Say what now…?

I know, Shadow Babies, I know. I have no doubt that this one is going to throw people for a bit of a loop. At first glance it’s hard to see how a Tay Tay song fits into an urban fantasy writing background, but bear with me here.

First off, this song has a killer beat. Actually, I haven’t been using it for scene writing at all, I’ve had it cranked for all of the insane admin I’ve been doing lately!
A quick glance around the site will tell you that changes, they are a comin’! Over the last couple of months I’ve been handling a new book release, a website redesign as well as transferring to a brand new web host, a newsletter overhaul and some huge upcoming goodies that you guys are (hopefully) going to go crazy for. Shhhhh… spoilers.

And secondly, I can totally picture Vanessa getting drunk on red wine and singing this song into her hairbrush microphone when she’s home alone, lol.

…Ok, maybe that’s just me. I did that. No shame.

So here it is, to get you pumped for the week ahead…

Taylor Swift – …Ready For It?

 

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

Every book I write has a soundtrack. And sometimes those soundtracks become musical obsessions that I put on repeat for days on end because they so perfectly represent the piece that I’m working on.

Right now I’m absolutely in love with the artist Halsey.  The raw emotions found in her Badlands album has really helped me to tap into the underlying feelings of my new main character.

A young witch that must shoulder the burden of centuries of great witches in her family that came before her. A duty to be the first line of defence to protect the world from tearing itself apart through magical means. To have to face so many expectations when all she wants is to be normal. To want to live her life quietly like everyone else, but to have her path be forged before she was even born. How hard must it be to feel like no matter how far you run or how deep you try to bury your nature, none of it is in your control, and eventually you must face what is coming?

As I write and uncover this story, this  song has become the personal anthem of Annalise.

Happy Halloween!

It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! Can you tell I’m excited? I absolutely love this holiday. And as a writer Halloween now does double duty for me as NaNoWriMo Eve.

So let’s get right too it. An absolute Halloween classic for those of my generation. Hold onto your broomsticks, because it’s time for…

Hocus Pocus – I Put A Spell On You!

In the words of Matthew McConaughey, “Alright, alright alriiiiight.”

We’re heading for the end of October which means two things. Thing 1) I’m currently running a $0.99 promo on Blood and Hunger until the end of the month. Why? Because  Urban Fantasy novels and October go together like Halloween candy and my mouth. And Thing 2) Halloween, baby! It’s the time of year when everyone gets their horror movie on. I know that some of you have been marathon watching things like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Paranormal Activity. And to you I say…

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Sanguine Moon is now out, yay! So it’s onto book 3. And like the two books before it, it will be filled with all the twists, turns, deception, sex, violence, and “Wait, what?!” that you know in love.

So to get us all pumped and in the mood for all of this October Awesome, I bring you the techno track from the Blade Movie blood rave scene. Happy Monday!

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’ve been pretty much ignoring Hozier’s smash hit “Take Me to Church”. I don’t know why, I just haven’ t been super drawn to it. Then the other day I was listening to an acoustic playlist on Spotify (oh Spotify, my sweet sweet addiction), and heard an acoustic version of this song and just completely fell in love with it. The Spotify version is the best acoustic version I’ve found so far, it’s unbelievably rich and soulful.

I love sitting back in my desk chair and just thinking through my scenes while listening to it.

Hoosier – Take Me to Church

*BTW – Super stoked that I just figured out how to embed links from Spotify into my posts. WooHoo!

Ok I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a huge fan of Kanye West. His arrogance just rubs me the wrong way. But there is no denying that the man has achieved some amazing things. And that lack of self doubt, that confidence that verges on delusion is a trait that has propelled MANY men and women to unbelievable heights of greatness throughout history. Maybe it is that attitude that shields them from seeing the road blocks in a way. And because they can’t see them they can’t be stopped by them. Their unwavering belief in themselves propels them forward and forces them to find a solution to any obstacle because for them there is simply no other alternative.

So  while Kanye’s arrogance may make many of us want to give him a right good smack round the head, maybe it is also a large factor in why he has been able to achieve all the great things that he has achieved. Self-confidence opens doors. There is simply no denying that. People in general are drawn to confident people. And the more confident you feel the more you inspire confidence in others. The more you make people want to take a chance on you.

This song by the Chainsmokers came up on one of my Spotify playlists a few weeks ago and no matter what I think of the man that inspired this song, I can in no way deny that the spirit of the anthem is spot on. It is completely spot on. Because that’s the way I and I’m sure many others want to live our lives. We want to be in control and believe in ourselves and achieve great things. To let nothing stand in our way. And to that extend, even I have to stand up and say that yes, “I want to be like Kanye”.

Oh wow, it’s been ages since I’ve done a Writer Radio post hasn’t it? I had to think for a bit this morning before I could decide on which song to share with you today.

Summer is here and the weather where I am is hot hot HOT. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to get away and enjoy the beaches yet, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking a break every now and then to have a one woman dance party.

So let’s kick off this week here at Stephanie Marks Books with a song to help remind us that even though it’s Monday morning, it’s still SUMMER!

M.I.A. – YALA

I can’t believe that I haven’t done a Writer Radio post for this song yet. I first heard it a few months ago and have been a bit obsessed ever since. I wasn’t sure I actually liked it at first but the more I listened the more it got stuck in my head. Now I can be heard singing along to it at the top of my lungs.

This has become one of my go to songs to play right when I wake up and I’m struggling to get out of bed. It totally energizes me for the day.

Marina and the Diamonds – Froot