Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Slush Pile


Slush
I woke up today to a winter wonderland – Everything was covered in a lovely blanket of pristine snow. The trees were laced with white, snow covered the rooftops and garden. Little flakes of snow drifted through the morning sky.
By noon it was all gone!
Now there is nothing left of our snow day. All that remains is Slush…. 
Which brings me to writing. The slush pile, as you all know, is the towering stack of unrequested manuscripts that arrive daily to publishers and agents. To get out of the slush pile, a manuscript has to grab the attention of the person reading it. And often that person has already skimmed over thirty manuscripts and has already got a headache. I used to work for a publisher and my job was  you got it - the slush pile.I was a Publisher. Other people who read Slush are Agents and Editors. 
Anyhow, the APE (agent/publisher/editor) picks up your manuscript. The APE (that looks strange, for some reason. Maybe I can make it a PEA?) The PEA picks up your manuscript and reads the cover letter and synopsis. Hopefully you have made both short and to the point, as well as witty, interesting, professional, and intriguing. The PEA then picks up your manuscript and begins to read. If you are lucky, your first sentence is a hook that grabs the PEA. The PEA, now hooked, reads the first page. If your story is well written and flows smoothly, the PEA may find he’s already on Chapter Two. (usually you have sent the first three chapters in a blind query. It’s not usual to send an entire novel without a request) And the PEA, now interested, reads chapters two and three…and puts your (incredibly witty and intriguing) query and your (enthralling and well-written) manuscript on the ‘maybe’ desk.
Well, it’s a start. The PEA is most likely a HUR, that is, a helpful underpaid reader. Hur will give the query and first three chapters to the real PEA, who, with the HUR’s positive remarks, will read them at leisure. Have pity on the HUR; format your manuscript correctly, use spell check, and use a good printer using black ink on white paper.
If all goes well for your book, you will receive a letter in your SASE a few weeks (or months) later from the PEA asking for a Partial or a Full. That means you have passed the first test. You will now send off a Partial manuscript (the number of chapter/pages requested) or the whole thing. You will now wait. Use the time wisely. Write another book. 
(Do you remember the good old days of paper submissions and SASE's?) 


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Very veggie soup, banana bread, rice pudding


Very veggie Soup -
I have been making soup every weekend - I buy some veggies (whatever strikes my fancy and look good) but there is always 1 leek (white and green part all the way up to the top, rinced well, sliced thin), an onion (diced), 2 or 3 carrots (diced), a potato (diced) - and then whatever - today it was a huge head of brocoli and a leftover tomato at the bottom of the bin, next week I plan to add a couple sweet potatoes. You can use squash, pumpkin, parsnips - in fact, whatever you wish!

 Cook in butter and oil until all the veggies are wilted and starting to soften, but are not yet browning. Add broth (vegetable or meat - I used beef bullion cubes today) and cook until the veggies are completely soft. Let cool and mix in the blender - add water if to thick. Put back in the pan and heat, and add some cream if you like. What I like to do is make a pot of vermicelle on the side (angel hair pasta) and add them to the soup (never cook the pasta in the soup!) I usually make enough soup to last 2 - 3 days - we have it for dinner with fresh baguette and cheese.
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Banana Bread - 
Every time I make it is is different. This time, I spent a hour cracking walnuts, then toasting the walnuts with oil, sugar, salt, thyme & a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Once toasted, I put them in the banana cake mix with a handful of raisins. Oh. My. God. Not only does is smell divine as it's cooking, but the toasted nuts give the banana bread a little crunch -
Banana bread batter: 2 very ripe bananas (they can be rotten, there can be 2 or 3 bananas...) a cup of sugar, (I use half white, half brown) 2 cups flour, a tablespoon baking powder, pinch of salt, 1 cup milk with half a lemon squeezed in it (let the milk sit until it's curdled - about 15 minutes), 2 eggs, 3 or 4 tablespoons melted butter. Raisins, nuts. Put everything but the raisins and nuts in a mixing bowl and blend with your hand-held blender. Just do it. When the batter is smooth, stir in the raisins and nuts and pour into a greased cake dish and bake at 350° for 30 - 40 minutes. Add cinnamon if you want. A dash of rum, coffee or coconut liqueur works too.
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Rice Pudding -
I had leftover rice. This is what I did: I put a pan of milk to heat on medium heat (the same amount of milk as there is rice) and added 2 teabags of strong, black tea, 5 cardamon seeds and a  half cup of sugar (use the sugar to taste - more for sweeter, less for...well, you get it!). Stir well - don't let the milk boil! When the teabags start to color the milk caramel and the cardamon releases it's scent and flavor, take the teabags cardamon out, and then add the rice. Now bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly. Add more milk as needed to keep the rice creamy. After the milk boils, turn the heat down and add a handful of raisins if you like. Now, keep stirring for about 15 minutes - you really want the rice to be as soft and mushy as possible. Do add more milk to make sure the rice doesn't get sticky. It should stay creamy. You can eat it hot, or cold - I like to eat it for breakfast with even more milk on it, and heated up in the microwave!



Monday, November 27, 2017

My Best Friend

She was lost gradually. It wasn’t as if anyone could point to a single thing that happened and say; “It was there. She was perfect before that happened. Afterwards we lost her. She was never the same.”

Perhaps it would be easier if life could be cut up like so many pieces of pie – wedges taken out and examined, some slices smaller than others, some burned, others not cooked enough. She was my best friend, but I never tried to pinpoint the exact moment she slipped away. It was too complex. A tumor growing insidiously, tendrils branching forwards and backward through time. A smile or tears became remembered instants that shifted unexpectedly as if the lens of a camera came into focus. Incidents that seemed blurry suddenly turned clear. Especially afterwards.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgivings, Past and Present

I tend to measure time by events, and the holidays are one yardstick. Most of my memories of Christmas are tropical ones, with fish instead of fowl on the menu, and sun instead of snow.  But most of my Thanksgivings featured the traditional turkey. One time I forgot to thaw it out, and we spent Thanksgiving day with the turkey in the hot bath, and then when it was dry, we tried to defrost the insides with a hair dryer. Another Thanksgiving was in Upstate NY, during a blizzard, and my father had to go fetch my great-grandmother with a sled, because the car was stuck in snow drifts.  That was he year the parakeets dive bombed the dining room table – their game seemed to be which bird could get closest to the mound of fluffly mashed potatoes. (Our parakeets had a cage, but they lived with the door open and would fly all around the house, only going into the cage to eat or sleep.) They also liked teasing our German Shephard, and would swoop over her head and tease her. Our dog ignored them, but one day, as one bird swooped low over the napping dog she raised her head and yawned – and the bird flew straight into her mouth! There was an explosion of feathers, the dog jumped up and coughed, and the bird shot out of her mouth, minus most of its tail feathers.
The years rolled on. I spent Thanksgiving in NY with my husband and twin sons, and was invited to Thanksgiving lunch with my father, and dinner at my mother’s house. I couldn’t turn either one down, so my husband and I had two Thanksgiving feasts in one day. It took a few years before I was ready to contemplate turkey again. My father had made oyster stew as an appetizer, I remember – and my French husband had never had cooked oysters before. It was his first Thanksgiving, and he admired my father’s stuffed, roasted turkey at lunchtime. The look on his face during dinner, when my mother proudly presented her stuffed, roasted turkey, was priceless.

My aunt just reminded me of the Thanksgiving we spent near Niagra falls (how could we go there and not actually go see the falls is a mystery, but there you are – I have yet to ssee them!) When my husband met most of my huge, boisterous family for the first time. You have to understand that my poor husband comes from such a tiny family, he only has One Cousin on each side of his family! I have over thirty on each side, which makes more than sixty cousins in all, with aunts, uncles, great-aunts, well – you get the idea – a huge, noisy, fun-loving family … we played charades that Thanksgiving. (My husband had never done this). I don’t know whose idea it was, but we were doing book and movie titles and his was: “Everything you ever wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask.”  I think this is known as “baptism by fire”.
We had Thanksgiving in a Chinese restaurant one year, and another year we were just too exhausted (my husband was recovering from scarlet fever, the twins had been ill, and we had just flown twelve hours from Rio to Miami – ) to think about cooking, so we ordered pizza and had them delivered.  A few years ago, my BF Debbie drove seven hours to pick me and my daughter up at my mother’s house in NY and drove us down to her place in Pennsylvania. She made us a huge Thanksgiving feast, complete with turkey, sweet corn, and sweet potato pie, and it was in July!
We spent a few Thanksgivings here in France with Andrea and her family. An American, and an amazing cook, Andrea made Thanksgiving feasts that would put Martha Stewart to shame. One year we had a goose, and it was amazing.
But this year, like last year, my husband and I gave Thanksgiving a miss. Because we don’t have a holiday here in France for it, there isn’t a day off to get things and to cook. Christmas seems right around the corner, and Halloween was yesterday (OK, no cooking, but loads of candy!) So Thanksgiving was just homemade soup with noodles this year, with a fresh, warm baguette and good cheese. My husband and I took a few moments to express our thanks – for our friends and families, for our health and our jobs, and we made the wish that one day, everyone in the world would be able to sit at a table with their loved ones and share a good meal in peace and prosperity. That would be something to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Let me introduce myself, I'm an American living in France. I write for Evernight press, Medallion Press, and I have three books out, The Road to AlexanderLegends of Persia, and Son of the Moon, from Accent Press.

The Road to Alexander is a love story as old as time itself - a love that spans centuries. Ashley, the time traveling heroine, is stuck in the past with Alexander the Great, and the one thing she misses most - is chocolate! If she could, she'd make brownies and give them to Alexander's army (how many eggs would she need to make brownies for 40,000 men?) It boggles the mind. At any rate, here is a basic recipe that makes enough luscious brownies for 8:

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Recipe: 
4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, 2 sticks sweet butter, melted. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler and add melted butter. Stir well. In another bowl, mix 4 eggs and 2 cups granulated sugar together until creamy. Note: I used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend chocolate/butter mix with sugar/egg mix and add 1/2 cup of flour. You can also add a cup of crushed walnuts or pecans if you like. Butter and flour a rectangular baking dish. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated 350°F  (220°C) for 25 minutes or until middle is set. Do not overcook! Let cool and cut into small squares.

The Road to Alexander: Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world where everyone believes her road in life was paved by her parents’ money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time.  What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more!
You can order the first book in the Time for Alexander series to be published by Accent Press! It's fun, it's adventure, it's romance, it's a modern woman stuck in 300BC without her cell phone or decent shampoo - but with the greatest hero who ever lived, Alexander.

UK, USA, France...available on all Amazon sites!
The Road to Alexander (The Time For Alexander Series Book 1) (English Edition) par [Macaire, Jennifer]
The Road to Alexander, “First of the Time for Alexander series. Time-traveling reporter Ashley is trapped in the past of Alexander the Great, when Alexander thinks he is rescuing her from the god Hades. […] Entertaining, fast-paced, and knowledgeable." ~Spinoff Reviews

Excerpt:

We walked through the doorway to find Darius sitting pensively on his throne. He was taller than I'd expected. Most of the people I'd met were of medium height. Darius, when he stood up to greet us, towered over me. He was nude, except for a golden chain around his neck. Nudity was so common that I'd ceased to be aware of it. The soldiers went around unclothed, and in the villages children were nude. Persian men wore very brief loincloths. Women wore robes or belted a cloth around their waists, although slave women were often naked. Alexander chose the Greek mode, which meant he wore a pleated tunic or slung a short cape over his shoulders. Today he wore his tunic.

Darius's hair was long, black, and wavy, brushed back from his high forehead. He was clean-shaven; the beard he wore on ceremonial occasions was in his hand. It was made of finely knotted black silk. He looked at his beard and then placed it gently on the seat of the throne.
"It's yours now," were his first words to Alexander.

"You can keep it." Alexander's voice was neutral. It almost sounded like pity, and I looked at him sharply. So did Darius. For a second his eyes flashed, and I saw a glimpse of the king he'd been.

"Thank you." His voice was careful too. They talked about the battle, verbally dancing around each other like fencers. Neither gave the other any advantage, but there was an undercurrent of sadness in Alexander that I could not fathom. Darius was puzzled as well, because after an awkward silence, he motioned toward the table where a tray of fruit sat. "Would you like some figs? They're fresh. I imagine you've been living off dried ones during the march."

Alexander said, "No thank you."
Darius nodded. "Ah well. How's Statiera?" It was almost an afterthought.
"She's well. She's ruling Babylon."
He looked surprised. "Oh? And your mother?"
"I sent her back to her own people. It was either that, or kill her."

Darius froze. I held my breath. He turned his head very slowly and looked at me for the first time. He had long-lashed, honey-brown eyes. Vanity prompted him to line them with kohl, making them appear even larger and more brilliant. His face was dark and his eyes were lighter than his skin, like a lion's eyes. And like a lion he blinked and looked away from my gaze. "So you knew," he said.

"Why did you think I came after you?" Alexander's voice rose, a note of anger in it.
"Oh, I suppose I'd guessed." Darius shrugged and took a plump fig. He squeezed it appraisingly and then put it back in the bowl. "You want the babe."
"Where is he?"
"Is it true she's a goddess?" He wouldn't look me in the face and I found that disturbing.
"It is." I was startled by Alexander's answer, but even more startled at Darius's next question.
"Tell me when and how I shall die, Goddess." He was staring out the window, bracing his hands against the sill. His body was all flowing lines and muscle. I couldn't help admiring his physique.
I looked at Alexander who nodded once.
I drew a deep breath. "You'll be killed by someone you trust before the summer ends."

A shudder ran through his body. When he spoke his voice was broken. "The child is in the hands of a Bactrian satrap. I gave him to a caravan going east. He'll be in Bactria in the spring. The babe is marked by the goddess. He'll come to no harm."
I put my hand on Alexander's arm to steady myself. "Why?" I whispered.
"Because of the oracle," said Darius. He sighed and then looked at me at last. "When Olympias came to the city she had the babe brought to the temple of Marduk. She was going to sacrifice him. An oracle told her that the babe would be her downfall. In a way, I suppose it was true. However, my astrologer said that if the babe died I would lose everything that was dear to me. I love my daughter Statiera more than all the gold in this city. And I love her more than my own life. How long do you think she would have lived if you had found out that your child had been sacrificed on the altar of Babylon's god? Now she is the Queen of Babylon. The babe is safe, but the prophecy said one more thing, Iskander, about you."
"What did it say about me?" asked Alexander.
"It said to ask her." He pointed at me. "The oracle said, 'All Iskander's questions can be answered by the child's mother.' It claimed she knows all." Then he turned to the window again. "Ask if you dare, Iskander. I did." His voice was almost inaudible.

I would have run out of the room, but Alexander caught my wrist. He bowed to Darius, and made me bow too, although Darius had his back to us and was staring out the window. Alexander knocked on the door, and Lysimachus let us out.
"He can see anyone he chooses," said Alexander.
"Anyone?" Lysimachus looked surprised.
"Anyone. He'll be trusting no one now." He looked at me with flinty eyes as he said this, and I quailed.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Glamorous Life as a Writer - part IV

My Glamorous Life as a Writer - part IV
A little while after that book signing, I stopped telling people I was a writer. When I told people what I did they were always impressed. So how come I stopped? I think it was because people were impressed with the notion of writing a book, but their first question was never: “What is the book about?” it was always, “How many copies did you sell?” or “How is the book doing?” which took away the entire artistic, creative part of things and made me feel like a salesman or someone who’s worth was measured in dollar signs. I’ve never put much emphasis on dollar signs. I’d rather be measured by the things I’ve accomplished. Hopefully, I’ll have more friends at the end of my life than published books.
And then, one day this summer, I went to a big bookstore. It was so big and important, I didn’t dare tell them “I’m an author”. But I went to the children’s book section, and there was my book. I went to the erotic section, and there were two more of my books. And then my stepmother asked at the information desk if one of my historical books was available. The woman checked the computer and said, “Jennifer Macaire. Let’s see. We have ‘The Secret of Shabaz.Here she paused, and then, to my immense delight, she said, “I know that book. It did really well here. My daughter read it and loved it.”
I couldn’t stop grinning, my stepmother introduced me as the author of the book, and I floated away on a cloud. It wasn’t finished though. The bookstore manager came looking for me in the aisles and said, “I noticed you have another book coming out soon. Would you be interested in doing a book signing here?”
He gave me his card and told me to contact him when I got back to NY.
My glamorous life as a writer came rolling back. It was worth it after all. Worth the rejections, the edits, the flashers, the measly pay and the heartbreak. It was worth it. Someone’s daughter had read my book…and loved it.
However, I can’t speak about my life as a write without mentioning ‘The Promise’. It’s a book I wrote when my sons were about nine. One day, they asked me to write a story where there were no grown-ups. “None at all?” I asked.
“None,” they replied firmly. And then Sebi gave me the idea. “They all got killed off by a virus,” he said.
So I sat down and wrote ‘The Promise’. It's an unassuming story about a boy named Ryan who didn’t give up. He made a promise to his father, and he meant to keep it. He and his younger brother and sister made a voyage to the south of France, meeting other survivors along the way. It was a small book, but it had great consequences. My mother, an English teacher, decided to use it in her class in a maximum security prison for minors. In my book, the narrator is the hero of the story. But the boys in the prison identified with Red Sky – the villain. But Red Sky redeems himself in the book. The boys in the prison loved the book so much they asked my mother if she could find the film. My mother said the book wasn’t a film, but she knew the author. Incredulous, the boys demanded to know who it was. When she told them it was her daughter, they wondered if I couldn’t come in and talk to them about the book. It required several months of preparation, special permission, and lots of organizing – but the day arrived I went to prison to speak about my book.
I was a little wary, and had no idea what to expect. And it certainly wasn’t the barrage of thoughtful, interesting questions the boys asked me. From the metaphor of setting free the wolves, to Red Sky’s motives in saving the horse…everything had to be discussed at length.
Amazed by the visit, and amused by the demands I write a book ‘just for Red Sky’, I sat down and wrote a sequel and presented it to the classes for Christmas. (Just what they wanted – an unedited first draft!) My mother had them editing it for an English lesson one day. (How many of you can spot the misplaced modifier in this page? How many typos can you find?)
I’ve been back to the prison three times. Each time I’m thankful for the prison authorities who take the time to organize the day for me, and who make everything go so smoothly. A special thanks to the director and to my mom, of course, for letting me be part of the program. It really means far more to me than dollar signs to hear a young boy tell me, “Mrs. Macaire, I want to say something. When I’m out of here, and I have a wife and kids, I want to be sitting on my sofa one day and watching television and see your film, ‘The Promise’ with my kids. And if it doesn’t become a film, I’m still going to sit down and read the book to them. Because it was important to me. It made me see to the future.”
Well, after that – who needs a best seller?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Glamorous Life as a Writer - Part III

My husband thought it was terrific. His wife the erotic romance writer. He told ALL his friends. They started calling me Samantha. The first time that happened I thought the person had forgotten my name and I corrected him. He winked and said, “Yes but Samantha is so much more exciting, according to your husband.”
I was torn between wanting to hit my husband or hit his friend. Writing was serious business! I was an intellectual! I soon got off my high horse. A well written book is fine. But in the erotic romance business the readers want emotion, characters they can care for, and lots of hot and interesting sex. Dithering over things like description, pacing, and atmosphere held me back. My editor told me to stop mucking around and Just Write!
Fine. I could do that. I had to adjust my attitude, but I was used to that. Anyone who has had kids knows that having an attitude is setting yourself up for a hard fall. Who can feel young and glamorous when your kid asks you what it was like living with the dinosaurs? Or when they see you in your bathing suit, their eyebrows go up, and they blurt, “You’re so fat!” (And the minute before you’d just been thinking how well you looked.) So attitude wasn’t the problem. I put my dreams about writing ‘literature’ aside and wrote…and published over fifteen erotic romance books.
But having kids also meant they were always begging me to write a story for them. So I did. I sat down and wrote ‘The Secret of Shabaz’. It was one of the hardest books I wrote. I wanted it to be for all ages, especially for teens – that group of children with an attention span of about thirteen seconds. I wanted it to be fun but at the same time I wanted to give readers something to think about. I love fantasy, so I wrote a magical tale full of adventure, a dash of horror, a pinch of romance, and with a heroine I would have wanted as a best friend. I finished it after two years of writing on it between erotic romances and sent it to Medallion Press. They loved it.
I was on cloud nine. I was a published author of a YA book! Now I could tell my whole family, even the ones who had weak hearts. This was exciting. I started getting an attitude again. I was going to NY for the summer, what better way to kick off the new book than with a book signing in a big bookstore? I looked up bookstores in the neighborhood and called them. Two agreed. I gave them the ISBN numbers and practised looking modest. (Hard to do – I was getting an attitude.) I found a passage to read that was not too long, not too short, and had some humor in it. Perfect. I found a little black dress that made my tummy almost look flat. I asked all my family and my friends living nearby to come. I brushed my teeth.
I arrived on time.
The bookseller had set up a little auditorium with a table and MY BOOKS sitting upon it. I had a poster the publisher gave me which I propped up near the books. I sat on the chair. I waved to my parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles…and several strangers. The strangers sat up front. My family, in an élan of generosity, left the whole front row free. I introduced myself, picked up my book, and started to read.
The man front and center opened his legs wide.
He had on baggy shorts. He lifted them a bit to make sure I noticed he was not wearing any underwear.
I lost my place in the paragraph and had to start over. My first book signing and I was getting flashed.
I was determined not to let that little detail ruin my book signing. I would have understood if it had been for my erotic books. But this was a kids’ book, for goodness sake! My glamorous life as an author was taking another beating. I was at my first signing, damn it. I wasn’t going to let some pervert ruin it. And then the bookstore’s cat jumped on the table and sat on my pile of books. It wasn’t comfortable there. It jumped down and prowled around the table as I read. There were several titters. And I hadn’t gotten to the funny part yet. I risked a glance at the audience. Wrong move. Flasher had pushed his shorts up and was practically waving his equipment at me. The cat jumped down to my lap. Better. I kept reading. I didn’t miss a beat. Then the cat got bored and left. I finished reading and stood up, determined not to look at Flasher and ask the audience if anyone had any questions. There were more titters. I looked down. There was cat hair all over my black dress. It looked like I was wearing a gray apron. Resigned to my fate, I asked if there were any questions. There was a long silence. One person raised their hand.
“Yes, mom?” I said.
(to be continued…)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Las Vegas Tales by Amber Malloy

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Las Vegas Tales by Amber Malloy 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GENRE: Interracial Erotic Romance
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~ BLURB: Even love takes a vacation in Sin City every once in a while. Four brown beauties tumble head first in love in the last place on earth anyone would look for it... Las Vegas! The Guardian: Jack Stone has inherited his family's casino. The only problem? The mob wants it more than he does. If he doesn't play his cards right, he'll end up dead. When his high school sweetheart drops back into his life, Jake's got an even tougher decision -- should he trust the beauty with his life and heart -- again? High Art: A brilliant painter, Bebe Noel has the goods to make it to the top... just not the social skills. With her financial situation in limbo, she must turn to her deceased benefactor's husband for help. Will this new arrangement become lucrative for the both of them or fizzle out before it can even get started? Beauty and the Boxer: Middleweight boxer Cristiano Díaz is in trouble. Unless he can score a quickie marriage he will be deported. He has his eye on a sexy baker, and she's the only one he wants. Can the boxer convince the curvy vixen to marry him, or will he get knocked out before the first round? Run, Pussycat, Run: Sullivan McNeill comes to Vegas to snatch lounge singer Kitty Carmichael, the love of his life, away from the bright lights of Sin City. When he finds out she's trapped in a contract with the devil, he has to figure out a way to save her or lose the woman who holds his heart forever.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Excerpt:
      Lena Mercier walked upstream of the thin dancers. Toned with curves in all the right places, she was an artistic statue painted in the vibrant hue of milk chocolate.
      "Thanks for the drinks!" The showgirls headed out of the bar doors in a peal of giggles.
      "You've got something of mine, Jack," Lena said in a subtle tone that stopped the mindless chatter in his head.
     The Lululemon leggings cupped her perfect ass. It was her usual travel uniform. She must have just gotten off a plane. A fancy tank top and light leather jacket topped off her outfit. Her sleek black hair fell in a swoop in front of her right eye -- a sophisticated cut that showcased her elegant neck.           Jack noted how perfect she looked. Except for the fact she had left town two weeks ago, and he had no idea where she had gone. It still aggravated him. He wiped down the deep wood and concentrated on the high polish, instead of the sexy woman in front of him. "Just put your lips together and blow."
      She gave him a cheeky smile before she put her fingers to her mouth and ripped a high-C whistle. In a matter of moments, the heavy panting of excitement filled the damn near empty bar. A squat, furry toad ran at full tilt in her direction. Lena's Frenchie, Harry, hopped on the chair, then the table before he took full flight through the air. Lena caught the little fucker in the crook of her arm.
      Since he never tired of that circus trick, Jack chuckled. "Nightcap?" Happy to see his neighbor had made it back home, he tried not to compete for her attention with the dog.
     "Sorry, Jack, I'm beat."
      "You want to talk about it? After all, bartenders are great listeners." He nudged to get her to open up about her work. Once high school sweethearts, they'd spent more than a decade apart, and then one day she was back. Since he didn't believe in coincidence, he had his suspicions why Lena had suddenly showed up in his life.
      "If only that were true." Lena smiled before she headed toward the door.
      "We're not good listeners?" He wished she would stay and keep him company.
      "No," she turned around, stopping short of disappearing into the cool night, "the part where you're just the bartender."

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ AUTHOR Bio and Links: Amber Malloy dreamed of being a double agent but couldn't pass the psyche evaluation. Crushed by despair that she couldn't legally shoot things, Amber pursued her second career choice as pastry chef. When she's not writing or whipping up a mean Snickers Cheesecake, she occasionally spies on her sommelier. Amber is convinced he's faking his French accent. Twitter: @AuthAmberMalloy Website: http://ambermalloy.blogspot.com/ Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Las-Vegas-Tales-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B0741RQP5S/ref=sr_1_2 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:  Amber Malloy will be awarding $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.   Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN GC - a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Review:  Four stories set in Las Vegas, rife with gambling, lust, crime, and love. The four stories are short and sexy, fast moving, and captivating. The characters stand out - but my favorite by far was Beauty and the Boxer, although the three others, The Guardian, High Art, and Run, Pussycat, Run, were terrific too. I have never been to Las Vegas, but these stories made me feel I was part of the glitter and glamour. The hotels, apartments, and casinos are all described in a way you feel like you're there. But the best is the people, and you root for them to find true love no matter the obstacles in their way.  In Beauty and the Boxer, I totally lost my heart to the hero, Christiano, and the author makes his dilemma so poignant I couldn't put the book down until I'd reached the end of the story. The heroine in The Guardian is one of the most interesting women in the book, and her story had me on edge too. I also enjoyed High Art and Run, Pussycat, Run - so all I can say is treat yourself to an erotic delight, with well rounded characters, good writing, and real stories. You won't regret it!

Prosecco Christmas by Sylvia Ashby


PROSECCO CHRISTMAS
by Sylvia Ashby

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENRE: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

Family is where life begins.
And what better time to spend with your family than Christmas week?

Ashley and Giacomo go to Upper Swainswick, a postcard village ten minutes’ drive from Bath, to stay with Ashley’s mum and stepdad. It’s their last visit before the arrival of their first child.

But babies have a habit of being unpredictable.

So when Ashley goes into labour on Christmas Eve, three weeks ahead of schedule, it takes everyone by surprise.
She’s not ready! Her perfect Birth Plan is packed away in her hospital bag two hundred miles away, she has no going home outfit, and she has a live event planned for New Year’s Eve for her YouTube channel, The Sinking Chef. People have been signing up for it for weeks. She can’t possibly disappoint them on the last day of the year. What is she to do?

The tinsel gets even more tangled when Giacomo’s parents decide to fly from Italy to meet their first grandchild. Hotels are fully booked, so everyone has to stay under the same roof.

Would eleven people in the house, not counting the baby, turn out to be simply too much for Ashley?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Excerpt: 
We’re sitting around the low living room table about to begin a game of Best of British.

Right,’ Mum says. ‘Does everyone have a drink?’

Orna, Clara and Vittorio are drinking Prosecco. I raise my cup of tea. Thomas and Philip ignore her. They wanted to have the rest of the Coca Cola in the fridge, but Mum put her foot down. Also, they think Best of British is a dumb game. They wanted to play Cards Against Humanity, but Orna vetoed them. And now they are in a funk.

The question that we’re asking today is what makes British people so British?’ Orna reads aloud the back of the game box.

Let see,’ Mum opens the box and tips out the contents. There is a board, which she unfolds. The playing pieces are different colours and each of us has to choose one.

I’ll be blue,’ says Philip.

No, I’ll be blue!’ Thomas snatches the pieces before Philip can get to it.

I said it first!’

You can have green!’

Muuum! Tell him,’ Philip shrieks.

Boys, if you don’t behave there will be no desserts at dinner.’ Mum’s voice is assertive, but her eyes are pleading with them.

Tom always gets whatever he wants,’ Philip whines, but Mum stares him down and he settles for green.

Mum throws a shaky smile at Orna, who returns the smile without showing her teeth, then has the tiniest sip of Prosecco and rolls her eyes.

My blood boils in indignation on Mum’s behalf. How dare she treat Mum like that when she’s never had children. She has no idea what it’s like. I open my mouth to say something, then close it. What’s the point? She’s just a horrible woman. And I don’t want to spoil everybody else’s fun.

We each select a piece in silence and put them on the start space on the board.

Right, I’ll read out the rules, shall I?’ Mum grips the string of pearls hanging down her neck. She looks quite stressed. I wish she wouldn’t mind Orna.

She carries on.

‘“The Question Master picks up the first Question Card from the box,” I’ll be the Question Master,’ she says before Orna can jump in. ‘“The Question Master picks up the first Question Card from the box, making sure the answers are concealed from all the players on both teams. If it is a Picture Card, the picture is shown to all the players on both teams. If it is a Themed Card, the theme is read out to all the players on both teams. If a question is answered incorrectly then the Question Master can put the same question to the next player for a bonus move. If they answer correctly they move their own piece onto the next space on the board that matches the colour of the question.”’

Mum releases her string of pearls and makes them rattle.

Is everything clear?’ Mum looks around for a second time. ‘OK, then the youngest player goes first.’

Philip perks up. He picks up a card and hands it to her.

Who were Randolph, Diana, Sarah, Mary and Marigold?’ Mum looks at the answer perplexed. ‘Oh. This is rather hard. Perhaps you can choose another card, Phil. Something with a picture on it.’

This is not how you play a game!’ Orna pushes her ample bosom forward. ‘Rules are rules. They are meant to be followed by everyone. How will he learn to follow the rules if he’s always given leeway?’

He’s not always given leeway!’ Mum protests. ‘It’s just that… this question is rather out of his “era”.’

What do you mean out of his “era”? Since when has knowledge had an “era”? It’s not only current affairs that are important, you know?’ Orna clicks her tongue.

I didn’t say that, but he can’t be expected to know everything. He’s only twelve.’

Than you offer the question to the person who’s next in turn! When that person answers, he’ll learn.’

Mum rolls her eyes but complies.

Next in turn is Thomas.

Thomas, who were Randolph, Diana, Sarah, Mary and Marigold?’ Mum reads the question again.

I don’t know.’ Thomas grumbles. ‘This is a stupid game. Cards Against Humanity is much better.’

Yes, but we’re not playing Cards Against Humanity,’ Mum snaps at him. ‘We’re playing Best of British, OK?’

Her veneer is cracking. I see Philip throwing a warning glance in his brother’s direction but Thomas ignores him.

Next in turn is Orna.

Orna, who were Randolph, Diana, Sarah, Mary and Marigold?’ Mum reads the question for the third time.

They are all character from Downton Abbey!’ Orna says victoriously.

I’m afraid not, Orna.’ Mum’s mouth twitches. ‘They were Churchill’s children.’

Thomas starts laughing and Mum shoots him a warning frown.

Oh,’ Orna’s face turns puce. ‘Very well, then. Carry on.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Sylvia Ashby is fond of the written word: books, blog posts, recipes, even an explanation to the HM Revenue & Customs as to why she thinks skirts should be exempt from VAT - she's written it all!

She likes travelling and has lived all over Europe - London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Sofia, Bulgaria. Currently, she lives in Leuven, Belgium with her husband, daughter, son and a sparrow called Jack, who comes occasionally to peck the seeds she leaves for him on top of the garden shed.

Blog www.sylvia-ashby.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/bysylvia_a
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sylviaashbywriter/
Amazon author page https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sylvia-Ashby/e/B00DK8M2NM/

https://www.amazon.com/Prosecco-Christmas-Pot-Love-Book-ebook/dp/B076X7VTVK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1510332210&sr=8-1&keywords=prosecco+christmas+sylvia+ashby

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION 

THE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY: a pair of Prosecco funny socks! 
CLICK HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN:    a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review
Disclaimer & warning - I really did laugh out-loud as I read this - so be careful where you read! My husband, who was trying to sleep, kept muttering, "What is it?" and I'd have to read the funny bit, and it really is much funnier when you've got the whole story - anyhow - my review:

Having had three children, and read many a book about pregnant heroines and their babies, I was prepared for a fluffy chick lit story, and I was only half right. The baby and the birth part were spot on. I was amazed, even a little teary as I read it, remembering the raw emotions, the pain, the joy, and the sleepless nights. The writer did a wonderful job with the baby part of the book. But it's not all the book by a long shot. The story starts with Ashley staying at her mother's house for the holidays. She and Giacomo, her partner (she hates that word - but for lack of anything better), planned to have a peaceful Christmas with Ashley's mom, Ashley's step father, and her two half brothers. But things go wrong when Ashley goes into labor and has the baby on Christmas Eve. Everything goes smoothly, despite the fact that she didn't bring any clothes for the baby and her perfect "birth plan" has evaporated. But she's plucky, and Giacomo is perfect (I wanted him for myself!). However, Giacomo's family decide that they need to see their first grandchild and arrive "en masse" from Italy. Father, mother, brother, brother's fiancé (that no one knew about), and widowed aunt. From the blurb it sounds as if Ashley will fall apart from the strain - but like I said, she's a tough cookie, and she's actually the one keeping things on track. She's a wonderful heroine, and her job - a cook on YouTube - sounds like fun too. Everyone cooks, and the recipes starting each chapter sound so good I'm going to try them all. The book is laugh out-loud funny, Ashley is a terrific heroine, Giacomo is the perfect hero, and you'll just have to read the book to find out about the rest of this crazy, loveable family. I'm actually hoping there will be more books!


Monday, November 20, 2017

My Glamorous Life as a Writer / Part II

About this time, I decided to write a short story about Alexander the Great. The story turned into a novel. The novel turned into a series of seven books. Writing that series was like breathing. It was both the easiest thing I ever did and the most necessary. I needed to write that series. It was like a baby inside me that grew and had to be born.
When I’d written all seven books I was stunned. There is a whole month out of my life where I can’t remember what I did or where I was. I think at that time we were in England, in a small stone house with hollyhocks all around it. The twins were nearly seven. It was time to take them back to France so they could go to school.
We moved to France, found a house to rent in a small village, and I bought a computer and typed up my series. It took about a year to type it all out and get it ready to submit. In the meantime I got the twins enrolled in school, made friends in my new village, and became pregnant with my daughter.
I thought that it would be easy to sell my series, but it was a time travel, a paranormal romance, a historical novel, and a campy, tongue-in-cheek spoof all at the same time. I tried every publisher in the book and then some. My daughter was born, learned to walk, and began to talk. And then I found a small publisher in Australia who took it and loved it.
I was a published author!
I told everyone I knew and those I didn’t know. I wrote postcards and letters and posted excerpts and made a web-site. I sent copies to reviewers and friends, and sat back waiting for the royalties to arrive. I was ecstatic. Especially after my publisher wrote to me and said I’d written an Australian best seller. Wow.
Let me just take this time to say that a best seller in Australia is a book that sells more than 200 copies.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. But the publisher was so happy I felt I should be happy too. I took my first royalty check and sent it to the bank, and tried not to calculate how many hours I’d worked on the book versus how much I’d made…which would work out to something like 0.03 cents an hour. Then the publisher folded and I got all my rights back to my series. I was back to square one. My glamorous life as an author had taken a serious drubbing. I picked myself up and called my mother.
“I will never write another book. I don’t care how good it was. It was a waste of time, that’s what it was.” I gave a self-pitying sniff.
Listening in to our conversation was my mother’s protégé, Sam. He spoke up. “You should never give up,” he said, sounding very sure of himself. “But if you want to earn money, you should write erotic books. They sell like crazy.”
Sam’s friend, Winston, chimed in. “That’s right. Don’t stop writing. You write too well.”
“If I write and erotic book, I’m using a pen name,” I said. “And if I take a pen name, it will be Sam Winston.”
“That works!” they said.
I hung up and thought about it.
Could I write erotic novels? Some of my short stories were sensual. Maybe I could. But first I had to read an erotic novel. I looked on the Internet – that vast repository of everything and anything – and found several online bookstores. Only one was specifically for erotic books. I bought one. It was pretty good. I liked the writing. The characters were well developed. The sex was hot—and there was sex all through the book. Despite that, there was a plot that had nothing to do with sex and I appreciated that. If I wrote an erotic book, I’d still like it to have a plot and interesting characters. 
I decided to give it a try.
I wrote ‘Casey Come Home’ and sent it to Ellora’s cave on July 17th 2002 at 3:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. I got an e-mail back from them. “We’d love to publish your book. Here is a contract, print out two copies and send them back signed on the dotted line.” (Or something like that.)
I ran outside and grabbed my husband who was busy washing the car. I spun him around and screamed, “They want to publish my book!”
The sun was shining. The sky was blue. I was once again a published author. I rushed back inside and grabbed my promotional sheet, ready to write notes and postcards to everyone I knew…and stopped. This was an erotic book. Half the people on my list were family members. Some had weak hearts. This was a dilemma. Who could I tell about Samantha Winston? Undeterred, I decided to join author groups online and ask their advice. That was a stroke of genius. Writers love to give advice, and ideas flowed from everyone. It was wonderful. And then I got my first edits.
Edits are interesting. After the first shock, I found I loved doing edits. I was disappointed that the title of my book ‘Casey Come Home’, would be changed to ‘A Grand Passion’, (And now it's back to Casey Come Home, and will be published again next year by Totally Bound publishing in the UK) but the new title soon grew on me. And besides, I was a published author.
I just couldn’t tell anyone.
(to be continued…)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Winter cabbage and tomato soup


Ingredients:
Half a green cabbage (sliced into thin strips), 3 or 4 very ripe tomatoes (cut up) or a can of tomatoes, can of corn, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, garlic (1 clove, diced, or a spoonful of powdered garlic), half a cup of red wine (optional, but it gives a nice flavor), about a quart of broth (I use vegetable broth, but you can use chicken, beef, or veal).
In a large pot, melt butter or heat vegetable oil, add the sliced cabbage and cubed tomatoes. Stir and cook evenly for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, garlic, and oregano and stir. Cook for a few minutes until vegetables start to soften. Carefully pour in 1 cup of broth. Stir the ingredients. Once the soup starts to bubble, add the rest of the broth. Stir the ingredients to evenly cook the vegetables, then cover and cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. It should simmer and bubble, but not too much. If using canned tomatoes, add a teaspoon of sugar.
Ater the cabbage is softened to noodle-like texture, and the tomatoes are mush, add the corn kernels. Cook for a few minutes and turn down the heat.
Allow the soup to simmer for 10 more minutes, then turn off heat and allow to sit. Serve hot with fresh bread & some cheese such as a goat cheese, a blue cheese, or even a brie.

My Glamorous Life as a Writer - Part I

My Glamorous Life as a Writer
Part One
I wrote my first book out longhand on a yellow notepad. I was in Argentina and really didn’t have much else to do. We were staying in the countryside, which basically meant no neighbors for a hundred miles, and my twins were still toddlers – they would turn three in a month. We had a housekeeper who adored cooking for my husband and playing with my children, so for the first time in my life I didn’t have to cook, clean, or run after the twins. The house was surrounded by mile after mile of flat plain and tall eucalyptus trees that rustled in the wind. The wind was a constant presence. There were also swarms of mosquitoes at night and rainstorms during the day that flooded our pool and garden.
The twins spent half their time in the pool and the other half sitting on the couch wearing motorcycle helmets and watching cartoons in Spanish. The helmets had been in the house and the boys thought they were cool.
My husband was buying horses, which meant he was away most of the time, horses being spread far and wide in Argentine. On most days, he drove anywhere between five to ten hours…one way, to see a horse and try it. If the horse was any good, they loaded it in the truck and brought it back to the farm for a week to see what happened when the drugs wore off. It was a given that most horse-dealers drugged their animals or did something to them to make them act like polo ponies. In those days, finding a real polo pony was harder than nowadays. But the drugs and tricks have remained the same. At any rate, we had a barn full of horses, grooms, and I could ride whenever I wanted. But I didn’t want to leave the twins alone all day, so I stayed in the house. I was bored. I decided to write a book. My first novel was a fun book to write, and I kept at it doggedly.
I liked sitting on the veranda watching the twins play the pool, while writing my book.
People who came to visit were impressed. “A writer!” they would exclaim.
I liked being called the writer. Usually I drew pictures, but “An artist” doesn’t carry as much weight as “A writer” does. It sounded important, not flaky. Artists were flaky. Writers were intellectual. As much as I hate to admit it, I preferred being thought of as an intellectual, and not as a flake. My career as a writer was born. I thought it was glamorous and intellectual.
During the three months we were in Argentina, I taught my twins to swim, finished my novel, and wrote a couple articles for the Polo Magazine. I sent the articles in and they were accepted and published. Writing seemed a cinch. Then we went back to France, I bought a type-writer, and I typed up my story.
It was the first time I’d ever typed anything. It took a long time, a lot of paper, and much ink. When it was finished, I sent it to a friend who proof-read it and submitted it to an agent she’d met at a party.
The agent met us in NYC the next month, and was very kind. She told me the book was good but that it needed work. I had a knack for character development and plot, but I needed work on my writing skills. She thought I should try writing short stories for a while and then polish up and re-submit the book. She gave me her card and wished me luck.
I was thrilled. I realized that the agent had done me an enormous favor by meeting me in person and giving so much of her time. I also realized that writing was not as easy as I thought. Her idea about fixing the book was good but daunting. However, the short story part of her advice sounded perfect. I’d always liked writing short stories. That’s what I’d do.
I read a lot of short stories. I’ve always enjoyed them.
I sat down and wrote a short story and sent it to the Bear Deluxe Magazine in Oregon. They accepted it. Well, I thought, that’s easy.
My next twenty short stories were rejected by twenty different magazines.
I polished them up, revised them, and sent them out again. Slowly, I started selling them. Then one of them won a prize, and another was nominated for the Pushcart award, and I started to become more sure of my craft.
That was about the time I decided to write a short story about a journalist who goes back in time to interview Alexander the Great.
By now, the twins were four and we were still travelling. Writing was simply a hobby for me, like my drawing and painting.
(to be continued…)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Writing a hot scene with a cold

Sometimes I don't feel so hot. I don't feel like writing hot. But there's a book to finish. And the hero and heroine are there, in place, (picture a book as a movie set) and the producer (the author) yells "Roll 'em!"... and the scene starts to unfold.

So here I am, sitting at my desk, a flannel blanket over my shoulders, a steaming hot tea by the keyboard, stuffed with aspirin and sucking a sore throat pill.

I'm writing, "They touch, he slides his hands along her cheeks, grasps her jaw, turns her face to his. She resists, then their eyes meet. He leans over. Their lips touch..."

And I sneeze.
I picture the woman kissing the man and then sneezing.
The moment is gone.

I start over. This time I get as far as his lips trailing down her neck, and he breathes in her scent. (and all I can smell is my camphor rub)

I try to imagine something more romantic than camphor. Jasmin. The old standby. She smells of jasmin. A delicate, sweet scent. He sighs and buries his face in her neck, her hair tickles his skin.
I sneeze again.

Damn it. I take a swig of hot tea. Blow my nose. Glare at the keyboard. The hero is getting slightly annoyed. The heroine is about to fall asleep. I realize I've been sitting here staring at the keyboard for a long time. My tea is cold. I sigh and start over.

Hands sliding over hot skin.(I have a fever)Sweat pearling on brows. (That too is easy to imagine. But the fever is making me slightly loopy. I keep imagining the hero putting cool hands on the heroine's burning forehead. I can only write it once though. Besides, she's supposed to be hot, not feverish, and feverish with desire, not with the flu.

I sigh. (sneeze) and start again.

By now my eyes are watering and I've finished a whole box of tissues.
By now I realize I will not be able to finish my sex scene.
I must get rid my my cold in order to write hot.
Sometimes, you just have to wait.
As my husband is fond of saying, "waiting is half the pleasure."

My hands fly over the keyboard.

The heroine pushed the hero firmly away. "Not tonight darling," she said. "But don't worry. The wait will definitely be worth it."

I sneeze.
:-)

Little Computer People by Galen Surlak-Ramsey

Little Computer People by Galen Surlak-Ramsey ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GENRE : Sci-Fi BLURB:   When Gabe created the world’s fi...