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A Little 1960’s Love


shutterstock_43873468I’m feeling very warm and fuzzy over this week’s MANhandler photos. Such lovely, lovely arms…and we all know how I feel about arms.

This is, by far, the post that has pushed me farthest from my comfort zone. I’m not a sci-fi reader, so when I had to come up with my favorite droid I’d like to have stop by for a day, I’m ashamed only one thing came to mind: the Jettsons. I know, it’s a little off the wall, but when I think of what I would most want, all I can think of is Rosie. (Sorry, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime — I suck.)

It always fascinated me to see the way we “would” live in the future. As a kid, I was pretty sure Hanna-Barbera was right on the money. Surely there would be boxes in the wall that spit out your favorite foods and we’d get around in funny cars that both hovered, rolled and flew. We’d all have giant dogs that could almost talk and hopping around space would be no more difficult than slapping a goldfish bowl on your head. But most of all, we’d have Rosie.
The Jetsons

Long before the sensual romance covers and my discovery of supremely spicy romance, the idea I could have a robot to do all my chores absolutely set my little heart aflutter. Just thinking about having someone come in and keep my house neat as a pin makes me lightheaded. I could lounge around like Jane and have a perfect figure and perfect hair and zero responsibility. Sure, she was a little saucy, but that was part of her charm. She might mouth off, but she still zoomed around the house getting everything done while Jane lazed the day away.

Imagine my horror when I got married and didn’t get a Rosie as a wedding gift. There were bitter tears, people. Bitter. Tears.

As fiercely sexy as Bumblebee is (shout out to my love of all things Transformers), Rosie is the one who makes me yearn for crazy technological advancements. Forget the flying cars. I want clean socks.

My Fierce Demon Love

9888216_sMANhandlers, meet Abs of Delight! The nipple ring is just icing on this particular cake.

I love demons. Well, Gena Showalter’s demons. Not her personal demons… Maybe I should start over.

Today I’m going to blab about the best sidekicks EVAH. Having been a fan of paranormal romance (PNR) and urban fantasy (UF) for years — though I won’t disclose how many years — means I’m always looking for good books, preferably long-running series. I’m sort of picky about voice. It’s my pet peeve to get a flat voice or a voice I don’t connect with. It’s not the author’s fault, typically, but just my little quirk. Anyhoo, it often seems as if I’ve read everything I could possibly read. Then I find something new. Gena’s Lords of the Underworld series is the freaking best thing I’ve read in ages. No, it’s not new. Yes, I’m ashamed I hadn’t read it sooner. The point here is that I found it and have fallen in love with every…single…alpha hero. I’m talking almost-leave-my-lover-for-a-fictional-character love.

One of the best parts of the series, though, is that each warrior is paired with a demon high lord (i.e. Paris = Promiscuity, Toren = Disease, Amun = Secrets). These demons serve as a type of sidekick, influencing the hero and driving their behavior. It’s a great pairing because it gives each warrior such a distinct motivation because his will isn’t always his own. Every demon has a unique personality as well, and it’s interesting to see the interplay between man and monster. While the monster influences man, so does man influence monster. The author gives you the distinct impression that each demon might be just a little better than he was simply by being affiliated with his warrior. The warrior has ethics the demon lacks. It doesn’t always matter, but as each warrior battles his own story arc, you see how the two must work together to conquer whatever challenge has been set before him.

The other thing I truly love in this series is that the characters carry forward in every book, demons included. I have no idea how Gena manages as well as she does, but you never lose sight of any single character. It’s a remarkable talent she has to keep every character in every book while still allowing the hero/heroine to have their story. I’ve never felt cheated out of the hero’s/heroine’s story, even as I celebrate the recurring roles of the men I’ve fallen in love with.

Who are your favorite sidekicks in literature, movies or TV? I’m always interested to find out what people like about characters!

The British Isles Bring the Smexy

MANHANDLERS! Yes, you! It’s a new year. This means chances to make resolutions grudgingly and break them with glee (or not), to take that trip you always promised yourself, accomplish a major goal, write a book and read thirty more! It’s also an opportunity for me to share more delicious men on my post days. So let’s start the year off right, yes? (You know I have a thing for abs, right?)

This was a hard post to write — pick one man out of a world of gorgeous men and say “He’s the one I’ll write about” is no easy task. My mind rebelled. My mouth was so dry I was puffing our powdered sugar. (And no, it had nothing to do with the donuts that leapt into my cart and then onto my desk. I swear…a lot.) I thought about the things I find ridonkulously sexy and they all seemed to come from, you guessed it, the British Isles. My love affair with green grass, sheep that look like they were hooked up to an air hose, royalty and handsome lads came together to help form this post.

First, allow me to introduce you to a familiar face for romance readers and writers. He’s graced a bazillion covers, each one hot, hot, hot, and he is gracious about all of it. Sam Bond is, by far and away, my serious want that borders on need. Born in Christchurch, England, he fulfills just about every single fantasy I could possibly have. Arms that could bench press me? Check. Pecs that cast small shadows? Check. A wicked set of abs? Check, check and check. Long hair? Cheeeeeeck.

But I’m not limiting myself to one aspect of that lush, lush landscape. (ahem) No, I’ve found that there are a wide variety of men who pique my curiosity. I have a wicked thing for a man in a kilt. Wicked. Thing. This picture seemed to sum up some of the finer points of Scotland.

Finally, I’m skipping across the Irish Sea and touching down with a wee bit of interest in a pint and a lovely lad. Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s accent is enough to make the seams of my clothing start unraveling. No joke. Hems come undone, thongs snap, laces untie, bra clasps go twang and fire off all willy-nilly. It’s embarrassing, really, since I have no real control over whether or not I find myself topless in any given situation. Just kidding. Barely. I find the accents of the Isles the most compelling of any accents out there. Australia naturally runs a close second, but England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will always hold my heart. And the men of those lush lands? Well, they can hold any part of me they want.

Mexican Eggrolls for the Holidays? You bet!

Sexy athleteThere is absolutely nothing holiday-ish about this photo. Still, when I saw him, I knew my fellow MANhandlers would appreciate his…ball. It’s clearly the focus of the photo, yes? I’m suddenly nostalgic for my days in the soccer keep. I was quite good, you know–recruited for the Miss Budweiser Ladies’ Traveling Team. But that’s another tale for another time. Ogle away while I get the recipe you need for the holidays.

So, every year we have this tradition that we do a predictable holiday meal for Christmas, but for New Year’s Eve, we do a huge Mexican food feast. It was easier to pull this off when we lived in New Mexico (the South simply doesn’t understand tamales or green chili that is not a bell pepper). We are a diligent and resourceful lot, though, and we make it work. The recipe below is ridonkulously simple, clearly unhealthy and guaranteed to taste good. We lean on the latter and ignore the middle altogether for this one night every year.

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Mexican Eggrolls

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 clove of garlic, minced (more if you’re fending off the undead)
1 white onion, chopped (less if you intend to kiss your sweetheart)
1 can chopped green chilies (use two if you’re a chili addict and don’t forget to pick out the skins)
1 large bag sharp cheddar (large means the BIG bag)
2 packages eggroll wrappers
1 bag frozen potatoes OPTIONAL  (like O’Brien potatoes but without the peppers–trust me on this)
Salsa
Small bowl of water
Oil for frying

Heat the oil.

Brown ground beef with garlic, onion and green chilies in a deep pan. (I add the green chilies when the meat’s almost done and use the spoon to spread it around and pick out the skins.) Drain grease off meat and put back in the pan.

Fry potatoes. Drain them well and pat excess grease off with paper towels. (Seems pointless, but trust me. Too much grease is just too much grease.) Keep grease hot.

Add the bag of cheese to the meat and turn the heat on low. Stir it in and make sure it melts well. The meat should stick together really well.

Add the potatoes and mix in.

With on corner of the eggroll wrapper facing you, add a small spoonful of the meat mix. Dip your fingers in the water and trace the edges of the wrapper. Fold the nearest point over the meat, fold the outside corners in and roll. (It’s very important to make sure you get the seams sealed, but don’t mash them. Eggroll wrappers are temperamental and tend to tear out of spite. It’s true. I swear.) Set aside. Repeat the process until you’re out of wrappers, meat or alcohol.

Fry your eggrolls until they’re golden brown. (Usually takes a minute or so.) Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Suggestion: Have someone fry while you roll. It makes things much, much easier because the eggroll wrappers tend to stick to the counter as you set them aside.

Serve with salsa and enjoy! (Really, though? They don’t need it.)
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There you have it, my faithful readers — a Tompkins tradition since 1948. Okay, that’s a lie. We started this around 1995. But traditions sound better if they’re older. You’re going to thank me. Your hips will curse my name, but the belleh will be happeh.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, happy holiday season and prosperous New Year full of wonderful new reads. And Mexican Eggrolls.

A Little Wrath Goes a Long, Dark Way

For my fellow MANhandlers, I’m posting a picture of more delectable numiness. Feel free to ogle a bit before you move on to the post.

I’ll wait…

But, truly, I’ve got to move on…

C’mon, my friends, let’s talk about some serious sexy: the dark hero. (See? I got your attention. Devious writer, I am one.)

A great example, for me, is Wrath from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Wrath is a vampire torn between leading his people or rejecting the role of king. He has no interest in ruling and zero respect for humans, and this includes children sired by vampires on human women. He’s crass, unsophisticated and ginormously sexy. When he’s called on to step up and see a half-vampire child through her transition, he balks. Okay. That’s not true. His answer is basically, “Hell. No.” But circumstances intervene, Fate plays her cards and the dark hero is born.

What is it that’s so appealing about a dark hero? Is it his unwillingness to be a hero that makes him so desirable? Is it his ability to make me love him and loathe him in one paragraph–one sentence even? Or is it deeper than that? Maybe it’s the fact he seems irredeemable, and we worry he’s crossed the line too far into the dark to be pulled back to the light. Regardless of the “why” of it, the point is this: the dark hero appeals to us on a variety of levels, many of them deeply personal.

There’s something about a dark hero that absolutely flips my switch. I want to  know he’s walking that fine line of good and evil, and that both sides speak to him. He’s a richer character for his dark flaws, and there are a thousand reasons this could be true for each of us as both writers and readers. But what it comes down to, for me as an author is this: it’s the reader’s interpretation of what the hero is after the author sets out his proverbial “pros and cons” list that makes that character work/not work. When an author is able to create a hero you love to hate, to put on the page a fictional character you fantasize about or who makes you wish you were starring opposite him–the author’s done the job of pulling the reader in and done it well. I’m in the process of creating my own dark hero and let me tell you, it’s not easy. He’s the hardest character I’ve ever written, and dark heroes are sort of my specialty. Yeah, I’ve got a hang-up. I love them passionately, grandly and without apology.

Now I want to turn the tables and ask you who your Wrath is? Who’s (in case you missed my last post) your Cain? Don’t be shy. Jump in and let other readers know if there’s a character/series that does it for you. You never know when you might get them started on a new series they love. It’s how I found Wrath and all the luscious brothers. 😉  Thank you, J.R. Ward. Thank you.

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