Monday, December 11, 2017

Holiday Wishes from @SusanHayes




Wherever you are,
whichever faith sustains you,
Whatever the company you are keeping,
No matter how chaotic, crazy or stressful things are,
May each and every one of you be blessed with at least a single moment of peace this holiday season.

That moment when everything unimportant is set aside,
When the true meaning of the season fills your soul,
and shines like a beacon of joy in the darkness.
Family, friendship, love and laughter.
That's my wish for all of you.

**Along with plenty of new books to read, of course. 



And if all else fails, try serving these to keep the peace

Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate

1 ounce peppermint schnapps

½ ounce dark crème de cacao

¼ ounce crème de menth

1 package hot chocolate mix

Pour the liqueurs into a warmed mug Irish coffee mug

Fill with hot chocolate.

Top with whipped cream & other garnishes (crushed candy canes, chocolate shavings, christmas cookie crumbs...)

If you warm the mug with hot water first, your drink will stay warm longer. Room temperature liqueurs will help keep this beverage hot, too.



May this holiday season bring you joy, laughter, minimal stress, and plenty of time to read!

Susan




Sunday, December 3, 2017

Something Sweet with @NathanBurgoine

I love to bake. And come the holidays, I start to bake—usually while listening to holiday audiobooks. It gets me into the holiday mood, provides snacks, and gives me an excuse to, y'know, eat the snacks.


My favourite? Swiss ginger cookies. I've fiddled with this recipe so much, I've got it down cold, and the cookies come out perfect: thin, crispy but also chewy (they're edible oxymorons)!

Take 1 and 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, pop it in a glass bowl with a cup of brown sugar and nuke it for say 25 seconds or so, enough to take a fork to it and smoosh it around until it's mixed together without any lumps of butter.

Add a room-temperature egg.

Stir that sucker up.

Turn the oven to 350 F (180 C). 

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (which is the best thing ever because no washing bloody cookie sheets after).

Add 1/4 cup of molasses to the egg, sugar and butter. Stir it all up again until it's even.

Add 1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of cloves, 2 tsp of baking soda, and 1 and 1/2 tsp of ground ginger. Stir again until it's even.

Grab a packet of crystallized ginger. Pull out a 1/2 cup measure. Chop the ginger into pretty small pieces (I aim for less than half a centimetre cubed, so it's a lot of chopping) put the bits into the 1/2 cup measure until it's full. Pop that into the bowl and stir, again.

Now, take some of the dough and try to roll an inch-sized ball (not larger) between your palms. Too sticky? Grab a tablespoon more of the all-purpose flour, mix it in, try again. Still too sticky? Another tablespoon of flour. If it's still a bit off, try adding a tablespoon of granulated sugar into the mix, too. Stir.

Speaking of granulated sugar, pour some into a small bowl. When you roll a ball of dough, you're going to dip it into the sugar and then put it on the parchment sheet sugar-dipped-side-up. If it's a bit tacky on your fingers and gets a tiny bit misshapen when you let go of the dough-ball, you've got the texture right. It'll melt flat while it bakes. 

For dog owners? Basically, you're going for the texture of a dog poop that's just on the edge of being able to pick up with the poop bag. You're welcome for the visual. If you're not a dog owner, uh, re-read the last paragraph there.

Try to make sure you don't put more than a dozen on the tray so they have room to spread while they bake without touching. Our oven runs a bit hot at 350 F so it's only about nine minutes a tray, but with my old oven it was 11; flick the light on and watch your first tray. Once they've flattened out, you'll see the edge of the cookies darken, so you might only need nine minutes. This is why I use two trays, one goes in, I prep the second, the first comes out, second goes in, I let the first sit four minutes to cool, then transfer cookies to the wire rack and prep the tray for it's next turn once the nine minute timer goes off, repeat. You don't need to change the parchment sheet between uses.

It makes about three and a half dozen (five sheets or so). 



*

Speaking of sweet holidays things, I also have a holiday novella that just came out. 

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.
A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.
As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Handmade Holidays is available from NineStar Press, and, of course, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and everywhere quality LGBTQ e-romances are sold.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Guilt-Free Holiday Treats @LDBlakeley #Cookies #Recipes #Healthyish

It’s December! Have you started your Christmas shopping, yet? I'm all about the online retail so I'm pleased to say I have a pretty good handle on things this year.

I don’t know about you, but when the holidays roll around, I love to regale my loved ones with my culinary prowess (not to mention, my staggering modesty 😜)

I’ve spent years scouring the web for tasty treasures that I’ve adapted into healthier renditions or, at the very least, versions with fewer calories than found in their original form. So I thought I’d share a few of them with you, lovely readers!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookes, Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Cookies & Easy Peasy Chocolate Bites


My big weakness is peanut butter. Truth be told, I’m perfectly happy to eat it straight from the jar. I know. Pretty civilized, right? I didn’t say I was proud. As a result, I give you:

PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL COOKIES


Ingredients:
1C margarine (2 sticks), softened
1 C natural peanut butter
1 C Brown Sugar Splenda
½ C Egg Beaters (or 2 large eggs)
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2½ C rolled oats
1½ C whole wheat flour

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350°C
  • Combine softened margarine and peanut butter in a large bowl
  • Add Splenda & egg beaters and mix until smooth, fluffy and glossy
  • Stir in vanilla
  • Add salt, baking soda, oatmeal and flour; Stir well
  • Spoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet & flatten with the back of a spoon or a fork
  • Bake 12 to 15 minutes

Makes 45 medium/large cookies.

NUTRITION
Calories: 108 | Fat: 5.8 g | Sodium: 62 mg | Carbs: 9.4 g | Fibre: 1.1 g | Protein: 3 g


❄❅❄

CRANBERRY ALMOND OATMEAL COOKIES


Ingredients
1 C canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pie filling)
½ C cup brown sugar Splenda
½ C Egg Beaters (or 2 large eggs)
1 tsp. vanilla
1½ C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. salt
3 C rolled oats
1 C dried cranberries
½ C slivered or sliced almonds

Directions
  • Heat oven to 350°C
  • Beat together pumpkin and sugar
  • Add eggs and vanilla, beat well
  • Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon salt ; mix
  • Stir in rolled oats, cranberries & almonds
  • Drop rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake 10-12 minutes

Makes 45 cookies.

NUTRITION
Calories: 66 | Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 4 mg | Carbs: 12 g | Fibre: 2 g | Protein: 2 g


❄❅❄

I realize that not everyone has the time, nor the inclination to go all Great Canadian Baking Show simply because it’s the holidays. So for those of you who can’t be arsed with baking (but don’t want to bring a bag of Oreos to your company pot luck), get ready to start falling in love with me. My Easy Peasy Chocolate Bites only involves 3 main ingredients, and you’ll look like a rock star when you show up with these bad boys.

EASY PEASY CHOCOLATE BITES


Ingredients
1 package (250g) Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese
1 Cake Mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist Devil’s Food)
¼ C Margarine
to sprinkle on top:
1 tbsp. (approx.) cocoa powder
1 tbsp. (approx.) icing sugar

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350°C
  • Soften cream cheese & margarine in microwave & mix together in large bowl
  • Add cake mix & combine well
  • Roll into balls (approximately 2.5cm | 1”)
  • Place on ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake 12 minutes
  • Dust lightly with cocoa powder & icing sugar while still warm
This recipe makes 72 to 75 chocolate bites – enough to share with the whole class!
And be sure to store these guys in the refrigerator (they do have cream cheese in them, after all!)

NUTRITION
Calories: 37 | Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 76 mg | Carbs: 6 g | Fibre: 0.2 g | Protein: 0.6 g


Oh, and if anyone can tell me why the marketing geniuses in Canada never stopped to think, “Hey, that’s pretty gross,” when they signed off on Lait de Poule (literally: chicken milk) for their packaging, I’d be curious to hear about it. I mean, it’s a glorious way to wash down some tasty treats. Just don’t think about the name, is all I’m saying.

Lait de Poule - REALLY?



Until next time,


Thursday, November 23, 2017

How I celebrate release days. @LeoRosanna

The author life is glamorous, right? We all sit around in comfy clothing, dictating salacious scenes to our secretaries, right?

Well, perhaps not. However, this is an image we've all seen. Truth be told, I've often dreamed of a Barbara Cartland-like existence, one in which I could recline on a chaise longue in an Englaish manor house while wearing lots of bling, my toy poodles at my feet.

It doesn't quite work that way. Take this week, for example. I had the pleasure of releasing another book, A Good Man, Handymen 1. How did I spend my release day?

I worked. When I wasn't acknowledging bloggers for mentioning my release, I was plotting another book. Later in the day, I worked at my day job at the library.

This is pretty much how I've spent all my release days. I've never really thought I had the luxury of basking in the glow of one book, not when there are still so many to write.

Now this doesn't mean I don't celebrate in my own quiet way but, for me, celebration comes when I read postive reviews or when a reader reaches out to me. Those quiet moments of triumph are what inspire me to continue in this crazy business. It's not about roses or champagne. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe an author has every right to take a victory lap and celebrate properly. After all, we work hard on these books. We invest time and energy and money and it's okay to exult when we see things come to fruition.

I will freely admit I experienced a huge thrill yesterday when I awoke to find out author Larissa Ione had mentioned A Good Man in her "One-Click List" post. What a tremendous thrill that was! I'm still reeling.

But now I have to stop my hands from trembling and I have to get back to work. Perhaps at the end of the week, when I finally have some downtime, I will indulge in a bottle of beer and some vegan cheesecake. A girl's gotta have some pleasure.

Until then, you will find me at my laptop, scribbling as quickly as my cold hands can manage. And if all goes well, I will soon have another release day ... you know, another release day that I can spend behind a keyboard.


Not only is Michael a star on a successful home improvement show, he’s also seen as a local hero. But no one knows about the demons he carries inside him ever since the day he risked his life to save others.
All the accolades and honors only make the memories stronger and the pain unbearable. He would do anything to be able to forget, to put his past behind him and move on.
Michael takes on a new home improvement project, convinced it’s the perfect distraction. Little did he know that Emily, the woman who’s supposed to be nothing more than a client, would turn out to be a huge distraction…and engaged.
While Emily battles with her own personal problems, Michael is determined to keep his distance. The last thing he needs is woman trouble. But when it becomes clear that the attraction is mutual, he realizes staying away from her is not an option.
Now Michael needs to decide if he’s willing to risk exposing his weakness, and his heart…by giving in to temptation.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Rules for November by @elle_rush #footballrules #Christmas #recipe #freebook

My dad had one football rule when I was growing up. It had nothing to do with watching the game uninterrupted. Nothing about cheering for Saskatchewan (I'm from Manitoba - it was a thing even back in the olden days). It was only one rule:

No Christmas decorations could go up before the Grey Cup. (That's the equivalent of the Super Bowl, for those of you outside of Canada.)



Snow in Manitoba starts after Hallowe'en which, using little kid logic, meant that Santa was coming soon! I didn't realize the Grey Cup is always played on the last weekend of November. Which meant I had to wait a whole 'nother month!

But now I have my own house, so I get to make the rules.

Sadly, this habit is ingrained, so the tree doesn't go up till the first weekend in December. However, it's November now and other stuff is sneaking into various rooms. There's a candy cane coffee mug in the cupboard, Christmas music on my computer, and holiday-themed books everywhere. (We won't even mention what my DVR looks like. Let's just say I should buy stock in Lifetime, W, and Hallmark channels.)



To prime the Christmas pump, I have a free gift for you to help get you in the mood. I am one of several romance authors who are participating in 12 Dates for Christmas to get your holiday season off to a good start. We have put together a free cookbook (download it here) with over a dozen family favourite recipes for the holidays. Each of the recipes was inspired by a Christmas romance, and the recipe book has sneak peeks at all of these books in case you need something to read while you are waiting by the oven for a batch of cookies to come out of the oven.

And because you can't have too much Christmas, we also put together a Facebook group where we are posting recipe, crafts, holiday disasters, and all sorts of fun stuff. (Be warned, I've got some horrible Christmas jokes coming up. I can't help myself.) Please join us for all things Christmas.

*

Since Christmas is my favourite holiday, I decided I needed to write a romance series about it. So I did. Welcome to North Pole Unlimited! I'm launching the series this year with two novellas. Some of you may remember Decker and Joy from last year's Crazy Cat Lady anthology. It's been revamped, and now it's available for only $0.99! (Book 2 is coming out next month.)







Available at Amazon - iBooks - Kobo - Barnes and Noble

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Retreat! What I learned while on a writing retreat in Whistler, BC

Our Condo at Whistler had a lovely view

I had an opportunity to head into the gorgeous mountains of western Canada in late October with three friends and fellow Canadian writers: Zoe York, Elle Rush, and Sadie Haller. We hugged, laughed, and wrote our way through the days, and before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye already.

I learned a few things while I was gone, and I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Top Ten things I learned while on a writing retreat in 

Whistler, BC


10) I’m not the only writer who runs on caffeine, but one cannot write without muse fuel of many other kinds. (we hit Costco on our way out of town.)

This is what muse fuel looks like - note all the various types of caffeine present

9) Whistler Fashion Tip: No matter how cold it gets, you can still wear a mini dress and heels at night, so long as you wear a toque, too. (observed numerous times while walking to and from the main village for dinner.)

8) Whistler is full of Canadian beauty, Australian employees, and bears. 



7) People from Ontario and Winnipeg can't tell the difference between fog and clouds. When you point out the difference, they'll create the hashtag #mountainsarehigh and post about it on Facebook

Yep, mountains are high. And that's not fog, Zoe...

6) Romance writers cry. Over the course of our stay, every single one of us ended up tearing up over one of our scenes.

5) It takes 3 writers to make one pitcher of blood orange cosmos. (and one to take a picture.)

Mixology is a group activity

4) Sharing a condo with people from other time zones makes for early mornings for the west coasters, and very late nights for those from farther east. (but it was totally worth it.)


3) Writers will travel long distances to sit together at a table in total silence, listening to music on noise-canceling headphones, and write "all the words."

And apparently, we all write on mac airs....

2) You can open a wine bottle with a knife if there’s no corkscrew handy

1) The clerk will be very confused if you go to sign in at the front desk and have to ask your friends “So, what the hell are your real names?”

It was an amazing, wonderful, and very productive week. I can't wait to do it again. 





Bonus picture:  I snapped this one on the ferry to Vancouver. What a view!  
#RomanceWriterResearch.


And one of the actual view







Friday, November 3, 2017

Loving Stories and Love Stories with @NathanBurgoine

While the Husky loves the ever-cooling weather, his intrepid thrice-daily-walker (a.k.a. me) is less thrilled. I struggle with the season of wet (followed by the season of snow and ice), though he certainly helps. It's hard to begrudge the frost-covered leaves when it makes the husky run in circles of abject delight.
See? He loves it.

Me, on the other hand? I want to run and fetch a blanket, some white hot chocolate, and sit down with some short stories or novellas. Happy ones.

I think this reaction to the cooling weather mostly came from working retail for a couple of decades. The tilt of our lovely planet's axis means that pretty soon, those of us in Ottawa will be waking up in the dark, and coming home from work in the dark (though, this weekend, we get some light back in the morning for a while, at the price of early evening sunsets). Heading to a retail job in the dark, returning in the dark, and not seeing the sun until a day off? Doesn't breed love for late fall nor winter's approach.

It may sound silly, but November and December are months where my reading habits completely change. For one, I re-read things I've loved. I need to dive into waters I've already explored, and swim along with the current knowing it's going to take me somewhere nice, or just get back out of the water when I'm ready, since I already know how it ends.

On the re-read side of things, a few books of the season: A Coventry Christmas by Becky Cochrane is a book a re-read every year at some point in November, and it starts my "find the joy of the season" quest. Similarly, no December is complete without a re-read of A Christmas Carol. And it's not always about the holidays. I often dive back into the early Harry Potter books.

For another, I read shorter things almost exclusively. The same way the sun seems to fade, so goes my ability to hold attention on a longer story. I need my jolt of happy endings to come faster.

Enter short stories and novellas.

I'll re-listen to Blame it on the Mistletoe by Eli Easton (usually while baking cookies), and page my way through The Firflake by Anthony Cardno. I'm looking forward to revisiting A Little Queermas Carol by Sassafras Lowrey, too, which I discovered last year. I'll re-listen to I Heard Him Exclaim, by Z. A. Maxfield, too (usually while walking the dog). Basically, all the happy holiday stories I can find? Gimme.

I dig out my Year's Best collections, be they science fiction, romance, mystery, or otherwise, and stack them beside the bed, often reading a story a night. I find my magazines, too, and load my e-reader with short fiction and novellas I've picked up throughout the year.

Heavy on the holiday romances, of course.

Between the dog's joy in the snow, and all these small tales of happy loves, (and ginger cookies and white hot chocolate and a lot of commiseration with my husband, who feels the same way and generally adds video games to his list of coping mechanisms), I get through the dark months.

As a writer, I hadn't done a holiday romance story before. Mostly that came from working retail (I swear there's little to top that in sapping a person's love of the holidays), but since I stopped, a few ideas circled in my brain, and eventually, I sat down and wrote one. It wasn't on contract, and it wasn't for a specific call, and when it was done I realized I didn't have the slightest idea where I could give it a home.

Happily, NineStar Press was willing. So this year? This year one of those holiday novellas out there, hopefully adding a bit of light to the dark for readers like me? One of them is mine.


*




At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.
A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.
As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.
Handmade Holidays is available for pre-order at NineStar Press.