Drum Roll, Please…

Oh, wait, just a drum? Let’s bring out the full marching band, because I’m really excited for my fab friend Sara Hantz. She’s got two books coming out soon with Entangled Teen, and today I can show off both covers:

In the Blood by Sara Hantz (Entangled Teen). Harry Styles, is that you?

IN THE BLOOD by Sara Hantz (Entangled Teen).
Harry Styles, is that you?

IN THE BLOOD (out November 6, 2013) is a dark tale about one boy’s struggle for identity. “You’re just like your father” is a phrase Jed Franklin does not want to hear. Why? His father is a monster and the whole world knows it.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

For seventeen years Jed Franklin’s life was normal. Then his father was charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys and normal became a nightmare.

His mom’s practically a walking zombie, he’s lost most of his friends, and the press camps out on his lawn. The only things that keep him sane are his little sis; his best friend and dream girl, Summer; and the alcohol he stashes in his room. But after Jed wakes up from a total blackout to discover a local kid has gone missing—a kid he was last seen talking to—he’s forced to face his greatest fear: that he could somehow be responsible.

In a life that’s spiraled out of control, Jed must decide if he chooses his own destiny with Summer by his side or if the violent urges that plagued his father are truly in the blood…


by Sara Hantz
(Entangled Teen)

And Sara shows her versatility with a completely different story in WILL THE REAL ABI SAUNDERS PLEASE STAND UP?

Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job.

Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi’s completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one.

But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?

Sounds fun, right? We’ll all have to wait a little longer for Abi to kickbox her way onto the bookshelves — the book is due out May 6, 2014.

HOWEVER, here’s something to tide you over in the meantime. In celebration of the cover reveals, Sara is giving away a $50 Amazon giftcard! Isn’t she nice? Click on this Rafflecopter link to enter. Good luck!

You can keep tabs on Sara at these places:

Her website



Sara Hantz

Sara Hantz

The Blog I Left Behind

Oh, dear, it’s been some time since I’ve posted a blog. The days just keep getting sucked into a vortex, don’t they?

What’s been happening? Well, in July I went to London and Amsterdam. I made a decision to pack in as much as could into every waking hour because life is simply too short. Had the time of my life, and not just because I finally saw the stage production of my all-time favourite movie, Dirty Dancing. In the Netherlands, I stayed with my sister and family. I soon found that the translation app on my iPhone was embarrassingly inaccurate. I tried SO hard to practise my Dutch “skills” with cheese shop assistants and the like. They, of course, were quick to realise my ineptitude and responded to me in English. One of the many highlights of the Netherlands trip, apart from seeing my family again, was a visit to the Rijksmuseum, which had been closed for a decade or so. There I saw Nicolas Cage. Or someone who looked just like him.

Nicolas Cage never ages...

Nicolas Cage never ages…

Bikes in Breda, a Dutch town.

Bikes in Breda, a Dutch town.

London was spectacular. 30 degrees most days. Who’d have thunk it? Teeming with millions of happy summer-loving people. I found riding the Tube and buses unbearable in the heat, though. (Is there no aircon on London public transport?) Pimm’s was a most effective antidote to the heat. It was better to walk everywhere anyway, up to seven hours a day, surviving on salads from Pret a Manger. I’m convinced I saw Samwell from The Game of Thrones checking out of the Hotel Russell when I was checking in. Also sure I saw Liza Minnelli having a ciggie outside a restaurant in the West End. And I’m 100% positive I saw Hugh Jackman. People were screaming his name after all. He was in town for the Wolverine premiere. By pure luck, I stumbled upon the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A Museum. Seriously could have spent an entire day there. Another highlight was St Paul’s Cathedral. I climbed almost 400 steps to the top. What really took my breath away was the incredible view of London from up there.

The view from the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

The view from the top of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

I can assure you London Bridge is not falling down.

I can assure you London Bridge is not falling down.

Aside from travel, I’ve ventured into low-budget filmmaking. I helped my husband’s band, the Model School, shoot a music clip (below), and also did their band photos. The band last week released their third album, Backwards Down the Highway. Most of the songs were inspired by an Arizona road trip, parts of it recorded in our Sydney home studio and Brendan, the singer’s, car. And the CD was mastered in New York by the guy who did Springsteen’s Born to Run album. It sounds fantastic.

The Model School

The Model School

So that’s my latest brag update. I’ll be back sometime in the future…

Brown is Beautiful

There is no end in sight to my baking odyssey. Today, my boss (he who wants me to write a blog post about the demise of The Bold and the Beautiful’s Stephanie Forrester), had a hankering for raspberry brownies, and I was happy to oblige.


Here’s the recipe, adapted from a treasured cookbook given to me by a lovely colleague:

  • 250g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (I used about a cup, really. I was tempted to use stevia, but wasn’t sure it would give the same fudgy result)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened chocolate powder (I used Cadbury’s powdered drinking cocoa, which contains sugar)
  • 1 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
  1. Preheat your oven to 170C.
  2. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with baking paper. Leave enough paper hanging over the edges of the tin so it’ll be easy to lift the uncut brownie cake out after baking.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate and butter together in a pan.
  4. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together, then mix in the brown sugar.
  5. Whisk the chocolate-butter mixture into the eggs-and-sugar bowl. You will be tempted to eat a large spoonful of batter at this point. (Maybe that’s just me.)
  6. Sift in the dry ingredients. Mix well. You will again be tempted to eat an even larger spoonful of the batter. Go ahead. I would.
  7. Stir in the raspberries, then pour the mixture into the baking tin.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes. It’s deemed ready if you jab a skewer into it and find a few moist crumbs on the stick. (I tested it at the 40-minute mark and it there was a lot of moist goo as well as crumbs on the skewer, so I turned off the fan and baked for a further 10 mins.) Ironically, even though this recipe called for plain flour, it came out double the height of my famous low-cakes. Take the baking tin out of the oven, and let the brownie cake sit in the tin for at least 15 mins. The middle part of it deflated after a while — this is probably not normal. Lift the brownie cake onto a board/bench, then cut into squares.
  9. Devour.

Back to writing now…

Childhood Favourites

When I was in L.A. last year for a writers’ conference, I was really excited to find marble cake stocked in the hotel’s Starbucks pastry cabinet. Marble cake. Bought it. Ate it. Loved it. (And subsequently bought several more slices in various places across California.) I hadn’t eaten marble cake since I was a kid. My mother is more of a savoury cook, but one of the few sweet dishes she used to make was steamed marble cake. There’s a great recipe on the terrific A Swoonful of Sugar blog and it’s very similar to Mum’s recipe. I may try that method one day, but today I opted for the baked version from Taste.com.au. As always, I couldn’t help but tweak the recipe — added an extra egg, substituted cow’s milk with coconut milk, and put in half a cup more cocoa powder. (Next time, I’m putting in even more cocoa!) I omitted the food colouring and the icing. And here’s the result:

Image 4

By the way, I hit a new height record with this cake: 10 centimetres!


Finally, I’ve baked a cake that measures up…

Another childhood fave I’m revisiting is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, a classic horse book first published in 1877. I bought this leather-bound hardcover edition with my pocket money way back on Saturday, September 15, 1984! (I remember because I wrote that on the flyleaf, along with my full name and address in case it got lost.) Aside from the tear-jerking but ultimately uplifting story, I loved the stunning illustrations by Elaine Keenan. The whole book just reinforced my love of horses, riding and writing. There are numerous editions of Black Beauty now — I’d quite like to clear one of my bookshelves and collect a few of them…


My black beauty with ‘Black Beauty’.

Image 1

One of the many gorgeous illustrations by Elaine Keenan.

Fancy Some Fancy Tea?

It’s so important to be surrounded by the right conditions when you’re trying to draft a book. These days, I require low humidity, a temperature of 22C to 23C, cats not sitting anywhere near my lap or keyboard, chocolate, an affogato courtesy of hubby, and an uncluttered brain. I also need the very reasonably priced, very delicious Dilmah Rose with French Vanilla tea*. But today I found that my local supermarket no longer stocks it. Or it has simply run out. Either way, quelle horreur.

So I went across the road to that wonderful tea mecca T2, where I knew they had loose-leaf Madagascan vanilla black tea and also rose bud tea. The total cost was about seven times as much as the Dilmah bags. Gulp. I figure I can get 30 cuppas out of my bulk blend, though…


T2’s Just Rose + Madagascan Vanilla = Yum.

tea basket

Chuck the teas in a basket and brew for three to five minutes.

Image 1

Add a splash of cream and a teaspoon full of sugar.
You don’t have to add either, but I take as much luxury as I can get.

Image 2

Admire your pretty, fragrant tea, then savour every sip.

Check out these sites on brewing the perfect cuppa:

*I am not sponsored by Dilmah or by any other manufacturer/brand mentioned on this blog.🙂

Cookie Monster

‘Fraid this is yet another post about my latest kitchen caper. I’m not obsessed with food. Well…maybe just a little.

My workmates and I have been working very hard this past week, so I think we could do with a massive sugar hit. Rather than risk humiliating myself by presenting them with another low-cake, I thought homemade cookies would be my safest bet. I’d planned to use this choc-chip recipe from the Kitchn blog. However, when I picked up Cadbury’s Baking Chips in the grocery shop, I found an easy recipe for double choc-chip cookies conveniently printed on the back.


Mmmmilk and cookies…

My cookies do not at all resemble those depicted on the baking chips packet. Mine are flatter. (Of course, they are!) They’re a lot lighter in colour — maybe because I used Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate Powder instead of Cadbury’s Bourneville Cocoa. Never mind. They’re DELICIOUS. Not too crisp or sickly sweet. I had six seven of them for dinner last night. I’ve made enough to power at least the next three paragraphs of my manuscript and the first half-hour of my day job today.

Teacake for Two

Yet another post about baking, not writing. Sorry. Although…I do think about my manuscript while cooking, so it’s not a total departure. (My characters had a whole conversation in my head while I mixed the batter — fellow fiction writers will understand this, I’m sure.)

Anyway, last week my husband mentioned he likes apple teacake. I LOVE apple teacake. After the low-cake disaster from a few weeks back, I was ready to go back into the kitchen and give it a go. My lovely friend Kandy Shepherd, who is a baker and author extraordinaire, had a couple of suggestions for me about baking — the most important of which was to stop substituting ingredients. Makes a lot of sense, really!

The My Nana’s Recipes blog had a very simple apple teacake recipe using ingredients I already had on hand. If I may say so, it turned out beautifully and it broke cake-height records in my household — a whopping four centimetres!

Kandy, if you’re reading, you might want to close your eyes now, because I have to admit to tweaking the recipe. I used gluten-free self-raising flour again, and egged on by hubby, I added an extra egg. He’d read somewhere about putting an extra egg into cakes to make them richer… Oh, and I creamed the sugar and butter properly. By “properly,” I mean I didn’t take my usual lazy-baker’s route. i.e melting the butter. (On further reflection, this is prolly why my previous cakes haven’t risen to the occasion. Ahem.) No, I worked with softened butter and elbow grease. Great tips for creaming butter and sugar by hand can be found in this post on The Kitchn blog and in its comments trail. Also, in the batter, I put in half a finely diced apple, though I wish I used more or made them chunkier pieces because I can’t detect the apple in the finished cake!

I can’t offer you a taste-test (there’s only two slices left anyway), so here are a couple of piccies. I used a filter for the first shot, so the cake looks more yellow/orange than it actually is.


Mm-mm! Apple teacake.


Best served drowned in pure cream.

My Friend the Chocolate Coconut Cake

My boss wanted me to blog about Stephanie Forrester, the Bold and Beautiful character who was finally killed off in the episode that aired here yesterday. (I’ll write that post another day, my dear leader!) Today is someone very special’s birthday, and you know what that means? Cake time!

Let me tell you about my chocolate cakes. They. Never. Rise. Ever. (Except for the Nigella Lawson Nutella cake I made last year — a birthday wish come true!) I’ve used fancy ovens, average ovens, ancient ovens. I measure carefully. Don’t overwork the mixture. Use the correct flour. Yet, no matter what I do, when they come out of the oven, my chocolate cakes resemble flying saucers. I’ve now embraced failure and consider height-challenged cakes my specialty!


My “world-famous” low cake! How low can it go? Two centimetres of cake + one centimetre of icing.

The original recipe for this chocolate coconut cake can be found on the most excellent Taste site. I rebelled a little against the list of ingredients — swapped normal self-raising flour for gluten-free self-raising (admittedly I almost forgot to put in the last 1/2 a cup of flour), brown sugar instead of caster sugar, and coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. The icing is made of pure deliciousness — 200 grams of mascarpone and approx 1/4 1/2 cup of Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate powder. Can’t wait to have low cake for breakfast. It’s sure to give us a sugar high.

Happy birthday to my very special person! Enjoy your low cake! x

Experimental Sunday Roast

I’m experimenting with food again. You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t you be writing?” but studies have shown writers have big brains that need constant feeding*. So today, for my brain’s and my book’s health, I made a lamb pot pie using a recipe I made up all by myself. It’s very rustic and simple. A bit like me, really! I meant to make this yesterday to celebrate Australia Day, but we went out for Vietnamese food instead.


Lamb Pot Pie (serves 2 hungry adults)

A measurement conversion calculator can be found here.

Lamb Pie ingredients

  • 500g diced lamb (you can use mince if you don’t like chunky pies)
  • 1 to 2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic
  • 10cm spring of rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbspn olive oil (I use extra virgin for everything)
  • 1 tspn hot English mustard
  • salt’n’pepper
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, cut each tomato in half
  • 250mL red wine
  • 250mL beer
  • 2 large potatoes – I used Pontiac. You may need more depending on the baking dish you use. See point 9 below.
  • cream
  • 1 tbpsn Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tspn Vegemite
  • 1 tbspn plain flour or cornflour


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, fan-forced.
  2. Heat the olive oil, then add rosemary and garlic. Keep it moving so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. On high heat, add the lamb and brown it off. Add the tomatoes.
  4. Next splash in the wine and beer, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. By the way, the beer was hubby’s suggestion and it totally worked in well with the wine.
  5. Stir in the mustard.
  6. You want to the sauce to be like a thick gravy (or I do, anyway) and the lamb to be tender. If the gravy is too thin, put the flour and a few tablespoons of the sauce in a cup and whisk till all the lumps come out, then stir into the lamb mixture and simmer gently for up to 10 mins.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Vegemite and Worcestershire sauce. If you don’t have or like Vegemite, use a stock cube or whatever kind of seasoning you prefer.
  8. Take off the heat.
  9. Peel one of the potatoes (preferably the biggest one), chop into thick chunks and boil till soft. Add a good slop of cream, and mash.
  10. Scoop the lamb mixture into a baking dish. I used four ramekins as individual pie dishes – 9cm wide, 4cm deep.
  11. Top with an even layer of mashed potato, then sprinkle with cheese. I also put teeny bits of butter on top…
  12. Thinly slice the other large, uncooked potato and artfully arrange two or three slices atop the mash. Reserve some slices for the salad (below).
  13. Place in the oven for about 10 mins or until the potatoes are brown and the cheese is bubbling. Take out and leave to cool a little.

Salad ingredients

  • 1 large potato (left over from the pie portion of this menu), sliced chip-thin
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced a little thicker than the potato
  • a big handful of washed rocket (aka arugula)
  • 1/2 tbspn extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat the grill (aka broiler) to 200C.
  2. Spread the oil in a baking tray.
  3. Toss the potato thins and fennel into the tray, and then spread them around in an even layer.
  4. Grill until softened/cooked. It took about 5 mins in my oven. Just keep an eye on them so they don’t turn into charcoal.
  5. Place the rocket leaves in a bowl. Add the warm potato and fennel mixture, and use the oil from the baking dish as a dressing. Mix well with tongs.
  6. Serve with the lamb pie, which should now be cool but not too cool enough to eat.

Bon appetit!

In other news, it’s my cat’s 14th birthday today. She’s all grown up and has her own cyber place at P & P Furball Factory. She is not having any of the lamb pie, nor is she having the apple galettes I’m making later…

*I don’t really know of any specific studies to support this, but it makes sense, don’t you think?