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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Convention Etiquette for Vampires

I just returned from ConDuit, which was great fun. I'm also dead tired. So here, straight from the dungeons of my brain, come some rules if you happen to be a vampire at a SF/F con:

1. NO SPARKLING IN PUBLIC! This labels you as an emo vampire. You will be nailed to the nearest wall for humiliation, shame, and mockery if you admit your status as a sparkly fairy-vamp. Either that, or you will be sold as a Barbie slave.

2. No sucking up to guests, unless they invite you. I know you're hungry and the hospitality suite just doesn't stock much B-, but use a little restraint. Most guests don't want to be stalked by rabid fans or hungry vampires. Those that do, will let you know their preferences.

3. Don't worry about sunlight. Most cons take place in hotels that shun any hint of daylight. The vast majority of rooms have no windows. Those that do are heavily draped in light-blocking curtains. If you do catch a stray beam, blame the smoking on special-effects. Otherwise you may be sent outside to smoke since hotels are normally smoke-free zones. This would be bad, very bad.

4. Did I mention NO SPARKLING? Most SF/F fans prefer their vampires traditional. Keep the sparkling a secret or you will suffer.

5. Don't worry about being yourself in public. Let your fangs show. Wear your silk waistcoat. Most con attendees appreciate good make-up and wardrobes. They will never suspect yours are not fakes.

6. Let your hair down a little. Cons don't stand on much formality. You can really cut loose at an SF/F con. They will appreciate your wit and style. Or they might mock you mercilessly. Flash your fangs a few times and quote Dracula and you should be fine.

7. Relax and enjoy yourself. Use the con as a break from your usual routine of intimidation, fear-mongering, and seducing susceptible young maidens with the IQ's of potato chips. Have a stimulating conversation with other attendees on the merits of horror fiction or space travel or the eternal question of "boxers or briefs". You might be surprised at the insights you receive.

8. Finally, NO SPARKLING! Really. Don't even try.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Ginger Honey Chews

I love Gingersnaps and Gingerbread, but I hate working with molasses. So one year, when our beehive had been extra productive, I looked at the bottles of crystallizing honey and thought, "Honey is thick and sticky and tastes sweet. I wonder if you can use it in place of molasses?" Turns out it works beautifully.

These cookies have a lighter color and taste than the traditional molasses version. They stay soft and chewy for several days, if they last that long. I like mine spicy, so if you aren't a big fan of ginger, feel free to cut down on the spice.

Ginger Honey Chews

2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. honey
2 eggs
4 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. ginger
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2 c. white flour
2 c. wheat flour

Cream sugar, butter, and shortening. Add honey. Beat until mixed. Add eggs, soda, spices, and salt. Cream until light and well mixed. Stir in flours. The dough should be slightly soft, but not sticky. Add another 1/4 - 1/2 c. white flour if needed. Scoop into balls, roll in granulated sugar if desired. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Makes about 6 dozen.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Warning, possible venting session in progress

Maybe I'm just overtired, stressed, and suffering from allergies. Or maybe not. Two small things this morning have triggered a rant session.

First, I mentioned a favorite author on a sci-fi list. Her books get slammed as flawed because she has a very minor sidestory romance. I respect that other people may not want human emotion in their SF, but I write space opera romance. Okay, that one *is* due to lack to sleep and too much benadryl. I'm just going to be careful what opinions I air on that list.

Second, I made what I considered a reasonable request. We just recently upgraded our planetarium to a digital version with all sorts of incredible features. One of these is the ability to display beautiful artwork of the constellations. My problem? We work with mostly 10-14 year-old children. I live in a very conservative, religious area. Some of the constellations are basically naked. Anyone who works with pre-teens knows that will trigger giggling and raunchy jokes. When that happens, you've lost the group. Good luck teaching them anything. I posted on the planetarium website if it was possible to add clothing. Basically, I get told I'm the one with a problem. I personally don't really care, but I know what's going to happen if any parent gets wind of their child being exposed to a naked woman in our planetarium. Like I said, we're a very religious, conservative area. We're going to get chewed out by the school district. Big time. *NOT* something my boss wants to deal with.

So, for now, the pretty pictures are going to be used VERY conservatively. Much as I appreciate your artwork, whoever you are that drew them, I'm sorry. I work for a school district. I can't afford to rock the boat and unfortunately, mostly naked women in the planetarium are going to do that.

It's a shame, really. I love the system and what it can do. I hate that I now have to censor that part of it simply because someone won't put a few more draperies on the women.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Recommendations

Check out the book lists and book recommendations on Flashlight Worthy Books.
 
I've found some fun titles there.

Children's Books Mashups

I blame The Spectacle for this one. A discussion of Logan's Run turned into a version based on the horrible children's classic primers - Look, look. See, see. See Logan. Logan is running. Run, Logan, run. Oh, oh. See Timmy run. Bad Timmy. Timmy is over 30. Timmy must die. See Logan shoot Timmy. Bad Logan. Mother will not like the mess. See Logan turn 30. See Logan run. Run, Logan, run. Run, run, run.

Um, yeah. I blame the Benadryl and my migraine. So what other mashups can you dream up involving children's books and classic sci-fi?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Rhubarb Pie

I blame my friend who posted a rhubarb recipe and got me drooling. My rhubarb isn't quite big enough yet. I'm going to have to be patient.

For those of you who have never experienced rhubarb, it's a great perennial plant. It grows long stalks with huge leaves, very pretty in a shady, damp spot of your yard. Rhubarb loves to be cool and damp.

The edible portion of the plant is the stalk. Don't eat the leaves! It tends to be bitter when raw. Much better cooked.

Rhubarb Cobbler Pie (the easy version)

4 c. rhubarb stalks, sliced into thin pieces like celery
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. allspice or nutmeg
1 9" pie crust (homemade is best, but refrigerated also works)

Mix rhubarb, sugar, flour, and spices. Mound in pie pan. Cover top with single crust, crimping to edges. Cut slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400° for 45 - 55 minutes, until pie is bubbling and crust is golden. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before devouring.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Look! I'm the White Rabbit!

I certainly feel like the white rabbit lately. So much to do, so little time, hurry, hurry. I'm late, late, late! My to-do lists have exploded. Yep, multiple lists. One for my day job, one for my mommy job, one for the house, one for my sewing project, one for my writing projects, and one for marketing my writing.

I want Alice, from the Brady Bunch not Wonderland, to move in with me. I can hand her half my lists. But that's not going to happen. Instead, I'll keep plugging away, doing the best I can. It's all we can ask of ourselves.

To quote the motto of a famous organization (which is also on my to-do list this week): On my honor, to do my best...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Oregano

Instead of just giving a recipe today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite herbs. I love oregano. It makes a great groundcover. The plants spread quickly (be warned!), grow easily in just about any soil, and are very attractive. I'm trying to encourage mine to choke out the grass. They grow about six inches and have tiny purple flowers when they bloom. When the oregano starts looking scruffy, we just mow it. Within a week, it's looking great again. So think about it for a moment - if I replace my lawn with oregano, it only needs mowed about three times a summer, it's very attractive (dark green with purple flowers, what's not to like?), smells heavenly, needs a lot less water, thrives well enough to choke out just about any weed, and I can cook with it. I'm all for an oregano lawn. It just isn't very kind to bare feet.


To prepare fresh oregano, simply pluck a few stems, rinse with water, then strip off the leaves to use. Discard the stems. If they are too tough, use a pair of scissors and snip them off. For some recipes, you can just wash the whole stem and use it. Discard before serving.

Oregano rice is one of my favorites. The flavor is subtle but so good with roast pork or chicken.

2 c. rice (long grain, short grain, brown, white, whatever you like, EXCEPT for instant. Follow the directions on the box if you are using that kind.)
4 c. hot water
1 t. salt
1 T. butter
3 stalks fresh oregano (for stronger flavor, pick stems that are blooming, leave the flowers on the stem)

Place everything in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-23 minutes for white rice, 40 - 50 minutes for brown. Don't lift the lid to check doneness until the time is just about up. Tip: when the water is mostly absorbed, test the rice by tasting a few grains. If they are still hard in the middle, cover and let them cook for 3 - 5 more minutes longer. When done, remove from heat. Tilt the lid to one side to let steam escape. Let sit for 5 minutes. Remove oregano and serve.

Try using fresh oregano in tomato sauces or Italian dishes.

Fried Noodles (great for leftover noodles)

4 c. cooked macaroni, spaghetti, bowties, whatever you've got
1 T. butter
2 T. fresh oregano leaves
2 T. grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: chopped onion, green pepper, mushrooms

Melt butter in large skillet. Add noodles. Fry over high heat until noodles are crackling and just starting to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes. Toss with oregano and parmesan. Add salt and pepper. Serve hot. If adding vegetables, stir in with the noodles. You can also add cooked sausage, pepperoni, scrambled eggs, cherry tomatoes, pretty much anything you'd order on a pizza.

Have fun with oregano!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Character Shows

Some interesting food for thought last weekend. First, I've been attending CoyoteCon, an online writers conference. It's been great, lots of good advice, fun panels, and friends. Second, I received my first fan email from someone I have no personal connection with. Third, I ran across this blog post by Brian Hodge. I've come away with a very important lesson.

Character matters. Who you are shows, no matter how hard you try to hide it. Within a few minutes, usually by the end of their introduction, I could tell which of the guests at CoyoteCon were genuinely nice people and which ones were there to feed their ego. It's a normal mix for a con and not one I'm going to judge, but I've noticed a trend with successful authors. To quote a quote from Brian's post, “Money doesn’t change you. It just reveals who you are when you don’t have to be nice.” Most big-name authors I've met are wonderful, kind, generous people. Some, unfortunately, are not.

So we come to my fan mail. I'm new in the publishing world. This fan was kind enough to read the free stories on my website and drop me an email letting me know she particularly enjoyed one of the stories. As an author, I was thrilled to hear from her and thrilled that she liked my work enough to comment on it. I sent her a reply thanking her, and wishing her well with her writing. I'm not the best correspondent, just ask my family, but I can try.

Then I read Brian's post. He very eloquently makes an important point, character matters. How many extremely successful actors, writers, sports heroes, politicians, etc. are genuinely nice people? I really don't know. It's only the bad behavior that makes the news, and unfortunately, there is a lot of it out there.

I work part-time doing customer support for an iPhone app company. Courtesy matters. A polite request or complaint is more likely to get you results although I can't always give you what you want. I'm also involved with the Boy Scouts of America as a merit badge counselor and Cub leader. Again, character matters. BSA's mission is to build character in youth by teaching them respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, cleanliness, faith, and self-reliance.

Character matters. Virtues that our society has neglected and discarded matter. Let's return to the days of common courtesy and integrity. Starting with me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sunbonnet Cthulu or How a Comic Horror Author does Quilts


I did take a quilt class once, a "block of the month" one. The theme was "Get out of the box." My hardest part? Staying inside their box making the quilt block with the colors and patterns they suggested.



I dropped out after having a disagreement over what bright colors really were. Apparently pastel pink and purple and light blue are bright. Not in my book. This is bright:
This is only the layout picture. I'll have to post a finished picture after I take one. And some pics of other quilts I've made. BTW, my daughter absolutely loves this quilt. And yes, those are mostly food prints.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bad visual pun

Sorry, I couldn't resist this. I blame my daughter.

Happy sink o' de mayo, everyone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Early Recipe Post for Coyote Con - Slow Cooker Pot Roast & Slow Cooker Bread Pudding

http://coyotecon.com/ - online speculative fiction convention running every weekend in May.

Imagine yourself stranded in the wilderness, far from civilization. What is your first concern? Shelter, a place to keep warm and dry. Second? Water and food. Third? A good story to pass the time, of course.

Storytelling is a basic human need. We crave imaginative tales that entertain and instruct. Those who say they are too old for stories are truly to be pitied. No one should ever be too old to enjoy a good bed-time story.

Or a good meal.

Food is to the stomach what a good story is to the mind. Both should be relished, enjoyed, savored, and shared. Please enjoy two of my favorite crockpot recipes while you attend CoyoteCon. Or while you curl up with your favorite book. After all, crockpots take much of the work out of creating a wonderful meal and fill your house with delectable smells leaving you free to fill your other basic needs.

Old-Fashioned Pot Roast

6 c. carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
8 c. potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
2 - 3 lb beef chuck roast
1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths
1/2 c. ketchup or catsup, depending on what part of the country you're from
1/4 c. prepared mustard, as spicy as you like
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. paprika

Place carrots and potatoes in the bottom of a 4 or 5 quart crockpot or slow cooker, place roast on top. Spread onion on top of roast. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over meat. Cooker should be almost completely filled, you need a little bit of room or the juices will bubble out during cooking. Cover and cook on high 2 hours. Turn to low and cook another 4 - 8 hours until roast is fork-tender. Remove roast to a serving platter, salt to taste. Serve with vegetables on the side.

Sunshine Bread Pudding

1 loaf cinnamon raisin bread
2 c. milk
4 eggs
1/4 c. honey

Crumble bread into a 3 quart crockpot or slow cooker. Beat milk, eggs, and honey until blended. Pour over bread. Cover and cook on low 5 - 6 hours until custardy and set. It will be softer than if you baked it in a traditional oven. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teaser story

Just for fun, and because it's late and I've been sick, here's a teaser for you. I won an award for characterization for this micro-short story. The guidelines for the contest were: Tell a complete story in no more than three sentences. Run-on sentences will be repunctuated. I had too much fun with this one:

God said, “Let there be light.”
The universe paused, then rearranged the laws of physics to accommodate nuclear fusion.
And there was light.

Happy Monday, sorry it's late.