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Adele Buck Posts

Recipe-English Toffee

I’m not much of a cook. I used to cook, because I had to. But then I married Mr. B. He actually enjoys cooking and he’s much, much better at it than I am. So the cooking gradually became his domain. I clean up. The division of labor works.

And while I don’t cook (well, much), I do bake. Our Christmases are filled with julekake (Norwegian Christmas bread). I also make English toffee. Toffee is one of those things where, if you can make it, people look at you like you just got your Hogwarts letter. You’re a Wizard, Harry! They assume it requires candy thermometers and maybe some eye of newt.

In fact, toffee isn’t that complicated. It requires no special equipment. The ingredients are dead simple. I don’t even require a recipe, because it’s in my head. So here’s the contents of my head, in case you want to make it.


1 cup sugar
1 cup salted butter (if you only have unsalted, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
1 cup semisweet tollhouse morsels
1 cup (getting the idea?) chopped walnuts


1 heavy-bottomed, medium size saucepan
1 metal spoon with a long handle
1 double-boiler or equivalent (I use a dollar store metal bowl over a smaller saucepan with about an inch of water in the bottom)
1 crappy 9×13 brownie pan (seriously, if you have a really good-quality, sturdy one, go out and get a cheapo from the grocery store or something. You want it to be fairly flimsy)
1 spatula
1 cold day. Unless you want your electricity bill to spike through the roof.

chocolate melting in double boilerPut the chocolate on to melt. You’re going to want to put it on very low heat (yes, there is a pot with about an inch of water underneath that bowl). If the water goes dry, you will end up with burned chocolate – no good!

Next, start to melt the butter in your medium saucepan over medium-high heat. I usually use the bowl of the spoon to carve the butter up into pieces so it will melt faster. Once the bulk  of the butter has melted, add all the sugar. And settle in. You are going to want to keep this moving the entire time until you have toffee. This takes between 15 minutes and forever (no, really – it takes about 15-20 minutes, I think. I don’t time it. I just stir until it’s done). It’s going to start out looking like grainy melted butter, then it’s going to morph a few times. The first time (maybe the first few times) you do this, you will be positive you’re getting it all wrong. Because it gets seriously weird.

the snot stageHere’s the first weird stage: It gets white-ish and fluffy, and frankly…it looks like snot. Soldier onward. Keep stirring. And make sure you’re getting the spoon into the corners of the saucepan so nothing is collecting there and burning!

blurry-ish photo of "brains" stageThere’s another stage it gets to at times where it looks rather like brains being braised in butter (yummy, huh?). If it gets like this, lower the heat a TRIFLE (very minute adjustment) and stir faster to reincorporate the butter. Sometimes this stage is skipped. I think it has to do with too much heat, but what do I know? I’m not Alton Brown.

Apologies for the crappy pictures. Turns out it’s hard to stir vigorously and snap a coherent photo at the same time. Who knew?

finished toffee still on the stoveYou will get to a point where you are SURE you’re done. It will be a light golden brown. It’s not quite there yet. You want it to be dark brown, maybe just the barest whiff away from starting to burn a little. If you have forethought, put a ramekin of cold water next to the stove, lift the pot off the heat, and drizzle a little of the mixture into the cold water (then set the pot down on the heat and keep stirring). The drizzle of toffee will set almost immediately and you can test it. It should set up nice and hard with a good snap.

If you’re me, you’ve been doing this for 30 years and know what you’re looking for, thank goodness, because you always forget to set up the ramekin with water and trust me, you do not want to stop stirring this stuff, not for a single minute, not even to step across the kitchen, fetch a ramekin and put water in it.

toffee in panPour the hot mixture (WARNING: THIS IS BURN TERRITORY. AND STICKY AS ALL GET OUT. DO NOT TOUCH THE TOFFEE AT THIS STAGE) into your crappy pan and tilt it about to get the liquid toffee more or less level.

toffee sitting outside in the cold

Put it outside to begin to set (putting this in the fridge will not make you a happy electricity customer, hence the requirement for a cold day).

When it has sat in the cold for a few minutes (depending on how cold it is outside), test its hardness. It should show a fingerprint, but without denting. If you try to spread the spreading chocolatechocolate on while it is still soft, you will have difficulties. The chocolate isn’t a ganache, so it spreads thickly. You want the toffee to be hard enough to stand up to the chocolate being shoved around on its surface. Spread half the melted chocolate until it’s more or less even. Then sprinkle half the chopped nuts. Set it outside again for a few more minutes. The chocolate doesn’t have to be completely set when you bring it back in again to do the other side, but it should be at least a little set. Invert the pan over some waxed paper and eject the toffee (this is why you want a one side of toffee chocolate-ed and nuttedcrappy pan – you want to be able to push on the bottom or torque the pan a little in order to get the toffee to release. And no, you don’t need to butter or otherwise treat the pan.)

If the toffee has broken up a bit, puzzle it back together as best you can (that makes chocolate spreading easier). Repeat the spreading of the chocolate and the nuts. Allow to cool. Break up with a chef’s knife and store in a cool, dry place (I use cookie tins lined with waxed paper). It keeps for quite a while. Also, save the crumbs to serve over ice cream.

Happy (yummy) holidays! You’re a wizard, Harry!finished toffee


Accidentally Relevant…

…Might just be the name of my new imaginary band. On New Year’s Day this year, sipping a glass of bubbly and chatting with my husband was commemorated with this tweet:

I thought about it a lot, I plotted (in my head-I’m not much of a “real” plotter), I created an academic librarian hero and a fly fishing guide heroine. I settled on the title, Slow Drift. I didn’t start writing it until a few days before my first Romance Writers of America conference in July, and I finished the first draft in late October. Four months of writing, about 80,000 words, and a good ten months from the idea to The End.

All the while, I was aware that despite my friends’ encouragement (there was a lot of, “Oooh! I’d read that!” on Twitter), I am an odd duck with a wide acquaintance of fellow odd ducks. I personally love it when a heroine has a nontraditional job (also heroes, but heroines even more so), and I love getting a slice of life view of a profession I haven’t done and haven’t seen in romance before. I’m aware that not everyone feels this way, which can make marketing hard.

So I was thrilled when Mr. Buck emailed me this article in the New York Times about women getting into angling. It touches on a lot of the themes I covered in Slow Drift, and it makes me cautiously hopeful that the book will find its footing in the publishing world.

It’s here, it’s here! Mary Ann Marlowe’s A Crazy Kind of Love

…and I’ve had a chance to read it. It’s a great read, and anyone who loves rock-star romances should get their sticky fingers on it NOW.

Release Date November 28, 2017



In this irresistible new novel by Mary Ann Marlowe, one woman’s up-close and sexy encounter with a tabloid sensation reveals the dizzying—and delicious—dilemma of dating in the spotlight . . .

Celebrities hold zero interest for photographer Jo Wilder. That’s a problem, since snapping pics of the stars is how the pretty paparazza pays the rent. So when Jo attempts to catch a money shot atop the broad shoulders of a helpful bystander, the only thing she notices about the stranger she straddles is that he’s seriously hot. Only later does Jo learn that he’s also Micah Sinclair—one of rock’s notorious bad boys…

Soon Jo is on the verge of getting fired for missing a Micah Sinclair exclusive. Until she’s suddenly being pursued by the heartthrob himself. But how can she be sure the musician’s mind-blowing kisses are the real deal? Her colleagues claim he’s a media whore, gambling on some free PR. But something has Jo hoping Micah’s feeling the same powerful pull that she does. A pull so strong, she can’t resist becoming his latest love, even if it means she might become the media’s latest victim . . .

“The perfect romantic comedy.” —RT Book Reviews

“Another sizzling, glitterati-filled story.” Booklist Online

“If you like wonderfully written, light, fast paced, swoon worthy moments, and chemistry so strong it jumps off the page, then this is the book for you.” Wit & Wonder Books


Available November 28, 2017 from Kensington. Pre-Order at all digital retailers:

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads | BAM! | Audible

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio:

Mary Ann lives in central Virginia where she works as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel.

Connect with Mary Ann

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Newsletter Signup

Mary Ann Marlowe’s “A Crazy Kind of Love” out November 28!

I’m thrilled to announce my “agency sister” Mary Ann Marlowe’s second book comes out this month! I can’t wait to get my hands on it…

Release Date November 28, 2017


In this irresistible new novel by Mary Ann Marlowe, one woman’s up-close and sexy encounter with a tabloid sensation reveals the dizzying—and delicious—dilemma of dating in the spotlight . . .

Celebrities hold zero interest for photographer Jo Wilder. That’s a problem, since snapping pics of the stars is how the pretty paparazza pays the rent. So when Jo attempts to catch a money shot atop the broad shoulders of a helpful bystander, the only thing she notices about the stranger she straddles is that he’s seriously hot. Only later does Jo learn that he’s also Micah Sinclair—one of rock’s notorious bad boys…

Soon Jo is on the verge of getting fired for missing a Micah Sinclair exclusive. Until she’s suddenly being pursued by the heartthrob himself. But how can she be sure the musician’s mind-blowing kisses are the real deal? Her colleagues claim he’s a media whore, gambling on some free PR. But something has Jo hoping Micah’s feeling the same powerful pull that she does. A pull so strong, she can’t resist becoming his latest love, even if it means she might become the media’s latest victim . . .

Praise for Mary Ann Marlowe’s Some Kind of Magic

“Marlowe makes a name for herself in this hilarious and sexy debut.”

“Frisky, Flirty Fun!”
–Stephanie Evanovich, New York Times bestselling author of The Total Package


Available November 28, 2017 from Kensington. Pre-Order at all digital retailers:

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads | BAM!



More people rolled in, either on foot or via personal motorcade. The feeding frenzy intensified as the level of fame increased. Some celebrities disappeared as quickly as possible. Others walked the runway, stopping to give the photographers ample time to capture them, only answering questions about whichever project they wanted to publicize.

By the time Micah Sinclair emerged from a black sedan, tall and confident, voices had reached fever pitch.

Micah, over here!

As his car drove away, Micah stood a moment to take in the scene. Rather than escape the fishbowl or pose for publicity shots, he shook hands with one of the reporters and chatted for a few seconds before he came my way. He tilted his head back, and his face lit up.

“Wally!” He crossed over, hand outstretched. “Haven’t seen you around in a while. I hope everything’s good at home.”

Wally actually put his camera down to shake Micah’s hand. I glanced around. Nobody was taking pictures. Was there something inherently un-newsworthy about a guy talking to the media? I lifted my camera and started shooting. The whirr of my camera caught Micah’s attention, and he turned away from Wally with a wide-eyed look of recognition.

He put his hand up against the flash and peered around his fingers. “Jo-Josie from Georgia! I didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”

Since he was facing me, I kept snapping pictures. Knowing that Andy would want me to at least get a comment if I could, I blurted out, “Hey, Micah. Are you here alone tonight?”

I knew I should have asked him something more specific, but he was smiling that cocky-bratty grin, and it was messing with my killer instinct. If I had a killer instinct.

“I am. Or at least I came here alone.” The cameras around us began to flash, but Micah kept his cool, eyes on me, as if we were still standing on the sidewalk in Park Slope, all alone. His lip curled up on one side, like he was gearing up for a challenge. “How’d you like to be my date?”

Now I dropped my camera, and it slammed into my gut. Oof. Damn if Andy hadn’t called it. I still couldn’t process the invitation. “Sorry, what?”

He gestured with his head toward the steps. “Come on. You’ll get better pictures inside.”

I threw a glance at Wally who looked as envious as Charlie Bucket when the last golden ticket was found. He nodded me forward. Now that fantasy had turned into reality, I realized I wasn’t remotely prepared to rub elbows with the same people I needed to exploit. “Sure. But are you sure it’s okay? Nobody will mind?”

“Eden will, but I owe you one. And besides I have an in with the guy throwing the party.” He offered me his elbow. “Come on. Don’t be shy. You might get that Pulitzer prize shot.”

I gathered my gear together. Micah stopped and looked down at me while I threw my camera bag and backpack over my shoulder and straightened up. At my full height, he only had a couple of inches on me. I put my hand around his proffered bicep, completely aware of the feel of his skin on my fingertips. He turned his blue eyes on me, and I forgot how to breathe.

The smile dropped from his face for a second, and he asked, “Everything okay?”

I sucked in a lungful of air and laughed off my nerves. “Entering enemy territory for the first time.”

His confident, charming smile returned, and he led me up the steps into the brownstone—my own personal Trojan horse.

Micah nodded at the burly man inside the door as we passed. “This is Jo. She’s with me.”

The bouncer shot me a look of grudging respect. “Good luck.”

As Micah pulled me along, I looked back, unsure what the bouncer meant by that, but he’d already turned his attention away, so I faced forward, glancing around wildly for any A-list celebrities.

And it hit me for real. I was on the inside.

Author Bio:


Mary Ann lives in central Virginia where she works as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel.

Connect with Mary Ann

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Newsletter Signup

Those two little words

So, I wrote those magic two little words enamored of romance writers everywhere on my current work-in-progress today. No, not “Love you,” but:


It was a remarkably productive day, especially considering I have some sort of sinus thing or a cold and I’m hopped up on cold meds. So the 3,500 words I cranked out today might be…utter rubbish. But, as Nora Roberts says, “You can fix a bad page. You can’t fix a blank one.”

For now, I’m going to rest and read and get (hopefully, sinuses willing) a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow I start a fast revision pass (sooner than I’d usually do-I’d usually give it at least a week or so to marinate before I dove back in, but I want to get this off to my agent before I leave for Norway next weekend).

Virtual Book Tour – Kelly Siskind’s LEGS

The first book in my friend Kelly Siskind’s new series is out. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an Advance Reviewer’s Copy and it is seriously sexy, funny fun.

If this sounds like your catnip (um, yes. Wine? Please. A sexy enemies-to-lovers type vibe with great banter? All the yes.)  you can buy immediately and enter for a chance to win a $15 gift card.

Running into your one-night stand is a special kind of awkward. Competing against him in a wine tasting contest is delicious torment…

On Rachel’s twenty-seventh birthday, she wishes to finally find a rewarding job. What she doesn’t wish is to drink a boatload of wine, sleep with a tattooed bad boy, and drunk email her boss in one glorious, career-ending move. But the fiasco pushes her to pursue a career inspired by her late father’s love of wine: sommelier.

Unfortunately, she’s competing against her infuriating one-night stand, a man as intoxicating as a Pinot Noir.

Two years ago, Jimmy was set to inherit his family winery. Then it got ripped from his grasp. To close that dark chapter of his life, he plans to win a local sommelier contest and use the press to expose his family’s tainted wines.

Jimmy loves studying the streaks of alcohol that cling to a wineglass, known as the wine’s “legs,” but other shapely legs are stealing his focus. Tantalizing legs. Legs that had wrapped around his waist for one wild night. Jimmy, sadly, has a weakness for legs.

He also hates to lose.


OR this:

Universal Book Link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Teeny Tiny Romance contest – congratulations to Suleikha!

The winner of Love Notes from Purgatory’s “Teeny Tiny Romance Contest” was announced today – and it’s my friend Suleikha Snyder! I’m celebrating your win so hard, my dear!

Now that the winner has been announced, I’m free to post the story I entered on my own site, so if you haven’t read it yet, please enjoy My Lady’s Duchess:

Clarissa squeezed Duchess’s reins, the mare coming to an obedient stop at the slight pressure. Stroking the horse’s glossy chestnut neck, Clarissa crooned low into the furry ears that swiveled back to catch her words.

“Precious darling. Clever girl. You’re learning so fast.”

Her boots met the ground with a solid thud as she dismounted. Duchess stood still and quiet as Clarissa ran the stirrups up and loosened the girth. Drawing the reins up over the horse’s head, Clarissa led her into the dim aisle of the barn, empty loose boxes to either side smelling of fresh bedding, ready for the rest of the herd when they came in from the pasture for their evening meal.

Clarissa grabbed Duchess’s halter, slinging it over her shoulder so she could remove the bridle. She scratched the horse’s bristly face where the straps had lain in a vain attempt to keep Duchess from her usual practice of scrubbing her itchy nose against Clarissa’s jacket. Clarissa laughed as the force of Duchess’s rough caress pushed her back a half step.

“She’s ruining your habit, my lady.” A deep voice sounded from the other end of the barn, tugging at something low and primal inside Clarissa.

“Nonsense, Joseph.” She didn’t look for the source of the voice. She didn’t need to. Her pounding heart told her everything she needed to know. To cover her reaction, she brushed at the horse hair sticking to her tweed jacket before threading the halter onto Duchess, easing it over her sensitive ears and fastening it to the cross ties that were anchored to the walls on either side.

When she moved to remove the saddle, she felt Joseph close behind her, strength and heat radiating from his body. She stiffened even as she wanted to melt.

“You should let me get that, my lady.” His breath tickled her ear, warm and intimate. A liberty she shouldn’t permit.

“I prefer to rub Duchess down myself.” Her voice didn’t sound quite her own with her throat thick and tight like this. Swallowing, she tried for a lighter tone. “You know how sensitive she is around men.”

“Only strangers. She knows me. She trusts me.” Was he really talking about the horse? He reached past her, one hand flipping up the saddle’s skirt and releasing the girth’s buckle in a practiced, fluid movement. Perversely, Clarissa felt the air leave her body as if the girth was being tightened around her own rib cage, corseting her, robbing her of breath.

He moved again, this time to lift the saddle off the horse. Duchess stamped as the girth trailed across her back and Clarissa grabbed it, finally looking up at his sharp jaw, high cheekbones, mocking mouth. “You know she doesn’t like that.”

Blue eyes bright in a tanned face gazed at her innocently, at odds with those smirking lips. Then he winked. If she had any ability to breathe normally, she would have gasped at the effrontery of the gesture.

“She’ll forgive anything of me, my lady.”

“Will she?” Clarissa had intended the words to be arch. Instead, they were a squeak. He was the cat today and she, in very truth, the mouse.

“She will indeed. I have her favorite treat.” He gave her a significant smile and grabbed the bridle on his way to the tack room.

Air. Clarissa desperately needed air.

She took a shuddering breath, focusing on the smells of horse, hay, and wood shavings as she reached for a soft brush to remove the dust that had settled on Duchess’s otherwise glossy coat during their ride. Joseph returned and ran his hand down the horse’s legs, lifting and inspecting her hooves. Clarissa felt the touch on her own skin, as if his rough palm was skimming down her thigh, her calf, as if he was examining her body.

She was running the brush over Duchess’s flank when he caught up with her, crouching next to her to check the last hoof for chips or stones. Clarissa’s pulse drummed in her ears. When he rose, he was close to her again, crowding her back against the horse’s bulk. She had to tilt her head to see his face, the knowing expression.

“That hat.” His voice was a rumble, his eyes the barest circle of blue around velvety black pupils.

“What about it?”

“It’s in my way.”

“Is it?” She removed it, dropping it to the floor.

“That’s better.” He stepped forward, his body touching hers, rough-calloused fingers skimming her jaw. Clarissa’s tongue traced her lower lip, heartbeat accelerating.

Duchess shifted, knocking into them, making them stumble apart.

“Damn horse.” Turning, Joseph unclipped her from the cross ties and led her to the other end of the barn, opening the back door to the paddock and letting her loose with an affectionate slap to her flank as she passed. Clarissa didn’t move, couldn’t move. She was pinned in place, every nerve on fire as she watched man and horse, blinking at the strong autumn sunlight streaming through the open door.

He stood for a few moments, giving her the opportunity to ogle his silhouette, his broad shoulders tapering to lean hips, the long, strong legs. The physique that daily hard, physical labor produced. When he pulled the door closed, the light dimmed again. Clarissa stood rooted to the spot as he sauntered back to her, his cap sitting back on his head at an arrogant angle. Resuming his place in front of her, he cupped her face in his hands, making her gasp.

“Too forward, my lady?”

Not trusting her voice, she shook her head, her gaze locked with his.

“Just forward enough?” Before she could respond, he bent forward, capturing her mouth in a light, sweet kiss, only sipping at her lips, yet somehow unleashing something dark and primal inside her. Her eyes fluttered closed, her hands lifting to his chest inside his open jacket, clutching at his shirt, trying to draw him closer, her mouth seeking more, her body pressing against his.

His rough cheek slid along her softer one, his lips moving against her ear. “You can’t kiss me like that and not have consequences for it.” A dangerous purr this tomcat had.

“What will you do?” She remembered the slap on Duchess’s flank, imagining his hand landing on her, reddening her bottom. Her thighs clenched together, liquid heat pooling there.

“Nothing in a spot this public.” He looked over her head to the yard in front of the stable where a pair of chickens scratched and pecked. It was empty of people, but that could change in an instant. “Come with me.” Pulling her hands away from his shirt, he backed into the tack room, drawing her after him and closing the door behind them.

“Someone could still come any time,” she said.

“Are you afraid?”

Her cheeks burned. “No.” What she felt was something beyond fear. Beyond shame. Beyond thought, even.

“Then…” He tugged her hands and she stepped into his arms, the strength of them winding around her waist making her knees wobbly. “Kiss me again.”

She did, her hands tunneling into his thick, dark hair, knocking his cap to the floor, opening her lips to admit his tongue seeking hers. A thrill of power went through her as she felt him hardening against her belly, knowing she was affecting him as strongly as he affected her. He smelled of warm skin and fresh air and his hair was silky as it slid through her fingers. She gave a little tug, his responsive moan vibrating on her tongue.

“Clarissa.” Her name on his lips against hers was an illicit thrill of its own.

“Yes,” she said, encouraging him as his hands went to the neck of her blouse, unbuttoning until he could brush the tops of her breasts with those clever lips.

A door slammed and Clarissa stiffened. “Joe.”

“Mmm.” He straightened and kissed her again as she struggled to re-button her blouse.

“Joe, stop. Someone’s here.” She fought the absurd urge to giggle as he squeezed her bottom.

“Fine.” Bending to retrieve his cap from the floor, he slapped it against one thigh to dust it off.

Clarissa opened the door to the tack room, knowing she was disheveled and probably blushing to boot. A strange woman stood just inside the barn doorway, a pleasant, expectant expression on her face. Clarissa took in her appearance in one quick, assessing sweep. A quietly expensive flower-print dress and modest jewelry murmured wealth instead of shouting it, but there was money here.

“Can I help you?”

“Is this Morgenstern Farm?” the stranger asked.

Joe emerged from the tack room, a shameless grin on his face, as if they hadn’t almost been caught playing their game in broad daylight. He pointed at the embroidery on his baseball cap that showed a horse with the words “Morgenstern Farm” stitched underneath. “That’s right. Joe Morgenstern.” He shook hands with the stranger. “My wife, Clarissa. What can we do for you?”

The woman’s face relaxed in a slight smile. “I’m Felicia Jones. My family’s moving here in a few months and we’re going to need to board our two horses. I don’t suppose you have the room?” Her gaze swept over the loose boxes, probably having counted the horses she could see in the pasture and hoping the tally of stalls was at least two shy of the number of animals outside.

“As a matter of fact, we do.” Clarissa led the woman down the row of stalls to the two at the end which were bare of bedding, having no occupants to warrant it and began her sales pitch.


Joe chuckled to himself as Clarissa showed the other woman around the stable, explaining the pasture rotation, the personalities of the other horses, the availability of local trails, and their own small practice paddock. Clarissa had been worried about that extra space in the stable, the lack of income it represented.

Walking out into the cool afternoon, he saw what must be the woman’s car. An expensive Volvo station wagon with New York plates. He idly wondered if the Joneses were from one of those tony suburbs north of Manhattan, if New Hampshire was going to seem like a tedious bore in comparison.

Whatever. They could always sample the delights of Boston. It was no business of his. Keeping the farm running and Clarissa happy, those were his only two goals in the world.

Clarissa emerged from the barn, absently deadheading a petunia spilling out of one of the window boxes at the front of the barn as she and Mrs. Jones concluded their discussion with a handshake.

“I’ll e-mail you our contract,” Clarissa said, smoothing the strawberry blond hair that was coming loose from the low knot she wore when exercising the horses. Her tweed riding jacket was buttoned again, but it only half-hid the glorious curve of her ass in tight jodhpurs tucked into glossy hunt boots.

Mrs. Jones waved as she got into her car and Joe returned to his wife to watch their visitor leave. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he drew her tight to his side.

“Our game was rather rudely interrupted,” he said, his eyes still fixed on the long driveway out to the town road.

Clarissa sighed. “I know. But we need the money.”

“We could always resume it.” His pulse sped at the thought and he wanted to laugh. Six years married and she could still do this to him with a look or with nothing at all.

Her teeth worried her lower lip. “And have six horses and a donkey breathing down our necks? It’s too close to feeding time.”

“You’re probably right.” He threaded his fingers in hers, leading her back to the barn to call the horses in for their evening meal. “Tonight?”

“You’re incorrigible.” But her smile told another story.

“Whatever my lady wishes,” he said, touching the brim of his cap.

Teeny Tiny Romance Contest

Back in June, I entered Cara McKenna’s Love Notes from Purgatory contest. The challenge was to write a convincing love story in less than 2,000 words.

Yup. Two thousand.

That’s not a lot of words.

My first reaction was, “Eeep. Good luck, people who enter. That sounds IMPOSSIBLE.”

Then I had an idea.

I wrote the idea up, hounded some of my critique partners for feedback and entered the contest. All the entries are now posted and mine is here.

I didn’t final, but a couple of my friends did – congratulations to Suleikha Snyder and Mica Kennedy for their entries and to everyone else who entered!

Follow the bouncing ball

“Are you published yet?”

This may be the writer’s least-favorite question from non-writing friends. Or perhaps it comes in second to, “How long does it take you to write a book?” Wow, does that depend on so many factors.

The question writers are more likely to ask each other is, “How do you cope with the waiting?” Because so much in publishing is about waiting. Waiting on feedback from beta readers and critique partners. Waiting on responses to agent queries. Then waiting on editorial feedback from your agent. Then waiting on editor’s responses to submissions. Then…

You get the idea. Writers wait a lot. So you need a coping strategy, especially if you’re as impatient and twitchy a person as I am.

My coping strategy is to write more. Production of what is (hopefully) my debut novel, ACTING UP, was followed by writing METHOD ACTING. I recently finished initial revisions on the third book, ACTING LESSONS and sent it off to my beta readers. LESSONS was, for a lot of reasons, a difficult book to write (which isn’t to say it’s not fun to read–hopefully. It just came out much more slowly than any other manuscript I’ve ever written before. I cut my usual 1,000 word/day goal in half and still struggled some days).

So having that book in my rear-view (for now, until beta reads and critique partner feedback starts coming back and I begin to re-revise), I embarked on a new project, FAST ACTING. This is a novella that foregrounds the good friends of the protagonists in METHOD.

It’s a project that’s living up to its name. Folks, this one has been super fun to write so far. A fun, flirty story between two wedding guests at an intimate destination wedding? A perfect follow-up to a more difficult project.

And as much as I hate the “How long does it take?” question, I do keep track of word counts and timing. I see this as practice for when (hopefully) I have externally imposed deadlines. I want to know what I’m capable of, what is realistic, and (very importantly) what isn’t. What I can promise and what I can’t. Also, setting my own deadlines is an exercise in professionalism.

As much as I love Scrivener’s word count tool for daily and overall goals, I’ve found Pacemaker’s more flexible and visual tools to be a valuable tool for charting historical output and tracking your progress. It has a nifty share-able widget. So if you’re interested in following the progress of a novella, by all means, follow the bouncing ball…

Some thoughts on audiobook narration and narrators (with recommendations)

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have strong opinions about audiobook narration. I tend to have strong opinions about a lot of things (my own mother, in her inimitable way, says that I am, “Never far from an opinion.”)

Ever since Audible instituted a return policy I’ve been both more adventurous about trying new narrators and absolutely ruthless in returning books that aren’t doing it for me. As a former actor, I not only hear things that drive me nuts, but I can identify them with specificity. A non-comprehensive list of narrator tics and traits that will have me reaching for my phone and muttering, “Nope,” are:

  • Strange accent choices that aren’t rooted in the text (one book I listened to had someone from Colorado speak in a weird, nasal, Annie Potts-in-the-original-Ghostbusters Brooklyn accent. It made my face contort in very…interesting ways. Not good ones.)
  • Ditto for character voice choices (one book I DNF-ed had a main character who sounded unnervingly like the “Sexy Baby” girl on that episode of 30 Rock. You know the one.)
  • Reading fight scenes in an INCREDIBLY! AMPED! UP! WAY! That indicates the narrator doesn’t believe it’s exciting enough as written.
  • Immature voices in general. This isn’t 100% fair of me, necessarily, because voices are what they are. But an audiobook narrator needs to convey a lot of different characters at, usually, a lot of different ages, and very childlike voices don’t have a lot of range.
  • Badly performed accents.
  • Narrators who. Have what I call. Shatner’s Disease. They pause. In weird. Places.

Basically, what all these boil down to are: this is distracting. It calls attention to the narrator, and away from what is being narrated. A good audiobook reader lets the story flow through the voice. You might occasionally notice something about their voice or characterization, but it should be something you notice that you like.

At the same time, I feel for audiobook narrators. I’ve probably committed some of the same “sins” in the one (to date) audiobook short story I recorded for my friend Jacob Clifton. (Ignore the random cats – they have nothing to do with the narrative and were just the photo I slapped up on SoundCloud when I created an account).

Basically, narrating a book is hard. It’s difficult to keep track of the characterization choices you’ve made, it’s vocally challenging (especially if you’re a woman trying to produce a creditable-sounding man’s voice), and meanwhile you have to read the text…perfectly. Which sounds like it should be the easiest part. It isn’t.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer up some of my favorite audiobook narrators and some of my favorite books that they have read:

  • I’ll start with the divine Kate Reading. I once described her thusly:

    Then she blew my mind and responded:

    I don’t know when I first encountered her, but it may have been when I bought her rendition of one of my favorite books, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. Since then, I’ve listened to at least a hundred hours of her work and have only ever returned a book because I didn’t like the book. Never because of her reading. She also narrates either all or the vast majority of Loretta Chase’s excellent historical romances (Lord Perfect and Not Quite a Lady are personal favorites, but I have at least liked all of them).

  • Nicholas Boulton. The man I once described as:

    He has a sense of humor. He responded:

    In ensuing tweets I proceeded, apparently, to make him blush. It was among my finest hours. He brings gorgeousness and grit to the medieval The King’s ManHe’s also up for an Audie for Glitterland: Spires, Book 1 which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, but well believe is worthy of the nomination.

  • In the mystery genre, I really enjoy the marriage of Barbara Rosenblat’s voice and the Mrs. Pollifax series. These globe-spanning books have to be an incredible challenge both in terms of consistency of recurring character choices over a long period of time and a cast of, if not thousands, definitely hundreds from seemingly every country on the planet.
  • In fantasy, Kyle McCarley’s reading of The Goblin Emperor was simply fantastic. And, frankly, having read this book multiple times with my eyes and at least once with my ears, the narrated version makes the incredibly complicated names and nicknames much easier to navigate.
  • Some (a few) authors are also excellent narrators. Neil Gaiman reads his own work incredibly well. I’d recommend anything, but I especially enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
  • The actor Alan Cumming is also an excellent narrator (you’d think all good actors would be good audiobook narrators. Nope. Some of them suffer from Shatner’s Disease). His readings of Scott Westerfeld’s YA, steampunk Leviathan series are especially fun. David Suchet reading Agatha Christie’s Poirot series is a particular delight, especially if you’re a fan of his small-screen portrayal of the Belgian detective. And, of course, Juliet Stevenson reading anything Austen.
  • I’m a huge Georgette Heyer fan and most of them are read by narrators that range from good to great, but my favorite of her books, A Civil Contract, is also read by my favorite of her narrators, Phyllida Nash. Ms. Nash also reads seven other Heyers.

Not all audiobooks that have ever been created are available (or they’re not all available in the U.S.). But if you can lay your hands on these via your local library’s audiobook CD collection, do:

  • Carole Boyd reading Stella Gibbons’ delicious Nightingale Wood. A favorite I’ve returned to again and again. Funnier even, I think, than Gibbons’ more well-known Cold Comfort Farm. If you can’t find it, console yourself with anything else that’s still available, including the fantastic Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar.
  • Ian Carmichael reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books. The late Mr. Carmichael was an absolute master of character, accent, and pacing. If you can’t find any of those, you can still get him reading three of P.G. Wodehouse’s comedic masterpieces.

I have to stop here or I might be here all day. At any rate, if you have any recommendations for great audiobooks and narrators, please leave them in the comments!