Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's February 14th, and everyone's thoughts turn to love...and roses and chocolates.  (Where I live in SC, there is a Russell Stover outlet--oh my!!) I personally like to add a nice bottle of champagne, but I'll probably spend my lovers' night with my character in my WIP, I have eye surgery the day before.



Let's talk about this mysterious saint. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend says that Valentine was a priest, serving in third-century Rome. The Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men contended single men made better soldiers than those with families. Consequently, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine realized the injustice of this edict and secretly continued performing marriages for young lovers. When this defiance was discovered, Valentine was put to death.According to another story, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first valentine greeting to a young girl with whom he'd fallen in love - possibly the jailor’s daughter who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before his death, he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” which we still use today.

Here are a few quotes you might enjoy on Valentine's Day:
"Love is like the wind. You can't see it, but you can feel it." - Nicholas Sparks

"Each time you love, love deeply as if it were forever." - Audre Lorde

"You always gain by giving love." - Reese Witherspoon

"Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along." - Rumi

"A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and a man cannot live without love." - Max Muller

Enjoy your day of love!

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of Londonfollowing his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Typical Valentine’s Day Greetings


In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (more cards are sent at Christmas). Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

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Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Language of Love by Jane Kindred

Every genre has its own style of language. Romance is generally intimate in its voice—following the inner thoughts of the protagonists, related to the characters’ feelings—and also a bit angsty, reflecting the war within the protagonists’ own minds between their heads and their hearts. If the subgenre is romantic suspense, there will be an additional element of fear and tension in the language of the story, and it will be told in a more rapid pace than, say, a humorous contemporary. There’s slightly more at stake for the protagonists, because they have a mystery to solve or a killer to escape even as they’re falling for each other.

And when you look at something like historical romance and romantic science fiction, there’s a whole secondary language of world-building that brings the reader into the right era.


I grew up reading the great gothic romances of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and at the same time, I was gobbling up fantasies by Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey. Mary Stewart bridged both of those worlds for me with her gothic romantic mysteries and her Arthurian Merlin novels. And each of those genres had their own unique language. A reader who picked up one of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels would expect the language of fantasy, somewhat archaic and elevated language, but also the wry, tongue-in-cheek humor Anthony is known for. If instead, the reader found contemporary, intimate first-person with a preponderance of internal monologue and anxiety, it would be jarring.


For a writer, switching between such genres can be equally discombobulating. My first novels were fantasy with romantic elements (with some erotic fantasy romance mixed in), followed by a series of contemporary paranormal romances. The switch in language from fantasy to contemporary required a little getting used to, but over the past few years of writing my Sisters in Sin series, I had almost forgotten my “native” language of fantasy. When I decided my latest book would be a return to that genre, it was like going back to basics for a language refresher.


My protagonists are also from different sides of the mote, so to speak: one raised as royalty and the other a commoner. For the two characters’ points of view, I chose to switch between first person and third person as a way of distinguishing their voices, but I also used different kinds of language for both of them. Aoife, the daughter of a queen, uses few contractions and a lot of longer, more flowery words to get around saying what she really means—even to herself, while Ygraine, my little rebel thief, sounds more modern and blunt, and usually says exactly what she’s thinking.


Aoife, for example, spends a lot of time pondering how her surroundings reflect her inner world:

Below me, Yliastr’s streets were as still and lifeless as their enchanted inhabitants. I whispered to myself what I remembered. “I am the daughter of a queen.” I could not recall her name, or even my own, but I remembered her face. Full of lines, heavy with the burden of rule but kind. “The Sylph are my sworn enemies.” The melancholy symphony of crickets and river frogs ought to offer a soft accompaniment to my words, carried on a saline breeze, but they were absent. If I remembered rightly, this land ought to be situated on the coast of a vast ocean, surrounded on three sides by water, but I could not smell the sea.
My Undine soul yearned for our element. This temporary lifting of the spell could not tell me the name of my realm—or whether this town in which I stood unsleeping was even a part of it, or if we had been taken far away—but my blood knew its source.
While Ygraine tends to be a bit more pragmatic, noting the basic facts of the world around her:
Ygraine shivered and pulled her collar closer against a gust of wind howling down from the mountain. Here on the edge of the centers of commerce, among the rows of comfortable stone houses flanked with abundant gardens, lawmakers and patrons of the arts had once mingled with Yliastr’s intelligentsia. But those to whom such terms might have applied no longer served a purpose under the sovereignty of the reigning monarch. Instead of warm and welcoming light spilling into the gardens and through their gates after dusk, dark holes now looked out upon the quiet streets. Inside the walled gardens, the bushes and flowerbeds, like the stately trees that lined the avenues, were skeletons painted in rime frost.
“Move along. Loitering is forbidden by the Ruling Hand.”
It was a sentence Ygraine had heard many times since the Ruling Hand had come to power. But this was the first time she’d heard it from a woman’s tongue. She had, in fact, encountered precious little from a woman’s tongue in any capacity for more months than she cared to count.
She turned her back to the lock she was picking and studied the owner of this unexpected voice. The woman was an officer of the highest rank, as evidenced by the gold braiding on the deep indigo blue of her dolman and pelisse and on the stiff indigo breeches. Silver-damasked hair, severely drawn back, accentuated an angular face from which a pair of eyes that could not settle on a truth between chestnut and olive regarded Ygraine with cool indifference. She belonged to the Undine.
When Ygraine didn’t move, the Undine’s hand did—on the hilt of her long knife. Ygraine’s gaze lingered on the exquisite fingers. What was an Undine woman of leisure, as evidenced by those well-kept hands, doing in the service of the Righteous Guard of the Ruling Hand?
“I said, move along.” The order was louder but with no more passion in it than in the ambiguous eyes. The Undine soldier had the mien and affect of a wind-up doll. A lovely, authoritarian wind-up doll. No, no. Scratch “lovely.” For fire’s sake. What in the name of Salamand’s flame was wrong with her?
“I have business here.” Ygraine nodded toward the gate as if her business were with it, an early evening meeting with a miniature portcullis of wrought iron.

Somehow, the two do eventually learn to speak the same language. And in the midst of all their court intrigue, rebellion, and layers of deception, they also have to find the right words to fall in love.

I’m still deep in revisions, trying to get it right. It’s a delicate balance trying to tie it all together—without showing the seams. But hopefully, by the time I’m done, I’ll be fluent in multiple languages.

Monday, February 4, 2019

When Life Throws a Plot Twist

Creative Commons photo courtesy of- sander-wehkamp-532443-unsplash.jpg
Not what you expected? I'd think not when you're visiting Paranormal Romantics. Even if I liked the picture and really wanted to stick it on the blog, or add a random gorilla or monkey to my story and try to call it a 'plot twist', it would have to make sense. Readers are meticulous like that—at least I am. 

An author shouldn't have the story doesn’t take a drastic turn that doesn’t mesh. Or wrap it up just for the sake of ending the story with a, “they all lived happily ever after...maybe with a gorilla...” thrown in rather than work to tie up loose ends.

Most people don’t like change, or the unexpected, in their life. We’re creatures of habit and routine. Perhaps that’s why we love them so much in a book, or at least I do. It’s a way that we can live vicariously through a character and get excited about this sudden turn in events. It’s certainly more comfortable to dissect in a character than oneself. 

Plot Twist Straight Ahead

I still recall watching the movie, The Sixth Sense, many years ago. I never saw the plot twist coming. The way it was effortlessly merged into the movie was impressive. (I won’t reveal it here, just in case someone hasn’t seen the movie.) But once the twist was revealed, I could think back through the movie and it made sense. The clues were there, if you knew to look for them. 

Most recently I was impressed with the twists skillfully incorporated into the Netflix series version of The Haunting of Hill House. (Also—no spoilers here.)

Seamless Storytelling

It takes talent to incorporate an upcoming twist seamlessly through a story, especially in a book. Sometimes it’s a little more challenging to incorporate these into a story since you lose the visual in a movie. I’ve become especially adept at noticing these ‘red herrings’ (otherwise known as clues) in a movie. 

Unfortunately for my hubby, I tend to point them out. Then when the twist occurs, it’s only to validate what I already saw coming. 

Often the author starts right when everything changes and the character must face a new normal in their life, even if they don’t want to. As readers, we’re dropped right into the action and go along on the journey as the character figures out what’s next. That’s usually what I like to write, and to read. 

Destiny Calling 

The story of Destiny Calling started not long after Hope faced a terrible twist in her life. We get to go along as she discovers that there’s more to the world than she realized, and that she plays a role. 


Everybody Loves a Grandma

In Grandma Must Die we start off already aware of the magic that exists in the world, but we must help our heroine deal with another dilemma. 



Enough of the Everyday

Any story can start with the things we do every day, but usually that’s not what we’re looking for. We're already living that story. To have a story, there’s usually a twist, or a dilemma, that needs addressed, otherwise it’s just more of the same. 

Many of us would like it if our own problems were solved so easily. But that’s us. We want to see our characters’ work for their success and a happily ever after.

Can You Name a Book, or a Movie, with an Awesome Plot Twist?


Author Bio: Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line. Find Maureen on her websiteFacebookTwitter

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

"A Cold Spring" and a Groundhog Day Present


I've been whiling away the winter on my blog with a serial story--"A Cold Spring." Episodes 15 and 16 are below. We are rushing toward the conclusion, but you can catch up with previous episodes HERE. (You'll find a Groundhog Day present there, too. *Hint: Two Bonus Episodes.)


Episode 15: Old Crows and Offerings


A cloud of crows chatter in the branches of the rowan trees. I understand only a few of the names they call us, but that’s enough. Maddock was . . . is . . . an expert in bird languages. Though he tried to teach me, I spent most of our lessons watching the sun on his hair and the way his eyes change from ice blue to indigo.

“I see why they call a group of crows a murder,” mutters Mayebelle. “If I could get my hands on them, I’d wring their necks.”

She tosses a clump of mud at the impudent birds. The projectile falls to earth with a soggy splash, stirring up the flock. They wheel and kite, screaming epithets and curses with renewed vigor.

One particularly large and particularly vocal crow dives at Mayebelle, raking her head with sharp talons. Another tries the same with me, but I send a spark of green magic into his feathers. Maddock’s old fire spell smolders in the soft down beneath the coarse plumage. The crow retreats hurling curses at me from the safety of the thick fir trees.

“Let’s get inside the croft before they come back.” Mayebelle fingers the scratch on her head, limping toward the door. “The devil’s in all animals today. Even Pyewacket refused to eat a perfectly good bit of baked chicken. He snaps with static every time I touch him.”

Pyewacket the black cat watches us from the windowsill. His amber eyes focus on something behind me. In a fluid motion, he rises on his toes. White teeth flash and black fur fuzzes to spiky heights.

A flutter of feathers near my ear and sharp claws on my shoulder bring me up short. A crow--not the pushy young one who attacked Mayebelle--but an old crow with notched wings and rheumy eyes perches on my shoulder.

“Stand still, Allium,” cries Mayebelle. “I’ll fetch the besom and make him regret the day he visited our garden.” She disappears inside the croft.

The crow’s claws bite into the meaty part of my arm, but he’s standing on only one foot. He clutches something in the other. I hold out my hand, coaxing him to release his burden. He winks a bright bird eye and drops an object onto my open palm.

“I bring you this in remembrance of one who saved my nest many years ago.” The bird speaks slowly, making sure I understand. “A La Croix he was. You have his magic.”

Before Mayebelle returns with the broom, he flaps his moldering wings and soars out of sight.

I squeeze my fingers around the crow’s gift. I don’t have to look at it to know what I hold.

On the night Lucia and Maddock disappeared, I’d put it on the table in front of me. Through that last dinner, I enjoyed the dark mystery of the witch stone, felt the subtle pull of its magnetic aura.

When Lucia appeared, Maddock hurried me out of the castle before I had time to grab it. That’s the last I saw of it.

Until now.

Episode 16: Pilgrimage


“Allium, you can’t go.” Mayebelle flattens herself against the door as if she means to stop me with bodily force.

“That stone was inside the castle, Mayebelle—Inside.” I jam a blanket into my worn duffle bag along with underwear and woolen socks.

“It’s such a long way, and you won’t be able to travel quickly. Not in your condition.”

“I can be in Highmoor Valley in four days.” I pick up a sweater and push it into the bag.

“We don’t know what might be out there. Beyond the boundary.” Mayebelle casts a fear-filled eye out the window. “Maddock would come here—if he could.”

“He may be hurt. He may need help.”

“And just what are a cripple and a pregnant woman going to do about that?”

After Mayebelle found me babbling on the road, we lingered in Highmoor Valley for weeks––hoping the castle would pop into existence again. At last, Mayebelle convinced me to return with her to her home. I had just enough sense left to lay a protective boundary just beyond the fringe of trees encircling her plot of land. Neither of us has ventured beyond it since.

I always intended to go back. As little Petunia, Lavender, or Felicity grew, I abandoned the idea of returning until she was born.

The witch stone simmers in my hand, warm and pulsing with energy. I can’t wait any longer. I string it with a jute cord and slip it over my head. The stone nestles between my breasts.

“I’m going, Mayebelle. You don’t have to come. I know how hard it is for you to go . . .outside. I understand.” I settle the stiff woolen poncho over my shoulders and hoist the duffel bag.

“What if the baby comes while you’re on the road?”

“I’ll be back before then.” I waddle out the door, muffling the raw spring wind with a scarf around my face. Little Abbie or Betty or Celeste taps softly beneath my rib cage––encouragement, I think.

The sun is already westering, but I have to get started. Before I reach the gate, Mayebelle’s hoarse voice calls from the door of her cozy croft.

“Alright, you stubborn gobshite. You can’t go alone. Wait while I pack. You’ve run off without provisions and I’ll have to leave food for Pyewacket.”

To my over excited senses, Mayebelle wastes precious time. She moves as slowly as sap while I dance with impatience.

“I’m not waiting. You can catch up.”

The garden gate, damp and swollen, refuses to open. I yank it with both hands, suddenly desperate to escape this safe, stagnant place. Why did I delay? What if I’m already too late?

The gate opens with a creak of wet wood and I do my best to hurry along the gloomy, rain-drenched road. The gate latch snaps behind me and padding footsteps grow louder.

Mayebelle catches up to me easily, despite her twisted, ice-burned legs. She limps to my side and puts a supporting hand under my arm. “At least I won’t slow you down. You can’t go any faster than I can.”

I’m glad the scarf hides my face. I would hate for her to see how happy I am she’s with me––how relieved I won’t be alone when I look down on Highmoor Valley once again.

A black crow rides the cold wind beneath the lowering clouds. His harsh cry, distant but clear, falls with the mist of rain.

“Hurry,” he calls. “Time is changing.”


Friday, February 1, 2019

How RESCUING MARA'S FATHER, a science fiction adventure, Came About #sf #MG by Diane Burton

I love reading authors' accounts of how a story came about, what inspired them to write that story. Wish I could tell you how Rescuing Mara's Father came about. Like many of my stories, I'm sure my Muse whispered in my ear while I was in that twilight between sleep and awake. She does stuff like that.

I didn't intend to write a children's book. Until I shared it with my daughter (a middle-school teacher), I thought I was writing a Young Adult novel. She said, no, it's middle grade (ages 9 -12). Huh? Groan. I didn't know anything about MG stories. 

So off I went online to read samples of MG books. Holy smoke! She was right. The sound, the adventure, the characters. Middle Grade. I did more research, looking at other stories that my grandkids (ages 11 and 9) read. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Say what? The Hobbit

That's when it hit me. When I taught sixth grade, I read A Wrinkle in Time and The Hobbit to my students. (If my teaching days weren't so far behind me, I would've read Riordan's books to those kids.) I've read the Percy Jackson series, I loved the Harry Potter books. I did know MG stories.

As I reread Rescuing Mara's Father, in preparation to sending it off to my editor, I recognized the elements that made it a story that would appeal to that age group. The ages of the characters (16, 15, 11), friendships, camaraderie, high stakes, a life-death adventure. I'd instinctively written a Middle Grade story. 

At last, a book my older grandkids could read. They know I'm a writer. They've "approved" my covers. They also know they have to be older to read my books. Now, they won't have to wait so long.


Because Rescuing Mara's Father is still a work-in-progress, here's the tentative blurb:

My father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. I have to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.
Never mind, we’ve had a rocky road lately. Instead of the kind, loving father I’ve always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in our frontier outpost. I’d rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give me a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and I’m happy.
Never mind, Father promised I could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when I turn fifteen, where I’ll learn to fly starships.
Never mind, I ran away because I’m furious with him for reneging on that promise. Father is my only parent. I have to save him.

Every weekend, I share snippets from Rescuing Mara's Father with the Weekend Writing Warriors. Pop on over to my blog tomorrow to read the next snippet.






Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Oh, For the Love of Soup!



Did you know that January is National Soup Month? It is, really! Personally, I love soup, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Right? So, I pinged my NL subscribers and a couple Facebook groups to see if anyone else loves soup and might want to share their recipes. 

I got some wonderful responses, and some new recipes to try out!

~*~*~*~*~

8 Can Taco Soup
Submitted by: Lea Kirk
Prep time: 30 min. (or less if you have help opening the cans)
Serves: 4-6

1 (15 oz) Can black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 (15 oz) Can pinto beans (drained & rinsed)
1 (14 oz) Can diced tomatoes, drained
1-2 (15 oz) Cans sweet corn, drained
1 (10 oz) Can cream of chicken soup
1 (12 oz) Can white chick breast (I use 12 oz bag of strips from grocery deli section)
1 (14 oz) Can chicken broth
1 Packet taco seasoning (can be reg. or chicken)

Mix all ingredients in a large pot.
Heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
Serve with tortilla chips or country bread, guacamole, & sour cream on the side.

“This is an amazingly simple and filling recipe that my family loves! Being that there are seven of us, I triple the recipe so we have plenty of leftovers. Great for a low-key dinner or winter weekend lunches.” ~Lea Kirk

~*~*~*~*~

Portuguese Coriander Soup (Sopa de Coentro)
Submitted by: KJ Van Houton
Prep time: 1 hour
Serves: 4-6

4 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 onions, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 cups chicken stock
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt & pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 cup chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)

Heat the oil in a large pot over moderate heat and sauté the onion and garlic until tender but not brown. Add the stock, potatoes, salt, pepper, and cayenne and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Puree in an electric blender or food processor or press through a fine-mesh strained if desired. Serve hot or cold, adding the coriander immediately before serving.
“I had something like this is Portugal about 30 years ago and searched everywhere to find the recipe! I think the one I had there used a lot less potato though, as it seemed mostly broth and coriander.” ~Kim Van Houton

~*~*~*~*~

Potato, Ham, and Cheese Soup
Submitted by Peggy Sue Darrow
Prep time: approx. 1 hour
Serves: A lot! Leftovers will be a thing.

5 lbs potatoes peeled, and chopped into multiple sizes,
4 cups water
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
Celery seed to taste

12 oz. (or more!) ham, cubed
1 – 10 oz can cheese soup (Campbell’s)
1 cup milk
Veggies (fresh or frozen, optional)
Corn starch (as needed for thickening)

Put potatoes in a stock pot. Add water, milk, salt and pepper, and celery seed. Let cook till potatoes are somewhat still firm but not mushy.

Add can of cheese soup, 1 cup milk, veggies, and ham. Stir often to make sure the milk and cheese soup don’t scorch. Mix in little bit of corn starch to thicken. Heat to boil. Continue to add small amounts of corn starch every 15 min till your soup is thickened to your likes.

“This reminds me of my mom. She passed away and I am trying really hard to keep her recipes together. The potato, stew, some others are all that I got from her, but at least I can feed myself!” ~Peggy Sue Darrow

~*~*~*~*~

Chicken and Potato Soup with Dumplings
Submitted by: Cara Bristol
Prep & Cook Time: 75 min.
Servings: 6-8

4 Skinned chicken thighs, rinsed
 2 Quarts chicken broth (fat-skimmed, low-sodium)
 5 Fresh sage leaves, rinsed
 2 Leeks
 5 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
 2 Stalks celery, rinsed, trimmed, and diced
 2 Carrots, peeled and diced
 1 Cup all-purpose flour
 1/2 Cup cornmeal
 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
 1 tsp. salt
 2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
 1/3 cup milk
 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, beaten lightly together
 2 Tbsp. melted butter

In a 6- to 8-quart pan over high heat, bring chicken, broth, and whole sage leaves to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface, until chicken is no longer pink at bone (cut to test), about 30 minutes.

Cut off and discard root ends and dark green tops from leeks. Cut white and pale green parts in half lengthwise and rinse well under running water, flipping layers to release grit. Thinly slice leeks crosswise.

Lift chicken from broth. When cool enough to handle, pull meat into shreds, and discard bones.

Add potatoes, celery, carrots, leeks, and 2 cups water to pan with broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken.

Dumpling batter: In a large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and the chopped sage. Stir in milk, beaten egg and egg white, and the melted butter just until combined.

Drop dumpling batter in 12 to 14 heaping tablespoon portions on the surface of the simmering soup. Cover pan and simmer over medium-low heat (do not allow soup to boil) until a knife inserted into the center of a dumpling comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Ladle hot soup into bowls.

NOTES: Use a wide pan in order to have adequate surface area to make the dumplings. You can make the soup through step 4 up to 1 day ahead if you like; cover it airtight and chill. Before serving, bring it to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then proceed with making the dumplings.

“I make this chicken soup all the time. It's my go-to recipe. I don't make the dumplings and I serve it with noodles, not potatoes. But I love the soup. I used to make my grandmother's chicken soup, but I like this one better. Sorry, Nana.” ~Cara Bristol

~*~*~*~*~

Minestrone

Submitted by: Lynn Beaumont
Prep time: 1 hour
Serves: 4-6

½ lb. Italian sweet sausage (I always double the amount of sausage so normally 1 lb.)
1 T. olive oil
1 c. diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. diced carrots
1 tsp. basil
2 small zucchinis
1 lb. can Italian-style tomatoes (undrained)
2 – 10 oz. cans beef bouillon (not sure this size is available – I usually use whatever size I can find and then make up the difference with more red wine)
2 c. finely shredded cabbage
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. can white beans (undrained)
½ c. rice
½ c. red wine
grated Parmesan cheese

Slice sausage crosswise & brown in oil.  Add onion, garlic, carrots & basil, and then cook for 5 minutes.  Add zucchini, tomatoes (with liquid), bouillon, cabbage, salt & pepper.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour.  Add beans with their liquid, rice & wine then cook another 20 minutes until rice is done.  Serve at once, or cool and refrigerate.

“I don’t remember the first time my mom made this for us as kids but we all liked it right away.   One thing about the soup is that for some reason it stays hot for a really long time.  We had a family joke that we could solve the energy crisis if we could figure out how to get the heat generated by a black car with black seats in the CA summer into the minestrone where we could store it for use later.  Okay, not much of a joke but we always snickered.  My sister-in-law asks my mom to make it for her every year for her birthday.  It is a filling and delicious recipe!  A pot of soup, some good hearty bread and a salad and you have a meal!” ~Lynn Beaumont

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White Chicken Chili
Submitted by: Kate Botting
Prep. Time: 45 min.
Serves: 4-6

16 oz. canned white beans (Great Northern, White Kidney) 
2 large onions, chopped 
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
¾ cup chicken broth (add more as needed)
2 cups half and half
1 tsp Tabasco 
1 1/2 tsps chili powder 
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz. whole mild green chilis, drained and chopped (or other hot peppers, jalapenos) 
2 lbs skinless chicken breasts, cooked (see below) 
1½ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Optional additions:
Sweet Corn kernels
Minced Garlic Cloves
Oregano 
1/2 cup sour cream (at end)

INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Coat the chicken with salt and pepper and maybe some chili powder. Throw them in the skillet with butter/oil and brown both sides, and fully cooked. 

2. Shred the chicken with your fingers and set aside.

3. Cook the onion with 2 tbsp butter until softened. 

4. Melt the remaining 6 tbsp of butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook the roux, with constant stirring, for 3 minutes. Stir in the onion and gradually add the broth and half/half, whisking the whole time. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until thickened. 

5. Stir in Tabasco, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add beans, chilis/peppers, chicken, and cheese. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Add sour cream (optional).

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Easy Chicken Stew

Submitted by: Elizabeth Robbins
Prep time: Varies
Serves: 4-6

Chicken breast, chunked to 3/4 inches
1 qt box of chicken broth 
Chunks of potato
Baby carrots
1/2 cup Bisquick 
Cold water

All-day directions:
In the morning, place chicken, broth, potato, and carrots in a slow cooker on high. After around 5 hours, mix the Bisquick with cold water and whisk until you have a thin consistency (like for crepes, but not pancakes) add this mixture to your crock pot and stir well. Reduce heat to low, and cook until your dinner time. 

Quick dinner:
Boil the carrots
15 min later, start boiling the potatoes
Meanwhile, pan cook the chicken.
Whisk together the Bisquick and cold water to a thin consistency. 
Whisk in the chicken broth
Combine all fully-cooked ingredients in a 4-qt pot. 
Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until thickened. 

Serve with biscuits or rice.


“This is a recipe I adapted a couple of years ago, from my mother's chicken gravy recipe. I live in the Northeast, so I'm always looking for food I can cook in my crockpot. I swear, the smell of food cooking makes the house FEEL warmer. For those interested, the gravy can be made with more Bisquick or flour and no veggies, served over biscuits, rice, or potatoes.” ~Elizabeth Robbins

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Thank you to everyone who shared recipes! XOXO 

Do you have a fantastic soup recipe you love? Share it in the comments, and tell us why!

(Side note: I have no idea why some words are showing up with a blue back ground and some with white. I'm still trying to figure out how this site works.)

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USA Today Bestselling Author Lea Kirk loves to transport her readers to other worlds with her science fiction romance Prophecy series. She’s an avid Trekkie, Gryffindor, and wannabe space explorer. She’s made one foray into paranormal romance with her Magic, NM vampire novella, Made for Her, and hopes to write more stories in this world.

When she’s not busy writing, she’s hanging out with her wonderful hubby of twenty-eight years, their five kids (aka, the nerd herd), and a spoiled Dobie mix pup.

For more on Lea's books (past, present, and future), check out her: