Thursday Thoughts: Universal Good Morning

I’m not a morning person. At least, I didn’t used to be. Now? I’m usually awake around 6 a.m. and greet the sunrise on the front porch handing out kibble to the feral cats. Sometimes, I even grab a photo. But I’m not a morning person. My brain is sluggish and demands its caffeine fix. I tend to sit at my desk, sipping coffee and staring out the window as it grows lighter. Sometimes, I’ll check email and blogs. Or not. I certainly don’t start writing. Usually. That said, when I opened this email from the Universe, I understood the message, and how vital it is during these times.

I so love mornings. All of earth’s energies are zipping, zapping and crackling in alignment. The stars have been tucked in bed. The nightingales begin dreaming their dreams. And the sugar plum fairies try hard not to be seen.

But best of all, Silver, I love mornings because it’s when the “Giants” return to earth — stretching, yawning, squinting and rolling — remembering without quite remembering, sometimes for just the flickering of a second, that all is right in the world and that their greatness has never needed to be proven.

Like you, “Big Foot” –
The Universe
©www.tut.com

Now, Silver, to work on remembering this for the rest of the day…

FYI, that’s a photo I took one morning from the front porch. I don’t have a date on it but we often get spectacular sunrises. And sunsets. It’s all in day’s time, right? And we do need to remember the peace and the quiet, and that yes, for just a flickering moment in time, all is right in the world. Big Foot here, asking what’s right in your neck of the world?

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Wednesday Words: I’ll Be Missing You

So, Wednesday. The sun in shining, the snow has melted, and the temps remain above freezing. Yay. It’s also time for #1lineWed with the intriguing theme of **MISSING** which just happens to fit right in with the ol’ WIP. The Scooby gang is all together now in Paris. Verity is there because Roman isn’t about to leave her in New Orleans with him gone. Things are happening. Strange things. Ari is being Ari, and surprisingly, it’s Caleb who is acting as the voice of reason…for now at least.
****
“Because I’m the one casting it, that’s why!”

The two men made soothing motions with their hands while backing away from Verity. Steam all but shot from the little witch’s ears. A third man cast a baleful glare toward the gargoyle. “She’s your mate, Roman. Can’t you do something?”

Leathery wings exploded from Roman’s back. “And you, Ariel Daoine, are sometimes too stupid to remain living. As you carry the title of the King’s Seducer, I would have thought Oberon would choose a fae with more brains.”

A nimbus of glitter glistened around Ariel but Caleb stepped between the two magicks. “You do remember that Sade is missing? And if we don’t get her back before Sinjen gets here…” He deliberately trailed off the sentence, leaving the consequences up to gargoyle and fae imaginations.

Ari puffed up but stopped glowing. “I am not afraid of the vampire.”

Werewolf and gargoyle exchanged a look that easily translated to “typical fae arrogance.”

Roman pointed a finger at Ari. “But you should take heed of the werewolf’s words.”

Caleb snarled, punctuating the gargoyle’s advice.

“Why not just ask the infernal dragon?” Ari argued.

Making a slow survey of the room, Caleb growled, “Do you see the bloody dragon standing here?”

“Obviously not. Why not go find him?”

Roman closed his eyes, struggling for patience. “What do you think we are doing?”

Ari looked perplexed. “Verity is casting a seeking spell to find Sade.”

“I am,” she snapped. “Plus locate Nikos and then I have to conjure a returning spell to get Sade back.”

Ari surrendered. “Shutting up now.”

“Where is Sade?”

The three-word question, asked in a calm, collected and almost mild voice, all but exploded in the small room, especially given the silence that followed.

All eyes turned to the dark, dangerous, and very pissed off vampire standing in the doorway.

Oh. Shit. Sinjen was in the building.
****
Yeah, none of them want to deal with Sinjen. He might only come out to play at night, but he knows where they all sleep. *bwahaha* I’m making a bit of progress this week. I still haven’t figured out the damn cat–Sade’s words not mine. Question of the day: who or what are you missing?

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Tuesday Treats & Titles: Bacon-wrapped Jalapenos

If you like the spicy, this appetizer is for you! If you like a little spicy, there are ways noted in the tips on turning down the heat. Me? I love these things but then I grew up on Tex-Mex and jalapeno poppers are a staple. Yes, you can buy frozen ones that are pre-made and heat them up, but this is just about as quick and totally fresh! These are awesome appetizers or snacks will watching a movie or sporting event. You know, once we get sports back. And hey! Pitchers and catchers have reported with position players not far beind now! Just color me baseball! 😉
Total Time: 35 Min.
Prep Tme: 15 Min.
Cook Time: 20 Min.
12 Servings
Treat your guests right with Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Peppers. Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Peppers are (in our humble opinion) creamy, crispy, spicy and yummy.
What You Need
1/2 cup (1/2 of 8-oz. tub) PHILADELPHIA Spicy Jalapeño Cream Cheese Spread
1/4 cup KRAFT Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
large fresh jalapeño peppers, halved, seeded
12 slices OSCAR MAYER Bacon
Let’s Make It
1 – Heat oven to 425ºF.
2 – Combine cheeses; spoon into pepper halves. Wrap with bacon, overlapping edges as necessary.
3 – Place, filled sides up, in shallow foil-lined pan.
4 – Bake 17 to 20 min. or until bacon is done. Cool slightly before removing from pan to serve.
Kitchen Tips
Tip 1 – Note: For best results, tuck ends of bacon under peppers when placing in prepared pan to prevent bacon from unwrapping as it cooks or use toothpicks to secure.
Tip 2 – Variation: Prepare using PHILADELPHIA Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese Spread. Or, prepare using PHILADELPHIA 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese and KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
Tip 3 – Food Facts: When handling fresh jalapeño peppers, never touch your eyes, nose or mouth, additionally you may wear rubber or disposable plastic gloves when seeding them.
Tip 4 – (from me) Not a fan of the spicy jalapeño? Try the milder poblano for just a little bite or drop all the way down to a banana pepper for almost no bite at all.
As always, CLICK OVER to My Food and Family for the details and a nifty video. You can guess who makes these every time there’s a party! Can you guess who makes these? Nope, not Pops, though he cooks. And not Elena, even though she can and does, but she bows to the expert, Justice. Justice stays rather low-key with her culinary skills. Raised in foster care, then the army, and now on her own though looking after injured wildlife, fighting fires, and raising her orphaned neice, she learned early on to fend for herself. Jack is a big fan of these so Justice usually doubles or triples the recipe when he’s around or if any of the Tarpley VFD guys and gals are coming. You can read her story in the newly-released FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free, or you can grab it for your keeper shelf by buying it. Just click on the title or the very pretty cover over there. Psst. Don’t tell but Jack is a big fav. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s kinda sorta based on Sam Elliott. So, big question of the day: Spicy or no?
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Monday Sunshine

Well. Last week was something…speshul. Not! I think the only record we didn’t break around here was the total continuous hours of below freezing temperatures. The frigid ice box of storm kept us there sor 293 hours. The old record of 360+ (I don’t remember the exact number) was set in 1983. That’s the year LG and I got married, and it was our first winter together. You’d think I’d remember but I don’t. The weather. Not LG. 🙄 The sun has been out and temperatures above freezing since Saturday so the snow is mostly gone. That makes me a little sad because it was pretty to look at. We can through in good shape–no loss of heat, electricity, or water, with only a very small blip of a frozen intake line on one toilet which resolved with the help of a hairdryer.

In other news, I totally sucked at this whole writing gig last week. I got maybe 1000 words done. The story is there. The characters–old and new–are waiting on me and Iffy to get our arses in gear. I just can’t get my head wrapped around getting it done. Maybe I’ll have better luck this week since I’m not glued to the news and I’m feeling a bit guilty about not writing.

I didn’t get much reading/listening done either. I finished the two Jayne Ann Krentz books from the library–#1 and #2 in her Fogg Lake series. Lots a familier names and action if you’ve read her Arcane series. I also finished up BLOOD HEIR by Ilona Andrews. Lots of stuff I didn’t see coming and lots of stuff I’d like to see come but there’s no word from the authors about any new books in any of the series. I’m currently working my way throuhg Season 2 of the Tarpley VFD series. I finished FIGHTING FOR AMANDA by TL Reeve and FIGHTING FOR MARCH by MJ Nightingale. Up next is FIGHTING FOR BREE by Haven Rose, FIGHTING FOR LORNA by Deanndra Hall, and finally, FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE by yours truly. I’m also listening to Kristen Ashely’s STILL STANDING.

I don’t think there were any sports happening this past week. At least none I care about becaues Snowageddon. I’m sure there was some somewhere, but none I heard about. LOL I should check the TV listings to see if any spring training games are scheduled for telecast, along with college softball and baseball. Oh, the softball polls have OU at either #2 or #3 and OSU at either #8 or #11.

TV? Yeah. Wall-to-wall weather coverage. I’m a big of a junky so it was ok. I think there were some other shows on that I watched while falling asleep but I don’t remember. I’ve slept since then. 😉

I gave blood yesterday. The blood bank put out an emergency call because they were literally down to like zip in reserve. A local car dealership donated a 2021 Subaru Outlander and other companies offered enough money for a daily drawing of all the blood donors on that day, winner getting a $2K Visa gift card. I’d already signed up before I realized the incentives. Still, I wouldn’t turn either one down. Already know what I’d do with the $2K and the SUV? It’d go to Only to replace her ‘Stang. I love Drover, my Highlander, and for a 12 year-old car, he barely has 50K miles on him. He’s good to go for probably as long as I’ll be driving. Anyway, visualization and manifestation, baby! Ohm-nom-nom-nom.

That’s pretty much it for my week. We survived. The sun is shining most of this week. I get even older a week from today. Yippee. Okay. Maybe no yippee, but it sure beats the alternative! How was your week? Any survival tactics to share? Are you thawing out?

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Friday Sinema: Southern Weather

Yes, the weather was miserable this week. But we Southerners are resilient if nothing else. Also, we’ve learned to laugh and roll with the punches. Now we’re just waiting for the snow mountains to melt and the temps to return to normal. Predicting 60 for a high on Wednesday. Have a great weekend, y’all, and stay weather aware! 😉

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Thursday Thoughts: Universal Angel Awareness

Today, I’m going to talk about something not so dear to my heart. While this is mostly aimed at writers, anyone can more than likely relate. Writers and folks in the arts and public eye are going to get bad reviews. It happens. It hurts. We try not to let it get to us. Sadly, given the cancel culture so prevalent today, all sort of people are taking hits. It’s not nice. It’s not fair. And did I mention it hurts? As a writer, the best thing you can do is not read reviews, especially the bad ones. Sometimes, that means resorting to sticking our fingers in our ears and singing LaLaLaLaLa to drown out the negativity. The Universe has something interesting to say about this topic.

One of the most stringent conditions all angels must meet, Silver, other than double-advanced harp playing and skydiving abilities (not necessarily at the same time), is that they must not allow themselves to feel hurt or rejected by the choices made by others, no matter how much they’ve done for them nor how great their love.

Yeah, WOW.

Wow, wow –
The Universe
©www.tut.com

Angels are people, too, Silver.

That’s some good advice for everyone right there. Yup. We can’t control what others feel or think or say. All we can control is our reactions. They don’t define us. Not who we are, what we do, how we deal with them. That’s on us, individually. I’ve seen authors get into flame wars with readers. I’ve seen an intelligent person who had the facts get torn to shreds by the social media mob for daring to point out the truth. Today’s culture is a scary place. Me? I’m going to ignore the bad reviews, bask in the good ones, keep writing books I hope people will want to read, say nice things when I can, shut up and keep my mouth closed when I can’t. And I have just one thing to add:

Universe: Angels are people too, Silver. Just a little inspiration for you.
Me: No.
Universe: Aaanngelssss.
Me: NO!

As if I have time for another series… 🙄 

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Wednesday Words: Heart

It’s Wednesday. There’s still snow and cold and I’m really, REALLY glad I kept my heavy-duty hairdryer even after I cut my hair really short. Frozen toilet water line a couple of days running. At least all the other water lines are good. Speaking of lines, it’s Wednesday. That means words to share. Today’s #1lineWed THEME is…**HEART**. And while I had some heart snippets, this one was close and it made me laugh. So it’s the one I’m sharing. It happens in Chapter 2 of the current WIP so not a whole lot of explanation needed.
****
The Director leaned back in his chair. It didn’t creak. He steepled his fingers, stared at them through a moment of silence before he mused, “There have been no rumbling of any problems in the dragon realm. At least none that would spill over here.”

“That doesn’t mean that Nikos is beloved by all his Klan. He’s the Drakon.” Which meant he was the Klan’s enforcer. Not only did he protect the royal family, but he guarded the whole kit and caboodle from outside interference and dealt—swiftly and quite likely bloodily—with all inside situations. She could think of a few dragons who wouldn’t mind taking Nikos down. Along with a certain vampire. Except Sinjen wouldn’t play games. He’d just go for the jugular. Literally.

She stared out the window, eyes focused on one of the Smithsonian buildings barely visible several blocks away. “This whole thing feels…off.”

“So figure out why.”

Cutting her eyes to the Old Man, she resisted sticking her tongue out at him. It took a lot of self-control. “Why target Nikos to get at me?” she wondered.

“It’s obvious why they’d target you to get at Nikos.”

“That’s ridiculous, Caleb.”

“Is it?”

“Yes.”

“We all know he’s…well let’s say infatuated with you.”

“That’s bullshit.” Sade snapped off the rest of what she’d intended to say when the Old Man cleared his throat. “Sorry, sir.”

“No you aren’t, but I happen to agree with your partner. The truth isn’t bullshit.”

“But it’s not true.”

Both men gave her identical “oh really?” expressions. She didn’t appreciate the fact her partner and boss appeared so incredulous.

“Okay, fine,” she groused then muttered, “whatever,” under her breath.

“Do you have any leads?”

She just managed to hold back an aggrieved sigh and was saved when Caleb answered, “No, sir.”

“We have some strings to tug,” Sade interjected and received a sharp kick to her ankle.

“Then get out of here and go tug them.”

Relieved, she and Caleb quickly stood and exited before the Old Man called them back. They passed Alice’s desk, giving her a nod. Just before they stepped out into the hallway, the little woman called,

“Do be careful out there, you two.”

Opting for the stairs, Sade glanced back over her shoulder at Caleb. “Did that sound a little ominous to you?”

“What the Director said?”

“No. Alice. And what is she?” Sade had been convinced that Director Bailey’s admin had more than a touch of magic running in her veins from the moment she first laid eyes on the woman.

“Don’t go there, Sade.” Now Caleb sounded a little ominous.

She made big eyes at him. “Go where?”

“Places where you shouldn’t stick your nose.”

“My nose got pressed to the glass the moment Oberon kidnapped me when I was a baby.”

She had a point but she was still human and that meant she was mortal. Granted, the chess game played by Oberon and Mathias using Sade as a baby pawn had left her with some unusual…talents, she still wasn’t a magick. Werewolves could live for a couple hundred years and a little change and while they weren’t immortal, they were damn hard to kill. Sade, for all her bravado, could die between one heartbeat and the next.

“Alice is what she is. We have tougher hides to skin.”

A picture of Elmer Fudd, wearing his cap and carrying a big shotgun, holding his fingers to hips and whispering, ‘Be vewy, vewy qwiet. I’m hunting dwagons” popped into her head and made her giggle.

“Do I want to know?” Caleb muttered as he reached around her to pop open the door to their floor.

“Probably not.”
****
Hope you enjoyed! I’ll admit the weather is playing shennanigans with my brain and concentration. Not that I’m easily distracted. Ooh, look! SQUIRREL! Anyway, writers, any heartfelt words to share? Readers, what romance trope is near and dear to your heart?

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Tuesday Treats & Titles: King Cake

Happy Fat Tuesday! It’s Mardi Gras. It’s also release day for FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE. Click on the title to go grab your copy if you haven’t preordered. In the meantime, I’m going be enjoying one of my “heart homes” — New Orleans. There’s a reason I’ve set a couple of the Penumbra Paper books there. I have to admit that I’ve never actually been there for Mardi Gras. I’m not exactly a crowd person and Bourbon Street on a normal night is busy enough. Mardi Gra? Crazy times!!! So, to celebrate at home with one of the traditional treats, here’s a quick and different take on King Cake.

Recipe details
Yield: 1 Cake
Prep time: 1 Hours
Cook time: 30 Minutes
Total time: 1 Hours 30 Minutes

Ingredients
FOR THE KING CAKE
1 box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix
1 egg
1 cup of hot water
2 tbsp plus 1/2 cup of butter, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp, plus 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 tbsp cinnamon
6 tbsp all purpose flour, plus extra for your surface
FOR THE GLAZE
1 16 oz box confectioners sugar
3.5 tbsp corn syrup
3.5 tbsp of milk, plus extra
1 tsp of vanilla or almond extract

Instructions
1 – Prepare Pillsbury hot roll mix according to package directions for the “sweet dough” through STEP 4.

2 – While the dough is resting, prepare King Cake filling by stirring 1/2 cup of melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and all-purpose flour in a medium bowl until well combined.

3 – On a lightly floured surface, roll rested dough into a rectangle shape with a rolling pin.

4 – Spread prepared filling evenly over rolled out dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges of the dough.

5 – After the filling is evenly spread over the dough, roll dough tightly. You will tightly roll the dough, lengthwise, to avoid air pockets while baking.

6 – On a 9×13 in baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a silpat, shape the rolled dough to form an oval shaped ring. Fold one end of the dough over the the other and pinch the ends together to close the seams.

7 – Allow the oval dough ring to rise until almost doubled in size. *Dough rises in about 30 minutes in a warm oven (Turn oven on lowest temp for a few minutes, and turn it off. Place dough in warm oven to rise).

8 – Once the king cake has risen until it has almost doubled in size, bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F or until golden brown on the top. While the King Cake is baking, prepare the glaze.

FOR THE GLAZE
1 – To make the glaze, combine confectioners sugar, corn syrup, milk, and extract until well combined and a smooth consistency. If glaze is too thick, add milk 1 tsp at a time until until desired consistency is reached.

Tips
1 – Optional-separate the glaze into bowls and dye green, purple, and yellow with food coloring gels.
2 – Allow the King Cake to cool completely and ice the cake with the prepared glaze.
3. If you want to add a plastic baby to your King Cake, add after the King Cake has cooled. Ice the King Cake after the baby has been added.
Additions: Sanding sugar and/or colored sprinkles are often used to decorate King Cakes.

There are lots of pictures and diagrams for how to make this over on this Food Talk Daily page. CLICK HERE for the details. While Roman, who is the Legate of New Orleans, and his little witch mate, Verity, are currently in Paris with Sade, you can read about them in THE SOUND OF SILENCE. Verity admits she found this recipe and it was so much quicker and easier than using her maman’s recipe for true King Cake. Verity explains, “It’s like sparkly cinnamon rolls rather than cake and we all love cinnamon rolls, right?” THE SOUND OF SILENCE is available lots of different places. Just click on the title or the cover to head over to Books2Read for links to your favorite on-line retailer. What about y’all? Are you gonna be all laissez le bon temps rouler today? I am, despite the stupid weather. Let the good times roll!

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Snow Day Monday

Y’all, it’s FREAKING COLD out there! And it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. As I’m typing this, I’m wrapped in my OSU Cowboys Snuggly, wearing heavy socks and fuzzy houseshoes. On a normal winter day, I’m in flannel pants, a tee-shirt (often short-sleeved) and flip-flops. Not today. Not this week! Snow. Wind. Snow. Wind. Sub-zero temps. Dude, this is freaking Oklahoma. We normally don’t piss off the weather gods until later in the spring when they start dropping tornados on us!

Speaking of tornados, have you grabbed your copy of TWICE THE TEMPTATION? I’ve been OD’ing on the storm chaser reports on the local station. The book starts with a hurricane and flood, moves to wild fires, and ends with a…well, you can guess since it’s part of my Red Dirt Royalty series set here in Oklahoma. You can always give it to yourself or your friendly neighborhood romance reader for a belated Valentine’s Day. This commercial message was brought to you by me. Also, FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE arrives on a Kindle near you tomorrow! Just click on the titles to go grab your copy.

In other news, I have a new phone. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the old phone, other than being 3 or 4 models ago. Long story. Only got a promotion at work. BIG yay and congrats! She needed a phone upgrade. She and LG also need unlimited text and data and moire storage. Turned out, I needed more storage too. Anyway, it worked out that it was only like $20 more a month for her to get the fancy 12 Pro (or whatever it is) and LG and I to bump up to 11. I now have a phone waaaay smarter than me but I’m adapting.

Have I mentioned that’s it bitter cold outside? 🥶 That’s the predominate thing on my mind. You’d think that since I have no desire to get out, I’d be happy to sit at my desk and type down the words in my brain. Sadly, I think I have permanent brain freeze. This book is going in fits and starts and new characters keep popping up and I have to stop and figure out why and where and what impact they have on the story. I am getting a few words down, despite wanting to curl up in bed under a mound of covers.

Last week wasn’t stellar for reading or TV watching. I’m currently listening to Jayne Ann Krentz’s ALL THE COLORS OF NIGHT, which is the second book in her Fog Lake trilogy. I haven’t listened to the first book yet. When books are on hold at the library, I listen to whatever order they drop. I’d just started BLOOD HEIR by Ilona Andrews, but I own that audio book so I don’t have to feel guilty about the wait list. I paused it and dove into ATCON. It’s okay so far, but if you aren’t familiar with her Arcane Society books across all her pen names and several different series, it might take a bit of time to catch on.

It was a good week for sports, at least as far as OSU Cowgirls and OU Sooners softball is concerned. Both are ranked, OU at #4, OSU at #11. Both had successful opening day appearances, including OU’s record-setting 13 homerun 5 inning game. OSU beat LA Tech in Monroe and started the season 2-0. New rankings came out last night but as I’m warping time and typing this yesterday afternoon, I haven’t checked to see if either team moved up in the pre-season rankings. Pretty sure they probably did.

In final news, I made beef stew and cornbread yesterday. It was pretty darn tasty in a cold-day cozy way. This time of year, I’m all about the comfort food. Do you have a favorite go-to cold-weather dish? Do you have tips for staying warm? Everyone in the way of this storm (which looks to be like 90% of the US), stay safe and warm! ❤

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Friday Sinema: Yes, Ma’am!

Are you a woman of “an age?” Are you a guy who doesn’t quite get “The Rules?” Then this video is for you. And yes, it IS a Southern ThingTM because “ma’am” is not an insult. If you’re under the polar vortex, stay warm. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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