Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recipe Wednesday - Low Cal Chocolate Pie

Some days a gal just has to have more chocolate than a single piece.  For those times when your craving takes over the logic of watching calories, go for a lower count optition.  Try this pie recipe from Alton Brown.

Alton Brown’s Low cal chocolate pie
230 calories compared to 413 in regular chocolate pie

Makes 8 servings
13 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup coffee liqueur
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb silken tofu
1 tbsp honey
1 (9-in) prepared chocolate wafer crust (store-bought is fine)
Place enough water in the bottom of a 4-quart saucepan to come 1 inch up the sides. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Place the chocolate chips and liqueur in a medium metal mixing bowl, set over the simmering water, and stir with a rubber or silicone spatula until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Combine the tofu, chocolate mixture, and honey in a blender or food processor and spin until smooth (about 1 minute).
Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the filling sets firm.
Courtesy Alton Brown, 2011
From “ Good Eats: The Early Years”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Musings - Have You Ever?

Do you watch the show “What Would You Do?” where situations are set up with actors that create seemingly abusive situations, obvious dishonesty (i.e. cheating), or incidents of bullying?   

The show started me thinking and I’ve come to realize there are times when I should have stepped up and times when I have and happy I did.  Since I’ve traveled a fair amount out of the country, one of my regrets is over a particular situation I witnessed in China.  A friend and I were in a shop in Shanghai when a loud conversation drew our attention.  An obviously American woman (the accent pin-pointed the region) berated the young shop clerk who told the woman she couldn’t break up the tea set to let the woman have the item out it she wanted.

My friend and I left the shop, embarrassed to admit we were American.  Later, I regretted taking the easy way out and not telling this obnoxious individual to back off, she wasn’t at home.   

Maybe that is what spurred me a couple of years later in Zimbabwe to come to the defense of the tour guide who met the group I was traveling with at the airport.  Once again, a member of our group (a woman) tore into the poor man when some of the luggage didn’t show up.  She just wouldn’t let up and no matter what he did to try and find an answer to where the lost luggage was, it wasn’t enough for her.  When she informed him this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in her country spurred me into action.  I hate people who expect things to be “like they are at home” when they travel abroad. 

I got into the middle of the situation, telling her we weren’t in America and Americans acting the way she was doing is one of the things that gives us a ‘black eye’ to the rest of the world.   She turned on me and yelled if my luggage was lost, I wouldn’t be standing around so calmly defending this ineffective individual.  It gave me great delight to respond, “My luggage is part of the missing bags also,” and walked away. 

She barely spoke to me the rest of the trip, but most of our other tour companions came up to me and said how glad they were when I stepped in.  Her actions made them embarrassed to be identified as an American. 

Those two happens were a number of years ago and I’ve become stronger in standing up to bullies in defense of others.  Having been the person who took the abuse, snide or just plain mean remarks directed at me in my younger years, I’m now happy to stand up for those who don’t think they can and for myself if there is a need.  For the stuff directed at me, some of it's not worth the bother to comment on, but defending someone who looks as helpless as I've felt in the past has become a different story. 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt compelled to step forward and say something to someone who obviously crossed the line?  Did you do it or have second thoughts and not take action?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Friday - Welcome June Kramin!

Today we have the pleasure of June Kramin sharing about her thriller, Hunter’s Find as well as a yummy recipe for biscuits.  Brave soul that she is, June or Bug as she’s called by family and friends, gave up the sunshine of Hawaii for the snow of Minnesota…I need to have talk with this girl for sure!
Now for our reading enjoyment, here’s June. Don't forget to leave your comments too...get your name into the drawing for a free ebook...winner's selection!

Thanks for having me Lizzie!
My latest release with Musa is my 1st thriller, Hunter’s Find.
Logline: Helping your prisoner is one thing. Falling in love with her is another altogether.
Blurb: Hunt is a small town Sheriff who finds himself in for more than he bargained for when he discovers Mandy beaten and unconscious. After repeated attempts of escaping him, he finds himself now her captive instead. Mandy convinces him she’s after her husband who has kidnapped their daughter and will stop at nothing to find her.

Although his instincts tell him differently, Hunt becomes involved with her and agrees to help. What he doesn’t know is there is no child. Mandy is hiding her involvement with the FBI and the mob, and after revenge. Hunt is in over his head tracking her husband to the isolated cabin and the backlash it causes a year later.

Book trailer:

Musa Buy link:

(also avail at Amazon)

My website:
Fan page:

This was a lot of fun for me to write. I always say my characters are bullies and this was no exception. It was like I was reading a novel, not being able to wait to see what happens next.
The recipe I chose to share is not one Hunt would approve of. Hunt is kind of a health nut. We don’t really see eye to eye on this recipe but since he bullied me through the whole book, I figured I’d take charge here.
This is one of those family recipe things. I take it to everything pot-luck and am hunted down for the recipe at the end of the shin-dig. It’s one of those “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you” kind of things. They are too good not to share & since I retired Mandy from the FBI in the book – I think you’re safe. Oops – sort of. I did just sign the contracts for Amanda’s Return so I guess you’re on your own here.
They are called Pat’s Herb Biscuit’s (But we call them Herb nodules)
I have made this so often I know it by heart & don’t measure anymore, but since you’re a noob – I’ll give you the original measurements.  You can add/subtract as you see fit – just don’t try to leave out the dill! It’s the secret ingredient!)
You’ll want to time these with dinner & serve them hot!
This is for a glass 8x8 pan – double for 9x13. (You’ll want to do that for more than 6 people. (OK – in my house 4. Trust me ;) )
1 tube Pillsbury biscuits.
The recipe calls for 1 stick of butter but that is WAY too buttery. I’d say ¾ (5-6 TBS) is more than enough.
Melt butter & pour in pan
Add: 2 TBS chopped(or minced) dried onion
2 TBS chopped dried parsley
2 TBS Parmesan cheese
1 TSP Dill weed
Cut biscuits in 1/3rds and place on top of mixture. Wait 5 minutes and flip over. (I never had this problem in Hawaii but in the winter in MN – the butter gets solid so leave it on your preheating oven to keep it melted.) Cook as per directions on biscuit wrapper. (I’m not at home – I think it’s 425 for 10-12 min)
Voila! Best. Friggen. Biscuits. Ever!
Warning: There will be bloodshed at the last one to soak up all the leftover yummy in the pan!
June aka: Bug

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe Wednesday - Cornish Hen

Cornish Hens are small delights I stock up on when they go on sale.  When a quick special dinner is called for they are on my ‘go to’ list and this recipe adds a little sweet and spicy to the meal.  They can be halved before cooking for quicker finish and before or after baking if you’re serving smaller appetites.  We usually have ours with baked sweet potatoes and broccoli, but go with your side dishes of choice.  As you see in the picture, other sides go well.

Cornish Hens – Apricot/Honey glazed


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg  

1.     Combine the salt and cayenne. Rub a third of the mixture inside hens. Brush 1 tablespoon butter over hens; sprinkle with remaining seasoning mixture. Place on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

2.     Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the preserves, honey, onion, nutmeg and remaining butter. Cook and stir until preserves are melted. Brush over hens. Bake 35-40 minutes longer or until golden brown and a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees F. Cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Musing - Encouragment to Hang In There!

Some days we need all the encouragement and positive input we can get…it’s just the way life is.  We won’t wake up every day to a bowl of cherries free of pits.  I opened an email this morning that dealt on positive reinforcement quotes and thought I’d share a few here.  So take the ones you can build on if your day isn’t the best and work to get back on track. 

Here’s to a great week for all of us, even if it takes work to make it one! 

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." - Mary Ann Radmacher
"Anyone can give up; it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." - Unknown
"When life knocks you down, try to land on your back. Because if  you can look up, you can get up." - Les Brown
"When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life." - Jean Shinoda Bolen 

Thank you to Amy Sherman, for having a newsletter today that I needed for encouragement.  Check out her newsletter at    Yes, her focus is on the 40+ group, but a lot of what she shares applies to all of us, no matter our age.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Guest - Shaelee Elmore Honors Her Father

Today’s guest spotlight is a little different.  It features an essay written by young girl to honor the father she lost unexpectedly. 

Title: My Definition of a Dad: An Essay by Shaelee Elmore
Author: Shaelee Elmore
Release Date: Dec 2011
Publisher: Dancing With Bear Publishing (DWB Children's Line)

Blurb: On October 4, 2011 Shaelee Elmore's father, Tommy, passed away unexpectedly. The shock and grief was overwhelming for the entire family but especially Shaelee, who was "daddy's little girl". When Shae was born, Tommy quit his job in order to be a stay-at-home dad and raise his daughter.  

As an English assignment, the class was asked to write an definition essay. Shaelee wrote hers about her father. So touched by Shaelee's words, her teacher made sure Shae's mom, Melinda, (an author), read the essay. In turn, Melinda sent the essay to her publisher, Dancing With Bear Publishing.  

Because Tommy had passed away at such a young age with no insurance, the family was left in a financial bind. DWB decided to publish Shaelee's essay because it was so touching and because Shaelee is a talented writer and very articulate, and because DWB wanted to help the family as much as possible. 100% of the sales from this book go to Shae's college fund.  

Melinda Elmore's book Journey to Christmas Creek is also a benefit for the family. 100% of the sales for one year goes directly to the Elmore family to help pay final expenses. 


The love my dad showed me was unconditional love. No matter what, my dad
loved me. I was, and still am, “daddy's girl.” He showed me what true and unconditional
love means. I will never ever forget how he loved me and my family. He was the best dad
anyone could have.

About Shaelee….
Shaelee is a homeschooled 7th grader, who has been an honor student since she started school. She lives in Arizona with her mother, Melinda, and older brother, Erik, whom she says she treasures and loves dearly, and a cat named, Feather. She loves singing, writing her own music, and designing clothing.

Her family is the most important thing to her. The loss of her father has had a dramatic effect on her, as it has her mother and brother. Shaelee says she was a daddy’s girl, and the two shared a bong like no other. She is happy to have her mother by her side, and says they share everything.

Shaelee loves helping animals and plans to attend college one day. She would like to have a career as a clothing designer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recipe Wednesday - Back to Reality! Shiitake Hot & Sour Soup

V-Day is behind us once again and time to focus on healthy eating again, at least for me.  Yep, I fell off the wagon hard a couple of times.  Chocolate is good for you, but…not half the plate of dark truffles sitting in the fridge.  There really was no need to keep testing for firmness by tasting, now was there? 

Sharing a soup recipe a chef guest on Dr. Oz said he eats every day during the winter.  He feels all the good stuff in it helps him avoid colds and flu.  That said he made no promise it works for everyone, only that since he started eating it he hasn’t had a cold.  I decided to give it a try and made a batch last week.  Went by the recipe the first time around, but doctored the leftovers.  Here you have the original version and I’ll share my tweaks at the end. 

Shiitake Hot and Sour Soup
Serves 4

1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 jalapeño, minced with seeds
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 bunches scallions, green and white parts sliced, 2 tbsp greens reserved
1 lb shiitakes, stems removed and tops 1/4-in sliced
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp naturally brewed soy sauce
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 block silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups shredded carrots
Freshly cracked black pepper


In a stockpot over medium-high heat, add oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add jalapeño, ginger, garlic and scallions. Sauté until aromatic, about a minute. Add shiitakes and sauté 2 minutes, until softened.

Add stock and soy sauce, bring to a simmer and reduce by 20%, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, tofu and carrots and cook gently for 2 more minutes to heat tofu through. Season with black pepper.

Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with reserved scallion greens and lemon zest.


Too much lemon for our tastes so didn’t add the lemon zest to the serving bowls.  Before I reheated the soup I increased the ginger, garlic and soy sauce.  I also added a couple teaspoons of Asian chili sauce that I use in stir-fry.  The tweaked version worked for us and I’m making it again next week.  Not sure it will prevent colds, but its dang tasty after I played with it to fit our likes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 14 - Valentine's Day is Here!

Happy Valentine’s Day all!  The day of love created by the card companies and floristists to keep them in business is exactly that, big business.  But some, especially men, need that little push to get around to a moment of ‘romance’ from the female point of view.  I saw a statistic this morning that 53% of women would dump their boyfriend if they don’t get any kind of gift.  Having been in situations where the only time I received a romantic gesture it was centered around sex, I can see that.

But things have changed thanks to the current man in my life.  We’ve been together almost eleven years and the first kiss curled my toes.  I’m delighted to report the kisses are still toe curling and throughout the year he surprises me with little gifts.  They may not be roses (I grow them) or candy (thank goodness…still working on that ten pounds), but they are items he knows I have been on the fence about getting for myself.

Yes, the little gifts are nice, but the thing he gives me that means the most is…his support.  He’s willing to go to book signings and carry any boxes of stuff I decide to haul with me.  To attend my families ‘get togethers’ without grumbling and even help clean house when we host.  He doesn’t complain if I say I have to work because of a deadline or I’m on a chat and he needs to fend for himself.  No, he encourages me to do what I need to do to accomplish my dreams, my goals, even going to conferences while he keeps the home fires going and he’ll be there waiting for my return.  To me, that’s worth much more than any of the things he buys, no matter the day or month.

So share your thoughts on Valentine’s Day…do you look forward to it, hate it or is every day Valentine’s Day in your life?  Your comment also enters you in today’s drawing “FUN” prize.  Make sure to leave your email so I can contact you on instructions to receive your prize.

Since it is the day of love, here’s an excerpt from the award winning historical, Making Christmas.  Yes, I know the story takes place during the wrong holiday, but love blooms no matter the season and even during times of war. And as this excerpt shows, it can start in the most unusual circumstances.

By Lizzie T. Leaf
Published by Musa Publishing 

Wounded in a skirmish, Callie Marsh’s disguise as a Confederate soldier is discovered by the doctor who treats her.  Working with him in the hospital she learns no matter what color uniform a soldier wears, they all miss family during the holidays.  And that an enemy doctor can be the man of her dreams.

Dr. Tom Kent knows the safest place for the woman is working by his side.  Their constant interaction has him wanting more than is smart considering their division of philosophy. His determination to keep her safe is hindered by Major Henry Ash’s decision the young prisoner would make an excellent aide could put her in danger of discovery.

Will Callie be able to set aside her dislike of Yankees to make Christmas for the enemy and especially for the man she’s come to love? 


Thomas Kent filled his tin cup with a stiff shot of whiskey and slipped the bottle back into its hiding place at the bottom of his satchel.  He’d never been much of a drinker before he joined the Union Army.  Now the haze of alcohol was the only way he could get any sleep.

What had possessed him to give up a thriving medical practice in Maryland?  His fiancée had asked the same question in the one letter he received from her.  She didn’t bother to wait for his answer.  By the time he sat down to attempt to explain his determination to help save the Union, Beth married the shopkeeper in their small town.

The last gulp of the rot-gut tasted no better than the first, but it didn’t matter.  Since they’d left the devastation of Atlanta, he’d gone through most of the stash he’d brought with him.  With luck, the scavengers who went out each morning to purge the countryside would find a still.  Granny’s hooch was better than nothing.

Whoever said “war is hell” had it right.  Even if he wasn’t on the front lines facing life and death, he dealt with the results every day.  The blood, the gore and the death.  Some he could save; a lot of others he couldn’t.  Those were the ones who kept him awake…them and the others who said they wished he’d let them die instead of taking their arm or leg.

Emptying the cup, Tom reached down to the bag beside the table he used as a desk.  Shouts for Dr. Kent stopped him from pulling out the bottle his hand had been clasped around.

“Doc, we got us a wounded Reb here.  Just a kid really.”  Sergeant Johnny Oaks entered the medical tent with a young boy thrown over his shoulder.

Poor kid didn’t even earn the luxury of a litter.

But litters weren’t carried by scouting patrols.  They needed to move as quietly and unnoticed as possible.

“Yeah, I told him not to bother, but you know how stubborn the sergeant is.”  Corporal Sam Jones swiped a blood-crusted hand across his mouth, leaving a streak of blood, and looked in disgust at the sergeant.  “I mean if the kid don’t bleed to death, he’s going to wish he had.  Not only did he take a couple of bullets in the shoulder, but looks like he lost some of his man parts too.  Think I’d rather be dead than gelded.”

“Put him over here, Sergeant.”  Tom ignored the corporal’s comments and moved the stack of blankets from the cot where he wanted the boy.

Sergeant Oaks eased the kid down and Tom saw what Jones meant.  Blood dripped on the dirt from the injured arm.  Tom made a mental toss on which needed attention more from blood loss…the arm or the splotch of red covering the front of the boy’s pants. 

“If it’s okay with you, Doc, I’m going to see about getting a bite to eat.  We were gone longer than anticipated and ran out of rations.”

Tom nodded and Sergeant Oaks headed for the tent entrance.  Jones, on the other hand, craned his neck for a better view.  Some people were attracted to gore, a side of human nature Tom didn’t understand.

“Thank you Corporal.  You should probably join the sergeant and get something to eat.”

“Yeah.”  Jones hesitated and disappointment registered on his face that he wouldn’t get to see how bad the damage was to the boy’s private parts.  He cast a glance in the doctor’s direction and shrugged.  “Guess I’ll do that.”

Tom pulled the tent fly closed behind him.  Jones would be spreading the news and a bunch of prying eyes weren’t needed.

Alone with his patient, Tom laid out the instruments he thought would be needed:   sharp scalpel, the prod to fish for bullets if necessary, strips of cloth, a bottle of ether and opium for the pain if the kid came to.

He pulled the stool he used to work on patients up close to the low cot.  He studied the boy for a brief minute then sprang into action.  

Might as well start here.  The shoulder looks pretty bad and is bleeding more than his other wound.

Tom didn’t waste time unbuttoning the shirt.  He ripped it open, scattering buttons onto the dirt floor of the tent.  If he was honest, he was delaying his examination of the mutilated organs between the boy’s legs. He needed time to adjust to the idea.  He’d never had to remove someone’s manhood before and the thought made him uncomfortable.

“What the—?” 

Also available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and All Romance eBooks for ebook readers. 

Follow what Lizzie’s up to at these sites

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 13 of 14 Days of Love - J.L. Bowen

I’m especially delighted with today’s guest…J.L. Bowen shares not only her memories of a first kiss, but also a peek into her debut novel into the Young Adult genre with The Healer, a dark paranormal that sent shivers down my spine in a lot of the scenes!  Yes, I had the honor of reading the book in its formative stages.

Don’t forget to leave a comment to get entered into the drawing for ‘wing necklace’ as well as a flashlight and pen.

J.L. Bowen’s First Kiss

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  I’m excited to be here.  Lizzie asked me to write a story about my first kiss which by the way was when I was thirteen year’s old.   I had pecked boys on the lips, but my first French kiss, was with Chris Ward.  He had long dark black hair, and he kissed me behind my parents’ garage during the summer. 

I had never experienced anything like this before so having some guy’s tongue in my mouth was both scary and thrilling.  I had no idea what to do and I don’t think he did either.  I even remember what he was wearing – a red football jersey and Levi 501 jeans.  Chris wrapped his arms around my waist and held me close to him.  We were young, scared and stupid.  Nothing happened beyond the kissing. 

Writing about this brings back memories.  During middle and high school, I never stayed with guys very long.  In fact, I know I broke some hearts along the way.  Believe me, I had my share too.  I always seemed to want I couldn’t have.  Looking back, I had a difficult time getting past the lust stage, but once I got someone, I pulled away.  Why?  To be honest, I was scared.  Besides Chris who was definitely a cutie, I ran anytime they got too close. 

So, when I look at my writing, my fears sprinkle on to my characters.  In my new release, The Healer, my hero, Armond Costa, has his fair share of fears.  Also, he’s never been kissed either, well that is until he meets Cadye.    He fumbles with her like Chris did with me.

Here’s a small glimpse of his interaction with Cadye.  It’s small, because there are some spoilers around it, so I didn’t want to give it away.  Cadye is a Golden Demon and Armond has a crush on her. 

The door cracked opened. “Um, is Armond here?” Cadye asked.
I sat up and wiped my tears. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Hi,” she said. She glanced at Rusty who gave her a you-are-dead stare.
I glared. “Rusty.”
I nodded my head.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Abrianna said this is my room, too.”
“Fine, then we’re going on the balcony, and you’re not coming out there,” I said.
I motioned for Cadye. She looked at Rusty one more time, but ran over to me. I led her out on the balcony.
We both stared at the setting sun. Her scent of jasmine whiffed over me. I wanted to lean over and breathe deeper, but refused to move.  She had on a tight red sweater with a heart shaped neckline and I couldn’t help but gaze at the hollow between her breasts.  Heat rose to my cheeks and I turned away. 
“I’m sorry about Gunnar,” she said. “I talked to him once and thought he was nice.”
“Yeah, he was,” I said. My voice sounded harder than I wanted. I glanced at her. A blush fell across her face. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to snap at you. Don’t want to think about…You know.” I couldn’t say the word – let alone think about what his father did to him in that dungeon. I gripped the stone railing. God, if I could swoop in there to rescue him, I would, but Gregori, I mean, Dad said not yet. He and Montae worked on a plan. I hoped we weren’t too late.
Cadye squeezed my hand. I trembled at her soft hand on my skin.  I gritted my jaw as my pants tightened again.  This sucked.  God, what if she noticed?  I’d jump off the balcony and hide in one of the pine trees and hibernate with the squirrels.
As you can see Armond, is not sure what to do with Cadye and is worried about his body betraying him, which is something he struggles throughout the story.  His story is about self-discovery and resiliency.  Besides squirming in his pants over a pretty girl, his body goes through changes he doesn’t know how to handle such as sprouting wings on his fourteenth birthday and being scared on whether his friends would accept him.  His life is turned upside down when he finds out not only is he not human and a demon, but he’s the Healer for the Golden Demons.  If he doesn’t learn to trust his powers and accept his role, people and demons will die - hard choices to make when you’re only fourteen years old.  

Here’s an excerpt from my book The Healer, which will be released on February 27th from Featherweight Press.  It’s the opening scene to Armond’s terrifying life with his Uncle Peter and Aunt Janet.

Chapter One

I grabbed the wobbly banister and climbed the stairs two at a time to the attic.
A small stampede barged after me. “Going somewhere boy?” Uncle Peter’s heavy footsteps trailed me. “You’ll never get the chance to heal.” His heavy panting echoed in the cramped stairwell. “Not…after…I… get…through…with…you.”
“Not in three days, you won’t,” Aunt Janet gritted her teeth. “I promise you that.”

Great, more pain. They could at least tell me what I did.
My hand shook as I whipped open my door. I charged towards the window. Freedom was only six feet away. Out the corner of my eye, an elephant size blur barreled right for me. I shrank, but Uncle Peter grabbed my arm and threw me.
As the room swirled, I crashed into the wall, knocking the wind out of me. Sweet Aunt Janet stormed over to me and backed me against the wall. “This. Is. Your. Fault.” With each word, she slapped me across the face and slammed my head like a ping-pong ball into the hard wood paneling. She wheezed and stopped. “Since it’s your damn fourteenth birthday tomorrow, they’re hunting you, putting us all in danger.”
God, her breathe stank of peppermint gum. Her hands reeked of her gawd, awful rose perfume. Metallic swirled in my mouth. Blood again. My cheeks throbbed.
“I don’t understand.” I rubbed my face. “Who can’t find me?”
“Shut up.” Aunt Janet folded her skinny arms across her flat chest. “I never should have agreed to raise you.”
Wiping my bloody mouth on my arm, I kept silent. That’s a laugh. Yeah, I was real grateful. Nothing like getting the crap beat out of you because you’re not a Martin. My last’s name’s Costa, my mother’s maiden name.
A motorcycle roared outside my window. Aunt Janet’s thin face paled. Her thin lips, smeared with red lipstick, pinched together. She dropped her arms. “It’s them. I know it’s them.”
I half-hoped it was Rusty Owens, my self-appointed protector. Rusty had long dark red hair and rode a fiery crimson motorcycle, but when I peered out the window, disappointment hit me. It was just some old gray haired guy on a blue bike.
I frowned. “So, whoever is looking for me rides a motorcycle?”
Holding up her arm, she clenched her fist. “Didn’t you hear me?” She took a step towards me.
I cringed and clamped my jaw tight. With her wild green eyes and spiky blond hair, she loomed over me like an Amazon ready to rip my guts out. I turned away. Never look a rapid dog in the face.
“Get a hold of yourself.” I peeked back around. Sweat poured down Uncle Peter’s face and a lock of fuzzy orange hair stuck to his forehead. He glowered at Aunt Janet and then slammed his fist into his oversized palm. “They can’t find him.”
I swallowed. Who? A lump of fear formed in my stomach. Somebody chased me, but no one would tell me who. But the thing that terrified me more was that Aunt and Uncle were scared.
Aunt Janet ran her hand through her sonic hedge-hog cut blond hair and paced across the floor. Her high heels clicked on the hardwood floor. “What will we do?”
“Keep him locked in the cellar. If he’s beat down…”
She stopped and clapped her hands together. “You mean they can’t find him if he’s in pain?”
Nausea gripped me. My achy stomach dropped to my toes. I knew that look. Damn, my right arm just healed. Three days ago, Uncle broke it - all because I punched my sixteen-year-old cousin, Bobby, in his round red pocked face - served him right. I hid my grin. He won’t make fun of the color of my eyes for a while.
Glancing away from both of them, I caught my reflection in the cracked dresser mirror. Strands of long black hair hung in my face. Shaking, I pushed hair behind my ears. With my silver eyes, swollen cheeks, and bloody mouth, what looked like a beaten vampire stared back at me.
Great. I took quivering breathe. At least in three days, I’d be normal again, not a scratch on me.

Uncle’s firm word got my attention. I wiped the blood on the back of my hand, turned, and bit my lip. Don’t get sick.
Uncle stretched out his flabby arms and nodded.
An evil smile spread across Aunt’s face. “Our family will be safe.”
He dropped his arms to his side. “Exactly.”
At those words, I quivered. Uncle Peter seized my arm again and threw me onto my bed. He leaped on top of me, knocking the wind out of me, and pelted his meaty hooks into my face. “They’ll. Never. Find. You.”
In one leap, Uncle jumped off the bed and chucked me on the floor. I gasped for air, but it hurt to even breathe. I never got over how enormous Uncle and Bobby were, and how fast they could move. You’d think they’d be slow and clumsy, but they weren’t. More like, mad bull elephants bent on trampling you to death.
With his steel toed cowboy boots, he kicked my ribs. At the loud crack, I sucked in my breath. Thoughts fled my mind. As I crawled, I gasped for air.
“You like that?” He kicked me again, and got my hip. “You’re like your smart mouthed mother.” I rolled into a ball, and he stomped on my lower back. My kidneys screamed with agony. I’d piss blood for three days.
“You bastard.” Uncle Peter yanked me onto my feet. He shook me. “Your mother and her boyfriend are hunting you. If they find you, we’re dead.” His fingers dug into my tender skin. “Like when they murdered your father.” He dragged me down the stairs.
My mind went blank. Did I hear him right? Blood drained from my face. My feet tripped over each other as if I was a toddler, but Uncle Peter never slowed. “Quit stalling.”
When he whipped open the basement door, the air changed from summer clean to dusty and mildewed. Not again. I beat on his arm. “No!”
“Shut up.” He shoved me, and I somersaulted down the stairs. My vision blurred until I landed splat at the bottom, gasping for air. Above me, a darkened light-bulb dangled from a string. Sunlight struggled through the windowsills, but failed to chase away dark shadows that lurked under dusty, rickety, chairs, behind old trunks and a headless mannequin. My whole body throbbed as pain consumed me.
Light peered through a dusty window. Escape. I braced my hands on the cool cement, but before I could stand, Uncle threw me against another wall again. I landed on bumpy metal. Damn, not the stupid chains again.
“No,” I whispered and darted toward the door, but he grabbed me. I pushed and slapped his hands, but I couldn’t peel off his fat handcuffs.
He hurled me against the same wall. I shook my head, but he grabbed my hair and pulled me to his chin. Thrusting his giant bulbous sized gut and chest, he pinned me. I couldn’t breathe or move. His hot breathe brushed over my head. He clanked the bands on each of my wrists. “There.”
I peered at him. “You said my father was killed in the line of duty. So, did grandma and grandpa.”
“We lied,” he hissed into my ear. His breath stank of buttered popcorn. “Your father went after your mother to bring her back and raise your ugly hide, but her boyfriend ambushed him and killed him in cold blood. Because of you, my brother’s dead.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’ve paid for that sin every day since you’ve come here. My brother was my best friend.” His fingers gripped my shoulders, and he shook me. My teeth rattled and my vision blurred. “And now, your mother is back and wants you, all of us dead. Is that plain enough for you? There only can be one healer, and she’s it.”
He released me, and I fell against the hard wall. As my head cleared, I gazed at him. Sweat trickled down his jowls and splashed onto the cement floor. He averted his hazel eyes.
“You’re a liar.” I yanked on the chains.
He stomped to the corner where a crooked metal rack leaned against the wall. Masking tape, screw drivers, hammers and pliers cluttered the other shelves. Stained turpentine jugs, and open and unopened paint cans were stacked on one metal shelf. Brushes and rollers were stuck inside a paint splattered brown and white coffee can. “I can see I’m gonna have to keep your mouth shut for you.” He jerked a smudged white rag out of a faded yellow bucket.
He waddled over to me. With a sneer on his fat face, he wrapped his fist in my hair. My head snapped back. He stuffed the rag into my mouth. Oil and dirt tinged my tongue. I gagged and shook my head. My salvia wet the cloth, and grit and turpentine ran down my throat.
I refused to show fear no matter how much it pooled in my stomach.
“Better, much, better.” He swiped his hands on his pants.
Softer footsteps thumped on the stairs. Aunt Janet emerged with a whip in her hand. All she needed was a skin tight black spandex suit and a mask, and she could be the next super villainous on Superfriends.
“I am sooo dead,” I mumbled into the rag and braced the wall with my back.
As a sharp toothy smile spread across her mouth, I quivered. She raised the whip. “This is for putting us at risk, you bastard.” She lashed my gut.
I arched my back. My hands clenched the chains.
“After this, you’d wished you had never been born.”
My heart hammering, I blinked back tears and bit the rag. Slime coated my tongue. With each swish, I counted back from a thousand. There is no pain. There is no pain. There is no pain. But a muffled groan escaped my lips and collapsing to the floor, my legs betrayed me. Aunt Janet’s laugh weakened my resolve. “There, I knew I could make you cry.”
Conan the Barbarian and Rusty Owens, I’m not.
Uncle Peter gripped my hair. “To let you know,” he hissed into my ear. His hot breath blew onto my neck. My stomach revolted. “This is your mother’s fault. Abrianna should have stayed away. She had her chance.”
My mother had a chance for what? Make up your mind, dude. Does she want to kill us or stay with your ugly ass? With his sweating face and beady wild eyes, he’d finally gone mad. Did I fall down a rabbit hole?

I hope you like it.  My book is written for middle and high school students and tried to target boys.  I have been a school social worker my whole career life and have worked with students who struggled with abuse, drugs and gangs.  The point of my book is to show adolescents that no matter how bad their life may be, they can survive whether its finding a substitute family like Armond did with the Ellis’s or by accepting and believing themselves, they will get through this. 

I’d like to thank Lizzie for giving me this opportunity to wish you all A Happy Valentine’s Day.  Close your eyes and remember your first kiss and sweep back to when you were in middle or high school or maybe for some of you – elementary! 

J.L. Bowen writes young adult paranormal books.  Her first release is with Featherweight Press. The Healer is part of the series Dare to Heal.  Her website is  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.