First up is Meg Mims. Here's a bit about Meg if you don't know her.
Meg Mims may have been born in the wrong century. Her love of historical fiction started early, with visits to Michigan’s Greenfield Village and the Streets of Old Detroit at a museum. She was first published in children's magazines, is a staff writer for a real estate business and for Lake Effect Living, a West Coast of Michigan on-line magazine, and is also a watercolor artist and photographer. From a young age, she had a taste for classics such as Jane Eyre and Gone With The Wind, books by A. C. Doyle and Agatha Christie, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin. Now Meg devours historical, cozy and PI mysteries. Her award-winning fiction always has a dead body or two, plus an independent-minded heroine and a sense of justice being served in the end. She lives with her husband, a drooling black cat and a make-my-day Maltese-Poodle, and enjoys games and visits with family and friends far more than housework.
And now, here's her recipe.
1 3/4 cups Flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup pumpkin - pure not pie filling
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
(Can triple the recipe to use the largest size can of pumpkin)
Combine first 7 ingredients. Cream butter and sugar till light . Blend in eggs. Beat well. Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin, beginning and ending with dry ingredients Then stir in cranberries and nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan or muffin cups. Bake 350 50-60 minutes. Test with toothpick, invert onto wire rack, cool and either freeze or enjoy warm.
Would you like to read an excerpt from one of Meg's books? Try this one. I just love it. If you like it as well, you can get it at http://www.amazon.com/Double-Crossing-ebook/dp/B005GWEMCO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1313430768&sr=8-6
Evanston, Illinois: 1869
I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”
“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”
Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.
“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”
With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”
Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”
“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”
Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”
“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”
“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”
I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”
“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”
“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”
“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”
“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”
I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”
Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”
“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”
“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”
“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”
My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.
When Mr. Todaro’s bulky form disappeared out the door, Father glanced at me. “All right, my dear. Let’s discuss this business about California.”
Heart thudding, I stood up. “Why do you need Mr. Todaro, Father? I don’t trust him one bit. Uncle Harrison has a good lawyer in Sacramento.”
“He insisted on accompanying me. Emil has a quick mind in court.”
“Maybe so, but—”
“I wouldn’t be alive if not for his help. He pulled me out of a heap of bodies at Shiloh, remember. I know you don’t like him, Lily, but I will keep him as my lawyer.”
Frowning, I swallowed further protest. True enough, I disliked him. Something about the bulbous-nosed, oily man sent shivers up my spine. I crossed to the window, remembering the time I’d seen Todaro aim a kick at my pet lizard in the garden. Telling Father about the incident now would make me sound childish and petty.
Etta carried in a silver tray of refreshments and set them on the table between the desk and the leather sofa. I sank into the soft cushion with a whoosh. My feet still hurt from my downtown shopping venture and several hours of errands.
“I bought the handkerchiefs you wanted, Father, and that brass letter opener. I found a pearl brooch at Marshall Field. The silver setting looked inferior, though.” I plucked up a golden-crusted pastry filled with creamed chicken and dill. “My seamstress had no open appointments today, and I couldn’t find one straw hat that I liked at any of the millinery shops.”
“If you’re serious about China, you’ll have to give up your notions of fashion.”
“I suppose,” I said, licking a spot of gravy from my thumb.
“That young man has filled your head with nonsense, in my opinion.”
“Charles is dedicated to God. The China Inland Mission has accepted him, did I tell you? Now he’s raising funds for his passage.”
“You’ve never been dedicated to working in Chicago among the poor. Charity begins at home,” Father said. “Your mother was devoted to the Ladies’ Society at church.”
“Her charity circle sewed clothing and quilts. I can’t even thread a needle.”
“So we agree.” Father snagged a handful of candied almonds. “You need to gain valuable skills here in Evanston, or at a finishing school, before you run off to China.”
“I’m too old for school! I’ll be twenty in a month—”
“Ripe for marriage, then, and giving me grandchildren. I’d rather dandle a baby on my knee than read letters about you starving in a foreign country. I’m not going to allow you to wed Charles Mason, either. He might be full of the Spirit, but he’s more interested in using your inheritance for his own purposes. I never detected any love in him for you.”
His final words stung. I couldn’t protest much, either. Charles was a decent man, a hard worker, dedicated to his calling, but admiration wasn’t the best foundation for a love match or a lasting marriage. Father might be right about Charles’ interest in my inheritance, too, which nettled me. I changed the subject.
“Tell me about the Early Bird mine, Father. Is it like the Comstock Lode?”
“Your uncle is set on new technology, hydraulic mining. It uses high pressure jets of water and quicksilver. It’s quite expensive. He knows more about it than I do.”
I chose a toast point topped with cheese, tomato and spinach. “Then I’d better travel with you to California so I can ask him myself.”
“You need to stay here where it’s safe.”
“But you cannot protect me from the world forever, Father. I must choose a path—”
“Keep praying, Lily. The Lord will show you the way.” Father bit into an apple cinnamon tart. “If you truly loved Charles, you’d have accepted his marriage proposal right away.”
After gulping some chilled lemonade, I set down the glass. I’d prayed on my knees every night and morning, waiting for some sign, but nothing changed. I didn’t love him, and didn’t share his missionary dream. If I rejected him, I might be stuck in a loveless marriage to someone else. If I married Charles, perhaps my inheritance money would come to good use once I turned twenty-one. But I’d be thousands of miles away from home, among foreigners, and might never see Father again. Neither choice led to happiness.
Tiny dust motes danced in a ray of late sunshine beaming through the window’s lace curtain. Cicadas droned outside among the trees. The mournful sound, buzzing low and then high, sent a shiver down my spine.