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 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.  She also writes the Unbound series for Changeling Press.  View website

Let’s Have an Elegant Tea Party

For years my critique group has been celebrating members’ birthdays with restaurant lunches. The pandemic scuttled that tradition. And after we could get together again, some members did not want to gather in public places. In response, we switched to lunches at members’ houses with the birthday girl ordering the food.

In November we tried something different–an elegant tea party at my house, dressed in
our tea-party best.

We set an opulent table, with traditional tea-party foods. Nancy Baggett and I made all the little sandwiches on the morning of the party. The only thin bread I could find was Pepperidge Farm Light Bread. In addition to being thin, the slices are also small, which is why a lot of the sandwiches are triangular. We made smoked salmon and cream cheese with dill, cucumber and cream cheese, egg salad, and deli corned beef with mustard, mayo, cheese and coleslaw garnished with a gherkin slice.

You can see we also have a fruit salad, mini cupcakes bought by Toby Devens, Nancy’s thumbprint cookies, and my homemade scones.

Here’s a scone closeup.

Since I’d never made scones, I followed my late mom’s recipe–with some modifications. Nancy Baggett and I joke about “the inevitable explanation” when serving a new recipe for the first time. This scone recipe has a lot of them. Mom called for milk. After looking at a number of recipes online, I decided to use half and half. I slightly increased the sugar. She called for apricot brandy. I couldn’t find any and subbed peach. (Note: if you’re looking for currants, Whole Foods has them.) And I clarified some of her directions. Another modification is the shape. Hers were round. The modern recipes I found cut the scones into wedges, which is obviously more efficient. You’ll notice this isn’t my usual recipe format, but her way of combining the ingredients and the directions worked. I think she’d be pleased that I’ve shared her recipe here. (And thanks to my daughter, Elissa Webber, for transcribing my mom’s handwritten version into an e-mail.)

Currant Apricot (or Peach) Scones
(Bake at 400F)

Soak 1/2 cup currants (or raisins) in 2-3 tablespoons of apricot liqueur (or 3 tablespoons of Apricot Brandy)

In a medium bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of baking powder. Mix well.

Cut 6 tablespoons of butter or margarine into small pieces. Add to flour mixture. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter into the flour until you have small pea-sized pieces.

Drain the currants. In a small bowl, combine the currants with 1/2 cup of half and half and 1 egg. Beat with a fork to mix. Stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture until combined.

Flour your hands and turn out dough onto a floured board. Knead 12-15 strokes.

Pat out to a seven-inch rounds. Cut into 8 wedges. (Start by cutting into quarters.) Lay out scones a small distance apart on a baking sheet and brush with half and half.

Bake at 400F, 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Do not overbake.

Cool scones on a wire rack. When thoroughly cooled, store in a closed container. Serve with a variety of jams and/or clotted cream. (I also used honey butter.) Scones can be kept for a few days at room temperature or up to a week, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator.

And here are the party girls showing off their festive outfits. Note that Amy Kaplan is wearing the Japanese tea kimono she made (even the shoes) for a science-fiction convention.

A Trip Back to Another Era

from Wikipedia

I’m lucky that my husband’s alumni association organizes interesting events in the Washington, DC, area. Of course, those activities were suspended during the worst of the pandemic. But we’re back in the thick of it again. Last month we got to visit the Edward Hamlin Everett house, which has been the residence of the Turkish ambassador since 1934. (After renting for several years, they bought the property.)

The mansion was built between 1910 and 1915 for Edward Hamlin Everett, who owned a bottling company that merged with Corning to become Owens Corning, so we’re talking serious money here

The architect was George Oakley Totten Jr., one of the area’s most sought after architects. At first the house was Everett’s winter residence.

The interior was designed in the Beaux-Arts style but included Turkish influences even before being occupied by the Turks. The architect had spent time in Turkey as the chief architect of an Ottoman sultan. By the way, you may not realize it, but Turkey as changed it’s name to Türkiye. I wonder if it’s going to catch on.)

There’s are a lot of fabulous decorative details inside the house. Here, for example, is the bannister along the grand staircase leading from the reception hall up to the living area.

And here is the inlaid floor at the edge of the reception area.

Above the stairwell is a rather weird painting.

I particularly liked this picture of Norman admiring the dining room.

He posed me standing between Erdoğan, the current Turkish president, and Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey,

I wish I’d taken a photo of the whole staircase. It’s a “waterfall staircase”, which means it flows out horizontally at the bottom. But unfortunately, the balustrade does not reach down to the wider part. While I was waiting for our ride home, I saw a woman coming down the stairs. When she reached the part where there was no railing, she edged over to the side and hung on to the wall. It was kind of amusing to watch–but it was exactly the way I came down the stairs. Neither she nor I wanted to fall down a couple of marble steps. I guess that even if you live in a custom-built mansion, there are going to be some design defects.

How I Escaped to the Middle Ages

It was during the pandemic. Like everyone else, I was locked in my house except for brief trips to the grocery store. (At least I had a loving husband and two demanding cats for company. This picture shows only one cat because they do not tolerate each other.)

I was looking for a writing project that would take me away from my endless confinement and decided to start fiddling with a far-out fun project. Why not make a getaway to the Middle Ages but use a medieval milieu that was tweaked for my own pleasure. While lying on the chaise with my other cat, I started adding details. (Yes, both cats are gray. Not what I would have chosen, but they are the stray and feral ones I brought in.)

I love writing paranormal, so why not insert magic into my medieval world? And while I was at it, why not turn the religious structure on its head and invent a pantheon of gods and goddesses. But I would keep a lot of the conventions of the times. I’d have kings and castles, troops of soldiers on horseback, roadside inns and town marketplaces. And just to add some inconvenient medieval complications, girls would be the property of their fathers, women were subject to the rule of their husbands, and your life was a crapshoot—depending on whether you were the subject of a humane or a hard-assed king.

With some of the background blocked in, I turned to the story. I started off with a princess named Sabina who runs away from her father, the king, because he’s going to marry her off to forge an alliance with an absolute bastard of a prince.

She’s captured pretty quickly by some rough and tumble freelancers and thrown into a prison tower to await the punishment of her father. Unfortunately, or ultimately fortunately, there’s already a prisoner in the tower. Everybody thinks he’s a ghost, but we find out later that he’s really Prince Killian who was enchanted by an evil magician. Everybody’s scared spitless of him. But Sabina decides that if they are locked in together, she will try to make friends with him.

This is when I started having fun with the story. Killian’s mind is a blob of Swiss cheese, but Sabina’s attentions start awakening his memories. Physical contact with her is the key to bringing him back to life—the hotter and heavier, the better.

How do you have an intimate relationship with a guy you can’t see? Lots of interesting ways. She decides: What’s the harm in letting this ghost do stuff to me. As long as he doesn’t fuck me, nobody will ever know about it. The more intimately he touches her, and the more intimately she touches him, the more visible he becomes and the more they grow to care about each other. After each heated encounter, he remembers details from his life—and finally what happened to him.

In the first part of the story, she’s the driver. But when they learn her father is coming to scoop her up, his macho guy instincts kick in.  Killian engineers their escape and takes her on a dangerous trip back to his kingdom while dad’s soldiers pursue them. Along the way, she gives up the idea of staying a virgin. That leads to an embarrassing wedding-night scene. The consummation of the prince’s marriage has to be witnessed by a bunch of courtiers—albeit through gauzy curtains. What are Sabina and Killian going to do to convince the spectators that she’s a virgin?

I had no idea if Changeling would want this story. But my editor liked it a lot. It became Killian Unbound and led to a five-book contract, so I’ve steadily been adding more episodes in my medieval world. I hope you’ll come join me. The latest is number four, Morgan Unbound, published this month.

Money-saving Hacks

These days, people are looking for ways to pinch pennies. I know I am. Here are some of the techniques and tricks I learned over the years.

Save in the Garden If you live in a climate where the trees lose their leaves every fall, all the annual flowers you’ve bought and planted in the spring also die. (Note–the cheapest place to buy these is Walmart, if you can get them before the staff kills them.) You can save even more by cultivating perennials like iris, black-eyed Susans, tall phlox, hardy primroses, and peonies that come back year after year. You may not even have to buy them. Most of mine come from friends who needed to trim back large plantings. The same with ground covers like pachysandra, liriope, hostas, and vinca. (Yes, I also give my excess away to others.) And many of the ferns in the yard are ones I dug up in the woods.

Three years ago, I began trying another method. I’ve always hated that my pots of annuals like begonias and geraniums die in the fall. Now I take in as many pots as I can. I put some under grow lights in the basement and others in the sunroom–and bring them out again after the threat of freezing has lifted. (BTW, don’t knock begonias. They do well in sun and shade, and there are some amazing new varieties with larger flowers.) The begonia below is spending its fourth year in the front yard.

I’ve also got some pots of culinary herbs in the sunroom. (A sunny windowsill or a grow light will also work.) Basil, thyme, and parsley are easy to keep going inside. I wish dill plants didn’t get so high.)

If you’re not into gardening, there are lots of other ways to save money.

Cutting utility bills is another of my favs. A toaster oven uses 30% to 50% less energy than a conventional oven. I have a large model and use it way more than my large oven. (It will take a 2 ½ quart CorningWare casserole, if I leave the top off and use aluminum foil for the cover instead. I can also put in a 9 by 13 ½ inch baking pan–the standard lasagna size. I love it for baked potatoes, corn bread, and apple crisp. If you can cook something in the microwave, you’re saving even more energy.

I have a friend who accused me of walking around in the dark. I do turn off lights I’m not using. In the kitchen, I mostly use the under-cabinet fluorescent rather than turning on the overhead lights.

One of my favorite strategies is to pack the dishwasher as full as it can get before we run it. According to an article in the Washington Post, you can save $40 a year that way. I use a similar method with loads of laundry.

Try thrift shops. I have a friend who was chief technical officer for a company that was sold for millions of dollars. Although she shared in some of those millions, she told me she never buys clothing new. It’s always from thrift stores, but you definitely can’t tell. I also love bargain hunting in thrift stores. I may buy clothing or household items. (Yes, the downside is that you can’t find the same thing in another size or color.) I have knit tops, jackets, and jeans I love that came from thrift shops. (As a corollary, I search eBay for expensive brands I like. If it’s gently used, it’s going to be a lot cheaper than the retail price.)

Also, find out what colors and shades look best on you. (Years ago this was called “getting your colors done.”) If you know what your best colors are, it’s easy to put together mix and match outfits from your closets.

A thrift store is also where I got the dressy purse that I’ve been using for years. I have also picked up cutting boards, throw pillows, mugs, dish towels, and cat food dishes. I also have a collection of one- or two-of-a-kind thrift-store glassware. Instead of buying plastic cups for small parties, I put them out for guests to use instead of buying plastic cups. That way, nobody gets mixed up about which glass is theirs. I always like to see which guys take the glasses shaped like beer cans with our local team logo.

Saving on food and kitchen costs For food shopping, try some of the cheaper grocery stores like Aldi and Lidl. They have perfectly good products–canned goods, meat, and bread for less. And buy at the big-box stores if you can. I’ve got packs of napkins, paper towels, canned goods and other large items tucked behind sofas and under chairs. Big bags of dry cat food and bird seed are in the front hall closet.

While we’re talking about saving money on food, learn to make soup. You can use up all kinds of leftovers that way.

Also, I don’t buy food storage containers. I use plastic take-out cartons. And I use old bread wrappers for storage bags. (I admit, that makes it harder to see what’s inside.)

Prescription drugs are a big expense in many households. They may be cheaper at a mail order pharmacy–or they may not be. We live near a small pharmacy in a medical building that has better prices for some of our medications than our mail order service (where the copay is a minimum of $10). My husband discovered this when he did a price check of everything we use.

Hair and skin care Long ago, I taught myself to cut my own hair. Obviously that saves me a bundle. And during the pandemic, I started cutting my husband’s hair too.

I also don’t spring for the expensive face creams and beauty products. The ones from the drugstore work fine. (Oil of Olay is my go-to brand.)

I hope I’ve given you some new ideas. What are some of your money-saving strategies? I’d love to hear them.

My latest release is Morgan Unbound.

After escaping her sadistic captors in a sordid brothel, Morgan feels unfit to return to her old life. She flees to an isolated farm, where she avoids everyone — including the man sent to protect her, a warrior named Royce.

Royce’s heart goes out to this lovely, damaged noblewoman, in part because of his own tragic history. Using his ability to enter her dreams, he gains her trust and makes her long for a normal life again. As Morgan rediscovers her passion and confidence, she and Royce forge a psychic bond of mind and heart.

But even as they fall in love, the brutal men who sold her into slavery close in, determined to kill Royce and return her to a life of bondage. Can Morgan and Royce turn the tables on those who want to destroy them?