carole Brown

Not again.

Ryle Sadler stared down at the financial statement lying on his desk. His investment firm had just sent him another record of overwhelming success. Time to sell his share in this stock.

Ryle came from the poor side of the tracks, but that had no bearing on his success in life—which he kept hidden from everyone, especially those in Appleton, West Virginia. But when he buys the local, rundown bed and breakfast, mysterious revelations from beneath the site are suddenly threatening to ruin his good standing with the citizens.

Then along comes Jazzi Sanderson. Jazzi has a reputation of being wild, but Ryle sees more than is on the top layer of this woman. Beneath that tough, wild streak lurks a woman who wants to be loved by the right person, a woman who is tender-hearted and who is just finding out that God is real.

Is Ryle and Jazzi’s worlds too far apart or can their differences help them solve the mystery that lies beneath Ryle’s bed and breakfast? Will the evil person behind it all be able to silence them, or can Ryle’s golden touch prevail in this endevor too?

The Golden Touch

Chapter One

Ryle Sadler stared at the unkempt bed and breakfast in front of him. The urge to buy this place was stronger than ever, and he couldn’t understand it. He’d never bought or invested in anything on an urge. He’d prayed about this crazy urge for sure. Many times. No answer came back from God. Only this confusing push to buy it. Now.

He hadn’t amassed his wealth by going on urges. No sirree. Coming from the poor side of town had taught him plenty, and two of those things were listening and learning. Those had gotten him where he was now.

The Golden Touch. That’s what the investors in the world called it, and that’s what he had. Or so they said. It scared him, truth be told, that everything he touched turned to gold. Didn’t matter whether it was stocks or an act of generosity in helping a struggling business person. Everytime—so far—had been successful.

But this, this business that Maisie, the owner, cared little about, was neither of those things. If he bought it, would it change his touch? Would it be the knife to cut the string of wins he’d experienced so far? Would it be his first failure? After all, what did he know about bed and breakfasts?

Nothing.

A young woman exited the place, her purple hair a distraction from her beautiful features. Toby and Amy Sanderson, Jazzi Sanderson’s sister and brother-in-law, had confided that she’d taken a room there to be on her own—in spite of the inn’s rundown condition. She didn’t know her own beauty or worth.

He’d had little to do with women. Too little time, and, frankly, no one so far, who’d garnered his attention long enough.

But this woman. Ryle’s heart gave an unusual ping forcing a frown on his face.

She saw him then, and gave a shy, little wave—a complete contradiction to her reputation—the smile on her face as bright as the sunshine from the heavens.

And then he heard the voice.

Invite Jazmine Ashley Sanderson to help you at the bed and breakfast.

No. That was crazy. What was wrong with him? He’d never done such a thing. Invested in businesses by using his money, yes, to do what he felt was his calling. But asking a woman he barely knew to help him get this place up and running? Would she laugh at him? Would the whole town of Appleton consider him the biggest fool ever to cross their path? Her sister, Amy, had been upset with her when Jazmine had refused the offer of staying with her. Why had she insisted on renting a room here, of all places?

She did have a reputation. And not such a good one.

What if she accepted, thinking it was a lark, an easy way to get some money, with no improvement in her personality? Or worse, be irresponsible? Could he trust her to have the same vision as he?

No, it wasn’t his responsibility what she did. But then, he didn’t think helping someone continue on the broken path they were on was beneficial either. Still, his calling was to help. What they did afterwards was their responsibility.

So, what’s it to be? Will you obey my direction on this?

The dark cloud suddenly covering the sun seemed to be frowning at him.

“I always have.” Ryle couldn’t even hear his own whisper as he mouthed the words.

And as suddenly, as it had been covered seconds ago, the sun popped from behind the cloud, sending its golden beams straight down to shine on the bed and breakfast.

Ryle gave up the struggle. It might be interesting—and a learning process for him—if this adventure was a failure. Time would tell.

The groan that escaped his lips assured him he wasn’t looking forward to it.

Want to read more? You can find The Golden Touch on Amazon

About the Author:

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. An author of ten books, she loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with Carole on her   Personal blog: Facebook: Amazon Author PageTwitter

Tasty Tuesdays–Mother’s Macaroni and Cheese from Gail Pallotta

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Of all of my recipes, people most often ask for my mother’s mac and cheese.

Mother’s Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

Elbow macaroni noodles

cheese

milk

eggs

salt and pepper to taste

margarine or butter (optional)

Directions:

Greased casserole dish. (I use olive oil)

The amount of noodles determines the number of servings. To serve four, prepare enough noodles for four.

Drain noodles. Fill a one-cup measuring cup with the cooked noodles and pour them one at a time into the greased casserole dish.

Measure exactly as many cups of grated cheese as there are noodles. (For example four cups of noodles and four cups of cheese) Cheeses can be all one kind or mixed—2 cups of cheddar, 1 cup of Monteray jack, 1 cup of Colby. Use what you like. If there are extra noodles, save them for another dish. The amount of cheese must equal the amount of noodles.

Beat an egg. Stir into noodles and cheese. (Egg Beaters can be used)

Pour milk into the casserole dish until it’s almost even with the mixture of cheese, noodles and eggs.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Completely cover the top of the macaroni and cheese with more grated cheese. Dot with margarine or butter if desired.

Bake on 350 degrees about forty-five minutes or until the entire casserole is firm.

There are over two dozen recipes in the back of Cooking up a Mystery, a culinary, cozy mystery with romance. However, these tasty dishes come from Heavenly Delights, a book compiled and edited by Pam Nichols Griffin, staff writer for “The Destin Log” in Destin, Florida, as a fundraiser for Mission Love Seeds. This charity based in Florida, was created to help children throughout the world. It also responds locally after disasters to demonstrate God’s love. Learn more here.  

Cooking up a Mystery

By Gail Pallotta

Laney Eskridge worked to put her husband through dental school. Then he left with another woman. She’s on edge from the emotional scars and her parents’ deaths. Then she hears unexplained noises in her new tea house, and her anxiety is tripled. Add a budding romance with Eric—a guy with a fear of commitment—and it’s all too much to handle. She cuts ties with Eric and plunges into making her business pay off.

When Eric discovers that Laney’s in danger, he vows to protect her. But can he make a lasting promise? Will she trust him? . . .and when they overhear a threat that could cause national turmoil, will anyone believe them? There’s more brewing than herbal tea in Cooking up a Mystery.

Buy Cooking up a Mystery on  Amazon   Barnes and Noble  Books a Million   Kobo  

About the Author:

 Gail Pallotta is a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A 2013 Grace Awards finalist, she’s a Reader’s Favorite 2017 Book Award winner and a TopShelf 2020 Book Awards Finalist. She’s published six books, poems, short stories and several hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. She loves to connect with readers.

Sign up for her newsletter. Visit her website and Facebook page.

Musings from a Writer’s Brain–How to Find Your Perfect Mate by Emma Lane

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from Emma Lane

The way I see it, it’s all about nature, selection of the fittest et al. Mother Nature is a clever old gal. She will coat her choice for you in pink clouds and rosy dreams of romance. Matter of fact, I’m convinced she invented romance. It’s the unidentifiable essence that attracts one gender to the other seemingly without reason or plan.

I mentioned her cleverness, right? What she wants is a balance, which, perhaps, is all about the continuation of the species. I can find no other explanation why I wound up with a mate the exact opposite of me. Couples are, by definition, two halves which make a whole. I have allowed for the attraction of natural curiosity, which is present in all humans, and perhaps all living things. I stare with blank shock at a man who will eat oatmeal every morning for 12 months of the year. And be content for that meal to continue indefinitely. Even if I ate the most delicious sausage link for six mornings, and loved it, the seventh day I would vomit. I have an innate need for variety. He is grounded in consistency. It plays out over most of our personal choices the same way. Our tastes are opposite.

I could attribute these differences to the male/female preferences, but must pay attention when, in the last coffee klatch, one lady swears she loves oatmeal for breakfast, but her husband needs variety. (He might be the one with the wobbly marriage, but you didn’t hear it from me.) No, I keep coming to the same conclusion.

On the whole, Mother Nature wants solidly conceived children, also a balanced family unit. So, she takes a person of a certain persuasion and a person with the opposite preferences and MATES them. For posterity. The glue that keeps these people in a constant tug of war is the very thing we call ‘romance.’ Sometimes we call it, ‘he’s driving me crazy.’ But it produces lovely well-balanced children, and fairly comfortable living conditions on a daily basis. He kills spiders and I deal with his mother. Mother Nature smiles benevolently down on couples grinding against one another (that’s not dirty, I swear) smoothing and rounding the obstinate edges, while romance acts as a sweet buffer.

The proof of my theory is when you see a couple in their waning days holding hands and deferring to their spouse’s tastes. He’s learned to eat oatmeal only three times a week and she joins him now and then. They smile at each other with fond memories of epic battles fought and won, mostly remembering only how sweet it was making up.

The End (Flipping the pages of my pamphlet on how to introduce variety . . .)

Here is a brief intro to the cozy mystery series Emma writes as Janis Lane.

MURDER in the JUNKYARD sees the demise of a man no one likes, a romance, and plans for a wedding as Detective Fowler and his friends keep their small-town America free from danger.

Detective Kevin Fowler is furious that low life has targeted his town where people live in blissful safety. Brenda Bryant is out junkn’ for good things when she stumbles over the grotesque body of a man beloved by no one. Suspense heats up when large sums of money are found in two different places. Drug money is suspected and Brenda targeted by someone who wants the money returned. Detective Fowler faces surprise after surprise as he peels back the surface of Hubbard, New York and deals with its shocking underbelly. Meanwhile romance infiltrates the group of friends with a wedding in the making.


AMAZON BUY LINK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Lane is a gifted author who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Lane, Regency as Emma Lane, and spice as Sunny Lane.

She lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous in color. At long last she enjoys the perfect bow window for her desk where she is treated to a year-round panoramic view of nature. Her computer opens up a fourth fascinating window to the world. Her patient husband is always available to help with a plot twist and encourage Emma to never quit. Her day job is working with flowers at Herbtique and Plant Nursery, the nursery she and her son own.

Look for information about writing and plants on Emma’s 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. Be sure to check out the things that make Emma smile on Pinterest.

A Writer’s Garden—A Garden In The Treetops by Carole Ann Moleti

Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing. Today’s writer/gardener guest is Carole Ann Moleti, with a most unusual garden view.

Welcome, Carole!

Normally, when I think of a garden, I think of our frog pond, flowers and vegetables. But For the last year and a half, I’ve become accustomed to the view from my second story bedroom window. It’s the only room large and private enough for me to take my Zoom Yoga and Ballet classes.

Whether it’s setting up a makeshift barre or spreading out my mat, the hour and fifteen minutes doing something physical, as well as seeing familiar faces, has been a comforting ritual. This was particularly important because as a nurse practitioner, my workdays have been long, unpredictable, stressful, and emotional for the last year and half.

My house is surrounded by very large oak and maple trees that are homes to many squirrels. This year, I discovered they had bored a nest hole in the trunk that had been hidden from view from below. I never realized how many birds sit on those branches, and wonder if the cardinals, robins, blue jays, and sparrows have been out in force because all of us were not, or if they have always been there and I never noticed.

squirrel’s nest tree and birds’ perch

My spot for balance or demi pointe poses have been the line of trees down the block. Last fall, they displayed a beautiful riot of colors much better appreciated from the second story than ground level. My favorites are the reds and oranges, and they were very vivid last year. In winter, the branches swayed in the winds threatened my “spot” as I struggled to stay upright. But they looked so beautiful covered in snow that I didn’t want to tear my gaze away. This spring the best “spot” was the flowering trees covered with white and pink blossoms that never failed to raise my spirits.

treetop view from my spot

I noticed that leaf buds appear earlier that I’d thought: late March here in New York City. And that maples go through several different cycles with brown buds that give way to two stages of green ones. Pin oaks shed their leaves in spring before they bud out. 

I must admit I like the convenience of not having to drive to Manhattan (and park) to attend ballet class. And nothing beats jumping out of bed and taking yoga in my pajamas. The small talk in our own bedrooms and living rooms created a sense of camaraderie between instructors and attendees alike, and were also a welcome opportunity for commiseration and encouragement.

Classes are now hybrid, but I’m sticking with online. This fall, I, like millions of other students, will go back to in person classes. I’ll get back into the raucous rhythm of New York City as the seasons change once again.

I’ve spent most of the last year editing and submitting manuscripts and have focused on writing short non fiction, to help release the tension and to try and make sense of pandemic chaos. But this summer I’m prepare to ease back into fiction, and you can be sure the pandemic experience will inform my work in progress: a contemporary Western Romance set in Northern California.

But as life normalizes, I don’t want to loose this newfound skill of slowing down to notice the details not normally at eye level, as well as to savor the things my busy eyes and mind never had no time to focus on. Like these bees who chose the Lace Cap Hydrangeas over the traditional ones for their appointed rounds.

Slowing down has helped me appreciate the small details that are essential for writers, and I hope this experience will enhance my ability to find pearls to enhance my prose as well.

What has the pandemic been like for you and your writing process? And how has your adjustment to ‘normalization’ been going?

About the Writer/Gardener:

Carole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse practitioner in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women’s issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.

Carole’s Cape Cod paranormal Unfinished Business Series novels have been published by Soulmate. He short stories have been featured in several of the Ten Tales fantasy anthologies, and her darker fiction has appeared in the Hell’s Kitties, Hell’s Heart and Hell’s Mall anthologies.

She won the Oasis Journal 2009 Prize for best nonfiction, and two timely pieces of her memoir have been published in the acclaimed Shifts and Impact anthologies.

Connect with Carole through her Website: Newsletter: Facebook: Amazon Author Page

Unfinished Business Series

The Widow’s Walk (Book One of the Unfinished Business series)

By Carole Ann Moleti

Mike and Liz Keeny are newlyweds, new parents, and the proprietors of the Barrett Inn, an 1875 Victorian on Cape Cod, which just happens to be haunted— by their own ghosts from past lives. The Barrett Inn had become an annex of Purgatory, putting Liz and their infant son in danger. Selling the historic seaside bed and breakfast was the only answer, one that Liz and her own tortured specter refused to consider. Were Mike and Liz doomed to follow the same path that led to disaster in their previous lives? Was getting out, getting away, enough?

Wednesday Writers–An Elf’s Lament Upon Leaving by Carol Browne

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Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today’s guest author Carol Browne, from England, will be sharing a review of her newest release, An Elf’s Lament Upon Leaving, a collection of short stories and poems. Carol also has an excerpt from one of the book’s short stories. Welcome, Carol!

High praise for Carol Browne’s latest book that is a beautiful anthology of poems and short stories.

No one says it better than an Amazon reviewer who describes the book as “atmospheric”:

“The poetry is steeped in a love of nature, magic and mythology. The short stories hold interesting twists. No spoilers! The Boomerang Effect (dabbling with a love spell, Martin Nevis finds himself having second thoughts) A Force to Be Reckoned With (an outcast with thoughts of being “destined for something great” wants to join the police force) and Transformation (once bullied, Patricia attends a school reunion and emerges victorious) were my favorites.

Give this anthology collection of short stories a read, you won’t be disappointed.”

BLURB

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

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

Here’s an excerpt from the short story The Boomerang Effect.

Martin found just the spell he needed. It was in a very old book, wedged among countless other volumes at the rear of the occult bookshop.
He pulled the book from its hiding-place. Eight Ways to Magic, proclaimed the title. The book cracked in protest, as Martin pried it open. His eyes flicked hungrily down the list of contents and widened as they reached Chapter Six – “Love Spells”.
Martin glanced warily around the shop, as though fearful of discovery, but, apart from an elderly lady squinting at a book on flower magic, he was quite alone. And the proprietor, a raw-boned man whose fuzz of grey hair ringed the summit of his skull like a helm-cloud, was engrossed in a book catalogue at the counter, his long nose like a spike of bone wearing spectacles.
Martin’s fingers fumbled their way through age-thickened pages until they reached Chapter Six. And there it was, spell number eight: How to attract the lover of your choice.
He closed the book, hugged it to his chest and made for the counter, his heart quickening with excitement.
Now, Debbie Starsmore, he thought, you shall be mine.
Leaving the shop moments later, his purchase thrust into his holdall like a guilty secret, he made for home.
Home was a grubby ground-floor flat in the cheaper part of town. Martin had lived there alone for 25 years since leaving school in the summer of ‘63 with an ‘O’ Level in Art and the complete indifference of his teachers. His parents hadn’t minded his leaving home. His mother, in fact, had been quite cheerful at the prospect of doing less laundry, while his father had wondered how many lodgers they could legally cram into Martin’s old room.
So Martin set off on his lonely journey through life.
By day, he vacantly occupied the position of sales assistant at B. Fleet Footwear, and for 25 years grew a paunch, while his hair receded vaguely towards the crown of his head. These signs of maturity never seemed to earn him the right to promotion, but Martin was content with his lot.
Little did B. Fleet know how much it suited the ageing assistant to be lowly and anonymous because, by night, Martin was a wizard.

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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

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

Tasty Tuesdays–Quick Oven Quesadillas

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The other day I wanted a quick easy meal, so I peeked into the pantry to see what I had on hand. I found cans of chicken, green chiles, corn, black beans and cream of chicken soup, and some tortillas, so I set out to create something. Here’s what I came up with. We liked it, and I hope you will too.

Quick Oven Quesadilla

Ingredients: 

  • 2 12.5-oz canned chicken, drained and broken up
  • 1 4-oz can diced green chilies
  • 1 2.5-oz can sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-11-oz can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1/2 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/4 or less cup water (start with a smaller amount. You only need enough water to allow the condensed soup to mix with the other ingredients )
  • 1 cup finely shredded Mexican style cheese.
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning, or to taste if you like it spicier.
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 high-fiber large tortillas (or corn tortillas) or  enough to fit a straight sided cake pan, or 2 high-fiber street tacos to make individual servings in a smaller pan

Directions:

  • In a skillet over medium high heat brown the tortillas on both sides.
  • While tortillas are browning, mix chicken, corn, beans, chilies, olives, soup, cheddar cheese and water. Heat the mix in a large saucepan stirring until well mixed and beginning to bubble.
  • Lightly spray the bottom of a cake pan or baking sheet. Lay one tortilla in the pan, top with about 3/4 cup mix (for a large tortilla, less for smaller tortillas) onto top of browned tortilla, spreading mix almost to the edge. Top with 1/4 cup of finely shredded Mexican cheese.  Repeat with other tortilla and 3/4 cup mix. (You will have mix left over for another day’s use, or you can double the tortillas and make a bigger meal the first time)
  • Bake in 350 degree oven about 10-15 minutes or until cheese on top has melted and you can see filling bubbling. (I’ve also baked this for a shorter time at a higher temp when was in a hurry.) Turn off oven and switch to the high broil setting on the oven and broil until cheese on top begins to brown.
  • Remove from oven. Cut and serve with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, onions, guacamole, salsa or other Mexican side toppings.

If you want to make several stacks at a time lay the base tortillas on a baking sheet and assemble as many as your ingredients allow. Number will depend on the size of your tortillas.

If you only make one stack, or 2 smaller individual servings, the first time you can use the remainder of the filling for a second quesadilla meal or as filling for enchiladas. It will make about 4-6 enchiladas depending on the size of your tortilla. Warm your ingredients before assembling the stacks or enchiladas to cut down on heating time in oven. Make a cheese sauce, or other Mexican sauce to cover the enchiladas and top with shredded cheese. Heat in a 350 degree oven until cheese has melted and is beginning to brown. 

While your dinner is cooking, check out Catherine’s multi-award-winning Inspirational Romantic Suspense The Nun and the Narc. Partially set in Mexico, the heroine, Sister Margaret Mary, an adventurous novice, dines on some unusual marketplace snacks.

The Nun and the Narc

by Catherine Castle

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.

Buy Links Amazon and Barnes and Noble

About the Author:

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.

 

Musings from a Writer’s Brain –The Danger of “Inspiration” by Christina Sinsi

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First, let me thank Catherine for hosting me on her blog. I appreciate this opportunity! Second, also allow me to say that I still myself as a new author even though I have published three books. I feel like there is so much I have yet to learn!

At the same time, I feel called to discuss the danger of “inspiration.” As a Christian author, I understand that we should be careful when taking bible verses out of context. For example, on my drive to visit a friend today, I heard the lyrics of a contemporary Christian song include Philippians 4:13 NSV “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” I hope the writers of the song realize that, in context, Paul wrote about being content in all circumstances. He was in prison! He certainly couldn’t do just anything he dared to dream—break the chains (even though that did happen at one point) or just walk out of prison (even though that happened at another time) unless God so wills. We need to remember that we can do all things that glorify God and not just any old thing.

So, now, I get to the topic of writing and inspiration.  In many interviews, I am asked where do I get my inspiration? My go-to answer is everywhere—the newspaper, dreams, other people’s lives and stories, things that happened to me, and nudges from previous stories I’ve written. I have been listening to songs on the radio and the lyrics trigger an idea. Other authors have told me of ideas coming out of nowhere while they are driving, watching television shows, reading other books, you name it. There have been times when I have an issue I need to deal with in my life and a story arises to let me get the hurt out of my system.

I have stacks of folders with ideas just sitting on the shelf. Those folders may contain my notes, magazine or newspaper clippings, and other snippets that are the seeds of a book.

If you’re having writer’s block, I hope and pray that I may have just given you an idea as to where to get an idea.

My point is the next step, however. If you have all those ideas just lying around, how do you choose which one to turn into a short story or book, which one to allow to consume your life for maybe months?

First, you pray. Sorry I didn’t mention that earlier, but of course prayer can and should happen at any and every stage of your calling.

Second, which story is haunting you? Which one comes back to bug you when you’re taking a walk around your neighborhood, when you soak in the tub, or as you’re trying to go to sleep at night? By the way, bed, bath, and bus are famous in psychology as places to stir those creative juices.

Third, which one can you hold up to the light and see how the story might glorify God? This is where I may be different than others in my advice.  Just because a story haunts you, just because it seems like something that could sell, just because you feel the need to write this particular story, doesn’t mean you should. This is the truth I want to leave you with, if I may. Be careful that inspiration doesn’t dictate your writing choices.

In so many areas of our lives, we are tempted. Our temptation sticks around and can be very strong. So, don’t think a particular story idea can’t take the form of temptation.

In conclusion, I think inspiration of any kind can be dangerous if we don’t hold it up to the light and see if it shines.

About the Author:

 A member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, Christina Sinisi writes stories about families, both the broken and blessed. Her works include a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest and the American Title IV Contest in which she appeared in the top ten in the Romantic Times magazine. Her published books include The Christmas Confusion and Sweet Summer, the first two books in the Summer Creek Series, as well as the Christmas On Ocracoke and the upcoming Why They Call it Falling. By day, She is a psychology professor and lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband, two grown children and Hemingway cat, Chessie.

Connect with Christina on her Website/Blog:   Please sign up here for my newsletter! Facebook:  Instagram: @csinisi123 Goodreads:  

Sweet Summer

By Christina Sinsi

 

Shelby Marano is the youngest of three sisters and was always Daddy’s baby girl–until her father was murdered. Ever since, she’s been running from anyone or anything that could truly hurt her. Instead, she seeks calculated thrills that leave her exhilarated, but when she’s caught outside during a summer storm, she quickly realizes not all adventures are within her control.

Tyler Burgess offers her both refuge from the rain and a safe place to land.

Time spent with Tyler proves him to be much more than just a nerd in a history museum, but what she finds out about him is a deal breaker for her. As Shelby’s perfect little world is threatened by family health issues and an unknown stalker, she learns the hard lesson that no one can hide from the dangers of life. Can Shelby let her sisters, Tyler, and even more importantly, God, show her in one Sweet Summer, that love is worth taking the risk?

BUY LINKS: Find Sweet Summer on Amazon and Anaiah Press

A Writer’s Garden—Garden Joys by Judith Rolfs

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Welcome to A Writer’s Garden where writers who are gardeners or just love gardens will be sharing their garden and flower stories, as well as a bit about their writing. Today’s writer/gardener guest is Judith Rolfs talking about her garden joys. Welcome, Judith!

Thanks for inviting me back to speak about my two joys – gardening and writing.  I love having guests enjoy my yard. We had 25 people for the Fourth of July and six were these precious children all under five posing for a picture in my woodland garden.

I’ve become more mindful over the years what a huge spiritual activity gardening is. My perennials remind me of God’s constant, but invisible presence in my life. In early April I see nothing in my garden but hard earth. Then, it seems a miracle when hostas begin to poke up creating the perimeter of my garden followed soon by lily of the valley. These amazing plants have survived the dark frozen earth and waited patiently to reveal their splendor again. I wait for the bursting of my day lily buds into their beautiful multi-petaled stars. Shockingly, I’ve done nothing to nurture them, they simply faithfully return. What a lesson of God’s faithfulness this is.

The challenge for me is always in the waiting period until the season for growth begins.

My problem with book writing patience is similar. I often want to rush things. When I finish the first draft of a book I decide I’m done before the essential second and third draft, and a professional editing. I’ve had to learn to wait and go through the process. Literally ten drafts of my latest children’s book Mystery of the Silver Shells were needed! Book Three in the series adventures of Tommy Smurlee & Grella Weller I wrote for kids eight and up trying to make sense of the world. Figuring out who they are, what they like, what they can do, what’s right and good, what’s not. It’s a fun mystery mixed with fantasy – kids create amazing inventions. As a marriage and family counselor I hope my books help parents transmit good values. I also want children to experience the joy of creativity and develop their imaginations. I love it when my young readers tell me they want to try to write their own book after they read a Tommy Smurlee book.

I get my inspiration for both gardening and writing by walking the path around Lake Geneva daily and observing the fantastic gardens. I found this cute bear on my walk the other day. I ponder that gardeners are privileged to participate with God in bringing beauty to the world! And we Christian writers also have the joy of communicating His beautiful truth to make the world a better place.

About the Writer/Gardener:

On Judith’s YouTube channel you can find Marriage and Parenting tips plus Judith reading short stories to children from her modern fairy tales book Unforgettable Stories for Kids.

Her Amazon Author page reveals what an eclectic author she is: five star mystery novels, marriage and family how-to books and her Tommy Smurlee/Grella Weller children’s books.

Mystery of the Silver Shells

 By Judith Rolfs

It’s the popular Adventures of Tommy Smurlee fantasy series! Fun, intrigue, and danger await Tommy, Grella, and friends at the amazing Dunster’s Camp of Mystery and Inventions. Campers compete to create inventions and solve the Mystery of the Silver Shells. A battle of good versus evil rages. Unique imaginative activities fill each day with wonder! Struggles must be overcome and lessons learned, as friendships deepen at Dunster’s.

The characters are unique and lovable. Bug-loving Grella Weller with a gentle heart and a mind like Einstein; Tommy Smurlee, fascinated with numbers and geography, craves physical and mental challenges; huge Piney, with his dogged, strength are major characters. Minors include Blake driven to be first in everything and Quid, his fun-loving, intense stepbrother who can’t sit still. Toodle, small for his age, but mighty in mind, alternately cowers, then surges with bravery. Orson Gartini, filled with self-absorption is attracted to evil. The Sunmaker is the supernatural force of good and Dagta, force of evil.

Available at Amazon

Wednesday Writers–The Legend of Kiwaft: Silvyn’s Tale by Sara Nicole

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Welcome to Wednesday Writers! Today’s guest author is Sara Nicole who has a cheeky interview between the characters from her Speculative Fiction/Fantasy The Legend of Kiwaft: Silvyn’s Tale. Welcome, Nicole!

            Dear friends, please allow me to introduce you to Silvyn, a carefree, fun-loving, slightly narcissistic merman of the wondrous undersea city known as Coralae within the realm of Kiwaft. Joining him will be the land-dwelling beauty with the unique purple eyes, Graiceyl (pronounced gray-sill) of Vailyx of the Kiwaftian highlands. They’re here to talk about Silvyn’s Tale, the first novel in the epic fantasy series The Legend of Kiwaft.

Silvyn: I’m not sure what you mean by “slightly narcissistic.”

Graiceyl: Yeah, I think we can leave off the “slightly.”

Silvyn: That’s not what I meant! That’s not true, either!

Graiceyl: Ha! You know you’re in love with your own tail.

Silvyn: I’ll have you know that a golden tail like mine is not very common among my people, and you have to admit it is spectacular. Not compared to your eyes, of course. They’re like jewels, like amethysts. Your hair is like-

Graiceyl: That’s enough sweet talk. Why don’t you talk about how we met?

Silvyn: I’d rather not.

Graiceyl: I’ll start. Your friends abducted me, and you joined them in bullying me…

Silvyn: Do we have to talk about this?

Graiceyl: …and nearly drowned me…

Silvyn: But then I saved your life!

Graiceyl: You put it in danger in the first place!

Silvyn: I saved you from that shark!

Graiceyl: That’s true. You were very brave.

Silvyn: And strong.

Graiceyl: That was the first time I kissed you.

Silvyn: A memory I cherish. Your lips are more dulcet than all the women’s in Coralae.

Graiceyl: You would know.

Silvyn: I’ve changed!

Graiceyl: I know. Truth be told, you’re a walking miracle.

Silvyn: Wow! Well, thank you. I think you mean a swimming miracle, but I can walk too.

Graiceyl: Living proof that no one is too far lost.

Silvyn: Thanks… I think.

Graiceyl: Kanna, our Creator, transformed you completely. You went from being the man who kissed me without permission and once slapped me-

Silvyn: You slapped me first!

Graiceyl: You deserved it!

Silvyn: I know I did. I didn’t really mean to slap you back. It just sort of happened. My moral compass didn’t exactly point north back then. I’m sorry.

Graiceyl: Point north? You didn’t even have a moral compass back then! But I forgave you already. Like I started to say, you went from that to being the first man I ever trusted.

Silvyn: That means more to me than all the jewels in the Nevaltasha Ocean and beyond. I mean it. I can’t take credit, though. It was all Kanna’s doing.

Graiceyl: Like I said, you’re a living miracle.

Silvyn: Well, Kanna sure used you a lot to make it happen. You wrecked my life, you know!

Graiceyl: Just remember, it was you and your friends who abducted me in the first place.

Silvyn: Oh, but you’re the one who showed up unannounced-

Graiceyl: I think we’re giving too much away.

Silvyn: Fine. I’m just saying, if you’d really wanted to be rid of me, you could have left me alone.

Graiceyl: Then who would have taken me swimming? You can’t blame me for wanting to swim with a merman.

Silvyn: Which brings us back to my magnificent tail. Confess, you think it’s marvelous, too.

Graiceyl: I’ll confess you’re a guppy!

Silvyn: Bully!

Graiceyl: Ha ha! Sorry, friends – little inside joke there. I hope you’ll read our love and adventure story in The Legend of Kiwaft: Silvyn’s Tale! It has a twist ending!

Silvyn: What happened to not giving too much away? Thanks for having us, friends! I hope you’ll enjoy reading about how a purple-eyed highlander turned my life inside-out and upside-down!

Graiceyl: And enjoyed doing it! Take care!

The Legend of Kiwaft: Silvyn’s Tale

by Sara Nicole

EXPLORERS BEWARE:
The land of Kiwaft is more than what it seems. Within the mundane is magic, and among the ordinary are those with secrets, some that may metamorphose an entire world. Judge not the destiny of a person by its beginnings. Believe in change. Remember above all else, the truth is revealed in the eyes.

In the labyrinthine depths of the ocean called Nevaltasha lives a race of formidable humans, the Coralaens. Do not trust the ones whose feet transform to fins and back. A mischievous man among them, he of the golden tail, mighty and wondrous happenings await this unsuspecting recalcitrant, but first a trial by water.

If you, brave venturer, still seek to roam these forbidden realms of myth and peril, take great heed of the prophecies given in centuries past- The time has come for the mountains of Wistaor to be shaken. The awaited Legend of Kiwaft has crossed into the Shrouded Isle. When his odyssey is finished, nothing will ever be the same again.
Are you ready?

Excerpt (from Silvyn’s point of view, interacting with Graiceyl) –

She suddenly jumped into the water, splashing me, and I wiped the water from my face. “Let’s swim!” I liked how her eyes lit up as she suggested it. “I want to look at something beautiful.”

“I already am,” I answered. “Want me to bring you a mirror?”

She laughed and splashed me, and her cheeks blushed. “How many times have you said that to a woman?”

“And meant it?”

She splashed me again, so I ducked under the water and tugged her foot down, dunking her. She came back to the surface spluttering and coughing. “Bully,” she rasped when I reappeared above water.

“Hold your breath, guppy,” I retorted, “or use the berries!”

“It happened too fast!” she protested. When she had regained her breath, she swam behind me and put her hands on my shoulders. “Come on! Show me something beautiful… besides myself!”

I chuckled. “Did you know we’re right above a coral reef?”

“Really?”

I nodded. “Your people call it Caleas Reef.”

My people?”

“Land-dwellers.”

“What do your people call it?”

I shrugged, and one of her hands slid off my shoulder. She pulled herself closer and wrapped her arms around my neck, which I enjoyed. “Leesujun Reef. Sometimes Caleas Reef.” I nodded to where she had been perched. “We call that Reef Rock.”

“Oh.” There was a brief pause, then she asked, “What’s a coral reef?”

I rolled my eyes and dove. Beneath the water, her legs wound about my waist, and I yelped, which startled her. I shifted her legs lower so they weren’t pressing on my battle wounds from the shark, and she said something that sounded like Sorry. I started to respond to her in undersea, but I remembered she couldn’t understand it. I swam a little deeper and westward, and I showed her the wondrous underwater masterpiece called a coral reef. She loved it.

She seemed to especially love the tiny seahorses that called the coral reef home, so after a while I took her away to another place I knew she’d love: a wide field of seagrass that was home to many seahorses. Her cry of surprise and delight when she spotted them made me grin. We watched them for some time, and she laughed when I showed her how to hold one with its tail curled around her finger. I checked several times to make sure she wasn’t drowning, but the berries were achieving their purpose. We swam a long time, and I showed her many parts of the underwater world, at least the shallower parts. I enjoyed sharing its secrets with her. When we at last returned to the surface, I had brought her back to Rubble Coast and the rocks covered with starfish.

She slid off my back, then she hugged me and pressed a kiss to my cheek. “Thank you,” she said breathlessly.

Want to read more? Check out Sara’s website for Silvyn’s Tale that includes additional details about the book and a song she picked as its theme song, or buy the Paperback or EBook on Amazon

About the Author:

A born Kansan with southern roots, Sara did not grow up loving to write. She did, however, love stories. Hearing them, telling them, reading them… Only when she could not find a story that explored the questions she had inside of her did she begin writing them. Beginning as a search into the character of God and what His love is really like, her God took over from the start and used her writing to speak to the deepest questions in her soul. Sara does not think of herself as an author, but rather a scribe, for her books are only born from listening to God, who loves to speak truth through stories and inspires all of her books.

She uses the pen name “Sara Nicole” in honor of her grandmother, Sara Gene, who went to be with the Lord in 2011.

“LORD, You will establish peace for us,

since You have also performed for us all our works.”

– Isaiah 26:12, NASB –

Connect with Sara on her Social media links  Blog  Facebook  BookBub