So we’re coming up on Christmas FAST, which means this will probably be my final blog post for the year while I spend the next 10 days navigating turkey, out of town family, and prepping my writing and business goals for 2017.

On top of all that I have to remember to make my New Years Castile soap. Because castile soap is at its finest when it has been cured for at least a year, it has become a bit of a tradition for soapers to make a batch of castile soap on New Years Eve.

Mmmm soap.

Stephanie Marks -  Queen of the Nile Soap

Stephanie Marks - Queen of the Nile Soap
My soap isn’t a true castile, which is pure olive oil. But the oil blend I use, olive/avocado/palm gives it enough properties of a castile that it really benefits from a year long cure as well.

I love making soap while I’m not writing. It uses a completely different creative part of my mind. Sometimes it’s nice to quiet the voices, put a pause on the world building and build something with my hands instead. There is something incredibly soothing about measuring out oils and lye and watching everything come together.

Speaking of which. It’s the holiday season, which means I can’t talk about pouring and measuring and not talk about BAKING!

Now, I love to bake but this year there isn’t a square, pie or tart in sight at my place. So instead of posting my recipe for butter tarts, I’m giving you my mom’s recipe for lemon bars instead. She has made them for Christmas so many times over the years now that they pretty much signal the heart of the holiday season for me:

Lemon Hazelnut Bars

Base:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup salt

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans

Topping:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp grated lemon peel

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 tsp baking powder

*sifted icing sugar optional

Base: Preheat oven to 350F (180C)

Combine flour, sugar, salt in food processor. Add butter and nuts. Process to fine crumbs. Press firmly into 13″ x 9″ (3.5L) cake pan. Bake at 350F (180C) for 18 minutes.

Topping:

Combine first 5 ingredients in food processor until smoothly blended. Pour over base. Bake for 23-28 minutes or until edges are starting to brown and filling is just set. cool. Cut into bars. If desired, dust lightly with icing sugar before serving.

*Note: If food processor is unavailable, mix base with pastry blender and mix filling with wire whisk.

*Note 2: This is not my mother’s original recipe, she got it out of a magazine. Unfortunately she cannot remember which one. As soon as we figure it out I will update this post with the appropriate credits.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Baking Time: 46 minutes

Makes: 4 dozen bars

Freezing: Excellent


Writer Radio

Because I have so much planned for 2017 I’ve been working on a few books at once this December. And I’m drowning in the feels! Being immersed in the relationship drama of your characters in one book can be crazy enough. But three different couples, with three different problems all trying to fight it out inside your head? Wow. That can actually get a bit exhausting. Of course I like the tension in my books to be about much more than just the boy/girl stuff. Conspiracies, back stabbing, murder, vengeance, and saving the world all come with their own  different levels of intensity. When your story has any kind of love story within it, it has to have conflict. It it’s too easy it just gets… boring. So I was really thrilled when I realized this song worked as great writing music for each of the different projects I’m working on. Because love, pain, confusion and (hopefully) reconciliation are so universal.

I’ve been loving this song by Britney Spears right now and it seems completely fitting. Because, you know, So. Much. Drama. So for the final installment of Writer Radio 2016, I give you…

Britney Spears – Inside Out

Hello, hello! I knew you couldn’t stay away for long. Alright, Shadowlings, we all know that there was no way I could leave this Brit out of the Top Five. That’s right, you know who I’m talking about. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you, the one… the only… William the Bloody!!

I’m pretty sure I can hear your screams of joy from here, and you know what? I’m right there with you. So let’s get down to it.  

If you’re between the ages of 25-35 there’s a good chance he was one of your first vampire crushes. (The first probably being the King of Brood. Yeah, we see you, Angel. Wait your turn.)

Who is he?: Spike aka William the Bloody

Where can you find him?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and) Angel

Why he’s awesome…

First of all. He’s cool. Like, SUPER COOL. I mean, you know you’ve basically hit the pinnacle of awesome when Billy Idol bites your style. Long before the crooning bad boy hit the scene, Spike was the original platinum blonde bad ass.

Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

He also wears a fantastic leather jacket that he stole off the body of a dead slayer. How hard core is that? First I’ll kill you, then I’ll steal your cool clothes.

Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike preaches truth pretty much 24/7. He is brutally honest. Not only with other people but about himself as well.

Spike Quotes - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike and Giles - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike and Buffy Quotes - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spike loves fiercely, with the whole of his being and to the point of insanity. Spike and Dru were the kind of villain couple for whom you rooted to live happily ever after.

Spike and Drusilla - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike and Drusilla - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Awww. They’re just so cute!

And then just in case we didn’t fully comprehend the lengths to which he was willing to go for a woman he loves… He goes and puts himself through hell (almost very much literally) in order to reclaim his soul, just so that he can be the better man he thinks the woman the loves deserves. And why? So that MAYBE she can finally love him back. 

Spike gets his soul - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And like so many of the best multidimensional bad guys that came before him… In the body of a soulless serial killer beats the heart of a poet.

Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike made the journey from bad guy to savior of the world really REALLY well. You just had to respect the struggle. And sure, it was forced on him at the beginning but in the end he WANTED to be better, and he clawed himself back from the abyss to prove it.

Spike and Faith - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

As you can see, Spike is pretty much all around awesome. He clever, he’s funny, he’s complex AND he’s hot. Pretty much the whole swoon worthy vampire package. 

This post could probably go on forever so I’m going to wrap it up here with some Spike eye candy for you all to enjoy on this Tuesday morning.

Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
And in closing…


Because… yeah. James Marsters (the actor that played Spike), might be the only man on the planet whose cheek bones rival those of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Did you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Spike vs Angel, who’s you pick? Do you have a favorite Spike scene, quote or full episode?

Whooooooah! Chill out shadow babies, I know what you’re about to say. “Steph, are you crazy? Klaus isn’t a vampire he’s a HYBRID!”

I know, I know, no need to shout. Klaus is a hybrid, and I’m not about to deny that. But he’s HALF vampire. And when he looks this good…

 Klaus Mikaelson 
are you sure you want to argue about it, or do you just want lots more Klaus?

Hahaha, that’s what I thought. More Klaus it is!

So….

Who is he?: Klaus Mikaelson

Where to find him: Vampire Diaries/ The Originals

Why I love him? Oh let me count the ways.

Klaus is complex. Like, CRAZY complex. In the Vampire Diaries universe, he is one of the original vampires. As in, one of the very first vampires in all of creation. So he is OLD, rich, and pretty much indestructible. He also has one of the most deep seeded cases of daddy issues I have ever seen. Ok, he has siblings and they all have daddy issues but he has even more reason for it. But, more on that some other time. The point is, family means everything to him. For him it’s about family loyalty above all, even if he does twist his ideals in some pretty messed up ways.

 The Mikaelsons 
The family that plays together…

 Rebekah Mikaelson 
Will probably end up pissing him off some how, staked, and carted around in a box for a few decades of “time out”. But only because he loves them so much and they just keep on disappointing him. Poor guy.

He is arrogant. Ridiculously, painfully arrogant. But he kind of has reason to be, and somehow he pulls off all that attitude really REALLY well.

 Klaus Mikaelson 
But all of that violence, arrogance, and recklessness is really just the symptom of a person that has spent centuries just trying to be loved.

 Klause Mikaelson 
Awww, he looks so sad.

Klaus Mikaelson is a complete and utter monster that destroys the lives of everyone around him in a regular basis, but has a depth to him that does not make him a caricature of a “villain”. His history and motivations allow you to empathize with him and fall for his charm even when every smart part of you is screaming, “No, no, no, don’t do it!”

 Klause Mikaelson and Caroline Forbes 
Look at her face. That girl doesn’t believe a single word that’s coming out of her own mouth right now. She’s half in love already.

Klaus is one of my favorite vampires because when you watch him he makes you feel ALL the emotions. Anger, annoyance, disgust, pity, sorrow, lust. Klaus is the kind of character that gives you emotional whiplash but when watching the show you love every second of it.

Plus, look at those eyes!

 Klaus Mikaelson 
 Klaus Mikaelson 
And that smile just promises all kinds of trouble.

 Klaus Mikaelson 
So how about you? Have you watched either Vampire Diaries or The Originals? On a scale of 1-10 where does your love for Klaus fall?

 Blood and Hunger, The Vanessa Kensley Series 
As of today, Blood and Hunger is now available for download on the Kobo site for those of you with Kobo ereaders.

Living in Canada means that it’s quite the toss up when it comes to who I know that may own a Kobo vs a Kindle. Now more of you can get your vampire urban fantasy fix.

Can’t wait to download your copy? Just follow the link to the website here.