What color stone for a special ring? #amwriting #reading #PNR #CommonElementsRomanceProject #fiction #books #paranormal #wicca #jewelry #magick #magic #witchcraft #research

Last week I talked about which finger to wear a special ring on for members of the Order of Witchery Lore in Charmed Against All Odds (Book 5 of Secrets of Roseville. As before, I poked around at Wicca Spirituality and relied upon the information they shared about The Magick of Wiccan Jewelry.

So the next question I had was what should the ring look like? Should it be a simple oval or facet cut of some kind? Something rather innocuous which didn’t call attention to itself? Or no. It should clearly establish their membership in a special community. Quickly identify their belonging. So I went with the shape which was obvious to me. An owl. A great horned owl, to be specific. Just like the one used by the Golden Owl Books and Brews bookstore sign and logo. You can see it displayed on the cover of each of the books in the Secrets of Roseville series in the upper left-hand corner. (Note: The full meaning of the symbolism of the owl with the crossed sticks is explained in Book 2, Haunted Melody.)

But what color stone? Diamond? Ruby? Onyx? Thanks to Wicca Spirituality I was able to find exactly the right color whose meaning underscores the mission of the Order.

Some colors I could dismiss without a lot of thought because of the ambiance I hoped to create. So pink, orange, and yellow were swept aside. I wanted something darker, stronger, with an underlying support to the overall theme of my story. Nothing happens in fiction without a purpose, right? So I looked more closely at red, green, blue, indigo, purple, and black. To my mind, these colors are more powerful and significant. Keeping in mind the purpose of OWL as archiving the vast knowledge of witchcraft, I examined the qualities each color emphasizes.

According to Wicca Spirituality they have the following qualities.

  • Red: Excitement, passion, vigor, strength.
  • Green: Stability, vitality, prosperity, generosity.
  • Blue: Tranquility, sincerity, patience.
  • Indigo: Wisdom, insight, spirituality.
  • Purple: Self-esteem, spirituality, transformation, nobility, enlightenment.
  • Black: Mysterious, containing potentials, restful or fearful.

Now, I’m a huge fan of red and blue, but neither of those colors seemed to bolster the idea behind the OWL archives, that of storing knowledge for the use and betterment of others. Green doesn’t either, sadly. Purple was a close second with its spirituality and enlightenment. Black didn’t make the cut though because the archives shouldn’t be mysterious, restful or fearful.

Indigo, though, suits the bill quite nicely. It’s the ultimate winner since it combines wisdom with insight, something very useful for archivists and blends it with spirituality. There’s also something about the name of this color that is intriguing. So indigo fits the intent of the Order and makes a ring which will stand out.

Here’s a snippet from Charmed Against All Odds where Roxie first spots an OWL member following her:

She searched their surroundings with a quick skim of her gaze, until she noticed a figure standing on the porch of the visitor center. In the exact spot they’d recently stood. No other car but Leo’s occupied the parking lot. She squinted at the shadowy being. Nothing odd about jeans and tee shirt, low-heeled boots, floppy hat, and wooden hiking staff in hand. She’d guess it was a man but why was he keeping to the darkness of the porch? Something mystical pervaded her mind the longer she stared at him. Then he pressed his right hand to the center of his chest and she saw the glint of gold. She summoned her telescopic ability and zoomed in more closely on his right hand as he lifted it to press to the center of his chest. He wore only a gold pinky ring, luminous despite the shadows of the deep porch. She squinted to bring the center stone into clear focus. An indigo owl. She’d seen the symbol before. Not associated with the park, she was certain. Where then? The shadowy figure pointed toward the path beside her with a soft gleam of a smile. The niggling concern in her mind bloomed into shock.

Next week, remind me to talk about why I chose gold for the metal of the ring. It was a debate, let me tell you!

Speaking of reminders… Remember that Charmed Against All Odds is part of the Common Elements Romance Project, a group of books being released between October 2019 and January 2020. All the authors have agreed to include the same 5 elements in each romance, encompassing all subgenres of romance, too! The 5 elements are: a tall stack of books; a man named Max; a haunted or reported to be haunted house; a lightning storm; and a lost set of keys.

The Common Elements Romance Project will kick off with a week-long Facebook launch party this week, all week long! I will be giving away a special charm bracelet during my genre day—Thursday, 9/26—that has the first two charms Roxie and Leo find. The adjustable gold bracelet has the open book and Friends charms, so whoever wins it will always have a “book friends” charm bracelet from me. Good luck!

This “Book Friends” charm bracelet will be given away as part of the Common Elements Romance Project Facebook Launch Party on 9/26/2019!

And as a bonus gift, for everyone who pre-orders Charmed Against All Odds, I’ll give a free ebook copy of Book 1, Undying Love! Simply share a picture or screenshot of your order and I’ll send you a link where you can download your gift as a thank you for ordering Roxie and Leo’s story! (If you’ve already read Undying Love, let me know and we’ll work out a different story as a thank you gift!)

I’m so excited to have two releases coming soon! October 1 The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn will kick off my new supernatural historical fiction series Fury Falls Inn. Then Charmed Against All Odds will release on Veterans Day, November 11, 2019. I’ll have book signings in both October and November, so check out my Appearances page on my website for details. At my November signing, I will have paperback copies of Charmed Against All Odds before you can buy them in the store, too! I hope to see you at one of my signings to support the independent book stores as a thank you for hosting my book birthday celebrations!

Thanks for reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Charmed Against All Odds releases November 11 and is available for pre-order now!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Wedding bells are ringing, but not for Roxie Golden. If she can survive another round of wedding plans, then her life can return to normal. She’s perfectly happy running the bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then one stormy day, her ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift neither of them wants.

Leo King wants to flee the small town for the big city. Forget about the shame he brought upon himself when he abused his magical powers. First, to satisfy his warlock father’s final wish, he must deliver the mysterious box to Roxie’s bookstore.

But when Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, their plans and their lives are changed forever. Trapped in a reluctant partnership with the woman he once loved, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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Why do we say “one lump, or two?” Sugar cones and nippers #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #research

If you’ve been following my blog over the last couple of years, then you know I love to cook. I also love to try new recipes and even spent several months in 2017 revamping colonial recipes to modern ingredients and cooking methods. One thing I’ve learned is that techniques as well as the packaging of ingredients has changed over time. Today’s topic, sugar cones, is one case in point.

You’ve heard the expression, “Would you like one lump or two?” when someone is serving tea. Nowadays, we most likely picture a cube of sugar, with neat flat sides. Have you ever wondered why those precisely formed little cubes would be called “lumps”? I mean, when I hear the word lump, that’s not the image that comes to my mind. Turns out, there’s a reason for that.

I came across the Old & Interesting site where Lel Gretton talks about “how people equipped their homes in previous centuries, and how they handled household tasks.” Turns out that granulated sugar wasn’t invented until the Victorian era. Prior to that, sugar was shipped in large cone-shaped loaves. Gretton talks more about the history and preparation of sugar on his site, if you’re interested in learning a little more.

What I was mostly interested in was how people would have broken down the solid cone into a usable portion. Customers could buy an entire loaf or a piece of one, but then they had to break it up to actually use the sweet stuff. To do so, they would need to break the sugar into chunks with chisel and hammer. Then they could use the nippers to break it into lumps the right size for their cuppa. Nippers could be handheld or on a stand, too.

Here’s a brief excerpt from The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn where Cassie is tasked by the cook, Sheridan, with the job of preparing the sugar:

“What do you need me to do?” She tied on an apron and hurried to the work table.

“Good morning to you, too.” Sheridan shook his head at her but maintained the wide grin.

Abashed, she shrugged once. “Good morning. Now, what can I do?”

With a chuckle, Sheridan pointed to lumps from a broken up cone of refined sugar in a metal bowl. A stack of small white porcelain bowls and a small steel sugar nipper waited beside it. “You can finish nipping the sugar into those bowls to set out on the tables.”

Mindless task but necessary. A task reserved for the mistress of the property because of needing to guard the expensive luxury of cone sugar. So where was her ma? Perhaps Cassie qualified as an adequate substitute having nearly reached eighteen years of age. Pleased by the thought whether right or wrong, she lifted the scissor-like tool and started nipping the large chunks broken off the large cone by a mallet into smaller lumps as asked. She worked silently, dying to ask about Flint but afraid of Sheridan’s answer. Feared her ma had poisoned the information well against her. Her ma likely warned Sheridan to discourage Cassie’s interest in Flint. She’d probably told everyone on the property. Which made Cassie reluctant to ask but anxious to know. After half filling a bowl—no need to tempt people to use more than necessary of the luxury—she set it aside and pulled the next one closer. Glanced at her friend and mentor and decided to take the chance.

“Sheridan, have you seen Flint this morning?” She kept her eyes on the sugar nippers instead of peering at the cook.

“He’s been in. Why?” He cracked an egg on the edge of the bowl and dropped the contents into the bowl.

“I thought I heard him come down earlier but didn’t see him.” She flashed a glance at Sheridan and then back to her task. “Just curious what he’s doing today.”

“Now, listen here.” Sheridan pressed his palms onto the wooden table to lean toward her as she lifted her gaze to meet his. “I told you before your father doesn’t want you getting involved with Flint Hamilton. Told him that, too.”

So there you have it. The reason why we call the cubes lumps. And a little bit more about how different and difficult life used to be.

The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn is available for pre-order and will release on October 1. You can read a longer excerpt at www.bettybolte.com. I’ll be at Second Read Books in Decatur, AL, 11:00-2:00 CDT on October 5 to sign my new release, too. Come out and see me if you’re in the area. I’d love to meet you!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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Making a Bread Bowl #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #research

It’s often easy to assume something we eat today has either always been available or is a new innovation when in fact the opposite is true. That’s what I learned about today’s topic: bread bowls.

Apparently, bowls have been made out of bread for a long time. I thought they were something invented during my life time but discovered in this article about plating food they’ve been around since the Middle Ages. Good news for my cook in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn who uses them to serve his renowned chicken chowder to the inn’s guests.

But how do you make a bread bowl? The article above cited that they used scooped out dried bread to make a trencher or bowl. What about in modern times? Of course, the recipe and technique needed to be something that could have been done in the 1820s, the time period of my story. So I looked for simple ingredients and steps and found what I was looking for at BreadWorld.com. I don’t detail the ingredients in my story, by the way, because those details didn’t enhance the story. But I did use the techniques.

In my story, Cassie Fairhope makes the bread bowls for Sheridan as you can see in this short excerpt:


The sticky mass of bread dough shuddered with each pounding. Cassie lifted an edge and folded it over, mashing her hands into the springy substance again and again. Kneading dough helped relieve her self-deprecation and grief. Something had to help release the tension coiled inside her gut.

“Don’t try to kill the bread dough.” Hannah chuckled from her side of the large work table where she shredded a roasted chicken into bite-size pieces. “It can’t fight back.”

“Ha, ha.” Cassie folded the dough and punched it down. Then divided it into pieces to shape into several small round loaves. Leave it to Hannah to poke the sore spot in her heart.

Cassie glanced over to the Marple sisters, their plain hickory brown dresses and white aprons displaying the amount of effort they put into their work, busily scrubbing potatoes and carrots. She appreciated the hard-working older sisters who lived down the road and showed up every morning at dawn to help ready the fruits and vegetables for the day’s menu. A large black kettle hung over the fire, steam rising in a steady column up the chimney. The chicken chowder had become a favorite for the midday repast. Sheridan would arrive before long to combine the ingredients with his signature touch of herbs and spices.

Hannah pinned her with a slight frown pulling on her brows. “I was joking. I’m sorry if you thought otherwise.”

Cassie patted a piece of dough into a slightly flattened ball and then pulled on the top to make a knob which would serve as a handle for the lid of the bread bowl. Pressing her lips together to prevent saying something she’d regret, she placed the loaf on the wooden paddle in preparation to slide the dough into the heated brick oven. Even with the windows open, the heat from both the cook fire and the hot bread oven had everyone glistening with perspiration.

Snagging another lump of dough, she shot a quelling glance at Hannah. “It’s been a difficult day.”


Once the bread is baked to a crusty goodness and cooled, then she’d use a sharp knife to cut off the top third of each loaf and hollow the bottom out. Then the chowder would be put inside and the top replaced to keep the contents hot until it’s served.

I haven’t tried this myself, but I am tempted to. Perhaps this fall when the temps cool around here from the 90s… I used to bake bread for my family rather than buying it but lately my time is better spent researching, writing, and reading.

Have you baked bread? Are you tempted like me to try making bread bowls?

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

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Learning to Shoot a Flintlock Pistol #amwriting #histfic #historical #fiction #history #research

After an attack at the Fury Falls Inn in my story, Flint Hamilton decides he needs to defend the property. He asks the deputy sheriff for his help in learning how to shoot a flintlock pistol accurately. In order for me to be able to portray what he learns, I had to do a bit of research. Thank goodness for online sources I could access to understand the process!

By the way, it is a happy coincidence that I chose to name my character Flint and then he wants to use a flintlock pistol. He’s named Flint because he has a solid sense of responsibility and conscience. So like the rock he’s named for, Flint is a hard man to fool and is dedicated to protecting those under his care.

Back to figuring out how to shoot a flintlock pistol. I went to the science website, How Stuff Works, where Marshall Brain details the parts and the process of shooting this type of gun. Loading and firing the pistol is rather complicated to detail but I imagine once you’ve learned how, doing so would flow rather easily.

According to Marshall Brain, the flintlock consists of four main parts: a hammer, mainspring, frizzen, and pan. The hammer is powered by the mainspring. The hammer’s purpose is to hold a piece of flint and make it move quickly to create a spark off of a piece of steel, the frizzen. The pan holds a little bit of gunpowder awaiting the spark to detonate it. These four parts work together to fire the lead ball (bullet).

There are seven steps Brain lists for loading and firing the pistol. Since I’m writing from Flint’s point of view, I needed to key on the steps as he would. But without boring my readers. Here’s how it unfolds in The Haunting of Fury Falls Inn:


“Careful with that thing.” Parker waved a hand toward the flintlock pistol in Flint’s hand. “You said you’re not so good with it.”

Flint pointed the muzzle away from the deputy with a smirk. “That’s why you’re here. So teach me how to handle it and shoot straight.”

“First you need to load it properly.” The deputy held out his hand until Flint handed him the weapon. “Do you know how?”

He seemed to recall it took some special steps, and if you fouled them up then the contraption could explode in your hand. His father had tried to teach him how to handle a pistol years ago. After several near catastrophic missteps, he’d decided Flint would be safer using a rifle or even a musket. They weren’t quite as tricky as the smaller weapon, at least for Flint. But now Flint wanted something smaller he could carry with him instead of the larger, bulkier guns. Still, he approached the weapon with extreme caution.

“It’s been a while. Remind me.” Flint folded his arms while Parker talked him through the process. He forced himself to pay attention as the deputy explained and demonstrated each step, making the entire process look easy. Flint knew better.

Half-cock the hammer to pour in some gunpowder down the barrel. Wrap a lead ball with a bit of cloth and ram it down the barrel on top of the gunpowder. Add some gunpowder to the pan and snap the frizzen on as a cover. Fully cock the hammer and then squeeze the trigger to fire the gun. For each shot of the pistol, he had to do every step. With any luck, he wouldn’t need to do it at all. But he must be prepared.

“Your turn.” Parker handed him the gun. “Let’s see what you’ve got. Shoot the bull’s eye. Or try, anyway.”

With a grunt, Flint clumsily loaded the pistol. He raised the gun to point at the target, then steadied his shaking hand by briefly supporting it with his other one. Dropping the second hand, he aimed at the center red circle and jerked on the trigger. The blast of sound rang in the confines of the cavern, slowly echoing into silence. The odor of gunpowder lingered longer. Parker strode to the paper target and examined it. He spun around to smirk at Flint.


While Flint isn’t perfect on his first shot—he missed the target—he improves rapidly. I’ve fired a modern pistol but not any from the 1800s, so I appreciate the information Marshall Brain shared. I learned enough about how the pistol mechanism functions to be able to weave it into my story to help put the characters in context with the time in which they live. As I’ve said before, I am writing historical stories not to teach a history lesson but to entertain. Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

Innkeeper’s daughter Cassie Fairhope longs for only one thing: to escape her mother’s tyranny. But in northern Alabama in 1821 marriage is her only escape. Even so, she has a plan: Seduce the young man acting as innkeeper while her father is away and marry him. He’s handsome and available. Even though he has no feelings for her, it is still a better option than enduring her mother.

But Flint Hamilton has his own plans and they don’t include marriage, even to the pretty temptress. Securing his reputation in the hostelry business and earning his father’s respect are far more important. He did not count on having to deal with horse thieves and rogues in addition to his guests.

When tragedy strikes, Cassie and Flint must do whatever it takes to rid the inn of its newly arrived specter—who has no intention of leaving…

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Kobo     Apple     Books2Read

Fun Friday with Tara Golden from The Touchstone of Raven Hollow #Thanksgiving #holiday #paranormal #romance #fiction

For Fun Friday today, I’m sharing Tara Golden’s favorite things to do to relax and have fun. She’s one of three sisters who run the Golden Owl Books and Brews store in Roseville, Tennessee.

As a result, it’s pretty obvious she must love books and reading them. Her favorite place to read is in the conversation corner in the backyard of their ancestral home. Cozied up with an afghan on chilly days, or enjoying the shade on warm ones, she spends some quiet time alone with a good story.

She also likes to dress up for costume parties, especially for Halloween. Mainly, she wears a sexy witch outfit, which honestly is more reality than costume for her. She hides her special talent, healing through touch, by being a healer and midwife by avocation. When she healed Grant Markel in Haunted Melody little did she know it would open up a whole new problem for her in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow! She couldn’t sit by and watch her future brother-in-law lose his eyesight, though. So she surreptitiously worked her magic on him without him being aware. But now he’s come back to Roseville looking for answers during the week of Thanksgiving.

Here’s an excerpt of when they see each other again when he comes back into town:

Edna’s Grocery bustled with customers in the late afternoon, the parking lot a steady stream of cars and pickup trucks coming and going. Tara strolled along the sidewalk, pulling a small wagon rattling over the seams and cracks as she made her way to pick up the ingredients for dinner. Since most of what she needed was perishable, she didn’t buy them until the day she would use them to have them at their freshest. Mulling the possibilities, she left the red wagon by the soda machines and grabbed a grocery cart. She had two hours until everyone would converge upon her, expecting a delicious dinner. She had an abundance of time, and yet she hurried inside as though chased by demons. Cooking demons.

Gripping the plastic handle of the metal cart, she strode to the produce section. Tomatoes, lettuce, avocado. She quickly snatched up the fresh vegetables and added them to the basket. What else? Ah yes. She turned the cart and headed to the international foods aisle, scanning the shelves for what she needed.

“Tara?” Grant’s voice sounded behind her. “Is that you?”

Stopping, she looked over her shoulder and then angled her body to watch him approach. Goodness. How had she forgotten how ruggedly handsome he was? His lithe, easy gait carried him to her side in moments. She swallowed, aware of a tingling in her entire body as his gaze skimmed her head to toe and back to meet her nervous regard. What was he doing in the grocery? She was not ready to face him. Not prepared to experience the rush of awareness that overwhelmed her when he stood so close.

A wave of memory swept through her mind. Beginning with the instant she’d met him and sensed the potential for a deep connection with him. Then Paulette’s revelation of his illness and why he’d ventured to the small town. She couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering, so had chosen to heal him without his knowledge. Or anyone else’s. Only, Paulette had guessed and confronted her after Grant had departed for his big city life. She’d hoped he’d stay away and not question the change in his health. What if he had found out what she’d done?

“Grant.” She swallowed again, her voice weak and breathy. Calm. Breathe. She could be an adult and talk with another one. Even if he was the most alluring man on earth. “What brings you to town? I thought you didn’t enjoy the quaintness of Roseville.”

“Small towns have never interested me because too many people know too much about everybody else’s business.” He raised both brows as a smile hinted he recognized just how unsettled she was around him. “I’m only here to do a little sleuthing. Do you mind?”

Mind? Absolutely. “Of course not. How long will you stay?” Really, Tara? How inane and rude can you be? She must restore her composure, her equilibrium, or she’d mortify herself before the man. “I mean, how long will you be able to stay?”

“I’ll leave after Thanksgiving. Head to the city and civilization.” He glanced at the package of taco shells in her hands. “Is that for dinner tonight?”

Placing the box in the cart, she reached for a second one and added it to the growing pile. “Taco dinner is one of the few meals I can usually fix without incident.”

Grant chuckled and rested his hands on the metal frame of the cart. “Sounds like you don’t much enjoy cooking.”

“We take turns, so I only have to do it a couple times a week.” She shrugged and pushed the basket into motion, forcing Grant to straighten and walk beside her. Dawdling would limit the time she had to chop and dice and, worse, prolong the amount of time she’d be alone with him. “Simple fare is my specialty.”

She paused to select bottles of mild and medium taco sauce and placed them into the basket. Pushing on, she slowed her pace when she saw a sudden roadblock ahead in the form of a mini family reunion. Annoyance shot through her. She needed to finish her shopping and retreat to her home, away from this man until her sisters could provide a buffer of sorts. His presence shook her to the core with awareness and longing. Beth had already as much as claimed him. As such, Tara wouldn’t interfere with her older sister’s choice. But that meant Tara must defend herself from his nearness.

“What kind of meat will you cook tonight?” He shot a sideways look her direction and then focused on the aisle ahead of them where the boisterous family had blocked their way.

She paused, waiting for the small group of animated people to notice her and Grant, and then with a word of thanks, she continued. Turning into the condiments aisle, she picked up the pace, skimming the bottles and cans of olives and pickles until spotting what she searched for. She selected a small can of sliced black olives and a can of sliced jalapenos. “Do you have a preference?”

Grant shook his head, watching her drop the cans into the cart. “What do you usually fix?”

She spun the cart around to head up the aisle toward the meat counter. Grant fell in beside her, much like a married couple. Whoa. Get a grip. She might be in a market but not in the market for a husband. And definitely not Grant. So stand down, libido, because the man beside her, no matter how lovely to look at and how smart, was not for her.

“Lean ground beef or chicken, most often. Sometimes I use steamed shrimp, but only when I’m feeling fancy.”

“You know how to steam shrimp?” Grant tilted his head as he glanced at her. “That’s impressive.”

Her cheeks warmed at the unwarranted compliment, and a flush of pleasure swept through her. She wished. “No, I buy them already cooked.”

“Keeps it simple, like you said, and yet still healthier than red meats.” He smiled at her, taking control of the cart. “You lead, and I’ll follow.”

Tara and Grant go on a memorable hike and stumble upon the mystical Raven Hollow where they discover each other as well as the true meaning of the holiday. I hope you enjoy The Touchstone of Raven Hollow! And for those of you in America, Happy Thanksgiving!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

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Fun Friday with Sophie Dubois from The Pirate’s Bride by Cathy Skendrovich #sailing #pirates #historical #fiction #romance

Today I’m kicking off a new series I call Fun Fridays, where guest authors will share the cool and fun adventures of their characters with you. Starting the series, is Cathy Skendrovich with some sailing fun from her book, The Pirate’s Bride. Take the helm, Cathy!

“I want to become a pirate. My father was a pirate captain under your leadership. I want to replace him. There is nothing left for me at home, thanks to my father’s death, my husband’s desertion, and my lack of children. I repeat, I want my own ship.”

So states one of my favorite heroines I ever created, Captain Sophie Dubois, from my historical romantic adventure, The Pirate’s Bride. Sophie has always wanted to sail ships more than marry “advantageously.” In my book, she gets that chance, through a “series of unfortunate events,” to quote a famous kids’ author. She also becomes a female pirate.

2014-08-08 08.47.40                I love the ocean. I love looking at it, walking along the shore, and yes, sailing on it. In a very large vessel, mind you. You see, I’m also afraid of the water. But large boats, or ships? They’re okay.

I took my love of the ocean and gave it to Sophie. The wind streaming through her hair, the bright sunlight dancing on the waves, even the thrill from the gentle bobbing of her ship beneath her; all that came directly from me. Sailing over the waves, looking back at where I’ve been and forward to where I want to go, there’s nothing better. Add no seasickness, and you can see why my husband nicknamed me “Captain Jack,” for a certain pirate we all are familiar with.

One vacation, we took the ferry out of Seattle (the faster one, without cars) to go to Victoria, B. C. My husband downed some Dramamine and lolled about in his seat for most of the trip, while I gambled and took nothing. I’d never had motion sickness before, I reasoned.

I didn’t need any drug. Once we hit the open water, lots of people began visiting the restroom. Not me. I went out on deck and embraced the speed, the salt spray, the breeze. I walked the ship, enjoying every moment of the three-and-a-half hours it took across the ocean to get to our destination.

Sophie compares sailing a ship to freedom, and I think she’s right. Isn’t that why we like to drive our own cars, after all? But streets have rules, while the ocean, especially back in the days of pirates, had no rules except to stay afloat.

Sophie’s in charge of her own destiny when she sails a ship, and that was unheard of in the 1700s for a woman. She doesn’t want to rely on a man, and for good reason, which you’ll have to read the book to find out. Sailing gives her that escape and empowerment that I think we all crave, and she embraces it.

I tried like heck to bring out this love affair I have with the ocean in the book. I researched and researched, as well as relied upon my own experience. Pirating was only one facet of Sophie’s story. Becoming a strong, free woman who could protect herself and make her own decisions was so much more important to me. And it all started with a love for the sea.

Here is an excerpt from The Pirate’s Bride, the scene when Sophie’s pirate father-in-law finally gives her the helm of her ship. Read her reaction. I hope it makes you want to read more. Enjoy!

Finally, the reward was nigh on hand, and she would be sailing the ship out into the open ocean at last.

 

The next day it really was everything she’d dreamed of, and more. With the wind blowing her hair free from its plait and drying the tears straight out of her eyes, standing at the helm was heaven on earth. Louis Dubois actually steered the ship, but she was close enough to feel the freedom, the power of being in command.

 

The old pirate appeared to enjoy the sail as much as she did. He pointed out places of interest along the rapidly disappearing coastline, jabbering away at her. Soon only sun-drenched, sparkling swells surrounded them.

 

 “Take her.”

 

Her gaze snapped to his. “Now? Really?”

 

At his nod, she gingerly placed her hands on the smooth spokes of the helm, felt the ship shudder and sway as if alive and sensing her trepidation. She snatched her hands back and stared at Dubois. “It…it feels alive.”

 

He hooted. “Of course it does, girl. Isn’t the ocean a living thing? Now, get your hands on it and keep us at a southerly direction. Tell the crew what you want done, sail straight ahead until the sun hits the horizon, then drop anchor. Philippe and I will be below, wishing not to be disturbed during our card game. Unless, of course, we come under attack.”

 

He paused in his departure, looking over his shoulder at Sophie. “Oh, and Captain Dubois?” Was he talking to her? He must be. He continued, “Figure out on my charts where we are when you drop anchor, and come tell me. Now, ‘Ta.” He strolled away.

PB CoverFollowing a disastrous Coming Out season, Sophie Bellard vows never to become intimate with any man, preferring to sail the seas like her father before her. But an arranged marriage to a dangerous pirate changes her course forever.

Captain Andre Dubois enjoys pillaging, plundering, and seducing women. Settling down and producing an heir to continue his lineage in the Confederation of Pirates has never been important to him. Only when his inheritance is threatened does he reluctantly take a wife, a dark-haired beauty hiding a disheartening secret.

After a ruinous wedding night, Andre and Sophie spurn the attraction that ignites between them and go their separate ways, seeking the lifestyles they each gave up, and making enemies along the way. But, in a twist of pirate fate, their paths cross again, and they rediscover that spark, only to have it threatened by someone from Andre’s past. Can they fight off a murderous adversary, and rekindle an attraction too strong to be extinguished by time? Or, has it, and luck, run out for these two pirates?

Literary Wanderlust

Amazon

2018 headshotCathy Skendrovich has always loved a good story, and spent her formative years scribbling what is now called Fan Fiction. The current heartthrob of the time featured heavily in all her stories. Unfortunately, once she went to college, her writing took the form of term papers, written on typewriters instead of computer keyboards.

Upon graduation, Cathy took a job as an English teacher in a middle school. Along the way, she married her husband of now thirty-three years, had two sons, and moved to southern Orange County, California. She chose to work part-time in the school system there.

Now she has returned to writing. Prisoner of Love is her first published novel, followed closely by The Pirate’s Bride. The sequel to The Pirate’s Bride, The Pirate Bride’s Holiday Masquerade, came out Oct. 1, 2017. Undercover with the Nanny, came out on April 23, 2018.

She likes writing romance because she feels it’s lacking in today’s technological world. While she enjoys writing contemporary stories, creating romance in bygone times fascinates her. She hopes her ability to write in both genres will be the beginning of a long and satisfying writing career.

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Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Divan from #contemporary #romance #author Meg Benjamin #dinner #recipe #fiction #books

Gather round for a Tasty Tuesday sure to tempt your senses! Meg Benjamin serves up a brewery based romance, Love on Tap, along with a delicious recipe for Chicken Divan. Sure looks easy to make and you can read while it bakes. Okay, Meg, the stage—or blog—is yours!


I love writing about food because I love to cook. Most of my books have a scene in which the hero or heroine does some cooking, and I’ve done several books (Fearless Love, Hungry Heart, Love in the Morning) in which either the hero or the heroine is a chef—sometimes both! My Brewing Love trilogy for Entangled Publishing (Love On Tap, Saison For Love, Wild Love coming in June), however, centers on brewing beer rather than cooking. At the heart of the trilogy is a struggling craft brewery—Antero Brewing. But as a Colorado resident (the state has over 300 craft breweries), I can guarantee that beer goes well with food, and cooking is definitely part of the Antero, Colorado, scene.

In the first book in the trilogy, Love On Tap, the hero, Wyatt Montgomery, needs to convince the heroine, Bec Dempsey, that he’s a good cook. It’s all part of Wyatt’s plan to purchase Bec’s last barrel of imperial stout for his Denver gastropub. To convince her of his cooking chops, Wyatt promises to cook her a great dinner based only on the ingredients she currently has in her refrigerator. To make things even more interesting, Bec herself is only a rudimentary cook and she’s living in a makeshift apartment above the brewery.

Bec hadn’t been kidding about the inadequacy of her kitchen. Wyatt managed not to grimace as he checked out the equipment. He had indeed worked with worse—he hadn’t been lying. On the other hand, he hadn’t done a great job with worse, and he sure as hell hadn’t been happy doing it. Still, right now he needed to impress her with his skills, and he couldn’t do that by whining.

 

He opened the smallish refrigerator, checking the meat drawer and the hydrator. Chicken breasts, lettuce, a few stalks of broccoli.

 

“Where do you keep the rest of the food?” He gave her an encouraging smile. Not a criticism, so help me.

 

She gestured toward the wall cabinets. “First one on the right is sort of the pantry. I’ve got dishes and pans in the others.”

 

He nodded, pulling open the pantry door. Sandwich bread, peanut butter, a half-empty jar of blackberry jam. And—oh, thank you, kitchen gods—a bag of noodles. “Okay, one chicken divan coming up.”

Wyatt manages to find all the ingredients he needs in Bec’s kitchen except for sherry—Bec’s a brewmaster, not a wine drinker. But necessity being the mother of invention, he improvises, using a bottle of wheat beer she happens to have on hand. He cooks dinner on Bec’s two-burner hotplate, then watches her reaction as she takes her first bite. If she doesn’t like his cooking, he won’t get her imperial stout, and if he doesn’t get that stout, his gastropub may go under. Which is to say, there’s a lot riding on that first bite:

He carried the plates to the table, sliding into the chair opposite her. “Okay, I’ve never made this with beer before, so I can’t absolutely guarantee it. But it should be edible.”

 

She gave him a quick smile. “It smells a lot better than that.”

 

Actually, it was a lot better than that. The beer didn’t have the nutty flavor of the sherry, but it gave the chicken a slightly toasted taste and worked with the cheese sauce. Not bad. Not bad at all.

 

“This is terrific,” Bec murmured after a couple of bites. “I’m sorry I ever doubted you. You definitely know what you’re doing. You can make dinner for me anytime.”

Wyatt does cook for Bec again, and they have a few more bumps, some of them major, before they seal the deal. But it’s the chicken divan that gets things going. Here’s a modified version, made with sherry since I’m assuming, unlike Wyatt, you’ve got access to a few more ingredients.

CHICKEN DIVAN

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli, chopped

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T butter

3 T flour

3⁄4 c chicken broth

1⁄2 c milk

1⁄3 c sherry

1 c shredded cheese (cheddar or Swiss)

Salt and pepper

Nutmeg

Noodles or rice for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

 

Steam broccoli for 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain in colander.

 

In a medium frying pan, sauté chicken breasts in olive oil until lightly browned. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

 

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then gradually whisk in chicken broth, sherry, and milk until incorporated. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add dash of nutmeg. Add 3/4 of the cheese and whisk until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

In a 9×13 dish arrange chicken breasts (either whole or sliced) and broccoli. Pour sauce over top and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil with slits to allow steam to escape.

 

Bake for 30-45 minutes, taking off the aluminum foil for the last 10.

 

Serve over egg noodles or rice

MegBenjaminMeg Benjamin is an award-winning author of contemporary romance. Her newest series, Brewing Love, is set in the Colorado craft brewing scene. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box trilogy is set in her new home, the Colorado Rockies (both are available from Entangled Publishing). Along with contemporary romance, Meg also writes paranormal romance, including the Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix and the Folk series to be published by Soul Mate Publishing in 2018. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers. Meg’s Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/megbenjamin/), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.

LoveOnTapFinal CoverWyatt Montgomery knows a barrel of legendary Zoria imperial stout will help his Denver gastropub stay on top. The only problem is the brewery that made it is no longer in business. When Wyatt hears the brewmaster has only one barrel left, he won’t stop until it’s his. He doesn’t consider what this mythical barrel might cost him. And he certainly doesn’t anticipate his reaction to the heart-stoppingly beautiful brewmaster he needs to convince to sell him the beer.

When Wyatt rushes into Bec Dempsey’s small-town cooperative offering to buy the last barrel of her precious Zoria, she’s thrown for a loop. She’s been burned by city-slickers before, and she’ll be damned if she’ll let it happen again. But when things start heating up between them, Bec decides to make Wyatt a counteroffer. One she hopes he won’t refuse.

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Thanks so much, Meg! That sounds like my kind of recipe, and the story sounds tempting, too! I’ve used wine in cooking, and even some gin or beer, but never sherry. Hmm. I guess I’ve been missing out on using the warmth and robust flavor of the sherry in my recipes. I will have to try it!

That wraps up this round of Tasty Tuesday posts, but please enjoy the new series of Don’t Say That! posts on Mondays about words I had to avoid in my A More Perfect Union historical romance series and other historical stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries. I’ll be looking at how language has changed along with the technological advances and the words that would be anachronistic (futuristic, in a sense) for my characters if I used them. It’s intended to be a fun and light-hearted exploration into the evolution of words and language. Enjoy!

Betty

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