How I’d Like to Die

This past Saturday, my husband and I enjoyed lunch at a café we’ve only ever visited for dessert. I knew they had a menu of something other than ice cream and I’ve heard good things about the sandwiches. In the mood for something new—and when it comes to food, “something new” is fully half of my mood—I suggested we give it a try.

After finishing the first half of my sandwich—a baguette with turkey, bacon, avocado, mayonnaise and alfalfa sprouts—I sat back, patted my stomach and said, “If I died right this minute, this would be a perfect last meal.”

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I’d just eaten bacon and I’d ordered a real Coke. Not the diet stuff; the one with sugar in it.

If asked to choose a final meal, I’m honestly not sure what I would pick, but it would probably be something fried. Something deep fried. Chicken, maybe. With potato salad and biscuits and coleslaw and apple pie and soda with sugar in it. Or maybe sweet tea. Or a slab of rare prime rib with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, gravy and peas. Pizza would be amazing, especially if it was extra cheesy and piled high with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers. You’d have to promise to execute me soon afterward, though. Pizza no longer agrees with me. Continue reading “How I’d Like to Die”

My Favourite Things: 2015

I always wait until the last possible moment to write this post because, in the last two years, I’ve had to update a couple of the entries as I go to one last movie or find the book I couldn’t have made it through my life without reading. This year, the delay again proved worthwhile as I became absorbed in December by some of the best television I have ever seen, and a number of startlingly good books.

As always, highlighted entries point to my reviews and rambles.

Books

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I read about 270 books this year. That’s twenty less than 2014 and, consequently, I awarded fewer five star ratings. I had 64 to choose from when trying to decide which books to rave about. Narrowing my list of favourites wasn’t as hard as last year, however, as there were some clear standouts.

Science Fiction: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

This book kinda blew me away. Actually, there’s no ‘kinda’ about it. This book hit all my buttons: impending apocalypse (okay, it’s Armageddon, but good enough), deeply drawn characters and a sprawling sense of space—a universe you could live in, would recognise when you returned to it—poetry and a compelling narrative. Six compelling narratives, actually. Told from the consecutive points of view of six of the seven men and women making a pilgrimage as the galaxy prepares for war, this book is a saga in one volume. It’s three love stories and a treatise on military action. It examines humanity, religion, philosophy, art and politics. The story bends time and rules. It’s just nothing short of amazing.

I also enjoyed Kevin Anderson’s return to the Seven Suns universe in the Saga of Shadows, Pierce Brown’s follow up to Red Rising (last year’s top SF pick from me), Golden Son, and everything I read by Peter Clines.

Fantasy: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Long. Oh my goodness, so long. Every word is worth it, though. Every. Single. World. This book, these characters, this world! SIGRUD! Also, there’s a sequel coming out next year and I already have the ARC for it. *pause for epic flailing*

What sets this book apart is the world building. It’s truly unique. I have never read about a world like this one, and the world is such an integral part of the story. It’s nearly a character in its own right.

Close runner-up is Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations #1) by Michael J. Sullivan, a new to me author who is now an auto-buy author. I will read anything this man writes. A part of the charm of this series is the fabulous narration by Tim Gerard Reynolds. If you can afford to do this on audio, go for it.

Horror: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

This is a new category. I don’t usually read horror, but The Girl with all the Gifts is one of those stories that caught me by surprise. I can’t reveal much about the plot without giving away the magic, but what made this book work for me was the extraordinary journey of one of the characters. I despised this character at the beginning. I began to understand them halfway through. I was utterly besotted with their arc by the end—and then there’s a scene that just… Yeah, I’m haunted.

Graphic Novel: Commencement (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, #1) by John Jackson Miller

For me, this story combined elements of the original three movies and the world fabulously imagined by BioWare for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Great storytelling, decent art and fifty chapters to keep you invested for a good long time.

Romance: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis J. Hall

My review for Waiting for the Flood was a quote from within the book which, for me, defined the very essence of romance:

“It’s all I’ve ever wanted, really. Someone to make tea for. To know how they like to drink it, and share some pieces of time with them at the end of long days, and short ones, good days and bad, and everything in between.”

Movies

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In Theatres: Furious 7

Apart from the fact this movie is a must see for every Furious franchise and Paul Walker fan, it really is the best one yet. The story, the stunts. The cast. The ending is bittersweet, as it had to be. I cried and, for about a month afterward, every time I heard the song See You Again I got all misty eyed.

I also really enjoyed both Southpaw and Creed. Southpaw was a shoe-in for me. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal? I didn’t have to be asked twice. Creed—you’ve seen Rocky (and a handful of the sequels), right? Why not treat yourself to Stallone acting, and doing a damn good job of it.

Yes, I have seen The Force Awakens and yes, it was a great film. I also really enjoyed San Andreas!

On DVD: Lilting, St. Vincent, Begin Again, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

I didn’t watch as many movies on DVD this year. I was too busy streaming season after season of television shows I’ve missed.

TV

2015TV

Broadchurch, Sense8, Grace and Frankie, The Expanse

These shows are about as disparate as you can get. The Expanse is the space opera I’ve been waiting for since BSG drew its last breath. Grace and Frankie explores interpersonal relationships between family, friends and lovers in so many wonderful ways. Sense8 is spectacular—cinematically and for the story. Broadchurch WRECKED me. Not sure when I last sobbed in front of the television in such a distraught manner. Thank goodness no one came to visit me.

Games

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Favourite Game: The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Geralt…

Sprawling, endlessly entertaining, well-written, beautiful and…Geralt in all his grey glory.

I also finished Dragon Age: Inquisition which left me wanting and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Music

2015Music

I don’t listen to music when I write and I wrote a LOT this year. I also listened to a lot of audio books, which really cut into my music listening time—particularly when driving. But I still managed to get caught up by a couple of new to me bands and did have a few favourite songs.

Song of the Year: Hold Each Other (ft. Futuristic)

I adore Great Big World. I love apparent simplicity of their lyrics and melodies and the depth I always feel beneath—whether that’s due to the stories I apply to their songs, or the stories they’re telling me. In this song, I really like the three perspectives. And the video is REALLY cute.

Mark Ronson’s Uptown  Funk! ft Bruno Mars was my favourite danceable track this year and every time it plays, I think of a couple of my guys, Alvaro and Daniel, from Wrong Direction, which makes me happy. 🙂

I discovered The Weeknd well after everyone else, and well after FSOG, thank goodness. I heard The Hills as I was driving and nearly crashed trying to enlist Google’s help in identifying it.

I also discovered Twenty One Pilots and am still listening to Stressed Out over and over.

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This was the Year of the Doughnut. I discovered a Krispy Kreme about an hour and a half from my house and spent a stupid amount of time visiting other doughnut stores up and down the East Coast.

Activity

Being Offline

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote a lot this year and because of the volume and increasing importance of writing in my life, I’m planning a separate post dedicated just to that! Given I spent so much time at the computer, by year’s end, my favourite activity actually became disengaging from the internet. Escaping to the real world to remember what the sun feels like. Taking day trips to reacquaint myself with my surroundings (and hunt for doughnuts). Hikes. Connecting with friends, face-to-face. Talking about anything other than writing, editing and publishing. Not being thoroughly confused and dismayed by social media.

That’s it, my list of favourite things in 2015. As always, the list is incomplete. I read so much, watched so much, listened to so much—and my tastes are so wide ranging and varied. I get a lot of joy out of mixing it up—leaping from a love story to a mystery, falling into a fantasy world and then jetting out to the stars. It keeps every adventure fresh and new.

Happy New Year and best wishes for your 2016.

 

Life, the Universe and Nutella

Since joining Carina Press, Jenn and I have formed a friendship with another male-male romance writing duo, Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. A couple of months ago we interviewed ourselves regarding our co-writing processes. This time, we sat our characters down together and interviewed them. Chaos Station and In the Kitchen are two very different series. Chaos Station is science fiction romance and In the Kitchen is foodie romance. But our guys—Zed and Felix—have more than a little in common with Ethan and Jamie. There are some pretty hilarious differences, though.

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Felix: Living to see thirty.
Zed: Um, for me, I guess it’s saving that transport of civilians during the war. Kind of wish it didn’t end up on holo, though.
Ethan: Not murdering New Guy.
Jamie: Not murdering E in his sleep.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow at Jamie*
Jamie: *leans over and smooths Ethan’s eyebrow* What? I’m sure a lot of people would consider that a huge accomplishment. Claire. Tyler. Cal. Chef Boulanger…
Ethan: Next question.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Zed: Damn. Can I skip questions? Because…yeah, I don’t know if I want to answer this one.
Felix: We’re not getting graded on this, you know.
Ethan: *rolls eyes* It’s not that difficult. Perfect happiness is a beer in my hand, good food and naked time with that gentleman. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Seriously E?
Ethan: What? I can’t think of anything better than a naked you and food. Unless it’s food on you while you’re naked. Preferably Nutella.
Felix: What’s Nutella?
Ethan: *winks at Felix* Just imagine an orgasm in your mouth. That pretty much sums up the divine goodness that is Nutella.

What is your current state of mind?
Zed: Hoping Flick doesn’t scare everyone off with his assholishness.
Ethan: Frankly, irritated the two chicks who write us dragged me out of the kitchen for this.
Jamie: I got nothing except for trying to find my happy place so I don’t accidentally murder E in his sleep.
Ethan: *turns to Jamie* Does this happy place have anything to do with Nutella and naked time?
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: What the fuck is Nutella?
Ethan: Don’t worry Felix. We’ll send you guys some.

What is your favorite occupation?
Felix: Tinkering
Zed: I don’t really have one. I like watching Flick tinker though.
Ethan: Cooking. Next.
Jamie: I’m with Ethan – cooking. Although, keeping Ethan from going postal on our produce suppliers has recently become a full-time job.
Zed: I’m suddenly thinking we need Ness in here to talk shop with you two. She’s our cook…and doctor. What? It’s a small ship.
Ethan: Back the fuck up. Your doctor is your chef? *shakes head* That’s just wrong, dude.

What is your most treasured possession?
Felix: A picture.
Zed: Really, a picture? Which one?
Felix: Never you mind.
Ethan: My knife block.
Jamie: Your knife block?
Ethan: What? It’s an awesome knife block.
Jamie: Remind me again why I moved to Seattle.
Ethan: Because you love me so much?
Jamie: *sighs* Yes. Yes I do.
Ethan: And naked time that involves Nutella?
Jamie: *sighs again*
Zed: You keep your knives in a block? A block of what?
Jamie: A block of wood. To keep them handy without dulling the blades.
Felix: I keep a knife in my boot. Saves hauling a block around, you know?
Ethan: That sounds dangerous and … hot. Like a pirate or something. *wriggles eyes at Jamie* I know what our next role play is going to be.
Jamie: *looks around at Ethan, Zed, and Felix then shakes head* How in the hell did I get myself into this.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: *pokes Flick* Be nice.
Felix: What? I was being nice! I could have said the Chaos.
Zed: Well, that wouldn’t be a lie. You love that ship.
Ethan: That guy in the goofy pin-striped apron. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: I’ll have you know this style of apron is all the rage in New York.
Ethan: Another reason I’m happy your ass is firmly situated in Seattle. But you didn’t answer the question.
Jamie: As if you really need me to say it. *leans over and kisses Ethan* You.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: *trying not to smirk*

What is your favorite journey?
Felix: The one to the bathroom for a shit, shower and shave.
Ethan: Home. To our bed.
Jamie: *coughs* Ditto to what Ethan said.
Zed: We’ve got these two lovebirds. And then there’s Flick. Jesus.
Felix: So, you’d rather I didn’t visit the bathroom every morning? *attempts to pull Zed’s head toward his armpit*
Ethan: *whispers to Jamie* And you thought I was a fixer-upper.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Felix: I’m an asshole.
Ethan: I’m an asshole.
Jamie: Patience. *goes back to muttering about not murdering Ethan in his sleep*
Zed: I hate these kinds of questions. Probably because I’m not an asshole. Hm…I guess focus?

When and where were you the happiest?
Zed: Hemera Station, 2261. Those five days…
Ethan: Shoving cake in Jamie’s face during our reception.
Jamie: Opening my door in New York and seeing Ethan standing there.
Ethan: Really? More than our reception?
Jamie: *grins at Ethan* When I saw you in New York that morning, I knew we were in it for the long run. Everything else since then has just been the icing on the cake.
Ethan: *groans* You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you.
Jamie: *grins* Yep.
Felix: Next question.

What is it that you most dislike?
Felix: Assholes.
Ethan: *holds fist out for a bump*
Felix: *fist bumps*
Jamie: Brussels sprouts.
Ethan: You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?
Jamie: Nope.
Zed: Military brass who don’t give a shit about their men.
Ethan: *peers over at Zed* Dude. We have got to swap stories sometime about past asshole bosses. I had this one boss–”
Jamie: Pretty sure this isn’t the time, E.
Ethan: *mouths to Zed* Later. We’ll talk. I’ll buy the first round.
Zed: Okay. And then for the second, I’ll raid Qek’s special cache. You ever tried ashushk wine?

What is your greatest fear?
Felix: The dark. *glares* It’s not really dark in space, all right? My ship has lights. And there are stars and shit.
Zed: Heights. How many people are going to read this, anyway?
Ethan: I hate people touching my feet. *shivers* Oh, and him leaving me again. Mostly, feet. And tofurkey.
Jamie: Losing Ethan, again.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: What the fuck is tofurky?
Jamie: Well, you see. There’s this soy product that’s used to make‒”
Ethan: *interrupts Jamie* Trust me, Felix. You don’t want to know.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Felix: The Chaos. Took every credit Eli and I had to buy that bucket of bolts.
Ethan: Extravagance? What is this, big fucking fancy word day? The restaurant.
Jamie: The secret bank account I add money to for my future therapy bills.
Zed: Um…I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.
Felix: Are you kidding me? Each one of your fancy shirts costs about as much as my ship. *fingers the silk* But you should keep buying them.
Zed: Yeah, but they’re not an extravagance. They’re just clothes.

What is your greatest regret?
Zed: Walking away after graduation.
Felix: *looks at Zed, looks at Ethan and Jamie, looks back at Zed. *grumbles*
Ethan: *looks down at wedding ring, spinning it with his thumb and forefinger*  Walking away from Jamie.
Jamie: Nothing.
Ethan: Nothing?
Jamie: Nothing. Everything we did led me here to this moment with you. So, yeah. Nothing.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Ethan: Superman’s heat vision. I’d never have cold coffee again.
Jamie: More patience.
Felix: Patience would be good. I guess. Sometimes. Or the ability to see through walls.
Zed: You know, the wishing for talents thing has never worked out well for me. Next question.

Where would you like to live?
Zed: A planet. I’m not picky. I don’t mind being in space for long periods, but I kind of like having somewhere with rock beneath my feet and a sky stretching overhead as a home base.
Felix: Really, a planet?
Zed: Yeah. I like having roots.
Ethan: I’m already living where I’d like to live. In our condo in Seattle. Planet Obvious.
Jamie: Anywhere Ethan is.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan: *smirks at Felix, then plants an exaggerated kiss on Jamie*

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Zed: Knowing what he wants and going after it. Also, strong arms.
Ethan: Sense of humor. Also, a big set of *spreads hands apart* hands.
Jamie: Tatts.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow* Tatts?
Jamie: *blushes* And maybe piercings.
Ethan: *smirks* Time to hit the Ink Shop again.
Felix: You know we have tatts that actually move, right? That’s one of those future things. *grins* Actually, ours are dead. Too many trips through j-space.
Ethan: *jaw drops* Your tatts move? *turns to Jamie* I have to get one of those. Goddammit, I will fucking die if I don’t get one of those.
Jamie: *sighs*

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Zed: Knowing what she wants and going after it. Also, curves.
Felix: *gestures* You mean boobs, right?
Ethan: I second the boobs. Or third. Whatever.
Zed: *holds out fist awkwardly* Is this how you do it? Anyway, yes. Boobs. But hips, too. That curve, right there…
Jamie: *pauses, looks around at the guys, then shrugs* I got nothing.

What do you most value in your friends?
Ethan: The ability to roll with the punches.
Jamie: Sticking by you, even during the bad times.
Ethan: *mutters* Fucking Trustfund …
Jamie: Ethan
Felix: *glances at Zed* We gotta stop skipping questions, man. Our score is dropping.
Zed: Wait, we’re being scored? I thought you said we weren’t!

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Felix: Batman
Zed: I don’t think the question means superhero.
Felix: Batman isn’t super.
Ethan: Fiction? Hmm. Let me think about that one.
Jamie: Chuck Hughes.
Ethan: Chuck Hughes? You do know he’s real.
Jamie: *smirks* I’m talking about the Chuck Hughes in my imagination.
Ethan: Next question.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: Don’t believe everything you see on a holo.
Ethan: Jamie. Speaking of steel, he’s got balls of steel for coming out and taking the world by the short hairs.
Jamie: *blushes* Ethan. He’s the strongest person I know. Plus he has such an elegant way with words.
Felix: *tries not to eye Jamie’s steely balls, or general crotch area…anything below the hips* Walking must be awkward, eh?
Jamie: *drops head in hands and groans* I’m so going to kill you, Ethan.

Which living person do you most admire?
Felix: Elias, because he hasn’t strangled me in my sleep yet.
Zed: Flick. He knows why.
Felix: No I don’t.
Ethan: I should give some kind of deep answer here. Let me think about it.
Zed: C’mon, Felix. Think about it. You’re still kicking.
Felix: *kicks Zed in the ankle. Gently*
Zed: Remind me why I like you.
Felix: *nips Zed’s earlobe* You love me.
Jamie: I think it’s time to open a bottle of wine. Anyone else want some wine?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Felix: Shit, double shit, triple shit and… *smacks Zed’s hand away* Don’t touch me. Yeah, I see what you did there.
Zed: Just being helpful, in case you forgot that one.
Ethan: Any combination of words with the F-Bomb.
Jamie: Ethan.
Ethan: *leers* You did say that a lot last night. Well, that and “Oh my God!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Jamie: How many more questions are there?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Zed: *looks at Flick sadly* I want to say I’d change that, but I don’t know if I can say it. I don’t know if I’d want to. I’m sorry.
Felix: S’okay. Can I call you Soliton?
Zed: That’s Captain Soliton to you.
Felix: *salutes*
Ethan: I’d listen to Jamie before opening my mouth. He’s the smartest guy I know.
Jamie: *leans against Ethan* Love you too, E. I’d work on my OCD. I tend to get a little … anal in the kitchen.
Ethan: *snorts* You said “anal.”
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: *snickers*
Zed: *stares at the ceiling and tries really hard to keep a straight face*

How would you like to die?
Felix: Is this a trick question?
Zed: Quickly.
Ethan: With a smile on my face next to him. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Ditto what Ethan said.
Zed: Aww. That’s…that’s really sweet.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan and Jamie: *snickers*

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Felix: A poltergeist. And I’d touch everyone who insisted on touching me, with my ghost fingers. And maybe knock shit off walls.
Zed: Maybe you could put your poltergeist powers to better uses, hm?
Felix: *winks* Sexy uses?
Zed: Well, duh.
Ethan: Dude. I’d come back as a chick just so I could smack myself upside the head for all the times I’ve opened my mouth and been a tool.
Jamie: You’d come back as a chick just so you could play with your own boobs.
Ethan: *stares off into space dreamily* Yeah, that too.
Zed: I like Ethan’s answer. I’m gonna ditto that. Because boobs.

What is your motto?
Felix: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Sir Winston Churchill said that. I think he must have faced something like the stin, eh?
Zed: “Don’t die.”
Ethan: “Life’s too short to eat shitty food.”
Jamie: “Laugh often and love hard.”
Ethan: *snorts* You said “hard.”
Jamie: Is this thing over yet?

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Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels co-authored In the Raw and In the Fire. The next book in the Kitchen series, In the Distance, is due out June 15. Visit their websites to find out more about their many other collaborations.

Jenn Burke is the author of Her Sexy Sentinel. My other titles are listed on my Bookshelf. Coming May 25 from us, Lonely Shore (Chaos Station, Book 2).

 

 

 

 

Ramble: The Future of Food

This is an article I submitted to an online magazine many, many years ago. I can’t even remember the name of the magazine, but they liked it, posted it and paid me a whopping great ten dollars. I’d like to say I saved the ten bucks, framed it. I didn’t. I’m sentimental, but not about money.

The future of food: Will everything be synthesized?

Last night was a typical scene in my apartment.  My roommate and I in our respective positions on the couch, getting our daily dose of Star Trek.  We sit there for several long minutes, each of us apparently enthralled, until one must dispel this illusion, either by comment or question.  These queries are usually phrased in either of the following methods:

“You know what I hate about this series?” or “Why is it that….?”

Continue reading “Ramble: The Future of Food”