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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Cookie Bars

Happy Thanksgiving! May your turkey be perfect, your yams be yummy, and you never run out of pie.

If it isn't obvious from my recipe postings, I adore cookies. I also can't follow a recipe to save my life. Well, maybe if the stakes were that high...

Anyway, I wanted cookies the other day so I whipped out a recipe that looked tasty. Then realized I didn't have any M&Ms, the recipe only used one egg and my chickens are plopping out way more than one a day, the recipe called for all white flour something I just can't do anymore, I softened a whole cup of butter instead of a half, and I really didn't want to scoop out individual cookies. So instead I ended up with these.

Milk Chocolate Cookie Bars

1 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 c. quick oats
2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. milk chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 - 5 minutes. Stir in oats, wheat flour, and chocolate chips. Spread in greased 9x13 cake pan. Bake at 350° 25-30 minutes, until center is barely set. Let cool before devouring.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Finally! Book Seven is coming...

Yes, that's a fractal.
from www.sgeier.net/fractals
This has been a tough one for me. First the cover design gave me fits. Then I realized another edit needed done before the final read-through and proofing. All this was on top of writing papers and creating projects for class and dealing with work drama. But, classes are fun and most of the papers are finished. Work drama has been resolved, mostly. And the edits are almost finished.

Here's a teaser for you:

I slouched at the table, the same one I'd been at for most of the last three weeks. The Golden Pig, an upscale bar on Proxima, was quiet with few customers. The bartender didn't seem to mind me spending hours sitting at a table near the back as long as I bought drinks and paid my tab.
Tayvis was twenty three days overdue. We'd agreed to meet here, when his enlistment was finally up. It looked like he didn't want to keep his promise.
I didn't blame him. The last time we'd seen each other he'd arrested me. And the time before that I'd shot him. I shouldn't have been surprised that he hadn't come. I didn't want to believe it was really over between us, but three weeks of waiting were beginning to convince me.
Jasyn, co-owner of my ship and my best friend, had lost patience. Her hints that we should move on had become blunt and hard to ignore. She was right, I had to let go. Tayvis wasn't coming.
I'd never expected it to hurt so much.
I looked across the bar to the front windows. The sun of Proxima blazed out of a clear summer sky. The door opened, sending a flash of bright light across the polished wood of the tables. I squinted and groaned when I saw who had just entered.
Lowell stood near the door, surveying the room. Darus Venn, my father, hovered over his shoulder. I considered sliding under the table. Lowell saw me and strode across the room. He wore a captain's bars on his uniform this time. He rarely wore his true insignia. He preferred to slum with the lower ranks. Darus wore an engineer's gears.
"Go away," I said as Lowell pulled out a chair.
He sat anyway. "Is that any way to greet me, Dace?"
"Or me," Darus said, taking a second chair.
"I'm not in the mood, Lowell. Hi, dad. How have you been?"
"Try saying it like you mean it," Darus said.
"Whatever you want," I said, standing up, "the answer is no, Lowell. So don't even try."
"I need your help."
"I don't want yours."
"I think you want to hear this," Lowell said quietly. I deliberately stepped away.
Something dropped onto the table with a soft chime, like crystals muffled in cloth. A tiny prick of emotion stabbed into my heart. I stopped, my feet glued to the floor despite my best intentions to leave. Jasyn was going to rip me into shreds when she found out I'd even listened to Lowell. I turned back, I had to find out what ace Lowell held.
He poked a small bag on the table in front of him, a nondescript thing of worn cotton. I dropped into a chair, feeling the pull from the bag.
"I thought that would get your attention." Lowell pushed the bag towards me.
"I'm through, Lowell. You promised to leave me alone. Remember?"
My hand closed over the bag. A wave of pain, anger, and need washed through me. I knew what was in the bag. I closed my eyes as my fingers fumbled to untie it.
"Two weeks ago," Lowell began, "a ship limped into Viya Station, the only Sessimoniss ship to be sighted in almost a year, with a single survivor on board. He died not long after reaching the station, despite everything they tried to do for him. The only thing he said that anyone could interpret was your name." The Sessimoniss were a reptilian sentient race that lived beyond the fringes of the Empire. Only four non-Sessimoniss had ever landed on their world and returned alive: me, Jasyn, her brother Jerimon, and Tayvis.
The top of the bag opened. Tiny glittering shards of crystal in every hue of the rainbow spilled out. Tumbled emotions and jumbled images poured into my mind. This was the Eggstone, the god of the Sessimoniss. A few pieces of it, at least.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Pear Cake

I'm going quietly insane. I'm beyond busy with school, work, and family. We shall not speak of the house or laundry lately. Cooking only happens because I like to eat and my diet is so restricted I can't do take-out, not to mention I can't afford it. So I'm finding myself making dishes that are quick and easy to throw together. Cooking time doesn't matter so much. If I can chuck dinner in the oven at three then forget it until six, I'm all for that. If I can dump things into my crockpot in the morning before I walk out the door, even better.

This recipe is fast and easy. It does use a cake mix, something I don't usually do, but it turned out so tasty I thought I'd share it with you. Fast and easy plus it can use up those pears or apples that are slowly going mushy in your fridge. (And one of these days I might remember to pull out my camera and take pictures so the blog is a little more exciting and visual. Ha! My classes on design are rubbing off on me...)

Pear Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (or white or spice or carrot or butter)
1/2 c. butter, softened
4 eggs (use large, extra-large, or jumbo for this recipe)
3 - 4 ripe pears or apples, cored and cut into bite-size chunks, don't bother peeling
3 T. sugar
1 t. cinnamon

Mix cake mix, butter, and eggs. Spread in greased 9x13 cake pan. Spread pears over the top. Mix sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes until the cake is done. (Stick a toothpick into the center. If it comes out with batter on it, bake for another 5 minutes or so.) Let cool.

Serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Wordle! A Fun Toy

This is what happens on a Sunday evening when I'm relaxing. I find interesting ways to entertain myself. This time, it's with Wordle, a fun java program that creates word clouds. You paste in some text, tell it to go, then start tweaking. Go try it. I'll wait.

Wordle


Wasn't that fun? What? You didn't have anything lying around in your word processing files to upload? Then browse the galleries. Just for kicks and giggles, here are some I created from short stories of mine. All three of these stories are in my collection, Soul Windows.
The Eyes of Ashteroth. It looks almost like a goblet if you tilt your head.
Trapped in Amber. I love this story.

From the title story: Soul Windows

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Jordan McCollum's spy-licious recipe and book!

We're celebrating the launch of Spy for a Spy, sequel to I, Spy! Read on to get a tasty recipe and find free & discounted reads! You can also find Spy for a Spy at the special $3.99 launch discount on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and JordanMcCollum.com!

About the Book

Canada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. And it was the last place CIA operative Talia Reynolds expected to run into fellow operative Brand Copley. AKA her new boss. AKA her ex-boyfriend.
Just the guy every woman wants to face in the middle of planning her wedding. Once again, Talia’s lying to the man she loves, but this time, to protect his heart. After Brand takes over Talia’s latest case and steals her newest agent, he assigns her to spy on her old boss—who’s suddenly giving her every reason not to trust him. With only weeks until the big day, planning falls by the wayside as she goes into damage control mode. But when Talia discovers Brand’s real motives, fighting him is the only option, no matter what the personal and professional cost. More about Spy for a Spy | Add Spy for a Spy to your Goodreads to-read list!

About the author

An award-winning author, Jordan McCollum can’t resist a story where good defeats evil and true love conquers all. In her day job, she coerces people to do things they don’t want to, elicits information and generally manipulates the people she loves most—she’s a mom. Jordan holds a degree in American Studies and Linguistics from Brigham Young University. When she catches a spare minute, her hobbies include reading, knitting and music. She lives with her husband and four children in Utah. Find Jordan on her website/blog, Facebook and Twitter!

Author Interview

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up? I mostly write romantic suspense. I love all my stories like I love all my kids—differently! My previous novel, I, Spy, is like a golden child who was just born with this fun, funny personality. Some manuscripts waiting in the wings are like the kid who just really always "got it," or the one who take correction really really well, and made you a better parent. (I need more kids like that!) My new novel, Spy for a Spy, is like the wayward child that you’ve had to fight with all growing up. Now that it’s out in the world on its own, seeing the first few reviews has shown me this baby is finally on the right path! ;) I’ve just started on the third book in this series, and I have another prequel novella waiting for edits, too. What writers inspired you to become an author? I don’t admit this often, but J. R. R. Tolkein definitely deserves some credit. My first attempt at a novel began as Lord of the Rings fanfic. I won’t be penning any more epic fantasy any time soon, but that was my first attempt. (I also switched my major to Linguistics because of him, but that’s another story.)

Recipe!

I haven't developed a recipe to go along with this book, but the first book in the series inspired one amazing culinary creation . . . chocolate chip maple pecan pie. Maple chocolate chip pecan pie. However you want to arrange it, it. is. DELICIOUS.
The pie was inspired by a real pie, made at a real restaurant. My characters get to visit Wilfrid's, the totally awesome restaurant at the (Fairmont) Ch√Ęteau Laurier. Yep, I've been there—but I'm pretty sure they didn't have this dessert at the time, a specialty of Chef Ernst's. Since Ottawa is a bit far away right now, I made the pie at home. It's good chilled, but let me tell you: eat it warm. Nuke it if you have to. YES. Ingredients adapted from Pioneer Woman's Pecan Pie recipe. kind of a lot of adaptation
  • 1/2 c granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 c + 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 c corn syrup
  • 1/2 c maple syrup (the real stuff! You can really play around with the levels here, swapping corn syrup for maple—but you'll want more than 1 oz of maple syrup, which is all I had on hand when I made the recipe!)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 c salted butter, melted (and somewhat cooled so you don't scramble the eggs)
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 c pecan halves, plus more pecan halves for the top layer (~20)
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • pie shell (being me, I also made this by hand, but that's optional)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Microwave the 3/4 c pecan halves just until warm, then crush or chop them. (This releases more oils and flavors. Or something. I made this recipe up a year ago, and I did a ton of research at the time, okay?)
  3. Line a 9" pie pan with a pie crust. Pour the chopped pecans and chocolate chips into the bottom of the crust, shaking to settle them in an even layer
  4. Mix the sugars, syrups, vanilla, melted butter and beaten eggs in a bowl. (I actually put the chocolate chips in here, but it doesn't matter which way you do it.)
  5. Place the whole/half pecans (neatly & prettily!) on top of the chopped pecans & chocolate chips in the pie shell
  6. Slowly pour the filling mix in the pie shell
  7. Gently shake the pie from side to side to make the pecan halves float
  8. Arrange the nuts with a toothpick to make a pretty pattern, spell your name, ask someone to marry you (uh. Don't think you'll have room for that. But you can ask out loud, and then celebrate with pie!)
  9. Gently cover the exposed crust with foil
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake 20 more minutes, or until set.
  11. Let cool (if you can).
Originally posted at Wayward Girls' Crafts
In addition to being quite tasty, the pie makes a great prop. If you want to find out how I used it in my book, now is the perfect time because . . .

Special deals!

Spy for a Spy is a sequel to the novel I, Spy, available for 99¢ at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Jordan's site this week only! To save her country and her secrets, CIA operative Talia Reynolds will have to sacrifice the man she loves. More about I, Spy. Also, as a free gift this week, Jordan is giving out free e-copies of a prequel novella, Mr. Nice Spy, on Amazon and her site!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Taking Aim at Disney Princes

Yep, you read that right. Princes, as in the male half of the Twoo-Wuv equation.

I've seen scads of articles about Disney princesses and the problem with holding them up as role models. Besides the psychiatric disorders most of them exhibit (see this article and this one), people love to tear apart the defects in their characters (see this, this, and this for examples). I don't disagree. Most of those Disney princesses make me want to beat my head on the wall. Repeatedly.

How come we never pick apart the princes? I googled "problem with Disney princesses" and came up a boatload of articles dissecting their characters and (usually) pointing out why they are horrible role models for our girls. Google "problem with Disney princes" and I got back one, ONE, article and then a whole list of princess links. This articles is titled, "10 Disney Princes and Whether You Should Marry Them". I have issues with the article. Go read it and then we'll discuss.

Ready? Okay. My biggest complaint about the article is that marriage rate-ability is measured by physical hotness, which is no different than choosing a princess based on looks and we all know that judging women by their physical appearance is BAD and EVIL and WRONG. Why is it okay to do it to the men?

So here's my rundown of some Disney Princes.

Beast from Beauty and the Beast - Belle is one princess most everyone says is one of the better Disney princesses. But what about her Beast? He's selfish, abusive, and has massive anger-management issues. But the message of the movie is that if we just believe the best about them, they'll change. We can love them into becoming kind and gentle. Not a healthy relationship here. Belle would be better off marrying Gaston. He's a good provider, even if he is arrogant and self-centered. He at least offers her a nice house and a good living, instead of throwing her in a dungeon.

But what about Mulan? Chang is a great guy, right? Not so much. He's bossy, demanding, and a male chauvinist. But he's a product of his culture, you say. Yeah? So are all the princesses. Chang isn't that bad. Yao, Chien-Po, and what's-his-name are frat boys on a road trip. Turn the characters around here. If Chang and the gang were women, we'd be jabbing them with sticks, not making excuses for their prejudiced, immature behavior.

Eric, from Little Mermaid, was okay, wasn't he? I mean he plays a flute and has a dog. He also has no real character. He's a piece of moving scenery, just like most Disney princes. He's only there so the princess can have twoo wuv. Most of them have all the personality of a piece of cardboard. Prince Charming from Cinderella, Prince what-the-heck-was-his-name? from Snow White, Prince fill-in-the-blank from most Disney Princess movies. Most of them are so bland and forgettable that no one even notices them.

The Prince in Sleeping Beauty was a little better. He at least got to fight for his love, with the help of three little old lady fairies. Aladdin wasn't too bad, I'll give you that one, but overall the Disney princes are Ken dolls with just about as much personality.

The relationships are just plain unhealthy in most Disney movies. Insta-love abounds. Those relationships that they take the time to build are pretty unhealthy overall. Take some time and watch the movies. How many of them portray a prince and princess who take time to get to know each other, even a little, and when they do, have a balanced, mutually respectful relationship?

I can think of one shining example where the princess isn't a ninny with massive psychological issues, the prince isn't a selfish jerk, and their relationship is more than a glance across a crowded room. Robin Hood. Maid Marian is an accomplished woman with skills and intelligence. She's resourceful and strong in her own right. Robin Hood is an insurgent, but he's fighting for truth, justice, and King Richard. He's kind to orphans and widows. He only steals from bullies. He treats Maid Marian as a person and an equal. Let me repeat that: He treats Marian as his equal.

Yep, we finally have a Disney princess movie with a healthy relationship and role models of both sexes that are worth emulating. And they're animals, foxes to be exact. I guess we can't have everything.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday Recipe - Spiced Cranberry Pears

I have pears in both fridges and pears on the counters. They are delicious, but I have way more than we can eat fresh. So I've been playing with recipes. I'm thinking of serving this one alongside the turkey for Thanksgiving. It was that tasty. And that easy.

Spiced Cranberry Pears

8 large ripe pears
1 12 oz can cranberry jelly, whole berry or not, your choice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cardamom

Slice pears into fourths. Remove stem and core. Cut the rest of the pear into chunks. Don't bother peeling them, it adds to the rustic flavor of the dish and adds to the fiber content. Place in a 9x12 baking dish or a 2 qt casserole dish. Meanwhile, melt jelly in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in spices. Beat until they are well mixed and the cranberry jelly has smoothed out into a sauce. Add a couple tablespoons of water if needed. Pour the sauce over the pears. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, until pears are soft.

Serve warm or cold, as a dessert or waffle topping or as a side dish for pork or turkey or even chicken.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Author Interview - Stacy Lynn Carroll


Please welcome Stacy Lynn Carroll to the Far Edge of Normal! Stacy Lynn Carroll has always loved telling stories.  She started out at Utah State University where she pursued a degree in English, learned how to western swing, and watched as many of her fellow students became ‘True Aggies’.  She then finished her BA at the University of Utah where she got an emphasis in creative writing.  After college she worked as an administrative assistant, where she continued to write stories for the amusement of her co-workers.  When her first daughter was born, and with the encouragement of a fortune cookie, she quit her job and became a full-time mommy and writer.  She and her husband have three children, two Corgis, and a fish named Don.



Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?
I prefer to write young adult. And although I don’t do it on purpose, my books are geared toward young women much more than young men. I want my daughters to grow up and have options of good, clean teen literature. That’s why I write what I do. The Princess Sisters is the first book in the series. Frogs & Toads is the sequel. Next, I am working on the third and final book in the series titled Forever After.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
Writing is my biggest stress release! But some nights after kids are all in bed, I’m too tired to think. On those nights, I love to curl up on the couch and either read or watch TV. My favorite shows are Parenthood, Bones, Biggest Loser, and Dancing with the Stars. I love movies! It’s way too hard to pick just one favorite.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
Honestly when I am writing, I just write. I’ve discovered if I eat while writing, or listen to something, I get distracted. I do much better when I mentally submerse myself in the world where my characters live.

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?
No cats, I’m allergic. But I do have two very cute dogs that are Corgis. 

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
There are a lot of online groups you can join, especially on Facebook. You just have to join a few, and see where you fit and what you like best. As for advice, the best advice I was ever given was write something every day. Whether you write one sentence or five chapters, if you write every day, you will always be making progress.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
I am participating in a fundraiser boutique and book signing on Saturday, November 16th from 10am-6pm at Jordan Commons in Sandy, UT.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
I would probably visit the time of Jane Austin in England. I just love the way they dressed, acted, and spoke. So proper! I probably wouldn’t last long, LOL, but it would be fun to visit for a little while.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
My characters are all a pretty tight knit family, so I would have a big BBQ with the whole group. I think they would be a really fun group to hang out with! We would eat brats, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
I have always wanted to see Ireland and Scotland!

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Pink! I’m kinda obsessed with the color. I wear it almost every day anyway, so cutting out the rest of the colors in my closet wouldn’t be difficult.

Describe your dream writing spot.
I would love to say on a gorgeous beach somewhere, or something similar, but I know I’d end up watching the waves and getting distracted. Just give me a comfy chair and a laptop and as long as it’s quiet, I’ll be a happy writer.

Stacy is releasing her new book - Frogs and Toads. It sounds like a lot of fun!

One kiss can change the future...for better or for worse.
Belle and her cousins have conquered their fears. Now as they navigate their way through the dating world, they start to see a "happily ever after" on the horizon. But when an unexpected school assignment forces them to examine their past, the Princess sisters realize they have a lot of questions about the fathers they've never met. Secrets are revealed, long lost family members are discovered, and now the girls must decide who belongs in their future and who should be kept in the past.