Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kiss of the Assassin Sequel In The Works! + Teaser Excerpt

The original "Omaja Stone" cover had both twins on it, wearing armor (one of them is in shadow over the shoulder here.) 
Oh, by the way...I started writing a sequel to Kiss of the Assassin February 14th. It's the story of Yavi and Graciella, about six years later, as the Y Twins (now 30 years old) and Jiandra (now 28) are struggling to get Nandala back on its feet again as a nation. Gracie's just turned 20, so she is old enough for her own romance novel. (Rafe is now fourteen and still under the care and training of the monks in the Tylvan monastery north of Darpan, Nandala - I plan to give him his own book at some point, when he is old enough to be the hero.)

I don't know the title yet, so my working title is KA2 (Kiss of the Assassin 2) at the moment. I'm not plotting this one out like I did Sweet Barbarian. I feel that I write better twists and turns when I don't have overly detailed preconceived notions about where a storyline is going, and even though I love SB, it doesn't have the same level of action and adventure as my other two novels, and I feel it has suffered a little in the reviews because of it. (Caribbean Jewel and Kiss never get deemed "boring," at least not in the Amazon reviews.) The advantage of plotting everything out in advance, for SB, was speed and ease in writing. I wrote the first draft in four weeks. (And I can't really complain about how things turned out, because SB is by far my best selling novel at the moment; it has remained on the Bestsellers list for Time Travel Romances on Amazon for two months now, ever since it came out December 23rd.) But I just know how my mind works, and I know that my creativity is at its best when I don't know what is going to happen next.

So far, I've written 15,000 words (three chapters) in less than 2 weeks in KA2, and it has flowed much easier than I expected since the only plotting I started with was "Yavi and Graciella fall in love in this one." I've never written a sequel to anything, so I guess I didn't realize that with the world and the characters already built, you can just jump in and start writing. "Seeing" all the familiar faces has been a blast. As soon as I wrote the first sentence for the novel, which describes Yavi rappelling down from a window in the White Palace in Darpan in the middle of the night to go on some mission, I was like, why hello, Yavi, my old friend. It's been a while. :)

[You can see my Pinterest Board for KA2 Inspirations here!]

Here is a teaser excerpt from chapter 3 of KA2, the last scene I wrote last night:

Yavi killed the remaining bandit, slicing through his chest with his scimitars, and tossed the body into the nearby ditch. He strode over to the coach and pulled back the curtain, but the inside of the carriage appeared to be empty. He grabbed the torch from the driver’s seat, held it up to see inside better.
              Luminous light hazel eyes stared back at him, and a full, soft pink mouth parted in surprise. Dark, shiny hair was piled loosely on top of her head, and her sweetly rounded breasts heaved a little with shortness of breath.
              “Graciella?” he rasped, in disbelief that the beautiful woman inside the coach was really her. She was definitely not as he remembered her from six years earlier.
              “Are…are you Yavi, or Yajna?”
              “Yavi. Are you all right?”
              She clutched her chest, offering him a wry smile. “I will be, as soon as I can breathe again.”
              He turned to retrieve her dagger from the side of the road, where the bandit she’d stabbed in the throat had left it. He cleaned the unusually dark-looking blood off on the shirt of one of the fallen mercenaries, then handed it to her by the blade. “You’d better keep this wherever you had it. It seems to have come in handy.”
              “Yes.” She raised the hem of her skirt a bit and bent forward to tuck the small dagger into her boot. Her breasts pressed together inside her neckline, jiggling a bit with the movement. “I thank you.”
              Yavi stood frozen at the doorway, catching himself glancing down at the creamy smoothness of her leg just before she let the hem of her skirt back down. He looked up and cleared his throat. “Well, so much for a warm welcome into Nandala. I’d best get you to the palace before the others realize I’m gone and start to worry.”
              She nodded, swallowing. “Do you want me to—to stay in here?”
              “Yes. I’ll drive the coach. Let me get my horse tied to it, and we’ll be off.” He closed the door, then reopened it and held up the torch again to see her face. “Do you need anything? Sure you’re all right?”
              “I’m fine.”
              “Call to me out the window if you need anything before we arrive.”
              “Okay.” She smiled then, a fetching grin that lit up her lovely face and showed off a row of pearly white teeth.
              Yavi cleared his throat again, shut the door, and went to get Sikar.
              The bandit she’d stabbed had survived and escaped, but Yavi didn’t want to waste time chasing him down at the moment. His sole mission now was the safe delivery of Graciella to the palace.
              Kitchen help, his arse. If he had his way, the beautiful creature inside that coach would never dirty her delicate little hands in his kitchen.

Okay, back to writing, because I really want to know what happens next. <3

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vegan Penne Alfredo With Sautéed Mushrooms

Yes, this tastes as good as it looks. Shown here with gluten-free brown rice penne from Trader Joe's.

I'm committed to eating a vegan diet because I love how I feel when I don't eat dairy--or meat of course (but meat's not a temptation for me.) Doing without Alfredo sauce, however, is a bit of a sacrifice. Or was, until I modified a sauce recipe I found on Simpleveganblog.com and came up with the creamiest, most Alfredo-like dish I could have ever hoped for.

I haven't had dairy since June 2015, but to my palate this is so close to how I remember mushroom Alfredo I am in heaven every time I make it (about once a week at the moment.) Browned garlic, steamed cauliflower, and creamy canned coconut milk combine to make a dreamy delicious white sauce that sets off the earthy caramelized mushrooms and will have you going back for more. Go ahead and indulge--you're basically eating vegetables with a splash of coconut milk over a bed of brown rice.


Vegan Penne Alfredo With Sautéed Mushrooms


Mushrooms

1 TBS olive oil
8 oz sliced baby portobello (cremini) mushrooms
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of salt

Pasta

1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta (for gluten-free, I highly recommend Trader Joe's Brown Rice Pasta in this dish. I'm not 100% gluten-free, but I'm white-flour free, so I use this pasta a lot.)

Sauce

1 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 cups cauliflower chunks
3/4 cup canned coconut milk (shake the can to mix the solids with the water, or mix well with a fork after you open it. Don't just use the water alone.)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste (I use 1 tsp salt)
1 TBS nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 TBS fresh squeeze lemon juice

Optional - fresh or dried parsley, to garnish

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms in hot olive oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the thyme and salt while the mushrooms cook, and let them sit without over-stirring if you want them to get really caramelized and brown around the edges. Set aside.

Sauté the garlic in olive oil until browned (I brown it pretty dark because it really adds that pungent cheesy flavor to the blended sauce.) Turn down the heat a little and pour in your coconut milk (fast because it will sputter in the hot oil worse if you pour slowly,) bring it to a boil, then add the cauliflower chunks. Add the salt and pepper and simmer gently with the lid on for 7 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is steamed through and soft.

Transfer the hot mixture to a high-speed blender, and add the nutritional yeast flakes and the lemon juice. Blend on high for 30 seconds to one minute, then check the creaminess level. Keep blending 20-30 seconds at a time until it's perfectly silky and smooth. (In my Vitamix, it only takes about 30 seconds to perfection.) If it's your first time making this sauce, you might want to taste it for salt level as well and adjust that before you take it out of the blender.

Other delicious additions/variations with this sauce: a swirl of vegan pesto, sauteéd asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes...oh Lord, the possibilities are endless. :-)

Pour the sauce over the pasta, top with the mushrooms and a generous sprinkle of fresh ground pepper. Garnish with parsley if desired, and enjoy!

If you make this dish, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Vegan Sugar Free, Caffeine Free Blender Latte



Craving a delicious guilt-free latte but don't have an espresso machine (or have time to use it every morning?) You can make delicious frothy lattes with a high-speed blender in seconds (once your coffee or coffee substitute is brewed.)

I invented this recipe while trying to make a coffee free vegan version of Dave Asprey's "bulletproof coffee."

For a caffeine-free blender latte, first brew 2 cups of coffee substitute. (I like Teeccino's Mocha, Chocolate, or French Roast for this.) When the coffee beverage is ready, pour it into your high-speed blender along with a tablespoon of coconut oil and alternative milk to taste (I use about a quarter cup of coconut-almond milk, Califia brand because it's sweetened with natural Monk fruit and is zero-glycemic.) You can further sweeten the latte with sweetener of choice, and of course real sugar if you are not sugar-free. I find that the natural sweetness in coconut oil as well as the coconut almond milk is enough sweetness for me.

Now you can add some optional ingredients: a bit of cinnamon, some carob or cacao powder, nutmeg, vanilla, etc.

Blend on the highest speed for about 30 seconds, and then check to see if it has frothed up like a latte. If not, blend another 20 seconds and check. Once you see frothy bubbles on top, the latte is ready to pour into your mug and enjoy!

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