Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Irish Coffee Macarons with Jameson Whiskey Cream (Recipe)

Basic Macaron Recipe (gluten free, dairy free)

Total time: Do you really want to know?

There are a lot of different recipes for macarons out there, but this is the one that I found works for me. Before you start, I would really recommend looking up some tutorials so you know what everything is supposed to look along the way. Food Nouveau has one here that is incredibly helpful with extensive tips and a great troubleshooting guide. The Cupcake Project has another one with some great pictures here.

You will need:

2 egg whites

1 cup powdered sugar

2/3 cup ground almonds

¼ cup fine granulated sugar


Blender or food processor

Hand mixer

Sifter or fine sieve

3 or more baking sheets

Non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mats

A medium stainless steel bowl

Rubber spatula

Pastry bag

Pastry bag tip (note: a tip with a ½ inch opening is recommended. The one I have is a bit smaller, so I pipe them in spirals and they come out more or less the same, but it takes longer)


The day before: Separate the eggs and put the egg whites in an air-tight container. Leave the egg whites in the fridge overnight.

Three hours before: Take the egg whites out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature slowly. Put the stainless steel bowl into the fridge. (Yes, really)

Okay, ready? Let’s go:

1. Put the almonds and powdered sugar into the blender and grind together for a few seconds. If you are adding a dry flavoring, add this now. Sift the powder into a bowl and set aside.

2. Take the bowl out of the fridge and give it a good wipe with a kitchen towel to be sure it is completely dry before you start. Put the egg whites into the bowl and beat them on medium speed with the hand mixer. When they get foamy and start to really expand, add the granulated sugar a little bit at a time and continue to beat all of the sugar has dissolved. Lower the speed of the mixer and continue to beat the eggs until stiff peaks are left when you pull the mixer out. (Not just snow drifts, think Alps.) When your eggs are ready, they will be thick enough that you can hold the bowl upside down without them falling out. If you tilt the bowl and they’re still sliding, beat them on low for another minute and try again. You might need to do this several times before they’re ready, but be patient! If your eggs aren’t right, the macarons won’t turn out.

Note: If the bowl is very cold and the eggs have been aged long enough, this won’t take very long. If they haven’t, it’ll take forever. I’ve had this take anywhere from 4 - 20 minutes. Big difference!

3. Add any liquid flavors or food coloring at this point by folding it into the eggs with a rubber spatula.

4. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients a little bit at a time with a rubber spatula. Don’t mix them or stir vigorously, you don’t want to wreck the eggs! When it’s done, the mixture will be thick, airy, and should fall off of the spatula in slow, wide ribbons.

5. Pour the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe rounds onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper or a baking mat. Try to make them all the same size as much as you can, leaving an inch between them. These will cover at two or three baking sheets, depending on the size and spacing.

6. Smack the baking sheets on your counter one at a time. Lift them a few inches above the counter and just drop them. (This makes a pretty loud noise, so if you live with other people, give them some warning!) Do this a few times for each tray.

7. Let them sit until the surface starts to dry. This can take anywhere from 20 - 40 minutes, so be patient! (Now is a good time to make the filling if you’re making it yourself.) You’ll know they’re ready when you touch them and nothing sticks to your finger. When they feel like they’re there, preheat your oven to 285F.

8. Put the baking tray on top of another empty baking tray in the center of your oven. Bake the macarons for 12 minutes with the door closed before checking on them. If they’re still really sticking, put them back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes.

9. Take the baking paper or mat off of the baking trays and leave them to cool completely on the counter (or cooling racks, if using). This only takes a couple of minutes. The macarons should pop off of the paper pretty easily, but if they stick, you can slide a thin knife between the shell and the paper to remove them.


Match shells of similar size and stick them together with a little bit of filling. You can use a lot of different things — icing, butter cream, ganache, Nutella, jam, fudge, caramel, etc — so experiment with what you have and know that your whole batch doesn’t have to be the same. Try a few things out!

Put the finished macarons in an air-tight container in the fridge and let them sit overnight before you eat them. The flavor and texture improves overnight, so they will be at their best tomorrow.

And the whole process only takes three days…

This basic recipe can be modified to make pretty much any flavor you can think of. I’m trying to make a new one every week, so I’ll start posting these here with photos and short descriptions if you want to make them at home. This week, I made some that I’m calling Irish Coffee.

Irish Coffee Macarons (gluten free, dairy free)

For the shells:

⅔ cup ground almonds

1 cup powdered sugar

¼ cup fine granulated sugar

2 egg whites (aged, room temperature)

1 generous tablespoon instant coffee crystals, ground into a fine powder

1 - 2 tsp your favorite ground coffee, for dusting

Follow the instructions for the basic macarons, adding the coffee powder to the powdered sugar & almond mixture and sifting it all together. This will color the macarons a medium honey-brown and you won’t need any food coloring. Fold into egg whites as usual, pipe onto your lined baking trays, and sprinkle a little ground coffee over the tops of the macarons while you’re waiting for them to set. You can use any ground coffee that you like and use more or less to taste. Bake 12 -15 minutes, remove from the oven, and let cool completely.

Jameson Irish Whiskey Cream (gluten free, vegan)

2 cups powdered sugar

4 tbs Earth Balance or other good quality butter substitute

7 tbs Jameson Irish Whiskey

1 tbs unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (I used Silk Organic Unsweetened, but any will do. Almond milk would also work if you prefer)

1. Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl. With this kind of butter, it will tend to look crumbly — this is totally fine. Add the soy milk and the whiskey and it will all come together nicely.

This icing is a little bit on the thin side, so you will need to refrigerate it before assembling the macarons if it’s out too long. Alternatively, you can add a bit more sugar to thicken it up. Feel free to tweak the quantities to suit your tastes — I like it like this because it’s not too sweet and there’s just enough whiskey to make it burn a little bit. What’s the point of Irish Coffee macarons if you can’t taste the Jameson?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cover Reveal! Eban (The Heckmasters, Book 2) by Allison Merritt

Eban (The Heckmasters, Book 2)
Author: Allison Merritt
ISBN13: 978-1-61922-634-0
Length: 70k
Release date: April 7, 2015

If love can’t save them, there will be hell to pay.
Grateful for his mother’s human blood that cools the dark fire of his demon father, Eban Heckmaster has set up a medical practice in New Mexico territory. But there’s no hope of living a normal life until he rids himself of a seductive demon that’s been pursuing him.

Vanquishing it won’t be as simple as sharpening his demon-hunting sword. The clever creature is hiding inside his best friend’s head, and she has no idea of the havoc she’s been wreaking, especially with his body.

Beryl suspects Eban knows why she’s been waking up with no memory of where she’s been or what she’s done, but he’s not talking. But when she inevitably learns what he’s hiding—or rather, what’s hiding inside her—she wonders if her love for him is real, or an illusion created by the demon’s lust.

Eban is losing the battle to hold his rising desire in check. There may be only one way to extricate Beryl from the beast entangling her mind. Call upon his demon blood...and offer it as a sacrifice.

Warning: Contains a half-human, half-demon doctor who can heal anyone except himself, and a woman who’d blush if she could remember the sensuous torture she’s been inflicting on him. Could make you wonder if you should start listening to the voices in your head...

About the Author:

A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.

Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.

Read the first book in the series: Wystan (The Heckmasters)

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Guest Post: Annette Mardis, Author of Shore Feels Right

Thanks for hosting me today, Jessica, and congratulations on your new release. I sat down the other day for a chat with Monica Sims, a marine biologist and sea turtle expert at Gulf Shore Aquarium. Monica is one of the characters featured in my Gulf Shore contemporary romance series and she stars in Book 2, Shore Feels Right. 

Hi, Monica. How are things at the aquarium?

Busy, as always. We just took in several more turtles in our rehabilitation center. They’re green sea turtles afflicted with the fibropapilloma virus, which causes cauliflower-looking tumors to grow on their flippers, face and other soft tissues. They’ll be scheduled for laser surgery to remove the tumors. And we admitted a couple more turtles—a loggerhead and a Kemp’s ridley—that required endoscopic surgery to remove the fish hooks they swallowed. It’s a tough time to be a sea turtle, that’s for sure.

I know you have a special affinity for sea turtles. Have you always loved them?

Yes. They’re all my babies and it hurts to see them sick or injured. I grew up in San Diego, so my family spent a lot of time in the water and I grew to love and respect all sea creatures. But turtles have always been my favorite. It’s been said that I relate better to turtles than I do to people, and I can’t argue with that. But I’m getting better.

You’re very upfront about the fact that you used to be a real...well, not always nice person.

You can say it. I was a flat-out bitch at times. I’m not proud of the way I used to act, and it was a rude awakening to have my own sister, who I love dearly, call me on my bad behavior. I’ve had to eat a lot of crow and it doesn’t go down easy, let me tell you. But it’s been worth it because I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. 

Would you attribute your glowing aura to a certain hunky co-owner of Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals?

Absolutely. Cosby Williams is the best man I know. He doesn’t let me take myself too seriously, and believe me, I really needed to lighten up. And I love his two nephews. I think the youngest has a bit of a crush on me. They’re both adorable. So is Cosby. I could brag on him all day.

Any chance you’ll be Aunt Monica to those boys?

Shhh. Don’t jinx me! But I’d be thrilled if that happened. All in due time, I guess.

How are those three pilot whales that you and your coworkers from Gulf Shore Aquarium helped rescue?

They’re holding their own and are still under 24-hour care in GSA’s marine animal hospital.

What’s going to happen to them? Will they be able to go back to the wild?

We’re not sure yet. Our marine mammal veterinarian, Kelsey Kramer, and Sitara Patel, the head of our rehab unit, and many others are working hard to nurse these beautiful animals back to health.

If I can get personal for a moment, Cosby was asked in an interview to name his favorite place to seduce you and he said wherever he can get you alone. He also mentioned the shower as a great place for hot and sudsy fun. Do you have a favorite spot for romance?

Oh boy, that gets me excited just thinking about it! I definitely enjoy the shower. We’ve been, shall we say, together in every room of our apartment, so I’m not picky as long as I’m with Cosby. Dang it, look at the time. I really hate to cut this short, but I’d better get going before I’m late for work. Drop by Gulf Shore Aquarium anytime and say hi. I’m always eager to introduce folks to the wonderful people and animals there. And if you like hunky guys, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks, Monica. 

And now, here’s what Shore Feels Right is about:

Once a pariah among her coworkers, marine biologist Monica Sims has spent months reinventing herself as she seeks redemption. A history of failed relationships leaves her leery of romantic involvement until she meets Cosby Williams, the new co-owner of Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals. 

As things heat up between them, Gulf Shore Aquarium responds to the stranding of a group of pilot whales. When a billionaire bachelor lends his private plane to the rescue effort, Monica catches his eye—and an obsession is born. 

How will she cope with the unwanted attention? And will her past sins come back to doom her newfound happiness with Cosby?


Monica Sims didn’t suffer well in silence. All this wedding talk grated on her nerves, and she desperately wanted to distance herself from the radiant bride-to-be and the friends who acted like this was a match made in Buckingham Palace.

But the last thing Monica needed was anyone thinking she sat here sucking on sour grapes. Not when she’d done everything possible the past several months to convince these women, and her other Gulf Shore Aquarium coworkers, that she no longer resembled the selfish shrew they knew and loathed. She’d eaten a bakery full of humble pie, shoved aside her own satisfaction, smiled until her face ached, and bit her tongue until it nearly bled.

The response to her attitude overhaul had been better than she’d dared hope. She’d become one of the girls and even had made peace with her ex-boyfriend’s fiancĂ©e, who at this moment squirmed under the rapt attention of everyone at their table at Bikini Barb’s Bar & Grill. Everyone except Monica, that is.

She freely admitted now, without the slightest pang whatsoever, that Evan Sanders and Danielle “Dani” Davidson belonged together. She wished them the best, without reservation. But Monica simply couldn’t feign enthusiasm for the seemingly endless discussions about invitation styles, cake decorations, and buffet menus.

The impending “I do’s” left the other women at tonight’s “snipe and gripe” gathering positively giddy. They giggled and chattered like a gaggle of schoolgirls as they threw out suggestions on how Dani should break it to her mother that she wanted to be married right here in Gulf Shore, Florida, not back home in Missouri.

“Why is everything so flipping complicated?” Dani complained, posing a rhetorical question. That didn’t stop her friends from answering.

“Our parents live for the day they can torture us as payback for all the times we misbehaved as kids and made their lives a veritable living hell,” Tiffany Sandeski offered.

“If I ever get married, I’m eloping to Las Vegas,” Shontay Jefferson vowed. “I have enough trouble with my meddling mother as it is.”

“Not me,” Gina Martino asserted. “I intend to have the whole fairy tale from start to finish. That means a killer gown that makes me look like Kate Middleton, a huge wedding party, stretch limo, four-tiered cake, blowout reception with an open bar, gourmet dinner, live band, and a honeymoon in Europe.”

“You’ll need more than a fancy dress to make you look like Kate Middleton,” Tiffany teased. “Like a starvation diet for starters.”

Gina stuck out her tongue. “And I don’t care what the whole thing costs. I told Jeremy to rob a bank or two if he has to.”

“You did not,” Shontay scoffed.

“I most certainly did,” Gina insisted. “Trust me, it won’t be necessary. His parents are loaded and he’s their trust-fund baby.”

“Uh, what about your mom and dad?” Shontay asked. “It’s tradition for the bride’s side to pay most of the wedding expenses and for the reception, too.”

Gina barked out a laugh. “My parents don’t have a pot to puke in.”

Tiffany wrinkled her nose and halted the hand bringing the spicy chicken wing to her mouth. She dropped the poultry on her plate and pushed it away. “Thanks for the bodily function reference, Gina.”

“You’re welcome. No extra charge.”

“You know, a lot of couples now, especially if they’re older or have been together for a while, pay for their own wedding,” Shontay noted.

“Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” Gina replied. “Jeremy’s parents won’t let their perfect,

precious boy spend a dime. They’ve already promised to help us buy a house right on the beach. Think of the parties we can have there, girls. I can’t wait to ditch this dive as a gathering spot.”

Shontay shook her head and turned to Dani. “What about you and Evan?”

“Our parents offered to help, but we’re paying for most of it. That’s why we’re keeping it simple.”

As others in the group added their nickel’s worth, Monica tuned them out. While she’d gotten over Evan, participating in this conversation still struck her as strange given that Dani’s groom-to-be was the one Monica let get away. Months before Dani moved to Gulf Shore, Evan had dumped Monica after discovering she’d cheated on him with the aquarium’s married marketing director, a new father of twins.

The fallout from that colossal indiscretion had been bad enough. But then Monica attempted to whip up trouble for Evan and Dani after they started dating. Fed up with the way she treated people, Monica’s rebound boyfriend broke up with her. Coworkers shunned her. She considered leaving Gulf Shore. Her older sister’s tough love helped turn her life around.

None of that mattered now, but some people thrived on stirring things up. Like Tiffany, who stared at her with a smirk of a smile. Monica knew that look.

“So what do you think?” Tiffany asked her. The other women turned their expectant attention to Monica.

“Uh, well, I’m not sure.” She inwardly cringed at how clueless she sounded.

“I bet you don’t even know what we’re talking about.”

“Of course I do,” Monica blustered. “Weddings.”

“So how should Dani solve her dilemma?” Tiffany pressed.


“Quit putting Monica on the spot,” Dani interjected. “It’s my problem. I’ll figure out what to tell my mother. Now, where’s the rest of our food? We were so busy today with those marine science students I had time to grab only yogurt and a granola bar for lunch. How long does it take to throw together salads and sandwiches?”

Eager for a legitimate excuse to leave the table, Monica offered to check on their orders. She headed to the well-worn wooden bar to speak to Pete, who mixed drinks and filled pitchers like a madman, and stopped a few feet from the barstool where a guy who looked familiar sat alone, nursing a mug of beer. They nodded at each other as Monica tried to remember his name.

“Cosby Williams,” he supplied.

“What?” Had he read her mind? She’d seen him in Barb’s before talking to Evan and two of the aquarium’s dolphin trainers, but they hadn’t been introduced.

“That’s my name. In case you were wondering.”

“What gave you that impression?”

He shrugged. “The way you looked at me implied it.”

“Yeah? And what way was that?”

“Like I’m not a total stranger but you don’t know me, either.”

“You’re pretty perceptive, aren’t you?” Sarcasm tinged her voice. She’d ruthlessly repressed that particular personality trait but still let it loose occasionally.

“I try to be.” If he noticed her flippant tone, he ignored it. “Right now, for instance, you’re deciding whether I’m worth talking to and if you should tell me your name.”

“Actually, I’m debating whether you’re charmingly candid or irritatingly blunt.”

Cosby laughed and Monica’s long-dormant libido stirred to life.

“How about a little of both?” he suggested. “But don’t worry. I didn’t come here to pick up women. My brother and I are celebrating tonight.”

“Oh? What’s the occasion?”

“Our business, Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals, has its grand reopening in two days.”

Suddenly the light of recognition switched on. “Now I know why you look familiar. I saw your picture in the paper the other day. The story said you two have given the place quite a makeover.”

“We’ve worked our asses off. This is the first chance we’ve had to take a breather.”

Monica stepped back and assessed his very fine jeans-covered rear end.

“What? Did I sit in something?” Cosby twisted to look at the seat of his pants.

“No. Just checking to see if you told the truth about working your ass off.”

He grinned and Monica felt it like a punch to the gut. Whoa! She resisted, just barely, the urge to lean forward and taste his tantalizing lips. She shook her head to clear it, and Cosby furrowed his brow as though trying to figure out what she was thinking.

“Now that you’ve seen the goods, what’s the verdict?” he asked.

“Why, Mr. Williams, are you fishing for a compliment?”


“On what?”

“On whether you’d think less of me if I was.”

“You’re very straightforward, aren’t you?” she observed. “I like that.”

“I have plenty of other commendable qualities, too.”

“Such as?”

“I send my mom a thank-you card on my birthday. I don’t leave the toilet seat up. I never give women kitchen appliances as gifts. I bowled nine strikes in a row once. I love kids, and they adore me. And I feed stray cats that hang out at Nauti-Toys.”

“Wow, all that and movie-star handsome, too.”

Cosby blushed and the unexpected show of humility charmed her.

“What can I say, I’m a good guy. Except, of course, when I want to be bad.” He winked and Monica laughed despite her best intentions. “How about I buy you a drink?”

“You’re the one celebrating,” she pointed out. “I should buy you a drink.”

“You’re making me work for it, aren’t you?”

“And by ‘it’ you mean what, exactly?”

“Your name.”

Many women already would’ve scribbled their phone number on a napkin. But Monica couldn’t afford to make another mistake with a man. Then she stared into eyes the color of a Caribbean sea and thought, oh, what the hell.

Buy links 

And now a word about the Gulf Shore series

My new contemporary romance series is set in the fictional west-central Florida beach town of Gulf Shore, where you’ll feel sugary white sand between your toes, the warm sun on your shoulders, and a sea breeze ruffling your hair.

You’ll meet swoon-worthy alpha males who aren’t embarrassed to cuddle a rescued baby dolphin in their muscular arms, and accomplished women looking for an equal partner who
thinks that smart is sexy. 

You’ll get up close and personal with sea life, join the “snipe and gripe” club for girls’ nights out, and fall in love with a talking parrot who acts like a little boy in a bird suit.

You’ll go behind-the-scenes at the local aquarium and out to the beach to rescue marine animals in distress. And once you visit Gulf Shore, you just may find yourself wishing you could stay.

And about The Shore Thing, Gulf Shore Book 1

Danielle “Dani” Davidson vows to just say no to workplace romances after her first post-college job is soured by a messy breakup with a manipulative coworker at a fish hatchery. That’s just one reason she doesn’t trust any man with her heart, let alone one who swims with sharks for a living. So why can’t she get cameraman Evan Sanders out of her mind? 

Evan is twice shy, too, after an alluring but self-absorbed colleague at Gulf Shore Aquarium takes a bite out of his heart. Thought he’s dead set against dating anyone else he works with, he’s intrigued by Dani’s shyness and tempted by her intelligence and low-key sexiness.

Sharks, a stingray and an orphaned baby dolphin help bring them together, but will Dani’s inhibitions and Evan’s career aspirations ultimately tear them apart?

Author bio

As a girl, Annette dreamed of being an astronaut, but she stank at science and math and became motion sick riding the bus home from school. So she went with her second choice—newspaper journalist—and stuck with it for more than three decades. After years of ignoring well-meaning people who said, “You should write a book,” she finally did. And then she wrote a few more. When she's not working, Annette usually has her nose in someone else’s novel or her gaze glued to sports on TV. She has three totally spoiled pets, enjoys being the designated sightseer on her husband’s Harley, and volunteers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of diva dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale films.

 Connect with Annette

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Sleep 'Til Christmas Blog Tour

Three things:



If you have yet to get your copy, you can find it on Liquid Silver, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and All Romance E-Books (with an extra-long excerpt!)


The first review is in and Samantha Ryan gave it a solid five stars:

"Tyburn is a tale of lies, love and debauchery set in the Restoration, a little used but fascinating era of history. Set in the familiar locale of London, it pulls back the modern perceptions that we are so used to and displays the seedy underside of a city we think we know. Jessica Cale manages to weave a believable narrative around actual personages whilst evoking the zeitgeist of Stuart London. You can almost smell the streets when the characters walk them and taste the food they eat. That is not to say that this story is bogged down by over-wrought descriptions or flowery language, just incredibly evocative of the themes and the scenes it is trying to portray."

"You close the book with a feeling of elation rather than one of depression, which is how a lot of historically based fiction with female protagonists seems to leave me feeling. Like much of the writing of the period, Sally’s story echoes the themes of trial and tribulation, the resolution one that the reader feels is a fair ending without feeling overly saccharine or forced."

Read the rest of it here!


I am currently in the middle of what I'm calling my No Sleep 'Til Christmas Blog Tour. You may have noticed me sending around a lot of links lately, and these are all guest spots and articles I've been doing with some great authors and blogs to bring you some fun extras about Tyburn and The Southwark Saga. If you've missed any of these, here are all the links in the same place. More dates are being added all the time, so be sure to check back!

Ladies, Gentlemen, Creatures of the Night:

No Sleep 'Til Christmas Blog Tour

November 24th: Five Horrible Ways to Die in Restoration London, hosted by Kimber Vale
November 25th: Five More Common Ways to Die in Restoration London
November 27th: What I'm Thankful For, hosted by Redz World
November 28th: One Night at the Rose & Crown: Intro to Character Interviews and Coffee with Alice Henshawe
November 29th: Join the Hottie Hunt! Nick Virtue Opens Up About His Ideal Woman, hosted by Denise Agnew
December 1st: Interview with Jessica Cale, hosted by Taige Crenshaw
December 4th: Contraception in History V. Love's Pleasing Paths in Blest Security: Restoration Condoms
December 5th: Character Interview: Mark Virtue Gets Sassy With the Interviewer! Hosted by Tami Lund
December 5th: MFRW Newsletter, Front Page Featured Author! 
December 7th: Featured Author Interview, courtesy of Hello Precious Bliss
December 7th - 13th: Spotlight on Liquid Silver Books on Romance Lives Forever
December 8th: Release Day Excerpt, hosted by Suz deMello
December 8th: Another Release Day Excerpt, hosted by Vicky Burkholder
December 8th: Character Interview: The Infamous Sally Green Meets Me at The Tangier. Hosted by Annette Mardis
December 9th: Notes On The Setting of the Southwark Saga, hosted by Rosanna Leo
December 10th: Jessica Cale's Tyburn Playlist, hosted by Margo Bond Collins
December 12th: Friday Fast Five Author Interview, courtesy of Jessie Clever
December 14th: WIP Interview with Maria Messini. Coming soon!

This is a lot to take in, and it's understandable if you're overwhelmed. I find a little background music helps. You can start with my Tyburn playlist:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Special Feature: Bound By Blood by Margo Bond Collins

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today I have a special treat for you: a character interview and an excerpt from Margo Bond Collins' new horror novella, Bound By Blood. It's gritty, imaginative, and at only $0.99 for the Kindle version, a great way to spend a Saturday night (or Sunday morning... with the windows open and all of the lights on)! 

Character Interview: Dr. Lili Banta

Lili, quick. Describe yourself in seven words or less!

Filipino-American, Texan, doctor, epidemiologist, scientist.

Tell us something about your current hometown.

I recently moved back to Houston. I went to medical school in Maine because I wanted to get as far away from home as I could—but eventually, I was ready to return. I'm staying with my mother—my Inay—until I find a new place. That might take longer than I initially planned, because my ex-boyfriend just called me in to consult on a strange case at his hospital.

What's the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?

When I was a child, my grandmother warned me about the aswang hunting the children at my school. An aswang is a woman who turns into a monster at night and attacks women and young children. I didn't believe in them . . . but I might be changing my mind.

What's your favourite food?

I love the traditional dish adobo from the Philippines. My grandmother—my Inang—made it with chicken and peppercorns, cooked in soy sauce and olive oil, and lots and lots of garlic. At the last minute, she took it out and pan-fried it to get the edges just crispy enough. Mmmm. 

Can you tell us a little about what to expect in Bound by Blood?

When I get called in to consult on Will's case, we're all surprised by what we discover. I don't want to give away too much, but my past and Will's present case are all tied together in ways we never expected. 

Can you tell us something about yourself we don't learn from the book?

My father died when I was very young—I don't even remember him at all.

What is your author Margo Bond Collins like?

She’s kind of quiet until you get to know her—she likes to sit back and watch for a while before jumping into any kind of social situation. But then it’s hard to shut her up! She grew up in Texas, and after living all over the country, has come back to North Central Texas, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and a bunch of pets.

Name five items in your purse or pockets right now.

Two IDs: one for the CDC in Houston, the other for Houston General Hospital. My car keys and cell phone. A scrunchie to tie my hair back. A pen. And that's pretty much all my lab coat pockets have room for!

If you had one chance to change anything about your life, what would it be?

I wish I had believed my grandmother—that I had figured this out before someone got hurt . . . 

Bound by Blood

A Night Shift Novella

by Margo Bond Collins

Urban Fantasy, Horror
Release Date: November 10, 2014

Sometimes the monsters in the dark are real... 

As a child, Lili Banta ignored her grandmother's cryptic warnings to avoid children outside their Filipino community in Houston. When many of those other children fell ill, Lili ignored the whispers in her community that a vampiric aswang walked among them. 

Years later, Lili returns to Houston to work for the Quarantine Station of the Center for Disease Control—but she is plagued by dark, bloody dreams that consume her nights and haunt her days. When a strange illness attacks the city's children, Lili is called in to find its source, and maybe even a cure. 

But in order to save the city, she must first acknowledge the sinister truth: A monster stalks the night—closer than she ever expected....


Sitting straight up in bed, I gasped and threw myself back against the headboard, the thud dying away along with the remaining shreds of my dream.

But the word still ricocheted through my mind.


Until yesterday, I hadn't thought of the term in years—not since I'd left Houston for med school in Maine, determined to get as far away from home as I could.

But this resurgence of the same, odd illness that had swept my city years before was apparently also dredging up the old stories from deep in my subconscious: the aswang, a vampiric woman who lived a quiet life by day and fed on children in the night, flying back home on bat-wings just before dawn.

My unconscious mind had clearly also expanded on the idea, casting me in the role of aswang and adding schizoid conversations with a chorus of internal voices.

Great. I'm insane in my dreams.

And I'm a monster.

Shuddering, I wiped my hand across my gritty, raw eyelids.


Find it on Amazon!

Only $0.99 via Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Blood-Night-Shift-Novella-ebook/dp/B00PB3AIGC/ 
Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Blood-Night-Shift-Novel/dp/0990743365/ 

Margo Bond Collins is the author of urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and paranormal mysteries. She has published a number of novels, including Sanguinary, Taming the Country Star, Legally Undead, Waking Up Dead, and Fairy, Texas. She lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, and several spoiled pets. Although writing fiction is her first love, she also teaches college-level English courses online. She enjoys reading romance and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about heroes, monsters, cowboys, and villains, and the strong women who love them—and sometimes fight them. 

Connect with Margo

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/margobondcollins
Email: MargoBondCollins@gmail.com
Website: http://www.MargoBondCollins.net 
Blog: http://www.MargoBondCollins.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin  @MargoBondCollin
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Contraception in History V. “Love's pleasing Paths in blest Security”: Condoms in Restoration London

This condom is from 1640. Check your expiration dates, people.
This is the last installment of Contraception in History before Tyburn is released on Monday, so I thought I would write up a little something for the occasion.

As you’re reading Tyburn, you might notice that condoms (or “cundums”) are present. “Now, Jess,” you might be thinking to yourself, “I know you’re obsessed with contraception, but were people really using condoms in 1671?”

Yes, reader. Yes, they were. 

The invention of modern condoms has been attributed to many people, and one of the front runners was Gabriello Fallopio (three guesses what he gave his name to) who recommended linen sheaths soaked in salt and herbs to prevent disease in his De Morbo Gallico (1564), a treatise against syphilis (translation: About the French Disease). 

He was hardly the first person to use them for this purpose. As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, condoms have been used in various forms as far back as ancient Egypt (and beyond, if you believe that cave painting). By the Restoration, a Colonel Quondam, believed to have been a physician in the Royalist army, was rumored to have invented one made of animal gut for the notoriously amorous Charles II. 

Of course we recently learned that the first known mention of using sheep’s innards as a barrier method dates back to Minos, but we’ll let him have this one. 

The process of producing condoms made of sheep intestines was lengthy. In The Sexual History of London, Catharine Arnold writes: 

“(The) process involved soaking sheep’s intestines in water for a number of hours, then turning them inside out and macerating them again in a weak alkaline solution, changed every twelve hours. The intestines were then scraped carefully to remove the mucous membrane, leaving the peritoneal and muscular coats, and exposed to the vapor of burning brimstone. Next they were washed in soap and water, inflated, dried, and cut into eight-inch lengths. Finally, the open end was finished with a ribbon that could be tied around the base of the penis, and the condom had to be soaked in water to make it supple before use. After use, it could be washed and hung up to dry, ready for another excursion.” (p. 99)

Condoms became incredibly popular and were even lauded by the Earl of Rochester in 1667 as a protection against both disease and pregnancy in his Panegyrick Upon Cundums: 

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
Happy the Man, who in his Pocket keeps,
Whether with green or scarlet Ribband bound,
A well made Cundum -- He, nor dreads the Ills
Of Shankers or Cordee, or Bubos dire!"
Thrice happy he -- (for when in lewd Embrace
Of Transport-feigning Whore, Creature obscene!
The cold insipid Purchase of a Crown!
Bless'd Chance! Sight seldom seen! and mostly given
By Templar or Oxonian -- Best Support
Of Drury and her starv'd Inhabitants

He later died of syphilis.*

Rochester definitely had the right idea, but at the time, there was a popular belief that venereal disease could not be spread between men, so some men took to entertaining themselves with their own sex to avoid disease, with small groups even swearing off women altogether. That sounds like a great excuse to me and will be the subject of an altogether different post.

But we’ll get there. 

All this talk about ecstatic casual sex reminds me -- Mark Virtue! Tomorrow, my fellow Liquid Silver author Tami Lund will be hosting a very special (and very cheeky) interview with the delicious Mark Virtue. Did you hear that little excited noise I made just now? 

For those of you who don’t know him, Mark is Nick’s older brother. He’s a carpenter, a highwayman, and he’s commonly understood to be the best shag in London and the surrounding areas. He’s a very busy man, but he took some time out of his busy heart-breaking schedule to meet with me at the Rose and Crown for a few questions, and he nearly talked me out of knickers in the process. I don’t know if it’s that crooked smile or his filthy accent, but the man is persuasive. Don’t miss it! 

In the meantime, you can read Rochester’s Panegyrick Upon Cundums in its entirety here, and I recommend you do. It’s amazing. I’ll leave you with another little excerpt. Rochester makes a guest appearance in Tyburn, and Sally could actually be somewhere in this passage:

That when replete with Love, and spur'd by Lust,
You seek the Fair-one in her Cobweb Haunts,
Or when allur'd by Touch of passing Wench,
Or caught by Smile insidious of the Nymph
Who in Green Box at Playhouse nightly flaunts,
And fondly calls thee to Love's luscious Feast,
Be cautious, stay a while 'till fitly arm'd
With Cundum Shield, at Rummer best supply'd,
Or never-failing Rose; so you may thrum
Th' ecstatic Harlot, and each joyous Night
Crown with fresh Raptures; 'till at least unhurt,
And sated with the Banquet, you retire.
By me forwarn'd thus may you ever treat
Love's pleasing Paths in blest Security.

Ecstatic Harlot, indeed! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Excerpt #3: Nick gets very uncomfortable... again

Hello, everyone!

For the third and final excerpt before Tyburn is released IN ONE WEEK (can you her me hyperventilating?), we have Nick, Sally, and some very interesting scars. You've read Nick's interview with Denise A. Agnew, now you can peek inside his head. Ladies, gentlemen, creatures of the night, the final excerpt:

Excerpt #3

“You don’t need to fear me,” he said, in a voice he hoped was soothing.

“I don’t,” she replied, her voice hoarse. She cleared her throat. “Thank you for saving me.”

As Nick sat on the edge of his trunk behind her, he settled his thighs around her hips, pulling her close enough to allow him to see the even silk stitches he had placed a fortnight before. Her head swayed with the movement and he caught the sweet smell of her skin as she drew near. 

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before answering, “You don’t need to thank me. I’m glad I was able to.”

He eased the shift off her shoulders, his hands skimming her smooth sides. Her arms crossed her chest to clutch the loose linen over her breasts. Every inch of exposed flesh revealed a new piece of a pattern of crisscrossing scars that ran all the way up her back, culminating with the fresh knife wound beneath her right shoulder blade, angry and red.

He had seen the scars as he had sewn her up, and again the many times he had checked on the wound’s progress, but he had not been prepared for the sight of them in the unforgiving light of day. Nick let his breath out slowly, trying to hide his shock.

“You haven’t seen them in daylight.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Sally’s shoulders relaxed slightly. “I felt your breath on my back.”

Nick swallowed. “There are so many of them.”


Years. What kind of monster could do such a thing? He traced the edge of his thumb along a thick scar that crossed her spine from beneath her left shoulder to just above her right hip.

She shuddered.

“Forgive me.” He dropped his hand.

When she answered, there was a tremor in her voice. “It doesn’t hurt.”


I hope you enjoyed that as much as Sally did! You can still pre-order Tyburn from lsbooks.com and have it waiting for you on Monday, December 8th at a discounted price ...and... I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't mention that everything on lsbooks.com is 50% off today only, Tyburn included. There are a lot of really amazing (and really unbelievably nice) authors with a lot of tempting books, so whatever your subgenre (and I really mean what. ever.), you will find something you'll like at lsbooks.com. Happy Cyber Monday! 

Today I had the honor of being interviewed on Taige Crenshaw's blog (thanks, Taige!), so if you'd like to know more about my highly sophisticated creative process (hint: it involves Post-Its and bathtub crayons) and where I got my love of inappropriate heroines, stop by and give it a read!

Don't forget that there's an online scavenger hunt going on now hosted by myself and some of the other fantastic Liquid Silver authors! Click on the Hottie button to your right to learn how you can win gift cards between $10 and $100 (that could buy a lot of new romance, folks!) and even a diamond ring. Yes, really! Check it out here. You can even win an advanced copy of Tyburn just by reading the interview with Adam from Ashfall below and leaving a comment working his name into it. A winner will be announced on December 7th and Tyburn will be yours to read or gift to a recipient of your choosing. 

Have a great week & be sure to stop back Thursday for another installment of Contraception in History!  

**If you missed the first two excerpts, you can read the whole first chapter here and the second excerpt here. Enjoy!