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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, June 28, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

If you spend too much time immersed in one topic, you either become an expert or you develop tunnel vision. I've been wrapped up in the publishing industry the last six months, to the point where I don't want to hear about self-publishing, the state of ebooks, the death of traditional publishing, editing, or anything else publishing related for at least a month.

Writing advice is going to land in the same bin for a while. Reading some of my early manuscripts, I had an epiphany. I used to enjoy writing, blithely making all sorts of "mistakes" in my plots, pacing, characters, and general writing. But the sheer joy of creation came through, loud and clear. The stories were fun to read.

If an author isn't enjoying the story and the characters, if they don't care about more than getting words on paper, it shows. Readers pick up on the vibes. The story is flat and lifeless. Maybe this is why so many books with mediocre writing do so well - the author loved the story and it carries through to the reader.

Telling family stories in the car last night, we laughed until we cried. The silliness and absurdity of the situation exaggerated by the storyteller only added to the excitement. The performance wasn't polished and perfect, it was ad-libbed and constantly interrupted. But it was filled with joy.

Finding that balance between loving the story and perfecting the vehicle is tricky. Focus too much on either and you produce something less than it could be. Hit the sweet spot and everything sparkles.

So maybe I should write some of those stories about our stupid cats or my kids' antics. Getting my first book published, and working on the sequels, has locked me in edit mode for too long. It's time to find the joy again. It's time to fall in love with a whole new set of characters.

It's time to change things up for a while. And find something completely different to immerse myself in. Maybe I'll go check out The Larch or apply for a post with the Ministry of Silly Walks*. Or maybe I'll just change my scenery for a while. Maybe I'll break out my camera and post pictures that I find inspiring or entertaining. Maybe I'll open Bryce and paint landscapes for a few days. Maybe I'll write that weird story kicking around my head just because I can.

*If you get those references, kudos to you. If not, go find some Monty Python to watch.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Eyeball Gelatin

Just for kicks, and because I can, I made a bowl of eyeball gelatin for the camp tonight. It looks utterly disgusting. I can't wait for their reactions, especially when I munch on a juicy eyeball. (Pictures will follow, if I remember my camera tonight.)

I specialize in food with disgusting names and appearances that really taste pretty good. I've got an entire menu based on the dinner scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Bugs, eyeball soup, snake surprise, chilled monkey brains - yep, all there and all delicious because they aren't really what you might think they are.

So for today, enjoy a bowl of delicious eyeball jello.

Eyeball Gelatin

2 boxes peach gelatin
1 can lychees (look for them in the oriental section)
about two dozen small red grapes OR maraschino cherries

Mix gelatin according to directions on the box. Set it aside to thicken. Open and drain the lychees. Insert a grape into each lychee. Doesn't it look like an eyeball? If the lychees fall apart, you can either discard them or put them in anyway as chopped eyeball parts. Gently fold your eyeballs into the gelatin. Refrigerate until set.

Serve and wait for the comments.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cooking and Writing and BONUS RECIPE!

I've noticed I get more hits on my recipe posts than my writing posts. I wonder why. Do more people cook than write? Are writing posts pretty much all saying the same thing so it doesn't matter where you read it? Are my recipes better than my writing? Food for thought.

Writing is a lot like creating a recipe. It takes a lot longer to cook a good novel than a good cake, but the two processes have a lot in common.

Ingredients - Cakes require a certain balance between ingredients. Liquids to give it the right texture, leavening to give it lift, starches to hold it together, fats to provide tenderness, flavorings to make it taste better, etc. Try changing up the proportions in your favorite recipe and see what happens. Half a cup of baking powder? It will rise quite nicely, right over the edge of the pans and into the bottom of your oven. Plus it will taste horrible. Trust me, I did it when I was nine and just learning to cook.

Writing a novel requires a balance, too. Character, setting, action, dialogue - all the tools of a writer, each needs to be in balance to produce the book you want to write. Are all books the same? Would one formula work for every book? Are all cakes the same? What if you want a savory dinner bread instead? You, the writer or the chef, have to decide what you want to create. That will give you a general guideline for proportion. Writing a romance? Then you need a certain set of characters and plenty of spicy dialogue. Writing a space opera? You need spaceships, aliens, and lots of action. Baking a chocolate cake? Bring on the chocolate!

With my recipes, most of them are originals based off other recipes. Think about it. Basic cooking techniques really haven't changed all that much for thousands of years. You apply heat to cook food. How you apply it gives different results. With the invention of electric ovens, slow cookers, mixers, and other tools, the process has changed. We get more reliable outcomes. With the invention of baking mixes and other processed mixes, we get more consistent results. How can I claim to write an original recipe? It's my twist, concocted by trial and error over a period of months or years. I may have started with the same recipe, but I certainly didn't end up with the same product.

Writing has also changed, but it hasn't. Computers and technology have made writing more accessible to everyone. Data can be transferred instantaneously around the world. How people read has definitely shifted. But the basics are still the same - writing produces stories that entertain and enrich lives.

People will always need to eat. To do that, they need to cook. The appliances have changed dramatically, but the end result is still the same. Food.

People crave entertainment and stories. How we tell the stories has changed, but we still need storytellers. We always will.

So for those predicting the end of publishing, I say the method will change, but the need will not. Stories will still exist, just as food will still exist no matter how we process or prepare it.

Want a recipe now? Put 1/2 c. peanut butter and 1/2 c. chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl. Heat for about 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. (Heat for another 15 - 30 seconds if needed to melt completely.) Serve as a dip for cookies, bananas, cake, crackers, etc, or pour over ice cream for a peanutty fudge sundae.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Crockpot Meatloaf

Summer is here. Sort of. I'm still waiting for the heat to hit. We had a frost warning last night. But I know it is inevitable. The heat will come and when it does, I don't want to be using the oven. That's where the crockpot comes in. I own, at last count, five of them in various sizes. If you don't own one, go buy one. It's a great investment. I'd start with a 3 or 4 quart size. It's big enough for most families. My most used ones are the 5 and 6 quart ones, but I'm usually cooking for a huge group of people.

Crockpots are great. You load them up in the morning, plug them in, and forget about them until dinnertime when your house is filled with delicious smells. They cook long and slow. I use them for all sorts of things. (check out the pot roast and bread pudding recipes I posted here)

This is a basic recipe for meatloaf, a staple at my house. The crockpot keeps it moist and flavorful, not dry and crunchy. Just plan on letting it cook for a minimum of 4 hours on high or 7 hours on low. Not only does the crockpot make great food, it saves energy. And your kitchen won't heat up while it's cooking.

Crockpot Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs ground beef, lean or extra lean works best
2 c. oatmeal, plain instant is better than old fashioned for this recipe
2 eggs
1/2 c. ketchup or catsup
1/2 c. barbecue sauce
1/4 c. mustard (not dry, use the prepared stuff)
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 c. shredded carrot
1/2 c. dried mushrooms, broken up into small bits (totally optional, but really tasty to add. It helps stretch the meat, too)

Mix everything together. Squishing it with your hands works best. Pretend you are Godzilla squashing buildings in Tokyo. Once everything is mashed together until it's evenly distributed, scoop it together into one big ball. Plop it into the crockpot. You want it to be a ball in the middle, mostly. Don't squish it up to the sides. Cover with the lid and cook on low 6 - 7 hours or high 3 - 4 hours, or until it is not pink in the middle. You can dress it up with extra ketchup or BBQ sauce on top for the last hour of cooking.

Serve with instant mashed potatoes or rice, green beans or green salad, and ice cream for dessert. Or you can try the Hot Fudge Sundae Cake in your crockpot. It takes about 2 - 3 hours on high to cook.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Author Interview - Rebecca Savage

 Today, I'm interviewing Rebecca Savage, a contemporary romance author. Let's give her a big welcome.

Hi, Rebecca. How can we find you? Website, blog, Facebook, Twitter?

All three: The best way is to go to my website and click on any link to get you to my other spots, like blogs, MySpace, Twitter, etc.
Facebook: Rebecca Savage

What do you currently have in print and where can we find them?

I have 8 books in print. Best way to find them is go to my website and click on any book cover. They should all be linked directly to purchase link
Titles: Coincidence, Combustion, Consequences, Fueled By Instinct, Cloaked In Assassination, Destination Ever After, Guard My Baby, Guard My Body.

What genre do you write?

I write Contemporary Romantic Suspense about stalkers, snipers, assassins, FBI agents, CIA operatives, DEA covert characters, and…normal people.

You say you're a school teacher. I have to ask since I teach, too. What grade/subject?

I teach high school and college History and Social Studies, as well as German. I lived in Italy for 5 ½ years as Morse Code operator so I speak fluent Italian and obviously German, and my oldest daughter was born in Germany so I spent some time there too. I’ve also gone TDY to 5 other countries. I’ve been around…be nice. I didn’t mean it that way

You list "Author of the Year 2009", please tell us more about the award.

I had no idea I was even in the running for author of the year…how does one know that in advance? LOL. But I tried to promo as much as possible last year, and I guess it paid off. I’m doing the same thing this summer. I spend my summers writing and doing promo, and my school year editing, reviewing and surviving high school
I won the award through Champagne Books for my trilogy: Coincidence, Combustion, and Consequences, for which I was up for Book of the Month and then Book of the Year at Long and Short Reviews a couple of times last year.

Congratulations on the award!
Do you have cats or other pets? Why or why not?

I like fish…why? Because they’re easy, and they move so effortlessly. I wish I moved that easily. I have run the gauntlet of having dogs and cats for my children, but last child is a Junior next year, and I am done with that mess. For those of you who are animals lovers, don’t be angry. They’re just not my thing. They’re beautiful and can be sweet, but I’m done doing the caregiver thing. Yes, I know, I’m delusional if I think my kids won’t come back for my help-the ones ‘out of the house’ already do- but still…I can dream, can’t I?

I think we can all dream about that. What inspires your stories?

I write about what I know. I was a Morse Code Operator with a Top Secret Clearance, and I don’t have to research much, especially since I teach History and Politics. But I can’t tell you what I did in the Air Force for another 40 years – 65 years total from exit from military duty-by then I will have forgotten…already have…JK

I'd love to ask you more, but I don't want to have you shoot me. LOL
What events do you have coming up?

I am doing several book signings this summer and most important I’m going to the beach. Oh, you meant to stick to writing…lol…well, the book signings, and contests on my website. There’s always one running, and if you leave comment on this blog and one on my website contact form, I’ll enter you for a free pdf of any of my books you choose;)

How do you like your romance, sweet or spicy?

I like sweet and spicy. I like all genres, as long as there’s a good plot and story other than just the mushy stuff. I like the mushy stuff too, but I want good fast-paced story to keep the mushy stuff important. But I read anything from sweet/religious to erotica…I know, I’m warped.:)

What is your current WIP?

Last summer I started two books, one is the third of a trilogy, and the other is something new to me altogether: a dragon story. It’s been challenging, and I plan to finish both this summer.

Do you write to music or not? If so, what type of music inspires you the most?

Anything 80s has to be inspiring…but I don’t like background noise when I write, or any other noise either. I threaten to kill anything that bugs me…I take it back. It’s not a threat. It’s a promise.

What hobbies do you have that you want to share?

I love to crochet. I write…crochet and think. Then write some more…crochet and think some more…about writing or anything else that pops into my strange brain.:)

Did you always want to be an author? Who inspired you?

I had no inkling of being an author until I finished my Masters in History summer 2003 and sat down to read something fun for a change. I read a romance novel and was hooked. Read about two hundred more then sat on the couch reading one day and thought, “What would I write if I wrote?” it’s all been downhill…oh, I mean uphill since then…
Other authors inspire me, especially the big names, because they’ve found a way to make it to the top where I want to be, although I like it right where I am too.

What are your favorite movies, TV shows, or books to read? Is there one that you could watch/read over and over without ever tiring of it?

I only watch three things on TV: Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, and American Idol. I like movies and go often with my kids. I crochet while I watch those shows, and I read when I’m not watching TV or at the movies or doing the other millions things I’m up to. I used to watch the comedy series Friends but now I own the DVDs of the series so I go on Friends binges sometimes with my family.

What characters are your favorites from your books? From any work of fiction?

I like all my characters, of course, but the ones that are tough women who take no junk from men or anyone else are my favorites, which pretty much applies to all my heroines And the boys have to be tough too but not so tough they’re overbearing jerks.

If you could meet one historical person for dinner, who would it be and why?

Napoleon Bonapart! He’s my hero. Yes, I know he was an egotistic wienie, but he was sooooooo smart!
If you could travel anywhere on Earth, where would you want to go? If you could travel anywhere, fictional or real, where would you go?

I’d love to go back to Italy, since I was stationed there in the military and have friends there. I plan to go there next summer for a reunion of all those who lived on the base at any time when it was open. The base is closed now. Very few people send or copy Morse Code any more…so…the base closed.

If you could time travel, what is one event you would want to see in person, either future or past?

Moses parting the waters…I know. Unexpected, right? But that would be awesome…as long as I got to make it through to the other side…wait. What are the rules here? I don’t have to be of any specific religion and I can hop into my invisible time machine and get the heck out of dodge any time I want and not be stuck or get drown, right? LOL

What's your favorite color? Food? Reading spot?

My favorite color is green, pretty much any shade
My favorite food is…oh, who am I kidding? I love it all!
My favorite reading spot is any place comfortable, but I like the couch

Blurb from Guard My Body:

    •    A hard core CIA covert ops expert like Nash Kincaid takes everything seriously, especially his mission to retrieve classified information from his contact, take it to the right people, and stop the deaths of thousands of children at the hands of home-grown terrorists.
            A librarian with a wild side could throw a ringer into his plans, but Ayden Devlin takes most things seriously, too, even when she decides to live out the lives of the characters in the books she reads by helping her sister Leigh, a spy for the CIA. She lets Leigh insert classified information into her mouth where there’s a missing tooth, so she can safely transport the info to Nash.
            Nash and Ayden meet in a biker bar, and a hit man tries to kill Ayden. Nash throws his body in the path of a bullet to save her. A bullet grazes Ayden’s head and knocks her out cold. When she comes to, she and her rescuer have to establish trust. They don’t know each other, and the mission has gone awry. It takes time to convince each other of their respective honesty and identity.     
            It takes no time at all for them to realize they’re hot for each other, and not much more time to realize it’s more than heat. Love blooms, stoked by building passion, the flames rising higher with each new dangerous encounter.
            Will they survive to share their love and lives?

Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca. Good luck with your writing, teaching, and everything else!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Nacho Stacks

(If you're interested in the camp - 
I'm also blogging about it today on SFR Brigade - The Best Day Job in the Universe )

I just finished a three-day space camp. I’m the one and only Klingon lunchlady, which means the kitchen is mine during June and July. This year marks my ninth summer slinging instellar hash. Our campers are ages 10 - 14. I have a really good idea of what they will eat and what they pass over. I’ve got portions down to a science. Best rule of thumb - if it is sweet, they’ll eat twice as much as a regular serving. If it is healthy, six servings is plenty for all the kids at a camp. Don’t get me wrong, I offer them plenty of healthy fresh fruit and veggies because I get to eat all I want while I’m working the camp and I *love* melons, strawberries, peaches, plums, grapes, etc, etc, etc. I do my best to offer a moderately healthy main dish, too. And plenty of desserts. Full campers equal happy campers.

This recipe is easy and delicious. Modify it to whatever your family will enjoy. I set everything out and let the kids add their own toppings. Amounts in parantheses are the amounts I serve for a camp, just for kicks.

Nacho Stacks, serves 6 - 8 (serves 50 - 70 kids and teens)

1 lb bag corn chips (3 - 4 giant Costco size bags of corn chips)
1 quart or so canned chili (2 gallon cans, Costco saves the day again)
2 - 3 normal size cans condensed nacho cheese sauce, mixed according to directions (1 gallon can Rico’s condensed cheese sauce which makes 6 quarts of sauce, Wal-Mart fails, they quit stocking it at our local store. I am sad. It was great stuff, plain cheese so no spicy peppers for kids to complain about. I need to call the manager about this one.)
12 oz bag shredded lettuce (4 -5 bags, more if the older teen girls on our staff are eating, less if it’s the guys)
1 c. grape tomatoes (honking Costco package of grape tomatoes. Kids eat a surprising amount of these. Or maybe it’s just my boss eating them all.)
1/2 c. sour cream (2 c. sour cream, most kids pass on it or can’t figure out what it is.)
1 c. salsa (2 - 3 c., most kids don’t want spicy)
1 c. guacamole (2 c. guacamole for the six kids who like it.)
1 c. sliced olives (1/2 gallon sliced olives. They eat these like candy.)

Heat chili in one pot, cheese sauce in another. Crockpots are great for this. Small dip crockpots, usually 1 - 2 quarts, can heat everything in about an hour. (If you’re making the monster portions in 6 quart crockpots, plan on at least 2 - 3 hours on high.) Set everything out in separate dishes and let people build their own nacho stacks. The order listed is the recommended order for adding toppings, but hey, do it your way.

Recommended side dishes: Sliced watermelon (1 decent sized seedless watermelon feeds an entire camp.); 1 dozen peanut butter bars (recipe will post another day, if I can wheedle it out of the local bakery, and plan on at least 6 dozen of them for a camp); 1 dozen donut holes (6 - 9 dozen, and you’ll still run short); 1 gallon lemonade (3 gallons lemonade, 3 gallons fruit punch)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Author Interview - Gary Petras

Today, I'm interviewing Gary Petras, author of "Thorndancer", an intriguing children's chapter book about a white skunk who longs to know what lies beyond the borders of the field where the skunks live.

Welcome to the Far Edge of Normal, Gary. How can we find you?

A: -- --  you can also find me on the: (Toy Box Books Icon) - and at: -- or just google: books by gary petras. -- I do not have a blog or twitter. Except for the occasional meal order from a local restaurant I find I do not have all that much to say.

How did you come up with the idea for Thorndancer? You mentioned a forest preserve near your house. Please tell us about it.

A:  I walk about ten to twelve miles a day through this huge Forest Preserve/Reservoir near my home in Hellertown,Pa. A great place to walk and dream. Most of my stories somehow find there roots up in these woods. There is a large field up there and when the grass is high and the weeds take hold, the imagination tends to run wild as well, and one can just conjure up all kinds of creatures living in that field and the surrounding woods.  I once thought to myself: If I saw an elephant standing in that field right now, would I believe it was really there? (No, there was no elephant, but that's what being a writer's all about).

Why a white skunk?

A:  When I was first thinking about writing a story about animals, I thought about what would be the least likely of creatures to try to turn into a sympathetic hero: a skunk.Could I really make people like him? Follow his adventures, and most of all, have feelings for a skunk? When I started researching them, I found that what we know about them are mostly 'old wives tales'. Skunks are sweet, friendly, timid creatures. Family oriented. They are losing their habitats, that's why you find them in your towns, searching through the garbage cans for food. But they only 'spray' when they feel threatened.   Why a white skunk? All the ones I see in the woods and town are the black ones with a white stripe--so, I thought, what if there was a white one around. The outcast. The wanderer. The dreamer.

I love the gentle nature of your main character, it's so refreshing that he doesn't fight unless he has to. What inspired you to write him that way?

A: When I did the research about skunks, they seemed to be just shy and timid creatures. I think they would just prefer to stay in the shadows and peek out once and awhile to see what life was all about. But hunger and loss of home has other plans for them. I wanted to try to convey this gentleness of spirit and nature into Thorndancer. He's just a dreamer, really, he wants so much to learn about the world outside...and to find himself. But, of course, the world is not always on friendly terms with the kind and gentle. But he, and we, just have to learn to live within it all. It's not easy...but it's been done.

Your characters are such individuals. How did you come up with the fox and her kits, or the hares, or the duck and the frog?

A: The fox and her kits are actually based on real people. My friend Jan and her three kids: Tom, Josh and Shannon. A great mom and three great kids. Good people. The duck and the frog...up the Reservoir is a huge pond, filled with ducks and frogs.I wanted the first animal that Thorndancer to meet out in the 'real' world to be someone that didn't even believe that skunks were real. And I think the frog is his first 'friend'.

The rabbits, too, are based on real people: Sayer: My brother Mike, Rynwise: my nephew Ryan. Charisma: My nieces Amber and Samantha. The Raccoon, Shadowstar, is my brother Phil ( a collector of Tarzan/Edgar Rice Burroughs memorabilia).  I am not always sure how they feel about me using them as the basis for some of my characters, but I tell them it's their spirits that I try to capture most of all in my writing. I don't know if they always believe me...but I think they like me writing about them.

Are you working on anything new? Do you want to share?

A: I just finished the third book in my other Fantasy Series: Farrow and Blackstorm ( from Trytium Publishing) ,and I am working on the second book to: 'Thorndancer'.I also write songs and screenplays. I am always walking and writing...working on something. A song or a story.  I also have written and created a Graphic novel: The Snowmen.  And some comic books. (All have been published).

What's the best fan mail you've ever received?

A: I kind of like it when people are sort of caught off guard or think they know what the books are about but then they are surprised to find that they're a little be more than what they thought. All my books are a bit, bittersweet, I guess. Characters get hurt, they laugh, they cry, they feel lonely. Sorrow and pain but also joy...main characters even die. But it's all part of life. I tell them, I am trying to connect to you, as the reader, on a level we can both understand and feel something for the characters you're reading about...and hopefully, come to love.

Any fun stories involving signings or author appearances?

A: The comic book cons are the best. When you have someone dressed as Spider-man or The Hulk coming up to your table and asking what the books are about...or for an autograph. I had one young man, dressed as the Joker, have me sign it to: The Joker. It's a bit surreal...but I'm a writer, and a bit surreal myself, I guess.  And the young kids are great. They have a million questions...they want to know all about the book before they ask mom or dad to buy it. And they stare wide-eyed when mom explains that I am the writer of the book and I will sign it for them.

Anything else you'd like to add?

A: I hope everyone that gets the opportunity to read my books have a great time in the worlds and characters I have created. It's one thing to have them all living in your head...but quite another to have others actually bring themselves along for the ride.  I have always figured about writing and life: If you're in it for a minute--you're in it for life.           Read. Wonder. Dream.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Gary. I really enjoyed hearing about your experiences. For those of you with children, my nine-year-old son endorses "Thorndancer" as a "totally great book!"

To buy "Thorndancer": Thorndancer from Toy Box Books or Thorndancer on

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Monster Cookies

My youngest is allergic to wheat, dairy, and soy. Finding treats she can enjoy is a real challenge. Gluten-free snacks don't contain wheat, but many use dairy or soy to compensate. Besides, they're expensive. So when I found a cookie recipe that my daughter can eat, that everyone else enjoys, that doesn't cost a fortune, you can bet it became one of our family favorites. These cookies also contain protein and fiber, much like a granola bar, without the dry cardboard taste or weird bits of woody things and unidentifiable fibrous masses.

We've made these as small cookies, giant cookies, and bars. They freeze well. The recipe is easy to change around, too. If you don't like the butterscotch chips, substitute in a different flavor, just not mint. That's nasty. If you don't like coconut, replace it with oatmeal. If you don't have M&M's on hand, just add more chocolate chips. My friend can't eat chocolate, so we make these with butterscotch and white chips when she's around.

Be aware these are NOT gluten-free; oats do contain traces of gluten.

The name comes from the original recipe, which made a monstrously huge batch of cookies. Anything that takes 18 cups of oatmeal, 12 eggs, and 6 c. of peanut butter is a huge batch. I've reduced it to a manageable size. It still makes a lot of cookies, around 8 dozen regular size cookies, 3 dozen giant cookies, and 2 cookie sheets of bar cookies.

Monster Cookies

1/2 c. butter
2 c. peanut butter, creamy or chunky, your choice
1 1/3 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar (or just use 2 c. brown sugar and forget the white)
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 t. soda
6 c. oatmeal, regular or quick, doesn't really matter, just don't use steel-cut
1 1/3 c. coconut (or use 1 c. oats and leave it out)
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips
2 c. M&M's

Heat oven 325° for bar cookies and giant cookies, 350° for regular size cookies. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and soda. Beat smooth. Add oatmeal, coconut, chocolate chips, other chips, and M&M's. Stir just until mixed. Scoop onto greased cookie sheet. Bake regular cookies 9 - 11 minutes at 350°. For giant cookies, use ice cream scoop or about 1/4 c. dough. Bake 12 - 15 minutes at 325°. For bar cookies, spread dough on two greased cookie sheets. Bake 20 - 25 minutes at 325°. FOR ALL COOKIES - Let cool on sheet at least 10 minutes. Cookies won't look browned when you take them out, but if you cook them long enough to brown, they will be burnt.

To freeze - Let the cookies cool completely, then package 2 or 3 cookies per snack size ziploc. Chuck into the freezer. They never last more than a week at my house, so freezer burn isn't an issue. If it is at your house, then package the snack baggies into a larger plastic container or freezer bag.