Check out my fiction - http://www.jaletac.com
Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thursday Recipe - GF DF Ranch Potatoes

My daughter adores potatoes. She loves them baked as little chunks with flavorings and everything else. But she's allergic to wheat and dairy so most of the coated potato recipes won't work. I came up with these the other night for dinner. She said they were delicious. I don't know if they really were because I'm allergic to potatoes so I didn't eat any.

The joys of cooking multiple meals every meal...

Ranch Potatoes (GF and Dairy-free)

2-3 lbs of potatoes, cut into large chunks
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. dried GF bread crumbs
1 t. salt
1 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. dried dill weed (not seeds!)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F.

Put potatoes in a gallon ziploc bag. Add everything else in the order listed. Seal up the bag and shake it really good for a few minutes until all the potatoes are coated.

Dump onto a large baking sheet. Spread out into a single layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through and the bottom develops a crunchy crust.

Serve hot with ketchup, bbq sauce, fry sauce, or ranch dressing.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Interview - Scott James Magner


Please welcome Scott James Magner to The Far Edge of Normal!

Scott James Magner is a writer, editor, designer, developer, and worldbuilder. In addition to his published fiction, his work appears in tabletop and online role-playing games, card games, miniatures games, and board games. He has a passion for movies and classic science fiction, and spends his days tweaking and twisting new universes.

Twitter:  @SJMagner
Video Games:  http://www.enmasse.com/
Blog/Website:  www.scottjamesmagner.com

You write video games. Tell me more about that.
It’s nice work if you can get it. (insert laugh.) But seriously, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had getting paid. Every day is a challenge, and the result is something literally millions of people have enjoyed. 

How does writing a video game story differ from a book?
It’s a lot like writing a movie script, without that pesky need to describe the scene. You’re free to focus on developing characters and plotlines, knowing that you’ve got level designers at your back to make the world pop. 

Here’s an example. I wrote an original plot for a game once, then went back to writing the day-to day stuff that makes the video game world happen. Then out of nowhere, my plot was in the game, with quests and monsters and BAM right there on the screen, transformed into a play experience I could never imagine on my own. To then come in after those great designers and craft a fully realized story to go with their work is/was exhilarating, and 8 years later I’m still working on that game.

The money’s nice too. I like having electricity, food, clean water. That sort of thing.

Anything else you’d like to add about writing video games?
I think all novelists should give it a try. It’s really strengthened my dialog skills. I also think many writers would benefit from >playing< video games, specifically to observe the pacing of quests and how to reveal information through plot without exposition dumps.

What got you into video games in the first place?
I’d spent a few years doing marketing work, and not writing. After the global downturn in 2008, I found myself with quite a bit of time on my hands, so I started writing again. 

About the time I was running out of money, a friend got hired to build a team of writers for a game. I told her if she needed a story guy, I was her man. Three days later I had a contract, and it’s been a crazy decade of worldspinning ever since.

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
I primarily write science fiction, though half of my output is considered fantasy.

I believe science fiction is the art of the possible, that if you can explain why or how something happens in your story, it’s a better fit for that audience. Big, epic spectacles like STAR WARS are pure heroic fantasy, with magic (the Force), enchanted weapons (lightsabers), and iconic heroes and villains. That George Lucas’ intent was essentially to write Flash Gordon fanfic is not lost on me, but he hit the world’s need for pure escapism right on the head, and certainly didn’t miss me with the blow.

I mention this, since my novel HOMEFRONT is essentially George Lucas fanfic writ large. I think it’s the finest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m still writing new stuff in that universe. I’m also quite proud of BLOOD AND ASHES, my true romance tale with gladiators fighting zombies, on the last day of Pompeii.

So yeah, science fiction. 

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
To relax, I meditate, play video games, read, and listen to music. I watch anything genre-related on television, including crime dramas (I also write horror and mysteries).

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
When it’s time to write, my brain won’t let me do anything else. I’m never really “blocked” but there are days when the words aren’t there. Even then I can bang out a few chapter outlines, with the goal of coming back to them when the time is right.

I do have a playlist of loud, shout-along music I use for writing big scenes in my space opera books. And since we live in the future, my Echo or iPhone can provide it wherever I go!

WRITING
Apache The Incredible Bongo Band
Paint it, Black The Rolling Stones
War Edwin Starr
Pacific Rim Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim Soundtrack)
Breathe The Prodigy
Gipsy Danger Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim Soundtrack)
Crazy Train Metalachi
Rearviewmirror Pearl Jam
The Breach Ramin Djawadi (Pacific Rim Soundtrack)
Battle in the James Horner (ST II: TWoK Soundtrack)
Mutara Nebula
Rebel Yell Billy Idol
What A Day That Talking Heads
Was
Love You Madly Cake

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
Medea Cat is not amused by this question. All hoomans must have cats.

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Nobody’s going to write your story for you, and only you can tell it the right way.

I belong to a few professional organizations, but they’re not really for writers who are just starting out. Despite the craziness, I recommend online groups on facebook, tumblr, or wherever your tribe gathers. Meet some people with similar interests and skill levels, then develop your craft by writing stories and sending them out. First for critiques, then for publication.

Rejection stings, but it really does is make you stronger.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
As soon as I found out people got paid for writing books, I knew that was what I was going to do with my life.

So in no particular order (and certainly not an exhaustive list), Jack Chalker, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Vonda McIntyre, Carl Sagan, Ralph Ellison, Madeline d’Engle, Walt Whitman, Ivan Turgenev, Charles Dickens, Harper Lee, H.G.Wells, A.A. Milne, R.A. Montgomery, Mary Shelley, Jeff Grubb, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, Anne McCaffrey, Steve Barnes, Steve Perry, Gene Roddenberry, Julius and Phillip Epstein, Dalton Trumbo, Alice Adams…

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit? I’d go forward, rather than back. I want a future full of hope, not a past tangled in lies and misdirection.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
I’ve written telepathic space aliens, spies, popes, emperors, medieval knights, and gladiators, so it’s a bit hard to pick.

But truth be told, I’d pick a character from one of my best received, yet criminally unpublished short stories, a grizzled old cowboy superhero who’d just like to save the world, if only the world would let him.

We’d drink shots.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
In the 60’s, we sent men to another world, then left it behind because we had poor ratings. The fact that we don’t have a working moonbase is infuriating to me, and I’d love to go there for a day, an hour, a lifetime.

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Blue. Colorful enough to complement, dark enough to blend in anywhere.

Describe your dream writing spot.
Someplace cool and comfortable, with no distractions I don’t bring in myself.
So, Moonbase.

Sounds like a great place to write. What an interesting life you have! Thanks for sharing it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday Recipe - NoMato Sauce

I recently realized I was allergic to the whole nightshade family. This means no tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, chilies, or paprika. It's made my life so much harder. Almost every sauce has tomatoes in it. Paprika is in EVERYTHING.

NoMato Pizza before cheese
Mexican is pretty much right off my menu. Italian isn't far behind.

Except there are people out there who have developed a sauce that is very similar to tomato sauce. I was skeptical, but I miss tomato sauce a lot more than I thought I would. The sauce takes quite a bit of prep, but it makes a large batch and can be frozen. It also tastes surprisingly like spaghetti sauce.

My tummy is happy. I had spaghetti AND pizza tonight. And no tomatoes or peppers in sight.

I took several different recipes and kind of mixed them up together to make what I could without weird ingredients. Here's my version -

NoMato Sauce

1 large onion, chopped
4-6 large cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 T. butter
4 large carrots, shredded
4-6 large crimini mushrooms, chopped (the brown ones, although the white ones would work, too)
1 T. Better Than Bouillon Chicken Flavor
1 1/2 c. hot water
1 c. cubed butternut squash
1 can of diced beets (DON'T drain)
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. Italian seasoning herb mix
1-2 T. lemon juice

In a large slow cooker (3-4 quarts), melt butter. Add onions and garlic. Cook on HIGH for about an hour, until onion is soft and starting to brown.

Add carrots, mushrooms, bouillon, and water. Cook for another 1-2 hours, until carrots are mostly cooked. Add squash. Cook another 1-2 hours, until squash is falling apart and carrots are very soft.

Turn off the heat. Using a stick blender, cream the vegetables. Add the beets with liquid, salt, and pepper. Use the blender until the beets are blended in and the sauce is a dark reddish orange color. Stir in more water if the sauce is too thick, but not too much or it will go watery and separate.

Stir in the Italian seasoning and lemon juice. Add more if you like a sharper zing to the sauce, less if you like it more earthy.

Use as you would tomato sauce - over noodles or spaghetti, on bread for pizza, in lasagna, etc.

NOTE: if you cook it after you add the beets, the color fades. So if you want the red sauce, don't add the beets until the last few minutes.

This makes a large batch - about 2 1/2 quarts of sauce. It can be frozen for longer storage, but it should last about a week in the fridge.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Author Interview - S Evan Townsend

Please welcome S Evan Townsend to The Far Edge of Normal!
S. Evan Townsend has been called "America's Unique Speculative Fiction Voice" and writes novels that cause thrills and rapid page-turning. After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives in central Washington State with his wife and has three grown sons. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel. He currently has ten published fantasy and science fiction novels. You can learn more about him at his website sevantownsend.com.

How can we find you? 

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
I prefer to write science fiction with as much science fact as possible. Although I have written five fantasy novels (of my ten total published novels), science fiction is my favorite. Asking which books are my favorite are like asking which of my children is my favorite. But I am partial to Agents of Artifice (a fantasy) and Treasure of the Black Hole (science fiction).

Treasure of the Black Hole is the first book in a series of three including Treasure of the Pirate Planet and Treasure of the Rogue Moon. I am planning a three-novel prequel series to that series. The first novel, Chumba of the Intelligence Corps: The Smugglers of Mars is in edits. The second book I've started writing the first draft. The third book is swirling around in my brain.

Those sound like a lot of fun! I can't wait for the new one to come out. What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
My hobby is basically writing. I'm lucky that way. To relax I watch movies via Netflix disc service (dvd.com). I'm also a huge Jeopardy fan. I tried out for Jeopardy once in 1989. I didn't make it. I had to travel to Los Angeles to do that. Now they do it on line. I've tried twice and haven't made it. I guess I'm not smart enough.

I think you're just too smart for Jeopardy. What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist? 
I write to "Sound of the Fan" by Dell Computers

lol "All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
I don't think that's true. I never had a cat until September of 2017 when my son adopted a rescue cat from the shelter. Her name is Lily and she's a sweet but stubborn kitty.

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
I would recommend Toastmasters to anyone who wants to be a writer. It teaches you to speak in public with confidence and helps with interpersonal communication, something a lot of writers need help with. Also, see if you can hook up with a local writers' group for feedback, ideas, and camaraderie. 

What writers inspired you to become an author?
Larry Niven, Robert A. Heinlein, and Poul Andersen

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
The 1960s. I was a kid in the '60s and I always felt as if I missed out on a lot of fun.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve? 
Titus Chumba, aka Rick Bailey, from Treasure of the Black Hole. He would have a lot of stories to tell about his time in the Intelligence Corps of the Core Empire and his time as a private detective on Hayek IV. I'd serve steak and baked potatoes with steamed spinach. Why? Because that's my favorite dinner. And Titus has never had real steak.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
I would love to explore Europe: the fjords of Norway, the history (and wines and cars) of Italy, the autobahns of Germany, the architecture of Prague. 

I'll come with you when you go. Describe your dream writing spot.
A little office with a view of water and mountains and great internet service.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please go check out his books. They are worth a read!


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Spaghetti ala Carbonara with Karina Fabian

Please welcome guest chef, Karina Fabian to The Far Edge of Normal!


Karina Fabian, former Air Force officer, mother of four and wife to the best man ever, writes science fiction, fantasy, comedic horror and whatever else comes to mind. Her books are a blend of high stakes and low humor, running the gamut from serious novels about nuns working search and rescue operations in space to the comedic trials of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. She’s rebooting her DragonEye, PI series, which involved a dragon working as a private detective in the Mundane world. Her blog features a long-running Star Trek parody: Space Traipse: Hold My Beer, where the adventures are crazy and the humans even more so. Check out her website at http://fabianspace.com

Here's her story behind the recipe - 

One of the things I most looked forward to when joining the military was going overseas. Of course, I had not counted on meeting the man of my dreams only five months before I was assigned to San Vito, Italy! Rob and I met in January and got engaged in March, and I left the countryin May. I returned in November to get married and go back again. 

He was also an officer in the Air Force, and assigned to Texas. Thus began our two-year, intermittent honeymoon, where we saw each other for two weeks every six months, with half the time me traveling to the US and half him traveling to Italy.
One of his favorite Italian dishes was spaghetti ala carbonara – who can resist bacon and pasta? – but I was hard pressed to find a good recipe. Fortunately, one of my fellow flight commanders, a first generation Italian-American, understood the importance of good cooking in a marriage, and gifted me with a lovely Italian cookbook that had a great recipe. I’ve adapted it slightly over the years to the recipe you see here. It’s simpler, but still as good. How do I know? We’ll be happily married 28 years in November, and have four kids!

And the recipe -

Spaghetti ala Carbonara
Spaghetti
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¾ or 1 package of bacon (preferably thick cut), cut into one-inch squares
½ cup shredded Italian cheese (Italian mix will do; otherwise – parmesan & pecorino)
¼ cup heavy cream or canned milk
1 tsp black pepper
3 Tbs dry white wine (optional)
5 Tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
Feeds 4-6 people
Prepare Spaghetti (or any pasta) according to instructions on box.
Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and sauté the garlic until brown. Discard the garlic and add the bacon. 
  • With wine – cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and boil it off. Don’t let it get crispy. Set aside.
  • Without wine – cook 2-5 minutes until the bacon is a little softer than how you like it. Set aside.
In a large bowl (big enough to hold the spaghetti when done) beat the eggs and egg yolks. Add the cheese and the pepper. Mix, then add the milk. Go slowly on the milk until you get a consistency you like. (We prefer more egg and less milk at our house). If the bacon is warm but not too hot, add it and some of the olive oil.
When the spaghetti is done, drain it thoroughly, then add it to the mix. Toss well. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs partly so you get a yummy, thick sauce. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Author Interview - Jodi L Milner


Please welcome Jodi L Milner to The Far Edge of Normal!
Jodi L. Milner has been published in SQ Mag and several anthologies. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, will be published in Fall of 2018 by Immortal Works Press. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order. 
Website: http://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com/ 
Twitter: @JodiLMilner

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
I love being swept away by a good story, especially if there is magic involved. My stories almost all have magical elements including ancient magical beings, immortal societies, mythical islands, and people who can wield power for good or evil. 

My most exciting project is my first book, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, being released in November through Immortal Works Press. It’s a power-fueled coming-of-age story where Katira, a young healer’s apprentice, becomes a pawn in an ages old conflict between the immortal Stonebearer’s of the Khandashii and the Archdemoness Wrothe who wants to destroy them.

My favorite story currently available is The Skull Collector which was shortlisted in SQ Magazine’s 2017 International competition. It’s best described as a mashup between Moana and The Hunger Games. Even better, it’s available to read for free on their website. 

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
As a mom of three, I’ve only recently been able to fathom what it means to relax. For me it’s simple, I want to be somewhere alone where it’s quiet. Long walks are the best, especially if it’s somewhere beautiful. One of my favorite pastimes is reading and I wish I could find more quiet time alone to really dig into a good book. 

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
Music is an amazing tool to help get in the right mindset, especially when writing emotionally packed scenes. I love epic sweeping scores from movie soundtracks and video games. My two default Pandora stations are Epic Soundtracks and Two Steps from Hell.  

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
It’s funny, really. My professional life before becoming an author mom was working in veterinary medicine. I love kitty kisses and puppy snuggles and being squished by excited calves and piggies. However, due to allergies in my family I can’t have any furry friends in the house. We do have chickens which bring lots of happiness and breakfast omelets.

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
I’ve been part of League of Utah Writers for years and attribute my success and finding my “tribe” to the wonderful people I’ve met there. I’m currently president of the Oquirrh Writers Chapter in West Jordan and love mentoring writers of all abilities. My best bit of advice is for writers to give themselves permission to write badly and just get the story out. Once it’s written it’s so much easier to find ways to improve, edit, and make it awesome.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
Epic fantasy books made my awkward teenage years survivable. I voraciously read Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Douglas Adams, and countless more authors as a way to escape the stress. In a way, my writing now feels like paying it forward. If I can make life a little better for another lonely awkward teen, it’s worth it.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
This is my third year as the event director of Spring into Books, Utah’s Awesomest Author signing and mini writing workshop. This year’s event is June 2nd, 2-6pm at the library’s Viridian Event Center in West Jordan. There will be over 50 local authors in attendance, all selling and signing their books. This year’s headlining authors are Josi Kilpack and Wendy Knight. Learn more at LUWOC.com

I’m also a mentor for the Eagle Mountain Arts Con, Sept 22.

Describe your dream writing spot.
While I love my setup at my home, I dream of going somewhere far in the woods where it smells of pine and there are no people around for miles. Just me, a great story to work on, and hours with no interruptions. Bonus points is there is a bubbling stream nearby and a cooler full of my favorite snacks. 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jodi, and best of luck on your book release in November!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Ranch Chicken and Baked Onions

So this isn't quite a recipe. This is more of a plea for help. I never realized how many dishes had potatoes, tomatoes, and/or peppers in them. That includes chili powder and paprika. I was at an Indian restaurant with friends the other night and EVERYTHING on their menu had potatoes and/or tomatoes except the pakora. So I settled for eating pakora for dinner. Except it had peppers in the spice blend. Indian food is off my menu, unless I can figure out how to cook it without peppers.

Tonight, my kids are planning biscuits and gravy. No problem, except sausage has red pepper in it. I either get to make my own sausage with ground pork, or find something else for dinner.

Anyone have favorite recipes that are sans tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers? Please share them with me! Black peppercorns are fine, but not any of the other chilies or peppers. Eggplant is off the menu, too, but it's a lot easier to avoid.

I made Ranch Chicken last night that turned out pretty good. We wrapped it into tortillas and added baked onions, lettuce, and sour cream.

Ranch Chicken and Baked Onions

2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (the thin-sliced frozen ones are great because you don't have to thaw them and they cook more evenly than the lumpy ones)
1 large red onion, sliced into thick rings
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. dried dill weed (not seeds!)
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 c. GF bread crumbs, or dried bread crumbs of your choice, ground up croutons work well

Heat oven to 400°F.

Arrange chicken into a single layer in a 9x13 baking dish. Place onions in a covered casserole dish.

Mix garlic, onion, salt, parsley, dill, and black pepper. Sprinkle over the chicken. Sprinkle 2/3 c. of bread crumbs over the chicken. Sprinkle the other 1/3 c. on the onions. Put the lid on the onion casserole.

Bake the chicken uncovered and the onions covered for about 30-45 minutes, until the onion is very soft and the chicken is done.

This also works with tilapia or other fish fillets instead of chicken.