Friday, September 28, 2012

Flaky and Fabulous

From Nine Naughty Novelist Kinsey Holley

I haven't cooked them yet but I know they'll be yum. Plus they're easy. I'm trying as much as possible to cut refined wheat from our diets. Doing breads, crusts, etc. in whole wheat or barley flour. So far, so tasty.


What you need:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped, seeded, and peeled tomatoes, or 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes
1 pound crawfish tails
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup water

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Saute for about 8 minutes, or until golden and wilted. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the crawfish tails and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Dissolve the flour in the water and add to the pan. Stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Place the crust in the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan and crimp the edges. Pour the crawfish mixture into the pie crust. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the edges of the pie crust are golden. Cool for several minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.

Barley Flour pie crust

This is very easy - and the pie crust doesn't need to be flaky since it's not a pastry pie:

Yields one 9-inch pie or 9½- or 10-inch tart crust.The success of flaky pastry depends upon the expert management of gluten.  Pat-in-the-pan dough’s are made in such a way that virtually no gluten develops.  The fat is softened and thoroughly blended into the flour, not cut in as for flaky pastry dough.  As a result, the flour ends up moisture-proofed by the fat and cannot absorb the liquid needed to produce gluten.  All pat-in-the-pan crusts maintain a shortbread-like texture, rather than a flaky one. Pat-in-the-pan crusts are usually baked before they are filled.  It is important to glaze the pre-baked crust with egg yolk before adding the filling.

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces

2 to 3 Tbsp heavy cream

1 large egg yolk

The Crust:

Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk the barley flour and ½ tsp salt together in a bowl, or process for 10 seconds in a food processor.  Add the butter.  Mash with the back of a fork or process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Drizzle the heavy cream over the top.  Stir or process until the crumbs look damp and hold together when pinched. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie pan or 9 ½- or 10-inch two-piece tart pan.  Pat evenly over the bottom and sides with your fingertips.  If making a pie, form a crust edge and crimp or flute.  Prick the bottom and sides with a fork.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes, pricking the bottom once of twice if it bubbles.  If you are filling the crust with an uncooked mixture that requires further baking, such as pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the egg yolk and pinch of salt, then brush the inside with the mix.  Return your crust to the oven until the egg glaze sets, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Ready to Run

Sara Hedges had planned to escape the backwater, bigoted town of Luxor, Texas on the wings of a college degree—not on the back of a Harley, riding for her life.

Just a couple months shy of loading up her Miata, however, betrayal bares its ugly fangs. Her scumbag uncle has sold her to a pack of werewolves willing to pay any price for her special bloodline and it looks like there’s no way out. She never expected the new-in-town, sex-on-a-stick loner to come riding to her rescue. Or to discover he’s a werewolf, too. A good one...with one too many secrets.

Bryan Keeton waited two months deep undercover for the chance to get his hands on one of the gangster Eurowolves wreaking havoc across the South. After calling in the FBI to blow the lid off Luxor, he’d planned to leave town before he did something he might regret—like get involved with the suspect’s niece.

But Sara makes him stupid. And now they’re on the run from the Feds, who aren’t interested in her innocence, and from the wolves who want her for their own personal squeaky toy…

Buy Ready To Run at Amazon

Visit Kinsey Online

Guest Author Maia Strong


What you need:

1.5 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 sugar
3 oz (about 1/3 cup) crystallized ginger, chopped
4 Tbls unsalted butter, cold
2 Tbls molasses
1/2 cup milk

What to do:

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add chopped ginger and mix again to coat the pieces. Use a cheese grater to grate in unsalted butter. Drizzle in molasses 1 Tbls at a time, mixing gently with a fork until well distributed. Slowly add milk and blend by hand until everything just holds together.

Turn out mixture onto lightly floured cutting board. Knead gently just enough to bring the dough into a ball (3 or 4 turns on the board).

For breakfast-sized scones, slice the dough ball into 6 or 8 wedges.
For nibbling-sized scones, divide ball into two and then slice each small ball into 6 or 8 wedges.

Arrange on a baking sheet with space between them. They will spread and expand a bit.

Optional: Brush tops of scones with a little more milk and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes, turning pan 1/4 turn half way through for even baking.

Tip: To get the molasses out of the measuring spoon, first spray the spoon with a little non-stick cooking spray, then measure the molasses.

Maia is a caffeine addict who loves to bake. Both of these have an effect on her writing. You'll rarely find a book or story of hers that doesn't have someone cooking, baking, or eating yummy things. When not at her computer, you can find her climbing walls, swinging from a trapeze, bellydancing, acting, and yes, baking. Look for her novel, Client Privileges, now available on

Visit Maia's:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday 13: Music to our Ears

Music is the shorthand of emotion (Leo Tolstoy)

Ok, so we might have more than 13 here, strictly speaking. But here are the musicians, bands, and artists that we can't get enough of!
  1. The Fat Lady Sings and Runrig (Kate Davies): One Irish band, one Scottish, both
    remind me of my backpacking trip through Europe after college. (Kate Davies) 
  2. Zac Brown Band (Erin Nicholas)
  3. Adam Lambert (PG Forte)
  4. Lifehouse (Sydney Somers): A lot of their music has become theme songs for particular books I was working on at the time. Can't wait to listen to their upcoming album. (Skylar agrees!!)
  5. Toby Keith (Kinsey Holley)
  6. James McMurtry and Joe Ely (Meg Benjamin): Both do great live shows and great recordings.
  7. Emmylou Harris (Meg Benjamin): I actually got to see her for the first time last summer.
  8. Florence and the Machine (Sydney Somers): Never Let Me Go has been getting lots of play time on my iPod.
  9. Fran Sinatra (Erin Nicholas)
  10. Gavin Rossdale (Skylar Kade): With or without Bush, he's got a killer voice
  11. Amadou and Mariam (Juniper Bell): They're a husband-wife team who met at the School for the Blind in Mali, got married, and proceeded to make the most gorgeous music -- in French.
  12. Leonard Cohen (Kinsey Holley)
  13. Keith Urban (PG Forte)
Share your favorite musician in the comments!

View more Thursday 13 participants

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting into the Groove

Forming a new habit is tough, whether it's exercising, trying to read every day, remembering to put away the basket of laundry always sitting in the corner of the room, cutting out sugar or trying not to be so addicted to checking emailing or Facebook. When I decided to really finish my first book, I had no idea how challenging it would be to slip into a routine of writing every day. It took a lot of practice, lots of grumbling that it shouldn't be so hard and lots of time rebuilding the habit after I inevitably let it slide when I decided life was just too crazy to keep up with it.

But all that is just an excuse. Plain and simple. If you want something bad enough, you have to work for it no matter what life is throwing at you at the moment, and there is always something. The things I'm most proud of myself for accomplishing are the things that took effort and hard work. Lots and lots of hard work. And that's the problem when we're all living in a world where life is in many ways getting easier. Technology has given everyone a helping hand, whether it's with washing dishes, painting a house, writing a book or even staying in touch with friends across the globe. And it's making most of us lazier and less driven to work as hard for the things we  want.

So in the face of everything working against us (and some days it really does feels that way) here's a few tips for building a new habit.

1. You have to want it.

Seems straight forward, but if you're not committed, it's not gonna happen. If you only half wish you could climb three flights of stairs without feeling like you need a lung transplant, you're not going to want to do what it takes, let alone actually get off your butt and do the work. Knowing why you want to form this new habit is really important too.

I love writing, always have and always will, but it can be tricky keeping myself on track and motivated just out of love. I want to continue to get paid doing what I love, so that's certainly motivation, but you know what else I've discovered that writing lets me do? Travel. If my books are selling then I'm in a better position to travel, and since I have a huge list of places I want to see someday, I know that I need to stay focused on writing so I can make that happen.

2. Be prepared to work for it.

Unless you're one of those crazy gifted people who can randomly pick up a sock and turn it into a floral arrangement on the first try, then "try, try again" will need to become part of your mantra. There will be days where your goal is the absolute last thing you may feel like doing, and the second that thought enters your head, you need to drag your butt up and do it.

3. Be accountable.

Telling other people what you're up to can help make you more accountable. If staying away from Facebook isn't a goal, then post what you're planning to do on there and report back later whether or not you made it happen.

4. Don't procrastinate.

If you only have one thing to stop procrastinating with, let it be the new habit you're trying to build. Get it done as early in the day as you can and get it over with. Work out in the morning or right after you get home after work. Put away the laundry as soon as it's done drying. Believe me, there will be plenty of other things in the day you can put off until later, but not that one new goal you've set for yourself each day.

5. Track your progress.

Stick big smiley face stickers on a calendar on the fridge to mark your daily success. Or try an app like Habit Streak and enjoy the awesome feeling that comes from watching yourself run a long streak. Don't forget to reward yourself for sticking with a new habit.

 So what new habit do you want to get started on, or what old habit are still trying to make stick?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guest Blogger Biana D'Arc - Series Progression

Autumn is my favorite time of year and usually the season where I get the most writing done. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the colder weather that makes me want to snuggle up in a fleece jacket and sit at my computer by the window, watching the leaves fall while my imagination takes flight. Maybe it’s just that I stay inside more. I’m not really sure. But I do know that many of my books have been written in the Fall of the year and I feel especially creative now. 

This year, I’m tackling a somewhat odd project. Not just editing but re-editing works that have already been available for some time. It’s a little different and not quite as creative, but still satisfying to see things coming together. One by one, we’re going through the books that started my career back in 2006, my Dragon Knights series.

I love the world of these books and revisiting it is like going home to an old, familiar place. It’s funny how a book can transport you to another world, even when you wrote the book yourself! That’s something I didn’t expect and I’ve been enjoying the ride, looking at each of the previous six novels in turn and cleaning them up a bit here and there for re-issue. This is all in preparation for the new book in the series, Keeper of the Flame, which comes out in February 2013.

As it happens, the second book in the series comes out today. It’s called Border Lair and it’s one of the earliest books I wrote. Doing this re-edit and re-issue has made me see the progression of complexity in both my writing and the world about which I chose to write. As the books – and the years – went along, I think I got more involved with the world and hopefully learned more about the craft of writing. It’s a pretty cool evolution, though I’m not sure every reader appreciates it.

Not all writers can pop on the scene fully formed and brilliant in every way. Some do and we all know and love them. For most of us though, I think the writing life is a work in progress all the time. With each project we learn and grow both as people and as artists. I know it works that way for me, at least, and I’m really interested in the progression of a series from the early days and the germ of the idea, until the final book in the series, where the world is fully fleshed out and the characters are old friends in your mind.

Do any of you feel this way? Do you like series and worlds that grow gradually? I’m of the opinion that growing a world gradually also helps the reader not feel so overwhelmed by the “rules” of the world or long, boring blasts of expository information in the first book. But maybe that’s just me. And of course, this is more for books set in fantasy, science fiction or paranormal worlds that require more explanation than a contemporary setting. Just my luck, those are the genres I write in. J

I’ll be interested to hear your comments! And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out Border Lair, re-releasing today – or any of my other books. To make things interesting, if I get more than ten (10) comments on this blog, I’ll pick one random commenter and treat them to a free ebook copy of Border Lair!

You can read all about the book – and all my other books on my website at Many thanks to the Nine for having me here today! And since I mentioned it, here’s a bit more about today’s release…

Border Lair (Dragon Knights Book 2)

Hope returns to all dragonkind as enemies become allies…and lovers.

As a young widow, Adora raised her daughter by herself, never dreaming that love could cross her path again. But now that her girl is married to a pair of dragon knights, Adora’s eyes are opened to all the possibilities the Border Lair has to offer… including two handsome men who catch her eye.

Lord Darian is about to turn traitor, giving up his title, his lands, and his home in order to warn the dragons and knights of his treacherous king’s evil plan. But after he meets the beautiful widow, his sacrifice seems worth the cost. Meanwhile, Darian’s old friend Sir Jared, who lost his first wife and child to treachery, is shaken by his own intense attraction to Adora. But Jared’s broken heart is frozen in solid ice. Or is it?

As war looms on the horizon, the knights and dragons of the Border Lair rise to the occasion. New allies rally to their side, and romance blossoms and grows even as evil invades the land. The knights and dragons must stand fast against the onslaught, the beautiful woman of royal blood bringing them hope, healing and love.

Warning: This book contains a couple of meddling, matchmaking dragons who won’t stop until two sexy knights realize the lady of their dreams can love them both separately and together. Ménage a trois and a bit of exhibitionism compete with the dragons for smoking hotness.

Bianca D’Arc has run a laboratory, climbed the corporate ladder in the shark infested streets of Manhattan, studied and taught martial arts, and earned the right to put a whole bunch of letters after her name, but she’s always enjoyed writing more than any of her other pursuits. She grew up and still lives on Long Island, where she keeps busy with an extensive garden, several aquariums full of very demanding fish, and writing her favorite genres of paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Artist's Way: Update

 Almost a month ago, I completed The Artist's Way workbook. While I'm not doing my morning pages anymore, I'm using that time to write--more frequently and confidently than before. For a writer making a return to regular word counts, this book was an incredible help not only to get back into the practice of writing, but in figuring out why, for example, the idea of sitting down to write made me anxious. 
Even if you don't do the full workshop with daily pages and artist dates and all the exercises, picking and choosing those bits that resonate with you can be beneficial. 
If you're curious about the 12 week program, Julia Cameron has an outline on her website:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Lines... and more!

Thanks to authors 
Kelly Jamieson, Mari Carr and Eden Bradley
for  loaning us their first lines yesterday!

Here’s more about these three awesome books!  Check them out!

Line #1:  The last time Kaelin Daume had seen Tyler Wirth and Nick Kernsted, they’d been naked, and they’d had a naked girl tied to a chair.

from One Wicked Night by Kelly Jamieson

The boys are back in town…

Ten years ago, Kaelin Daume spent a steamy summer home from college secretly hanging out with town bad boy Tyler Wirth and his best friend Nick Kernsted. The connection was warm, complicated, and came to a crashing end when she walked in on her two forbidden friends with another woman. The shocking scene of sex and bondage has haunted her boring, oh-so-vanilla life ever since.

The fallout from that night tore Tyler’s life apart. He left Mapleglen, disowned and disgraced, to build a successful advertising career and a unique relationship with Nick. Nothing could bring him back except his sister’s wedding, and he plans to hightail it back to Chicago as soon as it’s over. At least one good thing hasn’t changed: Kaelin is as sweet as ever. Except she doesn’t seem too thrilled to hear it.

As tensions run high, Kaelin can’t resist the temptation to commit one crazy act of rebellion. Once the web of secrets, sins and lies starts to unravel, though, their lives will never be the same…

Warning: This book contains a nice girl who gets her naughty on with two hot men. M/M/F and M/M scenes may cause an increase in body temperature, pulse rate and respiration. Read with caution! For adult use only.

Buy One Wicked Night here!  

Line #2:  “Goddamn, motherfucker, son of a bitch on a cheese cracker!”

from Party Naked by Mari Carr

Cocktales, Book One

Stephanie Harper is perfectly happy co-owning Books and Brew, where she slings drinks and entertains her friends with cutting wit and a cynical take on love. She’s convinced she has no time for anything deeper than sex; she has a business to run, after all. And her thrice-married mother has proven happy ever after doesn’t exist.

Jarod Nolan begs to differ. Chance has him running into Steph—and giving her a ticket—one morning, but it’s fate that finds him in her place of business that same evening. A sizzling one-night stand ensues, and although Stephanie escapes before he wakes the next morning, Jarod is already sure she’s worth the chase.

Steph’s more than willing to party naked with the hot cop, but she’s adamant they’re driven by lust, not love. Jarod is prepared to prove otherwise, even if it means giving up one of the things he and Stephanie do best…

What’s that old saying? Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder?

 Buy Party Naked here

Line #3:   Rowan ran her hand over the cool metal of the chain suspended from the ceiling, drawing her fingers along the sleek, steely surface, one link, then the next. 

From Dark Garden by Eden Bradley

If you loved Fifty Shades of Grey . . . get ready to enter The Dark Garden.

A deliciously potent tale of one woman’s quest for self-discovery.

Rowan Cassidy likes to be in charge—especially in her personal life. As a mistress at Club Privé, the most exclusive bondage/S & M club on the West Coast, Rowan can live out her dominant fantasies safely, and with complete control—until the night Christian Thorne walks in. Self-confident and sophisticated, he’s a natural dominant if Rowan’s ever seen one. Yet she can’t stop thinking about him and imagining his touch.

Christian has returned home, hoping to break free from his dissatisfaction and malaise—and discovers the cure in Rowan. He’s dying to get his skilled hands on her and watch her surrender, to unlock the mystery of her that captivates him. Determined to be her master, he makes Rowan a daring proposition: give herself over to him for thirty days.

Rowan finds Christian’s offer terrifying—and impossible to resist. But abandoning herself to Christian’s power might be more than she can handle…. Or it might be the realization of her true nature and the dark garden within her. There will be only one way to find out. And once the game has begun, there’s no turning back.

Buy Dark Garden here

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Line Friday!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." – J.K. Rolwing, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997)

Welcome to
First Line Friday!

Here's how it works:

We'll post the first lines from three books, some written by us, some by author friends.

Then you will all be asked to vote for your favorite, without knowing who wrote it or what book it comes from-- until Saturday!

On Saturday, the lines along with their book cover, blurb and author will be listed so you can check them out! 

ALL voters, no matter who you choose or which line wins, will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

Easy and fun, for all of us!  We hope you'll play along!

And now, here's First Line Friday!

1.  The last time Kaelin Daume had seen Tyler Wirth and Nick Kernsted, they’d been naked, and they’d had a naked girl tied to a chair.

2.  “Goddamn, motherfucker, son of a bitch on a cheese cracker!"

3.  Rowan ran her hand over the cool metal of the chain suspended from the ceiling, drawing her fingers along the sleek, steely surface, one link, then the next. 

Okay... make your choice!  List your favorite by number or by quoting the line in the comments!  All votes up until midnight will be counted.  And don't forget to check back tomorrow to see who wrote which line and how to check out the rest of the books!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday 13: Worldly Escapes

Where in the world are the Nine Naughty Novelists? Right now, we're home drinking wine and/or writing (or convincing the family to leave us alone long enough to indulge in either pursuit) but given the chance, here's where we'd be instead:

Juniper's Jungle Tower hammock
  1. Kinsey Holley: London. Haven't seen many other spots on Earth, and I don't need to. I'd
    marry London if I could. (Maybe they'd put me on that show about people who
    fall in love with inanimate objects?)
  2. PG Forte:  I've been to too many places that I really loved. California, for sure. I'll take the whole state. Maybe Kinsey and I could have a double ceremony with London? 
  3. Kelly Jamieson: My backyard.
  4. Juniper Bell: In a hammock in the "Jungle Tower" on the Big Island of Hawaii.
  5. Erin Nicholas: Sappy, but my favorite place on earth is home with my husband and kids when we have nowhere to go and nothing to do. 
  6. Kate Davies: Prauge. It's been twenty-plus years since I've been there, so it may not be the same anymore. But back, it was so amazing. Old-school Europe, gorgeous, dripping with history. Loved it.
  7. Meg Benjamin: Morraine Park, which is in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is, without doubt, the most beautiful place I've ever seen. 
  8. Skylar Kade: The stacks of a really amazing library, where it smells like old books and you can forget that other people exist.
  9. PG Forte:  I really, really like Nice also. As someone on a train once told me, "Nice is nice. That's fun to say but a bitch to write."
  10. Santa Barbara, CA
    Kelly Jamieson: Santa Barbara, CA
  11. Kinsey Holley: I've a feeling that if I ever get to Sydney, it might make me cheat on London.
  12. Erin: If I need to pick a non-home place (I'm a homebody who loves to travel but
     loves to come home, like Kelly) then I'd pick Sedona. Wow, gorgeous. But I always love wherever I've most recently been ;)
  13. Skylar Kade: Mykonos, Greece. Beautiful hillside houses, blue blue water, and delicious Greek food. 
Mykonos, Greece

Where is your ultimate escape?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cookin' and Stuff

I planned on posting the third episode of Yesterday and Today, but I ran into a plothole and couldn't get out in time. So instead I'll talk about cooking.

I don't like it.

I convinced myself, a long time ago, that I couldn't cook. This is possibly due to a traumatic episode during my college years, when I visited some friends in Baton Rouge. While I was staying with them, they decided to throw a dinner party. One of the girls was from Morgan City (i.e., she was a Cajun; i.e., she was a great cook). They knew I didn't cook but Alaina figured it was safe to assign me instant potatoes. I mean, who can mess up potato buds???

Me, that's who. I still remember Alaina waving a wooden spoon in the air as she yelled "Out mah kitchen! Got out mah kitchen!!!"

You did wha??
I was scarred, I tell you. Scarred. And for the next 10-12 years I didn't cook. I microwaved a lot, but I didn't cook. Then I met the Hub and decided he would be The One.

I knew I should learn to cook.

(I know what you're doing right now - you're rolling your eyes and clicking your tongue and making that disgusted "uh!" sound only women can make and which I've never figured out how to properly represent in words, and you're saying "Hello? This isn't 1965 and a woman doesn't have to cook to attract a man."

I'm not saying Hub wouldn't have wanted to share his life with me if I couldn't cook. But I submit that, no matter what the calendar says, most men are happy to find that a girlfriend knows her way around the kitchen. Cooking is like oral sex -- willingness and enthusiasm are more important than expertise. A willingness to learn and improve is even better. Basically, if you can cook a delicious meal and give a good blowjob, and he doesn't have to beg for either, he'll never look at anyone else.)

It's not complicated. And neither are they.
So I learned how to cook what I call simple, hearty food - meat, potatoes, a vegetable. Fortunately, Hub is a meat and potatoes kind of guy (I have to force him to eat vegetables.) But even though I knew how, I didn't do it often. We still ate ready meals or take out most of the time.

Then the Diva came along and for a few years, that was my excuse. Babies and toddlers don't eat adult food, and I was still working full time and didn't get home til almost 7. And even as Diva got older, and started expressing an interest in cooking, I still didn't do it much.

It's not fun. It takes time away from stuff I'd rather do, like writing, reading, playing with the dogs--anything else, in fact.

But recently, when I finally accepted that all three of us are getting way too fluffy, I realized that losing weight is nearly impossible if you're not eating fresh food - and fresh food has to be cooked. Even so-called "healthy" frozen meals have a lot of crap in them, and every packaged food seems to have high-fructose corn syrup. The only packaged foods that seem to be healthy and "real" are frozen vegetables.

My sister's been telling me for years to shop on the edges of the grocery store--produce, meats/seafood, dairy. Just go down the aisles for flour, pasta and rice, maybe some soups.

So I hauled out the Rachael Ray 30 minute meals cookbook my sister-in-law gave me years ago and then...I don't know. Things spun out of control. Maybe Rachael's cookbook was a gateway drug or something, but now I'm cooking all the damn time. And while I can't say I really enjoy it, I hate it less than I used to. I'm finding my groove, learning the most efficient ways to get it done, figuring out what I'm good at and what not to bother with.

(Again, much like oral sex...)

I find myself buying magazines for the recipes--"A Month's Worth of Weeknight Meals!" "Fast, Simple Comfort Food!"

Years ago I started keeping recipes in a three ring binder; the older recipes in it have only 3-4 ingredients and require nothing more complicated than chopping, tossing, sticking in the oven. (Seriously. One of my favorite cookbooks ever was The Four Ingredient Cookbook.) Now I'm doing dishes with spices and shit--I'm reducing, folding, braising, making vinaigrettes and sauces.

My latest kick is ancient grains - I've been trying to cut the processed carbs out of our diets as much as possible, and I keep reading about the health and weight benefits of non-wheat grains--barley, quinoa, bulgur. For the times I need to use regular flour, I use whole wheat. There have been no rebellions so far; Diva, in fact, loves bulgur wheat.

I still don't like dishes that require a lot of maintenance--stirring, watching, turning, all that.

I recently got a countertop multicooker and I love it. I can cook risotto now without having to babysit it.  On workdays I can throw eggs and mushrooms and ham in it and let it bake while we get ready. It does pasta, rice, it boils eggs--I'm loving it.
Honestly, I don't know who I am anymore.

I've even cooked for other people a few times. My sister and her family will be over next weekend, and I'm going to do crawfish pie in a barley flour crust.

I'm even thinking about taking a crack at gumbo. Yes. Yes, I'm going to attempt...a roux.
...anything that flies, crawls, creeps, or lies still may end up in the gumbo pot.

Just as soon as I find Alaina on Facebook and tell her what I'm up to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest Blogger Mary Hughes - Vegas Dancers, Jane Austen, and All Their Jewelry

Dressing for a great date. Shimmy into that little black dress or those long-legged jeans and tiny sweater that does everything for what’s on top. Sweep color onto cheekbones and long lashes. Pop open the jewelry box for a glittering final touch of gold, silver, platinum or pewter. Or diamonds, turquoise, zirconium or pearls. Go with chunky and bold or sleek and elegant?

Stand back and look in the mirror. Is it too little? Too much? What’s right?

My college music teacher used to say, “Composing is like a woman choosing her jewelry. She selects carefully to complement her clothes and her mood. She put on a piece here, then picks up a contrasting color or texture there. She never wears all her jewelry at once.”

She meant it for music but I still hear her voice, decades later, when I look in my jewelry box. “Don’t put on all your jewelry.”

But what’s tasteful for a business professional would be horrible for, say, Vegas dancers. They’re a symphony of glitter and color—and that’s right for the bright stage lights. Makeup, too, is dependent on conditions. A rock star’s stage makeup would have office clerks screaming “Clown!”, but it’s brilliant under the searing spotlight.

Writing is like that. The heroine who would have “nudged fundament” in Jane Austen’s time can kick ass in ours. The world is bigger, the lights are brighter, the stakes are higher. We can throw more styles together too. In Bram Stoker’s time vampires meant horror. My books spice up vampires with sex, action, and romance. And in the case of my new release Biting Oz, it’s topped off with a touch of glittering theater.

Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5)

Real vampires do musicals.

Gunter Marie “Junior” Stieg is stuck selling sausage for her folks in small-town Meiers Corners. Until one day she’s offered a way out—the chance to play pit orchestra for a musical headed for Broadway: Oz, Wonderful Oz.

But someone is threatening the show’s young star. To save the production, Junior must join forces with the star’s dark, secretive bodyguard, whose sapphire eyes and lyrical Welsh accent thrill her. And whose hard, muscular body sets fire to her passions.

Fierce as a warrior, enigmatic as a druid, Glynn Rhys-Jenkins has searched eight hundred years for a home. Junior’s get-out-of-Dodge attitude burns him, but everything else about her inflames him, from her petite body and sharp mind to what she can do with her hip-length braid.

Then a sensuous, insidious evil threatens not only the show, but the very foundations of Meiers Corners. To fight it, Junior and Glynn must face the truth about themselves—and the true meaning of love and home.

Warning: Cue the music, click your heels together, make a wish and get ready for one steamy vampire romance. Contains biting, multiple climaxes, embarrassing innuendos, ka-click/ka-ching violence, sausage wars and—shudder—pistachio fluff.

Biting Oz is available at Samhain Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble!

Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and author. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy. Visit Mary at

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cooking For Mr. Picky

My hubs hates onions. Also pickles. Also mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. If you wonder what his burgers look like, he always orders lettuce and tomato only. Yes, the guy behind the counter usually frowns, but the hubs is immune. If counter guy asks “Dry bun?” the hubs simply nods.

I wouldn’t characterize my hubs as an unadventurous eater. It’s not that he won’t try things—he’s perfectly happy ordering unusual things on the menu so long as they don’t involve any of the foods he hates. I should add that he despises horseradish so much he can’t even be around it (the smell gets to him) and that he dislikes most (but not all) vinegars.

So how do you cook for someone like this? Largely by experiment (which is appropriate since the hubs is a scientist). We’ve reached a compromise on mayonnaise, for example, which he tolerates if it’s 1) Incorporated into a sauce or dressing, 2) Tastes fresh, and 3) Not Miracle Whip. I can get by with onions if they’re thoroughly cooked and unobtrusive; however, he won’t order anything in a restaurant that’s garnished with caramelized onions no matter how yummy they smell.

Fortunately for us both we share some food fetishes. Like him, I can’t stand thousand island dressing on a hamburger (whose bright idea was that, anyway?). I’m not big on pickles, although I like them on sandwiches. I use ketchup for fries but not much else. Our biggest sticking point is mustard, which the hubs really can’t stand. Unfortunately, it’s pretty standard in vinaigrettes since mustard’s an emulsifier. The hubs, ever the helpful chemist, points out that a drop of dishwashing liquid would work just as well.

Having trashed the hubs’s eating habits I should admit that I also have my own food fetishes. I’m not a big fan of sweet/sour combinations, for example—I’ve never found a sauerbraten or a caponata that I liked. And if an Asian recipe involves brown sugar, I’m pretty sure I won’t try it. Then there’s tofu, which I’ll eat if there’s nothing else around but which I’ve never found particularly tasty. I try to like beets but I usually fail, and to me pumpkin is just a pale imitation of butternut squash.

The thing about all of this is I’m the cook in the family, so I get to choose what’s prepared. This explains why my kids did not grow up eating a lot of tofu or why I’ll sometimes try to sneak a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into my vinaigrettes. My mantra to my somewhat picky kids (the older wouldn’t eat mushrooms and the younger rejected all potatoes except for French fries) was always if you don’t like what I cooked for dinner you can make yourself a sandwich but nothing else will be prepared for you.

Fortunately for us all, I don’t find the hubs’s food fetishes all that onerous to deal with, and fortunately for me, he only eats liver in restaurants (cause no way is it ever showing up in my kitchen). And I think that’s the way you have to work it. In any groups, familial or other, you’ll find people who won’t eat something and other people who can’t get enough of it. But finally, it’s the cooks who make the rules.

So what about you? What foods will you absolutely refuse to eat? Any family disagreements about what belongs on the menu?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Recipes: Sweet and Seasoned

From Nine Naughty Novelist Kelly Jamieson

In my book Power Shift, Regan’s friend Jelana gives her a big bunch of fresh basil when she visits her. Regan makes pesto with it and then plans a meal for her and Gabe using it, tossing it with some pasta and spooning some over grilled chicken breasts, served with slices of fresh tomato. I love making this in the summer with basil I grow myself in my big pot of herbs on my deck.


What you need:

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered
½ tsp salt
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup toasted pine nuts
¾ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil

What to do:

Combine the garlic and salt in food processor and blend to a fine paste. Add the basil leaves and process to a puree. Add the pine nuts and Parmesan, and blend. With the machine running, pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream and mix well. The finished pesto should be the consistency of mayonnaise.

Keeps refrigerated for up to three months. I also freeze it to use in winter.

This is good over pasta, of course. I like to add freshly shelled peas in the summer, and some extra toasted pine nuts. It’s also good on chicken, as Regan plans in Power Shift – grill chicken breasts and top with a big spoonful of pesto when they’re done.

Power Shift

Gabe's lifestyle as a Master Dom is leaving him empty and cold. Everything else in his life seems to be falling apart too. Taking a break from the BDSM scene seems like a good idea — until he meets the perfect submissive.

Reagan has started a new life as a strong, independent woman. The last thing she wants is to be trapped in another controlling relationship. Letting a dominant man like Gabe into her life could cost her everything she's worked so hard for. But Reagan sees the emotions Gabe is keeping locked up inside, and somehow she knows how to unlock those feelings.

Gabe is determined to never lose control, show weakness, or reveal the secrets he's hiding . But the lust he shares with Reagan breaks through his walls. Faced with a bleak, lonely future or shattering those barriers permanently, he must somehow find the strength to let himself be vulnerable so he can experience the joy and sweetness of love.

Read an excerpt/Buy Power Shift

Guest Author Crystal Jordan


What you need:

3 cups sliced strawberries (started out as a 1 lb. carton)
1 cup sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tbsp candied ginger (optional)
2 half-pint jars (optional)

Okay, maybe it's not that sexy, but the ginger in the jam makes it a little hot. If you like it sweet, you can leave the ginger out.

This recipe was my maiden voyage into jam making. So, if I can do it, you can too. I got the original instructions from Portland Preserve here:

Note from my boyfriend: You want to use an organic lemon because pesticides get absorbed into the peel, and you need to use the zest in this recipe.

Note from me: You don't have to use jars for this if you don't have them. Putting this in a bowl is fine too. For the sake of the recipe, I'll assume you have new jars. This recipe makes about 1 pint jar, or as you can see in the picture, 2 half-pint jars. I kept one and gave the other to my Grams. She loved it!

What to do:

1) Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your (washed and clean) jars, lids, and bands on a cookie sheet in the oven for at least 10 minutes. Don't even open the oven during this time. Turn off the oven, but leave everything inside so it stays warm while you make the jam. Hot jam in cold jars=broken glass. 

2) Combine strawberries, sugar, ginger, lemon juice and lemon zest in a pan on the stove. Bring everything to a boil, stirring constantly until it reaches jam-like consistency. It took about 10 minutes for me.

3) Pull the jars out of the oven (use pot holders, they're hot!) and pour or ladle in the jam mixture. Wipe any spillage off the jar rims so the lids can seal.

4) Screw the lids on tight and flip the jars upside down on a cooling rack for about 24 hours. This should give the jars time to seal and the jam time to set. Resist the urge to shake or mess with the jars (the hardest part for me).
That's it! Put your jam in the fridge and enjoy it within the next week or two.
If you want instructions on how to process jam jars for long-term storage, Martha Stewart has a good overview here (though the actual recipe comes from one of her housekeepers, Gretchen Sweet):

Have fun with your hot and sexy jam! I enjoyed learning how to make this, and my boyfriend has definitely enjoyed eating most of it. I think next time we need separate jars. Mine!

Crystal Jordan is originally from California, but has lived all over the United States. Currently, she serves as a librarian at a university in her home state, and she writes paranormal, contemporary, futuristic, and erotic romance. Her publishers have included Samhain Publishing, Ellora's Cave, Kensington Aphrodisia, and Harlequin Spice Briefs.