Monday, May 21, 2018

In the Kitchen with Abigail Drake… Recipe for Turkish Baklava

In my newest book, “The Enchanted Garden Café,” my main character Fiona is working as a baker in her mother’s café until she can finish up her MBA. Like many mothers and daughters, Claire and Fiona have issues. Claire is a former stoner chick who surrounds herself with artists and oddballs, tarot card readers, Wiccans, reiki therapists, and musicians. Fiona, a born skeptic, has little time for things she can’t see or quantify. She longs for control, and a stable, predictable, boring life – something she’s never had before.

“The Enchanted Garden Café” is the story of a mother and daughter, but it’s also the story of a community, of the people who live near the café and frequent it often. It’s about growing up and figuring out who you really are and what you want, and it’s a romance as well. Although Fiona is dating a businessman named Scott, she feels a strange pull of attraction to Matthew, a musician with a mysterious past. 

Will she go with the guy who looks better on paper, or will she follow her heart…and risk ending up just like her mother?

One fun part of writing this book was writing about the cookies and all the baking that went on in the café. Fiona spends a lot of time preparing wonderful treats for the weekly tea parties held in their back garden. I used my own personal cookie baking experience as inspiration for many of Fiona’s confections, but I also drew on the time I spent in England to come up with the perfect foods for an afternoon tea. It made me long for Yorkshire, where I first tasted scones slathered in fresh cream and jam. Yum. It’s as close to heaven as you can get on earth – trust me.

Another aspect I enjoyed was thinking up ideas for the aprons worn by the people working in the kitchen. The aprons often add a bit of a foreshadowing to what is going on in the story, but they were also entertaining. In this excerpt, Fiona put on an apron that said “Kitchen Bitch” by accident, and it makes her consider her feelings about baking, and about love and relationships in general:

I enjoyed working in the shop, but the kitchen was my favorite place. I loved chopping and sifting and kneading. When the aroma of baking cookies filled the air and I smelled spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves, I felt happy and content. I couldn’t cut a lemon without lifting it to my nose for a whiff of its bright, citrusy beauty, and there was nothing as satisfying as putting bread dough into an oiled bowl and coming back to see it doubled in size.

I needed a “Kitchen Witch” apron instead of “Kitchen Bitch” because this was the kind of magic I could believe in. It wasn’t the magic Mom and her friends talked about, with omens, charms, and crystals. My magic was practical. Scientific. I mixed the right ingredients in the correct amounts and created something wonderful.

I planned my life this way, too, putting the right things together in the correct amounts to get the desired results. If I had a recipe, it would read, “Take four years of undergrad in a useful major. Add an MBA. Work hard. Stir in the right man, if desired, and enjoy a happy and successful life without ever worrying about things like peeling paint, broken air conditioners, leaky fountains, or irresponsible parents.”

I sighed. Mom would never change, but at least I could control the other elements in my life. Any cook knows, to get the best outcome from a recipe, choose the highest-quality ingredients and buy only the best in kitchen supplies. That’s what I’d done by choosing Scott. He was as reliable as a good copper pot.

I share several recipes in the back of the book, but I’d like to share something extra special today. A fun fact about me – I lived in Istanbul, Turkey for three years and my husband is Turkish. Although Fiona doesn’t make baklava in my book, this is one of my favorite recipes, so I thought I’d share it here today.

Abigail Drake’s Turkish Baklava

1 box of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge
2 cups of chopped walnuts, sprinkled with a bit of sugar
4 sticks of butter (you may need slightly less)
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
A few drops of fresh lemon juice

1. Take a 9x13 pan and grease it thoroughly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave and unroll the phyllo dough. Put one sheet of phyllo dough into the prepared pan, and brush it carefully with the melted butter, covering all the dough completely. Repeat this process over an over again until half the sheets of phyllo have been used (you will need to melt more butter as you go).

3. Spread the phyllo dough with the chopped nuts.

4. Beginning layering the rest of the phyllo, brushing each sheet once again with butter.

5. When you get to the last sheet, do NOT brush it with butter. Instead, cut it into serving size portions with a very sharp knife (either small squares, or cut on a diagonal for a more interesting look). Once you have cut the entire pan, brush the top with butter and bake it in the over until brown – usually around 30 minutes.

6. As the baklava bakes, make a simple syrup. Put 2 cups of sugar and one cup of water into a small saucepan. Cook it on med-low, stirring and bringing it to a gentle boil. Once the syrup thickens slightly (usually after 20-25 minutes or so), remove it from the heat and add a few drops of lemon juice. This will keep the sugar in the syrup from crystalizing.

7. Remove the baklava from the oven, and spoon the warm syrup over it. Let it cool, and enjoy. Or, as they say in Turkish, “Afiyet olsun!”.

I hope you enjoy the baklava recipe, and I also hope you enjoy my new book. Happy reading, and happy baking to all of you!

The Enchanted Garden Café
South Side Stories
Book One
Abigail Drake

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Publisher: Kindle Press

Date of Publication: May 1, 2018


Number of pages: 272
Word Count: 89,000

Cover Artist: Najla Qamber

Tagline: Something magical is happening in the garden.

Book Description:

For her sixth birthday, Fiona Campbell’s mother, Claire, made her a peace sign piñata filled with wishes for a better planet instead of candy. When she got her period, her mother held a womanhood ceremony at their café and invited the neighborhood. On her sixteenth birthday, they celebrated with a drum circle.

Fiona grew up trying to keep the impulsive Claire in check, and their struggling café afloat. She plans to move out, but first must find a way to stop a big corporation from tearing down their business and destroying her mother’s livelihood.

Claire thinks karma will solve their financial and legal problems. Fiona prefers a spreadsheet and a solid business plan. The last thing she has time for is Matthew Monroe, a handsome complication who walks through their door with a guitar on his back and a naughty gleam in his eye. But when disaster strikes, and Fiona’s forced to turn to him for help, will she learn to open her heart and find she can believe in something magical after all?


Falling in love is like baking.
Results may vary with experience.
~Aunt Francesca~

Chapter One

            I opened the box and stepped back, tripping over a pile of Himalayan wind chimes I’d left lying behind me on the floor of the shop. They clanked in a discordant melody as I untangled them from my feet.
            “What the heck?” I asked, ignoring the chimes and focusing on the parcel that had arrived in the mail earlier that morning. Tiny stone phalluses in various shades of gray filled the container to the brim. Checking the return address, I noticed the shipping cost and wanted to cry. Most of our inventory budget for the entire month had been used to mail this one small box halfway around the world.
            “Mom, what exactly did you order from Inuyama, Japan?”
            My mother popped her head around the corner, a bright smile on her face. “Did they finally arrive, Fiona? I’ve been waiting for ages.”
“For stone penises?”
Why was I even surprised? This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. My mother, Claire de Lune Campbell, had never been the master of impulse control, and she had a history of making very poor decisions. She’d been born Claire Campbell and added the “de Lune” in, what I can only guess, was a moment of pot-induced inspiration. The pot no longer played a part in her life, but the total inability to make common-sense decisions remained.
            Mom picked up one of the stone penises, a happy twinkle in her eye. “Aren’t they lovely?”
On the outside, Mom and I looked alike. The same blonde hair, the same blue eyes, the same stubborn tilt to our chins, but there the resemblance ended. Mom was as happy and bright as a butterfly landing on a flower, and she had the same level of fiscal responsibility. I stressed about everything, especially money, but I had good cause.
My mom owned and operated the Enchanted Garden Café, where we served food, coffee, and specially blended teas and sold unusual items in our small gift shop. Nestled in the middle of the South Side, the funky hippie district of Pittsburgh, it was the perfect spot for my mom but a constant source of anxiety for me.
I wiped sweat from my face and brushed off my clothing. Dust covered my T-shirt and shorts, and some kind of stone powder had fallen out of the box from Inuyama onto my tennis shoes. Mom, glowing in a dress made from recycled saris, didn’t have a speck of dust on her, but she hadn’t handled the phalluses.
Kate, the girl who worked behind the counter, came over to us, her blue eyes alight with curiosity. “I want to see them,” she said. Mom handed her one, and she studied it closely, peering at it through the thick black frames of her retro hipster glasses. Her ebony hair was pulled off to the side in a low ponytail, and her colorful tattoos peeked through the crocheted black cardigan covering her pale skin. “At least they are anatomically correct. Look at those veins.”
            My cheeks grew warm, and Mom smiled, putting a cool hand against my face. “Aww, Fiona is blushing.”
            “No, I’m not. It’s hot in here.”
            “Of course it is,” she said, making me feel twelve instead of twenty-five, but it was hot for early June, and the air-conditioning was broken. Again. Even with all the windows open, it still felt stuffy.
            I ignored her and picked up a penis. “What are these things anyway?”
            She beamed at me with pure, unfiltered happiness. “Fertility charms from a little shrine in the mountains of Japan. They have a big festival there every year. I went once.”
            She sighed, most likely remembering happy times at the fertility festival, and went back to the kitchen. I looked at Kate and rolled my eyes, making her snicker, before getting back to work. The fertility charms came in all sizes and seemed handmade. I just wasn’t sure how to sell them or where to display them in our shop.
            A Victorian eyesore, the café was painted on the outside in what once had been a mix of bright pink and various shades of green. The pink had faded to a dull rose, and the green looked like the color of old limes just before they rotted. It needed work and a fresh coat of paint, but instead of doing so, we spent our money on phalluses from Japan. That was how things worked with my mother. No planning. No rhyme or reason. No logic. No rational thought.
            The bell above the door tinkled, and I turned, a penis in each hand, as a stranger walked into the shop. I couldn’t see his face at first because the sun was at his back, but he carried a guitar case. A sure sign of trouble.
            “Hello,” he said as he came closer.
He had straight dark hair that brushed his shoulders, brown eyes, and a goatee. He reminded me of a sexy, naughty French pirate, and I knew his kind well. Close to my age, he was definitely one of the artsy, flighty types who always hung out around my mom. I could spot them a mile away.

            “Holy guacamole, if he were any hotter, I’d need new underwear,” whispered Kate, taking off to the back of the shop and leaving me alone to greet the stranger.

About the Author:

Abigail Drake is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including three young adult books under the name Wende Dikec. She has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and International Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, and fun.

Abigail is a trekkie, a book hoarder, the master of the Nespresso machine, a red wine addict, and the mother of three boys (probably the main reason for her red wine addiction). A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.
She is a member of Pennwriters, RWA, Three Rivers Romance Writers, Mindful Writers, Women's Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She teaches writing to children, and her non-fiction article about the life of a child in Istanbul was published in Faces Magazine (an imprint of Cricket Magazine) in February 2016.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

In the Kitchen with Jesse Miller- Recipe for Vegetarian Lentil Meatballs

Hi there, my name is Jesse Miller and I write novels. Today, however, I’d like to discuss how to make one of my favorite meals, vegetarian meatballs!  

One of the things I particularly don’t like about vegetarian cooking is the desire to create a vegetarian alternative which mimics the flavor and mouthfeel (Puking forever! Such a disgusting word that mouthfeel!) of the meat version.  

However, this one gets a pass with me; whether in pasta or on a hoagie roll with sauce and cheese, this recipe is a house favorite. 

Lentils hold a special meaning for me in my creative life.  For years, I had a huge bag of lentils on top of my computer screen as I worked on my novel ARK.  No pressure, but if you read the book, you’ll get why.  Then one day, when I had finished the book, I occurred to me that I should do something with the loitering lentils, which, as you may imagine, took on a kind of Eucharistic vibe.  Lentils have become a bit of staple in my diet since.

The recipe below takes a while to prep—it’s a lot of chopping and there’s some fiddling here and there, but it can be fun to cut up vegetables if you can get a helper.  You might play some music, why not play some music together? Open a bottle of Riojas, what?  I often play sous chef in the kitchen, but sometimes I’m the big baller/shot-caller, especially when I become the Nacho, Nacho Man.  Anyway, my wife found the recipe somewhere at some point online, so wherever this came from, you rock!  I’m transcribing her handwriting of the recipe card and appreciating what incredible handwriting she has as I type this.

Lentil Meatballs

Ingredients (so you can get your mise en place on):

2 cups lentils
¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
1 large lemon (Hey!  Maybe play Zooropa!!)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced (We usually go bonkers for garlic though)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp tomato paste
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
3 large eggs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ bread crumbs
¼ cup fresh parsley
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts (yeah, I know that seems weird)

OK, here are the steps to success:

1.    Cook the lentils.  Then drain and cool.  My wife thinks it’s pretty obvious when the lentils are cooked, so let that be your clock.

2.   Sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt in ¼ cup olive oil in a large frying pan for 10 minutes.  Then add the tomato paste and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add mushrooms and then transfer to a wok (is that right, let me check…ok, I’m being told that’s NOT correct); ok, scratch that wok transfer.   How did screw that up?  Hmmmm.  Ok, the idea here is to add the mushrooms and cook for another 15 minutes.  That handwriting thing from earlier is now suspect.

3.    Cool and add the cooked lentils.

4.    Add eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, and walnuts.  Mix by hand and put in the fridge for 25 mins. 

5.    Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Drizzle olive oil on the pan.

6.    Roll the mixture in to golf ball-sized meatballs. 

7.    Roast for 30 minutes, and boom!  Baby, you got a stew goin’!  Or, at least some versatile meatless meatballs. And really, since ARK is such a drinking book, complete with many cocktail recipes, it would be good to pair it with some food!  Cheers!

This is one of my favorite recipes.  Maybe you have other vegetarian recipes to share?

Jesse Miller

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Date of Publication: May 15, 2018

ISBN: Hardcover ISBN: 978-988761-08-4
Paperback: ISBN: 978-1-988761-07-7
E-Book ISBN: 978-1-988761-09-1

Number of pages: 162
Word Count: 45k

Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila

Book Description:

Imagine the son of Cinderella and Noah. That's Alabaster Ash, professional window washer and amateur foot fetishist, thrall to his three physically fit, brutally aggressive stepsisters.

After polishing foot after foot of glass in the gingerbread city of Candyland and cleaning up after the “wicked stairmasters,” he haunts the bars and streets looking for love and appreciation -or a really nice pair of feet.

Like it or not, Alabaster finds himself reliving and reimagining his parents' lives as he roams from bar to bar, from thrill ride to stunt show in the linguistic funland that is ARK.


Ground squirmed past the windows, shuffling racks of bones and skulls under the soptoil as clouds crept along the horizon. On the bus, all the windows let in cold air and hung like a racked row of ice cubes in a tray, but I barely cracked the bottle.
Out I poured when the doors opened, unable to feel my legs, unable to see the ocean, but I could smell the salty marsh marching wet blue harridans, swiping and batting the spit, pushing the blood and saltboxing up fatjuices into my sinuses.

Jammed a kwata in the belly box and engaged the line.

–I’ve arrived. I’m here.
–That’s great. I bet a little walk will feel like a little slice of heaven, eh?
–I suppose.
–Well, I’ll leave the light on for you, Buddy.

I slid on my gloves and tried not to flinch at the sudden mustering of prickly discs skipping to my face. I leaned in hard and clacked through town, blackened and boarded and unblinking, barely wicklit. Smatter rooms to let. Ingrown hairs. Offseason. Unseasoned in the savorless in and out drag of the tonguetide. I dashed through a carless parking lot and into an astralamped glass meadow jotting down quivering blue starlight ink- puddles into suckshifts of snowhunchbanks humpbacking the outermost stretch of tideland. To the left, a skit of cloven unguals stirred it seemed, crunchy, but I only got half an ear worth and couldn’t noctoscop the goings-on of could be caribou or elk or deer bowing their head, bowing their head before the almighty peering down hard and in, like the retractable Polton and Crane lamp in the dentist’s office that hangs my mouth open.
Inside the blackness, the stickiting, ricketing pickets of thickets wiggle on their dicot studs without me seeing, while they shot out the other side and stitched a black curtain against the edge of the rest of the world. I clacked another mile stretch as brine wafers tickled my ears and swizzled my nos- trils while Lawrence Welk drift popping jollyjawdropping orbs uncorked across my field of vichy.
Estrella’s was a lighthouse, though not the vertical variety. But it glowed.
Light hung out over the glass and flabbed fat, hotwhite dough out the sides as I took up her street. This was another gingerbread house, hundreds of miles from home, though this one in earshot of the beach. I rang and rang and rang and then just opened the door.

About the Author:

Jesse Miller is the author of Unwrap Your Candy and the forthcoming ARK, both available from Common Deer Press. He is a Visiting Assistant Lecturer in English at the University of New England.  He lives in the great city of Portland, Maine with his wife, two cats, and dog. Jesse roots for the Red Sox.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cover Reveal Texting Prince Charming by Patty Carothers and Amy Brewer

Book One
Patty Carothers and Amy Brewer

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Omnific (Simon and Schuster Partner)

Date of Publication: 05/29/2018

ISBN: 978-1-623422-62-2 (eBook)  
ISBN: 978-1-623422-61-5 (Print)

Number of pages: 235
Word Count: 78,573

Cover Artist: Amy Brokaw

Tagline: Is this your Prince Charming?

Book Description:

After a tragic accident leaves Shelby Ryan permanently injured, she gives up all hope in happily-ever-afters. Shelby puts on a brave face while hiding her pain, but once she returns to school, everything changes. She starts receiving anonymous corny messages from a mysterious Prince Charming, and her nemesis, basketball star and bad boy, Sebastian, shows sudden interest in her.

Hilarity ensues as Shelby tries to uncover Prince Charming's real identity and come to terms with her true feelings for the last boy on Earth she ever thought she'd fall for: Sebastian Freaking Birch.
Will she be able to cope with the allure of the texting prince, or will Sebastian be the real-life prince in Shelby's fairytale?

About the Authors:

Patty Carothers has been in love with stories for as long as she can remember. She is a certified copy editor and an Oxford comma fangirl. Her adoration of all things comic book related and YA has morphed into her co-writing the Texting Prince Charming series. Engaging and realistic characters that bounce off the pages through witty and thought-provoking dialogue are a thrill for her to read. Although, most days the real question lies with a simple: Is she team Marvel or team D.C.?

Amy Brewer has been an avid reader and lover of literature her whole life. She is a graduate of Culver-Stockton College with a theater degree because drama, romance, and angst are her lifelong passions. She is the co-writer of the Texting Prince Charming series and continues to be enthralled with the art of writing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

In the Kitchen with Jess Bryant - Release Day Blitz Unbreakable Bond

If you ask anyone in my family, they’ll tell you that I don’t cook. As far as they know, most of my attempts at using my oven have resulted in smoke alarms sounding and firemen being called. They’re not wrong. I’ve never been a big fan of cooking and I will do almost anything to keep from having to bring dishes to family gatherings, even letting them believe I don’t know how to cook anything.

It’s not true mind you. I can cook. I just choose not to most of the time. So, instead of sharing some big fancy dish with you all, I’m going to share with you something that is easy to make and that goes over well at any gathering or party.

It’s called Neiman Marcus Dip (maybe because it’s rich? I don’t know. I just know it is super tasty and everyone seems to love it.)

Here’s what you’ll need:

5-6 green onions

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

1 ½ cups mayonaise

1 jar Hormel Real Bacon Bits

1 pckg. slivered almonds

Here’s what you do:

Chop the onions.

Grate the cheese.

Dump in the bacon bits and almonds.

Stir in the mayonnaise

Then stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours so the flavors can blend together

Voila! You have an amazing dip that will be the hit of the party and the best part is, you didn’t have to cook a thing! 

Ritz crackers are recommended for dipping but personally I prefer to use Wheat Thins. 
They’re thicker and don’t break as easily. But to each their own. 

I hope you enjoy this fun little dip. Now, I’ve made myself hungry and I’m off to whip up a big bowl of dip just for me.

xoxo - Jess

Unbreakable Bond
Fated Mates Duet
Jess Bryant

Genre: PNR - Shifter Romance

Date of Publication: 5/15/2018

Number of pages: 258
Word Count: 68,000

Cover Artist: K Creative Designs

Tagline: Fate has a plan all her own.

Book Description:

Sometimes fate gets it all wrong.

Zoey Kent has lived with that fact ever since she turned eighteen and learned that the man she loved could never be hers. He’s a born shifter, a wolf, and she’s a mere human. Fate doesn’t care if on paper they’re a perfect pair. She isn’t his fated mate and she’s resigned herself to the knowledge that someday, she’ll have to watch Michael mate with another. It’s never crossed her mind that there might be someone else out there for her, that she would be the one to mate another, to choose another over everything she’s ever known or wanted.

Sometimes fate gets it all right.

Rafe Hudson left his pack behind years ago. Physically and mentally scarred from an attack that left his parents and twin dead, he walked away from his responsibilities as Alpha. He never intended to return but lone wolf or not, he can’t leave Michael open to an attack he’s learned is coming for his only brother. What he didn’t know was that going home would mean scenting his mate, the one person in the world that could make him whole again, that could give him everything he thought he’d lost. His pack, his home and his family.

But fate always has a plan.

There’s no way Michael’s brother is her future, is there? Just like there’s no way that the girl his brother has loved since they were kids, was always meant to be his, right?

Only fate knows why they were brought together but there is one thing for sure, the sparks between Zoey and Rafe are undeniable. The bond between them is unbreakable. And together… they’ll change the face of the pack forever.

Excerpt 3

Ignoring the bite of pain, he reached through the bars and wound a hand in her hair. He tilted her face up and pressed his lips to hers. The silver burned his cheek where he couldn’t avoid the bars of his cell but it didn’t matter. Nothing did. Not when he finally, finally had the taste of his mate on his lips.
Sweet, so sweet. Her taste seeped inside of him and started a riot in his bloodstream. Her lips were soft and sweet and when they met his, it felt like a piece of the puzzle he’d always been missing slid into place.

How had he lived without this? All this time? All these years? And his mate had been right here, waiting for him. 

About the Author:

Jess Bryant is an avid indoorswoman. A city girl trapped in a country girl's life, her heart resides in Dallas but her soul and roots are in small town Oklahoma. She enjoys manicures, the color pink, and her completely impractical for country life stilettos. She believes that hair color is a legitimate form of therapy, as is reading and writing romance. She started writing as a little girl but her life changed forever when she stole a book from her aunt's Harlequin collection and she's been creating love stories with happily ever afters ever since.

Jess holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Oklahoma and is a lifetime supporter of her school and athletic teams. And why not? They have a ton of National Championships! She may be a girlie girl but she knows her sports stats and isn't afraid to tell you that your school isn't as cool as hers... or that your sports romance got it all wrong.

For more information on Jess and upcoming releases follow her on her many social media accounts for news and shenanigans.

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