Monday, May 29, 2023

What Pounds My Cake! - The Pastrami Conundrum - by Jane Ruby

Wanna know what pounds my cake? I’ll tell you anyway - ordering from the deli department at a grocery store. Lately they think they know better than you. They want you to be 1000% satisfied with your purchase, even though you’re 100% satisfied with what you’ve gotten for a billion years.

Since Covid restrictions have been lifted from most deli departments (including my favorite), customers are again allowed to taste a sample of meat, cheese, or macaroni salad before purchasing. I did so when spying a new type of beef pastrami. Now they have two types: “Classic” (my fav) and “Romanian” (the new kid—or rather calf—on the block, heh, heh, see where I went with this?). Anyway, I wanted to taste the Romanian type before making my choice.

For those who’ve never had pastrami, it’s a beef brisket brined with spices then rubbed with more spices and finally smoked to not even taste like beef brisket anymore. I’ve heard it described as “beef bacon” but I don’t think it tastes anywhere close to pork bacon. Just my opinion.

OK, so, back at the grocers, the deli dude sliced me a thin sample of the Romanian pastrami. “If you like spicy this is the one for you,” he said, handing it to me on a small wax paper sheet.

It was early morning, and my just-brushed teeth were not ready for so much spice. Nevertheless, I took a bite, chewed it while rolling it over my tongue a bit before swallowing. Even with a minty-fresh palate, I didn’t think it was any spicier than the Classic pastrami.

The deli clerk asked, “Well, what do you think?” 

I answered, “Not bad; but it tastes the same as your other pastrami.”

He looked surprised, his big bushy eyebrows rising to his scalp. “Can’t you taste all the extra seasoning? 

“Not really.”

“Maybe you should try a sample of the Classic for a direct comparison.”

But I really didn’t want more pieces of pastrami with its coarse-ground peppercorns, and allspice stuck between my teeth, especially since I didn’t have any tooth floss in my purse. “No, thanks,” I replied, “I’ll just take a half-pound of the Romanian this time.” After all it was on sale—and at the time cost less than the Classic pastrami. 

Deli Dude really wanted me to compare both. He even offered to make two mini-sandwiches—on pumpernickel bread no less—to make sure I could tell the difference in taste. Wow, talk about going to great lengths!

I wanted to be polite, but it was getting hard to refuse this guy. “No, thanks, I’ll just take a half pound of the Romanian pastrami.” 

Shrugging his shoulders, he turned to the slicer, filled my order, and handed it to me. “Keep your receipt in case you’re not satisfied with its flavor.” 

Yikes. I snatched my pastrami order and dropped it into my shopping cart. “OK, I will, thank you,” I said, speeding away and ditching into the produce department. I wanted so badly to pick the beef shreds and spices out of my teeth. Pastrami is just not the ideal morning breath to have in my mouth. I headed for the checkout hoping not encounter any produce clerks wanting shoppers to sample the many varieties of onions there. 

The End.

Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s also the Treasurer of the Arizona Authors Association as well as the Literary Contest Director. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

Writing the series - constructing the universe - how long should series be? by Vijaya Schartz

 Creating an entire universe, with its inhabitants, its rules, its technology, is exciting but a lot of work. And as I create a universe for a story, I usually fall in love with it, which makes it difficult to let go of it to write something completely different. So, I tend to write series.

Although I write each book as a standalone, long series sometimes discourage the readers. Who wants to start with Book 8? And buying all the books that came before in one sweep may seem overwhelming.

Other readers want to wait until the series is finished to read all the books in one sweep. I understand that.

The Curse of the Lost Isle series, based on Celtic legends, has eight books. It can be a challenge or some readers.

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 

The Chronicles of Kassouk science fiction series has six. Still too long for some readers.

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 

So, I recently decided to limit each series to three or four books. But then, I start another series, set in another part of the same universe.

Sometimes, I fall in love with a secondary character in my story in progress, and I decide he or she deserves their own book. So, I use the secondary character from the current book as the protagonist for the next one. Or I introduce the next protagonist at the end of a story. It provides a link, and the reader feels grounded in the new series.

That way, I can enjoy writing new stories in the same universe I love so much, like the Azura Universe. Azura is the angel planet featured in the Azura Chronicles. 

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 

But the Byzantium Space Station series is also set in that universe, where Azuran angels cross path with human, alien, cats, and cybernetic characters.

amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo 

And the Blue Phantom series also stems from Azura, as the Angel Ship sails alone about the universe, rescuing the worthy and fighting the forces of evil. I'm currently writing the second book, ANGEL GUARDIAN, set for release in October 2023. 

From series to series, the Azura universe evolves. The forces in power at the beginning may be defeated, evil rises, an authoritarian regime falls and lawlessness follows. Evil never misses an opportunity to insert itself into the mix. We discover new corners of the universe, new planets, and special places, like Byzantium, The Land of Many Waters, or the Pandemonium Space Station, ruled by a powerful crime lord.

The advantage is that the universe is consistent for the reader, who, like me, enjoys spending time there. I noticed that, once hooked on one series, my readers will check out the other series in that same universe. All the books in the Azura universe feature cats. It’s evident on the covers for the Byzantium Space Station series. For the Azura Chronicles, and for the Blue Phantom series, all the titles start with Angel. The style of the covers may vary from one series to the next, but the theme remains. Angels, strong heroines, and cats, protecting the universe from evil forces.

Desperate to save her people from the Marauders swarming her space freighter, Kefira prays for a miracle. Blake Volkov, legendary captain of the Blue Phantom hears her plea and deems her and her refugees worthy of his help. Grateful for the rescue, Kefira finds his price shocking. Despite his glowing wings, handsome looks and impressive abilities, Blake admits he is no angel… although Kefira’s feline bodyguard strongly disagrees.

Meanwhile, an old enemy bent on revenge against Blake unleashed an unspeakable evil on the galaxy. Time to face past mistakes… time for innocent blood to flow. Nothing prepared Kefira for the upheaval ahead.

Can Blake find redemption? Can Kefira save her people? Can either of them ever trust again?

"Unique and memorable characters who travel throughout the galaxy battling the forces of evil in a truly epic novel. There are so many unique aspects to this book and not just the world building. The characters are well rounded, the description on point, and the surroundings are awesome. The plot of "Angel Ship" will grip readers from the first page and keep in a talon-like grip until the very last page... Fans of Science Fiction will love this offering and will be drawn to read more books from this talented and capable author." Ind'Tale Magazine

Happy reading!

Vijaya Schartz, award-winning author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats

Monday, May 1, 2023

New release: Meditation on BLue Jesus - Listening to the Disabled God - by Gil W. Stafford


Fint this book on Amazon HERE

"Meditations on Blue Jesus is beautifully written. A testament to a sibling with PWS." - paige Rivard, CEO Prader-Willi Syndrome Association, USA

Dinah Stafford is among the oldest living persons with Prader Willi syndrome. She is an artist and a mystic. She’s also a survivor—strong, spiritual, and oh yes, beware, she is stubborn. She has few words but her symbolic art holds profound meaning.

Meditations on Blue Jesus is Dinah’s story. She and her Blue Jesus are small broken figures who communicate a hidden wisdom only found in silence. Dinah recognizes the divine within the marginalized, the odd, the misshapen, the blue experience of every being human. And her brother, Gil, tells their family story, tragic, heart-warming, inspiring and funny.

Each chapter features one of Dinah’s paintings. Her spirituality is her own, but one shared with all of us. Through Dinah’s art, we’ll experience her relationship with the divine, one not overly influenced or politicized by religion. Dinah sits at the center of her blue sacred circle teaching us her Blue Wisdom. Hers is the re-imagining of a spiritual story, a rebirth into a new normal. This is a story of Dinah and “the Disabled God.”

Gil Stafford, PhD, DMin, is an Episcopal priest and former Canon Theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. Stafford was the President of Grand Canyon University, previously the university’s baseball coach. He is the author of 3 other books; Wisdom Walking: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life, When Leadership and Spiritual Direction Meet: Reflections and Stories for Congregational Life, and Walking with the Spiritual but Not Religious: Spiritual Companions for a Post-Religious World.