28 February 2014

Winner of the Team Jarod Showdown

Last week, I asked for your help in picking the perfect Jarod for TWELVE STEPS. I had two images in mind, and both were exactly like the Jarod I imagine, even though they look almost nothing alike. So before turning in my absolute final edits, I asked you to help me choose: Will Jarod have light hair or dark?

The voting was super-close:
Out of thirty-eight total votes (in just the few hours that the poll was open), nineteen were for Team Dark, twelve were Team Light and SEVEN were just as conflicted as I was.

Then, I had to take into account the write-in votes that came via email and my Facebook page. Many of those were for Team Light, with a few votes for Team Dark ... which brought the final score to an almost-even split. (If nothing else, this whole thing proved to me that both Jarod candidates were as perfect as I thought.) Still, in the end, one Jarod pulled ahead by a margin of three votes.

And the winner is ...
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Team Dark!

And since I made you wait a whole week for the results, here's a bonus reveal for you: A diagram of the complicated "love pentagon" you'll find in TWELVE STEPS.

27 February 2014

Vegan Sugar Cookies

Years ago, I invented an egg-free sugar cookie recipe for my friend, Courtney, who is allergic to eggs. It was complex and time-consuming, and although the resulting cookies tasted much like my mom's, the texture wasn't quite right. You know me: I can't let an experiment go until it's absolutely perfect. So I went back to the drawing board. And here they are at last!

Vegan Sugar Cookies
You will need:
1 1/2 c. margarine*
3 c. sugar
1/2 c. water (room temperature)
1/4 c. corn starch
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. almond extract
6 c. flour

Cream together margarine and sugar.

In a small bowl, mix water and corn starch together until corn starch is completely dissolved. Stir into margarine/sugar mixture. Beat until light and fluffy.

Add baking powder, salt and flavoring. Mix thoroughly.

Stir in flour, one cup at a time, until fully incorporated.

Chill dough for 1-2 hours. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on lightly-greased baking sheets.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom. (Don't overbake, or cookies won't be soft.) Let cool slightly on cookie sheet, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Easy, Giant Cookie Variation: Don't chill the dough. Scoop large portions of cookie dough using an ice cream scoop. Place on lightly-greased cookie sheet, and flatten each dough ball slightly. Top with candy sprinkles, pressing sprinkles lightly into the dough. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned on the bottom. Cool slightly on cookie sheet, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

*Yes, you can use butter in this recipe, but if you do, they will no longer be vegan. - Note: Many margarines contain whey, which is a milk byproduct and not vegan. Make sure to read labels!!  Update 16 December 2014: I'm having a really hard time these days finding margarine or shortening that doesn't contain whey or any other animal byproducts (which means they're not vegan) or palm oil (which I'm allergic to), so I decided to try using coconut oil when I made the cookies today. It worked really well, and there was little or no taste/texture difference in the finished cookie ... but for some reason I had to cut the flour a lot when using the coconut oil. Instead of 6 c. flour, start with 4 c. and gradually add flour a tiny bit at a time to get the dough to the right consistency (5 c. was too much for me - but there's very little humidity where I live, so you may need more than I did). Also, when using coconut oil, I found that the dough didn't need to be chilled before rolling it out, so you can skip that step. (I suspect it would have been too hard and unworkable if I had chilled it.)

21 February 2014

Last Minute Call for Help

I posted the link on Twitter and Facebook, but I thought I'd put the call for help out here as well. I'm finishing up the absolute final revisions on TWELVE STEPS before it goes to press tomorrow, but there's one detail I've been trying to figure out for months unsuccessfully. Should Jarod Johnson, the boy Andi's been crushing on for years, have brown or blond hair?

Voting closes at 10pm EST tonight (21 Feb 2014). Please click this link and cast your vote!

18 February 2014

True Love is Timeless

This week, to celebrate Valentine's Day, the members of Rachel Harris' Flirt Squad have put together a Flirtilicious Blog Hop.
I began the month full of excitement, counting down to February 15, when I'd decided I would post my installment of the blog hop. And on the morning of Valentine's Day, I sat down at my computer to write and schedule my fun and flirty blog post.

And then the news arrived that my 79-year-old grandmother had chosen to spend her Valentine's Day with her sweetheart. My grandfather died a little over a year ago, and we've all missed him terribly, but no one more than Grandma.

I remember, when I was a little girl, cuddling on the couch with Grandma as she told me about going to dances with Grandpa, and how he swept her off her feet.

She was only 16 (Grandpa was 17) when they ran off to get married. They didn't "have to" get married (no shotguns involved in this love story), but they were so in love that they didn't stop to think about the fact that they were much too young or that the odds were against them. They simply knew they didn't want to spend another day without each other. And so they didn't.

 
 Even as they grew older, and their health began to decline, they were an inseparable pair, full of life and imagination. (Grandpa even built a trailer to tow behind his electric scooter, so he and Grandma could still enjoy nature together.) It's no wonder Grandma was anxious to be reunited with her sweetheart this Valentine's Day. And so my Flirtilicious blog post is dedicated to the couple who taught me that true love can last forever, as long as you keep working to grow together.


Speaking of timeless love...

I have an excerpt from Rachel Harris' A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES to share with you:

I sit in stunned silence; my face presses into the warm comfort of his palm as the words you’re perfect wash over me again and again in spine-tingling waves.

Austin Michaels thinks I’m perfect.

And if that is true, then it has to mean he cares for me.

Drawing on every ounce of courage I’ve attempted to build within myself during this time-travel adventure, I grip the hard muscles of his arms and say, “But Austin, you did teach me. In the last ten days with you, I learned more about what it means to live than I have in the last sixteen years. But even more, you make me feel as though you can see all the tiny pieces of who I truly am inside, the real Alessandra that no one else knows—the woman who lives behind the girlish act of perfection I wear for the world. You may not agree with me all the time, and you exasperate me far more often than I’d like, but you respect me…and Austin, that means more to me than you’ll ever know.”

When I finish speaking, I realize I am trembling, but it’s not from the night air. In the distance, I hear the faint sound of music seeping from Lyric, but neither that nor the cars whooshing past just a few feet away on the street breaks the roar of silence between us.

Though I did not profess the full extent of my affection, I have no doubt Austin knows how much I care for him. And as his silence lengthens, I begin to think that perhaps I was mistaken. That he does not feel the same, and that he is now preparing to let me down gently. Pondering that thought, I fortify my heart for another man’s rejection, but even while I do so, I cannot regret sharing my feelings.

My faith remains in the truth I have fought so hard for my cousin to believe: the pain of not having Austin return my feelings may be excruciating, and it may not be worth the turmoil of heartache, but choosing to take a chance and living life always is.

Austin interrupts my somewhat dark and profound introspection by dipping his forehead to touch mine. And just like that, all thoughts are whisked away, and my senses are filled with the scent of mint.

With our gazes connected, we share a breath, one now sharpened with the same sting of awareness from the beach. My pulse quickens with the realization that this does not feel like rejection…this feels like desire.

And I’m so ready to experience another one of Austin’s kisses that I almost explode from the anticipation.

His darkened gaze drops to my mouth for a long moment, and the skin around it prickles to life, already tasting him. But instead of lowering his head and capturing my lips, he looks into my eyes. The fullness of my yet unspoken affection reflects back at me.

Then, with eyes so dark they blend into the night, Austin whispers, “I do see the real you, Alessandra.” He smiles. “And I think I’m falling for the girl I see.”

And don't miss the amazing giveaway going on as a part of this Flirtilicious blog hop! You could win one of 13 BOOKS, a gift card, swag, & more. I will be sending signed TWELVE STEPS bookmarks to five people, as well as this gorgeous, hand-made, eco-friendly bracelet to one lucky winner.


Grandma and Andi (the main character in my upcoming debut novel, TWELVE STEPS) share a love of daisies, and Grandma was the queen of repurposing things that others would throw away to create beautiful works of art. So I thought it fitting to donate this daisy bracelet, handmade from recycled plastic bags, to the giveaway. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
 About the Author

Rachel Harris grew up in New Orleans, watching soap operas with her grandmother and staying up late sneak reading her mom's favorite romance novels. Now a Cajun cowgirl living in Houston, she still stays up too late reading her favorite romances, only now, she can do so openly. She firmly believes life's problems can be solved with a hot, powdered-sugar-coated beignet or a thick slice of king cake, and that screaming at strangers for cheap, plastic beads is acceptable behavior in certain
situations. 

She homeschools her two beautiful girls and loves watching reality television with her amazing husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult Fun, Flirty Escapes, and LOVES talking with readers!


 

 

05 February 2014

Deal Alert! A TOUCH OF DARKNESS by Tina Moss

Exciting news for A TOUCH OF DARKNESS. The publisher has agreed to drop the price to $2.99! If you've been waiting to grab your copy, here's the chance to get it at a bargain rate. Pick up a copy for your eReader at Amazon or B&N.
Cassie’s working for a tightwad boss at a pretentious NYC diner, dealing with paralyzing pain that doctors can’t diagnose, and trying to hide her hands that glow purple whenever she ...well, whenever.