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!

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

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Connect With Rachel!

Author website: rachelmuchabooks.com

Twitter and Instagram: @rachmucha 

Audiobook Review: THE OTHER BROTHER, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Other Brother

Welcome readers!

It’s been a while since I have put any reviews on this blog.  Heck, I can honestly say that I have never done a review of an audiobook…EVER…so, it’s time!

Faced with the possibility of a very long car trip last month, New York to Virginia, I wanted to snag an enjoyable audiobook to help pass the time.  I have been a fan of Lauren Baratz-Logsted since I read THE BRO MAGNET, several years ago.  So I decided to download her book, THE OTHER BROTHER, for the ride.  It turns out that I did not have to take that car ride after all, but still dealing with home-time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the time was still perfect for a good listening experience.

THE OTHER BROTHER revolves around the life of a woman, Mona Springer, who is married to an amateur musician, Jack Springer, who is the brother of Denny Springer, who just so happens to be the biggest, most famous rock star in the world.  What must it be like to be the brother or sister-in-law of someone of that caliber?

Throughout the story, Mona narrates, telling the reader about how she had always been a fan of Denny, following the mags and gossip about the live-it-up lifestyle of the rock star.  As she grows older, and meets her future husband, she never realizes that Denny is his brother until her wedding day, when Denny can’t show up to be the best man.  The life of a rock star is demanding, and unyielding, it seems.

There had always been tension between the brothers, with Jack rarely even acknowledging his existence, and skipping out on the wedding cements those feelings. Mona and Jack go on to have two boys and a travel agency business, only seeing Denny on the rarest of holidays.  When Mona and her family take a trip across the Atlantic from their home in London, to Connecticut for the Summer, Denny shows up, unannounced, with his entourage in the dead of night with no explanation.

Overnight, Mona’s Summer family vacation instantly takes a sharp turn with Denny’s visit, forcing the brothers to spend some time together.  Denny’s existence with them runs hot and cold.  The relationship between them all remains awkward and uncomfortable for much of the visit, especially considering how the two boys, William and Harry (no royal relation…) don’t know how to even talk to their uncle.  Is their family summer vacation a wash?  Or will it end up being exactly what this family needs?

This audiobook was a real find for me.  As a musician, and child of the 80’s, I ogled over pop and rock stars of my time, fan-girling with the best of them.  Duran Duran, A-ha, Richard Marx, Bryan Adams, just to mention a few, were on the top of my list…  This story brought me back to my younger days!   I will have to save those specific tales for another post…or another book!

Also of note, the narrator of this audiobook had a truly expressive voice, and did a wonderful job capturing the witty style of Ms. Baratz-Logsted’s writing, which I have grown to adore.  As a fan of Ms. Baratz-Logsted, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.

This audiobook was a real treat to listen to.  I can’t wait for my next book by Lauren Baratz-Logsted…she never disappoints.  Highly recommended!

Here is a link to the audiobook here, but it is also available on Kindle and paperback! The Other Brother

Lauren Baratz-Logsted can be found:

Twitter @LaurenBaratzL

Facebook Lauren Baratz-Logsted Facebook

As always, I would love to connect!  Share your comments below!

Charlotte’s Take: The Calabiyau Chronicles by Diana S. Zimmerman

Hello, Readers!

Diana_copy_400x400

Today, I am sharing a book series review, as relayed to me by Charlotte, my 10 year old daughter.  The Calabiyau Chronicles is a series of books which opened the excitement of reading to my daughter.  When she was in the 4th grade, during her birthday month, she was invited to select a free book from a huge collection of brand new books that had been delivered to a classroom.  The way she described it, the selection of books was so enormous!

secret of the mists

My daughter searched through the piles of books, and emerged with her choice, KANDIDE AND THE SECRET OF THE MISTS.  The cover and the title are what attracted Charlotte to the book.  From my perspective, the book was glorious.  A fantastic cover, intricate artwork within, and written at a level which I was thrilled that my 10 year old daughter had chosen.  The book is fantasy, and features beautiful fairy-like creatures, winged and colorful.

According to Charlotte, SECRET OF THE MISTS was action-packed and exciting.  The most exciting part was when Kandide, the main character and heroine, arrived at the mists, and was attacked by the Garglan, a vicious, hairy creature with wings, sharp teeth, claws, and a long tail.  The Garglan also has creepy red eyes.  Kandide needed the help of wolves to escape it.

The Lady's Revenge

Her excitement about SECRET OF THE MISTS prompted me to purchase book 2 of the series, THE LADY’S REVENGE.  According to my daughter, THE LADY’S REVENGE is mysterious.  A princess, Tara, is captured, and frozen in a block of ice.  If the ice melts, she will die.  Kandide is in charge of making Winter, and so she changes the season to Winter again, keeping the ice frozen.  Kandide enlists the help of her brother to magically save Tara from the block of ice.

Masks of Deception

At the end of Book 2, Charlotte was so anxious for book 3…but it wasn’t released yet!  I had to pre-order it, and she was so thrilled when it finally arrived!  The title of Book 3 in this series, is THE MASKS OF DECEPTION.  This book, like the two other before it, features beautiful pictures throughout.  They are stunning.

Charlotte just finished reading it, and here is what she told me:  There is a war going on between Calabiyau, and the Banshee Kingdom.  She didn’t want to give me too many spoilers, but she did mention at one point, that the Fee’ have to enter the human world, and they get stuck.  This is dangerous for the Fee’ because in the human world, time moves faster and they age really quickly.  MASKS OF DECEPTION ends with “To be continued…”, which delighted my daughter.  We are hoping for a book 4!

It should be noted that there is a beautiful, intricate coloring book that coincides with this book series.  We also own the coloring book.  It’s truly lovely.

As a parent, author, and teacher, I was so happy to find a series of books which my daughter became so enthralled with.  I would also like to point out that when I reached out to author Diana S. Zimmerman about Charlotte’s zest for her books, she was more than happy to connect.  That means a lot to the readers who fall in love with characters and places of an authors creation.  Thank you for writing such a series for my daughter and other readers to enjoy.

Diana S. Zimmerman has a website for all things Kandide:  www.kandide.com

The Calabiyau Chronicles Series can be purchased on Diana S. Zimmerman’s website, or on Amazon

She can be found on social media as well:

Twitter:  @DianaZimmerman

Facebook:  Diana Zimmerman

When All Else Fails…

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Good evening, readers!

This is not my usual Sunday night planned post, for a few reasons.  First, it’s not Sunday.  Second, this past week found me unable to produce much in the way of writerly thoughts.  And third, well, it’s pretty much tied to the second reason.  Stress, with some confusion and befuddlement over various goings-on sprinkled in for good measure.  No matter where I turned, it seemed, I felt/feel like things are off kilter and out of my control. And social media isn’t helping, at the moment.

So, to combat this, I did two things.  First, I read a book that had been on my TBR for a while.  I have been sharing my enchantment with THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP, by Nina George, on my various social media feeds, and a review of it will be coming soon, here on this blog.  *Swoon*…

And second, when I finished THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP,  I turned to my own work in progress; the one thing I currently have complete control over.

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My works in progress; conceived by me, researched by me, nurtured by me, encouraged by me,  and eventually released into the world by me.

To have these works in progress, gifts that they are, at my disposal is a blessing during times like these is a treat.  I can revisit my characters whom I adore.  I can rework my plots to my liking.  I can create something completely new if I want.  It’s a very liberating feeling.  Writers, or any artists, really, are blessed with this ability to create.  In times like these, I am grateful to have this ability at my disposal.

It’s true…When all else fails, I can grab a pencil, and be off in a world of my choice.

Mind you, I didn’t write a whole lot of new content this week, because, again, confusion, stress, and befuddlement.  But it was time well spent.  Stepping out of my world of confusion and into my writing world for a while did me some good.

Actually, it did me a lot of good.

Tonight, before putting this post together, I took a look at what I did manage to write this past weekend.  I have a secondary plot line developing, and am heading in for the home stretch of the book.  All awesome things, that came out of necessity for me when all else failed.

Thanks for stopping by today!

 

 

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

eat-drink-and-be-literary

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

red-velvet

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.

 

Book Review: OFF BOOK, by Jessica Dall

Hello Readers!

I read this book a while back, and just realized that I never posted my review!  So here we go:  OFF BOOK, by author Jessica Dall 🙂

Quirky, off-beat, but quite charming, I really liked the unique premise of OFF BOOK, from REUTS Publications.

Many of us (I expect) have wondered what it would be like to exist in a story, or what character’s lives might be like after the novel is over. But author Jessica Dall goes one step further here, and presents the reader with a world of characters before they are written into novels.

This pre-novel existence poses many questions to those characters who are unwritten. For example, when they finally get chosen, would their existence span a long time, as a main character within a series?  Or would their literary existence be brief, as in killed off, or somehow written out another way. What would happen to them, then? Another character reality…what if their author starts writing them into a novel, but never finishes it (writer’s block…)? What happens to those characters then?  Jessica Dall presents us with the perspective of a character, believing they may never be chosen to become part of an author’s book.

As both a reader and author, I have sat at both sides of the table: The author who brings the characters to life on the page, and the reader, welcoming the characters into my life.

From an authorly standpoint, reading OFF BOOK has given me the motivation to finish writing all of my novels, so that my characters, who I adore so much, will have some sort of completeness in their lives!  Weird?  Maybe.  But that’s my reality, and that is the hook of Dall’s book.  If you are a reader who enjoys unique character perspectives, check this one out. Highly recommended!

Book Review: Hearts Anonymous: Wittiness and grit, within a dark sweet fairytale

Jonathan Dunne has proven himself to me through the years to be a writer I can depend on, and his latest book, HEARTS ANONYMOUS, again delivers.

 

First of all, I love how Jonathan Dunne talks about the inspiration for this novel in the front of the book.  I urge all readers of HEARTS ANONYMOUS not to skip over that part.  What he describes in those opening words sets the tone for the entire book in a way that connects the reader to the impending story.

 

Now for the story.  If we consider the phrase “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely actors”, we get a sense of the premise of HEARTS ANONYMOUS.  The difference I found however is that instead of existing as actors on a proverbial stage, Jack, Jeanie and Ruthy are living as characters in a fairytale, whose lives seem forever entwined, and whose story remains unfinished.  Jack and Jeanie appear to the reader as star-crossed lovers, who are destined to be together long after Jack’s heart stops beating, but in this book’s fairytale twist, we discover that Jack’s life has a more intricate trajectory, that he, nor this reader, could see coming.  Surviving a rollercoaster derailment is just the beginning, as he and Ruthy travel together to the origin of a fairytale that they have become embroiled in, or rather have existed in, for quite some time.  The ending I truly DID NOT see coming.

 

Jonathan Dunne does a wonderful job developing the idea of a clock that can transport people through time. As the author of a time travel novel myself, I was intrigued.  The description of the clock and all of its intricately moving parts, I loved.  And the love story aspect was dark, yet sweet.

 

It’s no secret that I love the fictitious world of Jonathan Dunne’s novels.  He continues to develop Limerick and Old Castle even further with HEARTS ANONYMOUS, a treat for this fan-reader.  Not to be overlooked are Arthur Lawless, Bonnie, Mick Munroe, and Sinbad, who graciously have “cameo” mentions within this book’s pages.  HEARTS ANONYMOUS is written with the same sarcastic wit that I have grown to love and expect from Mr. Dunne.

 

In case you weren’t aware, there is an audio format of this book, which I have decided I NEED to have.  It would be really something to hear the author himself read the pages of this novel to me, in the way his author-mind intended.

 

I recommend this book to current fans of Mr. Dunne’s books, but also to any reader who likes a bit of a twist with their fairytales.