Today, I’m once again welcoming the lovely A.L. Lester to my blog, who’s here to talk about the new Celtic Myth collection release, Surfacing Again. I’m told there are otters and ladies and mouthwatering baked goods in this story, and since that sounds fabulous, I’m gonna go read it now. Why don’t you join me? 🙂
Surfacing Again: Cinnamon and Apple Muffins
Thank you so much for having me here today to visit, Nell! I am popping in to tell everyone that I have a new short story out for the holidays.
Surfacing Again is part of my contemporary Celtic myth collection and is a short sapphic Christmas story. Like the others in the collection it’s based on an old British tale that has some connection to creatures; and this time I’ve chosen St Cuthbert and the legend about otters coming and drying him after he’d been standing in the sea praying. It’s a very low heat story with more scenes with otters than actual kissing; and it turned out to be a cozy meet-cute, which isn’t my usual style at all!
Rowan, the woman Melinda meets as she’s stranded on the island of Lindisfarne for Christmas owns a café and one of her specials at this time of year is Cinnamon and Apple Muffins. Here’s her recipe! I hope you like them. They keep for a couple of days in an airtight container and will also freeze.
Rowan’s café is a tiny affair on a corner in the village of Lindisfarne. Lindisfarne is a little island of the north-east coast of England and is tidal. You can cross the causeway by car or on foot when the tide is low and then you have to wait out the high tide before you can get back to the mainland. Rowan serves breakfast, lunch and snacks and sometimes her opening hours are a bit random, depending on the tide. Her muffin recipe is one of her best sellers!
Makes 12 large muffins or 16 ordinary sized.
- 2 tsp cinnamon or ginger
- 100g sultanas
- Table spoon of soft brown sugar for apples
- Soft brown sugar or sprinkling on muffins before placing oven
- Vanilla extract 2drops
- 2 medium eggs
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 250ml semi-skimmed milk or thin plain yoghurt
- 175g golden caster sugar or soft light brown
- 400g self-raising flour (or same quantity plain flour and 3 tsp baking powder)
Follow the instructions:
1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Line 2 muffin trays with paper muffin cases.
2. In a small sauce pan place sultanas and apple table spoon of water, cinnamon/ginger and 1 table spoon of soft brown sugar bring to a simmer about 5 min then leave to cool
3. In a large bowl beat the eggs lightly. Add the oil and milk /yoghurt and beat until just combined then add the sugar and whisk until you have a smooth batter. Sift in the flour and salt (and baking powder if using) then mix until just smooth. Be careful not to over-mix the batter as this will make the muffins tough. Stir in apple and dried fruit mix
4. Fill muffin cases two-thirds full and bake for 20-25 mins, Little longer if ex large until risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave the muffins in the tin to cool for a few mins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Surfacing Again is the fourth of my Celtic retellings, the first one that features a lesbian couple (and otters!). I really hope you enjoy it. You can find the others on my website. Or read on for an excerpt!
Melinda is staying on Lindisfarne for a Christmas break with her old friend when an unexpected argument leaves her alone for the holiday.
It’s the first Christmas since her mother died and the island’s peace and wild tranquillity bring balm to her wounded heart. Two chance meetings, first with a pair of wary otters and then with cafe-owner Rowan, bring her genuine joy.
Will her tentative relationship with Rowan survive the end of her holiday and the turning of the year?
A short sapphic Christmas story. With otters.
Excerpt from Surfacing Again
“You look like you could do with a hot drink. Your lips are blue,” the small woman wrapped in the huge green apron said. She was sweeping the windswept grey pavement outside the little cafe on the corner in the village as Melinda peered through the window at the menu, wondering whether they were open.
“Are you serving?” she asked.
The woman was about her own age, with a geometric blonde haircut and an impish expression as she looked at Lin over her broom.
“I’m not actually open for another couple of hours,” she said, smiling and leaning the broom against the wall. “But come inside while I set up. You must be frozen. It’s a bitter wind.”
Melinda smiled at her. “Why are you bothering to brush the pavement then?” she asked.
The other woman smiled again. “Habit,” she said. “It’s habit. I like my routines. Come on, come in. I’ve lit the log burner already, so it’s toasty inside.”
There were a couple of sofas set at angles in front of the log burner and a few small tables squeezed in around them. It really was a tiny cafe, probably converted from someone’s front room that had been knocked through into the room behind at some time in the past.
“Here,” her saviour said. “Sit down, take your coat off. “What would you like to drink? I’ve got…well, anything really. Tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate?”
“Tea would be wonderful, actually,” Lin said. “I haven’t had any yet this morning. I got up early to watch the sunrise.” She was determined to make the most of her stay on the island of Lindisfarne, despite the drama of the last couple of days.
The other woman flashed her another grin before she could get too lost in her thoughts. “It was beautiful this morning,” she said. “I’m Rowan,” she said in a friendly fashion, going behind the counter and putting a kettle on.
“I’m Lin,” Melinda said. “Is this your place?” She hunched forward and stretched out her frosty hands to the fire.
“Yes. Me and my girlfriend started it a couple of years ago, but it’s just me now.” She shot Lin a sidelong glance.
Melinda smiled back. “It’s lovely,” she said. “Very cosy.”
“It’s tiny, but it works. I live upstairs.” She nodded toward the back of the cafe where there was a closed door beside the one that led out to the kitchen, presumably leading to some stairs. “We only do drinks and cakes, and soup and sandwiches and breakfast rolls; a very limited menu. But it’s all people need if they’ve come over to the island for the day. No-one wants to waste time with a full sit-down lunch.”
She put a tray with a pot of tea, a jug of milk, and two mugs down on the low table between the sofas, sinking into the one opposite Lin.
Lin nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. It’s quieter at this time of year, though?”
“Yes, very much so. Although it can get busy now for a bit, around Christmas. And people stay in the self-catering properties and guest houses all year round, obviously. If I didn’t need the income to live, I’d say I prefer it when it’s quieter.” She said that with an open smile. “Present company excepted, of course!”
She leaned forward and poured them each a cup of tea. She seemed to have all the time in the world to chat to a random stranger she’d rescued from the freezing morning.
About A. L. Lester
Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.
She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.