Holiday Indulgence


December 30, 2019  •  No Comments

Holidays are all about indulgence, and much of that involves food. In the spirit of pre-New Year’s resolution abandon, here is a recipe for Eggnog Ice Cream.

Cold, light and creamy, this is ideal after a rich meal. I use a fancy ice cream maker I got with Airmile points (Ariete Espressione Gran Gelato), but I think any churn-type maker would do the trick. This recipe makes a generous batch, so depending on your equipment it might require splitting into two churning sessions. I set the machine for about 40 minutes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of eggnog
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 10-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg

I don’t put rum in this because that acts like an antifreeze, which cancels the whole frozen dessert factor.

All you need to do is mix thoroughly (no cooking) and pour into the churn until it’s about two-thirds full. Leaving room allows for a fluffier result. Once the ice cream is done (I look for a solid but not frozen-to-a-brick consistency) transfer to a container and put it in the freezer.  Pro-tip:  if you’re aiming for a dainty presentation, try using a very small scoop to dish it out. I actually use a melon baller so I can arrange it just so.


JingleVamp: Special Order Hero


December 26, 2019  •  No Comments

In answer to the age-old question, authors DO have their sources for characters.  I get mine through mail order.

I’ve owned the Dark Hero, Vampire Edition 3.2, for a few years now. He came in a box, all minty fresh with that new hero gleam in his eye. Of course there were limitations.  Dark wash only. Do not leave in direct sunlight. I had to get a separate unit, the Djinn Slave 4.0, for household use. However, I have to say I have been a fully satisfied customer.

Of course, all equipment subjected to heavy use eventually needs replacement—and believe me, the 3.2 saw a lot of action since he came out of the carton.  He’s held up well, but his cape is getting a bit threadbare and the poor dear gets stuck in the brood cycle more often than is good for him. I’ve had to call the manufacturer’s help desk to unlock the “furrowed brow” setting three times now. So, when I was browsing through the catalogue to see if their new line of minotaur was available yet, my attention was caught by a coupon offer for the JingleVamp Special Edition.

I confess, the notion of a vampire with a “ho, ho, ho” plug-in was vaguely disturbing. I wasn’t sure about the reindeer antlers, either, but I figured what the heck. It would make a change from the usual sort of holiday decoration. So, I placed an order.

The thing I didn’t realize was that, unlike the full-priced Dark Heroes, JingleVamp came unassembled and that the instructions were in the non-language universal to children’s toys and cheap furniture. Soon my living room floor was covered in an explosion of sardonic laughs, sultry glances, and sparkly white fangs as I unpacked and sorted and tried to make sense of the diagrams. Fortunately, there was more information enclosed in a separate envelope:

Hello, and welcome to your new JingleVamp!  Here are a few pointers to make sure you fully enjoy your new purchase:

  1. Note JingleVamp must be rebooted when changing “naughty” and “nice” settings.
  2. When recharging, do not plug JingleVamp into the same circuit as your Christmas tree. Spontaneous carolling may result, overriding your Dark Hero’s patented Sinister Velvet® laugh cycle.
  3. Exercise caution when using JingleVamp near pine boughs, holly sprigs, pine trees, or other pointy wooden objects.
  4. JingleVamp may consume eggnog while set to “party animal.” Caution: Glassware recommended. Paper cartons will leak if bitten.
  5. Do not engage JingleVamp in reindeer games without permission of local wildlife authorities.
  6. Your JingleVamp will not pull a sleigh, no matter how nicely you ask.
  7. Note that Dark Hero units cannot be set to “shopping” mode prior to noon, December 24. “Wrap” mode defaults to intermittent setting. “Write cards” mode is automatically disabled. Contact manufacturer for override instructions.
  8. Shopping list plug-in sold separately. Unit is supplied with only “black negligee” and “toaster” options.
  9. If you wish to disassemble unit, use stake provided.

Thank you for purchasing the JingleVamp Special Edition! We hope you enjoy your new Dark Hero’s version of Christmas Cheer.

 Merry Fangmas to All!


Corsair’s Cove tries the click bait so you don’t have to!

Sharon Ashwood
December 1, 2019  •  No Comments

This is cross-posted from the Corsair’s Cove blog:

Our companion short stories are like chats with a friend, in a cafe or at a kitchen table, with a delicious beverage. Naturally, news of a popular new winter treat caught our attention!

A recipe for a chocolate and red wine combo has been making the rounds of Facebook.  The original came from Shape Magazine’s article How to Make Red Wine Hot Chocolate. Although doubtful, I like the magazine and was curious enough to give the recipe a spin. Twice.

Try number one followed the recipe using a good cabernet sauvignon on the plummy side, figuring that would be a good compliment to the chocolate. I used semi-sweet dark chocolate wafers that were supposed to be better quality than regular chocolate chips. The wafers melted but then the wax and other un-chocolately elements clumped when the wine was added to leave floaty residue in the drink. Maybe heating the wine first would have helped the texture, but that wasn’t the only drawback. The flavour was sweet and sour, but not in the best way. Sort of like heartburn with cake. Adding cinnamon helped. Adding marshmallows did not.

Try number two was better. I used a good instant unsweetened spiced dark chocolate that dissolved and stayed that way. This gave a much better mouth feel and, since I could limit the sugar, the wine didn’t crash the party like an awkward uncle. I’m still not a fan of the flavour combo, but this version had more potential. If I was very cold from, say, shoveling the walks after a foot of snow, I might even appreciate it.

I didn’t persevere to a third attempt. Super high quality grated European drinking chocolate might be worth a try to give a heavier body to the drink, but it might also be a waste of expensive ingredients. Rum, brandy or liqueur are classic adds to hot chocolate for a reason. In my humble opinion, grab the Bailey’s for winter night tipples and leave the reds for the dinner course.

 


Georgian Cosmetics: Beautiful Corruption

Emma Jane Holloway
October 25, 2019  •  No Comments

I’m fascinated by cosmetics from past ages and cultures. Since the Georgian Age is one of my particular interests, I’m naturally intrigued by their makeup. The sensibility is so distinct, it’s impossible to mistake for anything else. It’s not that I want to replicate the look. To me, it seems an uncomfortable mix of Goth and Barbie.

Rather, the attraction lies in the conflict between beauty and corruption. In the eighteenth century, painting one’s face was an artifice that only the wealthy could indulge in. The major exception was the demimonde, who catered to the appetites of the monied class. Needless to say, most of their careers burned bright and brief, until drink, pox and hard living had their way.

The white and pink face was meant to capture the unspoiled looks of youth. Sadly, the cosmetics of the day were poisonous. The more a person painted, the more their natural good looks would be damaged. Some of the ingredients in common use were lead, mercury, and arsenic. Eventually, that stuff could kill you.

Here’s a thankfully toxin-free version of “the look” from a respected source:


Around the Coaching Inn

Emma Jane Holloway
October 18, 2019  •  No Comments

Almost every historical novel has a scene set around the local coaching inn. Because people came and went there, it was a natural place to meet an exciting stranger. Like a train station or a harbor, it’s filled with the possibility of far-away places.

Similarly, important characters drive signature vehicles, whether they’re rakes or rectors. No Jane Austen dowager is complete without her smart carriage.

It’s important to get vehicles right when creating a historical novel, so I was very happy to find this video about old coaches:


 

 


Inspiration Board


October 15, 2019  •  No Comments

I made an inspiration board for Scorpion Dawn:

 

 


Autumn Love


October 12, 2019  •  No Comments

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

– L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

There are lovely aspects to every season, but autumn is by far my favorite. The cooler weather sharpens my mind and ambition and brings back so many good things.


Dressing for Downton Abbey


October 11, 2019  •  No Comments

Recently, I had a delightful discussion about the fashions of the early twentieth century. The seamstress of the day often had to work with lighter-than-air fabrics and then embellish the garment with stitchery and bead work. I remember family photos from this era where one could see the pleats, tucks, smocking, and drawn thread work. That must have taken hours even with the aid of machinery.  The aesthetic was all about simple lines and lush textures.

Here’s an interesting video I found on 1914 fashion showing all the layers of a lady’s outfit from the time.


The Weekend Writer


October 10, 2019  •  No Comments

Unfortunately, the income of most authors is not enough to sustain a mouse, much less a modern household in a large urban city. Without a doubt, this is the most common reason for the rise of the weekend warrior writer, who toils for pay five days a week and pounds on the keyboard during weekend hours. The disadvantages of this state are obvious—who doesn’t want to be a full-time writer rather than drudging for someone else? Plus, if one is serious about a writing career, the time commitment is equivalent to a second full-time job.

But there are also advantages to a double life.

  • Some of us actually like our day jobs (or at least the benefits package)
  • Part-time writers might have fewer titles under their belt, but they may have gained other useful busness skills.
  • It’s far easier to let the imagination frolic when there’s less pressure to succeed.
  • If writing to a niche market is your thing, financial security allows you the luxury of taking a creative risk. So, go ahead and write that book of your heart about vampire sheep conquering distant galaxies!

Whatever the trade-offs, we do what’s necessary to get words on the page. So here are some survival tips for writing around the edges of your day:

Organization is obviously important for any home business, whatever its nature. For us, this means breaking down writing, marketing, and production tasks into manageable bites and fitting them into our schedules. There are people who can squeeze in writing time in uncanny circumstances, but others get more mileage by blocking off set times for creation. The important point is to manage time in an intentional way. If I go with the flow my day is soon circling the drain.

I’ve experimented with an endless series of calendars and apps like Things 3 to corral my to-dos. I need something that offers repeating reminders (daily, weekly, or monthly) and groups tasks by project and type (writing, personal, household, etc.). The combo of ideal tools will vary with every person, but the basic goal is to avoid reinventing the to-list every morning. Ideally, your app fairies have that figured out before you roll out of bed. The less time spent puzzling over the day’s tasks, the more time can be devoted to actually crossing items off the list.

Know your peak productivity times. Some people can knock off a thousand words before breakfast. Others (like me) are night owls. Put your creative time where (and when) it counts. I might be able to schedule Tweets in the morning, but don’t ask me to make complete sentences, recognize faces, or handle anything sharp. Once, I actually put cat kibble in the coffee maker.

Be professional. Show up fully wherever you are. In other words, leave writing at home and work at work. Keep your deadlines and commitments, whatever hat you’re wearing. Bottom line: avoid emailing your manuscript to your boss by mistake.

Respect your muse.  Writing can a hard business, with a ton of expectation placed on our creative selves. In particular, there is a lot of pressure to produce material quickly, which is especially hard when writing time is hard to get.

Deep breath! It is possible to get faster with practice. Solid plotting skills and a regular writing routine naturally increase the pace of book production. Drafting by dictation speeds things up for me, but it took months to produce something beyond stream of consciousness babble. Sadly, there is no magic software that makes you write a bestselling novel in two weeks. Believe me, I’ve tried them all!

Most of all, be patient with yourself. Weekend writers aren’t on a learning curve, we’re on a mandala, looping in and out and around everything else to pursue our path. We’re proof positive that there are plenty of ways to find success, even if it’s by the scenic route.

 

 

 

 

 


Fun with Airships

Emma Jane Holloway
October 9, 2019  •  No Comments

The Hellion House series (the first installment, Scorpion Dawn was introduced in the Rogue Skies box set) involves a great many floating objects. The plot centers around the Fletcher family, who own one of the largest and wealthiest airship fleets in the city. Besides being nifty, the airships serve an important purpose in their adventure.

 

Don’t leave home without one

 

Haunted by hungry creatures, the wilderness is extremely dangerous. Humanity has been driven into walled enclaves. No one dares to travel outside the city on horseback, much less on foot. The only options are by water—which is extremely risky—or by airship.

 

Hope floats

 

How does humanity retake the countryside from lethal foe? The only way to find allies and solutions is to look outside the city, and the only way reach new friends is through the clouds.

 

There’s money in the sky

 

The patriarch of the family, Norton Fletcher, wields considerable social influence. Fletcher Industries has made the family rich and respected even though the founder is a commoner who came from nothing. But every success comes at a cost. Who will pay it?