Julie is going to talk about... well, you have to find out yourselves. ;-) Don't forget to enter the giveaway!
What’s one word that’s sure to grab people’s attention, make them perk up, and put a smile on their faces?
No, I don’t mean sex. Chocolate! Who doesn’t like… no, I mean LOVE chocolate? I can count on the fingers of one hand the people I know that don’t like this delicious treat, and have fingers left over! So, it’s pretty universal, this love of chocolate. And it isn’t a recent phenomenon. No indeed, it’s been around for a long long time!
Chocolate has been around the Americas for a good three thousand years. It was fermented and used in beverages to take away the bitterness of the cocoa bean. The Aztecs called it xocolātl , from a Nahuatl word that meant ‘bitter water’. They also ate chocolate, and used it in religious ceremonies. Wow, what a great incentive to go to those, right?
It’s only appropriate to discuss chocolate during the holiday season because it makes such a great gift—not just for the people on your gift lists, but for yourself as a treat for running yourself ragged with holiday rituals—cleaning and cooking and shopping and wrapping and decorating, the whole nine yards!
There are different types of chocolate, and each is determined by the amounts of cocoa powder, chocolate liquor and sugar involved.
- · Cocoa powder is for baking, and doesn’t taste good on its own. Unsweetened chocolate is also called baking chocolate or bitter chocolate. It is pure chocolate liquor, made up solely of ground cocoa beans. It’s not meant to be eaten solo, but forms the base of the other chocolates, except for white chocolate.
- · Dark chocolate has chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla and leicithin, with a cocoa content ranging from 30% to 70-80%. This category also includes bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate.
- · Bittersweet chocolate has at least 35% cocoa solids; most contain at least 50% chocolate liquors, some as high as 70-80%. Since there is no regulation on the amount of sugar, the taste can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
- · Semi-sweet chocolate contains at least 35% cocoa solids and is primarily an American term, popularized by Nestle and their Toll House morsels. Usually, it’s darker than sweet dark chocolate, but sweeter than bittersweet.
- · Sweet dark chocolate has a high percentage of sugar and is sweeter than other dark chocolates, and might have only 20-40% cocoa solids.
- · Milk chocolate, besides containing cocoa butter and chocolate liquor, must contain condensed milk or dry milk solids. While it’s easier to overheat, it’s a very popular type of chocolate and has a rich creamy taste and texture.
- · White chocolate has cocoa butter but no chocolate liquor or other cocoa products. Not surprisingly, it has no actual chocolate taste, and may taste like vanilla. It must contain at least 20% cocoa butter, 14% milk solids, and no more than 55% sugar. If you see white chocolate that contains vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter, this isn’t really white chocolate, and won’t taste the same.
I have a new release with Museit Up Publishing, my first with them. It’s just out today, actually and I’m excited to tell you about it. It’s called The Belgian Chocolate Remedy. There’s that chocolate theme again! Milan is my Belgian chocolatier. He and his brother Ludolf came to America, after Milan had studied hard in Europe to become a chocolatier, and they ended up settling in the Midwest, in a small town in Indiana. The plan was that Ludolf would help fix up the shop where Milan would make the chocolates, and they would make a good life for themselves. But life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. On the other hand, there’s Jesse, who has no interest in his life since his boyfriend dumped him. He lives in St. Louis, but comes to Lafayette, Indiana, at his best friend Reggie’s request (read demand!). They’re going to help her friend Milan get his booth ready for Outfest. Has Reggie got something else in mind?
I hope you like the story, and it wouldn’t hurt to eat some chocolate while you read it, maybe drink some too!
Thanks for having me, Chris! I’d like to give back to your readers, so let’s have a giveaway! If I get 25 comments or less, I’ll pick a winner to receive anything I’ve written. 25 to 50 comments, there’ll be two winners. Over 50, I’ll give away to 4 readers, and one person will get a $10 Amazon gc! Don’t forget to leave your email addy. No addy – no win!
Here’s the link for The Belgian Chocolate Remedy – enjoy!
The Belgian Chocolate Remedy
Blurb: Milan, a Belgian chocolatier, has lost his beloved brother. Yet life goes on, and he must ready his booth for Outfest—Ludolf would have wanted him to carry on. Jesse is a rudderless soul, unable to cope with the rejection of his lover. He comes to Lafayette, Indiana at the request of his best friend, Reggie. She inveigles him into helping her friend Milan… a way to pass the time, or something more?
Milan had gone back to his last batch of chocolate—unscathed and unburned—and removed it from the burner, where it was cooling. “Would you like to brush the molds with chocolate?” he asked.
“Sure, I guess.” Jesse shrugged. It didn’t seem that difficult, at least in theory. “What’s it for?”
“To coat them.” Milan pulled a pastry brush from a drawer. He already set the molds out; they were simply waiting to be used. “I have some in the freezer already done,” he explained, seeing Jessie’s questioning look. “This is not all I have.”
“Okay,” Jessie said, “just show me what you want me to do.”
“Here.” Milan carried the pot of chocolate to the center of the work table. “Set a trivet there, will you?”
“A trivet,” Milan repeated, nodding to the counter behind Jessie. “That blue thing there. I will set the pot on it so it does not burn the surface.”
“Sure.” Jessie laid the round blue object onto the table, as Milan set the pot. “Take the brush and dip it like this.” He demonstrated just how far into the chocolate he wanted him to go. “Then lightly brush over each mold, like so.”
Jesse admired the ease with which Milan worked, as if he’d been born to do nothing else. He had very nice hands, he noticed. How would those hands feel on Jesse’s cock? Would he touch it with the same care? His breath caught at the thought.
Milan offered the pastry brush to Jessie. He shook himself from his reverie and took it, pushing the forbidden image away. “So you’re selling these tomorrow. At Outfest. Right?”
“That is correct,” Milan replied. “You are coming, yes?”
“I am unless I want Reggie to tan my hide.”
“She would, you know,” Jesse continued, “You ever see her get mad?”
“Yes, I have,” Milan admitted, “I would not care to be the object of her anger.”
“A little lighter, please.” Milan had been watching Jessie work. “Here.” He laid his hand over the other man’s. “Like this. Just enough to coat it. I will fill it in after we put in the fruit.”
Their eyes met and for a moment their hands stopped moving, each acutely aware of the other. Milan broke away first. “I will do this one,” he offered, “then we can do the first freeze.”
“Yes. We are forming a shell so it will hold the weight of the candy.”
“Okay.” Jesse thought it made sense, but what did he know. He dipped the brush into the chocolate again, making his strokes lighter, earning a “bon” from Milan. He knew enough French to know that meant good. He relaxed a little at the praise.
Once they had set the molds into the freezer, Milan removed the completed candies that waited there. He showed Jesse how to unmold them, and how to put them into their little paper beds, and into the waiting boxes. Then he let him apply the second coating himself.
“You are doing well,” he encouraged him.
A few minutes of companionable silence passed, Jesse concentrating on the task at hand, Milan stealing surreptitious peeks at the brunet. Whether he was willing to admit it to himself, he was glad for his company. Jesse’s presence was pushing the shadows away.
“This is your place, right?” Jessie encompassed the kitchen with his glance. He couldn’t help but feel a lot of love had gone into making this room the place it was. More than a kitchen, it was Milan’s haven.
“It is, yes. Mine.”
“When are you going to open, then? Reggie said you were going to open your candy store after Outfest, right?”
Milan paused in the act of retrieving a container of raisins from the refrigerator. It was a legitimate question. It’s what businesspeople did—they opened for business. So why was he so hesitant to set a date? Maybe because he didn’t see it ever happening, without Ludolf’s guidance.?
“I do not know,” he mumbled, setting the bowl on the table, not meeting Jesse’s eyes. “There is work that needs to be done, construction work and…and licenses…and I do not know what, I mean I just do not know…”
Jesse reached out his hand without thinking, but Milan had already turned away. Jesse’s heart ached for the other man—he sounded so alone, so lost. Jesse wanted to gather him up in his arms, comfort him, soothe him, stop his tears, and end his pain. And yes, he wanted to get naked with him, too—to touch him, feel him, and lose himself in Milan. He wanted to taste his lips and take away his misery.
His feet moved, as though his thoughts had manifested themselves into action. His fingers brushed across the top of the table as he edged around it, toward Milan. He had no clear purpose he simply needed to be closer to him.
Milan was a few inches taller than Jesse, he discovered, as he came up behind him. Jesse’s lips were at about the level of Milan’s jaw, and he found it hard not to simply kiss him there, to stop his shoulders from shaking, to stem the tears he suspected were falling. He reached up his arms, wanting to hug Milan to him tightly, to take the first step—
The tinkle of the shop bell. Jesse retreated, stumbling back to his side of the table. In his haste, his hand knocked a spoon off the table. It clattered onto the floor. Milan spun around, dabbing at one eye with his right hand. He left a small smear of chocolate on his cheekbone. Jesse bent to retrieve the spoon, resisting the urge to wipe the chocolate away. The moment passed; he felt like a coward.
Julie Lynn Hayes was reading at the age of two and writing by the age of nine and always wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Two marriages, five children, and more than forty years later, that is still her dream. She blames her younger daughters for introducing her to yaoi and the world of M/M love, a world which has captured her imagination and her heart and fueled her writing in ways she'd never dreamed of before. She especially loves stories of two men finding true love and happiness in one another's arms and is a great believer in the happily ever after. She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and two cats, loves books and movies, and hopes to be a world traveler some day. While working a temporary day job, she continues to write her books and stories and reviews, which she posts in various places on the internet. Her family thinks she is a bit off, but she doesn't mind. Marching to the beat of one's own drummer is a good thing, after all. Her published works can be found at Dreamspinner Press, and MuseitUp Publishing, and she has also begun to self-publish at various places on the Internet.
You can find Julie here:
Museit Up Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_222