Celebrating Women with a Glass of Champagne.

CELEBRATING WOMEN
by Carol Browne

March is Women’s History Month, an event that can be traced back to 1911 when the first International Women’s Day (March 8th) was initiated in the USA. In 1981 Congress authorised the President of the USA to proclaim that the week beginning 7th March should be Women’s History Week. The National Women’s History Project subsequently petitioned Congress which led to the month of March 1987 being designated as Women’s History Month. Congress continued to pass annual resolutions requesting the president to make a proclamation to this effect and this has continued down the years.

This month is celebrated in a variety of ways, from demonstrations of respect, love and admiration for women, to acknowledgement of their political, historical and social achievements and contributions. It is also a time to speak out for women’s rights, to bring to light the struggles many women face now and to honour those they have overcome in the past. As we are becoming more and more aware of the roles women have played throughout history, it is fitting that we remember the stories of Holocaust survivors like Krystyna Porsz, who are such powerful examples of the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women in particular.

If, like Krystyna, you were just 18 years old, your country was invaded and your family threatened, what would you do to survive? Being Krystyna is one woman’s story of surviving horror and loss in Poland during World War II. It’s a story with lessons still relevant to us today.

To celebrate Women’s History Month with a beverage appropriate to the era, why not try a recipe for a Champagne Cocktail that dates back to World War II?

Photo by m_bartosch

Champagne Cocktail

½ oz (15ml) ginger liqueur
½ oz (15ml) blackcurrant liqueur
Champagne

Wartime Britain was cut off from supplies of fruits like oranges but people were able to grow an abundance of blackcurrants in their own gardens and allotments. Would you believe that these tiny fruits contain vitamins B5, B6, B1, iron, copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, as well as humungous amounts of vitamin C? Ginger is also very beneficial for the health. And champagne is…well, delicious. Bottoms up!

Here’s a glimpse into the tough life of a strong woman I admire.

It’s 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and for young Polish immigrant Agnieszka, visiting fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home is a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the death march to freedom.

The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive, these are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer.

Will Agnieszka find a way to accomplish her task, and, in this harrowing story of survival, what is the message for us today?

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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 usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

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

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An Excerpt from my Untitled Work-in-Progress.

My current work-in-progress has no title. I was hoping by the midpoint mark something would have come to me, but I’m close to the end of this labor of love and my mind is still blank on a title.

This is a revision of a story I had written almost 17 years ago. It was my first novel, and it was horrible. The precis was good enough to grab the attention of a publisher, but the manuscript wasn’t strong enough to carry its own weight. A big rejection letter soon appeared in my mailbox.

After blowing the dust off this story, it was easy to see why it didn’t make the cut. The story was badly written. The characters weren’t developed enough, and the dialogue sounded like something out of Degrassi Junior High.  The story was labeled a romance, but ended with the love interest dying in a plane crash. Pretty much sums up my view on love. :p

After six months worth of revisions, I’m almost finished. I think I got most of the ugly out. I just have to write the ending…and no, no one’s dying in a plane crash. Actually, the book hardly resembles the original at all. I realized I had started the story at the wrong place. I needed to go back. I needed to show, rather than tell, more of what I wanted the reader to know.

The book revolves around the friendship of two women. The way I had written the story the first time was to tell the reader about the friendship, rather than show it. One of the women betrays the other, and it is pivotal to the story that the reader understands the depth of their friendship to really feel the deception.

Here is an unedited excerpt from my untitled work-in-progress:

Taylor’s bedroom door opened and rock music poured loudly down the hallway and into the living room where Carolyn was sitting alone on the couch, her face crammed in a book. She eyed Taylor walking toward her.

Although she knew Taylor would have turned the music down if asked, Carolyn didn’t say anything because she preferred listening to the loud raucous tunes than to the sounds of her roommate having sex.

The woman in Taylor’s bedroom wasn’t Alicia. Taylor waited for no woman. 

“Where’s Jeff?” Taylor asked.

 Carolyn peered over her book to catch Taylor lean into the fridge and pull out a bottle of beer. Taylor’s gray and white camouflage cargo shorts hung just above her knee. Carolyn counted the six small sweat stains on Taylor’s white tank top. Her ruffled dark black hair hung at her chin. A shorter layer fell just below her eyes, and often Taylor had to brush it away with a flick of her head, or a wave of her hand.

“He left,” Carolyn answered.

Taylor twisted the bottle’s cap and pitched it into the sink. She took a deep swig. “Everything okay?”

“Sure. Can you think of any reason why everything wouldn’t be okay?”

“Whoa, I know that tone.” Taylor dropped next to her on the couch. “What’s goin’ on with you?”

Carolyn closed the textbook over her lap. “You know I have finals coming up, right?”

Taylor closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “Fuck me! I’m sorry. I completely forgot. I’ll turn that shit off. You need quiet.” Taylor moved to get up, but Carolyn stopped her. “Jeff and I broke up.”

Taylor fell back into the couch. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Just now?” Taylor asked.

“Just now.”

“Wow… I’m sorry.”

Carolyn eyed her friend closely. “No, you’re not. You hated him.”

“I’m not sorry for me. I’m ecstatic for me. I’m sorry for you. You really liked him. Never understood why, but you did. What’d he do? Do I have to kick his ass?”

Carolyn shook her head. “It was my decision. He’s a jerk.”

Taylor draped an arm around Carolyn’s shoulders. “Yeah, well, glad you figured it out now before it was too late. You gonna be okay? Need me to do anything?”

Carolyn smirked at her friend’s seriousness because it wasn’t like her.

Taylor pulled back. “What’s that look for? I’m being sincere. I really wanna know if you’re gonna make it?”

“I’ll make it just fine. In fact, I’m surprised at how little I feel about it. When he walked out the door, I was actually relieved. Kinda scares me that I saw myself marrying him. How could I miss what an asshole he was?” Carolyn groaned and rubbed her hands over her face.

“You were blinded by love. I hear it happens a lot.”

Carolyn studied her friend. “You’ve never been in love? Never felt that emotion?”

Taylor crossed an ankle over her knee. “Nope.”

“How about the woman in your bed right now? How do you feel about her, or about Alicia? You were screaming at her on the phone earlier and now there’s another woman in your bed. Why don’t you just let her go?”

“I don’t have feelings for the woman in my bed right now, but I think I could have stronger feelings for Alicia when the time’s right. I know that’s hard for you to understand, but that’s just the way it is.”

“You’ve never loved a woman?”

“Nope.”

“Not even a crush?”

Taylor seemed to think about it. “I liked my Kindergarten teacher…a lot. Does that count?”

“In Kindergarten? You had a crush on a woman in Kindergarten?”

“She was so fucking hot.”

 “You knew way back then?”

“Hell yes! Are you kidding me? I was noticing girls for as long as I could remember, especially the older ones. They had boobs.”

Carolyn rubbed her forehead. “That is crazy. You realize I’m studying to be a teacher, right?”

“Then consider this your warning. If you see little Sally staring at your chest, she’s not admiring your necklace.”

 “Great. Something to look forward to.” Carolyn leaned her head back and sighed. “As much as I would love to sit and talk with you about meaningless crap all night, I have to study so that someday I could teach meaningless crap to children who will not respect me, make faces behind my back, and apparently, stare at my boobs.” She picked her book off her lap and stood up. “Have fun.”

Taylor tipped her bottle towards her. “You betcha. And Carolyn? I was never gonna let you marry that asshole. He didn’t deserve you.”

Carolyn smiled. “It’s good to know I have someone watching my back. Thanks, Taylor. Now turn that crap off because it’s giving me a headache.”

 

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

A Victorian Romance

With the right balance of dialogue and description Suzanne G. Rogers explores the fate of spinsters in 1800s Britain in her sweet Victorian romance Spinster. This delightful story is filled with clever twists so there’s never a dull moment. Spinster is a great book for YA fans and adults who enjoy a good read.

Staring down life as an old maid, newly jilted Clare flees to a country home she’s inherited from her grandmother. She doesn’t count on clashing with her handsome neighbor, whose gentlemanly manners and education are at odds with his workingman’s image. As their relationship unfolds, however, she discovers the mysterious Meriweather Holcroft is not what he appears to be.

EXCERPT
At the dinner table that evening, Clare decided to broach the topic of her future to her family.

“You’ve been walking on eggshells around me since I was jilted, and I feel dreadful for causing you such discomfort.”

“Nonsense.” Her father’s voice was gruff. “You’ve held up remarkably well, all things considered.”

Her sister’s response was far more dramatic. “If it had been me, I would have taken to my bed for weeks.”

Lady Ladd gave Clare a sympathetic glance. “We’ve just been worried about you, dearest.”

“I know, and I love you for it. But you needn’t worry about me any longer.” Clare cleared her throat. “On Monday, I’m going away.”

“I concur.” Sir Andrew glanced up from his cucumber soup. “A holiday might be just the thing to take your mind off your troubles.”

“Yes, indeed, that’s a wonderful idea.” Lady Ladd seemed relieved. “Perhaps a few days in London will pick up your spirits?”

“If you’re going to Brighton, do take me along.” Nell’s expression was hopeful. “I’d love to go sea bathing.”

“I’m not going on holiday.” Clare paused to let a sudden rush of emotion relax its grip on her throat. “Grandmama left me her cottage just outside of Stroud and a reasonable income. I’m going there to begin a new life on my own.”

Her pronouncement was met with a long moment of shocked silence.

“No.” Her father finally erupted in protest. “Are you out of your senses? It’s not proper for you to live alone and unchaperoned.”

“Unchaperoned?” Clare’s laugh sounded bitter, even to her own ears. “Papa, we must face the fact I’m no longer a debutante whose reputation must be carefully guarded. Forgive me for speaking plainly, but I’m on the shelf. Your eldest daughter is a spinster.”

Suzanne’s historical Victorian YA book is now available for your Kindle at Amazon.

Suzanne G. Rogers lives with her husband and son in romantic Savannah, Georgia, on an island populated by deer, exotic birds, and the occasional gator. She’s owned by two Sphynx cats, Houdini and Nikita. Movies, books, and writing are her passions.

Learn more about Suzanne G. Rogers on her historical romance blog and her fantasy blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Also, be sure to check out the website for the Sweet Romance written by Suzanne G. Rogers.

Saving Our Water

In 48 hours, 110 people, mostly women and children, have died in Somalia due to starvation caused by a drought. Over six million people, more than half the country’s population, are vulnerable to dying of starvation and diseases caused by drinking contaminated water, whatever water they can find.

People dying of hunger is hard to comprehend in 2017, when in America, I can’t drive two miles without passing a fleet of fast food joints, pizza places, Chinese restaurants, hot dog stands, and convenient stores with their quick and cheap meal deals.

No one in the year 2017 should die of hunger or thirst. In every grocery store, aisles are dedicated to bottled water, a multi-billion dollar industry. We seem to have food and water in abundance every where we go, yet the state of California just got over a major drought of their own. Even though I don’t live in the state, I was worried about the consequences of a dry California.

I worry because I know the way we are living and eating as a country is not sustainable. We waste too much. We eat too much meat, which takes up too much land and uses too much water, and our water is being contaminated with farm animals’ waste that spills into our rivers and lakes and streams.

It worries me how much agriculture is ruining our planet. When the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, was asked during his state’s drought what people should do he told them to eat a veggie burger because he knew the absurd amount of water it takes to produce beef. Approximately 660 gallons of water is needed to produce a 1/3 hamburger and 1,799 gallons of water per pound of beef. (National Geographic)

You can shorten all the showers you want, wash dishes as fast as you can, and make sure you’re filling the washing machine with as many clothes as possible, but if you end the day by knocking back a couple burgers, your water conservation attempts don’t really add up to much.

The drought that is killing the Somalian people was “induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall…inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.” (CNN)

If the Californian drought should have taught us anything it’s that water can not be taken for granted. We need to try to live more sustainable lives. I fear one day our lives may depend on it. What is really stopping what’s happening in Somalia from happening here?

What if an entire region of the U.S. suffers a California-like drought? What effect would that have on the rest of the country?

I’m not saying these worries keep me up at night, but I do think about it enough to change the way I eat, being mindful of my carbon footprint. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a fancy vegan to make a positive change for the environment. You can be a reducetarian. (Yes, that’s a real thing.)

If you would like to help the Somalian people, you can donate to the American Red Cross, as well as other organizations working to deliver clean water to the region.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

Butternut Squash Casserole and a Contemporary Romance

Winter Comfort Food

by Sara Daniel

Need something warm and a little sweet for these cold winter nights? How about butternut squash casserole. Preparing the squash is a bit of work, but the end result is so worth it.

Butternut Squash Casserole
1 butternut squash
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. flour
3 eggs
¼ cup margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Microwave squash for 5-7 minutes. Skin, cut in half, scoop out seeds and cut into big chunks. Cook in pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash.

Combine all ingredients in 9 X 13 inch dish.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Topping
8 oz. vanilla wafers
½ cup margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar

Crush vanilla wafers. Combine wafers, margarine, and brown sugar. Spread over cooked casserole and bake for 5 more minutes.

Here’s a little teaser from my contemporary romance for your reading pleasure.

Love is his enemy…and her answer.

A nationally televised bombshell revealing a secret son turns marriage therapist Caleb Paden’s life upside down. While others focus on the public relations disaster for his company, he can only think of rescuing his baby and providing the stable home dictated by his marriage theories—one devoid of love and emotions.

Olivia Wells might not be the baby’s biological mother, but she loves him as much as any parent could. Letting him go will break her heart. Letting him go to a man who doesn’t believe in love will tear her apart.

As she helps Caleb bond with his child, Olivia finds herself falling for the man behind the stuffy therapist persona. However, he wants nothing to do with her love and emotions, and those are the only things she has to give. If she can’t convince him love is the answer, not the enemy, she will lose both the baby she loves and her heart.

EXCERPT
“Scones?” He recoiled as if she’d announced the kitchen teemed with roaches.

“You don’t like them?” She set the tin on the side table and arranged the dishes of butter and strawberry preserves.

“No.”

She bit her tongue over the urge to tell him how much she detested his books. “I use a recipe my grandmother brought over from Scotland. I serve plain scones along with two other flavors of the day.”

“Coffee will suffice.” He picked up his cup. “Thank you, Olivia, for your hospitality. I’m in need of a room tonight for myself and my, uh, son. A suite would be best, if possible. I’ll pay the going rate, naturally.”

He had no idea what “going rate” she offered to misguided marriage therapists. Not that it mattered. Whether he paid for his stay or not, he had to sleep under her roof. The storm didn’t leave either of them a choice. And she had plenty of rooms. Her other scheduled guests for the week had cancelled due to the weather. “Of course you need to stay. But Liam already has his own room and he’s currently asleep there.”

“From now on, he’ll stay with me.”

Her heart fell to the pit of her stomach. “Dr. Paden, you’re chilled and must have had a terrible drive. Why don’t you relax and worry about yourself this evening. Liam is on a schedule where he goes to sleep before dinner and sleeps through to the early morning. I’ll introduce you to him then.”

He set down his coffee cup with an ominous clank. “I didn’t come here for coffee and scones. I came for my son. Take me to him now.”

She clasped her shaking hands behind her back. She had no legal claim to Liam. But how could she give up the child she loved to such an overbearing, pompous ass?

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Sara Daniel writes what she loves to read—irresistible romance, from sweet to erotic and everything in between. She battles a serious NASCAR addiction, was once a landlord of two uninvited squirrels, and loses her car keys several times a day.

Learn more about Sara on her website and blog. Subscribe to Sara’s newsletter.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Just…Write.

I have a book coming out in October called A Penny on the Tracks. When I finished and edited that story, I was satisfied with what I had. I felt my writing had evolved from my first two books. I submitted the MS and was lucky to have my first choice of publishers accept the story and offer me a contract. I was on a terrific high for days, until I started writing my next book.

If I felt I had grown as a writer while writing my third book, I feel I am regressing as a writer as I write my fourth. Every line I write reads like bullet points. Lacking is the eloquent prose that draws a reader into the story, compelling them to feel they are the character I depict and everything happening in the story is happening to them.

I’m a little more than halfway into my book and last night I deleted over three thousand words (and God only knows how many wasted hours). They were crap. Absolutely horrible, and they had to go. So off they went.

I know I’m supposed to write the first draft without editing. Shut the internal editor inside me down.  Just get it out. Only when I have my first draft completed, am I to push myself on every word. That’s what I was told to do, but I’ve been working on this particular story for over five months and I don’t even have a finished first draft yet.

I have an edited and reedited first 134 pages, but I don’t have an ending. I know how I want the story to end, just not sure how to get there. I’m too preoccupied with the first half of the story being perfect.

I need to get the first daft out and write words no matter how bad I think they are because I can’t edit words that aren’t on the page.

Write. Write. Write.

But last night, instead of writing I was deleting. I know the more I do this, the longer I am prolonging the completion of a first draft, but the desperate rationalization inside me figures those words were going to go at some point, because they were terrible, so I saved myself the time later.

I know if I am going to finish this book sometime this year, I need to change my mindset and just…fucking…write.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Zucchini Fritters and a Regency Romance

Here is a non-meat recipe for anyone honoring Lent and looking for something to make for your meatless Fridays.

As a bonus, an excerpt from author Vonnie Hughes’ Regency romance, Entanglement.

from Vonnie Hughes

CRISPY ZUCCHINI FRITTERS

3 large zucchinis
⅔ cup flour
2 eggs
1 large spring onion (escallot/shallot) sliced
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 small can creamed sweet corn
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive or vegetable oil for frying

Grate zucchini into a bowl. Stir in salt. Set aside.

Beat eggs in another bowl.

Squeeze all moisture out of the zucchini and then add it to the eggs. Mix well.

Stir in remaining ingredients and any herbs you prefer.

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Drop in tablespoon dollops of the mixture. Fry until crisp or well browned, turning just once.

Serve warm with sour cream, yogurt and/or chutney.

How about a step into a bygone era while you enjoy your crispy fritters?

When Alexandra Tallis discovers that her witless sister has imprisoned their father’s nemesis, Theo Crombie, in their attic, she quickly frees him, fighting an unladylike impulse to keep him as her own special captive. Despite the brutal beating she receives from her father for her actions, Alexandra continues to yearn for the delicious Mr. Crombie even though she knows that nothing will ever come of her yearning.

Injured and shackled in a stranger’s attic, Theo unexpectedly discovers the woman of his dreams. But how can he pursue those dreams when her bizarre family’s complex relationships threaten the very foundation of his existence? Somehow Theo must find a way through this maze to claim his lady.

TEASER
“Oh, no, Emmaline! Please untie him. Let him go.”

Whatever would her sister do next? At seventeen she was an eligible man’s worst nightmare. And this latest escapade—

“Don’t be such a bore, Lexie. ’Tis a great joke! For once, Papa will thank us. Especially when he finds out who it is we’ve got all trussed up.” Emmaline laughed her silvery, seductive laugh that drove men wild and irritated women excessively.

“Thank us! He is more like to beat us. You cannot capture someone and bring him here and…and just tie him up.”

“Of course I can. I already have. I shall lock the two of you in here together and then raise an outcry. Papa and the servants will come running and—” she waved her pretty hands in the air “—the rest will take care of itself. Papa’s investment problem will be solved, and with a bit of luck you might even be married by next week, sister.”

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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.

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