My July Blog Series is Coming–you won’t want to miss it!

Welcome Readers!

Where I live, the summer months take their sweet time to arrive, and once they do, it’s fleeting. I wait all year for these few glorious months, and I relish them. Throughout the year, I read a LOT. Sometimes my reading list is client-based, as I prep manuscripts, submissions and proposals with clients. And sometimes my reading time allows for me to read the books of published authors. My tastes in reading for pleasure is varied, but I will say, that since Covid, I have been craving books that allow me to escape these crazy times. And for that, I found myself drawn to what I call “Summer Reads.”

To me, a “Summer Read” often has some or all of the following qualities:

  1. Travel
  2. Locales which take me away to someplace different
  3. A breezy vibe, letting me escape and relax for a bit
  4. A love story

Beginning on July 3, 2022 and continuing through the entire month, I will be launching my next blog series: Fave Summer Reads. I am super excited about this series. During the series, I’ll be featuring three “Summer Reads” books, and interviews with the authors who wrote them. I’m so fortunate that I was able to connect with the authors of these books which meant a lot to me, especially during these uncertain times.

Special thanks to the authors who’ll be featured:

Jenn McKinlay

Abby Jimenez

Robinne Lee

I hope you’ll join me for this very special blog series!

Drop a comment below…I love to connect with my readers!

Novel Noshing Blog Series Part 3: Jen Gilroy

Welcome back to my Novel Noshing series! Today, for the third and final post of the event, I am featuring Jen Gilroy, author of The Sweetheart Locket, dual timeline historical women’s fiction.

Author Bio

Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home. 

A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.

A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. 

Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.

About the Book/InspirationJen’s own words!

What if the key to your present lies in the past? 

From England and France in the Second World War to San Francisco 2019, “The Sweetheart Locket,” is a dual timeline historical women’s fiction story of love, loss & family secrets, intertwined with courage & hope. The family heirloom locket at the centre of the story is inspired by the “sweetheart jewellery” men serving in the armed forces during the war gave to loved ones at home. 

Filled with heart, heroism and humanity, reviewers have called the book “a beautiful tale…[of] friendship, love and loss…[and] how three generations of women come full circle and find happiness.” 

The Victoria Sponge or Sandwich Cake is a popular and traditional British cake. It’s also my own favourite which I have fond memories of sharing with English family and friends. As part of a book that’s my love letter to Britain, I included references to this cake in “The Sweetheart Locket,” my first primarily British-set story. 

When Willow, the American heroine of the contemporary storyline arrives in England for a work trip, she’s also determined to find out about her British grandmother, Maggie’s life, including what she did in the war. 

When Willow meets an historian at London’s National Portrait Gallery they have afternoon tea, a special British ritual. 

“Willow took a forkful of cake, white with a jam and cream filling…called a Victoria Sponge.” 

And as Willow discovers Maggie’s past, including her work as an undercover secret agent in 1940s France, Willow’s life also changes. 

As expressed via my fictional Maggie and Willow, one of the book’s core messages is this one: 

“Even if it wasn’t in a war, everyone had to fight some kind of battle what mattered is that you came out the other side.” 

Recipe

Victoria Sponge/Sandwich Cake (Traditional British recipe)* 

Ingredients:

170g (6 oz) butter or margarine

170g (6 oz) caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

170g (6oz) self-raising flour, sieved

Jam and sieved icing sugar to fill and decorate 

Method:

Base line and grease two 19cm (7 1/2 inch) sandwich tins

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / Gas mark 4

Beat together the margarine and sugar until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy in texture. 

Add the eggs to the creamed mixture a little at a time beating thoroughly after each addition. 

Add the flour and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. 

Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins. Smooth the top so that the mixture is fairly level. 

Bake for 25-35 minutes (or until well risen, golden brown and firm). 

Leave in the tins for two to three minutes to cool. 

Turn out onto a wire rack. 

When cold, sandwich the two cakes together with jam and dust the top with sieved icing sugar. 

*This recipe comes from ‘Church House Recipe Book: Love and Charity: Cake Recipes from Hughenden Parish Church, Church House Teas.’ High Wycombe, England: Fairprint, 2004, p.37 (Christine Rose). 

For those in the US & Canada, a comparable recipe, using North American measurements, can be found here:  https://www.christinascucina.com/victoria-sandwich-traditional-british-afternoon-tea-cake-recipe-for-us-kitchens/

I have got to say…this Victoria Sponge looks so elegant and delicious…seriously! If you make this recipe, or have a similar one that you love, please tell us in the comments.

Book Links

“The Sweetheart Locket” is currently available in ebook (most vendors) with a paperback following later this year. http://mybook.to/TheSweetheartLocket

Author Jen Gilroy is on Social Media! You can connect with her here:

Website: https://www.jengilroy.com/

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

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JenGilroy1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jen.gilroyauthor/

Thank you so much for stopping by my writer’s block! I had a blast meeting these three authors, and learning about their latest releases. I can’t wait to try all these recipes!

Next month, July, 2022, I will be featuring a series on some of my favorite summer reads, including interviews with amazing authors who wrote the books. I hope you will join me here on my Writer’s Block for that!

Please leave comments below…I love to connect!

Novel Noshing Blog Series Part 1: Darby Baham

Welcome Readers!

I am so excited to begin this blog series. My Novel Noshing posts are often some of my favorites, because it brings together authors, their books, and the foods that are featured within their novel’s pages. This time around during my Novel Noshing series, I will be featuring three authors, beginning today, with author Darby Baham, author of Bloom Where You’re Planted from Harlequin Special Edition (2022)

About the Book/Inspiration (In the author’s own words!)

Bloom Where You’re Planted is the second book in my Harlequin mini-series, the Friendship Chronicles. It tells the sexy but introspective story of Jennifer Pritchett, a young Black woman who lives in Washington, DC, loves her boyfriend, ’90s R & B, and her friends—but lately, not much else. In the beginning of the book, Jennifer finds herself comparing her life and relationship to that of the people around her, and unfortunately she feels that every part of it is lacking. The job that she has is secure, but she wants more from it; her relationship is three-years in but has seemingly lost all fire; and her friends are leading exciting lives with grandiose stories while she’s often stuck in a classroom cleaning up crayons or on the sofa watching her boyfriend who has fallen asleep on the latest TV show they were supposed to be watching. Throughout the story and the mini-series, readers get an intimate viewpoint of how a group of close knit friends provide the comfort and foundation each woman needs as she navigates the ups and downs of her life, career, and relationships, figuring out along the way what truly makes her happy. One major activity among these friends is a weekly meet-up that they lovingly call “Nacho Thursdays,” even though it doesn’t always happen on a Thursday. During these weekly meet-ups, they may go to a restaurant, but more often than not, they are gathering at someone’s place, making their own nachos, and spending time together laughing, sometimes crying, and generally helping each other get through life.

My inspiration for this food & friendship connection probably comes from my cultural background of being from New Orleans. Often, family & friend gatherings are based around some type of significant meal, whether it’s gumbo at Christmas or a seafood boil in the summer. That tendency to gather with friends & food has certainly stayed with me even as I’ve lived in DC and New York. My friends and I love to meet up for brunch, for example! And more specifically–I simply just love nachos. So, I figured if the group of friends were going to commit to eating any meal once every week, nachos were the best option. They are shareable, you can change them up constantly so you don’t feel like you’re eating the exact same thing, and you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make them taste amazing.

Nachos Recipe-Straight from Darby!

As I mentioned earlier, I think the beauty of nachos are that you can change up the ingredients all the time. You may want vegetarian nachos one day or shrimp the next, and each can be just as tasty. However, the last chapter of Bloom Where You’re Planted starts with a simple ingredient list for not only a delicious pan of nachos, but specifically Nacho Thursday nachos. Here it is: 

– an overwhelming amount of tortilla chips

– ground beef sautéed with taco seasoning

– strips of chicken

– chopped tomatoes

– green onions

– shredded Mexican cheese

– fresh salsa or pico de gallo

– sliced limes 

– black beans

– lots of laughter

– and even more love

+ tequila and margarita mix

Instructions (for at least 2 separate pans of nachos):

Instructions (for at least 2 separate pans of nachos):

1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

2. In separate containers, season ground beef and uncooked chicken with Tony’s Chaceres Creole seasoning. (This is my personal preference, but others can use salt and pepper and season to their desired level of spice.)

3. In two separate frying pans, brown the ground beef and sauté the chicken on medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes if these are about 1b each, stirring the ground beef and turning chicken on both sides.

4. Drain ground beef and add taco seasoning + 1/4 cup of water, cooking on medium-low heat for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Then, cut the cooked chicken into smaller pieces as needed.

5. Sit both pans of meat aside.

6. Line two separate baking pans with foil, then add your base layer of tortilla chips in each.

7. Spread a layer of black beans on top of and in between chip pockets.

8. Then add your meat of choice to each baking pan.

9. Add tomatoes and green onions to both.

10. Finally, add as much shredded cheese as your heart desires.

11. And place the baking pans in the oven uncovered. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Author Bio

Darby Baham (she/her) is a writer/editor who has had personal blog posts appear in The Washington Post’s relationship vertical, Blavity, Femi magazine, and more. She’s also worked in the communications industry for more than two decades. Now residing in New York, the New Orleans native previously lived in the Washington, DC area for fifteen years. There, she cultivated a beautiful, sprawling shoe closet and met some of the best people in her orbit. Her debut novel, The Shoe Diaries, was released in January 2022. The follow up, Bloom Where You’re Planted, was released on May 24, 2022.

Book Links

Recently, Darby read directly from her book, live! You can check out her video, here.

Direct purchase links to Bloom Where You’re Planted are available at www.darbybaham.com/books.  This includes all major retailers and a link to access indie booksellers by zip code.

Connect with Darby Baham via her social media links below!

Social Media

Website: http://www.darbybaham.com

Twitter: @darbybaham

Instagram: @darbybaham

Thank you so much for joining us for part one of Novel Noshing! Next week, I will be featuring author Kate Chambers…Come back again and check out her novel and inspired recipe!

I’d love to hear from you!

If you try Darby’s Nacho recipe, let me know! And let me know if you read Bloom Where You’re Planted. Finally, if there is a novel you love, where food is featured somehow, I’d love to hear about it. Share the info in the comments!

Coming Soon! Novel Noshing: A Summertime Blog Series

strawberries on brown wooden bowl

Welcome Readers!

Food and Books: Two of my favorite things!

I am so happy to announce that I am going to be hosting a blog series during the month of June, called Novel Noshing. During June, I will be featuring three authors, who will tell us about foods that have been inspired by, or featured in, their novels!

During the month, you will be hearing from authors Darby Baham, Kate Chambers, and Jen Gilroy. I can’t wait for you to hear all about their books and the recipes they feature!

Darby Baham

Kate Chambers

Jen Gilroy

I hope you’ll join us for the series…the first installment drops June 5, 2022!

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Have you read any novels which featured specific foods? Also, have you been inspired to make any of the featured foods from novels? Tell me about it below!

Author Interview: Rachel Mucha, author of Another Day, Another Partner–A Perfect Summertime Read!

Welcome Readers! I am so pleased to introduce you to Rachel Mucha, author of Another Day, Another Partner. Released in January, 2022 from City Owl Press, Rachel’s RomCom/Crime novel features fun characters, punny boats, and an out-of-place “big-city” crime to solve–a perfect read for summer! I have had a blast reading this book, and getting to know Rachel. I can’t wait to share her insights with you!

SMNystoriak: Welcome!  Rachel, I was hoping to give my readers a little bit of information about you.  Can you provide them with a little snapshot into your background?

Rachel: Sure! I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of time reading as a kid. By elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I wrote a lot of short stories, and attempted my first novel when I was about fourteen, handwritten in a notebook (it did not go well!) Later, I attended Ithaca College as a journalism major, but I took a ton of English and creative writing classes while I was there. Post-grad, my day jobs have involved business writing and editing, but I continued writing books in my free time, because publishing one had been my dream since I was little. Now that I’ve done that, the next dream is to be able to support myself by writing books full-time!

SMNystoriak: What influenced you to become a writer?

Rachel Mucha: I was such an avid reader as a kid, I knew one day I wanted to write a book of my own. I got so attached to fictional characters, I loved the idea of creating some myself.

One of my biggest literary influences when I was younger was Meg Cabot. Her YA books, specifically The Mediator and 1-800-WHERE-R-U series, got me hooked on stories with mystery and romantic elements. Right before I sat down and started working on my debut novel, I read Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and it’s no exaggeration to say those books changed my life! I devoured them. The combination of mystery, romance and comedy felt like it was crafted just for me, and I knew that when I wrote a book, I wanted it to be like that. Evanovich is a huge reason why Another Day, Another Partner exists! A few readers have mentioned my book reminds them of Stephanie Plum, which I take as the ultimate compliment.

SMNystoriak: Your first published novel is Another Day, Another Partner, from City Owl Press.  Prior to that, had you written any others?

Rachel Mucha: Before Another Day, Another Partner existed, I had an idea for a police procedural trilogy. It centers around detectives at a Cape Cod precinct, the crimes they deal with, corruption within the department, and their friendships and romantic relationships with each other. I actually have two books in this series finished, just sitting on my laptop. I tried querying the first book, Undertow, for about a year, and didn’t get any interest (which is when I then wrote and queried Another Day, Another Partner). I would love to revisit these books and polish them up. I’ve definitely grown as a writer since, but I still adore the characters I’ve created there, and I think they have a lot of potential.

SMNystoriak: Tell us about your writing process.

Rachel Mucha: When I’m pondering a new book idea, I always start with the characters before the plot. I usually think up two leads (who will eventually fall for each other, obviously!) and pick what kind of relationship I want them to have, whether that be enemies or colleagues or exes (or some combination of those).

Once I have a clear idea of what my characters’ personalities are like and how they’re going to interact with each other, I build the plot around that. (For example, my upcoming book Bad Press was born from the simple idea of “What if a crime reporter annoyed the crap out of a detective, and then they fell in love?”) I like forcing my characters to interact, and solving a mystery is a fun way to do that.

I used to be a hardcore “pantser,” having no plan and just seeing where the story ended up as I wrote. Those days are behind me! I’m way more of an outliner and planner now. I even have random notes and scenes written for my characters that are two or three books down the road, just so I don’t forget. I love thinking really far ahead. I have long-term plans for so many of my characters – so I’m a little all over the place, but there’s definitely organization amongst the chaos.

I try not to jump around to too many different WIPs, but…sometimes I get so excited about a new idea, I can’t help myself. I probably have about eight WIPs started, and I have no clue how I’ll have the time to finish them all.

SMNystoriak: A comment: So much about what I love about Another Day, Another Partner, is the relationship between Lulu and Dom.  The enemies-to lover’s trope is alive and well with them!  And you write their banter so well.  Brilliant!

Rachel Mucha: Thank you! Enemies-to-lovers is my all-time favorite trope. It’s so fun watching two people go from annoyance/hate to love; it’s the ultimate emotional journey. And who doesn’t love characters teasing each other and bantering because they’re trying to ignore growing feelings?! I had a blast writing Lulu reluctantly realizing that Dom is the perfect guy.

SMNystoriak: Your book takes place in a small Rhode Island town.  Have you ever visited it?  What prompted you to choose that locale for your story?

Rachel Mucha: I absolutely love New England. I’d move there in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the winters. A few years ago I went on a road trip and visited several towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – and I fell in love. Coastal settings in books are my favorite, so I knew I wanted Another Day, Another Partner set on the New England coast. There’s also something interesting to me about the juxtaposition of a crime happening at the beach. People expect crime in big cities, but small coastal towns? Not so much. It adds a cool dimension to the story, I think.

SMNystoriak: Another Day, Another Partner is such a fun read! Without giving away too many specifics, what were some of your favorite parts to write?

Rachel Mucha: I touched on it a little already, but definitely the progression of Lulu and Dom’s relationship – how a young cop with trust issues was able to open up and accept her new partner, when she really didn’t want to. It was fun figuring out how to gradually get Lulu to warm up to Dom.

And while I liked writing the banter and the humorous parts, I also loved when I got to write the dramatic scenes. There’s one scene where Lulu and Dom have an argument that gets pretty heated, and that was so fun to write because up until then, Dom had been such an easy-going guy. It was an enjoyable challenge to write him frustrated and upset – it added more depth to his character and showed readers that this nice guy would stand his ground.

SMNystoriak: Many of your readers have also commented that they LOVE Lulu’s younger sister Val in this book.  How did you come up with her character, and the role she would play in the story?

Rachel Mucha: It’s funny how much people love Val, because I hadn’t really planned on her doing much in the story at first. I knew I wanted Lulu’s family to be included in the book, and I liked the idea of giving her a meddling little sister. But as I wrote, Val’s involvement in the story really evolved, and I thought it would be hilarious to have this teenager helping cops take down drug dealers. I wanted to create a rag-tag team vibe, which is one of my favorite parts of cozy mysteries. And Val interfering in Lulu’s love life, as little sisters are wont to do, was a great added bonus.

SMNystoriak: Speaking of Val, here’s a fun question:  What kind of music would she be streaming?  What about TV shows/Movies?

Rachel Mucha: Val would definitely be obsessed with reality tv and probably follow the Kardashians religiously. I could see her watching crime shows, both fictional and real. Maybe Lulu would comment on how inaccurate the detective shows are and Val groans dramatically and says, “Why do you have to ruin everything?”

As for music, I think I have Val listening to Britney Spears at some point in the book. I could see her listening to mid-2000s throwbacks a lot, since she’s a “2000s kid.”

SMNystoriak: Along those lines, it’s time to think about the writer’s dream for a bit: If Another Day, Another Partner were to become a film, what would you want to be included on the soundtrack?  Are there any specific actors you would love to see in the main roles?

Rachel Mucha: I know a lot of writers assemble playlists for their books, which I love…but I haven’t done that! I have no clue what kind of music I’d like to hear in a movie adaptation, but I’d love to get suggestions from readers.

As for actors, I think Selena Gomez would make a great Lulu. (I came to this conclusion after watching her in Only Murders In The Building). As for Dom, I have no idea! It’s funny, when I’m working on a project, I can often think of actresses to play my female leads, but I can never pick actors for the male leads. It feels like no real man can compare to the perfect image I have in my mind! Whoever plays Dom would definitely need to be very charming. I also imagine him as boy-next-door handsome, not necessarily some rugged, sexy guy. Again, I would love to hear reader suggestions for this!

SMNystoriak: So many of us absolutely love Lulu and Dom, and can NOT wait to read more about them!  Is there a sequel in the works?  If so, are there any little gems you can tell us about it—without giving away too many details?

Rachel Mucha: Yes, there’s a sequel in the works! I definitely want readers to see more of Lulu and Dom’s adventures, and how their relationship will continue to progress. The sequel is a lot of fun, and probably just as outrageous and far-fetched as the first book. The basic gist is Dom takes Lulu to his sister’s wedding out of town, and while they’re there, a guest in the hotel is murdered. So, naturally, Lulu and Dom join the investigation and are determined to catch the killer (with some assistance from everyone’s favorite supporting characters, too, of course!)

The picture above really makes me think of a certain Boat scene in Another Day, Another Partner, lol! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me readers get to know you. I have loved every minute I have spent with your characters, and can’t wait for the next installment!

Your turn! Let me know in the comments if you have had the chance to read Rachel’s Debut! And, as always, I’d love to hear what books you have on tap for summertime reading!

If you are a fan of RomCom/Crime with Romance, check out Rachel Mucha’s debut, Another Day, Another Partner: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09NDZ95PT?ref=KC_GS_GB_US

9NDZ95PT?ref=KC_GS_GB_US

Connect With Rachel!

Author website: rachelmuchabooks.com

Twitter and Instagram: @rachmucha 

Author Interview: Lauren Baratz Logsted- EXACTLY what I needed to read!

Welcome readers!

I hope everyone is well, and staying safe in this unprecedented time.  As a blogger, writer, and literary agent, I have the thrill of finding great books…and I love to talk about them!  Seven years ago, I discovered Lauren’s book, THE BRO MAGNET, which is an absolute gem.  As I recall, I had just received my very first e-reader, a Barnes and Noble Nook, and one of the first books I read on that device was The Bro Magnet.  My post about that can be found here: https://smnystoriak.com/2013/03/09/the-bromantic-comedy-of-lauren-baratz-logsted/ The Bro-Magnet (The Johnny Smith Novels Book 1)

And recently, upon recommendation, I read her book, THE OTHER BROTHER, which I review here:  https://wordpress.com/post/smnystoriak.com/3575

Once I finished reading it, I reached out to Lauren, and she was kind enough to do an interview with me here on this blog.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy this little chat with one of my favorite authors!

S.M. Nystoriak:  It’s been 7 years since I last interviewed you on this blog.  Welcome back, Lauren!  Tell us:  What was your inspiration for THE OTHER BROTHER? The Other Brother

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Several years ago, I was on an online forum for readers – remember forums? – and someone mentioned Chris Jagger. Now, I’d always known Mick Jagger had a younger brother, who was also a singer/musician, but I’d forgotten about it. Suddenly, my mind began wondering: ‘What would that be like?’ Those of us with siblings, I’m sure are familiar with the competition of family holiday dinners. No matter how much you love each other, there’s always a bit of measuring against each other, isn’t there? Now, imagine you’re a singer/songwriter, and you’re even making a living at it, but your brother happens to be the frontman for “The Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World”? And then, being me, I began wondering what it would be like to be married to the less-famous brother…and then I began to write. To be clear, the characters aren’t the Jaggers – none of the characters in the book are real people – but that was the inspiration.  

S.M. Nystoriak:  This was a really fun, yet surprisingly deep story.  I found myself connecting with Mona, big time. As a teen, I can remember feeling the same excitement she did with rock stars, and as an adult, and a mom, I found her to be incredibly real.  Is there a character in THE OTHER BROTHER which you most identify with?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Mona. I feel like she’s trying to do the right things, trying to make things right for other people. Yet she doesn’t always understand what her own motives are for doing certain things, and I think that’s true of a lot of us. One of the big themes in the history of literature involves the tragedy of the human condition: the inability to ever truly know another human being. But Mona ultimately raises the question, and I raise the question: Can we ever truly know ourselves? 

S.M. Nystoriak:  It is often said that writers should write what they know.  How closely tied are you to the happenings in THE OTHER BROTHER?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I am not one of those people who say “write what you know.” If I tried to put that into practice for myself, all my books would be about a woman alone in a basement, writing books. That’d hardly be gripping on the page for 50K-100K words, would it? OK, that’s an exaggeration of “write what you know,” but I still find that classic bit of advice to be too facile and too easily open to misinterpretation. So the advice I would give people is: Write what you *want* to know. Write about the things you’re dying to explore. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  That’s an excellent perspective!  Well said!  When I was growing up, my family listened to a lot of classic rock.  The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John.  I also admired and followed the music of several 80’s pop stars, mostly British.  Duran Duran was an absolute fave when I was in my teens, but there were many others.  Have you always been a fan of rock and roll music?  Did you have any music idols growing up?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  My brother is two years older and when I was fairly young, he got a monthly subscription to some record club. So the first albums I was exposed to were all rock bands, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I definitely enjoyed getting my pop fixes from the radio, but my brother’s taste set the template for my taste. Then, when I was 12, a close friend turned me on to the breadth of Rolling Stones music. In terms of idols, the usual ones for my era: Mick, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey – British men with great hair and distinctive voices. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  How about now?  What kind of music are you streaming these days?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  HA! You’re confusing me with someone who streams music – I still have a flip phone! I listen to CDs at home and in the car: lots of classic rock; music from earlier eras than that, lots of Sinatra and some Billie Holiday; and – don’t judge! – “The Music of Nashville,” i.e., the TV show.

S.M. Nystoriak:  You crack me up!  As a musician myself, I can attest that those are some fabulous artists and genre’s!  OK…I have noticed a recurring setting in your books:  Connecticut.  What is the significance of Connecticut?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I’ve lived my whole life in Connecticut, even went to college instate, so I guess that part of my writing really is, at least in part,  “write what you know.” But plenty of my books do take place in other states or countries, reflecting my own travels and interests.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Another connection:  In THE OTHER BROTHER, Mona and her family are from England, and they travel to Connecticut for a holiday.  I noticed you have another book which takes place in England, about a commoner marrying a British royal.  Have you ever lived in Britain, or traveled there?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  And I’ve written several other books that take place in England! In addition to the two you’ve mentioned, if my math is right, there are six others that take place in England. I’ve only been there once, for eight days in 1993, but after a lifetime of reading a ton of British books and watching an insane amount of Masterpiece Theatre”… What can I say? I’ve never stuck to any single genre or time period for my writing – I just write the stories I want to write and then set them in the time and place that the story dictates.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Nice!  Obviously, I have some more reading to do!  And, I also follow the mantra,”Write the book you want to read”.  I began writing seriously about ten years ago, after the stress caused by local and world events got the better of me.  My writing output increased dramatically during that time.  Do current events have an effect on your writing output?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Short answer: yes. Longer answer: I’ve been writing for over a quarter of a century and for the overwhelming majority of that time, I could write through anything, good or bad, that was going on in my life or in the world. These past few months, though, with this tsunami of things going on, I’ve had to set my expectations for myself a bit lower. I just can’t work straight through like I used to. I mean, Twitter alone – when I first started writing, there was no Twitter. But now? It’s too easy to leave that open and before you know it, you’re taking a quick break from writing that turns into: ‘Wait – what did he say now?’ – or “What did they do?’ and that quickly turns into ‘Well, I’ve got to say something about this, I can’t just keep silent.’ Before you know it, well, there’s another hour gone. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  So true.  Alright…Last item!  Tell us about any other projects you might be working on.  What can we expect to see?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Ooh, thank you for asking! This coming February 9, 2021, my 20-year-old daughter Jackie Logsted and I have a book coming out from Penguin Random House that we wrote together. It’s an adult comedic romance called JOINT CUSTODY. It does *not* take place in Connecticut but it is about – and written from the point of view of! – a border collie named Gatz. When Gatz’s beloved owners, The Man and The Woman, split up, Gatz resolves to do everything in his power to get them back together. But when New Man appears on the scene, well, complications to Gatz’s plans ensue. It’s a lighthearted book about happiness and what it really means to love. Here’s hoping readers have as much fun reading it as we had writing it. Thanks for having me!   

S.M. Nystoriak:  That sounds amazing!  It would be so wonderful to collaborate like that on a book!  You are fortunate, for sure!  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Lauren!  As always, it’s a pleasure to dive into your books!

For more information, Lauren can be found:

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

I cannot recommend Lauren Baratz Logsted’s books enough.  They are always, exactly what I need!

Let’s Connect!  Have you read any of Lauren’s books?  What authors do you read that always write “exactly what you need”?  I’d love to hear about it…Chime in below!

 

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired By Our Novels and Characters, Part 4

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Welcome Back!  Today’s headlining picture makes me think of my favorite thing about autumn baking…apples and cinnamon.  Here in the North Country, Autumn is in full swing.  Cool, crips nights, and sun-shiny days illuminate the colorful trees here in the Adirondacks.  It’s the season for steamy drinks, comforting casseroles, warm breakfasts to get us started in the morning.

Which brings me to our featured author of the week.

For this fourth installment of my series, I present to you author Melody Winter, and her soon-to-be-released novel, INIQUITY.  Here is Melody, with a bit about her upcoming release.

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Village life for my characters in Iniquity is hard. Food is limited, and meat scarce. But the one meal that’s made every morning is a hearty bowl of porridge. The men need a filling breakfast to see them through a day working at the fields, and the women usually eat their fair share as well. The weather is cold, miserable and it often rains, hence a stomach full of warm porridge is a good start to everyone’s day.

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Athena mentions having to soak the oats overnight. This was a traditional way of making porridge. For each serving, the equivalent of 50 grams of oats was added to a mix of 300ml water and goats milk if it was available. The following morning it was cooked in a large metal pot over hot coals, stirring constantly until it boiled, and then stirred again for a further ten minutes.

Unfortunately, in Iniquity there isn’t much else you can add to the porridge as fruit and other plant growth is severely hindered by the lack of sunlight. The villagers only grow the necessities.

INIQUITY is due for release on the 25th October, available through amazon, or a signed paperback direct from Melody. The ebook is currently available for pre-order at a special discounted price on amazon:

Amazon.com: Link to Iniquity on amazon US  

Amazon.co.uk: Link to Iniquity on amazon UK

Email Melody: melodywinterbooks@gmail.com

About the author:

Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in York, North Yorkshire, England with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures, and creating her own.

 

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Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired By Our Books and Characters, Part 2

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Welcome back, Readers!

For today’s post in this series, I introduce author Carys Jones, with a recipe inspired by her novel, Dare To Dream, published by REUTS Publications.  Here is a blurb about the book, from the publisher’s website:

“Fourteen-year-old Maggie Trafford leads a normal life. Well, as normal as being crammed in a three-bedroom house with four siblings and a single parent can be, anyway. But despite being somewhat ignored at home, Maggie excels, earning top grades, a best friend who would do anything for her, and stolen looks from a boy in Maths.

It’s not until the dreams start that Maggie realizes “normal” is the least of her problems. Every night, she lives the same nightmare—red lightning, shattered glass, destruction. But nightmares are just that, right? No one believes her when she says it’s an omen. At least, not until the already mysterious pillars of Stonehenge start falling.

No longer alone in her fear, Maggie and the world watch with bated breath as one after another, the historic stones tumble, like a clock counting down. But only Maggie knows what it means: when the last stone falls, destruction will reign. And when the world ends, there’s only one option left—survive.”

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Here is Carys Jones, in her own words.

I chose a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes to represent the character of Maggie from Dare to Dream. In the book, Maggie is plagued by nightmares of red lightning which ultimately destroy the world, hence why I leaned towards a red dessert.

Maggie is a sweet natured girl with hidden depth (like a great cupcake). Whilst not rich she is intense.

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Dare to Dream is published through Reuts publications and is currently available from all online retailers – https://www.amazon.com/Dare-Dream-Carys-Jones/dp/1942111088/ref=la_B004AEJO7W_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472901951&sr=1-2

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Red Velvet Cupcakes–As inspired by Maggie in Dare to Dream

What you’ll need;

  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 100 grams butter
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red food colouring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175 millilitres buttermilk

 

What to do; 

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325°F, and fill two muffin tins with paper cases
  2. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a different bowl cream the butter and sugar together. Then beat in the food colouring and the vanilla extract
  4. Add the eggs and flour into the mix, beating continuously so that everything becomes a nice thick paste.
  5. Finally beat in the buttermilk and then spoon the mixture into the paper cases.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. To check if they’re done, pierce a cake with a skewer or knife and if it comes out clean then your cakes are done.
  7. Leave them to cool on a wire rack before adding the frosting.

 

For the Topping you’ll need;

  • 500 grams icing sugar
  • 125 grams cream cheese
  • 125 grams butter

 

  1. Mix the icing sugar, cream cheese and butter together.
  2. Whisk thoroughly until smooth.
  3. Carefully ice each cupcake (once thoroughly cooled)
  4. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and red sugar if desire.
  5. Enjoy!

 

Carys Jones loves nothing more than to write and create stories which ignite the reader’s imagination. Based in Shropshire, England, Carys lives with her husband, two guinea pigs and her adored canine companion Rollo.

When she’s not writing, Carys likes to indulge her inner geek by watching science- fiction films or playing video games.

She lists John Green, Jodi Picoult and Virginia Andrews as her favorite authors and draws inspiration for her own work from anything and everything.

To Carys, there is no greater feeling then when you lose yourself in a great story and it is that feeling of ultimate escapism which she tries to bring to her books.

For more information about Carys please visit http://www.carys-jones.com or follow her on Twitter; @tiny_dancer85

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired by our books and Characters, Part 1

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Welcome, Readers!

The photo above, shows a Great Gatsby-inspired meal.  From the website, it states: Waldorf Salad in a lettuce cup, and deviled egg, photographed in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. http://www.denverpost.com.  I think it’s a great photo, and really sets the tone for what this blog series is about.

Today begins a month-long series, where some of my writerly friends and I will be sharing a little bit about our books, and recipes and foods which are inspired by them.  I intend to share a new post each week of October, highlighting an author or two, each time.

Planning this series was meaningful to me.  Foods and customs help to shape who we all are.  When writing, it’s important to include those types of things, because it helps create character depth, and brings a more intimate knowledge of the story to light.  When I read a novel, I want to feel like I live with those characters for a while.  This blog series is an attempt to bring you, the Reader, closer to living within the pages of our novels.  Join us!

For the first post in the series, I introduce you to J.M. Frey, the author of The Accidental Turn Series.  Here she is, posting in her own words.

 

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Bevel Dom’s Questing Cuisine

by J.M. Frey

One of the most fun parts of world building is figuring out the cuisines of the world. What grows in this climate? What is their staple grain? How often do they go to market? What kind of growing season do they get? Do they trade with neighbors, or neighboring counties, or neighboring countries? Do the highborn eat the same foods as the peasantry? Who gets to hunt on what land, and what sort of creatures do they consider food-animals over pet-animals?

For my novels and novellas in The Accidental Turn series, I firmly established a world where bread, cheese, European-style fruits and root vegetables, and farmed meat were the standards of faire. But my rogue and roving heroes – Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom – were more likely to live off the land. Venison, eel, dried fruit and nuts, and foraged potatoes were more their speed. And in a world were exotic spices were non-existent and everyone – everyone human that is – had a kitchen garden filled with the same herbs, Bevel kept a string of cylindrical tins attached to his sword belt, and the spice blends he’d wheedled out of centaur chefs and night elf kitchen maids were his greatest treasure.

In his seventeen years as a roaming sword-for-hire, Bevel developed several clever and ingenious ways to serve up road-rations and just-caught creatures to make them palatable to two hungry Heroes. Here is one of them:

Bevel, trying to break through the heavy atmosphere, hands one of the leaf-wrapped packages to me, and the other to Kintyre. Wordlessly, Kintyre holds it out to Pip, and Pip, equally wordlessly, takes it. I take my own from Bevel, accepting the temporary truce, and it is still hot; it singes my fingertips a little. It steams as I unwrap it, and I am pleased to see that it is a sort of roll made up of meat wrapped around dried fruit. It is juicy and delicious, and I realize how hungry I am on the first bite.

“We’ve been doing this part of adventuring wrong,” Pip moans around her own mouthful.

Bevel pinks again. “I’ve had a long time to practice. Luckily, Kin was willing to put up with my experimentation.”

 “And I’m lucky Bevel actually enjoys cooking and was willing to experiment,” Kin says around a mouthful. “We got sick of standard travel fare pretty quick.”

 

BEVEL’S SWEET MEAT ROLLS

  • Venison, pounded flat (rehydrated from salted jerky is fine, if you have the time to soak it for a few hours), at least the size of your hand.
  • Dried berries – plums, cranberries and raisins preferred – rehydrated by soaking them in whatever liquor you happen to have to hand. Soak them for at least an hour.
  • Some dried nuts, roasted in a pan over your cookfire, if you like.
  • Large, thick, non-poisonous leaves – an acceptable equivalent in the Overrealm would be Banana leaves. Tinfoil would also be acceptable.
  • A Centaur Sweet and Savory Spice Blend – the Overrealm equivalent would be cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, sea salt, white pepper, and thyme blended to taste.

 

Build up your camp fire in advance so that by the time you’ve prepared your rolls the embers are hot and cherry red.  Pour three handfuls of dried fruit into your travel cup and soak it with liquor – whiskey, sherry, or brandy work best. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit; while you’re doing that pound your cuts of meat flat and lay them on the leaves. Muddle and chop the fruit and nuts together, and spread a thin layer over the meat. Sprinkle with your spice blend. Roll the meat and fruit mixture like a scroll, fold the leaf around it (making sure to tuck in the edges to the fire doesn’t crisp them), and secure all with a bit of string soaked with water. Place the whole package on the edge of the fire, and leave for upwards of an hour, until the meat is at your preferred cooking level, or your companion is complaining of hunger. Serve with a trencher of bread if you have any. Potatoes, baked in the fire, work just as well.

Or, I suppose y0u could do it on the Barbeque, if you want to cheat.

*

J.M. is a voice actor, SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional smartypants on AMI Radio’s Live From Studio 5. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!) @scifrey | http://www.jmfrey.net/

You can find out more about Bevel Dom and The Accidental Turn series here.

 

I’ve Got a Cover To Reveal! Who’s curious?

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A little less than three months from now, Without Benefits will be showing up on doorsteps and in e-readers! But today we get a first look at the amazing cover, designed by Ashley at Cardboard Monet! Ashley even did a special photoshoot just for this cover. So check out the cover and make sure you scroll down to the giveaway below!

Here’s a bit about the book:

Emma will always be a New Yorker at heart, even though she has a perfect life in Seattle. She has a prestigious job fundraising for the Seattle Symphony, a handsome boyfriend who adores her, and a Belltown apartment with views of the Sound. It should be more than enough to keep her pain from not playing the piano, and her 9/11 nightmares, away.

But when her old college crush, Owen, comes back into her life, it’s more than just spending time with him that’s causing cracks in her picture-perfect life. As she steps back on stage, and back into the spotlight, her connection with Owen and his world, dredges up old memories that Emma worked hard to forget.

Emma’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to face the truth about more than just her fears of returning back to New York. As her once perfect life begins to burn down, Emma is forced to figure out what she really wants: her fundraiser and cocktail party-filled life with her boyfriend, or forging a new future with the one thing, and one person, she’s ever loved–even if it means returning to New York.

Without Benefits is a beautiful and moving exploration of modern relationships and family written in the vein of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Renee Carlino.

So here it is…

The moment we’ve been waiting for…
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Isn’t it gorgeous? Pre-order your copy today!
 

About the author:

Nicole Tone is a freelance editor, MFA student, traveller, pet collector, binge-watcher, and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs, but spends as much of her time in Seattle as possible. You can like her page on Facebook, @ her on Twitter, swoon over dream houses together on Pinterest, and add Without Benefits on Goodreads.