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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Nanowrimo?

For any of you who haven't heard, November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Thousands of people sign up for the competition. This is really about competing against anyone else. The goal of NaNo is to write a 50k word novel during November.

A writer posted an article (wish I could find the article and link it, but it's lost in my browser history somewhere) declaring that NaNoWriMo was a terrible waste of everyone's time. All those amateur writers attempting to write absolute drivel should just not bother. Agents and editors cringe in anticipation of the flood of horrible manuscripts about to be submitted. NaNo should be a NoNo.

I say, what's the harm? I'm all for NaNo. Anything that encourages people to reach higher, to try something new, to be creative, is a good thing. So what if 99.99% of what's written is crap? It's the process of creating it that matters. If only "professional authors" were allowed to write novels, we would very quickly run out of stories to read.

What if we told all those people taking painting or drawing classes that only "professional artists" should create pictures or paintings? Where do you think these professionals come from in the first place? Everyone started somewhere. I'm sure Michaelangelo's first drawings were absolute crap. The point is that he tried it, liked it, and stuck with it. The rest of us benefit from encouraging creativity.

I'm not saying that all those aspiring writers participating in NaNo will become creative geniuses. Most of them won't ever be published. And that's just fine. For those who attempt NaNo, it's an eye-opener to how difficult the whole process of writing a book can be. Those who finish have a sense of accomplishment.

This is only my second year doing NaNo. Last year, I was derailed by a book release. Yes, I'm already published. Guess what? It doesn't matter. NaNo this year gave me the push I needed to get writing novels again. I needed something to get my story moving, to give me enough momentum to finish it.

As for all that crap being produced under such a rushed deadline, so what? There is a freedom to the writing that happens when you don't worry about editing and making it perfect. Too many writers stop after a few chapters, realize what they've written is crap, and go back to edit. The story rarely gets beyond chapter three. NaNo pushes you to just keep going. You can go back to fix it later. That's what editing is all about. For November, just get that story written.

Any honest author will also tell you that the first few manuscripts they finished were awful. Writing is learned by doing. You can learn techniques and skills in classes, true, but the only way to really learn to craft a good story is by doing it. So write one for NaNo, shove it in a drawer, write another one next year. Each draft will improve.

As for that novel release of mine, Nexus Point is my first book in print. It was #18 in my draft pile.

I salute all of you that attempted NaNo this year. It's a worthy goal to write 50k in one month, even if no one but you ever reads it. You've reached outside your normal life to try to create something. That is a goal worth applauding, whether you achieved it or not.

For those who did write 50k, WOOT! Now go write more...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thurday Recipe - Favorite Thanksgiving leftovers

Did you have a great Thanksgiving? We did. I've got a fridge full of leftovers now. And here are some of my favorite ways to eat them:

Double Turkey Gravy

2 c. leftover gravy
2 c. leftover turkey, cut into small chunks
leftover rolls, stuffing, potatoes, etc.

Heat gravy and turkey, serve over the other stuff. Easy, but my kids favorite leftover preparation.

Turkey a la King

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
3 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
dash of tabasco sauce
1 c. cooked turkey, chopped up
1 c. leftover green vegetables (broccoli, peas, beans, etc.)
Rolls, noodles, or potatoes

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour. Cook and stir 1 minute, until very bubbly but not browned. Whisk in milk, keep whisking until smooth. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute, it should thicken up. Remove from heat. Stir in turkey and vegetables. My kids like peas the best, use frozen if you don't have any leftovers. Season to taste. Stir over low heat until everything is nice and hot. Serve over rolls, potatoes, noodles, or whatever else you like.

Turkey Poop Soup

4 c. leftover turkey (usually the very last bits, so all you have left is the poop. Family story behind this one...)
2 c. carrots, peeled & sliced
1 T. butter
1 c. celery, sliced
1/2 c. onion, chopped
8 c. chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ginger
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. turmeric
2 c. noodles, uncooked

Saute onions and celery in butter in a large soup pot until tender. Add everything else except noodles. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour, until vegetables are tender. Add salt to taste. Turn heat up to high. Add noodles. Cook just until noodles are done. Remove from heat, serve immediately. We love it with croutons on top.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Reviews: The Last Man Anthology & Writers of the Future XXVI

It's been my week to rediscover anthologies. Years ago, I tried reading several anthologies. Two or three of the stories were good, but most were just sick and twisted. Too many authors tried to be edgy and push the boundaries far past good taste or decency. I gave up on anthologies. I've tried several since then, mostly because I had friends with stories in the collections. Their stories were good and enjoyable but the rest of the anthology lived down to my expectations. I found a few good stories, but most were trash. One of the reasons I hate anthologies is because most of the stories fall well in the R-rated area for language, sexual scenes, or extreme violence.

So it was with trepidation that I picked up these two. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised by both of them.

Writers of the Future is an organization started years ago by L. Ron Hubbard to promote new talent in SF/F. This volume, number twenty-six, features the twelve story winners for 2009. Brad Torgerson, a friend of mine, was one of the winners. His story, Exanastasis, was quite enjoyable. It's an interesting twist on the Adam and Eve story. I decided since I owned the book I might as well try the other stories. I wasn't expecting much. The stories delivered much more than I anticipated. Every one was enjoyable, thought-provoking, and well-written. The majority are science fiction. The story premises are original. It's encouraging to see real talent being displayed.

And the rating? PG. No profanity, vulgarity, explicit nude scenes. Just some really original stories.

I have a copy of The Last Man Anthology because I'm one of the authors. I was thrilled when they accepted my story, but I have to confess, writing it was a stretch. I don't do catastrophic or dystopian stories. I like my stories happy, at least by the end. I hate books where everything is bleak and hopeless. This anthology celebrates the End--of the world, of humankind, of bookstores, of you-fill-in-the-blank. I expected it to be dark and depressing but it isn't. The stories are beautifully written, haunting in their imagery. The emotions behind them range from anger and dismay to acceptance and hope. And yes, there are a couple comedies included.

This book really is a beautiful collection of short stories and poetry. I'm honored to be included with notable authors Ray Bradbury, C J Cherryh, Edgar Allen Poe, as well as contemporaries both known and unknown.

These are two anthologies that won't disappoint. Both are well worth the time to read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Hmm, Oatmeal?

Next week I'll post Thanksgiving leftover recipes, promise. Today, though, due to another stomach virus and other ickiness, I'm sticking with something basic.

Oatmeal is one of those foods that's good for you, so most people hate it. If it isn't cooked right, it is nasty and bland. Add the right stuff to it, and it becomes a wonderful breakfast full of goodness and deliciousness.

Try this recipe if you want to really experience oatmeal.

Oatmeal Supreme

4 c. hot water
1/2 c. raisins
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1/3 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 c. plain instant oatmeal
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger, optional but tasty

Bring water to a boil. Add raisins, apples, sugar, and salt. Bring back to a boil. Stir in oats. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add cinnamon and stir well.

If it is too thick, add milk or water to thin. If too thin, cook a few minutes longer.

Optional toppings:
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. dried fruit - blueberries, currants, cherries, dates, mango, pineapple, whatever you want to try
1/2 c. ripe pear, cored and chopped
1/4 c. maple syrup
Extra spices - try just a pinch or up to 1/2 t. of nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, or allspice.
1 t. vanilla
1/2 - 1 t. rum flavoring
1/2 - 1 t. almond extract

The whole idea behind cooking is to experiment so don't be afraid to play around with spices. The worst that will happen is you'll make something inedible.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Writing Tips

Today's column is an excerpt of an article written by Nestor Maronski. He threatened to beat me with my own book if I didn't post it.

1. Don't write when you aren't in the mood. This ensures that you will never actually write much of anything. According to quite a few people I've heard from lately, this will make the world a better place. We need fewer writers who think their plebian, stale assemblage of words are worth reading. If you must, let your dog read your writing. He'll appreciate it much more than the rest of the world.

2. Write only with a very dull crayon on large pieces of newsprint. Writing real stories is something that should only be left to professionals, like Shakespeare and Jane Austen. You might hurt yourself.

3. Everything worth reading has already been written. Why should we care what happened to YOU or what YOU think of anything? Writing is not about YOU, the author, writing is about ME, the critic.

4. If you do manage to create a story that somehow, through a major miracle, is published, don't ask me to read it. I'm sure it's drivel because the entire publishing industry is full of moronic editors and writers who think we need new books to read. We don't. We have the classics.

That's enough, Mr. Maronski. With tongue firmly in cheek, I say, ignore his advice. Let your inner creative spirit soar. Write that book you've been meaning to. And don't let anyone else tell you differently. This is your chance to create something uniquely yours. Whether you pursue a career or not is your choice. Do it for your inner creative genius.

Speaking of submitting, I'm still looking for stories featuring wild and evil tumbleweeds. Information and ideas are all here:

Send them in! Submission deadline is December 31.

Psst - find out more about Nestor Maronski at this site.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Thanksgiving Favorites!

You've only got two weeks. Are you ready for the hordes of relatives? This year, I'm going to stay home and make it a very relaxed holiday. No fancy dishes or decorating, just good food, my sister and her family, and maybe a few friends. We'll hang out, watch movies, play some games, and eat good food.

I realized I've posted quite a few Thanksgiving recipes over the last year. Like roast turkey, basic homemade bread, pumpkin custard (which is the pie without a crust), ginger honey cookies, and green tomato mincemeat cookies.

What's left? Most people have their own sides they love and their traditional ways of cooking them. So, here are three more that I love.

Cranberry Sauce

1 lb fresh cranberries
1/2 c. orange juice, fresh squeezed with pulp if possible
1 T. grated orange zest, the orange part of the peel.
1/3 - 1/2 c. sugar, to taste
1 stick cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg

Put everything in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop, about 10 - 15 minutes. Cool for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. It thickens on its own. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

Roast Yams (You can prep these several days ahead of time. Add the topping just before baking the final dish.)

2 - 3 large whole yams
1/4 c. orange juice
2 T. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Jab yams several times with a fork. Place on a foil covered baking sheet. Roast at 350° for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until liquid bubbles from the holes and yams are very soft. Let cool for 2 - 3 hours. Remove peel and chop yams into chunks.

Place yams in a greased 2 quart casserole. Pour orange juice over the top. Mix butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Sprinkle over the top of the yams. Bake at 350° for about 40 minutes, until yams are hot and topping is bubbly. Serve hot.

Any extra plain baked yams can be packaged in freezer bags and frozen for up to 6 months. Or you can use the baked plain yams in place of the pumpkin in the pumpkin custard recipe.

My Favorite Stuffing

2 T. butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
1 c. celery, sliced thin
1 lb bag garlic croutons
1 lb bag onion croutons
1 carrot, grated
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 t. dried sage
1 t. dried whole oregano
2 - 3 c. turkey drippings (see Turkey recipe) or chicken stock

Saute onion and celery in butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Put everything except drippings in a large bowl. Toss together. Add drippings, just until croutons are moistened. Scoop mixture into a large, greased casserole. Bake at 350° for 35 - 45 minutes, until hot through and lightly browned on top. OR put the mixture into a 3 - 4 quart crockpot. Cook on high for 1 - 2 hours.

Have a fun holiday!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: ...The Twain Shall Meet, J Guevara

This is what happens when you write the blog post at 2 am, you forget stuff.

...The Twain Shall Meet, J Guevara

Part philosophy essay, part homage to Mark Twain, part quirky character studies, this book is a light-hearted romp through the Florida Keys in modern times with none other than Mark Twain. See, he never died, he was carried away on Halley's Comet. Returned to earth with the comet for only a few weeks, he describes our modern times with humor, wit, and biting insight. If you are easily offended, don't bother reading this book. I don't agree with many of the viewpoints expressed in this book, but it's not a diatribe of hate and anger that's presented. Rather they are expressed with gentle humor, sometimes pointed, but never vilifying.

If you're looking for something quirky and entertaining but with deep thought, try this book. I had a lot of fun with it.

Book Reviews - The Presence, Paul Black, and Enemies & Playmates, Darcia Helle

It's 2 am and insomnia has me in its grasp. My house makes funny noises in the night, especially when the wind is blowing and a storm is moving in. The cat paces restlessly, adding his own set of noises. I know if I don't go back to bed soon, I'll never make it to work in the morning. When it gets really bad, I read books until I can sleep again. Just a warning, neither of these books will let you sleep.

The Presence, Paul Black

I met Paul Black at FenCon last September. He was nice enough to give me an ARC copy of his book to read. We have something in common: we both published a book titled Nexus Point. He didn't have a copy of that one handy, besides his is book 3 of a trilogy, so he handed me The Presence instead. If this book gives any indication of how he writes, I may have to squeeze money to buy the other trilogy.

The Presence is near future science fiction. Sonny Chaco is an agent of the NSA, a net jockey, surfing the expanded and intricate waves of the future version of the internet. He's set on bringing down Albert Goya, big businessman with links to organized crime. He romances his information source, the beautiful Deja Moriarty, trying to walk the line between milking her for information and falling in love with her. Enter a mysterious man that has no past, no records, nothing, and a beautiful and highly illegal clone of Goya's wife, and the story spirals out of control, pushing the characters into places they never expected to go.

The book is fast-paced and well written. Paul pulls futuristic tech into a believable and seamless world. Although it was a bit confusing at first, because the characters understand the tech and feel no need to explain it, the story pulled me in, submersing me in the world Paul created. I'd recommend this book for anyone who wants a fast read with a complex world and storyline. It's not a thick book, but it's loaded with action.

One warning, the book uses the f-bomb, sometimes to excess.

Enemies and Playmates, Darcia Helle

I confess, I didn't finish this book. Not because of the writing or characters, both of which are well crafted, but because the subject is just too dark. I read for escape. I prefer my books light. Enemies and Playmates is neither. It deals with abuse very frankly.

Lauren Covington's father is a highly successful businessman who shows the world a face of compassion. But to his family, he is brutal, vicious, and unforgiving. Lauren wants to escape, to just live a normal life of a college student, but feels trapped by her mother's helplessness and the need to protect her younger brother. She meets Jesse at a bar, feeling an instant attraction to the man, without realizing that he works for her father, handling contract jobs her father wants kept off the book and out of sight.

Darcia doesn't hold anything back in this story. This story went places I just didn't want to go. I couldn't finish it. If you want a compelling story dealing with abuse, I'd recommend this book. If you want a beach read, try something different. This book will give you nightmares.

Language warning on this one, too, although not as frequent as The Presence.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Recipe - Pumpkin, pumpkin and more pumpkin...

7yo daughter: Mom, is that Mr. Pumpkin? Are you going to chop him up? Are you putting him the oven?! Are you cooking Mr. Pumpkin?!?! Can I eat him now?

I had a 20+ lb pumpkin we bought for Halloween and never got around to carving. I finally got around to chopping it up and baking it the other day. Now, I've got pounds of pumpkin waiting to be used. I thought I'd share some pumpkin recipes for you. 'Tis the season and all that. Enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

After chopping the pumpkin in half, use your fingers to scoop out the seeds. Try to remove as much of the stringy orange goop as you can. Put the seeds in a flat bottomed colander. Fill a sink half full of cold water. Set the colander in the sink. Rinse the seeds, picking out any remaining goop. Lift the colander. See how easy it is to wash the seeds this way? Set the colander on a towel so the seeds can drain and dry for a while.

Meanwhile, scoop out the rest of the inside stringy goop from the pumpkin. Chop it smaller if needed. Line a baking sheet with foil, you want one with sides because pumpkins release lots of water while baking. Set the pumpkin pieces chopped side up on the baking sheet. Bake at 350° for about 1 - 2 hours, until pumpkin is soft. Set pumpkin aside to cool.

Heat 2 T. oil in a large frying pan. Add pumpkin seeds to the oil. Fry for 15 - 20 minutes. Dump seeds into a metal mixing bowl. Add 1 t. smoked paprika and 2 t. seasoned salt. Toss to coat.

Heat oven to 400°. Spread seasoned seeds on a baking sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Seeds will start to make popping sounds and smell like popcorn. Watch closely when they start to do this, checking every minute or so. They burn easily. When they turn golden brown, remove from the oven and cool. They should be crispy.

Pumpkin Custard

1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt
1 eggs
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1/2 c. orange juice or milk

Heat oven to 400°. Put everything in the blender. Whirl on high until smooth. Pour into a greased casserole - 2 quart for a single batch, 9x13 glass baking pan for double batch. Just use the blender twice and measure everything twice for a double batch. Don't try to double everything in the blender. It won't fit. Can you tell I tried once? Huge mess. And a hand mixer won't make it smooth enough.

Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Don't remove it from the oven. Turn heat down to 325° and bake for 45 - 60 minutes longer, until it begins to crack on the top and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or cold with whipped cream. It's like pumpkin pie without the crust.

Variations: Play with the spices or the liquid you add. Whatever you do, don't add bananas. Trust me on that one.
You can also use other orange squash like butternut (really sweet and creamy), banana squash, acorn squash, or even yams/sweet potatoes.

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 egg
1 c. pumpkin
1/4 c. orange juice
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1 c. quick oatmeal
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Put pumpkin, egg, and orange juice in the blender. Run until smooth. Cream butter, shortening, sugar, and spices until smooth and light. Add baking powder, soda, and pumpkin mixture. Beat well. Add flours, oatmeal, and chocolate chips. Stir by hand until mixed. Drop onto greased cookie sheet by Tablespoonfuls. Bake in a 350° oven for 11 - 13 minutes, until set and not sticky on top. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 5 - 6 dozen.

Enjoy the pumpkin goodies!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday New Release Party!

Check out a basketful of new releases over at

The Last Man Anthology is listed there, because it's the new release I knew about in time to set this up. But I wasn't able to get a copy to put in the giveaway basket, so Nexus Point is in there instead.

Stop by and comment and you could be a winner!

Author Interview - Daryn Cross

Today, I'd like to welcome author Daryn Cross to my blog. Welcome, Daryn.
 How can we find you? Website, blog, Facebook, Twitter?

What do you currently have in print and where can we find them?
I have a time travel, Civil War period, CRAIG LEGACY under my co-written pseudonym, Terry Campbell available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online and my new debut romantic fantasy, IT’S MAGIC by Daryn Cross & L.J. DeLeon, published by Crescent Moon Press and also available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble (the print will release around Thanksgiving). I have three books on backlist as Terry Campbell, MR.WRONG, FAT CHANCE and INTIMATE INVESTOR that should be released on Kindle early next year.

Those sound like fun. What genre do you write? 
Now I have a two-pronged career in fantasy and suspense. I am marketing my suspense series, set in the small Southern town of Climax, Virginia, but have not sold it yet.

Do you have cats or other pets? Why or why not?
I love cats but am allergic to them. Instead, I have a Chocolate Lab, my third one. The “nutkin” has a sock-fetish and runs our house.

So you can explain what happens to all those single socks. Blame it on the dog. What inspires your stories?
I like to say all my books have a theme of the fight for truth over lies, justice over unethical behavior, the light defeating the darkness

Those are some deep themes. How do you like your romance, sweet or spicy?
I like them both depending on what I’m in the mood for. I am not an erotica fan, though I do find some of it intriguing as four of my friends, in a writing group I’m in, share snippets (hello, Sophie Oak, Jennifer August, Shayla Black and Kris Cook!). The sex I write is sensual but not close to erotic, and that is what I also tend to read.

What is your current WIP?
Right now I’m writing the sequel to IT’S MAGIC and need to complete in November. Since I don’t actually have a deadline for it, I got waylaid with writing a novella and planning two more. But, I have to put this baby to bed. It’s about two aggressive snack company execs, workaholics that the mysterious matchmaker Maxwell Magic plans to match. Magic is Santa on his offseason. These two execs have all sorts of family and past-history issues and Magic’s having a heck of a time bringing them together, but he knows he will because Magic knows everything. In my first in the series, IT’S MAGIC, the two lovers are a feminist writer of the books, “Prince in Rusted Armor” and “Why Do Dogs Put Up With Them?” and a man’s dream radio psychiatrist on a show, “Men Talk to Me First.”

Here’s the blurb:

Can true love exist between a man who believes a woman is capable of sticking a shive in his heart while making love and a woman who is convinced men think with only one head? Maxwell Magic, an eccentric mysterious matchmaker swears it can and he’s the man to provide the stimulus to make it happen. Kasey Bell, feminist writer, and Guy McLane, radio’s famous chauvinistic psychiatrist, are his targets. Even with carefully executed plans, the road to true love is strewn with mishaps, mirth and money-hungry nighttime talk show hosts. Will Kasey and Guy risk their reputations by exposing secrets buried beneath layers of shame and self-doubt for a desperately needed big money pay-off? Or, will they claim what has evaded them their entire lives—a love that lasts forever?

Okay, I'm interested. Sounds like a fun read. What characters are your favorites from your books? 
How do you pick a favorite child? That being said, some of my favorites include Honey Blood Draper, my heroine in my yet to be contracted book, HONEY BLOOD AND THE COLLECTOR. An elf with rare blood joins with her intended mate to defeat an evil wizard threatening to destroy their race. Honey Blood has what they refer to as kickassitude, the kind of female who will go where other fear to tread. In my latest book, IT’S MAGIC, I fell in love with my hero. Guy McLane is a cocky man who believes he can conquer the world and who, instead, falls to his knees for Kasey. Smart to a fault, he falls in love with both the heroine and her children and even abides the Lab who sh**s in his shoes.

I've found I have to fall in love with them if I want my readers to fall in love, too. Sounds like you've hit the magic combo with your characters. If you could travel anywhere, fictional or real, where would you go?
Let’s see, how about Shangri-La? Who wouldn’t want to find a virtual paradise in the valley over an icy steep mountain trail, where everyone remains young and all is at peace?

I think I'd like to visit there, too, except for the icy mountain and everyone almost dying on the way there. If you could time travel, what is one event you would want to see in person, either future or past?
Wow! I love history and have just planned some alternate history events. I’d really love to go back to post World War II and travel to Las Vegas in the great days of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack and go to the Crystal Bay Club to see John Gary. I used to hear his music on old vinyl records of my dad’s.

That does sound like a great party. Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that I believe I’ve only just begun and hope some of your readers will follow me. Please come by and visit my blog or see me on Twitter. Thanks for inviting me.


Thanks for stopping by, Daryn. It's great to meet you!