Archive for May, 2013

TW Fendley Thanks to speculative author TW Fendley for stopping by and challenging us to ask, “What if?”

What If By TW Fendley

One of the most common questions people ask writers–especially “speculative fiction” authors–is “Where do you get your ideas?” Maybe it has something to do with my personality type, but I’ve never been one to accept what others seem to believe at face-value. I’m forever wondering “what if” something else happened or is true. 

It’s gotten me into trouble, even among other science fiction writers, but occasionally I’ve been vindicated. For example, while I was at the six-week Clarion Writers’ Workshop for science fiction and fantasy in 1997, I wrote the first draft of a story about longevity that questioned what it means to be human. I thought, “what if” our quest for immortality brings out hidden parts of ourselves, maybe even Neanderthal ancestry? Many of the other participants were offended that I would consider such nonsense “science” fiction since everyone knew humans were not descended from Neanderthals. Since that time, advances in genetics have validated a “scientific” basis for Neanderthal traits portrayed in “The Fourth Treatment (free on my website). 

TW Fendley The Fourth Treatment I embarked on a similar “what if” quest with my latest book, a not-yet-published Young Adult contemporary fantasy called The Labyrinth of Time. In 2008, I went on a dream vacation to Peru, which included the tour of a tiny museum in Ica. There I learned about the Stones of Ica–river rocks that portray an alternative view of history where men lived in the time of dinosaurs. The museum director said they viewed the 11,000+ stones as a library with hidden messages. My story evolved from asking “what if” that were true and a couple of teenagers could access those messages? Although Wikipedia “experts” are sure the Stones of Ica are a hoax, I think the jury’s still out about their authenticity and greatly enjoyed this You Tube video.

In my debut historical fantasy novel, Zero Time, I also took some “what if” liberties. I became fascinated with Andean and Mesoamerican history while I was researching story ideas at Clarion. The similarities of their calendric and belief systems made me wonder “what if” they originated from the same source. My answer was to introduce advanced culture throughout Peru and the Maya world by having a group of sixteen travelers from the Pleiades arrive in the same general geographic area, but at times separated by about six thousand years.

TW Fendley Zero Time I think there’s value in stretching our imaginations and asking questions about “reality.” Those were the stories from history and science that always intrigued me: “What if” the earth wasn’t flat? “What if” the story about the Trojan Horse was real? “What if” men could fly or go to the moon or live in an underwater boat? 

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, a scientist or a historian, I encourage you to celebrate your curiosity and suspend your disbelief.

Thanks, Vonnie, for having me as your guest!”

Among the places you can find out more about TW Fendley and her writing are:   My website    Goodreads   Facebook    Twitter: @twfendley

Here’s where you can find her book, Zero Time, and the novelette prequel, Jaguar Hope.

And for her ongoing exploration of “what if” time is an illusion and we are more than our physical bodies, check out her  Associative Remote Viewing  website.

Thanks again to TW Fendley for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an inquisitive day! – Vonnie

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Readers and Writers Recipes: Pepperoni Pizza Dip

This tasty dip recipe is one I got from my friend, Anne. It’s a real crowd-pleaser. Like last week’s recipe, Pepperoni Pizza Puffs, Pepperoni Pizza Dip works well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, family get-together, or any other fun gathering.

Pepperoni Pizza Dip


1- 8ounce package of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 cup pizza sauce

1/2 cup chopped pepperoni

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped green peppers

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions to make:

1- Preheat oven to 350° F.

2- In a bowl beat together cream cheese, sour cream, garlic and red pepper.

3- Spread cream cheese mixture evenly in a 9 to 10 inch pie plate that’s been coated with vegetable cooking spray (like Pam).

4- Spread pizza sauce over top of the cream cheese mixture.

5- Sprinkle chopped onion, green peppers, and pepperoni over top of the pizza sauce.

6- Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and top with the mozzarella cheese.

7- Bake 5 more minutes until mozzarella is melted and mixture is heated through.

8- Serve with green pepper strips, broccoli, cauliflower, bagel chips, crackers, etc. for dipping. Or add a small knife, and Pepperoni Pizza Dip can be spread on toasted, thinly-sliced French bread.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author, TW Fendley.

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Vonnie2 The end of May is always a busy time for me. Why? Balticon, the Baltimore Science Fiction Society’s annual convention, is held on the Memorial Day weekend: http://balticon.org For more than 20 years, I’ve helped with the Poetry Workshop with the encouragement of my friend and this year’s con chair, Patti Kinlock. (Of course years ago, Balticon was held on the Easter weekend – and I must say I’m grateful it’s in May nowadays).

Many writers don’t bother to attend conventions and conferences, but I find it’s a good idea to interact not only with readers (and fans), but with other writers. Sometimes you just chat and listen to what others have to say about writing, publishing, and editing on the various panels, but often writers have the opportunity to network. In my case, several invitations to submit to anthologies have come about because I attended a con.

I encourage writers (and would-be writers) to attend conventions and conferences. Soak up as much information as you can and take the time to network. I encourage readers to attend cons where authors and illustrators are talking about their craft, autographing their books, and happily meeting their fans. Maybe one of your favorites will be there, or perhaps you’ll discover a new author whose books are just up your alley!

As for me, this Saturday and Sunday, I’ll be at Balticon in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I’ll be reading with 2 other Young Adult authors at 10AM on Saturday, May 25th and autographing at 5 PM. Plus, I should be at the Broad Universe table www.broaduniverse.org for most of Saturday if you’re interested in chatting or purchasing one of my books. On Sunday, May 26th I’ll be participating in the Broad Universe Reading at 9 AM, leading the Poetry Workshop at 12 noon, attending the Poetry Awards at 1:50 PM, and spending an hour with Cold Moon Press at 8 PM. So please stop by and say “Hi!”

For those who can’t attend Balticon, here are links to 2 guest blogs by me on the Young Adult Cross-Over Market: http://patriciastoltey.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-young-adultcross-over-market-by.html and The Wisewoman Archetype: http://sandywriterblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/guest-post-from-vonnie-winslow-crist-the-wisewoman-archetype/ I hope you enjoy the guest posts.

Skean copy I’ll be doing more guest posts and interviews this spring and summer as I promote The Enchanted Skean. And I’ll be hoping for good reviews from readers, bloggers, and reviewers alike. As for cons – I’m planning on participating in Hallowread: www.hallowread.blogspot.com , Darkover: www.darkovercon.org and maybe one more. Have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend and keep on reading!

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MaryHolland.JPG Thanks to author Mary Holland for stopping by and sharing the inspiration for her speculative novel and a bit about how she built her fantasy world. Enjoy!

In With The Out Crowdby Mary Holland

In the world of The Bone Road, it’s hard to have a living baby. The Deom people are divided into two moieties, or tribes, called Wid and Zeosil. Babies live if a Wid and a Zeosil mate with each other. If they are careless or unthinking or criminal, and a Wid gets pregnant by another Wid, or a Zeosil by a Zeosil, the baby will be a Shun. Shun are infertile, and often do not survive their birth. It’s a tough world and people have to make hard choices so their society can survive.

I came up with Deom society quite easily. When I was growing up in a working class town on the East Coast, the big division in my high school was between the Whites and the Italians. I was a ‘half-breed’ with an Italian last name, a non-Italian mother, and not a member of the Catholic Church. However, my last name barred me from acceptance as a ‘White’, so I had early experience as a member of the out crowd, i.e., Anyone Not Us.

The out-group gives the in-group a sense of belonging, importance, and meaning. In fact, the in-group cannot survive without having people to exclude and look down on. If everyone belongs equally, the classifications are meaningless and will cease to exist. Humans are very good at creating new in/out groups as the old ones lose importance: White/Black, Arab/Jew, gay/straight, popular/unpopular, it’s an endless list. Dividing people between Italian and White sounds ridiculous now. I can only hope that, with time, the other divisions become just as ridiculous. But we are all human beings, members of the same biological species, and a definition of species is the ability to cross breed. Miscegenation is not a biological term.

When I was creating the Deom of The Bone Road, I took this one step further. What if groups of humans couldn’t interbreed? What if the pairing of a Catholic and a Jew was biologically impossible? Or, inverting the idea, what if a Catholic and a Jew had to interbreed for humanity to survive? What kind of world would that be? How would the society be structured, how would they have children, how would they live? I always knew the world would be pre-industrial, certainly pre-technology, so how would a woman know if a man was a safe or proper mate for her? I thought about magic, which led me to divination, and then to the idea of a ‘divvy’, which is another word for fortuneteller. At that point I had my main character, Rhona, and her special skill.

World building in fantasy is wonderful for playing with concepts. If I have a major premise and I am logically consistent I can work out the rules of the world and structure my plot around them.

As I’ve said, The Bone Road is a tough world. The Deom don’t believe in a life after death, and there is no mourning. When a Deom dies, their body goes into the Road and their name is never spoken. The Deom grieve, but they grieve in private. Rhona brings bad luck down on herself when she mentions her dead mother’s name, and she knows she deserves it for breaking custom. She achieves her purpose, but she also lives with the consequences of her act.

Rhona is a powerful woman. Deom society is matriarchal, because property inheritance and moiety affiliation go through the women, so Rhona has never lived in a subordinate position. The idea makes no sense to her. I enjoyed writing her a great deal, and I tried very hard to present her as a woman who has strong feelings, a sense of honor, and no sentimentality.

Mary Holland Bone Road I tell the story of The Bone Road through three points-of-view: Rhona, her son Jak, and the girl Ani. My favorite character is someone the reader sees only from the outside: Matteo the Shun. This was deliberate, because Matteo is an enigmatic figure, and extremely reserved. I wanted the reader to see him as the other characters see him. Rhona tells her son part of Matteo’s story, but even she, who knows him best, only knows a part. Matteo is the ultimate outsider. He is a Shun, unable to breed, and traditionally despised by both Wid and Zeosil. He is also estranged from other Shun because he insists on living with Wid and Zeosil. And finally, he is a moneylender and extremely wealthy, so he picks up an extra ration of hatred from the less fortunate.

Because Matteo is such an excluded and despised figure, he has no allegiance or loyalty to any group. His vision of Deom society is clear and unencumbered. He relates to each person he meets as an individual. He judges them by their actions, not their status in society. And because he is an outsider, he’s the first to notice the disruptions and odd changes happening in the south and to understand the consequences. That’s the power and the great value in being an outsider: your mind is not locked into one way of thinking.

The Bone Road is a complete story in one volume, not part of a trilogy. But I might do another stand-alone story set in that world, and some of the same characters might be involved. A great deal of Matteo’s back-story wasn’t told, and he is, as I said, the type of character who sticks with you. After I finish my current, and new, project, I might revisit Rhona and Matteo and the Bone Road. Anything can happen. It is fantasy, after all.”

For more information about Mary Holland, visit her website: http://www.mary-holland.com To buy her books: Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/The-Bone-Road-ebook/dp/B007W6RDBY/ Smashwords (epub): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/153422 Lulu(paperback): http://www.lulu.com/shop/mary-holland/the-bone-road/paperback/product-20733757.html

Thanks again to Mary Holland for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an empowered day! – Vonnie

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Readers and Writers Recipes: Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

This fabulous appetizer originated in Everyday with Rachel Ray. It was altered slightly, then posted on the Lick the Bowl Good blog where my daughter-in-law, Dawn, saw it. Dawn served it to my husband and I, and it was delicious. But, of course, I had to tweak it. Like my last recipe, Calico Beans, Pepperoni Pizza Puffs work well for a book club or readers’ group get-together, family get-together, or any other fun gathering.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs


3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

a pinch of salt

3/4 cup milk (I use skim)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup cubed pepperoni

1/2 to 1 cup store-bought pizza sauce

Directions to make:

1- Preheat oven to 375° F.

2- Spray a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with vegetable cooking spray (like Pam).

3- In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, Italian seasoning, and salt. Then, stir in the milk and egg. Next, stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan, and pepperoni. Let stand for 10 minutes.

4- Stir batter again, then divide among the mini-muffin cups.

5- Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

6- When the pizza puffs are nearly ready, pour the pizza sauce in a microwavable bowl and microwave until warm.

7- Remove pizza puffs from oven when done, place on a serving plate, and serve with the warm pizza sauce (for dipping).


1-These simple, appetizers go quickly, so you might want to make 2 batches if you’re having more than 4 people.

2- I use skim milk and part-skim mozzarella cheese, but if you like a richer taste, you can use whole milk and cheese.

3- If you don’t have any pizza sauce on the shelf, a well-seasoned store-bought tomato sauce will work. By the way, the amount of sauce varies depending on how much you and your guests like to “dip.”

4- Since mini-muffin pan cups vary in size, you might have a little batter left. It can be baked in additional mini-muffin pans or full-size muffin cups if necessary.

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author, Mary Holland.

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Skean copy The first reviews of The Enchanted Skean are in, and I couldn’t be happier. Now, I know that not all the reviews are going to be as positive, but I’m delighted that so far readers are pleased with my young adult fantasy novel.

First Amazon review: “5 Stars – What An Imagination. I loved this novel. It transported me into a three dimensional reality full of rich details and memorable characters. I only wish the second book were already published so that I could continue with the characters for the next phase of the journey. P.S. I really want a dragonet of my own!” – Dawn C.

The first review of The Enchanted Skean by Douglas R. Cobb appeared in New Yorker Times. It’s quite long, and I won’t include the whole thing here, but here are a two excerpts:

“Once you begin reading The Enchanted Skean by Vonnie Winslow Crist, you won’t want to put it down.”

The Enchanted Skean… is a remarkable fantasy novel that will have your enraptured from the opening page to the very last one. If you love reading epic fantasy novels filled with magic, myriads of cool characters and races, and plenty of warriors and action, I highly recommend you check out [this book]. I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the Chronicles of Lifthrasir, and you will, also, once you read The Enchanted Skean.”  To read full review: http://newyorkertimes.com/2013/04/theenchantedskean/ (Sorry, site has been taken down).

Curious about the book?  Here’s a link to The Enchanted Skean’s book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-8C9OkyJCU and a 3-chapter excerpt: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt

Thanks Douglas R. Cobb and Dawn C. for your reviews. I hope other readers like the book as much as you.

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Thanks to author Roy Huff for stopping by and sharing his journey as a novelist. And look for the FREE eBOOK offer at the end. Enjoy!

The Making of Everville: The First Pillar by Roy Huff

Roy Huff “There were several aspects in the creation of my first book and the first in a series Everville: The First Pillar that, I think, have helped make it a modestly successful debut novel. Perhaps the most important was that its initial inception came about as a descriptive creative writing paper for a college English class. This helped set the descriptive tone that was kept throughout the entirety of the paper. It also allowed me to get peer feedback without the pressure of writing a book. Once the creative writing paper was written, the response from fellow classmates encouraged me to turn it into a book.

I worked over the course of 18 months on the first 30 pages, then after much deliberation, decided to finish the novel in short order. Honestly, it was the concern over finding a literary agent and a traditional publishing house that delayed the completion of the book. But after doing a little research and reading John Locke’s ebook How I Sold 1 Million ebooks in 5 Months, I decided that I could make a book successful on my own. This helped me shape the creative aspects of the novel to fit my target audience and market the book more effectively. While I don’t agree with all the recommendations by John Locke, some of which I have serious reservations about, there was plenty of good advice in Locke’s book for me to use in moving forward with the publication process.

Roy Huff City of Worms Everville: The First Pillar was a fun project for me, and I’m having an equally fun time in writing the second book, Everville: The City of Worms, as well as continuing to market Everville: The First Pillar. Perhaps that most exciting aspect, aside from building a fantasy world and writing the story itself, is interacting with readers who have read and enjoyed the book. It has inspired me to continue writing and make an even greater effort to reach out to my readers as well as fellow writers. I am grateful to Amazon’s KDP program and Goodreads’ giveaway events, which can be used a platform for small independent authors like myself to reach a wider audience, and perhaps have a greater opportunity for commercial success.

To those aspiring writers, my recommendations are to hire a good editor, get your manuscript proofed and reproofed as much as possible, write what inspires you, never take no for an answer, never give up, and don’t be afraid to spend a significant amount of time promoting yourself and your book. Also, be willing to help others and genuinely invest in their success.

Roy Huff The First Pillar I hope to see you on Twitter @evervillefans, Instagram @owensageblog, Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/evervillefans, and my blog http://www.owensage.com/blog.html

FREE – May 12th through May 16th 2013: Download Everville: The First Pillar for FREE on Amazon during the 5 day Kindle ebook promo http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BCOQSSQ/ and enter the international signed Goodreads paperback giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/51905-the-first-pillar

Thanks again to Roy Huff for his guest Post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have an inspired day! – Vonnie

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Vonnie at Carroll County Farmer's Market I love to imagine stories, then jot them down. I enjoy researching, revising, and polishing a story. I like sketching, then painting cover art. Quiet talks with other writers, readers, and fans about my fiction are fun. But I do NOT like to promote, even though I realize promotion is a necessary part of building a reader base and letting people know that a book is available.

I’ve thought a lot about why many writers and illustrators, me included, hate the promotion part of the book business. I’ve decided it’s because when we draw attention to our books, stories, or artwork, we feel like we’re bragging somehow. For me, it’s not about “look at what I’ve done,” so much as inviting readers to enter the fantastical worlds I’ve created. It’s about telling a story around a campfire and having people listen.

And so, with an eye to promotion, I invited you to visit a few guest blogs and interviews I’ve done recently:

Thanks to romance writer, Allison Merritt, for inviting me to guest post Speculative Romance: http://havenovelwilledit.blogspot.com/2013/03/guest-post-vonnie-winslow-crist.html

Thanks to fantasy author, Jennifer Allis Provost, for inviting me to guest post Where the Magic Begins: http://jenniferallisprovost.blogspot.com/2013/04/where-magic-begins-by-vonnie-winslow.html

Thanks to the wonderful author, Jaleta Clegg, for interviewing me on her blog: http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com/2013/04/author-interview-vonnie-winslow-crist.html

Thanks to fantasy author, J. Michael Squatrito, Jr. for inviting me to guest post Location Matters in Fantasy: http://theoverlords.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-guest-blog-with-vonnie-winslow-crist.html

Skean copy And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Douglas R. Cobb for interviewing me for The New Yorker Times (and asking very specific questions about The Enchanted Skean): http://newyorkertimes.com/2013/05/vonnie-winslow-crist-interview/

I hope you’ll read and enjoy the interviews and guest posts, and I hope I get more comfortable doing book promotion!

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Rachel Z. Ikins Thanks to author Rachael Ikins for stopping by and sharing her journey as the writer of The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods. Enjoy!

My Journey as a Fantasy Writer by Rachael Ikins

I began writing fantasy in 1995 with a very simple goal in mind. I had a young friend who was going through teen angst. We’d been friends since she was a child of 3. We had travelled many magical places in our minds and play, and shared a love of possibility. So, when she was hurting, I started to write stories for her based on stuffed animals who’d come to life. Sometimes she starred in the story, even to the point of posing in costume for some illustrative photos.

Life moved us both on and apart. Two moves later, I faced life without my husband and the loss of almost everything we’d had. After prying open a stuck file cabinet drawer, I found the stories which would become the beginnings of my first book, The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods.

Since I’d been in a lot of pain myself all those years ago, and with so much upheaval between then and now, I did not remember writing the stories. I was astonished to see them again as my fingers smoothed the wrinkled pages. Two writers conferences for YA fiction later, and after becoming pen pals with an established author in the genre who later wrote a review of The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods and encouraged me to allow the book to be nominated for an award – I was ready. A la’ Peter Straub, I listened for the voices of characters to speak to me, read some passages aloud to my first adult writers’ group, and soon a book was born.

What I have found profound and most powerful about the process of writing a fantasy novel, is the power to touch readers’ hearts. Simply put, the stories I wrote have moved others so deeply. The Complete Tales grew from the simple desire to comfort a friend to the desire to become a “real writer” and to solve my personal life dilemmas. Long ago, I had sought refuge in those forests when my own life was bleak beyond description. And so, I wrote of ensorcelled characters able to face their tormentors, to free themselves at last.

I had no idea how fantastic it would be to complete a book. Until now. Until I did it. Those tales came back into my life the year I decided for no particular reason to pry open a stuck drawer, to uncrumple the wad of pages far in the back of it. It was almost as if they were hidden there awaiting me… like a real magical spell when the time was right.

Rachel Z. Ikins Tales from the Edge of the Woods The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods seems to resonate with readers ages 8 to 83. I have faith in the magic of these tales. Book 2 has been written. Book 3 will follow. And I will allow the story to lead me out into the world, to take me where it may go.

Standing room only at last night’s book launch party and a sell-out of all copies only proves my point. There is magic out there. Reach for it and it will find you.”

To learn more about Rachael, visit: http://www.rachaelikins.com or http://about.me/Rachaelz Read her blogs: http://rachaelzikins.blogspot.com and http://writerraebeth.wordpress.com Find her books at: http://rachaelikins.com/publications.htm and her artwork at: http://rachaelikins.com/artwork.htm You can also find her on FaceBook: Rachael Ikins and Twitter: @justaskrache

Thanks again to Rachael Ikins for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a ensorcelled day! – Vonnie

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Readers and Writers Recipes: Calico Beans

This flavorful recipe can be baked as casserole in the oven or cooked for a longer period of time in a slow cooker. Like last week’s Crab Appetizers, Calico Beans work well for a book club, readers’ group, or family pitch-in or cook-out. The addition of meat gives Calico Beans more protein and a rich flavor.

Calico Beans


1/2-pound ground beef (ground turkey can be used)

1/4-pound bacon (turkey bacon can be used)

1 cup chopped onion.

1-pound can of kidney beans

1-pound can of pork and beans

1-pound can of lima beans, drained

1/2-cup ketchup

1/2-cup brown sugar

1-teaspoon salt

2-teaspoons vinegar

1-teaspoon dry mustard

Directions to make:

1-If baking in oven, preheat oven to 350º F.

2-Brown ground meat, bacon, and onions in a large pan coated with a vegetable spray like Pam.

3-Add remaining ingredients and stir until well-mixed.

4-If baking in oven, coat a large casserole dish with vegetable spray. Add bean mixture.

5-Cover casserole with lid (or aluminum foil) and bake for 40 minutes. Serve hot.

6-If using a slow cooker, place beans in cooker, cover, then cook for 3 hours on low.


1-You can beat these beans for a cook-out. Serve with hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken from the grill or other cook-out favorites. They also make a nice addition to a meal.

2-If you have trouble finding 1-pound cans of beans (often they come in 10 to 15-ounce cans), you can always add an extra can of beans so the total amount equals 3-pounds (or 48-ounces).

Appearing Monday on Whimsical Words: a guest post from author, Rachael Ikins.

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