Looking Back at 2017

What. A. Year.

I recently described 2017 as me living my best life in the darkest timeline (I feel like I read that somewhere and stole it, but I can’t remember where and it’s really, really accurate). In many ways it’s been a terrible bear of a year, but in lots of ways it’s been pretty awesome, too. One way I like to track that sort of thing is by setting goals at the start of a year and looking back to see how I’ve done at the end of it. So let’s see how 2017 went compared to what I’d hoped from it:

My Goals for 2017

Bolded goals were accomplished.

  • Write the first draft of Deadmonton — my Winterknight Towers book
    • I didn’t accomplish this because, to make a long story short, Winterknight Towers and I have parted ways.
  • Participate in the release and promotion of Dream Eater to the best of my ability
    • Done, and done!
  • Publish D is for Dinosaur in February
    • Promote it to the best of my ability and hit my launch and sales goals
      • Sales aren’t where I wanted them to be, but they aren’t terrible and reviews are good so I’ll count this one as a win!
  • Have Equus ready for a summer publication
    • Promote it to the best of my ability and hit my launch and sales goals
      • Yuppers! Done! We even had a Battle Royale to launch and promote this. It was fun, but plenty of work LOL
  • Announce [Top Sekkrit Anthology #1] and hit all the publisher’s deadlines for it. (Announce in February?)
    • I’m pretty sure this Top Sekkrit Anthology was Tesseracts Twenty-one: Nevertheless which I co-edited with Greg Bechtel and handed in to the publisher this summer. I think they are announcing the Table of Contents next month!
  • Announce [Top Sekkrit Anthology #2] and have it ready for a November publication date
    • This has to be referring to Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say which came out in November. It’s been incredibly well-received, the reviews are good, sales are good and, in fact, it set a new personal best for pre-order sales. So I’m stoked!
  • Have a successful open submissions period for Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinns and hit all my deadlines for it
    • I definitely had a successful open submissions period and I’ve put together a fantastic Table of Contents. I’m not sure when we’ll be announcing that, soon, I expect. In the meantime I’m working hard on editing the stories so I can hand the manuscript in to the publisher on time.
  • Announce E is for REDACTED and hit all my deadlines for it for a 2018 release
    • E is for Evil has been announced and so far we’re hitting all the internal deadlines for it. Okay… there is one story I still have to edit, but I’m still going to call this one accomplished.
  • Take a vacation in July. For real.
    • I mean… more or less. I had a book come out in July but I scheduled everything I could ahead of time and spent as little time working as possible.
  • Promote Haunted Hospitals to the best of my ability upon its release.
    • Yup! This even included being interviewed by a local newspaper and appearing on the radio. All very nerve-wracking despite the fact I’m actually pretty good at talking about stuff 😉
  • Read 30 books that are not related to work, including those on my partial reading list.
    • According to Goodreads I read 57 books this year. Unfortunately only six of them were off my partial reading list. On the plus side, that leaves me with a great list to start reading from for 2018 LOL
  • Spend at least half a day a week away from the internet, writing.
    • LOL I mean, at least I’m eternally optimistic, right? LOL
  • Create and release the Magical Menageries colouring book
    • I have all the art for this, I just need to figure out how to put it together (it’s a bit different for art than for text) and make it happen. And I will. It just didn’t happen in 2017.

Phew!

In addition to hitting those goals I sold a novel to Tyche Books (Hollow, coming out in 2020!), an anthology series to World Weaver Press (starting with Grimm, Grit and Gasoline, submissions open in 2018!), acquired and edited Continuum by Wendy Nikel (coming January 23, 2017) for World Weaver Press and acquired its sequel The Grandmother Paradox, edited Dying on Second by E. C. Bell, helped raise almost $1,100 for the Edmonton Food Bank through this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour, won the In Places Between short story contest, spoke with the River Bottom Writers in Lethbridge, had a successful Equus launch at WWC, helped organize and participated in the local authors shindig at Variant Edition and remained, more or less sane (though I feel like I’m forgetting things on this list).

So, professionally speaking I’m going to call this year a win.

I’m looking forward to doing a wee bit less in 2018 LOL

Mrs. Claus’ Favourite Recipes Wrap-Up

Over the past few days I was pleased to be able to share a selection of recipes from some of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus that appear in my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say. I thought it was a fun (and in some cases drool-worthy) way to introduce you to some of the awesome ladies who are featured in the anthology. In case you missed any of the stops you can check them all out here:

If you try out any of the recipes I’d love to hear how they went (bonus points for pictures!) and if you have any recipes you think Mrs. Claus would bake please feel free to share them in the comments. I might even try some of them and share pics of my own! 🙂

Reindeer

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Reindeer

From Mrs. Claus of “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Autumn is a time of change: a time when leaves turn and wildlife prepares to migrate or hibernate, a time of frenzied activity for the elves as they try to get Nick ready for his annual event, a time when women in wholly unnecessary activewear wax lyrical about spices cheaply available year round. (You people have no idea what it was like in the old days, when we traveled months to trade or… borrow spices.)

But the best part of autumn is gathering with friends to celebrate the rich harvest collected by that farm village you just relieved of its overstock. (No worries, bleeding hearts! We also relieved them of excess population, so they’ll be better able to survive on the stores they have left.)

One of my favorites is roast reindeer. Oh, don’t make that face. Yes, Nick has a team of eight which is quite the public face for the operation. They’re more famous than the Budweiser Clydesdales! But reindeer have always been a part of our culture and diet. Where do you think Santa’s fur trim came from? Uh-huh.

Besides, reindeer is good for you. It’s a very lean meat, so you don’t have to worry about fat and cholesterol and whatever else you people fret about this decade. And reindeer are free-ranging herds which serve a valuable ecological purpose, none of this disgusting feedlot business. Your reindeer probably roamed the forest eating lichen right up until its final day.

And finally, reindeer is tasty. It’s tender and milder than venison. It’s perfect for your guests. Remember, hospitality is important!

For an intimate gathering, I like to start with about 5 pounds (2 and a quarter kilograms) of reindeer haunch, which should feed two to three Vikings as a main course, but you can work with what you have available. You can certainly scale up if you have a shipful to feed, but remember that a whole reindeer takes longer to prepare than a small roast.

It’s best when wrapped in pork fat to keep it moist. If you happen to be visiting North America, pick up some American bacon, as the strips are perfect. Use about half a pound to wrap the roast, lay some rosemary sprigs over the bacon on all sides, and tie everything in place. If you have any extra pork fat, lay it on top to cap it all off.

Combine lingonberry sauce—mmm, lingonberries!—with a few peppercorns, some onion slices, and whatever honey you saved from mead-making. Set the roast on this base and, well, roast it on a low fire until it bleeds clear. For those of you using an gas or electric cooker, this will be about 275 F or 135 C for two or three hours, depending on your roast.

Meat is not a complete meal, so fill a pan with your favorite root vegetables. Don’t be afraid to use some New World varieties such a potatoes; caribou are found in North America, too. And you’ll have time while it roasts to make some buttermilk flatbread.

When you pull it out, like all meats it will need to rest to reabsorb the best juices. But like all meats, it will likely be raided by hungry hands. Keep your short axe ready for a quick defense as necessary, and it should be ready in about twenty minutes. Alternately, place the mead and drinking horns at the far side of the hall, to distract the diners and keep them busy elsewhere.

Make sure you keep a healthy portion of mead for yourself! Slice the reindeer roast thin when it’s ready, and serve with the lingonberry sauce and roast vegetables. Enjoy!

 


Excerpt from “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh:

Lik and I sat companionably in the dark, waiting. It wasn’t awkward;. I was a Valkyrie, a Chooser of the Slain, and he was the slain. We had more in common than you’d think.

“So, you were a valkyrja.”

Am a valkyrja. I just don’t get called in to work as often these days.”

“And you married Santa.”

“Nicholas is what he goes by most often now. Yes.”

“But Nicholas was a Christian bishop, at least for a span of years.”

“Yes.”

“Bishops…can’t have wives. Or sex.”

I nodded. “Frock-blocked.”

Lik’s explosive laughter boomed across the parking lot, shattering any pretense of concealment or stealth. He slapped his bare knee and threw his head back, laughing freely as any dead and drunk warrior in Valhöll.


Available Online:

Direct from the publisher

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iBooks

 

Myra’s Beastly Christmas Butter Balls

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Myra’s Beastly Christmas Butter Balls

A recipe by Myra of “Red to Hide the Blood” by Hayley Stone

“Not sure what you want me to say here, they’re butter balls. Small sugary cookies covered in powdered sugar. They taste best with fudge.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter (the good stuff—you know, from a cow, none of that low-fat, goat milk nonsense; stop by if you need to borrow some proper butter)
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour*
  • ¼ tsp. salt (that’s teaspoon, Olli)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ nuts (if you like that kind of thing)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 345 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. If your arm’s not hurting by the end, you haven’t done a good enough job. Crank that spoon a couple more times. Won’t hurt to work that arm a bit, especially if you plan on helping Nick with his sleigh repairs later.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. (Except the nuts. You should just skip those. Yes, I know Nick likes them. I don’t hold it against him. Might if he ever makes me eat them though.)

  4. Roll into balls and arrange on a baking sheet an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes.**
  5. Remove from oven and let sit a moment. We’re making balls, after all, not thumbprints.
  6. Using a sifter, sprinkle the powdered sugar over the warm cookies.

That’s it. You said you wanted simple. It’s not hunting a waheela, so you shouldn’t have much trouble. And like I said, the best way to improve the recipe is by serving the cookies alongside fudge. You need a recipe for some proper fudge, you know where to find me.

Oh, and make sure you have some milk at hand. Nick gets so fussy about dry cookies.

 

* If you want the dough to hold together better, reduce the flour. If you like your dough crumbly as all get-out, then by all means, do it the hard way.

** These puppies can be a bit dry. I like to bake mine for 8-9 minutes to keep them more moist.

 


Excerpt from “Red to Hide the Blood” by Hayley Stone:

When I finally got up the courage to peer inside the cave, the beasts saw me before I saw them. Large, hulking shadows flexed within the dark—coming toward me fast. I barely managed to sight my rifle before the first monster charged, and my shot went painfully, embarrassingly wide.

So much for getting the drop on them.

The waheela knocked me back into the failing light, pinning me to the icy ground. Wind rippled the fur over its massive shoulders, while the last remnants of the sun sloped down its enormous snout and its nose glistened with blood. Beast must’ve been the size of a small pick-up truck. Damn near felt like it, too.

I wheezed, struggling to dislodge the waheela.

Its lips pulled back from its teeth in an angry wrinkle, spit hanging to its canines from its lower lips like webbing. I waited for it to growl or snarl.

Instead, the bear-dog spoke.


Available Online:

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Morning Bread

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Morning Bread

A recipe by Eve Claus of “Good Morning” by Kristen Lee

(Adapted from James Beard’s “Beard on Bread”)

1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of  baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of buttermilk (or soured milk)
1 cup of chopped apple
1/2 cup of walnuts or pecans (chopped)
1 teaspoon vanilla or grated lemon rind

Pre-heat oven to 350° and butter a loaf pan.  Pour prepared batter into the pan and bake for around 45 minutes to an hour.  When the bread begins to pull away from the side of the pan, you’ll know it’s done.  Allow bread to cool in the pan for a few minutes before loosening and removing the loaf.  Slice when completely cool.  Best enjoyed at sunrise.


Excerpt from “Good Morning” by Kristen Lee:

The breaking of the spell starts in her fingers and creeps through her veins. Her dreams muddle as the thaw spreads, and there’s always a brief, glorious second during which she believes she will open her eyes to the soft glow of a newborn sun.

Instead, Eve is greeted by the navy-dark of the North Pole. Even the faerie fires that illuminate the chamber blaze with the cold, blue light of stars. Their glow—though relatively dim—burns her eyes, and tiny replicas flash behind her closed eyelids. Her vision adjusts before her body remembers how to move, and as her blood rekindles, she watches the slumbering form of her husband.

Nick is still confined within the crystalline ice. The uneven facets warp his glamour, so he flickers young-and-beautiful and old-and-jolly all at once. Beneath his age-whitened hair are Nick’s black curls; beneath his cloud of beard, the squared-off jawline Eve had pressed countless kisses to before their lives became bound to December 25th. Even frozen, his long-lashed eyes flit in dream beneath his lids. She wonders if he dreams of her.

Misty breath gusts over Eve’s hand. In her frigid state, the ghostly warmth burns, and she twists to escape the pain. Hooves clatter against the icy floor of the chamber, and Eve draws herself painfully upward to see Dancer—her favorite of the reindeer—staring dolefully at her. She wants to reassure the beast, but her lips are cold-cracked and her tongue frozen to her teeth. Instead, she raises her stiff arm, and Dancer sheepishly creeps back over to rub her shaggy head against Eve’s outstretched hand.

Eve loves the reindeer, but in moments like this, she misses the dogs. She yearns for their ever-wagging tails and their soft-tongued kisses. She misses their love of running so strong that it twitches their legs in their sleep. She misses the dogs and the rising sun and holding Nick, talking to him, and—

Raw Clumps of Heavenly Cookie Dough

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

This one isn’t really a recipe. Michael tells me that neither he nor his character know anything about baking so a recipe wasn’t going to happen… but this letter from one character to another about cookie dough did happen, and it’s pretty tasty in a whole different kind of way 😉

Enjoy!


Raw Clumps of Heavenly Cookie Dough

by Miss ‘Lil Toehead of “Miss ‘Lil Toe Head” by Michael Leonberger

My Love,

Oh no.

That’s cheesy, right?

Cheesy way to begin a letter. Because love is stupid. I get that. You’d tell me that.

And anyway, I wouldn’t say I love you.

Well, I would say it. Just not to you. Not to anyone I actually cared about.

I think it, though. At least all the time, in fact, but if I told you…

It’s just, I’m afraid you’d look at me with eyes that were a little less joyful. Which would mean you’d still have incurably joyful eyes, but the way you look at me now is so happy…it almost hurts.

And I need that.

I love that, actually, and without it…

No. I wouldn’t tell you.

Which is why I won’t be sending this letter to you. I’m going to keep it. Close, alone. Secret. That’s where you’re supposed to keep the things you care about. Sometimes they can warm you and only you. Just know I care about you, and that’s why I’m not going to tell you.

Anyway, what was I writing to you about? Cookie recipe. You texted me and wanted to know if I had anything good.

I don’t. Because I don’t know anything about cooking, but I also don’t have any of the ingredients.

I mean, the first ingredient is time, which we both don’t have enough of. Not together, at least. Less so if I told you I loved you, and then you were really gone, right?

So scratch that.

The next would be money, which we’re out of, too.

People try to distance themselves from it, anyway. They use time, and money, and fancy sugary treats, to distance themselves from it all the time. But you and I don’t have that luxury.

Distance themselves from what? You’d ask with a smile.

Oh, you know. Death. Is what I would say.

Only I wouldn’t say that out loud. I’d kiss you instead. Because I want you to keep that warmth for me there, in your eyes. Selfish me. I need to warm myself by the blaze in your eyes, and you’re not here, and it’s Christmas, and it’s so cold.

And I miss you.

What were we talking about? Cookies.

So, without time, and without money, I’m going to tell you this: just get cookie dough.

Raw clumps of heavenly cookie dough.

Literally steal it if you have to, I don’t care.

That’s what I’m going to do after this letter. I’m going to text you that I don’t know how to make cookies…because I don’t. But I’m going to try something for you. I’m going to get some cookie dough, and at least one spoon, and I think we can start there.

You’ll laugh, and it’ll be a novelty, right? My lazy affection, from the girl who couldn’t bake you cookies and so just got you cookie dough. It’ll be just as perfectly mediocre as we need. As I need you to think my feelings for you are. Perfectly mediocre and perfectly safe.

Yes. Cookie dough. That’s what we’ll be eating next time I see you.

But the thing about it is I actually love raw cookie dough more than I love baked cookies.

I love it.

And I’d give mine all to you.

Loving You and Missing You,

Your Miss ‘Lil Toe Head

 


Excerpt from “Miss ‘Lil Toe Head” by Michael Leonberger:

Dad always lit up when I came down. Sat me on a bench and called me his little elf. The warm, electric smell of sawdust flittering through the air is something I can’t handle.

The way the sawdust settled in the blood that day is something I’ll never forget.

The way he was screaming, after the saw ate through his arm.

The fact that I now know he was lying.

His smiles of relief when it was all said and done, his brow spotted with sweat and those sleepy, dopy smiles, because it was gone. His arm.

It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone…

Because he’d made it seem like an accident. Like he accidentally sawed his own arm off.

But I know the truth.

It was no accident.


Available Online:

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Fianna’s Fudge

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Fianna’s Fudge

A recipe by Fianna Claus of “You’d Better Watch Out” by Maren Matthias

Cookies may be classic but I am of the mind that the superior of all holiday treats is fudge, particularly this recipe as it contains one of my favorite things: Scotch Whiskey.

What you will need:

19 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup – 1/2 cup scotch – I recommend Laphroaig

In a saucepan – over medium-low heat – combine the chocolate and condensed milk and cook until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat and let cool a bit before you add the whiskey or you’ll kill the alcohol, which would be a damn shame, but not TOO cold or it’ll kill the chocolate, which defeats the entire purpose. As it starts to thicken but isn’t fully solidified add the scotch, stirring until smooth.

Spread in prepared pan, then cover and refrigerate until firm. If you live somewhere frosty, like myself, you can just put it out on the back porch! Enjoy with scotch.


Excerpt from “You’d Better Watch Out” by Maren Matthias:

Nick beamed at her from behind the island counter.

“Darling!” he crowed. “I think I’ve finally perfected my sugar cookie recipe! Come, come, have a taste.”

“This is the urgent issue you had that couldn’t wait until I’d brought back the tree?” she asked sternly, although she couldn’t deny how adorable her husband was, giddy and completely covered in flour. She never tired of it.

“He took me away from reindeer training,” her eldest, Erin, was sitting on the far edge of the counter, her curved lips peppered with sugar.

“You both always take so long and this couldn’t wait. Here.”

Fianna accepted the cookie he handed her and took a bite. It was perfection. Nick chuckled to himself. She knew he didn’t need her opinion to know he’d succeeded; he just wanted to see the look on her face.

“I hate to interrupt…” They all turned to see Damien standing in the doorway. “There’s been another abduction. A children’s center in Oslo, Norway.”

Four sets of eyes zeroed in on Fianna. It was always the same reaction—an eruption of fire followed by a deep breath that wasn’t calming enough.

“This calls for Scotch.”


Available Online:

Direct from the publisher

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iBooks

 

Really Good Cookies

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Really Good Cookies

A recipe by Bella Claus of “Christmas Magic” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Season’s greetings, humans! It’s me, Belle Claus, your favorite extraterrestrial and one half of the hottest celebrity couple since William and Kate.

As part of my ongoing attempts to assimilate into the culture of my beloved adoptive planet, I’ve been learning how to bake and today, I’m sharing my recipe for moon cookies. I expect I’ll have my own cooking show and line of designer cookware soon. (Move over, Rachel Ray.)

Ingredients:

1 cup chocolate chips

6 tbs butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup flour

1/4 cup powdered sugar

(makes about 24 cookies)

Step 1: Put on an apron. I know, I know, so unflattering, but you don’t want unsightly butter stains on your best dress.

Step 2: Melt chocolate chips and butter, mix in brown sugar. Let it cool.

Step 3: Add eggs one at a time, mix well after each one.

Step 4: Mix in vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Add flour and mix well. At this point, I usually dab a little flour on my nose. Instagram eats that stuff up.

Step 5: Chill dough in a snowbank (or, in a pinch, the refrigerator) for at least four hours. I use this time to bingewatch The Bachelorette with the elves.

Step 6: With your hands, roll the dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll them in powdered sugar until completely coated.

Step 7: Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool for two minutes, then place on a baking rack to cool completely.

The cookies spread out as they bake and the powdered sugar breaks apart, leaving patches of black and white that remind me of my planet’s cratered moons.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m off to muck reindeer stalls. And by “muck reindeer stalls” I mean “eat cookies while the elves muck reindeer stalls.”

Ta-ta!

 


Excerpt from “Christmas Magic” by Jennifer Lee Rossman:

But here we are. It’s Christmas Eve and Nick’s about to leave the North Pole for the first time in nearly a century. Presents are loaded, Nick has been prepped on the use of my shrink ray and cloaking devices, and Rudy’s bioluminescent nostril alterations bathe the scene in a warm red glow.

Everything according to plan.

The rapid fire assault of flashbulbs turn my sincere smile into a practiced grin that does not extend to my eyes as I glare out at the photographers and reporters. I’m going to kill the elf who gave them access.

My husband, on the other hand, is nothing if not a people pleaser. He steps out into the snow, giving them the hearty “Ho ho ho!” they’ve been waiting for, all while posing with his hands on the big bowl of jiggling jelly that is his stomach. Then he walks over to me, and we fake our way through a kiss.

Affection is the one thing we haven’t perfected. He didn’t want to marry me, and I certainly didn’t love the idea of wearing a frilly white apron and baking cookies all day for my old, way too jolly husband. And I could certainty do without paparazzi invading every second of my life and magazines scrutinizing every hairstyle and clothing choice.

“Who wore it better—Mrs. Claus or Princess Kate?” “Mrs. C. steps out in a hideous reindeer-skin jacket!” “Santa Baby Bump!?”

(For the record: I did, it was faux reindeer and that reporter wouldn’t know fashion if it bit him in the jingle bells, and not a chance. Our species can’t interbreed.)

 


Available Online:

Direct from the publisher

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Kobo

iBooks

 

Baklava

Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.

Enjoy!


Baklava

A recipe from Phaedra Claus of “Shouldering the Burden” by M.L.D. Curelas

This is a variation of the more traditional walnut and honey baklava, made with pistachios, cardamom, and rosewater. The pistachios evoke pleasant memories of Nick’s and my time in Turkey, as well as our native Greece. It’s a treat sure to please your most curmudgeonly guest.

Ingredients:

Syrup:
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
10 black peppercorns
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp rosewater

Nut filling
12 ounces shelled pistachios
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Pastry and Butter
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 lb frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Begin with the syrup. Combine the syrup ingredients in a saucepan, except for the rosewater, and bring to a full boil over medium-high heat. You need to make sure the sugar dissolves, so stir occasionally while it cooks. Transfer the syrup to a measuring cup and set it aside to cool while you assemble the baklava. Once it has cooled, remove the peppercorns and stir in the rosewater.

While the syrup is cooling, start the nut filling. The elves have built a fabulous steam-powered grinder that will chop the pistachios for me. It saves so much time! If you aren’t favored with steam-powered technology, then your modern food processor should do the trick, in short pulses. Once the pistachios are finely chopped, transfer them to a bowl. Measure out a tablespoon of nuts and set it aside to use later as a garnish. To the main bowl, add your cardamom, sugar, and salt. Toss until well-combined.

And now to assemble! Adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position, and preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 pan with butter (use a non-stick pan, if possible). Unwrap and unfold your thawed phyllo dough onto a large cutting board. Flatten gently with your hands. Cut the sheets crosswise with a knife, so you have two stacks of phyllo dough. Don’t panic if one side is slightly narrower than the other. To prevent the dough from drying out, cover with plastic wrap and top with a damp kitchen towel.

From the stack of wider phyllo dough, take one sheet and place it in the bottom of your pan. Brush it with butter, completely coating it. Alternatively, I often brush my dough with olive oil, and *ahem* often use my wonderful clockwork spraying can to speed this process. If you have access to cans that spray oil, I recommend using them! Repeat this step with seven more sheets of phyllo dough, all from your “wider” stack.

Spread about 1 cup of nuts over the dough. Top with a sheet of phyllo from your second stack of phyllo; dab butter on it (or use your clockwork sprayer!). Repeat this with 5 more sheets of phyllo, staggering sheets, if necessary, to cover the nuts. Make sure each sheet of phyllo is brushed with butter. Repeat the layering with another cup of nuts, 6 sheets of phyllo, and then the remaining nuts. Finish up with 8-10 sheets of phyllo from your first, “wider” stack of phyllo dough. Brush each sheet with butter, except for the top sheet.

Using the palms of your hands, gently compress the layers, working from the center out to the edges. This will squeeze out any air pockets.

Brush more butter onto the top sheet of phyllo dough, covering it completely. Using a bread knife, cut the baklava into diamonds, rotating the pan as necessary.

Bake until golden and crisp, about 90 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. After removing the baklava from the oven, immediately pour your syrup over the cut lines until 2 tablespoons of syrup remain in your cup–the syrup will sizzle when it hits your hot pan. Drizzle the remaining syrup over the surface. Garnish the center of each piece with a pinch of your reserved nuts. Cool your baklava to room temperature on a wire rack (about 3 hours). Then cover with foil and allow it to set for another 8 hours. To be sure, if your elves are hungry, you can eat the baklava as soon as it cools, but the 8 hour wait time will allow the flavor to settle. Your baklava can be stored at room temperature for 10 days, if securely wrapped in foil.

 


Excerpt from “Shouldering the Burden” by M.L.D. Curelas:

A ball of light formed between her hands. Parting them, she blew a gentle stream of air at the light. The globe floated away from her, toward the shadows of the temple.

Something cackled. In the silvery light of Phaedra’s globe, malformed, black shapes writhed and capered.

“By the Pole, what are those things?” Annika gasped.

The creatures shrank from the light, but Phaedra caught glimpses of goats’ legs, horns, tusks, spindly tails, and red eyes. She gulped. “I think those are kallikantzaroi.” At Annika’s puzzled shrug, Phaedra added, “Goblins. They only come above ground during the twelve days of Christmas.”

Annika resumed hacking at the ropes. “Let’s do this quickly then, before they decide to pester us.”

Phaedra knelt, pulling her own multi-tool from her pocket.

The Caryatids hissed in her mind, and Phaedra jerked her head up. An inky black thing, the size of a badger, leapt at her. Its mouth gaped open, displaying rows of jagged teeth.

Phaedra pulled her telescoping parasol out of her boot. She raised the metal rod and batted the goblin aside.

Another capering goblin bounded from the shadows.


Available Online:

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Mrs. Claus’ Favourite Recipes

In my Introduction to Mrs. Claus (which you can read here) I made a point of saying that Mrs. Claus doesn’t just sit around the North Pole baking cookies, but just because she doesn’t only bake doesn’t mean she never does. And food does play an important role in celebrating Christmas (at least for me). With that in mind I invited some of the contributors to Mrs. Claus to write recipes in the voice of the Mrs. Claus from their stories. Over the coming several days I’m going to share those recipes (and short excerpts from the author’s story) here on my blog. There are cookie recipes, fudge recipes and more, uh, savoury recipes too. I hope you’ll pop by over the coming days to take a peek in Mrs. Claus’ recipe book!

December 15 — Baklava (M.L.D. Curelas)

December 16 — Really Good Cookies (Jennifer Lee Rossman)

December 17 — Fianna’s Fudge (Maren Matthias)

December 18 — Raw Lumps of Heaven (Michael Leonberger)

December 19 — Morning Bread (Kristen Lee)

December 20 — Myra’s Christmas Butter Balls (Hayley Stone)

December 21 — Reindeer (Laura VanArendonk Baugh)

It’s gonna be an adventure!

And the Winners Are…

As part of this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour we had a raffle. And the prizes for the raffle were pretty epic. There were two of them. Yesterday afternoon I let the Rafflecopter choose our winners and sent them emails to let them know.

Second Prize is:

  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Themed packet of journaling/scrapbooking ephemera
  • Mini hand-bound leather journal by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of Bait by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

The winner, as determined by Rafflecopter is Anna P.!

The Grand Prize is:

  • Paperback copies of the first four books in the Amethir series by Stephanie A. Cain
  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Copy of Three-Way Dance signed by Brian Rosenberger
  • Sensitivity read or poetry critique by Lisa Bradley
    • Will read and respond to up to 50 pages of fiction from her perspective as a queer USian Latina with chronic illnesses and depression OR critique up to two pages of poetry (one long poem or two shorter ones)
  • Paperback copy of The Stars in My Door signed by Doug Blakeslee
  • Signed copy of Monsters in my Mind by Ada Hoffmann
  • Paperback copy of Heavy Metal by Andrew Bourelle
  • Small piece of art by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of the Witches of Doyle three book set by Kirsten Weiss
  • Paperback copy of The Songweaver’s Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
  • Tuckerization by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
    • Name if it fits the world and characteristics if it doesn’t, or Laura will substitute another world to keep the name
  • Custom cross stitch (6″ square or smaller) by Jennifer Lee Rossman
  • Art print from Barbara Tomporowski
  • Signed copy of Dying on Second by E. C. Bell
  • Download code for a free copy of He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus courtesy of Jude Tulli

This was won by Heidi B.!

Congratulations ladies, and thank you for supporting our fundraiser by boosting its signal. We really appreciate it. And if you didn’t win, I’m sorry — but the good news is we raised over $1,000 for a really good cause and you were a part of that. Thank you!

And thank you also to everyone who donated a prize to the pool. I couldn’t have done this without you 🙂

More details about the book I’m giving away and such will come in the following weeks.

Congratulations again, Anna and Heidi!