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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Green Tomato Mincemeat Cookies

It's that time of year, when mother nature bites the garden with frost. It never fails. My tomato plants are just starting to really produce, then, WHAM! Frost and snow. What to do with all those green tomatoes hanging onto those forlorn vines? Make this recipe, of course.

The mincemeat can be made ahead, it's actually better if you let it sit for a day or two before making the cookies. If you're into canning, it can be bottled and processed. Follow the guidelines for your area if you decide to seal the bottles for storage.

Either way, 'tis the season for these flavors. Enjoy!

Green Tomato Mincemeat

9 c. finely chopped very green tomatoes
1 tart apple, like granny smith, peeled, cored, & chopped
1 c. raisins
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. minced orange zest, the orange part of the peel
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. vinegar
1/4 c. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer about 1 1/2 hours until mixture is thick and goopy. Stir every ten minutes or so. Remove from heat and bottle, if desired. Otherwise, cool and refrigerate in covered containers. Makes about 5 pints. (You can cut the recipe in half if needed.)

Mincemeat cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar until very fluffy. Add in egg, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in flour just until mixed. Form dough into two rolls about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap well with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 12 hours, or up to 2 months.

To make cookies:
Heat oven to 375°. Let dough defrost for about 15-20 minutes. Slice dough into 1/4 inch slices. Place on greased cookie sheet. Top each cookie with 1 T. mincemeat. Top with another cookie slice. Seal edges using a fork. Cut two or three slits in top crust. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, until lightly browned on edges. Let cool before eating.

One cookie recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies and uses about 1 pint of green tomato mincemeat.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review - The Viper of Portello, James C. Glass

I enjoyed The Viper of Portello. It mixes political intrigue, military action, and family relationships to create a fast-paced ride. Set in the future, sometime after other planets have been colonized, the government of Nova Brazilia has become corrupt. Revolutionaries are set to overthrow the governor. The League military is poised to invade and restore order. Everything rests on the decisions and actions of one man: Eduardo Cabral, sometimes called Culebra, or the Viper of Portello.

The book isn't your typical save-the-galaxy space opera. Though full of action sequences, the main focus is on the characters. Choices affect who we become. Sometimes the choice is forced by circumstances, but how we react says more about who we are than what we've done. Jim Glass takes us inside the heads of the people of Nova Brazilia as their world begins to crumble. It's a well-written and enjoyable story with characters I won't soon forget.

And Jim Glass is a very nice person. I met him at SpoCon last August. He's still upset over what the government did to NASA and manned space travel. I'm sure if you ask, he'll be happy to share his opinions.

Buy it direct from the publisher here: http://www.fairwoodpress.com/catalog/item/7652151/8136116.htm
Or Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Viper-Portello-James-C-Glass/dp/0978907876

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Coleslaw

How exciting can coleslaw be? That's a question. My kids like coleslaw plain. You can dress it up spicy or sweet. I'd never had fruit in coleslaw until I had my mother-in-law's version. This time of year is a great time to make your own, if you live in the north. Cabbage is in the stores, fresh and cheap. Don't bother with red cabbage. Green cabbage is fine. If you like more of a lettuce texture, buy Napa cabbage. We're supposed to eat more vegetables, so why not try some of this salad?

Basic Coleslaw

1/2 medium head of cabbage
1/2 c. mayonnaise, use light or fat free if you want
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. lemon pepper seasoning

Rinse the cabbage in cold water, drain. Slice into very thin strips, then cut them to be about 2 inches long. Mix mayo, lemon juice, and seasoning. Add cabbage. Toss just until cabbage is covered. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

That's it. Simple but delicious.

Variations:

Spicy - add 1 t. smoked paprika and cayenne pepper to taste
Extra veggie - add 1 c. finely chopped raw vegetables - carrots, broccoli, onion, cauliflower, zucchini, bell pepper, etc.
Pickled - add 2 T. chopped dill pickles
Fruited - add 1 c. chopped fresh fruit - banana, apple, pear
Herbed - add 1/2 c. sliced celery, 1 t. dill weed and 1 t. celery seed

Go be creative. What versions do you like? Feel free to share your recipes in the comments.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Bonus!

Hi! I found a really fun new blog today. Holly lists bargain ebooks - nothing over $5. So, if you've been thinking of trying some ebooks but didn't want to pay much, check out her listings. She's going to start posting them over the next few days.

If you're an author with an ebook out there, she takes submissions for her list.

Check it out! I'm looking forward to some great new reads.

PS - Nexus Point is currently listed at $4.99, or close to that, most places. Watch for a price drop in November for two reasons. 1 - It's NaNoWriMo month and to celebrate all those aspiring authors, I'll give them a piece of my fiction for cheap. 2 - Book 2 is coming next year. Read book 1 so you don't miss out on any of the story. If I get enough people clamoring for book 2, my publisher might fast track it. 2 - Because it's my book and I feel like lowering the ebook price.

Come on in and join the fun! You can find links for Nexus Point here: http://www.nexuspoint.info
including ebook purchase links.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: The Golden Cord, Paul Genesse

I met Paul Genesse two and a half years ago at a local convention. I was dithering about submitting at the time. I had a manuscript that I believed in, but the established authors at the con all had the same message: Don't bother. Publishing fiction is hard and very few succeed. Very discouraging for a fledgling author to hear. It didn't help that I was clueless about submissions or pitching a book or anything else other than writing. I was ready to stick the manuscript in a folder and forget it. Until Paul talked me out of it.

He spent several hours with me, giving me the advice and encouragement that I needed. My novel, Nexus Point, is in print mostly because of that pep talk. I'll buy all of Paul's books just for that reason. He's a genuinely nice guy with a passion for storytelling.

The Golden Cord is the first in a series. I'm not much of a fan of epic fantasy, especially when the main character is an angsty teen/young adult and the world is a dark, gritty place where everything wants to either kill you, eat you, or both. This book fits solidly in that category. I still enjoyed it.

Paul builds a world that is fully believable. Danger lurks behind every tree, if not in the tree or on the tree or *is* the tree. Not a world I'd want to live in. His main character, Drake Bloodstone, is a troubled young man. He's also loyal and tormented by his need to keep everyone in his village safe. He failed to protect his friend years ago and the failure haunts his every thought. His quest, in this book, is a reluctant choice to save the world in order to save his village. Or so he thinks. It's as much about saving his own soul and letting go of the past as it is about present dangers.

The Golden Cord is a solid book. I could hear Paul's voice in the words, his passion and excitement over the story spilling into each scene. I can't honestly say it's one of my favorites, but it's a good read, one I'd recommend to anyone looking for a fantasy quest novel that isn't your usual Tolkein clone.

Want to hear why it took me two years to finally read the book? Sure you do. It was in the short pile of Books-to-be-read-very-soon (as opposed to the books-to-read-sometime-in-the-next-decade pile, both are much too tall). Of course, that meant it was in plain sight of my children and my husband. I went to read it one night and couldn't find it in the pile. I found it in my husband's hands. So I waited for him to finish. Then one of my boys discovered the book. After chasing it back out of three different bedrooms, I have multiple children who read any book that looks good especially if it's in my pile next to my bed, I finally got my hands on it last spring. Between work, my own writing deadlines, and life in general, it took me several weeks to start reading it. I was just getting into the story when I left the book in a motel room in Lewiston ID. I hope they enjoyed it because they never admitted to finding the book even after multiple phone calls. I bought another copy a few weeks ago and threatened everyone in the house not to touch it until after I'd finished it. It was worth it. I wish I'd dragged it out of those bedrooms a long time ago or threatened my kids with horrible punishments, like doing the dishes, if they touched it before I read it.

Now, where did I put book two? The Dragon Hunters continues the quest and if I can find the book, I'll read it. It's in someone's pile at my house...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Recipe - No-Bake Cookies, or Gorilla Poops

I started cooking when I was nine. I distinctly remember my first batch of cupcakes from scratch. They looked odd and tasted funny, but I was so proud of them. My family grumbled a bit but ate them anyway. Later, I realized I'd mistaken 3 t. to mean 3 tablespoons. Three times too much baking soda equals not good cupcakes. Hey, I was nine.

Adventures in cooking continued. As a teen, I went on a weird cookie spree, trying out any and every recipe I had. Food coloring was my friend. The one cookie I've never really mastered? No-bake cookies. Despite careful measuring and stirring and cooking, I have no idea if they'll turn out soft and chewy or hard and crumbly. After one particularly crumbly, messy batch, I gave up trying to make it form cookies and just dumped the entire pot onto a cookie sheet in one big pile.

"What kind of cookie is that?" my sister asked.

"Elephant poop." And so the line of poop cookies were born.

(BTW, when these cookies turn out dry and crumbly, they make excellent ice cream topping or the basis of chocolate oatmeal for breakfast, just add some water and microwave for a minute or two.)

Gorilla poops are normal no-bake cookies. Elephant poops are when you're tired of scooping or it doesn't work so you dump the entire batch in one enormous cookie. Monkey poops are the peanut butter variety. Orangutan poops are chocolate AND peanut butter. Chimpanzee poops have extra goodies added. Are you sensing a theme here? Good, go make some gorilla poops for your kids.

Gorilla Poops

3 c. oatmeal, quick cooking if you've got it
1/2 c. coconut
1/2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk or water
1/3 c. cocoa
1 t. vanilla

Mix oatmeal and coconut in a large mixing bowl, set aside. Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add sugar, milk, and cocoa. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. We're talking a rolling boil here that you can't stir down. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, then pour over oatmeal mixture. Stir quickly to coat the oatmeal. Scoop by teaspoons onto waxed paper. Cool for at least 15 minutes. If it's way too sticky, serve it on a spoon and call it spoon cookies. If it crumbles, make it into an elephant poop and serve over ice cream. If it turns out right, pat yourself on the back.

Monkey Poops - Omit cocoa. Reduce butter to 1/4 c. Add 1/2 c. peanut butter with the vanilla.

Orangutan Poops - Make Monkey Poops but leave in the cocoa.

Chimpanzee Poops - Reduce oatmeal to 1 c. Add 1 to 1 1/2 c. of whatever you want to the oatmeal mix. Suggestions - dried cranberries or cherries, mini-marshmallows, nuts, m&m's, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, crispy rice cereal, cheerios, fruity pebbles, captain crunch berry cereal, chow mein noodles, etc.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Pancakes came up on a discussion board recently over at Bestsellerbound, apple cinnamon ones in particular. So, because authors need to feed their brains, here's the recipe. And if you've got a few minutes, please check out BestsellerBound - Lots of fun authors and readers and a fun community with great discussions on just about everything.

I serve these for dinner many days because they're fast, easy, and filling. Who says pancakes are only for breakfast? Not me. *cheesy grin*

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
2 eggs
1 c. orange juice
2 T. oil
1 c. finely chopped apple, leave the peel on

Mix all the dry ingredients together (flour through ginger on the list). Add the rest. Stir just until blended. If too thick, add a bit more orange juice.

Cook on a medium hot griddle for about 3 minutes per side. Serve with sliced bananas, hot blueberry sauce, and whipped topping.

Hot Blueberry Sauce

2 c. frozen blueberries
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. water

Mix blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Add water. Stir well. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly or it will burn. Boil and stir for one minute. It should be quite thick. Serve warm.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Storytelling in Games and at Work

I'm a fiction writer, a born storyteller. I live with characters, scenes, and stories floating in my head. I see people in the grocery store or in traffic and invent a wild story to explain what I see in that brief glance. When I find a game that captures that same spirit, I'm hooked.

Years ago, I found a game titled "Jack of All Trades." I loved the game, despite a shallow storyline.  (It's still available, pretty much the same game but with some new features added.) You start with a dinky, pitifully weak cargo ship. By delivering cargo, playing the stock market, hunting pirates, etc. you earn money which you can use to upgrade your ship or buy a new one. You determine who you want to work for, where you go, and the rest. There is a bigger storyline built in, so it isn't all just amassing money and getting the biggest ship you can. You are working with an underground spy group, but you can take your time working your way around the galaxy.

I just found a similar game for my iPod Touch. Warpgate from FreeVerse Software The story is a bit more complex, so far, and the controls easier to work, probably because I'm tapping with my finger, not trying to remember which keys work which bit. I'm a total klutz when it comes to games that require coordination, so these two games and their limited need for eye-hand gaming techniques are perfect for me.

What really pulls me in with these games is the story. I confess; I had a major crush on Han Solo, still do. But not just because he's hot, but because he owns his own spaceship and can fly pretty much anywhere. I first saw Star Wars as an impressionable 10yo. Han Solo stole the show. Forget Luke, Leia, and the rest, I wanted to be Han Solo or even Chewie. I wanted my own Millenial Falcon. These two games let me pretend, if only for a while, that I can travel the galaxy.

Is it any wonder that my books follow similar themes? Dace and her ship, flying across the Empire - total freedom. Wait, you haven't gotten to those books in the series yet. She's struggling just to survive. She wants her freedom, represented by her own trading ship. I want that, too. But technology is centuries behind. I'll never have my own starship, except in my imagination.

My day job also lets me pretend, when I'm not doing the mundane tasks I end up with so often. Phone calls, paperwork, copies, all of it is essential to keeping a business running. But I love the days I'm a flight director. I'm a GM for a Star Trek LARP with a very high-tech simulator, video clips, music, sound effects, costumes, actors, and great storylines to back me up. I love orchestrating all of it. My paycheck may be tiny, but the satisfaction of hearing a crew screaming in terror, negotiating with my villain, planning a surprise attack, or cheering in victory is very satisfying to my inner storyteller. It's immediate, too, something that novel writing isn't.

So for those worried that the publishing industry is dying, I say, "Storytelling will never die. It fulfills so many needs deep in the human psyche. The outward form may change, but the need for good stories and storytellers will never change."

Let your imagination run rampant. In my mind's eye, I'm forever young, captain of my own starship, flying free through the galaxy. I'd love to have you share my journey.