Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chocolate Review: Lake Champlain Rum Caramel Dark Chocolate


Something we have learned at wine tastings is that you might not enjoy the wine you're given to sample at first sip. Given the nature of wine and winemaking, you are bound to detect different flavors as you progress - you swirl the glass to release scents and flavors, therefore it's necessary to commit to a few more sips before making your decision.

So it is, I believe, with chocolate. Not all chocolate is created equally. You have different levels of cacao intensity, different degrees of flavor, different fillings and toppings and infusions. Even in a solid dark, you might detect a hint of something unique - a citrus or earthy root sensation - that may have come from production. Sometimes when I buy chocolate I find I immediately love it, while other times I allow myself the wine rule to see if my taste buds need to adjust to a particular flavor. There's an episode of TNG where Deanna Troi says she never met a chocolate she didn't like...well, rare is the chocophile who wants to not like a particular brand. I love it, too, and would hate to not like something that is a part of what I enjoy best.

Confused yet? By the tone of this post, you can guess that the Lake Champlain Rum Caramel bar (54% dark) left me wanting. Mind you, I really wanted to like this. Rum. Caramel. Chocolate. A combination like that should add up to chocolate win. The bar is small, yet the eight pillows were thick with dark brown gooey goodness. The snap satisfied, as did the aroma...I really thought I would sit back with a breathless "whoa" after this.

It's sort of like when you buy a ticket for a movie starring three of your all-time favorite actors, based on your favorite book. The elements are there for something great, but it all falls flat. What was the problem here? My thinking - the caramel is just too sweet for this bar. Biting into solid portions of the bar left me somewhat placated - one thing I like about lower-end darks is that they maintain a good balance of sweetness without the aftertaste milk chocolate often leaves for me. Yet everytime I get close to that caramel...I want to like it, but I just don't.

Now this is the first LC chocolate I have tried, and to be fair I will try a different variety to better judge the chocolate. There is a regular caramel bar, but I think a solid should be the next one I try, if only to clean the palate.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Win a print ARC of Dare to Dream by Leigh Ellwood




Leigh Ellwood, as part of author Jaci Burton's book giveaways, is giving away a print ARC of the upcoming paperback, Dare to Dream! Visit Jaci's blog here to find out how you can win!




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Friday, March 27, 2009

On Quantum Leaping and Writing


I'm not a hardcore sci-fi fandom-type person. I enjoy the cons I attend, and the occasional Trek: TNG episode. I follow Brent Spiner on Twitter - that's about as hardcore as it's been lately. But I have sci-fi to thank for my writing career, in particular Quantum Leap. I loved that show. Great premise, strong writing, incredible actors. I'd take Sam Beckett over Kirk or Picard any day of the week, and Dean Stockwell was the sidekick to beat all. It ran for five years on NBC but easily could have gone on longer - word among fans was that the head of programming at the time didn't like the show, and shuffled it around the schedule to "lose" it so the ratings would drop. The more tenacious fans were able to ride the waves, but it wasn't enough to keep the show afloat. All we have now are the DVDs and fond memories. And, apparently, fan cons.

If I'd only known there was going to be a Quantum Leap con this year, I would have made the effort to go. I did mention I credit QL somewhat for my writing career, and there is some truth in that. Writing QL fan fiction helped me develop dialogue writing and narrative skills. In a time I couldn't piece 500 words of original story together, I'd knock out novella length fan fictions that had Sam Beckett leaping into a MASH unit in Korea, or a prison in an unnamed upstate location. Don't believe me? I can prove it. My older fictions are still floating around. You can read them here. Mind you, they didn't receive the proper editing treatment my novels do - they were just stories I banged out on the keyboard. Among fans they were generally liked - in fact, one person once wrote to say I should try my hand at original work. I suppose that was the genesis of my serious career right there. If 20,000 words of Sam and Al could come so easily, I should be able to create my own characters and situations.
So I did. I will admit, though, I did try to write a full-length original QL novel to pitch when Ace Fiction was publishing Quantum Leap novels. I had a writing partner for that one, but unfortunately we didn't get far. When I later heard the publisher no longer planned to do more (losing the show took the steam out the book side of things - without the show, I suppose they believed the fandom wasn't strong enough to justify more novels) I abandoned the project. Now, however, I see a QL fan film has been made and will debut on the Net next month. I saw the trailers for it - I can't wait to see it. The production values look good, and the actor playing Al especially has the character nailed down. I think it's rather bold for the film company to choose Princess Di as the subject of the leap mission, but it's not like QL has shied from controversy. If you saw the original Lee Harvey Oswald episode, you understand. Even in the fandom, I recall reading 9/11 fiction that had Sam in the middle of the action.
If only I didn't have so much to do, I might consider writing a story for the next con's competition. I never ran out of ideas.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Take the M/M Romance Challenge

I read here that I Heart Paperbacks is holding a M/M reading challenge, inviting participants to read as many as ten M/M romances and to report back with some kind of review. There are prizes to be won, and I'm happy to see Phaze Books was listed among the publishers where one can find M/M romance. I figure it is a good time to pimp some of my own stories. If you haven't read them yet, they're new to you.

So what's good to read. There's The Healing, shortlisted at the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. My latest M/M, Why Why Zed, has received some good reviews. Also, Jack of Hearts and Jack of Diamonds, Surveillance, and Taste This. Those six alone will get you to third base on the challenge. And don't forget you can find lots of great gay erotic romance at Phaze Books!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: a Dolfin Chocolate Sampler



This past weekend I had some free time before my group signing at Chicklet Books in Princeton, so we slipped into NYC for a few hours. Yes, I know I'll be in the city next week, but as I'm manning the table for Phaze Books at the first ever Rainbow Book Festival (that's March 28 from 11AM to 6PM at the GLBT Center, see you there) I won't have much sightseeing time, so I leaped when I could. Last Saturday, we leaped into the Chelsea Market, where I bought more chocolate for The Stash (above).

Among the bars bought were five Dolfin Chocolate squares, varying from milk to flavored dark to straight dark. I can't seem to find a site for Dolfin, but from what I have found they are a Belgian confectioner, and they like to be creative with their offerings. Checking the major chocolate sites, I see bars of cumin, masala, and pink peppercorns. Worth a more thorough hunt next time I'm in Chelsea.

For now, I have the following varieties: Cafe Lait, Earl Grey, Ginger, 70% Dark and 88% Dark. Rather, I had them. Tasting squares go pretty fast around these parts, but I did make an effort to savor each bite and report back.

Cafe Lait (milk): Creamy texture coupled with a strong coffee flavor at times. Tiny granules of coffee offer a slight crunch on occasion. Seems where the coffee is closest, the taste is stronger, so the "cafe" isn't fused throughout.

Earl Grey (dark): Earl Grey is my favorite tea, and rubbing this square released the familar bold scent I enjoy often. The square has a sharp snap to it, and the tea flavor compliments the chocolate well - not overpowering or grainy. The larger Earl Grey bar is listed as 52% cacao, and that seems right for this square.

Noir Gingembre (dark): There doesn't appear to be a strong scent to this one. The snap is good, and holding the chocolate releases the spicy ginger gradually into a pleasant finish. Am guessing, based on the contents of a larger bar, that this is also 52%, but it tastes darker than that.

Noir 70%: Deep cocoa aroma with a more decided snap than the others. It melts easily into a tangy finish that varies bite to bite. One second it's a strong cocoa, the other I detect a savoriness to it. I tend to stick with darks in the 70s, and this one was not unpleasant.

Noir 88%: The aroma isn't as pronounced as the previous dark, and the snap came off as duller. On the palate there is more bitter, almost a licorice finish. Something like this I could only take in small doses.

Next week, I'll take Manhattan for some more, if I can find it.


Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm going to Princeton! Geddy isn't.

It's true, in a way. I'll be signing books at Chicklet Books [Princeton Shopping Center, 301 N. Harrison St, Princeton, NJ 08540] with several other authors at a wine and cheese reception. There will be readings and prize giveaways and maybe a discussion panel, too. I really enjoy events like these because they involve the reader as much as the author. This way, we're not just sitting around collecting dust - we're talking to people. It's a party. If you're in the area, come out and see us.

I'll be leaving for the Eastern Shore later this afternoon. This will be the third drive up this year, and I have a few more planned. Next week, for example, for the Rainbow Book Festival. This trip, however, I won't go as far. I'm thinking I might spend some time in Philly on Sunday and take my time coming home. Of course, with the responsibility of the Phaze site I need to get back in time to take care of new releases. I understand, however, that job will finally be transferred to somebody else so I can concentrate more on the schedule. It's nice to be in a position where we can do that.

Tempted to take in a late showing of I Love You, Man after the signing, if I can find one. The movie has generated much buzz on my favorite message board by virtue of the Rush cameo (somewhere in the movie the main characters go to a Rush concert - the pinnacle in man-dates). At first I wondered if their appearance was going to be a three-second stock footage deal, but it must be a significant showing if it got Neil out of the house to go to the premiere.

Well, if I don't make the movie, I hope to make some sales. I have the morning free tomorrow, so I'll be sure to take some pics of the little one cavorting on Princeton grounds - a bit of hopeful optimism for the future. I heard on Twitter there's a great place to eat there...it was from the restaurant itself, but if I go I can at least tell them their Twitter account is worth something. There are a few letterboxing opportunities in the area as well - wouldn't mind getting some Jersey stamps to add to our book. More on the letterboxing later - it's something I'm trying to do with little one on weekend to get out of the house. She's at the age now where she's crawling the walls at home. We need an activity to do together and she seems to like treasure hunts. This seems to be ticket if I can hold her interest.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SyFy...Why?

I don't know if this is practice for an April Fool's joke or not. I heard through the Twittervine that the Sci-Fi Channel is changing its name to SyFy. Skimming the article tells me the network is looking to shed its "geeky" image, and there's something in there about crossing Moonlighting with Indiana Jones or something or other...I didn't get too far into it. I'm still looking at these four letters in disbelief. SyFy. Sounds like a skin disease. Aunt Bertha came down with the syfy last weekend. Done cleaned the Rite-Aid out of Gold Bond medicated powder. Tsk.

Have we learned nothing from New Coke? The Sci-Fi Channel established a strong brand when it launched. When we wanted Trek reruns and original science fiction programming from which to develop new fandoms for cons, we went there. True, the sci-fi genres tends to lend itself to a "geeky" stereotype, but in my recent experience attending cons I see a diverse group of fans. Just about everybody, at some time, enjoys an aspect of the genre. We may have a favorite show or movie, or author. Even though the channel is called SciFi, I acknowledge that sometimes the brand might encompass fandoms that aren't necessarily technical or futuristic. It's why we see fantasy books and movies there - hobbits lumped in with the stormtroopers. Each mini-brand presents a fantasy world and fantastic situations. It would make sense than enthusiasts would hop from one to the other. Having the Sci-Fi name lets people know what is available to them.
Bottom line, you change the brand, you risk the loss of your hard-core fan base. Some might argue change is good, and in some situations it is. With an established brand, however, that isn't always the case. Change Sci-Fi to SyFy, and what are people supposed to expect? You want more romance with your sci-fi, no need to change the name. We're smart people, we'll figure it out.
But SyFy? You put up that single and watch viewership be siphoned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chocolate Review: Divine Chocolate 70% Dark

I tell you, a day like this makes me want to pile deep into the stash and enjoy today's, tomorrow's, and next year's chocolate. Rain all day - G's crawling the walls and destroying the house, and it appears this is the day nothing has gone right. Discouraging e-mails, errors aplenty, and I'm just plain tired. I'm holding in a bite of Divine Chocolate's 70% dark bar right now, and it's helping. I like the flavor - it's smooth and releases a lovely dark cocoa without a bitter aftertaste. I've had this bar in the stash for a while now, no telling where I got it or if anybody gave it to me, but if I've had it a while I'm amazed by how well the bar has held up. The chocolate maintains a nice sheen and a bold snap - no tempering to be found. Strikes me as a good bar for beginners to dark tasting, maybe with a glass of red or late harvest dessert wine.

Divine is a fair trade bar as well, apparently using single origin cacao from Ghana, so knowing that has shed some light on an otherwise dreary day. However, I will endeavor not to eat the whole thing. A day like like is good for tipping scales.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

So you think sex is funny? You will.

Look for my guest blog today at Oh, Get a Grip. The topic is humor and sex, and my essay, "The Humor of Sex, or the Gospel According to Rose Nylund" is up for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tie Geddy Up, Tie Geddy Down Friday

In the DC area? Into BDSM? Then you probably have heard of The Crucible's twice-yearly flea market and play party. The spring event is planned for March 14 from 11-6, see their website for directions. Phaze Books will vend at the event, offering a selection of erotic romance titles, including some of our top-selling GLBT prints and Coming Together anthologies. You'll get to meet authors Bridget Midway, Alessia Brio and Will Belegon, who will happily sign purchased copies of their works.

It's always a fun event, so we hope you'll come visit us if you're there. If not, we hope to attend the September event as well. I was to have attended, but my sitter plans fell through, and I will have to sit this one out. Stinks, because I had to sit out the last one, and our little Phaze Books booth did well. Here's hoping lightning strikes twice. The Providence event in February buoyed my interest in doing more of these fairs - it's nice to meet people eager to read our work, and surprising to see how many people are aware of you already.
Anyway, I still plan to be at Chicklet Books in Princeton, NJ on March 21 (map). That signing is from 5-9PM and there will be wine and chocolate. I'm going to pull a bottle of red from the Lively cellar and introduce readers to some fine Virginia wine. Haven't decided what yet. Weekend after that, it's New York City and the Rainbow Book Fair at the GLBT Center. Really excited about these events, and I've picked up a few more gigs in late spring, check out my website for the tour list.

As for book news, I got a five cherry review for Dare to Dream from Whipped Cream Reviews. Very flattering, though a detail is incorrect, but who I am to turn down a nice review. It will be nice to have some praise to include on the back cover when it goes to print. I should have a May date set for that. Meanwhile, still waiting on the The Dares That Bind edits, and I've started an F/F Dareville short, to be called Where Angels Dare to Tread. New characters in this story, though an old favorite makes a cameo. How, you'll have to find out when it's published!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

eBooks - Walking the Walk

As Read an eBook Week draws to a close, I've taken the time to think about my own experiences with eBooks and ePublishing. When I first shopped around my inspirational romance (the now out of print Little Flowers) it hadn't occurred to me to approach the e-market. Of course, I had a specific audience in mind for that book - given the dearth of Catholic-oriented fiction, I decided to fill the gap. I only wish somebody had told me at the time that not even Catholics cared to see it filled. Long story short, I found an independent publisher who turned out to be very inept - combined with my naivete and lack of experience in book promotion, the book suffered. Lessons learned.

Four books later, Phaze Books announced its pending launch on the wave of rising interest in eBooks - specifically for the sensual romance readership. My association with Phaze, and later Samhain Publishing, Liquid Silver Books, and Loose-ID, has solidified my appreciation for the industry. Behind the scenes are some very savvy, hard-working people who do their best to shatter the negative myths about publishing. In this present where people in New York and LA are losing jobs and newspapers are folding, eyes and ears are tuned in to digital publishing as a future option.

As an industry professional, I should be happy to see this happen. I write eBooks, I edit and publish, but I must confess that I don't read many of them. My primary excuse is time restraints. I work for my SEO clients, I work for Phaze, I have a young daughter. What time I have left goes to my own writing, and that isn't much because ultimately one of the other three has an emergency that I must fix. When that's done, I look at the clock and hubby is telling me to go to bed. Used to be I could read 20-30 books month. These days...poof.

I have a huge duffel bags of paperbacks by my bed, the TBR pile. It avalanches like that of any other avid reader, yet I don't know when I'll get to it. There's some romance and mystery, English history and literature. Some signed, some ARCs. Good stuff in there, though I won't know if I'll have time to read them. On the other hand, I have a Kindle reader, in which I've stored the latest bio on John Lennon. In spare moments, I'll take it out and read. I love it. Thanks to the Kindle I am gaining back one of my greatest pleasures, and I find when I finish this book I'll want to plug another one in.

So I have decided: I've wanted to reduce the clutter in my home anyway, so by week's end my paper TBR pile will be no more. Yes, we can argue that there's nothing like the feel of a book in one's hand. I enjoy holding my own, but there's also something to be said for space. I need space, I crave it. It's enough I carry the weight of my world, I don't need to add a book bag.

Therefore, I plan to create a Bookcrossing account, starting fresh, and list available paper books. I might set them free, I might designate them to certain people, I don't know yet. I won't think of this as expulsion, however. What I give away, I'll reclaim in eBook format where available. As long as I'm in the world of eBooks, I should be involved in every aspect, including reading.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Today's Chocolate

Oh, the air!


A friend gave me an import: the Nestle Aero bar. For you Yanks without access to gourmet shops, here's what it is. Milk chocolate is bubbled up, then covered in more milk chocolate and section into rounded fingers that break apart from the bar. The interior of each section resembles the bubbles in bread, and as you bite into them the bubbles "melt" to offer a unique sensation. Holding the chocolate on my tongue for a few seconds did stimulate the taste buds a bit, though the somewhat-promised choco-gasm didn't happen. This being a milk bar, it like other UK brands I've tried proved to be incredibly sweet. It finishes lighter than a solid milk, however, and I detected no gritty sensation with the bubbly middle. Aero is nice novelty to enjoy once in a while, and I'm curious to try the dark version for any difference in bubble texture and melt quality.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Come Together and Vote!

Congratulations to Alessia Brio and Coming Together, winners of the 2009 EPIC Friend of E-Publishing Award! Phaze Books is happy to partner with Coming Together to provide excellent collections of erotic romance and fiction for charitable causes.

Now through the end of the month, you can vote for the next Coming Together theme for Phaze Books. Visit The Starlight Lounge newsletter and click here to vote. A random voter will be drawn to receive a gift from The Republic of Tea. Sound off on your favorite genre and help us pick the next book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

#queryfail

Twitter will be the death of me. It's already killed any productivity I had planned for today, thanks to an informative and highly entertaining session of #queryfail posts. How it works: agents and editors spend the day sharing examples of what makes a bad manuscript submission. To be certain, I added a few gems myself, taken from what I've experienced with my house. I should note, though, what I have shared is not done to ridicule. I'm an author, too, and I've perpetrated quite a bit of #queryfail in my youth. If anything, readers should take what they read from their Twitter feeds with a light spirit, and understand that there is learning to be done here. I've learned much today.

That said, here are a few eye-rollers. I'm glad I don't recognize anything I've queried.

@DanielLiterary: I'M TYPING MY QUERY IN ALL CAPS SO YOU WILL BE SURE TO NOTICE IT. Okay, now that my pupils have stopped burning... #queryfail

@_Starry: "This is a very exciting narrative which relates how I was attacked by a whore house" Exciting in what sense? #queryfail

@angelajames: fantasy romance query about a nun?...#queryfail

@ReneeAtShens: "P.S. I collect stamps. Should you have any stamp...that is destined for the trash can, [please] stuff them in the enclosed SASE" #queryfail

@thegreatmissjj :"I am writing as Gawain Nostradame for reasons that will soon be clear..." Yes and your name is? #queryfail

@Colleen_Lindsay: "Promotional opportunities include Oprah, of course." #queryfail

Monday, March 2, 2009

Posterity - Seussical


I know this won't stay up on Google's main page forever, but it's a keeper. Would love to see a Peanuts version one day on Sparky's birthday.

Sexy Boots


Score one for the Phaze Books art department. Debi sent over the cover for The Dares That Bind, and I love it! The bottom panel especially represents the story. Alton is the mysterious business suit - silk covering an iron will - and Victoria is his Eliza Doolittle. Boots do play into the story, though the pair shown here isn't quite the type shown in the book. It's okay, though. As I told the cover artist it was damn near impossible to find an accurate image, but these are pretty close. I like the flower image there, too - it evokes a sense of romance combined with the intense nature of bondage. My feet hurt just looking at them.

Here's a blurb for this upcoming novella, due out in April.

Victoria Robeson is content to live at home and work her dead-end job, despite dealing with her overbearing mother, just as long as she has time to write. When she meets the handsome and mysterious Alton Weiss as Dareville prepares for Brady Garriston's big concert, Vic is unnerved and intrigued by how well he knows her personality and desires.

Alton introduces her to a world of sensuality and submission, encouraging her to become a new woman. But is Alton merely a weekend distraction, or the promise of a better life?

Hope you enjoy it!