Rebecca York

About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  View website

A Free Cookbook for Readers and Some Tips for Taking Food Photos

The authors of Love, Christmas 2 have a special treat for readers. We’ve produced a cookbook, Favorite Holiday Recipes, which I’ve edited for the group. And it’s FREE.

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Each recipe is tied to one of the stories in Love, Christmas 2. And most are accompanied by mouth-watering pictures. Here’s one taken by my friend, cookbook writer Nancy Baggett:

And here’s her recipe for Cranberry Apple Crumble, which the hero of Love, Actually, by Traci E. Hall, makes for his and the heroine’s breakfast.

Makes about 6 servings

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose or unbleached white flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 2/3 cups peeled and diced Stayman, Jonathan, Rome or other tart, flavorful apples
1 tsp lemon juice
2 2/3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) unsweetened cranberries, chopped
Ice cream for garnish, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit (190-degrees Celsius). Lightly grease a 7 ½ x 11-inch baking dish.

2. Stir together the oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using forks or fingertips, cut in butter until thoroughly incorporated. In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice until well combined. Stir in cranberries. Reserve 1 1/4 cups oat mixture for topping. Add the remainder of oat mixture to the fruit, tossing until well mixed. Spread the mixture in baking dish. Sprinkle reserved oat mixture over top.

3. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and nicely browned on top and apples in the center are tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Nancy Baggett’s Kitchen Lane Blog: http://kitchenlane.com/

Nancy and I talked recently about food photography. The tips below may help you with pictures you might want to post on social media.

She says lighting is very important. Natural lighting is best, near a window or on an open porch or deck, but don’t do it when the light is too bright or you will wash out the photo. (If I can’t have natural light, I often shoot food on my kitchen counter, using the ceiling lights and the under-cabinet lights. Of course, this limits opportunities for adding props.)

Nancy likes to say, “We’re not selling tablecloths or cups and plates.” In other words, keep the focus on the food, and don’t have too much else going on in the shot. And have the food in front. You want the dish to look like someone will want to eat it, which is why food photos often feature a prop like a welcoming spoon or fork. Interestingly, small plates work best because viewers will not be able to see the scale.

You want the picture to look nice, not messy. Clean up your shot before you click the shutter. You can remove small imperfections in a bowl or plate with a toothpick or Q-tip. Note that many reflective surfaces will show fingerprints and smudges. Clean them up. But you don’t have to go for total perfection.

Nancy says that, “If the dish looks like dog food, think of some way to pep it up with a garnish.” But don’t pile on too much extraneous stuff.

Think about props. In the picture above, Nancy used an old-fashioned Pyrex baking dish to help set the mood. And the lines in the towel echo the lines in the rack under the dish. In addition, the ripple in the towel adds movement. Note that there are two bowls in the shot. She also might use two cups or glasses for a beverage. If you’d like to have a selection of props, you can browse for them at secondhand and thrift shops.

Look at your picture and decide where to crop it. You don’t want the whole expanse of your table or tablecloth. I try to take care of this by starting off with a close-up.

I hope you’ll pick up your free copy of our cookbook. And I hope Nancy’s tips will help you sharpen your own food photography skills.

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Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website

The Knack of the Pack

I’m married to Mr. Travel, a guy who is willing to go anywhere at any time.  (You can see some of the pictures from our latest trip to Oahu and Santa Barbara, California, below.) My goal is to keep up with him and to cut down on the anxiety of packing, I’ve developed some strategies that make the process a lot less painful.

DORIS DUKE HOUSE, HONOLULU

FOUR SEASONS POOL, OAHU

First, I keep certain items in my suitcases—some in my carry-on and some in the luggage to be checked. I have duplicates of deodorant, a hairbrush and a makeup mirror in my carry-on. (Plus a big scarf I can use if the plane’s too cold.)  I’ve also got stuff like allergy medication and Advil. And in the packed luggage I have a cloth bag with a scissors, nail clipper, sewing kit, and tweezers.
The night before I leave, I pack my medicines, leaving the morning dose in a tissue on my dressing table. As I put on makeup, I stuff each item into one of two bags—the normal one and the clear plastic one that FAA requires for liquids. (Tiny amounts, naturally.)

Of course, it’s easy to forget something. If I’m traveling in the U.S., that’s not a huge problem. I can always buy what I need, although a trip to the store might be inconvenient. But in a foreign country, an essential item could be unavailable.

That’s why I’ve learned to go over my packing list before we leave. A lot of the items on it are things I’ve left at home on previous trips.

Book bag for my travel computer
iPad
Medicine
Dry Eye drops
Plastic laundry bag
Rebecca York booklets
Badge holder
Nighttime moisturizer (easy to forget because I’m not putting it on in the morning)
Good purse

SIMPSON HOUSE, SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA

I get out the clothes I think I will need at least twenty-four hours in advance. Then I pack everything in plastic bags by category—underwear, everyday tops, good tops, slacks and shorter pants, shoes, tee shirt and cutoffs to sleep in. (A friend of mine uses transparent bags so she can see what she’s got. I like reusing bags I’ve brought home from shops and hotels.) And I pull out a few items of clothing to pack in my carry-on, since there have been times when my luggage didn’t arrive at my destination when I did. (Try traveling around Greece with no change of underwear and only the clothes on your back. That happened to Mr. Travel. I was prepared with my emergency stash.)

Packing doesn’t have to be an ordeal, if you get organized first. Do you hate to get ready for a trip? What are some of your tricks for making the process easier?

Rebecca York’s latest Decorah Security Story, “Can She Get Home for Christmas?” is in Love, Christmas – Movies You Love (The Holiday Series Book 2)  a collection now on pre-order at Amazon.

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website

Zoo Time

I love watching animals, which is why I’ve always been thrilled by a trip to the zoo. Because I grew up in Washington, DC, my first memories are of the National Zoo. But even back then, I wondered why the poor bears were in such small cages.

In recent years, there have been major improvements in zoo management. One recent trend is for zoos to have fewer species while providing better habitats for the ones they have. On a recent trip to the National Zoo, I found that—wait for it—the only animals in the elephant house are elephants. Previously there were also pigmy hippos and giraffes. Those have been sent to other zoos, and the building has been expanded so that the elephants have a much bigger indoor area and a fabulous outdoor playground complete with a pool.

The best example of zoo management I’ve seen recently is the Bronx Zoo, which we visited with friends after the Thrillerfest Conference last month. I wanted to see it because of “The Zoo” on Animal Planet which is filmed there.

It’s amazing to find this large space in the middle of New York City. If you’re planning to go, get tickets online beforehand, and be sure to include the package of special attractions so you don’t have to pay for them on an individual basis. And be prepared for a lot of walking. If you don’t want to hoof it, you can rent an electric cart as our friends did, but you will get to places where there are a lot of stairs, and you will have to backtrack and circle around. We loved the bears, seals, gorillas and baboons, especially the young baboons who were having a wonderful time playing.

There are many great animal enclosures, but some are obscured by shrubbery which limits your viewing opportunities. There are a number of things that we wished they’d handled better for the human visitors. For example, we decided to have lunch at the Asia area where there are plenty of outside tables (some with umbrellas) but no real roof. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on, and we got pretty wet while we ate. Luckily it was a very warm day, and we did dry out. Definitely take the monorail through Asia, where you will see an elephant and mostly hoofed animals. (Yes, there’s a tiger, but he was hiding.) We also walked to Tiger Mountain, where we saw only one tiger lying in the grass behind a tree. As my friend said, next time we’ll try to see the big cats early before they take their afternoon naps. The zoo is big, and you probably can’t see everything in one day, so use the map and make a plan. If I’d known there wasn’t much to see on Tiger Mountain, I would have skipped it and visited the petting zoo instead. Yeah, I’m a sucker for petting cuddly animals.

Do you like zoos? Why or why not?

Lions Relaxing

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website

Wonders of the Ancient World

There’s no way to see everything in the British Museum in one day.  But on a recent trip to London I got to wander through some of the displays, marveling at art and artifacts collected from around the world. I always gravitate to the antiquities, and I usually start with the Rosetta Stone. When I first saw it, it was sitting right out in the open. Now it’s protected by a glass case.

This object, discovered by a French soldier in the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in 1799, was carved in black granodiorite during the Hellenistic period. It sets forth a decree issued in Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC and is written in three languages: ancient Greek, Demotic script, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Each text says approximately the same thing, and by comparing them, scholars were finally able to translate hieroglyphics—although it took them more than twenty years to do it.

Next, I usually wander over to the mummies in their elaborate sarcophaguses. But the ancient Egyptians didn’t just embalm people. They also preserved cats for a trip into the afterlife.

I also have a fondness for Roman mosaics, which are displayed mainly on stairwell walls, although in ancient Roman civilization they were used on the floor, not on walls.

By studying a list of “must see” exhibits, I also found some treasures that I had not seen before. Here’s a beautiful Aztec two-headed snake.

And did you ever wonder where Wedgwood got the idea for his Jasperware?  He saw this Portland Vase, produced in Italy—probably in the Etruscan period, and determined to create something similar. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. And even more amazing, it was painstakingly put back together after a crazed museum patron smashed it in the early 1800’s.

I’m home now, but I can’t stop myself from thinking—when can I get back there and wander through some of those fabulous galleries?

Do you like to travel?  What are some of your favorite places to visit?

Rebecca York’s latest Decorah Security novella is Hollow Moon, about a werewolf who almost loses his mind when he gets caught sniffing out a drug lab in the Maryland wilds.

Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.
 View website