Don’t ‘like’ this

We spend our days perusing social media sites, taking tests to see which fictional character we most resemble, taking vocabulary tests to grant rice to starving children or food to pet shelters. We see pictures of famous asses, and also Kim Kardashian. Now that nearly everyone has a smartphone, we tap our way through bus rides, play intermissions, and family dinners. We feel accomplished. By the end of the day, we’ve processed thousands of bits of digital data through our brains, and it’s no wonder we get to the end of the day and we can’t fall asleep because our minds are still revving at overload.

Or we’re stressed to the point of headache, body ache, screaming nerves and muscles that haven’t worked out all the kinks because we’ve been sitting too much.

But what have we done?

Nothing much.

I’m as guilty as anyone of this. I should be out getting more exercise, but I don’t because I’m so sore from the fibro, which means I take it easy, which means I spend too much time online so I at least think I’m doing something useful… and I don’t get exercise. The cycle goes on.

We view our world from a safe place in front of a screen, be it computer or phone, and maybe the smaller it is, the more unreal it seems. Just another story on the Kindle. Starvation in Africa. Ebola. Voter disenfranchisement in Iraq. GMOs in some mysterious factories far away. All things that are a shame, and out of our control. But we took time to read the story, so we’re better for it and feel educated.

But, you know what? That’s really not enough.

Starvation? Twenty percent of all the children in THIS country live in what is politely called “food insecure” households. That means they don’t get enough food, or don’t know when their next meal might be. This is despite food-stamp programs, WIC and other subsidies. It’s still that bad. These aren’t those pathetic, big-eyed foreigners in the Sally Struthers commercials. These are kids in your neighborhood. Maybe in your neighbor’s family.  Charities across the nation are pooling their resources to provide a holiday meal for these families, but what will they eat the rest of the time?

Use that keyboard to find a way to get out and do something about it. Your time, your hands, your effort will make a difference. Join NoKidHungry or another local organization and give hands-on help, not just an impersonal click.

Ebola? Sure, that’s horrible, and fortunately for us, not a big issue here. But what about supporting the doctors and nurses who are giving their time and risking their lives to help treat these epidemics? What can you and your local hospital do to send supplies or other donations? Get out and do it.

Voter disenfranchisement doesn’t only happen overseas. It happens here and a lot more insidiously than we suspect. The Voter ID laws are just the beginning. Get involved with your local election process and make sure that everyone has a chance to express their opinion. We shouldn’t celebrate a 40% turnout. That’s ridiculous. We have one of the biggest democracies in the world and we don’t even use it. Make sure it’s here for the next generations. Only hands-on work and close supervision will avoid eroding our important rights. (and by the way, you should also read up on the candidates before voting–just because you see an ad means nothing. Name recognition means nothing. Be informed.)

GMOs, food additives, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods? Our American diet is turning into a chemical slurry. It shouldn’t be only the wealthy who can afford to buy local, fresh products. Some of the poorest among us have to buy cheap, processed foods to fill their children’s bellies–and they get the least nutrition from them. See the starvation paragraph above. Volunteer at a food bank in your neighborhood and help during community food drives. Work with Meals on Wheels. Sign up with other agencies to help deliver nutritious foods to people in need, and then get involved in the political process of asking our government representatives to stand strong against fake food. Get your hands on a pen and paper and send them a real letter. They’ll be amazed–and might actually read it.

Next week, we’ll be giving thanks for all we have as we sit down to a holiday meal with our families.

Why not take that opportunity to put away the tablets and phones and have a real. face to face discussion about what you and your loved ones can do to help the less fortunate in your own neighborhood? It’s really not enough to be grateful–although it’s important. Until everyone can join in— healthy, fed with nutritious food, in a truly safe and representative country where men and women, black and white, rich and poor have the opportunity for meaningful and equal chance to make a life for themselves—then we really haven’t made the dream of those first Pilgrim immigrants to America seeking FREEDOM come true. Put your hands to work, in the real world. Don’t just ‘like’ this and move on.

Happy holidays.

Being Open to the Spontaneous

One of the most memorable attractions we saw in Ireland was the result of a spontaneous decision. A chance encounter at dinner one night pointed us in the direction of the Cliffs of Moher. (Although taking the word of a stranger who you’ve only conversed with for five minutes is an interesting basis for a day’s unplanned outing.) Located on a western coast of County Clare, these cliffs erupt from the Atlantic Ocean to a height of 702 feet and are within sight (on a clear day) of the Aran Islands. The day we visited was cold and foggy. Seabirds love the uneven surfaces of the rocks to roost, and visitors can spot puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars (all species I’d never seen before). An interpretive center contains displays that describe the geologic makeup of the site, as well as show a video that displays an exhilarating bird’s eye view of the cliffs from ocean wave to grassy top. After viewing everything in the center (in hopes the fog would lift), we trekked outside and walked a portion of the path that runs along the top of the cliffs–until the chilly damp air penetrated.

An interesting fact we learned was the site was visited so often in the early 1800s that Cornelius O’Brien built a tower in 1835 for visitors to view the cliff’s natural beauty. The site has been featured in a wide variety of movies: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince, Ryan’s Daughter, The Princess Bride, Mackintosh Man, Into the West, Hear My Song, Father Ted. Ireland’s biggest wave for surfing called “Aileens” happens at the base of O’Brien’s Tower and is featured in Sea Fever and Wave Riders. In addition to tourist visits, the cliffs are often the site for engagements, weddings and renewal of vows ceremonies.

My husband loved the environmental practices inherent in the interpretive center which opened in 2007. The grass-roofed center is built into the hillside, uses geo-thermal energy, waste water treatment and sensor lighting. Artisan gift shops are also built into the hillside with only the front façade showing, which minimizes the impact so visitors can enjoy the natural beauty.

What I took away from the visit, as a writer, was not to pass up experiences that might fall into your lap. Interestingly enough, that’s the theme of my short story title Bewitching Gypsy that is included in Roane Publishing’s Spooktacular Seductions.

http://amzn.com/B00OWJJ09C

“Patriotism Is Not Enough…”

On a chilly morning in October, 1915, a woman, not yet fifty years old, rose from her cot in an old guardhouse and awaited her last sunrise. She wasn’t ill, she had no injury, nor had she incurred a serious accident but she knew she would soon die. She faced a firing squad at first light. Accused of treason for following the dictates of her profession, condemned by court proceedings carried out in a language she didn’t understand, and represented by an attorney  whom she’d met only an hour before she faced her accusers and who had been chosen by the court, an English nurse became one of the heroines of the Great War.

I came across the story of Edith Cavell more or less by accident. By a strange set of coincidences I inherited a cache of letters written by my late mother-in-law. She was in her seventies when I came into the family, She was, at best, a trial to  her relations, having the temperament of a dictator and the tact of a cross-cut saw. We did not become best buds. But she had some stories to tell. She’d served as a nurse in World War One, been in one of the first field hospitals–forerunner of the later MASH units–and was stationed in the area of the Somme. “Close enough that they issued me a helmet instead of a nurse’s cap” she informed me when I’d asked how close she was to the fighting. Though she had closer family ties, I somehow was entrusted with the letters, pictures, and memorabilia from that significant period in her life. I promised myself I would one day write a World War One story about a nurse and use that bundle of letters to shape it.

Last year I finally began to frame my story. Following the day-to-day events of life in a military hospital, in a time without antibiotics, when a crude x-ray was cutting-edge technology, and where nursing was just beginning to be a respectable occupation for a woman, I saw my story take on life. Then, as I widened my research, I came across a biography of Edith Cavell.  The daughter of an English clergyman, she grew up with an overwhelming sense of duty to humanity. When nurses were regarded as little better than prostitutes, she valiantly set up a professional school of nursing. Serving as the director of new school in Brussels when war was declared, she tended the German wounded with the same care and dedication she gave English and French patients. She knew a British or French soldier would be taken as a prisoner of war the instant he was released from the hospital, so Edith Cavell assisted the injured in escaping. When asked why she did it, she simply replied her profession required her to save a life when and how she could. She knew men barely recovering from horrific wounds and poison gas stood little chance of surviving as prisoners of war, and so she’d helped them to return to their home countries. She added she’d have done the same for German soldiers if they’d been in similar jeopardy. The German command accused her of treason, held a trial in virtual secrecy, and condemned her on the basis of her own explanation.

Heroes come in many forms–soldier, sailor, courier, statesman–and even the quiet spinster, known for rescuing stray dogs and painting landscapes, standing against a stone wall, alone, in her nursing uniform and cape, facing execution in a chilly October dawn. On the memorial raised to her in London’s Trafalgar Square, her last words offer a haunting challenge, though it’s been almost a century since she spoke them.

Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone..

It seems appropriate to remember them this Veterans Day

Fleeta Cunningham

Pam Crooks–November Full Moon Guest

The 1920’s – It’s the Bees Knees!

For those of you who know me and my books, you’ll remember that I’m the author of 14 western historical romances.  I got my start with Dorchester Publishing and soon moved on to Harlequin Historicals.  I cut my eye teeth on westerns, and loved and wrote them for almost twenty years.   But as often happens to those who have done what’s comfortable for a long time, I began to get the urge to do something different.  I moved on to a different era in history.

That era was the 1920s.  Hard to believe they were almost a century ago!  It was a period of great change for our country, but most especially for women.    Hemlines came up, the cosmetics industry flourished, hair styles took off in a whole new direction.   Once frowned upon as loose and scandalous, actresses became glamorized on the silent screen.   Women endeavored to be more educated, and they flowed into the work force in a variety of new professions, aided by a sweeping industrialization of the United States.

Inventions from the likes of Henry Ford and Clarence Birdseye brought the automobile and frozen food.  Radios soon entered the consumers’ homes, kitchen appliances and pre-packaged foods made home life easier, and well, I could go on and on.

But probably nothing smacks of the 1920s more than Prohibition.  If not for the Volstead Act, which prevented the manufacture and sale of alcohol for leisurely consumption, greed and crime would not have escalated to the heights that it did.

Ah, gangsters.  Gotta love ‘em, eh?

Suffice to say, I fell completely enamored, and hence, my new series, The Secret Six, was born.  The Spyglass Project is the first book in the series.

Here’s a brief blurb:

Five former military men, led by Major Michael Malone, reunite as the Secret Six.  The War Department believes there’s a connection between the rise of Adolf Hitler and money flowing into Germany.  The Justice Department points to the staggering profits made by gangsters.

The Spyglass Project takes the Secret Six into Chicago’s criminal underworld.  Among Michael’s weapons, a beautiful Italian woman linked to the Mafia and the double-agent who betrayed him.

Book 2, The Brewer’s Daughter, is coming soon!

What made me fall in love with the 1920s?  Here’s a few reasons why:

Flappers – those free-spirited young women who defied their mothers’ puritan ways and challenged the men in ways never done before–smoking, swearing, drinking, dancing and–gasp!–refusing to wear a corset.

The development of synthetic fabrics and the women’s desire for more comfort led to trousers, tubular dresses and sportswear.

One of the earliest actresses to captivate the country, she epitomized the glamour of Hollywood and appeared in dozens of silent movies.  Her career struggled with the advent of the talkies, however, and her personal life suffered, too.  She was married six times.

The cars.  Sleek and elegant and a far cry from the early Model Ts that were plain, black and affordable, thus appealing to so many of working Americans.

If you love the 1920s, too, here’s a new Facebook page dedicated to the era:  www.facebook.com/groups/RoaringRomanceBookClub

What do you think of the 1920s?  Do you find them as fascinating as I do?  More and more romances are being set in the era.  Have you read any?

Let’s Cook Some More with Holly Everwood!

Hey, Readers! It’s Holly Everwood again, stirring up a little ELF TROUBLE for you all! Yes, you have to put up with me all this month while Sherry is putting in extra hours at her regular job.

Wow. It’s now the 10th of November and Thanksgiving is just two and half weeks away. Are you ready?  I’m working on it! Jack just went to the doggie spa and is sporting a brand new festive fall kerchief. He’s one lucky, and spoiled, dog! Gil thinks maybe he’s a little too spoiled, but I know that hardened heart of his harbors a soft spot for animals. My kind of man!

So, sweet potatoes weren’t a favorite with some of you. When I was a kid they weren’t exactly my favorite, either, but I “grew” into them. And if you aren’t a sweet potato connoisseur, I encourage you to give the Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potato recipe a try anyway. Sherry said her husband was never much for sweet potatoes but, he does like this version. You might, too.

As for today’s recipe, this is an old family favorite that dates back to my German ancestry. Because about all I can do in German is count to ten, and say Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye) I thought I’d do a little research on how to pronounce the name of this recipe in German.

GroBe Knödel , known to my family as the Big Dumpling, is one that us kids always asked mom to make each year for Danksagung (Thanksgiving) and Weihnachten (Christmas). Okay, I admit it. I was having fun with a translation site on the internet!

There is a little work and time involved in this dish, but it’s soooo good. And it holds well for several days so you can enjoy it with all those turkey leftovers! I wonder how Gil would like this dish. Something tells me he’d find it delicious!

GroBe Knödel (Big Dumpling)
½ cup lard or shortening
½ cup sugar
1 Tsp. salt
3 eggs beaten
1 cup milk
3 cups flour
2 Tsp. baking powder

Cream together lard, salt, sugar and beaten eggs. Sift flour with baking powder. Add to first mixture alternately with milk and mix well.

Pour into a well-greased coffee tin or small metal bowl. (I usually need two. You don’t want your dumpling too big as it takes too long to cook.) Cover with foil. Set your tin (bowl) into a larger kettle of boiling water. (My bowls fit nicely on the rim of my sauce pans.) Cover with a lid and steam for 2 hours. Use a tooth pick to check. It should come out clean when tested. And remember to add water to your pans as needed. When done, invert onto a festive plate and serve with a favorite fruit sauce for a topping. Apricots and raisins were the traditional sauces at our house, but I love a cranberry sauce, too! Wrap up and chill the leftovers and enjoy later!

So, if you haven’t thought about what’s for Thanksgiving dinner, time to get busy.  I’ll have another recipe for you on Friday, Nov. 14th. And, hey, author Pam Crooks will be here as the Full Moon guest this Tuesday, Nov. 11th. Don’t miss out!

Have a great week and don’t forget to find a little time in all of your holiday planning to enjoy a good book!
Holly Everwood.

www.sherryjames.com
ELF TROUBLE, the STUDS 4 HIRE Boxed set, and all of Sherry’s other books are available at your favorite online booksellers!


Pam Crooks Here Tuesday!

Meow, Readers! Moonlight Kitty here to let you know the ladies of ABM will be joined by author Pam Crooks this next Tuesday, November 11th as this month’s full moon guest! Pam will be sharing news of her new historical THE SPY GLASS PROJECT. If you love the era of the 1920′s be sure and stop by. She has some wonderful pictures to share as well.

Also, Sherry James’ heroine, Holly Everwood, of ELF TROUBLE will be back on Monday with another purrrfectly delicious recipe to share. All this talk of food is making me super hungry. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving. I love to eat, lounge around on my comfy blanket and watch football, holiday movies, read a good book, and eat some more. Meow! How about you?

Let’s Cook With Holly Everwood!

Hi! I’m Holly Everwood! I’m the heroine in Sherry James’ latest Studs 4 Hire romantic comedy, ELF TROUBLE.

With the holidays just around the corner, Sherry thought it would be fun if I joined you all here at the Authors By Moonlight blog this month to share some of the Everwood holiday traditions, and favorite recipes. I come from a big, fun-loving family who love to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trust me. These holidays are a big deal at my folks’ house.  We love to cook, eat what we cook, and decorate. Boy, do we love to cook, eat, and decorate! But, as much as we love Christmas and to decorate to the nines, not a single strand of tinsel or bulb goes up until the day after Thanksgiving. Until Black Friday the only Holly you’ll find around here is me! We love Thanksgiving and believe the day of giving thanks for all of our blessings deserves its own celebration.

Now that all of my brothers and my sister have married and have children of their own—yes, I’m the only single one in the bunch—we all pitch in and bring food to my mom and dad’s. As for me, one of my favorite recipes, and one no Thanksgiving feast is complete without, is sweet potatoes. For years I loved just sweet potatoes covered with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and marshmallows toasted on top. But a few years ago I started to experiment a little by adding pineapple and nutmeg. Then I found a recipe to die for and it’s my new favorite way to make this delectable dish.

So let’s cook and get a start on that Thanksgiving feast! After all, my mom says the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I’m hoping my cooking can work a little magic on Gil Boyd’s heart. That tool belt slung low on his hips sure is working its own brand of magic on mine and making me hungry!

Okay, back to food of the nutritional sort. I found this on the Good Housekeeping website. You can even prepare the sweet potatoes and syrup up to 1 day ahead of time and refrigerate separately to save you some time. Just be sure you allow both to come to room temperature before baking. And, I have substituted canned yams in this recipe to save even more time and it’s still terrific.

Maple-Cranberry Sweet Potatoes

Total Time: 1 hour
400 Degrees

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. peeled sweet potatoes (or 2-4 cans of yams drained, depending on how big a dish you wish to make. I admit it. I do a lot of improvising when I cook. Thankfully, I usually have good results!)

  • Salt

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup ( I have used basic pancake syrup here in a pinch and it still tastes great)

  • 1 ½ cups cranberries

  • 3 tablespoons of butter (real deal here, no substitutes)

Directions:

  1. In a covered 6-quart saucepot, heat whole sweet potatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover to boiling on high. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered about 30 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. (If you use canned yams you get to skip this step. Just drain and they are ready to use.)

  2. Use a 1-quart saucepan to heat maple syrup to boiling on high. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently 10 to 15 minutes or until reduced to ½ cup. Stir in cranberries, butter, and ½ teaspoon of salt, and cook just until cranberries pop, about 5 minutes.

  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cooled sweet potatoes crosswise into 1 inch thick slices and arrange in shallow 3-quart baking dish. (I love my stoneware baking dish for this, but glass or ceramic works, too. And if I use the canned yams I simply dump into the dish.)

  4. Spoon maple-cranberry syrup evenly over potatoes. (Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, I’ve been known to sprinkle a dash of Nutmeg over the top!) Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes or until hot!

That’s it. Enjoy! Do you have a favorite sweet potato recipe? I’d love to hear it.

I’ll be here a total of six days to spread a little ELF TROUBLE and to share more recipes, some that have even been in my family for generations. I hope you’ll join me here again on November 10th.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Holly Everwood

www.sherryjames.com

Three in a Box!

When I set out to write my first book, I always knew I wanted it to be the first of a trilogy. Earlier this year, the trilogy was completed. The Corral series, as I call it based on the bar where many of the scenes in all three books take place, includes: This Time for Always, This Can’t Be Love, and This Feels Like Home. At that point, I figured my dream had pretty much come true. I’d written my series, and it was probably time to move on to something new. (Or continue with some spin off stories, but that’s another story in itself!)

Then I remembered that earlier in the year the marketing rep at TWRP sent an e-mail asking about authors with books in a series in order to put together boxed sets on the site. I told her about mine. At the time, Home was still very new, and she said she wanted to give it some time to be a stand-alone before boxing it up with the others. I let that sit on the back burner for most of the year. A couple of months ago I looked back in my archived e-mails and found the original one. I e-mailed the rep and asked if enough time had passed so that we could get the set going.

From there things went quickly. We sent a few ideas back and forth and came up with a blurb:

A small town where good friends gather and rugged cowboys fall in love.

She sent me a couple ideas for cover art, and I chose the one I liked best.

Finally she asked when I wanted the set to be released. I could pick a Thursday. Any Thursday. So I chose last week.

And wa la…I now have a boxed set of my series available in e-book format at TWRP, Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel.

To say I’m tickled pink and thrilled is an understatement. It’s like that Brad Paisley song about him thinking life can’t get any better…and then it does.

I’m a boxed set!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Scary Movies Old and New

‘Tis the season of ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night. And for those of us who love a good story, that can mean only one thing: scary movies!

I have a love-hate with the horror genre. I hate getting scared, but I love a good story. Horror teaches writers about raising stakes, sudden twists, and how people respond to fear. And don’t forget the parodies! Here are some of my favorite movies to watch during the haunting season, from earliest to most recent.

1943: The Phantom of the Opera – I first watched this on a late show with two older cousins when I was about nine or ten. Claude Rains unmasking as the Phantom scarred me for life. If only I’d known Andrew Lloyd Weber was going to turn it into a musical.

1961: The Innocents – Deborah Kerr as a governess to two young children who may be possessed by ghosts. Or she could just be crazy. One of my all-time faves.

1963: The Birds – ‘Psycho’ gets more press, but showers never made me as nervous as birds did after seeing this movie. It was another late show, and I think I watched it for the first time with those same cousins!

1974: Young Frankenstein – Oh, the clichés! Gene Wilder’s bad marcel waves! The double entendres! Frau Blucher! Thank you, Mel Brooks.

1979 was a bumper year for fear. All three of the following movies came out then.

Dracula, starring Frank Langella: If you consider vampires sexy, you probably have Frank to thank for it. Reprising a role he created onstage, he was the first truly seductive, charming vampire. And he didn’t sparkle. Or stalk. He didn’t need to.

Love at First Bite: A spoof of Dracula that stood up well on its own comedic merits. Drac moves to New York City after his castle is sold for back taxes.

Alien: Sigourney Weaver kicking alien butt. Nuff said.

1984: An American Werewolf in London – A legitimate werewolf movie, but with lines like “Mummy, a naked man stole my balloon.” James Naughton is my gold standard were-guy.

2004: Shaun of the Dead: Simon Pegg makes the best zombie movie ever.

2007: The Mist – Back in the land of true horror here. Thick fog still creeps me out, and the ending is brilliant. Horrifying, but brilliant.

2013: Warm Bodies – It’s not Shaun of the Dead, but what is? How can a romance writer resist a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with zombies?

What scary movies, or spoofs of them, do you watch this time of year? Do you have any recommendations to add to this list?

Holding on to the fun in life

I remember when I was a teenager, I couldn’t WAIT to be a “grown-up.”

Which meant, of course, having grown-up privileges. Not having grown-up responsibilities. I already had most of those, as I was the oldest daughter in a household with a single father. He worked hard to keep food on the table, and I was the one who cooked it and put it there.  And the laundry, and the cleaning, and the rest. On top of a part-time job.

NOT me

But I wanted to stay out late and have my own car and just go shopping and blow off time and do what the rest of the adults did–have money and spend it and do what they wanted.

Ha!

What a shocker that was, coming of age and finding out there was never time to do all that because you had to do GROWN-UP things. Whoa.

Nice practical joke, life. Well played. :)

There ensued a whole stack of years where we hardly had time to breathe as we were going through college and having families and working jobs and doctor visits and school concerts and sports practices and…well, you know the routine.

But now that I’m a bit older, I have become a bit more selfish. I gave up a marriage that was eating away my soul and the house that generated more worry than comfort, and moved with my daughter into a nice apartment, where the water always works, the windows don’t leak, and there’s no squirrels in the ceilings.

Furthermore, to encourage my sense of relief and moving on, I’ve added bits of whimsy to the apartment, to bring back the youthful outlook I always used to have, but had somehow lost. So I wanted to share with you bits of that fun and games, in hopes it will brighten your day and perhaps inspire you to add a little fun to your own world:

Our bath, Under the Sea

Assorted "wildlife"

Our guard iguana

More friends, and our indoor jungle

Not one, not two, not three but Four chameleons. Can you find them all? They camouflage to match their surroundings...

Just....because you need bugs sometimes.

And yes, we like books, can you tell? :)

What decor or traditions do you have in your places that remind you to have some fun?

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Full Moon Guests

Jan. 14--Sherri Shackelford
April 22--Kate Bridges
May 27--Ann Lethbridge
Aug. 19--Cheryl St. John
Nov. 11--Pam Crooks

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June 3--Julie Miller
June 10--Victoria Alexander
June 14--Sabrina Jeffries
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June 26--Caroline Fyffe

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