A Magic Book Signing – By Guest Author Anne Montgomery

It’s a strange time to hold a book launch, quarantined as we are, stuck with the feeling that there is no safe place to go. How long will this isolation last? There’s simply no way to tell. We long for a signal, like the one Punxsutawney Phil delivers each year when the furry rodent surfaces from his den to tell us when winter will morph into spring.

Alas, there is no miraculous creature to mark the end of our confinement. Which brings me back to the book launch for my new novel, Wild Horses on the Salt. Normally, I would host a book signing and a Q&A session at some lovely bookstore – Don’t you love bookstores? – but, of course, that wouldn’t work considering our current situation.

With that in mind, I popped on my thinking cap, and decided we could have a book signing of sorts right here. So, let me get my magic wand.  I’ll be right back.

Dodeedodododeedo…

Yay! I found my magic wand!

Whew! Found it. It was tucked in the back of a closet and it’s a bit dusty. But I think it’ll work. Let’s see.

Swoosh………………..

Oooo! Sparkles everywhere!

And now…here we are! Look at all those pretty books. You want to touch them, I know. And this bookstore – lucky us – also has a bar. What a brilliant idea. So, everyone get a beverage and then sit in those rows of chairs.

Oh my! We need more chairs. So many people! (A girl can dream.)

I take my place at the podium and lift the mic. Unlike a lot of authors – many of whom tend to be introverted types – I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like. Could be my massive ego, but I digress.

“Thank you all for coming. I am overwhelmed.” I smile. “And now, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Hands shoot up all around the room and I blush. (Really.) “In the corner. Yes, you, sir.” A dapper-looking man with a gray beard smiles.

“What kind of books do you write?”

“Good question. I write fiction, though not in any specific genre. My stories are based on subjects that interest me. In the past, I’ve written about a former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress, child abuse, polygamy, domestic terrorism, cults, archeological looting, the black-market sale of antiquities, and a serial rapist. In Wild Horses on the Salt, themes include the problems associated with the over population of wild horses in the West and the struggles involved in escaping from domestic violence. However, all my books have one thing in common: the amazing landscape of Arizona, from the Sonoran Desert to the Verde Valley to the high country of the Arizona strip.”

I spy a few younger members of the audience and am delighted, as a just-retired teacher, to see some of my former students. “Makayla.”

“Ms. Montgomery, what inspired you to write about the wild horses of Arizona’s Salt River?”

“You can call me Anne.”

Makayla and the rest of the kids look like I’ve asked them to serve detention for a week. I sigh and realize I will be Ms. Montgomery for the rest of my life.

The horses that roam along Arizona’s Salt River are beautiful but problematic.

“The horses that roam free along the Salt River have been the subject of much controversy in Arizona, primarily because their numbers have grown too large to be sustainable and they too frequently encounter vehicles, events that result in accidents that have killed the animals and injured humans. Though millions of wild horses once roamed free in the United States, today approximately 82,000 remain. Because their ancestors were brought here by European explorers, there are some who believe these animals are an invasive species, a creature that should be culled to safeguard native fauna, fragile grasslands, and riparian habitats. Others believe the wild horse should be defended, protected, and allowed to roam free. The debate is ongoing, with those on both sides of the issue often unwilling to compromise.”

I scan the room and focus on a young woman dressed in a turquoise T-shirt, jeans, and strappy sandals. I nod.

“The protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt is running away from domestic violence. What made you write about the topic?”

“Thank you for asking. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 men in the U.S. report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The often-silent scourge of domestic violence invades all walks of life and, though the poor are disproportionately affected, no one is immune. I felt it was important to point out that domestic violence does not discriminate. People of all kinds, young, old, rich, poor, white, black and brown are subjected to its wrath.

The life of Rebecca Quinn, the protagonist in Wild Horses on the Salt, seems idyllic from the outside. She’s a smart attorney with a handsome, successful spouse. She comes from wealth and privilege. And yet, Becca is repeatedly brutalized by her husband.

I created Becca from personal experience – I’ve been subjected to domestic violence myself – and from statistics. The point is no one should have to deal with this abuse and there is always a way out, though that does not mean leaving is easy. One needs support, both emotional and financial, to get away, as well as a plan to survive the split. It’s my hope that those reading about Becca’s journey will be inspired to make changes in their own lives.

I take more questions. Everyone is so interested in my book, I’m giddy with delight. Eventually, however, the manager of the book store taps her watch.

“Thank you so much for coming everyone. I will be signing books at that table in the corner.”

OK. You got me. This is me signing books at a previous book launch. There’s only so much my magic wand can do.

A long line of book buyers forms as I take my seat. When the last book is signed – of course, it’s a sellout – I have cramps in my hand, but it’s pain I will savor.

After everyone leaves, my sweetie pie appears with a glass of wine. “Thought you might need this,” he says, and I remember why I love him.

That said, the first person in the contiguous United States who contacts me will get a signed copy of Wild Horses on the Salt.

And, again, thank you for coming.

Wild Horses on the Salt

A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Order your paperback through an independent book store*:

Wild Horses On The Salt
Wild Horses On The Salt: Large Print Edition

Amazon: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Reviews

“Ms. Montgomery weaves an intricate parallel tale, portraying the struggles of one woman, and that of a lost wild stallion—both fighting to rise above the cruelty of an unkind world. Her unique writing style, incredible knowledge of her subject matter, combined with her ability to create vivid scenes of the East Valley, and particularly the Tonto National Forest and Salt River area in Arizona, takes the reader on a fascinating (and educational) journey.” —Author Margaret Millmore

“The author’s brilliant world building soon had me relaxing and enjoying the desert, the wilderness with so many horses. This was the kind of story I knew I wouldn’t want to end.” Anita Dawes

*This post contains affiliate links which may provide me with a commission when books are purchased through this link. There is no additional cost to you and your support is greatly appreciated.

#Gazpacho #Soup #Recipe For Hot #Summer Days From Guest Author Sloane Taylor

Please welcome cookbook author Sloane Taylor to the blog with a chilled soup recipe. If you’ve never tried gazpacho, this is a great recipe to start with because it’s easy and packed with flavor.

Beat the Heat Summer Supper

When the days are muggy and hot, cool down with this light and refreshing meal. Add a loaf of crusty fresh bread and a bottle of chilled, crisp white wine to make dinner complete.

GAZPACHO – Cold Fresh Vegetable Soup

Image by Яна Тикунова from Pixabay

1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
5 medium Roma/plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. garlic, chopped fine or pressed
4 cups French or Italian bread chunks, crust removed
4 cups cold water
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tsps. salt
4 tbsps. olive oil
2 tbsp. tomato paste

Combine cucumber, tomatoes, onion, green pepper, garlic, and bread in a large bowl. Stir in water, vinegar, and salt. Ladle mixture into a blender or food processor. Be careful not to overload either appliance. Set on high speed until you have a smooth puree. Pour the blend into a clean large bowl and whisk in olive oil and tomato paste.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours minimum. Just before serving stir well to recombine ingredients. Ladle into a chilled tureen or large soup bowls.

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

Sloane

Sloane Taylor is an Award-Winning author with a passion that consumes her day and night. She is an avid cook and posts new recipes on her blog every Wednesday. The recipes are user friendly, meaning easy.

Learn more about Taylor’s cookbooks, Date Night Dinners, Romantic Meals to Dine al Fresco, and Recipes to Create Holidays Extraordinaire on Amazon.

Connect with Taylor on Facebook and Twitter.


What do you think of gazpacho?

Thanks for reading,

Gina

It’s Time For Summer Romance Bingo!

The Ripped Bodice’s 4th Annual Summer Romance Bingo cards are ready and I’m excited to play.

Reading will always be one of my favorite summer activities, along with warm evening walks and outdoor concerts. It looks like that last one is out for the foreseeable future, so I’m extra excited to play bingo with my friends.

Downloadable pdf cards and rules are at: https://t.co/x6Luu9aYXB
That’s also where you go to win PRIZES https://t.co/pjdiOMLAks

I have my eye on a specific row and I could use some help for recommendations on two of them: There Was Only One Bed, which I am so excited about, because I haven’t read one of these in a long time; and Violet Eyes. Have you read any romances that you like and that fit one or both of those squares?

I’m reading You’ve Got Tail by Renee George, which will count for the Title Is A Pun square.

I ordered Chaos Reigning: A Novel (The Consortium Rebellion #3) by Jessie Mihalik from The Ripped Bodice for The Final Frontier square.

I plan to read Bound to You (Demon Knights #1) by Alyson Caraway for the Debut Novel square. It releases 8/7/20.

You can fill in some squares from my titles.

The Dreaming, which is the first book in my Natural Gifts series, counts as either the Debut Novel or Psychics/Telekinesis square. I have psychic characters, not telekinetics.

Desert Sunrise can fill in two squares; Ice Cream and Psychics/Telekinesis. Again, no telekinetics, only psychics.

No Yesterdays counts for either the Dumped At A Wedding square or the Psychics/Telekinesis square. No telekinetics here, but various types of psychic talent for sure.

Deep In The Dreaming fits in the Psychics/Telekinesis square, under the psychic side.


I’m looking forward to seeing your recommendations and to reading these books!

If you’re already playing I’d love to know where you post updates. I hang out on Facebook, Instagramand Twitter.

Thanks for reading,

Gina

Do You Suffer From Bibliophilia? Guest Post By Catherine Castle

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”— Desiderius Erasmus


Do you ever feel like this? I know I do. I’m a bibliophile and my house is full of books and magazines. Many of them I’ve opened for reference at one time or another. Many of them I’ve read cover to cover. Most of them I have not read at all, but I hope to one day. They had begun to run me out of my office and then we bought Kindles. Ah, the joy of endless storage. I can go through a twenty-five dollar gift certificate in no time flat.

Here’s the thing about my book habit … it knows no genre limitations. I have fiction books of almost all genres, non-fiction books, books for research, writing craft books, books about historical eras, quote books, half a dozen or more dictionaries, including two rhyming dictionaries, a flip dictionary and several thesauruses.

I keep thinking I’ll cull the herd, especially the dictionaries. After all how many versions of a dictionary does one person need? But I can’t bear to part with a single book. After all, who knows when I might need a synonym?

I did the other day when I was writing a poem that referenced heaven and Word’s thesaurus only had paradise, bliss, ecstasy, dreamland, cloud nine and rapture as alternative options. None of those words fit what I needed. So, I hauled out the thesauruses, the rhyming dictionary, and the Merriam Webster in search of the right word. I found it. So, yes, I do need all those books.

I counted the non-fiction books before starting this blog. I have about 300 non-fiction (writing or research related) books. Just saying that sounds ridiculous and actually embarrasses me. Especially since that doesn’t include my gardening book collection, quilting books, cook books, health-related books, fiction books, or the books in my husband’s office.

With the internet you’d wonder why I would need so many print books in my personal library. But perhaps that’s just why I need them. Because it is my personal library. There’s something about a collection of books that makes me feel richer and smarter. Even if I haven’t read all 300, or maybe I should say 600, from cover to cover.

One thing’s for certain … I’ll never run out of bathroom reading material, even if I live to be 150. Now if I could only keep from putting those ebooks on my Kindle and my phone, I might make some headway in the battle against bibliophilia, and afford some new clothes.

Can you relate to my bibliophilia? If so please comment. I’d like to know I’m not alone in this. How about a peek at my latest sweet romance while you decide?

One date for every medical test—that’s the deal. Allison, however, gets more than she bargains for. She gets a Groom for Mama.

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

EXCERPT
With a sweep of his hand, Jack spread the photos out on the table in front of Allison and Beverly. “Here’s a few I just grabbed from the database. Any of them interesting?” He studied Allison’s reaction. She didn’t bat an eyelash as she scanned the men’s pictures. Then, without warning, she scooped them up and shoved them at him.

“I told Mama I wasn’t going to do this. It’s a stupid idea.”

“I’ll admit it’s not the ‘some enchanted evening, see a stranger across the room’ romantic way to find a husband, but it’s not totally unacceptable. Several of the couples my company has brought together have married.”

“And lived happily ever after?” she retorted.

“It’s a new company, Allison. I don’t have the stats yet.” He pushed the photos across the table. “Just take a peek. What harm can it do?”

Beverly grabbed the photo of a particularly handsome man. “How about this one? His coloring complements yours. You’d have beautiful children.”

Mama!” Allison snatched the photo away. “We’re not going to discuss my possible, yet unlikely, progeny in front of Jack.”

A flash of Allison kissing this guy flew through his head. He grabbed the photo from her. “He’s not your type anyway.”

“And just how do you know?” she asked.

“I dated you, remember? You ditched me for some suave, corporate hotshot. At least it’s what you said.”


“Allison!” Beverly exclaimed. “You never told me that.”

Allison shot him a fierce scowl. “I’m not comfortable discussing my love life with you, Mama. Besides, what’s done and over with should be buried . . . in the past.” She picked up another photo. “What about him? Or him and him?” She pointed to two nerdy-looking fellows. “They seem corporate.”

Mama leaned over and checked out the pictures Allison had indicated. “Too ugly,” she said. “He’s got to be handsome. Like Jack. I want to know my grandbabies will be as beautiful as you two.”

He grinned. “Thanks for the compliment, but I know I’m not your daughter’s type.” He laid a sheet of paper on the counter. “Fill this out. Then I can get a better idea of what you want in a husband.”

“I don’t want—”

“I know,” he interjected. “But, for your mom’s sake, just pretend you do.”

Amazon Buy Link

Multi-award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins.

Catherine loves writing, reading, traveling, singing, watching movies, and the theatre. In the winter she loves to quilt and has a lot of UFOs (unfinished objects) in her sewing case. In the summer her favorite place to be is in her garden. She’s passionate about gardening and even won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club.

Learn more about Catherine Castle on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out Catherine’s Amazon author page and her Goodreads page. You can also find Catherine on Stitches Thru Time and the SMP authors blog site.


Thanks for reading,

Gina

Oatmeal Raisin Bread Recipe – Guest Post By Author Chris Pavesic

A tasty way to incorporate fiber-rich oatmeal into your diet.   

IMG_20200203_102341

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Melted butter
  • Additional oats
  • Olive oil
  • Nonstick cooking oil
  • Plastic wrap

Materials:

  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Teapot
  • Thermometer
  • Loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 inch)

Directions: 1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water and oats; let stand until warm (110°-115°).  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water; let stand for 5-10 minutes. If the mixture foams up, the yeast mixture can be used and added to oat mixture.  If it does not foam, the yeast should be discarded and redo the step with dissolving yeast with sugar.  Next add honey, butter, salt and raisins beat until smooth.  Add 2 cups flour; beat until smooth.  Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  

2.  Turned onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl (olive oil), turning once to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap and place a damp cloth on top.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.  Punch the dough down.  Shape into a loaf; place in loaf pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with oats   

3.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown.  Yield 1 loaf.  

Here are three of Chris’s books:

Amazon

Audible

Smashwords

Thanks for reading,

Gina

Event Announcement, New Cover Art, And A Giveaway To Celebrate #fantasyromance

Elena and Draper’s book cover has been redesigned by Victoria Cooper Art!

Book 4 Of The Natural Gifts Series

A parallel world. A trapped soul. To save her friends, they’ll battle addiction, magic, and eternity…

Elena Zucchero has lived and lost in reality. Now she fills her heart through her work as a hypnotherapist by helping her patients improve their lives. But when a nightmare plagues her sleep, she learns her friends have gone missing in an addictive alternate plane. And the only way to save them may require feeding the demons of her handsome new client…

Draper Montgomery painfully resists the call of the Dreaming. But despite his dangerous cravings, he senses his enchanting therapist has a wound he can help heal. And to satisfy his heart’s desire, he may just have to risk the very foundation of his mind…

As Elena and Draper discover a deeper soul connection, the therapist struggles to keep her distance in the hunt for her friends. If the people she loves even want to be saved…

Will the perilous hunt to rescue her friends lose them their lives and their souls?

Deep in the Dreaming is the fourth standalone book in the captivating Natural Gifts paranormal romance series. If you like mysterious worlds, conflicted characters, and love that conquers all, then you’ll adore Gina Briganti’s enthralling tale.

Buy Deep in the Dreaming to slip into another world today!

Let’s celebrate Elena and Draper’s new look with an Amazon gift card giveaway!

Enter the giveaway here. Good luck!

Here are all the covers together.
July 1st, 7:00 p.m. CDT Via Zoom

Join me for Fresh Fiction’s Video Book Club Chat. More details are coming soon. I’d love to see you there.

Wishing you all a Happy Memorial Day!

Gina

Get your copy of Owl Vs. Animal Charmers here.

New Epic Fantasy Book Alert – Wryd’s End by Carol Browne

WYRD’S END, Book III in The Elwardain Chronicles series written by gifted epic fantasy author Carol Browne, is now live! The books in this trilogy may be read in order or at your choice. Whichever you choose, be sure to get your copy today!

Determined to spare Godwin the violent death shown to her in dreams, Elgiva uses the portal to cross over into his dimension.

Meanwhile, members of Godwin’s tribe seek sanctuary at the settlement. What has caused them to flee for their lives?

Disguises must be lifted and secrets revealed and wyrd will unfold as it should.

But time is running out…

For it is winter and the darkness is coming;

A darkness with teeth and claws.


BUY LINKSAmazon USAmazon UK

Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction but has also taken a plunge into non-fiction with Being Krystyna. This story of a Holocaust survivor has been well received.

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

Thanks for reading,

Gina

Golden in Death – What I got for Mother’s Day

Flowers I Got For Mother’s Day

I can hardly wait for the weekend so I can indulge my need to read. I’ve been waiting for this book and had it on my library requests, where it sat, stalled, with the note that it was being transferred to my local branch. Our libraries are remaining closed for the time being, so I cancelled the request and answered my daughter’s query about what I wanted for Mother’s Day with this book title. Of course, she knew who the author is. Everyone who will listen has heard me rave about the In Death series.

Did you also ask for a book/books for Mother’s Day? Did you give books as gifts for Mother’s Day?

Thanks for reading,

Gina

Our Love Affair With Diaries – Guest Post by Author Carol Browne (Reality Check)

Our Love Affair with Diaries

from Carol Browne

New year, new diary. This is still an annual ritual for many people in spite of new technology. For some things only pen and paper will do. As teenagers we tend to fill our diaries with complaints about the present and dreams of the future, a smorgasbord of teenage angst. As adults we use diaries as portable reminders of appointments and anniversaries; to-do lists designed to goad us into perpetual motion least we get to the end of another year with nothing to show for it.

But where did it all start?

The most famous diarist and one of the earliest was Samuel Pepys (1633-1703). It was Pepys who made the format a personal account rather than a business record and the eleven volumes of his diary (I have actually read them all!) are a fascinating description of day-to-day life in Restoration England. Although he was an administrator at the Admiralty and regularly encountered the Merry Monarch himself, Charles II, and other worthies of the time, he also had a fairly mundane home life which provides a wonderful contrast to his onerous duties at the office. While great affairs of state occupied his working life, his activities at home often vacillated between comedy and pathos. He wrote for himself (in fact the diaries weren’t published until 1825) and so it is no surprise that he unburdened himself with endearing honesty. You can take issue with him on many counts, most notably his adulterous behaviour, but he was only human and, while he had his flaws, he was compassionate and caring too. He was a man who adored his wife and hated cruelty of any kind, a man who worried deeply about the health of his mother yet had no time alone to be able to weep for her in peace. And let’s not even get started on the cystitis! Poor Pepys was a martyr to it.

Pepys lived at a time of great upheaval and transformation and we are so lucky that he thought to put his observations down on paper. We know about the Great Plague that ravaged the country but reading first-hand how Pepys walked to his office through eerily deserted streets makes it more real to us. Here is a man who knows how to buckle up. The Black Death may very well stalk old London town but staying at home won’t get that in-tray emptied! His descriptions of the Great Fire are also more riveting as a day-to-day account than they would be in any other narrative form. (Surely everyone knows about the very expensive Parmesan cheese he buried in the garden for safe keeping!)

When I wrote my novella Reality Check I knew that a diary format would be the best way to tell the story. The novella traditionally avoids chapter divisions, changes in POV and sub-plots and focuses on the personal development of the main character and a diary is a very personal thing—and for that perhaps we can say a big thank you to Samuel Pepys, the most famous diarist of them all!

Here’s a brief intro to my latest release. I hope you like it.

Gillian Roth finds herself in middle age, living alone, working in a dull job, with few friends and little excitement in her life. So far, so ordinary.

But Gillian has one extraordinary problem.

Her house is full of other people… people who don’t exist. Or do they?

As her surreal home life spirals out of control, Gillian determines to find out the truth and undertakes an investigation into the nature of reality itself.

Will this provide an answer to her dilemma, or will the escalating situation push her over the edge before she has worked out what is really going on?

BLURB


Thursday, 26th March, 2015.

My house is filled with people who don’t exist.

They have no substance. They are neither alive nor dead. They aren’t hosts or spirits. They aren’t in any way shape or form here, but I can see them, and now I need to make a record of how they came to be under my roof.

Why now? Why today? Because we line in strange times, and today is one of the strangest days this year; this is the day that Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, was interred in Leicester Cathedral, with all due ceremony, 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. How surreal is that? I watched the highlights on Channel 4 earlier. A couple of my house guests sat with me and together we marveled at the event. They did Richard proud, no doubt of that.

I left them to it after a while and came up here to my bedroom to start writing a diary: this diary.

Life feels unreal today, as if time has looped back onto photo albums. The house clearly passed must itself and everything is happening now. And if I can set my thoughts down on paper, perhaps I can make sense of everything, make it all real somehow.

Where did it start, this thing that has happened to me? A couple of years ago? I can’t say when. It evolved without my conscious input. The existence of my house guests was a fact long before I began to wonder at it. I do wonder at it now and I know I must keep track of what’s happening before I lose myself in this crowd of imaginary beings.

At first there was only a few of them, and I observed their doings without much concern. I watched them snooping around the place, choosing the most comfortable chairs to sit in, leaning against the furniture, inspecting the bookcases, checking the kitchen utensils, and peering into my photo albums. The house clearly passed muster and they stayed. In time, they knew me down to the marrow. I have never known them as well as they know me. They have an air of mystery, as though they have a life outside my house they will never divulge. Even so, I felt I was safe with them and I could tell them my problems. Tell them what no-one else must ever hear. And so these shades thickened, quickened; their personalities accumulated depth and solidity, as though they were skeletons clothing themselves in flesh.

I no longer came home to a cold, empty house, but to a sanctuary where attentive friends awaited my return. I was embraced by their jovial welcome when I stepped through the door. I never knew which of them would be there, but one or two at least would always be waiting to greet me, anxious to hear about my day and make me feel wanted, and for a while I could forget the problems I have at work (even the one that bothers me the most). Since then I have felt a subtle change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really need this to be a faithful account of the entire situation from start to finish, so I have to try to work out how it all began, even if I’m not sure when.

If I cast my mind back, it floats like a lantern through a city cloaked in fog. I must try to isolate the shadowy figures that flit up at me out of the murk. So, let’s begin with the friend I remember first. I was cooking my evening meal. My mind wandered. I remember feeling sad. And there she stood, at my right elbow, peering into the saucepan.

“Watch you don’t burn that,” she said.

I don’t have names for my imaginary friends, just titles, so I call her Kitchen Girl. She’s dark-haired with porcelain skin, and she’s tall and voluptuous. The sort of woman I’d like to be except I’m small with red hair and a ruddy complexion, and I need chicken fillets to convince people I’m female.

I suppose Kitchen Girl is rather daunting, with those fierce blue eyes and no-nonsense approach to everything. I can stand up to her though. I use humour as my weapon of choice and she appreciates wit and banter. I’d like it if she didn’t nag so much, if I’m honest (“Use less salt… keep stirring… is that all you’re going to eat?”) but, criticism aside, I know she’ll compliment me on the finished product as it lies uneaten between us on the table. Long conversations back and forth have been played out while the meals go cold on their plates. Fried eggs congeal and go waxen. Ice cream melts into a tepid sludge. Sandwiches curl up with embarrassment to be so spurned. You know how it is when you get gossiping. Someone wants to talk to me and that’s better than food.

And sometimes, it’s curious, but it’s Kitchen Girl who cooks the food and serves it to me like a waitress. She likes to surprise me with new dishes.

I have no idea how this happens.

Nor why she never leaves the kitchen. But I wish she’d do the washing up now and then.

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol writes both fiction and non-fiction.
Stay connected with Carol on her website and blogFacebook, and Twitter.

Chocolate Fairytales – Guest Post By Author Anne Montgomery (A Light In The Desert)



Sometimes, life throws you a rose. Or, in my case, a brownie.

Let me explain.

Recently I received an e-mail.

Hello, Anne!

I was looking at our records and noticed that you have been a Fairytale Brownies customer since 1995. Thank you for loving our brownies!

Our co-founders, Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz, will be giving special VIP tours of the Fairytale Brownies bakery before our annual Open House next Tuesday and we would love for you to be a part of it. Are you available for a 2:30 p.m. tour? We would love for you and a guest to join them. Please let me know if you can make it. Spaces for the tour are reserved.

Thanks!


How cool is that!

Of course, I jumped right on the opportunity to see the fairies bake the brownies I’ve been sending friends for years. I’ve spread those chocolaty delights worldwide. So, I called my youngest son – who has dabbled with the idea of becoming a pastry chef – and made the date.

Upon entering the massive kitchen in Phoenix, a fabulous aroma makes visitors swoon.

It might be all that butter and those big bricks of chocolate shipped in from Belgium.

It might be giant racks of brownies, with lovely names like Toffee Crunch, Chocolate Chip Blondie, Espresso Nib, Mint Chocolate, and Raspberry Swirl.

Whatever it is, my son and I agreed it was magical.

As we toured the facility, I was on the lookout for the brownie fairies, but they were often shy and elusive. We caught this one hiding behind a massive pile of sugar.

Others were tasked with sorting scads of swirly, cream cheese brownies.


Then there was the freezer. A good 50 yards of frozen treats, packed high to the rafters on both sides. Though I’m a desert dweller and quite averse to the cold, I contemplated remaining in that fridge, setting up a tent and one of those high-altitude sleeping bags, a warm cap over my head, a matching scarf perhaps, and some mittens. In the advent of a zombie apocalypse it might be the perfect place to stay.

Unless, of course, zombies like brownies.

Gosh. Maybe I’ll have to share.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

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Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.