by K. Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn
As we discussed topics for this this blog post, the conversation got derailed (as it often does) by talk of food. First K. Evan mentioned that she was making overnight oats. This segued into Brigham’s dinner plans of turkey burgers with curried mayo and garam masala roasted potato wedges. From there it went into a discussion about what Brigham should do with a bunch of milk that needed to be used up before it went bad. Homemade ricotta cheese and pumpkin rice pudding were discussed and recipes researched. We debated the merits of bubble tea, tapioca pudding, and Champorado, a Filipino rice porridge made with cocoa powder and coconut milk.
We have conversations like this often, both for IRL purposes and for character writing. In the end, we realized we might as well write a blog post about food, one of our mutual loves. After all, clearly our minds were on the topic, so why not focus on something that we clearly spend a lot of time talking about.
K. Evan calls herself a “super food fan” and Brigham is a self-described foodie. Both of us enjoy both cooking and baking as well as eating, and especially sharing the food we make with others. Our newsletter even has a section for recipe sharing. We wholeheartedly enjoy others doing the cooking, too, especially foods we’re not easily able to make ourselves. To us, food is just all sorts of fun.
We’ve had to research a different genre of recipes for “The Speakeasy” books, namely cocktails and mocktails. The characters in the books frequent an uptown speakeasy in Manhattan called Under, and the bar becomes a sanctuary of sorts for a growing circle of friends to connect and share their experiences. Under serves as both hang out and haven for the characters, and the drinks served there and throughout the plots are as varied as their personalities.
Some of our characters want something fabulous with four liquor and a fancy garnish, like the Lita Grey Cocktail. Others crave a more straightforward kind of drink, like the Cuba Libre or a great Scotch served neat. We also write characters who abstain from alcohol and some who drink sparingly to avoid medication interactions. For them we’ve become acquainted with lots of gorgeous mocktails and infused waters, many of which have migrated into our personal lives (neither of us finds writing while imbibing actual alcoholic cocktails to be particularly productive).
To be sure, our books contain references to food, too. Our characters cook with and for each other, and some do a little more teaching if they find their partner in crime is best known for burning water. The characters definitely dine, too, and enjoy sharing meals in groups. Some of the characters are even willing to set their differences with friends and family aside—at least for a little while—when it comes time to cozy up to the table for some good food and conversation.
Food is so often a universal language that brings people together and helps them connect. The connections in our books might occur over a boisterous dinner featuring a big group eating homemade Guinness beef stew, but they might also happen in a more intimate setting, like an impromptu picnic of cookies and beer for two on someone’s half made bed.
We can go a little overboard with the descriptions, which we suspect occurs if we’ve been writing while hungry. As our beta readers go through a book, they often make suggestions to trim a section that involves food or remove some of the details of a meal the characters are eating. We writers then typically debate the comments at length before we cut anything out. Because food.
We know there are readers out there who are much less interested in every last detail of the food and drinks the characters enjoy, so we want to keep it balanced. Setting the scene is important, but we also want the scenes to help develop the characters and move the plot forward. In the end, we want to tell a really great story, and we do our best to determine how many words we spend on everything in it.
Incidentally, we have plans for a book about a chef in the near future. Our tendencies to go cheerfully overboard with the food talk may come in handy then!
About With a Twist
Nursing a broken heart, Will Martin throws himself into teaching classes at NYU and writing. An invite from his ex-boyfriend to an uptown speakeasy called Under surprises Will by beginning to heal his bruised spirit, and he finds himself enjoying both the drinks and the company.
Soon after, Will is shaken by news that his father, Republican New York State Senator Bill Martin, has been diagnosed with cancer. Will and his father have been estranged since Will’s coming out, but he reluctantly returns to the family’s home in Garden City, Long Island, to support his family as Bill recovers from surgery.
Senator David Mori is a colleague and mentee of Bill Martin’s. Bill’s conservative views sometimes conflict with David’s more moderate politics and his status as both mixed race and openly gay, but each respects and likes each other, and the men have built a friendship.
Sparks fly when Will and David meet, though Will’s liberal views lead to clashes with David. Will is looking for a no-strings-attached fling and David is leery of getting involved with his mentor’s son, so they keep their affair a secret, in spite of their deepening feelings.
As Senator Martin’s health worsens, Will elects to remain in Garden City where he finds solace with David and continued trips to Under to seek the support of his friends. After David finally admits his feelings have grown beyond a casual sexual encounter, both men must decide how to bridge the divide to create a future together.
Reader Advisory: This book contains expressions of homophobia and racism by multiple secondary characters, references to disownment, and descriptions of terminal illness and death of secondary characters.
An Excerpt from With a Twist
“Senator Mori, please, come in.”
Greta sounded very pleased as she welcomed David into the house. Will stifled a sigh and set his tablet on the side table in the sunroom. The man was handsome, but, with the exception of LGBTQ issues, he frequently voted like a typical moderate Republican robot. Will hadn’t worked out exactly how he’d been roped into having dinner with his father’s colleague, but, unfortunately, he couldn’t back out now.
Actually, Will mused, I know exactly how I was roped into this. Agnes Martin had said they were having a small dinner and insinuated it would be rude of him not to join them. By the time Will realized his mother had invited David, he couldn’t refuse. Even if Will had had been able to, he owed David an apology. He had been rude to David the first time they’d met.
Will had also googled him and been relieved to learn David wasn’t ultra-conservative but he still couldn’t wrap his head around a gay man aligning himself with a political party actively trying to damage their community. If Will was being honest, David’s relationship with Will’s father bothered him more. He was envious and resentful of the closeness they had. And hurt. Why did his father appear so much more accepting of David’s sexuality than Will’s? The rejection stung bitterly and made Will want to lash out and make David feel as terrible as he did.
But no matter how he felt, it didn’t excuse his behavior. He stood and headed for the foyer.
Will caught a glimpse of David, who stood talking with Greta. If only the man weren’t so infuriatingly good-looking. Will couldn’t think of the last time he’d found a man so attractive, even Riley.
To Will’s surprise, David wasn’t alone. A medium-sized black and white dog with fawn- colored stripes on its legs and a tail that curled up onto its back stood by David’s side. He held the leash loosely in one hand.
“Hello, David.” Will stuck out a hand for him to shake. David’s expression was friendly and his hands were large and strong around Will’s long, narrow fingers.
“Nice to see you, Will.”
“You as well.” Ignoring how good David’s skin felt against his, Will dropped his hand.
Greta patted his arm. “I’m going to go help your mother get food on the table.”
“Thanks, Greta. I’ll walk David back to the patio in a moment.” After Greta disappeared down the hallway, Will turned his attention to the animal sitting calmly at David’s feet.
“I see you brought a date,” Will said with a small smile. He was such a sucker for dogs. Not to mention hot men with dogs. He crouched and held out a hand. “Hello there, gorgeous.”
“Her name’s Mabel.”
She sniffed him delicately before pushing her snout into his hand in greeting. He laughed and looked up at David as he scratched Mabel behind the ears. David stared down at them with an expression both perplexed and amused.
“She’s beautiful,” Will murmured. “Husky mix?”
David nodded. “Husky and Shiba-Inu mix. Or so said the guy I got her from. She’s mixed like me.”
Will blinked at him and David laughed softly. “Sorry. I’m Japanese on my father’s side, and a whole range of European countries on my mom’s. My brother-in-law is always on me about the jokes my sister and I make about being mixed race. The jokes make him uncomfortable.”
“Your candor took me by surprise.” Will cleared his throat. “How old is Mabel?”
“Two—no, two and a half. I’ve had her since she was a pup.”
Mabel let out a whine and licked Will’s forearm as if pointing out he’d stopped petting her. Will chuckled and resumed.
“Do you have any pets, Will?”
He shook his head and gave Mabel a final pat before he stood. “I live in Manhattan and my building doesn’t allow it.”
David nodded. “I think she’s enjoying the move from Queens to Long Island. She seems to like the beaches and canals quite a bit.”
“When did you move from Queens?”
“A few years ago. On your father’s recommendation, actually.”
“Hmm.” Will made a noncommittal noise. He wasn’t sure what to make of the relationship his father and David had. David’s race wasn’t an issue. Neither of his parents had ever shown themselves to be racially intolerant, although Will had a vivid memory from high school of arguing with his parents about why using the term ‘Oriental’ was really, really inappropriate. At worst, they were occasionally clueless, but even then, they’d listened to his argument and made an effort to change.
Sexuality was a different story, however. How could Bill be vehemently against his own son’s sexual orientation but have no problem working side-by-side with a gay man? And inviting him to his house for meals? Will bristled, but he forced himself to tamp down the irritation. That reminded him, he still needed to apologize to David.
Will cleared his throat. “Uh, before we head back to the patio, I wanted to say I’m sorry about the way I behaved when you were here earlier this week. My temper got the better of me, and I hope you can forgive me.”
“Of course. No hard feelings.” David gave him a warm, open smile.
Will’s mother appeared before he could say anything else. “What on earth are you two still doing in the foyer? Let David in, Will.”
“I was getting to know his dog, Mabel,” Will said, feeling slightly abashed. Apparently, all of his manners did go out of the window when he encountered David.
Agnes regarded the dog with a soft sound of delight. “Oh, she is lovely. Even prettier than the pictures you sent me. I am so glad you asked to bring her. You probably felt like you needed a guard dog to fend off the cats. I am so embarrassed Fluffers used your shoe as a litter box.”
A laugh escaped Will before he could stop it. “That old thing is still alive? I haven’t seen him around outside and I assumed he’d died.”
Agnes frowned at him. “Fluffers is very much alive. Just getting a bit senile these days. Thankfully, David was very gracious about it.”
David chuckled. “One should always expect the unexpected when it comes to pets and kids.”
“You are correct.” Agnes smiled at him. “Now, I want both of you to come back to the patio. Appetizers are on the table.”
About the Authors
K. Evan Coles is a mother and tech pirate by day and a writer by night. She is a dreamer who, with a little hard work and a lot of good coffee, coaxes words out of her head and onto paper.
K. lives in the northeast United States, where she complains bitterly about the winters, but truly loves the region and its diverse, tenacious and deceptively compassionate people. You’ll usually find K. nerding out over books, movies and television with friends and family. She’s especially proud to be raising her son as part of a new generation of unabashed geeks.
K.’s books explore LGBTQ+ romance in contemporary settings.
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Brigham Vaughn is on the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.
Her books range from short stories to novellas. They explore gay, lesbian, and polyamorous romance in contemporary settings.
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