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Monday, October 31, 2011

Projects Galore

This is what I did Saturday. Well, I should say my husband, sons, neighbors, and I did.

See the giant pine tree right in the middle of the yard? No? That's because we chopped it down and cut it up into green waste and firewood. I love it. My yard looks so much bigger and my house looks really big now, too.

Downside is that all the yard projects that we've been neglecting are now very noticeable. But not in this picture. I'm just going to bask in the lovely sunlight we now have in our east-facing front yard.

Here's what's left of the tree: a big pile of fire wood in what's left of our garden.

(Those are beehives in the background. Two hives. We got 4 1/2 gallons of honey out of them a month ago. My husband only harvested one box off each, too. I think we need more boxes next summer so we can get even more of that delicious liquid gold.)

This is why I lost my pruning license. This is the blue spruce on the north side of our house. That's another Scotch pine in the front on the right and a yew (I think) on the left. I took off all the lower scraggly branches of the spruce. Now we have a nice open space where nothing grows except pine needles and pine cones. I think it looks lovely.

So, what did you do last weekend? This weekend I'm up for tiling a countertop in our family room and getting a couple of dresser painted.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Gourmet Cheese

No, this isn't a post about making your own cheese. I have tried my hand at a couple simple goat milk cheeses mostly because I had access to fresh goat cheese and my daughter is allergic to cow milk and really wanted cheese. Good goat cheese is hard to find in stores. But cheese making is an art that requires time and patience to master. If you're interested, I'll post the recipes and my experiences with goat cheese. Considering I'm allergic to goat milk, I can't tell you how it tastes but my kids say the cheese is delicious.

Today, I'll give you some tips on gourmet cheeses you can find in your local supermarket. More and more stores are carrying exotic cheese, usually in very small packages. So try a flavor or two. Here are some of my favorites:

Havarti is a soft cheese with a fairly mild flavor. Plain havarti has a slight tang and a mild smoky taste. It goes great with fresh apples, crackers, or ham. Havarti also comes in a lot of varieties. Smoked havarti goes great on burgers. Try it paired with bacon in a BLT. Dill havarti has dill added. Try it in a green salad with pears and honey mustard dressing. Havarti with caraway is another great one for the fruit and cheese tray.

Swiss in all its varieties is a great cheese. It adds zip to melted cheese sauces. Use Swiss in your cheese balls with green onions. I've got a great recipe for cream puff type goodies with shredded cheese added to the dough. Don't fill that one with pudding or cream, fill them with scrambled eggs and ham or stuff them with chicken salad and greens. That's basic Swiss. If you like it milder, buy baby Swiss. A good Swiss will run you about $6-10 a pound. Try some rather than the cheaper stuff, you won't be sorry.

Provolone is a very mild, slightly sweet white cheese. Think mozarella but firmer. Provolone goes great on sandwiches of all types. It's another good choice for a fruit and cheese sampler.

Meunster is a fun cheese. My kids call it "monster cheese". It's a pale yellow with an orange edge. It's softer than mozarella. It's good on sandwiches, especially grilled cheese. Try pairing it with Cream of Tomato Soup.

Blue cheese has a bad rap. Yes, it's a very strong flavored cheese and smells a bit like stinky feet. Keep the portion very small and the taste will be less overwhelming. Try blue cheese with steak or beef stew. Sprinkle it on salad along with chopped apples and pears and a good vinaigrette dressing. Add a touch to cheese balls or cheese sauce for added flavor. If you like it milder, buy Gorgonzola or Roquefort. This site has all sorts of fun info on Blue Cheeses.

Fresh mozarella, the kind that comes in water, is very different than regular mozarella. It melts into a bigger gooey mess, for one. The flavor is milder and fresher, more like cream cheese. Drain it well before using.

Everyone knows cheddar cheese. Have you tried sharp? I rarely buy mild anymore. Medium has a good flavor, but sharp is better. The best I've eaten is Dubliner cheese, a white very sharp cheddar. It's pricey but a little goes a very long way. It's so good just by itself.

Check out your store deli and see what fun surprises are waiting. While you're trying a new variety of cheese, why not try a new variety of gourmet olive or pickle or something else? Expand your taste buds and try something different.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Fudge?

Road trip this weekend. We spent a good wad of money to rent an RV and take the whole family on a trip. We found a really cool place to get local food just north of Pasco - produce, artisan jams and jellies and sauces, breads, candies, sandwiches, and the most decadent fudge I have ever tasted. Three words - to die for. (Country Mercantile, Inc. - and I've got pictures of the fudge but not my camera cable, so I'll have to add those later.)

I can't make fudge to save my life. I can't even manage the easy, no-fail marshmallow cream and chocolate chip fudge. The only time I made good fudge was on accident. I was trying to make frosting.

So, no recipe for fudge. Instead, I'm posting a plea for recipes for good fudge that even I can make. I even mess up this recipe:

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Microwave until soft. Stir until smooth. Eat before it cools because for some reason, this fudge goes weird when it sets up so I use it as a dip for apples or cookies or pretzels.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's October, which means it's time for scary movies, bad costumes, and too many sweets. And some creepy books. Please give a big welcome to Karina Fabian, here to tell us about her books. I'm excited to hear of her newest release co-written with Colleen Drippe: Frightliner: And Other Tales of the Undead. Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

Hi, Karina. Welcome to the Far Edge of Normal. I must say I love your chainsaw. How can we find you?
Google +:

What do you currently have in print and where can we find them?
I have several books out, so it'd be easiest if folks went to and checked them out.  The ones that came out in the past 12 months are Infinite Space; Infinite God II; Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator; Perfect Ten; Frightliner; Mind Over Mind; and Mother Goose is Dead (story in the anthology).

What genre do you write?
 Mostly science fiction, fantasy and horror, though I have also written a lovely nonfiction devotional with my father, Why God Matters.

Do you have cats or other pets?
I grew up with cats, dogs, hamsters and fish.  As an adult, we've had a cat and dogs, plus some hermit crabs at Alex's insistence.  I love furry animals who like to cuddle and who adore you just because you feed them and coo at them.  Elbereth, our cat, likes to sit on the back of my chair or in my lap or on my back when I'm writing.  Layla, the dog, is content to lay near me, though whenever I get up, she thinks it's treat time.

What inspires your stories?
Easier to ask what doesn't inspire a story.  It depends on the story.  In the case of the two I'm touring this month, the inspiration came from friends. Frightliner was inspired by Colleen Drippe, my co-author.  She had read my story about a truck-driving vampire and suggested that no one wrote vampires as evil blood-thirsty beasts anymore.  So we decided to write one together.  Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, came as a result of my publisher at Damnation Books asking me to do a novel based on the character I'd written in "Wokking Dead."  Then while in the Writers' Chat room we were discussing reality TV and great first lines of books, and the idea struck to do a novel about a reality TV show about zombie exterminators.

How do you like your romance, sweet or spicy? Or do you like romance?
I like romance in the concept of the story, but not as the story itself.  In Neeta Lyffe, there's a romance between Neeta and a good looking DJ, but it's peripheral and highlights her own struggles with the TV show.  In Neeta Lyffe II, she's involved in a different romance, and while it's a big issue, there's so much else going on with the zombies and the environmentalists and such.  I don't write especially spicy.  I want to be able to read my stories to my kids or have them read them without giving me the fisheye afterwards.

I hear you on keeping the romance sweet. If it would embarrass me to have my  mom read it, I don't write it. What is your current WIP?
I have two:  Neeta Lyffe II: I Left My Brains in San Francisco, is on hold until I can explore an oil refinery, so I'm working on The Old Man and the Void, which is based loosely on Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, but involves a black hole and alien artifacts.

Wow. That sounds like a great read. What hobbies do you have that you want to share?

My husband and I are taking haidong gumbdo, Korean sword martial arts.  It's a lot of fun and good exercise, especially when we are doing drills.  I have a green belt, and need to master the roll in order to progress.  I hate tumbling!

Did you always want to be an author? Who inspired you?
Absolutely.  I started my first novel in fourth grade.  However, my greatest inspiration has been my husband, Rob, who supports us well enough that I don't need to worry about money, helps me with ideas and technical matters, offers advice, and never fails to tell me how attractive I am when I'm writing.  He's the best husband a writer could have--and the best husband, period.

I'll argue with you on that point. I think my husband is the best. We'll have to compare notes sometime. What are your favorite movies, tv shows, or books to read?
Right now, we're into Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Alphas.  We still watch Dr. Who, but I'm just not a fan of the 11th doctor.  He seems to either play the buffoon or play people as buffoons.  In fact, we have a theory that he was somehow damaged in the last regenerations. The past two episodes have been better, so I hope he's changing. About the only show I really turn to again and again is Firefly.  So sad that was canceled in its prime!

Firefly deserved to run much longer. What characters are your favorites from your books? From any work of fiction?
My works?  I love them all, although Neeta, Vern (my dragon detective) and Deryl and Joshua (Mind Over trilogy) have my attention the most.  From any work?  Charles Wallace of A Wrinkle in Time.  I still dream of writing a book where he's grown up.

That was one of my favorite childhood books. I loved Meg and her whole family. 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?

Rob and I want to see Greece at some point.  I've been lucky; my parents loved to go on long road trips, so I saw a lot of America and Canada as a child.  In college, I went on a tour of the Middle East--Egypt, Jordan and Israel.  When I graduated, I joined the Air Force to see the world, and did: I was stationed in Italy and Japan, and while there, toured a lot of Europe and visited Korea.  Rob and I have also been to Mexico and Cancun.  So my list is pretty short, and Greece is on the top.

As for where in the universe, I have my imagination for that, so I'm content.

What's your favorite color? Food? Reading spot?
I don't really have favorites.  Maybe I'm flighty that way, but I just appreciate them all according to my mood.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes.  I think your crocheted C'thulus are awesome!


*blush* Aw, thanks, Karina. Did I ever mention my little sister's name is Karina? Your stories are awesome. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Check out the excerpt from Frightliner below:

All Jay Carlson wants is to get his load delivered on-time, and the mysterious murder on a lone stretch of I-10 is just a slow-down.  Things get freaky as a stranger suggests the murderer is a truck driver—and Jay has seen the truck.  Thus starts a game of cat and mouse as the mysterious truck stalks him on his route.  No one else seems to see his phantom pursuer except for two unlikely allies:  a custodian claiming to be a vampire hunter, and an illegal alien who trusts his faith to defeat the monster.  When the truck-driving vampire traps them in an abandoned church and his only defenders are injured in the fight, Jay must swallow his own disbelief and destroy the vampire himself before he kills them all.

Karina Fabian writes fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional foray into the world of horror.  Her first novel, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, the 2010 INDIE Award for best fantasy.   Her latest book, the comedic horror, Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, was a top ten in the Preditor and Editor reader’s polls and winner of the Global E-Book Award for best horror.  Learn more about her works at

Colleen Drippe has been writing since age 6 and has had a lot of science fiction, a moderate amount of horror and fantasy, and assorted nonfiction scattered throughout the small press and online.  She also writes for children and has had three children's books published so far (The Little Blue House, Christmas at the Little Blue House, and Mystery at Miners’ Creek) and another one (Growing with the Little Blue House) due out any day.  She has had one sf book published (Godcountry) and another (Gelen!) coming out this year.  She is the former editor of Hereditas (of happy memory but dried up funding) and is currently working on another sf book along with various other projects.

Of course that was why he had not come out to check on her, she thought with a surge of relief. He probably thought it was an abandoned car. But now--she stepped out onto the gravel, hearing for the first time how loud the crickets sang. She smelled the strong scent of the cooling air. Too early for snow. Too warm, still anyway, though she cursed herself for not thinking to put on jeans before making her big exit. She peered at the cab, but nothing moved.

“Hello!” she called, moving closer. She could not make out a logo on the truck. It was dark, dark paint. She had an impression that the shape was--not wrong exactly, but not usual. It was an older model, she decided. An old truck.
She had reached the door.

“Anyone there?” she called, hesitating to step up and look inside. What if something had happened to the driver? What if he were dead? What if she opened the door and a body spilled out onto the road?

But that was silly. He had just pulled up. Probably he was rummaging around in his berth for some tools.

But what if he was dead? What if she took hold of the door and--and what if he was right there, watching her?

She had almost decided to go back to her own car. But the thought of the semi parked behind her, silently cutting its chunk from the sky, was in some strange way even more frightening than opening the door. She reached up for the handle and pulled herself up level with the window.

The handle turned in her hand.

It was then she knew she had done the wrong thing. If only someone else had come--she prayed for someone else. A cop. Even a car full of good old boys. Anyone.

The crickets fairly screamed their shrill and mindless song, the scent of the Russian knapweed was overpowering. But it wasn’t strong enough to hide another smell, a dark earthy smell. A smell of death mellowed by long usage.    

The door opened.

Reba froze, clutching the handle, balancing there with the driver’s seat in front of her. She tried to speak, to call, but nothing would come out. She hung there, thinking of death, while the night passed and the stars moved and the moon looked in over her shoulder. Finally, she climbed into the truck.

“Daniel,” she whimpered. She was ready to forgive the new pickup, but it was too late. Something moved in the back and she turned in the driver’s seat and saw a pale face, caught in the moonlight, eyes gleaming. She had an impression of lank hair, grizzled beard. And then two hands reached up to take her shoulders and she saw the mouth open.

Video trailer link:
Amazon link:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Rachel Paddington's Cheesecake

I met Darcia Helle just over a year ago on BestsellerBound, a great community for authors and readers. She's a great friend and a wonderful storyteller. Our tastes don't always match, but I enjoy her characters and her stories. Check out her books and BestsellerBound. And don't forget to try this simple and delicious cheesecake recipe.

Max Paddington, the main character in my novel Into The Light, likes chocolate milk shakes. As readers get to know him, they will learn this little tidbit. What readers don't learn about Max is that he loves cheesecake. In fact, his wife Rachel would tell you that he is addicted to one specific recipe. She makes this cheesecake for him on every holiday and it's the only thing he asks for on each birthday.

Here is Rachel's recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as Max did.

Graham Cracker Crust:

1 cup graham crackers, crumbled
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. Press into bottom of springform pan. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.


4 8-oz packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine cream cheese, sugar and flour. Mix until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Blend in sour cream and vanilla. Pour over graham cracker crust.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 250 and continue baking for one hour. Cool before removing rim of pan.

Cheesecake tastes great plain or can be topped with a variety of options, including canned cherry pie filling, blueberry filling or fresh strawberries.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What a Dream I Had

I had the weirdest dream last night about weather stripping, buying a house, zombies, third grade male teachers, and Minecraft. Here are the lessons I learned from my dream:

1. Never rent an apartment in an old basement with rotted wooden steps leading into the ancient tunnel system. You never know what might be down there.

2. If you do rent such an apartment, use lots of weather stripping under the door leading to the steps because everyone knows that rodents, like raccoons, can squeeze through a gap less than an inch high. (This was a dream, it doesn't always have to make sense.)

3. Never buy a big house that backs onto BLM land, especially a big mountain that has a cursed mine practically in your backyard.

4. The mine was a red herring. It was the safest place to be. I wasn't there during the next bit of my dream.

5. Zombie-ism is transmitted through bites like rabies. In fact, it resembles rabies.

6. The cure for a zombie bite is anti-fungal powder, spiderwebs, and Neosporin ointment. Douse the bite liberally with those three, wrap it in a clean hankie, and take two ibuprofen. You'll be all better in the morning.

7. If you get caught outside during a zombie outbreak, stand really still and quiet and they'll lose interest in you. Whatever you do, DO NOT SCREAM.

8. Abandoned cars are a good place to hide, provided you can get under the seats and stay really quiet. If you have several people in there with you, you'll stay nice and warm.

9. Keep your dog with you during the outbreak because they can become zombies, too. Cats are too angry to become zombies.

10. Lighting candles and singing nursery rhymes attracts zombies, but it also lulls them into a stupor. If you can keep it up until it snows, you'll be fine.

12. Snow kills zombies. Just hope the zombie outbreak happens the first day of the deer hunt because it always snows that first night.

13. During the zombie outbreak, watch out for third grade male teachers trying to entertain the boys from their classes. Seeing grown men sing happy songs about Minecraft is more than a little creepy, worse than being eaten by a zombie.

Very interesting dream and very educational. My imagination is working overtime. It must be trying to tell me to write some zombie stories and quit playing Minecraft. Excuse me while I add several inches of weatherstripping to my basement door...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thursday Special - Book Review - The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Davi begins life as a worker child, born to slaves and condemned to a life working where and when he's ordered. For the most part, the high tech society gives the workers a fairly good standard of living, but Lord Xalivar hates the workers and doesn't trust them to keep in their place. They want freedom for themselves and their children. Xalivar decrees all first-born sons of worker slaves will be sacrificed to his gods. Davi's parents steal a courier ship and outfit it for their infant son. They send him off by himself as the troops close in.

Davi is found and raised by Xalivar's sister. He's a prince of the realm and Xalivar's heir-apparent. Until he and Xalivar learn the truth of his heritage. Davi runs away to join the growing worker rebellion. Xalivar's love for his adopted nephew turns to hate and bitterness as they face each other as opponents.

If the story sounds a lot like the story of Moses and the Israelites against Pharoah and the Egyptians, it is. Schmidt has done a great job rewriting the historical tale into a science fiction adventure. He weaves a story of family ties, aggression, power, and love. Davi has everything - money, power, position - and he throws it away when he learns the truth of where he comes from and how his biological people are treated by his adopted family. If you're looking for characters with honor and integrity, who face tough choices with no clear answers, this is the book to read. I'm looking forward to book two and more of Davi's story.

4.5 stars, PG for mild violence.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Basket of Book Reviews

I set the goal to review every book I finished. I'm not keeping up very well. Today I've got four print books in the basket. Just FYI, I bought all of these books. And I haven't regretted a penny of it.

  The Lute and the Liar by Rie Sheridan Rose

This book saved me from several hours of plane ride boredom. I picked it up from Rie at FenCon in Dallas a couple weeks ago and started it on the plane between El Paso and Los Angeles. (I hate the way Southwest charges for direct flights between Salt Lake and Dallas. It's a lot cheaper to fly all over the place but it takes forever to get home, but that's a completely different blog post.) I had the book tucked into my carryon and pulled it out while sitting on the ground waiting for the plane to take off again. One big advantage of a print book - you can read it during take off and landing.

The Lute and the Liar is the story of Mordigan Bryre, an apprentice bard who can't stop lying. Two weeks before he is to receive his journeyman's status, he is dismissed in disgrace and meets a mysterious witch who strikes a bargain with him. If he seeks out the wizard Talthos he can gain a magical lute that will make him legendary. But if he tells a lie, he will lose his golden voice. He sets out on his quest without realizing Princess Allysian is following him, determined to declare her love and bring him home. Ultimately, Mordigan faces the choice of saving her honor and reputation or his voice and his life.

I really enjoyed this tale. It reminded me of the classic fairy tales I used to devour as a child. Rie has a deft touch with characters and settings. She creates a magical world and fantastic people and still pulls in the emotional connections. Mordigan is a lovable yet flawed character. Allysian spends most of the book sitting in prison. I would have loved to see more action from her. I also wanted the book to be longer and much more involved. I loved the setting and the characters and wanted to play with them more. The ending came too soon. Overall, this is a delightful book.

4.5 stars, G rating (although I'd recommend it for ages 10+)

Adventures by Mike Resnick

The right reverend Lucifer Jones travels across Africa pulling cons and swindles on everyone in search of a fortune. The problem is that the people he's conning are even bigger scoundrels. Reminiscent of all the campy, overblown adventure stories of the pulp magazines, this book is a rollicking good read.

I've always enjoyed pulp fiction, stories of exotic locations and great adventures. Mike Resnick serves up his version with a huge dollop of spoof. Tarzan, except by a different name, makes his appearance on more than the cover. Except he's a British lord who has inherited a big swath of jungle. He spends his time reorganizing gorilla society and government and protecting the wild. This is just one example of the kind of silliness this book excels in.

4 stars, PG for mild suggestiveness

Red Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

R.D. Henham is a cover name for a lot of different writers. This book is written by Rebecca Shelley, a very sweet woman I've had the pleasure of knowing for several years now.

Red Dragon Codex follows the adventures of Mudd, his sister Hiera, and Drakecutter as they track down Redclaw the Destroyer, each for their own reasons. Mudd must rescue the village seeress who has been kidnapped by the dragon and her dragonman, Kirak. Drakecutter seeks revenge for his dwarf village, ravaged by the dragon in an unprovoked attack. Hiera follows to keep Mudd safe from his own vision of heroism. Each of them learns to trust and help each other, each learns that together they are stronger than alone. Kirak's story kept me intrigued the most, but I won't spoil it by doing more than hinting he's not quite what he seems.

Red Dragon Codex is an entertaining story aimed at 8-12 year-old children, but good enough to use as a family read-aloud book. I've got the Brass Dragon Codex on my shelf, also written by Rebecca Shelley, that I'm looking forward to sharing with my children along with this one.

5 stars, G rating, but with some mild violence

Full Throttle Space Tales #1: Space Pirates

It's collections like these that are changing me into a fan of anthologies. Space Pirates is loaded with great stories of space pirates. From the sublimely silly Space Pirate Cookies by C. J. Henderson (my favorite in this collection) to the dark and disturbing Never Lie to Yourself by Uncle River, this collection has something for every fan of science fiction and space opera stories.

I'm very happy this is book #1 in a series. I can't wait to get my hands on the other books in this collection. If the stories are as good as they ones in this book, they promise to provide hours of great entertainment.

5 stars, PG for mildly disturbing situations