If I Were A Boy with Lillian Francis

December 27, 2015

If I Were a Boy

Hi everyone. I’m Lillian Francis and my novel New Lease of Life was released two days ago on Christmas Day. Don’t worry, it’s not a belated Christmas story but it is a story about giving, forgiveness, and charity.

Setting this story in the world of charity shops and vintage clothing gave me an opportunity to do something quite alien to me…fawn over clothes.

I’m not a girly girl, anyone that met me at the UK Meet will attest to that fact. I’m a jeans, Converse, and geeky t-shirts kind of girl—although, to be fair, my girlhood was long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Give me a superhero or obtuse Monty Python reference, especially some type of mashup, and I’m as happy as a pig in muck. You can keep your Jimmy Choo’s and D&G, if anyone can find me a Torchwood/Avenue Q T-shirt I’ll be your friend for life. And the day I can afford a hand-painted pair of Converse with Deadpool on one foot and Spiderman on the other… *happy sigh*

Anyway, I digress. Playing dress up in Pip’s vintage clothing donation and Colby’s charity shop gave me the opportunity to explore the type of clothes I’d love to be able to wear if I could rock that androgynous look. Brocade waistcoats and tweed jackets, slim trousers and suede shoes. A boating blazer the envy of Henley—okay, I totally had one of those, in fact the colour combination of Pip’s was the exact copy of the one I owned when I was 15–and 1930s Fair Isle knits.

blog.lulusvintage.com200812manly-mondays-v.html Pips waistcoat

I browsed tweed websites for that mix and match layered look. I spent hours picking just the right waistcoat for Colby to have in the shop–it’s here on my Pinterest and yes, Pip is wearing it in the mirror on Paul Richmond’s amazing cover. Google now send me ads for hospitality tents at Henley and people with an interest in tweed now follow me on Pinterest for Pip’s NLOL board. Possibly I indulged myself more than necessary but I had fun doing it.

 

If I were a boy…
I’d embrace my new body and dress like Pip does in the mirror.
Or maybe I’d end up in my normal ‘uniform’ of jeans and geeky T-shirt.

Is there any style of clothing you wish you could wear but you don’t because it doesn’t suit your body shape/life style/other people’s expectations/budget?
And can anybody tell me why a Torchwood/Avenue Q mashup is my holy grail?

About the Author

Lillian Francis is an English writer who likes to dabble in many genres but always seems to return to the here and now.

Her name may imply a grand dame in pink chiffon and lace, but Lillian is more at home in jeans, Converse, and the sort of T-shirts that often need explaining to the populous at large but will get a fist bump at Comic-Con. Lillian is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, her Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hob Nobs and she can lose herself for weeks. Romance was never her reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including herself, to discover a romance was exactly what she’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cozy murder mystery she always assumed she’d write. Luckily there is always room for romance no matter what plot bunny chooses to bite her, so never say never to either of those stories appearing.

Lillian lives in an imposing castle on a windswept desolate moor or in an elaborate shack on the edge of a beach somewhere, depending on her mood. And while she’d love for the heroes of her stories to either be chained up in the dungeon or wandering the shack serving drinks in nothing but skimpy barista aprons more often than not they are doing something far less erotic like running charity shops and shoveling elephant shit.

Drawn to the ocean, although not in a Reginald Perrin sort of way, she would love to own a camper van and to live by the sea.

Find her at:

Blog: lillianfrancis.blogspot.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lillian.francis.100

Twitter: @LillianFrancis_

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Lillian_Francis

Off On a Cruise! with Andrew Grey #dreamer

December 27, 2015

I’m going on a cruise.  All year long I’ve been talking about cruising, always Dominic and my dream vacation.  Well in a few days he and I will leave the fickle weather of the north for some fun in the sun.  He and I will eat until we’re ready to burst, spend time on the pool deck, and there will be snorkeling and plenty of beach time.

Our first stop will be Key West.  Dominic and I have never been there before and we’re really looking forward to it.  I suspect we’ll wander around the town and probably go to the Hemmingway House.  Then we head south the Aruba and Curacao.  These are favorite islands.  Especially Curacao with its European flair.  Then to end the cruise, it’s a stop in Grand Cayman, another new stop for us.  Dominic has book a snorkeling adventure for us.

Nine days of fun and sun before we return to real life and most likely snow.  A winter vacation is an amazing chance to rest after the holidays and get Dominic and I through the winter.

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A Story That Needs To Be Told with Shell Taylor – Post + Giveaway

December 23, 2015

The Story That Needed To Be Told (1)

Hi, all! Shell Taylor here! I’m so, so excited to take up some of DSP’s space today and share with you a little bit about my newest release, Resurrecting Hope. It’s the second in the Home for Hope series, which focuses on the individuals who filter in and out of the Center for HOPE, an LGBT center for at-risk youth.

The first book, Redeeming Hope, told Elijah Langley’s story of redemption after losing his first love and subsequently closing himself off from the world. Through a chance meeting, he eventually became involved with HOPE and more importantly (for the purposes of our story at least) HOPE’s sexy owner, Adam Lancaster. These two were supposed to get their happy ending and move aside for other patrons of HOPE to have their story told, but generous, kind, empathetic, and trustworthy Adam had his own story that never seemed to fit anywhere in Redeeming Hope.

Did everyone see that plot bunny hop across the screen? Because that’s pretty much what happened. Adam’s traumatic childhood and transformation into the man he became had to be told. Needed to be told. Screamed at me to be told. And I’m so glad it did.

Writing Resurrecting Hope was quite possibly the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was pure adrenaline from just having signed my first book contract with Dreamspinner or the fact that I knew Adam’s background and struggles from the very first word of Redeeming Hope, but Adam’s story poured out of me with ease.

Although I knew Adam’s childhood, it wasn’t until I was listening to the song Say Something by A Great Big World that the rest of the story came together. The image of Elijah screaming these words at Adam, pleading for him to share his deepest insecurities, was so clear in my mind. The cover LC Chase beautifully designed captures a tender moment of Elijah comforting Adam right after that confession. I can never thank her enough for bringing that moment to life so perfectly for me.

I hope you all enjoy the book. Be sure to pick up Redeeming Hope first if you haven’t read it already!  I’d love to hear from you guys. Anyone who comments and tells me about their favorite childhood memory will be entered for a chance to win a copy of Redeeming Hope!

And I love chatting with people, so feel free to come find me! I mostly hang out on Facebook, but I do flaily things with Marvel, OUAT, mooshy boys, and randomness on Twitter and Tumlr!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shelltaylorpens

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShellTaylorPens

Tumblr: http://shelltaylorpens.tumblr.com/

Blog: http://shelltaylorpens.wordpress.com/

Pre-order your copy of Resurrecting Hope here! Available December 25th, 2016!

Artistic Inspiration with Antonia Aquilante – Post + Giveaway

December 21, 2015

Artistic Inspiration

Hi, everyone! I’m Antonia Aquilante, and I’m here to talk with you about my novel, The Artist’s Masquerade, which is out today. The Artist’s Masquerade is the second book in the Chronicles of Tournai series, but it can be read on its own if you haven’t read the first book in the series yet. Here’s the description:

As the first-born son of the Duke of Tournai and cousin to the prince, Cathal has always tried to fulfill his duty to family and country, including following through with an arranged marriage to Velia, cousin to the emperor of Ardunn. But it’s Velia’s companion, Flavia, who fascinates Cathal. Cathal doesn’t know that Flavia is really Flavian, a man masquerading as a woman to escape Ardunn, a restrictive place in which Flavian’s preference for men is forbidden.

Even when Cathal discovers Flavian’s true gender, he cannot fight his attraction to him. Flavian is intrigued by Cathal, but Cathal is still betrothed to Velia, and Flavian worries Cathal is more taken with his feminine illusion than the man beneath it. While both men battle their longings for each other, spies from Ardunn infiltrate the capital, attempting to uncover Tournai’s weaknesses. They are also searching for Flavian, who possesses a magical Talent that allows him to see the truth of a person just by painting their portrait—a skill invaluable to Ardunn’s emperor.

In The Artist’s Masquerade, as the title states, Flavian is an artist, and he’s an extremely  talented one who hopes to make his living as an artist once he is able to shed his disguise and is settled in Tournai. Things don’t go quite to plan upon his arrival in Tournai, but his belief in his dream and his confidence in his own talent never waver.

There are many references to art in this book, and in the previous book in the series, The Prince’s Consort. Amory, one of the main characters of that book, enjoys art and drawing, though he’s only a talented amateur. Tournai is famous all over for its glass art. And of course there’s Flavian himself, who spends as much time with his art as he can.

I would love to say I planned all of this out before I started writing the series, but I really didn’t (I’m such a pantser!). I can tell you that my own love of art certainly influenced and inspired the inclusion of the art references in the stories. I’ve always enjoyed art, learning about it, drawing and painting. I took art class each year in high school and drawing class in college, and my art history class in college was one of my favorite classes. I went to college in Washington, DC and spent so much time in the National Gallery of Art during those four years, wandering among the paintings, even sitting and sketching. My family used to joke that I made a weekly visit to the Monets there. The National Gallery is one of the places I miss most now that I don’t live in DC anymore. But I do live near New York City, so the Met isn’t far, and I love visiting art museums when I travel (my family puts up with it… to a point). When I was lucky enough to visit Florence, Italy, a major highlight for me was the Uffizi Gallery. I could have spent all day there (my family would not have liked that), and most of it staring at Botticelli’s Primavera, which is one of my favorite paintings.

So I guess it’s no surprise that my love of art has made its way into my stories.

Giveaway: My favorite types of art are Renaissance and Impressionism. For a chance to win an ebook of The Artist’s Masquerade, tell me your favorite artist or type of art or even your favorite art museum.

 

About Antonia:

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy

She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the New Jersey Romance Writers.

Find Antonia here:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

A Darker Holiday Tradition with Dianne Hartsock – Post + Giveaway

December 18, 2015

A Darker Holiday Tradition

Hello! I’m Dianne Hartsock, one of the new authors here at Dreamspinner Press. I’m so excited to say my novel, NICOLAS, releases today. Yay! Just in time for Christmas, though I can’t promise this is your traditional Christmas story.

Christmas, two years ago, we were sitting around the tree talking idly while waiting for dinner to be ready, when my cousin’s husband made a comment about Krampus taking all the gifts away before we got a chance to open them. Krampus? What was he talking about?

His family is Dutch, and he told us a very condensed version of the legend of St. Nicolas and the Krampus, the dark goblin that follows Santa around, punishing the naughty children while St. Nicolas leaves the gifts. I needed to know more! I’d never heard of the Krampus before and was intrigued.

So, I do what I always do, and headed to Google for answers. First, I read everything I could on the Krampus. What a creepy little troll! He leaves coal for the naughty children, switching them if they’ve been very bad. And for the very worst, he simply snatches them up and takes them to his home in Italy, never to be heard from again. Yikes!

St. Nicolas, on the other hand, is everything good, spreading the word of peace and goodwill. He was a man born in the third century in a small town in Greece, who used his family’s wealth to help the poor in his community. After his death, it is said he raised three children from the dead after they’d been murdered by a butcher during a famine.

Aha! There was my story. I took this good man, the one behind our modern Santa Claus, and paired him with this terrible creature who wants to do nothing more than destroy all the good Nicolas does in the world. The death and resurrection of those children brought them together, and now Nico can’t be rid of the monster.

What would it be like to be chased through the centuries by a terrible presence, never allowed to form meaningful friendships, your lovers torn away or seduced from your arms? Yes, I said seduced. I write romances, after all! It took me about three seconds to decide that the Krampus could take the form of a beautiful, sensual man when he chooses.

And Nico needed a love interest, someone sweet and lovely who would believe in him no matter how preposterous his story sounded. I gave him Jamie, a sensitive artist with a core of steel under the gentleness.

NICOLAS is a contemporary romance wrapped up in the old legends of St. Nicolas and the Krampus with just a taste of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale thrown in. Just the thing for the holidays!

For a chance to win an e-book copy of NICOLAS, in a comment below, please tell me what your favorite holiday story is, whether it’s a childhood book or one you read now, or even a movie you watch every year.

Merry Christmas!

You can find me here:

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Twitter

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Facebook Author Page

 

Pieces of Identity with Santino Hassell – Post + Excerpt

December 11, 2015

Pieces of Identity

If you’re a New Yorker, there are certain things you pick up over time.

  1. The accent. It’s like going to the bodega or the cawnah staw to get a cuppa cawfee and then releasing questions or comments at a speed that’s somewhere between an audio cassette on fast forward and a machine gun. “Wassup? Howya been? Whaddya doin? Didja heah?” Or, of course, just giving the quintessential New York head bop (that is my favorite.)

  2. How to make a proper deli sandwich. It’s important, okay? Deli food is a big part of NY culture (bodegas, bagel shops, salumerias, kosher delis… trust me, it’s a thing). And it’s not just about meat quality, although that’s numero uno. It’s about the thinness of the meat (nearly translucent), the way the meat is layered, and the bread.

  3. You know that everyone, everywhere, will ask you at least once “Where are you from?” And this question isn’t referring to just your address or the borough you just rode in from on the subway. They’re asking where your family is from. What’s your “old country”? Where do your roots lie?

The last question is kind of a big deal, and it plays into SUNSET PARK. I have written stories set in New York before, but writing from the point of view of someone living in New York City but who wasn’t born here is an interesting experience. For me, NYC is not just a setting or a backdrop. It plays into who my characters are as people and the little idiosyncrasies that make New Yorkers a distinct group.

One of the main differences I’ve discovered between NYC culture and culture in the South, is that many New Yorkers celebrate their ethnic identities and nationalities rather than only identifying as American. They tend to play a lot of value on family history—where they, their parents, or their great-great-grandmother came from. Whether their family fled Europe in the years leading up to WWII, flew over from Puerto Rico in the 1950s, or came on a boat during the Irish potato famine in the 19th century, many people are knowledgeable about their family history.

Then there’s the matter of the borough you live in, which one you grew up in, whether you’re blue collar, white collar, or a city worker—all important aspects of the people who live in the city, and they all play into how people interact with their environment and how they perceive others.

So, how would a transplant view these customs? How will David deal with falling for a man who may not consider his queerness to be the most prominent part of his identity, when he feels it has shaped who he is from the very beginning?  Tell me what you think in the comments, and please enjoy the below excerpt from SUNSET PARK.

SP graphic 2

**

“You’re not eating the bread?”

“Um, no. I’m already gaining eighty-seven pounds by eating all of this caloric stuff. I at least want to avoid the carbs.”

“God, you’re pathetic.”

Raymond shook his head and snagged a piece of my bread. It was still drenched in sauce and had remnants of pepper and onion on it. We kept walking, and before long, he paused at one of the many cannoli stands. Before I could protest, he bought two and thrust one into my hand.

“You’re determined to make me fat.”

“Shut up and eat.” I didn’t protest too vehemently. It was delicious.

“So what were you thinking about before? You were staring into space.”

“Nothing pressing,” I said. “I was just thinking about New York and how different it is from where I’m from. It’s so diverse, and people celebrate every part of who they are. It’s not just this… blend.”

“What do you mean ‘people celebrate every part of who they are’?”

I regarded the question, the fragments of my own thoughts, and the people around us. “Just… well, take you, Michael, and Nunzio for example.” I raised my voice as music exploded from a nearby booth. “You have all of these different identities. Being gay or bi is just a fraction of who you are. You’re primarily New Yorkers, but also Puerto Rican or Italian, lapsed Catholics, and then there’s the other parts— sons and brothers, teachers, gamers, etcetera.”

“Uh-huh. Is that a bad thing?”

“No, it’s not a bad thing.”

Raymond stopped walking, and I realized we had reached the end of the festival’s line. The evening was growing darker, and I was momentarily distracted by the stretch of the street going back toward the west side. Colors, lights, smells, and sounds, and a constant motion of people meandering along the festival route.

I looked up at Raymond and the play of light across his face, becoming aware of how close we were standing and the furtive glances we were receiving from the woman at the nearest game booth. I had tried to make this outing seem less like a double date by inviting our friends, but everyone had backed out of traveling way downtown on a Sunday. And the more he purchased my food and drinks, the harder it was to shake the feeling that it was a date.

But I knew it was just me assigning meanings that weren’t there. Again.

“What were you thinking about it, then?” Raymond pressed.

“I told you it’s nothing bad. I was just wondering if that’s why being out is so monumental to me but not to Michael. Being a gay man has always been my primary identity, but for him it’s just one of many facets. I was trying to figure out if that’s why his lack of absolute outness as a gay man doesn’t make him feel like he’s pretending to be someone he isn’t.”

“Is that how you would feel?”

“I think so, yeah.”

Raymond looked at again, his eyes drawing to a young couple with three small children crowding by their legs. “I think… you think too much.”

“Oh, that’s so helpful. Thank you for the insight.”

Raymond grinned and leaned against a lamppost. “You do. You always want to figure things out and ask yourself what they mean instead of letting things be the way they are.”

“Inquiry is good,” I said like a good little Common Core educator. “It’s how we explore the world around us.”

“I’m not saying it’s wrong to be curious and ask questions, but you do it because you want to make everyone fit into certain boxes, and that’s unnecessary. You don’t have to understand why Michael is the way he is. He’s never going to sit down and help you figure it out, and in the long run, how he chooses to live his life doesn’t affect yours. So who gives a damn?”

“I can’t help it, I guess. I just want to know why people make the choices they do. Maybe if I understood, I wouldn’t be so frustrated when people don’t agree with my point of view.”

“You get frustrated by that because you’re a control freak and you like being right.”

“Tell me how you really feel.” Raymond finished his pastry and slid his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. “Just being honest, man.”

A breeze caused the overwhelming smell of food to waft in our direction. The chill made me want to move closer. Press into his side or his chest, and pretend that was okay. Like platonic friends kept each other warm on fall nights in New York City.

Get your copy of Sunset Park today!

SunsetParkFS

 

Author Bio:

Santino is a writer of queer romance heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Find Santino:

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Tropes in Cascades with Charley Descoteaux – Post, Excerpt, + Giveaway

December 9, 2015

Tropes in Cascades

Hello! I’m Charley Descoteaux, here to celebrate the release of my holiday story Cascades!

Cascades is a standalone holiday novella…sort of. It stands alone, but doesn’t include a decorated tree or anyone in a red suit, or even a massive holiday meal (there is a string of fairy lights, however). The story opens the day before Christmas and ends on New Year’s Day, but that’s about it. If you’ve read my short story “Toy Run” you probably know how much “holiday” to expect from this story.

During the editorial process, while I worked with my lovely editors to polish the sharp edges from this rough little story, I played with the idea of including one of those snappy warnings in the blurb. You know the kind, they usually start out with a real warning and end up talking about sex in trees or a hairstyle you can see from space. I love those, they can be fun and still give enough of a hint that the story might include a trope I’m not interested in reading that day.

The warning for Cascades might’ve gone something like this: Warning: this story includes a man who leaves the country to escape the holidays, a random hookup with a stranger, a love interest living on the streets, references to girls deflowering boys, and Canadian potatoes.

Maybe I should’ve subtitled this story Unpopular Tropes. (Except for the potatoes, those are always popular.)

I’m laughing, but it’s true. Male-Male Romances usually don’t allow the love interest to be homeless—unless he’s a rent boy, engaging in survival sex until the main character rescues him from the streets. Doug isn’t a sex worker (and not because he’s pushing 50) but he does things most of us wouldn’t want to seriously consider doing to survive.

Probably less popular, though, is JB’s dalliance before the two heroes get together. I can understand this, sort of, but if we want stories to reflect the experiences of real people we have to accept that it happens. Sometimes real people jump immediately into monogamous relationships and sometimes they don’t. Especially if the hero has been alone for a long time. And that goes double if the hero has no idea the love of his life is waiting for him a few pages later.

Cascades is one of those stories I wasn’t sure if I should submit once it was finished—it’s about two older dudes and neither are easy to know and love. I enjoy stories with atypical heroes, though, so I held my breath and hit Send. Cascades isn’t your typical holiday tale, but the folks at Dreamspinner took a chance on it and I hope you will too.

 

What are your favorite “unpopular” Romance tropes?  Do you love a story about sex workers who don’t give up their careers for love? How about a December/December Romance or an overweight hero who doesn’t lose weight by the end of the story?

Tell me in the comments for a chance to win a backlist book of your choice.

I’ll be in and out for the next couple of days and will choose a winner on Friday, 12/11.

Join me on the Dreamspinner Press Facebook page on 12/12 for more chances to win!

CascadesFS

You can read all of Chapter One on the Dreamspinner store. Just about all the unpopular tropes are included there!

This excerpt is from Chapter Two: JB and Doug are having breakfast on Christmas morning at a dive that shares space with the hostel where JB is staying. It might explain the potato reference above.

***

A guy who looked lonelier than I felt brought our breakfast. Two steaming plates full of eggs, bacon, toast, and potatoes. His Merry Christmas sounded more like fuck you.

Yeah, me too, buddy.

Doug and I ate without talking. He seemed to relax as his plate emptied. For the most part. The tension in his face didn’t ease, but he leaned back in his chair and his breathing slowed to normal.

After a while the silence got to me. “Damn, these potatoes are good.”

Doug snorted.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Too lowbrow for you?” I tried for a joking tone, but didn’t quite make it.

He frowned. A moment later he looked up at me. The lines on his face cut deeper than Uncle Pete’s. “It’s just seasoned salt. You can get it at any grocery store.”

“I’ll have to remember that.” The smile I tried out didn’t go over as well as I’d hoped. He frowned deeper and turned his whole body away from me.

Neither of us spoke again until the lonely guy had bussed the table and we’d both finished a third cup of coffee.

“Come on back up to the room with me.” I stood, paused a moment to give him a chance to answer, and then headed back the way we’d come. By the time I rounded the corner, his footsteps were right behind me.

He followed me up the stairs and pushed past me into the room. I locked the door, and when I turned around, he was stretching out on the bed. Nude.

 

Blurb:

Justice “JB” Bishop tells himself he’s satisfied with life in the small town of Upright, Oregon. He was born and raised there, and has settled into a comfortable, if lonely, routine working at his uncle’s bar. JB doesn’t expect anything to change after he turns fifty, until an old friend drops in. She suggests he get out of town for the holidays, and soon JB finds himself on an Amtrak to Canada. JB expected to feel different in Canada, to see things he couldn’t see at home. He never expected to find the one who got away.

Buy Cascades: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7112

 

About the Author:

Charley Descoteaux has always heard voices. She was relieved to learn they were fictional characters, and started writing when they insisted daydreaming just wasn’t good enough. In exchange, they’ve agreed to let her sleep once in a while. Charley grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought, and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. She has survived earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.

 

Rattle my cages—I’d love to hear from you!

Blog:  http://cdescoteauxwrites.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/charley.descoteaux.3

Dreamspinner Author Page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=879

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CharleyDescote

Goodreads: http://tinyurl.com/aqe7g7r

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/charleydescote/

Dream Dishes: Lex Chase’s Thanksgiving Desserts

December 4, 2015

My mother’s Yankee side of the family are huge fans of downhome New England comfort food. I didn’t know my grandmother until later in life, but my mom would tell stories about how she was always in the kitchen cooking round the clock. My grandmother in particular is known for her Graham Cracker Pie. As one of six children, my mom and her siblings in their adulthood struggle to master. With a custard filling, and a toasted meringue topping, this sweet dessert conjures memories of wintertime in Maine curled around the old black-and-white TV watching Miracle on 34th Street.

Lex_Graham_Cracker_Pie

Want to make your own? You can click to enbiggen the image to see the original (and print it if you so desire!) In case you can’t read it, here’s the directions!

Graham Cracker Pie

The crust:

  • 14 graham crackers (because 13 is too few and 15 is right out!) rolled fine (1/4 for the top)

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Directions: Mix and pack into pie plate.

Filling:

  • 2 cups milk, scalded

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Cook until thick and pour into crust.

  2. Top with merengue and graham cracker crumbs.

  3. Bake for 20 minutes.*

*Okay. Since my Grandma’s directions assume everyone knows what they’re doing, let’s break it down for folks that look at it like it’s voodoo.

First, you can find the technique on how to scald milk here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkSN7bH4M-4

Now, those egg yolks? You need to temper those or you’re going to have scrambled eggs.

To temper eggs you slowly add a little bit of the scalded milk while whisking the eggs. Keeping adding in small increments and keep whisking at the same time. If you add the milk too quickly, you’ll have scrambled eggs and have to start again. When you get that together, you can combine the sugar and cornstarch and you’re good to go with your custard mixture.

Okay. So that merengue. For those of you that have no idea how to create such a wondrous thing. You can find out here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPf7n2-KLfQ

A good tip is to only use a metal bowl. Plastic bowls retain imperceptible greasy film that will ruin the merengue.

Bake the pie according to directions. Enjoy!

Next up is a popular recipe among family and friends is my Aunt Bunny’s Peanut Butter Cups. They’re more of a bar than an actual cup. They’ve become a tradition during the holidays, because making them any other day of the year becomes a dangerous prospect for your waistline.

Again, click the image for a better view!

Lex_Peanut_Butter_Cups

Bunny’s Peanut Butter Cups

Mix:

  • 2 sticks melted margarine

  • 1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs

  • 1 cup peanut butter

  • 2 1/2 cup confectioner sugar

Directions:

  1. Spread in bottom of greased 9×13 pan.

  2. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of butter.

  3. Spread over peanut butter and chill until firm.

Now, one recipe special to me is the Love Cookies. I grew up a Navy Brat and my father had been stationed in Okinawa, Japan. I was about four, and in preschool. My teacher, Ms. Love, made these delicious cookies as a treat for her students. For the holidays she also made them as gifts for the parents along with the recipe. You may be familiar with chocolate haystacks with coconut, but these are a peanut butter cookie made with cornflakes.

Again click the graphic to read an print for yourself!

Lex_Love_Cookies

Love Cookies

  • 1/2 cup light Karo Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 cup peanut butter

  • 2 cups cornflakes

Directions:

  1. Bring syrup and sugar to boil.

  2. Add peanut butter and cereal.

  3. Drop spoonfuls onto wax paper and cool.

Love holiday sweets? Who doesn’t! (Except for you in the back. You can see yourself out.) I hope you try these and start your own traditions.

 

The Forgotten Ones with E E Montgomery – Post + Giveaway

December 4, 2015

The Forgotten Ones

Hello and welcome. I’m E E Montgomery and I’m here to share the release of The Planet Whisperer with you.

It’s an exciting time for me right now because my first Science Fiction novel is about to be released through Dreamspinner Press. The Planet Whisperer touches on a lot of things: ethics of scientific experimentation, changing the evolutionary path of planets, criminal justice, care of children, trust and honor, to name just a few. But at its heart, The Planet Whisperer is a love story. It’s a story of hope and joy and future.

Where did it all come from? The human brain is a wondrous thing that I’ll never understand, but I’ll be forever grateful I can pull random facts from mine and link them together, no matter how obscurely.

This is where it all began…

No one could ever confuse me with one of the popular kids, not even as an adult. I’m not a geek either. Sure, I love Dr Who and Star Trek and random facts (like the Earth’s magnetic field is strong enough to land a spacecraft, or buttons were once made of bone, sometimes human bone) but I don’t have the memory I need to be a ‘real’ geek. I fall somewhere in the middle—the forgettable middle.

That’s where I fall in my family as well. While my mother did go through a stage of forgetting my birthday (I received my parents wedding presents hurriedly wrapped in newspaper for a few years), I didn’t actually feel like I was a forgotten child. There were numerous times my family noticed what I was doing and decided I needed to be spoken to. :/

I’ve often wondered what it would be like—to be forgotten.

Tolifax is home to thousands of forgotten people. Some of them began life as a remembered person, only to do something against the laws of the day and end up abandoned on the planet commonly known as the garbage dump of the universe. They were dropped there and, as individuals, were forgotten.

Under the rule of a conservative and narrow-minded government, the people of Tolifax eked out an existence. Some of them thrived, some got by, but most of them floundered, forced into harsher and harsher lives by those climbing over them so they could survive.

Jonah is one of those forgotten people. He was a child, helpless and vulnerable, at the bottom of Tolifax’s food chain. No one knew, no one cared. At seven, he was caring for his mother after a john broke her jaw. He procured customers for her, kept her clean and kept her fed. He discovered he had an affinity with plants and grew vegetables for them to eat and to sell. Apart from his mother’s injury, life was the best it had ever been. Then the john came back. Jonah, in protecting his mother, committed a crime that would have horrified even the most hardened criminals on Tolifax. His mother, who’d seen more of the underbelly of humanity than any person should, was more terrified of her eight year old son than she was of anything else.

So she sold him.

And forgot him.

For years, Jonah remained forgotten. He might have been used and abused, but his existence wasn’t important to anyone. No one would have noticed if he had disappeared completely.

Then Wes saw him, and bought him. Jonah thought that, finally, someone noticed him, and he pinned all his hopes and dreams on being important to Wes.

Wes wasn’t the prince charming Jonah had hoped he’d be, but at least Jonah was no longer forgotten.

Sometimes though—sometimes he wished he was.

Jonah’s life from eight to sixteen wasn’t the stuff of romances. Nor were the following sixteen years with Wes. They happened, nothing can change that. Through all of it, Jonah never lost hope that somehow he’d have a better life; that now he’d ceased to be one of the forgotten, he’d be remembered for the right reasons.

And there you have it: the single thought that caused Jonah to become real, for his whole life to exist, if only in my imagination—and now yours.

Has there been a time in your life you’ve felt like you were forgotten, or wanted to be? I’d love you to tell me about it. I’ll get an independent person (ie family member) to choose a response at random. That lucky person will receive an ecopy of one of my backlist books (your choice).

PlanetWhisperer[The]_postcard_front_DSP

 

Blurb:

Jonah Starovski, a Planet Whisperer, harnesses the energy surrounding dead planets and redirects it into new growth. Abandoned by the man who bought him from a brothel sixteen years ago, Jonah flounders in a world he’s ill-equipped to deal with. He must accept the help of a stranger in order to rebuild his life.

First Lieutenant Marcus Davis volunteers as Jonah’s assistant without realizing the terraforming process requires Jonah’s sexual release. Balanced on the knife-edge of fear and ambition, Marcus is faced with his mother’s machinations and threats to his career. Marcus’s parents bring their illegal scientific experiments to the planets Jonah is terraforming just as Marcus learns to accept himself and his feelings for Jonah. At the same time, Jonah’s past catches up to him, putting them both in danger.

Jonah and Marcus must trust in each other to put a stop to the illegal activities, rescue an endangered animal, and create the future they both want—a future they can share.

 

Author Links:

Web, blog and free short stories: www.eemontgomery.com

Email: eemontgomery11@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ewynelaine.montgomery

Twitter: @eemontgomery1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5347023.E_E_Montgomery

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/E-E-Montgomery/e/B008LO3SBA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1427806072&sr=1-2-ent

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/eemontgomery11/

Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/e-e-montgomery

Dream Dishes: Shae Connor’s No-Boiling-Needed Lasagna

November 30, 2015

Lasagna has long been one of my favorite foods, and it’s turned up in several of my stories as a result, including one I’m currently working on for Dreamspinner. No matter how it works its way into a story—even if someone orders it in a restaurant—I’m always thinking of this recipe when I write it. (And probably getting a craving!)

I don’t know where my mom originally got the idea to make lasagna without cooking the noodles first, but we’ve been using this method as long as I can remember. It’s an inexact science; sometimes the noodles are a little underdone, and sometimes things comes out a little soupy. It doesn’t matter, though, because the taste is always great.

I do know why she started using cottage cheese instead of ricotta—we never had much money, and ricotta is way more expensive! I’ve switched to using half of each most of the time, but you can also make it with all ricotta if you prefer. I like the difference in texture from the cottage cheese.

You can also add browned ground beef to the layering, mix chopped veggies into the sauce, or add baby spinach to the cheese mixture. I prefer it just like this, though, served with garlic bread and a green salad.

 

No-Boiling-Needed Lasagna

26-ounce jar pasta sauce (any kind, with any additional spices you like)
8 ounces cottage cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
About 1 quart water
12-ounce box lasagna noodles
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
3 to 4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Use pan spray to coat the bottom and sides of a 13 by 9 baking pan.

Pour the pasta sauce into a large bowl, refill the jar with water, and add to the sauce, mixing well. In a smaller bowl, mix the cottage and ricotta cheese, the egg, and about a cup of water.

Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan. Arrange one layer of uncooked noodles on top of the sauce (break in half or break off corners if needed to fit). Cover noodles with about one-third of the remaining sauce, then half the cheese mixture, then about one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat layers: noodles, sauce, cheese mixture, shredded cheese. Top with another layer of noodles, the remaining sauce, and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. (Place a cookie sheet under the pan to catch any spills.) Remove from oven and test noodles for doneness; they should be just al dente. If not, re-cover and continue baking, testing at 10-minute intervals. Once noodles are al dente, uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is fully melted and top begins to brown.

Remove lasagna from oven. If it appears soupy, let it sit about 15 minutes before serving for the remaining liquid to absorb.

About Shae

Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. Her fourth novel, Nobody’s Son, was released November 16.

Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at shaeconnorwrites[at]gmail[dot]com or visit her website at shaeconnorwrites.com.