WriteHardDieFreeI’ve never been happier to see a year end and a new year begin. Serious illness¬† laid my family and myself low several times and then we lost two of our kitties. All I wanted from 2014 was to survive to 2015.

That achievement unlocked, like everyone else in January, I’m taking stock of the new year.

I’ve decided this is the year where I jump off the cliff.

PhoenixInheritance72lgFirst, I’m talking more openly about the challenges my family faces as our kids deal with autism and other special needs issues. I put so much of this into Phoenix Inheritance that talking about it is unavoidable.

I want this book to get as much audience as it can because, if a fictional version of my story can reach and help people, then all that blood on the page is worth it.

I had three new books come out last year, shining bright spots amid the chaos.

This year, I have one new book, Phoenix Inheritance, coming out on March 3, and The Curse of the Brimstone Contract and Ghost Phoenix will be coming out in paperback. But after that, nothing is on my publishing schedule.

Why?

Because I’m writing something new, something I’ve wanted to write for two years and put it off because other writing obligations and health issues had priority.

It’s time.

The tentatively-named The Crystal Tower is an urban fantasy, a modern-day Arthurian tale set in a city on the verge of falling apart, like Detroit, or my fictional Charlton City in Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past. The lead is Aurelia (Lia) Artos and there’s an equivalent to the Holy Grail and Excalibur involved. No vampires, no werewolves or other shifters, no witches, etc. There is an element of a Cherokee legend that, I hope, adds an entirely new twist to the familiar story.Someone mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to me as a possible influence and I put my fingers in my ears because I haven’t read it and now I don’t want to read it because while Gaiman is awesome at whatever he does, I have to do what I do without trying to imitate him.

I’m only half-finished with the rough draft so I’m reluctant to say more but I know that the events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri are filtering into this tale. I’m not going to duck racial politics but meet them head on. To do otherwise would be a slap in the face of those dealing with this in their daily lives.

I’m not sure what’ll happen after I jump off this cliff.

I may crash and burn.

But I know that the way down is going to be glorious.

Oh, did I mention I also want to write a novella that goes with the steampunk, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract? And it will have a romance with characters over 40? Yes, one appeared in Curse and one is mentioned numerous times. I have it outlined.

And I have to finish that comic book horror mini-series that’s been on the back-burner. That one scares me to write.

All the more reason to add it to this year.

 

 

 

 

The not-so-secret ingredient.

The not-so-secret ingredient.

As I sat down to write this post, being tagged in this awesome cookie exchange by my friend, author Gin Jones,  I pondered which of my characters would actually make fudge.

Alec Farley, the firestarter from Phoenix Rising, would likely burn the fudge on his first attempt but he’d persevere. Philip Drake of Phoenix Legacy, the man who can become whatever you need, already knows how to make it and has modified it to feature several different flavors. He makes it for the love of his life, Delilah Sefton, who loves the fudge but is trying to figure out how to make it a mixed drink of some sort.

I bet Marian Doyle of Ghost Phoenix has made it but she doesn’t like baking and would rather buy gourmet chocolate in Little Italy. And Renee Black from the upcoming Phoenix Inheritance makes it with her son, Charlie. They (of course), lick the remains on the fudge on the saucepot, even at risk of burning their tongues.

Meantime, Al and Noir of Luminous and Ghosts of Christmas Past ask:

What the heck is Marshmallow Fluff?

To those who don’t know, it’s a mix of corn syrup, sugar and egg whites. It’s even gluten free!

Here’s the base recipe for Never Fail Fudge, which is on every jar of Marshmallow Fudge:

2 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp margerine or butter
5 ounces of evaporated milk
1 jar of Marshmallow fluff, 7.5 ounce size
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 package (12 oz.) of semi-sweet chocolate

My additions? Always, always use real butter. And buy Ghiradelli or other gourmet chips. They don’t have to be chocolate either. I’ve made this with peanut butter and white chocolate chips too. When I used white chocolate, I crushed up small candy canes and sprinkled the crumbs on top when the fudge was still hot.

To make:
1. Combine first 5 ingredients Stir over low heat until blended.
Advice: Trickiest part? Getting the fluff out of the jar. I run my spoon under hot water first so it doesn’t stick.

2. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to mistake air bubbles for boiling. (That’s because Fluff is full of air). Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
Advice: Stir, stir, stir. Never stop stirring. How do you know when it’s done? When hard residue begins to build up on the edge of your stirring spoon. But always do it for at least five minutes.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chocolate until melted. Pour into a buttered 9X9 inch pan and cool.
Advice: If the mixture is super-hot, the vanilla will boil and spit when you add it. Put in the chips first to cool it down, then add the vanilla. Stir, stir, stir and the chips will blend in nicely. And make sure you transfer it to the pan right away because it will start hardening quickly.

Also, I grease the pan, cover the pan and side with wax paper, and then pour in the mixture. This allows you to basically lift the fudge out of the pan with ease for cutting.

Voila!

You’ll notice I forgot the wax paper this time. And this is a 13X9 pan because I made a double batch. Also, yes, we did sample some, just to make sure it tasted good before we cut the fudge to give away as gifts. I know, I know. A rough job, tasting, but someone had to do it.

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!

Fudge, made with semi-sweet Ghiradelli chips!