Friday, April 28, 2023

A Lost Art

This Week's Newsletter
YA Romance Whodunit
Ashleigh's YA Reads           Ashleigh's Romance Reads          Ashleigh's Whodunits

This week's newsletter contains the following features:
(Feel free to skip ahead to what you want to read)

What's new with Ashleigh?

Last week, my mother requested I send a check on her behalf. She had registered for a bus trip through our church, but the person organizing it was unable to accept credit cards and wanted payment sent to her address although the check was to be made out to the church. Since my parents are currently traveling, she does not have access to her checkbook and requested I send the check for her. Since I was the one who told her about the trip, I was happy to do it.

Although I pay most of my bills electronically, I also keep a paper checkbook for the occasional handwritten check. However, I usually deliver them by hand or have an invoice I can include when I mail the check. This was the first time in a very long time I had to mail a check with a cover letter.

So I dug through my desk drawer for one of my most prized possessions. As some of you know, I have been writing since I was a child. By junior high, I was collecting stationary. During that time, I received a box. I believe it is linen, although I really don't know. It's not large, about the size of my Chicago Manual of Style book, and is an illustrated gardening collage depicting seed packets and planning lists. Inside is a collection of stationary: blank pages with decorated headers and/or borders along with matching envelopes.

Over the years, I have added to the collection with thank you note sets and other blank cards, always with matching envelopes. If you have ever ordered a book from me, odds are you received a handwritten note from this stationary collection.

As I wrote out my letter to the church lady, I realized that sending letters is a lost art. Even my children, who send the occasional letter to their cousins, don't use stationary. They just write on computer paper and use business envelopes. And that got me wondering.

Do you still like to write with stationary?

On a completely unrelated note, I will be at a live event next weekend. If you are in the Southern Connecticut area, come check out the Branford Book Festival.

Branford Book Fest
Branford Book Fest
May 6, 2023
Branford, CT

I will be outside the Allusions Salon. Stop by and say hi, pick up some free swag, and enter to win a door prize full of goodies. I look forward to seeing you there!

Choose Your Own Path Story

The Detention Adventure

“That is a long story and it is nearly the hour of supper. Would you like to stay here and eat with us? Or shall we take a walk and I can tell you in the quiet?”

What do you think?

  • You could eat. You would like to hear the story over supper.
  • A meal with everyone staring you? There goes your appetite. You’d rather hear the story in the quiet.

You send the old man a hesitant smile. “I’m kind of hungry.”

He nods. “As am I. Please.” He returns to his seat at the head of the table, gesturing for you to sit on the bench beside him. You do as he suggests. Though your back is to the room, you find yourself facing a small window through which you can see the expansive fields and the forest beyond.

“Let us begin with names. I am Beorhtnan, although I have been the elder for so long, everyone calls me Ayaldwita.”

You let the name roll around your tongue a moment before you try it. “Ay-ald-wit

The old man nods. “Close enough. And you are?”

When you tell him your name, he sends you a curious look. “I see. I’d love to learn more about how you came here, but you wished to know about me. Believe it or not, I wasn’t always the village elder.” He leans closer with a conspiratorial smile. “In my youth, I was known as quite the adventurer.”

You try to imagine this old man running through the forest, but he doesn’t look like he could even make it across the room without assistance. Biting your tongue, however, you settle for a more neutral response. “Really?”

“Yes. When I was about twenty summers old, I met a man in the forest, much as young Birdie met you today. I forget his human name, but we called him Driman. Sorcerer. His magic had brought him from your land to ours.”

You raise your eyebrows. “There’s no such thing as magic.”

Ayaldwita sighs. “I am not surprised to hear you say that. There is much magic here. When Driman fist came to us, it was already dying in your world. He knew a little. Enough to bring him here. However, he always feared by the time he returned to your world, it would be extinct.”

Ayaldwita sits back, his gaze shifting to something behind you. As you turn, you notice the volume in the room. There had to be nearly a dozen people sitting in small groups on the floor, sipping from small bowls. Most seemed to be conversing with each other, although the furtive glances in your direction suggest you are probably tonight’s hot topic.

But Ayaldwita does not seem to be bothered by the crowd. His attention is on the child who dragged you from the forest. Birdie is slowly making his way toward you, a bowl in each hand. With a small bow, the child places one before the elder before turning to you.

You take the bowl, but Birdie runs away before you can say thanks. With a shrug, you examine your meal. A thick brown liquid with pieces of green, orange, and purple swimming in it. Biting your lip, you turn back to Ayaldwita.

“Um, what is this?”

“Soctha. It is like your soup.”

“What kind?”

Ayaldwita frowns. “I’m sorry. I do not understand.”

“What kind of soup is it?” You point to the colorful additions. “What’s that purple and green and orange stuff?”

The elder gives a knowing nod. “Ah. They are wyrta. Food that grows in the ground. pysecynn, feldmoran, cawlas. I am not sure what you would call them.”

“Vegetables.” Your muttered response is automatic and doesn’t quite hide your distaste.

Ayaldwita brings the bowl to his lips, drinking some before returning it to the table. You follow his lead, sipping a small amount of broth and licking your lips as you consider the flavor. Not bad.

Taking a slightly larger drink, you get some of the vegetables. The purple one tastes like carrots while the orange one tastes like potatoes. You’re pretty sure the green stuff is peas.

The elder looks at you expectantly. “Is it okay?”

You nod. “It’s good. Thanks. So, this Driman guy taught you about humans?”

Ayaldwita nods. “Yes. He lived with us many years. Learned magic from our elders. In exchanged, he taught young me his ways. You see, I wanted to return to Earth with him. To see your people.”

“Really? Did you?”

The elder sighs mournfully. “Alas, no.”

“Why not?”

“Well, at first, Driman wasn’t sure how to return. He claimed an old spell brought him here, but he couldn’t remember it enough to get back. So he studied with our elders until he was certain he had found a way. By then, however, the Dragon Wars had begun.”

You sit up a little more in your chair. “Dragon Wars?”

Ayaldwita waves a dismissive hand. “The Dragon Wars were a long time ago. You don’t want to hear about them, do you?”

Late For Work

Except, as you make your way to your car, you remember you have no food at home. You can go out to eat, but eating alone is, well, lonely. And costs money. You can order something and bring it home. That might be a little cheaper, but it still costs money. Or you can go to the grocery store, but that will delay eating even longer.

As you climb into your car, you make your decision. What do you decide?

  • Eat out
  • Order take out
  • Go grocery shopping

It is definitely a takeout kind of night. Sitting in your car, you scroll through the menus of some of your favorite restaurants. But there are so many options. Your city has restaurants for every nationality. Some are represented by multiple restaurants.

You debate between trying something new or going with something you know. Everyone at work has been talking about that new Caribbean restaurant downtown. But if you’re going there, you might as well get your favorite meal from the tapas place next door.

But do you really want to go downtown? Maybe you should get something closer to your own apartment. Something like drunken noodles from that Thai restaurant.

Although you scroll a few other menus, nothing sounds better than the Thai food. As you place your order, your mouth salivates at the idea. But what should you do when you get home? Obviously, eat in front of the television. There’s no question about that. But what are you in the mood to watch? Or maybe you skip the television altogether and read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand all week?

You’re still debating your options as you pull into the parking lot of your apartment complex. Shoot. You forgot to pick up your dinner. Frowning at the staring wheel, you decide to walk. It’s so nice outside and the restaurant isn’t that far away.

Your food is probably ready, but you are in no rush to reach the restaurant. You try to forget about your harrowing day. So many things went wrong. At least tomorrow would be better. There was no way it could get worse.

Although, there was a silver lining. Hot Guy Mike from the coffee shop. The man who might become your new client. He definitely seemed to be flirting with you.

Then again, was that a good thing? After all, if his father signed the contract, Dr. Mike would be your client. And therefore off limits.

Maybe he wouldn’t sign the contract. If he wasn’t your client, you would be free to be together. But if they don’t sign, you might be out of a job. So you definitely want them to sign.

But then Dr. Mike would be off limits.

You are so wrapped up in your own thoughts, you aren’t really paying attention when you open the door to the restaurant. And nearly bump into the man exiting.

“Oh, sorry!” You quickly step back, holding open the door to allow him to pass.

When he smiles at you, you see a moment of surprise before he smiles. “You again?”

“Dr. Mike?” You can feel your jaw drop. Had you willed him there with your thoughts? Of course, you can’t ask him that. “Are you stalking me or something?”

He raises the bag in his hand. “I was here first. I’m thinking maybe you’re stalking me.”

You cross your arms, ready for a confrontation, but he shakes his head with a light laugh. “I’m kidding, of course. But seriously. What are you doing here?”

You gesture down the street. “I live nearby. Didn’t feel like cooking tonight. You?”

He points in the opposite direction. “Ditto.”

An awkward silence grows between you. You shuffle your feet, trying to figure out what to say next. But you don’t get the chance.

“Excuse me.”

An elderly couple squeezes past Dr. Mike to exit through the door you are still holding open. Feeling like an idiot, you release it when they leave.

Dr. Mike gestures to it as it closes. “Well, I better let you get your food.”

You nod. “Yeah. Probably.”

But neither of you moves. He shifts the bag to his other hand as you stare past him. A middle-aged couple, each holding hands with the small child between them, approaches. Stepping aside, you watch the man hold the door for his family. As the restaurant engulfs them, Dr. Mike clears his throat.

“So, uh. I was thinking. If you’re not doing anything, would you like to maybe have dinner together?”

You raise your eyebrows. “You are literally holding your meal right now. I’m about to get mine.”

“Yeah.” He shrugs. “I just meant, well, I only live a block from here. Would you like to come eat at my place?”

Dinner with a guy you just met? Yeah, you could handle that. But going to his apartment on the first date?

Dr. Mike must see your hesitation. “We don’t have to go to my apartment. There’s this lounge in my building. We can eat there.”

How do you respond?

A Weekend at Munson Manor

Professor Mills takes her seat with a groan. Before you can ask why, Mr. Rollins sits beside her with a smirk. You want to groan, too. Does this mean you will have to deal with their bickering all weekend?

When everyone is seated, the butler gestures to a new person entering the room. Who is it?

  • A man in a suit similar to Mr. Giles
  • A man wearing a chef’s uniform

“May I present your host tonight, Mr. Maxwell Munson.”

With a small bow, Charles takes a step backward and closes the pocket doors, leaving you and the rest of the party guests with your host. He glances around the table, his salt-and-pepper hair bouncing slightly as he turns. After a moment, he makes a confused grimace.

“I believe we are missing someone.” Mr. Munson walks to the empty chair beside you, reading the placard before nodding and taking a seat at the opposite end of the table. “Well, while we wait for Mr. Kline, I’d like to welcome you all to my home.”

Professor Mills smiles. “It’s so lovely. May I ask how old it is?”

Mr. Kline looks pensive for a moment. “Nearly a century. It was built just before the Civil War. 1850s, I believe? It was built before Lincoln toured the state in his 1860 presidential campaign. My grandmother—this was her house, you see. She made it known to whomever would listen that Lincoln drove past here on his way to make his speech.”

Professor Mills wrinkles her nose. But, that’s was closer to two—”

Mr. Rollins elbows her none too gently as he reaches for his water glass. “Oh, excuse me.”

She narrows her eyes at him. “You’re not excused.”

Mrs. Giles seems to sense the fight about to break out. She turns to your host, who is sitting beside her. “So, what can we expect this evening?”

Mr. Munson smiles knowingly. “Well, I don’t want to give away too much—”

The door beside him opens and in walks the butler with a silver tray. “Shall I serve the salads, sir?”

Mr. Munson nods. “Of course, Charles. Please.”

The butler places his tray on a nearby sideboard and leaves. You glance at it hesitantly. Are you supposed to retrieve the dishes yourselves?

You glance at your companions, but no one else seems bothered. Mr. Munson is asking Miss Lewis about her dress. Mr. and Mrs. Giles are listening attentively. Mr. Rollins and Professor Mills are staring daggers at each other.

Charles returns a moment later with a second tray. Placing it beside the first, he removes two plate and places them in front of the elderly couple. As he places the last salad before the empty seat beside you, you glance at the salad before you. At least, you think it is a salad. The lettuce seems to be hiding under a mixture of nuts and fruit. Grapes, apples, walnuts, and almonds are drenched in a creamy white dressing. After placing your napkin across your lap, you take a hesitant bite.

Not bad. Too rich for you to enjoy on a daily basis, but definitely not bad.

Taking another bite, you glance up to see Miss Lewis biting her lip as she pokes at her dish. “I’ve never seen a salad like this.”

Mr. Munson doesn’t quite hide his smirk. “It’s called a Waldorf. Fruits and nuts in a mayonnaise-based dressing over a bed of lettuce. All the rage this year. According to Chef, it’s a must for every dinner party.”

Professor Mills sends him a hesitant look. “Does that mean we’re eating this again tomorrow?”

Your host gives a polite laugh. “No, I think we will try to diversify our menu a little.”

Mr. Giles nods. “My cholesterol thanks you.”

Professor Mills gestures to the empty seat across from her as she turns to the head of the table. “Mr. Munson? Do you know where our other guest is?”

He sighs. “Alas, no. I suppose he had car trouble.”

An earlier conversation pops into your head. When you were alone in the parlor, you had overheard two voices: the butler and a man you now recognized as Mr. Munson. And hadn’t the butler said that everyone had arrived?

You are still contemplating this when Charles returns to the room with another tray. Again, he places it on the sideboard, retrieving a second tray before serving the next course, a creamy white soup you have no trouble recognizing.

Charles is still serving Mrs. Giles when Mr. Rollins sighs contentedly. “New England Clam Chowder may be my favorite soup ever. Clams, bacon, potatoes. What else do you need?”

Professor Mills shrugs. “My grandma adds cheddar to hers.”

Mr. Rollins makes a face. “That sounds … actually, that sounds pretty good.” Is it your imagination, or does he send her a quick smile before returning to his soup.

When the butler returns to the dining room a moment later, he is not carrying a tray. Instead, he walks to the head of the table, bending to whisper something in Mr. Munson’s ear. When he leaves, your host glances at each of you.

What does he say?

Hartfield Chronicles

Hartford Chronicles

Season 5 of Hartfield Chronicles is here!

Melinda loves Pat, but sometimes she wishes he had friends of his own. When he starts spending time with her dance partner, however, Melinda can't help the feelings of jealousy that surface, especially when he starts choosing him over her. Will their relationship survive Pat's new bromance?

Hartfield Chronicles follows the lives of Melinda, Pat, and their friends as they navigate their way through boarding school life. Each episode features two stories, one from Melinda's point of view and one from Pat's, along with an excerpt from Melinda's writing journal. New episodes are published every Friday.

Here's what you missed:

Episode 126
Hartford Chronicles
Episode 127
Hartford Chronicles
Melinda is feeling better, but Pat is spending his birthday in the infirmary Finally, Melinda and Pat are both healthy again, but finding time together might be difficult.

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As a thank you, you will receive access to bonus chapters from the Hartfield Chronicles.

Announcing the New Hammerhead Club

Hammerhead Club

Membership benefits:

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Free Books

Lightning Within

Lightning Within
A YA Paranormal Romance

Finding out that I am a part witch?
That’s a good laugh.

Add in the part where we are angels too.
Insert freak out here!

Moving to my mom's hometown after the divorce is not anything we thought it would be.

Finding out my true heritage and connecting to my soul mate was not on my to-do list.

The drama that is now my life is not what high school is about.

My family’s past has come back to bite me in the rear, hard.

I have a choice to learn the ways of my people or turn my back on everything they have fought for.

Being the stubborn girl I am, I have to take the risk to make things right for everyone.

      An Old Promise

An Old Promise
A clean, second chance romance short read set in an alluring Greek island

Joanna is determined to find her old love and prove she never forgot that old promise...

Joanna boards a flight to visit the Greek island of Sifnos again after twenty years.

All this time, despite the distance and her life's circumstances, she's been holding on to precious memories from an old summer love.

Now, she's determined to meet again the man she once left behind, hoping for a chance to prove she never forgot their old promise...

      Murder at the Magical Bookshop

Murder at the Magical Bookshop
A Storykeeper's Cozy Mystery, The Prequel

Everyone inside! The winds are picking up and it's do or die for Sophie.

When a shocking murder rocks her peaceful island community, adventure comes knocking on her door in a way she never expected.

With the killer hot on her trail and the family bookshop now in her possession, Sophie must use all her wits to stay one step ahead. Luckily, she has a loyal band of friends, including her childhood buddy Detective Charlie Bell, who's been eyeing her with more than just nostalgia.

But it's not just her human friends who come to her aid. A mysterious stranger, a protective cat-turned-human, and even the powerful secrets hidden within the bookshop all rally around Sophie when another body is found.

As the clouds gather and reality begins to fray at the edges, Sophie faces a choice: retreat back into her old life or embrace the adventure. With the fate of her beloved town hanging in the balance, she knows there's only one path forward. But can she find the courage to take it?

One thing's for sure: Grandma would be proud. And if Sophie could only see her one more time, she'd know exactly what to do.

Hold onto your hats! There's a storm brewing, and it's going to get bumpy.

Would you like some free books in exchange for an honest review?

Mystery Giveaway - Ends 5/1 - Mystery Free Review Copies of YA Books - Ends 4/29 - YA
Read & Review Romance - Ends 5/1 - Romance

Want more free books? Check out these giveaways!

Love For Free - Ends 5/5 - YA, Romance

Do you have Kindle Unlimited? These books are free for you!

Unlimited YA Reads - Ends 5/11 - YA
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Other Books on Sale

Death by Midnight

Death by Midnight
A YA Spy Thriller

When her inventions put her loved ones in danger, can this brilliant teen rescue them from hostile international agents? Anna Goode feels her gift is more of a curse. Bullied at school for her high IQ, the sixteen-year-old genius can’t even tell her parents about her clever contraptions for fear they’ll treat her differently. But when a Russian madman kidnaps her family and demands she build him a doomsday device, her sharp mind is the only thing that can save them.

Teaming up with her best friend, Anna races against the clock to gather the materials to meet the villain’s deadline. And now struggling to stay off the CIA’s radar, the daring high schoolers could be the only people between a maniac and millions of lives.

Can these fearless spy kids free Anna’s parents and protect the rest of humanity?

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air
A Limited Edition Second Chance Romance Collection

Sometimes we don't get it right the first time around. That's why life gives us second chances.

This limited edition romance collection features 20+ stories of hope, happy ever afters, and the second chances it took to get there.

In this collection you will find stories of second chances at love and life as our heroes and heroines embark on life changing journeys, whether changing careers or moving half way across the globe.

What second chance have you been longing for? These stories just might inspire you to go out there and grab it.

      Murder at the Vineyard Inn

Murder at the Vineyard Inn
A Cozy Hometown Mystery with Recipes

Innkeeper and vineyard owner, Avery Parker, is thrilled to play a part in the town’s long-awaited wedding.

Guests from near and far have gathered for what was meant to be a joyous union.

But instead of ringing toasts and happy cheers, a mysterious death casts a pall over the festivities.

When a dead body is discovered in her newly opened inn, Avery's dear friend is quickly put at the top of the suspect list.

Now it's up to Avery to prove her friend's innocence and discover the identity of the murderer before they strike again.

It's a race against time that could prove deadly if Avery fails.

Will she be able to uncover the truth before it's too late?

Wine pairings and irresistible recipes included!

You may also be interested in these books

YA Contemporary Bookfair - Ends 4/30 - YA Tales From the Future - Ends 4/30 - YA & Romance
Looking for Great Books - Ends 5/4 - Romance Mystery Stories - Ends 4/30 - Mystery
Love Always Wins - Ends 5/1 - Romance April Books - Ends 4/30 - YA
Man From Earth - Ends 5/10 - Romance

Upcoming Events

Branford Book Fest
Branford Book Fest
May 6, 2023
Branford, CT
July 8, 2023
Trumbull, CT
Tickets Now Available

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I can't wait to see you!

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Adjusting to a New Life A New Home Innocent Bystander Camp Piquaqua Elephant on My Chest Becoming Birgit
Mooncrossed Kayaks, Kisses & Monsters One Night in Sedona PS: It Was Murder

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