SBHM Guest: Lynn Balabanos on Lesser Known Heroes & Heroines of Black History Month

Hi friends! So we’re doing this! Celebrating Smithsonian Heritage Months again! I’ve been asking anyone and everyone to participate, and today we have a contribution from Lynn Balabanos. 😀 I hope you’ll check out what she has to say!

The numerous contributions the Black community has made to the fabric of our country are inspiring and instrumental. Most of us learn about the heavy hitters in school, individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriett Tubman and Rosa Parks. Important people, absolutely, but they were not alone in their struggles for equality and freedom. In honor of Black Heritage Month, I’d like to share just few of the lesser known heroes and heroines.

Benjamin Banneker PortraitBenjamin Banneker (1731-1806)

Next time you look at a photograph of Washington, D.C., I hope you think of Benjamin Banneker.

He was born in Maryland a free Black man. He was mostly self-educated and drew a reputation for being an amazing mathematician and astronomer. In 1789, he was part of the surveying team that laid out the plans for Washington D.C. When L’Enfant, the Frenchman hired to build the capital, walked off of the site taking all of the plans with him, it was Benjamin who re-created from memory the layout of the streets, parks and major buildings. Without him, our nation’s capital wouldn’t look the way it does today.

Benjamin’s achievements don’t stop there. At the age of 22, he built a wooden clock that accurately kept time, despite having no formal training regarding clock making. He created a crop irrigation system, producing food which prevented US soldiers during the Revolutionary War from starving. Oh, and the Farmers’ Almanac? You know, the book farmers relied on for generations to predict weather and crop planting.* It was invented by Benjamin Banneker, who did all of the calculations himself for the first six years of its existence.

As if that wasn’t enough, Benjamin, throughout a long correspondence, urged Thomas Jefferson to create racial equality and abolish slavery.

Garrett MorganGarrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963)

Every time you drive or see a firefighter, you should think of Garrett Augustus Morgan. This man saved countless numbers of lives and the modification of his inventions still exist and are in use today.

Garrett Morgan was a prolific inventor. Born in Kentucky, he only had a grade school education. In 1914, he created a safety device, a canvass hood with two breathing tubes. The device would filter smoke backwards while cooling the air inside. This “safety hood” was used by firefighters, who had at that time had almost no protection from the smoke and gases they encountered while in the line of duty. His invention was also used by the U.S. Army and was the precursor for the gas masks used in WWI.

In 1923, Garrett Morgan invented the first mechanical traffic signal, a rudimentary version of the three way traffic light we use today. While traffic lights existed before, Garrett’s included a warning signal to drivers as well as the standard stop and go.

In addition to his successful inventions, he was also an activist and philanthropist. Garrett was a member of newly formed NAACP, gave money for young Black men to go to college and opened the first Black country club.

Dr. Charles DrewDr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950)

Every time you donate blood, especially to the American Red Cross, Dr. Charles Richard Drew is who you should think of.

He was born in segregated Washington D.C. but, although he was very bright, he didn’t have enough money to attend medical school. He worked for a few years as a biology instructor and eventually was accepted to McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He graduated second in his class and earned both a Doctor of Medicine and a Masters of Surgery. In 1938, he received a Rockefeller Fellowship to study at the University of Columbia in New York. It was there he was able to continue his work on blood related matters, and he developed a process for preserving blood plasma thereby making it possible to be stored or “banked” for longer periods of time. His doctoral theses entitled “Banked Blood” earned him a Doctorate Degree from Columbia. He was the first African-American in history to earn this degree from Columbia.

When WWII broke out, he was invited by Britain to head up their special campaign, “Blood for Britain.” In this capacity, he collected blood from New York and shipped it overseas where it was used to treat soldiers. He ran the program so successfully that one report says he was able to collect over 14,000 pints of plasma.

As a result of both his research and his work with Britain, in 1941, Dr. Drew was made Director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank. He successfully created processes and procedures for blood donation and distribution that saved countless lives. Among his innovations, was the mobile blood donation center, much like the ones still in existence today.

Unfortunately, Dr. Drew didn’t stay as director of the blood bank long. When the program started, African Americans were prohibited from donating, per U.S. military rules. This meant that Dr. Drew couldn’t even donate his own blood to the bank he’d not only created but also ran. He fought to change the rules and the result the military relented – but only a little. African Americans were able to donate but their blood was segregated and only used for African American soldiers. Unable to agree to these terms, Dr. Drew resigned in 1942.

Bessie ColemanElisabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926)

Whenever you go to an air show, or see a pilot doing stunts, think of Bessie Coleman.

She was born in Texas during segregation. Her parents were uneducated and illiterate and Bessie herself went to school in a one room shack. As a young adult, she moved to Chicago and lived with her older brothers, working as a manicurist. It was during this time, listening to the pilots returning from WWI, that she developed an interest in aviation. In 1918, there were very few women pilots and all of them were white and wealthy. Bessie applied to aviation schools across the country but was turned away, her race and her gender a double strike against her.

So, she taught herself French and, taking all of her life savings, moved to France. As you do. She completed flight training at the best flight school in France, graduating in only seven months. She became the first African American woman to hold to hold an international pilot’s license.

Bessie went on to perform at countless stunt shows and became one of the best known aviators of her time, due in large part because of her skill and daring. She dreamed of opening her own aviation school, and routinely encouraged other African Americans to pursue their pilot’s license. In addition, Bessie refused to participate in an event in which African Americans were not welcome.

Sadly, Bessie never lived long enough to establish her aviation school. She died during a stunt in 1926. However, her life and accomplishments inspired generations, including but not limited to Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman in space who reported took a photograph of Bessie with her on the mission.

These individuals are only a selected few, but there are so many more. Please, take some time this month and check out the Smithsonian’s website. They have lots of fascinating information on historical figures, as well as music, art and so much more. In addition, if you have any stories or interesting tidbits regarding Black Heritage Month you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

Thanks so much for this post, Lynn! I actually knew about Dr. Charles Drew because of Archer – but I didn’t know he was Black! The more you know! So cool. 😀 (I’d also like to note that Rosa Parks was born on this day 103 years ago! Her deliberate and brave acts truly facilitated change and momentum for the Civil Rights Movement.)

*So I’m pretty sure he didn’t invent the Farmers’ Almanac, but he did publish six Almanacs, with a lot of impressive information, at a time where a Black author was basically unheard of.

SBHM Guest: Alexa Rowan on Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunters

Hi friends! We’re kicking off another year of Smithsonian Heritage Month celebrations, and as you might know this year I’ve decided to expand things even further. Our first guest is Alexis Rowan who kindly answered my call to talk about the first book she remembered reading that featured a Black main character. Let’s give her a warm welcome! <3

It’s Hard To Get More Historical Than The Pleistocene

The Mammoth HuntersThanks so much to Limecello for opening up ALBTALBS to guest posters during the Smithsonian National Heritage months—and for celebrating diversity by encouraging the book-loving (and especially, the romance-loving) community to discuss authors and characters of color.

For Black History Month, Lime posed the question, what is the first book you remember reading with a black character? And while I’m sure I must have read something else prior to this, the book with a black character that has stuck in my mind since its publication in the mid-1980s is Jean M. Auel’s The Mammoth Hunterswhich is book 3 in her Pleistocene-era epic series of six massive books. Mammoth Hunters saw the introduction of Ranec, a “dark-skinned, magnetic master ivory carveras the third corner in a love triangle with blond and blue-eyed Ayla at its apex and equally Caucasian Jondalar as her existing love interest.

Ranec’s Caucasian father had travelled far to the South, where he “mated” (married?) a woman whose skin was “almost as black as night” and had a son with her, but she died during their long journey back to his people. Auel portrays Ranec in a positive light (unless one interprets Ranec’s interest in Ayla as creepy/obsessive—teenaged me didn’t). He’s considered to be attractive within his otherwise-Caucasian community, and his unusual skin color is admired. And while he’s got a (stereotypically?) strong sex drive, he’s also got mad skillz beyond the pre-historic bedroom.

Teenaged-me didn’t think twice about Ranec’s skin color, or that Ayla and Ranec became a couple. I’ve done a little research for this blog post, and I didn’t find any contemporaneous discussion of this as an interracial relationship, or that it was considered to be controversial or shocking. Rather, the reviews and commentary I found focused on Auel’s craft (e.g., plot flaws, shallow character arcs, Ayla’s annoying character traits and having invented damn near everything), her penchant for minute detail and lovingly researched scenes, and her purple prose (which, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, teenaged me thought was pretty hot!).

Ultimately, teenaged me felt badly for Ranec, who was ready to be mated with Ayla when she and Jondalar had their long-overdue conversation and resolved their protracted misunderstanding. I suppose it’s hard to compete with a man as well-hung and talented in the sexual arts (and blue-eyed) as Jondalar, the itinerant deflowerer ;-). Is it problematic, that Ayla threw over the character of color for the couldn’t-possibly-be-more-Caucasian guy? Given the context of the book, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say no, at least from my (privileged) perspective. I’d love to hear from others with differing opinions, though. Auel’s Pleistocene-era setting describes an inter-species divide between the Clan (Neanderthals) and the Others (Cro-Magnons); within the Cro-Magnons, racial differences were ignored as irrelevant or were appreciated, not vilified. So the relationship between Ayla and Ranec was something teenaged me took at face value, yet Ayla’s getting back together with someone she loved and had intense chemistry with (Jondalar) also made sense for reasons unrelated to race. I found only one contemporaneous reviewer who commented on the fact that it was the two “blond, blue-eyed beauties” who end up riding off into the sunset with each other.

That said, if Ayla had chosen to stay with Ranec and sent Jondalar on his merry way, the series would have ended. And when you sell out a million-copy first hardcover printing, as Mammoth Hunters did, you plan as extensive a series as you can write. Right?

Have you read The Mammoth Hunters? What did you think of the love triangle and Ranec’s position in it?

I’m curious too! I’ve actually never even heard of this book until now – but I definitely think there are other things we can speak to – books we loved as children that might not stand up to a re-reading – not because of writing style, but because of the content, yes? Let’s discuss!

Celebrating Diversity through the Smithsonian Heritage Months (+ some Updates)

Hi friends! So, as usual I’m behind and flying by the seat of my pants – which might explain some things because I pretty much don’t wear pants … – anyway! Diversity! We’ve been seeing a lot about it of late in romanceland. Starting in 2015, I’d say especially. I think that’s a good thing. A great thing. Lots of people chiming in, lots of passionate (sometimes angry) voices – and that’s okay too. I think the “wider world out there” is also seeing how much further we – as people – humanity as a whole – need to go.

A little bit of history here – I first got the idea to celebrate the Smithsonian Heritage Months (SHM) in 2012. In 2013 I began reaching out – and gave myself a year to set things up. The thing is, I know there are a number of diverse authors out there … but this is a bit of a snake pit of a topic. (And for some groups, there really aren’t that many.) In 2014 I tried to kick off my SHM celebrations. If you’ve been around a while, you know my life collapsed a bit. The main highlight (low light) would be I had to live with a paranoid schizophrenic that refused medication and treatment. It was awful, and half my hair fell out. (Literally – I donate my hair, so I know.) Things got a little bit better … then 2015 kicked my ass. I think most of you know because I haven’t STFU about this … I’m pretty much broken and will need to undergo a number of yet to be decided medical procedures because literally every specialist I’ve met so far has in summary told me this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

All that is to let you know that … I’ve been painfully tardy and just flat out bad at staying on top of the SHM. Some months I had booked entirely, and just never got posts up. (Some months there were not enough authors.) I apologize for that. I really am truly sorry, and know I messed up. I’m not trying to excuse my screw ups … I’m just trying to explain I wasn’t entirely just a flake.

That also needs to be said because … I understand if people don’t want to participate. They sent me a post before… and it never went up. Why should they trust me now? [Hopefully the above mitigates some of my bad actions.] Then also … some people don’t want to participate because they hate all the issues that come with a specific month for “diversity” and such.

At ALBTALBS in 2014, I limited it to [Heritage Month]-Americans. In 2015 I expanded it to [anyone of that particular race/ethnicity]. However, I always gave only an umbrella topic. Authors and readers were welcome to talk about their own experiences, a particular historical person or event … books, anything. Or, the guest poster could talk about nothing relating to race/ethnicity. After all she already is Black/a Woman/Asian-Pacific American/Hispanic/Native American. That’s enough.

In 2016… I’m opening it up to EVERYONE. Any man, woman, child, and dog if s/he can type. 😉 I’ve noticed this year the Smithsonian added one … so February is Black History Month. March is Women’s History Month. May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. June is Caribbean American Heritage Month. September 15-October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. November is American Indian [Native American] Heritage Month. This year I’m keeping all the “old” parameters … but adding in – if you’re to use some jargon “whiter than white bread” – you’re also welcome to participate. If you fall into the latter category you would have to talk about something SHM specific. That’s only fair.

I understand some people being leery of participating, feeling they’re not “qualified” or should be silent – but I say if you want to talk about someone or something about the month, please. Join. It’s better to have something than nothing.

In fact, one thing I’d be interested in this year is if you’d share about the first book/TV show/movie you remember that had someone who is Black/Asian/Caribbean/Hispanic/Native American as a main character. Let’s share our experiences, yes?

Also also – if you’re ~scared to participate … know that I’ve got your back. This is one hill I’m willing to die on, and I will defend your choice and my decision to the end. Diversity in the end is about all of us.

So I know February is just two days away – ACK – BUT … I think we can do this, don’t you? 😀 Join me! Diversity! Yay!


It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

I’ve thought about this post (off and on) for at least the past six+ years. I never really know how to go about addressing it, or what to say. Plus the timing is never right. And then more there were a slew of such posts and they were much more eloquently written any time I thought about sharing … but I’m dipping my toe into the water. And slaughtering more euphemisms while I’m at it. [I decided last year that the third Saturday of January would be when I post this … so … it’s now or never.]

In ~2012 had been planning on titling this “My Normal Isn’t Normal” – which, it isn’t, but in this case, I don’t like that. Because … depression is normal. Or, normal enough for far too many people out there. And it’s not a fault thing, or food and exercise. I have … so many differing views and opinions. For example, I think there’s a major difference between depression, and being depressed. Anyone can be depressed – be it for a day, a week, maybe a month. Whatever. But suffering from depression isn’t the exact same thing. [It’s like squares and rectangles I suppose.]

For someone who is determinedly in control and “has it together” (or at least a semblance of it, and definitely by societal standards) – it’s interesting. And considering my general line of work, it’s almost an oxymoron that I do what I do and have severe clinical depression. Just piling it on like a masochist?

I’m okay now – or at least – I think so. I have a handle on things, or I hope I do inasmuch as I can. Maybe. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I ask for something happy to distract myself, which perhaps isn’t the best way to cope or treat, but you do what you can, and sometimes treading water is winning the battle. Then of course there’s the more practical matter of medication. I’m definitely on that too – an anti-depression, anti-anxiety med. Hefty dose.

It’s hard to explain. As I said – I was always perfectly put together. Nobody knew I always always had a razor in my purse throughout high school. Always. In university I reached a point where I just … was so low. I didn’t care. I was constantly suicidal. As in, anywhere I went, I’d consider what if anything I could use to kill myself, or die. I have so many examples that I won’t get into, but I will share one. I once stared at a plastic knife on my table, wondered if someone could use a plastic knife to commit suicide, and used it to cut myself – and this first instance of (almost nonexistent) self harm was what drove me to getting help. Because I clearly did not have a handle on things. [Note: I’d never choose suicide by plasticware. I’d definitely have/do something much more effective. And practical.]

When I met with the therapist she asked me some questions, one of them relating to suicide. When she asked me how often I thought about it, I responded … and her reaction was disbelief, so much so that I could tell she was certain I was making it up or exaggerating. Being … well, me – I immediately amended my answer to something more socially acceptable. Something that would show her it was serious and I had a problem, but not something that would immediately get me admitted to the psych ward. Or perhaps even worse, having everything I said dismissed out of hand. I’ve always been very aware of the threat of being 8100’d(ed) and doing my utmost to avoid it. Clearly we’re broken as a society. Humanity isn’t understanding of mental health as a whole. Question mark?

I think a number of suicides happen not only when the person gives up and can’t handle it anymore, but s/he honestly thinks and believes that the world would be a better place without her/him in it. That it wouldn’t matter – and in fact might run more smoothly. In fact it would make everything better. You resent everything, including yourself, constantly, and consider suicide not only a viable, but the best solution.

You get to the point where you can’t commit suicide because it’ll nullify your insurance policy. Then find out that that’s sometimes an archaic provision, but you’re scared to look up what your policy terms are because you don’t know what you’ll do. You can’t trust yourself. I’ve been there. (By the way, anyone on the verge of freaking out and about to push “call” for the suicide hotline for me … don’t worry. I don’t have a life insurance policy now.)
When you have a number of contingency plans on how you’ll go – but you also know of various failed attempts and find that unacceptable. Because you’ve gone so far as to do the research.

Beyond all the obvious, beyond all the basics, I think what makes depression so difficult is the different levels of it. And how differently each individual approaches and handles matters. Then there’s the fact that so little knowledge is out there. I only learned in the past few years that depression often manifests as aggression. Especially in younger individuals. Sometimes you learn new things or observe someone else’s situation and then the mental light bulb goes off.

I also really really really hate it when people say “you’re depressed because you choose to be depressed.” Sure, for some people, that’s the case. But for others, there’s an actual chemical imbalance in the brain. A genetic predisposition towards mental health problems or issues. So basic bullshit platitudes don’t help for someone in that situation. It only makes them (me) feel worse for not being able to fix things – fix myself – through sheer strength of will. Please – don’t do that to people unless you know their individual situation. Same with “just eat better and exercise more and you’ll be better and no longer depressed.” No. Of course those things help – but they won’t necessarily be the cure. I promise you. Nobody actually enjoys suffering from chronic depression.

I don’t have any answers. I obviously don’t have any of my own shit together. I’m just … opening my purse and dumping it all out here. I guess this is just my “so this happened … or is going on” – and also, to offer what support I can. You are not alone. We are not alone.

I think it helps to open up and share. To try and knock down a little bit of that stigma. Sometimes silence hurts more than anything else. It’s okay to not be okay. Take what time you need, and realize that self care is just as important as any other type of care.


TBR Challenge Review: Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood

Boys and Toys by Cara Lockwood
Contemporary romance novella released by Cosmopolitan Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin on July 15, 2014
Boys and Toys

Every girl has a goody drawer.
Sex toy party hostess Liv Tanaka has a collection. Vibrating purple rabbits, cherry-flavored edible underwear, flavored oils… Hey, wearing a leather corset and stilettos (while selling dildos) pays the bills. Just don’t tell her very conservative parents. Because if they discovered Liv’s sex-toy-selling “Asian Elvira” alter ego, her parents would disown her.
So far, Liv’s doing a bang-up job of keeping her two worlds separate…until Porter Benjamin shows up at her party. Tall and too-tasty-to-resist Porter, who works for her father. Porter, who wants Liv to host a party just for him.

And oh, she’s tempted. But getting involved with Porter means mixing those two worlds that Liv desperately needs to keep separate. And now Liv’s Naughty Toybox is starting to look a lot like Pandora’s box….

I haven’t read one of the Harlequin/Cosmo Red Hot Reads in a while … and it was good to do so again. (Yes I know this was published in 2014, that’s okay.) The premise drew my attention – well the cover is eye catching, but the “good girl gone bad” and the hero working for her father … a total mess too irresistible for this reader.

Liv Tanaka is someone I think many people can relate to. She’s trapped by her parents idea of her – and her conservative upbringing. Conservative and religious. Liv sells sex toys. Obviously her parents don’t know what she does, but she manages to make it on her own and support herself. I respect that. I also liked how she established boundaries and stood up for herself (by the end). It was nice that Liv was adaptable and she gets everything she wants (albeit in a somewhat roundabout way).

Porter Benjamin. He just sounds like a lawyer, doesn’t he? I actually didn’t want to like him (what basically amounts to blackmail is definitely a black mark in my book) – but he’s so charming. Porter is clearly into Liv, and wants a relationship with her. He’s just a bit clunky in the manner he goes about getting it. The fact that he’s willing to put himself out there for Liv, and come to the rescue (regardless of how big or small the issue) really won me over. His easy going attitude and charm help too.

The little scenes between Liv and her parents provided both humor and frustration which was an impressive mix. I liked that their interaction really developed the story and showed different facets of everyone’s character. Especially when Porter is thrown into the mix, and it’s believable because as Mr. Tanaka’s employee, he knows the whole family.

I did wish for more development on how the actual relationship developed. You have the ~blackmail and the hookup, the sex and the barbecue, and then … bam – fully committed couple. I know there are constraints with the length, but there you have it. Then also some character/language issues. (Liv’s mom is Chinese and her dad is Japanese. … If it’s going to bother you, that statement alone explains it. If not … it won’t.) That plus … her mom’s word (it bugged me so much I don’t even want to type it) clearly annoyed me.

Boys with Toys is a cute and quick read, and I’d definitely look for more books by Ms. Lockwood.

Grade: C-

You can buy a copy here.

Technical Difficulties

My friends, this is happening. 😐


Yes, I’ve been experiencing a lot of problems. Not just me and life (when am I not? :X) – but with the damn site. Scheduled posts don’t … post. It’s annoying as hell. I thought I found a WP plugin to fix it, but then there was a note that it includes a lot of spyware, so … pass. At least it’s not just me – a number of people have had such problems, but I haven’t been able to devote a lot of time and attention to a fix. My apologies.

I’m looking into coding to fix it, but am scared. So, my apologies, but posts will be happening at odd times and possibly days, and please just bear with me. Let’s all cross our fingers WordPress updates soon and fixes this damn glitch.

P.S. – I also hate whatever change it was that made the emoticons look funky, instead of how they used to be. Remember the cuter ones? :\

Blogiversary Guest: Luanna Stewart

Hi friends! Can you believe it? ALBTALBS is five! Five! I know! We’re limping along here, and I’ve got a bunch of fun guests this month. I also have to say I LOVE this post and OMG COOKIES. Thank you, Luanna!!! She’s kicking off all the wonderful festivities with delicious treats.

I’ve asked everyone participating in the blogiversary festivities to come up with a list of “Top 5” or “5 Favorite” or just anything remotely related to the number 5. 😀

My Five favourite cookie recipes:

Yes, it’s the season for New Year resolutions. But I’ve never met a resolution that hasn’t failed. Whether it’s to eat less, or exercise more, (or vice versa? I suppose there could be people who need to put on weight and slow down) I generally get to late January and my willpower goes on hiatus.

If you’re like me and need a sweetie to end a meal, or you need a mid-day boost, here are my five all-time favourite cookie recipes. The first four are from either my family or hubby’s. The last one, for which I’ve given a link, makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever invented, ever. You may notice a preponderance of butter in these recipes. That’s because, as far as my family recipes go, these were developed in the olden days, when butter or lard were the fats of choice for baking.

Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter, softened 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups all purpose flour ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 F. Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth. Mix in flour, cornstarch and salt. Beat well. Roll on floured surface to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut in festive shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes, or until there is barely any colour along the edge. Cool on wire rack.

Pecan Fingers
1 cup butter, softened ¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 Tablespoon water
2 cups all purpose flour ¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans, finely ground
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and water. Add flour, salt and nuts. Mix well. Chill for one hour. Preheat oven to 250 F. Form dough into small rolls, about the size of your little finger. Bake for 1 hour, dust with extra powdered sugar while still warm. Cool on wire rack.

Sugar Cookies
½ cup butter, softened ½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup powdered sugar ½ granulated sugar
1 egg 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Cream together butter, oil, sugars, egg and vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. Mix well. Chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 F. Scoop 1 Tablespoon of dough, roll it into ball, and place on parchment lined cookie sheet, spacing a few inches apart. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in coloured sugar. Bake for 8 or 9 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Cool on wire rack.

Currant Squares
I cup flour 1 cup butter, softened slightly
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar pinch of salt
Mix well, press into bottom of 8×8 pan. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes.

1 cup currants pinch of salt
1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
Mix well and spread on crust. Bake at 350 F for an additional 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into small squares.

Joy’s Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans


Portrait of a GirlAn old crime
and an irresistible new lead…

When her wealthy art dealer father died, Heather James was expecting a fortune. Instead, his bank account was empty and Heather’s working in a bakery, wondering exactly what happened to her father’s millions…until someone tries to kill her.

Tony Simons is on the trail of an art theft cold case that’s practically giving him frostbite. He’s hoping that by sticking close to Heather – the daughter of his deceased prime suspect – he’ll find the answers he needs. Instead, he’s finding himself distracted by a gorgeous woman who drives him crazy in every way imaginable…

Now Tony’s in serious trouble. Even if Heather can’t – or won’t – tell him where the stolen paintings and money are, she may well have stolen his heart.

And now someone wants her dead…

Bio: Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother’s stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna now lives in Maine with her dear husband, two college boys, and two cats. When she’s not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious.

Writing under the pen name Grace Hood, she has two novellas published with The Wild Rose Press. She is excited to have a book published under her own name with Entangled Publishing.

Whee! Not only did Luanna share all those awesome recipes – I cannot wait to try the last one!! (Although – sans pecans, of course) – she’s also offering a prize!!! One lucky commenter will get a $5 Starbucks giftcard! … >.> Or you know, nobody comment so the prize defaults to me. *angelface*