Last year, I embarked on a new adventure. I set aside obsessively plotted mysteries and tried my hand at paranormal romance. But what to write? Vampires? Nope. Shifters? Love them, but wolves? Not quite. Finally, I settled on writing about demons—a hellhound shifter falling for an incubus he’s been hired to track down. Nailing down the creatures I would be writing about was done, but letting the basic paranormal tropes grow into unique characters required something distinctly human.
Whether it’s suspense or paranormal romance, watching two hot guys come together to face whatever fate (meaning me) can throw at them is always worthwhile. My characters are happy to be typical alpha males, but they all end up struggling to overcome more than the story’s villain to reach their HEA. The coping mechanisms my characters rely on—anything from running, to art, music, or a sport—shape who they are, sometimes making them grow in ways I never expected.
When I outlined Strays, my half incubus hero Jory began as a street-smart grifter with a few magical powers and a snarky attitude, but he ended up with a practical coping mechanism dear to my heart. He baked—to stay sane, to replenish his energy as he’s forced to use his powers, and to connect with others. Baking helps him hang on to a bit of hope, even when there’s no logical reason to be optimistic, and it transforms him from a reluctant grifter into someone new. After his partner betrays him and leaves him to die, he finds himself on the run, where his desserts—imbued with a hint of enchantment and to-die-for flavor—become his career and salvation.
Since it’s the season for pumpkin-spice everything, I thought I’d share a recipe that plays a starring role in Strays. It’s one of my favorite autumn desserts. The frosting is one of those recipes I make when no one else is home so I can decide precisely how much of it I want to share. Scroll down for a chance to win a free eBook copy of Strays!
Practically Orgasmic Pumpkin Cookies
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 c butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 c canned pumpkin (about half of a 15oz can)
2 ¾ c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
Browned Butter Frosting
3 c icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 Tbls milk
½ c butter (margarine doesn’t work here! I’ve tried it with margarine twice, trust me!)
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees (F) and grease cookie sheets.
- Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugars for about 2-3 minutes, or until fluffy. Add eggs and beat to combine, then mix in pumpkin and vanilla.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and mix to incorporate.
- Spoon onto cookie sheet (think chocolate chip cookie size) with about 1-2 inches between them. Bake for about 13 minutes and allow to cool.
- For the frosting (The best part! If you’re not a fan of pumpkin, make the frosting and eat it with a spoon!), melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan once it starts to melt and watch carefully, removing it from the heat once it reaches a deep golden color and smells a bit nutty. Don’t aim for brown… that leads to disaster.
- Put icing sugar into a large bowl and drizzle browned butter over it. Scrape the bottom, those burnt bits are amazing. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of milk over the icing sugar and mix until fluffy. Add more or less milk until you get the consistency you’d like, then frost cookies… or just eat the frosting and pretend you made regular pumpkin cookies (often my preferred method).
Thanks so much for letting me share a bit about the coping mechanism that makes my incubus so human! What is your favorite treat or dessert? Comment below for a chance to win a free e-book copy of Strays, to be randomly selected 10/3/18.
Check out Strays today!
Orphaned at a young age and raised in the foster system, Jory Smith has no idea he’s half incubus. He only knows he has the power to heal people, making himself sick in the process. Exploited by a crooked faith healer who sells his abilities and his life to the highest bidder and then left for dead, Jory flees, falling into a job at a small-town café where he can put his lifelong obsession with baking to good use.
But the minister who exploited him wants him back.
Exiled hellhound-turned-bounty hunter Malpheus Pelle has no idea why his human client wants him to track down an incubus. Jory is traumatized and afraid to touch anyone, an emotional handicap that could prove fatal for a demon who requires physical contact. Needing answers, Mal concocts a disastrous plan: pretend to date Jory to uncover the truth. Unfortunately, his plan never included dealing with an ancient demon assassin, Jory’s orgasmic pumpkin cookies, or losing his heart to the incubus he’s supposed to be hunting….
A.J. Thomas writes romantic suspense. She’s earned a bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of Montana and worked in a half-dozen different jobs from law enforcement officer to librarian before settling down. Life as a military spouse has tossed her around the country so many times she doesn’t know how to answer when people ask her where she’s from, but she delights in living as a perpetual tourist, visiting new places and discovering amazing things.
Her time is divided between taking care of her three young children, experimenting with cooking and baking projects that rarely explode these days, and embarrassing her husband with dirty jokes. When she’s not writing, she hikes, gardens, researches every random idea that comes into her head, and develops complicated philosophical arguments about why a clean house is highly overrated. Her work has won multiple awards, including the 2013 AMB Ovation Award for Best LGBT Interracial Romance, and the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction.