Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie Friday--Finn and Tasha

I hope you enjoy the following short story, a sort of epilogue to my Ellora's Cave book, Arctic Destiny, giving a peek into the lives of Finn MacEwan and Tasha Watson after the end of the book. And I also hope you'll try the recipe that follows, a family favorite and traditional Sunday dinner side dish back home.

Rewriting the Destiny

Finn MacEwan stood in his studio and stared at the hunk of marble on the workbench in front of him. Instead of a vision appearing to him in the stone—a shape latent beneath the rough exterior—it remained just a formless block. Worse was the sensation of no longer really knowing what to do, as though not only his artistic sense had vanished, but had taken the muscle memory that made his sculpting possible too.
Slowly putting down his tools, he tried to regulate his suddenly rough breathing and quiet the pounding of his heart. Although the drizzly autumn day was cool, a sheen of perspiration coated his brow and he wiped at it as he strode to the dormer window and stood staring out at the quiet Toronto street below. Frustration at his restlessness and inability to concentrate made his teeth clench.
He’d done well since leaving the north and coming to the city with Tasha. His career was growing in leaps and bounds, and God knew he’d never been happier than he’d been over the last three years. There was nowhere else he’d rather be—no one who could fulfill him, heart and soul, like Tasha. He just couldn’t understand why his ability to sculpt, even the need to do it, had suddenly deserted him. If he were being brutally honest with himself, and now he forced himself to be exactly and precisely that, the loss of the one thing he’d clung to all those years of being trapped was frightening.
Bone-deep, soul-witheringly frightening.
And he had no idea what to do about it.
“Finn?” Tasha’s voice floated up from downstairs, and even after all their time together it made his heart leap with joy. “Dinner’s ready.”
Taking a deep breath, forcing the tense muscles of his face to relax, he called back. “Coming, love.”
As he headed for the staircase, he tried to push the fear and anger aside. Tasha knew there was something wrong—it was almost impossible to keep anything from her—but he’d tried to minimize the extent of the problem. The last thing he wanted was for her to worry.
Getting to the bottom of the steps, he paused, surprised. Rather than the island/bar top where they usually ate, she’d set the dining table with her best china and cutlery and adorned it with candles and fresh flowers. For a moment he mentally scrambled to see if he’d forgotten a birthday or anniversary, but nothing came to him.
Tasha turned and grinned at him from the kitchen, and he couldn’t help smiling back, the weight of his fear lessening. She was so beautiful, her smile so full of love he could feel it reach across the room.
And she was his. What did anything else matter in the face of that?
“Sit down.” She picked up a platter from the counter and walked around the island into the dining area. “I hope you’re hungry.”
It was only then he took a good look at the food, and his eyebrows lifted in surprise. Tasha’d cooked what he thought of as one of her special occasion meals. She had eclectic tastes in food, picked and chose from various cultures to create some of the most interesting meals he’d ever had. Tonight it was a pork roast redolent with rosemary and thyme, scalloped potatoes done in the oven, steamed broccoli and carrots, and Jamaican-style Rice and Peas.
“What a feast.” He pulled out her chair, bending to capture her mouth for a sweet, lingering kiss. Her lips softened beneath his, and for a long moment he forgot everything—food, art, anxiety—in the wonder of her.
Tasha put a hand on his chest, right over his heart, and eased their bodies apart. She was still smiling, but her eyes had grown languid and her breathing was ragged. The low, delicious tenor of her voice sent his libido soaring, as she said, “Food first. Then we can pick this up where we left off.”
Teasing the corner of her mouth with his lips, he whispered, “I look forward to it.” And he couldn’t help smiling at her little shiver.
The meal was wonderful, and Finn realized she’d made some of his all-time favorites. Although she’d made a sinfully rich gravy, the soft texture of the Rice and Peas made it almost a shame to put any on it. The side dish had quickly become one he looked forward to seeing her cook.
While savoring the meal Finn still couldn’t help feeling he’d missed something. ‘Special occasions demand special food’, she always said, and this was definitely, deliciously special. And food was one of the ways Tasha dealt with problems or comforted others, not as a panacea but as a way to show she cared. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore, and had to ask.
“What’s the occasion, Tash?”
She didn’t pretend not to understand, but immediately put down her fork and levelled a serious look on him. “I thought we should have a really nice meal, something I won’t be able to cook while we’re away.”
Surprised she’d make plans without asking for his input, he put down his utensils too. “You didn’t mention anything about a vacation. Where are we supposed to be going? And when?”
Her gaze slid away from his for a moment, then came resolutely back to snag his again. “I took a sabbatical and we’re going to Churchill in two days. Everything is booked.”
Taken aback didn’t begin to describe his feelings. Stunned would be better, and even that didn’t cover it adequately. Leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms, he tried to marshal his thoughts, but she rushed into speech before he could find his tongue.
“Darling, the north was a major part of your life for so long, it’s unreasonable to believe you can just walk away from it and not have that affect you.”
Finn opened his mouth to object, then closed it again. His knee-jerk reaction was to say she was wrong. That he’d spent a hundred and twenty-five years trapped by the north, unable to leave for longer than a few months at a time, and if he never saw the Arctic again, he’d be happy. And yet…
If he closed his eyes, he could see the distinctive landscape, so beautiful in its stark majesty. At night sometimes he dreamed of spring in the Taiga or the wild beauty of winter when the polar bears, his brothers, roamed as lords of the ice. A part of him still yearned for it, and it had taken his wonderful wife to recognize that.
“It’ll refresh you. And I’m looking forward to going back to where it all really started.”
She tried for a touch of humor, but there was a hint of uncertainty in her voice and he realized he’d zoned out, leaving her wondering what he was thinking.
Rising, he circled the table and held out his hand. Even though he hadn’t said anything she got up, slipping right into his arms. Tilting her head back, she smiled at him, and he held her tight, so full of love and desire and thankfulness he could hardly breathe.
“Yes,” he said, letting his hands slide down her back until he cupped her ass and pulled her even closer, letting her feel his arousal. “Back to the beginning, and the future.”

Like Tasha I celebrate with food, and no celebration in our house is complete without Rice & Peas. Variations of this dish can be found in the cuisine of most Caribbean islands, some made with red kidney beans, others with pigeon peas. On some islands salted meat adds flavor, on others coconut provides it.
The recipe here is my quick-and-easy version of the Jamaican style, which utilizes coconut milk. Back home, if you’re doing it ‘right’, you’d make the coconut milk yourself, cracking open a dry coconut, extracting the hard flesh, grating it or liquidizing it in a blender or food processor with a little water, and squeezing the “milk” out by hand. It’s a time-consuming job, so I use pre-packaged blocks of dehydrated coconut milk. If that’s not available, use canned or frozen coconut milk. I’ve made it with canned coconut cream, but the flavor is quite different, so for a more authentic taste, make sure the product you use says coconut milk, rather than cream.

Quick and Easy Jamaican Rice-and-Peas

½ block dehydrated coconut milk or 1 can coconut milk
1 regular size can red kidney beans OR pigeon peas
Long grain or par-boiled rice
1 stalk scallion, chopped fine (spring onion)
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves OR 1 teaspoon fresh
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Either add ½ block dehydrated coconut milk to approximately 4 cups of water and bring to a boil OR mix the can of coconut milk with enough water to make about 4 cups of liquid and bring to a boil, turn heat down to medium. Boil water and coconut for ten minutes (watch the pot so it doesn’t boil over) then add the canned peas, including the liquid.
While the ratio of rice:water usually is 1:2, for rice and peas I like slightly more water, so that the end result is slightly soft, rather than grainy, but that’s a personal preference. I can eyeball the amount of rice, but that’s after years of practice! My mother never could, so here is her method for calculating the amount of rice needed.
Carefully strain the contents of the pot into another pot. Return the peas to the original pot, and then measure the amount of liquid, returning it to the pot too. In my experience, you will probably find it is just about the 4 cup mark again, but sometimes it’s more or less, so measuring is a good idea! Bring the peas and coconut, etc. back to the boil. Add the appropriate amount of rice, following the prescribed 1 cup rice to 2 cups liquid for shelly rice, or ¾ cups rice to 2 cups liquid for softer consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as chopped scallion, thyme and allspice. Bring back to a boil, then cover, turning down the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 20 minutes, until rice is properly cooked. Stir to evenly distribute peas, and serve.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foodie Friday with Cristal Ryder

Welcome to another Foodie Friday! Today I'm happy to welcome Cristal Ryder who, in honor of her next release, Rock-Hard Heat, available August 31st, is sharing a dish with some western flair!

I’m glad Anya Richards wrangled me down for her foodie blog. I love food – no surprise there. And keeping with the cowboy theme for my release next week of Rock-Hard Heat, I have a kinda western dish for you.
I started making this when my boys were young, they’re 21 and 24 now, so it's been around a long time. I never measured the ingredients so will try and give you the amounts as best as possible. You can adjust to your own taste.
I know there are numerous variations to this salad, but this is the way I’ve been doing it for a while. Sometimes it doesn’t look all that pretty, but it sure tastes great.

Taco Salad

½ - 1 lb cooked ground beef seasoned with nacho/taco seasoning of your desired hotness – cooled and drained
Bottle ranch dressing
1 ½ - 2 cups grated cheese
1 – 2 tomatoes chopped
2 green onions chopped
½ - 1 head of lettuce, bite size pieces
Bag of nachos, crunched
Just before serving combine all ingredients except nachos. After everything is mixed, then add crunched chips and serve. You can adjust the amounts to suite your taste. I know some people use Caesar or French dressing instead of ranch. But my family prefers the ranch.

An Excerpt From: ROCK-HARD HEAT
Copyright © CRISTAL RYDER, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

It had been a glorious couple of days before Chet had to head down and get back to real life. She smiled and enjoyed the heat that bloomed in her belly, remembering their first lovemaking session after being apart for so many months. Desire for her cowboy never failed to heat her blood and she longed for him now. She wanted him with her in the soft mountain water, which caressed her skin so seductively.
The grime and dust of her prospecting activities at Chet’s great-great-uncle Chester’s old claim sluiced off in the creek’s current and left her skin pink and tingly. She wasn’t ready to get out yet and closed her eyes, drifting lazily.
Chet couldn’t confirm when he’d be back and Jenna had gotten used to staying here on her own when he wasn’t with her. At first, he’d been hesitant to leave her, but she insisted and he’d learned a while ago how stubborn she could be. So they compromised. He made sure she was checked on daily by a ranch hand, had taught her to shoot and left the rifle by the door. The radio was primed in case she needed immediate help and his dog Belle stayed with her. All was good with the world.
Letting her legs drop, Jenna curled her toes into the creek bed and stood. The water was deep, just covering her breasts. They bobbed at the surface, buffeted by little eddies of current. She tipped back, ducked her head in the water and swept her long red tresses out of her face. When she stood, it hung to her shoulders and fanned out on the surface of the water like a halo.
A sense of wellbeing filled her and her heart swelled with happiness. Never had such a strong sensation of belonging, being home, been so sharply etched within her. She knew she had been born on the wrong side of the continent. It was here she should have grown up and experienced life, not back east. Jenna inhaled the crisp mountain air and gazed at the bush around her. It was just as beautiful in the summer as in the winter. Her love for this land grew daily and it truly pained her to think of leaving it. And Chet.
She brushed the disturbing thought aside. It was a while before she’d be packing her bags. Jenna’s gaze took in the brand new sluice box. Chet had replaced the broken-down one with a much more modern setup here at the creek and farther up-river where the tree came down. Chester’s old one was being restored and eventually would be donated to a local history museum. She was determined to find his secret claim and Chet had humored her all the way. Jenna smiled and excitement bubbled inside her at the news she had to tell him.
The gurgle of water over the dam of rocks mixed delightfully with the birds singing in the trees. Jenna was at peace. She sighed and shivered with a slight chill from the cool mountain water. Goose bumps rose along her flesh and her nipples hardened, aching with the cold. She cupped her breasts in her palms, the hard nubs pressing against her flesh. This time the shiver that rippled through her wasn’t from being chilled.
“Chet, when are you going to get here?” she whispered to the silence of the surrounding trees.
“What’s the matter, darlin’? Miss me?”
Jenna spun around, sending a splash of water in a sparkling arc. The wonderful, sexy drawl of Chet’s voice slipped around her like hot honey and she warmed under his gaze. He stood on the little rocky beach where they had made love on the bank of chilly snow last winter. She couldn’t help the smile that broke wide on her face when their eyes met.
“Chet.” His name fell from her lips in a breathy sigh.
He had one booted foot propped on a large rock, his elbow rested on his knee. The faded, worn jeans tightened over his muscular thighs and Jenna’s breath snagged in her chest. She let her gaze roam over the typical plaid cowboy shirt which also strained across his powerful chest and shoulders. He poked his cowboy hat back with a finger and winked at her. She knew what lay beneath those clothes and she hungered for him. He was a feast for her eyes and she needed feeding.
“Now then, this sure is a sight to behold. It’s a damn good thing I decided to come myself and not send Blake to check on you.”
“I’d say I have to agree with that, cowboy.”
“Last time I checked we didn’t have mermaids in these parts. Just goes to show you can learn somethin’ new every day.” He straightened and started to unbutton his shirt. “Want some company?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Aries Revealed by Mina Carter

I interrupt my usual Monday morning rambling for a special occasion. Firstly, I'm over at Mina Carter's blog today talking about my Unveiled Seductions series. Secondly, I'm here talking about Mina...shhh, don't tell her!
If you’re into erotic sci-fi romances, I have two words for you—Aries Revealed by Mina Carter. Okay, that was five, but you get my drift.
I’ll tell you first off exactly why I like Mina’s books. Besides awesome plots and hunky, baby-let-me-take-you-home heroes, Mina’s heroines are tough. I mean, really, really tough. And they go through stuff I don’t think I’d have the balls to put my heroines through. They get beat up, and feel it. They deal with some serious shit, and get through it with sheer grit and determination. Maybe I’m cruel, or perhaps I’m just a realist, but I like that—a lot.
I also like the easy yet lyrical cadence of her writing. There’s nothing stuffy about it, but it flows and bubbles, taking the story along with enviable ease.
All right, enough of that…let’s talk about Aries Revealed.
Cyborg Johnny Ram has the hots for Milly, even though all he knows about her is that she comes to watch his stripper act. Milly has the hots for the illusion Johnny projects on stage, but she doesn’t believe she would ever be able to attract a man that gorgeous. She has baggage, and when Johnny finesses himself into her life neither of them realize just how heavy that baggage will turn out to be, for both of them.
I’m not going to give away the plot…oh, no I’m not *sticks out tongue*. What I will say is Johnny’s hot, Milly’s by turns funny and sad, together they kick ass and have some incendiary sex. So, what you waiting for? Go buy Aries Revealed and enter the world of Mina’s cyborgs.
Oh, and Mina, when’s the next one coming out??? Don’t make me come find you…

Aries Revealed

Sometimes the best place to hide, is in plain sight...
Johnny makes a living on the strip circuits. His most popular routine? The Aries 7000. Bronzed and oiled, he pretends to be the scourge of the universe, one of the deadly and outlawed zodiac cyborgs. But Johnny isn’t really a stripper playing a cyborg. He’s a cyborg playing a stripper.
Milly, a freighter captain, has had a thing for the sexy stripper for months. But when Johnny, the subject of many of her hottest fantasies, asks her out to dinner, she runs. All is not lost, however; a chance encounter yields an Aries 7000 sexbot, hers for a weekend of pleasure.
It seems too good to be true. Sex with the man of her dreams without risking her heart. But Milly’s bot has some secrets…secrets that could save her life when the past returns to haunt her.
 Available from: Ellora's Cave | Amazon | Amazon UK | ARe

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Olympic Sized Hangover

I love the Olympics for so many different reasons. The opening ceremony! Parade of Nations! The amazing athletes and their almost super-human achievements! New sports! Hot bodies! So much to see and think about, like, 'What would it feel like to pole vault?' or 'How the HELL do the rhythmic gymnasts bend their bodies that way???' And, of course, coming from Jamaica I have to watch the athletics. I don't think anyone who hasn't seen where many of our athletes come from can truly appreciate how far they've come to be on the world stage, winning medals and hearts. It always makes me feel like I'm about to burst with pride.
But the thing I love most of all are the stories.
They can be heroic or sad, inspirational or distressing, but with this many focused, determined people in one place you know there are a million stories worth hearing. Mark Oldershaw of Canada following in his grandfather, father and uncle's footsteps to compete in canoeing. Usain Bolt's support of his small village and the schools back home that nurtured his talents. British diver Tom Daley's loss of his father and determination to continue on toward his Olympic dreams. Mo Farah's amazing win in both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meter races. The sad case of Australian pole vaulter Steven Hooker who, after winning gold in Beijing developed a fear of heights and didn't qualify for the finals in 2012. My mingled joy and devastation as the Jamaican men won the gold medal in the 4x100 relay and the Canadian team was disqualified after coming in third. I was riveted to my TV, taking it all in.
And with a tradition this long standing, Olympic history has so many other stories that are well worth hearing over again. This year was the 100th Anniversary of Jim Thorpe's amazing win of gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon. Rarely mentioned is his fourth place in the high jump competition and seventh place finish in the long jump, or the fact that someone stole his shoes just before competition, and he competed, and won, wearing discarded shoes he found in the garbage. And, with the new political correctness, no one mentions anymore that he was part Native American. His story had an unhappy ending, as he was stripped on his medals because he'd played two seasons with a professional baseball league, apparently earning somewhere around the equivalent of $50 during that time. Thirty years after his death the medals were reinstated, but that doesn't change the fact that the man who received a ticker-tape parade on his return to the US died in poverty, and lived much of his life saddened by the desertion of the same people who'd lauded him.
I miss the excitement of the Olympics, the stories, the what ifs. Higher, faster, stronger takes on so much more meaning each time the games roll around. I'm left with a sense of wonder, an impression that while we all can't win races and break records, the fact that these people can, and with such style, a grain of that greatness lies in all of us, if we could just find, hold on to, and live it. Live our own Olympics, every day.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Foodie Friday with Lena Loneson

I'm really pleased to welcome Lena Loneson, author of God of Ecstasy, who's introducing us to a recipe that sounds truly yummy, as does her book. Enjoy!! And be sure to check out the blurb for God of Ecstasy after the recipe.

Thanks for having me on Foodie Friday, Anya!  I’m a novice cook myself, so I recruited a good friend (also one of my beta readers) for help with a wine-centred recipe: Risotto with Lamb Ragu.

My latest book, God of Ecstasy, is part of the Pricked series and features tattoos, which is what I’ve been talking about in my blog posts lately.  The tattoo part was easy for me–I have two myself, including a large back piece–but where I really needed to do research was with another important part of my book: wine.

My hero is Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, madness, and ecstasy.  He’s cursed by an evil djinn to remain trapped in a wine bottle, I Dream of Jeannie-style, for eternity.  He’s only released to fulfill three sexual fantasies whenever a woman rubs the bottle. 

Before writing God of Ecstasy I knew a lot about beer, but almost nothing about wine.  I was inspired by a winery tour in upstate New York, where I discovered I really enjoyed a good white wine: particularly a dry Riesling or chardonnay.  The next step?  Cooking with it! 

This recipe comes from my friend Garli, and I’ve taste-tested it myself, to much stomach happiness.

Risotto with Lamb Ragu


Lamb ragu:
½ lb Ground lamb
½ small can tomato paste
1 cup Chicken stock
Fresh-peeled garlic
Fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper if desired

2 cups of arbregio rice
½ cup dry white wine (e.g. Pinot grigio)
1 small diced onion
4-5 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Crumbled bleu cheese
Grated parmesan cheese
Chopped mint leaves

Have all the ingredients out on the counter, as you’ll be tossing them in different pots as you work.  The main thing you’ll need for this recipe is a good stirring arm and attention span (my own biggest hurdle), as you watch the pots.

Lamb ragu:
Add garlic to a large saucepan on the stove with some olive oil, until it starts to brown.  Add the ground lamb, breaking it up with a spoon.  Add rosemary, salt, and pepper, to taste.   Add half a small can of tomato paste and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10-20 minutes on the back burner.  You can start the risotto as it simmers.

For the risotto, you’ll need a large pot/pan (the heavier the better, helps it to heat evenly) in which to make the risotto.  Also, start a small pot with simmering white wine and a larger pot with 5 cups of simmering chicken stock.  (Note: Do not add cold liquid to the risotto, as it will ruin the texture.) 
The main steps of the recipe involve a lot of mixing, so get your muscles ready!

In the large pot, add butter and chopped onions.  When the onions are transparent, add rice, and mix it up.  It should turn from a dull colour to a brighter white.  Then add ½ - 2/3 cup of simmering wine and a pinch of saffron.  Keep mixing while waiting for the liquid to dissolve.  When it’s dissolved, add 1 cup of the simmering chicken stock to the pot with the rice.  Mix until dissolved.  Repeat, adding 1 more cup of chicken stock each time, stirring until it dissolved, until the texture is as desired.  It should be very creamy but a bit al dente (firm but not hard) in the middle

When it’s done, stir in the rest of the ingredients (pine nuts, mint leaves, cheeses, and a little extra butter) and add the lamb sauce. 

Time to eat:

The risotto can be paired with the rest of the wine you used for cooking, if you’re looking to finish it off, or it goes well with a nice Italian red, such as a chianti.

Hope you enjoy!  Feel free to stop by and say hi at or on Facebook or Twitter.

God of Ecstasy

Jaime Leighton has had some pretty unremarkable sex in her lifetime. So when she rubs a bottle of wine and a hot, half-naked tattooed man appears in her bathtub, offering three fantasies, he’s pretty hard to resist. Dionysus claims to be the Greek god of ecstasy, wine and madness—and he can breathe underwater. Thus begins the best three nights of Jaime’s life.

They also turn out to be the most dangerous, when the evil djinn who cursed her new sex partner attacks. Now Jaime must come to terms with her growing feelings for the god and break the magic spell inked into his arms before the djinn snatches away both her love and her life. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Monday morning, and I'm back again

Well, the Olympics are over, and I got fully immersed in them as I always do, but this year they served an even better purpose, which was to give me a really nice distraction from some of the life stuff that's been going on. I'll be talking a bit more about them later in the week, but right now I'm rushing to get this done before I head off to EDJ#1. The boss is away this week, but did he ever leave me with a PITA job to do. With everything else going on in the office, I'm not even halfway through it, so I'll have to really put my skates on today!!

I'll have a guest this week for Foodie Friday, be posting a few excerpts from some of my books, and hope to find something really fun and funny for Wacky Wednesday! In the mean time, have a wonderful week everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday morning, and I'm back again

Well, the Olympics are over, and I got fully immersed in them as I always do, but this year they served an even better purpose, which was to give me a really nice distraction from some of the life stuff that's been going on. I'll be talking a bit more about them later in the week, but right now I'm rushing to get this done before I head off to EDJ#1. The boss is away this week, but did he ever leave me with a PITA job to do. With everything else going on in the office, I'm not even halfway through it, so I'll have to really put my skates on today!!

I'll have a guest this week for Foodie Friday, be posting a few excerpts from some of my books, and hope to find something really fun and funny for Wacky Wednesday! In the mean time, have a wonderful week everyone!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday August already!

Almost didn't make SSS this week...Oy, it's been a bad few days, but things are looking up :) Here is another little taste of Stone-Hard Passion, and please do take the time to browse all the other excerpts posted by the other wonderful participants!

“Don’t be angry? Don’t fight or be frightened?” Don’t wonder how I’m going to survive without you, now that I’ve grown to love you more than life itself?
“Don’t make this harder than it already is.” His pain matched hers, and exacerbated it. “Do you think I want to leave you, that it isn’t breaking my heart too?”