Wednesday, May 31, 2017

DELICIOUS and VERSATILE - the INCREDIBLE OMELET

Omelets are delicious for breakfast with croissants, jam, sausage and perhaps a mimosa on special occasions. Dress them up with French bread, butter, fruit salad, and iced tea for a refreshing lunch. And nothing is better on a hot summer night than an omelet with sautéed broccoli, sliced tomato, and a cool glass of white wine. Give them a try and then tell me which one is your favorite.

Photo by zole4
A PERFECT OMELET
1½ tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. onion, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of ground thyme
Small handful extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Small handful aged Swiss cheese, shredded
Chives or parsley, optional

Preheat oven to 220°F.

Use an 8-inch, non-stick skillet, to melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Shuffle the pan often so the onion doesn’t burn

Turn the heat to almost medium-high. Whisk together eggs, pepper, and thyme, then pour into the hot pan. Gently swirl the pan to prevent the eggs from sticking. As they set, carefully lift the edges to allow raw egg to flow onto the hot pan.

Sprinkle the cheeses evenly across the eggs. Flip one side of the omelet over the other to make a half-moon. Slide onto a plate and set in the oven while you prepare more omelets.

The finished omelet will be a nice yellow color with the cheese melted. Sometimes they will have browned a bit. Don’t worry; this does not affect the delicate taste. Sprinkle with the chives or parsley and serve.

An added treat is a handful of chopped ham strewn across the egg mixture right before you sprinkle on the cheese.

May you enjoy all the days of your life around a well laden table!

Sloane Taylor
Twitter
Amazon Author Page

Monday, May 29, 2017

Can You Find it in Your Heart?

As your day advances into fun-filled activities with family and friends, please take one moment to remember the men and women who served.


They gave more than any of us can ever imagine.

Thank you,

Sloane

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PAYING RESPECT

by S.S. Hampton, Sr.

How long does it take for the rain to cleanse the sand of blood?

How long does it take for the wind to cleanse the air of the screams of the wounded and dying?

How long does it take before the sunlight heals a war-torn land?


Recently I was privileged to visit the Normandy American Cemetery, Omaha Beach, and Utah Beach, in Normandy, France. I am a student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), but this past spring semester I studied at a university in Pau, France, courtesy of the Universities Study Abroad Consortium (USAC), University of Nevada-Reno (UNR). At the end of the semester many of us were on an optional tour of the Normandy region.


At a peaceful, sunlit Omaha Beach I picked up a handful of damp sand where, 73 years ago this June 6, tens of thousands of young men charged out of landing craft into minefields, artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire. Though many fell on the ramps of the landing craft, disappeared from sight in the cold waters, or collapsed on the beach, others continued to move forward, encouraged by each other, encouraged by their NCOs, and officers. So much courage, so much dedication among those that our country sent into an apocalyptic fight against tyranny and evil, in order to free other nations.

At the American Cemetery, dressed in a suit and tie and cowboy boots, I paid my respects to those who came before me. And I remembered the names of comrades killed in the Iraq War, as well as the names of those I never met but who my fellow Soldiers knew, and those who have died since our return home, including by suicide. I chose a spot where I could see the American flags and, facing in the direction of Omaha Beach, I stood at attention and saluted. I was alone because I did not tell anyone of my intent. In a sense, this solitary action was rather symbolic because the civilian world is often unaware of what happens in the military world.

I had read about D-Day and the Normandy Campaign since I was a young boy. Service in the Army brought a feeling of belonging to something greater than I, along with the sense of obligation that comes with choosing the Profession of Arms.

Now, words on paper have become a personal memory of white crosses in rows in a grassy landscape, the nearby trees rustling in the wind, the sound of ocean waters on a tranquil beach, and my face caressed by a sea breeze. I remember the cold, gritty feel of the sand trickling between my fingers, wind surfers in the distance, and fellow USAC students, all much younger than I, walking along the beach. Due to some personal or familial connection, they did not hesitate to hurry from the Cemetery parking lot down to the cliffs, and then down the slopes to Omaha Beach, even though they only had 30 minutes to make such a lengthy round-trip journey.

I remember one young girl told me, as we walked toward the slopes above Omaha Beach, that she had gathered sand from the beach to take home to lay on her grandfather’s grave. I later saw a photograph of the vial of sand on his gravestone – her grandfather was a Veteran. This girl, this young woman, accomplished her goal for her grandfather.

Rest in peace my brothers and sisters in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice. Know that for each one of you who fell, another stepped forward to take your place. Like you, these new generations who choose the Profession of Arms may be required to make the ultimate sacrifice. Like you, they will do so if needed. And like you, these new generations stand between us and the evil loose in this world.

Rest In Peace…

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren. He is a published author, photographer and photojournalist. Hampton retired from the Nevada Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, the Army Individual Ready Reserve and was mobilized for the Persian Gulf War. He enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. He is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

Hampton has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

He graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. However, he recently returned from spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.

Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press - Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing - Melange Books - MuseItUp Publishing - Goodreads Author Page - Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK

Monday, May 22, 2017

NEW RELEASE for HL CARPENTER

Our ladies are back with flair and a whole lot of pizzazz as they break out and embrace a new writing challenge in a new genre - Cozy Mystery. A Cause for Murder is entertaining and engrossing. I do hope this is just the first book in a long series.


Septuagenarian sleuth Emma Twiggs thinks her neighbor’s death was an accident – until her friend Arnie says he suspects murder.
Arnie is convinced he knows the killer’s identity. He wants Emma to prove it.

Is Arnie right? And is he right in his belief that Emma’s best friend is the killer’s next target?

As Emma navigates madcap mayhem, multiple mysteries, and murderous motives, she discovers more than one person is hiding deadly secrets.

The question is, who has a cause for murder?




EXCERPT
It wasn’t the food. Happy Haven Retirement Community’s chef prepared delicious, artistically plated roast beef and mashed potatoes every Sunday evening.

Emma Twiggs set down her fork. No, the food wasn’t the problem.

It wasn’t the chatter or the whispers in the dining room, or the sidelong glances of other Happy Haven residents. Happy Haven was a hotbed of gossip and rumors. Being the topic du jour was familiar territory.

It certainly wasn’t her dinner companion. Arnie Bracken was always charming, kind, and intelligent, no matter what her best friend Olli thought.

No, food, chatter, and Arnie, combined or singular, were not the cause of her uneasiness.

The problem –

"I know what you’re thinking, Em," Arnie said.

"Do you?" She picked up a glass of lemon-spritzed water and tried to swallow past the tightness in her throat. She could only hope he had no idea of what she was thinking.

"Sure." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "You’re wondering how someone as fit as Jo accidentally drowned in the swimming pool."

Emma froze. Her fingers tightened on the glass. The chatter in the room faded into muted background noise. She had deliberately not been thinking about Jo. She would not think about Jo. How did Arnie know she'd been thinking about Jo?

"I’ll tell you how," he said. "Jo was murdered, and Cahan murdered her."

"I am not thinking about – Murdered?" The lump in her throat expanded to the size of the Brussels sprouts on her plate. "By Todd?"

"Murdered. By Cahan. And we need to prove he did the deed."

"Arnie." Emma set the glass on the table and uncurled her fingers from it. She coughed to clear the non-existent Brussels sprout from her throat. "The paramedics told us Jo’s death was accidental. An accidental drowning."

"Yeah, I know all the euphemisms they used."

Emma did too. The headline in Harmony Notes, the local daily, had read TRAGIC ACCIDENT AT HAPPY HAVEN. Unfortunate was the word murmured most frequently at the funeral service, followed closely by regrettable.

She said, "Harmony’s police department and the district medical examiner agreed with the paramedics."

"They’re wrong."

A trickle of condensation wept down the side of the glass and puddled into a teardrop on the table. All the words used to describe Jo’s death were wrong. Wrong and inadequate. Words were inadequate now too.

Because this was the problem she had been avoiding.

Her role in Jo’s death.

AMAZON BUY LINK

Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter write sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, they enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit their website to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+, and their Amazon Author Page.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WELCOME TO MY KITCHEN

Now that spring is officially here and the holidays are over, I'm in serious cooking for two mode and loving every second. These three recipes are easily increased for a larger group, but you might want to back off on the garlic a bit.

Pork Marsala
Fettuccine Ala Sloane
Stuffed Plum Tomatoes
Crusty Italian or French Bread
Hearty Red Wine


PORK MARSALA
2 pork loin chops
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp. sage
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. butter
4 ozs. baby Porto Bella mushrooms, halved if large
2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup Marsala wine
½ cup heavy cream at room temperature
Parsley

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Place each chop between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. Use a mallet or the side of a meat tenderizer to gently pound them until they are an even ¼ inch thick.

Combine flour, pepper, and sage in a shallow dish or paper bag. Dredge the chops in flour.
Melt half the oil and butter in a 10- to 12-inch skillet set on medium heat. When the foam subsides add mushrooms and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Spoon vegetables into a bowl and set aside.

Use the same skillet and melt remaining oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add pork. Sauté 10-15 minutes, until no pink remains. The time depends on meat thickness. Remove meat to a plate, tent with foil, and set in the oven.

Add Marsala and stock to the same skillet. Bring to a boil while scraping in any bits that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by almost half.

Reduce heat to medium. Slowly stir in cream. Heat through but do not bring to a boil.

Return pork and mushrooms to the pan. Heat through for 2-3 minutes.

Lay pork in the center of a serving dish. Spoon mushrooms and broth over the platter. Sprinkle parsley across the top to decorate and serve immediately.

FETTUCCINI ALA SLOANE
1 stick butter, softened
½ cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, pressed
½ pound fettuccine, fresh if possible
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Use a wooden spoon to cream the butter by beating it vigorously against the side of a medium-sized bowl until it is light and fluffy. I sometimes use the whip on my mix master if I’m short on time. Beat in the cream a little at a time. Don’t add more until the other is well blended. Beat in the cheese and finally the garlic. Cover and set aside. If you won’t need it for several hours, refrigerate but then bring to room temperature before you mix with the pasta.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Be sure you cook to al dente and not longer. Drain the noodles well and then toss with the butter mixture well.

Serve at once. Top with the extra Parmesan and enjoy!

STUFFED PLUM TOMATOES
Plum tomatoes, 1½ per person
6 fresh mozzarella balls, chopped
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. dried basil
1 glove garlic, pressed

This is a good dish to prepare several hours before serving so the flavors blend. All the ingredients are to taste, so have fun and experiment.

Prepare the tomatoes by cutting them in half lengthwise and scooping clean. Turn upside down on a paper towel to drain.

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Scoop the filling into the tomato halves. Arrange them on a serving dish. Chill until ready to serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life around a well laden table!

Sloane Taylor
Twitter
Amazon Author Page

Monday, May 15, 2017

NEW ZEALAND: A MICROCOSM IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN

by Vonnie Hughes

I’m a New Zealander, so even though I’ve spent the last fifteen years in Australia, I still know New Zealand better than I do Australia. So I tend to set my romantic suspense novels in New Zealand.

The land outside the cities is deceptive. Many a traveler has discovered that the meek and mild temperate weather changes in the blink of an eye, and that the gentle looking mountain peak in the distance hides crevasses and unclimbable escarpments. Likewise the placid rivers (“creeks”) can turn into raging rivers after only a day’s torrential rain. It might be one of the safest countries in the world when it comes to dangerous animals (there aren’t any) and be peopled with friendly folk, but like most inhabited places, Man is the main predator.


Hence my first romantic suspense/thriller published by The Wild Rose Press. It’s called Lethal Refuge and has all the elements of quintessential New Zealand as its setting. There’s the impenetrable bushland (a lot of the countryside is clothed in tight-knit trees and bushes so that a person gets lost every easily. It can be deceptive).

Lethal Refuge deals with the apocryphal New Zealand witness protection unit which has been compromised to the extent that noone—not the team psychologist, members of the unit’s committee, even the police team involved—are safe. Most of all, the relocatees, many of whom have testified against criminals, are in the worst danger, because someone knows their secrets and he’s killing to ensure his own safety.

My second romantic suspense is titled Innocent Hostage and is set in a district in which I used to live – the North Shore of Auckland. Innocent Hostage was released by The Wild Rose Press. It is about Breck Marchant, a member of one of the NZ Armed Offenders’ Squads i.e. SWAT teams. The squads are unique because they are made up of ‘ordinary’ police who are seconded in times of need. Innocent Hostage is available in both paperback and e-book form.

Sloane here, I had the pleasure of reading Innocent Hostage. This is a compelling story with the right amount of twists and turns and red herrings that kept me enthralled and guessing to the last page. Here's a little to tease you.

Two years ago, Breck Marchant handed his son, Kit, over to his ex-wife, Tania, even though it tore him apart. She knows all about kids. Thanks to his own upbringing, he hasn’t a clue. But when the boy is held hostage, Breck steps up to the plate. Somehow he’ll make this father thing work and hold down his dangerous job at the same time even though the odds are against him.

Ingrid Rowland is Kit’s preschool teacher and she has known Tania for years. As far as she can tell, neither Tania nor Breck know the first thing about being parents. She fears for Kit’s future. When Breck turns to Ingrid for help with his son, she sees a different side of him. As Breck and Ingrid work to protect Kit and hold on to their careers, they begin to work together to fight off a puzzling series of vicious attacks. Then a startling revelation culminates in a murderous turn nobody sees coming.

EXCERPT
Toeing the inside of each stair tread he climbed the stairs that led to the bedrooms. As he got near the top, he hesitated. More perfume, different from the smell of soap powder hung in the air. Tania’s perfume, strong and poignant. It was called Chloe. He ought to know. He’d bought enough of the stuff.

He stopped. Was she here? Had she been here? That stuff lingered for a long time. Their apartment had stunk of it for weeks after she’d left.

“Tania?” he whispered.

A disturbance in the air was his only warning. He ducked as something whizzed over the top of his head. Then he was shoved aside as a dark figure pushed past him. Breck clutched at the banisters, his feet shooting out from under him on the slippery carpet. Shit! Scrambling to his feet, he bounced down the last couple of stairs and chased the stocky figure careening down the hallway.

His quarry wrenched open the front door. Dusk had settled and it was almost dark outside. He managed to grab his attacker’s coat and began reeling in the interloper like a fish. But the man wriggled out of his plastic raincoat and fled towards a blue pick-up truck waiting at the curb. His balding head gleamed under the streetlights. Someone inside the vehicle leaned over and flung open the passenger door, revving the engine just as Breck aimed a solid punch at the back of the attacker’s neck. Reeling against the car door, the man half-collapsed on to the front seat of the truck, his legs hanging out the door. The driver floored the accelerator and the blue truck jerked out from the curb as if the driver was unfamiliar with the gears.

BUY LINKS
The Wild Rose Press - Amazon

Vonnie Hughes is a multi-published author in both Regency books and contemporary suspense. She loves the intricacies of the social rules of the Regency period and the far-ranging consequences of the Napoleonic Code. And with suspense she has free rein to explore forensic matters and the strong convolutions of the human mind. Like many writers, some days she hates the whole process, but somehow she just cannot let it go.

Vonnie was born in New Zealand, but she and her husband now live happily in Australia. If you visit Hamilton Gardens in New Zealand be sure to stroll through the Japanese Garden. These is a bronze plaque engraved with a haiku describing the peacefulness of that environment. The poem was written by Vonnie.

All of Vonnie’s books are available at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hubby’s Homemade Beef Jerky

by Sharon Ledwith

This recipe is one for the guys. And I’m sure the fellows on The Last Timekeepers team would wholeheartedly agree. After all, Jordan, Drake, Ravi, and Professor Lucas will tell you that they build up quite an appetite traveling into the past to keep time safe. So instead of settling for something like rabbit stew or salty cookies, these brave lads would rather sink their teeth into a strip of melt-in-your-mouth beef jerky. Plus, this healthy, high-protein snack won’t spoil when you’re traveling to faraway places—like Nottingham in 1214 or Amsterdam in 1942.

Easy to prepare with a prep time of 15 minutes, marinade time of approximately 3 hours, and cook time of 3 hours, you’ll discover making your own beef jerky is not only fun and relatively quick, but also something you can do with your favorite person! You can have your butcher slice the beef for you, or do-it-yourself. BTW—this makes a great Game Day snack or fabulous Father’s Day gift.

Hubby’s Homemade Beef Jerky
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp. smoked paprika, or to taste (we use regular paprika)
1 tbsp. honey, or more to taste
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
2 pounds of beef, top round, thinly sliced

Whisk all ingredients, except the beef, together in a bowl.

Add beef to bowl and turn to coat the meat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator 3 hours to overnight.

Preheat oven to 175° F (80° C)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over the foil.

Transfer beef to paper towels to dry. Discard marinade. Arrange beef slices in a single layer on the prepared wire rack on the baking sheet.

Bake beef until dry and leathery, 3 to 4 hours. Cut with scissors into bite-size pieces, and enjoy!

Since you’ve got 3 hours to do whatever your heart desires, why not check out what those time traveling guys are up to by perusing one of my books from The Last Timekeepers series? Happy eats!

The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret, Book #2 Buy Links:
MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING - AMAZON - AMAZON.CA - BARNES & NOBLE

The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis, Book #1 Buy Links:
MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING - AMAZON - BARNES & NOBLE

Legend of the Timekeepers, prequel Buy Links:
MIRROR WORLD PUBLISHING - AMAZON - BARNES & NOBLE

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE.

Here's a peek at Sharon Ledwith's cover for Book One of her new series. The novel releases June 18 from Mirror World Publishing.





Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Monday, May 08, 2017

NEW RELEASE for ELLIOTT BAKER

Are exotic locations and nonstop action high on your reading criteria? Maybe a little romance for a short respite while you catch your breath? If even one of those items heads your list then you want to download REBIRTH, the second exciting book in the historical fantasy series The Sun God's Heir. Author Elliott Baker does not disappoint. The adventures of René Gilbert are as intense and visual as RETURN, Book One. Give this series a try. You'll be glad you did.

Set against the wave tossed years of white slavery and Barbary pirates, this is the epic story of René Gilbert and a journey that defies time as he draws on a larger awareness earned in previous lifetimes.

The plague’s dark fingers curl around Bordeaux. René must return home to save those he loves. But first he has to escape a Moroccan sultan’s clutches. In Bordeaux, an enemy waits, filled with a hatred three thousand years old. Only René can defeat this dark power, and only if he reclaims his own ancient past. In this arena, death is but the least of failure’s penalties.

EXCERPT
The medina of Casablanca was a warren of narrow winding streets filled with stalls of all shapes and sizes. René followed Akeefa and Abdul-Karim as they entered through a constricted archway and left behind the blinding sunlight. René stopped to take it all in. A thousand sights and sounds assaulted him at once. An intense level of energy and human striving filled the air. The sounds and smells were strident, immediate. A cacophony reverberated from the walls as metalworkers hammered on copper and brass and iron. Jewelers, leather workers, and weaponsmiths all contributed to the din of men and animals pursuing their desires. The enticing smells of food and coffee pervaded the space. Booth after booth of delicacies was on display along with the occasional goat carcass that hung from the canopy poles waiting for the butcher’s cleaver.

“This is overwhelming.” René sucked in a deep breath. “Something smells good. Perhaps we might sit and have a coffee while I try to make sense of this incredible place.”

“That is an excellent idea.” Abdul-Karim grinned. “I know just the place and ’tis not far from here.”

“More food,” Akeefa said with some exasperation. “You promised I would be able to shop and you know I cannot go off on my own. Some stupid man would say or do something and after I had killed him, we would spend the morning yelling or fighting or both. With you two, I will at least have some measure of freedom.”

René gazed sideways at Akeefa. He knew her well enough not to doubt the possibility of her statement, but he hoped she spoke in jest.

Abdul-Karim grimaced like he had bitten into a lemon. He turned to René. “You must trust my experience in this. Given the amount of walking and waiting we face, you will definitely need nourishment.”

René laughed. “Perhaps we might feed Abdul-Karim so we may better attack this shopping from a position of strength.”

“Oh, all right.” Akeefa rolled her eyes. “My master taught me when to make a strategic retreat and this is clearly one of those times. I will want, however, to see that stamina later. Understood?” She glared at Abdul-Karim.

Her effort was wasted on her older brother. Abdul-Karim’s demeanor changed to one of joyful expectation. “I know just the place. Best pastries in Morocco. This way.”

René glanced around. Even over the din and chaotic movement of the medina, he had the sensation they were being watched. The fact that he was a Frenchman was immaterial. There were many different nationalities present within the medina. Non, he, René Gilbert, was being observed.

“Do you believe they will attack again so soon?” asked René.

“The Hashashin that attacked us on the quay in Larache were paid by the sultan’s younger brother Ismail. I do not sense that level of organization. There are many bands of robbers and slavers within Morocco. It can be a difficult place to live,” said Abdul-Karim. “And there are those in Rabat who will not allow our victory over their brethren go unrevenged, regardless of the sultan’s orders.”

Both men loosened their blades while Akeefa huffed at the conventions that prevented her from carrying a sword. Still, an attacker would find her armed.

“Let us sit at that tavern.” Abdul-Karim pointed across the lane. “It has good sight lines and there are avenues of escape if necessary.”

Once seated, Abdul-Karim ordered coffee and an assortment of cakes.

Akeefa pursed her lips.

“What? We might as well eat something while we wait.”

The square had grown quieter as people found their business called them elsewhere. Men collected in small groups. So far, the numbers of their enemies were not overwhelming and René was content to wait. He glanced at Abdul-Karim. The smile on his face evidenced a gleeful anticipation at the prospect of combat. His friend genuinely liked to fight.

“It appears someone is willing to invest a great deal of money in our removal. As much as I would like to engage in this contest—” Abdul-Karim glanced over at his sister. “And we have them outmanned, father would advise us to retreat and gather reinforcements.”

Abdul-Karim inclined his head. They stood as groups of men moved to block the exits.

“We may not be offered that opportunity.” Akeefa slipped her hand beneath her burka.

“Let us make our way toward the medina’s entrance. If we reach the confines of the arch, we gain a slight advantage in the number of our enemy able to come against us.” René’s rapier was in his hand.

The scimitar Abdul-Karim pulled from his sash reflected sunlight along its razor sharp edge. A wicked looking dagger appeared in Akeefa’s hand. René eased left of Akeefa leaving a sword length between them as Abdul-Karim stepped to her right.

The square was now empty except for the growing number of armed men drawing their swords. René studied the upper stories of the souk. No musket barrels protruded from those windows.

René counted thirty men circling them and moving closer. “Akeefa, move to the front and make first contact. A moment’s confusion having you walk before us will be useful. It is not that unusual for a woman to carry a dagger. Perhaps you might hold it a little less respectfully.”

“I will do my clumsy best.” Akeefa managed to move to the front, intentionally tripping on her burka.
The number of men waiting before the medina’s arch had increased to ten. Smug smiles played on their faces. Apparently they found humor in two men so cowardly as to hope a woman would protect them. One eager young mercenary swaggered out to meet Akeefa.

“Throw down your weapons and your deaths will be easier,” said the man as he waved his scimitar toward Akeefa. He ignored the dagger that shook in her trembling hand.

“D…do you intend to kill us all?” Akeefa stuttered in a high-pitched voice.

The fool preened, sticking his chest out. “Drop your weapons.”

In the briefest space of time, Akeefa moved to within striking distance and slit his throat, relieving him of his weapon before his body crumpled into the dust. The others froze at the speed and skill with which she had dispatched one of their own. In that timeless moment of inaction, René and Abdul-Karim each killed two men of the nine left standing before the arch.

René looked up. More armed men ran toward the arch. He paused and settled within, allowing his training to govern his actions. He sensed more than saw Akeefa adjust her clothing.

She ripped the scarf from her face and stood in as wide a stance as the burka allowed. She reversed the scimitar and jammed it between her legs, slicing the thin material to the ground. Thus unencumbered, she returned to the fight.
René nodded and on cue they formed a circle, defending each other as well as dispatching those who came against them. They narrowed the access lanes which caused their attackers to fight each other to get at them.

“Move toward the arch,” said René.

There were too many swords slashing at them. Their progress was slow. These men were not the highly trained Hashashin, but they were experienced enough that their numbers would eventually prevail.

Although René had no desire to kill, this fight did not grant him that moral luxury. He picked up a second sword and wielded both with withering accuracy. The attackers who faced Akeefa died with an expression of bewilderment.
Still, too many swords. Every moment reduced their chances.



Grab The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book 1 on Amazon


Award winning novelist and international playwright Elliott Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and performed throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott has turned to writing novels. His debut novel, The Sun God’s Heir: Return, Book One of the trilogy, was released this past January. Rebirth, Book Two will release April 18th, followed in July by the third and final book of the series, Redemption.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott's Author Page on Facebook to learn all his latest news.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

SOUP FIT FOR THE GODS

We joined our good friends Jane and Mike for dinner at the Cavalier Inn in North Hammond, Indiana the other night. Best Polish food anywhere! Everything is homemade and handmade. Jane ordered mushroom soup that was superb. Below is my rendition. It's not quite the same, but I'm stubborn and intend to work on this recipe until I get it right.

Hearty Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, baby Bella and white
10 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
4 tbsp. flour
1 qt. beef stock
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature
¼ tsp. dried thyme
White pepper*

Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Coarsely chop, but not too small. You want to see the pieces in the soup.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 12 inch skillet. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 3 minutes, stir often. Pour the mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.

Melt another 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet. Add onions, celery, and carrot. Sauté until onion is transparent and carrot is soft. Stir frequently so as not to burn onion. Set aside.

In a heavy 6-quart saucepan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the flour. Return pan to low heat, cook, whisk constantly for 3 or so minutes. Do NOT let this brown too much or it will be bitter. The roux should be no darker than a caramel/tan.

Remove the pan from the heat. Allow to cool 10-15 seconds, then slowly pour in the stock while whisking constantly. Return the pan to a medium-high heat and stir until the soup base thickens and is smooth, approximately 12-15 minutes.

Stir in the vegetables and thyme. Simmer for 15 minutes, but be sure to stir occasionally.

Whisk 3 tablespoons of hot soup at a time into the cream until you’ve added approximately ½ cup. Reverse the process and slowly whisk the now-warm mixture into the soup.**

Bring soup to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with pepper.

Serve from a tureen or in individual bowls.

This recipe makes 6 bowls

*In this recipe white pepper is used for its slightly sharper taste. There is no need to make a special trip to buy white pepper. Black pepper will work fine, just use a little more.
**This may seem like extra work, but if you don’t do it the cream will curdle.

May you enjoy all the days of your life around a well laden table!

Sloane




Monday, May 01, 2017

What a Piece of Work…

by SS Hampton Sr.

In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Sir Patrick Stewart) paraphrased a monologue from Shakespeare’s Hamlet when engaged in a verbal dispute with the character Q (John de Lancie).

I offer a portion of the original monologue from Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, though not with a male centrist point of view as prevailed in Shakespeare’s time:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world!”

Truer words were never spoken.

As a photographer and a would-be painter (fascinated with egg-based tempera paints on vellum, which I was fortunate to experience once), I am drawn to the female form more than any other subject. In the grace of movement whether walking or dancing, in the curve of a smile below sparkling eyes, or sitting for a traditional portrait, there is very little comparable to the beauty of a woman.

However, I also see beauty in the lines and fierce strength of military equipment, in the natural ebb and flow of mountainous landscapes, the flat yet rugged desert (the desert might be pushing it a little after 16 years in the Southwest and Kuwait/Iraq) or the solitary expanse of the grassy plains. I am fascinated by the reshaping of drifting clouds – wind sculptures I call them (and yes, sculpting is something I would like to try someday).

But, add a woman to these subjects and something miraculous can result.

Sometimes a woman or a photograph of a woman, much like a Muse, inspires me to write. It may be her overall, perhaps striking Gothic appearance (Burning, 2002), the intense color of her eyes (Ice (Inspired by Erica), 2004), or simply who she is (Carnivale Promised (Inspired by Cydney), 2002).

In my decades of photographing – yes, I am kind of up there in years – I have been fortunate to work with a number of women. Though only three would be considered as a Muse due to working with them frequently, any one of these women could be viewed as a Muse because in one way or another they inspired my photography and writing.

Yes, I freely admit that I am biased. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stan~

Sometimes people choose to live life to the fullest…

Burt and Rachel Markham are ordinary small business owners of a seed & feed store in a small Kansas farming and ranching community. Many years before, as young university graduates eagerly anticipating exciting overseas employment, a lifetime in Kansas was the furthest thing from their minds, particularly Rachel who was raised overseas and dreamed of going back.

By July 2013 their twin 18-year old daughters, having graduated high school several months before, go east to attend a university. Burt and Rachel settle into their new life of an empty house and a predictable and unchanging routine that threatens to stretch far into the future.

One summer evening Burt has an idea—but will Rachel accept the idea? If she does, will the idea add new excitement to their marriage, or destroy it?

EXCERPT
She stood and grasped his hand. “It’s a little windy out, but it looks like there’s only a slight drizzle. We won’t get too wet walking home.”

Burt glanced at the steaming dancers again and smiled. “It’s been a long time since we walked in the rain.”

“It has been,” she said and leaned against him.

“I always liked walking in the rain. A light rain that is. A slight drizzle is better.” They stepped into the cool twilight. “Anyway, when your blouse is soaked your nipples really stand out.”

“Oh God,” Rachel giggled. Silent lightning lit the wet road as if showing the way home.

Burt slipped his arms around her and kissed her cheek.

“Hi,” he whispered in her ear. She responded with a little sigh and reached back to place her hands on his hips.

The greeting was their signal when in public that one or the other was horny. They began whispering “hi” to each other shortly after they became lovers; now they also whispered it after he slipped into her or when she seated herself on him and they were looking into each other’s eyes.

The storms passed and the humid summer heat returned. The feed store remained busy. The trains rumbled past Four Corners, past their home, as they had done for the past two decades. Burt always thought that the late night train whistle that echoed across the moonlit prairie was one of the loneliest sounds he ever heard.

One night during their dinner walk they passed by the dark school. Rachel paused and stared at the small wooden building. Twinkling fireflies floated through the schoolyard.

“Are you going to volunteer this year?” he asked. Classes would start in a few days.

She was silent for a few moments before shaking her head. “No. I enjoyed being a volunteer teacher’s aide, but with the girls gone…” Her voice trailed into silence. “It wouldn’t be the same.”
Burt brushed her long hair away from her face. “What about soccer?”

“They asked me and I said I’d help on special occasions, like the end of season awards banquet.” She folded her arms around herself as if she were cold, though a warm breeze blew across the moonlit prairie. “But otherwise, no.”

“It wouldn’t be the same?”

Jah, jah,” she whispered.

“Well, okay. I mean, there’s been a big change in our lives, but it doesn’t have to mean cutting most ties.”

When they returned to the farmhouse Rachel announced she was going for a swim. She poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for herself and picked up a CD player. She usually listened to classical music, waltzes, and operas when floating in the pool. There was a chakra wind chime hanging near the pool for the times when she felt like floating in near silence except for the chimes and the sound of the prairie wind.

A few moments later Burt followed with beer in hand. Maggie trotted behind him, rawhide bone in her jaws. Classical music floated through the night; fireflies played hide and seek among the neatly trimmed hedges along the perimeter of the yard. Others drifted in and out of the nearby cornfield, while the insects of the night droned on in disharmony.

He saw Rachel drop a dark robe to her feet. In the silvery light of the moon her nude fleshy form had a ghostly white sheen to it. She glanced over her shoulder, flashed a lusty smile at him, and dove into the pool. He stood by the edge of the pool and watched her gliding beneath the sparkling moonlit water. Then she surfaced, rolled and floated on her back with closed eyes. A pair of fireflies circled above her face.

It was the second time she was skinny dipping. It was like she was shedding the older, busy exterior of motherhood so that her younger carefree personality could reassert itself.

He sipped his beer and watched her face with Bettie Page bangs plastered to her forehead, surrounded by a fan of long hair and the glimmering water. She looked so content.

A thought was born.

A surprising thought.

A thought he never entertained before about his wife of 21 years—and the mother of his children. He walked unsteadily to a wooden chair with thick cushions and sat down heavily. He gulped his beer. A warm breeze flowed through the night; the trees rustled and the field of corn swayed like watery currents. Fireflies sailed past him.

“Dammit,” Burt whispered to himself in disbelief…disbelief and excitement. And trepidation. What would her reaction be? What would she say? Could he even find a way to suggest it?

“Burt?”

He returned to the poolside. Her eyes were open. Moonlit water droplets on her beautiful face sparkled like tiny diamonds.

The thought wouldn’t let go. It took root…

BUY LINKS
Amazon - Muse It Hot Publishing

See more books by S.S. Hampton Sr. on Amazon.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren. He is a published photographer and photojournalist. Hampton retired from the Nevada Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army, the Army Individual Ready Reserve and was mobilized for the Persian Gulf War. He enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. He is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

Hampton has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a multi-media exhibit. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

He graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. He has been studying at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with in a double major in Art and English. However, he is presently spending a cold, rainy Spring 2017 semester studying at a university in southwestern France in the shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains.

Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press - Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing - Melange Books - MuseItUp Publishing - Goodreads Author Page - Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK