Goodbye to a little cat…

…with a big heart. Last week, a very friendly cat called Jeffrey, who visited us every day for the last 6+ months, passed away from a heart condition. His owners had some time with him before he died, as we did. It’s very sad.

But, Jeffrey lives on in my new erotic romance short, as a cute, underwear-stealing moggy! I submitted the manuscript to Jupiter Gardens Press, so let’s hope it finds a home there. I should know in 5-6 weeks!

Here’s a short, unedited excerpt.

Aaron’s eyes met hers across the room and she was struck by the depth of green in his irises. “I doubt that. His curiosity has probably just peaked as, let me guess, you’ve started to hang your washing outside?”

She grimaced. “There is that, I suppose.” She rose from the couch. “If you could, ah, return my belongings to me, I’ll see that I only hang my smalls indoors from now on.”

Aaron got up with her, a smile a ghosting around his lips. Jeffrey made a sharp noise of annoyance and leapt down to the floor, then sauntered into the kitchen.

“I’ll wash them, and then return them,” Aaron offered.

“No need.” Thoughts of him handling her underwear led furiously fast to thoughts of him handling what went in her underwear – thoughts of his hands on her breasts, cupping their weight, teasing her nipples. Heat pooled suddenly between her legs and she felt hot, flushed and self conscious. “I’ll do it.”

“As soon as I find the other pair Jeffrey ran off with – sorry about that – I’ll return them.”

He gathered the small collection of underwear in the kitchen and offered them to her. Constance took the soft fabric. Their hands brushed and she looked up into his dark eyes, wondering what sort of secrets and desires they held.

“This is easily the strangest situation I have ever been in with a man.”

He didn’t break eye contact. “I’m not sure I believe that. Your boyfriend must see your panties every day.”

She swallowed. His mouth looked so kissable. “No boyfriend. No one in the house except me – and my fleet of cook books and cooking equipment.”

“Well, you all get along very well if what I can smell from your house is anything to go by.”

“Thanks.” Constance felt her face heat. She reached into the pocket of her wrap dress and offered him a glossy business card. It showed one of the finest cakes she’d made to date, an award-winning red velvet and Belgian chocolate tower for a client’s wedding showpiece. It had taken her two full days and by the end, she thought she had some idea how women who had given birth felt.

“Nothing Bundt Trouble,” Aaron read from her card. “Very clever.”

His simple praise warmed her. “Who doesn’t love a good pun. Take it, if you, ah, ever need a Bundt cake made. Or any kind of cake. I also do bread.”

“Thanks.”

Constance glanced down at the small bundle in her hands. “It’s getting weird, standing in front of you, holding my smalls. I’d like to go now.”

He laughed softly. “No problem. I’m sorry again – about the cat.” He moved by her and opened the kitchen door, leading out to the back of the house where he was parked. “I guess I’ll see you round.”

She came to stand by the door, reluctant to stop looking at him. The dark t-shirt he wore hugged his lean, muscled physique. Jeans traversed his long legs. His feet were bare and that seemed strangely intimate. “I’m sure you will.”

Because it would be strange to try and say more, Constance left then, carrying her panties with her. As she walked around Aaron’s van and out of his back gates, she saw Jeffrey hurrying past, her prized  red lace panties still clutched in his little cat mouth, being chased by another, fluffy grey cat.

She rolled her eyes and left the crazy cats to it. She’d have to buy more underwear.

 

 

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Mid Week Recipe: bara brith

You Need

  • 400g/14oz luxury mixed fruit
  • 75g pack dried cranberries
  • mug hot strong black tea
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 heaped tbsp orange marmalade
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 450g self-raising flour – try a mix of wholemeal and white
  • 175g light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 50g crushed sugar cubes or granulated sugar, to decorate

* * *

Method

  1. Mix together the dried fruit and cranberries in a large bowl, then pour the hot tea over. Cover with cling film and leave to soak overnight.
  2. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line the bottom of a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment. Melt butter and marmalade together in a pan. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then beat in the eggs. Drain any excess tea from the fruit. Mix the flour, sugar and spices together, then stir in the fruit, butter mix and milk until evenly combined. The batter should softly drop from the spoon – add more milk if needed.
  3. Spoon into the tin and level the top. Sprinkle with the crushed sugar and bake for 1-1¼ hrs until dark golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover loosely with foil if it starts to over-colour before the middle is cooked. Leave to cool completely in the tin and serve sliced.

* * *

Bara brith is the first cake that Gwen makes for wolf shifter Rohan in my novella, A Wolf at Her Door. Here’s an excerpt!

The day was milder than she expected, and she poured two glasses of fruit juice. After checking the clock, she added two slices of bara brith, a traditional welsh tea bread. She made his a generous slice, having chopped wood herself, she knew it was horrid, hungry work.

Pushing the kitchen door open, she stepped outside into the yawn of grass and land between her home and his accommodation and stopped short.

Now that was a view she could get used to.

Rohan’s lean arm muscles rippled and bunched as he brought the axe down on the stump of wood over and over. The tool seemed an extension of him as he moved so fluidly, gracefully. Before watching him, she never would have described a man, certainly never mind a man chopping wood, as graceful, but he completely embodied it.

He wore a plain grey vest that hugged his broad chest. Tucked into jeans, it outlined his slightly tapered waist. The jeans moulded to his legs and his backside like a lover curling around his body.

She’d never wanted to be a pair of jeans so badly in her life.

She dragged her gaze back up to his face. He’d shaved, and he looked surprisingly younger, fresher. Her palms itched with the sudden and urgent want to touch his freshly shaved cheek and jaw.

Rohan paused in his work and set the axe down. Dark golden eyes met hers. “You all right?”

She had temporarily lost the ability to speak. “Erm…” she forced her hormone addled brain to focus. Focus! Yes. The tray. The cake.

She held it out. “Yes. I, ah… I brought you refreshments. I thought you’d be hungry.” God, her brain seemed to be working on half speed, if not slower. Memories of their kiss assaulted her senses, and her gaze dropped to his mouth, longing to taste it again.

He set the axe down on the stump and took one glass. “Thanks a lot.” He gulped it down and she watched the movement of his throat as he swallowed.

What’s the matter with me? She felt she was acting like a teenager in heat, for pete’s sake. She wanted to rub up against him and beg him to kiss her totally senseless again, yet she’d only known him a couple of days. It must be a crazy kind of animal attraction.

Unbidden, the image of the wolf again popped into her head. Gwen forced it away.

Rohan picked up the slice of bara brith. “What’s this?”

“Fruit bread, made with tea. A local recipe, it’s pretty popular.”

He took a bite. “It’s good. In the Faewild, we have something similar that the local cook, Granny Fleur, makes in her bakery.”

Gwen’s lustful haze cleared. “Rohan, you can’t just  keep pretending that you’re from a magical fairy land.”

His eyes narrowed and she saw something dark and dangerous steal across his picture-perfect face. “You can’t keep pretending that you didn’t see me shift into my wolf form. Gwen.”

“I don’t want to hear it.” Her tone brokered no argument. “No more.”

He advanced upon her, their gazes locked. She imagined that she saw the image of a wolf in his eyes for a second, but she must have been seduced by a trick of the light. “But you must believe it. You must believe me.”

She frowned. Her senses were rioting with him so close. She kept the tray between them like a barrier. “Why is it so important to you that I believe you? We hardly know each other!” She could hear her voice growing in pitch but she couldn’t stop it. “You could be anyone. What would make me believe you?”

His eyes darkened. She could feel the heat coming off his body in waves and she wanted to lean into it, to lean into him. “Believe this.”

The tray clattered to the ground, plastic tumblers rolling out bubbling lemonade on to the damp grass, as he yanked her into him, claiming her mouth in a hard, hot kiss.

Hugh Jackman makes a hot lumberjack.

If you would like to read more, you can buy it at Amazon, or ARe.

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Midweek Recipe: Choco-chilli brownies

A brownie is a hit any time for any party!

You need:

  • 150g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 heaped tsp cocoa powder
  • 75g dark chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 tsp chilli powder (or more, depending on
  • how hot you want it)
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 150g plain flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/180C. Mix the butter, sugar, chilli powder and honey until smooth.
  2. Then, add in the melted chocolate and beat the eggs in, one at a time.
  3. Fold in the flour, slowly and carefully, then put the mixture into a greased medium square brownie tin and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Leave to cool, before cutting into squares.
  5. Enjoy!
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Steamed buns for Spring!

Red Bean Buns (Dousha Bao)
Makes 1 dozen buns

Dough:
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon butter, margarine, or shortening
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Filling:
red bean paste

Combine the ingredients and mix well. The dough needs to be somewhat supple for streching and shaping, so add a little extra water if necessary (I added a couple of extra tablespoons).

Knead by hand for approximately 10-12 minutes or by machine for 5-7 minutes. Set aside in a covered bowl and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Divide the dough into a dozen pieces form each into a ball. If you are going to fill them, as I did, let them rest for 5 minutes or so before flattening them to fill them.

Once they are shaped, let rest for 10 minutes. During this time, bring the water in your steamer to a boil.

Red bean paste can be made from scratch by cooking and sweetening azuki beans. I was pleased to find canned red bean paste at the local Chinese market.

Close them up and either reroll them seam side down for a smooth bun or pinch them to the top if you want them to tear open on top.

Place each ball of dough on a small piece of parchment or wax paper and place in the steamer. Cover and steam for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm :)

***

In my contemporary romance Well Traveled, Wade and Kiersten enjoy Chinese buns and food while watching a Dragon Dance in Chinatown, in London. Here’s an excerpt:

Part of a crowd by the doors, they tumbled out on to the platform and the crowd, some of whom carried paper lanterns and paper dragons on wooden sticks, ferried them along. Overhead, fireworks had already started. Wade took Kiersten’s hand and she squeezed it.

“Excited?”

“Very. I’ve lived in London for years, but each time I go out it surprises me; gives me something new. There’s something different around every corner.”

They reached the centre of Chinatown. The main street was flanked by two huge, chinese-lantern-decorated gates in gold and red. A huge crowd had already gathered. Outside the Wonderful Patisserie bakery, a staff member sold red bean pastries. Outside a Chinese general store a young woman sold glow sticks and sparklers.

The crowd chattered, but fell quiet when, from around the corner of one of the gates, a huge dragon head appeared, red and white, with saucer-round golden eyes.  Moving sensuously like a snake, the dragon and its long red body, decorated with hundreds of gold and white tassels, travelled down the street. It paused, waiting, like a lion sizing up its prey.

Then the music began. From behind the dragon a procession of men in traditional chinese dress appeared, drums around their necks, beating out a rhythm that the dragon swayed, bucked and danced to, its motions mesmerizing. Around them, children held sparklers and lanterns, but the only other light came from the restaurant and shop windows. In the evening darkness, the white of the dragon’s fur stood out like virgin snow.

“I’m not sure if this counts as secret,” Wade teased Kiersten as the dragon reached the end of the gate to gate pavement stretch and came back towards them, the drums beating.

“I know.” She grinned up at him. “But I just love it. Look at all the smiling faces, filled with hope for the new year. Listen to the music. Later, when the lantern procession comes through the streets – it just seems so magical and exotic, right here, in London.” She watched his face, and couldn’t help thinking that he agreed with her.

They stayed for a little longer, and Wade bought them each a red bean pastry and some sesame soya milk to wash it down with. Kiersten licked her fingers as they headed away from Chinatown. “I could eat them until I explode. But we better not. Do you still want to come to this party?”

To find out more, or to buy, visit Amazon or Bookstrand.

 

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The Perils of Plotting…

Ah, plot. The best and worst thing about writing a novel, in my opinion. Do you prefer slow & steady? Fast paced?

When I first started writing I used to plan out my novels meticulously. I would plan down to the paragraph, and have bits and pieces of dialogue sorted out way in advance. Chapters in advance! I had a form of writing and plot OCD, I tell you.

Anyway, I was so pleased with myself upon getting all these details sorted that imagine my surprise when I sat down to write and…. and what?

Nothing, that’s what.

I looked down at my meticulous notebook, bursting with hours of careful planning and I just felt cold. I already knew how it was going to end and what would take place in each chapter, down to when and why the characters would have sex – why did I need to write this damn novel anyway?!

And, more to the point, I was writing for an audience, and if I didn’t want to read this book, why would I expect anyone else to want to?

The thing was, I had bored myself with planning so meticulously. I have no doubt that other authors, famous and unpublished alike, thrive on knowing exactly when a plot point will happen. I wish I was them! But I can’t plan more than a chapter or two in advance. I find it so tedious.

For me as a reader, I absolutely love not knowing what is going to happen! And I find it’s the same when I write. I don’t want to tell myself the entire plot before I start writing; I feel like there’s no fun, no adventure in it.

There’s probably a downside to this. I, as well as many other authors, I well expect, have hundreds of manuscripts saved on my PC that are half-started. I may revisit them one day when the thrill has come back into them. I certainly hope I shall. But for now, they remain shelved because I got bored.

I eventually solved this problem by having a few fresh manuscripts on the go at once. Right now I have an erotic shifter novella and a tight-knit family drama on the go at the same time. If I find myself planning too far ahead with one, I automatically switch to the other.

I have to tell you though, it can get awkward having to switch gears from shifter eroticism to tightly wound family arguments! My brain sometimes has to do a little dance and twirl to make itself realise what I’m supposed to be writing….!

Whether you’re planning or not, though, plot can be a harsh mistress. You can change it, or your characters can change it. I have often found that I might have one path in mind for my characters, but that as they grow, they choose another. That’s good – it’s when I know I have done my job as a writer correctly. If my characters form their own ideas in my head, then I’m on to a winner and I know (or really hope!!) my editor will be happy.

How do you plot? I normally get a huge piece of paper and draw a blob in the middle. Then I “spider diagram” all the different tropes I know of in romantic fiction, and either try and avoid them, or try and think of new twists on an old theme. It’s hard, though, I know. I mean, think how long humans have been around and how many ideas we have exhausted!

I know many an author who has come up with fresh new twists based on the marriage of convenience/mistaken identity/amnesia/sexy boss tropes, and I salute them. I’m not sure I have some any normal tropes justice, but I’ve tried to make my voices fresh and, I hope, quite funny.

I have found plot a huge struggle with my latest few novellas in my publisher Pink Petal Books’ Spellbound Treasure series. Not familiar with fantasy, I read a few famous fantasy authors’ books voraciously before I started writing (I am now a fan of Sharon Shinn and Emily Gee, in case you wanted to know!). I am well versed in romance but I wasn’t in fantasy, and I’m a big believer of the old adage, “read what you write” and vice versa.

Anyway, after a few false starts, I found a niche I enjoyed: the Faewild, where fae can shift into animal form at will and can enter the human world for bonding, as the normal Fae have exiled them due to their ability to shift.

I am in love with these creatures, but I still find myself trapped by the inability to plan a plot!

I do find myself more enamoured of plotting now that I have a fantasy world to play with. Plot can be more fluid there – there’s less “concrete” rules like there are in the real world/the human world (however you choose to see it!). There are less boundaries – and you can break those without feeling that your reader will stop suspending their disbelief.

I find that my mind wanders less when I’m in the Faewild, so I have to switch to my family drama manuscript less often than you might think.

Perhaps that’s my cure to the inability to plot in advance! But who knows, a few more novellas down the line and I might find myself straying again, and I might have to make a move to crime or science fiction! I would never rule it out in the future – and I don’t think any writer should rule any genre out, if I’m honest. I would love to branch out and I admire those who create their own genres and break the rules.

There’s no hard and fast rule on how to plot, what to plot or when to plot. Everyone has their own rules and their own preferences. I’m very happy that switching genre has (at least for now!) got me out of the habit of being unable to plot in advance – or am I just avoiding it?

So tell me, dear reader, how do you plot? When do you plot? Do you handwrite or type? I’m interested in hearing from you, in case I may be able to poach some ideas….

 

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Midweek recipe: Tomato & Olive chicken

 

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small onion, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, shredded
  • 400g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 6 pimiento-stuffed green olives, thickly sliced
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • generous handful basil leaves

How you do it:

  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, then season the chicken and fry, flattest-side down, for 4-5 mins. Turn the chicken over, add the onion and cook 4-5 mins more. Lift the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the garlic to the pan, then continue cooking until the onions are soft.
  2. Tip in the tomatoes with the balsamic vinegar, olives, stock, half the basil and seasoning, then simmer, stirring frequently, for 7-8 mins until pulpy. Return the chicken and any juices to the pan and gently simmer, covered, for 5 mins more, to cook the chicken through. Serve scattered with the rest of the basil.

 

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Happy World Book Day!

From the WBD website:

World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

This is the 17th year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 6th March 2014 children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. That’s why we will be sending schools (including those nurseries and secondary schools that have specially registered to participate), packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs (age-ranged into Nursery/Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.

Happy Excuse to Read All Day Day!

 

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5 cups!

… for my novella A Wolf At Her Door, from Coffeetime Romance!

The reviewer gave my book a Reviewer’s Recommend Award, which, says Coffeetime Romance,  ”recognizes outstanding writing styles in all book types and genres.” How about that! *grin*

The reviewer, Delane Davis, said my novella was “a fairy tale of a love story. Jasmine Aherne brought to life the dreams of every single reader who wishes for a special someone to walk through life with.  A true Cinderella story with a Fairy God Mother and a prince of a man.   I loved my introduction to the writing of Jasmine Aherne and so will you.”

CTRR

You can read the full review here. And if you liked the sound of it, you can buy the novella on Amazon, or All Romance E-Books.

Yay!

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Words to live by

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Midweek Recipe: chocolate almond cake

I love to cook. Which is great, because even more than I love to cook, I love to eat!

Food often works its way into my novels and novellas, simply because I adore it so much.

I present to you a recipe I tried last week for some melt in your mouth cake. Full article can be found on this webpage.

Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

This recipe can easily be doubled to make enough for 4.
by: a Couple Cooks
Makes: 2
What You Need
  • ½ cup raw almonds (or almond meal)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 2 5-ounce ramekins
What To Do
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. If using almonds, grind the almonds very finely until the texture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a glass measuring cup of bowl, add 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons honey, and ⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips. Microwave for 10 seconds intervals, stirring after each, until fully combined.
  4. In a medium large bowl, beat one egg with a whisk. Then add ½ cup of the almond meal, 1 pinch of kosher salt, 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, and the chocolate mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Butter two 5-ounce ramekins. Pour in the batter, and bake for 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out nearly clean.
  6. Eat!!!!

~ ~

If you like reading about heroines who love to cook, try my debut novel, Stranded.

When Rachel Coles flew to New York to surprise the man she thought was her fiancé, coming face to face with his wife broke her heart. She needed a shoulder. So, she turned to a man she met by chance–handsome carpenter Will Norton. Together they turn her disaster into a short but magical holiday.

Will was attracted to the pretty brunette he met on the plane, and the fun sightseeing day they share only deepens his feelings for her. He’s just starting to regret never seeing her again when he learns Rachel’s had all her suitcase and purse stolen.

Now, as he offers her his guest room while she waits for a new passport, Will and Rachel find themselves struggling against a deep-rooted attraction that shows every sign of making itself permanent. The only trouble is, Rachel’s stay in New York will be anything but…

If you like the sound of that, you can buy it at Amazon or All Romance E Books!

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