Archive for July, 2011

Summer vacation
by Jessa Slade on July 11th, 2011

Currently working on: A new world
Mood: Adventurous

So I’ve been writing hard for awhile. This is not noteworthy, really, since writing is what writers do. But because I’ve been writing hard, I’ve let a few other chores slip.


This is one of three dust-apatosauruses I found under the bed. I’m not proud of my lax housekeeping skills (actually, I am, kind of; you think just ANYbody can manage a herd of dust-apatosauruses?) which is why I finally dragged out the vacuum cleaner (pictured here for scale) to tame the beasts.

[Editor's note: No dust-apatosauruses were injured in the cleaning of this house. All dust-wildlife was released into the wild.]

Is it just my imagination — which I admit runs rampant on occasion — or does it seem to you that we’re all busier than ever? My brain is constantly humming with to-do’s and deadlines and wish-lists.

bees in poppy
Really, the bees in my poppies got nothing on the buzz in my head.

Which is why Silk & Shadows is taking a summer vacation. We’ll be back the first week of September, fresh and spunky, maybe with new notebooks and first-day-of-school shoes.

In the meantime, we will be frolicking in the misty fields like Nils Blommer’s Meadow Elves:

Nah, actually, we’ll all probably be writing like fiends. Because that’s what writers do.

See you in the fall!

RITA® and me
by Sharon Ashwood on July 6th, 2011

Last week I went to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York and was astonished, delighted, and bewildered to find myself the winner for 2011 of the RITA® award for paranormal romance. (Note this slightly blurry photo was taken after consuming the champagne in the glass next to the award)

It’s kind of like winning the Oscars in romance writing, except they give you a maximum of two minutes to make a fool of yourself in public. Hollywood could learn a few things from the rigorous management of the RWA’s ceremony.

The perils:

1. My chair leg was sitting on my hem, and I nearly pulled off my swishy chiffon palazzo pants as I stood up. That would have been, um, memorable.

2. I was sufficiently convinced that I would not win that I failed to prepare any kind of speech. Thankfully, I know very well to whom I am grateful.

The rewards:

1. My chapter mates were there to help me celebrate.

2. I got a cool piece of shiny gold hardware.

3. With any luck, the win will inspire some new people to take a chance on The Dark Forgotten series.

It was the cherry on top of a wonderful week. This is the view from the hotel window, right in Times Square. I’d never been to NYC before, and I have to say the city treated me very well. I did a little conference-going and a lot more sight-seeing. There wasn’t enough time to do more than taste the Big Apple, but it was enough to make me a fan.

Happy 4th of July!
by Jessa Slade on July 4th, 2011

First off, congratulations to Sharon Ashwood for her RITA win with UNCHAINED! The RITAs are the Romance Writers of America’s Oscars, so this is wonderful acknowledgment of her Dark Forgotten book. AND she gets a golden statue!

Currently working on: My tan
Mood: Summery!

Summer doesn’t officially arrived in the Portland area until the first week of July, but it’s here now! I’m typing this outside, sitting in the shade, actually, because it’s finally warm :) The raspberry bushes are kickin’ out the berries so of course I had to use them in a holiday dessert.

Happy Fourth of July! (For those in the U.S.) Happy Summer! (For those in the Northern Hemisphere.) Happy Monday! (For pretty much everybody, I think.)


Red, White & Blue Cupcakes

Start with a box cake mix. I’m sure there are times when baking from scratch is called for. Mixing up festive cupcakes for people who will be drinking beer all day is not one of those times. I’ve enthused before about the Cake Mix Doctor‘s cookbooks. I recommend the chocolate cake mix cookbook and choosing one of the recipes with pudding in the mix as well as sour cream/yogurt for extra scrumptiousness.

The fun of cake mix doctoring is the doctoring part anyway. For these, I injected the cupcakes with a raspberry/strawberry coulis and then made a barrier wall of buttercream frosting around the top of the cupcakes and backfilled the interior with the coulis.

Berry Coulis

  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 cup of strawberries (or whatever berries you have)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 Tablespoons)

Mix all ingredients the day before to let the flavors blend if you have time, then blender/food processor it all together into berry soup. Sample repeatedly over vanilla ice cream, because you’re the cook, and cooks deserve to sample. (Some people take out the seeds, but the beer drinkers won’t notice such niceties so I don’t bother.)

While the cupcakes are still warm from the oven, make a hole in the centers with a chopstick or similar implement. I used a cookie gun/cake decorator to aim the coulis into the hole, but you can just spoon it in too, as long as you have decent aim.

Let the cupcakes cool. Sample a few just to make sure there’s enough coulis in the middle.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick of butter (room temp)
  • 1 8-oz package of cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2-4 cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar (the recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups of sugar with more for spreadability, but I think you lose some of the cream cheese flavor to the sweetness if you use all the sugar. So I just add enough sugar to make enough to cover the cupcakes. Plus, the less sugar/slightly thicker frosting works well in the cookie gun/cake decorator.)

Make a monk’s tonsure/barrier wall in a circle around the cupcakes’ tops. Usually I am a “more frosting is better” gal, but this ratio works out nicely with the strong mouth feel of the buttercream. Plus, the barrier wall gives you room to spread more of the pretty red berry coulis.

To thicken the coulis for the top of the cupcake, mix corn starch with just enough water to make a thin paste. Gently warm the leftover coulis and add the starch/water mixture until the coulis thickens enough to stay on top of the cupcake.

Spoon the thickened coulis behind the barrier wall, top with a berry (I might have used a blueberry instead of a raspberry, but I don’t share my blueberries with anybody), add a light dusting of blue decorator sugar, and eat.

Happy Cupcakes!

Congratulations Sharon!!!
by KimLenox on July 1st, 2011

Tonight Romance Writers of America hosted the Golden Heart (unpublished) and RITA (published) Awards ceremony in New York City! The contest is a huge deal! It’s like the Academy Awards of romance!

As you may know from following our blog, Sharon Ashwood’s novel, UNCHAINED, was nominated as a finalist for the Paranormal Romance category.

We all waited with great anticipation for the Paranormal category to be announced–and were rewarded! Congratulations to Sharon, and to her editor, Laura Cifelli, and the rest of the NAL team!

We are so proud of you, and thrilled that you have received this well-deserved recognition!

If you’d like to see the results of the other categories, check out Dear Author‘s post listing out the winners!