Tattoos and The Blessed Epoch

September 11, 2013

How’s everybody doing? Gus here again with another post for my Iron and Ether pre-release party. Iron and Ether, Book Three of the Blessed Epoch, is available for pre-order here.

I’m a big fan of tattoos, and I have tons of them myself. Still, they ended up taking on a much larger role in the Blessed Epoch series than I originally. I think there’s meaning in this and that my subconscious mind knew exactly what is was doing.

When I set out to construct a world where an epic fantasy could take place, I knew I wanted to populate it with races other than human. I wanted different societies for color and the cultural contrasts they would provide. I also knew I didn’t want to go with the traditional elves and dwarves. I wanted to create a race of my own, and so the Emiri, the Sea People, were born. They take their name from Emir, their word for the ocean, and their customs and values couldn’t be more different from the human people of Selindria and Gaeltheon. One such custom involves the swirling, organic tattoos the Emiri call “paint.” You may have noticed Yarrow also has this Emiri paint on his face, and in fact it extends all the way down his body. To clarify, for a Selindrian like Yarrow, especially an aristocrat, to do this to his body is not even remotely acceptable. Most of the humans in Selindria and Gaeltheon want nothing to do with the Emiri, who they see as morally corrupt, dissolute, and lazy. No one in their right mind would do what Yarrow did. So why did Yarrow do it?

After being exiled at such a young age and enduring terrible ordeals while alone on the road, Yarrow could find no one who would help him or show him mercy. He was constantly forced to defend himself and always in danger. Finally he made his way to the southern coast where the Emiri lived, and they took him in and finally showed him kindness. Yarrow enjoyed the free society with values so different from those he hated among the nobility, and he took an Emiri lover, got his tattoos, and planned to stay. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for him with the Emiri.

Sai, an Emiri ship’s captain. Artwork is a collaboration between me and Beau Schemery.

Sai Emiri ship captain

Sasha also has a tattoo–one that very few people ever get to see. It’s a tiny red crescent moon dripping blood on his inner thigh right next to his groin: the mark of his order of assassins. Duncan, of course, has no paint, and I realized this is significant. Before I start a book or a series, I usually sit around and doodle, trying to iron out the aesthetics of the characters. And like I said, tattoos are cool, so I added them to Yarrow and Sasha, and not long after, the back-stories behind them became clear to me. It wasn’t until I actually started drafting Ash and echoes that the TRUE significance of my characters’ body art (or lack of it) revealed itself to me.

Tattoos are absolutely not accepted in the fantasy world of the Blessed Epoch. A person would be able to discern, as soon as they saw Yarrow, that he really has no place in polite society. He is an outsider, and it’s clear just by looking at him. Of course, Yarrow has no use for polite society so he doesn’t care. If his Emiri paint gets people to shy away from him and leave him alone, to him that’s a bonus.

With his small, hidden tattoo, Sasha can blend in with society; in fact he can do so expertly and has on many occasions. But Sasha is subtle and manipulative where Yarrow is not. Being able to move in privileged circles is often crucial to Sasha’s work, and with his beauty and training, he is accepted as part of the civilized world. But underneath, he’s still hiding that little tattoo. He’s every bit as much of an outsider as Yarrow, it just benefits him to hide it sometimes.

And of course Duncan, with no tattoos, IS a part of society. He’s not an outsider. In this way, my characters’ degrees of body art told me a lot about them.

Who here has tattoos?

Who likes them, and how many? Big, all-over designs or just a few splashes of color here and there? Or do you prefer no tattoos? Or does it depend?

Personally, I’m with Yarrow. I have enough tattoos in obvious places that they’ll probably prevent me from working in certain jobs. But like Yarrow, anything my tattoos keep me out of, I probably don’t want to be part of anyway.

The Blessed Epoch

Want to meet the boys?

September 11, 2013

Now that I’ve introduced myself, I’ll introduce my three protagonists from the Blessed Epoch series. At the end of the post, I’ll tell you how to take part in my first contest of the day.

Each of my characters now has his own cover by the wonderful and talented Anne Cain. Here they are!

YarrowYarroway L’Estrella– Yarrow is the youngest son of a powerful noble family. Due to a scandal, he was exiled at the age of fourteen and spent the next several years wandering the world in search of arcane power, so he could protect himself and never be hurt or taken advantage of again. Yarrow possesses powerful magic, but some of his ordeals have left deep scars on his heart and mind. He isn’t always completely sane, and he is sometimes dangerous, even to the people he loves. In many ways, Yarrow is a series of contradictions. At the start of the series, he’s lonely and desperate for love, yet he uses he acerbic attitude to drive others away and keep them at a distance. He’s at once very proud, almost arrogant, about his magic and abilities, while seeing himself as quite unworthy in other ways. He is strong and has learned to live with very little, but in some ways he’s also fragile. Yarrow resents authority and anyone attempting to tell him what to do. He hates politics and the customs of the aristocratic society he was raised in. He isn’t one to hold his tongue, and he can be very fierce if he thinks someone is threatening or insulting someone he cares about.

Yarrow’s birthday is the 12th day of Jelsyn’s Moon, and he is currently 21 years old. His favorite foods are sweets like muffins and biscuits. He dislikes eating meat, but will do it if necessary. Oh, and he drinks too much.

Duncan Purefroy–Duncan began his training for the knighthood at age twelve, and in the years that followed, he rose through the ranks and became a well-respected commander and adviser to the monarchy. Duncan has always taken his duty very seriously; for many years he placed it above everything else in his life, even his own happiness to an extent. As a warrior, Duncan sees himself as a protector of the people of the land, those who aren’t soldiers and can’t protect themselves. He isn’t a man who likes killing or enjoys battle, but he also isn’t a man who can stand aside and do nothing when he has the opportunity to help or make a difference.

Duncan has a strong personal code of honor. He tries to take the righteous path instead of doing what’s easy or most efficient.  He’s fairly religious and doesn’t appreciate blasphemy against the Thirteen Goddesses. Despite his size, Duncan is a very gentle man when he doesn’t have to fight. He likes to spoil his lovers, and says and does sweet, romantic (and sometimes even cheesy) things for them. Duncan is happiest when Yarrow and Sasha are happy, healthy, and content. His fondest wish is that the world will one day be at peace.

Duncan is currently 36. His birthday is the 24th day of Berris’s Moon. Duncan has a hearty appetite and prefers simple fare like roasted meat and bread. He avoids drinking wine and ale.

Sasha“Sasha”– Sasha was raised in a secret order of assassins called the Crimson Scythe. In addition to be taught stealth, combat techniques, and how to kill, he was taught to read facial expressions and body language to the most subtle cues. He can keep his own emotions from showing, and is a master of making others believe anything he wants. Sasha’s order taught him trust and love were weaknesses, and that anything one valued was a liability an enemy could use against you. Sasha embraced this philosophy and rooted out any weak emotions. He is a cold and methodical killer–very good at what he does and not bothered by shame or guilt over it. Sasha is interested in results and he doesn’t care what he has to do to get them.

Though he never speaks or reacts without carefully considering the results he wants from others, Sasha is a very sensual person and can be as seductive as he is deadly if it suits his mood and purposes. He’s very beautiful, as assassins of the Crimson Scythe are often selected for their beauty. Sasha is not above using his looks or his body to aid him on a mission or achieve his desired results.

Sasha is trained with nearly every weapon, but he prefers the quick, silent kills his daggers afford him. While Sasha has no moral problems being an assassin, he’s also not a sadist. He would likely not care if someone suffered, but he doesn’t try to prolong the suffering of his victims.

Age unknown.

Date of birth unknown.

As much as I love all my characters, if I have to choose, Sasha is my favorite. I understand him and his motivations very well, and he’s the easiest for me to write.  If you’ve read any of the books in my Blessed Epoch series, which character is your favorite? Why? If you haven’t read any of the books, which one sounds like your kind of guy? Comment for a chance to win a cell phone charm is your favorite character. I’ll pick a winner at midnight EST.

Pre-release Party for Iron and Ether

September 11, 2013

Good morning/afternoon everyone! My name is Augusta Li (most people call me Gus), and I’m taking over the blog today to celebrate the upcoming release of the third book in my Blessed Epoch series, Iron and Ether. Throughout the day I’ll have some things to give away as well as a discount code.

To start, I’ll introduce myself. I have been an author here at Dreamspinner for a few years now, and I have seven novels published along with some shorter works. I’ve dabbled a little bit in various genres, but fantasy is my great love. I enjoy the world-building, the epic struggles, and placing my characters in larger than life situations where their actions and decisions will potentially alter the world they inhabit. I like exploring theories of magic and military strategy. My work is usually fairly bloody, heavy on action and adventure, with the romantic plot interwoven and inseparable from the main plot. If you’re interested in seeing what I’ve done, my books with Dreamspinner are here.

Though I travel a lot, I currently live in Pennsylvania.  Early autumn is one of my favorite times of the year where I live. It’s pleasant during the day and cool enough for a fire at night, the leaves are just starting to change color, and pumpkins and chrysanthemums are for sale at all of the stores. In the parks and outside the city, the air has a faint maple scent. I love the smell of autumn leaves; it’s one thing I will absolutely miss when I move away from this area.

What about you guys? Do you love autumn, or are you sad to see summer end?

For me, summer is convention season. I love conventions, love the opportunity to see old friends and make news, to talk to fellow authors and readers about books and publishing. I leave every conventions with a wealth of new ideas and a ton of happy memories. However, they mean a lot of traveling and a lot of work. By this point in the year, I find myself looking forward to quiet time at home to read, write, and draw. Also, Halloween is around the corner and I need the time for costuming! Who else here still dresses up every chance they get? Me, I have more costumes than actual clothes.

I’m very happy to be here today, and I hope to have some great conversations with you guys. Feel free to ask me anything, and I’m open to requests, if there’s something you’d like me to post.

Any of my readers out there today? Anybody new to my work? Welcome. I think today will be fun. Here are some pictures of me, if you’re interested.

Tonight’s Winners

September 6, 2013

I want to thank everyone again for stopping by :)

Kim is the winner of the tote bag (I’ve contacted her by email, if for any reason she doesn’t get back to me in 14 days, I’ll pick a new winner.)

I drew 3 names for ebooks–two from the official contest posts and one from the whole day.

Carolyn, Susan, and Emily, the magic book fairies will be visiting your Dreamspinner shelves soon :)

Everyone who posted today is still in the running for the big prize for my blog tour: the goodies for that include a signed paperback copy of Hanging by the Moment, some cool swag, and the bag it comes in.

Anyone who sign up for my newsletter will get the chance to win occasional goodies “just ‘cuz” :) I hold random drawings…well, randomly… and always have something fun to give away to subscribers, just because I love y’all so much.

Thank you again for a great day of blogging!

Good night good people!

September 6, 2013

I think it’s time for me to call it a night. It’s nearly 8:30 pm my time and while I’ve had a truly amazing time chatting here with everybody, I’ve been up since 6am. I think it’s time for a big glass of wine and maybe some writing… I’m sort of supposed to have something turned in in a week. Not sure I’m going to make my deadline, but I’m going to give it my all. :)

Thank you so much for stopping by. It is always terrifying to wonder if anyone’s going to show up to these things or if you’re going to be sitting here blogging to the aether–so thank you for not leaving me here talking to myself. I appreciate everyone’s comments, questions, and thoughts.

Thanks again, too, to everyone from Dreamspinner. It’s an amazing family to be a part of.

I’ll pop back on to announce winners and answer any final questions in a couple of hours. I’ll enter any comments on this post into a drawing for an e-book (that’ll be a second e-book going out :) And of course everyone is also entered to win the grand prize at the end of the blog tour (it ends on Oct. 14, right before my next newsletter comes out–and just a little shameless pandering: hey, you wanna subscribe to a newsletter? It comes out about once a month; there’s usually a book review and a recipe or two and of course some cute guys to look at. Not that I would ever objectify cute guys ;-) )

I’d like to leave you with one last audio excerpt. I wanted to pick a scene that ties into several themes I’ve had running through the today’s posts, so there’s a little food, a little cooking, a little sweet talk…and even a little argument.

Check it out here.

The promotion code pattskyn0906 for 25% off of my books and coming of age stories is good for two days, starting today (so I guess about another day and a half) — have fun and go shopping!

Be well. Be safe. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Dating and HIV

September 6, 2013

I know that every book is special to every author, but Hanging by the Moment hits really close to my heart in a lot of ways, probably the biggest of which is Daniel’s HIV. Writing about HIV, especially from the point of view of the other guy, the one falling in love with Daniel, was really hard. It made me question myself: would I date somebody who had HIV? I mean, HIV changes everything, right?

In a way, it does. Living a life with a compromised immune system means that Daniel has to take extra good care of himself. He has he exercise (not hard in his line of work) and eat right (a bit challenging for a man who only really knows how to use the microwave—seriously, if it weren’t for owing an electric tea kettle, Daniel might burn water). But the biggest challenge is when it comes to meeting someone, maybe starting to fall in love, and then having to find the words to say “I’m HIV positive.” I don’t think I can imagine too many tougher conversations to have because there is this huge stigma attached to HIV. And it’s funny, because when you talk to some people, they treat HIV like nothing (“Oh, you just have to take a pill, it’s no big deal.” Wrong. It is a HUGE deal. But it shouldn’t be a stigma.)

Hanging by the Moment is told entirely from Pasha’s point of view; I decided to write it that way because although it’s no secret to the reader that Daniel has HIV, I wanted you guys to discover it along with Pasha, to feel with him—to see through his eyes and heart and grapple with the reality of loving somebody who had HIV right along with him.

Right along with me, because before I could figure out whether or not Pasha could live his life with a man who had HIV, I had to figure out whether or not I could. My gut reaction was “yes, of course!”

I think.

Shit.

It’s pretty scary.

HIV is AIDS. I mean I know it’s not AIDS, it’s the disease that leads to AIDS, but isn’t that splitting hairs?

No, actually, it’s not. HIV becomes AIDS when a person’s CD4—that’s a kind of white blood cell—count drops below 200. Normal is 500-1000. Once it starts dropping lower than that, it’s hard to fight off infections. People with HIV can—and do—have perfectly normal CD4 counts and live perfectly healthy, happy lives.

Except for the part where they have to tell anyone they might become intimate with that they have HIV (in Michigan, it’s a felony not to disclose your HIV status. We’re not the only state with that law). Talk about making it harder to convince people to get tested, because remember that stigma? There are a lot of people walking around who honestly don’t understand how HIV is transmitted. They think they can get it from public restrooms, door knobs, stealing a bite of pizza or a sip of beer—they think all it takes is a hug or a kiss or handshake. You can’t—but just saying that doesn’t seem to be enough to stop the prejudice.

My heart absolutely broke over some of the things I read online, and as a result, I started volunteering with AIDS Partnership Michigan. There is no reason for HIV to continue to be a problem—it boggles my mind that anyone still gets it—but there is even less reason to stigmatize those who do.

And by the way, yes, after a lot of soul searching, I realize that if I were still single, I would date someone with HIV. I would marry them and spend the rest of my life with them if I loved them.

A reader on Goodreads asked me if Hanging by the Moment ends in an HEA—and the answer is yes. I appreciate bittersweet romances and Dreamspinner’s Bittersweet line, but I don’t see myself ever writing one. That said, Pasha and Daniel have a lot of bumps in the road to get though before they can get to their Happily Ever After.

Remember: Dreamspinner has issued a special coupon code: use it to get 25% off my books as well as Coming of Age books. To use the coupon code, just go shopping as usual and type pattskyn0906 into the promo/coupon code box at checkout. The code is good for 48 hours, starting Friday; remember, DSP operates on Eastern Standard time.

And everyone who comments on any post throughout the day will be entered to win my big Blog Tour prize: a signed copy of Hanging by the Moment and a bag o’ swag.

I’m not going to ask if you’d date someone who was living with HIV—I’m just going to ask you to think about it. Just think about what it means to have a disease that’s criminalized (what else do you call it when the state says you have to disclose your status? And yes, I think it’s the right thing to do, I just don’t think it should be a felony). What would it be like to meet a guy, a wonderful amazing, kind, sweet guy, and have him tell you he had HIV? How would you handle telling your family and friends—and how you handle it if they suggested dumping him for “someone healthy”?

Not easy questions, I know.

Where it all takes place

September 6, 2013

For anyone just joining in, my name is Helen (aka H.B. Pattskyn) and I’m here talking to all of you wonderful people who have been good enough to stop by today about my new book Hanging by the Moment.

Hanging by the Moment is my third release with Dreamspinner Press and like my second novel, it takes place in Michigan–and in fact, right in my own neighborhood of Metro-Detroit.

Pasha Batalov and his father live in Hamtramck, a sort of city within a city, in Detroit, and they own and operate a little restaurant in Royal Oak.

When I was a teenager, like a billion, zillion years ago, Downtown Royal Oak was the place to hang out for me and my friends. Home of Noir Leather, Cinderella’s Attic, Flipside Records, and a bunch of vintage clothing shops, it was exactly where I wanted to be on a Saturday afternoon. Some of the stores have closed down: the antique mall has been replaced by several small restaurants (one of which is the Little Tree, one of the places Daniel and Pasha go on their first date), and the Main Theater has become the Main Art Theatre.

During the summer months, it’s almost impossible to drive through downtown Royal Oak; it’s much better to stroll around, go window shopping, grab a cup of coffee or stop somewhere for a bite to eat.

On their first date, Pasha asks Daniel to meet him at the Bean & Leaf Café, located next to Diablo’s restaurant–because seriously, Diablo’s is impossible to miss!

Later in the story, Pasha and his friend Ty go to Pronto! for dinner. Pronto! doesn’t specifically advertise itself as a gay bar/restaurant, but… well… I went there once with a friend and as we were leaving, she remarked about the distinct lack of ladies in the bar. Then she stopped. Blinked. And asked “was that a gay bar?!” ;-)

And while some shops are new, others have been there forever…

How about another contest?
Who wants to win a an e-book copy of Hanging by the Moment? If the answer is you, please leave a comment below and let me know where your favorite place to hang out as a teenager was. Did you like going to the mall, the park, or were you more the chill-out-in-your-room type?

Pasha didn’t really get to hang out anywhere as a teenager; if he wasn’t at school, he was working in the restaurant. He started helping out as soon as he was tall enough to stand by the sink and scrub pots.

Daniel doesn’t think that was fair, by the way. When he was a kid, he helped out around his parents’ farm, but he had plenty of free time to walk in the woods and generally get into trouble with his twin brother, Davis.

Everyone who comments on any post throughout the day will be entered to win my big Blog Tour prize: a signed copy of Hanging by the Moment and a bag o’ swag

Remember: Dreamspinner has issued a special coupon code: use it to get 25% off my books as well as Coming of Age books.

To use the coupon code, just go shopping as usual and type pattskyn0906 into the promo/coupon code box at checkout. The code is good for 48 hours, starting Friday; remember, DSP operates on Eastern Standard time.

Speaking of Music…

September 6, 2013

For anyone who doesn’t know, the title of Hanging by the Moment was “inspired” (read: taken directly from) the Lifehouse song of the same title.

Now…the story is that Elizabeth asked me for a title and I had nothin’. Zip. Nada. Zilch. But I really couldn’t tell her that. (Or maybe I could have, but really, I wanted to sound a little more together ;-) Now guess what was playing? Yup.

But there is just a little bit more to the story. There is, floating around somewhere out there, an amazing acoustic version of the song, Hanging by the Moment (the band taped it at one of the local radio station, years ago and the station used to play it). The regular version is good, but the acoustic version is just beyond incredible.

At the time it was getting airplay, I was dating this guy. Or rather, not dating this guy because he refused to call it dating, even though we’d been friends for years and even dated on and off before. It was really hard, not dating this guy and falling more and more in love with him every day. Every time I heard Hanging by the Moment, it just summed up how I felt so perfect, so exactly, so heartbreakingly, that when we got engaged, my gift to him was CD of music. The third song was Hanging by the Moment. (The first song was Carmina Burana, the second song is a poem read by Ron Perlman from the Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack).

If you go here, you’ll get to hear/see some of the other songs that are on the Hanging by the Moment novel playlist.

So what’s your favorite romantic song?

Everyone who comments on any post throughout the day will be entered to win my big Blog Tour prize: a signed copy of Hanging by the Moment and a bag o’ swag

Remember: Dreamspinner has issued a special coupon code: use it to get 25% off my books as well as Coming of Age books</a> To use the coupon code, just go shopping as usual and type pattskyn0906 into the promo/coupon code box at checkout. The code is good for 48 hours, starting Friday; remember, DSP operates on Eastern Standard time.

How about an Excerpt?

September 6, 2013

Hi there!

If you weren’t around earlier in the day, I’m Helen (aka H.B. Pattskyn) and my third novel, Hanging by the Moment was released today—and of course, I’m super excited! All day, I’ll be posting excerpts, talking about some of the behind the scenes stuff, and answering questions—so please don’t be shy. If there’s something you want to know, ask!

Since I already read part of Chapter One (if you missed it, you can check it out here) how about I share a little bit of Chapter Two with you? (Sorry, not recording it this time, the house is far from quiet in the afternoon! I don’t think you want to hear my dog barking or the neighbors mowing their lawn ;-)

AT TEN thirty, Pasha only had twelve bucks in his pocket—and five of that had come from Belinda—so when his lunch-shift partner called to say she’d be late, he told her not to worry about it. Of course she should have been here a half an hour ago, he thought as he hung up the phone. But Amy was always running late. Ivan let it slide because she’d been with them for seven and a half months, which was longer than anyone else except Samara, who was family, and Sharon, who might as well be. All restaurants had a high turnover rate, but Pasha suspected theirs was higher than normal.

The only customers he had when Amy finally showed up at eleven thirty were Art, Jimmy, and Rueben, a trio of older gentlemen who came in every day. The three were at their usual table at the back of the dining room. Jimmy made a big show of looking at his watch. “You’re late,” he told Amy gravely—but the grin on his face made it obvious he was teasing.

Ivan, who was at the counter reading the paper, turned around and scoffed. “So what else is new? She’s gonna be late for her own funeral.” Amy ducked her head apologetically, but Ivan waved it off. “Maybe for Christmas, I buy you alarm clock.” His tone was gruff, but like Jimmy, he was grinning, teasing her.

“I don’t think a new clock will help,” said Jimmy.

“I swear it was the snow,” Amy pleaded, shedding her coat. Underneath it, her uniform—a white blouse and black pants—was a disheveled mess. “It took me almost half an hour to dig my stupid car out.”

“Yeah, but what time did you start digging?” wondered Rueben.

“I plead the fifth,” Amy responded with a grin.

Pasha just chuckled and took Amy’s coat so he could hang it up on the coatrack by the restrooms.

“We’ll take some decaf when you get a second,” Rueben said to no one in particular.

“You got it,” Pasha answered with a smile. What Rueben actually meant was that he would take some decaf. Jimmy and Art never touched the stuff.

Amy leaned back against the counter next to Pasha as he got the pot started. By then she’d pulled her curly red hair pulled into a haphazard ponytail, straightened her blouse, smoothed her slacks, and tied a black apron around her thick waist. The final touches were dark-red lipstick and a pair of big silver earrings in the shape of Buddha heads. She turned to Pasha. “How was your holiday?”

“Good, I guess. Everyone was there.” Almost. “We celebrated Nadia’s birthday. She was born on the twenty-sixth,” he explained.

“That must be fun.” Her tone was ripe with sarcasm.

“Yeah. One year, Mom had put candles in the pumpkin pie.” At the time, Pasha thought it was funny. Now he wondered whether that was his mother’s odd sense of humor or the illness. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “What about you? You do the big family thing?”

“I avoid big family things.”

“Lucky you.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it.”

AT ONE thirty, Pasha had twenty-seven dollars in his pocket and there was still no sign of Daniel. Which means he wasn’t really interested.

He tried not to feel too disappointed. Why should a guy who looked like Daniel be interested in him, anyway? Or maybe he’d read the whole thing wrong and Daniel wasn’t flirting with him at all. Maybe he was just trying to be nice. After all, what were the chances of meeting Prince Charming in the parking lot?

“Pasha!” Ivan hollered from the kitchen.

“Da? What is it?”

“Come cook. I have to go to store.”

Pasha nodded and traded in his black waiter’s apron for a white cook’s apron without complaint. Dad usually left between one and two, either to go home and take a nap or to go to the store, or both. Sometimes Pasha wondered what it would be like to work in a restaurant where they didn’t run out of wheat bread and orange juice halfway through breakfast, or where the owner ran the business instead of running himself ragged. But what choice did Dad have?

For one thing, he could sell the fucking place, Pasha though irritably. But he knew it would never happen. Dad would work himself into an early grave before he admitted it was time to throw in the towel.

As soon as Ivan was out the door, Amy changed the radio station to Doug FM. Their tagline, “we play everything,” was pretty accurate. Adele might be followed by ZZ Top, who might be followed by Sara McLachlan, Lady Gaga, or Taylor Swift. Since the holiday season had officially begun, they were just as likely to play Burl Ives or Bing Crosby. Pasha could do without the latter two. Thankfully, Katy Perry was playing instead.

“Turn it up,” Pasha called to Amy. She was happy to oblige.

Samara poked her head out of the dish room and scowled. “Ivan doesn’t like that station.”

“Well Ivan isn’t here, is he?” Amy quipped back.

Samara turned her glare on Pasha. He ignored her. He liked Katy Perry’s “Firework” and hummed happily along to the upbeat lyrics as he scraped off the grill. He was so engrossed in the music that he barely heard the clatter of the bell over the front door.

“Hi,” he heard Amy say. “Go ahead and have a seat wherever you like.”

“Thanks.”

Pasha’s head jerked up. He knew that voice—but it couldn’t be.

Only it was.

Daniel.

And he looked even better than Pasha remembered.

Remember: Dreamspinner has issued a special coupon code: use it to get 25% off my books as well as all Coming of Age books To use the coupon code, just go shopping as usual and type pattskyn0906 into the promo/coupon code box at checkout. The code is good for 48 hours, starting Friday; remember, DSP operates on Eastern Standard time.

Everyone who comments on any post throughout the day will be entered to win my big Blog Tour prize: a signed copy of Hanging by the Moment and a bag o’ swag.

And just to keep the conversation going…Pasha’s father’s favorite radio station is WJR, Detroit Talk Radio. Pasha’s more partial to Doug FM (and they really do play everything, yesterday in the car, I heard Foreigner’s “Urgent”–from…what the early eighties, I think?–followed by the Rolling Stones (that song about the Devil, I’m not sure what it’s actually called), and then Lady Gaga. Pretty awesome, but kind of like musical whiplash :)

So what about you, what’s your favorite radio station?

Food!

September 6, 2013

Welcome! In case you weren’t around earlier in the day, I’m Helen (aka H.B. Pattskyn) and my third novel, Hanging by the Moment was released today.

I just stepped outside to put some food on the grill for an early dinner/late lunch and that got me thinking about food.

Food plays an important role in Hanging by the Moment, and a lot of the tension revolves around the failing family diner. The problem isn’t that Pasha’s father, Ivan, is a bad cook, it’s that he’s completely lost his passion and sense of purpose. It’s hard to be passionate when you watch the businesses around you going under one by one–which is kind of what’s happened to the northern part of Main Street, just past downtown Royal Oak proper. Metro Detroit was hit pretty hard in the economic downturn of the last few years. Things are getting better, of course, but it’s a long slow recovery.

What Pasha realizes is that in order to compete with the dozens of other restaurants in Royal Oak is that their place needs something special. Royal Oak has several Greek/Coney island type diners (just like the one Pasha and his father run), but one thing we really don’t have much of around here is good Russian cuisine–and it doesn’t get much more traditional than borscht.

There are several verities of borscht, but lamb based is definitely the best–and all to the better if you make your own stock. Which of course means a lamb bone, which means a lamb leg and that can get expensive. So beef stock will do in a pinch.

See, the real secret to good cooking is being able to work with what you’ve got. There’s the ideal (what’s on grandma’s index cards) and then there’s reality. :) And in reality, I may be about fifty percent Russian, but I really don’t cabbage. So my borscht recipe looks like this:

2 lbs lamb (any cut, but bone in, preferred)—cubed. Set the bones aside
2 quarts of stock (you can use beef stock)
6 large beats—peeled and cubed or shredded
2 large carrots—sliced
2 stalks of celery—sliced
2 onions—chopped
6 cloves of garlic minced
1 can of tomato paste
1 lemon
2 springs each of thyme and rosemary (or a half teaspoon of each, dried)
A handful of fresh parsley—chopped
2 bay leaves
Olive oil for sautéing

In a very large pot, slowly sauté the onions and garlic until onions are translucent, then add the meat and let it brown. Pour in the stock and lower the heat; add everything else and let the pot simmer on very low heat for the next couple of hours. (It’s ready to eat as soon as the veggies are soft, but really, the longer it cooks the better!) Pull out the springs of herbs and bay leaves before serving. And of course it can be garnished with sour cream if you like!

So…what’s your favorite type of cuisine?

Mine is Mexican (although my favorite desert it Italian, tiramisu).

Pasha and Daniel both share a love of sushi, by the way.

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