Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Easy, Yet Elegant

This is a wonderful dish created by our longtime friend Andy Druetzler and his amazing lady Kathleen Marie. For ease of serving, they advise us to prepare the potatoes first, then the caramelized shallots, and finally the baked chicken. Reheat the potatoes and shallots in the oven for the last 10 minutes you bake the chicken.

These young people know how to eat well. This meal is sheer bliss!

Chubby Chicken
Caramelized Shallots
Roasted Potatoes
White Wine – Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio

Chubby Chicken
4 medium chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1 large egg
2 tbsp. water
1 cup flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 ½ tsp. garlic powder
¾ tsp. cumin
4 strips bacon, possibly more if the breasts are large
1 red pepper, seeded, sliced into strips
olive oil

Rinse chicken and pat dry.

Mix together egg and water in a bowl. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, garlic, cumin in a paper bag. Line a plate with wax or parchment paper.

Bread the chicken by dipping a breast in the egg mixture. Immediately drop the breast into the paper bag and gently shake to coat it. Remove the breast and lay on the plate. Do this with each breast. Wrap the bacon around the individual chicken pieces and secure with a toothpick or small skewer.

Top with red pepper and a slight drizzle of olive oil. Refrigerate chicken for at least one hour before baking. This allows the breading to dry a bit and adhere to the meat.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Swirl oil in an ovenproof dish to coat bottom and sides. Carefully set chicken on dish so as not to disturb peppers and bacon. Bake for 30 minutes.

To serve, place chicken on a serving platter, then top with the caramelized shallots.

Roasted Potatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
3 tsp. Kosher salt
2 lbs. potatoes quartered, but not peeled
1 tsp. dried thyme or 6 sprigs fresh
1 tsp. dried rosemary or 3 springs fresh

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, salt, thyme, and vinegar.

Place the potatoes in a large plastic bag. Pour the mixture over them and gently shake the bag to coat evenly.

Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle any remaining mixture over them.

Bake until potatoes are tender and slightly browned, about 50 minutes.

Caramelized Shallots
Photo by SOMMAI
6 tbsp. butter
8-12 shallots, peeled, sliced thin
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Melt the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.

Add shallots and sugar and stir to coat well. Cook until the shallots start to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to let this mixture burn.

Turn off the heat and stir in vinegar and pepper.

Set the pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until the shallots are tender.

I'll be back Monday with S.G. Rogers. Until then...

May you enjoy all the days of your life around a well laden table!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Monday, April 27, 2015

Me? Erotic Romance?

by SS Hampton Sr

Hello! Spring greetings!

Okay, that is a little too cheery for my usual nature.

But then, it is April. Winter is basically over, though here in Las Vegas (Sin City) winter usually means just a dip in the usual 100+ degree weather. If someone wants to see snow up close they have to drive out to nearby Mount Charleston.

Anyway, I am meandering.

My first novel, SHARING RACHEL, was released in October 2014 by MuseItUp Publishing, MuseItHOT Imprint. It will be followed by the sequel, PRAIRIE MUSE, in the summer of 2015. Both are erotic romances and are about a happily married couple and small business owners, Burt and Rachel Markham, who decide to explore their personal boundaries. Okay. Make that sexual boundaries.

And that brings about the question of how did I go from writing short stories and novellas about, oh, a ghost returned from the Ho Chi Minh Trail (The 24th of December, Journeys, 1992), ghosts and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Gold Nugget, Dark Fire Magazine, 2004), a frustrated incubus trying to entice a young woman to leave a sheltering church (Imnachar, Intimate Journeys collection, Melange Books, 2011), and a young woman who agrees to become Death’s consort in exchange for the safety of her family (The Mistress of the Fourth Seal, Horror Bound Magazine, 2009), to writing Erotic Romance?

Welll, first, there is a difference between Porn, Erotica, and Erotic Romance. Or so I’ve been told (and read).

Broadly and simply speaking, Porn is for readers who do not need someone with them to have, ah, a good time, so to speak. Erotica has a plot and characters, and many times leaves the bedroom door open for readers to peek through. And Erotica does not require Happily Ever After (HEA). Erotic Romance has a plot and characters, and also leaves the bedroom door open at times, but most importantly, HEA is practically mandatory.

So, again, how did I go from writing about wars, ghosts, demons, and star ships (if sex was involved, it was more of a furtive sidelong glance as if to verify, “Yep, IT happened”) to writing Erotic Romance?

Somewhere along the way I probably encountered a writing and thought, “I can do better than that.” And the research began. Then the outlining. And throwing my hands up in the air. Then another start. And a completed short story that went nowhere except in a manila folder in my filing cabinet. And throwing my hands up in the air.

Then the idea of combining the two, then developing an outline, and Sharing Rachel was born.

It was during a 6-month writer’s block that I accomplished the research that helped provide a foundation for the novel. To tell the truth, the research was quite interesting. Here was a world I had come across before on the Internet, but never gave much thought to until I combined the two stories into one novel.

However, my confidence had been shaken by the writer’s block, so I asked a writer friend, Charmaine Pauls (The Winemaker, The Book Exchange, and Pryomancist, among others) to take a look. I wanted to know if the novel sounded believable or if it came across as some sort of middle-aged fantasy (more or less).

To my relief, she told me Sharing Rachel was believable. And she liked it. And Charmaine was the first to describe the novel as an Erotic Romance.

Okay. I have to admit, by then 50 Shades of Grey was big news and big bucks to boot. I discovered that Romance, and various sub-categories including Erotic Romance, enjoyed a huge readership. I am not sure why, but there is definitely an audience for Romances.

So, after SHARING RACHEL, I wrote PRAIRIE MUSE, and there is a third novel to write (after I get a couple more fantasies, horror, boomer story, and even a Christmas story out of the way).

It is not just the subject matter that is interesting, but I genuinely like Burt and Rachel Markham, an ordinary married couple in the heartland of Kansas. Yep, you heard me—no corporate CEOs and university girls and jet setting across the world. Just an ordinary in their 40s husband and wife driving an SUV who decide to explore their personal and sexual boundaries in the Midwest.

It is a story that any couple—rich, poor, or middle class—can truly experience if they want to explore their boundaries.

And that is how I came to write Erotic Romance.

Enjoy the spring weather and have a great week!


Sometimes people choose to live life to the fullest…

Burt and Rachel Markham are ordinary small business owners of a seed & feed store in a small Kansas farming and ranching community. Many years before, as young university graduates eagerly anticipating exciting overseas employment, a lifetime in Kansas was the furthest thing from their minds, particularly Rachel who was raised overseas and dreamed of going back. By July 2013 their twin 18-year old daughters, having graduated high school several months before, go east to attend a university. Burt and Rachel settle into their new life of an empty house and a predictable and unchanging routine that threatens to stretch far into the future. One summer evening Burt has an idea—but will Rachel accept the idea? If she does, will the idea add new excitement to their marriage, or destroy it?

A song of reserved exuberance began; the feminine voice rolled the sound of many of the French words. Rachel tilted her head to listen to the music.

“Edith Piaf, France’s premier singer back in the ‘60s,” she announced fondly. “She died of cancer. This song, it’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” or “No, I Regret Nothing.” It’s one of her most famous.”

She put her elbows on the table, folded her hands and rested her chin on them. She looked at Burt.

He listened. Maybe it was the title—the voice and music had a slow almost melancholy, and yet proud and defiant feel to it. The music and words added an authentic touch to the dim bistro. If he closed his eyes for a moment he might be able to imagine a rainy night in Paris, sitting in a French bistro with his wife in the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral, overlooking the Seine River. Paris was a city he always wanted to visit; he knew Rachel and her parents had visited when stationed overseas.

“I’m not really hungry yet,” he said.

She nodded. “Like I said, after.”

Burt looked at the empty foyer. There was “After” again.

Rachel followed his gaze and touched his hand. “I don’t think he’s late yet.”

“I have a feeling he’s about as punctual as you always are,” Burt said with a small smile.
“Any last minute thoughts or rules?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Just feel him out and make a common sense decision. If he doesn’t ask to fuck you, how do you let me know you’re interested or not?”

She chuckled. “If I’m interested I’ll touch your foot with mine. If I’m not, I’ll kick you.”

Burt lowered his head and gave her a sarcastic look. “Got it.”

He looked at the foyer again. Saturday night, 7:00 p.m. They were really sitting in a French-style bistro waiting on a man who wanted to fuck Rachel with Burt’s permission. Would it really happen? Maybe Gentleman Nate was a jerk in real life—Rachel didn’t like jerks. She didn’t like men who were loud and pushy, profane or who spoke badly.

The waitress returned with their drinks.

“There’s not a wide variety of food because we follow the old European tradition of few selections, but each one is of loving preparation and excellent taste. Would you like to order something? The figs wrapped with grilled bacon is really good. So are the marinated mushrooms. Both are authentic French recipes.”

“Perhaps a little later,” Rachel answered. “We’re waiting on someone.”

“Of course,” the waitress said. “Just catch my attention when you’re ready to order.”

Burt took a drink of his beer and glanced at the TVs. Sports and news. She took his hand in hers, tilted her head and continued smiling at him.

Maybe Gentleman Nate wouldn’t show...

Click a vendor's name to read more of Sharing Rachel and other books by SS Hampton, Sr
MuseItHot Publishing - Amazon

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint). He is currently enrolled as an art student at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.

Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press - Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing - Melange Books -
Musa Publishing - MuseItUp Publishing - Goodreads Author Page
Amazon Author Page - Amazon UK

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sweet and Spicy - A Pair of Delicious Treats

by Sara Daniel

My latest book, One Night with the Best Man, takes place on an Iowa farm that I loosely based on my grandparents’ farm where I spent many summer vacations and holidays. After World War II, my grandparents took over the farm from my great-grandparents. Owned by the same family for over a hundred years, the farm was designated a “Century Farm,” a source of great pride and many fond memories for my family.

Some of my best memories of my grandmother are in her small farmhouse kitchen. Never once did she complain that she had hardly any counter space or that the kitchen also served as the dining room. She was happy with what she had and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want more. She cooked and baked the best down-home country meals, guaranteed to hit the spot after a long day working and playing in the fresh country air.

Grandma’s Peach Cobbler
¼ cup butter/margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 can peaches (or other fruit, but then you’d have to rename your cobbler)
¼ cup sugar
½ - 1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Pour melted butter/margarine in 9X13 pan.

Mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder and milk.

Pour batter over butter/margarine. Do not stir layers together.

Drain peaches and spoon evenly over batter. Again, do not stir layers together.

Mix together remaining sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

I love eating this dish while it’s still warm with some milk poured over the top. It’s the family way! Beware, if you plan to take a picture of your cobbler after you make it, you’ll have to act faster than I did or someone will steal a serving before you get a chance!

Here is a brief intro to One Night with the Best Man. I hope you enjoy it.

Alejandro “Alex” Cortez vowed never to return to the family farm, but when his sister makes it the destination for her wedding, he has no choice. The farm’s new owner, sexy agricultural professor Dr. Susan Gundersen, is his only hope for a diversion from the haunting memories.

Susan knows better than to count on people sticking around for her. The farm gives her the roots and permanence she’s craved her entire life. As she helps Alex clear out his family’s mementos from the house, Susan is drawn to the raw and vulnerable man under his carefree exterior. A few kisses later, she falls hard and fast.

Despite their mutual attraction, Susan will never leave the farm and Alex will never consider staying. Will one passionate night with the best man give them the courage to face what they each fear most or drive them apart forever?

To read more about this new release from Sara Daniel please click a vendor's name Amazon - iTunes - Google Play

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Sara Daniel writes what she loves to read—irresistible romance, from sweet to erotic and everything in between. She battles a serious NASCAR addiction, was once a landlord of two uninvited squirrels, and loses her car keys several times a day. One Night with the Best Man is the latest book in her One Night with the Bridal Party series.

Learn more about Sara on her website and blog. Subscribe to Sara’s newsletter.

Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, April 20, 2015


by Vonnie Hughes

Romantic suspense is my favorite genre to both write and read. Nowadays there’s an overlap between ‘suspense’ and ‘romantic suspense’ as most suspense novels contain a certain amount of romance. Once, well-known male writers seemed to have decided at the last second, “Oh, don’t forget my female readers.” And they hastily shoved in a little liaison. Or perhaps their publisher gave them a nudge. But often those interludes seemed forced. However over the past few years they’ve become much more adept at the romantic aspect e.g. Harlen Coben and James Patterson.

And hey, haven’t female authors got gutsy and down and dirty lately when writing suspense? Huh? I just love Karen Rose, Tami Hoag and Anne Stuart. Their background knowledge shines for me because it’s not overly technical as if it’s saying: “Hey, I did my homework!” But the romance is peripheral to a darned good story each time.

I was born in New Zealand and spent most of my life there, although our family now lives in Australia. The two main differences between Australia and New Zealand are the weather (warmer over most of Australia if you discount Tasmania which is very blue/green like New Zealand because it’s wet and often cold), and the fact that NZ has 4 million people and B-I-G Australia has 21 million residents. Yup. Australia is vast. It is the sixth largest country in the world and has a whole continent to itself. It’s not the sort of place where you get in your car and zip over to Auntie Flo’s. If you hear an Australian say, "It’s just down the road," you know they lie. Sure, it’s just down the road, but the road is a 2,000 kilometer dust-encrusted two-lane bitumen highway straddling two states, millions of curious kangaroos, hundreds of racing emus trying to beat your car, some wild camels, a million gumtrees, several townships and a couple of rivers if you’re lucky. Nor is it the place to get lost in the bush, since much of the bushland looks the same. You can go around in circles forever.

When they say, "It’s just down the road" in New Zealand, they mean it’s down a one-lane bitumen highway that goes for ten kilometers then switches to a gravel road that finishes at Jessop’s farm with 1,000 sheep dotting the peaceful hillsides. And at the back of that farm is bushland, tight, green and impenetrable. In the winter it drips with damp and in the summer the cacophony of cicadas screams in your ears.

But I digress. They say ‘write what you know’ and because I know more about the NZ Police than I do the Australian system, I based LETHAL REFUGE on the NZ system. But I took liberties with the truth. Of course I did. It’s fiction, for heaven’s sake. But think of the British Police and you’ve got a handle on the NZ Police Service which was originally based on the British system.

In LETHAL REFUGE, Célie Francis, a prickly young woman, self-reliant to the point of being irritating, witnesses the aftermath of a murder and is stalked by the murderer. When she is placed in the witness protection program, she can no longer be self-sufficient. She is at the mercy of a bunch of people who want to help her, for God’s sake. And then there’s Brand Turner, the police psychologist with a vulnerable intellect as high as the sky who has an annoying habit of demanding trust from the relocatees. When the murderer seems to track their every move, Célie finally realizes she can’t do stuff on her own any more.

I’ve had two romantic suspense books published over the past couple of years and there’s another in the works. I’ve much enjoyed writing them, even though I’m known more for my Regencies. Anyway, here’s something about LETHAL REFUGE, set in New Zealand:

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.

Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit "New Zealand's witness protection program" where she's expected to trust strangers with her life.

It's psychologist Brand Turner's job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide "can she trust Brand with her life? 

Please click onto my Amazon page or The Wild Rose Press where you will find LETHAL REFUGE in both paperback and e-book.

I have attached two pictures to show just how impenetrable the New Zealand bushland can be.

This house is Brand’s next door neighbor’s place. Steve and his wife don’t miss much and Brand’s low profile gets shot to hell by Célie’s behavior.

Now this picture shows the type of area that Célie stumbled around in, right on nightfall. Creepy, huh?

If you have any more questions or would just like to say "Hi", email me

In the meantime, have a great day!


Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Goodreads.

I'll be back Wednesday with a new recipe. Until then...

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Easy Cooking

Here's a sandwich that is excellent for lunch by adding your favorite chips and beverage. Dress it up with a salad and French fries for an easy dinner. This recipe serves one.

Revved Up Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich
2 slices Italian bread
4 slices ham, cut thin
2 slices mozzarella cheese, cut thin
2 slices tomato, cut thin
Garlic powder NOT garlic salt
1/8 tsp. ground thyme
2 tbsp. butter or so

Preheat a heavy 8-10 inch skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.

Spread the butter on the inside of each slice of bread. Sprinkle on a little garlic powder. Grill bread buttered side down until lightly browned. Remove bread to a cutting board.

Reduce heat to medium.

Lay one slice of cheese on toasted side of bread, then sprinkle on a little thyme. Add ham and tomato. Top with another slice of cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread, butter the outside, and sprinkle on a little garlic powder.

Place the buttered side of the sandwich in the pan and fry until the bottom slice is browned to your taste. While that cooks, butter the outside of the top slice and sprinkle on a little garlic powder.

Flip the sandwich and fry the other side until it reaches the right color. Cover the pan so the cheese melts thoroughly.

I'll be back Monday with Vonnie Hughes. Until then...

May you live all the days of your life with a well laden table!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marci Boudreaux Live

Thank you so much for having me today, Sloane!

As I start getting feedback on The Road Leads Back, I’m excited to hear people tell me they enjoy reading romances with characters over 40. As I get older, I’m finding it more and more difficult to connect with the younger characters I’m trying to write.

I wonder if this means in 20 years I’ll be writing romances for the 60s crowd. Hmm. Is there a market for that? I suppose if we’re all still around, you’ll be there with me, right?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading The Road Leads Back as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am so happy to introduce you to Kara Martinson and Harry Canton.

These two wayward lovers are the opening act for my new Stonehill Romance series. The series is set in the fictional Des Moines suburb of Stonehill, and all the characters in the series (at least those planned!) are over 40 and have pasts and problems that reflect the age group.

Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of their parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive the people who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?

Kara squeezed her way toward the crowded bar, nudging between two kids who she couldn’t quite believe were old enough to be legally drinking in public. Shouldn’t they be funneling cheap beer in a college dorm somewhere? Or sneaking shots from Daddy’s liquor cabinet?

Art gallery openings used to be much more sophisticated than this. When she was a young artist, openings were about appreciating the art and the artist, not the free booze.


Had she really gone there? Kara shook her head at her bitter thoughts.

The bartender, a walking tattoo with spiked black hair, leaned close so she could hear him. “What’ll it be?”

She realized all she wanted was wine. And quiet. The kids around her were acting more like pre-teens jacked up on sugar than art aficionados. One made a face, squished and reddened, as he held up an empty shot glass as proof of his triumph.

She wondered when she had gotten so damned old. She never used to snub her nose at a good drink. Actually, she completely understood what her problem was, and it had nothing to do with age. She’d conformed. She’d fallen into line. She’d done what she was supposed to do. Agent? Check. Gallery opening? Check. Interviews with all the local fancy-pants magazines? Check.

But this wasn’t her. None of this was her.

Frowning, she leaned in as well, making sure he heard her over the jeering of the kids next to her. “Tequila.” Within seconds he set a glass in front of her and filled it with amber liquid. He started to walk away but she held up one hand and lifted the glass with the other. She downed the drink, slammed the glass down, and gestured for another—one shot wasn’t nearly enough to numb the misery of this evening.

The young man lifted his brows and smirked as he gav¬¬¬e her another shot. He laughed as she motioned for him to fill the glass a third time. “I can’t do this all night, lady.”

“One more.”

“Some of the crap in here costs more than my car. No puking. Got it?”

Kara chuckled. Clearly he didn’t recognize her as the artist who had made the crap. “Honey, I was doing tequila shots before your daddy dropped his pants and made you.”

The barkeep threw his head back and laughed, then filled her glass one more time. “Nice one, babe.”

Babe? Kara snorted as she lifted the glass. It was almost to her lips when a hand squeezed her shoulder.

“Kara?” asked a deep, smooth voice as if the man wasn’t certain who he was touching.
She turned. Her eyes bulged as she looked into an intense dark gaze she hadn’t seen since the night she’d lost her virginity.

The music had been loud, the beer lukewarm, and everybody who was anybody—and several nobody’s like Kara and Harry—in their senior class of Stonehill High was at the graduation party. The only person she had cared about, though, didn’t care about her. Or so she’d thought. Until she’d somehow ended up on Shannon Blake’s disgustingly pink- and ruffle-covered bed with Harry Canton, book club president and algebra superstar, clumsily removing her clothes, leaving slobbery kisses in their wake.

Kara swallowed hard as the flash of a memory faded, and the man standing before her, looking as shocked as she felt, came back into view.

She downed the liquor, slammed the glass against the bar, and sighed before she announced, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty-seven years.”

He sank onto the vacant stool next to her and lifted his hands as if he were at a loss for words. Something that appeared to be guilt filled his eyes and made his full lips sag into a frown. She’d be damned if temptation didn’t hit her as hard as it had when she was a hormonal teen.

“I wanted to tell you I was leaving,” he said, “but I didn’t know how.”

“You should have tried something like, ‘Kara, I’m leaving.’”

“You’re right. But I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of common sense. All I could think about was how I finally had my freedom.”

She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “You had your freedom? You selfish prick.”

His eyes widened. “Well, that might be a little harsh. I was just a kid, Kara. Yes, I should have told you I had no intention of staying with you, but I was a little overwhelmed by what had happened. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

Harry’s shoulders slumped, as if he had given up justifying sneaking out on her in the middle of the night. “Look, I saw a flier for your gallery opening, and I wanted to say hello. I thought maybe… I don’t know what I was thinking.” He sounded hurt, dejected even. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He stood. She put her hand to his chest and shoved him back onto the barstool. The move instantly reminded of her their one night together. All of seventeen and totally inexperienced, she’d fancied herself a seductress and pushed him on the bed before straddling his hips like she had a clue what she was doing.

Touching his chest now, warmth radiated through her entire body.

She glared, pulling her hand away and squeezing her fingers into a fist. “Are you living in Seattle?”

He shook his head. “I had a conference in town. There were fliers at the hotel. As soon as I saw your picture, I knew I had to come.” His smile returned and excitement radiated from his face. “I can’t believe you have a gallery opening. This is amazing, Kare.”

She wasn’t nearly as thrilled by her accomplishment as he seemed to be. She felt like she was selling her soul instead of her art. She’d always preferred to go the indie route, but that crap agent had cornered her at a particularly vulnerable moment and convinced her she needed him…just like he convinced her she needed to be in a gallery. Although, now she was glad she’d conceded on the open bar.

The tequila swirled through her, making her muscles tingle, preventing her from fully engaging the near-three decades of anger she’d been harboring. She had spent an awfully long time wanting to give Harry Canton a piece of her mind.

Even so, hearing him say she’d done something amazing warmed her in a way very little ever had. If he had come looking for another one-night stand, she hated to admit that she would consider reliving that night again—only this time with more sexual experience and less expectation of him sticking around.

He might be almost three decades older, but his face was still handsome and his brown eyes were just as inviting as they had been when he was a high school prodigy and she was a wallflower.

She smirked at a realization: he was in a suit, probably having just left a corporate meeting, while she was wearing a red sari-inspired dress at her gallery opening.

He was still the straight arrow. She was still the eccentric artist.

“Did you hear what I said, Harry? About looking for you for the last twenty-seven years.”

His shoulders sagged. “I never meant to sleep with you that night. I mean”—he quickly lifted his hands—“I was leaving and should have told you before taking you upstairs. I shouldn’t have just left like that, but I didn’t think you wanted to see me again anyway. If it’s any consolation,” he said giving her a smile that softened the rough edges of her anger, “I’d been working up the courage to kiss you since junior year when you squeezed a tube of red paint in Mitch Friedman’s hair after he made jokes about Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows in art class.”

She frowned at him. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Then again, neither was waking up thinking she was starting a new life as a high school graduate and the girlfriend of the cutest boy she’d ever met, only to find the other side of the homecoming queen’s bed empty. “There’s nothing wrong with a woman embracing her natural beauty.”

His smile faded quickly. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. “I shouldn’t have left you like I did. I hope you believe that I regret it. Not being with you,” he amended, “but leaving without explaining.”

She laughed softly. He’d had that same nervous habit in high school. He’d say what was on his mind and then instantly try to recover, afraid his words had come out wrong. Usually they had. For as awkward as she’d been, at least she’d always been able to say what she meant and to stand behind it. Of course, that ability got her in trouble more often than not.

She’d told herself a million times that Harry didn’t owe her an explanation. They hadn’t been in any kind of relationship. She’d drooled over him from afar, but other than an occasional smile in the hallway, he’d barely acknowledged her existence in high school. Even if he hadn’t gone off to start his Ivy League college career the day after graduation, he likely never would have looked at her again. Well, at least not until she could no longer hide the truth of their one-night stand from the world.

“I expected so much more from you, Harry,” she said sadly, the sting of what he’d done back then numbed slightly by the tequila.

His shoulders sagged a bit. “I know.”

“Why didn’t you ever write me back?” Her voice sounded hurt and pathetic. She was surprised that after so many years of being angry, there was still pain hiding beneath her fury. “I must have sent you a hundred letters.”

He creased his brow. “Letters? I didn’t get any letters.”

Kara searched his eyes. He looked genuinely confused.

“I sent them to…” Her words faded. Suddenly the tequila-induced haze wasn’t so welcome. “Your mother said if I wrote to you, she’d make sure you got my letters.”

“My mother? I never got any letters.”

“But you sent money.”

Harry shook his head slightly. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I send you money?”

She stared at him as realization set in. He hadn’t responded to her letters because he hadn’t received her letters. And if he hadn’t received the letters, he hadn’t sent her money. And if he hadn’t sent her money, he hadn’t known that she needed it. Sighing, she let some of her decades-old anger slip. Her head spun, either from the alcohol or the blurry dots she was trying to mentally connect. Leaning onto the bar, she exhaled slowly. “She never told you, did she?”

“Told me what?”

Kara couldn’t speak. Her words wouldn’t form.

An arm wrapped around Kara’s shoulder, startling her and making her gasp quietly. She turned and blinked several times at the man who had just slid next to her.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but I need to get home.” Leaning in, he kissed her head. “Congratulations on the opening, Mom. It was great.”

“Um…” She swallowed, desperate to find her voice. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She flicked her gaze at the man sitting next to her. The longer Harry looked at her son, the wider Harry’s eyes became.

Phil cast a disapproving glance at Harry then focused on his mother again. “Don’t forget that Jess is expecting you to make pancakes in the morning. You promised.”

“I haven’t forgotten.” Kara returned her attention to Harry. His jaw was slack and his cheeks had grown pale.

Phil nodded at Harry as if he were satisfied that he’d made the point that his mother didn’t need to be staying out all night and walked away. Harry watched him leave while Kara waved down the bartender and pointed at her glass. The tattooed kid hesitated, likely debating the ethics of giving her another shot. She pointed again, cocking a brow for emphasis, and he finally filled her glass.

“Kara…” Harry’s voice was breathless, like he’d been kicked in the gut. “Was…was that my…son?”

No. His mother definitely hadn’t given him the letters Kara had written. She lifted her shot, toasting him. “Congratulations, Harry. It’s a boy.”

To watch the book trailer for The Road Leads Back please click here.

Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Kobo

Presenting the covers for all the books in the Stonehill Romance series.

Marci Boudreaux lives with her husband, two children, and their numerous pets. Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new, and her husband doesn't like when she does that in real life.

As well as writing erotica under her pen name Emilia Mancini, Marci is a content editor for Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing. She earned her MS in Publishing from University of Houston-Victoria in 2014 and worked as a freelance writer until she recently opted to focus on working in books.

Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Wednesday Italian Style

I’m big on creating new recipes and making them easy. This menu fits that criteria and is wonderful served with a tossed salad, fresh Italian bread, and a good bottle of red wine.

Curly Pasta Bake
1# Campanelle pasta or other curly pasta
8 cups Tomato and Garlic Pasta Sauce (see below)
¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese
¾ cup grated provolone cheese
¼ heaping cup grated Parmesan

Coat the bottom of an ovenproof dish with 1 cup sauce. Add in dried pasta and 4 cups sauce. Mix well.

Sprinkle a ¼ cup of mozzarella and provolone across the top of the pasta.

Ladle over 3 cups of sauce.

Scatter remaining mozzarella and provolone over the mixture.

Dust on Parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.

To Bake:
Remove dish from fridge 2 hours before baking.

Preheat oven to 325°F

Bake 30 minutes or until hot.

Leftovers freeze well. You made need more sauce or a little chicken stock when you reheat.

Serves 4

Italian Sausage
5 Italian sausage links – mild or hot
½ cup chicken stock
Red and/or yellow peppers cleaned and cut into strips
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F

Pour the chicken stock into a baking dish. Nestle the sausage in the stock. Bake for 30 minutes.

Turn the sausage, then lay the pepper strips on top. Sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook for 30 minutes.

Leftover sausage freezes well. Later, use them for sandwiches on crusty rolls and smothered in the tomato sauce. Serve with French fries for an easy meal.

Tomato and Garlic Pasta Sauce
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped fine
1½ tbsp. garlic, pressed
4 cups tomato puree or sauce
1 six-ounce can tomato paste, pesto type
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry red wine
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and transparent, 6-8 minutes. Do not let them brown. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Pour in the tomato sauce and all remaining ingredients. Stir well after each addition.

Bring sauce to a boil, turn heat down, and simmer for 1 hour. Be sure to stir often of the bottom will burn.

Remove bay leaf.

This sauce is excellent for all your favorite Italian pasta, poultry, and meat dishes. It also freezes well.

I'll be back Monday with Marci Beaudreaux. Until then...

Mangiare Bene!

Sloane Taylor
Amazon Author Page

Monday, April 06, 2015

Have You Evolved?

Science Fiction – An Evolving Genre
by Tom Olbert

Speaking as a writer who primarily works in science fiction, I am painfully aware that the genre holds extremely limited appeal for the public. The genre has dropped out of popularity. Most of the general public doesn’t take SF seriously. Kid stuff, they assume.

Maybe it started out that way, but the genre is evolving. The science fiction that has won current popularity in books and their big screen adaptations is the sub-genre we call post-apocalyptic science fiction (PASF). Stories that offer tortured young heroes and heroines struggling to find their purpose in dark, dystopian future worlds run by cold, duplicitous adults. And, if aimed and written properly, science fiction can be an excellent canvass for expressing such social themes and depicting characters who thrive in them, because it has no set limits or boundaries.

The writer creates the world that is needed to illustrate the point and to channel the development of the protagonist. The challenge is in making that world seem relevant to an audience that tends to be skeptical of the genre. To be taken seriously, SF has to escape the stigma of glitz and gadgetry and offer stories that are actually character-centered. The setting must frame and present the character, not just use the character to present itself.

One particularly dark and stinging PASF franchise is the CW’s “100” T.V. series, set in a post-war irradiated wilderness grown over the ruins of Washington D.C. Based on the Alloy books by Kass Morgan. A century after a nuclear war, the last survivors of humanity (or, so they think) live under harsh Draconian rule on an orbiting space colony beset by rapidly dwindling resources. They send a hundred of their incarcerated juvenile delinquents down to the surface to find out if it’s habitable. Turns out it is, but already inhabited, by two other groups of survivors. Warlike, savage tribes who live in the forests, and a technologically advanced but isolated society that’s lived inside a mountain bunker for the past 97 years.

Character development is strong and intense, weaving through dark themes of society-building, tribalism, leadership dynamic, and such timeless moral themes as justice, capital punishment, and war. It’s a raw, gritty look at human nature in its purest form, and it spares us nothing. Its strength is definitely in its lead characters. Most notably Clarke, the teenaged daughter of the space colony’s chief medical officer (a mother who betrayed Clarke’s father to execution at the hands of the regime, justifying it for the greater good.)

Thrust into circumstances beyond her control, Clarke reveals natural leadership ability and swiftly rises to power in her group. She soon has to face wrenching moral decisions that seem to echo the dark days of World War II. When the outwardly civilized, seemingly cordial mountain people start performing horrific Mengele-like experiments on the outsiders, draining their bone marrow in hopes of gaining their immunity to the radiation, Clarke must form an uneasy alliance with the savages to save her people. Clarke learns of an impending missile attack from the mountain through a spy she has on the inside, but decides not to warn her people about it, knowing it would tip off the enemy, robbing her side of the critical advantage. She must live with the guilt of her decision as dozens of her friends die a horrible fiery death while she gets herself to safety. A plot-point obviously alluding to Winston Churchill’s alleged similar decision at Coventry. When Clarke’s ally makes her own deal with the enemy, selling Clarke out to save her own people, Clarke must throw away the rule book to save her friends. She takes hostages and personally executes a prisoner just to make a point. When the enemy leader still won’t release her people, she makes the deliberate decision to commit genocide. Her hand pauses dramatically over the switch only a moment before she presses it, releasing deadly radiation into a bunker full of people, including innocent children and conscientious objectors who tried to help her people. The resulting nightmare scene of pleasant, family oriented cafeteria dining dissolving into excruciating death, bodies blistering from the radiation, women and children dying, conjures shades of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I tried to be one of the good guys,” Clarke later tells her mother. “Maybe, there are no good guys, Clarke,” mom replies. It’s not that everyone is out for number one, you understand. They’re all just doing their best to save their own people. Which is, of course worse. The story is a dark mirror of the world in which we live, but the characters have more life than that. We care about them, and they bring the dark lessons to life for us because their pain and conflict and love and hate for each other are potent.

In my SF novella “Black Goddess,” I combined theoretical quantum physics with the dark yearnings of a morally conflicted Gulf War vet who has lost his faith and becomes obsessed with finding the core of darkness at the beginning of time. The story deals with the real-life agony of torture and what it does to the soul, and asks the timeless questions of whether primal evil truly exists, if life is anything but blind chance, and if there is a God. At its core is a simple yearning for love.

“Beneath her black head scarf, her dark eyes stabbed through him with a flaming hatred. Then…nothing. Like a black abyss where a soul had been a micro-second before. A strange kind of peace. More than that, a oneness.

That look in her eyes. In his dad’s. It was the same as he’d seen in Lark’s memory…in the eyes of that kid in Uganda who’d held a knife to her throat. But, he hadn’t harmed her. Something had stopped him. When their eyes had met…something in her had pulled him back from the abyss.”

To read more on Black Goddess please click a vendor's name
Mocha Memoirs Press - Amazon

Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts; cradle of the American Revolution, and home of University egg heads and kooky liberals. He loves it there. His work has most recently appeared in Musa Publishing. Previously in Mocha Memoirs Press, Eternal Press, and such anthologies as Ruthless, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous, Something Wicked Vol II, In the Bloodstream, and Torched.

When he’s not working or writing sci-fi or horror, Tom volunteers for causes he cares about. He comes from a most interesting family; his mother, Norma Olbert is currently self-publishing a biography of the life of Tom’s dad Stan Olbert, a retired MIT physicist and veteran of the Polish underground during WWII. Tom’s sister Elizabeth Olbert is an artist, art teacher, and avid lover of horses.

Learn more about Tom Olbert on his blog Other Dimensions.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Easter Dinner is Served

Photo by franky242

A heartfelt thanks to all of you who requested I re post our family's traditional Easter dinner. We start with a mountain of appetizers and adult beverages, followed by a great meal, topped off with delicious homemade desserts, and complimented with lots of laughter. We usually have twenty-five for a sit-down dinner and each family supplies an appetizer or a dessert. Below is what Studs and I prepare. Hope you enjoy it.

Ham Baked in Bread
Polish Sausage Studs Style
My Mom’s Potato Salad
Fresh Green Beans
Black Olives in Oil
Fresh Fruit Salad
White Wine – Riesling

Ham Baked in Bread
7# smoked ham – I use Kentucky Legend. It’s excellent, but this recipe works for all hams.
3 packages prepared pizza dough found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
½ cup water for sealing seams

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll the dough into a rectangle. Lay ham curved side down onto dough. Gently lift the dough to wrap the ham securely. Be careful not to rip the dough.

Dip your fingertips in the water, then rub them along the seams to seal. This may take several water dips to achieve. Place the ham seam side down, so it doesn’t burst during baking, on a non-stick cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan. Bake 20 minutes per pound or until bread is toasty brown.

Remove the ham from the oven and let cool until you can touch the bread without burning your hands. With a sharp, thin knife, cut off just the top portion to create a lid. Carve the ham and remaining bread into slices. Don’t worry if the bread falls apart as you slice it. This can happen. Discard any scrapes. Lay the ham and bread on a serving platter. The bread will be a little soggy, and that’s good, because it has soaked up the ham juices. Cover with the lid you cut off earlier.

Right before you serve, cut the lid into neat slices, lay them around and over the ham. Your guests will love it.

Polish Sausage Studs Style
8 pounds fresh Polish sausage

Remove sausage from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking.

Fill a stockpot approximately three-quarters with cold tap water. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the sausage and cook for 10 minutes. The sausage should rise to the top in about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to shallow roasting pans. Clip the connecting casing.

You can stop here and finish cooking the sausage the next day. Be sure to cover and refrigerate the meat.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Allow the sausage to rest 10-15 minutes so the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.

Cut the links into 1½ - 2 inch pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven. Turn sausage pieces and then bake for another 15 minutes.

My Mom’s Potato Salad
1 red potato per person
1 hard boiled egg for every 2-3 potatoes
one stalk celery for every 7 potatoes chopped fine
½ med onion for every 7 potatoes chopped fine
Mayonnaise – NO substitutes

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just fork tender. Remove from pot as they are done and allow to cool. Scrape the skins off. Slice in half widthwise then lengthwise. Slice into the bite size pieces.

While the potatoes are cooking, lay the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water, and place a lid on the pan. Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat and allow to sit on the burner for 7 minutes. Cut into quarters, then slice. Set aside covered with plastic wrap or a paper towel to eliminate drying out.

Combine celery and onion in a large bowl. Grind in a healthy amount of fresh pepper. Stir in several large spoonfuls of mayonnaise. You have to gauge by the number of potatoes you use. Mix well.

Add the potatoes, two at a time and mix well. Continue until all the potatoes are added. Check the salad for dryness. It should be moist but not swimming in mayo. Add the sliced eggs and stir again. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fresh Green Beans
1 lb. fresh green beans trimmed
2 – tbsp butter
Fresh ground black pepper

Bring large pot of water to a hard boil. A high heat setting is best.

Drop the beans in by the handful. Boil 10 to 15 minutes or until the beans are just tender. If you plan to reheat the beans, boil for less time as the reheating will cook them further.

Drain beans in a colander. Add butter to the hot pot and swirl to melt. Return beans to the pot. Toss with butter and coat well. Season with pepper to taste and stir again.

They may be made earlier and reheated on low heat. Be careful not to scorch them or burn the butter.

Black Olives in Oil
1 can medium pitted black olives
3 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Glass jar with a secure lid

Drain the black olives and pour them into the jar. Crush the garlic into the jar. Pour in the olive oil to cover. Refrigerate at least 1 week. The mix will become thick and cloudy. It’s okay, that’s the oil solidifying.

To serve, set the jar on the counter until the oil becomes clear and returns to its normal consistency, which may take several hours. Spoon out the quantity of olives you wish to serve into a pretty dish. Be sure to have toothpicks. Put the jar back in the fridge for future use. You can refill with more olives. The mixture will stay good up to two months.

Fresh Fruit Salad
Banana sliced
Cantaloupe sliced
Pineapple sliced
Kiwis sliced
Red grapes seedless halved

Combine all the fruit into a mixing bowl. Add a few drops lime or lemon juice to stop the bananas from turning brown. Gently stir to blend the fruit.

Pour into a glass bowl, cover, and chill until time to serve.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back Monday. Until then...

Happy Cooking!

Sloane Taylor