EATING AUTHORS: Stephanie Burke

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Stephanie Burke

And now, as they say, time for something completely different. My guest this week on EATING AUTHORS is Stephanie Burke, and she is probably the most prolific writer I know. I still vividly recall the first time we met, sitting side by side on a panel at a Balticon. We were doing the introduction thing, each of the panelists saying who they were, what they’d done, and so forth. I described myself, and mentioned that my second novel had just come out. Stephanie was up next, talked a bit about herself, and then said her nine hundred twenty-seventh book had just been released. Okay, maybe my recollection is more vivid than accurate; I may have that number wrong, but it was a stupidly high number.

Stephanie writes paranormal romance and erotica, of every flavor and combination imaginable. She’s so prolific that she seems to always be having different titles coming out at the same time from such places as Changeling Press, Ellora’s Cave, Loose-Id press, Red Rose, Renaissance E Books, Tease Publishing, Broken Sword Press, and Beautiful Trouble Publishing (and I have it on good authority that she’s looking for a few more venues as well). Her latest work came out just last week, a digital boxed set entitled Space Opera.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “force of nature” used to describe someone, only to find the description a bit over the top when you actually meet the individual. In Stephanie’s case this is not hyperbole (as her response to this blog’s question aptly demonstrates). Whether sharing a convention panel with her, enjoying a conversation, or simply reading one of her books, you need to be ready for a tsunami, trust me.

LMS: Welcome, Stephanie. When you think back on your most memorable meal, what comes to mind?

SB: Have you ever wanted something so much it made you cry? Have you ever desired something so much that it wakes you up in the middle the night, ready to sell your own first born just for a taste? Have you ever craved something so much that it defied all logic to the point that you would break the law just to have one small taste?

I have, my friend and though this story may be true, it is not pretty.

Philcon or Bust

It was spring, and what a spring it was shaping up to be. I was still in therapy from being bashed with a line of shopping carts in a Toys R Us while Christmas shopping with a friend. Truly, I will never know how a line of shopping carts swirled to avoid my best friend and it me instead… it defiled the laws of physics! And after a fast trip to the ER I was left with several months of back breaking, weight lifting workouts for my knee. Of course the carts swirled around her butt and smacked me on the defective knee, so that meant more work than if it had hit the knee that worked as it should. Damn my eyes!

It was during this painful time that I first saw an ad for them… Bacon Chocolate Chip Donuts.

Actually, it was around three in the morning and I was in too much pain to sleep despite my heavy doses of pain meds. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t find a comfortable position, so I did what I do best… I surfed the web.

I was flipping through the local websites for new stores in our area, suddenly a plethora of hipsters and former DC residents had moved into my neighborhood (I live in Baltimore), and were doing their best to turn everything ‘fashionable’ again — there went my tax bracket — and I was curious about the new storefronts that were moving in.

It was a strange thing to be researching at three in the a.m., but when you can’t sleep and when your pain meds aren’t working, you do what you can to get by. In my case getting by meant looking around at the changes in my area and trying to discover new things to take joy in or complain about. #nofilter! Really.

Hey, I am a realist and really, there was nothing else to do at O’dark-thirty. Video games were boring and required me to scream and yell when I die and I really wasn’t in the mood. The kids were asleep and even I am not evil enough to wake them for tea and sympathy… and it meant I would have to cook them food and I really was not about that life of extra cooking in the middle of the night. The husband worked third shift so he was not going to be showing his face around until after I was already up and dressed and ready to face the day… in about four hours. So with nothing but space and opportunity, I started at the neighborhood online newspaper and was praying for something to hold my attention until my pain pills kicked in or Morpheus got tired of my whining and knocked my but forcibly into the Land of Nod.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Donuts.

I tired to look away, to read about the new art studio opening up with cheap classes or the tattoo/art gallery what was already in business and adding joy and color to the neighborhood… but there it was again. That ad promising the best Bacon Chocolate Chip Donuts the world had ever seen.

BACON CHOCOLATE CHIP DONUTS

And there was a photo too, a full color pic of the largest most misshapen donut I had ever seen. It was cut open, a pie slice shaped wedge of the confection removed so that one could observe the gooey innards. Steam rose up from the chocolate treat, the rich brown chuncks of chocolate melting over a flaky pastry, strange red chunks of bacon beckoned, the whole thing dripping in the chocolate glaze that was melting over it all so enticingly that my mouth began to water.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Donut… I must have you.

I have no idea why my mind fixated on the thing. By all rights, I should have been disgusted at that combination of flavors, but something about it drew me in. That Bacon Chocolate Chip Donut would be mine.

But how? It was three in the a.m. and the store would not open until after eight. Even worse, though the store be five blocks away, I was dealing with a fierce pain that made waking seem like physical torture. Trust me, if you want to break a character down, break a kneecap. No matter how powerful, they will be squalling like a newborn baby… with tears… cause newborns take a few days to get their tear ducts working…

Anyway there was the truck but my dear hubby who lived by his motorcycles was using it because torrential rains and motorcycles don’t mix well on highways, even for the most hearty of motorcycle enthusiasts.

Space Opera

My donut would have to wait… sniffle.

I went on, trying to find something to take my mind off of the growing desire for pig and chocolate, but everything I saw led back to pastry.

In the book I was skimming, the heroine was making fried donuts to lure her would be lover into complacency so she could get her mac on and lose her virginity before the virgin loving incubus got her. No, it really wasn’t a story I was writing, but at the time the plot seemed fascinating… until that bitch started cooking. Then all I could picture was her serving up the bacon chocolate chip donuts, him smearing the frosting over her body before they had sex on the kitchen table… but in reality all that took a back seat to what she was actually cooking up. No, not orgasms, I was genuinely more intrigued by her cooking process than what she was doing with that wonder whisk. Were bacon chocolate chip donuts fried or baked?

Bah! Enough of that, I decided as my knee in its brace throbbed harshly at the very notion of kitchen sex — yes, it would hurt to bend my knee like that — and how long did you have to fry a donut to get it done without undercooking the bacon… or was the bacon precooked first… and if so, how do you avoid overcooking. I tend to like my bacon a bit chewy…

No. I was not thinking about donuts. I was thinking about hot kitchen sex with a demon hunter. So with that in mind, I went hunting recipes for bacon chocolate chip donuts. Her immortal soul could wait, but if I couldn’t buy my donut at nearly four in the morning there would be hell to pay… unless… maybe I could make them…

But sadly, no. Each recipe I found looked like physics equations — there is a reason I write for a living and it has everything to do with my lack of skill at math — and none of them were exactly right. I could improvise but did I even have cream of tartar in the house? And whole vanilla beans? When did that become a regular staple in the kitchen?

I pushed reading aside and limped upstairs to my bedroom. Sleep. I would go to sleep and when I awoke, the hubby would be back with my truck and I could get confectionary goodness that was starting to haunt my soul.

But even in bed I could not rest for the thought of the elusive treat. Did my body pillow that rested between my legs suddenly look like a donut? I mean I was laying half on the rounded thing, properly keeping my left knee elevated and everything, but the chocolate colored pillowcase made me think of melting chocolate frosting over steamy hot pastry.

With a grunt, I rolled from my side to my back, hoping that the images would go away, but in the dim light of the street lamp, the wildly spinning ceiling fan took on a circular afterimage to my tired eyes as it spun above my head… a round donut shaped blur…

No! Sleep! Sleep was good at four in the morning. But every time I closed my eyes, I could see that damn photo, the donut cut enticingly, tempting me to take a bite.

The Adorable Snowman

Eat me, it seemed to scream in my subconscious and I wondered what subliminal messages the advertising company who put the ad together used… and if they were taking on new clients. I had a book release coming up soon.

Sleep! I needed sleep. Maybe poetry… For I have loved the donut too fiercely to be afraid of the chocolate chips…. No.

I chose the bacon less fried, and that has made all the difference? WAAA!

Friends, Lauravillians, fellow snackers, lend me your donuts… I didn’t come here to stare at chocolate chips and bacon, I came to eat them! There really is something wrong with me. No, no, no!

Sometimes my mind is like a hamster racing madly in its spinning its wheel… its chocolatey bacony donut circular wheel.

It was useless. I was not getting any sleep.

I crawled out of bed and made my way back to the kitchen. I would have coffee… which went great with donuts. Or tea… also went great with donuts. I could make an early breakfast for the kids… omelets before school… omelets that would taste great with bacon…

I needed bacon chocolate chip donuts in my life, but I settled for a hot cup of tea and staring at my computer again.

And now it’s nearly five in the am and I can’t write — did you know that smearing donuts over your body is a fetish? Neither did I, but according to the Urban Dictionary, it’s getting to be a huge thing.

I can’t watch TV… Duncan Donuts is having an éclair sale… and damned if the commercial donut look like it would be better with bacon…

I can’t sleep. Visions of bacon donuts were dancing through my head.

So it is nearly six in the morning and the kids stir.

I make them breakfast… cold cereal this morning kids, supplemented by juice and toast cause there is no bacon in the house at the moment. I got sausage cause it was on sale, and frying it up only would make me depressed because it wasn’t the part of the pig I was craving.

So in my ratty sweats and in my leg brace, I see the kids off — bus and carpool — then I trudge back into the house, looking defeated. I know what a defeat looks like, I decide as I stare in the mirror… me without a chocolate chip donut in my mouth.

The Coven

More hot tea and then I began to answer email…

Would it be wrong to tell a fan I would make them the star of my next book if they got me a bacon chocolate chip donut delivered to my door in less than thirty minutes? Yes, it would be so wrong so say thank you and move it along, Flash.

My editor wants a story idea for the summer? How about the love story between a baker and the woman who creates a new sensation in her home and refuse to sell it to him because it’s a family recipe? Bacon Chocolate Donuts… no. Not only is that a stupid idea, I tell myself, he is a professional baker, he probably has whole vanilla beans in his kitchen.

The sun is up and the bags under my eyes are painfully sore, I think they kind of look like half donuts under my eyes… and I realize I have a serious problem. The thoughts of these donuts will consume my life if I don’t have one soon.

I limp back upstairs and shower; of course the soap is vanilla scented and smells like fresh baked goods. I dress in my most comfortable sweat pants… knee brace, remember, and my most fashionable t-shirt that declares that I don’t get along well with others. Maybe I would if they offered me donuts… and I sit in front of my computer and wait. For it is nearly eight in the a.m., time for the husband to get home with my truck, and I can nearly taste victory.

The husband walks in and pauses when he sees me sitting there. Okay, maybe I was staring at him with the intensity of a cat about to pounce on its prey, but he paused when he got a good look at me.

“Morning?”

So I gave him the speech I had been mentally going over in my head since I realized I was going to be relying on his good intentions and his love to get me what I needed.

“Chocolate Chip Donut!” I wail. “You love me, you get me to them bacon now.”

He blinked at me, utterly confused as to what I was talking about, I know, but if he loved me, he would understand. Love is a universal language, eclipsing all space and time. Love would allow him to read my mind and instantly understand what I was fighting so hard to get into words. I smiled up at him prettily and even batted my eyelashes.

In the Red Zone

“Your drugs kick in finally?” he asked and I want to scream.

“Chocolate Chip Bacon Donut!” I wail. I don’t care that he is tired and covered in oil and dirt and paper dust. I want my donut!

“Does such a thing exist?” he looked intrigued.

I nod my head rapidly. “It does. It does. I want.”

“Okay,” he agrees. I think he feels sorry for me… or maybe he thinks I beat him bloody when he goes to sleep if I don’t get my way. Whatever works for me in this situation. “Right after I take a nap. I am wiped.”

Nap? There will be no nap! I had no nap. I had vision of donuts dancing in my head all night long. Didn’t he see? Couldn’t he understand? Where was our psychic connection! I wanted him to understand my pain, my craving, and see to my needs. Our wedding vows stated that he would put my happiness in front of his and happiness was a hot and fresh chocolate chip bacon donut! And look, it was after eight too.

Maybe he got the idea when I threw the keys at him… or maybe it was the tears in my eyes, or maybe it was his laughter as I tried to throttle a man who was three times my weight and at least a foot taller than me. Either way, he picked up the keys and offered to drive me… because he loved me… or maybe he didn’t want to endanger anyone by having a sleep deprived crazy woman on the road. No matter, I was getting my donut! Yeah! Chocolate Chip Bacon Donut here I come.

The trip took two minutes. It really took longer to park than it did to get to the coffee shop, but I was happy. I could almost taste the chocolatey bacony goodness in my mouth.

There were three people ahead of us, white collar types on their way to the office to start a productive day… so hurry up and get your friggin coffee—black — in your personal to-go cup and get the hell out of my way! I had a serious craving going on.

I look into the pastry case and… I swear there was a heavenly chorus playing orchestral hits cause the sight of those chocolatey confections sang to me. Two people ahead of me now… and if the woman ever stopped complaining to the barista about rush hour traffic, got her coffee and got out of my way, she might miss most of it on her way to wherever that was not here in front of me.

One person to go and he just wanted coffee and a bagel.

Then there was me. With the husband moving beside me, my cane clicking as I stepped up to the counter, all was right in my world.

“Chocolate Chip Bacon Donut, please,” I request politely. I could afford to be generous now. I was getting my way. I even offered her a smile.

“And a large black coffee,” the husband threw in and I didn’t even glare at him too hard for taking her attention away from my pastry.

“Will that be all?”

Liger

“World peace would be nice,” I grumbled and the husband elbowed he and offered her a smile. She smiled back and offered him a wink.

“Jesus, woman, flirt with the husband after I get my donut,”

I don’t know that that was worth another elbow. I was nice enough to give her permission…

The blushing flirt gathered herself and raced to get his coffee and my donut.

“For here,” I add, wanting to make her squirm a little for flirting before donut, and the husband takes her offerings while I limp to a nearby table.

The dessert plate is placed before me, the sound of cheap porcelain clicking against the table, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.

Silverware is thrust into my hands and I purr as the husband sits in front of me, observing me like one would observe a strange specimen in a zoo.

“All good?” he asks and I nod. My mouth is too busy salivating to render a proper response.

He sips his coffee and I slice into the pastry with my fork.

Yes, it is big. Yes, the smell of pastry, of vanilla and bacon, and all things that are just and holy in this world waft up. I giggle, I am so giddy, resisting the urge to clap my hands like a toddler and break out into song like I had actual musical talent.

I slice again, and suddenly there it is on my fork, chunks of reddish bacon, melted chocolate chips, light flaky pastry all covered in a thick chocolate glaze.

This is what I was craving, what I was pining for, what had ruled my whole night.

I lift the fork to my mouth and with trembling hands; I guide the bite in, and slowly close my mouth over the excised portion, anticipation making my heart…

“Oh my God, what the hell is this?”

Have you ever anticipated something so much that actually getting what you wanted was anticlimactic?

Well, neither did I until I took my first taste of Chocolate Chip Bacon Donut.

Agh, it was horrible! What were they thinking? The bacon was not cooked enough, the chocolate tasted burnt, and the frosting was like something out of a plastic tub.

I forced myself to chew and swallow,… maybe the second bite would be better than the first, but no, it only got worse.

How could something that smelled so sweet and perfect taste so disgustingly horrible?

The husband didn’t understand the tears that welled up in my eyes, but somehow our mental link connecting us kicked in cause he was hugging me, running his bearded chin against me, his large arms holding me safe.

“It’s okay,” he was whispering. “It’s probably the drugs… or maybe its that time of the month?”

Okay, we have to work on our psychic connecting thing cause I was ready to stab him with the fork, but be did get me my craving and now he was comforting me when the end result wasn’t as good as advertised in my own mind.

How Not to Date a Centaur

“Love you,” he offered, pressing a kiss to my forehead as he took his seat again. “It can’t be that bad…”

And he picked up my fork and took a bite.

“Not bad.”

Not bad? Okay, now I really was going to beat him bloody when he went to sleep.

I seethed and pouted while he finished off the evil donut and sipped at his coffee. It was a sullen wife that he ushered back into the house, sullen and frustrated, and disappointed.

While he climbed into the shower, I flipped on the computer, ready to write the most scathing review I would imagine… when an ad popped up.

Fried mac and cheese corn dogs on a stick….

Hmm… Now that sounded awesome! Cheesy goodness deep fired over an all beef hotdog wrapped in corn bread. If wanting that is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Maybe when the husband gets out of the shower… and has a quick nap, we can make our way to the shop that is selling these bits of heaven on a stick. I wonder if they use at least three cheeses in their mac and cheese…

Thanks, Stephanie. You know, I have to ask, have you ever had a mac ‘n’ cheese donut?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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